Nintendo released Pokemon X and Y versions for 3DS in October of 2013, one month before the final set of the Black and White era: Legendary Treasures, was released. The game introduced the Mega Evolution battle mechanic, which not only buffed your Pokemon’s stats but changed their physical appearance as well. Your first chance to experience this is with your Lucario when you first receive your mega ring, and the results do not disappoint. This was a fun way to have small reworks of older Pokemon designs without committing to creating an entirely new Pokemon and the mega evolutions were a hit with fans. While mega evolution was only a temporary state in the game, these new designs would go on to be immortalized in the TCG with mega evolutions of Pokemon becoming some of the XY era’s most popular and valuable cards. Another big change was the addition of a new Pokemon type: Fairy. Xerneas and the new eeveelution, Sylveon, were champions of this new counter-pick to dragon type, which changed the battle landscape and added a new element to Pokemon like Guardevoir who had previously only been Psychic type since its release in Ruby and Sapphire.
The XY base set TCG was released in February of 2014, giving fans several months to play the games and become familiar with the new legendaries and mega evolutions. The set of course highlights Yveltal and Xerneas as the two new lords of this Pokemon universe, but also understood that fans love the classics and chose to include Venusaur and Blastoise as new full art chase cards for the set. These two also received the first mega evolution cards of the entire XY era, and though they are not the textured, full art mega versions released later on in sets like Primal Clash, the artwork was very fresh for the time and distinguished this new era of cards from its predecessors in the Black and White era. The addition of the mega evolutions into XY’s base set was important for this reason, as the full arts from XY base set are stylistically indistinguishable from the later era Black and White counterparts. However, they are still very well designed and the Blastoise and Venusaur in particular can fetch quite a high price if highly graded.
Pokemon took a big gamble when Black and White was released with only new Pokemon populating its world. While many fans agree Black and White’s storyline and world building may be the best they’ve ever done, the games did comparatively poorly and the Pokemon designs were not well received. They would not make that mistake in X and Y and the Base set from this era I think is a good indicator of where Pokemon was looking to go. They included new Pokemon from X and Y but mixed in old favorites, and as I already mentioned, made sure Blastoise and Venusaur got highlighted. By not including a Charizard, it gave enough breathing room to appreciate Yveltal and Xerneas, while allowing the opportunity to have an entire set focus on the new Mega Evolution Charizard later in 2014 (Flashfire). The games saw an uptick in sales, and the two new legendaries were well received, particularly because Xerneas was so powerful and a type of Pokemon that had not existed before the XY era, and would disappear after Sun and Moon. The Xerneas Ex from this set got a reprint for the Classic Collection in the 25th anniversary set Celebrations, further cementing it as an important card in the TCG’s history.
XY base set did not accomplish anything groundbreaking, but it did gracefully usher in the Mega Evolution cards with Pokemon people would actually want to see, and its full arts are all well designed. While none of these cards will top the charts for the entire era, the Venusaur full art may be one of my favorite modern depictions of the classic starter, and while the packs are still under $40 a piece, I certainly could see opening a few if they were available. The mega evolution full arts to come later would prove to be some of the best looking cards of the modern era, Sun and Moon and Sword and Shield included, but this is where it all began. I believe the XY era will be seen as the height of full art Pokemon cards, and its base set is certainly no exception.