Master Ball
     – #PLB 094

Date Reviewed:
October 5, 2017

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Standard: N/A
Expanded: 3.67
Limited: 4.67

Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 is horrible. 3 is average.  5 is great.



Long ago in the bowels of Silph Co., a man created a spherical device that could capture any Pokemon absolutely, 100%, no chance of failure. This prototype was concealed in the building until Team Rocket caught wind of these plans and took over the entirety of Saffron City in order to obtain this powerful ball.

Until you as the main protagonist of R/B/Y/FR/LG swing by and kick em out.

That was the Master Ball, and it has made appearances in every game ever since. You only ever receive 1 Master Ball in the game, though there are a few ways to get one outside of just having it handed to you…they’re just significantly more difficult. Seriously, who’s actually managed to land all 5 digits in the lottery stuff? You’ve gotta be trading with EVERYBODY to even have a chance!

In any case, it makes sense that a card based on the Master Ball is limited to one copy as an ACE SPEC, and it makes perfect sense that it’s conditionless searching for any Pokemon of your choosing. Pretty simple stuff. It’s arguably better than Computer Search, since you don’t have to discard anything to use it, but Computer Search does have the advantage of grabbing anything you’d like and allowing you to set up your discard pile if you’re aiming to do that. But Master Ball has a wide selection of Pokemon to choose from, so whatever you need for your own set-up, you can grab in an instant!

Master Ball is one of the better ACE SPECs in my opinion, but whether you’d run it or not is entirely up to you. It thins your deck by one card, which may be something you need or can evolve something with, and it has a lot of utility since it can grab whatever you need! Just play smart, play well, and Master Ball can aid you in most any situation.

…except for fueling Garbodor. It’s still an Item after all.


Standard: N/A (not allowed here)

Expanded: 4/5 (solid choice for an ACE SPEC here, outside of Computer Search)

Limited: 5/5 (and naturally you’d run it if you had it here)

Arora Notealus: The Master Ball will always be a staple of the main video games, even if the same can’t be said of the Master Ball here in the TCG. This is actually its second reiteration; the first time it was printed, it resembled more of the current iteration of Great Ball.

Next Time: IT’S A TWISTAH!!


Over the course of last week’s and this week’s COTD, we will be reviewing two cards from the Burning Shadows expansion on Mondays and eight Ace Spec cards on the rest of the weekdays. If you don’t know what an Ace Spec card is, it is a mechanic that existed between BW Boundaries Crossed until BW Plasma Blast. Based on 13 cards, they’re all trainer-item cards. These are item cards that are said to be very powerful that only one Ace Spec card is allowed per deck. This means as soon as you designate your Ace Spec card of choice, you are barricaded from using 12 other Ace Spec cards, so choose wisely. This mechanic can also affect card legality from much older cards such as Computer Search and Master Ball, but more on that later. We decided to leave out Pokemon specific Ace Spec cards (there are five of them, two for Kyurem, one for Victini, and two for Genesect) and review only eight Ace Spec cards that doesn’t care about what deck you’re playing. All Ace Spec cards are Expanded and Legacy legal, and I may put Unlimited scores for Computer Search and Master Ball as well. I may also score Standard even though it’s no longer legal, kind of a hypothetical score.

Today’s Ace Spec card is Master Ball (Gym Heroes, Expedition, EX Deoxys, EX Delta Species, EX Power Keepers, BW Plasma Blast). Master Ball has never failed to catch a Pokemon (with the exception of RBY; it may fail 1/256 of the time) and is given to you only one piece per game (quite fitting for an ACE SPEC card). This and Computer Search had undergone a major text change, so to no surprise, you can only use the BW Plasma Blast, and not the older versions of it, even with a reference. This card hasn’t been reviewed by the crew.

Master Ball had two different effects. All the old printings before BW Plasma Blast has an effect identical to the post-errata Great Ball. The new effect of Great Ball is to look at the top 7 cards of your deck and find a Pokémon there and put it on your hand (which is what the old effect of Master Ball was).  The old effect of Great Ball is to search your deck for a basic Pokémon and put it onto the bench (in which the old effect of Great Ball is being taken over by Nest Ball).  So, what’s the effect now?

“Search your deck for a Pokemon and put it on your hand”

Well, not too bad. You don’t worry about discarding cards unlike Ultra Ball, and it won’t use up your supporter on your turn unlike Trevor. This can include any Stage, Break Evolution, Mega Evolution, LV.X, and one of the two halves of Pokemon Legend.

Some decks may not need Master Ball that may be redundant to what’s already in there.  Dive Ball is mostly in water decks; Level Ball is for evolving Pokemon; Heavy Ball fetches Pokemon with a retreat cost of 3 or more; Ultra Ball does the same but with a two card discard.  These Ball related cards were used more than one copy.

There’s nothing wrong with this card on its own, but when it is an Ace Spec card, it’ll be less impressive than other Ace Spec cards. But if that’s the only Ace Spec Card that you have, there’s no harm to include one in your deck; It’ll be like one-third of a Computer Search!  In limited, you will run this card as it can help you find your higher staged Pokémon.

Standard: 3.75/5
Expanded: 3.75/5
Limited: 5/5
Legacy: 3.75/5

Sylveon’s Notes: Vince, please don’t use the Master Ball; you can’t find it anywhere!

Coming up: Time to scoop them all!


This… is going to be confusing.  Today we look at Master Ball (BW: Plasma Blast 94/101), an Ace Spec Trainer-Item that allows you to search your deck for a Pokémon, then add it to your hand.  The older versions – Gym Challenge 116/132, Expedition 143/165, EX: Deoxys 88/107, EX: Delta Species 99/113, and EX: Power Keepers 78/108 – aren’t legal for Expanded or Legacy Format play (don’t know about Unlimited) and let you snag a Pokémon from the top seven cards of your deck.  Anything not picked was shuffled back into the deck.

If that sounds familiar, it is because the effect was given to Great Ball (BW: Emerging Powers 93/98, BW: Boundaries Crossed 129/149, XY 118/146, XY: BREAKpoint 100/122, Sun & Moon 119/149).  Just to make it more confusing, Great Ball has four older printings – EX: FireRed/LeafGreen 92/112, EX: Delta Species 90/113, EX: Power Keepers 77/108, and DP: Stormfront 85/100 – have the effect of Nest Ball: Benching a Basic from your deck! Note that until DP: Stormfront it had a clause stating it couldn’t select a Pokémon-ex.  Or don’t: unlike with Computer Search or Master Ball, Great Ball received an official errataum, so all older copies are treated as having the modern effect, no matter what they actually have printed on them.

So with that out of the way, how well does Master Ball work?  Like the budget version of Computer Search or the premium version of Ultra Ball, assuming you don’t benefit from discarding cards from your hand.  You can’t grab Trainer or Energy cards but you don’t have to worry about discard fodder.  It is still an Ace Spec, so it competes against all other Ace Specs for deck space and can blocked by Spiritomb (BW: Legendary Treasures 87/113.  As a Trainer, so Skyla or Trainers’ Mail can snag it, plus it is affected by some other deck-specific, non-competitive effects.  As an Item, it is easy to use and Junk Arm can reliably reuse it in the Legacy Format.  You can access some other useful effects but they tend to be more deck specific; there are many Item counters that can stop it, ome generic like Ghetsis, somewhat generic like Seismitoad-EX, and some deck specific, with some different and some shared between the Expanded and Legacy card pools.

Master Ball would be strong in Standard… because there are no other Ace Specs, so few decks would leave it out if it was the only one.  In Expanded and the Legacy Format, it provides a small boost to reliability, but these formats have several forms of Item-based Pokémon search; all Master Ball has over them is being both reliably and lacking an additional cost other than eating up your Ace Spec slot.  This approached made Computer Search one of, if not the best, Ace Spec because it could grab cards that don’t have reliably and/or affordable search in another form.  Working on just Pokémon, the small bump to reliability isn’t worth missing out on other potent effects.

For the Limited Format, Master Ball is a must-run unless

  • You’re running a +39 deck and yoru lone Basic Pokémon doesn’t need to Evolve.
  • You’ve pulled a Scoop Up Cyclone and you’re not running a +39 deck (whether your lone Pokémon can Evolve or not).
  • You pulled Genesect-EX and either G Booster or G Scope.


Standard: N/A

Expanded: 3.25/5

Limited: 4/5

Legacy: 3.25/5


Master Ball rivals Gold Potion for the title of “My First Ace Spec”.  Though I scored it ever so slightly better, Gold Potion seems better for learning in general, as it gives you more time with your Pokémon.  If you can only get one, then skip directly to Master Ball… or just Computer Search, assuming cost isn’t an issue.  The best use for Master Ball is PokéMath; comparing and contrasting it to the many similar cards to get an idea how things are priced in terms of game mechanics.  If all other things were equal (they’re not), it would suggest a “tails fails” (Poké Ball) is equal to being a Supporter (Trevor) is equal to discarding two cards from hand (Ultra Ball)…


Looks like I’m really late in this department.

So here we have a very peculiar Ace Spec card in Master Ball, which on paper seems like the best Pokemon search method there is. It just allows you to search for a Pokemon and put it in your hand. Yep, no coin flips like a normal Poke Ball, it’s not restricted to the top 7 cards of your deck (Great Ball), you don’t need to discard 2 cards from your hand to get the Pokemon you want (Ultra Ball), there are no HP caps (Level Ball), and so on, and so forth.

Now, although it may look good on paper, in practice, the Master Ball is seriously outclassed by many other Pokemon search methods. One of the most debilitating downside of Master Ball is that it is an Ace Spec card, meaning you can only use one in a deck. Now I would rather have 4 copies of Ultra Ball, which I can use over and over again in a match (despite the downsides of it) to reliably search for a Pokemon that I want in any given moment to get me the prize to victory. Another competitor to Master Ball are Pokemon that has attacks/abilities that can search for any Pokemon that I like for the next turn or two. Stuff like Alolan Vulpix (SM Guardians Rising) or Shiinotic (SM Base Set) that can do such a feat, or even the “Call for Family” Pokemon that has seen multiple reprints over the years.

In short, even though this card looks like the best Pokemon search method there is now, it is simply too unreliable and clunky, and its not worth your Ace Spec slot for Expanded decks. Stuff like Computer Search goes 9000x better than this piece of failure.


Expanded: 2.5/5 (It is cheap and performs what it does very well, but it is horrendously outclassed as an Ace Spec or even just an Item-based Pokemon search card.)