The Miscellaneous Promotional cards are cards from the Pokémon Trading Card Game that typically vary from normal prints in numbered expansions or promotional collections by featuring a special stamp or Holofoil treatment.
These cards are usually distributed via various items of merchandise that often relate to recent core TCG expansions or current events elsewhere within the Pokémon franchise. There are also a number of unique cards that have been released via limited in-store promotions, tours, and high profile events.
Wizards only produced a handful of these variant cards during their occupation (1999-2002). Since Pokémon USA (now The Pokémon Company International) took over the manufacturing and distribution of the TCG in 2003, these variants have continued to increase in quantity with every new Series, with more types of merchandise available and more focus on official Play! Pokémon events.
As the TCG has continued to develop, there have been changes to official event structuring and naming, branding, as well as additional aesthetics introduced to the cards themselves, such as new Holofoil patterns. A summary of some key changes are listed below:
Gym Challenges and Stadium Challenges were Premier Events introduced at the start of the 2003-2004 season, and allowed players to play for a World Championships invitation. There was no Stadium Challenge tournament in the 2005-2006 season, therefore no promotional card was produced for the event.
Beginning with the 2006-2007 season, Gym and Stadium Challenges were rejected in favor of Battle Road tournaments, similar to those in Japan at the time. The promotional cards sported a new stamp logo for these events. State Championships also had their name expanded to "State•Province•Territory", the promotional cards sporting the modified stamp logo.
The Holofoil pattern first featured on Regirock ex, Regice ex, and Registeel ex both in English and Japanese began being used extensively with the variant print of Rotom, thus gaining the colloquial term Rotom Holo within the community. With the release of the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online, this treatment was officially labelled as Cracked Ice Holofoil. It has since been used on several variant prints and promotional cards, also replacing the Cosmos Holo treatment on special versions of normally non-Holofoil cards included in some Theme Decks.
The Pokémon League prize structure was updated with the beginning of the 2009-2010 season. In the new Player Rewards Program, POP packs were phased out in favor of individual promotional cards, similarly to how cards were awarded before POP packs were introduced. These cards could be obtained by participating in Pokémon League sessions and Premier Events. Each feature a unique Crosshatch Holofoil treatment with a POP logo watermark behind the card's primary text.
In August 2010, Pokémon Organized Play was rebranded as Play! Pokémon. Cards released through the program beginning with the 2010-2011 season kept the same design, albeit with the updated Play! Pokémon logo as the watermark. Cards released through the Professor Program also received the Crosshatch Holofoil treatment with the Professor Program logo as the watermark.
Cards awarded at Play! Pokémon Premier Events starting with the 2011-2012 season featured a Championship Series logo stamp instead of the Play! Pokémon logo watermark. The Play! Pokémon watermark was changed to a Crosshatch Holofoil stamp on all other cards available through the Player Rewards Program. Cards released through the Professor Program from this season also received an updated foil "Pokémon Professor" stamp.
Regional Championships, first introduced as a single event in the 2004-2005 season, was increased to two events in the 2011-2012 season, and again to three in the 2012-2013 season. These were referred to as the Autumn, Winter, and Spring Regional Championships, each offering a different variant card for participants.
Due to continuing delays in prize delivery, the Player Rewards Program was discontinued in the 2013-2014 season. Battle Roads were also incorporated into Pokémon Leagues in the form of League Challenges at the end of each season cycle, with special variant cards available to those who placed in the top four in each tournament. All cards available through the Pokémon League from this season feature a Pokémon League stamp, replacing the Play! Pokémon stamp. The Crosshatch Holofoil treatment was no longer used on cards starting with the 2015-2016 season and was replaced by the Mirror Holofoil treatment (on cards from BREAKthrough only) followed by the standard Parallel Holofoil treatment.
The Play! Pokémon season structure underwent an overhaul for 2016-2017:
Individually named season cycles and overall season themes were phased out starting with the release of the Evolutions expansion, where the season cycles adopted the name of the most recent expansion for that quarter. Each quarter still retained 3 cycles, lasting approximately six weeks, but were named Evolutions Season 1, 2, or 3, for example. League Challenges continued to be held once per season cycle.
League Cups replaced City Championships, allowing venues to hold events once per quarter rather than once a year. These events also offered variant promotional cards. With the addition of another League event, promotional stamps on variant cards were changed to reflect the event in which they were awarded.
Regional Championships were spread more evenly across the season rather than being grouped into Autumn, Winter, and Spring Championships. New Regional Championship variant cards were released for every new expansion, which began to be distributed at venues when the latest expansion became legal for play.
The most significant change of the season, however, was the cessation of State•Province•Territory Championships and National Championships, the former fulfilled by Regional Championships and the latter succeeded by International Championships. International Championships are held four times per season, catering for four geographic regions: Europe, Oceania, Latin America, and North America. Each competition offers promotional cards with exclusive stamps. Cards awarded at this competition from the 2017-2018 season included a Play! Pokémon logo watermark.