CGC Cards Grades Playtest Cards from Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering

Posted on 9/7/2023

Recent submissions included a Charizard March Playtest and a Mox Pearl Gamma Playtest that were printed to test the games.

Before trading card games are mass-produced for the general public, TCG developers usually test their game’s cards (including abilities, mana costs, etc.) and overall mechanics. To do this, a small group of people intimately involved with a TCG’s development sometimes receives a small deck of prototype cards, which can be rough sketches or outlines of a card mounted on high-grade cardstock. These playtest cards are extremely limited in quantity and are highly valued by collectors.

CGC Cards™ recently certified two of these playtest cards — one each from Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering. The Charizard, Pokémon (1996) March Playtest received a grade of CGC 7.5, while the Mox Pearl, Magic: The Gathering (1992) Gamma Playtest received a grade of CGC 8.


Click images to enlarge.

In June, CGC Cards certified three other Pokémon playtest cards that were eventually included in Wizards of the Coast’s Pokémon TCG Base Set, including a Charmander, Bulbasaur and Squirtle. Now, CGC Cards has had the opportunity to grade the playtest version of Base Set’s holy grail: Charizard.

Charizard is one of the most popular Pokémon in the world and is especially coveted within the Pokémon TCG community. This playtest card is no exception. A predecessor to the ultimate Shadowless Base Set Charizard, the Charizard March Playtest card features Ken Sugimori’s artwork of the dragon instead of Mitsuhiro Arita’s iconic design. Like the Kanto starter playtest cards, the playtest version of Charizard has several mechanical differences from its official release, including the addition of “habitat” information and a lack of rarity symbol.

It is unknown how many of these Charizard playtest cards exist, but there are likely precious few of them, and they are likely in the collections of those who were heavily involved in the Pokémon TCG’s production process. Altogether, CGC Cards has graded five March Playtest Pokémon cards, according to the CGC Cards Population Report.

Mox Pearl

Click images to enlarge.

Mox Pearl is a member of the coveted Power 9, a group of early Magic: The Gathering cards that were banned or restricted shortly after release for being too powerful. The artwork is simple, a rough sketch of an orb in black and white, and would change drastically in the finalized version of the game. This Gamma Playtest Mox Pearl also has only one instruction: “Provides 1 mana TAP.” In the final version of Mox Pearl released in the Alpha set, the instructions became clearer about how to use the mana: “Add 1 white mana to your mana pool. Tapping this artifact can be played as an interrupt.”

Only a very small number of the Gamma Playtest version of Mox Pearl are known to exist, and CGC Cards has only graded this single example. According to the CGC Cards Population Report, CGC Cards has only graded a total of 216 Gamma Playtest cards from Magic: The Gathering. This card will be offered at a Heritage Auctions sale in October.

About CGC

Since revolutionizing comic book grading in 2000, CGC has grown to include certification services for many other types of pop culture collectibles. These divisions include CGC CardsCGC Video Games and CGC Home Video. CGC Cards provides expert card grading for TCGs, sports cards and non-sports cards. CGC Video Games is dedicated to video game grading for the most popular consoles, including Nintendo, Sega, Atari, PlayStation and more. The newest division of CGC, CGC Home Video, provides expert VHS grading in addition to other types of videocassettes.

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