[JP] Is there any difference between Expansions & Subsets?

I am building a comprehensive database of all the Japanese Pokemon cards because I couldn’t find a tracker site that tracked what I wanted to track, surprisingly enough. Which brings me to my question:

When cataloging the expansions/promos/decks/etc, I’ve come across some releases that are called “subsets” and it’s intentionally distinguished, it would seem. But there’s no discernible difference between a subset and an expansion as far as I can tell. An example is Magma vs. Aqua: Two Ambitions from the ADV Era. Bulbapedia makes a point in their article on this set to say: “It was released as the only subset from the ADV Era of the Pokémon Card Game in Japan.” But Two Ambitions is listed on its own (i.e. not “sub” to any set in ADV) and seems just like any other expansion.
So, is there actually any difference between expansions and subsets in Japanese TCG? What’s up with the distinction?

I think it being the only set in ADV era featuring “Team Magma’s/Aqua’s _____” Pokémon is their reason for classification as a subset. The core expansions do not have it

It’s the same for XY: CP1 Magma Gang VS Aqua Gang: Double Crisis, as the first subset (concept pack) of XY. They also feature “Team Magma’s/Aqua’s ____” cards not found in core expansions. It’s more obvious to point them out in XY onwards

Core expansions

  • C/U/R
  • standard mechanic found across all sets (-ex, -lv.X, -EX, -GX, -V, -VMAX, -VSTAR, etc)
  • standard SR rarities (gold stars, SR, HR, UR, special art V/VMAX)


  • deviate from core expansion formula
  • different pull rates, different number of cards per pack (reverse foil/holo in every pack, etc), different number of packs per box
  • e.g BW Shiny Collection (confetti foil set), BW Dragon Selection (only dragon Pokémon)
  • e.g. concept packs CP1-6: small sets featuring star/sheen/glitter holofoil full arts
  • e.g anniversary sets
    • CP6 20th Anniversary = reimagined Base Set
    • S8a 25th Anniversary
  • e.g most SM sets suffixed with -a or -b
    • SM11b Dream League (only SM set to feature CHR)
  • e.g most SWSH sets suffixed with -a or -b
    • S3a Legendary Heartbeat (introduces Amazing Rares)
    • S6a Eevee Heroes (only set to feature special art V/VMAX Eeveelutions)
    • S9a Battle Region / S10a Dark Phantasma (features CHR, CSR, Radiant Pokémon)
    • S10b Pokémon GO (exclusive theme, features Radiant Pokémon)

Ah, that checks out. Looking at the expansions/subsets for later eras from pretty much XY on it makes more sense, especially when looking at their set codes.

This seems like the true answer and makes sense to me now. Thanks!

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