how to play one piece tcg new player guide

One Piece (T)CG took the world by storm! Released for the Western market only in December 2022, it took no time for the product to get hot and the player base to explode in numbers. One Piece is a massively popular Japanese media franchise, starting out as a manga before receiving an equally beloved anime series, both still on-going. This article serves as an introduction to fans looking to pit their favorite characters against each other in Bandai's newest version of the card game. It will introduce you to the game's rules, inform you about available products, let you know how to find tournaments to play the game in and recommend multiple deck choices to help you compete.


This is a detailed look at the game's rules. For a quick-start version, check out the official Overview Sheet.

The game is played by 2 players, each with their own Leader card, a 50 card deck and a 10 card DON!! deck. Both players present their Leader to the opponent and place it on the center of the board, before deciding who chooses to go first via a random method - usually a dice roll. Players shuffle their decks and draw 5 cards. Both get the option of one free "mulligan" - returning their full hand to the deck, shuffling the deck and drawing 5 new cards. They then place a number of cards equal to their Leader's life on top left part of the board, the Life Area. The player going first takes 1 card from their DON!! deck and places it face-up in the Cost Area below their Leader. They do not draw a card to begin their turn.

Leader card

DON!! cards are functionally all the same and serve as resources in OPCG - think mana in other card games, and are used to pay costs indicated in top left corner of regular cards. Costs are paid by resting an appropriate number of DON!! cards in your Cost Area. Resting is rotating a card 90° so that it is placed sideways. Instead of resting them to pay a cost, a player can also attach any number of active DON!! cards to a character they control, granting them 1000 power for each DON!! attached and only during the current player's turn. Once DON!! are attached, they cannot be returned to Cost Area or attached to other Characters.

DON!! card

When a player begins their turn they return all DON!! cards attached to Characters or the Leader into the Cost Area and set any rested cards they have to active, putting them back into their vertical orientation. They then draw a card from their Deck and place 2 new cards from their DON!! deck into the Cost Area. This way the resource system is detached from the Deck and slowly ramps up to the maximum of 10 DON!!, allowing for bigger and bigger plays as the game goes on.

Character card

There are 3 types of cards that go into the Deck - Character, Event and Stage. Character cards are most common, denoting their power in top right and their effect, if any, in the center text box of the card. They are played to the board's Character Area above the Leader and remain there until defeated in combat. Event cards are one-time use abilities with a powerful effect, placed straight into the Trash (graveyard) pile below the Deck. Stage cards are placed into the Stage area to the Leader's right and remain there until removed by an effect. A player may only control 1 Stage card at a time and playing a new one will destroy the old one. Every card in the deck must belong to the color(s) indicated in the Leader's bottom left corner. A maximum of 4 copies of each card is allowed.

Event card
Stage card

Combat can only be initiated by the turn player. This is done by resting an active Character or Leader and declaring the attack target. Attacks can only target the opponent's rested Characters or their Leader, whether rested or active. Characters cannot attack the turn they are played. Combat is then performed in 4 steps: Attack Step has the attacking Character's "When Attacking" effect activated. The opponent may redirect an attack during Block Step by using a "Blocker" effect of one of their Characters. The defender may increase the power of their battling Character or Leader during Counter Step for this battle by playing any number of "Counter" cards from their hand. Counters are denoted on the left border of Character cards, while some Event cards simply have Counter effects, meaning they can only be used during the Counter Step of the opponent's turn. Finally, power of the attacker and the defender are compared in Damage Step and the attacker wins if their power is equal or higher to the defender's. If the defending player loses combat with a Character card, the Character is K.O.'d and trashed - put into the Trash area below the deck. If the defending player loses combat with a Leader card, they draw a card from the top of their Life Area. Some Character and Event cards have "Trigger" effects, which can be used only when a card is drawn from the Life Area. If the attacker loses combat, nothing happens to their Character or Leader. To win the game: attack and win combat against a Leader when their player has no cards in Life Area. The only other way to win is for your opponent to run out of cards in their Deck.

Event card with counter

The turn player may alternate the actions of playing new cards, attaching DON!! or attacking as they please. With resources readily available every turn, a comeback mechanic built into the game's Life system and the defending player having the last say in who wins combat, games of One Piece are tense back-and-forth duels rewarding good strategy.


What to buy

At the time of writing, One Piece Card Game has 5 commercially available products: 4 different color Starter Decks and the Romance Dawn booster set. The 5th Starter Deck will be released in February, while early March will see the release of the game's second booster set, Paramount War. Please note that this refers to the Western releases for the game, as the already released Japanese language cards are not legal for tournament play outside of Asia!

No matter the card game background you may have, the best way to get started in One Piece is to buy one of the Starter Decks. Starter Decks include everything you need to play your first game - 1 of the 4 unique color Leaders, a 50 card Deck, 10 DON!! cards and a rulebook. If you like the game's ebb and flow and wish to upgrade, usually the best way is to buy the second copy of the same Starter Deck, as some of its best cards come with only 2 copies included and you will want a full set.

Starter decks

If you've got what you need from the Starter Decks you can look at booster packs or even boxes of Romance Dawn. Each 12-card pack contains a mix of cards of different rarities and different colors, predominantly "commons". A pack will contain 2 or 3 "uncommon" cards, 0 or 1 Leader - unique to Romance Dawn, 1 "rare" and 1 "rare" or higher - "super rare", "secret rare". Some rare and higher cards even come with alternate artworks, featuring new, highly detailed artworks making them very sought-after collectibles.

If you're not the type to rely on luck with their pack pulls, turn to one of many online platforms for selling individual cards and order the singles you need. cardmarket is your best friend if you live in the European Union, while TCGplayer serves USA’s playerbase.

It is a fact that One Piece is currently experiencing product availability shortages as the game's popularity exceeded all expectations. Product prices in many places exceed MSRP and it's up to you to determine whether the purchase is worth it - please use common sense” Bandai, as a company with stringent quality control, has limited printing capabilities. Additional printings of each product are expected based on their involvement in other card games, but there is no official announcement or timeframe for this.


Bandai manages multiple card games and runs Organized Play for each of them. One Piece is no exception, with stores around the globe able to participate in the Organized Play program and reward their players with unique promotional products. Magic Omens is one such partner, so if you find yourself in Zagreb, Croatia, feel free to stop by on Tuesdays for Digimon locals and on Fridays for some One Piece gaming! Tournament Packs and Film: Red promo packs await!

To find tournaments nearest to you, download Bandai’s TCG Plus application and register your account. There you can use the event search to find the events in your city, your country or across the globe!

For those aiming to stand at the very top of the world, a series of high level events is already planned! OPCG’s Event page currently lists multiple Treasure Cups and online Regionals players can participate in, with more to be added in the near future. We recommend starting out slow, finding your groove in the game and, once you feel ready, grabbing an opportunity to play a Treasure Cup when one is hosted locally.


What to play

The eternal questions: “Which deck should I play? Is there a decklist I can take a look at? How much does it cost?” Without a doubt, this section could be a series of overwhelmingly detailed articles, but I’ll keep it nice and straight to the point in answering all these questions. Hopefully you’ll find a deck you like.


Red is the color of aggression in not just One Piece, but card games in general. Summon many small units and use a multitude of attacks to overwhelm the opposing defenses. Featuring Straw Hats, the main pirate crew of the series, red decks have quickly become a fan favorite! Be it with Luffy leader from the starter deck or with Zoro leader from Romance Dawn, the plan is the same. Play out multiple units and use their attacks to chip away at the opponent’s life. When your leader is attacked, don’t bother protecting him, as you want to draw the extra fuel for your attacks. Only use counters to protect your rested characters. Finish the game off with two predominantly red mechanics: “Rush” which allows Characters to attack on the turn they are played, and blocker evasion - effects of Characters and Events that prevent blockers from being used on that critical last attack at life. Due to Straw Hats’ popularity some of the singles, such as Characters Zoro and Shanks from Romance Dawn, demand a fairly high price. The cost of two starter decks combined with the singles should be around 150€, a large majority spent on the 4 copies of Zoro and the 2 copies of Shanks.

Zoro deck list OP01

A strong way to preserve board presence in One Piece is to not attack with your valuable Characters until you can protect them with Blockers or Counters. Green decks have access to Wano cards which can forcibly rest opponent’s Characters, creating attack targets besides the Leader. Green color also features the Supernovas, the most promising rookies of the new generation of pirates. They’re more varied in effects, but they also favor efficient effects which allow for board control. This makes green decks a solid pick against the red, and the green mirror quite intensive. To top it off, green has the best “Blocker” Characters in the game. If you like flexible toolbox decks where your decisions heavily impact the flow of the game, green is the way to go. The only thing green lacks are big beater units, as the price for all the cool effects has to be paid somewhere. This presents challenges in some match-ups, but that’s another worry for a future article. Speaking of price, green utilizes the least amount of cards from starter decks, but most of its upgrades are cheap and low rarity. The exceptions are 2-3 copies of Trafalgar Law and 2-3 copies of Eustass “Captain” Kid from Romance Dawn, both super rares and really strong upgrades. Expect the full competitive deck to cost you around 90€.

Kid deck list OP01

Blue color gathers two elite factions from One Piece - the Four Emperors and the Seven Warlords of the Sea. The color appears to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Its current niche are effects which return opponent’s Characters back to hand, with a few sending those Characters to the bottom of the deck. Added to that, there are plenty of effects that work to gain card advantage through additional draws. This strategy based around temporary removal to seize tempo works the best against decks reliant on building their own board, as blue Characters can easily overwhelm the board while resetting the opponent’s previous turn. There’s plenty of big units to go around and a fair number of blockers and 2k counters to gain and keep control of the board. The deck itself is mostly cheap to build, with mainly 4 Boa Hancock and 2-3 Dracule Mihawk from Romance Dawn bringing the cost up to 70€.

Doflamingo deck list OP01

Purple is the standout color of the game’s first set. Featuring Kaido and his Animal Kingdom pirate crew, this color is all about the display of overwhelming power. Summon big guys, kill off the weaklings and crush the opponent! Many high cost purple characters, notably King and Kaido himself, have effects which immediately K.O. opponent’s units. Unmatched in removal, these effects have an additional cost to them - returning DON!! cards to your deck. To go with that hand in hand, purple color has several “mana ramp” tools, allowing you to get cards out of the DON!! deck ahead of the 2-per-turn schedule. Onigashima is the only Stage card that currently sees play and it does just that, accelerating your DON!! clock, allowing you to summon your big guys faster and pay their costs. Other than that, the deck is chock full of blockers, 2k counters and Event counters. The plan is very simple: play blockers early on, try to get some free DON!!, then start summoning Kings and Kaidos to wipe the opponent’s board clean. Your Event counters and blockers will protect your life and your Kings and Kaidos will crush the opponent with their overwhelming power. To top it all off, purple Kaido leader is the cheapest meta deck! Two starter decks powered up with Romance Dawn cards, including several copies of super rare Kings and Kaidos, cost around 50€ total. For a simple, yet devastatingly effective strategy that feasts on green decks!

Kaido deck list OP01

Some leaders can use more than 1 card color and pay for that ability with their life - no, seriously, they start with 4 life instead of 5. I won’t get into the specifics of these decks yet, as they are too complicated to both build and pilot for someone getting into the game, but keep an eye out! With twice as many cards at their disposal, the strategies become very diverse and effective, but there’s just as many pitfalls with the vulnerability of 4 HP.


One Piece is a new and exciting card game. There's a lot to explore and a lot more to come - simple combat-based gameplay makes it easy to pick up for casual kitchen table gaming, but if you like your card games serious there's plenty of strategic depth. Though not very common, there are also characters whose abilities have been adapted to the game nicely for that extra bit of flavor. It's quite important that it is cheap to build a fully competitive deck compared to many other TCGs, with most being under 100€ to complete - see examples above. Compare this to Yugioh or Magic the Gathering where meta decks easily shoot up to 1000€ and the difference is almost difficult to believe. With new higher level tournaments announced for the near future, as well as multiple products providing new fan favorites with cards, this is probably the best time you can begin playing the One Piece Card Game!

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1 comment

trading cards

trading cards

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