Ross’ Guide to Pre-Releases

pokebeach.comAs I start to type this the top 4 is being played in San Diego and everyone is wondering whether Ross (not me, the other Ross) can win Worlds with a deck previously unheard of. Quite frankly, props to the man for being original and I hope he wins. Unfortunately for Ross (me this time, not the other Ross) I can’t be in San Diego so I feel removed from Worlds and a little bit sad. The good news is, in just 6 days I will be going to the first of 2 Pre-Releases for Emerging Powers. So it could be worse.

Now toward the end of last season I had a small amount of “proper” success (top-cutting Nats and taking a couple Battle Roads) but before that I wasn’t winning any tournaments. Generally I would go X-1 losing to the winner and curse my stupid rogue (apparently I am not quite as good at building rogues as the other Ross).

Strangely though I have always done pretty well at Pre-Releases; winning more than half that I have attended and only losing more than 1 game in a single Pre-Release. So, I thought I would try and share some of this knowledge and hopefully make Pre-Releases a bit more “winning” for some of you. I hope some of this makes sense and I hope some of it helps.

Note: This is supposed to be a “Catch-all” article so there will be some basic points made here (please don’t think me patronising) as well as some (hopefully) more advanced stuff. I’m hoping there’ll be something in here for everyone.

Basic Structure

pokebeach.comThis is the number one question I get asked by new players at Pre-Releases when I’m swanning around pretending to be some kind of expert: How many Pokémon / Trainers / Energy should I use? I will go into all of these in more detail later but I think the ideal split is 15 Pokémon, 15 Energy and 10 Trainers.

This will (usually) give enough Pokémon to keep you going, enough Energy to attach one every turn (at least for as long as is needed to power up enough Pokémon for the game) and enough Trainers to really give you a good shot.

You may disagree with this so I will try and justify this as I go through the article. I thought I should lay this out at the beginning though, so we have something to work with.


Obviously at this point it should be noted that the choice you have here is limited. You can only use what you pull from your 6 packs. When you open your packs you should find yourself a nice piece of table and lay everything out grouped by type.

When you’ve done that you need to take away any Pokémon that can’t be used (I.e. Stage 1s and 2s where you don’t have the Pre-Evolutions, basics that are terrible and you can’t evolve, types where you have only one Pokémon that needs a specific type of energy or truly abysmal Pokémon).

Now you need to look and see which one or two types (Fire, Grass etc) give you the better options. Some people at Pre-Releases only use one type, some people try 3 or 4, but I have always found 2 to be the optimum. The tournaments will be slower and running two types of energy will be fine (more on this below) but any more than this and your deck will falter.

pokebeach.comWhen picking Pokémon you need a balance between quick hitters and big hitters. Say you were building a Fighting deck at a Black and White Pre-Release: You could take Sawk and Krookodile. Sawk may only hit for 20 for F and 40 for FF, but he can start hitting immediately.

Pre-Releases are slow and many decks will falter and take a long time to get going. They may also be running a single basic for a stage 2 (I.e. one Solosis for their Reuniclus). Hitting early can cripple them and give you the win. When decks DO set-up however you would need a big hitter, which is where Krookodile comes in.

Be careful though and do not only take the big hitters. I have seen many Pre-Release games lost by people who put their entire energy into building up one big hitter. If it doesn’t work then you lose and often draw power is such that it won’t work. You need the balance. Pre-Releases are different but, just like any tournament, fast, consistent decks will always win out.

One thing that should be noted here is Colourless attackers. These should be identified as soon as you can and put to one side. Now, by Colourless attacker I do not necessarily mean a Colourless Pokémon (such as Cinccino or Dragonite) but any Pokémon, regardless of type, who can attack with entirely colourless energy.

An example of this would be Zoroark. His “Foul Play” attack can be used for just CC, meaning he can slot into any deck. It doesn’t matter that his first attack needs D Energy because he makes the cut for his Colourless attack. This can also give you some extra type coverage beyond the two types you pick out normally. Colourless attackers can be taken in addition to your two chosen types and can a nice extra dimension to your deck.
Use extra basics and Stage 1s!

One other thing to note here is that pyramid lines are GOOD. Usually they are pretty bad (although with Pokémon Catcher coming in we can start to think about running extra basics – more on that in my next article) but in Pre-Releases they can be good.

Later I will talk about draw power in Pre-Releases (and the lack thereof) and that means that it might be a while before you find that Stage 2. If you’ve already lost that only basic then the Stage 2 isn’t coming back.

All of this, of course, needs to be kept in the context of what you pulled. Running a 3-2-1 Emboar Line is awesome, but if you don’t pull 3 Tepigs then you won’t be running that! The same goes for big and small hitters and every other point I’ve made. At an Unleashed Pre-Release in Exeter I genuinely saw a man open six packs and have to make a deck that was incapable of hitting for more than 30 damage!

My final point about Pokémon here is that you need to readjust the figures. In proper tournaments you might run Magneboar, but you don’t want Ability Emboar and attacking for 80 every turn, you want Magnezone hitting for 200. In a Pre-Release however you DO want to be hitting 80 every turn.

If you don’t believe me, then make some notes at a Pre-Release for the average damage you hit for every turn. Now compare that to the average damage you hit for with your proper deck. There will be a BIG difference. Decks that occasionally hit for 120 will be beaten by decks that can often hit for 70!


pokebeach.com15 energy in a 40 card deck might seem like a lot but it’s needed. The problem here is slow decks with a lack of draw power. You need to be opening with around 3 energy and drawing one every few turns to keep up, less than 15 makes this really difficult.

You also need to be very careful with energy drops, if you’re struggling for energy then every drop is crucial and if you’re using unfamiliar Pokémon in an unfamiliar deck then this is a real danger. Just play like normal. If you have a big hitter on the bench that can sweep their whole team then by all means sacrifice a couple Pokémon to build him up, otherwise just make sure you can always attack.

It’s fine using that second, larger attack for one turn, but if your Pokémon gets Knocked Out and then you can’t attack the following turn it’s not much good.

Now I said earlier about picking two types, as a general rule. I think you should split the energy 8 / 7 in whichever way you want. You may want to make it 6-6-3 if you have a single Pokémon who wants a different type of energy but think about the odds of having that energy when you need it (ok, I’ve gotten away with it before but it’s risky). Never run more than 3 kinds of energy. I’ve seen people do it and they never do well.

What you do need to do is to look at your Pokémon you selected earlier. If you’re running fire Pokémon that need two R Energies to attack and water Pokémon that only need one water energy to attack (as well as colourless energy) then you need to put in a bigger split of Fire than Water.

I can’t be more specific here as it depends what you’re running but just look at your Pokémon, see how many of each energy (specific energy, as Colourless Energy can be provided by anything) they need to attack and take a decent guess based on that.


Now, as a general rule you should put all the Trainers you pull into your deck. I have said that 10 is the optimum but if you only pull 8 then use 8. If (and this will be very rare indeed) you pull more than 10 then you need to decide whether to put the extras in or cut a few of the less useful ones.

Obviously if you don’t pull 10 then that gives you extra slots for Pokémon and / or energy but again, be careful of your splits. If you’re unlucky and only draw 3 trainers then maybe 22 Pokémon, 3 Trainers, 15 Energy isn’t the best split, nor is 22 Energy and 15 Pokémon.

Emerging Powers is the upcoming set and although I have kept mentions of this brief deliberately (as I wish this to be a useful guide for Pre-Releases, not just one specific Pre-Release) I think it would be a decent example to go through the trainers in this set and show how useful they can be.


pokebeach.comA nice little Supporter that allows you to draw until you have 6 cards in your hand. Time will tell if this sees play in the real game (I think it just might, especially in decks that run lots of trainers and can empty their hands nicely) but any kind of draw in a Pre-Release is awesome. If you pull any of these, use them.


Another nice little supporter that allows you to draw 3 cards. This officially makes Bill (draw 2 cards) completely useless. Huzzah! I would rather use Judge, Sage, Juniper or PONT but beggars can’t be choosers and if I pull any of these in my Pre-Releases, I will use them.

Crushing Hammer

Another very nice card this, it allows you to flip a coin and if you get a heads then you can discard one of your opponent’s energy cards. This is awesome. In a Pre-Release very few people will have any energy acceleration so you’re effectively putting them back a turn. I think this card could have an impact on the metagame as a whole but either way it’s good for Pre-Releases.

Great Ball

Look at the top 7 cards of your deck and put a Pokémon from those cards in your hand. Yes please. I say below that you should take any kind of draw you can get in a Pre-Release and this is no exception.

As for the metagame as a whole, this could be nice as it doesn’t require a flip (Poké Ball) and you can use it if you have no other Pokémon in hand (Pokémon Communication) and want an evolved Pokémon (Dual Ball). No guarantees but we ARE short of Pokémon search at the moment…

Max Potion

pokebeach.comHeal ALL the damage off your Pokémon and discard the energy? Yes please! Ok, so it may require you to put a bunch of energy back on but if your opponent is struggling to take down one of your Pokémon (happens a lot in Pre-Releases) then this will make it even more annoying. Use it. Expect to see a LOT of this in Battle Roads as well.

Pokémon Catcher

Enough has been said about this and my next article is about this so all I will say is it lets you choose which of your opponents Pokémon is active. This is a huge advantage no matter what tournament you’re playing.


Flip a coin and if heads put any card from your discard onto the top of your deck. Recovery is another thing that Pre-Releases lack and this (if you flip right) can change a game. Only pulled one of a basic? Well if you flip heads on this you can pretend you pulled 2. It’s flippy but it’s great in a Pre-Release.

See, my point is that EVERY Trainer can be useful in a Pre-Release. They all have a function and they can all help you win. Some cards that would be useless in a proper tournament can work wonders in a Pre-Release. Take Black Belt for example (Triumphant Pre-Release). It hits for an extra 40 damage when you’re down in prizes.

Now some decks run this, but it is not a commonly used card. How many Pre-Releases have you seen where someone sets up a big attacker and sweeps? I’ve seen a few, especially as you only need to take 4 Prizes. Black Belt can give the extra 40 damage that your deck may otherwise be lacking, especially as you’re at the mercy of attacking with the Pokémon you’ve drawn.

There are a couple of exceptions but these should be obvious (luckily there are none in Emerging Powers). My favorite was in Triumphant where the only Trainer (now Trainer-Item) card was Junk Arm. This allows you to discard two cards and get a Trainer from the discard. Seeing as there are no other Trainers in the set there is no way this card could ever be used. I still put one in my deck though. Nobody found it funny.

Other Hints

1. Consistency is your friend

pokebeach.comIf you pull a 1-1-1 Gothitelle line with no Cheren and no Bianca then the chances of ever getting it out is slim, so maybe you shouldn’t use it unless you’re building a Psychic deck. You need to make sure your deck will work so make sure you choose the Pokémon that will give you a consistent deck.

If this means leaving a very strong Electric Pokémon because there is one good Electric Pokémon and 4 not-quite-as-good Water Pokémon then so be it. I won an Arceus Pre-Release with a 2-1-1 Charizard line, but I had other Fire Pokémon to back him up if I couldn’t get him working.

I won a HGSS Pre-Release with a 1-1-1 Meganium line, but I had other Grass Pokémon to back him up. At a Triumphant Pre-Release I had to ignore my 1-1-1 Mamoswine line (which nearly killed me!!) as I had Fighting and Psychic Pokémon that would do a better job.

2. Use any kind of draw you can get

When was the last time you saw a deck running Pidgey? Well in both Triumphant and Call of Legends we had that Pidgey that allowed you to search for a Pokémon. It was AWESOME. It made running 1-1-1 lines much easier and handed consistency to all decks.

If you pulled it, you should have run it. Same with Relicanth in Call of Legends Pre-Release, anyone else remember how popular he was? The only problem was that allowing you to draw 3 cards from a 40 card deck made many people deck out before they took 4 Prizes.

I even had a Triumphant Pre-Release where I ran Luvdisc for his “Rendezvous Draw” attack (both players reveal and draw one card) because it was literally the only draw I had.

3. Know what everyone else is playing

pokebeach.comDid anyone else notice how many good Dark Pokémon (Umbreon, Houndoom etc) were in Undaunted? Did anyone else play Gliscor and Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan to counter that? Or play Grass Pokémon to counter the huge amount of Relicanth at the Call of Legends Pre-Release?

The point is, if there’s one type that everyone seems to be using (very likely if there is a very energy-efficient attacker that is common or uncommon) then see if you can run its weakness. You could get some very easy victories.

4. Look for what will be good NOW, not in the next series of tournaments

At the end of the Pre-Release then you need to get trading. For Emerging Powers it will be Beartic, Gothitelle and Pokémon Catcher (if people are trading these off of you, make sure they give you a fair trade). For Black and White it was Reshiram, Zekrom, Cinccino, Zoroark etc. This doesn’t matter when you’re making that deck. It doesn’t matter if you pulled a Reshiram if he’s the only Fire Pokémon you pulled.

Use what will be good in this tournament. Two recent examples of this were Tentacruel and Lickilicky. Tentacruel came from Triumphant and, for a single Water energy, did 20 damage with the added bonus of paralysis, assuming you evolved him this turn. For CCC he could do 50 and discard an energy card from the defending (which can be crippling in a slow format with no energy acceleration, i.e. a Pre-Release).

So what you did was put an energy on him then next turn you promote him, add a second energy, evolve and hit for 20 and paralysis. The next turn you give him a 3rd energy and hit for 50 and take away an energy from the defending (who was probably dead anyway).

pokebeach.comThis may not be amazing in a City Championship, but it was stunning at the time. The fact that he was a Stage One that needed only one W Energy and had a completely colourless attack also meant he was incredibly splashable. He was also an uncommon, giving people a far greater chance of drawing him.

Lickilicky was also from Triumphant, was also an uncommon and was also awesome. “Licking Shot” for one energy could do 10 damage to any of your opponents Pokémon and this stacked; get 4 energy on him and you can hit any Pokémon for 40.

Maybe not awesome against a fully-functioning Reshiplosion deck, but awesome against decks struggling to evolve their basics with little draw power. For CCC he could use “Stick and Absorb” which did 50 and healed 20. In a format where damage is not that great, healing 20 every turn can make a 100HP Pokémon very tricky to take down.

Both of these Pokémon make no real dent in the metagame but in the Triumphant Pre-Release they were just as good as Machamp Prime and much easier to pull.

So there we have it, how to make a deck at a Pre-Release with a few playing tips in there as well. There’s no guarantee that you’ll draw anything to make a stunning deck but rarely do people draw so badly they cannot make a decent deck.

At Pre-Releases you’ll often see the same people winning as you do at real tournaments. Hopefully, with these tips, you can win a few yourself.

Pre-Release Stories

I’m going to finish now with a couple of stories I enjoyed from Pre-Releases I have been to. Please add your own in the comments section, there must be many awesome stories we all wanna hear.

pokebeach.com1. At an Undaunted Pre-Release I managed (from 6 packs) to pull a Houndoom and TWO Houndoom Primes. I went 3-1, losing in the finals to one of the best players in the UK. The really annoying thing? In a best of 3 he got a T2 Gliscor BOTH games and ran through my entire deck.

2. The same player, at a Black and White Pre-Release, managed to go 3-2 with a deck consisting of 1 Reshiram and 39 R Energy! Guess how often he mulliganed?

3. At a rather large (by UK standards) Triumphant Pre-Release I managed to win the whole thing 5-0. This is notable (I think) because the only Prime I drew was Electrode (I put him in my deck and in one game did 30 damage. That was all!) and the only draw I had was Luvdisc (see above).

No Twins, No Pidgey, just Luvdisc. Furthermore, I ran 9 basics, 3 of which were Luvdisc. I used Lickilicky, Tentacruel, Wailord and Electrode Prime (well, he was in my deck). In the final I beat someone with a full Machamp Prime line plus more.

4. At my other Triumphant Pre-Release I went 3-1 with MewChamp. I had one Mew Prime and one Machamp Prime and managed (a few times) to Lost Zone Machamp with Mew, retreat Mew, build Mew up on the bench and sweep with Machamp Prime’s attacks!

What are your best Pre-Release stories?

Reader Interactions

22 replies

  1. Manny Z. ^w^

    Pulling Emboar, Reshiram AND Zekrom for the Black and White prerelease in Chicago. I ended up going 3-1 and  losing the last round to a guy that pulled a 2-2 Zoroark.

    • Quentin  → Manny

      At the B&W prerelease I was very lucky. I pulled 2 full art Reshiram, a full art Zekrom, the rare hidden pikachu, an ability boar. 4 Ultra rares that day XD

    • Ross Gilbert  → Manny

      One guy at a BW Pre-Release pulled 2 Zekrom, 3 Potion, 2 Juniper etc etc. He basically pulled a working Zekrom deck.

      I beat him in a best of 3, one game by playing well and the other because it turned out BOTH his Zekroms were prized (bearing in mind he only had 4 prizes) and i played proper prize denial. Think i had a 1-1-1 Emboar, 1-1-1 Seperior, 1-1 Zoroark and Secret Rare Pikachu. Not idea how i did it because i didn’t pull good trainers and the deck should have been woefully inconsistent (possibly why all my games ended up being 2-1!!)

  2. Tandem Arts

    Saturday will be my first pre-release. While the set itself isn’t that impressive, I’m looking forward to it. What about running a Mulligan Thundurus Deck? With its first attack, it will be doing 80 on T2.

    • Ross Gilbert  → Tandem

      You’ll win a few games if you can do that! You’ll inevitably lose a few though. You’d be looking around 3-2 (or 3-1 / 2-2 depending on luck).

      I think it’s more fun to try silly ideas!

      • Tandem Arts  → Ross

        With Max Potion, Catcher, and Crush Hammers, what should I be afraid of if I run 2 or 3 Thunderus only? Excadrill? Fighting Trio?

  3. Charlie Yates

    I went 4-0 at the prerelease at Worlds, but I pulled amazing stuff like 2 catcher and a few cherens.  What really helped was the monkey’s collect, sawk, and the pokemon with sacred sword.  I would also find room for thundurus if you get it (and only 3 lightening energy needed in the deck).

    • Ross Gilbert  → Charlie

      Ha ha, sounds like you pulled some good stuff but also sounds like you know how to make a Pre-Release deck!

  4. beyblade1410

    cool. Loved your article it was informative and fun to read. Keep it up!

  5. andrewgn12

    I went 3-1 with klink klang, ferrothorn and sigiliph deck during worlds prerelease.
    just put as many monkeys as you get from this set. these monkeys have 70 hp and for 1 energy they can use “collect” to draw free cards.
    also if you can somehow pull audino from this pack it will be wise to put it in you deck

  6. Quentin

    I won a CoL prerelease with Groudon because I kept decking people out. And as for B&W I accidentally ran some stage 1’s without their basics.

  7. beyblade1410

    I’m quite scared of Bianca… just look at the artwork and tell me that’s not creepy… 

  8. Tyler Odom

    If only Pre-Releases still had the tournament structure… 3 rounds of play, then its done… Miss the good ol’ days when my Brother won the Fire Red Leaf Green pre-release and got a box. 

  9. Adam Capriola

    I once played a deck consisting of 3 Weedles, 2 Potions, and 35 Grass Energy. Un-epicly, I didn’t win a game.

  10. Ben Bradly

    going to my first pre-release in a few weeks, thanks so much for the article =D

  11. Deric Tan

    Since pre-release and sealed are almost the same in the way that it is played, my fondest memory off a sealed tournament was during Majestic Dawn.

    I pulled a 2-1-1 Glaceon LvX, 1/2 Jolteon, 3-2 Toxicroak.

    Prize? Brand new DS Lite

  12. stephen shirley

    i won my first tcg tournement it was an unaunted prerelease i was running a houndoom prime raichu jolteon and i think ia had something else deck i lost to a gu with a hitmonlee hitmonchan deck

  13. Callylove

    Went 3-1 at EP-prerelease at Worlds, losing to my brother… 1-4 in prize, then I decked out -.-

  14. Joe Callen

    At the Triumphant pre-release, I ran a 3-2-1 line of Victreebel and Victreebel was prized 3/4 games. The one time I actually got him into my hand and evolved I had been stalling with Carnivine at the time. I was trying to draw energy to retreat it and ended up decking out because my opponents attacks weren’t doing anything because I had resistance(water) and I kept using Saliva Lure to drag out his benched Pokemon. I had the match basically won(easily I might add) but I lost track of my deck size. Needless to say I was pissed at myself for the whole weekend.

  15. Tyler Odom

    Need to add SHUFFLE YOUR DECK BEFORE YOU PLAY. Lot of youngsters forget this….

  16. Kyle Lane

    I finished EM prerelease 3-0 at table 1. 

    Walked away after trading at prerelease with 4 gothitelle, beartic, 2 tornadus, thunderus, 5 catcher, 3 rev catcher, 4 max potion, rev cheren, rev bianca, 2 rev crushing hammer

    Arceus smiled upon me. 

  17. Mike Martindale

    I went 5-0 at the EM PR absolutly destroying the competition ;-)

    4-2 Bertric + 2 sawk + 1 Audino + 1-1 Semisear + 2 Darmanatan’s basic + 1-1 Gothorita + 1 Emogla +
    Basculine (flail) + Sygolith (reflect) + 8 water + 3 fire + 3 psychic + 3
    fighting + 2 recycle + 1 catcher + 1 Crushing Hammer + 1 Bianca
    Despite reading your article I knew PR decks with multiple types of energy can and will work. My thoughts on this deck….4-2 Bertric was probably my best limited pull ever. Forcing your opponent to retreat or die simply made them waste all their energy. Basculine simply takes hits and hopfully returns a KO before going down.
    Sawk and Audino are ovbiously amazing in a limited format as well. 20 x 5 flips and 40 x flips per energy….amazing. I should note that I had pulled a 1-3-1 line of Unifezent which would have been nice to play if more pidove showed up. I also pulled a 1-1-1 stage 2 grass guy and a 2-1 whimsicot line however grass didn’t hit much of anything for weakness and their attacks weren’t strong enough on their own to be worthy of consideration.
    My inclusion of the fire types was simple, looking through the set list grass out numbers any other type. 30 for three isnt amazing but 60 for three is pretty decent. Semisear worked well as I was already running water energy, and a reliable 70 dmg in a PR is always strong.
    Sygolith’s reflect is great at stalling allowing my to set up bertric, however its 2nd attack is decent aswell, 1-1 gothorita didn’t add much how ever the basic’s hypnosis is another handy stall tactic.  
    Finally Emogla was a neat addition with its (CC) attack 10 + 20x 2 flips is alright but hitting for weakness makes one shotting possible.
    I managed to get 
    Bertric out every game by t4 or 5, altho I only got to use Bianca once (for one
    card) which was disapointing. Audino was popular and so my Sawk saw some decent play time. I only had Audino and Emogla out once and neither saw use (even with 3 energy on audino)!After winning I remember how back in the day winning would net you a box of the set, now you just get the same 2 packs everyone else does. I did manage to leave the even with 45 Beta codes and two catcher giving up some
    RHs and crappy rares. (Almost had a thrid catcher but I got trade-jacked)

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