Playing Rogue: Surprising the Metagame

My name is Simon and I play rogue.

If you play the PTCGO, we’ve probably battled before. I’m online all the time. I go by “quarterturn.”

As long as I’ve played the Pokémon Trading Card Game, I have played rogue decks. I love the creativity that goes into them, and how it drastically improves one’s deckbuilding skills. These decks are easy to play poorly, but require skill to play well. It also teaches a great deal about gameplay strategy, as your deck has to shift and adapt to what you’re facing more often than the straightforward meta decks. Those tend to be more skilled at doing one very powerful thing very well and consistently (i.e. Reshiram/Typhlosion, Gothitelle, ZPST).

In this article, I want to touch on some of my favorite rogue decks I’ve built lately. Please note that I don’t believe any of these to be top-tier material, but I hope this gives you something to play with or inspires you to add some surprise into your builds.

Without further ado, we have my first deck:


This deck arose from my fascination with the Judge + Weavile combination. I found it particularly effective when paired with Magnezone Prime. Of course, the idea is that you play a Judge, recover with Magnezone, find yourself a Weavile and, if everything goes right, cut your opponent down to a three-card, unplayable hand.

The problem was that Magnezone is a Stage Two, and disruption decks fare best when they can act fast. My response was to replace Magnezone with Noctowl HS. The two Stage Ones made everything burst out pretty quickly, but also took up a great deal of bench space. The deck needed a lightweight attacker, something offensive that didn’t take a lot of set-up and recovered quickly. Nothing does that better than Mew Prime.

Here’s what the deck looks like:

Pokémon – 19

4 Mew Prime
2 Jumpluff HS
1 Muk UD
4 Sneasel UD

3 Weavile UD
2 Hoothoot HS

2 Noctowl HS
1 Cleffa HS/CL

Trainers – 30

4 Pokémon Communication
4 Junk Arm
3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Super Scoop Up
1 Pokégear 3.0
1 PlusPower
1 Lost Remover
1 Revive


4 Pokémon Collector
4 Judge
4 Cheren

Energy – 11

4 Rainbow
4 P
3 G

Other Options

pokebeach.comI’ve considered other Lost Zone targets for Mew including Cinccino BW (outclassed by Jumpluff for energy reasons), and Lilligant EP. I ended up favoring Muk over Lilligant because coin flips make me nervous and “Sludge Drag” preserves your Pokémon Catchers. Also, it makes leftover P Energy after the first turn feel useful.

Muk and Lilligant are always 1-of cards in this deck, though, as you usually only have time to “See Off” the Jumpluff (which is your priority with this deck). Muk helps against Vileplume UD and works wonders on the lone Typhlosion Prime your opponent may have in play.

I tried Seeker, but found myself needing my Supporter for the turn. Feel free to test it if you want. I prefer Super Scoop Up, though.

Team Rocket’s Trickery is definitely worth testing, as Noctowl makes up for the reduced draw. I went the safe route with Cheren, but go with what feels right for you.

You can also try Donphan Prime or Beartic EP 30 in place of Mew. They’re both disruptive in their own way and can be set up relatively easily. They can also take a hit, which is something Mew can’t say, and has been Mew’s biggest downfall. On the other hand, being a Stage One and carrying a heavy Retreat Cost will change the feel of the deck, for better or for worse.

The Perks

The quick, unforgiving disruption of Weavile can potentially shut down any deck. I have found the best matchups to be set-up decks like Reshiram/Typhlosion, or anything requiring a Stage Two. The straight-draw with Cheren and Noctowl can give you huge handsizes, which can be great against Yanmega, making Insight irrelevant, but you also have to watch for your opponent’s Copycats.

Keep your handsize just out of your opponent’s reach, but not so dangerously large that a Copycat will bounce them back into the game. Keep a Judge in hand in case that happens, though. On a side note, once Magnezone hits the field, you’re in a lot of trouble, since you can no longer effectively disrupt your opponent.

pokebeach.comThis deck has some of the best recovery out there. You can fill your bench up with Noctowls and Weaviles, leaving just a single Mew in play, which is actually an excellent decision against some decks (not against others such as Beartic or anything inflicting status conditions). If your Mew gets Knocked Out, which happens very often, promote one of your many free-retreating Pokémon, bench another Mew, attach an energy, and you’re all set. With your disruption, your opponent shouldn’t be able to rebound nearly as quickly.

MewPluff/Weavile is nearly immune to Pokémon Catcher. Mew, Sneasel, and Weavile all have free-retreat, so, as much as your opponent would love to stall to set up, there’s not much they can do to prevent you from attacking again. Noctowl has a Retreat Cost of one, but that is easily taken care of as you can attach psychic energies to your Noctowls at your leisure throughout the game. After all, Mew only needs one energy to attack.

But most of the time, your opponent won’t even bother playing the Catcher in the first place. If they have the option to Knock something Out, they’ll go for the Mew. It’s the only Pokémon you have in play that can deal damage, thus, it’s the only real threat. They know you only have four (until you whip out Revive), so you can forget about most Catcher problems.

Lastly, the deck is very fun to play. It really catches your opponent off-guard. Not to mention, it destroys Gothitelle. If you’ve been playing Reshiram or Zekrom for a while, and you have a personal vendetta against Gothitelle, give Mew a whirl and get your revenge on the psychic monster. If you decide to play with this deck, watch out for opposing Mew Primes that can use your attackers, and remember you can Knock them Out with “Leaf Guard.” Also, you can use their LZ attackers, such as Gengar Prime. I once beat MewGar at its own game with this deck.

Next up, we have a…

Basic Donk Deck

This was inspired by an article on ProPokémon called “Snap…Crackle…Donk,” which is a deck that aims to donk nearly every Basic Pokémon in the competitive game by hitting for popular weaknesses with rather obscure Pokémon such as Luvdisc and Plusle/Minun. I loved the idea, and I felt I could improve on the deck, so this is my version:

Pokémon – 18

4 Yanma TM

3 Yanmega Prime
3 Sneasel UD

2 Weavile UD
2 Hitmontop HS/CL
1 Luvdisc TM
1 Emolga EP
1 Bouffalant BW
1 Tyrogue HS/CL

Trainers – 32

4 PlusPower
4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Dual Ball
3 Junk Arm
3 Pokégear 3.0
2 Pokémon Communication
1 Switch


4 Professor Juniper
4 Professor Oak’s New Theory
2 Seeker
1 Copycat

Energy – 10

4 Rainbow
4 Double Colorless
1 F
1 W

The best way for me to explain this deck is to take it card-by-card, so here we are:

Hitmontop HS/CL: This is my favorite of the dokners. “Triple Kick,” for one F Energy, allows you to flip three coins and does 20 damage times the number of heads. With a PlusPower and just one heads, Hitmontop Knocks Out a Pachirisu or Minccino. The best part of Hitmontop, though, is that for a fighting and a Double Colorless, he can dish out 60 damage with “Close Combat.”

With a PlusPower, you can say goodbye to a fresh Zekrom or Magnezone. Bam. Granted, your opponent only needs to do 40 damage to return the KO, but when you think about it, what Pokémon does 40 damage? If your opponent is able to recover and attack next turn, Hitmontop would be Knocked Out anyway, so there’s not much drawback to “Close Combat.”

Luvdisc TM: This fellow has been called the poor man’s Tyrogue, but taking weakness into account, can deal a quick 60 to something weak to water. Luvdisc helps donk Cyndaquils and Tepigs, and with the aid of PlusPower, can give you the 1HKO their Stage One evolutions and any threatening Phanpys. Dealing 60 to a Reshiram can also help you hit the magic number 130 when you follow it up with Yanmega’s “Sonicboom.”

Emolga EP: The primary attack you’ll be using here is “Acrobatics,” which for one Double Colorless does 10 and 20 for two flips. Against a Yanma or Horsea, all you need is one heads. Don’t forget, though, that “Thundershock” can cause paralysis on a flip, which can be helpful at times. This buddy also has free retreat, which is very important in this deck.

Yanmega Prime: This is the famous soft Donphan counter, as well as your only hope late-game. Sometimes, this deck morphs into Yanmega/Weavile, but you only run one Copycat, so you’ll have to use your burnable trainers to match handsizes most of the time.

Weavile UD: Weavile is there to ensure that there isn’t a late-game at all. If your opponent sets up, you’re pretty much done for. Forget about Knocking Out a Typhlosion – You won’t be able to. This deck is about taking six cheap prizes in six turns. Stay focused and Catcher what you know you can remove from play.

Tyrogue HS/CL: This is used as often as Cleffa is in most other decks, meaning, it’s a clutch card. If you need a guaranteed way to do damage while you attach an Energy somewhere else, Tyrogue is there to help you out. He can also stall, which can be very important. And if he doesn’t stay asleep, hopefully you just lose a Tyrogue instead of a Yanmega or something more important. With the aid of PlusPowers, you might just donk a Magnemite with a Tyrogue, which isn’t unusual for a deck designed to have free access to multiple PlusPowers each turn.

Bouffalant BW: Bouffalant works so well in this deck, it’s not even funny. You will lose a Pokémon most turns (but not every turn if you keep the pressure on), so Bouffalant gets you that quick 90 with “Revenge,” which helps you do what this deck is all about: staying ahead in the prize race by taking one every single turn, beginning with turn one.

Other Options

Manaphy UL: This deck doesn’t run Cleffa, because you shouldn’t be wasting your turn with a hand refresh. Every turn should be a step closer to taking that sixth prize. Manaphy was mainly considered for his second attack, “Wave Splash,” which does 20 for a Water. With a PlusPower, Manaphy is like a Luvdisc with free retreat.

This would bump your number of free-retreating Basics up to ten, which is incredible, and important, as you need to be able to easily promote whatever Pokémon is necessary for the knockout. “Deep Sea Swirl” can be used in clutch circumstances, but I haven’t needed it yet and strongly advise against using it unless you’re in dire straits.

Basculin EP 24: This was something I was testing out. I don’t know if I like it yet, but you know how this guy works. “Flail” does 10 times the damage on Basculin, and “Final Gambit” for a Water and a Double Colorless does 80, with the potential of doing 80 to itself if you see two tails. Donphan can really hurt this deck, so I tried a Basculin to counter him. Not to mention, you run the right energies for this tech. I’m still on the fence with it, though.

Skorupi TM: If you’re expecting a lot of Gothitelle, this is an option. Thirty and paralysis on a flip with Paralyzing Clamp can KO a Gothita, but it’s another card requiring a coin flip, so it’s not ideal.

This deck can very easily be molded to counter any specific metagame by shifting your attackers or your energy counts. My decklist is far from perfect, but it works for me. Test it out yourself; you may find it a blast to play. My final piece of advice for this and any speed deck is the following: When in doubt, Juniper.

Lastly, and this is more of an honorable mention, but we have…

Bench Out Variants

I keep giving up and coming back to this deck. I really want to make it work, but don’t know how. I’m posting my ideas here so someone can hopefully expand upon them.

Everyone knows about the other win condition of removing your opponent’s last Pokémon in play. I decided I would design a deck with purely that objective. I don’t have a decklist to show you, because none of mine have been successful as of yet, but here are what I believe to be the best cards to consider:

Drifblim UD: This card can remove any Pokémon your opponent has in play. “Take Away,” for three C Energy shuffles Drifblim and all cards attached to it into your deck. Your opponent does the same with his or her active Pokémon. Alongside Catcher, Drifblim becomes even more of a threat. You don’t like their Typhlosion or Magnezone? Catcher it up, Take it Away. There is nothing more satisfying.

Three Energy may seem like a lot, but charging up Drifblim isn’t actually his problem. I built a Drifblim/Celebi Prime deck with Noctowl for draw that worked very effectively to power up a Take Away every turn; however, my opponent always seemed to get the Pokémon back. Most people run four Collector, so pushing Pokémon back into the deck isn’t an effective way of making your opponent bench out. Drifblim is a great tech against tanks like Steelix, Magnezone, or Gothitelle, but it isn’t enough for it’s own deck, unfortunately.

Weavile UD: This is where things get promising. Seeker + Weavile is a sharp weapon. Play a Weavile, discard a Supporter or something, Seeker that Weavile back up, and play it right back down on another Sneasel to discard the Basic Pokémon they picked up. This allowed for a guaranteed removal of a Pokémon from play. Bar Revive and Flower Shop Lady, that Pokémon is gone for good. The problem was, of course, having only four Seeker in the deck.

This brings me to my next tool, Lapras HS Promo 14. This Lapras has an attack called “Ferry,” which allows you to take a Supporter from your discard pile and put it into your hand. So, the idea would be to attack with Ferry and use a Seeker every turn until your opponent has only their active Pokémon in play, at which point, you can Knock it Out for the win. Note: I tried Sableye, but Lapras is much better, even if it can only net you a Supporter. Since Seeker is your Supporter for the turn, you need to be able to draw one other card, always.

pokebeach.comThe next issue was Lapras being Knocked Out, which brought me to the inclusion of Roserade UL for confusion, in hopes that Lapras would live longer. I also added Slowking HS/CL for disruption, because it partners so perfectly with Weavile and prevents your opponent from getting set up further and putting more Basics on the bench. This was way over-teched and inconsistent, so I scrapped that idea as well.

This deck idea continues to fail for me because, assuming your opponent runs twelve Basic Pokémon, you have to take twelve “prizes” before your opponent can take six. I haven’t made it work yet, and I don’t know if it can, but I believe there is something there, if even for a fun league deck. Mess around with it and let me know what you think. Also, don’t forget that since you’re playing with other win conditions and you’re not taking prizes, you can abuse Twins all you want.

This format can be quite brutal to rogue decks. If your attacker can’t take a 120-damage hit from the dragons, it will be very hard for you to stay competitive. With early-game disruption, you can hopefully stop opposing decks from getting to where they need to be to consistently score KOs. Unfortunately, Zekrom is often too fast to disrupt. Zekrom has always caused me trouble, but if you can get past the first turn, then enforce some hardcore disruption for the rest of the game, you may stand a chance. Maybe.

I want to conclude this article by encouraging everyone to play more rogue decks. You don’t have to take them to tournaments, but at least have some fun with underappreciated Pokémon; doing so will really improve your game. You’re also at a huge advantage if you know what other Pokémon cards do. I have skimmed through scans of practically every card in the modified format, which I feel gives me a competitive edge.

If you drop a Drifloon, and your opponent has no idea what Drifblim does, they could be in for a world of hurt when their Typhlosion goes flying back into their deck. Many players don’t know anything beyond the popular cards, so use that to your advantage when you’re teching your deck for Regionals. Never, ever underestimate the element of surprise.

Reader Interactions

32 replies

  1. Mekkah

    dude stop double attaching energy
    i am reporting you
    nice double catcher though…

    (+1 for the hilarious Lapras/Seeker/Weavile combo alone)

  2. Jak Stewart-Armstead

    Next week on 6P . . .

    ‘How to avoid tragic misplays’ by muldin.

    Anyway, you get points for

    a) pointing out that playing a rogue deck requires a lot of skill and involves careful and creative deck building. Every time I see someone say stuff like ‘I play Blastgatr cos I like rogue’ I lose just a little bit more faith in humanity.


    b) posting a pic of Rogue. She’s awesome.

    • theo Seeds  → Jak

      I think of BlastGatr and BlastZel as tier 4, not rogue. But that’s one way to look at it.

      • Jak Stewart-Armstead  → theo

        Decks like Blastgatr and Blastzel are just as much archetypes as Luxchomp, Reshiphlosion, GG etc.

        They just aren’t successful ones.

        • Dakota Streck  → Jak

          Yeah, they’re not technically rogue, but they have the same advantage that rogue decks to: the element of surprise. Being able to catch your opponent off guard with a deck they’ve played little to no games against, as well as having no techs against it, is a HUGE edge that BlastGatr and other Tier 4 decks have too.

        • Mekkah  → Dakota

          I think there’s two kinds of surprise advantages: your opponent not having tested (much) against it, and your opponent not knowing how a deck operates. I think only the former really applies to BlastGatr, especially since it’s not very hard to see how the deck works. Today’s ways of deck building will obviously tell any player what he is likely to encounter: two clunky Stage 2s, meaning quite a few Twins in the deck, and very little techs. Denying just one of the Stage 2s, whichever one is more convenient, will allow anyone to overcome the “surprise” BlastGatr has.

      • alex bob  → theo

        BlastZel would be Tier 1 if a counter for Zekrom came out. Zekrom is the only thing that is holding it back.

        • Jak Stewart-Armstead  → alex

          Donphan is a pretty hardcore counter to Zekrom, no? I dunno what you could realistically want that would be better. Of course it doesn’t really fit in Blastzel, but what do you expect?

          Blastzel is too easily disrupted and lacks a draw engine. I don’t believe it would ever be tier 1. It’s a moot point though, as Zekrom looks like it will be sticking around for a while.

  3. theo Seeds

    • rax  → theo

       Tyrogue’s attack ignores weakness and resistance. So you need two pluspowers to OHKO a Magnezone. Or, I dunno, broken time-space, electrode, and Black Belt. ;)

    • lucas mazzega  → theo

      Tyrogue doesn’t affect weakness, but I’m really sure that Quarter-turn can Double Attack you anyway.

  4. barryfken

    “If you’ve been playing Reshiram or Zekrom for a while, and you have a personal vendetta against Gothitelle”

    EVERYONE has a vendetta against Gothitelle, not just Reshiram or Zekrom…I built an ANTI-Gothitelle/Reuniclus Deck, for Arceus’s sake.

    On MewPluff/Weavile:

    I’m just worried about your energy, and I don’t think you need 3 Super Scoop-up, truthfully. Your energy being as low as it is really worries me, but I digress. I like your Tech-in of Noctowl – If you Judge when you keep attaching energy to it, as you pointed out (“Noctowl has a retreat cost of one, but that is easily taken care of as you can attach psychic energies to your Noctowls at your leisure throughout the game”), then that’s 80 damage right there with Extrasensory. As much as I love the sound of your Opponent having a “3-card useless hand,” it can either:

    a) Backfire on you and make YOU the subject of your own game (i.e. Getting nothing in your hand)


    b) Backfire by them actually getting a great hand (maybe they have a Juniper/PONT.)

    But if it works for you, more power to you.

    On Donk:

    I actually had the idea of Solrock/Lunatone/Luvdisc so Luvdisc’s attack doesn’t heal them (because of Solrock/Lunatone) and you end up doing a little more damage (or twice as much if they have weakness.) I like the idea and it looks fun to play.

    You have some great ideas for Rogue Decks and I commend you for that, but Rogue Decks shouldn’t look as risky as they do. They should be able to hold their own against the Meta 90-100% of the time, not rely on lucky pulls.

  5. Anonymous

    I absolutely love rogue decks (which is why I usually fail, but that’s aside from the point), and, also, I am going to build that donk deck right now; pretty much the only way I can win is by winning cheaply (my rogue version of Shuppet donk two years back suprised everyone and i did quite well lol). So far, I really, really like you. Keep ’em comin’! 

    BTW: you know that Skorupi tech you talked about? yeah, if you saw my first article here on 6P, you might remember that my rogue-playing friend donked me with a Skorupi. :P

    • Simon Narode  → Anonymous

      Thanks so much for your comment, Dane. I’ve been enjoying your COTDs for a while, so I’m honored to hear you like my article.

      Haha, Skorupi for the win! I suppose Skorupi can OHKO Magikarps, as well, not to mention Mew, Oddish, Solosis, Duosion, (and with PlusPower, Gloom and Gothorita) with a DCE and heads. Maybe Skorupi is the trainer lock tech.

      Let me know how testing Basic Donk works for you. : )

  6. Anonymous

    Glad to see you took my advice and wrote about your decks. It’s always a fun day when I get paired against you, man.

  7. Lynx Meche

    Glad I didn’t have to wonder for long about why people were calling you a cheater and threatening bans XD The chat can be hilarious sometimes, when you’re reading stuff said to other people. Matches against you on TCGO have been fun and more than fairly played out.

  8. Grant Gao

    i play a rogue deck with: 2 kyreum, 2 zekrom, 2 reshiram, 1 reshiram ex, 1 zekrom ex, 1 kyreum ex, 1 mewtwo ex, 1 tyrogue and 1 cleffa.
    9 fire energy, 9 water energy, 9 electric energy and 3 dce.
    2 juniper, 2 n, 2 p.o.n.t. 2 evolite, 2 plus power, 2 cheren, 2 bianca, 2 super rod and 2 catcher

  9. Ashley Sparks

    I play mostly rogue decks because i think it’s more fun using decks you came up with yourself and can be proud of if it wins. With rogue decks you also come up with different combos only you may know.

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