A Beginner’s Guide to the Current Format

Every week or so, we have a beginner on the forums who is making the first step from casual to competitive play. Unfortunately, adding in the promo Ability Serperior to the Green Tornado theme deck won’t destroy all opponents in premier events like it does amongst friends.

With Google being more common knowledge than leagues, they search for “pokemon cards website” and occasionally find us.

While a league leader can explain the fine intricacies to deck-building, the forums just seem far more convenient than finding a local league and meeting up with strangers face to face. And that’s what we’re there for, after all, helping people build decks.

Of course, this isn’t made easy when those theme decks are built poorly (Furious Knights is the best theme deck in a good long while), and we have to explain to children why the gods that are Nintendo and The Pokémon Company would give us anything less than perfect.

And if Pokémon is your first card game, as it is with many young children, you don’t have any basis on just how important strategy is. This means that many of the newbie decklists we see contain many of the same mistakes over, and over, and over, and over.

Is there anything wrong with making mistakes? We’re all human, and while some of these mistakes are easily fixed by just reading the rules and you shouldn’t need anyone to outline this for you, others can be easily fixed by just getting an explanation, and then never doing it again.

From getting the idea to posting your list on the SixPrizes forums, here are mistakes that everybody keeps making.

Note that if you really want to improve, you don’t TL;DR advice.

That’s a common thing on the forums unfortunately, and it leads a lot of new players into confusion when they skim half a post aimed at them, and then fail to comprehend everything.

Whether it’s on the forums or this article, if you’ve been one of the people asking for help, find the section that you need help in, and check out what’s outlined for you.

Table of Contents

(Click to be taken directly to that section and press back on your browser to return here.)

Your Collection

I don’t believe that any of us ever started with four of every staple card, unless you have unbelievable luck in getting four Emerging Powers packs for the first time and landing four Catchers. This means that if you’re starting off for the first time, you won’t have enough of the cards that people will tell you that you need.

If you’re lucky, you may have been introduced to the game by somebody who has enough spare staples they use them as fuel in their fireplace, but for complete newbies, there are single-selling sites and even a few packs and theme decks that can get you started.

Buying, selling, and trading on SixPrizes is now open, and we accept your references from PokéGym and PokéBeach (two other sites with trading forums) if you want to make your own thread. If you don’t want to risk your money with a user and would prefer a dedicated site, here is a quick list.

Places to Buy Cards

Troll and Toad

This is usually the most recommended, with the cheapest shipping cost averaging a pretty low $0.99 for one card. Cards in “played” condition are cheaper than mint and near-mint if you use sleeves and don’t mind the wear and tear. This is the only site that sells preorders for unreleased sets.

Also sells cheap TCGO code cards for boosters, tins, Trainer kits, and decks, and its booster codes are even cheaper in bulk code card orders.

Professor Oak

The cards here are sometimes a little more expensive than the other sites, but it gives free shipping US and International, and the cards are guaranteed mint condition. The free shipping is usually enough to lean the price in its favor if you’re buying common Basics or just one card.


Sometimes the cards are cheaper, sometimes they aren’t. The cheapest shipping usually averages at $2.49 for a card. They sell preorders for booster packs, theme decks, and boxes, but not singles.

They sell code cards for booster packs and a few select boxes, and while their booster codes are cheaper than TnT’s at the moment, they don’t offer cheaper large bulk orders.

Collector’s Cache


The highest average shipping cost of the list at $3.21. With that price, buying in bulk is the best way to get your money’s worth. I’ve hear it praised for its service, but it’s usually the most expensive of all, and even its sales are often higher than the standard prices of its competitors.

Their TCGO booster code cards have a standard price higher than the others, but on sale can be cheaper than the others. Like Pokécorner, they don’t offer bulk sales.


Just check the seller ratings for these, since you can get a fake if you aren’t careful, but many people make an honest living selling their cards on these sites.

Prices vary, obviously, but if a card is revealed to become a promo soon and you need it quickly, they often hit these sites soon after release to sell them before the prices drop even lower than pre-promo.

Local Card Stores

Not everywhere has these unfortunately, and if you can find one, they’re more likely to sell Magic: The Gathering than Pokémon, and their leagues will have more MTG and Yu-Gi-Oh players.

But they usually will stock Pokémon, maybe even singles. Singles will usually be cheaper than the online average, and the boosters will almost always be cheaper than retail.

Chain Retail Booster Packs

I’m not here to slander any stores for their service, but this is noteworthy and can help you avoid buying packs with chances of rares weighed against you, literally. Sometimes people will buy multiple packs, weigh them at home to determine which has an ultra-rare, and then return the rest, leaving the packs in stock with no ultra-rares.

Supposedly this is a Walmart-specific thing, but it means that if you can help it, big-name retailers are the least safe for getting good cards. (This isn’t caused by Walmart or any store that takes returns, it’s purely the customers’ doing.)

So now you know where to get cards, but what cards do you need? This question can be answered even if you don’t know what deck you want. “Staple cards” are cards that every serious player should own, and they belong in every single deck with few exceptions, such as a Trainer lock deck not putting in staple Trainers.

Several of them come in theme decks and Trainer kits, or they have a promo release. (Hint, if you don’t care about the “rarity status” of your deck, promos and Trainer kit versions are the cheapest.)

Staple Cards

Some major staples are in another list here:

  • Energy Switch (BLW) – One in theme deck: Dragon Speed
  • Professor Juniper (BLW, DEX) – Two in theme decks: Green Tornado, Red Frenzy, Blue Assault, Voltage Vortex; One in theme deck: Raiders
  • Super Scoop Up (BLW)
  • Switch (BLW) – Two in theme decks: Red Frenzy, Toxic Tricks, Furious Knights, Ice Shock
  • Bianca (EPO) – Two in theme decks: Power Play, Furious Knights (There is an ultra-rare full art print in BCR)
  • Cheren (EPO, DEX) – Two in theme decks: Toxic Tricks, Fast Daze, Explosive Edge, Raiders, Shadows, Dragon Snarl, Ice Shock; One in theme deck: Dragon Speed (There is an ultra-rare full art print in BCR)
  • Pokémon Catcher (EPO) – (There is a secret rare “golden” print of this in DEX)
  • Eviolite (NVI) – One in theme deck: Raiders
  • N (NVI, DEX) – One in theme decks: Fast Daze, Furious Knights (There is an ultra-rare full art print in NVI)
  • Super Rod (NVI, DRV) – Two in theme decks: Fast Daze, Furious Knights
  • Heavy Ball (NXD) – Two in theme deck Explosive Edge
  • Level Ball (NXD) – Two in theme deck Voltage Vortex
  • Double Colorless Energy (NXD) – The HGSS print was a semi-recent league promo, still relatively easy to find
  • Prism Energy (NXD)
  • Random Receiver (DEX)
  • Rare Candy (DEX)
  • Ultra Ball (DEX)
  • Blend Energy GRPD (DRX) – One in theme deck: Dragon Snarl
  • Blend Energy WLFM (DRX) – One in theme deck: Dragon Speed
  • Skyla (BCR) – One in theme decks: Ice Shock, Cold Fire
  • Computer Search (BCR) – (As an ACE SPEC, you only need one, but this is incredibly rare and expensive; the Base Set Computer Search is not considered an errata and is not legal for competitive play.)

The above are cards I categorized as either “Most decks run four,” or “Most decks rely on having at least one.” (If you have anything else to add to this and think it’s important enough that it should have been added, feel free to add your opinions in the comments.)

When buying staples, rotation is something to consider. For example, right now it’s still early in the season, but when rotation comes close, you don’t want to buy as many singles from older sets.

If you’re looking to buy a lot of currently-legal singles from the old sets for competitive reasons, it may be in your best interest to play not-so-competitive decks in preparation for rotation. No one wants to lay down a few hundred bucks getting as many good cards as they can, only to lose them within a month or two.

pokemon-paradijs.comSometimes children find their way into the game and ask their parents to buy them cards. Unfortunately not every parent follows Pokémon as those as their children, and they pick whichever pack they think their child will like more.

This would be okay, but not if you want to take it to a tournament. Turns out that the Rising Rivals pack with the cool black dog breathing fire isn’t something you can use.

There isn’t much you can do about owning out-of-format cards, other than selling them at a reduced price online, or hope they’re reprinted. But you can learn what cards you’re allowed to use to prevent the judges from telling you that Expert Belt and Luxury Ball aren’t allowed in your deck.

At the top of the SixPrizes page, there’s a tab labeled Resources. While I recommend you take a look at everything under that tab, the one we care about is the Modified Legal Card List.

PokéPop is the head judge of Pokémon TCG, and this thread is 100% official. In the bottom-right corner of the card (older cards had them in the middle-right), there is a set symbol. Find the set symbol on the list and it will tell you if the card is legal.

Currently our legal sets start with Black & White, “All cards in this set are legal.” Sometimes, cards are reprinted, leaving us with cards from old sets that are legal, despite the set being outdated.

For examples of reprinted cards, look at Base Set at the very top. Switch has had no major text changes and is played exactly the same as it is now, so you can play it. Potion is legal despite a text change; it was given an official errata, and all cards with the name “Potion” are read that they restore 30 damage. (In Base set, it heals only 20.)

However, Bill is an example of a card that was reprinted as a different card with the same name. Both read “Draw 2 cards,” but the old Bill is a Trainer, and the current one is a Supporter.

Because this is a major text change, you need to carry a reference with you (a scan printout for example), and some judges may not even allow them in small tournaments, such as Battle Roads. (This is all explained in the Legal Card List thread, so you don’t need to refer here every time.)

Choosing Your Pokémon

Is there anything wrong with building a deck with only your favorite Pokémon? Of course not. But is there something wrong with using several of your favorites and expecting to win every match?

Unless your favorites include Darkrai, Sableye, Terrakion, and Shaymin, prepare for disappointment. When you want to win, you decide on a strategy, or maybe build a strategy around one of your favorites.

Some of the most common “newbie mistakes” seen on the forums come from this part. Building your own deck for the first time can be hard, especially if you’ve never seen a top-tier deck being played.

All you can do is follow what the theme deck showed you: take a main Pokémon or two, attack with them as much as possible, and throw in other random Pokémon of the same type (or Colorless) to attack with while you’re powering them up.

This is bad. No matter what card game you’re playing, this is a bad strategy. To outline, on the forums, often people will give us a few lines of Pokémon and ask others to make a full list and the strategy for us.

However, “I have 4-4-4 Vileplume, 4-4-3 Emboar, 2 Zekrom from the tin, and 4-1 Beartic,” isn’t enough. There is no strategy here, and there’s nothing that can be done; pick one Pokémon and decide on a strategy from there if you want to use a specific Pokémon.

I’ll say it again, it’s so important:

Deciding on a strategy comes before picking your Pokémon lines.

Something the theme decks usually do is pick two or three types and throw in random Pokémon of that type. For a beginner, only one type, maybe two at the most, is best to use if it’s going to be an effective deck.

Conserving Energy isn’t a skill you have just by picking up a deck, and you can’t afford to have eight of three different Energy types even if you’re new. This is why starting with as few different attacking types as possible (not counting Pokémon like Fliptini or Virizion NVI) is ideal.

Picking a Strategy

Normally, like I said, you’d do this first, but most new people who start building a deck from scratch often pick Pokémon or a type before picking. Now that it’s out of the way, we can get to basic strategies.

I have no way of detailing every deck out there, and even if I were to only outline the top couple tiers, that would be an entirely different deck.

(If you want an overview of several decks, check out the forums for lists, deck analysis articles, or metagame analysis articles on the front page.)

What I can do in this is briefly explain the different strategies, give notable decks that fit each strategy, and explain how hard I believe they are to play them basically for someone new to the game. Get ready for another list.

Swarm Attackers

This is a rather basic strategy: get out loads of Pokémon and attack with them. Keep your bench full to maximize damage, maybe use a different Pokémon (Zoroark BLW and Audino NVI are affordable and attack for C Energy) is the most the strategy differs. You may be swarming any Pokémon you can, or a specific kind.

This is one of the easiest concepts in the game. With only one or two different Pokémon to focus on keeping active, you don’t need to worry about changing to a different strategy in most cases. Brute force repetition.

Notable decks include: Cinccino BLW, Victini NVI 15, Seismitoad NVI and Wigglytuff NXD “Round,” Empoleon DEX, Zoroark DEX


Rule: Take as little damage as possible, heal yourself when you’re almost KO’d, hit heavy. Unless your opponent can take a hit and swing back as hard as you can, you have a good chance at wiping their field clean before they can build up a good defense.

(Okay, so a lot of decks right now can do just that, but that’s because it’s such an effective strategy that every deck needs to take a punch to the face and survive.)

Tanks can be combined with other strategies, or you can just set up a nice bulky wall and hide behind the same kind of Pokémon the entire game.

It’s a simple strategy on its own, and something that’s easy to pick up and learn. (Below, under “damage swapping,” is the most effective, but difficult-to-play tank variant.)

Notable decks include: Conkeldurr NVI 64, most decks with EX cards and Max Potion

Energy Acceleration and Recovery

Remember what I said about low Energy counts above? You can forget that here. While normally you’ll have about eight or less Energy in a deck, this kind has up to 14 Energy, using certain Pokémon to break the rules and attach more than one Energy each turn.

Some require the Energy to be in the discard pile, others need it to be in your hand, and some pull it right out of the deck.

There are too many different kinds of acceleration to put it under one difficulty umbrella, but in general, you want a lot of Energy and you want to be able to access it. Cilan is only useable when you play Emboar or Blastoise as in most cases, you only attach one Energy each turn.

Ultra Ball, Professor Juniper, and Computer Search let you discard Energy to use for Eelektrik or Dark Patch. Exp. Share can come in handy with Gothitelle as there’s no way to actually attach multiple Energy this way, it only acts as if you did, so it can keep your attackers powered up.

Notable decks include: Emboar BLW 20, Eelektrik NVI, Gardevoir NXD, Dark Patch, Blastoise BCR

Special Conditions

pokemon-paradijs.comMost of us who play the card game also play the video games, at least casually. We all should know how devastating a Status Effect is in the games, and they can be just as “effective” in the card game when played right.

They can prevent your opponent from attacking or retreating, KO them early with the extra damage, and some Pokémon even have attacks that do more damage if the opponent is afflicted with a Special Condition.

These decks are rather simple; cause a Special Condition with something, then use another attack or stall further with the condition depending on the deck. However, to use their maximum effectiveness, you’ll want to play with the Trainer lock strategy below whenever possible, raising the difficulty for yourself a bit. (In this case and format, Accelgor is the only deck that does this successfully.)

Notable decks include: Lilligant EPO, Vanilluxe NVI, Amoonguss NXD, Accelgor DEX, Ninetales DRX


Milling, the act of discarding cards from a deck. One alternate win condition is that your opponent can’t draw a card at the beginning of their turn, and these decks make your opponent’s deck wear thin a little faster. You can win without taking a single Prize.

Despite you not taking any Prizes, these matches are a quick-paced Prize race. Your opponent will either play nothing and rely on what they topdeck so that you’re forced to mill every card they have, or they’ll burn through many resources quickly to take every Prize before you can recover.

There are harder decks to play, but there are also definitely easier ones. (No offense meant to anybody who plays a straight mill deck, but there is more luck in what is discarded than other decks.)

Notable decks include: Durant NVI, Aggron DRX, Swoobat BCR



Discard your opponent’s hand, make them draw into all the cards that they don’t need, do everything you can to prevent them setting up and mounting a comeback. Disruption decks do just that: they disrupt. If your opponent can’t break the lock, they’ll be reduced to turn after turn of draw-pass until the game ends or your luck takes a dive.

Again with the luck reliance, this is more difficult than in would be if it didn’t involve hoping your opponent has a game-changing card in their hand that you can discard, or if you can even discard anything of theirs at all. Still very much strategy, and while it isn’t easy to play, it is something that everybody should learn at some point if only to know how to counter it.

If Ability-locking were more effective or prominent, Garbodor DRX would get its own section. If a Tool is attached to Garbodor, no Pokémon can use Abilities at all other than Garbodor. In this case, you pair it with a heavy Pokémon that doesn’t use Abilities, most often Terrakion NVI or Terrakion-EX, but sometimes Tornadus EX or Mewtwo EX.

This deck rarely shines as Garbodor is highly susceptible to Pokémon Catcher, sniping, and Tool Scrapper.

Notable decks include: Archeops NVI, Beheeyem NXD, Garbodor DRX, Hammer Time (Crushing Hammer and Enhanced Hammer), almost anything with N


pokemon-paradijs.comMost Pokémon attack the Defending Pokémon for a certain amount of damage. Spread decks say “Forget that limitation!” and hit all over the field. You can take multiple prizes in one turn like this, potentially wiping out their entire support in one go. It hurts a lot when you lose three or more Pokémon in one turn, and feels great to take that many prizes.

Unfortunately, while spreading hits in a lot of places, it doesn’t exactly do a lot of damage. The best spreader in format may be Kyurem NVI, 30 damage to everywhere on the opponent’s field; however some would argue that Darkrai EX is spread rather than snipe (explained below).

It’s a straight path of “repeat spreading until KO occurs,” but if your opponent can shrug off a few damage counters here and there or heals, it takes a little more thought.

Notable decks include: Kyurem NVI, Hydreigon NVI, Landorus NVI, Registeel-EX


Much like spread decks not always attacking the Defending Pokémon, snipers ignore that convention. This is the act of attacking the Bench directly, where most Pokémon are safe. If your opponent is powering up a Pokémon that you don’t want to see Active, or retreated a damaged Pokémon without healing it, you can attack it to KO it.

Most importantly, when a Pokémon is on the Bench, Weakness and Resistance are ignored unless stated.

Most snipers also don’t deal heavy enough damage to work on their own, and most spread decks can be considered snipers as well. The best example is Raikou-EX, who can hit for 100 damage anywhere for LLC, but all L Energy attached is discarded.

Raikou with Eelektrik is rarely seen as its own deck, as sniping is a good strategy to have in your deck, but not always enough on its own.

Notable decks include: Raikou-EX, Darkrai EX, any other spread Pokémon

Item lock

youtube.comThis is one of the strategies that needs to be combined with one of the others, as Item lock has one rule: block Items early so your opponent can’t set up. Right now, the only Pokémon who can do this is Gothitelle with its Magic Room Ability or Zebstrika NXD’s Disconnect attack, which blocks only your opponent from playing Trainer-Items if it’s in the Active Spot.

There are two known ways to play Gardevoir at the moment: partner it with Reuniclus BLW, or with Gardevoir NXD. Gardevoir/Reuniclus was a monster for a few months, but is now entirely dead as its gimmick (almost nothing could deal 130 damage without PlusPower) is rendered false now that every deck runs Mewtwo EX. With Gardevoir, it can attack sooner and is best played as a Stage 2 rush as it’s easy to KO it.

Without Junk Arm it’s harder to stream Stage 2s, so it looks like Trainer lock may be leaving our meta. Note that in HS-NVI, this was one of the hardest decks to beat, and almost everything either was this deck, or teched cards specifically to beat it. (Zebstrika has seen play as a tech and has been tossed around as its own deck, but as of now isn’t even tiered.)

Notable decks include: Gothitelle EPO 47, Zebstrika NXD



Hit your opponent hard and fast, and wipe out their entire bench in three turns or less before they can set up, and sometimes before they can draw a card. It’s everyone’s dream, but few decks are built to rely on it.

Unsportsmanlike, a legitimate strategy, not in the Spirit of the Game, a win condition according to the rulebook; you’ll hear differing opinions about this everywhere.

(If you’re new to the game and want to see donking at its best/worst, check out J-Wittz’s video explaining Sabledonk, a deck so broken they rotated out the deck’s contents before the scheduled summer rotation.)

Knocking Out everything before your opponent can set up is no easy feat. It requires quite a bit of digging through your own deck, discarding several cards out of your own hand to get Trainers out of the discard with Junk Arm, hoping you don’t lose vital cards with Professor Juniper, and making sure your opponent can’t mount a defense.

If they get out more Pokémon than you have the resources for, that’s where they can steal the win. Full donk decks aren’t made to last past a couple turns.

(Note: some variants are changed to reduce speed and donk potential slightly, but extend its life span to a full-length game.)

Notable decks include: Maractus BLW 12, Mewtwo EX, Darkrai EX/Dark Patch, Tornadus EX/Aerodactyl DEX

Low/No Energy

pokemon-paradijs.comThe opposite of easy-to-play high-Energy decks, these are a lot tougher and your Energy drops mean more, if you even run any Energy. There aren’t many cards that can cause heavy damage without a single Energy drop, but it usually means you’re attacking faster than your opponent, and the lack of Energy means there’s room for more Trainers and Supporters.

These aren’t easy if you have no idea what you’re doing. Causing a lot of damage is required in this format, especially with Pokémon-EX running rampant.

Most often these are run like or with a spread strategy, since if your opponent uses Max Potion or Gold Potion, it takes too long to build the damage back up on one Pokémon with so few damage counters at a time.

Notable decks include: Chandelure NVI, Dusknoir BCR

Fossils/Revived Pokémon


pokemon-paradijs.comRight now, we only have Archeops NVI, Carracosta NVI, and Aerodactyl DEX. To put a Revived Pokémon into play, you play its corresponding Fossil. “Look at the bottom 7 cards of your deck. You may reveal a [Pokémon] you find there and put it onto your Bench. Shuffle the other cards back into your deck.”

There’s also the Twist Mountain Stadium, which says that you may flip a coin and if heads, you can put a Revived Pokémon from your hand to your Bench (the ruling is pending as to whether you’re allowed to use Twist Mountain without a Revived Pokémon in your hand). Right now, every deck with these only uses them as techs due to the difficult nature of getting them into play.

The Fossil engine is hard and very luck reliant, meaning most players ditch if for consistency rather than clogging your deck with a couple Twist Mountain, a few Plume Fossil just in case, several Archen, a few Archeops, and other Trainers to increase your chances.

It turns decks into “do or die,” where if you get it out early against a deck that has any Stage 1 or 2s, you probably win. If not, you may not have enough of the right cards to last very long.

Notable decks include: Archeops lock, Aerodactyl teched as constant PlusPower



After all this, you might be confused if I told you there are decks out there with only four Pokémon in them. Not just four Pokémon, but only four cards. This started out with Durant NVI, as the fastest way to mill your opponent was to not distract from that strategy.

Electric decks were everywhere, so people adopted this strategy of removing distractions with Terrakion NVI, to use Retaliate constantly. Few cards do well with this pure quad strategy.

Sub-quad decks (this is not a real term, I made it up), exist for people who want to surprise their opponent, or don’t feel four of one Pokémon is strong enough. It could be one or two Cobalion NVI in Durant mill to take prizes after you burned your opponent’s resources, or Terrakion-EX in Quad Terrakion. Quad Entei-EX is seen occasionally, often with Reshiram BLW.

These are still considered quad variants as long as there’s four of the main Pokémon, or even if there’s only three, in the case of, for example, three Terrakion NVI and two Terrakion-EX.

This, like Trainer lock, needs to be paired with another strategy. Each deck varies depending on what Pokémon its paired with, but they run similar Trainer lines. Your opponent needs to take 6 Prizes but you only run four Pokémon, so use Revive, Rescue Scarf, or extra Super Rods to get them back.

To save on Energy attachments, Exp. Share can power up multiple Pokémon in the first few turns. If your opponent Catchers an unpowered Pokémon to attempt to save themselves, or plays Crushing/Enhanced Hammer, Energy Switch can get you out of that. The main Pokémon must be Basic for this, so Eviolite and Skyarrow Bridge are often useful.

Notable decks include: Durant NVI, Terrakion NVI, Entei-EX



Don’t know what your opponent is playing? Why not play multiple types and have your bases covered? The most effective toolboxes use Basic Pokémon, which can use Prism Energy, putting all Energy types in one card.

These decks pack in multiple strategies to counter whatever is thrown at them. Both Blend Energy are definitely in favor of this deck type for decks that use any Pokémon that evolves.

Remember that rule about how beginners should use decks that have only one type? This applies here. Toolboxes require very tight builds, quick thinking, and the ability to predict what your opponent has so that you don’t send out the wrong Pokémon.

If you like the idea of trying to counter everything out there, start with two types and slowly work your way up to four or more.

Notable decks include: Landorus/Dragons, Mew-EX, Ho-Oh EX (when paired with multiple types)

Damage Swapping

pokemon-paradijs.comThis style of deck was made popular after Ross Cawthon took second place at Worlds 2011 with a secret deck nobody had seen before, in the HS-BLW format.

Vileplume UD blocked Trainers, most importantly PlusPower and Pokémon Reversal (a flippy Catcher), Reuniclus BLW to stack damage onto a high-HP tank Pokémon, Seeker and Blissey Prime to heal your field, attacking Pokémon with 130 HP or more that were nearly impossible to 1HKO without the help of PlusPower.

The Truth was considered one of the hardest decks to play, but in the BLW-on format, we have only one version of this, mentioned before as a bad idea: Gothitelle/Reuniclus. The idea is to set up an Active Gothitelle, a Pokémon with 130 HP, and keep it there as long as possible. Reuniclus is on the Bench making sure Gothitelle never has damage counters on it.

This deck no longer works because unlike last format, almost every deck has a Pokémon that can either snipe or hit the Defending Pokémon for 150 damage or more, meaning that Giant Cape won’t even help.

Another version of this is “Klinklang EX,” which is Klinklang BLW paired with multiple EX cards, Prism Energy and/or Blend WLFM and/or M Energies, and Max Potion. In that same line, Darkrai EX pairs with Hydreigon DRX 97.

You move the Energy onto any Pokémon, use Max Potion so none is discarded, and then move it back to your attacker. In Darkrai’s case, D Energy also means free retreating across the field.

Notable decks include: Gothitelle/Reuniclus, Klinklang EX, Darkrai/Hydreigon

Pokémon Lines

Now that you know what you want to play, you have to pick your Pokémon. This is a lot easier than it sounds, and just gets easier when you test and figure out which Pokémon you keep getting that you just keep tossing with Ultra Ball and can drop entirely for something more useful. A couple of common line types are below.


For super-new beginners, you may be wondering what the business is with numbers like 3-2-3 and 4-4. This is easiest to explain through example: if someone says they play a 4-2-4 Empoleon, you know that they run four Piplup, two Prinplup, and four Empoleon.

If they say it’s a 2-2 Simisear, it’s two Pansear and two Simisear. The most confusing is if they run 1-1 Serperior, a Stage 2. This would mean one Snivy, no Servine, one Serperior.

Pyramid lines: 4-3-2, 3-2-2

There is only one time you should ever use this, and that’s if the Basic form of the Stage 1 or Stage 2 has 30 or 40 HP, such as Reuniclus and Tynamo. If spreading is a problem in your meta, some people will use a pyramid line for their Stage 2 Pokémon, so they can have the extra Tepig or Litwick. If none of the above applies, then don’t do this. Ever. The theme deck lied to you.

Hourglass lines: 4-2-4, 3-1-2

pokemon-paradijs.comAn hourglass line is the most common, and most decks are considered bad and wasting space if you don’t use them. Why? Well Rare Candy is a staple for a reason. You can keep the Stage 1 as a reassurance in case you can’t get the Candy, or for Trainer lock, but the rest of the time, you put in up to four Rare Candy and skip that Stage 1.

The biggest exception to this is Trainer lock that blocks yourself (does not exist in this format), where you can’t play Rare Candy.

However, in this case, an hourglass line of the Pokémon who actually blocks Trainers is allowed (if a Stage 2) because you’ll hopefully Candy it to evolve faster. If the line isn’t 3-2-2, then it’s 3-1-2 or 3-0-2.

Straight lines: 3-3-3, 4-4

I’m not even sure what these are called, but for the purposes of this, they’re called straight lines. Most of the time, you’ll only see them in a deck that uses Stage 1s, as you don’t have the benefit of using Rare Candy to go from a Basic to a Stage 1 anymore.

The other case is in Garchomp/Altaria, where Gabite DRX 89 is almost vital to get out Altaria and Garchomp in time to match a fast opponent. If you’re playing straight lines in any other case, you’ll be told to get yourself some candy.

Super-thin lines: 1-1, 1-0-1

This is usually reserved for techs that will only help you in a few matchups. It’s rare that you’ll need these, as in most cases, people decide that a 2-2 or more is better. For example, Roserade DRX is being tested in decks, most often used as a 2-2 line, with the occasional 1-1 or even 3-3.

Another Pokémon garnering discussion is a 1-1 line of Milotic DRX, also for consistency. These thin lines are only for techs, and not for an entire deck. Just because you see them, doesn’t mean they can successfully constitute an entire deck.

Ditto BCR and Skyla are allowing these to exist stronger than before, as you can get a little assurance that your thin line can come out before the Basic is KO’d.



The entire backbone of a deck. The right Trainers can make crazy ideas like Empoleon/Terrakion and Klinklang EX work, or cripple something as basic as Zekrom/Eels. Unfortunately, they’re also hard to put together.

Very often on the forums we have people who post a partial basic Trainer list or none at all and ask others to create one. Even more often, they provide Trainers and ask us to rate it, but it’s really bad. We all have to learn somewhere, but there are enough common mistakes in building Trainers that a list can be made to prevent this.

You need a starting point, first. We’re going to assume your very first deck isn’t Item lock, because it’s harder to play and there are more decks that rely on Items than those that don’t.

The most common start is four Catcher; four N; about six to eight between Bianca, Cheren, and Professor Juniper; about five or six between Level Ball, Heavy Ball, and Ultra Ball (most often at least two Ultra Ball), two to three between Random Receiver and Skyla, and an ACE SPEC.

(Some people will advocate different counts of each depending on deck or play style, but that’s something you have to experiment with, as this is only a common starting point.)

Some people will recommend Pokémon Communication, while others argue that it’s dead or inferior. If you need more, that’s when you start adding in more draw Supporters, deck-searching Trainers, or one or two Random Receiver maybe. That’s about 20 Trainers and Supporters already, wasn’t that easy?

Filling in the blanks here is the hard part and it’s what causes people to become intimidated. Let’s do a little math: the average deck runs about 18 Pokémon, and 12 Energy is a high average. That’s 30 slots, meaning on average, half of your deck will be Trainers. Kinda high, but if you already filled out your Pokémon, I think you can put in 10 more Trainers.

Here are a couple of things to look at for now that aren’t covered anywhere else.


Up until Noble Victories, there were no Tools in format, and still relatively few are being used. Sometimes these are filler cards, things you put in while you’re building up your collection enough to have a fully-functioning tiered deck. And in others, they’re required to survive.

Before you go adding in Tools that you don’t need, think about them hard, and test with and without them if it’s a deck that doesn’t normally use Tools.

Of note, Tool Scrapper is a card in DRX that allows the player to discard any two Tools in play, from either side of the field. It’s most often used in Ability-based decks (which are common) to counter Garbodor DRX, who blocks all Abilities as long as it has a Tool attached to it. So unless your deck requires Tools, teched ones will likely turn into a waste of space.

Dark Claw

When this card was announced alongside Darkrai EX and Zoroark DEX, it, along with Dark Patch, were hyped as making Dark-types highly playable. Long story short, it fell on its face. Slightly longer story, it’s not the worst option if you’re building a more aggressive Darkrai deck. It’s a matter of preference.


Most people will tell you that this is the best Tool, since the best decks focus on fast Basic attackers. It makes your opponent work even harder to take out high-HP EXs often giving it an extra turn or two to attack. If you have a deck with Basic attackers who don’t heal every turn, this is worth checking out.

Exp. Share

Behind Eviolite, this is the second-most-used Tool. Its use is pretty specific: decks that use Basic Energy but don’t have a method of attaching more than one per turn. Gardevoir decks, while Energy acceleration, only attach one per turn. Quad decks often use this card too, as do some Empoleon decks.

Giant Cape

This card is a bad idea usually; at first people thought it might prevent Raikou-EX from taking out Benched Eelektrik and Altaria, but that wasn’t a big concern (Catcher and Tool Scrapper far more prominent than Raikou) and it became a waste of space instantly. This is used almost exclusively on Garbodor DRX, or non-Basic Pokémon that have 140 or 150 HP, putting them just outside of the 150 HP KO range.

Rescue Scarf

Rescue Energy wasn’t the most common card, but it was played despite Enhanced Hammer’s existence. Unfortunately, Rescue Scarf takes up space that could go to a better Tool in most cases.

It’s used sometimes in swarm decks to stream non-Basic Pokémon who don’t require a different Tool (such as Hydreigon DRX 97), or on Garbodor in place of Giant Cape. It’s not an inherently bad or useless Tool, it just comes down to personal preference.

Rocky Helmet

This card has almost never seen play, its only prominence being in some Reshiram decks in the HS-NVI format, or as an occasional counter to damage-swapping decks. Some people have made fun decks pairing this with Druddigon NVI, but nothing competitive. As of now this is probably the worst Tool you could use. For a fun mention, the second shiny Trainer after golden Catcher is in BCR: golden Rocky Helmet, a card that’s already yellow to begin with.


For many decks, Stadiums are effectively 64th cards; something that could be nice to have, but they’d probably help your opponent more and you don’t want to ruin consistency just for the chance of it maybe helping once. (It may just be one card, but don’t ever let the thought of “It’s just one card” sway you into using a pointless Stadium.)

Stadium Wars haven’t come back full swing, but Skyarrow Bridge is sometimes countered, which is where this becomes important to non-SAB decks. Often if there’s a common problem Stadium in format, you would play a counter-Stadium, a Stadium put in your deck that is meant to disrupt your opponent more than help you.

In most cases this is a Stadium that would be nice but not required. However in this format, there are no Stadiums that are good for general use, so it’s either a Stadium is necessary in your deck, or you should go without.

Aspertia City Gym

This card doesn’t do much other than annoy your opponent sometimes, but it is probably the best Skyarrow Bridge counter at the moment. Many decks run Tornadus EX and Bouffalant DRX, so this card gives them a bit of a boost. If you’re using multiple copies of these cards and other Stadiums just don’t work as well, it’s worth a test.

Battle City

At first this card only showed up in Durant mill, but then Durant died. While it looks like it might be a good risky option to increase your consistency, such as pairing it with Musharna DEX, it’s never been successful outside of a fun deck.

Your opponent is not only being helped just as much as you are, so many decks run high N counts that they’ll shuffle away what you had.

Pokémon Center

This used to be used in damage-swapping decks that couldn’t afford Tropical Beach and some decks that dealt damage to your own field, but it’s one of the worst Stadiums now specifically because it has no clear use and often hurtsyou when your opponent retreats a damaged attacker. With all the high HP and Darkrai EX running rampant, this is usually something to keep in the binder.

Skyarrow Bridge


This card has been hyped since it was leaked, and was also included in the blame for making Basic Pokémon stronger than evolved ones. If your deck uses a lot of Basics with a Retreat Cost of two or less, this is probably a good option.

Some decks, like those with Tornadus EX or Raikou-EX, rely on it, but if your deck runs Darkrai EX, you don’t need it. Not viable as a counter-Stadium, mostly because this is usually the Stadium you want to counter.

Tropical Beach

Originally waved off as a useless promo, The Truth made this more sought out than Catcher. And once those damage-swapping decks died, this card stopped seeing play. During most of your turns, you’ll be attacking, so only a few decks can use this consistently.

Should not go into any deck belonging to a beginner, and should not be used as a counter-Stadium unless it works in your deck already.

Twist Mountain

When this card was leaked, people thought that Archeops lock might become viable, and that Aerodactyl could be used as a convenient permanent PlusPower. Even with this boost, it’s not only too much of a hassle to get Revived Pokémon into play, they are rarely worth it. If you want a Fossil deck you need multiple copies of this, but otherwise, don’t bother.

Energy Counts

This one we can blame almost entirely on the theme decks. Above, I said a high average for Energy is 12. Lots of new players came in with the Black and White cards, so let’s look at the seven theme decks there.

Fact: Every single one from BLW to DEX has 12 Energy of the primary type and six of the secondary type for a total of 18 Energy. (Thankfully DRX is getting closer with 11:6 and a 9:8 ratios, both with one Special Energy.)

Another fact, every single theme deck since Undaunted has 18 Energy. And the best fact is that the original Base theme decks had 28 Energy and averaged nine Trainers. So if you follow this pattern, the forums will tell you that you run too much Energy.

As a general rule, if you run a low-Energy deck, no more than nine Energy should go in, with an average of about seven.

This goes for decks like Empoleon or some Quad decks. For a high-Energy deck, usually with acceleration, 13 is about the maximum with an average of 11. This is normally decks where you toss Energy in the discard intentionally, or play more than one Energy from your hand.

If you have more than one type in your deck, you’ll usually have more of a primary type than the secondary (or Prism/Blend). Empoleon/Terrakion, for example, will often play far less F Energy as Water can still be used on Terrakion, while Empoleon can’t use Fighting. Alternatively, in Basic-focused decks, Prism Energy is a common play. Other decks may have enough overlapping types to play one of the Blend Energy cards.

If you’re playing a deck like Hydreigon where one Stage’s type may different from the previous Stage/s, only put in Energy for the type you’ll be using. It doesn’t matter if you won’t be consistently attacking with Zweilous, you want to attack with Hydreigon.

Special Energy

Make sure you know the difference between Basic and Special Energy. While several decks use only Basic Energy, they can tech in certain Special Energy cards to get them the edge. Other decks run almost all Special Energy.

Of note, several decks are teching in Enhanced Hammer due to the sheer amount of decks that rely on Special Energy, or it just relies on it as its strategy, so too many for the wrong reason can get you killed.

New decks are better off using far more Basic Energy than Special, but for the times you will want them, here they are.

Double Colorless

Some decks have a lot of attackers that require two C Energy to attack. Others do more damage for the amount of Energy on the field or on the Active Pokémon. Most of the time, you won’t use this “just in case” for an attacker who has a cost that’s some type and two Colorless unless it’s for speed, or an Outrage Dragon.


This Energy allows decks with a lot of different types to run successfully, such as Klinklang EXs and sometimes Mew-EX. If your deck doesn’t rely on a lot of Basic Pokémon, this is a waste of space for you.

Blend Energy GRPD

Grass, Fire, Psychic, Darkness. If you’re using attackers of one of these types and want to use a tech attacker, this card opens up several options, as long as they also use one of the above types. If these Pokémon are Basic however, use Prism instead; it not only keeps your options open, it keeps your opponent guessing.

Blend Energy WLFM

Water, Lightning, Fighting, Metal. Pretty much the exact same thing as GFPD above, but for different types.

Things to Not Do with Your Deck

There’s too much to discuss with every card out there, and it would take an entirely separate article that I don’t have the know-how (or patience) to do. What I can do is tell you the things constantly seen on the forums. There’s a hyperlinked resource below, so I’ll cover things not in there, or things that are common and very important.

Firstly, too many people follow the logic found in theme decks. And while I was going to write a little bit on what to not do, Akane already covered it while I was in the middle of writing this article, and she did it far more in-depth and practical than I could’ve done here.

So if you started playing with theme decks and are still getting on your own feet for making a deck, go read this article right now. Or save it in another tab and read it when you’re done here, but this covers theme decks more thoroughly than I will.

1. Too Many Energy

This is very, very important, and probably even more common to see gone wrong than it is important. You don’t want to keep drawing Energy when you can only play one per turn.

There isn’t much I can say on this without being too repetitive, just don’t put in more than 12 or so Energy until you figure out what you’re doing.

2. Energy Search, Cilan

We can use low Energy counts because we use several cards to get them out. The above two cards are not cards we use to get the Energy out of the deck (exceptions apply). Shuffle-draw and discard-draw yes, but not those cards.

Energy Search is sometimes accepted in decks that use Sableye DEX, while setting up. In this case you run one or two Energy Switch, use it to get the Energy out of the deck to set up, and, most importantly, recover it with Sableye’s Junk Hunt to get it back and repeat. This is a similar strategy to Thundurus EPO’s Charge attack, which is used in many Eelektrik variants.

Cilan is sometimes used in decks with Ability Emboar or Blastoise; while this is a more solid choice for a card that used to see play exclusively in beginner decks (Interviewer’s Questions), Cilan should remain restricted to this kind of deck. Even then, some people are of the opinion that there are still better options for both decks, such as Energy Retrieval. In the case of Blastoise/Keldeo-EX sometimes Cilan is a 1-of tech used to suddenly deal 60 more damage.

If you put Energy Search in your deck, just replace it with a draw Supporter or another Energy. If you’re using Cilan and your deck doesn’t focus on attaching more than one Energy from your hand per turn, same thing, remove it for a draw Supporter or another Energy.

3. “Just in Case”

Sometimes you throw in weird cards in case you run into a very specific scenario. Now, teching is covered below, and it’s something you see all the time. But these kinds of techs are a waste of space. By “just in case,” I mean “I should throw some Skyarrow Bridge into HydroPony just in case I need to retreat something Basic.” Playing an abnormal card just because you might run into an unheard-of deck and has nothing to do with your metagame.

In the scenario above, consider a few things. Big rule about Stadiums, you shouldn’t play them if they’ll help your opponent out more than you. Remember that most decks run Switch or their own SAB, and since Blastoise isn’t affected by it, you won’t get much use from it. Basic Pokémon are too common in this metagame (and almost every metagame for every format, when it’s possible), so it’s not a good tech.

4. Illogical Techs

The above example with SAB would also be an illogical tech, as Keldeo-EX’s Rush In Ability automatically puts it in the Active Spot without a need to retreat. If you don’t have a Keldeo on the field at all times, consider consistency before a tech.

While “illogical” and “just in case” may look like the same thing… they pretty much are. I’m separating two versions of these so I can keep these sub-sections a little shorter. So the difference here is that while the “just in case” techs are meant for specific situations you’ll never see, illogical techs just make no sense.

Example: putting a 2-2 Dragonair DRV 3 line into Cinccino/Zoroark swarm because it also attacks for a DCE and gives you a Dragon attacker. However, it only does 20 damage, only has 70 HP, and the few Pokémon who are weak to Dragon will tear it to pieces (partially because all Dragons, including Dragonair, are weak to Dragon). But more on this below.

Teching Against Your Bad Matchups

Sometimes we talk about adding in a couple of cards that aren’t in a standard or conventional list in order to help us in one way or another. This is teching out your list, which puts in cards that aren’t necessarily there to make it more consistent, or to keep the same focus, or anything other than give you an advantage that you shouldn’t have with a normal list. Some toolboxes consist only of techs, with no one main strategy.

I know a lot of the sections I’ve done have gotten pretty long, and this article with them combined is going to be even longer. But this topic literally requires so much discussion that I can’t do much more than scratch the surface in here, just because every single aspect would take too much.

People have tried, but they become outdated quickly, sometimes within a month, due to the ever-changing meta. So all I can do is cover the reasons and purpose along with a few guidelines.

Note that we often get tech articles, too many to hyperlink a few, so just scan the front page and you’ll find articles about general techs, or deck-specific ones.


Obviously, one reason for this is to help you in difficult matchups. Some decks struggle against Trainer lock, some are hurt by weakness, some have no clear method of defeating the mirror match, and many more problems that could arise.

Another reason is just for the element of surprise which could win a few games no matter how the matchup looked as a straight list or a skeleton.

It could be anything from a clutch Trainer that lets you recover when the deck normally doesn’t need recovery, to an unconventional Pokémon that gives you anything from a cheap attacker, an extra copy of a Bench-sitting support, or an alternate type to work with.


The brief explanation is “take cards out of your deck and put in the techs.” Which cards do you take out? Make sure you still have your main attackers, any required support Pokémon stay in a heavy enough line, and you have enough Trainers and Supporters.

The easy method is to fine a skeleton list online, a bare list of a deck archetype that contains less than 60 cards (their opinion of the minimum cards that the deck needs to run). A tight list is a deck with little room for techs, such as how Klinklang EXs requires many different things to run and you can’t take many out. However, a loose list often has more room for random techs and is more consistent by nature, like Eelbox.

Good and Bad Beginner Tech Ideas

These are what I was talking about above. Simple things that may sound like a good idea, and sometimes they’re great, but sometimes they’ll never work and can actually cause you to lose due to the free prize given to your opponent, or the loss of consistency.

Counter-Stadiums are covered way far above. Skyarrow Bridge is out, so you need to decide if it works in your deck. If your meta has few decks that use it, or you don’t fear it, you don’t need a counter-Stadium. If none of the Stadiums will benefit you more than occasionally, this could be a tech that hurts you.

Using Pokémon with a Colorless attack cost sounds like a good way to add some variety to your deck. But I covered this above with Dragonair DRV. There are only widely-accepted exception to this is Mewtwo EX, which is not only the best counter to itself, it’s a great card. (Tornadus and Tornadus EX are also used in decks with acceleration, if Fighting types need to be countered.)

Something similar to using Colorless attackers is using Pokémon who can attack with the Energy type in your deck, but are a different type. It’s easier to name the exceptions again, but in general, it’s a bad thing to try. Persian HS is the only example I can think of, but because it directly benefited from the D Energy, it was used in some Dark toolboxes at the time.

Another is “Groundfisk,” the Fighting-type Stunfisk NVI 68, used in some Eelektrik decks. It deals pretty heavy damage in the mirror match, and giving up a Stunfisk is better than giving up a Rayquaza EX or Zekrom-EX. (However, with Prism Energy/Blend WFLM, and Eelektrik being able to power up attackers in one turn, some use Terrakion NVI instead.)

An example of bad would be Simisage EPO, Simipour EPO, and Simisear EPO; they were clearly meant to work together, and might make a fun/league/beginner deck. But in a competitive deck, they aren’t going to do anything that would directly benefit a deck that includes them.

Lots of decks have Bench-sitters that help them out. Usually these are Energy accelerators, but it may be a specific Pokémon such as a Darkrai to retreat, or Altaria DRX to make your Dragons stronger. It gets more niche when it comes to Amoonguss NXD and Fliptini. If your deck has a 100% specific goal in mind, this is a good place to start with techs; otherwise it falls into “just in case.”

Pokémon that search the deck can be confusing, but effective in some cases. Milotic DRX and Roserade DRX 15 search the deck for cards, but are sometimes Bench-fodder at best. Most of the time they won’t help you enough and there are better Supporters to use; however, Roserade is seeing some play in Empoleon.

Complicated Techs

For anyone new, anything under here might as well be under “bad ideas.” They’re harder to pull off, can take up room you could use with something much better, and it’s a hard call on what the right meta to put them in is. These are a strange mix between “practical” and “just in case,” and I highly recommend staying away until you know exactly what you’re doing.

Taking prizes in a mill deck sounds odd, where a rule is “don’t waste time taking prizes.” This actually has a common exception: putting Cobalion into Durant mill to take 6 Prizes after your opponent has few resources left. Where Durant alone is easy to play and has a very straightforward approach, like more mill decks, knowing when to start powering up Cobalion and being able to take 6 Prizes before your opponent can take the remainder and/or KO Cobalion isn’t as second nature.

Putting one or two mill cards in a prize-taking deck is far less common, but a legit strategy for the end. This is seen when your opponent is a mirror match and you’re both concerned about decking out. Then you pull out a surprise Durant, and the N they’ve been holding onto can’t be played because there’s no card for them to draw to start the turn.

Difficult not only because of the room it takes up and having to play and attack on the same turn, but also because you have to hide it from your opponent or they’ll know exactly what you plan on doing.

Sableye DEX goes in Dark decks and that’s it. But in a rare case, when there’s only 2 Prizes left (so that losing Sableye isn’t a problem), Blend or Prism may allow your opponent to suddenly get out a Catcher, Max Potion, Revive, Super Rod, or other card that they ran out of that will suddenly turn the game around and allow them to take the last prizes.

Presenting Your Deck to the Forums Without a List

Now, if you only know what you want but not a list or how to make it specifically, you obviously aren’t going to make a thread in Competitive Deck Discussion saying you want a list. Not only is it a pretty dumb thing to do, it’s against the rules, making it a really dumb thing to do. You don’t want your thread locked, you just want a list. So before you go to the forums begging for lists or sources, this is what you should do.

Remember that we have a search feature right there in the upper-right, below the ad banner. We have all metagame decks and more between the front page, Competitive Deck Discussion, and Deck Help & Development.

An important rule to keep in mind is that you must not ask for a decklist directly. Look up articles, browse the forums, check Pokégym, use Google, anything but begging for a list. It’ll get your thread locked and several of the forum members will make jokes at your expense.

Beginners Who Don’t Know What They Want

Sometimes, we even get people who just picked up the card game after years of having stopped. They catch sight of those shiny new packs and just take a couple on a whim. Then buy more, then buy more, and then buy even more until you question what to do with your collection.

At this point you may want a deck, but don’t want to invest too much money in case it’s a passing phase. What we can do is try to formulate a basic strategy with the cards you do have, and let you know what to do to get better cards that you’ll need no matter what. The staples above that come in Trainer Kits and theme decks we always recommend getting to test the waters.

If this is the path you take, create a thread in Deck Help & Development. Give us an organized list of the rares you have, Items and Supporters, maybe some cards you’ve seen that you heard are good but you have an incomplete line for. We’ll get together and see if we can get you on your feet to beat your friends.

Whatever you do, don’t argue that “No I don’t want to buy new cards” or “I don’t like that idea” without reason. We know what we’re doing, but we also don’t know everything about you. If you have a protest against anything, give a reason for it.

Presenting Your Deck to the Forums With a List

Hopefully, you will have a list, and an idea of what you’re doing or want to do. Take that list and tell use exactly what’s in it. Neatly separate Pokémon, Trainers, and Energy. Give us a strategy if the list you’re giving isn’t a common metagame deck. Above all, be open to suggestions and give reasons if you don’t like an idea we give you.

What you shouldn’t do is messily type the lines out, leave important cards unlabeled (example, saying Samurott when it could be Samurott BLW 31 or Samurott BLW 32), and just leave it there without an explanation. Don’t tell use you think this deck will rip through everything if it’s a beginner attempt, and especially don’t do this if you haven’t tested any matchups. When you do that, we tend to focus more on how cocky you are than on helping you improve the list. A problem that should be corrected? Probably, but it’s still the internet.

If you do post matchups, they must be tested with good lists against competent opponents. I could build Blastoise/Emboar and hand Darkrai/Hydreigon to my younger sister, who hasn’t played in a good 10 years. While I’d win every time, does that sound like useful data?

Again, if you post matchups, make sure there’s a reason for it. For example, you’re struggling against a certain matchup and you want to know if you’re playing correctly, or how to tech against it. Or you have a new rogue which is doing pretty well and want to get opinions on it. Don’t just post random matchups and expect them to be automatically relevant.

The most common excuse for not having good matchups is “I don’t go to league,” or “I only play against myself.” While battling yourself can give you an idea, it’s not the most effective. The most recommended site for this is PlayTCG.me; if you have trouble finding enough varied opponents or good decks, go to the forums and say you want to battle for matchup testing. It’s a good time-waster for some people.

On Rogues


This is one of the touchiest subjects when it comes to new decks. Your deck isn’t tier one meta, but it probably isn’t rogue either. Much like untrue matchups, we usually latch onto false rogue claims. Here I have a list of deck types that are commonly mistaken as rogue:

Tier Three Decks – Combining Ninetales DRX with Amoonguss NXD isn’t rogue, it’s low tier. Dusknoir isn’t rogue, it’s low tier. Ampharos DRX isn’t rogue, it’s low tier. Rogue doesn’t mean “it’s rarely played.” As these are already established decks that have been played but have a low win record, they’re just lower-tier decks.

Budget Decks – Sometimes you can’t afford something tier one, and only throw together what you have until payday or your next allowance. This is something we’ll still help you out with, if you make sure to tell us that it’s budget beforehand. But if you call it a cheap rogue, then we’ll tell you in many different ways that it’s not a rogue, it’s random Pokémon thrown together.

Non-Synergy – Arguably, a rogue deck must also be an effective deck. So if you pair Zebstrika with Audino, it’s not so much rogue as it is just bad. Now if you find a real meta-sweeping strategy with those two, surprise us, we’re always on the lookout for new decks. Until then, don’t smash together two unrelated cards and expect us to take it seriously as a real deck.

Uncommon Variants – If it’s already a deck that exists, it’s not a rogue, it’s a variant. For a personal example, I play a deck I call “TechEels.” It’s a toolbox with Eelektrik, Prism Energy, and one each of eight different attackers, with seven attacking types (including Raikou-EX, Shaymin EX, and Keldeo-EX). It’s not a rogue, it just sounds like a bad idea version of Eelbox.


A special note about those who decide to “only play rogue.” It’s been proven that playing rogue won’t make you any stronger as a player, so there is no tactical gain. Surprise factor rarely works, as “my opponent won’t expect it” usually means it’s a terrible combination that hasn’t been done because it’s terrible. You may only want to play your favorite cards, and that’s great, but it means that you only play [your favorite Pokémon name here] and not “rogue.” Most people have a type of deck that they like to play, as listed above.

Why isn’t rogue on said list? Because rogues can be anything. It’s like indie as a music or game genre; it only means there’s no company backing them, but you can still have indie puzzle games and indie RPGs, which aren’t alike at all. All rogues are defined by a strategy, and not just “being rogue.” And once an effective new deck becomes well-known and everyone realizes it’s good, it ceases to be rogue. A good rogue deck won’t be secret for long.

(Alternatively, there may be a decent rogue that just doesn’t have a place in our metagame and never becomes popular, such as Vileplume BCR with various attackers.)

If you are one of those people who insist to only play rogue no matter what the meta is, well that’s still your choice. We’ll just mock you for being a pretentious hipster in that case. Are you a pretentious hipster? I dunno, but you’re still being judged.

On Making Your Own Rogue

First step of making a brand new rogue is to avoid the above mistakes. Second step is to realize that one doesn’t just make an effective rogue then and there without heavy testing, and sometimes a fair bit of luck. Third, don’t expect other players to do this for you; a lot of us are pretty cool with the decks we have and aren’t going to throw together random combinations of cards in hopes that one of them might have a hidden perfect strategy. One of the worst things you can do (in some peoples’ opinions) is ask for somebody to “write about all the secret rogue decks” or to “build a good deck that doesn’t exist yet.”

You’re going to want to be familiar with every card in format before trying to change the format. Test endlessly. Be honest about matchups. Play every match 100% seriously and never rely purely on theory to carry you through a match. If I was naming names in this article, there are very many forum threads and published articles out there, with comments and replies very angry about bad matchups.

I know I already said I can only skim over big sections like this that need their own article. But this is something that this is all I can tell you. The best advice that can be given to a beginner is “stop underestimating it.” It’s very hard and if there was a clear guide that could be made for it, then we’d see a lot less people asking about decks that we haven’t thought of.


Made it this far? Well now you’re that much closer to knowing what you’re doing if my advice can be taken seriously.

Any more questions or clarification needed? Ask them in the comments below, or take any broad questions to the forums if you want. Everyone here is happy to help.

Reader Interactions

45 replies

  1. Steven Nilsen

    Well, that’s about the best introduction to the game I’ve ever seen. If the current format for pokemon had a textbook, this would be chapter 2. Chapter 1 would be basic game play. SUPER JOB!

  2. Jak Stewart-Armstead

    So obviously good that it doesn’t need a comment.

    Not even this one.

  3. Jen Badamo

    Thanks so much for this article. I have an entire League full of new Pokemon players (all of them are kids under 12) so every week I’m building decks with them out of whatever cards they have (mostly retired ones) and teaching them how to play/strategy etc. This will help me out SOOOOO much!!

  4. Eli Norris

    Quite a great article.

    This is awesome for beginners.

    • Lynx Meche  → Adam

      Shoot, I started writing this before ND was out, thought I had everything important added in. Changing that, thanks for reminding.

  5. Joshua Pikka

    just because Durant is cheap, that doesn’t make Milling cheap. Milling is a legitimate game mechanic, Durant is the one that is not. I had a miling deck in a previous format that took as much skill as any other deck. Just don’t step all over Milling because of Durant.

    Good article though. A good help to some new people.

    • Lynx Meche  → Joshua

      I don’t think I directly said milling itself was cheap, since I don’t really see it as cheap or not. But I read a bunch on people who played Durant, and a common thing in reports were things like “I managed to win because I milled both of his Vileplume on the first turn” and “I had a Durant AND Rotom prized so I couldn’t maximize milling and took a loss.” Luck was brought up a lot in tourney reports, so I more or less took a guess that it’s the chanciest deck in format.

      Nothing particularly wrong with it, sorry if it came off badly. Most of the focus there was on Durant since that’s something you’re guaranteed to see at a tournament.

      • Edgar F  → Lynx

        It *is* an autopilot deck, but compared to most of the history of pokemon, this is an autopilot format. Skill rotated out after Platinum block, so I really have no problem with Durant. :)

  6. Joe Navratil

    As a pure noob myself (tourney count: two Next Destinies prereleases and a 3-2 record in a single modified-format tourney), this article is fantastic as both an introduction to the game and an introduction to the 6P forums (where I’ve been lurking for a month or so).

    If this can be kept up to date — I don’t know the mechanics of keeping something like this current for the long-term, but there are a few places where it’s obvious it’s been in the works a while (a couple deck archetypes that aren’t modified-legal, a few curious non-mentions like Amoongus in the Special Conditions section) — I’d honestly suggest it get some sort of perma-link from the 6P front page. It’s that awesome.


    • Lynx Meche  → Joe

      I started this in the middle of NV, since partway through, I got a little frustrated with it, put it down for a week or so before picking it back up. Before posting this, I had to go back and add in all the ND cards where I remembered they’d be needed, and probably still missed a couple spots.

      Not sure where any decks are mentioned that aren’t legal, though. I think I put in some examples from last format as comparisons to current things, but don’t notice any examples with old decks.

        • theo Seeds  → Joe

          Basically she started writing this before Next Destinies was out, so she had to put all the ND cards in before she posted this article.

    • Adam Capriola  → Balasar

      I’m going to point out a little language trick for everyone (not to pick on you in particular Balasar, as I’ve seen many other people who are guilty of this too).

      When you say “not a bad article,” you’re conveying to the author you think there is a bad aspect to it. Or at the very least it makes you appear like someone who looks at things from a negative view.

      When you say “good article,” you’re conveying positivity. Though the two statements mean basically the same thing in terms of adequacy, but there is a world of difference in how they’re received by people. Be careful with how you structure your sentences using negatives and positives.

      Side Note: Loved the article Merrisa! I’ll try to figure out a way to get this stickied somewhere for reference, and we could definitely keep it updated as new sets are released.

      • Jak Stewart-Armstead  → Adam

        A British person saying ‘not bad’ translates into American as ‘oh my god that was freakin awesome!!!!’

        We go in for understatement ;)

      • Lynx Meche  → Adam

        Yeah, I was considering keeping up when new staples and theme decks are out. But most of my research is from reading the forums and other peoples’ opinions and stuff, not my own experience. So it’ll take a bit of time after release, but so long as other people can agree on staples, I can update.

        I know I usually differentiate “good” and “not bad,” haha. If it’s not bad or not terrible, it usually means “It’s not great but at least I don’t outright hate it” =p

        • Tom Otvos  → Lynx

          I think this was a terrific article! I needed this to get back up to speed as I have pretty much dropped out of 6p since last spring. It is also the beginner article I wanted to write.

          I will throw this out there as a “keep up to date” comment: I don’t know how practical it is to keep a single article up-to-date since the format changes so much, so often. There are aspects to this article that are totally relevant for large expanses of time, but clearly specific cards and deck archetypes go in and out of vogue as the format evolves.

          I would suggest that maybe this be renamed to “Beginner’s Guide to the 2012 Format” or something, to give it some context, and then have related but new articles as significant changes to the game are made. You can imagine how this article would have looked in the SP days, and how much you might glean from it now, for example.

          “Oh my god that was freakin’ awesome!!!!”

          — tomo

  7. Benjamin Bolival

    candidate for best article for 2012! keep it going!!!

  8. Brandon13Jones

    This would be very helpful to any new player. +1!

  9. Roarkiller Master

    This should be a PDF, printed and distributed to every new player in every premier event.

    I’m not joking.

  10. Vinay Patel

    There are actually 2 Level Balls in Voltage Vortex, not one. But that is such a minor detail in such a good article. A link to this needs to be stickied in Deck Discussion in the forums, methinks.

    • Lynx Meche  → Vinay

      Huh, Bulbapedia lies then. I got information from the theme decks there, but just checked a deck-opening Youtube video after you questioned it. Fixing that.

  11. Dustin Yarc

    This is not just a great beginner guide, this is the best general guide and explanation of Pokémon TCG I’ve ever seen. You sir deserve a medal.

  12. Quentin Goss

    I loved the article, everything from the content to word choice. Well Done.

    P.S. I’ve always scored good on my English writing exams but ever since I’ve been taking AP World History I’ve been questioning everything on the way I’ve been writing. I even got into an agruement with my English teach the other day about thesis statements.

    • Lee  → Quentin

      Let me tell ya, bud – once you hit college, teachers HATE a dry, cut-and-paste, tell-all thesis statement that they hammer into your brain in high school – in fact, every professor I have had in courses with writing flags have told us not to even bother with that lame paragraph structure as well. You almost always also want to write in present tense, never past as it tends to weaken your argument. Oh, and avoid those silly rhetorical questions your teacher may tell you help engage the reader. Not sure why I am writing all this advice. Hope it helps anyway, haha.

      • Quentin Goss  → Lee

        I never did understand why I had to have those silly questions in there but, I do what I must for the grade.

  13. Sean Parmley

    I am a Pokedad, and have been playing for just over a year. This was such a good article, even for someone playing for a while. I wish there was something like this a year ago…

    May I have permission to copy and distribute this at my league? There are way too many people there that would benefit.

    Thanks again…..Very very well written.


    • Lynx Meche  → Sean

      Of course! It’s a free article and if you think it’ll help people, pass it out as much need. The point of writing this was to get people on their feet.

  14. Ian Anthony

    As a player who literally just got back into the game for the first time since Jungle, this article is The Perfect Thing. Thanks, Innocent!

  15. CalebM

    jirachi only needs 2 psychic to use its attack, the extra energy for multiple de-evolutions can be any tyoe

  16. Sean MacWhorter

    Wow I read the whole thing. I honestly did not think I would! Thank you so much now I have a full understanding of Pokemon TCG. Maybe I can actually start making me Own deck now! Thanks a ton…

  17. Jenny

    I have no idea how I stumbled onto this article but it’s brilliant! Thank you so much. I collected the cards while I was young, but had the itch to play recently and had no idea where to start. Now I’ve got something of a clue. :)

  18. Kevin Marley

    This is great, I just have one question. I noticed in the re-print list there are no pokemon. If an original pokemon is reprinted can I use a reference from the card dex and still use that pokemon

  19. Ryan Taylor

    Great article, I have been out of pokemon for years and am just getting back into it. This article helped out alot.

  20. Mario Mario

    I Love the truth. I Use it all the time. But i can’t believe ross never thought to use Serperior to heal off 60damage between turns…

  21. Brent Ayers

    New to Pokemon along with my son and this article is a nice starting point for us,,,,, thanks for the effort and time you put in!

Leave a Reply

You are logged out. Register. Log in.