I believe there is a stigma within the Pokémon community about players that frequently play rogue decks. The common belief is that these players are not as serious about winning competitive tournaments, or, in other words, these players value “having fun” over “winning tournaments.”
One of the reasons I am writing this article is to try and debunk this misconception. I would also like to show that it behooves all players to consider building rogue decks when preparing for tournaments. Finally, I want to share my process for the construction of a successful rogue deck. First of all, I need to tell you why my insight is valuable by establishing some credibility.
My name is Colin Moll and I am 23 years old. I recently graduated from college with a degree in Economics and Math. I plan to start graduate school in the fall in order to obtain a Master’s in Math. I have been playing Pokémon since I was about 10. I did not really join the competitive scene until Nintendo took over in 2003. Since then, I have been rather active in the community and have had some nice tournament results.
I suppose my “most impressive” placements would be Top 8 at Worlds (2004) and Top 4 at Nationals (2008). I have won six States, one Regionals (2008), and two Gym Challenges (2004 and 2005). I am also very proud of my smaller tournament wins along with my high placements at various States, Regionals, and Gym Challenges throughout the years.
pokemon-paradijs.comIn regard to how I am doing this year — I have had moderate success. The highlight would be 2nd at Fall Regionals in St. Louis with Zekrom BLW/Pachirisu CL/Shaymin UL/Tornadus EPO (ZPST). My results from City and State Championships were lackluster. I won one out of five City Championships and got top 16 at one out of three State Championships. I did not attend a Spring Regionals. I currently have 28 Championship Points.
Although my States run was pretty bad, I did come up with the Landorus NVI/Terrakion NVI deck (with help from Brit Pybas and Michael Kendle). I was quite pleased to see it do so well across the country. I am most proud of Mason Howerton for piloting my list to a win at the Kansas State Championship!
Hopefully, at this point, I do come across as a reliable source of information regarding the Pokémon Trading Card Game. I have played for a long time and have acquired a vast store of knowledge about the game.
I am going to begin my article by providing you with a claim that I will hopefully convince you is true.
At any given tournament, the best deck is not always a high tiered deck.
Yes, it seems very vague and uninformative. Why try and prove this claim? For one, I doubt I could prove anything more strict. I cannot prove that the best deck to play at all tournaments is a rogue deck (because it probably is not true).
There are two ways of analyzing this idea of the best deck at a tournament.
- The deck that actually wins the tournament is the best deck.
- The deck with the highest probability of winning the tournament is the best deck.
pokemon-paradijs.comIf we only consider #1, then my claim is immediately true. I am not sure how many tournaments have been held over the years, but it does not matter. What matters is that among all of these tournaments, the deck that won in at least one of these tournaments was a rogue deck. What immediately comes to mind is Raichu d/Exeggutor d (Raieggs).
This deck was piloted to a first place finish at Nationals 2006 by Martin Moreno and was most definitely a rogue deck at the time. Thus, if we only used the #1 definition of best deck, then my claim would be true.
So now we must consider #2. This is more complex. The probability of a deck winning is a function of multiple things including luck. Since luck is generally just taken as given on any side of the argument, I will leave it out of our discussion.
I believe the most important variables in our probabilistic function are these (obviously my argument will not hold if someone can successfully show that these four variables are not very important):
- The quality of players running the deck
- The quantity of players running the deck
- The quality of players playing decks that typically beat this deck
- The quantity of players playing decks that typically beat this deck.
In order to improve the probability of a deck winning, 1) and 2) must be maximized while 3) and 4) must be minimized. Thus, the deck with the best 1:3 and 2:4 ratio has the best chance of winning a tournament.
Let us look at an example of how to assess a deck based on these four variables. This will be the “secret deck” example. At a very basic level a secret deck is a rogue deck that is played by a small amount of players at any given tournament. We typically only see them at big events. Usually the players running secret decks are of high quality and have spent a lot of time preparing.
pokemon-paradijs.comSo, in the case of the secret deck, 1) is high and 2) is low. A successful secret deck will be facing a low 3) and low 4). If the deck has these levels for 1-4, then the most likely reason for the deck not winning is because 2) is low. However, if 3) and 4) are low enough, a low 2) can still be overcome.
Again I return to the outcome of Nationals 2006. Raieggs not only took 1st place — it also took 2nd. This is extraordinary due to the fact that it was only run by a handful of people that year! So did Raieggs have the highest probability of winning Nationals in 2006? I cannot say. However, a first and second place finish given the low amount of people playing it that year would indicate that this is likely the case.
I cannot rigorously prove my claim if we define the best deck as the deck with the highest probability of winning any given tournament. However, the case of Raieggs provides a great deal of evidence that my claim is likely to be true.
Hopefully this discussion has convinced you that my claim is true. If you would like to refute my claim that at any given tournament, the best deck is not always a high tiered deck, please do so in the comments section.
Anyway, why spend a fair amount of time trying to prove this claim? What good does that do? Fear not! There is some good! There are implications and corollaries that are true now that I have “proved” my claim. And here are the ones that I would like to discuss…
1. Players that always play high-tiered decks are not always making the best deck choices.
2. Players that always play rogue decks are not always making the best deck choices.
And here is the point!
3. All things being equal, players that are willing to play rogue and high-tiered decks have the best chance at making the best deck choice.
marveldirectory.comI have never wanted to give off the impression that I only support the use of rogue decks. Throughout the years I have piloted my fair share of archetypes. However, if I have the time to prepare, I try my hardest to find a winning rogue deck.
Many people completely skip this step and automatically assume that the best deck to run for a tournament is one of the high tiered decks. I am sure all of you know players that only play high-tiered decks or only play rogue decks (you may be one of them). This is an erroneous way to play Pokémon if your intention is to win all of the events that you play in.
I assure you that, at 95% of the tournaments I have participated in, my goal was to win. The exception would be a small event with little prize support. I do not believe people want to read anything about these types of tournaments…so I’m not going to talk about them. I must emphasize this point. At all of the competitive tournaments I have played in, regardless of whether I ran a rogue or a high tier deck, my goal was to win.
Before I continue further on rogue decks, I need to cover some principles of the game. There are three components that decide the winner of any given Pokémon game: preparation, play skill and luck. Every player will argue the weight of each component in determining the winner… but I think we all agree that these three things determine the outcome of every game. We will ignore the games that are decided by a misruling or harsh penalty of a judge. Let me give a brief definition of each component:
Preparation: The extent to which a player has gathered information before a game. This component encompasses time spent preparing, play testing, deck choice, deck construction, knowledge of the card pool, and knowledge of expected opponents.
Play skill: The extent to which a player can think strategically during a game and make successful decisions.
Luck: The extent to which the odds favor a player. This component encompasses the opening hand, cards that are drawn throughout the game, coin flips and pairings.
The relationship between these three components is not set in stone. A player lacking in two of the three components may still beat a player lacking in only one of the three areas (think first turn donk). However, a player with all three will always beat a player lacking in at least one.
Furthermore, if both players have similar levels of luck and play skill, then it is the preparation that should determine the outcome. Or if two players have similar levels of preparation and play skill, luck should determine the winner.
There is a causal relationship between preparation and play skill. Preparation causes play skill. In other words, the more you play test and prepare, the more skillful you will become! Since preparation and play skill are the only two of the three that we can control, it behooves us to prepare. It also behooves us to consider the preparation process more carefully.
So, let us look more closely at the different aspects of the preparation component. Here are some more definitions!
Deck choice: The type of deck that a player chooses to bring to a tournament or to a game.
Deck construction: The intricacies of executing and building your deck choice. Once you made a deck choice, deck construction is concerned with the counts of each card in a deck along with the “techs.”
For example, if I want to build a deck centered around Nidoking and Nidoqueen, then my deck choice is a Nidoking/Nidoqueen deck. The deck construction aspect is concerned with combining 60 cards in order to make the best possible Nidoking/Nidoqueen deck.
Knowledge of the card pool: The extent to which a player knows the text written on all of the legal Pokémon cards. This is something new players tend to really struggle with.
Knowledge of expected opponents: The extent to what a player knows about the other players participating in a tournament. This includes anticipating what decks people will likely bring to an event. This is almost analogous to “knowing the metagame” for a tournament.
Now that we are using the same definitions, I’d like to continue my discussion of rogue decks by talking about the way that I usually come up with my rogue decks.
Colin’s Process for Building a Successful Rogue Deck
bcps.org1) Gather information on the expected opponents for the tournament you are concerned with. This includes looking at past deck choices of players that will be in attendance and figuring out what the popular decks are.
If a player has been playing the same deck for the past several tournaments, there is a good chance that they will play it again! This is one small reason that supports the use of rogue decks: people will not be able to predict what you are playing!
2) Form a list of the decks that you expect to see at the tournament you are concerned with. I try to make this list as long as possible. I put the decks in order from most prevalent to least prevalent and give most of my attention to the decks at the top of the list.
So in the case of States this year, my list looked something like this. You should note that this list was made prior to the Fighting decks coming onto the scene.
- Zekrom/Eelektrik (ZekEels)
- Celebi/Mewtwo/Tornadus (CMT)
- Vileplume/Reuniclus based decks
- Six Corners/Big Basics
- Electrode Prime based decks
letsgraph.com3) Identify weaknesses in each of the decks on your list. You must be thorough with this part of the process. The most obvious weakness of any deck is the actual weakness of the attacking Pokémon… but there are many other less obvious opportunities for exploiting the vulnerabilities of a deck. When I am trying to find the weaknesses of any given deck on my list of expected decks, I ask myself these questions.
A. Does the deck rely heavily upon Special Energy? Usually in each format there is a card (or cards) that punishes the use of Special Energy. Now there is Lost Remover but in previous formats there were things like Crystal Beach and effects of attacks.
B. Does the deck perform one-hit-knock-outs (1HKOs)? In the current format, most decks can and frequently do perform 1HKOs. However, in some of the previous formats, the top decks did not. In cases like this, an effective rogue deck that takes advantage of healing could be quite good. An example that seems most obvious is The Truth at Worlds 2011.
C. Does the deck have a problem handling damage spread? Typically decks that require lots of set up have issues with damage spread (think Vileplume based decks). However, decks that have lots of bench warmers are also susceptible (think Entei & Raikou LEGEND when everyone was playing Uxie LA/Claydol GE/Mesprit LA/Azelf LA).
D. Does the deck rely heavily upon an Ability or Poké-Power? If so, there might be cards that can either stop the Ability/Poké-Power (Battle Frontier, Medicham ex etc), help knock-out the Pokémon with that Ability/Poké-Power (Muk UD, Bellsprout TM, etc.), or punish the Pokémon with the Ability/Poké-Power (Cursed Stone, Gengar SF, etc.).
pokemon-paradijs.comE. Does the deck primarily use evolutions or basics? In previous formats there were cards like Dark Ampharos and ATM Rock that hurt evolutions. Now there is Jirachi UL…but who plays evolutions anymore? Likewise, there were cards like Machamp SF, Dark Tyranitar, Flygon ex, and Dark Feraligatr that hurt Basics.
Unfortunately, Basics are running rampant right now and there is no viable card that can severely punish them at the moment. Furthermore, there is no card that punishes EX’s either. Let us hope that something viable comes along soon!
F. Does the deck rely heavily upon Trainers? In past formats there were cards like Manectric ex, Slowking Neo Genesis, Spiritomb AR, and Dark Vileplume. Now we have Vileplume UD and Gothitelle EPO. Taking advantage of a deck’s over-reliance on Trainers is something that has been very effective in previous formats.
These six questions are probably the best ones to ask yourself when trying to build an effective rogue deck (there are others but, for now, I am just going to provide you with these six). Once I have answered these questions about all the decks on my expected decks list, I begin to build my rogue deck!
4) Generally, you will notice some overlap in weaknesses. For instance, when I was thinking about the expected decks at States, I noticed that CMT, Six Corners, and Electrode Prime based decks all relied pretty heavily upon Special Energies (and so did ZekEels, but to a lesser extent). In a previous format, the Gardevoir SW/Gallade SW and Empoleon decks also both relied heavily upon special energies.
If there is a significant overlap of one or more weakness, then a deck that can exploit them might be quite good! We included a high count of Lost Remover in our Landorus/Terrakion decks in order to exploit the vast amount of Special Energy that were present in the competitive decks.
I am not going to go into much detail regarding this step. However, I will say that your deck must be consistent! I have seen many attempts at rogue decks that never made it simply because the overall strategy was too broad (way too many different types of Pokémon) or because there were way too many techy cards and too few Supporters.
The best deck is quite often the simplest.
5) Now, you must rigorously play test your deck in order to determine whether or not it can win!
So, like I said, this is the method I use in order to build most of my rogue decks. Occasionally, I do come up with a rogue deck idea in a different way. The method that I just showed you is basically the way that I come up with a “counter deck.” It is easy to describe because this method is very straight forward. The other way that I come up with rogue decks is a bit harder to describe.
I suppose the best way to go about describing this other method is to point out the difference between a counter deck and a non-counter deck. The counter deck seeks to win tournaments by exploiting the weaknesses of the most popular decks. The non-counter deck seeks to win tournaments by using inherently good cards that do not necessarily have a strict advantage over popular decks.
The Magma deck may have resembled a “counter deck” in some ways (by using Desert Ruins to punish ex’s for instance), but it was not a hard counter to the popular decks at the time. It was simply a good rogue deck.
pokemon-paradijs.comBuilding a successful non-counter deck is quite challenging. The best advice I can offer is to look through your binder (expand your knowledge of the card pool) and observe what “locals” are playing at your league. These players are (generally) not as serious; so they tend to play decks that many competitive players would never even consider. However, they can occasionally stumble upon ideas or cards that could actually have lots of promise!
For instance, the Beedrill GE deck I played at Regionals in 2008 was inspired by a local. The deck was not a hard counter to the top decks at the time (Gardevoir/Gallade and Typhlosion MT/Magmortar SW), but it was very consistent and hit for a lot of damage with little energy.
And yes, look through your binder! Many people did not even know what Exp. Share did until they played the Landorus/Terrakion deck at States. I knew that I wanted to test some decks with Exp. Share before States. I was not successful with my first try (I used it with Gothitelle/Gardevoir)…but I eventually found the right combination of cards that made Exp. Share shine!
[Some insider information here…I really want to make Max Potion shine!]
So there you have it! I really hope that I have encouraged players to consider putting some creativity into their preparation for tournaments.
I could write so much more about rogue decks, but this is all for now. Perhaps I will write some more in the future! If you would like to see additional articles, please provide some feedback and let Adam know.
Thank you for reading!