Hi, it’s Tyson here again. You may remember me from my Nationals report last year.
deluxevanilluxe.tumblr.comI have something slightly different for you today. Rather than give you a tournament report or cover one of the current archetypes that have already been discussed to death in articles and on the forums, I want to go into a bit of theory on deck building.
It’s partially that I don’t really have much to add on any of the top tier decks, but I’m mostly hoping to provide you with a bit more insight into how a great deck is put together. There are plenty of opportunities to read about particular decklists, and even have the individual card choices discussed, but I think it’s good to discuss the general “how to” of getting decks built.
This is so that you can learn to do it yourself and also so that you can learn to better judge whether a list is good or bad. Note that his article is aimed at deck builders that have learned the basics and are now looking to take a step into building really solid decks. It isn’t intended to be a complete reference.
If you’re reading articles on SixPrizes, then you probably already have an idea of what consistency is. It doesn’t hurt for me to clarify exactly what I mean by it though.
Consistency is the ability of a deck to set up and to do what you want it to do.
Let me discuss that for a moment. The first part of it is probably not a surprise to anyone. A consistent deck is one that you expect to be able to set up and get going reliably.
Now, for the second part recall that if something is consistent, it should do the same thing all the time. That is partially right about what we want from a consistent deck, but it isn’t really spot on. In different games against different decks, what you are going to try to do is not always going to be quite the same.
Rather, you want the deck to respond to what you are trying to do and help you to get it done. You want the deck to give you options, i.e. reliably give you outs to winning the game. This isn’t a new type of consistency I’m talking about and I don’t mean by this the ability to access your techs when you need them.
It is purely having enough Supporters so that you can get what you need; being able to get enough Energy to use the attacks you need to; and having thick enough Pokémon lines so that you can get them in play and keep them there.
Getting your deck consistent is not the subject of this article. As I said, basic deck building knowledge is a prerequisite for what I am discussing here.
A slightly more specific topic is crafting a robust deck, although I would say that the robustness of the deck still falls under the general heading of consistency. Recall that “robust” means strongly or sturdily built, hardy or vigorous.
A robust deck is one that can withstand various stresses during the game and continue to function.
During a game, you will be confronted with various difficulties which go beyond your opponent simply taking his prizes to win the game. What I am referring here is anything from your support Pokémon being Knocked Out to being Ned or having your energies removed by Crushing Hammer.
deluxevanilluxe.tumblr.comThe more robust a deck is, the better it is able to bounce back after being placed under such duress. There are various areas of the game where this robustness comes into play which I discuss below.
Certain decks also have a natural advantage in one or more of these areas. In fact, you will often find that this is what makes the difference between the best decks and the ones what didn’t quite make it. It is also precisely through paying attention to these points that the best deck builders are able to take borderline decks and turn them into decks that can win tournaments.
If you want to get a better idea of what this sort of deck looks like, please refer to the Keldeo/Blastoise list in the article Marathon Mania: Tales from Texas (an Underground article) by John Kettler for a deck I consider to exemplify this concept.
Redundancy and Versatility
The first method to create a more robust deck is to include redundancy. In this case I don’t mean more than is necessary, but rather that you include extra cards with overlapping functionality.
This is and idea from engineering where additional critical components are included in case one of them fails.
An example of this is Mewtwo EX and Tornadus EX. There is a good deal of overlap in the ways that you can use these two cards, they are both cheap attackers in the first few turns of the game. They can both put DCE to good use.
When overloaded with energies, Mewtwo allows for much greater damage output. Tornadus, on the other hand, covers against Fighting types and does consistent damage regardless of the opponent and the energy attached.
So we have both an overlap in the important ability to apply early pressure, but also a versatility in being able to choose which to use later in the game to ensure your best advantage. Supplementing Keldeo-EX with Mewtwo EX in Keldeo/Blastoise is another example of this.
Other decks such as Ho-Oh and Klinklang manage to use their large variety of attackers to their advantage. Ideally in this type of toolbox deck you still want to have a certain amount of redundancy between your attackers. In fact, you expect to run more attackers than you would expect to use any any one game.
You will notice that most of the attackers in a successful toolbox deck are capable of holding their own, i.e. you can get the job done (for the most part) with any attackers. There are simply some better attackers in each matchup.
This can be noticed as a possible reason it is difficult to build a successful Vileplume deck, where it is only effective to attack with the specific Pokémon that can hit the opponent for weakness.
pokemon-paradijs.comWhat I mean by mobility is the ability to get the Pokémon you want into the Active Spot. The huge advantage that high mobility gives is clear to see from the dominance of Darkrai EX and the up-and-coming Keldeo-EX.
It is a fact of life in this era of Pokémon Catcher that if you cannot get a Pokémon out of the Active Spot when you need to you are going to have a very hard time.
Simply put, being able to attack with what you want to just gives an enormous tactical advantage that should not be underestimated, as well as allowing you to retreat damaged Pokémon out of immediate danger.
The Early Game – Getting Set Up
In the early game, the first few turns, most decks are busy doing some sort of setup. Even if the deck consists only of big basic Pokémon, there is still the matter of not missing energy drops. The prime focus as far as robustness goes is ensuring that you do get set up and make it into the mid-game with a fighting change.
It is of vital importance to have a plan for the early game. This is more than just deck building, though. You need to have a game plan for each possible starter in your deck leading to a position of dominance in the mid-game.
You should seriously weigh up the advantage that bad starters give to the deck and how badly it will impact the game if you start with one of them.
I would go so far as to say that any deck (except those that set up to produce a perfect or near-perfect lock), cannot afford to go without a plan for the first turn of the game. Successful innovations in this regard that have appeared recently include the use of Tropical Beach, as well as the paralysis tactic employed by RayEels decks a while ago.
The Mid and Late Game – Staying Set Up
In the mid and late game (which I would say are differentiated primarily by the scarcity of resources in the late game as compared to the mid-game) you should have set up already and are concerned with ensuring that your opponent does not take down your setup.
This is more than just preserving the support Pokémon you have in play. It also means preserving your Energy in play and on the right Pokémon.
Think about how well you are able to survive if you lose your support Pokémon and this will give you an idea about how many resources you need to put into it when building your deck.
tumblr.comFor example, a Blastoise player, if he has taken the time to energize a few more Pokémon other than the Active, should have a few turns worth of leeway if Blastoise is KO’d.
A Hydreigon player, on the other hand, loses access to his healing as well as not being able to switch to a new attacker.
This could be mitigated by careful placement of energies, but keep in mind that being set up is more than simply having the right Pokémon in play. For example, without 3 energies in play, a Darkrai/Hydreigon isn’t set up no matter how many Darkrai or Hydreigon they have in play.
Although this type of robustness includes the ability of the deck to receive KOs without falling to pieces, there are also decks that put the opponent into some sort of lock, such as decks based around Accelgor DEX. In this case, the lock makes it very difficult for the opponent to take down the deck’s setup, no matter how precarious it was to get the lock going in the first place.
In such a situation it can be worthwhile to commit extra resources to setting up, even beyond what would seem reasonable, since one the lock is going there will be very little the opponent will be able to do to pull out the win.
In Hand vs. In Play
pokemon-paradijs.comThis is a very important topic. Any cards you have in play are yours to keep, whereas the cards in your hand are transient. This is more important than ever now with the prevalence of N, and remember that Ghetsis will be upping the ante on this as well.
Though Skyla mitigates this disadvantage to a degree, it is almost always going to be the case that an Ability is better than an Item card.
When you are in the position to win from what you have in play alone, then you are in a strong position. Having the cards in hand to win is good, but a simple N can change that situation immediately. Most decks cannot recycle Items any more, and this further limits their use.
Don’t get me wrong, Items are strong and neglecting their effective use will put you in a severely bad situation. But compare the board position of having a Raikou-EX or Darkrai EX able to get in the required damage to the bench to having to topdeck a Catcher and you will see what I mean.
A real measure of a deck in this regard is the number of turns that it can survive without a Supporter.
Though not common in the current format, a deck that can survive two or three turns from a small hand or purely off what it has in play is going to be able to weather many storms that other decks can’t.
It’s easy to get ridiculous about consistency and take it too far. This is equally bad because it reduces spots for cards that give your deck the power to win games. The trick is to run enough cards to boost consistency and no more.
In economics there is an idea of diminishing returns. This means that you don’t get as much out of each addition, as you add more and more. For example, the 4th Rare Candy isn’t going to make as big a difference as the 1st.
It doesn’t mean that things get worse as you add more and more, but rather that after some point adding more doesn’t really make much of a difference any more.
On the other hand, 1-of techs can be appealing, but try to see if your deck can handle things acceptably without the tech instead. Try to solve the same problem by using the strengths of the deck instead.
For example, you may want to add Tool Scrapper to combat Garbodor DRX. Well, if your deck already runs Mewtwo EX and Pokémon Catcher, you seem to already have a solution to it! Maybe use that spot to bump up your Mewtwo count from 2 to 3 or add in another card that will help you in the Garbodor situation but others also, such as an additional Skyla.
But if you look at the very best lists on this site and others, you will notice these factors in the construction. I’m sure you noticed that many of these are also intrinsic to the decks which are currently considered the top decks in the game.
I hope that this will help you to analyse decklists that you read and judge whether they are good lists or bad. I hope also that it will stand you in good stead when you are deciding on the last 2 or 3 cards for you latest deck.
I think I should probably insert a disclaimer before I end this article off:
There are certainly other ways to think about deck building. I am simply presenting what I think is a good way to think about it and which I hope will help others.
As always, feedback will be appreciated. This is a bit different from the usual deck discussions and tournament reports on this site, so let me know if you think this was useful or boring, and then I’ll see whether I should write another one of these for you of try something different.