A Focus on Fun Formats

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Not another Supporter drought…

Hello, 6P. ProfessorRedwood here, with my second article. The only State tournament I went to this time around was Ohio, where I unfortunately got wrecked. I still hear the words “Supporter drought” echoing in the night. It happens to the best of us, right?

This article is written to promote the lesser known sides of the Pokémon TCG, fun side formats that are perfect for informal league events, as well as local small-scale tournaments.

Don’t think of fun formats as merely “not Modified.” Think of them as Modified+. These formats have a spectacular benefit in that they make the game more accessible for the younger, more casual audience at your local leagues. The average younger player doesn’t have 3 Mewtwo, 4 DCE, 4 Catcher, etc.

Narrowing the play field of cards not only provides a deck building challenge for more experienced players, but gives a chance to younger players who use decks merely because their favorite Pokémon is in it.

The first fun format is pretty straightforward, but you’d be surprised how much it changes the game.


Exactly what it says on the tin, in this format, you play using a Modified deck, with the added rule that you can’t use EX cards. Remember when ZekEels was BDIF? You can relive the glory days here. As a matter of fact:


Pokémon – 14

4 Tynamo NVI 38
4 Eelektrik NVI
3 Zekrom BLW
2 Thundurus EPO
1 Tornadus EPO

Trainers – 36

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
2 Colress
2 Skyla
1 Bianca


3 Level Ball
3 Ultra Ball
4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Switch

3 Eviolite
2 Super Rod

1 Computer Search


3 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 10

10 L

This was the No-EX deck I used at our local shop. Unfortunately for me, I came up against Quad Terrakion after Quad Terrakion in a row. It didn’t go well. Against any non-Fighting deck, however, this is a very fun, flexible deck to use. It also gives you a chance to give your long-booked Full Art Zekroms some exercise.

The next fun format we have adds another twist to the game.

No-EX, No-Catch

That’s right. One of the most powerful cards in the game (and extremely ubiquitous at that), Pokémon Catcher, can’t be used in this format. This gives another layer of evenness back to the younger, more inexperienced players. How many casual league players do you know with 4 Catchers?

Perhaps to seek some revenge against the Quad Terrakion players, this is the deck I used for No-EX, No-Catch:

Roses Everywhere

Pokémon – 13

4 Roselia DRX 12
3 Roserade DRX 14
1 Roserade DRX 15
2 Emolga DRX

2 Victini NVI 14
1 Virizion NVI

Trainers – 37

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

3 Colress

2 Skyla


4 Hypnotoxic Laser
4 Switch

2 Escape Rope

3 Level Ball

3 Giant Cape

1 Tool Scrapper

1 Energy Search

1 Max Potion

1 Super Rod

1 Dowsing Machine


3 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 10

6 G

4 Double Colorless

roserade-dragons-exalted-drx-14pokemon-paradijs.comRoserade’s Poison Point attack = 60 damage, x2 against Terrakion, + 30 Poison damage with Virbank. Let’s just say it was effective. Because Roserade’s base HP is so low, Giant Cape is essentially a must. Emolga + Escape Rope is wonderful, and in some situations can be very disruptive. It also gives you plenty of outs to Status Conditions.

In the small amounts of testing I did before playing this tournament, Dowsing Machine emerged as the champion ACE SPEC for this deck. This may be because Le Parfum Roserade already performs the function of Computer Search, and can be retrieved with Level Ball.

Lasers are also a great inclusion because you can go all in on Roserade’s 4-coin flip attack, but still get the +30 at the end. Because of all the flipping you’ll be doing, Fliptini is another card you don’t want to leave home with.

I got 2nd place with this deck at the local tournament, losing to Ninetales-Amoongus (another really strong play in this format).

Any Professor who attended Nationals 2012 and played in the cup will be familiar with this next format. It’s one that takes care of the statement “Stage 2’s are unplayable” completely.

“Big Boy Pants”

No “Basic Pokémon” can be used. Instead, Stage 1 Pokémon are considered Basics, and Stage 2s are considered Stage 1s. Always wanted to play a Round deck with Wigglytuff and Seismitoad? Now’s your chance.

As this is an unofficial format, some rulings can get sketchy, for example, how Skyarrow Bridge interacts with the new rules. At the Professor Cup, Dual Ball and Collector were changed to target Stage 1s (as they were “Basics”) so the same rule would apply for SAB.

Here’s one example of a fun deck that would be perfect for this special format.

The Immaculate Garden

Pokémon – 12

4 Servine BLW 4

4 Serperior BLW 6

4 Cherrim PLS

Trainers – 38

3 Professor Juniper

4 N

2 Colress

2 Bianca

3 Skyla


4 Hypnotoxic Laser

4 Pokémon Catcher

3 Level Ball

3 Ultra Ball

3 Switch

2 Escape Rope

1 Super Rod

1 Dowsing Machine


3 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 10

10 G

cherrim-plasma-storm-pls-7pokemon-paradijs.comRemember being afraid of LaserBank damage? Now you can laugh as you heal even while Poisoned. Having all these healing Abilities on the field at the same time will make you nearly indestructible (except against Fire, of course). While you heal off enemy damage, you can fire back with your own Lasers, which you’ll need because Serperior isn’t a strong attacker.

A 70 HP Stage 1 is awful on paper, but when you can play it directly down, and combine it with an Ability like Fair-Weather Heal, makes it very strong. If you have 1 Serperior with a G Energy on it, and 4 Cherrims down, you can heal a preposterous 90 damage on your turn.

Four Serperiors and two Cherrims makes for 120 damage healed over a full turn cycle (40 when your opponent ends, 40 from your Cherrims during your turn, 40 when you end).

You can tech in other Grass attackers, such as Roserade, but these are the basic elements of the deck.

Another fun deck to try involves a lot of flipping, which makes it very fun yet very unreliable.

Aggro Whales

Pokémon – 10

4 Wailord DRX

3 Wartortle BCR

3 Blastoise BCR

Trainers – 37

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

2 Colress

3 Skyla


4 Hypnotoxic Laser

4 Heavy Ball

4 Energy Retrieval

4 Switch

3 Escape Rope

1 Level Ball

1 Super Rod

1 Computer Search


2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 13

13 W

wailord-dragons-exalted-drx-26-adjustedpokemon-paradijs.comA 200 HP “Basic” sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? As long as you aren’t getting hit for Weakness, you can’t get 1-shot. The differing Weaknesses of Blastoise and Wailord will give you plenty of options for offense, even if your opponent is using Lighting or Grass.

Cilan never looked better than in a deck like this. Over half your Pokémon are searchable by Heavy Ball, and one Blastoise is all you need to get your offense rolling.

Taking out Candies and Squirtles leaves plenty of room for everybody’s favorite new Item, Laser. With so many heavy Pokémon, you’ll definitely want to keep Switches and Escape Ropes handy, just to make sure you don’t get stuck.

The last fun format we have is also the greatest deviation from the standard game. Building a deck for this format will be extremely challenging, because competitive players (myself included) are used to having 30+ Trainers in every deck:


The deck has to have 20 Pokémon, 20 Trainers, and 20 Energy, and the No-EX rule still applies. You’re probably thinking, “Preposterous!” I don’t blame you. There’s no such thing as a deck that runs that high quantity of energy, much less Pokémon. This is why this particular format is challenging, but also rewarding.

My logic going in was as follows: “With so few Trainers, I won’t have much room for both the Items I need, as well as the Supporters to keep the cards flowing. Isn’t there a way I can draw without relying on Trainer cards?”

Empoleon’s Little Kingdom

Pokémon – 20

4 Piplup DEX

2 Prinplup DEX

4 Empoleon DEX
2 Kyurem NVI

2 Terrakion NVI

2 Emolga DRX

3 Stunfisk DRX

1 Lunatone PLS


Trainers – 20

3 Colress

3 N

2 Cheren

2 Skyla


2 Rare Candy

2 Switch

2 Level Ball

2 Pokémon Catcher

1 Ultra Ball

1 Dowsing Machine

Energy – 20

8 W

8 F

4 Blend WLFM

stunfisk dragons exalted drx 70pokemon-paradijs.comHave too many cards you don’t need in your hand? All the useful ones sitting in the deck? Empoleon has the answer. His Ability allows you to never fear a Supporter drought, as you’ll always be able to trade the cards you don’t need for the cards you do. With such limited Trainer space, there’s only really room for 2 Rare Candy, adding to the importance of running Prinplups (who are Level Ballable) to get all the way up to Empoleon.

As has always been the case in Empoleon decks, Emolga is very strong because he fills the bench and adds to Attack Command’s power. Free retreat is just an added bonus.

The Energy split of 8 Water, 8 Fighting, and 4 Blend is configurable depending on your preferences. I felt that the balance worked because of the balance of attackers. (Kyurem and Empoleon for Water, Stunfisk and Terrakion for Fighting). I nearly always had the appropriate Energy card for whatever I was attempting to do at the time.

The guy I played in the finals during this format was using a Shedinja DRX deck he made for the laughs. It proved to be much more effective than he was expecting, because he was undefeated before we faced off in the finals. Shedinja’s flexible damage placement proved problematic (put 1 on Terrakion, then night slash with Ninjask), but it all came down to Kyurem.

The strength of Shedinja is being able to hide behind a wall that won’t cost you any Prizes, but Kyurem’s ability to damage everything on field won the game. He used Maractus PLS 11 to confuse Kyurem, and it all came down to the flip whether I’d win the game.

I got lucky on the flip, and won the 20-20-20 tournament. He asked me to flip again for fun, and sure enough it was tails. Dodged a bullet there.


ash ketchum cowabungaponychan.netThese fun formats give players young and old the opportunity to experience the game they love in a completely new way. Kids who are used to getting Catcher-Night Spear-Lasered and losing in 4 turns now gain the chance to compete against other players and have a fighting chance.

Even players who are very accustomed to the tournament and competitive scene will enjoy the challenges and nuances of playing under these different rules.

So go to your local league or shop, and propose a fun side tournament using one of the formats described above. It’s an especially good idea as a way to cool down from States.

This article is dedicated to my girlfriend, who was extremely surprised to learn that I was a published author on her favorite Pokémon TCG blog.

I hope you enjoyed reading this!

Reader Interactions

12 replies

  1. David Demaree

    It must be painful having to play 20 energy in Empoleon…

  2. Steve

    Thanks for the great article! We play fun format tournaments a lot at our league in Katy, Texas. Two other formats we’ve used that weren’t mentioned in your article are: 1) “level ball tournament” and 2) “catcher ace-spec”. In the first format, every Pokémon has to have 90 HP or less. Obviously Zebstrika/Eels is a really good deck, but there were lots of good decks. I think that Absol/MewBox won as the format was HGSS-DEX. The second format is a non-EX format where Catcher is an Ace Spec (meaning only one in your deck and no Computer Search or Gold Potion). The format was BW-BCR, and the winning deck was Empoleon with Roserade (Le Parfum) and Ninetales (Bright Look) techs for their abilities. That 20-20-20 format looks really challenging!

  3. Jack Stensrud

    This is an amazing article, and so far, you’re 2 for 2 in my mind. First, you had that amazing Dusknoir article (tried it at Seattle Cities, went 0-3-1, but had lots of fun) and now this. I think it’s time to start a new tournament at my school!

  4. Ahj911211

    The most fun format I’ve ever played in was MD-Triumphant or MD-Call of Legends in late 2010 and early 2011.

  5. Joseph Baggs

    Ninetails must be the best “basic card in the format” automatic pokemon catcher! but i guess Garbodor/eelektrik becomes pretty awesome also….

    • Ross McCallister  → Joseph

      If you’re playing in “Big Boy Pants” with Ninetales, the ability is nullified. It specifically says on the card, “When you play this to evolve.” Since you aren’t evolving anything, it wouldn’t work.

      • Joseph Baggs  → Jack

        Lol, yeah sorry, I did not mean in the same deck just that both would be good on that format

        • Jack Stensrud  → Joseph

          Oh, thank God. That would be just an awful deck. Almost as bad as one person that I played who ran Darkrai/Laserbank/Keldeo/Garbodor. What’s funny is that I still lost, because he ran switches.

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