Rarities and B-Sides: Rogue Decisions on the Micro Level

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“Old Man Nance”

Pull your chair up close and take a seat, because it’s time for a history lesson from “Old Man Nance” (credit goes to John Orgel for that one — thanks buddy!). First though, let me pull back the curtain a little on today’s topic:

I’m going to be talking about what I have termed “Micro-Level Deck Construction” as well as “creative leverage,” both concepts I have discovered over the time I’ve played this game. They’re ideas I have not been able to talk about because, quite frankly, the format has not allowed it for so long.

You see, within the time I have written for this website, popular archetypes in the format have had a very “cookie cutter” feel about them. Practically every competitive player up to the recent rule changes could recite the codes of professional play (“thou shalt play 4 Professor Juniper, 4 N, and 4 Skyla, and thou shalt hope thou hast enough cash for Tropical Beaches”). Cards like Pokémon Catcher and Hypnotoxic Laser have contributed to this issue, becoming automatic 4-of’s in practically every deck that could fit them in.

Recently, however, there have been some changes in the tightly-wound fabric of this game. Perhaps someone in Pokémon Card Laboratories realized the err of their ways. Perhaps a bunch of kids in Japan complained to the right people. It might be that Arceus itself is intervening, and we are but receivers of a true TCG blessing. Who knows! What I do know, however, is that players in the future will reference this moment in the history of the Pokémon TCG as a true game-changer. (Okay, I cannot technically know that, but I can do some heavy figuring).

Hypnotoxic Laser has been partially defused by Virizion-EX (and soon, that cotton candy abomination — Slurpuff, I believe?), Pokémon Catcher has been flipped back to a much more reasonable effect, and on the distant horizon — sometime in February, I believe — we will get some Stage 2’s from XY that are just begging to be played. I personally have my eyes on Greninja and Delphox.

All of this seems to be amounting to a large shift in the way the Pokémon TCG is played. I’m at once excited for the future and reminded heavily of the past. Cue my history lesson!

Kevin still has nightmares about this card.

During the 2005-2006 season, my brother and I had a pretty hot run. We won paid invitations to the World Championship, scholarships at a Regional Championship, and finished in the Top 32 and Top 16 at Worlds. We won a string of City Championships as well, but what I want to focus on is the Gym Challenges. These were tournaments that offered paid invitations to the World Championship for the winner — it was simply one and done. TPCi apparently had their eyes set on North American players that year, such that I’m reluctant to even honor the “i” in this sentence.

I had already won my Gym Challenge, and so I was looking to Kevin, my brother, to make the trip to California a family venture. He was playing the deck I used to win a Gym Challenge in Virginia — Flariados (Flareon ex/Ariados UF) — and saw few bad matchups as he prepared for the Gym Challenge in our home state of North Carolina. I was not present for the tournament, and so I heard the details from Kevin later about how he lost to LBS (Lugia ex/Blastoise ex/Steelix ex), which was actually an easy matchup for Flariados.

My brother had made the Top 8 at the Gym Challenge and was paired against a fellow who was piloting a very odd version of LBS. This person, well-known in the Pokémon community, had managed to fit in some interesting techs that gave a sort of personal signature on the archetype. Among them was Alakazam Star, Jirachi DX, and Misdreavus LM. This last one was the card that brought my brother down, an unassuming Basic Pokémon whose Poké-Body required the opponent to flip two heads in order to recover from Sleep.

According to Kevin, the Misdreavus LM kept his Ariados UF asleep for multiple turns, allowing the opponent to set everything up as needed to win the game. Kevin and I had never seen an LBS list like that, and we both wrote it off at first. “Too clunky,” Kevin said when I asked him why all those cards shouldn’t work in an LBS deck. Within the week, Kevin called me up and stated simply, “It’s solid.” He had done the testing, and it proved to be a winner.

We didn’t change our strategy, and Kevin won a Gym Challenge in Tennessee a couple of weeks later with Flariados, but it was a lesson in what could happen when players consider all the resources available to them rather than settling for a “cookie cutter” list. And, as you might expect, Kevin played Flariados in Tennessee armed with the knowledge that this certain LBS player wouldn’t be there.

I’ll go ahead and be bold. I’ll just come out and say it. In fact, I’ll even use a bold font to make it crystal clear for anyone reading this: Pretty soon, games in the Pokémon TCG will not be won or lost based on the decks people are playing, but rather on a handful of cards (roughly 6 or so) that players choose to employ. Of course, this is predicated on the basis that players are using competent, competitive decks, which most are.

The idea is simple, but it packs a punch. In chess, players often employ a rote set of moves at the beginning of games, each one cleanly expected by both players (and audience members “in the know”). This pattern eventually peters out, at which point the players branch off into unique territory, setting up defenses and offenses that have a pattern unfamiliar to the watchful eye of history. It’s like a foreword to a book, or prayer before dinner — it’s expected, and it’s setting something up.

In the Pokémon TCG, our version of this is largely found in “the archetype” — that is, decks that rise to the top because of their power with lists that are refined to razor-sharp effectiveness. Until recently, a “perfect” list for an archetype was largely that — the most optimal way to play a deck. Players have bemoaned the fact for a long time that Blastoise BCR decklists are fairly standard, unchanging, effective, and even “perfect.” This idea is so prominent that some players express disappointment when one of their favorite players decides to pilot a Blastoise BCR deck.

So then, if players use an expected assortment of decks with “perfected” lists, where is the creativity? The ingenuity? The risk? The fun? If we know how Deck A performs against Deck B, and the decklists are so refined that there are no surprises, then it’s natural to entertain the thought that we are all just chess players making moves that never lead to any original patterns of thought. “Don’t make misplays and win the flip” might have very well been the motto of the last year or so of the Pokémon TCG.

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The future is promising!

Today, however, I am more optimistic. I have a reason to believe this game is changing for the better, and that perhaps this whole matter of personal ingenuity vs. rote memorization of deck strategy is bubbling to the surface of the Pokémon TCG, finally within our grasp.

I’m not anticipating an overnight change, but we can already see some positive things happening with regard to ingenuity. Stage 2 decks (other than Blastoise BCR, I should note) have been seeing some play, and there’s talk of random things like Crustle BCR, Shedinja DRX, and Archeops DEX making an appearance at tournaments.

What’s more important, though, is the fact that even within solid archetypes there is some decompression. Maintaining 4+ “Switch-like” cards is no longer a necessity (part of the reason Emboar LTR/Rayquaza EX can actually compete), and neither is having a 4-1-4 line of your main Stage 2. Other Basic decks are still moving right along, but even the conscious decision to take Pokémon Catcher out of your list opens up 3-4 spots.

It’s this “decompression” that I will be focusing on today, with an introduction for a concept I’ve long been unable to articulate. Below, you will find a table of contents. Just click on the place you would like to go.


I would like to pose something that you, the competitive player, may never have thought of before. It’s not a terribly complex concept, but it does have some far-reaching ramifications. If you have been in the game for nearly any stretch of time, chances are you have seen the effects of this concept. And here it is, without any bells or whistles, simple and compact:

Rogue options for decks should not simply be viewed on a deck-by-deck standard, but also card-by-card.

All too often, I hear players talk about rogue decks, and not necessarily rogue decisions. There is a consequential difference between the two, primarily in that the purveyor of rogue decks sees only the forest, while the individual who recognizes rogue decisions maintains a view of what’s occurring tree by tree.

In the competitive world of the Pokémon TCG, there are exactly 60 trees to every forest, to every landscape essentially. Some people are capable of only seeing the forest, while others know which trees are birches, which ones are oaks, and which ones are junipers. Some amazing players are capable of reciting the carved declaration of love on a specific tree or describing the family of squirrels that tend to scurry around another. In short, this is where I want you to be by the end of this article.

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Using Lugia can be a rogue decision.

If you do not follow my metaphor, just recognize that many players are only aware of rogue decks, not necessarily individual card choices that might fall counter to previously held contentions. A great example of this is Lugia EX, a card that has flirted many times with various decks. While there’s a semi-popular deck that utilizes Lugia EX as a main strategic component, this is not what I am talking about. Rather, I am looking at the instances in which Lugia EX was used as a “tech,” and its presence necessitated a large shift in the makeup of the deck (Scramble Switch becomes the ACE SPEC of choice, Thundurus EX count goes up by 1, and so on).

For many players, it’s convenient to lump ideas and trends into a set list of categorical options: archetype, rogue deck, tech, tier 1, tier 2, blah blah blah. The truth is, as necessary as these terms are, they are often quite restrictive. It’s with a dash of humor that I observe some players who attempt to step outside of this conceptual “box” — they use terms like “tier 1.5” (what the heck does that mean?) or rename decks to accommodate a single card’s inclusion (and thus, “The Yeti” was born).

I am none too interested in the name of a deck or where it falls on some subjective tier list, but rather in what’s going on behind the scenes. I’m anticipating that many readers will agree with this sentiment. And in fact, there are many cases in which stuffing trends and the such into a restrictive box actually blinds us from seeing opportunities for decks. Here, let me provide an example:

Lately, Empoleon decks have sprung up here and there through the course of City Championships. I’m not entirely sure how popular that deck is currently, but I do know that there have been multiple ways presented of running the deck. The term “Empoleon” as a deck can mean a great variety of card inclusion, from Eeveelution lines to Fighting-type Basic Pokémon. Whether I include a 3-3 line of Eeveelutions or dedicate those 6 cards to 2 Stunfisk LTR, 1 Landorus-EX, and 3 Silver Bangle, I will still categorize my deck as an “Empoleon” deck. There is no perfect list, there are simply options.

I expect this degree of variability to be uncomfortable for many players — indeed, it is even uncomfortable for me. It is a change that has been brought about by the recent revisions to the rules (along with the errata to Pokémon Catcher). These changes have caused a sort of decompression, allowing a greater variety of decks to emerge. Additionally, within those decks, some extra space has been granted.

Previously, Empoleon decks could hardly function with the level of speed that decks operated at. The threat of a Thundurus EX Knocking Out a Piplup on the first turn (going first) and ending the game was bothersome, as was the strategy of stalling by using Pokémon Catcher to bring up Dusknoir BCR. With the recent changes in the game, however, Empoleon decks are more likely to survive the early game rush. As far as that strategy of Catcher-stalling? With many decks ditching Pokémon Catcher, you can be safe with tossing out one or two of your cards with a Switch-like effect.

While many players will be talking about the times they succeeded with an “Empoleon deck,” this is where I want you to take it one step further and be able to identify even down to individual cards why you performed well at a tournament. We can call this scope of analysis “Micro-Level Deck Construction.” By contrast, “Macro-Level Deck Construction” would look at large, bold strategies that might perform well in the game. I feel comfortable saying this is where the term “archetype” might be tossed around without issue.


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Card choices, and not necessarily decks, will make the difference.

We are nearing a significant shift in the game in the form of our upcoming XY set. I always like to look forward to what the game will look like in the near-future, and XY is looking to be a tremendous set. I won’t go into detail on these cards, but there are certainly some game-changers in this set.

In addition to this, our last released set (Legendary Treasures) featured mostly reprints; it didn’t necessarily change a lot, just filled in some gaps and revived a couple of old ideas.

I mention all of this because the game has fundamentally changed since the recent changes in the rules and Pokémon Catcher. As we move forward through the season – starting, in my opinion, with XY – I think the true battles will be fought between players’ individual card choices rather than between two decks.

In order to convey what I mean, let’s use a popular deck as an example. Imagine, for a moment, that a new rule gets handed down by TPCi: players may only use Ho-Oh EX decks in competitive play — that is, players are restricted to using Ho-Oh EX as an Energy accelerator and may not use evolved Pokémon. Sit back and think for a minute about what would happen in this circumstance (outside of the inevitable squabble from players worldwide).

In my mind, decklists would be all over the place, with hardly anyone running the same thing. Even if some popular choices won out briefly, they would countered almost instantly. The moment Darkrai EX started showing up, Terrakion-EX-based decks would follow right behind, with Genesect EX not far behind that.

I use this example because, essentially, this is where I see the game going in the not-so-distant future. Not a ban on all decks save Ho-Oh EX, of course, but definitely an emergence of decks that are pieced together in patchwork fashion. Many Ho-Oh EX decklists state something like “2 Ho-Oh EX, 10 Attackers” for the Pokémon count. Players who offer Ho-Oh EX decklists often use the word “attackers” as a catch all, implying that you, the competitive player, must use your expert discernment to play the metagame accordingly and determine which Pokémon will lead you to victory.

In all honesty, I think these players also don’t know what a proper Ho-Oh EX list looks like, because it’s so difficult to determine. We all know what pairs well with Emboar LTR — Rayquaza EX. With Ho-Oh EX, though, there are so many options it’s difficult to determine where the deck will end up. Put another way, what in the world pairs well with the recently revealed Greninja XY? What about Delphox XY?

As we move through this season, I think players will find a truth about the game that will be at times both exciting and exasperating. We currently have a very large card pool, thanks in part to Legendary Treasures keeping many cards around (based off the cards themselves, Legendary Treasures is easily the most competitive set in the Pokémon TCG right now). We are getting ready to bump against XY as well, which will spur many more ideas. As a result, we will have to start shifting our focus.

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Thanks to Derrick for the interview.

Empoleon DEX is a card I mentioned before that has gotten a lot of buzz lately, so let’s look at it and break it down on a micro level. Before we do, however, let’s consider how someone may approach this deck if they were looking at it on a macro level basis.

For this, I will once again consult Derrick Vance, our fabled player who once placed 44th at a City Championship with Rotom (how he did it, we may never know). In fact, let’s just talk to him real quick about Empoleon. Though weak to Rotom, it happens to be one of Derrick’s favorite Pokémon.

Me: Hi Derrick, thanks for joining us for a quick discussion.

Derrick: Yeah, sure, it’s no problem at all.

Me: Listen, City Championships are currently underway, some players are trying out interesting things while others are sticking to what they know works. What are you looking to play this weekend?

Derrick: To be honest with you, I’m thinking Empoleon might be the way to go.

Me: Oh yeah? What do you like about Empoleon?

Derrick: Well, it’s got good matchups across the board, depending on what you play with it, and it really throws opponents off. The Prize trade is also nice, and I’m half-thinking about running Life Dew with it to capitalize on a strength.

Me: Nice, nice. Now, I have to ask — what are you running in your Empoleon list? I know Empoleon decks can vary quite a bit.

Derrick: Good question! Yeah, I’m running typical lines of Empoleon and Dusknoir, and I’m pairing that with a healthy Leafeon/Flareon line.

Me: Okay, cool. Yeah, I know people have been playing the Eeveelution line. It’s interesting, because I remember seeing the deck at States last year, and people were using Landorus-EX with it. What do you think changed?

Derrick: Well, Landorus-EX is bad in the mirror match. Plus, Leafeon is strong against Blastoise, while Flareon picks up KOs against Virizion-EX/Genesect EX decks.

Me: Fair enough. Any other surprises in your decklist?

Derrick: Not really. It’s a pretty standard list, but it packs a punch!

Me: Alrighty. Thanks Derrick!

Derrick: No problem!

Now, to be fair, Derrick has a really good grasp of what’s going on in the game right now. He has a handle on the metagame, and is capable of explaining card choices. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and he will probably end up doing well this season. Yet, to stay ahead of the curve Derrick would do well to take a different approach. With this in mind, let’s take an approach that considers a micro-level analysis.

To start with, let’s consider a skeleton list for Empoleon and move from there. This list was largely compiled after comparing four or five separate Empoleon decklists and keeping what seems to be essential (something I’m not afraid of questioning, of course, and neither should you):

Pokémon – 16

4 Piplup LTR RC6
2 Prinplup LTR
4 Empoleon DEX
2 Duskull BCR
2 Dusknoir BCR
1 Mr. Mime PLF
1 Exeggcute PLF

Trainers – 30

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
4 Skyla
1 Colress


4 Rare Candy
4 Ultra Ball
2 Level Ball
2 Silver Bangle
2 “Switch” cards
1 Super Rod
1 Dowsing Machine


1 Tropical Beach

Energy – 8

8 Energy

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How should we complete this canvas?

With 6 cards of space, the question arises naturally: what are you going to do with your 6 cards of “creative leverage”? This is where many players will quickly fill in the gap with what they’re expected to — “extra” consistency, Eeveelutions, “more” consistency, perhaps some Basic Fighting Pokémon, “greater” consistency, or perhaps some cards to “concistitize” the consistency on an already consiste… ah, I give up…

See, I have heard this from more than one player, this idea that consistency reigns supreme. I certainly won’t debate the merits of consistency, but keep in mind there’s a balance at the heart of consistency — too much of it and you’ve lost what I call “creative leverage” (I mentioned it before, but here it is defined), the space in your deck that allows you to address metagame, synergy, and personal expression (yes, there’s something to that).

When you’re approaching the game from a micro-level standpoint, you have to be more flexible with your ideas, with the possibilities that exist for those 6 cards. Don’t be afraid to entertain something as odd as a 2-2 Garbodor DRX line with 2 additional Pokémon Tool cards. I can almost guarantee that no player has ever done that with the extra space in their Empoleon deck. And why not? If it works, it works. Darkrai EX/Garbodor DRX made Top 4 at Worlds, and many players continued to discount it because “you cut off Darkrai EX’s Ability, what’s up with that?” If it’s that important that you cut off Abilities, then play it. Try it out, at least!

6 cards. Considering the cookie-cutter format we’ve had for so long (4 N, 4 Professor Juniper, 4 Ultra Ball…), this is an enormous breath of fresh air. Many players are figuring out what to do with this space. Blastoise players are discovering the merits of Black Kyurem BCR, Emboar players are finding Latias-EX (among other cards) strong, and so on.

For me, I would use the 6 cards of space in Empoleon to get some Basic Fighting-type Pokémon in there (more than likely, Stunfisk LTR). I like the idea of early damage spread, and I’m still wary of Darkrai EX. With Silver Bangle, I can definitely put the pressure on. I would probably throw a couple of Max Potion in there as well, since I like to disrupt my opponent’s tempo. As far as my matchup against Blastoise BCR/Keldeo-EX and Virizion-EX/Genesect EX, my area is seeing little Blastoise BCR, so I would practice until I was solid against Virizion-EX/Genesect EX. Maybe a Mew-EX for Versatility. Maybe not.

Maybe there are some other ideas that will test well. Consider this to be your canvas. If you decide that an Eeveelution line and added consistency is the best for you, then congratulations — you just painted a beautiful, strong landscape. If you go with a 2-0-1 Reuniclus DRX and 3 Max Potion, then nice work — your abstract painting will truly inspire! If you choose the Garbodor DRX I mentioned earlier, then your decision is fairly Dada-inspired and you can laugh while people claim “that deck makes NO SENSE — why would you shut off your own Abilities?!”

The point is, break away from the old notion that says you have to go in a certain direction because that’s where everyone else is going. That’s conformity, and conformity can lead to success. It can also lead to a complete lapse in the possibility that exists in this game.

Between the rule changes, the errata on Pokémon Catcher, and an encroaching set that will change a lot, you now have approximately 6 or so cards worth of this “creative leverage.” Accept this blessing from Arceus and thank the Japanese, then get on with it!


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This concept is more overarching than teching.

This is a fair question, one so pertinent, in fact, that I want to address it right now. Most of this work falls under the pretense of “teching,” but I think there are some very different things at work here, from the process in which players determine what cards should fill those spaces to the cards themselves.

If you have 6 cards of space in your decklist — 10% of your deck — you have ample creative leverage to explore options. You might find something truly unique and effective to put into the deck, or you might use that space for something effective, yet boring. You might also use that space for a really bad idea, so bear in mind I’m not dismissing that either. What you shouldn’t do, however, is look directly at a bad matchup and declare that your 6 cards are all going to address this one issue.

The thing about teching is that it’s very solution-based, and it’s extremely reactive. “Oh man, Darkrai EX is a tough card to beat, so I’ll just throw in a couple of Terrakion BCR,” one might say, recognizing a weakness and attempting to patch it up every so swiftly. If you have the space in your deck to entertain options, you should step away from this tendency to automatically problem-solve.

When you have this type of leverage, you can consider ideas like the Midsreavus LM I talked about before. Notice that Misdreavus LM was not a tech slipped into the deck to counter anything in particular — rather, it existed to offer its user a viable way to buy a few extra turns. It was a general approach rather than a specific one, and it worked.


There have been many times in the history of the Pokémon TCG that this concept has been utilized. As I said before, people usually think of this as determining the right “tech,” while it’s quite different from that. Let’s take a look at some popular examples (as well as some little-known ones) to help sharpen this notion.

The Empoleon debate. This deck has garnered a lot of focus lately, and most recently Jay Hornung shared three different lists for it with three different purposes (not to mention the list he started out with earlier, which ran Stunfisk LTR and Landorus-EX). Someone is trying to figure out the best utilization for the space in this deck.

“Fliptini” in RayEels (Rayquaza EX/Eelektrik NVI) during the 2012 Fall Regionals. One of the best uses of a single card spot in a deck I’ve ever seen, Ross Cawthon among others adopted Victini LTR to boost the Paralysis effect of Tynamo NVI 38. It proved extremely useful against Darkrai EX decks, essentially trapping a Sableye DEX in the Active Spot while setting everything up. By the time Victini either retreated or was Knocked Out, the RayEels player was strategically way ahead.

The success of Pow! Block at Worlds in 2005. So, Ross Cawthon shows up again on this list for a 2nd place finish at Worlds in 2005 with a deck that took many by surprise. With a core focus on Dark Tyranitar RR 19 and Electrode ex, Ross utilized the remaining space in the deck to fit in single copies of many, many cards. The list looked like a monstrosity, but apparently worked like a charm.

Stephen Silvestro’s inclusion of Luxray LV.X into Beedrill for Worlds in 2009. With the remaining space that Mr. Silvestro had in his deck, he chose to adopt the ever-popular “Bright Look” Poké-Power to gust things up from the Bench for disruptive knockouts. Once again, notice that this is not a means to counter a bad matchup, but rather a way to make the deck better overall.

Some random dude’s decision to include a bad card into his deck because it’s his favorite Pokémon. Remember the reason you want to do some of this micro-level deck construction in the first place. It’s not at all uncommon for someone to resort to using bad cards/ideas because they want to be different. If you’re going to go through all this trouble, though, at least make it worthwhile. Buy a plush of Slurpuff instead of making your deck bad by using it!

I hope by now you’re starting to see the difference between teching and the often difficult work of breaking your deck down and maximizing those 6-7 card spots that have opened since the rule changes. Teching is, in many cases, a matter of identifying a glaring weakness and countering it. Micro-level deck construction, on the other hand, takes a more holistic approach and requires considerable more work. What does this work look like? I’m glad you asked!


I want to outline some steps that will help get you started on this process. Realize that this is no formula for success, and it’s not going to be terribly easy, but there are times when hard work and ingenuity pay off, and the reward in those moments is a very sweet one indeed.

Also, feel free to add your own ideas to this process. This is essentially just something to get you started.

1. For any decklist, break it down to its core essentials. What is the strategy to the deck? If it’s sound (such as stacking damage with Empoleon DEX and moving it around with Dusknoir BCR), then take out everything you don’t need. Do not be afraid to get ruthless here (for a long time, I ran 4 Ultra Ball in my Darkrai EX deck when I could have easily gone with 3). You want strategy (Pokémon and/or Trainers), consistency (Trainers and/or support Pokémon), and resources (Energy cards), and that’s it.

2. Once you have a skeleton list, compare it to others. It behooves you to do your research and check out what other decklists for your idea looks like. If you can’t find any, describe the strategy to your friends and ask them to create a decklist. Compile some averages (average number of Energy cards, average lines for Pokémon, etc.) and see where your deck stacks up. Are there cards you forgot, or perhaps ones you can do without?

3. After you’ve got a fully workable list, look at how much space you have and begin thinking about what you might use those card spots for. Be realistic with yourself though. When players realized they had 1, maybe 2 open spots in RayEels, it would have been foolish to fit in a 1-1 line of a Pokémon, even if it was a really great idea. At the time, Mr. Mime PLF didn’t exist and Pokémon Catcher would have toasted anything on the bench that had hopes for evolving anyway. Victini LTR was both reasonable and efficient. Also, even though teching is something different, it doesn’t hurt to keep in mind your deck’s weaknesses as you explore new options.

4. Start a running list of everything you might use that deck space for. Even if it’s absurd, throw it down on paper. Run through your binders or look at each set online and go card-by-card, writing down feasible ideas. Don’t forget promos that are out there! You essentially want all your scribblings in one place. You can write down anything here by the way — Pokémon, Items, Supporters, Stadiums, and so on. If the idea requires more than one card, group them together so you know what the idea is trying to accomplish.

5. Pick three ideas out of all the ones you jotted down that you think might actually work. Look at synergy and what your idea brings the the table. Why is it a strong idea? (You might want to jot this down too). Here is where you will consider the deck’s inherent weaknesses. If an idea is great but doesn’t stand up to a really popular deck, there’s no need wasting time on it (Dusknoir BCR for a long time was this card to me since Darkrai EX has always been popular). It just won’t make the cut — unless of course you can modify the list to overcome that weakness somehow.

6. Test, test, test! Now that you have identified some strong candidates for ideas, run them through the gauntlet. As you test your ideas out, modify as you see fit and be open to the idea that something isn’t working. If you can’t get a strategy to work correctly, you might ask a friend to take a look and see if there’s something that can be done. If all else fails, ditch the idea — you have better things to do and (hopefully) an entire paper full of ideas that might actually work.

7. Prosper! If you find something that works, stick to it. Learn the ins and outs of it, and keep it under wraps — especially if it’s really good (though you can feel free to send me an email with your idea, I’ll certainly take a look, free of charge!). Many players arrive at these ideas without realizing that they’ve gone through this whole process. Some players do it mentally (that’s me), while others need to put it all down on paper and see it to believe it.


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Try to see the forest for the trees.

I certainly hope I have inspired something new in you as you read this article. Perhaps a new way to look at the game, or maybe a bit of that “pulling back” the curtains to see something truly insightful about the game.

What I said before I will stick to — I really believe this game is going to shift to an interesting place very shortly, and we will see games decided not necessarily on the archetypes brought to the table, but the ingenuity presented with 6 or so cards within those decklists. Jay Hornung is already starting to approach the game in this manner, presenting three separate Empoleon lists rather than just one. Perhaps someone should write an article with 15 or so Ho-Oh EX lists.

Not only is this stuff insightful, it’s also hard to put a finger on. Players might mull over various ideas, honing in on a couple of things that make sense, but it’s rarely as simple as saying, “Oh, this deck’s weak to this, so I should add that.” It can be a laborious process even, and so I hope part of this article simplified things for you. My aim as a writer is to always present everything on the table for you — no secrets, no hidden agenda — and let you take that knowledge to a better place.

I’m personally very excited about the future of the game, as it seems to offer an amazing pool of cards to work with. Even more are on the horizon in the form of the XY series. Oh, Delphox, how we will welcome you to the format!

I’ll see you guys in the Underground Forums. Otherwise, “Like” if you liked it, and happy holidays to you all!

…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

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