One of the most brutally effective strategies in the Pokémon TCG within recent memory is to stockpile loads of resources into a single Pokémon card. This strategy surfaces occasionally with a different look and feel, but the idea remains the same: arm a Pokémon card with everything you’ve got Trainer-wise and carry it as far as you can.
While the term “Quad [insert Pokémon name here]” became common first with Terrakion NVI, the idea of tossing a single Pokémon into battle and bolstering it with the effects of powerful Trainer cards has been around for ages. Still, decks that could reasonably run with a Pokémon count of 4–6 became viable shortly after the Black & White generation of cards released, an era that would eventually place Basic Pokémon atop the food chain once again.
Decks like these have always caught my eye. When Quad Entei and Quad Terrakion became competitive options I adored the minimalist approach of trading in Pokémon cards for Trainer cards that did the same thing. Quad Terrakion, for example, relied heavily on Exp. Share to keep Energy on the field, a job that might have been left to a Stage 2 Pokémon just a format or two previous. Quad Snorlax, on the other hand, didn’t even attack. At 4 Pokémon and 56 Trainer cards, this deck offloaded nearly everything to Trainer cards and represents the “quad” phenomenon at its most extreme.
While I recognize there’s no room in today’s format for a deck running only 4 Pokémon, I took the old concept and applied it to the game today to create a few rogue decks I’ve been working on over the past few months.
- Quad Goals
- Starting Out
- Decks in Check
- Offense and Defense of the Furthest Ends: Perfecting Lugia
- Entertaining Entei
- An Unlikely Duo: Exploring Other Options with Darkrai-EX
- Regice Freezes Up
- Abracadabra, Alakazam!
Quad decks are technically nonexistent today. Viable cards for this type of deck would still want to take advantage of Shaymin-EX, making the “quad” moniker a misrepresentation. Still, I sought out decks that could continue the quad tradition of having low Pokémon counts alongside Trainer cards aimed at supporting a single attacker. After reviewing the card pool for the Standard format, these were the cards that caught my attention as well as some notes I scribbled down about each:
- Lugia FCO. A card that has so much going for it — a good Ability, a powerful attack (especially against Shaymin-EX), and additional options in the form of Lugia BREAK. At the same time, Intensifying Burn is terribly weak against non-EX decks.
- Entei AOR 15. This card misses Blacksmith pretty bad, but Exp. Share plus Weavile STS might keep the beatdown going alongside access other Pokémon Tools you know you want to play.
- Diancie-EX FCO. High on defense and low on offense, this is a surprisingly tough card when you factor in its Ability, a Fighting Fury Belt, and a Mega Evolution that can wall against Pokémon-EX.
- Darkrai-EX BKP. At one point Darkrai-EX DEX was legal alongside Dark Patch, Ether, Colress Machine, and Plasma Badge, causing a momentary panic that Night Spear would be happening on the first turn of every game. This didn’t happen of course, but it’s all I could think about as I eyed this card and its synergy with Max Elixir.
- Regice AOR. This card could function like Sigilyph LTR — four EX-defying walls that would really only work in a format rife with EXs.
- Team Aqua’s Kyogre-EX. Slap an Aqua Diffuser on this guy and bug the heck out of your opponent. This card would obviously break the structure of a quad deck because of Power Saver, but still.
- Zygarde-EX. With 190 HP and the possibility of doing between 20 and 200+ damage, there are plenty of ways to run this card. At the same time, there has to be a reason it hasn’t shown up at many tournaments.
- M Alakazam-EX. Alright, I’m basically cheating at this point. This card breaks the rules of a quad deck outright, but I’ve wanted to experiment with the idea of a streamlined M Alakazam approach, so I’ll mention it here and see what we end up with.
One of the trickiest parts of creating a rogue deck from scratch occurs at the beginning when determining whether the deck should be put together in the first place. Archetypes enjoy the attention necessary to lead to lists that are only a card or two off; rogue decks, on the other hand, need justification to even exist. While the list for an archetype might be chiseled to perfection through various iterations by hundreds of players, a rogue deck might be seen by only a handful of players before it shows up in competitive play.
Since I don’t want to waste my time on a deck that would fail to meet my expectations, I went through the cards I picked out one by one and quickly built a deck list for them based off their perceived strengths and weakness. Note that it takes an understanding of the format and experience to do this, and even then I could be wrong. The potential in a card can often be overlooked, as there are nuances that appear during practice that won’t be observed otherwise.
Ever see someone win a tournament with a rogue deck and think to yourself, “I knew that card was good”? If so, you’re not alone. After all, any deck that wins a tournament is going to be good on some level (players obviously aren’t trying to win tournament with bad cards). The better way to think about it is that you knew the card was good, just not that good. And it’s during the rough phase of playtesting and practicing with a risky deck that one understands how a card can be that good. Like I said, the creator of the rogue deck has had firsthand experience with those nuances while others just haven’t.
For right now, however, let me chop away some of the cards above and we’ll focus on just a few cards I feel have real potential.
Decks in Check
Here’s my first attempt at a Lugia deck:
Pokémon – 9
Trainers – 40
Energy – 11
You can see it uses a pretty standard Supporter structure with a heavy focus on healing and defense. I took the combination of the Pressure Ability and Parallel City and ran with it. Understand that this is a preliminary list that will change drastically throughout this article. Because of this there are obvious mistakes — Max Elixir with 7 basic Energy, for instance, is awful.
After a few games of testing I noticed a couple of things immediately. First, Fairy Drop rarely made much of a difference unless I could play two at the same time. I was right to add in 2 Pokémon Center Lady for this reason, but the whole thing was clunky. In fact, the defensive approach altogether felt lacking, as though a fourth of my deck served no purpose. The second thing I noticed was an unhealthy dependency on Lugia BREAK against non-EX decks as well as a disappointingly low damage output. Finally, I had trouble keeping enough Energy on the board to attack.
I would seek to remedy all of these issues because the deck seemed fairly effective in playtesting.
Entei AOR 15
In constructing this deck initially I knew it would sink or float pretty quickly. It’s arguably just a different version of a Volcanion deck that uses Exp. Share in place of Volcanion’s Power Heater attack. At the same time, Entei’s Ancient Trait can allow for 80 extra HP and 20 extra damage with two Fighting Fury Belts attached to it. Here was my first take on the deck:
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 34
Energy – 14
The thing about this deck is that there are few ways to play it. Without Blacksmith, Entei has to rely on Exp. Share, which complicates the Ancient Trait. This makes Weavile a requirement, and before you know it you’re dedicating 8 cards to do what Volcanion decks do with a single attack. The crux of the deck’s effectiveness then becomes a question of whether or not the second Fighting Fury Belt and extra 30 damage from Entei’s second attack is worth it, a question we’ll look at later.
I approached this card two different ways. One was somewhat true to the quad formula — 4 Diancie-EX, 2 M Diancie-EX, 2 Shaymin-EX, and plenty of healing cards like Fairy Drop to keep Diancie-EX on the field — while the other used Florges BKT to create a Diancie-EX that could do 120 damage for a single Energy. Neither deck worked. The issue was roughly the same one I met with the Lugia deck — a healing formula that didn’t matter that much against cards like M Mewtwo-EX.
Similar to my attempts with the Entei deck, I found initial approaches with a “quad” Darkrai-EX deck to be overshadowed by the popular Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX deck. My approach here would transform into something completely different by the time all was said and done.
This is a good example of a deck I almost didn’t build because I had trouble seeing its potential against non-EX decks. While I still couldn’t see a way out against Greninja decks, I still threw together this revolt against EX decks:
Pokémon – 7
Trainers – 39
Energy – 14
A few practice games led me to believe that this deck is more powerful than I thought. Its biggest issue was still non-EX decks, but I figured I could cross that bridge when I got to it if the deck was actually good against everything else.
Team Aqua’s Kyogre-EX
This deck never got past the initial thought of combining Aqua Diffuser and Team Aqua’s Kyogre-EX. As I started to build the deck I had more questions than I did answers. The Power Saver Ability required additional Team Aqua Pokémon and I couldn’t get past the impasse of an opponent with 2 or more Float Stone in play. Besides, Confusion and Poison together might be good in a format with things like Tool Scrapper, Virbank City Gym, or even Dragalge FLF, but in this format they’re just a minor inconvenience.
This card is powerful, there’s no doubting that. As I started to put together a concept for it, though, I couldn’t decide where to stop. What started as 4 Zygarde-EX with some support soon included things like Regirock-EX, Carbink, etc. I gave up on putting together a Zygarde-EX deck because there were too many options for it to reasonably cover in a single article and because I could only see it being more effective with these additional options.
One of my favorite cards in the game, M Alakazam-EX remains a mystery to the competitive scene. When it was first revealed, players recognized it as having huge potential, but the realization soon afterwards of a format that hinged on an unstoppable Garbodor BKP made everyone back off quietly. Still, I think it has some sort of chance, and with it remaining untested it might just have some untapped potential going for it. Here’s where I started with this card:
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