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A Guide to Learning and Understanding the Control Archetype in the Pokémon TCG
Today we will be learning… Control!

Following a month-long dive into the world of post-rotation Control for my previous article, I decided that I needed to take a break. The game was at an excruciatingly loathsome state and I was no longer having fun. Additionally, I had just started university and I felt that I should be focusing on having a strong start to my college education instead of erupting with rage after my opponent topdecked out of a Persian lock three turns in a row. For my own sanity and well-being, I didn’t touch the game for a few weeks.

If I’m being honest, I loved my time away from the game. My stress levels were at an all-time low, I had a lot more free time, and I didn’t get constantly sacked on a daily basis. My life, to say the least, was easier. I love this game and I won’t be leaving it any time soon, but it can be overwhelming at times. I planned to relax a little, skip my article for this month and take it easy.

Unfortunately, my plans were quickly uprooted by a sudden announcement to the SixPrizes writing staff: most of our writers were leaving at the end of September to write for a new website. With a sudden shortage of writers, I felt compelled to provide at least my monthly article, though I had absolutely no clue what to write about. I had exhausted my supply of alt-win-con (AWC) concepts and I was not in the mindset to go searching for new ones. I also was fairly keen on continuing my break, so I was trying to generate an idea for a more abstract article, which wouldn’t require me to put in the hard testing I usually dedicate to my writing.

My initial thought was a “how to grow as a player” article, which I felt, with some of my experiences in the game and its community, I was decently prepared to write. However, I realized that genre of articles has been done many-a-time and I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about providing an article based around a somewhat jaded concept. I’m not saying these articles aren’t good, I think they’re a valuable resource to those who want to improve their skills at the game, but there are simply too many of these articles written by people who are far more qualified to speak on the matter to warrant another one from me. That being said, I had to find another idea.

amazon.comAfter a day or two of pondering possible article concepts, I finally procured an idea while reading one of my textbooks1 for one of my college courses (my writing course, ironically). The book was going over academic writing and the learning process associated with it and it struck a chord with my experiences learning Control. From there, I considered the notion of writing a guide to learning Control. I’ve always encouraged my readers to learn AWC decks, but I’ve yet to give a thorough explanation on how to do so. Learning Control isn’t exactly a textbook process—it’s going to vary slightly in methodology and difficulty from person to person—but I think there are quite a few consistent themes when learning Control and being aware of them can assist in the learning process.

1 “Often without consciously realizing it, accomplished writers routinely rely on a stock of established moves that are crucial for communicating sophisticated ideas. What makes writers masters of their trade is not only their ability to express interesting thoughts but their mastery of an inventory of basic moves that they probably picked up by reading a wide range of other accomplished writers.” —Graff, G., & Birkenstein, C. (2018). “They say / I say”: The moves that matter in academic writing with readings.

Common Misconceptions Regarding Control

One of the primary reasons I decided to write on this topic, and a major motivation I have for advocating for trying control in general, is that Control and other AWC decks get an undeserved bad rep within the community. People with minimal exposure to the archetype immediately label it problem rather than putting in the effort to understand it. More than anything else, I want to change this. By providing an easily-accessible, basic understanding of the archetype, I hope to shed light on the benefits of AWCs and shift the community’s opinion away from this constant distaste toward the playstyle.

Alt-win-con decks helped keep Baby Blowns in check.

The most common stigmatism associated with Control is the idea that it’s “degenerate.” People tend to think that it’s unfair and toxic for the game and that it shouldn’t be permitted. However, with a little exposure, you’ll come to find that AWC decks are often healthy for the game. AWC decks often keep overly aggressive and linear archetypes in check. A prime example of this would be the interaction between Cinccino Mill and Blacephalon UNB (Baby Blowns) in the UPR–SSH meta. Baby Blowns was an inherently powerful deck, having the capability to reach massive 1HKOs on big, 3-Prize Pokémon. However, in order to efficiently and consistently pull off those massive KOs, the deck needed to be built around that strategy completely. As a result, it couldn’t do much else. This is what is referred to as a “linear deck”; it does what it wants to do, but it often can’t adapt its strategy substantially. In Blacephalon’s case, it was going to blow up the Active and not much else. If left unchecked, the game could devolve to success being determined by who high-rolled with Blacephalon more. AWC decks, such as Mill, prevented this devolution of the format to an extent. AWC decks, while often being skill intensive themselves, typically promote a format in which skill is often rewarded over luck. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people to label AWC decks as unfair, as they are unable to beat them. However, this sense of vulnerability people have toward AWC decks often stems from a lack of knowledge on their part.

Blowns did have an out—but many players did not realize it.

Let’s continue with the Baby Blowns example. I cannot express how many times I’d hit Baby Blowns and they did not play to their win condition whatsoever. For Baby Blowns, the slim opportunity of victory against Mill lied in Cramorant V. The Baby Blown player had to continuously target Minccinos while the Mill player tries to set up. Without Cinccinos, the Mill player had little to no immediate access to new resources. They had Zacian to draw, but those cards wouldn’t be able to be used until the following turn, allowing the Baby Blown player to take an increasingly large lead. Did this work consistently? No, Mill usually got a few Minccinos down in one turn and could quickly find Mew. However, I personally rarely encountered that situation, as most of my opponents decided to just invest in Blacephalon and hope it works out (spoiler: it never did). In that sense, the lack of understanding of their win-con led them to not even have a win-con in the first place.

What was actually the sitting duck.

That being said, it’s not the Mill player’s fault that their opponent couldn’t adapt their strategy to better counter an atypical strategy. Unfortunately for Mill and its AWC friends, the blame is often immediately shifted toward them, rather than the player who didn’t play optimally. As a result, many people neglect to give AWC decks credit for the benefits they provide to a meta and the environment of the game itself, opting to scorn the use of it instead of attempting to understand it.

Another concern surrounding Control and other AWC decks is that the decks aren’t fun and that they just get easy wins. Control is easily the most interactive and thought-provoking archetype in the game. Winning, especially in matchups that aren’t explicitly in your favor, often comes down to outsmarting the opponent. Winning in such a manner is such a gratifying feeling. Often, within the Pokémon TCG, games come down to “my opponent drew ‘X’ card(s) and I lost because of it” which leads the loser to feel slightly cheated, as luck just wasn’t on their side. Additionally, the win might not be as gratifying for the victor, as it was a result of better luck instead of skill. Naturally, the better draws may have been as a result of skillful processes such as thinning, but thinning only goes so far. That feeling of powerlessness in regard to the draws is substantially reduced with AWC decks. You are often given the opportunity to outplay and outsmart the opponent, leading to your success. This is one of the reasons many people opt to exclusively play AWCs, as they are less vulnerable to the inherent luck factor within the game.

If you are willing to practice, you can learn these decks.

One of the most disappointing notions people hold to AWC decks is that they require immense skill to play. I personally hold this belief to be false. AWC decks are more difficult to learn. I’m not going to deny that. The playstyle is keyed toward a completely different win condition and learning to play to that foreign win-con optimally takes time and effort. However, that doesn’t mean that people should be discouraged from trying to learn. Consider the process of learning a new language: regardless of your literacy within your native language, there will be a learning curve to understanding another language. Yes, some people will naturally catch onto a new language faster, but, with enough dedication, anyone can become fluent. Additionally, some languages are easier to learn than others and, once your brain has adapted to perceiving language in a different manner, it will be easier to pick up another, more difficult language.

Benefits of Learning Control

In addition to gratifying victories, learning Control confers quite a few benefits. These benefits are often overlooked due to the attitude the community has toward AWC decks, but the incentives to learn Control aren’t any less substantial. Control hones your ability to play the game optimally and often leads you to grow as a player in the long term.

Growing as a player within this game is somewhat of a fickle thing. Especially within our current format, where suboptimal lists and misplays can be covered up by a deck’s inherent power, success in the game is not necessarily a result of skill. Consequently, the ability to grow in this format is somewhat limited. If someone doesn’t get punished for a suboptimal choice, they won’t recognize the error in their ways and won’t learn to be better. AWCs, especially Control, on the other hand, drastically reward optimal play and severely punish suboptimal plays. In that way, it may seem more difficult to learn, as you must play the deck near-perfectly to succeed. However, you could argue that AWCs merely inform the pilot of misplays more consistently and, in turn, provide a more explicit guide on how to play optimally. As a result, improving as a player with AWC decks is a faster and more noticeable process and leads to players thinking more intensively on a regular basis.

One of the most important skills required for optimal Control piloting is a proper game sense. By this, I mean a more thorough understanding of (A) the immediate state of the game, (B) how the opponent will likely play off this state of the game, and (C) recognizing what you, as the AWC pilot, must prepare for in order to overcome any obstacles the opponent might throw your way. This, like all other things, takes time. However, after acquiring a proper game sense, you can apply that skill to every game you play with whatever deck you decide to play. That, in itself, will improve your ability as a player.

Additionally, learning AWCs allows you to properly utilize an arcane archetype. A vast majority of players do not understand how to tackle an AWC matchup. On its own, that’s a major advantage. Entering each matchup with a pretty substantial chance that your opponent doesn’t know how to beat your deck while you know how to beat theirs is a massive edge to have. Hopefully, by writing this article, I’ll minimize this factor. However, as of right now, AWCs have that advantage pretty consistently.

How to Learn Control

In my experience, there are two major facets to successfully learning Control: (1) developing a complete and thorough understanding of your decklist and (2) the actual piloting itself. Knowing your decklist and the reasoning behind each card count means understanding your win-con/strategy against any relevant archetype, while piloting the deck and making optimal calls will lead that strategy to success.

Control decklists are some of the most labyrinthian decklists within the game. Often, each card choice comes down to specific reasoning behind it with extensive testing put behind each card count. Understanding these microdecisions behind the list and its finer details leads to a more complete understanding of how the deck should react to whatever situation it may encounter. Deciphering the purpose behind a Control list’s card counts/choices can be extremely difficult. Understanding a Control list becomes far easier with practice, but the first few times will take some patience. In order to demonstrate the extent of thought put into a Control list, I’d like to take an archetype I recently innovated, Starly Control, as an example.

Starly Control is a deck that is designed to aggressively and consistently pull off the Boss’s Orders + Galar Mine combo, which, ideally, leaves an opponent’s support Pokémon stuck in the Active. From there, the Control pilot typically uses Persian’s Make ‘Em Pay attack to discard the opponent’s vital resources, namely switching options. The deck is built to outlast any switch options the opponent may be able to utilize and eventually establish a permanent gust-trap. Despite the seemingly straightforward strategy of the deck, the list is far from linear.

Side Note: I intend for this article to be a resource for people who are just starting Control as well as those who might have some experience, so part of it might seem extremely obvious to some, but I want to make this guide as holistic as possible.

Learning the Decklist

Pokémon (16)

3 Meowth UNB

2 Persian TEU

4 Starly DAA

2 Jirachi TEU

2 Munchlax UNM

1 Absol TEU

1 Bunnelby RCL

1 Mew UNB

Trainer (39)

4 Bird Keeper

3 Boss’s Orders

2 Cynthia & Caitlin

2 Lt. Surge’s Strategy

2 Professor’s Research


4 Crushing Hammer

4 Lillie’s Poké Doll

4 Quick Ball

2 Pokégear 3.0

2 Pokémon Communication

2 Yell Horn

1 Ordinary Rod

1 Pal Pad

1 Tool Scrapper


1 Air Balloon


3 Galar Mine

1 Wondrous Labyrinth p

Energy (5)

4 Twin

1 Recycle


Copy List

****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******

##Pokémon - 16

* 3 Meowth UNB 147
* 2 Persian TEU 126
* 4 Starly DAA 145
* 2 Jirachi TEU 99
* 2 Munchlax UNM 173
* 1 Absol TEU 88
* 1 Bunnelby RCL 146
* 1 Mew UNB 76

##Trainer Cards - 39

* 2 Cynthia & Caitlin CEC 228
* 4 Quick Ball SSH 179
* 2 Yell Horn DAA 173
* 4 Bird Keeper DAA 159
* 2 Lt. Surge’s Strategy UNB 178
* 3 Boss’s Orders RCL 154
* 1 Tool Scrapper RCL 168
* 1 Wondrous Labyrinth p TEU 158
* 3 Galar Mine RCL 160
* 2 Pokégear 3.0 SSH 174
* 4 Lillie’s Poké Doll CEC 267
* 1 Pal Pad SSH 172
* 2 Professor’s Research SSH 201
* 4 Crushing Hammer KSS 34
* 2 Pokémon Communication TEU 152
* 1 Air Balloon SSH 213
* 1 Ordinary Rod SSH 215

##Energy - 5

* 1 Recycle Energy UNM 257
* 4 Twin Energy RCL 174

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: ******

Main Cards

Let’s start with the easy decisions here:

4 Starly DAA, 4 Quick Ball, 4 Bird Keeper, 4 Twin Energy

These were fairly given for this concept. Maximizing the consistency behind Starly’s Keen Eye was vital to the deck’s strategy. If we can’t pull off Starly when we need it, what’s the point?

Less Obvious Cards

From there, we can move onto some of the cards/counts that weren’t blatantly obvious for the archetype initially, but were added/modified soon after, as they were fairly obvious solutions to key issues the deck needed to face:

3 Meowth UNB, 2 Persian TEU

Initially a 2-2 line, it quickly became obvious that the 3rd Meowth was necessary. Persian is the deck’s primary method of removing the opponent’s answers to a gust trap and getting a Meowth or two down early game could be the difference of being able to win certain matchups. Additionally, when running a 2-2 line, if one of the Meowths was prized, an untimely knockout on your only option to disrupt/lock your opponent during your next turn would leave you vulnerable to the opponent taking an unrecoverable lead. You need to use Persian when you want to and the 3rd Meowth made the difference.

3 Galar Mine

Although it’s a major component to the deck’s win condition, I initially had it at 2 copies. Having access to 2 copies was often enough, but, if one were to be prized, it would be impossible to re-establish a Galar Mine in play within one turn if the first was disposed of. For that reason, I decided 3 was necessary.

3 Boss’s Orders

My first rendition of Starly Control played 4 Boss, as I thought I needed as many opportunities to use Boss as possible. However, the preliminary list felt inconsistent and I realized that 4 Boss was excessive, especially with the later inclusions of Munchlax UNM, Pal Pad, and Cynthia & Caitlin.

4 Lillie’s Poké Doll

Dolls accomplish two things: (1) they allow you to slow down or stall the opponent’s win condition and (2) they provide a method of preventing deck-out. The latter of which is important, as it provides you with a solidified win condition. Once the opponent is out of answers to the gust trap, you can recycle Lillie’s Poké Doll back into the deck every turn by drawing it, retreating into it, and putting it back on the bottom of the deck. As a result, you’re essentially guaranteed that Starly will win if the opponent is no longer able to switch their Active.

2 Munchlax UNM

Starly Control needed some form of resource recovery, but the options for that role were limited. However, Munchlax provided a surprisingly perfect option for the deck. Munchlax provides three major benefits to the deck: (1) a low-maintenance resource recovery option, (2) the ability to recover resources while maintaining a Lillie’s Poké Doll in the Active, and (3) an outstanding pivot option. Considering Starly Control, in-between Make ‘Em Pays, you want to maximize the number of cards your opponent has to hit in order to take another Prize. A common method of doing so is to gust-trap them and then hide behind a Poké Doll, as they would need both a Switch and a Boss’s Orders in order to take a Prize. Munchlax magnifies the strength of this strategy, because it allows you to passively recover resources while doing so in order to prepare for any situation that may arise later in the game. Having a reliable pivot allows for some flexibility in regard to Bird Keepers and boosts the inherent consistency of the Starly engine.

1 Air Balloon

The Air Balloon allows for pivots under Galar Mine. Usually attached to Munchlax, it allows for Munchlax to maintain its value as a pivot while still locking the opponent. However, it can be coupled with Recycle Energy in order to make anything else a pseudo-pivot in the case that the Balloon had to be suboptimally attached. It’s a small addition, but it makes a world of difference.

2 Jirachi TEU

Jirachi added a considerable boost to consistency. Since we run Bird Keeper as our primary Supporter, having access to an extra resource via Stellar Wish when you want to Bird Keeper into Starly anyhow allowed for a boost in Bird Keeper consistency in addition to reducing the deck’s reliance on Keen Eye. Example: If you need three pieces by next turn, Jirachi can hopefully find one of the three pieces from the top five cards and then allow you to use Keen Eye for the other two.

1 Bunnelby RCL

Bunnelby allows the Starly Control pilot to accelerate their win condition once they’ve established a gust-trap. Initially, I had a second copy. However, the Bunnelby often didn’t seem strictly necessary, as it frequently felt more optimal to hide behind a Doll to increase how many cards the opponent needed to advance their win condition. That being said, it’s nice to have an option to discard from the deck, especially if the opponent has a lot of answers to gust-trap left in their deck.

1 Mew UNB

Mew prevents the opponent from hitting your Bench, which, in the context of Lillie’s Poké Doll, essentially states that the opponent needs a gusting option if they want to take a Prize with a Doll in the Active. This magnifies the strength of your Dolls and also prevents your opponent from taking a multi-prize turn with Pikachu & Zekrom-GX’s Tag Bolt-GX attack.

4 Crushing Hammer

Despite my hate for the card, I deemed Crushing Hammers to be a necessary inclusion. With the current meta, Hammers can stall the opponent by a turn whenever they may choose to land. In that sense, it allows you to slow your opponent’s momentum opportunistically, which, for this deck, can be the difference between a win and a loss. However, it also provides reinforcement to your current win condition, while also providing a very small alternative win condition.

When considering possible answers to your gust-trap, the exceedingly obvious one is Switch. From there, you might think about Bird Keepers, Mallow & Lanas, or counter-Stadiums. However, it’s important to recognize that Energy is also an answer to consider. Although it will rarely happen, your opponent can start building up Energy on the trapped Active Pokémon, which could lead them to having an extra answer. Although it won’t matter a lot of the time, as they only have so many Energy and you can just gust another trap-able Pokémon, there are going to be situations where that isn’t a viable strategy. In those situations, Crushing Hammer can prevent that retreat, but also give you the opportunity to punish that line of play. If you recognize that your opponent must be low on Energy, you can remove Energy from the attacker itself, which would render their strategy useless.

In addition, if your opponent is struggling to find Energy each turn, you can play to an Energy denial win-con. It won’t be a viable strategy in most matchups, but it does keep that opportunity open if/when the opportunity may present itself.

2 Lt. Surge’s Strategy

Surge allows for the deck to be more flexible with its use of Supporters. If you need to both draw cards and use Boss’s Orders, Surge enables that as a possible line of play. It’s an easy inclusion in most Control decks and I had more of them in the deck initially, but I found that it was not necessary to an extent where I would want to sacrifice consistency for more of them.

1 Wondrous Labyrinth p

Wondrous Labyrinth p allows for another opportunity to stall the opponent. It forces them to have another card they need to hit in order to carry out their strategy. Especially against ADP, catching the opponent off-guard with a Wondrous Lab can be game changing. Additionally, if the opponent was not conservative with their Energies and Stadiums, you can opportunistically remove their entire win condition by utilizing Wondrous Lab. Additionally, all of your attackers, except for Starly, can attack under Wondrous Lab with just a Twin Energy. However, even Starly can still attack under Wondrous Lab given access to Bird Keeper.

1 Tool Scrapper

Air Balloons can completely invalidate Starly’s win-con, so we must have an answer to them.

1 Ordinary Rod

Access to efficient Pokémon recovery can be game-changing. Initially, I tried Lana’s Fishing Rod, as it allows for the recovery of your Air Balloon as well. However, the strength of Ordinary Rod, especially regarding the recovery of Persian pieces, led me to conclude that Lana’s Rod was suboptimal.

2 Cynthia & Caitlin, 1 Pal Pad

Both of these provide a means of recovering Supporters, which is an extremely valuable asset to have. However, the context in which they do so is different and both are beneficial to the deck.

Cynthia & Caitlin provides draw power and increases the deck’s flexibility with its supporters. Especially with access to Surge, the deck’s ability to successfully chain Boss’s Orders or Bird Keepers is significantly improved by Cynthia & Caitlin.

Pal Pad, on the other hand, allows you to increase your chances of hitting a specific Supporter off of some kind of draw. Whether that be via Stellar Wish or another Supporter, having that extra boost to the probability of drawing what you need can be crucial to victory. Additionally, during turns where the opponent is locked, using Munchlax’s Snack Search Ability for a Pal Pad essentially allows you to get two resources from the one Snack Search. At points where you are not being pressured by the opponent, this can greatly advance your ability to respond to the opponent breaking the lock later in the game.

2 Professor’s Research, 2 Pokémon Communication, 2 Pokégear 3.0

These were all added to combat a level of inconsistency from the first few renditions of the deck. Due to the lack of an inherent draw engine, my only source of draw was through Bird Keeper and Cynthia & Caitlin, which are not efficient ways to dig for necessary pieces. Without these, I would experience semi-frequent, mid-game dead-drawing, which was especially heartbreaking after a powerful start. With this addition, the frequency of these mid-game ruts was greatly reduced.

1 Recycle Energy

One of the biggest flaws I found with the initial list was a mild inefficiency when trying to chain Persians. Recycle Energy streamlines this, as, once you find it, you will likely not have to dig for the necessary Energy attachment again. Additionally, it provides a solid method of retreating when Galar Mine is not in play (or when it is in play if coupled with Air Balloon).

Niche Cards

Finally we have a few more niche cards, whose use may seem a little less clear, but has solid reasoning behind their inclusion:

1 Absol TEU

Absol is mainly to counteract Chaotic Swell. Without an alternate form of increasing the opponent’s retreat, Swell would completely halt any attempt of establishing a secure lock. Absol fills this niche nicely, as it provides a low-maintenance method of locking a Dedenne-GX or Crobat V in the Active without access to your Stadium. Additionally, Absol is searchable by Quick Ball and Pokémon Communication, which makes it an easy alternative to Galar Mine if you were unable to find it. Absol doesn’t work in every scenario, but it can be extremely valuable in some. It’s also important to mention that Absol + Galar Mine prevents a Welder deck from being able to attach enough Energy to a Dedenne/Crobat within one turn in order to retreat it. However, always keep in mind that Crobat V can utilize Turbo Patch, so that occasionally might not be the case.

2 Yell Horn

Yell Horn is by far the most interesting inclusion I’ve made in the deck. My primary concern for this archetype was what I refer to as the “lone-attacker” strategy, where the opponent starts an attacker and doesn’t bench anything else (or they use Scoop Up Net to establish a similar board state). In this situation, you would not be able to trap any Pokémon in the Active because the only thing in play is a viable attacker. My first attempt to respond to that line of play was a Mawile-GX, but the card never felt good. I rarely needed it and it was easily the worst thing to start. I had lost more games because I started Mawile than I had won by utilizing it. Yell Horn, on the other hand, fills this role surprisingly well. If the opponent decides to utilize the “lone attacker” strategy, you can confuse them, which incentivizes them to bench something else to maintain their momentum. Otherwise, they will be in a position where they, statistically, will only land an attack 50% of the time, while Munchlax is recovering a Lillie’s Poké Doll 50% of the time. In that sense, it’s not exactly favored, but it’s forcing the opponent to rely on luck. Additionally, they will eventually hit themselves in confusion to the point where they need to bench something else.

Additionally, once they bench something else, the Yell Horns become a pseudo-lock option, where the opponent will have to decide whether they want to waste resources switching out to get rid of the confusion or they want to continue to flip for confusion. In the end, they will have to take the confusion chance anyhow. Additionally, they have to deal with the constant threat of Persian. Yell Horn doesn’t necessarily make the matchup against lone attackers favored, but it does remove the auto-loss factor from the matchup. It’s also important to note that the “pseudo-lock” mentality of Yell Horn applies to any matchup, which leaves it a far more valuable card across all your matchups in comparison to Mawile.

Now, I know you didn’t start reading this because you wanted an in-depth look at Starly Control. However, I’m explaining all of this for a few reasons:

  1. I want to demonstrate the thought behind a Control list. There was a reason each card was included, so making changes before you understand the list properly is unwise. (This is a common mistake for beginners.)
  2. Understanding a list is the first step to piloting it properly.
  3. Many of these cards and the concepts and reasoning behind them are applicable to other Control archetypes. Now, every time you see similar pieces in a different deck, you’ll immediately know a potential application of those cards, whether that be in a specific scenario or in a broader sense.

Learning to Pilot: Three (Not-So-Easy) Steps

First things first, let me preface with this: learning Control will likely be a tedious process. It may take shorter/longer amounts of time for every person, but you will lose at first, you will make mistakes and you will feel bad about it. Losing a game after putting so much effort and mental energy into your plays just to lose it all because you made one tiny, stupid mistake is demoralizing and it will happen… probably quite a bit. Despite all that, you will learn eventually and it will pay off. The key to this process is patience and very few people will be able to say it went otherwise for them.

Step #1: Identify Your Win Condition

In any given matchup, you will eventually learn what the optimal path to victory is for you. Learning and understanding your list is a big part of that. As with any deck, going into any matchup with a game plan in mind is one of the biggest advantages you could have. Especially when you first start Control, this will often take experience of some kind to fully grasp. Analyzing your list and the purpose each card holds gives a good head start to mastering this.

Taking this further, you want to be able to identify what your opponent’s deck has that might interfere with your typical strategy in that matchup and figure out how you will combat that. Being prepared for counterplay will pay out massively in any game with Control. Often your win-con will encompass maneuvering around your opponent’s win-con in the matchup.

Step #2: Always Consider Resources

Always be mindful of what you have access to and what your opponent might have access to. In your case, check your Prizes, check your discard, know what you are able to pull off and what you aren’t. There’s nothing worse than playing to a strategy just to realize it was never possible in the first place. Knowing your list and its capabilities, once again, helps tremendously in this process.

Considering the opponent, you need to know what is the optimal strategy to undertake considering their resources. Is your opponent nearly out of Energy? Do they have a way to switch their Active? How many cards do they have in their deck? What’s the chance they have a Boss in hand? All of these questions relate to game sense and all of them will come naturally in time. However, it’s good to realize what mindset you need to be in in order to pilot Control properly. It might be beneficial to try a different AWC deck, as it might be easier to focus on the transition to that mindset with an inherently easier deck. Nonetheless, that mindset is the key to solving the maze that is Control.

Step #3: Identify and Learn From Your Mistakes

This is, in my opinion, the most crucial step to learning Control—the crux of Control, if you will. You will make mistakes. Hell, I make mistakes. It’s okay to get a little salty about losing. It’s frustrating, I get it. However, it’s good to recognize what you may have done wrong and what you should have done instead. Even when you win, try to identify possible misplays you made but didn’t get punished for. Aside from Control, getting into a habit of this is a key part of improving yourself as a player, but it’s even more true with respect to Control. Each time you make a mistake, recognize that it is a mistake and figure out what was the alternative, optimal decision you should have made. Ideally, when presented with the same or similar situation, you’ll recognize that you’ve made the mistake and you’ll know the correct line of play. I believe this concept to be the essence of piloting control. Making mistakes and then applying what you learned from that to new scenarios is how you master the archetype. If you make 1,000 mistakes, that just means you have 1,000 solutions. Eventually, you’ll be able to start subconsciously pulling your plays from a pool of previously self-established “correct” plays. By going through that process, you’ll start to understand Control. Not only will you be able to play it, but you’ll understand how and why it works. You’ll gain a new sense of how the game, as a whole, works and I cannot describe how valuable that is as a player.

Final Thoughts

The predominant reason I started and continued writing about AWC decks was because I wanted to shed light on the archetypes and educate those who don’t understand them. I wanted to normalize the use of AWC decks within the community, as the current attitude toward them is caustic and unpalatable. It might just be a silly notion, but I’m hopeful. By writing this article, I hope I can take us one step further to that reality.

Anyway, if you’ve read this far, I can’t express my gratitude enough. If you came into this article with a negative demeanor toward AWC, I hope that this may have altered your perspective. Regardless, I’m always thrilled to educate.

I really do think everyone should at least try Control. Whether you end up liking it or not, it will at least provide a new perspective on the game. Everyone is capable of learning, it all depends on the time/effort you put forth. Just be patient. <3

If you enjoyed this article, or want to learn more, I am a regular Underground writer (for clarification: this is a free, non-Underground article) and I’m always writing about alt-win-con decks, so maybe consider joining! Otherwise, that’s all for today. I hope everyone is happy and healthy and I’ll see you all in the next one.

Reader Interactions

8 replies

  1. Sebastian Lashmet

    We only get 2 articles this week but it’s worth it because Kayan Oladi is writing one of them.

  2. Jason Redner

    Trying to group control as one archetype is like trying to group all decks that do damage as an archetype. For instance, even in the linear Standard format Starly control has a much different strategy than Guru/Cinccino in the past. Sableye varies from Starly, varies from even combo oriented control strategies like Shock Lock. I would say that the group of all control strategies vary more from each other than the group of all damage oriented strategies. Good article, however.

    • Kayan Oladi  → Jason

      I mean… yes? It is more of a genre than a single archetype. However, many control decks adapt a similar mindset while piloting. You could say the same for attacking decks, but the attentativeness that control requires is somewhat unique to the genre. In my experiences, getting used to that mindset is the first big step to understanding control. There’s a bunch of semantics that can be delved into regarding the classification of certain archetypes, but, at the end of the day, control is just an umbrella term that includes anything that limits the opponent’s ability to carry out their win condition. For a beginner, I think it’s just important to know the difference between control, stall, and mill, despite each of those categories having a plethora of individual archetypes.

      On another note, thanks :D

  3. Alícia Fuertes

    I read your article with real interest when you first published it. I was one of those who hated control, and you made me view it differently. Reading this made me value the though put behind each control decklist, and how awesome and difficult it is to win with it.

    But I was still not interested to try it back then. Partly, because I didn’t have tradeable packs to try and build one back then, but also because I was not motivated with the idea to spend a lot of time in every game. Nowadays I’m pretty busy, and whenever I play I just try to get done with dialy wins to get as much coins as possible for the next big set.

    But recenlty, two thigs happened. By playing my version of Coalossal VMax, which includes both Oranguru and Rotom Phone, I found I enjoyed a lot just controlling whatever I was going to get in the following turns, and protecting draw cards just in case I got Marnied/Reset Stamped. And then I saw this:

    I felt real motivated to try it, and I started doing so in TCG One. I’m still not sure if it’s a good enough list (I changed Pidgeot for a Mew because of Inteleon, Darmanitan and Pikarom, and the triple acceleration energy for more water energy for Cryohonal), but I’m enjoing

    • Alícia Fuertes  → Alícia

      Oh, posted before finishing by accident. Continuing:

      I’m enjoying playing it quite a lot. What do you think about it? Maybe I should replace two of the recently added water energy for one Air Balloon and one Recicle Energy. I guess I don’t need Professor when I run two Zacian.

      Anyway, thank you for making me change my mind ;)

      • Kayan Oladi  → Alícia

        I’m so glad I inspired you! Bird Control is a really cool deck too. It will likely teach you a lot when it comes to identifying win cons and managing resources so thats a great place to start. Thanks for sharing your experience, that really warmed my heart :D

        • Alícia Fuertes  → Kayan

          Well, what to say! After finally building the deck in Pokémon TCGO I began to enjoy it even more. I get all you say in the article: about satisfying wins, about outsmarting your opponents. Like, when I won against Poison Eternatus VMax, with all the Hiding Dark Energy, Dark City, Switches, and, of course, the poison itself.

          The metagame was always so fast, I didn’t have that many decisions to make. Is not that I didn’t like it, but now I like it much more. By playing my slightly personal version of Bird Control, I can slow down the game a lot, and it’s so intense, like a game of chess. Little by little, I’m learning the best win conditions depending on the opponent, and which pokemon to bench and which not. I’m also unterstanding more the card counts, like the sole Starly, which proves to be crucial sometimes in getting those pieces.

          The deck is so good, that, even if I get constantly Marnied, I can usually still do something. Yesterday, I even won against that new Weezing-Orbeetle VMax deck!

          I just wanted to share the experience :)

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