Hey PokeBeach, I am back again for another article. Today I am going to be focusing on a very important aspect in the Pokemon TCG: deck building. Deck building is one of the most important things to master as it can make or break your tournament runs. Deck building comes in before you even start playing so it is important to try to get good at it. Often people put in unnecessary cards or put in the wrong counts of cards which ruins what could have been a great deck. By having a well-functioning deck you will be able to bring out your full potential as a player during a game. It is also important to note that people often just copy deck list from websites, like PokeBeach, without realizing why the person picked the cards that they did. This often leads the person who copied the list to change card counts or take out certain cards without realizing that they are like that for a reason. If you learn how to properly build decks then you will be able to adjust lists to your liking without ruining the core of the deck. In this article I am going to cover some strategies that I like to use when building my deck, how to determine what counts of cards you should use, if or if not a tech should be included, and whether you should build your deck to be more consistent or have more techs.
How to approach building a deck
When going into deck building it may seem as though you have a lot of space, I mean 60 cards is a lot, but really it is not. Once you start putting cards in the deck, it quickly fills up and you find yourself running out of space. At this point you start to get confused and are not sure what to keep and what to get rid of. To combat this I am going to go over two different methods that I often use when building my deck, this helps make the whole process less confusing.
Adding everything you want then trimming the list
This is often the method that I see people use, but I personally do not prefer it. In this method you add everything that you would want into the deck even if you have to go over the 60 card limit, then you start to trim the cards down. When trimming, you have to make sure not get rid of the core of the deck at first. The first things you want to get rid of are cards that would be nice if you could have them, but are not necessary to make the deck function. This often includes tech 1-of or 2-of trainers that are more situational. Once you do this, it becomes very difficult. You will usually be down to around 63 to 65 cards and are unsure of what to cut. Here, it is especially important to not cut crucial cards to the decks strategy. For instance, if you are playing Vespiquen you will most likely not want to cut out too many Pokemon or else you might find yourself not getting enough in the discard during a game. This is where, again, you should be looking at more of the luxury cards. This includes things like a third or fourth stadium, or that additional Level Ball that goes along side your Ultra Balls. This is very difficult to master and I cannot explain what to do for every single deck, but I can give a few tips. If you are playing a fast deck, like Vespiquen, you should probably focus more deck space on drawing through your deck and getting quick KOs, so you will not want to cut cards like Trainer’s Mail. If you are playing a slower type of deck, like M Manectric-EX Phantom Forces 24 , you could cut down your Manectric line as you will not beable to set up four Mega Manectrics in a game. This is still very difficult to do, but I will later go on to talk about what counts of cards you should include which could help in trimming your deck down.
Adding in necessary cards first
This is the method that I prefer using and use the majority of the time. For this method you want to add in the base of the deck first then fill in the spaces with extra cards. You want to add in your main supporters like Professor Sycamore and Professor Birch's Observations or Shauna and other staples like Lysandre . You also want to add in your main Pokemon line that contribute to the strategy of your deck. For example, if you are running a Manectric deck add in the Manectric line first, then later on add the support Pokemon once you have fit all necessary cards first. The differences in these methods may seem minimal and might not seem important, but they can really help organize yourself and when you practice them you will often be able to see what the core of your deck is. This way you can cut cards that will not hinder the functionality of your deck.
How to determine the counts of cards
Here, I am going to break down how you should put different counts of cards by talking about what each of the different counts will do for your deck and typically what role a card will play depending on how many you will have in a deck.
One of the main reasons to put four of the same card is to make sure you start with it in your opening hand. By putting four of a card you dramatically increase your odds of starting with it. This usually includes Pokemon that you always want to start with or supporters that will help you draw cards. For example, Virizion-EX /Genesect-EX decks would play four Virizion because they needed to start with a Virzion to have the highest chances of getting a turn two Emerald Slash. It was so crucial for the deck to pull that off so people began to put four Vrizion in the deck to maximize those odds. A supporter that is often played in fours is Sycamore. This is because people often want to start with it to make sure they can recycle their hand and draw through more of their deck. Another reason to run four of a card is if you expect to use that card all throughout the game. An example of this is VS Seeker , as often you do not want to start with it, but once a supporter is in the discard you want to draw into it throughout the game. Also cards like Max Potion in Aromatisse decks were put at four because you were expected to heal four times over the game. In contrast, you will usually not run four Lysandre. This is because you do not want to start with it in your opening hand and you do not find yourself wanting to Lysandre eight times (when including VS Seeker) throughout the game.
3-of cards are usually ones that you would like to have four of, but you simply do not have the space for it. You could say that it would be a luxury to have an extra one, but at three it gets the job done. This could include main attackers for a deck or Trainers with a powerful effect, but are not completely necessary for your deck to work. Additionally, if your deck could still work while having one of the three prized, then you can play three. For example, in a Manectric deck people play three Mega Manectric because they do not want to start with it, but need it often enough that three is needed. Also four would be nice the draw into it more often and to avoid prizing too many, but it is just not needed as a four copy can clog up your hand and deck. Another example is utility cards such as Energy Switch or Switch. Unless your deck has a lot of Pokemon with heavy retreat that need constant switching, cards like Energy Switch and Switch are going to usually relegated to three copies. These cards are not necessary to execute the strategy of the decks they are played in and are usually more situational, but can still be used often. They can create favorable situations with their powerful effects, but you will not see yourself using the effect all the time and the deck space could be used for something more important.
2-ofs are going to be more situational cards that you do not want to see often, but there effects will be useful a few times a game. They could also be tech cards that could swing a match up in your favor, but you have to be careful about this. You do not want to add in multiple of a tech card unless it will actually make a bad match up favorable. Otherwise it will take away some of the consistency of your deck. An example of a 2-of would be Lysandre. As I previously mentioned, you do not want to start with Lysandre and do not need it too often during the game, but it is important to be able to use its effect more than once during the game. On the other hand, Hex Maniac is a card that could be a 2-of tech as it has an extremely powerful affect and could win you certain match ups. For instance, if you expect to play against a lot of Blastoise and a couple extra turns where they cannot use Deluge could win you the game then two Hex Maniacs are important because those turns where they do not have abilities. This swings the game in your favor.
1-of cards will almost always be tech cards or cards that are very situational. This could be cards like Startling Megaphone, which can be very powerful in the right situation, but you will not want to use it multiple times in a game. Also supporters like Judge or Giovanni’s Schemes fall under this category as they are only good in a specific situation. Tech cards could be like Mr. Mime if you expect to play against decks that could deal bench damage. In most match ups you will not want it, so it is played as a 1-of to make sure it does not clog up your hand, and so that you do not start it.
To Tech Or Not To Tech
There are a couple of rules that I like to follow when deciding if a tech is worth it to put in my deck. One, is if it can be easily accessible during the game, and two, if it will genuinely help put a bad matchup either at 50-50 or in my favor. What I mean for accessibility is that the card has to be searchable if it is necessary for specific situations. For example, if you need a Startling Megaphone to beat Fighting decks by discarding their Focus Sash then playing 1 copy without having a way to search for it then it is probably not worth adding. This is because you will usually never draw it when you need to and its one time effect can be negated simply by your opponent attaching more Focus Sash. A card like Banette would probably be more useful as it is searchable through Ultra Ball and it can last longer than a megaphone. Also a tech should be only put into a deck if it can really help turn a bad match up into a more favorable match up, or else the tech will just take up space. A good example of a good tech was Ghetsis during these past fall regionals. Ghetsis was easy to search out as some decks could put in a Jirachi to both search for Ghetsis and increase consistence. It was also great at winning you the Blastoise matchup as the deck would often have hands full of items. When you played Ghetsis you could get rid of all their outs for draw and they would have a dead hand, then you could win the game.
Consistency VS. Tech
This is a common question that is asked. Should you build a deck to be more consistent or should you have more techs to deal with more match ups, and sacrifice some of that consistency? For those that are unfamiliar, the consistency of a deck is how often it can pull of its strategy. For example, a Manectric deck is trying to get a turn two Turbo Bolt, so you could put four of every draw card and have a 4-4 Manectric line which would allow you to get it up and running pretty often. Or you could cut down on the Manectric line and only include three trainer’s mail and 3 spirit link to make room for fire type pokemon and fire energy to beat grass decks. This would cause you to sometimes cause you to hit hands where you only have fire pokemon and no Manectric just because your odds of starting manectric are lower. Now, what should you do? Again I have a couple rules of thumb that I like to follow. First, you should base it on the size of the tournament you are attending. Like i mentioned in my previous article, at larger events like regionals and nationals you should aim for a more consistent deck so you can make it through the rounds. In smaller tournaments like cities, you could go for a more teched out version, because you can afford to lose once or twice and it is easier to predict the metagame, so your techs could make a bigger impact. Second, I believe that the more confident you are in your play the more consistent you should make your deck. What I mean by this is that the better you get the less you have to rely on a tech to get you out of a bad situation. I am not saying that by being a good player you could use genesect to beat Pyroar . I am saying that you could possibly win a 40-60 or 45-55 matchup without techs because you can play more optimally than your opponent. Now, I am not saying that if you are good you have to play a more consistent deck. Obviously this still comes down to preference and I have seen many top players opt for a more teched out deck, but I feel that a good player would do better with a deck not full of techs than a newer player.
Thank you guys for taking the time to read my article. Obviously I have only touched the surface of this topic and there could be a lot more said, so please let me know what you guys think in the comments. I like to think that deck building is a very important tool to have as a good deck will give you an advantage over other players. I hope you guys have enjoyed the article and I will see you next time