How to build a deck
To play the Pokémon Trading card game you will need a deck of 60 cards.
To begin with you could buy a starter deck, containing a ready to play deck. Starter decks can be useful if you are a beginner to Pokémon TCG but once you've learned how to play the game you'll quickly want to buy extra booster packs and build your own deck.
First off, let's understand the basic rules of putting a deck together:-
· Your deck must consist of exactly 60 cards, no more, no less
· You must have at least 1 basic Pokémon in your deck
· You cannot have more than 4 of any one card by name in your deck with the exception of basic energy cards. Remember though that with Pokémon EX , EX forms part of the name so for example you can have 4 Reshiram cards and 4 Reshiram EX cards in one deck as their names are different. However, with Level X cards, that is not the case, as Lv X cards are considered the same Pokémon so for example you could only have 2 Luxray Lv X and 2 Luxray in one deck.
· There is no limit to the amount of basic energy cards of any type you can have in your deck, however you can only have 4 special energy cards of a particular type. For example, you can't put 6 Double Colourless energy cards in your deck but you could have 4 Double Colourless and 4 Prism energy cards in the same deck if you want to.
So, how do you go about building your own deck? You could copy a deck that is being used by other players, (an archetype deck)
or build one of your own.
An archetype deck is the term used to describe a deck that has been put together by other players using specific Pokémon with a particular strategy in mind. Other players then copy this deck and use it themselves. These decks are often given names based on the Pokémon they contain or their strategy. For example, ZekEels, Darkrai/Hydreigon and Hammertime. Players will often use an existing archetype to base their own deck on and modify it slightly by changing just a few of the cards. This is normally called a variant deck. For example, many players have produced a variant of ZekEels by adding Mewtwo Ex into their deck.
The advantage of using an archetype deck is that the deck has already been tested to prove its competitiveness but many archetype decks can be expensive to put together as they often feature some of the rarer and more powerful cards. ZekEels was a relatively easy and cheap deck to put together until players started adding Mewtwo Ex.
If you want to build your own deck, you need to decide whether you want to build it around specific Pokémon or a specific energy type. If you go with basing the deck on one particular Pokémon, you'll still need some other Pokémon in your deck to support it. If you go with basing your deck on an energy type you'll need to choose the Pokémon that can complement each other using that energy.
Many competitive decks you may come across will often be two colour decks - decks that use two types of energy. Three colour decks can also be used but aren't very common as it can be more difficult to get the right type of energy into your hand during gameplay.
Single energy type decks are quite often the simplest types, can sometimes be the strongest and you don't have to worry about getting the right type of energy into your hand. However, single energy type decks can also be the weakest, so you should always think about defence as well as attack. For example, almost all fire type Pokémon have a weakness to water types, so if you have an all fire deck and you come up against water Pokémon you could be lining yourself up for a quick defeat. You can always balance this out a little by including some colourless Pokémon in your deck that have a resistance to water.
Many players choose decks using a two colour energy structure and these require a bit more planning. Each colour should work to complement each other. Generally you should choose a colour that's strong against the weakness of your other colour. For example, Water and Fighting go well with each other because Water is weak to Electric which in turn is weak to your Fighting. Water and Grass go well together because your Grass Pokémon are weak to Fire which in turn are weak to your water Pokémon
A simple Colour wheel (although it looks more like a straight line) is shown below. The colour after the one listed is generally weak against it. Most of the time (although there are exceptions), you should choose two colours that are one colour away from each other. For example, Electric and Fire go well together because your Fire is weak to Water which is generally weak to your Electric.
Psychic Dark Fighting Electric Water Fire Grass Fighting Colourless Psychic Grass Water
It may seem like a simple task, but choosing your deck colours is a very important decision.
Once you've decided on your energy strategy, single or two colour, you need to decide which Pokémon you are going to use and how many of each to put in your deck. Remember, you can only have 4 of any one card in your deck. If your main Pokémon is a stage 2, you're going to need the basic version and stage 1 version as well as it’s fully evolved stage 2 version. Generally players will put a combination of four basic, three stage 1 and two stage 2 versions in their deck. The important point here is that in the early part of the game you need to get a basic onto your bench and with 4 in your deck this makes it more likely. You would include trainers in your deck like Pokémon Communication or Professor Elm to get the stage 1 and stage 2 versions into your hand when you need them. It’s generally not advised to have only one stage 2 version of a Pokémon in your deck just in case it ends up being one of your face down prize cards and you can' get it into your hand until it’s too late.
Almost all legendary Pokémon are basic and have no evolution chain so you don't have to worry about balancing the right number of each evolution stage. Legendary Pokémon often have higher HP and stronger attacks which is why they are often used in competitive decks. When selecting Pokémon try to choose those that will complement each other using the energy types you have
On average a good number of Pokémon to have in your deck is between 15 and 20 but you may use more or even less depending upon which Pokémon you use and what strategy you are using. Some decks have less than15; Durant decks for example often have less than 10.
Hopefully at this stage you will already be thinking of a strategy for your deck depending upon the Pokémon you have selected. Perhaps you’re thinking of a quick start with Pokémon requiring low energy requirements for attacks or a slow start, building up your Pokémon on your bench with attacks that need more energy. Maybe you have a strategy that will utilise Pokémon that do damage to your opponent's benched Pokémon and get knockouts that way such as using Kyurem’s glaciate move. How about a strategy to deck out your opponent by using the Pokémon Durant, or maybe try defeating your opponent using the Lost World stadium card.
Whatever your strategy, the next stage of building your deck is to add the necessary trainers and supporters that you will need to make your strategy work. There are some trainers that can work in any deck such as Bianca, N, or Professor Juniper but if you don't have any stage 2 Pokémon in your deck then you won' t need Rare Candy. Similarly if you only have basic Pokémon such as legendaries then you won't need Professor Elm’s Training Method. If you have Pokémon with attacks that use a lot of energy then you might need Cilan to get energies when you need them. If you have Pokémon that discard energy when they attack you may want to use Fisherman to get them back from your discard pile.
It's not just Pokémon that can make a deck expensive to put together, certain Trainers and Supporters that may be needed to
support a particular deck strategy can often be difficult to find or expensive to buy, Pokémon Catcher being a prime example.
Try to keep a balance between trainers and supporters. Remember, you can only use one Supporter per turn but you can use as
many Trainers as you want.
Once you’ve chosen your Trainers and Supporters you then need to add sufficient energy cards into your deck. The amount of
energy cards depends upon the strategy you are using and whether your Pokémon need a lot of energy to attack. Think about any special energy that may be useful in your deck such as Double Colourless. Don’t be tempted to overload your deck with energies, most competitive decks use less than 15 energies. If you need to add more cards to make it up to 60, then add extra trainers and supporters rather than energies.
You might hear players talking about draw support and tech cards. Draw Support are cards that help you get the specific cards you need out of your deck and into your hand such as Pokémon Collector and Interviewer’s Questions.
Tech cards are cards that help your strategy. Tech cards are normally Pokémon that have specific abilities (poke powers) or
attacks that do more than just damage. In ZekEels, Eelektrik is a used on your bench as a tech card with its ability Dynamotor to get energy cards out of your discard pile. Cleffa is a common tech and many players will try and open with Cleffa as their active Pokémon using Eek to get the cards they want into their hand to build up their bench.
Make sure you have the necessary draw support cards and tech cards in your deck as they can make all the difference.
Now you’ve got your deck, test it out playing against friends and at league meetings. It’s unlikely you’ll get the build right first time and you’ll want to make changes over and over again, changing Pokémon, changing the number of energies and using different trainers. But of course, once you’ve got a deck you’re happy with, Pokémon will release a new set and you’ll want to use those
cards in your deck and so the deck build process starts all over again, LOL.