This is probably the best part of the game: making your own custom decks to play with!
If you need a refresher, check out the other guides:
This guide won’t be nearly as long as the previous ones. You’ve learned almost everything you need to and are ready to experiment and enter competitive play online.
Before you dive right in to building your own competitive deck lists, make sure you first have the staple trainer cards (and Pokemon like Shaymin-EX and Hoopa-EX).
Get the Staples
It’s time to put your unlocked packs to use, and trade ’em for cards you need! What do you need first? The Staples.
Staples are cards that every player should own. These include your “deck engine” cards that allow for draw support, consistency, and all other commonly used cards that can be used across multiple decks.
Most important are Supporter cards like Professor Sycamore, N, Lysandre, item cards like Ultra Ball, VS Seeker, Trainers’ Mail, and Pokemon like Shaymin-EX and Hoopa-EX for their abilities (Set Up and Scoundrel Ring).
You probably have at least some copies of some of these cards, such as Sycamore, but it’s very unlikely that you have them all, especially Shaymin-EX, which is quite an “expensive card”. It takes dozens and dozens of packs to trade for a Shaymin-EX (and IRL its value is as high as $70+ for 1 single FA copy).
Many of these Staple cards are available in the Battle Arena Deck: Rayquaza vs Keldeo. This limited-time 2-deck product is a great way for players of the physical game (and online with the code) to get their hands on some Staple cards. Physical players would also benefit from picking up an Elite Trainer Box from the most recent set.
Build your Decks!
Got the Staples? That took a while. Now for the fun part, almost.
Check out some of the most popular decklists and trade for the cards you need. If you have all the Staples, you probably have most of the cards you need. You likely only need the “core Pokemon” for your deck, and maybe a couple odds and ends.
If you’d like to build your own deck from scratch, here’s a few tips. The game has a built-in Deck Wizard. Don’t use it. Ever. It stinks.
You’ve been playing Theme Decks for a while and that’s taught you a very bad lesson. Theme Decks usually have 30 or so Pokemon, 10 or so Trainers, and 20 or so energy cards. That balance is too out-of-whack to get a consistent deck.
Roughly half of your deck should be trainer cards. Trainers are essential to draw the cards you need. Don’t be afraid of using cards that discard, like Sycamore and Ultra Ball–often times you can choose which “filler” cards to discard and get important Pokémon, energy, and supporters back with other cards like Super Rod, Fisherman, Special Charge, VS Seeker, and more.
Cards like Pokeball and Great Ball are too random to give you what you need. Ultra Ball is infinitely better. If you’re playing a lot of low-level Pokemon, throw in some Level Balls (HP 90 or less). Water Deck? Dive Balls. Love those Snorlaxes? Heavy Ball.
Moving through your deck is very important. You’re going to want a Sycamore, N, Shaymin-EX, or similar card in your hand each turn, or a way to get one like a Trainers’ Mail, VS Seeker, or Ultra Ball. Then again, don’t “dig” too much using Sycamores, items, and Shaymins or you’ll “deck-out”.
Still, drawing a single one of those cards can get you out of a dead hand that would cost you the game.
20 energy is way too much. Most decks run 6-12 energies (some may use more, some may use only 4, or none!).
The amount of energy cards you’ll need varies. But remember, unlike Theme Decks were you’ll often rely on top-decking an energy card each turn, competitive decks can move through their cards to find and recycle energy as needed.
For Pokemon, pick 1 main attacker and have 3-4 of it. You’ll likely need 1 or 2 support pokemon, which you can run 1 or 2 copies of. Don’t run too many different Pokémon to attack with or your deck will lose consistency and get “clunky”. Theme Decks also use a lot of “filler” Pokémon that don’t really serve a purpose. They just take up space.
For evolution lines, Theme Decks like to use a “pyramid” line, where if you have Greninja and its prevolutions Froakie and Frogadier, you likely have 3 Froakie, 2 Frogadier, and 1 Greninja (shortened to 3-2-1 of Greninja). Competetive decks will often use lines like 3-3-3, 4-4-3, and 2-2 for Stage 1 evolution lines. If you’re using Rare Candies you might see 4-1-4 or similar lines.
Don’t make it hard on yourself to find your main attacker by only having 1 copy of it and it gets prized!
For Mega Pokemon-EX, you should probably only have 1 evolution line (such as not running Mega Charizard and Mega Blastoise, even though you like ’em both). Having 2 sets of different Megas can get very clunky.
If you’re running a 4-3 or 3-3 line (both are very common), also include 4 Spirit Links for consistency.
Watch: How to Build Pokemon Decks for Standard 2016-2017
Pokemon TCG Online YouTuber DarkIntegral brings us another fantastic video on how to build some competitive decks for the new Standard Format.
Welcome to his Kitchen! Now get cookin’ some awesome decks!
Check out Popular Decks in the Meta
Check out some of the popular deck lists, import them, trade for the cards you need, and try ’em out!
Build your own competitive decks and most of all, have fun.