Deckbuilding 101: Finding a Strategy

Author: The Pokèmon Lady

Once, in a far away country, there was a wise man that built his house upon a foundation of firm stone. It took him time and energy to do it, and he sweated and toiled at his task. His foolish brother laughed when he saw his brother toiling away. He knew that he could build his house upon the sand at the beach and that he could do it with little time and effort. One day, a horrible storm came and the wind and rain destroyed the foolish brother's quickly constructed house; but, after the water went down and the winds went away, the wise brother's house still stood.

This fable has much in common with the types of decks that are being built in the Pokèmon tournament arena these days. Many decks are simply thrown together, without any concept or scheme involved in the construction. Too many players don't realize, or don't care, that building a well constructed, competitive, tournament-quality deck involves finding a foundation on which to build the deck--the strategy.

A well thought out strategy provides the deck builder with more than just a framework to follow when selecting which families of Pokèmon, which trainers, and how much energy to include in the deck. A strategy will guide the player when they're in competition with another player.

But, how can that strategy be found? Is there a method that players with a large card stock can use, that also works for players with a small card stock? Yes! There are actually three methods that can be used by players of any age, with large or small card stocks. They are the method of TYPE, the method of FAVORITES, and the method of STATUS EFFECT and these methods can be used individually or in combination with each other.


Currently there are six basic types (or colors) of Pokèmon: Fighting, Fire, Electric, Water, Grass, and Mind (psychic). These six basic types have attacks that require at least one energy of their specific type. There is a seventh type, Colorless, which can be placed into any deck built using the method of TYPE because of their non-specific energy requirements.

A deck built with this method revolves around one or two types, or colors, of Pokèmon. Many beginning builders use this type of deck building strategy simply because it is one of the first factors that will play into the kind of deck you can build. If you don't have a lot of cards, but you do have more Grass type Pokèmon than any other type, it's probably a good idea if you use your Grass Pokèmon in your deck.

If I were to build a deck based on the method of type, I would pick one or two types of Pokèmon I really like--lets say Water and Fire. I would then look through my cards to see which Water and Fire Pokèmon I have. I would pick one or two families, and put them in my deck. If I only had a few of each type, my selection would be limited, but since I have many cards to chose from, I can use the Method of Favorites to help me decide which Water and Fire Pokèmon to put in my deck.


This method of deck building involves the builder making a deck based around his or her favorite Pokèmon, or the special abilities of a specific Pokèmon. Raindance, and Damage Swap decks are good examples of this type of deck.

To build a deck based on FAVORITES, the builder must ask him or herself, "What is my most favorite Pokèmon?" and "Do I have enough of that Pokèmon (and its evolutions) in my collection to build a deck?" For example, my most favorite Pokèmon are Growlithe/Arcanine, and Psyduck/Golduck. If I were going to build a deck based on the METHOD OF FAVORITES, I would put in 4 Growlithe, 3 Arcanine, 4 Psyduck, and 3 Golduck. I might also put in one or two types of colorless Pokèmon to make sure I had enough Pokèmon. The kinds of Pokèmon that I put in the deck would be based entirely on my preference towards one kind of Pokèmon or another, and the numbers of those Pokèmon I have available to me. Someone else, who was also building a Water/Fire deck might have different favorites--and that, is perfectly fine!


The final method of deck building, the STATUS EFFECT method, revolves around a particular Pokèmon's ability to cause the opponent's Pokèmon to become 'affected' in some way. These effects can include confusion, poison, sleep, paralysis, or energy loss, but there are many more.

Let's say that I want to build a deck where I aggravate my opponent by keeping him from having enough energy to power his Pokèmon's attacks. I can look through my collection of cards and see which Pokèmon and which Trainer cards have the ability to deny energy. I might pick Poliwrath, or Dragonair, or even Golduck! If I chose Golduck he would fit in with the Pokèmon I chose in the Method of Favorites, and in the Method of Type. Since I need some colorless Pokèmon in my deck, I should add the Dratini/Dragonair family. They deny energy!

This method is also a fine one for choosing the trainers you put in your deck. If I am going to build a deck built around my favorite fire and water Pokèmon, and the status effect of no energy, I will need my Trainer cards to reflect that choice. I might pick 4 energy removal, and 4 super energy removal to add to my deck. I would also want to put trainer cards in my deck that would allow me to search my deck for cards I want, like Computer Search. I might want to take those Energy Removals out of the discard pile once I've used them, so I should add some Item Finders as well.

Admittedly, developing a good, playable strategy takes time and some effort on the part of the player/deck builder. But, much like the wise man, who put time and energy into building his house on a firm foundation, the player who puts time and energy into building a firm foundation for his or her deck will be able to withstand the rigors of tournament level competition. The strategy of a deck should be the foundation on which the deck is built, providing a blueprint of what might be needed--and in the long run, a person who builds a deck with a strategy wins more often than the player without one.