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William Hung's Underground Card Laboratory
Ready for Regionals? - Part III - Deep Card Analysis
April 17, 2006

Hello trainers,
The last article in this series for Pokemon TCG Regionals - will be "Deep Card Analysis".  I promise - this isn't going to be boring and dry, because it's not stuff that I would analyze during Card of the Day's (CoTDs).
This article is very complex and subtle - so go ahead and e-mail me if there's anything you want to discuss or even criticize (yes, I like to learn from everyone).
I've thought for a long time about what should I write about, but I think what makes Pokemon TCG a great game, is that a game looks deceptively simple, can get complicated in a hurry.
The way I will do this is through some basic game fundamentals.  We know we will draw 7 cards in the initial opening hand, we can only attach 1 energy per turn, it's a 6-prize game, etc.  Therefore, when making an evaluation whether the card is good/great or horrible, that's how I will make such judgments.
Caution: There is still quite a bit of subjectivity, not based on pure math and statistics.
A) 1 Energy per turn
This is by far the most important fundamental.  1 Energy per turn, means exactly that, and if you have a Pokemon that have attack costs of 1 Colorless and 2 Fire (for example, Arcanine ex), you are probably going to have to spend 3 turns to get that guy ready to attack.
There are various exceptions, such as Double Rainbow Energy, Scramble Energy, and of course Pokemon that can load up a bunch of Energy at one time.  (Electrode ex, anyone?)  Nevertheless, the way I decide if the cards are competitive, would be whether the cards are the most efficient (costing fewest Energy resources), most damaging (in both actual damage, and opponent's board position), and how difficult it is to get into play: Stage 2, Stage 1, Basic.
B) 6-prize game with 30 minute time limits during Swiss portions, 60 minute for Single Elimination, best 2 out of 3 matches
This is also important.  If I run a deck that likes to totally stall my opponent, and perhaps "decking" my opponent (make them run out of cards in their deck to draw), then time would be a serious issue.  I think you are capable of decking someone within 60 minutes, but 30 minutes isn't too realistic.  Notice I am talking about highly competitive, Premiere events.  There's one deck that comes to mind - ding, ding, ding - it's Shedinja!
Yes, since it's unlikely you can win by decking someone in a 30 minute game, you need to find alternative win conditions - such as winning by being ahead in prizes.  So you run cards such as Desert Ruins, Cursed Powder, etc. to put a lot of pressure on your opponent, and hoping to get some KOs and prize cards along with them.
I am not advocating you should run Shedinja at your upcoming Regionals - I am pointing out that a deck needs to have a winning condition, and a consistently strong one (more than one wouldn't hurt).
C) A win is a win, a loss is a loss...
I have to bring this one up, because if you're playing deck A vs. deck C, and deck C consistently has your number (it can beat you by only 1 prize or 2 on a consistent basis), then you got a problem.  You better do something to fix your deck, or play a different deck.  On the other hand, there are certainly a lot of matchups that can go either way, such as Rock Lock vs. Lugia ex/Blastoise ex/Steelix ex.
Now with the key fundamentals out of the way, let's look at Pokemon TCG from a different perspective, a turn-based perspective:
Turn 1:
At turn 1, with 1 Energy you don't have that many great choices.  Nevertheless, in turn 1, you either got start off with the right foot, or you'll be falling behind.  Let's look at some of the following viable options:
- Jirachi DX (Wishing Star): Unless you are playing Blastoise ex/Lugia ex/Steelix ex or Medicham ex/Espeon ex (because they run 4 Swoop! Teleporter), you can certainly get ahead of your opponent with its Poke-Power, but if you can't find the right Basic Pokemon to attach Energy to (especially if you're going first), then you could be falling behind your opponent.  However, if you go second, and starting with Jirachi DX would be a lot better.  It allows you to play Holon Mentor (Holon Transceiver will almost be searching for Holon Mentor anyway), and get a very fast setup.
- Plusle DX (Call for Family): This is great for turn 1 and turn 2.  However, the biggest drawback is that this is a Pokemon, and you are using up valuable deck space, and unless you run Swoop! Teleporter, your chance of starting with a Plusle DX is about 40%.  I also don't like the fact that you're committing your first Energy drop on Plusle DX for setup, because if you start with Jirachi DX, and let's say an Onix, you could be attaching that very first Energy on Onix, instead of wasting an Energy Drop on a Pokemon that has very little or no attack power.
Don't be too fast on counting out Plusle DX though.  There are strategies that can take advantage of Plusle DX.  For example, if Jirachi DX is too popular, then Mt. Moon could be stopping Jirachi DX early game, when Jirachi DX is most valuable.
- Magby LM (Ignite): This is very powerful, if you can get an Energy that is attachable to Magby (not DRE, Boost, etc.) and get Full Flame, it is very devastating.  Yes, it's only 50% chance to KO that Jirachi DX or some 50 HP Basic Pokemon they bring up, but it's still devastating.  If you can get this turn 1 going first, it could be game over (although it's a lot harder without Supporters).  Even if it isn't, losing Jirachi DX could mean they have to send up that Machop or Squirtle, and you are certainly in the driver seat.
However, this is a very high risk tactic.  Island Cave and Heal Energy is a problem, but the bigger problem is if your opponent can set up their army, despite a slower setup.  You need another Pokemon that can deal serious damage and has "synergy" with Magby LM.
Finally, we look at the trainer options:
Holon Mentor - probably the best option, because you want your pieces of the puzzle, in this case the three Basics you need right within your grasp.
Celio's Network + Rare Candy - if you're running a non-ex Pokemon deck, this will be the 2nd best option.  We all love turn 1 Pidgeot, but you use Quick Search for what?  Unless you have that Machop, Larvitar, you would like Holon Mentor better.  Even if you do, by getting more Basics out, you reduce the chance that your opponent crippling you with an early KO.
Of course, Rocket's Admin is a problem, but getting 3 Basics and thinning your deck by 3 cards at the same time?  That's a great deal!
Draw Cards or Rocket's Admin - these are very game dependant.  But I wouldn't take this over turn 1 Pidgeot or Holon Mentor most of the time.
I have to add that Energy Drop will be a consideration - because let's say you have Holon Mentor and Rocket's Admin turn 1, going second, and you drew and didn't hit the Energy.  You probably choose to Rocket's Admin if you have a good Pokemon that you want an Energy drop on, such as Onix.
See how complicated Pokemon TCG is?  That was just turn 1.  Our brains really have to work!  As the game goes along - turn 2, turn 3, and onward, the game becomes even more complicated.
Again, there are always pros and cons with all the cards, and all your strategic options.  As an old saying goes, you gain some, you lose some.  I am not going to analyze everything in my articles for turn 2, turn 3, turn X - its just too much.  However, I hope to bring out a different perspective and approach to the game.
Until next time, best of luck in your Regionals.  Any comments or suggestions, e-mail at wilhung53@aim.com.
William Hung

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