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Yu Yu Hakusho
Harry Potter
Vs. System

Otaku on Pokemon
Pre-Release Deck Building Tips
February 7, 2008

This guide is intended to help players who struggle with performing well at Limited events.  Some comments are more for the collector’s side of it, but I find that to be an important part of Limited Events: while it is wonderful to win the tournament, sometimes it is more wonderful to just get everything you really desire from the new set before its even street legal through good trading.  Or if you are very fortunate, some cards you just don’t think you’ll pursue a deck around that you can actually sell to basically pay for the Pre-Release.  Pulling a Level X Pokémon is sweet, but I’ll take a free Pre-Release less that one card instead.  This is the first of a series and covers the beginnings of deck building.  Later articles will address how to evaluate cards more in depth.


Guidelines for Deck Building


  1. The most important rule is to read your cards carefully and thoroughly!  I have even encountered a player who successfully qualified for the Pokémon World Championships four years in a row repeatedly make similar mistakes because of not double-checking what his cards say.   Make sure you aren’t switching around Stages, forgetting Stages, or failing to notice your Pokémon uses an Energy Type different from its own Type.  For example, mistaking a Stage 2 Pokémon for a Stage 1 or a Stage 1 for a Basic, having no Energy required for a Pokémon to attack, and simply misunderstanding how an effect works.  It isn’t happy to realize the attack you built your deck requires a Pokémon on your Bench you didn’t even pull, let alone include.  Also watch for “Branching Evolution lines”, where a Pokémon can Evolve into two or more different forms, and naming variants, where there is something added to the Pokémon’s name so that it isn’t considered the same as its “plain name” counterpart.


  1. Time is a limited as your card pool at most Pre-Releases, and you have a lot to do.  Stay focused!  Avoid trying to trade unless it is clearly before the tournament and you are already completely ready or after the Prize packs have been distributed (and preferably after any side events are over).  Obviously you aren’t allowed to trade the new cards from the Pre-Release around before its conclusion, anyway, but this goes for “normal” trading as well.  It would be silly to be disqualified for failing to build a deck in time because someone was offering you a “great deal”, or because the judge honestly believes you are trying to trade the new stuff for the third time in a row.


  1. Try to bring some card sleeves.  You should really be using them when you play a Trading card game, regardless of the format.  In Limited, most players will just buy the “cheap sleeves”, though you should still seek out a good brand.  The ones I use are from Ultra Pro: clear polypropylene and cost only $0.75 before tax for 100 sleeves.  That is probably enough for two players’ decks and any nice holographic cards they pull but don’t plan on using.  If you really can’t afford any sleeves, Nintendo has been providing special Pokémon themed sleeves at the events for players to use for the last several Pre-Releases.  Just make sure if you buy your own that you get ones that are large enough for Pokémon cards.  For some reason different companies sometimes use a smaller-size like the Yu-Gi-Oh Trading Card Game.  You want two and five-eighths inch by three and five-eighths (2 5/8 x 3 5/8) inch sleeves.


  1. 4. To actually construct your deck, you should open all your boosters at once, dispose of the wrappers (place them someplace safe if you like to keep them), then sort out all holographic cards (no matter their rarity) and sleeve them.  This just keeps their value whether you use them or not by preventing possible damage.  Many times small scratches are easy to miss without a thorough examination, so some collectors dislike trading for a card that has spent any great deal of time without a sleeve.  Otherwise they have to take five minutes looking at it from every angle they can think of with the right amount of lighting.


  1. Organize the cards into piles based on Pokémon Type (that is color), Trainer, Supporter, Stadium, and Energy.  Any Pokémon you simply cannot play because you lack its Basic or Stage 1 form should be set aside now, unless there is some method of bypassing the missing Stage.  This may sound obvious, but as stated, I’ve seen experienced players far better than myself still slip up and make this exact mistake.


  1. Remember the normal limit of four of a card doesn’t apply, though if the card itself limits how many you can use (like Shining Pokémon and Pokémon* did), that still applies.  Neither appears in recent sets so this probably won’t be an issue.  This can really affect how useful some cards are since effects that focus on a specifically named Pokémon can do more than they legally could in a constructed format like Unlimited or Modified.


  1. Trainer cards, Supporters, Stadiums, and Special Energy will almost always go into your deck: these cards are far less common in Limited since they are usually just one or two in a single booster as opposed to actual Pokémon, which are often all the cards in a pack.  Trainers with effects normally too weak to use can be devastatingly effective in Limited.  Just make sure you are able to use the effect.  If you pulled no worthwhile Evolutions to run (highly unlikely), then there is no reason to run an Energy that can only be attached to Evolved Pokémon, like Boost Energy or Double Rainbow Energy.


  1. If you have nothing but Pokémon and Basic Energy cards available for your deck, you should try to split them evenly for count: that is 20 Pokémon and 20 Energy cards.  Energy is very important in Limited because there are less draw and search options available to you so you get what you get.  This means even in a single Type deck, you must manage your Energy carefully.  It becomes even more important to run a higher energy count if your deck has multiple types of Energy in the Energy requirements of the attacks of your Pokémon.


  1. If you do have Trainers, Supporters, Stadiums, and or Special Energy worth using (and you probably will), the amount of Pokémon and Energy is best reduced evenly.  If I have three Trainers and a Supporter available to my deck, I should try to run 18 Pokémon and 18 Energy cards.  Special Energy cards are still Energy, though, so if I pull two Trainers, a Supporter, a Stadium, and a Special Energy card all worth using, I would have 18 Energy including the Special Energy card and 18 Pokémon, leaving room for the Trainers, Supporter, and Stadium card.  If you have an odd amount, you will have to use your best judgment whether you should run one less Pokémon or Energy.


  1. Basic Pokémon are the backbone of your deck.  Again, with reduced search and draw options, you will be relying heavily upon them.  You will want between 10 and 12 of them in your deck, though if you lack Evolutions you will of course need to fill out remaining Pokémon slots with them.


  1. Evolutions become true powerhouses in this format due to their tendency to have higher HP scores, do more damage, and have more potent effects than Basic Pokémon do.  You will want to include them in your deck if at all possible, even if it is as little as a 1-1 or 1-1-1 Evolution lines.  For those not familiar with the term, “line” as it is used here refers to the “Evolution line” of the Pokémon.  So the “Blaziken” Line is Torchic, Combusken, and Blaziken.  A 1-1-1 line would be one each of those Pokémon.  A 2-1-1 line means two of the Basic, and one of each Evolution.


  1. Pay attention to our lower Stages of Evolution (or optional Evolutions, in the case of Pokémon with the Baby Power).  Given the nature of the format, it is likely that full Evolution lines will be disrupted, either by a card being prized, or drawn too late after a lower Stage has been KO’d.  So said lower stages become more important.  A powerful Basic or Stage 1 form can make a weaker end Stage Pokémon perform better than a powerful end Stage Pokémon with mediocre abilities.  You may have to use a partial line that doesn’t have its Stage 2 form, such as Combusken with no Blaziken


  1. Your deck should try to restrict how many different kinds of Energy it needs, since you will almost certainly lack an easy way to search out different kinds of Energy or cards that can provide for more than one kind of Energy requirement.


  1. You should also try to run as many different Types (colors) of Pokémon as you can to better handle Weakness and Resistance.  This seems to contradict the previous point, but you have to look at them together.  This means that Pokémon with even one good, reliable attack that needs few if no “colored” Energy is a candidate for your deck.  If most of your Pokémon need one or less specific Energy Types, then your deck will flow much better and you won’t have to be as careful with Energy attachments


  1. The amount of each Type of Energy you run should be divided based up card need.  Look at how much of a specific type of Energy an attack needs on each of your Pokémon.  When looking at Evolutions, “replace” its Basic form’s Energy needs with said Evolution’s Energy needs unless the Evolution needs less.  So if you have three Torchic and one Combusken, count the Energy each Torchic needs but unless it needs more than Combusken, replace the needs of a Torchic with the one Combusken.  Don’t count the needs of all three copies of Torchic alongside the Combusken.  This is the minimum amount of that Energy Type that you need.  Just that Type, not in total.


  1. Pay attention to how many Colorless Energy requirements are on your cards: just because specific Energy requirements are low you might need a lot more Energy.


  1. Other things that affect how much of an Energy Type you need are the effects of the attacks.  It is very common for card effects to reference Energy Types, or to alter the demand needed for a Type of Energy.  Two common examples are an attack doing extra damage for Energy of a certain type being attached to the Attacking Pokémon or the need to discard Energy, especially of a specific Type, in order to use the attack.


  1. Look at the Retreat Cost of your Pokémon.  Retreating is very important in Limited, where it can actually deny your opponent a Prize without a constant risk of a card effect making it active again.  It is also needed to get out of many Special Conditions and attack effects.



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