How to Develop a Decklist

With the amount of information on the internet these days, it’s easy to look up a decklist online, build it, and jump right into competitive play. Whether it’s Six Prizes, The Deck Out, or even one of our videos, there’s no doubt that it’s easier than ever to find a proven, competitive list that you can take to a tournament and win with. No matter what your feelings are on today’s abundance of information, it’s just the reality of the Internet era.

Unfortunately, the ease of access to these lists has caused many new players to become lazy. Instead of figuring things out on their own, they turn to these sources of information and ask, “What’s your list?” As an old school player, nothing makes me cringe more than getting flooded with that question. Now there’s certainly nothing wrong with asking for help, but you’ll be behind the curve as new sets are released if you can’t do things on your own; you have to be able to do the work yourself. As such, I’ve always thought the best way to help people is to teach them my methods instead of giving my results. So, this article will be a guide on how to develop an idea into a decklist – the process of deckbuilding. While this article will be most useful to newer players, my hope is that even the most experienced veterans will take something away from it.


Step 1: The Idea

To start off, obviously you’ll need an idea. What cards do you want to build your deck around? Is it going to be a simple concept, or does your deck have an elaborate strategy? Are we trying to update an old idea with new cards? Every deck is different, so you’ll have to approach building your list based on the strengths and weaknesses of the Pokémon you’re centering the deck around. Overall, this should be the simplest part of the process. Just list out the Pokémon (or maybe even Trainers) that you want to use. In the example for this article, I’m going to use my process for building the Weavile/Exeggcute deck. To start, let’s look at the Pokémon I want.

We're going to build our deck around this.

Our deck centers around this.

  • Weavile is going to be the main attacker. We want to focus the deck around its Vilify attack. Everything should revolve around this.
  • The best way to take advantage of it is to use Exeggcute. Its Propagation Ability allows us to get guaranteed damage every turn with Vilify.
  • Electrode’s Magnetic Draw can refill my hand if it gets low. Since my deck is dependent on what’s in my hand, I need some way to lessen the impact of N’s hand disruption. I’ll also need to run lots of Pokémon to use Vilify every turn, so Electrode is a good fit.
  • Since I’m running Darkness Energy for Vilify, I can take advantage of the great support that Sableye provides. Again, I’ll need plenty of Pokémon, and this seems like the best fit. Junk Hunt can help set things up.
  • Maybe I can take advantage of other Pokémon’s Abilities. Deoxys EX’s Power Connect might help me do additional damage. Darkrai EX’s Dark Cloak might help keep Energy in play by giving my Pokémon free retreat. Audino may be useful as well for its Busybody Ability. These cards are not crucial to my deck’s success, but they could help out if I have space.

Now that we’ve figured out what Pokémon we want, we can move on to the Trainers. Most of the time, this is the trickiest part of making the deck. The important thing here is to keep in mind what limitations your Pokémon may have. For example, a Stage 2 deck is nothing without Rare Candy because you’ll be too slow without it. A Darkrai deck is nearly worthless without Dark Patch because Night Spear costs three Energy to attack. Garbodor decks need lots of Tools and ways to account for its massive three Retreat Cost. Every deck has its limitations, and Trainers are your way to account for them.

Now, part of the reason I chose the Weavile deck for this article is because of all of the options it has to work with. Because it costs two Energy to attack, you’ll need some form of Energy acceleration to keep a string of attackers going. Unlike the big bulky Pokémon EX, Weavile has a meager 90 HP, so it’s going to be Knocked Out easily. In addition, you need to take full advantage of Exeggcute’s Propagation Ability to execute your strategy, so you’ll want to have Trainers that can discard them early in the game. Of course, Supporters are necessary to provide consistency to your deck as well. Also, what Ace Spec fits the deck best? Let’s break down what we’ll need and the options we have.

For Supporters, Professor Juniper is going to be best. Not only does it draw lots of cards, but also it puts Exeggcute in the discard pile. N is too good not to play. Skyla can help search for specific Trainers. Bianca may be a good way to refill the hand. Colress is another option to draw large amounts of cards, but it’s very weak early in the game when benches are small. Cheren may be useful, but it most likely won’t have the same impact as the other Supporters. Same goes for Ghetsis. Other options like Hugh, Cilan, Team Plasma Grunt, Shadow Triad, and Hooligans Jim & Cas probably don’t belong in the deck.

For Energy acceleration, our two options are Dark Patch and Colress Machine. While Dark Patch can take Darkness Energy back from the discard, Colress Machine can take Plasma Energy out of the deck and attach them directly to Weavile. Which one is better? Maybe a combination of both is feasible, but we’ll need at least one of these. Ether is an option, but it’s obviously inferior to the other two choices.

We'll need Energy acceleration.

We need Energy acceleration.

We’ll need lots of ways to search out Pokémon. Level Ball is great because everything is 90 HP or less. However, Ultra Ball is going to help put Exeggcute in the discard pile. Once we get two Exeggcute in the discard pile, we’ll never have to worry about discarding potentially useful cards with it because of Propagation. Team Plasma Ball is an option to grab Weavile as well, but there’s no point in playing it over Level Ball if we don’t run any other Team Plasma Pokémon.

Then you have staple cards like Pokémon Catcher, Switch, etc. Cards like Super Rod are going to be necessary because we need so many Pokémon to fuel Vilify. In addition, Garbodor’s Garbotoxin gives us trouble by shutting off Exeggcute’s Ability, so we’ll have to play Tool Scrapper to account for that. Plus, Eviolite, Giant Cape, and Rock Guard are other Tools that can cause headaches. Perhaps a card like Bicycle could help fill out our hand more. For the deck’s Ace Spec, the two big options are Computer Search and Dowsing Machine. It’s tough to decide on one, but my default is always Computer Search.

Finally we have the Energy to work with. For most decks, this is a pretty simple area, but it can get tricky if you have multiple types of Energy costs to fulfill. Normally you have one type that you focus on and a little bit of a secondary type. For example, a Rayquaza/Eelektrik deck has mainly Lightning Energy and then some Fire Energy. A Big Basic deck runs mostly Fighting Energy and then Double Colorless. On the other hand, a Darkrai deck runs nothing but Darkness Energy. You’ll need to find a good balance in the implementation, but here we just want to figure out what kinds of Energy we’ll need. For this deck, either we run all Darkness Energy or possibly Plasma Energy if we decide to play Colress Machine.

For experienced players, it probably seems silly that I listed out all of these things. Yes, hardly anyone actually goes through this process, but you do it mentally whether you realize it or not. Like anything else, this gets easier with practice. In a sense, you develop a muscle memory for how to make decks. Now that we have the idea for our deck down, let’s move onto the next step.

Step 2: Rough Draft

Now that we have an idea of what we want in the deck, it’s time to put it into practice. Think about all of the cards you wanted to include in the deck, and figure out how many of each you’ll need. Some are no-brainers. For example, running 4 Exeggcute, 4 Sneasel, and 4 Weavile in this deck is obvious. Always start with your core cards and work your way out from there. Make sure you play enough Supporters to ensure consistency, and leave room for Energy as well. For me, a base number of Supporters is 12 currently, and you can add a few more if you’d like. Normally you don’t go below that number (unless you’re running cards like Bicycle and Random Receiver in their place). So, for our list here, we’re going to have the core 12 Pokémon, 12 Supporters, and 12 Energy to start with (36 cards total); that means we have 24 openings to fill in the rest.

Supporters make your deck run smoothly.

Work your way out from the core.

For this deck, we need a higher count of Pokémon than most other decks in order to use Vilify repeatedly. Ideally we’d like to hit at least 20 Pokémon, which means we’ll need to devote about 8 spots to more of them. Which Pokémon should we run, though? Sableye seems like an easy one since Junk Hunt is great for setting up. In addition, we want the Electrode line to help out with keeping the hand refreshed every turn. Deoxys EX would be cool, too. Let’s try to start with 3 Sableye, 2-2 Electrode, and 2 Deoxys EX; that brings our total to 21 Pokémon. Also, which version of Sneasel should we run? The one with 60 HP has a great attack in Corner, so let’s start off by using that. Maybe the 70 HP one is better to help us survive early pressure, so let’s consider that as well. Since we’re focusing on Vilify, it’s important to run all 4 of the Plasma Freeze Weavile and no other versions of it.

Time for the confusing part, the Trainers. Logistically we have 15 spots (plus 12 Supporters) left after adding in 9 more Pokémon. Obviously we’re going to need a lot of searching cards, so Ultra Ball and Level Ball are going to be my first thought. Since Level Ball can search out pretty much anything, let’s start out with 4 of those. I would want at least 3 Ultra Ball to help get Exeggcute in the discard early; that way they’re in the discard for Propagation later. Perhaps a Team Plasma Ball wouldn’t hurt either. Then we’ll want the general utility cards like Pokémon Catcher and Switch. Unlike other decks, we won’t need (or have the space) to max out on these cards, so 2 sounds reasonable for each. Then we want that Energy acceleration. I can see the perks of both Colress Machine and Dark Patch, so let’s run both to start. Maybe 3 of one and 2 of another would be good. Dark Claw would be great with Deoxys EX to add enough damage to require one less Pokémon for a KO with Vilify, so let’s play 2 of those. Finally our necessary single cards are Tool Scrapper and Super Rod. Oh, and let’s go with Dowsing Machine for the Ace Spec since we had to skimp on cards like Pokémon Catcher.

Supporters can be tricky as well. For almost any deck nowadays, 4 Professor Juniper is an easy start. Most decks like to have 4 N, but this deck probably doesn’t because it needs a large hand. Maybe we can live with 2 or 3. Where do we go from there, though? Skyla is a good Supporter in general, so let’s run a few of those. Then I can’t decide whether Bianca or Colress would be better in here, so let’s try 1 of each and see what helps more in testing. My first idea is going to be 4 Juniper, 3 N, 3 Skyla, 1 Bianca, 1 Colress, which adds up to 12. Let’s take a look at our rough draft!

Pokémon – 21 Trainers – 33 Energy – 12
4 Sneasel (3 NXD, 1 PLF) 4 Professor Juniper 8 Darkness
4 Weavile 4 Level Ball 4 Plasma
4 Exeggcute 3 N
3 Sableye 3 Ultra Ball
2 Voltorb 3 Skyla
2 Electrode 2 Colress Machine
2 Deoxys EX 2 Dark Patch
2 Dark Claw
2 Pokémon Catcher
2 Switch
1 Team Plasma Ball
1 Tool Scrapper
1 Super Rod
1 Bianca
1 Colress
1 Dowsing Machine

If you look closely, you’ll see that we have 66 cards, and that’s okay! Again, this is still in the rough draft phase. The important thing is to get all the ideas together and see if they fit into 60 cards. If not, we need to start making cuts and decide what’s worth playing. For a lot of decks, you’ll have to make some tough decisions on what cards to get rid of. Start to ask yourself, can I get away with fewer cards like Ultra Ball? Do I really need that 4th Pokémon Catcher or Hypnotoxic Laser? Can I cut back on a Pokémon line? It’s important to note that some ideas will fall apart at this stage. If your idea is too convoluted, you may find that it’s impossible to fit your deck into 60 cards. Sometimes you can just look at it and say, “Yeah, this isn’t going to work.” We’ve all been there; no shame in that.

Now that we know we have to cut 6 cards, let’s look at what things are expendable. Right off the bat, I’m looking at the Deoxys EX and Dark Claw. Do we really need those? Sure, they may make KOs easier sometimes, but they seem like luxuries. If we cut those out, four spots open up immediately. However, we want to stay at that magic number of 20 Pokémon, so let’s add something in place of one of the Deoxys EX. Darkrai EX seems like a good choice since it can give free retreat, making it easier to power up consecutive attackers with Dark Patch. Now we have to get rid of three more cards.

Sometimes you have to cut out luxury cards.

Sometimes you have to cut out luxury cards.

Right now we’re at 8 searching cards, which is probably too many. Even though we need to be finding Pokémon as soon as possible, 6 seems like a reasonable number. Let’s cut a Level Ball and the Team Plasma Ball (since we’re no longer running Deoxys EX). Also, let’s pick either Colress Machine or Dark Patch and go with 4 of one instead of a split. Usually that’s a cleaner way to do things, and we can get away with dropping an Energy then, too. Okay, we’re at 60!
Before we jump into playing any games, let’s take one last look at the deck and see if there are any cards that can be optimized. Since nothing has too high of a retreat cost, we can go down to 1 Switch for emergency purposes (status effects, Snorlax’s Block, etc.). Plus, we have Darkrai to give free retreat now. Also, I foresee this deck needing “explosive” turns where we draw lots of cards, so I want to try to add Bicycle as well. If we cut a Skyla and the 2nd Switch, we can run 2 of those. Let’s take a look at our first finalized list!

Pokémon – 20 Trainers – 29 Energy – 11
4 Sneasel (3 NXD, 1 PLF) 4 Professor Juniper 11 Darkness
4 Weavile 4 Dark Patch
4 Exeggcute 3 N
3 Sableye 3 Ultra Ball
2 Voltorb 3 Level Ball
2 Electrode 2 Skyla
1 Darkrai EX 2 Bicycle
2 Pokémon Catcher
1 Switch
1 Tool Scrapper
1 Super Rod
1 Bianca
1 Colress
1 Dowsing Machine

Now it’s time to start trying the deck out.

Step 3: Test and Tweak

Okay, let’s start playing some games! Whether it’s Pokémon TCG Online, PlayTCG, or with friends at league, it’s important to play your deck to see if it actually works. When testing initially, you want to find out some things. Is my deck’s strategy viable? Is my list able to execute that strategy consistently? Can I do that in the face of early pressure? What cards are working out, and which ones aren’t? Do I need to play more or less of anything? What kinds of strategies give me the most problems? What are my deck’s strong points and weak points? Do I feel like this deck can compete against the top archetypes? Play a few games, ask yourself these questions, and reevaluate everything. When playing the games, the important thing is not whether you win or lose! You want to be observing how the deck flows, how realistic your strategy is, and how you feel your chances are against other decks. A lot of people simply will look at wins and losses when determining whether or not a deck is good. One time I had a straight Celebi Prime/Tornadus deck that was 15-0 on Pokémon TCG Online. But based on how things were going, I could tell I was just very lucky. My deck wasn’t actually good at all. You need to be able to recognize this while you’re testing.

In my first few games with Weavile/Exeggcute, I noticed a few things. First of all, I was going to be spending the first few turns using Junk Hunt because I needed time to get all those Exeggcute in the discard pile. Also, I needed to be able to set up a string of attackers. As a result, I expected to be behind a few prizes before I really started to do damage. In theory, this seems like a disaster. For most decks that sacrifice early game aggression for late game power, it’s justified by having a big Pokémon that takes consecutive knockouts. Examples of this would be Rayquaza/Eelektrik and Blastoise/Keldeo. Unfortunately, Weavile has a paltry 90 HP, which means it won’t be surviving many attacks. However, our advantage comes from being able to OHKO those big EX Pokémon that give up two prizes, and Weavile gives up only one. Even though we fall behind early, the favorable prize exchange allows for comebacks. While our deck’s strategy is slow, it seems to be viable based on the metagame. If people shifted to regular attackers like Zekrom or Empoleon, though, this deck would be unplayable. Other general problems are opening with Exeggcute and having one or more prized, which greatly weakens our strategy. Without four Exeggcute to work with, Vilify is much weaker.

Without these guys, our strategy cracks.

Without these guys, our strategy cracks.

In addition, any deck that is able to put on heavy pressure from the get-go may be problematic. For example, a deck focusing on Landorus EX, Thundurus EX, or Plasma Kyurem could be trouble. Even a quick Darkrai EX using Night Spear could be too much to overcome. In a way, it seems like a race against the clock against these decks. Either you set up before you take too much damage, or you’re going to be too far behind to come back. As such, the 70 HP Sneasel seems superior to give better odds of surviving early on. On the flipside, we seem to have an advantage over the archetypes that are slower to set up. Blastoise, Klinklang, and RayEel all focus on EX attackers yet are slow to set up. Inherently we’ll have an advantage against those decks. The fact that we can beat three big archetypes is promising. Every deck is going to have good and bad matchups, but this deck seems particularly matchup dependent.

Perhaps the most important thing I observed in my first games is that I was running out of Pokémon to discard with Vilify. Since I can’t afford to use Junk Hunt in the middle of the game for a Super Rod most of the time, the obvious solution is to add in more Pokémon and Super Rod. In addition, my hands were flooded with Energy at times, which makes it difficult to use Electrode’s Magnetic Draw. We can afford to cut one of those. Bicycle was a bit redundant with Electrode as well, so let’s get rid of one of those. Instead, we’re going to run an extra Super Rod and Electrode. It’s important not to make too many drastic changes at once, so we’ll try out the deck with these alterations before doing anything else. Here’s an updated list after the first testing.

Pokémon – 21 Trainers – 29 Energy – 10
4 Sneasel (3 PLF, 1 NXD) 4 Professor Juniper 10 Darkness
4 Weavile 4 Dark Patch
4 Exeggcute 3 N
3 Sableye 3 Ultra Ball
2 Voltorb 3 Level Ball
3 Electrode 2 Skyla
1 Darkrai EX 2 Pokémon Catcher
2 Super Rod
2 Colress
1 Bicycle
1 Switch
1 Tool Scrapper
1 Dowsing Machine

Next we need to see if our changes work. After a couple games, the additional Super Rod seems to be a great addition. Electrode isn’t doing as much as I’d like, but it’s nice to have at the end of a game. Like I thought, matchups against the slower decks are advantageous just due to the prize trade-off against EX Pokémon. Plasma and Darkrai decks are proving to be a lot of trouble, though. Both of those decks include regular attackers, namely Kyurem and Absol. We need to find out if there’s any way to change that.

Step 4: Optimization and Tech

Once we’ve established that the deck is worth continuing to use, let’s look for ways to improve specific matchups and make the list as efficient as possible. When it comes to building a great list, you have to find a balance between consistency and tech. In the context of the Pokémon TCG, consistency refers to your deck’s ability to execute its strategy every game. Normally a consistent deck runs lots of Supporters and a heavy amount of cards focused on drawing or searching through the deck quickly. In addition, the strategy is fairly simple and easy to execute. The opposite of that is tech, which favors options and flexibility over simply setting up and doing one strategy. Also, I should note that there is a difference between a list having “tech” cards to help out a matchup and a concept of a deck requiring a lot of tech. Consistent decks can have tech cards, but their overall goal is to have a simple, consistent strategy. But the decks focusing on tech and complicated strategies inherently are less consistent. Since the terms can be thrown around a lot, it may be confusing for some.

Perhaps the best illustration of this is the difference between Durant and The Truth from last year’s format. On one hand, the Durant deck had a very straightforward strategy; use Devour until your opponent runs out of cards. Simply put, you would use nothing but Devour every turn (outside of the strange times when you would use Vice Grip or Rotom’s Plasma Arrow). Even though you had very little flexibility in reacting to situations, your strength was being able to execute your strategy every game with nothing but Basic Pokémon. More or less, you’re going to do the same thing every game, and it’s up to your opponent to stop you. On the other hand, look at the deck Ross Cawthon used at Worlds 2011, The Truth. Here we had a crazy deck with four different evolutions and even a Suicune & Entei LEGEND! Obviously this deck is going to be extremely difficult to set up properly, and it’s going to lose games because of it. But when it does set up, it’s nearly unbeatable. Between Vileplume, Reuniclus, Donphan, Blissey, and all the other Pokémon, the deck aimed to set up an unbeatable lock once all the pieces were in place. A deck like this is about as teched out as you can get. While its consistency suffers, it will sacrifice that to get a stronger overall game when things do go well.

Consistency or tech?

Consistency or tech?

Most decks aim to find a balance between consistency and tech. If your deck is too simple, you may lose to certain matchups where your one strategy isn’t effective enough. If your deck is too teched out, you won’t set up very often, and you’ll lose because your deck can’t execute. Some decks have more room for tech cards than others. For example, a Big Basics deck will have plenty of room to run all sorts of cards because it runs nothing but Basic Pokémon. Alternatively, a Blastoise deck won’t have space for those cards like Hypnotoxic Laser because it has to run a Stage 2 line and Rare Candy. Some decks, like a Garbodor deck, may find themselves in the middle of the spectrum. The first step in this section is to identify where your idea falls on the consistency-tech spectrum. If you’re going to win just by getting your Pokémon into play, you’ll want less luxury cards like Pokémon Catcher and more cards to help you set up. If other decks can overpower your Pokémon once they set up, you’ll need to run the appropriate tech cards to even the playing field.

For Weavile/Exeggcute, I want to focus on consistency more than anything. If I can use Vilify for enough damage every turn, I’m going to win. I don’t need to do anything fancier than that. Still, we’ll see if I can fix tough matchups with small techs. Previously I noted that early aggression was a problem. Cards like Landorus EX, Darkrai EX, and Kyurem were giving me trouble due to the low HP of Sneasel and the other Pokémon in the deck. More specifically, the bench damage was a big problem. Often times my opponent would get multiple KOs due to bench damage. My first solution would be to add ways to increase the HP on my Pokémon. What are my options for that? Well, the two that come to mind are Giant Cape and Umbreon. Perhaps we could replace the Electrode line with Umbreon to give Weavile more HP. Unfortunately, that doesn’t fix my problem because I’m still giving up those early prizes before Umbreon would come out. Giant Cape seems cute, but there’s no reliable way to draw into it in time. My other alternative would be to run something to block the bench damage from happening, which would be Mr. Mime. Since I always seem to have an open bench space and I need lots of Pokémon anyway, let’s throw one of those in. Darkrai wasn’t doing much, so let’s get rid of that for the Mime.

Small adjustments can make all the difference.

Small adjustments can make all the difference.

Next I noticed a couple more things in my games. First of all, I always wanted to use Junk Hunt on the first turn. Since we can just discard the excess ones with Weavile’s Vilify, it makes sense to run 4 Sableye in this deck. We want to maximize our odds of drawing one in the opening hand, so we should max out on this card. At the very least, we want to find a way to get it into play and using Junk Hunt as quickly as possible. What do we cut for it, though? Well, I noticed that Electrode wasn’t doing very much, so maybe we can cut one of those. Makes sense to me. I’m also having trouble when my opponent goes after Weavile with Pokémon Catcher instead of just taking the KO on my Sableye. Eventually I run out of Sneasel and Weavile, and I don’t have enough Super Rod to keep cycling through them (especially because some end up getting discarded with Vilify). Let’s cut down to 1 Voltorb and bump up to 3 Super Rod. Alternatively, I could try a card like Rescue Scarf, which would make it much easier to keep a string of attackers going. For now we’ll stick with Super Rod, though.

Finally, we’ll make a few minor changes that may not seem too impactful, but they could go a long way. Like I mentioned earlier, sometimes I was getting flooded with too many Energy in my hand, so I cut one. Now I’m going to cut one for an Energy Search, too. Why? Well, it doesn’t actually reduce the number of ways I can draw Energy, so I won’t ever lose an attachment if I draw Energy Search instead of an Energy. Furthermore, it works well with Sableye’s Junk Hunt, basically allowing you to search for an Energy next turn. But the biggest reason is that it will help to thin out the Energy cards from my deck when I play it. Late in the game I want to be drawing Pokémon. Over the course of the game, I want to try to get rid of as many non-Pokémon cards as I reasonably can. Energy Search helps with that. Another change is that I want to get rid of the Bicycle for another Supporter. While maxing out on N seemed counterproductive at first, I realized that I would need to make comebacks so often that playing 4 was a good idea after all. Let’s go with that. After our optimizations, here’s what we ended up with.

Pokémon – 20 Trainers – 31 Energy – 9
4 Sneasel (PLF) 4 Professor Juniper 9 Darkness
4 Weavile 4 Dark Patch
4 Exeggcute 4 N
4 Sableye 3 Ultra Ball
1 Voltorb 3 Level Ball
2 Electrode 3 Super Rod
1 Mr. Mime 2 Skyla
2 Pokémon Catcher
2 Colress
1 Energy Search
1 Switch
1 Tool Scrapper
1 Dowsing Machine

Step 5: More Testing and Tweaking

After your first round of testing and tweaking, it’s important to do it all over again. Above all, the purpose of this is to find out if your changes were correct. Sometimes they will be, and sometimes they won’t be. During this phase, you want to be discussing your idea with others. Hopefully you have a few people you’re comfortable playtesting and talking about ideas with. Ask them if they have any suggestions! Sometimes there’s something very obvious that you may overlook, and you just need another set of eyes to take a look at it. Bouncing ideas off of friends is crucial. Most of the creative ideas we’ve seen over the years have come from a team of people, not just an individual. While the initial idea starts with one person, the group ends up refining it and turning it into a well-oiled machine.

For this deck, a lot of people suggested Dark Claw or Laser + Virbank to help get easier KOs on those big EX Pokémon. I noticed that a lot of the time I would have to play a Professor Juniper to try to draw enough Pokémon to get a KO, and I would end up discarding a Pokémon here and there in the process. Now, the benefit of Dark Claw or Laser would be that you can play them before the Juniper and still get the additional damage. Makes sense to me. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t make Laser + Virbank work logistically; it took up too many spaces in my deck. While Dark Claw didn’t seem like a bad idea, it didn’t help me deal with the 180 HP EX Pokémon like Darkrai, Landorus, or Lugia. Unless I paired it with Deoxys EX to get the additional 10 damage to make a difference, it wasn’t worth it. Again, that combination of cards took up too much space in my deck. I’d have to find another option.

When it comes to deckbuilding, sometimes you need to think outside the box. A lot of the times decks have problems that are easy to identify, but the solution isn’t so simple. For example, Darkrai decks were having trouble with status effects earlier in the season, but nobody really wanted to add a bunch of Switch to fix it. So, players figured out a clever way to get around that with the use of Keldeo EX. With the combination of Keldeo’s Rush In and Darkrai’s Dark Cloak, you could get rid of status with a free retreating Keldeo EX. Nowadays this is commonplace, but someone had to think of it first!

Now this card is in every Darkrai deck.

Thanks to some ingenuity, this card is in every Darkrai deck.

For Weavile/Exeggcute, that realization was Rescue Scarf. Over the course of games, I was having trouble having enough Pokémon to discard with Vilify while still being able to keep a string of attackers going. Well, Rescue Scarf helps both of those by returning the Sneasel and Weavile to your hand every time you lose one. Now you have the option to discard Sneasel and Weavile with Vilify and not have to worry about it! It may not be a perfect fix, but it’ll do just enough to help out. Oh, and I swapped the Voltorb and Electrode to give myself a second Voltorb. That way, we have more Basics to avoid those crippling Exeggcute starts. After more testing and tweaking, my list has turned into this.

Pokémon – 20 Trainers – 31 Energy – 9
4 Sneasel (3 PLF, 1 NXD) 4 Professor Juniper 9 Darkness
4 Weavile 4 Dark Patch
4 Exeggcute 4 N
4 Sableye 3 Ultra Ball
2 Voltorb 2 Level Ball
1 Electrode 2 Super Rod
1 Mr. Mime 2 Skyla
2 Rescue Scarf
2 Pokémon Catcher
2 Colress
1 Energy Search
1 Switch
1 Tool Scrapper
1 Dowsing Machine

At this point in the process, you do want to start noting wins and losses; however, the important thing is to figure out why you won or lost. If I’m winning games simply because my opponents struggle to set up, that’s not a good indicator of my deck’s strength. If I’m losing games because my opponent gets incredible starts, that’s also probably not a good result to chalk up. What should you pay attention to then? If both sides get an “average start,” who wins? How often is my deck able to execute its strategy? Perhaps my list or the concept isn’t working if I’m losing because of poor starts repeatedly. Did I win just because my opponent wasn’t able to attach an Energy a few times? Did I win just because I went first? (This can be a complicated problem.) Finally, you want to pay attention to your opponent’s level of skill. Sometimes your results can be skewed if your playtesting partner isn’t playing optimally. Overall, this is what can mess with your testing the most. It’s tough to tell a friend that he/she is misplaying, but your perception of how decks work can be off if you’re playing against subpar competition. Maybe your deck isn’t viable at all if it loses to top archetypes piloted by top tier players.

After all of the work you’ve put into your list, you should feel good about going into a tournament with it if you’ve gone through this entire process. Of course, you always question some cards here and there, which brings us to the last section.

Step 6: Metagaming

Okay, we’ve done all the legwork. We’ve brainstormed ideas, tried out different lists, and discussed the idea with others. However, there’s another factor in how good a deck is, and that is the metagame. In Pokémon every deck has good and bad matchups. Even if you have the best deck in the format, it won’t mean anything if a popular deck is a bad matchup for you. When you’re in a tournament, you’ll have to play against all sorts of decks. In this section, your job is to figure out what decks will be popular and adjust accordingly. Sometimes the metagame can be extremely difficult to predict, but normally you can get a good idea of what to expect.

To start, we want to list out all of the popular decks. For our current format, we’re going to expect Plasma, Blastoise, and Darkrai as the three most popular decks. In addition, we have to keep in mind that Gothitelle/Accelgor, Garbodor, RayEel, Klinklang, Big Basics, Empoleon, and Quad Snorlax exist. Basically what we’re going to do is look at all of them, assess the matchup we have against that deck, and determine how that impacts our chances at a tournament. If we’re taking losses to most of the popular decks, obviously that’s not a good sign. If we’re taking a loss to one popular deck but beating the rest, perhaps it’s not a bad choice, though! Also, we can determine if we need to alter our list depending on what we expect to see. Let’s go through this process now.

Plasma: Tough matchup, and this deck is going to be very popular. If they put on too much pressure early, it can be almost impossible to win. Overall, the deck has pretty much everything we worry about – quick KOs, non EX attackers, and Lugia EX’s ability to take two prizes at once for the cherry on top. Sometimes we can buy time by playing a Catcher on a Deoxys EX, but it doesn’t work too often. Fortunately Mr. Mime is able to alleviate some of the pressure from Kyurem, giving you more time to set up. The saving grace in this matchup is that Plasma decks are vulnerable to N due to taking so many quick prizes. Unfortunately, that means you’re relying on your opponent’s bad luck more than your strategy being effective. Not much can be done to tech for this matchup either besides Enhanced Hammer, which will be a waste in nearly every other matchup. Overall, this is a 40/60 matchup at best against a deck that will see a lot of play.

One of our worst enemies.

One of our worst enemies.

Blastoise: Unless they get a Keldeo EX powered up turn 2 using Secret Sword, this is a favorable matchup. Normally they need a few turns to set up, and then they’re going to be attacking with EX Pokémon that give up two prizes. As long as you can keep powering up a new Weavile every time one goes down, you can win the game in three attacks potentially. We hope to see this deck a lot! Nothing needs to be done to tech for this matchup.

Darkrai: Like Plasma, this is going to be a very difficult matchup. However, this seems more manageable because Darkrai does take three Energy to attack, and Mr. Mime ensures that our opponent will never get those big two prize turns. Going first helps out a lot because it gives us an extra turn to get everything set up. If we go second and encounter a turn 2 Night Spear, it’s probably going to be a rough game. Be careful not to bench too many Pokémon or else Absol will wreak havoc, too. Basically you have a three prize window in this matchup at best. If you fall behind three, you’ll still have a chance to KO three Darkrai in a row to win, but Absol will throw everything off. If you start attacking when you’re down only two, you’re set. I’d say a 40/60 matchup, but I’d be willing to say 45/55 depending on the number of Absol the opponent plays. If you really want to tech for this matchup, perhaps a second Mr. Mime would be the way to go. Perhaps changing the Ace Spec to Life Dew could work, too. Otherwise, consistency is what you’ll want in your list more than anything.

Another pain to deal with.

Another pain to deal with.

Gothitelle/Accelgor: Yikes. We definitely don’t want to run into this deck. Unfortunately, we don’t run any way to get around status conditions besides Switch, and this isn’t exactly a speedy deck. The saving grace is that you’re able to OHKO Gothitelle any time you can get an attack off with Vilify. However, if they get out Dusknoir and establish that unbreakable Deck and Cover lock, there’s nothing that can be done. Fortunately this deck has declined a lot in popularity, so we may not have to worry about it. If we do, though, Audino is an option. Darkrai EX and Keldeo EX also are options, but those take up a lot of spots. We would have to cut into the Sableye or Electrode line to squeeze those in, which ruins consistency a bit. Maybe this is one of those losses you just accept. Hope to get lucky against it! Gothitelle’s Magic Room alone shuts down a good portion of this deck.

Rayquaza/Eelektrik: Honestly this matchup seems pretty close depending on the number of non-EX attackers they run. If they run a combination of two of Rayquaza (Shred), Zekrom, and Victini (V-Create), it can be troublesome. Otherwise, you’re going to be trading a one prize Weavile for a two prize Rayquaza EX most of the time. Both sides are going to be fairly slow setting up, but you may want to be aggressive in this matchup. Take advantage of Tynamo’s low HP and get an early Vilify KO if you can. Do anything possible to have the prize gap small by the time you start hitting for 180 consistently with Weavile. If somehow this deck got very popular, you could consider Giant Cape to make Weavile survive Shred and V-Create, but I doubt it’s worth it.

We don't mind seeing this guy!

We don’t mind seeing this guy!

Garbodor: Ouch, this is going to be tough. Normally this deck plays two cards you don’t want to see, Landorus EX and Garbodor. Tool Scrapper is your saving grace here, but it’s not going to be pretty either way. You’ll have to do your best to take the Tools off the Garbodor so that you can get back Exeggcute with Propagation. Plus, you won’t be able to use Mr. Mime when Garbotoxin is in effect, meaning Landorus wreaks havoc on your poor Fighting weak Pokémon! Fortunately this deck also seems to be declining in popularity, and it can be rather inconsistent at times as well. A second Tool Scrapper would go a long way in helping this matchup, but it’s not worth the second spot in your deck. Just roll the dice on this one.

Klinklang: Boy, this has to be the easiest matchup out there for you. The deck is slow, attacks with EX Pokémon, and has no Energy acceleration. Basically Klinklang relies on Plasma Steel to beat decks, and you attack with a 90 HP non-EX wrecking machine. The deck isn’t very popular, but it’s an extremely good matchup! Hope to get paired against this all day.

Weavile breaks steel pretty easily.

Weavile breaks steel pretty easily.

Okay, all the other decks probably are not popular enough to worry about. (Hopefully I didn’t miss an obvious one and make myself look stupid.) Yes, there’s a chance you’ll run into an Excadrill deck (looking at you, Drew), but you can’t predict that. This brings me to the last point. You can’t beat everything. One of the biggest mistakes players make is trying to tech for every single matchup. Pick your battles; otherwise your deck will be beating itself with its inconsistency. Do your best to predict the metagame, adjust your deck accordingly, and leave the rest to fate. You can’t control your pairings at tournaments. Just make sure you’ve tested enough to know how to play the matchup with your list, no matter what it is.

When deciding if your deck is viable for a tournament, refer to this section. Would you be comfortable playing against top archetypes all day? If not, can you fix it? I wouldn’t recommend using the deck if you answered no to both of those questions! Don’t feel like you’re committed to using a deck just because you’ve put time into making the list better. Sometimes ideas just don’t work out. For example, I wouldn’t use this deck at a tournament. A bad matchup against the most popular deck (Plasma) and lots of low HP Basic Pokémon will make for a long day unless you’re very lucky.


Well, I hope this article helped a bit. If anything, maybe you look at building decks differently now. By the time you’ve decided on a list, you should be able to explain why all the cards – and how many of them – are in the deck. Often times players can agonize over that last spot in a deck, and it’s because they know one card can be all the difference in a list. Put in the time, talk it over with friends, and come up with the best list you can. From there, it’s up to you to pilot the deck. Good luck!

-Pooka

14 responses to “How to Develop a Decklist”

  1. K-Nine

    How do you expect to win with only 2 catchers and 9 energies? C’mon now. You’re gonna struggle getting out your energies a good chunk of your match. And I wouldn’t play less than 4 catchers. Catcher is one of the top key cards for winning your battles.

    1. Kyle Sucevich

      See, this is the entire point of the article. Your deck doesn’t need to fit the mold of a “standard” build to be successful. Catcher is incredible, but you can get away with running only 2 in this deck. As for the Energy, Weavile needs only 2 Energy to attack. When you combine Dark Patch, Super Rod, and Sableye’s Junk Hunt, 9 Energy + Energy Search is more than enough.

    2. killerpotatoe

      giving an eggs list was not the point of this article

  2. Damien

    Great article…..but you picked a terrible deck to make a list for…

    1. Kyle Sucevich

      Thanks. But even though this deck may not be the most competitive, it’s a good one to highlight because of all the options and dilemmas you have while building it.

  3. Gabe

    Weavile 4/4
    Eggsacute 4
    Darkrai 2
    Is so much better

  4. Richard Forrest

    One of the best articles I’ve read on this site, damn well written.

  5. killerpotatoe

    “In addition, you need to take full advantage of Exeggcute’s Propagation Ability to execute your strategy…”

    oh pooka…

  6. Megan Jester

    Thanks! This was really helpful :)

  7. zardtrainer010

    great article..this has been my trin of thought for the past month now

  8. Pokemandudeguy

    I really liked this article. For this past battle roads I didn’t want to play a normal deck, so I tried making a quad-Stunfisk deck. I went through the same process stated here and I tweaked my deck for bad match ups. At the end of the tournament I won with first place, showing everyone how to be creative with their decks (I also saw someone using quad-Stunfisk the next week at leagues).

  9. Terrence Lembat

    Thanks for the article. Just got into pokemon tcg recently and I’ve find that the game has changed a lot since. Anyway, this article was really helpful. Thanks ^^

  10. Malocide

    Good article I will linked my league to it hoping they will learn something even though its a bit complicated of a read for some of the youngins. It really describes a process that seems to have been lost in Pokemon as of late.

  11. Sorreah

    This was really great, as a new player, I feel I am learning a lot. I accidentally found pooka looking up beedrill decks. The only problem I have with this article, is it assumes you know what cards work with others and you have knowledge of all the cards. For someone that doesn’t know anything except the cards right in front of me, I wouldn’t even begin to know where to look for combos… (like how would I even know with weavile, eggxecute goes well with it?) aside from that, really great tips and wonderful examples of how to fine tune a deck