The Complete Guide to Building Winning Pokémon TCG Decks

Winning Deck

Let me start by saying that I’m no Pokémon World Champion. I’m just your average joe, who likes playing Pokémon TCG and is pretty competitive. After discovering Pokémon TCG last year, I’ve only recently become more involved in the local competitive scene.

I played my first two tournaments the other day and after losing (badly) I realized I needed a more competitive deck. After researching the decks that top players used, looking for advice on deck building and more, I set out to build a new, more competitive Pokémon TCG deck for myself.

My old deck had a win ratio of 46%, but my new deck has helped me to win 76% of my matchups! That’s a 30% increase in the number of wins I’m getting!

To help you achieve the similar results, here’s everything I learned from general deck building tips, to tips on how to construct a deck affordably and even some of the example decks that served as my inspiration:

8 tips for building a competitive Pokémon TCG deck:

These 8 tips were the best advice I’d received on building a Pokémon TCG deck that’ll win matches:

1. Know the current legal card sets

It’s basic, but a necessary point for both new players and older collectors alike. Pokémon tournaments only allow certain expansions of cards in their gameplay. If you don’t know the current legal card sets, you may be forced to take out many of your decks cards.

You can find the tournament legal card sets here.

2. Know which cards have been banned, and which have been changed

While it’s rare, sometimes a card is banned from tournament play or modified so that it’s more balanced. There doesn’t seem to be a good online source for these cards as they are so rare, but if you keep up with Pokémon TCG news and ask at local clubs you can find out fairly quickly.

3. Discover your playstyle

There are two main playstyles in Pokémon TCG. Slow and Steady or Fast and Heavy. Other playstyles exist outside of these, but these two make a great starting point. Slow and steady play styles tend to take their time using conditions, energy removals, and more to frustrate and take down their opponent.

Fast and Heavy play styles tend to focus on putting out as much damage as possible as quickly as possible. If your goal is to one hit every Pokémon you face, you’ll find a fast and heavy playstyle suites you most.

4. Go to local tournaments to see which cards they use

Another important step is to look at the decks used in your local tournaments. Analyze their strengths and weaknesses and learn the cards which counter their decks. Building a deck that counters those currently popular is a powerful way to ensure victory.

5. Choose only a few main Pokémon

Competitive decks tend to use only a few main Pokémon. The best decks start by choosing the Pokémon they wish to use as their main Pokémon and then choosing Pokémon, trainer cards, and energies that support those Pokémon.

6. Use a ton of trainer cards

One mistake many rookie players make is using too many energies and Pokémon. Most pro decks use between 30-40 trainer cards. Winning consistently at Pokémon TCG requires you to focus on slowing down your opponent and speeding up yourself.

7. Build your deck to do one thing really well

If there’s one thing you should avoid at all costs, it’s building a jack of all trades deck. Decks that are designed to be okay in many situations will only win few matches. A better idea is to build a deck that does one thing and does it well. These decks do run the risk of a bad matchup every now and then, but will win more consistently than a deck design to be okay at everything.

8. Every card should be in your deck on purpose

You may be thinking: “of course every card is in my deck on purpose, I built it!”, but how many cards are in your deck because you needed a few extra to hit 60. There are probably energies that you don’t need, trainer cards that are just filler, and more that should be cut out and replaced with more purposeful choices.

Play testing your deck

One of the most important (and most under rated) keys to building a competitive deck is play testing. Many players will struggle to play test their decks, but if you follow this simple process you’ll be successfully playtesting in no time:

How to play test your deck:

  1. Play a few matches with your deck against various opponents (or at least various decks)
  2. After the matches end take time to look at all the cards in your deck
  3. Ask yourself what you did wrong in those matches
  4. Ask yourself how you could improve your deck, your playstyle, and your strategy
  5. Make changes to your deck based on these questions
  6. Repeat

Over time, you’ll want to track how well your deck performs with the additional changes. Keep track of how often you win and how often you lose. This will help to ensure you're constantly making your deck better and not worse.

How to build a deck on a budget

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually need to drop a large amount of cash to get a competitive deck. You can build several top performing decks for less than $100. Here’s how to build an inexpensive deck:

Collections and Tins

If you’re looking for powerful Pokémon, you can’t go wrong with a couple of tins and collections. These usually feature a powerful Pokémon card and booster packs and can help you pick up a few powerful main Pokémon.

Theme decks

Official decks used to be a joke, but now offer powerful cards. They’re still relatively unbalanced featuring too many Pokémon and energy, but you can fix that by picking up 2 decks and combining the cards with to find a favorable balance of trainer cards, Pokémon cards and energy cards.

Individual Cards

By shopping on ebay and at card shops, you can find specific cards. This is great if you’re looking for a particular card, but can be time consuming and requires a bit of shopping around to find the best prices. You also need to double check that the cards are playable in tournaments as some people sell cards which can not be played.

2015 Pokémon World Championship Decks

If you need a little more inspiration, or want to see what kind of decks the pros use, this list of the top 8 decks in the 2015 Pokémon World Championship Master Division is sure to help:

1. Archie's Blastoise Deck List

Pokémon - 14

  • 2 Blastoise PLB 16
  • 3 Keldeo-EX BCR 49
  • 2 Jirachi-EX PLB 98
  • 2 Shaymin-EX ROS 106
  • 2 Exeggcute PLF 4
  • 1 Articuno ROS 17
  • 1 Mewtwo-EX NXD 98
  • 1 Wailord-EX PRC 147

Trainer Cards - 35

  • 2 Archie's Ace in the Hole PRC 157
  • 2 Professor Juniper PLF 116
  • 1 Lysandre FLF 104
  • 1 N DEX 96
  • 4 Acro Bike PRC 122
  • 4 Battle Compressor Team Flare Gear PHF 92
  • 4 Superior Energy Retrieval PLF 103
  • 4 Trainers' Mail ROS 92
  • 4 Ultra Ball PLF 122
  • 4 VS Seeker PHF 109
  • 1 Float Stone PLF 99
  • 1 Muscle Band XY 121
  • 1 Computer Search BCR 137
  • 2 Rough Seas PRC 137

Energy - 11

  • 11 Water Energy XY 134

2. Seismitoad Bats Deck List

Pokémon - 18

  • 3 Seismitoad-EX FFI 20
  • 3 Crobat PHF 33
  • 4 Golbat PHF 32
  • 4 Zubat PLS 53
  • 2 Mewtwo-EX NXD 54
  • 2 Shaymin-EX ROS 106

Trainer Cards - 35

  • 4 Professor Juniper PLF 116
  • 3 N DEX 96
  • 2 Xerosic PHF 119
  • 1 AZ PHF 117
  • 1 Colress PLS 135
  • 1 Lysandre FLF 104
  • 4 Hypnotoxic Laser PLS 123
  • 4 Super Scoop Up FFI 100
  • 4 Ultra Ball PLF 122
  • 4 VS Seeker PHF 109
  • 3 Muscle Band XY 121
  • 1 Computer Search BCR 137
  • 3 Virbank City Gym PLS 126

Energy - 7

  • 4 Double Colorless Energy XY 130
  • 3 Water Energy XY 134

3. Seismitoad Bats Deck List

Pokémon - 15

  • 3 Seismitoad-EX FFI 20
  • 4 Zubat PLS 53
  • 3 Golbat PHF 32
  • 2 Crobat PHF 33
  • 2 Shaymin-EX ROS 77
  • 1 Mewtwo-EX LTR 54

Trainer Cards - 37

  • 4 Professor Juniper PLF 116
  • 3 N DEX 96
  • 2 Lysandre FLF 104
  • 1 AZ PHF 117
  • 1 Colress PLS 135
  • 1 Pokémon Center Lady FLF 105
  • 1 Xerosic PHF 119
  • 4 Hypnotoxic Laser PLS 123
  • 4 Ultra Ball PLF 122
  • 4 VS Seeker PHF 109
  • 3 Muscle Band XY 121
  • 3 Super Scoop Up FFI 100
  • 2 Head Ringer Team Flare Hyper Gear PHF 97
  • 1 Computer Search BCR 137
  • 3 Virbank City Gym PLS 126

Energy - 8

  • 4 Water Energy XY 134
  • 4 Double Colorless Energy XY 130

4. Nightmarch Deck List

Pokémon - 19

  • 4 Joltik PHF 26
  • 4 Pumpkaboo PHF 44
  • 4 Lampent PHF 42
  • 4 Shaymin-EX ROS 106
  • 3 Mew-EX DRX 120

Trainer Cards - 34

  • 2 Lysandre FLF 104
  • 2 N DEX 96
  • 2 Professor Juniper PLF 116
  • 4 Battle Compressor Team Flare Gear PHF 92
  • 4 Trainers' Mail ROS 92
  • 4 Ultra Ball PLF 122
  • 4 VS Seeker PHF 109
  • 3 Acro Bike PRC 122
  • 1 Float Stone PLF 99
  • 1 Hard Charm XY 119
  • 1 Muscle Band XY 121
  • 1 Silver Bangle PLB 88
  • 1 Computer Search BCR 137
  • 4 Dimension Valley PHF 93

Energy - 7

  • 3 Lightning Energy XY 135
  • 4 Double Colorless Energy XY 130

5. Gengar EX Deck List

Pokémon - 14

  • 4 Trevenant XY 55
  • 4 Phantump XY 54
  • 3 Gengar-EX PHF 34
  • 2 Shaymin-EX ROS 106
  • 1 Jirachi-EX PLB 98

Trainer Cards - 36

  • 4 N DEX 96
  • 4 Professor Juniper PLF 116
  • 3 Wally ROS 107
  • 2 Lysandre FLF 104
  • 1 Colress PLS 135
  • 4 Ultra Ball PLF 122
  • 4 VS Seeker PHF 109
  • 3 Float Stone PLF 99
  • 3 Muscle Band XY 121
  • 3 Trainers' Mail ROS 92
  • 1 Computer Search BCR 137
  • 2 Silent Lab PRC 140
  • 2 Virbank City Gym PLS 126

Energy - 10

  • 2 Psychic Energy XY 136
  • 4 Double Colorless Energy XY 130
  • 4 Mystery Energy PHF 112

6. Fairy Box Deck List

Pokémon - 17

  • 2 Aromatisse XY 93
  • 2 Spritzee FLF 67
  • 1 Spritzee XY 92
  • 3 Seismitoad-EX FFI 106
  • 1 Mewtwo-EX NXD 98
  • 1 Cobalion-EX PLS 133
  • 1 Charizard-EX FLF 12
  • 1 Malamar-EX PHF 115
  • 1 Jirachi-EX PLB 98
  • 1 Keldeo-EX BCR 142
  • 1 Manectric-EX PHF 113
  • 1 M Manectric-EX PHF 24
  • 1 Trevenant-EX PRC 145

Trainer Cards - 31

  • 4 N DEX 96
  • 4 Professor Juniper PLF 116
  • 2 Colress PLS 135
  • 2 Lysandre FLF 104
  • 1 AZ PHF 117
  • 1 Pokémon Fan Club FLF 106
  • 1 Xerosic PHF 119
  • 3 Max Potion PLF 121
  • 3 VS Seeker PHF 109
  • 2 Muscle Band XY 121
  • 2 Ultra Ball PLF 122
  • 1 Sacred Ash FLF 96
  • 1 Computer Search BCR 137
  • 4 Fairy Garden XY 117

Energy - 12

  • 4 Rainbow Energy XY 131
  • 3 Double Colorless Energy XY 130
  • 5 Fairy Energy XY 140

7. Donphan Deck List

Pokémon - 14

  • 4 Donphan PLS 72
  • 4 Phanpy PLS 71
  • 4 Hawlucha FFI 63
  • 1 Bunnelby PRC 121
  • 1 Mr. Mime PLF 47

Trainer Cards - 36

  • 4 Korrina FFI 111
  • 4 N DEX 96
  • 4 Professor Juniper PLF 116
  • 2 Lysandre FLF 104
  • 1 Colress PLS 135
  • 4 Robo Substitute Team Flare Gear PHF 102
  • 4 VS Seeker PHF 109
  • 2 Focus Sash FFI 91
  • 2 Muscle Band XY 121
  • 1 Repeat Ball PRC 136
  • 1 Revive ROS 88
  • 1 Silver Bangle PLB 88
  • 1 Ultra Ball PLF 122
  • 1 Computer Search BCR 137
  • 3 Fighting Stadium FFI 90
  • 1 Silent Lab PRC 140

Energy - 10

  • 4 Fighting Energy XY 137
  • 4 Strong Energy FFI 104
  • 2 Double Colorless Energy XY 130

8. Night March Deck List

Pokémon - 17

  • 4 Joltik PHF 26
  • 4 Pumpkaboo PHF 44
  • 4 Lampent PHF 42
  • 2 Mew-EX DRX 120
  • 3 Shaymin-EX ROS 77

Trainer Cards - 36

  • 3 Professor Juniper PLF 116
  • 2 Lysandre FLF 104
  • 1 N DEX 96
  • 4 Battle Compressor Team Flare Gear PHF 92
  • 4 Trainers' Mail ROS 92
  • 4 Ultra Ball PLF 122
  • 4 VS Seeker PHF 109
  • 3 Acro Bike PRC 122
  • 2 Muscle Band XY 121
  • 1 Escape Rope PRC 127
  • 1 Float Stone PLF 99
  • 1 Revive ROS 88
  • 1 Town Map BCR 136
  • 1 Computer Search BCR 137
  • 4 Dimension Valley PHF 93

Energy - 7

  • 3 Lightning Energy XY 135
  • 4 Double Colorless Energy XY 130

Sometimes a competitive deck is drastically different...

Now, while the decks above, and tips on how to build a better deck will help - it’s important to note that not all decks adhere to the competitive deck building best practices. For example, Enrique Avila's Wailord EX deck doesn’t use any energy cards and never attacks. With only 7 Pokémon and 53 trainer cards, it’s truly a unique deck:

Wailord EX Deck List

Pokémon - 7

  • 4 Wailord-EX PRC 38
  • 3 Suicune PLB 20

Trainer Cards - 53

  • 3 N DEX 96
  • 4 Pokémon Fan Club FLF 94
  • 3 Skyla BCR 134
  • 2 Hugh BCR 130
  • 4 Cassius XY 115
  • 4 AZ PHF 117
  • 4 Team Flare Grunt XY 129
  • 1 Xerosic PHF 110
  • 2 Lysandre FLF 90
  • 4 VS Seeker PHF 109
  • 3 Enhanced Hammer PHF 94
  • 4 Max Potion PLF 121
  • 4 Hard Charm XY 119
  • 1 Trick Shovel FLF 98
  • 1 Startling Megaphone FLF 97
  • 1 Dowsing Machine PLS 128
  • 1 Sacred Ash FLF 96
  • 4 Rough Seas PRC 137
  • 2 Silent Lab PRC 140
  • 1 Shauna PHF 104

Energy - 0

Answering commonly asked questions:

Q: How many energy cards should you have in your Pokémon deck?

A: There is no one correct answer, but competitive decks tend to average around 9 energy cards.

Q: How many Pokémon should you have in your Pokémon deck?

A: There is no one correct answer, but competitive decks tend to average around 16 Pokémon.

Q: How many trainer cards should you have in your Pokémon deck?

A: There is no one correct answer, but competitive decks tend to average around 35 trainer cards.

That was a lot of information...

There’s more than 2,000 words in this guide, and we haven’t even discussed strategy! That just goes to show that building a deck is complicated, and to build one that will win, you’ll need to learn and play as much as possible.

Feel free to bookmark this page, and let us know on Facebook if you’ve got any questions. We’ll be more than glad to help you out with your deck!


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