Here is where I may be of some use to you all: classifying stuff. XP I've never found a perfect system, but here are some of the ways I've seen over the years that help. Sorry for newer players, but I'll be referencing the early days of the game, from Base Set only to (approximately) Base Set through Team Rocket, because that metagame is more "solved" than the modern one. Please pardon the length of this reply.
Core Win Conditions
There have always been at least three win conditions in the Pokémon TCG, and they dictate the general strategies:
- Knock Out (win by taking all your Prizes)
- Bench Out (win by running your opponent out of Pokémon)
- Deck Out (win by running your opponent out of cards)
- Effect Out (win through an alternate condition)
While Bench Outs and Deck Outs happen, Knock Outs are how the game is won the vast majority of the time. Bench Outs are probably the next most common; while only a major threat at select times in the history of the game, they're an easy "incidental" win for decks pursuing a win by Knock Out. A similar phenomenon is why true wins through Deck Out are rare; unless you're able to rapidly deck out your opponent or your deck takes few or no KO's, by the time your opponent decks out you may have already taken all your Prizes.
There have been additional win conditions introduced over the years, in the form of various "You win if [insert condition is satisfied]." effects introduced through specific cards. They are not only rare because they tie into specific cards that may predate Expanded (Lost World) or are about to be banned (Unown "DAMAGE"), but also run that same risk where you end up winning or may as well have focused on winning due to another method.
Keeping the above in mind, we've seen six overarching strategies emerge. I'm pretty sure they all predate the Pokémon TCG. It is actually pretty rare for a deck to run only one of these, and some technically must exist as at least a hybrid:
- Alternate - Alternate Win Conditions like (Unown DAMAGE)
- Beatdown - A deck focused on winning through taking Prizes by attacking.
- Control - Achieving a win through controlling an opponent's actions, technically requires an additional condition.
- Direct - A deck focused on winning through taking Prizes without attacking.
- Mill - A deck focused on winning by running the other player out of cards.
- Stall - A deck that wins by simply not losing; technically requires another win condition.
If "direct" sounds odd, that's because I actually refer to it as "Burn", because its a concept that transcends games and thus precedes the Special Condition. I'm open to suggestions for a better name. ^^' "Effect" sounds like "Alternate", which is why I didn't use that. As for why I went with such a divide, I had to ask how much of a difference it makes whether one is attacking for damage or attacking to place damage counters? To actually just take a Prize without doing anything to an opponent's Pokémon?
Seriously, I just had to take three tries on that last sentence because I wanted to say "directly", which means the "Direct" classification still needs a better name! >_<
I've seen this used for just deck efficacy or just a deck's actual usage at tournaments, including myself, but considering both is probably the best approach. Because I play too many video games, I actually prefer to use "Ranks" with "Letters", but I'll stick with the numbers I see more often. All of these are assuming that all other factors are equal, which is almost never the case. The lower the number in a Tier, the stronger and/or more played it is; generally speaking, what keeps higher numbered Tiers from winning are either competition from each other or from the lower numbers.
Tier Zero isn't always agreed to exist; it is for the kind of "problem" decks that may necessitate a ban, errata, hard-counter, rotation, etc. to remedy the situation. After that, each Tier represents a coherent, functionally structured deck. Tiers can fluctuate due to the metagame, even when trying to otherwise assume all things are equal.
During the early days of the game, Base Set through Team Rocket (and prior), all remotely competitive decks included at least a few Control elements (Energy Removal, Gust of Wind, etc.) so when I list something as Control, I mean more than that.
the Tier 1 deck appears to have been Haymaker and its variants. Haymaker was a beatdown/control deck that specifically only ran Basic Pokémon. Lore has it that the deck was named after an early, erroneous translation of the second attack found on Hitmonchan (Base Set). Its variants could run Evolutions. There are too many to name them all, but besides different combinations of potent, Basic Pokémon attackers, some would run Wigglytuff (Jungle) as an attacker, Aerodactyl (Fossil) as a Bench-sitter, Muk (Fossil) as a Bench-sitter, or try to include an attacker that matched each Weakness (Potpourri decks).
Tier 2 was Blastoise (Base Set) a.k.a. Rain Dance, a beatdown deck, and Wigglytuff backed by Muk (beatdown/control).
Tier 3 has several "near misses", like the decks built around Alakazam (Base Set) and its "Damage Swap" Pokémon Power, sometimes known as "the Wall Stall". This was a control/stall deck. Venusaur (Base Set) decks were another one; usually a beatdown/stall deck with an added focus on healing, it was also known as "Venucenter". I also recall an Arcanine (Base Set) deck known as "Turbo Puppy" that as a decent "budget" pick, though due to card prices at the time it may not have seemed all that affordable.
Decks often shifted Tiers; sometimes Rain Dance was legitimately Tier 1; it was a very solid strategy. Sometimes Damage Swap or Venucenter were effectively Tier 1 because even people running better decks didn't realize how to effectively neutralize their strategies. The iconic Haymaker deck actually was more like Tier 2 by some point between Fossil and Team Rocket, due to Mewtwo (WotC Black Star Promos 3, 14) a.k.a. "Movie Promo Mewtwo". If you are okay with it being part of Haymaker (I was), even using it in a Hitmonchan-less Haymaker (again, I was), then Haymaker was still top tier.
As a final note, joke decks like Mulligan's Mewtwo sometimes faked being competitive because of the combination of card scarcity, ignorance of strategy, and misundestood rulings.
Edited by Otakutron, 03 February 2019 - 01:11 AM.
If you do not have Private Messages enabled, it really limits you in discussing the Pokémon TCG.