Wasn't sure where to post this, so putting it here. This is a step-by-step guide for new players to maximize their time and get custom-deck-competitive as soon as possible. At least, it's my opinion on how best to do that.
1. Do the tutorial.
2. Put in one of the free codes that give you Rallying Cry. Google for these.
3. Log in every day and do your daily challenge. Pick the one w/ the most XP. If possible, also complete the daily versus ladder via theme deck battles.
4. Do trainer battles using the three starter decks until each one is maxed out with its power-ups. This happens at seven wins, on a given deck.
a. If there's a trainer you haven't beaten yet, always fight that one.
b. If one of the three starter decks has a type-advantage against that trainer, e.g. fire vs. grass, then use that deck.
c. Otherwise, choose the deck that's the one farthest away from seven wins.
d. If you've already won 7 battles with one of the starter decks then don't use it again for trainer battles; that's not a good use of your time.
5. Once you've maxed out the three starter decks, use them to fight Theme deck versus battles until you get 500 tokens.
6. Once you have 500 tokens, buy a new theme deck. Based on forum comments, Imperial Command and Mach Strike seem to be popular choices, but I'm sure others are strong as well.
7. Use your new deck to fight Theme versus battles until you've completed the daily ladder, if you haven't already. Do this each day. Completing it takes 11 wins. With a good purchased theme deck (i.e. not one of the starter decks) you should win 75% of your theme versus battles. That was my experience, at least. If you want to minimize the time it takes to complete the daily ladder then immediately concede any match where you have a disadvantage (indicated by a gold coin next to your opponent's name in the pre-match screen) and/or any match where your opponent has a type-advantage vs. your deck, e.g. he's fire and you're grass.
8. At this point you can either:
a. Continue to fight theme versus battles to make progress towards the weekly ladder, or
b. Fight trainer battles using your new deck to work toward 12 wins and a booster pack. If you go this route, then choose the trainer to fight as follows:
i. if there's a trainer you haven't beaten yet then fight that one, otherwise
ii. pick a trainer that your new theme deck has a type-advantage against; this makes the match take as little time as possible. However,
iii. Don't fight a trainer you've already beaten 4 times unless you've already beaten all of them 4 times, in which case pick whichever one your decks matches up best against.
A. If you haven't completed the daily ladder then don't fight trainer battles. If you're in jeopardy of not at least reaching the next-to-last rung on the weekly ladder then don't fight trainer battles. If neither of those is the case, i.e. you've completed the daily ladder and you're on-course to reaching the next-to-last rung on the weekly ladder, *then* you can fight trainer battles.
B. When applicable, make your trainer battles do the most for you. Ideally with each match you're getting a win on a theme deck that doesn't yet have 12 wins *and* getting a win against a trainer you don't yet have 4 wins against. (At some point, when you've beaten all the trainers 4 times, that part no longer applies.)
C. Buy a new theme deck each time you hit 500 tokens. If you have any GX cards already, then start thinking of what sort of trainers you might want to surround them with in a custom deck. Figure out which theme decks have those trainers and purchase those theme decks. Not every trainer is available from a theme deck, but many are. See below for info on how to identify which theme deck has a given trainer. Unless you're buying two Mach Strike decks in order to form a custom deck (which seems to be a common suggestion), or unless you're trying to get more of a particular trainer (that isn't available in any other theme deck) then don't buy duplicate theme decks.
By the time you've defeated every trainer 4 times you should have 4-5 theme decks purchased and several booster packs from: progress on weekly ladder, winning 12 trainer battles with each purchased theme deck, beating each trainer 4 times, and progress on the "log in every day" ladder. This will probably take about a week, but that's just a guess. At this point you should have a variety of trainers from the theme decks you purchased, somewhere from 1 to 3 GX cards, and a wide variety of trainers. You now have the tools to build a custom deck that hopefully won't get spanked in non-theme versus play.
To figure out which theme deck has a given card:
1. In the TCGO app, navigate to the deck construction interface.
2. Click on the tab for the card type you're trying to locate, e.g. pokemon, trainer, etc.
3. Click the check box to "show all" instead of only the cards you own.
4. Search for your card by name. You should get several different versions in the results.
5. Examine each card and note the symbol that indicates which expansion it belongs to.
6. Match the symbol to a name using one of the sites that come up when you google "pokemon expansion symbols". I tried to include links here but the forum filtered them out.
7. To find out which theme decks, if any, came with that expansion, google "pokemon tcg expansions" and click the link that goes to this site.
a. Search for the expansion by name, e.g. "Lost Thunder"
b. Click on the link to go to the "details" page for that expansion.
c. At the left side bar there's a link to the theme decks that go with that expansion, if there are any. Click that link.
d. Note the names of the theme decks, e.g. for "Lost Thunder" the decks are "Blazing Volcano" and "Storm Caller"
e. Go back into the TCGO app and navigate to the store section.
f. Click on the tab for "decks" and search for the theme decks you noted above.
g. Click on the "eyeball" icon to see the cards in that deck and check whether it contains the trainer you're looking for.
Special notes about tournaments:
Until you get a custom deck that you're regularly winning 75% of your Standard/Expanded versus battles with, don't enter Standard/Expanded tournaments. Instead, enter Theme deck tournaments and use your "strongest" purchased theme deck. These are usually better than the three starter decks. Theme tournaments neutralize the deck advantage other players have against you and give you better ROI on your ticket investment. The one counterargument to this: you might be able to achieve better ROI by entering Standard/Expanded tournaments if you build an "anti-GX" deck (using cards that are immune to EX/GX attacks or that do extra damage against them) or one that's gimmicky (e.g. a deck full of Rotoms with "Roto Moter", a bunch of tool cards, trainers that let you discard cards, and no energy). Barring those types of decks, though, you're almost surely better served by limiting yourself to theme deck tournaments.
Edited by buddyglass, 07 February 2019 - 06:16 PM.