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Felidae_

Why do you lose? Chapter 1 – The Principle of Four

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Felidae_

Introduction

Hello and welcome to this 3 part tutorial series, where I'll try to end your losing streak and turn your mediocre win rate upside down. The series is mainly focused on beginner and intermediate level players, so don't set your hopes to high, if you are already rocking the current tier 1 deck.
In our first instalment we'll go over the basic rules of the game, as well as the core principle of solid deck building. Enjoy.

Disclaimer: The main idea behind this series is to make you a better player and deck builder. While you can substitute the second part simply by net decking the current “best” deck, understanding why a certain card is strong in a given scenario is a key aspect of becoming better overall.
Please also note that we aren't going to talk about trading and how to acquire packs here. The topics we'll discuss here are mutual on every level, no matter how big/small your collection is.


Learning to crawl: The Basics

On the surface level, Pokemon TCG is a game with a rather simplistic rule set. You draw one card per turn, attach an energy per turn, play one supporter per turn and attack once a turn. However, if we break each of those segments down, we'll discover that the game is actually a complex web of different decisions, that have long lasting impact on the outcome of a match. Which supporter do we play, which attack do we use and which Pokemon gets an energy attachment, if you make a bad choice, it could mean the difference between winning and losing.
If you started your journey with the Theme deck mode, you'll probably think that those decisions are rather linear, as you'll often only have a single supporter, or a clear candidate for your attacker. However, if we take a look at the constructed mode, you'll find yourself with a multitude of different options, starting by the creation of your very own deck.
Before we go in depth about deck building, one crucial thing has to be addressed. Not every card, be it a Pokemon, or a trainer / supporter card, is viable in this game. You can try to build a deck around your favourite Pokemon, using only trainer cards that start with the letter E, or try to cut down supporter cards from your deck entirely, but those are shackles that you are afflicting onto yourself and chances are that your opponents aren't playing by the same arbitrary rules. If you enjoy yourself, go for it, but please note that this series focusing on one thing and one thing only: winning the match.

Learning to walk: Finding the Solution

Although the Pokemon are the main stars of each deck, the trainer and supporter cards are the driving fuel that keeps your deck running. Without them you'd be reduced to drawing a single card each turn, which would lead to a rather random experience. Without cards like Ultra Ball, you aren't going to find your evolution cards in time,without the proper Stadium and Tool cards, your Pokemon might lose their small edge and without solid draw supporter you aren't going to find anything in time. Before you even consider getting your hands on multiple copies of your favourite Pokemon, you want to make sure that you get your basic trainer cards covered.
However, now we arrive at a tough roadblock, because how do we know which trainer and supporter cards are actually the best for our deck ? In order to solve this questions, we first need to gather which supporters are actually available in our desired format. In order to figure this out, we'll look at our collection, select “supporter”, as well as our format (Standard, Expanded, or Legacy) and then hit “show not owned”. Now we got a nice overview about ever supporter card we could play in our deck. Note that almost all of them are really cheap and you'll probably get the majority of them fro free, if you ask nicely on the forums, or on the in-game chat.
However, with all of those different cards at our disposal, we need to figure which ones are actually good.

We can divide the supporter category into two sub categories: draw supporter cards and utility supporter cards. As a general rule of thumb, you always want to run more draw supporter, as those are the cards you pretty much always want to play in the early turns of a game, as card draw helps you in developing your board, finds the resources you need and helps to dig for answers, if your opponent has the upper hand. In this category you are looking mainly for the amount of cards you draw. The more cards, the better are your chances of finding what you are looking for.
Utility supporter cards on the other hand are used to counter specific situations in the game. As an example of this, Brigette is currently played in many Standard decks, as a turn 1 Tapu Lele GX into Bridgette can lead to a very powerful start. However, if you don't happen to own Tapu Lele, Brigett becomes a rather redundant card, as the value of the supporter diminishes with each passing turn. Likewise, one copy of Kiawe can, once again with the help of Tapu Lele, support a strong fire type Pokemon on the first turn. Running the card without Lele leaves you, once again, with a diminishing value over time.
Of course you might read this now and say:

”But I don't own a Tapu Lele GX, how can I even compete against this?”

, which is a fair question indeed. The answer to this is actually quite simple: you have to construct your deck based around the cards you own ( or can get with ease) and this means that certain cards, that are staples in other decks, might not suit yourself.
A good example of this is the beloved combo of N and Professor Sycamore. Nearly every deck plays 4 copies of each card and nearly every suggestion towards newer players starts with those two cards. However, especially in the sense of Sycamore, the card might not suit your current deck, as discarding resources can become an issue, if you don't already have multiple copies of the important cards (see Learning to run: the principle of four). Make sure that you are able to play at least one supporter per turn and draw enough cards, in order to get access to our next category, trainer cards:

Unlike supporter cards, you can play as many trainer cards as you want during your turn. Since the majority of them interact in a positive way with your own board, you naturally want to play as many of them as possible (i.e. Aqua Patch, Max Elixier, Ultra Ball, etc.), which is one of the main reasons why you need a strong line of draw supporters. When we talk about trainer cards, one thing we need to consider is the element of randomness. Ideally, we want to draw everything we need, but give that this is still a card game, sometimes the odds are against us. Fortunately, with the help of trainer cards, we can greatly increase our odds. Let's imagine you run a 3-3 line of your main star (i.e. Alola Ninetales). Ideally you want to have multiple copies of the card out on the second turn, because this gives you a variety of options for the development of your board over the next turns. However, chances of drawing both Vulpix and Ninetales back to back, are rather low. Fortunately, we can increase our odds drastically by adding trainer cards to our deck that find our beloved Pokemon (Ultra Ball, Dive Ball, Brooklet Hill, etc.). Note that, unlike cards such as Pokeball, those cards don't add another random element to your deck ( like the flip of a coin). Furthermore, those cards inherently don't waste the main resources of your turn

( 1 energy, 1 supporter, 1 attack).
A lot of beginners tend to favour cards such as Steven, Wally and Poke Centre Lady, as they provide a reliable way to place Pokemon onto the bench ( or heal them), yet you are wasting a precious resources of your turn on something that you're likely able to find with your trainer cards as well. You wouldn't waste your attack, or your energy drop, so why waste your supporter ?
As a rule of thumb, you always want to run trainer cards over supporter cards, if both fulfil a similar role, unless one of those options is RNG based ( i.e. you want to you Superior Energy Retrieval over Fisherman, yet you don't want to run Pokemon Catcher over Lysandre / Guzma, due to the coin flip).

Learning to run: The principle of four

Now that we have gone over the basics of identifying good cards for your deck, let's talk about the next step: streamlining your build. Any deck you build must have a certain focus point, a centre of attention. I like to thing of those cards as the protagonist of a great blockbuster. Sure, the supporting cast is important as well, but without your main star you'll lose your audience in due time.
Most decks are nowadays centred around a specific Pokemon,  ( Gardevoir GX, Volcanion EX, Ninetales GX, Metagross GX, Vespiqueen), or a pair of Pokemon

( Drampa / Garbodor, Vikavolt / Tapu Bulu GX). Sometimes you build around a specific theme ( i.e. Nightmarch, Waterbox), but for the start it's best to settle on 1-2 Pokemon. In order to find a reliable Pokemon, we'll only look at a single criteria at the moment:
We need an attack that deals a reasonable amount of damage and can be used as early as turn 2.

This might be the most crucial part of any deck, yet a lot of players still fail to think multiple steps ahead. If your Pokemon needs multiple turns to set-up, this not only means that your opponent gets a free attack once, it means that every time your star gets KO'd, you once again need to build up another Pokemon, resulting in multiple free attacks on your opponents side. This is the overarching reason why poor old Charizard, as awesome as he looked, was always a horrible card, no matter the version. Keep in mind that, depending on the format and deck you play,you have different options to boost the energy count of your Pokemon ( Max Elixier, Dark- / Aqua Patch, DCE / DDE, Pokemon Abilities, etc.), so even an attack that requires 3 or even 4 energy can be ready on the second turn. The most crucial part for this to work is consistency. The less cards you require to set-up, the easier it is to get the set-up in every match, gradually increasing your win rate, as you wont have to waste precious turns to start your own engine.
When it comes to trainer and supporter cards, a lot of beginners tend to run way to many situational cards.

What if my Pokemon gets confused ? What if I don't draw an Energy card ? What if I discard something important ? How can I heal my Pokemon ?

All of those questions usually lead to a deck that is full of 1-off cards, that will overall just clog your engine, rather than helping you.

Let's take a look at a deck list that was posted on the forums a couple of months ago:


****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******
 
##Pokémon - 15
 
* 3 Lugia-EX AOR 68
* 2 Rayquaza GRI 106
* 3 Manectric-EX 
* 3 M Manectric-EX 
* 3 Raikou BKT 55
* 1 Oricorio GRI 55
 
##Trainer Cards - 25
 
* 2 Pokémon Fan Club FAC 107
* 1 Crushing Hammer EPO 92
* 2 Evosoda GEN 62
* 1 Exp. Share SUM 118
* 1 Lysandre ******
* 1 Team Flare Grunt XY 129
* 1 Fisherman BKT 136
* 1 Healing Scarf ROS 84
* 2 Pokémon Center Lady ******
* 2 Hau SUM 120
* 2 Muscle Band XY 121
* 2 VS Seeker *******
* 2 Professor Kukui SUM 128
* 1 Manectric Spirit Link *******
* 2 Cilan NXD 86
* 2 Switch BLW 104 
 
##Energy - 20
* 16 Lightning Energy 4
* 4 Double Colorless Energy SUM 136
 
Total Cards - 60
 
****** Deck List Generated by the Pokémon TCG Online www.pokemon.com/TCGO ******


As you can see, while the Pokemon line-up is quite solid, the trainer cards are all over the place. You can observe that the deck creator thought about a multitude of different scenarios and tried to incorporate an answer against everything in his deck, rather then focusing on getting his own engine to work properly in the first place.

Lets take a look at the suggestion by a fellow member on the forum:


4 Professor Sycamore BKP 107
2 Lysandre AOR 78
3 N FAC 105
1 Colress PLS 118*
1 Pokémon Center Lady GEN 68
2 Parallel City BKT 145
2 Rough Seas PRC 137
4 VS Seeker PHF 109
2 Float Stone BKT 137
3 Manectric Spirit Link PHF 100 (Have several for several Mega Man!)
3 Max Elixir BKP 102
3 Trainers' Mail ROS 92
4 Ultra Ball FAC 113
1 Computer Search BCR 137 (Expensive, but you could also try Dowsing Machine)


As you can see, the deck looks much smoother now. At this point you can adjust certain numbers to your own likening, but the template is never the less a solid basis to work on.

That was also noted by the original creator:


Thanks for the advice I fixed up the deck and it is preforming better now.



Alright, that about wraps it up for the first part. Next time we'll dive into the game and talk about strategy. How to approach the early, mid and late game. How to deal with Pokemon GX / EX. How to properly read your opponent and much much more. Stay tuned.

Felidae_

  • Upvote 11

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The-master12328

It didnt work for me :^(

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SuperLuigi231

This is a really good walkthrough! Easy to read and understand. Thanks for sharing it with the community! 

 

Just wanted to point out a couple of typos:

"Unlike supporter cards, you can play as many trainer cards as you want during your turn."

That's supposed to say item, right?

 

(i.e. Alola Ninetales)

Alolan?

To be fair, I did realize what you were referring to, so I guess it doesn't really matter.

 

Just minor nitpicking though; keep up the good work!

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Felidae_

This is a really good walkthrough! Easy to read and understand. Thanks for sharing it with the community! 

 

Just wanted to point out a couple of typos:

"Unlike supporter cards, you can play as many trainer cards as you want during your turn."

That's supposed to say item, right?

 

(i.e. Alola Ninetales)

Alolan?

To be fair, I did realize what you were referring to, so I guess it doesn't really matter.

 

Just minor nitpicking though; keep up the good work!

Oh, it's Alola in German, stupid me xD.

 

Yeah, I somehow have labled everything that isn't a support as a "trainer card" in my head, even though supporter are mainly a sub-category of trainer cards. ^^

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Ishobi

Nice walkthrough. Can't believe someone would actually put effort onto something like this. So thoughtful of you. How I wished I had this kind of guide back in the days so I don't have to self-explore. Anyway, it would be useful to the newbies of today ( especially the ranting ones). Good job, man!

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theotherguytm

Oh, it's Alola in German, stupid me xD.

 

Yeah, I somehow have labled everything that isn't a support as a "trainer card" in my head, even though supporter are mainly a sub-category of trainer cards. ^^

Back in the good old days of Gen IV, Items were actually called Trainers, leading to some confusion.

And of course in Base Set all you had was Trainers (4 Oaks per turn!). It's a fair thing.

Really good guide though, sums up pretty much everything I would tell a new player, and quite a lot more.

Looking forward to part #2!

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Sadra

Extremely well-written, being concise, accurate, while covering all the main points. 

 

Nice walkthrough. Can't believe someone would actually put effort onto something like this. So thoughtful of you. How I wished I had this kind of guide back in the days so I don't have to self-explore. Anyway, it would be useful to the newbies of today ( especially the ranting ones). Good job, man!

However, self-exploring is also essential for improving your skills as you will have an in-depth understanding of the combination of cards, the strategies you use, and answering you opponents yourself. This will allow you to make smart decisions, avoid misplays, and flexibly adjust your game plans when things dont work out.

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The_Real_Bug

Bump because i can.

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Mod_Rowan

Wow, this is awesome! Thanks for sharing, Felidae_!

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SuperLuigi231

If you're going to pin part 2, might as well pin part 1 as well. Definitely deserves it.

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Harion

i don't follow the 4 N, 4 sycamore advice i read here

i really dislike sycamore because it wastes your resources, and it brings you nearer to being milled quicker. sycamore is nice if you can find a reliable means of recovering discarded cards. there are other draw cards, though not nearly as powerful, that suits my playstyle. i know sycamore thins your deck, making things easier to find. but i just dislike losing by milling out.

N is just pure RNG. it can disrupt your opponent but it can also help them out, giving them that crucial card they need. i bring 1 N. that's it. i use it only when my opponent has more cards than prize cards left. if he has more prize cards than cards on hand, using N will just draw him more cards.

i wonder why 4 kukui isn't a staple. it's a draw card that boosts attack. i know it's tempting to use it to dig for answers even when you won't attack that turn, but as much as possible, i only use it when i know i'm attacking that turn. the only exception is when i really need to dig for answers.

Hala also seems a candidate for 4 copies and a staple in a GX deck. as well as skyla. with 4x skyla, you can bring many 1-off of situational cards and not suffer as much in terms of deck space.

i have no guzma, so escape rope is the best alternative.

 

i've played so many card games that i've found that all of them basically have universal rules to help you win.

1. you need draw power.

2. first move should always be drawing cards. if you can draw, draw first before doing any other action. this helps you see all of your options before taking any action.

3. know all the cards in the game.

4. net deck, then build your own later. start by tuning your theme decks. i waded out in PvP with nothing but a tuned theme deck. i'm a johnny, so i don't like net decking if i can avoid it. after all, the joy of playing TCGs/CCGs for me is the deck building part and seeing it all come together when I play the deck I built myself.

5. read guides like the OP made.

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BowserLuigi

 

i don't follow the 4 N, 4 sycamore advice i read here

 

i really dislike sycamore because it wastes your resources, and it brings you nearer to being milled quicker. sycamore is nice if you can find a reliable means of recovering discarded cards. there are other draw cards, though not nearly as powerful, that suits my playstyle. i know sycamore thins your deck, making things easier to find. but i just dislike losing by milling out.

 

N is just pure RNG. it can disrupt your opponent but it can also help them out, giving them that crucial card they need. i bring 1 N. that's it. i use it only when my opponent has more cards than prize cards left. if he has more prize cards than cards on hand, using N will just draw him more cards.

 

i wonder why 4 kukui isn't a staple. it's a draw card that boosts attack. i know it's tempting to use it to dig for answers even when you won't attack that turn, but as much as possible, i only use it when i know i'm attacking that turn. the only exception is when i really need to dig for answers.

 

Hala also seems a candidate for 4 copies and a staple in a GX deck. as well as skyla. with 4x skyla, you can bring many 1-off of situational cards and not suffer as much in terms of deck space.

 

i have no guzma, so escape rope is the best alternative.

 

 

 

i've played so many card games that i've found that all of them basically have universal rules to help you win.

 

1. you need draw power.

 

2. first move should always be drawing cards. if you can draw, draw first before doing any other action. this helps you see all of your options before taking any action.

 

3. know all the cards in the game.

 

4. net deck, then build your own later. start by tuning your theme decks. i waded out in PvP with nothing but a tuned theme deck. i'm a johnny, so i don't like net decking if i can avoid it. after all, the joy of playing TCGs/CCGs for me is the deck building part and seeing it all come together when I play the deck I built myself.

 

5. read guides like the OP made.

Sycamore is used because it's the most reliable. Drawing 7 cards is huge compared to most other supporters. You just need to manage your resources well. That's why you play multiple copies of your key cards. You don't need to use every single card in your deck. And sometimes sacrifices have to be made but believe me more often Sycamore will help you more than he hurts. You can sometimes use the discard to your advantage as well, for example discarding dark energies so you can have Yveltal Oblivion Wing them onto your bench.

 

 

 

There are many amazing things you can do with N and you're really missing out if you don't play more than a single copy. Don't wanna discard cards with sycamore early game, use N instead. See your opponent used Algorithm/Big Wheel, pop an N and make them waste their GX. Opponent has 1/2 prizes left? An N will **********) slow them down drastically. You think N's worthless when you're winning? Oh no he's not. If you have an octillery or (to a lesser extent, oranguru) on your bench, you can somewhat negate the disadvantage of drawing fewer cards with N, while still able to disrupt your opponent (assuming they don't have their own octillery/oranguru). Finally, when you're winning but about to deck out, use the low draw to your advantage and play N to shuffle cards back into your deck, buying you more time.

 

 

 

Why do people not play 4 Hala? Cuz you absolutely need to GX ASAP if you are gonna get any good use out of him. And no even if you're playing say Drampa or Metagross with their 1 energy GXes there's no guarantee you will want to use them immediately. And sometimes you may want to save your GX for a critical moment. And a 4 card draw is pathetic compared to sycamore who always draws 7 cards. Hala is still played but no one plays 4 copies.

 

 

 

Kukui is more common in the VS seeker era but not so much now. The reason is that while the 20 damage boost is useful, the 2 card draw isn't. But without vs seeker to reliably recycle him, there's no guarantee that he'll be in your hand when you needed it the most. Some decks still play him but there's really no reason to play 4. Why would you want to Kukui for 2 when you can fish for 7 with sycamore?

 

 

 

Believe it or not, Skyla used to be played in 3s or even 4s in the past. But she suffers from the same problem as Kukui: useful in some cases but very situational. She's primarily there to draw items, particularly rare candy. And in a vs seeker environment it's not a bad idea to include 1. Skyla is still played nowadays but she's not a candidate for 4 copies cuz she doesn't do enough to warrant that many copies in a deck. And no, drawing a supporter with her is horribly inefficient. You need to wait one turn to use said supporter and it might get hit by N. 1 copy is nice and she has fantastic FAs but playing 4 just clogs up your deck.

 

 

 

Escape rope is no Guzma replacement. But he's not that hard to get multiple copies of. Try 3-4 in every deck. You won't regret it.

 

 

 

Preferred first supporter in the game is actually Brigette or Kiawe for most decks (Kiawe for fire decks). But make sure you have a sycamore or N or some other reliable draw ready for next turn.

 

 

 

I hope this helps clear a few misconceptions and I assure you that once you get used to sycamore and N, your deck will improve.

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Mod_Alder

Great post! Thanks for your well written post Felidae.

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Felidae_

i don't follow the 4 N, 4 sycamore advice i read here

i really dislike sycamore because it wastes your resources, and it brings you nearer to being milled quicker. sycamore is nice if you can find a reliable means of recovering discarded cards. there are other draw cards, though not nearly as powerful, that suits my playstyle.

I marked the important paragraph in bolt for you.

 

A good example of this is the beloved combo of N and Professor Sycamore. Nearly every deck plays 4 copies of each card and nearly every suggestion towards newer players starts with those two cards. However, especially in the sense of Sycamore, the card might not suit your current deck, as discarding resources can become an issue, if you don't already have multiple copies of the important cards (see Learning to run: the principle of four). Make sure that you are able to play at least one supporter per turn and draw enough cards, in order to get access to our next category, trainer cards:

 

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