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GUIDE -Deck Building (For beginners)


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A great deal of this guide is built upon the work of others.

My hope is that @mod  will consider this good enough to pin in this forum so we can avoid repeating the same advice to new deck builders.


If you're just starting out read this good advice from Otakutron.

On 3/29/2021 at 8:05 AM, Otakutron said:

Here is how I suggest you work your way up in the PTCGO.  However, I haven't had to use it in a little while, so there may be some outdated bits, and it sounds like you're not starting from scratch, though the first step still applies:


  1. Save! Save! Save!  The game is pretty generous with in-game rewards but if you spend them poorly, it won't seem like it.  I'll explain more but I worry if I don't start with that... well, people won't read the corresponding step until it is too late. XP
  2. Play the Trainer Challenge.  If you're completely new to the Pokémon TCG or just struggling to get used to how the PTCGO controls, complete the Trainer Challenge.
  3. Save up 500 Tokens.  It used to be completing the Trainer Challenge meant you'd reach this goal, but not always.  Daily Log In Bonuses and the Reward Challenges are your friends.
  4. Buy a competitive Theme Deck for the Theme Format.  We'll worry about other Formats later; your first goal is to get a modern Theme Deck you can win with in the Theme Format.  Exactly what you get will vary according to the "metagame", the competitive cardpool (or in this case, selection of Theme Decks).  Anything more than two years old is not going to be a good choice.
  5. Practice with your new Theme Deck in the Trainer Challenge.  Yes, even if you're a good player!  You need to learn the basics of it and if you win enough games against different computer opponent's (I think it is 12) you'll get a tradelocked booster pack as a bonus.
  6. Use your new Theme Deck to grind the Reward Ladder.  You're not just trying to rack up wins and rewards, though.  You get 10 "victory points" for a win (I think that is the term the ladder uses).  Get enough VPs to earn rewards.  There are some bonuses you can earn for more VP (we can explain that later), and even if you lose, you get 1 VP per Knock Out you scored, up to five.

    You also need to learn the metagame.  You don't have to have your decklist memorized and its strategy perfectly learned, but you need to have an idea.  You also need to start developing an idea about the other competitive Theme Decks.  Eventually, you should have at least an idea of what is in each competitive Theme Deck, and the amounts for key cards.  For example, if a deck has access to healing cards, you'll want to remember how many so you don't blunder into a bad situation where they avoid getting KO'd and turn the game around through healing.
  7. Save Up Tickets.  The PTCGO requires you spend "Tickets" to enter online tournaments (under the Events tab).  You can earn Tickets through your Daily Log In Bonus and the Reward Ladder.  You need either four or eight for tournaments, but I recommend saving up so you can do multiple tournaments in a row.
  8. Play in online tournaments.  Tournaments are three rounds, with 8 total players.  Single elimination.  Fifth through eighth place give you a Reward Chest (maybe some Tokens as well?).  You start getting tradable booster packs at fourth place and higher.  Besides knowing your Theme Deck and knowing the metagame, pay attention to the time of day.  Simply put, it seems like stronger players are more likely to show up at different times of day.
  9. Save your tradable boosters; they are money!  At least, they're currency for the PTCGO.  It goes against the EULA to spend money on virtual PTCGO cards.  You cannot trade Tokens for other people's cards.  So PTCGO cards are valued in "generic booster packs", and packs have a "trade ratio" with this generic booster pack.  We can explain this in more detail if you need it, but understand that opening tradable booster packs is a bad idea.  You can do it if you really want, but even if the contents of a pack add up to more in trade value than the sealed pack... you need to find someone who wants each and every one of those cards.  That is difficult and time consuming.
  10. Learn to trade.  Ask about that after you've saved for a bit, this is long enough already. XD
  11. Stick to the Theme Format for a bit.  I find playing at least two or three Theme Decks is a good idea, to get a better idea of the game.  Preferably, two or three competitive Theme Decks with at least somewhat different strategies.  This can lead into the next step...
  12. Find a Theme Deck that can lead to an other Format budget deck list.  Sometimes Standard is better to aim for, sometimes Expanded.  Legacy is probably the hardest, but Legacy doesn't add new sets or remove older ones, so once you have a deck there, you have a deck there.  However, Legacy is the least played Format, so it can take minutes to find an opponent on the ladder, and there are no online tournaments for it.

    You may need a variety of cards from several different Theme Decks, or you might be lucky and - at this point - there will be something functional (not necessarily strong) that can be made by simply buying two of the same Theme Deck, combining them together, then removing all the extra and/or weakest cards.  You'll probably have to start trading for at least a few things, though.
  13. Once you have your first budget other Format deck, begin grinding in that Format.  Repeat the steps you took with the Theme Format in this other Format, and eventually you'll be able to save up and trade for what you need to build a real deck.

Another guide for PvP strategy and deck building here by Felidae_

If you've asked for deck advice you've likely been welcomed and offered sound advice from Chasista.

A good primer here by PinkyPockyPanda


I will try to keep the information general and not use too many specific card examples.

The first parts will focus on the importance of Trainer cards as these will form the base to build most decks from.




  • Get the staple cards for the chosen format. (There is a reason all the top decks use the same trainer cards and/or support pokemon)
  • Use 15 +/- Pokemon, 30 +/- Trainers and 15 +/- Energy(Usually less) as a rough start(the staples will already fill some Trainer and Pokemon spots)
  • Test your deck for  consistency (staples should cover this).
  • Refine your deck for your playstyle.
  • Have FUN!

Staples for Standard by WingsofFire1014

Legacy Staples by Soup1900

Expanded Staples by Soup 1900


When you do the trainer challenge in the beginning you are forced to play with not just a poorly constructed deck but an incomplete version of a poorly constructed deck. 

That is a lesson in why you should follow proper deck building guidelines.

You don't want to build decks like the free decks you start with!


You should still complete the trainer challenge to earn cards (as you progress you unlock the "full potential" of your starting theme deck(s) - but even at its full potential it's not very good).

You also earn coins which can be used to get more cards or better theme decks.

Newer theme decks are quite a bit better than the starting decks and a few plays through any of them should be enough to see the card synergies and intended strategies of that deck.


Before you begin building a deck you should have a good ability to search for cards.

Familiarize yourself with the way cards are worded so you can find cards that do what you need.

Know the ins and outs of both the deck manager and the collection. 

Learn how to import and export deck lists through the deck manager.


Building a deck requires cards of course but how do you get the cards you need? 

You can use earned in game coins to buy (locked) booster packs for opening or theme decks which may contain a few staples.

Coins can be earned by logging in, completing daily challenges, playing on the vs ladder and participating in events(tournaments).

You can also earn (both locked and unlocked)packs this way (eg. completing the daily KO challenge will earn an unlocked pack).


If you purchase physical products like booster packs or box sets they will come with codes that can be redeemed for (unlocked) packs/cards or other items.


Some cards (depending on their rarity) are relatively easy to get from buying booster packs with coins(locked packs) in the in game shop.  consider this :ACE SPEC


Trading is probably the best way to get specific cards for your deck and (unlocked) packs are used as currency for trading therefore it is wise to save your (unlocked) packs for trading and only open locked packs.




Edited by Yeesterbunny
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Posted (edited)

Names & Numbers


Maximum card counts in a 60 card deck


4 copies of cards with the same name (this includes special energy)

1 copy of prism star cards 

1 single Ace Spec card per deck

59 basic energies (you must have at least 1 pokemon to make a useable deck)


Card Quantity Guidelines

The more important a card is for the deck, the more copies you want.

Cards that guarantee you something are much better than ones that make you flip a coin for a chance.

6 cards are placed as prizes so many cards are run with a minimum of 2 copies(in case 1 gets prized)


8-16 Pokemon is typical.

Main attackers are usually 4 copies (Tag Teams & Vmax are sometimes only 2 or 3)

Evolution Pokemon can quickly take up a lot of room in a deck (especially stage 2s) so most decks usually run no more than 2 lines.

To save a bit of space and speed things up Stage 2 are run with Rare Candy whenever possible(Let's you skip from basic to stage 2).

Secondary(Backup) Attackers and Support Pokemon are usually run in sets of 2-3


~30 Trainers or approximately half the deck. Trainers cards are divided into supporters, items, tools and stadiums.

You can only play 1 supporter per turn so carefully consider which ones to put in your deck.  You can play as many items as you are able per turn so if an item card can do the same function as a supporter choose the item.


8-14 Energy is usually enough (Generally you want the minimum amount for the deck to function smoothly)



Name Prefixes, Suffixes & Tags

Some pokemon have a  prefix on their name (Alolan, Galarian, Team Aqua, Team Magma)

These Pokemon are considered to be cards of a different name than their regular versions.

I.e. You may have 4 copies of the regular and 4 copies of the prefix variation in the same deck.


Some pokemon have suffixes on their name eg. EX, GX, V, VMax).

Each suffix creates a new name for that card. 

I.e. You may have 4 copies of the EX form, 4 copies of the GX form, 4 copies of the V form and 4 copies of the VMax form all together in the same deck.


Prism Star is a suffix in the form of an icon after the name and while you may only have 1 copy of a prism star card it is considered a different card than its regular version. You may have several Prism Star cards in your deck as long as they have different names.

(eg You may have 1 Volcanion Prism Star and 4 Volcanion together in your deck with a Jirachi Prism Star)



Most Pokemon start with a basic form.  Some basic pokemon evolve into stage 1, some stage 1s evolve into stage 2. 


Evolution pokemon used in decks are usually referred to by their highest form and are often mentioned in a numerical shorthand of how many copies of each stage are used. 

Eg. A 4-2-4 Charizard line refers to:

 4 copies of Charmander(basic), 2 copies of Charmeleon(stage 1) and 4 copies of Charizard(stage2).


Break is a special evolution that can be applied as a higher stage onto a pokemon at any of these stages. This means that the highest possible pokemon evolution is a Break applied to a Stage 2 essentially making a sort of Stage 3. Break forms retain the attacks, weaknesses, abilities and retreat cost of their previous evolution.


Mega or M is a prefix for a special evolution that is only applied to EX forms (similar to a stage 1).


Vmax is a special evolution that is only applied to V forms (similar to a stage 1).


There are even some Pokemon that begin their evolution from item cards (fossils).



 Some Pokemon have tags that allow interaction with other cards (Single Strike, Rapid Strike, Ultra beast, Tag Team, Team Plasma). These tags do not create new versions of cards.

i.e.  A “single strike” Houndoom is considered a Houndoom for card quantities.



Edited by Yeesterbunny
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Posted (edited)

"Please Sir, I want some more." - Oliver Twist

Draw Power, Draw Support,  Digging and Searching through your deck.


You need draw power/support to get the cards you need into your hand. There are many cards that will get you more cards, new/different cards or specific cards..

When it comes to draw power MORE IS BETTER.

Draw support is more about searching out targeted cards than raw amount of cards but more is still better.


Trainers, Pokemon and even special energy cards can provide draw power/support.

Some draw cards are consistent(always get you the same amount) and others are conditional(get you variable amount of cards or require some other action to draw cards).


Supporters frequently fill the role of draw support and can add cards to your hand, shuffle your hand (and your opponent's hand)for a new hand or discard some or all your hand cards for more/new cards.  Whenever you're adding draw support you want to get the most cards you can, especially when you consider you can only play one supporter per turn.

Drawing only 3 cards or 2 plus a random chance for more is not very strong.

Some draw cards will only draw a few but have additional utility (Welder is a good example).


The professors- Discard your hand and draw 7 cards.

(Professor's Research, Professor Sycamore and Professor Juniper) are the most consistently powerful draw support and 4 copies are common in competitive decks. The only downside is you may discard something you need later but if it's an important card you should have multiple copies in your deck.


The shuffling cards worth considering for draw power are:

Cynthia -Shuffle your hand into your deck. Then, draw 6 cards.

(Pretty strong and cards in hand go back in the deck but you may just end up with the same cards you didn't need)


Marnie -Each player shuffles their hand and puts it on the bottom of their deck. If either player put any cards on the bottom of their deck in this way, you draw 5 cards, and your opponent draws 4 cards.

Not bad for draw support because you know you won't get the same cards but especially good for ensuring your opponent doesn't get the cards they had in hand.


N - Each player shuffles his or her hand into his or her deck. Then, each player draws a card for each of his or her remaining Prize cards

Best used if you are losing the prize exchange or if you want to get certain cards out of your opponent's hand (but they may get the same cards)


There are item cards that can draw you a few cards or let you search out specific cards. Generally these are weaker draw than supporters but the advantage is that you can play as many items as you like in a turn while you may only play a single supporter card. If there is an item that can do the same thing as a supporter card the item is the better choice.

Edited by Yeesterbunny
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Posted (edited)

Energy Searching, Acceleration,  Efficiency


Basic energy is the easiest to search, accelerate and move around. 

There are some options for special energies but they are more limited.

Most decks should have a single energy type plus special energy if it benefits your strategy.


Pokemon attacks need energy and you want to be sure that they get energy but Do not fall into the trap of the theme deck solution for energy needs by putting lots of energy into your deck(20).  Theme decks, even with 20 energy can struggle for energy because they don't have the right trainers. With the right trainers you can find energy when you need it without clogging up your deck.


Normally you can attach a single energy per turn; energy acceleration is simply adding more energy per turn.

Check out this list of energy accelerator combos by PinkyPockyPanda


Energy accelerators get energy from various sources. Some search your deck, some will need energy in hand, some get energy from the discard and some can move energy attached to Pokemon around.


The source of energy for acceleration should fit into your overall strategy and card choices; if you have energy acceleration that gets energy from the discard or hand you'll need a way to get energy into the discard or hand (Eg. Balls that require discard to find Pokemon,  Trainers that pull energy from your deck)


Try to keep your energy route as streamlined as possible as the more steps required to get your energy where you need it, the less likely it will succeed.


The best energy acceleration is usable as often as you like(as long as energy is available). This type of energy acceleration is likely to be from an evolution Pokemon and limited to a specific type of energy.


Pokemon attacks and/or abilities are probably the most common source of energy acceleration but there are trainer cards as well.


Usually Pokemon with powerful(high damage),  high energy cost attacks are paired with some kind of energy acceleration.

If they are not they are likely to be KO'd before they can get enough energy to use their attack.


Energy Efficiency

Efficiency is about how much you get for how much it costs. An attack that costs a single colorless energy that does the same thing as a 2 energy cost attack is more efficient. If an efficient attack is on an evolution Pokemon you need to consider whether the time to evolve and deck space is worth it.


Sometimes a deck with the minimum amount of energy can make good use of items(tools) to move energy from KO'd Pokemon to benched Pokemon.

Edited by Yeesterbunny
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Posted (edited)

Support Pokemon


These Pokemon are usually selected for their ability, most often as additional draw power or searching(Shaymin EX, Dedenne GX, Crobat V, Oranguru, Jirachi). These types act like supporter cards allowing you to draw more cards. Some have to be played onto the bench while others may be activated if your hand gets low.

Sometimes a support pokemon will be used for bench setup (call for family or similar type attack) or to accelerate energy onto a main attacker(ability or attack).

Edited by Yeesterbunny
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Stadiums are a special type of Trainer card that effect the whole gameboard. They are very useful and can do many things such as: help you search for energy or pokemon, alter retreat cost or attack cost, increase or decrease damage, change the bench size.


Stadiums are frequently run in sets of 2-3 and are usually chosen to advantage your side(and hopefully not your opponent) or to disadvantage your opponent (and hopefully not yourself). 


If you do not run stadiums in your deck you should at least have some way to deal with them in case your opponent is using them.


Chaotic Swell gets special mention here as the stadium for those who don't want to bother with stadiums.

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  • Yeesterbunny changed the title to Deck Building Guide (For beginners) - Work in Progress -May 3



Poison decks boil down to 3 things:


1. More Poison! -Increasing the damage of poison

2. Will it Poison? -Getting them poisoned

3. Do you even poison Bra? -Keeping them poisoned


More Poison! Increasing the damage of poison

This is the place to start because if you're not increasing the damage of poison then it's not a poison deck. Some decks may include poison only as a supplemental damage to a main attacker or as part of a multiple special conditions scenario but we're going to focus on only poison. So how can you increase poison damage?

Stadium: Virbank City Gym +20 damage

Pokemon Abilities: Seviper  +10 per Seviper,

Toxicroak  +20 per Toxicroak

Dustox +30 (when evolving poisons with increased base damage; bonus paralyze)

Pokemon Attacks: Lots of pokemon have attacks that add additional poison from 20-150.

See spoiler for a long list. There's trade offs between energy cost, evolution level, bonus abilities, regular damage, etc.



Toxic (increases the base poison damage)

Tangela +20

Amoongus +20

Toxic Drill

Nidoking BREAK +20

Poison Fang

Nidoqueen +20

Triple Poison  (increases the base poison damage +30)





Ultra Toxic Fang

Crobat +40

Toxic Secretion

Muk +20

Toxic Fang


Hazard Stinger

Mega Beedrill-EX +40

Severe Poison(increases the base poison damage)

Galarian Weezing +40

Muk & Alolan Muk-GX Tag Team +80

GX attack +150 (bonus paralyze)

Crobat +40

Salazzle +40

Dragalge +40

Super Intense Poison(increases the base poison damage)



Poison Cultivation (increases the base poison damage)

Dragalge +100 (must be already poisoned)

Poison Up (stacks more poison on)

Croagunk +30 (must be already poisoned)


Will it Poison? -Getting them poisoned (What's your vector Victor?)

You can't increase the poison damage if they're not poisoned. How do you get the poison on them?

Pokemon Attacks: There are tons of pokemon that have attacks that only poison and some that

do some regular damage and add poison.

Pokemon Abilities: SlowBro V (if in active position)

Muk (if there is a stadium in play)

Trainer Card Item: Hypnotoxic Laser (bonus: coin flip chance for sleep)

Trainer Card Supporter: Koga's Trap (bonus: confusion)


Do you even poison Bra? -Keeping them poisoned

Poison is pretty easy to counter: Retreat, Evolve, Heal, Swap Pokemon via trainer cards, Swap via attack effect or ability. There are methods to counter these counters but how many can you fit in a poison deck?


Toxapex (ability keeps poison on new pokemon after retreat)

Dragalge(ability prevents poisoned pokemon from retreating)


Muk (ability keeps poison on pokemon that evolve or devolve)

Sea of Nothingness (Stadium keeps special conditions on when evolve or devolve)

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  • Yeesterbunny changed the title to GUIDE -Deck Building (For beginners)

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