Deck Building for Newbies: Kyugatr Included!

Netdecking isn’t a rare thing these days. For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s when you rip a decklist from the internet to either use as a deck base or for straight tournament use. Some regard it as almost criminal, whilst others consider it a shortcut to a good deck. Personally, I prefer to build my decks from scratch. If you think about every card placed in there, you’ll know exactly where and when to play them, so long as your theory is complemented by practice.

All trading card games are split into two components: deck building and deck piloting. I’ll be frank. Right now, decks in the Pokemon TCG are not especially difficult to run. Some of the best decks in the format, such as Reshiphlosion and TZPS, are quite simple. As for building – there is a reason the best players win often, even with fairly easy-to-pilot decks. It’s because their decks are built to take on the format. This will be a brief guide to building a functional deck from scratch. Do remember, while building and theorising is one thing, playtesting is a wholly different and necessary part of creating a deck, and no amount of internet guidance will substitute for raw experience.

There are a few principles you should keep in mind when first constructing a deck. I divided them into what I call the Four C’s of deck-building.

Context

Before you can truly start building a deck, you must ask yourself what your deck aims to do, and whether other decks will let you go about doing it. This mainly consists of knowing the current format and knowing your area’s metagame. Let’s have an extended example.

“I have a deck build utilising Celebi Prime as a starter, Shaymin and non-ability Serperior as attackers and ability Serperior as a bench sitter.”

So, can you work out what this deck aims to do off the top of your head? If you can’t figure the deck’s function out on the spot, you likely don’t know the format’s cards well enough. I’ve met many players who don’t know about Shaymin or Celebi Prime’s attack. There are reasonable excuses for this, but knowledge is knowledge.

“The deck’s function is to power up Shaymin early and Serperior late (with Celebi Prime), using their attacks to heal in conjunction with ability Serperior. Celebi can be used to stall if needed.”

If you got this, congratulations, you either know the format reasonably well or ran into these cards during a pre-release or something.

“This deck renders Tyranitar Prime useless and stops Gengar Prime’s Cursed Drop from spreading.”

Now, can you see what’s wrong with this statement? It’s not factually wrong, is it? The error is fairly obvious to most who have played this game: neither Tyranitar nor Gengar is played enough to be considered a huge threat. Additionally, Tyranitar has more attacks than just Darkness Howl, and Gengar’s main function should not be Cursed Drop, though a 40 damage snipe can be helpful at times.

“This deck also hits Water and some Fighting types for weakness, and can block off its own weakness with a teched Metapod HGSS or Leavanny NV.”

What’s wrong here? Well, firstly, go and find me a list of Pokemon evolutionary lines weak to Grass. Now narrow it down to playable Pokemon. What’s that? Just Feraligatr Prime? Oh, what a pity, seems Grass doesn’t hit for weakness at all. Now, to address the second part – Metapod HGSS does indeed block weakness, but think for a moment. What are the most prominent fire-type attackers in the format? Yep, Reshiram, Typhlosion and (bad)Emboar. Which of those will Metapod help against? Reshiram and Typhlosion, right? Not quite. Reshiram lists often run Pluspower, so even with Metapod your Serperiors can be KO’d with just one PlusPower drop. Metapod is hardly immune to damage himself. That aside, Leavanny is not technically legal yet anyway, so kudos to me on reading the NV scans, but a big thumbs-down for assuming it’s playable in the format already.

“I can conclude that this deck will be successful in the format, which means it will be successful in my personal metagame.”

So, who agrees with this statement? Nobody?

Not quite. While the first half of the statement is blatantly incorrect, this does not mean it will be ineffective in your personal meta. Who knows, your current metagame may be rife with LostGar variants that do nothing but abuse Spiritomb TM’s attack in conjunction with Cursed Drop and Swoobat EP’s Phat Sound. While this is an utterly absurd example, it proves a point – borderline unplayable decks can definitely make it in some metas. Tyranitar may be great in a meta with Gothitelle-Electrode running rampant. LostGar (the proper LostGar) may be viable in areas with heavy Ross.dec (as most Ross decks run a lot of Pokemon). In short, knowing the format and knowing your meta is where you begin your deck concept from. An extremely successful example of this the aforementioned Ross.dec, which was made to abuse the 120 trainer-less damage cap.

Let’s assume that your meta is perfectly normal, perhaps with a touch more Reshiphlosion than one might think. For the sake of treading relatively untouched ground, we’ll walk through the rest of this by building a Kyurem deck, ignoring the fact it’s still not technically playable. [Editor's note: It is now! :D ]

Kyurem is a 130HP Basic with a good Water typing, useful against Reshiphlosion/boar, as well as against Donphan Prime. Its HP hits the useful 130 mark, forcing use of a Pluspower by Zekrom and Reshiram in order to KO it. Its weakness, Steel, is rarely played, though Cobalion NV may be an issue in the future. Hopefully it will remained checked by Reshiram, making Kyurem viable. My current metagame is filled mainly with Reshiphlosion and Ross.dec. Neither of these has a particularly strong matchup against Kyurem using its primary attack. There is a Donphan/Dragons deck and a Steelix tank deck in my area, but it is solidly the minority. I know this through going to leagues and Battle Roads.

Consistency

Every deck is built for a purpose. Whether that purpose is quickly dealing damage to opposing Pokemon or starving the opponent of cards, they are all built with a general idea in mind. However, what differentiates the good decks from the great decks is how often the deck can fulfil that purpose. At the moment, consistency is an incredibly important part of decks. While this may be a personal preference, I always start my decks with a skeleton of Trainers, Supporters and Stadiums, as these form the backbone of every good deck in the format.

4 Pokemon Collector

4 Professor Oak’s New Theory

4 Pokemon Communication

3 Junk Arm

This will serve as a satisfactory backbone to most decks. Now, I said Kyurem earlier, right? We’ll centre the deck around Kyurem, shall we?

Pokemon – 5 T/S/S – 15 Energy – 10
4 Kyurem NV
1 Cleffa HS/CL
4 Pokemon Collector
4 Professor Oak’s New Theory
4 Pokemon Communication
3 Junk Arm
8 Water Energy
2 Double Colourless Energy

This will work fine as the consistency backbone. Cleffa is often referred to as a crutch – only searched out in dire occasions to refresh a particularly bad hand. 8 Water is self-explanatory: it powers Glaciate. DCE works to help retreat Kyurem and also for Outrage.

Compliment

Now we decide what we pair Kyurem with. This is where you start thinking about what will combo well with Kyurem. Kyurem’s main issue is that it has an inconvenient WWC cost on its second attack, Glaciate. I’ve decided I want to use Glaciate as soon as possible, and I’ve worked out that turn 2 is the fastest I’ll get it. How can we get 3 energy onto Kyurem by turn 2? Think up as many reasonable possibilities as you can.

  1. Feraligatr Prime
  2. Floatzel and Blastoise
  3. Floatzel and Shaymin
  4. Electrode Prime

There are other possibilities, such as using Celebi/PachiShaymin/Typhlosion Prime and manually attaching 2 Water energies, but those are a bit far-fetched. For the sake of this little primer, I’m going to pick Feraligatr Prime.

Feraligatr Prime’s attack is one that becomes stronger as the opponent grows weaker: it does 60 damage plus however much damage the opponent already has on them. Kyurem’s sniping capability makes this a 90 damage attack on all Pokemon hit by Glaciate. The high cost is somewhat mellowed by Feraligatr’s ability. Keep in mind the point of Consistency as we build this deck. Warning: I haven’t tested this deck, everything below is theorycraft, so you’re not to hold be liable for any severe losses from netdecking the list that eventuates.

Pokemon – 14 T/S/S – 25 Energy – 15
4 Kyurem NV
4-2-4 Feraligatr Prime
1 Cleffa HS/CL
4 Pokemon Collector
4 Professor Oak’s New Theory
2 Fisherman
4 Pokemon Communication
4 Rare Candy
3 PlusPower
4 Junk Arm
13 Water Energy
2 Double Colourless Energy

4 Rare Candy – remember when I said my area had a bunch of Ross? That’s why I’m packing 4 Rare Candies. While it might seem counter-intuitive with Trainer lock in mind, this is an attempt to get T2 Feraligatr as often as possible. There are definitely people who will only use 3, since Feraligatr is the only Stage 2, but I believe in consistency first.

3 Pluspower is an anti-dragon measure – 30 from Glaciate plus 90 from Hydro Crunch leaves a dragon with a problematic 10 HP remaining – Outrage is imminent. This is less problematic with Reshiphlosion, but only slightly so. Another possibility is using Kingdra Prime as a 1-0-1 line, which I just might do, given it synergises with the deck’s purpose anyway.

I added 2 Fisherman (for consistency, not because I’ll use both), chosen over Super Rod because they add cards to the hand, not the deck. Super Rod might go in as well later, to help retrieve Pokemon (like your crutch Cleffa).

I upped the Water energy count as well. This is because one Kyurem takes 3 energy and a Feraligatr takes 4. This count may be lowered later.

From here we go into more subjective stuff. I’ll save the explanations, but this is how my skeleton turned out.

Pokemon – 13 T/S/S – 28 Energy – 13
3 Kyurem NV
4-2-3 Feraligatr Prime
1 Cleffa HS/CL
4 Pokemon Collector
3 Professor Juniper
2 N
2 Fisherman
4 Pokemon Communication
4 Rare Candy
2 Pokemon Catcher
2 PlusPower
2 Super Rod
3 Junk Arm
13 Water Energy

54 cards total

Some things to note:

-2 DCE – this is because I feel Water Energy is simply more valuable. I drew upon my experiences playing a deck that utilises DCE in a similar way – Gothitelle. Before you question my analytical ability, DCE in both decks are used in the following ways:

  1. Powering Dragon Outrages
  2. Powering other attacks (Gothita, Gothorita, T2 Gothitelle vs Croconaw)
  3. Retreating (though Feraligatr needs 3 Energy)

Only in the latter case did I really feel thankful for my DCE. This is a personal change that will possibly be reversed if playtesting dictates it, and I do know the value of drawing or topdecking a DCE at many points in the game.

-1 PONT, +2 N – N is a card that will really make a splash in the format. Not only does it serve as an early-game PONT for you, it has great disruptive potential during mid-game and early game. Never underestimate the power of being forced to shuffle in and draw 3 or 4 cards – anyone who has significant experience being Judge’d will agree.

+2 Super Rod – I don’t see why not. While Fisherman is more efficient and gives you ready-to-use energy, putting 3 energy in the deck and then using PONT will quite likely give you 1 or 2 energy to play. It also lets you get things like Cleffa, Kyurem and evolutions back.

-3 PONT, +3 Juniper – With 2 Fisherman, 2 Super Rod and 3 Junk Arm, one of the things holding discard-draw back (lack of reliable recovery) is now gone, and I feel that I’m going to want to at least test Juniper in place of PONT, especially now that I have a couple N in there anyway. PONT is still a very reliable card though.

+2 Catcher – again, never underestimate the power of disruption. I regard Catcher’s role in many decks as disruption rather than an all-board snipe, especially with some of the possible techs for this deck.

-1 Kyurem – Personal choice. Subject to change.

Creativity

Here is the crux of deck-building. Your personal twist is how a skeleton turns into a completely unique deck. You might not think how different 6 cards can be, but it really can deviate heavily. Here are some possibilities:

2 Eviolite, 2 Max Potion, 1 Switch, 1 Super Rod

If you don’t fear trainer lock and feel like being hard-to-kill.

2-1-2 Kingdra Prime, 1 Pluspower

Simply for that extra damage. Gives you more reason to run 4 Candy.

2/2 Suicune Entei Legend, 2 Water Energy

Focuses on getting out SEL for Torrent Blade’s 100 damage snipe.

3 Twins, 1 Cleffa, 1/1 Suicune Entei Legend

Uses a Twins engine. I wouldn’t recommend this, but it shows how different early-game strategy can become.

1 Shaymin, 2/2 Golduck TM, 1 Water Energy

Use Golduck for late game cleanup and Shaymin to keep energy in play.

2/2 Zoroark BW, 2 Double Colourless Energy

Uses Zoroark, an effective and splashable card in this format, to compliment the deck’s main attackers.

With just a little bit of teching, the deck’s early-game and late-game can change significantly, though we still aim to have Kyurem out T2 in all cases. I’m not favouring any of the above specifically – they were mainly examples to show exactly how much variation you can have with a mere 6 cards.

So here, a full decklist of Kyugatr that I wouldn’t mind playing myself:

Kyurem/Feraligatr

Pokemon – 15 T/S/S – 31 Energy – 14
3 Kyurem NV
4-2-3 Feraligatr Prime
1-1 Suicune/Entei Legend
1 Cleffa HS/CL
4 Pokemon Collector
3 Professor Juniper
2 N
2 Fisherman
4 Pokemon Communication
4 Rare Candy
1 Eviolite
1 Max Potion
2 Pokemon Catcher
2 PlusPower
2 Super Rod
3 Junk Arm
13 Water Energy
1 Rescue Energy

For your information, I personally believe Kyugatr will be a solid Tier 2 deck, because it still has a few issues to iron out. I hope it will be a solid contender in the format, as spread is one of my personal favourite strategies, and I doubt I’m the only one who feels that way. I intend to play this deck extensively myself, but I have a feeling that I’ll be dropping back to Gothitelle unless Mew Prime becomes absurdly common (Zekrom and Stage 1 variants should prevent this, hopefully).

One last tip. It’s great that I spent a bunch of time making up and writing out a guide to build decks, but there is one thing that will serve you better than every guide in the world: playtesting. I’ll repeat that for emphasis. Playtest. Heaps. Until you’re sick to death of your deck. It’s even better if you swap decks for a few games.

On the topic of playtesting, I don’t mean playtesting on Redshark or with your own two decks, I mean against the meta. Not just metagame decks, but also your personal metagame. If you know the field you can decide what to play based on it. A field full of MewLock shouldn’t lend itself to Gothitelle – consider TZPS. You can’t help it if somebody you knew played Magneboar suddenly decides to switch to Ross.dec the night before a tournament, but most people will play what they’re comfortable with, so knowing the field will give you an edge.

Also, here’s a quick list of decks to look for when Noble Victories does become legal. Try building a couple of them if you want.

  • Kyurem/Floatzel
  • Vanilluxe w/Fliptini
  • Hydreigon w/acceleration
  • Durant mill
  • Cobalion/Electrode/Kyurem
  • Victini rush
  • Chandelure w/Dodrio
  • Archeops w/Dragons/Vileplume

Here are some tips for refining your old decks with new cards from NV.

  1. N will be huge in any deck that currently relies on Twins. It also works very well with Megazone.
  2. Super Rod gives a reliable recovery card. Carefully reassess your evolution lines and whether or not discard draw is suitable for your deck.
  3. Xtransceiver ups the chance of a first turn Juniper/PONT/Collector for TZPS, and may see play elsewhere.
  4. Eviolite may see play in Reshiram/Zekrom variants (especially Reshiboar), but I feel most TZPS will prefer to focus on speed, while Afterburner sort of makes Eviolite less effective.
  5. Rocky Helmet and Druddigon may be seen as one-ofs in decks that otherwise fall to lock decks.
  6. Accelgor just might be used in Stage 1 decks, as it has [G] for 60, free retreat and a guaranteed evolution on the first turn so long as a Karrablast is in play.

Until next time, peace.

Posted by at November 24, 2011
Filed in category: TCG Articles,
  • PKMN Trainer Andrew

    Great article and interesting to read! I agree, consistent play testing against the Meta is extremely important. Without that, your chances of succeeding in any tournament can diminish.

    This doesn’t have too much to do with the article, but a side note on Zoroark’s splashability in this format: eviolite. Its going to make Reshiram and Zekrom that much harder to get the one hit knock-out against even with a foul play. While Zoroark is still a decent tech, Eviolite makes Foul Play a little less reliable and other techs will probably be more favorable.

  • ZettaSlow

    That’s a good point. Zoroark is no longer the powerhouse it was when Eviolite is in play, though one Glaciate (10 damage), Bolt Strike recoil (20) and Foul Play (100) does happen to knock out a Zekrom. The problem is that they’ll just Catcher up your Zorua T.T

    Other miscellaneous points:
    Eviolite almost single-handedly ruins Kyurem and makes the TZPS matchup almost unwinnable. I joked about Spiritomb’s Colour Tag – well, 10 damage a turn is the same thing.
    Glaciate + Hydro Crunch on a Eviolite’d undamaged Reshiram will do 10 + 120, which kills it. This is problematic though, since it means Zekrom will take quite a beating indeed.

    Believe me, I normally don’t mathcraft anywhere near this much :>

  • PKMN Trainer Andrew

    Nice analysis and some good math there xD. But I think if you’re taking more than one turn to take a prize against a fully setup Reshi-something than you’re in a really bad spot. So even if you can two hit Reshiram with the described scenarios, the deck generally has a few more Reshirams to make your life miserable. And then Zekrom is just Zekrom.

    Eviolite makes Reshi-lists and TZPS almost too powerful and broken. Having to deal 140+ damage against a basic of any king is just too much. It ruins Kyurem like you said, which is very unfortunate =/.