Old vs New – Pokemon TCG Decks

Welcome, welcome and thrice welcome to my very first post about the Pokemon Trading Card Game, which can be considered as part of the (un-) holy trinity of the big three TCG/CCGs in existence, which has survived the turmoils of time alongside the other two members of this elite trio: Magic: the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh!

I must say I am not as big a fan of the whole Pokemon franchise as my sister, who is pretty hardcore considering she played through ALL Pokemon videogames for portable consoles SEVERAL TIMES, but I did enjoy the games and TV-show myself back when I was a bit younger and do enjoy the Trading Card Game up to the present day and have ever since we bought a huge lot / collection of cards on ebay for cheap years ago.

In this first Pokemon Deck article of mine, I want to present you with both, the past and the present of the Pokemon Trading Card Game by showcasing two decks, one being very old-school, featuring mostly or exclusively cards from the first few sets of the game, and the other being a more up-to-date, modern build featuring, among other madness, the dreaded Pokemon EX they simply could not resist to unleash upon us poor players not too long ago. This will illustrate the utterly insane power creep I have noticed to be present in the Pokemon TCG (Power Creep just means a trend of newer cards outclassing older ones in power over the course of time), which becomes especially apparent when comparing the first generation Pokemon in one deck I am going to show you in the following and the Pokemon that I am playing in the other one.

I am really looking forward to test my old-school deck against the other, more modern one to see if the old build can still compete with today’s powerful Pokemon, especially the aforementioned and in my opinion totally overpowered Pokemon EX.

So, without much furhter ado, here comes the old-school Deck (I am going to provide you with the card list first, then discuss the deck a bit):

Old School Energy Drain:

Pokemon…25

4 x Psyduck

3 x Golduck

4 x Wooper

3 x Quagsire

3 x Dratini

2 x Dragonair

3 x Hitmonchan

3 x Scyther

Trainers…15

4 x Energy Removal

3 x Super Energy Removal

4 x Bill

2 x Professor Oak

1 x Computer Search

1 x Detector

Energy…20

4 x Double Colorless Energy

8 x Water Energy

8 x Fighting Energy

This deck shares many elements with the “Haymaker” deck archtype that was popular in the very beginning of the Pokemon TCG, featuring flexible Basic Pokemon like Scyther and Hitmonchan, which pale in the sight of modern Basic Pokemon and Basic Pokemon EX, which I will demonstrate later on. My deck is not a typical Haymaker as it is a deck focused on one of my favorite strategies in any card game with a resource system: Resource destruction/denial. In my opinion, resource control is the one strategy that is the universal remedy, the magic bullet to crack any other strategy in decks you might face, as it tackles the very root and basis of pretty much all strategies in general. In any game featuring a resource system (there are TCGs without such – Yu-Gi-Oh! being the most prominent example), all non-resource cards require a certain number of resources to be activated or played, so if you deny your opponent resources, you will be able to contest about any strategies your opponent might be pursuing, giving you a good chance against a wide variety of different decks. The higher the overall resource cost in an opponent deck, the better are your chances of crippling said opponent’s strategy with your resource denial cards.

But back to my Old-School Energy Drain Pokemon TCG deck. So the basic strategy is to dominate with flexible and powerful Basic Pokemon whilst evolving your benched Pokemon and constantly destroying opponent Energy (the resources in the Pokemon TCG) in order to disrupt your opponent and preventing them from putting up any notable opposition against your Pokemon. In this deck I am using powerful, first generation Trainer cards such as ┬áthis one…

…and this one…

…to achieve just that. In order to consistently keep the number of opponent Energy cards down and to draw lots of other useful cards while you are at it, I am running what I consider the classic “Bill&Oak” engine, featuring 4 Bills (Draw 2 cards – simple but by far my favorite card!) and 2 Professor Oaks (Discard your hand and draw 7 new cards) which lets you cycle through your deck very quickly in order to stock up on Energy Removal cards like the ones shown above.

Now to the Pokemon: As I noted above I am running Hitmonchan and Scyther (off-color as I do not run any Grass Energy) as Basic Pokemon that do not evolve, similar to the once powerful Haymaker deck type. Hitmonchan and Scyther both have 70 KP which was respectable back in the days for a Basic Pokemon that does not evolve. Hitmonchan strikes for 20 at the cost of 1 Fighting Energy and at 40 for 2 Fighting and one Colorless Energy, whereas Scyther slices for 30 damage at the cost of 3 Colorless Energy. Combine that with free retreat cost and you got a very splashable Pokemon, a Pokemon you can run in any Deck without the need for Grass Energy. Now let’s compare this to what Basic Pokemon are like in modern days. I will show you two examples – one a non-evolving Basic Pokemon and one a non-evolving Basic Pokemon EX. A word of explanation: Pokemon EX let your opponent take 2 prices at once when knocked out, which is intended to be the downside of a Pokemon with ridiculously high HP and ridiculously powerful attacks.

Here a regular, non-evolving Basic Pokemon which I am running in the modern deck I will present to you later on:

Just look at this and remember when I told you about Hitmonchan. Hitmonchan has 70 KP whereas Zekrom, a non-evolving Basic Pokemon as well, starts with a totally crazy 130 HP. The same insanity becomes evident when you check out the attacks. Hitmonchan attacks for 20 damage for one Energy and 40 damage for 3 Energy, whereas Zekrom’s first attack deals 20 for 2, with the very likely probability of dealing 10 more for each damage counter on it and an utterly devastating 120 damage for just 3 Energy. That is thrice as much as you get out of Nockchan’s 3 Energy attack.

And here, for comparison’s sake one of the Pokemon EX I am playing in my modern deck:

This one, being yet again a Basic Pokemon, one you can pick as your starting Pokemon, has similarly devastating attacks as Zekrom and, even one would think it could not get any better, Mewtwo EX has even more HP as Zekrom at an amazing 170. It would take my Scyther 6 hits to knock that one out for instance.

Well what remains to say about my old-school Energy Drain Deck is that all my evolved Pokemon (I am not running any Phase 3 Evolutions) have an attack that destroys one Energy each time it hits, which can be devastating when combined with my Trainer cards which remove additional Energy. All in all I have 3 different evolved Pokemon in the Deck, Golduck, Quagsire and Dragonair, a total of 8 Pokemon, which can destroy Energy as part of their Attacks.

My prediction is that I would have to draw very well, lots of Energy Removal Trainer cards, in order to stand a chance against my modern deck which I am going to discuss below, as the attacks of the Basic Pokemon and Basic Pokemon EX featured in it need very little Energy to be used, usually 2 or 3. But let us have a look at the deck list for what I call my Modern Prismatic EX Deck. A word of caution: The deck has very few Pokemon so it may or may not work well and I am running the risk of not having a Pokemon in my starting hand quite often, it is a very rough deck draft and, at this point, untested. I will be running some test plays of the deck below against some of my other decks, including the one I presented above, to see if it needs any changes. But let us move on. Here’s the decklist for Modern Prismatic EX:

Modern Prismatic EX

Pokemon…14

4 x Pichu

4 x Mewtwo EX

2 x Zekrom

1 x Reshiram

1 x Rayquaza EX

1 x White Kyurem EX

1 x Black Kyurem EX

Trainers…24

4 x Pokemon Collector

3 x Pokemon Trader

2 x Bill

2 x Cheren

2 x Professor Oak

2 x Professor Juniper

2 x Benny

3 x Energy Retrieval

1 x Super Energy Retrieval

2 x Eviolite

1 x Revive

Energy…22

4 x Double Colorless Energy

4 x Prism Energy

4 x Psycho Energy

4 x Fire Energy

3 x Lightning Energy

3 x Water Energy

This deck, consisting of none less than 4 different elements/attributes/colors, namely Electro, Psycho, Fire and Water, features a dangerously low Pokemon count of 14. However that should be enough to for you to have at least one or two Pokemon in every starting hand, which would be enough to get started as we are about to see while ensuring that you won’t be stuck with a hand full of more or less useless Pokemon in hand earlier on – something that happens a lot with the old-school deck discussed above (making me consider to drop the Pokemon count in that one considerbly as well).

All Pokemon in this modern build are basic Pokemon, which has many advantages and all of them have a very high power level, high HP and high damage count when it comes to attacks, half of them being even more powerful Pokemon EX. There is one Pokemon I am running a playset of four of which stands out as the exception: Pichu is a Basic Baby Pokemon with only 40 HP and an attack that deals no damage at all. The point why I am playing it is the effect of that attack: For one Energy attached to it, Pichu lets you retrieve 2 Energy cards from your discard and attach them to any Pokemon on your side of the arena. This can be incredibly useful when your more powerful Pokemon are sitting on your bench and you have a ton of Energy in your discard, either discarded to previous attacks of said powerful Pokemon or conveniently junked by your Professor Oak and Professor Juniper Trainer cards.

When it comes to powerful Basic Pokemon, I am running a playset of 4 Mewtwo EX and 2 Zekrom which I already showed you above, as well as one of each Rayquaza EX, White Kyurem EX and Black Kyurem EX as well as one regular Reshiram, which is nonetheless very overpowered as well. I think you can look these cards up yourself at the Pokemon Card Game Database. What has to be said is that all of the aformentioned have an extremely high number of HP, ranging from 130 up to an incredible 180 and attacks for anything between 2 and for Energy dealing 20 – 150 damage. Many of these Pokemon have attacks that come at the mere cost of just 2 colorless Energy, so I decided to run a play a set of 4 Double Colorless Energy to be able to use these attacks starting on your very first turn.

Running Pokemon of 4 different Types/Attributes has the great advantage that you can use them flexibly to make the most out of your opponent’s Pokemon’s weaknesses while avoiding resitances. This plan is especially viable as the deck features a lot of cards that let you search your deck for a certain Pokemon, namely the old-school Pokemon Trader and the more modern Pokemon Collector. Pokemon Collector is especially great as you can search for a total of 3 Basic Pokemon and put them into your hand, allowing you to get out those three powerful Pokemon and Pokemon EX you need most at any given point in the game.

Besides Pokemon Trader, the deck features old-school cards like Bill and Professor Oak, which I all want to eventually replace with their more recent counterparts. In the case of Pokemon Trader, I will be swapping it for Pokemon Communication for example.

There are some other notable Trainer cards which go along well with the strategy and theme of the deck:

  • Benny lets you search your Deck for the three Basic Energy cards you need most at the moment which makes a deck with four Types run much more consistently.
  • Energy Retrieval and Super Energy Retrieval makes sure you don’t run out of steam as many of the high-power attacks of your Pokemon require you to discard Energy from them when they are used.
  • Eviolite is an Item which reduces the damage dealt to a Basic Pokemon it is attached to by 20, which is great in a Deck with Basic Pokemon only and brings your already ridiculously high HP Pokemon even closer to being simply invincible.
  • Revive is a great way to retrieve any knocked-out Pokemon but I mainly run it as a searcher card as you can send lots of cards from your deck to your discard through Professor Oak / Juniper so you can retreive a Pokemon from among the cards discarde – toolbox-style!