18 Mar 2021

Top Deck Academy Episode 7: Battle Styles Pose a Dual Threat in the Pokémon TCG

Kyle Sucevich walks shows off an all-new gameplay mechanic arriving in the Pokémon TCG: Sword & Shield—Battle Styles expansion.

If you're just starting out in the Pokémon TCG, you'll soon discover that the game is always introducing new types of cards that can change battling in a major way. In recent years we've seen Prism Star cards, Pokémon-GX, and Pokémon VMAX cards come onto the scene, all having a major impact on the game.

Now, with the launch of the aptly named Sword & Shield—Battle Styles expansion, players can discover Single Strike and Rapid Strike Battle Styles. As you'll see, these cards work well with each other to create whole-deck strategies that are fun and easy to understand.

For this episode of Top Deck Academy, former U.S. National Champion Kyle Sucevich highlights many of the new Single Strike Battle Style cards, and walks through ways in which they can work together to create a winning deck.

Remember that a new episode of Top Deck Academy comes out every week, and you can watch the entire series here on Pokemon.com or on YouTube and Twitch.


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Hello, everyone! I am Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich, and I will be your host for today's edition of Top Deck Academy. In today's episode, I'm going to give you a quick overview of the brand-new Pokémon TCG mechanic: Battle Styles! After that, we'll go over two different decks that use Single Strike Pokémon from the brand-new expansion appropriately named Sword & Shield—Battle Styles. Hope you're ready for an action-packed episode!

Before we dive into Battle Styles, if you're new to the Pokémon TCG or if you just need a quick refresher, I would recommend checking out tcg.pokemon.com/how-to-play and checking out some of the learn-to-play videos. Today we are going to cover Battle Styles and what they mean, picking out Pokémon for a Single Strike deck, choosing the Trainer cards for that deck, then we'll move on to selecting the Pokémon for a Single Strike deck that focuses on Pokémon VMAX, and finally, we'll choose the right Trainer cards for that deck.

Are you ready to rumble? Let's jump into Battle Styles!


Battle Styles

The Sword & Shield—Battle Styles expansion introduces Single Strike and Rapid Strike, two different schools of thought.

Single Strike Style, which is represented by the color red, is about pure power and strength. This style aims for a focused, powerful blow that can Knock Out an opponent in a single attack—it's about brute force. A lot of Single Strike cards will be about boosting damage and hitting as hard as possible.

Then we have Rapid Strike, which is represented by the color blue. Instead of focusing on muscular strength and power, it's about technique and precision. The power of Rapid Strike is harnessed through meditation and staying calm. A lot of Rapid Strike cards will be about switching Pokémon in and out of battle and striking multiple Pokémon at once.

In terms of rules of the Pokémon TCG, there's no special rules for Battle Styles. For the most part, they act like normal cards. The main thing to watch for is synergy between cards! For example, Emboar's Fighting Fury Stance Ability makes your Single Strike Pokémon's attacks do 30 more damage to your opponent's Active Pokémon. On the other hand, Octillery's Rapid Strike Search Ability lets you search your deck for any Rapid Strike card—which again, could be a Pokémon, Trainer, or Energy card—and put it into your hand.

Now you know all about Battle Styles, so let's look at some decks!


Picking Out Pokémon

As always, the first step to building a deck in the Pokémon TCG is choosing a specific Pokémon or strategy to build around. The first deck we're going to explore won't use any Pokémon V or Pokémon-GX. It'll center around a Single Strike Pokémon, Primeape! The attack we want to hone in on is Steamin' Mad Strike. It does 50 damage for each of your Benched Pokémon that has any damage counters on it. Primeape is getting angry that its friends are hurt, and it channels that rage into a massive attack! At first glance, this attack might look a little weak or maybe even too difficult to use effectively. But in the right circumstances, Steamin' Mad Strike can do 250 damage—or maybe even more! Primeape is our main attacker, so we'll start with four Primeape and four Mankey to kick things off.

Houndoom is excellent in any Single Strike deck, but it works beautifully with Primeape. The Single Strike Roar Ability allows you to search your deck for a Single Strike Energy card and attach it to one of your Single Strike Pokémon. Then, you have to put two damage counters on that Pokémon. Usually that's a downside, but here it helps increase the rage for Primeape's Steamin' Mad Strike! Single Strike Energy is also a key component to making any Single Strike deck work—it's a dual-type Energy card that provides Fighting and Darkness Energy, and it boosts the attacks of the Pokémon it's attached to by 20. It also stacks, so that means if you have two Single Strike Energy on your Pokémon, that's plus 40 damage! Now remember, normally you can only attach one Energy card per turn, but Houndoom lets you sneak an extra Energy into play with its Ability, which allows you to power up Primeape's Steamin' Mad Strike attack in a single turn. Houndoom is an important part of the deck's strategy, but you really only need to get one or two in play at most, so let's start off with just three Houndoom and three Houndour alongside four of those Single Strike Energy.

We just need a couple more supporting Pokémon to make this strategy complete. Spiritomb from the Sun & Moon—Unbroken Bonds expansion is a perfect partner for Primeape. Its Building Spite Ability lets you put a damage counter on Spiritomb, which is exactly what you're looking for. In the right situation, you can also use the Anguish Cry attack, but for the most part we'll want to attack with Primeape. Then we have Jynx from the Sun & Moon—Unified Minds expansion. Its Ominous Posture Ability lets you move a damage counter from one of your Pokémon to another. Oftentimes, you'll have damage sitting around thanks to Houndoom's Single Strike Roar Ability or Spiritomb's Ability, so you can take one of those damage counters and move it to an undamaged Pokémon to make Primeape even angrier for its Steamin' Mad Strike attack. Spiritomb and Jynx are just a minor part of our strategy, so we'll only need two of each. But you can see how all of these cards have beautiful synergy together.

OK, we have our Pokémon picked out! Let's move on to the heart of any Pokémon TCG deck: the Trainer cards.


Choosing Trainer Cards

Trainer cards are what make Pokémon TCG decks work, so you should always spend time to make sure you have the right ones for your deck. Because this Primeape deck is centered around Evolution Pokémon and also having a full Bench of Pokémon for Steamin' Mad Strike, it's important to include lots of Item cards that can search for Pokémon. Level Ball, an older card which was reintroduced in the Sword & Shield—Battle Styles expansion, is perfect for the early stages of the game. Every Basic Pokémon in this deck has 90 HP or less, which means it's going to act like a Quick Ball that doesn't force you to discard a card from your hand when you play it. A Quick Ball is still good, so we'll start off with four Level Ball and three Quick Ball. And then we'll also add in four Evolution Incense, which allows us to search for those Evolution Pokémon, Primeape and Houndoom.

And just a quick tip for building decks on Pokémon TCG Online: if you hold the control button on your keyboard and double-click on a card, it adds four of that card to your deck.

I mentioned earlier that Trainer cards could also have a Battle Style, and we see three of them here: Tower of Darkness, Urn of Vitality, and Bruno. Tower of Darkness is a fantastic Stadium card for Single Strike decks, allowing you to discard a Single Strike card from your hand in order to draw two cards. Now, this lets you get rid of any excess Single Strike cards in your hand—for example, if you have a Houndour in your hand and you already have a full Bench, you can cash that in for two new cards. Urn of Vitality lets you recover Single Strike Energy cards from your discard pile, making sure that Houndoom's Single Strike Roar Ability always has something to search for. When you don't need the Urn, it's another good candidate to discard with Tower of Darkness. Finally, we have Bruno, which works best after one of your Pokémon gets Knocked Out. It's more useful as the game progresses, but it's not great early on, so we only need two.

We'll round things out with some commonly seen Trainer cards. Professor's Research, Boss's Orders, and Marnie are in nearly every deck in the Standard format. They're top-class when it comes to drawing cards or disrupting your opponent's plans. Next up we have Air Balloon, which lets you retreat your Pokémon with ease; and we also have Scoop Up Net, which can act as a flexible switching card, and it has some other tricky uses as well. Finally, Ordinary Rod is just a way to get more Primeape and Mankey back into your deck after they hit the discard pile.

To wrap things up, let's add more Energy cards. We've already got our four Single Strike Energy, and now you know we can recover those with those Urn of Vitality, so we really don't need much more in the Energy department. Now, unfortunately, you can't attach Single Strike Energy to Spiritomb because it's not a Single Strike Pokémon, so let's throw in three Aurora Energy. This lets you attack with Spiritomb, but also helps pay for the two Fighting Energy cost of Primeape's Steamin' Mad Strike. Then we'll add two Stone Fighting Energy just to round things off, but if you want to, you can just replace those with basic Fighting Energy—for this deck, they're basically the same thing.

That wraps up the Primeape deck, but if you're interested in a flashier deck that revolves around Pokémon V and Pokémon VMAX, this next one's for you.


Single Strike Pokémon VMAX

This next deck will be all about the mighty Single Strike Urshifu VMAX. Clocking in at 330 HP, this is a large Pokémon that can dish out some major damage. First up we have Beatdown, which is a pretty simple attack—it just does 100 damage for three Energy, but that can be pretty useful against Pokémon that have a lower HP. But the attack we want to look at is G-Max One Blow. This attack does a whopping 270 damage, and that damage isn't affected by any effects on your opponent's Active Pokémon, which means any sort of defensive effects just blows right through them.

And remember, this is a Single Strike Pokémon, so Single Strike Energy can be used to boost the damage of these attacks. If you can get three Single Strike Energy onto Urshifu VMAX, that adds up to 330 damage. That's enough to take down just about any Pokémon in a single attack. When first building a deck, I like to max out on the number of copies of my main Pokémon, so I'm going to add four Single Strike Urshifu V and four Single Strike Urshifu VMAX. Now, if you can't get your hands on four of each—which is understandable—you can always swap in more Trainer cards in their place. For example, you can add in maybe Evolution Incense or Pokémon Communication instead of that fourth Single Strike Urshifu VMAX.

G-Max One Blow is a very costly attack. It requires four Energy to use, and then you have to discard all of them when you do attack. Single Strike Urshifu V's Laser Focus attack can accelerate things early on, but it's too slow to use in the later parts of the game. That brings us back to Houndoom from earlier—it plays a crucial role in powering up Single Strike Urshifu VMAX. With this deck, you'll want to get two or three Houndoom into play at a time to charge up that big Pokémon VMAX as quickly as possible, so we're also going to add four Houndour and 4 Houndoom to maximize the chances of getting multiple into play.

In case you run into a deck full of Psychic-type Pokémon, it might be a good idea to throw in a Tyranitar V, which is another Single Strike Pokémon. A lot of Psychic Pokémon have a Weakness to Darkness types, so you can swing that type advantage back into your favor. The Single Strike Crush attack is pretty strong, but be careful—discarding four cards from your own deck is very risky! Also, can we just take a second to appreciate this fantastic artwork?

Now the last thing to touch on is support Pokémon. Dedenne-GX and Crobat V won't do very much in battle, but their Abilities give you a chance to draw through your deck quickly to find the cards you need. A general rule of thumb: drawing lots of cards is a good thing in the Pokémon TCG! Nearly every competitive deck uses these Pokémon, so try to add them to your collection if you don't already have them!


Complete the Training

The Trainer lineup for this deck is pretty similar to the Primeape deck, so we won't spend a whole lot of time here. But there are some differences between the decks that are worth calling out.

Level Ball is not a good fit for this deck—it can only get Houndour here. Instead, we'll play four Quick Ball, two Evolution Incense, and then two Pokémon Communication as ways to search for Pokémon.

Instead of Air Balloon and Scoop Up Net, we'll use Switch and Escape Rope as ways to move our Pokémon around. Some of the Pokémon in this deck have a Retreat Cost of three or more, so Air Balloon… it's not a good fit for this deck.

Then we can look at a new Single Strike card that wasn't in the first deck: Single Strike Scroll of Scorn. (Try saying that five times fast!) If you attach this Pokémon Tool to a Single Strike Pokémon, that Pokémon gains access to the Furious Anger attack, which only costs one Fighting Energy. Single Strike Urshifu VMAX has 330 HP, so usually it won't go down in one attack. And then after it takes some damage, the Furious Anger attack can strike back with a vengeance. It also works well with Houndoom's Single Strike Roar, since it puts two damage counters on your own Pokémon. This Tool works as a great cheap follow-up attack after discarding all of your Energy with G-Max One Blow.

For the Energy cards, adding four Single Strike Energy is a no-brainer. Then, let's make sure there's enough basic Fighting Energy in the deck for Single Strike Urshifu V's Laser Focus attack to go grab Fighting Energy. So, we'll go with four. Then let's wrap it up with three Stone Fighting Energy, which can potentially help your Urshifu withstand attacks in battle.





Well, I hope you enjoyed our introduction to Battle Styles! To recap, we went over the details of Single Strike and Rapid Strike, figured out how to channel the anger of Primeape, and then learned how to crush with Single Strike Urshifu VMAX. Let me know what kind of decks you're looking forward to trying out with the new Sword & Shield—Battle Styles expansion! Thanks for watching everyone, and we'll see you next time on Top Deck Academy.

It's extra credit time, Trainers! Here are the deck lists we discussed today:


  • Single Strike Primeape
  • Single Strike Urshifu VMAX
Pokémon
  • 4
    Primeape
    67/163
    swsh5 67
  • 4
    Mankey
    66/163
    swsh5 66
  • 3
    Houndoom
    96/163
    swsh5 96
  • 3
    Houndour
    95/163
    swsh5 95
  • 2
    Jynx
    76/236
    sm11 76
  • 2
    Spiritomb
    112/234
    sm10 112
Energy Cards
  • 4
    Single Strike Energy
    swsh5 141
  • 3
    Aurora Energy
    swsh1 186
  • 2
    Stone { Fighting } Energy
    swsh4 164
Trainer Cards
  • 4
    Professor’s Research (Professor Juniper)
    swsh45 60
  • 2
    Boss’s Orders (Lysandre)
    swsh45 58
  • 2
    Bruno
    swsh5 121
  • 2
    Marnie
    swsh1 169
  • 4
    Tower of Darkness
    swsh5 137
  • 4
    Evolution Incense
    swsh1 163
  • 4
    Level Ball
    xy7 76
  • 4
    Urn of Vitality
    swsh5 139
  • 3
    Quick Ball
    swsh1 179
  • 2
    Air Balloon
    swsh1 156
  • 1
    Ordinary Rod
    swsh1 171
  • 1
    Scoop Up Net
    swsh2 165
More Info Copy Deck List
Pokémon
  • 4
    Single Strike Urshifu VMAX
    86/163
    swsh5 86
  • 4
    Single Strike Urshifu V
    85/163
    swsh5 85
  • 4
    Houndoom
    96/163
    swsh5 96
  • 4
    Houndour
    95/163
    swsh5 95
  • 1
    Crobat V
    104/189
    swsh3 104
  • 1
    Dedenne-GX
    57/234
    sm10 57
  • 1
    Tyranitar V
    97/163
    swsh5 97
Energy Cards
  • 4
    Fighting Energy
    nrg1 31
  • 4
    Single Strike Energy
    swsh5 141
  • 3
    Stone { Fighting } Energy
    swsh4 164
Trainer Cards
  • 4
    Professor’s Research (Professor Juniper)
    swsh45 60
  • 3
    Marnie
    swsh1 169
  • 2
    Boss’s Orders (Giovanni)
    swsh2 154
  • 1
    Bruno
    swsh5 121
  • 4
    Tower of Darkness
    swsh5 137
  • 4
    Quick Ball
    swsh1 179
  • 4
    Urn of Vitality
    swsh5 139
  • 2
    Evolution Incense
    swsh1 163
  • 2
    Pokémon Communication
    sm9 152
  • 2
    Switch
    swsh1 183
  • 1
    Escape Rope
    swsh5 125
  • 1
    Single Strike Scroll of Scorn
    swsh5 133
More Info Copy Deck List
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