Three Approaches to Building a Charizard Deck by Pokémon TCG Experts

Building a Pokémon TCG deck is no easy task, even when you know what Pokémon you want to build around. It's all about making a lot of small decisions about which Pokémon, Trainer, and Energy cards will help you the most until you have a 60-card deck that's ready for battle. But not everyone makes the same decisions along the way, even among Pokémon TCG players with years of experience.

We asked three of our most knowledgeable card players—2019 World Championships Top 4 player Tord Reklev, Play! Pokémon commentator Ellis Longhurst, and judge Christopher Schemanske—to talk us through how they would design a deck. We gave them one card—Charizard from the new Sword & Shield—Vivid Voltage expansion—and asked them to design a deck around it. Even though they all began from the same starting point, their approaches varied, resulting in three interesting—and quite different—decks.

Here are the basics: Charizard is a Stage 2 Fire-type Pokémon with 170 HP. Its Battle Sense Ability lets you look at the top three cards of your deck, put one of them into your hand, and discard the other two. Charizard's Royal Blaze attack does 100 damage for two Fire Energy, plus 50 more for each Leon Supporter card in your discard pile.

Read on to learn straight from these experts what decisions they made to make an awesome Charizard deck of their own!


Christopher Schemanske

Charizard is an exciting opportunity for deck building with a high-powered attack and an intriguing, but risky, Ability in Royal Blaze. It presents some interesting challenges to work through. Charizard's Ability alone could fuel a “Mad Party” strategy—but I'll stick to attacking with Charizard here.

When building a deck, space efficiency is often the hallmark of a successful strategy. When it comes to Stage 2 Pokémon, this can become challenging quite quickly as you need to include more Pokémon cards than in a deck built around a Basic Pokémon. Charizard is extra challenging, with four Leon obviously being necessary. Add in four Charmander, a Charmeleon or two, three or four Charizard, four Leon, and four Rare Candy—a necessity—and we've already filled a quarter of the deck! Careful choices are required from here on.


Pokémon
  • 3
    Charizard
    25/203
    swsh4 25
  • 1
    Charizard
    14/181
    sm9 14
  • 2
    Charmeleon
    8/68
    sm115 8
  • 4
    Charmander
    12/181
    sm9 12
  • 4
    Snorlax
    131/203
    swsh4 131
  • 2
    Salazzle
    31/234
    sm10 31
  • 2
    Salandit
    27/202
    swsh1 27
  • 1
    Dedenne-GX
    57/234
    sm10 57
Energy Cards
  • 9
    Fire Energy
    nrg1 27
Trainer Cards
  • 4
    Leon
    swsh4 154
  • 4
    Rosa
    sm12 204
  • 2
    Welder
    sm10 189
  • 1
    Boss’s Orders (Giovanni)
    swsh2 154
  • 1
    Giant Hearth
    sm11 197
  • 4
    Quick Ball
    swsh1 179
  • 4
    Rare Candy
    swsh1 180
  • 3
    Evolution Incense
    swsh1 163
  • 3
    Pokégear 3.0
    swsh1 174
  • 2
    Fire Crystal
    sm10 173
  • 2
    Ordinary Rod
    swsh1 171
  • 2
    Switch
    swsh1 183
More Info Copy Deck List

I always start by thinking about how to make the deck's basic strategy function. It's easy to plan lots of nifty Pokémon combinations, but getting them set up in-game can be extremely challenging. Stage 2 decks especially need to draw a lot of cards, simply by requiring more Pokémon to set up. Because of the space constraints coming from Leon, I've chosen a somewhat unusual path with Snorlax as the primary way to draw cards. It works particularly well since the early game won't see us attacking very much. Every other Basic Pokémon in the deck has a Retreat Cost of 1 Energy, which means an Energy attachment can easily get Snorlax into the Active Spot on the first turn if we didn't start with it. If that wasn't the case, this would be a harder decision.

Salazzle is something I've included to really keep things moving throughout the entire game, and it's here just for drawing. It's possible that it and Snorlax are too much together; Ninetales, Cinccino, and Volcarona-GX are all other partners I considered for drawing cards or adding extra dimensions to our strategy. But, admittedly, I tend to be careful when first building a deck and like to make sure there's enough draw to make the strategy work before I try other ideas. We do also have a Dedenne-GX for the pinch situation where a new hand is the only option, but being worth two Prize cards makes it a bit dangerous.

In addition to Snorlax, there needs to be a Supporter or two helping set up the strategy. Professor's Research, Marnie, and others are all good considerations, but I've chosen to use Rosa. It complements Snorlax really well: we can draw up to seven cards with Snorlax's Gormandize Ability, let Snorlax get Knocked Out, and use Rosa to pick out the pieces that we didn't already draw to get Charizard rolling. That could be a Rare Candy, Charizard itself, a Leon to discard, or a Fire Energy—there are numerous possibilities. Rosa is really great for keeping things moving mid-game, too, which is where a lot of Stage 2 decks can falter.

In almost every deck, I look for ways to get extra Energy attachments—the game is sometimes just too fast to play one at a time. Welder serves that role here, adding extra Energy in a pinch. Boss's Orders is important for keeping your opponent on edge, but due to space constraints, I've only included one copy. Both of these cards would be great in higher quantities, but we have to be careful to avoid having too many Supporters—you can only play one per turn, after all.

That takes us to deciding how to search for Pokémon. This deck needs a decent amount of Pokémon search power, as it requires a lot to get going. Salazzle, Charizard, and others are often needed at specific times (which makes some inexact search cards, like Great Ball, a bit worse). It's an easy choice to include four Quick Ball here, as we need to get Charmander, Snorlax, and Salandit in the game quickly. As a bonus, it's one of the ways we have to discard Leon to fuel Charizard's attack (sadly, playing all 4 in every game is probably not something we'll have time for). Evolution Incense, Pokémon Communication, and the aforementioned Great Ball are all alternatives for finding non-Basic Pokémon. I've gone with Evolution Incense for the guaranteed ability to find Evolutions when we want them, but Pokémon Communication is something to consider here too, as this deck includes 19 Pokémon—a pretty healthy number.

There a few other odds and ends: Fire Crystal and Ordinary Rod help keep the Fire Energy coming, both for Salazzle and for attacking. Ordinary Rod also helps to keep more Charizard on the move, which is really important. Giant Hearth can get rid of your opponent's harmful Stadium cards in a pinch, and since it's searchable with Rosa, we can quickly find lots of Energy. Pokégear 3.0 is an odd choice on the surface, but helps with finding Leon, Rosa, or perhaps that lone Boss's Orders at the right time.

One problem with Charizard is that we could get unlucky with putting copies of Leon in the Prize cards and have no good way to do high damage. Sadly, we don't have much room for other Pokémon, but a copy of Charizard from Sun & Moon—Team Up does give some extra depth to the deck. This Charizard can come through in that Prize-card pinch and does generally help by offering another attacking option. In theory, a Welder for two Energy, an Energy attachment for the turn, and a Roaring Resolve could get to 280 damage out of nowhere!

Charizard presents some challenges but is a really exciting card to build around. If only we could put 70 cards in our deck! I hope our ideas have given you some inspiration of your own.


Ellis Longhurst

Designing your own Pokémon TCG battle deck is perhaps both the most rewarding and most challenging aspect of the game. In the design phase, it is tempting to stuff all your powerful cards like Pokémon-GX and Pokémon V into your deck. However, the most successful decks prioritize the inclusion of Pokémon and Trainer cards that interact to facilitate a core strategy, which can often result in surprising and successful combinations. By making considered card choices, players can design a deck that enables their favorite Pokémon to shine. Let's see how this plays out with Charizard from the Sword & Shield—Vivid Voltage expansion.

The first decision to make is whether Charizard will be the focus of the deck or one of a supporting cast of Pokémon; this will influence the number of cards (and which types) to include for Charizard to participate in battles effectively. Charizard has a powerful attack and a globally useful Ability, which means it could play either role. Zacian V is an example of a popular Pokémon that is similar in its versatility. Zacian V routinely appears in decks as the powerful attacking option, but many players have also included this Pokémon in their deck solely to make use of its Intrepid Sword Ability. I have decided to turn Charizard into the hero of the deck by focusing on its Royal Blaze attack. Take a look at the list below.


Pokémon
  • 4
    Charizard
    25/203
    swsh4 25
  • 2
    Charmeleon
    24/203
    swsh4 24
  • 4
    Charmander
    23/203
    swsh4 23
  • 3
    Jirachi
    99/181
    sm9 99
  • 1
    Eldegoss V
    19/192
    swsh2 19
  • 1
    Oranguru
    148/202
    swsh1 148
  • 1
    Oricorio-GX
    95/236
    sm12 95
  • 1
    Talonflame V
    29/203
    swsh4 29
Energy Cards
  • 10
    Fire Energy
    nrg1 27
Trainer Cards
  • 4
    Leon
    swsh4 154
  • 4
    Welder
    sm10 189
  • 2
    Professor's Research (Professor Magnolia)
    swsh1 178
  • 1
    Boss’s Orders (Giovanni)
    swsh2 154
  • 2
    Giant Hearth
    sm11 197
  • 4
    Quick Ball
    swsh1 179
  • 4
    Rare Candy
    swsh1 180
  • 4
    Switch
    swsh1 183
  • 2
    Evolution Incense
    swsh1 163
  • 2
    Ordinary Rod
    swsh1 171
  • 2
    Pokémon Communication
    sm9 152
  • 1
    Fire Crystal
    sm10 173
  • 1
    Tool Scrapper
    swsh2 168
More Info Copy Deck List

The Building Blocks: Charizard is a Stage 2 Pokémon, which means the deck needs to include Charmander and Charmeleon, too. The more copies of the same card that are in the deck, the more likely it is that a player will be able to draw that card when needed; hence this deck runs a maximum of four copies of Charmander and Charizard.

One of the biggest weaknesses of Stage 2 Pokémon in battle is the number of turns it takes them to reach their final stage. For this reason, most decks that feature Stage 2 Pokémon include Rare Candy. I have also included two Charmeleon in the list because finding a Rare Candy and a Charizard at the same time is certainly not guaranteed!

Charizard's Royal Blaze attack requires Fire Energy and does more damage for each Leon Supporter card in the discard pile. The deck should include four Leon and an appropriate number of Fire Energy cards.

Pokémon Setup: The importance of including Trainer cards that search for Pokémon cannot be overstated. These cards ensure that players can retrieve Pokémon from their deck or discard pile. It is difficult to execute a strategy if you do not have the right Pokémon in play! A deck that relies on only Basic Pokémon, like a Pikachu & Zekrom-GX deck, will use Quick Ball and Electromagnetic Radar to search for Pokémon V and Lightning-type Pokémon-GX. Conversely, since this Charizard deck contains a variety of Basic and Evolution Pokémon, it includes Quick Ball, Pokémon Communication, and Evolution Incense.

Once Charizard is on the battlefield, it needs two Fire Energy attached to be able to attack with Royal Blaze. I have chosen to speed up this process by including four copies of the Welder Supporter card.

Consistency: The most successful battle decks can execute their strategy repeatedly and reliably. For Charizard, this could prove to be tricky. It can be difficult to set up one Stage 2 Pokémon in a game, let alone multiple! Fortunately, there are three supporting Pokémon that make the task a little easier. Jirachi's Stellar Wish Ability, Oricorio-GX's Dance of Tribute Ability, and Eldegoss V's Happy Match Ability can find one or more of the combinations of cards that turn a Charmander into a fully powered Charizard in one turn.

Adding further complexity to this deck is the need to discard as many Leon Supporter cards as possible. By using Oranguru's Primate Wisdom Ability in combination with Charizard's Battle Sense Ability, players can discard a Leon without having to play it as their Supporter card for the turn. This is important because it means playing Welder is still an option for that turn.

My deck features additional Pokémon and Trainer cards that were specifically selected because they enable the player to discard cards. For example, consider the benefit of playing Giant Hearth instead of Energy Spinner, Professor's Research instead of Rosa, and Talonflame V instead of Snorlax in this kind of deck.

Unfortunately, players will not always have control over which cards are discarded and when. Discarding too many of the cards described in the building blocks section of this piece can spell the end of the game for Charizard. By including Fire Crystal and Ordinary Rod in the list, players won't feel the heat every time they use Battle Sense.

Conclusion: Experiment with this deck design process to turn your favorite Pokémon into the hero of your deck. Remember, the first list for a deck is a draft. Some of the best ideas on paper do not always result in a victory. Find out which cards work well together and what improvements you might need to make by taking your deck to the battlefield!


Tord Reklev

The new Charizard in Sword & Shield—Vivid Voltage has an incredible amount of potential, but it takes quite a bit of work to get there. Its Royal Blaze attack does 100 damage, plus more damage for each Leon in your discard pile for only two Fire Energy, maxing out at an impressive 300 damage with all four Leon discarded. This is something that will be hard to do immediately, but it's what I wanted to reach for in the endgame. As such, this drives much of my deck strategy around the card.


Pokémon
  • 4
    Charizard
    25/203
    swsh4 25
  • 1
    Charmeleon
    8/68
    sm115 8
  • 4
    Charmander
    12/181
    sm9 12
  • 4
    Jirachi
    99/181
    sm9 99
  • 1
    Dedenne-GX
    57/234
    sm10 57
  • 1
    Galarian Zigzagoon
    117/202
    swsh1 117
  • 1
    Mew
    76/234
    sm10 76
  • 1
    Mewtwo
    75/234
    sm10 75
  • 1
    Oranguru
    148/202
    swsh1 148
  • 1
    Oricorio-GX
    95/236
    sm12 95
Energy Cards
  • 6
    Fire Energy
    nrg1 27
Trainer Cards
  • 4
    Leon
    swsh4 154
  • 4
    Marnie
    swsh1 169
  • 2
    Welder
    sm10 189
  • 1
    Boss’s Orders (Giovanni)
    swsh2 154
  • 3
    Giant Hearth
    sm11 197
  • 4
    Quick Ball
    swsh1 179
  • 4
    Rare Candy
    swsh1 180
  • 4
    Scoop Up Net
    swsh2 165
  • 4
    Switch
    swsh1 183
  • 3
    Pokémon Communication
    sm9 152
  • 2
    Ordinary Rod
    swsh1 171
More Info Copy Deck List

To Knock Out Pokémon VMAX in one hit, we need to do around 320–340 damage. Playing the last Leon with the other three in the discard pile will bring Charizard to 330 damage. That's still 10 damage short of Knocking Out Eternatus VMAX, so I decided to include Galarian Zigzagoon to make sure I could Knock Out virtually any Pokémon in one shot. With Charizard doing a base of 300 damage, playing two Galarian Zigzagoon with the Headbutt Tantrum Ability will be enough to Knock Out Pokémon VMAX sitting at 320 HP, like Centiskorch VMAX and Inteleon VMAX.

A natural conclusion would be to include Scoop Up Net in the list to reuse Galarian Zigzagoon for these crucial numbers. If I'm going to commit to Scoop Up Net, using Jirachi also feels like a good idea. Their natural synergy allows Jirachi to be used multiple times in the same turn. Plus, since our main Pokémon is a Stage 2, we would be best off to speed up the process by using Rare Candy to evolve our Pokémon faster. Finding Rare Candy and Charizard in the same hand could be frustrating, but Jirachi makes it easier to find the missing piece by either picking up the Rare Candy or a Pokémon Communication for Charizard. Adding a number of Switch cards makes using multiple Jirachi each turn easier, as well.

Since it could be important to use a Leon for a big Knock Out in the late game, I decided to include Mewtwo to be able to get a Leon back if we already happened to discard them all. Mewtwo can also be reused with Scoop Up Net, making it a good fit for our engine. Oranguru could also be used together with Mewtwo to get the Supporter directly into hand. It also has good uses being able to put a Rare Candy or Charizard on top of your deck, before using Marnie, to give yourself a better chance of drawing both pieces in the same hand. After setting up Charizard, you can put a card on top of your deck that you want to discard with Charizard's Ability—Leon, for example.

Since the deck is mainly single-Prize Pokémon, Oricorio-GX could be activated multiple times and draw us a lot of cards throughout the game, so that also seemed like a natural inclusion. I also added one Dedenne-GX just to make sure we have an out in case we run into a weak hand early. It can also be used aggressively in the late game to draw the remainder of the deck to guarantee to find the game-winning cards.

Pikachu & Zekrom-GX and Mewtwo & Mew-GX have been very popular lately, and both have strong snipe options against the opposing Bench with Tag Bolt and Venom Shot (via Naganadel-GX). Since this would be rather problematic, I added a Mew from Sun & Moon—Unbroken Bonds to deal with the issue.

For Pokémon search, using a full allotment of Quick Ball seems mandatory, as it is the best Pokémon search card available. Since I now have a relatively high amount of Pokémon (19), I decided to add three Pokémon Communication. These can find both Basic Pokémon and Charizard and should find plenty of use with the healthy amount of Pokémon.

Since Charizard needs only two Energy to attack, I figured we could get away with a low count of Fire Energy. It will still be important to find them, so my deck list includes six Fire Energy and three Giant Hearth. That gives the deck the chance of attacking with three Charizard during a game. That seemed a little low to me, especially with a chance of Fire Energy landing in the Prize cards or discard pile, probably bringing the total down to two Charizard attacking in a game. Using two copies of Ordinary Rod helps recycle any Energy and the Pokémon that get Knocked Out, giving us the chance to attack with up to five, but more probably around four, Charizard during the game.

What I found the most difficult was how to balance the Supporter cards. Using Professor's Research looked like a risky choice to me, as we could be forced to discard a lot of important pieces like Rare Candy and Ordinary Rod. I still wanted some good draw power, so I decided to go with Marnie. Marnie also has the added effect of disrupting our opponent's hand, meaning we can get away with not playing Reset Stamp in the list. I think we could charge up one or two Charizard with only manual Energy attachments while setting up, but when we start trading Knock Outs with our opponent, we'll need better acceleration. I added two Welder to the deck for some extra draw power and Energy acceleration so the deck can keep up. Finally, I added a Boss's Orders, so we also have the option to Knock Out something on the Bench. Since these are also reusable with the Mewtwo, I was content with playing them in smaller numbers.

We now have a deck that, in theory, seems to have all the necessary options needed for it to function. A strong early game in Jirachi and the Scoop Up Net / Switch engine, and multiple ways to get Leon in the discard pile using Giant Hearth, Quick Ball, and Charizard's Ability combined with Oranguru. Ordinary Rod helps us get our important resources back and set up for that big one-hit Knock Out in the late game, where we hopefully have assembled all our cards so we can hit for up to 340 damage.

I look forward to trying out this card; it has multiple things going for it and could be a ton of fun! Being a Stage 2 Pokémon is often a struggle these days with the format being so fast-paced, but maybe this card has the extra power needed.





There you have it: one card, three different decks. It shows that there's no one right way to build a deck, and the journey toward a final deck can be extremely fun and rewarding. Now it's your turn to make a great deck with Charizard!

For more Pokémon TCG strategy and analysis, be sure to keep checking Pokemon.co.uk/Strategy.




About the Writers

Christopher Schemanske
Christopher Schemanske is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. He's been playing the Pokémon TCG since 2010, with a streak of Worlds invitations between 2012–2018. Nowadays, he enjoys splitting his Pokémon time between playing and being part of the awesome Professor staff teams at major events.



Ellis Longhurst
Ellis Longhurst is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. She has been competing in high-level Pokémon TCG tournaments since 2006 and creating written content for the Pokémon community since 2011. Now she brings some Australian flavor to the Play! Pokémon commentary teams at the International and World Championships.



Tord Reklev
Tord Reklev is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. He is a longtime player from Norway, playing the game since he was 6 years old. He is notable for being the only Masters Division player to win the North America, Europe, and Oceania Internationals, and he recently made Top 4 at the World Championships. Outside of the game, he is a student and enjoys playing tennis. You can find him at most big events and can follow him on Twitter at @TordReklev.

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