If you've spent some time playing the Pokémon Trading Card Game, you'll notice that players gravitate toward the super-powerful and rare Pokémon that can change the tide of battle in an instant—cards such as Mega Tyranitar-EX. Those cards are indeed awesome, and you can surely win a lot of games by building a great deck around them—but you don't have to take that approach! Creative strategies using nothing but common and uncommon decks are out there, and many are good enough to compete against even the most intimidating Pokémon available.
Feel the Sting
The best current example of this kind of deck is built around Vespiquen from the recent XY—Ancient Origins expansion. It's a variation on the Night March deck, another deck that doesn't require a bunch of rare and tough Pokémon to succeed. Along with Battle Compressor and Double Colorless Energy, Vespiquen can quickly pump up its damage potential to Knock Out hefty Pokémon left and right.
The goal of this deck is to discard a lot of Pokémon to boost the damage of Vespiquen's Bee Revenge attack. Battle Compressor is the fastest way to do that, allowing you to find 3 cards in your deck and discard them. Since Bee Revenge costs two Colorless Energy, you can power it up quickly with a Double Colorless Energy. This deck is all about overwhelming your opponent with fast, hard-hitting attacks.
Getting Pokémon into the discard pile is crucial for the Vespiquen deck, but it can be tricky to decide which Pokémon to discard. Unown is an easy one since it can discard itself from your Bench with its Farewell Letter Ability. After that, you'll want to discard the Night March Pokémon—Lampent, Pumpkaboo, and Joltik. Early in the game, Joltik's Night March attack can be more powerful than Vespiquen's Bee Revenge, but its frail 30 HP means it's pretty easy for your opponent to take down. Think of Joltik as the starting attacker, and then Vespiquen comes in as the cleanup. It's a one-two punch capable of taking down many opponents.
Trainer cards are critical for executing any deck's strategy, and this deck is no different. Here you'll find 12 Supporter cards that help draw extra cards and 6 Item cards that can search for Pokémon, meaning you'll be able to get a lot of Pokémon into your hand. Then, Professor Sycamore and Ultra Ball help get cards out of your hand and into the discard pile—effects that have even more value in this deck because they provide another way to discard Pokémon.
If you've been following along with our example deck but find that you don't have all the cards listed, don't fret—just substitute some Trainer cards if you don't have all of them. For example, Shauna can replace Professor Birch's Observations, or Pokémon Catcher can take the place of Lysandre. Work with whatever you have.
Also, keep an eye out for hard-to-find cards that can help your deck, including VS Seeker and Shaymin-EX. Both are highly sought after but work really well within this deck. VS Seeker lets you reuse a Supporter card you played or discarded, and Shaymin-EX can draw a lot of cards.
The Slow Turn
Next up, we're going to look at a completely different style of deck that revolves around Mienshao. While the Vespiquen deck was all about speed and power, this Mienshao deck aims to wear down your opponent slowly. The idea here is to use the Aero Turn attack, which returns Mienshao to your hand after it does its damage. Then, you can send out another Mienshao with a Focus Sash attached to it, which should allow it to withstand an attack from your opponent's Pokémon. Attack with Aero Turn again, and send out another Fighting-type Pokémon with Focus Sash. Repeat this process until you win! When your Focus Sash supply runs low, Eco Arm can shuffle 3 of them back into your deck to keep your strategy going. Between Mienshao's hit-and-run tactics and the protection Focus Sash provides, you should be able to prevent your opponent from taking Prize cards, and you'll slowly wear down any opposing Pokémon with Aero Turn.
Since Aero Turn does only 40 damage, it can have a hard time taking down those big Pokémon-EX that have 170 HP or more. To help with that, Strong Energy, Muscle Band, and Fighting Stadium can pump up the damage of Mienshao's attacks. If you use all three of them at once, Aero Turn will do 100 damage instead of 40, meaning most Pokémon-EX will go down in two attacks. If you happen to find a few rare Hawlucha in your booster packs, its Flying Press attack can also provide support against Pokémon-EX.
Just like the Vespiquen deck, Trainer cards are crucial to the Mienshao deck's success. We've already covered a few of the important ones, but another big helper is Robo Substitute. Since you can play it as a Basic Pokémon, you can make it your Active Pokémon after using Aero Turn, and your opponent won't take a Prize card if it gets Knocked Out. It's one more way to prevent your opponent from taking Prize cards so Mienshao can keep attacking. Korrina and Level Ball give this deck an extra boost in consistency because they can be used to grab any Pokémon—all of them are Fighting type and have 90 HP or less.
Hopefully this gives you a good starting point to jump into the competitive side of the Pokémon TCG without needing to stock up on the rarest and most powerful cards. Great decks with common and uncommon cards are abundant and really fun to play. Look everywhere for cards that will suit your deck, too. For example, some of the Trainer cards we mentioned can be found in the Battle Arena Decks.
We'll be sure to cover more of these styles of decks that focus on more common and uncommon cards in the future. Be sure to check out Pokemon.com/strategy for more deck ideas and updates on Play! Pokémon tournaments, and use the Event Locator to find tournaments near you. Good luck!