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Phoenixfire712 @phoenixfire7127 Saturday, February 17, 2024

Building a Gym Leader Challenge Deck List: Improving Consistency (3/3)

Once you have a working idea for a deck and some synergistic strategies, the next step is to work on the deck’s consistency and test and compare different variations of the list. 

Let's start off with some basic consistency strategies that apply to most decks. That said, don't be afraid to try something different than these basic rules, there are exceptions to every rule and every deck is different. The best innovations come from trying something that seems crazy at first.

Basic Consistency Guidelines

1. Have a good ratio of Pokemon, trainers, and energy

A good starting point for most lists is 15 Pokemon, 35 trainers, and 10 energy. This is subject to a lot of change based on the deck archetype and strategy. In most cases, the more trainers you have the more consistent the deck is at drawing cards and setting up its game plan.

2. Avoid having too many evolutions

Evolution lines take up lots of space in a deck and having too many reduces its consistency. In most cases, evolutions are best used as benched support and basics are best used as the main attackers. Basic Pokemon are easier to recover after they are knocked out and less vulnerable to being stuck in the prize cards. The most consistent GLC decks tend to recycle low maintenance basic attackers with one or two evolution Pokemon on the bench for draw and energy acceleration support. 

3. Play a good amount of draw supporters and item search cards

The amount of draw and search supporters varies from deck to deck, but a good amount to start with is usually about 10-13 supporters and 5-8 item Pokemon search cards, depending on what search cards your chosen type has access to. 

4. Limit the amount of stage 2s in your deck

Generally, stage 2s are the most inconsistent stage of Pokemon. They require the most investment to get into play, and unless the benefit they provide is essential to the function of the deck, stage 2s are best limited to 0-1 per deck. Types like Grass and Water can get away with playing extra stage 2s because they have strong type support, while types like Dark and Metal can struggle to consistently set up stage 2s.

5.  Plan out how many attackers and how much recovery is necessary to take 6 prize cards

Make sure to plan out a deck’s game plan even before you start testing. See if there's a good amount of attackers and recovery trainers in the deck, not too little that you would not have enough attackers to take 6 prizes and not too much that could unnecessarily clog up the deck and reduce consistency.

6. Practice and iteration

Deck building takes practice and iteration to perfect. Some decks won't work at first, which means that they either need more testing and time, or that there aren’t enough good options in the current card pool to make the deck work. Either way, know when to take a break from working on a deck. Don’t get burned out by unsuccessful attempts, set the idea aside and come back to it with fresh ideas at a later time. 

Consistency and Iteration Example: Turbo Energize Colorless

Sometime before the set release for Paradox Rift, during the peak of the hype surrounding Archeops before the Research Lab ban, I had the idea to try a basic energy focused build of Colorless using the new Turbo Energize TM and Mela coming out in the next set. I didn’t think that Archeops was going to be good after the Lab ban and started looking for better ways to play Colorless. Looking through the type’s card pool in an online database, I noticed the Oranguru from Sun & Moon and realized that it had a ton of unexplored potential with Nest Stash Skwovet as a draw engine. 

I began testing the deck idea, playing with a lot of greedy turbo item cards like Order Pad, Cram-o-Matic, and Maintenance. In the first iterations of the deck, I wasn’t even playing Bibarel! Only 6 basic Pokemon and a lot of item cards. 

After over 20 different versions of the deck, vigorously tested over the course of several months against a variety of matchups, I changed 16 cards to get to the final list that I used to win the CBW Season 4 Championship. 

I determined that Tornadus and Flyinium Z were a bit of a gimmick and cut them from the list for consistency. I found that while the combo was powerful, setting up and executing a consistent game plan is more important for this archetype. When testing a GLC deck, it’s usually better to build the deck to consistently execute one game plan instead of overextending into multiple inconsistent strategies.

Following some testing, I cut most of the greedy cards that require a coin flip to work. Cram-o-matic, Xtransciever, Order Pad, and Cyllene are all great cards, but there’s no guaranteed effect that you can count on when planning out your turn actions. In my opinion, coin flip cards are not worth playing in most decks. While they have very strong upsides, a couple tails coin flips in a row can lead to losing games that could have been won if the coin flip items were extra energies, supporters, and Pokemon search cards. With the extra deck space, I added Artazon, Mallow, Cyclizar, Gift Energy, and the Bibarel line to increase consistency in various ways and decrease the chance of having a very bad variance game.

Another reason why I cut most of the item draw cards such as Acro Bike and Maintenance was to decrease the deck’s reliance on abilities and items and make room for cards like Tag Call and Mallow & Lana. The Skwovet/Oranguru draw engine is incredibly strong, but in the original build if either abilities or items were locked then the deck would fall apart. Item lock isn’t common, but it does exist and it’s good to be prepared for the worst. Ability lock is very common and worth building to prepare for.

Most of the changes came down to teching for certain matchups and increasing the deck’s consistency. In testing I found that Psychic was one of the original list’s difficult matchups, so I added cards such as Chaotic Swell, Ryme, Muscle Band, Reset Stamp, and Winona to help with various aspects of the matchup. 

Closing Thoughts

Once you started with a deck idea, found some synergies, and have a starting list, test it out and keep working on it. Find what works and what doesn’t, increase or decrease the amount of supporters, stadiums, items, and tools, and try different ways of building the deck. 

When in doubt, lean towards consistency as the main priority in your deck building. The most important factor in a deck’s strategy is that it can consistently set up and execute its game plan. It takes time and practice, but a synergistic and consistent deck is well worth the effort.