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Subject 00-147 @CardBoardWar_ Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Building a Gym Leader Challenge Deck List: Where to Start? (1/3)


Building a new deck from scratch can sometimes be a daunting or confusing task in the Gym Leader Challenge format, especially if you’re new to the format. In this article, I’ll go over a few examples of decks I’ve built, especially focusing on the ideas that led to their creation, and how I managed to flesh those initial ideas out into full, (mostly) working decks. This is part 1 of a 3-part set of articles surrounding the process of deck building in the GLC format, and how to tune-up a deck to get it working to its best potential!

Picking a Starting Point

A lot of the time, the drive to build a new deck comes from just a single card – usually either a favourite Pokémon or an interesting card released in the latest set that has enough going for it to push it into the category of “just might work”. Personally, a good example of a favourite Pokémon inspiring a deck of its own is Regidrago (especially since I really like the art on ASR 118). I’d already played it a lot in my first Dragon deck, but the mix of Energy available in that deck meant that it didn’t get to attack very often - so why not try to make it the star of its own show?

In this case, that would mean choosing to use basic Grass and Fire Energy, to make attacking easier, so I went looking for other Dragon Pokémon that use one or the other of these Energy types, and Trainer cards to help support this kind of strategy. From these criteria, I quickly started to build the deck out, adding in Zygarde (EVS 118) as another attacker with a Grass Energy in its costs, as well as noticing that both these energy types had a Supporter for extra Energy acceleration – Welder and Gardenia’s Vigor. These extra supporters would be important too, as paying for 3-cost attacks can sometimes be rough in Dragon, where you have to make sure you have the right Energy types available as well.

Adding in Haxorus (UNM 156) and Drampa (CEC 159) to make use of my strong Basic Energy acceleration, along with Druddigon (BRS 113) as another Fire Energy attacker really had the Pokémon selection taking shape. The deck was then rounded out by the common Dragon support picks of Dragonite (TEU 119) and Gabite (DRX 89), to help find Supporter cards and Pokémon respectively.

This process seems ideal, but the deck also features Hydreigon (PHF 74) – what’s it doing here?

In this deck, Hydreigon is emblematic of another important part of the deckbuilding process – don’t be afraid to change up your choices! In its first draft, the deck featured a Noivern, which would have needed the extra Darkness Energy to pay its attack costs, but it didn’t really fit very well alongside the other attackers, so it didn’t make the final cut. Hydreigon stayed however, as the extra Energy can really help to pay the Colorless parts of attack costs, or boost Haxorus’ damage output by an extra 40.

Other times, the inspiration to get to deckbuilding can come from a newly-released card, and for me that card was Seaking, released in Scarlet & Violet: 151. As well as having beautiful artwork, this Seaking offered a third unique Pokémon with the Swim Freely attack – unlocking the potential for a serious Swim Freely deck in Gym Leader Challenge!

For those unaware, Swim Freely centres around a few Pokémon printed in Lost Origin – most notably Finneon, whose “Oceanic Accompaniment” Ability allows you to attach as many Water Energy from your hand to your Pokémon as you like during your turn, as long as they have the Swim Freely attack. Unfortunately, Lost Origin only brought two Swim Freely attackers along with it – not great for a singleton format.

What are Existing Decks Doing?

With the core of the Swim Freely deck very well defined, I only needed to work out what Pokémon would be good to support that strategy. I could scroll through all the Water Pokémon in the format with the Cards tab (conveniently pre-filtered to only Gym Leader Challenge-legal cards) – but it might be easier to look at what other people have been playing in their decks for some more focused inspiration.

To see what others are playing, the best resources available are right here! Checking out the Community Decks and Analytics pages here on CardBoard Warriors can be really helpful to find some inspiration for the strongest options available in your type. In this case, I went with a classic combination for Water of Shady Dealings Inteleon to search for my Trainer cards, and Abyssal Hand Octillery for consistent card draw. In general, this kind of approach can be really helpful if you want to make sure your deck has a real competitive edge, or if a deck you’re working on just feels like it’s missing out on a little power boost that you’re sure must exist somewhere in the format.

You can also choose to work in the opposite direction – instead of working up from a single Pokémon, maybe you have an idea for a strategy or type you’d like to play. In that case, it can definitely be useful to browse existing lists before you start building. I’ve recently been trying my hand at building Fairy – obviously a difficult task, and still in development at time of writing – and I decided that the best approach was probably going to be to try and go as fast as possible. In my mind, Fairy felt similar to Lightning – low HP totals and low damage, but perhaps you can circumvent those challenges by just being faster than your opponent.

To try and play the speed game well, I took the lessons I’d learned from playing Lightning in terms of Trainer card choices and combined them with the existing wisdom of established PokéStop lists like Wheatr’s Extreme Speed Fire, and the backbone of Watto’s infamous Turbo Fairy. I’m certainly hoping this mix can bring me success once I get down to the business of testing and iterating on the list!

Putting your own spin on someone else’s list in order to really make it your own is also easy on the CBW website – just click the Export button on the deck page, then Import the deck into the deck builder from your clipboard to make your own adjustments!

Hopefully this has given you some ideas or inspiration to get building something new, whether for the first time or not, and whatever it is, I look forward to playing against it in CBW events in the future!

All of the decks I’ve discussed here are available on my deck profile.