It's a bit hard to build a deck. There's so many cards I can barely think of an idea, or how I'm supposed to build one! Could anyone lend me a hand on this?
How do I build a Pokémon TCG deck?
Deck building 101
What's the starting point from building a deck? Before deciding on this you must have clear what actually makes a deck win games.
I cannot stress this point enough. A consistent deck is one where every single card work towards a well focused strategy. Let's make some examples on this to explain this better.
I'll list a theme deck, say, Ice Shock from Boundaries Crossed:
Now, can you tell me the strategy this deck uses? Sure, one could go like "let's load a lot of energy thanks to my only Blastoise and attack!". But ask yourself the following:
When building a deck always make yourself these questions. If a card looks cool enough with a decent effect, but you aren't sure if this will help your strategy, think again or remove it entirely. At the end of this post there's a Blastoise/Keldeo-EX deck. Let's say we think Jellicent from the deck I just listed looks cool enough for inclusion. "Sure!", you might say. "It's a decent card and we can still give it lots of energy thanks to Blastoise!". And maybe it might be a good idea, but what is it doing to help us win, or better yet, how does it help our main strategy, which consists of fast and powerful attacks with Keldeo-EX? Personally I see no reason for it to be here.
On that regard, the deck I listed at the bottom of the post might not be the most optimal build, but at least it keeps a level of consistency in that no card is there for no reason.
You might have a consistent deck. It can be a REALLY consistent deck. But if it's not fast enough, consistency won't win games. Speed is important. You want to take a prize before your opponent does.
Keep in mind: one Stage 2 line removes from your speed. Don't think this means you shouldn't use Stage 2 cards, but be aware that two Stage 2 lines might be too slow. Back in the DP-on and MD-on era we even had a Stadium Card (Broken Time-Space) that allowed us to evolve Pokémon as fast as we wanted, meaning we could just skip the evolution constraints. Nowadays we don't have such a card and we can just rely on Rare Candy and maybe the newer Clefable. What we can do though is to use strong Basic Pokémon, like Pokémon-EX, to speed up things. Or, we can use Stage 2 Pokémon with little energy requirements and that can hit hard, such as Garchomp and Empoleon.
Speed is important. If you don't have speed in your deck, you might have a good strategy and be pulling it decently but your opponent might have already taken two or three prizes, meaning you're already losing.
Why would I want a strategy? I just play with my friends! And that's perfectly fine. If you're not going to play in tournaments and are completely fine with building a deck with your favorite cards and don't mind losing, it's perfectly fine. However, if what you want is to take a step forward, then a strategy is a must.
For choosing a strategy, choose a combination of two or more cards. Some good combinations are Eelektrik and Zekrom (Zekrom discards [L] energies you can retrieve with Eelektrik), Gabite, Garchomp and Altaria (Gabite searches for [D] Pokémon, Garchomp hits 60 for [F] and Altaria is a [D] Pokémon that adds 20 damage to [D] Pokémon when in play), Empoleon and Emolga (Emolga fills your bench and Empoleon deals damage with [W] and adds more damage the more Benched Pokémon you have, plus it lets you draw two cards by discarding one) and Blastoise and Keldeo-EX (which I'm going to talk about now).
Choosing a strategy
The first thing you should ask yourself is: "How do I want to win?" Let's double check the possible ways to win a game, since that's what you build your deck for.
You win a Pokémon TCG game by fulfilling one of the following conditions:
Keeping all of this in mind, we must choose one or more ways to win. For the sake of simplicity (and because most decks use this as a basis), we will use the first two winning conditions.
Choose a combination
The best way to see what cards would allow us to win in the way we've chosen, we must find a combination of two or more cards that would let us win in the fastest way possible. Why fastest? In the current format (BW-on), speed is important. There are so many Pokémon-EX we cannot just ignore speed. We must hit hard and fast before our opponent get a chance to use their Pokémon! And this doesn't just apply to Pokémon-EX but to any metagame. Even in the old days of Base Set/Jungle/Fossil we had to deal with this, namely the Haymaker deck which won many games hitting fast and hard.
There's a combination we can use for a simple deck (keep in mind this combo is actually being used): Blastoise (Boundaries Crossed) and Keldeo-EX. Why?
So, it's a Pokémon that allow us to attach as many [W] energy as we want to our Pokémon! Now let's see Keldeo-EX:
So, the idea is: we take out Blastoise, draw as many [W] energies as we need, attach them to Keldeo-EX and use Rush In to make it active. Great synergy!
Building the core
Now that we've decided our core strategy, we must now build the basic core! Just keep in mind we cannot place more than 4 cards of each type, except for Basic energies. Let's do it!
Why 4 of each? Not only this is our core, but the cards we will be using the most. It's only natural we want the most of them!
But, do we really want 4 of each?
Firstly. How many Blastoise do we need in play? Only one. So maybe four Blastoise is a bit overhead. We can try reducing this to a smaller core (keeping four Squirtle in case of being catchered [Pokémon Catcher allows you to switch our opponent's Pokémon with any other of his or her bench]):
We can still reduce the Wartortles with help from Rare Candy, which lets us evolve one of our Basic Pokémon to its Stage 2 card. If we include all four Rare Candies we can reduce Wartortles to just one (and one to avoid Item locks such as Gothitelle, which wouldn't allow us to play that card):
It's still 16 cards, but now we can have Blastoise at turn 2 and be ready to attack. It's way faster than what we had before!
Supporting cards (not Supporter cards though)
Now that we have our core, we must focus on cards that will support our main strategy. Do not confuse the title with Supporter cards. We will add them here but I'm not talking exactly about these.
What do we need to take these Pokémon as fast as possible? Here you can be creative and add whatever cards you would think will help the strategy. I'll describe some cards you should consider when building a deck (and that might be useful for this particular deck):
If you notice, Trainer cards can be roughly classified as:
All in all, we shouldn't just include one of each and be done. What we must be pursuing is consistency. Our deck must be able to pursuit the goal we've defined before in all times and each and every card must help with this. Keeping all of this in mind, I've decided to include the following cards:
29 trainers?! Isn't it a bit excessive? No. Actually no. Most of your deck should consist of Trainers, believe it or not.
Completing the deck and adding other cards
We have a solid deck but we're lacking two other things:
What's a tech? It's a card we include in order to deal with threats to our deck! What can threat our deck SO much???
Sigilyph can be easily dealt with: We load a Blastoise with energy, retreat a Keldeo, and send it to attack. A Blastoise with [W][W][W] attached will KO it in no time. The real problem is Mewtwo-EX. Sadly the best way to counter it is with another Mewtwo-EX. So, we will include two of these.
Now we have 43 cards in our deck. How about adding three more cards? I would bet for Energy Retrieval, which recovers two Basic Energy cards from our discard pile. So adding three of these will be great. The remainder of the deck will be water energies - limit yourself to no more than 18 Energy cards and that's for a deck that actually needs many of them.
The final deck
We've gone through building a deck from the very core of it to an actual full fledged deck. Keep in mind this might not be an optimal build, but I think it's enough to illustrate the point and to help starters getting going with their very own deck.