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My son and I are new to Pokemon TCG. We purchased the Pokémon Trading Card Game Battle Academy and have been enjoying it. It came with three complete decks: electric, fire, and psychic. Each one came with a powerful GX card.

We would like to purchase a starting deck for each pure energy type of approximately equal strength to one another. Searching for decks has proven to be difficult as there are many options out there which we do not yet understand.

What would we be looking for to get these beginner, pre-constructed type decks in each energy type?

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Battle academy decks are excellent starter decks, but they don't exactly match up with any of the other available pre-built decks out there. Approximately, you have:

Theme decks - these are no longer being printed new, but they existed until a few sets ago and are still available if you look around online. Two came out with each new set. They're the lowest level of deck; they have no GX/V "super" card, and they're usually not very consistent. They cost very little, though, new they were MSRP around $12-13. Typically they have 20-20-20 structure (20 Pokémon, 20 trainers, 20 energy), or close to that.

V Battle decks to some extent replaced theme decks; they no longer come out with new sets, instead just coming out periodically on their own. They do have a "big card" in them, and might be the closest in concept to the Battle Academy decks. They also have a 20-20-20 structure, but they do have one "big" Pokémon.

League Battle decks are the next tier up, and are generally based on a legitimate, competitive deck. They no longer have the 20-20-20 style, but instead have a sensible amount of energy/Pokémon and far more trainers.

If I wanted to get a similar level of play, I'd probably go with the V Battle decks; there's only four of them, and unfortunately some of those types overlap, with both of the newer ones (Victini (Fire) and Gardevoir (Psychic)) overlapping, but you can get the grass (Venusaur) and water (Blastoise) if you can find them.

You also could look for "Battle Academy Supplement" decks, if you don't mind doing some extra work. Justin Basil created several, and listed the deck lists on PokeGoldfish. For these you'd have to buy the cards individually - which might be complicated - but you might be able to walk into a local gaming store and get some help there, as odds are most of the cards in the deck would be readily available.

Finally, you could also pick up some older Theme decks (don't pay more than $15-20 (USD) for them - anything much more than that is either ripping you off, or there are a few that are more valuable as collectors items). If you do that, you could consider buying a single "V" card of a matching type and adding it to the deck; without that bigger "V" or "GX" card, it's not going to be quite balanced right, but that might make the difference. Just switch out one of the other Pokémon cards from the theme deck, one that doesn't evolve into anything.


If you want to evaluate decks for yourself as you see them out there, here's what you need:

  • Card structure. Most competitive Pokémon decks have ~10 Pokémon, ~10 energy, and ~40 trainers (Item/Supporter/Stadium). Not exactly these numbers, but in this ballpark - if it has less than 30 trainers, it's not going to be very consistent. If you play a "20/20/20" deck against a deck like this, it's going to lose most of the time even if the cards are better because it won't be able to get them out.
  • HP and damage ability. Even one "big" card with 200-300 HP can make a big difference here. Evaluate whether one deck can "one hit" (do more damage in one attack than the other card has hit points) all of the cards in the other deck, once it gets set up; if one can, but the other can't, then it will be difficult for the other to win. Each deck should have a similar number of cards with "big" hit points, and preferably neither deck can "one hit" the other deck's "big" card(s) if you want a game that is more balanced.
  • Complexity, particularly related to Abilities. Abilities are pretty powerful, since they are an additional thing the card can do, sometimes when played, sometimes all the time! If one deck has a lot of abilities, and the other doesn't, it may have an advantage. It's also harder to play a deck with abilities, though! Some attacks are pretty similar to abilities in that they do things other than damage, and that also leads to more complexity (and more power).

Don't be afraid to change the decks you got over time - remove Pokémon that don't work well, and add more trainers, particularly ones that let you draw more cards. That will let you grow the decks to more effective (and more fun) decks as you play more. You can buy a Trainer's Toolkit, if you want, which will help a lot - that gives you a bunch of trainers that are useful in nearly any deck.

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  • "Most competitive Pokémon decks have ~10 Pokémon, ~10 energy, and ~40 trainers" Really? I'm surprised they run that few Pokémon and Energy cards. I've mostly played MtG competitively (I haven't really played the Pokémon TCG since I was a kid), but lands typically make up about 40% of a MtG deck, and they're analogous to Energy cards. Are most of the 40 trainer cards usually card draw and tutoring?
    – nick012000
    Sep 26, 2021 at 2:20
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    Basically, yes (though tutoring is not a common word in Pokémon lingo, outside of MtG converts, it’s called [thing] search). Pokémon games last maybe five to eight turns for each player much of the time, and in that time you draw through maybe 40-45 cards. Maybe more. There is ball search to pick the Pokémon you need and probably half the turns or more you’ll play a draw five to seven card supporter. Pokémon really has nearly nothing in common with MtG nowadays it seems sometimes!
    – Joe
    Sep 26, 2021 at 3:04

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