The worst format in the history of the Pokemon trading card game

In the years that have followed the release of Black & White, I’ve heard a number of complaints about the contemporary format, and even heard hyperbolic statements to the effect that certain post-BW formats have been the “worst ever.” (I heard this a lot particularly in the “Mewtwo wars” era following the release of Next Destinies).

If you think that the worst format of the Pokemon TCG happened any time in the last several years, I am guessing that you probably didn’t play at the time of the first modified format.  Or maybe you did play back then, but nostalgia has clouded your judgment.

To be perfectly clear, playing the Pokemon TCG at the time of the first modified format was probably some of the most fun I have ever had playing a TCG, but that is largely due to the the people that I played with and the unbridled enthusiasm that I experienced during my years in primary school.  Looking back, the format sucked, and it sucked in a lot of ways that may be unfathomable to players who picked up the TCG in the past decade.

I think that the discussion of “worst format” is an interesting one to have, and I think it’s good to see where the TCG has come from and how it has evolved.  Plus, it’s fun to reminisce about the “good ol’ days” with a more critical modern perspective.  So, let’s take a trip back to 2001. Continue reading

Deckbuilding fundamentals

This article is intended to comprehensively explain the fundamentals of deck construction.  It is approximately 3,000 words in length.  Those seeking a more laconic version can find a 200-word summary at the bottom of the page.

Understanding value criteria

Generally, there are three key attributes by which decks can be measured:

  • Set-up speed
  • Momentum
  • Recovery

“Set-up speed” should be a fairly self-explanatory term: how long does it take for your deck to achieve all of the conditions necessary to execute its core strategy?  Momentum refers to how your deck operates after it has set up: once all of the parts of your deck are on the field and working as intended, how good is your deck at maintaining that?  Lastly, recovery refers to your deck’s ability to respond when your opponent manages to KO one of your Pokemon. Continue reading

Card-buying advice for beginning players

Before we begin, a fair warning: this article is concerned with optimizing the process of acquiring cards for use in the Pokemon trading card game.  Some people buy cards because they want to play the Pokemon trading card game, while other people buy cards because they enjoy buying and collecting cards.  This article’s intended audience is the former group.

Summed up briefly, there are two approaches to buying cards:

  • Figure out which cards you want to use, and then buy them (the economical way)
  • Buy cards, and then figure out which ones you want to use (the popular way)

Probably the biggest reason that new players choose to buy pre-constructed decks or booster packs (the popular route) is that they simply don’t know how to build a good deck. “Skill as a deck builder is something that comes from experience,” most people seem to figure.  And they are right.  However, building decks with completely random cards from booster packs is a tremendously inefficient way to learn how to deck-build, and pre-constructed theme decks generally serve as very poor examples of effectively-constructed decks.  Even a novice player buying singles according to a planned deck list can expect to come up with a better deck than someone trying to piece together a deck using the random cards that they pulled from packs, and it doesn’t take much learning to make a deck that will outperform basic theme decks. Continue reading