Strongest Pokémon TCG Decks Ever Explained

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Over the years, the Pokémon TCG has changed and new strategies have become powerful. Which decks used these strong “meta-definition” strategies?

Over the years the Pokémon TCGDifferent strategies and decks have gained importance. Even in the days of the basic set, strong players were discovering new deck ideas to dominate competitive play. After two decades, the Pokémon TCG still has a thriving scene of intelligent and creative players who keep pushing the format forward. After more than twenty years of looking back, what have been some of the strongest decks in their respective formats?

Before jumping straight into the decks, you need to determine exactly how the Pokémon card game handles rotations. Every year or so old sets of cards are “twisted out of the format”. This means that they can no longer be used in competitive play. Not only does this rotation help keep the deck of cards fresh, it also requires players to pick up new strategies and deck ideas.

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There is also an “unlimited” format that allows many more cards to be used, but this format is nowhere near as popular. There have been many strong decks throughout the game, but after all that, what decks defined the meta of the formats they were born into?

Haymaker TCG Deck – Elecatabuzz / Hitmonchan / Scyther

The oldest deck on this list is the now infamous “Haymaker” deck. Haymaker was possibly the first truly meta-defining deck that ever existed in the Pokémon card game. With its simple but incredibly strong premise, it prevailed against the competition. Only Scyther, Electabuzz, and Hitmonchan were walking on deck. What these cards all had in common was decently high HP (for the time), low energy cost with high damage, and most importantly, they were all simple Pokémon. Haymaker was feared because he put pressure on the opponent almost directly from the goal and only subsided after the sixth prize card was drawn. A very simple deck without a doubt, but one that many gamers feared for its ease of use and speed.

Psychic Lock TCG Deck – Gardevoir

Diantha's Gardevoir from Pokemon XY - The Series

Interestingly enough, Gardevoir always seems to be very strong in the Pokémon TCG. Perhaps her strongest performance will come in the “Psychic Lock” deck. Psychic Lock was such a powerful deck archetype that it won the World Cup not just once but twice. On the deck there was a whole series of guard voirs with the powerful “Telepass” ability, with which the player can select a support card from his opponent’s discard and use its effect. This ability could be used every turn and was a ridiculously powerful ability. In addition, the deck was often powered by Gardevoir Lvl X and a Claydol line to take advantage of its “Cosmic Power” ability. Overall, the deck was very oppressive and strong once fully set up.

LuxChomp TCG Deck – Luxray / Garchomp

The Luxray Garchomp deck is a perfect example of shuffling two strong and simple Pokémon cards into one revolutionary deck. This deck focused on both Luxray G Lvl X and Garchomp C Lvl X, two of the strongest cards in their respective formats. Luxray was notorious at the time for its “Bright Look” ability, which allowed the player to move a card on the opponent’s bench directly into the active area. Smart players, however, would mix this already oppressive ability with Garchomp C Lvl X, which has an ability with healing properties and a move that could cut the bank for 100 points of damage. In the format in which it existed, Luxray Garchomp has always been the deck to beat. If a deck didn’t have a chance to deal with Luxray, Garchomp, or both, it was considered quite unprofitable. Simply put, Luxray Garchomp was the textbook definition of “meta-definition”.

Electrician variant TCG Deck – Mewtwo / Rayquaza / Electrician

Electric is probably one of the last Pokémon anyone would expect on this list. But yes, this (not even fully developed) eel creature was so powerful that it has earned its way straight into so many successful decks. Electrical was an extremely versatile card due to its shockingly broken Dynamotor ability. This ability made it possible for Eelektrik to take electrical energy from the discard pile once per turn and attach it directly to a bank card. This resulted in many players running four electrics with attackers who took advantage of their amazing skills. Many early variations of this deck featured Mewtwo EX, which would do more damage with more energy. With the ability of electrics, this energy could be accelerated onto Mewtwo incredibly quickly to do a lot of damage at the start of the game.

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Another partner of Eelektrik was Rayquaza EX, who caused massive damage as the associated electrical energy was thrown away. The ability of electrics made this disadvantage as good as non-existent, since it could fish these energies out of the drop. Overall, Eelectronics is a shockingly powerful card, especially given how inconspicuous it is.

Team Plasma TCG Deck – Thundurus / Deoxys / Kyurem

Kyurem uses Ice Beam in the Pokemon anime

In retrospect, the Team Plasma Deck is very simple. The deck contained three strong cards, Thundurus EX, Deoxys EX, and Kyurem. Since all three cards are plasma cards, they received the benefits of “The Plasma Engine”. Cards like Colress Machine and Team Plasma Ball kept the deck steady and fast. Essentially, the goal is to simply deploy powerful plasma attackers like Thundurus and Kyurem while Deoxys uses her skill to power them on the bench. Deoxys himself could also be used to deal with Mewtwo EXs at the time, but Kyurem was the real star of the show. It had high HP, low attack costs, and wasn’t even an EX. Overall, the deck was solid and simple and resulted in a World Championship win in 2013.

Pikachu and Zekrom Tag Team variants

Zekrom in the Pokemon anime

The Pikachu and Zekrom deck is the newest deck on this list and certainly the most powerful in terms of damage alone. It’s quick, powerful, and incredibly difficult to remove. The deck runs on Dedenne GX to speed it up with its powerful “Dedechange” ability. Zeraora GX and Pikachu and Zekrom GX have strong energy acceleration and enormous damage. This deck seems to mix in a lot of the stronger elements from previous formats. There are big, bulky, basic Pokémon, energy acceleration, and persistence here. Overall, the deck is difficult to contain due to its enormous damage yield and sustainability.

Although many decks had to be left out, these six deck archetypes proved to be very dominant in their respective formats. The future of Pokémon TCG is currently uncertain. Although, given the fun and variety of many of these decks, there is little doubt that future decks will follow in their footsteps.

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About the author

Christian Stridiron
(48 articles published)

Christian is a writer whose main goal is to break down meaning in games. His favorite game is the original Final Fantasy VII. After playing it at a young age, he was looking to analyze and discuss the importance of games as a medium and the unique strengths associated with it.

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