Perhaps it’s not as complicated as something like Magic: The Gathering, but getting into the Pokemon TCG can still feel positively intimidating — especially now, decades after its debut. If your goal is to collect card-based representatives of your favorite critters, you can simply consult the internet on where to find each one; but if you want to play the game against friends or even competitively, there’s a lot to learn.
Theme decks are a great way to get a feel for the Pokemon TCG without the pressure of constructing a deck yourself. Check out our choices for the best of the bunch.
5/5 Victini V Battle Deck
Battle decks are commonly considered to be designed for players with a higher level of experience than raw rookies, but the Victini V Battle Deck combines the raw power of a robust Fire-type deck with relatively easy-to-grasp mechanics. It’s a winner all-around.
What makes the Victini V Battle Deck click is that it doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to traditional Fire-type kits. Fire, by its nature, burns hot and fast; the Pokemon Trading Card Game has long upheld that notion, giving strong cards in this category the ability to strike for high damage at the common cost of sacrificing Energy to the discard pile.
Victini V’s official theme deck does this in spades, albeit with a great assembly for beginners that can be modified into a full-fledged menace later on through the aid of Victini VMAX and some sterling Supporters.
4/5 Blastoise V Battle Deck
If you’re fully fresh to the Pokemon TCG scene, you may find yourself wondering why a few of our recommendations have that ‘V’ in their names. ‘Pokemon V’ are especially mighty cards that often headline theme decks; note that some Pokemon V can evolve into either ‘Pokemon VMAX’ or ‘VSTAR’, though most theme decks don’t go quite that far with it (and you can modify them to do so later on if you’d like).
That aside, Blastoise V Battle Deck is the best beginner-level choice for a modern Water-type deck, and given the consistent rivalry perception fans have applied to Water-type Blastoise and Fire-type Charizard, it stands to reason a solid number of fans out there — especially longtime game-or-anime fans who are just now stepping into the card game — will want to show off their love for Blastoise in style.
3/5 Soaring Storm
We’re mostly focusing on decks that exist within the current meta at the time of this writing — meta meaning what’s presently allowed for tournament-level play. Now, we’re pretty sure you aren’t fixing to dive into a formal tournament three days after checking out the Pokemon TCG, but the advantage to playing with “current” cards is that you’ll avoid issues like power creep (successive eras of the Pokemon TCG often feature more powerful cards overall than their predecessors).
One exception to this approach, however, is Soaring Storm, a Dragonite-focused theme deck from the Sun & Moon era. To this day, many players praise it for showcasing how robust a newb-friendly assembly can be. There are no superfluous cards here, no deck draws that’ll make you wince and wish you had replaced that card with something else.
Dragonite is mighty, make no mistake, but the synergy of your Tornadus and Thundurus cards is what will keep your opponent on the defensive for the rest of the game. When one is active and the other’s on the bench, the active partner gains a strength boost that’ll leave unprepared players in stitches.
2/5 Lycanroc V Battle Deck
The Lycanroc V Battle Deck hides a hidden weapon that combines the most captivating of things: it’s easy to understand whilst teaching a new player how to strategize, and it does plenty of damage to boot. That hidden weapon is called Steelix.
Lycanroc V is a great card, but in our estimation, it’s not the ace card of its own deck. Steelix is devious. With 190 HP, it’s already quite meaty by the standards of any Pokemon outside the realm of the giants (VMAX and VSTAR). Its first attack, Powerful Rage, dishes out 20 damage times the number of damage counters it has on it at that point. Damage counters represent the amount of HP lost up to that point, so this attack will do between 20 damage (if Steelix is at full health) and a frankly outrageous 360 damage if it’s down to 10 HP.
Neatly enough, there are a ton of attacks out there that’ll hit for somewhere in the range of 140 and 180. Your opponent might just find themselves stuck exactly where you want them. And if that’s not enough, Earthquake, Steelix’s other option, does a flat 180 damage at the expense of 30 damage to each of your benched Pokemon. Lycanroc V, for the record, sports plenty of Pokemon that’ll fairly shrug that off.
We realize we have spent this entire, sizable, entry talking about one card, but truth be told, it’s just that good at illustrating to newcomers what it’s like to think outside the box.
1/5 Relentless Flame
Our final pick shares an older pedigree with Soaring Storm. Being from the Sun & Moon era rather than Sword & Shield’s, it also shares the fact that it’s illegal for high-end competitive play. And, again, just like Soaring Storm, that doesn’t stop it from rocking.
In fact, it’s not a stretch to say Relentless Flame is Soaring Storm for more fiery fans. Like its draconian brethren, there’s nothing here that prompts even professional players to ponder what The Pokemon Company International was thinking. No obvious, dubious, blind spots designed to compel players to swap stuff out to enhance their deck further on. (Perhaps “dubious” is unnecessary; there’s plenty of fun to be had enhancing decks. But the point is, with Relentless Flame, you get a full package from the get-go.)
If you’ve got friends who don’t mind playing the Pokemon TCG’s representatives from what will soon be not one, but two eras past, or you plan to play on Pokemon TCG Online/Live where there’s always an option for expanded permissions, you cannot go wrong with this Charizard-starring pain train.