With the recent release of the Blastoise V and Venusaur V Battle Decks alongside Battle Styles, and with more due in the future, it seems as though Theme Decks are now a thing of the past. Whilst they never see play in a competitive sense, there is an entire format dedicated to them on the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online (PTCGO) which is a PTCGO exclusive format that can now be considered ‘complete’.
With that in mind, we now can now look at this format in a vacuum and come to a conclusion of what are the best decks in the Theme Deck format. This format is ideal for new players who don’t know where to start standard, or for players who don’t have access to codes and want a competitive deck in a format they can do well in. So, without further ado, here are (in no particular order) my top 5 picks for Theme Decks on PTCGO.
Relentless Flame is undoubtably the Marmite deck of the format. Whether you are playing with it or against it, it can be an incredibly frustrating deck one game, only to play completely differently the next. Where Relentless Flame’s strengths lie are in its evolution Pokémon, with Farfetch’d being the only helpful basic in the deck. Each evolution line serves a different purpose, and they all have their own individual strengths and weaknesses. The main attacker of the deck is of course Charizard, with its Roaring Resolve ability allowing it to accelerate two energy into play at the cost of two damage counters. This means that you can allocate your manual attachments elsewhere, knowing that you can power up Charizard whenever you need to. The downside to this card comes in the fact that it damages itself in the process of accelerating energy, and that the energy must be discarded in order to use the attack. This means that your opponents can more easily knock out Charizard, or put it within range of knocking itself out with Roaring Resolve if it is used in successive turns.
Meanwhile, Nidoqueen acts as your primary Pokémon search in the deck, and can also double up as a powerful attacker. In the early game, many players prioritise setting up a Nidoqueen first, as it benefits their consistency in the long term in a format where games can last considerably longer than in Standard Format. Its Queen’s Call ability allows you to search for any one Pokémon once per turn, providing a great consistency boost to ensure that you always find your evolutions or next basic. You want to ensure that you have as many evolutions as possible out, as Nidoqueen’s Powerful Lariat attack scales for some very high damage if you have multiple evolutions in play. Although the attack is expensive, you can manually attach to Nidoqueen while you Roaring Resolve with Charizard or stall against your opponent with Rapidash.
Speaking of Rapidash, its Agility attack is what makes this deck so frustrating to play against. Being able to completely prevent your opponent from attacking you on a coin flip heads can help you race ahead in prizes, or set up you Stage 2 lines if you are bricking. There will be times where you win based on flipping heads alone, regardless on how you or your opponent draws, which is a scary prospect given Rapidash’s decent HP and damage output. In terms of Trainer cards, Relentless Flame boasts a variety of cards in terms of Pokémon search, damage modification, shuffle draw and recovery, which gives you plenty of options throughout the game, at the cost of some consistency as you only have access to two copies of Cynthia and Copycat.
- Strong Damage Output
- Walling Potential
- Very Hard to Beat When Set Up
- Stage 2 Reliant
- Has a Tendency to Brick
- No Energy Acceleration Outside of Charizard
If Relentless Flame sounds like it’s a bit too strong, you’ll be thankful to hear that there is a hard counter to it in the form of Unseen Depths. Although the main attacker of this deck is Empoleon, Ambipom, Golduck and even Kyogre can be viable alternatives in certain situations. Empoleon’s biggest draw is its Recall attack, which allows it to use any of the attacks from its previous evolutions for just a single colourless energy. Piplup’s Bubble Hold stops the opponent from attacking if their active Pokémon is a basic, whilst Prinplup’s Direct Dive snipes for 100 damage on the bench, an extremely strong attack in the Theme Format which is full of low-HP evolving Pokémon. Empoleon can also do 130 damage for two energy, which is an efficient attack that can be used in succession with Recall. Empoleon has answers for all types of Pokémon, and it can be extremely tricky to KO one, let alone two!
In terms of alternative attackers, Ambipom has two very useful attacks. Nice-Nice Catch can help if you are bricking in the early game, and Bye-Bye Throw does a very strong 120 damage if you discard two cards from your hand. These can be cards that aren’t useful or you no longer need, which is helpful deck thinning in a format where drawing well is extremely important. On the other hand, Golduck’s Energy Loop attack preserves energy on your board, meaning that all is not lost if it is knocked out. In terms of basic Pokémon, Kyogre can act as a big basic which you can hide behind whilst you set up, using High Water (which synergises well with Roller Skater) to power up your attackers. Pyukumuku can set up basics in the early game with Call for Family, whilst Phione’s Whirlpool Suction can bring up a basic to block with Empoleon, or send a damaged Pokémon to the bench which can be finished off with Direct Dive later.
As for Trainer cards, Unseen Depths has access to a lot of excellent draw Supporters, along with Draw Energy and Viridian to have access to extra cards and energy every turn. However, with Roller Skater, Viridian Forest, Empoleon and Ambipom all relying on discarding cards, the lack of recovery options for the deck can lead to some tricky decisions in terms of resources and can lead the deck to run out of steam if you are to lenient with your resources.
- Empoleon is Very Powerful
- Great Trainers
- Good Type Coverage
- Can be Easily Beaten Without Empoleon in Play
- No Pokémon or Energy Recovery
- Lack of Basic Attackers
Although it plays two different types of energy, Soaring Storm is arguably the most consistent deck in the whole of Theme Format. This is in part due to the fact that this deck has access to something that nearly all other Theme Decks don’t, and that’s Pokémon with a draw engine. Pidgeotto’s Air Mail ability chooses one card from the top two of your deck every turn, and can be used multiple times if you have more than one in play. This means that you can choose the cards you want and, combined with Alolan Grimer’s free Collect attack, make your draws more consistent. Your consistency is also boosted by Dragonite’s Ability Hurricane Charge, which attaches an additional water and lightning energy from you hand per turn. With both Pidgeotto and Dragonite set up, you can vey easily set up multiple attackers and run over your opponent with ease.
This can be done by the fact that you have so many useful attackers in the deck. Along with Dragonite, which does a massive 170 damage at the cost of discarding three energy, there is Lantern, which can recover energy from knocked out Pokémon, and Tornadus and Thunderus, which synergise with each other when they are both in play for additional damage. Lanturn’s Lightning Strike attack can deal 70 or 140 damage, meaning that it can be used to KO smaller basics while also being able to OHKO some more powerful threats. Tornadus’ Thunderous Tornado does 80 damage with an additional 20 spread to all your opponents benched Pokémon if Thunderus is in play. Likewise, Thunderus Thunderous Gale does an efficient 70 damage for two energy if Tornadus is in play, while its Raging Thunder attack does a powerful 120 damage at the cost of doing 40 damage to one of your own benched Pokémon.
Soaring Storm has a variety of draw Supporters to supplement Pidgeotto such as Cynthia, Lillie and Tate & Liza. The deck also benefits from energy recovery in the form of Fisherman and Energy Recycle System. Although, with only one copy of each, prizing them or using them not to their full effect can lead to you running out of energy if you are over reliant on Dragonite and Lantern’s attacks.
- Very Consistent Set Up
- High Damage Output
- Access to Numerous Big Basics
- Struggles to Get Going Without Dragonite
- Difficult to Pick Up for Newer Players
- Prizing Can Cause You to Run Out Of Energy
Rillaboom Theme Deck
Sadly, TPCI decided to stop giving Theme Decks cool names after Cosmic Eclipse, so our last two entries are just named after their leading Pokémon. In this case, that is Rillaboom, which has the joint-highest HP of any Stage 2 Pokémon ever printed. It comes with two very powerful attacks, with Drum Roll being able to OHKO most basic and even some Stage 1 Pokémon, all while setting up additional damage on your opponent’s bench. Drum Roll is a nice option for when you can’t use Drum Beating, which will most likely be every other turn as it does 180 damage at the cost of not be able to be used on successive turns. The downside of Drum Beating is that it does cost four energy, but that is where Eldegoss comes in. If you can start with its pre-evolution Gossifleur, you can take advantage of Call for Family on Turn two going second to set up three additional basics. This means that you can use Eldegoss’ Blessing of Fluff attack from turn two to attach up to three energy to a Grookey, Thwackey or Rillaboom.
In addition, you also have access to two other strong basic Pokémon in the form of Snorlax and Maractus. Being a basic, Snorlax doesn’t pack quite the punch or bulk that Rillaboom does, but it has the advantage of not needing to be evolved into, which also means that you can throw Snorlax in the active if you need to buy a few turns to find the Pokémon you need. Meanwhile, Maractus Powerful Needles scales damage very quickly if you can get a lot of energy on it… and are good at flipping coins. 60x is a powerful multiplier, especially in Theme Format, so with a combination of Eldegoss and a little bit of luck, you can knock out some of the most powerful Stage 2 Pokémon with just a single attack.
As for the final Pokémon at your disposal, Whimsicott can act as a panic button to help you out of sticky situations. Its Cotton Ride attack can, on a coin flip heads, shuffle your opponents active Pokémon and all cards attached to it in their deck. This can be extremely effective against opposing Stage 2 Pokémon or attackers that have a lot of energy on them, as while you may not be taking a prize, the tempo swing you gain from this attack could be the difference between winning and losing. When it comes to Trainer cards, the Rillaboom Theme Deck has the advantage of having access to both Professor’s Research and Ordinary Rod, both of which were introduced in Sword and Shield. Professor’s Research is by far the best draw supporter in Theme Format, although there are only three copies and the other draw options in the deck are weak. Meanwhile, Ordinary Rod enables you to recover both energy and Pokémon which may have been discarded in the early game or knocked out. Also included in this deck are Potion and Pokémon Centre Lady, which are useful healing options which can help keep your bigger HP Pokémon alive even longer.
- High Damage Output
- Rillaboom is Very Difficult to KO Without Weakness
- Access to Big Basics
- Poor Typing
- Lack of Draw Engine
- Reliant on Attacking Evolution Pokémon for Energy Acceleration
Charizard Theme Deck
My final deck of the list is what could well be the last Theme Deck ever printed. The Charizard Theme Deck revolves around the Royal Blaze attack, which does 100 damage plus 50 more for each Leon card in your discard pile. With two Leons in the deck you can do 200 damage for two energy, and even 230 if you play your second Leon on the turn you attack. To help you find and discard these Leons easier, you can use Charizard’s Battle Sense ability which allows you to choose one of the top three cards of you deck to put in your hand, discarding the other two. This is excellent draw and deck thinning, and makes setting up Charizard vital in every game.
That is also due in part to the relatively lacklustre selection of other attackers the deck has to offer. Although Sudowoodo provides some nice draw in the early game with Double Draw, Flail is an attack that can be easily played around by the opponent who can instead power up an attack that can score a OHKO. As for the Magcargo line, Slugma’s Yawn attack can buy you some turns in the early game to allow you to set up Charizard, but that’s where the positives stop. Both Slugma and Magcargo’s attacks either do too little damage or are too expensive, and it isn’t worth powering them up with Bede when you have the option to use it on Charizard instead. Yagmega suffers from a similar problem, but at least it and Yanma have access to U-Turn and hit for extra weaknesses. Yanmega also has free retreat, and can be a nice pivot option to give you some choice of attackers depending on your draws.
Finally, Lugia is the only big basic Pokémon in the deck that can also hit hard, thanks to its Energy Loop attack which sends an energy back to the hand. This can be especially handy if you know if Lugia is going to get knocked out in your opponent’s next turn. As previously mentioned, the Charizard Theme deck has access to Leon to help fix some maths on certain Pokémon which you would otherwise have trouble dealing with, and Bede which is the only energy acceleration this deck has access to. Although this deck has access to two Professor’s Research, the other draw options are relatively weak. Hop and Dan draw half as many cards at best, while Sonia can only search for basic Pokémon. That means you are very reliant on your two Great Balls and singular Evolution Incense to find the right Pokémon at the right time. The Two Ordinary Rods are also very important, considering the amount of Pokémon and energy you will be discarding with Battle Sense.
- Charizard Can OHKO Anything in the Format
- Leon is Excellent Damage Modification
- Consistent Draw and Deck Thinning Thanks to Battle Sense
- Attacks on Other Pokémon are Either Expensive or Low Damage
- Low Amount of Pokémon Search
- Draw Supporters are Lackluster Compared to the Sun and Moon Theme Decks