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Beginner's Guide - PTCGO Theme Decks

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»JC.    5312

Note: This guide is for f2p players starting out in the online client. If you are playing with real cards at your local game store or are willing to put in ~$20 to bypass the part of the game where you have a very limited collection, there's not much to learn from this thread.


In the PTCGO shop, various Theme Decks are sold for 500 coins each. For a new player that does not want to spend money to get into the game, theme decks are the starting point. Whether you want to enjoy the casual atmosphere of Theme Format, are wondering which decks have useful cards to pick up, or see the format as a stepping stone towards playing the "real" game, this guide is intended to help you know what to look out for in the various theme decks.


UPDATE: This post is from 2017. Scroll to the next post to find an updated one for June 2020.


Below I will be talking about each deck you can currently find in the game's store. Before we get into that, I want to give an honourable mention to Dark Hammer, a deck that has rotated out of the shop and was once considered to be hands-down the best deck. The signature Pokémon, Pangoro, is a dark type which can OHKO Hidden Moon's Lunala due to super-effective damage. It also includes cards like Evosoda and two copies of Professor Sycamore, which make it one of the more consistent decks out there.


S Tier

Hidden Moon

Hidden Moon is the BDIF. This deck's goal is to power up a Lunala to fire off it's signature attack, which deals 40 damage per energy attached. On top of this, when Lunala's HP gets low, it can use a secondary attack to deal 130 damage and pass all of its energy to Pokémon on the bench.

Being able to output such high damage numbers is the reason this deck wins out. At 3 energy (120 damage), you will be knocking out the Stage 1 and Stage 2 Pokémon your opponent is setting up, while Lunala's monstrous 160 HP will typically prevent them from doing the same. On top of this, it includes a draw engine consisting of 3 Hau, 2 Kiteruguma, which each draw 3 cards when played, a Mimikyu that can draw 2 cards for 1 energy, and 2 Professor Kukui which draws two cards and powers up your attacks. On top of this, Energy Loto, Nest Ball, and Timer Ball help you find the Energy/Pokémon you need, and a Rescue Stretcher allows you to grab back a KO'd Pokémon (typically either a piece of the Cosmog line to help you set up or Kiteruguma to evolve and draw 3 cards).

If you're looking to win games and enter Theme tournaments--which you will be doing at some point if you want to play other formats without spending money, this is the deck for you.


A Tier (Decks Unordered within Tier)

Steel Sun

The counterpart deck to Hidden Moon, it finds itself with many similarities. It focuses on evolving your Cosmog into something much more powerful, and includes Kiteruguma, Hau, Kukui, Nest Ball, and Timer Ball. The deck ultimately falls short because both of its heaviest hitters, Solgaleo and Swellow, both require a turn to "recharge" where they are forced to use a weaker move.


Rock Steady

Every line of Pokémon in this deck is either part of a powerhouse line (Lucario, Lycanroc, Rhydon), offers draw support (Solrock), or both (Meowstic). With 2 Solrock (one energy draws two cards), 2 Meowstic (one energy draws three cards), 2 Kukui, 3 Hau, Brooklet Hill (gets any Basic Fighting-Type Pokémon), and 2 Nest/Timer Balls, you will always be ready to build up an attacker. Where this deck falls are its damage numbers. Lucario hits for a solid 120, but there is only one copy of it in the deck. Lycanroc hits 100, and Rhydon hits 80. On top of this, Lucario, Rhydon, and Lycanroc all fail to reach the HP required to survive an attack from a 3 energy Lunala. Furthermore, in order to OHKO a Lunala, you will need to evolve Rhydon into Rhyperior and use a four energy attack that also prevents Rhyperior from attacking next turn.

As a quick play note/ruling: If you attack with Rhyperior, you normally can't attack with it again next turn. However, if you use the copy of Escape Rope in your deck to switch out Rhyperior, and then use your once per turn Retreat to bring him back in, he can attack once more.


Luminous Frost
Against this deck, you'll need to be careful about benching random Pokémon. This deck's attackers focus on dealing damage to benched Pokémon. Bruxish, for three energy, deals 60 damage to the active and 20 to everything on the bench. The star, Kingdra, which, for one energy, can either deal 90 damage to your active and 30 to a bench OR deal 90 to any Pokémon with a damage counter on it.

This deck also includes a 2-2 Alolan Sandlash line, which has an ability letting you draw a card every turn, along with 3 Hau, 2 Kukui, and 2 Nest/Timer Balls. This deck has no way to OHKO a Lunala, but it can take out a benched Cosmeum with Kingdra's sniping abilities. The deck also struggles to OHKO Solgaleo, but it does include a Heatmor that will finish it off, if you happen to have a Kukui in your hand for the 20 damage boost.


For people looking to round out a collection, this deck contains two copies of Alolan Ninetales. This Pokémon's ability, Luminous Barrier, prevents it from taking damage from EX and GX Pokémon. The ability does nothing in Theme Format, but is quite powerful in other modes, where many decks take advantage of the powerful attacks and abilities EX and GX Pokémon bring.


Roaring Heat

This deck suffers from a weakness to the Water-Type Pokémon Luminous Frost and a general inconsistency. The deck's main attacker is Incineroar, who flips two coins and deals 100 damage for each Heads. 200HP will OHKO every Pokémon in the format, even through resistance. However, 100HP falls just short of everything, including Rock Steady's several 110HP attackers. The deck's alternate attacks are much weaker, but offer defensive benefits. Torkoal has a chance to paralyze, and Pallossand has a flat 20 damage resistance and the ability to heal.

In terms of draw support, this deck features Oranguru, which lets you draw cards until you have three in your hand, and Lillie, which lets you draw until you have six cards (or eight, if it is the first turn of the game). To compensate for this, it has 1 less copy of Kukui and Hau than the other decks above. It also contains one Ultra Ball, which lets you add any Pokémon to your hand by discarding two cards. Using an Ultra Ball can help you find whatever you need, and then Oranguru and Lillie can refill your hand.


If you're looking to expand your collection, the copy of Lillie and Ultra Ball will be helpful for new players.


Forest Shadow

This deck, like Rock Steady and Luminous Frost, provides consistency at the cost of some power. The signature attacker, Decidueye, has 140HP and an attack that deals 120 damage. 120 is just enough to KO the suite of Rock Steady attackers, but Decidueye will take 20 damage itself every time it uses the move.

The other major Pokémon of the deck is Shiinotic, which allows you to add a Grass-Type Pokémon to your hand every turn. Unlike the Nest Ball and Timer Balls you see in most decks, there is no stage restriction, meaning that a set-up Shiinotic will be able to fetch the entire Decidueye line.

When playing against this deck, keep in mind that Dartrix can bench snipe for 20 damage, so if you're switching out to avoid KOs, try to avoid getting caught by it.


The deck contains the same Trainer lineup as Roaring Heat, meaning you can get an Ultra Ball and Lillie by picking this up.



Other decks neatly fall into the "not viable" category. This is because they both don't deal enough damage and they don't get the cards they need consistently enough. In Theme Format, there will be games you just lose from turn 1 because you can't find any Energy cards or the only Pokémon you drew were garbage. The decks in Sun & Moon have taken measures to help make the decks more consistent, and for this reason, they stand above all other options.

In this next part, I'm just going to list any potential cards to watch out for if you're looking to pick up the deck or end up facing against someone using it.


Wave Splasher: The deck is pretty bad. However, two copies of the deck is a fantastic start to a strong deck known as Greninja BREAK. Apart from the Greninja line, you also get a copy of Max Elixir, Misty's Determination, Wally, and Fighting Fury Belt. You might be picking this one up for collection purposes, but enjoy the easy games you get when facing against it in the Theme format ladder. The only real issue is if your energy attachments keep getting messed up by their 1-of Slowking.


Bright Tide: The only deck from Sun & Moon that didn't make the tier list. Lantern and Priminara hit hard, but it lacks the bonus cards like Mimikyu, Meowstic, or Shiinotic that actually help you find the cards you want, meaning you'll lose more often than not. The deck contains a copy of Ultra Ball & Lillie, if you find yourself wanting another one after Roaring Heat and Forest Shadow.


Mental Might: Your starter deck. It focuses on building up your Stage 2 Psychic-Type to perform a big hit based on the number of energy you have. If that sounds familiar, it is because this deck is more or less a worse version of Hidden Moon. All players have this deck, so you don't need to worry about buying it for cards.


Rallying Cry: A theme deck that revolves around Round, an attack that becomes more powerful for each of your benched Pokémon with the move. The deck is terrible. Redeem the free code to pick up Double Colorless Energy and Level Ball, and then never touch it again.


Pikachu Power: No.


Mewtwo Mayhem: Mewtwo deals 20 damage, and an additional 20 for each energy you have attached. Your big hitters will have over 100 HP, however, meaning that the only relevant card that gets OHKO'd by this is a Meowstic with 2 energy attached and NFE Cosmog lines. The deck also has Nidoking, who can deal bench damage, but only if the Pokémon is unevolved. The deck comes with a nice coin, if you're into that.


Gears of Fire: Always be ready for them to have a Ninja Boy, which swaps a basic Pokémon on their field for one in their deck. This means the random unevolved useless 'mon they've been powerfing up can become Volcanion, their deck's main attacker, at any time. Apart from Ninja Boy, the deck has an Ultra Ball, but you'll have enough from better theme decks.


Ring of Lightning: Watch out for Hoopa and Galvantula, which deal 20 and 30 damage respectively to two of your Pokémon for one Energy. Drifblim's Burst Curse then distributes 80 damage distributed anywhere for two energy, so use the Potion or Big Malasada in your theme deck of choice to avoid a combo where they take many prizes at once and be careful of putting out low-HP basics you can't evolve. Like Gears of Fire above it, this deck can use Ninja Boy to bring out their beater, Hoopa.


Battle Ruler: Advertised as "Great for Beginners" in the in-game store, the deck is fairly average featuring a bunch of random mid-tier hitters. The deck has a copy of Wally, which is good, and an Energy Pouch, which you probably don't need.


Sky Guardian: Lugia is a potential anti-EX option, but you already have Alolan Ninetales in Luminous Frost. The deck also has Wally and Energy Pouch.


Electric Eye: Contains a Max Elixir, Fighting Fury Belt, Wally, and Misty's Determination if you want more copies after you buy Wave Splasher.


Night Striker: While not a top deck, it is advertised as Staff Pick for a reason. Be careful of this deck's Zoroark, which deals 30 damage for each benched Pokémon you have. A bench over half full will be a OHKO on Lunala due to weakness. If Ursaring gets lucky with his Swing Around attack, it will also deal 160, and his other attack is a Gust of Wind that deals 50 damage to the new Pokémon. With Bench manipulation and power increases for your benched Pokémon, this matchup can take you by surprise if you aren't prepared, but should otherwise be fine. The deck includes Creep Show Gengar, an attack that KOs your opponent's active Pokémon if they have three or more damage counters. There is also a copy of Wally, Fisherman, Skyla, and Giovanni's Scheme.


Burning Spark: Nothing to write home about, but it has a nice coin and a copy of Super Rod, Wally, Skyla, Giovanni's Scheme, and Fisherman, making it a decent pickup for a starting f2p player's collection.


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»JC.    5312

In card games, there are two near-universal truths:

1. Cards from the first sets are dumb and broken. Then, the designers figure out how to build a game. From there, the power starts to creep back over the years.

2. Starter Decks suck and should never be considered in a competitive environment.


Over time, the Theme Decks have (1) gotten much better than they used to be, and (2) still manage to never see the light of day when discussing competitive decks. However, the Pokémon TCG Online has tossed the Theme Decks into their own special format, making them the best starting point until you build up a Standard-Viable deck.





With good matchups against most of the field, a 2-Draw attacker, an attacking line that provides its own energy straight from the deck, and a 2nd viable attacking line with Nidoqueen, Charizard manages to be the most consistent deck, and boasts a favoured matchup against every popular deck barring the Water deck, which it gets hit for Weakness by. This is probably the best starting point for a new player. It is the most popular deck. This deck also allows you to force wins via 50-50 coin flips using Rapidash's Agility to dodge damage. While not a great gameplan, it gives you something to fall back on where other decks would leave you out of luck.



Nearly equal in power to Charizard is Dragonite, which has both Basic and Stage 2 attackers to rely on. Dragonite's 170 Damage attack is strong enough to KO everything in the format, and back-up attackers like Lanturn can give you a KO as well. This deck can win against Charizard, but is just slightly less consistent.



Kyogre's claim to fame is simply that it can donk Charizard decks due to super effective damage. It has some OK attackers, but is certainly a tier below them.



Groudon is an overall better deck than Kyogre, as it has energy acceleration from the hand rather than discard (and a lack of consistency in theme decks means you usually have more energy in hand at the start of games). It also features a lot of other solid attackers, but it falls short of the variety and usefulness of the top two decks.



This deck is mostly purchased because it has access to cards you might use in a budget deck outside of the format. It also does not rely on Evolved Pokémon to make its attack, but it does rely on drawing a 2-of Special Energy that cannot be searched in order to break the 130 damage barrier which most big basics of the format have. I'd avoid this one.



Apart from these five decks, check out various others and see if you need any of the Supporters from them. The Zacian and Zamazenta decks have cards like Metal Saucer and Professor's Research, and the Mewtwo deck has Welder. Getting your staples from theme decks is generally better than any other method, as Tokens are not a valuable resource in the game.

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+rei+    34783

necrozma is way more consistant than dragonite 

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»JC.    5312

necrozma has the advantage of being a basic, but the deck needs to hard draw into weakness guard to hit the 130 threshold and doesn't have a secondary attacker that can do so, whereas dragonite has Lanturn for 140.


edit: scrolling up, i just realized i already said all of that in the previous post. the two decks have a similar supporter line-up, but dragonite gets pokemon communication and air mail pidgeotto which beats out audino/u-turn board for support imo. laser focus's dedenne also doesn't help with unbricking (you'll have a bunch of cards stuck in hand), while dragonite's Grimer is a 0-energy double draw.

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»Pengwan    7779

Relentless Flame can be a little bricky but its just so much more powerful than any other deck in the theme format.

Whichever deck has the Golduck that does 80 for 1 attachment is pretty decent too in my experiences in Theme Deck tournaments.

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