Building on a Budget

Hello fellow trainers, allow me to introduce myself. My name is William Angel.  I’m a nine-year veteran of the Pokémon Trading Card Game. My years of experience have geared me toward the competitive scene, but I still like finding ways to play Pokemon for fun. I enjoy going to tournaments, playing against other experienced players, meeting new people, and watching the best of the best duke it out to the end. But one of my favorite things in the game is deckbuilding. I love to see what people build and bring to tournaments. Over time I’ve seen many different decks, from straight-forward, proven top-tier decks to crazy unique deck building strategies. Every year there’s always a new deck to play and new ideas along with it. That’s why recently as I’ve seen many new players come into the game (which is great!), I’ve noticed that one of the first things on their mind is always “how can I build a good deck without breaking the bank?”  Many of us gave them some recommendations of good decks and had good ideas, so I figured I’d write an article about how to do that successfully. So without furthermore, let’s get started!


Building on a Budget

So first off, you may be wondering, what is a budget deck? A budget deck is a deck consisting of cards that are easy to obtain, using little to no Pokémon EX/GX at all, that still have a big effect on the game. Budget decks have been a big topic in the Pokémon community, especially to those who can’t afford the expensive, popular cards.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t play the game without them. There are cards that you can build a deck with that aren’t worth more than the deck itself. I’m going to show you three decks that you can look at and see which ones work for you.

The first deck is Yanmega BREAK/ Zoroark.


This deck has two attackers, Yanmega BREAK and Zoroark, but our main attacker for the deck is Yanmega. Its attack allows you to do 50+70 if the defending Pokémon has a tool attached to it. Tools cards are in almost every deck, so this is easy to take advantage of. But what’s special about Yanmega is its ability: Sonic Vision. If you have 4 cards in your hand, all of Yanmega’s attacks require no energy. That’s something you don’t see very often. But what’s even better is its BREAK evolution, which can also attack for free – doing 100 damage and going through all effects! That’s huge – two attacks, a break evolution, and an ability that can allow you to attack for free. But we don’t want to attack just with Yanmega, that’s why we have a second attacker: Zoroark. This dark Pokémon can be a bit scary. For two colorless energy, his attack does 10+30 for each of your opponent’s benched Pokémon. And we can use his ability Stand In to become the new active Pokémon, allowing us to switch out Pokémon as we please with the help of float stone.

We do have another Pokémon that we can use to keep our hand filled with cards – Octillery.  His ability Abyssal Hand lets you draw until you have up to 5 cards in your hand. This is special because if we use this ability, and then play just one card from our hand, we can attack with Yanmega for free!

And that’s all the Pokémon in the deck, without having to use a single EX! So now let’s get a quick look at the trainer cards.


First we have our Pokémon searching cards: Nest Ball, Level Ball, and Ultra Ball. These cards will either get us a basic Pokémon straight to the bench, a Pokémon with under 90 hp (which over half of our Pokémon have) or any Pokémon into our hand.

We also have Revitalizer and Special Charge in the deck. Revitalizer can get us Yanma, Yanmega, or Yanmega BREAK from the discard pile to keep attacking, and Special Charge gets our special energies back into the deck so we can use them later.

Our tool cards are Bursting Balloon and Float Stone. Bursting Balloon is good in this deck because if this tool is attached to your active Pokémon and gets damaged or knocked out by your opponent’s active Pokémon, it takes six damage counters. Ouch! When you put this on your active Pokémon, it forces your opponent to think about what to do.  And of course we have Float Stone that gives the Pokémon this card is attached to a free retreat cost. Attach this to Octillery or Zoroark to give them free retreat.. This is especially good with Zoroark, so he can use his Stand In ability and then retreat into any other Pokémon.

We also have Trainers’ Mail and VS Seekers. Trainers’ Mail looks at the top 4 cards of our deck and puts a trainer card we find there into our hand. VS Seeker puts a supporter card from the discard pile into our hand.  That’s all the item cards. And speaking of supporter cards, let’s go over our supporters in this deck.

We have 2 Judge and N. Judge in this deck is Yanmega’s best friend. This card has you and your opponent shuffle your hands to your decks, and then both players draw 4 cards. Wait. Did it just say 4 cards?  That’s correct, which means if you have Yanmega or its BREAK evolution in play, it’s ready to attack. And N does the same thing, the only difference is each player draws for each remaining prize card they have. N is a common supporter to have in most decks.

4 Professor Sycamore and 2 Lysandre. Staple supporters. Sycamore to discard our hand and draw 7 new cards. Lysandre to switch one of the opponent’s benched Pokémon to the active and be able to take key knockouts .

The last trainer card we have is a stadium card, and that card is Forest of Giant Plants. This allows for both players the evolve their grass Pokémon as they please. This allows us to evolve our Yanmas to Yanmegas in one turn, all the way up to the BREAK! Say what?  Yep, we can use Forest of Giant Plants to evolve all of our grass Pokémon. We run four copies of this card to make sure that happens.


Because of Yanmega’s ability, you’d think maybe we don’t actually need any energy.  It’s possible to do this, but in this deck we still need some. That’s why we have 4 Double Colorless Energy. They count as two colorless energy, and can be used to attack with Zoroark, or retreat with Octillery.

So the strategy here is just to attack with Yanmega for free as much as you can, using Zoroark for backup.

So now for Budget Deck #2: Toxicroak/Poison Box.

So basically, there is a reason why I called this deck “PoisonBox”. First of all, we have something called “special conditions” in the Pokémon Trading Card Game. One of them is poison, which states “if a Pokémon is poisoned, it takes 1 damage counter between turns”. And sometimes, special conditions can be used to our advantage to build up damage quickly. With that, we look at our main attacker, Toxicroak. He can do 50 damage and if you can flip heads, your opponent’s active Pokémon is now poisoned. But it’s his ability (Poison Enzyme) that makes this strategy good. It prevents all damage done to this Pokémon by attacks from your opponent’s poisoned Pokémon. So if your opponent’s active Pokémon is poisoned, Toxicroak can’t be touched. And we have even more options to keep this strategy going.

We have two different Pokémon that help us keep our opponent’s Pokémon poisoned, Toxapex and Aridos. Toxapex’s ability (Toxic Spikes) can keep your opponent’s active Pokémon poisoned when they switch out for a new Pokémon. So when your opponent retreats their active Pokémon, the NEW active Pokémon becomes poisoned. So no matter which Pokémon is active, it’s going to be poisoned. And Ariados’ ability (Poisonous Nest) can automatically make both active Pokémon poisoned. Together, these abilities can keep your opponents Pokémon poisoned for most of the game.

So that’s our Pokémon, let’s look at the trainer cards:

1 Super Rod, 1 Professor’s Letter:  We’ll run one of each to get energy we need and to return Pokémon/energy back into the deck.

2 Max Elixir, Timer Ball, and Float Stone:  Max Elixir can help Croagunk get an early start.  Max Elixir allows you to look at the top six cards of your deck, find a basic energy there (if any) and put it on a benched basic Pokémon. Timer ball can get our evolutions from the deck, but it can be a bit risky. You flip 2 coins, for each heads, you can find an evolution Pokémon and put it in your hand. Float stones make it easy to retreat our Pokémon by giving them free retreat.

3 Poison Barb, Ultra Ball, and VS Seeker:  Poison Barb is actually Plan C if we can’t get Toxapex or Ariados in play. It’s a tool card that poisons the attacking Pokémon. So if we put it on a Pokémon and your opponent attacks the Pokémon with Poison Barb, your opponent’s Pokémon gets poisoned. This makes our opponent think twice about attacking in to the Pokémon with the Poison Barb. Ultra Ball gets our Pokémon out of the deck, and VS Seeker retrieves supporters from the discard pile.

4 Trainers’ Mail:  This helps us get out trainers faster.

1 Brigette, Lysandre, and Professor Kukui:  Brigette gets our basic Pokémon straight to the bench, Lysandre switches your opponent’s benched Pokémon to the active, and Kukui can do more damage if we need to.

3 N and 4 Professor Sycamore:  N helps refresh our hand or help us in certain scenarios and Sycamore gives us a new hand.

2 Chaos Stadium:  The downside to the Ariados strategy we talked about earlier is that it not only poisons your opponent’s active Pokémon, but it poisons yours also!  How can we prevent that from happening? That’s what Chaos Stadium is for. Even though this stadium has two different effects, one of those effects prevents Pokémon from being poisoned and confused.  So we put that effect on our side and use Ariados’ ability, and now your opponent’s Pokémon is poisoned, but not yours! So we won’t take any damage between turns.

7 Fighting Energy & 4 Strong Energy:  We have enough basic energy to attack, but we also run a special energy called Strong Energy to help us do a bit more damage. This energy can only can be attached to fighting Pokémon, which our main attackers are.

So the main strategy of this deck is to keep our opponent’s Pokémon poisoned so they can’t attack your Toxicroak because of his ability.

Two decks down, 1 more to go!  The last deck I have for you is Passimian/Mew.

Ah yes, we indeed have a deck with a monkey…great. But hey, it’s on budget, so let’s get down to it. We’re using Passimian, a 110 hp fighting Pokémon….with a berry in his hands. But what can he do? We are not going to use his first attack, only his second attack, Team Play, which reads, “This attack does 10+30 more for each of your benched Passimian.”  That’s a lot of damage that we can deal if we have a full bench of Passimian, but what if we can do even more damage?  I think we can. First off, we have 4 Passimian that we can use, but let’s look at another Pokémon that can probably help us: Mew.

Mew is a low HP Pokémon, but it also has an ability: Memories of Dawn. This ability can allow us to use any of our basic Pokémon’s attacks as long we have the necessary energy required.  So if we have Mew as the active Pokémon and four monkeys on the bench, that’s 30×4+10=130! For one double colorless energy!  WOW! And what’s even better is we can find ways to do even more damage!

We also have a 2-2 line of Octillery for card draw support.  Now let’s go through the rest of the deck.

Remember, as we look at the trainers, this deck is a speed deck.  That’s why we have over 44 trainers! So if you want a good speed budget deck, this is the one.


First off, we have 1 Escape Rope, Super Rod, and Town Map. The rope allows both you and your opponent’s Pokémon to switch, which can be helpful in many situations.  Super Rod puts Pokémon back in the deck as needed, and Town Map flips your prize cards over so you can see what’s there and pull what you need for the rest of the game.

2 Enhanced Hammer, Revive, and Special Charge. The hammers in the deck are to help get rid of the special energy your opponent has in play to slow them down a bit. Revive is a good card here because if one of your Pokémon like a monkey is in the discard, you can use this to put that Pokémon back on the bench. And Special Charge gets back our special energy, which we can only play four of.

Our Pokémon search cards are as follows: Nest Ball (gets basic Pokémon to the bench) and Ultra Ball (puts any Pokémon into our hand).  We play three of each. And our tools are 3 Fighting Fury Belt and 1 Float Stone. Fighting Fury Belt give us two benefits: it gives our Pokémon +40 hp, and does 10 more damage to the active Pokémon. Our Mew and Passimian now have more HP and more attack damage, which helps because of their low HP. Float Stone helps Passimian or Octillery retreat.  

4 Trainers’ Mail and VS Seeker get trainers and supporters into our hand faster.

Now our supporters. We have 1 Brigette, Ranger, and Teammates. Brigette gets Pokémon on the bench, Teammates gets cards when our opponent knocks out one of our Pokémon, and Ranger stops certain effects during the game (Jolteon-EX’s Flash Ray attack and Giratina-EX’s Chaos Wheel effects, for example).

2 Lysandre and 2 Professor Kukui. Lysandre switches our opponent’s Pokémon. Kukui helps us with damage. First we draw 2 cards, and then our Pokémon’s attack does 20 more damage! 4 Professor Sycamore draws cards, and the last trainer in the deck is Sky Field. This card allows both players to have up to 8 benched Pokémon. We can use this to play as many Pokémon we want to get the monkeys out and the damage onboard.

And last but not least, 4 Double Colorless Energy. This is the only energy we need to attack with Mew and/or Passimian.

Our goal with this deck is get as many Passimian out as possible and do a ton of damage. And we have cards that will allow us to do this damage without having to go through the entire deck.


I have covered a few decks that you can start off with that are not EX/GX based, cards that are easy to obtain, and also fun to play with. Now do remember, every deck does have a weakness that you could come across sometimes. Examples are decks that stops abilities, decks that stop items, decks that stop effects, decks that can knock out your Pokémon in one shot, or just EX-based decks that are faster than you. But I wouldn’t worry about it too much. The main purpose for this type of article is to help people build a deck without breaking the budget.  Most of these cards are easy to obtain, while some cards can be a bit harder, but it can be done. And of course once you build the deck you can do whatever you want with it. Change it up, try something else, it’s your deck. Explore with it.  That’s the fun of the Pokémon TCG!

Well, that’s it for this article. I do plan on writing more articles in the future: standard/expanded decks, more budget deck ideas for new players or anyone who wants to try something else. So for now, I hope you enjoyed my article.  Make every game your last! I’ll catch you guys later!


-William Angel

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