The TCG Design Thread


I wonder, was there anything like the Garbodor/Seismitoad EX lock during the Diamond/Pearl days? Back in the original days of Base-Gym Challenge the closest thing there was to it was Muk and Chaos Gym, but Chaos Gym affected both players. But I don’t remember Muk, Chaos Gym, Dark Vileplume, and Slowking being as heavily used as Garbordor/Seismitoad are used today, and if I remember correctly, the old decks could be countered more easily. But I may be wrong; it’s been so long.


I can’t explain much about DP-On (or pre HS-On), but I do have some knowledge of the other formats mentioned, either directly or from research.

  • I don’t think Dark Vileplume was heavily played in general, but it was feared. In my local meta, it was heavily played… by me. I added it to Turbo Snorlax (which most people did) and it served me well. At the time I was probably an above average player where there weren’t many average or better players, with a good card selection a lot of other players lacked and I knew the deck and its match-ups quite, quite well. As such, I would call the deck “Tier 3”, barely… but when it worked it was a nightmare for the typical 30 to 40 Trainer decks: even when an opponent would defeatt it after it set-up, it was painful for them. Note that this was all post Neo Genesis Unlimited experience but I am calling the pre-Neo Genesis version barely Tier 3. Focus Band does wonders for this deck, and the releases of this time just kept strengthening it; by the time Unlimited kind of fell apart, it might have been Tier 2.
  • Chaos Gym was a pretty common sight, I thought, for the time frame you mentioned. Modified I don’t think was able to really handle it but became a nasty tool (not Pokémon Tool =P) with the stereotypical decks of Unlimited-as-Standard: you would trash your opponent’s set-up via Items then drop a Chaos Gym to to make it harder for your opponent to stage a comeback. So it should have been a feature of Trapper decks, though again this was when I was still only playing with friends; I learned of it later through people playing slightly dated decks at League or reading information online or in magazines. Somewhere I’ve still got two issues of Pojo lying around. =P
  • Muk from Fossil was a bit like Dark Vileplume I think; it wasn’t that everyone played it but that you knew you had to be aware of the match-up. It was played more often than our lovely black rose; most events (which were small, local and usually not sanctioned) that I attended would have at least one person running it. Then again, I was playing post-Neo Genesis so maybe that made a difference?
  • Slowking from Neo Genesis was so heavily played in Neon Modified that it was banned. Ignoring “its complicated” promo cards like “Ancient” Mew and ________'s Pikachu (a.k.a. “Happy Birthday” Pikachu) that may or may not have been banned (…like I said, it is complicated), the only two actual card bans in Pokémon have been Neo Genesis Sneasel and Slowking. The fact that Slowking wasn’t banned sooner… is a bit odd. Well, the reason it was banned is obvious; it wasn’t played as heavily in in Rocket-On Modified as in (pre-ban) Neon Modified, but I’m not sure why it wasn’t used more heavily in Rocket-On Modified. It may have been as simple as old information infrastructure being what it was coupled with the card’s rarity versus demand of the time.

So… it was an established play to combine Chaos Gym all three of these. I think Dark Vileplume needed it to try and survive that first turn (after which the player would use another Stadium to discard Chaos Gym) but that might have just been me. For Muk and several decks in general, a copy was dropped if you thought you were far enough in the lead that you only had to fear lucky Trainer based top decks. Slowking decks split the difference; if it wouldn’t hurt you too bad, you dropped a Chaos Gym to force upwards five coin flips for each Trainer your opponent went to play (save Stadiums, of course, that “only” faced four). You could risk a Chaos Gym first turn if you needed to disrupt Trainers for that turn before you could Evolve and you were confident it wouldn’t ruin your own set-up, or you could wait until you were set-up and just add it in to really ruin your opponent’s Trainer success rate.


[quote=“linguae, post:101, topic:2318”]
I wonder, was there anything like the Garbodor/Seismitoad EX lock during the Diamond/Pearl days?[/quote]

The most successful lock deck was of course Gardevoir/Gallade, with Psychic Lock preventing key PokePowers (Claydol, Uxie, Dusknoir etc). During the SP era, there was DialgaChomp which used Deafen to lock Trainers (this is the most similar to Seismitoad) and also the briefly successful Palkia Lock deck which stopped Powers via Mesprit LA and then cleared them from the Bench with Lost Cyclone.


In a sense, Dialgachomp is even more similar to Siesmitoad/Garbodor then you may think. Dialga G lv.X shuts off all Poké-bodies from all non-SP Pokémon, and there was decks like Cursegar, which, while being more similar to Trevenant/Accelgor [Soon to be Trevenant/Gengar], where you’d use Gengar’s attack Shadow Skip to switch into Spiritomb and lock ALL trainers, both players. Other decks such as Glistomb and Magnetomb followed this sort of format, and there was of course Vilegar.


Now its doing pretty well. It just won or took 2nd seniors and i think top 4 juniors in the Vancouver Regionals. And its cheap because it can work well and do well without any EXs. I play it. :smile:


I was certainly surprised to see it do so well. Good. We need something to combat these big EX based decks.


a deck I can tell you firsthand saw a LOT of play at Vancouver regionals is Seismitoad variants. There was Seismitoad/Garbodor[me] Seismitoad/Pyroar, Seismitoad/Yveltal variants, Seismitoad/Fighting, and even Seismitoad/Aromatisse/Random stuff. [P.S.: this is for Seniors, not masters.]


Is Seismitoad-EX really the “main thing” or just their to buy time for something else?


All of the decks [except Seismitoad/Aromatissee/Random stuff] used Seismitoad mainly, with Yveltal/Seismitoad using them o\both evenly, and the rest using pretty much ONLY Seismitoad.


(Saw this thread had been revived so I’ll jump back in)
The Legendary problem isn’t unsolvable I think. Of course you want Dialga to be as/more powerful than a Crobat (to use your examples) but at the same time it’s bad for gameplay if Basics are better than evolutions.

Pokemon EX could have been one way to solve this. If the first Reshiram and Zekrom were EXs (maybe 10 more HP and/or damage) then you have a Basic on par with a Stage 2 but with a suitable drawback. Of course, we all know what happened instead, they outclassed most evolutions ever made and EXs outclassed any card ever in HP and damage to energy.

Another idea would be to make Legendaries their own card type again. The 2 card system was mostly unsuccessful but there’s other ways you can make a “Basic” more challenging to play.
For example, a 1 card Kyogre LEGEND could have “LEGEND Ritual: You cannot play this card onto your bench unless there’s 6 or more Water energy in your discard pile”.
You could then print it with stats above-curve for a “Basic” but ensure it doesn’t come out until late game or a deck has to be completely built around it.

EDIT: Wow… there’s a lot more conversation happened since then. My next post will be something about Seismitoad I guess XD
@thflame I read your post about balancing Moltres and Charizard. The LEGEND idea in this post is one idea.


So you don’t think that the pacing of the attacks is an issue? I have a feeling if all Pokémon-EX were knocked down to the level of the original (regular) Reshiram and Zekrom, the one result I wouldn’t expect is “balance”, and if it showed up it would be pretty tenuous. Either they can still deliver the damage needed to OHKO everything else (you’ve lowered the threshold for Pokémon-EX and they set the cap) or everything else can also do that so why give up the extra Prize? Its the speed at which they could attack that caused the initial problem with those two before Pokémon-EX were even a “thing”.

Getting back to something else I said before that came up on another thread:

This just struck me as a good example: we’ll have to see the Crawdaunt (that should be in XY: Primal Clash) proves to be any good, but it would make it a lot nicer manually Evolving from Basic to Stage 1 to Stage 2 if the Stage 1 had an Ability like it:

Savage Pincers
When you play this Pokémon from your hand to evolve 1 of your Pokémon, you may discard an Energy attached to your opponent’s Active Pokémon.


Attack pacing is an issue, I will give you that, but that really only affects the top Tier of EX Pokemon, yet people are more than willing to play the lesser EX Pokemon than an Evolution Line.

Build a Delphox/Charizard deck and let me know which Charizard you pick.

Stage 2 Pokemon NEED some sort of advantage to overcome the fact that they are clunky. I don’t think you can balance a Stage 2 and a big basic to be on par without making the benefit of running the Stage 1 and basic far outweigh the consistency hit you will take for playing the Stage 2.

The problem with Crawdaut (hypothetically as a middle stage pokemon) is that it still isn’t worth the space. Crushing Hammer targets any Pokemon for a coin flip and Team Flare Grunt is the same effect as a supporter. Let’s say I play an EX, (similar to Crawdaunt’s hypothetical Stage 2) a Crushing Hammer, and a Team Flare Grunt for each Crawdaut line. I have more capability to discard energy now, with the same space expended.

@HEZ I would settle for a “You may only have one ‘LEGEND’ Pokemon in play at a time” or “you may only play this card if your opponent has 2 or more prizes than you.” Another idea I had was that benching an EX allowed your opponent to draw a prize(KOs only give up one prize). That would make you “pay first” for playing an EX.


Two prizes isn’t a handicap anymore. as such, I wish there was some ruling that says: “The attacks of any of your opponent’s evolved Pokémon in play do 30 extra damage to a Pokémon-EX” But then that would make Donphan and Pyroar really broken.


Pyroar is only “broken” BECAUSE we have a mainly big basics oriented format.

Donphan was fine until Furious Fists.


[quote=“thflame, post:112, topic:2318”]
Attack pacing is an issue, I will give you that, but that really only affects the top Tier of EX Pokemon, yet people are more than willing to play the lesser EX Pokemon than an Evolution Line.[/quote]

Before or after factoring in the effect of Seismitoad-EX on the current format. I mean, you might be right, but there is a difference between players favoring the top Pokémon-EX, the next best Pokémon-EX and the top Stage 2 Pokémon… that all have “pacing issues” by my standards.

The one that can attack Turn 2 for upwards of 150 points of damage before boosting it? Remember, my guidelines always factor in Energy acceleration. If you’ve got a four Energy attack on something but a way to get four Energy onto it first turn, it wouldn’t be allowed to attack for damage under my earlier guidelines.

My entire point is that we should be making the benefits provided by the lower Stages of an Evolution line outstrip the consistency hit. Ideally I want to try to even them out, but that’s more trial and error, a learning process… like how the other unbalancing aspects of the game took years to learn… and apparently a decade to forget by the-powers-that-be. Don’t forget that if we go with everything I said, another factor will be the slowed down big, Basics are going to sit dead or near dead for a few turns if you aren’t running them alongside something designed for early game. Its a small thing, but it matters.

  1. Crushing Hammer shouldn’t “be”, though I’ll give you Team Flare Grunt or Xerosic.
  2. The Basic for this hypothetical line is also supposed to be significantly good. “Significant” being pretty literal; not “extremely” good, but good to a significant degree.
  • So basically you get a good opening Pokémon that the Pokémon-EX can’t KO for a few turns, because it won’t be attacking that quickly.
  • Even if that deck can spare its Supporter to hit the Evolving Basic with Team Flare Grunt, it does that after an attack has already happened (well, if the rule change I suggested with this is accepted) because unlike the big, Basic Pokémon meant as a deck’s main attacker… the Evolving Basic should have an inexpensive attack unless its contribution was purely Ability based. Either way, less of a problem for it than the big Basic.
  • So when Evolving into the Stage 1 with a Savage Pincers-like Ability, maybe it also sits dead, maybe it has an inexpensive attack its self. It still contributed with its Ability, and that player has a Supporter ready to go.
  • By this point, its unlikely the Pokémon-EX is going to power-up something major instantly, having lost an Energy attachment and possible extras; unlike Team Flare Grunt, the Ability can be used multiple times in a turn.
  • The design of the Stage 2 still matters. A Stage 2 won’t be in play first turn with how I set things up so it can have a single Energy attack. If it is a main attacker, it should have something relatively inexpensive as a fallback or opening move. If it was a Bench-sitter… then the Basic (and possible Stage 1) that were Active were always meant as sacrifices anyway. The opponent’s Pokémon-EX on the other hand? Pretty rare you can afford to sacrifice those.

Now I answered those questions. Perhaps I make it sound too convenient; that was indeed a “good” scenario. With an “average” one it should be more even and with a “bad” one it will be just that: bad. There are certain effects that are going to be restricted to Evolutions because that is how you keep them from happening early game; if it breaks the game being accessible Turn 1 it won’t be on a Basic. If it breaks the game being accessible Turn 2, it won’t be on a Stage 1. Since I do not want generic Evolution acceleration, if it breaks the game being available Turn 3… that’s the same as Turn 2 with my suggested Evolution rules. Note that these are overall turn counts, not the individual player’s.

I don’t expect you to suddenly agree with me 100%, but does that at least clarify a little?


From what I understand, you want pre-evolved Pokemon to have Abilities/Attacks that either do the same thing as a Trainer, slightly better, or something that a Trainer cannot do.

I get your pacing point. A 4 energy attack should take 4 turns to power up. (Or, better yet, an attack’s energy cost should be such that it cannot be used before it would be broken.) I am fine with this.

For lack of a better way to explain my POV, I simply think that such balance is not possible. You will either make missing out on the pre-evolution effects to painful to make big basics playable, or these effects will not be strong enough to warrant the space and consistency costs.

I also realize that testing these hypotheses would require building a version of the TCG from the ground, up.


Gabite was an excellent middle form. It’s ability added consistency to finding Pokemon and causing Garchomp decks to be build a bit different from other Stage 2 decks in format with it. In this case Garchomp is still the main draw, Gabite is the bonus. I also like when the Stage 1 is the focus, and the Stage 2 is the bonus. We saw this briefly with Eelectrik. I remember Electross being viable as a one-of for a bit.

I like these mechanics, they are fun. I want to see a bit more stage 1’s similar to Gabite, where they create consistency for themselves. Right now these mechanics suffer because Pokemon search options are not very optimal.


Gabite was the ‘ideal’ Stage 1 . . . not just good in itself, but helped the deck to function.

Eelektrik did nothing for its Stage 2 and 99% of the time was played without it.

Vibrava RR had an excellent mid-late game attack and a stellar Stage 2.

Kirlia PL was sometimes teched into SP for Mewtwo/Machamp reasons. Yamato famously went the whole way and played 1-1-1 Gardy in Luxchomp.

I’m struggling to think of good evolving Stage 1s after that (and Kirlia is seriously pushing it). Evolving Basics have fared better with various CFF and ‘buy a turn’ flip effects.


One of the last decks in real life (as opposed to online play) I heavily used centered on Feraligatr (DP: Mysterious Treasures 8/123). At first I figured (like most decks) I’d be just using Rare Candy the vast majority of the time to skip directly to Feraligatr but its Stage 1 counterpart - Croconaw (DP: Mysterious Treasures 44/123) worked so well with it that I only skipped it when I had too.

If that doesn’t make much sense… Rare Candy was often just as important to the Stage 1 cards in a deck and since the Stage 1 cards in this deck were about set-up/resource management, past getting that first Feraligatr into play they needed the speed-up more than the attackers. The attack the deck focused on was Energy Cyclone, which let you show your opponent as many Energy cards from your hand as you wished and then shuffle them into the deck for 20 points of damage per Energy. The attack itself only required [WW] so it was common to speed up the first Feraligatr with a Double Rainbow Energy but try to avoid it for later ones (Double Rainbow Energy has the drawback of lowering the damage of the Pokémon using it by 10). While the deck already had multiple ways to get Energy into hand, Croconaw and its Energy Vitality were still a huge boon you only skipped if you absolutely had to; the deck ran Energy heavy so this both helped improve your attempts at drawing non-Energy cards and was usually good for at least two Energy and obviously the full five meant +100 damage!


You mean the original Basic Pokémon-ex that… I don’t remember seeing much successful competitive play? Standard disclaimer applies: maybe I’m just having a total memory fail or maybe I just wasn’t paying proper attention back then (I was trying to be competitive during this period and didn’t succeed ^^’) and of course some of them did indeed make good. This is why I think my passion for “card dissection” comes in handy, and my desire to see if we can isolate what elements actually made the difference “back in the day”.

Still it was a real shock when cards like this

basically tanked even though its non-Pokémon-ex predecessor

became a major player upon release, including working its way into Haymaker decks as pretty much a must-run and that means we are talking before the shift to a “Modified” format. Obviously specific cards can be champs or chumps even if every other similar card is the opposite or somewhere in between, but maybe surviving one more hit, even when you hit hard enough to neutralize such an advantage in similar cards.

This is already getting kind of long; @GadgetJax there is a thread here that people tend to forget (or never saw and naturally wouldn’t think to search for) called The TCG Design Thread. If you want to ask questions there, people like me that can try to answer but will need massive posts that would say derail this thread can more freely respond there. :wink:

The short version I will risk here is that I believe the issue is that the designers aren’t trying to “align” fully Evolved Pokémon (regardless of their specific Stage) and balance out Evolutions versus Basics by making Evolving Basics useful (instead of placeholders) and in general the pacing of the game is totally out of whack with high damage and a lot of effects available far too early, and the solution being to stop designing cards for a break neck pace. =P