The beginners guide to mastering the Pokémon Card Game

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Gotta collect them all!

So you want to be a master of Pokémon? Do you have the skills to be number one? With this Pokémon card game guide, you soon will!

Pokémon card bouts are almost as ancient as the video game they’re based on. Battling monsters using cards is almost as fun as battling using Link Cables. And while the mechanics are similar to the games and even the anime, there are a few deviations that streamline this incredibly lo-fi version of the time-honored Pokémon battle.

Jumping into the game is easy, whether you’re new to Pokémon or have great childhood memories of killing Missingno for infinite rare candies. Here are a bunch of great starter decks that will get you started on your road to becoming a Pokémon Card champion.

Starter Decks

These decks will allow you to start playing right away. They all come with damage counters, a playing mat, and a special coin with the Pokémon featured on the box.

1) Tropical Takedown

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Alolan Exeggutor looks goofy AF, but on the battlefield, it’s an absolute tank. This is among the newer decks, featuring Alolan versions of Marowak, Sandslash, and Raticate.

  • Featured Card: Alolan Exeggutor
  • Featured Types: Grass, Dark, Fighting, Psychic, Fairy

Price on Amazon: $11

Buy it here

2) Imperial Command

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Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. This deck only contains one type, which is dangerous, but also potentially lethal for your rivals because it means you can get stronger ‘mons out quicker. At the head of your aquatic army is Empleon, and once he’s out, victory is almost assured.

  • Featured Card: Empoleon
  • Featured Types: Water

Price on Amazon: $12

Buy it here

3) Mach Strike

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Dragons were fearsome in Pokémon Red/Blue, and would you believe it – they’re still fearsome now. Chief among the deadly dragons is Garchomp, and this deck is built around the earth-shaking beast. This deck is also rounded out with other powerful fighters including Lucario, Gumshoos, and Hippowdon.

  • Featured Card: Garchomp
  • Featured Types: Dragon, Fighting

Price on Amazon: $13

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4) Luminous Frost

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Fire and ice don’t normally go together, but in this deck, they work in perfect harmony. Alolan Vulpix is graceful in battle, and she’s backed up by powerful fire types Heatmor and Pansear. There’s also a Kingdra to help throw it back to the Gen II glory days.

  • Featured Card: Alolan Ninetales
  • Featured Types: Water, Fire

Price on Amazon: $13

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5) Clanging Thunder

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You can’t fight the elements in Pokémon…that is, unless you’re a dragon type. Kommo-o heads this deck, with some serious backup from powerful electric types like the kawaii and powerful Alolan Raichu. Prepare to destroy your enemies…with cuteness.

  • Featured Card: Kommo-o
  • Featured Types: Dragon, Electric

Price on Amazon: $13

Buy it here

Deck Packs

You can’t play Pokémon alone. Well, not the card game anyway. And considering the game is easy to pick up, you should always have a spare deck handy in case you and your friends want to spar. These packs contain at least two decks built to compete against one another, making every battle as tense as possible.

6) Alolan Starter Packs

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These are starter decks featuring starters from Pokémon Sun and Moon. Primarina, Incineroar, and Decidueye head up the ubiquitous water/fire/grass starter types. Whichever deck you pick, it’s built to underline strengths and protect against type weaknesses. Includes the decks Bright Tide, Forest Shadow, and Roaring Heat.

  • Featured Card: Primrina/Decidueye/Incineroar
  • Featured Types: Water, Electric/Grass/Fire, Fighting

Price on Amazon: $34

Buy it here

7) Mewtwo Mayhem/Pikachu Power

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Are there any two Pokémon more iconic than Pikachu and Mewtwo? Probably not. Mewtwo’s deck is packed with powerhouses like Nidoking, Machoke, and Dugtrio to stampede over the competition. Pikachu’s got a force of nature behind him including Beedrill, Magneton, and Electabuzz. Whatever deck you choose, nostalgia will fill the battlefield.

  • Featured Card: Mewtwo/Pikachu
  • Featured Types: Psychic, Fighting/Electric, Grass

Price on Amazon: $32

Buy it here

8) Battle Ruler/Sky Guardian

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Nothing makes a deck quite as frightening as a legendary. Each of these decks is headed by two beasts, one from the earth, the other from the skies. Zygarde’s army includes Hawlucha, Serperior, and Lucario. Lugia’s armada covers the gamut as well, with normal, fire, and fairy types including Whimsicott, Snorlax, and Delphox.

  • Featured Card: Zygarde/Lugia
  • Featured Types: Grass, Fighting/Psychic, Fairy

Price on Amazon: $20

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9) Brilliant Thunder/Mystic Typhoon

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The stars behind these decks are deceptively cute. And while they ooze adorable, they’re equally powerful. Brilliant Thunder stars Heliolisk, the electric reptile. Luxio, Fletchinder, and Lopbunny provide some serious backup. Mystic Typhoon is headed by psychic kitty Meowstic. The equally graceful Milotic, Furfrou, and Dusclops round out the chic team.

  • Featured Card: Heliolisk/Meowstic
  • Featured Types: Electric, Fire/Psychic, Water

Price on Amazon: $30

Buy it here

10) Hidden Moon/Steel Sun

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The Pokémon Sun and Moon legendaries share an evolutionary line, but besides that, they’re night and day (pun intended). Lunala’s Hidden Moon deck rules the dark with the power of psychic and fire types including Salazzle, Lampent, and Bewear. Solgaleo’s army of light is a stoic defense force of steel and psychic types like Metang, Slowbro, and Delmise.

  • Featured Card: Lunala/Solgaleo
  • Featured Types: Psychic, Fire/Psychic, Steel

Price on Amazon: $28

Buy it here

11) Rock Steady/Luminous Frost

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Lycanroc shakes the earth with how powerful he is. Alolan Ninetales is just as fiery as her Kanto form, despite being an ice type. Plus, each is packed with new and classic powerhouses including Ryperior, Kingdra, Meowstic, and Alolan Sandslash.

  • Featured Card: Lycanroc, Alolan Ninetales
  • Featured Types: Fighting, Psychic/Water, Fire

Price on Amazon: $20

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Booster Pack Tins

You’re going to need a place to store your new decks. What better case than a gorgeous tin featuring one of your favorite Pokemon? Each tin comes with four booster packs inside, letting you pump up the power of your decks.

12) Volcanion Tin

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  • Featured Card: Volcanion EX
  • Featured Booster Pack: Steam Siege

Price on Amazon: $16

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13) Lunala Tin

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  • Featured Card: Lunala GX
  • Featured Booster Pack: Varies

Price on Amazon: $17

Buy it here

14) Dusk Mane Necrozma Tin

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  • Featured Card: Dusk Mane Necrozma GX
  • Featured Booster Pack: Ultra Prism

Price on Amazon: $17

Buy it here

15) Xerneas Tin

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  • Featured Card: Xerneas EX
  • Featured Booster Pack: Varies

Price on Amazon: $25

Buy it here

16) Marshadow Tin

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  • Featured Card: Marshadow GX
  • Featured Booster Pack: Varies

Price on Amazon: $18

Buy it here

17) Tapu Koko Tin

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  • Featured Card: Tapu Koko GX
  • Featured Booster Pack: Guardians Rising

Price on Amazon: $18

Buy it here

18) Shiny Gyarados

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  • Featured Card: Shiny Gyarados EX
  • Featured Booster Pack: XY Break

Price on Amazon: $19

Buy it here

Elite Trainer Box

After getting your feet wet, it’s time to dive deep into the game and become elite. Each of these boxes comes with eight booster packs, 45 assorted energy cards, and 65 card sleeves featuring the Pokémon on the cover. It also comes with a collector’s box to hold everything, with four dividers to keep everything organized, a six-sided damage counter die, and a competition legal coin.

19) Sun and Moon Guardians Rising

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  • Featured Pokémon: Tapu Koko
  • Featured Booster Pack: Guardians Rising

Price on Amazon: $29 (regularly $31.99)

Buy it here

20) Shining Legends

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  • Featured Pokémon: Ho-Oh
  • Featured Booster Pack: Shining Legends

Price on Amazon: $29.99 (regularly $31.99)

Buy it here

21) Sun and Moon Lost Thunder

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  • Featured Pokémon: Zeraora
  • Featured Booster Pack: Shining Legends

Price on Amazon: $38.57 (regularly $59.99)

Pre-order it here

22) Crimson Invasion

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  • Featured Pokémon: Zeraora
  • Featured Booster Pack: Shining Legends

Price on Amazon: $24.95

Buy it here

22) Sun and Moon Forbidden Light

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  • Featured Pokémon: Ultra Necrozma GX
  • Featured Booster Pack: Forbidden Light

Price on Amazon: $29.02 (regularly $30.09)

Buy it here

23) Sun and Moon Celestial Storm

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  • Featured Pokémon: Rayquaza
  • Featured Booster Pack: Celestial Storm

Price on Amazon: $31.50 (regularly $39.98)

Buy it here

24) Dragon Majesty

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  • Featured Pokémon: Naganadel GX
  • Featured Booster Pack: Dragon Majesty

Price on Amazon: $39.97

Buy it here

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Jaime Carrillo

Jaime Carrillo

Jaime Carillo is a writer for Pure Nintendo and a plucky YouTube cook. He specializes in writing about console gaming and kitchen gadgets. It comes naturally, considering he's either wielding a massive cleaver or Switch Pro controller at any given point. When he's not cruising through a drive-thru at 2am, he's baking shokupan or whipping up a big pot of Japanese curry. He enjoys retro gaming, geopolitics, and Vic Berger videos.