Hello everyone! This is Elena from Gaia Storm and it is a pleasure to be here once again! Whether it is because of the rising popularity of Trading Card Games because the 25th anniversary is almost here or any other reason, the reality is that there are a lot of new players that have been recently joining the Pokémon TCG community. However, starting in a new environment such as this is never easy and can be overwhelming as there are so many cards and options. What should my first steps be in order to become a Pokémon Master? That is precisely what we are going to cover today in this article: how to invest your time and money to start your journey with the best guarantees. Let's dive into it!

What do I need to know about the 2021 format?

September 2021 is the perfect timing to start (or come back) playing Pokémon TCG. Why? Because of the Standard Rotation, of course. The rotation is an event that happens every year, after summer, just before the new season kicks in and it acts as a regulatory mechanism for the game. In order to keep new strategies flowing and create renewed conditions, old cards that were printed years ago are no longer legal (they “rotate” out). For example, in this 2021 rotation, we are losing cards from the following sets: Team Up, Unbroken Bonds, Unified Minds, and Cosmic Eclipse. This leaves us with cards that were printed from Sword and Shield base set onwards. If you are unsure of what cards are included in these, you can always check the Pokémon Sets Card List Section here at PoTown.
The implications of the rotation are always huge as entire decks become no longer playable while others suddenly rise in popularity as the counter can’t be used anymore. As such, the entire Standard format reshapes in a fresh new way, making it the perfect opportunity for new players to enter as they are in square one, just as everyone else. This 2021 era will be the time for V and big VMAXPokémonto shine and finally replace the good old GX cards that have been dominating the game since the Sun and Moon era.

What are the cards I need?

If you’ve read my previous article about Trading in Pokémon TCGO you will know by now that code packs are the currency you can use in the Online platform to get specific cards you want. But even before that, the question is… how do I know what cards should I be getting first?

A typical mistake many newcomers make is investing a lot of resources in expensive V or VMAX Pokémon that, while good, are not enough to win a game on their own. One of the golden rules of any TCG is that your priority should always be boosting the consistency of your deck and that has one name: staple cards.

In a Trading Card Game glossary, a staple refers to these cards that, because of their power, are played in the majority of the strategies, mainly because they provide a generic and solid effect like searching or drawing. In Pokémon, we now clearly have a very well-defined list of staple cards that are the backbone of most of the top meta decks. Investing in staples first will not only help you immediately improve your game (even if you are using a theme deck!) but will allow you to build many different strategies from there.

So… what are the staple cards for the start of 2021? Here is the list your should aim for:


Crobat VSobbleDrizzileInteleon
  • 2 Crobat V: With Dedenne GX having rotated, Crobat V is the only generic and reliable support Pokémon that allows us to draw cards when we have a bad hand. Definitely a must-have.
  • Inteleon Line(4 Sobble CRE, 4 Drizzile SWSH 56, 2 Inteleon SHSH 58, and 3 Inteleon CRE): I can’t think of many stages 2 that have had a similar impact in the game. Inteleon and its pre-evolutions allow you to search through your deck every time it evolves and if you use the most recent Inteleon version from Chilling Reign, you get to put damage counters every turn. Overall, Inteleon and its pre-evolutions provide a very consistent engine that can support many V or VMAX Pokémon like Rapid Strike Urshifu, Ice Rider Calyrex, Dragapult, Leafeon, and so many others…


Quick Ball
  • 4 Quick Ball SWSH: Quick Ball is one of the most effective search cards we’ve had in a while. It is the perfect set-up item and the one you want to draw at the beginning of the game.
  • 4 Level Ball: Because of the rise in popularity of Inteleon, Level Ball has also become an ideal option to set your Sobble and Drizzile lines, and then basically search whatever piece you are missing.
  • 3-4 Evolution Incience: Another very good and reliable item to search for evolutions, providing you with more options than just the Level Ball.
  • 2-3 Air Ballon, 2-3 Switch: Being able to switch your active Pokémon with another you have on the bench is always important in the game. Air Balloon and Switch are the ideal cards for doing that, each of them with its own advantages and disadvantages over the other.


Boss's order
  • 4 Professor Research:Unarguably, drawing cards is the best effect in the game and I can’t think of a deck that won’t want to run 4 copies of this supporter.
  • 3-4 Boss Orders: This card just wins games. Depending on the deck you are using. you will want to run between 2 or 4 copies.
  • 3-4 Marnie: It is one of the most hated cards of the format because it has a reputation of giving unplayable hands but the reality is that Marnie is still an amazing supporter to control your opponent's resources and preserve yours.
  • 1-2 Raihan: This card has immediately become a weapon in many pokemon online decks as it can enable a surprise comeback by accelerating energies and searching for cards you need after a KO.

How do I get them?

Broadly speaking, there are two very good options: individually trading the cards or trying to get products where they are included.

If you are playing Pokémon Online and have some PTCGO codes, the first option sounds obvious as the most straightforward way of getting your hands on the cards above is by directly trading them one by one (friendly reminder: never open the packs you buy!).

But setting up trades is a time-consuming activity and takes a considerable amount of time so what you could do instead is to buy special, ready-to-use products that already contain tons of good cards. For example, a very cool item is the Trainers Toolkit 2. This special product is focused on providing players with a very solid base that includes the majority of the important staple cards (including 2 Crobat V) and many other useful items and trainers. If you get a couple of the Trainer's Tool Kit, you will have virtually all you need to start building any meta deck from scratch.

The only thing you might not get in the Trainers Toolkit 2 is the popular Inteleon line but worry not as there is another fantastic product that has you covered: Inteleon Battle League Deck. This is by far one of the most complete and competitive products we’ve received in the recent history of Pokemon TCG. It comes with a solid Inteleon Line, a ton of good trainers and other relevant Pokémon.

If you are an Inteleon fan or just want to have a solid deck to start with, I think there is no better and more efficient way of getting into the game than by getting the Inteleon Battle Deck as well as two copies of the Trainers Toolkit 2.

But always keep an eye on the upcoming products as we are constantly receiving very interesting releases that contain a very competitive base. For example, a new Urshifu Battle Deck will be released soon, giving players access to one of the most consistent decks in the entire format. Or, you can take a look at the Bunldes section here at PoTown to find special packages that will provide you with a deck almost ready to play.

What are the decks I should build first?

Ok, so let’s say that now you have your staple cards after having purchased two copies of the Trainer's Toolikit and you also got yourself some code cards. Apart from perhaps improving a Theme deck (you can get these for free in the in-game shop), how do you know what competitive decks to build from here?

The good news is, since you’ve done your homework and got your staple cards you have a lot of options!, You will only need to change the Pokémon in your list while the base -that is, the engine- remains untouched. Let’s see some of the most popular pokemon online decks right now and you’ll easily identify all the similarities they share:

Rapid Strike Urshifu

Pokémon (22)

Trainers (30)

Energy (8)

1x Crobat V PR-SW 983x Marnie PR-SW 1214x Rapid Strike Energy BST 182
1x Medicham V EVS 1854x Level Ball BST 1814x Fighting Energy GRI 169
1x Passimian PR-SW 1151x Tower of Waters BST 138
4x Rapid Strike Urshifu V BST 1531x Switch PRC 163
3x Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX BST 1702x Telescopic Sight VIV 203
4x Sobble CRE 411x Escape Rope BUS 163
4x Drizzile SHF 992x Boss's Orders RCL 189
1x Inteleon SHF 1001x Path to the Peak CRE 148
3x Inteleon EVS 2274x Professor's Research SSH 201

4x Quick Ball SSH 216

2x Raihan EVS 202

3x Evolution Incense SSH 163

2x Air Balloon SSH 213

Rapid Strike Urshifu decklist

Leafeon VMAX

Pokémon (20)

Trainers (30)

Energy (10)

1x Crobat V PR-SW 983x Marnie PR-SW 1216x Grass Energy GRI 167
4x Leafeon V EVS 1664x Level Ball BST 1814x Capture Energy DAA 201
3x Leafeon VMAX EVS 82x Tool Jammer BST 136
4x Sobble CRE 412x Switch PRC 163
4x Drizzile SHF 993x Boss's Orders RCL 189
1x Inteleon SHF 1004x Galar Mine RCL 160
3x Inteleon EVS 2274x Professor's Research SSH 201

4x Quick Ball SSH 216

1x Raihan EVS 202

3x Evolution Incense SSH 163

Leafon decklist

Dragapult VMAX

Pokémon (19)

Trainers (34)

Energy (7)

1x Galarian Zigzagoon SHF 1514x Level Ball BST 1813x Psychic Energy SUM 162
4x Dragapult V RCL 1831x Tool Jammer BST 1364x Horror Psychic Energy RCL 172
3x Dragapult VMAX RCL 934x Fog Crystal CRE 227
4x Sobble CRE 411x Switch PRC 163
4x Drizzile SHF 994x Marnie SSH 200
1x Inteleon SHF 1001x Suspicious Food Tin CPA 80
2x Inteleon EVS 2271x Escape Rope BUS 163

2x Boss's Orders RCL 189

1x Scoop Up Net RCL 207

4x Path to the Peak CRE 148

3x Professor's Research SSH 201

3x Quick Ball SSH 216

1x Raihan EVS 202

4x Evolution Incense SSH 163

Dragapult decklist

When starting in this format, I would recommend building one of the decks above as they are very simple to use and strong. Urshifu VMAX might be the most popular for the current environment but on the other hand, Dragapult is probably the easiest to be obtained thanks to its promo code.
What is interesting to note here is that, as we've already discussed, all these strategies share the same base so once you have the staple cards ready, the possibilities are just endless. You will maintain your core and only need to get different attackers each time you want to try a new strategy.


Starting playing a Trading Card game is not easy and we’ve all been there but I hope this guide has provided you with a good overview of how to best invest your resources in order to save time in your Pokémon Journey. Pokémon TCG is a great game with a very welcoming community and now it is the perfect time to start your own adventure! Thanks for reading!

About the writer

Elena has been playing Pokémon TCG for years and leads one of the biggest TCG-dedicated channels in the world. You can find her on Youtube & Twitch (@gaiastormtcg) as well as in other social media channels. Don’t forget to check them out!