So you have grown a small collection of Pokémon Trading Game cards and you want to become better at the game. You might have seen a Regional Champiosnhip winning list on or maybe your friend showcased you their newest masterpiece. Where do you begin? Do you counter the deck that just won someone five thousand dollars or do you play the same deck? What about your friend with their pet deck? There are a bunch of ways to determine where to go, but which way is the best? The goal of this article is to help you grow as a player and learn some tips to test more effectively in this game. Enjoy. 

Learn About the Cards

Pidgeotto - Team Up 123The first thing that you should do when learning any new aspect of the game is that you need to learn more in general. A great way to do this is to go to “Your Collection” on PTCGO and explore. Even if you haven’t plugged in a bunch of code cards, you can still check the “Show Not Owned” box to see all of the available cards in the game. This is a great way for you to learn about all of the available cards in the game and even add a few on your wish list. For example, I didn’t know that Trevenent & Dusknoir-GX (Sun and Moon Promos SM217) was released until I found it greyed out on PTCGO. Once I discovered that this card existed, I went to my local game store and ordered four copies of it. Once you start to understand the popular cards that you are likely to see at your next event, you will feel more prepared for that event. You can always learn more about cards from various websites, YouTube channels, or on my Twitter @zlesagepokemon. You can look at cards for fun, to think of new strategies, and to learn more about this game in general. If you don’t understand what cards do, you won’t be able to properly create strategies that work. Even if some don’t consider it testing, I consider card research a great use of your time while you play the Pokémon TCG. I’ll say it here again, but one of the best ways to research cards is by exploring on PTCGO. The best way to get codes is to pick up some PTCGO code cards from You can use my code zlesage5 to save a little bit in your order!

Learn About the Metagame

Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX - Unbroken Bonds 130This almost always goes hand in hand with card research, but in a different way. If you go to, you can research the popular decks in the format that you are playing in. Whether you need to learn more about Pikachu & Zekrom-GX (Sun and Moon Promo SM168) or if you wanna know the techs inside of a Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX (Unbroken Bonds 130) deck - they will have that necessary information. If you go to the portion of their website that has the “decks” portion, you can see which decks are performing well on a global scale and what the contents are inside those decks. I personally use this to find better deck skeletons, learn more about the growing metagame, and to properly choose a deck for an event. Most recently I used this to decide to play Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX (Unbroken Bonds 130) for the Knoxville Regional Championships. I had the option to play any deck that I wanted, but I was reassured that I made the right call because that deck had a wonderful matchup spread heading into the event. Between looking at the metagame from Atlantic City Regionals, data on, and my own foresight - I was content. Even though I hit three poor matchups on the day, I was still able to collect some Championship Points towards my World Championship invite. Whether you are looking at cards all day or looking at decks, research is the key to grow as a player. But what do you do next? How can you continuously grow?

Start Playing

Mewtwo & Mew-GX - Unified Minds 71Yup, that’s right! You need to start playing. The same way that sports analysts can’t shoot hoops is the same way you won’t be able to play Pokémon. If you only ever research, theory your matchups, and talk to friends - you won’t understand the complex dynamics of this game. You need to play Pokémon to understand Pokémon - that makes sense right? To me it does. Pokémon is like a combination of poker and chess. There is variance, there are strategies, but you are also tossed in a world with a growing metagame and a large card pool to construct your own deck. Beyond picking a deck for yourself to play, you need to find someone to play with. Even though the quality of player can drastically change between games, Pokemon TCG Online is a great way to instantly connect to someone online. I have played games at 7AM, 3PM, 8PM, and even 1AM! The client is available 24 hours a day, unless they are doing maintenance, and you can always get a game in. I don’t need to mention that you can always pick up codes here on this site, but in case you forgot, you totally can! Ok, ok, that’s enough shameless plugging for this section of the article and I have more information to share with you. One of the greatest ideas that I have had is playing with dual purpose tech cards in real life games. I guess that can sound confusing to some, but stay with me. Let’s say you are deciding between tech cards in your brand new Mewtwo & Mew-GX (Unified Minds 71) deck. You have only one spot for the lat card in your deck and you don’t know what to play! Do you play Greninja-GX (Sun and Moon Promo SM197) or do you play a copy of Muk & Alolan Muk-GX (Unbroken Bonds 61)? Both are drastically different, but have you thought about playing both at the same time? It can’t be that difficult right? Take a card, flip it upside down, and tell your friends that you are trying to decide between those two cards. Side note - this is only for testing in real life, don’t ever try this at any tournament. Play your games as you normally would, but if you encounter that flipped over card, you can decide on what tech you want to play at that time. Record your results over a period of time, your data should tell you which card was needed more often, and continue on testing with your new tech card. If you think you are a hitting a brick wall when testing, remember that you can always try out something new.

Adjust When Necessary

Blacephalon-GX - Lost Thunder 52This is something that I personally strive towards every day in this game and I hope you will too. Last year I became known as the guy who played Blacephalon-GX (Lost Thunder 52) for the entire season. Well, that isn’t entirely wrong, I did play it in Standard from São Paulo all the way until Madison. In that time I was able to make Top Eight at an International Championships, win a Special Event, and win a Regional Championships. With Blacephalon-GX (Lost Thunder 52) continuously thriving as a deck, you might ask why I have stopped playing that deck so far this season? The only answer is that it is in a worse position than other decks in the format. I can guarantee that I would play Mewtwo & Mew-GX (Unified Minds 71) if there was another Standard major event before the release of Cosmic Eclipse. It is currently the best performing deck and I can’t deny that I should have played it for Knoxville. Going forward, I will use my expertise to better choose decks and to adjust my thoughts if I hit a brick wall. To some, they may view my 365 Championship Points as a lot, but I am hungry for more. If anything, I am disappointed in myself that I have not been able to acquire more Championship Points so far, but all that means is that I need to adjust my focus going forward. We are about to experience two Expanded events, Richmond and Portland, and that means I need to find the best deck. After talking to my good friend Daniel Altavilla (@daxptcg), he told me that it would be a great idea for me to put down my matchups into a spreadsheet across all of the best decks in a given format. After that, weight the average win / loss ratio for the expected metagame, and blend the results to give each deck a score. The better the win rate, the better the deck is for an event. After running some data, I can confidently say I am considering decks that weren’t a consideration before and making progress as a player. While data entry might not be the best way for every player to choose a deck, it is something that makes me excited to play Pokémon and keeps my passion burning. Another way for my passion to burn is for me to create goals for myself.

Become Driven by Goals

Dedenne-GX - Unbroken Bonds 137Goals in Pokémon can become challenging, confusing, and out right depressing for some players. A common trend in this game is for players to post their goals in various Social Media groups and for their friends to post some ridiculous goals. I have seen goals range from winning a League Cup to making Top Eight at an International Championships. To someone who has done both, I can clearly say that I can’t determine how I did either. Well, that’s not entirely true, I have some brief thoughts on this subject. For local events, I examine my metagame, pick a deck that can succeed in the best of one format, play test as much as possible, and to never let my guard down. If you are in an event and your opponent plays a Dedenne-GX (Unbroken Bonds 57) under your Power Plant (Unbroken Bonds 183), you can’t let them take it back. You both tested for this event, travelled to get to this event, acquired cards for this event, and paid for your entry. They made a mistake. It’s not the end of the world for them, but they need to realize that they were in control and lost it. I have seemingly drifted off tangent, but I’m gonna pull this all together. Goals should be more spiritual in nature or measurable in general. You should have goals to become more kind, have better posture, finish the Pokemon TCG Online ladder, or to collect all of the Full Art non-GX Pokémon from Cosmic Eclipse. You should have goals to test with your friend group for an hour each day, attend a Regional Championships, and to become more confident as a player. As soon as you wrap yourself up in superficial goals that you can’t control, you are already negatively affecting your chances of growing as a player. It can be a tough journey to become the best, but whatever you want to do in this game, make sure it makes sense. 

About the Writer

Zach LesageZach Lesage
Zach Lesage is a contributing writer for As a Toronto local, he has been playing the Pokémon TCG since 2005 and currently plays the game as his full time profession. With multiple Champion titles to his name, such as 2019 Collinsville Regionals and 2019 Mexico City Special Event, he certainly has a passion for success. Outside of the game, he travels the world and enjoys high fashion - particular Off-White. You can find him at most big events, and can follow him on Twitter @zlesagepokemon.