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Pokemon TCG Galarian Rapidash Theme Deck

Veil of Mischief

Custom Pokemon TCG Theme Deck

One year for Christmas, I got a great gift idea for my girlfriend. She had gotten way into the Pokemon TCG during COVID lockdowns, especially playing with pre-made theme decks. So I thought… why not make her a special deck using one of her favourite Pokemon? Handmade gifts are always nice to receive because you know the person went the extra mile to make it for you, and while I’m useless with my hands I know I can design things for a game!

I set myself the following goals and got to work:

  • It needed to feature a Pokemon she likes

  • It needed to adhere to the same restrictions as an official theme deck

  • It needed to be balanced against the theme decks we owned

A Pokemon She Likes


My first thought was to build an Alolan Vulpix theme deck because it’s her favourite Pokemon out of all of them. However, it turns out there already is one! And it’s terrible! Oof. All of the Alolan Vulpix cards that are at the power level of a theme deck weren’t that great, at that. My next thought was Galarian Ponyta, which was a newer Pokemon that she’d grown attached to. This would also give me the benefit of being able to use the most recently released cards in making it. So I took a look, and the Galarian Ponyta and Rapidash cards were pretty good! Not too powerful, but Rapidash did have a fun ability which I’ll get into later.

Theme Deck Restrictions

Pokemon theme decks (before the Pokemon Company stopped producing them, at least :( ) were an introduction to the TCG’s mechanics. Most of them wouldn’t do well in a competitive format because they don’t utilise advanced cards like Pokemon GX or Pokemon V (cards that are much more powerful than regular cards, but which provide your opponent with more prizes should they defeat them) and are instead designed around weaker Pokemon and more basic item cards. In order for my theme deck to be authentic I wanted to stick to the same restrictions as much as possible.

One aspect I couldn’t adhere to was that each theme deck only contains cards from the TCG set that they’re released with; for example the Inteleon theme deck released alongside the Sword and Shield expansion only contained Pokemon from that set. The Ponyta and Rapidash I was focusing the deck around were from that same set so I originally tried to restrict myself to cards from that set. It wasn’t working however, as there weren’t enough Pokemon that synergised together. I allowed myself to also pull cards from the Rebel Clash and Darkness Ablaze expansions that had been released since, but ensured I wasn’t using Pokemon from the eras of different games like Sun and Moon or X and Y.

I worked out that the Sword and Shield era theme decks more or less followed a formula of:

  • 22 Pokemon cards (consisting of 3 evolution families and 2-3 standalone Basic Pokemon)

  • 20 Trainer Cards (with the same amount of certain staple cards, and the remaining spaces used for new cards from the deck’s respective expansion)

  • 18 Energy Cards

I would use this same structure for creating my deck.


Here is where things got fun. I would first need a central concept to theme the deck around. The best theme decks have one or two main strategies that unify their cards; for example the Drednaw Theme Deck uses Nessa to put your discarded water Pokemon and Energy cards back into your hand. Drednaw gets stronger when you play Nessa but the card also synergises well with Cramorant, who gets stronger by discarding certain Pokemon. I took a look at Galarian Rapidash’s attacks and abilities to work out how I could best utilise it. Rapidash’s Psychic attack isn’t very effective in the theme deck format as it relies on your opponent’s Pokemon having a lot of Energy cards, whereas in this format the most you’re likely to have equipped is 3. I did, however, notice that its ability prevents your Pokemon from being affected by Special Conditions (such as confusion or paralysis). This brought to mind a card we had opened from a booster pack - the Yell Horn. This card confuses both active Pokemon in play - your opponent’s… but also yours. Normally this would be a very situational card, but in a deck designed around immunity to special conditions… you could create the situation regularly. I decided that Special Conditions would be the theme of the deck, which would set it apart from other theme decks as they don’t occur very often in the format.


I threw in a few cards that either inflicted special conditions on the opponent or would usually have drawbacks that Rapidash could nullify. Snorlax was one such card - it’s a heavy hitter but with the drawback that it falls asleep after attacking. Not so when Galarian Rapidash is on the field! I also had one more trick up my sleeve - I’d commissioned some art of my girlfriend as a Pokemon Trainer which was a present in of itself, but I got the idea of getting a custom card printed with the artwork on it that could be slipped into the deck. We have an in-joke about her always being buzzing with energy, so I wanted the ability to relate to Energy cards while also synergising with the Special Condition gimmick. I had the idea of it letting you return discarded Energy back to the field if your opponent was inflicted with a Special Condition, but didn’t want it to be useless if your opponent wasn’t affected. Because Energy is such a precious resource in the Pokemon TCG I had to be wary of how much Energy it let you gain, especially within the Theme Deck format. While on the other hand, I also had to ensure that it was a bit more effective than other Trainer cards when the conditions were met, otherwise it would be requiring a lot of effort for little reward.


I took a look at similar Energy generation cards within other theme decks and noticed there were a few cards that let you get a lot of cards out of your discard pile and a few that let you get a small number of cards from your deck. So I gave the card the standard ability to return 2 Energy cards from your discard pile to your hand if your opponent has no Special Conditions, which is handy but not quite as useful as other Trainer cards. Because if it was more useful without the condition being met then the other Trainers would just look like a raw deal. And then if your opponent does have a Special Condition, you can take 3 Energy cards from your discard pile and equip them straight to your Pokemon in play. This is a powerful effect, but is balanced out by:

  • You needing Energy in your discard pile to begin with

  • Not pulling out as many Energy cards as other Trainer cards

  • Requiring your opponent to be afflicted with a Special Condition, which would mean either using a Yell Horn or inflicting your opponent with one by attacking (and your opponent then not recovering from it until your next turn)

As a secondary strategy to the deck, I incorporated a combo with Lunatone and Polteageist. Lunatone lets you reorder the top 4 cards of either player’s deck, and Polteageist forces each player to draw 2 cards. You can use these two cards together to raise the chances of drawing cards you need, but there’s also a more sinister combo here. Polteageist’s second attack makes your opponent reveal their hand and then deals damage based on how many Trainer cards they hold. Combining all these abilities allows you to force Trainer cards into your opponent’s hand in order to deal damage, with the risk of providing them with more powerful cards. This provided the deck with a heavy hitter since Rapidash doesn’t deal much damage itself.


I got to testing the deck in Tabletop Simulator by pitting it against the more powerful decks in the format, like Relentless Flame and Laser Focus. I figured if it could hold its own against those then it was pretty balanced. The thing is… it didn’t just hold its own… it won most of the time.

dr fuji.png

I dreamed of creating a powerful theme deck... and I succeeded

I’d done too good a job at deckbuilding! That’s not a problem I usually have! The biggest issue was that not only was it too strong, but it was also boring as hell to play against. The main culprit was Musharna. At first glance this seemed like a natural fit for the deck - it could put your opponent’s Pokemon to sleep and deal more damage if they were sleeping. The issue was that it induced a strong version of sleep that was harder for the enemy to wake up from, and so if they didn’t have cards to switch their sleeping Pokemon to a new one then they spent a good portion of the game unable to actually play. It was only meant to put the Pokemon to sleep, not the opposing player as well! I played around with the cards in the deck to ensure the Special Conditions weren’t too oppressive and tried out a few new combinations. Another issue I noticed was that a lot of the Psychic Pokemon available to me were frail and didn’t do a lot of damage. Not a lot I could do about this, but by tweaking things around I got a decent deck that used Special Conditions to stall and force switches while you built up Pokemon like Snorlax and Polteageist to deal the heavy damage. The final deck could still put up a fight against other theme decks, but wasn’t winning all the time. Phew! It’s an interesting theme deck because the poster Pokemon isn’t a main damage dealer, but it’s still the hero of the deck because of the way its ability enables other cards.

This was the final deck list I settled upon:

For an extra level of fun, I didn’t just settle with making the deck. I also produced packaging for it to make it as official as possible. I traced the packaging included with a real theme deck and scanned it to make templates. I then created my own packaging themed around the Glimwood Tangle where Galarian Ponyta can be found in Sword and Shield. I also made a deck box, instructional leaflet and playmat just like you would find in a real theme deck. In regards to the copy on the box and the instructional leaflet I wrote it to closely resemble the official style - informative, but playful. The main difference in my design is that theme decks in the Sword and Shield era used boring naming conventions; just being things like “Cinderace Theme Deck” or “Drednaw Theme Deck” as opposed to things like “Relentless Flame” or “Laser Focus” from earlier eras. I named the deck Veil of Mischief and gave it a prettier logo than the standardised Sword and Shield era theme deck logo. I’m not a graphic designer by any means but I’m decent enough with Photoshop to make something pretty dang close to the official packaging if I do say so myself (even if I had to leave the lines there to ensure I cut and folded it properly haha). Take a look for yourself!

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