A skeleton list is an incomplete deck list that highlights the essential or minimum number of cards necessary for a successful deck of that archetype.
Assuming that the creation of the skeleton list was influenced by proven 60 card lists, skeleton lists are useful for competitive TCG players for a variety of reasons:
- They provide players with an understanding of the core of a deck (and the bare minimum cards required to successfully pilot it)
- Allow players to add their own flavour or anti-meta techs to a deck, while still having some assurance of consistency
- Force players to add their own cards to the list. Why is this important? It promotes critical thinking about the inclusion or exclusion of cards, allowing players to ultimately develop a better understanding of the competitive value of the cards in their deck (compared to 60 card netdecking)
Semi-competitive, time poor, or casual players will call for lists like seagulls call for chips. Better players will look for skeleton lists and make them their own.
We examined three of the most successful decks since Sun and Moon was released for competitive play. We then compared each deck’s 60 card list that placed highly at the Oceania International Challenge and at Regional events worldwide. The following are the resulting skeleton lists for Turbo Darkrai, Volcanion EX, and Decidueye GX/ Vileplume (in the standard competitive format).
Note: The player’s full deck list can be accessed by clicking on the player’s name. This will direct you to an external site.
Turbo Darkrai, as the name suggests, is a deck designed to quickly power up and swing for big numbers with Darkrai EX. At Anaheim Regionals, Tony Jiminez placed 2nd and Lawrence Xu was top 4. Tord Reklev used this deck to make top 4 at Sheffield Regionals. Jesper Eriksen was top 4 at the Oceania International Challenge, and Simon Eriksen was top 8 at Malmo Regionals. Each of the decks had these 53 cards in common:
|4 Darkrai EX||4 Professor Sycamore||4 VS Seeker||12 Dark Energy|
|2 Yveltal (XY 78/146)||2 N||4 Ultra Ball|
|2 Shaymin EX||2 Lysandre||4 Max Elixir|
|1 Hoopa EX||1 Hex Maniac||3 Trainer’s Mail|
|2 Escape Rope|
|2 Fighting Fury Belt|
|2 EXP Share|
|1 Parallel City|
|1 Silent Lab|
Things to note:
- Every player’s deck list also included an additional two switching cards. For example, 2 Switch, 1 Switch/1 Float Stone, or 1 Float Stone/ 1 Olympia.
- 3/5 of the Turbo Dakrai decks played 1 Enhanced Hammer.
- Earlier builds tended to run a Professor Kukui and/ or 2 Silent Lab. Later builds tended to run a 4th Trainer’s Mail, a 3rd Shaymin EX, a 3rd EXP Share, and a Delinquent. In Malmo, Simon Eriksen ran a 2nd Hex Maniac.
The Volcanion EX deck is designed to power up attackers using Volcanion’s Power Heater attack and Volcanion EX’s Steam Up ability. This deck performed well at the Oceania International Challenge, where Pedro Torres placed 1st (as well as in the top 8 at Sheffield Regionals) and Gustavo Wada placed in the top 8. At Malmo Regionals, Caspar Svendsen and Nathan Darch both placed in the top 32. Each of the decks had these 49 cards in common:
|4 Volcanion EX||4 Professor Sycamore||4 VS Seeker||12 Fire Energy|
|3 Volcanion||1 N||4 Ultra Ball|
|1 Shaymin EX||2 Lysandre||3 Max Elixir|
|1 Hoopa EX||1 Fisherman||2 Trainer’s Mail|
|2 Energy Retrieval|
|2 Escape Rope|
|2 Float Stone|
|1 Scorched Earth|
Things to note:
- Every deck included 3-4 Stadium cards in combination of Scorched Earth, Parallel City, or Sky Field.
- Every deck included 1 additional Pokémon with an ability that allowed the player to draw cards (4/5 played 2 Shaymin EX, 1/5 played 1 Oranguru).
- 4/5 of the decks included an Olympia and a 4th Max Elixir.
- Pedro Torres only changed 1 card from his Sheffield Regionals deck for the Oceania International Challenge. He replaced an Enhanced Hammer with a Salamence EX, later noting that the slot could also be used for a Pokémon Ranger.
The Decidueye GX/Vileplume deck is designed to fill a player’s board with Decidueye GX and Vileplume on the first turn of the game by utilising Forest of Giant Plants. With this deck, John Kettler placed in the top 16 at Anaheim Regionals, and Goncalo Ferreira placed 1st at Sheffield Regionals and 1st at Malmo Regionals. At the Oceania International Challenge, Pablo Meza placed 2nd, Kian Nakano placed in the top 4, and both Javier Gamboa and Alexander Hill placed in the top 8. Mees Brenninkmeijer placed in the top 8 at Malmo Regionals. Each of the decks had these 55 cards in common:
|4 Decidueye GX||4 Professor Sycamore||4 Ultra Ball||4 Double Colourless Energy|
|4 Dartrix||3 N||4 Trainer’s Mail||3 Grass/Rainbow Energy|
|4 Rowlett||2 Lysandre||3 Level Ball|
|2 Vileplume||1 Revitaliser|
|2 Gloom||2 Float Stone|
|2 Shaymin EX||4 Forest of Giant Plants|
|1 Lugia EX|
Things to note:
- 7/8 decks ran a 2nd Revitaliser, 6/8 decks ran a 3rd Shaymin EX and/or a single Beedrill EX, 4/8 decks ran a Tauros GX, 3/8 decks ran a 2nd Lugia EX.
- Only Goncalo Ferreira (at Malmo Regionals) ran Rainbow Energy in place of Grass Energy. This was to support his Jolteon EX and Espeon EX techs.
Now that you have the bones of these three meta decks, make them your own! Add in some interesting techs like Goncalo did for Malmo Regionals, or go for maximum consistency like Jesper at the Oceania International Challenge.
Next week we’ll be publishing skeleton lists for other meta decks. Make sure to put in a request!
This article is part of a weekly series for competitive Pokémon Trading Card Game players. Never miss an article! Follow me on Twitter here. You can find commentated matches featuring some of these decks at my Youtube channel here.
Thank you to all the players for sharing their deck lists.
Special thanks to Matt Bridges and Scott Howard for their contributions to this article.