Challenge: Wrap-Up with Budget Engine

by Ed ~ January 24th, 2012.

Well, I’ve discussed much of this already, but I thought I should give a bit of a wrap-up to finalize this season’s Challenge.  Yeah, I said “this season’s” implying that there may be others on the horizon.  That’s a bit of an open-ended question at the moment, but we can discuss that later.  Let’s first get to the positives and negatives of this challenge.


When I first dreamed up this crazy plan, I had several goals.  My overarching number one goal was to build community around this project.  Have we succeeded in that?  Well, I think it’s been mostly a unmet goal.  Looking at webserver statistics, it seems that the site is getting slightly more views now. I can’t be sure if that has anything to do with the challenge, just the fact that there have been more articles lately, or just the fact that City Championships were in full swing. Since I can’t undoubtedly attribute it to the challenge, I won’t.

What I originally hoped for (and expected) was that many people would come together and each donate maybe 4-8 cards.  I would have a bunch of random “junk” to sift through and build from.  Making a deck out of this card pool would be my challenge while donating would be yours.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen really at all.  I had only 3 real donators, and, of them, I already had a friendship with 2.  That means that only 1 person decided to go out on a limb and risk sending me cards in order to be part of something greater.

My losses outweighed my wins.  I had a goal to go better than 50/50 win/loss in any given tournament.  I missed one tournament and had to drop one round early from another (both events I see as negatives in their own right).  I did go exactly 50/50 in 2 of 3 tourneys, but I never achieved greater than that.  This makes me feel as if I misused the generous donations and failed on my end of the bargain (even though it was always a goal and never a promise).


I got amazingly generous donations.  This was completely surprising.  Jay Hornung (of’s “Jay’s Gym“) took a look at the deck during the final Minnesota City Championships.  He was quite impressed at the donations I received, and by the end, I think anyone would have been.  I ended up with Primes, Catchers, Zekrom, etc.  It was a huge success in the card pool category.

The wins I had were mostly hard-fought, and I’d say the same about the losses.  Yeah, there were a couple of each that went somewhat easily against me or for me, but I felt that the deck overall worked fairly well.  The first event saw a very flippy version of the deck.  By the final event, things were more well tuned, but the competition was also tougher.  Each event was enjoyable, and that’s always positive!

I had fun playing the deck and writing about the challenge.  It gave me a perspective different than the normal “play a top tier deck, enjoy wins, mourn losses” routine.  It also gave me something to share with you guys.  If I just go about my regular approach, there isn’t much to discuss.  I often play the same deck.  If I tech something, I can’t justify writing an article about a few cards.  I usually write a tourney report, but that’s not all that interesting.  This was much more interesting to discuss, and I hope it was more interesting to read about.

Future Challenge?

I think I’d like to do something like this again.  I don’t know when, and I don’t know how.  My current idea is for some sort of salary cap challenge.  Would you be interested in participating?  Under this plan, you wouldn’t have to donate anything.  You’d just have to build your own deck under some specified constraints, like a certain dollar amount.  We’d agree on a pricing authority (like maybe Troll&Toad).  Then, the prices of the cards in your deck would have to add up to less than the cap.  You wouldn’t need to purchase anything new, but you would have to determine the price of each card and register your list with us.

Somehow we’d track your results (probably via the honor system).  Somehow we’d give out prizes.  Somehow we’d have fun.

The Budget Engine

Since this format was established with the mid-season rotation, I’ve thought that there could be a very effective alternative engine to build a deck around.  In fact, even before the rotation, I often leaned toward this sort of deckbuilding approach.  Usually, though, I’d end up ditching much of the idea in favor of something more tested and proven.

This past Nationals was kind of the start for me down the road toward building the “ Budget Engine.”  At the time, I didn’t think of it as a budget approach.  Take a look at the Reshiram Emboar list I played at Nats.  Unfortunately, I just didn’t put in enough proper testing, and I missed both of two main ways I could have fixed the deck (Ninetales or more Draw Support).  After that, I went back to an established engine and decklist and found more success with ZPST.

After that, the Challenge brought me back to this (without even considering it).  This time, however, it wasn’t for any other reason than working on a budget.  For all of you new or budget players out there, I think this presents a good alternative to the mainstream 4-Collector type of engine, and I think it might even see more mainstream play with the new decks that will come about with the new cards/set.

The basis of the budget engine is 12 draw supporters.  My challenge deck played 4 Pont, 4 Juniper, and 4 Engineer’s Adjustments.  I don’t think that distribution is important, but 12 heavy draw supporters is.  The basis of the engine is to use your supporter slots for the draw portion of the deck only.  So, play 12 of PONT, Juniper, N, Copycat, Cheren, Engineer’s Adjustments, Judge, etc.  I’d say that list is roughly in order from best to worse, but it’s somewhat dependent on the deck style.  We’re presuming that your “budget” deck doesn’t contain cards like Magnezone Prime, so you need to rely on supporters for draw.  One Cleffa (or maybe Smeargle with the new Skyarrow Bridge) is going to be helpful in a pinch.

Since you can’t rely on supporters to search for your important Pokemon, you need to max out Dual Ball. I know that most people dislike the flippiness of Dual Ball, but in this sort of engine it’s not so bad.  If you hit double tails, you will often just PONT, Juniper, or N anyway.  There’s always a chance you’ll get the basic you need (or another Dual Ball) off the draw.  If you’re running more than just basics, then you need some trainer-based way to grab those evolutions.


n my testing, I’ve found that Pokemon Communication is not the best option for this engine.  It is good as a 1-of for Junk Arm reasons.  However, there are too many times that you either can’t afford to put back another Pokemon or don’t have one on hand.  With Pokemon Collector, you can often grab 2 important basics and use the 3rd to Communication away.  This doesn’t fly in the budget engine.  You need something different.  In the current card pool, the two options are Pokeball and Great Ball.  Either work, but I think Great Ball is better just due to the fact that you’re already playing 4 flippy balls.  In the next set, there will probably be new and better options which will go perfectly in this budget engine (unless they’re expensive).

To further enhance these engine pieces, the deck absolutely needs Junk Arm.  I would say that 4 is important, but I think you could get away with 3.  You also need at least 1 Super Rod, especially if you are running 4 Juniper.  This was another important puzzle piece that my Nats deck was lacking.  You must have a way to retrieve your Pokemon later in the game, so that you do not feel unwilling to discard evolutions in the early game.  Junk Arm and Juniper are major pieces in the deck, and if you’re afraid to use them early on, you will suffer.

I know this is a “budget” engine, and Pokemon Catcher is neither cheap or part of the engine, but any amount you can fit in (even just 1) will greatly enhance your chances of winning.  Barring Catcher, you probably must either play a single Pokemon Circulator or maybe multiple Pokemon Reversal.  This engine is not a set-up and win sort of thing.  You need to use your speed for an early-game advantage.  If you are facing a sleeping baby or whatever, you have to have a backup plan.

So, to lay it all out, the Budget Engine is as follows.

  • 12 Draw Supporters (Juniper, PONT, N, Copycat, Cheren, Engineer’s Adjustments, etc.)
  • 4 Dual Ball
  • 4 Junk Arm
  • 3-4 Other Ball (Great Ball, Pokeball, etc. assuming you use evolutions)
  • 1 Pokemon Communication (sometimes better than the Other Ball for Junk Arm)
  • 1 Support/Draw Pokemon (Cleffa, Smeargle, Manaphy, Virizion, etc)
  • 1 Super Rod
  • 1+ Catcher/Circulator/Reversal

If it were me, I’d probably first try out the following list (and add Pokemon and Energy around it):

  • 4 Professor Oak’s New Theory
  • 4 Professor Juniper
  • 4 N (if that’s too expensive, Copycat or Cheren)
  • 4 Junk Arm
  • 3 Great Ball
  • 1 Pokemon Communication
  • 1 Super Rod
  • 1 Cleffa
  • 3 Pokemon Catcher (I know it’s budget, but you can afford to spend a bit on the nicer things in life)

So, there you go.  Then, take your great deck idea and build around that list.  I think it can support a couple Stage 1 lines or a single Stage 2 line.  If you run heavy Rare Candy, you might even try multiple Stage 2’s, but then you may want to upscale the Great Ball and Communication counts.

Let me know what you think.  I’m not sure what I want to do for states yet.  Should I try a new challenge?  Should I go for some great new deck?  Should I try to defend my title or should I try to just have fun?

Category: Challenge | Tags: , , , , ,
  • Anonymous

    That salary cap thing sounds cool.  Not for states or regionals though, too important.  But, like for Spring Battle Roads it would work.  We can get a bunch of people to sign up and agree to a certain dollar amount.  I’m sure we can get people to do it for one tournament at least, they wouldn’t have to do it for every BR.  Spring Battle Roads are always a little boring anyway, this would help jazz things up. 

    • i also like the idea of a salary cap, but the one flaw would be changing prices of cards. lets look at yanmega prime. right before regionals this year it was about $25 bucks. now it’s $12 because of the unexpected prime challenge boxes. then we also have mewtwo ex. 2 months ago it was about $40 to pre-order. now it’s $80. when building a deck for this challenge it would be nearly impossible to plan any sort of “good” deck. that’s just my 2 cents though.

      • Ed

        Yeah, I’ve thought about this, too.  Maybe you could lock in a card when you submit your deck.  If you wanted to modify the deck, then we’d have to figure that out.  I see 3 options:
        1)  You resubmit the entire list (and need to use the current prices at that time).
        2)  You only resubmit new cards and keep the old prices on any card not being added.
        3)  You submit a list of adds and drops.  Adds get current prices.  This means that if you had “4 Junk Arm at $2 each” before, you could submit “-4 Junk Arm, +4 Junk Arm” if the new price went down to $1 each, and it would save you $4 on the cap.

        I think 3 is the best, but it’s the toughest to track.

        • i think that what coolestman22 said is a start to what you (ed) said. i find 2 to be the easiest. the only problem would come when you take out say 2 of the 4 twins in your deck after the price jumps.

          • Ed

            The main thing I dislike about #2 is that people could kinda abuse it and just make it into #3.  Like if the price on something went down, you could just resubmit a list without that card and then submit a list with that card again later (getting the new price).

            I guess that you could keep track of a card’s price only when that card first appeared on a person’s decklist.  It just gets harder and harder to maintain.

            I think #1 is the most “fair” but it makes building decks difficult.  Like if you wanted to just tweak 1 card in your list, you might end up reworking the list because prices changed.

            #3 might be the best mix of “fair” and “usable”.

          • but with number 3 you run into the problem of people abusing it like #2. this isn’t quite the best method, but with a little work, it could work.

          • Ed

            You’re right, but then it wouldn’t be “abuse” because it would be freely available to everyone.

  • Anonymous

    let’s use the lowest price (excluding eBay results)

  • another idea for a challenge is something similar to japan’s palace rules with the current set and we come up with a list of “broken cards” that would receive a certain number of points or a ban, and you can only use 4 points in a deck. for example, magnezone prime could be 3 points and typhlosion prime could be 1. so you could only use 1 magnezone and 1 typhlosion, but nothing else on the list of cards with points.

    another option going along with this idea is to give every card a point value, and raise the point cap. nothing more than say 120 points.

    • Ed

      I really like this idea from a deck-building standpoint.  I really dislike it from an administration standpoint.  It would be very difficult and time-consuming to build the point system and keep track of decks this way.  It would be fun to play in this format, though!

      • i find #2 of what i said the most difficult, and also the hardest. if you want to, you could have me help with #1 of the palace rules if we wind up going with that. it wouldn’t be that hard to balance that and school.

  • Ed

    I noticed that some Noble Victories are now available.  I was waiting to see if Ultra Ball (kinda like Computer Search for Pokemon only) was in.  It would have been an awesome addition to the Budget Engine (discard 2 cards to search any Pokemon).  However, it seems to be absent.

    We are getting Heavy Ball (search any Pokemon with retreat 3 or more) and Level Ball (search any Pokemon with 90HP or less).  Depending on the deck, I think either of these could be an excellent addition.  In the Raichu/Eel deck, I would probably go for some Level Ball over Great Ball.  Level Ball + Dual Ball + Draw Support would make for a good budget engine for something like Zekrom/Thundurus/Eelektrik.  The only thing wrong here is the Raichu (which isn’t so important to get ASAP if you can use Thundurus/Zekrom until Raichu is ready.

    In a deck like my daughter runs (Donphan), the budget engine can run very well with Dual Ball + Heavy Ball.  Unfortunately, I can’t bring myself to put heavy Juniper and N into her deck.  Her draw is a bit limited, because her chances of making a mistake are limited.  She gets Pokemon Collector and less draw support.

    • did you mean next destinies? not nvi?

      • Ed

        Yeah, I probably did.  :D

    • btw, ultra ball is in nde. bulbapedia has the entire set list.

      • sorry, thought i saw that it was. appearently not.

  • i’m very much interested in a new challenge because i wanted to participate in the previous one, i just didn’t want to donate cards worth anything more than $5, and everything else wouldn’t quite work in the deck that was being built.

    • Ed

      This seems to be generating some (maybe small) amount of interest.  Do you think it needs to be implemented for States/Regionals, or can it wait until the Spring Battle Roads?

      I suppose it could be something I run even if I don’t choose to participate.  I’m still pretty much 50/50 on whether I want to make a push to win States or not.  I’m having fun with this, but I’m interested in running a top-tier deck again, too.

      • “This seems to be generating some (maybe *a lot*) amount of interest.”
        i think it should wait until spring br because a lot of people will want to do well in state and regionals and might be worried that something like a challenge will reduce their chances of top cut. spring br will be less stressful and more abundant, therefore, better results.