One of the core truths of the world is that every person has a favorite type of Pokémon. Throughout the games, you face a gauntlet of Gym Leaders, skilled trainers that focus on one type of Pokémon, and every player who's overcome them has wondered the same question: "What type of Gym would I want to run?"
Thanks to this new Pokémon Trading Card Game format, you no longer have to wonder about your hypothetical gym and can instead make your dream a reality. Welcome to Gym Leader Challenge (GLC)!
Gym Leader Challenge is a new format created by TrickyGym, an avid Pokémon fan and content creator, where you take on the role of a Gym Leader and play the Pokémon TCG using a deck of a single type of Pokémon. The basic rules of the format are:
As of the first update to the format, only two cards are banned:
And Primal Trait Pokémon, like Bunnelby (xy5-121), are now allowed to be played.
Unlike the official formats like Standard and Expanded, the Gym Leader Challenge's ban of all Rule Box Pokémon makes games feel less explosive since most turns won't end in massive swings of 300 damage and 3 prizes. The lack of Rule Box Pokémon levels the playing field for Pokémon that are typically overlooked in other formats, as most Pokémon that can do around 100 damage can be potentially game-changing. Since each deck consists of only one type of Pokémon, toolbox Pokémon are much harder to come by and each type has to work harder in order to make sure they cover all aspects of advantage you can gain in the Pokémon TCG.
More importantly than the lack of Rule Box Pokémon, the singleton rule makes the deckbuilding choices feel much more potent in GLC. Since a deck can only play one of any given card, finding cards that can replicate important effects (like Boss's Orders (swsh2-154)) is a defining part of building any deck. Since you can't rely on playing four copies of the "best" trainer cards, finding alternative cards to fill your deck with crucial effects can be the most entertaining aspect of the format, especially when you get to play a bunch of cards that were never good enough to be played in other formats.
The Standard and Expanded formats of the Pokémon TCG are typically plagued with a few decks dominating the meta due to incredibly powerful Rule Box Pokémon. These few decks get spammed on the PTCGO ladder enough to make anyone want to quit playing. The GLC format, on the other hand, has proven to be harder to solve even when some decks have risen in popularity. Instead of decks based on one or two high-powered Pokémon, the popular GLC decks instead adopt particular strategies that their entire deck hopes to achieve.
Any particular Pokémon type can have multiple strategies, like Trainer Control, Aggro, Energy Spam, or Damage Sniping, that all have unique strengths and weaknesses and can also be played with plenty of variation. While some of the strongest trainers have proven powerful enough to become "staples," decks rarely have the exact same composition of Pokémon as players try to make their favorite cards the best!
Most modern Pokémon TCG sets have a small number of incredibly rare cards that are worth hundreds of dollars, but which make opening anything else disappointing. While ordinarily you might open a booster pack, see a green code card and toss the pack, now there are all kinds of cards to find outside of the high rarity slot.
The GLC format deck building rules make a lot of cards that are typically skipped over much more valuable, like Evolution Incense (swsh1-163), Capture Energy (swsh2-171), or any of the Poké Balls. In fact, so many cards pop up in popularity from various sets, that it might be time for you to go back through your bulk to find all the cards that have moved into the $1 to $5 range!
Like the Commander format of Magic: The Gathering, the GLC format is all about self-expression. Gym Leader Challenge is the only format that closely resembles what it feels like to be a Pokémon trainer. Since there are so many sets allowed in the format, finding your favorite versions of your favorite Pokémon is the best way to play. Deck building becomes part of the fun, rather than a step you can skip.
The singleton rule turns deck building into a puzzle of "how many X effects should I play" as you try to figure out what cards to put into your deck. While cards like Professor's Research (Professor Magnolia) (swsh1-178) and Boss's Orders (swsh2-154) are mandatory four-ofs in the current Standard Format environment, they are only two out of 60 slots in the GLC format.
That means other cards like Guzma (sm3-143), Escape Rope (sm3-163), and Cynthia (sma-SV82) can have an opportunity to shine when they otherwise would be cut for efficiency. Much like deck building in modern Yu-Gi-Oh, finding perfect ratios and adding redundancy to your deck can help make every card count and still make you feel like you are piloting a deck full of one-of technical cards.
While the gameplay aspects of singleton make finding cards an adventure, the most exciting part for collectors is being able to finally play all of your blinged-out max rarity cards that were stuck in your binder. Even if you're opening a ton of packs, getting a full playset of Sonia (swsh2-192) can be difficult—but that doesn't matter if you only need one!
As cards come from various eras, nearly every playable supporter, tool, and item card has a max rarity version for you to hunt down, which can make cracking packs from the older eras like Sun & Moon or X & Y that much more exciting! If you already open a lot of Pokémon TCG packs, playing into the GLC format can double or triple the number of exciting hits you can find in packs, and every pack has the potential to have new playable cards!
Although the Gym Leader Challenge format has yet to be officially recognized by The Pokémon Company International, that hasn't stopped tournament coordinators or content creators from hosting their own events! In addition to creating the format, TrickyGym has also been hosting events online and in-person at Full Grip Games, and also hosts a popular Discord with multiple channels for talking about the GLC format and setting up games. Additionally, PumpkaAmy has also been running events on her Twitch and has set up queues to battle against her on stream!
You can also find events for GLC (and every format for PTCGO) on Limitless TCG's list of upcoming tournaments where tournament organizers and content creators can set up their own events and have dedicated logs of decks/players that compete!
If you're interested in playing Gym Leader Challenge, but don't know where to begin building your own deck, then you are in luck! Over the next few months, I'll be covering the Gym Leader Challenge format and bringing decks for each and every type that you can pick up and play for less than the cost of Booster Box! No matter what type of trainer you are, there's a GLC deck you can use to take on the best decks with your favorite Pokémon by your side!
If you want to stay up to date on my personal Pokémon journey and see how I build the decks that we'll be showing off, make sure to follow me on Twitter @TheZachkAttack. You might even see some decks that don't make the cut into future articles, but are still worth picking up and playing!