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Prime's Thoughts

Making a deck for an illiterate child

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So, two kids came into my local league this past saturday. One of the kids couldn't read well yet, he was very young, but was very passionate about playing Pokemon. We played a game and he did really well. His brother had thrown together a bunch of Black and White cards to make him a deck. I added a few trainers to get it to 60 cards, but I feel some major improvements could be made.

The only issues for the deck construction is that he's not very good at reading, so simple effects are better than more complicate effects. Poke-Powers, Poke-Bodies, and Abilities, I fear, would be too complicated for the child to pick up at the moment. Also, like many kids his age, he can't flip a coin to save his life. I may try to get him to roll a die next time.

But this was what I was thinking to improve his random mishmash of Black and White cards. The main guys I saw in his deck were Emboar (non-ability) and Cinccino, so I think that is a good base.

Here's the list:

4 Tepig (bw)
3 Pignite (bw)
2 Emboar [non-ability] (bw)
3 Minccino (bw)
2 Cinccino (bw)
3 Lillipup (bw)
2 Herdier (bw)
1 Stoutland (bw)

Emboar is a nice beefy pokemon for the child to be excited about. He already has one in his deck, and I have one I can give him. Cinccino and it's understage can be flippy but 'Do the Wave' is pure multiplication, which I think is a great way to learn it. Currently, I've been removing the last 0 off of damage to make it easier to explain, so all I have to tell the child is that the attack does "2" for each of his benched Pokemon. I know he can count up to 10. I saw a Lillipup in his deck and I think the evolution line, with basic draw-based attacks would work well. With 2/3 of his pokemon being colorless, it means he can use them in any decks with any type of energy if he wants to change things.

16 Fire Energy

He originally had fighting energy and fire energy but I think one energy type is best for now.

4 Bill (hgss)
4 Professor Oak's New Theory (hgss + col)
4 Professor Elm's Training Method (hgss + col)
4 Pokemon Communication (hgss + bw)
4 Potion (bw)
2 Switch (any)
2 Revive (bw)

The supporters should be easily explained, I think. Bill is draw 2. Professor Elm is 'go get any non-basic from the deck'. Professor Oak is a little more complicated, partially because the child has trouble shuffling his deck, so I just told him to put the cards under his deck and draw a new hand off the top (for now). Pokemon communication is simple and a great card, allowing him to swap any pokemon in his hand with one in his deck. Potion removes '3' from a pokemon (dice-terms). Switch allows two pokemon to swap without discarding energy. His deck already had a revive or two in there, and he understand about it rather quickly.

Anyone have any tips for building a deck or even playing with the illiterate child? Any thoughts on the above deck?


  1. Soujiro Elric's Avatar
    Seems okay, can you increase the consistence by adding extra Stoutlands, or replacing cards so he can have extra options? idk, Pichu can be easily explained (sorta.... you have to explain him the sleep mechanic, but it's like "if Pichu attacks, you can fill your bench with basics, and your opponent can do that too, then, Pichu falls asleep. When you or your opponent end your turn, Pichu wants to wake up, so you have to roll a die. But if Pichu is asleep, it is so cute your opponent cannot harm it!" or something along these lines).... but I might be wrong.

    I can't think of a card with simple mechanics, however I like your motivation.
  2. bullados's Avatar
    One of the best ways I've found to build a deck for a newbie is to have them choose one Pokemon that they like the most. Then, find the simplest version of that card that you possibly can, pair it with another simple card that's either Colorless or of that same type, and put in the most basic TSS that you possibly can. Bill, Cheerleader, and Juniper are just a few of my favorites. Dual Ball is interesting. Great/Master Ball (once its legal) will also help. The Constant Reprint cards (Potion, Switch, Energy Search, Pokeball) are also good cards to start with, as at least those will never go away.
  3. chrataxe's Avatar
    Not to be rude, but to get a better understanding of the kid, is he illiterate because he is so young, or is he of the age to where he should be able to read, but can't. I only ask because, one of three scenarios play out:

    1.Kid is too young to read
    2.Kid is old enough to read and is competent enough to read, but can't
    3. Kid is old enough to read and can't due do mental illness or the like

    If the kid has the ability to learn to read, this is a great opportunity to help the kid learn to read and to teach them to count. If the kid is unable to learn to read, giving him some more simple mechanics would definitely be the way to go. When I get in younger kids, I make them read me the card, then tell me what it means. If they can't read, I'll sit beside them and read it with them. Then, I make them assess what it means, and work with them get the right meaning. Let them flip the coin at first...and, if they can't, just go to dice. Then, when counting, I always make them do their own counting and own math. If they can't, I'll help them. If they do it wrong, I'll help them. I think little kids are much smarter than we give them credit for, we just have to find that level of wanting to make them learn. If they want to play Pokemon, they have to be able to read...that is a great incentive for them to WANT to learn to read. They will see words they have no clue what it is, but over time, will memorize the effect and learn to read the word by way of repetition. And, of course, with the kids, starts off with cards like Bill, make it easy.

    Just some more food for thought about kids and learning...and, for any Canadians, correct me if I'm wrong:

    I had a friend that went to Canada to play minor league hockey or something like minor league (it was hockey, not sure of the organization). He was still in HS at the time. He told me that once, while reading in class, he came across a word he had never he started to sound it out and everyone thought he was crazy. Apparently, they were never taught to sound out words, they were taught word recognition. While I'm not sure this is the best way to teach, Canada does not have a 100% illiteracy rate, thus it does work, even if there are better methods. The point is, the kids will learn to "read" by recognition...and, if you've ever seen the "My Baby Can Read" stuff, that is all it is: say a word with the letters on the screen, the kid associates that word with that image.