Mind Over Body

Psychic type Pokémon are often recognized for their powerful tricks, both in the video games and the TCG. From destructive Calm Mind sweeps to the infamous Malamar Spell Tag deck, Psychic is never found without potential, and the Gym Leader Challenge is absolutely no exception. In my eyes, Psychic has two modes in GLC format: pure offense and a more spread-focused variant.

Staples

Psychic has no shortage of powerful staples in its broad GLC card pool. Beyond the typical set such as Ultra Ball or Professor Sycamore, Psychic gym leaders also have access to search cards Fog Crystal and Mysterious Treasure, which can provide important Pokémon or Energy search throughout the course of the game, as well as powerful tools like Dimension Valley and Spell Tag are must haves for crucial moments, decreasing attack cost or dealing revenge damage on Knock Out.

Psychic support Pokémon offer effects that some types cannot obtain, in the forms of Musharna NXD, Marshadow SLG, and Wobbuffet PHF. Musharna is a simple draw support Pokémon that allows you to choose one of two cards on top of your deck. Not as powerful as the other Pokémon on this list, but the extra two cards seen by it can make a difference in many games. Wobbuffet can be a pest for any deck to deal with, locking only opponent abilities while in the Active Spot. Marshadow is infamous for its fast hand disruption that also gives you more new cards to work with on your turn. It can be searched with Level Ball and picked up with Scoop Up Net for an additional use. One of my favorite scenarios is drawing into Professor’s Research off of Let Loose, leaving your opponent with just four cards while you get seven new ones!

Two other important cards take the form of Special Energy. Horror {P} Energy places 2 damage counters on the Attacking Pokémon when your Pokémon is damaged, while Mystery Energy reduces retreat cost by 2, granting you another Float Stone or Air Balloon type effect that also fuels attacks. One of my favorite uses of the latter is to put Wobbuffet PHF in the Active Spot to use Psychic Assault and use the same Energy for attack and to retreat for free.

All these support tools are enough to make Psychic a huge threat, but the real meat of the deck comes from your attack engines. To understand these, let’s take a look at both the full force attackers and the spreading style attackers, starting with those that you’ll commonly see in both.

Pokémon for Both Variants

Though the two variants of Psychic can function in vastly different ways, multiple Pokémon can be seen populating deck lists of both play styles. The first of these is the Blacephalon from Cosmic Eclipse. Blacephalon is one of the best attackers in all of GLC format, in my opinion. The 4 damage counters you can place for just two energy are already somewhat powerful, but what really packs a punch is what happens when your opponent is at three prize cards remaining. Instead of 4 counters, Blacephalon can place 12 counters! This is a good way to pick off the weaker and already damaged Pokémon in play. One benefit in this format is that unless you’re facing another spread deck or Guzzlord CEC, it’s almost impossible for your opponent to take more than one prize per turn, leading to the 12 counter turn occurring almost every game.

While Dragapult RCL may not have any threatening pre-evolutions, this Stage 2 Pokémon is dangerous as soon as it hits the board. While the Phantom Force attack is 10 damage short of Knocking Out the typical 130 HP Basic attacker, the Infiltrator Ability helps Dragapult continue to pressure your opponent. Every time they attack it, you flip a coin. If Heads, Dragapult takes no damage, even on the bench! Dealing 150 damage means that many attackers will need you to flip two tails in order to take this Pokémon out. Not to mention, having only 3 or 4 gusting effects per game makes it hard for opponents to play around Dragapult for long.

Chandelure NVI is mostly used for its Ability, which spreads 3 damage counters when it’s in the Active Spot. When paired with cards like Float Stone, Air Balloon, Mystery Energy, or even Altar of the Moone, it can easily pivot out of the Active Spot after the Ability is used. Eerie Glow is also a fine attack to use in a pinch, as the 50 damage in addition to the 20 or more damage from Burn can take a Knock Out. For pre-evolutions, I suggest either Lampent NVI or Lampent PHF. One can use its gusting power to trap support Pokémon, and the other has an attack that works just like Chandelure’s ability.

Psychic’s Offensive Power

The hyper-offensive style Psychic deck has one main objective: fueling high Energy cost attackers as fast as possible, with either Energy acceleration or cost reduction. The first key support Pokémon for this archetype is one that will be forever in the minds of trainers who played before August of 2020: Malamar FLI. While Psychic Sphere is lackluster at best, the Psychic Recharge Ability is one of the best out there. Not only does this add one Energy to your attachments for the turn, but it also makes it impossible to run out of Energy until your Malamar leaves play. As strong as this can be, one extra Energy per turn only does so much. However, one more Pokémon solves the energy problem.

Gardevoir is known for having consistently powerful cards in the Pokémon TCG, and two of these Gardevoir are great for support in the GLC format. Both those from Next Destinies and Chilling Reign are fantastic in this format. But as you can only choose one, which should you pick? While Gardevoir NXD can lessen your attack costs and keep you fighting, especially in combination with Dimension Valley, I personally recommend Gardevoir CRE. This Gardevoir’s first appeal is its Ability. Somewhat reminiscent of Zacian V’s Intrepid Sword Ability, Gardevoir allows you to look at the top two cards of your deck, attach Psychic Energy you find to your Pokémon, and put the other cards into your hand. However, unlike Zacian, this powerful accelerator doesn’t end your turn! This can lead to a total of four attachments in one turn when combined with Malamar. And even if you see no extra Energy, gaining two extra cards in hand can change the course of a game, as I mentioned with Musharna NXD. Additionally, the Brainwave attack has the chance to take Knock Out on any Pokémon you encounter. Be careful though, as an over-investment into Brainwave could set you behind for the rest of the game.

The last must-have Pokémon in this style of deck is Giratina LOT. The Shadow Impact attack deals the magic 130 damage. And despite the 4 damage counters you have to place on one of your own Pokémon, the Knock Outs that are achieved by this attack make it well worth the drawback. However, the real power is in just how easy it is to recover Giratina from a Knock Out. The Distortion Door Ability will break this legendary Ghost Pokémon back out of the Discard pile in an instant. The damage counters placed by this recovery will also soften larger HP numbers to put them in reach of your attacks, making it better than using a recovery card like Rescue Stretcher. With this power, it’s possible to have a game where the only Pokémon that get Knocked Out are Giratina!

The Bread for Your Spread

The other variety of Psychic type deck common in GLC is one that aims to spread damage around your opponent’s board. While the more offensive Psychic deck hits hard while using small counters to weaken out of range targets, a spread style deck does seemingly little damage, in order to Knock Out meaningful Pokémon slowly throughout the game. In fact, this deck style is even capable of taking four-prize turns!

This strategy is especially viable thanks to cards that move damage counters: Dusknoir BCR and Tapu Lele SM45. Dusknoir BCR is an extremely powerful card with its Sinister Hand Ability that allows you to move damage around your opponent’s board however you’d like. This can be used to take Knock Outs or put Pokémon in range of Knock Outs from your attackers, but it can also ensure that you don’t Knock Out a Pokémon that you want to keep in play. For example, when playing against a Grass deck, Shiinotic SUM is a card that serves a pure support role. By using Dusknoir to move counters off of Shiinotic, it can be kept in play for as long as possible, soaking up damage for you to move to more concerning obstacles. Using Duskull CEC as your basic, it can be possible to get this Stage 2 out in just two turns! Tapu Lele is a must-have in Psychic spread as well. Its Magical Swap provides the same effect as Sinister Hand but as an attack, requiring more advanced planning. Tapu Lele is a Basic Pokémon, which proves useful any time Dusknoir is unavailable.

The other essential attack effect for a spread deck is common yet powerful: doing damage to each of your opponent’s Pokémon, usually in groups of 20 or 30. Meloetta XY193, Azelf XY142, Beheeyem NVI, and Weezing UNB come forth as high power examples. And while all of them are fantastic, the most powerful is Gourgeist XY. Eerie Voice is the primary attack, benefiting from spreading damage counters instead of damage, bypassing cards like Raikou BKT, Mew UNB, Metal Frying Pan, and Aether Paradise Conservation Area. Much like the other cards with 20 spread, these counters are an essential lead in every game, starting to build to the KOs that will be taken later. Gourgeist does have one extra trick up its sleeve that none of the other spreading attackers share. Oftentimes spread can be countered with a lone Active Pokémon, but thanks to Spirit Scream, no Pokémon is safe from this deck’s power. Once this attack hits a Pokémon, the player on the receiving end will be forced to bench a Pokémon, allowing the usual strategy to take over. The 90 damage Gourgeist deals to itself is a small price for the amount of pressure it can put on the board. With all of these threats in the equation, Spread should be a feared Psychic deck in the GLC format.

Conclusion

As you can see, Psychic has a great amount of potential in Gym Leader Challenge. When your opponent sets up against you, it’s tough for them to know what to expect from this powerful type with its wide variety of tools and options. Having access to so many different tricks can make Psychic decks harder to play around than other GLC types. Be sure to check out the Tricky Gym Discord and Twitch channel for more inspiration and strategies to build your own GLC decks!