Ridin’ the Riptide

Riptide was the first real competitive deck I ever played. Sure there had been decks before, and there sure have been many decks since – but none of them ever felt quite the same as playing Riptide. It has been 20 years since Feraligatr and Cleffa were the BDIF, and maybe even the best deck of any constructed format. Time flies.

Riptide is a fun concept to base a deck around. It is an attack that does more damage for each Water Energy in your discard pile, then shuffles those Energy back into the deck. When Riptide Feraligatr was reprinted in Dragon Majesty I was determined to make it work. I brought multiple variants of the deck to a handful of Challenges and Cups, with appalling results. Sure there was that one game against Darkbox where it ran as smooth as the original version, but a deck that works 1/20 times is obviously not viable. Turns out that discarding your Rare Candy with Zebstrika’s Sprint and not being able to Trash Exchange them back into the deck is bad. So I let it be after a few too many poor performances and moved on.

Well I guess I didn’t really move on, because I sometimes still think about Riptide, and the other day I started thinking about a Riptide-centralized deck in Gym Leader Challenge. I quickly discovered that there is a good amount of synergy between Riptide and other attackers/support Pokémon in this format.


Golduck from Sun and Moon is a match made in heaven as an early game attacker for Riptide. For a single Water Energy you can do up to 120 damage – 60 for each Energy you discard from your hand. Getting those Energy in your discard pile is no big concern as the Riptide attack gets powered up this way and will shuffle them back in the deck.

Greninja from XY and Inteleton from Sword and Shield are your early to mid game attackers if your Golduck goes down fast. Greninja also has neat synergy with the Ability, Water Shuriken, which lets you discard a Water Energy and place three damage counters on an opponent’s Pokémon. It can also attack and swing for a decent 50 damage for a single Water Energy. Inteleon is mostly a setup Pokémon, but can attack as well and swings for 120 damage for just two Energy.

Swampert from Celestial Storm has a very strong attack hitting for 80 damage plus 20 more for each Water Energy attached to it. However the attack cost of three Colorless Energy makes it awkward to power up and you’re probably only attacking with this if your game plan has gone down the drain. It’s Ability, Power Draw, is great for drawing cards and getting Water Energy in the discard pile to power up Feraligatr’s attack.

Feraligatr and Gyarados from Team Up is where the true power of this deck lies. They have somewhat similar attacks and both work the best when your deck is more or less 7, 8 or 9 Water Energy. Feraligatr has almost unlimited potential for it’s damage output swinging for 10 plus 20 more for each Water Energy in your discard pile, then shuffling those Energy back in your deck. Feraligatr can even get those Energy in the discard pile by itself, with the iconic Downpour Ability. We just need to draw them with our support Pokémon. Gyarados attacks for a single Water Energy and does 30 plus 30 more for each Water Energy in the top 7 cards of your deck. You shuffle the energy back and discard everything else, hence why it is best utilized very late in the game, maybe after Riptide has shuffled 7 or 8 energy back in the deck and you can loop 7 energy for the attack.

Support Pokémon

Inteleon and Drizzile are both strong setup Pokémon with their Shady Dealings Abilities, which fetch Trainer cards from the deck. Octillery from BREAKthrough is one of the best draw support Pokémon the game has ever seen with its Abyssal Hand Ability, which fills your hand to five cards once a turn. It is a great way to help set up your board and a formidable way to draw Water Energy late game. As I mentioned above, Swampert’s Power Draw Ability is an excellent asset for this deck and has great synergy with Riptide. Combined with Abyssal Hand, you draw up to 8 cards without playing a Supporter card for turn!

Pokémon – 19
* 1 Alolan Vulpix GRI 21
* 1 Froakie FLI 22
* 1 Magikarp CIN 17
* 1 Mudkip CES 32
* 1 Psyduck TEU 26
* 1 Remoraid BKT 32
* 1 Sobble SSH 55
* 1 Totodile DRM 22
* 1 Croconaw SLG 19
* 1 Drizzile SSH 56
* 1 Frogadier FLI 23
* 1 Golduck SUM 29
* 1 Gyarados TEU 30
* 1 Marshtomp CES 34
* 1 Octillery BKT 33
* 1 Feraligatr DRM 24
* 1 Greninja XY 41
* 1 Inteleon SSH 58
* 1 Swampert CES 35
Trainer Cards – 30
* 1 Professor’s Research SSH 178
* 1 Cynthia UPR 119
* 1 N FCO 105
* 1 Hapu UNM 200
* 1 Sophocles BUS 123
* 1 Tate & Liza CES 148
* 1 Birdkeeper DAB 159
* 1 Sonia RCL 167
* 1 Brigette BKT 134
* 1 Crasher Wake FLI 104
* 1 Guzma BUS 115
* 1 Boss’s Orders RCL 154
* 1 Quick Ball SSH 179
* 1 Nest Ball SUM 123
* 1 Level Ball BST 129
* 1 Ultra Ball SUM 135
* 1 Dive Ball PRC 125
* 1 Evolution Incense SSH 163
* 1 Evosoda GEN 62
* 1 Rare Candy SSH 180
* 1 Capacious Bucket RCL 156
* 1 Professor’s Letter BKT 146
* 1 Aqua Patch GRI 119
* 1 Super Rod BKT 149
* 1 Switch Raft DRM 62
* 1 Switch SSH 183
* 1 Float Stone BKT 137
* 1 Viridian Forest TEU 156
* 1 Brooklet Hill GRI 120
* 1 VS Seeker PHF 109
Energy – 11
* 11 Water Energy EVO 93
View Decklist

Other Considerations


The first (and probably only) line I would consider cutting is the Greninja family. They are more of a neat bonus with the snipe damage than a contribution to the general gameplan. The deck is also limited to only 7 basic Pokémon, 6 of them who need to Evolve before being able to do notable damage and the Alolan Vulpix from Guardians Rising which we use exclusively for setting up. This can make it tough to get out attackers early on in the game and you might want an alternative to Golduck as your only true early game attacker.

Here’s a list of other Pokémon I had in consideration and will likely try out at some point:


Setup: Sonia, Brigette and Professor’s Elms Lecture are great options in this deck, as all of your Basic Pokémon can have 60 HP and under if you choose so, making them valid targets for Elms Lecture. I’m going with Sonia and Brigette initially.

Crasher Wake is a little more questionable but I want to try it out, as being able to grab any two cards from your deck can be extremely powerful and win you games. However, if you don’t have two Water Energy in your hand to discard, the card is essentially dead.

Shuffle Draw vs. Discard Draw: I’m not sure if you would want a balance between shuffle- and discard draw in this deck, or go all in on one of the two.

Here are my preferred shuffle draw Supporters in order of preference:

  1. N
  2. Cynthia
  3. Colress
  4. Marnie
  5. Tate & Liza
  6. Bruno

And here are my preferred discard draw Supporters in order of preference:

  1. Professor’s Research/Sycamore/Juniper
  2. Hapu
  3. Sophocles
  4. Sightseer
  5. TV Reporter

I’m playing a mix of the two for now, with some other utility draw mixed in, like Birdkeeper and Cynthia & Caitlin. I like Hapu as it is very aggressive (and also for the nostalgic reason that it’s very close to Misty’s Wrath which was the most aggressive draw card in the original Riptide Deck). I can not find it in myself to not play N and Cynthia and I like the option of a switch effect on Tate & Liza. Sophocles or Sightseer is a tough choice, for now I’m trying out Sophocles, even though Sightseer can potentially see one more card.


Search: Setting up your board fast is important. This deck plays all of the strong search cards, except Timer Ball – I prefer the consistency of Evosoda and Evolutions Incense over the unreliable coin flips of Timer Ball. Evosoda is great but you do have to accept the drawback of not being able to trigger the Abilities of Drizzile, Inteleon and Frogadier with Evosoda.

I play both Capacious Bucket and Professor’s letter to find Water Energy from the deck. If you feel like this is not sufficient I suggest including Energy Spinner and/or Energy Search if you can find room for them.

Rare Candy is an easily justifiable inclusion with four Stage 2 lines and an easy way to search it out with Shady Dealings on both of Sobble’s Evolutions. 

Switching: Water decks should always play Switch Raft over Switch as it is strictly better with the 30 damage heal. However it is very nice to have this extra switch option in case you’re not a fan of the push effect on Escape Rope. We also play Float Stone and I really would like room for Air Balloon as well. You should play your preferred combination of these five switch cards:

  • Switch Raft
  • Switch
  • Escape Rope
  • Float Stone
  • Air Balloon

For Pokémon and Energy recovery there are the 3 usual suspects to choose from:

  • Super Rod
  • Ordninary Rod
  • Rescue Stretcher

I have included Super Rod for now but I am not sure if this is the correct choice. I like Super Rod for its versatility; being able to recover three Energy or three Pokémon or a combination. Ordinary recovers one extra card but is limited to a maximum of two of each. Rescue Stretcher exclusively recovers Pokémon, but has the power to put one directly in your hand and back in play without drawing/searching it from the deck.


I play Aqua Patch as it is nice to have the option to accelerate and Energy from the discard pile to one of your Benched Pokémon. This card can potentially be cut (most attackers in the deck require only one or two attachments) for a bit of extra consistency. But I think it’s a nice addition and probably your best bet for charging up Swampert’s attack. Since most of the attackers in this deck have a low Energy cost, I have not included Frosmoth or Blastoise to accelerate Energy into play.


Brooklet Hill is great for setting up your board searching a basic Pokémon from your deck to the Bench. Viridian Forest is used to discard Energy and/or dead cards in order to search out Energy from the deck.

Stadium wars are very common in Gym Leader Challenge! Brooklet Hill is great early game, but if you can get the Viridian Forest to stick through the late game, you’ll be in a great position!


Eleven Basic Water Energy is as low as I feel comfortable going. This gives Feraligatr the option to swing for 190 damage (more likely to hit around 130-150, with Prizes and attachments in mind). This amount should also make you able to consistently setup 240-270 damage attacks with Gyarados in the very late stages of the game.

The Game Plan

Your prefered starters are Alolan Vulpix or Psyduck. Early on you want to set up your support Pokémon (Octillery, Swampert, Inteleon) and move your way towards your attackers (Golduck, Greninja, Feraligatr, Gyarados). Do not panic if your Totodile and Magikarp are not benched in the first couple of turns as you will need to burn through most of your deck to reach the full potential of Riptide and Gyarados. You probably will want to hold on to Magikarp for as long as possible with its tiny 30 HP (it does block damage to itself on the Bench with its Ability which is nice).

Drawing through your deck and discarding dead cards is important. If you play this correctly and have a smooth setup, you should be able reach Riptide terrain within 5-6 turns, starting the loop of attacking with either Feraligatr or Gyarados taking big knockouts repeatedly.

Be careful not to lock yourself out of attacking though, as you will need to loop the Energy with Feraligatr. If you don’t have two Energy to attach in the end you will probably lose the game.

Final words

I hope you have a fun time playing this alternative to the main Water deck builds currently established in Gym Leader Challenge. I am more than happy to hear any feedback on this deck and hope some more skilled players than me might be able to improve on my initial list. Good luck and have fun!

– Morten Schødts Pedersen

4 thoughts on “Ridin’ the Riptide

    1. Morten Schødts Pedersen

      Hi Kanga,
      Thank you for reading my article and your comments. I agree that Barraskewda RCL 53 is a great choice for an early game attacker in this deck. Golduck has free retreat cost and is a bit more versatile with it’s attack being able do 60 or 120 damage, depending on the amount of energy you discard. Barraskewda on the other hand deals 130, but you have to discard two energy. So a little less flexible, but with a better damage output. It would be neat to have both lines in the deck for sure. Great observation!

      – Morten Schødts Pedersen

  1. Kanga Rewster

    Forgot to mention I love the deck, super creative and golduck SUM was my first deck, and I also tried to make Feraligatr DRM work to little success but love the card.


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