Gym Leader Update After #400

As most of you likely saw, Daniel S helped us hit the milestone of our 400th gym challenge completed at the Fincastle Pokemon Gym.  We are already on the way to number 500, as we have two more down and a 3rd halfway completed.  Those of you that have followed the Gym over the years know that Gym Leader Joel likes his statistics.  We don’t know that the numbers we keep have any deep meaning.  They do some show trends, such as which leader is tough to beat and which types are harder to take down.  Some decks that were once hard to defend have become some of our best decks.  Some, like the Dragon type deck, thanks to the random typing of many pokemon that should be Dragon, the even more random energy assignments to the few Dragon-type pokemon cards that are printed, are often not available due to the lack of a good card base from Pokemon.  We do what we can with what the TCG gives us and have for 400 challenges and counting.  Over the past 7+ years, we’ve given league goers an experience that they cannot get anywhere else in the country.  Let’s take a look at how the past 400 have gone.

Through 400 challenges, the Gym has compiled an overall record of 331 wins and 69 losses against its trainers, a winning percentage of 82.7%.  Below is a list of the 9 individual gym decks and their records, in order by their win percentage, which we feel is the most accurate way to rank how they have performed over the years.  On rare occasions, one leader may step in for another.  However, listed beside the type is the leader assigned to that deck.  Mastery of the Fire-type deck has changed hands since our league began and it remains the only deck that is shared between 2 leaders.


  1. Fighting (Joel) – 36 wins, 2 losses (94.7%)
  2. Water (Logan) – 42 wins, 3 losses (93.3%)
  3. Darkness (Logan) – 20 wins, 3 losses (87%)
  4. Psychic (Marthe) – 64 wins, 12 losses (84.2%)
  5. Fire* (Joel/Georgia) – 43 wins, 9 losses (82.7%)
  6. Dragon* (Georgia) – 14 wins, 3 losses (82.4%)
  7. Lightning (Marthe) – 42 wins, 12 losses (77.8%)
  8. Steel (Joel) – 26 wins, 9 losses (74.3%)
  9. Grass* (Joel) – 44 wins, 16 losses (73.3%)

* denotes gym decks that have been piloted by substitute leaders

As you can see, the percentages for each deck are in a fairly consistent range.  In general, you can deduce than you, as a trainer, have a little less than a 20% chance to win a badge in a Gym Leader Challenge.  You can conclude that the Steel and Grass-type decks are the easiest deck to take on. Conversely, the Fighting and Water types are for the more experienced trainers.  Some stats can be misleading, however.  For example, the Steel-type deck has only lost twice in its last 16 challenges… and that’s with Volcanion decks in the format.  It’s much tougher than early versions of the deck.  Thanks to Volcanion, the Grass-type deck has taken 7 of its 16 losses in its last 15 challenges, dropping its percentage from 82% down the current low of 73.3%.  The Grass deck is traditionally tougher than it appears lately.  The Psychic-type deck, which once was one of the lower percentage decks, has only lost 4 times in its last 33 challenges, driving it up in our ranks.  Heck, Gym Leader Marthe just went undefeated with it at a League Cup a few weeks ago.  Decks like the Dragon deck and Darkness decks, despite their records, haven’t fielded enough challenges to give us the same statistical snapshot that we have for other decks.  Like we said, these are mostly musing about the numbers.

Here are some of the facts based on our data.  Gym Leader Marthe pilots the two most challenged decks at the Gym.  Her Psychic-type deck has been challenged 76 times, followed by her Lightning-type deck, challenged 54 times.  Her two decks have absorbed 33% of all challenges at our league to date.  Gym Leader Logan maintains the best overall win percentage, at 91.2%, with a record of 62 wins and 6 losses.  Gym Leader Joel, despite having the worst performing deck of the nine, also pilots the toughest deck at the Gym.  The Fighting-type cards have always been his favorite.  His 36 wins as the Fighting Gym Leader began with Golem (AR 19), drifting through the likes of Lucario, Machamp, Donphan, Hippowdon, and Zygarde, to the current Fighting-types, which dominate the current format.  Joel’s dilemma is usually not how to make a Fighting deck, but which cards to pick from.

Gym Leader Georgia’s Dragon-type deck remains the least challenged at the Gym.  Her stats are skewed a bit as 2 of the deck’s 3 losses came from step-ins (once by Mathe, once by Joel).  Joel has successfully defended it twice.  Georgia has only lost with the deck once to date… but it also has not been available for challenges recently.  As described at the beginning of the article, Pokemon seems to either not have a consistent plan for Dragon types, or perhaps simply does not have one at all.  Since introducing the Dragon typing to the TCG, Pokemon has flown all over the charts on how they design new cards.  Cards that are popular Dragons like Rayquaza, Garchomp, Kingdra, Palkia, Drampa and Giratina are routinely printed as alternate types (i.e. Colorless Rayquaza, Fighting Garchomp).  Those that are printed as Dragon types receive such odd energy assignments (i.e. Fairy/Dark for Zygarde, Water/Fairy for Goodra, Lightning/Fighting for Kommo-o) that they can never be used together in any type of functional deck.

Since the rotation of the Dragons Exalted Garchomp/Altaria deck, there really has not been a good Dragon deck.  Pokemon could fix this by making all the Dragon-type sport Colorless energy costs (and even errata those in existence) or by simply printing a Basic Dragon energy and errata all existing Dragon types to use it as its non-colorless cost.  We doubt they have any plans to fix the mess they’ve made of the dragons.  Nonetheless, there are a few potential gym decks in the most recent dragon printings, so Georgia should have something to challenge in the next week or two.  One thing we won’t do is throw a random Dragon-type deck out there that does not work.  That’s not what the gym decks are there for.  They are there to make you a better player, not get you an easy badge.

The Fire-type decks have always been tough.  The main reason it doesn’t sit atop our list is that there have been some really strong Water-type decks over the years.  From Blastoise/Keldeo EX to Greninja BREAK, the quartet of Fire gym leaders that have piloted the deck have faced some very difficult challenges.  Austin W, after winning a league tournament to claim the title of Gym Leader, piloted the deck to 13 wins and 1 loss.  Prior to that, Gym Leader Logan took the reins 3 times, only losing once with the deck.  Gym Leader Joel filled in occasionally early on before taking it over full-time.  Over the next 31 challenges, Joel piloted it to a 24 win, 7 loss record (77.4%).  Georgia has stepped in a successfully defended it twice.  As both gym leaders enjoy playing Fire-type decks, Joel will remain its primary leader with Georgia available to step in whenever necessary (or whenever she wishes).

The Fincastle Gym is the home of the Gym Leader Challenge, a concept that began as Gym Leader Joel’s brainchild during our first few meetings.  We hope that the ensuing system that we developed is one that our players enjoy.  We enjoy the fun, sometimes intense battles that take place week-to-week as our trainers take us on.  We hope one day to be able to write about a League Champion.  We were literally only a coin flip away once several years ago, as the only Trainer to beat all 9 decks, Hunter H, had defeated 3 of the “Final 4” gym decks, losing the 4th game on a devastating series of flips that would have made him the champion.  We have several players at the Gym who could work their way through all 9 if they choose to go after them.  It’s not an easy task… if it was we’d have a list of champions to accompany the Wall of Fame.

Join us this Sunday and help us move towards challenge #500.  We should have a busy day, so if you want to challenge a leader, let us know early so that we can make time for the match.  See you soon at the Gym!



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