Avoiding the Donk

At the moment, there seems to be a multitude of ways that you can lose first turn, granted you have a lone basic and your opponent is able get any one of these Pokémon out:

I am sure there are more I’m forgetting…really the only decks that don’t have much ability to win turn 1 are Gyarados and Gengar.

The issue is that many decks out there have weak starting Pokémon. The designated starting Pokémon has went the way of the dodo in exchange for speed. This leaves many vulnerable starting Pokémon that have 50 HP or less. SP is really the only deck that doesn’t have to worry so much about getting turn 1’d.

Maxing out on Call Energy can help avoid the donk, but some decks simply don’t run the card because they want to attack and start drawing prizes on turn 1. You can also lose before you even have a chance to Call if something like a Sableye or Garchomp Knocks you Out.

This makes me feel that there is a need for certain decks to play an extra basic or two, so that they aren’t as easily donked. Jumpluff and Gyarados specifically come to mind as decks that have incredibly weak starters and don’t play Call Energy all the time. I would consider playing something like an extra Crobat in these decks. It’s a good starter because it has free retreat and isn’t so easily KO’d first turn. Chatot MD is another card that is not talked about much, but may be worth playing now just to increase your basic count.

Sometimes you will simply get unlucky and open with that lone Unown Q, but adding a couple more basics to your deck will increase your odds of starting with 2 basic Pokémon in your opening hand. If you can get past that first turn, you at least have a chance to get into the game and compete with all the quick decks out there right now.

So what do you think? Is the quick strike ability of many popular decks enough to warrant playing more basics? Or should these decks that try to overwhelm early and don’t play Call Energy, play the card?

Reader Interactions

27 replies

  1. Scnappy

    But really saybleye + Sp.Darkness can normally donk aswell :/
    just my opinion though

  2. Basti

    Man nice read :D
    There are a lot of donks out today…

    but just 1 think:
    Sableye + expert belt in the first round = you get DQd if u do this

  3. Jeremy C

    How can Garchomp C donk, but not Luxray GL? With a DCE, they both do the same thing.

  4. Ryan Graham

    Garchomp C with an Energy Gain I believe he meant. Chomp does fifty, while Luxray needs a lighting energy to fulfill the energy cost of his more powerful attack.

  5. Michael Randolph

    @ Basti you do realize you can go 2nd and it still be your first turn therefore you would be able to play expertbelt. Now understandably Sableye would allow you to go first but in the instance where both players start with Sableye it would merit a coin flip to decide leaving one Sableye to start 1st the other to go 2nd which happends allot seeing as how more and more decks are using Sableye as their preferred starter. So it's not uncommon to go 2nd and belt your Sableye then drop a special Darkness energy(and a crobat g if your opponent has attacked you with a Sableye equiped with a special darkness on their turn instead of using impersonate) in order to Donk the opposing Sableye. I'm sure thats what Adam ment/was talking about. Not necessarily starting first and belting your active.

    @Scnappy I totally agree, Sableye/Honchkrow G anyone?

  6. JPN-Gallade

    First of all, I like to say this is a very well-written article. It is also very informative, so good job writing it. This article will indeed help many players to understand what to do to survive donk decks.

    Now as for my opinion of the donk decks:

    Honestly, I would say running more basics is the best solution. Running lots of basics really lowers your chance of starting with a Pokemon that has very low HP, or starting with only one Pokemon. If you run an SP deck like Luxchomp, here you would have a perfect example of this since the majority of the Pokemon played in SP decks are basic Pokemon, further meaning you are more likely to avoid being donked. However, If you don't run lots of basics in decks like those that use stage 2 Pokemon as main attackers, then obviously you need to maximize your Call Energy so that you can prevent a donk from happening on your opponent's first turn (this of course doesn't count for the donkers like Sableye since Sableye can potentially donk on the starting turn of the game). Still, it's good to have 3-4 Call Energies in one deck.

    As for the decks that wouldn't run Call Energy so that they can overwhelm the opponent early game, I find that a bit risky. You need to have a really good hand and some really good draw early game to truly take overwhelm the opponent at around turn 1 or turn 2. Still, I still think that this could work to counter, but again, you need to be lucky to achieve this.

  7. Dave Hueglin

    Good article Adam,

    Many of you may have already read the related discusion on the Boards:

    One thing I will mention is that, while agree with adding in a few extra Basics where practical, you also need to be careful that you don't make so many changes that it takes away from consistency or from the basic strategy of your deck. I kinda think that's what happened with the deck I used at Provincials – I was trying to avoid first turn donks and ended up messing up the basic strategy of my deck. Ass with so many things in Pokemon, it really is a balancing act.

  8. Adam Capriola

    I knew I missing a big one…good point! That's another card that can take you out before you can draw a card or use your Call Energy.

  9. Toni Taitto

    There's a chance you don't start the game. If your opponent has also a Sableye, or if you start any other Pokémon on set up then Warp/Switch/SSU/Turn/Retreat your active to a Sableye on your Turn 1. :P

  10. Basti

    Yeah it can
    I just wanted to make clear that u cant attach Expert Belt in ur first turn :D

  11. Adam Capriola

    Also wanted to mention that even though Sableye is the preferred starter for Gyarados, it leaves you open for the donk if it's your lone starter. You will usually Impersonate for Pokemon Collector, but you aren't able to play any basics down right away.

    This is how Gyarados lost to Machamp at PA States and the same thing can happen against plenty of other decks.

  12. aaki

    Something missing from this article is that Spiritomb can often help prevent the T1 on the draw donk.

  13. Guy Sargent

    chatot MD is not a great suggestion for an extra basic.

    Ambipom still OHKO's it since you won't be attaching energy.
    Luxray can OHKO it with a DCE (or egain/energy) and Lucario
    Sableye still OHKO it with a crobat and Sp. Dark

    it still gets donked by Machamp, Kingdra, probably shuppet, donphan if they get the belt, jumpluff, garchomp c,

    Although I agree with your point that people need to play more basics than before, I think that they need to toss in a few basics that won't end up losing them the game if they're their only starter.
    Like Pachirisu, or Spiritomb.
    call for family/friends/whatever pokemon are great, and if you're running something that can take advantage of a pokemon with this attack I would highly recommend it.
    Also spiritomb usually makes it that much harder for a donk deck to get what they need (rare candy, lux ball, expert belt, e-gain, etc) in order to get the donk out. Darkness Grace isnt a bad attack either so it isn't a major sacrifice to leave him up for a few turns.

  14. Adam Capriola

    Its got free retreat and can get you out of a bad hand…what's so bad about
    it? You just want to have an extra basic in your opening hand if possible.

    Spiritomb might be worth trying to fit into more decks though, great point.

  15. Zachary Slater

    I loved Chatot when I ran a GengarMachamp build because of the crazy bad hands I always had (I ran 4 Poke Drawer+), but I don't think it's entirely necessary in SP decks since it can clog the bench and can't be Turn'd. Although Chatot can be a great counter to the CurseGar matchup if you can't outspeed them.

    If you're running 2 Stage 2's in one deck though, you gotta have at least a Cynthia/PONT/Chatot in there.

  16. Random

    So I should only play Pokemon with more than 70 HP starting?

  17. Zachary Slater

    Or make it so you have a strong consistency where you can get out more than 1 >70hp Pokemon by T1/T2.

  18. Mark Stroup

    I would also like to point out that many decks these days are being extra choice-y about what sits on their bench space because of Jumpluff etc. Some people are eliminating Azelf LA just to add in the extra Luxray LvX or Dialga G LvX or whatever card that may be seen as only having one in the deck.
    I know that I like to tech Dusknoir DP in my Jumpluff, which initially SOUNDS like it doesn't make any sense because bench space serves as Pluspowers to Jumpluff, but by your opponent being reckless dropping all their support pokemon early (Bronzthong G, both Crobat G's, Azelf, Uxies, retreated Promocroak) you get to Dark Palm the only main-attacking pokemon such as the sitting Garchomp LvX trying to collect energy for Dragon Rush while you screw their energy drop by Dark Palming it over and over because their other 3 or 4 pokemon do not usually attack.

  19. eli moses

    Its a good atrticle i run jumpluff though and what other basic shud i run so i dont get donked

  20. Frank

    We've got Crobats, Sablyes, Chatots for this very reason. Starting with a 30hp pokemon is game loss at any tournament. We donk — we don't get donked!

  21. Frank

    We've got Crobats, Sablyes, Chatots for this very reason. Starting with a 30hp pokemon is game loss at any tournament. We donk — we don't get donked!

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