Taking Another Look At Sablelock

I think most of us are familiar with Sablelock by now — it was hyped as “That Mystery Deck” From Florida around States, gained prominence with Con Le’s US Nationals victory, and given that it’s an SP deck, is still around with us today. Then why hasn’t there been a quality deck analysis on it and the changes it’s gone through since around Nationals?

I’m going to fix that.

You wouldn’t think this deck went through very many changes with the rotation, considering the only card it really lost was Moonlight Stadium, but it has seen some changes. Because just about every other deck changed with the rotation, this deck changed along with it to counter that, and I’ll go over those changes — but first, here’s a basic decklist.

This is a “skeleton” list with thirteen open spaces. Before adding anything else, I strongly suggest adding a third Pokémon Collector; a fourth Power Spray; a third Energy Gain; and a second Bebe’s Search, especially if you’re running Honchkrow SV.

Pokémon (14):
3 Sableye SF
1 Smeargle UD
2 Garchomp C
2 Garchomp C LV.X
1 Crobat G
1 Honchkrow G
1 Chatot G
2 Uxie LA
1 Azelf LA
Trainers (11):
4 TGI: Poké Turn
3 TGI: Power Spray
2 TGI: Energy Gain
2 TGI: SP Radar

Supporters (12):
4 Cyrus’s Conspiracy
2 Cyrus’s Initiative
2 Pokémon Collector
1 Bebe’s Search
2 Judge
1 Aaron’s Collection
Energy (10):
2 D
4 Special Dark
4 Double Colorless

What you should run:

Sableye SF
The Sableye from Stormfront is this deck’s ideal starter. If your opponent starts with a low-HP Pokémon, you can easily attach a D Energy (either kind), drop Crobats if you have to, and use “Overconfident” for a quick forty or fifty damage (and hopefully a donk). Otherwise, you can use its Impersonate attack to disrupt your opponent using Judge or Cyrus’s Initiative, or you can set yourself up with Pokémon Collector or Cyrus’s Conspiracy. Typically, you’ll want to use Judge and/or Cyrus’s Initiative to disrupt your opponent early-game, or even mid-late game if your opponent makes a recovery. (There’ll be more information on this in the strategy section.)

That’s the reason why I’d recommend at least two Judge and two Cyrus’s Initiative — not only can Initiative fail, but if your opponent gets back on his/her feet, you can use it again later in the game to seal your victory. Or, if you’re unlucky, you might end up Judging your opponent into a good start or yourself into a bad hand — so just Judge again! (I’ve heard numerous stories about people Sablelocking themselves due to terrible luck with Judge. Don’t let that happen to you!)

Additionally, Sableye can help mid-late game to get yourself back on your feet. You can start Cyrus’s Conspiracy chains with it, grab Bebe’s Searches or Aaron’s Collections. It can easily finish off Pokémon with few remaining HP, while not endangering your more important attackers. It’s just an incredibly versatile card.

You’ll have to watch out for things like Roserade GL that lock it active — it’s not nearly as much of a problem as an active Spiritomb, but there are only so many supporters you can Impersonate before it becomes useless. Not to mention, it only has sixty HP, making it an easy prize for your opponent.

Now, you might be thinking, “WHAT!? ONLY THREE!?” But hear me out. You’re free to add a fourth one. You’re free to take one out, if you really want to. But you could easily take a single Sableye out for…

Smeargle UD
It’s just a great card. Though you could use it mid-late-game, it’s more of a starter, and an excellent one, at that. Its Poké-Power “Portrait” allows you to look at your opponent’s hand, choose a Supporter you find there, and use the effect of that supporter as the effect of the attack as long as Smeargle is active. It might sound like a hassle, but especially if you run Unown Q, it can be well worth your while.

Not only do you get to look at your opponent’s hand (which is huge, especially in Sablelock), but you can turn their good start into your good start. You can easily get a Cyrus’s Conspiracy chain started, or get yourself started with their Pokémon Collector, all before disposing it all with a Judge or Cyrus’s Initiative. That means potentially two supporters in a single turn, early-game.

You can justify the lower Sableye count, given that you can use your opponent’s Pokémon Collectors if you don’t have one of your own, even if you “win” the coin flip. “Portrait” for an Unown Q, a Sableye SF, and an Unown DARK for a donk. And so on.

Smeargle isn’t without its downsides, though. Because it has to be active to use its Poké-Power, it can be locked active with Azelf, Roserade GL, etc. It’s another easy prize for your opponent. Your opponent might not have any supporters in his/her hand. And toward late-game, when you won’t be using it as much, it takes up valuable bench space.

Is it over-hyped? Probably. But that doesn’t make it any less of a great card.

Honchkrow G
One of the biggest changes from the Old Sablelock is the lower Honchkrow G count. While there are still people out there professing that two is the right number, and cynics on the other side of the spectrum who believe it’s outlived its usefulness, I believe you only need one. Honchkrow’s biggest advantage in the old metagame came from KOing benched Trapinch SW’s, Baltoy GE’s, etc. using “Target Attack” with the help of a Crobat G drop. But guess what happened to those Pokémon I just listed?

While Stage 2 decks still exist, SP is currently overshadowing the metagame. But the important thing is that they still exist. Honchkrow is still incredibly useful for sniping Spiritombs, Gastly, Machops, and the occasional Horsea. Additionally, a popular LuxChomp tactic is dropping the 30 self-damage from Luxray GL LV.X’s “Flash Impact” onto a Pokémon that won’t ever leave the bench, like Uxies and Azelfs, leaving them with forty to fifty HP. I’ll let you make that connection.

It’s not as important as it was, but it’s still a good Pokémon to have. You can use two of them — “Honcho’s Command” is a great set-up attack to grab Team Galactic’s Inventions you need, in a pinch — but I chose to drop one in favor of other cards, especially given that Stage 2’s presence has dropped significantly. And Sableye’s “Impersonate” is almost always a better attack to use.

Garchomp C LV.X
Do I really need to explain this? Purely my opinion, but it’s the most most broken Pokémon in the format. It hits fast, thanks to Double Colorless Energy and Energy Gains, and it hits hard, on any Pokémon on the field. It’s an amazing disruptor — imagine KOing that Luxray on the bench before it can actually do harm, or getting rid of that Machop before it evolves and starts Taking Out all of your Pokémon. On top of that, if any of your Pokémon SP happen to be damaged, Poké-Power “Healing Breath” will take care of that. (Well, that’s not nearly as abusable in Sablelock as it is in, say, DialgaChomp, but it’s still there and it’s still something to think about.)

It’s also a great counter for itself. Garchomp C’s can very easily revenge-KO other Garchomp C’s. Or snipe potential Garchomp C LV.X’s off the bench before your opponent can level them up. Given that Garchomp C LV.X is probably the most popular attacker in the format right now, that’s a very good thing to keep in mind.

Run a full line of these, always. I’d highly recommend 2-2 instead of, say, 3-1 or 2-1 because the LV.X is what makes this card function so well in Sablelock. But you’re free to experiment.

Honchkrow SV (tech)
The other Honchkrow. Contrary to popular belief, people were using this in their Sablelock lists long before Nationals, but Con Le made it incredibly popular with his Nationals-winning list. I don’t care if people say I’m copying him — it’s a darned good tech.

There are very, very many things you can do with this card, and most of them involve making up for the fact that this deck has no consistent hard-hitting cards. Sure, there’s Garchomp, but what are you going to do after you discard all of your Double Colorless energies? And best of all, it uses Dark energies, which you’re running anyway.

Ideally, you’ll have at least a regular dark and a Double-C Energy attached to it, and with a full bench, you’ll be hitting a minimum of eighty damage. Add the Uxies, Azelfs, and other assorted basics your opponent will probably have on the field, and Special Dark energies, and you’ll easily be hitting over a hundred damage per turn with this card. On top of that, it’s a Mewtwo counter (does anyone even play Mewtwo LV.X anymore?), hits Gengar for weakness, and is resistant to Machamp’s fighting-type.

You could also drag up useless Pokémon from your opponent’s discard pile. Bring back all sorts of wonderful bench-wasting basics (Azelf, etc) so your opponent can’t play all the cards he or she wants to. Not only does it power up your own attack, but it prevents your opponent from dropping that crucial Uxie or Crobat G.

You’ll have to really keep an eye out for Luxray GL LV.X, though. It’s still one of the most popular attackers in the format, and Honchkrow’s weakness to lightning won’t help it if it gets Bright Looked and KO’d while you’re still setting it up.

I chose Murkrow SV because while Murkrow UD 58 has a fun attack in Astonish (kind of like a last-ditch Cyrus’s Initiative), Murkrow SV has ten more HP, only a +10 weakness, and a very fun no-energy attack in Switcheroo, where you can completely mess with your opponent’s use of Energy Gains, Unown Q’s, and Expert Belts. (You really shouldn’t be attacking with this card at all, but just in case.)

Blaziken FB LV.X (tech)
This is the alternative to Honchkrow SV, as made popular by Jason Chen’s “Chenlock” deck. You can read his Nationals report and see his decklist here and here. (I suppose, if you really wanted to, you could try to find room to fit both of them into your deck, but you’ll be sacrificing some consistency.) For only one energy and an Energy Gain, it can do at least eighty damage to the opponent’s Active Pokémon. It also has a wonderfully disruptive attack in Luring Flame, which lets you switch out the opponent’s active Pokémon with a benched Pokémon and burn it. (Not really. Just put a burn marker on it.)

Jet Shoot is great against Dialga G LV.X, as it will automatically KO a Dialga even with four special metals on it (unless it also has an Expert Belt). It’s great against Scizor/Steelix decks, which could otherwise out-wall your Sablelock to exhaustion while hitting hard and consistently itself. It’s great against VileGar and other VileTomb decks because it can drag Vileplumes active, where they can easily be KO’d, or just sit there while your opponent figures out how to deal with its Retreat Cost.

This card also provides a power-hitter to a deck that desperately needs one, and it has the benefit of being SP and a heck of a lot faster than Honchkrow SV. And it’s a great card to just drop onto your bench if you happen to be facing a Kingdra deck of any sort, making all of their Kingdra Primes near useless. However, Blaziken FB is a basic Pokémon, so if you are unfortunate enough to run into a Mewtwo LV.X, there’s really nothing you can do about it except try to Luring Flame around it, and it also gets auto-KO’d by Machamp SF. Jet Shoot also makes it incredibly susceptible to revenge KOs, so it’s more difficult to sweep the field with it. And lastly, it requires fire energies, which means you have to tech in one or two fire energies, which can hurt consistency.

All in all, it’s up to you which one you choose. I chose Honchkrow because I feel it has a greater synergy with the rest of the deck, but both have their pros and cons.

Dragonite FB vs. Ambipom G (tech)
There’s already a wonderful article about it here on SixPrizes, but I’ll go over it anyway.

Ambipom G has a great disruptive attack in “Tail Code”, which lets you move important Energies to Pokémon that will never use them (like Azelf). Its second attack, “Snap Attack”, though, is where it shines. Typically, when a Garchomp C LV.X uses “Dragon Rush”, it will have an Energy Gain on it to speed things up immensely. That leaves it with zero Energy after its attack. So, you drop an Ambipom, and either Energy Gain + an energy or attach a Double Colorless to it, and revenge KO. Then, it has a measly one Retreat Cost so you can get it back onto your bench quickly and without trouble.

Dragonite FB, on the other hand, isn’t limited to your opponent’s Pokémon not having Energies on them (and let’s face it, if it’s active, it probably has energies on it). It does 80 damage if the opponent’s active Pokémon is an Pokémon SP, which happens to be the magic number that the majority of SP HP’s are set at. Not only does it excel at KOing Garchomps, it excels at KOing most other Pokémon SP, too. However, it has a colorless weakness, leaving it vulnerable to Garchomps and other Dragonites, and a hefty three Retreat Cost. That, and its first attack costs three energies, meaning you’ll need two Energies and an Energy Gain to attack.

Now how is this relevant to Sablelock? Well, to start, Garchomp is probably the most-used Pokémon in competitive play (it’s in just about every SP deck out there). Having a way to quickly and easily Knock them Out is a great asset to any deck. But both of them have their own uses outside just revenge-KOing Garchomps.

Ambipom G is a great way to get donks. If you start first and have it and a Double Colorless in your hand, you can do a very quick sixty-plus damage to your opponent’s Pokémon. It’s also a great way to KO Crobats your opponent might send out to wall against you temporarily. And don’t forget Tail Code!

Dragonite FB is a tank that can sweep the floor with other SP decks. You can’t Knock it Out with a Dragon Rush alone, because it has a solid one hundred HP. It can easily 1HKO not just the Garchomps, but non-leveled Luxrays, Crobat G’s, Roserades, and anything else that your opponent might send at you. If you’re going second, you could potentially get a donk against whatever Pokémon SP your opponent started with. And it has a hundred HP, making it very difficult to Garchomp-snipe.

This one’s a real toss-up — if I could find the space, I’d definitely run both of them. Dragonite has a tanking ability that few other Pokémon in this deck have, but Ambipom has a surprise factor and a better chance at donking. So it’s entirely up to you.

Other Pokémon
Chatot G
Chatot G exists to further the Sablelock. It’s Poké Power “Disrupting Spy” lets you reorder the top four cards of your opponent’s deck when you drop it on your bench. Considering your probably used Cyrus’s Initiative before dropping this, you probably know what’s in your opponent’s hand and can work around that to give your opponent terrible topdecks. Remember: With Sablelock, knowing is more than half the battle.

This is a great card against Stage 2 decks that can otherwise sweep through Sablelock. Simply because they need more cards to set up, you can keep the lock going much longer (especially if you Poké Turn the Chatot) than against, say, LuxChomp.

I don’t need to explain this. Set Up is an excellent power and is an integral part of nearly every deck in the format. If you get the chance, you can Psychic Restore them to the bottom of your deck to free up bench space, but good luck getting that to happen.

Once upon a time, Sablelock ran two to four of everything. There would be three Honchkrow G’s, two Giratina (“Let Loose”)’s, and no silly 1-1 Honchkrow or Blaziken FB LV.X techs to deal with. I’ve run the deck happily without Azelf in the past, but sadly, that’s no longer an option. If something important is prized, it can and will both save your match and speed up your setup.

Though it’s incredibly situational, you could also use its attack to lock your opponent’s Pokémon active. I wouldn’t recommend it, though, unless you have a very good reason for doing it, and your reason works.

Crobat G
SP decks nowadays have whittled their Crobat counts down to one, but I believe Sablelock is one deck that can still benefit from abusing Crobat drops. They’re wonderful set-ups for Honchkrow G’s “Target Attack” or Sableye SF’s “Overconfident”, or even just that extra ten damage you always need to KO that one crucial Pokémon. You can run anywhere from one to three (though three is more than likely too many, given that Honchkrow isn’t as useful as it used to be), depending on your local metagame and your playing style.

Also an optional attacker, though I’ve never actually attacked with it. It might work against decks like Donphan — but then again, it might not, so don’t take my word for it.

Toxicroak G (promo) (tech)
Luxray counter. Luxray GL LV.X Bright Looked and KO’ed one of your Pokémon? Blaziken FB LV.X used Jet Shoot for a ridiculous amount of damage? Respond with a Toxicroak G for a revenge KO. If Toxicroak is still alive by the start of your next turn, you can use its Poké-Power “Leap Away” to try and get it back into your hand and off the field. If it isn’t, well, it’s not like the rest of your deck will suffer at all.

Unown Q
Almost everything in this deck has a Retreat Cost of one, so free retreat when you need it is always nice. It does take up that Pokémon Tool slot on a Pokémon that could be taken up by an Energy Gain, though, so be careful with what you attach it to. Great for retreating Sableye or Smeargle that could otherwise be stuck active.

The SP Engine
You should already be familiar with this — using Cyrus’s Conspiracy to search out more Cyrus’s Conspiracies and keeping a chain going so you can keep searching out the Team Galactic’s Invention you need most. The four Poké Turn are always a must in any SP deck — they’re just incredibly useful in ways that are wonderfully off-topic for this article. Three Energy Gain are all you need for this deck — you need them for Garchomp C’s, and possibly a Honchkrow G or a Dragonite FB or a Toxicroak G, most of which are very situational cards. I haven’t found myself in a situation where I need more than three yet. Just be smart about what Pokémon you drop this card into, and when.

Two or three SP Radar is a good number — two works fine unless you’re running Blaziken. It’s a very fast way to search out Pokémon SP whenever you need them, though it’s another trainer to get trainerlocked.

And lastly, I feel that four Power Spray is a must in this deck. As I’ll discuss later, the whole point of Sablelock is to lock your opponent before they get set up — chances are, if they’re fully set up, you’ll lose (or at least fight a VERY uphill battle). Power Spray is absolutely necessary for blocking their Uxie “Set Up”s, “Bright Look”s, “Healing Breath”s, etc. If you block a Poké Power at a critical moment, you’ll force your opponent to rethink his/her strategy. And there’s a good chance that whatever new one they come up with wasn’t nearly as good as their old one. (Just imagine that look of surprise on your opponent’s face as you Power Spray that critical Uxie “Set-Up” or Garchomp C LV.X “Healing Breath” and (s)he shouts, “What the heck? You have a fourth one!?”)

Energy Exchanger
This is a great new addition to our metagame — I say so because it lets you abuse your special energies like never before. Sablelock runs almost exclusively on special energies, so this card is a godsend. I’d definitely recommend two or three — three isn’t absolutely necessary, I don’t think, because you don’t have Warp Energies you might absolutely need to search out or anything like that.

Combo this card with Cyrus’s Conspiracy for a good time.

Other Trainers/Supporters
I shouldn’t need to explain Pokémon Collector or Aaron’s Collection at all. Some people might want to run Palmer’s Contribution instead of Aaron’s because of Honchkrow SV (and because 5 > 2), but the simple fact that these cards go into your hand instead of your deck will factor into so very many strategies, you’ll wonder why on Earth you even thought about replacing it.

Run any fewer than three Pokémon Collector and you will hurting your consistency. Trust me. I tried.

I run two Bebe’s Search instead of, say, a Bebe’s Search and a Pokémon Communication or Luxury Ball because of those pesky trainerlocks. It means my deck is ever so slightly slower, but that’s one less trainer to lock and one more way to grab Honchkrow when you really need it.

Judge and Cyrus’s Initiative are two of the most key cards in this deck. They’ll be explained more in the strategy section, but they’re what start the Sablelock. Like I mentioned earlier, I run two of each because running only one is a bad idea in case your opponent gets back on his or her feet, and I’ve never had to use them more than twice in one game.

What else you could run:
Uxie LV.X
You don’t really need the extra draw support, though it is nice. The biggest reason you’d want an Uxie LV.X, though, is as a Machamp counter. You’d need a Lucario GL along with this to actually be effective, though; doing ninety damage isn’t to bad either, but you run the risk of having Uxie Taken Out the next turn.

If you chose to run one, make sure you include another Bebe’s Search, a Pokémon Communication, or something else that can search this card out. I wouldn’t recommend Premier Ball unless you’re also running Blaziken.

Unown (DARK)
I’m not entirely sure how useful this card would be, but I’m putting it here in case. The good thing about Unown DARK is that you can search out a special Dark energy whenever you want to — and it’s pretty easy to search out, being a basic Pokémon. This can pull you out of any energy crisis, and paired with Energy Exchanger, can get your Pokémon out and attacking whenever you need them.

The downside is that it sits on your bench and is easy to snipe. Try it out, see for yourself if you like it or not.

Warp Point
It’s a great card overall — you can free-retreat a Pokémon that would otherwise be stuck active, and simultaneously, you can force your opponent to switch. You never know when a Roserade will appear out of nowhere to lock your Sableye active or that active Dialga G LV.X is blocking access to all the weak Pokémon on your opponent’s bench. Cons, obviously, are that you won’t be using it or needing it every game, and that it’s another trainer to get trainerlocked into your hand.

Luxury Ball
No real explanation needed. You don’t really need it all that much in Sablelock (not nearly as much as in other decks), but if you’re running Honchkrow, this card will help you get it out faster.

pokebeach.comTeam Rocket’s Trickery
Back in the days of Moonlight Stadium (which, admittedly, wasn’t so long ago), I tried running Giratina LV.X to annoy opponents and further crush their hopes of ever recovering from a Sablelock. But given that Moonlight Stadium has rotated (and we no longer use Giratina), that’s no longer an option.

What you can do, though, is use Team Rocket’s Trickery. (I preferred Team Galactic’s Mars, but meh.) You can give yourself a little draw support while at the same time giving your opponent a very tough decision — especially once you’ve Sablelocked them down to two or three cards in their hand.

I’m still testing this one to see if it’s actually worth using in Sablelock, but you have to admit, that Azelf just sitting there on your bench is hurting more than it’s helping after you use “Time Walk”. And unfortunately, you can’t Poké Turn that damaged Honchkrow SV or Sableye SF sitting on your bench waiting for a Crobat drop to put it out of its misery. And if your opponent only has one Pokémon on his/her bench, you could also use Seeker and KO the active for a pseudo-donk.

The downside is that the Azelf sitting on your opponent’s side of the field isn’t helping him/her, either. Use with caution — if you’re smart about it, you could pair it up with something like Honchkrow SV’s “Darkness Restore” to clog your opponent’s bench with useless Pokémon, though.

What you SHOULDN’T run:
Giratina PL (“Let Loose”)
The Giratina from Platinum was once used instead of Judge, and you’d simply run four Super Scoop Ups along with it. I used to run a single Let Loose Giratina just in case I needed it, but I dropped it in favor of only using Judge. Giratina is just one more Pokémon to get Bright Looked and locked active, one more terrible starter, and one more Pokémon to waste bench space. I find that only using Judge works just fine, and that I never actually relied on Giratina at all after Judge was released.

Super Scoop Up
See above. The Super Scoops can be useful, but they’re flippy and take up far too much deck space that could otherwise be used to tech against bad matchups or bolster consistency. Now that Giratina is no longer an integral part of the deck, the Super Scoop Ups are no longer necessary.

That, and the trainerlock-intensive metagame tends to make things like Super Scoop Up far less useful.

pokemon-paradijs.comExpert Belt
This card has only two uses. Use number one is: Attach to Sableye on turn one or two for a better chance at donking. The biggest problem with that is, if you’re starting with Sableye to get a donk, you won’t be able to use Expert Belt at all unless you’re donking another Sableye. Use number two is: Give your opponent more prizes with the relatively easy KOs they’ll score against Sablelock’s low-HP Pokémon. You could use it with Honchkrow SV, but really, you should have a full bench with Sablelock and be hitting for ridiculous damage anyway, unless you Sablelock yourself, in which case you probably won’t have Honchkrow out to begin with. That, and Honchkrow is pretty fragile to begin with, and that extra 20 HP won’t be that much of a difference.

Most of your attackers will have Energy Gains attached to them, making Expert Belt useless. So if a card is only good for one scenario in the very early stages of the game, and one possible use later, yet provides big risk for doing either — and is not easily searchable at all? I say drop it altogether. I’m not even leaving it to an “It’s up to you” on this one — I am in complete disagreement with using this card in a Sablelock list.

The Strategy
This deck, even moreso than other decks, is one that just works with what you have (as opposed to making sure things go according to a plan or set up a certain way). I think, the only deck that works this “run with it” strategy better than Sablelock is LuxChomp, simply due to the nature of the deck, which can make the matchup a little difficult sometimes. But I’ll go over that later.

There is a core strategy with Sablelock, and that’s what it’s named after: Sablelocking. You’ll want to get out a Sableye turn one or two — past that is your own judgment (Hah, Judge), but you could viably pull this strategy off later early-game. It’s pretty difficult not to do this by the end of the early-game phase unless you’re actually trying — you’d have to have absolutely horrendous luck not to be able to do this.

First, try to get a donk with Ambipom G or Sableye. (You could also get one with Garchomp C or Dragonite FB, but that’s more difficult and more situational.) If you can win turn one or two, do so — there’s no reason to prolong the game and give your opponent a chance to win. Failing that, commence the Sablelocking.

Use Sableye (or just play these from your hand) to play a Judge to bring their hand down to four cards, while optimally giving you a fresh hand. Just as a note, please be smart about Judging. If you have to wait until turn two because you have too many good cards in your hand, by all means, wait until turn two. If you start with an amazing hand, chances are, the hand you’ll draw with Judge will be worse. There are too many amusing stories of people Sablelocking themselves due to Judge — you want to be the person laughing at them, not the other way around.

So, ideally, you’ll Judge your stale hand away and draw a new fresh four cards, while shuffling away your opponent’s strategy and limiting him to a four-card start. Then, use Cyrus’s Initiative. It’s a flippy card, but it’s very well worth it — put away the Professor Oak’s New Theories, the SP Radars, anything they can use to make a recovery. Use Pokémon Collector or something similar to set up with Uxie, control their topdecks with Chatot G, and get yourself set up with whatever Pokémon you need to take your opponent down. If you can get their hand down to two or three cards and control what they’re drawing, not only do you cripple their ability to get started, but you also know what they have in their hand and can plan accordingly.

pokemon-paradijs.comTAKE NOTES! The new ruling allows you to take notes on anything, so make good use of that! With Sablelock, knowing is over half the battle!

So now that you’re controlling what cards they’re getting, and you know what cards they have in their hand, proceed to destroy their set-up even further. If they drop an Uxie, Power Spray it. Use Sableye, Garchomp C LV.X, and Honchkrow G to KO all the important Pokémon off of their bench, LuxChomp-style. See a Spiritomb active with an Oddish on the bench? “Overconfident” the Spiritomb and “Target Attack” the Oddish next turn. See a Garchomp C or a Luxray GL glaring at you safely from the bench? “Dragon Rush” it. Et cetera.

It may sound easy on paper, but this is the section that by far requires the most playtesting. It used to be easier to figure out because every Claydol started as a vulnerable, fifty-HP Baltoy, but now you’ll be hard-pressed to find something as easy as that. You’ll need to know what cards are essential to your opponent’s setup and work accordingly.

Ideally, you should be wiping the floor with their deck while they struggle to set back up. Anticipate what your opponent will try to do and Power Spray things accordingly — don’t forget to save some for Uxies and Azelf! If you need to, Poké Turn the Chatot to drop it again to continue controlling your opponent’s topdecks or prevent him/her from drawing that Pokémon Collector that used to be at the top the deck.

But I’ll repeat that word again: ideally. Chances are (especially because Sablelock relies more on luck than most other decks), your opponent will topdeck something and try to get back in the game. That’s what you saved the Power Sprays for, and that extra Judge and Cyrus’s Initiative. If they stagger back to their feet, get the Sablelock going again at the next available opportunity.

And a few common matchup guidelines
Now obviously, you’ll have to playtest matchups yourself. But here are a couple guidelines that might be useful. If you happen to come across a Gyarados, or a Charizard, or something else that I don’t have much experience battling against, tough luck. I’m not going to do all the work for you. =P

Against VileTomb decks, get a Sablelock rolling, but you don’t need to be all that intensive about it. You do want to cripple their setup, but KOing the Spiritombs and Oddishes do that FAR better than giving them bad topdecks. (Because Spiritomb will shuffle all your hard work away.) So, assuming you don’t get that donk against that lone fifty-HP Gastly, get your Sableye out as fast as possible and KO any and all Spiritombs they send your way. Given that they’ll be using “Darkness Grace” a lot, that makes them very susceptible to a fifty-damage “Overconfident”. Snipe the Oddishes and Glooms before they become Vileplumes, which will be much easier if you KO their Spiritomb early. If you dominate them early-game, there won’t even be a mid-game or a late-game.

pokemon-paradijs.comAgainst Machamp, Donphan, and other tank decks, Sablelock ASAP and set up your Honchkrow SV or your Blaziken FB or your . Especially Donphan and Machamp. Against Stage 2’s, it’s much easier to keep a Sablelock going, but they’re MUCH more difficult to take out once they’re in play. You’ll want to make it as intense of a Sablelock as possible so you have easy 50-70HP basics to KO instead of 120+ HP monsters. Blaziken FB LV.X will help out immensely against Dialga and Steelix/Scizor decks.

And, of course, LuxChomp. The only deck that’s better at the “take what you get and run with it” strategy than Sablelock is LuxChomp. Just like before, Sablelock immediately and keep Power Sprays on hand. (This deck is the biggest reason I chose to use Dragonite FB instead of Ambipom G, for the record.) Set up your Garchomp C’s so you can Dragon Rush your opponent’s Garchomps off of their bench, and do it quickly — Garchomp will do the most damage to you. You can Power Spray a Bright Look, but you can’t Power Spray a Dragon Rush.

How to beat a Sablelock deck
Huzzah for counterproductivity!

While Sablelock is an incredibly versatile deck that is designed to work around every situation, there are a handful of cards (and situations) that make Sablelock players cry. I’ll list a bunch of them, in no specific order.

Machamp (and while we’re at it, tank Pokémon in general)
A strong Machamp start will sweep through Sablelock. A good Sablelock player will get the lock going or have some way of readily KOing Machamp before it does too much damage, but if you get one out, it will do damage.

The same goes for tank Pokémon in general. Sableye generally doesn’t have very good strong attackers — the ones usually teched in have low HP, and not to mention, there’s only one of them. Sablelock will certainly have difficulty taking down Pokémon like Donphan Prime.

So please, be kind to all those poor Sablelock players out there. Don’t run a Machamp deck. )=

Sablelock is an SP deck. That means it’s got a full SP engine of at least thirteen trainers ready to get locked. Careful if you’re playing VileGar, though — it’s not difficult to take control of a VileGar matchup with Sablelock, even under a trainerlock. A teched Blaziken FB will also help immensely against all of the trainerlock decks in the metagame, so watch out for that.

pokemon-paradijs.comProfessor Oak’s New Theory/Cynthia’s Feelings/etc.
Cards like this make the Sablelock very difficult, and any half-decent Sablelock player will target these first with Cyrus’s Initiative. The worst thing about them, though, is that they can’t be Power Sprayed like Uxie can, making them very annoying.

Exclude Judge from that list, though, because it’s much easier to resume the Sablelock if you Judge yourself than if you use, say, Cynthia’s Feelings after Sableye “Overconfident”-KO’d your Gastly. Bonus points if you shuffle away a Cyrus chain and a hand full of TGI’s, though.

So that’s all I have to say about Sablelock. The rest is all up to you. The skeleton list I gave up there isn’t any sort of an end-all-be-all list — think of it like a skeleton made of clay that you can mold however you’d like. (Now that’s a strange thought.) In fact, even my current list doesn’t strictly adhere to the list I gave above. It all depends on personal preference, what you think can be sacrificed, and your current metagame.

Thank you for reading this monster of an article. I hope you enjoyed it!

Reader Interactions

71 replies

  1. Dakota Streck

    Wow, this was a fantastic article, great job! You went into detail about a lot of it and really gave a new and veteran players alike tons of good information, I agreed with almost everything you said, the things I didn’t agree with were pretty minor things. Great job, keep it up!

    • Anonymous  → Dakota

      Thanks! ^.^ Means a lot coming from you. I really enjoy your CotD reviews!

      Out of curiosity, what was it you disagreed with? I could always use another opinion.

  2. Peter Bae

    amazing article :) very detailed. You should of mentioned that Sablelock has a hard time dealing with high HP pokemon like Gyarados, Tyranitar Prime etc. Also Honchkrow SV is great because you can Darkness Restore any basics with 50 HP or lower, Crobat G drop, honchkrow G target attk for easy prizes :D especially against Gyarados it wins as you wil lbe darkness restoring all of the magikarps in 3 turns. This is huge as Gyarados seems to be regaining popularity now :D However, great article, and I definately agree with everything you said, just wanted to add my bit to it xD

        • Anonymous  → Peter

          VileGar’s a great deck, but it’s not quite there yet. A lot of people at my league (and yes, there are a lot of really good players there) are dismissing VileGar as a waste of effort, and while I think it still has potential, you have to admit that it’s really slow. Someday, someone will refine the list and it will be an excellent deck, but I don’t think it’ll have that strong of a showing in Cities victories.

          You do bring up a really good point, though. Gengar Prime is still an excellent card, even minus Lost World.

        • Ron Routhier  → Peter


    • Anonymous  → Peter

      I was pretty sure I mentioned it. There’s even a little section of how Sableye has a lot of difficulty with tank Pokemon.

      That’s a great idea! I can’t believe I haven’t thought of that yet! Yet anothe rreason why Honchkrow SV is awesome.

    • Zachary Slater  → Peter

      If you run Honchkrow SV, putting Magikarps until the bench with the Poke-Power ‘Darkness Restore’ completely eliminates any threat Gyrados poses.

      • Peter Bae  → Zachary

        except it is very easy to counter that by filling up your bench xD but yes, Honchkrow SV does help out against Gyarados match up, but filling up your bench is much easier than trying to set up Honchkrow SV.

        • Zachary Slater  → Peter

          True, but if there’s at least 1 empty spot on their bench, then Darkness Restore’ing a single Magikarp can drastically affect the game as long as you don’t kill it. 30 less damage is major when it comes to OHKO’ing a Garchomp X or not.

        • Peter Bae  → Zachary

          yes, it iwl lgave sablelock that edge, but i think itd be hard.. i mean you ahve a full bench, gyarados active, youd need to knock something out beofre being able to use darkness restore, and in order to do that, you gotta attack, or Crobat G drop i guess could work but takes too long xD. However, Honchkrow SV is definately a good card against gyarados and cant wait to see what happens, but i think with Seeker (hunter) and junk arm in most gyarados can easily solve this problem

        • Marcel Mravec  → Peter

          Sablelock player can definitely use seeker against gyarados too and might even be able to discard seeker that gyarados player has in his hand. Anyway Honchkrow SV is a wonderfull card not only against gyarados.

      • Peter Bae  → Zachary

        except it is very easy to counter that by filling up your bench xD but yes, Honchkrow SV does help out against Gyarados match up, but filling up your bench is much easier than trying to set up Honchkrow SV.

      • Anonymous  → Zachary

        I actually had something about that in one of the earlier versions of the article, but I took it out. It’s a great idea on paper, but I’ve never actually tried it out to see how it works, so I decided to err on the safe side and not include it.

  3. Martin Garcia

    An excellent article, worthy of UG IMO.
    You really covered every aspect, from deck building, to teching and even match ups.
    Excellent job there.

    • Anonymous  → Red

      Yep! =P Hurry up and get yourself a Machamp Prime if you haven’t already. I want to try battling your Macheap deck to see how things work out.

  4. George

    Great article! Uh….they’re still running variations of it here in FL! The Metagame has become very tech oriented. I wonder how that will change when SP finally rotates?

    • Anonymous  → George

      Blame LuxChomp. =P I swear, that deck is at least 40% tech, nowadays. The thing about SP decks is that techs are /really/ easy to integrate, at least compared to non-SP decks. So it’ll be harder to tech against other things once SP rotates, I think.

      As much as I love SP for the complexity in playing it, I can’t wait until it rotates. XD

  5. Brandon Bittinger

    Great article. Not so sure about your list though, seems strange but strange tends to do good a lot now a days. How do you get away with only 3 Sableye anyway?

  6. Brandon Bittinger

    Great article. Not so sure about your list though, seems strange but strange tends to do good a lot now a days. How do you get away with only 3 Sableye anyway?

    • Anonymous  → Brandon

      Smeargle. ;)

      It’s just a skeleton list anyways, so of course, you could add another Sableye. In fact, I’d recommend it if you can find the room for it.

        • Anonymous  → Brandon

          It could be argued both ways, I think. Smeargle has an advantage where you know what cards are in your opponent’s hand immediately, as opposed to after you go through all the trouble of sablelocking, and the idea is to use Smeargle to get your Sableye out more quickly, etc. I’m still testing out the 3-1 Sableye-Smeargle build and seeing if it works, but so far, it shows promise.

  7. venny kid

    EPIC ARTICLE!!! I have been trying a SableLock variant focused on the new Lost World Stadium. Instead of a 1-1 Blaziken FB X, I put in a 1-1 Palkia G X. The strategy is to use a beefed up 2-2 line of Honchcrow SV to fill up your opponent’s bench and then use “Lost Cyclone” to get Pokemon into the Lost Zone. Once 6 have made it, drop Lost World and declare victory. I haven’t tested it a whole lot, but on paper it sounds viable.

        • Anonymous  → venny

          From what I heard, Lost World is completely dominating the format in Japan. It’s an absolutely broken card, and if they made it correctly, it would have been a balanced, interesting new way to win. But it’s too overpowered, so I guess PUI decided not to print it here.

          The stadium that was printed is Indigo Plateu.

          Sounds like a cool strategy! If Lost World was printed (or for some reason gets printed in the future), I’d certainly try something like that.

      • venny kid  → Peter

        “Brand new Trainer, Supporter, and Stadium cards with new gameplay strategies!” According to Pokemon, there is a new Stadium card, and I was sure it was Lost World, but….

  8. Shining Yue

    I usually don’t comment if it’s not for adding some useful opinion, but I feel the need to say that this is one great article.

  9. Ryan Graham

    Incredible article. Lots of common knowledge, but very well presented. Keep writing.

    • Anonymous  → Ryan


      When reading about a metagame deck, though, you do have to expect a lot of common knowledge. =P

  10. Ron Routhier

    You must be playing amateurs when you make it sound so easy to handle a VileGar deck. I hope I see a lot of your Sablelock decks in cities for an easy win. You claimed this deck is essentially an SP deck, and you rely heavily on trainers. So how do you expect to get so many “easy” prizes with no energy gains, poke-turns, and only playing ONE supporter per turn. Once Gengar gets set up, it’s OHKO from then on. And I didn’t even mention the Gengar Prime which will Lost Zone your Garchomp Lv.X. Be careful what you wish for, because VileGar will make a huge showing at cities, more so than Sablelock.

    • Eric Lari  → Ron

      Problem is vilegar is susceptible to donks. Sabelock hits for weakness on Vilegar. Garchomp lv. x isn’t really going to be widely used on vilegar. Also if vilegar gains incredible popularity Umberon UD fits easily in the deck and causes big problems with it. Not saying Vilegar is bad cause I’ve got both decks built now but through testing this seems to be the case.

      • Ron Routhier  → Eric

        Umbreon UD? Really, are you telling me that I need to worry about an attack that does 30 damage? And that’s only if I don’t Lost Zone that sucker first. You seem to forget Gengar prime will be teched in every VileGar deck, so you have a choice of holding a bunch of Trainers/Supporters/Stadiums in your hand for OHKO, or hold several Pokemon in your hand for the lost Zone. Between Mr. Mime TR and Looker’s, I’ll know what’s in your hand 80%-90% of the time. And by the way, I get both Vileplume and Gengar Set up in two turns, so don’t give me that “it’s too slow” nonesense please. I’m not dissing Sablelock, but it’s not the end all be all that this article makes it out to be. Luxchomp tears this to shreds…..

        • Anonymous  → Ron

          I’ve been purposely avoiding responding to this, ’cause I really don’t want to start a flame war. But I do feel like I have to say something.

          Sablelock has its flaws. I point that out multiple times throughout the article. I’m sorry if I dissed your favorite deck or if I put Sablelock in too positive of a light. You’re right — if you get fully set up with Vileplume and a Gengar, there’s very little that Sablelock can do to stop you. That’s why I emphasized that Sablelock players should try to take control of the game early on, because if it doesn’t, Sablelock will probably lose. I’m not pretending that it’s not a possibility that Sablelock loses to VileGar.

          However, there’s no point in just to “diss”, as you put it, both me and the deck that I play. You claim that I was only playing amateurs with VileGar. That might be true. But there’s also a very real possibility that you’ve only played amateurs with Sablelock, too. The whole point of Sablelock is to prevent the opponent from setting up, so your turn-two Vileplume/Gengar probably won’t happen against a decent Sablelock player, barring a terrible start. Fifty-damage Overconfident (which is not difficult to get out) KO’s most of the important basics in VileGar.

          And I’d just like to point out that it would be kind of pointless to say something like, “Oh, by the way, Sablelock isn’t actually all that great, so you should play LuxChomp instead” in an article about Sablelock. People read this article to learn what makes Sablelock good, either so they can play it themselves, or so they can prepare against it. I tried to balance things out by adding a section on why Sablelock isn’t the BDIF, but I guess that wasn’t enough.

          But please, calm down. If we can discuss VileGar vs. Sablelock without mocking other people, then maybe we can both learn something from each other.

        • Clinton Chan  → Ron

          Oh man nothing like using the Mr Mime they did not release in Triumphant.

        • Ron Routhier  → Clinton

          Dang it!! I just found that out this afternoon after I posted the response. Oh well, guess it’s Noctowl to the rescue….LOL

        • Clinton Chan  → Ron

          Oh man nothing like using the Mr Mime they did not release in Triumphant.

        • Martin Garcia  → Ron

          Well, first things first. Sablelock is not an almighty deck, thats for sure, it has many flaws, nobody denies that. But gengar DOES have x2 weakness to its most common attackers, sableye and honchkrow.
          Also, sablelock is by far faster than vilegar, and, even tough its an sp deck, is not nearly as affected by trainer lock as the classic SP decks (dialgachomp, luxchomp and blazechomp) thats to sableye searching supporters.
          Finally, all your starters have less hp than sableye, making you really weak against a sabledonk, one of the decks special traits.
          Sure, if you manage to set up, you have probably already won the game.
          But thats a pretty big IF.

  11. chrataxe

    Awesome article man!

    Though, I too have to question the 3 Sableye…

    • Anonymous  → chrataxe

      Thanks! And like I told Bittyboy, that’s a skeleton list. Feel free to add to it or change it as you see fit. =P

  12. Eric Lari

    I’ve used Houndoom G as a tech in my sablelock with great success. It helps overcome some tanking decks. Ex: Steelix, Scizor, Dialga. It definitely still has trouble with high hp decks. I’d say having 4 sableye is too good not to do though.

    • Anonymous  → Eric

      Huh. That’s definitely something to think about. Black Cry would work well with locking things active. But Roserade GL works better, IMO, ’cause you only need one energy (or even just an Energy Gain), as opposed to an energy and an Energy Gain. And Blaziken FB Lv.X works much better against the tanking decks /and/ works better against high-HP decks.

      The three Sableye, I admit, is something I’m still testing out. If it turns out it doesn’t work, then it’s back to the standard four.

      • Perry Going  → Anonymous

        no his other attack does 120 to those tanks that hes talking about because they are weak to fire and houndoom is able to use darks

        • Eric Lari  → Perry

          Yeah and it fits in for only 1 space versus the blaziken, the lv x and fire energy.

        • Anonymous  → Eric

          I know. Just saying, Blaziken does 160 to those tanks, which is an instant KO for most of them, and requires fewer energies to operate.

          Not saying it’s a bad idea, though. I personally think Blaziken works a lot better, but I’ll try it out sometime and see how it works.

        • Martin Garcia  → Eric

          The thing is blaziken works against any high hp deck, and also gives disruption, while houndoom only works against steel decks. i know most high hp decks are steel, but what about things like T-tar, charizard, or donphan?

        • Eric Lari  → Martin

          Charizard I’ve beaten consistently, donphan you have to use crobat g and toxic fang, t-tar is tough definitely. Not saying Sablelock has problems against these cause it does. But I feel like adding consistency for other matches is helpful while still having a fire counter.

  13. thomas clip

    “which lets you switch out the opponent’s active Pokemon with a benched Pokemon and burn it. (Not really. Just put a burn marker on it.)”


    Great and lengthy article!

    • Anonymous  → thomas

      Thanks! ^.^ After I typed that line, I got an amusing mental image, so I felt I had to add that bit. XD

      • venny kid  → Anonymous

        I know, don’t you just love taking a match to your oppenents $80 Uxie Lv. X? Lol. Great article by the way, really in depth and informitive!

  14. Jonathan Wiley

    I really like the deck, and like you I have been throwing a Smeargle or two in just about everything I play to help with speed and consistency.

    Although with How popular Vilegar is (since it seems to be an over popular subject on this board, not trying to flame or anything) Im surprised not to see an Umbreon UD tech’ed in here some where, even if its a simple 1-1/2-2 line. May not have the extra space you wish. But with type weakness and a special Dark, doing 80 to Genger per turn and stopping him from attacking your umbreon while he is forced to snipe, IMo would be ideal with Poketurns. I could be looking at this for a completely random standpoint, but IMO its something to possibly consider.

    Other than that, I am glad I took my lunch break to sit here and read this article, lovely read. But to be 100% honest, I’m getting a little sick of SP decks :P

    • Anonymous  → Jonathan

      The Umbreon UD really is a good idea, and if I could add it to the article, I definitely would. It’s definitely something I’d at least try out.

      You’re not alone with the SP thing. I love how complex it is to play, but I hate how turbo-charged it’s made the metagame.

  15. Hiun Doragon

    thanks for the excelent write up! i used the base materials of this list to create a locking TTar deck and i probably would have placed in the top cut at Cities if i had more practice with the deck. but i will be ready for Regionals!

    thanks again for the excelent coverage!

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