Teching Your Donphan – Part 1 – HGSS + UL

Hello 6P! It’s been a while, but I’m here with an article.

Once I heard we were getting an HGSS on rotation, I knew I wanted to build myself a Donphan deck. For some reason, the big elephant seemed to fit my defensive play style.

I fiddled around with lots of different variants. I looked at all the cards that could possibly fit into a Donphan deck, and I’ve tried quite a few.

I’m going to give you a list here of all the different Donphan tech cards and main attackers you could put into a Donphan deck. I’m going to rate them out of 5, with 1 being terrible, 2 being okay, 3 being an optional tech, 4 being an amazing tech or backup attacker, and 5 being necessary.

Today I’ll just be covering HGSS and UL.

HeartGold & SoulSilver (HGSS)

Noctowl – Noctowl is a card I’ve been seeing popping up in a lot of Stage 1 decks recently as a form of draw, and I have to say I’m really not loving it. For the cost of setting up a Stage 1, you get 1 additional card each turn. To make this worthwhile, you must have at least a 2-2 line in the deck. I’d just rather run 4 draw Supporters than that.

Its attack isn’t horrible though, for 3 Energy, you can do 80 damage assuming you and your opponent have the same hand size. This is of course easier to achieve because you can draw extra cards each turn.

I’d say this card can be good for mirror, giving you a possible 2HKO on an opposing Phan. It can also be used as a Rayquaza Deoxys Legend counter, letting you Knock Out one and take 2 Prizes.

  • 3/5 – (Not needed, but an interesting tech if you need an inexpensive RDL counter and engine.)

QuagsireYanmega Prime has been doing pretty well recently, gaining a very big edge with the rotation. It can now snipe Baby Pokémon, Be an efficient Donphan counter, and do good damage all around. I consider Quagsire to be similar to Yanmega, just a million times worse.

Its first attack for 3 energy (1 Water) does 40 to the active and 20 to one of the opponent’s benched Pokémon. This is really horrible, considering all Baby Pokémon have 30 HP, so it will take 2 turns to KO 1.

Its other attack for a Fighting and 3 Colorless does 60. This attack is horrible, considering Donphan does that much for one energy.

It’s really only usable in a variant running Rainbow Energy, and even in one of those, its uses really are capped. It can’t even defend against a Bolt Strike from Zekrom despite its resistance!

  • 1/5 – (A poor man’s Yanmega, no real excuse to be using it.)

Slowking – While testing a variety of Donphan based decks, I came across one that had a goal of Setting up a Donphan and a Slowking, then Judging and messing up the opponents topdecks with Slowking’s Second Sight. The combo worked well enough if you were able to pull it off early, but It really failed to perform perfectly, and took up so much time getting out the Slowking it couldn’t respond to being outsped.

Slowking could act as a an engine, setting you up for better topdecks, but I’m really not seeing it as a good partner for Donphan.

  • 2/5 – (A good card, but really doesn’t have a place in a deck like this.)

Cleffa – Cleffa has been a card who’s value has skyrocketed the most this season. Its price has increased 16 times what it used to be. Its used for its attack, Eeeeeeek! which allows you to shuffle your hand into your deck and draw 6 cards. It’s also a wall with its Poké-Body Sweet Sleeping Face, allowing it to tank a bit after an Eeeeeeek!

The main problem I have with Cleffa in a Donphan deck is the fact that it’s easily KO’d from the Bench Damage of Donphan’s Earthquake. If it had more HP I’d be very comfortable running it, but the fact is giving up prizes and still winning is easier said than done.

  • 3/5 – (An amazing card, but not that amazing in a Donphan deck. As a single copy it works wonders, but a full-blown Cleffa start is not the way to approach Donphan in my opinion)

Copycat – This is one of the many hand refreshers in this format, and I actually think it’s the worst. It’s good if your opponent is running a deck such as Reshiboar or Floatstoise where their hand is usually very big, but its horrible assuming your opponent is running a deck like Zekrom or Magneboar.

It’s a great refresh, don’t get me wrong, but its more of a meta call. If your meta is full of decks running either energy acceleration or trainerlock, this is the play, but anything else won’t be that rewarding.

  • 3.5/5 – (Really depends on your meta, goes from amazing to horrible depending on deck you’re facing.)

Energy Switch – A deck like Donphan usually runs around 9 to 12 energy, thus can be partial to energy droughts. Energy Switch is a card that you can use to move 1 energy from one of your Pokémon to another. The only time I found myself using Energy Switch, was either when I needed to do a Heavy Impact to seal the game, or someone used Pokémon Reversal to drag my Donphan active and I didn’t have the energy for it.

However, I’ve found while a single copy will do, it really could just be replaced by Shaymin UL which could also benefit from Seeker and Super Scoop Up to reuse it.

  • 2/5 – (The only reason I wouldn’t give this 1/5 is the fact that if your Donphan is running a plethora of Junk Arms, it can be reusable.)

Pokéball – Many straight Donphan variants run as little as 11 Pokémon, and often having the Pokémon in hand to use Pokémon Communication with is hard because of the fact there’s only a few Pokémon in the deck after the first turn or so. Pokéball aims to solve this, but with a much riskier way of doing so. Your putting your chance to get out a Pokémon on a coin.

I think the usefulness of this card depends on 2 factors. First, how many Pokémon you have in the deck. Assuming you have 14 Pokémon or more, I would say you should use Pokémon Communication, but the other thing it comes down to is really are you comfortable with high risk high reward?

  • 3/5 – (I don’t recommend it, but it really isn’t a bad card.)

Pokémon CollectorPokémon Collector was one of the best cards last format, and this format its value has dropped a little, but it’s still a great card. The big debate in Donphan with this card is “Is it better than dual ball?” And I’d have to say: Yes.

The majority of Donphan decks run quite a few basics (Donchamp, Donphan Yanmega) and I’d say getting them out is a priority. Donphan decks run many evolutions, and its important to always have them up and running. With Collector, you can guarantee three basics out, which can then be evolved relatively quickly. With Dual Ball, you can only get one or two out at a time, and there’s even the possibility you won’t be able to get out anything.

I’d say the toss-up between the two is really decided on preference, and once again, high risk high reward.

  • 5/5 – (Amazing, even if your running a Dual Ball variant, I’d run 1 just for security.)

Pokémon Communication – This is the backbone of the majority of decks out there, and I believe this to be the BCIF. Any Donphan deck should be running a minimum of 2, (assuming Ball Engine variant) and most Donphan decks should be running 4.

This works so well in conjunction with Pokémon Collector assuming your able to have both in your opening hand. It also is great if against a deck such as Lostgar you need to exchange the stage 1 or 2 in your hand for a basic you can quickly play down.

  • 5/5 – (No doubt about it, this should be in every variant.)

Pokémon Reversal – A complaint about Donphan many people have is the fact that it does very little damage compared to many other of the hard-hitting cards in this format. Pokémon Reversal lessens this problem by allowing you to bring up weaker Pokémon to Knock Out and put yourself ahead in the prize race.

It also can be used to stall, dragging up a heavy retreat Pokémon while you build your hand back up and energize your attackers.

Overall, the card is a very powerful card, and while has a high reward, really has no risk to it. Assuming you fail the flip, nothing horrible will happen, but assuming you get lucky on the flip, you will be put ahead.

  • 5/5 – (No reason not to run this card, all variants should play 3 at a minimum.)

Professor Elm’s Training Method – This is an interesting card. It lets you simply search for an evolution. I think it is actually very good in a Donphan variant which runs very few Pokémon. In my opinion, the card is useful if you have the room after fitting all the necessary cards in, but only put it in if you think your deck really needs it, or are really worried about Trainer lock.

  • 3/5 – (A good card, but really doesn’t give an amazing boost in consistency.)

Professor Oak’s New Theory – This is one of the best hand refreshers in this format, allowing you to recycle an old hand for a fresh one of 6 cards. This I believe should definitely be a 4-of in every Donphan variant excluding Donphan Yanmega which already runs 7 + in combination of Judge and Copycat.

  • 5/5 – (Easily one of the best draw Supporters in this format, no excuse not to run 3 or 4.)

SwitchSwitch is a card in Donphan I’m a bit controversial about. On one hand, its great for switching between damaged Donphans or alternate attackers, but on the other hand its sometimes a card which gets clogged in your hand.

Similar to Copycat, it’s a bit of a meta call, assuming your opponent is running something such as Leafeon or Smoochum from HGSS, or possibly a deck with multiple types of attackers, it’s a good idea to be running it. If however, your opponent will most likely be playing something which doesn’t often have to many options, it’s not the best play.

  • 3.5/5 – (Once again, a meta call, I do recommend one or two of them.)

Rainbow Energy – Assuming your running a bit of a techy Donphan, Rainbow Energy isn’t bad to run. If your running a deck such as Donphan Yanmega, you’ll want to maybe include 2 or 3 Rainbow Energy, so you can use Yanmega’s Attacks without having to even your hand size.

  • 3/5 – (Useful depending on the variant.)

Unleashed (UL)

Shaymin – Shaymin is a great card, which helps quite a lot in terms of energy management. Its Poké-Power Celebration Wind lets you manipulate all your energy and move it around however you like. This is useful in charging up a Donphan for a Heavy Impact, or spreading energy from a dying Donphan to a fresh one.

Like Professor Elm’s Training Method, this is a card thats nice to have, but is more of a filler card than one needed to accelerate Donphans’ Strategy. IMO, this is really a frilly card, and more of a Luxury than needed card.

  • 3/5 – (A good card, but unnecessary.)

Xatu – Running straight Donphan, this was one of the cards I used at first. Its purpose is to KO a fully powered Machamp Prime for the cost of one energy. Because I didn’t have a fully powered attacker for backup against Donchamp, Xatu was for evening the playing field.


Through testing, I found that it was really quite unnecessary, as you should be able to outspeed them and Pokémon Reversal up their Machops and Machokes before they really become a threat.

  • 2/5 – (An okay card, but now one really worth teching.)

Dual Ball – I pretty much covered this when I mentioned Collector earlier, so I’ll just say it really depends on how comfortable you are with flips.

  • 4/5 – (Preference really.)

Judge – Judge is my Favorite supporter ever printed. You can just shout out “JUDGE!!!!” every time you play it. The way it messes your opponent up is really unmatched.

I’d say every Donphan should run a minimum of 1. Even a single copy in Donchamp can swing the game around.

The problem that some people have with Judge is the fact that you can Judge yourself into an unplayable hand. However, assuming your running 11+ draw cards, the risk is rather slim, and it’s not a bad play. as all.

  • 5/5 – (Definitely a great Supporter in Donphan.)

PlusPowerPlusPower used to be barely played, as it was considered inferior to Crobat G and Expert Belt. However, now its become a staple, with nearly 2 to 4 in almost every deck. In Donphan it’s especially important, as Earthquake can 2HKO an 130 HP’d Pokémon with it. PlusPower really lets you speed up your KO rate, and do considerably better in the prize exchange.

  • 5/5 – (No reason not to run this, really lets you increase your Damage Output for the better.)

Super Scoop Up – I addressed the Issue with Cleffa from HGSS being killed from the recoil Earthquake damage, and this is one of the ways you can prevent that. It can also be used to save a dying Donphan, or simply remove Earthquake damage from a basic.

Like many cards I’ve addressed earlier, one of the things this comes down to is are you comfortable with running lots of flip cards? The other thing this comes down to is if you have the room. It’s really more of a luxury than a needed card, but I recommend it more in a Cleffa variant.

  • 3.5/5 – (Once again, depends on variant and is really more of a luxury.)

Kingdra Prime – Donphan Kingdra was a deck last season that didn’t do very well. However, with the new format, Kingdra now not only helps your Mirror matchup, but also supplies you with a PlusPower every turn.

However, I’ve never really liked a Stage 2 tech in a Stage 1 deck.

  • 3/5 – (A possible support attacker, but very slow and requires a lot of effort.)

Suicune & Entei LEGEND – This was one of the first techs I ran, and I used it for mirror matchups against other Donphan decks. There are quite a few flaws with that idea though, as it takes 3 solid turns of attaching, and is easily KO’d by a simple Lightning tech a Donphan player might run.

  • 2/5 – (Takes around 5 – 6 turns to pull off, and there’s really no point waiting that long.)

As a final note, I’m going to leave you with 1 Donphan list, I call it Flipphan!

Pokémon – 12 

4 Phanpy CL
4 Donphan Prime
4 Cleffa HS

Trainers – 38 

4 Junk Arm
4 Dual Ball
4 Judge
4 Pokémon Reversal
4 PlusPower
2 Ruins of Alph
2 Pokémon Communication
3 Professor Oak’s New Theory
4 Poké Ball
3 Professor Juniper
4 Super Scoop Up

Energy – 10 

10 F

Get out your loaded dice! If you’re a lucky sort of person, you should be able to do very well with this. This is really just a fun deck, but if you can sneak in a two-face-type-coin, you’ve got a serious contender on your hands.

Well, that’s all. I’ll be back later with part 2 containing Undaunted and Triumphant. Tell me how I did with this one. All comments are appreciated.

Oh, and if you give this a negative rating, please explain why in the comments.

Reader Interactions

15 replies

  1. Anonymous

    Didn’t care for this article.
    It didn’t give any insight outside of what everyone already knows.
    The list isn’t even good.

    • Derek Coontz  → Anonymous

      I think it was interesting to include some of those none used cards. It’s just good to see EVERYTHING that’s out there. Not always the best of the best. 

      • Anonymous  → Derek

        well he wrote about them and said they were bad. so why include them at all? it offers no insight.

    • David Griggs  → Anonymous

      First I want to say, I don’t think it’s very good etiquette to say that the article was badly written and to not let someone post because you could’ve done better. While I agree on most counts that the article wasn’t as illustrious as some, it was a good effort.

      However, I definitely think that it would be a great thing to get advice from friends and other writers before posting an article. This one covered a good amount of content that’s not been covered before… but it’s mostly because they’re not any good. I think that this article would’ve done better written as a “Underused cards and techs” type of article and just hit the first couple of sets with cards and techs that don’t see much play.

      All in all, I enjoyed reading, but disagreed with most points in the article.

  2. Anonymous

    If you play Judge you almost have to play some type of draw support Pokemon, a 1-0-1 line of Magnezone or a 2-2 Noctowl. The other top decks in this format just recover so much easier for Judge than you do with Magnezone or Ninetales.

  3. Steven Nilsen

    Good article.  I’ve on played Donphan I little, to know a little about it, but mainly playing against it because it is SO popular.  Reading this article a few ideas come to mind:

    If plus power is so desirable, how about a Houndoom Prime tech?  Obviously, it can’t be powered up, but that’s not the point a 25% chance of burn damage before attack, or 37.5% chance after attack could be worth adding in.  After 3 rounds on the bench, it will have burned one pokemon 87.5% of the time – that’s probably worth 2 plus power cards… but you can’t junk arm or control when the burn happens… plus he’s a liability…. OK.  Maybe Houndoom Prime doesn’t fit.
    I like the Ruins of Alph suggestion – this solves some match up problems neatly.   However, Burned Tower could also be a great tech for this deck, running such little energy as it does.  I wouldn’t be worried about accelerating the opponent’s energy since Donphan is about speed.   Drop to 8 E, drop Ruins, add 2 Towers and make space for a 1/1 Noctowl, or any other 2 cards.Energy retrieval could be useful too.  I know that may sound lame, but you can Junk Arm for it and get that E when you desperately need it.Also, if you DO run Noctowl, and want it as an RDL counter, consider replacing a few PONT with Judge or Copycat because you’ll need the same size hand to get the 80 damage for CCC.  Maybe even consider adding  1 DCE, but I know it’s useless to Donphan.

  4. Dan W

    Great article!
    I too, run Judge in my Donphan and it works brilliantly.
    Pair this with board control with Reversal and early game damage with Donphan you literally shut down your opponent from making any kind of comeback.
    I also run 3 Oak in the deck and they work really well. I commonly get ‘Oak chains’ from these. I used to run 4, but took 1 out for my Judge.
    many people have talked about Noctowl and I’m eager to try it out. Donphan doesn’t really get any support like other Pokémon do so Noctowl can help set up faster. I reckon that will help me (I run DonChamp) in getting out Machamp out easier.
    I currently run Zoroark as a tech since it helps with RDL, Reshi/Zek, Blastoise, BadBoar and any others I may have missed. Doesn’t help in the Donphan mirror though (obviously).
    Great article. I can’t wait to see what else you talk about with UD and Triumphant.

    • stephen shirley  → Dan

      yeh i know you run judge you apsouloutely destroyed my zekom today with it and judge is definitely a good play beause you nintndan ecked me with it. HE GOT RIDDA MY JUNIPER WAA!

  5. Hernan Gilardino

    is this a joke? he just rated slowking with a 2 , when there is an amazing deck with yanmega slowking n dophan. Dude if u’re writtin’ an article u should’t rate cards that are useless, just don’t put them. 

  6. Jak Stewart-Armstead

    4 Cleffa in a Donphan list is a nightmare. EQ damage and chances of starting lone Cleffa (only 8 Basics!) and getting Tyrogue donked mean this is not a good idea. And I don’t think jokes about loaded dice and two headed coins are funny.

    I appreciate the effort that went into this, so I won’t give it a negative. I just think that a lot of the effort was wasted on pointless cards like Quagsire.

    • Anonymous  → Jak

      Yeah, pretty much exactly what baby mario said.  This just feels like effort was thrown into things that don’t need effort thrown into them, and the idea of doing 2/3 articles about techs for just ONE deck is kind of a bit much, I think that even luxchomp’s tech options fit into one. 

  7. Cam Graybill

    why does this article not show up on the front page anymore?

    • Jak Stewart-Armstead  → Cam

      When an article’s negative rating gets too low it automatically gets kicked from the front page.

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