Out with the old, in with the new: The Bible According to Donphan

pokebeach.comRight, let’s get this out of the way. I. LOVE. DONPHAN. He’s awesome! I love the episode of the TV show in which he is the star, I love the design and I love how generally awesome he is. Now, saying that, when he was released in HGSS I ignored him a little. It wasn’t for lack of love you see, but instead because he was so hyped that I didn’t want to join the band wagon.

Maybe it was because I wanted to be more rogue, maybe it was because I hate mirror matches, maybe it was because I was new to the game and didn’t realise how good he was. Either way, I didn’t show Donphan the love he deserved.

For autumn Battle Roads last year I even ran an Umbreon deck, using “Moonlight Fang” to take down more than a couple Donphans (albeit very, very slowly). Fast forward to cities last year and I had a change of heart. I managed to pull a Machamp Prime at one of the 2 Triumphant Pre Releases I attended.

I then bought a box of Triumphant and pulled a second. Two reverse holo Stormfront Machamps (bought for £3.50 each) later I was playing Donchamp.

Now I loved Donchamp; when it worked it was basically unbeatable. It didn’t always work though. Sometimes you needed to smash with Donphan, sometimes you needed to swarm SF Machamps (mostly for SP) and sometimes the opponent’s attackers were so powerful only a fully-loaded Machamp Prime would take them down.

Two SF Machamps weren’t enough to beat SP and the resources used to get them meant you didn’t have Donphans waiting. It was too much to try in one deck. I accept that now.

That’s not to say I didn’t have any success with the deck. Out of the 3 City Championships I took it to I managed a 3-1 (3rd place) a 4-1 (3rd place) and a disappointing 3-2. This should have convinced me to change the deck but I stuck with it and had a disappointing states run, going 3-3 and then 4-3 (although at one point having an excellent 2 game run that I won in just 7 turns between them!).

pokebeach.comAfter states I finally accepted that Donchamp was not format-breaking and went in search of something new. For a while I thought Machamp SF was the way. When Pokémon Catcher looked imminent I thought Machamp SF with Catcher, Seeker and Honchkrow SV could guarantee a kill every turn. Then Catcher failed to materialise and the Black and White ruling nuked Rare Candy.

Then it hit me: DONPHAN! (Not literally, Donphans aren’t real; I mean the idea of using Donphan hit me). I realised that, especially with the new rules, I could run straight Donphan with a good old speed engine and have one clear focus.

Step 1: Swarm Donphans, Step 2: Smash!

It even gave me enough room to tech cards like Ruins of Alph, Lucian’s Assignment, Regice and Regirock. I took this deck to 3 Battle Roads (getting 1st, 2nd and 3rd – losing a total of 2 games) and a top 16 finish at UK Nationals.

Along the way I managed to beat the 3rd best player in the UK (by 2011 rankings) and even managed, at a Battle Road one week after the event, to scrape a win over the Vilegar deck that the UK National Champion piloted to an 11-0 victory (though close would be an understatement!)

The point of all this is twofold. First, I have used Donphan more than a lot of people and am very well-informed about the pros and cons of this here little Elephant. Secondly, Donphan really is awesome.

So, let’s take a look at the basics shall we:

The Good

  • HP (120)
  • Poké-Body (Reduces 20 damage for every attack)
  • Lightning Resistance
  • Speed (Stage 1, 60 damage for one F Energy)
  • Swarmability (See “Speed”)
  • Hits for common weakness (Fighting)

The Bad

  • Weakness (x2 to Water)
  • Retreat Cost (CCCC)
  • Damages your own bench
  • Damage is capped at 90
  • LOTS of Pokémon have resistance to him

Yes, that’s right. There are a LOT of downsides to Donphan. None of these are bad enough that he should not be run but we need to be aware of all of them and we need to protect ourselves. Donphan is an easy choice to run; on paper he looks awesome.

This means we will see a lot of him but it also means that many people will play him badly. Hopefully, that’s where I come in and help you out. So, let’s take each of his good points first shall we? Best to start on a positive.

Good Points

His HP is 120 (massive for a Stage 1) and then, like the cherry on a particularly delightful cake, he has a Poké-body that reduces all damage done by attacks by 20. Obviously this does not affect damage counters, nor does it affect things like poison and some attacks (such as Tyranitar Prime’s “Dragon Claw”) will go straight through this but otherwise it takes 140 damage to Knock him Out. If you can’t get the 140 in one turn then you need to do at least 80 for two turns in a row.

pokebeach.comThis means that he cannot be one-hit by Reshiram’s “Blue Flare” and it takes something like RDL’s “Ozone Buster” or Machamp Prime’s “Crushing Blow” (with at least 4 damaged Pokémon on your bench) to 1HKO. In short, he’s very hard to take down.

This is further boosted by his Lightning resistance. It means that Zekrom’s “Bolt Strike” (because of body and resistance) will do a whopping….90. It means that Magnezone must send 4 energies to the lost one to get the 1HKO (as 3 would only do 110 damage). Lightning is looking popular and that means that this is a tasty little resistance to have.

The second huge advantage is his swarmability (good news, this is now officially a real word!). This format has slowed down a bit (well, in some ways) and my testing has shown that Stage 2s can easily be gotten into play but it takes a lot of effort sometimes and it can be hard to swarm them.

Donphan doesn’t have this problem. He needs one turn to evolve (and for that you need only the Phanpy and the Donphan, none of this “Rare Candy” nonsense) and one energy to attack. Simple. This means that it can be quite easy to get several in play and you can power up one a turn (as long as you don’t want to use “Heavy Impact”).

Run enough recovery cards (Revive, Flower Shop Lady, Rescue Energy) and you quite easily have games where your opponent needs to KO 6 Donphans to win.

As a final note here, Fighting is an excellent type to have at the moment. The following Pokémon can be Knocked Out with a single “Earthquake” (which should be happening T2): Bouffalant, Cinccino, Zoroark, Raichu, Lanturn. Add a PlusPower and you add Zekrom and Magnezone to that list as well. This is very, very good.

Bad Points

One very important thing when building a deck or coming up with an idea is to realise that your deck is not perfect, nor is it unbeatable. What we need to do is look at everything wrong with the deck (or Pokémon) and try to fix these problems. So, let’s do that with Donphan shall we?

pokebeach.comFirstly he has a x2 weakness to Water. This means any Water Pokémon that can deal 70 damage can 1HKO him, regardless of his body and high HP. The good news here is that Water isn’t terribly popular. Blastoise (if Donphan is active and not being sniped from the bench) and Samurott (both but the one with Ability is going to see more play) can both 1HKO him BUT Blastoise needs CCWW and Samurott needs CCC.

This is a problem but, as long as it’s built properly you will almost certainly out speed them. Technically both Samurott and Blastoise can be attacking T2 but they need a lot of luck and cards to do so. You need Phanpy T1 and a Donphan and F Energy by T2.

The other Water Pokémon likely to see play are Feraligatr and Kingdra but both of them hit for a base of 60 damage, which will be doubled to 120, then reduced to 100 with your body and not Knock you Out. So, a weakness to watch but it will often not be a huge problem. You also have a lot better recovery than they do and you should be killing many threats before they become threats.

Secondly, Donphan has a HUGE CCCC Retreat Cost. This means that manually retreating him is almost never going to be viable option; even if you run enough energy in your deck you’re putting yourself back 4 turns of energy attachment. If you run DCE then this could be used in an emergency to retreat him but remember you can only run 4 in a deck so using them for retreating is not a good idea.

People will take advantage of this as well. With SP the best way to take down a Donphan was using Crobat G’s “Poison Fang” attack to do 20 between turns. As this was poison it went through the body and would have done 40 by the time the SP player had their next turn so that they could “Dragon Rush” for 60 and the Donphan (assuming it wasn’t belted) would die from poison after the SP player’s turn.

This would give the Donphan player a single turn to attack and as Crobat had a resistance to Fighting the chances are slim that Crobat would be KO’d. Next turn Crobat gets Poké Turned and Donphan is dead with no damage having been done to the SP side of the board.

pokebeach.comWhy did this work? It was all about the Retreat Cost. So there are two options that are viable here. The first is Switch. Warp Point is rotated so if you play Donphan you NEED Switch. I would recommend at least 3, unless you run a heavy Junk Arm line. Confusion, Burn and Poison will be used to take Donphan down and without a Switch you could be in trouble.

The second option is Machamp Prime’s “Fighting Tag” Poké Power. This allows you to put all the F Energy attached to Donphan to Machamp and switch them round. As Donphan will often be paired with Machamp this is a good tactic and a reliable way to get around the huge Retreat Cost of Donphan.

There are 2 things to remember with this though. First you need energy on Donphan or this will not work. Secondly, Machamp Prime has a CCC Retreat Cost so play this carefully.

The next disadvantage of Donphan is that he damages your own bench. Earthquake is a brilliant attack doing 60 damage for a single F Energy but it has the downside that it does 10 to all of your bench. This is especially worrying for baby Pokémon as they only have 30 HP to begin with.

If you have babies on the bench, be careful about using Earthquake as you don’t want to be giving away prizes. It also makes everything easier for your opponent to KO though. Think of all the times you are 10 damage short of a KO; if you Earthquake with Donphan you could be giving your opponent that crucial extra 10 (or more) damage.

You may even find your opponent leaving one of your Pokémon with 10HP to try and put you off using Earthquake as you’d be giving up a prize!

There is an upside to this though and that’s Machamp Prime. His big attack is “Champ Buster” which, for FFCC does 100 damage plus 10 damage for every damaged Pokémon on your bench.

So, get a Donphan out when you have a full bench, use Earthquake to damage all of your bench, take a hit from your opponent to damage Donphan then use Fighting Tag to get Machamp up and swinging for 150 damage, enough to KO almost any Pokémon in the format.

pokebeach.comYou also have to be very wary with Donphan as he only hits for 90 at the most. Yes this can be boosted with PlusPower and Black Belt but essentially he hits for a maximum of 90. This is not enough. Reshiram and Zekrom do 130, Magnezone does basically infinite damage, Cinccino hits for 100, heck, even Emboar with the Ability hits for 80 and he can attach as much R Energy to himself as he likes each turn.

For this reason I’m afraid I have to just come out and say that straight Donphan is not viable. This saddens me as I LOVED straight Donphan but it’s not going to lead to success. Chances are you’ll be faster than your opponent and take the lead, you’ll also win against any Lightning deck (straight Magnezone, Zekrom etc) but most of the big decks will overpower you.

In an MD on format a belted Donphan could hit for 80, which KO’d almost all SP (that weren’t levelled up) and almost all Stage 1s. A belted Heavy Impact would then do 110, the magic number last format. This format 90 isn’t doing much. Sorry. If it makes you feel better I will have a look below at good partners for Donphan.

The last real disadvantage we have to look at is the fact that as well as Fighting being a fairly common weakness, it is also a fairly common resistance. The ridiculously annoying Crobat G and his resistance are gone but we still have Yanmega (just becoming hands down the most popular card in the format) and Jumpluff that are noteworthy Pokémon with a resistance, Mandibuzz has just come along and you know more will be coming so I’m going to make this really simple: Ruins of Alph.

When I played at States in Nottingham 5-of my 6 opponents stalled against my Donphan with Crobat G. When I played at Nationals I got many KOs by dropping ruins of Alph (for those keeping score it was a couple Crobat G, Staraptor FB and the real highlight being Honchkrow SV).

I have seen a lot of people on forums proclaiming that you don’t need Ruins of Alph when playing Donphan. You do. I’m going to talk about Donphan counters below but the only half-decent, easily splashable Donphan counter is Yanmega Prime.

pokebeach.comHe is only a good counter because of resistance and I can guarantee that by the end of year he won’t be the only one to worry about.

The other thing to note here is that the majority of decks and players now do not use Stadiums. This means that you can drop Ruins of Alph and it stays there for the game. At Nationals I had to drop it knowing that it was only a matter of time before it got taken away but it’s much easier to abuse stadiums when nobody else plays them.

Now that last section may have looked a little down on Donphan as it was huge and listed a fairly sizable amount of disadvantages and, really, reasons against playing him. I hope I made it clear that the disadvantages are not that important as all can be easily remedied.

You need to watch the bench damage and you need to be mindful of strong Water Pokémon (especially Samurott) but generally he is an excellent, excellent attacker and the good basis for a deck.

You WILL be seeing a lot of Donphan in this coming format and when catcher comes out expect him to be even more popular so I think we should look at some counters. I’m going to look at 5 and give each a score out of 5 relating to how much I think you should use them:


  1. Yanmega Prime (3/5)
  2. Crobat Prime (4/5)
  3. Umbreon (2/5)
  4. Samurott (Ability) (4/5)
  5. Other Water Pokémon (2/5)

1. Yanmega Prime

pokebeach.comYanmega is a Stage 1 Pokémon with 110 HP and, crucially, a resistance to Fighting. This means that Donphan will take 3 “Earthquakes” or 2 “Heavy Impacts” to take one down. It however will have to 3HKO Donphan due to its heaviest attack being “Sonic boom” which does 70 (lowered to 50 with Donphan’s body).

It does have the advantage of free retreat which means you can retreat and cycle Yanmegas (possibly using Seeker to heal them) while your opponent has to hit with the same Donphan. This is a pretty good way to take down one or two Donphans but trying to take down 4 or more with 3HKOs may be a very tough ask (though you could also argue it is just as tough for the Donphan player).

It also has the nice bonus of being able to snipe for 40 with “Linear Attack” which, although useless against Donphan, is pretty good for KOing benched babies.

The thing that makes it such a versatile counter is that, due to its Poké Body “Insight” it can use either of its attacks for free, so long as you have the same number of cards in hand as your opponent. This can easily be achieved with Judge and Copycat (and often through careful hand management and knowing every turn how many cards they have) but then your nice 2-4 card tech can easily climb to 8 or more cards.

Overall I give Yanmega 3/5 for its Donphan countering ability. It’s not perfect but being able to hit for 50, then free retreat for another while he cannot 1HKO you is pretty good. It’s hardly ideal though.

2. Crobat Prime

pokebeach.comThis is one of the two very good Donphan countering cards in my eyes. Crobat prime has 130HP, a resistance to Fighting and a free Retreat Cost. This means it will take 4 Earthquake’s and 2 Heavy Impacts to KO him. He also has very cheap attacks, being able to use “Skill Dive” for a single P Energy, hitting any benched Pokémon for 30. Very similar to Yanmega’s Linear Attack in that it’s ace for killing babies.

His second attack is how we take down Donphan though. For a single P Energy he can use “Severe Poison” which does 40 damage between turns. This is Poison remember so is unaffected by Donphan’s body. In this way you’re working very much like Crobat G used to.

You use Severe Poison and after your next turn Donphan dies. He gets one turn to attack where he won’t do too much with your resistance and as he dies at the end of your turn regardless you get to Skill Dive a benched Pokémon right before he dies.

There are two downsides to Crobat Prime and they are that he is a Stage 2 and that he needs Psychic energy. If however you already run Rare Candy and can afford to run Psychic or Rainbow Energy and are at all worried about Donphan you should DEFINATELY go for him. He’s also useful against other decks as well, especially any that leave 30HP Pokémon on the bench (I.e. most decks) or anything with a high Retreat Cost.

I’m giving Crobat Prime 4/5 as a Donphan counter and the only reason it isn’t 5/5 is because he isn’t very splashable.

3. Umbreon Prime/CL

pokebeach.comI often see this bandied about on the forums as a good Donphan counter. Now I used to play Umbreon (ran an Umbreon deck for Autumn Battle Roads last year, as I mentioned above) and I took down a few Donphans. I have, however, been running Donphan since then and have never lost a Donphan to Umbreon (and a few have tried). The reason is he’s NOT a very good Donphan counter.

Umbreon has an attack called “Moonlight Fang” which does 30 damage and makes it so that Umbreon cannot be harm by any Pokémon next turn that has a Poké Power or Poké Body. Sounds good right? Well, with Donphan’s body that is 10 a turn.

Ok, being a Dark type means that Umbreon can add to that but even with 4 Special Darks it would take 3 turns to kill a Donphan. You would also have all your Special Darks on one Pokémon (remember, you can only have 4 in your deck and they currently cannot be recovered from the discard).

Here’s what you do. First you find a Pokémon without a Poké -Power of Poké-Body, then you use Switch (which, as we discussed, you should have several of) then you kill Umbreon. If nothing else, you should be running the HS Phanpy (more on this later) so just use Earthquake with a Phanpy on your bench.

It won’t hurt Umbreon, but it will allow you to put damage on Phanpy and then use “Flail” for the KO on Umbreon (he IS weak to Fighting after all). If you come across a 4-4 line of Umbreon that can spam Umbreons and use Moonlight Fang repeatedly you might come to some bother but if you do the deck will be rubbish so you should be able to outplay them.

I give Umbreon 2/5 for countering Donphans. If you have no Switch and give them a LOT of turns they can take a Donphan but it should never come to that.

4. Samurott (Ability)

pokebeach.comThe only other good Donphan counter we currently have is Samurott (with ability). For 3 colourless energy he can hit for a base of 70, which when you double it for weakness and deduct 20 for Donphan’s body leaves you with… 120, just enough to 1HKO a fresh Donphan.

This attack can be boosted with Water energy (it does 70 + 10 more for each W Energy attached), but we’re talking about Donphan counters, not necessarily specific decks so let’s assume we’re using Colourless energy.

Now the fact that he uses Colourless energy is excellent because it means he is splashable. The problem is though that he takes 3 energy drops (2 is you use a DCE) and is a Stage 2 so maybe not as fast as we might like. He does have a nice ability which is identical to Donphan’s Poké Body as well, so he can tank a little.

There are other advantages to using Samurott though. Firstly he doesn’t just hit Donphan for weakness; he also hits Reshiram and Emboar for weakness, 1HKOing the former and needing a single PlusPower to take down the latter. This gives him a lot of utility in the current format as hits two of the biggest threats for weakness.

Also one of the decks that most needs a Donphan counter is ZPS as Donphan will run right through him (as discussed, Donphan can take 40 off of any Lightning attack and can 1HKO a fresh Zekrom with a PlusPower). Now as Samurott uses 3 colourless energy, he can actually be accelerated in the same way as Zekrom, using Pachirisu and Shaymin to move two energy onto him and manually attaching a third.

Samurott is a good counter and something that all Donphan players should be wary of. Saying that though, he only hits for a base damage of 70, has a weakness to Lightning (which is bad with the amount of Magnezone we currently have) and is a Stage 2 requiring 3 energy. For that reason I give him 4/5. He’s an amazing Donphan counter but difficulty getting him going and a lack of general utility hurt him.

5. Other Water Pokémon

pokebeach.comFinally, a lot of people will just use general Water Pokémon as a counter to Donphan. Do not fall into this trap! Something we’re seeing a lot this format is how much a type advantage can help, as all weaknesses are x2 and a slower format, less (or less useful) draw power and higher energy counts is leading to a reduction in teching.

The problem is lesser players think that having a type advantage gives them an auto-win. This is just not true. If the other player out speeds you and outplays you, stopping you getting any of your main attackers into play, you’re going to lose regardless of type advantage.

Let’s take a speed Kingdra deck versus a speed Donphan deck. Kingdra has the type advantage and is a Stage 2 Water Pokémon who can do 60 for 1 W Energy. Donphan is a Stage 1 who can hit for 60 with one F Energy.

Donphan hits for 60, 2HKOing Kingdra with a PlusPower (and speed Donphan should have 4 PlusPower and 4 Junk Arm – it’s a speed deck) while Kingdra hits for 100 (taking into account weakness and body) so will 2HKO Donphan. Then Donphan is faster and has better recovery owing to being a Stage 1.

If you’re using a Water Pokémon to tech against Donphan make sure it can 1HKO him and make sure you can get into play fast enough. Just because it has a blue background does not make it a good Donphan counter, so these, as a sub-set, get 2/5.

What should you run him with?

Now the first point I need to make here is that I don’t think that Donphan can work on his own anymore. Sorry. You should get the faster start and go ahead by a few prizes but the fact remains that if and when they set up, 90 will not be enough. He needs a partner.

pokebeach.comThe obvious partner is Machamp Prime in the popular Donchamp deck. This will work and work nicely. Donphan starts off hitting for 90 and damaging the bench then Machamp comes in hitting for up to 150 and Bob’s your uncle.

This is an awesome deck with positive matchups against most good decks but you must make it fast and consistent. You need a T2 Donphan almost every time and you need to have Machamp ready quickly. This is a fairly easy deck to play and, with a good decklist, can be awesome.

Just make sure that you have enough draw power. Cleffa can be good here (as ever) but be mindful that you need to be using Earthquake Turn 2. If not then you’re not playing right. If you end up sitting behind a sleeping Cleffa for several turns while your opponent sets up you may well lose.

You could also run him in one of these fast stage 1 decks everybody’s talking about. Partners such as Yanmega Prime and Zoroark to cover other matchups can make him awesome again. Now these decks vary wildly and can be very complicated so all I’m going to say is be careful.

These decks can be a real pain to make, require a lot of skill and concentration to play (as you’re adjusting to every match differently) and sometimes can really diminish the usefulness of Donphan.

If Donphan is just one of 3 attackers then he’s liable to be dragged active when you don’t want him to (and he has a HUGE Retreat Cost). His Earthquake could also do really bad damage to the bench which, unlike in Donchamp, you don’t want. Be creative and clever though and this could work.

Finally, I think he could go well in a disruption deck. Work on disrupting the other player (Slowking, Weavile, etc.) while smashing with Donphan. Donphan on his own won’t work but if you can stop the other player setting up, maybe he will.

There are MANY ways to use Donphan. Plus he’s a Stage 1 who attacks for one energy so he’s splashable. This is not an exhaustive list by any degree, I’m just giving examples. At the moment, the only really good, tested partnership is with Machamp or in a Stage 1 deck.

The Future

What I would like to do quickly here, in this penultimate section of the article, is to look to the future and at a couple of cards which may have an impact on Donphan; his usefulness and the amount of play he will see

1. Beartic

First up we have Beartic. Now he looks awesome and is getting a lot of hype right now. He’s a Stage 1 Water Pokémon with 130 HP and a (currently) very favorable weakness to Metal. The main reason he’s getting all the press though is because of his attack “Sheer Cold” which (for WWC) deals 60 damage AND stops the defending Pokémon attacking next turn.

Now this shouldn’t be a problem as Donphan players will be playing Switch right? Well, people are saying about pairing this guy with Vileplume. No Switch and a CCCC Retreat Cost means the chances of escape are, well, nil.

So should the Donphan player be worried? Short answer: No. Long Answer: Noooooooo. Yes he’s good, but most of the time you should be able to Switch out of it. 60 base on a Water Pokémon will only do 100 to Donphan (taking into account Weakness and Poké-Body) so he’ll be alive and kicking the following turn.

Pairing with Vileplume could be a problem but really you should be running Donphan with disruption or Machamp. If you run him with disruption then a Vileplume should never hit the field. If you run him with Machamp then “Fighting Tag” gets around the whole “no attacking” rule after they use “Sheer Cold” and (provided you have 3 hurt Pokémon on the bench) will 1HKO Beartic. Nice.

2. Kyurem

BulbapediaKyurem will be good and will see a lot of play. He won’t break the game though (in my humble opinion). He’s the 3rd member of the Reshiram / Zekrom club. He’s a basic with 130 HP and “Outrage”. This time though he’s Water (good typing) with a weakness to Metal (again, good). His second attack is very interesting though and the reason he’s seeing the hype.

For WWC he does 30 damage to ALL of your Pokémon. This is, far and away, the best spread in the format. Mamoswine is a Stage 2 who can hit for 30 to every Pokémon already damaged. That shows how good Kyurem is.

The problem is he won’t take down big attackers. Reshiram and Zekrom will still be able to 1HKO him with a PlusPower and 2 Earthquakes (and a PlusPower) will take down one of these nicely. So you can 2HKO him, can he 2HKO you? NO! He will do 40 to an active Donphan.

Ok, so he’ll hit your bench right. Yes, but with no weakness or resistance he’s hitting benched Donphans for….10! He also needs 2 energy to attack and you need one. Ok, he can use Feraligatr to power himself up but that means a Stage 2. Oh, and did you remember that Catcher will be out by then? Thought you did! Speaking of which…..

Note: Coming back to this on second reading it occurs to me that if you’re really careless with using “Earthquake” then a competent Kyurem player may be able to score several KOs by doing 30, adding to the Earthquake damage, and killing a bunch if your Pokémon.

It should go without saying, but I’ll be clear right now: If they’re playing Kyurem then don’t leave a bunch of damaged Pokémon on the bench. Just use Donphans and you’ll have no problems.

3. Pokémon Catcher

This, this is a game changer! For those of you that don’t know: Pokémon Catcher is a, frankly broken, trainer that allows you to choose one of your opponent’s benched Pokémon and switch it with the active. Just like Luxray LV.X’s “Bright Look” but in a trainer card. Or Pokémon Reversal without the flip.

Now Pokémon Reversal is already defining the metagame with many games coming down to who can hit heads on Reversal flips, so imagine how much of an impact this bad boy will have.

The good news, at least for Donphan players, is that it will make Donphan awesome. A Stage 1 that can do 60 for one Energy? Yes please! Add in a few PlusPowers and you’ll spend the game “Catching” Pokémon from the bench that have 60 HP or less (or more if you have PlusPower/s) and taking easy prizes.

Combine that with the fact that Donphan is very hard to take down and hits lots of popular Pokémon for weakness and even when you can’t take a prize, you should be trading 2HKOs.

Catcher can work against Donphan but is much less likely to. Just leave Donphan on the bench and when one gets “Catchered” you can just attach a single energy and hit for 60. Sorted. Of course this won’t make Donphan invincible but, so long as you can get some Donphans rolling quickly and draw into some Catchers, you should be doing very well.

Catcher will make Donphan something that every deck needs to tech against. It should also raise the price of Donphan quite a bit!

Which Phanpy to use?

pokebeach.comThe final bit of my article (at nearly 6,000 words I think I might stop soon) is just a little note from me as to which Phanpy to use. There are two choices. They both have a CC Retreat Cost and a x2 weakness to Water so I’ll be ignoring this.

There is the one from HS which has 70 HP and a single attack, “Flail”, for one energy (Colourless) which hits for as much damage as is on Phanpy. We also have the one from CL which has 60 HP (10 less) and an attack which, for FC, will do 20 damage (or 30 on a flip). It does though also have a Poké-Body which reduces all damage by 10, providing that Phanpy has energy attached to it.

On forums lately I have seen a lot of love for CL Phanpy but I don’t like it. CL Phanpy is liked for the Body, but reducing all damage done by 10 is useless when you could just have 10 more HP. If you don’t have energy on Phanpy CL then the body doesn’t work anyway and if your Phanpy is taking 2 hits, you’re doing it wrong.

I would much rather just have 10 more HP. I have donked a 60 HP Pokémon with Tyrogue but never a 70HP Pokémon.

In terms of attack, HS wins here too. CL Phanpy takes 2 energy to attack, which means it will have been there 2 turns. If you have a Phanpy out for 2 turns it should be a Donphan. If you go second with HS Phanpy you can at least “Flail” for a bit of damage.

Finally, as much as I’ve said I don’t rate Umbreon as a Donphan counter, people will use him. HS Phanpy is very good as an Umbreon counter. You can either “Earthquake” to put damage on him or just let Umbreon “Moonlight Fang” him a couple times and then “Flail” for the KO (as he has Fighting weakness).

Your opponent might even use Umbreon’s other attack to try and KO Phanpy quickly and then you can use Donphan for one hell of a revenge KO!


And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Donphan in this format. I have tried to be as comprehensive as possible and (aside from a HUGE section looking into every deck possibility) I think I have been pretty darn comprehensive.

Give him a try but please test thoroughly if you’re going to use him. He hits for 60 for one energy so people will use him but a lot of people will lose by playing him wrong. Don’t be one of them.

Let me know if this was useful in the comments section and if you’d like an article like this about another Pokémon (or deck) then let me know. Word.

Reader Interactions

41 replies

  1. Anonymous

    Ok. You say that Donphan can 2HKO Kyurem, and Kyurem can’t 2HKO Donphan. That’s a lie. Kyurem uses Icicle Drop to do 40 to Donphan, and a spread of 30. Then donphan does 60 with Earthquake. Then Kyurem does 140 to Donphan to KO him with Outrage. So, yes, Kyurem wins, if Kyurem has 2 Energy on it.

    As for Beartic, it also has 2 attacks. Icicle Crash will do 140 to Donphan Prime, thus OHKOing it. Beartic doesn’t have to be all lock ’em up you know.

    If it raises the price of Donphan, good then, I have no use for my 2.

  2. Alex Hedge

    Good Article, and I agree that Donphan won’t be very good because of Yanmega, Crobat, and Samurott.

    There were a few problems… Reshiram and Zekrom do 120, not 130, and Beartic does 50, not 60.

    • Ross Gilbert  → Alex

      Ha ha ha! Sorry about that! Still, if that’s the only typos in 6000 words i reckon i might be doing ok ;) Cheers for spotting though!

  3. David Wiken

    Hmm, another player dismissing Kyurem as BDIF next season… I’m afraid you forget a couple of very important things about this fierce dragon:

    1. Kyurem will pretty much always have an Eviolite attached. All out of a sudden we’re looking at a Donphan having to 4HKO a basic pokemon while spreading his own bench. Too slow.
    2. After one Earthquake on a Kyurem without Eviolite (or two on one with), it will be able to OHKO a clean Donphan with Outrage at least for the two upcoming turns…

    I sincerely don’t see any of the established decks today beating Kyurem – it’s jsut too strong…

    • Anonymous  → David

      FINALLY. I am so glad someone sees it my way, though, I think that some future decks that will be coming along with Kyurem will be able to beat it. (Yes I am talking about Beartic locking him from spread Damage.)

    • Anonymous  → David

      I believe there is supposed to be a Stadium card called Pokemon Center coming eventually which says “Each player heals 10 damage from each of his or her Benched Pokémon at the end of his or her turn.”

      I’m just sayin…

    • Emil lumen  → David

      Steelix and scizor with blissey prime, steel is coming back cause a lot of water is coming out, hitting for weakness.

        • Willy Goebel  → Josh

          Scizor cares because special metals can’t help against Reshiram like they would against a non-fire type that did 120.

        • Josh  → Willy

          even if he could survive a 120 hit like that it would be a waste of resources to do something like that…

        • Josh  → Willy

          my point isnt that scizzor would have a good match up against reshiram its that scizzor doesnt care that reshiram is fire or not…

        • Willy Goebel  → Josh

          Then let’s both agree that Scizor/Steelix would have a bad enough matchup against decks with Reshiram to invalidate its use.

        • Willy Goebel  → Josh

          No, because Yanmega is usually paired with another Pokemon that does not share the same vulnerability to Zekrom or Magnezone. Scizor and Steelix, however, are both dominated by Reshiram, so in this case, it is unwise to use them together in a deck.

        • Willy Goebel  → Josh

          Scizor cares because special metals can’t help against Reshiram like they would against a non-fire type that did 120.

  4. Poet Larsen

    kyurem may not be able to take out a donphan in one hit, but feraligatr can with a hydro crunch.

  5. DrMime

    Short comment: Nice article! Long comment: Niiiiice article!

  6. Cam Graybill

    Donphan is very playable…. One of my team-mates took it to t32 at nats…..

  7. Martin Garcia

    I dont want to rain on your parade but . . . kingdra can easily one shot donphan thaks to spray splash.
    Even if you only hit for 110 on the first turn (60×2-20+10), the second spray splash on the next turn will finish donphan off without having to waste an attack.

    Im afraid donphan has a TERRIBLE matchup vs kingdra, since they have roughly the same speed. (donphan is a little faster tough)

    Aside form that, good article.

  8. Renato van Bloemenhuis

    Awesome article! And loooong too, I like that, kept me reading for a long time while being interrupted by my wife with annoyingly uninteresting questions like “do you think we should get a new set of coffee mugs? These yellow ones are on sale…” (who cares about the f$%€ coffee mugs!)

    Anyway, I like Donphan too, but then I don’t cuz I run a ZPS variant (which a contrare to what many experts are saying is a very solid agressive deck IF paired with some awesome other attackers!) so Donphan is my Kryptonite. So I am very interested in your article! Sun tzu said: “Know your enemy to know your self” he was a smart geeza.

    So, thanks for a great read and yes, in playtesting I used pachi and shay (in combination with seeker sometimes to “replay” the card) to move energy to power samurott and so far it worked really well. I also used Panpour in playtesting, a fast water stage 1 pokemon everyone seems to dislike, it has great attacks (water burn and 3 flips for 30d each) and that one worked very well also, although more of a gamble.

    Great stuff, looking forward to your next piece!

    Greetings from the Netherlands

  9. chris frontiero

    You forgot abuot the Cryogonal thats coming out. For WC, it does 30 damage plus 40 more if the defending pokemon is a fighting type.

    • Ross Gilbert  → chris

      Ah, that one slipped under my radar. I did write this article a month ago and kept forgetting to proof-read and submit it so i don’t believe it was announced when i wrote this. Sounds like a genuinely good Donphan counter though!

  10. Zach Hill

    Another note on the HGSS Phanpy.
    At Nats I had it active at the start of the game and my opponent started with Tyrogue and went first and Punched me for 30. My opponent then said, “You’ll see why I did that”. The Tyrogue woke up between turns and I Flailed it for the KO. Didn’t see it haha.

    My point is that it can KO tyrogues (and other babys and 60 HP Lightning types by attaching a rainbow and chaining 2 Plus Powers. Hard but possible.)

    Also (changing the subject to the CL Phanpy) what does stopping 10 damage even help? I’ve never understood.
    Yanmega still OHKO’s it active and 2HKO’s it benched… just like the 70 HP HGSS one.
    Tyrogue only does 20? What epic game are you playing when its more than one turn of Tyrogue Vs. Phanpy?

    • Michael Gallaher  → Zach

      Also (changing the subject to the CL Phanpy) what does stopping 10 damage even help?

      Yes, on the turn you have to wait to evolve into donphan attach an energy to phanpy and the donphan you evolve into will have 120 hp instead of 110. and if it has only 110 it can be 2hko by a yan with a plus power. 

  11. Sergio Ortiz

    IMO, donphan is great nowadays enjoy it
    when kyurem hits the game…
    good bye phants ;)
    u’re saying donphan is able to take down a single kyurem…
    but i’ll play 4 so… good luck

  12. eli moses

    I to also have an amzing love for that big elephant your talking about <3. Im actually using the big guy for worlds :D great article.

  13. Bob Smith

    When you said that you would rather just give the CL phany 10 more hp, thats bad math, I’m sorry.
    Also, you forgot to mention that its body prevents it from taking earthquake damage. So it takes 0 damage… Thats not like having 10 extra hp AT ALL. Its completely different.
    For example, if a metal pokemon has 50 HP, and 4 special metals it does NOT have 40 extra HP, heres why:
    If something is hitting it for 50 damage (now only 10 damage becuase of the metal energies) it now has 250 extra HP, becuase thats how much damage it will take before it is knocked out. (5 turns of attacking with something that does “50 damage”)
    Not to mention that if you start with phanpy, and your OP starts with the ever-popular tyroge, it will take tyrogue 3 turns to KO CL phanpy. That’s the same amount of turns it will take to KO the HS phanpy, so it doesnt need 10 more HP at all, it’s ALREADY equal on that ground, and better on others. 
    I dont think you thought many things through on this article, but this one stuck out the most to me.
    Also, beartic does 50 damage, not 60.

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