Donphan and Dragons – This Format’s Haymaker?

Hello readers!

With Autumn Battle Roads now officially in the books everyone’s attention is turning to Regionals. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend because of my commitment to my job (have to pay those bills!), but I am very excited to see what decks do well. I’d also like to share the deck that I ran during Battle Roads because it proved to be stronger than I’d anticipated! I was able to run this deck to a current #1 ranking in both Rating and Championship Points in Arizona!

The Deck

Back in the early days of Pokémon TCG I played (along with everybody else) a Haymaker deck. I believe I played a list that was Hitmonchan, Electabuzz, and Fossil Magmar heavy. The strength and consistency of that deck motif was ridiculous. Nowadays Trainer “engines” are much slower because of Supporters and big Basic Pokémon were not very playable. Until…











…Reshiram and Zekrom.

I couldn’t help but feel like Zekrom and Reshiram were meant to be played like Haymaker Pokémon. Donphan Prime even helped the cause by mimicking Hitmonchans early power, and helping power up the dragons to boot! That more or less made up my mind to run this deck and see if it could restore the motif’s old glory days. I managed to make Top Cut at all three Battle Roads I played the deck at (36 players, 32 players, 53 players), and finished 1st, 3rd, and 1st. Not a bad start.

The List

I know that a lot of players that are doing well don’t like to share their lists. I can’t blame them. It’s hard work tweaking your own list, and it’s probably no fun putting it out there for everyone to tinker with. I don’t mind, though, and actually hope someone takes up my cause and helps me bring this deck to the top! Here’s the list:

Pokémon – 16

4 Phanpy CL

4 Donphan Prime

3 Zekrom BLW

2 Tornadus EPO

1 Reshiram BLW

1-1 Darkrai & Cresselia LEGEND

Trainers – 31

4 Junk Arm

4 Pokémon Catcher

3 Switch

3 Professor Juniper

4 PlusPower

2 Pokémon Communication

3 Professor Oak’s New Theory

2 Lost Remover

3 Sage’s Training

3 Pokémon Collector

Energy – 13

5 F

4 Rainbow

4 Double Colorless

The deck itself is very Trainer and Supporter heavy. Some people advised against running four Catchers and four Junk Arms, but I can’t tell you how many times the extra copy of each won me a game. Lost Remover was more of an addition sparked by nostalgia (Energy Removal?), but has proven to be quite useful against those pesky Pokémon that rely on DCE. This card proved to be more disruptive that I thought it would be, but can be a dead-draw against the likes of Donphan and Yanmega.

On to the Pokémon! Phanpy CL might not be the best choice in retrospect (being able to Flail if going second might be worth it), but Ultra-Thick Skin has come through a handful of times. This one is really a matter of taste. I considered running only Zekrom, but decided to tech one Reshiram in just in case the occasional Kingdra Prime pops up.

The one tech that I really like (and one I haven’t seen in any lists really) is the Darkrai & Cresselia LEGEND. More often than not this card will make for a dead-draw, but does very well against Ross’ Deck and Gothitelle. In one game against a Ross Deck I went from down 3 Prizes to one in a completely lost position to dropping both Legend halves and using Moon’s Invite for 3 Prizes to win the game in one turn!


One of the reasons I really like this format is because of the wide range of “Tier 1” and “Tier 2” decks. It seems like every city has their own different meta. This also means, however, that we need to test and prepare for that many more decks! This really allows for so much creativity. These are the more popular decks that I’ve encountered, though, and how I’ve navigated against each:


This is one that gave me trouble. I’ll admit that I just assumed this wouldn’t be a tough deck to beat and completely ignored in testing. That sounds terrible given how this deck won Worlds, but I just felt like Catcher hurt this deck enough to where it just wasn’t strong enough anymore. I went after the Magnezones, because they were easy prizes for my Donphans, but learned quickly that Emboar and RDL are nothing to scoff at.

In retrospect I’d probably go after the Tepigs and Pignites early, as this deck is slowed down quite a bit without Inferno Fandango. A tough matchup, but shouldn’t be impossible if you can remove the Emboars from the equation. Donphan does well against Magnezone and Tornadus takes care of RDL. Using Catcher to remove the Emboar line should be key.

Stage 1s

This one has actually not given me much trouble. It really comes down to matchups, but they’re actually pretty favorable. Donphan matches up well against Zoroark and Cincinno. Zekrom is a big problem for Yanmega. Tornadus can handle Donphan. The abundance of Catcher also means that you should be able to make your matchup favorable every turn for some quick 1HKOs.


pokebeach.comThis has actually been my easiest matchup. Yanmega/Magnezone just doesn’t stack well against this deck. Magnezone is relatively easy to handle with the plentiful Donphans, and cleaning up the Yanmegas with Zekrom is easy as well. Your main attacker should really be Donphan all the time against this deck as your opponent really won’t have any easy answers to counter you.

Yanmega can take Donphan’s punch, but really can’t hit him back hard enough to prevent you from using Catcher to Knock Out Magnemite, Magneton, Magnezone. Magnezone also has a hard time attacking because of the amount of energy he’ll have to Lost Zone to consistently Knock Out Donphan. Eventually they’ll just run out!


This was the only deck to beat me in Top Cut, but also the deck I beat the most in Top Cut. The truth is that this one will be common in just about any metagame. The deck is fast and consistent. There’s no easy answer, but I’ve had success ignoring everything except Cyndaquil/Typhlosion. This is the cog that makes the whole thing work.

It’s easier said than done, but removing these is key. Sometimes this will mean burning two Catchers to Knock Out a Typhlosion in two hits, but it’s worth it. The deck sputters without Afterburner, and Reshiram won’t seem so bad after that.


I never really bought into the hype for this deck. I still have my doubts about how far this deck will go, but I’ve seen the potential, and it’s scary! In one game I was able to take 5 Prizes to my opponent’s zero, only to have him fully set up and being unable to take that last prize. It was terrible, and that’s what this deck can do to you. Fortunately, Darkrai & Cresselia LEGEND can save you in this one.

If your opponent is unable to remove the damage on their bench fast enough, Moon’s Invite can cripple their entire setup by letting you Knock Out multiple things at once. In the games I’ve played against this deck a single Moon’s Invite has been enough to disrupt my opponent to the point of no recovery.

The only other approach I’ve taken against this deck somewhat successfully is Catcher every Solosis/Reuniclus early. Gothitelle is slow, and not so scary if she can’t move around damage. If you can take Reuniclus out of the equation Knocking Out Gothitelle won’t be too much of a problem.


Donphan and Dragons is a deck that can hit fast, early. Most matchups are also surprisingly favorable for this deck, regardless of meta, and that I believe is what can take this deck far. In this wide-open format the decks that can adapt to any situation are the ones that rise to the top, and this does just that.

Noble Victories will have a huge impact on this deck as well, but I believe all will be positive. Eviolite and Rocky Helmet will only make the dragons stronger, and the addition of Kyurem will be great as a counter to the likes of ReshiPhlosion and Donphan. Even cards like Archeops will only make these big Basics that much stronger!

What are your thoughts?

Reader Interactions

35 replies

  1. tim h

    It’s not the format’s haymaker. Haymaker is full of basics that attacks very quickly for (relatively) high damage. If there’s a ‘haymaker’, it’s yanmega/donphan or ZPST.

      • Mekkah  → Anonymous

        This really just shows there is no real Haymaker. Considering how many copies there are of old cards (Item Finder, Gust of Wind, Professor Oak, etc), you’d really recognize the Haymaker reincarnations if you saw them.

      • Anonymous  → Anonymous

        Haymaker was Hayamker because it was fast, disruptive via itemfinder/ gust of wind/ and generally hit for weakness against most of the meta. Also, the pokies had high HP for the time being. 

        D&D is achieves all of this. 

        • Mekkah  → Anonymous

          You can assign traits to it that match D&D, but you can actually do that with pretty much anything you want. You could say Haymaker was Haymaker because it used hard-hitting basic Pokemon (no evolutions at all) to disrupt the opponent’s set-up before it could get going, and the perfect match for that is ZPST.

  2. Matheus Aguiar

    Nice article. I didn’t think DD was good, but you have proven me very wrong. I really like your list, seems very consistent and your results prove it. DCL is an awesome tech and you probably will never have to worry about it being prizes, since in the Goth matchup you always take the first prizes.

    I just have to disagree on your final thoughts, I still think Archeops it pretty much unplayable, even with Research Record. It would just taint your lsit’s consistency.

    • lynxdrag  → Matheus

      Archeops is unplayable.  It takes too much to try and get what is needed ON THE BOTTOM of the deck let alone even keep that thing in play.  I have tried testing with things and since this is not MTG which has an insane amount of ways to put things on the bottom of the deck it does not work well especially considering you NEED to be able to keep cards in your deck.  It also does not work under trainer lock either.

      • Miguel  → lynxdrag

        That’s probably true, and I haven’t actually tested with it.  In theory it should make Basics stronger, but you’re right about it being a pain to get out.

  3. beyblade1410

    D&D is ok. I don’t generally like outrage in this deck because most of the time you have very little hp left and you just get ko’d pretty quick. It’s not worth 10 turns of earthquake for that.

    • Miguel  → beyblade1410

      The idea is actually to use Outrage late in the game for your last few prizes, without minding getting KO’d right back.  In a lot of instances (against Yanmega for instance) you just need a handful of damage counters on Zekrom before it’s hitting for weakness and OHKO’ing.  Truth is that if you were able to earthquake 10 times you probably grabbed quite a few prizes in the process, and a couple of Outrages should get you the last one or two prizes left.

  4. beyblade1410

    You have a total of 11 attackers, isn’t that a bit much? And all the techs might hurt consistency. 

    • Miguel  → beyblade1410

      Not at all!  You really only need to use what helps in a particular matchup.  For instance, against ZPS I’d never drop Tornadus unless I was fearing a donk.  It’s just a cheap Catcher prize.  In those cases I’d disregard those cards as dead draws and try disposing of them with Junk Arm and such.  The idea is to get as many Donphans out as possible early, and then clean up with Outrage.

  5. Dan W

    Hey! Nice to see an article about this deck!
    I also thought about a Darkrai Cress to beat Goth/Reuni but I haven’t tested it yet.
    Makes me happy pulling both of them halves at a PR :)
    One thing that really stands out to me about this deck is it’s ability it hit almost any card in format for weakness. It can’t hit Goth, but it can definitely use Goth’s strategy against itself (via D/C Legend)

    • Miguel  → Dan

      That’s the main idea!  Catcher, Switch, and the ability to hit for weakness means you should be able to OHKO almost every turn.

  6. lynxdrag

    Nice article and list and congratulations on the wins and a third place.  I love the DCL tech in there as I use that myself.  Only thing I really notice about matchups and related things is that going into regional tournaments I do not think the deck will do as well.  For battle road tournaments you mainly have the local players and what they play the most which means the meta for one tournament to the next is can be very different unless you are in a major metropolitan area or region.  My opinion if you where able to take this list to a regional would be you have a 50-50 shot to even a slightly unfavorable outlook.  That is my opinion but its not unfounded.  Even the most simple deck that normally never has a bad start can be subject to them eventually as well as different players play there decks differently even if it is a net decked list. 

    Only a few things I really do not like about the deck.  I understand the need to rip through the deck but you also can not afford to be discarding things at all especially with the amount of energy you have and you can not get anything back.  You can reuse a trainer or two but you just used and discarded 2 more cards which yes may be trainers but once you are out of Junk Arm they become a problem.  These are just my thoughts.  This format may not be flippy luck but it is still very much luck based with a touch of skill.

    • Miguel  → lynxdrag

      I agree, and this has gotten me in trouble in a couple of my games.  Burning through resources too fast can be demoralizing.  If you can go through fast enough, however, and set up two or three Donphans and a couple of Zekrom on the bench by T2 or T3 you should be gold.

  7. Anonymous

    Very nice article, Miguel!  Thanks for sharing your decklist and strategy, and congratulations on your success with the deck.  Sorry you won’t be at Regionals.

  8. Caleb Cline

    Out of curiosity, how do you get out DCL vs. Ross/Goth. Originally I was thinking you could PokeComm for it early, but you only run two PokeComms. Also once you get trainer locked you literally have to draw into both halves, one of which could easily be prized. Not say it’s not a good idea, it’s better than not having any options, but I feel like there’s some problems with it.

    • Matheus França Aguiar  → Caleb

      Since passing turns against Goth has been a common strategy against a Twins setup, he may have a decent amount of time to get one. Or he can just take the early prizes and burn his deck with Junpier/Oak/Sage. Dragons can also Outrage Goth to death with enough Earthquakes, but I guess that’s pretty hard to pull off.

    • Miguel  → Caleb

      Ross/Goth is a great deck, but relatively slow.  Even under trainer lock I haven’t had a hard time burning through my deck to find it.  Juniper and Sage will usually get the job done.  It’s not ideal (and it’s pretty sad when you have one half and a Juniper in hand), but not too difficult playing against decks that are that slow to set up.

      • Caleb Cline  → Miguel

        fair enough, just figured I’d be the guy to beg the question. Also, do you find yourself hitting donphans consistently? It’s pretty rare to see less than four PokeComm’s in a deck, so the idea is making me a bit nervous (not to say it doesn’t work). It definitely seems like an interesting idea if you can just draw into things as opposed to having to search for it.

  9. Mekkah

    I think what I hate most about the most about this deck is the insane retreat costs everywhere, which makes it harder to reach for that Cleffa when you need it. But it seems you didn’t.

  10. barryfken

    It might be hard getting out the necessary energy for DCL, but this deck looks like it’ll work awesome against Goth. I would replace Sage’s with Interviewer’s Questions – If you get 5 needed cards from Sage’s, that won’t be too good, but if it works for you, then by all means.

  11. Miguel

    I thought about that, but decided to just drop the Cleffa.  There’s a ton of drawing power in the deck already.  Also, Switch, Junk Arm, and DCE should help with the retreating problem.

  12. Miguel

    It’s actually quite easy to get the energy.  You really only need one Rainbow Energy and you’re set.  Moon’s Invite only costs one Psychic, so it’s very cheap.  This helps in not having to give away that you have DCL in hand.  You can put it down, attach Rainbow, retreat/switch, and use Moon’s Invite to move around Damage Counters all in one turn!

  13. Miguel

    It’s actually quite easy to get the energy.  You really only need one
    Rainbow Energy and you’re set.  Moon’s Invite only costs one Psychic, so
    it’s very cheap.  This helps in not having to give away that you have
    DCL in hand.  You can put it down, attach Rainbow, retreat/switch, and
    use Moon’s Invite to move around Damage Counters all in one turn!

  14. Bohdan Pelekh

    Nice article. I’ve been running DnD in Michigan, and I also made top cut 3 times. Two 3rds and a 1st.
    Did you ever consider Mew? I put in a mew/jumpluff for the goth matchup and it has been great. Goth literally can’t do anything against 2 mews. I also found it helps against Reshiram, if i can see off turn 1 or 2. Gives me OHKO’s on reshirams or even typhlosions, given there’s a full field. Just something to think about. Also, about the whole “discarding too many resources”, give Cheren a try instead of Sage’s. I’ve been running sages all season, but the last few weeks I’ve been testing cheren, and it’s great.

  15. Dakota Streck

    Very, very good article, easily one of my favorites in a while. I think it was a very solid article that presented a lot of good info. The DCL is a very good tech against Gothitelle. Since more and more players are choosing to run less healing, it’s just that much more effective. Even with healing, it can easily be timed to net you 2+ Prizes.

    The only thing that I’m questioning a bit are the 3 Junipers. Your list is very tight and it seems to me that upping the PONT count to 4 and reducing Juniper to 2 may be a better play. I like the sages though, since your decks runs like a toolbox, it helps you fish out what you need and chuck what you don’t. Again, great article, keep it up!

  16. loudchewer ..

    You forgot the ZPST matchup! I play ZPST and my buddy plays D&D and I have lost to him everytime. D&D is for sure a deck to be reckoned with. What are this decks weaknesses? Good article.

  17. jconti

    What is your feeling about Zoroark in this deck?–We play a similar version but with a 2-2 Zorua/Zoroark line and we find it really helps against some matchups especially with Reshiplosion containing decks. Thanks for a nice article.

  18. Stephen Mills

    Great article! Nice and concise, but still complete. This is a deck I’ve been considering for a bit, and I really like the idea of DCL for the Goth matchup. The list looks really solid, nice job at BRs!

  19. stephen shirley

    it seems like my local meta was already dominated with this deck and i play zekrom :(

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