Playing Against Yourself: The Durant Problem

pokebeach.comHey folks. We’re just starting to see the first results coming back from Cities, and if you’re like me you’ve seen this bug at the tables next to you, or even across from you. When they bench 4 Durant on their first turn and nothing else, it’s definitely a shift in how you see the game. Durant is getting a ton of hype, but any Durant player will tell you a lot of their wins come from people not knowing how to play against it.

It’s unorthodox; if your first experience with it comes from across the table, you can only make an educated guess at what your deck needs to do to pull out a win, and that places the Durant player in a position to win before the cards are even flipped.

What this article is for is to reveal the math and methods behind Durant. So that we, as players, can be better prepared if we ever do see a Durant deck staring us down. What Durant forces us to do is to play against our own deck; if you thought watching Uxie Donk or Sableye Donk last format was “Pokémon Solitaire,” consider this the next version. It has players understandably frustrated, and for good reason. Let’s start with the math.

Durant decks are designed to mill 4 cards from the deck from the first turn onwards until it either wins or loses. I’ve seen Durant decks that can attack (with Cobalion NVI, typically) but we are going to focus on the mill variant for the moment here. This allows us to create a formula to determine precisely how many turns you have left to take 6 Prizes.

60 Cards in a deck

Initial Setup: 7 hand, 6 Prizes (If you see nothing but Metal Energy when they mulligan, I would advise against pulling a mulligan card unless you really need it or you can readily shuffle it back in. More on that later.)
47 Cards left in deck

If Durant starts:
43 Cards left in deck after mill
42 Cards left in deck after draw

If you start:
46 Cards left in deck after draw

After your initial turn, this routine can be simplified as X-5. If this would result in a negative number, you lose the game from decking out. So, assuming you draw and pass each turn, this means you have 8 turns if they go first (8 of your turns, and they’ll mill the last 2 cards out on their 9th turn) or 9 turns if you go first (with 1 card left in your deck on your last turn.)

This is a very short time line; it means that assuming no deck replenishment, you must be set to take 6 Prizes in 6 turns starting on your third turn. You can also think of it this way; you need 30 cards left in your deck to take those 6 Prizes without decking out. That gives you a grand total of 17 cards to work with, again assuming no deck replenishment.

You can play that scenario out very easily without actually having a Durant deck to playtest against; in fact, I’d recommend it. The more people see that Durant can steal wins at events from unprepared players, the more people who are going to try it for themselves and increase the likelihood that you’ll see one.

But, as much as the game plays out the same way each time, there are things that can alter the outcome slightly; so now that we have our set timeline, let’s look at what alters it.

First things first; if you assume you have 17 cards to work with over the course of the game, realize the destructive power of some of the games most common Supporters. Professor Juniper removes 7-of those 17. Sage’s Training removes 5-of those 17. If you have to play 3-of those, you’ve effectively resigned the game if you are not completely set up and ready to go and can stay that way for 6 turns.

This is unless of course you’re running something that can take multiple prizes a turn, like Hydreigon; Kyurem not so much since Special metal and Eviolite makes them immune more often than not. If you are in your deckbuilding phase and you think you’ll run into the metal bug, you want to consider a higher count of the non-destructive draw Supporters, like Professor Oak’s New Theory, Judge, and N.

If you have 7 cards or more in hand, PONT doesn’t hit your countdown timer at all and gives you 6 different cards; Otherwise it’s 1-6 points off your 17, depending on cards in hand. Judge is the same way, only it’s more likely to put points back -on- your timer if you have 5 or more cards to shuffle in with it, and it hurts the Durant player slightly.

N is the best or worst of the 3 depending on when you need it; they will always draw 6 from N, so it’s great for them late game, and you can get all the way down to a 1 card hand assuming they’re not teching Spooky Whirlpool Spiritomb to force you to draw them all back. A higher count of non-destructive draw will improve your chances of meeting the conditions to win significantly, no matter which you run.

That covers most of the raw math power behind the Durant deck; but there are still a few things you need to watch out for when you’re actually playing one. Here are a few points that you should expect.

1. Bank on losing any Special Energy card (DCE, Special Metal/Dark, Rainbow, Rescue) immediately the next turn. Decks that run only Basic Energy have a small advantage over Durant because every Lost Remover in their hand is a card they can’t play. Generally you only want to use DCE for switching, or the Durant deck will happily take the free removal, and possibly follow it up with Crush Hammer in an effort to leave your attacker stripped clean, costing you more turns off your clock.

2. 1 or 3 Pokémon in play is the magic number, but if you go for just 1 be mindful that Rotom can do 60 for 1 assuming you have 3 Energy on you. 2 doesn’t work because they can Catcher whatever is on the bench, and Seeker your attacker; if your benched Pokémon isn’t capable of doing 100 (or 50, if it’s Fire type) you’ll lose a couple of turns off your clock setting back up. More often than not, that will cost the game, and you generally don’t see it coming.

3. If possible, only play Pokémon to the bench that have 0-1 retreat unless they are your attacker. You’ll often see a Durant player Catcher up a 2-retreat Bench-sitter and then Crushing Hammer hoping to knock an Energy off your attacker; you can prevent them from gaining a turn on the clock this way by loading extra Energy onto your attacker and keeping your bench light.

For instance, ZPST has a much easier time of meeting the conditions of the Durant deck than its new cousin, ZEET. Eels can’t save themselves so you have to hope your DCE is around or Switch; if not, you’re in a lot of trouble unless you can pre-load it for a retreat. ZPST by contrast going first has a chance at donk and after that all Pokémon on the bench have one retreat unless you benched multiple Zekrom for some reason.

4. Super Rod will add 3 points to your clock; Flower Shop Lady will add 6. But Junk Arming Super Rod only effectively moves cards from your hand back into your deck, which will likely be pulled back into your hand via Spooky Whirlpool if you are below 6 cards. Don’t count on them too much.

5. Your usual main attacker might not be the best bet against Durant. On average, you need to do 100 damage 6 turns in a row; you’d think Cincinno BLW would be great for this, except that it takes a DCE more often than not, or 2 turns to power up and being vulnerable to Crushing Hammer (although a double-heads Crushing Hammer is a 25% chance out of 2 flips).

You don’t need massive damage, and Fire types have it even easier with only needing to do 50 damage. Bring up that Ninetales, that Quilava, or let Ability Emboar take front and center; they’ll do far better than a Reshiram that needs to discard two fire every time unless you can fuel it with Typhlosion; but then, you should just use Typhlosion himself! Self-sustaining and a -great- counter against all those lucky Crushing Hammer flips.

6. Durant can’t really be teched against very effectively, for one very good reason; it’s just as likely that your tech will be discarded as part of the mill attack as getting it into play. The only thing I saw as a splashable source of Fire damage was the original Simisear with a 40× 3 coin heads attack for 3 Colorless. This would be heavy bait for Lost Remover, as well as Rotom, not to mention trying to find singleton copies of -any- card while 2/3rds of your deck is being milled away over the course of the game.

You want to look more toward what your deck can do to put out the required damage quickly, rather than trying to bring in a tech option for it. Change your play strategy, not the cards in the deck, so to speak.

As a final note, I’d like to bring up that asking 50 damage from a Fire deck or 100 from a non-Fire deck (always assume Eviolite/Special Metal) by the second to third turn is in fact difficult to do sometimes if you don’t have a nice hand. Durant plays off this, and once you do have that output up it tries to buy enough time to sneak by anyway. You could say by forcing you to play against the clock, it’s the ultimate speed deck. After all, it gets going on turn 1 the vast majority of the time.

This puts a sense of urgency into the opponent, and rushing causes mistakes. This is author’s opinion here, but playing Durant is betting not so much that the Durant deck plays well, but that your opponent will slip up under the pressure. Given the stigma surrounding the deck, I’d say that’s not a bad bet by any stretch of the imagination. We’re all human, and Durant is not really the deck you’re thinking about when you’re deckbuilding, either.

Think of it this way; remember Lostgar decks? Especially the MewGar variants; if you had a game plan ahead of time, it was significantly easier to win because nonsensical plays like “main attack with Ability Boar” are suddenly exactly what you need to come out on top. You just have to remember that there is a very finite plan that the Durant player can bring against you; you are playing against yourself first and foremost. Avoid the traps, and you’ll do just fine.

I wish you all the best against the coming swarm of ants, here to steal our picnic lunch! Thanks for reading, and good luck in the rest of your City Championships, everyone!

Reader Interactions

47 replies

  1. Alex Holdway

    Gonna eat these little runts for breakfast, player.

    T1, Bolt Strike, T2, Bolt Strike, T3-X Outrage.

    See. You. Later.

    • Michael Schaefer  → Alex

      Be cautious or drop an eviolite after the first strike at the latest or they will have a chance to drop rotom plus rainbow and KO Zekrom instead and set you back 3 energy drops for 1 turn of not milling.

      • tim h  → Michael

        Something tells me that Zekrom will be able to set up another attacker in three turns. It doesn’t care if it’s KOing durants or rotoms, either. 

        (Tornadus doesn’t OHKO a rotom with an eviolite. stupid ghost types!)

        Edit: Also, attacking with tyrogue for the first two turns isn’t that bad either.

        • lucas mazzega  → tim

          Something tells me that Zekrom will be able to set up another attacker in three turns.
          That is exactly what they want. Turns!

          And Tyrogue? Really? I thought this was overpassed.

        • Anonymous  → lucas

          By that, he meant the three turns in which he is already attacking.  Once they see durant, if they’re cautious enough, they’ll set up a second zekrom manually.

        • Michael Schaefer  → Anonymous

          Don’t forget they’ll be trying to eat those energy drops through the use of catcher / Crushing hammer, though.

    • Garrett Williamson  → Alex

      Just be cautious of black belt. You bolt strike 2 putting 80 on you and the drop a second energy and black belt. Iv seen durrant win my games due to that.

  2. tim h

    Well put. Durant decks that don’t attack don’t care if a Reshiram is killing you or a Quilava is killing you. Also, not using Junipers.

    The reason I dislike Durant is there is very little skill involved. Game plan: A) Hope Durants aren’t prized    B) Collector    C) just mill each turn

    • Joe Lewis  → tim

      deckbuilding takes skill as well. You have to adjust your deck depending on the meta. Durant isn’t as easy as you think

  3. Jak Stewart-Armstead

    Nice article. Intelligent and useful.

    Durant can go and [insert reference to profanity].

    • David Griggs  → Jak

      I started playing Vanilluxe/Vileplume because of that stupid ant. Four people put together Durant at league one day so I pulled it out. It doesn’t do great against everything, but it destroys Durant. Now there are zero people at league playing Durant as their main deck. It makes me happy.

  4. Curtis

    I find that if you’re playing a Reshiram deck, your best bet is to attack with Ninetales, and just stack energy on it, so Crushing Hammer  won’t be too much of a problem. I wouldn’t bother setting up Typhlosion, Emboar or even Reshiram. If you bench anything else, free retreaters like Cleffa are your best bet. Although you can’t really control your starter, so bad luck is bad luck.

    • Anonymous  → Curtis

      1 Ninetales, 1 Typhlosion, 1 Cleffa set up destroys Durant. You have two good attackers, and a free retreat. Hold onto a PONT or N until late in the game.

    • Dustin H  → Curtis

      Typhlosion is the best attacker. Almost all Durant decks play with 4 Rescue Energy. Flare Destroy gets rid of the rescue before Durant is KO’d. This devastates Durant. You can save one energy in hand for any crushing hammers and afterburner the one energy you discard back to itself each turn, the damage to Typhlosion is irrelevant.

  5. Steven Nilsen

    Simsear makes a nice counter, agreed.  
    Depending on your deck, if you run rainbow, I think Reshiram would be better.  I know the 2 rainbows are likely to be removed, but the damage will power outrage to 40….  tricky but useful in more than just the Durant game.Simsear on the other hand… its 2 for discard in nearly all other matches.

  6. Steven Nilsen

    One deck I play that always whoops Durant is Yanmega/Kyurem.  There was a decklist somewhere of this combo doing well in Japan, I copied it and haven’t found much need to modify it.  The jist of why it does well is Judge, Copycat, Yanmega with PP, and Kyurem.  Yeah, they all work really well in concert to keep you in the game against Durant.  Setting up Kyurem while you boom with Yanmega makes Durant easy picking.  No special E, in fact hardly any E at all.  Just need 3 on Kyurem and they are SOL.

    So, I guess what I’m saying is Yanmega is a very splashable addition to a deck and should help with this and many other match-ups.

    • erick  → Steven

      i dont think yanmega/kyurem will do good against any other deck, even fire. Yanmega is not competitive anymore, :P

      • Joe Lewis  → erick

        Just because its value decreased doesn’t mean its playability has decreased. Although its fallen from its glory, megazone is still a viable deck.

        • Anonymous  → Joe

          Correct.  Yanmega/Magnezone is still placing extremely well in California.

        • Anonymous  → Anonymous

          I feel that as long as there are support Pokemon with a Basic or Stage 1 at 70 hp or less Yanmega/Magnezone will be viable. It’s just too consistent and versatile to not be used.

        • erick  → Joe

          The value decrease for a reason, yes yes it might still be a viable deck according to your area’s metagame since it does well against a few deck, but the overall impact from NV is much more beneficial to other decks hence making this deck not as good, which lead to my point, why bother..

      • Steven Nilsen  → CalebM

        I’m 100% sure every Durant deck I’ve played had both… doesn’t help against an experienced player.

        • CalebM  → Steven

          lmao. yep bc hitting for zero means you have so much experiecnce.

          durant isnt just a chump deck, its a legitimate threat.

        • Martin Garcia  → CalebM

          How many eviolites and sp metals can you get in like, 3 turns?
          Unless your answer is 4 to both, kyurem will still kill the other durants, and anything else in your bench, for that matter.
          Well played, kyurem destroys durant.

        • CalebM  → Martin

          probably at least 2 of each minum

          and you may KO 1, but by that time it will be reved, and then lited or a few special, and then you are doing at most 10 damage, so a 7 turn KO, which means they will win
          durant ftm

        • Micah Tate  → Martin

          2 Sp. Metal, 1-2 eviolite, once you KO the unguarded ant or useless rotom durants just abuses the twins for the rest. At that point you have to switch out to yanmega and the catcher switch battle rages on. Good luck getting 3+switch/junk arm without using too much draw.

  7. Marthe Honts

    Very well thought out.  I love the strategy discussion.  This is very helpful looking ahead to a weekend of Cities.

  8. Joshua Pikka

    It is a deck that is fairly easy to beat.  You just gotta attack quickly, ross deck and gothitelle will have problems here.  And don’t be reliant on special energies. 

  9. Anonymous

    Nice article on how Durant will ultimatly make you cry unless you can do 100 or more damage unless you are Fire type very quickly and consistently.

    No sarcasm intended.

  10. Willy Doehring

    I love this article, it was very well written and very helpful. Awesome job!

    Although I must say, I’m planning on trying out Durant (pretty much just because a have a lot of the cards I need for the deck and Durants are super cheap) and now everyone knows how to beat it. Thanks a lot! ;)

    Just kidding! Again, great article!

  11. theo Seeds

    This was a great article and because of you sir I now know how good Durant really is. Combine that with the fact that it is 50 cents and I have my cities deck.

  12. Simon Narode

    I play a variant of The Truth and have never had too many issues with Durant. When most of their recovery is trainer-based, all I need is Vileplume and any one attacker, and I’m set. Vileplume + Cobalion, Vileplume + Terrakion, etc. Sure, it’s not easy to get Vileplume out without Twins, but once you have it in place, with a DCE to guard against Hypno/Bellsprout, you pretty much have the game in hand.

  13. Garrett Williamson

    The ants go marching one by one, hoorah…

    Shoulda mentioned that ZPST players should be weary of black belt.

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