The Dark Explorers Compendium

gamesalute.comHere it is: another expansion, coupled with another “I tell you what I think about the set” article. The last Underground writer before me tackled this topic, I’m tackling it today, and undoubtedly someone else on Underground or the regular site will address it, as well.

However, this is perhaps a much more fundamentally different article than what you may have seen before, even from my own stuff.


Because I am going to review every halfway-playable card in the set.

From start to finish.

My goal here today is to give you the most comprehensive view of an expansion that I feasibly can – especially one as important as Dark Explorers. From cards that will have an immediate impact, to ones that may have to wait a little while before they shine, I am going to do what I can to give you the most complete picture of Battle Roads, Nationals, and beyond.

The structure of this article will be relatively easy to get through: just search (control+f) for the cards that you are interested in, and I will talk about my take on their playability right now, potential for the future, and even some deck ideas!

But first, some of you may have an unanswered question about today’s prompt…

Why Review So Much of the Set?

As my last pre-release article for a set displayed, one very important part of preparing for a new expansion is understanding how all of its cards will fit into the current, pre-existing metagame. This is especially important when you account for the fact that Spring Battle Roads are right around the corner, and will be full of “archetype 2.0” lists. I believe that this is also the prompt that Dakota was aiming for on Tuesday.

However, experience has shown us how radically things change in the 2011-2012 season. Battle Roads, Cities, and States/Regionals all played out like fundamentally different formats, and I expect that trend to carry over for Spring Battle Roads, Nationals, and Worlds. I have discovered that having a more complete understanding of a new set invariably leads to a better understanding of this format, so getting the ins and outs of what you have to work with would certainly help in your pursuit of a National title.

Another reason why I ought to review as much as I can is because sometimes it is not easy to spot a “bad” card. In the past, I myself could spend way too much time messing around with gimmick ideas, wasting several minutes if not hours that could have otherwise been used to develop a richer understanding of the format. Do not let think that this is a wholesale recommendation to delete “creative thinking” from Pokémon play-testing – far from it.

Still, there comes a point when the blatant impracticality of a card keeps it from ever being that good, so putting a stop to your good idea gone bad sooner, rather than later, can make the difference between top cutting Nationals and missing it.

screencrave.comThird, most new sets are taken as new opportunities to break away from the otherwise stale decks of the previous version of the format. Often, you will have to harness or reawaken different skill sets to adapt in this different version of the same format. Having a deep understanding of all these cards is integral to designing a possible tournament-winning concept.

Finally, this analysis is a pretty fail-safe guarantee that you not only learn about the obscurity of Dark Explorers, but know how it can be abused, too. That way, you will have a much clearer idea of what you could go up against in the various National Championships across the world, as well as what sort of game plan you will need to win. Dark Explorers has some of the richest fringe deck options in a while, so it is especially important to be prepared for everything this season.

By now, I hope that you agree with me why it’s so important to actually take the time and understand what all is out there. Even if you do not agree with me, though, there should be plenty to gleam from the rest of the article, and you should have a very clear idea of what the next few tournaments should look like.

That said, let’s get into the meat of the article…

New Pokémon

My plan here is simple: I will name a card that is halfway viable (or at least could be interpreted as such), and then go into detail about its strengths, weaknesses, combo potential, and future for both the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons.


BulbapediaAlthough people will be focusing on several cards not called “Venusaur,” I think that it is a big mistake to overlook its usefulness. Thanks to the Floral Scent Ability, allowing you your pick of one Pokémon card in your deck a turn, all ideas now hold at least some possibility of running a built-in consistency engine once again. This is certainly a fast format, no doubt; however, in the right type of setup deck, I foresee this thing being very, very useful.

Regarding its window of viability, I see the future of Venusaur going in two radically different directions: immediate, short-term usefulness for this format, or long-term prosperity in the upcoming CL-on/BLW-on season.

The key to this the rest of the search cards available: if it turns out that they alone are enough for the big decks to function properly, then naturally Venusaur will see no love; on the other hand, if a Junk Arm-less metagame cannot subsist off of a limited supply of Ultra Balls and Pokémon Communications, then you can bet that Venusaur will become a prominent player.

Seeing as how the only real boon to consistency we should receive from the August set is Devolutionary Spray in tandem with multiple Roserades to reuse its “search your deck for any one card” effect, the Le Parfum Ability, the competition really isn’t that stiff.

Roserade – Grass – 90 HP
Stage 1 – Evolves from Roselia

Ability: Le Parfum
You may use this Ability once during your turn, when you play Roserade from your hand to evolve one of your Pokémon. Search your deck for any one card and put it in your hand. Shuffle your deck afterward.

Devolution Spray – Trainer

Choose one of your Evolved Pokémon, then remove the top evolution card from that Pokémon. Return that Evolution card to your hand. (The Devolved Pokémon cannot evolve this turn.)

If you do plan to run Venusaur, though, be sure to pack plenty of Switch cards, as it is very prone to Catcher lock. Even if it does survive a hit from just about anything, it being caught in the Active Spot with no energy would mean a field day for spread or snipe variants.

(Suggested lines for Venusaur: 2-2-2 in HS-on Vileplume decks; 3-1-2 in HS-on decks without Vileplume, as well as for rotation)


BulbapediaCarnivine’s lure effect, Poison Lure, is fairly common, being shared by far more splashable cards such as Carnivine TM and Bellsprout TM. Obviously both of these cards will be rotating soon, but for the short-term, its advantage over them is the ability to poison. One of the biggest issues with lure cards is when an opponent is able to break free of it, basically wasting a crucial attack.

However, when something extra such as poison or sleep is attached to the lure-up, you negate this risk to a certain extent by having something that sticks, regardless of if they break out of it or not.

So what can use it? Obviously Grass decks, but those are so few and far between, it might not be worth it. On the other hand, something running 4 Prism and 4 Rainbow could really abuse it, giving instant access to its second attack: Spit Blow. This is what truly makes this card shine, as it is perhaps the first basic in the game’s history that is capable of returning a defending Pokémon to the opponent’s hand without any drawback at all.

Unfortunately, the speed-intensive, 1HKO-oriented nature of this field is right now is not very accommodating for Spit Blow. In fact, it could help some EX players conserve resources! Thus, Carnivine will most likely not find a place in much other than Vileplume variants for now, and might need Mew-EX to become really useful.

(Be that as it may, I highly recommend that you at least mess around with this as a tech in CMT, as it makes for a fantastic first turn win condition. With enough Switching and Grass energy, no lone basic start will be safe from CMT for the rest of the format.)


Whenever I hear or read about a new set, I always hone in on the most “unique” effects; that is, if cards bring something to the metagame that virtually nothing before it did, then the will instantly catch my attention.

For better or for worse, this card is on my radar right now, and for one reason: Deck and Cover. When properly managed, automatic status effects can be some of the most decisive in the game, leading to the largest shifts in board control, as well as some of the best come-from-behind wins. Automatic paralysis in particular is a game-changer – so much so that obscure Pokémon like Gliscor LV.X and Vanilluxe NVI actually had their own days in the limelight.


Given this, we know that Accelgor is at least good in an absolute, metagame-blind sort of way. But what will it take for it to be competitive with the already super-fast decks in the current format?

1. Slow down the opponent. The most obvious, lock-friendly way to do this is with Vileplume; however, Weavile UD’s Claw Snag Poké-Power could prove to be just as good at this. In the end, your biggest threat on the other side of the board will be Switch: if you can get rid of that, then your odds of winning shoot up.

2. Accelerate your energy. On top of simply attaching Double Colorless Energy, Emboar, Typhlosion, and Eelektrik are other potentially viable ways to achieve a Deck and Cover loop. As you play Juniper and/or Sage’s Training throughout a game, Fire and Lightning should naturally hit the discard, making Typhlosion and Eelektrik particularly effective at “playing the board.” This is essential when we include the final point…

3. Last but not least, simply increasing the odds of looping Deck and Cover. When it comes down to it, Accelgor is a bad deck concept if it cannot consistently crank out paralysis: if it whiffs once, then your otherwise “auto-win” is put in serious jeopardy, and if it whiffs twice, then you might have just lost the game. This is all a question of setup: can you build a deck to get what you need, or is it going to whiff?

When theorizing about decks, try your hardest to not just “assume” that everything will fall into place; rather, recognize that there are many different ways for your deck to collapse, so plan ahead for as many as you can.

Here is my very first take at a Deck and Cover variant. Anticipate some inconsistency in this build, but with some tweaking, it could be a very mean competitor…

Pokémon – 26

4 Oddish UD
3 Vileplume UD
3 Horsea UL
2 Seadra UL
2 Kingdra Prime
4 Shelmet DEX
4 Accelgor DEX
3 Smeargle UD
1 Pichu HS

Trainers – 26

4 Cheren
4 Pokémon Collector
4 Professor Juniper
4 Sage’s Training


4 Pokémon Communication
4 Rare Candy


2 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 8

4 W
4 Double Colorless

If this list looks insane to you… then you are probably not alone. Let’s go over it:*The most unusual feature of the Trainer engine is that it runs only straight draw, and no Twins. This is because we want to be fast about everything, doing what we can to get down to the last few cards as quickly as possible.

Even though Twins could still be a very useful card in here, it seriously disrupts the odds of pulling Accelgor/DCE out of the deck late game. With Cheren/Juniper/Sage/Collector, you are always increasing your odds of drawing what you need for the next turn’s attack, improving the effectiveness of Deck and Cover.

*The Energy line is very, very thin because we will be conserving the same resources for much of the game. I was tempted to run only four DCE, but I also don’t like relying solely on it to get your Deck and Cover lock going. As for my choice in energy, I selected water because in this sort of deck, Kingdra can operate as a surprisingly effective attacker, and be used as a “sacrifice” so that you can make sure that the poison from Deck and Cover Knocks Out the defending Pokémon right before your turn starts.

*And on that note, Knocking Out the defending Pokémon prior to the start of your turn is a major reason why we run Kingdra. With a perfect D&C loop on top of Spray Splash, you can make sure that you get an unanswered turn, evening out the early prize lead your opponent must hold at this point in the game.

*4-0-3 Vileplume may seem like a very strange line, but with the straight draw premise of the build, it works when all you need in your hand at any one moment is Rare Candy and Communication/Vileplume. Admittedly, not having Twins makes this style of Vileplume line a bit harder to pull off, so I might put the Supporter back in at a later date.*Although I threw around running a thinner Accelgor line, in the end I decided that having more float around in the deck helps big-time during the early-mid game.

*Smeargle/Skyarrow is a great starting scenario, and a solid way to get more cards out of your deck faster.

*Last but not least is a single Pichu – way less useful due to Shelmet being a three retreater, but a useful card to retreat into via Skyarrow, as well as switch into after a successful Deck and Cover. It is preferable to Smeargle when you are – for whatever reason – unable to stick Skyarrow Bridge.

Other than all of that, I don’t have too much more to say about it. I might tech in a Heatmor to account for its otherwise abysmal Durant matchup, but for now I’d say that this is a good start to a very strange, unusual concept.

Alternatively, you don’t have to play a Deck and Cover deck; you could just run it as a tech or splash line in something already running the above forms of energy acceleration, or merely DCE. However, I believe that this is a high-risk/high-reward approach to the card, since this sort of focus is basically dedicating up to a sixth of your deck to the hope and prayer that your opponent does not play Switch the turn you paralyzed.

Still, if all goes well, this thing can be a killer in getting ahead on the EX exchange, and make a respectable impact on the field.


BulbapediaI suspect that many competitive players will immediately discard this as an option in decks. While I recognize that there are some uses for it, Entei-EX is perhaps the first really mediocre EX of the new era. Why is that?

At first, its stats don’t seem that bad: 180 HP is pretty high, T2 Burn is nice with Volcarona DEX as an option, and an attack capable of both decent damage and energy acceleration is decent. However, that “EX” price tag is way too steep, and can lead to all sorts of hilarious exchanges between Entei and non-EX attackers. Terrakion, Eviolited Zekrom, and a surprising number of other attackers can outgun this guy, making me wonder if it’s even playable…

That said, if something as obscure and strange as Regigigas-EX, with its worse Retreat Cost and even weaker attacks, can find a niche in the metagame, I’m hard-pressed to go out on a limb and call Entei-EX “bad.” For that reason, I thought up a couple ideas that could abuse it:

A. Quad Entei: Basically run the deck similarly to Quad Terrakion NVI, only use Entei (and perhaps one other non-EX attacker) instead. Unlike Terrakion, though, you’ll most likely want tons of healing, or else things like Empoleon will overrun you.

How would that look? Why, maybe a little something like…What you saw in Dakota’s article on Tuesday, or Roarkiller’s article before that. Here’s my take on the concept:

Pokémon – 5

4 Entei-EX
1 Tornadus EPO

Trainers – 41

4 Copycat
4 Professor Juniper
4 Seeker
4 Professor Oak’s New Theory


4 Junk Arm
4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Switch
3 Exp. Share
3 Heavy Ball
2 Max Potion
2 PlusPower
2 Pokégear 3.0
1 Ultra Ball

Energy – 14

14 R

There are some key distinctions between the approach to Quad Entei and Quad Terrakion. First, I’ve replaced several secondary cards (Lost Remover, Crushing Hammer, etc) with healing in the form of four Seeker and two Max Potion. This may seem to run against the overall philosophy of a “quad” deck, but remember that Entei-EX’s HP is an asset, unlike Terrakion’s.

pokemon-paradijs.comAdditionally, I have included a Tornadus to help out in case tanking is impossible, allowing you a “seventh” prize when you need it most. Still, the odds that a benched Entei may just be Catchered up are relatively high, so perhaps a better inclusion would be Shaymin UL.

This concept requires patience to play. Often, you will fall down a couple prizes before really locking in a fully-charged Entei. There are some instances where Seekering will heal up your Entei, but force you to go for Fire Fang in place of Grand Flame. At the end of the day, though, this variant could very well prove wrong my initial hunches about Entei.

B. Entei Truth: Reasonably strong offensive power combined with energy acceleration is decent, and in a deck like The Truth, you need all of the acceleration you can get. Could go well with Regigigas-EX, Mewtwo EX, or even Terrakion!

Unlike the Quad Entei list, I am convinced that an Entei Truth is easy enough to figure out, considering that it is far more of a “cut and paste” rogue than Quad Entei is. Determining its partner, though, might be much more difficult.

The success of both ideas depends on a metagame not having much 1HKO-capable water. If things like Empoleon gain momentum, then you can idea B may take require some second thought, and idea A will not be worth taking into a tournament.

(Plus, it suffers heavily against non-metagame or fringe decks. You don’t want to lose to Crobat Prime, do you?!)


I don’t know what it is about this card, but something in my gut is saying that this card is good, even though it just seems like a glorified Reshiram. Most of the time, trusting your gut is a good thing to do…But this time, I’m just going to tell it to shut up. Without a doubt, the first attack is far more proactive in taking control of a game than Outrage, and the second attack is superior to Blue Flare in every way.

Be that as it may, nothing about Blaziken makes it good enough to justify playing over Reshiram right now. Sure, some day down the line there may be a reason to run it in Emboar mirror, but that hypothetical is seriously stretching it.


BulbapediaOf course, no discussion of Dark Explorers is complete without Heatmor, one of the hardest counters to a single card (Durant) in years. The question on everybody’s mind is as follows…

“Is Heatmor enough to kill Durant?”

Short answer: not by a long shot. Feel free to advance to the next card analysis.

Long answer: Heatmor is only enough to kill Durant in the one game you play against it. Even if Heatmor’s text on Hot Lick basically read as “you win the game,” the Durant swarm still live on for as long as it is legal. It…

*…Is still somewhat popular with financially disadvantaged players (although much less so, since many of them have had time to get whatever they need).

*…Is still relatively popular with newer players. Battle Roads have no play point requirement, and National’s minimum of 10 is very easy to meet.

*…Can still win against lists teching Heatmor over other classic Durant counters, such as decent switch counts. Hot Lick won’t be doing much if you are stuck with a four Retreat Cost Pokémon in the Active Spot!

Based on all of this, it is safe to assume that Durant will still be out there come Battle Roads and Nationals, even if it is less playable. So rather than thinking about if Heatmor merely existing or not is enough to remove your Durant threat entirely, you must think about whether or not teching it in is a good idea.

Most decks now have a solid answer to it already, so this just boils down to testing: if solid play and solid deck-building are not enough to get you the win, then Heatmor would be a good idea; if those two things do the trick, though, then use the space on something more effective.

There are several soft Durant counters presently legal, and may turn out to be more useful in more matchups than a card that effective reads as “I beat Durants not teching in weird things like Leavanny.”


BulbapediaLike I said earlier, any guaranteed status condition can turn a game around quickly. Unfortunately, two of those conditions – burn and sleep – are almost never guaranteed by their very natures. For that reason, the usefulness of an Ability like Scorching Scales is really tough to gauge in certain terms, requiring us to think about it in expected utility.

Although it sounds complicated, what “expected utility” means is just the value of a number after its probability is applied. Expected utility actually explains why burn has very rarely been a playable mechanic in the game’s history: because it’s essentially a less predictable form of poison, and the risk of it going against you does not outweigh the benefits of it working in most cases.

Enter Volcarona. With Scorching Scales, you have what is perhaps the most easily accessible “double status” card out there, making several otherwise mediocre burners (*cough* Entei *cough*) hopeful. However, since Volcarona has a relative amount of beef for a stage one, I have a feeling that it could be a surprisingly effective standalone attacker.


This card has by far one of the coolest Abilities out of the new set, and is something I wish they’d attach to clearly “broken” cards.

…Unfortunately, the card that this effect is attached to is awful. You shouldn’t have to wait around a turn or two just to earn the privilege to go toe-to-toe with better cards with higher HP (e.g., Thundurus and Tornadus).

Kyogre EX

BulbapediaWith so many potent Lightning attackers in the format right now, running Kyogre EX as the main anything could be a death sentence if not handled properly. Dual Splash is a decent attack, and in the right build, so is Smash Turn: you could theoretically switch into another beefy EX over and over again, only keeping Kyogre in the Active Spot when it’s time to strike with Dual Splash.

Regrettably, though, I think that this sort of concept is too convoluted, and has way too little output to really do anything that other decks cannot already. Perhaps Kyogre EX is the first surefire “bad” EX thus far…


Anyone who has known me for a while is aware of how much I love cards like this. I’ve piloted two similar decks to Empoleon – Ludicolo DX and Jumpluff HS – to some fairly good showings, winning big tournaments with both. Plus, there’s always something so satisfying about having a card that is a solid balance of attack power and built-in consistency. Empoleon would without a doubt qualify.

Although this attack has more or less remained the same over the years, the metagames of the three eras (HL-on, DP-on, and HS) are significantly different from each other. For that reason, many people even question if Attack Command can really work effectively. Due to my personal biases for decks like this, I am inclined to at least attempt to make it work. Here’s what I have so far…

Pokémon – 17

4 Piplup DEX
2 Prinplup DEX
4 Empoleon DEX
3 Smeargle UD
3 Terrakion NVI
1 Shaymin UL

Trainers – 33

4 Pokémon Collector
4 N
4 Sage’s Training


4 Junk Arm
4 Pokémon Communication
4 Rare Candy
3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Switch
2 PlusPower
1 Super Rod

Energy – 10

6 W
2 Rainbow
2 F

BulbapediaThe idea of “Empoleon/Terrakion” is pretty easy to figure out: you rely on the speed and consistency of Empoleon to carry you through most games, and then use Terrakion as a fallback attacker when there aren’t enough Pokémon in play, or to just sweep up Lightning decks.

Again, Smeargle makes for a great filler basic, as well as an all-around recovery option to add insurance on the speed of your Empoleon. On the other hand, Shaymin is a very clutch, almost necessary tech: rather than allow for predictable Catcher plays that would surely wreck your option to rush out with Terrakion, you can swarm Empoleons without worry in the entire early game, conserving energy for the Terrakions when you need them most. The effect is so valuable that I’m even considering cutting Smeargle #3 – a consistency card – for a second Shaymin.

There’s not much out of the ordinary with my trainer or energy line: lower Supporters to account for the built-in draw engine that is Empoleon, as well as less energy (don’t need much more when your main attacker only needs one). My counts on everything else feel relatively comfortable, offering ample switching and gusting opportunities as needed. Perhaps the only thing I’d really want to fit in here is a third PlusPower, but for now, I consider any more than two to be a luxury.


I can see exactly what PCL was trying to do with this line of Eeveelutions in Dark Rush (the Japanese version of Dark Explorers): they wanted us to play them all in the same deck, and then whip out DCEs + the colored energy of choice to 1HKO everything! Right?

…Well, not quite. Basically, nearly all of the new Eevee cards are inferior versions of something else in the field. In Jolteon’s case, the corresponding “superior” would be Zapdos NXD. Even though it costs an extra energy card, Thundering Hurricane is infinitely superior when you are trying to go for hail Mary-esque attacks. Jolteon, on the other hand, is hoping for some substantial luck just to overcome a Zekrom without Eviolite.

For now, steer clear of these cards.


BulbapediaThe most likely question in most competitive players’ minds when it comes to this card is, “What does this add to Zeels?”

The first thing it does is allow to you to diversify your play a bit via. Whereas mirror, skill-based as it might be, often comes down to who can hit Catcher or not, Volt Bolt lets you get past that, as it offers you a clear way to KO any medium-sized card on the board. You can also pull off some nifty late game tricks in tandem with Catcher, such as dragging up a high Retreat Cost Pokémon with no energy, potentially getting multiple free prizes for your effort.

However, the skeptic in me says that it is probably not a good idea to focus too much on Raikou as a main attacker. Sure, any good Zeels list should be able to play up its strengths, and make it possible to reuse, but going overboard with the card could hinder the natural strength of zeels, and lead to some very poor mirror showings. I am concerned that a build that is too Raikou-oriented will collapse to the overwhelming strength of Non-EX attackers like Zekrom over time, or just get steamrolled by Terrakion.

All in all, I don’t see this card changing the metagame overnight, although I do anticipate previously overconfident Fighting players to rethink their strategies against Zeels. Additionally, I am already seeing players account for it in their lists, running more hard counters and Switching. This goes to show that even if I don’t believe that running two or more of this card is a good idea, I still respect how effective it can be, as well as how devastating it can be to mirror if left unchecked.


At the moment, Plusle’s Tag Draw appears to be a couple steps below the best consistency starters of this format. Because Cleffa’s Eeeeeeek costs no energy at all, and because Smeargle’s Poké-Power doesn’t even end your turn, there’s really no point to waste deck space on this guy. This is somewhat amazing when you think about it, because on an absolute scale, drawing eight cards on the first turn is very useful.

Carefully watch out for any possible rotation announcement, though: if it is Call of Legends-on, then Plusle’s “superiors” will remain; however, if it is Black and White on, then Tag Draw might just become a new boon for speed.


BulbapediaFor much of States and Regionals, a major debate circled around which Noble Victories Tynamo to run, and in what quantity. For the most part, people settled on the 30 HP Tynamo, with perhaps one or even two of the 40 HP guy. Now that we have two more Tynamos…What should our Eelektrik variants be running?

Right now, I’m going to suggest that you keep an emphasis on 30 HP Tynamo, and perhaps consider replacing a fourth Thundershock Tynamo with a Spark one. Paralysis can be very nice when you hit it, but dealing 10 to the active and 10 the bench out of nowhere opens up so many possibilities to outplay your opponent.

You could even make some awesome late game plays with it, such as Catchering up a high retreater and then “sniping” something that was previously damaged in the game.

Lots of silly possibilities here, but it isn’t a bad option in the least.


As fun as it might be to Knock Out an opponent with an offensive Eelektrik, there is almost no reason to ever be using this card in place of another Dynamotor Eelektrik, or simply a regular attacker with better statistics (e.g., Thundurus).


For the longest time, the joke about Eelektrik variants went along the lines of:

“Wouldn’t it be insane if your opponent won the mirror with a tech Eelektross?”

“Yeah, dude. Dealing 90 with Wild Rush would 1HKO Eelektriks n’ stuff. Awesome!”

That isn’t exactly the case with this Eelektross, but now there’s a stronger argument than ever before to tech one into specific Eels variants. For regular builds, Eelektross has a ton of competition in the forms of other possible snipe/lure cards, such as Zapdos and Raikou-EX.

However, this Eelektross really strengthens the possibility of running an Eelektrik deck with Vileplume. Basically, this theoretical version of Eels would have complete control over the opponent’s Catcher situation, shutting off his or her own switch-out options while taking advantage of your own.

This is a very narrow window of time to test such an idea, and this is all just theory from me for now. Nevertheless, it could be a brand-new way to approach the Eelektrik matchup, as well as the rest of the metagame proper.


BulbapediaI wish that Espeon came out in so many formats other than this one…I really do. Psychic Report may not be anything to “write” home about (hurhurhur); however, I cannot overstate how awesome Solar Miracle is. When played right, this is more or less a perfect counter to any deck that attempts to win by any method other than deck-out or raw damage. Pretty cool, right?

Yeah, it is pretty cool, but regrettably, Espeon was born in the wrong generation. For the past few formats, spanning back all the way to 2007-2008, there has generally been a severe overemphasis on dealing damage, and a disturbing lack of tier one/tier two decks that use other methods to win. This is a big reason why so many veteran players long for the days of 2004-2006: because back then, you actually had a reasonable split when it came to these things.

Headed into Nationals, it seems as if it will be more of the same. Durant’s playability has dropped significantly, tank concepts are a huge risk to use in any event, and a majority of the most popular concepts depend almost purely on big damage. Sure, there may be some very interesting status inducers, such as my main buddy Accelgor, but most players of Zeels, Zoroark, and so on would be right to assume that these are a very minor portion of the field.

For that reason, it seems as if Espeon will have no real place in the HS-on format unless something drastic happens between now and Worlds. Regardless, things may look up for it deep into the next rotation, so keep your fingers crossed for what may be the best legal Eeveelution card available.


For effective usage of “Litter,” this card depends on two things: a good set of tools, and the proper draw engine to make getting them into your hand much easier.

Regarding the first point, I’m just not sure that we have enough good ones for Cofagrigus, seeing as how all we have to go with are Eviolite, Rocky Helmet, Exp. Share, and Dark Claw. Exp. Share can be quite useful in a deck dependent on streams of knockouts, but Rocky Helmet is much more situational, and Eviolite/Dark Claw only work well for their effects when running this as an Absol Prime/Mew Prime variant.


Why is it important to actually use the tools outside of being fuel for Litter? Because we often will not be drawing all 6 Prizes off of Litter and nothing else. In many cases, you will either be better served to conserve your tools via a Lock Up or Vicious Claw knockout, saving the big hits for the late game.

As for the second matter, it is monstrously challenging to fit both the necessary amount of tools “and” draw support in a Cofagrigus list. Just think about these following incomplete skeletons for a moment…

Version A

4-4 Musharna NXD (used for consistency
4-4 Cofagrigus DEX

16 Tools
3-4 Switch (to get Musharna out of the Active Spot)

Total: 35-36 spots…Before adding a single energy, draw card, or supplementary utility item (such as Catcher)

Version B

4 Absol Prime (used as both an early game hitter and as “gas” for Mew Prime’s Lost Link options)
4 Mew Prime (much easier to crank out over and over than a stage one line; has free retreat to get Absol going with a Dark Claw)
4 Cofagrigus

16 Tools

Total: 28 spots…Again before adding anything at all

I am inclined to think that something such as Version B would be by far the more playable variant. Even then, striking the right balance between the first “set in stone” half of your deck and the second is precisely why I said that running this deck would be monstrously difficult. Building up Version B a bit nets the following list:

Pokémon – 12

4 Absol Prime
4 Mew Prime
4 Cofagrigus DEX

Trainers – 36

4 Bianca
4 Professor Oak’s New Theory


4 Dark Claw
4 Eviolite
4 Exp. Share
4 Level Ball
4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Random Receiver
4 Rocky Helmet

Energy – 12

8 D
4 Double Colorless

…And as you can see, it is still super-tight: this purely theoretical build barely fits in the necessary cards, lacks Junk Arm or Darkness Patch entirely, and most likely needs something such as PlusPower to shore up the huge difference between discarding four tools and five to knockout certain Pokémon-EX (Raikou, I’m looking at you). This is a start, though. I think that with some tweaking, whipping out 160-200 when you need it is a very real possibility.

P.S. Why Bianca? Because in the late game, when you really need a huge number of tools to sustain your Mew Prime Litter, drawing an automatic 5-6 cards in a deck that is probably full of tools can be absolutely essential to winning. Even in the early game it isn’t so bad: dump Level Balls as needed, and you could easily see 3-5 cards at the start of a game.


BulbapediaAs if PlusPower wasn’t enough already, we now have an additional method of increasing damage: Aerodactyl’s Ancient Scream. Aside from that Ability having one of the coolest names ever, it functions as a permanent PlusPower. Like all fossils, though, getting Aerodactyl into play is easier said than done: Twist Mountain may up the odds a bit, but a flip is still a flip, and having to hope that you hit an Aerodactyl with Old Amber Aerodactyl is almost as bad as a flip.

To be honest, in the pre-planning phases of this article, I had an Empoleon/Aerodactyl list fired up and ready to go. It was typed up, functional, and…Not tested. So I went to move my theory into the realms of reality, and found out just how mediocre Aerodactyl is in practice with something like this.

Put simply, you cannot run Aerodactyl if you are unwilling to dedicate at least 13-15% of the space in your deck to it. Even then, your payoff is somewhat questionable, I suppose that in the right type of basic deck, it could be effective.

Perhaps Tornadus EX, Terrakion, Twist Mountain, and Aerodactyl would work well together? You already need a decent number of Stadiums to make Blow Through useful

Groudon EX

Ah, now here is a card that has some promise, especially in this Lightning-laden metagame.

Just like Entei-EX, I believe that the two best ways to run this card are in “Quad” form and “Truth” form. Given that Groudon is way more useful in the early game than an Entei is, there is much less of a need to get a Groudon to three energy, thereby demanding healing that is far less sweeping than Seeker or Max Potion. Simple cards like Moomoo Milk or even Potion would be great ways to let a Groudon EX tank, and I am even suspecting that Eviolite could be a better tool choice than Exp. Share.

As for Pokémon, I suspect that you could switch out Tornadus, your non-EX attacker, with Terrakion NVI, which is made much more powerful after turns of Tromp

As for a Truth variant, I consider it to have as many problems as any other version. Raikou-EX is still a real problem for your Reuniclus, and it – surprisingly – will not get Knocked Out by a Groudon EX if it still has full health! Almost every other matchup could be very positive; however, your key to doing well with such a deck is making sure that you have an automatic response to Raikou in case it rears its ugly head.

Overall, I am pretty pleased with the potential of this card, primarily as a Zeel back-breaker.


BulbapediaTunnel Hole isn’t anything to write home about: there are better sniping options than this, and others that can hit the active. The real reason why we are analyzing this card is because of Excavation Attack, which is perhaps one of the most versatile offensive moves available in the new set.

I don’t know about you, but the first thing that comes to mind is Crushing Hammer: with four CH, four Junk Arm, a couple Lost Removers, and Excavation Attack, you could very easily starve several major modified decks of resources. This is even more apparent when you look at the future metagame, likely to consist of the following:

  • Dark decks (1HKO’d by Excadrill)
  • Lightning decks (1HKO’d again by Excadrill)
  • Countless non-Vileplume lists without energy acceleration

With enough Crushing Hammers or just raw overpowering potential, a silly deck like this could do an absurd amount of damage. Tornadus EX is a real threat to it, sure, but another card you can keep getting back with Excadrill for the next few months is Defender: something that would all but guarantee your survival in the face of Power Blast.

I have no list for this deck, nor do I intend to make one in the immediate future. Yet when I rushed to write this thing off as just another weak hitter, I began to really think about what it could do with a whole assortment of inclusions: all of the above, Exp. Share, Black Belt, or just something completely loopy like Legend Box and Lugia LEGEND. So many cards are strengthened by multiple uses, and Excadrill is a great way to gain leverage while doing that.


Speaking of which, Sableye is useful for many of the same reasons, albeit as more of a support card than anything. There is no doubt that there are situations where Sableye could be a lifesaver, digging up a couple clutch Item cards to give keep up momentum, or just get you back into a match. Either way, my reservation is that every time you use Junk Hunt, you are more likely than not sacrificing a prize to the opponent.

Thus, you would benefit greatly from using Sableye only when it counts, in lists where it is a logical inclusion. Yes, it can be quite handy, but you can’t just chuck it into every dark deck – something that many people seem to be taking for granted right now.

Darkrai EX

Here it is: the Big Boy. The Dark Prince. The Night Spear from Hades.

Actually, you probably best know it as the $50 card on Troll and Toad. But no matter what you call it, Darkrai EX is a great card, and will be played all throughout Battle Roads. Dark Cloak is an instant boon to any appropriately-colored deck needing free retreat, and Night Spear can be interpreted sufficiently as “board control incarnate.” Maybe one of the best things about this attacker is that it can almost always go up against a Mewtwo EX and win.

Indeed, Darkrai is a stellar inclusion to our format, but I would not suggest that you play it recklessly. This card, while good, is full of holes that could certainly be exploited:

– It gets ruined by Terrakion, non-stop. This alone warrants running Eviolite in a healthy quantity, mainly because the revenge killer will become more and more popular.

– Not all concepts really require Darkrai. Certainly most dark decks love it, but it isn’t always justifiable to splash it into a concept merely because it runs Dark, Prism, or Rainbow. Even some pure dark decks, like Zoroark, don’t always require it, as I will argue for later on.

In the end, Darkrai EX lives up to much of the hype, but you have to be judicious in choosing what deck to toss it in. Right now, my favorite variant is probably Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX: a concept that could very well steal many of CMT’s former players by being the latest new fast deck. Several will hail Dark Patch as the new Celebi Prime, recognizing Darkrai as one of its best users.

Before moving on, let’s quickly check out a build of it…

Pokémon – 10

4 Darkrai-EX DEX
2 Tornadus-EX DEX
2 Shaymin UL
2 Tornadus EPO

Trainers – 36

4 Professor Juniper
4 Professor Oak’s New Theory
3 N


4 Dark Patch
4 Dual Ball
4 Junk Arm
4 Pokémon Catcher
2 Dark Claw
2 Eviolite
2 Random Receiver


3 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 14

10 D
4 Double Colorless

In this list, anything other than Shaymin can be considered an optimal starter due solely to how easy it is to get things in and out of the Active Spot. Between Darkrai’s Dark Cloak, Shaymin’s Celebration Wind, and Skyarrow Bridge (played to activate Tornadus EX’s Blow Through), you can use what you want, when you need it.

This is a major reason why I run at least two of everything: so that the precise turn one combo I want can be pulled off more efficiently. Shaymin in particular is very useful as a 2-of because there are many instances in a game where I wanted two, but either started with it or used it for an early knockout.

pokemon-paradijs.comThere isn’t necessarily anything unusual about my Trainer line. As you can see, the consistency of a CMT-esque deck is still there, with 11 draw Supporters and two Supporter fetchers (now Random Receiver in place of Pokégear 3.0, due to its 100% grab rate). My Eviolite count is as advertised, while my Dark Claw count is just high enough to make a difference late game.

The latter two cards may actually become PlusPowers at a later point so that both Tornadus and an Eviolited Darkrai can enjoy them, but for now, I’m fairly content taking this more conservative mid-game approach.


Ride the Wave is an extraordinarily powerful move in the late game, since in an average exchange you should have at most 3 Prizes remaining. Also, due to the fact that it is a fairly expensive stage two with no easy way to grab prizes without getting Lost Removered into oblivion, Krookodile might best serve as another See Off/Vicious Claw target, letting Mew Prime swoop in out of nowhere and blow away an opponent for the game.

By itself, though, I don’t see much of a future for the croc, mainly as a result of so many better abusers of Dark Patch and Dark Claw.


True to its Black and White cousin, we get yet another great Zoroark card, only this time it’s capable of hitting for a “base” 120 (assuming full bench of Dark types). Brutal Bash without a doubt makes Zoroark one of the outright best new cards in Dark Explorers, and is in my eyes something that should be abused as much as possible. Below is a build focusing almost exclusively on Zoroark, as well as its supportive ally, Weavile.

Pokémon – 16

4 Zorua DEX 69
4 Zoroark DEX
4 Sneasel UD
4 Weavile UD

Trainers – 32

4 Judge
4 Professor Oak’s New Theory
4 Pokémon Collector
3 Professor Juniper


4 Dark Patch
4 Junk Arm
3 Dark Claw
2 Level Ball
2 Pokémon Communication
2 Super Rod

Energy – 12

8 D
4 Special D

BulbapediaThe goal here is very simple: get a near-100% opportunity to Ascension with Zorua by turn one, and then get out just as much of a guaranteed turn two bench of attackers. Both of these reasons are why I run so much Pokémon search, making even a draw-less hand competitive. My Pokémon line is also very much bare bones: I have settled on no techs, support cards, or anything else beyond pure beatdown coupled with the free-retreating Sneasel from Undaunted.

This variant is focused on abusing Claw Snag in the early game, so I run a maximum count on Judge. It might nowadays seem like a sin to run anything other than N as disruption, but you won’t be realistically keeping your opponent in a hole by giving him or her six cards – you need to, as they say, “go for the jugular.” With four Junk Arm, three Level Ball, max Weavile and two Communication, Judge/Weavile is surprisingly easy to pull off.

The name of the game here is swarming Zoroarks, so I run a double count on Super Rod, as well as a line of nothing but D Energy to – again – maximize the value of Ascension. This lets me not only have a new Zoroark ready to go just about whenever I need it; it also maximizes the value of Dark Patch. In time, I might put back in the Double Colorless Energy, but having lots of special Darkness means knockouts on attackers that would otherwise never be in range for me (e.g., Eviolited Zekrom without prior recoil damage).

You might be wondering about my lack of Darkrai EX. Again, this is because of a strict “no techs” policy. It is good with Zoroark, but that ~10% of games where you start with lone Darkrai (or a knocked-out basic followed up with a promoted Darkrai) is one turn where you’re not Ascending. If you were to include Darkrai in any meaningful count, then I would recommend running a couple Ultra Ball in place of Communication entirely.

This is meant to be pure beatdown with no bells and whistles, but here are some possible tech ideas:

pokemon-paradijs.com1. Zoroark BLW. Two Super Rod makes it so that you have some flexibility with the Zoroark line, and can run a 3/1 split. Foul Play is very powerful in tandem with Dark Claw and Special Darkness, and in a list running PlusPowers, it’s even better.

2. Weavile NXD is a very cheap, easy way to make dark mirror matches easier: hit opposing Zoroarks for a guaranteed 1HKO with a special Darkness or Dark Claw of your own, finish off a Darkrai EX for cheap, or even take down big, obscure threats like Krookodile and Tyranitar Prime. It also heavily punishes aggressive Absol Primes without making yourself too vulnerable to a response KO, and is bound to take many players by surprise.

Despite these options for variety, I have found that simple may be better with Zoroark. I am still working on counts, trying to find the best balance of offense, consistency, and energy; however, this list’s emphasis on Brutal Bash makes for one of the most powerful non-EX deck options around (and if need be, an extremely effective budget play for a friend or relative).


Maybe this is me getting a bit lazy as we approach the end of today’s discussion; however, with stage two status, a first attack that takes a monstrously long time to build up, and a mediocre second, all I can say is…



Flip a coin; heal. Not too much to this, and in this format of 1-shots, I can’t say that I’m thrilled with it. However, as a swarm healer, you could negate the flip, instead pulling off multiple Softboiled Abilities on the same turn. Vileplume/Blissey/ “insert healer here” might work, but I’m actually thinking that a non-Vileplume rogue could work well if designed with just a 4-4 Blissey line.

Tornadus EX

BulbapediaWow, what a great way to end the Pokémon section of the D. E. C.! As addressed earlier, it is certainly a well-rounded attacker…But why is it worth the hype?

1) It raises the bar for EX damage. Sure, just about every EX you look at can deal this much, but not as unconditionally as Tornadus. Thus, you have a vanilla attacker capable of 2-shotting any opposing EX that hasn’t been Eviolited for both turns it was damaged (And with PlusPower, you can even break through that!)

2) It raises the bar for damage period, carrying on Mewtwo EX’s tradition of big, fat hits.

3) Also like Mewtwo EX, it is easily splashable into an assortment of concepts. Sure, some decks are going to have a much harder time abusing the first attack, but anything can benefit from the presence of 100 for three colorless. Whereas Mewtwo would struggle to ever reach this threshold, the big tornado guy is already dealing absurd amounts by the second or even first turn of a game.

While lacking in PlusPower, the Darkrai/Tornadus should be a primer on a way to run it, and perhaps Tornadus/Twist Mountain/Aerodactyl can work, too. It’s also an obvious new inclusion to CMT, although I don’t see it outright replacing the regular Tornadus in there – you want to conserve energy rather than hog it, after all! Be that as it may, Tornadus is, not withstanding some Lightning issues, one of the top new Pokémon-EX, and can splash into a ton of things.

Dark’s Advent: Different Ways to Use the New Tools

BulbapediaBy this point in the discussion, you should know why Dark Patch and Dark Claw are so strong, as well as what they do for this latest set. Still, did you know that these tools can also be used to greatly augment older cards? Listed below are a few underrated or previously outdated dark attackers I feel get a new breath of life thanks to Dark Explorers.

Tyranitar Prime: benefits mostly from Dark Patch, but is further augmented by Dark Claw, as well (there is a surprisingly huge difference between Darkness Howl for just 20-30 to the active and 40-50).

Honchkrow UD #16: still in all likelihood a bad card, although made slightly more playable by Darkness Claw’s added power.

Absol Prime: This is most likely the most strengthened “old” card by virtue of Dark Explorers tools, as they both enhance its speed and power. What was once more of a support card is now finally an offensive beast, capable of scoring a shocking number of early prizes if left unanswered.

Zoroark BLW: discussed previously.

Bisharp NVI: loves, loves, loves Dark Claw to let it tear apart otherwise inaccessible support Pokémon.

Before we move on to the last couple of cards, though, I’d like to discuss one aside point about Dark Explorers…

Random Receiver, Ultra Ball, and the Change in Consistency Engines

A few articles back, when I was theorizing about the potential of Ultra Ball and Random Receiver, one of my biggest focuses was orchestrating new sort of “ball” engine. For review, here is a slightly modified version of that engine:


6 of the following: Pokémon Communication, Dual Ball, Level Ball, and/or Heavy Ball
4 Ultra Ball

Additionally, your “Supporter” line could look like…

4 Random Receiver
4 Professor Juniper
3 Professor Oak’s New Theory
3 Bianca

The main premise behind this engine is to achieve super-fast deck thin, running through tons of non-Supporter consistency items just to get your board online, as well as to increase the odds of hitting clutch resources such as PlusPower or Pokémon Catcher.

This engine is not for everyone, nor are the decks that best utilize it; however, it opens up a ton of possibilities, and strengthens several previously dismissed concepts, such as ZPST and Typhlosion/Reshiram. Come rotation, expect several decks to begin employing this sort engine to account for a lack of Pokémon Collector.

As standalone inclusions, though, both cards are fantastic. Even without a new engine, Ultra Ball is very well-utilized in decks popularly considered to be outdated, like the two aforementioned and Magnezone. As for Random Receiver, it is a fantastic replacement for Pokégear in many lists, allowing for a much greater likelihood of getting the exact Supporter that you need, when you need it.

This of course works best for lists not running a wide variety of Supporters, so if you have Seeker, Black Belt, Twins, or Collector floating around in your concept, then it might be best to steer clear of Receiver.

Other Dark Explorers Trainers

Leather Jackets and Scraggies – Actually, another reason why you might not want to run Random Receiver is because of “Leather Jackets and Scraggies,” otherwise known as Hooligans Jim & Cas.

A spiritual reprint of The Rocket’s Trap from Gym Heroes, what made that card so effective was the ability to use it multiple times in one turn. With Leather Jackets and Scraggies, on the other hand, you’re stuck twiddling your thumbs in the event of a tails, making this one of the least effective uses of a Supporter in a single turn.

Why hope and pray that you get a heads when you have so many stronger control options right now? N, Judge, and of course Weavile are all way more useful in serving the role of “hand killer” than this thing would be.

Twist Mountain – This Stadium may not do a great deal to advance your damage-dealing pursuits, although it is plenty good for Archeops. Back during Noble Victories’s release, when Archeops was actually a somewhat viable rogue option, part of its issue in ever picking up much steam was the whiffing on Plume Fossil. Twist Mountain may not prevent whiffing altogether, but it is still a solid option to promote your odds.

Generally speaking, this format is still controlled by basics, meaning that the playability of Archeops – and in effect Twist Mountain – is far less than what it could be. Wait for a while, however, and this combination could be a real format-breaker against a future, hypothetical field of evolutions.

Shiny Pokémon Catcher – If you are running Pokémon Catcher, then you are hereby banned from ever using the regular form of it again. Even if you prefer to shuffle with only non-holographic cards, your preferences are henceforth considered null, void, and irrelevant, because the shiny Catcher is a weapon so powerful, it makes even the mighty Thor tremble in terror.

Mark A. Hicks

[11th hour update: I was just kidding, but it looks like some of you guys pre-ordering cards on Troll and Toad took it seriously…It’s up to $30 already!]


This is probably the largest set write-up that I have done, and although there are tons of ideas to work with in here, my one hope is that it got your creativity working. Even in this Basic-heavy format, there are a ton of ways to not only advance archetypes in new, unexpected ways, but run entirely new concepts, as well.

What new deck out of Dark Explorers do you like the most? What has the greatest potential for long term success? How many Shiny Pokémon Catchers can we all collectively hoard?

Feel free to use the boards to talk about all of these, and maybe we can get some interesting new developments beyond the Dark Explorers Compendium.

…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

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