Kenny’s Wisdom: Dark Explorers Set Review

[Editor’s Note: I apologize for the tardiness of this article being published. I realize it might be a little late to the party, but hopefully it’s still beneficial to some of you out there!]

Another set, another article. I know you all missed your favorite SixPrizes writer during the month of March, so let’s get right down to it. If you’d like to read more about how I go about reviewing cards or how I choose which to review, please check out any of my other set reviews.

Also, quick question: Does it help anyone to get financial advice in these articles? I’ve done it a bit before but it seemed to garner little to no response. I’m going to skip it for this article, but if you miss it, please let me know in the comments and I’ll bring it back for next time (or write a mini article about the finances of Dark Explorers, if there’s enough demand).

I’m still going to speak a little bit about which cards you should pick up now and which are bound to go down in price, but it won’t be very extensive and I won’t go into detail.

I’m reviewing these by set number, starting with…

Venusaur DEX

BulbapediaVenusaur is the perfect example of the card that I love to bring to the attention of my readers. No, it’s not very flashy and playing a Stage 2 is pretty much the last thing any of you want to do right now, but the fact of the matter is its Ability is inherently powerful and is worth talking about.

The biggest upside I see to this card is that it allows almost any wacky idea to work: an odd 1-of, a wacky tech line, etc. The game is very linear right now and I don’t think it’s quite the right time for Venusaur, but I predict she’ll have her time in the sunlight before too long.

[Editor’s Note: Venusaur is a girl???]

Carnivine DEX

Another in a series of one-Energy gust attacks shared by Bellsprout TM and Carnivine TM. This Carnivine is interesting as its attack is strictly better, but requiring a G energy instead of C means a lot. Any Grass deck that requires agust effect on an attack will definitely be packing this guy, while any deck with no access to Grass will go for one of his less talented, but less picky cousins.

Something being overlooked by a lot of players right now is his second attack, which, for GGC, allows you to bounce the Defending Pokémon and all cards attached back into your opponent’s hand. The format is definitely not right for this guy yet, but I could see him making an interesting 1-of in the future.


As much as I hate to see it, I just don’t think there’s a place for this guy right now. Although I haven’t started testing deeply for this metagame (and when I do, you Underground members will know about it :P), I’ve put a fair amount of theorymon into making this guy work and I just don’t see it.

The best I could come up with was putting a copy or two of him in a Truth variant, but I must warn you, that idea is completely untested and I’m not sure if there are better options. For now, his low damage output is going to banish him to the shadows, it seems.

Blaziken DEX

Like Entei, I want to like this guy. I really do. He has it all: He evolves from the best starter in Gen 3, he’s weak to a fairly irrelevant type, his first attack is a coin flip that’s all upside, and his second attack is aggressively costed with very little upside.

However, in my heart of hearts I know there’s very little reason to run him over Reshiram BLW. He has strictly better stats, sure, but like so many other cards in the format right now, being anything other than a beefy Basic automatically knocks it down a few pegs. It’s not Blaziken’s fault though, really.

Heatmor DEX

BulbapediaIt’s hard to say anything about Heatmor that hasn’t already been said. While I don’t think it will kill Durant NVI outright (particularly during low-risk Battle Roads), it certainly makes the deck a lot worse. However, it also does virtually nothing to any of the other cards in the game, which is definitely a nonzero issue.

Overall I think we’re going to see a lot fewer copies of this guy than people previous thought, as most decks should already be packing an answer (whether in the form of a soft counter or knowledge of the matchup) to the metal ants.

Empoleon DEX

Firstly let me say that I absolutely adore this card. I was a huge fan of the original Jumpluff HS deck of this time last year, and Empoleon is essentially a strictly better Jumpluff. However, I’m really unsure of this guy. Keep in mind that I haven’t tested any Empoleon decks yet, but I’m just not sure that a Lightning-weak Stage 2 is what you want to be registering on your decklists right now.

This may change and trust me, I’ll do anything in my power to break this card, but for now I can’t give it the seal of approval. It’s certainly not unplayable, but I’m not terribly excited about it either.


My favorite card in the set, not close. You guys may remember a card called Garchomp from the past few formats. It was a basic that sniped your opponent’s bench for three Energy. You may also remember that me and him were bros and I played him in every tournament I ever played while he was legal (except for my one-time Battle Road affair with Jumpluff, but we’ve moved past that).

This guy is like Garchomp C LV.X, except he’s Lightning type, and his other attack has the possibility of Paralyzing the Defending Pokémon! He can also 1-shot Reuniclus BLW, Eelektrik NVI, and a slew of other annoying Bench-sitters! Oh, and you can replace Luxray GL LV.X with Pokémon Catcher, and Energy Gain with your very own Eelektriks! What’s not to love?

Well, in the sake of fairness, there are a few downsides: First of all, being an EX isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and that Fighting weakness isn’t exactly what we like to see either. Having to discard your energy isn’t all that big of a deal in an Eelektrik world, but is still a negative.

Overall I feel that Raikou is very good and fits into almost any deck playing Eels, but at this point in my testing and the metagame’s maturity, I can’t see myself playing more than two copies. It plays its role and is certainly very powerful, but, like Garchomp, needs to be treated with the right amount of delicateness and affection to assure you don’t get completely blown out.


BulbapediaAlthough a few players will disagree with me on this one, I think these two Tynamos are strictly worse than your pre-DEX options. In the words of Tyler Ninomura: “Thundershock wins games!”

Aerodactyl DEX

Very interesting card we’ve got here. Much like a few of the other cards on this list, I haven’t gotten around to testing with it yet and can’t speak to its viability with certainty, but I would definitely lean in the “Aerodactyl isn’t powerful enough” direction.

Having to deal with Fossils is a pain, and unless you’re benefiting from it inherently (Tornadus EX, etc.) I can’t see Twist Mountain being something you’re going to want to play, unless Aerodactyl is absolutely essential to your strategy.

I don’t think it’s safe to write this card off completely, but I’m not terribly impressed either.

Groudon EX

Groudon has more potential than most people are giving it credit for. It’s pretty simple to see that in a metagame defined by Pokémon that are weak to Fighting (Darkrai EX, Zoroark DEX, Eelektrik NVI, Raikou-EX, Zekrom BLW, Zekrom-EX), that an all-Fighting tank deck might be viable. In my mind, Groudon is the perfect candidate for such a job. I’ve been toying around with a few different lists, but they’re all in such an infancy that I don’t think it would be helpful of any of you to share them. Instead, let me run through a few bullet points…

Bulbapedia– I expect Terrakion NVI to play a big role in this deck. I’ve been some talk of a Quad Groudon-type deck existing and, while I won’t completely write it off, I can’t imagine the deck is better than Groudon/Terrakion.

– I expect some kind of healing factor to exist. Potion, Moomoo Milk, etc. I’m not sure what it is yet, but my testing has shown that when you have beefy three-Energy attackers, you can’t exactly be letting them die all the time.

– The deck will not exist as a Truth deck. You have a good matchup against Eel and other Lightning decks, sure. And yes, if they ever do send a Raikou up to kill your Reuniclus they’re giving up 2 Prizes, but are you really going to be able to afford to A) Run a thick line of Reuniclus, and B) Dedicate time to building up multiples of them, or several after another?

To me the answer is clearly no. I love Truth-style decks and I wish it would work, but it’s simply not going to.

Sableye DEX

This card is very interesting, and definitely has a place somewhere. Not all Dark toolbox type decks can afford to run this free prize, but I can imagine a type of deck that can run a copy or two for clutch situations. Furthermore, if Sableye ever exists in a format that’s slower and where you’re not always giving up a free prize to use Junk Hunt, he could be a huge player.

Darkrai EX

Aww yeah, here he is, the big hyped card of the set: Darkrai EX.

There’s not anything positive I can say about this card that hasn’t already been said. It’s a fantastic card, its Ability is broken, its attack is good, and it has so many positives it would be hard to imagine it not being a major player in the format for months to come. You all know that, though, so instead I’m going to focus on some of the negatives of the card…

– There are a slew of Fighting Pokémon this card dies to. Terrakion is the obvious star here, as he very easily 1-shots Darkrai for days, but even something like Groudon EX is still very good against Darkrai, and I’m sure I’m overlooking a bunch of other Pokémon who can – particularly with the help of things like Eviolite or PlusPower – enter in favorable exchanges with our dark lord.

– It’s the most hyped card/deck of the set, so it’s naturally going to be hated on. I’m not saying this completely kills the card, as it obviously doesn’t, but people are aware of it and, for better or worse, there is going to be a huge amount of Darkrai hate (and maybe even more importantly: Darkrai preparedness) at Battle Roads and Nationals.

– It’s still an EX, and the question of whether or not to play it in a Dark deck is still a very real one. It doesn’t provide such an inherently powerful affect that it’s an auto-include in any Dark deck, and maybe a misjudgment about playing it (or not playing it, or the numbers of it that you play, etc.) is going to hand many players a loss, I predict.

Krookodile DEX

This guy should definitely be on your radar as a late game finisher for any deck playing D Energy. Even at 3 Prizes remaining, 120 before Special Darkness, PlusPower, or anything of that sort is pretty solid. I’m not proclaiming this guy is broken as it’s a Stage 2 that attacks for four(!) Energy, but I don’t think it’s getting quite the respect it deserves.

Zorua DEX 69 and Zoroark DEX

Firstly: Ascension is amazing and is enough to make the new Zorua strictly better than any previous versions.

Secondly: This Zoroark card is kind of ridiculous.

Imagine a scenario, which I suspect will not be that uncommon, in which you start the game with any Dark-type Basic Pokémon and a Pokémon Collector. You’re able to use the Pokémon Collector to get something like Zorua, Sneasel UD, Darkrai, maybe? Or double Zorua and a Sneasel, if you’re only playing Zorua and Sneasels?

Anyway, through a completely realistic means you are able to put a Zorua active with a D Energy on it, and something like Darkrai, Zorua, Sneasel, Zorua on the bench. You Ascension and are immediately threatening 100 damage, without being able to find another Basic Dark-type Pokémon, a Special Dark, a Dark Patch, or anything of that sort. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call “pretty good.”

Blissey DEX

Not incredibly hyped on this guy, but I think he’ll have his place, somewhere. Keep an eye out.

Tornadus EX

Bulbapedia“This card is better than Mewtwo.” – Tyler Ninomura

Obviously that statement is taken out of context, but quite honestly…I’m inclined to agree.

Tornadus EX, in my mind, is the best card in the set, and probably the best EX we’ve gotten thus far. This guy has been hyped to everywhere and back, and for good reason. 60 on turn 1 is quite ridiculous, and no other EX card can consistently pump out 60-100 damage pretty much every turn of the game from then on.

It’s also quite splashable, as it only requires C Energy, and although it is Lightning weak and an EX, it’s so powerful from the start that I’ve found it’s sometimes a favorable trade versus lightning decks.

In short, this card is ridiculous and if you’re not picking up your copies now, you’re going to have a long road ahead of you.

Dark Patch & Dark Claw

These cards are inherently powerful and fit into pretty much every deck with a strong focus on Dark Types. I could see the numbers changing (particularly in Dark Claw) depending on what exactly the focus of your deck is, but nonetheless, these are quite powerful Trainers.


Hooligans Jim & Cas

I want to like this card, but I just can’t. Right now we have Judge and N, both of which are “hand control” cards that don’t require coin flips, and in the case of the latter, can be used with at least some strategy in mind (flipping coins and choosing random cards isn’t what I’d call “strategy”).

Maybe someday this card could be worth playing, but considering it’ll always exist in the same format as N, I think that’s a bit of a long shot.

Twist Mountain

If this card ever exists in a format filled with strong evolution cards I could see this being a real threat when paired with Archeops NVI, but until then it’s borderline unplayable, except for perhaps in some kind of Aerodactyl deck.

Random Receiver

I love this card. If you’re not playing a deck that a.) plays Pokémon Collector, or b.) Is a secret deck, or contains some kind of off-the-wall tech which you wouldn’t want your opponent to know about, this is strictly better than Xtransceiver or Pokégear 3.0. It’s great that this exists right now.

Ultra Ball

BulbapediaThe best Pokémon search card we have right now in a format full of Eelektriks and Dark Patches. This should have a huge effect on lists and consistency, and I for one think it’s a fantastic inclusion to our format. My only gripe is that we didn’t get it sooner.

Shiny Pokémon Catcher

Obviously the best card in the set, 10/10 not close.


I hope you all enjoyed this article! Sorry that it’s a bit late compared to some of the other set review articles, but I’ve been extremely busy lately and unfortunately haven’t had the time to focus as much on Pokémon writing. However, I’ll have an Underground article out later this month and I hope to be able to provide a Battle Roads report or two, or at least an overview on the metagame.

Also, I’ll be attending U.S. Nationals for the first time this year, so please feel free to say hi if you run into me. I’ll have some sweet Kenny Wisdom/6P freebies on me.

[Editor’s Note: Kenny will be staying in my room and sleeping in the bath tub for 3 nights! It’s going to be awesome!]

See you then!


Reader Interactions

17 replies

  1. Twan van Vugt

    There is a Tornadus EX / Aerodactyl DEX in Japan which gets some hype. The deck relies on getting aerodactyl out with Twist Mountain to dish out big damage with Tornadus EX, with 3 aerodactyls this is 130 damage and it has great donk potential, with chances of doing 60/70 on T1 or just a simple 60 and you only need 3 cards to pull that of (and 4 cards and a heads for 70). It did have a mewtwo and some regular tornadus ;) nice review! Personally i think i will be playing Zeels with raikou ex and tornadus ex.

      • Twan van Vugt  → Brandon13Jones

        That is true, but the threat of a Tornadus EX swinging for 100+ a turn is usually big enough to prevent catcher ko’s on aerodactyl’s. Just like Eelektrik getting less catchered when the Zeels player has 2 attackers fully powered up. It is still a liabilty like all bench sitters in this format. Also the Zeels matchup is pretty bad, but the idea is still interesting (and aero attacks for 40 for CCC, which with PP, can ko a zekrom after a bolt strike thanks to weakness).

        • Brandon13Jones  → Twan

          Zekrom’s usually have Eviolite on them, though. Best solution is to some how incorporate a Fightning type in the deck.

  2. Eric Smith

    Happy to see Krookodile getting some love. Honestly He might be a good 1-0-1 tech into Zoroark/Darkrai for late game since Zoroark can get knocked out fairly easily. Or maybe I’m just trying too hard to find a way to make him work lol

  3. Leonard Batfish

    I for one appreciated the financial element to your last set review. It was straight up useful and provided something none of the other reviews did.

  4. Jason Milone

    funny what he said about picking up your tornadus now. Thats all i can pull! Out of everything we have already (thanks to walmart breaking street date) I’ve pulled 7 tornadus EX and my wife has pulled 1 regular and one full art of the tornado man, its insane. But yes I agree completely with him being the best card released in this set

  5. Tyson

    I didn’t really like this review. Two other writers have already written a review and yours is almost a carbon copy.
    Venasaur is awesome but not in this format
    Blaziken is awesome but not in this format
    Groudon goes with Terrakion
    Darkrai is broken
    Raikou is broken
    Tornadus is awesome
    Heatmor doesn’t counter Durant
    etc. etc.
    The only real thing I feel like you contributed was your opinion on Entei EX. :I

  6. Ross Gilbert

    Bring back the financial stuff! We’ve had some reviews of DEX already and i couldn’t really see anything new in this. The financial stuff would have been awesome and added another element. Plus, i like business!

    Also, the fake vanity thing is starting to get old. Sorry.

    (At least, i hope to god it’s fake vanity!!)

  7. Homo

    Each time a new set comes out I’m reminded why I should just buy cards online. I got a box, and in it, 1 Groudon EX and 1 Entei. >.>
    Zoroark comes with the beginner deck, so I already have all the Zorua and Zoroark, but not a single Darkrai….

  8. Homo

    Also, is Dark patch really in this set? I didn’t even have ONE in my box, which is insane! Instead, I had an incredible amount of rare candies.

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