They Aren’t New, and They Aren’t Leaving

en.wikipedia.orgYou have already read several good articles by now on this site – UG and non-UG alike – that deal with various Dark Explorers-based decks that will be coming into the metagame. I don’t want to regurgitate what has already been written about newcomers like Empoleon DEX/Terrakion NVI, Zoroark DEX, etc.. People tend to have a good grasp of what huge new decks are emerging (barring rogues, of course – no one sees those coming) because they make it a point to immerse themselves in whatever is brand new.

Sometimes, the excitement and shake-up of a new set causes us all to lose sight of the decks that were good just prior to the set’s release. Often there will be a number of “new set casualties,” or decks that have gone from good, or even great, to lackluster due to new competition (see: Gothitelle EPO after we got Noble Victories). There are also usually a few decks that remain good, or great, and may even get some new tools that make them better.

If we forget that these decks are still extremely potent and only worry about mastering the decks born out of new cards, we can find ourselves unprepared and in trouble come tournament time. For this reason, I want to go over 3 big decks from the previous tournament cycle that I’m convinced will still find success in the current format.

We will start with the ubiquitous Eelektrik.

Big Deck #1: Eelektrik (aka Zeels)

We all know how strong this deck was, and how well it performed during States and Regionals. You should recognize that Eelektrik will continue to put up good results at Battle Roads and, more importantly, Nationals. As is often the case following the release of a good set, the deck will evolve and branch off in different directions — for example, some people will focus on Raikou-EX and Tornadus EX with Skyarrow Bridge, and some will splash in multiple Terrakion and F Energy in an effort to counter mirror and Dark decks.

There is no reason why it wouldn’t adapt and continue to thrive — not the rise of Dark Pokémon, not Fighting decks, not anything from the new set. Let me address a few specific reasons why Eel isn’t going to die any time soon.

1. Darkrai EX won’t kill this deck.

Some people think that Darkrai is a horrible matchup because Night Spear 1HKOs Eelektrik while also 1HKOing a 30 HP Tynamo at the same time.

First, people are not going to be running the 30 HP Tynamo anymore (Tynamo NVI 39), or at least not in multiples. There was already a shift toward the 40 HP Tynamo (Tynamo NVI 38) during Regionals, mainly due to fear of Tyrogue HS ruining the day via donking or just getting cheap 1HKOs on baby Eel after baby Eel.

Now, the shift is mandatory, or else Darkrai will wreak havoc with double-KOs. That extra 10 HP is all it takes to prevent both an Eel and a Tynamo from going down at once, and that critical denial of a Prize — and protection of the deck’s lynchpin — is huge. This is an example of adaptation based on metagame: where once the 30 HP Tynamo was safe, and favored, now it is no longer a good play and the higher-HP Tynamo has taken its place.

Admittedly, losing an Eelektrik to Night Spear isn’t good. It can be terrible, actually, but then losing an Eel at the wrong time in any matchup can be terrible. The point is that Darkrai being able to 1HKO Eel isn’t going to be the end of the deck. There has been a target on Eelektrik’s head since it debuted, and the deck has endured.

All of the deck’s attackers either 2HKO Darkrai or set up 2HKOs (Thundurus EPO), while Darkrai can only consistently 1HKO Thundurus. That allows for a series of exchanges and a real game, not a lopsided blowout. Don’t look at the 90 damage beside Night Spear, then look at the 90 HP beside Eelektrik’s name, and have a panic attack.

2. Fighting won’t kill this deck.

pokemon-paradijs.comLet’s be clear: Fighting is not a good matchup for Eel. I am not going to argue otherwise. What I am going to argue is that Eel has been tested by Fighting before, and it has proven resilient. At the start of States, Quad Terrakion and Terrakion/Landorus NVI were designed specifically to have a huge advantage over Eel, but they did not win a single event come Regionals, nor did they keep Eel from virtually sweeping the top finishes throughout the country. Neither did Donphan Prime, which some people revived with the same mentality as the Terrakion camp.

This isn’t to say that these Fighting decks were bad — in fact, Quad Terrakion did win a State championship, and Fighting is undeniably strong against Eel. So why wasn’t Fighting able to keep Lightning down and take more titles?

There are a few reasons. One is that even though the matchup was unfavorable, Eel decks were still capable of beating their direct counters. People tended to run heavy Mewtwo EX counts in their lists across the board, with some people also including specific Fighting counters such as Tornadus EPO or Zapdos NXD as further Fighting insurance.

The presence of these cards took away the auto-loss factor when facing Fighting decks. None of them could be KO’d in one hit — in fact, with Eviolite, Mewtwo took 3 attacks to KO.

On the offensive front, Mewtwo could generate 1HKOs without much difficulty against a fully-energized Landorus or Terrakion, and if it wasn’t getting the 1HKO, it was certainly getting the 2HKO, as was Tornadus and likely Zapdos.

Zekrom was also capable of 1HKOing Terrakion or Landorus with the aid of a PlusPower, and while this would result in Zekrom being 1HKO’d back by Retaliate or Gaia Hammer, that meant the 2 decks were trading Prizes, which is fine considering that Mewtwo could eventually come in and sweep several Terrakion/Landorus at any point to clean up.

pokemon-paradijs.comAnother reason why Fighting decks didn’t keep Eel from succeeding is a bit more complex. First, the metagame was not simply comprised exclusively of Fighting and Eel — tournaments never break down into just 2 decks, regardless of how dominant a given deck is. The field is always going to be divided, especially at bigger events like Regionals.

In addition to Eel, Fighting decks also had to deal with a lot of Durant and CMT, rogues like Zebstrika NXD and Chandelure NXD variants, older decks like Reshiphlosion and Vileplume UD/tanks, as well as other Fighting matchups (mirror, Donphan vs. Quad Terrakion, etc.).

Most of those decks I just listed either give Fighting decks a hard time (ie. Reshiphlosion, Vileplume) or have even-to-positive matchups with them. In order for Fighting decks to win tournaments, they couldn’t coast by on their good matchups with Eel, which was only one deck out of several making up the field.

That is the big con associated with counter decks — they may work well against their specific target, but they don’t often do much better than 50/50 with the rest of the format. You can look to numerous past formats for examples of counter decks not successfully taking down their targets – or winning events.

For example, in 2008, Gardevoir SW/Gallade SW had a chokehold on the metagame, and yet decks based around Banette SW – the strongest Psychic counter available – did not win Nationals or Worlds. From 2009-2011, SPs were dominating in formats that contained both Machamp SF, capable of 1HKOing any Basic automatically for a single energy, and Mewtwo LV.X, which couldn’t be affected in any way by a Basic Pokémon’s attacks – and yet neither Machamp nor Mewtwo LV.X won Nationals or Worlds either.

Another factor to consider is that during a tournament, an Eel player might not even play against a Fighting deck at all, or if one is encountered, a loss might not even matter — after all, 1 or 2 Swiss losses isn’t going to keep you from cutting at a Regional, or Nationals. (Hitting a Fighting deck in the cut is of course a different story.)

cardshark.comThere is also the chance that the Eel player beats the Fighting deck. Some people get this notion that they are going to be running into a certain deck guaranteed at an event, when in reality there is no way of knowing what your exact matchups will be from round to round.

At a huge event like Nationals, there are going to be so many different decks represented that you probably won’t be playing too many repeat matchups. For proof of this, simply recall your own tournament experiences, or read the reports of others.

Yet another factor to consider is how many people ran Eel versus how many people ran Fighting. We know that Eel has been by far the most popular deck of the past few months. The more saturated a metagame is with a certain deck, the better the odds are of that deck winning, or going deep in the cut.

The reverse is true for an underrepresented deck; fewer pilots equals fewer chances for that deck to penetrate through all the rest of the field. This is a matter of probability.

So now we connect the past to the future. How does Dark Explorers affect the Eel/Fighting relationship?

  • We get Groudon EX, which is another bane for Eel with it resistance, type advantage, and huge HP.
  • We get Tornadus EX, which is a Fighting Pokémon’s worst nightmare and thus a great anti-Fighting inclusion in Eel.
  • We get several viable Dark Pokémon, and the presence of the Dark decks that they will give rise to provides players with even more incentive to run Fighting since now there are 2 different kinds of decks to counter with a single type.

I think that even though Fighting appears to be the best type to run, it still won’t be played in droves, just like before. It won’t take the format hostage. There are a lot of other decks that people will be running — CMT, Eel, Empoleon, Darkrai, Zoroark, and “everything else.” Thus, Eel players should not have to worry about facing Quad Terrakion or Quad Groudon for 5 out of 9 rounds at Nationals.

3. Eel got some new weapons.

BulbapediaTornadus EX and Raikou-EX both have a lot to offer Eel. Raikou seems to have been tailor-made for the deck, and Tornadus provides another valuable answer to Fighting decks.

The big draw of Tornadus is its Fighting resistance. This card is a true tank versus Fighting decks, especially with Eviolite; it completely eclipses its non-EX counterpart in this regard. In any Fighting-matchup, Tornadus can go a long way toward “countering the counter,” making it a staple addition to the deck.

With Skyarrow Bridge, Tornadus has the potential to do 60 on turn 1. This can achieve a donk, or just put big offensive pressure on the opponent instantly, which is what this format is all about. Turn 2 100 to follow the 60 is extremely good. Granted, the odds of opening with the Tornadus, the DCE, and the Skyarrow Bridge are low, but the opportunity is nevertheless there. When all 3 cards do find their way into your hand on turn 1, it is explosive.

Early on, Blow Through can be used for easy KOs on Sneasel, Zorua, Tynamo, and Celebi, in the same way that Tyrogue was once used to get easy KOs on 30 HP Tynamos. Before, you relied on an aggressive Mewtwo or Thundurus/Tornadus start to open up easy KO opportunities on Pokémon that Tyrogue couldn’t KO. Now you don’t have to invest as many energy to get those Prizes, and you don’t have to worry about Tornadus being return-KO’d immediately like Mewtwo had to fear whenever it attacked.

Turn 2 100 even without a 60-damage Blow Through is still very good, and for that matter, a turn 1 Blow Through for 30 isn’t terrible either when you consider that the 100 damage that is sure to follow KOs any non-Eviolited, non-EX Basic.

Aside from Lightning Pokémon, Tornadus’ two biggest enemies are Lost Remover and Ruins of Alph, which will often be used in the same (Fighting) deck. Lost Remover gets rid of the DCEs it relies on for speediness, and Ruins allows Fighting Pokémon to 2HKO it instead of 3HKO.

(Activating Blow Through by playing Ruins is mostly going to be irrelevant, although losing the free retreat of Skyarrow is a bit more relevant — now you can’t just retreat into another Tornadus EX after you flipped Tails on Power Blast and then had your DCE stripped via Lost Remover.)

The way to avoid being hurt by Lost Remover is to power Tornadus up with all L Energy. Skyarrow and Eelektrik make it possible to go back and forth between 2 Tornadus that are both powered up this way.

The counter to Ruins of Alph is Skyarrow Bridge, so if you know the opponent is running Ruins, hold the Skyarrow unless you have a compelling reason to play it early. We haven’t had to play the Stadium-countering game for a while now, but if a lot of Fighting decks do end up running Ruins, you may have to get used to playing that game.

Big Deck #2: CMT

Some people mistakenly think that CMT will take a dive due to their equally mistaken belief that Mewtwo EX will become obsolete due to the rise of Dark Pokémon, which resist its attacks. This isn’t true for a number of reasons, many of which are related to why Eel isn’t derailed by the presence of Fighting in the format, except this time, the type advantage is much less of an issue (resistance is a lot less scary than weakness).

The truth is that Mewtwo isn’t affected a great deal by a reduction of 20 damage, especially considering the nature of X Ball — all it takes is an extra energy attachment to negate the effect of the resistance.

Against a Darkrai with 3 energy on it and no Eviolite, Mewtwo easily scores a 2HKO. Throw in Eviolite and Mewtwo admittedly does become a subpar attacker in that situation, but you shouldn’t expect every Darkrai to have an Eviolite on it; Dark Claw is going to be more common.

You do need to account for Celebis being targeted with Night Spear on the Bench. Giving up easy Prizes while losing the deck’s source of energy acceleration is one issue CMT can have in the matchup. Fortunately, Eviolite goes a long way toward fixing the problem, reducing the 30 snipe down to an irrelevant 10. Run Eviolite!

Anyway, back to the Mewtwo analysis. Against most of the rest of the format’s big attackers, the card still shines. We haven’t gotten any new Psychic threats (no one is going to run Cofagrigus DEX). If people start dropping Mewtwo counts down, or eliminating the card from their lists altogether, those lists that retain Mewtwo will be more free to start an aggressive X Ball assault without fear of being promptly blown away by a retaliatory Mewtwo.

Huge X Balls are frightening when you have no means of 1HKOing the assaulter, and the more that the card is being phased out of lists, the greater the odds of those 1HKOs being avoided.

That being said, I think CMT should probably drop down to 2 Mewtwo from the 3-4 that have been standard up until now. This is because the addition of Tornadus EX takes the burden off of Mewtwo to provide the bulk of the offensive pressure.

Tornadus EX thrives with Celebi and company. The deck already runs Skyarrow Bridge, so doing 60 with Blow Through is going to be a possibility in every game. No deck can pull that off on turn 1 more easily than CMT, as you don’t necessarily need to hit DCE or something convoluted like Shaymin + Dark Patch as you do in other decks, due to Celebi.

Power Blast is even better, and can also be powered up on turn 1, or at any other point in the game in a single turn. There’s nothing fancy about the attack—it just offers great damage output, enough to 2HKO anything in the format.

After Mewtwo EX and Tornadus EX, there is room for preference and metagame concerns to dictate what else you run for attackers. The stable of good candidates is largely the same as it was before – Regigigas-EX, Shaymin EX, Tornadus EPO, Virizion EPO, Bouffalant, Terrakion (although I personally dislike running this card in non-Fighting decks due to the inconsistency it and its energy brings).

I think having at least one non-EX attacker is important, preferably two. That way you are better able to control how many Prizes your opponent is taking with each KO, and aren’t staking the whole game on 3 Pokémon-EX. I like the idea of running 1 Tornadus and 1 Bouffalant.

BulbapediaDue to the addition of Tornadus EX, I think running a 3rd Skyarrow Bridge is something to consider. I know a lot of lists before were running 3-4 Switch and only 2 of the Stadium. Going with that 3rd copy of Skyarrow just increases the odds of the turn 1 Blow Through.

Random note: I think that in the Super Rod vs. Revive vs. Energy Retrieval debate, Energy Retrieval is the card to run. It can help after you get tails on Power Blast, it ensures you won’t run out of energy (with Junk Arm extending its life), and it gives you immediate access to what you’re retrieving, unlike Super Rod.

Revive was solid back when the Mewtwo war defined the format, but now I don’t see any pressing need to be able to Revive any specific Pokémon in the deck.

The original CMT formula is only upgraded with Dark Explorers. The deck is still the fastest in the format, possibly tied with Darkrai depending on the variant. The proper spread of attackers coupled with the deck’s sheer aggression is capable of putting up a fight against anything. Eel is actually its worst matchup, same as before (well, Durant was arguably even more tough, but Durant is dead, so it doesn’t matter now).

Big Deck #3: Terrakion (Solo and with Friends)

pokemon-paradijs.comQuad Terrakion is so simple that it is difficult to write about; it still does exactly what it did since its inception. It benefits from the new Dark decks hitting the scene, although Darkrai has the potential to handle it with a good start through timely Claw Snags, Eviolite, and use of Catcher to KO multiple Terrakion at once.

Terrakion/Landorus is more aggressive than Quad Terrakion and has a better Darkrai matchup due primarily to the speed of Landorus. It is harder for that deck to avoid getting 1HKO’d through Catcher/double-KO tricks when the potential for turn 2 Gaia Hammer with PlusPower is there.

Tornadus EX + Eviolite hurts, as already stated earlier, and the solutions were also previously mentioned: Lost Remover and Ruins of Alph. Neither of those is fool-proof, but they do help neutralize the deck’s biggest threat.

For the record, I don’t like Groudon EX included in either Terrakion variant. I think that card is best run by itself, as a tank with healing/defensive assistance.

I said earlier that these Fighting decks aren’t going to singlehandedly keep Eelektrik from doing well, but that wasn’t supposed to read like a dismissal of the decks. They do have good Eel and Dark matchups, and they fare well enough against the rest of the expected format to be solid plays.

Just don’t think that because you have type advantage means you are auto-winning in those matchups, or that because Dark and Eel are so popular guarantees that you’ll play nothing but them for the bulk of your rounds.

The point of the previous section: Be prepared to face (and/or play with) Eel, CMT and Fighting all over again for the rest of the season. Those decks aren’t through with you yet!


In this section, I want to talk about various cards that I feel merit some special discussion. They aren’t in any special order.

Blissey DEX


Don’t laugh – I think that there is potential for this card in conjunction with a tank candidate like Groudon EX or Steelix Prime (recreating the old Steelix/Blissey PL partnership). The flip is lame, but you can hopefully offset it by getting more than one Blissey into play, giving you more chances to heal.

You might even hit multiple heads in a turn, healing 60+ damage with no drawback. I like how it can be fetched with Heavy Ball, just like the tanks it would be partnered with. I have a feeling we will be seeing this card in a competitive deck sooner or later.

Smeargle UD/CL

Darkrai and the expected rise in play of Skyarrow Bridge make it easier to get it in and out of the Active Spot without hassle, and using 2 Supporters in a turn is as good as ever in this Supporter-draw-driven format. I have a lot of love for Smeargle and always try to include it in any list that can get around its Retreat Cost.

However, the release of Random Receiver, and its replacement of Pokégear in many decks, has made Smeargle a bit more difficult to abuse.

Unlike Pokégear, Random Receiver guarantees that a player will hit a Supporter, so your opponent can safely Junk Arm away a PONT/Juniper/N to deny you a chance to Portrait it, and still have the security of knowing Random Receiver will fetch him another draw Supporter whenever he needs it. Of course, you can do the same thing to him if he has Smeargle.

There may be a drawback to discarding the Supporter with Junk Arm that outweighs the pros of foiling Portrait (such as having one less Supporter available…), but if stopping Smeargle is of paramount importance in a specific situation within a game, the ability to do it with a safety net (Random Receiver) is there.

I love how Smeargle makes the opponent play differently. It forces him to feel anxious about holding Supporters, and it specifically threatens to shrug off an N. Sometimes Smeargle is so effective that it needs to be KO’d. The player who doesn’t have a Smeargle on the board during an N war is at a disadvantage.

Bouffalant BLW 91

This card has been doing what Terrakion is famous for since last summer, with relatively little fanfare. Now, with several good Revenge targets scattered throughout the metagame – namely Eelektrik, Weavile, Celebi, and Smeargle – Bouffalant has a solid niche role in the metagame. It works particularly well in CMT and Eel, as both decks can power it up immediately.

Groudon EX

This is my pick for sleeper hit of the set. I think it has to be played in a very particular way – like Quad Terrakion, but as a tank, with EXP Share replaced by Eviolite (and maybe some Rocky Helmets). In my opinion, it lacks the speed to be anything else but a tank, and you can’t just drop it down into a preexisting Terrakion deck simply because it shares the same type.

Potion, Moomoo Milk, and Eviolite are the staple tank aids, and Blissey is an option too. The strategy of the deck would be to delay KOs for as long as possible so that a single Groudon can get off multiple Giant Claws. That attack will 2HKO any fresh Pokémon, and 1HKO a lot of things that have been softened up while on the Bench via Tromp.

Groudon of course also has type advantage against Eel and Dark. The only two Pokémon Groudon has to really worry about are Empoleon due to weakness, and Mewtwo due to X Ball’s lack of a damage cap. Tornadus EX is a nuisance too, but it has counters and at least it can’t ever issue 1HKOs.

Don’t be surprised to see this card doing well. I would be surprised, though, to see it do well in anything aside from the tank deck I just described.

Dual Ball

Somewhere in the midst of States, there began to be a widespread switch from Pokémon Collector to Dual Ball as the Basic-fetching card of choice. Why did this suddenly happen?

1. The format sped up. With decks like CMT and Eel capable of doing turn 1-turn 2 80+ damage, it was often going to be a disadvantage to have to spend turn 1’s Supporter on Collector rather than a hand refresher. It was liberating to be able to Dual Ball for a Basic or two and then also drop a PONT in the same turn. With Level Ball also in the deck to fetch Tynamos on turn 1, Dual Ball + Level Ball had the potential to grab as many Pokémon as Collector did.

pokemon-paradijs.com2. Dual Ball could fetch key Pokémon later in the game and still allow for a Supporter drop. So many games came down to the Mewtwo war combined with N, and if you were running a Collector-based deck, you’d be unable to retrieve the Mewtwo you needed and use N in the same turn, easily losing you games. There were all kinds of other Pokémon you could pull out at any time, of course, and there were other Supporters to use, but the Mewtwo + N combo was the most common.

3. Dual Ball can be Junk Armed for. You now had more ways to retrieve your Basics than if you ran 4 [non-recyclable] Collector, and specifically in Eel, you also had more opportunities to use Junk Arm early to discard Lightning energy.

The format now hasn’t slowed down one bit. In fact, it’s faster than before, with Dark Patch adding another form of energy acceleration into the field. We also got Random Receiver, which isn’t good at all in a deck with Collector. Thus, Dual Ball is better than ever.

The only two decks I would advise running Collector over Dual Ball in are Empoleon and Zoroark variants, since they rely on having filled Benches (and the guaranteed 3 Pokémon of Collector suits the goal of these decks better than the unreliable, 2-Pokémon-max of Dual Ball).

I’ll admit: until just recently, I was not a fan of replacing Collector with Dual Ball, especially in Eel. I hated the idea of relying on coin flips to get essential Pokémon into play, and I thought that the need to grab several Tynamo at once was too important.

Now I see things differently. Yes, you are going to be flipping coins to determine your ability to search, but you have better odds of getting either double heads or one heads than you do of getting double tails. The pros of Dual Ball have already been mentioned, so I won’t repeat them.

Random Receiver

BulbapediaPokégear 3.0 has been dethroned by this card. It encourages you to streamline your Supporter line to include nothing but draw cards — no Collector, no Seeker, no Twins — so that you are guaranteed to hit one of those draw cards every single time you use Random Receiver (assuming your deck isn’t depleted of Supporters, of course).

If you’re running a deck that needs Collector or some other non-draw Supporter, stick with Pokégear. Otherwise, make the switch. Whiffing on Pokégear is such a dismal experience, and whiffing isn’t a word you can even apply to Random Receiver.

There are a few drawbacks to this card, though. One of them is that you are forced to reveal cards from your deck to your opponent. This can spoil the surprise of a tech, or confirm that you do run a card that your opponent wasn’t sure you ran (such as Lost Remover or Mewtwo EX).

Being forced to pick the first Supporter you find can also be unfortunate if that card is an N and you have taken 5 Prizes, or a Juniper when your hand has resources in it that you don’t want to discard (and you were fishing for a PONT or an N).

When your opponent plays this card against you, scrutinize the cards that he reveals to you and make notes, mental or otherwise, on what you see, especially if you’re seeing something like Terrakion in a CMT list when you’re running Darkrai. Take full advantage of the free information.

Just because Random Receiver has a guaranteed success rate doesn’t mean you should be skimping on Supporter counts, or recklessly discarding Supporters via Junk Arm/Juniper. If you run out of Supporters, Random Receiver isn’t going to do anything for you. I’ve seen people talking about running fewer Supporters – say, 8 instead of the usual 11-12 – and 4 Random Receiver.

The problem with that is Supporter depletion, which can come more quickly than expected. For example, going back to that ‘Juniper with a hand full of resources’ example, say you already had one Juniper in your hand when you played the Random Receiver in an attempt to get some shuffle draw. What happens if you draw another Juniper? Now you’re going to have to throw away a hand of resources and another draw Supporter in order to get the hand refresh you need to stay in the game.

Pokémon Catcher

BulbapediaDark Explorers has altered the metagame in such a way that this card takes on new dimensions of usefulness.

Before, we used Catcher mainly to get KOs on whatever we wanted to KO (barring its use in Durant or the odd spread deck). It was simple — I can KO that Benched Pokémon and it would be beneficial to do so, and I will.

Now, we have several Pokémon that gain power from a more thoughtful use of Catcher. First up is Darkrai EX. The key to winning with Night Spear is to set up as many dual-KOs as possible. In order to do that, you have to know what to damage both on the Bench and in the Active Spot.

By that I mean you have to know what you want to be Active to bear the brunt of the attack’s damage. You don’t want to hit the same Pokémon twice for 90+, unless it is an EX — instead, you want to send it to the Bench so you can hit something else for 90+ and also finish off the damaged Pokémon with the 30 snipe.

For example, say you’re against an Empoleon deck and you have a Darkrai with a Dark Claw attached. You hit an Active Empoleon for 110 and put 30 on a Benched Terrakion. You then get attacked by that same Empoleon. Now you should Catcher the Terrakion you hit previously and Night Spear to KO it and then also put 30 on the damaged Empoleon to bring its HP to 0 as well. It is difficult for an opponent to respond to a play like that.

Second up is Raikou-EX. Some people are dismissing this card outright due to its “redundancy” in a format with Catcher. The complaint is that Volt Bolt does nothing that Catcher doesn’t already let you do (attack the Bench). Ironically, the truth is that Volt Bolt and Catcher actually complement each other rather than fight for the same spotlight.

The goal is to Catcher up anything that has a Retreat Cost, preferably something like Eelektrik that shouldn’t be Active ever, and then Volt Bolt whatever is most beneficial at that particular moment, be it an EX you’re trying to soften up, a supporting Pokémon, or an easy Prize like Smeargle.

pokemon-paradijs.comNow your opponent has to get the Pokémon that you Catchered up back to the Bench in order to deal with Raikou. At the very least, you’ll force him to waste a resource like Switch or energy. More desirably, you’ll be able to buy a turn (or more) of free Volt Bolts. (You’d do this via Eelektriks and a 2nd Raikou or a Switch.)

The Catcher/Volt Bolt strategy works very well with N late in the game. With a 1-2 card hand, your opponent is much less apt to get the energy/Switch he needs to get an attacker back into the Active Spot. You can potentially take your last few Prizes uncontested via this Catcher/Volt Bolt/N combination.

Raikou of course doesn’t need Catcher to be effective. Its strength is in its ability to fill Catcher’s void when that Item isn’t available. Raikou is also searchable, unlike Catcher, so between it, your Pokémon search cards, Junk Arm, and Catcher, you have a lot of ways to attack anything on your opponent’s field that you want at any given moment.

Volt Bolt is particularly good in the Eel mirror match, as it 1HKOs Eelektrik. In fact, it punishes Bench-sitters in general, particularly those with 100 or less HP (like Victini and Reuniclus). Decks that rely on such Pokémon are going to be in big trouble when facing Raikou.

Don’t forget that Raikou does have another attack. Thunder Fang is seemingly bad, something you’d think would be fine to forget—after all, why would you want to put an EX in harm’s way just to deal 30 damage? Normally, you wouldn’t, but in a clutch situation where you need to stall, the Paralysis that it can inflict is capable of turning a game completely around. It is important to remember that Thunder Fang exists; you may well end up being saved by it at some point.


This card has been mostly passed over since its release last August, but now I think the playerbase should reconsider its merits. In a format filled with N wars and a lot of Items, several of which discard cards from your hand (Ultra Ball, Junk Arm), Bianca gains playability in decks that can afford to run it, such as Terrakion/Landorus or Quad Terrakion.

After an N to 1-2, this card is the next best thing to PONT or Juniper for hand refreshment.

The reason Bianca works well in decks with a lot of Items, particularly Junk Arm and Ultra Ball, is that those Items can be burned at will, lowering your hand count and allowing Bianca to give you more cards.


pokemon-paradijs.comSome players continually dismiss this card as being too reactive to be worth the space in their lists, or feel that the 20-damage reduction isn’t going to save any of their Pokémon from KOs. I disagree with both points of view. There are all kinds of scenarios in which Eviolite can throw off your opponent’s damage calculations and allow a Pokémon to survive an extra turn, and I’m not going to spend 15 pages trying in vain to address all of them. Extra turns of survivability are always huge – always have been, always will be. EXs in particular value the additional time on the field.

Eviolite is even more effective when used on Pokémon such as Tornadus EX or Darkrai EX that have a resistance; I hope we can agree that -40 is definitely not something for a Terrakion player to scoff at when staring down Tornadus EX with an Eviolite. Speaking of Terrakion, it can’t 1HKO a fresh, Eviolted Darkrai without a PlusPower. That’s relevant to the current format and extremely useful.

Eviolite is also good for shielding Benched Pokémon from the brunt of Night Spear’s Bench damage.

Moral of the story: don’t dismiss Eviolite. It’s still a great card.

Ultra Ball

I feel like this card is a bit overrated. It has its uses in decks like Eel and Darkrai that like to discard energy quickly, but I don’t like it in quantities of more than 2.

If you could guarantee that every time you wanted to use Ultra Ball, you also had 2 basic energy in your hand, then it would be a lot better, but the reality is that a lot of the time, you’ll have a hand full of good cards that you’ll have to throw away just to pull out a Pokémon that you could’ve grabbed with Dual Ball or Level Ball. Don’t disregard the card altogether – just don’t go overboard with it and make it your main source of Pokémon search.

An exception to this would be something like Speed Darkrai, I suppose, where the aim is to get a turn 1 Darkrai via multiple Dark Patch and the energy count was 13-14 Basic Dark energy.

Deck Spotlight

louisville.eduNow I want to talk about a deck that rokman introduced in his latest article: Darkrai/Weavile.

This is my favorite deck of the moment. It has a laundry list of capabilities, from the disruption of Claw Snag to the strategic power of Night Spear to the energy acceleration of Dark Patch. I am always drawn to decks like this with a strong potential for disruption and intricate trickery which can allow me to outplay people and derail opponent’s best-laid plans.

Here is a straight-forward list that runs no anti-Fighting techs:

Pokémon – 12

3 Sneasel UD
3 Weavile UD

3 Darkrai-EX DEX
1 Smeargle UD
1 Sableye DEX
1 Shaymin UL

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Oak’s New Theory
4 Professor Juniper

3 N


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

Energy – 13

9 D
4 Special D

I chose not to run any Tornadus EX with DCE, like you saw in rokman’s build, because I wanted pure, unfettered Darkrai action here. Before I would ever commit to running this at a tournament, I would probably find a way to address the Fighting matchups – which would probably mean adding in Tornadus/DCE/another Eviolite.

I am not sure if it is necessary to go that route though. I feel like being bold and disregarding the threat of Fighting altogether instead of cutting into consistency a bit to try and deal with it. Call me reckless.

Darkrai has only just hit the scene, but already I think it has been discussed enough for me to be able to skip spending 4 paragraphs describing how good the card is. Instead, I want to talk about some of the cool things this deck can do that you may not have realized.

Sneasel: So Good it was Once Banned

pokemon-paradijs.comOkay, so the card isn’t ban-worthy anymore. But Beat Up is still strong, especially if you’re going for the donk or trying to finish something off in the absence of an immediate response Darkrai. Dark Patch lets you use Beat Up out of nowhere, which is how you’d be able to donk. Don’t overlook the possibility when it presents itself to you.

Sneasel’s best attribute is its natural free retreat. You can start the game with it, or promote it after a KO, play Dark Patch(es), and then move it back to make way for Darkrai (or occasionally Weavile).

Did I mention this card was once banned for being too good?

Abusing Weavile

Claw Snag is up there with N on the short list of the most disruptive forces in the format. Discarding any card you want from your opponent’s hand is extremely strong throughout the game, so Weavile never becomes a dead card in your hand or deck. It is always ready to be deadly.

The key to getting the most out of Weavile is two-fold: first you have to know when to Claw Snag, and then you have to know what to target with it.

Knowing when to use the Power can be difficult when you don’t have knowledge of your opponent’s hand—and unless you just used Smeargle’s Portrait, you usually won’t. There is no set time to Evolve into Weavile. You have to assess the game state and make the call based on specific factors such as how big your opponent’s hand is, how many of a certain card (or kind of card) he has already played, and how urgent the need is to remove a card you fear he is holding.

If your opponent’s hand is low, odds are high that A) it’s a good time to Claw Snag and B) you will be removing something that actually cripples the opponent. The number one target when surveying a small hand is typically going to be a draw Supporter — hopefully the only one your opponent is holding. Random Receiver and Pokégear are two other big targets, as is Junk Arm if a Random Receiver/Pokégear is already in the discard pile, since all of those cards can fetch draw Supporters.

pokemon-paradijs.comThe reason you want to take away draw Supporters, or the means to access them, is simple: you want to limit the opponent’s ability to refresh his hand, thereby denying him resources. It is very hard to win solely on top decks and playing the board, even for a deck like Eel that specializes in the latter.

Any time you can strand a player in top deck mode, you’ve given yourself a huge advantage. If you can do this early in the game before he has even set up, you may find yourself winning in a matter of turns, or getting so far ahead that your opponent has no realistic way to come back.

Weavile is also great later in the game in a more defensive role, or as a game-clincher. N combos with it exceptionally well. After he has been shot down to 1-2 cards, your opponent is going to be lucky to be holding anything special, and if he did get lucky and drew an out — be it a Supporter, a game-winning Catcher, or a needed energy — you can take that out away as long as you have a Sneasel in play and drew into a Level Ball/Ultra Ball/Catcher/possibly Junk Arm. Even if you aren’t able to N, you still have a chance to Claw Snag a critical card away and stifle an opponent’s anticipated play.

Don’t rush to Evolve every Sneasel you have on the field. You shouldn’t deprive yourself of the option of late-game Claw Snags. Sometimes those can be the most valuable.

Feint Attack exists!

Weavile can be an effective attacker at various points in the game:

  • To finish off Benched Pokémon that Darkrai has heavily damaged with Night Spear
  • To deal 50-70 damage to the Active with Dark Claw and a Special Dark or two attached (and remember that Feint Attack isn’t affected by Eviolite/Special Metal/Exoskeleton, so it is doing full damage regardless)
  • To set up KOs on the Bench for Darkrai to take later on
  • To pick off the Bench by itself while something harmless is locked Active
Apparently the term “snipe” originated from this bird, the common snipe.

Catcher and N work with Feint Attack in the same way they do with Raikou-EX: you can bring something Active with a Retreat Cost, N your opponent into a resource-less hand (which Claw Snag can help ensure), and proceed to target the Bench. 30 snipe is clearly much less threatening than 100 snipe, but sometimes it is enough to either set up or take the KOs that you need.

Sometimes you will also be forced to make a play like this because slowly killing the opponent’s Bench is your only hope of winning. For example, your opponent has 1 Prize left and several threats in play that are capable of KOing one of your Pokémon, and you can’t use Darkrai to take either of them out because it would just mean that the other one could come up and retaliate for the win.

The only way you can win is to lock something Active that can’t attack and then snipe safely with Weavile until you’ve either taken out the threats or drawn the rest of your Prizes.

The Other Weavile

You can run one copy of Weavile NXD as a surprise attacker versus anything with a Tool attached. With its own Tool (Dark Claw), it deals 110 for a single energy – 120 if that energy is Special. You don’t get better value than that.

Sableye DEX

BulbapediaI like this card as a 1-of option here. Junk Hunt is a great attack in the right moments, allowing you to recover resources that can win you the game such as Dark Patch and Catcher. Obviously the drawback is trading an attack for those resources, but that is why I said it was great “in the right moments” – such as when you only have 1 Prize left and it doesn’t matter that your opponent takes one against you, or after you Catchered something like an Eel up and used N to 1-2.

Sableye’s other attack can be used in desperation to potentially prevent the opponent from attacking. It may also provide that last bit of damage that you need for a KO, which ties in with the next bit…

Dark Claw isn’t just there for Darkrai

Sometimes the extra 20 damage from Dark Claw will let a Sneasel, Weavile, or even Sableye get a KO for you. Your opponent isn’t going to be expecting to get hit for 40 from Sableye with a Dark Claw and a Special Dark, that’s for sure.

It may seem like a waste of a Dark Claw to attach it to anything but Darkrai, but there are all kinds of situations where it won’t be. As great as Darkrai is, you can’t expect to rely on it as your only attacker in every single game you play.

Don’t neglect the attacking capabilities of the rest of the deck’s Pokémon – and always factor Dark Claw into the equation when considering if attacking with something non-Darkrai would be beneficial.

Shaymin Tricks

Celebration Wind lets you make a number of cool plays with your energy:

1. Move energy from a damaged Darkrai to a fresh one (after retreating the damaged one, of course; you need to have energy on it to get the free retreat). You can then use cards like Super Scoop Up, Seeker, or Max Potion to heal off the damaged Darkrai.

2. Achieve a faster Night Spear. For example, if you open up the game with a Smeargle and manage to get 2 Dark Patches off onto a Benched Darkrai, you can attach for the turn to Smeargle, retreat for free into the Darkrai, and then drop Shaymin to move the energy from Smeargle onto the Darkrai.

3. “Correct” energy drops, whether from the hand or Dark Patch, that you made earlier before Junipering. (You have a Dark Patch in your hand as well as a Juniper, but no Darkrai on the Bench, so you Dark Patch onto a Sneasel instead and then Juniper. Later on, when you hit a Darkrai, that energy can be moved onto it via Shaymin.)

Healing Cards

I mentioned Max Potion, Super Scoop Up, and Seeker in the previous bit on Shaymin. All three of these cards are worthy of your consideration in this deck. Max Potion is the most limited of the 3, but also the easiest/safest to use, as it doesn’t require a flip or your Supporter usage for the turn.

Super Scoop Up is the most versatile; you can pick up anything on the field, allowing for reuse of Weavile or Shaymin, healing, Prize denial, or getting something like Smeargle out of the Active Spot.

Seeker does everything that Super Scoop Up does, minus the Active Spot bit, and it also disrupts the opponent. You can donk by forcing your opponent’s only Benched Pokémon up and KOing the Active, you can set the opponent back on Evolving or energy attachments, and you can give yourself a valuable Basic to Claw Snag.

The 2 drawbacks to running Seeker are A) it can interfere with Random Receiver and B) it can let the opponent heal something you’ve been hitting with Night Spear or Feint Attack.

Slowking, the Topdeck Devil

pokemon-paradijs.comI am intrigued by the idea of running 1-1 Slowking HS in this deck. It is a natural partner with both N and Weavile, strengthening the lock abilities of both cards significantly. It can also be fetched with Level Ball, and the retreat of both it and Slowpoke isn’t a big issue with Dark Cloak aiding you. If you start with Slowpoke, you may as well use its first attack to potentially set up your Bench. You can move the energy away later with Shaymin, assuming the Slowpoke lives.

You can also bail yourself out of a bad hand, from an N or otherwise, by targeting yourself with Second Sight.

Crushing Hammer

I’ve read about some Japanese Darkrai lists that run several Sableye along with Crushing Hammer, with the idea being to slow the opponent down in the early game with constant energy removal (play the Hammers and then get them back with Junk Hunt for use on the next turn; rinse, repeat) while a Darkrai is being built up in the wings.

I don’t see the Hammer/Sableye version being able to run Weavile, which is a strike against it in my book. I do like the idea of looping energy denial, though. You’d just be running an altogether different deck in order to achieve it.

End of Transmission Approaching

This article jumped around a bit and only contained one list, but I hope you appreciated it for what it was and were able to get something useful out of it. Good luck to everyone at your upcoming Battle Roads, and feel free to comment in the UG Hideout in the meantime. Thanks!

…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

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