Attack Command(er)-In-Chief: Empoleon DEX

BulbapediaHello, 6P! Today, I’d like to give a solid article and decklist analysis for what is shaping up to be one of my favorite decks this season: Empoleon. Now, as a bit of background, I’ve always found myself drawn to decks that ignore the conventional metagame, while still focusing upon nabbing 6 Prizes. For example, I loved playing Yanmega Prime/Magnezone Prime in the MD-on format, and I did extremely well with it in the MD-BLW format we got for Battle Roads.

Empoleon reminds me a lot of that deck. It ignores the conventional “Basic beatsticks” mantra that has invaded our format, and instead aims to trade multiple hits per knockout with the metagame. (Zekeels is a bit of an exception, but more on that later.)

Now, before I continue, I’d like to address the elephant (no, not Donphan) in the room. A lot of people don’t think Empoleon is worth running. A lot of people think the deck is hyped and is at best “League deck” material. I respectfully disagree with those people. If you’re going to bash the deck in the comments, I would prefer you provide logic with your arguments, not mindless bashing. That gets us, as players, absolutely nowhere.

Getting back on track, this deck can be run multiple ways in our current format. The three main options are Empoleon/Terrakion NVI, Empoleon/Donphan Prime, and Empoleon/Aerodactyl DEX. My article will focus upon Empoleon/Terrakion, as I feel it is the best of the three. Recent results from European Nationals have only supported this feeling of mine.

First of all, let’s take a look at the main attacker of the deck. Empoleon DEX is a Stage 2 Pokémon with 140 HP. A Stage 2 in our Basic-defined format must bring a lot to the table to be worthy of consideration. Luckily, Empoleon delivers. Empoleon comes with an attack that has been seen in the game before; a single-Energy attack that hits for 10 damage times the number of Pokémon in play on both player’s fields, bench and active included, to max out at 120 damage.

pokemon-paradijs.comWhile that may not sound very significant, given that most Pokémon-EX have 170 or 180 HP before cards like Eviolite, it means anything in the format is a 2HKO for Empoleon. Of course, if your opponent limits their own bench, it can be a 3HKO on Pokémon-EX, but that’s actually not horrible so long as they’re forced to 2HKO you back.

Empoleon has some major flaws that need to be addressed and compensated for, however. Being weak to Lightning is a scary prospect when one of the top-tier decks in the format is essentially 100% Lightning-type attackers that can hit hard and fast. Being a Stage Two means you cannot swing for damage until the second turn, at earliest. Both of these need to be addressed by the rest of the deck. That said, let’s move on to our secondary attacker.

Terrakion is a card that most everyone playing in today’s format knows by heart. First springing up as a tech, and then as the first “quad X” deck piloted to a States win, this guy hits hard and sweeps Lightning and Dark-types under the rug for a very low energy investment. His job in this deck is to provide an answer for people abusing Lightning type attackers.

If your opponent hits Empoleon for a 1HKO, the Exp. Share you should have on this guy activates, and you’re a single F Energy away from hitting for 180 damage after Weakness. He’s a Basic Pokémon, so searching him out isn’t too hard, and he can be plopped down when you see him to power up Empoleon’s attack, too.

The rest of the deck kind of fits together from there. So here’s a starting list, with some slots intentionally left unfilled for taste.

Pokémon – 12

4 Piplup DEX

1 Prinplup DEX

4 Empoleon DEX

3 Terrakion NVI

Trainers – 35

4 Pokémon Collector

4 Professor Oak’s New Theory

3 Professor Juniper

2 N


4 Rare Candy

3 Pokémon Communication

3 Switch

3 Pokémon Catcher

3 Junk Arm

3 Exp. Share

2 Super Rod

1 Ultra Ball

Energy – 9

6 W

3 F

This leaves us four spots to play with. Generally, this will be two more Basic Pokémon (to enable us to power up our Bench and have useful stuff to do turn one) and two Energy or draw Supporters, to round out our consistency.

Basic Pokémon Options

We have a few major choices here. The most prominent, in my opinion, are Virizion NVI, Cleffa HS, Smeargle UD, and Kyurem NVI.

Virizion NVI

pokemon-paradijs.comVirizion is useful in the first turn to draw extra cards, as hitting the turn two Rare Candy into Empoleon is key to winning games with this deck. If you play Prism Energy, it can also hit for decent damage in the early game, and, in the mirror, can survive a 120 hit from Empoleon (thanks to resistance) and hit opposing Terrakion for Weakness. It also does decently as a way to put some serious damage onto a Quad Terrakion board.

Cleffa HS

Cleffa is a very dangerous play in a metagame full of Pokémon that can snipe for 30 damage, such as Darkrai EX, and Pokémon that hit 30 easily, such as Mewtwo EX. However, Cleffa can be run in this deck as an opener to shuffle through more of your deck. Of note, one idea that is still in early testing is to run Cleffa with two or three Twins and leave it as bait.

Smeargle UD

However, by far, the most popular inclusion in this deck is Smeargle. Smeargle has so much power in a format where people leave their Skyarrow Bridge in play, it’s almost sickening. Used in both the early game to set up and in the late game to recover from Knock Outs and useful in finding that one F Energy you need for Terrakion to save the day, Smeargle is a strong option that is not to be ignored.

Kyurem NVI

Lastly is a bit of an oddball, Kyurem. Kyurem is one of the “Unova Digimon” with 130 HP, a standard Outrage attack, and an attack that hits everything on your opponent’s board for 30 at the steep cost of WWC. However, with Exp. Share, that’s not too hard to meet. In the middle game, a surprise Glaciate can kill off retreated Pokémon, as well as set up several 1HKO situations that would have been a 2HKO. It’s not as consistent as the other Pokémon listed here, but it’s definitely something worth testing.

Consistency Boosters

pokemon-paradijs.comWe have a few ways we can add some more “oomph” to this list. The most obvious is the addition of a fourth Junk Arm, for maximum Trainer re-use. Another idea is running two copies of Pokégear 3.0.; Random Receiver could be an option too, but Pokégear is better when you run Collector. To pair with this, we can also go ahead and add in a third copy of N. On the other hand, we can run more Energy instead; more Fighting, more Water, or a few Rainbow Energy can go a long way.

Since this deck often loses the first prize, two copies of Twins can be an effective way to “cheat” and boost consistency when setting up.

This deck is also probably the second major force in a metagame that can actually utilize Black Belt in an extremely effective manner (Durant came first). An extra 40 damage from nowhere turns your 120 2HKO into 160 damage, enough to take out those pesky Pokémon such as Zekrom, Kyurem, and Terrakion, even if they’re packing Eviolite. Of course, in most cases, using a space or two for PlusPower is more ideal.

Dealing with Tricky Situations

Empoleon/Terrakion has a mortal enemy. Namely, Tornadus EX. Tornadus is a serious thorn in the side of an active Terrakion’s game plan. To combat this, we can either run a fourth Switch, add in Ruins of Alph, or, if you’re the type that likes more options, there’s a way to overhaul your deck to deal with that issue. It’s still in limited amounts of testing, but I’ve found using three Rainbow in place of two Waters and a Fighting to be interesting. You then run Shaymin UL and Zerom BLW.

Suddenly, any one of your “dead-draw” Collectors can search out a free 2-Prize gain. So long as you have two Energy on the board, one of which is multi-type (Prism or Rainbow) you can pull off a surprise Bolt Strike. (This assumes you have a Rainbow Energy or Prism Energy in hand as well, which given your draw power, isn’t too impossible to do.)

Wrapping it All Up

BulbapediaSo, in the end, Empoleon is one of the few Stage 2 decks playable in the format we’ve been given (with Meganium Prime and Klinklang BLW joining Typhlosion Prime, Vileplume UD, and Magnezone Prime). By no means is this decklist provided the perfect list, but I feel that it’s a great place to start. This deck is actually set to be playable assuming a BLW-on rotation as well, gaining Mew-EX and a bunch of other new toys.

In fact, if for some crazy reason you missed it, we have a report by somebody who played it in Japan, with the BLW-on format.

With that, I feel all that can be said about the deck on a basic level has been covered. I look forward to seeing you in the comments section. ~Cabd

Reader Interactions

60 replies

  1. pkmn master

    a little short, but overall, a great article!

    I don’t have the cards to play this deck unfortunately but it’s a pain to play against because your always worried about what your benching…

  2. Isaac McClintock

    I love this deck. I would play it if i had Empoleon. The only thing i disagree with is Terrakion. While it is an excellent card that inspired it’s own deck, I feel that it’s just not right for this kind of deck. Donphan is more of a tank than Terrakion, can hit fof the same weakness as Terrakion, attacks for a single energy, and is every Darkrai and Zekrom players nightmare. I love this deck, and you did an excellent job of portraying how good it can be. I give it a +1 all the way.

        • pkmn master  → Isaac

          but then they just switch to a zekrom, playing down SAB is easier than having to play a switch/catcher every turn to catch up, also he’s a slower stage 1 pokemon, that’s why I kinda like terrakion better in this deck…

        • Micah Tate  → pkmn

          Tornadus is KOed by Empoleon
          Empoleon is KOed by Zekrom
          Zekrom is KOed by Donphan,
          Donphan is not KOed.
          All of this neglecting catchers.
          The trade looks to be in Empoleon/Donphan’s favor IMO, it just depends on how many prizes the Empoleon player gives up while setting up. =/

        • Micah Tate  → pkmn

          For every Terrakion you will need an EXP. share, so the space will work out the same. I always factor in Aerodactyl because that’s what I use, but pluspower would work just the same in setting up Tornadus or Zekrom for OHKOs.

        • Alton Aderhold  → Micah

          Did you forget about the earthquake damage to your bench? Its like giving your opponent multiple plus powers. I have tested this deck out a lot and this seems to be a major problem. Terrakion+ruins of alphs (plus this is also a counter stadium)= more efficient.

        • Micah Tate  → Alton

          When you are using Donphan early on (meaning you’re facing Zekeels or Darkrai) the bench damage doesn’t really matter. Against Zekeels Empoleon will be OHKOed by any lightning attacker whether it has 1 HP or the full 140 HP remaining. Against Darkrai you have to be a little careful, but they max out at about 110 damage (Unless they’re using Zoroark), so 1 or 2 midgame earthquakes don’t hurt. The Darkrai matchup is a little harder but you can use Empoleon more efficiently in that matchup, so you can avoid using multiple Donphan subsequently if need be.

        • Isaac McClintock  → Micah

          I never expected my comment to create such a long opinion war. It is kinda cool

        • Micah Tate  → theo

          I have yet to see special dark energy in a Darkrai deck-list unless it is a Darkrai/Zoroark list.

    • Brandon13Jones  → Isaac

      Can you post your list for Empoleon/Donphan on the forums? I am going to make my own list but I want to compare.

      • Isaac McClintock  → Brandon13Jones

        While i would love to post my list, im still tweaking it to my personal playstyle. I highly reccomend, however, that you check out PokemanDan’s video on the deck. It is very good and should definitely help you.

  3. Alicia Warnick-Ellis

    I just played this deck at Battle roads… the Arodactyl version. The owner said it was too slow and was in the bottom table. I thought it was working fine, he just didn’t get a good first hand, no virizion, just piplups.

  4. Edmund Nelson

    Here is why empoleon is a bad deck (not a bad card) in order of importance
    It has a bad darkrai matchup, Simply put by you . “Tornadus is a serious thorn in the side of an active Terrakion’s game plan” and since empoleon plays Piplup, Tornadus EX gets some good donking action. Meanwhile Darkrai EX is also a very strong card against empoleon, Night spear can 2 shot empoleon and KO a piplup. The Darkai decks have room for combo’s like Shaymin + Super scoop up, and Empoleon can’t reasonably beat the combo since it falls behind early.
    2, the deck needs to setup a stage 2 pokemon and that stage 2 only 2 shots big basics that 2 shot it. Look at Tornadus EPO , That pokemon actually does quite well vs Empoleon. Since Tornadus only gets 2 shotted by Attack command and 2 shots Empoleon Back.
    3 The deck has no free wins. Due to lacking T1 attackers and sometimes even turn 2 attackers. The deck is slow compared to the lightning fast attackers of the current format. A lot of decks have randomly weak pokemon that can easily be donked. However Empoleon is unable to captialize on this because Empoleon is unable to attack on turn 1
    4 Attack command is easily played around. Let’s say I have a Mewtwo EX with eviolite in play, If I refuse to play more than 1 Pokemon on my bench (say another mewtwo EX) Empoleon has to 4KO the Mewtwo EX, Meanwhile the Mewtwo Deck can play Super scoop Up to reset your clock. This is devastating to the Empoleon deck.
    5 Zekrom/Eels is a hard matchup, Typically you rely on Empoleon’s high HP to get efficient trades with your opponent. However thundurus and Zekrom put a monkey wrench in that plan.

    • Isaac McClintock  → Edmund

      While I don’t disagree on everything you said, I definitely disagree on the whole “bad Darkrai matchup.” the only bad matchup for this deck is ZekEels, and this deck can actually destroy that deck. I know, because I have seen it done and have done it. This is where Donphan truly shines. It can absolutely wreck ZekEels and Darkrai. A 1 energy attack that hits for 120 (weakness), resistance to lightning, and reduces 20 from all attacks!? This card is Darkrai’s and Zekrom’s bane, because unless you are playing the Zoroark version of Darkrai, then there isn’t much you can do. Tornadus EX is taken care of by Empoleon, and the prize exchange is in your favor, since it’s 2HKOing you and you are 2HKOing it back. This deck covers it’s weaknesses very nicely, if I do say so myself. And why would you ever use Empoleon against ZekEels?!?! Your logic there doesn’t make sense, you wanna go aggro Terrakion/Donphan on those decks with maybe 1-2 Empoleons, just for draw support. And who would have just 2 Mewtwos and nothing else on there field?! What deck does that?!?! Your just setting up situations that just don’t happen in

      • Martin Garcia  → Isaac

        Actually, zeels is not a bad matc up at all. It just LOOKS like one due to empoleon´s weakness, but lets remember the reason we run 3 terrakion here, shall we?
        Same can be said about darkrai, except for the fact that it takes prizes on a more Spread-like strategy, and that makes using terrakion a bit more tricky.

        • Edmund Nelson  → Martin

          Terrakion can be played around, it can be pokemon catchered up and attacked by any number of pokemon in Darkrai/Zeels. Terrakion isn’t very hard to play around if you use pokemon catcher to turn Terrakion from a major threat to a prize on the bench. The turn you play Terrakion and attach an energy to it is the turn in which the Darkrai Deck will hunt for a pokemon catcher (or play one from their hand) in order to catcher up Terrakion and take a prize before terrakion becomes a threat. Now the second Terrakion is much harder to play around and so is the third. But good players should be able to Prevent the first terrakion from being a pain, while the second and third can be painful, they still have the problem of beating Tornadus EX. This deck isn’t weak to Darkrai/Zekrom, it’s weak to The Donking machine that is Tornadus EX that Donks piplups AND beats through Terrakion

      • Edmund Nelson  → Isaac

        The bad Darkrai Matchup does not stem from the pokemon. Instead it stems from the Trainer’s that are in Darkrai. Super Scoop up and Pokemon Catcher more specifically. Pokemon Catcher allows for Darkrai to decide which pokemon in Empoleon attacks which pokemon in darkrai. So it can pull up Terrakion’s while it has it’s Darkai active. Darkai counters Empoleon, since you can spread to a piplup. While Tornadus Counters Terrakion/Donphan. Darkrai/Tornadus can heal using Super scoop up since Empoleon won’t OHKO any attackers. Next The Darkai Deck has free retreat across the board, while empoleon has to suffer from high retreat cost pokemon. If the matchup is Donphan>Darkrai Tornadus>Donphan Empoleon>Tornadus and Darkai>Empoleon then the deck with Pokemon catcher and free retreat will win more often. And finally, Tornadus EX+Catcher, in the first 2 turns allows Darkai to take an early lead, from there the Darkrai deck uses it’s attackers to take more prizes while denying prizes with super scoop up.

        • Isaac McClintock  → Edmund

          Firstly, thank you for replying to my comment. Secondly, while i think that your reply was intelligent and well thought out, the prize exchange is still in your favor. Darkrai and Tornadus EX five up 2 prizes. You only give up 1. They will typically 2HKO you and you 2HKO them back. It would be close, but if you do it intelligently then you will win

        • Edmund Nelson  → Isaac

          But you see you don’t 2KO Tornadus if your opponent plays inteligently. Your opponent should reconize that each benched pokemon is a liability and therfore minimize the amount of pokemon played on the bench. The amount varies but typically one only plays 2-3 pokemon on their side of the field. Also you say you can type match against Darkrai/Tornadus. But I say that they type match against you, They have free retreat across the board AND pokemon catcher. While you have clunky attackers that need switch to retreat.

        • samuel roach  → Edmund

          they have EX’s, we don’t. We get 2, they get 1. We can manage it in our favor. I don’t fear them. Infact, I actually like it when I play against them. Then when I win, the victory will be that much sweeter. :)

        • Edmund Nelson  → samuel

          They 2KO you, you 3KO them. They attack on turn 1 you do not. They have space for Super scoop up, you do not. They have a resilient setup you do not. They can snipe weak pokemon on your bench you have because you need to setup . You can’t do the same to the same extent.

        • theo Seeds  → Edmund

          Your opponent limits their bench to two pokemon, they lose. If they do, splash a Seeker and you win. They need pokemon on the bench because they play Smeargle, do they not?

        • Edmund Nelson  → theo

          Then they’ll play down 2 pokemon on their bench. Minimizing the amount of pokemon on you bench is key against empo. Remember that the Big basic decks don’t really want to many pokemon, since their decks are Smeargle, Energy acceleration, and attackers. if say CMT only plays down 2 Mewtwo EX and 1 Celebi, M2EX is a 3ko if M2EX has a Eviolite

        • theo Seeds  → Edmund

          3 opponent’s pokemon +6 your pokemon x 10 damage x 2 attacks=180 damage.

          Darkrai has 180 HP.

          Tornadus has 170 HP.

          If they play 1, you Seeker.

          You. Win.

        • Edmund Nelson  → theo

          So how often does Empoleon get six pokemon benched? and how many seeker do you run? What about Eviolite? How do you fight super scoop up? how do you maintain a stream of pokemon on your bench if they start to pick apart your bench one pokemon at a time while using SSU/Eviolite to deny prizes?

        • samuel roach  → Edmund

          Collector. maybe 1-2. dosen’t matter the damage will still be enough to get a 2 ko. You don’t you just let them flip tails and they f themselves. Max Potion, super rod and the other copies of collector. We can deny prizes too.

        • Edmund Nelson  → samuel

          Even though you deny prizes, Darkrai can obtain prizes on multiple fronts. Attacking the weaker basic pokemon that must be swarmed in order to get the needed 2-3 hit KO’s on Darkrai. You can’t deny prizes if I get one shots for every single prize I take.

        • samuel roach  → Edmund

          You assume that most of the pokemon on the bench will be piplups, which isn’t the case most of the time. After we get 1 up, we continue to evolve and set up our pokemon. So it’s not giong to be as easy as you think, because you won’t be hitting piplups that much. Our evolved pokemon, with terrakion will present problems for you. Try 1 shoting an Empoeon off the bench. Wait… You can’t right?

        • Edmund Nelson  → samuel

          But you see there will be Piplup’s on the bench. and that is what matters. Again my testing obviously has been different but I have found that darkrai gets 2 KO’s before the Empoleon deck get’s set up. meanwhile I have also found that Darkrai has well… Pokemon catcher to force the opponent to play very differently than normal.

        • theo Seeds  → Edmund

          Piplups are 2HKOed by Night Spear bench damage, and you have that extra turn to use Diving draw and Supporters to get a Prinplup/Candy to Empoleon.

        • theo Seeds  → Edmund

          A: A lot with Collector engine, and it’s what the Darkrai player should prepare for.
          B: One or two is enough. It’s a surprise tech and you can go through several supporters to get to it. There’s a one in ten chance it will be prized if you play one, and one in a hundred and twenty (if my math is right, please correct me if not) if you play two. If it is prized, you theoretically will draw prizes throughout the game.

          Any smart Darkrai player knows that Dark Claw is what you need to beat Empoleon. 110+30 Night Spear = 140 damage.

          SSU, well, all that does is take all that energy off the board.

        • samuel roach  → theo

          If you want to look for something to take the damage off, then how about Pokemon Center? If Darkrai does 30 to a benched Pokemon, on your turn you can take off 20 from that. It’s a sweet little tech that I might try out soon. (the idea is not mine though, so I won’t take full credit for it)

        • Micah Tate  → samuel

          I’m trying that in my durant build, works wonders to counter Darkrai early spread damage :D

        • samuel roach  → Edmund

          They won’t always hit with SSU. And if they J Arm for it, that’s 1 less catcher I’ll have to see from the discard pile. We have catchers too. It’s not totally in their favor.

        • Edmund Nelson  → samuel

          I didn’t say that, I said that it was a bad matchup something along the lines of 60-40 their favor.

  5. Micah Tate

    Hmm, Terrakion or aerodactyl version? *Old El Paso Taco girl runs in* “Why don’t we have both?”
    Haha, but in all seriousness, I’ve been testing Aerodactyl/Terrakion/Empoleon for a while now and I don’t see any problems with space in the deck or consistency problems. I usually manage a T2 Empoleon and twist mountain. Getting out Exp. Share for Terrakion can be difficult, but that’s about the only problem I’ve had. Starting lone Piplup is scary with Tornadus EX around and starting Terrakion can be worse if you can’t hit a switch. Altogether I’d say Aerodacty/Empoleon would be hands down BDIF if it wasn’t for the lightning weakness and inherent need for Terrakion =/
    Can anyone tell me why it has to be Terrakion or Aerodactyl rather than both? Or what the advantages are of taking out Aerodactyl/twist mountain for other cards? I kind of want to run Empoleon, so I’d like as much advice as possible :D Great article!

  6. Andrew Adams

    I’m still not sold on Terrakion being the play with Empoleon. Donphan definitely makes the deck clunkier, but I have to think it gives you a way stronger advantage against Electric and Dark decks than just Terrakion would.

  7. bowser

    Thanks for your article. It wasn’t too much new for us that have been trying to find answers for this deck, but the inclusion of Virizion does seem to be a late-breaking news item. Cheren is also an option.

  8. Balasar

    great article, cabd! i personally play EmPTy.dec with a one-of shaymin tech and 3 smeargle. The shaymin helps with last minute energy switchs to use land crush.

  9. Dave Enzo

    Cool article not a fan of empoleon but im not knocking the cards or the decks potential im just a fan of our “big basics” game we have going on here thats all


  10. theo Seeds

    Empoleon is Tier Two. Leavanny is too clunky, and there’s no other way to deal with the weakness, so that’s a problem. Even Terrakion will just be one-shot by whatever your opponent brings up.

    Empoleon is good and fun, however, and is definitely more than a league deck.

  11. Bryan Ward

    If you want a better early game against Zekrom, Hitmontop +Fliptini is actually pretty decent. It’s not nearly as useful later in the game, but a Pokemon Collector (or a dual ball for just Hitmontop) and a switch almost guarantees you a T1 KO on Tynamos. He still easily enough kills Eels with a pluspower, and helps against Zoroark decks too. I once even got a T1 donk on Thunderus, but I wouldn’t count on that.

      • Cabd  → sam

        If empoleon took any energy to attack, sure. But it takes water energy, and is your main attacker in most games, so it gets more energy love than terrakion, who only needs one fighting (the other one can be a water etc) to use Retaliate anyways.

  12. samuel roach

    I just took my Empoleon/Terrakion deck to BR’s and it did pretty well. It’s defenitly the best version of the deck. Look out for my BR’s article later on this week and I’ll tell you how it went down.

  13. Patrick Glynn

    From the testing I’ve done with Empoleon, I have found a single copy of Max Potion to be very useful for the emperor penguin, well for every match-up barring lightning. In many situations it kept him alive for a lot longer since it can be junk armed, and Empoleon doesn’t really suffer from its use since he only needs one energy to start attacking again.

  14. Cabd

    Well, this certainly generated a lot of discussion.

    I’m glad people have such strong feelings.

    “Test the deck” is definitely a good motto for commenters.

  15. Christopher Henson

    I like seeing a format that isn’t just 2-3 decks. I have played in one battle roads and I never play the same deck twice. People are still running things like durant, Deck-and-Cover, CMT, dark.dec and from week to week players often switch. I’d luv to play against Empoleon, Klink-klang instead of just Eels eels eels.

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