Hey SixPrizes! This has got to be one of the bigger questions on everyone’s mind right now. Why IS Darkrai doing so well? Today I’m here to try and help answer that question, and perhaps get you thinking about how to prep for Nationals. Because trust me, you’re going to see Darkrai variants, and you’re going to see a lot of them.
At the time of writing this article, here’s what the list of multiple Battle Roads-winning decks are:
- 30 Darkrai variants (many Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX)
- 9 ZekEels
- 5 Fighting (3 straight Terrakion NVI)
- 4 CMT
- 3 Klinklang BLW + Friends
Darkrai variants have claimed a staggering 30 wins, well ahead of the rest of the pack. This is more than the level of dominance ZekEels and CMT saw throughout States and Regionals. Something is clearly going right for Darkrai EX.
Well to help understand why Darkrai EX has pulled ahead, sometimes it’s best to reflect on the recent past, and try to figure out why the former tier 1 decks aren’t looking quite up to snuff.
What happened to tier 1?
Last format, if you were looking to win a major tournament, you were looking to play 1-of 3 decks. Your choices were ZekEels, CMT or trying to anti-meta and play a Fighting deck centered around the philosophy of Mono-Terrakion. Sure, one could argue you could also play Durant, and I wouldn’t disagree. I love playing Durant, and it has pretty solid matchups against the field. But with the rising success of ZekEels (Durant’s worst matchup of the former big 3), even your flippy Crushing Hammers couldn’t help you out too much.
What’s more, out of the 3 aforementioned decks, ZekEels was clearly ahead by a little bit. This difference showed up big time at Regionals, where it took 7 of the 8 Regionals in North America, and neither CMT nor mono-Terrakion could take even 1. This is because against CMT, ZekEels had a slight advantage (the matchup was really about 55-45 in favor of ZekEels).
The reason was that CMT’s staple support attacker was easily 1-shotted by Thundurus EPO, while the rest of ZekEels was a host of competent attackers backed by the all-powerful Zekrom-EX. CMT’s answer was to run Regigigas-EX, but the gaudy golem had a couple exploitable flaws.
First, it was only powerful if you let it be. You had to attack a Regigigas-EX before it became a significant threat. Which led to flaw number two, the fact that you could fairly easily play around it. The answer was simple, don’t whack into Regigigas-EX until it takes a chunk out of itself by doing self-damage. Eviolite made Regigigas-EX a lot harder to deal with, but it was never unmanageable, which is why I was never really a fan of the card.
After that, ZekEels only had a slightly unfavourable matchup against Mono-Terrakion, because Mono-Terrakion was difficult to 1HKO (even for Mewtwo) and could catcher and kill a Zekrom-EX to catch up quickly, if you were foolish or unfortunate enough to play it down. Mono-Terrakion is a deck without much synergy, it just streams strong attackers with type advantage against ZekEels (also known as the majority of the metagame).
This left Mono-Terrakion weak to fringe-decks and tier 2 decks which could keep it from top cutting, since these decks did have a synergy that functioned outside of the metagame.
Finally, CMT’s success was defined by explosive starts, and being good against pretty much any deck. If CMT could put pressure on quickly, it was difficult to come back for any deck. The problem was a weak late-game, and a slightly unfavourable matchup against ZekEels.
After both decks set up, CMT’s support attacker could at best trade 1HKOs with the opponent (hopefully killing the energy accel), and it’s main attacker had to be played with proper timing lest you bring on a Mewtwo war you can’t win. CMT’s matchup against ZekEels was only balanced thanks to donk potential, and being too fast for ZekEels to always set up.
Fast forward to the present. We now have Darkrai EX and Tornadus EX (everyone forgets about Tornadus EX for some reason). Tornadus EX can be teched into all three of the former tier 1 decks (Mono-Terrakion, CMT and ZekEels) and does pretty darned well in all 3 too (exception perhaps being Mono-Terrakion). Tornadus EX provides ZekEels with the potential for a T1 60 damage, which is a lot of pressure to put on your opponent, and can also donk pretty competently. This of course also holds true for CMT. And it also holds true for Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX (I’ll call this Dark Tornado since it’s easier to type).
Darkrai EX came onto the scene and Dark Tornado has been the most successful of the Darkrai variants at Battle Roads. I think it’s fair to attribute part of this success to Tornadus EX’s T1 donk potential, and of course it’s ability to counter fighting decks fairly well (especially with an eviolite) when paired with Darkrai EX’s snipe.
Of course, Dark Tornado isn’t the only Darkrai variant to be performing well. When people have experimented with other builds like Darkrai/Terrakion or Darkrai/Mewtwo or Darkrai/Weavile UD, really any combination of these techable attackers, and they’ve seen some success. Well… if all of these tech’d decks are doing well, the core must be solid.
Darkrai EX is obviously a pretty great attacker. Paired with Dark Patch (and Smeargle CL), Darkrai has the ability to fire off on turn 1, and is practically guaranteed to attack by turn 2. With Darkrai’s ability to snipe an extra 30 damage, Darkrai can efficiently place its damage for optimal prize exchanges, making it extremely powerful.
Couple that with Sableye DEX’s Junk Hunt attack and you have a deck that can fish out additional Dark Patches, Catchers or Junk Arms from the discard pile at the cost of 1 turn’s attack. You probably weren’t going to attack this turn if you were using Junk Hunt, so it’s a perfect support attack. And since a deck like Dark Tornado has nothing but EX attackers, it’s not optimal for your opponent to kill a Sableye, lest they potentially be caught needing to take 7 Prizes that game.
If we were to look at last format and compare it to this one, Darkrai decks are very similar to CMT, but with a bit more late game consistency. Why? Because Darkrai variants generally don’t start Mewtwo wars. One of the biggest reasons CMT couldn’t top ZekEels last format was the fact that it’s prized attacker, Mewtwo, was so easily countered by ZekEels. And with ZekEels having superior energy acceleration, not only could ZekEels more easily counter the Mewtwo war, but it could also return KO without the need for PlusPower when it had to.
Darkrai doesn’t (generally) start Mewtwo wars. This means that despite the fact that this deck is hand-driven (you still need to have a Dark Patch in hand to accelerate energy from the discard), you don’t get screwed over as bad by a late-game N. You also don’t find yourself whiffing on crucial DCEs or PlusPowers, which might easily cost you the game.
And of course, against the main competitor for BDIF (ZekEels), you don’t really get 1HKO’d unless they’re teching Terrakion. On top of that, Darkrai devours Eels even better than Durant does. Night Spear is the perfect attack to Catcher + KO an Eel and set up an extra 2 Prizes for next turn when you Catcher and KO another Eel.
Simply put, Darkrai is winning Battle Roads for a good reason. It’s a strong, strong deck. But is it invincible? I don’t think so. Though all of these factors are leading to Darkrai’s success right now, there are a couple more that are contributing more than people give credit for.
Why else is Darkrai doing well?
I think first and foremost, Darkrai is doing particularly well because it’s new. Though the supply out there is low at the moment, the better players have secured their copies by now (or are borrowing them), and want to try out the new kid on the block to see if they want to play it for Nationals.
So even though Darkrai probably isn’t seeing the most entrants (I’d give that title to ZekEels), it’s got quality over quantity. ZekEels is a cheaper deck to build (outside of Mewtwos, which most people have by now), so you can expect more people to be playing it.
But the second reason I think is a bit more compelling. Again though, it’s because Darkrai is new. Not many people have had as much opportunity to face Darkrai yet in a tournament setting. A lot of people didn’t know what to expect out of the deck from Battle Roads in week 1, and by the time week 2 rolled around, the results for week 1 had just barely been tallied.
This meant most people had already chosen their decks for Battle Roads week 2, and weren’t going to do much to change the lists they were comfortable with. This meant Darkrai stormed the metagame, a clear tier 1 contender, without many checks or techs to counter it for the first two weeks.
Finally, the first two problems are further compounded by the size of these tournaments. Though some Battle Roads can be larger (the one I went to was 40 Masters, some have had 50+), most are quite small (20-30 Masters). This means that situation #1 where we have the good players wanting to test out Darkrai means that the players who have the best odds of winning Battle Roads are likely biasing Darkrai’s genuine competitiveness. Not to say it’s not the frontrunner for BDIF, but I don’t think it’s genuinely going to take over 50% of top cut at Nationals.
We also have the players who might know best how to play against Darkrai, playing the deck instead. Once again, biasing the number of checks and balances in the metagame in favor of Darkrai.
If all this is true, then what will take Darkrai down a peg?
Well, if my analysis of Battle Roads is correct, and my assumptions in the above section are true, then Darkrai shouldn’t be AS dominating at Nationals. So what exactly is going to change to make this happen?
Though I imagine a good number of the best players are still going to be playing Darkrai at Nationals, there are ways to tech against the deck, and deck choices that give Darkrai a harder time. The most obvious tech and/or deck being Terrakion.
I think the majority of ZekEels and CMT players who want to stick with the decks they’re comfortable with, will use this month to tease apart how to best tech Terrakion into their builds. Terrakion makes an incredibly effective Darkrai counter in both of these decks. It can be charged on the turn it’s played, and can 1HKO a Darkrai taking 2 Prizes. Not only that, but it’s likely not going to be 1HKO’d back. This leaves the Darkrai player in a difficult bind against a deck like ZekEels.
If they use Tornadus EX to sponge damage, ZekEels could switch and take an easy 2 Prizes. If they use Darkrai and go for the 2HKO while sniping the bench, you can attach a second F Energy and Land Crush for the KO. If they catcher away Terrakion, they still can’t KO anything due to Retaliate, meaning they’d have to Catcher something, snipe Terrakion, and then next turn Catcher Terrakion for the KO just to be safe.
This is the best answer if possible, since they can maybe set up 2 Prizes once again by sniping the thing they Night Spear’d the first turn, but it uses up two Catchers to do it, and will probably leave them taking a hit and giving up 2 Prizes when it’s done.
Such is the effectiveness of even just 1 Terrakion in a ZekEels build. But the same sort of power is useful for CMT. Though Darkrai can respond with Tornadus against CMT, it’s not always easy or optimal. What’s more is that you can still Catcher and KO the Darkrai with a Land Crush, or if they play around Terrakion you keep the potential Retaliate. What’s more is with a Revive, you can surprise and use another Retaliate out of nowhere (and most CMT lists do run Revive > Super Rod for the Mewtwo war).
Teching 1 Terrakion into either of these decks won’t kill the consistency too much (though it’ll hurt a little), but the rewards are clearly worth it. CMT also picks up a potential ZekEels counter which can KO a Zekrom-EX or Raikou-EX for 2 Prizes. Not only that, but Terrakion makes a much better attacker to face ZekEels with than Tornadus or Regigigas.
And finally, we’ll probably see a rise in Fighting decks at Nationals. With Darkrai’s clear success, there’ll be people looking to capitalize on that chance. And a pure fighting deck is harder for a Darkrai player to deal with than a ZekEels player (though still manageable if they run Dark Tornado).
The Final Message
Darkrai variants (and in particular Dark Tornado) are an obvious candidate for BDIF. This much is just a fact. But their level of dominance is likely exaggerated by the contributing factors mentioned above. Not only that, but as people learn how to play against the matchup, and tech against it, Darkrai should become more balanced in the metagame.
Then again, all of this might be hooey and Darkrai & pals will upstage every other deck to pull off a sweep almost like ZekEels did at Regionals. Only time will tell, but I don’t think that’s the case.
not a bad article, crawdaunt. i like the fact that someone actually can tell us why darkrai is so good.
Did you forgot to mention darkrai/zoroark, or is it just not winning?
Just not winning. Even mentioning darkrai/weavile is questionable.
Zoroark/Darrkai/Weavile should be winning, it’s just underplayed I think. I think it’s an amazing deck and I am surprised it’s not winning.
The reason it’s not winning is because Zoroark is a glass cannon. Everyone was praising it as a super consistent deck since Zoroark set itself up to attack by turn 2 pretty much guaranteed.
But what deck isn’t attacking by turn 2 pretty much guaranteed? Zoroark having to use an attack on turn 1 to set itself up actually slows it down. And then you kill a Zoroark like it was nothing since it only has 100 HP. That, and it can be dificult to initially get, and then keep, a full bench of dark pokemon since you run so few in your deck. Especially when you’re just trading prizes with a deck like ZekEels.
I’ve tested and tested and tested. Zekeels is like almost nothing to me what really stops me is the flood of empoleon in my local meta-game.
It’s really hard to keep swarming Stage 1s when they get OHKO’d every turn.
Zoroark isn’t complete crap, but it’s not tier 1, that’s for sure.
I won a Battle Road today with Darkrai/ Terrakion. It works really well. Don’t count me because I’m a senior division player but top tables of seniors are just as good as masters though
yes but you never vs.ed the autoloss, me! hahaha. Anyway congrats, if you had lost the last game I wouold’ve gotten second :( but nice going anywayz.
You, an autoloss? To who! I’ll be playing a secret deck at nationals that will be kept secret until round 2 because I have round 1 bye from states. :)
But yea it’s no crazy rogue deck
I believe Darkrai/Terrakion will increase as it’s very effective in the mirror, But they will just lean on their eviolited Tornadus in that matchup.
Since I’ve tested hard w/ Terrakion, I’ll honestly mention Eviolite is an easy thorn in Fighting Deck’s plans. Suddenly all the weaknesses exploited are still 2HKO’s, practically killing the point of running the deck. Plus Tornadus EX is brutal towards Terrakion, even if you run Ruins of Alph.
Pluspower. Eviolite problem solved :P I know, it’s not like you’ll always get it. But that IS all you need. Tornadus though… Tornadus… eurgh.
Pluspower is effective in this sense, but I’ve always found it hard to get the space in for pluspower, Terrakion surprisingly takes alot of space for consistency. Another idea I thought of was using Tool Scrapper once it comes out.
And Tornadus EX is doubly brutal w/ Max Potion now, I spent my whole final round in my BR today fighting a Tornadus, and still lost.
I think the other thing to remember is that an Eviolite on Terrakion is also a thorn in Darkrai’s side ;)
But an eviolite on Tornadus EX is a 2 ton weight crashing down on Terrakion’s side for sure…
Yes, mostly when Max Potion prevents the 2HKO, terrakion’s only hope
Well, in some decks that tech Terrakion, Zekrom BW is the main attacker.
IMO, Darkrai is winning a lot for a few reasons:
1) If is very good. Obvious right?
2) It is very new. People really like new (especially shinny) things.
3) A lot of people have collectively lost their minds when playing some of the other better decks. Without going into extreme depth…
Just consider the strength of CMT: Speed. Consider what Terrakion is: slow. Yet people try to merge the two. No, either focus on pure speed and initiating a straight prize trade or go extremely heavy on Terrakion. Tornadus EX is very good against Darkrai and M2EX holds its own. No reason to go only half in on Terrakion.
Or consider the strength of Zeels: Consistency. Consider what Terrakion is: inconsistent. Same thing, either focus on what you are good at or go all in to change the deck. Here, an Eviolited Zekrom is very good against Darkrai and an Eviolited Zekrom EX is even better.
Basically, people are so enamored with Darkrai that they create decks that give up huge portions of their identity to only gain a tech counter line.
4) Darkrai is a more complex card than the format has had in the last year or so. Granted it is not that complicated, but it is more complex than M2EX, Zekrom, Magnezone, or Reshiram (the main cards in every BDIF over the last year). You would be amazed at how many terrible mistakes people make. People play down too many Celebis. People don’t use Eviolite. People put single of Tynamo in play. Etc. I seriously think the game has become less though provoking over the last year that when a very good, yet mildly thought provoking card is introduced a ton of people struggle with it.
I also think this is why Gigas EX and Shaymin EX are largely looked down upon. They actually require lots of thought and in game planning to make work. However, when you get it figured out, both cards are very good.
Well said airhawk. Terrakion is quite gently riding its fair share as a “tech hype” this past half year. I think if what CMT or Zekeels are great for isn’t enough for them to beat Darkrai, then we just have to look at tech options as a last resort.
I however am of a similar opinion. The reason why the format is Darkrai dominant is because people are teching terrakion into stuff that never should have. Also it seems that people don’t tech in sufficient eviolites into their decks.
Overall agree. I think the hardest part of writing this article for me was keeping my “tone” appropriate. Because I’m not trying to say Darkrai variants aren’t currently BDIF, but that there are things that have contributed to their success outside of their sheer consistency/power.
I also agree that Terrakion tech in CMT is pretty lousy. It goes against the whole philosophy, and since the deck isn’t as consistent, the drop in consistency is a huge blow to CMT’s potential success. But at the same time, you can’t ignore the pluses Terrakion offers.
However 1 Terrakion in Zeels is quite a fair play IMO. Part of the reason is BECAUSE Zeels’ strength is consistency. Zeels can still be consistent enough to make it through swiss with a teched Terrakion, whereas CMT is on shaky ground. But the tradeoff I think is worth it. A slight drop in consistency for a huge gain in power over your worst matchup, is absolutely justifiable in my books. I don’t think I would ever run Zeels without Terrakion tech at this point.
On an interesting note, my friend just attended a Battle Roads over here running Zeels w/ 1 Terrakion tech and went 6-0. And this week, in BC, no Darkrai variants made top cut. Unfortunately he lost to CMT in top 4 when game 3 went to time and he was down, but fully set up ready to come back.
The argument from complexity is also kind of interesting… I’ll have to think about that one. The one thing that makes me want to agree is that these are just Battle Roads, so the Top 4’s aren’t all people who have battled through T16 or T8 to make it where they are. This does open the floodgates for players who make misplays every now and then, to top cut anyways.
Fair enough :)
4 darkrai deck’s made top cut in b.c >.< 1 in first place juniors, 1 second place juniors, and the other 2 were in seniors, 1 came in 2nd place and the other one came in 4th place, they still count for b.c, there are other divisions as well not juz masters ~.o
I know :P I don’t know who this is, but I leant my Darkrais and Tornadus EX’s to that first place junior :P I bet I have a guess as to who this is though… Haha.
Actually Mark I had 2 Terrakion tech
Great article, Crawdaunt, you did a good job explaining everything and it’s the best that comes on SixPrizes for free.
In my own variant of zeels I have 2 Raikous 1zekEX 1thundurus epo, 1tourndas ex, 1zapdos NXD ,2 Zebs NXD, that’s normal stuff but I thought puting this one pokemon in this deck avgreat idea I beat a mirror deck and one Darkrai deck. Which poke is it Stunfisk from NV #68 fighting type but needs lightning energy to attack. Beat,parts 90 HP : searchable with level,ball basic with evolite though I have not put evolite in here…yet.(thinking about it) one, retreat cost works with SAB. Weak to water res to light. First,attack can do 30x2heads+(x2)=120 weakness w/ one,light one colorless that is if u get 2heads. Second attack 2 light 1colorless 50 damage and para for a heads. It’s almost as powerful as Terra but doesn’t need fighting energy.
No… the fact that you site using it’s first attack as your strategy pretty much invalidated your whole paragraph. Zekrom does 120 without needing weakness. It’s not almost as powerful as Terrakion. It’s half as powerful, and has nowhere near the staying power. :|
What Darkrai can do against surprise Terrakion in CMT/ZekEels, especially when they run Revive ? I think it’s pretty hard to deal with that.
Against CMT, Tornadus.
Against Zekeels, nothing.
Against zekeels I think the Darkrai player would be immediately targeting eels to cut off energy acceleration to prevent any surprise Terrakion from happening.
Also dont forget that there are a large number of players playing darkrai variants, so it is only reasonable to think that darkrai variants would win a majority
Probably not the place for this but I just played you on Playtcg with the deck I was talking about when I replied to Bowser! All in all, @everyone, Darkrai is not going anywhere, neither are Zeels, during Nationals, IMHO.
No one cares about your honest opinion!
You make some good decks
I’ve heard some areas are swamped with Darkrai, and others have very little. I’d guess that Darkrai isn’t being played MORE than Zeels, but is doing way better.
But yeah, as I mentioned, not only is Darkrai maybe being over-represented, but the better players are likely the ones playing it. Which biases the results.
Set against that, there will be players who simply don’t have the cards to play Darkrai. Zeels still seems to be the most played deck.
Also, Darkrai is a very new deck. Unlike Eels or CMT, it is relatively undeveloped and is likely to get stronger (just like they did) as players refine their lists and discover new techs.
I agree, at the last BR I went to I only saw 3 eels deck, one being in seniors. The decks at the winning tables were paralock Vs. Darkrai, Entei Vs. Darkrai, Empoleon Vs. Darkrai, Paralock Vs. Darkrai, and Entei Vs. Darkrai.
thanks for the article, it’s definitely the main topic of the moment. it’s an intrigueing question as to which darkrai variant will prove the best choice/version at nationals. it will also be interesting to see if a ground deck can effectively counter both zekeels and darkrai at the same time… sounds like a steep task.
I’ve found a really cool and consistent (sort of) deck that can effectively counter almost anything, in theory, of course. It will be in my next article. And it’s fighting, not ground.
thanks, i have a bad habit of saying ground
The worst is that people who tech terrakion in every deck even if it’s a REALLY bad idea, are actually making the card needlessly raise in price.
I agree. Teching Terrakion takes at least 3 spots to be done right, and it doesn’t increase your matchup against Darkrai/Zeels by that much because they can A: Use Tornadus-EX or B: OHKO the Terrakion.
Darkrai it does more against though, since you can Catcher KO Darkrais for 2 prizes, whereas Zeels won’t really give you 2 prizes like that unless they dropped a Raikou or Zekrom EX. And I’m not sure either are seeing too much play in Zeels anymore.
Only if they have more Darkrai in play AND you have another off-color energy.
great article. ATM i am running a CMT were T stands only for terrakion. works nice agianst darkrai decks. but tornadus EX is never fun but mewtwo EX helps.
I enjoyed this. Not only useful but a genuinely enjoyable read. Good job sir :)
If you where going to take the terrakion route in zeels what would you suggest the energy line used for terrakion to be (2-3 fighting or would you suggest prism energy) thanks.
No Prism. Fighting can be searched (Energy Search/Energy Exchanger) and recovered (Super Rod/Energy Retrieval). I would run 3 Fighting.
GREAT article!! I had been playng an eel deck teched w/Terrakion and did very well vs. darkrai at BR week 1. Then my dark tornado cards came and I tried it out – just to see how it worked. It does effectively kill eels well, and the eel player just has to power up well knowing they will be gone soon. Teching Terrakion IMO gives you the advantage over this deck. Having the right ammount of F energy (3-4) is crucial and don’t forget about the plus power (2-3). An article about how to play the mirror would be great. I believe you have to lean on Tornadus EX early, then feed discard w/D energy and patch it to your darkrai bench sitter. Either that, or play Darkrai/Terakion or Dark Tornado w/Terrakion tech and some rainbow. Very timely article!!
After seeing the title picture I knew it was good. After seeing the writer I got some popcorn.
In my next article, I will advise people to grab some popcorn. You have inspired me.
I love your articles.
Best I’ve seen for a newer writer.
Was your first month writing when you got the writer of the month?
I think it’s because he wrote a ton. I think this is his best by far.
I did write 4. But I would have taken it with just the 2.
And man… Accelgor report and analysis was like… 20 pages xD This was a quickee article I wrote because the front page wasn’t getting anything new.
I didn’t mean that this is your longest article, but that this was your best-quality article so far.
Haha, I know :P I was saying that an article like Accelgor was a lot more effort, and I’d say a lot more valuable than this one ^_^;
But thanks for reading nonetheless!
There is a few reasons why Darkrai is doing so well, and I’m sure most of my points have been touched upon.
Darkrai is the new posterboy EX, and a lot of players wanted to swing it around. Darkrai is the only EX with an ability as well. Add on top of that Pokemon releasing a new energy acceleration engine for dark (which will be around for a while) in the discard/trainer method of Dark Patch, which people have been itching to try out. Also this is relevance and power for dark, and everyone thinks dark is cool and have wanted extremely competitive decks around the type.
Darkrai decks can also leapfrog each other into the finals due to the sheer amount of them floating around.
I’m exciting to see what techs/strategies appear in the future. So far 2 terraks in Eels has had wonderful results against Darkrai/Tornadus which seems to be the most popular varient so far.
If anyone needed to ask why Darkrai is good, then I am sorry but they should simply not be playing this game. Gee durr why is spamming an easy 120 to active and 30 to the bench good hurrr this don’t make no sense!