Journey Through the Dark

Before I start my article on Dark decks, I would like to thank the SixPrizes community for the warm welcome I received as a result of my last article ‘On Rogue Decks.’ I am very happy to be back writing my first Underground article. I hope this article is as well received as the last one.

May 22nd, 2012

I am beginning to write this article on 5/22/2012 (a little over two weeks before this article is released). My intention for this article is to describe the evolution of my Dark deck as a result of play testing and Battle Road participation. As of now, there is no comprehensive article on the Dark decks. I imagine at least one will be made public by the time this is released. However, I hope that the format of this article and my observations are interesting and insightful enough for you to read.

As of today, I have had little play testing or tournament exposure to any of the Dark decks. I am just beginning my Nationals testing…so forgive me if the beginning of this article seems behind the times.

The first weekend of Battle Roads and Nationals has yielded results that show the strength and promise of Dark decks. Although none of the reported decks has taken advantage of Zoroark DEX, I want to start my “journey through the dark” by building and testing Zoroark/Darkrai EX/Weavile.

My intention is to find the best deck to play for U.S. Nationals. The probability that a Dark deck is the best deck is quite high. Therefore it behooves me to find the best Dark deck amongst all of the variants. It seems to me that Darkrai EX is the backbone of all Dark variants and will be included in any successful Dark deck. The card is ridiculously good! Although I believe the variations without Zoroark are likely to be stronger, I want to test him out for the sake of proper analysis. Thus, here is my first Dark deck decklist!

Pokémon – 16

4 Zorua DEX 69
4 Zoroark DEX
2 Darkrai-EX DEX
3 Sneasel UD
2 Weavile UD
1 Sableye DEX

Trainers – 31

4 Professor Juniper
3 Professor Oak’s New Theory
3 N
3 Pokémon Collector
2 Pokégear 3.0

 

4 Junk Arm
3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Ultra Ball
3 Dark Patch
2 Dark Claw
1 Max Potion

Energy – 13

7 D
4 Special D
2 Double Colorless

This list seems pretty standard to me with a few interesting inclusions that I would like to test and discuss with you now.

Sableye DEX: I included him because, as stated earlier, I want to perform a complete and proper analysis of Dark decks. This guy (along with Darkrai EX, Zoroark and Weavile) is one of the best Dark Pokémon in the format, so his inclusion in my first Dark deck seems logical as he benefits from all the new Darkness support (Dark Patch, Dark Claw, Dark Cloak) and enhances Zoroark’s attack: Brutal Bash.

Based solely on intuition, Junk Hunt seems like an amazing, versatile attack that could provide a player with many useful tricks. However, this may be a case where Theorymon and playtesting results do not agree. I will let you know how Sableye fares in the coming entries. Wish him luck!

Max Potion: I stated in my last article that I really like Max Potion, so logically here it is! There is a great deal of synergy between Max Potion, Darkrai EX and Dark Patch. I would have liked to have gotten two into my initial build…but I could not find the room. One seems alright given that I can reuse with Junk Arm or Junk Hunt. Again, we will see where play testing will lead us in regard to Max Potion’s inclusion.

Other Notes

1. I am not so sure on my current energy count. I am worried that the inclusion of Special D Energy takes away from the benefits yielded from higher counts of Basic Darkness Energy and Double Colorless Energy. Regardless, I think beginning my testing with 4 Special D Energy is the right way to go.

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2. I was hoping to fit Super Scoop Up and Eviolite in here. Super Scoop Up is obviously good with both Weavile and Darkrai EX. It is quite possible that, as the deck changes, they will find their way into my final Dark deck.

3. I really do think the days of Pokémon Collector are over…but it seems necessary in Zoroark variations of Dark decks. They will be cut if the Zoroark version does prove to be an inferior variant.

My next entry will include play testing results, changes to the above list and thoughts on the inclusion of Zoroark, Weavile and Sableye in Dark decks.

May 29th, 2012

Well, after a week I have played many games with my Zoroark/Weavile/Darkrai EX deck. I ran the deck at two Battle Roads this past weekend and did quite a bit a of testing at league. I won my Saturday Battle Road and then went 1-2 drop on Sunday. I will talk about these tournaments in a bit.

My league testing last Wednesday showed me the importance of maxing out on Dark Patch. I did not think four were necessary in a Zoroark build…but I was definitely wrong. Although you may not need to use all four during the course of a typical game, it is crucial that they are drawn early on in the game.

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Once the first or second Zoroark goes down (turn 2-4), there is usually little to no energy on the board. At this point it is necessary for a player to play 1-2 Dark Patch in order to continue the assault on the opponent with another Zoroark or the first Darkrai EX.

In order to make room for the fourth Dark Patch, I dropped a Zoroark. I realized that the fourth Zoroark was unnecessary for the following reasons:

1. Typically the prizes I would give up would go in this order (obviously things did not always happen this way):

Prize 1: Zoroark
Prize 2: Zoroark
Prize 3-4: Darkrai EX
Prize 5: Zoroark/Sableye/Weavile/Sneasel

After that 5th prize is taken, I usually finish up with Darkrai EX. At the end of the game, Darkrai EX is much stronger than Zoroark. This is due to the difficulty of filling your bench up with Dark Pokémon (4-5 Dark Pokémon have been Knocked Out at this point and several may have been put into the discard pile as a result of Juniper, Ultra Ball or Junk Arm). Also, Zoroark will likely have softened up several opposing Pokémon allowing for multiple prizes with Night Spear. Finally, finishing up with Darkrai EX forces your opponent to take 7 Prizes (unless they Catcher up a weak bench warmer, of course).

So, I ultimately realized that I never needed a fourth Zoroark in order to continue my assault on the opponent. The only situation where the fourth would be useful is if I prized two. Even then, I still have the two Darkrai EXs to fall back on (and hopefully I would draw into the prized foxes).

pokemon-paradijs.com2. Zorua’s Ascension greatly increases the probability of getting Zoroark turn two. The inclusion of a fourth Zoroark does little to increase this probability. I could run two Zoroark and still have a very high probability of getting a turn two Zoroark…but that is definitely not wise.

These two observations suggest that the benefit of a fourth Zoroark is quite low. The inclusion of a fourth Dark Patch yields far more benefits than a fourth Zoroark.

This was really the only change I made over the past week. There is some flexibility in the list, however. The Max Potion is questionable (and so is Sableye, to an extent). On Saturday I ran both and never used the Max Potion. On Sunday, I dropped the Max Potion for a Lost Remover. Unfortunately, the two games that I lost on Sunday would likely have had better outcomes had I been running the Max Potion.

The question of Max Potion’s inclusion really comes down to what decks will become the most popular over the coming weeks. Max Potion is really useful against Quad Entei and opposing Darkrai EX based decks (both of my losses on Sunday). In the case of these two decks, it really is a race to the first 90+ damage attack. The player that deals out the first “big” damage has the advantage. A well timed Max Potion can quickly turn the tables and give the advantage to the previously disadvantaged player.

Although Max Potion can be helpful in other matchups (ZekEels and Fighting), it is not as useful. Here is why.

Max Potion against ZekEels

pokemon-paradijs.comThe reason why Max Potion is not as effective in this matchup is due to the fact that this matchup is already quite favorable for Zoroark/Weavile/Darkrai EX. In comparison to other decks, ZekEels has a tougher time keeping up in the prize race due to taking fewer prizes off of Zoroarks and then the extra prizes earned from the use of Night Spear. The only difficulty that can arise in this matchup is if the ZekEels player can keep attacking with Tornadus EX over the course of the game. Even then, Brutal Bash and Night Spear can still overwhelm 2-3 Tornadus EX.

Max Potion against Fighting

Due to the Fighting weakness of Darkrai EX, he is one shot by the most popular Fighting Pokémon, Terrakion. In the presence of one-hit-knock-outs (1HKOs), healing is pretty terrible and ineffective. I played against a handful of Fighting decks over the past week, and the best way to win is to minimize the use of Darkrai EX. Obviously Fighting decks pose a real threat to a straight Dark deck.

Fortunately, it is far from a complete shut out. Effective Claw Snags along with efficient use of the three Zoroarks can lead the deck to a victory over Fighting variants. Oftentimes, Claw Snag can be used to reduce the threat of return knock outs on the Zoroarks (I will talk more about Weavile in a bit). As a result, the Prize trade can become 2-1 instead of 1-1.

I am going to keep the Max Potion in my list and continue my testing with it because I believe Quad Entei-EX and Darkrai EX will continue to increase in popularity.

So, now I’d like to talk about the other Dark Pokémon in the deck: Weavile and Sableye.

Weavile

pokemon-paradijs.comI did not think I would like Weavile as much as I have come to like him. Although he never attacks, Weavile has helped me win many games! Obviously Claw Snag can completely shut down the opponent and turn bad matchups into not-so-bad matchups. But there is something else about Weavile that works so well in this deck – his (and Sneasel’s) free retreat.

Although Darkrai EX gives free retreat to those Pokémon with Dark Energy, oftentimes the field is bereft of all Darkness Energy. When such times arise, a naturally free retreating Pokémon can be your best friend! The two most common cases where Sneasel/Weavile’s free retreat proves to be most useful are as follows:

1. The ideal first turn includes a first turn Ascension. Obviously, the opponent does not want to be smacked by Zoroark on turn two. Thus, they will try and Pokémon Catcher a naturally non-free retreater on their turn in order to prevent that from happening. If they are successful, the Zoroark player will need to use their energy attachment for the turn to retreat their active and use a Dark Patch to provide the second energy required for Brutal Bash.

Although this is not too difficult to accomplish, the probability of a turn two Brutal Bash is much higher if they do not force the Dark Patch. So what should a Zoroark player do on their first turn in order to avoid this predicament?

Ideally, the first turn would include an Ascension, but what should your bench look like and why should you fill your bench with anything? My ideal first turn (assuming I opened with Sneasel or Zorua) consists of using Collector to get two Zorua and two Sneasel in my hand/play. My field consists of two Sneasel and one Zorua before I Ascension. In such a situation, Pokémon Catcher cannot disrupt a second turn Brutal Bash.

pokemon-paradijs.comThe benched Sneasels serve three purposes. The first is to prevent the loss that would result if the lone Zoroark was Knocked Out. The second is to threaten the opponent with a turn two Claw Snag. The third purpose arises when the opponent plays N on their first turn to “mess up” your first turn Collector. The negative impact of the N is lessened if the Zoroark player was able to lay down some of those Collected basics on their first turn.

Then, on my second turn, I proceed to play down the second Zorua , other naturally non-free retreating Pokémon and finally Brutal Bash for a lot.

2. The second situation where a naturally non-free retreating Pokémon is very useful involves the ‘attach only to Benched Pokémon’ restriction on Dark Patch. Quite often all of the energy on the field will be sent to the discard pile with the Pokémon that was just Knocked Out.

In order to perform any kind of useful attack after this happens, the Dark player will need to use Dark Patch. However, they cannot promote the Pokémon they intend on attacking with to the Active Spot due to the restriction on Dark Patch.

Therefore, the player must send up a different Pokémon and then retreat after using Dark Patch on the attacker. It is far easier to retreat this Pokémon if it naturally has a free treat. Otherwise, an “extra Dark Patch” is required in order to perform the useful attack previously mentioned.

Let’s look at two examples!

Example 1: The case of a naturally free retreater

pokemon-paradijs.comYour opponent has just Knocked Out your Zoroark or Darkrai EX, and you are left with no energy on your field. Your bench consists of 1 Weavile, 1 Zoroark, 1 Darkrai EX and 1 Sableye. You must promote a Pokémon. You promote Weavile, attach to the Zoroark, use Dark Patch on Zoroark, retreat the Weavile, use Brutal Bash and you are back in the game! In this case, you only have to use one Dark Patch.

Example 2: The case of a naturally non-free retreater

Your opponent has just Knocked Out your Zoroark or Darkrai EX, and you are left with no energy on your field. Your bench consists of 1 Zoroark, 1 Darkrai EX and 1 Sableye. You must promote a Pokémon. You promote the Darkrai EX. In order to do some damage this turn, you must attach three energy (assuming you have no way to get Darkrai EX out of the Active Spot other than retreating): one to the Darkrai EX in order to give him free retreat and two to the Zoroark in order to attack.

You have to attach one energy to the Darkrai EX and play two Dark Patch in order to power up the Zoroark. So, in this case you have to use two Dark Patch.

Obviously the player in the first case is in the better situation. The probability of having one Dark Patch at your disposal is definitely higher than the probability of having two. Furthermore, the player also has an extra Dark Patch that they can use latter on in the game!

These two situations, along with Claw Snag, provide a strong case for the inclusion of Weavile into Dark decks. The first case, along with Sneasel/Weavile’s damage enhancement of Brutal Bash, provide an extremely strong argument for the inclusion of the line into any Dark deck that uses Zoroark. In fact, I do not believe Zoroark based decks could function properly without Weavile. In regard to Weavile in non-Zoroark Dark decks, I will discuss that in a future entry!

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Sableye

Although I have not made great use of him, I do believe he belongs in the Zoroark/Weavile/Darkrai EX deck. As of now, I have not performed any “nifty tricks” with Junk Hunt in my testing. However, his inclusion in my list has always helped increase the damage output of Brutal Bash. Also, I have profitably used Confuse Ray several times. Finally, the fact that he is in the deck provides a sense of security when I am forced to Juniper away a hand filled with good Trainers early on in the game.

I do believe situations will arise where Junk Hunt will be invaluable. This belief, along with the three previous supporting statements (especially the increased Brutal Bash damage), is enough for me to keep him in for more testing. If I find that ‘Junk Hunt situations’ never do arise, then I will probably cut him. In regard to Sableye in non-Zoroark Dark decks, I will discuss that in the future.

Thoughts Before I Go to Bed

I have been pretty surprised with how much I like Zoroark. He is significantly underrated! The results have been a lot better than expected, and I am excited to try a different Dark variant in the coming days. The next deck I am going to try will be Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX. I will provide a list in my next entry. After I have done some testing with the Tornadus EX variant, I will perform a cost-benefit analysis of both decks and (hopefully) decide which one I like more. Good night!

May 31st, 2012

pokemon-paradijs.comLast night at league I played a handful of games with my newly built Tornadus EX/Darkrai EX deck. I believe that this deck is the next logical Dark deck to analyze for several reasons:

1. This deck seems to be the most hyped Dark variant.

2. I would like to observe how Darkrai EX interacts with other EX attackers and compare that interaction to the one with non-EX attackers. I hope after some more testing with this deck I can step back and decide whether I like pairing Darkrai EX with EXs or non-EXs. Although this aspect of my analysis may not be useful (as it is pretty simplistic just comparing EXs to non-EXs), I would like to consider it nonetheless.

3. By excluding Zoroark, Weavile and Sableye from this list, I will be able to observe whether their presence is “missed” while also learning more about their usefulness.

4. After my success on Saturday, the presence of Fighting decks has significantly increased in my local metagame. Tornadus EX seems to be a strong counter to those types of decks and I am hoping that his inclusion will improve the Fighting matchup.

5. I will get to learn about lots of other things such as the usefulness of Shaymin, Super Scoop Up, Random Receiver (compared to Pokégear), Smeargle, and Eviolite (compared to Dark Claw) with Darkrai EX.

So anyway, here is my current list.

Pokémon – 8

2 Darkrai-EX DEX
2 Tornadus-EX DEX
1 Mewtwo-EX NXD
2 Smeargle UD
1 Shaymin UL

Trainers – 39

4 Professor Juniper
3 Professor Oak’s New Theory
3 N
2 Random Receiver

 

4 Junk Arm
4 Dark Patch

3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Super Scoop Up
2 Dual Ball
2 Ultra Ball

2 Eviolite

2 PlusPower

1 Max Potion
1 Super Rod

 

3 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 13

9 D

4 Double Colorless

And here are some thoughts on what I have so far.

pokemon-paradijs.coma. I am a bit concerned that two Darkrai EX is too few. Although two seemed fine last night, I will hopefully learn more about this after more games have been played.

b. I am not sure whether two or three Skyarrow Bridge is correct. One thing I definitely do not like about this variant is the necessity for stadiums.

c. I would really like three Eviolite.

d. Ultra Ball seems very questionable. It is quite possible that they will be cut for additional Dual Balls.

e. With the inclusion of Shaymin and other EXs, Max Potion seems much stronger in this variant in comparison to the Zoroark variant (that is not to say that it is not good in the Zoroark variant…just that it is better in here).

f. I am not sure whether I would want to include a non-EX attacker into this deck (the only viable option seems to be Tornadus EPO). I am leaving one out for now in order to more easily observe how Darkrai EX interacts with other EXs.

Anyway, I plan on running the above list for Saturday and perhaps Sunday. Whether or not I run the Tornadus EX variant on Sunday will be contingent on how Saturday goes. The deadline for this article is fast approaching and I really want to test two more Dark variants before this is submitted: Terrakion and then the Sableye/Crushing Hammer variants.

My next entry will include a very brief report of how Saturday goes and what changes (if any) I decide to make to the list. I will also draw some comparisons between the two already tested variants and move on to discussion about Darkrai EX/Terrakion.

June 4th, 2012

This past weekend proved to be very enlightening! I ended up going undefeated over the weekend at both of the Battle Roads that I attended. I ran the Tornadus EX variant on Saturday and switched to a Terrakion variant on Sunday. I will talk about the Terrakion variant in a bit.

I ended up making a few changes to the above list prior to Saturday’s event. I decided to drop a Skyarrow Bridge in favor of a third Darkrai EX. I was very happy with this change! Here are some thoughts on what I learned from Saturday’s Battle Road.

Thoughts on Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX

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1. Three Darkrai EX is necessary. In almost all of my games I used Celebration Wind in order to move energy from a damaged Darkrai EX to a non-damaged Darkrai EX. This move always proved to be game changing if I was able to heal the damaged Darkrai EX via Max Potion or Super Scoop Up. Obviously I had to have two Darkrai EX at my disposal in order to do this.

If I had only been playing two, then I probably would not have been able to go undefeated (it is likely that one of the two could have been prized or had been already Knocked Out thus prohibiting the Celebration Wind/Heal move when I needed to make it during my games).

2. PlusPower is largely unnecessary. The only time I ever wanted a PlusPower was for the first turn Knock Out on a Smeargle with Tornadus EX. I can imagine other times when PlusPower would be useful (such as Knocking Out Eviolited Pokémon), but I am pretty confident the two spots could be better used on other cards.

3. Tornadus EX is not a very good attacker. The belief is that he is very useful against Fighting decks. However, most Fighting decks run a high count of Lost Remover or Crushing Hammer. There were many times when I used Power Blast, flipped tails, had to discard an energy and then had to discard another energy as a result of one of those two trainers. The Tornadus EX is left with no energy in this type of situation. Sure he still resists Fighting and may have an Eviolite…but it is likely that, after such a turn happens, he is not attacking for a while. I avoided attacking with Tornadus EX on Saturday at all costs simply because he is not energy efficient (except against the Fighting decks and even then he was not as useful as I had hoped he would be).

4. Super Scoop Up is extremely good in this variant. If not for this card, I would have lost many of the games that I played on Saturday. It is very hard to get 1HKOs against this deck. As a result, healing and prize denial is proving to be a very effective strategy. It is likely that the winner of U.S. Nationals will be the player who can make the best use out of this strategy.

5. Dual Ball is better than Ultra Ball in here. I never once wanted my Dual Balls to be Ultra Balls and always wanted my Ultra Balls to be Dual Balls. Those discards are hard to make. Junk Arm and Juniper are sufficient for getting Dark Energy in the discard pile for Dark Patch.

6. Random Receiver is incredible. This variant’s ability to run Random Receiver over Pokégear will likely prove to be the reason why Zoroark is inferior to this version.

7. Three Skyarrow Bridge is the correct amount. Two is too few. In order to have a “very good” first few turns, Skyarrow Bridge needs to be in play. With only two in the deck, it is very hard to draw into within the first few turns of the game. Four is definitely too many due to their complete uselessness later on in the game. So three seems to be the right amount.

8. I believe adding a Sableye will improve the matchup against Darkrai EX/Sableye/Crushing Hammers (although it probably isn’t a bad matchup). Without the Sableye, this matchup can be very flippy. A single Sableye can be exploited by reusing Dark Patch while the opposing Sableye is reusing Crushing Hammer. Once the Tornadus EX variant gets enough energy into play or enough Dark Patch in hand to “be safe” from Crushing Hammer, they can start attacking with Darkrai EX and using Super Scoop Ups/Shaymin to deny prizes.

Also, well timed Ns can essentially negate a Junk Hunt. I did not use the Sableye on Saturday, so this segment is simply based on theorymon. I encourage you all to test with Sableye to see how effective it is!

9. I really like the fact that Mewtwo EX fits so naturally into this deck (he really just fits into any deck that runs Double Colorless Energy). He is so useful!

And here is my updated Tornadus EX/Darkrai EX list!

Pokémon – 10

3 Darkrai-EX DEX
2 Tornadus-EX DEX
1 Mewtwo-EX NXD
2 Smeargle UD
1 Shaymin UL
1 Sableye DEX

Trainers – 37

4 Professor Juniper
3 Professor Oak’s New Theory
3 N
2 Random Receiver

 

4 Junk Arm
4 Dark Patch
4 Dual Ball
3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Super Scoop Up

2 Eviolite
1 Max Potion
1 Super Rod

 

3 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 13

9 D

4 Double Colorless

Comparing Tornadus EX to Zoroark

pokemon-paradijs.comFrom what I can tell, there are only two reasons for adding a support attacker to a Darkrai EX deck. The first is to improve the Fighting matchup. The second is to help cushion against the few (and there are only a few) shortcomings and problems associated with Darkrai EX.

The primary issues with Darkrai EX are that he is an Pokémon-EX, has no type advantage, and has only one attack. Night Spear is a very good attack but many situations will arise where other attacks will be much better (Junk Hunt, Brutal Bash, Blow Through, Retaliate, X Ball etc.). There are no popular Pokémon weak to Dark. As a result, Darkrai EX does not have a strict type advantage over any deck at the moment.

Finally, there are times when it behooves a player to attack with a non-Pokémon-EX. Although these three shortcomings of Darkai EX are not major, many players (including myself) want to address them. I am not a fan of the All In Darkrai builds. Giving up versatility and the ability to address Darkrai’s shortcomings for speed and marginally better consistency is not a fair trade.

Having said that, time to talk about Tornadus EX and Zoroark!

I was not impressed by Tornadus EX. He is not energy efficient and is extremely susceptible to energy disruption. The discard effect of Power Blast is largely irrelevant for the Tornadus EXs in ZekEels but it is very relevant for the ones in Darkrai EX variants. Blow Through is quite energy efficient but is only very useful if a Skyarrow Bridge is drawn very early on.

Zoroark is a better attacker than Tornadus EX in Darkrai EX variants. He can easily 1-shot many prevalent Pokémon (Terrakion and Zekrom), is a non-EX, can abuse Dark Patch/Dark Claw, is less susceptible to energy disruption and Ascension greatly increases the probability of making a big attack on Turn two.

pokemon-paradijs.comIn regard to the Fighting matchup, I am NOT convinced that Tornadus EX is stronger than Zoroark. Tornadus EX has the type resistance and more health; but he is an EX, is very susceptible to energy disruption and cannot one shot Terrakions (the biggest Fighting threat). The presence of Weavile also adds support to the case of Zoroark. I do not believe I could fit Weavile into the Tornadus EX build without completely destroying the consistency or removing the Super Scoop Ups (which are vital to the success of this variant). I would need to test more to determine which variant is stronger against the Fighting decks.

In regard to the ZekEels matchup, Zoroark is definitely more useful than Tornadus EX. However, both variants have a favorable matchup against ZekEels (neither is really that much more favorable than the other). Therefore, it matters little which support Pokémon is used and this part of the comparison is of little importance.

As mentioned earlier, Random Receiver is better than Pokégear. The certainty of Random Receiver adds a great deal of consistency to decks. The inclusion of Smeargle further adds to the level of consistency. For these two reasons, the Tornadus EX variant is significantly more consistent than the Zoroark variant and is ultimately a better choice for U.S. Nationals than the Zoroark variant. It is possible that a Zoroark variant with Dual Balls instead of Collectors (and Random Receivers instead of Pokégears) could be good…but I am very skeptical. If anybody has had success with this, please let me know!

Final Thoughts on Zoroark

As expected, the Zoroark variant proved to not be as strong as the Tornadus EX variant. However, I have been informed of several interesting things that, had I not tested the Zoroark variant, I would not be aware of right now. For instance, all things being equal, Darkrai EX seems to work best when paired with a non-EX attacker. A player that uses a non-EX attacker with Darkrai EX has greater control over the game. He or she has a unique advantage compared to the all EX deck: a better chance at being able to decide the Prize trade.

Using a mix of EX and non-EX attackers allows the player to more easily determine how many Pokémon the opponent will have to Knock Out in order to win. It could be anywhere between three and six Pokémon. The player using strictly EX attackers can give only give up three to four (in the case of knock outs on Smeargles, Celebis or other such support Pokémon) before they lose.

Finally, I learned that Weavile is really quite strong in Darkrai EX variants! Although he does not fit into the Tornadus EX variant (or any similar variant), he may have a spot in the best Dark deck. The Sableye/Hammers variant that I test in the next few days will have Weavile in the initial list. I will let you all know if I think he deserves a spot after testing him out!

And this concludes my discussion of Zoroark. He is quite strong but, unfortunately, any list making use of him will likely be significantly less consistent than other Dark variants. For this reason, he will not make it into the best Dark deck. Therefore, the next bit of discussion on Terrakion/Darkrai EX will only draw comparisons to the Tornadus EX variant because, at the moment, this variant is the best of the Dark variants I have tested.

Moving on to Terrakion/Darkrai EX

As stated earlier, I ran a Terrakion/Darkrai EX deck at my Sunday Battle Road. Here is the list I used to go undefeated on Sunday.

Pokémon – 9

3 Darkrai-EX DEX
2 Terrakion NVI
1 Mewtwo-EX NXD
2 Smeargle UD
1 Shaymin UL

Trainers – 39

4 Professor Juniper
3 Professor Oak’s New Theory
3 N
2 Random Receiver

 

4 Junk Arm
4 Dark Patch
4 Dual Ball
3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Super Scoop Up

2 Eviolite
2 Switch
2 PlusPower
1 Super Rod
1 Energy Switch
1 Energy Search

Energy – 12

8 D

4 F

Some thoughts on Terrakion/Darkrai EX

pokemon-paradijs.com1. Many people do not believe there is any synergy between Terrakion and Darkrai EX. I completely disagree. The major issue with Terrakion has always been his huge Retreat Cost. Darkrai EX completely negates this problem and essentially makes Terrakion the perfect Pokémon. As discussed earlier, the only issues with Darkrai EX (aside from his Fighting weakness) are his EX status, lack of type advantage and limited attack versatility.

Terrakion improves upon all of the problems associated with Darkrai EX. I do believe the Tornadus EX variant has a stronger Fighting matchup than the Terrakion variant. However, I also believe that the Terrakion variant has a better Fighting matchup than the All In Darkrai variant.

2. I have read that the inclusion of Terrakion “messes up” the energy count in Darkrai EX decks. I do not see how the inclusion of Fighting Energy is any different than the inclusion of Double Colorless Energy in Tornadus EX variants. In fact, the inclusion of Fighting Energy should “mess up” the energy count to a lesser extent than the inclusion of Double Colorless Energy because the Terrakion variant can take advantage of Energy Search.

3. PlusPower is very necessary in this variant. If Terrakion cannot one shot opposing Darkrais with Eviolites, he is not nearly as useful in the mirror match.

4. There is a great deal of security gained by not using special energy. Lost Remover, Enhanced Hammer, and Kyurem EX seem to be everywhere at the moment. The ability to avoid that energy disruption is quite nice!

pokemon-paradijs.com5. The Terrakion variant has a stronger ZekEels matchup compared to the Tornadus EX variant.

6. Terrakion is a better attacker than Tornadus EX in every non-Fighting and non-CMT matchup. On average, Terrakion hits for the same amount of damage and can withstand the same amount of attacks before getting Knocked Out. Based on these two qualities, they appear to be of similar quality…but they are not! The reason that Terrakion is better than Tornadus EX in every non-Fighting matchup is that he is more energy efficient, has great type advantage and is not an EX.

Anyway, I was quite pleased with how the deck performed. I did not learn as much about Dark decks from running this as I did from running the previous two variants. As a result, many of the thoughts expressed in the above sections are still quite relevant for this section.

I would like to include a Sableye, a third Eviolite and, perhaps, a second Energy Switch. I am not sure what I could cut in order to make room for these cards. Any ideas would be appreciated (I am thinking maybe a Dual Ball…but I have no idea about the others).

I am getting pretty tired, so I will continue my discussion on Terrakion/Darkrai EX tomorrow. I intend on comparing the Terrakion and Tornadus EX variants and presenting you with an initial Sableye/Hammers decklist!

June 5th, 2012

As you may have inferred from previous entries, I like Terrakion/Darkrai EX more than Tornadus EX/Darkrai EX. The only scenario where Tornadus EX would be strictly better than Terrakion at U.S. Nationals is if Fighting decks have a large presence. However, I do not anticipate a high amount of Fighting decks at U.S. Nationals for several reasons.

Why Fighting Decks Will Be Uncommon at U.S. Nationals

pokemon-paradijs.com1. The Fighting variants have losing matchups with pretty much all of the non-Lightning and non-Dark decks. Their matchups with Electric and Dark decks can also be pretty shaky as a result of Mewtwo EX, Tornadus EX, Sableye, and Weavile.

2. The Fighting variants are not as consistent as the top decks.

3. Exp. Share is not searchable. Aside from the Quad Groudon EX deck, all Fighting decks rely on this card to be successful. Unfortunately, it can be a challenge drawing into Exp. Shares during the first few turns of the game (when they are the most important).

4. Tornadus EX (in any deck) is a big problem if the Fighting deck cannot draw into their energy disruption and Tornadus EX flips a lot of heads on Power Blast.

5. The Sableye/Crushing Hammer variant has a very strong matchup with decks that only attach one energy a turn (i.e. all Fighting decks). I expect this variant to gain a lot of popularity in coming weeks.

As a result of these five things, many players will be too scared to run Fighting variants at U.S. Nationals. If this is the case, then the need for Tornadus EX in Darkrai EX variants is probably low. However, ZekEels and Darkrai EX variants will be the most popular decks at Nationals and, as a result, Terrakion will be quite helpful.

So, I am claiming that Tornadus EX/Darkrai EX is inferior to Terrakion/Darkrai EX because there will be a lot more Fighting weak Pokémon than Fighting Pokémon at U.S. Nationals. However, what of the other non-Fighting decks that include Terrakion (which I expect will be popular)? Many players are throwing Terrakion into their ZekEels, CMT and Darkrai EX lists. Wouldn’t the Tornadus EX/Darkrai EX variant be stronger against those lists with Terrakion than the Terrakion/Darkrai EX variant? Yes and no (mostly no).

pokemon-paradijs.comThe matchup between Fighting weak/Terrakion deck v.s. Fighting weak/Terrakion deck (ZekEels/Terrakion v.s. Terrakion/Darkrai EX, ZekEels/Terrakion v.s. ZekEeels/Terrakion and Terrakion/Darkrai EX v.s. Terrakion/Darkrai EX) is quite skill based. However, Tornadus EX/Darkrai EX will have problems with ZekEels/Terrakion due to the lighting weakness on Tornadus EX.

Also, Tornadus EX/Darkrai EX should lose to Darkrai EX/Terrakion because Darkrai EX is a better attacker than Tornadus EX and the Tornadus EX player will be forced to do most (if not all) of their attacking with Tornadus EX.

I have not tested much with CMT/Terrakion, so this segment is based mostly on theorymon. I suspect that Tornadus EX/Darkrai EX is stronger against CMT/Terrakion than Terrakion/Darkrai EX…but I am not certain. These updated CMT lists seem pretty clunky to me. As a result, I believe it may be challenging for CMT players to consistently 1HKO Darkrai EXs with Retaliate. Regardless, for the sake of argument, I will concede that the Tornadus EX variant is better than Terrakion variant against CMT/Terrakion.

So we have that Terrakion/Darkrai EX is stronger than Tornadus EX/Darkrai EX against ZekEels/Terrakion and other Darkrai EX variants. We also have that Tornadus EX/Darkrai EX is (perhaps) stronger than Terrakion/Darkrai EX against CMT/Terrakion. So which would you rather have? A better shot at beating all ZekEels and Darkrai variants or a better shot at beating CMT/Terrakion? Unless the format shifts drastically between now and the end of the month, I believe most people (including myself) would rather have the former.

It is for all these reasons that I am going to now say that Terrakion/Darkrai EX is a better choice than Tornadus EX/Darkrai EX for U.S. Nationals. From now on, this article will assume Terrakion/Darkrai EX is the best variant and will only draw comparisons between the next analyzed deck and Terrakion/Darkrai EX.

Moving on to Darkrai EX/Sableye/Hammers

When I began this article I was not aware of the existence of this deck…so obviously I did not plan on writing about it. However, Esa Juntunen’s wonderful performance at Finland’s Nationals has convinced me (and many others) that this deck deserves attention.

Here is the list that I plan on trying out.

Pokémon – 12

2 Sneasel UD
2 Weavile UD

3 Darkrai-EX DEX

3 Sableye DEX
1 Smeargle UD
1 Shaymin UL

Trainers – 36

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

4 Random Receiver

 

4 Dark Patch

4 Crushing Hammer

3 Ultra Ball

3 Junk Arm

3 Pokémon Catcher
2 Lost Remover
2 Eviolite

1 Super Rod

Energy – 12

9 D

3 Special D

And for some thoughts on the list.

pokemon-paradijs.com1. As you can tell from this article, I am not a big fan of Tornadus EX. I believe Weavile will be more helpful in all matchups.

2. Super Rod seems necessary when playing any sort of Evolution. Also, I do not like playing Shaymin without Super Rod.

3. I am concerned that 12 energy is too low…but we shall see!

I do not have many things to contribute at this point that Esa has not already covered in his articles. I will say that I am eager to test against ZekEels and other Darkrai EX variants. The most common criticism I hear about this deck is how it deals with decks that can attach more than one energy a turn. I will let you know how those matchups go!

Anyway, time for bed. My next entry will be the last one before I submit my article. I will discuss any changes I make to the above list, provide some matchup discussion, give some final thoughts on Dark decks and hopefully let you know whether I like Terrakion/Darkrai EX or Sableye/Crushing Hammers/Darkrai EX more!

June 6th, 2012

As a result of many games against ZekEels and Darkrai EX variants, I have made quite a few changes to the above list. Here is an updated list.

Pokémon – 8

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

Trainers – 40

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

 

4 Dark Patch

4 Crushing Hammer

3 Dual Ball

3 Junk Arm

3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Super Scoop Up
2 Lost Remover
2 Eviolite

1 Super Rod
1 Max Potion
1 Energy Search

Energy – 12

9 D

3 Special D

And here are some thoughts on the new list.

pokemon-paradijs.com1. Weavile was not very helpful. Searching for Sneasel and then Weavile requires a lot of resources. Trading all those resources for a Claw Snag never seemed worth it. Unfortunately, I think Weavile only belongs in the Zoroark variant. I traded those four spots for three Super Scoop Up and one Max Potion. These cards are always helpful!

2. I changed the Ultra Balls to Dual Balls. Dual Ball tutors for all the Pokémon now that Ultra Ball is gone. In all my games with Darkrai EX variants, I have not once ever wanted my Dual Balls to be Ultra Balls. Those turns where you Ultra Ball, discard two basic Darkness energy and then Dark Patch are too elusive.

3. I am still not certain whether 3/1 Sableye/Smeargle or 2/2 Sableye/Smeargle is better…but I suspect the 2/2 split is the way to go. More play testing is required in order to figure this out!

4. 12 energy is too low. I missed energy drops way too often. I added an Energy Search instead of another energy simply because it combos well with Junk Hunt and Junk Arm. In fact it might be wise to play 2-3 Energy Search and fewer energy (something to test).

5. I really like the Special D Energy in here. They are especially useful against Terrakion.

I need to play test a bit more in order to figure out the “best” way to run this variant…but this updated list is definitely moving in the right direction!

Comparing Darkrai EX/Sableye/Hammers to Terrakion/Darkrai EX

I was not impressed with the Crushing Hammer/Sableye strategy in my play testing against ZekEels and other Darkrai EX variants. Crushing Hammer was semi-useful in some games if they were able to prevent early attacks…but that did not happen very often. After Eelektriks hit the board or the opponent had access to Dark Patch, I never wanted to Junk Hunt or Junk Arm for Crushing Hammers simply because, even if they were successful, they would provide little benefit.

pokemon-paradijs.comNot to sound too harsh, but the Crushing Hammers/Sableyes are (mostly) wasted space in these matchups. I am sure they are useful against other decks…but not ZekEels or Darkrai EX variants. If you are like most people, you probably believe these two decks will be the most popular at U.S. Nationals. As a result, I think Terrakion/Darkrai EX is the better choice.

I will say that I did not lose to ZekEels at all in my testing with Darkrai EX/Sableye/Crushing Hammers. I think that all Darkrai EX variants have an advantage over these types of decks. So, the inclusion of Crushing Hammers/Sableyes does not create an unfavorable matchup against ZekEels. There is also quite a bit of merit in the ability to prevent one-energy-per-turn decks (Quad Entei-EX, Fighting variants, etc.) from attacking at all as they will have some presence at U.S. Nationals.

However, I lost to all Darkrai EX variants in my testing with Darkrai EX/Sableye/Crushing Hammers. The high amount of cards dedicated to the energy removal strategy creates a big disadvantage for the Sableye player. The Sableye player has access to fewer “useful” cards than the opposing Darkrai EX variant and, as a result, has an unfavorable matchup (unless it is the mirror match, of course).

So, I suppose it comes down to which you would rather have: an advantage over opposing Darkrai EX variants or an advantage over one-energy-per-turn decks. I would rather beat Darkrai EX variants. Thus, I am ultimately choosing Terrakion/Darkrai EX as the best variant out of the four that I have tested.

Final Thoughts

I am NOT claiming that Terrakion/Darkrai EX is definitely the best Darkrai EX variant to play for U.S. Nationals. I am simply claiming that it is probably better than the other three variants that I tested. I believe there may be other ways to successfully run Darkrai EX that I have yet to test. One of these other variants may prove to be the best of them all!

As a result of my play testing, I have learned that Darkrai EX is the best card in the format (Terrakion is the second best card in my opinion). I am completely confident that Darkrai EX variants will claim many of the top spots at U.S. Nationals. You simply must test with and against these variants if you want to do well!

I put a lot of time into writing about and testing these decks. I hope that my effort has provided you with some valuable insight. I look forward to hearing both criticism and (hopefully) praise. This is such an exciting time and I wish you all the best of luck!

~Colin


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