Top 64 Nationals 2012 with Darkrai EX

Hey guys, it has been a while since my last article, so I’ll introduce myself again. My name is Sam Liggett, and I have been playing Pokémon TCG competitively since the 2007-2008 season. I am in the Masters Division, and I live in Memphis, TN. My performances this year have been pretty subpar. In fact, I have been performing at what I consider such a mediocre level that I was not sure if I would be able to attain a Worlds invite this year, but it looks like I barely squeezed in to the top 40 spots in North America to earn the invite.

I started off the season running a Mew Prime/Vileplume UD/Muk UD/Jumpluff HS deck for Battle Roads and a few City Championships. I then switched to a Reshiram BLW/Typhlosion Prime deck that I played for five or six City Championships and all three State Championships. For Spring Regionals, I switched to a deck featuring only Mewtwo EX, Celebi Prime, and Smeargle UD. During Spring Battle Roads, I played a few different decks before settling on Darkrai EX with Smeargle UD.

Looking back, I wish that I had played Reshiphlosion for Fall Battle Roads through City Championships, then Celebi/Mewtwo EX for all three State Championships and Regionals, and then Darkrai EX/Smeargle for all Spring Battle Roads.

blu-ray.comI was incredibly unprepared for National Championships 2012. I had been working as a camp counselor all summer, and although Nationals was going to be the deciding factor for whether or not I got my Worlds invite, I had not gotten to test as much as I might have liked. Anyway, I arrive in Indianapolis the Tuesday before the event, and test nonstop until Thursday night. I tested Darkrai EX with partners like Smeargle UD, Terrakion NVI, Tornadus EX, and Mewtwo EX.

I felt like Darkrai EX was definitely one of the strongest cards in the format, but I could not decide on a partner for it. None of the decks felt solid or consistent enough to run for an event with nine Swiss rounds and a top 128 cut. I also knew that Darkrai EX was expected and Terrakion NVI was going to be in every single deck to gain an upper hand over Darkrai EX. Playing Darkrai EX for the event was going to be a very scary choice with my Worlds invite on the line.

pokemon-paradijs.comI also tested arguably the best deck in the format: Eelektrik NVI. Others may not agree with me, but it has had an unmatched amount of success since the card was released before State Championships. There are quite a few reasons why I considered playing the deck:

  1. Energy acceleration via the discard pile is incredibly efficient; especially late game.
  2. Terrakion NVI could be incorporated into the deck without too much difficulty.
  3. The deck has a lot of options and pretty sound matchups across the board.

On paper, this was the deck to play. Eelektrik NVI with Mewtwo EX, Terrakion NVI, Zekrom BLW, and a few other supporting Pokémon. Had I had more time to test, I probably would have played this deck for the event.

Going into Nationals, I felt like this was the deck to play, but I didn’t play it because I didn’t have enough practice with the deck and I didn’t feel like you could get the return KO on a Darkrai EX more than 70% or so of the time. I played Darkrai EX/Smeargle UD for a few reasons:

  1. I felt more confident with this deck than any other.
  2. It was fast, consistent, and had no “bad” starters.
  3. I felt like it had a really solid chance to win in a “best of three” series with a one hour per match top cut.

With that said, this is the list I played for National Championships 2012:

Pokémon – 7

3 Darkrai-EX DEX

4 Smeargle UD

Trainers – 40

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

4 Random Receiver


4 Junk Arm

4 Pokémon Catcher

4 Ultra Ball

4 Dark Patch

4 Switch

3 Eviolite

3 Super Scoop Up


2 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 13

10 D – Basic

3 Darkness – Special

Just to clarify, this deck is not “Turn 1 Darkrai.” Honestly, I got a turn 2 Darkrai EX most games with a turn 1 Darkrai EX being a game where I was running really hot and a turn 3 Darkrai EX being a game where I was running pretty cold. I feel like the deck is all about pacing. You have to know when to burn your resources to score a Knock Out and when to save them.

In round 5, my opponent opened with only one Pokémon: Tynamo NVI. I went first and used Smeargle’s Portrait to utilize his Professor Juniper. This game I went all out and used Portrait four times and played my own Juniper. I ran through almost half of my deck and was able to Knock Out his Tynamo to win on my first turn, but I would never have extended that far if he had one more benched Pokémon.

Allow me to go over the cards I played and why I played them:

3 Darkrai EX

pokemon-paradijs.comThis was scary for me. I knew that my opponent would never Knock Out more than three Darkrai in any given game, but prizing them was scary. Game 3 of top 8 at Georgia Regionals I prized three out of four Mewtwo EX: my only attacker.

Anyway, playing three Darkrai seemed like the right number, and I never lost a game because of prizing Darkrai. Every game though, during my first search, I would make sure that I knew exactly how many Darkrai I prized.

4 Smeargle UD

This little guy has one of the best Poké-Powers available to us right now. Being able to use the effect of an extra Supporter card is a huge advantage. I played four because I wanted to start with Smeargle and because some games I could use Portrait multiple times to extend for that turn one Night Spear.

4 Professor Juniper

This is the best Supporter that you could have early game. Being able to discard Basic D Energy for Dark Patch and getting to draw seven new cards is a great way to start the game.

4 N

This card was my MVP. I had been playing four Professor Oak’s New Theory up until right before the event. N was by far the best card I could have played. Being able to play N early game to try to get your opponent to draw a Supporter for you to Portrait is one benefit. I won at least three or four games by playing an N late game and my opponent was not able to draw the Catcher or the Energy to win.

4 Random Receiver

Rather than play more Supporters, I ran a set of four Random Receiver. This card guarantees you a Supporter. You can Junk Arm for a Random Receiver and know that you will be getting a Supporter.

Also, with all of the Smeargle UD running around, playing Random Receiver is better than playing more Supporters because your opponent cannot gain anything from using Portrait on a Random Receiver.

4 Junk Arm

pokemon-paradijs.comArguably the best card in the format. I run four because it opens a lot of doors; you have a lot more options with a higher Junk Arm count. I can’t think of a deck where I would not run four. You can also pull of some cool tricks like discarding D Energy with a Junk Arm to get a Dark Patch.

4 Pokémon Catcher

I don’t know why you would not run four of these. I played all four every game, and I even lost a game because I ran through all of my Junk Arms and all of my Pokémon Catchers too quickly. One of the best cards in the game.

4 Ultra Ball

I opted for Ultra Ball over Dual Ball for a few reasons. One of the reasons is that I don’t like flips. Another reason is that you need to discard D Energy as fast as possible to get a Darkrai powered up. Ultra Ball helps you do this.

4 Dark Patch

This card is the reason that Darkrai is so good. Being able to play a trainer to attach an Energy form the discard pile is broken. The games that I didn’t get Darkrai out as fast as I might have liked were because I couldn’t draw into my Dark Patches.

4 Switch

I ran four Switch so that I could switch Smeargle UD around as much as possible to use as many Portraits as possible. Going through a lot of cards makes it easier to draw into what you need and setup Darkrai.

3 Eviolite

This card is incredibly good. Having a 180 HP Basic Pokémon is crazy in itself, but when you add on this Tool that reduces damage by 20, Darkrai EX becomes incredibly difficult to Knock Out. Darkrai’s biggest threat is Terrakion, but if you have Eviolite, you at least force your opponent to play PlusPower to score a KO.

3 Super Scoop Up

This is the only card that I can honestly say I wish that I had not played in my deck. Don’t get me wrong, I won games because of this card, but other games I felt like the three spots could have been better filled by another few cards. Super Scoop Up was used sometimes to reuse Smeargle’s Portrait and other times to return a heavily damaged Darkrai to my hand.

2 Skyarrow Bridge

pokemon-paradijs.comI am glad that I switched to a 4/2 Switch/Skyarrow count rather than a 3/3. Two Skyarrow Bridge worked just fine. A lot of other decks play this card, but I was not going to bank on my opponent laying it down for me. It is played to give Smeargle a Retreat Cost of zero.

3 Special D Energy

Special D Energy was crucial in a lot of situations. Having just one Special D Energy on a Darkrai allows you to swing for 100 which was a really good number against Terrakion. Having more than one Special D Energy attached to a Darkrai at a time was never really a necessity, and since you cannot attach them with Dark Patch, I feel like three was a good number. Maybe not the perfect count, but a good number.

10 Basic Dark

I’ll be honest, I wish that I had more Energy. Having 13 total was not a bad number, but I wish it could have been higher. I would never go any lower. An ideal opening hand is a Smeargle start with Ultra Ball and two Basic D Energy. Great cards to be discarded with Ultra Ball and Junk Arm.

Now, I don’t remember exactly how each of my nine rounds went, so I’m not going to write out a full report for round by round. Here are the decks that I played against though:

Round 1 – Donphan/Terrakion W

Round 2 – Eelektrik/Terrakion W

Round 3 – Eelektrik/Terrakion L

Round 4 – Eelektrik/Terrakion W

Round 5 – Eelektrik/Terrakion W

Round 6 – Eelektrik/Terrakion W

Round 7 – Accelgor/Vileplume W

Round 8 – Eelektrik/Terrakion W

Round 9 – Darkrai/Terrakion W

8-1 Fourth Seed going into Top 128

pokemon-paradijs.comI played against a total of six Eelektrik/Terrakion decks in Swiss, and every single deck I played against ran Terrakion. I had a pretty tough event, but I expected it. I knew that almost every deck was going to play Terrakion because everyone expected Darkrai, but I decided to hope that my fast, consistent deck would be able to win against all of these decks that were playing 5-10 cards to try to accommodate Terrakion.

For the most part, I was right. I donked one opponent the entire event, and I got donked once during the event. The toughest matchup throughout the entire event was definitely the Donphan/Terrakion deck round one. The only reason I won was because I played an N when he had 1 Prize card left and he drew a Pokémon Collector which was not what he needed to win. The Eelektrik/Terrakion decks were scary, but as long as I played smart against them and took knock outs at the right times, I was able to win.

So anyway, I was fourth seed going into top 128. I was feeling pretty confident. I played against an Eelektrik deck that didn’t run Terrakion, and I had a pretty easy time winning that match. In top 64 I played against Kevin Kobayashi with Eelektrik/Terrakion. Game one I played an N when he had 1 Prize card left and he needed a F Energy to win. He got an Energy Search off of the one card. It was a close game though.

Game two he could not get anything set up and I wrecked him. Game three was a lot like Game two except that I was on the receiving end of the wrecking. It seemed like he had everything he needed exactly when he needed it. Oh well, well played Kevin.

I finished the event in 36th place with a 9-2 record. I really don’t have any regrets. I am glad that I decided to run the deck that I did. I wish I could have gone farther, but I am content with the top 64 finish and my Worlds invite. My goal was not to win Nationals. It would have been nice, but I knew that with my deck I would not be able to win the event. I was hoping to go deep enough into cut to earn my invite, and I did.

I would like to thank Jay Hornung for all of his help this season. He’s a great player and I don’t think that I could have done nearly as well this season without his help.

I would also like to thank Clay Mitchell, Taylor Mitchell, Michael Diaz, Curran Hill, Louis Thompson, and Squeaky Marking. You guys have been a big help to me over the years and I’m glad that we’re friends.

Lastly, I would like to give a shout out to Ty Smith. This guy has been wrecking me all season long. He was my round nine opponent at Nationals this year. This is his first year playing, and he also snagged the Worlds invite. Way to go man.

Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Also, if you see me in Hawaii, please come up and introduce yourself.

-Sam Liggett

Reader Interactions

8 replies

  1. Micah Smyth

    You played a lot of terrakion, AND YOU WON ALL BUT 1!!!Great job!

  2. Isaac McClintock

    Good article. A little short, and I wish you did a tournament report because those are always a lot of fun to read, but you still did good and it was still a nice little read.

  3. Karol Nowak

    Way to go! Awesome job taking top 64 with Speed Darkrai! You proved that your Speed Darkrai was consistent enough to allow you to reach all the way to top 64.

    BTW, were you in worlds 2011 for grinders? The reason why I ask is because your picture looks similar to someone I met on in the gaming room on the day before the event.

  4. collin

    Haha nice article, I really liked it. I think it could’ve been a little bit longer though haha… ALSO FUN FACT: The picture at the who you are playing against – THAT’S MY DAD!!!! lol.. I thought that was really funny and I showed him. I also showed him the part in your article where you talked about your match and said “I played against an Eelektrik deck that didn’t run Terrakion, and I had a pretty easy time winning that match.” He said that was pretty much what happened, he said you creamed him haha… Oh well props on the article and that’s funny that you played against and beat my dad haha.

    • Sam Liggett  → collin

      Thanks for reading! It was only an easier match because after I realized that he didn’t play Terrakion, I was able to play much more aggressively. Tell your dad it was nice to meet him and congratulations on getting to the top cut!

  5. bowser

    thanks for the article, my favorite quotes:
    1) “had no “bad” starters” … not a bad objective for a deck
    2) “I feel like the deck is all about pacing”… good idea to keep in mind for inexperienced players like myself
    3) “Being able to play N early game to try to get your opponent to draw a Supporter for you to Portrait is one benefit” … smeargle’s nearly gone, but clever tricks with N will keep evolving
    4) “Being able to play a trainer to attach an Energy form the discard pile is broken”. Dark patch is sick, but do you realize after Absol Prime departs, the next highest HP dark basic after Darkrai-EX will be sableye, sandile, and scraggy (70 each). Darkrai-EX is the only option.
    5) “Darkrai’s biggest threat is Terrakion, but if you have Eviolite, you at least force your opponent to play PlusPower to score a KO” … this is pretty common knowledge, but it will be even harder to find plus power after rotation

    Thank you

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