My name’s Josh, but people like to call me J-Wittz. I run a YouTube channel about Pokémon, and I like to play the Pokémon trading card game. I also placed 5th at the Pokémon World Championships in 2011. It’s an honor that Adam has allowed me to write for the site, and I . . .
. . . wait a minute. I’ve written here before, haven’t I? It’s good to be back.
pokemon-paradijs.com(Story time! Skip ahead if you just want the meat of the article!) For those of you who truly don’t know or don’t remember, I took a hiatus from the game after last season’s City Championships. Closing out my third year of college, it turned out that affording the card game was no longer feasible for me – both time-wise and financially (this was right around the rise of the $60+ Mewtwo EX – yuck!). It was a bitter pill to swallow, but I did what I had to do: I dropped my extracurricular activities and manned up in order to finish my semester strong.
While I knew that I’d no longer be able to compete for a chance at a Worlds invite (and honestly, I probably couldn’t have afforded a trip to Hawaii anyway), I highly considered giving Nationals a go over the summer. Then, to my surprise, a new door in life opened – I got a shot at writing, and eventually editing, at the videogames website Gamezebo.com. Getting paid to share my commentary and insight into the rapidly expanding realm of digital entertainment has been my dream, and a took my shot at it.
Over that time, I became a hybrid combining what I’ve been doing to SixPrizes, and what our good webmaster Adam Capriola does. I wrote constantly, while spending all additional time editing throught the work of others. Gamezebo’s focus on casual gaming wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do – but I knew that getting my foot in the door and networking with others was an opportunity that I might not ever see again. I worked from 8am-4pm every weekday (sometimes later) writing and editing hundreds of pieces, in addition to the occasional weekend. I networked my butt off, attending multiple press events, including this September’s Penny Arcade Expo (which is where the money I had saved for Nationals went).
Some days were fantastic. Others were excruciating. The pay (even working full-time outside of graduation) wasn’t much higher than minimum wage. And just like that, after a summer of hard work pursuing my dream, I decided that my “dream job” probably wasn’t what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I learned a ton (including a stupid amount of editing and writing training, which I hope will translate well into anything I write here at SixPrizes), but it was still a little heartbreaking to learn the realities of a competitive and low-paying field.
vingtenaires.comThen, as if Arceus himself could feel my pain, something crazy happened. My YouTube channel exploded (you can read an entire article I wrote about this here, if you’re interested in learning more about that). All of a sudden, the thing I loved most (creating entertaining and informative content on the internet) opened itself up as a real financial opportunity. It just might be possible that I can make a living being “The Pokémon Guy.”
Since writing that article, things have been going extremely well. While I’ve slowly adapted my channel to content that appeals to the entire audience of Pokémon fans (rather than just the small demographic of competitive Pokémon TCG players), I’ve found that I can still use my title as an ambassador for Pokémon to spread interest about the Trading Card Game. If I can reasonably live off of producing content about Pokémon, then there’s no reason I shouldn’t be playing the Pokémon TCG all the time, right?
The show that was able to propel me to where I am today – Prof-It! – will likely never be syndicated as often as it once was. While I’m trying to keep up an episode once per set release and tournament series – my videos will be geared more toward generating interest in the card game, rather than divulging the best strategies.
Let’s face it, my competitive content will never be able to match the quality and work that the incredible The Top Cut team is able to produce. I am honored to be recognized by many as the first person to move the Pokémon TCG onto an online video presense, but in terms of the Trading Card Game, I feel like their team offers the best free competitive video content out there.
The one thing I can still offer, however, is my writing and analytic abilities here on SixPrizes Underground. If you enjoy my video personality and antics – those will always be available on my channel no matter what Pokémon-related antics I end up producing there.
If you’re interested in the game on a deeper level, and would like to learn the best I have to offer in terms of competitive strategy, then I’ll be here. Either way, as long as I’m playing Pokémon, I’d love to share what I have to offer here. I hope I can help you on your way to enjoying the competitive aspects of this game as much as I have!
Things I’ve noticed after returning
To paraphrase the most popular request that people asked of me from my article request thread in the Underground Forums, many people wanted to know if returning to the game after hiatus had changed my perception of the new format. The last time I played in a complete tournament, my precious Magnezone was slowly losing its grip as the last tier 1 Stage 2 Pokémon, and Pokémon-EX were preparing to take our new format by storm.
I had never engaged in a single Mewtwo EX war, never declared a “Night Spear FTW,” and I never understood how the rare Terrakion from Noble Victories (even before Darkrai’s release) could win tournaments. There was a lot to catch up on.
Some of this might seem like simple advice, but I’m hoping that some of it provides a nice lens that you might not otherwise look through. It isn’t every day that a player takes a break and gets to view a brand new format with a fresh view, so here’s the top pieces of advice I’ve picked up so far in BLW-on:
1. Consistency is brutal
pokemon-paradijs.comHaving a deck that sets up consistently is an inherent asset that every deck in every format needs, but the ways that decks have been aided in that setup feel incredibly sparse in BLW-on. Not only is the draw Supporter count at an all-time low with 4 different choices (with no strong draw coming in our next Boundaries Crossed expansion), but consistency-based Pokémon are incredibly limited as well.
Emolga DRX only lightly aids the format by providing decent support to the already underpowered evolution decks. Sableye DEX (Pokémon just can’t seem to make a format where I don’t love Sableye, can they?) is in my honest opinion the strongest support Pokémon in the game right now, but his D Energy requirement for Junk Hunt severely limits his playability for any deck without the word “Darkrai” in it.
At this point, you’re probably rolling your eyes, thinking something along the lines of “Wow Josh, we’ve known this for over a month now,” but I promise I’m going somewhere like this. The big thing to understand that I’ve noticed several players/lists skip over so far in this format is that you have no real “savior” outs from a bad setup. Miss a Supporter in your opening hand? You’re going to be fighting a low-odds battle right from the get-go, and if you’re going first, your opponent very likely isn’t going to drop an N and save you with a free refresh. If you miss a Supporter after playing your first Supporter, you’re in a similar boat.
In my opinion, I don’t think 12-13 Supporters cuts it in a format that is so reliant on them as your only consistency outlet. I have found it impossible to run less than 14 Supporters/Random Receivers per deck, and I wouldn’t even be against upping that amount, either. Too many players seem to feel confident in trimming this line down to fit other things, but I can’t imagine any tech or Pokémon in this game that is more valuable than the one thing that keeps your deck running. With a format based so heavily on luck, who goes first, and draws, keeping a high (14-15+) Supporter count seems to me like the only thing you can do to definitely prevent dumb losses.
For similar reasons, I like running a higher energy count, whenever possible. Any turn you miss an attachment could set you too far behind to win. This isn’t as important as hitting a Supporter every turn, but it’s still important for all of the same reasons.
2. Resources are finite – keep note!
I got that Junk Arm is no longer in the format, but the impact is so much stronger than I ever thought it would have been. You can no longer run a single copy of a Trainer and comfortably expect to see it most games. And with the exception of Sableye, once a key Trainer is gone – it’s gone for good.
A huge tip that I recommend for players seeking to take full advantage of this change is dabbling in note-taking. Even if you don’t want to be “that guy” who fills a page of notes between turns, every player that wants to drastically decrease the amount of time they waste mentally by thumbing through their opponent’s discard pile can do the following: Make two columns: “Switch,” and “Catcher.” Drop a tally mark every time your opponent plays one of the two.
I’m not saying these are the only cards that matter, but keeping track of both has been crucial in my games so far. Once your opponent has dropped the 4th of either of these cards, games open up into an entirely new front. Suddenly, you can retreat your heavily damaged Pokémon-EX to the bench, confident that you’ll be free from a KO outside of snipe attacks. Or maybe you’ve suddenly granted access to pulling up an opponent’s Eelektrik, knowing that your opponent won’t be able to move it with anything outside of a Double Colorless Energy.
In just two Battle Roads so far, I’ve been shocked at the amount of times my opponent will pause mid-game to count how many key Trainers I’ve dropped. A good player will check the discard often and stay aware of how many resources are played, but a great player will take steps to ensure they know, rather than making an educated guess.
3. The best decks require more than 6 Prize cards
pokemon-paradijs.comIn general, a recurring theme I’ve found in this new format is the overall versatility and challenge that the format’s best decks throw upon their opponents in the form of elongating a match. This comes in several different forms, but the biggest one is the good old “7-Prize” flexibility that EX decks have. Simply put, if your deck runs both EX and non-Pokémon-EX, you can force your opponent to go through 5 Prizes, followed by leaving your field with a bulky 2-Prize EX at the end of the game.
It might seem like a common decision to go through this route, but it still requires careful management. These calculations tie in well with the last tip – and understanding when your opponent has exhausted resources is extremely important. In addition, managing your own setup to create a 7-Prize scenario is something worth thinking through. You’ve already had one Sableye Knocked Out – do you need to drop a second one? Many players are conditioned to fill an empty bench when basic Pokémon are floating in their hand, but making the conscious decision not to bench particular Pokémon is something equally important to consider.
In addition to the 7-Prize game, the current format’s best decks all seem to possess ways to deny prizes even further. Even though Eviolite only prevents 20 damage at a time, that small amount seems to block a ridiculous amount of KOs. Terrakion can no longer 1-shot Darkrai EX, and Rayquazza now requires an additional energy to best most major EXs in a single attack. An Eviolited EX now requires three 90-damage Night Spears to fall instead of two.
Both Darkrai/Hydreigon and Eels have the ability to employ Max Potion – allowing you to reset 1-2+ turns of combat instantly. Many Ho-Oh builds I’ve seen tend to experiment with cards like Super Scoop Up to reset the board.
Simply put, if your deck doesn’t have the means to block prizes easily, you’re already put at a huge disadvantage compared to what the metagame has to offer. There’s a reason only a few major decks are dominating this relatively tiny pool of cards.
These tips might be ones you’ve already considered, but I hope that I’ve been able to frame them in a way you haven’t thought about before. A world with EXs definitely took a little time to get used to, but the format is fortunately simplified by its lack of diverse consistency options.
In all the formats I’ve played in (it blew my mind when I realized the other day that I’ve been involved in aspects of the competitive game for over 5 years – when did that happen?), this one is by far the easiest one for a new player to adapt and learn. It’s very luck-based, and doing anything you can to minimize that luck is really all you can do to maximize your wins.
Well, that, and playing a solid deck. How about I spend the rest of the article talking about my favorite one in the format, then?
Thinking inside the ‘box
pokemon-paradijs.comWhen I first began testing for the new format, I had my sights set on the outstanding new Hydreigon/Darkrai deck. On paper, the deck has more to offer than anything else in the format. Sableye is the game’s best support Pokémon by far – allowing you to play more key trainers in a game than you would have in any other deck. Darkrai is an absurd EX, dishing out 120 total damage in spread form, while also allowing you to conserve energy and resources through the blessing of free retreat with his Ability.
Dark Patch gives you one of just two of the game’s major forms of energy acceleration. And Hydreigon, the pièce de résistance, gives you the conservation and healing powers of KlinKlang. You know, the same deck that won Nationals. The deck is stupid and overpowered and all-around nasty.
Battle Roads reports seem to reflect this as well. According to airhawk’s PokéGym tally, Hydreigon has the 2nd most wins (just short of RayEels by 1 victory), and considerably more top 4 finishes than any other deck played through the start of this year’s season. The deck has produced nothing short of fantastic results, and with the recent release of Pokémon’s Darkrai EX tin promo, the deck is even affordable!
pokemon-paradijs.comBut, to be completely honest, I couldn’t get into the deck – even after 30 or so games of testing. My problems all revolve around the fact that the deck is entirely reliant on setting up a Hydreigon. Whiff on the magical Rare Candy/Hydreigon combo, and all of a sudden you’re running a Darkrai deck with cheap 60 HP prizes on the bench and a good 10-ish cards of dead weight.
The format’s lack of consistency itself already irks me, so you can imagine how a loss from a lack of a Hyrdra seeing the light of day might make me feel. It’s infuriating!
In addition, the deck’s heavy lines leave most builds very similar to one another – leaving for little tech room and an extremely repetitive mirror match. Put all of these things together, and this just wasn’t a commitment I felt ready to make.
So I made the joke: “Why am I running a Darkrai/Hydreigon where half the time I’m giving away free prizes and clogging my deck with useless Trainers and Pokémon when I could be building some kind of toolbox deck?” It was a good question. Why wasn’t I doing that? So I started with this:
Darkrai Toolbox Skeleton
Pokémon – 6
Trainers – 26
Energy – 8
Free Slots – 20
Right away, you’ll find that this list alone does not make for a very good deck. Despite being 2/3 of a complete decklist, there are an absurd amount of directions you can go from here. In fact, with some Max Potion, a 3-1-3 or greater Hydreigon line, some Rare Candy, and a few more energy – you’re right back at the Darkrai/Hydreigon list where I started.
While I could talk for an extended period of time about the multiple different routes that one could go by starting from this skeleton list, our own airhawk has done exactly that in his latest article. Instead of rehashing the same material and breadth of options that we’ve seen in most of our past “Battle Roads Deck Recap”-style articles, I’d like to focus on exactly what I’ve been working with and why I believe it works.
Let’s cut to the chase – here’s what I’ve been working and playing with currently:
Pokémon – 9
Trainers – 38
Energy – 13
Open with Sableye to start, and lead with Junk Hunt to recover used or discarded Items early in the game. Between Dark Patch and Energy Switch, you can build a Darkrai EX to Night Spear by turn 3 (and even turn 2 with decent draws), all while Junk Hunting every turn. Terrakion and Prism energy allow you to counter everything fighting-weak in the metagame, while also giving you an out to Knock Out Sigiliph, or even just dealing 90 damage without giving up 2 Prizes with all of your attackers.
At almost 40 Trainers, they deck allows you to inflict a lot of hurt on your opponents without even attacking – all while giving you plenty of room to fine tune as many different aggressive and defensive options as you’d like.
I wouldn’t just throw a list at you without any explanation on the card choices, though. Here’s insight on every decision I’ve made, every decision I decided against, and every decision I could still consider.
More often than not, I’ve seen most lists take this count to 3. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been a consistency nut in this format, and I honestly believe Sableye to be too good not to run a full force of. Not only does it maximize your starts with him (over the undesirable Terrakion – who still isn’t that bad due to Darkrai’s Ability for free retreat), but it also maximizes that you get full use from him right away.
Turn one, you can essentially drop any two Items and have them right back in your hand for the next turn. Even if you don’t have a free D Energy to drop from your hand, you can now freely drop any 2 Items from your hand via Ultra Ball/Juniper on turn 1 before safely grabbing them back. It isn’t uncommon to enter your 2nd turn with a hand up to 10 cards because of a Supporter followed by a Junk Hunt, which is simply amazing in this unstable format.
You can chain Hammers, swarm Catchers, ensure you have a Supporter with Random Receiver, the list is endless. I could go on and on about how Sableye has mid-game potential too, but it’s his early-game prowess that makes him too good not to run 4-of in my mind.
3× Darkrai EX
pokemon-paradijs.comIt’s the right count. 2 is too little, but 4 isn’t necessary, seeing as you give up 2 Prizes per pop. If you weren’t running a second attacker, I’d say the jump to 4 of these bad boys is needed. But because you are running them, 3× just feels right.
It’s crazy how helpful 2 cards can be in strengthening the depth of a deck. Terrakion shores up many bad matchups and flat-out turns some of your questionable matchups as a regular Darkrai toolbox into favorable ones. He might not be the strongest the type will have to offer (I can’t wait to see what Landorus-EX does to shake up the format), Terrakion’s Fighting type does so much for the deck that I can’t imagine a build without him. He does the following:
- KOs all major Lightning Pokémon in the format (without Eviolite) and Darkrai EX (without Eviolite) on a 2-energy revenge attack.
- KOs Tynamos and the Dark-type Deino for 2 Energy, regardless of if one of your Pokémon was Knocked Out in the last turn.
- KOs the untouchable Sigilyph DRX by hitting through Safeguard.
- Functions well with Energy Switch, allowing you to build him and attack in a single “surprise” turn.
- Simply deals 90 damage, allowing you to clean up KOs that Darkrai started in the late game.
- Only gives up a single Prize card, while more often than not requiring two attacks to KO by your opponent.
All these things combined, Terrakion turns your Eels matchup favorable, allows you to compete vs. Darkrai/Hydreigon, and contributes in almost all other matchups simply by being a 1-Prize attacker that can pile on damage pretty quickly after you take a knockout.
There isn’t much to justify here, considering how few Supporter options we have. As I’ve said earlier, 14 is the lowest I’ll go for a total Trainer count. I feel that Bianca nets me more than the 3 cards a Cheren would at least 5 out of 6 times after how often you’re dropping or discarding cards, which is why I pick her despite the apparent wrath a great deal of our player base has against her.
Random Receiver is recoverable by Sableye, and thus justified more in this deck than in any other (I’m not crazy about running it in anything else over simply running a higher Supporter count, but that’s a personal preference).
Simply put, if I could fit more Supporters in, I would. But I won’t settle for any less.
In a format where you’re rushing to take 6 Prizes as quickly as possible, being able to choose where you want to put your damage is the ultimate asset. Pair that with the fact that Night Spear naturally sets up extra KOs later in the game, and there’s no reason not to max out the Catcher count in this deck. Heck, there’s hardly a reason not to max out your count in any deck!
4× Dark Patch
pokemon-paradijs.comThis deck is so streamlined, that it’s entirely possible (around 2/5 to 1/3 of games) to get all the pieces you need to Night Spear on turn 2. Maximizing your patch count is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that you can set up as quickly as possible. I can’t believe that Pokémon decided to create a set that supports one specific type, but the end result is something too good not to become a tier-1 deck.
4× Ultra Ball
You don’t need to search much in the deck, but you need something to make sure you can pull a Darkrai or Terrakion out early in the game. It’d also be nice if you had a good way to dump D Energy into the discard pile so that Dark Patch could be activated quicker.
WHAT’S THAT? There’s a card that does both? I suppose I’ll have four of those.
Here’s where we start dipping below the all-powerful 4-count cards, and start moving into decisions that are personal preference. I’ve seen lower Eviolite counts, and I’ve even seen zero counts at all. However, in a format where Terrakion is becoming more and more compelling of an attacker option against the popular metagame, you need to at least try and prevent your Darkrai from being 1-shotted by a Revenge or Land Crush. Eviolite also, as previously mentioned, makes Rayquaza pretty far out of 1HKO range, while also forcing opposing Darkrai to 3HKO you off of their own Night Spears.
The deck is definitely as aggressive as they come, but it’s still impossible to ignore the defensive strength that Eviolite provides in today’s metagame.
This is a fantastic card that allows all kinds of excellent tricks. The big one is moving a D Energy to Terrakion, followed by a Prism Energy, followed by a surprise Revenge. But it’s good for much more than that.
One of my favorite tactics is opening Sableye, abusing Junk Hunt early, and Energy Switching after utilizing Darkrai’s free retreat in order to abuse your energy. It’s also simply a strong card for mitigating energy off an attacker that is about to be KO’d.
There’s no question that this card belongs in the deck, but a valid question might be “Why not 4?”. I feel that, despite its inherent strength, that it’s not a card you need in every single game. Also, because we’re running 4 unmoveable Prism Energy, it can be dead weight at times.
Ah, the hammers. Possibly my most questionable usage of 4 spaces, but hear me out.
“Hammertime,” as the kids seem to be calling it these days, is likely the ideal way to run this deck without the Terrakion. Depleting your opponent of energy early game, combined with the awesome ability to recycle energy drops with Sableye, can potentially win you any matchup. However, combined with the risk that both cards run (one is a flip, while the other banks on your opponent dropping a special energy card), I feel that the hammers are best used as (pun intended) one of many tools at your disposal.
pokemon-paradijs.comEven at just 4 counts, the hammers still provide an excellent way to frustrate your opponent. Each successful drop puts your opponent up to a turn behind, which can sometimes be enough to turn the game in your favor. You can run more if you want, but I’ve found the 2-2 count to be enough to provide a useful task without taking up too much space or focus.
Here’s where my 2 additional hammers used to be. For all of the reasons that I’ve listed Eviolite as awesome, Tool Scrapper is also awesome. It guarantees you 2 Prizes off a revenge on Darkrai, disables Garbodor, and allows you to 2HKO previously Eviolite’d opposing EXs with Night Spear.
It’s a perfect fix for several little obstacles you can face over the metagame, and it reminds me very much of how useful Windstorm was back in the day as a 2-of copy. In a toolbox deck, it just feels necessary as long as Eviolite is also played popularly.
The 13 count is one higher than my first few renditions of the deck, and it feels about right – allowing you to attach at least one energy from hand per turn, while also giving you plenty of spots to discard energy for Dark Patch to activate.
I’ve opted for Prism Energy over Fighting because of Junk Hunt’s fighting energy requirement. While I feel that Sableye would be much more useful to all decks by having a universal attack cost (the same way Sableye SF could be splashed into literally any other deck), the game’s designers decided that Dark types needed one incredible boost to consistency that only they could use. While using a Prism in the first turn our two on Sableye isn’t ideal, the alternative of having a F Energy and not being able to Junk Hunt at all sounds even worse.
pokemon-paradijs.comI can see some benefits to running Fighting, such as not being as prone to Enhanced Hammer, or being able to be moved with Energy Switch, but in the end, I feel that Prism Energy’s versatility makes it a slightly better play.
Speaking of slightly better plays, here are a few options that I’ve tried in the past, but decided against:
The idea is that combined with Energy Switch, your ability to bring energy from the discard pile with Dark Patch, and Sableye’s Junk Hunt, you can concoct your own little “mini-Hydreigon” healing tricks. While I’ve found the potion to be nifty in denying prizes from time to time, I’ve found that the amount of effort you need to go through to get the combo off can end up becoming your own downfall.
The format has no quick and easy way to move energy en masse (aka Shaymin UL or even Lucian’s Assignment), and thus you’ll always be dumping energy and resources by activating a heal. Sure, you’re denying your opponent some prizes, but you’re also setting yourself a little bit back as well. It’s definitely a viable card very late game, but I found it to be too situational to be more important than cards that aid me in nearly every matchup, such as the hammers or the tool scrapper.
I understand the idea of making a deck more “well-rounded,” but I feel that by adding in another type of energy and attacker, you dilute your consistency and overall strength. If Mewtwo was running rampant with multiple forms of acceleration, it might hold a little more strength, but the metagame has evolved greatly since the passing of Pokémon like Shaymin UL and Celebi for acceleration. Now, Mewtwo EX is only used in Eels, which is a matchup I’ve found to be favorable for you already.
The one thing Mewtwo CAN do is handle a Terrakion much better than Darkrai can, but you still don’t 1HKO them 95% of the time, and I’m not sure he provides a good enough reason to be included in a deck where speed and consistency are so important.
I understand that you might prize a Terrakion/Darkrai EX (or even two if you’re really unlucky) per game, but I still feel that your deck is aggressive enough to uncover a good amount of prizes before you run out of attackers. Combined with the fact that Darkrai is already giving up 2 Prizes at a time, and you won’t find too many situations where you’ll even need to play all three of your copies in a single bout.
I’ve logged over 100 games (way more than that once you’ve included my long stint with the new PTCGO) with different variants of this build, and I can only recall one game where a prized 2nd Terrakion might have led me to a loss. I think it’s a risk that you can manage in favor of maximizing your consistency and techs elsewhere.
And finally, here are two cards that I have yet to try, but am curious to explore:
I’ve noticed Jason Klaczynski using this card in his Sableye toolbox decks, and it’s definitely an interesting idea. What if, instead of worrying about Tool Scrapping your opponent’s Eviolites, you just tanked through them for 20 more damage per attack? By giving your Dark pokemon a double PlusPower, you can set up KOs that were previously impossible, such as picking off a Terrakion NVI after giving it 30 damage of Night Spear damage. You could even strap it onto a Sableye to 3HKO a Sigilyph with Confuse Ray, if you opt not to play Terrakion.
The downside, of course, is that by running Dark Claw, you open yourself up to the same problems you would have without running Eviolite, such as being 1HKO by a Terrakion’s Revenge. I’m not sure how much stronger this card would make your deck, but I haven’t been able to try it yet, so I can’t knock it just yet.
This is the real tech I’ve been trying to work in for a while now. Its downsides are the same as always – it’s a terrible starter, and a very easy double prize to prey on. However, it’s also a fantastic late-game sweeper, a great Terrakion (your biggest weakness) counter, and an additional toy for you to play with while you’re already using those 4 Prism energy.
If you play your opponent into taking 5 Prizes in some kind of combination between Terrakion, Darkrai, and Sableye, Shaymin sweeps late game for 180 damage on 2 energy. Combined with Tool Scrapper, you 1HKO any EX, which could be enough to seal a game you were losing otherwise. I hate the idea of starting Shaymin, but the benefits it offers definitely compels me to want to try it before I dismiss it altogether.
So there’s everything I’ve got on my deck, the decisions I’ve made in order to get to where I am now, and some of the things I’ve cut or changed along the way. This is a list that I’ve been working on since the reboot of PTCGO, and while I’ve only been able to hit two later Battle Roads this early part of the season, I was happy to see that it has slowly grown to become the choice deck of many other solid performers.
I haven’t had the luxury or time yet of meeting up with other “star” players to test with, and it was very reassuring to know that some of my early predictions about the strength of a Darkrai/Terrakion toolbox deck in this format were true.
Speaking of Battle Roads, I’ve done okay so far – but my sample size of games in tournaments is so small that it isn’t a real indicator of how well the deck has done for me in the several games I’ve spent testing. In Rantoul, IL, I was able to start 3-0, before narrowly losing to a Garchomp deck by 1 Prize after 1) whiffing a Catcher off of 2 Junipers, and 2) N-ing my opponent to 1 and giving them a Juniper to find the one card left in their deck to win.The loss somehow dropped me to 3rd, but I was happy to collect points.
Last weekend’s Champaign tournament didn’t go so well for me – 2 and 2 – but my losses were to 1) a Terrakion swarm from a Ho-Oh deck when I couldn’t hit any Eviolites, and 2) an Empoleon/Accelgor deck that got 2 Empoleon out on the 2nd turn.
But like I’ve said, 8 games of tournament play don’t exactly speak for the dozens of games I’ve tested. Between those, I’ve been able to develop some pretty good notes (and more importantly, pretty good results!) on how most major matchups play out. Here are my notes so far on my Darkrai/Terrakion toolbox vs. the major decks right now in our metagame:
pokemon-paradijs.comI understand that our metagame is now populated by two distinctly different types of “Eel” decks – the “regular” version full of Zekroms, Mewtwo EXs, and friends, as well as the “RayEels” version that focuses solely on building Rayuaza EX. There are also decks that attempt some kind of hybrid between the two, but I’ve noticed them to be slightly diminishing as players decide on one strategy they like better than the other. Either way, I’ve found all kinds of Eel decks to run pretty similarly.
In general, I’ve found the Eels matchup to be favorable, simply due to how many extra prizes you can accumulate by loading Night Spears onto Tynamos and Eelektriks. Every turn your opponent has an Eelektrik on the bench, they’re offering you a shot for an easy 1HKO off of a catcher. Because their deck fundamentally falls apart if they don’t do this, they’re stuck in a weird spot from the get go. By dealing that perfect 90 damage, you give them a lot of trouble right off the bat.
One mistake I’ve found that gets me into more trouble than it’s worth is trying to 2HKO an imminent threat rather than sweeping the Eels up as quickly as possible. Pokémon like Rayquaza EX with a ton of energy always appear threatening, but it’s important to realize that the true threat is their source of acceleration. With the acceleration, your opponent can afford to take those knockouts from you and easily rebuild new attackers. They can also afford to play Max Potion, resetting any work you’ve done to try and take that perfect 2HKO.
Without the Eels, however, they play at an incredibly slow pace, and they don’t really have anything that can combat with Darkrai or Terrakion as well as you deal with them. As Gregg Williams will forever be remembered for saying (RIP 2012-2013 Saints): “Kill the head, and the body will die”.
pokemon-paradijs.comBesides giving you a constant source of free prizes in the Eels, neither set of attackers is too threatening. All Lightning attackers fall to a single Revenge attack. Mewtwo EX has to deal with a 40 damage buffer if your Darkrai EX has an Eviolite attached, and his DCE is prone to Enhanced Hammer. Rayquaza, while strong enough to dish out a 1HKO with a lucky first attack and a lot of acceleration, still requires a LOT of energy to do you real harm (4 total energy to 1HKO Terrakion due to his perfect 130 HP, and 5 energy to 1HKO Darkrai EX with an Eviolite).
This matchup is also one where I recommend freely dropping Terrakion on the bench (as long as you have Darkrai EX in play for the free retreat, of course). It might seem counter intuitive to reveal your “surprise” KO, but I’ve found the play to drastically alter the way my opponent plays. If they have a slightly slower start, they’ll be extremely hesitant to take that leading KO on Sableye, in fear of them giving you an easy KO with terrakion. At 130 HP, Terrakion rarely goes down in a single attack, either.
Even without Revenge setting off, I’ve found that Revenging for 30×2 on a benched Tynamo is a perfectly strong play early in the game, and this also sets you up for Land Crush on the next turn if you can hit another of your 3 remaining Prism Energy. Eels is a matchup I already enjoy with Darkrai alone, but adding the factor of Terrakion has led me to win a high majority of my games, regardless of which version of Eels they are playing.
In summary – Kill the Eels whenever possible, threaten your opponent with Terrakion, and overpower your opponent once they’ve run out of acceleration and are behind in energy drops.
pokemon-paradijs.comThis battle is not so eloquent. It’s simply a race for you to kill your opponent’s Deinos before they take the leap up to become the enormous energy-switching dragon. With a higher focus on energy acceleration and setup, you generally get the first few punches, but it’s still pretty hard to avoid a Hydra from hitting the field entirely. Once they do, your sole focus should become dismantling Darkrais with Revenge/Land Crush.
You cannot take prizes with Darkrai as long as your opponent has a steady stream of Max Potions, so I tend to abandon Darkrai as an attacker until the late game. Once your opponent has whittled down your prize count, hitting them with a late-game N and decreasing their chances of playing Max Potion is about the best chance you have of leaving a scratch on their Darkrais with yours. Until then, Terrakion offers you the only prizes you can take in a single hit (he also, as I’ve talked about earlier, offers an early prize on Deino – grab that any chance you can!)
Ideally, you just Land Crush or Revenge for the knockout on an un-Eviolited Darkrai. In our often non-ideal game, you’ll have to be aggressive and find a tool scrapper as quickly as possible. In this downtime, Sableye becomes the all-star, allowing you a constant stream of Supporters through Junk Hunting for a Random Receiver, or by giving you the shot to replay hammers to set your opponent back slightly.
pokemon-paradijs.comYou’re going to start giving up prizes at this point, but Sableye at least gives you the turn or two that you need to ensure you can find all the Tools you need for a Darkrai 1HKO. Even if you do have all the pieces in hand – you’ll still need your opponent to take a knockout to set up a Revenge, and Sableye fills that roll as a quick sacrifice as well.
Is it easy? Not always, but the matchup is far from unwinnable. Without Terrakion, this matchup is terrible – leaving you to rely on speed and Trainer disruption alone to prevent a Hydra from seeing the light of day. With him, and you have the potential to come back through games and dismantle your opponent’s “perfect” wall.
As a side note, here is also a matchup where I could see the Shaymin EX being a strong play. After they’ve taken 4 of your prizes, you can come out of nowhere and kill a Hydreigon for 150 damage on 2 energy. While you will shortly afterward be open for 2 Prizes, your opponent also likely won’t be able to kill you in one hit due to Darkrai’s 90 damage cap. This kind of surprise firepower, when tied with Terrakion’s could be another way to dampen the blow of a Hydreigon gone wild.
Summary – Attempt to prevent the dragon from ever hitting the field. If you do, the win is easy. If you don’t, you need to carefully set up Terrakion KOs for 2 Prizes at a time – your only way back into the game.
Vs. The Mirror
cardshark.comThere isn’t too much intelligent to say here, other than set up quickly and make smart decisions with your hits. If your opponent also plays Terrakion, it might be smartest to create “slow” knockouts instead of quick ones. By 2HKOing or 3HKOing an opposing Darkrai with your own Night Spear, you’re at least insuring that your Darkrai is dealing an adequate amount of damage before he gives up 2 easy prizes to an opposing Terrakion.
Taking that early and easy knockout on Sableye might be tempting, but it also might not be a very good play. Slaying a Sableye is one of the easiest ways for your opponent to get you into a 7-Prize war, and it might not be a worthwhile investment when your opponent’s main attackers are going to be giant EXs.
If they don’t run Terrakion, you’re at a huge advantage. You still need to be smart (it might be smartest NOT to drop those Prism Energy until you plan on attacking in order to avoid Enhanced Hammer), but he’ll be a nightmare for your opponents. Trust me, I’d know, because…
… is the deck’s absolute worst matchup. By “Terrakion,” I don’t just mean the Basic deck that fills up on different Fighting attackers, but I mean Terrakion in general. On his own, he will beat you with damage output, beat you by only giving up 1 Prize, and he’ll beat you . . . physically. There are things you can do to prevent absolute disaster, but there’s nothing you can do to prevent the exchange from being unfavorable.
In general, if you see a Terrakion in play, do everything you can do get damage on him without taking another KO in the process. Even if it means hitting around the board without taking an actual prize, it might be worth it to elongate the life of a Darkrai, while also giving your own Terrakion a chance to sweep for a few KOs before the dust settles. This is a large part why we run the three Eviolite – giving us a fighting chance by absorbing the 180 damage down to 160 – in turn forcing out an additional turn with our Grim Reapers.
Once again, Shaymin is well worth testing here. You 1HKO opposing Terrakion after they’ve taken 2 Prizes on you, due to Grass Weakness. I could easily see myself cutting 2 hammers in favor of a 4th Energy Switch and Shaymin to bolster this matchup if Terrakion continues to find himself in more popular decks as a tech attacker. Aside from him, I can think of no easy way to deal with Terrakion, aside from doing everything you can to prevent a flat-out 1HKO on an un-Eviolited Darkrai.
pokemon-paradijs.comThis deck varies in build, but every variant tries to do the same thing: set up very fast acceleration off of a Rebirth flip, followed by a redistribution of energy with Energy Switch. In many ways, their deck is similar to yours in that they have space for lot of Trainer options, rely on moving energy quickly to attack, and use lots of big attackers. They have the option of many different attackers, but you have better overall speed in the matchup.
The big felon to watch out for is the one we just talked about – Terrakion. While I believe that Darkrai EX sets up faster and beats down harder on just about any EX Ho-Oh can throw at you, they can turn the tides with a terrakion pretty quickly. Once again, do what you can to deal damage without taking a direct prize whenever possible, stay Eviolited, and even bust out your own terrakion if you have to in order to deal some damage without giving up 2 additional Prize cards. Just remember – Ho-Oh himself is Fighting resistant, meaning that you won’t set up a 2-Prize attack if you’ve already night speared the great flaming bird.
Overall, I’ve found this matchup to be slightly unfavorable if they run the Terrakion, simply because they don’t offer a Fighting-weak EX that your own Terrakion can take advantage of. Ho-Oh also roasts Shaymin EX, meaning that even he might have a little trouble as your go-to tech.
Aside from these few important matchups, the general strategy applies to any other odd rogue concept you can find. Your quick setup is your best advantage, and dismantling your opponent’s resources and setup is how you’ll win a great majority of your games. In a format where a single bad turn can leave you open to a loss, I feel that playing a deck that can pretty upon that poor turn as quickly as possible is a strong option.
This deck also reflects a philosophy that I have long used to play the game – I like a deck that can give me a close to even matchup across the board, allowing me to make the most of my games through careful and thoughtful play. This format might be one that diminishes skill, but I’ve found myself able to use the techniques I’ve described so far in this article to bring my deck back from bad situations.
I’ve had matches where I’ve started double Terrakion and draw-passing into a 1-1 Prize game at the very end, leaving my opponent wondering what happened. As long as you come in with a long-term strategy in mind, this is a deck that sets up well and provides you with a chance to come back.
Regionals is when?
pokemon-paradijs.comI’ve dispelled all kinds of Regional/State advice in the past, but the big one is simply making sure you feel confident vs. the metagame. Decks that did well at Battle Roads will appear in spades, and you’ll have to feel confident to win at least 75% of your games.
I’m going to take a controversial stance here, but let me pose a question – why do you think the top decks in this format are winning? Is it because they’re the most-played decks as well? Is it because they were good techs to a metagame?
In my opinion, I think it’s because the decks that are winning are honestly the best out there. We have such a small format that there aren’t any real secrets to divulge at this point. Ho-Oh was a neat surprise – but it was one that had minor success in Japan, and was considered by a handful as soon as it was released. If a deck is winning, I feel that it is probably because it is one of the best decks out there.
If I were to make a decision for a deck to play this regionals, I would play either a variant of Eels, Hydreigon, Speed Darkrai, or Ho-Oh, while teching my deck to deal with one of the four other opposing decks. These five (counting the two Eel versions) are going to be all your going to see in a field of 100+ players, and dealing with them first is going to be much more important.
These decks have proven themselves to be the fastest and most consistent in the format, and I feel you have good reason to go “meta” over attempting to go “rogue” this season. If rogue decks end up storming Regionals, I’ll concede that I was wrong immediately. But if my gut instinct is correct, I feel that this upcoming Regionals will be fought – and won – by a small handful of strong metagame decks.
In closing, I hope you guys enjoyed my deck analysis and strategy. It might appear odd to come out with just one deck after getting so many list-heavy articles, but I feel like it’s my duty as a writer to give you the best information that I can. Darkrai/Terrakion is by far the deck I have tested and played the most in this format, and every other deck has been covered equally or better than I would have been able to.
Even if you don’t plan on playing Darkrai/Terrakion, I hope that my discussion can give you a little bit better of an idea for countering the deck. Every time Pooka posts a picture like this on Facebook, you can be sure that people will start testing and playing whatever they see like crazy!
As always, I’d be happy to discuss decisions and actions further in the discussion section below. Good luck testing for Regionals! I’ll be all around the Pokémon scene this year, so hopefully I’ll find you guys somewhere in the tall grass sometime soon. I’ll see plenty of you in Indy this October!
P.S. Do you like vidyagamez? I do too, so I’ve been working on my second YouTube channel, WittzGaming, where I play and commentate on videogames. He’s my second child, is a healthy and growing boy, and would love your subscriber-based support.
Fair warning, this channel isn’t PG like my other one (which in some weird way has been something people actually look forward to instead of avoiding). I like to keep things clean for the kids, but this isn’t a channel dedicated to them, so use viewer digression before shattering your child’s pristine image of me please :P.
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