The Decline of Darkrai? A Closer Look at the Evolving Format

pokemon.theirstar.comHey SixPrizes! I’m back with my second article, and this time I will be discussing the City Championship metagame.

At this point, City Championships are almost done for most of you, with the only tournaments left being marathons in the upcoming weeks. Thanks to Crawdaunt’s thread on PokéGym, we have a great sense of what has been winning this format.

I’ll just re-create the data, just in case some people can’t click links and whatnot.

Deck 1st Place Top 4
Landorus/Mewtwo 14 49
Blastoise/Keldeo 11 48
Darkrai/Stuff 8 22
Mewtwo/Eels 7 23
Hammertime 6 18
Ho-Oh 6 21
Darkrai/Hydreigon 6 38
RayEels 5 14
Darkrai/Landorus 4 5
Mewtwo/Terrakion 2 4

(I did not include decks with only 1 win, because I do not believe they are major players in this format)

As you can see, the format has really changed since the beginning of Cities. As Andy Hahn wrote after the first week of Cities about Darkrai/Hydreigon, at that time the most winning deck based off top 4’s:

“This deck is put into the Tier 1 because of the overwhelming amount of Top 4 placements, despite its low Top 4 win percentage.”

Other decks, including Landorus/Mewtwo and Blastoise/Keldeo, were also making lots of top 4’s, but they were winning Cities more often than Darkrai/Hydreigon.

Since that article, Darkrai decks have still been seeing good placings, taking 14 wins combined between Darkrai/Stuff and Darkrai/Hydreigon (I consider Hammertime to be a different breed of Darkrai decks due to their different strategies, so I am leaving them out of this number), but only 14 out of the 60 decks that made top 4 won their event.

That comes out to a low 23% win percentage. Now, you can make the same argument about Blastoise/Keldeo, but that’s the topic of a whole other article.

So why isn’t Darkrai dominating as much as it used to? The main reason is Landorus-EX. This card was one of the most hyped card of Boundaries Crossed, and it sure has lived up to its hype. Hammerhead is one of the best moves at the beginning of the game we have right now.

And Land’s Judgement is also an amazing attack, which can 1-shot Darkrai without needing to discard any Energy after one Hammerhead. Landorus-EX justifiably has seen a lot of play, which severely limits Darkrai’s playability.

The only downside of Landorus-EX is its Water Weakness. However, Landorus always has a partner in crime, whether it is Mewtwo EX or Darkrai EX, so in the Blastoise/Keldeo-EX matchup, don’t bench Landorus-EX. Whenever a Darkrai deck faces a Landorus deck, Darkrai goes from being an amazing card to a liability.

Another card is hurting Darkrai is Terrakion NVI. We all know how good of a Darkrai counter Terrakion is, and has been since Darkrai came out. It was one of the main reasons Igor Costa was able to defeat Harrison Leven in last year’s World Championship Finals in a mirror match.

However, ever since Landorus-EX came out, I have seen Terrakion NVI being played more often. Landorus-EX/Mewtwo EX/Bouffalant DRX/Terrakion NVI is arguably the BDIF right now because it plays three of the best Darkrai EX counters (Bouffalant DRX being the third), along with the best attacker in the format, and Terrakion NVI is a huge part of its success.

Blastoise/Keldeo-EX counters Darkrai as well. Why is this? Well first off, Keldeo-EX has the capability to 1-shot Darkrai EX, and we have already seen how good this makes Terrakion NVI. Since Darkrai EX isn’t able to 1-shot Keldeo-EX, this gives the Blastoise/Keldeo-EX player the advantage in the Prize race.

Second, one of the strengths of Darkrai EX is the ability to take two knock outs in one turn thanks to Night Spear. Darkrai EX has a hard time doing this against this deck though, thanks to Squirtle BCR. Its Ability, Shell Shield, allows Blastoise to set up consistently.

When Blastoise gets set up with a fully powered Keldeo-EX, it is one of the hardest decks to take down. Since Darkrai EX can’t Knock Out two Squirtles at once, it struggles to prevent the deck to set up.

How Can Darkrai Adapt?

As I said in the previous section, Darkrai EX’s main counters are Landorus-EX, Terrakion NVI, and Blastoise/Keldeo-EX. Are there any Pokémon we can pair with Darkrai EX to counter its weaknesses?

Actually, there is a Pokémon that counters all of the above weaknesses. This Pokémon? Tornadus EX. Tornadus EX can Knock Out a Squirtle with just a DCE and a Stadium on the first turn, making it extremely difficult for Blastoise to set up. Tornadus EX is also extremely good against Landorus-EX and Terrakion NVI thanks to its Resistance to Fighting.

With Lightning becoming a less and less played type, (the two attackers who are most commonly paired with Eelektrik are Mewtwo EX and Rayquaza EX) Tornadus has become a much safer play than it was even in the last format, let alone Nationals and Worlds.

Here’s a skeleton list for the deck.

Pokémon – 6

3 Darkrai-EX DEX

2 Tornadus EX

1 Sableye DEX

Trainers – 30

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

3 Cheren/Bianca

2 Random Receiver


4 Pokémon Catcher

3 Dark Patch

3 Ultra Ball

2 Eviolite

2 Max Potion

1 Computer Search


2 Aspertia City Gym

Energy – 12

8 D – Basic

4 Double Colorless

Free Spots – 12

Here are some techs that you can throw into this deck:

Mewtwo EX

Mewtwo EX is one of, if not the best, attacker in the format at the moment, so why not throw him in? Mewtwo EX fits in very well in this deck because you already play 4 DCEs, so there really is no drawback to playing Mewtwo.

However, I would suggest play at least two, just to make sure you don’t lose a Mewtwo war.

Roserade DRX 15

Roserade has become one of the best “consistency techs” in the format. The ability to look for any one card in your deck is amazing.

I would recommend playing at least a 1-1 line in this deck, but you could even bump this up to a 2-2 line since you have so much room. That’s the thing about this deck: you can tech it any way you like to make it your list.

3rd Eviolite

Since you only run Basic Pokémon, you could up the Eviolite count to 3. Since most decks play only 1 Tool Scrapper, maybe 2, having the 3rd Eviolite means that one will almost always stay on your field, unless it is prized.

Tool Scrapper

pokemon-paradijs.comI didn’t include this in the skeleton, but most decks play this as a 1-of. Garbodor doesn’t cause this deck a lot of trouble, but Tool Scrapper is still helpful for getting rid of opponent’s Eviolites, Dark Claws, etc.

Dark Claw

This card is very good against Terrakion NVI and Blastoise, as it allows you to Knock them Out with one Night Spear and then Night Spear splash damage. In other matchups, it just acts as a double PlusPower, which is never a bad thing.

However, I would only play one Dark Claw, and if you do play it, I would play 2 Eviolite and 1 Dark Claw. You don’t want to play any more than this, because at that point you probably won’t have any Pokémon that don’t have any tools attached to them.

Skyarrow Bridge

I wouldn’t recommend this card because Darkrai EX already gives all your Pokémon with a D Energy free retreat, but it is the second best stadium in the format, powers up Tornadus EX’s Blow Through, and gives Tornadus EX and Sableye free retreat.


This deck is very flexible, depending on the different techs you throw in, which is the reason why I believe it is the best Darkrai deck in the format.

Tornadus covers Darkrai’s weaknesses while acting as a capable secondary attacker, and Darkrai is, well, Darkrai! The only problem I have found with this deck is that the maximum damage it can hit for is 100, which is the reason I include Mewtwo EX in my list.

I hope you all enjoyed the article! If you enjoyed it, please give this article a “Like” as it really encourages me to write more. I’d also love to know your thoughts on this deck and the format.

Until next time,

Eric Gansman

Reader Interactions

25 replies

  1. indercarnive

    sableye/eviolite/potion/hammer spam. if you stick to hammer spam, then landorus can go down fast.

  2. Adam Waddell

    “And Land’s Judgement is also an amazing attack, which can one-shot
    Darkrai without needing to discard any Energy after one Hammerhead.”

    Maybe it just the way I was taught math, but I call that 2 shots. The only way landorus knocks out darkrai one shot is a lands judgement discard. Yesterday’s UG article was far more in depth about how darkrai + Techs counters the metagame and offered a lot more analysis into the matter. Tornadus may cover Darkrai’s weakness, but you need cards like Mewtwo and Bouffalant to come in and account for other factors.

    • Eric Gansman  → Adam

      After one Hammerhead, Darkrai is at either 60 damage, 40 damage (with Eviolitie in the active spot), 30 damage, or 10 damage (with Eviolite on the bench). After all of these except for the last one, Land’s Judgement does 160 damage without needing to discard, which is a 1HKO.

      As for yesterday’s article, I chose to focus in on Darkrai Tornadus, while Colin did an excellent job covering all the different Darkrai decks. Plus, I would hope Underground would be more in depth than my article, or else they wouldn’t be doing their jobs!

      Finally, for Darkrai Tornadus, it does have a problem with it’s damage capacity, maxing out at 100 with Power Blast. Maybe I shouldn’t have made Mewtwo EX a “tech”, and put at least 1 in the skeleton list. The only problem I have found with this deck is the fact that it can’t hit Sigilyph, unless you run Sableye/Dark Claw, in which case you would still only 3 shot it (unless they hit themselves in confusion). I am still trying to find a card to counter Sigilyph myself, but Bouffalant certainly is not something I would consider. It is not a good attacker against Sigilyph, and Darkrai, Tornadus, and Mewtwo all do a better job attacking EX pokemon in this deck.

      • Sam Chen  → Eric

        Err… your logic about 1HKOing is incorrect. Let’s take Sableye as an example. After 17 Confuse Rays, Darkrai is at 170 damage. Confuse Ray would then do 10 damage, which is a 1HKO… See how silly that sounds?

        1HKO means knocking out a Pokemon at full health. If you need to soften up a Pokemon once before you knock it out, it’s by definition a 2HKO.

        • Eric Gansman  → Sam

          Ok, well maybe I used incorrect terminology xD. But hopefully my point still came across.

  3. Jak Stewart-Armstead

    Not sure why Hammertime was not counted. It has a different strategy, yes, but then Speed Darkrai has a completely different strategy from Darkrai/Hydreigon (rush vs tanking – polar opposites). Seems a bit like manipulating the figures to suit a thesis to me.

    • Eric Gansman  → Jak

      What I meant by strategy is the fact that Hammertime denies energy drops, while no other Darkrai decks do that. If you do include those (along with Darkrai/Landorus, I forgot to put that in as well) that would be 24 wins for all Darkrai decks. Now, it would have the most wins, yes, but like I said in my thesis I think Darkrai is in decline, not a bad card. Last format, and even back in Worlds, Darkrai dominated. Now, you can’t say that at all. So if you want to add in Hammertime, go ahead, I still think that my thesis is true.

      • Jak Stewart-Armstead  → Eric

        I don’t think it’s a case of Darkrai in decline – the card is just as powerful and just as capable of winning as it ever was.

        The thing that has changed since Worlds is that other powerful EX cards have been released and this gives players a wider choice of decks and strategies. Quaza-EX, Keldeo-EX, Aspertia decks, Ho-oh . . . none of these existed before. Sure, Darkrai has some competition now (and god knows he didn’t have much before), but he can more than hold his own.

        • Eric Gansman  → Jak

          You are right, Darkrai is still just as powerful as it used to be. What I meant by “in decline” is that it isn’t being used as much because other good cards are being played. I guess it was bad word choice.

  4. Anthony Ramos

    I tried so hard to make Darkrai/Tornadus/Bouffalant/Aspertia work, but I
    could not win games with it. I definitely think
    Darkrai/Mewtwo/Bouffalant is a strongest version of Darkrai variants
    right now, but my meta is full of it. Great article though!

  5. poet larsen

    I would really disagree that darkrai is in decline. Keldeo ex and Landorus and many other great/good cards came out from the last set and people want to try them out. When gartaria came out many people wanted to play it (I know that japan used the deck so we, in the U.S., wanted to use it, but we never realized that it just was not a viable option for our format until after people played it.) I would say that darkrai is just not played as much because people want to try out these new cards and there is cities that they can go to try the cards out.

  6. Ziggmiceter

    Darkrai is not declining in any way, shape or form. It’s not the card it was in HS-DEX because you could pull consistent turn 1 night spears. IN BW-DRX, Darkrai/Terrakion and Darkrai/Hydreigon were the best ways to play the card, and it won quite a bit. Now, there are more decks so it means more variation in decks. Darkrai is still one of the best cards in the format. Its play isn’t declining. I want to show a few examples from the article:

    1. Hammertime is not considered a “Darkrai deck”


    1. Terrakion supposedly hurting it

    Terrakion NVI is seeing much less play compared to previous formats. In reality, Darkrai’s biggest threat right now is Keldeo because while they 2HKO each other, but Keldeo are much easier to stream for the blastoise player. Landorus is up there in threats to Darkrai, but I would say Keldeo beats Lando to the cake because of its ease of set-up. You did cover this, but I wanted to emphasize that a little more.

    1. The deck that you mentioned won a cities, but no one cares since it was Seniors. The player was a friend of mine played Tornadus EPO and it worked really well for him. I highly suggest it as at least a tech in the deck. Since then, it’s been seeing a lot of play in NorCal seniors.
    • Eric Gansman  → Ziggmiceter

      Darkrai technically is in decline because it isn’t dominating. Do I still think it is a great card? Yes. Do I think it is as good as it used to be? No.
      As for the Tornadus EPO, I just tried testing it and I really liked it. So I agree with your friend in that regard.

  7. Mark Hanson

    Darkrai isn’t really in decline…

    Darkrai/Stuff + Darkrai/Landorus + Hammertime (which can include /stuff) is all really the same 40+ card skeleton, and largely even the same 50 card skeleton. In my thread I consolidated Landorus/Mewtwo(/Terrakion/Bouffalant/Tornadus EX/Stunfisk etc…) all into Landorus/Mewtwo. The Darkrai techs are just treated separately because the deck has SO MANY wins with each variant, that we can actually treat each variant separately and still come up with results like 6-8 wins in each respective category.

    Taking them all together, Darkrai/Stuff (including all straight darkrai variants) has 45 top 4’s and a staggering 18 wins. A better win percentage than any other major tier 1 deck, and the current leader in total wins. And that’s not including Darkrai/Hydreigon in the mix ,which is fair, but HyRai takes advantage of many of the same tools to be successful. Just as we say RayEels and MewtwoEels are two separate decks, Darkrai/Hydreigon and Darkrai/Stuff are two separate decks. But overall I might still consider both together if I was painting the picture of an overall metagame (as in I would consider # of Eels wins using both).

    Well-written article, I just disagree with the premise from the get go.

  8. Guest

    I do, to some extent agree that Darkrai decks may be in decline on a whole. However, I don’t believe it is due to any such reasons like Darkrai EX being less powerful or at a disadvantage. From what I’ve heard after talking to players that have switched recently from Darkrai variants, one of the key reasons for many was just boredom. Darkrai decks have been powerful since back during last Nationals now, and in all honesty players just want to try something different sometimes to try to keep play interesting. Another thing is that you only reviewed Darkrai variants making top cut, which doens’t reflect the deck as a whole being in decline. Either way, good read :)

  9. Jonathan Cowley

    I don’t believe it is due to any such reasons like Darkrai EX being less powerful or at a disadvantage that Darkrai decks may or may not be on the decline. From what I’ve heard after talking to players that have switched recently from Darkrai variants, one of the key reasons for many was just boredom. Darkrai decks have been powerful since back during last Nationals now, and in all honesty players just want to try something different sometimes to try to keep play interesting. Another thing is that you only reviewed Darkrai variants making top cut, which doens’t reflect the deck as a whole being in decline. Either way, good read :)

  10. Rafael Pacheco

    I don’t believe that Darkrai is declining. As some said here, a lot of people wanted to try something else for cities. Cities are low rated compared to regionals and spt, so I guess that a lot of people take the opportunity to test decks before bigger tournaments.

    Darkrai is a very flexible deck, it can adapt easly to any metagame imo…

  11. andre elliott

    i dont see why darkrai landorus and darkrai stuff are two different decks, i feel as though the way you sorted the decks skews the statistics, and makes the darkrai decks seem worse than they are, darkrai is still a strong card and will continue to gain strength esp after next set with phb and viribank…

  12. Dan W

    If there’s going to be a popular archetype that is now in decline I think we all agree that’d be Eels.

  13. Jay Younger

    Where is Klinklang in your chart? I know it’s won at least one cities…

  14. Tyler Kittelson-Burke

    Thank you this was really helpful especially as I’ve been testing around with some different Darkrai variants and now I think I just may have found the one I’ll be testing next.

  15. theo Seeds

    The problem with Darkrai/Tornadus is that Quad Sigilyph is actually a thing right now. You might need to play a couple non-EX attackers just to not autoloss in that matchup.

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