Triple Feature: Ho-Oh, Empire, and GothLock

pokemon-paradijs.comHello. I hope everyone’s holiday season has gone well. I am particularly excited because my wife bought me ear buds that fit my ears. That seems so simple, but I have never been able to find ear buds that stay in my ears while running. Anyway, I am sure you do not want to hear about my Christmas. If you are on this site, I bet you want to hear about Pokémon.

Today’s article is going to be a triple feature. I want to talk about three decks that all have a different place in the game. I want to talk about one deck that is competitive, one deck that is semi-competitive, and one fun deck that has potential.

Table of Contents

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Ho-Oh EX

Since the beginning of the season, I have played around with Ho-Oh. The deck is extremely versatile and provides its pilot with many options. Options may be a double-edged sword. The more you learn about the game the more valuable options are. However, when you are still learning the game, options can often leave you paralyzed and choices may obscure the correct play.

Here is a skeleton list:

Pokémon – 12

3 Ho-Oh EX
3 Mewtwo-EX NXD
6 Other Attackers

Trainers – 24-26

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
4-6 Other Supporters


4 Ultra Ball
4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Energy Switch

Energy – 14

4 Double Colorless
10 Other Energy

That list puts us as 50-52 cards.

Key Cards

Ho-Oh EX

pokemon-paradijs.comHo-Oh is an interesting card, and the correct count is a highly contentious subject. I have played anywhere from two to four copies of this card. When I played two, there were many games where would go the distance without getting a single copy into the discard pile. When I played four, I opened with this card too often.

Three seems to be an ideal number. I could understand going down to two, but it I feel going up to four is strictly wrong. Additionally, three copies in the discard increase your probabilities of hitting a Rebirth flip.

Mewtwo EX

This card is possibly even more interesting than Ho-Oh EX. It is interesting because it is still one of the four best attackers in the game right now. The other three best attackers are Darkrai EX, Landorus-EX, and Keldeo-EX.

I believe this card is the best attacker in the game, and the best counter to Mewtwo is still Mewtwo. Therefore, because people are playing fewer and fewer copies of Mewtwo EX, Mewtwo EX is gaining strength in the metagame.

Because people are abandoning high counts of Mewtwo EX, Mewtwo EX should be the focus of this deck. Therefore, we want a high count the card. Three copies virtually guarantee that you will win the Mewtwo war. Two copies make you vulnerable in the Mewtwo war and four copies might be overkill.

Professor Juniper/N

pokemon-paradijs.comEvery deck needs a solid Supporter engine. Professor Juniper and N are simply the two most powerful Supporters in the game. Playing four copies of each is mandatory in a deck that needs to draw cards quickly.

Additionally, Professor Juniper and allows you to discard both Energy and Pokémon.

Pokémon Catcher

This is one of the most broken cards ever printed in the history of the game. The Base Set Gust of Wind should have never been reprinted, except as a possible ACE SPEC card. Including four copies is necessary in almost every deck.

Really, the only decks that could play three Catchers are 1) Prize denial decks (Klinklang, Hydreigon), 2) snipe decks (Raikou-EX), 3) decks-that-just-hit-hard-enough-to-1HKO-anything (Rayquaza EX), and 4) decks that manipulate damage (Dusknoir).

Ho-Oh does not fit into any of those categories, so four Catchers it is.

Energy Switch

pokemon-paradijs.comA while back, I went on a small tirade how Energy Switch was a vastly underrated card, and how it was possible we should have been playing it even when Shaymin UL was in the format.

Well, I might have gone a little overboard at that point in time (although I do think there would have been benefits to playing it in a format with Junk Arm, and not giving up a free Prize).

In this deck, Energy Switch is a requirement. The only question is, how many Energy Switch you should run? Two is certainly too low. Three is acceptable because many times that is how many Energy Switches you will use in a single game.

However, four copies helps to assure you have a copy when you need it most. I firmly believe four is the best play, although three is acceptable.

Now that we have laid the foundation of our deck, our focus turns first to what other attackers we want to play. Determining attackers is the most important step, because in many ways it will dictate which other Trainers we decide to play. Some attackers require a package of cards to get the most effectiveness from them.

However, we also need to determine our biggest threats in the metagame and Ho-Oh’s biggest weaknesses. The threats and weaknesses will determine which attackers we run.

Metagame Threats

The main list of threats includes Blastoise/Keldeo, Landorus/Mewtwo, Hydreigon, Klinklang, RayEels, and Hammertime. Those might not be all the all the threats out there, but I feel those are some of the best decks the format has to offer.

Against Blastoise/Keldeo, Grass type attackers are very good if you can drop them in surprise fashion. The three legitimate choices are Virizion EPO, Virizion NVI, and Shaymin EX. Shaymin EX is undeniably strong in the late game against all decks, and is very strong in the mid game against Keldeo-EX.

However, you need many things to go your way to make Shaymin EX work to its fullest potential. Virizon NVI is a great consistency booster and is solid in the early game against Squirtles. Many people point to the fact that you can simply Catcher around Leaf Wallop, which is true, as a weakness of Virizion NVI. I believe it can be a strength.

Forcing your opponent to use Catchers defensively instead of offensively is a great. Virizion EPO is great because it can 1HKO Blastoise/Keldeo-EX/Keldeo 47. It can even be useful in the Eels match up because it can 1HKO Eelektrik.

However, it requires the most significant rework of the Energy line. You need three or four G Energy to assure yourself of optimal usage.

Additionally, Mewtwo EX is very good against Keldeo-EX because it trades well. Sigilyph is solid against Keldeo decks because it forces your opponent to use Keldeo BCR 47 or put Blastoise into harm’s way. Tornadus EX is also solid against Blastoise by putting early pressure on Squirtle.

For Tornadus EX to work as you need it to, you need to devote a large portion of your deck’s resources to the card. You need two or three copies of Tornadus EX and two or three Stadiums. That is a considerable chuck of flexibility lost by playing Tornadus EX.

Against Landorus/Mewtwo, Mewtwo EX and Sigilyph are obviously strong counters. Mewtwo is the best Mewtwo counter and by running three Mewtwo EX, you can assume you will be able to keep up in the Mewtwo War. Sigilyph is also a very good Mewtwo EX counter because it can stall an entire game out.

Landorus-EX is countered well by Tornadus EX, but Tornadus requires a lot of resource devotion to work. Mewtwo EX does the job against Landorus-EX just as well. You can also use Keldeo-EX as a Landorus counters.

Against RayEels, the obvious idea is to use Landorus-EX. The question becomes how much do you want to devote to this strategy and how often do you believe you will run into RayEels?

Landorus-EX puts a ton of pressure on RayEels with early Hammerheads, but the nice thing is that you can use Landorus-EX at any time in the game against RayEels. In the mid or late game, you can easily Catcher an Eelektrik and snipe around it.

Landorus-EX seems to be a guaranteed inclusion in my Ho-Oh EX deck.

Against Hydreigon, you can use Terrakion to take 1HKOs on Darkrai and you can use Land’s Judgment (Landorus-EX) to take 1HKOs on Hydreigon. Additionally, you can use Sigilyph to stall Hydreigon out after your opponent has exhausted resources.

Against Klinklang, you are in for a bumpy ride. The only real answer to Klinklang for Ho-Oh is running a heavy Hammer count. Unfortunately, Keldeo-EX keeps Ho-Oh off the board and you generally lack attackers that can 1HKO Klinklang’s attackers.

Sure, you will get the occasional Retaliate off on a Darkrai EX if you manage the game correctly, but without some luck, you tend to run out of steam late.

Against Hammertime, you should be in OK shape. The only real counter is to use weighted dice (just kidding). The nice thing about this matchup is that you should have several attackers that attack for two or less Energy. That means you should be able to put damage on your opponent’s board consistently.

Then once your opponent starts to attack, if you managed your resources you should have a Terrakion ready to rumble.

Against all EX decks, Bouffalant DRX is an excellent inclusion. It will 2HKO any EX out there, except Black Kyurem EX with Crystal Wall. Additionally, the popular EXs will only 2HKO Bouffalant. That is always a great exchange.

Overall, the attackers we have talked about include: Mewtwo EX, Shaymin EX, Virizion EPO, Virizon NVI, Landorus-EX, Tornadus EX, Keldeo-EX, Bouffalant DRX, Sigilyph DRX, Terrakion NVI, and Ho-Oh EX. I believe those attackers can make this deck a winner.

Ho-Oh’s Weaknesses

Now that we have a list of possible attackers, we need to figure out which ones to run and how many. Identifying Ho-Oh’s biggest weaknesses will help our decision.

Ho-Oh struggles mightily against two decks. Blastoise/Keldeo and RayEels. RayEels is difficult because you have a limited number of Energy Switches. Rayquaza EX may be able to clear your field of Energy. Blastoise/Keldeo is difficult because it makes Ho-Oh EX a huge liability and Ho-Oh becomes two free Prizes.

We want to run attackers that can help in those matchups. Landorus-EX is the best card in the game against RayEels. Bouffalant DRX and Terrakion NVI are also great attackers in this match up.

Because Rayquaza EX can 1HKO any attacker in the game and you cannot 1HKO Rayquaza EX back – the key is to make each of Rayquaza EX’s targets worth 1 Prize. The two KOs for one KO results in an even Prize trade.

Mewtwo EX and the Grass attackers are the best bet against Blastoise/Keldeo. Additionally, Terrakion does well in against Blastoise. Terrakion does well because it requires four W Energy on Keldeo-EX for the 1HKO. That means a simple DCE + Mewtwo is going to hit Keldeo-EX for 120. You can use Terrakion to force Keldeo into an unfavorable Prize trade with Mewtwo.

Therefore, we know we need Landorus-EX, Terrakion NVI, Mewtwo EX, Bouffalant, and possibly a Grass attacker to deal with the worst matchups.

Filling in the Skeleton List


From that information, the following is my current list of Pokémon.

3 Ho-Oh EX
3 Mewtwo EX
2 Terrakion NVI
1 Landorus-EX
1 Virizion NVI
1 Sigilyph DRX
1 Bouffalant DRX

That gives you 12 Pokémon. Seven of those Pokémon at adequate starters and five are poor starters. I would really like to change that ratio, but I fear that is about as good as you will get with Ho-Oh.

pokemon-paradijs.comI also chose Virizion NVI over Virizion EPO and Shaymin EX. Virizion NVI is nice because it affords you late game protection from N if you are in the lead.

I would gladly trade a Prize to turn a two-card hand into a five-card hand by the start of my second turn (one card from an opposing N, one card for the turn, two cards for Double Draw, one card for your next turn).

Often that is enough to get you moving again. However, I might trade this Virizion for a different attacker. This slot really is the most difficult Pokémon slot to pin down.

The one card I am seriously considering is Keldeo-EX. I would love to have Rush In in this deck. The sad truth of the matter is that many of our Pokémon have relatively high Retreat Costs. You could play up to eight “switching” cards with four Switch and four Super Scoop Up, but that will never happen.

The reality is that Ho-Oh can be prone to your opponent Catcher stalling you. Using Keldeo to Rush In and do at least 50 damage is better than simply drawing you card and then passing. Unfortunately, space is tight.


pokemon-paradijs.comWe have 12 Pokémon and 14 Energy in the deck. That leaves us with 34 slots for Trainers. Of those 34 Trainers we already have at least 24 slots decided from out counts of Professor Juniper, N, “Other Supporter,” Pokémon Catcher, Energy Switch, and Ultra Ball.

Here is a list of what I consider the best options to fill in our Trainer lines: Switch, Super Scoop Up, Eviolite, PlusPower, Tool Scrapper, Enhanced Hammer, Crushing Hammer, Pokémon Center, Battle City, Asperitia City Gym, Computer Search, Potion, Max Potion, Bianca, Skyla, and Cheren.

We obviously want to include Computer Search, because it does everything we want. It discards stuff and searches for stuff. It is also the only way to search for Double Colorless in this deck. It is no doubt the correct ACE SPEC to use.

After watching Kyle Sucevich run Ho-Oh on The Top Cut YouTube channel, I have decided to try only 12 Supporters. I might back up to 14, but I think he runs 12 and it has obviously worked out really well. He registered a 28+ game winning streak with Ho-Oh. That means I want maximum draw power out of my Supporter lines.

For now, I am simply playing four counts of Juniper, N, and Bianca.

As personal preference I want at least four spaces devoted to switching out my Active Pokémon. That means my list is going to run either Switch or Super Scoop Up. Switch is nice because it is consistent. Super Scoop Up is nice because 50% of the time it can break a game wide open.

For those reasons, my list will run some of both. Currently I am running three Switch and one Super Scoop Up. That gives me a onetime shot at breaking a game open. However, I keep the reliability of Switch.

The remaining spots are dictated by the attackers, because in this game many Pokémon require a package of Items to maximize their potential.

PlusPower and Tool Scrapper accomplish largely the same thing regarding Terrakion’s interaction with Darkrai. However, PlusPower collaborates with the rest of the attackers better than Tool Scrapper.

PlusPower helps win the Mewtwo war. PlusPower also partners well with Virzion NVI. Even if you get a consecutive Leaf Wallop off for base 80 damage, you still need a PlusPower to 1HKO Keldeo-EX.

The other card that pairs well with Mewtwo is Eviolite. It is useful in almost every matchup. This is particularly true in my area where Tool Scrapper has waned in popularity. Turning 2HKOs into 3HKOs is still very, very good. Two seems like a solid number. I would like a third Eviolite, but the list is quickly running out of room.

Finally, due to three different Energy specific attackers, Energy Search is a very good card. It would be even better with a high Skyla count, but it is still better than adding another Energy. Energy Search is basically any type of Energy.


pokemon-paradijs.comThere are 14 dedicated spots for Energy in the list. The decision is which ones to run. We know we need Psychic (for Sigi), Fighting (for Lando and Terra), and Grass (for Verizion). We also want DCE for Bouffalant and Mewtwo EX.

Four F Energy seemed like a good number in testing. Three is often good enough, but it can leave you wanting. There is nothing worse than opening with a Landorus-EX and no F Energy.

Two Grass and two P Energy also seem to be solid numbers. With Computer Search and Energy Search, there are four outs to getting those energy from the deck. That leaves two open spaces for Energy.

Since you want many Energy types in the deck for Ho-Oh’s Ability and attack, we just put in two more random Energy types. Let us go with a Fire and a Water. They are nice and symmetrical.

That brings us to a complete list.

Pokémon – 12

3 Ho-Oh EX
3 Mewtwo-EX NXD
2 Terrakion NVI
1 Landorus-EX
1 Virizion NVI
1 Sigilyph DRX
1 Bouffalant DRX

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
4 Bianca


4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Ultra Ball
4 Energy Switch
3 Switch
2 PlusPower
2 Eviolite
1 Energy Search
1 Super Scoop Up
1 Computer Search

Energy – 14

4 Double Colorless
4 F
2 G
2 P
1 W
1 R

I believe this list is solid and consistent. If you have an extremely Klinklang heavy meta, I would take out two or three Eviolte/PlusPower and put in two or three Enhanced Hammers. If your meta is extremely Landorus-EX heavy, I would take out Virizion or Sigilyph and include Keldeo-EX. With that change, I would also replace the corresponding Energy type (Grass or Psychic) with W Energy.

Tips for Playing Ho-Oh

1. Play like you don’t have Ho-Oh.

serebii.netI honestly believe one key to success is to play like you will never hit a Rebirth flip. Go play a deck like White Tea, Landorus/Mewtwo, or any other non-Energy acceleration deck and then come back to Ho-Oh. The skills you learned in valuing Energy drops and Energy placement will do a long way in producing success.

2. Be judicious with your discards.

Yes, you want to put Energy in the discard, but you need to hit Energy drops every turn. This includes sometimes attaching a less desirable Energy before playing your Supporter.

One such example might be to play a G Energy prior to your Juniper because the odds of hitting the desired P Energy are relatively low. Furthermore, the odds of hitting no Energy is greater than zero. It is possible you could play that Juniper and then completely whiff on Energy. Then you would have missed a crucial drop.

Yes, you might not use that G Energy that turn, but it will at least be on the field for when you do need it.

Side Note: Planning for Success

pokemon-paradijs.comIf you seriously want to improve in this game, you should go watch The Top Cut’s videos on YouTube. Specifically, you should watch the videos where Kyle is commentating on his own games. I honestly feel those might be some of the best resources available to all players, new and old alike. Getting insight from one of the greatest player’s mind is too good to pass.

The thing that strikes me more than anything is that he always has a plan. I learned this skill from getting into Magic. In Magic, you get to decide on whether or not you mulligan. Determining whether you mulligan requires an analysis of your hand and a determination on whether or not it is playable. You make that determination by mapping out your first few turns, developing a plan.

In Pokémon, the same is crucial to success. You need to know, based on the current information, what your plan is for the next two or three turns at a minimum. You need to identify where your prizes are coming from and what prizes you want your opponent to take off you.

You would be surprised how many times people make the following mistakes.

1. The second non-EX. The opponent is already on an odd Prize count, yet a player will place down another non-EX that is never used the rest of the game, except to be the opponent’s final Prize.

2. Needless drops. Someone will place a Mewtwo on the bench that is not needed instead of discarding it with Juniper. Heck, people do this with all sorts of cards. It is as if players have emotional attachments to the third or fourth Mewtwo. That Mewtwo often has no value.

Why put an easy target on the field when you do not have to?

The key is to have a plan and execute it. Yes, your plans may change from turn to turn. Your opponent does have some say in what happens, but the one with the better plan will normally win. The top 5-10 decks are all so close in power right now that the player with the better plan (and a little luck) will normally win.

Now, onto the free content. Just kidding, it is all free. I do want to address two more decks.


I have no idea where the name came from, but people like to call Empoleon/Landorus-EX/Dusknoir “Empire.” The deck may also include Mewtwo EX. Here is my current list.

Pokémon – 18

4 Piplup DEX
2 Prinplup DEX
4 Empoleon DEX
2 Duskull BCR
2 Dusknoir BCR
1 Roselia DRX 12
1 Roserade DRX 15

2 Landorus-EX

Trainers – 31

4 Skyla
4 N
3 Cheren


4 Rare Candy
4 Pokémon Communication

3 Pokémon Catcher
2 Level Ball
2 Max Potion
2 Super Rod
2 Switch

1 Gold Potion

Energy – 11

4 Blend WLFM
4 W
3 F

pokemon-paradijs.comThe biggest frustration with this deck is finding room for everything. Mewtwo and either one DCE or one Energy Switch would make definitely help some of the poor matchups. One of the easiest ways to beat this deck is to just create a huge Mewtwo and go to town.

Perhaps we could cut one Water and one Max Potion for a DCE and Mewtwo. Otherwise, I am not sure what to get rid of.

This deck can hang with any deck, as long as you make it to turn three. The key is that Dusknoir allows you to maximize your return on damage dealt.

Too many times in this game we deal more damage than necessary and it goes to waste because the receiving Pokémon is Knocked Out. That will not happen here. With Dusknoir you can make sure to never waste a single damage counter. Every KO should be exact.

It is amazing how powerful damage conservation can be.

The one list feature I want to address is the Empoleon line. I have recently read of people going to a 4-0-4 line in this deck. That is simply wrong. You only have four Rare Candy per game. At least one of those has to be used on Dusknoir. And you might have to use two on Dusknoir in one game.

That means on average you have two Rare Candy to use on Empoleon. Who wants to play a whole game with only two Empoleon? Run a heavier Prinplup line to give yourself more opportunities.

Tips for Playing Empire

1. Don’t waste damage counters.

I already mentioned this, but your knockouts should always be exact.

2. Keep your opponent’s damage spread out.

In general, you want an even number of damage counters on all of your opponent’s Pokémon at the same time. This minimizes the effectiveness of Super Scoop Up and Max Potion.

If you were to leave 120 on one Pokémon, your opponent would be able to remove 120 from the game. If you spread that 120 to four Pokémon with 30 each, your opponent would only be able to remove 30 damage from the game.

3. Play the mind game.

Every rule has an exception and this is the exception to the second tip. Sometimes you want to force your opponent into playing Super Scoop Up or Max Potion on a certain Pokémon.

Say you are playing against Landorus/Mewtwo, and you know your opponent plays Max Potion. If your opponent has their only Energy in play stacked on a Mewtwo you may want to leave the damage on Mewtwo. If your opponent uses Max Potion to deny a Prize, you win because his or her Energy just left the field. If your opponent does not, you come out ahead because you will KO that Mewtwo next turn.

Always look for ways to entice your opponent to make the plays you want him or her to make. Give your opponent equally bad choices.


Finally, I want to talk about an ultra fun deck to play that is surprisingly decent against Klinklang, Hydreigon, RayEels, and Blastoise if you set up quickly enough.

Pokémon – 17

4 Gothita DRX
3 Gothorita EPO 46
4 Gothitelle EPO 47
2 Celebi-EX
2 Victini NVI 98
1 Sigilyph DRX
1 Darkrai-EX DEX

Trainers – 31

4 N
4 Skyla
2 Professor Juniper
2 Hugh


3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Rare Candy
3 Crushing Hammer
2 Enhanced Hammer
2 Level Ball
2 Pokémon Communication
2 Ultra Ball
1 Super Rod
1 Computer Search

Energy – 12

4 Blend GRPD
4 Double Colorless
4 P

pokemon-paradijs.comThe fun thing here is to use Celebi-EX’s Ability, Time Recall, to use Deleting Glare from Gothorita with Gothitelle. Follow that? Then you have Fliptini to re-flip in case you get tails. It is a simple Energy denial deck that also includes Item lock.

Hugh is fun because your opponent’s hand will often grow very large due to the Item lock. The Hammers help remove Energy.

If you can control the field through Energy denial, you can then manually build up Mewtwo, Sigilyph, or Darkrai on the bench to attack late game.

Celebi-EX makes this deck particularly fun against Blastoise if you can get a turn two or three Gothitelle. Celebi’s Wind Whisk deals 120 damage to Keldeo-EX or Blastoise. Then you can switch it with Gothitelle. If you have a Blend Energy on Gothitelle, you can retreat Gothitelle with Dark Cloak and hit for 120 again.

Ultimately, this deck is too inconsistent to succeed at a high level. However, the games that it works are extremely fun for you and torture for your opponent.

After playing around with Gothitelle and Empoleon, I am extremely excited for Mr. Mime in a couple sets. If Empoleon had bench protection, I honestly believe it would be a high tier 2 deck, if not a tier 1.5 deck.


Anyway, it has been a pleasure writing this for you all. I hope you have enjoyed the holiday season.

Reader Interactions

12 replies

  1. Ronald Cruz

    Hi! I really liked your article except for one major thing: You gave too much detail on Ho-Oh and sort of just gave a general idea on the GothLock and Empire archetypes. well either way, I still liked it. thumbs up man!

  2. Brandon Salazar

    You play empire wrong. You need mewtwo. This type of deck does not have a respond to aggro mewtwo. Take out the max potion. Thanks for metioning the deck though :D

  3. Grant Manley

    Empire is a legit meta deck and yes does need Mewtwo. I can understand the space issues and liked the 2-0-2 Dusknior line.

  4. José Antonio Escobar Talavera

    I’ve played Empire for almost 2 months (i had empoleon deck before boundaries crossed and in sneek peak i got 2 Landorus EX) and i’ve always played it with just 1 -1 Dusknoir Line, 2 -2 Roserade, 1 Town Map and 1 Ditto for surprise. In the almost 2 months I’veplayed it I won ALL my games playing against every kind of deck, it’s almost perfect.

    • airhawk06  → José

      That’s an interesting build. I’ll give it a whirl. I have a hard time believing that claim though. It still is donkable, and other decks can just run over it sometimes.

  5. indercarnive

    couldnt empire run mew ex. if you start it then you can copy hammer head. and you can copy attack comand to kill mewtwo.

    • airhawk06  → indercarnive

      The problem with Mew EX is that Mewtwo EX only needs the one DCE to get a return KO on it. As weird as it sounds, Mewtwo EX is significantly more durable.

      • indercarnive  → airhawk06

        still. a mewtwo with a dce isnt a problem for empire. a mewtwo with 6 energy is. mew is an easy 2 for 2 attacker to end the reign of high energy mewtwo. and they drop mewtwo dce on you then you can just attack comand. heal theier damage off with a amx potion. and hitagain for ko.

  6. Jay Younger

    Why do you play hugh in goth lock? It just lets your opponent discard there trainers that they can’t use. I also have been testing goth lock on PTCGO and I like 3 super rod and to just deck your opponents.

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