followmeandsmile.tumblr.comA good day to everyone reading! This is Twan again bringing you a different style of article than a tournament report. States are going along in the US and here in Europe we are having our Regional Championships coming up. I haven’t attended a tournament since my last one, the ECC.
Today I would like to talk about a card that has been around since last year’s Nationals and in Tier 1 decks ever since: Darkrai EX.
Now, Darkrai has many decks to go into. After the release of Plasma Storm though, I feel like Darkrai decks which only attack with Darkrai are the best, so I will be discussing those only. I know Kenneth Ecker discussed this is a previous article, but I will also go in depth about the other Darkrai variants.
So what will I discuss today? I will look at what a Darkrai deck needs to have to be called a ‘Darkrai Variant’ as well as some different variants in which Darkrai EX plays the main role. I will also discuss some tech cards to include in your Darkrai decks and I will give a rough view of the matchups the different Darkrai variants have. So, let’s jump in right away!
Basic Things To Know About Any Darkrai Variant
For those who don’t know, Darkrai EX is a Dark type EX with 180 HP, Weakness to Fighting, Resistance to Psychic, and a two Retreat Cost. He also has an Ability, called Dark Cloak, which grants free retreat to all Pokémon with a D Energy attached. He also has an attack, called Night Spear, which costs DDC and does 90 damage to the Active and 30 to a Benched Pokémon.
This alone should show the power of Darkrai. Granting free retreat is a really good ability which provides you with many options over the course of a game. His only attack is also really good, with the bench damage being so important that it is not even funny.
I would bet, that without the bench damage from Night Spear, Darkrai EX wouldn’t be nearly as good as it is today.
The 30 damage sets up KOs so easily that it saves you time and Catchers to get those 6 Prizes. The bench damage is one of the reasons Darkrai kills Eelektriks so easily. Another example is that Darkrai can set up KOs against Stage 2 Pokémon like Blastoise BCR and Hydreigon DRX 97. Some games are even decided whether a player places the bench damage correctly or not.
So what else makes Darkrai so good? Well there is Dark Patch, which lets you attach a Dark from your discard pile to one of your benched Dark Pokémon. This allows Darkrai to accelerate energy to setup Night Spear much quicker. There also is Sableye, one of the best support Pokémon out there, who can Junk Hunt Items back for a faster setup.
Most of you should know this by know, as Darkrai decks have been destroying the format since last summer. With Dark Cloak, Darkrai is so versatile that it is featured in many decks like Speed Darkrai, Hammertime, and Darkrai/Terrakion.
Even though Darkrai EX is a very versatile Pokémon, the decks he is featured in all share the same skeleton, which looks a bit like this:
Pokémon – 7
Trainers – 28-30
5-7 Other Supporters
1 ACE SPEC
Energy – 10
This would leave you with 13 to 15 spots for other cards, which in fact is a LOT. This is why I would suggest to up the consistency a little more before going to the different Darkrai variants.
What can you run as the other 5 to 7 Supporters? Most agree that Bianca is the best option we have, since Darkrai plays down his hands like no other. Another option is to run Random Receiver, because Sableye can Junk Hunt for it. Lastly, there is Skyla to search out any Trainer in the deck. Keldeo-EX is to get rid of any Status Conditions with his Ability Rush In and then he can retreat thanks to Dark Cloak.
All the other cards are pretty much mandatory. You need 4 Ultra Ball to search out your Darkrais and get Darks in the discard pile, 4 Dark Patch is to get all the acceleration you need and 4 Pokémon Catcher is standard in a fast-paced deck like this to get as many cheap prizes as possible.
The Energy Switch is to setup Night Spears quicker and to remove energy from a Darkrai that is about to go down, which gives the deck versatility. 10 Energy seemed the optimal minimal amount and together with the Energy Search, it will provide plenty of energy throughout a game. The optional Energy Search is there to thin the deck and for Junk Hunt purposes.
So how does a typical Darkrai deck operate? Well, in the early part of the game, the Darkrai player will try to get Darkness energies into the discard pile through many ways. Sableye is the preferred starter, because of Junk Hunt. The player will want to set up a Darkrai as soon as possible with the help of Dark Patch, Energy Switch, and Junk Hunt.
As soon as Darkrai is ready to attack, the Darkrai player will commence attacking, preferably as early as Turn 2. The Darkrai player generally wants to set up a second and a third Darkrai as well, as most often the first one will go down quickly.
Something many players tend to forget, is that they should only play down one Sableye, not more. Why is this, you ask? Darkrai decks want to play ‘the 7 Prize game.’ That means that you force your opponent to take down three EXs to win the game and effectively take 7 Prizes that way.
Usually your Sableye goes down in the beginning of the game. If you bench the second Sableye, they can take that out instead of the Darkrai and win by only taking out 2 Darkrais, which you don’t want.
This strategy also works with mounting comebacks, as you N them to 1 instead of 2. As many players know, being N’d to two is a huge difference than being N’d to one. That one card enables you to have better odds at drawing what you need and you can use cards like Dowsing Machine and Computer Search to save your life, whereas the N to 1 won’t provide that advantage immediately.
Also one other thing to mention, is that you have to think hard about where to put the 30 snipe damage. I told you already that this damage can make or break a victory, so put some thought in it. Ask yourself which Pokémon is likely to attack next. If you need to soften it up, place the damage there. Is there a support/Stage 2 Pokémon that you need to take down to win? Place the damage there.
Wherever you place the snipe damage, make sure you don’t waste it. It is one of the reasons Darkrai is so good.
So now we have a skeleton of a basic Darkrai deck and a basic understanding of how Darkrai works, we can look which variants there are to use with the deck. I won’t mention any cards choices which appear in the skeleton, as I have covered them already.
This variant is the most popular to come out of Plasma Storm and is also the best Darkrai variant out there (in my opinion). Darkrai EX in conjunction with Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym creates a powerful combo. Darkrai benefits the most from the 30 poison damage between turns because he also has the 30 snipe going for him.
And don’t forget Dark Claw either. A simple Tool like that actually improves the Keldeo matchup by a lot. A Night Spear paired with Dark Claw and LaserBank actaully does 140 damage, enough to 1HKO a Blastoise BCR! And with a 30 snipe added, it can 1HKO Keldeo-EX, Mewtwo EX and Tornadus EX.
Also, don’t forget the donk potential you suddenly have with Sableye. A Confuse Ray boosted by Dark Claw + LaserBank does 60 damage, enough to Knock Out most popular Basics from Stage 2 decks.
With Poison damage, Darkrai can actually Knock Out a Landorus-EX very efficiently too, should it not retreat after being hit. Landorus gets damaged by Night Spear for 90 and two times the poison damage will put the Landorus at 150 damage. This allows you to Catcher and Night Spear something else, finishing off said Landorus on the Bench. This way, you can potentially take 4 Prizes in three turns, which is huge.
Also I’ve often found that, when not playing Darkrai, my opponent would retreat out of poison, leaving 30 or 60 HP left on the Pokémon. With Darkrai, you effectively put them in a no-win situation: either stay in and get KO’d going back into the opponents turn, or retreat and get KO’d anyway because of the snipe damage. (Note: The second option is usually better, since that means they need to waste a 30 damage on that target).
Darkrai also stays the most consistent with Hypnotoxic Laser. Many decks actually have slowed down because they get more clunky with fitting in Laser and Virbank. Darkrai takes advantage of that fact by staying as consistent as before, but does lose Hammers. Finally, Laser is so good it can decide games on the added Sleep effect, so why not run the one of the best cards out there?
In short, Darkrai/Lasers aims to win with putting constant pressure on the opponent by streaming Darkrais and hitting hard with Hypnotoxic Laser and Dark Claw. Here is an example list of what a typical Darkrai/Lasers list could look like. I do want to remind you that this is mostly a list as a starting point for testing, so I tried to keep the amount of techs low.
Pokémon – 8
Trainers – 41
4 Professor Juniper
4 Ultra Ball
3 Energy Switch
Energy – 11
As you can see, my ACE SPEC of choice is Computer Search, as I favor a quick setup above anything else. I also have added a Tool Scrapper to help with the Garbodor matchup and to remove those annoying tools from the field. I bumped up the counts of some cards, like Energy Switch, purely for consistency reasons, because we all know that consistency is key.
If I would have to pick a Darkrai variant for a tournament, this would be my deck of choice as it is one of the most consistent version with a decently fast early-game and enough legs to stand on in the late-game.
pokemon-paradijs.comAs long as decks with Special Energies exist, Hammertime will survive. Since it caught the spotlight earlier this season, it hasn’t died yet. Even with all the Lasers running around, Hammertime can still shine.
With Crushing Hammer and Enhanced Hammer paired with Sableye, Hammertime deck usually keep the opponent in a ‘Hammerlock,’ where hey have a Pokémon stuck active while you recycle Hammers with the help of Sableye. In the mid to late-game the Darkrai player usually starts attacking after their opponent has lost all of their Energy.
The main issue though, is that Landorus-EX is the most popular deck without energy acceleration. Most of the other decks have acceleration, which gives you trouble as they can drop the energy quicker than you can remove it. There are some matchups which still stay positive though (see the matchups section).
I haven’t played much with this deck yet, but this is how a list would look:
Pokémon – 9
Trainers – 40
4 Professor Juniper
4 Ultra Ball
3 Energy Switch
Energy – 11
Eviolite is a better option here as it protects the Sableyes and you don’t run Lasers anyway, so that is a better choice to protect you against the normal hits. The Max Potion is there to heal an injured Darkrai. Other than that, I would see this as a basic Hammertime list and a good starting point for testing.
The downside to playing this deck would be the flips. Whether you like it or not, Crushing Hammer has a flip to see if it works and thus, there will be games where you cant seem to flip a heads and lose. It will happen and now with Laser in the picture flips will be more important than ever.
Hammertime would be a deck with a little more risk involved, as the rise of Landorus decks give this deck trouble even when you hit well on Hammers.
Of course, when you like Lasers and Hammers, why not put them together? The result is this deck, which has actually won a States already. The main idea of the deck is to switch strategies according to the matchup and deal with it that way. It can get the high damage of Darkrai/Laser decks while being just as annoying as a regular Hammertime variant.
For example, this deck has almost as good of a matchup against Klinklang as regular Hammertime, while still putting on the pressure with Hypnotoxic Laser to have a better shot against Keldeo-EX. I will say that I have not yet tested with this variant, but if I were to come up with a list for it, it would probably look like this.
Pokémon – 9
Trainers – 40
4 Professor Juniper
4 Ultra Ball
2 Energy Switch
Energy – 11
As you can see, this deck has no room for Tools or techs as both the Laser and the Hammers take up a lot of your space. Feel free to disagree with me though as again, I am not that familiar with this type of Darkrai variant yet. You do have 4 Lasers and 3 Hammers, so this is more of an equal split featuring enough of both cards to be effective.
You could lean more toward the Laser side by adding and dropping an Enhanced Hammer, but this seems like a balanced version of the deck.
This would be the deck with the best matchups, but it does sacrifice consistency and room for techs to do so.
pokemon-paradijs.comOr Darkrai on steroids. This is the version of Darkrai which favors speed above all else and where you go crazy and consistently hit a Turn 1 Night Spear. The strategy is simple: you try to out speed your opponent by setting up a Night Spear way to quickly.
This is done with the help of Ether and Pokédex together with the usual Dark Patch to setup that Darkrai as soon as Turn 1. This deck is all bout pure speed and beating the opponent before they have a chance to set up. This can bring many turn 1 or turn 2 wins if it gets rolling.
This immediately shows its weakness: luck. This is a card game so luck is involved. You might not get that quick Night Spear off and you might not out-speed your opponent. Then you are playing with an inferior list than the Darkrai/Laser list, but with a better chance of powering up a Darkrai in one turn to keep going.
You can also run out of steam quickly, as Night Spear doesn’t 1HKO any EX (bar Shaymin EX and Mew-EX) and a well timed N can be problematic. So try to manage your resources well and set up multiple Darkrais to keep the onslaught going.
Pokémon – 8
Trainers – 40
4 Ultra Ball
Energy – 12
This is one deck that really appreciates the help from Bicycle. This deck empties its hand really quickly and this neat Item cards allows you to keep going. This deck also has a higher energy count, to boost the odds of getting an energy with EtherDex.
You can also run Switch here to further help the odds of you getting that turn one attack, since you won’t need an extra energy for that, but I haven’t tested with it much, so you will need to try it for yourself.
This would be the Darkrai variant that is really consistent and good when it gets rolling from the start of the game. It is inferior to other variants when you don’t get an explosive start though, and it is a one-trick pony.
Here I will provide techs and alternate options which can be put into any Darkrai variant, but be wary that not all options listed here fit into every variant. You will have to see which one works the best in each deck.
pokemon-paradijs.comSkyla is always an option to run because it can grab that one Item you needed to pull off an attack. I am not that fond of Skyla myself however, since Darkrai really needs the draw. Bascically I want to set up as many Darkrais possible and more draw generally does that job better.
But I actually do run one Skyla in every deck I run for that added versatility.
I have seen people running one Colress in their Darkrai variants. The main reasoning is to take advantages of opponent’s benches and your own bench will mostly be at around 2 or 3 so the Colress would help. However, I am not that fond of the card as it is really bad early game and versus decks which don’t fill their benches like Big Basics.
Max Potion is one of those cards that can really swing a matchup. With it, you can completely heal a Darkrai and set back the opponent by a turn of two. It is also better because of Energy Switch because you can move the energy over before healing so you would lose less energy.
Max Potion is a really good tech and should be considered in any Darkrai variant.
In the first week op States, Garbodor had a big showing because almost nobody ran Tool Scrapper. For Darkrai, you can also go old school and run Switch. Switch gets rid of Status Conditions and retains your energy. This adds consistency, making it is easier to get that turn 2 Night Spear when opponents Catcher your Darkrai.
It also improves the Garbodor matchup and the mirror. Why the mirror you ask, when you have Keldeo-EX? Well the fact is that Keldeo-EX ‘only’ has 170 HP, which is easier to Knock Out with Dark Claw + LaserBank than a 180 HP Darkrai. I would highly suggest you try out Switch if the mirror or Garbodor troubles you.
pokemon-paradijs.comEven though many Darkrai players have opted to run Dark Claw instead, Eviolite still has potential. It protects the Keldeo from getting Knocked Out in a turn by opposing Darkrais. It still projects you from a Retaliate from Terrakion (even though there is Laser).
Eviolite also makes the Klinklang matchup a little more doable, since now Klinklang PLS cannot 1HKO you with his attack, so Eviolite can still shine in some matchups.
Other ACE SPECs
Darkrai is one of those decks that can fit in many ofthe ACE SPECs and run well with it. The other ACE SPECs you can use are Gold Potion, Dowsing Machine, and Scramble Switch. Gold Potion is good to set the opponent back a turn, but Hypnotoxic Laser limits its usefullness.
Dowsing Machine is a good option since it can act as a 5th Catcher, a 5th Dark Patch, or a Supporter, but it lacks the early game capabilities of Computer Search, so it will mostly be used once since you generally don;t use Junk Hunt mid to late-game.
Then there is Scramble Switch, which can turn around any game at any moment. This paired with an N can swing around a game very quickly and should be considered. Do remember that this is tech and not a consistency booster as Computer Search and Dowsing Machine are.
Benchtini (Victini NVI 15)
For any Darkrai deck not running Crushing Hammers, this might serve as a way to defeat a Klinklang deck. Without it, Darkrai/Lasers has a tough time and Speed Darkrai just loses every time. Victini can singlehandedly turn around the Klinklang matchup by 1-shotting everything on their field. It is not that difficult to fill your bench with Darkrai either.
This will cut down on your consistency, as you have to fit at least one R Energy in with your Victini, which in turn will reduce consistency. Also, keep in mind that Darkrai likes to play the ‘7 Prize game’ and that Victini will make it harder to do so.
Nintelales is another option to beat Klinklang decks. With its Ability, Bright Look, you have a 5th Catcher at your disposal and with Hexed Flame, you 1HKO Klinklgang PLS if you add a Hypnotixic Laser. This is an amazing combo which fits right into Darkrai/Lasers.
If you flip tails for sleep though, you will miss the KO on Cobalion EX, but with Klinklang gone, your Darkrais can take care of Cobalion. Note that again, it will reduce your consistency a bit and playing the ‘7 Prize game’ will be tougher.
Alright, time for matchups! Keep in mind that most of these only give you a vague idea of what to do. Every actual game might be different so test the matchups for yourself to get a good feel of them. I will list the game plans for the Lasers variant, Hammertime, and Speed Darkrai.
This will be a tough game for you. If you run any Fire types try to bring them out at the right time to KO their Plasmaklangs and then run them over with your Darkrais. If you do not run a Fire Pokémon this matchup becomes a lot tougher. If you do not prevent them from getting a Klinklang out you will have to slow the game down.
Sableye is the key here. You will need to keep Catchering up the Klinklang and Laser it and Junk Hunting the Items back. They will soon run out of Switches or try to attack with Klinklang. Eviolite is the key here as it protects Sableye from getting 1HKO’d by Plasmaklang.
If they run the Shift Gear Klinklang, then this will be almost unwinnable though.
This is actually a doable matchup for Hammertime. If you can completely rid their field of energy, you can actually deck them out to win the game. Again, use Sableye to Catcher something up and start Hammering away at their energy. If you can deplete their energy before they take down your Sableyes, you can win by decking them out or with Lasers if you decide to run them.
If you don’t have a Fire Pokémon, you need to outspeed them before they can get a Plasmaklang up. Target down all the Klinks because as soon as Plasma Steel hits the field, you basically lost. You can try stalling them out with Sableye, but it usually won’t end well for you.
Blastoise BCR/Keldeo-EX/Black Kyurem-EX PLSVs.
pokemon-paradijs.comThis matchup got improved because of Hypnotoxic Laser to slightly favorable. With LaserBank and Dark Claw, you can 1HKO Blastoise and KO Keldeo-EX after a 30 snipe. The main point is that you need to understand when to attack Blastoise, and when to attack their attackers. Do not fall for the ‘7 Prize game’ trap: once you kill a Squirtle, kill another one.
The main issue is Black Kyurem EX. It can clean up Darkrais quicker than you can replace them. When it hits the field, aim most of you bench damage at it (two snipes for 60 total), so you can take it out with a single Night Spear to prevent causalities If you get set up quickly, this should be a favorable matchup for you.
This is a tough matchup to face, mostly because of Black Kyurem-EX PLS. this game all depends on setup, if they get set up before you got an attack off, it will most likely be over. Hammers are hard to spam because of Rush In and Deluge so don’t try to stall them.
Instead, target down their L Energy to prevent as many Black Ballistas as possible. This will be a tough game, but you can win this if you get set up quickly enough.
This is an even matchup for you. If you can explode turn one, they will struggle to get set up and you will usually win. If you have a hard time getting the ball rolling, this becomes a lot tougher. Be aware of a Black Kyurem popping out of nowhere and keep a second Darkrai prepared at all times.
Dark Claw still shines versus Blastoise and Keldeo. Just remember to place you bench damage on the right targets and you should be in a good spot.
Eelektrik NVIVs. Rayquaza EX/
pokemon-paradijs.comThis matchup was favorable before Plasma Storm and it stayed that way. Remember to put your bench damage on the Eels since they are the heart of the deck. Do make sure you do not waste bench damage, so do not catcher an Eel with 30 on it!
Instead, target down another Eel/Tynamo and kill the first eel with two more snipes. Once you kill the Eels, you generally win. The best moment to slaughter some Eels is after a Dragon Burst, since their field will be devoid of energy.
Once they got too much energy on their Rayquazas, this will become difficult. You can try putting 30 on their Rays so you can take them out with Dark Claw + LaserBank before they get to attack. Also, if you have a Claw on Darkrai, don’t kill Tynamos, since you’re wasting damage that way. As long as you can prevent back to back Dragon Bursts for 180, you should be fine.
This matchup is rather known to most players as the decks haven’t changed much with the release of Plasma Storm. Hammerspamming won’t work here but it can prevent crucial Dragon Bursts. Try to target down their R Energy because they can’t accelerate it even though they run Super Rod.
Again, target down Eels with Darkrai to prevent them from getting off big Dragon Bursts.
You can outspeed Eels really easy with this variant. Target down their Tynamos and Eels from turn one or two, remeber to place the bench damage correctly, and you should be fine. Try to have 2 Darkrais ready at any moment in case of a surprise Dragon Burst. Kill those Eels, and you should win most of the time.
Landorus-EX/Tornadus EX/Mewtwo EX) and Garbodor DRXVs. Big Basics (
Quick note: I decided to put these two decks together as even though they have different game plans, the main Pokémon line stays the same. As many people have said, Garbodor is a clunky version of Big Basics which can also shut down Abilities.
Lasers sure improve this matchup, but it is still tough. The main culprit is of course Landorus-EX, which can pressure you as early as turn 1. Good thing you have Lasers since they can quickly build 90 damage on a Lando ensuring you the knockout a turn earlier.
As mentioned earlier, you can hit a Landorus for 90+30 and if it stays in (+30) you can Catcher another Landorus and soften it up while taking down the benched one with the snipe. Mewtwo and Tornadus aren’t big deals, mostly due to their 170 HP, but stay on the lookout for them.
Against Garbodor, the plan is the same but remember NOT to use Keldeo and most importantly, don’t bench anything that you won’t attach to! Only play down a Darkrai when you can get 1 or 2 energies on it. Otherwise you will be Catchered and stalled out. Remember these facts, and you should have a shot at winning the game.
You actually have a decent matchup versus both Big Basics and Garbodor. Why? Because they don’t have energy acceleration! You can Catcher up a fat Pokémon and Hammerspam them to death. Bench enough Sableyes to maintain the Hammerlock.
After their energies are gone, power up a Darkrai. You can do that in the background while Hammering, but only versus Big Basics. Versus Garbodor it could be Catchered up and you would need to waste 2 energy to retreat. If the flips go on average you should be fine.
Speed, speed, and more speed. If you can’t outspeed them, you will have a tough time versus Landorus. Remember not to bench too many Darkrais, as they could be Catchered up or just softened up by Hammerhead. If you are able to get a quick Night Spear off and stream Night Spears from there, you have a decent shot at winning.
Vs. The Mirror
The mirror is pretty much the same for all variants. Generally, the one who attacks first will come out on top. Placing the bench damage usually won’t make a big difference unless you’re playing the Lasers Mirror (just put it on the next Darkrai). Darkrai mirror can be pretty intense and they mostly come down to luck.
If you get set up quickly enough, if you can stream Darkrais better than your opponent and if you can draw well enough off of and N, you should win most of the times.
Whew that was a longer article than I intended it to be! I hope you all enjoyed reading this. I sure did enjoy writing it. Darkrai is so good you need to either prepare yourself for it, or play it yourself. Of course I will be open for suggestions, feedback, and all that stuff. Also, good luck at your upcoming States and/or Regionals!
Until next time, -Twan
Leave a Reply