Can You Smell It Coming in the Air Tonight

An Analysis of Darkrai/Garbodor

Hello SixPrizes, I’m Matthew King and today I am going to be writing about a deck which has been established in the game ever since Dragons Exalted, but one which I believe had fallen under the radar a little bit prior to the US National Championships.

The deck made its first major reappearance at US Nationals where Orrin Wilson made the Finals in the Senior Division with a version of this deck. Following on from this the deck was quite popular at the World Championships with Dustin Zimmerman making the top four with it.

I am of course talking about Darkrai EX/Garbodor DRX, or DarkGarb for short.

The concept of locking Abilities is one which has lead to Garbodor DRX becoming one of the most successful cards of the Black and White era. With decks running around cards like Blastoise BCR as the focal point of their decks shutting off Abilities is just too powerful to ignore.

Table of Contents

  1. Garbodor’s Place in the Metagame
  2. Decklist
  3. Inclusions and Exclusions
  4. Conclusion

Garbodor’s Place in the Metagame
Abilities are abundant.

Looking at the big threats in the game right now (Plasma, VirGen, Blastoise) they all have a reliance on using Abilities as part of their game.

Plasma often uses Keldeo-EX’s Rush In Ability in order to enable Kyurem PLF to stream its Blizzard Burn attack every turn, and relies on Deoxys-EX’s Power Connect Ability to hit those magic numbers on Pokémon-EX.

VirGen uses Virizion-EX’s Ability to prevent Special Conditions from cards like Hypnotoxic Laser on their Pokémon with G Energies attached making it harder for the opponent to Knock Out their attackers in one hit. Genesect EX’s Ability is also sometimes used as it can act like a Pokémon Catcher when a Plasma Energy is attached to it from the hand.

Abilities are even more crucial to Blastoise decks as their only method of Energy acceleration to their hungry attackers is via Blastoise BCR’s Deluge Ability. Keldeo-EX’s Rush In Ability is also important here to prevent the opponent from stalling the game by bringing up the weighty Blastoise BCR into the Active Spot.

Overall one thing should be pretty clear: Shutting off Abilities heavily affects virtually every deck in the format right now and with “Big Basic” variants centred around cards like Landorus-EX almost non-existent at the moment there aren’t really any un-winnable matchups for Garbodor decks.

DarkGarb isn’t the only variant of Garbodor out there now though, so the big question is what advantage does it have over the other versions?

There are several answers to this question. Darkrai EX is obviously a strong attacker; 90 damage to the Active and 30 to the Bench is perfect when it comes to hitting magic numbers on EXs, and with Dark Patch acceleration enabling Darkrai to be set up in just a couple of turns or even out of nowhere in a single turn it’s obviously good.

Secondly and just as importantly this deck has something which most other decks don’t have: Sableye DEX. Or specifically its second attack, Junk Hunt, which enables you to put two Item cards into to your hand from your discard pile for just one Energy.

In a format without cards like Junk Arm there is virtually no other way of getting Item cards back from the discard pile other than Dowsing Machine which is limited to just one per deck. I could go on for hours about all the opportunities that Sableye gives someone, but that’s all been discussed to death before so I’m just going to leave it there.


Below is the current list I have been testing out for the deck. It is by no means perfect, but it seems to be working out pretty well for me so far.

Pokémon – 12

3 Trubbish DRX
2 Garbodor DRX
3 Sableye DEX
3 Darkrai-EX DEX
1 Absol PLF

Trainers – 38

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
2 Colress
1 Random Receiver


3 Dark Patch
3 Hypnotoxic Laser
3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Ultra Ball

2 Enhanced Hammer

1 Level Ball
1 Max Potion
1 Super Rod
1 Tool Scrapper


4 Float Stone
2 Silver Mirror


2 Virbank City Gym


1 Computer Search

Energy – 10

10 D

Inclusions and Exclusions

3-2 Garbodor DRX
70 HP wins games.

A 3-2 Garbodor DRX line seems pretty standard for this deck, however I know due to the tight constraints on deck space a number of people have opted for a lower 2-2 line.

While I can see the reasoning behind this I believe in matchups against decks like Blastoise where setting up the quick Garbodor is crucial to winning the game, getting two Trubbish out as soon as possible is essential.

Running just two Trubbish leaves the risk of one being prized, and with just one available the opponent could Catcher it out and get rid of it with a Secret Sword putting them in control for the rest of the game.

If you can get two Trubbish down though in the first couple of turns then the opponent won’t know if Knocking Out one of them will prevent you from locking their Abilities and it will give you time to Super Rod the other line back into the deck to ensure that the Ability look remains in play throughout the game.

Running just two Garbodor is generally fine unless both are prized as with a spare Trubbish on the bench even if the opponent Knocks Out the Garbodor you can Junk Hunt or search for Super Rod and then just get the Garbodor back into the deck and continue the lock on the opponent next turn.

3 Sableye DEX

As I mentioned earlier Sableye DEX really is the heart of the deck. Without Crushing Hammers it can no longer actually win the game on its own, but its sheer versatility is still unrivaled and is the perfect card whether engineering the turn two Night Spear or disrupting the opponent with Hypnotoxic Lasers and Enhanced Hammers.

Once again some people have suggested dropping this card down to two copies, and a lot depends on the variant of the deck you have chosen. The more aggressive builds of DarkGarb use cards like Dark Claw and often maxed out Dark Patches in order to get a faster Darkrai EX attacking and hit for more damage. In these builds due to space constraints and more of a focus on attacking with Darkrai the whole game dropping the Sableye count would be more acceptable.

This version of the deck though which is more defensive as it focuses more on countering the metagame and disrupting the opponent with cards like Enhanced Hammer and Silver Mirror much prefers using three Sableye. It also gives you more of a chance of starting with it which is great because it really is the ideal turn 1 attacker.

3 Darkrai EX

Full art is most intimidating.

This was a tougher decision for me because I felt that I rarely used more than two Darkrai EX in the game, and even if I did Super Rod was still an option. In older versions of the deck I would have much preferred to use two Darkrai EX because the main focus of the deck was completely on Sableye until right near the end where Darkrai came in to finish off the opponent’s Energy starved board.

However now though with winning through disruption and poison damage alone really not an option the need for another Darkrai became clear to me. I found that if Darkrai EX was ever prized in a game while running only two I would just lose the game. While it wouldn’t be prized a lot it is just too much of a risk to take for me so I added in a third copy.

1 Absol PLF

Most people originally assumed that Absol PLF was pretty much a staple in every Darkrai EX based deck prior to the World Championships last season but with some people, most notably the champion himself Jason Klaczynski, deciding to drop Absol PLF from their deck altogether this clearly wasn’t the case.

Having said that, with Energy Switch being removed from the format for a little while at least, streaming Darkrai EX’s has become an almost impossible option for this deck so having an attacker that can often hit for large amounts of damage in particular versus decks like Plasma which often have very large benches is really important. As such I decided to dedicate just one space to Absol PLF if an alternate attacker is ever required.

2 Colress

These two Supporters were not in my original list for the deck at all, I have tested several versions including using Bicycle and Skyla but they weren’t quite as effective for me as I would have hoped.

Skyla just seemed to slow for me as if I was using a Supporter I wanted a hand refresh not a Trainer card. If I needed a certain card I could just use Junk Hunt to grab what I needed back from the discard pile or a Computer Search to search for it in the deck. Bicycle on the other hand seemed to work reasonably well sometimes but it just wasn’t drawing enough cards.

In the end I decided that I wanted to devote my other two spare spots to a strong draw Supporter and considering the fact that my bench normally contained 2 Garbodor DRX/1 Darkrai EX/1 Sableye DEX or something similar to that within the first few turns of the game Colress seemed the strongest option.

If you aren’t a fan of Colress then another choice that might be worth testing out is Bianca, while the original was rotated out it was re-printed in Full Art form in the Boundaries Crossed set so both prints are still legal.

1 Random Receiver

random receiver dark explorers dex
Guaranteed to get you some draw.

From the other lists that I have seen this seems pretty standard and the idea is pretty self explanatory but just in case I will briefly cover it anyway.

Basically this card can be an automatic out to a Supporter if you are stuck with a bad hand, and in the case of this deck it’s guaranteed to be a draw Supporter instead of something like Skyla, and best of all you can reuse it with Junk Hunt whenever you want to.

3 Dark Patch, 3 Hypnotoxic Laser, 3 Pokémon Catcher, 3 Ultra Ball

Ideally I would run 4-of each of these, but there really isn’t enough room so instead I just removed one of each. Most games though you wouldn’t need the fourth copy of each card though because of Sableye DEX’s Junk Hunt attack being able to recover them from the discard pile if you need them.

If you happen to be running a more aggressive version of the deck with less of a focus on Sableye DEX though then I would recommend upping these counts to four if there is room.

2 Enhanced Hammer

The reasoning behind using this card is pretty much the same as last format. The deck can really struggle with Plasma decks if the opponent gets a fast start with attackers like Kyurem PLF so using Enhanced Hammers to slow down the often Special Energy-heavy decks really helps.

It is also worth noting that this card actually also helps versus a few other decks, for example Suicune PLB/Terrakion NVI decks which could cause a few problems with Terrakion NVI being able to take out a Darkrai EX with its revenge attack, because they often run their own Special Energies like Blend WLFM and DCE’s.

1 Level Ball, 1 Max Potion, 1 Super Rod, 1 Tool Scrapper

With Junk Hunt being able to bring back Item cards from the discard piles it also makes 1-ofs in decks like this a really great choice as they can be reused in certain situations or tech against specific matchups. This gives the deck the versatility of reusing tech Items in a way that hasn’t been seen since the rotation of Junk Arm from Triumphant.

Just in case it’s not clear why some of these cards are in the deck I will just briefly cover them, although they have all been pretty established cards for a while now.

level ball next destinies nde
Just 1!

With the importance of setting up a quick Garbodor near the start of the game and getting that turn 1 Junk Hunt with Sableye, Level Ball seems a pretty neat choice here. It offers you the chance to search out either Trubbish or Sableye without having to discard any other cards.

While the discard can sometimes be nice as it can put D Energies into the discard pile in the early game to use Dark Patch to provide Energy acceleration to the decks attackers, it is not necessarily always ideal. In particular with thin hands where you often end up having to discard Supporters. As such I really like the idea of having 1 Level Ball in the deck.

Max Potion has been a pretty standard 1-of in Darkrai EX based decks for a long time, and it’s pretty clear why. The ability to heal off something like a heavily damaged Darkrai EX and then get the Energies back on with Dark Patches is incredibly powerful and often game changing so it’s always nice to have that option available.

I mentioned Super Rod earlier for its ability to return cards like Trubbish and Garbodor back into the deck to keep the Ability lock going.

Its other use which is less common now but still something to bear in mind is that it basically prevents the deck from decking out first. Against decks which run no switching cards like Blastoise this can be pretty huge as you can often just stall for the win late game by bringing up a heavy Pokémon like Blastoise or Black Kyurem EX off the bench and trapping it in the Active Spot and then decking the opponent out.

Last of all Tool Scrapper has a rather interesting role in the deck. First of all the primary reason for using it would be if you were to face any decks like Tool Drop, not that they are particularly common, but its still something to bear in mind. Using Pokémon Catcher to bring up an opponent’s benched Trubbish and then throwing down a Tool Scrapper to remove any Float Stones (or other Tools in play) is an excellent win condition against the deck.

The aim eventually is to just keep bringing up the opponents benched Pokémon which they won’t want in the active and then remove Tools like Exp. Shares and Float Stones until they start to run low on Energies and/or Tools and then you can hopefully close the game out with Darkrai EX’s Night Spear.

The other more unique use of Tool Scrapper is to remove your own Tools, normally off of your Garbodor DRX. One example is if you miss the Float Stone but draw a Silver Mirror and attach it to Garbodor DRX to start the Ability lock you will generally want a way to replace it with a Float Stone later in the game.

This is to prevent the opponent from being able to buy themselves a few turns by using Pokémon Catcher to bring out Garbodor DRX until the Active Spot without having to attach three Energies to it or wait for it to be Knocked Out.

4 Float Stone

With Abilities such as Darkrai EX’s Dark Cloak blocked for both players it’s important for us to be able to retreat out of the Active Spot without having to discard too many Energies and Float Stone is a great option for doing this as it also activates Garbotoxin.

I know due to space constraints some people might consider dropping to three, but I prefer to have at least 6 Tools in a Garbodor deck, and Float Stone really is the optimal choice.

2 Silver Mirror

silver mirror plasma
Mirror, mirror in my hand…

This is obviously the most noticeable change to the deck between last season and now in terms of additions. Silver Mirror is of course a new Tool card which states that if it is attached to a non-Pokémon-EX then the Pokémon which the card is attached to cannot be affected by effects of attacks, including damage, from the opponent’s Team Plasma Pokémon.

This is an incredible card when it comes to facing Plasma, and all of a sudden the idea of spamming Enhanced Hammers becomes even more viable than it was before. Previously with Colress Machine acceleration the opponent could play aggressively and target down Sableye with Frost Spear or Thundurus EX’s first attack.

All of a sudden the opponent now requires a Tool Scrapper as well in order to actually deal any damage to Sableye, and if they are discarding Silver Mirrors from Sableye then they aren’t necessarily going to be able to take them off Garbodor as well.

Unless the opponent is using 3-4 Tool Scrapper a game (which is incredibly unlikely) then with Sableye’s Junk Hunt attack bringing back Tools the opponent is going to be locked out from attacking Sableye pretty fast, giving the deck free will to start hammering away at the opponent’s Energies with Enhanced Hammer.

Silver Mirror being a Tool is also useful in situations where you miss a Float Stone and need to set up Garbotoxin later on. Remember, this deck uses Tool Scrapper itself, so you could actually remove the Silver Mirror and replace it with Float Stone later on if you need too.

Another argument for using Absol PLF is that it, unlike Darkrai EX, is able to use Silver Mirror despite being a Team Plasma Pokémon itself, so it can actually do heavy damage to opposing Plasma decks without them being able to reply sans Tool Scrapper.

Ideally I would like to run about three copies of this card, but as I have mentioned many times the room in this deck is incredibly tight, so for now I am just keeping the count down to two.

0 Dark Claw

Dark Claw is a brilliant card still and that extra 20 damage enables Darkrai EX to hit the magic number of 140 damage with a Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym. So why not play it?

The answer depends mainly on your strategy for playing this deck. I briefly discussed earlier that there are multiple options of ways to play this deck.

A more aggressive route is putting more of a focus on early and consistent Night Spears throughout the game with maxed out Dark Patches and Dark Claws in the deck to hit for magic numbers.

A much more conservative route, which is the version I chose, focuses heavily on using Sableye DEX’s Junk Hunt for much of the game and uses cards like Enhanced Hammer and Silver Mirror to disrupt the opponent while using Hypnotoxic Laser to whittle away at the opposing Pokémon then sweeping with a Darkrai EX later in the game.

As such, due to a differing focus and the limited amount of space in the deck, I decided to opt out of using Dark Claw. Depending on how you intend to play the deck I would recommend considering Dark Claw in your build though as it is very helpful for matchups like VirGen and Blastoise.

1 Computer Search

computer search boundaries crossed 137
The best early game ACE SPEC.

Out of all the decisions made in this deck this is probably the toughest, and I think whatever version of the deck you choose this is still mainly down to personal preference. I selected Computer Search as my ACE SPEC, but I would also like to discuss a couple of other options that I have seen people use to great success.

The champion of the Klaczynski Open decided to use Dowsing Machine, the idea of which might look obscure to some people at first because Junk Hunt gets back Item cards anyway, and although Dowsing Machine can also bring back other sorts of Trainers, a Computer Search could search the deck for whatever you wanted.

Dowsing Machine is however a really clever choice in some respects because if there are multiple options for what to take in your discard pile, depending on what you were to draw the following turn then Dowsing Machine will enable you to get back whatever you want.

It’s also great in Stadium wars because most decks only have room for a couple of Virbank City Gym, so being able to potentially bring out extra copies against decks running 2/3 Tropical Beach for example is really important.

With a limited number of Supporters in the deck due to space constraints getting back an extra 5th or 6th Juniper etc. is also incredibly powerful.

The downside to Dowsing Machine is that it is almost useless early game, and if there isn’t much in your discard pile and you start the game with a dead hand then you pretty much lose. Computer Search is much better for the early game and still decent late game as well as you can get back most of the cards Dowsing Machine would get with Junk Hunt anyway, so that is why I chose it.

The other most interesting option and something which I have heavily considered putting into the deck is Life Dew. Most people ignored Life Dew when it was first released but after US Nationals many people had found a niche use for it in their decks.

The main reason that Life Dew was so good though was that people weren’t using Tool Scrapper, but now though many decks are using two Tool Scrapper and perhaps even Dowsing Machine as well. So is it still any good?

The answer is probably a yes. Life Dew is recoverable with Sableye DEX’s Junk Hunt so it can be used multiple times in a game, and if the opponent is out of Tool Scrapper then the power to prevent the opponent from taking a Prize on a Sableye or making Darkrai a non-EX can be game deciding.

Life Dew is incredibly good in conservative Darkrai builds for the obvious reason that you can keep on using Sableye DEX without the opponent taking a Prize if they Knock it Out, and then just Super Rod them back in and keep Junk Hunting until you have the perfect set up.

Having said all that though, while it is a great option for DarkGarb to have, taking that ACE SPEC spot with a non-consistency based card can make the deck very inconsistent and a risky play, so I much prefer the consistency based Computer Search. When I have small hand late game for example, I can bring it back with Junk Hunt and make a guaranteed Supporter next turn if the opponent doesn’t use N.

If there were room for more Supporters and draw power then I would probably use Life Dew, but the lack of consistency with it in the deck combined with the increased use of Tool Scrapper made me decide against it.


800px-RB25 garbodor mangaBulbapedia

Thanks a lot for reading the article. I hope it was a good read and you might have learnt something. I believe that this deck, despite being held back by the rotation of cards such as Crushing Hammer and Energy Switch, will still have a large impact on the metagame for the foreseeable future at least. It will definitely be a deck to consider coming into Fall Regionals.

I am always looking for constructive feedback on my articles and any ideas that you might have for making DarkGarb even better, or if you think it won’t even be good at all, so feel free to comment!

Reader Interactions

7 replies

  1. Ray Bryan

    I called the deck hammertime garbodor back then when all hammers was beening played..before before HTL and rotation…I dont know if I was the first person to come up with the idea for this deck but I for sure was one of the first…to run it alot..even in a tourny or 2.

    • Matthew King  → Ray

      Well the concept has really been around since the start of the season (basically when Garbodor DRX first came out) although at the time not a lot of people really used the deck but I know of some people who used it at Battle Roads. You probably weren’t the first person to use it but there weren’t many people who were running the deck in particular the Hammers version back then.

  2. Ray Bryan

    I agree I didnt think I was the first to make the idea or run the deck..but I did run it twice in battle roads after eels..after that no $$ or ride to other tournaments.

  3. Ziggmiceter

    That list… I can’t even say much… 11 total support cards, 3-2 Garbodor with Level Ball… Just…why?

  4. Tyler Vencill

    I’m glad you mentioned Life Dew, cause I tested that out a lot for a while. However, I preferred the consistency of Computer Search.

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