Empoleon, A History
Since Empoleon’s release in Dark Explorers, players have always seen great potential in it: high HP for a Stage 2 (140 HP); built-in draw power (which, in our current format, is a feature found only in cards such as Musharna NXD and Electrode PLF); and a one-Energy attack that can deal a considerable amount of damage. In theory, Empoleon should have been a power since its release. However, Empoleon has been a victim of the most merciless deck-killer in Pokémon: the format.
When Empoleon was released, one of the best decks in the format was ZekEels. I’ll give you the short version: ZekEels could 1-shot Empoleons with relative ease; and when Empoleon could return a KO, ZekEels would just recycle its Energies and continue reaping havoc. It was a bad time to have a Lightning Weakness, and Empoleon just couldn’t cope.
However, later in the season, Boundaries Crossed gave Empoleon a new ally in its battle against the Eels: Landorus-EX. Suddenly the synergy between Terrakion NVI, Landorus-EX, Empoleon, and Blend WLFM Energy created a new deck: Empoleon/Terrakion/Landorus (yes, not much creativity was shown in its given name). Even though the deck was strong and did make it into City Championship top cuts, it could not cope in tournaments such as States and Regionals. Once again, Empoleon was good, but just not good enough.
Then came Team Plasma. It unleashed cards such as Kyurem PLF, Thundurus EX, and Absol PLF onto the Pokémon world. Many Stage 2 decks had difficulty coping with T/D/K and other Plasma variants because every Pokémon in format could suddenly be 1HKO’d. Empoleon had exceptional difficulty because all a Plasma player had to do was bench several Deoxys-EX and attack with Thundurus to 1-shot Empoleons. As such, Empoleon saw very little competitive play during this time.
Just when it seemed Empoleon would be forever stopped by unfortunate circumstances, Pokémon TCG released the new format rules: players who went first could no longer attack on the first turn and Pokémon Catcher was now Pokémon Reversal. Two of Empoleon’s greatest weaknesses were destroyed in one blow: it could no longer be donked, and Bench manipulation was drastically weakened. Empoleon could now, once again, emerge from the shadows and become a major player in this format.
The New Empoleon
With the new format came a new partner for Empoleon: Dusknoir. The strength of Empoleon/Dusknoir (another creative name…) is fairly straightforward. Empoleon typically deals 80-120 damage in one attack. Excluding Eviolite and Max Potion shenanigans, Empoleon will often do more damage than is necessary to KO its opponent’s Pokémon.
This is where Dusknoir comes into play: it allows you to move the excess damage on your opponent’s Pokémon elsewhere on their field. This allows you to KO your opponent’s Pokémon, and save the “excess” damage to KO the other Pokémon on your opponent’s field.
In past articles I have only given skeleton lists; however, the list I will provide has been developed over several tournaments, and I am confident in its lines. It will also allow me to explain several choices I have made that may not be traditional in most Empoleon/Dusknoir lists.
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 35
Energy – 7
A list is only as strong as the lines of Pokémon, Trainers, and Energy that compose it. This is an integral truth of Pokémon, as well as any other trading card game. However, they are also based on personal preference and taste. If you disagree with the lines, that is fine. If you think my list is terrible, that is fine. If you think I’m a rubbish writer who shouldn’t be allowed to post on this site, that is fine. All I ask is that you are polite with sharing your opinions.
4-1-4 Empoleon DEX
The Emperor Penguin, Empoleon has built-in draw power, requires only one Energy to attack, can dish out 150 damage when combined with Silver Bangle, has healthy HP for a Stage 2, and is very easy to chain after the first Empoleon is put onto the field.
Unlike the main attackers of other decks currently popular in this format, Empoleon is a non-EX attacker. This means your opponent is forced KO six Pokémon (or seven, if you run Life Dew) instead of three Pokémon-EX, which can tax the resources of any deck.
Empoleon does have many weaknesses: it can still be 1-shotted by Thundurus EX (and Hydreigon DRX 97), it requires Rare Candy to be set up by turn 2, its Basic form (Piplup) is still very easy to 1-shot for practically any deck in format, and it basically dies to any form of Item lock.
3-1-2 Dusknoir BCR
Empoleon’s partner in destruction, Dusknoir moves damage on your opponent’s field, allowing you to conserve every damage counter you may need to achieve a KO later in the game. Dusknoir also allows you to take multiple KOs in one turn. In one match during a League Challenge, I was able to KO two Keldeo-EX in one turn due to Dusknoir’s Ability (my N were suddenly useless, but that is beside the point).
Dusknoir was always a strong partner for Empoleon, but a risky choice because it could easily be dragged to the Active Spot by Pokémon Catcher (a non-flip at the time), allowing your opponent several turns to stall if you couldn’t retreat it.
With Catcher now a flip, it is currently much safer to play Dusknoir, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible for it to be locked in the Active Spot. You must be careful with your resources; if you allow yourself to run out of methods of retreat (such as Switch and Escape Rope), your opponent can easily turn a game from a win for you to a tie by dragging up Dusknoir.
This 70 HP Barrier Pokémon serves only one purpose: to prevent Bench damage. While this may not sound overly important, consider what it prevents: the 30 damage from Darkrai EX, the 20 damage from Genesect EX, and the 30 damage from Kyurem PLF (to name a few). This damage would make Empoleons much easier to KO (especially versus Darkrai). In many ways, Mr. Mime is the reason that Empoleon has even matchups versus decks such as Darkrai and Plasma.
This to prevent Thundurus EX from having a field day against Empoleon because, despite the format change, it is still relatively easy for Thundurus EX to 1-shot Empoleons (especially with the rise of Frozen City in Plasma lists). Silver Mirror changes Plasma from an awkward matchup into one where you hold the advantage. It also improves your Virizion/Genesect matchup, as they are forced to use G Booster or rely on a secondary attacker (such as Mewtwo EX).
When facing every deck that isn’t an Empoleon mirror match, Silver Bangle is a critically important card. It allows you to conserve more damage on your opponent’s field (provided Dusknoir is in play), gives you the extra damage output needed to take critical KOs that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to achieve, and makes your opponent’s Bench management efforts nearly redundant.
I have no shame in saying that this card has caused more than one of my opponent’s to burst out in frustration. This is because Max Potion can completely ruin your opponent’s strategy to 2-shot your Empoleons (a method often used in mirror matches and by Genesect/Virizion). It is a devastating play against Darkrai/Hydreigon, who will be forced to 1-shot your Empoleons with Hydreigon instead of the 2HKO strategy they would otherwise use. Altogether, it is a solid tech that can change the entire game in your favor (if played correctly).
As with all Stage 2 decks, this is a necessity. If you do not have at least one of this card, I would not recommend playing this deck. However, you can successfully play this deck with only one copy of Tropical Beach.
Empoleon Tech Options
Okay, so you like the deck, you like the majority of the list, but what if you want something different to put in it? Something to make it more… well, your own. This is where the tech section comes in. It will list several options that fit into the synergy of Empoleon/Dusknoir and help you find a more personal fit.
For the longest time, Mew-EX was considered a staple to any Empoleon list (and still is to many players). However, through playtesting, I found that while Mew-EX gave you another attacker, the fact it was a 120 HP EX just hurt too much. One advantage o ften overlooked in Empoleon is that your opponent is forced to take 6 Prizes. If anything, attacking with Mew-EX gives your opponent more of an advantage than it does for you, because now he/she just needs to KO one Mew-EX and four Empoleon.
Mew-EX does provide type coverage against several major Psychic types in format: Mewtwo EX (found in Mewtwo/Virizion/Genesect and practically every deck that runs Double Colorless Energy), Deoxys-EX (not often found attacking Empoleons, but never underestimate the ability to 1-shot a card found in every Plasma list), and Gothitelle (which is slowly reemerging as a power in this format).
It is also very helpful to have a Basic Pokémon that is easy to put into play and attack (especially if you have only one Empoleon on the field; for Empoleon/Dusknoir to not have any Empoleon on the field leaves the deck vulnerable to devastating N plays).
Since its release, Computer Search has been the staple ACE SPEC for many decks. It increases consistency and speed; makes Tropical Beach more effective by discarding cards in your hand; and increases the likelihood of a turn 2 Empoleon. My only concern is that by discarding cards that are “useless” at the time with Computer Search, you may be forced to discard cards that are useful to your match when you use Empoleon’s Diving Draw.
Basically, Life Dew makes it so that your opponent has to KO seven Pokémon instead of the already-high-number of six Pokémon that he/she had to deal with in the first place. It works very well in combination with Mew-EX, as it makes Mew fit into the underlying strategy of Empoleon/Dusknoir (as it makes your opponent take only 1 Prize when they KO Mew-EX).
In most decks, Colress adds a strong element of consistency to any deck. However, when people play against Empoleon, they become very hesitant to bench Pokémon (they do not want to increase Empoleon’s damage output any more than they have to). Because your opponent won’t bench as many Pokémon as they would versus any other deck, Colress suddenly becomes limited in strength, especially in the early game. Mind you, it is still common to play Colress and draw 7+ cards, but it does add a layer of risk to Empoleon/Dusknoir.
Now that you’ve seen what composes Empoleon, you’re going to want to know how it fairs in the current format. We will go over the matchups of several of the most commonly played decks in format in this section.
Blastoise – 60/40
Surprisingly, Blastoise is a good matchup for Empoleon/Dusknoir. This is because Blastoise has a difficult time KOing six Empoleon when all you need to do is KO three Pokémon-EX.
In this pairing, it is important to focus on KOing their Keldeo-EX. They will avoid attacking with Black Kyurem, as it involves using far too many resources to successfully attack with it six times (seven, if you run Life Dew). Thus, they will attack with Keldeo-EX, who can easily 1-shot Empoleons with only five W Energy attached.
If you allow the Keldeo-EX to continue KOing your Empoleons, you will be quickly overwhelmed. If you focus on attacking their Keldeo-EX and move damage accordingly with Dusknoir, this is a relatively comfortable matchup.
Gothitelle/Accelgor – 20/80
Okay, call me harsh, but it’s the truth. Empoleon is a deck that is about chaining Stage 2 Pokémon with Rare Candy, and Gothitelle is all about not letting that happen. Your path to victory is found only if they just can’t set up, or, if you can quickly set up an Empoleon and Dusknoir by turn 2 or 3, attack their Gothitelle and move the damage to their Shelmets and Accelgors (if they can’t attack, you’re not locked). It’s a difficult match, but with a bit of luck you can pull off a win.
Rayboar – ??/??
Yes, I realize a double question mark doesn’t help much, but that is because this matchup is swayed by what techs your opponent runs. If they run the Zekrom PLF, you’re in for a harsh match, as they can easily 1-shot your Empoleons. However, if you use Dusknoir properly, you can easily 1-shot that Zekrom with ease. If they don’t run Zekrom, then this matchup is strongly in your favor, as they can only 1-shot your Empoleons with Rayquaza EX (which requires three Energy to do so, and a great deal of resources to repeatedly attack).
Just play cautiously and keep enough damage on the field to 1-shot that 130 HP nightmare (if you can, but don’t play so cautiously you lose the game by playing it too safe).
Darkrai/Hydreigon – 40/60
While this won’t be your toughest matchup, it is – by far – the most annoying. It is critical that you get damage on their field before they can use the Hydreigon/Max Potion combo to heal it away; this way you can take critical KOs when you need them.
What will make the game awkward is the way you will spread the damage. You cannot leave it all on one Pokémon (Max Potion stinks, I know), so you will be forced to spread the damage evenly on their entire field. The exception is when they have only one Deino on the field. Your mantra for this matchup is “KILL DEINO”, “DESTROY DEINO”… okay, a bit much, but it is the best strategy (if you can achieve it).
You will also need to be weary of Hydreigon, as it can 1-shot your Empoleons with relative ease and, when combined with Dark Patch, do so repeatedly. Also conserve your N’s for after they use Sableye’s Junk Hunt to retrieve Max Potions from the discard (you don’t want them to have them in hand).
Virizion/Genesect – 65/35
This is actually a very strong matchup for Empoleon/Dusknoir as Genesect can only 1-shot your Empoleons with G Booster. You can foil their 2-shot strategy with Max Potion, stop the 20 damage to the Bench with Mr. Mime, and prevent damage from Genesect with Silver Mirror (and Virizion is not a strong threat to Empoleon). This, combined with Dusknoir’s damage movement, makes Virizion/Genesect a straightforward matchup.
The problems occur when they get a strong setup and you get a shaky start. If they can start hitting early, they can wreck your setup (consider that they can drag up any of your Pokémon with Red Signal). Also, be certain you have an out if they drag your Dusknoir to the Active Spot, as this can easily turn a win into a tie if you can’t retreat it.
I hope this article has given you some insight to Empoleon/Dusknoir, and that this deck becomes one of your possible choices for whatever upcoming tournament you plan to attend. Most importantly, I hope you enjoyed the article and found it informative.
Till next time,