The Big Three

Top Decks to Prepare for at Winter Regionals 2014
snorlax swimming
One new deck has made a splash…

This season has been crazy so far. The format seems so diverse after City Championships and many players don’t even have a one week break before heading into Regionals. This means that everyone is perfecting their lists with some last minute play testing. With so little time between City Championships and Winter Regionals, many players are going to stick with a deck that has been successful for them during Cities instead of scrambling to build a new deck.

I’m sure the majority of players have at least narrowed down their deck choice, so I’m going to give my analysis of what I consider the top three decks at the end of City Championships. This is to help anybody who doesn’t yet have a deck for Regionals, to help anybody who is not sure what decks to focus on in testing, and to help show how a decklist can be tweaked to help certain matchups.

Table of Contents

Better than straight Darkrai.

I consider this deck to be superior to straight Darkrai. Garbodor shuts off Mr. Mime’s Bench Barrier Ability and improves the Blastoise and Emboar matchups significantly because they rely on Abilities. Darkrai/Garbodor is a solid choice because it has roughly even to favorable matchups against the majority of the metagame.

Straight Darkrai will always be slightly unfavorable, but that deck has fallen out of favor. Gothitelle is also not a strong matchup, but it doesn’t seem to be very popular and you can tech for it if necessary.

Outside of those matchups, Darkrai/Garbodor stands a good chance against the field while having a slight advantage against any deck that relies on Abilities. The hardest part of playing the deck is to know when to attack and when to Junk Hunt because there is no general rule and it’s very dependent on what your opponent does. The best way to learn this is to simply practice the matchups.

This deck has had less success at City Championships compared to Virizion/Genesect and Thundurus/Lugia/Snorlax, but I attribute this to the fact that the deck is difficult to build, pick up, and play. It took me two City Championships to realize the flaws in my deck building before I started to see success with this deck. Below is a good starting point if you’re looking to try this deck out, then I’ll get into some potential changes if you want to make the list your own:

Pokémon – 11

4 Darkrai-EX DEX

2 Trubbish LTR
2 Garbodor LTR

2 Sableye DEX
1 Absol PLF

Trainers – 39

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
2 Colress
2 Skyla
2 Random Receiver


4 Dark Patch
3 Ultra Ball
3 Hypnotoxic Laser

3 Float Stone

2 Escape Rope
2 Dark Claw
2 Pokémon Catcher
2 Enhanced Hammer
1 Tool Scrapper

1 Gold Potion


1 Tropical Beach
1 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 10

10 D

Sableye DEX, Enhanced Hammer, and Crushing Hammer

One, two, or three?

One of the biggest decisions in building Darkrai/Garbodor is deciding how many Sableye to play. Junk Hunt is an extremely versatile attack, but just how useful it is depends largely on what Items you decide to play.

Many players think it’s crazy to run only one Sableye, but I believe this is a very viable option. If this is the case I would drop the Enhanced Hammers completely and use Sableye as a 7th Prize card while being aggressive with Darkrai EX. With these open spaces you can afford to play cards like Max Potion, a 3rd Pokémon Catcher, and more consistency.

This is a very similar style to the Japanese Darkrai/Garbodor that had success at Worlds and I personally had success playing this style of Darkrai/Garbodor at Cities. This version of the deck sacrifices Enhanced Hammer in the Plasma matchup to make all of its other matchups a little bit stronger with tech Trainers and more consistency. This is the best approach if you only expect to play against one or two Plasma decks.

Two copies of Sableye alongside two copies of Enhanced Hammer is the more balanced approach. It improves the Plasma matchup while only sacrificing a little bit of consistency. If you expect to play against several Plasma decks, this is the best approach.

The last option is to play 3 Sableye with only 3 Darkrai EX and add in Crushing Hammer. This shifts the strategy to more of a Sableye focus. I don’t believe this deck was very viable during Cities because games would often result in a tie if you spent too much time Junk Hunting for Crushing Hammer. If you win a long Game 1 in Regionals, then there won’t be time for a second game and you are likely to win the series.

Crushing Hammer takes up a lot of space and will hurt the deck’s matchup against Blastoise, Emboar, and other Darkrai decks. All these decks have a form of Energy acceleration and are not as impacted by all the spaces devoted to Crushing Hammer.

However, Crushing Hammer is very essential in the Plasma and Virizion/Genesect matchups. Virizion/Genesect has Emerald Slash for Energy acceleration, but a heads on Crushing Hammer on the first turn delays Emerald Slash. By Junk Hunting for Crushing Hammer and continuously delaying Emerald Slash, the Darkrai/Garbodor player will be able to have a huge advantage in setup.

1 Absol PLF

Absol became much better with the change to Pokémon Catcher. Often you will find yourself in need of just one more attack to win the game, but you cannot attack with Darkrai EX because your opponent has 2 Prize cards remaining. Absol is an amazing non-EX attacker to force your opponent to take 7 Prize cards as well as making them think twice about filling up their Bench.

1 Tropical Beach

Tropical Beach is a good option in this deck since it runs Random Receiver and Skyla. This allows you to Skyla and use Tropical Beach on the first turn, rather than playing Skyla for a Supporter. If you don’t have Tropical Beach, I would replace it with another consistency card and drop a Skyla for a Bicycle so that Skyla is less likely to be your only Supporter on the first turn.

Gold Potion vs. Dowsing Machine

gold potion boundaries crossed bcr
Erik Nance and Zach Bivens have also advocated Gold Potion in the past.

Both ACE SPECs have their advantages in certain matchups. Against Blastoise or Emboar, Gold Potion is usually useless as they will Knock Out Darkrai EX in one turn. This makes the consistency of Dowsing Machine superior.

Against Virizion/Genesect and other Darkrai decks though, I feel Gold Potion is superior because it essentially takes away your opponent’s last turn by removing almost all of the damage they did. In addition, you can Junk Hunt the Gold Potion back and heal all the damage again!

In the Plasma matchup it’s a very close call which is better. Taking Darkrai EX out of range from Lugia EX’s Plasma Gale with Gold Potion can be game changing, but so can using an extra Enhanced Hammer or Pokémon Catcher with Dowsing Machine.

I prefer Gold Potion overall because it is game changing in certain matchups, but the downside is that it feels like a wasted ACE SPEC in others.

3 Float Stone

Float Stone was an amazing Tool for Garbodor decks when it came out because a popular strategy was to use Pokémon Catcher to bring up Garbodor in order to buy a turn. Now that Pokémon Catcher is a coin flip, 3 Float Stone are not completely necessary. They are helpful for getting a Turn 2 Night Spear slightly more often in addition to giving you the option of promoting a Pokémon with Float Stone so that you can power up a new attacker with Dark Patch after your Pokémon was Knocked Out.

Since Garbodor turns off your own Dark Cloak Ability, having one Float Stone in play can be helpful. This means that I would not drop them completely, but I would consider removing 1 or 2 Float Stone for Eviolite or a 3rd Dark Claw. Eviolite seems to have fallen out of favor, but it can occasionally mess up your opponent’s math if they are trying to 2-shot your Darkrai EX and already used a Tool Scrapper on Garbodor.

2 Pokémon Catcher
Even one heads can be game changing.

A lot of players don’t like to run this card because it requires a coin flip. My first instinct was to replace them with Escape Rope and other useful Item cards. However, in practice Pokémon Catcher was invaluable to my success at Cities with this deck.

There were several situations where I had one turn to draw my last one or 2 Prize cards and a heads on Pokémon Catcher would win me the game. If I had a strong enough start Pokémon Catcher wasn’t necessary, but a single heads could make the difference in a close game.

I would definitely recommend playing a 3rd Pokémon Catcher if you opt not to play Enhanced Hammer.

Other Options

2 Keldeo-EX

Playing two copies of Keldeo-EX is a good option if you are concerned about Gothitelle/Accelgor. Two Keldeo-EX make the matchup very favorable as you can Rush In twice and Night Spear. The downside is that you have two cards that aren’t very useful in your other matchups. It is a good option if Gothitelle’s popularity suddenly increases.


Virizion/Genesect feels like the most consistent deck in the format. It needs so little to set up and it naturally thins out the deck with Emerald Slash so that it is easier to draw crucial Items and Supporters throughout the game. Virizion-EX also provides a natural answer to decks like Gothitelle that rely on Special Conditions and Genesect EX has a natural gust effect with Red Signal to make up for the fact that Pokémon Catcher is a coin flip.

Here is a sample list:

Pokémon – 8

3 Virizion-EX
3 Genesect-EX
1 Bouffalant DRX
1 Mr. Mime PLF

Trainers – 38

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
4 Skyla
2 Colress
1 Shadow Triad


4 Hypnotoxic Laser
3 Energy Switch

3 Ultra Ball
2 Float Stone
1 Escape Rope
1 Switch
2 Tool Scrapper
2 Colress Machine

1 Max Potion
1 Super Rod

1 G Booster


2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 14

10 G
4 Plasma

Red Signal is a very strong effect.

In addition to being very consistent, the deck is very strong against Blastoise as Genesect EX is much safer on the Bench while Virizion-EX uses Emerald Slash due to the Pokémon Catcher, but Genesect EX can still use Red Signal to Knock Out Blastoise easily due to Weakness. It also has solid matchups with most of the metagame, making it a good choice for Regionals

However, the downside is that the deck is very weak to Fire Pokémon. Emboar takes advantage of this because it is able to play Reshiram to Knock Out an EX in one turn with Blue Flare. Other Fire Pokémon to be weary of are Victini-EX, Flareon, and Ho-Oh EX.

Tool Drop and Empoleon are also difficult matchups as it is sometimes difficult to trade with their non-EX attackers favorably. Tool Scrapper and Hypnotoxic Laser help play around Exp. Share against Tool Drop, but the matchup becomes more difficult if you choose to cut them for space. I’ll get into some of my card choices along with other options to improve certain matchups:

1 Bouffalant DRX

This card is very strong for the same reason Absol is very strong in Darkrai decks. It is a non-EX attacker that forces your opponent to take 7 Prize cards. Bouffalant is hard for certain EX decks to deal with thanks to its Bouffer Ability. If Bouffalant is able to survive an attack, it allows you to trade a non-Pokémon-EX for a Pokémon-EX. Additionally, 120 damage is often a magic number for finishing off 170 HP EX’s that Virizion-EX hit with Emerald Slash.

1 Mr. Mime PLF

Mr. Mime is very strong against Darkrai and other Virizion/Genesect decks. Virizion/Genesect has plenty of Bench space for Mr. Mime and it will prevent a lot of damage throughout the game, often preventing your opponent from achieving crucial knockouts. If your opponent Knocks Out Mr. Mime, it can also function as a Pokémon that forces your opponent to take 7 Prize cards, putting you ahead in the Prize trade.

1 G Booster

This card is obviously the ACE SPEC of choice for Virizion/Genesect decks. The ability to 1-shot a Pokémon-EX will often put yourself ahead in the Prize trade or possibly take out your opponent’s only attacker. However, it is important that you don’t put yourself in a poor position next turn while doing so.

Too often I will see a player Emerald Slash onto Genesect EX and then Red Signal, Retreat, and G Booster a Pokémon-EX. Your opponent can now N you to 4 and you have next to no Energy in play.

It is important to make the most out of your Virizion-EX when the 50 damage will set something up for a knockout in order to get Energy into play. This will make it easy to successfully use G Booster later in the game.

Switching Cards
A combination of 4 is recommended.

I would recommend playing four in combination of Switch, Escape Rope, and Float Stone. If you choose not to play Virbank City Gym and Hypnotoxic Laser, then Skyarrow Bridge is another option. This is because Virizion-EX needs to consistently be your Active Pokémon on the second turn. The deck can afford to play Float Stone because Virizion-EX prevents the Sleep effect from Hypnotoxic Laser.

Opening with a Genesect, a Float Stone or Skyarrow Bridge, and a Supporter means that you only need to draw Virizion off of your Supporter for the turn. If you open with a Genesect, a Switch or Escape Rope, and a Supporter, then you need a Virizion and a switching card off of your Supporter. However, Switch and Escape Rope are useful for getting around Snorlax’s Block Ability.

I run one of each because Switch is stronger when you need to attack what is Active, while Escape Rope is stronger in other situations. I think your exact combination of switching cards comes down partially to preference and you should definitely test to see which combination works best for you.

1 Max Potion

Max Potion is a great card to Skyla for when you need to deny your opponent 2 Prize cards on a Pokémon-EX for one more turn to win the game. This card works great alongside Energy Switch in order to reduce the negative effect of discarding the Energy. Healing cards always have the advantage to turn a game around when trading Prizes with your opponent.

3 Energy Switch

This card benefitted Virizion/Genesect a lot. Outside of synergizing with Max Potion, Energy Switch allows you to power up an attacker out of nowhere if you have one or two G Energy still sitting on Virizion-EX. It even gives you a chance to get a turn two Emerald Slash if you were forced to attach to a Pokémon other than Virizion on the first turn. Energy Switch gives the deck the options and versatility it needs to be successful.

2 Virbank City Gym, 4 Hypnotoxic Laser

These cards are very strong against Darkrai and Plasma decks because they allow the deck to 2-shot Pokémon-EX with Emerald Slash and Megalo Cannon. It also lets Genesect EX Knock Out a 130 HP Pokémon in one turn without using G Booster, such as Snorlax or Kyurem. However, Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym are useless in the mirror matchup and not very strong against a deck like Blastoise.

I still think these cards are worth playing, but taking them out or playing only 3 Hypnotoxic Laser and 1 Virbank City Gym would give you a small advantage against other Virizion/Genesect decks.

Other Options


Helps versus Empoleon.

I feel that Virizion/Genesect can hit its magic numbers with Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym. However, a single tech Deoxys-EX makes it easier for Genesect EX to Knock Out an Empoleon with Megalo Cannon, Deoxys-EX, Hypnotoxic Laser, and Virbank City Gym. Having this combination in addition to the option to G Booster or Red Signal a benched Pokémon allows each Genesect to have a chance at taking 2 Prize cards before it gets Knocked Out. This makes the Empoleon matchup closer.

Shaymin EX

Shaymin EX synergizes very well with Energy Switch as it can deal 180 damage out of nowhere to win a game. It is also much safer to bench now that Pokémon Catcher requires a coin flip. If you already used G Booster, Shaymin EX is a good tech to use in conjunction with a non-EX attacker to win the game a turn sooner. This is essential if your opponent has the win on the board next turn.

The only downside is starting with it against another Virizion/Genesect deck will put you behind because they can Red Signal it Active easily. Shaymin EX is a nice option to swing a game if you have the space.

Energy Search and Team Plasma Ball

These two cards provide more consistency since you can essentially Skyla for either a G Energy or a Genesect EX. The only reason I don’t run these is space constraints.

Tropical Beach

Tropical Beach is the best option to Skyla for on the first turn if you don’t have a Supporter. I chose not to run this card because I feel Virizion/Genesect needs very little the first two turns to get going and I never want to be using Tropical Beach after the first turn. It is still a very useful consistency card if you find the space since there isn’t a better Supporter to run.

Enhanced Hammer

If you expect a lot of Plasma decks, an Enhanced Hammer could be a good tech to Skyla for in order to slow them down one more turn so you can stabilize with Emerald Slash. Plasma decks will almost always have Special Energy in play, but the downside is Enhanced Hammer is useless in a lot of other matchups.


If you expect a lot of Virizion/Genesect decks, it would be beneficial to play multiple copies of Potion instead of Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym. This will mess up your opponent’s damage calculations, giving you an edge in the mirror match.


lugia pocket monsters silver
The Catcher errata actually helped.

This deck began to quickly gain popularity when it started to have success during the middle of Cities. Some players wrote Lugia EX off because it would be difficult to finish off a Pokémon-EX with Plasma Gale now that there was no guaranteed gust effect in the form of Pokémon Catcher.

However, this allowed the Plasma deck to safely power up Lugia EX and Snorlax on the Bench with Raiden Knuckle. This new Plasma deck could also play Genesect EX to make up for the loss of Pokémon Catcher with Red Signal.

This deck is a solid play for Regionals because it has roughly even matchups against most of the metagame. The biggest counters to Plasma will always be Enhanced Hammer and Silver Mirror, but these cards are not very useful against everything else. By using Tool Scrapper and basic Energy these cards can be played around to an extent.

Here is a list before I explain some of the card choices:

Pokémon – 11

3 Thundurus-EX PLF

3 Deoxys-EX
2 Lugia-EX
2 Snorlax PLS
1 Genesect-EX

Trainers – 36

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Colress
3 Skyla
2 Shadow Triad


4 Colress Machine

2 Ultra Ball
2 Team Plasma Ball
3 Switch
2 Tool Scrapper
2 Max Potion
1 Energy Search

1 Scramble Switch


3 Frozen City

Energy – 13

4 L
1 Prism
4 Plasma
4 Double Colorless

2 Snorlax PLS

Trades well with Pokémon-EX.

Snorlax was considered to be too slow when Pokémon Catcher was not a coin flip as it would often be Knocked Out before it got an opportunity to attack. However, Snorlax is now able to trade favorably against Pokémon-EX. Your opponent has to have an answer to Snorlax the following turn or they often fall too far behind if Snorlax scores consecutive knockouts.

Snorlax’s Block Ability also got significantly better. Now that your opponent is unable to play Pokémon Catcher, they will need a Switch or an Escape Rope to get to the Bench. There have been many games where Snorlax has delayed my opponent a turn by getting a Pokémon stuck Active, which gave me the time to prepare my attackers.

1 Genesect EX

Genesect EX works well with the deck because it already plays Plasma Energy and it needs something to replace Pokémon Catcher. The biggest downside to Genesect EX is that it takes away your Energy attachment for the turn and it causes you to run out of Plasma Energy. You can potentially Scramble Switch the Plasma Energy off of Genesect EX and use Shadow Triad to retrieve Plasma Energy in order to lessen this drawback.

2 Shadow Triad

Shadow Triad is a card that wasn’t often seen in Plasma decks. However, it synergizes very well with Genesect EX because it can retrieve Plasma Energy from the Discard. This allows you to pull off a game winning Red Signal. In addition, it can also retrieve a Colress mid-game if you find yourself without a Supporter.

In the Emboar and Blastoise matchups, Shadow Triad allows you to keep Frozen City in play nearly every turn. It can also be used to retrieve a Lugia EX or a Snorlax mid-game if you prized the 2nd copy of either. Shadow Triad is a very versatile Supporter in this version of the Plasma deck.

3 Frozen City

Frozen City is useful against Blastoise and Emboar. It forces your opponent to draw a new Tropical Beach every turn or their attacker will be in range of Plasma Gale. The biggest issue with Frozen City is that it is a reactive card and is useless if your opponent is able to draw into Tropical Beach.

However, if you replace your opponent’s Stadium every turn then there is a good chance they will be forced to take Frozen City damage at least once. That extra damage could be all you need to win the game with a Plasma Gale.

1 Scramble Switch

scramble switch plasma storm pls
A big part of the deck’s strategy.

Scramble Switch is a very versatile ACE SPEC that allows for a game changing play if drawn at the right time. It can allow you to Plasma Gale or Teampact out of nowhere, which often puts the Plasma deck in a dominant position. At worst, it acts as a switching card if you desperately need to get out of the Active.

I think the card’s ability to swing a game outweighs the slight consistency boost an ACE SPEC like Computer Search offers.

2 Max Potion

Max Potion synergizes well with Thundurus EX since it’s a one Energy attacker. Denying Prizes with Healing cards is huge, especially against a deck like Darkrai that can hit the Bench or a deck like Virizion/Genesect that can Red Signal up a damaged Pokémon-EX. Skyla for Max Potion can often buy yourself one more turn to win the game.

4 L Energy and 1 Prism Energy

You can change your count of L Energy and Prism Energy depending on how afraid you are of Enhanced Hammer. Prism Energy gives you the option of attacking with Deoxys-EX as a potential answer to Mewtwo EX, Keldeo-EX, or another Deoxys-EX. However, it is important to be able to draw into a L Energy for Thundurus EX quickly when facing Sableye and Enhanced Hammer. This ensures that you will always be able to Raiden Knuckle and recover the lost Energy.

Other Options

Hypnotoxic Laser

Hypnotoxic Laser is helpful as a tech when facing Sableye and Enhanced Hammer. Once your opponent plays down Virbank City Gym, you can Skyla for Hypnotoxic Laser and Knock Out Sableye in one turn with Raiden Knuckle. The 10 damage usually won’t make a difference in other matchups, but occasionally you can put your opponent to sleep and buy a turn. It’s only useful if you’re afraid of the Darkrai matchup.

Escape Rope

Escape Rope is an option instead of Switch, but often the Pokémon that is Active was damaged by Raiden Knuckle and is in range of Plasma Gale. It still might be worth having one or two copies of Escape Rope for the versatility it provides.

Pokémon Catcher

Pokémon Catcher is an option instead of Genesect or alongside Genesect. The advantage of Pokémon Catcher is that it doesn’t waste your Energy for the turn or a precious Bench space. The obvious downside is multiple Pokémon Catcher take up more space and it requires a coin flip. A heads on Pokémon Catcher is still game changing though and definitely worth considering if you can make the space.


Virizion-EX alongside more three or four copies of Prism Energy is a good tech if you are concerned at all about Gothitelle. It is also another way to get rid of Status from Hypnotoxic laser. The downside is that it is a non-Plasma Pokémon on your bench for Snorlax’s Teampact and it makes your deck more vulnerable to Enhanced Hammer.


tracey poke ball
Be armed with a couple different Poké Balls.

I hope my article helped provide some insight on picking a deck, preparing against these decks, or making some last minute adjustments. There are tons of other viable decks, but I believe that these decks are the three to look out for based on the results of City Championships.

Most of the other deck choices can succeed with the right matchups or in the right metagame, but they all struggle with at least one bad matchup to a popular deck. The tradeoff is that these decks often have some very strong matchups. Emboar is strong against Virizion but weak against Darkrai/Garbodor, whereas Gothitelle is weak against Virizion but strong against the rest of the metagame if it’s unprepared. This is why the format is still so wide open.

My advice would be to find one or two decks that you are the most comfortable with at least a few days before Regionals and practice so you can tweak them to your liking and not regret any decisions about your list in the middle of the tournament. I hope you got something out of this article and I wish everybody the best of luck in whichever Winter Regionals they decide to attend!

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