Hey SixPrizes it’s me Matthew King here with an article on a relatively new deck based around Dragonite PLF. While most people have probably considered using Dragonite at some point in the past the card has never really seen much major success due to a lack of consistency and a clear deck build.
Since Dylan Bryan’s recent success with the deck, making Top 4 at Virginia Regionals, the deck has seen a recent gain in popularity and I would like to shed some light on the deck and different ways of playing it for any of those who aren’t in the know.
Rather than just give out a single list I would like to discuss different cards which were not necessarily in Dylan’s list or others because ultimately Dragonite is intended to be a counter deck to most of the metagame so there has to be some variation between lists dependant on the decks you are most likely to face.
To start with I would quickly likely to discuss what Dragonite actually does and why the whole deck is centred around this one card.
As you will probably have guessed Dragonite is used almost exclusively for its first attack which does a reasonable 60 damage for three Colourless Energies with the crucial after-effect of preventing the opponent from playing any Item cards on the following turn.
You are probably aware that there are several other cards in the format which provide an Item lock of some kind. Dragonite’s distinct advantage comes partly in its HP as it has significantly higher HP than Zebstrika NXD and also higher than its fellow Stage 2 Item locker Gothitelle LTR.
It also is able to use purely Colourless Energy which is useful in conjunction with DCE and in combination with potential partners such as Virizion-EX and Victini-EX without being limited to using more Special Energies or Lightning/Psychic basic Energies.
While Gothitelle LTR does have the advantage of not needing to attack in order to prevent Item usage, the major problem I have with using it is the Weakness to Mewtwo-EX, as X Ball really can shut the deck down by removing all the Energy off the board in just a couple of turns. Also not being Ability and Active-position reliant means that a Genesect-EX Red Signal cannot break the Item lock.
Although Dragonite can still be taken out in a single attack it is often much more challenging and requires a much greater investment than just a DCE on a Mewtwo-EX, and with cards like Garbodor DRX to block off Energy acceleration (an option not available to Gothitelle) and Reuniclus NXD against some other decks it can be very difficult to take down a Dragonite based deck.
Pokémon – 18
1 Duosion LTR
Trainers – 33
1 Super Rod
1 Champions Festival
Energy – 9
The list I have produced is just a sample 60 card list for the deck that I have been testing with relative success. Obviously the list will vary dependant on metagame and personal preferences, so ultimately the perfect list will come down to you, but I hope this will be a useful start.
To help you out I’m going to break down some of the interesting card choices in the decklist and also discuss some other options that are available to the deck.
Reuniclus is a pretty crucial part of the deck in my opinion as it basically provides Dragonite the protection it needs against being Knocked Out quickly by moving away damage counters from the Active Pokémon. By doing this it allows the deck more time to set up multiple Dragonite and ensure that the Item lock can last the whole game.
It is important to note that this card isn’t used for every matchup. For games versus Energy accelerating decks such as Blastoise and Emboar, Garbodor DRX is the superior choice as it shuts down their Abilities which slows them down greatly.
I feel that Reuniclus is most useful against decks that have no way of Knocking Out Dragonite in a single attack as this effectively enables Dragonite to set up a complete lock where the opponent cannot Knock anything Out. This is most notably seen in the Darkrai-EX matchup where it can never hit for enough damage in a single attack.
2-2 Garbodor DRX
As alluded to in the previous section Garbodor is a crucial clutch card in several key matchups for the deck.
Its predominant use is to block off Energy accelerating Abilities such as Blastoise BCR slowing the deck down and preventing them from being able to consistently Knock Out multiple Dragonite in a row.
It also useful however against other decks such as “The Yeti” which relies on Genesect-EX’s Ability Red Signal to bring up benched cards that don’t have Silver Mirror on and attempt to take some big knockouts or stall for a turn in the hope of a missed Deafen. With Garbodor in play both Virizion/Genesect and Plasma decks are badly harmed.
Virizion-EX is pretty much used as an out for the Gothitelle/Accelgor matchup. If the opponent is able to attack with Accelgor DEX for just one turn then it results in the whole lock to be broken as Dragonite needs to use Deafen every turn to keep the Item lock.
These missed turns can be just enough for the opposing deck to set up the lock and close out the game as they can lock your Item cards with their Gothitelle as well.
However with a Virizion-EX to prevent Special Conditions you don’t need to worry about not being able to Deafen every turn and the matchup should be heavily in this deck’s favor.
This card, for very good reason, is a staple in many of the top tier decks right now. With Darkrai-EX’s 30 Bench snipe every turn damage can mount up on the board pretty quickly and often spiral out of control as the board becomes saturated with damage.
However with Mr. Mime you can block off that Bench damage and greatly restrict their damage output, slowing them down and making it far more challenging for them to pull off a win.
It also provides an auto-win to any Kyurem PLF based deck that isn’t using Genesect-EX or a decent attacking non-Plasma Pokémon as it prevents Kyurem’s Bench snipe. This means that an active Dragonite with an attached Silver Mirror is all you need to achieve a perfect lock.
From my information this card wasn’t used in Dylan Bryan’s list and I ended up choosing not to use it in mine either; however I have seen various people trying out this card within this deck and it is by no means a bad choice.
The card has two predominant uses in the deck. Firstly it can be used as Energy acceleration for Dragonite as for a single R Energy it can search the deck for two basic Energies and attach them to Benched Pokémon, this is a quick way to power up multiple Dratini and maximize the chances of a turn 2 Dragonite.
Another major use of this card is in conjunction with Victory Piece as an attacker against the popular Virizion-EX/Genesect-EX archetype. This enables the deck to nab a few quick Prizes on their attackers by being able to 1HKO them due to Weakness without needing to use any Energies at all due to the ACE SPEC.
The biggest problems I see with the card are that the Energies can run out very quickly so the acceleration isn’t that useful. It also requires a relatively big investment of space in the form of multiple Victini-EX, a Victory Piece ACE SPEC and R Energies. This means that the deck loses Virizion-EX which is in my opinion a useful asset to the deck as well as some other techs.
This was a card which I had never really considered playing in the deck before Dylan Bryan used it.
Its only use is for its Ability which heals 10 damage off in between turns. It might not seem like much but in conjunction with Reuniclus and Champions Festival it can heal off a significant amount of damage every turn helping to keep those Dragonite alive.
I certainly think it’s a viable option for the deck, but it hasn’t seemed vital in my testing with the deck so in the end it didn’t make the cut. If you try it out and you find the Ability really useful then by all means play it though.
This is another interesting card which made my original list but eventually was cut due to space constraints. This card really combines well with the useful Ability of Virizion-EX as you can never actually put your own Dragonite to sleep with Munna’s Ability but you can still majorly disrupt your opponent by preventing them from attacking every turn.
Munna BCR only has a 25 % chance of keeping the opponent’s Active Asleep coming into their turn which doesn’t seem like much. On the flip side it is just a very minor addition to the deck taking up just a single space but can have game changing effects as every missed attack is a major blow to the opponent.
Most of the Trainer line is pretty standard so I would just like to discuss a couple of the more interesting cards and their unique function in the deck.
1 Champions Festival
When people first saw this card it seemed almost laughable and few people saw a definitive use for the card at first. Aside from a few fringe decks Dragonite is the first card that has really been able to use this card to its full potential on a competitive scale.
Being able to heal 10 damage off of every card when you have a full Bench is very useful for any deck including Reuniclus as you can spread out your damage evenly to ensure maximum healing.
The card is so useful here that I have even considered adding a second Champions Festival due to its great partnership with Reuniclus but due to the tight deck space and the potential recovery with Dowsing Machine I decided not to add a second copy. Should you find it important I would by no means recommend against another copy though.
This Tool card is pretty much a staple in the deck as it basically enables an almost auto-win against any Plasma deck because it simply states that Plasma Pokémon cannot damage the card with this Tool attached.
With Item lock from Dragonite PLF the opponent can’t even play a Tool Scrapper to remove the Silver Mirror so the Tool just simply sticks around the whole game. While it doesn’t block off every attacker in the deck it is also fairly useful against Genesect-EX as it forces the opponent to attack with alternate and often less optimal attackers.
Plasma Variants: Heavily Favorable
Silver Mirror really is the key to making this one of the most favorable matchups this deck has. Being able to shut off all of the main attackers from doing any damage and using Garbodor to prevent Genesect-EX from bringing up any Benched Pokémon is pretty much the key to the matchup.
Assuming you can set up and follow the above steps the matchup should be pretty safe unless they are running a counter attacker like Mewtwo-EX. Even so one Mewtwo-EX while useful shouldn’t be enough to swing the whole match as long as you can set up multiple Dragonite.
Darkrai-EX/Garbodor DRX: Slightly Favorable
Unlike Plasma, Darkrai-EX can do a heavy amount of damage to a Dragonite, but if you can get a Dragonite up and running quickly you can slow them down and get a Mr. Mime and Reuniclus in play to limit and manipulate their damage output.
As long as you get a good setup quickly you should be able to effectively lock them out of the game, but as with most of the matchups the major problem is getting that setup consistently as sometimes the whole strategy can start falling apart.
Garbodor is crucial in this matchup if they can get a Blastoise out on the field before the Item lock hits, or if they are using Wartortle. Without their Energy acceleration they struggle to take knockouts on your Dragonite easily as they have to pay a heavy discard with Black Kyurem-EX or get five Energies on a Keldeo-EX.
The biggest problem is probably Black Kyurem BCR as it isn’t an EX and can 1HKO Dragonite, so if they are able to quickly accelerate some of their Energies before you can set up a lock with Garbodor and Dragonite they can really make it difficult to set up all the different parts of the strategy.
This matchup is slightly similar to Blastoise based decks, but a little worse because Rayquaza DRV is actually a much better attacker than Black Kyurem BCR as it requires less Energy and doesn’t need a discard. It isn’t an auto-loss by any means as Dragonite can 1HKO Rayquaza in return, but the matchup is still pretty tough.
Virizion/Genesect: Even to Unfavourable
This matchup is probably the most interesting of them all as it can really go either way. If you can get a fast start with Garbodor, to block off Red Signal, and Dragonite you can block off Genesect-EX with Silver Mirror and force them to use less optimal attackers.
The matchup is a lot more difficult if the opponent uses Mewtwo-EX as they can load a lot of Energies on and Knock Out Dragonite in one hit.
Thank you very much for reading this article and I hope if you didn’t know much about Dragonite PLF you now have a reasonable idea of how the deck works and have a basis upon which to start testing should you decide to try out the deck.
It will be very interesting to see how the new set that is coming out will impact on the deck and whether it will see further play in the future. I’m sure that players will keep trying to persevere with the concept and others and I look forward to seeing their creativity.
If you have any comments about the article or ideas about ways of adapting the deck I would be very happy to answer your questions.