XY and the Other Guys

The New Set’s Impact on Not-So-New Decks
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Let’s take a look back first.

As all new set releases do, the release of XY has got the community started full swing with testing and theorizing about the changes that will come to the format – and we don’t even have the cards yet. It is true that this is one of the more exciting sets we have had in a while, with a new mechanic in Mega Evolutions, a brand new Fairy type, and a slew of new abilities to build decks from.

While it’s fun to start testing the new stuff out right away, I think it’s important to not forget about the decks that have already been established before this set is released. We get access to a lot of new cards that can alter the strategies of the decks that have already made an impact in the competitive scene. That’s why the aim of this article is to examine past decks going into the NXD-XY format, and what these new cards have to offer to the tried-and-true strategies.

Below is a list of the decks I will examine going into our new format:


Darkrai and Garbodor have been a cute couple ever since the very beginning of this season when it won the Klaczynski Open, and remained a threat at our Winter Regionals when it won in Virginia. Everyone knows by now why this deck is good – Ability denial with Garbodor, the reuse of powerful Items with Junk Hunt, and the eventual overrun with Darkrai.

However, many people were deterred from playing Darkrai/Garbodor in the past due to its naturally slow pace of play within the 50-minute round limit. The most important question to answer about this deck going into the new format is why does this deck play so slowly, and is it the optimal way to play it with these new cards?

Gotta Go Slow

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Junk Hunting takes time.

With Sableye being a focal point of the deck, there are many turns where you toss Laser damage on something and hunt the Laser/Catcher back. Hammers (in the lists that play them) are also recycled this way. The nature of an attack like Junk Hunt is to slowly wear down the opponent with constant disruption.

A weakness Darkrai has seemed to have so far is its inability to score a 1HKO on things. By adding Garbodor into the deck, you are able to slow down other decks to your level. Forcing the opponent to play at a pace that you set is incredible, because you are prepared for the slow game while they are not.

This strategy has worked out pretty well for a few skilled players this season, but with the onset of so many potentially game-changing cards being released, will the lack of speed finally be too much for Darkrai/Garbodor to be effective? While the answer is likely that Darkrai/Garbodor will continue to be effective, the deck acquires some cool new options to play with. The next thing to ask ourselves is, “Do these new options really make Darkrai/Garbodor a better deck, or do I just want to use shiny new cards?”

The latter is the case for many testing specimens post-new-release.

Nonetheless, let’s take a look at a couple of things Darkrai/Garbodor can use from XY:


Most of the time, this deck sits behind Sableye, recycling Items until the time is right to go in with Darkrai. You had to play this way in order to catch up to the opponent’s setup while Garbodor and Lasers slowed them down.

Yveltal-EX offers a speed boost that can overwhelm someone very quickly – especially if they are under Garbotoxin. Evil Ball hits ridiculous amounts of damage very quickly for a minimum of 2 Energy. This makes the potential turn 1 Evil Ball (if you go second) a very real possibility since the deck plays Float Stones and Escape Rope.

Playing Yveltal-EX changes the dynamic of this deck considerably. Rather than making gradual progress with a heavy emphasis on Sableye, more focus can be placed on speed and attacking with Yveltal-EX quickly along with the Garbodor lock. It is much too early to tell what the best approach is, but this is an option that the deck didn’t have before now.

Yveltal XY

Is the speed worth the space?

Going with the more offensive approach to this deck comes Yveltal, which offers Energy acceleration alongside Dark Patch for a quick setup. This card has a lot of potential – I’m not sure if this is the right deck for it, but being able to accelerate even more Energy onto your field faster allows for the deck to keep pace with a lot of decks that blow up quickly.

Opting to play this card would mean playing less Sableye. Is Energy acceleration and quick damage more beneficial than reusing your Items in this deck?

Red Card

When Red Card was first revealed, it had everyone going insane. An Item that forces the opponent to play with a lower hand can hurt a lot. If used on the first turn, your opponent will have to play their first turn out with a 5 card hand. Admittedly, this is not as bad as it initially sounded, but there is still a lot of room for abuse of this card.

Having the ability to shuffle your opponent’s Junk Hunted Items back into their deck and on the same turn using a Juniper is pretty nice. The most annoying aspect of this, though, is that Sableye can get it back as many times as he wants. This further adds to the disruption mechanic of Garbodor, but takes away from the aggressive nature of including the Y-birds.

Professor’s Letter

There isn’t too much to be said about Professor’s Letter except that it replaces Energy Search. Energy Search was a pretty standard inclusion in Darkrai/Garbodor before, so an even better version of it should have no trouble making the cut. Additionally, Prof’s Letter for two D Energy combined with an Ultra Ball is really nice.

Roller Skates

Roller Skates seems odd to include here, I agree. However, with the potential for this deck to move in a more aggressive direction, an Item like Roller Skates that nets 3 extra cards half of the time doesn’t seem half bad. On top of that, Sableye can get it back in a pinch.

Michael Pramawat’s winning Darkrai/Garbodor list from Virginia Regionals played a liberal amount of Bicycle, so maybe Roller Skates could find a home in some lists that aim to up their pace.

Moving Forward

This deck will still be a threat, and may be scarier than ever. Most of the top decks right now and in the foreseeable future rely on abilities, so Garbodor is something that should always be on the competitive player’s mind. It’s exciting to see how this deck will evolve in the coming months!


My personal favorite so far this season (as many people from the Georgia Marathon could attest). I love the consistency provided from Virizion’s attack and the 1HKO ability that G Booster offers. So many things in this deck work in perfect harmony to score an easy 200 damage on your opponent’s threats.

Virizion/Genesect doesn’t gain a lot of new toys from XY. Quality over quantity, though, and there are a couple of cards that may completely change the way this deck works. While the general strategy stays the same, the deck becomes even more efficient.

Muscle Band

The math is so perfect.

Virizion is not the only card that appreciates Muscle Band (actually, almost any deck loves Muscle Band), but it is one of the ones that gets the most out of it. By boosting Emerald Slash up from 50 damage to 70 changes the math in so many ways.

Virizion can now Slash for a 1HKO on Sableye and Trubbish, as well as setting 170 HP EXs up for a perfect 100-damage Megalo Cannon on the following turn. The amount of pressure put on the opponent with that extra 20 damage is immense. Taking an EX knockout while retaining all your Energy is also incredibly strong.

A Muscle Banded Bouffalant along with Virbank and Laser 1HKOs other 170 HP EXs as well. Mewtwo EX with a Band attached can revenge X Ball another Mewtwo with only two Energy attached. The possibilities really open up when you add Muscle Band into the mix.

Roller Skates

Roller Skates is an option for Virizion/Genesect as well, because high Skyla counts let you search out a specific Item (G Booster) while also pulling out a decent draw for the turn from an Item. I usually shy away from coin flips and I honestly think Bicycle is the better card here, but I could be wrong.


Cassius is a really cool fit for this deck. While situational, it acts as a Max Potion, Switch, and Super Rod all in one. Rather than using Max Potion and discarding energy from something, it can be nice to Cassius a damaged Genesect back into the deck and Emerald Slash those energy onto another healthy Genesect on the Bench. Virizion is a deck that can afford this turn of not using a draw Supporter because it accelerates its setup while also doing the damage from Emerald Slash (which will be 70 from Muscle Band if we’re really cookin’).

Venusaur-EX and its Mega Evolution


It may be tempting to use these two in a deck with Grass type-acceleration, but there is not really much reason to include them rather than M Venusaur’s 230 HP. A Muscle Banded Mega Venusaur can 1HKO a 170 HP EX if Virbank is in play, but so can Genesect with a G Booster. Aside from being able to withstand a Black Ballista or G Boost itself, Venusaur seems to clunk up this deck and take away from the strength it already has in its consistency.

Moving Forward

Virizion/Genesect loses no power moving into the XY format. It retains its weakness to Emboar, but otherwise is an extremely consistent and powerful deck. Muscle Band gives Virizion an awesome boost and produces some favorable numbers for the other attackers in the deck to clean things up.


Plasma absolutely becomes the scariest deck going into the next format – all because of Muscle Band on Lugia. Filling the Bench with Deoxys-EX and attaching a Muscle Band to Lugia gives Plasma Gale horrifying potential that was not possible before now. It is easier than ever to Plasma Gale two EXs for the game because Thundurus’ Raiden Knuckle damage is not even needed. Genesect is still around to Red Signal threats because you can possibly (and realistically) win a game by only using two of your Plasma Energy. Colress Machine, Double Colorless Energy, Overflow, and Muscle Band form a deadly combination.

While Muscle Band is the #1 addition to Plasma from this set, there are a couple of other cool perks it gains access to:

Rainbow Energy

Rainbow Energy can be a nice addition to an already versatile deck. Likely replacing Blend Energy in the lists that use them, Rainbow Energy adds a lot of flexibility to Plasma by making it easier to attack with Deoxys and Genesect. It may now be more effective to play around with less-used Plasma attackers like Heatran as well, and overall allows the list to accommodate more metagame changes by switching in certain Pokémon with less impact on the rest of the deck.


Could be a Fairy tech.

Just food for thought here. Skarmory easily fits into the Energy scheme that Plasma would already use, discards tools like Silver Mirror and Float Stone, and hits Fairies for Weakness. If Frozen City is in play and a Fairy-type has 20 damage (or even 10 from a Rainbow Energy) on it, Skarmory scores a nice one-hit for 3 Energy. It probably won’t see much play, but the niche is there for him if the right opportunity presents itself.

Aside from the new cards that Plasma can use, there are specific metagame changes to consider when looking at how powerful Plasma becomes.

An Increase in Enhanced Hammer Usage

Plasma will rely heavily on Double Colorless and Plasma Energy to Plasma Gale its way to victory. The simplest hard counter for this is to include Enhanced Hammers in your list. Even one well-timed hammer on a turn where another Lugia is Knocked Out can spell doom for the Plasma player. However, with the cool new Items and Tools we get in this set, it may be hard to fit this into a list.

An Increase in Silver Mirror and Tool Scrapper

Due to Items like Muscle Band becoming popular and how much it boosts Lugia’s effectiveness, expect Tool Scrapper to be in many decks as at least a 2-of. Silver Mirror may also see more play, but its effectiveness is debatable when you consider that most people will bump their Scrapper count to accommodate for new Tools anyway.

Moving Forward

As of right now, Plasma scares me the most. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way, either – Plasma only got better with this set and I would not be surprised to see it take home lots of States wins.

Blastoise and Emboar

The “Rain Dance” decks have had a lot of success as of late, taking multiple Top 8 finishes at almost every Winter Regional. XY presents these decks with even more power in the form of better draw power and Energy acceleration.

Professor’s Letter

Energy Search x2, as has been previously stated, is hard not to include in these lists now. An Item that searches for 2 Energy at once is incredible for decks that make it rain.

Delphox XY

You still need Beach though.

In a format without Catcher in every deck, I have often found that after you set up your first Blastoise or Emboar, many decks can’t touch it. This leaves extra Rare Candy sitting in the deck with no purpose except for discard fodder.

Delphox is the perfect remedy for these extra Candies. Its Ability, Magical Fire, lets you draw cards until you have 6 in your hand. It is no surprise why this ability is so good: Emboar and Blastoise have the ability to drop Energy out of the hand many times during your turn, so having Delphox there to let you draw 4 more cards from a 2 card hand is very strong.

The problem with it is that it is a Stage 2, and is much harder to get out than Electrode. Are the extra two cards you net from Magical Fire better than getting a consistent Electrode to Magnetic Draw up to 4?

As a side note, I have heard many people say that Delphox is a replacement for Tropical Beach. Please don’t fall into this type of thinking. It should be apparent that the two cards serve grossly contrasting purposes, and one is not a replacement for the other.

Voltorb XY

The alternative to the Stage 2 Pokémon draw in Delphox is Electrode, and Electrode evolves from this dude. With a lower HP than the commonly used Plasma Freeze version, it is almost as if it is daring something to take it out, most notably Virizion’s Emerald Slash.

But while the ability looks nice, and 50 damage coming back into your turn can be a useful boost, the decks that play Electrode are already the ones that go for 1HKOs all game anyway. It is likely that the 50 damage would get lost in a Black Ballista later on. With that being said, it is probably better to just go with the 60 HP Voltorb over this one (at least in this type of deck).

Moving Forward

Blastoise and Emboar are definitely still at the top of the list. Emboar gains more from this set than Blastoise, though, with Rayquaza having no damage cap (to take out the occasional Mega-EX), and fire being a great offensive type right now. Emboar also attacks with Delphox more effectively for those who choose to use it in their lists. I expect the popularity of these decks to keep Garbodor a threat going into States.


Gothitelle reborn.

Or should I say, Trevenant/Accelgor? Trevenant does everything Gothitelle did, but faster. This makes Item/Paralysis lock even scarier than it was in Gothitelle’s hay day by streaming Item lockers even more quickly and consistently than before. The ability to stream Trevenants also alleviates its Weakness to Dark, which many theorized would make the deck hard to play. While Yveltal and Darkrai will be popular players in the upcoming tournaments, it is important to remember that a deck that locks the opponent up in this fashion can almost always mount a comeback if it gets set up.

So without such a reliance on Rare Candy for the Item lock to get set up, the amount of free space granted to this deck is a godsend. 4 Rare Candy and 1-2 Gothoritas now become techs or consistency cards and gives a once tight list some much needed breathing room. Some of these spaces can be devoted to overcoming the Virizion/Genesect matchup, which is a near auto-loss for the Trevenant player because the lock never gets set. Genesect can also Red Signal around the Trevenant and get access to its Items again.

Also, Red Card while placing the opponent under Item lock can be incredible, especially against a deck that relies heavily on Items. Red Card resets a Junk Hunt and limits your opponent’s options even more. For other Trevenant variants, Phantump can use Astonish after a Red Card to reduce the opponent’s hand size to 3 going into their turn.

Moving Forward

Trevenant is too good to ignore. Even with things like Virizion and Slurpuff around, Trevenant can stop their setup before they can do anything to prevent the lock. This is one of the decks that wins when it sets up. We saw how powerful Gothitelle was at last year’s Nationals, and I expect the Trevenant version to be even more potent.


XY adds a ton of changes to our game. As this article explained, the impact some of these cards will have on the already popular decks is astounding – and that didn’t even include the brand new decks to come from this set. One thing is for sure – the next couple of months is going to be very interesting. Let’s hope that the game continues in this direction!

Stay based and positive,

Tyler “THE Moonbeam” Morris

Reader Interactions

32 replies

  1. Grant Manley

    I like the article because I agree with it mostly. I know you said Skarmory was just food for thought in Plasma but it will never work because it takes 3 manuel attachments and cannot be Raiden Knuckled or Colress Machined to. Also Lugia can be accelerated quicker and hits for more, even against Faries it can usually one-shot them. Trevenant/Accelgor needs Dusknoir, and autolosses Virizion no matter what you do for the matchup. Tevenant is extremely potent but needs to be in a Virizion-less meta or just get lucky in a meta with not a ton of Virizion. States meta shouldn’t be too hard to predict (especially for me still in seniors) though. As for Plasma, yes, it can be devastating. It is a strong, speedy, scary deck that can win really fast. BUT, being just a buffed Yeti, will have a ton of hate going against it. Silver Mirrors, Hammers, Safeguard, and Drifblims all demolish it fairly easily. Also DarkGarb is probably BDIF I would have to say because Garb still just shuts off everything. Ghetsis is great in it too. Yveltal EX is an amazing attacker and 2/2 Hammers pretty much wins against Plasma and VirGen. The nature of these past articles and comments make me feel like I’m the only one who’s tested this format at all :P

    Sorry for the wall of text there.

    TL;DR: Plasma and Trevenant are good but meta dependant. DarkGarb is BDIF. +1 nice article I agreed with most of it.

    • John  → Grant

      I see the logic behind most of what you are saying other than two crushing hammers winning you the VG matchup with DarkGarb… if you miss one of those hammers (or just can’t find them) VG is able to set up and usually has a favorable matchup from there as they are able to discard their energy with g-booster and prevent you from return evil balling for ko.

      • Matthew King  → John

        VirGen is still a really bad match-up for Darkrai to be honest, Crushing Hammers are helpful but you haven’t got time to keep hammering away and as soon as you get Tails you start falling behind. I think DarkGarb will be very good this format, but its weakness to VirGen and its problems with time will probably stop it from becoming a BDIF so I expect that we will see a fairly balanced format again just like we saw in NXD-LTR.

    • Ramon Zamora  → Grant

      If you play Darkrai/Garbodor right, it’s BDIF. You have to play it super fast and already know your next move before its you turn. If you can limit your plays to less than 10 seconds, your good.

      • Grant Manley  → Ramon

        ^pretty much this. Of course, tournament experience is different that testing, so naturally you’ll have to think about some plays a bit longer, especially with a deck so full of options (DarkGarb). I generally avoid playing meta because it’s too mainstream and predictable, and because I usually find/think I can find a deck that beats most/all of the meta and is not as predictable. BUT I would strongly consider playing DarkGarb this coming format.

  2. Brandon Jones

    A 1-1 M Venusaur could be pretty cool in VirGen, haven’t thought of that. It’ll be especially cool since I have FA Venusaur EX :D

  3. John

    Nice article! I def like the idea of putting muscle band in VG and will have to test that now. Getting 70 on stuff with slash is just tasty.

  4. Chris

    Amazing article, just what I was looking for! Although I think you missed something. Lugia EX becomes a lot better in Virizion/Genesect with the release of Muscle Band. This allows Lugia to take out big non-EX basics like Yveltal, Snorlax, and even Reshiram. While a little slow, can definitley turn the tides of games for Virizion/Genesect.

  5. Abe Tyler

    I would say that in Trevenant, Dusknoir and Gardevoir could be really good. It would force you to play Candy, but I feel that those are necessary and makes the VirGen matchup winnable.

    • Tyler Morris  → Abe

      Just to be clear, by listing Trevenant/Accelgor, I was implying that Dusknoir would also be included. Although I didn’t explicitly listed, I think it is understood that Dusknoir is needed for that deck, but in case anyone reading the article did not know, you definitely do need it :) Gardevoir would be interesting, but Trevenant can already attack with a DCE and 1 energy, so I think I would devote the space to something else. I think you also just take the loss to Virizion and win your other matchups.

      • Grant Manley  → Tyler

        Yeah it’s got to just take the loss to VirGen. In decks just teching Virizion and Slurpuff it’s still a good matchup though. Against Slurpuff it takes 2 unboosted D&Cs + Dusknoir to KO, and against tech Virizions it takes a Muscle Banded DC and two normal DCs + Dusknoir to KO.

      • Abe Tyler  → Tyler

        Well I knew that you needed it… I was just saying that it makes Treventant/Gardevoir better.

  6. Wayne Clark

    If you want to see an interesting use for Mega- Venusaur Ex, check out my thread in the deck help/development forums. Its the Mega-Venusaur Garbodor lock deck.

  7. Tim Long

    I’m surprised not to see Darkrai Hydreigon listed among the big movers and shakers with the new set. Yveltal is about to be this deck’s best friend. Tanking, combined with OHKO power with evil ball, cannot be overlooked. Shadow circle also will aid the “tanking” side of the deck, giving yveltal strength against raichu and thundurus and Darkrai strength against dugtrio, Terrakion, and Stunfisk (yes stunfisk).
    Also rainbow energy opens this deck up to all sorts of wild pokemon additions, giving this deck some of the best tech versatility in the format. Darkrai Hydreigon is not a deck to be overlooked. And just for kicks, imagine tanking a Mega-Venusaur in this deck, the Jolly Green Giant is just begging to be here.

  8. Joe Wenneman

    Good article, but the section about rainbow energy under plasma seemed incredibly silly. You acted like Prism energy never existed and still isn’t a better choice.

    • Tyler Morris  → Joe

      Having 1-2 extra energy that can act as anything alongside Prism is very beneficial. I know the reason that no one I knew played Heatran or anything like that in Plasma was because the Prisms were too often used for other things. It was still possible to fit off-typed things in, but there were more situations where they were useless because the Prisms were already somewhere else. By replacing blends, the deck only becomes more versatile and options open back up – attacking with Genesect or some other Plasma Pokemon that requires 2 of a type that isn’t WFLM isn’t as much of a problem. Prism is still obviously a better choice, but now the limit for them is in a way, more than 4.

      • Joe Wenneman  → Tyler

        I suppose I’ll buy the “more than 4 all types of energy” argument, but there’s no possible way you’re going to convince me that rainbow energy was the key needed to unlock Heatran’s viability.
        Heatran can’t OHKO a fire weak EX… for 4 ENERGY.

        • Tyler Morris  → Joe

          Heatran OHKO’s a fire weak EX for 3 energy and 3 Deoxys on the bench.

          As far as listing Rainbow, it was mostly just a way to bring up further options that the deck gains from XY. :)

        • Joe Wenneman  → Tyler

          Fair enough. Valid point. It’s just hard to justify a 3 or 4 energy commitment to a base 50 or 80 attack in Plasma. Plus, with that clunky 3 retreat cost, he gets really awkward if you can’t find a switch. Snorlax at least has his ability to fall back on if he gets stuck, as you can just red signal in something and trap it for awhile.
          I really want all of those Heatrans that have gotten cozy in my binder to be useful at some point as well, but I really don’t see it. I’d be more inclined to play Moltres before I’d go Heatran if you want a fire in Plasma.

  9. DrMime

    I agree that Muscle Band makes Lugia much more powerful. Does anyone else feel, though, that it has a much harder time hitting for 180 than 170? In testing, I can usually get 3 Deoxys on the bench, but 4 is tough (and maybe I don’t want that anyway). Agree/disagree? What are you doing about it? How ’bout that Cofagrigus trick?

    • Tyler Morris  → DrMime

      I think Frozen City still helps a lot for those situations. That and the fact that there are way more dudes with 170hp than 180hp. If there’s a Darkrai or something that needs knocking out that avoided Frozen City, I usually just try to Raiden Knuckle it and get a second attacker ready. Kyurem can also really help out early on, if you’re able to spread the snipes out for later.

      • Grant Manley  → Tyler

        Frozen City is waaay to easy to play around. Counter stadiums, Energy Switch (or abilities like that), and smart playing in general makes it pretty useless. I personally would definitely run Cofagrigus in Lugia/Plasma variants.

  10. James Lancaster

    Don’t forget about the impact of this:

    Evolutionary Soda – Trainer

    Choose 1 of your Pokemon that wasn’t put into play this turn. Search your deck for a Pokemon that evolves from that Pokemon and put it on that Pokemon. Shuffle your deck afterwards. You can’t use this card on your first turn.

  11. Joshua Pikka

    Very good article, but you missed what I think is the MVP of this set: Shadow Circle. I think Shadow Circle will be just what straight Darkrai decks need to take down any pesky rogue deck that has previously beat them. I have seen lots of decks play stuff like Terrakion, and that pretty much ended the game, but not no more.

    I see a lot of decks getting better, Darkrai, trainer lock, Plasma (although its losing its plasma identity and will soon be just cards that are EXs and not necessarily Plasma), and I could see Mega Blastoise being an option in Blastoise decks.
    The format does get a little more diverse too, which is good.

    I’m not so high on Red Card as you. Hand size is down in the game as is, giving your opponent a fresh hand of 4 cards isn’t a terrible thing. Its only 1 less than what they get from Shauna. I think you would be much better off focusing on all the cards that help you, rather than giving your opponent a fresh 4 cards.

    • Piplup_isPimp  → Joshua

      I think I’ll go out on a limb here and say that Yveltal EX is a better card overall than Shadow Circle.

    • Grant Manley  → Joshua

      I used to think the same way as you about Shadow Circle before testing Dark in this format, but I can say from experience that you’d rather have LaserBank and not wasting the space on 1-2 Shadow Circle.

  12. Ramon Zamora

    No Cassius? Should of been included to the Trevelant part of the article. When you “deck and cover” you opponent, a single Cassius tech could completely change the game around.

  13. D3mon

    Yveltal Ex works insanely well into the Darkrai speed deck as the back up plan. The downsides are that once you start dead drawing, there goes the game and you must always have at least one darkrai Ex on your bench to keep Yveltal ex safe. Other than that, chuck in a dusknoir to set up the damage for potential 1 turn 3 ko’s, especially with hypnotoxic laser and virbank.

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