A Trashy Romance

Thoughts on DarkGarb in the NXD-XY Format
Oh, the nostalgia.

With another round of Regionals starting in the UK and States in progress in the US, this is a pretty crucial time for most people to start gathering the vital Championship Points needed to secure an invite to the World Championship in August.

While I won’t personally be going for an invite, I certainly still want to be pushing myself to play successfully and make the deck choice that will give me the most success against an adapting and evolving metagame.

It’s fair to say that I have always been a fan of Sableye DEX and the various concoctions that have worked around it. I have always felt that the ability to bring back Items and effectively never run out of any of the resources you need is always a great tactic to have at your disposal.

Every player who has attended a major tournament over this season and last will have met some form of Darkness-type deck most likely running multiple Sableye DEX, and I expect that the XY format will be no different.

In fact, as many articles have already suggested, XY actually offers the Darkness-type deck an even wider array of attackers and options at its disposal, from Yveltal-EX and Yveltal XY to Red Card and even Muscle Band. (I will expand on the utility of Muscle Band in this deck over Dark Claw in further depth later on.)

With so many options available you might well be wondering what cards best make up a 60 card deck, whether you should play straight Yveltal-EX/attackers or go with Garbodor for wider coverage, or even try out some funky new tricks like Malamar XY and Red Card.

For the sake of this article I’m going to be talking about variants running Garbodor LTR, as I have the most tournament and testing experience with those particular decks. I want to share some of the various different options the deck has at its disposal now, their utility in the current format, and the list that I eventually chose to play at a League Challenge last weekend.



Pokémon – 11

2 Trubbish LTR

2 Garbodor LTR

2 Sableye DEX

5 Attackers

Trainers – 33

4 Professor Juniper

4 N
5 Alternate Draw


4 Dark Patch

3 Ultra Ball

3 Hypnotoxic Laser

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Switch/Escape Rope

1 Dowsing Machine


5 Tool Cards


2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 9

9 D

Open Spots – 7

This list represents what I consider to be the bare minimum requirements when building the deck, with a few exceptions. I know some people prefer another Energy over Professor’s Letter, and some people might not want to play Sableye in a very aggressive version. However from my testing this list feels like a reasonable basis to start from.

You can see already this deck can be taken in a multitude of different directions dependent on your metagame, time constraints, and personal preference to an extent.

Previously the attacker lineup was pretty straightforward, however with new options from XY there is much more open choice available, and the same applies to both the Tools and the draw options for the deck.

Although there are preconceptions as to the right numbers of those cards, in order to innovate and improve as players it is important that these “rules” are continually challenged, while of course giving some acknowledgement to the metagame and lists from previous formats of other similar decks.



The Consistency Approach

The strongest decks are often the simplest and most consistent, and this deck can really be streamlined, despite the Garbodor focus, to be very fast and consistently set up well.

With an extra Energy or two and maxed out counts of Dark Patch, Ultra Ball, and Hypnotoxic Laser as well as thicker counts of Muscle Band and attackers, the deck can be made as fast and consistent as possible, avoiding some of the little tricks that can be played in order to give the deck a better chance against a more well-rounded metagame.

In order to make the deck fast and efficient the deck should have some form of Item-based draw that can be used multiple times per turn such as Bicycle. Roller Skates is also powerful, although with a necessary coin flip in order to be able to draw cards it is very much a high risk, high reward option.

Consistency can also take form in terms of recovery options such as Super Rod in order to ensure that in combination with Junt Hunt the deck will never run out of the necessary resources such as Pokémon and Energies that are needed to win a long, drawn-out game.


  • Generally has a faster and more consistent setup, and has a better performance against a wide open metagame with many different decks which would be difficult to specifically tech against.


  • The deck isn’t as effective against certain matchups like Plasma if it doesn’t have any specific techs. As such, if you expect to face mainly one or two specific decks then this approach is less useful.

Metagame Counters

e.g. Silver Mirror, Keldeo-EX, Victini-EX

One of the easiest decks to tech against is Plasma as there are several effectively ‘anti-Plasma’ cards which can be easily added into the deck such as Silver Mirror and Sawk PLB.

There are also more intriguing metagame counters out there that could be considered for the deck. If there is a lot of Hypnotoxic Laser being played or Trevenant/Accelgor you could opt to play Keldeo-EX with its ‘Rush In’ Ability to get rid of Special Conditions before using Darkrai’s ‘Dark Cloak’ to get out of the Active Spot.

There are also many options that you might not have even considered before such as Victini-EX and Victory Piece in a very heavy Virizion/Genesect metagame for example. If you begin to see a pattern of a few popular decks appearing time and time again then it is often a good idea to think outside the box and look for a direct counter.


  • Countering certain expected decks can be really useful if you can see a clear pattern of one or two decks seeing consistent success. For example, if I see Plasma being particularly popular I could play a couple of Silver Mirror and Sawk PLB to give myself a really solid matchup.


  • Playing specific techs to try and beat certain matchups is all well and good, but if you end up not playing many of those decks then you will have a significantly lower chance of doing well than if you had chosen the consistency approach.

Energy Denial

e.g. Crushing Hammer, Enhanced Hammer

It will be of no surprise to you that Junk Hunt and Crushing Hammer/Enhanced Hammer are a well-known combination at the heart of many formerly successful decks. The Ability to deny the opponent Energy can provide major disruption and stop them attacking for several turns while you can take cheap Poison KOs with Hypnotoxic Laser.

Enhanced Hammer has the advantage of being non-coin flip reliant, and is extremely useful in a metagame with heavy Special Energy uses such as Aromatisse/techs decks and Plasma which tend to run mainly Special Energies.

Crushing Hammer on the other hand does require a flip, making it weaker in some respects, but with the added advantage of discarding basic Energies as well. Due to time constraints in games after the reintroduction of ties this card has seen a decline in play, but with the right metagame it could still shine.


  • Hammers are still very useful against any decks that don’t have a reliable form of Energy acceleration built in (excluding those which rely on attacks). Crushing Hammers are still very effective early game against Virizion/Genesect, and Enhanced Hammers are great against Plasma and Aromatisse/techs.


  • Crushing Hammer doesn’t really do that much against decks like Darkrai/Yveltal due to Dark Patch being able to recover Energies, and there often isn’t enough time just to hammer away Energies all game. Enhanced Hammer, while not coin-flip reliant, is completely useless against anything which doesn’t use Special Energies.

Hand Disruption

e.g. Malamar XY 76, Red Card, Ghetsis

Being able to lock the opponent out of resources is incredibly powerful, and if they are kept to a significantly smaller hand size than normal it really limits their options and slows them down, allowing you to have more time to set up and eventually steamroll through them.

When Red Card was initially revealed it received quite a lot of hype, as if it could be used on the first turn for example or after a Tropical Beach you could lower the opponent’s hand by 2-3 cards, potentially disrupting them.

After some testing however, most people dismissed the card without the right partners as it was often underwhelming and only worked well at key points.

If however you could combine it with something like Ability lock from Garbodor followed by a Ghetsis or Mental Trash then you could potentially put the opponent down to just a couple of cards in hand or even wipe their hand completely, potentially shutting them down for several turns until they can find a Supporter.

With the current time limits people have questioned how a disruption deck like this would work. However instead of focusing the deck around heavy Hammer disruption, perhaps it would be better to play an aggressive list that aimed to put the opponent down to a weak 1-2 card hand and then start attacking and applying pressure with Darkrai-EX immediately.

This might simply not work out that well, but it is certainly worth testing out. For those 7 free spaces you could probably play something like 2-2 Malamar XY 76 and 3 Red Card, and possibly drop one of your 5 attackers for something like a Victini LTR, and then you would have an entirely new dynamic to the deck.


  • This strategy can really catch an opponent off guard, and if you can pull off the Red Card + Malamar combo turn two you could almost completely shut the opponent down. The combination also is useful against a large variety of decks, so it’s not just for specific matchups.


  • Malamar is still overly reliant on coin flips, and as the opponent gets to choose what to discard just discarding 1-2 cards from the opponent’s hand won’t offer a lot of disruption. One other big area of weakness I see is Junk Hunt (and Tropical Beach, although that can be dealt with by counter Stadiums).

These are just a few of the various routes that the deck could take, which I hope will clearly highlight just how versatile the deck is. Despite being classed as a single deck it can take many shapes and forms. As Erik Nance said in one of his underground articles, tournaments won’t necessarily be decided by the deck you play, but rather the choice of 6-7 key cards.


sawk kenyandetectivetime.tumblr.com

Here is the decklist that I used for my League Challenge last weekend. I will just be discussing the more interesting card choices that I made, so if you have any further comments or questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

In the end, due to issues with time constraints in best-of-one 30 minute rounds for my more tech-focused deck with heavy Skyla counts and focus on Sableye, I decided to play a much faster and more consistent version as shown below, which still had a couple of tricks up its sleeve to give me an advantage over certain matchups.

Pokémon – 11

2 Trubbish LTR

2 Garbodor LTR

2 Sableye DEX

2 Yveltal-EX

1 Darkrai-EX DEX

1 Absol PLF

1 Sawk PLB

Trainers – 39

4 Professor Juniper

4 N
1 Skyla

3 Bicycle

2 Random Receiver


4 Dark Patch

4 Ultra Ball

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Switch

1 Pokémon Catcher

1 Super Rod

1 Dowsing Machine


3 Muscle Band

3 Float Stone


2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 10

10 D

Additions: +2 Yveltal-EX, +1 Darkrai-EX, +1 Absol PLF, +1 Sawk PLB, +1 Skyla, +3 Bicycle, +2 Random Receiver, +1 Hypnotoxic Laser, +1 Pokémon Catcher, +1 Super Rod, +3 Muscle Band, +3 Float Stone, +1 D Energy


1 Darkrai-EX

I have seen a lot of decklists running a 2/2 split of this and Yveltal-EX, but from my current testing I feel that the deck doesn’t really need a second copy as it is generally an inferior attacker to Yveltal.

I still believe in playing a single copy of this card against the occasional Raichu XY for example, and attacking the Bench is still a useful option to have. Dark Cloak is also too good to pass up in matchups where you don’t necessarily need Garbodor in play.

1 Sawk PLB

Sawk hasn’t seen a lot of attention in recent times prior to the release of Muscle Band, but now I have no doubt that it’s about to make it into the limelight. As anyone who plays Plasma should know this card can absolutely rip a large core of that deck apart.

For anyone who doesn’t know the maths behind why this card is so successful, I have broken it down here:

This basically means that Sawk can Knock Out a Thundurus-EX or Snorlax PLS in one single attack for just a single Energy attachment. Considering that Thundurus is one of the biggest problems for the deck due to its Energy acceleration and typing (it hits Yveltal-EX for Weakness), Sawk is incredibly helpful.

1 Skyla

I know that a significant number of people who play this deck aren’t a fan of this card because there is a risk of drawing into it with Random Receiver when you desperately want a new hand. While I understand this point, I feel that Skyla offers this deck a huge amount of versatility that the deck wouldn’t otherwise have.

One of my favorite things about this deck is its ability to never run out of resources and be able to search for anything. Playing a Dowsing Machine for a Skyla effectively acts as a Computer Search as it then gives me access to any card I need in my deck as well as from my discard.

Although I understand this won’t appeal to everyone, the possibilities with Skyla make it incredibly useful as a card, and only playing one allows you to reap its benefits without having too high a risk of hitting it with a Random Receiver at an inopportune moment.

1 Pokémon Catcher

This will probably be a slightly controversial choice as most versions of DarkGarb either play a thicker amount or simply drop them altogether.

Once again though, this is another example of how the Dowsing Machine + Skyla combo can be so effective, netting you this card at a crucial point in the game for a quick shot at winning or making a game-changing play.

I would play the card in higher numbers, but room is tight and normally the only time I ever feel the need to play this card is in what I will dub the ‘Yveltal war’ where both players are hiding behind their non-EX attackers with a heavily powered up Yveltal-EX on the Bench, trying to bait the opponent to start attacking with their Yveltal first.

Using a Pokémon Catcher in this situation can completely destroy their board position and really turn the game around. While it won’t always work in your favor, just having an option like this available to you is a very powerful threat.


pokemon anime reporter interviewBulbapedia

The main focus of the article is really around the various ways of building DarkGarb, but I felt that an appropriate tournament report with the decklist above would highlight some of the major strengths behind the card choices I made, and also show how you could potentially adapt the list to make it even stronger or apply it to a personal metagame.

Round 1 vs. Thomas Naylor with Thundurus/Deoxys/Lugia/Snorlax

I was relatively confident heading into the first match, as I felt that the surprise element of Sawk would really put me in good position to win the match if I got a relatively good start.

I was able to get Sawk in play a few turns into the game after a fairly slow start where I had to discard quite a few resources to get going. I was able to secure a knockout on a Thundurus-EX and put myself in good stead. Unfortunately though my opponent was able to use Deoxys-EX to return a KO to Sawk and even out the match.

My opponent didn’t really have a lot out though, and I was soon able to recover and start powering up attackers. The game ended up pretty close with us both tied with just a single Prize each, although I had a more dominant board position.

Unfortunately for me though time was called and my opponent played Tool Scrapper and used Red Signal to bring up Garbodor. I couldn’t get everything I needed from my 4-card hand to retreat out, play Pokémon Catcher, and win the game, so we ended up drawing.


Round 2 vs. Jamie Serhan with Thundurus/Deoxys/Lugia/Snorlax

Again, I was due to face yet another Plasma deck, however after drawing last game my confidence in the deck was a little less than it was before. Luckily though my opponent got off to a relatively slow start, allowing me to set up Garbodor and get some attackers going.

When the opponent eventually hit a Supporter and started getting back into the game I made a big play with Sawk Knocking Out a Thundurus-EX, and the continued pressure throughout the rest of the game allowed me to take a hard-fought win.


Round 3 vs. ??? with Darkrai/Sableye/Crushing Hammers

This should be a relatively good matchup for me due to my opponent having dedicated a large amount of space to Energy disruption, which isn’t so effective against a deck running 4 Dark Patch. I did however know that time constraints were a big problem in this sort of matchup.

Unfortunately I hit a pretty rough start going second with a lone Poisoned Sableye and Virbank City in play, knowing I needed to hit a Basic Pokémon to survive. This unfortunately meant discarding 3 Hypnotoxic Laser and 3 Professor Juniper on the first turn.

Luckily I managed to get a Basic and started to set up, but it was already several turns into the match before I was able to start Junk Hunting to get ready to attack, and by this time my opponent had a Darkrai-EX poised on the Bench ready to attack.

Eventually though I completed my setup and was able to take my first knockouts on a pair of Sableye, then when my opponent finally sent out Darkrai-EX I was able to 1-shot it with a big Yveltal-EX. Things got relatively nerve-wracking at the end when time was called, but I managed to pull out the win with a turn to spare.


Round 4 vs. Daniel Harland with Thundurus/Deoxys/Lugia/Snorlax

Yep, that’s right… another Plasma deck. This game was probably the most explosive game I played in all day. I ended up playing 2 Bicycles and a N getting a turn 2 Sawk knockout on his Thundurus which heavily disrupted his setup, however a couple of turns later he was able to respond with a big Scramble Switch + Lugia play to KO Sawk.

Then once again the deck just popped off and I played Bicycle + Dowsing Machine for Bicycle and then a Professor Juniper to get all the cards I needed for a return KO on the Lugia. By this point we had both exhausted a lot of resources, but as I had a significantly better board position I was able to close out the game pretty quickly.

3-0-1, 1st Place


garbodor video game xy adjustedBulbapedia

DarkGarb has retained its place in Tier 1 for another few months, and I have no doubt it will be one of the decks to beat coming into States and Regionals with all the new options and versatility the deck has at its fingertips.

If you are going to play the deck at any tournaments I wish you luck, and if you have any comments or questions about the deck, or other suggestions on different ways to play the deck, I will be more happy to chat with you below or via PMs on the forums. I thank you for reading and I look forward to hearing your own ideas.

Reader Interactions

4 replies

  1. Ryan Moorhouse

    Nice article Matthew, your first list however miscounted the Trainers by ten, giving you a actual 23 T/S/S and 17 free spots.

  2. Ritz Ke

    Great article, but I’m very curious to know what your thoughts are on omitting Energy Switch.

    • Matthew King  → Ritz

      I think its certainly a useful card, but space is pretty tight in here and I’m not sure how necessary it is. The problem with Energy Switch is that it isn’t actually accelerating any more Energies into play, it is just moving them around, which isn’t as useful as playing an extra Dark Patch etc, so you don’t really need to move the Energies around when you already have a way of accelerating energies. The deck-list that I played also doesn’t have any Max Potion tricks available, which can be one of the most useful ways to us Energy Switches. I think if you had all the room that you have in the non-Garbodor based versions, or you were using attackers like Bouffalant DRX which requires more than 1 energy but cannot be Dark Patched too it would be more useful, but here it feels like more than a luxury than a neccessity.

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