A Look At The Format – Part 4 – Darkrai & Friends

darkrThe Fincastle Pokemon Gym is winding down its overview of the format.  The deck that is up on deck today is another one that has so many variations that it could take up 4 or 5 articles by itself.  Darkrai EX is easily the most versatile and powerful card in the current format.  With the existence of “Pokemon Catcher”, many cards with high retreat costs were shied away from out of fear of being stuck in the active spot.  When Darkrai EX came to town, that fear was removed, as a single Darkness energy made all the heavyweights suddenly light on their feet.  Players have experimented with Darkrai/Just-About-Everything because almost any combination is possible with him. 

Since Darkrai’s release, popular combinations have been Darkrai/Terrakion, Darkrai/Tornadus EX, Darkrai/Hammers, Darkrai/Mewtwo EX and more recently, Darkrai/Landorus EX.  Over a good portion of the Battle Roads and City Championships this fall, I played a Darkrai/Terrakion EX/Ho-oh EX deck that was very fun to play.  By using the combination of the Darkness energy acceleration engine that came out in the Dark Explorers set and the acceleration with Ho-oh EX’s “Rebirth” ability, I was often able to power up powerhouses like Terrakion (NV) or Terrakion EX on the opening turn and roll over opponents.  However, the coin flip involved on “Rebirth” proved costly in several games (once in particular where the game was over on a “heads” flip with 2 Ho-oh in the discard pile, but lost the game as I flipped “tails” six times in a row over the last 3 turns).  Darkrai/Landorus EX, in terms of pure attacking power, is probably the best Darkrai combo.  However, Landorus EX and its Water-type weakness is more of a liability with all of the Blastoise/Keldeo EX in the format at the moment.  As far as lists go, we are going to look at a list that Gym Leaders Logan and Georgia have both played and done well with.  How close this list is to the deck that won the Master Division at the Virginia Regionals is unknown, but the mechanic is surely pretty close.

  • 3 – Darkrai EX
  • 3 – Mewtwo EX
  • 2 – Bouffalant (DRE)
  • 2 – Sableyebouf
  • 4 – Professor Juniper
  • 4 – N
  • 2 – Bianca
  • 2 – Skyla
  • 1 – Computer Search
  • 2 -Random Receiver
  • 4 – Pokemon Catcher
  • 4 – Ultra Ball
  • 4 – Dark Patch
  • 4 – Energy Switch
  • 2 – Eviolite
  • 1 – Max Potion
  • 1 – Potion
  • 1 – Tool Scrapper
  • 4 – Double Colorless Energy (DCE)
  • 9 – Darkness Energy

Darkrai/Mewtwo/Bouffalant is a strong meta-game counter deck.  At a glance, it does not seem like it should be that good.  However, playing a few games with it quickly demonstrates that, even if you don’t play it that well, you can compete with any deck (especially all of the ones that we have covered over the last week).  Perhaps we should have explained this earlier, but to understand the deck, you have to understand the “Darkrai engine”.  The “engine” is the combination of “Ultra Ball” (used to seek out any Pokemon while simultaneously getting Darkness energy into the discard pile), “Dark Patch” (allows you to attach energy from the discard pile) and “Energy Switch”.  When used together, this combination allows you attach more than 1 energy per turn, often resulting in a 1st turn attack.  Sableye is used in turns where you need to recover by getting back Dark Patch, Catcher and Energy Switch from the discard pile.  The skill in playing the deck really lies in being able to pick up on what you are playing against.  Once you know, you know which attacker to set up first.  Darkrai EX gives you excellent coverage against everything except for the Fighting types.  Mewtwo EX remains as one of the best all-around counters to the Fighting types, but more importantly to Keldeo EXBouffalant is excellent against all of the EX’s, dealing out 120 damage, while rarely getting one-hit by anything.  An “Eviolite” attached to Bouffalant on top of its “Bouffer” ability, allows it to take multiple hits, while only costing you 1 prize card when it is knocked out.

The hardest part of playing this deck is knowing when to move your energies and who to power up.  It is hard not to play the cards in your hand, but if you cannot achieve what you want, such as moving enough energy to a new Darkrai EX to attack, then you have to be disciplined enough to hold those “Dark Patch” and “Energy Switch” cards until using them will pay off.  Especially with younger players, it is tough to teach them not to play those cards just because they have them in hand.  A well timed “Max Potion” in this deck often pushes it past some of the other decks that we’ve covered.

Picking the right strategy for each game is very important.  For example, against an Eel deck, I would try to set up Darkrai as quickly as possible (hopefully by the 2nd turn) and exhaust all of the “Catchers” to take out Eelektriks with “Night Spear”, while placing 30 damage at a time on 1 EX.  Once the Eels are gone, finish off the EX for the game.  Against Blastoise/Keldeo, I would go for the 1st turn Bouffalant and focus only on the Keldeo EX’s.  These decks, if built right, are going to get and keep a Blastoise in play.  Wasting attacks/Catchers on Blastoise (since you can’t one-hit it) can quickly let a Keldeo EX get out of control.  If Keldeo gets enough energy attached to be a threat, that plays right into the hands of your Mewtwo EX.  As you can see, it completely depends on what you are playing against as to how you play this deck.

Any of the variations of Darkrai can be strong plays in the hands of a good player.  Knowing the tricks of your individual build is key.  In any of the Darkrai builds, if you are not attacking with something consistently by the 2nd turn, then you should probably look at your build again.  You will not always be able to pull off the 1st turn attack, but you should be able to from time to time.  The list we posted is a good general list.  You can make decks that include any of the other attackers listed above by swapping them with the Mewtwo and Bouffalant and then adjusting the energy to match your change (such as changing the DCE to Fighting energy).

We hope that this gives you some decent insight into Darkrai decks.  This is definitely only a chapter in what could be a book on Darkrai.  Some of the variants listed above will get a little shot in the arm with the Plasma Storm set.  We’ve got 1 more deck to look at and then we’ll sum everything up by looking at how the new set will affect all of the decks we’ve been detailing for you.  Check back in a day or 2.  See you at the Gym!


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