When discussing the rotation in earlier posts, Gym Leader Joel likened the loss of Rayquaza EX from the Standard Format as the loss of a long-time friend. If “Ray” was Joel’s friend, then the deck Logan played at this summer’s Nationals and Worlds LCQ was more akin to a brother. Since its release in Dark Explorers, Darkrai EX has been at the center of Logan’s competitive deck arsenal. Darkrai EX hit the scene in the Spring of 2012. To chronicle the history of how Logan (and Joel, from time to time) have played this deck since 2012 would take a week-long series of posts. Both gym leaders have come up with some unique and interesting twists on Darkrai based decks. As the 2014 National Championships approached, Logan went back to the basics, going with his most consistent build. Logan narrowly missed trips to the top cut at Nats and final rounds of the LCQ with the deck. Come join us on the dark side as we first look at the evolution of the deck and then at his final list. One thing we’ve learned about Darkrai is that you never want to underestimate the power of the dark side (add your own menacing voice here).
Gym Leader Logan’s first strong build with the deck was a pretty straight forward Darkrai EX/Mewtwo EX deck. The 1-2 punch of these heavy hitters, especially with the “Dark Patch” and “Energy Switch” combo of item cards made the deck very versatile. When Dragons Exalted entered the format, Logan shifted his build into a strong meta game counter. Logan’s build incorporated both Terrakion and Terrakion EX as counters to both opposing Darkrai and Zekrom/Eel decks. Gym Leader Joel followed his lead, building a combo of Logan’s decks, using both Mewtwo EX and Terrakion EX in a build that featured Ho-oh EX, a deck that took full advantage of Darkrai‘s “Dark Cloak” ability and “Energy Switch”. Joel had some sporadic success with the deck, but the bottom line was that when it came to Darkrai, the circle was now complete. Gym Leader Joel was the learner, Logan had become the master. The next big change to Logan’s deck did not come until Boundaries Crossed was released and Keldeo EX was introduced.
The use of Keldeo EX in Darkrai decks has now become a staple to many builds, thanks to the use over the last year (beginning with last year’s Nats) of Accelgor in several paralysis lock decks. Logan added it to his build immediately upon its release, as Keldeo EX with a Darkness energy attached provided protection from the dreaded “Catcher-stall” technique that existed before the “Catcher” item card was destroyed. The “Rush In” ability combined with free retreat enabled him to use “Dark Patch” on the pokemon of his choice. Logan also discovered that once he added Keldeo EX, that many players targeted it with attacks, keeping damage off of what mattered in his deck.
Outside of this addition, the only other variant that Logan played was through a City Championships series, where he played a Victini EX, Reshiram version of Darkrai, which like the Terrakion versions, provided energy acceleration and counters to Steel-type (Klinklang) decks played at the time.
The last major changes that came to Darkrai‘s arsenal came in the “Plasma” series and X/Y, when the current “staples” to most Darkrai decks were introduced. These sets brought the “Laser/Virbank” combo and added the powerful attackers Absol and Yveltal EX. Logan incorporated these elements into his builds as well. However, the release of Flashfire and Pyroar created the same dilemma for Darkrai decks that almost every other deck had to address, how to counter it. While Pyroar decks are not terribly strong, facing one without a counter can turn an easy win into an auto-loss.
Most deck sites pushed the use of either Raichu or Garbodor as the best Pyroar counters, especially Raichu, as it doubled as a counter to Yveltal. Logan did not buy it (the Vadar in him would find the lack of faith in straight darkness pokemon disturbing). What Logan did not like with Raichu, was that it could not utilize “Dark Patch” and often does not hit for maximum damage if you do not have a full bench. As Nats approached, Logan took his Darkrai build back to its roots, ignoring both the Raichu and the Garbodor versions. Logan put together a build designed to take full advantage of everything the Darkrai engine has to offer. Here is Logan’s list:
- 2 – Sableye
- 2 – Yveltal EX
- 2 – Zorua (DEX 69)
- 2 – Zoroark (DEX 71)
- 3 – Darkrai EX
- 1 – Keldeo EX
- 1 – ACESPEC Computer Search
- 3 – Dark Claw
- 4 – Dark Patch
- 2 – Energy Switch
- 2 – Enhanced Hammer
- 4 – Hypnotoxic Laser
- 2 – Pokemon Catcher
- 1 – Professor’s Letter
- 1 – Tool Scrapper
- 4 – Ultra Ball
- 3 – N
- 4 – Professor Juniper
- 2 – Shauna
- 2 – Skyla
- 2 – Virbank City Gym
- 11 – Darkness
Impressive. Most impressive. Darkrai has taught him well.
The major change that Gym Leader Logan made from his pre-Nats build was swapping Absol for the Zoroark line. For him, there was no debating this change. Zoroark hit harder and fit better into the deck. With a “Dark Claw” and the “Laser/Virbank” combo, the 100 HP Stage 1 can 1-hit any of the 170 HP Ex’s. Even if it misses the 1-hit, Logan used it to set up double KO’s with a “Night Spear” from Darkrai EX. Zoroark turned the mighty lion, Pyroar, into a dumpster cat. The added beauty of Zoroark lies in its second, lesser-used attack,”Dark Rush”. The counter attack from Zoroark if you damage it and don’t KO it can brutal in its own right. Logan’s Nats build had 3 Yveltal EX and no Keldeo EX, as he wanted to keep 6 dark pokemon in play when he attacked with “Brutal Bash”, maximizing its damage output. However, he found himself stuck in games he was about to run away with several times as coin flips on “Lasers” from his opponent did not go his way. As soon as Nationals came to a close, Keldeo EX went right back in.
What surprised us the most with Logan’s deck was where it stumbled at both Nationals and at the Worlds LCQ. Logan missed the top cut at Nationals because of 2 ties, both coming against Plasma TDK decks (a win in either match would have moved him into the top 32). Then in the round of 32 at the LCQ, he fell in the 3rd game of another match with Plasma. With “Enhanced Hammer” and Sableye, we practiced again and again at home, using this combo to disable the Plasma decks by wiping their energy off the board. However, at these events, this combo seemed to hide from him when he came up against TDK. We can’t really explain why this match-up proved so difficult, outside of the obvious speed of the plasma decks. Despite their speed, we would have predicted the plasma matches as those most in his favor. I guess this is where Team Plasma gets to steal a Vadar quote… “I am altering the deal, pray I do not alter it any further…”
Where does this deck go from here? Well, it does not disappear by any means, but it definitely has to re-route towards the drawing board. The release of Furious Fists and its Fighting-type support makes players wary to play anything with a Fighting-type weakness, which is most of this deck. The rotation of the dark engine (Sableye/Dark Patch) takes the legs out from under this deck. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the dark patch. With it gone, builds like all of these we’ve mentioned will not function anymore.
Yveltal EX (fighting resistant, mind you) is too strong of an attacker not to use. Darkrai still seems like the thing to pair with Yveltal, just maybe on a smaller scale. We know that fans of Darkrai EX everywhere will join Logan in mourning the loss of this deck and its components. Remember, formats shift dramatically following set releases. As the season develops, things tend to balance themselves out. Older EX’s like Mewtwo (and now Darkrai) have been written off before, but they always seem to work their way back into the top decks. We will not be so pretentious as to declare what will be best in the next season. As always, we will let things play out and adjust to the format as it develops. Logan, the Fincastle Gym’s Darkness-type leader, will be the first to encourage you to stay on the dark side. It has served him well… and there is always the cookie thing, too. See you at the Gym!