Darkrai EX with Sableye and Crushing Hammer
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last month or two, you don’t need me to tell you how good Darkrai EX is. However, incase you have, let me help you to catch up. It’s averaging $50 a copy, even with the news that it will be released in a tin come September. It’s Battle Road wins are around the same amount as every other deck combined, and pretty much every National Championship so far has been won by it.
Not only is Darkrai EX really good, but it can be played in a variety of ways as well. Some people chose to run it with Tornadus EX and Double Colourless energy, others with Terrakion to help deal with the mirror match. Today I’m going to look at a way of playing it that Esa, (the guy who runs The Deck Out), used to win the Finnish National Championships. Since he initially talked about the deck list and concept, a lot of players around the World have been trying it out, and some standard changes have since been made. I’ll go over those in this article, along with my deck list and tips on how to play the deck.
First of all, let’s have a look at my deck list:
3 Darkrai EX
1 Mewtwo EX
1 Shaymin UL
2 Smeargle CoL
2 Sableye DE
4 Professor Juniper
3 Professor Oak’s New Theory
2 Dual Ball
2 Ultra Ball
4 Dark Patch
4 Crushing Hammer
2 Lost Remover
3 Junk Arm
2 Random Receiver
2 Skyarrow Bridge
1 Dark Claw
3 Super Scoop Up
3 Pokemon Catcher
2 Special Darkness
A look at the deck, and my deck list
The basic concept behind this version of Darkrai EX is simple, and is to continually discard the opponent’s energy while setting up your field. You should then be able to promote a Darkrai EX and start to take prizes against an undeveloped field which can’t respond. One of the main benefits behind this strategy is that most Fighting based decks don’t have any ways to get energy back from the discard, and instead try to keep them in play with multiple copies of EXP Share, improving your matchup tremendously against them.
Energy manipulation became popular with Durant a few months back, and we use Crushing Hammer and Lost Remover here as well. Lost Remover has the benefit of not requiring a coin flip, but can only send Special Energy to the Lost Zone, while Crushing Hammer for a coin flip can target Basic energy as well. There is some discussion about whether Enhanced Hammer should be used over Lost Remover, but there are some cards which can make use of the energy being in the discard pile such as Steelix Prime, so unless you don’t own any, Lost Remover is always the superior play.
Where this strategy steps up a notch is with Sableye DE. For a Darkness energy, it allows you to get back two Trainer Cards from the discard pile, and put them back into your hand. This means that you can continually chain Crushing Hammers, or get back other useful trainers such as Random Receiver or Dark Patch as well. When you remember that Junk Arm can be used to get back Crushing Hammer as well, and that after being used, Sableye can return it to your hand, it’s easy to keep any energy off the opponent’s field.
Of course, for a lot of the more popular decks at the moment, it is a little more difficult then that. Between Eelektrik and Dark Patch, most popular decks do have the means to eventually break through that lock, and thus you shouldn’t expect to win the game with it. The important thing to remember is that you’re not trying to keep the opponent locked throughout the game, but just long enough to build up your field, and to get a couple of prizes in the lead. Sometimes, this might only mean using Junk Hunt once or twice, before promoting a Darkrai EX which can wreak havoc itself with the help of Pokemon Catcher, knocking out any Eelektrik in one attack.
There will be games where, for whatever reason, you might not be able to get that energy discard lock in place. Although it’s not as ideal, the deck can still function fine without it, and you will always draw into those cards during the game anyway, and find some use for them.
Aside from that, there isn’t really much to talk about with my deck list. It’s purposely made to be very fast and consistent in setting up, with two Smeargle and only four Pokemon which will take any prize cards against the opponent. Between Super Scoop Up, Shaymin and Eviolite, you have other options to help give you an edge in close games. By using those cards, you can keep Darkrai EXs from being knocked out, then put move their energy onto fresh Pokemon before returning them to your hand, and denying the opponent two prize cards. The great thing about Super Scoop Up is that you’ll continue to find new uses for it, and although there is always the possibility of flipping several tails in a row, the deck doesn’t solely rely on hitting heads in order to win games. Shaymin also has great synergy with Mewtwo EX, letting you move loads of energy onto it in one turn, and potentially knocking out Pokemon like Darkrai EX or Entei EX with one attack.
Of course, my list is very tight, and there’s lots of cards I would have liked to add that I couldn’t find room for. I only play one Dark Claw, to help knock out any Eviolited EX Pokemon in two attacks, but you won’t always be able to draw into it when needed, so any copies of PlusPower would be useful as well. I also like the thought of a third Random Receiver, as it works so well with Sableye at the start of the game, to ensure you can use a Supporter card every turn. A final possibility is including some Switch, as along with Skyarrow Bridge, it allows you to have three different Pokemon in the active positions in one turn which is great with both Smeargle, as well as retreating Pokemon like Mewtwo EX and Darkrai EX with larger retreat costs.
Note: I haven’t included how favourable each matchup is, because of the different techs and variants that are currently popular. Instead, I’ll try to cover the different things you can expect to come across in the appropriate sections.
Darkrai EX Variants:
Wow, where to begin here – there’s so much to talk about! The standard builds with heavy lines of Tornadus EX and Double Colourless are the best that you can expect to come across, although I think that people will move onto different ways of playing the deck. Lost Remover can keep their Double Colourless Energy in check, and effectively put them down to eight or nine Basic Darkness Energy, which isn’t enough with continual crushing hammers. You should usually have a much more streamlined list even with the energy removal cards, and with Super Scoop Up to come into play towards the end of the game, I can’t see it having too many problems.
Any Darkrai variants using Terrakion however are a lot more difficult. Most of the time, you just have to go for it and hope that their inconsistency will mean that they struggle to keep up, but try to find opportunities to make clever plays when you can. For example, if they bench the Terrakion and leave it there, try to knock it out first as opposed to another Pokemon. Try to keep an Eviolite on your Darkrai EX, and if you play an N before taking a prize, they’ll need a Fighting Energy or Prism Energy, a way of getting the second energy onto it and a PlusPower to knock you out in return, which is unlikely. I don’t think playing against the threat of Terrakion is an immediate game changer, but it does make it a lot tougher.
A bit like Darkrai EX, there’s lots of similar factors here which will impact the game. How many Special energy do they run, if any at all? Do they run 40HP Tynamo, or have they kept with the 30HP ones that you can knock out from the bench with Darkrai EX? Do they run any Terrakion at all (keep an eye on what they have in hand with Portrait, or what they discard for any clues)? Another other major factor is how many Zekrom and Eviolite they run, since Darkrai EX will trade knock outs with it, but give up two prizes as opposed to one.
I think that energy denial is a lot stronger here than against decks using Dark Patch, as it can take several turns to set up a couple of Eelektrik, and you can start knocking them out with relative ease, using Darkrai EX and Pokemon Catcher. It’s important to revert to this thinking as soon as they set up their first Eelektrik, as at that point, Crushing Hammer is pretty useless. If they bring any Zekrom active, use your Crushing Hammers at that point, so it’s awkward for them to attach any energy with Dynamotor, and promote the Zekrom back from the bench if they were able to play a Switch. I personally feel that this matchup is always slightly in Darkrai’s favour, as it can be easy to put the opponent in a bad position with the right start, but of course losing Darkrai EX to a surprise Terrakion can put a spanner in the works.
In theory, this is a really bad matchup, considering how easily they can knock out Darkrai EXs, and the lack of any Tornadus EX in the deck. However, it’s actually one of the easiest decks to play against, thanks to Crushing Hammer and Sableye. Most Fighting decks have no energy acceleration, just cards like Shaymin or EXP Share to keep them in play, as well as needing two or three energy to use their attacks. This means that you can continually loop Crushing Hammer with Junk Hunt, and just ensure that the opponent never has enough energy to use an attack. If they continue to attach energy, which they’re forced to do, then they’ll just come closer to running out. If they do begin to do this, or just stop attaching energy, you can start to attack with Darkrai EX, and be ready to begin using Sableye again if needbe.