Hello everyone, welcome to my latest article on SixPrizes. This time I will be going over a deck that has just entered our format with the release of the newest set, Dragons Exalted, and bears strong similarities to the deck that won this year’s U.S. Nationals: Darkrai/Hydreigon. We’ll start this article by going over the general strategy of Darkrai/Hydreigon; this will be followed by a skeleton list of the deck and an overview of the card choices in the skeleton list.
Darkrai/Hydreigon is a deck that possesses a fairly basic strategy. Your goal is to set up your Hydreigon DRX 97 as quickly as possibly (by turn 2 is the best, but turn 3 or 4 is more likely), that way you can move your Energies from one Pokemon to another. This helps to set up your field, as it allows you to set up your field with Pokemon such as Sableye DEX, and then move the Energy off of them to your main attackers when you no longer need to set up (or need to start attacking).
Once your field is set up, you take the mentality of a tank deck: Take KO’s with your Pokemon and heal them if they get damaged with Max Potion after you move the Energies off via Hydreigon’s Ability. Don’t be afraid to lose a prize if you need to get a few cards out of the discard pile with Sableye’s Junk Hunt attack (this is actually one of the most important things to remember: be stingy with giving away prizes with your Pokemon EX, but don’t be afraid to give away a prize or two with your Sableye. It just makes N all the more effective when you need it anyway).
Continue this process and, more often than not, you will take the win. Now that we’ve briefly gone over the basic strategy Darkrai/Hydreigon, here is a look at a skeleton list of the deck:
Pokemon – 12
Trainers – 26
Energy – 12
8 Darkness – Basic
Open Slots – 10
Okay, for those of you who hate counting, this is a 50 card skeleton list. I’ll start off by going over some of the cards shown in the list, and then I will go over multiple tech options for the extra ten spaces this particular list gives you.
This card is the heart and soul of the deck; this is due to Hydreigon’s Ability Dark Trance, which allows you to move around all your attached Darkness Energy from one of your Pokemon to another as much, or as often as you would like. In truth, Hydreigon is essentially a reprint of Klinklang BLW, a Pokemon that played a major part in the deck that won this year’s U.S. Nationals.
In the new format of BLW-on, Hydreigon possesses several advantages over Klinklang. With this year’s rotation we lost Rainbow Energy, which provided any type of Energy (but only one at a time), and the only drawback was that you had to put one damage counter on the Pokemon you attached it to. This alone is enough to put Hydreigon above Klinklang in the new format; because to activate Darkrai EX’s Ability Dark Cloak (which makes it so that any Pokemon with a Darkness Energy attached to it has free retreat), you would need to have a Darkness Energy attached to Klinklang.
This is where Rainbow Energy came into play, as it could be moved with Klinklang’s Shift Gear Ability as a Metal Energy, and then receive free retreat with Darkrai’s Dark Cloak Ability as a Darkness Energy. Without Rainbow Energy – the only Energy that could provide both Darkness and Metal Energy – Klinklang now no longer has a means to retreat for free if it is dragged into the active position (as it can only move Metal Energy).
This is not the case for Hydreigon, as if it is dragged to the active position, all you have to do is move an Energy to it via its Ability, and then retreat for free (provided that you have a Darkrai in play).
Plus, unlike Klinklang, Hydreigon has an attack that you would actually use (aside from a game 3 sudden death in the finals of a national championship): Dragonblast. For one Psychic, two Darkness, and one Colorless Energy, Hydreigon dishes out 140 damage, with the drawback of having to discard two Darkness energy from it. While Dragonblast does take a large amount of Energy to actually be used, and it does have the drawback of having to discard two Energy from Hydreigon in order to use it, don’t forget to look at the positive side of Dragonblast.
With Hydreigon you now have a heavy hitting Dragon type counter (Giratina can’t do everything), plus you can retrieve those Energies from the discard pile via Dark Patch. Not a bad thing to have on your side, whether as an attacker or tool.
Since its release into the Pokemon TCG, Darkrai EX has been a major contender against any and every competitive deck. At first, you can’t help but wonder why Darkrai EX is any good. It has one attack that only does 90 to the active and 30 to one on the bench, and a rather uninteresting Ability that gives free retreat to any Pokemon with Darkness energy attached to it.
In some respects, Darkrai’s strength comes more from the format it is currently in than anything else. When it was first released several months ago, it came at a time when Zekeels ruled the format, and CMT was a close second. To put it simply, Zekeels is a deck that based its Energy acceleration on a card called Eelektrik NVI, which had exactly 90 HP (in short, Darkrai could now 1-hit-KO the engine of what was the BDIF).
In CMT, the form of Energy acceleration was found in Celebi Prime, which was a 60 HP Pokemon (okay, now Darkrai doesn’t even have to directly attack CMT’s Energy acceleration, it could just put 30 damage on the Celebi while attacking another Pokemon, allowing you to take multiple prizes at once).
So as you can see, these early advantages had a massive effect on the format; but it wasn’t just Darkrai attacks that gave it an advantage over most of the format, but its form of energy acceleration: Dark Patch.
Right, for those of you who don’t know, Dark Patch is an Item card that allows you to attach a Basic Darkness Energy from your discard pile to one of your benched Dark type Pokemon. At the time, this was completely unique because all forms of Energy acceleration had been based on a Pokémon’s Abilities or Poke-Powers. Dark Patch broke that trend by being the first form of Trainer card that could accelerate Energy attachment (and tap danced on some people’s nerves and patience with the Pokemon TCG in the process; but that’s another conversation).
So there was Darkrai: raw power, an Ability that gave free retreat, and a unique form of energy acceleration. And so far, it looks like Darkrai is going to continue that trend, whether it be in straight Darkrai decks (Darkrai/Tornadus, Darkrai/Terrakion, etc.), or in decks such as Darkrai/Hydreigon where Darkrai is merely part of a team instead of the main player, it would seem that Darkrai EX is going to be a very big part of the next season.
Eviolite is a card that makes the defensive side of Darkrai/Hydreigon very strong; as it makes KO’ing your Pokemon much more difficult for your opponent, and makes 1-hit-KOing your Pokemon harder to achieve as well. While that may sound like a lot of fluffed up puffery, especially considering that Eviolite only reduces damage done to your Pokemon by 20 damage, there are multiple instances when that 20 damage could win or lose you the game. Here’s a brief example:
You have a Darkrai EX active with no damage, all the Energy required to attack with Night Spear, and an Eviolite attached. You’re playing against Zekeels, and you have just taken a KO against one of your opponent’s Pokemon. They bench their Terrakion NVI, attach a Fighting Energy to it, use Elektrik’s Dynamotor ability to attach a Lightning Energy to it, and then send the Terrakion into the active position.
However, after all that, your opponent realizes he can’t take the KO because of Eviolite (Math Time: Retaliate does 180 damage to Darkrai via Weakness, and Eviolite reduces that damage to 160 damage; thus making it so Terrakion can’t take the KO, the prize, and your patience).
Okay, so while the Darkrai could have been KO’d had said fictitious opponent played PlusPower, but what if he hadn’t? What if he didn’t have it in hand, or flat out didn’t play it in his deck? This is what makes Eviolite shine: it can help prevent 1-hit-KO’s on your Pokemon, and make your deck’s ability to tank that much stronger… which is a good thing (sorry folks, couldn’t resist stating the blatantly obvious :D).
Okay, plain old Pepsi wasn’t good enough, so PepsiCO made Pepsi Max. Does that mean that Pokemon made Max Potion because plain old Potion wasn’t good enough? I am soooo confused… um, right, back to the article. To put it simply, Max Potion is one of the most important cards in your deck; without this card Darkrai/Hydreigon probably wouldn’t have even been built.
Why, you may ask? Simple: the idea of Darkrai/Hydreigon is that you move all your Energy from one of your damaged Pokemon (let’s say your active Pokemon) to another of your Pokemon with Hydreigon’s Dark Trance ability; you then play Max Potion and completely heal your damaged Pokemon, then move all the Energy back to your active Pokemon. This card essentially negates your opponent’s last turn by removing all damage from the Pokemon they just attacked, allowing you to continue attacking as if nothing had happened during their turn at all.
So, to review, this card gives you the ability to completely heal one of your Pokemon and to make your opponent want to bang his head on the table. I don’t know about you, but those are traits I like in a card.
With the deck that won U.S. Nationals this year (Klinklang), it had a specialized means of searching out Pokemon: Heavy Ball. Basically, it meant that, in the Klinklang deck, you could search out almost any of your attackers or set up cards (such as Klink and its evolutions). This is because Heavy Ball allowed you to search for any Pokemon with a retreat cost of three of more; and, excluding a select few Pokemon, practically every Pokemon in the Klinklang deck had a retreat cost of three or more.
In Hydreigon, Ultra Ball is the Heavy Ball of Klinklang. While it may not possess the same synergy as Heavy Ball does in Klinklang, Ultra Ball is just as effective because it allows you to discard two cards from your hand. The relevance? This makes Ultra Ball one of your main means of discarding Darkness Energy; making it so that you can use Dark Patch to get them back (thus strengthening your energy acceleration).
This means that Ultra Ball is a major part of your Energy acceleration, with the added benefit of being able to search out any of the Pokemon in your deck. Not bad for an Item card.
Essentially, TPCi (or whoever is in charge of the competitive aspect of this game) saw that Rainbow Energy would be too good in this format with cards such as Klinklang and Hydreigon partaking in it. They then decided they were going to instead chop Rainbow Energy in half, and give us this confusing mixture (or blend, if you will) of Energy types to even things out.
In truth, it gives an interesting feel to the game, because now you actually have to think about what cards will work with these select few Energy types; whereas before you could just run four Prism Energy with four Rainbow Energy and run whatever combination of Pokemon you felt like.
Moving on from the past, this particular Blend Energy gives you four different energy types at once, allowing you to run techs such as Shaymin EX, Giratina EX, or the more understated cards such as Bouffalant DRX and Carnivine DEX; and because it also shares the Darkness type, you can move Blend Energy around with Hydreigon’s Dark Trance Ability.
There is only one problem with running Blend Energy in this list. If it ends up in the discard pile (whether by Item cards such as Crushing Hammer or Enhanced Hammer; or when one of your Pokemon Blend Energy is attached to is KO’d), there is currently no means whatsoever to retrieve it from the discard pile. While that is certainly not reason enough to consider cutting Blend Energy from your list, it does mean you have to be careful about when and to whom you attach the Energy.
Kind of like when handling a really hot cast iron pot: you need to know when you can put it on a wood counter, or keep it on the stove so you don’t burn your house down. Simple common sense (though with cards if you mess up you won’t need a fire extinguisher).
A quick note before we begin this section: I am not saying that all ten empty spaces in the skeleton list provided should be filled with the following tech options. In truth, you will need to thicken some of the Trainer lines, or perhaps alter the number of Pokemon and Energy.
I didn’t do this myself because I knew if I did it myself, the lines of Trainers, Pokemon, and Energy would be bashed and critiqued until everyone forgot the point of this article: To see my ideas, get a starting line for this deck, and then MAKE IT YOUR OWN. I can’t do that, because only you can decide what does and doesn’t work for you. Now, onto the techs:
Alright, this is a card that may or may not belong in this deck. At first, you would think that it fits perfectly into the deck. It has a low Energy cost, it can deal out massive damage in the late game, and it utilizes Blend Energy. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that playing Shaymin EX is a bad choice, quite the contrary. It’s just that while it is a one-of card that easily slips into the deck, in some ways it just doesn’t fit the general idea of the deck.
Darkrai/Hydreigon is a deck that is all about using massive HP Pokemon (primarily Pokemon EX such as Darkrai EX or Giratina EX) to tank with while dishing out obscene amounts of damage to crush your opponents hopes and dreams (okay, so maybe not that severe, but you get my point); and all the while denying them prizes with Hydreigon’s Ability and Max Potion.
Shaymin EX is a 110 HP Pokemon. That abysmal number of HP doesn’t even come close to the 180 HP most of your other Pokemon posses, making it very easy to KO, even with an Eviolite attached to it (thus going against the general tank mentality of the deck).
Plus, you really shouldn’t have to use Shaymin EX, simply because your deck is based upon prize denial, making Shaymin EX Ultra Ball fodder more often than not. That is my thought process behind whether or not to use Shaymin EX. However, please remember I’m just here to point out both the pros and cons that come with the card.
Virizion is a card that has played multiple roles in Pokemon TCG. It was one of the main attackers when Six Corners was still a threat, and popped up every now and again as a tech (usually only one copy was played) in Vanilluxe NVI/Vileplume UD/Victini NVI 14. This time around, Virizion will be a tech, instead of a main forerunner in a deck. Virizion is used primarily for its first attack: Double Draw, which is essentially a watered down version of the Supporter Cheren.
Extra draw power in this format is excellent in any form, and Virizion gives you the benefit of being able to draw two cards after you have used your Supporter for the turn (essentially adding +2 to whatever you just drew from your deck, whether via Professor Juniper, N, or Cheren), giving you the extra boost you may need.
Think about it. How many times, while playing a deck with Stage 2s, have you either drawn the Rare Candy, but not the Stage 2, or vice versa? With Virizion, you have the ability to draw more cards from your deck, giving you a higher likelihood of drawing that card you desperately need.
Another benefit of Virizion is that it isn’t just used to draw extra cards from your deck, it can also be used as an attack. Its second attack, Leaf Wallop, does 40 damage the first time you use it, and 80 damage if you use Leaf Wallop again next turn. Okay, so 40 damage for two energy isn’t so impressive, and the fact you have to use Leaf Wallop twice to build up the damage output to 80, but consider the benefits.
With Leaf Wallop, you can 1-hit-KO Tynamos (found in Zekeels variants, and potentially future Rayquaza EX variants as well), crippling your opponent’s early set up as well as buying yourself time to set up your Hydreigon and attach energies. Plus you also get the benefit of having a Grass type attacker; which versus mono Fighting decks such as Quad Terrakion, makes Virizion a massive benefit.
Well it’s about time!!! There hasn’t been a Giratina in format since the old Platinum-on days, and it looks like this one is going to leave a big, fat, in-your-face mark. The Lost World behemoth has the traditional 180 HP of most EXs, but makes its mark by being one of the first Dragon type EXs to ever exist (feel free to argue amongst yourselves who is the first Dragon EX: Rayquaza or Giratina?).
Its first attack, Tear, does a respectable 90 damage while overriding any effects on your opponent’s active Pokemon for one Grass, one Psychic, and one Colorless Energy; which, in truth, is a really weird Energy requirement for an attack (but that’s were Blend Energy comes into play). With Giratina EX, you will always need two Blend Energy to attack, which means that if your opponent plays Enhanced Hammer, you should just save a step and discard Giratina via Ultra Ball or Professor Juniper and save yourself the pain.
Giratina EX’s second attack is where things get more interesting. Dragon Pulse does 130 damage, but has a four energy requirement and forces you to discard the top three cards of your deck. No matter which way you look at it, that’s a fairly steep drawback, but there are some benefits that come with it.
For starters, now have a 180 HP monster that can 1-hit-KO Terrakions (a card that your Darkrai EX’s really won’t mind you KOing); the three cards you discard from the top of your deck may be Darkness energy, which you can then retrieve with Dark Patch (it may be worth adding an extra Darkness energy or Dark Patch in your list for this alone); and you now have Dragon type coverage, which previously only came in the form of Hydreigon (and as Hydreigon is used primarily for its ability, you really don’t want to take the risk of attacking with it unless you have to).
Hmm, this Giratina seems kind of like the old ones from Platinum: Big fat guys with high retreat costs and a confusing mixture of pros and cons to go with them… lovely.
To put it simply, there is only one reason to play this particular Sigilyph: its ability Safeguard. Safeguard prevents all effects of attacks, including damage, done by your opponent’s Pokemon EX to Sigilyph; which in a format that is becoming more and more based around Pokemon EX, is nothing short of incredible. This card is an excellent counter for Mewtwo EX, although return 1-hit-KO’s on Mewtwo EX is going to require your opponent to have four Energy attached to their Mewtwo EX (unless you choose to run PlusPower, but PlusPower is not a card that fits well into this deck).
In truth, despite this cards ability to wall versus your opponent’s Pokemon EX, it also has several drawbacks. For starters, it really doesn’t take much for your opponent to retreat their Pokemon EX to a non-EX attacker, and KO your Sigilyph; thus taking away several of your Energy as well as giving them a free prize.
There is also Sigilyph’s attack, which really isn’t that impressive. Psychic does 50 damage plus 10 more for each Energy attached to your opponent’s active Pokemon. I could explain it, but I’ll give this scenario VS a Darkrai EX to show you why that attack isn’t very impressive:
Sigilyph VS Darkrai EX
(Psychic) 50 damage + 30 damage (Three Energy attached to Darkrai EX) = 80 damage
Okay, 80 damage to a Darkrai EX, not bad. Here’s where the problem’s come in:
Psychic + 3 Energy = 80 damage – 20 damage (Darkrai’s Resistance) – 20 damage (Eviolite) = 40 damage
Yeah, so if you didn’t follow what is written up top (or my equation made no sense), what it burns down to is that you are really only dishing out 60 damage to a Darkrai EX, or 40 damage if it has an Eviolite attached to it. That amount of damage would just make Darkrai EX giggle, especially if your opponent plays Potion or Max Potion.
Plus, there is one card played in every single deck that negates Sigilyph’s Safeguard: Pokemon Catcher. It doesn’t do you much good if your opponent just keeps bringing up your benched Pokemon again and again, taking prizes while you attempt to take one or two prizes with Sigilyph’s measly damage output.
In the end, what your techs will be is up to you; but considering the lackluster damage output, the low HP, and the circumstantial walling ability, I am personally not sold on this tech.
I HAVE SHOWN YOU DEMONS OF DARKNESS, MASTERS OF ALTERNATE WORLDS, FLOWER CHILDS, AND NOW, I GIVE YOU, THE LORD OF THE FLAMES: ENTEI EX… MWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! Okay, moving on from my moment of dementia, let’s get to the card of interest in this section: Entei EX.
Until now, Entei EX is a card that’s only shown up in decks such as Quad Entei (essentially a deck that consists of four Entei’s plus various techs), one of which won Canadian Nationals. Entei’s first attack is Fire Fang, which does 30 damage and Burns the active Pokemon… which really isn’t that impressive or important.
Entei’s second attack, however, is where things start to get interesting. Grand Flame (the aforementioned second attack) does 90 damage to your opponent’s active Pokemon and allows you to attach a Fire Energy from your discard pile to one of your benched Pokemon. Now, obviously in a deck that runs only Darkness and Blend Energy, you won’t be attaching any Fire energy from your discard to one of your benched Pokemon, but that doesn’t make Entei’s Grand Flame useless.
Entei EX gives you several benefits: You now have Fire coverage, which means that you can 1-shot Klinklangs with ease, as well as other Metal types or any unexpected Grass types that may grace the format in the future. Additionally, due to the fact that Entei EX has a relatively uncommon Weakness (to Water types), it means that your ability to tank without worrying about having him 1-hit-KO’d is nearly nonexistent (though I am sure Keldeo EX will have something to say about that when the time comes).
So, you’ve play tested with Entei EX, you like the Fire type coverage, but you just don’t feel that Entei is quite what you want. Well, allow me to show you option number two for Fire types: Victini (15/101, V-Create). This little powerhouse is an interesting choice for this deck, because it breaks the chief rule of Darkrai/Hydreigon: to tank and not give away any prizes. At a miniscule 70 HP, Victini really isn’t fitting into that mentality very well, as he is incredibly easy to KO.
However, that doesn’t mean he should be overlooked. Victini delivers a whopping 100 damage for only two Energy (making it a very effective to bench and attack with on the same turn) via its attack V-Create, making it almost a guarantee that you take a KO when you attack with him. The drawback is, you have to have your entire bench filled, or V-Create does no damage; and in a deck where you have to be careful what you bench, that can be a very dangerous play for you.
Not to mention, while you yourself will probably take a KO when you attack with Victini, you are just as likely to be return KO’d yourself; making Victini a free prize for both you and your opponent. In the end, you just have to ask yourself whether or not you want to play a high-risk high-reward card, or play it safer with another tech option. The choice is yours.
Okay, I will fully admit, this is one of the stranger tech options for this list. Because you only run Darkness Energy and Blend Energy, Registeel EX can only use one of its attacks, Triple Laser (really creative name, isn’t it?), which does 30 damage to three of your opponents Pokemon. What’s so great about that? When combined with Darkrai EX’s Night Spear, which puts 30 damage onto one of your opponents benched Pokemon, you suddenly have the ability to not only to just pound on your opponent with Darkrai’s damage output, but to spread damage and take several KO’s at once.
For example, Registeel improves your Zekeel and Rayquaza matchups drastically, due to the fact that, with some planning ahead, you could KO three of your opponent’s Elektriks at once. Not a bad thing to have on your side, especially as Registeel has Weakness only to Fire types, which currently are not playing a major role in this format.
My last parting note with Registeel is to also take into account his Resistance, which when combined with Eviolite gives you -40 Resistance against Psychic types. This -40 damage makes Mewtwo EX almost a non-existent threat to Registeel; and unlike Darkrai EX, Registeel doesn’t have a weakness to Fighting types, making Terrakion a much smaller threat to you as well.
When I first saw the U.S. scan of this card there was one thing I found genuinely surprising: it’s an Uncommon. It just seems weird that a card with this much potential is merely an Uncommon, but I guess that just means it will be easier for players to get their hands on one. Let’s start at Bouffalant’s Ability: Bouffer. The Ability Bouffer is essentially the same as an attached Eviolite, as it reduces the damage of any attack done to Bouffalant by 20 damage (after applying Weakness and Resistance).
That means that when you combine Bouffalant’s ability with Eviolite, all attacks are reduced by 40 damage. This means that if you have enough energy to use Bouffalant’s attack (three), for a Mewtwo EX to KO it would mean having a total of two Double Colorless Energy attached to the Mewtwo! This means that to KO a Bouffalant in one shot would take 140 damage, which for a non-EX, is pretty darn impressive.
The cool part is, with a great defense, Bouffalant also gets a large damage output to boot. Its attack, Gold Breaker, requires three Energy of any type to use; it does 60 damage, but if your opponent’s active Pokemon is an EX, Gold Breaker does an additional 60 damage.
To recap, this is a 100 HP non-EX Pokemon, with an Ability that makes all attacks -20 damage, and an attack that hits Pokemon EX for 120 damage… all the while working an afro… what’s not to love?
A Parting of the Ways… For Now
Before this article comes to a close, there is one last thing I would like to say. As you may have noticed, there isn’t a matchup section. This is because our format has yet to be established: We don’t know what decks still hold their own anymore, what decks will fall from success, and what new decks will catch everyone by surprise. All I ask is that you please don’t take the lack of a matchup or “pairings” section as laziness on my part; I just don’t know what to specifically play test against.
Thank you for reading this far, or at least scrolling down to the bottom of the screen to read this end bit. ;) I genuinely hope you enjoyed reading this article, and that it gave you some help when it comes to Hydreigon/Darkrai. If you have any critiques, questions, or comments please tell me here or via PM; and please let me know what you thought of the article as a whole.
Till next time,