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Brandon Flowers

Dark Waters

An Expanded analysis of Darkrai-EX and Archie's Blastoise in the new 2018 season, BW-BUS format.

09/05/2017 by Brandon Flowers

Expanded is vast and full of terrors, but I've managed to narrow it down a bit for myself. Being overwhelmed by the sheer number of options is understandable, but looking at one or two specific decks and testing the crap out of them is necessary to overcome that feeling. I'll be going over exactly why those two decks for me are Dark and Archiestoise - for many Archeistoise will be no surprise, as it's always been my pet deck, but I fully expect Dark to make a strong surge with the new support it has as well. 

Table of contents

While Blastoise has never truly faded away, it has never had as many options as it does right now in the Expanded format. My previous take on the deck generally involved two to three of for the attackers, such as Keldeo-EX or Lapras-GX, but that’s changed a bit with recent printings of cards like Wishiwashi-GX, Tapu Fini-GX, and even Tapu Lele-GX. The versatility of Superior Energy Retrieval and Blastoise to allow you to put energy wherever you need it, coupled with the diverse weaknesses, makes it so you can have a Pokemon for any occasion. This gives you strong counters for specific matchups, but also gives you some solid all around attackers for all matchups as well. Due to the diversity, my current list looks something like this:


All the one of Pokemon can be a bit to keep track of at times, but they all serve their purpose in some way. Tapu Fini-GX can pick off Shaymin-EX and even use Tapu Storm GX to get rid of a built up Defending Pokemon that you can’t immediately deal with otherwise. Primal Groudon-EX, Trevenant and pretty much any Stage 2 are all primary examples of solid Tapu Storm targets, as they can’t just be immediately set back up. Tapu Storm also only requires one Water Energy, so it’s a decent go to option if you get hit with a badly timed Hex Maniac. Lapras-GX serves the same purpose it always did – being able to take out 180 HP threats with a Muscle Band, and being able to take hits well with its own 190 HP.

Wishiwashi-GX is like Lapras-GX on steroids; it has 210 HP and can dish out 220 damage with its Blue Surge GX attack. While only useable once a game, Blue Surge GX has a potential to OHKO nearly any threat in the game with base damage, and even more with a Muscle Band – Primal Groudon-EX, Mega Rayquaza-EX, and any competitive basic EX/GX don’t stand a chance. After using it, you even get to conserve energy by putting all five Water Energy back to the bench. Keldeo-EX and Tapu Lele-GX can both utilize all five Energy quite well, or it can even be spread between multiple Pokemon.

Keldeo-EX and Tapu Lele-GX serve similar attacking purposes, with Tapu Lele-GX slightly outpacing Keldeo-EX if the defending Pokemon takes more than two Energy to attack. Each has a useful ability too though – Keldeo-EX can’t get some of your bulky attackers off active, reset Lapras-GX’s Blizzard Burn, and even just put itself forward to attack itself. Lele is often a crucial piece of hitting the turn one Archie’s, giving you a quick out to it if you have an Ultra Ball.

Articuno is the penultimate attacker in the list – and probably the most situational. Just the attacks don’t seem like much at first, but the Ancient Trait Delta Plus makes it considerably more useful. If you’re able to pick off low-HP Pokemon with Tri-Edge, or even finish off larger Pokemon that have already taken a hit, it takes an extra prize. This helps push the prize exchange in your favor enough to take games, especially against decks like Night March or Vespiquen. Chilling Sigh can even buy you a turn against things like Seismitoad-EX, which can result in a crucial turn of items.

The last attacker, and the main requirement of the deck is Blastoise. While it won’t be used to attack often, Deluge is the driving force behind the whole deck, and it would not work without it. The attack is most useful against things like Jolteon-EX, where the virtue of being an Evolution Pokemon allows it to bypass Jolteon-EX's Flash Ray. Going back to Blastoise being the biggest thing in the deck though, Archie’s into Blastoise turn one isn’t always easy. The first couple turns require a ton of sequencing. The best way of learning this sequencing is just solitairing the turn one over and over again. Playing into potential Superior Energy Retrieval plays to thin down your hand is the trickiest thing too – knowing to discard a singular energy off a Battle Compressor is often necessary on the off chance you Trainers’ Mail into a Superior instead of that Ultra Ball that you wanted, still allowing you to dump a few cards from hand to be able to pull of the Archie’s. Some hands simply won’t result in an Archie’s, and knowing when to cut your losses and play N or Sycamore is pretty useful knowledge that can be gained from practice as well. Too many energy is often the main inhibitor of hitting Archie’s, which is an unfortunate consequence of having to play so many for the deck to work.

All in all, the deck is very powerful, even more so if you can manage to play around Hex Maniac by attaching energy in advance, and dodge Ghetsis. Dodging Ghetsis is more luck than skill unfortunately, but if you suspect your opponent plays it, you can at least attempt to play around it. In the event you’re left with VS Seeker as your last out at the end of your turn, using it to put a supporter into your hand can be pretty crucial. Usually this isn’t a good plan, as it limits your options later, but doing so to avoid Ghetsis and Item Lock gives you an out. Due to the heavy item basis of the deck, when you go against item lock, the deck is forced to play a bit differently than normal – most item lock decks now have a limited damage capacity, so if you can get Archie’s early and flood your board with energy, your threats can often apply pressure for more than one turn without threat themselves. For example, getting a seven Energy Keldeo or five Energy  Wishiwashi-GX against Seismitoad-EX can often apply the pressure needed to win you the game. Wishiwashi-GX's Torrential Vortex can two-hit KO Seismitoad while discarding the Double Colorless from it, while allowing for a Blue Surge when desired too.

Blastoise is my primary choice for up and coming Expanded events, closely followed by Darkrai. Darkrai gained quite a nice new toy with Darkrai-GX in Burning Shadows, giving it powerful energy acceleration and even a useful GX attack. While I don’t have an exact list I’ve landed on just yet due to the varied options it has, I do have a pretty good understanding of the direction it should go.

Darkrai-EX from BREAKpoint has been one of the main attackers in Turbo Dark since inception, and that still hasn’t changed. Darkrai-GX having an ability that automatically puts an energy onto your bench makes Dark Pulse an even more powerful attack that can be ramped up four different ways. Between attaching from hand, Dark Patch, Max Elixir, and Restoration, you can be taking OHKOs from turn one if you can hit the right combination of events. Darkrai-EX from Dark Explorers even allows you to build the Darkrai-EX from BREAKpoint on the bench, and simply free retreat into it when ready.

Darkrai-EX from Dark Explorers provides primary support in way of Dark Cloak allowing for free retreat, while having a pretty solid attack for back up as well. In the event you hit something just shy of KO with BREAKpoint Darkrai-EX, Dark Explorers Darkrai-EX can finish it off on the bench while dealing a hearty 90 damage to active as well. 30 damage to bench can even be enough to KO small basics such as Tynamo or Joltik.

Darkrai-GX gives the deck a little extra push it never really needed. Restoration is a crazy ability that makes it so what is dead (Darkrai-GX) may never truly die and even snag an energy on the way back. Even just the ability warrants this as an automatic play, but the GX attack, Dead End GX, gives a quick closer to things Darkrai may struggle with otherwise. It allows for an auto kill with Hypnotoxic Laser, even allowing Dead End GX to kill a Primal Groudon-EX with a Focus Sash in the event you can apply a condition with an ability- while there are quite a few abilities capable of doing so, one has a pretty logical conclusion to fit here as well (that I will touch on shortly). Darkrai-GX just makes this powerhouse of a deck even more threatening, and gives it a quick KO option in the event it is needed.   

Now onto the ability that allows auto kills on Primal Groudon-EX – Hyper Hypnosis. Malamar-EX’s Hyper Hypnosis allows you to put the Defending Pokemon to sleep the second you attach an energy from hand to it. This bypasses Primal Groudon-EX's Omega Barrier, and allows for a sneaky way to get in a Dead End GX and turn the tide in your favor. This is useful in other matchups too of course, in the event you can’t get to a Laser, but still have your energy for the turn. Having multiple outs to trigger Dead End GX’s effect of needing a status condition is never a bad thing, and just makes the deck even more versatile than it already is. Even besides the ability, MAXamar is a pretty decent attack too. With the amount of energy acceleration the deck provides, getting a bunch of energy on it quick and hitting a couple heads isn’t too tough. While I’m a bit adverse to coin flipping, and often avoid Articuno use in Blastoise unless it’s necessary even, the option in a dire situation is good to consider when you have no other options.

All the other varied options in the deck are pretty overwhelming, and all come down to what you expect out of your metagame, and how you want to approach it. Sky Field, Virbank, Hypnotoxic Laser, Hoopa-EX, Choice Band, Fighting Fury Belt, Hex Maniac, Ghetsis, Jirachi-EX, Tapu Lele-GX, and baby Yveltal are just a short list of the many options the deck can effectively utilize. Shaymin-EX, Hoopa-EX, and Laser are auto inclusions in my opinion, but the direction from there can be pretty varied. Hoopa-EX makes Jirachi-EX more of a consideration than Tapu Lele-GX, as it’s searchable with Hoopa-EX's Scoundrel Ring Ability, but it’s questionable whether it needs either at all. With more tech supporter inclusions such as Hex Maniac or Ghetsis, Jirachi-EX gains more and more traction with viability- so if a techier supporter line is the route best suited for the meta, Jirachi-EX probably is as well. Darkrai doesn’t need these options to be strong though – it’s inherently consistent nature can be taken away from if gone too far from base as well. Going with a ‘need for speed’ by going primarily for supporters like Sycamore, a heavy energy line, and Elixir and Dark Patch gets it going faster allows it to take momentum quickly, which results in maintaining it more often than not.

All in all, both Blastoise and Darkrai are extremely powerful contenders, and actually play pretty similarly. Flooding your board with energy, taking momentum early, and powering through your opponents’ attackers as soon as possible results in a pretty solid strategy for Expanded. Due to the heavier item nature of both decks, they can struggle against things like Item Lock or Garbodor GRI a bit more than other decks, but Darkrai’s built in resistance to Psychic can give it a bit of an edge that Blastoise doesn’t quite have here. Ultimately it all comes down to what you’re expecting and what you’re most comfortable with, as both have a tendency to perform well in the right situations.

Good luck and goodbye for now,



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