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Ole Stognief

The History of Landorus-EX: An Overall Single-Card Analysis

Landorus-EX is a special card in many ways. Let's take a look at its history in the Pokémon TCG!

10/22/2015 by Ole Stognief


Hey everyone, I’m Ole from Germany and this is my first article for the 60cards community. I was infected with the “Pokémon virus” as an elementary school kid in 1999 and started playing the Pokémon TCG competitively in 2005. My first Worlds was Hawaii in 2012, where I placed 27th with Zekrom/Eelektrik/Mewtwo-EX. From then on, I've participated in every World Championship hoping to achieve another great success there.

In this article I would like to introduce you to one of my most favorite cards in today’s game: Landorus-EX. I think that this card is unique and special in many ways and I would like to prove it by telling you Landorus-EX’s history from its release until today.

Landorus-EX – "The Guardian of the Fields"


Looking at Landorus-EX individually, it is one of the most powerful Pokémon-EX that was released in the Black & White era. 180 HP had been the maximum value before the first Mega Pokémon-EX were released in XY. Landorus-EX is a Fighting-type, hitting for Weakness on most Lightning, Darkness, and Colorless Pokémon in the format. It comes with two hard-hitting attacks, Hammerhead and Land’s Judgment. For the cost of just one Fighting Energy, Hammerhead deals good damage on the opponent’s Active and Benched Pokémon. Land’s Judgment appears to be quite expensive, but does a great job finishing the opponent’s Pokémon. The Lightning Resistance increases Landorus-EX’s benefit against that type even more while its Water Weakness and the bulky three Retreat Cost are Landorus-EX’s noticeable flaws.

Timeline of Landorus-EX’s history in the game

November 2012 – Release of Boundaries Crossed

Landorus-EX is from Boundaries Crossed, the seventh expansion of the Black & White series that was released in November 2012. Other important cards from BCR were Blastoise with Deluge, Keldeo-EX, Flygon, Dusknoir, Skyla, and Computer Search.

The metagame before Boundaries Crossed consisted of the following decks:

-          Darkrai-EX variants (e.g. Hydreigon DRX)

-          Eelektrik variants (e.g. Rayquaza-EX called “RayEels”)

-          The new Dragon type deck Garchomp DRX/Altaria DRX

-          Ho-Oh-EX variants

-          “Big Basics” (plus Garbodor DRX)

-          Empoleon DEX

When looking at these decks, it is easy to understand why Landorus-EX received a lot of hype before its release. Darkrai-EX, the most dominant force at that time, had a Fighting weakness. Eelektrik NVI also had that weakness and its pre-evolution Tynamo was a sitting duck for Landorus-EX even on the Bench. Remember that the player going first was allowed to attack back then! More than a few games ended after a turn-one Hammerhead. Good Water-types were hard to find, the best one by far being Empoleon from Dark Explorers. That changed with Boundaries Crossed, where Blastoise and Keldeo-EX introduced a new archetype to the game.

"Big Basics" / Garbodor

Landorus-EX became a part of the Big Basics deck, joining Mewtwo-EX, Tornadus-EX, and Terrakion NVI. It was also splashed into the Garchomp/Altaria deck as an early-game attacker that took away the pressure from those little Gible and Swablu. Hammerhead was great to decide games early against Stage 2 decks, but Landorus-EX was just too slow to compete in the late game. Its worst enemy Blastoise even had a built-in early-game protection with Squirtle’s Shell Shield Ability.

May 2013 – Release of Plasma Freeze

The Big Basics/Garbodor deck gained popularity as Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym came with Plasma Storm. Proceeding to the next expansion, Plasma Freeze, it seemed that the game designers wanted to eliminate Landorus-EX from the metagame completely. The new Team Plasma archetype featured Kyurem PLF as a main attacker – a Water-type Pokémon that could hit even harder than Landorus-EX and was fast, too. Blastoise got perfect support from Superior Energy Retrieval and Exeggcute PLF, lifting the Blastoise/Keldeo-EX/Black Kyurem-EX PLS deck to a whole new level.  Last but not least, there was Mr. Mime PLF, protecting the Bench from snipe damage. And Landorus-EX was just sitting there, crying for help and hoping for better times. Float Stone as the most suitable tool for Garbodor was just a small glimmer of hope.

August 2013 – Rotation to NXD-on and release of Plasma Blast

Landorus-EX wasn’t able to prevent Darkrai-EX from winning Worlds again – it didn’t even have a fair chance to try, though. Half of the decks in Top 8 of Masters were Plasma and Blastoise, the other half being Darkrai-EX and Eelektrik.

Genesect-EX / Virizion-EX

The rotation to Next Destinies-onwards didn’t bring much change (sorry, Eel) but Plasma Blast did. Genesect-EX immediately became a dominating force with G Booster OHKOing everything and Virizion-EX supporting it. Darkrai-EX appeared to be overbeared – but Landorus-EX wasn’t the noble victor in this fight. Big Basics/Garbodor was somewhat successful during Autumn Regionals in the U.S., though.

November 2013 – Catcher-Nerf and Best-of-Three

Two rule changes came along with the release of the reprint expansion Legendary Treasures. The effect of the every-game-deciding card Pokémon Catcher was now depending on a coin flip. Additionally, matches were now a best-of-three in 50 minutes instead of best-of-one in 30 minutes.

Pokémon Catcher

For the first Regional Championships in Europe, those rule changes led to an increase of Empoleon DEX’s success because of its synergy with Dusknoir BCR. Still no land in sight for Landorus-EX…

First half of 2014 – Release of XY & Flashfire before Landorus rises to the top

The XY expansion was released in February 2014, introducing the new mechanic of Mega Evolutions and the new Fairy type. M Venusaur-EX and M Blastoise-EX didn’t perform well, whereas the two XY Legendary Pokémon Yveltal and Xerneas saw a lot of play right from the beginning. Yveltal supported the Darkness type for a comeback and Xerneas became part of the Aromatisse archetype – the Fairy version of Hydreigon DRX.

Although Yveltal featured a Fighting Resistance and the Aromatisse strategy was all about healing damage, the new expansion really benefitted Landorus-EX. That was mainly because of just one Pokémon Tool card – Muscle Band – obviously one of the most important Item cards for almost every deck right now.

Muscle Band

The additional 20 damage that Muscle Band provides are crucial in a metagame of OHKOs. Scoring one-hit KOs was increasingly important because of Yveltal-EX’s raw power and Aromatisse’s healing skills with Max Potion. With Flashfire, decks that couldn’t KO a M Kangaskhan-EX in one or at most two hits were expected to autolose against it.

Landorus-EX’s Hammerhead doesn’t score OHKOs on Pokémon-EXs at all. But I think that every one of us already experienced the situation of getting 100 damage on our Fighting-Weak Pokémon as early as turn one. Hammerhead is not an OHKO attack – but it is the best attack to prepare KOs in the following turns.

At U.S. Nationals in July 2014 the metagame consisted of the following decks:

-          Yveltal-EX variants (plus Garbodor DRX)

-          Pyroar FLF variants

-          Team Plasma variants (Lugia-EX and / or Kyurem PLF)

-          Flygon BCR/Accelgor DEX/Dusknoir BCR

-          Genesect-EX / Virizion-EX

Let’s look at Landorus-EX now. It is not on that list…and there is a reason why it wasn’t played much: it has unfavorable matchups against every deck on that list. Yveltal-EX and Lugia-EX resist Fighting, Kyurem PLF hits for Weakness, Pyroar FLF is immune to Basic Pokémon, and Flygon BCR and Genesect-EX simply do more damage per turn.

As a deck consists of 60 cards and not just four Landorus-EX, you could think of adding a counter against some of those threats, like Raichu XY against the Lightning-Weak Yveltal-EX and Lugia-EX or Garbodor DRX against Pyroar. It seems that counters could work against some of them, but many matchups would remain unfavorable.

To say a Landorus-EX deck was “unexpected” to win U.S. Nationals would be an understatement. Brandon Salazar added a 2-2 Raichu line to the classic Big Basics/Garbodor deck. Looking at his list, I can think of three reasons why he did so well with it.

1. The deck is straightforward.

This deck doesn’t need to set up a lot of Pokémon (like Flygon) or prepare its main attacker (like Genesect) to deal damage and score KOs. One Energy attachment is enough to start attacking.

2. Every card is important in every matchup.

Using direct counters against single decks often means to have some “dead” cards in other matchups. Raichu XY’s main job is to beat Yveltal-EX and Lugia-EX but it also helps against Kyurem PLF and Pyroar FLF (100 damage plus 30 from Landorus-EX or Hypnotoxic Laser). Think of Mr. Mime PLF or Dedenne FFI as counterexamples.

3. Hypnotoxic Laser can be devastating.

I don’t think that this deck could have worked if LaserBank wasn’t around. It added the damage that was needed to score KOs precisely.

August 2014 – Rotation to BCR-on and release of Furious Fists

Although Landorus-EX won U.S. Nationals, it didn’t trigger a hype or became the “deck to beat” at Worlds 2014. Players concentrated on strategies against Pyroar FLF. I chose to play a mix of both: a Japanese Landorus-EX variant that had a very positive Pyroar matchup.

Landorus-EX / Drifblim deck

I used a combination of Landorus-EX, Chandelure-EX, Drifblim DRX and Hypnotoxic Laser to prepare and score KOs. This worked well against decks with many Special Energy cards like Plasma and Aromatisse, but it failed against Genesect-EX and Blastoise.

Unfortunately, I faced two Genesect and one Blastoise in the first four rounds. Somehow I won the first game of best-of-three in eight of the nine matches, which led to two draws against Genesect and Blastoise. Playing an unusual strategy can be an advantage because the opponent doesn’t know what to expect next. Later I beat three Plasma and one Pyroar in a row before an Yveltal-EX stopped my winning streak – 5-2-2 was my final score.

To be honest, I didn’t expect Landorus-EX to stay in the format after rotation. I had already sold my Landorus-EX FA for 10.50 € (meh) and then bought a regular Landorus-EX for 11 € (yeah) on the evening the rotation was announced.

I could not imagine Landorus-EX being in the same format as Muscle Band, Strong Energy and Fighting Stadium. Furious Fists boosted the Fighting-types a lot, also giving them special support with Korrina and additional hard-hitting attackers with Lucario-EX and Hawlucha. Looking at Landorus-EX, it was now able to hit for 90 damage with Hammerhead. Hammerhead’s 30 plus 20 from Muscle Band, plus 20 from Strong Energy, plus 20 from Fighting Stadium. 90 to the Active and 30 to the bench is like Darkrai-EX’s Night Spear for just one Energy!

Seismitoad-EX / Garbodor

But as we already know, Landorus-EX always faced at least one nemesis. This time, its new counterpart came together with all that Fighting support: Seismitoad-EX.

November 2014 – Release of Phantom Forces

Phantom Forces is one of the most important expansions right now. Almost every deck relies on at least one card of this set. Manectric-EX became popular immediately and one could think that Landorus-EX would shine as a counter to it, but Landorus’ worst enemy Seismitoad-EX also got boosted a lot. Slurpuff PHF, Enhanced Hammer, Head Ringer, VS Seeker and Lysandre’s Trump Card – “ToadPuff" became the BDIF. Crobat PHF was a good partner for Landorus-EX in “LandoBats,” but they weren’t really able to overcome the Toad.

June 2015 – Ban of Lysandre’s Trump Card

Lysandre's Trump Card banned

The ban of Lysandre’s Trump Card turned the whole metagame around. I played Landorus-EX/Crobat PHF for German Nationals in May, where I still had to face the bad ToadPuff and Exeggutor PLF matchups. With Trump Card being banned, those decks disappeared immediately. I continued playing LandoBats for the Arena Cup in Bochum and for Worlds and Boston Open. It became one of my favorite decks of all time – I love how precisely this deck wins games when played correctly. It’s definitely not an autopilot deck – you have to know how to play every specific matchup to place your damage right. Below is the list I used for the Arena Cup in Bochum (Expanded format) where I reached Top 4.

Today – Landorus-EX’s role in Expanded

Boundaries Crossed is not allowed in Standard format anymore, which means that Landorus-EX can only be played in Expanded today. With Regionals featuring the Expanded format in many countries, we will still see Landorus-EX in greater tournaments. The best Landorus-EX variant seems to be the LandoBats deck but the “Guardian of the Fields” can also be used as a one-of to counter the popular Manectric-EX and Darkrai-EX.


I hope that my single card analysis pointed out why I think that Landorus-EX is a special card in many ways. Unlike other “big players” like Keldeo-EX, Genesect-EX or Seismitoad-EX, Landorus-EX had its counters always ready for battle. At first glance it seems to be an overpowered card – being able to hit hard and extremely fast – but it was in a continuous balance with its enemies. It managed to find good partners and have decent success with them. From “Big Basics” to “LandoBats” – Landorus-EX is still around today, reaching for the top!

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