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Caleb Gedemer

Darkrai's Big Break — a Potential Standard Format Comeback for an Old Contender

"Woah, Darkrai-EX? I thought that lost to Field Blower?" "Wrong!" Darkrai is making a comeback in the Standard format, and you can hear all about it here. You don't want to miss out on this great read!

06/09/2017 by Caleb Gedemer

Introduction

Hello all of you wonderful denizens of 60cards! I’ll cut right to it with a surprise, and that’s the topic of this article! Today I’m talking about Darkrai-EX decks, something I’m sure you wouldn’t have guessed in a million years. With the release of Field Blower, most players wrote this deck off as dead. Additionally, many were quick to judge its supposed Garbodor matchup, saying it was very bad. However, both of those sentiments are incorrect, and I’m excited to prove it. Let’s hop right into it!

Two Different Flavors

Darkrai has traditionally been played in the Standard format just by itself, or with Dragon Pokemon. Upon its release, the Dragonair from Sun & Moon did receive some hype alongside Darkrai, even from me, but shortly after, most people realized that the combination of a turn two Dragon’s Wish and then a pool of Energy was too much to ask for. At the time, those Dragonair lists had to accomplish way too many things in the first couple turns. You’d sometimes need a Float Stone to Retreat, one or two Energy cards, and a way to find the Dratini, and Dragonair, of course. This all built up, and the deck quickly fell out of favor and was forgotten.

On the flip side, the traditional Darkrai decks thrived. Equipped with Max Elixir, they were able to consistently do enough damage to compete with the rest of the game, no matter the circumstances. I personally won a League Cup with the deck once where I defeated two Fighting decks (Zygarde-EX variants) enroute to winning. Nothing could stop this deck, not until Field Blower supposedly did.

How did these two builds revive themselves? Well, for one, the straight Darkrai-EX build has begun to play even more Exp. Shares. Forget two, let’s talk about four! When you play more Darkness Energy as well, sometimes to the tune of fifteen, you can pretty much guarantee your Max Elixirs will hit, and you’ll be rolling over anything in your path, regardless of if your Tool cards get discarded with a Field Blower.

Dragonair is the real shocker, however, and I’m really enthralled with how fluid it’s become. Altar of the Moone really brought a lot to both of these builds, and it was definitely the missing piece for Dragonair versions, for one. Dragonair now almost always hits the turn two Dragon’s Wish, and if you can get enough Energy in play, almost every game is an absolute blowout.

I can’t say enough on how good Altar of the Moone is for Darkrai in general, though. Pretty much everything in your deck is granted free Retreat, at no drawback, and you can completely remove switching cards from your deck. That frees a ton of space, and you’re free to buff out many of your consistency options instead. Darkrai has always been one of the epitomes of consistency, so clearly, when it gains yet another option, the deck is that much better.

Dragonair

Overview

If you don’t know, or haven’t guessed it, the goal of this deck is to use Dragonair’s Dragon’s Wish attack on your second turn, and then blow up with Energy cards. It’s a simple process, but sometimes you brick and can’t pull it off. You want to get down two or three Darkrai-EX to attack with, as well as a Giratina-EX, and the ‘tina will serve as a Double Dragon Energy dump pile. You can use Shaymin-EX to draw more cards in the first couple turns to pull the combo off, and hopefully flood your board with Energy cards.

Giratina-EX has extra utility as both an Energy dump, and an attacker, since stopping many decks from playing down Double Colorless Energy is sometimes all you need to win games. Darkrai-EX on its own is usually enough to overpower Pokemon-EX/GX decks, so that’s where Chaos Wheel has some nice utility to get things down in other regards against the other decks in the field.

Once you’re completely set up, you’re basically just going to trade attackers with your opponent, and hopefully you’ll come out on top. The biggest problem I’ve found with it is your occasional difficulty to recover from times where your opponent knocks out a Pokemon that you had housing tons of Energy. With that, your damage output can be completely sapped at once, which truly stinks. If you can avoid an unfortunate circumstance like that, though, the sky’s the limit for Darkrai-EX and a couple Dragon type pals.

Playing the Deck

Your first priority starting off is to get a Dratini into play. If you don’t start off with one, or even if you do, you might want to get another one down. This might require some digging from Shaymin-EX, or even some gross discards from Ultra Ball, but hopefully you’ll get there. After that, you want to get an Energy on the Dratini, and get a Dragonair. Now you want to Dragon’s Wish, of course, and after that, assuming all went well, it’s time for the fun part. Dig for as many Energy as you possibly can! Use all your Shaymin-EXs, Professor’s Letters, all that! Draw as many cards as you can and go as deep as possible. At the end of your turn, if you don’t brick, you should be doing anywhere from 200 damage to even 300! This deck is absolutely insane if you can pull everything off well. This deck is extremely simple, and it either does, or doesn’t, in a nutshell. Not much of it comes down to actual player skill, so the most enthralling part about the deck is the ridiculous gamble you play when trying to set up. If you can’t, then you’re very likely to lose, of course. This certain curb appeal is actually nice for many players in the game, so I think this deck might actually be played a fair amount going forward.

Deck List

Card Explanations

2 Shaymin-EX ROS 77

Two Shaymins are really all you can potentially fit on your Bench while setting up, and it’s the perfect amount because of that. If you had more, you will draw into them at inopportune times and not be able to play them down because you need to find room for other Pokemon, like your attackers.

3 Darkrai-EX BKP 74

Four would be a luxury, but three does the trick. You want to get all three of these down usually, although you generally only need two to win a game against most decks. It’s your main attacker, so anything less than three would be a large oversight.

3 Dratini SUM 94

You play three of these to prevent Prizing, and increase odds of drawing into them early. Your entire turn one of play is usually based around if you can get a Dratini into play, and if you can’t, things can get rocky. I’ll cover it in just a bit, but you have a variety of ways to get these into play, otherwise.

2 Dragonair SUM 95

Two Dragonair is great, and while a third could be nice, too, you don’t need it. It’s the first Pokemon you’ll be attacking with, so you need to play at least to to not Prize your only copy and just lose the game outright. Having two also makes it so that if you have to discard one early, you won’t just fold because you no longer have a way to set up anymore.

2 Giratina-EX AOR 57

Giratina-EX has many uses against a variety of decks, especially ones that only play Special Energy. But, its main purpose in this deck is to be an Energy dump for Double Dragon Energy on the turn that you use Dragon’s Wish. You can stack multiple Dragons on the ‘tinas and really boost your damage output. Having two is defense against Prizing, and helps for matchups where your opponent uses all Special Energy, and he or she manages to knock out your first Giratina-EX.

1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60

Having one Lele is an extra out to dead draws, and it can even attack, too. I really like it in this deck since you don’t use VS Seekers, so it’s a great way to fish out the Supporter of your choice and have it at will. One is the perfect number.

2 Level Ball

Here is the first way to fish out Dratinis or Dragonairs. Having two increases your odds of drawing it early, and is a great card overall to have a couple copies of.

2 Nest Ball

This card is a start in this deck, since it can grab any of your attackers, and in the early game, it can even grab Dratini to get those on board.

4 Professor's Letter

Four Letter?! Yeah, it’s one of the best cards in the deck! With it, you can grab tons and tons of Energy after a Dragon’s Wish, and completely explode with a Dark Pulse attack.

4 Ultra Ball

These fuel the deck in the early turns with Shaymin-EX and Tapu Lele-GX, and they also can grab your attackers. What’s more to love?

4 Altar of the Moone

This is your only switching card, and having four is needed. You often have to switch your opening Pokemon around with Dragonair to Dragon’s Wish on your second turn, and once you start attacking, it’s often very nice to switch between Darkrais to avoid Knockouts.

4 Lysandre

Four Lysandre makes sure you have one even after the first few turns, since you often find yourself discarding them with Ultra Balls early on.

4 N

This explanation goes for Professor Sycamore, too: these are your only draw support cards, and playing four of each makes sure you don’t dead draw as much as you would without a complete set of them.

4 Professor Sycamore

See above!

4 Double Dragon Energy

You want four of these to have extra damage modifiers to attach to your Dragon Pokemon and do more damage with Dark Pulse.

15 Darkness Energy Energy

Fifteen Darkness Energy seems like a lot, but every one counts. In your setup phase, you usually discard anywhere between two to five of them, even, so having the extras once you use Dragon’s Wish makes all the difference. If you could, you would play even more!

Straightforward

Overview

This version is more balanced than the Dragonair build, and can still win games that you brick in. Simply use Yveltal to attach Darkness Energy to the Pokemon you have in play to bolster your Darkrai-EX’s damage, and eventually get to the point of one-hit Knockouts on everything! Max Elixir is there to increase your numbers, unlike in the Dragonair version which can’t play it because of the Dragonair line.

Altar of the Moone makes this version nuts, since in the past it was hard to get Yveltal into the Active spot quickly. Now that you can Retreat with relative ease, you can start using Oblivion Wing much quicker, and get those Darkness Energy flying. By playing four Choice Band, as well as four Exp. Share, you can be sure that Field Blower won’t be that big of a problem. Most of these lists have increased the number of Darkness Energy, as well, and with that, you can ensure that you’ll be hitting your Max Elixirs much more often than not.

With a very streamlined list, you can absolutely body Garbodor decks, since you can just sit back and Oblivion Wing until you’re fully set up. Items are by no means a necessity for this deck to win, so you can slow the tempo of the game way down and make sure you’ll sitting in a good spot before unloading your Items for Garbodor to prey on.

Playing the Deck

Every game can go in two directions with this build. You can either try to be as aggressive as possible by attacking with Darkrai-EX as soon as you can, or you can take a more balanced approach, the one that I favor, with Yveltal. By using Yveltal as much as you can, you’re able to get more Darkness Energy into play, and increase the damage output of your Dark Pulse attacks. Since the deck now has Altar of the Moone, you’re able to more effectively get Yveltal attacking as soon as possible, since you constantly have a way to Retreat at will. The more aggressive Darkrai route is risky, since you won’t have a chance to establish your board as much as you possibly can, and you can run the risk of losing Energy quickly, and fizzling out. If you go in with Yveltal, instead, you have a higher chance of getting more Energy down each turn, and reaching one-hit Knockout numbers and rolling over your opponent. This deck is less risky than the Dragonair version, but has a lower ceiling, if you will.

Deck List

Card Explanations

4 Darkrai-EX BKP 74

Unlike in the Dragonair version of the deck, you’re going to be using hopefully a full set of Darkrai-EXs. You won’t be doing as much damage as early, so having multiple attackers that you can switch between will be key to winning. Having four also prevents Prizing issues, and increases your odds of having a nice starter, too.

3 Yveltal XY 78

This is the low key star of the deck, since you’ll be using upwards to three of them a game. Oblivion Wing is an amazing attack in a deck that wants to get tons of Darkness Energy into play. Having three is obviously for Prizing and having more solid starters, but it also is to ensure you play a seven Prize game, since with three you can use all of them, as well as two Darkrai-EXs, to attack and make your opponent take “seven Prizes” to win the game.

1 Sudowoodo GRI 66

This card is good against a variety of decks, especially M Gardevoir-EX and M Rayquaza-EX. While both of these decks aren’t that popular right now, it’s nice to have the insurance against them if you do so find yourself paired against one or the other.

2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60

Since this deck is aiming to be more balanced, Shaymin-EX isn’t necessary and Tapu Lele takes its place. You can just find the Supporter you want, and play it down! You’re using a more slow approach anyways with Yveltal’s Oblivion Wing, so it’s no matter. All of this is in hopes to beat Garbodor decks, and you should.

4 Max Elixir

Elixir is still too good not to play in this deck, and having a full set of four increases your odds of hitting them early, and getting the best use out of all of them by having four.

4 Ultra Ball

This is an absolute no brainer in all decks, especially one that wants to discard Darkness Energy, and this is just another card that can help you do that.

4 VS Seeker

Some versions of this deck are playing less than four VS Seekers, but I really dislike that. By playing four, you can still allow yourself to play a few tech Supporters of your choosing, like one of the ones I’ll be discussing soon. VS is just too good of a card to not max out on when building a deck, unless it just doesn’t fit, or work, in a build.

4 Altar of the Moone

Four Altar is follows the same rationale in this deck as it does in the Dragonair version. It’s even better in this deck, though, since you can move between Yveltals, and even switch between Darkrai-EXs at will, too. It keeps your attackers kicking longer, and allows you to be more consistent with always having an attack.

1 Hex Maniac

This is one of the techs I was talking about, Hex is a very important card in this deck, still, and it allows you to beat Volcanion. Without it, you’d get absolutely trounced. Additionally, you can use it against Decidueye-GX variants, and other decks like Vikavolt, even, to stop influential Abilities that would otherwise win your opponent the game.

2 Lysandre

Two Lysandre is perfect, and the standard, for most decks noadays.

4 N

Playing four N is for added consistency, since this list opts not to play Trainers’ Mail to see more cards.

1 Pokemon Fan Club

This is a great replacement for Hoopa-EX, and can be fetched with Tapu Lele-GX on your first turn. Odds are you’ll have an Energy to play for the turn, too, and that’ll be just about all you need to do starting off.

4 Professor Sycamore

Again, like with N, maxing these out is very important to make sure you don’t get stuck with a bad hand. Additionally, having four is very nice to make sure that you can get Darkness Energy in your discard pile as you play the game.

4 Choice Band

Field Blower ain’t no thing with four of these guys! You’ll always be hitting the numbers, too, with four. As a theme with this type of list, you’re opting to play more of important cards to increase your odds of drawing them instead of playing Trainers’ Mail, which would hurt you very much against Garbodor decks.

4 Exp. Share

This inclusion is amazing, and four of them is great just in the same way that four Choice Band is spectacular. Field Blower shouldn’t be able to catch you off guard since you can always play another Exp. Share to take the place of one that has fallen.

14 Darkness Energy

Fourteen Darkness Energy used to be seen as a luxury, but now since you’re trying to limit the use of Item cards, one must recognize that you just need Energy sometimes with this deck. Also, by having so many, you’re almost certain to hit any Max Elixirs you play, and it’ll be even easier to discard Darkness Energy for Yveltal’s Oblivion Wing, as well.

Matchups | Dragonair | Straightforward

Alolan Ninetales-GX | Favorable | Even

The Dragonair version of the deck really sets the table on fire in this matchup, since it can go from nothing to one-shotting an Alolan Ninetales-GX in one attack in just one turn. The standard version of the deck, though, has a little more trouble. Since you require time to set up, you’re going to be using Yveltal’s Oblivion Wing a lot. It’s not going to really be putting much of a dent at all into a Ninetales, since Rough Seas can heal most, if not all, of the damage off instantly.

You’re going to want to keep using Oblivion Wing until you get seven Darkness Energy into play, which is enough to one-shot a Ninetales with a Darkrai that has a Choice Band down. Having Exp. Shares in play will be very important to avoid being punished extremely by a Blizzard Edge that takes down a Darkrai-EX in one hit.

If you can reach the numbers for one-hit Knockouts before Ninetales gets ahead on Prizes and also has the ability to keep taking Prizes (multiple powered up Ninetales ready to Blizzard Edge), then you will be in great shape to win.

Darkrai-EX | Favorable | Even

When I talk about Darkrai-EX here, I’m focusing on the straightforward version of the deck. Dragonair has an inherent advantage since it can absolute blow up on the opponent, and do far more damage before he or she has a chance to even blink. Dragonair is obviously favored in this matchup by default, provided you draw half decently. The straight version matchup is back and forth. Since most lists should look very similar now, and be playing Altar of the Moone instead of things like Parallel City or Silent Lab, the mirror is going to come down to board state.

Whoever can Oblivion Wing the hardest, and longest, and hit his or her Max Elixirs, is likely to win. If you want to look for other ways to gain an advantage, you can try to Lysandre Pokemon that have an Exp. Share on them, and use N in the late game to try and stop your opponent from getting a playable hand.

Like I said, though, this matchup is not a very skilled one anymore, not that it really ever was. You’re either going to draw better than your opponent, or you’re not, and that’s about all you can do.

Decidueye-GX | Unfavorable | Slightly Unfavorable

This matchup has always been tough for traditional Darkrai builds, but it’s even worse for the Dragonair version. Your setup phase lasts until your third turn, where you can play as many Energy as you want after using Dragon’s Wish. The thing is, though, that Vileplume can completely stop you from digging through your deck and accomplishing that goal. The only thing that the Dragonair version has that’s an improvement is Giratina-EX. With it, you can stop an ‘eye player from properly building up attackers, and against Rainbow Energy builds, you might even score a free win!

The standard version of Darkrai gets a slight buff in this matchup because of Altar of the Moone, since things cannot be as easily trapped in the Active spot. You have more time to set up, too, with more Yveltals, and with your switching capabilities, you can avoid some Knockouts, too.

Don’t get too hyped up, though, for both of these versions the same difficulties remain. Vileplume is super hard to deal with, and just the damage from Feather Arrow coupled with powerful attacks is much too much to overcome.

Garbodor (51) | Favorable | Highly Favorable

Dragonair can sometimes fall victim to a poor start and get rolled by Drampa-GX, so that’s why its matchup favorability is a bit lower. If you set up, though, you never play more than a couple Items. You don’t really need that many to do anything! You’ll be one-shotting everything, so you won’t have anything to worry about other than your opponent’s first Drampa-GX, but once that’s gone, you should be able to Lysandre any threats that are getting built up on your opponent’s Bench.

The straight Darkrai version has an even easier time, since it can sit behind Yveltal and build a field of attackers. Again, it does not require many Items to properly set up if you’re patient, and Drampa-GX is going to be your only real threat if you let it run wild.

Once you are able to take a Drampa-GX down in one attack, there’s almost no way you should lose since Garbodor shouldn’t be doing enough damage to get anywhere fast. You can even Retreat between Darkrais once your opponent goes into the Garbodor phase to avoid Knockouts.

Greninja BREAK | Even | Slightly Favorable

Dragonair can absolutely beat this deck with a perfect setup. You need to get the turn two Dragon’s Wish and then pour a ton of Energy down immediately after. By doing that, you can put your opponent down to just two potential Greninja BREAK if you can Lysandre around Splash Energy, or take advantage of a slow start. You can fizzle out if you can’t attack with a third Darkrai-EX, or don’t get a quick enough attack off.

The standard version of Darkrai-EX has a much more favorable matchup since you can play Hex Maniac. You still need to rush the table and try to Max Elixir as much as you can to start the game, but as long as you can take one-hit Knockouts at some point along with a Hex Maniac, you should be fine.

Most Greninja BREAK decks don’t play Bursting Balloon anymore, which is really good news for any Darkrai-EX player. Choice Band actually doesn’t make much of a difference in the matchup, unless your opponent uses Shadow Stitching. As long as you can start taking Knockouts quickly, you will be just fine.

Lapras-GX | Highly Favorable | Even

Dragonair completely blows up Lapras-GX in the perfect scenario, since it can just play down a ton of Energy and one-shot everything. Eventually Lapras will falter, and it won’t be able to make a return Knockout with Blizzard Burn, even with Aqua Patch and Max Elixir at its disposal. Straight Darkrai, though, has a much harder time.

Since Lapras can take the first Knockout quicker than you, it will get ahead on Prizes. You might be able to catch up with Energy and start taking down Lapras in one attack, but you’ll need to stay ahead on Prizes somehow. The best way to do that is to take down any Manaphy-EXs or Shaymin-EXs that your opponent Benches, but sometimes he or she won’t even have to, and in those games it will be very hard to win.

Using your Yveltals in a good way is very advantageous, too, since most Water box decks don’t play a non-EX/GX, other than Articuno, which is generally not that great against a deck like Darkrai, unless your opponent does something cool like Blizzard Burn for 160, followed by a Tri Edge for a Knockout on your Darkrai-EX.

M Gardevoir-EX (79) | Highly Favorable | Even

A quick Dragon’s Wish a pool of Energy afterwards is all you’ll need to win this matchup. Gardevoir, and M Pokemon-EX decks in general, can’t compete with the raw power of Dragonair powering up so much all at once.

Traditional Darkrai lists can struggle with Gardevoir, since they don’t play Parallel City or Silent Lab for disruption anymore. You will have to hit most of your Max Elixirs and get very good use out of Yveltal in order to even right the super high numbers you need to hit, because of M Gardevoir-EX’s Resistance.

Late game Ns are generally what these matches come down to, and if you’re able to avoid playing down too many two Prize liabilities. It will be a difficult win, but Sudowoodo will help a ton to limit Gardevoir from playing down all of the setup Pokemon that it usually does.

M Rayquaza-EX (76) | Highly Favorable | Favorable

This matchup is a blowout with Dragonair, as well. I didn’t mention this in the Gardevoir section, but now I will: your opponent having Sky Field down can be helpful to you! You can drop your own Stadium and then clear off your two Prize liabilities, and it also helps you get down all the Pokemon you could possibly want in play. That way, you can spread your Energy around and make sure everything looks good.

Sudowoodo in the straight Darkrai deck really swings this matchup as well, as it stops your opponent from taking one-hit Knockouts, and also makes his or her setup harder to achieve with the limited Bench room.

Sudowoodo getting knocked out can be problematic, but if you’re already taking one-hit Knockouts, then it doesn’t even matter and will be a wasted turn for your opponent if he or she chooses to take the one-Prize Knockout on the little tree.

M Scizor-EX | Highly Favorable | Highly Favorable

This matchup is a joke for both versions, but especially Dragonair if you can set up. Scizor can only two-shot your Pokemon, so you’ll be able to attack multiple times with the same Darkrai-EXs, and all should go well, provided you draw optimally.

Standard Darkrai does well against it too, since it can sit behind an Yveltal and set up, and unless Scizor plays Dhelmise or Professor Kukui, it will have no way to even take down an Yveltal! That’ll buy you oodles of time, and you should be taking one-hit Knockouts in no time.

As mentioned earlier, your opponent won’t have any way of taking a one-hit Knockout on you, so you’ll be able to take multiple Prizes with the same Darkrais and win fairly easily.

Metagross-GX | Favorable | Unfavorable

The Dragonair version of this deck can hit harder, higher, and faster than the other version, and that’s why it is favored against Metagross-GX decks. 250 damage is a tall feat, but not really for Dragonair. You can be doing 260 as early as your third turn, and Metagross will have no way to compete with that as soon as it needs to in order for the game to remain competitive.

The other version of Darkrai, though, takes a bit to set up and start doing big damage, and in that time, Metagross can properly set up itself and prep for the slugfest that is soon to come. Giga Hammer can do 180 on every Darkrai-EX, for a one-hit Knockout, and Darkrai likely won’t have a way to return its own Knockouts.

The high HP will be too much to overcome with the normal version, and Metagross-GXs Max Potions will stop you from taking many Prizes at all. This matchup is as bad as it sounds without a doubt.

Raichu | Highly Favorable | Favorable

Dragonair’s Giratina-EX will go in on Raichu, since you can lock in your own Altar of the Moone, and prevent the Raichu player from doing any more than 100 or so damage. To make things worse, Raichu won’t be able to play Choice Bands or Double Colorless Energy down per the effects of Chaos Wheel. After that, the game should be a wrap!

Standard Darkrai can win in its own way, too, with Sudowoodo in play. Raichu won’t be able to do much damage at all, and Darkrai should easily trounce it by attacking every turn for a Knockout. The only problem for either of these decks is if the Raichu build is using Lycanroc-GX, and for Dragonair, Basic Fighting Energy.

Lycanroc-GX can easily run you over, but if you can one-shot it right away, it shouldn’t be the biggest problem in the world, either. Overall, for both decks, this matchup is favorable.

Sylveon-GX | Highly Favorable | Favorable

While this deck isn’t good at all, some people play Sylveon-GX. Dragonair can set up with extreme ease against it, and one-shot it right away. Nothing will be able to be locked up because of Altar of the Moone, and the Sylveon player shouldn’t last more than a few turns.

Standard Darkrai has an easy matchup, too, because of Altar of the Moone. You can sit behind an Yveltal and use Oblivion Wing over and over to three different Darkrai-EXs on your Bench. None of them will be able to be trapped because of Altar, as I mentioned.

Divide GX won’t be a problem if you use three Darkrai-EXs, and that’s the rationale behind playing like that. You’ll eventually get up to ten or so Energy in play and be able to one-shot the Sylveon-GXs that your opponent is attacking with. Team Flare Grunt and Team Skull Grunt are both irrelevant because of Oblivion Wing, which is super cool.

Tapu Bulu-GX | Even | Slightly Unfavorable

Dragonair can go off and keep toe to toe with any Bulu deck, Lurantis-GX or Vikavolt, as long as you get multiple Darkrai-EXs powered up and in play. If you don’t, then Tapu Bulu-GXs will likely outtrade you with Nature's Judgment.

The straight Darkrai version will be beaten by Tapu Bulu, though, because Nature's Judgment is going to be taking one-hit Knockouts before Dark Pulse ever has a chance to. There’s not much you can do except try to hit one-hit Knockouts quickly, and if you’re against the Vikavolt version, if you accompany your Knockout with a Hex Maniac, you can potentially get ahead, depending on if your opponent has another Bulu on the Bench that’s powered up.

If your opponent is using the Lurantis-GX version, you’re going to have an even worse time, since he or she won’t be locked out the game by a Hex Maniac.

Vespiquen | Slightly Favorable | Unfavorable

Dragonair can power up multiple Giratina-EXs, and then hopefully lock the Vespiquen player out of the game. However, Vespiquen can get multiple Double Colorless Energy into play before that happens, and that’s where things can get tricky. If you can use a Lysandre to knock one of those Pokemon out before it has a chance to attack, then you should be able to survive the trade that’s to come. Once you clear the board of Double Colorless Energy, you will win the game since most Vespiquen decks don’t play Pokemon Ranger or Basic Energy.

Traditional Darkrai builds won’t stand a chance against new Vespiquen decks, since they now play Choice Band. The numbers will be easier to hit. If you were to add a Karen, then maybe you would stand a chance.

To make things worse, when setting up, you usually have to Bench a lot of Pokemon, so it’s awkward to be the Darkrai player when you’re up against a deck that plays Zoroark. Getting over the hump that is non-EX/GX Pokemon is going to be too much in this matchup without the ‘tina option.

Volcanion | Even | Even

Dragonair can trade effectively with a Volcanion player, and even outtrade them if everything goes right. Some Volcanion decks have cut Max Elixirs in an attempt to beat Garbodor, and that really hurts the Darkrai matchup. You can start taking one-hit Knockouts as early as turn three, and from there as long as Volcanion doesn’t get the edge on you, you should be good for the win.

Normal Darkrai can screw Volcanion up with Sudowoodo, and also, with Hex Maniac, you can get ahead. The same thing with Max Elixirs applies, if Volcanion doesn’t play them, you’re likely to win. Not having Silent Lab anymore will hurt, but you can still get them with Hex.

The new Starmie inclusion in most Volcanion decks hurts, too, so hope that your opponent isn’t able to stream attackers, overall.

Zoroark BREAK | Favorable | Slightly Unfavorable

Dragonair can beat Zoroark with a hot start, and some use from Giratina. It’s hard for a Zoroark player to use attackers that require two attachments of Darkness Energy after a Chaos Wheel most times. If you can take down an attacker that has a Double Colorless on it, then you can open a door for an easy win by locking your opponent out of the game.

If you use Darkrai, just make sure you limit your Bench well. It’s awkward to do, but absolutely possible. Drampa-GX can give you problems sometimes, but if you can one-shot it quickly, things will be looking good. For straightforward Darkrai-EX, this is a much harder matchup since you don’t have a way to do as much early on, and just not having the ‘tina option really limits you from a lot that you could otherwise do.

Drampa-GX will be annoying as well, since it forces you to play more Pokemon down to have things to attach Energy to, but then Zoroark punishes you for doing that. Sitting behind an Yveltal will be difficult as well, since Drampa can just Berserk you on the second turn for a one-hit Knockout. I have yet to figure out any creative openings to deal with this matchup.

Side Note

Dragonair is probably the riskiest deck out there right now. It does dead draw frequently. All of the above matchups are based upon the best-scenarios for the deck, and it is not guaranteed to operate that way. Straightforward Darkrai-EX is much more consistent overall, but does not have as many good matchups on paper.

Conclusion

Darkrai really is back, everyone! Make sure you don’t count it out in your testing, and don’t sleep on it as a deck choice, either. While the Dragonair version is very risky, it has lots of potential. On the flipside, the standard version of the deck is extremely solid, and can compete with anything. Darkrai is a great play for any upcoming event, and I hope to see some of you playing it real soon. Thanks for reading everyone, be sure to check out my Facebook page here if you haven’t already. Thanks for reading, and catch you next time!

[+14] okko


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