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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day

 

Top 10 Dark Explorers Countdown

#2 - Darkrai EX

Dark Explorers

Date Reviewed: May 17, 2012

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Modified: 4.25
Limited: 5.00

Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 being the worst. 
3 ... average.  
5 is the highest rating.

Back to the main COTD Page

Combos With: See Below

Baby Mario
2010 UK National
Seniors
Champion

Dark Explorers Countdown

#2 Darkrai-EX

OK, so we are nearing the end of our top 10 countdown of the best cards from Dark Explorers. Claiming the #2 spot is the card that has received more hype than anything since . . . ummm Mewtwo-EX, and in fact is changing hands for the same kind of money that Mewtwo was a couple of months ago. Will it have the same impact on the format as the big purple cat thing? Let’s find out . . .

Darkrai-EX is a Basic Dark Type Pokémon, so it has a lot going for it right off the bat. Basic means easily searchable via Pokémon Collector or Dual Ball, and you can also increase its already massive 180 HP by attaching an Eviolite. Dark means that it gets its attacks boosted by Special Dark Energy and the new Dark Claw Tool while also having access to Energy acceleration via Dark Patch. Fighting Weakness is a bit of an issue as it means that Darkrai can be teched against with Terrakion NV. Psychic Resistance is handy against Mewtwo, but not much else that’s playable. Darkrai has a Retreat cost of two which, as we shall see, will usually be an irrelevance.

The reason for this is Darkrai’s Dark Cloak Ability. This states that any of your Pokémon that has a Dark Energy attached has no Retreat Cost. That’s right, this isn’t restricted to Dark Pokémon: any Pokemon with Dark Energy, Rainbow Energy, or Prism Energy attached to it is free to come and go as they please. Dark Cloak isn’t just for Dark decks, but can be used to great effect with Colourless Pokémon (like Tornadus) or in the Six Corners variants that like to abuse Rainbow and Prism.

But Darkrai-EX is a lot more than just a free Retreat tech: it also has a very powerful attack. Night Spear costs two Dark and one Colourless Energy and does 90 damage to the Defending and 30 to one of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon. With Dark Patch, what seems like an expensive attack can actually be powered up very quickly: it’s even possible on turn one if you have the right cards in hand. The 90 damage to the Defending may seem on the low side for an EX, but can be boosted with Dark Claw/Special Dark and is still enough to score a two-hit knockout on anything in the format, including the biggest EX Pokémon. Meanwhile that 30 snipe can be used to score OHKOs on very weak Basics (Tynamo, Solosis, Baby Pokemon), and two hit KOs on Celebi Prime and most other evolving Basics. An opponent’s Eelektrik will be in the discard pile after three hits from Night Spear, or it can be used to soften up higher HP Pokémon for easier KOs later. Night Spear may not offer the same raw damage output as some of the other EX Pokémon, but three or four turns of it will leave the opponent’s Field in a pretty sorry state.

And that’s why Darkrai-EX is such a hyped card. It’s more than the sum of its (already very good) parts. It deals decent damage and snipes, hands out free retreat, benefits from great support, and has a ton of HP. Is it really in the same league as Mewtwo-EX though? Well, I would have to say no. One of the major reasons why Mewtwo was (and is) so good is that the only effective counter to it is . . . another Mewtwo, which basically meant that everyone had to run it in every deck. Darkrai, on the other hand, is not nearly as splashable and can be countered by other Pokémon: it fears Terrakion NV and (especially) Groudon-EX.

So yes, you can still build competitive decks in this format without needing multiple Darkrai. That said, if you can get them, Darkrai is well worth building a deck around. It’s a very powerful tier 1 card and you will be seeing it at the top tables a lot during the next few months.

Rating

Modified: 4.5 (you won’t understand just how good it is until you play it)

Limited: 5 (has so much support in the set, pulling this makes you a winner in more ways than one)

virusyosh

Hello once again, Pojo viewers! Today we're reviewing the #2 card in our countdown, and it's a card that has seen incredible hype. Will this card's tournament performance match its hype? Only time will tell. Today's Card of the Day is the flagship card of Dark Explorers, Darkrai-EX.
 
Darkrai-EX is a Basic Darkness-type Pokemon-EX. Dark types really haven't seen much play for a while in Modified; though Darkrai is thought to change that with its rather impressive abilities as well as Dark Explorers' new Dark-type support, like Dark Claw and Dark Patch. As a Pokemon-EX, Darkrai gives you opponents two Prize cards for being Knocked Out, as well as having very powerful abilities. As a Basic, Darkrai can take advantage of cards like Skyarrow Bridge. 180 HP is enormous for a Pokemon-EX, and Darkrai should be able to take at least one major hit, and a few smaller hits with relative ease. Fighting Weakness is once again terrible against Terrakion, as the Fighting musketeer can easily Knock Out Darkrai with either of its attacks. Psychic Resistance is great against Mewtwo-EX, and should help Darkrai survive against the genetic cat. Finally, a Retreat Cost of 2 is payable, and Skyarrow Bridge makes it even better (though it will usually be irrelevant, as I'll explain below).
 
Darkrai-EX has an Ability and a single attack. Dark Cloak gives all of your Pokemon with a Darkness Energy attached free Retreat, which is very significant in a game where switching is often a great strategy. Note that any type of Darkness Energy will do, as will other Energy cards that provide Dark, such as Prism and Rainbow. From this, Darkrai-EX can fit easily into decks utilizing Prism/Rainbow Energy, or also will work quite well in Darkness decks. One popular idea of using Darkrai-EX in a Darkness deck is combining the nightmare with Zoroark DEX as a main attacker and other Darkness types like Weavile UD or Krookodile; however, with the popularity of Terrakion, there should probably be some way to deal with Fighting types in the deck as well. Darkrai is also in some non-Dark builds with Mewtwo-EX and Tornadus-EX, forming a "DMT" combo that is very powerful and very difficult to deal with. With its excellent ability alone, Darkrai should see quite a bit of play in both Modified and Limited.
 
Night Spear, Darkrai's attack, deals 90 damage for two Darkness and a Colorless, while also dealing 30 damage to one of your opponent's Benched Pokemon. 90 damage for three Energy isn't so great, but Darkrai can be boosted with the likes of Special Darkness Energy and Dark Claw. The 30 damage to a Benched Pokemon is a very nice effect, and can easily rough up an opponent's Bench sitter, or finish off one of their weakened attackers. Overall, Night Spear is fairly good, but is made even better with Darkness support.
 
Modified: 4/5 Darkrai-EX is really good. Dark Cloak alone means that Darkrai will see a lot of play, and Night Spear is good in decks that can accommodate it, as well. Just be sure to look out for Terrakion!
 
Limited: 5/5 Most Pokemon-EX are no-brainers in Limited, and Darkrai is no exception. 180 HP means that Darkrai will survive for a long time, and both Dark Cloak and Night Spear are excellent here. Dark Claw and Dark Patch make things even better.


Otaku

At last we come to the "poster 'mon" for this set, Darkrai EX! Some of us rated it lower and some of us rated it higher, but in the end it clocked in as the number two card from BW: Dark Explorers!

Stats
Let us begin reviewing with the most obvious stat, the one that is even part of the name: as a Pokémon EX Darkrai EX is worth two Prizes when KOed, and both necessity and precedent imply it will have to be spectacular to be worth that penalty. As a Darkness-Type Pokémon it sees no Resistance and some Weakness in the current Modified Format, and for those curious still no Resistance and only a little more Weakness in the entire card pool of Unlimited. Odd I thought something had been printed with Resistance to Darkness Pokémon at some point in the game's history, but those are the results of a quick Pokepedia.net search. Being “almost” neutral is great; while hitting Weakness more often would be nice, this is better than having to deal with a lot of Resistance and being able to tap Special Energy Darkness Energy cards for some extra damage is a nice bonus (though not critical). Given the lack of a recent reprint there is some speculation that the original, Special Energy form of Darkness Energy may become another "retired mechanic" with the next rotation... or the powers-that-be may simply be taking their time in reprinting it again.

As a Basic Pokémon, Darkrai EX enjoys a very friendly format. Basic Pokémon have their own generic pool of support, and where as in past formats it was often themed or excluded themed cards like Pokémon with owner's in their name (e.g. Brock's Geodude) or the original Pokémon ex (which as a reminder are not the same as modern Pokémon EX despite being so similar), here it works for any and all of them. This on top of being a fast format where the low space requirements and ease of putting them into play makes Basic Pokémon the obvious choice already.

180 HP is the current maximum printed HP and only 20 from the all time high set in past formats. Outside of Weakness, this all but guarantees you'll survive one hit from your opponent, and with some luck (or planning) even two is reasonable. The Weakness is a big problem though: Fighting-Type Pokémon are also the most common Weakness on Lightning-Type Pokémon. As we know, the dominant deck going into this set was full of Fighting Weak cards and that has been prompting a rise in the use of Fighting Pokémon, either as splashed in attackers or even a deck’s core focus. This trend is expected to remain steady or even increase, but at least with 180 HP and some precautions Darkrai EX is likely to survive a single, unsupported shot from them.

Psychic Resistance is a welcome sight given how irritatingly rare Resistance is on cards. This Resistance only shaves off 20 points of damage from Psychic Type Pokémon, and even though Mewtwo EX usage is expected to decline a little due to the influx of both additional strong Pokémon EX and Psychic Resistant Darkness-Type Pokémon, it isn't a catastrophic decline and so being Resistant to it is still a bonus. With 180 HP and Psychic Resistance, possibly even an Eviolite equipped, Mewtwo EX has to work hard to take it down.

Lastly for the Stats, we come to the Retreat Cost of two. This is an average (but not mean) Retreat Cost, neither so high that you can't recover from paying it nor so low you can pay it without really thinking it through. Of course as we'll see, the card has an Ability that makes this Retreat Cost less likely to come into play, and even if that Ability doesn't trigger, the popularity of
Skyarrow Bridge will often let you shave off one of those Energy requirements; a single Energy Retreat Cost is relatively easy to manage. While it would be overkill just to run Skyarrow Bridge as a back-up retreat plan, several cards make use of it so either you or your opponent were probably already playing it.

Effects
Darkrai EX is one of the very few Pokémon EX with an Ability... in fact I believe it is the only one with an Ability if we don’t count one or two that aren’t out in English yet. Its Ability is called Dark Cloak, and it zeros out the Retreat Cost of any and all of your Pokémon with at least one source of Darkness-Energy attached. That includes Basic or Special Energy, and Energy providing Darkness-Type Energy through yet another card’s effect.


This is a fantastic Ability, though not a universal one; while it technically benefit any Pokémon-Type and not just Darkness-Type Pokémon, not every deck can afford to run basic Darkness Energy cards. Still the likes of Prism Energy, Rainbow Energy, and a card pool loaded with Pokémon friendly to being splashed off-type means a lot of decks could still use it. Many of the best Pokémon have at least a single Colorless Energy requirement in their attacks, so it wouldn’t be completely extraneous to fundamental Energy usage.

The card's only attack is Night Spear, requiring (DDC). For the Energy invested, being a fully Evolved Basic, and being the only attack I'd expect a good return; we do indeed get just that. 90 points of damage is a solid amount, but you also get to hit one of your opponent's Benched Pokémon for 30 points of damage as well. I've heard a few players focus only on just the Ability and for some decks that is fine, but Night Spear is still a good, if not great, attack.

Most of the Pokémon EX can hit harder but there is a catch; they still don't OHKO each other and struggle to OHKO anything especially big. They still need to hit twice and if the first hit was at full strength the second ends up being overkill. Night Spear, with proper support, should still 2HKO most other Pokémon EX (and anything else it doesn't OHKO), but after trading blows you're going to have two 30 point shots to the Bench still affecting the field. Even with no intentional combos but having a second copy of Darkrai EX go down swinging, you should generate enough extra damage for a Prize.

Usage
Many decks will run Darkrai EX for its Ability. A few will need it more for its Stats or its attack, and all can happily enjoy all three aspects of the card with a proper deck build. With Dark Patch to speed up Darkrai EX and Dark Claw to mitigate an opponent using Eviolite, it is often never safe to assume a Darkrai EX sitting on the Bench won't suddenly shift to the offensive. With Dark Cloak providing a free retreat to so many Pokémon, anything that can be targeted by Dark Patch can be readied posthaste.


Expect spread decks to really enjoy Darkrai EX; Darkness-Type Pokémon often specialize in spreading damage (at least in this format) and Darkrai EX just supports the whole package. Specialty Pokémon like Absol (HS: Triumphant 91/102) Prime can sit up front and use its Eye of Disaster Poké-Body to passively spread damage whenever your opponent Benches a Basic Pokémon from hand. If it has a source of Darkness-Type Energy, Absol Prime (like anything else meeting these conditions with it in play) can easily get out of the way for a different attacker. With Dark Patch to help build Absol Prime in a single turn and Dark Claw to pump its damage, it still isn’t a brilliant attacker for the current format but it becomes serviceable. It can become a “pressure” card; something that isn’t really all that good unless your opponent ignores it. So your opponent is forced between allowing it to become a real threat by letting it survive, or taking it down right away only to provide a “safe” turn for whatever the deck’s real attacker is.

Even decks still relying on a more focused assault will enjoy access to free Retreat and a Pokémon EX that can simultaneously deliver a solid hit to the Defending Pokémon while smacking the Bench. For a little while, expect Darkrai EX to be almost everywhere; it doesn't fit into as many decks as Mewtwo EX did, but that will be offset by players building and rebuilding decks to accommodate it.

In Unlimited, Dark Patch gives Darkrai EX donk potential. If it had released before the rise of Sabledonk, Darkrai EX decks would have been a serious force; Night Spear does enough damage to OHKO many prominent past Pokémon still played in Unlimited and that 30 points of damage would have been enough to safely OHKO a Benched Baby Pokémon at the same time. Given the rise of Sabledonk, I am uncertain as to whether player’s just accept the easy loss of starting with a single smaller Pokémon (like a Baby) or if players have finally let the Babies take a nap and rely on other methods of set-up. Still, I have high hopes; it may even be possible (though almost distasteful) to build a better Sabledonk deck with Darkrai EX and the other new cards.


So what about the last remaining format, Limited? The two Prizes from being KOed are half of the starting amount in this format, so a Pokémon EX going down can easily end the game. Fortunately Darkrai EX is so potent it is a must run. Granting a free Retreat Cost to all of your Pokémon is great; even if the Pokémon in question can't use the Energy for attacking, this is a format where you won't have Switch and where retreating something injured can prevent it from being KOed. If you can get Darkrai EX swinging, outside of Weakness (or walking into a fully set-up opponent) it should last two or three turns and with the lower average HP scores, rack up Prizes quite fast. Plus if your opponent was hiding anything small or injured on the Bench, you'll be able to tag them.

Ratings

Unlimited: 4/5

Modified: 4.5/5

Limited: 5/5

Summary
You know how cards get hyped to ridiculous extremes but never meet them? Remember how Mewtwo EX almost met all of its hype? Darkrai EX looks to be a repeat of that. This card isn't the “be-all-end-all” of the game and you can’t just toss it into any deck with almost any Energy acceleration like one can with Mewtwo EX, but it is strong when supported and has enough going for it to warrant building new decks and refurbishing some old decks to include it. Mewtwo EX itself is going to see a little less play now that we have additional strong Pokémon EX to use, as a large part of having to run Mewtwo EX was needing one of your own to counter your opponent’s copy; as such I believe that Darkrai EX is almost as good as it could have hoped to have been.


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