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Pojo's Pokémon Card of the Day

 

Top 5 Reprinted Legendary Treasure Cards

#3 - Darkrai EX  

- Legendary Treasures

Date Reviewed:
Nov 13, 2013

Ratings & Reviews Summary

Modified: 4.55
Limited: 4.95

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

Baby Mario
2010 UK National
Seniors
Champion

#3 Darkrai EX 

Today’s card is the top ranked of all the reprints that didn’t actually leave the format: and what a card it is. Darkrai EX is the main focus of the decks that have won the last two World Championships. That’s an unprecedented achievement and tells you a whole lot more about how good this card is than I can in a review. 

Darkrai offers a lot of things that, when looked at individually, seem good but not great. It has the standard 180 HP maximum that we like to see on an EX; it has a nice Ability that gives free Retreat to any Pokémon with Dark Energy attached; and it has an attack that is just able to execute two-hit KOs on EX Pokémon while also offering 30 snipe damage to something on the Bench. 

What really elevates Darkrai from being a good, versatile card to being a two-time World champ is the support it gets. With Dark Claw that attack can really start hitting some magic numbers. With Dark Patch Energy acceleration is as easy as discarding an Energy card and playing a Trainer. With Sableye in the same deck you can spam powerful Items like Pokémon Catcher, Computer Search, Crushing Hammer, and Hypnotoxic Laser again and again. Because Darkrai does so much within the deck there is space for multiple options such as Energy removal (Hammer Trainers), Ability lock (Garbodor DRX), and tech attackers (Absol PLF, Victini EX, Ninetales DRX, Terrakion BCR and many others have been used successfully). Or you can just run as lean and efficiently as possible in search of the devastating second turn Night Spear. 

More than just the sum of its parts, Darkrai is one of, if not the, best Pokémon ever printed. Only an idiot would completely rule out its chances of scoring a hat-trick at Worlds 2014. 

Rating 

Modified: 4.75 (as versatile and powerful as it gets)

Limited: 5 (I’ve seen decks with 1 Darkrai and 39 Energy sweep a prerelease)


Otaku

The number three pick for our Top 5 Reprints of BW: Legendary Treasures is Darkrai EX!  Like the last two picks, this is the fourth time Darkrai EX has been printed: you may now choose between BW: Dark Explorers 63/108 and 107/108, BW Promo BW46, and BW: Legendary Treasures 88/113.  Also like the last two picks, the older versions of this card were Modified legal without requiring a new printing, which means it didn’t make my list of picks.

 

Darkrai EX was a card that amazed me, because it proved Mewtwo EX (released the set before) wasn’t a one off fluke: in the few months since Mewtwo EX debuted, it had taken over the format and crowded out the other Pokémon-EX from its set.  The other Pokémon-EX seemed better balanced (some would say “weaker) than Mewtwo EX, so there was much concern that until it rotated out,  Mewtwo EX would continue to control the game.  Then came BW: Dark Explorers and we had three Pokémon-EX shaping the format instead of one (Tornadus EX being the third).

 

Mewtwo EX not only had to share the crown with something else, but with what you might consider its counterpart, the flip side of the coin: Mewtwo EX was the “universalist” played in most decks while Darkrai EX was the “specialist” (though a somewhat broad one); Mewtwo EX focused on raw power (more Energy meant more damage) while Darkrai EX focused on more strategic power (managing Bench hits, plus being used for the Ability); Mewtwo EX was used almost only for X-Ball, while it was likely that Darkrai EX was used as often for both of it’s attack and Ability as often as for its Ability alone.

 

Darkrai EX and Sableye (BW: Dark Explorers 62/108) are the focus of multiple decks.  Besides the obvious strengths of the cards, they enjoyed another advantage; the metagame isn’t as diverse as in some formats.  I don’t broach that to complain about how many different decks are viable but to focus on how most decks have a very similar style and feel right now… and Darkrai EX exploited that; it is more of a “strategic” beatdown because it couldn’t bring the raw power until the advent of Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym, and even then it wasn’t the same kind of raw power Deluge decks enjoy.  This meant they had to be dealt with in a different manner, and when it was realized that focusing on just one part of the generic strategy (generic Darkrai EX/Sableye versus Hammer Time Versus Laser Time Versus Speedrai) it created a pitfall for opponent’s that misread a deck’s focus.  This is a stark contrast to (for example) a Deluge deck that might be using any of half a dozen beatsticks, but is still clubbing you upside the head in a direct manner with most.

 

With the new rules, these decks are going to be hurt.  Sure, an opening Sableye (or anything with more than 30 HP) is safe from being KOed first turn, but the common thing about the Darkrai EX variants was a goal to never waste that first attack.  The deck didn’t fall completely apart if you went second or opened with a Darkrai EX you couldn’t successfully power-up first turn, but the best defense in Pokémon is a good offense; the goal was to minimize those slow starts and the “normal” and “fast” starts easily offset them where as now they are mandatory.  The erratum to Pokémon Catcher makes it much harder to set up multiple KOs and avoid wasting damage on overkill, and while it is still just talk at this point; there is a lot of it about running a TecH Mr. Mime (BW: Plasma Freeze /116) to deal with Bench damage – a flat 90 per turn (even if Items can enhance it) may not be enough.

 

It isn’t all doom and gloom, though; new Darkrai EX variants have risen.  There is only one that is well known enough that even I have seen it: Darkrai EX/Garbodor.  Garbotoxin will (eventually) shut down Dark Cloak, but in an example of the Pokémon Catcher erratum working for Darkrai EX, you should need to retreat a little less as your opponent also won’t be reliably forcing up the Benched Pokémon of their choice.  This also takes care of Mr. Mime and its Bench Barrier.  This set also brought back too old favorites of more traditional Darkrai EX decks: Energy Switch and Crushing Hammer.  So despite some very real challenges, Darkrai EX has likely just changed, but not significantly diminished.

 

For Unlimited, let me first remind players that I have to rely even more on Theorymon here than elsewhere – there few tournaments that use this format and I have no data on the results, and sadly it has been a ridiculous amount of time since my last serious Unlimited match.  With that in mind, I believe Darkrai EX is another solid option if you wish to go with a more “traditional” deck.  Like all Pokémon with exceedingly high HP scores, it impairs the most common First Turn Win deck (which is described in the last two CotDs).  Unlike the last two CotDs, this is a card that requires a very specific deck backing it, and I am uncertain as to how best to play it.

 

For Limited the +39 approach is the obvious choice but remember it isn’t 100% guarantee; Sigilyph (BW: Legendary Treasures 66/113) has Safeguard which nearly guarantees you lose when it hits the field.  In the unlikely event you’re at an event using multiple sets, you also have to fear attacks like Amnesia or Torment that block one of an opponent’s attacks from being used, because Darkrai EX has only one attack.  The biggest risk is simply that you’ll need three turns to build, so even if you go first your opponent gets two free attacks.  Unless your opponent has two really small Pokémon, you’ll need at least three uses of Night Spear to win (KOing three Active and one Benched Pokémon), for a total of five attacks Darkrai EX has to survive… and BW: Dark Explorers has “okay” to great Fighting Types for Limited while BW: Legendary Treasures has flat out good to great Fighting-Types for Limited.  With Fighting-Type Weakness being so common, any player that is competent and not unlucky will have at least one such card in his or her deck.

 

Of course if you choose to build a fleshed out deck for Limited, you will likely avoid losing for the above reasons but instead will have a slightly increased risk of losing from more traditional risks, but Dark Cloak then turns this into a must run card: you will make room for some basic Darkness Energy to enable free retreating.

 

Ratings

 

Unlimited: 3/5

 

Modified: 4.35/5

 

Limited: 4.9/5

 

Summary

Darkrai EX decks are going to have to adjust to the new rules, but adjust I believe most will.  The only real surprise here is in Limited, when I realized that the abundance of Fighting-Types actually puts this below its set-mates.

 

I didn’t include Darkrai EX on my list as mentioned above because it didn’t need the reprint to be Modified legal, but had I been focusing purely on how good a card was in the current format it would have made the top three and possibly the top spot.


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