Hunting Through the Garbage — A Comprehensive Breakdown of Sableye / Garbodor

Hello everyone! Alex back, giving you some extra insight to a proven strategy. My State Championship run did not go as well as I had hoped, which unfortunately dropped me out of the Top 16 for the first time all year. Because of this, I have been focusing more on the up and coming Regional format! I need to do well in order to make a solid attempt at the day two invite! Hopefully all of my practice and hard work will show through in this article. And as always, don’t be afraid to ask questions if you want or need more help! I’m always willing to talk!

Karaoke is one of my favorite things to do on the week night. Wednesday nights at Nyne with my favorite host Ryan? Oh yeah. He’s the best. After a long day at work, I like to unwind with some good drinks, good people, and good attempts at The Rolling Stones. I just got back from a night on the town, half embarrassed by my attempt at “Paint It Black.” I mean, what was I thinking? Sure, Jagger isn’t the world’s best singer, and the song is quite repetitive in terms of melody, but you can’t blame me for trying something new right?

If you haven’t been to Karaoke there are a couple of rules and guidelines that you should know about. First and foremost is the awareness that you are not the only singer in the room. Clap for people after they sing, and please don’t pick a song that’s over six minutes long. If I have to hear another group of young 21 year olds stumble through a poor rendition of Comfortably Numb, I’m really going to be upset. Don’t get me wrong, I love that song, but it is best saved for long showers in which you have your knees tucked into your chest after a long day of losing to Night March over and over again. Been there, done that, got the T-Shirt.

Another big rule is to not just leave after you’ve done one song. Nobody that goes to Karaoke is the next American Idol (Or X Factor, or The Voice winner, I don’t know what the kids watch these days), so show some support for all of the people brave enough to get up there and do it! It takes a certain level of confidence and self awareness to sing in front of tens of people. My roommate knows how much I love Karaoke, so for my birthday he is going to sing one song of my choice! As most of you are probably big ol nerds reading this, you can understand how big of a deal that is. I say that with love. I’m thinking Rolling In The Deep or Drops of Jupiter. I haven’t decided yet. I’m proud of him for going out there and giving it a try!

But one of the biggest rules and / or pieces of advice I can give you about Karaoke is to be prepared. All of a sudden the moment you get that sign up sheet in front you, songs seem to leave your brain as fast as I left Washington State Championships after losing three matches. I keep a list of every song I have ever sang or attempted to sing over my Karaoke career. It’s really easy to look at a list and pick out songs that sound good for that night. I like having options. Not just in Karaoke mind you, but also in Pokemon. One of the best decks in the Expanded format that has the most options is Sableye / Garbodor. If you have tried out that new crazy card Puzzle of Time, you know how cool it is to be able to reach into your discard pile and grab two of any card. Now imagine doing that every single turn. Sounds good right? Read on!

Sableye from Dark Explorers has always been an absurdly good card. Once powerful Item cards became the forefront of the meta, decks with Sableye started to gain more and more steam. Now we have a entire deck concept based purely on the ability to recycle cards and disrupt your opponent until the cows come home. A few times I have been practicing this deck online and my opponent asks “do you even attack with that deck?” Sure, what they really mean to say is “do you even deal damage with that deck,” but you get the idea. The quick summary of the deck is to Junk Hunt as many turns in a row as possible, recycling disruption cards such as Crushing Hammer, Head Ringer, and Trick Shovel. Garbodor is included in the deck for even more disruption. There are a few decks in our format that run off of Abilities, which is perfect for Garbodor. Those decks include, but are not limited to Vileplume, Greninja, and Archie’s Blastoise. In these matchups, Garbodor is one of the few things that gives us the chance to disrupt.

Sableye / Garbodor

Instead of giving you a straight list, I am going to start with a skeleton, and give you way too many cards to add on top of that. After all, this deck has a lot of options, so I want to make sure to cover all of the choices that go into a deck like this.

Pokemon (8)

4x Sableye (DEX #62)1x Bunnelby (PRC #121)1x Garbodor (DRX #54)1x Trubbish (NVI #48)1x Shaymin-EX (RSK #77)

Trainers (26)

3x Professor Juniper (DEX #98)3x Team Flare Grunt (XY #129)1x Lysandre (FLF #90)1x Xerosic (PHF #110)4x Ultra Ball (DEX #102)4x Puzzle of Time (BKP #109)3x VS Seeker (PHF #109)3x Crushing Hammer (EPO #92)2x Float Stone (PLF #99)1x Super Rod (NVI #95)1x Life Dew (PLF #107)

Energy (6)

6x Darkness Energy (BLW #111)

This is as bare bones as you get. I purposefully did not max out on counts of cards I think should be maxed out. I wanted to show you how much room this deck actually has. These counts are the counts I personally would never dip below. I’ll eventually give you my final list with all of the counts filled up, but for now, let’s go over the cards that are in the deck first, then move on into the tech section.

Card Choices

Sableye DEX

Obviously the bread and butter of the deck. Any number under four is a big mistake. I haven’t mentioned this yet, but I’m sure I will many times: one of the biggest issues that Sableye / Garbodor faces is prizing important cards. 99 games out of 100, this deck isn’t going to take a Prize, leaving you vulnerable to prizing cards that have a one-of count. In fact, with the build I got 3rd at Vancouver Regional Championships this last fall, I only played three cards that had a one count. One of those cards was an Ace Spec, so I was forced to play one, and the other two kind of do the same thing in Enhanced Hammer and Xerosic. If you don’t agree with playing four Sableye, then I dare you to drop down to three and see what happens! Not only does this decrease the amount of times you’ll start the Darkness Pokemon, but it leaves you rather vulnerable to speed decks. If one is prized, and another gets Knocked Out early, that leaves you with only one Sableye to fish out. Even playing four is scary when you have one prized. Spoiler alert, that’s why I play two Super Rod in my final build!

While that did seem rather long winded in explaining why a four count is the only way to go, I really wanted to be able to get my point across. There are plenty of other places to cut in this deck if you’re looking for room. I did however want to touch a little bit on Sableye’s first attack Confuse Ray. There are going to be times when a Confuse Ray will be better than a Junk Hunt. There really isn’t a blanket rule on when to do what attack, since that game sense just comes through practice. However, the best time to use this attack is against early game Seismitoad-EX-based decks. In Expanded, Toad decks become a lot more prevalent because of the access to Hypnotoxic Laser. Getting a clutch Confuse Ray flip to break Item-lock can be the difference in games. In my experience, only one turn free from Quaking Punch is needed to get yourself back into a advantageous position. Having access to Hammers, Team Flare Grunt, and Head Ringer for one turn will keep the Item-lock at bay for more than one turn. Because of the low Energy count in these decks, once you get rolling it’s an easy win. Never count out Confuse Ray to put in some solid work.

Bunnelby PRC

This card is the Mariano Rivera of this deck. Basically once all of their resources are gone, you can use Burrow to speed up the milling process. Usually the first three fourths of the game are going to be spent using Junk Hunt to grab back important stalling Items. Once that process is over, Bunnelby comes in and cleans up the rest of their deck. Sure, that might not be the case in all games, but it’s definitely an inclusion that needs to be in the deck. Bunnelby is also very useful in situations where you are Item locked and need to get back Supporters. It’s probably not the most efficient way of doing so, but it is one of the only ways of doing so under Item-lock. There has always been debate among  people about how many of this card you should play. Some believe that this card might not even be worth the one spot. While that may be true in some scenarios, I think a minimum of one is required. When time is against you in game two, you’re going to want a more risky, speedy way of milling their deck out. Sometimes if your opponent isn’t thinking about it, you can also Trick Shovel twice, Puzzle of Time to do it again, and then Burrow twice to end the game when they have six cards left in their deck. Starting it may not be the best thing in the world, but I think the pros outweigh the cons just enough to warrant at least one spot in the deck.

Garbodor DEX

The king of all lock decks himself, Garbodor allows you ways to completely shut down decks with one simple Tool attachment. During the State Championships, I saw moderate success with a VespiBinder deck that utilized Garbodor to win the Greninja, Trevenant, and Bronzong matchups. If you get the first turn Trubbish, it also does work against Vileplume-based decks. With Garbodor, you give you opponent two things to have to deal with, the Ability-lock and the Sableye that is Junk Hunting Hammers over and over again. Without this pile of trash, there would be no way that Sableye would have a good chance against a lot of the decks floating around these days. Another sneaky play that is sometimes overlooked with Garbodor is shutting off Milotic‘s Sparkling Ripples. When Puzzle of Time was released, it gave Night March players a way to recycle Double Colorless Energy. Before then, the Night March versus Sableye matchup was an easy layup, but now we have to work twice as hard to get rid of all of those pesky Double Energy that Night March loves so much. Taking out the Sparkling Ripples just makes that job a little bit easier. Sure, it won’t win you that matchup by any means, but it will at least prevent them from getting that many more Double Colorless Energy in play.

Trubbish NVI

This is the correct Trubbish to play and don’t let anybody tell you any differently. This card can sometimes be the only out you have in the Seismitoad-EX matchup. When you draw into that early game Team Flare Grunt or Xerosic, you can easily recycle it with Garbage Collection. This way, you’re almost guaranteed to dispose of two Double Colorless Energy. With this strategy, you might even be able to break the Item-lock for that one turn. As stated earlier, that is sometimes all you need to win that matchup. The argument against this Trubbish is the 60 versus 70 HP debate. I’ll reference the Toad matchup again here. Let’s say they get an early turn advantage and Quaking Punch you and play a Hypnotoxic Laser. That is going to generally OHKO Trubbish with Virbank City Gym out or a Muscle Band on Toad. If the Toad player only has one of those two damage modifiers, Trubbish will die going back into their turn, allowing them to get another attack off on one of your benched Pokemon for free. That’s not something I’m too big a fan of. So between the ability to use Garbage Collection, and the worry about dying going back into their turn, I will take the Noble Victories one every day of the week. Easily!


I mean, what more is there to say about this card that hasn’t been said already? Every deck that plays a high count of Ultra Ball should play Shaymin-EX. Mainly this card will be used for those early game situation where you can’t draw into the things you need. Generally it’s not too much of a liability sitting on the Bench, since the other player has to deal with the other threat of constant Sableye and Hammers coming down on them. Decks that can attach one Energy and kill Shaymin-EX in the same turn are the only things to really worry about. So stuff like Night March, Vespiquen, Raichu, and Gallade. In these cases, benching more than one Shaymin-EX might not be the best idea in the world. A tech AZ or Parallel City never hurts to get it off the field though!

Professor Juniper

Professor Juniper and Sycamore are often the best choice when it comes to drawing cards. However, these two shine even more in this deck. The choice of Sycamore or N is often a debate that a lot of people will have in their head when starting at their hand. In this deck, I say it’s nearly 100% better to Juniper than N. Reason being is because this deck operates under the engine of being able to pull anything and everything back from your discard pile, so throwing it all away is usually never a bad thing. I will hint to putting Battle Compressor in as a tech for this very reason. I’ve have earned nearly 200 points with this deck this season, so understand when I say that not once have I ever felt bad about using Juniper to discard a hand full of resources. This card is good, but even better in a deck like this.

Team Flare Grunt

This card is the best way to deny Energy in the deck. Since the whole point of the deck is to deny Energy and resources, this should seem like an obvious inclusion. The reason I put a count of three down for the minimum is because of how reliant this deck is on Team Flare Grunt against Seismitoad-EX. I’ll probably end up saying it a few more times before this article is done, but early game Energy denial on to Toad will win you the game every single time. When I first put this deck together way back in September, I remember looking at a list that played four Flare Grunt and two Xerosic for that exact reason. I have since dropped the count ever so slightly, but the core still stands. If you go first against Toad and get a Head Ringer right off the bat, the Flare Grunts become less of a stress to hit turn one.


This card is the second best way to deny Energy in the deck. This format is flooded with tons of Special Energy cards, and Xerosic is up to the task of making sure they don’t stay on your opponent’s side of the field for too long! Not only that, but the added benefit of doubling as a Tool Scrapper is a great addition! I feel like Xerosic is one of those cards that only good players include in their decks. Every time I see a list that made a deep run at a tournament, Xerosic seems to be there! It’s a great one-of card that is even better in a deck like Sableye / Garbodor.


This card is the third best way to deny Energy in the deck. What what? It doesn’t even remove Energy! While this may be true, I stand by what I say. In most decks, Lysandre is used as a way to pick off annoying Bench sitters and to get rid of threats. In this deck, we use it to pull something into the Active and stall! Rampaging Keldeo-EX? Just Lysandre up Blastoise! All of those Energy your opponent worked so hard to attach to Keldeo-EX are now basically useless. I mean, we all know how good of a card Lysandre is in every other deck, we’re just using it in a slightly different way with a slightly different mindset. Plus this card is one of the few outs we have to stop Vespiquen / Vileplume from running all over us. If our opponent misses the Float Stone onto the Vileplume before evolving and we miss the Float Stone on the Trubbish turn one, Lysandre becomes our last hope for dragging out a long game en route to a win.

Ultra Ball

I feel just as weird writing about Ultra Ball as I do Shaymin-EX, but in order to keep up with my pattern I’ve established, I’ll have to jot down a few words! The reason I max out at four here isn’t just for consistency reasons, but really to keep the Sableye coming turn after turn. Sometimes if the opponent gets a fast start on us, we have to play catch up. Puzzle of Time is nice for getting back Energy and Sableye in order to climb back into the game, but there are other things we might need to Puzzle for that turn, like a Supporter, or a Float Stone. I have found myself relying on early and late game Ultra Ball in almost every game.

Another cool little trick Ultra Ball brings is a way to prevent yourself from decking out. Sableye has a knack for getting a little too aggressive with the early game. I mean after all, we can just recycle back all of our resources anyway! Bunnelby is going to be the most obvious way to prevent a reverse mill, but with the help of Ultra Ball and Super Rod, we can keep our deck healthy. Just today I was running through a couple of practice games online and needed to do the old Ultra Ball, dump a Trubbish and an Energy and Super Rod them back in to keep my deck size just above comfortable levels. In fact, this is one of the strategies you can use in the mirror match to help drag the game out! Although the mirror is one of the most painstaking matchups in the game currently. I do not recommend it.

Puzzle of Time

Yes! Now we get to the thing that turned Sableye / Garbodor from a halfway decent deck, to a deck that sprints to the top tier unless kept in check. I felt like once this card came out, everyone had to have an answer for Sableye decks. When testing for Regionals, we kept finding ourselves saying, “yeah, deck A is a good deck, but it loses to Sableye.” These days, people say the same thing about Night March, but that’s a discussion for later. Anyway, the coolest and most obvious thing about this card is that it allows you to play a more reactive game instead of a prediction game. Sableye / Garbodor already has a fairly high skill cap, but this card made the deck much more easy to pilot. Before, you had to anticipate your opponent’s moves, and Junk Hunt the correct Items in order to react properly. This made the deck feel like it was always playing from behind. With Puzzle of Time, you can Junk Hunt two of these guys and be able to change your mind on the next turn.

One of the combos that you see quite frequently is the abuse of Life Dew. We can now keep a Life Dew attachment flowing each and every turn if we want to. Puzzle of Time lets us grab back the Lew Dew, slap it on a new Sableye, then Junk Hunt for some more Puzzle, forcing our opponent to either Lysandre around it until the cows come home, or find a way to scrap it. It also keeps the threat of a double Puzzle for two Trick Shovel paired with a double Burrow for a four card swing! There are a lot of cool things you can do with this card obviously, but like I said before, Puzzle of Time changed Sableye / Garbodor from being a prediction based deck, into a reaction based deck. We’ve already seen the implication that Puzzle has had on Night March, changing it from a tier two deck, do the best deck in format overnight.

Speaking of Night March, Puzzle of Time actually kind of hurts us in a way. I know I touched on it earlier, but opponents who play Puzzle of Time are given an out to recycling back Special Energy. Before this card game out, the strategy against Double Colorless Energy reliant decks was to Enhanced Hammer over and over again. That still remains to be the same strategy, but now we have to do it twice as much. This can put us into a situation where we are wanting to grab back a Sableye, an Energy, the Life Dew, and an Enhanced Hammer in the same turn. Puzzle of Time allowed other decks to now keep pace with a fast Sableye start. It’s not too much of an issue, but it is a point worth talking about. I still believe that Puzzle of Time did more for Sableye / Garbodor than it did for Night March, but I digress.

VS Seeker

Another card that is included in almost every single list that I have to talk about. However, this time I’m going to delve more into the low count of three VS Seeker in this list. Because of the combined power of Junk Hunt and Puzzle of Time, generally speaking, you won’t be needing to use VS Seeker all that often. You’d be surprised how little I ever retrieve it out of the discard pile. VS Seeker is going to be very nice for the early game when you need to get rid of your deck quickly. It’s also nice late game for when you want your deck to be filled with nothing but Energy and Supporter cards. But that big chuck of the mid game? Dead card. Well, not entirely dead, since it is after all VS Seeker we’re talking about here, but never the less, this card gets out classed by Puzzle of Time nine times out of ten when talking Sableye / Garbodor. If you’re ever looking for room to scrape on, you can cut to two VS Seeker and feel fine knowing the consistency of the deck won’t fall off.

Crushing Hammer

The bread and butter of the deck that will frustrate your opponent to no end. First of all, it’s a card that requires a flip to know, so you know just by that fact alone you’re going to cause some headaches. Second of all, when you get that flip, you’re taking away one of the most basic resources in the game. There are plenty of ways to disrupt your opponent in this game, but none hit home quite like stripping off Energy. I’ve always been told that a card is considered good if it bends or breaks the rules of the game. There’s nothing more broken in this game than preventing your opponent from attacking. Imagine you’re playing a game, your opponent attacks, and you just say “Uhm, nope, my turn now!” That’s kind of how it feels playing a high count of Crushing Hammer. Speaking of which, the only reason I put the minimum at three instead of four is because I wanted to generate as much room as possible. The first card I would add back into the deck from the 20 spots we have open is going to be the fourth Crushing Hammer. If you are really, truly, and desperately cramped for room, then settle with three. I wouldn’t though!

Float Stone

Easily the best Tool to activate Garbodor‘s Garbotoxin. Free Retreat isn’t going to come into play a whole ton with this deck, considering the natural late game this deck provides, and the fact that the only Pokemon you don’t want stuck in the Active have a low Retreat cost (besides Garbodor, of course). However, a place where this card can have its chance to shine is in the mirror matchup. In the mirror, Confuse Ray plays a big part in determining the outcome of games. Being able to escape out of the soft lock without losing an Energy in the process is a huge deal. I find myself often not benching Trubbish in the mirror, or attaching Life Dew, and just throwing most of my Float Stone on Bunnelby and Sableye.

Super Rod

I honestly think this card needs two copies in this deck. Reason being is for the same reason I mentioned in the Sableye section and the Puzzle of Time section. It can sometimes be hard to recycle attackers and Energy in this deck, so a higher count of Super Rod will ensure that you can draw into your stuff when you need to. Eventually your discard pile is going to become your main source of cards, which means your deck will be full of dead cards while still needing to maintain a level of bulk to keep from decking out. Early on in my testing back in September, I tried the build with only one Super Rod. I definitely lost games because of the Prize situation where Super Rod was not available to me. The reason I listed it as one is because if you want to take that risk of having it prized, you definitely can. What ever card you play instead of the second Rod better be worth those losses you are risking. Puzzle of Time can’t get back everything all the time!

Life Dew

Life Dew is easily the best Ace Spec choice for this deck. As explained in the Puzzle of Time section, being able to recycle this Tool card is just too good. Forcing your opponent into awkward situations is one of the best ways to disrupt. The common ways a player can deal with Life Dew are Lysandre, Xerosic, and Tool Scrapper. If your opponent decides to play Xerosic or Lysandre to remove the Tool they aren’t drawing cards, which is a good thing. If you’re getting rid of Energy at the same time that they’re trying to deal with Life Dew, it’s going to cause problems. You will come out on top in the board position battle most of the time. Plus, if you do happen to get around it somehow, you’re just going to recycle it back into your hand anyway using Puzzle. The same goes for the Tool Scrapper route. They’re going to have one turn free to take a Prize, but that’s about it. Usually decks don’t run more than one copy of scrapper, if any. Games are going to go long. You’re going to want to force your opponent to KO a whole bunch of Sableye to win. Eventually you’ll win the war there.

Darkness Energy

It seems kind of weird to be talking about Basic Energy yes? Well the reason I bring it up is because I have seen builds that utilize Blend Energy GRPD. The reason for this is to include some crazy cool techs. Virizion-EX was the most common in these situations. Being able to stop the poison from Hypnotoxic Laser, as well as give you a decent attacker in the Seismitoad-EX matchup can be nice. Carnivine is also quite the juicy tech to give you just another out for Lysandre and such. The reason I choose to not play any of these tech options is two fold. One, because I hate Enhanced Hammer. Remember when I said that I like two Super Rod in this deck? Well Super Rod can’t get you back Blend. Puzzle of Time sure can, you’re right, but I still worry about being Energy denied myself and my only option to recovery is Puzzle of Time. And two, because these attackers are honestly not needed. Poison never really phased this deck to begin with, since Life Dew still denies the Prize if the Pokemon it is attached to gets Knocked Out between turns or by status effect. As for kooky alternative attackers, there really isn’t much more of a benefit to these. Smart play and a heads up thinking can prevent the need for tech options. Plus they ruin the chance of start Sableye, which is obviously the preferred option in every situation.

Next I’ll go over a ton of tech options then finish with my current complete version of the deck.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

If you'd like to continue reading, consider purchasing a PokeBeach premium membership! If you're not completely satisfied with your membership, you can request a full refund within 30 days.

Each week we post high-quality content from some of the game's top players. Our article program isn't a corporate operation, advertising front, or for-profit business. We set our prices so that we can pay the game's top players to write the best content for our subscribers. Each article topic is carefully selected, goes through multiple drafts, and is touched up by our editors. We take great pride in our program!