A Dark Mindset — A Complete Guide to Standard Turbo Darkrai

What’s going on PokeBeach fans? It’s that time of month again! I, Caleb Gedemer, am back with a brand new article to improve your Pokemon Trading Card Game knowledge and play! Everyone’s favorite Darkness Pokemon, at least I think, Darkrai, took the Standard format by storm back in early January. Everyone and their mother won a League Cup with it, and some of the game’s brightest minds duked it out on their keyboards regarding who “invented” the deck. Even amid all of this, Darkrai-EX was able to rise above all the hate, and take home its first ever Regional Championship title in Athens, Georgia.

Since then, Turbo Darkrai-EX variants have made day two’s all over the globe, and two variants of the deck found themselves pitted against each other in the Anaheim, California Regionals finals. The deck then found itself in a newly minted Decidueye-GX-oriented metagame for the Oceania International Championship, but still managed to pull off a finish in the quarterfinals of the event.

Today I’ll be fully breaking the deck down for you, something we haven’t done yet here on PokeBeach! I have a lot of personal experience with this deck, so I’m confident that I can accurately discuss its gameplay, and matchups. Enjoy, all!

What The Heck is Turbo Darkrai?

New to the game, or haven’t played in months? Have no fear, I’m happy to let you know what’s going on with this archetype of a deck. Darkrai-EX has a sweet Dark Pulse attack as you may already know, and that’s the entire focus of this build. Basically, you’re going to try and house as many Darkness Energy on your field, all the while increasing your Dark Pulse damage output.

To do this efficiently, you’ll need Yveltal for its Oblivion Wing attack to not only accelerate Energy, but recover them when you lose them, Exp. Share to keep Energy hanging around, and Max Elixir to get off to a hard-hitting start. This deck plays more Energy cards than most other decks, because you want to increase your odds of hitting Max Elixir, as well as your odds of consistently drawing Energy every single turn of the game.

There are truly four versions of this deck, but only one that I personally like. I’ll be focusing on my favorite, which simply plays Darkrai-EX, Hoopa-EX, Shaymin-EX, Yveltal, and sometimes Tauros-GX. Other builds play Dragon Pokemon like Giratina-EX and Salamence-EX, some play Dragonair for its Energy acceleration from its Dragon’s Wish attack, and lastly some play Solgaleo-GX for its Sol Burst GX attack. While all the aforementioned versions are fine and dandy, I prefer a clean-cut approach that focuses on consistency, and that would be just Darkrai-EX and some supporting Pokemon.

Let me give you a brief look at how games ideally go in terms of the number of Darkness Energy cards you have in play. On the end of your first turn, you should be looking at two, by your second, four. As long as for the first three to five turns of the game you get two Energy into play each turn a total of four times, you’ll be looking at eight Darkness Energy overall by the end of your fifth turn. Dark Pulse hits for a base damage of 20, and adds 20 more for each Darkness from that point onward. 180 damage is nothing to scoff at, and it’s probably something to run and hide from. If by this point you’re attacking with Dark Pulse, you’re doing a ton of damage, and the last hope is that you have two Exp. Shares in play to recover your Energy in the event your Active Pokemon gets Knocked Out.

If all goes well, you’ll be one-shotting nearly every popular Pokemon in the game by your sixth or seventh turn, and most decks will fold to that. Turbo Darkrai-EX is an amazing deck because it packs a huge punch very quickly, and is very low maintenance as far as setup, and setup retention go. Now let’s get into some not-so-obvious stuff for the most of you.

Is it… Joltik?

It Sounds Cool, But How Do I Play It?

Lucky you, this deck is simplistic in design. On your first turn, you’re basically trying to find Hoopa-EX above anything else. With Hoopa, you can find multiple Darkrai-EX, and Shaymin-EX, which will help you get set up and find the all-important Max Elixir. A great way to play your opening turn is to get all your attackers out, and get an Yveltal into your Active spot. That way, you can start using Oblivion Wing on your second turn, or first, if you’re going second, and get even more Darkness Energy into play, from your discard pile.

After your initial setup, the next priority is to start looking for Exp. Share, and get those attached to Pokemon sitting on your Bench. You also want to be sure to space out your Energy onto a variety of Benched Pokemon, but do this while being wary of a potential Parallel City drop from your opponent. If he or she were to play a Parallel with the Bench reduction facing you, then you could lose Pokemon that have multiple Energy in play, lowering your damage output, and running the risk of you losing attackers themselves.

Now that you have your entire setup in play, it’s time to start taking Knock Outs. Using Lysandre effectively to pick off Shaymin-EX, and such, is a great strategy in the early going of a game. As you take Prizes where you can get them, you continually want to be placing Darkness Energy on your field to eventually get your attacks into the range that will Knock Out any Pokemon in one hit. When you reach that number, the game will more than likely be yours for the taking.

Got Any Secrets to Share?

I don’t know about secrets, but I have some observations about the deck, for sure. To start off, these are a series of points that I’ve grown to believe after extensive gameplay with this deck. That doesn’t necessarily mean that other players will agree with me, these are just some of the thoughts I’ve had as I’ve cranked out games with Turbo Darkrai.

Tauros-GX is Actually Good and You Don’t Need Two Yveltal

Towards the end of last quarter’s series of League Cups, I played Turbo Darkrai for four tournaments in a row. I’ll be brutally honest and admit that I played the exact card-for-card list as the Georgia Regionals winner did, and didn’t ever really think about changing anything. I was caught in a hectic two-week period where I had little time to test any games, so I just went with it.

Now that I’ve readjusted and gotten my feet back on the ground, I’ve been able to play lots and lots of games and develop my own thoughts about this deck. One of the first things I confirmed, was the fact that you don’t need, or even want, two Yveltal. Oblivion Wing is a fantastic attack but when you play two, you open a door for a few minute problems. First, when you play two Yveltal you don’t have the option for a seven-Prize game if you use both. Secondly, the two of them clog your draws and “pool of attackers”, since you want other options if you’re playing correctly. You don’t want to use two of them, so you’re better off having an entirely different option.

The only real argument that I believe exists in defense of playing two is somewhere down the lines of talking about starting odds, making sure you open with an Yveltal, and not landing one in your Prizes, if you play one. I think the chances of either of those things happening is quite small, and the upside of playing another card in exchange greatly outweighs that problem.

Now that we’ve found space for a new inclusion, it’s time to talk about Tauros-GX. This deck can sometimes struggle to hit the right numbers if you don’t get Energy off Max Elixir drops, or in general if you struggle to set up. That’s where Tauros-GX comes in. In combination with Ninja Boy, you can surprise an opponent at really any point of the game with a Mad Bull GX attack, and buy yourself extra time to get more Darkness Energy in play. Additionally, you can just put a Tauros-GX in your Active spot in the beginning of the game with a Darkness Energy, and consistently be threatening a Knock Out if your opponent doesn’t take you down in one hit.

I love Ninja Boy in this deck after playing a ton with it, it can even turn your Hoopa-EX, or Shaymin-EX into attackers. A lot of the time Exp. Share should be played on those sorts of Pokemon, so the Ninja Boy is a fantastic way to salvage those normally useless Pokemon’s spot on the Bench.

My favorite bull.

Two Switching Cards is All You Need But You Might Want More

When I’m serious about playing a deck for a long while, I try to look for any possible openings to make space. After hundreds of games with this deck, you don’t need what is often four copies of switch cards. The original incarnations of this deck usually played two Escape Rope, one Float Stone, and one Switch. While having all of those as options is fine and dandy, it’s simply just unnecessary.

Let me talk about Float Stone first. The list that I’ve been using lately has three copies of Exp. Share, which I think is absolutely amazing. Most of your Pokemon are already going to have a Tool card, be that a Fighting Fury Belt or the aforementioned Exp. Share, and you’re going to find a use for a Float Stone very rarely. The Stone is fantastic in the early game, if you’re playing second and are trying to attack on your first turn. However, this rarely ever happens, and against most decks you just want to sit back and preserve your attackers for when they are hitting for bigger numbers, anyways.

Now to ponder Switch. Switch is just very generic, and does nothing but move your Active with a different Pokemon that’s on your Bench. In comparison to Escape Rope, sometimes, not often, you will want to keep your opponent’s Pokemon in the Active spot. Obviously that leads me to Escape Rope, which is the best switching card for this deck. It serves to get around pesky cards like Bursting Balloon, and can throw your opponent off-guard and force him or her to promote an unfavorable Pokemon that was resting on the Bench. When it comes right down to it, I fully believe that two copies of Escape Rope are all you need in this deck to function fluidly, and well.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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