Adding Primal Strength to Donphan

1898999-ethan_donphanDonphan was the deck that took Fall Regional Championships by storm after Dylan Bryan pulled off a successful tournament run with the deck and then posted his deck list online. It then went on to become heavily net decked and then had a strong showing at the next weekend of Regional Championships, and then came out of the gates as the BDIF for the early parts of City Championships.

However, as City Championships went on, the meta adjusted, and Donphan decks started to become less successful as the series went on and by the time Winter Regionals rolled around, Donphan was down to the ninth most successful deck in the format. Fast forward two weeks to Florida Regional Championships and Donphan was barely played and none even made it into the Top 32 of the tournament, completing a month and half fall from grace.

While Donphan isn’t quite on the competitive radar, it’s too early to count it out. There are some common mistakes that people still playing it are making in their construction of the deck and Florida was on the other end of the country from the areas where the best Donphan players live, so it is possible that there just weren’t that strong of Donphan players at Florida Regionals.

Players Need to Reconsider their Walls

reshiram-black-white-blw-26The original Donphan deck that Dylan Bryan played had Outrage Dragons in it, and while these are neat, they are mostly ineffective. Virizion EX/Genesect EX doesn’t see a lot of play, and those that do see play have adjusted to include Deoxys EX, which allows them to OHKO a Reshiram with Megalo Cannon. Yveltal EX decks that play Hypnotoxic Laser generally don’t have too hard of a time scoring the OHKO on a Zekrom, leaving it largely ineffective as well.

The most effective Outrage Dragon for the deck in the current climate is Kyurem, as Fighting decks are one of the few decks that rely on incremental damage output instead of big swings, which means Kyurem will be able to avoid OHKO’s and then Outrage for big damage on a Landorus EX. It can be played around somewhat by using Crobat to snipe, or trying to setup a KO with Lucario EX and not benching Landorus EX, while trying to heal off Lucario with Super Scoop Up.

wobbuffet-phantom-forces-phf-36-312x441Wobbuffet is a hard sell right now, as Abilities aren’t too big, or at least the ones it can shutdown. Crobat is Psychic, so decks playing it need not fear a Wobbuffet. Yveltal EX decks may use Dark Cloak with Darkrai EX, but many of them are playing Garbodor DRX and thus using Switch and Float Stone to move around. Night March mostly uses Mew EX’s Versatile, which can’t be shutdown. You can shutdown Exeggcute, Empoleon, and Slurpuff in Flareon, but that doesn’t shut the deck down by any means. So as the meta stands right now, you would pretty much be playing it to annoy Flareon players, and stop the random Jirachi EX from being played.

The decks that Wobbuffet is very strong against like Bronzong, Virgen, Emboar and Aromatisse haven’t made an imprint on this meta game, so until that changes, there is little reason to include Wobbuffet in your list.

sigilyph-dragons-exalted-drx-52Sigilyph has been my personal favorite wall Pokemon when playing the deck. Most of what you are using these other walls to stop are EX Pokemon, so Sigilyph really brought that all together, annoying a wide variety of decks. However, it is much less effective with the current state of the meta. Seismitoad decks have largely dropped Slurpuff in favor of Garbodor DRX, shutting down Safeguard, and Yveltal EX decks have returned to being heavily played with Garbodor as well. Night March and Landorus EX decks have easy options for KO’ing it with Pumpkaboo and Crobat, and Flareon is an entirely non-EX based attacking strategy. With the way the meta has changed, Sigilyph is largely ineffective now.

So our primary wall Pokemon are all largely ineffective, but luckily there is one wall that is still great, and that is Robo Substitute, the Item card that you can play onto your field as a Pokemon. A lot of the best Donphan players actually dropped all of their wall Pokemon during City Championships in favor of just using Robo Substitute as their only wall.

This actually makes a lot of sense, as Robo Substitute is absolutely the best wall you could ask for. All of the Pokemon listed above give your opponents prizes when they knock them out, however, when they knockout a Robo Substitute, they do not get to take any prize cards, which lets Donphan trade much better with other decks.

robo-substitute-phantom-forces-phf-102-312x441Additionally, supporting the wall Pokemon takes up a lot of space. You should be playing four Robo Substitute, even with the walls, so going to just Robo Substitute doesn’t cause a displacement of available space. Therefore, when you drop your walls, you can drop the Float Stones that you needed to to retreat them and also the Ultra Balls that you played to search them out, as you can get by with just Korrina to search out your Fighting type Pokemon. This opens up room to play more Supporters, more damage modifiers, Stadiums, and neat techs like Enhanced Hammer.

You can also use some of that extra space to add in some new layers of strategy to the deck…

Enter Primal Groudon EX

donphan-plasma-storm-pls-72-ptcgo-1-312x441Donphan decks have two primary attack strategies that they can use. The first is to use Spinning Turn, an attack that you use to score 2-3HKO’s on Pokemon, while hiding behind your walls. The second is to use Wreck, which when combined with damage modifiers such as Strong Energy and Fighting Stadium, it easily OHKO’s most EX Pokemon.

However, Wreck has a weakness, which is that it takes at least three Energy attachments, which gives your opponent the opportunity to Lysandre up your Donphan and knock it out before you can pull off the Wreck.

primal-groudon-ex-primal-clash-pcl-86-312x441This is where Primal Groudon EX comes in, as it also has a OHKO attack with Gaia Volcano, but it can’t be brought active pre-emptively with Lysandre, so your opponent won’t be able to stop it before it attacks. The simplistic way to view Primal Groudon in this deck as the replacement for your Wreck Donphan.

With Korrina, we can easily fit a thin Primal Groudon EX line into the deck and search out Groudon EX and the Spirit Link at the same time.

Primal Groudon EX is indeed much stronger than a Donphan that uses Wreck. With its high HP it rarely will be knocked out in one hit, which means that you can take multiple knockouts with the card. If you’re able to get a second Stadium and then knockout two EX’s, that’s four prizes in the two turns it goes up and attacks. This is very powerful and can lift quite the load off Donphan, as you can just take two prizes with your Donphan and Hawlucha, and then finish off the game with Primal Groudon EX.

Deck List

This is the Donphan list that I have been playing around with for around a month now to some pretty good results.

Pokemon – 14

4 Phanpy PLS
4 Donphan PLS
3 Hawlucha FFI
1 Groudon EX
1 Primal Groudon EX
1 Mr. Mime

Trainers – 34

4 Korrina
3 Professor Juniper
3 N
2 Colress
1 Teammates
2 Lysandre
1 Lysandre’s Trump Card

1 Computer Search
3 VS Seeker

1 Professors Letter
1 Switch
4 Robo Substitute
3 Muscle Band
1 Silver Bangle
1 Groudon Spirit Link

3 Fighting Stadium

Energy – 12

6 Fighting
4 Strong
2 Double Colorless

I’m not going to go over every card on this list, as most are self explanatory, but I will go over some highlights to give the reasoning behind some inclusions.

mr.-mime-plasma-freeze-plf-47The Mr. Mime wasn’t something that I originally had in the deck, but I found it was needed with the high amount of Landorus EX and Crobat PHF in the meta game. If you want any chance against these decks, I think you need to play Mr. Mime. I was very hesitant to include it without Ultra Ball in the list, but it hasn’t been too difficult to get out. You can just draw into it, get it with Teammates, or even use Korrina to get Computer Search to get it if you’re desperate for it.

Teammates is a really neat card in this deck, as you will be sending up Robo Substitute into the active position, and your opponent will be taking a lot of knockouts as they go through the game, letting Donphan get more use out of this card than any other deck in the format.

lysandres-trump-card-phantom-forces-phf-99-312x441I really like Lysandre’s Trump Card in the deck as well, primarily because the deck is now playing Primal Groudon EX, but also for getting back your Robo Substitute in general. With Primal Groudon EX, you can actually kind of play two games with the deck. The first is using Donphan and Hawlucha, and then if you’re smart about how many Pokemon you bench, you can make it so your opponent only has the opportunity to take five prizes, and you just fill up your bench with Robo Substitute as you finish powering up Primal Groudon EX for your end game.

I am not sure on what the right split of Muscle Band and Silver Bangle should be, but I have leaned heavier towards Muscle Band to better deal with Yveltal XY and Crobat PHF. Prior to Primal Clash, some lists were playing a 3/3 split of these, but this is one of the concessions that you need to make if you want to fit in Primal Groudon.

When I first started testing this list, I started with a lower Energy count, and then increased my Fighting Energy count to make it easier to power up Primal Groudon. I still have two Double Colorless Energy in the deck as Wreck is still a very strong attack and you do want to have it as an option in the deck.


I am not quite sure if Primal Groudon EX will be enough to lift Donphan back into meta game relevance, but I think it does have a chance for some success at State Championships with a little help from its primal friend.

Donphan can provide a tough matchup for some of the quicker decks like Night March and Flareon, and Yveltal EX is a winnable matchup if played correctly with Primal Groudon EX giving it a much needed power attacker for the matchup, although it is still difficult and there is little margin for error. Against Seismitoad EX decks you also pretty much auto win as soon as you power up Primal Groudon EX. I think Landorus EX/Crobat PHF is the deck’s toughest matchup, as it can heal with Super Scoop Up, and apply a lot of bench pressure with Hammerhead, bat droppings and Skill Dive.


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