There’s a new Dark Lord in town and its name is Zoroark GX. Last season was dominated by Yveltal EX, the early parts of this season by Darkrai EX and Darkrai GX were big threats, and at San Jose, Zoroark GX took over the format being played in the majority of decks that made Day 2.
Zoroark GX has chosen to take on the format with a number of different apprentices, such as Golisopod GX, Lycanroc GX, and Lonzo Ball. However, the old Dark Lord, Darkrai EX still might be hanging around, being able to save itself from death.
In this article I will go over the changes I made to my Turbo Darkrai list to build it for the current format, go over the pros and cons of Turbo Darkrai for this format, and then the meat of the article is going over the matchups against the popular decks discussing the strategies and progressions you can use to get the most out of these matchups.
Pokemon – 12
Trainers – 36
Energy – 12
I already covered most of the basics of this list when I did a deep dive into Turbo Darkrai in September. Make sure to read that to go deeper into a lot of the choices in the list, and here I will discuss the changes that I made to the list from the last time I wrote about the deck.
-1 Sky Field
-2 Fighting Fury Belt
+1 Oricorio GRI 56
+2 Choice Band
The first cut that I made was cutting Sky Field down from a 3 count to a 2 count. While the 3 count was good for seeing it a little more often early game the card would too often become a dead card in the late game. Unlike decks such as Mega Rayquaza or Zoroark GX, Turbo Darkrai only needs to see Sky Field once in the game to unload all of it’s Shaymin EX/Hoopa EX in the setup phase of the game. After that you don’t care about it being in play as none of your damage output is calculated by the number of Pokemon you have in play or on your bench like other past Sky Field decks.
The second change is swapping out Fighting Fury Belt for Choice Band. I don’t think Fighting Fury Belt is a very logical play at the moment as almost every deck is playing Field Blower, so for the most part your Fighting Fury Belt will end up getting discarded off of your Pokemon and end up having no real effect on the game.
With that said, Choice Band has always probably been the optimal play in this deck since it was released. Being able to raise the damage output of your attacks by +30 is huge and makes it way easier to take OHKO’s with Dark Pulse and it also unleashes some magic numbers for some of your other attacks.
With Choice Band attached, you can do 160 damage with Darkrai GX’s Dark Cleave, which is good to OHKO a Marshadow GX. You can also add a Hypnotoxic Laser to the equation to do 170 damage and OHKO Pokemon like Tapu Lele GX and Yveltal EX. It also boosts Darkrai EX’s Night Spear up to 120 damage, which allows you to OHKO a Shaymin EX with Night Spear, which can be very strong in the Night March matchup opening up the possibility of a three prize turn.
Some smaller uses are attaching it to Yveltal to do 130 with Darkness Blade to OHKO a Shaymin EX or attaching it to Oricorio to do 120 damage to a Buzzwole GX.
The final addition to the deck is Oricorio as a tech for both the Night March and Vespiquen matchups. Both decks need to put a lot of Pokemon in the discard pile to take OHKO’s so Oricorio is very punishing against both of them and can be used to take multiple prizes in a turn with its Supernatural Dance attack.
Oricorio is also quietly very solid against Fighting decks. With a Choice Band attached you can 2HKO a Buzzwole GX with Revelation Dance if there is a Stadium Card in play.
The Pros and Cons of Turbo Darkrai
Pro – High Damage Cap
Just based on your Energy amounts, the damage for Dark Pulse caps out at 260 damage if you have all 12 Energy in play. This is good to OHKO everything in the game. The damage can be raised to 290 maximum damage with a Choice Band and 300 damage if you pair it with a Hypnotoxic Laser.
For one of its attacks, the deck essentially doesn’t have a damage cap. Dead End GX essentially gives you an out to one free knockout against anything, no matter how big the threat is. The only caveat is that if you are being Item Locked (such as against a Seismitoad EX deck), if Special Conditions are being blocked. (Hex Maniac can be used to get around this if an Ability is what is stopping the Special Condition), or if effects of attacks are being blocked.
This is very big for this format. This makes Turbo Darkrai one of the decks that can contend well against Wailord EX and makes Turbo Darkrai a deck with a chance to beat almost anything as it can power through so many different threats.
Pro – Fast and Consistent
Turbo Darkrai is one of the fastest and hardest hitting decks in the game. The deck is built to see a lot of cards over the first and second turns of the game and it doesn’t take a lot to set the deck off and going in a game. The deck is all Basic, so you don’t have to deal with any of the inconsistency that is found in Evolution decks.
With Dallas hitting more than 1,000 Masters Division players and a 7-2 record likely being needed to advance into Day 2, having a deck that you can reliably depend on to draw well throughout the day is a strong asset to bring with you.
Adding to that point, when you need to go 7-2, draws aren’t very helpful. Thanks to its raw speed, Turbo Darkrai is a strong deck to bring with you to avoid picking up draws throughout the day.
Pro – Runs On Basic Energy
Headed into the weekend, many lists for disruption variants, such as Trevenant BREAK and Seismitoad EX/Zoroark GX will be built with a focus on removing Special Energy from play. The most popular lists for these archetypes tend to only be playing Enhanced Hammer at the moment and not playing Crushing Hammer. This means that for the most part your Energy should be safe in matchups against these decks.
These decks tend to play Team Flare Grunt, which can remove Basic Energy, but these decks can’t really afford to be using Team Flare Grunt as their Supporter for the turn against Turbo Darkrai’s aggression.
Con – Sudowoodo GRI is heavily played
This one kind of sucks as it lowers the explosiveness of the deck. You can still setup fine most games, even with a Sudowoodo in play and some decks, such as Zoroark GX need to fill their own bench up to do anything productive, so in these matchups you can still effectively use Colress to get setup.
If you go first, Sudowoodo tends not to be too big of an issue. If your opponent doesn’t open it in their starting hand you can get off to your normal, explosive start. Even better is that your opponent will discard your biggest liabilities (Shaymin EX’s) and other dead Pokemon (Hoopa EX) off your field when they do play Sudowoodo down. A deck like Zoroark GX doesn’t always get to be too picky on what Pokemon they get to play down on their bench and often have to bench something like Sudowoodo to hit the damage output they need to take their own knockouts.
Con – Fighting Weakness
This one isn’t too big of a killer as the Fighting matchups actually aren’t terrible for Turbo Darkrai, but they are some of the closest matchups for the deck and not the type of thing you want to see often. You would much rather see a bunch of other decks which you have higher expected win probabilities against.
With Zoroark GX ascendant to Tier 1 status, players have been searching for Fighting type answers to the format. Whether any of them are actually viable in a large Expanded tournament is yet to be proven.
Con – EX Based
Since Turbo Darkrai is an EX based deck, it is fairly susceptible against non-EX decks that can OHKO. As you give up two prizes for each knockout and they give up one you tend to find yourself on the negative side of the prize exchange.
This isn’t too big of a deal against the most prevalent non-EX decks in Night March and Vespiquen as you can use Oricorio to patch your way through those matchups, but it does come into play against a deck like Gyarados that you can’t punish as easily.
If I were playing Turbo Darkrai (or Zoroark GX for that matter), I would be less worried about decks like Buzzwole GX/Lycanroc GX or Buzzwole GX/Garbodor and more concerned with Gallade going into decks like Night March and Vespiquen. However, Maxie’s variants of those decks probably get worse against almost everything else in their pursuit of getting a better Zoroark GX matchup, so I doubt many players go that route with those decks.
Matchups & Battle Tactics
The best way to think of this matchup is to think about how many attacks each deck needs to win the game. If you can force Night March to knock out your Oblivion Wing Yveltal or Oricorio at any point in the game, then Night March will need a minimum of four attacks to win the game. Turbo Darkrai can also win the game in four attacks and it often can win it in just three attacks.
I think the matchup actually got better for Darkrai compared to the Fall format. Night March players have added a 2-2 Zoroark GX line to the deck which gives the deck some added mid and late game consistency, but which hurts Night March’s early game consistency which causes it to more frequently whiff early game knockouts.
As the Darkrai player, you should be thinking about what knockouts you can take to shrink the game into as few turns as possible. Anytime you knockout a Marshadow GX, that’s two prizes. You can use Night Spear to take a double KO on something and a Joltik, this can often be two prizes by knocking out two non-EX’s, or three prizes if you knock out a Shaymin EX. Oricorio is also great for taking multiple prizes in a turn, as it can knockout a Shaymin EX for two prizes or multiple non-EX Pokemon for two prizes.
A common concern from Darkrai players is just getting steam rolled over and over again by Marshadow GX, but this isn’t too big of a deal. Darkrai GX gives you a quick response to it, being able to use Dead End GX against it for a quick return knockout or even Dark Cleave if you have a Choice Band attached. Additionally, Marshadow GX gives up two prizes when knocked out, so if you respond to it instantly it’s an even prize trade.
Additionally, you can anticipate your opponent needing to go Marshadow GX. Lots of Night March players depend on it as an early game crutch, so you can use this knowledge to Hex Maniac them. I think this is the correct line of play regardless of your opponent’s intention to use Marshadow GX as a crutch or not as it forces them to attack with a Night March Pokemon. Pumpkaboo needs a lot to OHKO a Darkrai EX or GX because of resistance, if they use Joltik for the knockout they open themselves up to potential Night Spear double knockouts, and if they use either to knockout Yveltal, then they added another knockout that they need to win the game.
I like going to Yveltal on the early game game Hex Maniac turn as it’s extremely easy to power up as it takes a single attachment to power up Oblivion Wing which OHKO’s either Night March Pokemon and gets them into a game where they need four knockouts to win.
The most important thing to remember in this matchup is that you need to be taking a knockout every turn. Put the pressure on Night March and see if it breaks. It’s very difficult for Night March to play neatly around an Oricorio against a deck that is keeping pace with it.
In terms of stress levels, Lonzo Zoroark would be the one I want to see the least as it is purely built on consistency which makes it better able to keep up with Turbo Darkrai than the other variants. Next and not too far behind would be Zoroark GX/Lycanroc GX. I think this deck is more favorable to play against than Lonzo Zoroark because the Lycanroc GX line and Fighting Energy adds a little extra junk in the trunk making it less consistent and more likely to lose games to inconsistency.
Additionally, Lycanroc GX doesn’t add much to the matchup as Zoroark GX already OHKO’s all your Pokemon under most conditions. It’s actually easier to knockout a Lycanroc GX than a Zoroark GX as it has 10 less HP. The only situation Lycanroc GX shines in is giving the deck a OHKO threat when Parallel City is in play, but there are so few opportunities for Zoroark to sneak an extra attachment in this OHKO fest that Lycanroc GX often can’t power up its two attachment attacks without sacrificing free prizes.
Zoroark GX/Golisopod GX is the least threatening of all the variants. This popular lists don’t play Sky Field and are built on the 2HKO game so it’s not a very threatening deck. You just need to make sure to remove your Sky Field from play with Parallel City if you use it during your setup and then they will only have Crossing Cut GX as an option to OHKO, which should allow you to pretty easily win the prize trade.
Against the Sky Field variants, there are a few core strategies you should have in mind.
The first is that you want to try to control the early game with Hex Maniac. Hex Maniac can be super disruptive against Zoroark GX variants in the early game. It can stop them from being able to use Tapu Lele GX’s Wonder Tag to search out a Brigette to get their setup going and it stops their turn 2 Ability party, usually stopping them from being able to get their explosive turn 2 setup that they seek out.
If you didn’t lock up the win with early game control, your next option is to use Parallel City and N to try to close out the game. This doesn’t always work, but it does sometimes get you the comeback win as you usually only need to buy one extra turn in these situations to get the win. I would play Parallel City down as soon as you can in the matchup in most instances. With Dowsing Machine you can play it twice and it can be difficult for Zoroark GX variants to recover from one Parallel City, let alone two. Most Zoroark variants are built around playing around Sudowoodo as a bench limiter and aren’t built all that well to deal with Parallel City.
Some other things of note in the matchup are Sudowoodo and Zoroark BKT. The Sudowoodo play can limit your early game a little bit if they start it, but it’s usually only a factor in games where they go first. It doesn’t fully disrupt your setup as they need a large bench to do anything of note, so you can use Colress to get setup. In these situations it may have prevented you from getting an early game knockout, which usually means that you will be more dependent on Parallel City in these situations to make a comeback win.
Zoroark BKT gives them a OHKO option if your bench is too big. This can be a big swing in the game sometimes, but a lot of times you want another non-EX to knockout anyhow (after knocking out something like a Zorua turn 1), so it doesn’t always matter if they attack with it. If they play Sudowoodo down in the matchup then your bench will be limited and they will take away Mind Jack as a good option unless you have a Shaymin EX in play.
One last thing, sometimes they will have Sudowoodo in play and then shutoff its Ability with Alolan Muk. In these situations, if you have a large enough prize lead it can be good to play down as many Pokemon as you can to get the most out of your Colress and to thin your deck as much as possible to be less susceptible to N.
Seismitoad EX/Zoroark GX
This deck sometimes gets lumped in with the other Zoroark GX decks, but it’s really a Seismitoad EX variant. The deck is very similar to the Seismitoad EX/Slurpuff PHF of the past, but Zoroark GX gives the deck a late game attacking option.
The most popular lists for the deck tend to play 4 Enhanced Hammer and 0 Crushing Hammer making it so our Energy is pretty safe from removal in the matchup. The most popular lists also play Choice Band instead of Fighting Fury Belt. This makes the deck more aggressive in their own damage output, but it also makes it easier to gather the necessary Energy to OHKO a Seismitoad EX. Perhaps the biggest thing that adding Choice Band does is give them a OHKO option with Zoroark GX.
The Zoroark GX OHKO is only very important in the late game. If they pop off with it too early you can let hell’s gate open by playing as many Items as possible and then just OHKO it, taking two prizes and setting yourself up for a strong finish to the game while also cutting off some of their draw power.
My list is built pretty well for playing against an Item lock deck. It plays 7 draw Supporters, which is a solid number to see them in your hand a decent amount of the time. This makes it a bit more solid that previous Trainers’ Mail based builds against Item lock decks.
On your first turns of the game you want to go as aggressive as possible and get as much Energy into play as possible. Sometimes you can get enough Energy in play to do 180 damage with Dark Pulse and in these instances the game is already over from the start.
If you don’t get that, what you need to do is work on taking 2HKO’s on their Seismitoad EX while you build up your Energy towards a OHKO. You want to switch between different Darkrai EX’s to try to deny knockouts for as long as possible using Dark Cloak to switch between them.
Yveltal XY is also a great attacker under Item lock as it can setup the 2HKO, while also accelerating Energy from your discard pile onto your field.
Hold on to hands with Guzma if possible for the times when they flip heads on Hypnotoxic Laser for sleep and then you flip tails headed back into your turn.
When you need to grind a game out, you can use your Stadium cards to limit the amount of damage Poison does. Parallel City can be very powerful in this matchup as well as it can also reduce Seismitoad EX’s damage output by -20 damage.
This matchup is very easy as you hit the deck for Weakness. If you go first, just get as much Energy into play as possible and then take OHKO’s every turn until the game is over. If you have a good turn 1 going first, there is almost no comeback potential for Trevenant players in the matchup.
If you go second and get locked you need to play calmly and wait until you can use a Hex Maniac or Guzma to play whatever Items you need to setup. If you only have one Pokemon in play, for example, they’re not going to be getting much out of their attacks which will buy you some turns to find the resources that you need.
In this matchup, don’t worry about any Shaymin EX that you play down with Sky Field in play being liabilities later in the game. Trevenant is dependent on using Dimension Valley to attack so they will bounce your Shaymin EX off the field when they bounce your Sky Field.
If your opponent plays Necrozma GX and gets off a Black Ray GX spread, if you have anything that becomes in danger of being knocked out soon, you can play Parallel City to bounce those Pokemon from your field.
With 10 Energy in play and a Choice Band, you OHKO a Wailord EX with Dark Pulse. Dead End GX with Darkrai GX also can give you one of your knockouts against the deck. Dead End GX also can put Wailord on a short clock. If they don’t get a second Pokemon in play, they can very quickly lose the game to a Dead End GX.
Yveltal gives you a way to recover Energy back onto your field and Darkrai EX’s Dark Cloak makes it difficult for the Wailord player to stall by using Lysandre to bring something active.
If the Wailord player uses Hoopa you can use Hex Maniac to knock it out with your Darkrai EX.
As Tropical Beach is hard for some players to get access to, this deck won’t see a ton of play, but there definitely has been a scramble for Beaches going on, so it may also be a little more prevalent than people typically expect a Tropical Beach deck to be.
At 130 HP, you can’t really take a double KO with Night Spear because of Magikarp’s Submerge Ability forcing you to use Hex Maniac to get a snipe KO. This prevents you from doing something like using Guzma on Octillery to try to take a double knockout and if Gyarados is active, you won’t be able to take a OHKO on the active if you use Hex Maniac.
Your best path to victory in this matchup is to try to take your first knockout on a Magikarp if that’s what they start active (which it should be in the majority of games you play against it) with Oblivion Wing. On turn 2, they probably won’t be able to Lysandre for a knockout, so they will be forced to knock the Yveltal out or not attack during that turn.
Just like the Night March matchup, Yveltal is utilized to increase the number of knockouts the opponent needs to win the game.
From there, you really need to hope that they had to play down either Tapu Lele GX or Shaymin EX onto their bench so you have a target that you can knockout for two prizes to shrink the game down and lessen the number of attacks you need to win.
From there, your goal will be to knockout a Gyarados and then two Magikarp. You will want to try to knockout two Magikarp in a single turn with Oricorio. This requires them to have two Pokemon in the discard pile. With 4 Rescue Stretcher they can often do a decent job of keeping Pokemon out of the discard pile, but that doesn’t always happen. If you have any turn where Oricorio can take two prizes on Magikarp’s you should go ahead and take it and not wait for later as that window of opportunity could disappear later in the game.
Another option you have is to use Parallel City to get Pokemon into their discard pile if they have a bench of 4 or 5. This doesn’t always work, but it sometimes is effective in getting a two or more Pokemon into the discard pile for the double knockout turn with Oricorio.
Sometimes the Gyarados will gift you free wins by whiffing on Team Magma’s Secret Base, the necessary amount of Magikarp, or their Double Colorless Energy, causing them to fall behind in the prize trade. Additionally, sometimes they can’t establish Octillery in play which opens them up to dead drawing out of late game N’s.
This matchup certainly is winnable, but I think against a talented player, Gyarados should probably come out on top most of the time, so you don’t really want to be seeing this. If you draw poorly at all against their normal draw the game will end very quickly, sometimes in as few as three attacks.
The two most popular fighting variants that I’ve seen on PTCGO are players porting Buzzwole GX/Lycanroc GX over to the Expanded format and then also Buzzwole GX/Landorus EX/Garbodor. Donphan also exists, but the deck is very bad and I can’t see too many people thinking it’s a good play into a tournament where they need to go 7-2 in.
Of these two, Buzzwole GX/Lycanroc GX is definitely the more difficult matchup as it plays Max Elixir, which increases the number of ways that it can take a OHKO against you, and it’s a lot more consistent.
On the surface these matchups are scary, but if you dig deeper they’re not as bad as you would think and tend to play out very closely. When everyone is OHKO’ing each other and getting two prizes for it, weakness tends not to matter too much.
The Fighting variants are actually very susceptible to whiffing the OHKO’s which I think can give a slight edge to Darkrai in the matchup, but I haven’t played a sufficient sample size against Buzzwole GX/Lycanroc GX to make a firm determination in that regard, but it definitely seemed a little favored for Darkrai EX from the games I’ve played.
As usual, Dead End GX is a great option to eliminate any big threat if you don’t have Dark Pulse’s power up to OHKO’s yet. If your opponent is playing a Focus Sash variant, remember that you can use your Hypnotoxic Laser to Poison your opponent’s Pokemon to work around that card.
If your opponent starts Buzzwole GX, Oricorio is a very strong early game attacker. If there is a Stadium in play, if you can get a Choice Band attached to Oricorio, you can 2HKO a Buzzwole GX with Revelation Dance. If the opponent starts Landorus EX, it’s better to go into Yveltal to try to build up your Energy supply on your field.
The road map for winning this matchup is pretty similar to how it was during the Fort Wayne time period. Your typical path to victory is knocking out a non-EX to start the game, knocking out a Gallade when they go to that, using Dead End GX to knock out a Gardevoir GX, and then using Guzma to bring up a Tapu Lele GX or Shaymin EX for a OHKO with Dark Pulse.
With Choice Band in the deck now, it is actually a little bit easier to take a OHKO with Dark Pulse, but it’s still very difficult and isn’t something you should rely on.
Most Gardevoir GX lists are playing Comfey GRI right now and its Flower Shield prevents Pokemon with Fairy Energy attached from being affected by Special Conditions. This creates a barrier for using your Dead End GX for a OHKO.
You can play around this though by using Hex Maniac to shutoff its Ability on the turn when you go for the Dead End GX. I’m not sure which is worse as a counter to Dead End GX, Comfey or the Wonder Energy that players were playing earlier in the season. Comfey can be played around while Wonder Energy couldn’t, but Comfey is a lot easier to get into play than Wonder Energy was.
The biggest thing going for Turbo Darkrai in this matchup is its consistency compared to Gardevoir’s consistency. I had considered Gardevoir a very logical play for Dallas headed into my testing, but moved away from the deck when I found the most popular lists for the deck just giving up a lot of free wins from it dead drawing. Gardevoir is going to dead draw into losses more often than any other deck that people are seriously playing in Expanded.
If you get one of these free wins against Gardevoir, then you just need to get one of the other two games to play out following the four attack process laid out above for the win.
Despite Gardevoir’s inconsistency problems, it’s still the deck I would want to see the least of the most popular decks headed into the tournament. In the games where it gets a fast setup you lose badly.
Finally, I want to close out by taking a look at a couple of tech options that you can include in the list.
Ghetsis would give the deck an additional disruption option on the first turn of the game as well as a disruption option that can be used in the later stages of the game where N may not be as effective.
I am heavily considering playing a copy of this card right now, and I would cut down to 3 Professor Juniper if I were to include it.
Absol is a solid non-ex option that you can leverage to improve the Zoroark matchup. If Zoroark has a full bench, you can attach a Choice Band to Absol and use Mind Jack to do 210 damage and OHKO a Zoroark GX with a non-EX Pokemon.
I think there are two slots available for “tech Pokemon” in this deck, and you need to choose two of the three between Yveltal XY, Oricorio GRI, and Absol PLF. Right now I favor Yveltal XY as it’s very good against Seismitoad EX decks and Oricorio to improve the Night March matchup (and Vespiquen if that pops up to try to counter Toad and Wailord).
I think there is an argument to be made that Absol may be a better play over Oricorio for this weekend as Night March might be receiving so much hate that it doesn’t show up in significant numbers. I don’t think I’m buying Night March not showing up at this tournament though. It’s won 2/3 Expanded Regionals this season, which probably justifies it being called the BDIF, and with players needing to go 7-2 to make Day 2, one of the hardest hitting and fastest decks in the format is always going to be a solid option to pursue that endeavor.
I am not 100% sold on Absol as an effective tech for the Zoroark matchup as well. If they have any less than 8 benched Pokemon you won’t be able to OHKO a Zoroark GX with it. This means that the Zoroark player can use Choice Band to play around Absol. Additionally, if you whiff your own Choice Band, then Absol isn’t getting you the OHKO.
I’m also pretty comfortable with playing the Zoroark GX matchup without Absol, so that’s another reason for me to avoid relying on a crutch card like Absol to try to steal wins against players who don’t think to play around Absol themselves. Additionally, Oricorio has utility in four matchups (Night March, Vespiquen, Gyarados, and Fighting) that makes it a solid option for the deck. It sometimes also can just clean up missed knockouts for you as well against anything.
Turbo Darkrai is still a very strong player in the Expanded format. It has one of the strongest raw power levels of any deck in the game, it’s very fast and very consistent, and it has lots of options available to it to try to take on a wide variety of matchups. Thanks to its strong raw power, it also tends to do well against the random decks that show up at large tournaments.