Monday, June 4, 2012

Hammertime! - Darkrai EX/Sableye explained

Hunting the Junk (in a diamond mine?)
Hi everyone!

I’ve gotten a load of questions regarding my Nationals winning deck and now I had finally time to write an article about it. In this article I'll try to answer every question you have made about the deck. There are lots of Darkrai variants out there and I can’t say that this is the best Darkrai variant but I can easily say that this is equally good as the best ones out there.

Darkrai EX variants have won all the official Nationals so far that are played in the HGSS-DEX format (I think). They have also dominated like a dictator the U.S. Battle Roads. I think I could do an own article about each different variant of Darkrai EX and if you think that’s a good idea, just let me know and I’ll do it. I think it’s already pretty clear that Darkrai EX is the best card in the format and Darkrai variants are the best decks in the format. If you haven’t yet gotten your Darkrais, and will attend Nationals or Worlds, get them as soon as possible. If you aren’t going to Nationals or Worlds, don’t bother getting Darkrai EXs just yet – they will be released in a tin box in autumn so the price of Darkrai EX and Mewtwo EX will decrease a lot when the tin boxes hit the store.

Anyways, let’s get into the article by starting with the list.


3x Darkrai EX
2x Tornadus EX
3x Sableye (DEX)
1x Smeargle
1x Shaymin


4x Random Receiver
4x Professor Juniper
4x Professor Oak’s New Theory
2x N
4x Crushing Hammer
2x Enhanced Hammer
3x Pokémon Catcher
3x Junk Arm
1x Super Scoop Up
4x Dark Patch
3x Ultra Ball
2x Eviolite
1x Dark Claw


10x Basic Darkness
3x Special Darkness


Many of you have read my report so you know the list and approximately how to play it. However, not every match-up goes with the same strategy. Of course you want to open with Sableye - that’s your main starter. Even if you don’t open with Sableye, you have a good chance of getting a T1 Sableye with Ultra Ball/Junk Arm and Dark Patch where you attach an energy with Dark Patch to the benched Sableye that is sought via Ultra Ball and then attach an energy to the active Pokémon to retreat. Each Pokémon in this deck has a retreat of 1 or less so retreating isn’t a problem.

With Sableye you Junk Hunt things that you have used and want back. Usually they are Hammer cards but very often you want to use it to get back i.e. Random Receiver. The great thing about Sableye as a starter is that it adds your consistency and helps you to disrupt your opponent at the same time. No other starter in the current format is able to do that. In cases, where you can’t get Sableye in T1, you want to search for Smeargle and just Portrait. This deck can use both – aggressive and conservative - way to set-up so even if you don’t get a T1 Sableye, you don’t need to panic.

If you went with aggressive set-up and Smeargle, you can just start attacking with Darkrai EX as soon as possible. Hammers are in your deck to disrupt your opponent while they are already under huge pressure from fast Darkrai EX. The conservative option is just to guarantee your set-up. It can happen in two ways, you can either destroy their game plan completely with Hammer stall (against any deck that cant’ energy accelerate) or you can just set-up one to two Darkrais while disrupting your opponent’s set-up. After you’ve set-upped, it’s very important that you start hitting your opponent’s weak point as soon as possible. With weak points I mean energy accelerators and Pokémon with energy. These are your main targets because after you’ve destroyed their energy accelerators, you have the edge.

Card Explanations

Darkrai EX

I don’t think there is a lot of explaining to do about Darkrai EX. Darkrai EX is the best attacker of the format and the 90 and 30 to bench is just devastating. Combined with Catcher and Hammer disruption, Darkrai EX can get very deadly. Interesting fact about this deck. A long long long time I played the deck with only 4 Darkrai EXs as an attacker. However, in the late testing I decided to put in Tornadus EXs. Why is that, you ask? That’s next.

Tornadus EX

Tornadus EX isn’t a part of this deck. It’s just a pure counter against the metagame I predicted the Finnish Nationals would have. I predicted a lot more Landorus/Terrakion decks. With only Darkrai EX as the lone attacker, the Landorus/Terrakion match-up is decided by my Crushing Hammer flips and obviously I didn’t want that. I noticed that Hammer stall with Eviolite Tornadus slowly set-upping to the bench is enough to win Landorus/Terrakion match-up. That’s the reason this deck has Tornadus EX. It turned out that I didn’t face any Landorus/Terrakion but Tornadus EX won me the top4 game against Kumis.dec, where I would’ve been helpless without Tornadus EX, so the late change really paid off.

If you’re sure that your metagame doesn’t have Landorus/Terrakion or Kumis.dec or you are comfortable with one flippy match-up, you can leave the Tornadus EXs out of this deck. After I lost in the Worlds top32 in 2009 to Mewtwo LV.X because I didn’t have Dialga LV.X. in my Palkia deck, I decided that I would never again enter an important tournament without a good game plan against every match-up. So far, the change in my game philosophy has worked out very well.


The heart and motor of this deck. Also, one of the most underrated starters in the current format. The magic in Sableye is that it seems too slow for the current metagame. What if your opponent goes with T1 Tornadus EX? Can you keep up with it if you use Sableye as a starter? Yes, you can as long as you hold on to your game plan.

These are the cards that you most often take back with Sableye in the early turns:
- Crushing Hammer
- Enhanced Hammer/Lost Remover
- Random Receiver
- Junk Arm
- Dark Patch

If you’ve read my report, you know that there are certain decks that you can win solely by taking back Hammers and Junk Arms. I have dreamt of unlimited energy discarding and finally thanks to Sableye, that dream became real. Some decks like Six Corners, you can win by just using your Unlimited Hammer resources to discard/lost zone their all energy. You don’t have to do any damage during the whole game.

One thing I also want to point out is that very often you want to take back Junk Arm instead of the real trainer you want to get back from the discard pile. This is because you want to get Basic Darkness energy to discard pile and that happens usually with Junk Arm.

The deck runs 4 Random Receivers because Sableye is your starter. I often got bad hands from PONT (no supporter) but thankfully Random Receiver in my discard pile was always there to save me. I always target at great consistency with each deck and Sableye’s synergy with Random Receiver gave me the great consistency I needed. Even in the late game Sableye may be better than Smeargle when it comes to consistency. When your opponent Ns you to one card, with Smeargle you’re always relying on if your opponent has the Supporter or not in their hand. With Sableye, you always have the supporter in your hand because you’re guaranteed to have Random Receiver in your discard pile in the late game.

Sableye is a very versatile card and the more you play with it, the more you discover new options with it. Even Confuse Ray can win you games against decks with big retreat or trainer lock.


Smeargle is here in case of horrible opening hands and just in sake of consistency. Even though Sableye is your main starter, starting with Smeargle is never bad. Starting with Smeargle is at least better than starting with the decks attackers. A long time, I played 2-2 Sableye-Smeargle line in this deck but I felt more comfortable with Sableye strategy of this deck, so in the last day of testing I switched back to 3-1 Sableye-Smeargle line.


Shaymin wouldn’t be in this deck without Tornadus EX but I’m glad that I put it in this deck because Shaymin allowed me to get the T1 in the top4 game. Shaymin is a versatile card and you can put it probably in every deck of the current format because energy manipulation plays a huge role in the current format. The main purpose of Shaymin is to move energy from darkness Pokémon to your Tornadus EXs but as I said before, there are many things you can do with it depending on the situation.

Random Receiver

Four Random Receiver seems like overkill but it isn’t. At least when your main starter is a card that can get trainers back from the discard pile. I started with 2 Receivers in the deck but the more played, the more I wanted to add Receivers to this deck. In my opinion, if you’re running this deck, you should play 4 Random Receivers just in sake of consistency.

Professor Juniper - Professor Oak’s New Theory

If I would be allowed to, I would play 8 Junipers and 6 Random Receivers in this deck but since it’s not possible I have to settle with 4 Juniper and 4 PONT. PONT is the best draw card in the format after Juniper so it was a simple choice.


I have mixed feelings about N in this deck. With Random Receiver, you always hit the N when you don’t need it and when you need it, you won’t get it with Random Receiver. N is a great card but it’s very situational. However, without it in the deck, I wouldn’t feel myself safe. Late game Ns play a huge role in the current format so you don’t want it to be your opponent’s privilege.

Crushing Hammer-  Enhanced Hammer/Lost Remover

The core of this deck is Sableye + these disrupting trainers. A lot of decks play a lot of Basic energy so you want to play 4 Crushing Hammers in this deck. You also want the Hammers to discard pile as soon as possible so running the maximum amount helps with that as well.

When it comes to Enhanced Hammer, I joked about it in my report and the “feng-shui”. To be completely honest, the decision to change Lost Removers to Enhanced Hammers came to me 2AM the night before the tournament. It sounded like a funny idea while I was tired. I didn’t think that I would run to any Klingklangs and even if I did, I think the match-up is in this decks favor so I was sure that it wouldn’t hurt me. However, in the tournament I was scared all the time that the decision to change the cards to Enhanced Hammers would be a problem. I’m glad that it wasn’t a problem and even though Lost Remover is a very cool looking card, I’m already fed up with it looks. But if you’re planning to go and win a tournament with this deck, don’t be reckless like me and play Enhanced Hammers – just play Lost Removers. After all, it would be cool to see 12 energy in Lost Zone.  

Pokémon Catcher

Catcher is a beast with Darkrai since Darkrai hits the bench. I settled to a fairly low amount of 3 because I felt like it was an optimum number for this deck. It worked very well in the test games and in the tournament and I still don’t feel like this deck needs any more Catchers.

Junk Arm

Usually I just link a link to my Junk Arm article but with this deck having Junk Arms as starters (Sableye), I tried everything from 2 to 4 Junk Arms. It seemed that 2 is 1 too few and 4 is just too much. Junk Arms are often useless in the first turn so 3 seemed as a great opinion.

Super Scoop Up

A very long time I was deciding between Switch and SSU. I hate flipping SSUs but because I knew that there would be other Darkrai decks out there using SSUs, I needed to do it as well. In the end , SSU did nothing during the whole tournament but I still prefer it over Switch.

Dark Patch

You really can’t play this deck without 4 Dark Patches. You want to have early Dark Patch because of Sableye and they are great in the late game as well. They’re your energy accelerators and there is just no reason not to run 4 of them. As simple as that.

Ultra Ball

Ultra Ball is such a broken card in this deck. It’s the only card in the whole deck that lets you discard cards from your hand when your discard pile is empty. Whenever you have Ultra Ball in your opening hand, you know that you have a very strong hand. You get things like Basic energy and Dark Patches to your discard pile and you are allowed to search for any starter/attacker from your deck at the same time. The reason why I don’t run 4 of them in the deck is that they are usually useless in the late game. It would be another story if the deck still ran Weaviles but since it doesn’t – there is no need for 4 Ultra Balls.

Eviolite - Dark Claw

Once again, a long time I was with 2 Dark Claws and 1 Eviolite but once I put Tornadus EXs in the deck, I decided to put in Eviolites. It was a good metagame call even though in most of my test games I always favored 2 Dark Claws. It’s a very tough choice and it depends pretty much on your predicted metagame and if you run Darkrais only or the same kind of list as I did. Eviolite+Tornadus gives you an huge edge against puire fighting decks but Eviolite+Darkrai may save you from Retaliate OHKOs as well. However, with Dark Claw+Darkrai you may have some very quick KOs even on EX Pokémon.


I started with 14 energy (10 and 4) but needed space for something and tried out 13 energy. It worked out well and I think it’s the optimal number for the deck. 12 is too few but if you’re desperate for space, you can try it. Getting the BASIC energy to discard pile in the early game is crucial for this deck so every basic energy you cut from the deck, makes your start more inconsistent.

Card Choices

Some of the card choices differ greatly from the “normal” lists and I’ve gotten a lot of questions regarding these differences so here are the quick answers from the questions I’ve gotten from my card choices.

No Switch?

As I said, I was deciding between SSU and Switch for a long time and ended up to SSU after a long consideration. One Switch was useless whenever I got my hands on it and the deck just doesn’t need two of them – this deck isn’t a Speed Darkrai.

Ultra Ball/Dual Ball

Some Darkrai lists run Dual Balls. I think Dual Balls are great if you run a wide range of attackers (from Terrakion to Mewtwo EX) but in this deck where you only have 2 different attacker and use Darkrai in 90% of the matches, Dual Ball isn’t worth it. The deck is already flippy and Ultra Ball just combos with Sableye too well. You may want to try 1 Dual Ball in this deck but as soon as you flip the double tails from it, you’ll change back to Ultra Balls – only. Or that’s what happened to me at least.

No DCE and Tornadus EX?

This is a question that has messed with many people’s mind. The reason why this deck doesn’t run DCE is simple – the deck isn’t Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX. It’s Darkrai EX/Sableye with Tornadus EX tech against the horrible match-ups. In most match-ups you just want to discard Tornadus EX. As I explained, I played the deck a long time without Tornadus EX but decided to make the change in the late testing. Also, there is nothing more horrible than attaching a DCE to Darkrai EX. Mewtwo EX will come to thank you after that. I tested 2-3 DCEs in this deck and I hated them whenever I drew into them.

Mewtwo EX?

Horrible starter, otherwise it would be a very good tech choice. I haven’t done a lot of testing with but one thing is for sure – the deck doesn’t necessarily need it.  


It’s obvious – no deck is perfect. And this deck is no exception. I won Nationals with it and it did very well in my test games but there were some problems I identified from it.

Not Drawing into Disruption

This was probably the problem that was the most usual one. Even though the deck has 6 or 9 disruption trainers (depending if Catchers works as disruption), sometimes it’s just very difficult to draw into them. When this happens, Sableye loses almost all its meaning and the game becomes difficult. However, if you survive the rocky opening, the game will turn into your favor because eventually you will draw into the disruption and when that happens in the middle of the game, your opponent is in trouble.

100% Tails from Hammers

Flipping is flipping and sometimes you just have a bad flipping day. When you hit everything and almost everything tails things become difficult because your deck is just full of useless cards. However, as long as you hit 40-50% heads, you’ll be fine.

2 Darkrai EXs in the prizes combined to slow start

The deck has no way to get Pokémon back from discard pile so if you have only 1 Darkrai EX in the deck and other prized, things might get difficult. At least when you’re against Eelektrik deck and you can’t use Tornadus EXs as supporting attackers. Of course against fighting decks this doesn’t matter but I have Worlds-class experience from horrible prizes knocking me out of top4, so yeah, it can always happen.

Real Surprise Terrakions

With real surprise Terrakions I mean Terrakions that literally come out from nowhere. Nowadays, you should always expect Terrakion from your opponent and be ready for it. Also, the deck has 2 Eviolites and Eviolited Darkrai is difficult even for Terrakion. However, if Terrakion is able to surprise you completely, you may be in trouble. The best way to deal with surprise Terrakion is to keep your cool and start Hammering+Sable its energy away while you set-up your next attacker. A long time my list had Weavile in it to prevent the real surprise Terrakions but due the last-minute changes, I decided to drop off 2-2 Weavile line and make my deck vulnerable to them but making my deck more consistent at the same time.


The article was longer than usual but I hope you still enjoyed it. Also, I have gotten a lot of questions regarding this deck and tried to answer the best I could. I know that I probably forget some of the questions, so feel free to ask them in the comments or with e-mail. You may wonder why the article had no match-ups and it’s because I don’t like theorymoning the match-ups. I know that everyone have their own decklists and you can theorymon yourself to death for example with Terrakion vs. Darkrai EX scenario. The worst thing about that is that Terrakion can be put into any deck of the format even though it would ruin the deck’s whole consistency. (Yes I’ve seen even a Durant with Terrakion…)

Anyways, if you have any questions (even about the match-ups) or comments in general, feel free to leave any of them and I’ll answer them the best I can.

Thanks for reading and happy beginning of the summer!


  1. I'm interested in how this deck would fare against Empoleon/Terrakion. I'm guessing not too good since Empo needs 1 energy and Terrakion doesn't have any until he starts attacking, but I wanted to know if you've tested it.

    1. It's easy. Empoleon/Terrakion is bad.

    2. Actually the matchup is favourable to Darkrai EX. Eviolited Tornadus EX sweeps through Empoleon/Terrakion.

  2. Great article! Explained a lot of your decisions that I didn't understand. I think an article on each version of Darkrai would be pretty cool.

  3. THANK you for writing this. Finally, I fully understand your list! :]

  4. Just wanted to let you know i took this to a first and second place in some Virginia battle roads over the weekend and I'm positive the only reason I took second place in the second BR is because I missed all of my hammers. This is hands down my most favorite deck I've played since I got stuck on Gyarados. The only change I made was to take out a random receiver for a third Tornadus and that's only because all i faced in top cut was Terrakion and they were all scary match-ups. Terrakion is huge in Virginia. I've got two more BRs ahead of me and I'm sticking with hammertime. Keep up the good work Esa!

    1. Booooooo hammertime! Speed Darkrai all the way!

      -you know who lol

  5. Run Tornadus EX. Never go with 4 Darkrai build.

  6. Esa, I sent you an email, please do check it out!

  7. Cruelbear: I've tested the match-up quite a big amount and I can say it's a pretty easy match-up if you flip at least 1/4 Hammers heads. The only thing you have to care about, are the Terrakions and whenver they are played to the bench, you just Catcher them or kill the Empoleon, if Terrakion doesn't have energy/Exp. Share on it. Also, as stated above, this deck is more consistent and faster than Empoleon/Terrakion.

    Anonymous1: Glad that it answered the unanswered questions!

    Gabe C: Great to hear that!

    Zane A: Whoa, that's great going right there - congratulations! Good luck for the upcoming BRs and Nationals!

    Anonymous3: The full-Darkrai version is even more consistent than the Tornadus EX one so I wouldn't rule out going full-Darkrai completely. You can do it in a metagame with no Terrakions in it. However, if your metagame doesn't have fighting in it, there is something seriously wrong with the metagame, haha.

    Anonymous4: I'll check it as soon as I get home.

    Thanks everyone for the questions and comments, feel free to ask more!

  8. Hello Esa! First let me contratulate you for yet another title and for the creation of a great blog for the Pokémon TCG community. It's been an awesome read through all the season, keep it up! I'm having my Nationals this month and I'll definately test your deck, it seems great! I'd also be interested in an article about all the Darkrai variants, since it's the clear BDIF but there are so many ways to run it! Thank you again and good luck for the future and for Worlds!

  9. Thanks for this article, it clarified some things for me (such as why you played Tornadus EX whithout DCE). I tried this deck recently and I like your choices. I've even come to play only 3 Junk arm, even though it seemed really strange when I first read your list (especially since you linked to your article on Junk Arm at every occasion...).

    I think it would be a good idea to do an article on each version of Darkrai, as you offered.

    Also, you might want to consider updating The Decklist Out!

  10. Yeah an article on every Darkrai deck would be nice for those who have nationals coming up soon.

    Granted I already had mine, but it would be great for other players and I think it would be nice to get more ''serious'' articles before some and big nationals to help others.

  11. Thanks for the awesome article Esa! I've also sent you an email just now. Please do reply soon! Thanks!

  12. Very nice decklist Esa!

    I don't have any Darkari but, I'm going to pair Sableye and Smeargle with another attacker just for the Hammering fun! haha

    PS. I don't mean to nit-pick, I just wanted to point out that this sentence struck me as odd and left me scratching my head for a min:
    "Ultra Ball is such a broken card in this deck. It’s the only card in the whole deck that lets you discard cards from your hand when your discard pile is empty."
    I immediately through about Juniper discarding whatever cards are in your hand, which is independent of an empty discard pile. I figured you must have been referring to Junk Arm, though it wasn't clear to me right away. I actually feel kinda stupid for even bringing this up. :/

  13. Thanks everyone for the comments, I'll start making Darkrai entries as soon as I have time! After my exams, I'll probably doing two articles to SixPrizes so I have a lot of writing ahead of me, haha.

    forthefuturety: Yeah, I was referring to Junk Arm since of course Juniper can discard the energy but since it discards everything else. With Ultra Ball you can aim to discard Basic energy cards. However, good catch - I think I didn't even remember Juniper while writing that part of the article.

  14. Cool article. I learned a lot about how to play this deck and what to expect when matching up against it as well.

  15. I can understand what you said about a bad flipping day. I ran this deck at a battle roads and faced Quad Terrakoin in the finals. I felt like I had the game in the bag until it happened. I didn't draw into hammer till third turn and flipped 1 haeds out of 6 crushing hammer flips

  16. Esa, do you think Hammertime would work as a tech in ZekEels? I understand it might become more of a niche deck rather than a tech considering the amount of cards needed to use it but I think it's a nice idea and it would help a lot against Terrakion - limiting their energy usage because of constant hammers.

  17. Anonymous1: Auch, that sounds like a horrible luck!

    Anonymous2: Well, I think teching Crushing Hammers into any deck that doesn't play Sableye is completely luck-based so I wouldn't advice to do it unless you're certain that you can flip over 50% heads:D The beauty of Hammertime is that you can easily redo the Crushing Hammer flips with Sableye.

    1. Haha, yeah. I meant tech in Sableye along with it, I'm just struggling to find any space to do it though. 16 Pokemon +2, 32 Trainers and Supporters +6 and 12-13 Energy + 2.

      Perhaps even an energy search. I don't think it's optimised for something such as ZekEels but its worth a try.

  18. Since you're running Ultra Ball and Junk Arm, wouldn't Bianca be perfect for this deck? You can easily get your hand down to 1-2 (or less) with all that discard ability, and get 5-6 fresh cards from your deck. it would almost be like a Juniper but with 6 cards instead of 7.

  19. RON: PONT is better than Bianca in all situations. I tried Bianca but PONT is still better. Even Copycat would be probably better than Bianca.

  20. We really enjoy reading your blog. We find your information very helpful, and very in depth. It is nice to find someone with your level of knowledge and experience that shares such great information openly and with such passion. I wish you the best of sucess in the coming World Championships. A pokeDad and Son in Canada.

  21. Anonymous: Thanks a lot! It's always great to hear that. I hope you'll succeed in your upcoming Nationals as well!

  22. I really appreciate the time you took to write this as I've been struggling to find a consistent energy accelerating AND disrupting darkrai ex deck. I have my first BR next weekend and this will be my deck :)

  23. Anonymous1: Thanks a lot and good luck!

    Anonymous2: Great to hear!

  24. This deck is pretty awesome. I went 6-3 at US Nationals with this list plus or minus a card or 2. It was very consistent and the games I lost were all very close games. I even got a turn 1 Darkrai in 2 of the 9 games. I got 117th in the yellow division, which is not bad out of 500 players. That puts me at about 234th out of 1005 players or so.

    My brother used the same deck and made top 64 in seniors and then lost to a Darkrai with max potion.

    Thanks for a great deck!

    1. Thanks for letting me know! I always appreciate it. And congratz for a great result to you and your brother!

    2. Could you give me the original hammertime decklist you posted on this site? I know it's not legal anymore but I just wanted to see it in order to analyze and compare deck differences for an upcoming article. Thanks.

      -John Simms

  25. The US Nats junior winner played Hammertime.

  26. Thank you for this awesome article, I was playing zoroark/weavile/sableye in my zone (barcelona), but after a horrible tournament and your article, I'll change it to hammertime ^^
    I'll be pleased if you could explain me if a hammertime based on sableye/excadrill DE would be a good idea or not


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.