People hate losing to Durant. And they should. Most Durant games are decided by the flip of a coin and the luck of the draw. But what I’ve always found interesting about Durant is how many skillful elements of the deck are overlooked, even by top players. Here are 11 often overlooked strategies you can use to win more games with Durant.
Perhaps the most common misplay Durant players make is the cards they choose from their deck when they play Twins. To deplete your opponent’s deck of cards as quickly as possible, you want to have as many Durants in play every time you Devour. This is elementary logic that even a novice player can understand. What novice players do not realize, though, is that there are cards even more important than the fourth Durant. Instead of using Twins for Revive, grab two Crushing Hammers. Sure, you’ll Devour for one less, but you increase the chance of running your opponent out of Energy and forcing them to pass a turn they would have otherwise attacked. You’ll make up for having one less Durant by scoring another uncontested Devour.
If your hand doesn’t have another Supporter, you may have to use Twins for another Twins, or a Professor Juniper or N. When you are taking another Supporter, look at your hand. Often times you’ll have one dead card with a Junk Arm, and it’s worth taking another Twins. That way, you have two turns to draw a second card to discard with Junk Arm. Compare this to taking a Professor Juniper or N, where you will only have one turn to draw a useless card to discard for Junk Arm before shuffling your hand into the deck or discarding it. By taking another Twins, and then perhaps taking an N or Professor Juniper with the following Twins, you give yourself two chances to draw a card worth discarding, allowing you to both use the Junk Arm and preserve resources. This doesn’t always go perfectly, as you may draw two useful cards, like a Crushing Hammer and another Junk Arm, but it gives you the best odds of saving resources while still allowing you to play the maximum amount of Junk Arms. If you have a Junk Arm and no cards to discard, it might be worth taking an N (or Professor Oak’s New Theory) instead, allowing you to shuffle the Junk Arm back into the deck, saving it for later.
Another heavily-overlooked concept Durant players do not seem to understand is the option to hold Crushing Hammers. Players may be tempted to play them as soon as they have them. After all, it slows the opponent from getting that first KO. However, you should often hold these Crushing Hammers, especially if your opponent doesn’t play a lot of N or Judge Supporter cards. Why?
Well, let’s say we have a Twins in our hand, but we cannot play it because our opponent has not yet drawn a prize card. Our opponent has a Pokémon that needs one more Energy to KO Durant. (It can be a Zekrom, Mewtwo ex, anything.) That’s trouble for us, isn’t it? Not really. While it may be tempting to play Crushing Hammer and stall the KO a turn, if you’re holding a Twins you can’t yet play, it’s sometimes better to let your opponent KO the Durant to activate your Twins. Then, all your Twins will be activated for the rest of the game, and you can begin playing Crushing Hammers and Lost Removers like they’re going out of style.
#3 Crushing Hammer Choices
Your opponent has a Double Colorless Energy and a Grass Energy on their Tornadus. You flip Heads on Crushing Hammer. You may be tempted to take the Double Colorless Energy – After all, that’s two Energy! You’d usually be wrong. Special Energy are sitting ducks for Lost Remover since you can guarantee their removal later. Take the Grass and nail the Double Colorless later when you draw or Twins for a Lost Remover. You might end up giving up another KO because of this, but it’s usually worth it to increase the chance of eventually running your opponent out of enough Energy to attack with.
Like Crushing Hammer, it’s tempting to put your Special Metal Energies in play ASAP. After all, they’re basically just better versions of basic Metal Energy. However, this is often a misplay. Instead, you’ll want to save your special Metal Energies for situations where it makes a difference. An example: We open Durant, our opponent opens Zekrom. We have the option to attach either a Special Metal Energy or basic Metal Energy to our first Durant. Well, Bolt Strike is going to knock it out regardless. What you should do is attach the Basic Metal Energy to the active and save the Special Metal Energy for a benched Pokémon. You have to think ahead: After using Bolt Strike, Zekrom damages itself, increasing its Outrage attack to 60. And if we hit heads on a Crushing Hammer or two, our opponent may be forced to use Outrage instead of Bolt Strike. It will take one PlusPower to KO a Durant with Outrage, but two if we have a special Metal Energy. This special Metal Energy can be the difference between a KO and no KO. The same concept applies to Eviolite: attach it to a Durant where it can make a difference. If it won’t make a difference on your active Pokémon, attach it to a benched Durant, and keep that Durant on the bench until it encounters a situation where it could actually prevent a one-hit KO.
#5 Thinning the Deck
About to play a Professor Juniper and throw away a Pokégear? If you’ve already got 4 Durant in play, Pokémon Collector isn’t going to be of any use to you. Play a Pokégear and try to pull out a useless Supporter, discarding it with Professor Juniper. By removing bad cards from the deck, you’ll increase your chance of drawing good cards. This is called “thinning the deck” and is a common strategy in almost all trading card games. Sometimes it might be towards the end of the game and your hand and deck will be filled with Supporters. Even if you’re about to play an N, it might be worth “burning” the Pokégear (playing it with no intention of retrieving a Supporter), just to get rid of it. These deck-thinning tactics increase your odds of drawing useful cards and decrease your odds of drawing less useful cards.
Against a Vileplume deck, you may quickly begin playing Junk Arm, discarding cards you would usually save (such as Revive), increasing your odds of drawing into Energy cards that will be crucial to have once our opponent evolves to Vileplume. You may also choose to unnecessarily use Pokégear early in the game, just so you don’t get stuck drawing it later after an N is played.
Crushing Hammer, Junk Arm and Lost Remover (if they play special Energy) are all critical to our chances of winning. You’ll want to play these cards as many times as possible, and in order to do that, you want to minimize situations where you are forced to discard them with Junk Arm and Professor Juniper. You’ll often be faced with situations where you can either play N or Professor Juniper. If the N gives you an opportunity to save even a single Junk Arm (or other useful card), unless your opponent’s hand seems very weak, you will usually want to play N, just to conserve that card or those cards. Likewise, you want to make sure you are discarding the right cards with Junk Arm, which usually end up being Pokémon Collector, Eviolite and Pokégear. You can save resources by holding Junk Arms until you have two meaningless cards. If you blindly play everything you draw (for example, Eviolite), you may be forced to discard useful cards. Remember when I told you not to just attach Eviolite blindly and instead see if the math would give it a practical purpose and prevent a KO? Another reason to hold it is because it can be discarded with Junk Arm, preventing you from having to discard a more useful card. When you save a Junk Arm, you’ll often want to wait until you have less useful cards to discard. Yes, that might mean you don’t play the Crushing Hammer immediately, and they get another KO. What you have to understand is that Durant matches aren’t really this close race of you decking them vs. them drawing six prizes, but rather a competition to see whether or not we can strand our opponent without enough Energy to attack for a few turns. That is our goal, to strand them without enough Energy to KO Durant. The way we accomplish this goal of running them out of Energy is by playing as many of our Crushing Hammers and Lost Removers as possible, and we accomplish that in two ways: firstly, by prioritizing Crushing Hammer/Lost Remover with our Twins selection and secondly, by conserving our Junk Arms/Crushing Hammers so we never discard any of them unless forced to. Whether or not our opponent finally ends up stranded when they have four prizes left or one prize left is irrelevant, as the Devours make their deck vanish so quickly that a few uncontested Devours means they’ve lost the game.
Another way to conserve resources involves opting to search for Junk Arm instead of a Crushing Hammer, Lost Remover, or whatever Trainer you want to play. For example, picture a midgame scenario where one of four Durants is KO’d, but we have back up Durants ready. Let’s say our hand consists of Twins, Professor Juniper, Pokémon Collector, and Pokémon Collector. We play Twins and are looking for two Crushing Hammers. However, instead of taking two Crushing Hammers, we should take one Crushing Hammer and one Junk Arm, using the Junk Arm for the second Crushing Hammer. Because we have two useless cards in hand (2x Pokémon Collector), we should take this opportunity to use Junk Arm now, instead of saving it for later when we might have a hand full of useful cards and we’re forced to discard something useful like a Revive or an Energy.
Another card occasionally worth discarding is Victory Medal. Let’s pretend you have a hand of Professor Juniper, Junk Arm, Pokémon Collector, Victory Medal. While it’s tempting to play the Victory Medal, it can backfire. We want to use the Junk Arm before we play Professor Juniper, and if we do now, we can discard Victory Medal and Pokémon Collector. However, if we play Victory Medal and flip one heads, there’s a plethora of good cards we can draw that we will then be forced to discard when we play our Junk Arm, such as another Junk Arm, Crushing Hammer, an Energy card, etc. Also, if we flip two tails, it will leave us unable to play the Junk Arm without discarding our entire hand.
To summarize this idea, try not to think of a Durant match as a race of you trying to deck your opponent versus him or her drawing six prizes, but rather a battle of saving and using your resources, namely Crushing Hammer. Durant tries to draw its Crushing Hammers, Lost Removers and Pokémon Catchers while the opponent attempts to maintain enough Energy on a Pokémon to OHKO Durant. Either our opponent will be able to keep enough Energy in play, and we’ll give up six KOs, or we, the Durant players, will successfully strand him or her without Energy, Devouring the deck, the player, and his friends and family.
Quit retreating your Rotom only to pass! If you do, your opponent can play Pokémon Catcher and bring Rotom back active and you won’t Devour next turn, either. Instead, attach a Metal Energy to a Durant, which prevents them from using Pokémon Catcher to waste a turn. If they Catcher a different Durant, you attach the Energy to that Durant and Devour. After attaching a Metal Energy to a Durant, you simply retreat Rotom next turn, which allows you to Devour.
Likewise, don’t bench the Rotom if you don’t have an Energy to attach to your active Durant. Wait until you attach an Energy to your active Durant (as well as another Energy to possibly retreat Rotom), then bench it – even if you have a Durant prized. If you prematurely bench this Rotom, it gets Catchered active, and you are unable to Devour on the following turn.
#8 Playing the Mirror
While luck is a huge factor in the Durant Mirror (Crushing Hammer flips often decide the winner), the key to the Durant mirror is to play as few cards as possible. By maintaining a large hand size, you will be able to replenish your deck with more cards each time you and your opponent play N.
Your strategy in the match is going to typically rely around one of two concepts, both based on Junk Arm.
This strategy works best when you have the lead. Perhaps you got the first Devour, or your opponent had trouble getting 4 Durants, maybe he missed a Devour or two. If you’re in good shape, the conservative play is to use the Junk Arms to repeatedly use Super Rod, shuffling three cards back into your deck. You’ll want to play Super Rod as soon as there are three cards to shuffle in. That way, it won’t end up back in the deck from an opposing N only to be Devoured away. As for Junk Arm, though, you’ll typically want to wait until you are a turn away from losing to Devour before using it to play Super Rod. That’s because when you play Junk Arm to play Super Rod, you deplete your hand of three (not just one) cards that can be shuffled back into your deck when an N is played.
Another strategy you can use is to try to run your opponent out of Energy by reusing Crushing Hammer, Lost Remover and Pokémon Catcher. This is your only chance of winning if you have fallen behind in Devours as it is the only way to stop your opponent from Devouring every turn.
The area you want to avoid is alternating between the two. Each time you play a Crushing Hammer, Lost Remover and Pokémon Catcher, your opponent is going to run lower and lower on Energy. This means each time you play one of these cards they become progressively stronger, as your opponent is less and less likely to have another Energy to attach. If you keep switching between playing Junk Arm for Crushing Hammer/Lost Remover/Pokémon Catcher and Super Rod, you aren’t giving yourself the best chance of removing all of their Energy. Think about it like this: When you Junk Arm to play a Crushing Hammer/Lost Remover/Pokémon Catcher, you use three cards, while they only are forced to play one more card (a new Energy). This depletes your hand more than theirs, so in order for it to be worth it, you are hoping they eventually run out of Energy and are unable to Devour for a turn or more. However, if you do not go “all out,” and play as many Crushing Hammers, Lost Removers and Pokémon Catchers as possible, and you instead save some Junk Arm for later, you are not giving yourself the maximum chance of avoiding a Devour.
This doesn’t mean you can never stop using Junk Arm for Crushing Hammer, though. If you managed to hit a Hammer that forced them to pass a crucial turn or more, and you now have many more cards remaining in your hand + deck (remember, your hand is basically part of your deck because of N) than your opponent, then you can switch gears, and begin saving the Junk Arm for Super Rod.
What Cards to Play and What Cards to Hold
While you want to hold cards in your hand, there are some cards always worth playing. For example, Pokémon Catcher. While it takes one card out of your hand (that could later be shuffled back into the deck with N), it does the same to them, forcing them to play another Energy from their hand to retreat or attack. Lost Remover? Same concept. Crushing Hammer may technically not force them to do something (you will flip tails half the time), but it’s almost always going to be worth playing because of the chance you put them in a spot where they don’t have Energy to Devour, and are then forced to pass (or play Professor Juniper).
One card to avoid playing in the mirror: Rotom. Rotom is easy Catcher bait and if it hits the bench, your opponent is going to repeatedly Catcher it active, resulting in you eventually passing while they Devour. Even with a Durant prized, your deck does not run enough Energy to deal with this threat of repeated Pokémon Catchers, Crushing Hammers and Lost Removers. You are usually better off Devouring for three the entire game than benching Rotom.
You’ll be forced to play N constantly in the mirror, as Twins is useless, and Professor Juniper helps deck you faster by adding more cards to your discard pile. But if you have the luxury of sitting on an N and don’t need any specific cards, you’re better off holding it to the end of the game. N allows you to shuffle your hand back into your deck, replenishing the deck. However, it does the same for our opponent. This means whoever is forced to play N first is at a small disadvantage because they shuffle in one less card into the deck than the opponent: the N itself, which goes to the discard pile. When both players are able to Devour, whoever is threatened to lose to a Devour first (the player with four or less cards left in their deck) will be forced to play N first.
N can also win the game on a turn, by forcing a player to draw more cards from his deck. Say for example, your opponent has five cards in his hand and five in his deck. An N forces him to draw six cards, leaving the deck at four cards, and Devour for four wins the game. Be sure to avoid walking into this situation yourself.
As for Professor Juniper, it should be no surprise that this card should only be played when necessary to search Energy or Durants, or, if we’re losing, useful Trainers to try to prevent them from Devouring.
If you have the misfortune of opening with Rotom, it will be Catchered repeatedly. When you retreat it, use Special Energy (Special Metal Energy or Prism Energy) instead of Basic Metal Energy. If you leave Special Metal Energy in play, they are easy targets for Lost Remover. Prism Energy and Special Metal Energy have no benefit in the mirror, so you don’t mind discarding them.
Always take the extra mulligan card. It does not make you deck any faster. At some point during the game, an N will be played, and that extra card you drew will get shuffled back into the deck. Even if your opponent mulligans twenty times, you should take all twenty mulligan cards.
It’s the most popular deck, and it’s also a tough match for Durant. But if you know what you’re doing, this match is going to be really 50-50. The key is the way you play your Crushing Hammers and Pokémon Catchers. A novice player sees Energy in play, and he plays his Crushing Hammer. He sees an Eelektrik on the bench, so he immediately uses Catcher to bring it active. But just because you can Catcher that Eelektrik doesn’t mean you should.
Zekrom/Eelektrik (sometimes called Zeel) versus Durant matches often play out in the following manner: The Zekrom/Eelektrik player is attaching an Energy each turn to an active Zekrom, while one or two free-retreating Tynamos sit on the bench. The Durant player plays Crushing Hammers, and, at some point, the Zeel player eventually evolves at least one of those Tynamos. With a two retreat cost, an Energyless Eelektrik is an easy target for Catcher. However, we shouldn’t always Catcher it active. Once that Zekrom is active (or when it is benched, but their is no Dynamotor option), you should begin your barrage of Crushing Hammers on it. Rather than use Catcher to bring Eelektrik active, which allows them to Dynamotor Zekrom, then Switch/Retreat, you can Catcher the Zekrom active, preventing them from using Dynamotor on it.
The reason we shouldn’t use Pokémon Catcher immediately on an Eelektrik is because when we do this, we send Zekrom to the bench, giving our opponent the option to Dynamotor an Energy on to it. Then, when he plays Switch or retreats, the Zekrom comes back with more Energy than it had before and we’ll need even more luck with Crushing Hammer to stop it from KOing Durants. Instead, what you should aim to do is first use as many Crushing Hammers as possible on that Zekrom. Before you Catcher that Eelektrik active, Twins for as many Hammers as you can. Junk Arm as many Crushing Hammers as you can. Your best chance at winning this match is not by sticking an Eelektrik active. It is by forcing them to pass because they are stuck with a Zekrom active that does not have enough Energy to KO Durant. When you prematurely Catcher the Eelektrik, they get another Energy on that Zekrom, and they’ll usually just Switch or retreat the Eelektrik to the bench. Before you go after that Eelektrik, you want to exhaust Plan A. Plan A is to Hammer them back to the stone age. Whether they’re attacking us with Zekrom, Zekrom EX, Thundurus, or something else, our strategy is the same. These are the following outcomes out our Crushing Hammer strategy:
1) We’ll flip well, and our opponent will begin missing Energy drops and attacks on our Durant, meaning uncontested Devours, and we’ll go on to win.
2) We’ll flip well, and our opponent will be forced to use Switch to get their attacker to the bench so they can use Dynamotor to power it back up. This is good because it not only forces our opponent to evolve to Eelektrik (an eventual Catcher target), but also because he is wasting cards they may eventually need to return Eelektrik to the bench when you Catcher it active.
3) We’ll flip poorly, and they will continue to attack, KOing Durants. However, even if we didn’t get as many Devours as we had hoped, we can now go for the Catcher + N strategy. An early catcher on an Eelektrik isn’t just bad because they get to Dynamotor their attacker that is sent to the bench, but also because their hand size will be large and likely to contain a Switch or Energy to retreat. After they are down to 1-3 prizes remaining, you can then Catcher the Eelektrik and hit them with an N. Yes, the N will add cards back to their deck, but it makes it much less likely for them to have a Switch/necessary Energy to retreat Eelektrik, and those extra cards in their deck will quickly disappear when you begin Devouring against a stranded Eeleltrik.
There are situations where you’ll save some Crushing Hammers for Eelektrik. For example, say we’ve Lost Removered/discarded three or four of our opponent’s Double Colorless Energy, and our opponent has one Lightning Energy on an Eelektrik while a heavily-damaged Zekrom has three Energy. In this situation, the Zekrom can still attack with two Energy so a single Crushing Hammer is useless. Instead, before we Catcher, then N, we should go after this Lightning Energy on the Eelektrik, making it more difficult for it to retreat.
Unfortunately, most games where we are forced to Catcher that Eelektrik to avoid a fully-powered Zekrom will be losses, as there are so many ways to get the Eelektrik to the bench (Switch, Junk Arm, Double Colorless Energy, or two Lightning Energy).
When you Twins, you’ll often have to take a Supporter for the next turn. Sometimes you’ll have a Pokégear in hand and a Twins. Before playing Twins, you’ll usually want to Pokégear first, and see if you get a useful Supporter. If you don’t, you know you’ll have to take one with Twins. If you do get a useful Supporter from Pokégear, you can Twins for a different card, like another Item card.
However, sometimes taking there may be two cards that are even more important than a Supporter card. Maybe it is just absolutely vital you get an Energy and a Lost Remover this turn. Or perhaps you have a Junk Arm in your hand and know that even if you get unlucky and don’t find a Supporter with the first Pokégear, you can Junk Arm to reuse it. If you decide that there are cards even more important than a Supporter, meaning that if you play Pokégear, miss, and still will end up not using Twins to get a Supporter, you should hold the Pokégear until after you Twins. That way, after you play Twins, you will have removed two non-Supporter cards from your deck, and your odds of retrieving a Supporter with the subsequent Pokégear be higher. These situations occur frequently with Durant.
Victory Medal can also create some confusing spots when you want to play some combination of Victory Medal, Pokégear and Twins on the same turn. Generally, you’ll want to play Pokégear before Victory Medal if it’s important you get a Supporter. That way, if it fails, you have a double heads on Victory Medal as insurance. However, if you play Victory medal first and flip two heads, grabbing a Supporter would be foolish because Pokégear is so unlikely to fail, but at the same time, you now have no back-up if it does. You’ll also want to avoid playing Victory Medal before your first Collector because if you prize a Durant, you can then bench Rotom, use Mischievous Trick, and a single heads on Victory Medal gives you a chance of immediately drawing that Durant from the prizes.
When card order doesn’t matter, such as playing a Revive you already have before or after a Twins, play as many of those cards as possible AFTER you Twins. This keeps your opponent in the dark as to what cards you retrieved with Twins, and, though minuscule, is a very small tactical advantage. Also, sometimes you will use Crushing Hammer before Twins, and depending on flips, decide if you need to take more.
#11 Conserve Time
Be in your seat early so you can resolve mulligans before the round starts. If you wait until the last minute, and are unfortunate enough to mulligan repeatedly, you can use up valuable time. Against a slow player, you may then lose on time.
And that takes us to the most complicated aspect of Durant: Rotom tricks. Join us next week for Part Two of The Hidden Skill of Durant: Rotom Tricks.