Back when Noble Victories was released, I made a list of the Top 10 cards from the set. If you look back, the list was pretty accurate! With that in mind, let’s take a look at the best cards from the newest expansion, Dark Explorers. We’re only looking at new cards here, not any reprints like Catcher, N, or Rare Candy.
In a set named Dark Explorers, it’s no surprise that there will be Dark Pokémon that make the list. To start off, we have Sableye, a meager support guy. Although he doesn’t do anything too game breaking, Junk Hunt is a wonderful attack that helps you recover any two Item cards from your discard pile. In a format defined by extremely strong Item cards (Pokémon Catcher, Crushing Hammer, etc.), being able to get back two of them can be incredible. To give an idea of how important it can be to retrieve your Item cards, nearly every deck nowadays plays four copies of Junk Arm, a card that requires you to discard two cards to get back an Item card! With more powerful Item cards in Dark Explorers, Sableye is a great addition to any deck playing Darkness or Prism Energy. Plus, you always have Confuse Ray in a pinch!
#9 Dark Claw
Well, Dark Claw is the first of many new tools that Dark Pokémon have to work with – literally a Tool. As if Special Darkness Energy and PlusPower weren’t enough, now Dark Claw can add even more damage to your attacks, making Dark Pokémon extremely fearsome and unpredictable. If you’re using a deck that focuses on Dark attackers, you probably will end up including a few of these. At this point, PlusPower has become a staple in most decks, and Dark Claw essentially is a double PlusPower that stays attached to your Pokémon permanently. With this card in the format, you never really know if you’re safe from being Knocked Out by your opponent’s next attack. Just think about it. With a Special Darkness Energy, a PlusPower, and a Dark Claw, suddenly you’re doing 40 more damage! Sometimes catching your opponent off guard with an attack for a ton of damage can end up winning you the game. Dark Claw is definitely a card you have to be aware of when facing any Dark deck.
#8 Groudon EX
One of six new EX Pokémon introduced in the set, Groudon is the first Fighting type EX in the format. Due to the prevalence of Eelektrik decks and the hype around the new Dark Pokémon, Groudon EX has a great type with both of them sharing a Fighting Weakness. Why isn’t he higher on the list then? Well, to be honest, the card is fairly underwhelming. Tromp is a pretty mediocre attack (especially for an EX), and Giant Claw isn’t too impressive either. Honestly, the main reasons that Groudon EX is playable are its high HP, Fighting type, and Resistance to Lightning. In most cases, you might be better off just using Terrakion. The reason why Terrakion is a stronger option is because it can hit for big damage with just two Energy, making it very efficient. What does Groudon EX do for two Energy? Well, it does 20 damage… The point is, it’s much more difficult to power up this guy compared to Terrakion. Still, I’m sure Groudon EX will find a purpose in this format.
#7 Raikou EX
When the scan for this card was revealed initially, it received a lot of hype. After all, what’s not to love? For three Energy, Volt Bolt can hit any one of your opponent’s Pokémon for 100 damage! Of course, you have to discard all of your Lightning Energy, but that’s what makes it have such great synergy with the best Energy accelerator in the game, Eelektrik. Pretty much every deck is going to have something in play that Volt Bolt can KO, making Raikou EX very good at picking up cheap prizes. Unfortunately, it isn’t good at much else. When you think about EX Pokémon, brute force and power should come to mind. After all, these guys give up two prizes when they go down, so they better be worth it! Even though being able to hit anywhere for 100 is nice, it’s going to be tough to make Raikou EX worthwhile. Between having to discard Energy and not being able to KO any big attackers in one hit, he just isn’t going to be efficient most of the time. On top of everything, he has a pesky Weakness to Fighting, meaning any Terrakion can come in and KO him with Retaliate. Taking everything into consideration, Raikou EX is fairly risky to use, but his synergy with Eelektrik makes him a good card still.
#6 Random Receiver
Since Junk Arm is such a heavily played card, any sort of Item card that can aide in consistency becomes a great option for decks. For example, Pokégear 3.0 is a card that sees a lot of play due to its versatility with Junk Arm. As such, Random Receiver fulfills a similar role, an Item that allows you to find a Supporter card. When you are able to reuse it with Junk Arm, you have more ways to find your Supporters. In decks that favor Dual Ball over Pokémon Collector, Random Receiver seems like a better option than Pokégear because you’re guaranteed to find a draw Supporter with it. If you run Pokémon Collector, though, Pokégear is superior because you aren’t forced to take a Collector if you have another Supporter in your top seven cards. Cards like these are very good because they help your deck become more consistent, and that’s why Random Receiver makes the list here.
Without a doubt, Zoroark is one of the most promising cards from Dark Explorers. In fact, you might be shocked to find it this low on the list! Well, let’s go through why it looks good first. For starters, Zorua has an extremely good attack in Ascension, which allows you to evolve to Zoroark immediately. So, you’re almost always going to be able to get a Zoroark into play on the second turn if you start with Zorua. Then, Brutal Bash is a wicked attack that can do up to 120 damage for just two Colorless Energy! So, starting on the second turn, you could be smashing your opponent for tons of damage at a low cost. Once you factor in cards like Dark Claw and PlusPower, the damage can add up quickly, making Zoroark one fierce attacker.
Unfortunately, this is all easier said than done. In order to hit for 120 damage, you need to have six Dark Pokémon in play, which is much tougher than people want to admit. Even if you start with a Pokémon Collector in your hand, you still need two more Dark Pokémon to max out Brutal Bash’s damage! It’s fairly difficult to get that many Pokémon into play, and, if you do, that means you have a lot of Pokémon Catcher targets sitting on your Bench. By far this is the biggest problem with Zoroark. To add onto that, its 100 HP is fairly weak by today’s standards, meaning it will be KO’d in one hit nearly every time. Even though its second attack, Dark Rush, is good in theory, you probably won’t be able to use it very often because of the low HP. While I won’t be surprised if Zoroark does well at tournaments, you have to be realistic about its shortcomings.
#4 Tornadus EX
Without a doubt, Tornadus from Emerging Powers has been the most versatile card throughout this season. Since Hurricane costs just Colorless Energy, any deck could splash in the giant genie with ease. In fact, we’ve seen it play a big role in top decks like ZPST, CMT, and Tornadus/Terrakion. So, will Tornadus EX see as much play as its normal counterpart?
It should! Just like the regular one, Tornadus EX’s greatest strength is that it’s extremely flexible. Although the EX drawback is troublesome, the redeeming factor for this terrifying tornado is that he’s extremely quick and hard hitting. For just two Colorless Energy (which can be fulfilled by a single Double Colorless Energy), Blow Through can hit for 60 on the first turn quite easily. Any time you can hit for a big amount of damage on the first turn, it’s going to put a ton of pressure on your opponent. Pokémon like Celebi and Tynamo are not safe at any point in the game if Tornadus EX is present. Of course, the attack does require a Stadium to be in play, but that shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve. On top of that, Power Blast hits for a solid 100 damage, which is pretty good considering that the attack costs just three Colorless Energy. In a lot of ways, Tornadus EX is similar to Raikou EX. However, the main difference between the two is that Tornadus EX is much faster because of its Energy costs. With its speed and versatility, this card will see play.
#3 Ultra Ball
Speaking of versatility, say hello to Ultra Ball! Now that decks are running fewer Evolution cards (and Pokémon in general), Pokémon Communication has been kicked to the curb for the most part. Instead, decks are relying on Dual Ball and Level Ball to search for Pokémon. Unfortunately, both of those cards have drawbacks. For Dual Ball, you can flip double Tails, making it worthless. Plus, it only searches out Basics. Even though Level Ball gets a Pokémon with 90 HP or less, it doesn’t find your big Pokémon. So, this is where Ultra Ball comes in. Since it can search for any Pokémon, it becomes a good card to play in nearly every deck. Even though Pokémon Communication did this already, it required you to have a Pokémon to shuffle back in, which wasn’t always feasible.
Of course, Ultra Ball does have its own drawback. In order to play it, you have to discard two cards from your hand! Even though this is a pretty big deal, it might turn out to be a positive thing in a lot of decks. Don’t get me wrong; there are going to be times when discarding two cards is going to be painful. Still, it can be beneficial a lot of the time. For example, in a deck with Eelektrik, you can use it to put Lightning Energy in the discard pile to fuel its Dynamotor Ability. Perhaps its best combo is going to be with the next card on the list.
#2 Dark Patch
Since Nintendo took over in 2003, it certainly seems like the game has revolved around Energy acceleration. Most of the successful decks either have had ways of generating more Energy in play or had ways to shut off the opponent’s Energy acceleration. Keeping this in mind, clearly Dark Patch is going to have a huge impact on the game. In the history of the Pokémon TCG, we’ve never had anything like this; the closest thing was Energy Pickup, which required a flip. No matter how much I try, I don’t think it’s possible for me to describe how good Dark Patch really is.
When you think Energy acceleration, you imagine cards like Eelektrik or Typhlosion Prime. Since they are Pokémon, you can predict how many Energy will come into play on the following turn by seeing how many of the accelerating Pokémon are in play. The scary part about Dark Patch is that you can’t really know how many your opponent will be able to use in one turn. Even if your opponent has no Darkness Energy in the discard pile, all it takes is a Junk Arm or Ultra Ball to change that. To put it into perspective, your opponent could have no Energy on the field one turn, and then you can be staring down a fully powered attacker on the next turn. Not only is Dark Patch very powerful, but it’s also unpredictable. Even though Dark Pokémon were fairly weak before Dark Explorers, this is the boost they needed to become playable. If only there was a new powerful Dark Pokémon to use Dark Patch with…
#1) Darkrai EX
Oh yeah, there is! With 180 HP, a great Ability, and an extremely powerful attack, Darkrai EX is going to be a nightmare for people to deal with. Normally the Energy cost for Night Spear would make it a mediocre attack, but now we have Dark Patch to change that. Thanks to the new Energy acceleration, Darkrai EX is going to hit you hard before you know it. Even though 90 damage isn’t too overwhelming, the fact is that it’s enough to KO any Pokémon in the format in two hits, which is fine considering you do 30 to a Benched Pokémon as well. With this card in the format, 30 HP Pokémon should be a thing of the past. So, cards like Cleffa, Tyrogue, and free retreat Tynamo are a thing of the past.
Before the release of Darkrai EX, Mewtwo EX was the king of the mountain. If you didn’t play Mewtwo, you were going to lose to it most likely. Now we have a Pokémon that can stand toe to toe with it, especially when you factor in the Psychic Resistance. Does this mean that Mewtwo EX is unplayable? Of course not! Mewtwo is still a very strong card that will make an impact in decks. The difference is that now Darkrai EX can stand up to it and give you another option. Assuming that Darkrai has three Energy attached, you would need a Mewtwo with seven Energy to X-Ball for the OHKO because of the Psychic Resistance. Of course, Eviolite makes it even tougher.
Overall, Darkrai EX seems to be the strongest card in the set, and it’s receiving a lot of hype. Make no doubt about it; this card is good, and it will be played a lot. Will it be a part of the best deck in the format? Time will tell. Until then, keep in mind that you will need to deal with Darkrai EX to win tournaments. If there’s one negative aspect of this card, it’s the Fighting Weakness. As a result, Terrakion should see an increase in play.
Honorable Mentions: Heatmor, Empoleon
Well, that wraps up the list for this set. Do you think I missed any cards? Is there a sleeper card you think people are overlooking? Let me know! Thanks for reading.