Since Garbodor came out in Dragons Exalted over a year ago, people have tried to come up with different ways to use it. Without a doubt, Garbotoxin is extremely powerful. By taking away your opponent’s Abilities, you can shut down a deck’s entire strategy! For example, a deck like Blastoise relies completely on the Deluge Ability to power up its attackers. If you can take that away, you’ll win most of the time. Sure, it’s not a pretty way to win, but somehow I get the feeling Garbodor doesn’t care too much about being pretty.
While partners like Landorus EX and Mewtwo EX originally were successful with Garbodor, times have changed. Now the most common way to use it is with Darkrai EX, a card that has stayed relevant since it was released over two years ago in Dark Explorers. Most would say that the deck hit the scene at the 2013 World Championships when Dustin Zimmerman took the deck to a Top 4 finish, and Takuya Yoneda went undefeated through the LCQ and all the way into the Top 8 of Worlds. Then Lex D’Andrea proved that it’s still a force to be reckoned with in this format by storming through the Klaczynski Open undefeated.
In reality, the deck has been around since Garbodor came out. At last season’s Fall Regionals, I played against three different Darkrai/Garbodor decks! Although it was an unpopular deck, the strategy was not unheard of, and it had quite a bit of success. Just take a look at this article from Celadon City Gym from October 2012 for proof. Flareon mastermind Dylan Bryan also had a second place finish at last season’s Winter Regionals with Darkrai/Garbodor. Clearly the deck has been around for a while. But why has it been so good recently?
At first glance, you’d likely be quick to point out the obvious. Darkrai EX has won the past two World Championships, and Garbodor is really good. Of course the deck is strong! In all honesty, you would be wrong. With each new set that comes out, Darkrai keeps getting weaker and weaker. 90 to the Active and 30 to a Benched Pokémon just isn’t what it used to be, especially when all sorts of things can do 200 damage. Plus, lots of people are running Mr. Mime, which takes away the bench damage (if you don’t have Garbodor out). If you take that away, Night Spear is doing 90 damage for three Energy; that’s not very good! Plain and simple, Darkrai EX just isn’t a very good attacker anymore.
Why is Darkrai/Garbodor successful then? What makes it good? Well, there are three things that make the deck so strong. Obviously the first is Garbodor. But the second one is the key, and I would argue that it’s better than Darkrai EX.
Sableye is the best Pokémon in the deck, period. How many times have you cringed at the sight of this little guy? All it takes is one Energy for it to start wreaking havoc. Then it comes up, and your opponent announces the dreaded attack – Confuse Ray! All of a sudden, your Pokémon is taking 10 damage with a 50% chance of Confusion. If Sableye has a Dark Claw, you’re getting slammed in the face for 30 damage. Talk about broken and imbalanced! Wait, what? Wrong attack? Oh, right, it has that other one. I guess we’ll look at that, too.
In all seriousness, Junk Hunt may be the best attack in the Pokémon TCG. For most of the game’s existence, Item cards (or Trainers for you old school folks) have dictated how the game is played. Even back in the beginning, Energy Removal and Super Energy Removal made it so cards with high Energy costs were unplayable. Heck, think about how many successful strategies have revolved around taking away an opponent’s Items! For just about any era, you can find at least one Item or Trainer that completely changes the way decks function. Keeping that in mind, Junk Hunt allows you to recover two Item cards for one Energy. Now we’re talking.
Of course, Junk Hunt would be nothing if there were no good Item cards to recover. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) there are some extremely powerful Items out there. The main one is the third component of the deck.
Ah, yes, the dreaded Hypnotoxic Laser. For an Item card, you immediately Poison the Defending Pokémon. If you flip Heads, it’s also Asleep. Throw in Virbank City Gym, and your Item is doing 30 every turn. Yeah, that sounds fair. By this point, everyone knows how ridiculously good Laser is. But why is it so much better with Sableye? Besides the obvious reason that you can recover it with Junk Hunt, just think about it. Not only do you get back two Item cards, but you’re doing damage in the process. Oh, and if you don’t get rid of that Poison, that damage is going to add up to 90 by the time it’s your turn again. With Garbodor in play, you don’t have to worry about any pesky Virizion EX shutting down Special Conditions either.
Before I go any further, here’s the list I played at my recent City Championships to get Top 8 and second place finishes. I’ll explain all of the card choices in the article.
|Pokémon – 11||Trainers – 40||Energy – 9|
|3 Sableye||4 Professor Juniper||9 Darkness Energy|
|3 Darkrai EX||4 N|
|1 Absol||3 Random Receiver|
|2 Trubbish||2 Bicycle|
|2 Garbodor||1 Ghetsis|
|1 Dowsing Machine|
|4 Dark Patch|
|3 Ultra Ball|
|3 Hypnotoxic Laser|
|2 Virbank City Gym|
|2 Dark Claw|
|2 Float Stone|
|1 Silver Mirror|
|1 Energy Search|
|1 Enhanced Hammer|
|1 Max Potion|
|1 Pokémon Catcher|
|1 Super Rod|
|1 Tool Scrapper|
|1 Frozen City|
Compared to other lists, this probably seems unusual. However, keep in mind that this is built for City Championships. In the Swiss rounds, any incomplete games end in a tie. Even if you’re up 6-1 in prizes, the game ends in a tie. As a result, I wanted to make a fairly aggressive list with a lot of powerful single card techs. Let’s break down the “unusual” cards into sections so I can explain why I made my choices.
1 Absol – Now that Pokémon Catcher is on a flip, single prize attackers have become more important. Sometimes you need to attack with something, but you can’t afford to give up the two prizes with Darkrai. Absol fills the void pretty well. If your opponent doesn’t pay attention and fills the bench, Mind Jack can come in for a bunch of damage. Since it takes only two Energy, it’s very easy to power up with Dark Patch. To be completely honest, Absol is one of my favorite cards in the deck. I would consider running a second one!
3 Random Receiver, 2 Bicycle, 0 Skyla, 0 Colress – Like I mentioned above, I wanted this deck to be aggressive. In order to do that, I felt like I needed to draw through my deck quickly. In traditional versions of Darkrai/Garbodor, Skyla and Colress are staples. But in 30 minutes, that seems too slow. Let’s just draw as many cards as possible with Juniper and N and see what happens. We don’t want to hit any other Supporters when we use Random Receiver because they may not be drawing many cards. Bicycle is there for additional non-Supporter draw power.
1 Ghetsis – Honestly I’ve always just wanted to run Ghetsis in a deck, so I threw it in here. In a mirror match it’s very helpful after your opponent uses Junk Hunt. Otherwise, this is an extremely unreliable card that ends up drawing 1-2 cards most of the time. Every time I played a Random Receiver, I was crossing my fingers that I wouldn’t hit Ghetsis. Looking back, I probably would run a fourth Random Receiver over this; however, it does have some utility early on against a Stage 2 deck that just used Tropical Beach. If you take away a Rare Candy, you can slow a deck down tremendously. Plus, sometimes games do drag on, and you want a Supporter that doesn’t discard your hand (Juniper) or shuffle it in (N).
2 Dark Claw, 2 Float Stone, 1 Silver Mirror – Now that Pokémon Catcher is hardly played, 4 Float Stone isn’t a necessity because Garbodor won’t be in the Active spot too often. Still, it’s pretty helpful to have free retreat, so a few are in here. Dark Claw makes Night Spear do wonderful things in combination with Hypnotoxic Laser, and Absol benefits from it as well. For the last Tool, I was trying to decide between another Float Stone or Dark Claw. Then I realized I could run a Silver Mirror and potentially screw up some Plasma decks that run out of Tool Scrapper. Even against Genesect, they can struggle late in the game against an Absol with a Mirror. It gives you an x-factor that could steal a game every once in a while.
1 Dowsing Machine – Darkrai/Garbodor has tons of options for the Ace Spec slot. Life Dew is awesome with Sableye. Computer Search is always good. Even Gold Potion has some merit to help Darkrai survive. Ultimately, Dowsing Machine makes the most sense to me. I love being able to recover Stadiums and Supporters. N is extremely powerful at the end of games, and Dowsing Machine + Junk Hunt gives you access to an unlimited number of them.
1 Enhanced Hammer, 0 Crushing Hammer – Here is probably where most lists diverge. Yes, Crushing Hammer is extremely strong with Sableye, and it’s even stronger with Garbodor. In a setting like Regionals where there’s more time in the rounds, odds are I’d play it. In 30 minute rounds where games need to complete, though, I couldn’t see myself ever “Hammer locking” someone. So, there wasn’t a good enough reason for me to play Crushing Hammer. On the other hand, a single Enhanced Hammer can be a game changer, so I kept one in. Lots of decks run Special Energy!
1 Frozen City – Blastoise and Emboar decks are starting to run two and sometimes three Tool Scrapper – and Dowsing Machine! As good as Garbodor is, its downfall is high numbers of Tool Scrapper. So, let’s take a different route for beating these decks. With Frozen City in play, it’s one more hurdle the opponent has to get through. In addition to a Tool Scrapper and enough Energy to attack, a Blastoise or Emboar player also needs a Stadium to counter the Frozen City (or else take tons of damage). Since we can Dowsing Machine for it, Frozen City should stick out there eventually. The idea is to annoy your opponent to death, and eventually Darkrai should be able to clean up.
1 Max Potion – Max Potion is just one of those game changers. I don’t think I need to get into all of the ways completely healing off a Pokémon can be beneficial. Is there anything more annoying than seeing a Pokémon with 10 HP left remove all that damage?
1 Switch – I would not play this deck without a Switch or Escape Rope. Once Darkrai is in the Active spot, it’s very vulnerable to Hypnotoxic Laser and other Special Conditions. Nothing is more frustrating than losing because your Pokémon is Asleep. Perhaps Escape Rope could be a good option as well, but sometimes you just need a good old Switch.
1 Tool Scrapper – It might seem weird to play a Tool Scrapper in a deck that needs Tools, but this has become a staple in pretty much all of my decks. So many extremely good Tools exist nowadays, and it’s good to have a way to get rid of them. Something as simple as discarding a Float Stone can win a game. If you don’t run this, an opponent can slap down a G Booster onto a Genesect EX on the bench, and you can’t do anything about it; that alone should be reason to run this card. Plus, nobody wants to lose to a Rock Guard.
1 Pokémon Catcher – Let’s gamble. Sure, it’s an unreliable card now that it requires a coin flip. Does that mean it’s bad? Of course not. Catcher’s effect is ridiculously good, and all you need is one to change the outcome of a game. How many times did you play a Catcher for the win before the errata? You can still do that, you know.
So we’ve covered the card choices for my version of Darkrai/Garbodor. Is this the only way to play the deck? Absolutely not! The way I play the deck tries to take advantage of lots of different single card techs. Any number of them can be replaced by other cards. If you want to run more Pokémon Catcher, go ahead. If you think Crushing Hammer is the way to go, then go for it. Prefer running Skyla instead of Bicycle? Play that. There is no “right” way to build Darkrai/Garbodor, and that’s what makes it cool.
What’s the overall strategy of the deck? Well, that’s pretty simple. If your opponent is running a deck that uses Abilities, get Garbodor into play with a Pokémon Tool as quickly as you can. Then use Sableye to Junk Hunt until you’re comfortable enough to attack with Darkrai EX or Absol. Honestly that’s about it. Sometimes it can get tricky when it comes to deciding what Items to get back with Sableye, but figuring that out comes with practice. If I had one piece of advice, it would be to try to Laser every turn if possible!
How does Darkrai/Garbodor stack up against the field? Here’s how I view some of Darkrai/Garbodor’s matchups (using my list).
Virizion/Genesect: 50/50 – Honestly this can go either way. If the Genesect deck is using Hypnotoxic Laser, I would say this dips down to about 45/55 in their favor. An Emerald Slash + Laser KO on Sableye on the second turn is very intimidating! In this matchup, you need to get Garbodor into play as soon as possible so your Lasers can start doing damage. Otherwise Virizion EX’s Verdant Wind nullifies the Poison, and you’ll struggle to do enough damage to win. Once you start dropping those Lasers, though, you can keep up. G Booster is also what swings this matchup. Try not to get hit by it more than once. If you want to improve this matchup, add more cards to get Garbodor into play quickly. Crushing Hammer is an alternative, too. If you can stop your opponent from ever using Emerald Slash, you can get an easy win.
Blastoise: 60/40 – I’m assuming the opponent plays two Tool Scrapper and Computer Search with my percentages here. For each additional Tool Scrapper (or Dowsing Machine), it can turn into a 50/50 matchup or worse. With Frozen City, you should be able to “lock” the game eventually. Be patient in this matchup! If you charge ahead with Darkrai, things can backfire very quickly with a Tool Scrapper + Black Ballista KO from Black Kyurem EX. I try to lead off with Absol if possible, and then Darkrai can come in for a sweep later.
Emboar: 60/40 – Very similar to the Blastoise matchup, but I’d argue that this is slightly better because of Rayquaza EX’s 170 HP compared to Black Kyurem EX’s 180. Also Emboar doesn’t have a consistent attacker like Keldeo EX, which means Absol is a pain to deal with. Basically every attack requires discarding Energy, and that means N is a major factor late in the game. I would be very comfortable in this matchup.
Plasma (Lugia EX or Kyurem): 50/50 – Again, we are assuming that the opponent plays two Tool Scrapper. Depending on which version of Plasma is being played, the matchup is different. Still, it ends up being about 50/50 either way. Enhanced Hammer is your friend, and Garbodor takes away a lot of the explosiveness of these decks. Eventually you may be able to set up a “lock” with a Silver Mirror if your opponent runs out of Tool Scrapper. There are tons of variables in this matchup that make it difficult to predict. If you want a better matchup against Plasma decks, run more Enhanced Hammer.
Empoleon: 60/40 – As long as Garbodor remains in play, you’ll have an advantage in this matchup. The main thing you have to watch out for is a big play where your opponent plays a Tool Scrapper and uses Dusknoir’s Sinister Hand to KO your Garbodor. For that reason, you may be better off using Sableye for a while until you’re all set up. If you keep your field to just three Pokémon, Absol is a monster since the most Empoleon can do is 90 damage. Then again, Absol is incredibly good against a deck that needs a full bench to operate anyway! A quick Empoleon taking KOs on Sableye is a concern, but otherwise this should be good.
Gothitelle/Accelgor: 30/70 – Unless they prize Tool Scrapper and Garbodor gets to shut off Abilities all game, you’re doomed. Without Items, you’re helpless against the constant Paralysis of Accelgor. Plus, a Gothitelle on the second turn can shut you out of a game before you have a chance to do anything. However, if you’re worried about the matchup, a single Keldeo EX turns it into a 50/50. Being able to Rush In and retreat for free with Darkrai EX’s Dark Cloak is enough to give you a big advantage.
Tool Drop: 60/40 – On paper this seems like an extremely good matchup. By shutting off both Masquerain and Sigilyph, you limit what Tool Drop can do. Still, early pressure from a Tool Drop on the second turn can be tough to deal with. If you do manage to stabilize, Darkrai can sweep with ease. Tool Scrapper can devastate this deck, and you can Junk Hunt and Dowsing Machine for it repeatedly if you want to take that route. Lots of options to win here. Just don’t underestimate the matchup!
Darkrai/Hydreigon: 50/50 – This is a headache waiting to happen. In a 30 minute Swiss round, this is almost always going to end in a tie. Both sides will Junk Hunt over and over trying to jockey for position. Hydreigon wants to get Tool Scrapper back, and our side wants to keep shutting off those Abilities. If the Hydreigon side plays multiple Tool Scrapper, though, we’re in trouble. Try to avoid this matchup if possible!
Darkrai/Sableye: 50/50 – Laser, Junk Hunt. Laser, Junk Hunt. This isn’t going to be pretty. When both sides have Sableye, it gets messy.
Landorus/Mewtwo/Garbodor: 45/55 – While this seems like a really bad matchup, it’s almost even. Sableye is your friend here, giving you the option to Laser just about every turn. Don’t worry about going for Garbodor since they don’t even run any Pokémon with an Ability! Just be smart with your decisions. Max Potion is huge to heal off damage from Hammerhead, and Absol is really good for a single prize attacker. Enhanced Hammer can discard Double Colorless Energy, too. Be very careful about attacking with Darkrai. Stick with Sableye as long as you can!
Darkrai/Garbodor is perhaps the most interesting deck in the format. There are so many options and variations for it! Even with decks running multiple Tool Scrapper, it remains a top archetype; this speaks to how strong it really is. If the deck has any problems, maybe it’s the fact that it doesn’t have any “great” matchups. Just about every game is going to be long and drawn out, and you won’t have many games where you completely dominate an opponent. Sometimes decks like Blastoise or Plasma with Lugia EX can steamroll someone in a quick game, but that rarely happens with Darkrai/Garbodor. Get ready for a long day of Pokémon if you want to use this deck!
Hopefully this article gave some insight into my version of Darkrai/Garbodor and the deck in general. If you have any questions, feel free to ask down in the comments. Thanks for reading, and good luck if you’re going to any tournaments!