– Darkness Ablaze
October 30, 2020
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Resuming our somewhat Halloween-themed recent releases, I thought we’d look at Darkrai (SW – Darkness Ablaze 105/189), the most recent Darkrai-based card. This Darkrai lacks any specialty mechanics, and is worth only one Prize when KO’d. It is a Darkness type, which should come as no surprise: it is a pure Dark type in the video games as well. This type benefited from the Gen VIII changes to typing; more Psychic types are [D] Weak while [D] Resistance seems to be gone (along with the TCG Fairy type). Darkness-specific counters are Expanded-only (and not too impressive). Darkness-based support looks stronger than it is, at least in Standard, but is still decent.
As with typing, Darkrai’s Stage is no surprise: it is a Basic Pokémon. This is the overall best Stage, with drawbacks being external e.g. anti-Basic effects. Darkrai has 120 HP, low in the grand scheme of things, but close to the mid-range. It is more likely to be KO’d than not, but this is close to the threshold. Something that is new for Darkrai is its [G] Weakness; a problem when you run into a Decidueye (SW – Darkness Ablaze 013/198; SW – Black Star Promos SWSH035), but not much else. Unless you count Darkrai & Cresselia LEGEND, lack of Resistance is a new thing for Darkrai as well; all other cards with “Darkrai” in their name have [P] Resistance. Darkrai’s Retreat Cost of [CC] is decent; not easy to pay, but also not hard. Potential answers include Air Balloon, Hiding [D] Energy, and Dark City… with more in Expanded.
Darkrai has one Ability and one attack. The former is “Darkness Guard”, which reduces the damage Darkrai takes from attacks by 20 after Weakness and Resistance, and only if Darkrai has a source of [D] attached. The latter is “Vortex of Darkness”, priced at [CCC], and doing 60 damage plus 20 per [D] Energy attached to the attacking Pokémon (which is usually this Darkrai). Going from an effective 120 HP to an effective 140 against OHKO’s shifts Darkrai from being more likely to be OHKO’d to more likely to survive a hit… but it is still by a tiny margin. This would be great if it was +20 per [D] Energy, but a flat +20 only helps so much. Against [G] types, you’ll barely notice; 70 base damage to score the OHKO instead o 60. Again, the reduction happens after Weakness is applied.
If you use nothing but Darkness Energy to fuel Vortex of Darkness, its minimum damage is 120, which is solid for three of the same non-Colorless Energy, with the option of scaling up making it a definite positive… but again, it’s on the margin. OHKOing your typical, Basic Pokémon V requires eight Darkness Energy attached. Want to 2HKO a 340 HP Pokémon VMAX? Even if it has no defensive buffs, that’s still six [D] Energy attached, unless you can tack on an extra 10 damage/damage counter placement to the total. This is a lot of Energy, well beyond what we could comfortably reach relying on Turbo Patch, or even Dark Patch in Expanded. Still, having the option is often the point of having a scalable attack such as Vortex of Darkness, so it is still a decent attack.
Time to put it all together. We have a Basic that has a some reasonable chance of surviving a hit, and which can deal reasonable to OHKO levels of damage if it has enough Darkness Energy attached to it. The only real hope of fueling Darkrai in Standard, and probably even in Expanded, is Hydreigon (SW – Darkness Ablaze 110/189; SW – Black Star Promos SWSH037). Its “Dark Squall” allows you to attach as many Darkness Energy from your hand to your Pokémon as you want, during your turn. Eight Energy is still massive, not easy but now plausible. You’re not finding a Standard-legal Basic Darkness type who hits harder just based on Energy.
Another attacker to consider for such a deck would be Guzzlord (SM – Cosmic Eclipse 136/236). This gives you a 180 HP Basic that, for [DDCC], can use its “Red Banquet” to 120 damage, taking an extra Prize if this attack scores a KO. While taking out a small Pokémon for two Prizes is handy, the real trick and treat is to finish off a multi-Prize Pokémon with Red Banquet. Even if you give up two single-Prize KO’s going for this combo, you should at least break even: normally single Prize Pokémon are giving up two Prizes! Pull this combo off against a TAG TEAM or Pokémon VMAX and you’ll take four Prizes!
If you bring in multi-Prize Pokémon on your own side, you’ve got Grimmsnarl V for a Basic Pokémon V who reliably does 200 damage for [DDD], while bouncing two Energy from itself to your hand. You have Umbreon & Darkrai-GX if you want a straight forward 150 for [DDC] that gains a bonus Bench hit worth 60 if your opponent has Benched Pokémon-GX, or invest six Darkness Energy and use your GX-attack so that its “Dark Moon-GX” attack not only locks your opponent out of playing Trainer cards during their next turn, but automatically KO’s their Active Pokémon. MegaSableye & Tyranitar-GX’s “Greedy Crush” lets it swing for 210 damage for a chunky [DDDDC] but if used to KOa Pokémon-EX/GX, you take an extra Prize. If you can spare you GX-attack and drop 10 Energy – nine of which must count as [D] – this card’s “Gigafall-GX” not only hits for 250, but mills 15 cards from the top of your opponent’s deck.
Yeah, there’s more; those were actually the lesser options. Greninja & Zoroark-GX can use their “Dark Pulse” attack to do 30 damage plus another 30 per [D] Energy you have in play, for just [DC] attached to itself. You can flood your backfield with Energy, possibly prepping for the rest of the game, while striving for OHKO’s with Dark Pulse and only risking two Energy up front. Guzzlord & Naganadel-GX is not a Darkness type, but it doesn’t have to be to receive Energy from Dark Squall. While its Ability and first attack are decent, we’re here for its GX-attack. Yes, this means giving up your precious once-per-game GX-attack and both running and using a source of [P] Energy as your manual Energy attachment for the turn, then using Dark Squall to drop another two Darkness Energy onto this TAG TEAM… but you then can use “Chaotic Order-GX” to reveal your Prizes and take two Prize cards.
So, assuming you can keep a Hydreigon in play this whole time, on your second turn you open with Darkrai hopefully attacking a TAG TEAM, Pokémon VMAX, or evolving-next-turn Basic Pokémon V. If it doesn’t take the OHKO, but does do enough damage, Guzzlord steps in to follow through with Red Banquet, taking four Prizes. The next turn, you finally drop Guzzlord & Naganadel-GX, use Chaotic Order-GX with enough Energy for the bonus effect, and win. If that doesn’t happen, keep using Darkrai and Guzzlord to attack, then bring in Umbreon & Darkrai-GX or MegaSableye & Tyranitar-GX when their GX-attacks either win the game or setup for a probable win. If get a lot of Energy into play ASAP, Greninja & Zoroark-GX are your lead attacker, with whatever other attacker(s) make sense as follow-ups.
We aren’t seeing anything like this do well. At least, I’m not. In general, effects like that of Dark Squall have been competitive, but recently, it took a long time before the Stage 1 Frosmoth bore fruit. Getting the correct attacker, keeping a Hydreigon on your field, and having the Energy to rain down with Dark Squall is a tall, tall order. The real kicker? Even if you succeed, what about the other competitive Darkness types? I don’t know if there is really room for such a deck in a metagame where Eternatus VMAX is a dominant deck, and where Galarian Obstagoon (Sword & Shield 192/202) is a regular partner for Decidueye. Expanded adds more support but a lot more competition and counters; Darkrai doesn’t stand much of a chance there.
Darkrai is a nice pull for the Limited Format. Not durable enough for a Mulligan build, and most of the Darkness Pokémon beyond evolving Basics are premium rarities, so I’m actually thinking of Darkrai being splashed into only partial-Darkness decks. Get at least one Darkness Energy attached, and with two non-Darkness Energy, you still have a Basic with -20 to damage taken, swinging for 80 damage per turn. If you can load it up, though, all the better.
Another card that is a bit of a trick and a bit of a treat; Darkrai seems made for use with Hydreigon, but Hydreigon doesn’t seem like it has much of a chance in either Standard or Expanded.
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