– BW Dark Explorers

Date Reviewed:
April 26, 2018

Ratings Summary:
Standard: N/A
Expanded: 2.33
Limited: 4.00
Legacy: 3.25

Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.

Reviews Below:


An EX getting reviewed in 2018? What is this? Well it’s actually something that managed to hit the Top 3 back in the days of Dark Explorers, so he’s probably…well, aged a bit but still good.

Raikou-EX is a Lightning Basic Pokemon-EX, 170 HP, with a Fighting Weakness, no Resistance, and a Retreat Cost of 1. His first attack is Thunder Fang, a 2-for-30 move that flips a coin and Paralyzes the Pokemon on a Heads. His second attack is Volt Bolt, which for 3 Energy can deal out 100 damage to any Pokemon in play, but you have to discard all the Lightning Energy from him to use it. 

By today’s standards, Raikou-EX isn’t really all that special – 2-for-30 hits for pretty low, the coin flip means he won’t be reliably Paralyzing anything (but what can really), and Volt Bolt feels underpowered when compared to the massive HP pools we have nowadays. But back when Pokemon-EX were still relatively new, Raikou-EX had a pretty potent use as a means of striking down weak Bench-sitters, stuff like Eelektrik or Tynamo or more recently most any Night March user. All things considered, while a lot of the big attackers have only gotten bigger, the Pokemon that can lead up into such attackers haven’t as much – meaning you can snipe out a Pokemon before it has the chance to evolve up into a GX!

The biggest drawback though is that major discard, which can be circumvented with things like Eelektrik and Max Elixir, but aside from that, Raikou-EX wasn’t necessarily built as a main attacker. If anything, he’s a good side attacker to cleaning up the opponent’s field or disrupting an evolution play before it has the chance to happen. With the right set-up, you might even be able to switch back and forth between two Raikou-EX to be consistently throwing Volt Bolts out and dish out 100 damage each turn to whatever you’d like.

Maybe not the most optimal strategy out there, but one for Raikou fans nevertheless!


Standard: N/A (he’s been out of Standard for a while, but I don’t think he’d quite measure up to today’s competition, though he can definitely be useful in taking out pre-evos)

Expanded: 3/5 (in light of what he can hit and the acceleration, I’m willing to be generous with my scoring here, since again, he’s got a lot going for him)

Limited: 4/5 (but ultimately outside of a more Limited environment, I think he falls short of a lot of other cards)

Arora Notealus: Raikou’s an interesting Pokemon all things considered. He’s made from lightning in the same way that Suicune comes from the rain and Entei from the fire. All of it’s connected to the Brass Tower in the GSC and HGSS games, which is pretty neat in its own right! I mean, not often you see the pure personification of an element, right?…well, I guess most legendary Pokemon are the personification of something anyway.

Next Time: And after the lightning comes the thunder!


Today’s Throwback Thursdays is Raikou-EX from BW Dark Explorers! It was reviewed by the Pojo review crew as the third best card of the set (https://www.pojo.com/COTD/2012/May/16.shtml). So what made Raikou-EX on the list?

Not so much about Thunder Fang; It’s mostly it’s Volt Bolt attack. For LLC, you must discard all Lightning energies attached to this Pokémon….to hit any of your opponent’s Pokemon for 100 damage. That’s a solid 2HKO against the biggest EXs at the time, since its cap was 180. Evoilite may throw off some calculations a bit, so Tool Scrapper may be necessary. The discard may be painful, but oftentimes it gets paired with Eelectrik’s Dynamotor to quickly recover and refuel Volt Bolt. And it’s single retreat cost that is shaved off by Skyarrow Bridge will ensure that another Raikou-EX will be set to strike.

That seems good and all, but the Fighting weakness is dangerous during its time, and definitely much scarier in Expanded now, since its legal there. 100 damage can only go so far in terms of what’s being used currently; GX Pokemon could have HP as much as 250, needing three hits to take them down, and that’s way too long. I don’t think Raikou can keep up in Expanded. There is a small trick in the form of Wide Lens, which is a Pokémon Tool card which can apply Weakness and Resistance for Benched Pokemon. Volt Bolt will suddenly do 200 damage to Benched Pokémon weak to Lightning; Yveltal-EX and Shaymin-EX are chiefly knocked out by this maneuver. It is legal in Legacy, and it will continue to do a good job there as if it was the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 season. However, one might watch out for Landorus-EX, as it can chiefly take out your Dynamotor engine.

Standard: N/A
Expanded: 2/5
Limited: 4/5
Legacy: 3/5


Raikou EX (DEX 38) debuted in the meta way back in 2012.  It was paired with Eelektrik (NVI 40) whose Dynamotor ability allowed it to be powered up turn after turn after turn.  Raikou’s main attack, Volt Bolt, does only 100 damage, but that damage can be applied to any Pokemon, not just the active.

OK so let’s play the “What if?” game (which is why I usually don’t review non Standard cards … that and the fact that I know nothing about the Expanded universe).  I don’t like living in the hypothetical, but let’s suspend reality and imagine how Raikou would do in our meta today.  We’ll even throw in Eelektrik to get the whole picture.

First off, it’s weak to Fighting, so that’s a huge check against it, although not insurmountable as Zoroark GX is weak to Fighting as well and that doesn’t stop it from being the best feature Pokemon in the game.  I could imagine a deck with lots of Guzmas, maybe some Counter Catchers, to try to strand big bench sitting Pokemon in the active while pinging away at feature attackers stuck on the bench.  Or maybe run a bunch of  promo Tapu Kokos, Flying Flip as many times as possible, and then come in and clean up with Raikou.

But I don’t think it’d be very good, certainly not in the Buzzwole, Zoroark [fill in the blank], (soon to be) Ultra Necrozma GX tier.  The best result I could find for Raikou was as a one of in the 2013 runner up deck in the Senior division at Worlds that year.  I could see it serving in that kind of role, so you could snipe an Octillery or a Malamar (FL 51) and try to undercut some of the techs in the top tier decks, but I just don’t think this deck would cut it against the best decks in the format today.


Standard: 2.5 out of 5


And I don’t think Magnezone (FL 36) would make it significantly better either.  Sorry Raikou you were good in your day, but Pokemon has escalated damage counts to levels that simply didn’t exist in the time you were standard legal.


Today’s Throwback is Raikou-EX (BW – Dark Explorers 38/108; 105/108) and is a hint about what we’re reviewing tomorrow, making this review (sort of) reflect the past, the present, and the future of the Pokémon TCG.  We’ve looked at once before, where we ranked it as our third best card of BW-Dark Explorers back on May 16, 2012.  Raikou-EX is a Basic Pokémon, which was great when it released and is still very good now. The [L] Typing has varied from poor to fantastic and currently seems to be okay, but I’m not sure if this really made much difference to Raikou-EX, for reasons I’ll explain. The 170 HP was the low end of what was typical of Basic Pokémon-EX, which usually had 170 or 180 HP with a few extreme examples clocking in above or below. With Pokémon-GX joining the mix, the number skews a little higher, but not much; 170 to 190 is the new typical range. 170 HP is still not as good now as it was back then, but that is because of rising typical damage output from competitive decks. The [F] Weakness has ranged from terrible to inconsequential and is back to terrible; Landorus-EX used to wreck this card, and now its spiritual successor Buzzwole-GX can do almost the exact same things but BETTER. No Resistance is typical, and Resistance rarely makes a big difference when present, so moving on we see Retreat Cost of [C], which is very good… and (historically) faked being a free Retreat Cost thanks to Skyarrow Bridge.  To the point I had to correct this review, as I thought it was a free Retreat Cost.  My apologies for such carelessness.

Raikou-EX has two attacks, the first of which is “Thunder Fang” for [LC]. It does 30 damage and has you flip a coin; “heads” means you Paralyze the opponent’s Active in addition to the damage, “tails” means you just do 30. If the price was [L] or [CC] this would be a very good attack in its own right, but as long as the second attack is worthwhile, Thunder Fang was and is a solid lead-in, buying you time to build by slowing down your opponent IF you flip well and your opponent doesn’t have an easy out to Paralysis. The main focus of this card is “Volt Bolt” for [LLC], which requires you discard all [L] attached to Raikou-EX when you use it, but then allows you to select one of your opponent’s Pokémon and do 100 damage to it. This attack was vicious back in the day, so long as you could quickly reload after each use. While clearly not enough to score OHKO’s against most Active attackers that weren’t [L] Weak even back then, it was able to take out Evolving Basics and key Bench-sitters and (of course) Active [L] attackers. While this was good, it wasn’t great; the card pool matters. In the modern game, it doesn’t 2HKO Evolved Pokémon-GX and misses more key OHKO’s against targets that are NOT a Pokémon-EX/GX than it hits.

Let us take a closer look at how Raikou-EX was used to better understand my claim. I remember it being used in past Standard Formats, I know it still sees at least a little play in the Legacy Format, but I don’t recall seeing it pop up in the Expanded Format in years, if ever at all. We have two time capsules to help us out in the form of the “Eeltwo” 2012 World Championship Deck and “Anguille Sous Roche” 2013 World Championship Deck. The former was used by Chase Moloney to win the 2012 Senior Age Division while the latter was used by Clément Lamberton to finish second in 2013 Senior Age Division. Both used Eelektrik (BW – Noble Victories 40/101) and its “Dynamotor” Ability to accelerate [L] Energy from the discard pile to Benched Pokémon. Raikou-EX and its low Retreat Cost made this easier, as you could use a card like Switch, bring up Raikou-EX, recharge something else, then manually retreat for one Energy (or free – Eeltwo included one Skyarrow Bridge) to the former Active.  If your start was incomplete, Thunder Fang could also be used to buy time.

You’ll notice I’m not emphasizing this as a main attacker… because it wasn’t. Volt Bolt was valuable for its Bench snipe but maybe not as much as you would have been expecting; remember that until shortly before the beginning of the XY-era, Pokémon Catcher did not require a coin flip. That means we had an Item card version of Lysandre! In 2012, Mewtwo-EX (BW – Next Destinies 54/99, 98/99; BW – Black Star Promos BW45; BW – Legendary Treasures 54/113) was a good-to-great attacker in almost every deck. Eeltwo made Mewtwo-EX the focus as its “X-Ball” attack can go from doing zero damage to 120 (more if the opponent’s Active has any Energy attached) in a single turn, as a player could attach up to [LLLL] via four uses of Dynamotor plus [CC] with a manually attached Double Colorless Energy. As the deck could do this over and over again, that wouldn’t be too bad now but back then, it was fantastic. Anguille Sous Roche is a “Rayeels” variant, which uses Rayquaza-EX (BW – Dragons Exalted 85/124, 132/124; BW – Black Star Promos BW47) as the main attacker; its “Dragon Burst” became the new focus. Dragon Burst needs [RL] to use, so you had to include some Energy that Dynamotor couldn’t touch, but it was worth it because Dragon Burst allowed you to discard all attached [R] or [L] and do 60 damage for each Energy discarded in this manner. Combined with Keldeo-EX and a Float Stone, Rayeels decks could reliably do 180 damage a turn. In both cases, where did that leave Raikou-EX?

As a spare attacker to exploit [L] Weakness, a better retreater than Eelektrik or a Keldeo-EX that didn’t yet have Float Stone, a decent staller if you can’t get enough Eelektrik on the Bench to fuel a better attacker… and a Bench-hitter to conserve Pokémon Catcher or be used when Items were locked down. Being able to OHKO a Benched Jirachi-EX was a good deal as well. That was only good enough for a single deck slot back in the day, and probably just one or two slots in the present day Legacy Format, where the above attackers are both available in addition to even more options ([L] Type and otherwise). Which, in a crowded, hypercompetitive format is actually really good. Raikou-EX is also quite a nice pull in the Limited Format, where you build your deck from product provided at the event. In the modern Expanded Format, unfortunately, it is NOT enough. Just 10 more damage and it might be worth it for taking a quick OHKO against a Benched Shaymin-EX (XY – Roaring Skies 77/108, 106/108), but that isn’t the case so even if Dynamotor decks hadn’t fallen off the face of competitive Expanded Format play, Raikou-EX wouldn’t be worth it except perhaps to counter the odd lock deck involing Bench-sitters. For the Standard Format, Raikou-EX wouldn’t be reprinted, because Pokémon-GX have replaced them. If we ignore this for a hypothetical reprint, that last point is why I could maybe, maybe see one sneaking into a Vikavolt deck. Probably not, however, as you’re not hitting enough key OHKO’s.

Odds are low you could afford to do it, but if you somehow can participate in a Limited Format event using BW – Dark Explorers packs, Raikou-EX is a great pull. You can go the +39 or Mulligan’s [insert Pokémon/] route, or you can try to include enough Lightning Energy so that you can use Raikou-EX in a blended deck. Actually, whether you use Raikou-EX solo, use it to back a mostly [L] deck, or try to sneak it into a mostly non-[L] deck, you’ll want to use multiple Types of Energy here; you won’t have the combos mentioned above, so you want to exploit the [C] Energy requirement in each attack. Volt Bolt only discards [L] Energy, so running at least two types of basic Energy will allow you to attach a basic Lightning Energy the next turn and use Thunder Fang. Alternating between the two, Raikou-EX has a good chance of dominating, even all by its lonesome. Your opponent will have a hard time building on the Bench thanks to Volt Bolt, so the main concern is if they open with one of the better [F] Type Pokémon in the set and deal out a lot of damage quickly and the fact you really, really need to get at least a few well-timed “heads” with Thunder Fang.


Standard: N/A

Expanded: 2/5

Limited: 4/5

Legacy: 3.5/5

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