Dark Explorers Pre-Release Report

The Canton Seviper League meets weekly in at a small pizza buffet called Stevi B’s. It has hosted every pre-release event for northwest Atlanta since HS Unleashed, and the venue has always been of adequate size. A few months ago the Next Destinies pre-release was filled to bursting with 99 participants. I’d never actually seen people being turned away before the end of registration until this event.  The organizer could not have predicted the hunger for the new Pokemon EX and hadn’t ordered enough product. We all made the best of it, and the organizer accommodated every one he could.

Thinking about my registration experience at the Next Destinies pre-release, I’m still in my car in a different city at the time registration begins at 1:00pm. At 1:20pm I’m still 8 miles away wondering if there will be space for me if I roll in right at the end of registration. I know the organizer and the judges, maybe they’ll let me slide in. As the traffic gods would have it, I pulled into the parking lot at 1:33 with my $25 US, damage counters and sleeves in hand. I was the last person in line, #64. I literally breathed a sigh of relief.

For those readers who are unfamiliar with pre-release events, I’ll spend just a moment explaining the format. In return for your $25, you receive 6 packs of the unreleased set (thus “pre-release” tournament”). From that pool of 60 cards, you create a 40 card deck. Energies are typically borrowed from the organizer and returned at the end of the event. Unlike a legal tournament deck, you are not restricted to only 4 copies of a specific card. If you get seven Pikachu, you can play all seven. The game proceeds as any other tournament with Swiss pairings, except you play for only four prizes. This ensures speedier turnaround during each 20 minute round. At the end of the event, you receive another 2 packs.

I received my initial 6 packs and sat down with a Junior named Owen who I know from League and his friend…Owen. The three of us (an their moms) set about creating our decks. In our little triad Owen #1 pulled the secret rare “golden” Pokemon Catcher. At least one other was pulled at this event. We all had our ears out for someone shouting “Darkrai!”, but I don’t think the nightmare inducer showed his face.

Eventually, I settled on a Grass and Darkness deck utilizing Leafeon, Sandile, Chansey and Tornadus EX. Leafeon has an attack called “Energy Assist” for GC which does 40 damage along with an energy attachment from the discard pile. It’s rare to have energy acceleration in a pre-release, so I thought it might be helpful. For CC, Chansey’s “Continuous Tumble” attack does 30x the number of heads until you hit tails. Sandile’s “Sand Dive” attack for C prevents damage on the next turn. Since I ended up with two copies of the Twist Mountain Stadium card, I decided to put in Tornadus EX. His “Blow Through” attack for CC does 30 plus an additional 30 if a Stadium is in play. So there’s the deck. I was lucky enough to pull a Juniper, Random Receiver, and Ultra Ball; so, those made it in along with the Stadiums to create an inconsistent and wildly unpredictable deck – like most pre-release decks. So fun.

Here’s the list:

Pokemon – 14
T/S/S – 5
Energy – 21
2 Eevee (83/108)
2 Leafeon (6/108)
1 Zorua (70/108)
3 Chansey (80 and 81/108)
2 Sandile (64/108)
1 Tornadus EX (90/108)
2 Scraggy (67/108)
1 Chatot (85/108)
1 Professor Juniper
1 Ultra Ball
2 Twist Mountain
1 Random Receiver
11 Grass
10 Dark


Pairings went up and there was a mad scramble out on the hot patio to find our seats and set up.

Game 1: vs. Amy (Sandile)

Amy and her boyfriend had driven 4 hours from North Carolina to come to this event. She had never played Pokemon and had only seen it played one time. She was there merely to get more packs for her boyfriend. So, I helped her get set up and spent our game mainly teaching her how to play so that her remaining 2 games would be more fun. I helped her out of a few egregious misplays, and she took a prize off of me. After that, I took four straight prizes with Leafeon and Sandile, but I honestly tried to make the game amusing for her and held off as long as possible.

Game 2: vs. Eryk (Piplup-Kyogre)

Right away, Eryk tells me his deck is terrible, and I say “It’s a prerelease, all of our decks are terrible.” I started to believe him when he opened with a Piplup and could get nothing on his bench for 3 turns. I open with Scraggy active, Sandile and Chansey on the bench. By turn 3, Piplup is hanging on by his last 10 HP, when Eryk top decks Kyogre EX, benches him, evolves Piplup and starts building up the energy. I can’t get anything going to pull Tornadus EX out of my deck, although I know it’s there because I’d used Random Receiver and saw the genie sitting inside an energy pocket very smug indeed. Eventually, Eryk pushes Kyogre EX active and snipes away at the low HP basics on my bench (50 per turn), finishing me off quickly. We played again for fun after our results were recorded, and Kyogre came out on turn 1. I managed to get Tornadus EX out, and we had a bit of an EX war until he took the final 2 prizes with a KO on Tornadus. As were packing up, he commented that he was going to trade Kyogre but planned to keep him now after seeing him in action.

During the wait between rounds, our organizer (the awesome Tymon Martindale) held a drawing for some prizes. There were 9 prizes for each age group, and I came away with 2 more packs of Dark Explorers. The best pull from those was Aerodactyl which will potentially feed my Tornadus EX/Aerodactyl deck.

Game 3: vs. Robert (Flareon/Carnivine)

Robert was a competent player who played well using Flareon. We traded prizes, with Chansey winning the game for me. The flips were in my favor on this game whereas Chansey had failed me utterly against Eryk. Robert paired Flareon with Carnivine, and he used special conditions and other attack effects to make the game a nail-biter for me. But with no Pokemon over 90 HP, Robert could not withstand a steady erosion of HP from Sandile and Chansey. The Carnivine did manage to turn my head, and I think I’ll be actively looking for it in trades. It may end up being a good unexpected starter.

After turning in my borrowed energies, I received my final two packs and deck box. From those two packs I pulled an Entei EX. Along with the two EX I pulled, I received a fair few of the new Trainers making my card accumulation very sweet indeed.

My first impressions of Dark Explorers is iffy. It’s clear the game is still about the Big Basic Pokemon and EXs. I didn’t see any Stage 1 or Stage 2 Pokemon that really have the chutzpah to battle these titans. I’m looking forward to a variety of fun league decks, and I’m guessing that we’ll see a host of rogue approaches at Spring Battle Roads. As the EX pool grows, the highly favored Mewtwo EX will likely fall in esteem as the new darlings of the format emerge. It was interesting to see the reprinting of Professor Juniper, N, Rare Candy, and Cheren. The Pokemon Company must intend to keep them in the format for a few rotations. The Twist Mountain stadium may make Restored Pokemon (i.e. Fossils) playable, but at the moment only Aerodactyl seems to have potential.

Like many, my mind is now turning to the question of staple cards. Assuming our rotation follows suit with Japan, we will lose many cards favored for their ability to drive consistency. Pokemon Collector, Dual Ball, and PONT will be dropped, and we’ll be finding ways to make the variety of Poke Balls work as a consistency engine. Draw support from Magnezone Prime will be unavailable to us as well, and so far there is nothing giving access to prize cards other than KOs. Primes, Legends, and the Lost Zone will no longer be active mechanics in the format. Many decks that I see these days seem to scream “Hulk smash!” Personally, I’m going to be looking for the combinations that require finesse. They’re just more fun to play, even if you lose the game. The problem with finesse is that one typically needs time for set up, and the Big Basics often eliminate the kind of opportunity due to their speed and strength.

Best of luck to everyone at Spring Battle Roads. I encourage everyone to spend time on their rogue decks and use the upcoming tournaments to try them out and set the meta on its ear.

Posted by at May 15, 2012
Filed in category: TCG Articles,
  • Brian Garcia

    I went there in 2012 and im going tomorrow 12/8/12 Will i see u there?