Empoleon, My Legacy — Stage-2 Decks and TCGO’s Forgotten Format

Hello everyone! This article is a bit special. It’s not as relevant to competitive play as what you usually get from me, but it’s the article I have most enjoyed writing in a long time, because I get to talk about my favourite deck, in almost ten years of playing. I hope my enthusiasm shows!

Before we go any further, I’d like to discuss my plans for the month of April; the PTCGO tournament series was announced after I had already planned and started writing this article, so I won’t mention it today, except to say these two things:

First, I’m incredibly excited that there is a major online event (even an unofficial one) to replace EUIC. Although it doesn’t replace a real-life event, it’s still a way to gather a huge part of the community in the same (virtual) space, both so players can enjoy the thrill of a huge competition, and spectators can watch some of the best players in the world facing off.

[cardimg name=”Morpeko V” set=”Sword and Shield” no=”79″ align=”right” c=”none”][/cardimg]

Second, even though the Sword & Shield format is well-treaded by now, there’s still one article I want to write, about [card name=”Morpeko V” set=”Sword and Shield” no=”79″ c=”name”][/card] / [card name=”Lillie’s Poké Doll” set=”Cosmic Eclipse” no=”197″ c=”name”][/card]. This deck has been abandoned quickly in the community, which is strange because it was much more successful in Japan. While I won’t play Morpeko / Lillie’s Poké Doll at the first Qualifier of the PTCGO tournament series, I could see myself picking it up for the second or third one, depending on the metagame. I’ll explain why that’s the case, and how to build and play the deck, in my next article, so stay tuned for it! Then, in the following weeks, I’ll tackle Rebel Clash, which will be relevant for the fourth Qualifier of the PTCGO tournament series, as well as the Invitational.

In the meantime, I want to focus on another format. No, not Expanded; Legacy. This TCGO-only format has been neglected for years, but since TCGO is all we have now, there couldn’t be a better time to give it another try! It seems I’m not the only one to think that because I found opponents faster than usual when playing on the ladder last week. I tweeted recently that I was dying for someone to organise a Legacy online tournament, and honestly, if no one steps up, I might do it myself. If this happens, you can consider this article a way to get ahead of the competition!

I’ll start by recapping what Legacy is, and why it’s a great format. Then I’ll talk about some of the decks you can expect to face, but more importantly, I’ll reveal my [card name=”Empoleon” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”29″ c=”name”][/card] / [card name=”Dusknoir” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”63″ c=”name”][/card] decklist, which is either the best deck in the format (hard to tell when no tier list exists that I know of), or close to it. It’s also, again, my favourite deck to play in the history of the game!

What is Legacy?

Legacy is a TCGO format that was invented to replace Unlimited which, due to its turn-one-win decks, had stopped being anything close to a format and was only used by people win-trading to reach the end of the TCGO ladder faster. With Unlimited gone, cards from the HeartGold & SoulSilver sets were suddenly useless (since they couldn’t be played either in Standard or Expanded), so Legacy was invented: a format spanning from HeartGold & SoulSilver to Legendary Treasures, the last set before XY. At the time, these were all the sets available on TCGO that weren’t in Standard, but the format hasn’t changed since then.

This makes Legacy something of a rarity in the world of card games: we’re used to rotating formats, like Standard, and eternal formats, like Expanded. Both of these change whenever new cards are released. However, Legacy is (almost) the same as it was when it was created. In that sense, it’s much like an “old” format, like when players nostalgic for the formats of 2010 or 2004 or 2017 play them again with the cards they had at the time. Except that Legacy was never an official tournament format: there was no time when cards from HeartGold & SoulSilver to Legendary Treasures were played together, which means that there are unique combinations to play there. Another consequence of this format existing only via TCGO is that it can actually change if the rules of the games change. If you’re playing the Worlds 2010 format, you’ll use the turn one rules of the time. However, if you’re playing Legacy, you’re playing it on TCGO, which means that you’re using the new turn one rules. In other words, a format whose most recent cards were released in 2013 actually changed in 2020 because suddenly, the player going first can no longer play a Supporter!

Now, you may be wondering: is Legacy good? The answer is yes! It’s better than Standard and Expanded. Legacy games are slower-paced, and reward setting up and long-term planning in a way that hasn’t been seen in years in the official formats. I imagine if you’re new to the game and have never known an era before Tag Team Pokemon, Legacy games must look completely alien, like it’s another game entirely!

In Standard, it’s hard to find a deck that isn’t centred around Basic Pokemon, usually huge GX, V or Tag Team Pokemon. This means games are over quickly and the odds of a comeback are not very high. The exception is [card name=”Galarian Obstagoon” set=”Sword and Shield” no=”119″ c=”name”][/card], but that only works because it directly counters the concept of Basic Pokemon — and even then, it has enough weaknesses, one of them being its own consistency, that decks like [card name=”Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX” set=”Cosmic Eclipse” no=”156″ c=”name”][/card] / [card name=”Zacian V” set=”Sword and Shield” no=”138″ c=”name”][/card] routinely beat it.

Expanded, strangely enough, tends to use more Evolution Pokemon, sometimes as attackers but more often as support: [card name=”Milotic” set=”Flashfire” no=”23″ c=”name”][/card], [card name=”Garbodor” set=”BREAKpoint” no=”57″ c=”name”][/card], [card name=”Vileplume” set=”Ancient Origins” no=”3″ c=”name”][/card], [card name=”Aromatisse” set=”XY” no=”93″ c=”name”][/card], [card name=”Snorlax VMAX” set=”Sword and Shield” no=”142″ c=”name”][/card], to give a few examples. However, the format’s speed is even higher, and you can sometimes lose because your opponent used: Milotic, [card name=”Ace Trainer” set=”Ancient Origins” no=”69″ c=”name”][/card] [card name=”Alolan Muk” set=”Sun and Moon” no=”58″ c=”name”][/card] and attack with Night Watch on turn 2, leaving you almost locked, or because they managed to get eight Darkness Energy on turn one and OHKO’d your Tag Team Pokemon-GX with their [card name=”Greninja and Zoroark-GX” set=”Unbroken Bonds” no=”107″ c=”name”][/card]. Anyone who’s played the format has a similar story to tell: despite the existence of the ban list that’s supposed to prevent these kinds of strategies, there seems to always be one more degenerate deck that slips through the net, ready to be discovered by a future Regional Champion.

  • Legacy has neither Standard’s nor Expanded’s issues. Sure, there are Pokemon-EX in the format, and a few of them are good and worth building a deck around. However, there are also many Evolution Pokemon worth playing, including attackers.
  • Damage is lower, so it’s harder to get OHKOs on high-HP Pokemon. This means that Evolution Pokemon tend to stick around for a few turns, so they’re worth setting up.
  • The game is slower. There’s nothing like [card name=”Dedenne-GX” set=”Unbroken Bonds” no=”57″ c=”name”][/card] or [card name=”Shaymin-EX” set=”Roaring Skies” no=”77″ c=”name”][/card] to draw lots of cards in one turn, so decks are limited in what they can do. Getting a turn one Night Spear is the exception, not the rule!
  • There are very few ways to target benched Pokemon. This lets slower decks, including Evolution decks, get more time for their setup: no risk to see your only [card name=”Zorua” set=”Shining Legends” no=”52″ c=”name”][/card] get Knocked Out on turn one!

The same reasons explain why Legacy doesn’t go the way of Expanded. There are definitely powerful combinations, but they take longer to achieve: you’re not going to see a game-breaking play on turn one or two that decides the game. You can always mount a comeback if you build your deck for it.

So What’s Good?

[cardimg name=”Landorus-EX” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”89″ align=”right” c=”none”][/cardimg]

The official format that resembles Legacy the most, in my opinion, is Next DestiniesLegendary Treasures, the format of City Championships in winter 2013-14. For that exact format, there was a rule change preventing the player going first from attacking (a rule which is still around today). This made aggressive decks and Pokemon such as [card name=”Landorus-EX” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”89″ c=”name”][/card] less effective and prevented turn 1 donks. At the same time, [card name=”Pokémon Catcher” set=”Emerging Powers” no=”95″ c=”name”][/card] was nerfed and became the card we know today (the original Pokemon Catcher didn’t require a coin flip, which meant that Evolution decks had a lot of trouble setting up against big Basic Pokemon). Legacy is the same format, except will all the previous sets from HeartGold & SoulSilver to Noble Victories added, and the recent rule change preventing the player going first from playing a Supporter.

[premium]

The recent rule change doesn’t impact which decks are viable in the same way that it did in Standard. Supporters are mostly consistency cards used for drawing cards and searching for Pokemon; they’re not the core of your strategy like [card name=”Welder” set=”Unbroken Bonds” no=”189″ c=”name”][/card] or [card name=”Green’s Exploration” set=”Unbroken Bonds” no=”175″ c=”name”][/card] are. I believe most decks will want to go second with this rule as you can’t do much on your first turn if you’re not using a Supporter: again, there’s nothing like Dedenne-GX or Shaymin-EX in this format. However, that only changes how the first turns tend to play out and doesn’t make any deck suddenly unplayable (again, due to games being slower, the first turn isn’t as important as it is in Standard or Expanded).

If you look at the Next DestiniesLegendary Treasures format, here are some of the best decks in that format:

  • [card name=”Virizion-EX” set=”Plasma Blast” no=”9″ c=”name”][/card] / [card name=”Genesect-EX” set=”Plasma Blast” no=”11″ c=”name”][/card]
  • [card name=”Darkrai-EX” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”63″ c=”name”][/card] (with or without [card name=”Garbodor” set=”Dragons Exalted” no=”54″ c=”name”][/card])
  • Plasma decks, centred either around [card name=”Kyurem” set=”Plasma Freeze” no=”31″ c=”name”][/card] or [card name=”Lugia-EX” set=”Legendary Treasures” no=”102″ c=”name”][/card]
  • [card name=”Blastoise” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”31″ c=”name”][/card] / [card name=”Keldeo-EX” set=”Legendary Treasures” no=”45″ c=”name”][/card]
  • [card name=”Emboar” set=”Legendary Treasures” no=”27″ c=”name”][/card] / [card name=”Rayquaza-EX” set=”Dragons Exalted” no=”85″ c=”name”][/card]
  • [card name=”Empoleon” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”29″ c=”name”][/card] / [card name=”Dusknoir” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”63″ c=”name”][/card] / [card name=”Leafeon” set=”Plasma Freeze” no=”11″ c=”name”][/card]

I’ll be slightly biased here and state that Empoleon / Dusknoir was the BDIF, even though it wasn’t recognized as such at the time. It had strong matchups against most of the metagame, struggling only against Darkrai-EX / Garbodor and Plasma decks. It could actually be teched many different ways, although it couldn’t beat everything at once (in that sense, it was the [card name=”Zoroark-GX” set=”Shining Legends” no=”53″ c=”name”][/card] deck of its time, a comparison that’s fitting because [card name=”Zoroark-GX” set=”Shining Legends” no=”53″ c=”name”][/card] is an updated Empoleon anyway). Empoleon dominated the metagame in France at the time, to the point that players were over-teching against it in an attempt to stop players like Mehdi Hafi and myself from winning Regional Championships with it. I brought the deck to the ECC (the only major European event, at the time) that year, and decided to tech the deck in a way that made Plasma a favourable matchup but Darkrai-EX / Garbodor an auto-loss, and got Top 8 with it. My only losses were to Darkrai-EX / Garbodor (one of these Darkrai-EX / Garbodor players was Tord Reklev; that was the first time I played against him).

In Legacy format, you can also play cards from HeartGold & SoulSilver to Noble Victories. Most of the interesting cards of this era are Trainer cards: [card name=”Pokémon Collector” set=”HeartGold and SoulSilver” no=”97″ c=”name”][/card], [card name=”Twins” set=”Triumphant” no=”89″ c=”name”][/card], [card name=”Professor Oak’s New Theory” set=”HeartGold and SoulSilver” no=”101″ c=”name”][/card] (the original [card name=”Cynthia” set=”Ultra Prism” no=”119″ c=”name”][/card]), but perhaps most importantly, [card name=”Junk Arm” set=”Triumphant” no=”87″ c=”name”][/card]. If [card name=”VS Seeker” set=”Phantom Forces” no=”109″ c=”name”][/card] defines the Expanded format by letting players use one-of Supporters, Junk Arm does basically the same for Item cards. It strengthens any deck that relies on key Items (like Stage 2 decks with [card name=”Rare Candy” set=”Unleashed” no=”82″ c=”name”][/card]) but also increases the viability of tech Items like [card name=”Max Potion” set=”Emerging Powers” no=”94″ c=”name”][/card].

There are also Pokemon worth adding in these decks, of course: [card name=”Celebi” set=”Triumphant” no=”92″ c=”name”][/card] Prime is a fantastic addition to Virizion-EX / Genesect-EX; [card name=”Smeargle” set=”Undaunted” no=”8″ c=”name”][/card] is a great support Pokemon that can be used with [card name=”Float Stone” set=”Plasma Freeze” no=”99″ c=”name”][/card] (a combination that was never legal in Standard); some Baby Pokemon like [card name=”Cleffa” set=”HeartGold and SoulSilver” no=”17″ c=”name”][/card] can be useful as well. However, these are all support Pokemon. In my opinion, the only good attacker from before Next Destinies that would be worth building a deck around is [card name=”Magnezone” set=”Triumphant” no=”96″ c=”name”][/card] Prime. This means that for the most part, the Legacy decks resemble the Next DestiniesLegendary Treasures decks, only made better by the addition of better cards.

Empoleon / Dusknoir

Without further ado, let’s talk about this deck I love. I’ll put the list before the section where I gush over it, so that I’m sure you don’t skip that section!

[decklist name=”Legacy Empoleon” amt=”60″ caption=”” cname=”Empoleon” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”29″][pokemon amt=”17″]4x [card name=”Empoleon” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”29″ c=”deck2″ amt=”4″][/card]2x [card name=”Prinplup” set=”Legendary Treasures” no=”34″ c=”deck2″ amt=”2″][/card]4x [card name=”Piplup” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”27″ c=”deck2″ amt=”4″][/card]1x [card name=”Dusknoir” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”63″ c=”deck2″ amt=”1″][/card]1x [card name=”Duskull” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”61″ c=”deck2″ amt=”1″][/card]1x [card name=”Roserade” set=”Dragons Exalted” no=”15″ c=”deck2″ amt=”1″][/card]1x [card name=”Roselia” set=”Dragons Exalted” no=”12″ c=”deck2″ amt=”1″][/card]1x [card name=”Exeggcute” set=”Plasma Freeze” no=”4″ c=”deck2″ amt=”1″][/card]1x [card name=”Rotom” set=”Undaunted” no=”20″ c=”deck2″ amt=”1″][/card]1x [card name=”Mr. Mime” set=”Plasma Freeze” no=”47″ c=”deck2″ amt=”1″][/card][/pokemon][trainers amt=”37″]4x [card name=”Skyla” set=”BREAKthrough” no=”148″ c=”deck2″ amt=”4″][/card]3x [card name=”N” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”96″ c=”deck2″ amt=”3″][/card]1x [card name=”Professor Oak’s New Theory” set=”HeartGold and SoulSilver” no=”101″ c=”deck2″ amt=”1″][/card]1x [card name=”Professor Juniper” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”98″ c=”deck2″ divide=”yes” amt=”1″][/card]4x [card name=”Rare Candy” set=”Unleashed” no=”82″ c=”deck2″ amt=”4″][/card]4x [card name=”Ultra Ball” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”102″ c=”deck2″ amt=”4″][/card]4x [card name=”Level Ball” set=”Next Destinies” no=”89″ c=”deck2″ amt=”4″][/card]4x [card name=”Junk Arm” set=”Triumphant” no=”87″ c=”deck2″ amt=”4″][/card]2x [card name=”Super Rod” set=”Noble Victories” no=”95″ c=”deck2″ amt=”2″][/card]1x [card name=”Max Potion” set=”Emerging Powers” no=”94″ c=”deck2″ amt=”1″][/card]1x [card name=”Escape Rope” set=”Plasma Storm” no=”120″ c=”deck2″ amt=”1″][/card]1x [card name=”Tool Scrapper” set=”Dragons Exalted” no=”116″ c=”deck2″ amt=”1″][/card]1x [card name=”Silver Bangle” set=”Plasma Blast” no=”88″ c=”deck2″ amt=”1″][/card]1x [card name=”Alph Lithograph” set=”Triumphant” no=”FOUR” c=”deck2″ amt=”1″][/card]1x [card name=”Computer Search” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”137″ c=”deck2″ divide=”yes” amt=”1″][/card]4x [card name=”Tropical Beach” set=”Black and White Black Star Promos” no=”BW50″ c=”deck2″ divide=”yes” amt=”4″][/card][/trainers][energy amt=”6″]6x [card name=”Water Energy” set=”Call of Legends” no=”90″ c=”deck2″ amt=”6″][/card][/energy][/decklist] 

This deck is [card name=”Zoroark-GX” set=”Shining Legends” no=”53″ c=”name”][/card] before its time, but even more tricky. At least, if you understand Zoroark-GX decks, you understand this one. The plan is to set up several [card name=”Empoleon” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”29″ c=”name”][/card] and attack with Attack Command. The draw power from Empoleon makes it easier to set up other Empoleon, and so on. [card name=”Exeggcute” set=”Plasma Freeze” no=”4″ c=”name”][/card] can be combined with Empoleon’s Diving Draw (as well as [card name=”Ultra Ball” set=”Flashfire” no=”99″ c=”name”][/card] and [card name=”Junk Arm” set=”Triumphant” no=”87″ c=”name”][/card]) to draw without the drawback of discarding one card, a combination Expanded players will be familiar with.

[cardimg name=”Empoleon” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”29″ align=”right” c=”none”][/cardimg]

Forget what current Standard taught you: Empoleon’s 140 HP is plenty, and you’ll survive most attacks. On the other hand, Attack Command will generally deal around 90 damage if the opponent is smart enough to limit their Bench, and that’s still enough to 2HKO any Pokemon-EX in the format. If they don’t limit their Bench, the win becomes much easier. That’s one thing I love about Empoleon: it requires its pilot to play perfectly, but it also requires the opponent to adapt their play or get heavily punished, mostly because Attack Command counts the amount of Pokemon in play, not only on your side. In 2014, there were games I knew I’d won on turn one because my opponent benched one Pokemon too much. For example, [card name=”Virizion-EX” set=”Plasma Blast” no=”9″ c=”name”][/card] / [card name=”Genesect-EX” set=”Plasma Blast” no=”11″ c=”name”][/card] decks needed not to bench a second Genesect-EX as long as they could. Now that people are not used to the card anymore, they will sometimes over-bench without thinking, which is a huge mistake.

[card name=”Dusknoir” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”63″ c=”name”][/card] is the card that makes the deck great. Dusknoir’s amazing Ability means that you can keep damage counters on your opponent’s board. For example, let’s say you dealt 90 damage to the opponent’s Genesect-EX. You could deal 90 more damage and take a KO, but maybe that doesn’t help a lot. Instead, you can simply move the damage to one of their Benched Pokemon, and hit Genesect-EX again. Now there’s 180 damage on their board, which you can move at any time to take a KO. This is useful for many reasons:

  • First, it ensures no damage gets lost. Let’s say you hit for 120 damage instead of 90 (either because the opponent benched more than they should, or because you have a [card name=”Silver Bangle” set=”Plasma Blast” no=”88″ c=”name”][/card] attached). Now you’re dealing 360 damage in three attacks, which equals four Prize cards. Without Dusknoir, you’d need to attack four times to take four Prizes (by 2HKOing two EX Pokemon).
  • It also means you can suddenly KO anything you want, including on the Bench. This is especially useful against Evolution decks: For example, in the mirror match, you win by putting damage on your opponent’s field, then moving it to [card name=”Duskull” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”61″ c=”name”][/card] every time they try to bench one (or [card name=”Piplup” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”27″ c=”name”][/card] if they don’t bench Duskull, as long as you make sure you keep enough damage on board).
  • It prevents any strategy where the opponent lets a Pokemon take a hit, then switch it for another one. Thanks to Dusknoir, the damage is not lost and can be moved to more relevant Pokemon.

Now let’s talk about the coolest card in the deck, and the innovation I’m the proudest of, [card name=”Rotom” set=”Undaunted” no=”20″ c=”name”][/card]. One of the issues with Empoleon is that you play several one-of cards, so the risk of prizing something important (such as Duskull, Dusknoir, [card name=”Max Potion” set=”Emerging Powers” no=”94″ c=”name”][/card] or, worst of all, Exeggcute) is high. Historically, we’ve seen that [card name=”Town Map” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”136″ c=”name”][/card] can be useful in such a deck (recall Robin Schulz’s World Championship win with Zoroark-GX / [card name=”Garbodor” set=”Guardians Rising” no=”51″ c=”name”][/card]!). Legacy has Town Map, but it also has [card name=”Alph Lithograph” set=”Triumphant” no=”FOUR” c=”name”][/card], which is better because it doesn’t reveal your Prizes to your opponent (you can only check them once, but you can write them down!). Still, that only tells you where your Prizes are, and doesn’t help you take them.

Enter Rotom. Its Mischievous Trick Poké-Power (not even an Ability!) lets you switch one of your Prizes with the top card of your deck. So, let’s say Exeggcute is prized. You need to get it out of there as soon as possible. So, after using Alph Lithograph (use [card name=”Skyla” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”134″ c=”name”][/card] for it if you must!), you know where Exeggcute is. Use Rotom to put it on top of your deck, then use Empoleon’s Diving Draw to draw Exeggcute! Obviously you can repeat that at any point in the game to get any of your Prizes.

Now, the fun part is that after using Mischievous Trick, there’s one Prize card in Exeggcute’s spot that you don’t know. So, the next time you play a card that searches your deck, you should look at your deck again to find out which card is missing and is therefore in your Prizes! This way, at all times, you know all of your Prizes, and you can use Rotom to get any card there. [card name=”Azelf” set=”Legends Awakened” no=”19″ c=”name”][/card] from Legends Awakened was one of the best cards in the game because it made your Prizes a usable resource instead of simply a part of the game you can’t touch, but it only let you grab a Pokemon. Rotom lets you take any of your Prizes, every turn.

Be aware, though, if you don’t write your Prizes down, remembering which card is where will quickly become a headache!

Now, let’s explain some of the other cards in the deck:

  • [card name=”Roserade” set=”Dragons Exalted” no=”15″ c=”name”][/card] is a consistency boost. Once your first [card name=”Empoleon” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”29″ c=”name”][/card] is set up, you’re usually good, but sometimes you don’t hit the right cards. Both [card name=”Roselia” set=”Dragons Exalted” no=”12″ c=”name”][/card] and Roserade can be searched through [card name=”Level Ball” set=”Next Destinies” no=”89″ c=”name”][/card], so you have a way to search for Empoleon or [card name=”Rare Candy” set=”Unleashed” no=”82″ c=”name”][/card] via a Pokemon. You can also use it later in the game when you need any specific card. Plus, the deck needs Pokemon on its Bench anyway, and Roserade is as good as any.
  • [card name=”Mr. Mime” set=”Plasma Freeze” no=”47″ c=”name”][/card] is protection against [card name=”Darkrai-EX” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”63″ c=”name”][/card]s Night Spear, as it deals 110 damage with a [card name=”Dark Claw” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”92″ c=”name”][/card] attached, so if your Empoleon already took 30 damage, it’s an OHKO.
  • Max Potion is great against any deck that can’t OHKO you, which is most decks. It wins the mirror matchup: I explained how the key to winning was putting damage on your opponent’s board and moving it around with Dusknoir. Thanks to Max Potion, when your opponent hits your Empoleon for 120 damage, you can simply heal it and save your [card name=”Duskull” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”61″ c=”name”][/card] or Dusknoir. Use [card name=”Junk Arm” set=”Triumphant” no=”87″ c=”name”][/card] for Max Potion every turn if needed: as long as you do that, you can’t lose!
  • [card name=”Escape Rope” set=”Plasma Storm” no=”120″ c=”name”][/card] is your switching card. I prefer it to [card name=”Switch” set=”HeartGold and SoulSilver” no=”102″ c=”name”][/card] because smart opponents will usually try to bench as few Pokemon as possible. This makes Escape Rope much better since you can force them to bring a useful Pokemon in the Active. Having only one switching card would be very strange in Standard or Expanded, but thanks to Junk Arm, you can use Escape Rope as much as you want (well, up to five times really, but you won’t need it more than this).
  • Similarly, [card name=”Tool Scrapper” set=”Dragons Exalted” no=”116″ c=”name”][/card] is an important tech card to deal with Garbodor. You can search for it with Skyla, then reuse it with Junk Arm. Its other use is to get rid of [card name=”Life Dew” set=”Plasma Freeze” no=”107″ c=”name”][/card], since some decks might try to reuse Life Dew with Junk Arm.
  • [card name=”Silver Bangle” set=”Plasma Blast” no=”88″ c=”name”][/card] is a card that I didn’t think was worth playing back in Standard. However, Junk Arm makes it much better! You can discard Silver Bangle early on if you need to, but get it back later in the game if you need a damage boost. You can also use your Junk Arms to make sure you get a Silver Bangle on three consecutive Empoleon, in order to deal more damage to close out a game!

[cardimg name=”Pokemon Collector” set=”HeartGold and SoulSilver” no=”97″ align=”right” c=”none”][/cardimg]

As for the consistency engine, I have tried many different cards in the deck: [card name=”Pokémon Collector” set=”HeartGold and SoulSilver” no=”97″ c=”name”][/card], [card name=”Twins” set=”Triumphant” no=”89″ c=”name”][/card], [card name=”Pokémon Communication” set=”HeartGold and SoulSilver” no=”98″ c=”name”][/card], etc. Because of the new first turn rule, I believe Pokemon Collector is not as good as before (since you ideally want it on turn one, but now you can’t play it if you go first), so I decided to max out the Level Ball and [card name=”Ultra Ball” set=”Flashfire” no=”99″ c=”name”][/card] counts instead so I can set up better if I go first. The Supporters I play are more generic: Skyla is the most important because it can search for Rare Candy, and [card name=”N” set=”Fates Collide” no=”105″ c=”name”][/card] provides the usual combination of draw power and late-game disruption. Obviously, in the late game, Empoleon can draw enough thanks to Diving Draw that you can N yourself to a small hand and be fine. The one copy of [card name=”Professor Juniper” set=”Black and White” no=”101″ c=”name”][/card] is for when you need to draw a lot of cards since it’s the best Supporter in the game. There are times when you have to use Roserade or [card name=”Computer Search” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”137″ c=”name”][/card] to search for a Supporter, and Juniper is often the best choice in this case.

Finally, this deck plays four [card name=”Tropical Beach” set=”Black and White Black Star Promos” no=”BW28″ c=”name”][/card]. I used to play two, but I chose to go up to four because of the new first turn rule. If you go first, Tropical Beach is better than a Supporter since you can actually play it on your first turn to draw cards. Having more Stadiums also helps to get rid of other Stadiums like [card name=”Virbank City Gym” set=”Plasma Storm” no=”126″ c=”name”][/card], although to be fair, Stadium wars aren’t much of a thing in Legacy.

If you don’t have them, don’t worry, I’ll discuss possible replacements in the next section!

Other cards

While I’m happy with the list above, I keep tweaking it to try out new things, and I can’t guarantee it’s perfect. Here are some other cards I’m considering.

Pichu

Another cool addition to the deck, [card name=”Pichu” set=”HeartGold and SoulSilver” no=”28″ c=”name”][/card] lets you fill out your Bench entirely on turn one with Playground. The effect is symmetrical, but as we’ve discussed, you don’t want to fill your Bench when you’re playing against Empoleon, so the effect helps you much more than it helps them! Pichu will often be KO’d after using its attack, but it’s OK: you’ll have a couple of [card name=”Piplup” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”27″ c=”name”][/card] and Roselia in play, so you’re in a good spot. Pichu is of course at odds with Tropical Beach since you can’t use its attack and Tropical Beach’s effect at the same time. Tropical Beach has always seemed better because it’s useful whether you go first or second, but maybe it’s wrong. In any case, if you don’t have Tropical Beach, Pichu is the best replacement for it (you only need one Pichu, maybe two if you’re worried about Prizes. Add another Energy and/or Escape Rope to make it easier to get Pichu Active on the first turn, though).

Twins

[card name=”Empoleon” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”29″ c=”name”][/card] is a deck that tends to play from behind, and Twins is a perfect card for that. It’s even better since you can purposely stay behind in Prizes even when you’re ahead in the game, thanks to [card name=”Dusknoir” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”63″ c=”name”][/card]. That said, it’s a card that’s useless in the early game, which is why I didn’t include it: [card name=”Skyla” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”134″ c=”name”][/card] is more reliable (I don’t play [card name=”Colress” set=”Plasma Storm” no=”118″ c=”name”][/card] for a similar reason). If you replace Tropical Beach with Pichu, Twins becomes better, because Pichu will often be an easy Prize.

Second Exeggcute

Thanks to [card name=”Rotom” set=”Undaunted” no=”20″ c=”name”][/card], there’s a way to get cards from your Prizes, but [card name=”Exeggcute” set=”Plasma Freeze” no=”4″ c=”name”][/card] is so important that I can see playing a second copy simply to help to get it earlier. It also means that your Ultra Ball and [card name=”Junk Arm” set=”Triumphant” no=”87″ c=”name”][/card] are entirely free. That’s not so important, because you’re usually fine discarding useless cards like extra Tropical Beach, but it’s always nice.

Dowsing Machine

With Junk Arm in the format, [card name=”Dowsing Machine” set=”Plasma Storm” no=”128″ c=”name”][/card] is not that important: you can already reuse your Items. Computer Search is a better choice because it helps you set up in the early game, which is what this deck needs most (plus, if you need to get back your [card name=”Max Potion” set=”Emerging Powers” no=”94″ c=”name”][/card] or [card name=”Tool Scrapper” set=”Dragons Exalted” no=”116″ c=”name”][/card], you can Computer Search for Junk Arm for it). That said, if you don’t own Computer Search, Dowsing Machine is a respectable replacement.

Jirachi-EX

[card name=”Jirachi-EX” set=”Plasma Blast” no=”60″ c=”name”][/card] can be searched by both [card name=”Ultra Ball” set=”Flashfire” no=”99″ c=”name”][/card] and [card name=”Level Ball” set=”Next Destinies” no=”89″ c=”name”][/card] and can find a Supporter so you don’t brick. That’s pretty good! However, I dislike playing a two-Prize Pokemon in this deck, especially one as fragile as Jirachi-EX. You can usually come back from bad situations even without it, even if you lose one turn having to use Level Ball for [card name=”Roselia” set=”Dragons Exalted” no=”12″ c=”name”][/card], then for [card name=”Roserade” set=”Dragons Exalted” no=”15″ c=”name”][/card], all to play a [card name=”Professor Juniper” set=”Black and White” no=”101″ c=”name”][/card]. If there were more utility Supporters in the format, like [card name=”Guzma” set=”Burning Shadows” no=”115″ c=”name”][/card] or something, I’d consider it, but right now it doesn’t do enough in my opinion.

Lost Remover

A better Enhanced Hammer, [card name=”Lost Remover” set=”Call of Legends” no=”80″ c=”name”][/card] is another tech Item you can use if you expect decks with Special Energy, mostly Plasma decks. I don’t think the card is needed, which is why I don’t include it, but it’s an option.

Some Tips

Let’s say you read all this and are as convinced as I am that [card name=”Empoleon” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”29″ c=”name”][/card] / [card name=”Dusknoir” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”63″ c=”name”][/card] is the coolest deck in the game. Here are some tips you might want to remember before you build the deck and hop into a game!

Here’s my main piece of advice: I can’t stress enough that Empoleon will usually be slower than the opposing deck, and you’ll give up Prizes in the early game. This is fine. Playing this deck can seem scary at first, since on your first turns you’ll think, “My opponent has a Pokemon-EX charged up and I’m still setting up [card name=”Piplup” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”27″ c=”name”][/card], what am I doing, I’m going to lose badly”. And yet, every time, you’ll manage to come back, because after a while their board can’t get better, while yours will improve exponentially, and you’ll realise that you were safe all along even if it didn’t seem that way. Empoleon / Dusknoir is a deck that gives you the thrill of coming back from an unfavourable situation in most of its games, and that’s honestly pretty cool.

To give you an example, I was in a game the other day against a [card name=”Weavile” set=”Plasma Freeze” no=”66″ c=”name”][/card] / [card name=”Exeggcute” set=”Plasma Freeze” no=”4″ c=”name”][/card] deck. The point of this deck is to use Weavile’s Vilify to discard Pokemon (most of them Exeggcute) each turn to OHKO anything. You can see this deck as an early precursor to Night March and the like: a deck based on a somewhat weak one-Prize attacker that can one-shot even two-Prize Pokemon (Weavile requires two Energy, but thanks to [card name=”Dark Patch” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”93″ c=”name”][/card], you can power it up in one turn). I was two Prizes behind since my opponent set up faster than me, and I thought I was in a bad spot. However, after a while, it became harder for my opponent to hit an OHKO, since they needed a fifth Pokemon to discard to KO Empoleon. They also needed Weavile and Dark Patch every turn. Thanks to some well-timed [card name=”N” set=”Fates Collide” no=”105″ c=”name”][/card], they whiffed the Weavile one turn, then the fifth Pokemon to discard on another turn, and I managed to come back and win.

[cardimg name=”Dusknoir” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”63″ align=”right” c=”none”][/cardimg]

The other thing to know is how to use Dusknoir. There are two things to take into account when thinking what to do with the damage counters: whether your opponent is likely to heal, and whether they’re likely to KO Dusknoir.

There are two ways to bring up a Pokemon from the Bench in this format: [card name=”Pokémon Catcher” set=”Emerging Powers” no=”95″ c=”name”][/card] and [card name=”Genesect-EX” set=”Plasma Blast” no=”11″ c=”name”][/card]’s Red Signal Ability. Many decks don’t play Pokemon Catcher, and Genesect-EX is only played in [card name=”Virizion-EX” set=”Plasma Blast” no=”9″ c=”name”][/card] / Genesect-EX decks. If you know your opponent doesn’t play any of these, you’re free to move the damage around however you want. The best way to do so is to spread it on your opponent’s Bench. This way, even if they play [card name=”Max Potion” set=”Emerging Powers” no=”94″ c=”name”][/card] or [card name=”Seeker” set=”Triumphant” no=”88″ c=”name”][/card], they will only remove a few damage counters (they could heal the Active, which will have the most damage counters since it will have just taken damage from Attack Command, but usually they would lose Energy by doing so).

If they can Knock Out Dusknoir, though, what you want to do is make sure that the damage is set up in the best way possible. For example, against a Virizion-EX / Genesect-EX deck, the opponent can KO Dusknoir with Red Signal and [card name=”G Booster” set=”Plasma Blast” no=”92″ c=”name”][/card]. In this situation, it’s best to leave exactly 80 or 90 damage on Genesect-EX (whatever is needed) so that you can KO it back, making your opponent lose their Energy and their G-Booster.

Whenever your Dusknoir gets KO’d, use a [card name=”Super Rod” set=”Noble Victories” no=”95″ c=”name”][/card] to put it back in the deck and a [card name=”Level Ball” set=”Next Destinies” no=”89″ c=”name”][/card] to grab [card name=”Duskull” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”61″ c=”name”][/card]. You should be threatening to evolve into Dusknoir again on the next turn.

Now, here’s what to watch out for; I don’t think Empoleon / Dusknoir has many weaknesses, but there are two main ones:

The first one is [card name=”Latias-EX” set=”Plasma Freeze” no=”85″ c=”name”][/card], because Empoleon can’t touch it. Fortunately, it doesn’t fit in any deck, except maybe Plasma decks, which play [card name=”Prism Energy” set=”Next Destinies” no=”93″ c=”name”][/card]. If they start including it, you could use Lost Remover to remove enough Prism Energy that Latias-EX can’t attack. Then you can slowly attack it with [card name=”Prinplup” set=”Legendary Treasures” no=”34″ c=”name”][/card], which will force the Plasma player to bench other Pokemon, which you can then attack and Knock Out.
If I started to see Latias-EX in decks, I would probably add [card name=”Kingdra” set=”Plasma Freeze” no=”84″ c=”name”][/card] to my deck instead (I would like to point out that in order to solve an issue I detected, I’m adding another Stage 2 Pokemon to my deck. This is very 2010, but more importantly, it’s also super cool! And yes, the deck is consistent enough to do that). You can discard Energy thanks to Empoleon and some Item cards, then use Kingdra’s Dragon Vortex for a KO! Thanks to Latias-EX’s Weakness, you only need four Energy in your discard to get an OHKO. Kingdra’s Tri Bullet attack also has good synergy with Dusknoir, so it fits well in the deck.

The second issue is [card name=”Flygon” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”99″ c=”name”][/card] / Dusknoir, usually with [card name=”Accelgor” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”11″ c=”name”][/card]. This deck plays similarly to Empoleon, except they spread damage around so you can’t heal with Max Potion. Flygon itself usually plays several Max Potion so it’s hard to get damage on their board. In addition, Accelgor’s paralysis is a huge issue (this is a situation where [card name=”Energy Switch” set=”EX Ruby and Sapphire” no=”82″ c=”name”][/card] would be better than [card name=”Escape Rope” set=”Plasma Storm” no=”120″ c=”name”][/card], by the way). Like against Empoleon, the best way to play against Flygon is to reduce your Bench as much as possible, but it’s not possible when you’re playing Empoleon yourself! Kingdra might help a bit in this matchup but I think it’s still highly unfavored.

Conclusion

As you might have noticed if you’ve read my articles before, I’m a big fan of Stage-2 decks and going back to a format where they’re not a novelty but an actual, strong part of the format, makes me excited; I hope that came across. Long before [card name=”Zoroark-GX” set=”Shining Legends” no=”53″ c=”name”][/card] and the fame it brought me, [card name=”Empoleon” set=”Dark Explorers” no=”29″ c=”name”][/card] was the deck I was known for, in France and to a lesser extent Europe. Taking long turns, not because you’re digging for a devastating combo, but because you’re deciding what you need, what you can afford to discard, how much you need to set up for the next turn(s), is its own kind of fun. Don’t get me wrong, I still like playing the TCG in its current state. There’s a skill both in building decks and playing them, even in the era of 270-HP Basic Pokemon, but I’d trade them any day for a format where a deck like Empoleon / [card name=”Dusknoir” set=”Boundaries Crossed” no=”63″ c=”name”][/card] can dominate.

If this article can inspire even one of you to try out Legacy (even though I know it’s not the easiest format to get into!), I’ll be happy. As I said in the introduction, now is the best time to give it a try, since you’re playing Pokemon on TCGO anyway.

Next time, we’re going back to Standard. There will be 300 HP Pokemon and ways to avoid getting them OHKO’d. There will be absurd damage caps, powerful Items, and Stadiums that actually do things!

Thank you for reading.

–Stéphane

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