"The Best Way to Burrow"- A Look at Decks That Mill in Expanded

Durant NVI

Durant is a card so old that it was at its most popular when I was still in the senior division. I never did play with Durant myself, but I have many fond memories of beating it. Durant NVI has an attack called Devour that reads, "For each of your Durant in play, discard the top card of your opponent's deck." This means that if you had one Durant in play, your opponent would discard the top card of their deck. If you had two Durant in play, your opponent would discard the top two cards off of their deck, and so on. Allow me to share a blast from the past in the form of a Durant list circa 2012:

4 Durant NVI
1 Rotom UD

4 Pokemon Collector
4 N
4 Twins
4 Professor Juniper
2 Pokegear 3.0

4 Junk Arm
4 Crushing Hammer
3 Eviolite
3 Pokemon Catcher
3 Revive
2 Level Ball
2 Lost Remover
1 Super Rod
2 Victory Medal

5 Metal
4 Special Metal
3 Prism
1 Rescue

(Source: SixPrizes)

The format at the time was HeartGold and SoulSilver through Black & White: Next Destinies, which means that no set that was legal for play at the time is legal now. However with reprints and such, you may recognize some cards such as N, Professor Juniper, Crushing Hammer and Revive. Allow me to briefly get you up to date on what some of these older cards did:

Rotom UD

For Durant's Devour attack to be most effective, it was necessary to have a total of four Durant in play. If not, each attack would discard one less card, and thus Durant would be that much less efficient. There was an Alph Lithograph card that let you look at your prizes, and some lists played that alongside Rotom UD to get Durant out of the prizes. However, Alph Lithograph wasn't searchable, so it was largely excluded from Durant lists. Instead, players would use their first deck search to find if Durant was prized. If this was the case, then Rotom could be benched. However, there was skill involved in benching Rotom. In the Durant mirror match, in fact, it was better to hold onto the Rotom even if you had a Durant prized simply because the opponent could just Catcher Rotom to force you to burn all of your energy.

Also, take note that we run Prism Energy. This allows us to attack with Rotom in a pinch. For example, against a deck like Quad Terrakion, the Terrakion player could simply use one Terrakion to use Land Crush repeatedly to win the game. A well-timed Plasma Arrow might force the Terrakion player to bench a second Terrakion, which can be dragged to the active position with Pokemon Catcher and stranded while Durant repeatedly uses Devour.

Jason Klacynski wrote a considerable amount of words here three years ago on this topic, so feel free to check that out. There is a considerable amount of skill involved with using Rotom, and you can also use him to get yourself a draw Supporter or a Crushing Hammer/Junk Arm.

Pokemon Collector

Pokemon Collector was like a better Pokemon Fan Club in that it let you search for three Basic Pokemon. With this one Supporter card, you could easily have four Durant out on your first turn, using Devour for four cards. Pokemon Fan Club is a large step down from this and a much different card, because a Pokemon Collector ensured a proper set up for the majority of decks while it was in the format.

Anyway, since Pokemon Collector was so strong, it was easily a card that was ran in a count of four. Even though you wouldn't play four in a game, it was that important to have it on your first turn. It also made excellent Junk Arm fodder so you wouldn't draw into it later in the game. In addition, it was a Supporter card that had a search capability, so it could be used under Item lock against the odd deck that used Vileplume UD.


I am sure that this card looks familiar! N was a two-edged sword in Durant decks. When playing against a Durant deck, it was usually best to play as few cards as possible to avoid decking out, which meant that you would like to avoid playing Supporter cards that drew more cards. That meant that if the Durant deck played N, it gave you a fresh hand to work with without hurting you. Because of this, N was not the ideal for Durant to play early in the game. As things progressed and Durants got knocked out, N became better and better. A Durant player will always have six prize cards, since the deck doesn't win by taking prize cards. Because of this, it will always be a draw Supporter at any time in the game. And if Durant's opponent has knocked out three or four Durant, then an N can cripple them while still helping the Durant player significantly.

N gave Durant an easier way to reach its win condition as well. For example, if Durant's opponent had two cards in hand, four prize cards, and six cards left in their deck, an N would change that to four cards in hand, four prize cards, and four cards left in their deck. In this way, Durant could win a turn earlier, because having four cards left in deck is within range of Devour.

In this way, N could also hurt Durant. If Durant's opponent had eight cards in hand and five cards in deck, an N to two would actually hurt the Durant player, as they would need to discard six extra cards from the deck.


Twins, like N, goes very well with Durant. Durant isn't a deck that aims to take prizes, so as soon as Durant's opponent knocked out a Pokemon, Durant would be able to play Twins for the rest of the game. Early in the game, of course, Twins might have been used to get more Durant into play. Later, it might have grabbed Crushing Hammer, Revive, Lost Remover, or even Junk Arm. Twins brought a lot of utility due to the type of deck Durant was (a deck that never has less than six prize cards), and it was even stronger than N because it didn't help the opponent at all.

Junk Arm

According to Jason Klacyncski, Junk Arm was one of the cards that made the deck tick. Junk Arm was very powerful in many formats because it let people reuse their Item cards. Think about how powerful Sableye DEX was, and about how Lysandre's Trump Card was banned because it let people reuse Items. Junk Arm didn't have unlimited potential like those two cards did, but it let you use up to eight Pokemon Catcher or eight Crushing Hammer in one game, and it could even grab you a Pokegear 3.0 to try and net a Supporter for the turn.

In Durant decks, Junk Arm had a lot of utility for many things, but its primary use was to use extra Crushing Hammer during a game. The strategy of Durant decks wasn't solely to deck the opponent out. That was the means to an end, but the goal was really to discard all of your opponent's energy so that you could use Devour uncontested. Remember that there was no Lysandre's Trump Card in that format to recycle energy. The closest thing to that was Super Rod, which could grab up to three in any combination of Pokemon and Basic Energy and shuffle them back into the deck. If you were discarding your opponent's whole deck, you were bound to discard some energy as well. Using Crushing Hammer, Lost Remover (similar to Enhanced Hammer), and Devour, it was certainly a plausible enough goal to completely stop your opponent from attacking. With four Crushing Hammer and four Junk Arm, you were discarding an average of four energy cards from your opponent's board per game, and combined with Enhanced Hammer, your win condition was to get all energy off of the board so you could Devour with nothing standing in your way.

At the very least, you could get your opponent down to having few enough energy so that you could use Pokemon Catcher to drag up a Benched Pokemon that can't get out of the Active position by retreating.

Remember this, because it will be relevant once we start talking about Bunnelby.

Further reading about Durant:

The Hidden Skill of Durant Pt. 1 by Jason Klacynski

The Hidden Skill of Durant Pt. 2 also by Jason Klacynski

This is a really interesting read because obviously Jason had a really good handle on this deck. There are many intricacies to what seems like a simple mill deck.


Why does any of this matter? Of course it is cool to think about old formats, but for better or worse Durant is still legal in the Expanded format. If it was powerful before, logic tells us that it might still be relevant now. Here is a sample list for Durant in the Expanded format:

4 Durant

4 Crushing Hammer
1 Enhanced Hammer
2 Acro Bike
4 Trick Shovel
2 Ultra Ball
2 Hard Charm
3 Trainers' Mail
1 Life Dew
4 Revive
4 Level Ball
4 VS Seeker
1 Battle Compressor
4 Repeat Ball
3 Recycle

1 Team Flare Grunt
4 Professor Juniper
1 Xerosic
4 N

1 Steel Shelter

3 Metal Energy
4 Shield Energy

What is different about this list? We no longer can use cards from the HG:SS set block, such as Rotom UD, but we get access to cards printed in Next Destinies and later. This changes the deck significantly, and unfortunately for the worst.

No Pokemon Collector, 4 Repeat Ball, 4 Level Ball, 2 Ultra Ball

In the old version of Durant, one could start Durant, play one of the four Pokemon Collector in the deck, and immediately start using Devour for four. Were you wondering why the HS-NVI list didn't max out on Level Ball? It didn't need to! This deck needs to run four Repeat Ball and four Level Ball, because you have to find your Durants as early as your first turn, and there isn't any one specific card that can do that for you. Once you have four Durant out though, these cards are dead cards, so I threw in a Battle Compressor so that you can try to discard your extra Balls.

Trick Shovel

This is a handy little trick that Durant didn't have the first time around. Trick Shovel allows you to discard the top card of your opponent's deck, which very much fits into a Durant deck. When you draw Trick Shovel, you always play it and you always discard the card that it reveals. If you don't discard it, you will end up Devouring it away anyway, and it's better to get one card deeper into your opponent's deck.

Recycle instead of Junk Arm

This card is one that I skimmed over many times. This card is significantly better I thought it was at first glance. Recycle says to flip a coin, and if heads to put a card from your discard pile on top of your deck. This is really good. This lets us reuse Crushing Hammer but that isn't really efficient. It is mostly in here to use with Trick Shovel. As soon as we play down a Trick Shovel, any other Recycles become live cards. Recycle does require a coin flip, so it doesn't really replace Junk Arm, but it's the next best thing. It's better to play 3 Recycles than something else to just get set up because we really like getting to use cards more than once.

Recycle can get you a card you want for the following turn, or you can follow it up with a Juniper, Trainers' Mail, or Acro Bike to retrieve the card you recycled immediately.

Crushing Hammer, Team Flare Grunt, and Xerosic

In the old version of the deck, we had four Crushing Hammer, two Lost Remover, and four Junk Arm to give us an opportunity to discard up to ten energy cards. Recycle doesn't replace Junk Arm in that we won't be using it to grab Hammers, so we can't discard energy quite as efficiently as one could in the past. Instead, we run Team Flare Grunt and Xerosic along with VS Seeker to let us discard up to ten energy that way instead. If we have our optimal set up, we can stream Flare Grunts and Xerosics with VS Seeker to discard all of our opponent's energy.


We run four N and four Juniper like the old version of the deck used to, but the old deck could take advantage of search Supporters like Pokemon Collector and Twins, which we don't have access to. In fact, we don't run very many Supporters besides our standard N and Juniper. Instead we run three Trainers' Mail and a couple of Acro Bike to help us draw. The fact is, there isn't a lot we have to dig for past Durants and Revives, so we don't necessarily need to play a draw supporter every turn.

Why isn't this deck an obvious play for Expanded?

1) Prized Durants

There are several reasons why Durant is not an obvious play for Expanded. One of these reasons is that the deck has no way to deal with bad prizing. The Pokemon Card Laboratory likes to give us access to cards stuck in our prizes. I have only been playing since the Diamond and Pearl era, but I remember several cards that serve this purpose. Azelf LA let us exchange a Pokemon from our prizes with any card from our hand. Alph Lithograph let us look at our prizes. Rotom UD let us switch a prize with the top card of our deck. And finally, Town Map lets us look at our prizes.

Azelf and Rotom both would give us opportunities to grab a prized Durant, but neither of those cards are available to us. All we have is Town Map, which shows us where the Durant is. Unfortunately, this is not helpful at all if we can't take prizes. Unless you want to use Durant's second attack, Vice Grip to make a pitiful attempt to take a prize, there is no good way for the deck to fix that. In a best-case scenario, Durant can barely mill enough cards before six Durants get knocked out, and without using Devour for the full four every turn, the deck just can't win.

2) You can't deal with Item Lock

There is no way that Durant can deal with Item lock. Devour becomes a progressively weaker attack as you lose Durants from play, and you can't use Revive when you can't play Items. If your opponent can knock out a Durant in two hits under Item lock, your attacks will mill for 4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1, 1, which adds up to a grand total of 20 cards mill. Unless your opponent plays sloppily with Professor Junipers and such, that is not nearly enough cards to win by milling. To add to the hurt, you can't play Crushing Hammer, Enhanced Hammer, or VS Seeker under Item lock, and those are all integral cards to keeping up energy denial.

No Ninjask?

I did build a list that included Ninjask. Ninjask is a Pokemon that lets you discard the top card of your opponent's deck when Ninjask is active if you discard a card from your hand. Its utility would come into play when your Durant gets knocked out, after which you would want to bring up the Ninjask and discard a card before retreating back into Durant. The issue is that starting with Nincada is a real possibility. We rely on Repeat Ball to set up Durants, so not being able to grab our favorite metal ant with Repeat Ball would probably cripple our set up. We also would have to add in Switch cards and more things that would make us not be able to stream Durants as efficiently.

Plus, our win condition isn't necessarily to "mill more cards", energy denial is an integral part of the strategy. The space necessary to mill just a few more cards makes us lose a lot of consistency, and makes our deck worse at both milling and denying energy.

This is a decklist that tries to cover for some of Durant's weaknesses. We get an alternate attacker in Sableye from Dark Explorers. If we have two Durant in play, that mills two cards from our opponent's deck. If we use Junk Hunt to reuse two Trick Shovels, that also mills two cards from our opponent's deck. So if Durant's are running low or even if it's convenient to attack with Sableye, he really isn't a bad attacker.

Sableye also helps us with some other tricks with prize denial and energy denial. If you grab two Crushing Hammers with Junk Hunt, then there is a 75% chance that you will remove at least one energy from your opponent's field on the following turn. If you get rid of all of your opponent's energy, you can mill with Durant to your heart's content!

The last little "trick" is that Sableye can get back an Ace Spec from the discard pile. Our Ace Spec is Life Dew, so we can attack with Durants with Life Dews attached and in between Devours we can use Junk Hunt to reuse the Life Dew. This makes our opponent have to knock out more Pokemon to win the game, hopefully using more cards and resources in the process.

Sableye is a great card because it can mill with Trick Shovel, deny prizes with Life Dew, discard energy with Crushing Hammer, and even pull you out of a dead hand with VS Seeker!

After playing several games with Sableye, I was really happy with it. In the Expanded format, with access to so many powerful Item cards, Sableye is quite powerful and fun to play with. I began to get more and more frustrated with Durant for the reasons listed above. Eventually I cut the Durant for Bunnelby and I liked that a lot more.

4 Bunnelby
2 Diggersby XY
2 Corphish
2 Crawdaunt
3 Sableye
1 Jirachi-EX

4 Trainers' Mail
1 Switch
4 Trick Shovel
1 Life Dew
2 Devolution Spray
2 Startling Megaphone
2 Head Ringer
3 VS Seeker
4 Crushing Hammer
3 Level Ball
3 Professor Juniper
2 Lysandre
4 N
2 Silent Lab

4 Double Colorless Energy
5 Darkness Energy

Bunnelby has two attacks; one attack (called Burrow) discards a card from your opponent's deck and the second (Rototiller) shuffles a card from your discard pile back into your deck. Rototiller gives you another way besides Sableye to recycle Life Dew. Bunnelby has the Omega Barrage Ancient Trait that allows you to attack twice, so Bunnelby can mill two cards per turn. Rototiller means you will never run out of attackers, because you can just shuffle a Bunnelby and an energy card from your discard pile back into the deck if necessary.

Diggersby XY is a card that you can run as well without changing the deck a lot. Diggersby has an attack called Pickup that has the same effect as Junk Hunt. This gives you a "Super-Sableye" with more HP that conveniently evolves from a Pokemon that you already run!

Crawdaunt fits well into this deck. Both Crawdaunt and Corphish are searchable with Level Ball, which makes them easy to get out. Most of my early-game Level Balls go fetch me Corphish. Crawdaunt's Unruly Claw ability is only activated when you put him down from your hand to evolve Corphish. Crawdaunt decks in the standard format tend to run AZ or Super Scoop Up to reuse Crawdaunt, but in the Expanded format, there exists a card called Devolution Spray which lets you place the topmost Evolution card from a Pokemon back into your hand, without the flip of a coin. This means we don't need to run Super Scoop Up, because we can achieve the same effect without the flip of a coin. We can also reuse this card with Junk Hunt and Pickup, meaning that we can discard an energy card from the active Pokemon every turn, at very little cards.


(I'm using this to estimate what decks will be popular in Expanded)

Against decks like Raichu and Night March, it is quite easy to run them out of energy. Through Crushing Hammer and Crawdaunt, it's a cinch to get rid of four Double Colorless energy before they take six prizes. From there, you just have to clean up and get rid of the Basic Energy, which is easier to do because these decks are not as threatening when they can't take prizes as fast.

Landorus/Crobat is a trickier matchup because weakness lets them run through your bunnies pretty easily. You want to use the energy denial here as well with Sableye, and you'll want to strand something like a Lucario active with a Head Ringer on it. Using Crawdaunt, you can make sure that it never gets more than one energy on it, and then once they run out of Switch cards you can deck out the opponent.

Against decks that use Bronzong and Eelektrik, you can still use energy denial, but you can't use it haphazardly. Feel free to discard any energy that isn't lightning or metal. For example, against Rayquaza/Eels, by all means, get rid of the Fire Energy! Discarding Double Colorless Energy against Metal decks is also fine. Against these decks, you want to strand something active, such as Bronzong or Eelektrik, but only do this if there is no Keldeo in play or if Keldeo is Head Ringer'ed etc.

The real question is what do you do against Item lock. Your deck falls apart when you can't play Items, so we need to be able to deal with this. What I do when playing against Seismitoad is on my one turn of Items I get out as many Corphish as is possible. Then I use Supporters to draw into my Crawdaunts and run my opponent out of Double Colorless energy. Once they start missing attacks, you get your Items back to reuse Crawdaunt, and then everything is good.

Against Trevenant/Accelgor though, this is not a viable option. No energy stays on the board, because when Mew or Accelgor uses Deck and Cover, the Double Colorless energy gets shuffled back into the deck. Trevenant has an annoying 110 HP, but it has weakness to Darkness. Luckily, you run a Darkness-typed Pokemon that hits for 60 damage, and you already run the necessary energy!

If your opponent can stream Trevenant better than you can stream Crawdaunt, then you're in trouble, but this funky crab means that the matchup is not an autoloss by any means. Crawdaunt is also a decent attacker to get rid of opposing Bunnelbys! Your opponent runs Accelgor, which does 50 damage along with paralysis and poison. They knock out Bunnelby, which is what you want. A Sableye, however, is not knocked out until it will be their turn again, so you don't want to put Sableye active if you can help it. For this reason, you don't want to use Diggersby in this matchup either, unless you're using his second attack.

I am very excited about all of the wonderful possibilities that await us in the Extended format, and I intend to continue to write about these types of decks. Feel free to leave any questions or comments down below, and have a great day!


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