An In-Depth Guide to the Legacy Format


Maybe some of you are remembering me by having written two articles on Top Deck Nation, but for those of you who don’t know me, I will quickly introduce myself. My name is Nico Sutter. I’m 20 years old and have won two Regional Championships in the past, though I‘m currently taking a break from playing this season. Today I will bring you an in-depth guide on one of my favorite formats, and that would be Legacy.

You’ve probably heard of this format already, with it having been implemented on PTCGO for almost a year now. Its format is the HeartGold/SoulSilver (HGSS) Base Set through Legendary Treasures (LTR), and I strongly feel there isn’t really a good guide on Legacy out there at the moment, so I decided to write one on my own and share with you guys since I feel quite knowledgeable on the format currently.


Not in this format, thankfully.

The Legacy format (which is currently only playable online through PTCGO, as it is now a real format yet, unfortunately) includes all  the cards from the HeartGold/Soulsilver and Black & White eras. That means we don’t have access to the very staple cards from the XY sets like we do have in Expanded, such as Seismitoad-EX, Team Flare Grunt, VS Seeker, and Xerosic, to name a few.

It’s also important to notice Legacy is played entirely different compared to Standard and Expanded, given the accessible card pool. For example, you won’t be able to use multiple one-of Supporters in combination with VS Seeker; in Legacy you need to rely on thicker Supporter lines, often including only the best Supporter cards available in order to be able to have them when you need their effect.

Drawing Parallels

Skyla provides a consistency boost.

In the last section, I talked about not being able to fully take advantage of strong situational Supporters in Legacy by the lack of VS Seeker, instead needing to rely on more copies of the same (mostly the strongest) Supporter cards available. However, it is possible in Legacy to just play plenty of one-of Item cards by including 4 copies of Junk Arm.

Clearly a four-of in most decks, Junk Arm lets you grab any Item card from the discard. You don’t have VS Seeker to use multiple one-of Supporters, however, you can just implement a lot of strong one-of Item cards, while you cant get punished for only playing one copy of a certain Item, thanks to Junk Arm, and also by playing a heavy Skyla count.

If you started playing the game after Furious Fists came out, you will probably wonder if 4 Skyla have ever been good, but I can tell you it actually was the case before Furious Fists came out, especially in Next Destinies – Legendary Treasures, with 4 Skyla being used in almost any deck at the time, giving your deck an enormous consistency boost. The only viable deck not playing Skyla at all was Darkrai/Garbodor, with the deck using Random Receiver over Skyla to maintain consistent draw power.

Next Destinies – Legendary Treasures

Speaking of NXD-LTR, it was the Modified (and only) format before they introduced Standard and Expanded, having been played right before XY Base Set came out. It was also used during the European Challenge Cup (ECC) 2014 back in February 2014, which was then the European Championship and by far the biggest and most hyped tournament in Europe. Sadly enough, it was the last tournament held in NXD-LTR, but it shows which decks emerged themselves as the top-contenders LTR-onwards. Let us review the final standings:

A top contender in Legacy.

1st – Virizion/Genesect

2nd – Darkrai/Garbodor

Top 4 – Darkrai/Garbodor

Top 4 – Darkrai/Garbodor

Top 8 – Flareon

Top 8 – Empoleon/Dusknoir

Top 8 – Virizion/Genesect

Top 8 – Virizion/Genesect

As you can see, Virizion/Genesect proved itself being the strongest option in NXD-LTR, winning the European Championship in 2014, while placing itself 3 times in the Top 8. Following up, Darkrai/Garbodor also had a strong appearance, finishing as the Runner-Up of the ECC 2014 and placing itself three times in the Top 8 as well. Flareon and Empoleon/Dusknoir hit one spot in the Top 8, too, having been excellent meta calls against Virizion/Genesect. However, Virizion/Genesect and Darkrai/Garbodor found themselves as the strongest choices in NXD-LTR.

The Transformation into HGSS-LTR

Many of you probably ask yourself now why I previously talked about NXD-LTR, a seemingly different format than HGSS-LTR would be. However, I can say to you it’s almost the same. When I flipped through many Legacy decks posted online, I noticed them being absolute garbage in a competitive aspect. I would see people hype older decks, like Reshiram/Typhlosion from HGSS-BLW in 2011, for Legacy.

However, you have to remember: As soon as Next Destinies came along and Pokémon EX introduced alongside the meta-defining Mewtwo EX back then, the game changed entirely, focusing completely around Pokémon EX. So, the Legacy format is just NXD-LTR, which the influences of HGSS-NVI, not the other way around. You still pick the archtypes you would pick as you would in NXD-LTR, but with game-changing staples from the HGSS-era. Cards like Junk Arm, Lost Remover, and Alph Lithograph instantly come to mind.

Legacy Conventions

Looking at your prize cards can give you a huge advantage.

As you might have noticed, back in the HeartGold/SoulSilver era there had been cards that almost did the same as those from Black & White – Lost Remover, for example. Lost Remover is inherently more powerful than Enhanced Hammer, as it removes an opponent’s Special Energy from the game versus just discarding it, preventing your opponent from recovering it in any way. Another example is Alph Lithograph from Triumphant. It does the same as Town Map, but only you can view your prize cards, not your opponent as well.

In the past, people discussed the usefulness of Town Map a lot, and many did not like the card since it can also lose you the game (e.g. revealing to your opponent your G-Booster is prized, which allows your opponent to change his game plan accordingly to their favor, potentially giving you a disadvantage). Alph Lithgraph just shows the prize cards to you, and those who played Town Map back then liked the idea of grabbing the cards you currently need from your prizes in order to have a stronger late game and greater control overall.

Meta Shifts in Legacy

Better than VS Seeker in more ways than one.

Now the real question comes – which cards from HGSS-NVI impact Legacy? First, there is Junk Arm. It is a four-of in pretty much every Legacy deck, which allows you to use a single Trainer card up to a whopping five times, which is insane. Imagine having multiple Tool Scrapper, Lost Remover, or Max Potion; it’s actually crazy how much work Junk Arm does. With multiple Tool Scrapper able to use, Garbodor suffers quite a lot from the re-introduction of Junk Arm.

You can simply Junk Arm for Tool Scrapper whenever you‘d like to, effectively discarding tools off Garbodor to enable Abilities again. So any Garbodor deck suffers quite a lot from Junk Arm; decks built around key Abilities like Deluge, Diving Draw, or Sinister Hand get a lot stronger by being way more versatile to handle Garbodor.

Garbodor suffers to easy access Tool removal.

In the NXD-LTR format, people teched a single Tool Scrapper and hoped they would draw into it or search it out with Skyla when they needed it, or just didn’t play Tool Scrapper at all because the Garbodor match-up was unfavorable anyway. This was especially the case with Empoleon/Dusknoir, being fully reliant on Abilities.

Also, Lost Remover in combination with Junk Arm causes a drastic meta-shift. Plasma decks, which most used Special Energy, struggled a lot with Enhanced Hammer, but the deck was able to recover thanks to Raiden Knuckle from Thundurus EX. However, Lost Remover removes Special Energy entirely from the game, which means they are gone forever and Plasma can’t recover them. For decks that were at a disadvantage to Plasma variants, just teching in a Lost Remover could turn the tide of the match.

The Legacy Meta-Game

An Emerald Slash on turn 1 is not uncommon.

Virizion/Genesect still remains one of the best decks, especially with the inclusion of Celebi Prime, one of the front-runners in Legacy. Being able to Emerald Slash on turn 1, having the 7-prize-game open, or just manipulating energy attachments is really strong in Virizion/Genesect. In addition, Junk Arm can recycle G-Booster, so you don’t need to waste a Skyla for it (your Supporter slot), and it enables combos that were previously not possible, like getting G-Booster with Junk Arm and using Shadow Triad to search for Plasma Energy.

You can probably assume that the meta revolves around Virizion/Genesect like it did before, which is absolutely correct, but now Virizion/Genesect gets so strong that you need to play it yourself or play a deck that has a solid match-up against it, which is quite difficult since there are not many decks that can beat a potential turn 1 or 2 Emerald Slash into a G-Booster.

Garbodor variants got weaker, Plasma suffers too much from Lost Remover, even Rayquaza/Emboar could be too slow since a turn 1 Emerald Slash is truly devastating, so at maximum it’s 50-50, and Blastoise never had a good match-up anyway. Weavile/Exeggcute also looks quite promising, but it does not seem consistent enough, despite having gotten a Sneasel with free retreat.

A Clear, but not so Obvious Winner

The clear winner in the Legacy format.

So, what do we conclude from this? Garbodor and Plasma variants are a lot weaker in Legacy than they had been in NXD-LTR, and decks that suffer a lot from those suddenly climb in power level. If you read between the lines, you can probably assume which deck I am referring to as being the current best deck in Legacy – it is Empoleon/Dusknoir. Plasma hits Empoleon for weakness, and Darkrai/Garbodor was meant to be an auto-loss since a one-of Tool Scrapper without Junk Arm would never win you the match-up.

With Lost Remover and Tool Scrapper being able to combine with Junk Arm, you even have favorable match-ups against Empoleon/Dusknoir’s former worst enemies. Also, with Max Potion and a Silver Bangle, the Virizion/Genesect match-up is almost an auto-win. Virizion can’t one-shot your Piplup since Muscle Band is not legal in Legacy.

They also have to G-Booster every of your Empoleon, since you can essentially render their last Megalo Cannon/Emerald Slash useless by using multiple Max Potion, and Genesect has to continously discard energy to use G-Booster. They also only draw a single prize card per KO, while the Empoleon player draws 2 instead. Lastly, if your opponent tries to deny knockouts on their Pokémon-EX by just retreating, you can easily punish them for doing that by using Dusknoir’s Sinister Hand to kill the most valuable Pokémon-EX they have set up.


Let me show you my current version of Empoleon/Dusknoir which I developed together with a good friend of mine, Stéphane Ivanoff from France, who was the guy finishing in Top 8 of the ECC 2014 with Empoleon/Dusknoir. I talked to him since I think he is the most knowledgable person on the deck, and together with him I developed a very scary list which seems just perfect at the moment:

Pokémon: 15Trainers: 38Energy: 7
4 Empoleon DEX
2 Prinplup LTR
4 Piplup DEX
1 Dusknoir BCR
2 Duskull BCR
1 Exeggcute PLF
1 Mr. Mime PLF
4 Professor Juniper
4 N
4 Skyla

2 Tropical Beach

4 Junk Arm
4 Rare Candy
4 Ultra Ball
3 Level Ball
2 Escape Rope
1 Super Rod
1 Tool Scrapper
1 Max Potion
1 Silver Bangle
1 Lost Remover
1 Alph Lithograph TR
1 Computer Search
7 Water
Dusknoir and Max Potion make it hard to lose the prize trade.

We pretty much evaluated every space, and came up with this. We use the 60 HP Piplup from Dark Explorers since they can resist a 50 Damage Emerald Slash and 2 Prinplup because Empoleon is your only attacker; thus you need to set up multiple Empoleon at a time. Of course, it’s the version from Legendary Treasures, which has 90 HP and can attack for one energy too. We also decided to opt only for a 2-1 Dusknoir line, since you only need to have 1 Dusknoir set up. If your opponent kills it, you can Super Rod it back in and evolve your 2nd Duskull straight up with Rare Candy without having to give up Sinister Hand for one turn.

Exeggcute synergizes insanely well with Junk Arm, Ultra Ball, Computer Search and Diving Draw, helping you organize your resources way better by always using it as a discard fodder. Mr. Mime gives you an edge versus bench-snipe, which is quite big in Legacy (Landorus EX, Plasma Kyurem, Darkrai EX & Genesect EX, to name a few).

Maxing out the counts of the best Supporters is also mandatory to make the deck as consistent as possible, especially 4 Skyla to guarantee having the Item you need at any given scenario. Tropical Beach is key to outspeed any big EX deck and critical to use before you start attacking with Empoleon. Now we come to our 7 one-of Item cards. Tool Scrapper is for Garbodor and G-Booster, Max Potion to keep off damage, Silver Bangle to manipulate the math into your favor, Lost Remover to counter decks that are reliant on Special Energy — especially Plasma and Virizion/Genesect. Alph Lithograph is your Town Map, and Computer Search is obvious.

Also, 7 Water Energy is the perfect count to go in my testing, as it allows for ample deck space while still being able to draw into when needed. Empoleon/Dusknoir is basically favored against any deck in Legacy besides Gothitelle/Accelgor, which shouldn’t be played at all since Virizion/Genesect means an autoloss. I really like the deck, since it reminds me of the glory days when Stage 2 decks were top tier, immediately after they nerfed Pokémon Catcher; it was one of the most refreshing formats we had in a long time.

Final Words

I hope you liked my guide on the Legacy format! If you have any questions to ask, just hit me up on Facebook, and I can help you out. Who knows? Maybe at some point Pokémon  will decide to introduce Legacy as a real tournament format! Until next time!


Featured image credit: Neslug (DeviantArt)

Nico Sutter is an European Pokémon TCG player with a high number of top tournament finishes, including winning the 2016 Lanaken and Basel Regional Championships.


  1. Empoleon / Dusknoir is really strong in Legacy but you forgot Plasma. With your decklist it’s an autoloss. That’s the reason why I play 2 Silver Mirror in my list. Also I play a 1-1 line Leafeon vs. Blastoise. Leafeon with Silver Bangle OHKOs a Keldeo with 3 Energys. Can you see the synergy of 2 Exeggcute with JunkArm, Computer Search and Ultra Ball? And last but not least: Pichu HGSS is really nice to fill your bench T1. 🙂

    • While much of this deck is pretty optimal (e.g. the entire Pokémon line, the 7 Water, the Items) it needs a lot of work in the Supporter line.

      Remember: decks in Legacy are much faster than NXD-LTR due to Junk Arm / Celebi / etc. If you don’t have an effective wall for 2-3 turns while you set up, you are toast. And no, dropping 2-3 of your Piplups in the first few turns is not an effective wall. Things I’ve found playing ~1,000 Legacy Empoleon games with various builds of the deck:

      1) You need some way of filling up your bench. As discussed above, Pichu is great. I’ve also found that a) dropping Tropical Beach in exchange for Cleffa and b) adding Pokémon Collector does nicely. Occasionally the 1-2 Cleffa prizes you give up lose you the game, but it becomes a much more consistent deck. And if Cleffa happens to sleep for a couple of turns, even better.

      If you don’t believe Pokémon Collector is a busted card, just ask any Standard player how much they’d like Brigette if it let them put the Pokémon into their hand instead of onto the Bench (and if it let them get EX/GX as well).

      If you drop Tropical Beach and play Cleffa or Pichu as a wall, I don’t like 4 Skyla anymore.

      2) I’d rather play Silver Mirror than Silver Bangle. It works against so many meta decks (Plasma, Weavile, CelGen if you Tool Scrapper their G-Booster and then N). Lost Remover is not close to enough against Plasma, though I’ve kept mine in because it works very well against MewTwo-EX (in Lando Garb) and, paired with Silver Mirror, can often be enough to get Plasma closer to 40/60.

      3) 1 Max Potion is absolutely critical in the mirror match. If you cut it, you will lose to Empoleon that does have it.

      4) Resource management of your four Junk Arms is absolutely critical (as they usually have to recover Tool Scrappers, Lost Removers, Escape Ropes, Rare Candies, etc.). I’ve found the discard of Professor Juniper puts far too much strain on Junk Arms compared to Professor Oak’s New Theory. If you take my advice re: Cleffa above, you’ll still have enough shuffle draw. Wasted cards (e.g. Silver Mirror against non-Plasma) can be discarded via Empoleon.

  2. Hey I realize this is an old thread, but I have to say I found it very helpful. I just started playing pokemon and wanted to play legacy or vintage formats so I build your deck. Im just curious, what would you would change at this point with all the new Sun and Moon sets out? Any input would be appreciated!


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