With its incredible 125 base Speed—outsped by only a handful of Pokemon regularly seen in the Uber tier—and respectable 135 base Special Attack, this terror of twilight induces nighttime horrors throughout the land it travels. With Dark Void capturing opponents in its enveloping slumber 80% of the time and Nasty Plot raising an already impressive Special Attack, Darkrai is one of the most successful boosting sweepers in the Uber metagame. Darkrai's ability, Bad Dreams, deals damage to any sleeping Pokemon, allowing it to render opponents' Focus Sashes useless. On top of this, Darkrai's Dark typing grants it an immunity to Mirror Coat, allowing Darkrai to take on Wobbuffet extremely well.
Thanks to Darkrai's Speed and Dark Void's excellent accuracy (for a sleep-inducing move), it is often easy for Darkrai to set up at least one Nasty Plot. This skyrockets Darkrai's fair (by Uber standards) Special Attack to a frightening 738 in one turn. Using both Dark Pulse and Focus Blast gives Darkrai excellent neutral coverage resisted only by Heracross and Toxicroak. Even with only neutral damage, Darkrai hits hard with +2 Dark Pulse or Focus Blast. STAB Dark Pulse is the main attack, doing heavy damage with the possibility of flinching the opponent. While Focus Blast's accuracy is sometimes unnerving, it allows Darkrai to better handle Steel- and Dark-type Pokemon that resist Dark Pulse, including Tyranitar, Heatran, Dialga, and opposing Darkrai.
This Darkrai set can function superbly as either a lead or a late-game sweeper. When in the lead position, it is recommended that Darkrai has Focus Sash as its item, allowing it to survive attacks when an opponent's Lum Berry wakes it up. This will usually guarantee that a Pokemon is put to sleep. After this, Bad Dreams allows Darkrai to break the Focus Sash of Deoxys-A, Deoxys-S, and Froslass and then OHKO them with Dark Pulse. When using Darkrai as a late-game sweeper, Life Orb is recommended due to the increase in power and the lower chance of encountering Lum Berry. This will greatly increase Darkrai's damage output, while the recoil isn't devastating as long as you watch out for Choice Scarf and priority users.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Trick Darkrai is truly a nasty surprise for its opposition, taking out one of Darkrai's biggest weaknesses, Sleep Talkers, while still giving it the potential to sweep. After crippling a Sleep Talker with Trick, Darkrai is free to put it to sleep with Dark Void. As Sleep Talk malfunctions with Choice Scarf, most of the time, Darkrai is capable of setting up a Nasty Plot or two assuming that the opponent is still slower than it after getting Tricked the Choice Scarf. STAB Dark Pulse is obvious and packs fairly decent coverage since no Pokémon is immune to it.
While Trick holds incredible potential, one must use it wisely, as misplaying Trick can make it easy for opponents to outplay Darkrai. Tricking an opposing Choice user will only lock Darkrai into Trick and keep it from setting up, as well as possibly giving Darkrai a worse Choice item (for its purposes), such as Choice Band. All forms of Arceus are immune to Trick and will lock Darkrai into Trick, giving Arceus a free turn to set up. It is important to note that Giratina-O, another popular Trick absorber in Ubers, cannot switch into Darkrai safely due to STAB Dark Pulse.
Trick Darkrai is an amazing lead; its Speed allows it to outpace Deoxys-S and Deoxys-A leads, either sleeping them with Dark Void, hitting them with Dark Pulse, or Tricking them so that they're stuck on one move, making them easy pickings for a Pokémon with Pursuit such as Scizor or Tyranitar. Yet despite these amazing qualities as a lead, Darkrai can still be used in late-game, where it holds more of a surprise. When used late-game, this Darkrai can use Dark Void to counter such things as Adamant Rock Polish Groudon and opposing Choice Scarf users that can often be extremely troublesome.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Since Nasty Plot Darkrai is a huge threat in the Uber metagame, people often deal with it by revenge killing it with faster Pokémon such as Mewtwo and Choice Scarf Palkia / Dialga. By making use of Substitute and Salac Berry, Darkrai has a better chance to avoid this. Simply Substitute when you need to until the Salac Berry activates. When you have the chance, Darkrai can safely Nasty Plot while behind a Substitute. As well as helping Darkrai achieve the Salac Berry boost, Substitute also protects Darkrai from Choice Scarf and priority users that often switch in to revenge kill it. After the boost from Salac Berry, Darkrai will outrun just about everything except Choice Scarf Shaymin-S, Mewtwo, and Deoxys-S, while still retaining the ability to switch moves. With STAB Dark Pulse and Focus Blast, you'll still find it to be a quite fearsome sweeper.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Calm Mind can be used over Nasty Plot in order to boost both Special Attack and Special Defense, but this is discouraged. Besides access to Dark Void to help it set up, as a Calm Mind sweeper Darkrai is completely outclassed by Mewtwo, who has higher HP, Special Attack, and Speed along with identical defenses. It is also outclassed by Dark Arceus, who has better HP and defenses in exchange for a lack of Dark Void and less Speed. Dark Arceus also has Judgment, which is a stronger STAB move than Dark Pulse.
Taunt can be used over Focus Blast in order to counter Sleep Talkers. This removes one of Darkrai's biggest weaknesses, giving it at least one more turn to use Nasty Plot. While it does allow Darkrai to cripple Sleep Talkers switching in on Dark Void, Taunt also takes up a valuable move slot that Darkrai often cannot handle parting with. If using Taunt over Focus Blast, Darkrai becomes vulnerable to other Darkrai, Dialga, Scizor, as well as Steel / Dark Arceus, all of whom can take a boosted Dark Pulse with relative ease.
Lum Berry can be used for Nasty Plot Darkrai instead of any of the listed items. Lum Berry allows a lead Darkrai to take sleep from opposing Darkrai or Pokemon that try to cripple it with Thunder Wave. Lum Berry can also be used in conjunction with Substitute to better prevent status. This helps most against Trick or Treat lead Darkrai who will be locked into Dark Void and will be forced to switch out once the Substitute is set up.
A Swords Dance set can be used if you are looking for a physical sweeper as well as a surprise. When using Swords Dance it is recommended that Darkrai have an Adamant nature with 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe EVs, along with Life Orb as Darkrai's held item. This optimizes Darkrai's Attack, while still giving it enough Speed to tie with max Speed Hidden Power Fire Latios and Latias. The moves are very similar to those of the Nasty Plot set, swapping out Nasty Plot, Dark Pulse, and Focus Blast for Swords Dance, Sucker Punch, and Brick Break. Sucker Punch allows Darkrai to make up for its lower Speed stat with its priority and STAB, while Brick Break is used for coverage. While the damage calculations look impressive and the set has a definite surprise factor, relying on Sucker Punch as Darkrai's main move will often disappoint.
Checks and Counters
Darkrai's only true counters are sleep absorbers who can switch into Dark Void and stop Darkrai from setting up. Sleep Talkers are the most common sleep absorbers, and the best one to take on Darkrai is Kyogre. Kyogre can switch in and absorb the sleep and fails to be 3HKOed without Stealth Rock. Kyogre is then able to either set up with Calm Mind or do 92.2% - 108.9% to Darkrai with Surf, leaving Darkrai able to only attack once because of Life Orb recoil. Sleep Talk Heracross can also absorb Dark Void, and not only still able to attack through Sleep Talk, but gains the Guts boost through the sleep status. Heracross also resists both of Darkrai's attacks while both of its Fighting- and Bug-type STAB are super effective against Darkrai. Other Sleep Talkers such as Giratina and Dialga are not as effective as they are afraid of taking a Dark Pulse or Focus Blast respectively. Other Pokemon that are immune to sleep, such as Primeape and Manaphy in the rain, can switch in on Darkrai's Dark Void. Choice Scarf Primeape can switch in and hit Darkrai with either a U-turn or STAB Close Combat, which will both hurt Darkrai significantly, but has no other real uses in the Uber metagame. Manaphy is also immune to sleep, but still takes Darkrai's hits relatively hard. Both bulky and offensive Calm Mind Manaphy fail to OHKO Darkrai with Surf in the rain, while Darkrai can 3HKO bulky and 2HKO offensive Manaphy with an unboosted Dark Pulse.
Darkrai is difficult to handle before Sleep Clause has taken effect. Once activated, however, Fighting Arceus becomes the closest thing to a true counter to Darkrai that exists. It is only 3HKOed by +2 Dark Pulse and can take a +2 Focus Blast, and can OHKO Darkrai with a super effective Judgment. Darkrai's only chance to win outside of critical hits is to Nasty Plot on the switch and use Dark Pulse first, hoping for a flinch, followed by a Focus Blast. However, without the ability to sleep opposing Pokemon, Darkrai can be revenge-killed by any hard-hitting Pokemon that is faster than it. This includes Deoxys-A, Mewtwo, Palkia / Dialga holding a Choice Scarf, and Pokemon with strong priority attacks, such as Scizor, Normal Arceus, and Rayquaza. Ho-Oh also checks Darkrai well if it doesn't have to worry about Dark Void. Thanks to Ho-Oh's massive Special Defense, it does not fear a boosted Dark Pulse from Darkrai as much as other Pokemon and can retaliate with a powerful Brave Bird that can OHKO.