Hey all! It’s been awhile, this past month has been crazy with London, San Jose Regionals and a pair of League Cups last weekend. I’m going to go over my experience at London Internationals, San Jose Regionals and reflect a little about Expanded. Then in the 2nd half, I’ll cover Zoroark GX paired with Fighting for Standard.

London

Looking back at London, I finished with an abysmal 5-3-1 record with Garbodor. I started off with a 5-1-1 record then basically my deck crumbled upon me during the last 2 rounds. Whiffing Day 2, Top 128 or Top 64 points really felt bad. In round 4, I lost to Noel Totomoch, an experienced Gardy player. My deck could not really respond to his fast start in game 1 and in game 2 I opened 3 Sycamore. Later in the game, I was dead drawing because I did not have any other draw options.

In my 2nd loss, I played against Teodor who got Top 8 at the tournament with Buzzwole/Lycanroc. My set was very close against him but I kept whiffing single card combos to win both games.

My 3rd loss was brutal. I was 5-2-1 and at this point, I wanted to at least get Top 64 to earn some points. I played against Golisopod/Garbodor which is a decent matchup. I pretty much bricked both games, seeing hands like Super Rod, Po Town, and multiple Garbodor while starting Lele. I felt pretty frustrated that I did not earn any points. But all I can do is blame myself. After looking what did well at the tournament Zoroark GX, Octillery and Oranguru were all seen in the decks that did well. My deck didn’t have any backup draw outside of Sycamore and N. This is the main problem with Garbodor decks. They are very vulnerable to N and are really inconsistent.

Learning from this experience, I think that I would recommend including some sort of ability based draw due to the lack of consistent Supporter based draw in this format. It is no wonder why Tord is the king of consistency and the best player in the game. As of now, I do not think Garbodor will be as good as it once was. Zoroark GX has completely taken its throne alongside Gardevoir.

San Jose

I honestly tested a lot more for this tournament than London. I wrote about this deck a month ago and made some minor changes to the list and added Acerola since it is very good to heal Zoroarks. Inspired from Tord’s deck and some Japanese lists, I added in Puzzle of Time. The Puzzles were incredible during the weekend allowing me to reuse more resources and pulling off really cool combos.

Six players played this list into Day 2 with a 1 to 2 card difference. Sam Hough, Colter Decker, Liam Williams and Ruben Cisca played Ghetsis instead of Sycamore. Bodhi Tracy played 2 Guzma and Ghetsis instead of the 2nd Battle Compressor and Professor Sycamore. In retrospect, we all should’ve cut the 2nd Field Blower for something else more impactful since Garbotoxin was non-existent. Below is the list I used.

 

Seismitoad/Zoroark Expanded

Pokémon (20)

  • 4 Zorua DEX
  • 3 Zoroark GX
  • 1 Zoroark BKT
  • 3 Tapu Lele GX
  • 2 Shaymin EX
  • 2 Exeggcute PLF
  • 1 Sudowoodo
  • 1 Alolan Grimer
  • 1 Alolan Muk
  • 1 Seismitoad EX

Trainers (36)

  • 2 Brigette
  • 2 Colress
  • 1 Professor Sycamore
  • 1 Hex Maniac
  • 1 Karen
  • 1 Guzma
  • 1 Acerola
  • 1 N
  • 4 Ultra Ball
  • 4 Puzzle of Time
  • 4 VS Seeker
  • 2 Choice Band
  • 2 Battle Compressor
  • 2 Float Stone
  • 2 Field Blower
  • 1 Rescue Stretcher
  • 1 Special Charge
  • 1 Computer Search
  • 3 Skyfield

Energy (4)

  • 4 Double Colorless Energy

 

As you can see I pretty much cut a single copy of Sky Field, Choice Band, Special Charge, Rescue Stretcher and Teammates for Puzzles and Acerola. Puzzles were pretty huge because it provided more versatility and let me use crucial cards such as VS Seeker. Puzzles are great with Zoroark GX because the deck draws so many cards.

Here’s how my rounds went:

R1 2-0 W Gardevoir

R2 1-0 W Golisopod/Zoroark (Phinnegan Lynch)

R3 1-2 L Zoroark/Lycanroc

R4 2-0 W Raichu GX

R5 2-0 W Fire

R6 2-0 W Night March (Peter Kica)

R7  2-0 W Gardevoir

R8 ID

R9 ID

R10 2-0 W Night March (Peter Kica)

R11 0-1 L Wailord (Drew Kennett)

R12 1-1 T Zoroark/Lycanroc

R13 1-1 T Mirror (Sam Hough)

R14 2-0 W Night March (Brad Curcio)

I started 6-1 and I’D my last two rounds. On Day 2 I went 2-1-2. I lost to teammate Drew Kennett piloting his Wailord deck. I was actually able to make our match really close, but I could not get enough good luck while Drew’s flipped heads on his Team Rocket Handiworks. I tied against 2 mirror matchups to Sam Hough (59 cards mirror) and my 3rd round opponent piloting the Lycanroc version. I found the mirror match to be too time-consuming. It is very hard to complete 3 games. This deck has a lot of actions which makes matches very long. I really could not prevent the ties and I did not know who would win the 3rd game since the games had just started when time was called. The mirror is similar to the Garbodor mirror where it is very long. You have to know when to scoop in order to conserve time to finish the set. The ties are what really hurt me this weekend.

Looking back I found the Night March matchup to be more favorable than I originally thought as I finished 6-0 against it. The games were won pretty convincingly by me. I thought the matchup would be close to a 50/50 but their Night March list couldn’t deal well with the Toad/Karen/Alolan Muk combo. After playing the sets, I felt like the matchup is 60/40 or 65/35.

I realized that the Gardevoir matchup was not as bad as I thought. Gardevoir can get disrupted by Sudowoodo and Seismitoad. I found myself using Quaking Punch while using N to shuffle away their Beacons. Another aspect that made it hard for Gardevoir was chaining Hex Maniac. Gardevoir starts to struggle when they cannot use their abilities for multiple turns. Gallade was not as big of a problem as I thought it would be. I would one shot it and use Hex in the same turn. I think the scarier thing is when my opponent would set up a big Gardevoir.

I’m not really too impressed with Gardevoir. I feel like it loses to a competent Night March player and struggles against the Lycanroc version of Zoroark. Speaking of Lycanroc that it is something I will keep trying out before Dallas. The possibility of using Bloodthirsty Eyes and Hex Maniac/Ghetsis is way too strong. The GX is also an excellent backup attack. One thing I found is that the Lycanroc does not give you an advantage in the mirror. The card is very vulnerable to Zoroark BW’s Foul Play which can copy its GX attack to knock it out. It also requires 2 Energy attachments which is actually slow in the mirror and Night March Matchup.

Overall, I was very content with my finish, I wanted to win and the deck was good enough to do so. Going forward, I think Zoroark GX variants along with Night March will be the decks to beat. I’ll probably have the deck sleeved for Dallas but maybe with some changes. I may potentially add Pokémon Ranger due to a potential comeback from Giratina EX and Seismitoad EX. I feel like Night March should do this as well because I feel like the format will be shifting to hate on Night March and Zoroark. It is pretty crazy to see how the Top 8 decks all included Puzzles and Double Colorless (Aside from Drew’s Wailord deck). This is what Expanded has come down to, single Energy attachment attackers doing a ton of damage.

I also went to 2 League Cups last weekend. I played Greninja on Saturday and Volcanion on Sunday. I played Michael Long’s London list with a card difference adding in the 3rd Choice Band instead of the 3rd Field Blower due to the decline of Garbotoxin.  I chose to play Greninja because I figured it would be a good call for the Meta. I got into Top 8 but proceeded to get crushed by Buzzwole/Lycanroc. I started Lele and it pretty much ended there.

My thoughts with Greninja are still the same. I feel like it is too inconsistent to play it in League Cups in the best of one format. Overall I’ve always disliked the deck because of its inherent inconsistency. With Zoroark/Golisopod being extremely popular, I would not advise playing this deck for the time being.

I played Volcanion on Sunday expecting some Metal and Zoroark/Golisopod. I went 4-2 with my one of my losses coming from dead drawing and narrowly losing to a friend piloting Israel’s Silvally list from London. My list was pretty janky from running Oranguru and Starmie. I was also running a split of Choice Bands and Fighting Fury Belts. I felt like the deck was a fine play but could use some work. I feel like Choice Band is probably the better Tool to play to knock out that High HP GXs such Buzzwole, Lycanroc, Silvally, and Zoroark GX. Volcanion was a good call but I think the deck may need some draw options other than Oranguru. I would keep getting dead hands in certain points of the game because I tossed away too many Professor Sycamore. I still think the deck can thrive in the right Meta and I’m going to keep working on the deck to see if it is actually viable for Cups.

After these League Cups, I started to look into what deck I can build in this format and something that caught eye was a Buzzwole/Zoroark list I saw on Twitter piloted by Pedro Torres.

Buzzwole/Zoroark

 

Buzzwole GX Zoroark GX

Pokémon (17)

  • 4 Zorua SLG
  • 4 Zoroark GX
  • 1 Zoroark BKT
  • 3 Tapu Lele GX
  • 3 Buzzwole GX
  • 1 Espeon EX
  • 1 Mewtwo EXO

Trainers (33)

  • 4 Guzma
  • 4 Acerola
  • 4 N
  • 2 Brigette
  • 2 Professor Sycamore
  • 4 Ultra Ball
  • 4 Puzzle of Time
  • 3 Choice Band
  • 2 Field Blower
  • 1 Enhanced Hammer
  • 3 Po Town

Energy (10)

  • 4 Double Colorless Energy
  • 4 Strong Energy
  • 2 Fighting Energy

 

Pedro played his own version and earned a Top 64 finish at London. He soon changed the deck to have a similar engine to Tord’s. He placed 2nd at a Spanish League Cup with a list similar to that above.

The general strategy of this deck to just be aggressive with Buzzwole GX by applying pressure and setting up knockouts. It also has Espeon EX and Po Town to deal with Evolution decks. The list is very similar to Golisopod/Zoroark. I agree with how the list is constructed because it is very consistent and it gives you a ton of options.

Card Explanations

4-4-1 Zoroark

The best Pokémon in the game along with Tapu Lele, this deck wants to see multiple Zoroark GX as fast as possible. Once you set up 2, you start going through your deck and it enables us to use Guzma and Acerola with ease. Zoroark BKT is still a solid card and a great one prize attacker.

3 Buzzwole GX

The main starter, applies pressure and sets up knockouts. I found 3 to be the most optimal count since it gives us a good chance of starting it.

Espeon EX, Po Town

This is our counter to Evolution decks, mainly for the Gardevoir matchup in particular. Po Town + Buzzwole + Espeon EX apply a lot of pressure for these types of decks.

4 Strong, 2 Fighting

I was messing around with 1 Fighting but I kept whiffing with only five outs. The 6th out has been pretty good but I wouldn’t mind a 7th either.

3 Choice Band

I found 2 to be very low and I wanted some more damage output for Buzzwole.

4 Acerola

Since this deck uses single attachment bulky attackers, Acerola makes this deck very long lasting. I decided to play 4 instead 3 just so I can see it more often. We can even use Puzzles to use it more than 4 times.

1 Mewtwo EVO

This is just to counter the Buzzwole/Lycanroc deck. This is going to be a popular deck and something that I realized is that a powered up Buzzwole can run through the deck. The Mewtwo does give you a response in case that happens. It also trades 1 for 2 against them.

Potential Additions

Float Stone

Gives you mobility and a faster way to get Buzzwole in the active without having to use Guzma/Acerola.

1-1 Lycanroc GX

Pedro played a 1-1 line. I cut this card for space but I still think a 1-1 line is good in this. This deck can’t really use Buzzwole’s GX attack since you need to attach 3 of your 4 Strong Energy to use it. It is more reasonable to use 2 Strong Energy on Lycanroc GX. The GX is also really strong and gives the deck a powerful attack.

Matchups

Golispod/Zoroark Barely Favorable

I found this matchup to be extremely close. My goal here is to try to pressure their basics with Po Town and Buzzwole. A good Espeon EX turn is what usually will swing the matchup. One little edge is running 4 Acerola compared to their line of 3.

Gardevoir Favorable

I found Buzzwole + Po Town + Espeon EX to be the best way deal with this deck. Buzzwole also has 190 HP which is very hard for Gardevoir to one shot. Like Tord’s deck, I would try to target down their Octillery also. You always want a Po Town to stick so it may be necessary to Puzzle for them if the Gardy player constantly Blowers them away. A nice tech in this matchup would be Regirock EX

Buzzwole/Lycanroc Slightly Favorable

In this matchup, you just want to constantly use Buzzwole and abuse Acerola. You also want to set up knockouts on their Lycanroc and Octillery with Po Town and Jet Punch. You can set up an Espeon EX play to devolve their evolutions. If they go for the 3 Energy Buzzwole, you have Mewtwo EVO to keep them in check. This matchup is very grindy and just comes down to out resourcing them. If you want to improve this matchup a little, you can add a Mr. Mime.

Decidueye/Zoroark Favorable

Buzzwole is very good against this deck. You pressure there Zoruas while hitting their bench for potential double knockouts. Their deck is also a Stage 2 deck which means it is very vulnerable to Espeon EX + Po Town. I would try to be aggressive with Buzzwole trying to clear their Decidueye with Espeon EX. Something to be wary about is damaging your own Zoroarks with Po Town, Decidueye also runs Espeon which can get rid of our Zoroarks. You should try to evolve the Zoroark before using Po Town.

Silvally Variants Even (if they play Psychic Memory)

I found this matchup to be very close if they play both Psychic Memory and Fighting Memory. Those tools give them great type coverage against this deck.

Greninja Unfavorable

This matchup is very hard when you do not run Golisopod. There is not really anything you can do since you have no way to one shot a regular Greninja or Greninja Break. If you are actually scared of this matchup, you can add a Giratina Promo. Even with the Giratina as a dead card for other matchups, you just toss it away with trade.

 

Crabominable/Zoroark

This next deck I’m going to talk about is something that I thought up when I glancing over older articles. I thought of Crabominable as potentially useful to counter the Zoroark GX mirror. Below is what card does since a lot people do not know what it does.

Crabominable – Fighting – HP140

Stage 1 – Evolves from Crabrawler

[F] Gutsy Hammer: 80 damage. This Pokémon does damage to itself equal to the number of damage counters on it.

[F][F][F] Double Stomp: 80+ damage. Flip 2 coins. This attack does 40 more damage for each heads.

Weakness: Psychic (x2)

Retreat: 4

 

The idea behind Crabominable is mainly for use against other Zoroark Variants. With a Choice Band, Crabominable’s “Gutsy Hammer” can one-shot Pokémon such as Zoroark GX and Silvally GX. 140 HP is actually a lot of HP for a single prize Pokémon, if your opponent cannot efficiently 2 shot it, you can keep spamming Acerola over and over. I think the main selling point is that it can one-shot Zoroark GX. Standard is full of Zoroark right now and Crabominable is a solid answer to it. Below is a list that I’ve been testing with.

 

Crabominable Zoroark GX

Pokémon (21)

  • 4 Zorua SLG
  • 4 Zoroark GX
  • 1 Zoroark BKT
  • 3 Tapu Lele GX
  • 3 Crabawler SUM
  • 3 Crabominable SUM/li>
  • 1 Mr.Mime
  • 1 Buzzwole GX
  • 1 Mewtwo EXO

Trainers (31)

  • 4 Guzma
  • 4 N
  • 3 Acerola
  • 3 Brigette
  • 2 Professor Sycamore
  • 4 Ultra Ball
  • 4 Puzzle of Time
  • 3 Choice Band
  • 2 Field Blower
  • 2 Enhanced Hammer

Energy (8)

  • 4 Double Colorless Energy
  • 4 Strong Energy

 

As you can see this is pretty much Zoroark/Golisopod but with Crabominable instead of Golisopod. I really like Tord’s engine because it has both consistency and flexibility.

Card Explanations

Since this deck engine has been already covered from Tord’s deck I’m just going to give a brief explanation about the counts in this deck.

3-3 Crabominable

This is the 2nd attacker behind Zoroark. The power of a single prize attacker is still a very strong option, especially 1 with 140 HP and a single Energy attachment. I thought about 3-2 Crab but I want to see the evolution ASAP.

1 Buzzwole GX

Since there is already Strong Energy, I figured that adding Buzzwole would be fine. It has been very solid in testing. Similar to the Buzzwole/Zoroark concept applying pressure and setting up knockouts is something that Buzzwole does very well.

3 Brigette

Now I know that the Buzzwole/Zoroark list runs 2 copies but I wanted a 3rd copy in this deck because of the double Stage 1 line. Finding all the basic pre-evolutions is very important.

Mr. Mime

Crabominable’s effectiveness is significantly weaker when it has damage on it. Even little snipe damage from Tapu Koko really hinders its longevity. Mime is very important to protect Crabrawlers and Crabominable from ping attacks. Even if the card is useless in other matchups, you can just use as fodder for Trade.

Possible Inclusions

2nd Buzzwole GX

Again, opening with this card is great, if you have extra copies in your hand, you can just Trade them away. I would not run 3 because this list does not run Fighting Energy to pull off the turn 1 Jet Punch reliably.

Rescue Stretcher
Since we are running more evolutions, I sometimes find myself needing some recovery outside of Puzzles to build my board with Crabs and Zoroark.

Float Stone
I do not want to always use Guzma or a precious Energy attachment to get into Crabominable. Going right into Buzzwole or anything else is very convenient.

Matchups

Golisopod/Zoroark Favorable

Crabominable should be the main focus in this matchup. It knocks out a Zoroark GX with a Choice Band. The only way for their deck to one shot a Crab is to use Golisopod’s Crossing Cut GX. That is fine if they want to use their GX on a single prize attacker. I would just try to set up 2 to 3 Zoroark GX while having an Acerola loop for Crabominable. An annoying play they can do is to use Tapu Koko, but Tapu Koko is easily knocked out by all of our attackers. We also can also use Mr. Mime but I do not like benching it in this matchup since bench space is so precious.

Gardevoir Unfavorable

I feel like the best way to beat Gardevoir is to eliminate their Octillery. This is the same strategy that people who played Golisopod/Zoroark said at London. Once you kill their Octillery, you can N them and they can lose some steam. The Broken-voir list ran only 3 Professor Sycamore so it is possible for the Gardevoir player to dead draw without Octillery. The problem here is dealing with double Gallade. This version of the deck does not have a good way to deal with Gallade. You can pressure with Buzzwole but even then they run 4 Max Potion.

Buzzwole/Lycanroc Even to Barely Favorable

Mewtwo and Mr. Mime are the keys to this matchup. The Buzzwole player needs a lot of Energy to knockout a Crab. Even if they knockout a Crab with a 3 Energy Buzzwole, you can respond with an EVO Mewtwo. Mr. Mime is key to prevent Buzzwole from running through the deck.

Silvally variants Favorable

Your main focus here is just to try to knockout their Silvallys with Crabominable. Just as against Zoroark GX, trading 2 for 1 is very inefficient. You also want to try to Field Blower away their Fighting Memories. That tool deals with Zoroark GX very well.

Decidueye/Zoroark Favorable

A newer deck that has been picking up steam. My goal here is to prioritize knockouts on Zoroark GX just like other decks. When the Decidueye player does not have access to Zoroark GX, their board fails to set up. I found the best way to win is to N them to a low hand while knocking out their Zoroarks. After that, I would try to 2 shot their Decidueyes while constantly using Acerola. A good way to deal with this deck is to pressure them with Buzzwole. You pick off their Zoruas and pressure their Rowlet to evolve.

Greninja Unfavorable

The same concept as the Buzzwole/Zoroark matchup. You can add a Giratina Promo if you’re afraid of this matchup

Conclusion

In conclusion, Zoroark GX is the best card in game. It is dominating both formats. The power and consistency is what makes it one of the best Pokémon cards ever printed, I’ll probably keep toying around with the Expanded variant until Dallas. I think Fighting paired with Zoroark GX can be good. I’m going to continue with Crabs and Zoroark trying to refine the list more. I think the current Standard format is in a great place. I’ve always felt that consistency was great for the game. The really oppressive Ability lock and Item locks are gone which makes the game more enjoyable. I still have to go to some League Cups this weekend but I’ll try to work on Volcanion and toy around with Israel’s list. Unfortunately, I cannot go to Memphis because of Finals but I’ll be going to Dallas. Next time I’ll try to figure out some decks to beat the Top 2 in Expanded. Until next time!

 

-Kian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Neil Essymer