As of early February when writing this article, we are a bit over a week away from the Oceania International Championships, which is the first SUM-TEU tournament outside of Asia. With the new Team Up set, we have gained a few awesome new lightning type Pokemon: namely ZapdosTapu Koko Prism Star, and Pikachu Zekrom Tag Team-GX. All three of these cards have a lot of potential and I expect them to play parts in shaping the new standard meta. In today’s article I will be speaking in large about Zapdos and also a few mentions of Tapu Koko Prism Star, with the addition of Jolteon-GX which came out as a promo card slightly before Team Up.

WORKING WITH ZAPDOS

I have experimented three different Zapdos variants, and have also included 1-2 Zapdos in Pika Rom lists. The three different Zapdos variants are Zapdos / Shrine / Basic techs, Zapdos / Shrine / Garbodor, and Zapdos Jolteon-GX.

ZAPDOS SHRINE VARIANTS

The theory behind this deck is that Zapdos can do 80+ a turn for just one energy if you switch Zapdos into the active each turn since its attack does 10+70 damage if Zapdos was on the bench this turn. This combined with Shrine of Punishment damage ticks, Choice Band, and Electropowers can do a ton of damage and more than keep up with GX based decks. Focusing the deck into being an efficient one prize attacking variant that allows Zapdos to swing for maximum damage each turn means there needs to be space for multiple switching cards and ways to get them. So I played a thin 1-1 Magcargo line in this deck with the main engine being Supporters and Jirachi. Magcargo’s Smooth Over can be combo’d with either LillieKukui, Jirachi’s ability, or just to set your top deck for the next turn.

In the version that includes Garbodor, I exclude Jirachi and Escape Boards to make the deck mimic the classic Buzz Garb Shrine skeleton we’ve become accustomed to which runs 2-2 Magcargo and 1 Oranguru as the draw/search engine. This was my least favorite of the Zapdos variants I have tried because it felt like a weaker version of many decks put together. Jolteon-GX proved to be a very impactful partner for Zapdos, which we will get into. Below are the two Zapdos Shrine lists I tried before settling on the variant I would do most of my testing with.

ZAPDOS JOLTEON-GX

Previous to any Team Up testing, Zapdos looked underwhelming on paper compared to some of the strongest decks we already had in the standard meta like Zororoc and Psychic Malamar, and new decks or improved decks like Pikachu Zekrom, Lost March, and Ultra Malamar. I looked at a couple Japanese lists for Zapdos lists as a starting point and drafted up my first list for Zapdos with Jolteon-GX as its partner. Unlike many lists and strategies I have come across, my list and matchup strategies I suggest are for the most part equally inclusive of Zapdos and Jolteon-GX. This is because I have found Jolteon-GXs versatile damage output to compliment Zapdos’s linear aggression very well. This is the list I am currently settled on after two to three weeks of testing.

3 ZAPDOS

Zapdos has awesome aggression vs any deck that needs to evolve Pokemon, as turn 1 energy plus Zapdos plus Guzmato KO something important like a Rockruff with Fighting Energy attached is very possible. Even without Guzma, Zapdos can usually net a KO on your first turn attacking with the help of Escape BoardEscape Rope, or Switch to move Zapdos to the active thus increasing the damage output of thunderous assault. 80 damage for one energy remains relevant throughout the game in most matchups especially with the help of Electropower. A fourth Zapdos would be nice in matchups where we focus more on Zapdos than Jolteon-GX like the Buzzwole/Garbodor/Shrine matchup and Buzzwole-GX matchups, but is usually not necessary in the bulk of matchups that I deem plausible to prepare for.

3 EEVEE (101) AND 2 JOLTEON-GX

This 3 Eevee / 2 Jolteon-GX line was a bit tricky to settle upon, but I believe that this is the count of these cards for the deck. Although Eevee has a retreat cost of 2, we are playing 2 Escape Rope, 1 Switch, and 4 Guzma. In addition to these outs to moving Eevee out of the active, Eevee can evolve into Jolteon-GX as early as turn 1 because of the Energy Evolution ability. Jolteon-GX has no retreat cost so this a fine turn 1 option to moving Eevee out of the active in favor of a Jirachi or Zapdos.

Jolteon-GX is a versatile attacker, but it really shines in its early game use vs Malamar variants. While it also a feasible option to KO an Inkay with Zapdos, it is more effective to KO an Inkay with Jolteon-GX’s Electrobullet plus an Electropower since this also puts an extra 30 on a benched Pokemon, preferably an Inkay. The extra 30 on an Inkay is super relevant as it will help with a kill later when it is a Malamar. Electrobullet coupled with an early Po Town is lethal vs. Malamar variants. In testing, I have a 100% win rate vs Malamar variants that do not replace Po Town on their second turn. Obviously since we are only playing 2 Po Town with no direct search for it we cannot rely on this for the Malamar matchup, but with multiple Jirachi it is very possible to hit a Po Town off of 2-3 Stellar Wishes and 1-2 draw supporters used by your second turn. Electrobullet Turn 1 with a Po Town played down is incredible vs Lost March as you can set up a benched Hoppip to die when it evolves into Skiploom, but this play requires you to get eEevee active, attach energy, and play down Po Town. Again, not something to base your match off of, but a very strong play that is made possible by the combination of Electrobullet and Po Town.

Jolteon-GX’s GX attack Swift Run GX can generate a huge tempo swing as it prevents all effects of attacks including damage done to Jolteon-GX during your opponent’s next turn (Much like Dawn Wing Necrozma’s Moon Eclipse GX but without the stipulation of being behind on prize cards). Note that a Bloodthirsty Eyes from Lycanroc-GX or an Escape Rope moving Jolteon-GX to the bench removes this damage and effect prevention, so an opponent that follows one of these with a Guzma targeting Jolteon-GX will leave it vulnerable in the active spot once again, affectively negating the effect of the GX attackwith a Guzma targeting Jolteon-GX will leave it vulnerable in the active spot once again, effectively negating the effect of the GX attack. Because of this, it is important to assess such potential counters. I suggest targeting opposing Rockruffs to prevent Bloodthirsty Eyes as a way around Swift Run GX.

3 JIRACHI

Jirachi is a unique pseudo draw/search engine that is reminiscent of older deck engines like Smeargle (Portrait), Pidgeot from Fire Red Leaf Green, and of course Jirachi from EX Deoxys which inspired the new card from Team Up. There are a lot of great trainers in our deck, so Jirachi is an appropriate fit here. Additionally tying Jirachi and Zapdos together for this deck, Jirachi has one retreat cost making it easily retreat into a Zapdos with an Escape Board attached to it. Jirachi and Volkner in combination can help build strong hands of multiple Electropowers for future turns and have multiple options without playing a draw supporter. This engine of Jirachi and Volkner make me feel more in control of my turns as I am not relying on something like Cynthia to give me 6 random cards from my deck. Of course, sometimes Cynthia or Lillie are the appropriate supporters for the turn if you need to hit multiple cards for your ideal play or a combination of cards not possible using just Jirachi’s Stellar Wish and Volkner.

1 TAPU KOKO PRISM STAR

Yet another card that can give you an advantage in tempo, Tapu Koko Prism Star can simultaneously recycle and accelerate energy. This can create a turn where you establish a Jolteon-GX and Zapdos with sufficient energy to attack, or contribute to a play with Tapu Koko-GX.

1 TAPU KOKO-GX

Tapu Koko-GX is a monster of a card in a myriad of matchups and situations. Its initial role was to be a check for Pikachu Zekrom Tag Team-GX and Gardevoir-GX, two archetypes that will typically have bulky Pokemon-GX with multiple energy on board. This is due to Tapu Koko-GX’s GX attack which does 50 damage times the number of energy your opponent has in play. I soon realized that this GX attack has utility vs. Zororoc as well, as Zororoc will usually like to have a DCE on Zoroark-GX and a Fighting Energy on Lycanroc-GX. This generates a Tapu Thunder GX that deals 150 damage, and has potential to do 210 with damage modifiers. Additionally, Tapu Koko-GX is not weak to fighting type like Jolteon-GX is, making it circumstantially a better GX attacker vs. fighting type Pokemon. Tapu Koko-GX’s first attack which does 130 damage has the highest base damage of any attack in our deck, so I occasionally use Aero Trail to transfer energy onto Tapu Koko-GX and use its first attack plus the necessary damage modifiers for the final knockout.  

1 ABSOL OR 1 MR. MIME

I have gone back and forth between which tech to put in this final Pokemon slot, and currently I am playing with Absol since it helps in more matchups in my opinion. Absol increases the opposing basic Pokemon’s retreat cost by one, so this really hurts any decks using the Jirachi / Escape Board combo. Mr. Mime can be really great versus Zororoc to prevent them from healing our two-shot attempts with Acerola, but since Zororoc with Alolan Grimer – Alolan Muk is very tough for us and turns Mr. Mime’s ability off, I decided Absol would be more valuable.

MATCHUPS

These matchup descriptions are based completely upon my own experience piloting Zapdos Jolteon-GX versus these decks. These are four of the matchups that I believe to be important in the meta we are about to enter.

PSYCHIC MALAMAR – FAVORED

Due to Zapdos’s aggression on Inkays or Jolteon-GX’s potential to set up multiple knockouts on Malamars, it is usually fairly easy to dismantle the Malamar players set up if they ever manage to get there. Jolteon-GX can be a liability if the opponent establishes an Onix LOT, but this should be challenging for them to do if you are able to properly address their Malamars.

ULTRA NECROZMA MALAMAR – FAVORED

This is very similar to the Psychic Malamar matchup. Ultra Necrozma can OHKO Jolteon-GX with less energy than Necrozma-GX can, but Ultra Malamar usually runs less smoothly than Psychic Malamar does so I feel that this pair of pro and con more or less equalize each other out.

ZOROROC – VARIES EVEN TO UNFAVORED

Zororoc lists running an Alolan Muk with only Ditto Prism to evolve from have been much easier to beat than lists running an Alolan Grimer as well. Alolan Muk’s ability restriction is such a problem for this deck because Jirachi is our bread and butter for searching out trainers that might help us, as well as Tapu Koko Prism and Tapu Koko-GX being used for niche situations.

PIKACHU ZEKROM – UNFAVORED

This matchup is definitely winnable, but you really have to work for it and hope your opponent stumbles once or twice along the way. Pikachu Zekrom can be overbearing for us since it has 240 HP and has the potential to one shot anything we have, not to mention that its GX attack can knockout two of our Pokemon at once. I have won a fair amount of games by springing an Aero Trail into Tapu Thunder-GX on them which leaves them with a crippled board, but a Pika Rom player that sets up multiple attackers in a matter of two turns or so will usually be able to bounce back and secure the game.

CLOSING

I have been enjoying Zapdos Jolteon a lot as it is aggressive, efficient, and it sees a lot of cards most turns thanks to Jirachi. I believe this list to be optimal if you are expecting a meta full of Malamar variants and opposing Zapdos decks. Enjoy, and good luck with your preparations for the upcoming events with Team Up!

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