Hello, everyone, this is Franco Takahashi here, and now that Lost Thunder has finally hit the shelves I figured I would share some decks/ideas for you guys to try and mess around with by utilizing some of the new cards. The release of Lost Thunder is especially important since we have a number of major events like Latin America International Championships, several Regionals and even League Cups taking place within the format until SM9 drops. Hopefully, this article can help inspire you all to find something new or different to try with the cool new cards we have. So, without further ado, let’s get into it!
Rayquaza GX/Zeraora GX
Now I’m sure many of you guys are very familiar with Vikavolt/Rayquaza-GX as a deck; however, with the release of Lost Thunder Rayquaza-GX now has a few more variations, partnering up with cards like Zeraora-GX and Shuckle. The synergy is very simple: use Shuckle’s ability Freshly Squeezed to compress your deck by tossing energies into the discard pile and then use Zeraora-GX’s Full Voltage GX attack to setup your Rayquaza-GX and potentially itself so it can attack on the following turn. I think the main difference between Rayquaza-GX/Zeraora-GX and Rayquaza-GX/Vikavolt is that the former has the ability to deal a higher amount of damage quicker most of the time thanks to Zeraora’s GX attack. The one thing Vikavolt does better than Zeraora-GX is recovery since its ability Strong Charge provides acceleration without having to attack and allows you to manage your energy attachment slightly easier in the long game. Partner this with Energy Recycler and Vikavolt has one of the best ways to recover energy in the game. Regardless of this, the Rayquaza-GX/Zeraora-GX deck can still be scary due to how quickly it can setup. Anyway, here’s a deck list that you guys can feel free to try out:
I think the Pokémon lines are pretty self-explanatory. 4 x Rayquaza-GX as it is your main attacker and its ability Stormy Winds allows you to get energy back from the discard pile to increase damage output as well as accelerate the setup of your follow up attacker. 2 x Zeraora-GX felt fine in my opinion. You can bump up this count if you want to have a better chance of opening with it, but ultimately Zeraora-GX is the decks secondary attacker and it requires 2 Lighting Energy and a Choice Band to do up to 190 damage which isn’t enough to KO some of the popular evolution GX Pokémon. With this in mind I decided to stick to only 2 x Zeraora-GX in the deck just to use its Thunderclap Zone ability and its GX attack for setting up. Shuckle is another useful card with an ability that helps you to get energy into the discard pile for Full Voltage GX. It also has an attack Energy Drink that allows you to attach 2 basic energy from the discard pile to your Pokémon – this is a nice setup attack; however, it doesn’t deal any damage and it only has 60 HP which is little fragile. Therefore, I thought 2 copies was enough since if you’re in a spot where you have to use Shuckle to attack in a game then you’re most likely in a pretty bad place. Shuckle also takes up bench space so 2 felt like the right number. We also play Rescue Stretcher just in case 2 isn’t enough. Latias Prism Star is also in the deck as the 7th prize hitter, to help set up your board better and also for dealing early damage. Since the deck plays 4 x Rayquaza-GX there was really no reason not to play Latias Prism Star as an energy recovery attacker.
Starting with the supporter count distribution – I personally chose to play 4 Cynthia since it is a staple draw supporter in the current format and rarely becomes a dead card, for example, Lillie when you have over 6 cards in your hand. I do think you can play 3 Cynthia and 3 Sightseer as well if you wish to slightly increase the discarding ratio, however, there are times where you burn your hand fairly quickly. I chose to play 3 copies of Lille because I wanted to have a slightly higher ratio to open with it in my hand rather than benching an early Tapu Lele-GX to search one out. Unlike Vikavolt/Rayquaza-GX, the deck doesn’t require Rare Candy and so I felt like it was stronger to be drawing constantly rather than pinpoint searching. There will be few occasions where you’re going to need to go for the guaranteed play to get a knockout, so the 1 Volkner here is just a safety net. The Acro Bikes are pretty much there to help you draw into what you need with the added bonus of potentially discarding energy for recycling later. Pal Pad is another recovery card to get back some of the crucial supporters you’ve milled with Stormy Winds. The 2 Rescue Stretcher are included for similar reasons to Pal Pad and are often used when you discard key Pokémon with Stormy Winds, Acro Bike or Sightseer. Since you’ll be discarding quite a lot to get set up properly I felt that 2 copies of Rescue Stretcher was the right number for it to do its job consistently. As for the tools – 3 Wishful Baton is important for maintaining energy on your board since the deck does not have the constant acceleration from Vikavolt. Wishful Baton is one of the ways to ensure you always have a follow-up attacker ready. Due to the fact that Field Blower might see more play again thanks to Spell Tag, running a 4th copy of Wishful Baton may not be a bad choice. The Choice Bands in this list are a bit more of a bonus, and yet are quite important card as they allow you to hit 190 with Zeraora-GX or help achieve that extra 30 damage to get the knockout with Rayquaza-GX. Energy Switch has a nice synergy with Stormy Winds since it allows you to get a surprise Rayquaza-GX or Zeraora-GX. This shouldn’t be too challenging since Zeraora-GX provides free retreat to Pokémon with Lightning Energy attached. The Thunder Mountain Prism Star is mainly there so your Zeraora GX can attack for 2 energy, combined with an Energy Switch you can get a quick Zeraora-GX ready to attack early on. The one turn of energy attachment saved thanks to Thunder Mountain Prism Star can make a huge difference in some games, so I figured there was no harm in running it.
The traditional 7 x Grass/7 x Lighting Energy is fine, but since we want to also use Zeraora-GX’s attacks I chose to go for 6 x Grass/8 x Lightning Energy. Stormy Winds allows you to pick which energy you want to attach to Rayquaza-GX from the discard so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue getting the right energy in order to use Dragon Break.
So now I would like to show you guys an alternative form of the Rayquaza-GX/Zeraora-GX deck utilizing Naganadel from Lost Thunder. As I’m sure many of you already know, Naganadel is a very strong card that attaches a basic energy from the discard pile to itself once per turn. This should help you to maintain Rayquaza-GX’s damage output and also combo well with cards like Energy Switch. Since Naganadel attaches energy only to itself you must be careful with your energy management as you might end up not having the right energy in the discard for Stormy Winds. Despite that, Naganadel is a good secondary attacker with the benefit of being non-GX. I figured having the option to attack with Zeraora-GX for only 2 energy is still a strong option so I decided to keep the Thunder Mountain Prism Star in the deck as well. Also adding Choice Band could be a nice option, but generally Rayquaza-GX is the main attacker so I’ve decided to focus on maintaining energy on the board for Dragon Break to hit high numbers consistently, and therefore I decided to stick with only Wishful Baton for this list. Anyway, here’s a sample list for you guys to try out if you wish to do so:
So now I would like to go through a straight Zeraora-GX Deck. In this variation, Zeraora-GX is the main attacker. The main difference versus the Rayquaza-GX list is that it doesn’t quite have the same damage output, but in exchange the deck allows you to play various Pokémon such as Raikou and Zebstrika. Additionally, all of your attackers are Lighting type so you get the full benefit of cards like Electripower, Aether Paradise Conservation Area and Thunder Mountain Prism Star. It is another way you can use Zeraora-GX so figured I would share it in this article, here’s a sample list you can try to build and play around with it:
For the Zeraora-GX count, running 4 wouldn’t be such a bad choice to increase your chance of starting with it, but if Thunder Mountain Prism Star isn’t in play the attack requires 3 energy. The deck also plays fair amount of search cards in Ultra Ball and Nest Ball, so I thought 3 was the right number to run. The 2-2 Zebstrika line is mainly there for the draw power and has goo synergy with Stormy Winds as you can discard energy. If you manage to get 2 Zebstrika on board you can draw at least 8 cards every turn as well as play your supporter for the turn. The Shuckle is pretty self-explanatory – it allows you to discard energy quickly to support Zeraora-GX’s Full Voltage GX attack with setting up attackers. Xurkitree-GX is there mainly as a counter to decks that rely on special energy deck attackers. The Tapu Lele-GX count can be cut down to 1 as a preference, but 2 seems like a solid number for consistency and you can always discard it if you feel like you won’t use it in the game.
Similar to Latias Prism Star in Rayquaza GX decks, this is your recovery attacker and your alternative way to accelerate your energy from the discard pile. Its attack Booming Thunder has the base damage of 30 and you can utilize cards like Electripower and Choice Band to increase the damage, allowing you to chip away and get easier knockouts later on in the game. Raikou can become even more lethal if Thunder Mountain Prism Star is in play as it can now use Electric Ball for only 2 Lightning Energy.
1 Tapu Koko-GX
Tapu Koko-GX is an alternative attacker in the deck. Its ability Aero Trail allows you to move energy from your Pokémon that may be damaged or even Raikou after it has charged itself up with Booming Thunder. However, since most of the time you end up using Zeraora-GX’s Full Voltage GX attack to set up your board you won’t really get chance to use Tapu Thunder GX, but it is still an option if the board state allows you to. But the key thing about Tapu Koko-GX is that its attack Sky-High Claws deals 130 damage which can generally OHKO most of the non GX Pokémon. Additionally, if you have Aether Paradise Conservation Area in play, it becomes harder for non GX attackers to return the OHKO to Tapu Koko-GX, creating some efficient prize trade without having to worry about the side effect of Zeraora-GX’s Plasma Fists which prevents it attacking on the following turn.
Unlike the Rayquaza-GX/Zeraora-GX deck, this version seems to have fewer ways to mill cards or discard energy, so I felt that the split of 3 x Cynthia and 3 x Sightseer was a solid starting point. Since the deck needs to play other types of supporter I figured 2 Lillie was fine as well. Zeraora-GX’s Plasma Fists have the effect which prohibits it from attacking again the following turn. With this in mind, I felt that 4 x Guzma was important to be able to hit them consistently so you can reset the side effect and attack consistently. Since you play cards like Zebstrika as a means of draw power you’re not heavily punished for playing Guzma instead of a draw supporter for the turn. The 3 x Volkner also have an important role in the deck where it allows you to search for cards like Ultra Ball and a Lighting Energy, or Nest Ball and a Lightning Energy, which essential for finding some of the pieces you need in the early setup. Additionally, this card helps you to directly search out cards like Electripower and Choice Band. Again, with Zebstrika in play you don’t really lose your draw power on turns where you decide to play Volkner. I opted to play 2 x Judge in the deck as it is a nice way to disrupt your opponent’s hand whilst you continue to draw with Zebstrika. As for the stadium selection, 2 x Aether Paradise Conservation Area is a nice card as it makes all of your basic Lightning Pokémon bulkier whilst Thunder Mountain Prism Star speeds up your attackers. The deck plays a total of 3 stadium cards so it has a fairly good chance of winning the stadium war. Running a 3rd Aether Paradise Conservation Area wouldn’t be a bad choice either if you can find the space.
A fun alternative option you can consider for the deck is to Raikou from Lost Thunder. It’s attack, Lost Voltage does 30+90 damage if a Lightning Energy is in the Lost Zone. This requirement might seem a little tricky to do but it’s actually fairly easy Volkner. By using Volkner you can search for a Lighting Energy and Lost Blender, then play it right away to send the energy to the lost zone and fulfill the requirement of Raikou’s attack. Once the energy is in the Lost Zone Raikou turns into a non GX attacker that hits 120 for 2 energy. It also benefits from cards like Electripower and Thunder Mountain Prism Star. Unfortunately, the downside of this is that we currently do not have Tapu Koko Prism Star in the format yet so the 2 Lightning Energy attack cost can become tricky at times, therefore you would need to utilize cards like Raikou from Shining Legends or Zeraora-GX’s Full Voltage GX to charge it up quickly. Nonetheless, it’s a fun gimmick that I suggest you go and try out.
Now I would like to show you guys ZoroRoc with the addition of Naganadel. I’m sure many of you guys are familiar with the ZoroRoc deck in general since it’s one of the archetypes that has been in the format for over a year now. However, many of you might also have the impression that Zoroark-GX decks in general have a tough time against matchups such as Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX due to weakness. However, with the release of Naganadel from Lost Thunder, you can now improve the Buzzwole-GX matchup by gaining your own weakness advantage, and with a non GX attacker to boot! The deck still functions like traditional ZoroRoc so there isn’t much change outside of the norm, but here’s a sample list:
Zoroark Naga Lycanroc
I think the Pokémon in this list are very straight forward – we use the traditional Zoroark-GX and Lycanroc-GX lines. Benching the early Rockruff allows you to apply pressure with the threat of Lycanroc-GX’s Dangerous Rouge GX as this is still one of the strongest attacks in the game. With the addition of Naganadel in the deck you now have the option of attacking for 80 or 160 with a non GX attacker to one shot many Pokémon that are weak to Psychic such as Buzzwole-GX. Turning Point can also deal 160 base damage once you’re at 3 remaining Prizes, giving us the option to OHKO Tapu Lele-GX or other low HP GX Pokémon, so overall Naganadel is a nice new addition to the deck. Also, thanks to the existence of Ditto Prism Star, you also have a slight improvement on your ability to set up Stage 1 Pokémon. A 2-2 line of Naganadel felt balanced since you also play cards like Rescue Stretcher to get resources back.
I personally think that 4 x Cynthia is nice in Zoroark-GX decks, especially in the early game where your hand size often falls below 6 cards. Sometimes you might end up having a hand larger than 6 cards but the cards you have are quite mediocre. These are some example scenarios where Cynthia can actually be useful to refresh your hand. The reason for 2 x Lillie is pretty simple – you want to aim for the traditional turn 1 Lillie for 8 then setup your board from there. Playing cards like Professor Elm’s Lecture is also a strong way to setup your board, but I’d prefer to get other resources in hand like energy, so I decided to go with the turn 1 Lillie as my personal preference for this deck. Since the list is pretty tight, some of the supporter cards are a little thin, which is why we also play Pal Pad so you can return the supporter you need based on the board scenario/matchup. Since the deck does not play Magcargo, I figured that 2 Mallow can come in handy to get some of the missing pieces such as Choice Band and Beast Energy to take a knockout at the right time, helping you maintain control of the board. Since the deck is focused on getting the turn 1 Lillie and does not include Professor Elm’s Lecture, it plays 4 x Nest Ball and 4 x Ultra Ball for maximum consistency. As for the tools, Bodybuilding Dumbbells is included to make your Stage 1’s like Zoroark GX, Lycanroc GX and Naganadel bulkier, making them difficult to one shot and forcing your opponent to burn more resource in order to take KOs. If your opponent fails to OHKO your Pokémon, you can simply use Acerola to remove the damage and recycle the Bodybuilding Dumbbells to deny your opponent prizes. Since I wanted to fit Bodybuilding Dumbbells into the list, I figured 1 copy of Choice Band needed to be cut, which is my reasoning behind why we only play 2 x Choice Band. 1 x Counter Gain is usually enough in the deck since the card requires you to be behind in prizes so the times in which you can use it are quite limited throughout the game. However, the ability to use Dangerous Rouge GX for 1 Fighting Energy is quite simply amazing. The 2 x Devoured Field are there to provide the extra damage for Zoroark-GX and to act as a counter stadium so not much to explain here.
Since Naganadel requires Basic Energy in the discard, I decided to bump up the count of Fighting Energy in order to have enough on the board consistently. The added bonus of having a higher energy count is that you have a higher chance to not miss the attachment for turn, which is especially important in the early turns where you want to attach to a Rockruff to have the threat of a Lycanroc-GX. As both Naganadel and Buzzwole are Ultra Beasts I see no reason not to play Beast Energy to bump up the potential damage output.
Now I’d like go over the Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel deck. This is one of the decks receiving a huge amount of hype at the moment due to how well the deck performed during the Tokyo Champions League in Japan. As I’m sure many of you know, Blacephalon-GX is a very strong card since its first attack Bursting Burn is a guarantee burn and confusion and its GX attack is a guaranteed prize, but most importantly its main attack Mind Blown deals 50 per energy sent to the Lost Zone. This is relatively easy thanks to Naganadel and Beast Ring, making it one of the strongest decks in the current format. Of course, Blacephalon-GX is not really a surprise deck for many of you, but I wanted to share a list with a twist that can make your matchups a little different.
The List in General
I personally think that the list that got 2nd place in the Tokyo Champions League was well made and don’t really see many changes to make. The only twist that I thought would be a fun option is Ditto Prism Star along with Salazzle-GX that serves as your game closer and counter to the Power of Nature Sceptile. The only downside of it is that they can still Guzma and knockout the Ditto Prism Star, leaving you with no options to get around Power of Nature. Another reason I’ve decided to add Ditto Prism Star into the deck was so that I could also include Alolan Muk, this allows you to shut off the abilities of basic Pokémon such as Marshadow-GX, Rayquaza-GX, Giratina, Marshadow, Ditto Prism Star, Diancie Prism Star and so on. Out of these, the one ability I would like to stop the most is Giratina’s Distortion Door. This is because Giratina is a 130 HP non GX Pokémon that typically requires Blacephalon-GX to burn 3 energy to take only 1 prize, and its ability allows your opponent to bring it back over and over, making it a tough matchup. However, most of Giratina players only play 2 copies in the deck, so by shutting off Distortion Door with Alolan Muk it forces your opponent to burn a Rescue Stretcher or promote a different attacker that may not be strong as Giratina or is a 2-prize GX Pokémon. Of course, this is just one illustration of how you can tune the deck, and you can potentially expand your options even further. There are many other alternative options you can use such as Kiawe, Ho-Oh-GX or Reshiram-GX as alternative non-Ultra Beast attackers. Plumeria is another good way to counter Power of Nature was included in the original list from the Tokyo Champions League. I felt that the current Pokémon count is important, but you can afford to cut a Tapu Lele-GX if you want to make space for another card in the, but overall I felt like the consistency of 2 copies was important. Ultra Ball is important as it allows you to search for Pokémon whilst discarding energy, which is the same for Mysterious Treasure which can grab you Poipole, Naganadel or Tapu Lele-GX. As the deck requires space to fit Ditto Prism Star, Salazzle-GX and Alolan Muk, I thought that Ultra Space was the right card to cut since it only allows you to search for Ultra Beast Pokémon. It does, however, allow you to thin your deck slowly every turn providing you have the bench space. The other card in the Tokyo Champions League deck that I thought could be replaced was Kiawe since it is a situational card that is difficult to play under the pressure of mid game. This is my rationale for cutting those cards to make space for Ditto Prism Star, Salazzle-GX and Alolan Muk.
In conclusion, I feel that there are currently many decks that have been hyped with the release of Lost Thunder, but I personally wanted to give a spotlight to other archetypes utilizing some of the new cards. At same time wanted to share with you some old archetypes that can be changed by adding a few cards like the Rayquaza-GX/Zeraora-GX deck and ZoroRoc with Naganadel. It is quite interesting how cards like Zeraora-GX and Naganadel can be used effectively in different ways. There will be many cards like this that will begin to appear as the meta progresses, which is one of the aspects I personally like about the Pokémon TCG. Lost Thunder as a set is quite large and there are many other combinations you can come up with the new cards. In this article, I was only able to show you guys a handful of the cool things you can do with some of the new cards, but hopefully, it will help to inspire some cool ideas of your own. I’m excited to see how things will be looking in few months’ time, but for now, thank you very much for reading my article. Until next time!