Hey guys! It’s been awhile! I finally found a card that interests me so tonight I’m gonna have myself a really good time and go over Salazzle GX. Like many of you, I’ve been noticing Ho-Oh Salazzle GX decks having success at League Cups and I want to address that success with my own build and some tech choices. I also want to address another approach that utilizes Drampa GX’s hit you in the face power with the game ending abilities of Salazzle GX. Overall, I want this article to burn the idea that Salazzle GX has untapped late game potential, so don’t stop me now as I explore this Killer Queen’s killer instinct.
I. Under Pressure – A Brief Overview of Salazzle GX
II. We Will Rock You – The Decklist and Card Choices
V. The Queen’s Gambit – A Quick Look at Drampa Salazzle
Salazzle GX – 200 HP
[F][F] Diabolical Claws –This attack does 50 damage for each Prize Card you have taken
[F][F] Heat Blast – 110
[F][F] Queen’s Haze GX – Discard all Energy from your Opponent’s Active Pokémon
Right off the bat we can see that Salazzle GX has a lot to offer. Its second attack, Heat Blast, is capable of producing OHKO’s on all the current Basic and Stage 1 Pokémon that are being used in the meta today (Ralts, Kirlia, Beldum, Metang, Grubbin, Charjabug, Vulpix, Diancie, Tapu Koko etc). This capability supplies Salazzle GX with more utility than just a late game attacker. It helps justify running a thicker line of 2-2, 3-2, or 3-3 in a deck such as Ho-Oh Salazzle. It provides early game pressure so that you don’t have to waste a Phoenix Burn on single Prize Pokémon.
Queen’s Haze GX offers a lot of tempo changing potential at the cost of only 2 Fire Energy. Being able to discard all energy attached to your opponent’s active Pokémon can effectively turn the tide of game in your favor. This is especially true against decks that require a lot of energy to attack or rely on manual energy attachments per turn (Ho-Oh GX and Drampa GX). Against the likes of Ho-Oh you’ll be able to effectively nullify their Kiawe and force them to end another turn abruptly. The same goes for Drampa GX, you will force your opponent to have to attach another energy before being able to attack again effectively buying you another turn of setup. The moral of this story is to not sleep on Queen’s Haze GX. Despite this cards hard hitting potential, this attack provides yet another form of utility alongside Heat Blast.
Now let’s talk about the attack that this card is catching heat for: Diabolical Claws. Appropriately named, this attack can potentially hit for 250 damage and be able to KO anything in the current meta. When paired with a deck that is meant to take prizes early, Salazzle GX can ensure you will be able to take the final two prizes easily without much of a setup. This attack alone can essentially make you N proof if you executed your game plan accordingly. You’ll want to aim to attach an energy to Salazzle or Salandit whenever you are about to take a KO to ensure that you can have it setup by the time you take your third and fourth prize. Although this strategy isn’t always the most ideal, I like to prioritize the setup of Salazzle as soon as I begin to snowball with my early game attacker (You’ll see this reflected in my Salazzle Ho-Oh build later). Overall this attack is the game ender and will keep your opponent under pressure even if they have an answer to your current Active threat.
We Will Rock You
With that brief explanation of Salazzle GX out of the way let’s go over the current hype that is Ho-Oh Salazzle. With a game plan centered on a turn 1 Kiawe onto a Ho-Oh to power up Phoenix Burn, this deck aims to rock your opponent from the get go. Being able to hit for 180 damage by turn two can result in taking a quick 2-4 Prizes before your opponent even has a chance to respond. This kind of strategy married with the game ending Diabolical Claws of Salazzle GX can put your opponent in a checkmate scenario: a benched threat that can hit for a potential 250 (all by itself) and your active threat that is already a formidable 190 HP Ho-Oh GX. So with that said let’s dive right into the decklist:
- 3 Ho-Oh GX
- 3 Tapu Lele GX
- 3 Salandit
- 2 Salazzle GX
- 1 Volcanion EX
- 1 Turtonator GX
- 1 Oranguru
- 4 Professor Sycamore
- 3 N
- 3 Guzma
- 3 Kiawe
- 4 Ultra Ball
- 4 Choice Band
- 2 Max Elixir
- 2 Float Stone
- 2 Nest Ball
- 1 Field Blower
- 1 Super Rod
- 2 Scorched Earth
- 15 Fire Energy
3 Ho-Oh GX
The main attacker of the deck. 3 copies should be more than enough to ensure you get one to Kiawe to on a consistent basis (especially when combined with Nest and Ultra Ball). Phoenix Burn is the main attack of this Pokémon, but let’s start by taking a closer look at Ho-Oh’s first attack: Sacred Fire. For 1 Fire and 2 Colorless Energy this attack does 50 damage to one of your opponent’s Pokémon. This attack is not to be underrated. With the assistance of Volcanion EX’s Steam Up ability, we are able to knock out many of the basic Pokémon in the popular Evolution decks that are in the format (Ralts, Beldum, Grubbin, Vulpix etc). Additionally we can place damage on high HP Pokémon (such as Gardevoir GX) to help set up numbers for an OHKO later in the game. These two options allow you make full use of Ho-Oh’s first attack while still keeping the threat of Phoenix Burn online with the latter option being more important to your overall strategy. This is because it helps address the drawback of Phoenix Burn: not being able to use the attack during your next turn. Keeping this threat online while still being able to apply pressure on your opponent’s board state is priceless and you should look to abuse Sacred Fire when you can.
You must also keep in mind the retreat cost that Ho-Oh has only costs two energy. This is because there will be turns where you have to manually retreat and force your opponent to have the Guzma the damaged Ho-Oh GX before you’re able to build it back up. There will also be points where you can manually retreat into a Tapu Lele to wall for you then Kiawe to fresh Ho-Oh to begin the cycle all over again. Just because a turn one Kiawe is the most ideal does not mean it becomes a dead a card mid game. Always look for opportunities in the game where you know you can afford to not attack and just have a passive turn of retreat and Kiawe.
3-2 Salazzle GX
Most lists I’ve seen lately are putting less emphasis on the Salazzle portion of this deck (by running a 2-1 line) since they view it as a game ender that isn’t always necessary. I disagree with this approach because I believe Salazzle offers more utility outside of Diabolical Claws. I’ll spare you the details since I’ve already gone over what this card can do earlier in the article, but this thicker line lets you make use of utility more consistently throughout the game and threatens the opponent sooner rather than later.
1 Volcanion EX
Yup, that’s only 1 Volcanion EX. I know most builds are running two and saying it’s not enough, but I firmly believe 1 is more than enough to get you there. You’re able to KO a Tapu Lele GX, Drampa GX, Tapu Bulu, and Volcanion EX (just to name a few) without a Choice Band on Ho-Oh GXand you can KO Turtonator GX, Ho-Oh GX, Salazzle GX, and Ninetales GX with one. If they have a Fury Belt on any of the aforementioned Pokémon then you have the option to Field Blower it away or just dig for your single copy of Volcanion EX with Nest Ball to Steam Up then KO. You can also just set up the KO on these Belted Pokémon with Sacred Fire or Heat Blast since you run a heavier line of Salazzle GX. You already hit Golisopod GX and Metagross GX for weakness so those Pokémon are already accounted for. The only match up where it’s super crucial is against Gardevoir GX but that match up is already strongly in their favor to begin with. Sure you run the risk of prizing your only copy, but I’ll take that 10% risk and try to free it from my prizes that I plan on taking early.
1 Turtonator GX
I can be persuaded to run 2, but I’ve found that 1 is the perfect number because I mostly use this card for Nitro Tank GX. Although I do realize that this card offers 2 amazing attacks in Shell Trap and Bright Flame, I tend to only use these attacks when I’m in a pinch rather than as a main line of offense. I feel much more comfortable dedicating energy to multiple Ho-Oh and Salandit over Turtonator since I can reach higher numbers with the Ho-Oh and utilize Salazzle’s Heat Blast as way to clear Basics and Stage 1 Pokémon.
Since you plan on sprinting to the finish line by taking prizes early, you open yourself to the possibility of getting N’d out of the game. Oranguru is an insurance policy that lets you find a way to squirm out of a nasty N to 1 or 2. You could try to fit a 1-1 Octillery line into the deck for even better N-vincibility but then you would lose out on Orangurur’s other purpose: Destroy baby Alolan Ninetales and its pesky Safeguard Ability. Overall Oranguru provides added consistency and works well with Nest Ball while adding a counter to Safeguard in the deck.
The entire reason this deck is viable right now. You want to do all you can to try and get this card off turn 1 to power up a Ho-Oh and 3 is the perfect number to do so when combined with Ultra Ball and Tapu Lele. Although this is your main strategy, it isn’t the end of the world if you don’t get it turn one (it’s just the most ideal). Earlier I described a scenario where you retreat a damaged Ho-Oh into a Tapu Lele as a wall. In a case where you don’t get turn 1 Kiawe simply wall up behind a Tapu Lele, Turtonator, or Volcanion and do what you can to establish a Kiawe on Ho-Oh during your next turn. You won’t have the ideal set up described earlier but you will have put yourself in the best position to get back into the game.
4 Choice Band
You want to hit high numbers as consistently as possible and Choice Band lets you do exactly that. You have multiple ways of searching out Pokémon in this deck but you have no way to search out Items. You want to max out your chances of producing a hard hitting Ho-Oh and Salazzle as often as possible.
2 Max Elixir
Some builds run 3 but I’ve been more inclined to include just 2 because your chances of hitting this successfully decrease after you Kiawe once and progress through your turns with Energy attachements. It’s here for turns where you need to rebuild a retreated Ho-Oh or when you need to quickly load up a Salandit before evolving to Salazzle to end the game.
2 Float Stone
I really want 3 here because Guzma and Float Stone are a match made in heaven and we need to abuse that match in order to work around Phoenix Burn’s drawback. But as I’ve stated earlier, there is nothing wrong with manually retreating and setting up more threats for the following turns so there is no need to run more than 2 Float Stone to help us get the job done.
2 Nest Ball
This card seems to be excluded in a lot of builds and I’m not sure why. I am absolutely in love with this card because it helps me produce a turn 1 Kiawe onto a Ho-oh more consistently. It also lets me fetch my 1 off Pokémon (Volcanion EX, Turtonator GX, and Oranguru) should I need them at any time. It functions like a Brigette does in evolution decks but it is not the supporter for the turn. Ultimately, this card just fits so well with the strategy you’re trying to achieve because most of the things you need, you want on our bench and this card does that for free.
2 Scorched Earth & 15 Fire Energy
I figured I’d tackle the stadium and energy together because the stadium is the reason the energy count is 1 more than most builds. You need the added consistency of Scored Earth in order to hit Turn 1 Kiawe but you don’t want to be wasteful with your energy with only a single Super Rod and Nitro Tank GX to retrieve them from the Discard. This count also helps with mid to late game Max Elixirs that you will want to hit.
So there we have it, all the important card choices explained. Hope you aren’t too burned out to go over the best part of the article though. It’s time to explore the matchups!
Gardevoir – Unfavorable
This is probably your worst matchup. The only reason I don’t want to run this deck at a regional is because Gardevoir scares me. It is definitely one of the most powerful decks right now and can create an unbreakable board state more often than not. This is especially true when it comes to this deck because you need more pieces to KO Gardevoir GX than you do with most decks. Additionally, they have the edge on you because you load up Ho-Oh GX with 4 energy and they now only need 3 energy or 2 Energy and Choice Band to KO it. Your best course of action is chase down the Ralts and Remoraid early and try to take KO’s with Heat Blast and Sacred Fire. These two attacks will help keep you in the game should your opponent miss a turn two Rare Candy into Gardevoir GX. Additionally, you can utilize Queen’s Haze when your opponent gets too greedy and attaches too many energy to a single Gardevoir. Always keep a look out for these kinds of opportunity and you can shift the game state into your favor by taking away an offensive threat and forcing your opponent to have to dig for more energy.
Tapu Bulu Vikavolt – Unfavorable
Normally when you’re playing with fire your mouth waters when you see a green Pokémon in front of you, however, Tapu Bulu is the exception because it has no weakness. It can OHKO your Ho-Oh GX with a Choice Band once the deck sets up a Vikavolt. Additionally, Vikavolt itself can be used to easily OHKO Ho-Oh should the need arise for them to do so. Your game plan here is to utilize the Sacred Fire Steam Up combo alongside Heat Blast in order to take out Grubbin or Charjabug early. If you can’t KO them before they evolve to Vikavolt, you’re in for an uphill battle. I would still suggest targeting down the Vikavolt and sacrificing a Ho-Oh to one loaded Tapu Bulu in order to gain some ground. You won’t have the luxury to set up multiple attackers with Kiawe in this match up without regulating their Vikavolt. Overall, Tapu Bulu can accelerate much fast than you if it hits the pieces it needs on turn 2, so do when you can to mitigate its progression by chasing down the Vikavolt evolution line.
Mirror – Toss up
At first look, this one goes to who can snowball with Kiawe first and follow up with a Guzma on the loaded Ho-Oh GX. It almost doesn’t get much simpler than that. If anything, we have the slight advantage here with Nest Ball since we married to the strategy more. Overall, this match up will come down to who gets the Guzma and Choice Band or Steam Up first, however, I do recommend you build multiple threats before going the offensive (Especially if you go second). This means you’ll probably spend two turns in a row playing Kiawe onto your benched Ho-Ohs. What this does is set you up to counter your opponent’s Guzma. If they Guzma you first without setting up more than 1 Ho-Oh, you’ll be able to immediately revenge KO their Ho-Oh and leave them without an immediate attacker on bench. You can then sweep them from there and use their impatience against them. Although this strategy does fall apart if your opponent can grab a turn two Guzma after going first so in the end it really does come down to the Guzma race. Lastly, keep in mind that you have Queen’s Haze GX to turn this match up in your favor. It’s easier to load up two energy on a Salazzle than it is to load up 4 on a Ho-Oh so being able to respond to your opponent’s fast start with a cheaper attack can put you right back into the game.
Volcanion Turtonator Ho-Oh – Barely Favorable
Volcanion has taken a more toolbox approach to its builds lately which has caused it to lose some speed and because of that it doesn’t have the overall speed to compete with this build. The reason this is only barely favorable is because they have the ability to turn 1 Kiawe even if it is less consistent of an approach. I recommend building two benched threats before going on the offensive in this build just like I did in the mirror. This strategy can work more often against this build because you can load up 2 attackers much faster than they can even if they hit a turn 1 Kiawe. Also, just like in the mirror, keep Queen’s Haze GX in mind for this match up. If they’re able to Kiawe turn 1, then you can easily respond with this attack and set them back far enough to allow you to take advantage in the game.
Ninetales – Favorable
Just like you do against Gardevoir, utilize Sacred Fire and Steam Up to chase down Vulpix and Remoraid in early stages of the game. You’ll want to utilize this strategy along with trying to N your opponent out of their Beaconed Pokémon. As the game progresses you’ll notice your opponent will do what they can to build a baby Alolan Ninetales to ward you off with Safeguard. You’ll want to plan appropriately and begin to attach Energy to your Oranguru so that you can counter them with Psychic. Once you deal with the baby Alolan Ninetales, you’ll have to start taking KOs on Ninetales GX and Tapu Lele. Keep in mind that you should avoid benching Turtonator GX in this matchup since it can be easy prizes for Ninetales GX. The reason I don’t avoid benching Volcanion EX is because he plays a crucial role in the early stages of the game by letting you take KOs on Vulpix and Remoraid. Additionally, only setup Salazzle GX should you need it to close out the game since it is weak to Ninetales GX. Overall, try to utilize Ho-Oh GX to its fullest extent to gain ground in this game since it is not weak to Water.
Metagross – Very Favorable
This matchup should be relatively easy since you hit their main attacker for weakness. This means Sacred Fire is even more powerful and can easily take town down Beldum and Metang without the use of Steam Up. Also keep in mind that a Salazzle GX with a Choice Band can OHKO Metagross GX with Heat Blast. The main focus you should have against this deck is to target down their Necrozma GX should you see any potential for it to steam roll you. This is shouldn’t happen if you manage the early game well and pick off their Metagross GX lines which cripples their ability to accelerate energy. Either way, be mindful of the Necrozma GX and plan accordingly based on game state by not just blindly targeting down Metagross and its evolution lines.
Golisopod Garbodor– Very Favorable
Just like Metagross GX, you hit Golisopod GX and Wimpod for Weakness which lets you take full advantage of Sacred Fire early. More importantly you’ll want to target down Trubbish over Wimpod during the early stages with Sacred Fire and Steam Up. This is because it is easier to KO a Trubbish over a Garbodor with this deck because it’s odd to waste a Phoenix Burn on a Garbodor. Additionally, you’ll want your opponent to make a Golisopod because it’s worth 2 easy prizes instead of Wimpod’s 1. Despite this strategy, you’ll still have to watch out for Trashalanche Garbodor and you should manage your items appropriately. You do not want to put your opponent in a position where they can fight pack using a 1 prize attacker that is awkward for this deck to knock out. Case in point: watch your item usage and you’ll dominate this matchup.
Overall, this deck can hit hard and fast with very few moving parts. With the additions of Nest Ball and Scorched Earth, you can consistently hit turn 1 Kiawe onto a Ho-Oh to put your opponent under pressure right off the bat. With the help of Salazzle GX this deck is able to combine an expensive early attacker and pair it with a relatively cheap 2 Energy game ender. With the right meta this deck can perform extremely well in a big tournament; So if you want to be a shooting star racing through the sky like tiger defying the laws of gravity then try this deck out. It may be too hot for your opponent to handle.
The Queen’s Gambit
With the serious part of the article out of the way, let’s get into some exploratory options: Drampa Salazzle. I won’t get into the matchups in this section, rather I just want to present this build as a potential future contender. This deck aims to abuse the hard hitting ability of Drampa GX with the game ending potential that I’ve already touted with Salazzle GX. The fun part happens when we introduce baby Salazzle into the mix:
Salazzle – 110 HP
Ability – Hot Poison
When you play this Pokémon from your hand to evolve 1 of your Pokémon during your turn, you may leave your opponent’s Active Pokémon Burned and Poisoned.
Flamethrower [F][C][C] – Discard an Energy from this Pokémon – 90
This card lets you hit numbers with Drampa that are normally out of reach with other Drampa variants. By dealing an additional 30 damage (10 from poison and 20 from Burn) you can deal up to 210 damage with Berserk. Additionally, if you can make Po Town damage stick, you can hit even harder at 240 damage (enough to knock out Gardevoir GX!). Additionally, we can utilize Flamethrower to KO an opposing Golisopod GX since the Poison and Burn will equal up to 210 damage.
With Salazzle explained, I hope you can see why this deck has some potential. It’s inspired by Drampa Garb in a sense that it abuses Drampa GX early and utilizes Salazzle GX to close out the game (just like Drampa utilized Garbodor to clean up mid to late game). You will aim to utilize your own Po Town to place damage on to your evolved Salazzle to activate Berserk’s damage boost. The following list will be a bit rough around the edges but bear with me, it’s all still in the experimental stages:
- 3 Drampa GX
- 3 Tapu Lele GX
- 4 Salandit
- 3 Salazzle
- 2 Salazzle GX
- 1 Oranguru
- 4 N
- 3 Professor Sycamore
- 3 Guzma
- 1 Hala
- 1 Brigette
- 1 Acerola
- 3 Choice Band
- 4 Ultra Ball
- 2 Float Stone
- 3 Max Elixir
- 2 Field Blower
- 1 Super Rod
- 4 Po Town
- 8 Fire Energy
- 4 Double Colorless Energy
3 Drampa & 3 Tapu Lele
The main attackers of the deck. Along with serving as a consistency card, Tapu Lele can hit pretty hard in this deck with the help of baby Salazzle especially when combined with a Choice Band. Overall, this line up doesn’t require much explanation and is touted in most Drampa Variants
4-3-2 Salazzle – Salazzle GX
The main standout in this line is the 3 baby Salazzle to the 2 Salazzle GX. I’m not a big fan of just running 2 baby Salazzle because I want to hit an evolution with Po Town as soon as possible to start applying pressure with Berserk. We are limited in our ability to search for evolution Pokémon in this deck so I wanted to increase the chance of drawing into one a little bit.
Big Wheel GX keeps on turning and it will be your most used GX attack especially after using Brigette. 1 Hala will let you capitalize on that and ensure that you do not have discard your precious energy that you need to attach every turn.
I could only fit 1 in here but I really want to have 2. Utilizing this card to reuse baby Salazzle can bail you out of awkward scenarios where you have a Salandit trapped active with a Po Town in play. Simply evolve the Salandit in Salazzle and take 30 damage while Poisoning and Burning your opponent’s active. Follow that up with an Acerola and you’ll be free to start attacking with a Drampa or Tapu Lele right away.
3 Max Elixir & 1 Super Rod
Being able to load up Drampa or Salandit in 1 turn can shift the tide of a game. You still need to place emphasis on attaching energy every turn even with these Max Elixirs in the build because there is no guarantee these will hit for you. Lastly, I wanted to address why Super Rod was in here over Rescue Stretcher. I wanted a way to retrieve discarded energy back into the deck to help make better use of mid to late game Max Elixirs. In all honesty, if I ever decide to take out Max Elixir from this deck, I’ll change Super Rod into Rescue Stretcher because it offers more synergy with Salazzle by allowing me to fetch a discarded one and evolving it immediately.
4 Po Town
This card makes this deck work. Although there is no guarantee you will be able to deal damage to your opponent’s Pokémon with this card, it still has the potential to help hit numbers against high HP Pokémon. Po Town also lets you activate Berserk’s damage boost. I originally only ran 3 but quickly realized I was always digging for it and eventually brought the count up to 4.
Other Card Choices
This card might seem out of place at first since we aren’t running damage spread cards like Tapu Koko, however, since we’re running Po Town, this card makes perfect sense. As I mentioned earlier there is no guarantee that Po Town damage will stick. By utilizing Espeon EX in combo with Po Town we can increase our chances of making the damage stick by keeping our opponent in Po Town Purgatory by continuously devolving and forcing them to evolve under Po Town.
There were many times where I missed having Po Town and a Salazzle at the same time and I would fail to activate Berserk’s damage boost. Rainbow Energy lets me get around that by placing damage on a benched Salandit or Tapu Lele after I have a Drampa already setup. The downside to running Rainbow Energy is that we forfeit our ability to run Max Elixir and completely relay on manual energy attachment each turn.
I believe there’s a balance to running this card with Rainbow Energy incorporated into the build. As I mentioned earlier, we would have to forfeit Max Elixir if we run Rainbow Energy which means we can’t accelerate energy. This card can let us get around that by letting us Kiawe to Drampa GX and load it up for the next turn. All this can be done while manually attaching another energy elsewhere and creating multiple threats for your opponent to deal with. This is definitely where I was going experiment next with this deck and I suggest you start with this concept if you decide to pick this deck up.
This deck relies on getting Salanditon bench as early as possible. When you prize Brigette the game gets out of hand quickly and you struggle to activate Berserk’s damage boost without being able to place damage on a benched PokémonPokémon.
Overall, this deck has a bunch of moving parts to it which make it inherently inconsistent, however, I feel that with some tweaking, it can find its stride as a Tier 2 deck in the meta. Give it a try and see how it goes for you and let me know how you like it!