The last Standard regionals of the Team Up Format is in Denver, CO this weekend, April 6 & 7, 2019. At the beginning of the format, the Pikachu & Zekrom Tag Team-GX decks were seen by the community as one of the top archetypes. While PikaRom has proven to be a strong Tier 1 contender,the Zapdos/Jirachi archetype has overshadowed PikaRom in terms of success and popularity. The Zapdos/Jirachi core is powerful, consistent and can be blended with other attackers/strategies easily. I will be going over a skeleton of Standard Zapdos/Jirachi, and then the lists for two variants I like for Denver Regionals, adding either Lycanroc GX or Ultra Beasts.

 

WHY ZAPDOS OVER ZOROARK-GX?

If you have been reading my articles or watching my video content for a while, you’ll know that I prefer to play Zoroark-GX variants if there is a list that can have 50/50 or better matchups versus most decks in the meta at a given time. I value consistently very highly. ZoroRoc, which I earned almost my entire invite with last season, is just not what it used to be.

For example: the mirror match of Zororoc vs Zororoc feels like it has lost most, if not all of its skill and comeback potential. In NAIC 2018 format, Zororoc played Strong Energy which means that Enhanced Hammer was a huge tempo swing card. We also obviously had N and Parallel City. Parallel City could be played facing either way by either player to advantages in differing situations due to bench space being a resource and increasing damage of both yours and your opponent’s attacks (Zoroark-GX’s Riotous Beating relying on your own bench for damage and Lycanroc-GX’s Dangerous Rogue GX relying on your opponent’s bench for damage). The deck has lost these cards which were important for the flexibility for the archetype in matchups all across the format. With more limited options, ZoroRoc, unfortunately, feels much more linear and it is less rewarding of skillful play.

With this change in nature to ZoroRoc, it has given up the crown of the most consistent, aggressive and skill-rewarding deck to Zapdos/Jirachi.

ZAPDOS/JIRACHI LIST SKELETON

This skeleton has 47 cards, so there is space remaining for 13 more cards. These 47 cards are the basis of all of the top performing and most popular Zapdos/Jirachi variants. Although Zapdos/Jirachi decks are so popular, there is a fair amount of room for originality and cards included based on personal preference. The following lists all originally started with this skeleton.

4 JIRACHI

Jirachi is a very important card as it will usually find you a trainer out of the top 5 cards of your deck and that trainer will oftentimes allow you to progress your turn or prepare for a future turn. I have tried lists with 3 Jirachi, and I decided that starting it or drawing into it is too important so I added a 4th into the skeleton for my Zapdos/Jirachi lists.

Jirachi’s Stellar Wish is kind of a “Let Loose proof” ability as I like to call it. If your hand gets Let Loosed down to 4 by an opponent’s Marshadow SGL, you have Jirachi’s Stellar Wish to fall back on next turn and dig 5 cards deeper if you need to rebuild your hand or get out of a bad start early. I think it is important to have a Jirachi active and a Jirachi benched if possible turn 1 going first so that you can send up a new Jirachi if the active one gets knocked out. This becomes a bit different when attacking and you do not have a Jirachi in the active. 2 Jirachi on the bench will often be the way to go if you have a Zapdos active for example, so that if your opponent Guzma knocks out Jirachi you have a fresh one to send up for your turn. Note that you should limit your Jirachis on the board gainst spread decks like Passimian Koko or Ultra Necrozma-GX which can spread 60 everywhere with Sky Scorching Light.

3 ZAPDOS

You’re going to want a minimum of 3 Zapdos in all of your Zapdos decks as it is your main attacker and will be knocked out with ease by most decks. The only list that I include a 4th Zapdos in at the moment is in the straight Zapdos/Jirachi variant with little techs.

TAPU KOKO PRISM

Tapu Koko Prism isn’t greatly impactful if you use it with only Zapdos, but that is hardly ever the case as every Zapdos/Jirachi that has performed well includes at least one other Lightning type attacker that can benefit from Tapu Koko Prism’s Dance of the Ancients ability.

TAPU KOKO-GX

Tapu Koko-GX is a great attacker to finish games or remove a huge threat like a PikaRom or Celebi Venusuar off of the board. It is also worth noting that its first attack which hits for 130 is a fairly high base damage to have in these variants which have Electropower and Choice Band to increase the damage output.

2 ESCAPE BOARD / 2 ESCAPE ROPE / 2 SWITCH / 4 GUZMA

    

Switching mechanics are super important for this archetype since you want to get Jirachi out of the active and Zapdos into the active. Escape Board’s synergy with Jirachi is perfect since Jirachi has 1 retreat cost and puts itself to sleep with Stellar Wish. Escape Rope followed by Guzma can get around effects like Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX’s Moon’s Eclipse GX and Jolteon-GX’s Swift Run-GX, so I like to have the variety of switching options for different situations. This is the bare minimum amount of switching options for this archetype in my opinion, so I definitely suggest adding more if you have more space in your list to increase consistency.

Before moving onto the two variants of Zapdos I will cover, I’d like to say that I believe their matchup spreads to be very similar and you should play whichever variant you are more comfortable with.

ZAPDOS/JIRACHI/LYCANROC-GX

 

This archetype feels consistent and aggressive while having several options to outplay your opponent. The only change I want to make is to add a Marshadow SGL or a Judge to be able to manipulate my opponent’s hand if I have fallen behind and need to change tempo, but I will leave it up to you what to take out for one of those inclusions if you decide you would like to try one of them. Personally, it looks like the 2nd Lycanroc-GX might have to be the cut but I really don’t like only having one Lycanroc-GX.

Zapdos/Jirachi’s main threat is Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX since they can lock your Jirachi’s ability with their Alolan Muk SUM and then one-shot your Zapdos’ with Zoroark-GX’s Riotous Beating. This list has been built to have at least a 50/50 matchup versus ZoroRoc while having many other matchups stay favorable.

2-2 LYCANROC-GX

Having a single Rockruff on your bench is a huge threat versus several decks, even if your Rockruff doesn’t have an energy attached to it. Thanks to Tapu Koko Prism, you can get 2 energy onto a Rockruff/Lycanroc-GX in one turn and attack with a surprise Dangerous Rogue-GX. Most opponent’s will likely be aware of this possibility, so Rockruff will become their number 1 target. If they don’t knock out the Rockruff, then great you can evolve into Lycanroc-GX next turn. If they do knock out the Rockruff, that means they aren’t targeting your Zapdos or your Jirachis which are also important cards.

Lycanroc-GX is great for its Dangerous Rogue-GX attack, but Claw Slash is also a possible attack to use since you have the energy acceleration from Tapu Koko Prism. Lycanroc-GX helps versus ZoroRoc because it hits Zoroark-GX for weakness, can one-shot the opposing Lycanroc-GX with Dangerous Rogue-GX, and can gust Alolan Muk up to the active with Bloodthirsty Eyes if you haven’t already dealt with it. You’re not always going to have a Guzma, so a Switch and Bloodthirsty Eyes can replace Guzma sometimes.

1-1 ZEBSTRIKA LOT

Again, this is mainly to help versus Zororoc. Since they use Alolan Muk to stop your Jirachi’s ability, establishing a Zebstrika is your backup plan to draw cards. Since this will allow you to draw cards when Jirachi’s ability is turned off, your opponent will want to target Blitzle down. If you can bench a Rockruff and a Blitzle at the same time this makes your opponent choose which one to target which can often leave you with an opportunity next turn to either draw cards and get going or to make a play with Lycanroc-GX.

BUZZWOLE

Since our Rockruffs are at risk of being picked off before they can evolve into Lycanroc-GX, we have Buzzwole as a backup fighting type attacker which is especially good when your opponent is at 4 prizes for the huge one energy Sledgehammer for 120.

VIRIDIAN FOREST / THUNDER MOUNTAIN PRISM / 0 SHRINE OF PUNISHMENT

   

Previous to this variant, I was much more interested in Zapdos/Jirachi/Buzzwole/Nihilego since the attackers did not need to evolve. In that variant I was running 2 Shrine of Punishment and no Viridian Forest and I often found myself frustrated with missing energy cards when I needed them. I had room for two stadium cards in this list, and 1 Viridian Forest does really end up helping as an 11th out to energy (the first 10 outs being natural energy cards) in the form of a trainer is nice to have since it can be retrieved with Stellar Wish. It is also notably great for discarding cards you don’t need anymore like a 4th Jirachi or discarding a Lightning Energy for Tapu Koko Prism’s ability.

MATCHUPS

Vs. Zororoc – Even to slightly unfavored

Vs. Blacephalon – Favored

Vs. PikaRom – Favored

Vs. Ultra Malamar – Favored

Vs. Celebi Venusaur – Unfavored but completely winnable due to Tapu Thunder-GX

Vs. Regi Stall – Very Unfavored

Vs. Other Zapdos Variants – Even

 

ZAPDOS/JIRACHI/BEASTS

 

This variant has become known as Zapdos Ultra Beasts, as the two backup attackers in addition to Tapu Koko-GX are Buzzwole and Nihilego which both have the Ultra Beast tag. This list is 59 cards similar to Kim Pobega’s list they placed 4th in the Bolzano SPE with. The one change I made was a Thunder Mountain Prism in place of Marshadow SGL. Again, while I respect the utility of Marshadow, Thunder Mountain Prism just doesn’t seem like the cut for it as Thunder Mountain can be crucial for successfully using Tapu Thunder GX.

MATCHUPS

Vs. Zororoc – Slightly unfavored

Vs. Blacephalon – Favored

Vs. PikaRom – Favored

Vs. Ultra Malamar – Favored

Vs. Celebi Venusaur – Unfavored but completely winnable due to Tapu Thunder-GX

Vs. Regi Stall – Very Unfavored

Vs. Other Zapdos Variants – Even

 

DENVER REGIONALS

If I was attending Denver I would be 100% playing one of these Zapdos variants. Zapdos/Jirachi/Jolteon-GX which Pedro Torres won a Special Event with is a very consistent version of Zapdos but it has a very poor ZoroRoc matchup which I would not be comfortable taking. ZoroRoc itself is never a bad choice, but the Basic Pokemon consistency of Zapdos/Jirachi just feels a lot better for a 9 + possible 5-6 round tournament. I am confident that all 7 of the archetypes in the matchup spreads above will be present in day 2 and it is not like Zapdos is the only deck to play, it is just my current pick because of flexibility, consistency and customizability.

 

I expect the meta to be fairly diverse still, but Zapdos, Pikarom, and ZoroRoc should still be the most popular. Regigigas/Hoopa stall could have a really strong matchup spread since it beats Zapdos and ZoroRoc variants, and should be able to beat Blacephalon since Blacephalon usually does not play Energy Switch anymore which was a Control/Stall tech. I tested Zoroark Control as well, but did not feel it had comfortable matchups versus Pikarom and any Malamar variants while also having the set up curve to get past which Regigigas Stall does not. Personally, I would not worry about stall too much unless you have every other matchup you care about planned for and you have space in your deck for Oranguru UPR.

 

Good luck this weekend wherever it is you are playing, and I should be back next week with Expanded format content!

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