Ever since Zoroark-GX was released it’s been a no-brainer that it would find ways to warp the format and how deck building would be approached. One of the deadliest traits that Zoroark has going into any format is that it can adapt: it’s one of the few decks that respects what format we’re in. We’ve seen Zoroark morph into a deck with controlling comeback potential, to a deck that can be the aggressor. The card clearly caters to multiple strategies and it’s no stranger to them. So let’s look into the new partners that Zoroark gains going into the new Unbroken Bonds format.
Before jumping into what makes the deck tick, we first have to understand what a potential skeleton for Zoroark will look like. Here’s a starting base and why it works.
Going into the new format, I’m expecting Zoroark builds to follow this skeleton, at the very least.
Why four Lillie still? I’ve personally never been a fan of the four Lillie engines since Professor Elm’s Lecture released, but the four Elm builds were super easy to exploit with Marshadow’s “Let Loose.” Garbodor GRI being pushed out the format allows the four Lillie, four Nest Ball engine to be the superior build in my opinion going into this format, especially since it lets you get out Alolan Grimer and the 70-HP Meowth. One of the newer inclusions that Nest Ball can get you is the Marshadow from Unbroken Bonds. Your Nest Ball becomes an immediate out to annoying cards such as Power Plant, the new Stadium that attempts to stop Zoroark decks from using “Trade,” as well as aiding you in your matchup against decks that include Naganadel or any of the Fighting type Buzzwole.
One of the cards no one is making any noise for is Persian-GX. On paper, three Energy seems like too much to fulfill, but with Triple Acceleration Energy these requirements can be achieved with a single attachment. The card is able to hit 190 damage before any modifiers, which is one of the most important things to take from it because it allows you to one-shot cards such as Tapu Lele-GX and Zeraora-GX. In the mirror match, you can use Choice Band or Professor Kukui to hit the 210-220 mark. When you pair it with both you’re able to one-shot Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, one of the scariest Tag Teams in the format since it’s the most potent in dishing out quick attackers and stealing games. The GX attack on Persian is reminiscent of Golisopod-GX’s GX attack. Hit-and-run attacks have been historically good, and this one allowing a one-prizer to come into the Active can prove to be annoying in the prize exchange. Even sending a Tapu Lele-GX into the Active spot, just to end up using Acerola on it later is a power play in itself. Worse case scenario, a GX is knocked out and it allows you to trigger Persian’s Ability. “Cat Walk” is very reminiscent of Teammates, except in this case when a GX or EX is knocked out you can search for two cards. While it is such a hefty price to pay, the pros outweigh the cons.
Wondrous Labyrinth is seemingly an odd inclusion, but it forces the opposing player to commit more Energy or else play completely different. Allegedly, good players would claim to know how to play around it, but at the very least you present these unorthodox situations in which they have to respond. Assuming players have unrefined lists in the fresh Meta, they might not be prepared for cards like these. Triple Acceleration Energy allows Zoroark-GX to attack under this Stadium still, and sometimes the Stadium allows your Zoroark to escape unharmed. Raising the requirements for the opposing player makes it so much harder to deal with a 210-HP Pokémon. Another thing that one of my friends, Joey Rojas pointed out was how you’re able to play around Tapu Koko-GX’s GX attack. Tapu Koko-GX’s “Tapu Thunder GX” deals 50 damage for each Energy on your opponent’s board. Triple Acceleration Energy discarding itself at the end of the turn seemed like one of the biggest drawbacks, but in these scenarios it proves to be one of the biggest keys to stealing games. Giving Zoroark a total of eight Double Colorless Energy was a huge mistake, so why not exploit it?
Possible techs besides those main strategies:
– Slowking LOT
– Dewgong UNB
– Gliscor UNB
How much do you respect Fire? That should guide you in your decision making for the format. Accepting the loss could make or break your tournament run. While I think Slowking is better than Dewgong at the moment, I will be dissecting every tech and each route that you can take.
Slowking has become extremely playable due to the Fire support provided by Unbroken Bonds: a Reshiram & Charizard-GX swinging right off the bat can prove to be difficult to deal with. My homie, Peter refers to it as a “bigger Ho-Oh-GX, and he isn’t wrong. The problem with Reshiram & Charizard-GX is that they also gave it “Outrage,” so if you don’t manage to handle it, it’s almost inevitable that it will end up knocking out your new Active. Slowking allows you to efficiently one-shot ReshiZard. Slowking, previously a bulk card from Lost Thunder, is one of the many cards that gains access to Triple Acceleration Energy, becoming extremely relevant because of the Energy cost and typing. It also punishes players for over committing Energy onto Tapu Lele-GX or, in this case, ReshiZard. One of the things to expect from the ReshiZard player is that they will start including Eevee & Snorlax-GX in their list to deal with counters aimed at taking them down. If it hasn’t been included in your list, I also suggest to the ReshiZard players to invest some of their testing into that tech, since it does steal games you were meant to lose. Funny how that works, right?
Dewgong allows you to be a bit more creative, as I’ve seen players tech in a Larvitar to handle Fighting-weak Pokémon. Something to be noted is that some decks will be including Mew from this set as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Zoroark variants playing it. Preventing two-shots from getting set up by a one-prizer is so important, and this should also limit Dewgong’s actual playability. Mew is essentially a copy of Mr. Mime from BKT and PLF with the “Bench Barrier” Ability, albeit with a significantly better attack. For a single Colorless Energy you can place up to three damage counters on your opponent’s side, which lets the card work with Larvitar and Dewgong. In that regard, my biggest concern with Dewgong is that it just doesn’t one-shot ReshiZard, but it does make other matchups much better. If your opponent doesn’t have Mew or it’s prized in the mirror, you can snipe off Zorua and Ditto from their board putting you ahead and establishing more Zoroarks to filter through your deck. It’s important to acknowledge these pros and cons before committing to a strategy, since it can make or break your decision-making. One of the bigger pros with the route of Dewgong is that your baby Blacephalon matchup becomes a cakewalk. They can’t play Mew because it shuts off Green’s Exploration from allowing them to chain the card, so they’re able to be Benched out by Dewgong taking multiple knockouts. Usually using Judge or Marshadow “Let Loose” should be enough to cover this matchup, since you randomize their hand, which they preemptively set up to keep streaming knockouts. If you get access to your Field Blower to get rid of Wishful Baton, you force them to get Welder, Energy and multiple Energy to discard in order to achieve a knockout. Meanwhile, they have to work with a total of five randomized cards. The new Marshadow also allows you to clean up Blacephalon in case you weren’t able to knock them out with a Professor Kukui. It beats giving up two prizes in certain scenarios.
One of the cards I personally believe got a significant boost in playability is Silvally-GX. So far in testing, it fulfills every requirement I want in a card. It’s a great card that answers the mirror by having “Rebel GX,” but the biggest factor is access to the memories. When Silvally was first released it was a questionable card that saw some amount of play in EUIC London, paired with metal attackers to handle Gardevoir. At the time, Gallade BKT was able to keep such a card in check since it has the Fighting weakness, as well as Lycanroc being an efficient attacker in Zoroark decks. But now, with a couple of Meta shifts, other decks have to be addressed before Silvally. That’s where I believe the surprise factor comes into the equation. Triple Acceleration Energy gave this card a breath of fresh air. Three Energy was such a hefty price to pay, especially for only a fair attack, but when you realize that Silvally has relevant memories it can abuse in the format, the card suddenly becomes a bit more playable. Especially having “Rebel GX,” giving you the ability to punish players who over-Bench can be a nice way to take an easy three prizes against GX decks. But which memory is the key? As it stands, we’re currently looking at the Water Memory, and Fighting Memory. The Fighting one allows you to one-shot Zoroark-GX in the mirror, PikaRom-GX, Zeraora, and other Silvally if you run into the exact mirror match. The Water Memory is really just to be able to one-shot a ReshiZard with a Professor Kukui, which could be one of the more popular decks in the format since it just hits really hard and fast.
Another perk of the card is the Ability, “Gyro Unit” giving all your Basic Pokémon free retreat. Starting Pokémon with heavy retreat such as Alolan Grimer can sometimes prove to be a hassle, but Silvally just allows you to move it out the Active for free and then evolve into Muk. Some cute plays can be using Persian’s GX attack to jump into a Basic Pokémon then proceed to pivot it out of the Active. The card also leaves some room for flexibility in choosing whom you promote after a knockout. There are other Memory cards that Silvally has access to–I would recommend the Psychic Memory if we were in a format with relevant Psychic-weak Pokémon, but the bigger ones that come to mind are both Buzzwole, which Marshadow from Unbroken Bonds handles without any real problems. The HP on Silvally is the most appealing thing as opposed to the cute counters such as Slowking and Dewgong, since they’re so squishy in a very fast paced format.
The reason I put Gliscor and Scizor-GX on the side as tech options as opposed to main strategies is because they don’t truly make an entire strategy by themselves. More than anything, they are just really cute techs that help in some matchups. Gliscor is meant to play around “Cat Walk” entirely, so possibly when a Meta becomes more established it’s possible Gliscor finds its way into Zoroark decks. For three Colorless it does 70 and Poisons the opposing Active Pokémon, which when you pair it with a Choice Band, you’re doing 200 and allowing the Poison damage to finish off an opponent’s Zoroark. In this case, since Poison knocked out the opposing Zoroark or something weak to Fighting in most cases, Persian’s “Cat Walk” will not trigger. This is probably reading too far ahead into the Meta but the option is definitely there.
Scizor is just another card that abuses Triple Colorless attachments. The only matchups it would shine in are the Gardevoir-GX and the Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX matchups; being able to one-shot Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX with a Band and Kukui can make it an easier time, though the matchup is a little shaky and disciplined based.
Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX
Since we touched on the Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX archetype, the reason this matchup is all disciplined based is because you have to learn to pace yourself. The addition of Mr. Mime would help, but that’s all based on what you expect you’ll see. These decisions can be based on micro Metas, or if you expect a large amount of this archetype to be well represented. In this matchup, they’ll try and checkmate you with their GX attack and a Power Plant out, but the good thing about this is that you can easily see this play coming, since their Energy is all presented on the board. You can decide to chase the one with Energy and force them to Energy Switch the Energy off or heal it, but if you can’t do that, one suggestion is to preemptively Nest Ball/ Ultra Ball/ Pokémon Communication/Mysterious Treasure for a Marshadow from Unbroken Bonds. This is one of the few matchups in which you will not be trading away your copies of Lillie, Cynthia, or Judge expecting this play from them. In any case, being able to hit them for 130 with a Choice Banded Zoroark GX will put enough pressure on them from the testing me and my friend, James Gillespie have done. They can use the Fairy Ability Charm, in which case you try to proactively preserve your single copy of Field Blower. The card should be well kept for the Tool as opposed to bumping the Stadium anyway. This is another example of why I keep saying that this matchup is all disciplined based. You can’t just exhaust resources. You have Persian to clean up, who is one of the stars of the deck. If they go as far as not respecting it, a Persian with a Band and Kukui can do 240, under the assumption that there are nine Pokémon in the Discard. Another amazing aspect of Marshadow from Unbroken Bonds is that it self fuels the Discard for Persian’s attack. So many elements added to make the deck go off.
PikaRom is one of those matchups from previous testing where it just feels like Zoroark eventually folds. From over attaching and falling victim to “Tapu Thunder,” or PikaRom just using the GX attack to take four prizes because they used “Let Loose” on you, which forced you to bench a Tapu Lele-GX. But with the inclusion of Mew at the very least, you attempt to fix this matchup. Persian is one of keys in allowing you to win, but it’s an expensive price to try and fuel your Discard pile with the necessary amount of Pokémon. Like I mentioned earlier, Persian-GX is able to deal with one-shotting a PikaRom, as well as Zeraora, you just need to map out your prizes correctly. With the inclusion of Wondrous Labyrinth, if they aren’t able to find a Thunder Mountain, Marshadow, or find four Energy, you prevent one of the swings at the very least. Of course, they can always Tapu Koko Prism into an attacker like Zapdos, but the trade off has to be such a power play for them commit to it. This matchup is all tempo-based: if you can effectively take prizes you should be fine. You never want to approach the game with lines such as knocking out a one-prizer (Zapdos, Jirachi) followed by a GX (Zeraora-GX, Dedenne-GX) and then a PikaRom Tag Team.
So how does Silvally fare against the upcoming Meta after Santa Clara? Well, for starters I believe it’s headed into the correct direction as far as what the deck list looks like. Here’s the list:
So why we did go for a slimmer count of Persian? Well, to put it simply, this version focuses more on Silvally. The issue in having a 2-2 Persian and 1-1 Silvally means the Memories themselves would lose significant value, since you could only preemptively attach them to one Type: Null, but with a 2-2 line it has a bit more flexibility. The Fighting Memory was originally added to give you an edge in the mirror, making it where you’re able to one-shot an opposing Zoroark making their Acerola ineffective, but the other appeal is that you’re able to one-shot Eevee & Snorlax GX, since with a Professor Kukui and Fighting Memory you’ll hit 280. Why do I bring this up? Because it should be a no-brainer now that Charizard decks have been implementing a one-of Snorlax to be able to deal with Zoroarks and not lose to these silly Water techs such as Slowking and Dewgong. If you manage to conserve your Water Memory further down the line in this matchup you can take knockouts on a Charizard, which should be your six prizes mapped out. Although, they’re likely going to throw one-prizers at you somewhere down the line, but if that’s the case you map it out as 3-2-1 in any order. Most lists are playing a single Lele, and with three Pokémon on the Bench you can “Rebel GX” it for 180 with a Choice Band, or just use Persian’s “Slash Back GX” to take a cheap knockout on a Tapu Lele.
Every Zoroark deck now includes Ditto Prism as a staple, there’s no argument there, but this also contributed to why I decided to go 2-2 Silvally instead of 2-1 or even 1-2. It just doesn’t work. Ditto is never supposed to replace said slots. It’s important to keep this in mind when you’re looking into building your list, since it’s added consistency. Think of Ditto as your extra Basic. Assuming I went 2-1 Silvally or Persian, would it ever make sense to go to a 3-1? That’s what Ditto helps with. This was the argument my friend, James brought to the table when we were looking over the deck. The same can be said for Persian; it’s like you’re playing a 2-1 line. That’s the flexibility that Ditto provides to these decks. It feels like most people don’t take that into consideration when deck building–even for me that was a new point of view. That may be obvious to some, but it’s just great to put this out there to help you look at deck building from a completely different angle and allow for optimal deck construction. Understanding why you came to each conclusion allows you to know the ins-and-outs of your decks. That’s why people hit you with the cheesy line, “play something you’re comfortable with.”
Dedenne-GX is probably one of the best cards to work in synergy with Persian’s regular attack. Fueling your hand with Pokémon and then pitching them allows you to reach those nine Pokémon in the Discard fairly quickly, and while there isn’t such a high number like in Lost March or Vespiquen, nine is a fairly hard number to achieve in some cases, since you’re usually looking to Evolve most of your Pokémon. Dedenne is amazing at deck thinning while also giving you a fresh hand of six cards, and after using the Ability you could still use “Trade” and a Supporter. This opens up all your options so you can see if you need to “Trade,” whether it’s for fueling the Discard or trying to get an attachment for the turn. Marshadow has been great for the fact that it fuels the Discard as well, but the best part is that you have a Stadium removal off a Ball search, Pokémon Communication, or even Mysterious Treasure.
Why are we still playing “Let Loose” in the deck? As if I couldn’t get enough of this card after throwing it in Lost March. It really isn’t here to steal games; there are definitely more intricate plays that you can perform with the card other than just slapping it on the table and hoping your opponent bricks. With the addition of Power Plant in a lot of Green’s Exploration-based decks, your turn one “Wonder Tag” into Lillie play is ruined. Even when you run four copies of Lillie, chances are you won’t see it. In the case that you can’t find a way to “Wonder Tag” alongside Marshadow UNB‘s “Resetting Hole,” your other out is to use “Let Loose” to be able to see more cards to try and get set up. While I’m not a huge fan of turn one “Let Loose,” this should be one of the only valid reasons you ever need to do it. Outside of the first turn, one of my favorite plays with the deck is using Guzma to drag up a Tapu Lele GX, for the purpose of taking it out using “Slash Back GX” with a Choice Band, and finishing with a “Let Loose.” Even after all of those actions you still have access to “Trade,” making it where you’re gaining hand advantage alongside more follow up options for the next turn. Then you’ll proceed to promote the Marshadow, and you can save your bigger units on the Bench. Usually, finding a way to pivot the Basic is an issue, but since we play Silvally this isn’t one for us. They either have to deal with it and take out an irrelevant one-prizer, or pass because the commitment just isn’t worth it. Especially, when you take into consideration that they have to work with a five-card hand off your “Let Loose.” This is a play we all caught on to fairly quickly while testing. It serves as one of the best ways to deal with Zapdos-based decks, since putting 80-110 damage on a Zoroark is a huge deal. Zapdos is one of the trickier matchups. You can never overextend with Energy or else their Tapu Koko GX will just have a blast against your Pokémon.
Now, onto the Stadium counts. My friend, James suggested the idea of Wondrous Labyrinth and it has yet to fail me. The card is so powerful against most of the Meta, where if it even buys you a single turn it’s huge. Since you’re still able to attack under it with your Triple Acceleration Energy it’s one of the most appealing Stadiums you can play. Zapdos decks and the mirror will struggle with it, while Charizard decks, if they can’t reach the fifth Energy, won’t be able to deal 230 to your Zoroark or Silvally. Opposing Zoroark decks that opted to not include four copies of Triple Acceleration Energy have a hard time handling Wondrous Labyrinth because their deck building wasn’t prepared for it, giving you the upper hand in mirror. Their only answer is to dig for their counter Stadium or Marshadow, which every deck should be playing at the moment if they can afford the space. 160 has never been relevant until the release of Dedenne-GX, so Devoured Field helps with that, but I wish it were a different Stadium. As it stands, this is the only decent Stadium to run. I’m a huge fan of Lysandre Labs, but with your heavy reliance on important Tools it isn’t safe to run it at all. Taking cheap knockouts is important to the deck’s strategy. One of the biggest flaws in the format at the moment is the fact that cards like N don’t exist, making it where you don’t get punished for taking cheap prizes. Deck thinning is a skill that has been fading away little by little. Sure, you can prepare yourself for a “Let Loose” that’s telegraphed, but that’s about it. Since you’re a Zoroark-based deck, the only condition it would hurt is if they pair it with a Power Plant.
Two Guzma is probably more than enough. I would love for a third copy but that’s why we have Pal Pad in order to recycle the two we already have. Guzma is just to take the important knockouts in this deck, alongside Professor Kukui, which is why they’re both at two. It’s the Supporter I want to be spamming because it breaks my hands with Zoroark and gives me the most options. It’s also important that you don’t prize a Kukui because it’s part of the combo you need to knockout Charizard and Snorlax. Four Lillie is to combat the Power Plant builds, and just having a constant stream of drawing is good. Usually, I tend to Lillie then “Trade” if I determine, given the board state, that I have to attack the Active. In doing this, my follow-up play has more options given the fact that I increased my hand size with “Trade” after a Lillie. No copy of Cynthia is a shocker, even to myself, and really what it came down to was: “Do I really want to reset my hand size?” The answer was almost always no. The only time I want to reset my hand size is if I’m using Judge, because at that point I’m giving up my hand size to disrupt my opponent, which is a fair exchange (at least until you start using “Trade”). Acerola is one I’m on the fence about. Sometimes it feels like I want two or none. I want two because I want to outlive the mirror match, but just sending out a Silvally with Fighting Memory and pretty much saying you have to answer this or you’re losing four prizes is just hyper-aggressive enough, making the Acerola count largely irrelevant. You do get stuck in funky situations where you need to loop Zoroark, so I’ll give the credit to Acerola there, which is why I still keep it in the end.
Feels like the counts of four Nest Ball, four Ultra Ball are self-explanatory. I tested out three Nest Ball at one point to make space for other cards such as Mew and Adventure Bag, but I eventually cut them from the deck since I favored consistency in this case. Also, Mew’s addition is a situational one. I’m under the assumption that Charizard and Mew existing would decrease the PikaRom numbers, and this turned out to be true. I’m still fully aware that the deck can just steam-roll, but you have an answer via Silvally and Persian, whether it’s using a well-timed “Rebel GX” or having the Fighting Memory in this case. As I previously explained, you can attack with Persian with Kukui, Choice Band attached while having nine Pokémon in the Discard. Another thing I would love to point out while we’re discussing Persian is to try to attack with the Pokémon that isn’t made via Ditto. Oddly enough, you would rather that point get knocked out instead of the one made via Ditto in this specific situation, since a knockout means you’re pumping out an extra 40 damage instead of the 20 if one of your Pokémon were to get knocked out normally. Something so situational from the start of the match can prove to be so important towards the end of the game when Persian begins to sweep and pump out huge numbers. Adventure Bag felt like the 63rd card, thus why it never made the deck. We tested it and it would lose immense value because of how the deck operates. You can argue that you can lower the Band count to one, but you need two physical bands in the deck. Since you won’t always use the Memories, using Band on a Silvally is never a bad idea. Reaching your specific combo pieces is often an easy task with Persian. I constantly see people using “Smooth Over” before ever using “Trade.” In this case, you could’ve used “Trade” ‘X’ number of times and THEN used the last “Trade” paired with “Smooth Over” to reach the cards you need. Depending on what combo pieces you need for this specific scenario this could be completely wrong. Assuming you draw into the pieces you were going to “Smooth Over” for, you could be able to use the last “Trade” paired with “Smooth Over” to be your follow up to checkmate for the next turn. This same logic follows with “Cat Walk.” I personally like to “Trade” first and then “Cat Walk,” especially if I can read the board state correctly and can prepare for the follow up turn. Now I’m actually two turns ahead, because I drew the pieces I needed and used “Cat Walk” into a potential follow up answer.
This season has been extremely stressful for me with work and everything getting in the way, making it really hard to try and attend these big Regionals, so I decided to just go to League and play locally. Leading up to NAIC however, I’m hoping to make a good a run and deep one at that, so hopefully this at the very least gave you some step-by-step on deck building for Zoroark archetypes and how they fully operate. The first skeleton list is just to have an understanding, as well as purposely missing slots to allow you, the reader to think and come to a conclusion which partner should be paired with Zoroark. I’d like to give a shout out to my testing partners, Joey Rojas and James Gillespie for testing these weird ideas. This article would not have happened if it weren’t for the information we gathered, as well as the homie, Russell for giving me the opportunity to write for Some1sPC. I’ll try my hardest to make the homies proud and produce great content for the readers. Leading up to Madison, this looks like a top pick for me.