Hello Some1sPC readers! I’m excited to be back writing another article, this time about the Expanded format! Unfortunately will not be able to attend the upcoming Costa Mesa Regional Championship, but I was at Dallas Regionals to start off the year, and I have spent time testing this new format and I think there is a lot to take away from Dallas heading into Costa Mesa.
Zoroark On Top
No one can dispute it, Zoroark GX decks are the best decks in the format. We saw these variants take five of the top eight spots in Dallas and all of the top four spots. Even the decks that are built to beat Zoroark such as Andrew Mahone’s 9th Place Buzzwole GX/Lycanroc GX deck or the Drampa GX/Tauros GX/Garbodor deck that took the remaining three top-eight placements in Dallas still don’t beat Zoroark decks every single time. Dallas also brought with it the emergence of a new tech in Zoroark decks, Red Card. The ability to spam Trade, Red Card your opponent and the finish off the turn with a Hex Maniac before attacking puts on so much aggression that most decks cannot deal with.
Ultra Prism’s Effect
I honestly don’t think Ultra Prism brings too much to the Expanded format. Some decks may add Cynthia, but ultimately N and Colress remain the better shuffle/draw options. I don’t think any sort of Dusk Mane Necrozma deck will do too well, it would either be paired with Magnezone or Bronzong and with many Zoroark decks now running two copies of Hex Maniac, Ability reliant decks such as these will have a difficult time getting anywhere. I do think there could be some potential with Solgaleo Prism Star in combination with Battle Compressor. Accelerating up to nine energy from the discard pile onto your field in one turn against Zoroark decks seems extremely good, but I think the aggression Zoroark decks put on don’t really allow you to take a turn off to use Radiant Star. And finally, I do think that Glaceon GX is the card that is most likely to make an impact on the Expanded format. Being able to simply attach a Water energy from hand to an Eevee with the Energy Evolution Ability and get the turn one Freezing Gaze lock in combination with a Red Card, Ghetsis, or Delinquent is an extremely powerful combo. I just believe that if Zoroark is still able to set up under the Freezing Gaze lock, it will be too much for Glaceon to combat, even when using cards like Cyrus Prism Star and Enhanced Hammer to disrupt Zoroark decks.
So I think heading into Costa Mesa players should either be prepared with a deck that can consistently beat Zoroark decks or just simply play a Zoroark deck themselves that they are comfortable with. So we’re going to start things off with a Zoroark deck that I believe consistently beats all the other Zoroark Variants, Zoroark with Magnezone.
- 4 Zorua DEX 70
- 4 Zorark GX
- 2 Magnemite BKT 51
- 2 Magnezone PLS 46
- 3 Exeggcute PLF
- 1 Sudowoodo GRI
- 4 Tapu Lele-GX
- 4 Colress
- 3 Brigette
- 2 Hex Maniac
- 1 Guzma
- 1 Ghetsis
- 1 Karen
- 1 N
- 1 Professor Kukui
- 4 Ultra Ball
- 4 Puzzle of Time
- 4 VS Seeker
- 3 Choice Band
- 2 Rare Candy
- 1 Field Blower
- 1 Computer Search
- 3 Sky Field
- 4 Double Colorless Energy
The main strategy of this deck is simple, set up Magnezone with multiple Zoroark GX and abuse the Dual Brains Ability by playing Colress to draw a ton of cards, Trading multiple times and capping the turn off with a Hex Maniac to disrupt our opponent.
This list is a few cards different from the deck I played in Dallas with the small changes being ones that I think are appropriate for the shifts in the Metagame. In Dallas, I started off very strong at 3-0 but then lost to Riley Hulbert (the eventual winner of the tournament) in the 4th round. I won game one of our set because I was able to set up and keep up the Hex chain but I lost game two due to whiffing a Choice Band off Colress and double Trade (I only played two Choice Band in Dallas) and lost game three due to whiffing a basic Pokemon for a KO off of Colress and multiple Trades.
And I feel like this is what the Zoroark mirror comes down to, who can keep up the tempo and who misses a beat. This is the Zoroark deck that I feel has the best matchup against all other Zoroark Decks
4-4 Zoroark GX
The bread and butter of the deck, the main attacker and the draw engine. I’m opting not to include either of the baby Zoroarks although I think they could both find a spot in the deck. Foul Play is very good against things like Lycanroc GX and opposing Zoroark GX and Stand In provides an option for us to attack on the 2nd turn even if we didn’t start Zorua. Ultimately I decided neither was worth the spot over other cards I wanted to include.
2-0-2 Magnezone, 2 Rare Candy
This count on paper seems to be far too thin to get out on a consistent basis but in practice, it happens far more often than you would think. Magnezone gets set up on turn two of the game around 75% of the time and by turn three in 95% of games. If you get off the Brigette on turn one and can Colress and Trade multiple times the next turn it will happen more often than you may think. Sometimes if you have a piece of the turn two Magnezone in your hand (Magnezone, Candy, Ultra Ball or Computer Search) and you see that your opponent has a large hand size it can pay off to hit them with a big Ghetsis which may allow you to draw into the other piece that you need while at the same time disrupting your opponent.
This is our Sudowoodo counter. Much like Isaiah Williams 2nd Place “Quad Exeggcute/Zoroark Deck” the idea is to use Propagation putting the Eggs from the discard pile into our hand, play Hex Maniac to shut off Sudowoodo’s “Roadblock” and then bench the Exeggcutes to help us hit the numbers necessary to take a knockout.
Easily the best draw Supporter in the Expanded format. I decided to go to a full four count of this card since the emergence of the Red Card + Hex Maniac combo. Having four copies gives us the highest odds of drawing into one off of a Red Card and also the highest odds of having one on the 2nd turn of the game since more often than not it will be the best turn two Supporter for us.
2 Hex Maniac
I would even consider finding space for a 3rd copy. This card is incredibly powerful and disruptive and can shut down most of the Expanded format.
1 Professor Kukui
This is a card that may seem out of place, but I believe it’s inclusion to be 100% warranted. Because of Magnezone’s Dual Brains, we can play this card twice in one turn allowing a Zoroark GX with a Choice Band and a full bench of eight to KO Wailord EX and Gardevoir GX. These are two more fringe matchups but there was enough Wailord played in Dallas that would make me want to include this card. It can also be used to gain the extra damage needed vs Golisopod if they attack with Armor Press.
1 Field Blower
This is a card that I did not include in my Dallas list and looking at it now, I think it is necessary. I tied a very close set against Igor Costa playing the Drampa/Garbodor deck where I won game one and he won game two, but both games came down to the last knockout. I feel confident that if I had even one copy of Field Blower I could have won either game. Just getting the single turn of Abilities allows you to completely blow up and draw into basically everything you could need for the rest of the game. I also lost to a Gardevoir/Gallade deck that ran three copies of Focus Sash so having the one copy gives you options against random decks like this.
This is a card that I played in my list at Dallas. It has good synergy with Exeggcute and is very good in the Zoroark Lycanroc matchup. Keeping Energy off of Lycanroc is very good and can help swing a close matchup into your favor.
Playing no copies of this card may seem weird but in such a one-shot oriented format I found myself never using it in Dallas. I think it is useful against Golisopod decks but ultimately I deem that match up to be favored without Acerola.
Lonzoroark – Favorable
I expect this to be one of the biggest matchups heading into the weekend and I think it ends up being favored for ZoroZone. Colress + Hex in one turn is crazy and most Zoroark variants can’t deal with it. Getting off a big Ghetsis + Hex combo at some point mid-game can absolutely cripple them and you just kinda steamroll them from there.
Scrambled Zoroark (Zoro with 4 Exeggcute) – Slightly Favorable
This is a closer matchup in my mind because this version of the deck (similar to ZoroZone) is built to play Hex Maniac every single turn. If they can stick a turn of Red Card + Hex and we are unable to respond that turn then things can begin to spiral out of control. Going first makes a huge difference in this matchup but either way, I feel that ZoroZone comes out on top most of the time.
Zoroark/Golisopod – Extremely Favorable
I went 3-0 against this version of Zoroark in Dallas. I’ve thought for a while that ZoroPod is the worst Zoroark variant in expanded. It just doesn’t do enough and I think every other Zoroark variant is favored against it. The Expanded format is too aggressive for decks like ZoroPod that rely on taking two hit knockouts.
Zoroark/Lycanroc – Even
This is the closest of all the Zoroark matchups mostly because they are able to take easy KO’s without having to use their Abilities with either Clash Slash or Dangerous Rogue GX. I think the matchup comes down to whoever goes first and if they can get the turn one Energy attachment to a Rockruff.
Drampa/Tauros/Garbodor – Even to Slightly Favorable
I think this matchup is close and it all comes down to whether or not you are able to draw into the one copy of Field Blower when you need it. The key to this matchup is to not put a DCE into play until you are going to take a knockout or dig for a knockout. Hitting a Drampa for less than 180 is just asking for it to get Acerola’d and placed back down and then having your DCE removed by Righteous Edge.
Glaceon Variants – Even
Sure there will be games that going 2nd you will get locked out of Abilities and not get set up. If you can find Tapu Lele and DCE you can start playing the two shot game and I think if you ever get a one-shot with Zoroark you should just win the game. Also going first and getting off a Hex Maniac turn one should just win you the game most of the time. Heading into the tournament I wouldn’t expect to play against one of these decks.
Night March – Favorable
The combination of Karen + Hex or Karen + Ghetsis is too much for them to deal with. Even if you go down three to four prizes you can still bring the matchup back since that combination of cards is so crippling to them.
Wailord – Favorable
If you can pull off the Double Kukui play three times you will simply win the game. It is still possible to lose however if they get really lucky on Team Rocket’s Handiwork discarding multiple Double Colorless Energy and Puzzle of Time.
ZoroZone Wrap Up
I think this deck is one of the most fun that I have played in a while. Anytime there’s a deck that “breaks the rules of the game” it is worth looking at. Decks like Blastoise in the past let you “break the rules” by attaching more than one Energy per turn and this deck “breaks the rules” by allowing a 2nd Supporter per turn which is too powerful of an effect to keep up with.
Other Options To Beat Zoroark
As mentioned earlier there were only two types of decks in the top 8 of Dallas: Zoroark decks and Drampa/Garbodor decks. But another deck that caught my eye coming out of Dallas was Andrew Mahone’s Buzzwole/Lycanroc that he got 9th place with. I think his list was super interesting playing no Night March counter, no VS Seeker and a very heavy Supporter count. Moving into a format where decks will be relying on Red Card + Hex Maniac as their main form of disruption I think this deck building strategy remains strong and Fighting decks are naturally good against the Fighting weak Zoroark GX.
Buzzwole Lycanroc GX
- 3 Buzzwole GX
- 2 Rockruff GRI
- 2 Lycanroc GX
- 1 Zygarde EX
- 1 Remoraid
- 1 Octillery BKP
- 1 Sudowoodo GRI
- 2 Tapu Lele-GX
- 3 Professor Juniper
- 3 N
- 2 Guzma
- 2 Korrina
- 2 Colress
- 4 Ultra Ball
- 4 Max Elixir
- 2 VS Seeker
- 2 Choice Band
- 2 Float Stone
- 2 Wide Lens
- 1 Super Rod
- 1 Target Whistle
- 1 Computer Search
- 3 Brooklet Hill
- 4 Strong Energy
- 9 Fighting Energy
In a Zoroark dominated format, I think it is natural to gravitate towards Fighting type decks. Buzzwole’s high damage output and Lycanroc GX’s Dangerous Rogue GX leaves this deck with options against non Zoroark decks as well.
3 Buzzwole GX
The best starter in the deck. We almost always want this Pokemon in the active position on our first turn, especially against Zoroark decks. Using Jet Punch to pick off easy prizes early on in the game with Wide Lens is quite strong.
1 Zygarde EX
Andrew chose to play a Lucario EX in this spot but I like the option that Zygarde leaves you against decks that may not take OHKO’s. The first attack on Zygarde also does 10 more damage than Lucario’s first attack assuming there is a Stadium in play. Zygarde will be a good attacker against Zoroark decks that play the Foul Play Zoroark.
2-2 Lycanroc GX
This card is just too good. Bloodthirsty Eyes provides a gust effect that doesn’t use up our Supporter for the turn and attaching one Energy on Rockruff early means that we are threatening a Dangerous Rogue GX at any time.
I have found playing Korrina to be extremely useful. It can find us Tools like Wide Lens and Float Stone when we need them and also grab a basic Pokemon for us to help get set up. Using Korrina for a Lycanroc and a Max Elixir later on in the game can be really strong to set up a basic attacker on the bench while using Lycanroc as a gust effect in a pinch.
2 Wide Lens
In a Zoroark dominated format, I think Wide Lens just provides opportunities to take easy prizes early on while at the same time eliminating our opponents draw engine at the same time.
1 Target Whistle
Using this to pick off another Zorua with a Wide Lens can just swing the prize trade into our favor. We can find it when we need it since it’s searchable with Korrina.
2 VS Seeker
It feels odd to be playing a deck with less than four copies of this card but I think it makes sense. Lots of decks rely on Ghetsis and Red Card to disrupt and having a higher Supporter count makes those cards much less effective.
The main reason this card isn’t included is the bench space. The added 10 damage could be really nice making Jet Punch hit for 90 damage with a Strong Energy and a Choice Band, KOing Fighting weak pokemon like Drampa and Tauros for one Energy.
Lonzoroark – Favorable
The theme is going to be similar against all of these Zoroark Variants picking up Jet Punch KO’s on Zoruas to put immense pressure on our opponent. I like to leave one Buzzwole active with one Energy and take as many Jet Punch KO’s as possible while building up a Buzzwole on the bench and a Rockruff to threaten Dangerous Rogue. Zygarde EX can also one shot a Zoroark GX with a Choice Band and one Strong Energy while using its second attack.
Scrambled Zoroark (Zoro with 4 Exeggcute) – Even
This matchup plays out very similarly to LonZo for me but I think the thing that can swing the matchup in this variants favor is the ability to spam Hex Maniac if they are able to get multiple Zoroarks set up. Without access to Octillery to draw or Lycanroc to get the extra gust our deck can struggle. In my testing, you can prevent the game from getting to this point if you can pick up enough Zorua KOs early on.
Zoroark/Golisopod – Unfavorable
While I do expect this version of the deck to decrease in play, I think our deck has a hard time dealing with Golisopods. Dangerous Rogue or Absorption GX can pick up a KO on their first Golisopod but from there the matchup devolves into setting up damage with Jet Punch to clean up with Knuckle Impact. If they can draw Acerola at the right times and if we don’t get enough early KO’s with Wide Lens on Zorua’s I think the game becomes harder to win.
Zoroark/Lycanroc – Even
Lycanroc can be a good attacker for ZoroRoc in this matchup but I think the early KOs on Zorua’s can help us keep up in the prize trade.
Drampa/Tauros/Garbodor – Favorable
As long as we can draw into Energy and play down very few Items this matchup should remain favorable for us. While Ability lock does hurt us all of their main attackers are weak to Fighting. Zygarde EX is extremely good in this matchup healing ourselves out of two-hit KO range against Trashalance and picking up one hit KOs against Drampa and Tauros for two Energy + Choice Band. Having five shuffle/draw Supporters is also helpful for this matchup.
Glaceon Variants – Favored
Cyrus can be pretty annoying and set us back pretty far, but I think our deck is less Ability reliant than others and our high draw Supporter count can let us to keep setting up. Wide Lens can also potentially allow us to pick off Eevee’s that don’t evolve on the bench.
Night March – Extremely Unfavorable
This matchup is bad. Even including Oricorio wouldn’t fix this matchup. In my mind, it’s best to accept the loss and hope to avoid it. You can win the game if they over bench Shaymin and you can pick off a couple Joltiks at some point with Target Whistle.
Wailord – Unfavorable
We can pick up one knock out with Absoption GX but after that, we need three Strong Energy plus a Choice Band to hit 250 on a Wailord. You could consider adding the 1-1 Carbink Break line to help this matchup but even then I find it to be unfavored.
If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em! In my mind, Zoroark GX decks are just so overpowered in the Expanded format that I think that choosing the best or strongest Zoroark deck that can gain an advantage over all the other Zoroarks is a no-brainer. I do really like the Buzzwole deck but I feel that Zoroark Magnezone has what it takes to make a deep run in Costa Mesa. Good luck to everyone in Costa Mesa this weekend and I’m looking forward to Charlotte Regionals here in my home state of North Carolina and hope to have a strong finish in the Standard format!
Edited by Neil Essymer