Hey guys. It has been quite a bit of time since I last wrote an article. I’ve been pretty busy over the past two months but my schedule has lightened up a little bit and I’m here today to bring you an article on standard and expanded. Before we get into that though, I’m going to briefly go over my Virginia run and talk about the deck I played and how it can be good for cups going forward. After that, I’m going to talk about my Anaheim tournament run and how I think the deck I played is still strong going forward. Lastly, I’m going to touch on a few ideas that I think have potential heading into Dallas. Let’s get into the article.

Virginia Regionals

Before this tournament, I had no idea what to play. Everything felt underwhelming to me. Right before the tournament, Will Jenkins showed me this deck that Zachary Cooper had made. It was a Steelix/Wailord/Hoopa mill deck. Not knowing what else to play, I decided to sleeve it up and give it a go. I want to give a shout out to Zach for coming up with a busted deck and I also want to give a shout out to Will Jenkins for convincing me to play the deck. Let’s get into the list

Walls Steelix

Pokemon (15)

  • 3 Onix
  • 3 Steelix
  • 2 Hoopa
  • 2 Wailmer
  • 1 Wailord
  • 1 Oranguru
  • 1 Unown
  • 1 Tapu Lele GX
  • 1 Articuno GX

Trainers (43)

  • 4 Steven’s Resolve
  • 3 Cynthia
  • 3 Acerola
  • 3 Lusamine
  • 2 Plumeria
  • 2 Faba
  • 1 Copycat
  • 1 Pokemon Fan Club
  • 1 Guzma
  • 1 Team Skull Grunt
  • 1 Gladion
  • 1 Mars
  • 4 Max Potion
  • 3 Crushing Hammer
  • 2 Nest Ball
  • 2 Enhanced Hammer
  • 2 Counter Catcher
  • 2 Metal Frying Pan
  • 1 Bodybuilding Dumbbells
  • 1 Rescue Stretcher
  • 1 Switch
  • 2 Shrine of Punishment

Energy (2)

  • 1 Counter Energy
  • 1 Rainbow Energy

 

Card Breakdown

3-3 Steelix/2-1 Wailord

These are the main walls of the deck. In most games you want to set up a Steelix with a frying pan and try to keep it alive and cycle between Steelix. The Wailord was in there to give you a Pokemon that can have 260 HP. A Wailord with a Bodybuilding Dumbbells attached has 260 HP and most decks can’t hit that number. It was also good against Blacephalon because they need to Lost Zone 6 energies to knock it out (or 5 if they have Beast Energy attached).

2 Hoopa

This is our wall against GX decks. In games against GX decks you want to exhaust them of all their resources and trap a GX active to end the game. For example, against Blacephalon if they ever bench a Blacephalon, my game plan would be to trap that Blacephalon active with only a Hoopa in play. That way they can’t Guzma out of it and any time they attached an energy I would just hammer or Plumeria it. If they ever managed to retreat the Blacephalon, I would just Counter Catcher or Guzma it back up and just trap the Blacephalon until they deck out.

1 Oranguru

This was in here as a fail-safe just in case we ran out of resources. The deck already played energy cards, so it was a reasonable inclusion. I actually only used it once in the tournament and I could see cutting this card in the future.

1 Unown Hand

This was my favorite card in the deck. When I first saw it in the deck I was a little skeptical about how often you can actually pull this off. I was actually able to use Unown Hand 8 times throughout the event. A lot of the decks at Virginia did not play heavy hand disruption. Outside of the 1 Marshadow in most Blacephalon or Buzzwole, your hand was safe from harm in most games. This allowed me to build my hand and pull off the 35 card win a surprising amount of times. I’m not sure how good this card is going forward though. Most people have started adding Judge back into their decks – this in combination with Pal Pad makes it really difficult to pull off this win condition.

1 Tapu Lele

This was in here to give us another win condition. Since the deck plays Shrine, Tapu Lele and Counter Energy gave us a way to close out games we wouldn’t be able to otherwise. I was able to use Lele quite a bit throughout the tournament. For example, I used Tapu Lele to knockout all my opponents Malamars. He kept attacking with Giratina and spreading his damage throughout his board. There was enough damage for me to take 4 prizes in one turn and essentially win the game.

1 Articuno-GX

This was in here mostly for Buzzwole. If we got a slow start and Buzzwole was able to stack a bunch of energies on Baby Buzz or Buzzwole-GX we had a way to get rid of all of their energies and reset the game.

4 Steven’s Resolve/3 Cynthia/1 Copycat

These were the main consistency cards of the deck. Steven is insane in a deck like this. Since we usually don’t attack, playing Steven every turn is fine. Steven allows us to find our combo pieces for the upcoming turn. For example, if you need healing or energy disruption for next turn you can just get an Acerola, Max Potion, hammers, or a combination of both. Cynthia was in there to give us more consistency cards. Since we don’t play any auxiliary draw, we need some way to find our healing or disruption cards for the games we don’t open Steven’s. The Copycat is in here because most decks usually build big hands vs. you, especially Zoroark decks. I didn’t get to use this card for much value throughout the event and it is probably better replaced with a 4th Cynthia.

3 Acerola/4 Max Potion

These are our healing cards of the deck. We don’t need the full count of Acerola because we can just get it back with Lusamine. The deck still played 3 because we wanted to find them without having to use Steven’s and we didn’t want to have bad prizing. The same logic applies for the full count of max potion.

2 Plumeria/2 Faba/3 Crushing Hammer/2 Enhanced Hammer/1 Team Skull Grunt

These are our energy disruption cards of choice for the deck. We went with 2 Plumeria and 2 Faba because we didn’t want to prize them when we needed them. Also if we wanted to play consecutive Plumeria or Faba, we had that option, instead of having to use a turn to Lusamine for it.  The 1 Team Skull Grunt was in there for people who would hold on to their energy. Decks like Gardevoir-GX would prefer to hold their energies waiting for a big attacking turn. Team Skull Grunt allowed us to disrupt our opponent’s plan and force them to attach their energies or we would just keep discarding them. The deck went with 3 Crushing and 2 Enhanced Hammer because we thought basic energy would be more prevalent in Virginia and we wanted more ways to remove basic energy instead of special energy. It would be great to have 4 of each but deck space is tight and we had to make cuts somewhere.

3 Lusamine

This is the supporter that makes this deck go. It lets us get back our supporter of choice for any given situation and it also gets back itself, so you shouldn’t run out of any supporter in any game. This card allows you to create a loop that should eventually lead you to win the game. What I mean by this is that through all your healing and disruption supporters in combination with Lusamine, you should be able to outlast and run your opponent out of resources without ever running out yourself. Lusamine also allows us to continuously get back Shrine, so we should always win the stadium war.

2 Nest Ball/1 Pokemon Fan Club

This was how we found the Pokemon in our deck. This count was a little low and it cost me one series because I wasn’t able to find any other Pokemon and ended up getting benched in 2 straight games. If I played the tournament again, I would try to find a way to add 2 more nest ball. As long as the deck didn’t get benched it usually won.

2 Counter Catcher/1 Guzma

These cards where in here to bring up Pokemon on our opponent’s bench that we could trap. Again, I wanted a 3rd counter catcher but space in the deck is tight and it was hard to fit everything. The 1 Guzma is good because you can always get it back with Lusamine and you can use it to switch your active if needed.

1 Gladion

We play a lot of important tech supporters and Pokemon. Having them prized could instantly lose us the game, so having a way to get them out of the prizes is important and is integral to the deck.

1 Mars

The Mars was in here to give us another way to draw cards and build on our hand. The deck plays this over Hau or Looker because we wanted a way to disrupt our opponent. The Hau or Looker is probably better overall and you could probably replace the Mars with a Looker. Looker is better than Hau in this deck because we play Oranguru.

1 Rescue Stretcher

The stretcher is in here to give us Pokemon recovery just in case we get a slow start and I always like having some sort of recovery.

1 Switch

The switch is in here to give us some mobility and give us a way to get Unown into the active spot when we have the 35+ cards.

2 Metal Frying Pan/1 Bodybuilding Dumbbells

These are our damage buffers and help our Pokemon tank hits. We play the Metal Frying Pan because Steelix is our main wall and we play the one Bodybuilding Dumbbells for the Wailord as mentioned previously.

2 Shrine of Punishment

The Shrines are in here to give us another win condition. In some games, you won’t be able to run our opponent out of resources or win with Unown in time, and you’ll need another way to accelerate your win condition. Shrine also gives us a counter stadium and we should always win the stadium war because of Lusamine. I was able to win a few games because of Shrine and I would definitely keep it in the deck moving forward.

1 Counter Energy/1 Rainbow Energy

The Rainbow Energy is in here for Articuno-GX but it has some other niche uses as well. If you want to pick up something on your bench, you can use the rainbow to put the 10 damage and then Acerola it up. You also don’t have to attach the rainbow to Articuno because of its ability, which allows you to bring it active and move energies to it. This situation usually doesn’t occur because you usually want the 10 damage on Articuno, so you can pick it up after you use it but it is something to keep in mind.  The Counter Energy was added to use Lele. Other than that it really doesn’t have much use outside of another energy to use Oranguru.

The deck felt really powerful throughout the event and I still think it’s strong heading into the heart of cup season. Mill was on everyone’s mind right after Virginia and people were better prepared for it then. However, I think the deck has flown under the radar recently and could surprise people at cups. If I were to play the deck again, I would play the same list above but -1 Mars, -1 Oranguru, and +2 Nest Ball. The biggest problem I had with the deck was getting benched. The deck played only a few ways to get multiple basic into to play and this led to some very nerve-racking early turns. For example, if you’re going second and only open Onix with no other supporter other than Steven, you are at the mercy of your opponent’s turn 2. If your playing against a Zoroark deck, all they need to do is find a DCE and fill their bench and you lose the game, which isn’t too hard for Zoroark deck. This is why I wanted more ways to find basics in the early game. As long as you can survive the early turns, the deck should be able to initiate its game plan. Standard is wide-open right now and I feel this deck is in a good spot and can take advantage of this. Since the format is so broad, I’m just going to go over some of the match-ups I think are most popular right now.

Matchups

  1. ZoroRoc

I find this matchup to be pretty favorable. I usually like to wall with Hoopa early to see what type of list they have. If they don’t play Weavile, then they’re forced to set up Muk to deal with Hoopa efficiently and as soon as they set up Muk you win the game, as it is a heavy Pokemon that can be trapped active. After Muk is set up, I try to set up a board state of a lone Steelix or Wailord active with nothing on my bench. I then Counter Catcher the Muk and it is trapped there. They can’t Guzma out of it because you have no bench and every time they attach an energy to Muk you just remove it immediately. The reason I want a Steelix or Wailord active instead of Hoopa is just incase they play switch.  If they play switch you want a Pokemon active that they can’t one shot, so after they switch you can just counter catcher or Guzma the Muk back up. If they play Weavile the matchup is still fine because Weavile cannot one-shot Hoopa unless you have 2 abilities in play. So, they’re still forced to get Muk or you just run them out of all their energy because they can’t one-shot anything and the Weavile version usually plays only special energy. The matchup gets a little trickier if they play Oranguru.  If they play Oranguru and Judge, you won’t be able to use the Unown Hand strategy because they will keep spamming Judge. If they play all special energy, you can just run them out of energy with Faba because Faba sends them to the lost zone and Oranguru can’t get them back. If they play basic energy, you have to force them to get out Muk. Otherwise, the game will probably end in a draw. If you force them to get out Muk, you can just trap the Muk active with the strategy mentioned above and just deck them out that way.

  1. Zoro/Deci/Tails

This matchup can be a little tricky depending on if your opponent knows how to approach the matchup. The only way you can lose this matchup is if your opponent is able to set up 3 Decidueye. If they only set up 2 Decideueye then they have no efficient way to deal with Hoopa. By only setting up 2 Decidueye, your opponent gives you an extra turn to heal your Hoopa. For example, they only get to put 40 damage on your Hoopa through Feather Arrow. This means it takes 3 turns for your opponent to knockout one Hoopa. This allows you a turn to Lusamine for Acerola, so you never run out of Acerola and can keep healing your Hoopa. The matchup gets tricky when they set up 3 Decidueye. If this happens you can’t just wall with Hoopa because you lose that extra turn and eventually you will run out of Acerola and your Hoopa will get knocked out. We then have to take a different approach. If my opponent is able to set up 3 Decidueye, I usually like to set up 2 Steelix in response. Steelix is able to tank hits the best because of the frying pans. Most Deci lists only play one Field Blower and no counter stadium, so I like to bait the Field Blower early by playing an early Shrine. The early Shrine forces them to use the Field Blower or the Shrine damage will eventually add up and we can just win with Lele. Once they use the blower, we can play our Metal Frying Pan down safely. Once we have our board set up, we just try to protect our Steelix. Most Deci lists only play special energy now, so we should be able to run them out of all their energy through a combination of our energy disruption cards. Also, once they’ve played their blower we simply play our second Shrine and let the damage stack up and use Lele to close out the game. Some Zoro/Deci/Tales lists don’t play Judge, and if you know they don’t, then I would immediately go for the Unown hand strategy. I would go straight for Hoopa and make it as hard as possible for my opponent to take all their prizes. This gives us the maximum amount of turns to get to 35 cards. This is usually enough to make the matchup slightly favorable for Steelix.

  1. Blacephalon

This matchup is usually favorable for Steelix. The Blacephalon player will usually try to keep only Naganadel in play and just keep attacking you with Naganadel over and over until you run out of healing and have to start using your turns to Lusamine instead of heal. To combat this I usually like to set up 2 Steelix with a frying pan attached to each. Blacephalon lists usually don’t play field blower, so I don’t mind playing both frying pans down at the same time. This means that Naganadel is only doing 30 damage to your Steelix and this gives you enough time to use Unown Hand. This forces your opponent to start attacking with Blacephalon, which is what we want. Once this happens we want to trap that Blacephalon active through a combination of Counter Catcher/Crushing Hammer/Plumeria, with a Hoopa as our only Pokemon in play. That way they can’t Guzma out of it and have to get two energies on it to retreat. You want to try and bait their Energy Switch early, so they won’t be able to use them later in the game when you try and trap their Blacephalon. You also have to be careful when you do this strategy because if you do it whilst your opponent has 3 prizes, they can knockout your Hoopa if they find a way to move the Blacephalon. Unless you know for sure that your opponent is out of Energy Switch, I would have try to have 2 Hoopa in play when your opponent has 3 prizes. One thing to keep in mind in this matchup is how many Marshadow your opponent plays and when your opponent plays the Marshadow. If your opponent only plays one Marshadow and uses it early to try and take a cheap win, as long as you draw out of it, you should be able to win the game by using the strategy above and building your hand for Unown. It gets a little bit trickier if they hold their Marshadow or if they play 2 Marshadow. Your opponent would usually wait until you’ve exhausted yourself of Stevens and healing and then use the Marshadow hoping you won’t draw anything. If they hold their Marshadow, once I’ve used 2 Stevens, I will start to use Lusamine to get them back. That way I increase my chances of finding them once they use Marshadow later in the game. As long as you are able to draw out of Marshadow, I find this matchup favorable for Steelix.

  1. Gardevoir

This matchup is close but is slightly favorable for Steelix. The game plan in this matchup is to get to a point where Shrine will stick. Gardevoir usually only plays 2 Brooklet Hill, so they will only have a maximum of 4 copies after using Twilight GX. They also only play 2 Max Potion, so the same logic applies to that as well. I usually like to wall with Hoopa in this matchup because the only Pokemon that can deal with it is Swampert. Swampert can’t even one shot the Hoopa unless they use Super Boost Energy. Once they use it, you want to Enhance Hammer it off immediately because once that is gone they have no way to one shot your Hoopa. After that, it becomes a war of attrition, with you healing after every attack. During this time you want to stick a Shrine in play. The 2 ways you win this matchup are sticking a Shrine and letting damage accumulate or using Unown hand. Gardevoir doesn’t play hand disruption, so we can keep usually build up our hand and keep the pieces we need to heal or disrupt our opponent’s board. You can also Counter Catcher or Guzma their Ninetales if they put it in play, in order to make them burn more energies or use their Guzma.

Anaheim Regionals

 

The week before Anaheim regionals I wasn’t sure what to play and I knew that I was going to be really busy in the upcoming week, so I wanted to pick a deck the week before. I decided to make Zoro/Garb and began testing it with Will Jenkins. I want to give another shout out to Will Jenkins for helping me test the deck and improve the list throughout the week.  I was really busy the week before the event and Will was able to help me out a lot. The night before the event we met up with Jon Eng, Harris Noor, Christian Franco, and John Boyle, and we all began testing the deck. After playing a few games, everybody knew that’s what they were going to play at the event tomorrow. We stayed up the night before finalizing the list and we all thought we had a pretty strong list going into the event. The list did really well throughout the weekend with Jon getting top 8, Christian getting top 32, Will going 6-0 and getting top 64, Harris getting top 128, John getting top 256, and me bubbling at 10th. I want to give a shout out to all those guys for helping with the list and I think our work showed in the results. Let’s get into the list.

Zoroark Garbodor

Pokemon (25)

  • 3 Zorua – Gaze
  • 1 Zorua – Lunge
  • 4 Zoroark GX
  • 1 Zoroark – Stand In
  • 1 Trubbish – Acid Spray
  • 1 Trubbish – Stomp Off
  • 2 Garbodor BKP
  • 1 Garbodor GRI
  • 2 Tapu Lele GX
  • 2 Shaymin EX
  • 2 Exeggcute
  • 1 Ditto Prism Star
  • 1 Oranguru UPR
  • 1 Klefki
  • 1 Sudowoodo
  • 1 Giratina Promo

Trainers (30)

  • 2 Colress
  • 1 N
  • 1 Brigette
  • 1 Guzma
  • 1 Faba
  • 4 VS Seeker
  • 4 Ultra Ball
  • 2 Battle Compressor
  • 2 Red Card
  • 1 Pokemon Communication
  • 1 Field Blower
  • 1 Rescue Stretcher
  • 1 Special Charge
  • 1 Dowsing Machine
  • 2 Choice Band
  • 2 Float Stone
  • 3 Sky Field

Energy (5)

  • 4 Double Colorless Energy
  • 1 Psychic Energy

 

Card Breakdown

3 Zorua (Gaze)/1 Zorua (Lunge)

We decided to go with this split because the Lunge Zorua gave us a way to knockout Exeggcute or Phantump if our opponents have slow starts and can only get those Pokemon out.  You can also use it as a non-GX attacker to knock out Joltik and Pumpkaboo in the Night March matchup.

4 Zoroark-GX/1 Zoroark (Stand-in)

The 4 Zoroark-GX are in there to maximize our chances of finding it and just to increase the overall consistency of the deck. We decided to play the Stand-in for the mirror match. It is a non-GX attacker that can set you ahead in the prize exchange and if you can use it more than once you just instantly win the game. I used this card quite a bit during the tournament.

1 Trubbish (Stomp Off)/1 Trubbish (Acid Spray)/2 Garbodor (Garbotoxin)/1 Garbodor (Trashalanche)

We went with the Stomp Off Trubbish because we could deck our opponent’s out if they’re not careful. It was also in there for the Toad/Zoro deck for when they would keep recycling Archen. The Acid Spray was added because it could be used as another attacker against Buzzwole. We decided to go with a 2-1 toxin and trash split because we thought toxin was more important for the given meta and we didn’t want to prize it when we needed it. One trash was all we needed most games and if we needed a second, we could just stretcher for it.

2 Tapu Lele-GX/2 Shaymin-EX

This was our main set up Pokemon for the deck. The 2 Lele are in there to avoid prizing it when we need it and also so we can find Brigette turn one. Shaymin is a great card in this deck and I’m not sure how people were playing 1 before. Shaymin allows for explosive starts and helps in the games were you don’t find turn 1 Brigette. If we had to use another supporter instead of Brigette, we can use Shaymin to dig through our deck and still find our basics. Shaymin also allows us to dig through our deck to find our Double Colorless Energy or other techs throughout the game.

2 Exeggcute/1 Ditto/1 Oranguru/1 Klefki/1 Sudowoodo/1 Giratina

I decided to group all of the techs together and just give a brief description on each. Exeggcute is just a broken card in expanded and is really strong in Zoroark decks. It allows you to Trade, Ultra Ball, and Dowsing Machine for free. This allows you to conserve your resources throughout the game. You can also continuously get the Exeggcute back, so you always have 2 Pokemon to increase Riotous Beating damage. Ditto is just a really strong card as evident in its impact in standard. It acts as a fifth Zorua and third Trubbish to avoid bad prizing. The 1 Oranguru was in there for Zoro/Control and to use incase we need to get back resources. The Klefki was a way to get a one-sided ability lock. It can also be used to protect your attacker from Groudon-EX for a turn. I ended up playing against 2 Groudon-EX day 1 and I wouldn’t have won without the Klefki. The Sudowoodo was in there mostly for mirror. In our testing the night before, we found that if one person played Sudowoodo and the other didn’t, the person who played Sudo always won. It just restricted the opposing players bench to the point where they had trouble establishing a board. For example, if your opponent did not start Zorua, Trubbish, or Ditto and was forced to bench Lele to use Brigette, then they would be limited to 2 Zoroark max because they would have to establish a Garbodor to deal with the Sudo. The Giratina was added last minute because we were having trouble beating Trevenant the night before. It could also be used against Greninja BREAK if we happened to play against it.

2 Colress/1 Brigette/1 N/1 Guzma/1 Faba/4 VS Seeker

This is the supporter line-up of the deck. We don’t need a high count of supporters because we have VS Seeker. Colress is our main source of draw. This card can draw you up to 16 cards because of Sky Field. I wasn’t able to draw quite that many in the tournament but I was able to draw 14 a couple of times. It isn’t particularly strong turn 1 but we usually want to Brigette turn 1 anyways. The 1 Brigette is pretty self- explanatory. We want a reliable way to get our basics into play and we only went with 1 because outside of turn 1 the card isn’t very strong. It also isn’t crippling if you don’t use it turn one because we can still find our basics through Shaymin and another draw supporter for the turn. N is the best form of disruption in the game. N in combination with Garbotoxin allows for some incredible comebacks, as evident in Robins run to World Champion. After playing this card again, I really miss having a card like this in standard. Guzma is in here because we want a way to bring up our opponent’s Pokemon the bench. We went with Guzma over Lysandre because we wanted to be able to move any of our Pokemon that people tried to trap active. We played the 1 Faba for Zoroark matches and because we thought it was a strong card in general. The Faba was also added to give us a reusable Field Blower for the Drampa/Garb matchup. If we had used Faba early or discarded it with Battle Compressor, we potentially have 4 outs to draw it with the VS Seeker after they N us. The full count of VS Seeker gives as the most flexibility in using the supporter of our choice when we need too.

4 Ultra Ball/1 Pokemon Communication

The 4 Ultra Ball are in here for max consistency and the Pokemon Communication provides the same thing. Communication gives us another way to find our Zoroark or find more basic Pokemon turn 1 in case we don’t open Brigette. Since we play 25 Pokemon, we can use Communication pretty efficiently.

2 Battle Compressor

Battle Compressor improves the overall consistency of the deck by thinning your deck of cards that are not useful in the match-up. It also gets our Exeggcute in the discard, so we can limit the number of cards we have to discard through Ultra Ball and Trade. If we don’t have any supporters but we open with VS Seeker and Battle Compressor, we can Battle Compressor for the supporter we want to play and then use it with VS Seeker. You can also do the same thing with Pokemon if you have a Rescue Stretcher in hand but no other supporter. You can Compressor Shaymin or Lele and then Stretcher it back.

2 Red Card

Red Card is busted in this deck. It provides the same effect as it did last year in the ZoroEgg deck. We would usually Colress, do our Trades, Red Card, attach a Klefki to our Garbodor and then Riotous Beating for a knockout. Red Card can also be good early game if you can pull it off. A turn 1 Red Card could just win the game on the spot because some decks struggle to set up when only given four cards turn 1. Red Card is also good against Groudon-EX as their strategy is to continuously use Tropical Beach while they set up. Red Card in combination with a counter stadium effectively slows down their set up and gives you ample time to pressure them to the point they can’t keep up.

1 Field Blower/1 Rescue Stretcher/1 Special Charge/1 Dowsing Machine

Field Blower is in here mostly for other Garbotoxin decks. If someone gets an early Garbotoxin on us, we want to be able to remove the tool and use our abilities. Field Blower also increase the damage output of Trashalanche, if your opponent has tools in play. As you probably know already, I like Pokemon recovery and Rescue Stretcher is the best form of Pokemon recovery in this deck. It lets us get back our Pokemon when people parallel us and we need more Pokemon for Riotous Beating. We can also get a single Pokemon if the situation calls for it. The Special Charge was added in case of bad prizing and for decks that play Enhanced Hammer. 4 DCE is usually enough to close out the game but I just wanted to be safe. Special Charge also has a niche use against the control decks, which I will touch on a little bit later. We thought Dowsing Machine was the better ACESPEC because as long as we set up early game, we usually found what we wanted and Computer Search wasn’t needed. The extra form of recovery Dowsing Machine provides is better for a deck like this. It acts like as a 5th VS Seeker, a 3rd Red Card, or can get you any other trainer of choice depending on the situation. Dowsing Machine is also better vs. Zoro/Control because that matchup is just a war of resources and you want to maximize the amount of resources you have.

2 Choice Band/2 Float stone

We play 2 Choice Band because we want to be able to one-shot other Zoroark in the mirror match and it’s also good to increase Trashalanche damage output. I wanted a 3rd because Choice Band is vital in the mirror match but there just wasn’t enough space. The Float Stone are in here for mobility and to give our Garbodor free retreat when we tool it up. I see some lists are playing one but I like the second copy because it’s easier to find early game and it avoids awkward prizing.

3 Sky Field

Sky Field gives our Zoroark the ability to one-shot most things in expanded. Sky Field is what makes this version of Zoroark strong. The combination of stopping your opponent’s abilities, using Red Card or putting them to a low hand with N, and then OHKOing their active is too strong not to play. It’s also good to have a counter stadium because stadium wars are extremely important in expanded. One thing that goes under the radar in expanded is that the person that usually wins the stadium war usually wins the game. The 3 copies are enough because you only ever need 3 to win the game and if you need the extra copy you have Dowsing Machine.

4 Double Colorless/1 Psychic

The 4 Double Colorless maximize our chances of finding it early and is our main energy for attacking. The 1 psychic was in here for Trashalanche and for a non-special energy that could be attached to Oranguru, so my opponent couldn’t use Faba to remove it. The Psychic energy was really important throughout the tournament and I definitely want to add a 2nd one for the future. You can also stream back-to-back Trashalanche with another psychic, which you couldn’t do otherwise.

I believe this is the best Zoroark deck in expanded right now. It can be tooled to beat anything and is the most well-rounded deck in expanded in my opinion. It has some tough matchups but no matchup is unwinnable and even the tough matchups can be improved depending on what techs you have.  The only changes I would make to my list would be dropping the Giratina for a Pokemon Ranger and possibly swapping the Faba out for another psychic. Other than that I really liked the list and I think this deck is strong heading into Dallas.

Matchups

  1. Zoro/Garb

This matchup is all about trading favorably with your opponent. You want to use the stand-in Zoroark and Trashalanche to be able to get the prize exchange in your favor. The Sudo also helps because it limits your opponent’s options in the early game and forces them to get Garbotoxin out if they want to knock you out. Another advantage we have is the 2 copies of Red Card, because most of the time both players are just using Colress to build big hands and then they want to use Red Card in combination with Garbotoxin to limit their opponent’s response. Most lists are playing one, so it’s easier for us to find ours and we can use it earlier than our opponent. If I’m going first and know I’m playing against mirror, I usually Brigette for Zorua, Ditto, and Sudo. The Ditto gives me flexibility because if my opponent is playing Sudo, then I want to be able to get a Garbotoxin Garb to combat it but if they’re not playing it then I want a second Zoroark instead. If I’m going second I usually Brigette for 2 Zorua and a Trubbish instead. I go this route because Ditto can be shut off by a turn 2 Garbotoxin, so I want the specific basics for my evolutions. The matchup then breaks down into attacking with Zoroark-GX and trying to take your prizes in the most efficient way possible. This is where the Stand-in Zoroark is extremely useful. An opposing Zoroark needs to fill up their bench with Sky Field to knock out your Zoroark. After they do that, you can use the Stand-in Zoroark to shift the prize exchange in your favor because you are attacking with a non-GX Pokemon. The same logic can be applied to using Trashalanche. This matchup plays out very similarly to the ZoroEgg matchup last year.

  1. Zoro/Control/Toad

This matchup is a grind but I think it’s favorable for Zoro/Garb with a Pokemon Ranger. The way you win this matchup is by taking 3 OHKOs. Their game plan will be to keep Garbotoxin from coming into play. They’ll try to do this by limiting your bench with Sudo and Parallel City. This will force you into positions were you can only bench one Trubbish. The way you combat this is by having a board state of Zoroark active, a Zoroark on the bench, and two Trubbish on the bench as well. Obviously, this is easier said than done. This is much easier to achieve going first because you can usually fill your bench unless your opponent opens Sudo. Going second is a different story. If I don’t open Zorua or Trubbish and if I have to bench a Lele to Brigette, I usually get Zorua, Trubbish, and Ditto. The Ditto gives me the most flexibility going into their turn two and they can only stop Ditto if they open their 1 Silent Lab. If they do open their Silent Lab then we should be able to counter it fairly easily between our 3 Sky Field and Field Blower providing they don’t Quaking Punch. From this point of the game on it’s all about getting the most out of your resources and taking all our prizes. You’re not going to win this matchup by getting into an Oranguru war with them, but the Oranguru is helpful for getting back the resources you need to close the game. One thing to keep in mind in this matchup is to make sure you never have Ranger and Guzma stuck in your discard. If they end up in your discard, then your opponent will just Girafarig them and they will be sent to the Lost Zone for the rest of the game. So every time you play these cards, make sure you have a VS Seeker to get them back immediately or have Oranguru to get them back because these cards are very important in the matchup. Another thing you have to monitor is the amount of energy cards in your hand. If I had 2 or more energy in my hand I would try and play a shuffle draw supporter to try and send them back into my deck. The reason for this is because the control deck can use Team Skull Grunt and then use Girafarig to send those energies to the lost zone. So you want to make sure they can’t get maximum value out of these cards and limit the damage Girafarig can do. So if you have 2 DCE in the discard, try to find your Special Charge so you can shuffle them back in. Always keep track of your opponent’s items because if they’re carless then Trashalanche can close the game. The last point I want to make on this matchup is the control deck is a little inconsistent. So, if you can pull off a turn 2 attack with Garbotoxin up and Red Card, that is usually enough to win the game.  If I can’t pull this off then I usually like to save my Red Cards for when I use Ranger. I usually use my Ranger when I’m going to take the one-shot on Seismitoad – making sure to use Red Card and establish Garbotoxin before taking the KO. This usually cripples their set-up and I just take the game from there. Other than that you are basically just reacting to what your opponent does and trying to take all your prizes in the most efficient way possible. All in all, I think this matchup is slightly favorable for Zoro/Garb.

  1. Rayquaza/Ho-Oh

I think this matchup is favorable for Zoro/Garb as long as you can set up. Rayquaza’s game plan vs. you will be to try and disrupt your set-up through Marshadow and Sudo. If you stumble for a couple of turns, Rayquaza is very capable of just running over your set-up. There isn’t much you can do to combat an early Marshadow. All you can do is hope you don’t brick off it. If you’re going first and are able to get a turn 2 knockout with Garbotoxin up, then you should just win the game. If I’m going second, I want to establish a board state of 3 Zoroark and 2 Trubbish. I also try and evolve my Ditto into a Garbodor. This is because you usually need 3 Garbodor to win the game if you’re going second. You want 2 Trashalanche and one Garbotoxin. The items for Rayquaza usually pile up through the use of Max Elixirs, Ultra Balls, Mysterious Treasure, Battle Compressor, and fallout from Stormy Winds. If you can establish 2 Trashalanche Garbs that is usually enough for you to win the prize exchange.

  1. Blastoise

This matchup is very similar to the Ray matchup except they’re not trying to disrupt you early, but instead trying to take their prizes faster than you. They attempt to do this by using Articuno to take 2 prizes, then using Kingdra to take 2 prizes, and then cleaning up the game with another attacker. You want to break this exchange up by using Trashalanche Garb – a non-GX attacker that can one-shot basically anything in their deck and will put you ahead in the prize trade.  One Trashalanche is usually enough for you to win the game but if you set up 2, you should instantly win the game. That’s not to say you shouldn’t set up Garbotoxin, as this is also really strong in this matchup because most lists only play 1 Field Blower and fewer lists play Faba. This means that a Garbotoxin in combination with N makes it very difficult for them to respond to your knockout. Both garbs are MVP in this matchup and I think this matchup is pretty favorable for Zoro/Garb.

Conclusion

I think Zoro/Garb is the best deck in expanded right now and is my top choice heading into Dallas. I think it has a lot of 50-50s and it allows you to play your way to wins rather that hoping you hit the right match-ups. I still want to test a couple ideas though. Le Bui’s Zoroark deck intrigued me and is something I want to test heading into Dallas. Also Wobbuffet seems like it could be very strong right now, if it has the right partner.

I also think Steelix is well positioned going into cups. I feel this deck has flown under the radar recently and a lot of lists won’t be prepared for it. The deck can take advantage of unprepared lists and easily take the tournament. This article is a little long but I wanted to give you guys my thoughts on both decks and how I feel the decks are positioned heading forward. I hope you guys enjoyed the article and feel free to say hi if you see me in the future.

-Justin