Hello, readers! It’s me, Carl Barone, back again in short order to share a list that I’ve been working on a bunch just in time for Denver Regionals this weekend! Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Zoroark/Lycanroc as an archetype, and I touched on it a bit in my previous article. With no real events close to me over the past few weeks, I’ve had plenty of time to test a lot of Standard format decks and fine-tune my existing lists to share with my friends in the weeks leading up to Denver Regionals. As a result, I’ve settled on a version of Zoroark/Lycanroc that I believe is incredibly strong, consistent, and fast. I think that Zoroark/Lycanroc is in a pretty good spot in the metagame in its current form, and I hope that if you’re considering the archetype, you give my list a few games. It’s consistent, it’s teched out, and I truly believe it can go toe-to-toe with most of the decks in the current metagame. There are some interesting techs included to both aid in set-up in the early game, and also to turn out some game-swinging plays in the mid to late game. I’ll go over all of the cards individually to give you a peek into what my testing sessions have shown me, and why I think each individual card in this list is an important inclusion.
Let’s take a look at the list:
- 4 Double Colorless Energy
- 4 Fighting Energy
Obviously, at first glance, the deck looks like your basic Zoroark/Lycanroc deck. For the most part, it is. However, I think what sets this list apart from other lists is some of the tech selections I’ve chosen to include in the deck. We will go over those later.
I believe that disruption is the key to a good Zoroark/Lycanroc deck list. In a format with little to no comeback potential, I think making use of what limited disruption effects we have is important for a deck like Zoroark. Due to the speed at which Pikachu/Zekrom and Zapdos operate, it’s almost certain that you will be falling behind by a prize in the early game. Disruption in the form of Judge and Marshadow give the deck a way to rebound from games that begin to snowball out of control, and combined with the Trade ability, you can find yourself crawling back into games that quickly seemed to be falling out of your grasp.
Disruption is important in this format, and in this deck especially, for a few reasons. The added disruption of Judge and Marshadow give our deck a way to establish momentum, find combo pieces, keep attachments rolling, and set back our opponents a bit. Letting your opponent compile a large hand due to the use of multiple Jirachi and an early game Lillie will eventually lead to them just running you off of the table with the endless stream of resources these decks can seem to produce. Combined with the Bloodthirsty Eyes of Lycanroc-GX, this disruption along with another “Supporter-like” effect helps us grab momentum back from out opponent while also eliminating the additional threats they’ve started to build on board. Against Zapdos, for example, it is not outside of the realm of possibility to evolve into Lycanroc-GX, pull up a lone Jirachi, Judge or Marshadow the opponent down to 4, and take a knockout, which leaves the Zapdos player in a pretty precarious position. This type of logic applies to other matchups as well. It is easy to drop a Muk or a Lycanroc-GX and Judge the opponent out of a large hand, and then take a knockout on the same turn. I believe that this represents one of the few true comeback mechanics we have in the game, and since this deck can fit in lots of strong cards like Muk, Lycanroc-GX and Zoroark-GX, it generally is an effective way to crawl back in games.
Obviously, the 4-4 Zoroark-GX line is necessary in the deck, as is the 3-2 Lycanroc-GX line. I have seen a few lists pop up with Team Up’s new Lycanroc-GX, and while I think it’s cute, I just don’t like it as much. There is almost no time I’d prefer to drop TEU Lycanroc-GX over GRI Lycanroc-GX. The math is slightly better for the Pikachu/Zekrom match up as far as TEU Lycanroc-GX goes, but finding resources with this deck is easier than in most decks, and as a result, I find it crucial to use as many Bloodthirsty Eyes abilities as I can in a game. The 60HP Rockruff has utility thanks to the single copy of Professor Elm’s Lecture, as well as allowing for some neat Corner plays if you find yourself in a pinch. This obviously isn’t optimal, especially in a metagame with so many switching effects, but it could help if you’re in a bind.
A 1-1 line of Alolan Muk is essentially a staple in Zoroark decks these days, with the ability to shut down Jirachi, Tapu Koko Prism Star, Zeraora, Oranguru, Marshadow, and every other popular basic Pokemon with an ability. Muk even has some utility against Venusaur/Celebi, a tough match up for this deck depending on the style of build. Shutting off basic abilities while giving yourself full access to Trade is truly what makes this deck a strong call in the current metagame. The Ditto Prism Star makes the Muk easier to get online in the Zapdos match up, and is obviously a staple in Zoroark decks in it’s own right. I experimented with a 2-2 Muk line but truthfully, the 1-1 is more than enough in what is already a plus match up anyway. Please note that the Grimer is the Psychic type Grimer and not the Dark type Grimer. Super Poison Breath can potentially help against Blacephalon and it is also searchable by Mysterious Treasure.
3 Tapu Lele-GX and a Marshadow round out the Pokemon line. 3 Tapu Lele-GX is crucial for this deck, though it is important to not be greedy with them. One sitting on the bench is easy prey for an opposing Pikachu/Zekrom player, and two on the bench means your opponent doesn’t even realistically need to knock out a Zoroark-GX or Lycanroc-GX to take the game off of you. My advice with Lele is to use it turn 1 and only use it when it will either guarantee a crucial knockout or when using your Lele will put you ahead on the prize trade in a significant way. Dropping a Lele for a Cynthia or a Guzma might not be the best play when it yields 1 or 0 prizes; instead, use it next turn for Mallow or Professor Kukui to retaliate on a threat your opponent has put on board in combination with Marshadow. Speaking of Marshadow, I really try to never Marshadow turn 1 with this deck like the meme suggests. The best use of Marshadow is when you can set up a play with Lycanroc-GX which allows you to KO a big threat on board such as Pikachu/Zekrom, Blacephalon, or anything else, and Marshadow them out of a large hand. It’s pretty difficult for a lot of decks to rebound from this, and a Muk in play after the Marshadow makes it borderline impossible for some decks to find the resources necessary to retaliate with a one shot KO on your active GX. I know it’s fun to Let Loose on turn 1, but the card itself is extremely valuable to closing out games and establishing a lead that you need to be very careful about when you drop it.
The Trainers include some pretty fun cards that I believe provide excellent utility for the deck.
This is a pretty standard search card lineup for Zoroark, outside of Mysterious Treasure. Mysterious Treasure provides another out to a turn 1 Professor Elm’s Lecture or Lillie, while also giving you the utility to individually search for Alolan Grimer, Alolan Muk or Marshadow. This makes it a little bit easier to Elm or Lillie into a Ditto Prism Star turn 1 (via Nest Ball in the case of Lillie) and also use Mysterious Treasure to establish an early Ditto and Grimer. In addition to that, it allows you to hold on to an extra resource that you may not want to ditch. I find this incredibly important turn 1 when I am using Lele for Elm or Lillie; yes, it’s nice to ditch the extra card for a Lillie, but sometimes that extra card is Professor Kukui or Mallow, and that always feels bad closer to the mid-game. Mysterious Treasure can also obviously search out the Muk and still help you hold resources. Overall, Mysterious Treasure is a very good card in a deck with 6 searchable targets that you mostly want in the beginning of the game.
2 Pokemon Communication is also pretty standard. It’s actually sort of rare that I want to give a Pokemon away from my hand, since getting fast evolutions is key for this deck to function well. I have seen lists with 4 Communication, and I think that is sub-optimal; 2 feels like a good middle-ground for early and mid-game utility and search power. Often times, I am using Trade and discarding these. It’s a situational card that I definitely like, but it often doesn’t feel good nor bad to use.
I’ve included this suite of Supporter cards and can report really solid findings from the entire line-up. Mallow allows for tons of combo plays with Counter Gain, Escape Rope, and some of the other one-of inclusions in the list, and in a deck that’s so teched out, Mallow is an easy call. Combine that with the ability to search for an energy card to keep the attachments rolling, or a stadium to bump a pesky Prism Star stadium or Shrine of Punishment, and it’s a card that is really easy to utilize with Zoroark. Professor Kukui and Acerola are two cards that were played in pairs usually in past formats, but as the meta has shifted, so too have our counts of these cards. Acerola is a great defensive card to help remove some damaged liabilities from the board, or simply to just heal off a Zoroark-GX and keep the Trades alive. Some Zoroark decks use 2 Acerola, which I mostly disagree with, because you realistically only need 1 and a Pal Pad to finish off a Zapdos deck. A mirror match would also render a second Acerola mostly useless in my opinion, since it’s practically a race to get the first Lycanroc-GX established to run through your opponent’s board. The same logic applies for Professor Kukui; Kukui is used mainly for it’s utility against Blacephalon and other 180-HP GXes, and can help you knock out a Naganadel or a Zapdos in a pinch. Without it, we’d probably have more negative match ups against decks centered on 180 HP big basic Pokemon.
One copy of Professor Elm’s Lecture has been extremely powerful in this deck, and I am a huge fan of the 3 Lillie / 1 Elm lineup as ideal turn 1 Supporters. Sometimes we have a hand full of evolutions, or an otherwise perfect turn 2 hand. In these cases, Elm is a perfect way to set the board up, hoard resources in hand, and get ready to start the prize trade as early as turn 2. With 3 Lele and 1 Treasure, it’s certainly easy to hit the turn 1 Lele and have our choice of Elm or Lillie to help us set up. In games where we naturally draw it, it goes a long way toward setting up a very good turn 2. This count has played beautifully for me and having the option of using Elm is still an effective way to build a strong board state with Zoroark-GX decks in the Team Up metagame.
I’ve been over Judge, but I would like to reiterate that Judge is an especially powerful card in the mid-game in combination with Lycanroc-GX. KO a threat, establish Muk if the match up calls for it, Judge them, and now momentum is on your side barring some sort of insane four card combination from your opponent. Judge is also very helpful against decks reliant on continuous energy drops, like Venusaur/Celebi. Early pressure via Judge or Marshadow and stacking damage on the big Tag Team Pokemon of the format is an effective strategy in match ups like Venusaur that may feel otherwise difficult.
Escape Rope is an insanely good card in this deck. Sometimes we start with something where we don’t want any energy attached, such as Grimer, Marshadow, or Tapu Lele-GX. Since energy attachments are crucial to the success of Zoroark Lycanroc as an archetype, Escape Rope provides us with another way to gain a bit of mobility and keep the pressure on at the same time. Sometimes, Escape Rope will lead to a knockout being given to you via the opponent not having many durable Pokemon on their bench, and other times, it helps us move a Rockruff or a Zoroark-GX into the active to use in tandem with Lycanroc-GX to essentially have a free Guzma. The utility of Escape Rope can also disrupt your opponent’s energy drops, forcing them to manually retreat with an attachment to the active. It’s a great combo card in this deck and it helps us keep the energy attachments going to places where we actually want them instead of wasting those precious resources on manual retreats.
Counter Gain speaks for itself, really. It’s a comeback card used for the Pikachu/Zekrom match up and the mirror match. If you can create a board state in the mirror match where your opponent has no ability to create a Lycanroc with your own Lycanroc established, you’ve pretty much won. Mallow makes the Counter Gain easy to find, and it’s easy to go from a bare Rockruff to a Lycanroc ready to Dangerous Rogue GX in one turn with the use of Counter Gain and a basic Fighting energy.
3 Devoured Field is important for bouncing Shrine, Ultra Space, Viridian Forest, and any Prism Star stadium in the game. Leaving any of these stadiums active for too long for your opponent will likely lose you the game. Viridian Forest benefits every single deck in this metagame, but this deck can still function without it; others really need it for its searching effect. You never want to be the player that puts the Viridian Forest in play in this meta, I’ve found. Instead, you want to leverage your opponent’s Forest to your advantage, charge a Rockruff, and bounce it for your own Devoured Field to take knockouts on anything up to 180 HP (with help from Choice Band and Kukui.)
There’s a big debate going on about the Zoroark Lycanroc and Blacephalon match up, and I think it’s favored for Zoroark Lycanroc. My game plan usually centers around an early KO on a Poipole or Naganadel, charging up a Lycanroc on the bench, using Dangerous Rogue to KO a Blacephalon, finding the pieces necessary to do a big combo play with Kukui/Band/Field on the next Blace while using Marshadow to put them down to 4 and also take them off of Beast Ring. I think a lot has to go wrong for Zoroark to lose this match up. A steady stream of energy attachments and a good board set-up are crucial, but after that, I think you can often times win the race by a prize.
Going first is brutally important in this match up. Your game plan is to eliminate every Rockruff you see, and try to close the game with 4 straight prizes thanks to Lycanroc-GX and Counter Gain. If they are using Weavile as well, it’s a bit tougher. You have control over Weavile’s damage cap, but no control over how badly a Lycanroc can destroy your board. The same rules apply. Decks that run Weavile tend to be just a touch more inconsistent than your standard Zoroark Lycanroc list, so if they can’t get their Trades rolling, it’s possible you get the turn ahead you need to close the game.
Zapdos (Zapdos Lycanroc, Zapdos Beasts, Zapdos Jolteon, Pure Zapdos)
Muk is the game plan in this match up. Try to establish Ditto and Grimer on the same turn. One Trade on board is fine early game if you can establish Muk turn 2. Judge them out of a large hand when they are starting to get out of it. This is a good match up for you and honestly sometimes it doesn’t take Muk to finish the job. Be careful of Tapu Koko GX! Remember that you can use Counter Gain to your advantage in this match up if they drop Koko after eliminating your Muk. Don’t give them easy prizes. You need to make them burn their damage modifiers so that it’s hard for them to close the door in the late game.
Definitely a tough match up. The deck can pop off turn 1 and really put you on the back foot. Set up the best you can and as always check your prizes! The options available in your deck are extremely important in this matchup. Lycanroc is obviously your MVP here and the longer you can go without using the Counter Gain, the better. A turn 1 attachment to a Rockruff that lives is the best way you can enter your second turn; after that, if they hit a turn 1 Full Blitz, things get really difficult.
Malamar hasn’t really been a hard deck for me to beat with this list. The most difficult archetype to play against is the Ultra Malamar variant. Hunt down the Inkays and Malamars, attach energy every turn, and aim to KO a Lele for an easy two prizes late-game. This deck absolutely cannot hit 190 with Zoroark, and that’s a problem. However, it is possible to get out ahead of this deck with an early Judge or Marshadow combined with Bloodthirsty Eyes.
Stall decks in any form
Scoop ‘em up. You lose hard to these sorts of decks. I’m still convinced that it’s too hard even if you were somehow able to fit in Oranguru and sacrifice the card slot to help this match up. I believe that Stall decks are extremely powerful, so hopefully you avoid them.
Also a hard match up. The most effective strategy for me is early pressure with Zoroark and use of Judge/Marshadow to make them miss an attachment. Recycling Judge and Acerola is important with your Pal Pad. These games are often long and the Enhanced Hammer version of the deck represents a brutal match up. If your opponent is bad, they will bench 3 Shaymins, meaning you only need to KO one Venusaur Celebi to win. Most often though, this won’t happen, so you’ll have to go through two Venusaur Celebi to win. Not easy, but not impossible. Make life as difficult as possible for them. They need to stumble and stumble repeatedly and you have the cards to make that happen.
That’s all for today, readers! I hope you enjoyed reading all of this information I’ve got here for you. I know Zoroark Lycanroc is an established archetype, and much has been written about it. However, with the given state of Standard, I think there are only so many ways to create a deck currently, so what I wanted to put forth was my own optimal version of a very strong, tier 1 deck. I hope you give it a try! Good luck to everyone in Denver this weekend and at the Cups nationwide that follow. Until next time, check me out on Twitter @peezyptcg or on PTCGO at peezy5. I’m always available for games and just general chat about the game! Thanks for reading!