What’s up, gamers? In this article, I’m going to go over one of my top plays for the Santa Clara Regional Championships, Zapdos Ultra Beasts. This deck has had a top 8 or better placement at both the Australian International Championship and the European International Championship, and has made Top 8 at multiple Regionals and Special Events.
Zapdos is the main attacker in the deck accompanied by Zebstrika and Jirachi to help with consistency. Zapdos is great single prize attacker that can easily target benched Basics like opposing Jirachi or Marshadow. Zapdos also trades very favorably into Tag Team Pokemon and GXes in general because of Electropower giving it the last bit of damage to close out KOs. This deck also runs a few tech attackers which is where the Ultra Beasts come in: Buzzwole, Nihilego and Kartana. These Pokemon give the deck nice options for one shots based on Weakness and bigger attacks, in general, to close out KOs for Zapdos.
Jirachi is the backbone card of any Zapdos deck, it allows you to have a 1 Retreat Cost Pokemon that also boosts consistency. One Retreat is important because it allows Escape Board to give it a free retreat cost, allowing you to switch into Zapdos every turn with ease. Stellar Wish is a great consistency boost for a deck like Zapdos because it relies on using multiple items every turn, between Switch, Electropower and search cards, Zapdos needs 2-3 items a turn and Stellar Wish helps you find them.
Zapdos is the main attacker of the deck. 80 damage for a single energy is extremely powerful in a format full of Tag Teams and Stage 1s. Zapdos can easily pick off prizes on any low HP Basics on your opponent’s Bench. Against the higher HP Pokemon, Zapdos can trade fairly well because it is a single prize along with the multiple damage buffs usable by Zapdos.
Zebstrika is great in Zapdos/Ultra Beasts because it allows you to dig through your deck to find your tech attackers and specific energies. Being able to draw an extra 4 cards every turn really smooths out this deck as you have a ton of tech attackers and 1 of cards you need to find on specific turns. Zebstrika is also great specifically against Zoroark GX decks, as those are the decks that run Alolan Muk, having a consistent draw engine against Alolan Muk makes this Zapdos variant much stronger than any other variant.
Kartana is the only card this deck plays from the Unbroken Bonds set. Kartana is an extremely good card and great addition to the deck. It has free retreat and an attack that can ohko both Giratina and Wailord and Magikarp Tag Team. Kartana is also great because it can finish a knockout on Zoroark GX that was previously hit by a Zapdos.
Buzzwole gives you an attacker that can easily one shot a Pikachu and Zekrom or a Zoroark GX. Having a Fighting-type attacker that can take one hit KOs on some big attackers.
Nihilego is another Ultra Beast tech attacker. While your opponent is at 2 prizes, you can use any attack on their board. This is overall a great card that allows you to take surprise knockouts on any of your opponent’s pokemon. Nihilego allows you to use GX attacks too, so in matchups like PikaRom if you don’t use Tapu Koko’s GX Attack, you can use Nihilego to copy Tag Bolt for a easy knockout.
1 Tapu Koko Prism Star
Koko Prism Star allows you to search your deck with Ball cards for Energy, Koko also allows you to do cool things like set up your Koko GX in a single turn or power up Kartana in a sticky situation and use False Swipe in combination with Shrine of Punishment to try for a KO.
Marshadow with Let Loose, the card that everybody hates. Marshadow is here as another consistency card along with a way to disrupt your opponent when they have a large hand size. A common misconception with Marshadow is that it should be used on turn 1 but in reality, Marshadow is better used later in the game, because when used on turn 1, odds are your opponent will find a way to draw some cards, but when used to disrupt your opponent in the middle of the game or used to dig for extra cards, it can be extremely powerful and give you the extra turn you need to win the game.
1 Tapu Koko GX
Tapu Koko GX gives this deck some great one hit ko potential.. Tapu Thunder is the deck’s GX attack of choice, as in combination with Tapu Koko Prism Star, it is easy to set up and Tapu Koko GX can take some huge knockouts in both the Pikarom and the Reshizard matchups. Tapu Koko can also be a good attacker against Zoroark decks as it hits harder than Zapdos, so it can more easily be buffed into a one shot.
Lillie is the main draw supporter in this deck. Obviously, Lillie is very strong on turn one but in a deck that utilizes Zebstrika, Lillie is also great in the mid game since after using Sprint, you can play a couple items then use Lillie.
Guzma is obviously one of the strongest cards in the game and this deck can utilize it better than any other. Zapdos already needs to switch into the Active to attack and Guzma makes that easier, along with allowing you to target down your opponent’s bench. Stellar Wish also allows you to search out your Guzma with ease.
Cynthia is just extra draw that consistently gets you six new cards. Cynthia is nice to have, since it is not uncommon to be in a position where you can only use Lillie for a few cards, and Volkner isn’t able to get all the cards you need during your turn. Cynthia is also great with Zebstrika as it can shuffle in cards you don’t want to discard before you use Sprint.
Volkner is this deck’s flex spot I am currently running because it adds consistency and allows you to search your deck for any Item you are missing for a potential combo. This spot could also be a tech Pokemon or a different Trainer, but Volkner is very nice to help keep the deck consistent.
4 Nest Ball
Nest Ball sets up the deck smoothly and can be searched with Stellar Wish. Consistency is very important with a deck like Zapdos because it relies on early game aggression and Nest Ball allows you to maintain consistency.
Zapdos probably wouldn’t be a very strong deck if it wasn’t for Electropower. The ability to take large knockouts extremely fast really puts the deck on another level of aggression. Electropower in combination with Choice Band hits some amazing numbers, including 170. If you have 3 damage buffs, you can one hit ko a Tapu Lele or Tapu Koko GX.
3 Ultra Ball
Since this deck runs both a Zebstrika line and Tapu Koko GX, Ultra Ball is crucial to it’s consistency in finding some Pokemon that Nest Ball won’t benefit us from. Ultra Ball also allows you to thin your hand after a Sprint so Lillie can be used for a full 6 cards or put some Lightning Energies in the discard pile so Tapu Koko Prism can attach them to your bench and set up for a Tapu Thunder GX.
3 Escape Rope
This count is a bit strange in comparison to a normal Zapdos list but i feel Escape Rope allowing you to force your opponent to Switch is overall stronger and better than playing just a normal Switch.
Just like Escape Rope, it’s a switching card mainly to allow Zapdos to attack, but can also help if your opponent tries to lock a Pokemon in the Active.
2 Rescue Stretcher
This deck plays a lot of tech attackers and a thin line of consistency Pokemon. Since this is a single prize deck, you also have to use quite a few Zapdos every game, so Stretcher allows you to recycle a few Zapdos and always have a consistent attacker. Rescue Stretcher also acts as a pseudo Nest Ball since it can grab a Zapdos straight from the discard. It keeps the deck running when you can’t find another Zapdos from your deck.
2 Shrine of Punishment
Shrine is the counter Stadium of choice for this deck, as it allows you to rack damage on the bench and helps take knockouts you otherwise wouldn’t be able to. Shrine can be used to OHKO a Reshizard using Nihilego to copy Reshizard’s second attack. With the addition of a Choice Band and a Shrine tick, it does 270 damage.
1 Thunder Mountain Prism Star
Thunder Mountain is another cuttable card in my opinion. While it does allow Zapdos to attack for 0 Energy and Tapu Koko GX to attack for only 2, Thunder Mountain is powerful, but not necessary. I play it because when having an extra counter Stadium in combination with the extra out to an energy card, the card is good enough to warrant the slot.
4 Lightning Energy
4 Rainbow Energy
1 Beast Energy
All of your attackers use a single Energy to attack except for Tapu Koko GX, so you don’t usually need too many energy at a time. The damage from Rainbow eEergy is almost always negligible, so it’s great to allow all of your Pokemon to attack.
Frost Rotom is the first tech card I want to mention because in my opinion, Reshizard is the strongest deck to come from the Unbroken Bonds set. Frost Rotom would use a Rainbow Energy and Tapu Koko Prism Star to power up the attack in one turn. Frost Rotom is a great surprise against a Reshizard deck because it is almost guaranteed to take a ko the turn you need it.
Dedenne GX would be another nice consistency boost for the deck, as it gives you a free ”Discard your hand and draw 6.” Other than a consistency boost, it can attack since the deck does run Lightning Energy, but Dedenne’s attacks don’t do very much.
Raikou SHL is a great tech for the Zapdos mirror because it has 120 HP and can one hit KO a Zapdos for a single energy and an Electropower, and your opponent will need 2 Electropower to take the return knockout. Raikou also gets an attachment from the Discard which is very good as it allows you to use Tapu Koko GX much easier and without the use of Tapu Koko Prism Star.
Spiritomb is the final tech card I want to mention, as I feel it has the most merit. Spiritomb allows you to build up a big attacker on the bench while still applying consistent pressure with Zapdos and your other attackers. Spiritomb, specifically is good because it can take one shots on other single prize Pokemon with higher HP without needing a player to be on a specific prize count.
This matchup is pretty favorable as Reshizard is a deck that relies on using suboptimal supporters and a 3 prize attacker. The matchup can go a few different ways. One, you can KO 2 Reshizards usually by using Tapu Thunder GX and Nihilego to take two one hit KOs to take all six prizes. Secondly, you can take a 1 prizer usually an attacker your opponent will throw at you, then KO a Dedenne GX and a Reshizard to close out the game. Finally they can throw multiple one prizers at you and while you KO those and maybe a Jirachi or two, you can finish the game by taking a KO on either a Dedenne GX or a Reshizard. Overall, the matchup is pretty heavily favored, but wouldnt say its an auto win because of Reshizard’s ability to heal damage using Miltank, making 2 or 3 shots much harder to come by.
While I do think this matchup is slightly favorable, I feel it can definitely go either way, since Nag/Quag is also a single prize deck and trades fairly well with Zapdos. In this matchup, you are looking to be as aggressive as possible, targeting your opponent’s bench and making it extremely hard for them to stream attackers. Often, you will take the first prize since you can attack on turn one and have access to 3 Escape Ropes, which will easily allow you to knock out Woopers and Poipoles. Quagsire’s 120 HP is extremely annoying for Zapdos, as it requires 2 Electropower to take the KO and you won’t be able to stream more than 2 Quagsire knockouts using Zapdos. One thing you have to be careful of is benching too many Pokemon with 100 or less HP because of your opponent’s ability to use Wailord and Magikarp’s GX attack to take multiple KOs. That in combination with Volcanion Prism Star’s Sauna Blast attack to spread 20 makes limiting your bench a crucial part in the matchup to consistently win. The last thing i want to mention about this matchup is that your tech attackers are very important, as each one can take a one hit KO on a Quagsire. Both Kartana and Buzzwole hit for enough damage to one shot a Quagsire and Nihilego can copy Oranguru’s Psychic attack to deal exactly 120 damage to a 3 energy Quagsire.
Mirror Match 50/50
In the mirror match, the coin flip is extremely relevant, but what you do when you win the coin flip is still up for debate. Since the game almost always is a single prize trade where neither player whiffs, who ever takes the first prize usually wins. So when you win the coin flip, the question is, “First or second?” I would chose to go second as I feel the deck can consistently get attacks off to deal enough damage and take a prize on the first turn, but many players argue it is still correct to go first as it give you an extra turn to setup and it is no guarantee that you will hit a knockout on turn one. When you do go first, your goal should be to have your Buzzwole in the active at the end of the turn since it has 130 hp your opponent is forced to either make you switch your active or hit 2 Electropowers to take the knockout. Overall, the matchup isn’t super skill based, but knowing when to target down a Jirachi or take a knockout on the Active can decide whether you win or lose.
This matchup is very bad for Zapdos specifically because of Dewgong. In the early game, your goal is to take as many prizes on low HP Basics as you can, specifically targeting Ditto Prism Star and Grimer, as those can evolve into Alolan Muk, which can really hinder Zapdos’ ability to attack consistently. After you target down their Basics, you’re going to need to take a big knockout on either a Zoroark or a benched GX Pokemon like Tapu Lele or Dedenne. This can be difficult as Zoroark decks tend to only have 2 or so energies in play, making Tapu Koko GX deal very low damage and a 2 shot may take awhile because they will be playing Acerola. Dewgong is the reason this Zoroark variant, compared to a more standard Zoroark deck like Lycanroc, is such a negative matchup. Dewgong allows the Zoroark deck to skip your Sledgehammer turn, completely removing your ability to one shot a Zoroark for cheap. Dewgong can also be used to skip over Nihilego’s attack, which is another way you can get a one shot against Zoroarks. With the ability to skip over your big attacks and make Jirachi almost useless, Zoroark/Dewgong is easily this deck’s worst matchup.
Malamar/Ultra Necrozma 60/40
This matchup is pretty difficult to play, as your opponent has a lot of tools to swing the prize trade into their favor. Firstly, you’re going to want to target your opponent’s Inkays and Malamars, as once those are out of the way, your opponent won’t be able to recycle Giratina as effectively. Secondly, you are going to need to only keep one Pokemon with 70 HP or less on your bench at a time, because in combination with Giratina’s Distortion Door Ability, Ultra Necrozma’s Sky Scorching Light GX attack can take multiple prizes if you aren’t careful. Kartana is a pretty crucial card in this matchup because it can easily take a prize card on a Giratina without having to spend any of your Electropowers. Lastly, you should be careful of Gengar and Mimikyu GX, as they can one shot anything in your deck if you aren’t careful. Gengar and Mimikyu is also scary because often times if you aren’t able to take a one shot on the Gengar/Mimikyu, your opponent will be able to use Acerola to remove it from play completely, negating any damage previously done. Overall, this matchup is pretty good as Zapdos is just a faster deck and can easily target down Malamar’s bench, but if you aren’t careful with your bench and what you attack into, your opponent can steal the game by removing prizes from play or taking a multiple prize turn with their GX attack.
Weezing spread is an extremely bad matchup for Zapdos, as nearly your entire deck is Basic Pokemon. In the matchup, you are going to want to be as aggressive as possible while still keeping a small bench so damage doesn’t stack up too much. You need to take an early prize lead, so by the time your opponent starts to get a lot of damage onto your board, you are too far ahead for them to win the game. That being said, it is extremely hard to out pace the Weezing deck because once they start chaining Weezings and Spell Tags, taking prizes becomes much harder as you will need Electropowers or a Guzma for every knock out. Kartana and Buzzwole are also pretty important in this matchup, as neither requires a damage buff to take a one hit KO on a Weezing, but both are Basics that damage will begin to stack up on and you will need to decide whether taking the ko with Kartana or Buzzwole is worth putting another prize on the board for your opponent. Overall, the matchup is extremely poor due to Weezing’s ability to quickly apply pressure to your entire board without taking prizes so that Tapu Lele can still come in and sweep your board with Magical Swap.
Baby Blowns 50/50
This matchup is weird from both sides, as because both decks are single prize decks the games last fairly long. Baby Blacephalon does have the ability to take consistent one shots on any Pokemon in the Zapdos deck because of the tools it has, like Wishful Baton and Fire Crystal, but Zapdos is also much faster and more consistent. The weird part of the this matchup is that Zapdos requires 2 Electropower to take a one-shot on a Blacephalon while Blacephalon only needs a Fire Crystal or a Fiery Flint. Buzzwole and Kartana can both take a one-shot in this matchup, which makes things much easier, as not needing to draw multiple Electropowers every turn allows you to set up your hand for later in the game. Marshadow’s Let Loose is also a pretty crucial card in this matchup. Blacephalon likes to build up a hand using Welder and Fiery Flint and Marshadow can reset that and force them to rebuild their hand and potentially miss a knockout. Overall, I feel this matchup can definitely go either way because both decks are using single prize Pokemon and can easily take one shots on each other.
Zapdos/Ultra Beasts is my top pick because it is hard to tell what the best decks in the format will be, since no tournaments have been played yet. Zapdos/Ultra Beasts is strong, aggressive, and can prey on small misplays made by your opponent to easily steal some wins. With a decent matchup spread and optimal teching options, I believe Zapdos/Ultra Beasts can definitely go the distance in this format. With a brand new format, a deck as aggressive as Zapdos is extremely strong because it will always do what it needs to do and your opponents won’t have many turns to set up against it.