Welcome back, Some1sPC! Jeremy here with my thoughts on Anaheim Regionals and a look forward to how things are shaping up for Dallas. When prepping for a tournament with a new set thrown in there the wheels start turning. Sometimes, the wheels go off the bus and you crash into a pile of Meganium and cannot get out from under the mediocrity. I spent quite a bit of time trying to come up with a fun and creative deck that utilized some of the new cards from Lost Thunder. The Expanded format is getting bigger and bigger with each new expansion coming out and yet, we see not only the same deck, but the same person as well taking down the tournament. Jimmy Pendarvis is on a godlike run akin to the 3-time International Champion, Tord Reklev. Picking up now two wins in Expanded with a third tournament utilizing the same format on the horizon, the story of the true narrative going through to Dallas is, “Why has Zoroark GX been so dominant?” In this article, I’m going over what I played in Anaheim, the different choices in the three popular Zoroark GX variants, and what you can expect going forward to Dallas.
II.Rayquaza GX/Ho-Oh EX
III.The State of Zoroark GX Heading Into Dallas
As I stated previously, I fell onto a pile of Meganium trash and thus shunted my own testing for two weeks trying to break Alolan Ninetales GX or Meganium in Expanded. Granted, I did always have a few options to fall back on: ShockLock, Zoroark GX/Golisopod GX, and Rayquaza GX/ Ho-Oh EX. I’ll share with you the brainchild of my friend, Danny and I:
Believe it or not, the hype from this card stemmed a week before Shintaro’s Greninja GX deck made such a huge impact. I was personally trying to break the Expanded format open a little bit, as I was tired of seeing Zoroark GX and the anemic playstyle that it brings with it. Meganium has a broken ability in “Quick-Ripening Herb,” where it lets you “Rare Candy” into a Stage 2 Pokemon the turn its Basic comes into play. With it actually picking up some play in Standard, one would think it has a place with all the broken Stage 2 Pokemon that are available to us in Expanded.
3-0-2-1 Vileplume (Irritating Pollen/Disgusting Pollen)
Item lock is a powerful resource presented to ourselves in Expanded. Vileplume has been one of the more powerful Pokemon when it comes to this; as long as it’s in play no Items can be played, period. Seems like an auto inclusion next to our Rare Candy on a stick. The “Disgusting Pollen” Vileplume one is something that I think is worth discussing. It makes it so as long as it’s active, Basic Pokemon cannot attack. This is something I felt turned hard matchups like Rayquaza GX and Lost March into near auto wins with this in play (especially with Item lock up as well).
It’s a tech Stage 2 that shuts off my opponent’s Abilities. Getting this up before “Garbotoxin” and Wobbuffet gives you some game against the two.
Locks Supporters when it’s Active. This used to be double the count, but the Supporter plus Item lock didn’t really prove too strong.
2-0-2 Magnezone (Plasma)
Allows you to play two Supporters in a turn, which allows you to do cool things with Lusamine.
The draw is really needed here. Our main goal is to win with Unown HAND, and this guy allows you to do that within a reasonable time frame.
Probably need a couple more in here but it is a terrible starter and bench space is limited.
Our main win condition; with Lusamine chains and Swampert it is not too difficult to achieve.
“Propagation” is a broken Ability that allows us to Plumeria and “Power Draw” for free every turn.
Keeps us from decking out thanks to “Power Draw.”
We play small lines everywhere in this deck, and without this card, the already inconsistent nature of the deck would be torn apart by prizes.
A constant source of energy denial thanks to Exeggcute.
New Supporter that proved very strong in the Expanded format in general. Helps with Garb, and we can chain it once we’re set up.
To deck my opponent out faster if needed as an alternate win condition.
Only source of recovery, definitely a needed inclusion but seems slow for its purpose.
Since we are not attacking, we can try to take full advantage of this Supporter, although as the tournament has concluded the amount of Red Card effects makes this a worse choice moving forward.
I wanted a way to bring something up, but it is not needed quite as often so I only chose one.
It was only two Colress as draw in the whole list, but I felt it necessary to have a more consistent draw opportunity with Cynthia.
This is the engine that makes this deck function. Since you get to play two Supporters a turn, it really opens up what different chains you can do.
With Lusamine, it allows you to pick up different stage 2 lines and swap around your board state since bench space is limited.
Probably should be more copies, but with Tropical Beach coming in and out of this deck it’s usefulness is worse.
3 Ultra Ball
There aren’t many Items in this deck, but the few you have are very important.
3 Rare Candy
Again, should probably be four copies, but this deck needs so many things.
1 Computer Search
Used to have Master Ball in here for an Ace-Spec when Alolan Ninetales GX was still in the deck, but without it, Computer Search is just better (especially with Exeggcute).
1 Silent Lab
A counter for Wobbuffet and Keldeo EX, not the best but something that might be necessary.
2 Tropical Beach
Will definitely need more of these, but again the room is an issue.
Alolan Ninetales GX
Alolan Ninetales GX is one of the first things I had in this deck and it helped with the early game struggles that the deck has, but peters out toward turns four and onward. The version of the deck now has a better late game, but its early game is sacrificed for that.
These are Pokemon that tend to take a hit or two for you throughout the game. Often, I found myself in situations where I had some form of lock going, but couldn’t slow down their attacks. Cards that could be useful would be: Alolan Ninetales, Hoopa, Wailord EX, and Shuckle GX.
Less Stage 2’s
This deck is all over the place. While fun, it probably could be honed down more to aid specific matchups. Vileplume is strong as an Item lock card, and Magnezone allows Lusamine shenanigans. The other pieces are what is worrying me. It could be just that a more streamlined and focused version could be what we need.
Better Defined Format
Even though the same deck won both Expanded tournaments in the past month and a half, I don’t think the format was even close to what it looked like in Anaheim, compared to Portland. Portland Regionals was a tournament in a vacuum, where no other major tournament was using the same sets with Expanded. In Anaheim Regionals, we got introduced to one of the largest sets Pokemon has ever produced, and I honestly think people didn’t have the time or mindset to fully explore into what Lost Thunder can bring. With less than a month to go, Dallas will hopefully provide a clearer picture of a proper metagame.
Since this is a lock type deck, in the sense that you only react to what your opponent presents in the matchup, each game is the same process but you try to get to the same goal every time. The deck uses Meganium to set up a variety of Stage 2 Pokemon and you aim to disrupt enough of what your opponent is trying to do to give yourself enough time to establish a soft lock. In the Expanded format, we saw how powerful Item lock is with Seismitoad EX and Trevenant. While those are one-sided Item locks, Vileplume is a constant lock, so we need to be careful when setting it up without a solid way to get Meganium in play under our own Item lock. Magnezone is probably the second one you want to get set up, as its “Dual Brains” Ability allows you to play two Supporters a turn. This turns Lusamine into any Supporter in your discard for the turn, Skyla becomes any Supporter in your deck, and Gladion becomes another Supporter in your prizes. The combination of Plumeria plus two Exeggcute helps against most of the fair decks under Item lock. The ability to reuse Faba is also another key aspect of the deck, especially for matchups that include trying to navigate around Garbodor’s “Garbotoxin.” Granted, Garbodor is probably the reason this deck doesn’t have viable matchups so far, especially with Zoroark GX/Garbodor using Klefki as a way to get around Item lock in general. In the first incarnation of this deck, it was a heavier Stoutland line and focused more on the Supporter/Item lock combination. It was strong, and with less focus on the other stuff could really get there, but with a more streamlined focus we sacrificed matchups across the board like Archie’s and Rayquaza GX. I chose to introduce Slaking and Vileplume into the mix as well to help with some of those decks. Once you establish some sort of control, it’s off to the races with “Power Draw,” Lusamine, and Brock’s Grit to eventually set up the win with Unown HAND. Albeit, the deck is very clunky, but it is fun as hell to play and I hope it at least opens up people’s thinking for Dallas.
Rayquaza GX/Ho-Oh EX
I ended up playing a Rayquaza GX list created by my friend, Mikal who ended up in Day 2 with it. The list felt super strong and often had a lot of comeback and positive matchups against most of the field. Although, as you can see in the list it’s a more safe and conservative version of the deck:
Rayquaza GX/Ho-Oh EX
- 7 Grass Energy
- 7 Lightning Energy
Your main attacker and engine for the deck. Hits hard and fast.
3 Ho-Oh EX
“Rebirth” is the main draw for this card, although a free attacker for 60 damage thanks to a Battle Compressor is pretty good at taking cheap KOs if need be.
Needed for the free retreat, but also could be a utility attacker thanks to its GX attack and Ninja Boy as well.
One is all you need, as once you get rolling there isn’t much else to do Supporter-wise.
“Let Loose” is a powerful Ability that is a great way to disrupt your opponent turn one. I do like the thought of adding more, like the list that Top 4’ed.
I feel like it’s kind of needed in this format, although it’s one of the Pokemon with the lowest utility, especially with all the Zoroark decks playing Garbodor or Silent Lab anyway.
Our way to combat “Safeguard” Pokemon. Combos well with Ninja Boy and has a natural free retreat which helps in case we don’t want to bench Zeraora GX. It also can play the seven prize game with my opponent.
Our out against Energy denial and an alternative route to set up multiple Rayquaza GX without the need of Max Elixir or even “Stormy Winds.”
Discards Energy and gets Rayquaza GX, Tapu Lele GX, Marshadow, and Mew. Couldn’t ask for better.
Allows multiple Rayquaza GX to be set up on the same turn.
The decks engine means to discard cards, which in turns fuels VS Seeker and its utility.
Discards Energy, Ho-Oh EX, and Supporters for use throughout the game. Could probably be redundant at four copies.
Can’t rely on Zeraora GX for everything, so this becomes a great utility to work around Rayquaza GX’s massive three retreat.
Only real way to search out Sudowoodo and Zeraora GX, provides more outs to discard and set up.
A necessary evil to combat “Garbotoxin” and Parallel City.
1 Rescue Stretcher/1 Super Rod
Pokemon recovery is always good. Super Rod was iffy.
1 Dowsing Machine
ACE-Spec of choice. Great utility for having to discard some important cards.
7 Grass/7 Lightning
The most common and effective split in my mind.
I actually really like Preston’s Rayquaza GX list that he top 4’ed with. Cutting down on the Supporters and increasing his overall early turn production means he actually just outsped half of the decks he played against.
This Stadium was the normal inclusion for this type of deck and often goes hand in hand with Rayquaza in its history. Mikal felt like it would help out the Zoroark GX side of that matchup and excluded it from his testing.
A quick way to deal with Lost March and Night March attackers that is more cute than helpful. Could definitely steal some games, although could require some additions in the form of Fighting Fury Belt for more damage.
The deck I most expected to see in the tournament. To be fair though, there are a lot of different variations of decks that utilize this card to its full potential. Because of that, it takes up a majority of the metagame; whether its Control, Garbodor, or Hand Control. Against more of the fair decks, Rayquaza can just overpower your opponent, but against these specific Zoroark decks you have to take into account the things they have the possibility of doing. Against Hand Control, you have more of an out thanks to Tempest GX and Mysterious Treasure giving you great utility against a low hand count. Garbodor is different, and you really have to find out if they play Trashalanche or not. If they don’t, then it’s just a race where you need well-timed Field Blowers. If they do, then it’s a very rough time. You might be too fast for Control, but run the risk of being locked out of the game with Seismitoad EX or Articuno GX. Overall, the matchup is pretty even, but they tend to be more reliant on surviving the first couple turns of knockouts. It’s important to get a jump on these decks.
Item lock is always a tricky one to deal with, but with Trevenant players giving at least one turn of Items compared to the past disruption with Wally means Rayquaza GX is able to outspeed its lock. The Trevenant player’s best bet is to try and lock something active and spread, but with Zeraora GX that is a lot harder to do. It also takes only four Energy in play to take a knockout on a regular Trevenant, which is pretty sweet.
The matchup changes depending on what version of the deck they’re playing. Essentially, the more GX or EX Pokemon for you to trade with the better. If they are Garbodor focused variants, then it’s pretty tough to play around, having to heavily rely on Latias Prism Star in the early turns. Lastly, with two Field Blower and a Dowsing Machine, you typically don’t get surprised by Focus Sash shenanigans.
This matchup is totally dependant on if they have made the switch from Palkia GX to Lugia GX. Zero Vanish GX is a devastating attack that is super hard to recover from, while Lost Purge GX is overall the better attack, but not against Rayquaza GX. So it’s a pretty unfavorable matchup, but there is the hope they don’t actually hit Archie’s turn one, or you can knock out a Blastoise before they get another one up.
Rayquaza GX is a deck that could just “get there” against your opponent. It does have a lot of inherent weaknesses, but they’re straightforward enough to play around to a point. Cards like Ninja Boy and Ho-Oh EX are examples of “cheating” another Rayquaza GX into play. Max Elixir is essentially plus 30 damage to your attack for the turn, as well as extra Ho-Oh EX’s adding 60. What drew myself to Rayquaza was the combination of energy acceleration, deck thinning, and a high damage output. It can outspeed pretty much everything, and only takes truly bad matchups to single prize attacking decks, since Rayquaza GX tends to not trade very well with cards like Garbodor, Natu, and Joltik. Fighting Fury Belt and possibly more disruption in a sense of Marshadow could help in those kinds of matchups (anything, really to try and make the prize trade favorable again).
The State of Zoroark GX Heading Into Dallas
Everyone and their friends are talking about Zoroark GX and the hype/controversy around it, and they’re all trying to figure out either of two things:
- How best to play it?
- How best to counter it?
To think of how to play against it, you first have to know the different possibilities that Zoroark GX allows you to do. Common pairings we saw in Anaheim were Seismitoad EX, Garbodor (“Garbotoxin”), and Golisopod GX. The outlier was, of course, the version focused around hitting Delinquent/Peeking Red Card turn one to constantly steal games from people. This might actually be one of the more common ways to build the deck heading into Dallas, as something new is always better to playtest with.
Although Jimmy won with Seismitoad EX/Zoroark GX, I don’t believe people will gravitate towards that version. There is a reason the top players have consistently placed at the top with the recent “Control” variant of Zoroark GX. It has the ability to pretty much guarantee you some match points by the end of the round. A lot of the utility these players capitalize on is the fact that the deck rarely has a bad matchup in the field, and that people still aren’t prepared for Item lock. As a player, you can essentially get to a point where you sit down for your last three rounds and feel pretty safe, since they will be long grindy matches where a good percentage of the time you play only one and a half games resulting in a match win or a draw at worst. The deck is a smart play in the system we have in place, and until a consistent counter is represented as a threat in the meta, this deck will do well.
Zoroark GX/Garbodor is the deck that I think will be the true dominant force going forward. It covers a lot of its basis (matchup-wise), and is ungodly consistent in a format where consistency is key. Klefki is a sneaky way to play around different outs to “Garbotoxin,” and the ability to reuse it again and again thanks to Stretcher provides extra utility. The reliance on solely Double Colorless Energy is a little worrisome, but could also be just over thinking. Trashalanche is also a viable option to bring a different attacking side to the deck, but often makes it less consistent. Although, if bringing in Basic Energies was needed, then I 100% would add the Garbodor. I’ve been thinking Aaron’s Top 8 list could be a pretty good baseline for this deck, although finding room for Pokemon Ranger would be ideal.
Now, you have to think about the things that Zoroark GX relies on: Double Colorless Energy, the “Trade” Ability, Stadiums, and Brigette. Things that are naturally strong against it include some popular Fighting Pokemon like Buzzwole and Lucario GX. Garbodor is pretty strong against it as a whole, but whichever “shell” it might be in, sans Zoroark GX, is most likely inconsistent. Faba and Girafarig have given both sides a new way to combat the mirror match as well, in trying to remove important one-of resources that are so popular in the Expanded format.
It will be interesting to see what people end up trying to do for Dallas. On one hand, you have a card that has proven over and over again to be the dominant force that we all knew it was, while on the other, you could try to metagame the tournament and show up with an inconsistent Fighting deck that somehow spikes a bunch of Zoroark GX decks and takes home the trophy. Expanded is a format where the scope of your deck knowledge will be tested. A massive card pool that is ever expanding breeds some form of ingenuity. I’m hoping, with a tournament under our belt, it will be easier to see where the lines are drawn on the proverbial “tier list.” It does give an interesting advantage though to the people who played at Anaheim with the lack of a stream. The Top 8 was quite diverse and shows how matchup dependent a lot of these decks are.
Will Dallas once again be a tournament of Zoroark as it was one year ago? It might just be. Last year, we saw an insane finals match between Riley Hulbert vs Isaiah Williams, which I believe kickstarted the popularity of Zoroark in Expanded. This time, we head into the tournament with Team DDG having won every North American major and even the first International Championship–Jimmy Pendarvis taking down the last three Regionals by himself. While there was quite a diverse Top 8 in Anaheim, the format seems to be quite narrow heading into the tournament. I, for one, yearn to see some sort of innovation within testing groups, but it all boils down to one thing: Zoroark GX is the top dog. As for myself, there is no redemption in Dallas for my 3-1-3 drop at Anaheim Regionals, as I will not be playing in the event itself. But I do look forward to watching the matches play out through the day. Expanded has been an interesting gift that Organized Play has given us, but eventually it might be too much. Each new set creates more insane combinations, and still “Old Man” Zoroark GX is here to stay. Thanks for reading, and until next time, see you at Dallas!