With Sheffield behind us, we’re down to one event remaining between now and the North American Internation Championship. The metagame has continued to develop in unexpected ways, with Zoroark decks reigning over the competition this past weekend and Buzzwole taking a serious hit in terms of success. Malamar remained a well-represented archetype, but it seems relegated to the same space in the metagame of almost-but-not-quite as good as Zoroark and Buzzwole. Whether it climbs out of this rut has yet to be seen, but the metagame is far from stale in the meantime.

Before Madison, I spent a huge chunk of time grinding out games with the top decks. Since then, I’ve stepped back a bit and tried to find a deck that exists outside the metagame but could still be very powerful. In the process, I’ve tested far more bad ideas than good ones, but a couple have been hits. Of them, Zoroark/Weavile is the one that I believe has the greatest potential at the moment, and for that reason, I’ll be breaking the deck down in this article. Without further delay, here is my current base list for the deck:

Base List

 

In total, this list is 57 cards. I hesitate to call this list a skeleton because some of the cards included are not integral to the deck’s ability to function. As I’ve titled it now, this could be considered my baseline that I’ve been working from over the last few weeks. I’ve been making tons of changes to this list, and I think it’s a great place to start from.

A couple cards that I consider droppable but would not get rid of at the moment:

Zoroark BKT

I normally hate playing this card in Zoroark decks, but Choice Band, Reverse Valley, and Professor Kukui make its damage absolutely crazy. In addition to that, it’s very unexpected and rarely played around. Some decks have a very difficult time playing around it even when they know it’s there, too. For that reason, it’s in the list, but that could certainly change before NAIC.

Acerola

Against anything that you’re not one-shotting with Evil Admonition, you’re using Riotous Beating. Usually, in those situations, you and your opponent are exchanging two shots. This is the kind of situation where Acerola is extremely valuable, and the situation in question is so common that my current 60-card list is playing two.

Enhanced Hammer

I go into this in more depth later on, but the basic rationale is that Enhanced Hammer is a powerful card in many matchups now that the meta has shifted again. With another meta shift, Enhanced Hammer could come out, but it’s strong enough right now that I wouldn’t question it as a 2-of.

The third Psychic attacker

Very few are debating that two Psychic attackers are necessary for Zoroark decks to have a reasonable chance against Buzzwole-GX. Three, on the other hand, is less common. As every primary attacker in this deck is weak to fighting, a more concrete solution is necessary here than in other Zoroark decks. If Buzzwole becomes a non-threat (unlikely) or I find a better solution than Psychic attackers, the third could come out, but I consider it necessary at the moment.

Other than that, the card choices are pretty straightforward. There are quite a few different cards that can fill the slots, and each of them has the potential to powerfully affect a matchup.

The Counter Package

This refers to Shaymin SLG and/or Sudowoodo BKP with a Counter Energy. This deck already has the Mallow to support the combo, so the consistency isn’t too much of a concern. The matchups affected for this addition are any decks with Zoroark-GX (for Sudowoodo) or Lycanroc-GX (for Shaymin). These cards give you the ability to grab an OHKO for a single attachment provided you’re down on prizes and can facilitate huge tempo swings. This can be especially important against decks with Lycanroc-GX as a Lycanroc-GX with 2 or fewer abilities on board is a massive problem for Zoroark/Weavile, one-shotting everything in the deck and taking two hits to bring down. Shaymin provides an answer in a situation that would otherwise lead to a severely disadvantaged board state if not a complete loss.

Sudowoodo, on the other hand, can be helpful against Knuckle Impact and Zoroark-GX. We have plenty of ways to respond to a Knuckle Impact, so the use of Watch and Learn really shows up in Zoroark matchups. If a Zoroark player limits their abilities in play, having one shot potential can be quite nice to swing a prize trade. As this deck plays plenty of non-GX attackers, setting your opponent up to play into Counter Energy by a single prize is quite easy. After a Watch and Learn KO on a Zoroark-GX, your opponent is losing on prizes and is forced to either KO Sudowoodo and tie the exchange or Guzma around it and open themselves up to another Watch and Learn KO. Regardless of their course of action, you have swung a turn ahead of your opponent and are now far more favored to win the matchup. That said, Zoroark-related matchups are not a huge concern (aside from ZoroRoc, but Shaymin is a better solution to that problem), so I would likely not play Sudowoodo.

Second Enhanced Hammer

This card is particularly powerful against Lycanroc/Zoroark but is useful against Zoroark decks overall. Heavier Strong Energy counts have been quite popular lately, making the ability of Enhanced Hammer to deny a Lycanroc attack very high. Enhanced Hammer is also useful throughout a variety of matchups that I’ll go into further into the article.

Second Acerola

The second Acerola can help in games where your opponent doesn’t bench many abilities and you have to play a two-shot game. This can happen against any deck, though not particularly common, and therefore Acerola has some use. Of particular note, it’s very powerful against Greninja (when coupled with Giratina Promo) and ZoroPod, a deck that saw a huge resurgence over the weekend.

Giratina Promo

Play this card if you don’t like losing to Greninja. That’s basically it. If you have Counter Energy in the deck, you can theoretically use it to attack, but the likelihood of getting it off without Multi-Switch is quite low.

2nd Zoroark BKT and Zoroark BREAK

The single Zoroark BKT is powerful, but two gives you the option to add Zoroark BREAK into the deck as well. In the meta, as it stands, the only real use for Zoroark BREAK is to proactively copy Knuckle Impact for a KO, but this has the potential to change after the conclusion of Mexico City Regionals. Time will tell whether this is a worthwhile inclusion, but pending a major meta shift, I would leave it in the binder.

Second Weavile

This increases your odds of having Weavile when you need it and being able to use it twice in a game. As this deck doesn’t play the heavy Zoroark BKT and Zoroark BREAK of the past, I think this is a high-tier inclusion regardless of what matchup you’re teching for.

Second Float Stone

I would really love a second Float Stone in here but don’t feel as though I have space. As it stands, retreating isn’t terribly painful, and Guzma at three means you can usually get something out of the active if it desperately needs to be. If I start to cut enough to where I have luxury spaces, this card will almost definitely find a home in the deck.

4th Dark Energy

The primary reason for including this card is to increase your ability to Trickster GX. Weavile’s energy requirements are very light and three Dark is almost always enough for it. On top of that, Weavile can use Counter Energy in a pinch, if you decide to include it.

 

All said, here is my current full list for the deck:

Justification

The cards that I added were Weavile UPR, Shaymin SLG, and Counter Energy. The matchups affected by these cards are some of the most relevant to me, hence their addition. Giratina Promo, second Acerola, and second Enhanced Hammer are the next to be added on my list, and the cards on the chopping block are the second Weavile and potentially Enhanced Hammer.

My spread of Psychic attackers is one of each. The reasoning is that each is useful in different situations, but all are useful against Buzzwole. Latios is great for setting up numbers against a wide variety of decks since we can swing for 160-180 pretty easily with all of our main attackers. It’s also devastating against Malamar decks, knocking out Mew and Inkay while setting another Inkay or Malamar to KO range for Break Through the following turn. Mewtwo EVO can be great to stall and swing for smaller numbers and set up KO’s on the following turn (similar but not identical to Latios), but it does a much better job of dealing with several Energy on a Buzzwole FLI, Buzzwole-GX, or Marshadow-GX. Mew-EX knocks out anything Psychic weak with ease and has a ton of uses against Malamar and Buzzwole as a result. Of the three, Latios is worst against Buzzwole but best against everything else, Mew is best against Buzzwole but worst against everything else, and Mewtwo is firmly in the middle. In particular, I want to try two Mew-EX after seeing it succeed in both Mexico and Sheffield, so either Mewtwo or Latios will be coming out for that. I have a very hard time parting with Latios as it’s useful in so many places, so Mewtwo may be the drop.

Matchups

Buzzwole – 40-60

The Buzzwole matchup, while not your favorite, is also not as bad as it may seem. Baby Buzzwole is very powerful against you, of course, but between three Psychic attackers, Reverse Valley, and Weavile to punish any board that includes three or more Abilities, pulling out wins happens fairly often.

The strategy here is to either lead with a Psychic attacker or a Zoroark-GX with Reverse Valley. This can give you effective trades against any attacker they intend to use in the early game. Contrary to most Zoroark v Buzzwole matchups, you want to leave their support Pokemon on board to power up Weavile. If they try to get an OHKO on a Zoroark-GX with an unboosted Sledgehammer, they need to bench two Pokemon with abilities. Couple those Pokemon with a probable Lele, Octillery, or Lycanroc, and suddenly your Weavile becomes quite powerful. Once they have Regirock and Diancie in play, you want to fully transition to your Psychic attackers and Weavile. If they don’t bench both Diancie and Regirock, you can continue to attack with Zoroark-GX and trade effectively into their non-GX attackers. Regardless of approach, Zoroark BKT can be quite powerful if your opponent benches heavily.

Weavile deterring Octillery means that in any game where you can’t get great use out of Weavile, your N’s have a much greater likelihood of sticking. This can be especially potent when paired with the four methods of Brooklet Hill removal you play, forcing them to have even more cards to take their final prizes. Keep these points in mind and push them to your advantage as your opponent goes down to lower prize counts.

A cute play in this matchup is to Trickster-GX either Absorption-GX or Dangerous Rogue-GX. Each of these plays has merit in different situations, but the approach can deal with otherwise problematic threats. With Kukui, Choice Band, and Reverse Valley, both Lycanroc-GX and Buzzwole-GX can be dealt with quite easily in a variety of circumstances.

This matchup can be further improved by adding more Psychic attackers and the Counter Energy/Shaymin combo. A strategy that they may try to employ is to limit their board to a Lycanroc-GX and one other Pokemon with an ability. This strategy can be very difficult to counteract as it plays around every line of defense you have in the matchup. Rally Back is an excellent answer here, meaning you have a solid route to victory regardless of how your opponent decides to approach the match.

Malamar – 70-30

This is by far your easiest matchup. Between your Psychic attackers (especially so if one of them is Latios), Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX’s weakness, and their tremendous reliance on abilities, this matchup can be difficult to lose regardless of their variant.

The Ultra Necrozma variant is going to struggle greatly to power up multiple attacks. This allows you to take full advantage of Acerola to repeatedly deny them prizes. If they do bench enough Pokemon with Abilities to be able to reliably attack in consecutive turns, Weavile can easily OHKO any of their attackers. If they do bench three or more Abilities, always be sure to take the KO on their Ultra Necrozma (if you have a choice) to keep as many abilities in play as possible. Every single one of your attackers can be used to devastating effect here, though you want to stray away from Weavile and Zoroark BKT if the Ultra Necrozma player limits the number of abilities they have in play. This ensures that they have the greatest possible amount of difficulty taking prizes by limiting the number of KO’s they can take with single attachments. Beast Ring is your biggest worry here, so you want to get out of the 3-4 prize range the turn (or two, worst case) after you enter it.

Against the straight Psychic version, this matchup is even easier. Their non-GX attackers fall to Reverse Valley boosted Riotous Beating (other than Pressure Mewtwo, but that puts another ability on their board for Weavile) and every one of their GX attackers is weak to something in your deck. Zoroark BKT is the icing on the cake here as it can KO all of their attackers regardless of weakness on a full bench (or a four Pokemon bench with Choice Band and Kukui).

The most effective lines of play they have are all related to Parallel City. They can limit your bench to three to weaken Riotous Beating’s power, potentially turning a prize trade in their favor if they’re playing the heavy non-GX version. This can be countered with Acerola, Reverse Valley, and Field Blower. If they limit their own bench to reduce the number of abilities they have in play, they very commonly will struggle to keep attacking. In addition to this, Parallel City is becoming an increasingly common drop for these decks, making these lines of play less of a concern.

Zoroark/Lycanroc – 40-60 to 60-40 depending on techs

This matchup has a pretty broad swing range depending on how you’ve built your deck. Techs that can make a big difference here are a second Weavile, multiple Enhanced Hammer, and the whole Counter package. The second Weavile can give you more outs to it and allows you to develop it twice without Puzzles. Enhanced Hammer takes advantage of the increasing prevalence of Strong Energy over Basic Fighting, thereby making it harder for Lycanroc to attack. Lastly, both Shaymin SLG and Sudowoodo BKP give you energy-efficient OHKO responses to both of their primary attackers.

Their choice of build also plays a hand in the matchup. Baby Buzzwole will make the matchup more difficult as will heavier counts of Parallel and Basic Fighting Energy. Baby Buzz is an energy-efficient attacker that can knock out Weavile and Zoroark BKT at any time as well as Zoroark-GX if you’re on four prizes. Parallel City can limit the number of abilities on their bench to two or fewer if they limit themselves, though limiting you has little impact on the match. Basic Fighting gets around your Enhanced Hammer and makes attacking with Lycanroc much easier.

Clearly, the matchup can play out very differently from game to game as your opponents’ lists change, but the general approach here is to limit their ability to attack with Lycanroc-GX whenever possible and take full advantage of Weavile. Important to note is that Shaymin makes Lycanroc much more manageable, and I would highly recommend it and Counter Energy if you expect a great deal of this matchup.

Zoroark BKT is huge here as it can unexpectedly take a knockout on both Lycanroc-GX and Zoroark-GX with the right damage modifiers (Choice Band and Reverse Valley for Lycanroc and Choice Band with Kukui for Zoroark). Reverse Valley, in general, is very helpful as it gives you avenues to deal with attackers like Buzzwole FLI with no issue.

If you can help it, you want to avoid showing Sneasel and Dark energy until after they’ve Brigetted, and it’s even better if they’ve already developed Zoroark-GX in addition to a highly likely Lele or two. That said, don’t force yourself into suboptimal plays just to avoid showing the Weavile. In many games, they can’t play around it very well, and they’re going to see it before Game 2 in the set regardless. That said, hiding Zoroark BKT can be much easier across multiple games and also highly effective. Again, play it if you need it, but don’t play it down without purpose.

Mewtwo EVO and Latios can be nice to set up Riotous beating knockouts on their GX’s as well since Zoroark-GX can swing for 180. This is a great option if you’re not able to pressure their Lycanroc line directly.

Overall, this is by far the most difficult Zoroark deck for you to beat as they can one-shot everything in your deck. That said, there’s plenty to do against them, and swinging this matchup to favorable territory is a matter of changing just a few cards in the list.

Other Zoroark Variants – 65-35

Zoroark/Lycanroc is certainly not the only Zoroark deck you may face at your locals and NAIC. While I won’t cover each matchup in-depth, I will go through each of the ones you’re most likely to see in a paragraph or two for each.

ZoroGarb is the deck that many seem to agree is powerful yet has achieved very little post FLI. I attribute this largely to the deck’s lack of space and inconsistency, but that’s a discussion for another article. What I can say here is that this matchup is one of the easiest Zoroark decks for you to beat. While you only have two Field Blower, each one will very commonly grab you a two-prize KO with Weavile, turning your opponent’s number of abilities from one to four or so. Their damage cap is quite weak compared to yours as well, with ZoroGarb struggling to knock out your Zoroark-GX. If you factor in multiple Acerola, you can often win the game strictly from having a better prize trade even if you use exclusively Riotous Beating. Outside of this, Zoroark BKT will have the ability to deal huge damage regardless of whether Garbotoxin is active or not and dealing with the ability lock is often as simple as a Guzma. The only attacker in their deck without an Ability is Garbodor GRI, a Pokemon that you can limit the damage of and resist with nearly everything you play. This means that their only path to six Prizes involves heavily benching abilities and giving your Weavile a Field Day.

Once considered dead, ZoroPod has recently been resurrected with Pablo Meza’s win in the Mexico City SPE. Their strategy against you is to attack repeatedly with Golisopod-GX and take advantage of low attack costs and multiple Acerola. This matchup can be quite grindy and involves a lot of healing, Enhanced Hammer, and Riotous Beating. However, there are a few factors that swing this matchup in your favor. The first is your ability to set up knockouts with Latios SLG and Mewtwo EVO due to the multitude of damage boosting effects for Zoroark-GX. The second is their reliance on Trade to stay consistent and keep hitting resources. While the number of Zoroark-GX’s you can develop is essentially limitless, they are restricted to one due to Wimpod’s ability. If their board is Golisopod-GX, Wimpod, and Zoroark-GX, another ability would put their 210 HP Pokemon into KO range from Weavile. This means that even in the face of a strong start and midgame, they are highly likely to run out of steam with only a single Trade each turn.

One final tip is to limit their Armor Press with Enhanced Hammer whenever possible. It’s their best attack in the matchup and makes all of your non-GX attackers much less effective.

ZoroEggs is a deck that I don’t consider popular enough to worry about, but it nonetheless does exist. Here, you snipe Exeggutor pieces with Latios SLG, allowing you to take KO’s with Reverse Valley boosted Riotous Beating. Latios’s snipe can also be great on benched Zoroark-GX’s as you have a very easy time swinging for 180. Typically, though, neither of you has a great time taking OHKO’s, so it can often come down to a grindier exchange. Zoroark BKT and Weavile give you more outs to an OHKO than them, but you need to exercise caution in their use as they are very easy to revenge KO. If your opponent over benches abilities out of necessity or poor play, this is your opportunity to use the non-GX’s to their full effect. This matchup is likely closer to 55-45 than 65-35.

I’ve seen a fair bit of Zoroark/Malamar lately, and quite frankly I think the deck is terrible. You certainly aren’t concerned with it as they’re the most ability reliant deck in the game and can’t play around Evil Admonition if they use every ability-free attacker in their deck.

Greninja – 30-70 to 70-30 depending on techs

I hate that Greninja is a good deck, but it is definitely a good deck. The matchup isn’t too complicated, and a lot of the outcome depends on your build. The bottom line comes down to this question: How okay are you with losing to Greninja? The answer will determine your techs for the matchup.

If your answer is “completely okay,” then you should not dedicate any space to techs. Weavile can OHKO BREAKS if they fail to play around it (though they very easily can and likely will) and Zoroark GX can OHKO Greninja BKP with a Reverse Valley in play. Zoroark BKP also takes an OHKO on several of their attackers at different bench counts. These options give you a fighting chance, but you are ultimately still fighting a very uphill battle. Once they set up, they use attackers that are very difficult for you to KO and take wildly favorable prize trades.

If your answer is “only a little okay” or “not really okay” then you should add Giratina Promo. With this one card, you are able to leverage your advantages more easily and stand a solid chance of taking the game. With Giratina, your single prize attackers trade one-for-one and sometimes even two-for-one if Greninja overbenches or plays a lot of abilities. Zoroark-GX also trades better, though your non-GX’s will mostly be the stars of the show.

If your answer is “absolutely not okay” then you should add Giratina Promo and a second Acerola. The Giratina Promo gives the aforementioned bonuses, and Acerola capitalizes on Greninja being forced to trade prizes. The power of your non-GX attackers is key here and will likely result in a win.

If your answer is “losing to frogs makes me want to quit this game forever” then you can add Shaymin and Counter Energy, a second Enhanced Hammer, and a third Acerola. The Shaymin will mean that you can OHKO any frog if you fall behind on prizes, the Enhanced Hammer keeps them from recovering attackers with Splash Energy, and the third Acerola further exploits the loss of Giant Water Shuriken.

Personally, I can’t recommend more than the third option, but I completely understand the feeling of the fourth.

The resurgence of Enhanced Hammer

Something you may have noticed throughout the matchup section is how many matchups Enhanced Hammer is good against. This is not an advantage isolated to this deck, and I think that the pendulum is swinging back in favor of Enhanced Hammer. For a while, the card was almost completely removed from lists as it was weak against the Basic Energy heavy BuzzRoc and Malamar decks. Now, Zoroark has surged and BuzzRoc is almost always seen with five Special Energy. On top of that, successful Zoroark decks are dropping to all-time low basic energy counts, with the winner of Sheffield Regionals playing only four Double Colorless and four Strong. I came to the same conclusion myself the week after Madison and played the same count to Top 4 (where I scooped to a friend) finish at a League Cup. Given that two fully separate testing circles reached the same conclusion, I have to imagine that many other top players have reached the same count as well. This makes Enhanced Hammer a very powerful card again, and I fully anticipate to being playing one or two in every Zoroark deck between now and NAIC. Any deck that has the space or reliable access to the card should almost definitely be playing it right now, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it succeed in less common carriers.

Conclusion

With that, I’d like to wish you all good luck at the North American International Championship! I likely won’t be writing again between now and then, so is the last you’ll hear from me on the BKT-FLI format. I’m currently undecided on my play, but I’ll almost certainly be playing something with Zoroark-GX in it. I can’t seem to get away from the card; it just offers so much flexibility and consistency. My top considerations currently are ZoroRoc and Zoroark/Weavile, but I haven’t given ZoroPod much time yet. There are all kinds of decks that I think have potential but will likely not get to test, things like VikaBulu with Fury Belt and all the metal decks popping up, so I’m really excited to see what ends up doing well.

As always, message me if you have any questions or comments, and I’ll be happy to answer them. Thanks for reading, and good luck at the International!

 

 

-Conner