Thunderbolt and Lightning – Zekrom’s Past, Present and Future

Hello guys, how’s it going? In case you don’t remember me, I’m the guy that wrote the five Just My Type articles currently on site. You can find links to all of them here if you haven’t seen them yet. The last one of them was written more than a month ago, however, and therefore the information may already be a little outdated.

The main reason I am writing this article is because of the fourth article I wrote: the one about Lightning, or perhaps more accurately, about Zekrom. I was not very nice to Zekrom, and this was the main reason the article racked up a lot of negative criticism and votes.

pokebeach.comIt might also be the reason the article after that did not get anywhere near the rating the first three got, but then again I could also blame that on how predisposed the Fighting pool is toward Donphan, or the satiric opening paragraphs.

I’m not writing this to dwell on the past, but a little bit of context is necessary. I stand by my general points of last article: before Emerging Powers, Zekrom could not get a turn 1 Bolt Strike consistently. Before Emerging Powers, straight ZPS was not a good play in a tournament setting. This was due to the auto-loss to Donphan, the high chance of the deck stalling because of its lack of draw engine or alternative game plan, and the high predictability of the deck.

And, last but not at least, if you wanted to use Zekrom you were better off trying to use Outrage as opposed to Bolt Strike. I hate to gloat, but guess what took second at Worlds?

The point of this article is not to go, “Ha ha, in your face! I was right and you were wrong!”, though. I also want to point out that my assessment that the deck is inconsistent might have been a bit too strong. The long goldfishing session was not meant to make the deck as a whole look bad, it was just to show the potential for a first turn Bolt Strike.

I tried to make it as fair as possible by denoting turn 2 Bolt Strike possibilities along with any PlusPower assisted Outrages. Including 4 Victory Medal was my attempt to maximize the chance for a turn 1 Bolt Strike where nothing else really mattered. I thought anyone could see that, but it seems it wasn’t clear enough.

But, let’s not talk about Zekrom’s childhood traumas. He’s all grown up now and he has new friends, one of which has become very dear to him: Tornadus.

Tornadus

Tornadus' impact on the format

I’m sure you have all heard of him – he is quite possibly the best Pokémon to have come from Emerging Powers, only facing competition from Gothitelle and Beartic (neither of which have convinced me yet, but that’s a topic for another day).

I am not going to walk you through the statistics of Tornadus: he’s had two COTDs, he has been discussed twenty million times over, and Adam is clever enough to insert an image of Tornadus into the article for the few of you who have been living under a rock and missed all the hype.

So let’s get onto his actual impact in a Zekrom deck. Before, Zekrom only had two friends: Pachirisu and Shaymin. They were cute and all, and sometimes they went along really well, but there were just too many times where either of these two or the Energy required was missing.

pokebeach.comSometimes exchange student Yanmega could join the fun to help defend him against that meanie, Donphan. Yanmega, unfortunately, required too many annoying Supporters to match hand sizes. While I can think of a few uses for Yanmega, right now I’m convinced Tornadus is Zekrom’s BFF.

Tornadus has several effects on how you can (and should) play Zekrom.

1. He provides up to 4 extra threatening starts. Before, if you didn’t run any side techs such as a Yanmega line, when you didn’t start with Zekrom, then you started with Shaymin or Pachirisu. This made you waste an Energy to retreat as well as a bench spot, or the use of a Super Scoop Up heads to bounce it back into your hand. Not to mention that it robs you of a use of their “drop” Powers, regardless.

You can only run so little of them or so much Zekrom before you end up getting them prized or the judge tells you your deck is illegal because you’re only allowed four copies. Now, your Power critter starts will become less common. Not only is this good for your long term game, but it also increases your donk chances.

2. The deck gains a little bit of versatility. Zekrom was truly one-dimensional: you hurt them with Outrage or Bolt Strike, whichever you can manage or whichever does the trick. Sometimes there’s a Bouffalant, sometimes there’s a Yanmega, and sometimes you might even do it with Pachirisu, but generally if you aren’t doing damage then you aren’t doing anything.

Having “tricks” up your sleeve is important in my opinion: it’s what made Luxchomp the BDIF, and it’s what makes Yanmega/Magnezone so powerful. With Tornadus, you gain the ability to use some Energy movements even if you are somehow stuck against a baby wall or something like it.

Energy Wheel allows you to grab Energy off your bench (usually Pachirisu) when you have some sort of Energy drought. Which brings me to my next point…

3. You are getting a lot more out of your Energy, especially Double Colorless. I was not a huge fan of Double Colorless Energy in Zekrom. I understand its uses: instant Outrage, sometimes on turn 1, it can help with retreating, and naturally it helps with some techs like Bouffalant.

But, I preferred to use straight Lightning because that’s what gets the Pachirisu show running. Every time you drop a Pachirisu with a Lightning and a DCE in your hand you are basically doing a mental facepalm. “I wish I was running Lightning instead…”. However, every time you donk a Yanma or Horsea with Outrage and a PlusPower you make up for it because of Double Colorless Energy.

But, now that Tornadus is here with his CCC attack cost, I believe there is no reason not to run at least 3, and probably 4 Double Colorless. Turn 1 Hurricane is hilariously easy to achieve, and turn 2 is almost guaranteed simply due to the amount of combinations of cards that net you a loaded Tornadus.

The difference between 80 and 120 damage is huge late in the game, but in the first few turns it’s enough to KO even Quilava and Magneton.

In addition, you’re also moving Lightning Energy to your benched Zekrom or Tornadus. Sometimes this is annoying, but most of the time this helps tremendously. When your opponent can overcome your initial rush (which is going to happen more often than not, with Twins gaining popularity), you will want to be able to apply pressure constantly.

You can’t beat multiple loaded Magnezones or Reshirams without some kind of Energy acceleration of your own, and you generally will not be able to “do the ZPS” more than 1-2 times a game. Hurricane acts as an Energy bank for you while also taking prizes.

4. Fighting resistance. Yeah, that’s there too. Theorymonically speaking, Tornadus 2HKOs Donphan with Hurricane while Earthquake 3HKOs back and ravages its own bench. In a perfect world, Zekrom just became invincible.

Unfortunately, there’s some other factors at work here. The first one is that Donphan rarely comes alone: he generally has Yanmega and with him, both of which can go toe to toe with Tornadus if needed. Or, he turns friends into enemies and damages an allied Zekrom with Earthquake, who then proceeds to Outrage for the KO.

If Donphan can’t find any replacements for himself to take on Tornadus, he can also just play the Pokémon Catcher to replace Tornadus with Zekrom, Pachirisu, or Shaymin. With the drop of a PlusPower, an easy prize is taken. If worst comes to worst, Ruins of Alph can turn Earthquake into a 2HKO on Tornadus.

There’s a lot of things that shift Zekrom/Tornadus vs Donphan/anything around, the main factor being Catcher. In the end, we’ve made it come down to coin tosses, opening hands, techs, et cetera. That’s a lot better than the auto-loss we were getting before.

Pokémon Catcher

Ah yes, Catcher. Despite what it may look like, I don’t think this card is an afterthought for Zekrom at all. It is powerful and it helps out a lot in disrupting set-ups, but unlike Tornadus there’s not a whole lot to say about it.

It gives Zekrom and Tornadus “sniping” power. It gets babies and sacrifices out of the way for the card your opponent is trying to build up and it grants you possible type advantages. It also means you have to be careful about what Basics you drop on the Bench on your own end.

Deck List

So, I think it’s about time I drop a skeleton list of the new age Zekrom. I am still experimenting with some cards, but for the most part I think this is the best way to play it.

Pokémon – 12

4 Zekrom BLW
4 Tornadus EPO
2 Pachirisu CL
2 Shaymin UL

Trainers – 25

4 Pokémon Collector
4 Professor Juniper
4 Professor Oak’s New Theory

 

4 Junk Arm
4 Pokémon Catcher
2 Dual Ball
2 Super Scoop Up
1 Switch

Energy – 16

12 Lightning

4 Double Colorless

Total – 53

This leaves you with 11 cards for techs, most of which should be used for additional TSS. Personally, I have 1 more Lightning in there, but the Energy amount “feels” like too much. Regardless, I still find myself short on Energy more often than on Basics or ways to get them.

Main Aim

pokebeach.comThe game plan should be obvious: you put either Tornadus or Zekrom active as soon as you can, inject Energy as fast as you can, and try to hit that early Catcher in your deck to effectively double your total count of 8. Catcher is the card I Junk Arm for the most by far.

Despite the lack of attention I have given it (due to my love for Tornadus), the Catcher/Junk Arm combo is instrumental for victory. That’s why I put in as many of the most reliable draw Supporters as I could. The next most reliable are Copycat, Sage’s Training and Cheren, but I feel none of those are as solid as Juniper and PONT.

I have not even tried the first two yet as I’ve found the current amount of 8 sufficient. Considering how little the deck needs to actually get going, I tried using Cheren for a bit and found it unnecessary.

Generally, I’d rather open with Tornadus more so than Zekrom. There are exceptions, but there are numerous reasons why Torndus is better at the start of a game. The first one is that Tornadus is easier to get the first strong attack with. An opening Outrage is weak against almost everything unless your opponent is foolish enough to poke Zekrom with Tyrogue or something like that, so your aim should be Bolt Strike or Hurricane.

Hurricane is far easier to piece together since it can make use of one or even two DCEs, whereas Zekrom pretty much needs Pachirisu/Shaymin even for the turn 2 Bolt Strike. Energy Wheel helps for the turn 2 Hurricane, as well.

For long term reasons, Hurricaning Energy to your next attacker also works really well. At some point, you will have to pull out a Zekrom because you simply can’t deny people Pokémon with 90+ HP every game, even with the power of Catcher. That is the more difficult part of the game, and hopefully, you have gained a solid lead at that point.

Delay the direct attacker exchange as long as you can by Catchering up whatever is most threatening to you, and whatever is hardest to gain access to again. For example, if they have 2 Magnemite and 1 Tepig, kill the Tepig. If they have a Vulpix and a Cyndaquil, take out the Cyndaquil as it’s more of a long term threat. If you can’t Catcher a weak Basic and you’re staring down a fellow Dragon, sometimes the better move is to simply pass instead of walking into an Outrage of theirs.

Filling in the Blanks

So, what other cards can be put into this skeleton? While I haven’t tried out every single one of these, or even tinkered with the numbers much, the majority shouldn’t change the overall feel of the deck much. First, let’s talk about the cards that are already there but not maximized yet.

Dual Ball is an okay way to grab Basics if you can’t or don’t want to Collector. It’s flippy and it can’t set up an entire combo by itself. Like every Trainer, what it has going for it is that you can Junk Arm it, but as I mentioned earlier, I find myself using Junk Arm mostly for recurring Catcher.

Still, it’s a nice way to add a last piece to a full “ZPS” you have in your hand, and I run two just for the additional security. You don’t really need four of them for starting reasons, since both Zekrom and Tornadus can last a pretty long time early game, but if you want them, go ahead and add ‘em.

Super Scoop Up and Switch are your best ways to get an unwanted Active right out of there. The last I tested with the deck I actually had three Super Scoop Up and no Switch, because quite frankly I forgot about it…honestly though, it doesn’t make much of a difference in the large picture.

If it weren’t for the flip I would always take Super Scoop Up, but as it is you’ll want the guaranteed retreat. Still, SSU is nice for allowing the re-use (or use at all, in case of a critter start) of Powers. Sometimes, I find myself running out of Energy from my hand after using Hurricane for a bit. In that case, a scooped up Energized Pokémon back into my hand would allow me to be able to keep attacking.

It doesn’t sound like a very desirable situation, but to be honest, it means your opponent isn’t KOing that Tornadus, and that’s generally a good thing (except maybe versus come-from-behind decks that are using Twins).

Now, in the interest of making this skeleton as bare-bones as possible, I’ve left out a lot of options that I will now discuss. The most obvious one is PlusPower. In early HGSS, when everyone was big on Reshiram/Emboar, Zekrom, and a little later Emboar/Magnezone, PlusPower was really really big for Zekrom as 120 was so close but not quite there.

Currently, the most popular Reshiram variant damages itself for you with Typhlosion, so one of the most compelling reasons for it is gone. Regardless, it still makes for a good inclusion: I use two right now, and would not mind three. You can stack them with Junk Arms if you so desire, and it might be necessary if your opponent manages to set up a Typhlosion that you want to Catcher up and kill (pro : that’s every Typhlosion, other than the non-Prime one maybe).

pokebeach.comIt also adds some donking power, and there’s just strange situations where whatever damage you are doing is not quite the damage you want to do.

Defender is really just our way of saying, “ooh, I don’t wanna die, we really want Eviolite already, in fact we want it so badly we’re willing to run this card in our lists just to imitate its effect for just one turn”. I haven’t found it very useful in this format, but just like PlusPower, sometimes it just locks your opponent out of KOing you, and that can be huge.

Still, it is easily Catchered around and since it is passive rather than active, it is not as good as PlusPower. I’m running one and thinking of ditching it.

Do note, of course, that both PlusPower and Defender affect Bolt Strike’s recoil. This is good for Defender, since it essentially shields you for 40 (which you probably knew already because otherwise it’s not really a good card), while it’s bad for PlusPower because it puts you into KO range for, say, an enemy Tornadus, or a Yanmega with a PlusPower.

Revive is your 9th attacker. It doesn’t work on your power critters, sadly, since you’re playing the Pokémon straight from your discard instead of your hand, but that hasn’t stopped people from playing it in Zekrom. I have only wanted this card in my list once, and that was before my opponent made a move that ended up in me not needing it.

I don’t think you need this card per se (if it did, it would be in the skeleton), but I can imagine you might want to cut either or both of the attackers down to 3, and if you do, Revive is almost a must I think. I don’t advocate this play because starting with an attacker is so much better than a critter, but I can understand why you’d want to do it.

pokebeach.comRevive is not searchable, you can’t start with it, but on the other hand, you can Junk Arm it (I can’t imagine you’d need to Revive twice, but you might discard it with an early Junk Arm/Juniper) and it is more versatile than a single copy of a Pokémon.

Pokégear 3.0 is one of the few consistency Items we have, and I like it slightly better than the consistency Supporter options left after maxing out on the two Professors. Emphasis on slightly: I only run one at the moment.

I have only had it once when I needed it, and it got me a Collector when I already had two in my hand, but that’s just a case of a small sample size. If I ran more, I would probably use it more and get a few more uses out of it. It’s a card that can get you out of dead ends, and if there’s any deck that gets those, it’s Zekrom.

Seeker is the only “other” scooping card in the format (sorry Clefable). It guarantees you a picked up Pokémon, unlike Super Scoop Up, but almost everything else is worse about it. It’s a Supporter instead of a Trainer, and it doesn’t bail out your Active.

It also makes your opponent do the same, which can be good: it can allow you to bench them, perhaps even on turn 1, or pick up a large bundle of cards that took a while to get in play (evolved Pokémon, lots of Energy, etc). However, in a mirror match Seeker is a card that helps both sides and, therefore, you probably should not have played it at all.

Similarly to the other tech cards above, I am running a single Seeker and I’m not too fond of it. But, I still like to have the option in my deck to guarantee the re-use of Celebration Wind or Self Generation. Picking up damaged Pokémon doesn’t happen as much: Zekrom’s Retreat is huge, nobody bothers to snipe him and he’s usually better off going out with a bang with Outrage while Tornadus is generally either either at full HP in the Active spot, or dead.

This is where the cards that I run in my current list end, and where other options begin. There is quite a lot of room for techs in Zekrom decks, and most of them are Trainer/Supporter based. Nonetheless, there are still some Pokémon based options.

Cleffa and Tyrogue are absent, which could be seen as weird. I’ll be honest with you again, I forgot them. However, this is partially because I have not needed them yet. The deck is usually so quick to go off, and if you have to start with an Eeeeeek you are probably in bad shape already, while if you open with anything vs a lone baby, it is quite often toast (PlusPower Outrage works, for example).

In addition, don’t forget that drawing early prizes also has a beneficial effect to your hand size. Still, both of them (but particularly Cleffa) add a little more depth to the deck. Then again, they are also gaping donkable holes in a deck that is otherwise almost impossible to KO on the first turn with the 70, 110 and 130 HP Basics. Obviously, Manaphy deserves a mention for doing its Cleffa-like thing too.

Bouffalant has been mentioned a couple of times. I think Tornadus is close enough to Bouffalant to warrant the latter’s exclusion, on top of that it’s yet another Pokémon you do not want to start with. Also, the one thing I always liked about Bouffalant, (the surprise Revenge out of nowhere) doesn’t work if you don’t run anything with free retreat (since you need to have it Benched to promote it unless you want to waste Energy retreating).

If you do still want to run Bouffalant, just remember that the main reason for its inclusion in earlier metagame stages ( & Deoxys LEGEND) is covered just fine by Tornadus.

Thundurus is Tornadus’s brother, but I haven’t seen them play together much yet. I kind of want to try him out, because he SEEMS to slide in well…but that is probably because he is kind of like both Tornadus and Zekrom.

You’d think that’s good because it means you don’t have to tech in anything else for him, but for me the theorymon just doesn’t check out here: he doesn’t accomplish anything in particular that my other two attackers don’t, so all he would be good for is a 9th attacker. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really need a 9th string attacking Basic.

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What is different about Thundurus is that he’s quite a bit more self sufficient than the other guys. He can grab Lightning for himself from the deck, which is better than Energy Wheeling it from the Bench which may not always be possible. And it’s obviously much better than Zekrom’s “please move Energy to me, I want it” (AKA not having acceleration at all).

The problem: I don’t want a manual set up with “Charge” during midgame. That’s when I want to hit them every turn to keep up in prizes. Even if it was worth it, “Disaster Volt” only does 80 damage, and the Energy is discarded instead of preserved.

The latter isn’t really a problem per se, but even if I’m somehow settling for 80 damage mid-late game, I would rather use Tornadus and conserve the Energy instead of throwing it away.

It makes for an interesting starter, but I’m just not sold. He has Tornadus’s damage cap and Zekrom’s Fighting weakness. Those are problems that need to be solved, not added to.

Yanmega is still there, with the same issues as before plus a $50 price tag at the moment. But hey, it can snipe, it has free retreat, and it’s totally an intimidating Pokémon. The ability to punish babies is no longer as valuable since Catcher deals with Sweet Sleeping Face

Some Trainers that I’ve left out of my list that deserve attention…

Energy Search has kind of surfaced recently. It is one of those card number 61s for sure. Personally, I value my Junk Arms too much to use them for what amounts to a Lightning Energy search. Using it does thin your deck and I do have to admit I never really go through all 17 Energy in one match, especially not with Tornadus being all environment-friendly and conserving it like a pro.

Lost Removerpokebeach.comSpeaking of 61st cards, Lost Remover can get rid of that DCE on their Zoroark or Rainbow on Donphan just when they didn’t expect it. It’s really a dark horse card: almost no one plays it, quite probably because it’s situational, but when it does hit the board it hurts hard.

And finally, adding more draw Supporters is always something worth considering. As I said, I took the top eight draw Supporters you can put in a deck and decided to stop there, but some people swear that at least ten is the minimum. I can certainly see where they’re coming from, but I just like the next best options so much less.

Interviewer’s Questions somehow slipped through the cracks even though it’s a viable option. It is not my personal favourite: it digs 8 cards deep into your deck on a quest for Energy (even Double Colorless), and allows you to keep all that you can find. Everything else goes back into the deck, and gets shuffled all over the place.

I think this is okay, it kind of extends your hand’s reach for Energy, but I don’t like using my Supporter for something that has an unpredictable result. You can whiff completely, or only get 1 Energy.

Cheren was actually in my early Zekrom builds, but I just rarely wanted to play it. Adding to your hand without “resetting” it is good, but only until you have to Juniper or PONT regardless because you just didn’t get what you needed. Not to mention your opponent can do it for you with Judge, or profit from your large hand with Copycat.

It is kind of a one-dimensional card that basically makes sense on the most basic level, but kind of falls apart when other Supporters are considered. I have heard some vague rumors about good stories about okay happenings when combining this card with Research Records. It still seems like it opens yourself up wide for a Judge, but at least it allows Cheren to dig a little deeper.

Sage’s Training is another way of building hand sizes, but it’s more drastic. Honestly, this is a better card for decks that can manipulate the discard pile a little better and/or need multiple pieces in the hand at the same time that are hard to search for (read: Stage 2 decks). Zekrom is the polar opposite of those: he just needs Basics and Energy, and/or ways to get them.

For shuffle draw, we have Copycat and Judge. Both of these are kind of obligatory if you are running Yanmega, but since you most likely are not, it’s worth talking about why you would use them. Or rather, why you would not use them.

pokebeach.comCopycat is rather undependable. It can get you a huge bomb, but generally you’ll get what PONT would, and often it’s a little worse. Since these cards are supposed to help you get out of a tight spot, drawing one of these when your opponent has a low hand just isn’t going to help you out at all.

Judge isn’t wonderful in Zekrom for the same reason (a 4 card hand is not going to help you), though the disruption factor is obviously what what makes it considerable. Not only are you killing off their Basics at a rapid rate, but you are also resetting their hand.

It sounds okay in theory, but I find that I generally need my Supporter drops to sustain my own hand. Also, if my game plan is going alright it generally means they don’t have a good enough hand to respond, so Judging them might actually be lending them a hand.

That’s about every card I can think of that I’d consider putting in a Zekrom list. I’ve tried focusing on the slightly more advanced plays here, and not just the extremely obvious aspects, so I hope it gave you some insights.

Matchups vs Other Decks

I want to dedicate a section to this because most deck articles do it, but for Zekrom it kind of feels superfluous because the idea is pretty much always to try and stop your opponent’s main strategy from working through brute force.

Also, with the opening flip and the versatility of most decks in the format, most match-ups really seem to be up in the air, with a 20% “advantage” at best.

There are three groups of popular decks in the format right now, as far as I’m concerned:

  • Fast decks that abuse Trainers (MEGAZORD, Zekrom);
  • Slow decks that lock Trainers (Vileplume and Gothitelle variants);
  • And decks that are somewhat in the middle that do use Trainers but aren’t as fast as the rush decks (PrimeTime, Reshiram, Magnezone/Emboar).

Versus the first group, you will both be playing Trainer after Trainer after the initial set-up, either trying to kill their Active with PlusPowers or Catchering up something favorable if you can’t. It seems self-explanatory what happens in these matches.

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Versus MEGAZORD, Tornadus has his work cut out for him since Zekrom is unfit to handle both Zoroark and Donphan. Yanmega is easily handled, so focus on the Zoruas and Phanpys if you can. I feel Zekrom is a bit better at the Catcher game simply because it doesn’t need to evolve to start attacking, but, on the other hand, there will almost always be something on your Bench to Catcher into a landslide (no escape from reality here).

The Zekrom mirror is simply a matter of prize getting and prize whiffing. Obviously, don’t bother with Tornadus here other than emergency situations or donks. Revive plays a big part in this one.

Versus the second group, I don’t think I need to tell you that Zekrom has a really hard time if it can’t lay down any Trainers. Luckily, while Vileplume and Reuniclus are amazing cards together, Oddish and Solosis are absolutely horrible and you will be scoring around 3 Prizes just on those.

Gothita isn’t as bad as those, but all the same, it dies to a simple Hurricane. Try to deny them their deck strategy if you can.

If you can’t, your only hope is the Outrage for 130-140 on Gothitelle, and versus Vileplume you may very well just be out of luck. Still, if there’s any deck that can kill all the Oddishes and Glooms before they are Vileplumes, it’s Zekrom. Versus lock decks without Reuniclus, the Yanmega tech can actually work, since it’s Oddish’s worst nightmare and can still snipe the Vileplume.

As for the last group…you have to choose between easy prizes on Yanmegas, or valuable disruption on the Magnezones when talking about PrimeTime. Jirachi is completely worthless against you and is a free prize, so hope they run that.

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As everybody and their dog is repeating right now, when playing versus Reshiram, you focus on their Energy acceleration. This is generally the Typhlosion pre-evos, but don’t let yourself be surprised by Emboar variants: it forces you to search for the PlusPower to 1HKO Reshiram, or else settle for the 2HKO.

Luckily, as long as you don’t Bolt Strike, they are forced to do the same. Typhlosion can be annoying to deal with if it gets set up because you can’t 1HKO it easily, making you waste multiple Catchers…though if you get a single PlusPower in there, they are stuck since Afterburnering an Energy on it will KO it.

Emboar is harder to KO but he can’t really get anywhere without a Switch, and they only have so many of those.

Magnezone/Emboar is really a mix of all what is said above: deny them the main strategy by killing the Basics, and if they do manage to get set up just Catcher the Emboar to stall if you’re afraid you can’t slug it out.

Noble Victories

The Japanese set Red Collection has one more amazing card for Zekrom decks: Eviolite, also known as “permanent Defender for all Basics”. While we know pretty much nothing about how the metagame is going to develop, with the huge amount of unknown cards out there (among which are those e Pokémon), I can say for sure this is going to be really huge.

Closing Words

The set name “Emerging Powers” suits Zekrom really well. It added a huge load of possibilities to his arsenal with just two cards. While I thought Zekrom was a very overrated deck in HGSS-BW, now I see it establishing itself as a solid Tier 1 deck in upcoming formats because it has a shot against practically anything through sheer speed.

It has shrugged off the auto-loss and is much less dependent on the Pachirisu/Shaymin gimmick thanks to Tornadus, which significantly improves its mid- and late-game. Zekrom is the deck I pick pretty much every time I play on PlayTCG, because it’s just so easy to get comfortable with.

Maybe you plan to play Zekrom yourself, or maybe it’s popular wherever you play and you want to prepare against it. Any way the wind blows, it doesn’t really matter. I hope you enjoyed reading this.

Reader Interactions

53 replies

  1. tim h

    I know i’m going to be ‘that guy’, but the deck uses Dual Ball very well.

    I have had a limited amount of testing (about two weeks), but I’ve been finding the combination of Dual Ball (3 copies, with 3 collector) and Interviewer’s Questions (2 copies) with 4 zekrom, 3 tornadus, 3 pachi, 2 shaymin with 3 dce to be a very good number. 

    Not saying it’s the best, but higher dual ball counts and lower collector counts allow you to dual ball for the basics you are missing, with interviewers to get the T1 attack more easily.

  2. tim h

    I know i’m going to be ‘that guy’, but the deck uses Dual Ball very well.

    I have had a limited amount of testing (about two weeks), but I’ve been finding the combination of Dual Ball (3 copies, with 3 collector) and Interviewer’s Questions (2 copies) with 4 zekrom, 3 tornadus, 3 pachi, 2 shaymin with 3 dce to be a very good number. 

    Not saying it’s the best, but higher dual ball counts and lower collector counts allow you to dual ball for the basics you are missing, with interviewers to get the T1 attack more easily.

    • Mekkah  → tim

      I didn’t enjoy Interviewer’s when I used it but it probably could’ve done with a mention. As for Dual Ball, I put in 2 in the skeleton list (read: I think it’s good), but they are also a tad unreliable, wheras Collector gets all the Basics you need in one go. I think this is more of a playstyle difference than a right or wrong thing. The 4 Tornadus has been thoroughly explained, so I’m not going to go over that again.

  3. Anonymous

    “What is different about Thundurus is that he’s quite a bit more self sufficient than the other guys. He can grab Lightning for himself from the discard, which is better during and after midgame than Energy Wheel, since there’s bound to be Energy there for him by then, whereas that isn’t exactly secured when going for Energy Wheel”

    Just a fix, he grabs from the deck, not the discard :)

  4. Mike Broodman

    I’ve been playing Zekrom for a long time,and I don’t think Tornadus is very good in Zekrom,because it only acts as a Zekrom that can resist Donphan’s attacks,in my opinion 2 is the best count of Tornadus,because most games I will be using Zekrom as a main attacker instead of Tornadus.
    Also,Zekrom doesn’t need exactly a T1 or T2 Bolt Strike in all the match,its main ability is that he can charge up in one turn,e.j. Your opponent kills one Zekrom,doesn’t mind,send out Cleffa,then play down a Zekrom or Revive,attach one energy and drop Pachirisu and Shaymin,if the bench is already filled usa Seeker,if not in hand try SSU.

    • Mekkah  → Mike

      I’m afraid I don’t see your point. I have explained in detail exactly why Tornadus is good, which includes but is not limited to extra good starts, donk power, Energy acceleration and Fighting resistance. It’s worth having 4 of. I don’t mind 3, but I think it’s too good to go below that.

  5. Andrew Adams

    Why is this getting dislikes? This is obviously a very detailed and well written article. Nice job!

    I haven’t tried 4 Tornadus yet, but it’s so ideal to start with it that it’s probably the play.

    • Benjamin Bolival  → Andrew

      yes it is well-written but it has a glaring fault. this is the low lightning energy count. first turn donk requires a high probability of getting 3 energy in your starting hand. the author even goes as far to say he will probably add 1 more lightning energy and thinks that 13 lightning energy is probably  too much. he doesnt even mention interviewer’s question as a supporter that may help you find that much-needed energy. he does mention energy search and he thinks it is only a 61st card. ZPS main strength is its speed. Having less energy and no energy search option makes this deck slower.  Just imagine a beginning hand that has zekrom, shaymin, and pachirisu but with no energy ? Its sad isnt it?

      • Andrew Adams  → Benjamin

        12 Lightning is a reasonable number even without Double Colorless. Additionally, it’s a skeleton list. 16 Energy is certainly enough for a skeleton list, and he’s acknowledging that it’s a base number.  You’re allowed to disagree with some of his card choices, but every Zekrom article starts conflict about card numbers and choices.  If you allow him his opinions and look past that disagreement, it’s a well written and useful article.

        • Benjamin Bolival  → Andrew

          Have you ever played ZPS? I play ZPS a lot and 12 lightning energy is little. My opinion is based on extensive ZPS play. 

        • Colin Peterik  → Benjamin

          You do realize that Torndus can use DCE, which takes pressure off of opening with lots of lightning energy and opens the door for energy switch. I think his energy count is slightly high and I’ve been testing this deck for the past 4 months.

        • Benjamin Bolival  → Tom

          go ahead and play zps with 12 lightning energy. let us just agree to disagree. good luck in getting a first turn powered up zekrom consistently.

        • Anonymous  → Adam

          Thank you for pointing this out.  This is the reason I don’t enjoy posting my decklists in an article, because if people don’t agree with the list, you get downvoted.  Remember when ReshiPhlosion and MegaZone were first being talked about?  People really disliked the articles because they didn’t like the lists (read: didn’t think they would work).  And what were in the most played decks at Worlds?  ReshiPhlosion and MegaZone.  

          If something doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work for other people.  Keep an open mind.

        • Anonymous  → Anonymous

          No, people down voted those articles because people thought the concept was bad, not because the list was bad. All the experts said that ReshiBoar was CLEARLY superior. They also looked at Yanmega’s 70 damage cap and laughed…

        • Benjamin Bolival  → Adam

          yes sir since energy is important to power up your pokemon. but it looks like his strat was to make both tornadus and zekrom equal attackers so his energy count makes more sense.

        • Benjamin Bolival  → Adam

          I personally think Thunderbolt and Hurricane…Zekrom’s Past, Present  and Future would be more apt for his article since I now understand that he plans to use tornadus as an equal attacker as zekrom. At least Hurricane takes into account Tornadus attack Hurricane. The main reason why I made a howl about his article was because i thought it was a pure Zekrom deck with a tornadus tech but now I understand that it is a deck that features both as equal attackers and his energy count makes sense.

        • Mekkah  → Benjamin

          FYI Hurricanes and Lightning was the original title, but I wanted the Queen reference in there as well (there is more throughout the article – see if you can spot them all :p ). That said, I still see this as a Zekrom deck with Tornadus joining in. It’s just that Tornadus uses the Zekrom cards so well that he often becomes a star of the show himself.

        • Ross Gilbert  → Adam

          If a bit similar to another recent title ;)

          For the record, i joke! Awesome article man. Took me two sittings. THAT’S how good it was :D

        • Ross Gilbert  → Adam

          If a bit similar to another recent title ;)

          For the record, i joke! Awesome article man. Took me two sittings. THAT’S how good it was :D

        • Jak Stewart-Armstead  → Adam

          FWIW I don’t think he got the Energy wrong at all. Not worth theorymoning over it. We’ll see come Battle Roads.

          For some reason, Zekrom articles always get a bit of hate. It’s a card that divides opinions.

      • Mekkah  → Benjamin

        You don’t need to tell me about how necessary a high Energy count is. In my last article, if I recall correctly I had 17 or even 18 Lightning in my ZPS and I was called out for having too much Energy. There is just no pleasing people…

        That said, the game has changed. Tornadus with a DCE reduces the amount of Lightning you need to 1. Tornadus, DCE, Lightning + Collector is enough for a turn 1 Hurricane.

        As for Interviewer’s, as I said in another comment I agree it could have used with a mention, but it is by no means a staple. I don’t like using up my Supporters for an unreliable Energy search, especially not when I will often need to Collector on turn 1.

        • Benjamin Bolival  → Mekkah

          if you intend tornadus to be your main attacker with equal footing as zekrom and not as a tech then i understand the use of 4 dce and 12 lightning energy.  but if someone wants a first turn zekrom with 3 lightning energy to it then i will build the deck differently. 

  6. Benjamin Bolival

    For ZPS to be effective you need more lightning energy. Place little lightning energy in your deck and you may end up with a hand with a zekrom, pachirisu and shaymin but with no energy to use. Four DCE is a lot in a ZPS deck, i would cut it down to two.  I agree with MikeTCG,  4 Tornadus is  a lot.  3 is probably the most I might go with.

    • Colin Peterik  → Benjamin

      ………. Why wouldn’t you max a card that gives Tornadus 2 energy in one attachment?? The goal is a T1 Hurricane. 4 Tornadus, 3 Zekrom.

      • Benjamin Bolival  → Colin

        then if thats the case then he should retitle his article with Tornadus included in it  because it seems that his strat’s amin focus is a turn 1 Tornadus. Make it Tornadus and his dragon friend zekrom…

        • Jak Stewart-Armstead  → Benjamin

          He just wanted to post the Queen song, that’s all.

          Does it REALLY matter that he had to make the title slightly inaccurate in order to do it?

          You HAVE to be trolling about that.

        • Benjamin Bolival  → Jak

          im not trolling. to accuse me of trolling is rather strong but you’re free to your opinion that im trolling so let’s leave it at that. im just saying that the title misled me to think it was mainly zekrom deck when it is actually a deck that feaures tornadus and zekrom equally. some editors may think it may matter but i guess adam calls the shots. sorry im not a queen fan but if he wants to fit in the queen’s lyric then so be it. this is my last post on the matter by the way because i dont want to be accused of trolling.

        • Jak Stewart-Armstead  → Benjamin

          So your parting shot is a sly little dig at Adam and his editorship?

          Classy.

          Look, I’m not a big Queen fan either, but the title is just a harmless little joke, that’s all. You must have been misled for what? 5 seconds of your life? No need to make a big deal out of something so petty.

        • Benjamin Bolival  → Jak

          is it a dig against adam? no it isnt. im just stating that’s how adam likes it and i respect it thats  why i said so be it. the statement is what it is some editors want accuracy while others allow artistry.  i think it would be classier if you ask me what i meant by my statement before placing intentions in my statements.  it wasnt classy to accuse me of trolling now you judge me rashly. sorry i thought this was my last post here but sometimes one needs to defend oneself. happy pokemon playing.

        • Colin Peterik  → Benjamin

          I see where you are coming from now. I am so caught up with Tornadus that I was reading this as if it was TZPS not ZTPS. The advantage that Tornadus has is the DCE utility. More L is needed if you are more reliant on Zekrom.

    • lucas mazzega  → Benjamin

      12 lightning energy and 4 DCEs is enough! You have to open your mind to the new way running zekrom. In the past, Zekrom was hypped only because of the donk, I mean Bolt strike T1. Nowadays, Tornadus and DCEs will increase the consistency and late game that the deck didnt get before.

      The only thing you have to do is TESTING! In the T1 there are much more than only 7 cards in your hand. Your deck is made about cards that DO THE DECK GO ON ( Rodar – Is as we say in Brazil ). There are Junipers, dual ball, pokegear, PONT, Collector, RESEARCH RECORD ( This is a good one ). Interview`s is realy bad! It`s those cards that never do what expected to, I`ll never use this in ZPST ( Because includes Tornadus ).

      Even that, the article is awsome. The decklist is pretty consistent and certainly this deck will be great.

  7. Frank Dee

    hey mekkah, great read. thanks for pointing out how useful the tornadus tech is. maybe now when i post something about a card in an upcoming pack, an heat i get i will just refer to out-side sources and past instances.

  8. Adam Capriola

    I thought this was an awesome article, it’s much appreciated Mekkah!

  9. Mike Broodman

    I think I know what Mekkah wanted to do building the Skeleton Decklist.
    We all know that with the release of Tornadus and Catcher ZPS is going to be a very powerfull deck.So what does it mean?It needs a counter,Donphan.Donphan decks will start to appear with new strategies,and the amount of them will be huge,so that will become as the Luxchomp-Vilegar Battle.To counter it,what does ZPS need? Tornadus.The low energy count is because you will need the Lightning energies only for mirror and other decks,but the main will be the Tornadus and Double Colorless energies for the Donphan Match-Up.So that makes that makes that the decklist would be only a bit different from others decklist if the format is going to be Donphan and Zekrom as main Tier 1 decks.

    • Mekkah  → erick

      Unown D is ok but I don’t think he combines too well with DCE if you know what I mean. I see it as a thing of the past.

  10. Mike Broodman

    In this build 4 DCE and 12 Lightning energy(or 13)is all the deck needs,in other ZPS builds maybe not,usually they would have Unown Dark.

  11. Jason Shook

    Very good Article It made me definitely consider a few
    things in my own deck. I especially like how you summed up the DonphanTornadus
    situation with your “in a perfect world” comments.

    I also have to say I think its good that people seem divided
    on what should be in the ZPS-T deck because it means that there will be a lot of
    different variations of them out there. This is good for people playing ZPST
    because your deck will not be totally predictable. Opponents will always have
    to be wondering if you have the Tornadus in hand or if you can power your
    outrage in one turn with a DCE.

    Now I’d like to offer one opposing opinion just
    for consideration. SSU vs. Seeker: I used to run SSU exclusively in my old ZPS
    because along with Switch it gave me more chance of making the first turn Bolt
    Strike happen. But now with another attacker and one that is more likely going
    to do a turn 2 Hurricane, Seeker becomes much more helpful possibly picking up
    your opponents bench for the possible Donk as well as the usual use of picking
    up your, what did you call them ‘Power Pokemon’. Also the Catcher Seeker combo
    can be crippling sometimes. Yes I did read your reasons against Seeker but I
    just wanted to post a differing opinion. 

    • Mekkah  → Jason

      I wanted to mention this in the article but Seeker just does not get the donk often enough for me. I think it’s better if you run a larger amount of Pokegear.

  12. Colin Peterik

    I just realized in your deck list you have 12 pokemon listed, not 10.

  13. Steven Nilsen

    Solid analysis.  I pick Zekrom on playtcg.me pretty often too.  Right now, this is the deck I choose to play, if I just want to win.  It’s aggressive and wins most of the time for me.  

  14. Steven Nilsen

    Solid analysis.  I pick Zekrom on playtcg.me pretty often too.  Right now, this is the deck I choose to play, if I just want to win.  It’s aggressive and wins most of the time for me.  

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