Hey SixPrizes! Crawdaunt here with a fun deck idea for you. Today we’re going to be looking at a rogue deck I was building for States. To be clear right off the bat, I’m not going to be running this at my own States. In the end, it worked decently well, but its greatest strength was its rogue surprise factor. Testing against a friend (Starmetroid here on SixPrizes), I beat him with a positive win ratio to start, but as he learned how to play against my deck, he began winning far more often.
That said, I don’t know if this deck has the stuff to win a tournament. I think even if you got to top cut, a good opponent would win the best 2 out of 3. But with its rogue strategy, it’s very feasible to see this going undefeated in Swiss or at least making top cut. But enough about the cons of this deck, what is it and what are its strengths?
The deck idea started in a haphazard way. My friend (a complete newbie to the Pokémon TCG) posted on Facebook asking if anyone had cards for his very first competitive deck. He was asking for Kyurem NVI, Jolteon UD, Espeon Prime and Raichu UD 33. I looked at those cards and tried to figure out what the heck he was trying to do and thought of a strategy with them.
The idea would be to Glaciate with Kyurem as many times as possible. You could use Eelektriks to charge up a Raichu UD 33 in one turn (with minimal Lightning Energy in the deck) and then do 40 to the active and snipe 20 to the bench, finishing off weakened opponents with Spark.
Finally, the Jolteon UD/Espeon Prime combo I thought was a creative stroke of genius to be quirky and counter Mewtwo EX. Eevees provided good starters with Call for Family, and then Jolteon had free retreat meaning you could abuse Eels properly. Raichu also had free retreat, so the deck wouldn’t have a problem with its Dynamotoring. But Espeon Prime could use Jolteon UD’s Mach Bolt attack for weakness on Mewtwo EX, meaning 140 damage.
What does this deck go for off the bat? Glaciate for 30 damage! 30+140 = dead Mewtwo EX. You could also bring in a Raichu UD 33 to finish off Mewtwo after Espeon attacked, and snipe 20 again.
I pretty much posted the above paragraph in response to my friend, asking if this was his idea, and if so, why he was such a wizard. But the answer I got in response split my sides. I won’t directly quote it, but he said he was also going to be running Vaporeon UD and Starmie NDE with a focus on healing. He wasn’t thinking of using Eelektrik at all! And to top it off, Espeon Prime wasn’t a counter for Mewtwo EX, it was just… well… because!
So maybe I gave my friend FAR too much credit for TCG strategy. He’s a very good VGC player, but he still has a lot to learn about the TCG and the metagame. But then I looked at my post and thought “Man… could that really work?” So I came up with a deck list and tried it out.It was amusing and a fun idea, but pretty underwhelming. I nonetheless thought the concept had potential, and I just wasn’t doing it right. Then I got an idea. Here’s my first real list:
Pokémon – 22
3 Zebstrika NDE
2 Jolteon UD
Trainers – 24
3 Junk Arm
Energy – 14
You’ll notice off the bat a big change from the original Facebook post idea. Zebstrika NDE. This guy led to any potential success this deck has in States. His first attack “Disconnect” does 40 damage and Item locks your opponent. This was key to the deck’s strategy as you were using Kyurem to Glaciate without Water Energy acceleration.
This meant you needed two turns to attach energy to Kyurem to charge it up, and any player who knows Kyurem knows to not let it attack for 180 potential damage whenever possible.
But with Item Lock active, your opponent could no longer Catcher up the Kyurem and KO it before it could get its job done. Eelektrik still provided the Colourless acceleration, and was offered protection by Zebstrika’s wonderful, wonderful Item Lock. But the biggest strength of this combo was Zebstrika’s second attack, “Lightning Crash.”
Lightning Crash became the cornerstone of the deck. After a single Glaciate, Zebstrika could Lightning Crash to kill any Eelektriks that managed to get set up, as well as any Thundurus or other Pokémon with with 110 HP. Against Magnezone decks, you could also Item Lock early, preventing the Rare Candy, and then Glaciate.
The pattern I tended to see was Glaciate once, get killed by a Magnezone that was just waiting to Candy, snipe 80 to the Magnezone, get killed, snipe 80 to another Magnezone or Disconnect twice while charging Kyurem #2 on the bench, get killed, Glaciate a 2nd time for double KO. The other great strength of Lightning Crash was the Water Energy in the deck. Lightning Crash discards all Lightning Energy attached to Zebstrika. This meant with a Water attached, Zebstrika only needed a double Dynamotor to charge up again.
The deck had some moderate success, but against faster decks like Zekrom/Eelektrik, I just couldn’t keep up. The prize race easily went to the ZekEels player due to Zebstrika’s frailty. I soon came to realize the faults of my first list (and the true strengths of Zebstrika), and adjusted my list to a much more competitive one. I still had some quirky cards in it, but they served their purpose. List #2:
Pokémon – 19
3 Zebstrika NDE
1/1 Darkrai & Cresselia LEGEND
Trainers – 28
4 Junk Arm
Energy – 13
Yup. Darkrai & Cresselia LEGEND (hereon referred to as DCL). First, the deck needed another Blitzle to make sure I could stream Zebstrikas and also have better odds of opening with it (so I could evolve second turn and either free retreat for Kyurem or Disconnect for a Tynamo KO and Item Lock). Blitzle’s Agility is also a good opening attack to try and avoid getting KO’d first/second turn.
After that, Pokémon Catcher was added. Honestly, it’s just too good a card. Zebstrika loves to Catcher and kill opposing Tynamos on the second turn, giving you a prize lead and Item Locking your opponent. It was just too good a combo to not have in the deck.
The other major change was N. Since my strategy was to potshot and spread, I wasn’t in the prize lead early in the game very often in previous testing. It was also great disruption after my opponent had been Item Locked for a couple turns, and was saving their Items in their hand ready to unleash them.
I still wasn’t running Pokémon Collector, just because I found I got what I needed through Level Ball and Pokémon Communication. I had 19 Pokémon in the deck, so it wasn’t hard pulling Basics out of the deck with just normal draw support and Level Ball.
The last addition was a really fun idea. I was looking for a better Mewtwo EX counter, since that proved to be my biggest problem. I mean, setting up two Stage 1s just to 2-shot a Mewtwo EX was a terrible solution, no matter how creative it is. So I started looking at most any Psychic Pokémon outside of just using my own Mewtwo EX, since I felt determined to be as rogue as possible. DCL randomly grabbed my attention because of its attack that did 100 damage. It took 2 Darkness Energies and a DCE, and was overall just not a great idea… but then I looked at Moon’s Invite and a twisted little grin curled upon my face.
PokeGym“Move as many damage counters on your opponent’s Pokémon as you like to any of your opponent’s other Pokémon in any way you like.”
If I could get two Kyurem spreads off in a game and then drop DCL with a Psychic Energy, I could easily take 4 prizes in a single turn out of nowhere! It was just too tempting an idea to pass up, and it only took one full Glaciate to one shot any EX I wanted. I was also potshotting my opponent often, meaning damage could build up easily. The idea just seemed to click and I had to test it.
Originally, testing went about as well as it did before. The lack of a 5th and 6th Water Energy wasn’t enjoyed much, but I just couldn’t help but think it was worth it. I began playing the deck a little differently, Catchering up evolved Eelektriks and then Disconnecting for potshots and Item Lock. I’d then Catcher up the other Eel and do the same thing. I was trying to keep as much damage on the field as possible, to try my best to pull of DCL.
Super Rod let me return DCL pieces I discarded with Sage’s Training, and the 1 Psychic Energy if it had to be used earlier in the game (thus the reason I didn’t just run 2 Rainbow). The brilliance of DCL really only shined when I added the Legend Box though. This deck often got down to less than 10 cards by the end of the game. But with either Super Rod and/or Junk Arm in hand, nothing was impossible! I could often get my DCL out at the end to Moon’s Invite and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
… or so I thought. Soon enough the most blaring of problems with this deck was staring me in the face. Once my opponent knew what I was playing, any dedicated attacker could set up in front of me and I was powerless to stop it. Even worse, give it an Eviolite.
Ever tried potshotting a Zekrom BLW, Zekrom EX, or Mewtwo EX with Disconnect and Glaciate? It’s not fun. What’s worse is if my opponent knew my strategy, they could easily just avoid benching excess Basics making my Glaciate + DCL combo much… much weaker.
This build of the deck has real potential and if you’re ballsy enough to run this at a tournament then it’s certainly worth considering. The weakness of this build lies in the experience of your opponent. With this build, you’ll probably never win a best-of-3 matchup unless your opponent just got bad starts.
But its strengths lie in its rogue factor (which now that this article is posted is less rogue, but I’m still pretty sure your opponent would drop a “WTF” when they saw Kyurem in an Eel deck).
Any player without a clue as to how to play against this deck will fall victim to it. It’s a similar concept to Durant. An experienced player knows not to burn their resources and only set up 1-2 attackers to minimize wastage. In the same way, an experienced player knows to run their deck sub-optimally against this deck so as to avoid damaging spread.
My goal wasn’t to build a rogue that could make top cut only to fail in the first round. My goal was to build a rogue that could win a tournament and at least become a genuine Tier 2 deck. Thus, I couldn’t settle for the problem my opponent’s experience posed. I needed a solution and I needed firepower. List #3 (final list):
Pokémon – 20
3 Zebstrika NDE
2 Mewtwo EX
Trainers – 27
3 Junk Arm
Energy – 13
Back I went to 6 Water Energy. Even if my opponent knew about Kyurem, he was nonetheless a threat. The greatest strength still lay in the combo of Zebstrika’s Lightning Crash and Kyurem’s Glaciate. These two attacks meant no Eelektrik was safe, and no Tynamo could be benched safely mid-game.
Furthermore, any Eelektrik deck that lost its energy acceleration was like a bird with clipped wings. I added a Lost Remover to the list to aid my matchup against CMT (Celebi Prime/Mewtwo EX/Tornadus EPO) and two Mewtwos for the same reason. I also played with the idea of 2 Zekrom BLW and only 1 Mewtwo EX, and I certainly wouldn’t discount it as an option.
I’ve talked a lot about my matchups in testing against Eelektrik decks (in particular Zekrom/Eelektrik, since Zebstrika and the lack of EX Pokémon makes Magnezone a very favourable matchup), but haven’t really discussed the deck’s biggest problem in the past. Mewtwo EX. In the previous builds, there was nothing stopping my opponent from simply charging up a single Mewtwo EX and steamrolling through me.
This became particularly evident when my testing opponents wised up to not playing as many Pokémon on the bench. Zebstrika was frail at only 90 HP. Though this meant it could be searched with Level Ball, it also meant a Mewtwo EX only needed 3 energy to kill it if I Disconnected last turn, or either a PlusPower/4 Energy to kill me if I Lightning Crashed with a Water attached.
Lightning Crash made my matchup against CMT doable since I could Catcher and kill Tornaduses or just Lightning Crash and kill Celebi, without leaving myself as vulnerable to Mewtwo. But it came back to the “don’t play as many Basics” problem. The speed of CMT was also too much, being able to donk Blitzles if I played an energy on them first turn, and of course donking Tynamos (which comprises over half my deck’s worth of starters).
Pokemon ParadijsFinally my deck stood a chance against all three decks sitting in tier 1 atop the metagame. The addition of Mewtwo EX meant I could set up the Mewtwo exchange and take the last 2 to 4 prizes quickly. Zebstrika also made it possible for me to charge Mewtwo manually without DCE, thanks to the Item Lock. My opponent still needed to watch out for my Kyurem/Zebstrika combo, and thus couldn’t play easily KO’d Basics.
But at the same time, if they held out on playing their Basics, I could N them to a small hand and start steamrolling with Mewtwo EX. There was still one big challenge for my deck (which is the reason I suggest 2 Zekrom BW), Zekrom EX. This behemoth discards energy so Mewtwo EX can’t hit it as hard, and with an Eviolite attached, it’s even harder. Thus, Zekrom BLW was added to let me do real damage to Zekrom EX and at least hope to 2HKO it.
Nonetheless, it’s still extremely challenging. Especially because it relies on DCE to Strong Volt instead of Eelektriks, meaning my opponent didn’t need to accel energy from the discard to consistently hit for 150. The only way to really play around Zekrom EX is to N them to a dead hand and Super Rod for your Zekrom BLW or Mewtwo EX back. Zekrom and Zebstrika can also combo to 2HKO Zekrom EX which is a bit easier to pull off, but Eviolite can get in the way of this combo.
I’ve done a lot of testing with this deck (15-20 games against the top 3 and 10-ish against Reshiphlosion and Durant). Reshiphlosion falls to Zebstrika’s Item Lock just like Magnezone. It only takes 2 Disconnects to kill a Quilava or Magneton, meaning even manually evolving your Cyndaquil or Magnemite can’t save you. Item Lock is also incredibly useful against Durant, disabling their Revives, Level Balls and disruption.
The Durant list I tested against only had 2 Eviolites. An eviolite-heavy list could cause problems for Zebstrika since Eviolited ants with Special Metals only take 10 damage from a Disconnect. But this deck does run a Zekrom BLW and if necessary it can be used. Overall, the Durant matchup is favourable. I’ll get to the probabilities in a moment.
Finally I only did limited testing against Tier 2. I’d say Tier 2 is comprised of CaKE/CoKE, Chandelure, The Truth, 6 Corners and maybe Vanilluxe/Victini/Vileplume. However the only matchup Zebstrika/Kyurem is truly worried about in this tier is CaKE/CoKE. Provided they can get the Glaciate off themselves, the results can be devastating.
Item Locking them and killing their Voltorbs is viable, but it just takes one Twins to get an Electrode and one Kyurem to spoil your fun. I’d nonetheless give this deck a favourable matchup but only slightly. The biggest reason is that all their basics have such high HP that they will have the time to manually attach their energy.
The rest of tier 2 either relies on Vileplume to Item Lock or is named 6 Corners. Vileplume vs. Zebstrika is an auto-win for Zebstrika, since you disable their Rare Candy after Catchering out their Oddish for a Disconnect Item Lock KO. Chandelure NVI is hit especially hard since you can then Catcher out Dodrio UD for a Disconnect KO due to weakness. 6 Corners is another deck with high HP basics but the lack of energy acceleration means you can usually outspeed them. Especially with Item Lock and N disrupting their strategy.
So, what ratios would I assign to these matchups? I have to be unbiased here and view this deck objectively. I already said at the start that its greatest strength is in its rogue factor, and that I wouldn’t be running it myself at States.
That said, the ratios I list below will be its ratios against a skilled/experienced opponent. If you included its rogue factor and the number of misplays you might expect even a skilled opponent to make, you could probably bump each ratio up 10-20 in favour of Zebstrika/Kyurem.
It’s not a bad deck, and I hammered out as many kinks as I could to help it shine, but in the end, I’m just not confident that it can really win a tournament. It definitely has a chance depending on your metagame, but it just wouldn’t work for mine.
Note: I played 8-10 matchups against the tier two lists, but the results were obvious enough that I didn’t feel more testing was necessary. For the decks I don’t usually play, I got deck lists from “The Deck Out.”
6 Corners: 65-35
The Truth: 75-25
Lastly, what does the future hold for this concept? A surprising amount actually. If I were to fault this deck I’d say Kyurem is inconsistent and takes a lot of skill to play correctly. And even then, against an experienced opponent, it can be too little.
But there’s a card in the Japanese expansion Dark Rush that can replace Kyurem, provide consistency for the deck and still give Zebstrika the snipe kill on opposing eels. You know it, I love it, let’s hear it for Minun! 10 Damage to the active and 10 to each benched Pokémon! That’s like a dream come true for Zebstrika! And it only takes… what’s that! ONE LIGHTNING ENERGY. Minun/Zebstrika for BDIF.
But seriously, I hope you enjoyed reading this article! I certainly enjoyed writing it. This is the very first truly rogue deck I’ve ever built and it was a blast! If you were feeling like being really unique and playing with DCL, then I would suggest teching a Mewtwo EX into the deck to return KO an opposing undamaged Mewtwo EX (since you want Damage on the field). It can just help the deck deal with the constant pressure CMT provides.
Of course, I’ve left out the most important part of the rogue-building process. Coming up with an awesome name afterwards! Starmetroid and I had a lot of debate about what this deck could be called, but I settled on 3 potential names.
If you use DCL then “Zebras and WaterCress” is my favourite name. If you don’t, then the two names I’ve got for you are “African Winter” and “It Takes All Stripes.” All I know is that the iron-clad rule of being manly is spirit, and a good name comes from manly spirit. Therefore, this deck can never win a tournament because I haven’t picked a definite name for it yet.