I might as well start off by introducing myself because this is the first article that I’ve written for the front page. My name is Kennan and I live in Washington state. This season was my first as a Master, and also my first time playing since 2010.
I’ve had decent success throughout my career as a player. I started playing the game when I was very young because all my friends were into it, but I didn’t get very competitive until 2009. As a Senior, I won a Regional, placed 2nd and 3rd at States, made top 16 at Nationals, and won various Battle Roads and Cities. I was able to earn an invite to Worlds the one full season I played.
Coming back into the game as a Master, I was worried I wouldn’t be as successful, especially in a competitive state like Washington. Fortunately, I was wrong. I started the season by winning a Battle Roads 7-0, and this was enough to give me the confidence to win fall Regionals with The Truth. From there, I placed Top 4 at States, Top 8 at Spring Regionals, and Top 32 at Nationals.
These aren’t the greatest accomplishments in the world, but they are pretty good for a single season, especially since I had to adjust to a new and much more difficult age division. Hopefully they at least prove I know what I’m talking about.
Unfortunately, due to very lackluster performance throughout Cities, I ended up missing the invite to Worlds by six Championship Points. I’m not heartbroken about it, though, because I wouldn’t have been able to go to Hawaii regardless. This does mean, however, that I probably won’t play another HS-DEX match in a tournament setting. Therefore, I no longer have any reason to test in that format.
Like most players in my position, I started testing the BLW-on format to prepare for Battle Roads in the fall. Sure, they aren’t going to start for awhile, but there’s no reason not to start testing now. The more prepared a player is, the more likely they are to succeed.
pokemon-paradijs.comWhen I start testing a new and unfamiliar format, I like to play with a deck I’m comfortable with until I have a feel for how games play out. If there’s any one deck I was comfortable with in HS-on, it was Zekrom/Eelektrik. I played the deck throughout Battle Roads and Nationals with great success, and have been playing Eelektrik variants ever since the card was released in Noble Victories. Needless to say, I really wanted to make the deck work.
I’d just like to quickly note that even though this article is about Zekrom/Eelektrik, I tried to keep a lot of it very general. So even if you’re not planning to use the deck next format, you can still get a lot out of reading this article.
Also, I’m aware that airhawk06 wrote a similar article recently. However, my approach on the deck and my approach toward writing an article about the deck are different from his. I think airhawk06 did a great job on his article, and there’s nothing wrong with it. I’m just saying that my article will bring a lot of new stuff to the table. Because a different article was recently written about the deck I’m writing about, I didn’t bother explaining the basics of the deck. If you’re not already familiar with them, I suggest reading airhawk06’s article before reading mine.
Creating a Decklist
Before rotation, my list looked like this:
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 33
4 Junk Arm
Energy – 11
pokemon-paradijs.comClearly, it was very Item-based. I relied heavily on Smeargle and Junk Arm to always have the Items I needed when I needed them. Catcher, Switch, Eviolite, and PlusPower were just as important (if not more important) to the deck’s strategy than my attackers were.
Smeargle played a huge role in the deck, too. I was able to get away with 2-3 copies of a lot of very important cards because Smeargle made it possible to draw those cards reliably. Similarly, I was able to run a fairly low number of Supporters because Smeargle was usually able to double as a Supporter.
I chose to focus heavily on Terrakion instead of using DCE and 3 Mewtwo-EX because it was simply a better attacker in the metagame. Independent of the metagame, Mewtwo was clearly better. But the format was dominated by Fighting-weak cards, every deck was running Mewtwo-EX, and any deck using Darkrai had Resistance to Psychic.
I tried to take a lot of what I built my list around in HS-on and apply it to a BW-on list. My first list looked something like this:
Pokémon – 17
1 Munna McDonalds Promo
2 Rayquaza (Dragon Selection)
Trainers – 31
Energy – 12
pokemon-paradijs.comThis list has so many things that are just plain WRONG that it’s almost embarrassing to share it. But hey, I learned a lot about the format from playing it.
I was trying to do a lot of the things I tried last format. I used Musharna instead of Smeargle for draw, I used a lot of attackers that would hit popular cards for Weakness (Rayquaza over Mewtwo because I figured Dragons would be more popular than Mewtwo), and I relied on Items to make my deck function the way I wanted. I lost about 80% of the games I played. I was always scrambling for resources, losing my Eelektriks, drawing dead hands, whiffing on cards I needed, losing Prize exchanges, etc.
For awhile, I thought the deck was just bad. I’d had success with the same approach in the last format, so I didn’t see why any other approach would be better this format. After all, it didn’t seem like that much had changed.
However, after thinking a lot about why I was failing, I came to understand a few things about the format, and about Eelektrik-based decks in the format:
1. A deck needs to have a very strong basic strategy to be successful.
There are countless viable decks in BLW-on, so it’s very hard to play a deck built around countering the meta or reacting to your opponent’s moves. With this list, if I came across a card none of my attackers could 1HKO (Mewtwo-EX, Terrakion, Terrakion-EX, etc.), my whole game immediately fell apart. I relied on always being able to counter my opponent’s strategy, generally by hitting for Weakness. But there are popular cards of practically every Weakness now, and it’s impossible to run every type.
Because of this, it’s important to have a basic strategy you can play out each and every game that’s better than your opponent’s main strategy. With my list, the closest thing I had to a main strategy was spamming Bolt Strikes. But 120 damage from what was effectively a 90-130 HP card was terrible compared to the 100-160 damage a 140 HP Garchomp could dish out.
Darkrai/Hydregion could heal the damage off and snipe to set up 1HKOs, and most other good decks were significantly faster than me. My basic strategy was weaker than most other decks’, and that was a big reason why I lost so much.
2. Musharna is bad, and so is most other non-Supporter draw.
Early-game with this deck was hectic. I’d rush to set up Eels and charge attackers, but at the same time I’d be trying to set up Musharna in case I ran into a dead hand. I’d frequently end up with 2 Tynamo and 1 Munna on the field after the first turn or two. Then, I’d end up with 1 Eelektrik and 1 Musharna the next turn, with a spare Tynamo or two Benched if I was lucky.
Setting up Musharna was great and all, but it made it harder to get 2+ Eelektrik out in a reasonable time frame. If I was ever left with only one Eelektrik and it was KO’d, I had a one-turn window to get more out. If I didn’t, or if I didn’t already have Tynamo in play, I was in major trouble. Sure, I was getting an extra card every turn from Musharna, but without the most important card in my deck in play, that one card can only go so far. Once again, I was diverting from my basic strategy for techs and cards I didn’t need.
If Musharna took less investment to get into play, it would be alright. In HS-on, all I needed to do was drop a Smeargle on my Bench and I had extra draw for the rest of the game. That’s one of the things that made Smeargle so great. It was easy to set up.
3. Rayquaza-EX is bad.
BulbapediaIn order for Rayquaza-EX to do more damage than Zekrom, it needs to have a Fire/Prism Energy and three L Energy. This means that in order to charge it in one turn, I need to have 3 Eelektrik in play and a Fire/Prism Energy in my hand. I rarely ever have all of this, and when I don’t, the card is useless.
If I don’t charge it immediately, practically any Dragon type can come in and 1HKO it, and everything else can put a big dent in its HP before it even gets to attack. If I do have 3 Eelektrik in play, I’m probably in a good position anyway. For this reason, I’d classify Rayquaza-EX as a “win more” card.
Furthermore, it (and regular Rayquaza) require an Energy type I would have no reason to run otherwise. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t do enough for me to justify modifying my Energy line to use it. At least Terrakion can swing a very unfavorable matchup in my favor and Mewtwo-EX can do big damage for one Energy. Rayquaza-EX can get critical 1HKOs on rare occasion, but that’s about it.
4. If I don’t have room for or need more than 1-2 copies of a Trainer, it’s not worth running at all.
Eviolite, PlusPower, etc. are all good cards. But without Junk Arm, it’s hard to get the cards exactly when they’re needed. There’s simply no deck space for 3-4 copies of them, and with less, it’s very inconsistent.
While PlusPower has a lot of uses, I find myself using it to make a few very specific plays more than anything else. I use it to 1HKO an Eviolted Zekrom that just Bolt Striked with my own Zekrom, I use it to 1HKO an Eviolited Darkrai-EX with Terrakion, and I use it to Bolt Strike 1HKO an opponent’s Terrakion.
Tool Scrapper can be played for the same effect in two of those three scenarios. However, it can also be played as soon as you draw it for the same effect as long as they don’t attach another Eviolite. This makes it less likely to whiff on the card when it’s most needed. Furthermore, it has a bunch of other uses. If you play against Garbodor, it gives you a much better shot at winning and it destroys any other decks based around using Exp. Share or other tools.
Basically, I realized a lot of the attackers I was using were sub-par, my basic strategy wasn’t good enough, and some of the other card choices I was making were wrong.
The second two were fairly easy to fix. I just had to refocus my deck and replace the bad cards with better ones. However, I had to find better attackers, which wasn’t as easy. I was already using a lot of the popular ones, and they weren’t working out. On a whim, I decided to try using Raikou-EX as my main attacker. The snipe made me less reliant on Catcher and I figured it would be nice to have the higher HP. My list looked like this:
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 36
Energy – 11
This list was a major step up from my last one. The Raikou + Max Potion strategy worked much better than Zekrom + Eviolite did. I dropped Emolga for Skyarrow Bridge since I only had it there for the free Retreat anyway, streamlined my draw Support and the rest of my Trainer line, and got rid of a lot of unnecessary cards. I was winning about half my games, which still isn’t very good, but it’s a big step up from losing almost everything. Most of my losses were either from bad draws or from Terrakion destroying my Raikous.
I was able to figure out a few more things about how this deck works after playing this list for awhile.
1. Relying on Items in general is asking for trouble.
A card like Zekrom is fairly underwhelming without cards to support it. 120 won’t 1HKO much, and after it does 120, it’s left with 90 HP, which almost everything can 1HKO. Factor Eviolite and PlusPower into that, however, and you’re looking at a card hitting for 130+ that will be left with a virtual 110+ HP. Combined with Pokémon Catcher for selective KOs, that’s just enough to push it over the edge.
However, I never had the Items I needed when I needed them. A whiff on a single Eviolite was sometimes enough to cost me the game. Having to play Juniper/N/Cheren and just pray to the Pokémon gods that you draw a good hand is bad enough, but having to play Juniper/N/Cheren and pray to draw the exact card(s) you need is even worse. Being able to play entirely off the field is a huge advantage.
2. Less than 12 draw Supporters isn’t going to cut it anymore.
In the early days of HS-on, we didn’t have Skyarrow Bridge, so Smeargle wasn’t a great card. We had to rely entirely on our own Supporters for draw, just like we have to in BW-on. Most decks in HS-BW ran something along the lines of 11 draw Supporters, 2 Pokégear, 4 Junk Arm, 8 Pokémon-searching cards, and 2 Cleffa. This gave players a total of 27 outs to Cleffa or a draw Supporter. That’s almost half their deck!
However, we don’t have any card to replace Cleffa or Junk Arm in the Black and White sets. This means Pokémon-searching cards and Pokégear/Random Receiver can no longer get us out of a dead hand. So, even if you run 11 draw Supporters, 2 Random Receiver, and 8 Pokémon-searching cards, you still only have 13 outs to a Supporter. That’s not even a fourth of the deck, and we complained about consistency problems in early HS-on!
The good news, however, is that by dropping 4 Junk Arm and 2 Cleffa/Smeargle, we open up six spots in the deck. The spots from Junk Arm generally go to thicker lines of Items, but the Cleffa/Smeargle spots are open. For lack of a better option, they should just go to Supporters. If we also make the Random Receivers Supporters, we can run 15-ish Supporters. That’s still only a fourth of the deck, but most Supporters can draw at least a fourth of the deck, so with any luck dead hands will be kept at a minimum with 15+ Supporters.
3. “Counter attackers” aren’t very useful anymore.
In the past, a card like Terrakion was great because it could swing bad matchups in your favor. However, in BW-on, introducing unnecessary types (and unnecessary cards in general) to your deck is a bad idea. In most decks, there are AT LEAST 60 cards you NEED in your list. And by definition, you don’t need techs for your deck to function.
With the limited draw available in the format, topdecking and having 4 copies of every card you need has become very important. Techs get in the way of that. Furthermore, there’s no guarantee you’re going to play against the deck you’re teching for. But it’s a guarantee that in order to win any game, you’ll need to draw fairly well.
Being able to put techs into a deck is a luxury, and most decks can’t do it. But as long as they have a good enough basic strategy, that’s okay.
Applying these things, I re-worked my list one more time. This time, it didn’t require a complete overhaul, but just a few minor changes. I ended up with this:
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 36
Energy – 11
After reading everything above, you can hopefully understand most of my decisions in this list. However, I’ll explain a few things that might be slightly strange.
3 Raikou-EX/2 Mewtwo-EX/1 Zekrom-EX. My line of attackers is certainly different from most. Raikou is my main attacker, so I use three copies of it. I rarely need more than two, but having two out at the same time is very important and having the third makes it likely I’ll always have this setup.
2 Mewtwo is fairly standard; I’d run a third if there was room, but there’s simply not. I decided to use Mewtwo over Terrakion or a different attacker because it’s a fast, low-cost, and low-maintenance attacker that’s not weak to Fighting. Basically, it’s everything my other two attackers are not.
The Zekrom-EX is probably the strangest part of the attacking line. I find it to be a much better attacker than regular Zekrom, since it can 1HKO Garchomp and Hydregion without being 1HKO’d back. It hasn’t been as useful as I was hoping it would be, but I still believe it’s better than Zekrom.
15 draw Supporters. A lot of people would call this overkill, but it makes the deck run very smoothly. I’d rather have two or three Supporters in my hand than none at all.
3 Super Rod. This is another example of running more copies of a card than I need just to make sure I have it when I need it. Raikou-EX and Zekrom-EX both run through Energy like crazy, so I always need at least two Eelektriks in play if I want to keep my attacking options open. This means that if they ever take an Eelektrik out, I need to be able to Super Rod it immediately and ideally get a Tynamo on the Bench too.
They usually don’t take out more than one or two Eelektrik in a game, but I never want to have to dig for the last Super Rod in my deck. Because chances are that I won’t hit it.
It’s better to run more copies than you’ll use of the cards you NEED than to run any copies of cards you MIGHT need.
My list is very basic, as I built it around the above principle. However, there are a few cards I do find myself wanting fairly frequently. It’s just hard to find room for them. I’m still trying to figure out if they’re cards I need or cards I might need.
Of course, the counts of a lot of the cards listed above are subject to change. A 3rd Mewtwo-EX, a 4th Catcher, etc. would all be great additions. There are, however, more cards that could be good in the deck as well:
The deck kind of needs a non-EX attacker since there’s so much EX hate going around. Zekrom is clearly the best option since it can 1HKO Sigilyph and Bouffalant. I wouldn’t want to run more than one since it’s not a great card without Eviolite, and honestly not a great card period. But being able to deal with the EX hate and occasionally being able to force your opponent to take 7 Prizes certainly has its uses.
It’s nice to have cards with a Fighting Resistance in a deck that’s almost entirely weak to Fighting. Without Eviolite, Tornadus-EX isn’t quite as good against Terrakion as Tornadus is. However, Max Potion can make up for that and Tornadus-EX is a lot better against Terrakion-EX. The chance at a T1 60 is also a big deal against stuff like Deino and Gible and it brings something new to the table. Tornadus, on the other hand, is very redundant.
No, I’m not making this up, and I’m not crazy. Thunder Fang is actually a great attack. It’s very disruptive, can set up KOs, and against a Darkrai the Paralyze always sticks since they don’t use Switch. Victini gives you a 75% chance to Paralyze, which gives you a free turn to charge Mewtwo or buys you time to draw out of a dead hand. It even works alright with Zekrom-EX and Thunder Wave Tynamo. I’ve won quite a few games by stalling out with Thunder Fang.
This card can save you against anything that relies on Exp. Share, it gives you a much better chance against Garbodor, and it makes it a lot easier to deal with an Eviolited EX or Zekrom. However, the downside is that it’s useless in a lot of matchups too. It’s as dead as a card can get against Garchomp/Altaria, some variants of Empoleon, some variants of mirror, etc.
Eviolite can prevent Terrakion from 1HKOing your EXs (and from 2HKOing Mewtwo) and it makes regular Zekrom a lot better if you decide to use it. It has a lot of little uses, but I don’t think it’s necessary when it comes down to it. A lot of decks are also running Tool Scrapper now, so there’s a chance you end up playing it for nothing.
Anyway, I’ve rambled on forever about how I built my Eelektrik list and how to build a good Eelektrik list in general without talking much about its matchups or how it will fare next format. That’s probably what you want to know about most, so I suppose now is a good time to discuss that.
Of course, there’s no way to know what the meta will be until we’ve played some tournaments in the format. However, looking at Japan’s metagame, it looks like the top dogs are Hydregion/Darkrai-EX and Garchomp/Altaria. After that, we have a bunch of Basic rush variants, Gothitelle/Accelgor/Darkrai-EX, Empoleon/Terrakion, and a few other random decks.
Eelektrik vs Hydregion/Darkrai-EX – Even
pokemon-paradijs.comThis matchup can really go either way, and it depends a lot on the cards in each player’s deck. Sigilyph completely trolls my list, but it’s not unwinnable thanks to Raikou. Sigilyph only hits Raikou for 50 after a Volt Bolt, and Raikou can hit anything except Sigilyph for 100. Plus the damage can be Max Potioned away after 2-3 turns.
The matchup is actually harder if they don’t attack with Sigilyph since Darkrai gives all your attackers a run for their money. Holding your Max Potions is key to prevent double Eel KOs. Taking out their Hydregion with Zekrom-EX is also a big deal, since if they don’t get another one out very quickly you can 2HKO their Darkrais without fear of Max Potion.
If you hit a Thunder Fang/Thunder Wave heads, you get a free turn to charge Mewtwo. If you can get 7 Energy on it, you can 1HKO an Eviolited Darkrai, and this means you can KO two Darkrai before Mewtwo goes down. Two turns is enough to get those 7 Energy if you have a few discarded, and if they’re Paralyzed, they’re certainly not going to be softening the Mewtwo up first.
Really, this matchup is winnable as long as a few of specific things go right for you. If you can keep their Hydregion out of the game, it’s smooth sailing since they can’t charge Sigilyph in one turn or play Max Potion as effectively as you.
Eelektrik vs Gothitelle/Accelgor/Darkrai-EX – ??
Alright, not going to lie. I haven’t tested this at all. I’d assume that, since Mewtwo takes out Gothitelle so easily and Raikou-EX can eliminate the need for Catcher, this wouldn’t be all that terrible of a matchup. But since I haven’t tested it, I’ll refrain from saying anything definite about it.
I could almost say my list was built to beat Garchomp/Altaria. Mewtwo can apply immediate pressure by taking out Swablu, Raikou-EX can snipe 1HKO their Gabite and Altaria, and Zekrom-EX can 1HKO two (or more) Garchomp before it goes down. They can’t 1HKO you, so you can Max Potion whatever damage they do away. Remember to snipe Gabite and even Gible before sniping Altaria since the former two can evolve into something you can’t snipe.
If you can get set up, get a fast Mewtwo, and hit an occasional Max Potion, their only hope is to take all your Eels out. So make sure you’re doing what you can to hold those on the field.
Eelektrik vs Empoleon/Terrakion – Unfavorable
Any deck with Terrakion is really going to hurt my list. In this particular case, however, the Terrakion isn’t very focused on and they also use a lot of cards with Weakness to my main attacker. So it still has a chance, but Terrakion is still Terrakion, so it still wrecks me.
If you use Tool Scrapper and they don’t use Energy Switch, the matchup swings heavily in your favor. Taking an early lead is also great, and if you can take out two Terrakion with a single Mewtwo, you’re also in a good position. However, all of this is easier said than done. It’s really a shaky matchup that’s all about keeping their Terrakion off the field.
Eelektrik vs some combination of Mewtwo-EX/Terrakion-EX/Tornadus-EX/Tornadus/Terrakion/Bouffalant/Sigilyph – Even
However, this matchup actually isn’t all that bad, since you can just spam Mewtwos to great effect unless they run Sigilyph. Most don’t. Since you have Energy acceleration and they only have Terrakion-EX, you usually come out on top of the Mewtwo war.
Their best shot (outside of Sigilyph) is if you start Raikou-EX or Zekrom-EX, which unfortunately is not all that unlikely. That’s two easy Prizes, and it sets you back quite a bit. Late-game N’s can also hurt, since they could mean missing a critical X-Ball.
Eelektrik vs Ho-Oh-EX/attackers – Favorable
I’m not a fan of the Ho-Oh decks. They’re very consistent if you flip well, but as soon as they start doing big damage, a Mewtwo with 2-4 Energy can come in and 1HKO.
Their other attackers are going to be some combination of the ones in the matchup listed above. Your attackers can handle most of them, and it’s a lot easier to handle them when the deck’s main focus is around using Ho-Oh-EX with an inconsistent Energy line.
Eelektrik vs Garbodor/attackers – Unfavorable
Because I love Garbodor and think it’s going to be popular, I had to include it here despite its lackluster performances in Japan. Your best shot at winning here is to go aggro Mewtwo-EX. A Mewtwo with a DCE 1HKOs Trubbish and a Mewtwo with 3 Energy 1HKOs Garbodor. It’s also a low-resource attacker, so it doesn’t matter a lot if they start locking you.
You run into trouble if you start whiffing Catchers before they run out of Garbodor. This happens a lot if their build has 4 Rescue Scarf. You can’t charge Raikou-EX manually, and Mewtwos won’t last forever. You also don’t Prize exchange well against Terrakion or most of the other popular attackers the deck uses.
So, the deck’s matchups actually seem a little shaky overall. It has a couple bad matchups and only a couple favorable ones to make up for that. The deck is saved by three things:
1. It has even or better matchups against the two decks that are projected to be the most popular. Eels can run with Hydregion, and it rarely loses to Garchomp. If our meta ends up being like Japan’s, those will be the most popular decks around outside of other Eelektrik decks.
Furthermore, these two decks have even to favorable matchups against Empoleon/Terrakion and the Basic rush decks; two of Eelektrik’s worst matchups. With any luck, the “big two” decks will keep these decks in check, leaving some room for Eelektrik to do well. Garbodor is a whole separate issue, though.
2. Most other decks don’t have matchups much better than Eelektrik’s. The unfortunate reality of BLW–DRX is that there isn’t a deck that could be considered a safe play. Everything has a bad matchup, and winning will largely come down to dodging your bad matchups.
3. It is more consistent than most decks. The majority of decks in BW-on just don’t have the room for 15-ish draw Supporters. This leaves them more open to dead hands than Eelektrik. The handful of decks that do have the blessing of free space can’t play off their field very well. Except Eelektrik. That’s huge.
Battle Roads are still well over a month away, so there’s time to make a decision on your deck. I for one have no idea what I’m going to play. So I’m going to refrain from saying that Eelektrik is going to be the best deck around, because I don’t believe it. I honestly don’t think there is a “best deck” in BW-DRX.
I certainly believe that Eelektrik is a good play for BRs, though. For those who haven’t heard, BRs won’t have a Top Cut. Swiss will decide the winner. To win, you’ll need to play a consistent deck with good matchups (and of course play well)! Eelektrik is most certainly consistent, and it has decent matchups.
So, I’ll leave the decision up to you. Thanks for reading!