Empoleon and Zoroark? Forget Terrakion!

pokemon-paradijs.comHello SixPrizes! I wanted to do something different for this article, but first, a little about me. I am a college student from northern PA, and I started playing around September 2010 with a bunch of my old cards and some friends. My first event was a Triumphant pre-release (Which I won! Woo!). That really got me interested in the game, and I started getting into more competitive play. I didn’t really have many cards, but for Cities that season, I put together a Steelix Prime deck and took second with it, losing only to a Magnezone deck and to a Jumpluff deck in Swiss.

Due to being a poor college student, I was unable to go to many other events that season. However, the next year started off even better, as I won the only Battle Roads within 4 hours of me with a Cinccino BLW/Ninetales HS/Reshiram BLW deck. After this, I switched to Typhlosion Prime/Reshiram BLW, and enjoyed it, but didn’t see much success at Cities or States. I started looking at Empoleon DEX/Terrakion NVI, but I didn’t do too much testing with it until after rotation and Dragons Exalted was revealed.

Since then, I’ve been using Empoleon in some form or another. I tried Empoleon/Terrakion, but I just didn’t like it. To me, Terrakion just seemed to slow the deck down too much. I switched to straight Empoleon/Emolga, but I didn’t like having only one attacker, specifically against Eelektrik decks. Finally, I decided to look for another attacker in my binder. I then spotted Cinccino, and thought he might be a good compliment to Empoleon, since their attacks both need benched Pokémon, and Minccino has a built in Call for Family.

After some testing, I found the biggest problem was that Darkrai can 1HKO everything but Empoleon, and I can’t do much when they have Hydreigon DRX 97 out. This led me to another look through my binder, where I found Zoroark BLW. With a PlusPower, Zoroark can 1HKO a Hydreigon. I put together a deck, tested it for a few weeks, and took it to Battle Roads on the 8th. This is the list I used to take 7th out of 33 Masters.

Pokémon – 19

4 Piplup DEX

2 Prinplup DEX

3 Empoleon DEX

3 Cinccino BLW

3 Minccino NXD

2 Zorua DEX 70

2 Zoroark NXD

Trainers – 31

4 Bianca

4 N

3 Random Receiver


4 Level Ball

3 Rare Candy

3 Pokémon Communication

3 Pokémon Catcher

3 PlusPower

2 Super Rod

2 Giant Cape

Energy – 10

6 W

4 Double Colorless

kinneas64.deviantart.comThe deck ran exceptionally well for me, even though I went 3-2. My first loss was against the eventual winner, who had Darkrai/Mewtwo, and my second loss was at the end of the day, against someone who went 4-1 with Darkrai/Hydreigon. In that match, my only problem was not being able to get any energy on my attackers. I went through 4 N’s between my opponent and me, and got one energy.

On the other hand, I fought against two other Darkrai/Hydreigon decks, and between the two, I Knocked Out 3 Hydreigon. Once their Hydreigon were gone, the matches were fairly straightforward. Zoroark was easily the MVP of the day, thanks to all the Hydreigon decks.

After this tournament, I concluded that unless the metagame is full of Garchomp, it’s usually best to leave out Cinccino to focus on Zoroark and Empoleon more. That brings me to my current, and very consistent list.

Pokémon – 21

4 Piplup DEX

2 Prinplup DEX

4 Empoleon DEX

4 Zorua DEX 70

4 Zoroark BLW

3 Emolga DRX


Trainers – 30

4 N

3 Bianca

3 Cheren

2 Random Receiver


4 Rare Candy

4 Pokémon Catcher

3 Dark Claw

3 Pokémon Communication

2 Level Ball

2 Super Rod

Energy – 9

5 W

4 Double Colorless



This will be your main attacker in a variety of matchups. Against Darkrai/Hydreigon, he can be used to 1HKO Hydreigon with a Dark Claw, stopping your opponent’s setup. Zoroark can also be used to copy Darkrai EX’s attack while surviving a hit from Darkrai. When fighting Eelektrik based decks, he can copy Raikou-EX’s Volt Bolt to take out Eelektrik without discarding any energy, since this deck doesn’t have any Lightning Energy to discard. With a Dark Claw attached, Zoroark can 1HKO regular, undamaged Zekrom, which Empoleon cannot do by himself.

Zoroark is also a great counter for Mewtwo EX. He can copy Mewtwo’s Psydrive, do 120 damage, and discard his own energy to prevent an easy KO. His Resistance also helps against Mewtwo, who requires 6 energy between both Pokémon for a 1HKO. The uses for Zoroark are nearly endless, but these are the primary uses I’ve found for him.


I want to make it clear, unless you are running Dark or Prism Energy, Zorua DEX 70 is the best one for this deck. His Paralyzing Gaze for one C Energy can be very useful if you don’t start with Emolga. Zorua DEX 69 may look appealing for his potential turn one Ascension, but you would need to run Dark or Prism Energy to use it. If you’re using some other attacker that requires Prism Energy or Blend Energy GRPD, he may be worth looking at though.



In matchups where Zoroark is not very useful, Empoleon usually is. For example, Zoroark is not particularly useful against Garchomp/Altaria, as he can easily be 1HKO’d, and can’t 1HKO Altaria. On the other hand, Empoleon is great at Knocking Out Altaria, as well as other Bench-sitters such as Eelektrik. His 140 HP makes him tough to KO by any deck that doesn’t utilize Eelektrik.

However, in matches where Zoroark is your preferred attacker, he is still very useful with his Ability, Diving Draw. Diving Draw makes it easier for you to come back from a bad N and gives you more chances to grab that last Catcher, Dark Claw, or Energy. When you do need to use Empoleon to attack though, the ability makes it significantly easier to set up more attackers.


Since none of your Pokémon can evolve or attack effectively on turn one, Emolga is great in this deck. As with all Empoleon decks, it’s usually best if you have a full or nearly full bench, and Emolga gets you that much closer. In addition to his attack getting you two basics in play, and his free Retreat Cost, having three extra Basic Pokémon to put on your bench toward the end of the game can give Empoleon the extra damage he needs.


Four N is a must in this deck, netting you the largest draw early game, where you need to set up Empoleon as fast as possible. The only “better” Supporter is Professor Juniper, but this is a deck where conserving resources is very important. N is also very useful when you and your opponent are both down to around 2 Prizes, since Empoleon can get you a decent sized hand.

Bianca is also very good early game, when you can reduce your hand to two or fewer cards easily, then use it for four to 6 cards. It is most effective in cases such as when you have an Empoleon and you just need the Rare Candy. The only reason there aren’t four in my list, is it becomes nearly useless later in the game. Cheren on the other hand keeps its effectiveness throughout the game, and is your best Supporter for just drawing toward the end of the game.

The Random Receivers help thin your deck a bit, and give you a better chance of getting an N when you want it. You don’t need as many actual Supporters as some decks, since Driving Draw can get you out of a bad late game N, but you still want the chance of drawing one early on, so Random Receiver helps that.

Rare Candy

As with any Stage Two deck, Rare Candy can be the difference between attacking turn two and attacking turn three. With Zoroark, it is a little less important, but the sooner you can get an Empoleon out, the sooner you can get anything else out.

Unfortunately, Rare Candy is usually the most difficult card to get when you want an Empoleon out, since there is no way to search for it (yet). This is why there are two Prinplup, since they’re easily searchable by Level Ball and let you get Empoleon out when you can’t get the Rare Candy.


Pokémon Catcher

Zoroark is a card that very often needs to choose its targets, and Pokémon Catcher is the way to do it. Instead of using Foul Play to hit a Thundurus for 100 with a Dark Claw, you can use Pokémon Catcher on a Zekrom and 1HKO it with a Bolt Strike. It is also very useful for Knocking Out Bench-sitters with Empoleon, and doing that against certain decks will win you the game. Catcher can be used to KO an EX that retreated after taking some damage as well.

Finally, Pokémon Catcher can always be used to bring up either an attacker that is unable to attack, or a Bench-sitter with a high Retreat Cost in order to potentially stall for a turn or two. This can be used in conjunction with a late game N to cut down your opponent’s options.

Dark Claw

What’s better than using your opponent’s attack against them for only a Double Colorless Energy? How about using their own attack and adding 20 extra damage to it? This is how Zoroark can can 1HKO a Hydreigon. Since Hydreigon’s attack does 140 damage, all you need is 10 extra damage to KO it. Dark Claw also allows Zoroark to get around Eviolite on Darkrai. It can generally be used against any deck with some success, at the very least making a future KO easier for Empoleon.

Dark Claw is a little more useful than PlusPower in this deck. Besides doing 10 additional damage over PlusPower, it can also be played before the turn you actually use it to get a little more out of a Bianca. If your opponent gets the Tool Scrapper, then you’ve lost nothing more than using a PlusPower just to get it out of your hand. If they don’t get the Tool Scrapper, then you still have the extra damage available for later. If they don’t have any Tool Scrappers in their deck, then you can get multiple uses out of your extra damage.

Pokémon Communication and Level Ball

Pokémon Communication is very effective in this deck since there are 21 Pokémon to use it with. It’s the easiest way to get Zoroark or Empoleon other than just drawing them. Since there are four of each, Pokémon Communication is not always necessary. Communication can also get a basic out if you need it to.

Level Ball is great for getting extra Basics out, or getting a Prinplup. This is very useful since Empoleon wants a full bench, and Rare Candy isn’t searchable. There are only two in this deck since Emolga is the preferred way to get Basics, and you will always start with at least one basic. That combined with the incredible draw power of Empoleon can usually keep your bench full.

Super Rod

This is a card I think nearly every deck should have at least one of. It can get you a 5th Empoleon or Zoroark, or more Basics to fill your bench. Super Rod also can give you a better chance of drawing into a Pokémon after one’s been Knocked Out. It is also useful if you lose an energy or have to use Diving Draw on a Pokémon or Energy.



I figured I’d get the worst matchup out of the way. When Empoleon is a major part of your deck, Eelektrik is never a good matchup. However, it is still winnable. Your best bet is keeping Eelektrik off their bench, if possible. Zoroark is effective against some of their attackers, but a lot of this match depends on what attackers they bench. Zoroark’s best use is copying Raikou-EX’s Volt Bolt to KO Eelektrik.

If they can’t keep Eelektrik out, you’ll have a much easier time streaming Zoroark than they can keep Raikou attacking. Any noteworthy lightning attacker will 1HKO Empoleon, so you usually only want to attack with him if you can use him for a guaranteed KO. On the other hand, Eel based decks usually have a large bench, so Empoleon can do major damage. It’s a very uphill battle, but with some luck, it can be won.


Darkrai EX/Hydreigon

Empoleon/Zoroark was built with beating this deck in mind. Early on, you can use Catchers and Empoleon to KO Deino and Zweilous, or simply use Zoroark to copy Darkrai’s attack. Two Night Spears will KO a Darkrai for 2 Prizes, but make sure they can’t keep a Hydreigon out. That is usually the key to winning.

If they get a Hydreigon, use Catcher and Zoroark to get rid of it as soon as possible. With Hydreigon out, there’s not a great chance of keeping any damage on Darkrai. If you can keep Hydreigon off their bench, then you should have no problem.


Getting multiple Empoleon out should be your primary goal in this match. Zoroark can be practically useless if they get both energy on their Garchomp. Another major factor in winning this match is keeping their Altaria off the bench. If they can get two Altaria out, they can 1HKO Empoleon, while you cannot 1HKO Garchomp.


This is an interesting match. Terrakion and Empoleon can both 1HKO Zoroark, but Zoroark can also 1HKO Empoleon with Dark Claw and a full bench. There’s nothing they can do to 1HKO your Empoleon however. The main advantage you have, is neither of your attackers need two energy. Keep Knocking Out their Empoleon to cut their draw support. They should not have much of a reason to attack your Empoleon, since it is much easier for them to 1HKO Zoroark.


Stunfisk DRX

Stunfisk can be very effective in the Zekrom matchup. His main utility is being able to Knock Out Tynamo on turn one. In addition to this, he can weaken certain attackers throughout the match, and he can take a hit from Thunderus or Raikou if he’s active. He can also help against Darkrai a bit, though he is far from essential in that matchup.

Stunfisk can occasionally be useful in other matchups, such as against Garchomp, weakening two Garchomp to Empoleon’s 1HKO range. The same tactic can be applied to Empoleon/Terrakion. To use Stunfisk effectively, you of course would need to switch some water energy to Blend Energy, and perhaps add a basic Fighting Energy or two so you can get it back with Super Rod.


This card is particularly useful if you do decide to include Stunfisk or some other techs. It can also be useful in the standard list to help get a turn one Call for Family with Emolga, or to switch an Empoleon out. All the Pokémon in the standard list can either retreat or attack with one energy, so switch is not absolutely necessary.


Rayquaza DRX

Rayquaza is probably my favorite tech in this deck right now. He can make the Garchomp matchup significantly better by getting easy turn one and turn two knock outs. He also can come in later in the game to take out an Altaria easily. Empoleon can also do this, but it hurts much less to lose a Rayquaza than an Empoleon.

Rayquaza can also get turn one knock outs against common Basic Pokémon like Tynamo and the odd Dragon-type Deino or Zweilous. He essentially takes Stunfisk’s ability to donk Tynamo, and applies this to other decks. However, note that you can instead use Blend Energy with Emolga to donk Swablu, though that is about the only noteworthy Pokémon Emolga can donk.

He does not help much in other matchups, but the ones where he is helpful, he can easily make the difference. On the other hand, Rayquaza does not usually hurt too much in other matchups. His biggest problem is perhaps you may still want an extra switch or two to get around his Retreat Cost of three, or to get him attacking turn one. To use him you also need Blend Energy, which just happens to fit perfectly in this deck.

Cinccino BLW

There was a reason I used Cinccino in my original decklist. He can provide a consistent 100 damage when your other attackers can’t, such as against a deck that needs very few benched Pokémon. He’s also relatively easy to fit in for a Stage One, since you already run the Double Colorless Energy, and the Minccino can be used as a pseudo-Emolga. Against many decks, Cinccino can be used as a quicker Empoleon, netting you easy knock outs against Eelektrik or Altaria, or any Basic or Stage One waiting to evolve.


Yes, you already have Dark Claw, but there are some cases where I would love to have an extra 10 damage on top of that. With 30 extra Damage, Zoroark can 1HKO Altaria, Thundurus, Zekrom-EX, or Zekrom with an Eviolite. The problem I have with PlusPower is being able to consistently get it, Dark Claw, and a Double Colorless Energy. This problem is amplified when you also need a Catcher.

It is certainly possible later in the game with multiple Empoleon drawing extra cards for you, but it’s not always possible when you need it. It is always an option though.


Tool Scrapper

Tool Scrapper is almost always viable in any deck. Aside from the standard use of discarding Eviolites for Empoleon, it can also ease your reliance on Dark Claw. This is mostly seen against Darkrai, where his 90 damage Night Spear is perfect for Knocking him Out in two hits.

Instead of countering with your own Dark Claw, which you may need later, you can just use Tool Scrapper to get rid of the Eviolite. This is especially true when you have to use a previously damaged Zoroark, where he can’t get two hits with the single Dark Claw.


This deck certainly has a good chance in the current metagame. It combines the power of Diving Draw and Attack Command with the versatility of Zoroark. In its simplest form, it has a strong matchup against one of the top decks in the format, and can do well against other decks. It can be easily adjusted for different local metagames with some simple techs, providing even more versatility and early game strength.

Reader Interactions

8 replies

  1. Amanda Kovs

    Automatic +1 for the Cinccino love. Still one of my favorite cards.

  2. Mark Hanson

    I love the deck idea, and I will likely toy around with it a bit. When I first read this on the forums, and you cited Zoroark NXD I thought you meant the Brutal Bash Zoroark and just facepalmed :P But totally legit, and probably one of the best uses of (and best times to use) Zoroark BW I’ve seen.

    A comment on the second list though. My experiences with Empoleon have taught me that Bianca and Empoleon do not enjoy each other’s company, and that N+Cheren+ a couple Juniper is usually the way to go to support your draw. How well does this deck (using Zoroark) play down it’s hand early game?

    • Bryan Ward  → Mark

      I love using Bianca in the early game, where I can usually bring my hand down to 0-3 cards, but I’m not sure why it works so well for me. I think the cards like Dark Claw and Level Ball help, and the fact that it has a low energy count. At the tournament with my first list, someone commented “You are probably the best user of Bianca I’ve ever seen.”

      Also, Zoroark NXD is the Shiny one, and just happened to be the one I had on hand.

  3. sam woofter

    sounds fun! I always have loved Zoroark BLW it’s a very fun play and is definitely fun against Raikou EX.

  4. Jordan Saba

    Same as Crawdaunt—thought you meant Zoroark DEX since that’s all you hear about anymore but this deck sounds like a really interesting one to play with. I think I’ll give it a try the next time I go to League!

  5. Brandon Scott

    I feel bad for forgetting about Zoroark NXD. That’s what I get for staying narrow minded. Great article, opened my eyes to what we actually have available.

  6. Hurr Durr

    This deck sounds so powerful, it gave me the idea to slip zoroark into my Eels deck to counter the pesky Darkrai EX’s and Raikou EX’s. Rayquaza EX is really popular by me, and with out the fire energy to discard, it’s going to be tougher than if I ran basic Fire instead of Prism (but I have a terrakion NVI and Rayquaza DRX (Dragon Vault edition not shiny).

  7. Stephen Botha

    Played the deck over the weekend and won a league tournament with it :P.. it’s really fun to play even though I’ve realized that the Rayquaza and any random Gothitelle matchups could get ugly.. +1 for creativity :D

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