Hey everyone! Today I want to take a new look at an old friend (or nemesis, for some) – the Zekrom/Eelektrik deck. Last year this deck, commonly known as ZekEels, dominated our format from the release of Noble Victories all the way up until Darkrai EX’s release in Dark Explorers.
It seemed that the deck was constantly reinventing itself and reminding everyone that it was good. Its pinnacle was the 2012 National Championship match between John Roberts II and Kevin Nance where Kevin was one Gear Grind away from winning with his Zekrom/Mewtwo/Eelektrik deck.
Jump forward, about a year, to this format. Zekroms everywhere are left to sit in binders, remembered by their once proud owners fondly but with a twinge of pain every time that they go to make a trade. These cards have been passed over countless times and seem destined to sit there until they inevitably rotate out of format.
It’s not that Zekrom or Zekrom-EX are bad cards, it’s just that there are better options for competitive players. Darkrai EX made playing Eelektrik a bit of a liability and Landorous EX even more so.
Having a 90 HP Bench-sitter weak to Fighting was almost like going into a heated war zone in a clown suit and an air horn stuck on the on position. In order for you to justify playing such a weak Bench-sitter you needed a heavy hitter.
With the release of Dragons Exalted we got one in Rayquaza EX. Able to hit for theoretically unlimited damage (60× the number of basic Fire or L Energy discarded), this powerful EX made a big impact when it came out and, even though it has not gained much since Dragons Exalted, it still has enough raw power to win tournaments.
With such a powerful Pokémon, who would want to go back to using their Zekroms? Well, a few brave souls decided that Zekrom-EX was still good. That with the release of Plasma Storm and the insane combo of Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym, Zekrom-EX could come back to the top and win again.
At Virginia States Johnny Rabus and his friend Stephan Robinson piloted a new version of ZekEels to a Top 16 and a 2nd place finish respectfully. This version abused the new combo of Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym in tandem with Zekrom-EX to get big 1HKOs on massive 180 HP Pokémon.
I had the pleasure of playing against Johnny in the 4th round of Swiss at Maryland States and again at Top 8 in the top cut. In both instances he gave me a great games and was able to show me what Zek Eels could do. I recently caught up with Johnny and went over the strategy behind his deck:
Me: Hey man, I wanted to write an article for 6P about Zekrom-EX and Hypnotoxic Laser. I’ve been playtesting some and have my own ideas, but would like to hear your own as you did well with it at MD States.
Johnny: No problem man, I’d be happy to shed some light on it.
Me: What did you do to beat Big Basics, Blastoise, Rayeels?
Johnny: Big Basics is (in my opinion) slightly in your favor (if they don’t go with an Ether version). You go with Tornadus EX and Mewtwo EX to soften their board, and then sweep with Zekrom-EX. It looks like a bad matchup on paper, but it’s not really that bad.
Blastoise is interesting. If I hit what I need, I win everytime. If not, they will probably take it. It’s 50-50 in my opinion.
RayEels is a bad matchup. They can do what I do easier. Just kinda hope you hit the KOs. They have harder matchups across the board than ZekEels does (in my opinion) so I thought ZekEels would be a better play.
Me: Why did you run Slurp Shakedown Eelektross instead of just a regular Zekrom?
Johnny: I ran Eelektross instead of Zekrom because, while they’re both used in the Klinklang match, Eelektross gives me a better chance to win. If I Bolt Strike, I get KO’d. I could 1-shot a Klinklang, but if they set up 2 of them, I just lose. I also played a low Catcher count so I wouldn’t hit it that often.
I went with a soft counter as I didn’t expect anyone to be playing it. Also Eelektross lets them die coming into my turn (60 from Slurp Shakedown, 40 next turn from Suction Heal, 30 from Laser = 130, 160 coming into my turn. A lot to happen, but I didn’t expect too much Klinklang). I went with no counter week 3.
Me: What was your favorite part of this deck and do you think it would be a good deck to play for Regionals?
Johnny: Favorite part of the deck is the comeback ability the deck possesses. I have been down 2-6/1-6 and go N, KO, KO, KO, win. So my two favorite things are: the comeback ability and the ability to 1-shot threats.
I still believe it’s a great play for Regionals and it’s in my top 2 decks.
Hope this helps!
Needless to say there is a reason that this guy did so well with the deck. Johnny did a great job explaining some of the strategy behind this deck, but I wanted to give a list of how I’ve been playtesting this deck and give some explanation behind my card choices.
But before I do, let me answer one quick question. Why would anybody play ZekEels in this format when 1) there is a really high chance of getting donked and 2) RayEels in format?
1. The likelihood of getting donked is a serious threat, but in the build that I’m working with I only run 3 Tynamo and a lot of Big Basics (Zekrom BLW, Zekrom-EX, Mewtwo EX, Tornadus EX, and I even am contemplating Raikou-EX). The two kind of balance each other out.
While the fear of being donked is a real and present danger, it shouldn’t be the sole factor why you do not play a deck.
RayEels is a powerhouse in our format, considered by almost everyone to be in the top three or four decks and it has more donkable Pokémon than ZekEels with the average list running 4 Tynamo, V-create Victini, and Emolga. Emolga is harder to donk, but it can still be done with the likes of Mewtwo EX and Tornadus EX.
2. ZekEels is able to apply early pressure. It takes a RayEels player 2-3 turns to set up, but with ZekEels you can attack turn one with the likes of Mewtwo EX and Tornadus EX. This early pressure can be big when it comes down to it allowing for KOs later and making sure that your opponent does not set up their own Pokémon.
You still have the 1-shot ability with Zekrom-EX, but are not confined to it like you would be with Rayquaza EX.
Here is what I’ve been working with:
Pokémon – 14
2 Emolga DRX
1 Tornadus EX
Trainers – 34
Energy – 12
Just to note, this is a testing list and has a lot of room for change. Also, this is built to suit my play style and may not work the same way for you as it does for me. I like to load up a large Mewtwo EX and go to work, KOing anything that is brave enough to come into the Active Spot.
Some players may choose to go a more Zekrom-EX heavy approach with more resources devoted to healing and getting Eels into play. Neither is wrong; both are tailored to each player’s play style and goals for the deck.
pokemon-paradijs.comSome of my card choices are pretty standard. Fourteen Supporters may seem like a good deal too many to some, but the necessity of playing a Supporter every turn trumps many other needs. This deck will soon fizzle out if you are not able to access your resources at a rapid pace.
Three Colress are usually one too many for most decks, but this deck runs a large amount of Basic Pokémon and is able to get them out fairly rapidly with Emolga.
Whereas most decks run 4 N, this one only runs 3 as you hope to gain an early Prize lead and don’t want smaller hand sizes. I would run less than three N, but this card is the only hand disruption and shuffle and draw Supporter in our current format making it vital for a late game comeback.
Three Catchers may seem low, but the Pokémon that you want to KO is often the one that is Active. The only time that this is different is when you are playing against a RayEels deck. RayEels is easily your hardest matchup. This deck can do your job, only better. If you are not able to KO their Eels within the first few turns and keep them off the field they can easily dismember you.
The key to beating RayEels is to destroy their set up. I would focus more on starting with a big EX attacker instead of your Emolga and just go from there Catchering up the Eels. They are far more dependent of Eels than you are and if you are able to disrupt their set up then you can try to eke out a win.
Another thing to think about including would be Eviolite to make it harder to 1HKO your big EX attackers with Dragon Burst (this is not foolproof as every RayEels deck will run at least one Tool Scrapper to beat Garbodor).
pokemon-paradijs.comI chose Scramble Switch because of the awesome plays that you can pull off with it. That being said, I also tested Computer Search and Dowsing Machine and both of these ACE SPECs are powerful in this deck.
Computer Search is the only card that can search for Double Colorless Energy and Dowsing Machine really helps with the consistency of your deck, allowing it to adapt and change its Trainer count for different matchups. All three are good choices and it all comes down to what you want.
Max Potion is there because Prize denial is key. If you have seen a Landorous EX wipe off 150 damage like it was nothing then you know the power of Max Potion. I would fit two if it were possible because it combos so well with Eelektrik’s Dynamotor.
The regular Zekrom is my counter to Klinklang. I know Johnny chose Slurp Shakedown Eelektross, but I like how Zekrom does against Tornadus EX and Empoleon. Zekrom is still good and if your opponent doesn’t know how to take it out without putting massive amounts of damage on it first, Outrage becomes the best attack in the game.
It seems that we forget how good Zekrom, Mewtwo, and Eels work off each other until someone is able to remind us of the reason why Mewtwo EX was a $60 card and Quad Terrakion was able to win Virginia States last year. May this spark up some conversation amongst you and your friends and get the creative juices flowing.
I hope I was able to add some variety to the decks that you might consider for this weekend’s Regionals. Like I said, this is more theorymon (throwing out ideas) than providing you with a refined decklist that is ready to go.
I would love to hear your opinions and ideas as well as any constructive criticism you may have for me. Otherwise best of luck at your Regionals. I will be attending the Athens, Georgia Regional this weekend so be sure to say hi.
Thanks for reading!
I have personally always been a fan of Zekeels, I would like to see how yours did in Regionals!
I would actually play this deck if your article came out about a week earlier so I had time to adjust to it. But alas I’ve already decided on what to bring, so it’s quite unfortunate indeed. Zekeels is one of my favorite decks of all time and you made me want to play it again, so that gets a +1 from me! :)
I’m actually playing a version of this deck at regionals. My list differs by about 7 cards though.
This was really an amazing article! I haven’t had such an exciting article in a while. I have actually been working on a version of this for a little while now and it’s nice to see other people taking interest in reviving Zekeels.
I ended up playing Klinklang at Georgia Regionals. I though that this was a better play due to the large number of big basic and darkrai decks that were there (ended up 6-2 and lost in first round of cut to RayEels). Thanks for all the positive feed back!
the new rules change this deck