Hey guys! I’m happy to present the 8th article in the marathon. Today I’ll be talking about Drampa/Zoroark. This deck has strong finishes at the past 3 tournaments, picking up a Top 4, 1st place, and another 1st place at Madison, Mexico, and Origins respectively. The deck is a force to be reckoned with since it combines two inherently strong cards. Stand In is a duplicate ability of Rush In, originally printed on Keldeo-EX BCR. Keldeo-EX has made its way into numerous decks solely because of its Ability, but Zoroark has the added bonus of Mind Jack and Foul Play.
The most similar deck in the format to Drampa/Zoroark is Drampa/Garbodor. Both of these pair off Drampa-GX with a non-EX/GX attacker that can carry its own weight by handling Drampa’s weaknesses. Zoroark provides a great way to deal with Tapu Bulu-GX, Espeon-GX, other Drampa-GX easily with Foul Play. I love the controlling style of the deck by forcing the opponent to restrict their Bench. If the opponent plays stupidly and benches 4-5 Pokémon, it’s very easy to win through Mind Jack.
Zoroark made its debut at Madison Regionals, picking up a Top 4 finish with Danny Altavilla. I’d argue it did so well because of the mass amounts of Garbodor GRI present in the room. It dominated Seattle by taking up 24/32 spots in Top 32. Other decks throughout the room were built to counter Garbodor, such as Alolan Ninetales or Metagross. Vikavolt SUM/Tapu Bulu-GX also made an appearance in Top 8 and downwards, giving Zoroark decks another good matchup.
Zoroark is insane at countering Garbodor GRI since it relies on very few Items. Its damage comes from the opponent—the amount of Pokémon they bench, or the attackers they use. Wonder Tag in conjunction with Brigette/Pokémon Fan Club sets multiple Zorua. This alleviates the problem that plagued Evolution decks for the past year. It was hard to draw into multiple Basics, requiring decks to run Level Ball or “burn” cards like Acro Bike, exemplary in Vespiquen. Psychic Resistance improves math against Espeon-GX or Garbodor GRI, giving Zoroark the durability to trade well.
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 33
Energy – 10
This list is extremely similar to Danny’s, simply because there isn’t something I can find that I dislike from that. I’ve always wanted to add a Field Blower, so I cut the Tapu Koko for it. My reason for including it is because so many lists are omitting it. When playing against a random Zoroark player, I feel completely safe about laying down any Tool at any time. Field Blower is a good card, but is even better when unexpected. It also acts as an out to Garbotoxin through Teammates in some scenarios. Tapu Koko has been useless in testing, and has very few cases where it would be better than Oricorio. It is significantly better against Gyarados, but I don’t expect Gyarados to be popular at the NAIC. If a few players do play it, the room will be filled with over 1000 players, meaning that it’ll be an unlikely opponent.
Shaymin-EX: Shaymin-EX is great in this deck. Most decks continue to run a copy, which I tend to agree with. Some decks like Espeon/Garbodor, Metagross, or Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu don’t need Shaymin-EX to function; in these cases I would obviously omit Shaymin-EX. Set Up is still an insanely strong Ability post Guardians Rising, since it offers a way to dig after using a Supporter. Oranguru offers the same, but it is much more difficult to reduce hand size that drastically. One other use I find for Shaymin-EX is through Sky Return and Choice Band. I’ve been able to poke a Tapu Lele-GX or Espeon-GX on the first turn for 60, then follow up with a Zoroark the next.
Tapu Koko: Koko provides a neat way to finish off Pokémon on the bench. It’s great at softening up bulky Pokémon for Berserk or Mind Jack, since those hit awkward numbers against the majority of the format. Koko also boasts a free Retreat Cost for the times when Stand In is offline.
Field Blower: Although I briefly discussed it above, here’s its own section. I’ve seen debate online on whether Field Blower is necessary or not. I’d argue that it is, but it depends on the meta. Fighting Fury Belt may make a resurgence in Vikavolt, Darkrai, or Volcanion. A Tapu Bulu-GX with a Fighting Fury Belt trades insanely well against Zoroark, but can struggle against a swinging Drampa-GX. Use any attacker to soften up the Pokémon first if you choose not to play Field Blower.
Pokémon Fan Club/Brigette: Upon first glance, I found it unnecessary to include both search cards. Theoretically, one must always be better than the other, as well as it being a dead card past the first turn. Both of these are not necessarily true for this deck. Pokémon Fan Club is good for damaging a Pokémon for Berserk, while Brigette is great at grabbing many Pokémon on the first turn. One weakness of the deck is when it fails to set multiple Zorua on the first turn. Drampa/Zoroark can fall behind easily if a Zorua gets knocked out each turn. I’d recommend keeping both of these, since it also acts as a preventative measure to prizing both.
Teammates: Another underrated card from the deck. Teammates is perfect for limiting Item usage against Garbodor variants. Without Teammates, the matchup quickly becomes favored for Garbodor. It was an essential part of Danny’s victory against me in Top 4 of Mexico. I had all but sealed the game through an Oricorio + Lysandre play with Garbotoxin in effect, but Teammates allowed him to grab the exact cards he needed in a thick deck. Throughout my testing with the deck, Teammates has always been there to stream Zoroark or to pick up a crucial KO.
2 Rescue Stretcher: Rescue Stretcher is insane in this deck. It’s great for picking up a single Zoroark or Zoroark BREAK to evolve. It’s better than Super Rod in all ways, and I find that the majority of the time I use it like Buddy Buddy Rescue. Decks with a large focus on Evolutions used to run 2 Super Rod, and I see no reason to abandon that trend with Zoroark. 2 Rescue Stretcher is also amazing at reviving Oricorio against Vespiquen.
3 Team Magma’s Secret Base: This is a card I’m on the fence about, but probably will never include. A 3rd copy of this is a luxury, but guarantees a turn 2 Berserk for 150-180. Pulling this off can automatically win a game, but also takes away a card from somewhere else, probably the Field Blower or Shaymin-EX. The extra 20 damage is great for math with Zoroark, but can be pulled off with only 2 copies regardless.
Currently, Drampa/Zoroark and Espeon/Garbodor are tied for the title of BDIF. Both have insanely strong matchup spreads, and most importantly, are non-gimmicky, consistent, high-power machines. Both decks have a linear but complex strategy; it’s equipped with a main attacker and a backup. Drampa-GX is great for dealing with Special Energy based decks, as well as ones with 180 HP like Volcanion and Drampa/Garbodor. Zoroark covers the weaknesses of Drampa, like Espeon/Garbodor, Tapu Bulu variants, M Rayquaza, and Gyarados.
The main strength of the deck is Foul Play. As long as you’re keeping pace with the opponent, such as copying their attacks, you should always be even or ahead of them. Zoroark BREAK can copy any attack, meaning you aren’t limited to what your opponent last used, as if you were attacking with Mimikyu GRI. This is great for maintaining a lead. Let’s say your opponent used Psybeam. You can pressure them with Psychic or Divide GX, using a non-EX/GX attacker, for a single Energy. Talk about value.
The main strategy to stick with when playing Drampa/Zoroark is to utilize Drampa-GX for early pressure while setting up Zoroark in the back. Drampa-GX has plenty of utility, but also doubles as a damage dealer. Remember that you’re playing a Zoroark deck, not a Drampa-GX deck. 2 Drampa-GX alone can’t win a game, but Zoroark can.
Very Favorable – Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu, M Rayquaza, Volcanion,
Slightly Favorable – Drampa/Garbodor, Gyarados, Waterbox, Decidueye/Vileplume
Even – Espeon/Garbodor, Vespiquen
Slightly Unfavorable – Lurantis, Darkrai
Very Unfavorable – Greninja, Metagross, M Gardevoir
Most matchups come down to how useful you can make Zoroark be. Starting from the top, these matchups are very favorable. Vikavolt and Tapu Bulu-GX have 150 and 180 HP respectively, giving Drampa-GX easy knockouts. However, the best way to win this is by using 3-4 Zoroark. Their Bench should have 3+ Pokémon, meaning Mind Jack is a 2HKO. Foul Play is insane because their deck revolves on high cost, high damage attacks. Tapu Bulu-GX KOs itself with Nature’s Judgement, and the same goes for Vikavolt SUM. They will try to use Tapu Lele-GX to attack, so prepare a Drampa-GX for Berserk.
Volcanion can be difficult with a slow start, since Power Heater can OHKO a Zorua or heavily damage a Drampa-GX. Focus on setting up multiple Zoroark BREAK. Foul Play + Choice Band + Professor Kukui is 180 against a Volcanion-EX. Drampa-GX with a timely Hex Maniac is also great for going up in the prize trade, but watch out for Turtonator-GX; it can do 190 without Steam Up. Otherwise, focus on attacking early on with Zoroark and taking an early lead. As the game progresses, you only become stronger.
Drampa/Garbodor is favorable, but can become unfavorable if you have to play many Items. Zoroark is better than Garbodor for this matchup, so utilize it well. Either your opponent is forced to use Garbodor and take bad trades, or stall with Drampa-GX. In either case, you have the advantage. As long as you play less than 6-8 Items depending on what you attack with, you should win.
Waterbox revolves around Zoroark, since Drampa-GX is easily KO’d by Blizzard Burn. Per usual, set up a multitude, and prepare to go to war with foxes and sea creatures. Rough Seas is a pain, so target down the same Lapras-GX after hitting into it once. Foul Play is once again the key to winning, since it can OHKO a Lapras-GX with a Choice Band. On another note, Decidueye/Vileplume is beaten by utilizing Drampa-GX. The deck plays few Energy, so removing Double Colorless is a great way to start out the game. Hollow Hunt GX is the ideal GX attack to use from both sides. Some lists are running their own copy of Drampa-GX, so hold back Special Energy until it’s required until further information is gathered.
Vespiquen and Espeon/Garbodor are both even matchups, given the opponent plays well. It’s an uphill battle from both sides metaphorically. Oricorio is your friend against Vespiquen. Drampa-GX is mostly useless in this matchup besides the first turn. At any other point, it’s better to be attacking with Zoroark or Oricorio since it offers a single prize. The key to winning is to be even in the prize trade, then go ahead with multiple Oricorio plays in the last few turns. 2 Rescue Stretcher and Teammates are the most important cards for the matchup.
A side note on Espeon/Garbodor: my favorite matchup of all. I have the most experience with this matchup since I’ve played from both sides. It’s extremely useful to do this because it improves your ability to see the future of the match. Knowing your opponent’s deck lets you plan for what will happen in the coming turns. The best way to start out this match is with a Pokémon Fan Club or Brigette for many Zorua and a single Drampa-GX. Zoroark is the main attacker for this matchup, but Drampa-GX serves as a way to Righteous Edge, poking an Espeon-GX for 20-50. Zoroark BREAK is better than Zoroark because it’s easy for the Espeon player to limit their bench. It also attacks for a single Energy instead of two, meaning Psychic does less damage. Zoroark BREAK also copies Trashalanche, trading well in that department as well.
Important things to note about this matchup are: Oranguru, Float Stone, # of Pokémon in Discard Pile, and Divide GX. A good way for Espeon/Garbodor to steal a win is through an N to 1. Oranguru helps prevent this, but can be shut down under Garbotoxin. Despite this, always bench Oranguru. Maintaining your Float Stone count is important for deterring any fancy Oricorio plays from your opponent. Come the late stages of the game, Supernatural Dance will be hitting 6+ Pokémon. Lysandre and Garbotoxin can steal a game, since the deck only runs 2 copies of Float Stone. Lastly, remember that you can use Divide GX as well through Foul Play. I find it more threatening than trying to Big Wheel GX for a quicker set up.
My last part of the Espeon/Garbodor matchup to discuss is deciphering your opponent’s strategy. They may try to solely go with 2 Espeon-GX and bench nothing else, to which you should answer with Drampa-GX and Zoroark BREAK. They may also try to only attack with Garbodor and Tapu Lele-GX, to which you should use Zoroark. It’s a back and forth game that requires quick thinking from both players. Neither one wants to play many Items, since the game can also come down to Foul Play for Trashalanche. I find that as an Espeon/Garbodor player, I’ll have to commit to one strategy or other by the first two turns. Adapt to what your opponent is doing, since executing the improper strategy will cause you to lose.
Despite listing 5 bad matchups for this deck, I don’t think it should deter you from playing it. Many of them are “fringe” decks that won’t see much play. Like I stated earlier, a few players may be crazy enough to play them, but there’s plenty of other people in the room. I’d expect you to play against 2 of these on the first day of the NAIC. Metagross is the most popular of the bunch, with Greninja, Darkrai, Lurantis, and M Gardevoir following in that order. Unlike other decks, Drampa/Zoroark can’t really do anything to handle its bad matchups. All of the damage comes from the opponent’s play—Bench, Pokémon’s attacks through Mind Jack and Foul Play. Decidueye/Vileplume can win through Item Lock or stalling with Lysandre, but Drampa/Zoroark doesn’t have these capabilities. The typical strategy is to get lucky with a turn 2 Berserk and pray the opponent can’t respond.
Lurantis is difficult because the deck has great math against the Zoroark line, heals, and has 210 HP. The key to winning this match is the turn 2 Berserk and pray. Outpressuring the opponent and picking up prizes when given the opportunity is the only way to win. If they start Tapu Bulu-GX, that’s a free 2 prizes later on with Foul Play + Lysandre. Mega Gardevoir is extremely similar to Lurantis math-wise. M Gardevoir can remove the Bench, rendering Zoroark useless. Zoroark BREAK is easy to KO and trades 1:2 with M Gardevoir, unfortunately. It will be hard to set up multiple of them to keep up a prize trade. Berserk and pray is also the best way to get ahead and potentially win.
Darkrai is a hard matchup because of Fighting Fury Belt, limited Bench size, and Foul Play has no good target. Berserk and pray.
Greninja and Metagross are both the “cheaty” Stage 2 decks. They win by surviving the first couple turns, then presenting beefy attackers and denying prizes. In both of these cases, it’s hard to OHKO them effectively. Greninja BREAK can be OHKO’d with a Professor Kukui, but then you aren’t playing Hex Maniac. Shadow Stitching can be copied, but then they use Moonlight Slash and hit for 80. I would plan to Shadow Stitching, then finish off the Greninja BREAK with Berserk in conjunction with Hex Maniac. Against Metagross, set up as many Zoroark as possible. Get ready to chain Hex Maniac for the important turns too. The key to salvaging this matchup is by getting ahead and taking knockouts early on, before they can attack with Metagross-GX.
Drampa/Zoroark is a force to be reckoned with and will be seen at the top tables. It’s great for beating bad players, but also goes toe-to-toe with every other popular deck in the format. Whether you plan to play Zoroark or not, be prepared to play it for 2-3 of your rounds. I think it and Espeon/Garbodor will be the two most popular and best performing decks for good reason. Both are equipped with ample tools to win, but require skill to execute the matchups correctly.
Good luck to everyone at Internationals! It’s my favorite tournament of the year with 3 days of competition, and fun regardless of performance. Last year I played Medicham and had a very poor record, but enjoyed the experience. See you there!
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