Hola SixPrizes peeps! Welcome back to another of my articles! After quite the hectic start of the season—with Regionals right after Worlds, and then the back-to-back-to-back Regionals these past few weeks—we are finally in a slower stretch of the season. Shining Legends was released a few weeks ago, and Prereleases for Crimson Invasion started up this past weekend. We now essentially have 2 new sets, which could shake things up for the first International of the season in London.
Let’s start with Shining Legends. The cards from this set look very beautiful and the Shining Pokémon being back is pretty cool. However, the set is quite lackluster in terms of truly playable cards, and I can’t even name 5 off the top of my head that I’m certain will make an impact in Standard or Expanded. The top standout, of course, Zoroark-GX. It is not a secret that Zoroark-GX is dominated upon its release in Japan, however, our Standard format is quite different from theirs.
With no access to Sky Field, my initial thought was that Zoroark-GX would be included mostly as a support option, and I believe that is the case—for now, at least. Zoroark-GX competes with Octillery BKT in terms of space (and, to a certain extent, Oranguru SUM). However, there are some very clear pros and cons to running one or the other, and some of them are impossible to overlook when Gardevoir/Sylveon is the best deck in the format.
Overall pros of using Zoroark-GX over Octillery:
- Higher HP means it will not be an easy pick-off to deny its ability.
- Can be an offensive threat.
- The cost of discarding a card in order to draw 2 more can be specifically beneficial to some decks, whilst overall useful for thinning excess cards (2nd Brigette, Pokémon, etc.).
- Its Ability can be used with no hand size restriction (even if you have more than 5 cards).
Overall cons of using Zoroark-GX over Octillery:
- Its gives up 2 Prize Cards when KO’d.
- Only draws 2 cards, instead of a potential 5.
- Discarding a card can hurt you in the late game when you are down on resources left, and might need all that are available.
After seeing this, I don’t think it’s quite clear which one to use. There’s no popular Dark-weak Pokémon in the metagame that Zoroark can get easy KOs on. Its damage, even with a Choice Band, falls short on KOs unless you’re running Professor Kukui to reach 170.
And, while there aren’t any Dark-weak Pokémon that Zoroark-GX can hit for weakness, there is an extremely popular Fighting Pokémon that can easily deal with Zoroark: Gallade BKT. Any deck that considers using Zoroark-GX as its draw engine becomes immediately weaker to any Gardevoir variant. Seeing as Gardevoir is undisputedly the best deck currently, that doesn’t seem great.
I’ve done some testing with my Vancouver-winning list, where I replaced the 1/1 Octillery line with Zoroark-GX and actively took notice of particular situations where having Zoroark was better or worse than Octillery. Overall, Zoroark-GX was definitely not pulling its weight, and it basically changed 1 thing: it made my mirror matchup a lot worse. Now, instead of my opponent’s Gallade being able to target my Octillery and deny my card advantage, they would be able to get an extra prize off of it. If they weren’t running Zoroark-GX themselves, I was always playing from behind.
I’m pretty sure Zoroark-GX doesn’t have a place in current or future Gardevoir lists. Don’t get me wrong, people will use it, but I will happily play against those kind of mirrors whilst having my own Octillery. Here’s what the Zoroark version would look like:
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 29
Energy – 12
There’s just one deck in Standard that I believe could implement Zoroark-GX effectively, and that is Alolan Ninetales-GX. We’ve seen an increase in play in this deck at League Cups since the release of Shining Legends. This deck is versatile in the sense that it can go with a spread strategy with Tapu Koko SM31 and Espeon-EX, complemented by Alolan Ninetales’ Ice Blade.
Credit for the idea behind this list goes to Jose Marrero, who just made finals at back-to-back League Cups with the deck:
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 30
Energy – 12
The one addition I’ve made to the list Jose used for League Cups is the second Brigette (at the expense of the second Field Blower). Zoroark-GX has synergy with Aqua Patch and is a better way to dig that little bit deeper for the cards you need in a particular turn to respond to a threat. This is especially true with the 2 Professor Kukui in the deck. They are actually quite key and there are instances where you just can’t afford to discard them through Sycamore, as you’ll be 20 short later on.
Tapu Koko and Professor Kukui are key cards that let Alolan Ninetales-GX reach good OHKO numbers in the 200-230 range. This wouldn’t be otherwise possible without a turn of Ice Blade beforehand. Using Zoroark-GX over Octillery as your draw engine here gives you the Aqua Patch synergy mentioned previously, but more importantly it is an attacker that benefits from opposing Pokémon having previous chip damage. The potential 150 for DCE + Choice Band that Zoroark-GX can deal actually becomes much more threatening.
Zoroark-GX is a lot more threatening in this particular deck thanks to the spread component of the deck, and this is probably the version of Alolan Ninetales that will be most effective moving forward.
Golisopod decks are also an option for Zoroark-GX. Its non-GX version can also be included, giving the deck an extra layer of versatility). However, this only worsens its already-shaky Gardevoir matchup. If Golisopod can’t shut down Gardevoir, the deck will get to a point where you’re trading 2 Golisopod for 1 Gardevoir, or 4 Prizes for 2, which will, of course, never work out in your favor.
The other GXs in Shining Legends are definitely underwhelming. Mewtwo-GX being weak to Garbodor and requiring a ton of Energy to deal any significant damage means any variant utilizing it as the main attacker struggles against the top 2 decks. Raichu-GX is good on paper, but the Fighting weakness and the reliance on a Stage 2—Magnezone—for support (or an underwhelming Raikou SHG) isn’t doing it any favors. Reaching the key 200-240 damage range is pretty much impossible with any variant you decide to use. Finally, Entei-GX is vastly inferior to the other readily available Fire options, so there will never be a viable reason for this card to replace anything else.
Venusaur and Shining Genesect seem like a great combo on paper, but in reality, there’s no reliable way for Grass decks to attach more than 1 Energy per turn (other than Lurantis-GX). With this in mind, the deck is simply too slow to actually be a threat, as the Energy you commit to one Genesect are not easily replaced in a straightforward Venusaur/Shining Genesect/Elixirs deck, and running those plus an extra Stage 1 with Lurantis-GX would simply be too clunky.
Shining Jirachi brings a devolution mechanic I don’t believe we’ve seen before, devolving down to the lowest Stage instead of simply removing the highest one. It also deals 10 damage whilst doing so—40 if you combine with a Choice Band. After a single Flying Flip, you can remove any of the big Stage 2s being played, as their Basics all have 60 HP.
Jirachi adds a whole new layer of consideration when playing against Drampa-GX/Garbodor or Espeon-GX/Garbodor decks. Divide-GX becomes that much more powerful too, and so I might even venture to say Shining Jirachi will be the best—and perhaps only playable—Shining Pokémon to come out of this set. Until you have specific information that your opponent is not running Jirachi, you always have to assume it’s in there.
Since this mini set is very underwhelming besides a handful of cards, let’s move on to bigger and better things: Crimson Invasion.
Ultra Beast GXs are finally here, and there are 2 that have promise. First, and probably the most hyped one at the moment (with good reason), is Buzzwole-GX. Many people remember Landorus-EX’s absolute dominance over the metagame with its 30/30 spread attack, and Buzzwole is bringing that back at a time where spreading and devolution are at their peak.
Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor and Buzzwole-GX/Golbat are a couple of deck variants I want to try, but Buzzwole might fit right into Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX very nicely. That combination is dominating Japan at the moment, but we can expect to see that primarily for San Jose and the Expanded format. However, I see room for the deck in Standard, and Buzzwole just adds to its potential.
Here’s the list that I’m thinking of:
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 30
Energy – 12
I’ve been playing Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX in Standard because people underestimate Lycanroc’s GX attack and the deck can very easily apply pressure to many things. That deck also runs Professor Kukui (no longer needed in this theoretical iteration with Buzzwole) to reach those key 170 marks, which helps Lycanroc take some key KO’s.
Basically, the deck’s strategy is to aggressively take a prize lead, have Zoroark-GX’s Trade Ability as N insurance for the late game, and then prey on opposing Tapu Lele to take your last prizes of the game. With Lycanroc, you can gust something up and use Professor Kukui to reach for the KO on the same turn.
On paper, Buzzwole-GX will not only facilitate KOs starting as early as Turn 1, thanks to Strong Energy and Fighting Fury Belt, but also help setup a lot of future knockouts with smart placement of the 30 damage.
Zoroark BKT is in the deck because it can take advantage of overly confident opponents that might have filled their bench after you used up your Dangerous Rogue GX attack. With a Choice Band, it can easily finish off a Tapu Lele-GX.
The deck’s incredibly aggressive approach is what lets it beat down on the best deck in the format, Gardevoir. By no means am I calling it a favorable matchup, as the golden rule against Gardevoir is that you have to either exchange OHKOs or stop their Ability. However, the deck applies so much pressure early that it can destabilize Gardevoir to the point that a few key early prizes, coupled with a OHKO with Dangerous Rogue GX on the one Gardevoir they build, usually lets you close out a game with a Tapu Lele KO.
Zoroark-GX’s trade not only helps in reaching for the cards you need to get the KOs, but also offers N protection and deck thinning. The pre-Buzzwole iteration of the deck can be seen on my channel, and it actually has been working pretty well.
The other impact Pokémon from Crimson Invasion is Kartana-GX. Kartana is a flexible inclusion as a 1-of in any deck that runs Rainbow or Metal Energy. The GX attack is pretty good to close out a game, acting as a failsafe from low Ns. Its Ability is also pretty good, as the “remove a Special Energy” effect has always been a viable strategy to swing a game in your favor. Its attack is nothing special, and is actually pretty bad. The damage output is pretty low for the cost, and the effect puts you behind 2 Energy attachments, as you shuffle Kartana-GX back into the deck with a Double Colorless and a Metal (or, more likely, a Rainbow Energy).
People seem to like this card’s attack because its Metal typing means you can deal up to 200 damage to Gardevoir-GX with a Choice Band. The issue here is the fact that, realistically, Gardevoir-GX doesn’t care too much whether you deal 200 or 220 or 150: it cares about you OHKO’ing Gardevoir or not.
So, this card’s Metal typing actually ends up being a bit irrelevant, and its main selling points are definitely the Ability and GX attack. Before Kartana-GX, you had to use an Item, a Supporter card, or an attack to achieve the discarding effect, but a well-timed Kartana could be pretty good in some decks. Even once on the field, it retains usefulness with its GX attack. However, I would definitely not play Kartana in any deck that can’t take advantage of its GX attack, as you might as well play Enhanced Hammer at that point.
Fellow 6P author Travis will be covering the “Counter cards” (Counter Catcher and Counter Energy) in a different article. I do see potential in these 2 cards, especially in spread decks, which keep getting more and more tools to help deal with the big threats out there. I recommend checking out his article tomorrow for more insight on the top cards from the upcoming set.
And with this, I will be closing out the article. Thank you once again so much for reading, and I’ll catch you guys in my article before London!
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