Hello again everyone! I know I am back somewhat earlier than expected, but I hope to make the best out of the time I have today. I ended up swapping article spots with my good pal Travis in order to give him more time to hash out his theories on Counter Catcher and Counter Energy.
I really like his deck idea, and while I’m not sure it’s well-positioned in the current format, I am confident that it will continue to have potential as time goes on. The inherent strength of both cards is undeniable, but I do not think the right attackers are in place currently. Some of the cards are obviously very good (Cobalion STS and Keldeo SLG come to mind), but many of the others just strike me as attempting to work with scraps.
I also cannot help but wonder if the combo could not be better explored in Expanded, where Teammates seems like an obvious and incredible boon to the concept as a whole. I think Mallow + Zoroark is the best way to make it work in Standard, as Travis points out, but that’s considerably worse than just playing a staple supporters like Teammates. For reference, here is the deck list I have been working, inspired by many of Travis’s concoctions:
Pokémon – 16
1 Mew FCO
Trainers – 33
1 Town Map
3 Po Town
Energy – 11
Not much about the list deviates from Travis’s initial concept, and all of the attackers are discussed in his write up. At the cost of other attackers, however, this list has reoriented its focus to be more concerned with a typical devolution strategy (including more Tapu Koko promo, Po Town and Espeon-EX). I am not sure if this is better than simply including more options for the deck, but I do think that being less reliant on the comeback cards adds more consistency.
The Metal focus (compared to Travis’ Dark) ought to make the deck better against Gardevoir, which could make the devolution cards less relevant. With that said, there is synergy between the Po Town cards and Counter cards as the strategy usually requires you to fall behind early on and ideally swing the game (or even win it outright) with one fell swoop.
I remain hesitant about this archetype for now, but I think the possibility of a four/six corners type deck will always have some promise, and in Expanded’s massive card pool, I have no doubt that an even greater toolbox type deck could be created out of it. Only time will tell, I suppose.
It should be abundantly clear by now that I am a big fan of Alolan Ninetales. In my last article, I expressed confidence that the deck would survive the upcoming sets, and would likely acquire some new friends along the way. While my focus was largely on other Water type Pokémon, I did not foresee the popularity that Zoroark-GX would have as a partner.
Thanks to Jose Marrero and Brad Curcio, this deck has seen a great amount of success in the short amount of time that Shining Legends has been legal for League Cups with both players taking home first place finishes. I am envious of their competition in actual events, but I am confident that this new iteration of Alolan Ninetales-GX will be very successful and should be on everyone’s radar. Here is the list that I would use if I had an event to compete in this weekend:
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 31
Energy – 12
In short, the only thing that changed from the initial skeleton is that Octillery was removed, along with a few others, to make room for Zoroark-GX. This card functions as a pseudo-replacement for Abyssal Hand, and while I would not recommend the swap for every deck, I think that it is suitable here. Alolan Ninetales ran into some difficulties where Blizzard Edge had diminishing returns if you had to use over four times in a game, and having a backup attacker to steal a couple Prizes is an incredible addition. It allows you to conserve Energy, and gives you another type and Weakness to play with.
The consistency that Zoroark brings is really just a bonus. I sung the praises of Professor Kukui in this deck over and over again in my last article, and while I would be surprised if my words were the sole inspiration for the inclusion, I am wholly confident that this deck’s success hinges on that card and strongly believe that Alolan Ninetales would have been a much stronger contender last format had others come to the same conclusion.
Most of the flexibility I mentioned about last time remain in play once again, here with the promo Giratina being the biggest contender for addition. If I were to enter this deck for an event like the European International Championship, I think I would definitely include it (I think Greninja is a lot stronger than people give it credit for), but your local list should fluctuate somewhat depending on what you expect.
I am glad that I was able to contribute both of these Standard lists today, as like many of my fellow writers, I do not believe that there will be much of a shift from the metagame we have already become familiar with. Shining Legends and Crimson Invasion are interesting sets but underwhelming ones at best. I have no doubt that the two strongest contenders will remain Gardevoir-GX and Drampa-GX/Garbodor. Both of the decks have the room to shift to handle whatever “counter” is most threatening to them, and the raw strength of both cannot be denied.
For instance, I think that the above Alolan Ninetales deck is probably good against both of them, but a small inclusion of Mr. Mime in Gardevoir and something like Kartana-GX in Drampa could shift things in the opposite direction. That being said, it is not my intention to discuss Standard for the rest of this article. I know that many players are eager to hear about London preparations, and I have no doubt that many of the other articles this month will be up to that task. Instead, I want to look a little further down the road for San Jose Regionals, which will be the first Expanded event of the new format!
My current infatuation in Expanded right now is fitting Zoroark-GX into almost everything—new and old. Like my fascination with Garbodor a few months ago, Zoroark-GX truly strikes me as something that ought to fit in well with a wide variety of Pokémon and decks. This analogy continues further in that Zorua has a number of other evolution options to consider, and while none are as impactful as Garbotoxin, I think the variety and utility that all the other Zoroark provide in conjunction with the GX are what make these concepts flourish.
I am uncertain if Zoroark-GX is strong enough to exist on its own. Fighting-typed Pokémon are mostly non-existent, with Carbink BREAK decks existing as somewhat of a fringe option and Marshadow-GX only hanging out in Night March. I had similar issues with Zoroark-GX’s predecessor (Empoleon) in that playing against a smart player made the deck considerably weaker than a bad one. Of course, there are differences between Zoroark-GX and Empoleon, and I definitely do not feel like exploring the option of Zoroark-GX/Dusknoir BCR as a deck! I think there is a ton of potential for this card in Expanded right now, and I have a ton of decks I want to throw your way, so let’s jump right in!
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 36
Energy – 4
This deck list is taken straight from Robin Schulz of Team Limitless who placed in the Top 8 at an Expanded event in Europe over the weekend. I chose to highlight it first here, as it is the only deck in this Zoroark-GX feature that really does not rely on another attacker. It really reminds me of some older Raichu XY decks that were popular before the ban of Lysandre’s Trump Card. These were incredibly aggressive, but you still had to be careful and methodical in finding six Prizes.
I think the deck looks like a lot of fun, but in general, I cannot help but question some of the choices. The Muk is a very interesting inclusion and presumably a counter to any Volcanion decks out there to (preventing Zoroark from being OHKO’d by any Steam Up shenanigans). I think the only thing I would attempt to change about this deck would be an added Teammates and maybe another copy of Zoroark BLW.
Teammates belongs in every single deck in Expanded, and I think this likely should’ve been the case for a long-time. But, as players, we get set in our ways and struggle to deviate away from the normative supporter counts and it was only at the end of its legality that I think we realized the power of the card with VS Seeker, despite its release several years ago in Primal Class. In a deck like this, needing Double Colorless Energy to function, Teammates seems like a no brainer. Zoroark BLW, on the other hand, is a card that is so incredibly powerful in the current format and I think is slowly making a huge resurgence thanks to Aaron Tarbell’s success. The card can OHKO many of the relevant EX and GX Pokémon in the game, and I think was mostly just forgotten until recently.
Finally, I would like to think that a card like Exeggcute PLF would make a lot of sense in this deck, as it lets you use Zoroark-GX’s Ability for free every single turn. It also gives you an extra fodder for your attack that can be reused even if Sky Field gets bounced multiple times—however, with Alolan Muk, you wouldn’t be able to use it later in the game.
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 36
Energy – 4
I am uncertain about a couple of the counts in this deck—namely whether or not I should include Tauros-GX—but I am confident that this concept is a strong one. Night March has been the looming villain of the game (at least in my personal narrative), and I’m sure we’ve all played against more times than we can even recollect. The overall strategy remains as simple as it has always been, so I will not bore anyone in an attempt to explain the basics. Zoroark-GX adds an incredible answer to its biggest foe: Trevenant-BREAK.
That matchup tends to be closer than most would think (especially since Marshadow-GX entered as a staple), but I think Zoroark presents a very difficult threat for Trevenant. An early Zoroark-GX and careful bench management from the Night March player ought to spell an easy win. Even against cards that are not weak to Darkness, Zoroark-GX provides a decent amount of insurance against Karen antics, as it will allow your deck to stay consistent and offers a way to continually discard your Night Marchers if they are shuffled back.
From what I understand, this concept has seen a great amount of success in Japan, and I am eager to try it out. I am curious to see if Zoroark-GX is able to affect Night March enough to stand up against the Psychic Garbodor Toolbox deck, which is definitely your worst matchup outside of Trevenant. I would like to believe that it can definitely help, but perhaps not enough so.
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 32
Energy – 10
This deck lacks the OHKO potential of the above Schulz list, but I think that is easily assuaged with the addition of Golisopod-GX. This gives you a reliable, consistent attacker in scenarios where your opponent is keeping their bench to a minimum (or attacking with something like Gardevoir-GX, which resists Zoroark).
Outside of Volcanion (though a 1-1 Muk would be pretty easy to squeeze in), I think this deck has answers to almost everything in the format. Both of our attackers take incredibly fast KOs and each can exploit some unique weaknesses in the format. Using both the BW and BKT Zoroarks makes for easy opportunities to take a two-prize KO and force your opponent into the dreaded 7-prize game.
I have spent a majority of this season playing Golisopod-GX decks in both Standard and Expanded, and my win percentage against everything but Fire is incredibly high (and even in my losses to Fire, I usually win a game and have beaten it a time or two). I think Goliospod-GX rewards thoughtful and methodical play. Using all of its attacks to their utmost potential requires thinking a turn or two in advance, and I think that’s why I gravitate towards it so consistently.
Both Zoroark-GX and Golisopod-GX are too exploitable on their own but I think when paired together, many of their inherent issues are resolved. I think that this deck would likely be pretty good in Standard as well, and while I will need to conduct some serious testing to see if it is able to keep up with the top decks, I think this deck has a lot of potential.
I had a lot of fun writing today’s article, and I hope you enjoy it. As I expressed last time, I really am enjoying my time with Pokémon this season. It is killing me inside not to be able to compete at big events (though, in my defense, some of this has been the schedule’s fault and not my own). In the space of time between Vancouver and San Jose, I would have been able to attend anything, but unfortunately there is just nothing available.
I still plan to be at both Memphis and Dallas Regionals this winter, and hopefully a majority of everything else in 2018. I am confident in my abilities as a player but I will definitely need to work on getting some of this rust out to be able to thrive at big events. I think one of the biggest advantages that these “pro” players have over your average player is that they get conditioned to the grind of the larger Regionals, which helps deal with stress and exhaustion. I always feel so tired by the middle of the day whenever I attend these tournaments, but just like running or riding a bike, it has to be something that gets easier and easier with practice. Maybe next year I will be able to devote myself to a top 16 chase, but for now, I am dead set on making some magic happen and getting my invite once again.
Until next time!
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