The Reign of Zoroark

Xander’s Zoroark/Lycanroc Memphis Recap and Review

Well, welcome everybody. It’s been amazing this past weekend in Memphis. The Masters Division had 999 players, just one person short of 1000! Even though it didn’t hit 4 digits, it far surpassed Ft. Wayne as the largest Regionals of the year. I doubt anything will come near surpassing it, perhaps Collinsville, but that’s an irrelevant mystery.

From a logistical standpoint, the tournament ran beautifully. Online decklist submission was wonderful once I figured out how to use it, but I loved how it prevented some decklist errors caused by last minute changes. It was also nice how I could submit a list, then make a change. This incentivizes players to submit an initial list earlier, since there is no disadvantage to submitting early. Another new prospect ventured was the presence of team stages, an extension of a VIP package. The buyers of these were CCG Castle, ARG, Some1sPC, and NLG. I personally loved the idea and hope it can be expanded upon in the future. There’s been debates on it in HeyFonte these past few days, with a majority of the players in Memphis liking it. At the end of the day, there will always be people hesitant to change and sponsorships, but the game is growing—organizers and players must grow with it.

My Tournament Experience

I performed less than ideally with a 5-4 finish. This is the worst I’ve done at a Regionals ever, tied with my 5-4 finish in both Orlando and Anaheim Regionals last year. I thankfully got underserved T256 points, but I’m still incredibly disappointed. I played a less than ideal Lycanroc/Zoroark list, was fairly unlucky in my mirror matches, but also played imperfectly.

Pokémon – 18

4 Zorua SHL

4 Zoroark-GX

1 Zoroark BKT

3 Rockruff GRI

2 Lycanroc-GX GRI

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Buzzwole-GX

1 Mewtwo EVO

Trainers – 34

4 N

3 Brigette

3 Acerola

2 Professor Sycamore

2 Professor Kukui

1 Guzma


4 Ultra Ball

4 Puzzle of Time

2 Enhanced Hammer

2 Field Blower

1 Rescue Stretcher

1 Max Potion

2 Choice Band

2 Float Stone


1 Parallel City

Energy – 8

4 Double Colorless

2 Strong

2 F

Overall, I made too fancy of a list that is more fitting to Golisopod/Zoroark. Lycanroc/Zoroark doesn’t need as many healing cards, otherwise the deck falls behind on Energy attachments. I think I would’ve done better if I had a list closer to what Michael Pramawat and other top players played, but that’s my own fault for lacking communication. It’s never a bad idea to reach out to friends for help with a decklist, even if they’re your competition. In a Regionals this large, it’s unlikely that it matters.

My games with the deck went well, but I noticed a particular trend. Up until Round 8, I had won every match against non-mirror, and lost all of the mirror matches. Round 8 featured a sad match against Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu where I lost Games 1 and 3 to a lucky N to 2 and a draw-pass scenario. I think my strategy was wrong in playing mirror because I focused too much on chaining Acerola rather than setting up Lycanroc. I was also forced to Dangerous Rogue-GX or use Lycanroc early in the game because of missed Double Colorless Energy.

R1: Golisopod-GX/Zoroark-GX WW
R2: Zoroark-GX/Decidueye-GX WW
R3: Lycanroc-GX GRI/Zoroark-GX LL
R4: ??? WW
R5: Buzzwole-GX/Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX GRI LWL
R6: Lycanroc-GX GRI/Zoroark LWL
R7: Gardevoir-GX/Sylveon-GX WW
R8: Tapu Bulu-GX/Vikavolt SUM LWL
R9: Drampa-GX/Garbodor WW

I feel that if I had gotten a little bit luckier, I would have gone 6-3. All of my losses were in my control, but spun outwards because of luck. In Round 3 I was stuck missing a Professor Kukui for 3-4 turns, allowing my opponent to greedily attack with Tapu Lele-GX. In the game I started Buzzwole, he responded with Tapu Lele + Double Colorless + Choice Band + Brigette out of hand. In Round 5, I discarded my Mewtwo because I thought he was just playing one tech Buzzwole, but it turned out to be 3. I eventually got a response 1HKO with Mewtwo, but that cost me the first game. In the third, I lost with both of us having 1-2 Prizes left off of, with the winner being whoever drew cards needed off of N. He had 2 Zoroark set up to my 1, but still salty nonetheless. In Round 6, I didn’t play a draw Supporter or set up a Zoroark for the first 5 turns of the game, and in Game 3 was swept by one Lycanroc because I never drew Energy to attack it.

Now, all of these losses cannot be just luck. I was inexperienced with the deck, and lost mirror rightfully so. However, I refuse to believe that I am that bad in the matchup, losing 6/8 games. It’s important to look back upon losses and assess parts of the match that could have gone differently rather than blaming everything on luck.

Second Deck Choice: Espeon

In my boredom during school, I cooked up a rough list of what an Espeon/Garbodor list would look like for this format. I seriously considered playing it because I was at a loss for what else to play. No deck was testing well for me, and Garbodor is something I have experience with. This is the list I settled upon after tweaking:

Pokémon – 17

2 Eevee SUM

2 Espeon-GX

1 Drampa-GX

4 Trubbish BKP

2 Garbodor BKP

2 Garbodor GRI

3 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Espeon-EX

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Sycamore

4 N

3 Guzma

1 Acerola

1 Brigette


4 Ultra Ball

2 Enhanced Hammer

2 Field Blower

1 Rescue Stretcher

1 Super Rod

3 Choice Band

4 Float Stone


2 Parallel City

Energy – 11

7 P

4 Double Colorless

This version focuses a lot more on locking the opponent to a point where they become unthreatening. Psybeam is an incredibly strong attack because of Confusion. Po Town is also less useful in this meta with trace amounts of Gardevoir. The 30 damage tick is useful against Stage 1 decks so Berserk for 180 is a KO, but it’s otherwise useless when attacking with other Pokémon. I used the open spots to add attrition/disruption cards: Enhanced Hammer and Parallel City.

I don’t think this deck can compete with Zoroark variants currently. I’d need to dedicate more space to Energy disruption, like the 4 Enhanced Hammer Azul ran. Parallel City and Acerola are cuttable, but everything else is core to the deck.

Metagame Analysis

It’s apparent that Lycanroc-GX GRI was the most influential card going into Memphis. It was in 6/8 of the Top 8 decks, with the two others being Golisopod/Zoroark and Golisopod/Garbodor. In the Top 35, Lycanroc decks made up 19/32. Bloodthirsty Eyes outpaces slow Stage 2 decks, but is also great at winning Zoroark mirrors. It can easily 1HKO a Zoroark, but also other Pokémon-GX with Dangerous Rogue once.

Buzzwole/Lycanroc developed as a neat counterpick to all of the Zoroark hype running around. The deck boasts a generally good matchup because of the early pressure applied with Jet Punch. Against Golisopod variants, it’s easy to load up a Knuckle Punch for 210. Besides the upset between Pablo and Pram in Top 4, the matchup should be favored for Buzzwole/Lycanroc.

Buzzwole/Lycanroc and Zoroark/Lycanroc greatly outnumbered all other archetypes within Top 35. Of the 19 Lycanroc decks, 10 of them were Zoroark and 9 were Buzzwole. It was a relatively even split between the two dominant, tier 1 decks. Moving forward, I see no reason for these two not to be labeled as the best, with time only telling how high Golisopod/Garbodor can place. The deck may have gotten 2nd, but it’s also one of the best players piloting it within a favorable meta.

The next popular decks were Zoroark/Golisopod and Tapu Bulu/Vikavolt—both with 3 spots—a huge drop from the 10 and 9. I think that both Zoroark variants were equally popular, but a majority of the top players used Lycanroc as its partner. This has no effect on Zoroark/Golisopod’s strength, but says that it was underrepresented among the best, similar to how Gardevoir, the supposed BDIF, flopped this weekend. It took 2 measly spots of the 35, with none getting Top 8. It’s safe to say that Gardevoir’s reign is over, somehow.

Greninja, Volcanion, and Decidueye/Zoroark are all decks that flopped this tournament too. So many people hyped up Decidueye/Zoroark, but no one actually committed to playing it. I know Igor was one of the two players with it in Day 2, but I knew no one else with it. Its Zoroark/Lycanroc and Buzzwole/Lycanroc matchups aren’t too great because its easy to KO Zoroark-GX. The deck needs to abuse Max Potion, or else it trades unfavorably. In the case that both decks are trading evenly, Max Potion forces another Energy to be found. Zoroark/Decidueye is worse than other Zoroark variants that are more consistent and don’t rely on Stage 2s.

Greninja is an enigma, because the usual player piloting it exited the tournament midway through. I know a few top players who played it because of its great matchups against Zoroark variants. According to Jimmy, he went 12-0 in games against non-Giratina/Garbodor decks, lost to two Giratina decks, and would’ve won the match he tied. Greninja boasts great matchups, but those can easily be swayed by Giratina. “Greninja Hands” exist too, and at least now we as a community can realize that there are other reasons why Xiao Xiao performed consistently with the deck.

The last deck that gained some hype before the tournament was Volcanion. I’m personally surprised it didn’t have more placements, but that could be because of underrepresentation. It’s really a big deal when the Top 16, or sponsored teams, or whatever grouping you assign chooses not to play a deck. It’s assumed that some of those top players will do well because of their strength as a player alone, while the deck they play has little effect on it. I’m sure if more Worlds invite players piloted Volcanion, it would have had more finishes, and less in what they actually played.


The original mill.

Oh boy, what a surprise to see a mill deck make a comeback! Yehoshua Tate (Yoshi) has been known to make spicy decks for local tournaments and Regionals, so I’m unsurprised he played something along those lines. What I find interesting is that he was able to find success with it, most likely due to opponents’ inexperience. Zoroark matchups seem relatively easily because they use all GX attackers and mostly Special Energy, aside from 1-2 Fighting and Rockruff. This is true in other matchups as well that rely on Pokémon-GX, like Volcanion or Gardevoir. I don’t expect this deck to work moving forward because its rogue presence is gone, but also because the list went unpublished. With no base list, many players will create their own and fail. Experienced players can also develop a strategy to turn bad matchups into fine ones, like how Pram 2-0’d Yoshi on stream on Day 2.

Golisopod/Garbodor is another deck that came in with a surprise, but especially because of the Enhanced Hammer quartet. This idea is something I went for in my Espeon/Garbodor list, but Brad and Azul further expanded on it with a full count. Golisopod is a better attacker than Espeon against Lycanroc too, the prime card of the tournament. Unlike Wishiwashi/Hoopa, I fully expect this deck to keep winning at League Cups. It’s a relatively easy to play deck with few decisions to make. Golisopod/Garbodor lacks gimmicks as well, meaning that it’s a decently strong deck against everything—it has a strategy of its own rather than a strategy designed to specifically counter another deck.

Talking about Team Stages

As I mentioned in my little intro, Memphis was innovative in providing a team stage, effectively VIP seating for a group of players. People have flown off to Heyfonte to express their discontent on how this could be “intimidating,” or an “advantage for not having to walk the match slip,” (seriously?) or that it promotes shady play because the potential cheater could be surrounded by indifferent teammates. To this I say “Boohoo,” for in my opinion, the team stages were wonderful in multiple ways. Anyone who played on the stage has yet to exclaim their discontent. Christopher made a poll on Heyfonte which I’ll leave to him, but for now, here are my thoughts on why the stages were great:

  • Gave an area for players (both those playing on the stage and those not) to talk to other players, whether it be top players talking or inexperienced ones introducing themselves.
  • Allowed people to spectate the top players’ matches, which would otherwise be impossible by being asked to leave the play area.
  • Players had a more open space than one in the normal play area for a round—the players on stage for all 9.
  • Created a fun, enjoyable team tournament on Friday for both the players and spectators.

I would’ve loved to play on stage because I love to be streamed/watched, but unluckily I never had the opportunity. I and many others watched the games after ours finished, which fostered an easygoing environment for people to introduce themselves to me. To those of you that did, it was great talking for you the short time we did, no matter what it was about. Regarding the open space available, that was comfortable for both the team and the opponents visiting. That isn’t an advantage to just the team side because it was mutual to both sides. I know CCG gave out swag to opponents on stage, so that was also a great experience to those playing. Overall, I hope there’s further expansion on the idea of team stages, and that people grow to accept the growth and potential for greatness in the idea.

Moving Forward
On top of Standard.

For your Standard cups in the near future, expect a variation of decks that performed well in Memphis. Zoroark variants and Buzzwole/Lycanroc are the top decks, so pick something that can compete with those. Maybe Golisopod/Garbodor or Espeon/Garbodor can have a revival, I’m certainly working on it for my upcoming cups.

Remember that in local tournaments, people will also play with whatever cards they have. It’s possible that Greninja sees play because it’s a cheap deck rather than a competitive one, or that people play Volcanion because it’s a deck they’ve used for the past year. There’s more to metagaming a cup than playing the BDIF.

Dallas is the next Regionals, and with that brings the Expanded format. Night March will certainly be strong, but that opens up the opportunity for decks to counter it. It’s going to be an interesting next month full of Cups and Regionals, but also festivities. For those who are celebrating holidays in this month, have a happy holiday!


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