Welcome back, everyone. For me at least, the past few weeks have been hectic and tiring. Due to the way Chicago’s planned out their Cups, a majority of them were before Memphis, and the final few were over the New Years weekend, which Christopher and I wrote about here. I was glad that there were some Expanded Cups, but I wish they were closer to Dallas, like this weekend or the previous, so that there would be a better representation of the finalized meta. For example, there was only one person playing Seismitoad-EX/Zoroark-GX at the final Cup. Had the meta advanced to where it is now, Trevenant and Wailord would falter.
Despite the shift in hyped decks, which has progressed itself now to Seismitoad-EX/Zoroark-GX and Golisopod-GX/Zoroark-GX, there’s been a continued acknowledgment of Night March. The only decks thought to have a chance at winning Dallas are those that have a favorable Night March matchup, against a good player. It’s one thing to outplay inexperienced Night March players, but that overconfidence results in a Top 8 riddled with Night March, as seen in San Jose. Today, I’ll be comparing the dominant San Jose list to what I’m testing now, and how the differences alter the deck.
Pokémon – 21
Trainers – 35
3 Trainer’s Mail
Energy – 4
Listed above is the same 60 card list that Azul Garcia Griego, Michael Pramawat, and Rahul Reddy played to take 3/4 top spots. It’s quite telling that they collaborated and played the exact same list, other than Juniper/Sycamore discrepancies if you count those. There’s nothing too interesting with the list. They decided to keep the deck core together and slip in a 2-2 Zoroark-GX for added consistency throughout the game.
Trade is excellent for discarding Night Marchers, unwanted cards, and general fodder throughout the game. Zoroark-GX is also great for tackling Seismitoad-EX, Trevenant BREAK, and Oricorio: Pokémon that feed off of Night March’s strategy. Riotous Beating is a means of taking KO’s after Karen, or early in the game to prevent an overly damaging Supernatural Dance.
While I don’t know the specific matchups those Night March players went up against, I do know that it was poised to dominate the San Jose meta. With the birth of Zoroark-GX, Necrozma-GX/Garbodor had been placed as a dead deck, and now there were no disgustingly bad matchups in Night March’s way. Zoroark-GX variants are all relatively even to favored, depending on who draws better. It’s also important to play perfectly around Oricorio or the Seismitoad-EX/Karen combo. Regardless, Night March is a deck that forces the opponent to keep up, and can at least trade evenly throughout the course of the game.
Something I find really interesting with the deck is that it can function like any other Zoroark-GX deck because of the Trade engine, yet has the power to use non-EX/GX attackers to deal the same amount of damage Zoroark-GX can. In thinking of ways to improve the deck, I thought about what it would be like to fully maximize the Zoroark-GX line.
There would be hard cuts, but ultimately the deck could improve by having a beefier draw engine. Zoroark-GX has 100 more HP than Shaymin-EX, meaning there’s less of a liability in late-game Oricorio plays. It’s also easier to draw into Zorua and Zoroark-GX when there are more of them, making the engine more efficient.
Pokémon – 23
Trainers – 33
2 Trainer’s Mail
Energy – 4
Basically, from the San Jose list, I took out the 4 cards I found most unnecessary given the new draw power. 2 Shaymin-EX, 1 Trainer’s Mail, and a Professor Sycamore were the cut cards. I’ve noticed a slight lack in the deck’s ability to burn through the deck because of only 1 Shaymin-EX, but I still prefer this version to the former. I think that the beefier Zoroark-GX line makes the deck stronger against a majority of the field, but also helps improve the deck to late game N’s later in the game.
This advantage is amplified when playing against “Lonzoroark,” AKA Zoroark-GX/Alolan Muk. Alolan Muk turns off Shaymin-EX, and playing more of them in the list leads to more dead cards when drawing off of the crucial N to 1-2. One issue I’ve found is that it’s difficult to draw into Zorua at the start of the game, and I’ll cover that shortly.
Because of the increased Zoroark-GX line, the list has gotten even tighter than it was before. Trainers’ Mail is a card that you’d think would have little effect on changing the deck’s consistency, but is relevant in digging for specific Trainers by increasing the amount of cards you see in a turn. With one Professor Sycamore, you get to see 7 cards, but even adding one Trainers’ Mail increases that to 11 cards. The importance lies in finding the specific card you want, rather than endlessly digging and finding useless material.
The cards I’d consider to be next to go on the list would be Field Blower, Ghetsis, and the 4th Zoroark-GX. In the games that I’ve played, Field Blower has been relatively useless. There’s no Garbotoxin currently, which was the main use for the card in the San Jose list. There aren’t any dominant Stadiums that inhibit Night March either. Virbank City Gym, Sky Field, and Dimension Valley barely do anything, and even if Field Blower removes one, it’s very likely the opponent will have a replacement. If the aim of the card is to slow down the opponent by hoping they miss their Stadium, there are obviously better cards that can help improve our own strategy instead.
Ghetsis is something I’ve found to be lackluster, but also important in certain scenarios. It’s great to play going first against all decks, but I also find the same utility in Hex Maniac. I’d even say it’s better to prevent the T1 Brigette at the source by preventing Wonder Tag, rather than the Ultra Ball. However, Ghetsis poses a threat near the end of the game too by removing VS Seeker from the opposing hand.
Typically, games that Night March loses are those where the opponent can take their final 2 Prizes off of a GX Pokémon on the Bench. Having both Ghetsis and N in the deck forces the opponent to reveal information by using VS Seeker before the final turn. This can prompt an N, or if they don’t do that, prompt a Ghetsis in removing any VS Seeker they may have withheld.
Lastly, the 4th Zoroark-GX is a card I find myself having in the list for the consistency of drawing into it. I enjoy playing it down on the second turn so that I can use Riotous Beating, but I also see myself discarding one through Professor Sycamore or Trade. What I fear in removing the 4th copy is a bad Turn 1 Professor Sycamore, discarding a precious remaining copy. Then, it’s much more difficult to find them later on in the game and restricts you to 2 Zoroark-GX only. It’s possible to retrieve them with Puzzle of Time, but there are more valuable cards: Double Colorless, VS Seeker, and Night Marchers.
I’m at a loss for what ACE SPEC I prefer because both offer great utility given the certain situation. When testing the deck vs. Travis, I found myself forced to use Dowsing Machine improperly. For example, I had to Battle Compressor away a Dimension Valley so I could retrieve it with Dowsing Machine that turn. The point of Dowsing Machine is to increase the amount of resources available, like Special Charge, Choice Band, and Supporters to an extent.
With the popularity of Seismitoad-EX/Zoroark-GX, Pokémon Ranger is a great card to be include. Simply put, it’s a vital tool that heavily improves the matchup. After Karen + Quaking Punch, it becomes possible to take a return KO with Night March. This doesn’t discount the strategy of following up with Riotous Beating, but instead adds another option. Another use for Pokémon Ranger is to counter the 20 damage shield of Golisopod’s Armor Press. In addition, random fringe decks that use Mismagius CIN or Giratina-EX AOR could pop up to counter the Special Energy-based format.
Brigette is a suggestion made by Travis. In theory, it’s great for putting the necessary Zorua in play. To be honest, I don’t know how helpful it could be. Hex Maniac and Ghetsis are the two other T1 Supporters, so with Brigette involved there’s little reason to keep them.
Zoroark BKT is great for punishing Sky Field decks. It’s a great way to take 2 Prizes against Zoroark-GX after they widened their board significantly. Another benefit is that Zoroark BKT is pretty bulky compared to Joltik and Pumpkaboo, meaning that in those matchups it’s unlikely that Oricorio can OHKO it. When the opponent uses a Zoroark-GX to return KO, then Joltik can come back and take an easy 2 Prizes without the use of Guzma.
One concern I have with the introduction of this card is that the deck is looking less like Night March, and more like a Zoroark-GX deck. With more of the fast, defining skeleton removed from the deck, it slows and acts as an obsolete Zoroark-GX variant.
Pokémon Catcher could be added as a means of maintaining the Prize race against Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX and other aggressive decks. They’ll aim to Bloodthirsty Eyes any Zoroark-GX on the Bench and take 2 Prizes every turn. It’s hard for Night March to keep up, so the added opportunity of Pokémon Catcher could be the way to go. The coin flip is less than ideal, but provides an out if a draw Supporter has to be used.
With Night March’s success, decks continue to tech against it to the point where its matchups aren’t insanely strong. That being said, there aren’t any decks that crush Night March either, meaning that the deck falls into a category where skill determines wins and losses. There are so many options in a single turn compared to other decks, to the point where it’s impossible to play a complete game perfectly.
Zoroark-GX decks are the most popular decks in Expanded and you should expect to play against multiple of them in Dallas. Golisopod-GX/Zoroark-GX, Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX, and Zoroark-GX/Alolan Muk are in this category, while Seismitoad-EX and the Poison package is separate.
One thing to note is that some people will play Oricorio, while others will have Seismitoad-EX + Karen instead. The general consensus is that Oricorio is better in the Lycanroc-GX and Golisopod-GX versions because it applies good pressure and keeps up the Prize trade. Seismitoad-EX + Karen is more effective in the Alolan Muk version because of its usefulness alongside Ability lock against other matchups.
It’s important to figure out which tech the opponent plays and to play around it. Oricorio changes your strategy by trying to take knockouts on weak Pokémon, but Seismitoad-EX + Karen has you take Prizes quickly so that Riotous Beating can take prizes afterwards. It’s also more important to set up Zoroark-GX against Quaking Punch so that you can start discarding Night Marchers again with Trade.
To lead off, it’s best to use Ghetsis or Hex Maniac: before the opponent has an opportunity to Brigette. This can give you a quick advantage by heavily slowing down the opponent, and can even pick up a few free wins by removing their only Zorua in play with Riotous Beating. Hex Maniac is the safer option, because it forces them to have Brigette in their hand to use it, while Ghetsis doesn’t prevent any Tapu Lele-GX they have in hand. However, Ghetsis does give you the opportunity to draw cards and cripple their use of Items.
Overall, there isn’t enough difference in the Zoroark-GX variants to say that one Supporter is objectively better than the other T1. The decision comes down to whether you need the cards off of Ghetsis to guarantee an attack the following turn.
Regardless of their tech, I try and use Riotous Beating to take an early KO on Zorua because it’s very difficult for them to do 210 damage on their second or third turn. It’s important to set up multiple Zorua in the beginning turns as well so that you can evolve them out of Oricorio range. From the first few turns, the goal is to thin the deck and map out your remaining Prizes. If there’s a Shaymin-EX or Tapu Lele-GX on the Bench, figure out if that’s what you’ll take now or as your final Prizes. It’s important to figure out the puzzle before you’re stuck. Most importantly, always be wary of Oricorio or Seismitoad-EX by regulating Pokémon counts and a Supporter in hand.
I’d consider this matchup more dangerous than the ones listed above because this deck will use Quaking Punch every turn, deny Energy, and heal any damage done with Acerola. The deck can set up a lock and shut you out of the game after using Karen, since they can Acerola, Enhanced Hammer, and Hypnotoxic Laser your Zoroark-GX. Pokémon Ranger is more important in this matchup than those that run 1 copy of Seismitoad-EX, since those decks will have to use other attacks to win as well.
Like all matchups, thinning the deck by setting up multiple Zoroark-GX and discarding Items whenever possible is great for alleviating risks as the game goes on. Quaking Punch + N is the main way to lose, so there’s no reason not to remove Items from the deck. Special Charge is a great card, but only when you can play it. On the topic of Special Charge, without any form of Energy recovery, it’s possible to lose by running out of Energy.
Against Trevenant, Zoroark-GX is the best attacker. This matchup isn’t awful, and I’d even say it’s favored when going first. For Trevenant decks to have any hope of beating Zoroark-GX, it has to devolve and KO all of them on board at the same time. This can be countered by spacing out Zorua, meaning that you hold your 3rd and 4th Zorua in hand until your 2 Zoroark-GX in play have 60 damage on them. That way, if they use Espeon-EX, you’ll get the Zoroark-GX back to the hand and can evolve again.
The eventual Night March is important for taking OHKO’s against Espeon-EX or Tapu Lele-GX to finish the game. In some situations, it’s even better to use Pumpkaboo to KO Trevenant BREAK than Zoroark-GX. It’s great that Trevenant lists run Rescue Scarf rather than Bursting Balloon, which would directly counter any Pumpkaboo that would attack.
Wailord, being the last matchup worth talking about, is the lengthiest and most patience-demanding. The entire game builds up to using Night March to OHKO a Wailord-EX. Sky Return is pretty helpful in this matchup, but it’s much harder to loop since the list only runs one copy. Remember, there’s no rush at all, so you might as well wait until you can set up Zoroark-GX and Trade away Night Marchers.
One way to lose the game immediately is if Xurkitree-GX sends your only copy of Hex Maniac to the Prizes. This is something I did against Christopher in Top 4, which forced him to use a weak Trashalanche against my Xurkitree-GX. To play around this, discard Hex Maniac with Trade and keep a VS Seeker in hand so that you can access it anytime.
I’m very excited for the new set that’s coming out, and hopefully it can dismantle the Zoroark-GX meta we’re in currently. My next article is in between Australia and Collinsville, so I’ll be glad to share my lists of the format then. I haven’t done any testing yet, but I need to keep placing at Regionals if I want to get Top 16 this year. As for looking at new decks, I expect Magnezone and Glaceon-GX able to construct their own archetype. Leafeon-GX is also interesting for Decidueye-GX decks, but I don’t think it’s good enough to include, nor do I think that deck can compete with the meta.
As for interesting decks I’m thinking about, I think a Leafeon-GX deck that heals with Gardenia is very interesting because it can heal up to 130 per turn—more than Riotous Beating can attack with. I don’t know how to support this idea, but it’s cool nonetheless. Empoleon could also work because it has a high damage potential. Garchomp/Lucario is another deck I hope to succeed with because it combines two of my favorite Pokémon.
Night March is the polarizing deck of Expanded, and surprisingly continues to succeed despite constant hatred towards it. Nevertheless, it requires immense skill to play that can only be obtained through endless practice. If I had to make a prediction on what will win Dallas, I’d put my money on one of the Zoroark-GX variants I stated earlier. At the very least, it’ll be the most popular deck in the room, and top players can outplay opponents to guarantee wins. Zoroark-GX decks can also add techs to improve certain matchups through Bunnelby or Giratina XY184.
For those heading to Dallas, I hope to see you there and feel free to say hi. With over 1000 Masters currently registered, it’ll be difficult to win a second time. Good luck!
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