Hello once again 6P! I’m back with another article that will be half and half. We’ll talk about what went down at Costa Mesa and also what we can expect moving forward to Charlotte and Portland which are our next 2 events!
Expanded is at a weird point right now where we have so many interesting and viable strategies—over 50 unique archetypes were employed in Costa Mesa!—but also a format incredibly centralized around our favorite fox, Zoroark-GX. This didn’t stop cards like Glaceon-GX (in a creation by our very own 6P crew featuring Barbarcle FCO), Aerodactyl FCO, and Gyarados BUS from staking a claim on Day 2. However, Glaceon-GX/Barbarcle and Seismitoad-EX/Garbodor were the only ‘new’ decks that made it through all the way to the Top 8.
I will, of course, let our other writers go more in depth with a report on Glaceon-GX/Barbarcle, as they created/tested it, but I think it’s a great idea in the same line up as Drampa-GX/Garbodor decks. Glaceon-GX stops Abilities (like Garbotoxin does) and Barbarcle locks out Energy (like Drampa-GX does). They both have pros and cons of course, but that shows how hard you must go for in order to ensure you can actually counter Zoroark-GX in Expanded. Both decks included Sudowoodo GRI as well in order to make it even harder for Zoroark players to get OHKOs.
Now, the fact that you have to go out of your way to have so much defense against one single card speaks volumes of Zoroark’s power in Expanded. I know there’s been a lot of talk about banning Zoroark and what not, but I think this should only apply in that format. Expanded Zoroark has tools such as Exeggcute PLF that are from a different ‘block’ (block referring to Black and White, XY, Sun and Moon, etc.).
I personally don’t know how to fix it, but the current state of Expanded and my experience at Costa Mesa has definitely left a sour taste in my mouth, and might actually make me just completely avoid Expanded in what’s left of this season (Utah Regionals), and possibly all of the next one. Being active and competitive in Expanded also comes with an added cost of purchasing older cards that are less readily available, so it seems like a win/win overall.
I ran Drampa-GX/Garbodor in Costa Mesa, just like the deck Igor Costa piloted to the win. However, I was missing the key ingredient of Sudowoodo for an extra layer of protection against Zoroark. In all of my testing I never felt like I needed it, but I also felt on the wrong side of variance since game 1 in Costa Mesa and it was simply just ‘one of those days’. For the record, this is what I ran:
Pokémon – 15
1 Trubbish NVI 48
Trainers – 35
Energy – 10
When comparing to the overall winning list, the major key card missing was, as I mentioned, the Sudowoodo. I never felt an extra Acerola would’ve made a difference, and the extra Energy certainly did. I, in fact, lost a couple of games due to lack of Energy so I wanted more than that, but hindsight is 20/20, and it just wasn’t in the stars for Pablo Meza to win Costa Mesa. (Editor’s Note: Instead, it was the Costa half of “Costa Meza” that took it home!)
And so, with Expanded done for the season hopefully (although, if I know myself, as Utah comes around I’ll be hyped to go and compete once again), it’s time to focus on Charlotte and Portland.
Standard is Zoroark territory as well, as is obvious by the fact that a “Zoroark deck” has won almost every major Standard event since it came out. Only two Regionals have not been won by a “Zoroark deck:”
- London (IC) – Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX
- Brisbane (Regional) – Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX
- Memphis (Regional) – Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX
- Sao Paulo (Regional) – Gardevoir-GX
- Leipzig (Regional) – Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX
- Sydney (IC) – Zoroark-GX / Gardevoir-GX
- Collinsville (Regional) – Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX
- Malmo (Regional) – Zoroark-GX / Weavile
- Salvador (Regional) – Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX
The big difference here is that Zoroark never acts alone. It’s always paired up with a partner, as it needs that compliment to push through a format where it doesn’t have access to Sky Field or Hex Maniac, its most powerful tools in Expanded. Out of all of the above lists, I believe Golisopod-GX to be the strongest simply because of its inherent consistency, as the 1 Energy attacker.
Lycanroc-GX comes next, as it’s also a Stage 1 but the energy requirements for its attacks definitely offset the advantage you get with Blood Thirsty Eyes. Next comes Gardevoir-GX, which itself is an extremely strong card. Unfortunately, the fact that it is a Stage 2 and requires more support and space within the deck makes the overall list a lot less flexible and slower than the other 2. In last place comes Weavile which, in my opinion, was good as a surprise for the day, but as people learn to play around it, it definitely becomes the weakest link.
So what else can Zoroark be paired with, in order to succeed in the metagame? Clearly, Golisopod-GX is the most reliable and consistent partner for it, but lately I’ve seen people explore it with Solgaleo-GX, Garbodor (our very own Brit Pybas did really well at Collinsville with this), Greninja, Magnezone, Empoleon, and even Garchomp. So, one must ask themselves if there’s any partner that Zoroark-GX can’t work well with?
As far as my personal testing goes, I’ve played countless games with the more standard version of Zoroark—i.e. the ones that have won tournaments—so I’ve actually been toying around with a few different ideas which I believe have the potential to do well.
I still genuinely think some sort of Magnezone deck actually has a good chance in standing up to both Zoroark-GX and Buzzwole-GX based decks, because it deals OHKOs consistently, something that Golisopod-GX decks are definitely not used to unless facing off against Fire decks—this require a whole different strategy to deal with them altogether.
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 33
Energy – 10
This resembles something like the ‘KicaBulu’ lists that started gathering hype a few months ago, but I think this deck is a lot stronger thanks to the metal support and the insane GX attack that Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX has. For some reason, relying on Nest Ball and Lillie for the early game rather than Brigette has been very appealing to me lately, and this list is a reflection of that.
3 Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX, as it’s our attacker of choice and just OHKOs everything instantly with either attack. Not having to run Choice Band in a deck just frees up so much space, and that’s one advantage of this over a VikaBulu deck. The only reason you could ever want Choice Band is if you’re up against a Solgaleo-GX deck, but those are obviously not very popular at the moment). Its 190 HP also makes it incredibly resilient, and a fresh Dusk Mane can potentially take 4 prizes on its own.
pettyartist4-0-3 Magnezone line is the best of both worlds in terms of speed and deck space. There are a few instances where I miss not having the Magneton, but overall this has worked incredibly well and reliably, especially but you only need to get 1 Magnezone out to last you the whole game.
2-2 Octillery which, while requiring more space than Oranguru, it’s completely worth it as emptying your hand with this deck isn’t too difficult, and you need that extra draw power to reach for energy in the later stages in the game.
2 Tapu Lele-GX is great in here despite no Brigette, as that turn 1 Lillie can be very important in setting up the deck, but also it’s great to search out the Skyla for the missing set up piece, or a Guzma late game to finish off the match.
1 Solgaleo ♢ is great for recovery purposes, and any game where your Magnezone is aggressively targeted. It’s 160 HP is tough to deal with as well so it opens up a lot of room for creating unwinnable scenarios for your opponent—where no matter what, 2 Dusk Mane Necrozma are powered up. Whichever one goes down, the other one will clean up.
In the Trainers department, the importance of Lillie on turn 1 is huge, but it’s also a decent draw Supporter throughout the whole game. The split of Sycamore and Cynthia gives the deck flexibility to aggressively draw for Energy or other resources, or be more conservative with Stadiums or other important cards. Skyla makes for a guaranteed way to have energy through Professor’s Letter or Mt. Coronet, as well as becoming the missing piece to evolve into Magnezone.
This deck tries to be very aggressive, and so N is only at a count of 1, and sometimes I even wonder if I should replace it with another Cynthia. Not having any control over your opponent’s resources is not ideal, but at the same time, this deck basically tries to put your opponent on a timer where Dusk Mane will just finish the game in 3-4 turns. A third Nest Ball, Field Blower and Float Stone would be ideal inclusions to the deck, but unfortunately I don’t think there’s the space to do so.
Another deck I’m really liking is Zoroark-GX/Garbodor, as it takes away all the advantages that Zoroark decks try to get with Trade by completely shutting it off. You heard me ramble on at the beginning of the article about how Sky Field and Hex Maniac are the things that make Zoroark-GX decks incredibly strong. Well, Garbotoxin paired with Bursting Balloon essentially becomes Hex Maniac, which, although not as strong as just one card, does make for an interesting deck. You can also access Trashalanche Garbodor, Espeon-GX or other Psychic type attackers, which coincidentally also allow you to have an easier time dealing with Buzzwole-GX based decks.
Gaining an advantage over other Zoroark decks, along with Buzzwole-GX decks is incredibly appealing and that’s one of the main reasons I really like this deck.
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 32
Energy – 8
This is my current iteration of the deck. It’s only a little bit different from Brit’s list which he went over on his article. I added in the double Evosoda to make the deck even more consistent, as we’re not relying on any ‘come into play’ Abilities, and thus we can have extra ways to get Zoroark-GX into play to start trading which is almost always a good thing.
I can’t state how useful Bursting Balloons end up being as Tool cards, not only to shut off Abilities temporarily for your opponent, but also as a defensive tool which coincidentally sets up perfect damage on opposing Zoroark-GXs—or any Stage 1 really. Espeon-GX’s Divide GX attack is also extremely useful, and allows for some interesting damage placement later on in the game—something Zoroark-GX decks don’t usually have access to. Setting up Tapu Lele or other Pokémon on the bench to be in range of a OHKO of Zoroark can be huge when trying to close out a game.
Finally, the one deck I’m once again seriously considering is Greninja. With a 4 Professor Sycamore, 4 N and 4 Cynthia engine, the deck has felt more consistent than ever, and my current list has some cards not usually seen which try and help turn the tides against other decks.
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 32
4 Profesor Sycamore
Energy – 10
The Pokémon lineup has stayed the same for quite some time now, and is accepted by many as the best possible lineup for Greninja. However, the extra Cynthia add a lot of stability to the deck in the Trainers department, and make up for a whopping 23 cards dedicated to consistency, when taking into account the Supporters along with the Evosoda and Ultra Ball.
In the utility department however, I’m straying away from Enhanced Hammer for now, as anything less than 2 doesn’t seem worthwhile, in order to include healing, something Greninja has sorely missed since we lost Rough Seas to the rotation.
The 3 Max Potion help in dealing with Buzzwole’s residual damage, as well as making sure Greninja’s are 3HKO’d rather than 2HKO’d. Many games with Greninja come to a point where your opponent’s aggressiveness fizzles out, but they were so far ahead at that point that they only need to take 1 or 2 KOs in order to close out a game. Max Potions go a step further in trying to prevent those KO’s from happening, and thus make it more difficult for your opponent to close out any given game.
And, not only are the Max Potions a new inclusion, but so is Counter Catcher. I’ve loved Counter Catcher since it was released, but never really found a good deck to use it on. I wanted to use it in Trevenant in Expanded, but ultimately Zoroark decks were just too strong for it. But I genuinely believe that Greninja is THE deck to have the potential to use this card effectively in Standard. It will almost always fall behind, and having the option to manipulate what Pokémon is Active, and combining that with N + Ability lock, sounds like the best recipe to guarantee a successful comeback.
With Greninja having had zero finishes in Day 2 at the last Standard event, the timing might be right for the frog going into Charlotte if Giratina is at an all time low. Only 5 decks with Giratina Promo made it to Day 2 at Collinsville, so I genuinely don’t think it’ll be showing up in big numbers at Charlotte either.
And that’s all from me today for you guys. Thank you so much once again for reading, and please reach out to me on any of my social media (linked on my profile) if you have any questions regarding the article. Until next time!
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