The Final Four

Pablo’s Top 4 Picks for the Latin American International Championships (ft. Zoroark)

Óla 6P! We’re in the final run up to the next International Tournament in São Paulo, Brazil! May and June are going to be be crazy crazy months for me with the incredible amount of events about to take place.

To put things in perspective, from September 2017 through to March 2018, I played in a total of 9 Regionals and 2 International Championships. From next weekend until the end of the season, I will have played in another 7 Regionals (4 Regionals, 3 Special Events) and 2 International Championships. Basically, within less than 3 months, I will have played in the almost the same number of events as the prior 6 months. This speaks a lot about the inadequate event planning going on with TPCi and LATAM events, and I truly wonder if it will ever be fixed.

Regardless though, having a major competition every weekend is pretty exciting, and I will be playing Pokémon in 4 different countries: Brazil, USA, Canada and Mexico. Really can’t complain too much about that!

Deciding on a deck is a completely different story however, as Standard currently has tons and tons of viable decks, while we also have Forbidden Light coming out very soon! BTW, did you know Ultra Necrozma-GX/Malamar just won a major event in Japan? The final was against Zoroark-GX/Garbodor, a deck that could have something to say this upcoming weekend in Brazil, but alas it is a Sky Field, Exeggcute-less format, so take that with a grain of salt.

So the dreaded question that everyone would like to know the answer for: what is the play for Brazil? I genuinely have no answer for that, and I don’t think there is one. Two players playing the same 60 cards in a tournament can have vastly different experiences, simply by the fact that pairings are completely random and you could face a good or bad matchup at any point.

Despite how much one tries to “predict” the meta, to the extent where we always have one hour long videos before tournaments with pro players discussing said meta, there is never an 100% right answer. Educated guesses go a long way for sure, but even if you guess correctly and make a great call, the 1% outliers such as Passimian or Greninja or a weird rogue deck might just ruin your day in the early rounds.

Having said that, with the goal of redeeming myself from lackluster IC performances both last season and this season (with Oceania 2017 as the one exception), I’m probably going to pick a “safe” play for the event. What constitutes a ‘safe play” may vary depending on who you ask. It could be a deck that has 50/50s across the board, or it could be a deck that you’re very familiar with. Either way, with such a big tournament in the horizon, I’m looking to use one of those decks rather than try to break the meta or something similar. My own personal safe choices boil down to these decks: Zoroark/Lycanroc, Zoroark/Lucario, Zoroark Counter Energy and Gardevoir.

Zoroark/Lycanroc

I’ve had an itch for this deck ever since I lost to it in Top 4 of Memphis, and although I haven’t played it at a big event yet, I think it’s one of those 50/50 decks that I mentioned before, with good or even matchups across the board, except for Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu. I definitely regret not having used it in Sydney, which is the event I tested it the most for. However, all of that testing still applies and I’ve also played around with it recently, and this is the list that I currently have sleeved:

Pokémon – 20

4 Zorua SLG

4 Zoroark-GX

2 Rockruff SM06

1 Rockruff GRI

2 Lycanroc-GX

1 Lycanroc BUS

3 Tapu Lele-GX

2 Mew-EX

1 Sudowoodo BKP

Trainers – 31

3 Brigette

3 N

2 Guzma

1 Acerola

1 Cynthia

1 Mallow

1 Professor Sycamore

 

4 Puzzle of Time

4 Ultra Ball

3 Field Blower

2 Evosoda

1 Enhanced Hammer

1 Multi Switch

2 Choice Band

2 Float Stone

Energy – 9

4 Double Colorless

2 F

2 Strong

1 Counter

 

Now, here are some of the “out of the norm” card explanations. Other than Parallel City, I feel like this deck has most if not all the cards that I would want to play to have a chance against literally everything.

Lycanroc BUS 75 – Yes, that is a non-GX Lycanroc. I’ve had the itch to play that card since Memphis, and with Quad Hoopa, along with Regigigas/Hoopa being practically invented in Brazil, I wouldn’t mind having the card in there. Sure, I might be coerced into playing Oranguru UPR because it’s just as good, if not better, in those matchups, but the Lycanroc provides more decisive and less complicated wins.

2 Mew-EX – Many people are going for the 1/1 Mew-EX/Mewtwo split and while I see the merit in that, I honestly really like not having to Puzzle back a Mew-EX in order to get access to it again. Either play is fine, I just have been a fan of 2 Mew-EX as personal preference lately, as it’s more decisive against Buzzwole and also Espeon-GX if Garbotoxin is not up.

1 Sudowoodo – With both Counter Energy AND Multi Switch in the deck, it’s not difficult at all to pull off a surprise Watch and Learn. Also, just like Buzzwole decks, dropping a Sudowoodo and attaching to it can sometimes be just as threatening as a 1 energy Lycanroc-GX, so the attention it draws to itself is very very valuable.

1 Professor Sycamore – We now live in a world where 4 Professor Sycamore is not a staple in every single deck, and even just playing 1 in Zoroark decks tends to raise a few eyebrows. I personally like having a choice on my Wonder Tags between the two, as the potential to dig with Professor Sycamore is unparalleled.

2 Evosoda – I’ve really liked this card when using Zoroark decks, as it just increases your chances of multiple Zoroark early on after the Brigette by quite a lot. The alternative for this deck would be Timer Ball, as it gets the Pokémon to your hand and keeps the Bloodthirsty Eyes option open. However, there are instances where you don’t even want to use the Ability anyway, and also a 25% chance of completely whiffing is bigger than you would think. Especially when playing 9 Best of 3s, the 25% chance will certainly happen and could be the difference between a game winning play or bricking entirely.

The biggest issue with the deck is its VikaBulu matchup, which I believe is getting a ton of hype and will see quite a bit of play in São Paulo. Zoroark/Lucario doesn’t have this issue because the one energy attack makes a big difference vs the 2 attachment attack of Lycanroc. This is why Zoroark/Lucario, despite the fact that I’ve logged way, way less games with it, is another safe choice: all the main “Zoroark principles” apply; it just has a different supporting cast.

Zoroark/Lucario

Lucario is the only “new card” out since Ultra Prism, and its effect was quite obvious from the start. The pairing with Zoroark is honestly very obvious and it’s very effective. Its Top 4 placement and most recent 1st/2nd at the Indonesian Regionals, along with presence all over the LATAM Special Events, just solidified its position as a great deck. Out of all the Zoroark decks, it’s the one with the best mirror matchup, as with 4 Guzma and the potential to 1HKO both Tapu Leless AND Zoroarks with a single Energy make a world of difference in those matchups.

As for a list, this is what I have currently, but I am considering a more consistent approach of a possible 4/3 Lucario line for sure:

Pokémon – 19

4 Zorua SLG

4 Zoroark-GX

3 Riolu UPR

2 Lucario-GX

3 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Mew-EX

1 Mewtwo EVO

1 Regirock-EX

Trainers – 32

4 Guzma

3 Brigette

3 N

1 Cynthia

1 Mallow

1 Professor Sycamore

 

4 Puzzle of Time

4 Ultra Ball

3 Field Blower

2 Evosoda

3 Choice Band

2 Float Stone

 

1 Parallel City

Energy – 9

4 Strong

4 Double Colorless

1 F

The deck is as solid as any other Zoroark variant, but packs a more explosive attack thanks to Lucario. The only “out of the norm” card is honestly the basic Energy, because I feel there will be some sneaky VikaBulu players that will try to add in Xurkitree-GX to their lists just to try and pull off some auto-wins against unsuspecting Zoroark/Lucario decks. The fact that the energy also can’t be taken away by Enhanced Hammer could be pretty key, but it’s pretty useless other than that.

I feel like Parallel City and the basic F Energy (or a Strong) could be easy drops for an extra Riolu and an extra Lucario. There have been quite a few games where prizing 1 Lucario becomes problematic, so even a 3/3 line would help alleviate this. This happens more often too, due to the fact that Lucario either stays alive and played around, or gets immediately KO’d with a Mew-EX. If the latter happens, your only way of getting back the one Lucario you have access to is double Puzzle of Time, but if it stays in play, there’s no way to recycle it or access a second one.

And thus, this leads to the third and less popular Zoroark deck: Zoroark Counter Energy! The deck has been piloted by a few players since the release of Counter Energy, yet hasn’t seen much success beyond a few Day 2 placements.

Zoroark/Counter Energy

I used this list to win a League Cup just this past weekend. Admittedly, League Cups aren’t the most competitive tournaments, and I won more than one game simply due to the fact that my opponents were unfamiliar with the cards I had. That is one exploit this deck has in its favour though, and the surprise factor of an underrated or unknown deck should definitely not be underestimated.

This is what my current list looks like:

Pokémon – 18

4 Zorua BKT

4 Zoroark-GX

3 Tapu Lele-GX

2 Mew-EX

1 Cobalion STS

1 Kartana-GX

1 Shaymin SLG

1 Sudowoodo BKP

1 Tapu Koko SM30

Trainers – 33

3 Brigette

3 Guzma

3 N

2 Cynthia

2 Mallow

1 Professor Sycamore

 

4 Puzzle of Time

4 Ultra Ball

3 Field Blower

2 Evosoda

1 Max Potion

1 Rescue Stretcher

2 Choice Band

2 Float Stone

Energy – 9

4 Double Colorless

3 Rainbow

2 Counter

The main strategy with this deck is to have an answer to everything your opponent can potentially have, and the Rainbow Energy allow you to pull off the “counter” attacks even when you’re ahead, along with providing access to Trickster-GX which can sometimes be as threatening as a Dangerous Rogue or other strong attacks.

1 Tapu Koko – Your opponent is being passive to not activate your Counter Energy? Spread away, and put everything into Zoroark range. Even a single Flying Flip gives you a potentially easier KO on Tapu Lele, which is great to close out a game in the end.

1 SudowoodoWatch and Learn has shown how powerful it is since Buzzwole’s dominance began, and its potential to 1HKO Zoroarks is just too big not to include in a Counter deck.

1 Shaymin – Same reason Sudowoodo is here, it’s the best Grass type revenge Pokémon available at the moment in Standard to deal with Lycanroc-GX.

1 Cobalion – Gardevoir has been popping up here and there, and this is the best answer available—although it’s not perfect, as it needs the game to be in a more advanced state. It’s also the only Counter Pokémon that would require 2 Rainbow Energy attachments rather than 1 and any other in order to use its attack. This could potentially simply be a second Sudowoodo, honestly.

1 Kartana-GX – An incredibly underrated card in my opinion, its GX attack can help you run away with a win 100% of the time, and its Ability can be timed perfectly to prevent a retaliation from an opposing Pokémon, especially Strong Energy users.

2 Mew-EX – Same reasoning as before, it’s a much more certain answer to the Buzzwoles, Espeons and Lucarios you might come across. 2HKOing with Mewtwo feels very underwhelming at times.

1 Max Potion – Having non supporter healing for your Zoroarks, which attack more often in this type of deck, is really good when you need to use Guzma or Mallow quite a bit as well, as it messes up your opponent’s plans to retaliate against your Counter attackers.

The deck has potential and is actually very skill intensive. It’s also very reliant on Mallow and drawing things in the right order to combo the proper counter to whatever your opponent brought. That is the reason that this deck is my third option, but its also the most innovative and surprising of the 3.

Gardevoir

At this point, it seems almost prophetic that Gardevoir is decently well positioned in the metagame again, thanks to Vika/Bulu and Espeon/Garbodor’s recent success. It is no secret that I am a big fan of Gardevoir, and the possibility of it being good again is very exciting.

The biggest reason this deck fell out of favor is Buzzwole, and although that deck is still a thing, there’s still some debate on whether everyone teching in Psychic Pokémon will make people stray away from it, as VikaBulu is also perceived as a good deck that can beat Zoroark, while not being weak to the Psychic techs.

My list currently looks like this:

Pokémon – 19

4 Ralts BUS

3 Kirlia BUS

3 Gardevoir-GX

2 Gallade BKT

3 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Alolan Vulpix GRI

1 Mewtwo EVO

1 Octillery BKT

1 Remoraid BKT 31

Trainers – 30

4 N

2 Brigette

2 Cynthia

2 Guzma

3 Professor Sycamore

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Rare Candy

2 Field Blower

2 Max Potion

2 Super Rod

2 Choice Band

1 Parallel City

Energy –

7 Y

4 Double Colorless

As you can see, it’s pretty standard and only has Cynthia as an inclusion of a potential new card, but it does run Mewtwo to help alleviate early pressure from Buzzwole, along with 2 Gallade to have a more definite response to 1HKO Zoroarks, rather than needing to pile 5 energy on a Gardevoir. The deck plays just the same as before, and has the same setting up issues as before, as it is still a Stage 2 deck.

However, if the format reverts to Garb variants and VikaBulu, that was when Gardevoir was at its best.


And so that will wrap up my article for today. I hope you guys wish me luck in Brazil, as I will definitely need it! I can’t wait to get on this competitive grind and it’ll be interesting to see in what state I finish, both physically and mentally, with so much travel and intense competition from now until NAIC.

As always feel free to reach out here or at any of my social media links with questions. Until next time!


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