The time has finally come. After what has definitely been the longest and most intense year of Pokémon ever, I can’t believe we’re in the final run in to the last event of the season before the World Championship. Never in my life could I have envisioned that I would be playing more Pokémon at 30 years old than 15 years old. If you had told this to my parents, they probably would’ve had a good laugh, yet here we are.
I’ve loved every moment of this, and I’m hoping to keep the positive momentum from winning an SPE and Top 16 at my local Regional moving into NAIC. Last year was my first time going to the equivalent of Nationals, and the excitement of competing in such a huge tournament with the best of the best present is incomparable.
I was originally going to cover Psychic Malamar variants, and whilst these are still in consideration for NAIC, my recent success with Zoroark/Golisopod made me switch my decision.
Since the decks inception at the EUIC back in November, it has been a mainstay in the metagame with varying degrees of popularity. Ranging from the most played deck, to the worst Zoroark variant, this deck has been through it all. Up until recently, it was deemed ‘not good enough,’ as we’re currently in a OHKO format. However, on paper, this deck’s damage output indeed doesn’t seem as impressive as dealing over 200 damage with Knuckle Impact or Photon Geyser. Yet, the combination of typing, consistency, and versatility actually makes this deck the strongest Zoroark variant for this particular metagame.
My own history with this deck was a bit rocky up until recently. I first tried the deck (along with every other Pokémon player) after EUIC at a League Cup. I ended up playing a version with four Acerola, just to have an edge in the mirror.
This ended up working wonderfully as I went undefeated until Top 8, where I conceded to a friend (playing Zoroark/Golisopod) as I had already maxed out my League Cup points for the Quarter.
Fast forward to March and Charlotte Regionals, where I was dead set on playing Zoroark/Gardevoir until Azul promptly destroyed me 3 games in a row with Buzzwole and thus encouraged me to switch to Golisopod. After a lackluster 4-1-4 finish to the day, I didn’t really contemplate the deck again until very recently.
Heading to the last Special Event, and my confidence was at an all time low. A huge string of events with no results beyond Top 64 hit me hard, and thus I wanted to default to a safe choice. In my mind, Zoroark/Golisopod had been the most reliable deck I had played all season, almost always executing the same strategy successfully and consistently, and another Mexican player was seeing good success with it too. After thoroughly analyzing the strengths of the deck, I streamed it and the people who saw me play it actually recommended I go through with it, simply because I looked very confident doing so. I bit the bullet, sleeved it up and figured playing a deck that can consistently set up and allow me to make better decisions than my opponent’s would be a good choice.
I ended up winning the Special Event by outplaying a Buzzwole Round 1, and then netting a string of good matchups in Malamar and mirror matches where once again my better decision making ended up being the determining factor in those games. I ran hot vs the toughest matchup in Top 8, Christopher Schemanske with Buzzwole/Garbodor, and that rounded out a great tournament run.
Next up was Mexico City Regionals, and I figured I could repeat the feat. After going through 10 Buzzwole decks and other tough matchups such as Metagross/Solgaleo, I ended up losing my win and in to 3 raw Guzma draws by my opponent. Nothing you can do about that, but I started the day off not wanting to see Buzzwole, to being extremely confident in the matchup.
After these experiences, this is the list that I have finally settled on to, to maximize the chances against Buzzwole/Lycanroc, by far the best and most popular deck in the format, along with other good matchups against popular decks.
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 34
Energy – 7
In the Pokémon department, the new notable inclusion and MVP is Latios. The attack Breakthrough seems underwhelming at first, but it allows you to chase down Remoraids/Octillery to the point where you opponent can’t Guzma around it and ignore it. This is important because it draws attention away from your Zorua early on, which means you’re more likely to set up multiple Trades.
Latios’s usefulness doesn’t end there, as just like Tapu Koko before it, it can set up Tapu Lele on the bench to be within range of a Riotous Beating or First Impression KO thanks to a Choice Band.
In the Trainers department, the newer inclusions are Counter Catcher and multiple copies of Float Stone, along with the 4th Field Blower and 4th Brigette. Taking a statistical and objective look at the flow in a Zoroark game, there is a marked difference between the flow of a game between those where you do or do not find Brigette on turn 1. Maximizing the chances of that Turn 1 Brigette makes sense, and we’re only 1 Tapu Lele short at this point from doing so. 4 Brigette lists also found success at the latest European Regionals, so I’m not the only one with that train of thought.
Secondly, the 4th Field Blower comes back to the list after being excluded for the longest time, simply due to the success of Buzzwole/Garbodor lately. Garbotoxin will always be an issue for the deck, so utilizing 4 of the counter to that card is a great idea. It also helps counter another annoying card for Zoroark decks, Parallel City, and it’s always useful to rid your opponent of Float Stones or Choice Bands.
Finally, the deck went from playing 0 Float Stones at EUIC, to hesitantly playing 1 6 months later, to now finally playing 2. Not only is it an obviously great combo with Golisopod’s First Impression attack, it’s part of the 3 card combo with Mew-EX and an energy to get the KO on Buzzwoles.
Many of you will raise an eyebrow at this, but I actually have data to back this up. Yes, being a Zoroark deck you don’t want to see your opponent flip over a Buzzwole by any means. However, with the current iteration of the list, it’s actually manageable and the games end up being quite close. I went a cumulative 6-3 in matches, 13-7 in games, including a 2-0 against the top rated player in the world, Azul.
Most of the time, the matchup comes down to denying the card advantage that your opponent can possibly have, aka KOing Octillery. With Latios in the deck, it opens up even more possibilities to target down the Remoraid early. Beyond that, it’s a war of attrition in which you have the tools to respond to your opponent’s threats: Mew-EX for Buzzwole and Golisopod-GX for Lycanroc-GX.
One key to the matchup is not committing ‘Golisopod outs’ until you will actually use Golisopod. Don’t evolve a Wimpod if you’re not using First Impression that turn. Prioritize getting 2 Wimpod down to make sure that they can’t easily target down the only one you have, and make it your priority as well to target down a Rockruff whenever possible, especially if it has an energy attached already.
Another key is having 2 Mew-EX. A single one isn’t enough and if it goes down, the only way to get it back is with Puzzle of Time. However, now with 2, you can reliably Ultra Ball for the second one, along with prizing it becoming a non-issue. Mewtwo doesn’t do the trick anymore as you can’t afford not to take a KO and settle for the 2HKO, due to how Sledge Hammer and Beast Ring work.
Another Buzzwole deck that is much more manageable due to the nature of focusing on Buzzwole-GX, but more annoying to play against due to Garboxotin Ability. It’s very common for them to have Turn 2 Garboxotin up, hence my inclusion of the 4 Field Blower in the above list.
Hanging on to Field Blowers until they will actually serve a purpose is huge in order to get the most out of your Trades. Trying to KO the Garbodor is also a great strategy, as it will hopefully allow for extra turns of Abilities, whilst avoiding the dreaded Sledge Hammer turn by taking 1 prize, and then 2 more on a Buzzwole-GX.
Having 2 Mew-EX is quite broken in this matchup, but it all comes down to the timing of the Field Blowers. That’s why we play 4, to maximize the chances of having it at the right time.
Zygarde/Lycanroc: Very favorable
This deck’s success was a genuine surprise to me, but Zoroark/Golisopod might actually be its worst matchup simply because of Weakness. Bypassing Verdict GX is easy with the 3 Guzma, and that can be the turn where you KO the Octillery. After that, it’s smooth sailing as long as your opponent was not able to pick off the Wimpods early on.
There’s really nothing more to this matchup than abuse your weakness advantage.
Malamar/Ultra Necrozma: Favorable
Malamar decks struggle against Zoroark decks due to the high HP and the high Field Blower counts which keep disrupting their Float Stone, along with late game Ns due to lack of support Pokémon like Octillery, Oranguru, or Zoroark.
Targeting down Malamar is great against this matchup, but prioritizing getting a hit into the Ultra Necrozma-GX is key. There’s no reliable way to OHKO the Ultra Necrozma, thus by targeting it, you guarantee that you will 2 shot, and within that 2 shot, they will likely get 2 prizes, but not 4. If you let a clean Ultra Necrozma take 2 prizes, then hit into it, and it takes 2 more prizes, and the game is more than likely lost at that point as they’re being very efficient.
Doing that is easier said than done though, as they need Malamars set up, energy in the discard, and a way to retreat other than the 2 prize liability of Dawn Wings on the bench. After all is said and done, getting to that point is extremely difficult with Zoroark pressuring you since turn 2, and that’s what makes this matchup favorable.
Malamar/Necrozma: Very favorable
The straight Psychic version has an even worse Zoroark matchup, not only due to the pressure, but because their heavy hitters are weak to Psychic or Dark, and thus are never safe on the bench. Necrozma-GX, Mewtwo-GX and even Marshadow-GX can be picked off by Mew pretty easily, and Dawn Wings gets rolled over by Zoroark.
As long as you are able to set up, the match up should be smooth sailing, as the trades are always in your favor or even, but Ns severely reduce their chances of actually finding all of the resources they need to make those trades happen.
Zoroark/Golisopod: Even or unfavorable
The mirror match is obviously even. However, the Acerola counts actually could swing the match up one way or the other. Since we are focusing heavily on having the most solid Buzzwole/Lycanroc matchup possible, we’re down to 1 Acerola. If we run into a mirror match that has 2 Acerola, they will have the advantage in the 2HKO war since they can Acerola up to 6 times, whereas we can only do so 3 times.
If even on Acerola counts, it basically comes down to resource management or simply who whiffs the Acerola first, thus playing an N in order to try and make the other player whiff too. Saving Crossing Cut GX for the late game to close out the game is key, as that’s how the attrition war usually ends.
Zoroark/Lycanroc: Even or unfavorable
pokemon-paradijs.comI genuinely believe this matchup usually comes down to who win the flip. Assuming similar Brigette into Zoroark set ups, whoever went first gets the initiative to hunt down either the Rockruffs or the Wimpods.
Once Rockruffs/Lycanrocs are gone, Golisopod usually wins out the war of 2HKO attrition due to the Acerola(s). However, if the Zoroark/Lycanroc player is able to effectively eliminate the Wimpods, then Lycanroc takes over and just trades extremely well.
In order to prevent this, it’s always advisable to have 2 Wimpods down whenever possible, so that the threat of the Golisopod remains. The Enhanced Hammer helps in preventing the Lycanroc attack as well, as they require 2 energy drops to your one.
Other Zoroarks: “Depends”
Very briefly, Garbodor should be a very good matchup as their partner to Zoroark is simply underwhelming, as long as you don’t overextend on the Item cards.
Gardevoir variants are more tricky, but you’re much faster than them and Latios pressuring the Ralts is actually a good strategy. It helps out in dealing with the Ralts as getting Rare Candy + Gardevoir is not exactly easy early on.
Lucario is definitely the most difficult one, specially as we rely on Mew to trade against the Lucarios, but then Zoroark picks off the Mew and we’re always trading in an inefficient way.
Glaceon is also very complicated, as it slows down your game to a halt whilst they have the Trade advantage over you.
Fortunately, none of these variants is very popular at the moment, as they all have absolutely abysmal matchups against the ever popular Buzzwole/Lycanroc.
Despite the weakness advantage that we have with Grass typing, we are so reliant on Trade that when that gets stopped, the deck suffers greatly. You also have a very limited amount of energy in your deck, which means Enhanced Hammers really hurt, and late game N’s can make us whiff entirely.
Having said that, we do apply immense amount of pressure early on, and have a healthy amount of Guzma’s and Acerola in order to constantly keep attacking with Golisopod. This matchup is all about tempo and Greninja trying to slow you down whilst you’re systematically trying to take prizes every turn.
All in all, I firmly believe the meta is ripe for Zoroark/Golisopod to make a splash at NAIC. Specifically this version, has been equipped to try and deal with the other top decks, with maximum consistency, maximum Field Blower counts, and optimized typing and attackers to maintain weakness advantage and efficiency on opponent’s decks.
The deck is not easy to pilot, and any Trade done wrongly can be the difference between winning or losing a game. The high skill ceiling of this deck is exactly why I like it. The better your decision making, the more this deck will reward you. Whereas if you end up switching to auto-pilot mode, the deck will feel very underwhelming.
Granted, I am also heavily considering Buzzwole/Garbodor and Psychic Malamar as they also seem incredibly strong choices. Specially, Malamar is appealing, after playing against ten different Buzzwole decks at Mexico City.
And so, we’re one week away from the biggest tournament in Pokémon history. Whether you’ll be there or watching from home, I hope this next weekend will be an unforgettable one.
See you at NAIC, 6P peeps!
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