Hey all—happy to be back with another installment in our mini-marathon. While my look at Gardevoir was perhaps a bit grandiose—and I certainly intended for it to be that way—today my discussion will be a bit more modest. I have only played two decks in the Standard format in tournaments this year (except my first League Cup of the season with Golisopod/Garbodor): Gardevoir and Zoroark. With my dissertation on Gardevoir out of the way, the other deck I would like to discuss today is Zoroark: specifically, Zoroark/Lycanroc.
During the third quarter of League Cups I played Zoroark/Golisopod to a second place and a top four performance, both large northeast events. These were my first times piloting Zoroark in a tournament and I immediately regretted not playing it earlier. Trade is truly incredible and the consistency of the deck was something to be admired. I preferred Golisopod to Lycanroc back then as I liked the idea of having all seven of my Energy cards being outs to a one-attachment attack. In my mind this makes the Golisopod variant a bit more consistent than other versions. Pablo gave us a great rundown of the current Zoroark/Golisopod he has been having success with recently on Saturday.
Fast forward to last month and the release of Forbidden Light: While Golisopod was still tempting, Lycanroc’s ability to carry the mirror match, push the Malamar matchup heavily in your favor, and provide a reliable way to run through Baby Buzzwoles all made Lycanroc appealing. I tested the deck online a bunch with Eric Gansman and we both took it to some cups—he won one and I made top four, scooping to a friend as I had gotten my invite with a top four. Eric also took the deck to Sheffield Regionals where he made a few misplays to miss out on day two, but our list did make day two via another friend. We saw a slightly different list win that same tournament.
Zoroark/Lycanroc (ZoroRoc) saw some play during League Cups in between EUIC and Memphis Regionals, but it had its breakout performance at the latter, where Michael Pramawat won his seventh Regional Championship. At that point, it was the only other Zoroark deck outside of Tord’s Zoroark/Golisopod (ZoroPod). Since then, it has been a mainstay in the format. With Buzzwole’s popularity also only increasing since that tournament, and ZoroRoc’s inherent weakness to it, ZoroRoc has not seen the success that such a powerful deck probably should have seen. In any case, it has seen some resurgence recently and is in at least a solid position moving into Columbus. Let’s take a look at our skeleton list:
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 20
Energy – 6
17 open spots
The first thing to note is that even though there are a lot of spots open in this list, many of the remaining 17 cards need to be dedicated toward specific “types” of things—most notably more Energy cards and more Supporters. The Pokémon line is pretty filled out already, but such is the nature of this deck. There is a world where we play a smaller Zoroark line with no Puzzle of Time, similar to the other Zoroark lists Brit and Travis have shared recently, but I have not put any time into such lists, so my skeleton remains more traditional.
If we remove the Lycanroc line here, we see the 38 cards that are familiar to every Zoroark deck. In fact, we will likely add a few more cards back in (third Brigette, third N, etc.) that make the Zoroark “core” even bigger. I find it amusing that different Zoroark decks run so many of the same cards. This makes it so that most Zoroark decks have pretty similar matchups, only shifting slightly based on its partner. Whichever Zoroark deck you choose to play depends a bit on the metagame and a bit on how comfortable you are with a certain variant. Since so many of these cards are familiar, they require little explanation. Instead, let’s jump right into looking at how we could fill out the rest of this deck:
- Psychic dudes
- Second Mew-EX: I like this inclusion more in ZoroPod as you can copy First Impression to utilize G Energy. In this deck we will almost always just copy Riotous Beating. This deck needs more Buzzwole help than ZoroPod does, however, so a second copy of this is definitely considerable.
- Mewtwo EVO: Mewtwo has been the go-to 1-Prize Psychic attacker for a while now and for good reason. I spoke quite a bit about Mewtwo in Gardevoir and it has some similar applications here. Being able to Brigette for Mewtwo is important and it trades 2HKOs with Baby Buzzwole. It can also threaten three-Energy Buzzwoles later in the game and only gives up a single prize—and might not always get 1HKO’d back! I definitely like Mewtwo in this deck.
- Latios: I have tried this extensively in this deck and it has been very underwhelming. It does not trade evenly with Baby Buzzwole and the 30 damage is not often relevant for our deck against Buzzwole-GX. You already beat Malamar and are favored in Zoroark mirrors, so the card provides little utility there. This is an omit from me, but it is at least considerable.
- Giratina PR: This is not a Psychic attacker, but still a Psychic dude. The only reason for playing it is of course Greninja.
- Baby Buzzwole: I have not been a huge fan of this card in ZoroRoc, but others have liked it. It does provide a nice 1-Prize attacker, especially in the mirror, but here is my basic argument against it: Buzzwole is most useful in the Zoroark mirror to get a 1HKO on a Zoroark-GX with Sledgehammer. It is pretty easy in the Zoroark mirror to kill a basic before it evolves and then start to target down GX’s. This allows the opponent to fairly easily play around the Sledgehammer turn, making it much weaker. On the other hand, with Strong Energy and Choice Band you can still threaten 2HKOs on opponent’s Zoroark-GX. It can also be useful to respond to a BuzzRoc’s Baby Buzzwole. This card gets better the more Strong Energy we play, as we do not play as many damage modifiers as BuzzRoc does.
- Counter Package – Shaymin, Sudowoodo, and Mimikyu: We first saw the idea of Counter Energy plus attackers in Zoroark decks in Expanded, where a group of players featuring our own Travis Nunlist and Xander Pero played a dedicated Counter/Zoroark deck in the Expanded format. We then saw Igor Costa play a 1-1 Sudowoodo-Counter Energy in his ZoroPod in Collinsville a few months later.Recently, Conner LaVelle has advocated for the inclusion of this in ZoroRoc. Conner claims these are the highest impact cards you can use with the spaces in the mirror and Buzzwole matchup. Shaymin gives us a way to 1HKO Lycanroc without using our own Lycanroc, which is huge. In theory, this gives us an out to every attacker in the Buzzwole matchup. In practice, the matchup is still difficult because of their speed, our natural Fighting weakness, and needing to find these combo pieces at the correct time. Sudowoodo is mostly used against opposing Zoroarks, but has lots of random uses.
I played Sudowoodo + Counter in ZoroPod for one of the Cups I attended and I used Sudowoodo to copy Dusk Mane Necrozma and Gardevoir just to name two random things. It can also copy Dangerous Rogue, giving you two Counter attackers to retaliate against Lycanroc. Mimikyu is a distant third-best attacker, but worth mentioning since it is purple. I would consider playing these and will provide two lists at the end: one with these cards and one without, as the inclusion of the Counter package also changes other card counts fairly significantly.
- 3rd/4th Brigette, 3rd Guzma, 3rd N: These are all pretty standard inclusions. I would not play less than three Brigette or three N for consistency purposes, but I have seen people run only two of each (usually in favor of other consistency cards). The fourth copy of Brigette just gives us an even higher percentage of naturally starting it, but otherwise I feel like the spot could be better utilized. The third Guzma is more debatable in a deck that features Lycanroc and Puzzle of Time. If we fit the Counter package or Counter Catcher, the third Guzma is especially cuttable.
- 2nd Cynthia, Professor Sycamore, 2nd Mallow: More consistency options. I have been a fan of splitting Cynthia and Professor Sycamore, but others have enjoyed just running Cynthia in Zoroark decks. I still think there are enough scenarios where you want to discard bad cards or have a 0-2 card hand that Sycamore is worth playing. A third draw supporter is considerable as well, but generally unnecessary. A second copy of Mallow is something that a lot of people I have spoken to have expressed interest in, but few have made the room for it.It’s only a pseudo-consistency card, as you often need to play a draw Supporter right before or right after you use Mallow, because your hand can be small in the early game before you get multiple Zoroarks out. The second Mallow does help you enable combos more readily throughout the game, which is particularly useful in a list that includes Counter stuff.
- Professor Kukui, Acerola, Delinquent: These are the most relevant tech Supporters this deck can run. There are not many decks that can effectively run Kukui, but this is one of them. Since this is the more aggressive of the Zoroark variants, having extra reach makes sense a lot of the time. I personally have found the card to be pretty mediocre. Acerola is the exact opposite: it provides us a defensive tool in an otherwise aggressive deck. Acerola shines in the mirror match, as there are plenty of times your opponent will attempt to 2HKO a Zoroark.Finally, Delinquent is not a card that was on my radar before the results of Sheffield came in, but it is an interesting inclusion. Perhaps most importantly, Delinquent acts as a way to remove Parallel City while simultaneously disrupting your opponent. Of course, there are the times where you can just cheese your opponent when they have three cards in hand. I feel like this card loses a lot of power now that it has won a large event, but it will inevitably find its way into some lists at NAIC and should be on your mind to play around if you play against a ZoroRoc.
- Evosoda or Timer Ball: We need to play some count of these cards to add consistency to our deck. Zoroark is our main draw engine so we need to get them out quickly and consistently. Most lists tend to play two, but one is the bare minimum. Many players claim Timer Ball to be superior to Evosoda in ZoroRoc, as it can grab Lycanroc and you can activate Bloodthirsty Eyes, but I strongly disagree. I do not think the 25% chance of just missing an Evolution entirely is worth the benefit of finding Lycanroc. Half the time you play Lycanroc you just play it to use Dangerous Rogue anyway, so using Evosoda at that point is equivalent.
- Rescue Stretcher: I have been a huge fan of this card and told Eric at one point during testing that I now considered this a staple. For some reason this card feels more important than in other Zoroark decks like ZoroPod. You tend to use your Puzzles offensively in this deck, getting things like Choice Band, Kukui, or Guzma. Ensuring you have Rockruffs or Lycanrocs to make big swing turns or filling your bench back up after a Parallel for Riotous Beating becomes important in many games. Stretcher is also helpful to get back Mew-EX against Buzzwole.
- Enhanced Hammer: This card is almost exclusively for mirror matches and it is really impactful. Especially in ZoroRoc mirror, where Lycanroc takes two Energy attachments, Enhanced Hammer can be the difference between your opponent attacking with Lycanroc the following turn or not. With Zoroark doing well at the last few events, I would be hesitant to not play this card. It’s also worth to note that while this card can find value against Buzzwole, it’s not that great. You tend to target down their Pokémon with Energy, trade 1HKOs, and they have Energy acceleration. These three facts make the card pretty mediocre in the matchup, so I would not include this card if you want to tech specifically for the Buzzwole matchup.
- Multi Switch: This card has felt pretty staple in the deck for a while. As Lycanroc takes two Energy attachments to use Dangerous Rogue – and we play no Energy acceleration – this provides us with a way to attack with Lycanroc out of nowhere. Though this card does not get use every game, I would be hard pressed to remove it from the list.
- 3rd Field Blower: Nothing much to say about this except that it’s really good if other Zoroark decks run multiple Parallel City and it’s really good if Garbodor has much of a presence in the meta.
- Counter Catcher: This might seem like a weird consideration in a deck with Lycanroc, but Counter Catcher is pretty insane in Zoroark decks in general as you see it when you want it more often. The ability to essentially play two supporters in a turn is nothing to scoff at. I would only consider this over the third Guzma slot, but I would not throw this idea out straight away.
- 2nd, 3rd Choice Band, 2nd Float Stone: More tools help ensure you see them when you need them, have an extra copy later in the game, and gives you a bit of flexibility in dropping down one early before an N or Cynthia to give you better odds of hitting what you need. I really like playing at least two of each of these cards. Eric has advocated strongly for the third Choice Band, but I see it as more of a luxury than a necessity. I argue pretty strongly for the second Float Stone, as it is a card you often want to see early in the game to accelerate the pace of attacking with who you want.
- Weakness Policy: I have only played a couple of games with these to see if they helped the matchup and I wasn’t too impressed. The idea behind these, of course, is to help the Buzzwole matchup since they do not play Field Blower. In practice you still need to get multiple Zoroark out throughout a game and you cannot put a Weakness Policy on all of them consistently. This could use a bit more testing, but I am pretty sure these are bad.
- Parallel City: Parallel City has been a staple in most Zoroark decks for a while now. First and foremost, these are played for the mirror match. Limiting the number of Zoroarks your opponent can get out is a win condition in and of itself. Parallel can also be useful in lots of other matchups—it is great against Malamar and can be strong against Buzzwole at certain points in the game. It is important to note that Parallel has anti-synergy with Dangerous Rogue. I have seen (and done it myself) where a player sets up for a Dangerous Rogue knockout but plays Parallel first and then wiffs the KO. Don’t brain fart on this!
- Reverse Valley: In this meta, Reverse Valley would be played almost exclusively to 1HKO Baby Buzzwole. It also helps Zoroark hit 130 on Baby Hoopa in Malamar decks. Most of the people that have played this card in their tournament ZoroRoc decks have said the card was mediocre and that sounds about right. Its utility is limited, but it can be great at times. I think we can fit two Stadiums max, so we either play two Parallel or a 1/1 split.
- Strong, Fighting, Counter, Energy Loto: We need to fit in at least two more Energy cards. I am including Energy Loto in this as it is a pseudo-Energy card, helping you dig deeper for whichever Energy you need at that moment. More Strong Energy enables Lycanroc to hit bigger numbers, but more importantly allows Claw Slash to 1HKO Baby Buzzwole. Basic Fighting helps in the mirror match, playing around Enhanced Hammer and allows Mew-EX to copy Lycanrocs’ attacks. It also provides a win condition against random Xurkitree-GXs. Counter Energy would obviously only be played with the Counter attackers.
One great thing about Zoroark decks is their flexibility. As I continue to consider ZoroRoc, inevitably some of the cards in the list will change. That said, if I were to play ZoroRoc right now, here are the lists I would be writing down:
Final List 1 – without Counter package
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 34
Energy – 8
Final List 2 – with Counter package
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 31
Energy – 9
- Lycanroc – Unfavorable (35/65)
- Garbodor – Slightly unfavorable (40/60)
This is the matchup you do not want to see. No matter how much you tech your deck to beat Buzzwole, it is still extremely difficult. Here are some ways to approach the matchup:
- Get a quick Lycanroc. A Lycanroc with Strong+DCE can take some early KOs on their Baby Buzzwole swarm. Their third Baby Buzzwole will get the boosted Sledgehammer and likely KO Lycanroc after modifiers and chip damage from the first two Buzzwoles. You need to have an immediate response ready, whether it be Mew-EX, Reverse Valley with Riotous Beating, or another Lycanroc.
- Target their Octillery. Since we have a lot of gust effects it is not overtly difficult to manipulate the active. KOing Octillery early in the game opens up the line of play where we can N them later in the game and hope it sticks. This is a pretty common path to victory in this matchup.
- Target their Rockruffs. While we have Mew and Mewtwo to deal with Buzzwoles, Lycanroc can be a real pain. KOing these early on with Riotous Beating is pretty easy, cheap, and effective. KOing Diancie Prism* can be effective to reduce damage, but the Octillery and Rockruffs are a bigger priority.
- If you can play around the Sledgehammer turn, you should obviously try to. Unless they start Buzzwole-GX, this won’t usually be an option, but sometimes they are forced to bench Lele or maybe they feel the need to bench the GX. This is huge if they do. Take a 1-Prize KO and use Mew-EX to take down a Buzzwole-GX.
- The matchup becomes a bit different if we play Counter attackers, because we have an effective and immediate response to Lycanroc. If you foresee this situation coming up, save your Mallow to search out Shaymin + Counter Energy for the turn you need it.
- Despite our weakness, we still want to get as many Zoroark out as possible. This allows us to find our responses to their threats more readily and gives us a way to attempt to N lock them later in the game while preserving our hand size.
- Psychic –Favorable (65/35)
- Ultra – Slightly favorable (60/40)
This is the matchup you do want to see – especially the Psychic version. We are a pretty lopsided favorite regardless of their list – focused on GXs or non-GXs. The strategy is the same for all variants: kill Malamars. Leverage Parallel City to limit their bench, potentially taking out an Inkay that way as well. We have so many gust effects that it is easy to KO a Malamar nearly every turn from turn two on. Without Malamars they have no reload and their attackers are inefficient. The Ultra Necrozma matchup is a bit scarier if they run Beast Rings to get to 1HKO, but it is still favored.
Dangerous Rogue will usually finish the game for 2 Prizes, but can be used to take out a mid-game threat as well. You do have to balance KOing Malamars and reducing the size of their bench and ensuring there are enough Benched Pokémon you can still take a 1HKO on something with Dangerous Rogue. Reverse Valley helps against Baby Hoopa, which can actually be quite annoying otherwise.
- Lycanroc – Even (50/50)
- Golisopod – Even to slightly favorable (55/45)
- Garbodor – Slightly favorable (60/40)
yugioh.wikia.comZoroark mirrors have not changed much since last December. Attacking with Lycanroc as much as possible is correct in almost all of these matchups, but it can be a bit more nuanced than that.
- In the direct mirror, we want to attack with Lycanroc, but so does our opponent. We do not want to use our Lycanroc to kill a Zoroark only for their Lycanroc to kill our Lycanroc. Then we do not have an immediate response (unless we run the Counter package, which can make the dynamic even weirder, as you need to ensure you are down on prizes on this key turn). Much of the early game comes down to targeting opponent’s Rockruffs and evolving your Rockruffs as quickly as possible, even if Bloodthirsty Eyes isn’t getting full value. Enhanced Hammer gets a lot of value in this matchup, slowing down a Lycanroc’s attack. We can even Enhanced Hammer, Puzzle for Hammer to remove two Energy off an attacking Lycanroc to buy ourselves a turn and 2HKO a Lycanroc with Riotous Beating.
- In the ZoroPod matchup both players generally want to target the opponent’s secondary attacker basics: Wimpod or Rockruff. ZoroRoc does the job better, having Lycanroc to gust and not relying solely on Guzma. ZoroPods are starting to play multiple Counter Catcher which can even the playing field a bit here. Though targeting Wimpods is usually the strategy, we can go after Zoruas as well if they only get two on the field early on. Removing Zoroarks makes them a less consistent deck, so that is another win condition.
- The Garbodor variant plays similarly, but their secondary attacker isn’t very good. The main threat here is getting Ned + Garbotoxin in the late game. Thus, we want to thin our deck as much as possible early on while conserving our Field Blowers. If we can draw out of these scenarios we usually win the game, as Lycanroc is very difficult for them to deal with.
Zoroark/Lycanroc is one of the strongest decks in the format. If BuzzRoc was not as powerful as it is, I am confident this would hold the title of best deck in the format. The power of Trade combined with perhaps the strongest Pokémon in the format in Lycanroc gives this deck such versatility and strength. Even if you do not decide to play ZoroRoc, I hope this article gives you insight in how to play against it, as you will undoubtedly see this deck in numbers in Columbus.
With that, my two articles for NAIC are done. I apologize for not getting a podcast episode out for this tournament – I had a lot going on in the weeks preceding the event (finishing school year, moving, weddings, being sick) and other people are busy as well, so it was hard to coordinate schedules. I will hopefully have a couple episodes in between NAIC and Worlds. Thanks for reading and come say hi at NAIC!
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