The Flaming Potential

Pablo’s Take on Zoroark/Magcargo for Celestial Storm Standard

Hello 6P! I’m back with another article for you guys, as Worlds looms in closer and closer each day! Prereleases for Celestial Storm have now finished, and I went to a League Challenge this past Saturday in order to get some real life practice outside PTCGO. The League Challenge really got me in the mood to just get into full on mode for Worlds, especially after going a nice 5-0 against other top ranked Mexican players from last season.

Having said that, my real testing begins Thursday when Celestial Storm finally comes out on PTCGO and I’ll be able to grind out games and perfect lists. So far from the few games I’ve played (by my standards at least) and all the theorymon, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is going to be Rayquaza-GX presence at Worlds, especially Day 1, but if it flops, it will surely not be seen on Day 2.

The State of the Meta

The triangle that we had before, with Buzzwole-GX, Zoroark-GX and Malamar is still very much a thing. NAIC showed us, though, that Zoroark-GX was up to the task and a lot of the top players favored it over Buzzwole due to its inherent consistency and ability it gives you to make better decisions than your opponent.

I feel like I’ve been saying this all season, but Zoroark-GX is a card that really favors skill, as the more cards you have access to during a turn, the more ‘optimal’ your decisions can be.

Here’s an example of a typical/average Buzzwole or Malamar hand: Professor Sycamore, Guzma, Max Elixir, Psychic/F Energy, Float Stone. The train of thought here is quite simple: is there a threat you might want to target on the bench? Can you deal with it now or will you be able to later? And the answer to those questions determines whether you use Sycamore or Guzma.

Now, here’s an example of a typical/average Zoroark hand (after 2 Trades perhaps): Brigette, Puzzle of Time, Ultra Ball, Field Blower, Tapu Lele-GX, Guzma, Cynthia, N, DCE, Float Stone.

First off, the extra cards immediately give you a greater range of options. Not to mention that historically Zoroark decks play a wider variety of Supporters and 1-ofs, while the other 2 decks go for more 4 counts and bare bones Supporter lines. The train of thought here would begin something like this: which attacker am I using this turn? Should I Lele for an Acerola or Mallow? What would I discard with Ultra Ball to get X Pokémon? Etc. etc. All this decision branches out even more depending on which partner you end up using: Golisopod-GX, Lycanroc-GX, Lucario-GX, Garbodor (and soon enough, Magcargo).

Hence, the ‘optimal play’ is the opposite of straightforward and requires a much higher level of analysis.

So where am I going with all of this? Well, at NAIC we saw a decrease in Buzzwole play, as many of the top players favored Zoroark decks. I think the previous mindset described is the reason why, and felt like overcoming the bad Buzzwole matchup would be easier for them. I think this held true and that’s why the highest Buzzwole deck on the day was only Top 16. And I think this mentality will hold true though to Worlds as well. Zoroark-GX decks should be the most popular in both Day 1 and Day 2, because top players will feel safe enough to outplay a bad matchup, and the decks get a lot of momentum from NAIC (plus the new Magcargo partner).

In my opinion, Magcargo and Rayquaza-GX are poised to be the only 2 cards to have a high impact at Worlds from the new set. Magcargo with Zoroark seems incredible, especially in a deck like the Zoroark control deck Tord Reklev used at NAIC, which relies on outresourcing your opponent. Finding the perfect card (or cards with more than 1 Magcargo set up) for the right situation definitely will help that deck to excel. Before Magcargo, it already had the equivalent to potentially play 3-4 ‘Supporter effects’ with Trade (Sycamore), Counter Catcher (Guzma), Max Potion (Acerola), and Enhanced Hammer (Team Flare Grunt), and now with Magcargo’s Ability it now has the equivalent of Mallow. If multiple Trade Abilities during any given turn was already pretty broken, Smooth Over will definitely be game breaking.

The downsides of Magcargo, which are low HP and high Retreat Cost, are easily offset by the fact that it’s a non-GX and the deck already played 2 Float Stone. Now: How to fit Magcargo into the deck and how big a line should you be playing? That is the big question. Here’s my initial attempt at the list, which I plan on heavily focusing on this upcoming week:

Pokémon – 17

4 Zorua SLG

4 Zoroark-GX

2 Slugma CES

2 Magcargo CES

3 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Oranguru UPR

1 Mew-EX


Trainers – 39

3 Brigette

3 N

2 Guzma

1 Cynthia

1 Professor Sycamore

1 Team Flare Grunt

1 Delinquent

1 Acerola


4 Ultra Ball

4 Puzzle of Time

2 Evosoda

2 Enhanced Hammer

2 Field Blower

2 Counter Catcher

2 Max Potion

1 Rescue Stretcher

2 Weakness Policy

2 Float Stone


2 Parallel City

1 Reverse Valley

Energy – 4

4 Double Colorless

The deck cuts on a little bit of consistency (1 Evosoda and 1 Mallow which becomes redundant) in favor of adding the 2/2 Magcargo line. If using Mallow to get the 2 crucial cards you needed in any given turn was insane, using Magcargo now will be even better, as there’s no Supporter restriction. Granted, having 2 Magcargo out during any game is unrealistic and more than likely an unnecessary luxury, since the second you announce ‘Smooth Over’ a third time, the card has already given you more mileage than the Mallow, and the continuous benefit is simply too important to ignore.

Another card to consider, to ease the Rayquaza-GX matchup, is definitely Sylveon-EX. Very much like the Mew-EX, it makes dealing with a fully powered up Rayquaza much easier and is easy to reuse thanks to Magcargo netting us the needed Rescue Stretcher or the Puzzles of Time to get it back. The deck will play out similarly to the NAIC version, but it will have to be more careful with its bench space and the extra ‘liability’ of Magcargo means an extra Float Stone was added to the deck for better maneuvering.

Combating your opponent’s Parallel City actually becomes a center piece to the deck functioning in an ideal manner, as you definitely want 1 Magcargo on the bench and as many Zoroark-GX as possible. It’s not only to make sure you have a Magcargo out, but also to make sure your damage output is at a respectable level, since the deck doesn’t run Choice Band. One good thing about Magcargo is that it makes it very easy to be able to just Smooth Over for the Field Blower or Reverse Valley in order to count an opposing Parallel City.

As for its matchups moving forward, I’ve been using a Magcargo-less list against the other Zoroark decks, Buzzwole and Malamar and have found them to be the following:

Zoroark/Golisopod – Favorable without Oranguru, even with it.

Oranguru plays a major role in the resource management war, but moving forward I assume every Zoroark deck is going to play it as you’re at a huge disadvantage in the mirror if you don’t. If both players have Oranguru, the matchup usually comes down to who got a stronger set up early in order to get a 1-2 Prize lead, and also the healing cards count in Golisopod.

Zoroark/Lycanroc – Favorable without Basic Energy, even with them.

Oranguru doesn’t usually play a major part in this matchup, and Zoroark/Lycanroc tries to take advantage of the Fighting typing with Lycanroc and baby Buzzwole. If a Basic Energy is played on a Rockruff and that one is not KO’ed, the Zoroark control deck is in for a rough time. Weakness Policy are not good enough in this matchup, as the opposing deck will be playing at least 2, more likely 3 Field Blowers, and thus a single Lycanroc can possibly get 4 Prizes.

This is where the Team Flare Grunt comes into play, as it allows you to completely strip the Lycanroc of its energy in one turn, effectively ‘resetting it.’ If the Dangerous Rogue is executed with double Basic Fighting, though, that becomes a serious issue. Due to this, I genuinely think the energy counts in this deck will revert to 3 Basic Fighting and 2 Strong—solely for these situations.

Zoroark/Garbodor – Slightly unfavorable without Basic Energy, unfavorable with them.

As was seen in the finals of NAIC, this deck is a bit too reliant on its Item cards, thus it’s hard to keep Trashalanche in check. If you can do this while denying energy, the matchup is certainly winnable, but it’s not pretty. However, if Zoroark/Garbodor starts playing its own Oranguru and Basic Psychic, it becomes a very difficult task.

Zoroark/Lucario – Even to slightly favorable.

This matchup is actually very interesting, in the sense that you actually play to decking your opponent out, since damaging Lucario-GX can spell trouble for you. If your opponent can stream 3 Lucario-GX over the course of a game, the matchup becomes very difficult, so picking off Riolu is essential. However, with enough energy denial, it should be a decent enough matchup, as the deck loses power after the initial outburst of 2-of Lucario-GXs. Enhanced Hammers become your best friends in this matchup.

Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc – Even without Field Blowers, unfavored with.

Unsurprisingly, the highest ranked Buzzwole-GX list ran 1 Field Blower in it, and since I’ve decided to play 2 and it has been making a world of difference. That’s what I used at the League Challenge this past weekend to earn me my first 15 CP of the season. Having the ability to remove Weakness Policy just makes the task of KOing a Zoroark that much easier. Even though they are not 100% needed, they do make the matchup quite a bit easier for them.

Necrozma or Ultra Necrozma/Malamar – Highly favored.

No matter what version of Malamar you’re playing against, you have way too much control in terms of draw, ability to KO Malamars, and resource denial in the form of Parallel City (plus N) that this is a winning matchup for you regardless of the version or ‘techs’ they decided to run it with.

Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor – Even with your 2 Field Blowers, highly favored with 3 or 4.

This is definitely not the most popular deck, hence the hesitation by many players to play extra Field Blowers, but with Zoroark/Garbodor becoming so popular, there is definitely justification to adding a third or maybe even a fourth copy, and that immediately would improve this matchup. When you have Abilities, you have a lot of ways in which you can take over a game with continuous Mew-EX, so it’s key not to prize it either.

Rayquaza-GX – Unfavorable without Sylveon-EX, favorable with it.

Much like the Buzzwole/Garbodor matchup, without Sylveon-EX you would never be able to 1HKO Rayquazas, and thus give them enough time to get Energy down and trade very favorably, with 1 Rayquaza taking 4 Prizes while you 2HKO it. However, with Sylveon-EX you are able to continuously 1HKO them, and thus it’s a serious consideration for the deck.

Rayquaza-GX/Garbodor – Unfavorable without Sylveon-EX, even with it.

Field Blowers are key, just like in the Buzzwole/Garbodor matchup, but if you have Abilities, it still becomes difficult unless you have Sylveon-EX too. The reason this is isn’t favorable if you have Sylveon-EX is that you need that on top of the Field Blowers too, which is not something you need for the regular Rayquaza-GX version.

Hoopa – Highly favored.

Your resource denial cards become very annoying for them, as they only have a finite number and no easy way to find them. However, Oranguru is icing on the cake as not only can it attack, but it allows for the reusability of these cards while not even being 1HKO’d by most Hoopa decks. The Yveltal BREAK versions can be a bit tougher to deal with since they recover energy and their damage output is higher, but they also have a wider variety of targets you can take prizes off of, and less focus on the annoying Hoopa SGL.

That should cover Zoroark/Magcargo quite well and give you a good starting point to become accustomed to it. There’s no reason to deviate from Tord’s skeleton from NAIC, asit’s a formidable deck and Magcargo will simply make it even better. Having said that, I can’t provide this depth of a Rayquaza-GX deck yet simply because my main source of testing is PTCGO, but once Thursday comes around, I assure you I’ll be putting in hours upon hours of testing with all the new cards, as I’m pretty confident in my knowledge on Zoroark, Buzzwole and Malamar archetypes up until this point.

The Rayquaza-GX list I provided in my previous article, and that I also went through in my Rayquaza video has pretty much remained unchanged. I am though, very much looking forward to testing out and finding a good enough list for Rayquaza/Garbodor and see if that’s what it takes to make the deck essentially ‘break’ the triangle, even if Malamar’s inclusion into the triangle is suspect to being with.

That will wrap up my article for today! Thanks for reading and I’ll see you guys again soon with Celestial Storm and Worlds mode now in full gear as we move on to August! Until next time!

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