Hey everyone! Kenny Wisdom here again, excited to bring you another article on the greatest Pokémon strategy website in the world. If you’re anything like me, you’re counting down the days (just over a week by the time you’re reading this) until the World Championship. Worlds is always the best week of the year for me, and I have no reason to believe this year will be any different. Although I’m not playing in the event, I have been doing a fair bit of preparation, and wanted to get my thoughts out before the absolute last minute.
My intent with this article is to take a deep dive on what I believe to be the strongest deck going into Worlds: Zoroark-GX/Magcargo. That’s not to say that I think it’s the only option, or anything. Far from it. There are going to be so many competitors at this year’s World Championship that it would be silly not to think that a large number of them will think and test differently than I do, and therefore come to different conclusions.
I think the Zoroark/Garbodor deck is strong and will have a presence. Buzzwole/Lycanroc is clearly very powerful and will be played in droves at Nashville. There are a number of decks like Magnezone and Gardevoir that people are passionate about and will play, even if they don’t have the same metagame share as the aforementioned decks. I’m sure people will even play Malamar variants, all of which I think are horrendous and have no good match ups. This is all to say that this isn’t the only deck in the format, but it would be my choice for any event I was playing in Nashville.
Zoroark/Magcargo: The Basics
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 38
Energy – 4
Like I said above, Zoroark/Magcargo is the best deck in the format. The combination of Zoroark-GX and Magcargo is even more powerful than it may seem on the surface. The ability to smooth out your draws in the early phases of the game and then transition to drawing whatever card you want every turn is just unreal. If the Zoroark/Magcargo deck is running properly (which, by its nature, it should be much more often than not), it will be able to find whatever answer it needs, dealing with whatever threat is presented, turn after turn. Which begs the question: What are those threats, and how do we answer them?
The list above is what I consider to be essentially a stock Worlds metagame list. Although the differences between it and a lot of the other lists floating around are small, I do think they’re important.
Most players that I know have cut to 1-1 lines, and their reasoning is sound. You only need one Magcargo on the board at any time, and most decks can’t afford to mess around with Knocking it Out without giving up a huge advantage themselves. The majority of the time, when you play a Magcargo, it’s going to stick.
While this is true, I’m constantly paralyzed by the fear of prizing a piece of the evolution line. Not having access to Magcargo is going to make every game that much harder, especially those against opposing Magcargo, where you’re sure to get buried in card advantage. For this reason, I’ve decided to hedge my bets a bit and play the full 2-2 line of the Celestial Storm consistency hero.
Oranguru is the true star of the deck and without it you will surely lose every Zoroark/Magcargo mirror match you’re involved in. We’ll talk more about this later, but Oranguru’s presence in the deck cannot be understated.
This is a powerful tool against Buzzwole, but almost useless everywhere else. Cutting it entirely is defensible, but I think the nature of Zoroark/Magcargo justifies keeping the single copy. Because of how consistency you are in general, one dead-draw is unlikely to matter too much, and when Mew is good, it’s extremely, unbelievably good.
This is something I’ve only been experimenting with, and is mostly a concession to the fact that it can be hard to end games, especially if things don’t go your way early. I’m not entirely sure that this is right, but I like it as a concept and would encourage you to keep it in mind as you playtest.
It may seem strange to play Deliquent when expecting to play against a number of Zoroark variants that can refill their hand at almost no cost. This line of thinking makes sense, but also represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the power of Deliquent and its role in this deck.
Most people think of Deliquent as a card that ends games: Your opponent confidently passes the turn with three cards in hand and you get them with your 1-of tech Supporter. This is a strong use case and obviously if you could set this situation up every time you would. However, that isn’t always going to be the case. Sometimes your opponent is going to have a stocked hand, sometimes they’re going to have multiple Zoroark on the board ready to Trade on their next turn, and sometimes the number of cards in hand simply isn’t going to be the axis that you’re fighting on.
The power of Deliquent comes in its ability to win wars of attrition. Zoroark mirorr matches are long, grindy games that are largely based on decking your opponent out. In these types of games, Deliquent isn’t going to just win the game on the spot, but what it will do is provide incremental advantage over the course of many turns that will help you to achieve the overall goal of having more cards than your opponent and getting the most use out of each card you have.
It’s for this reason that I think Deliquent is essential to the deck. Plus, sometimes you just get to completely blow them out, and there’s no better feeling in the world.
Although these cards all have uses versus a wide metagame, they are also essential to winning Zoroark mirror matches. As I said while waxing poetic about Deliquent, the mirror match is all about making each individual card do more for you, and all of these do just that. Acerola is going to essentially undo your opponent’s entire turn while also potentially allowing you to use Trade more than once from a single Zoroark-GX. Enhanced Hammer is going to make your opponent have to use their Magcargo in nonoptimal ways. Max Potion is going to punish your opponent’s aggression. Finally, Team Rocket’s Handiwork is going to put your opponent on a very real clock.
Like I said, this is the stock list. This is the list that I would play for day one of Worlds assuming it were tomorrow, assuming I had the same information about the metagame that I do right now. I believe this list has a good mix of the consistency you’ll need to enact your game plan, while also including key tech cards that are powerful versus the field. I’m sure the list will be refined in the final week before the World Championship, but I’d expect a lot of players to submit something that looks very similar to this, and be successful with it.
It being a good list of a good deck doesn’t mean we can’t go deeper, though. Let’s return to the question we asked ourselves about threats and answers. What if we could scope out the metagame beforehand (such as players in Day 2 will be able to do): how would we build our decks then? I think Zoroark/Magcargo can change in a number of ways to give you a significant edge versus specific decks. Let’s go over a few of those changes now.
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 39
Energy – 4
As you can see, this version of the deck is built to beat up on other Zoroark decks, while completely foregoing any techs against Buzzwole. Let’s go over the additions we’re making on a card-by-card basis.
This is a card that I think players have largely been quiet about over the past few weeks, but most of those “in the know” have been talking about since the early stages of their preparation. With a Magcargo on the board, Lysandre allows you to remove your opponent’s Orangru from their discard pile, which should outright win the game in the majority of situations. With two Magcargo (which I think is essential if you’re going to be messing around with Lysandre p) you can do something like take out both of your opponent’s Puzzle of Time to slow them down, or simply hit Oranguru and Team Rocket’s Handiwork. The possibilities are nearly endless.
Still, evaluating cards based on the best case scenario is a dangerous trap to fall into. The ceiling on Lysandre p is pretty high, but unfortunately so is the floor. There are going to be times where your opponent is able to play around it by not letting their Oranguru hit the discard pile, or by making sure they set up a situation where losing their monkey isn’t devastating. Some amount of the time, it’s going to be a dead-draw, and you’ll wish you had played another Supporter entirely.
Still, I think Lysandre p is a very unique and powerful effect that can win the game on the spot in some situations. If you’re feeling like taking less of a risk, though, another solid replacement for a list tuned to beat other Zoroark decks is simply an additional copy of Team Rocket’s Handiwork, to close out the game in a bit of a different way.
Removing your Zoroark opponent’s Parallel City to make way for one of your own can be huge, so if you expect to play against the mirror, more copies of Field Blower are essential. Field Blower also allows you to turn off Garbotoxin, and remove tools versus other Zoroark variants.
Parallel goes hand in hand with Field Blower. Stadium advantage can be crucial in Zoroark mirror matches, and you want as many ways to interact with Stadiums as possible.
Overall, there are a lot of different ways you can go with a list specifically tuned for the mirror. I wouldn’t mind seeing more copies of Max Potion, for instance. There’s even the possibility that you can mess with the consistency numbers a bit just to add in even more specific, narrow techs, although I’ll admit that’s a bit too rich for my blood.
The most important thing I want to talk about in regard to the Zoroark/Magcargo mirror match exists outside of the game completely: time management.
If you’ve played the match up, with or without fancy techs, you know that it can be an absolute grind. You and your opponent are going to be chipping away at each other’s resources, a number of games are going to end via deckout, and you’re going to be unlikely to finish more than one game per match. This type of play pattern can really wear on you after a while, especially at an event like Worlds, where you’re playing against the best and one mistake can be quite costly. I’ve written about pace of play issues in the past, and I’d recommend you take that advice to heart. Since we still have a little bit of time before Worlds, I’d even recommend that you do most of your playtesting with the deck live, with a clock, and with the same expectations of your playtest partner that you have against opponent’s in a major tournament with tens of thousands of dollars on the line.
The final thing to consider when building a Zoroark deck for the mirror is how impactful Lysandre p will be. Like I said, it should be on your radar and I think we’ll see some of it, but I know not every top player is convinced. If you believe it will be a significant presence, it may be valuable to edit your deck to be good against it specifically, which would probably mean moving to two copies of Handiwork (or maybe even two copies of Oranguru?) yourself. This is all going pretty deep, and I definitely don’t have the optimal answer, but it’s something to consider.
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 37
Energy – 4
A complete departure from the list we discussed previously, this version of the deck goes all-in on beating Buzzwole variants, while having pretty much no game versus opposing Zoroark decks.
These two are a natural inclusion in the deck, as their entire purpose in any of the decks we’ve seen in the game recently is to defeat the Buzzwole menace. If you wanted to truly go deep, I could see bumping up the number of total Psychic-type attackers to 3, but I think you want to have some semblance of balance, even in these inherently imbalanced lists.
These cards are no longer in the deck because they don’t give us the same kind of power we need versus the Zoroark decks. Now that we’re attacking with Mewtwo and Mew, we can get much more aggressive and need to worry less about winning long, drawn out games.
Cutting the Enhanced Hammer comes from more or less the same logic that allowed us to cut the Acerola and Handiwork: Although it’s a powerful card, it’s not doing enough of what we need it to do in the match up to warrant multiple deck slots.
This is definitely the most aggressive inclusion in the list. Weakness Policy allows you to safely bench and attack with Zoroark-GXs, meaning that we can use our typical strategy of Trading into whatever cards we need while also having powerful attackers for the situations in which we don’t have Mew or Mewtwo. It’s possible we should only be playing two here, but this card can be so backbreaking that I want to illustrate it’s power by playing all three copies.
Choice Band allows us to amp up the aggression in a way that this deck isn’t used to, especially when attached to Mew or Mewtwo.
Hopefully these examples have shown just how powerful and flexible this deck can be. Although I’m not confident on what the exact list will look like, I’m very confident Zoroark/Magcargo is the best thing you can be doing in the format, to an almost oppressive degree. I’m excited to see what players smarter to me can put together for the World Championship, and I’ll see you all there.
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