Hey all. It’s the final week before Worlds, and many of you may be anxiously preparing for the most coveted event of the year, whether it be for the Open, Day 1, or Day 2. Personally, I’m excited to have another Day 1 bye because it gives me an extra day to test, enjoy the atmosphere of Worlds, and spend time with friends. Of course, I also have the added benefit of not playing Day 1, have less stress, etc.
Analyzing Day 1 results is a good way to get a grasp for the meta, but know that it will also change. Last year, if I remember correctly, M Rayquaza blitzed its way through Day 1 with little problem. This led many people to indirectly counter it by choosing a favorable matchup or by adding a Sudowoodo GRI. Garbodor GRI decks made up the most of Top Cut, but Gardevoir-GX ended up winning. That’s a prime example of how the meta can shift from Day 1 to Day 2, but keep in mind that people could turn a blind eye to what does well Day 1! I predict that Rayquaza-GX will be the most succeeding deck of Day 1, but then will tank on Day 2 because players will have switched decks or teched for it.
Straight Zoroark-GX is the most recent deck I’ve been experimenting with at local events. Compared to Zoroark-GX/Magcargo, it runs a higher count of specific cards so that it doesn’t need to expend Puzzle of Time or go into Oranguru UPR as frequently. As an example, most Zoroark-GX/Magcargo lists run 1 Max Potion, while Straight would run 2-3. This makes it much easier for Straight to keep up in healing and have Puzzle of Time for important turns later.
The other added benefit of no Magcargo is the lack of a free prize in Zoroark-GX mirror. When both players play optimally and draw well, the majority of Prizes will come from Zorua, Oranguru, or Magcargo pieces because they can be OHKO’d. A standoff between Zoroark-GX will just result in them being healed, then substituted out for Oranguru in order to Resource Management more healing back into the deck. Without the Magcargo, I have fewer Prizes that are able to be snatched up in the Zoroark-GX mirror. The added spots contribute to healing and other benefits that give me an edge throughout the game. Moreover, if I ever feel like the Magcargo is extremely threatening, I can always eliminate it with a Guzma, setting back the opponent and nabbing a Prize.
Despite this benefit in the matchup vs. Zoroark-GX/Magcargo, the lack of Smooth Over affects other matchups. Against other decks, most turns will be less efficient without Smooth Over. Moreover, it’s much more difficult to recover from a late-game N with only 1-2 Zoroark-GX in play. The inability to search for a specific card makes it much harder to close out the game.
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 41
1 Red Card
Energy – 5
Above is the list I played to my most recent League Challenge. I went 3-1 with my loss being to Greninja. I played a very similar list to another League Challenge the day before, going 4-1 with a loss to Zoroark-GX/Garbodor. The changes I made were adding the Professor Sycamore and Rainbow Energy in place of a Counter Catcher and Special Charge. Mainly, I wanted to test out the 5th draw Supporter and the Rainbow Energy.
Everything in the Pokémon line is pretty standard. 4-4 Zoroark-GX is the only way to play it, and 3 Tapu Lele-GX is the more surefire number. I’ve found that 4 from Tord’s list is overkill, while 2 is too few. Importantly, it’s necessary that the list runs enough Pokémon so that Riotous Beating consistently hits for 100-120 damage. One reason that Zoroark-GX/Magcargo can cut down to 2 Tapu Lele-GX is because it runs more Basics in Slugma than Straight Zoroark-GX. Moreover, Magcargo can replace the search effect of Wonder Tag by throwing a Supporter to the top of the deck. Finally, Sylveon-EX + Choice Band is an important combo that deals with Rayquaza-GX somewhat effectively. Without it, the matchup would be a complete autoloss because there would be no way to effetively trade blows. With Sylveon-EX, it’s possible to stream OHKO wars that Zoroark-GX should win because it’s more consistent at doing so.
The above Supporter line is very similar to any Zoroark-GX/Magcargo list you would see, aside from the inclusion of Mallow. Because we don’t play Magcargo, it’s important to have some form of search when looking for specific cards. Mallow is an instrumental Supporter in this deck and it’s very important to play it on the correct turn. I’ve always wanted to play a second copy, but it’s not a great idea when I could simply add Magcargo efficiently, even as just as 1-1 line. The beauty in the Mallow is that it only takes up a single spot yet has tons of value.
The one notable omitted card is Acerola. I’ve found that I’d rather have another Max Potion because Acerola doesn’t have very much use outside of the first few turns. Once they’re past, Max Potion is superior because it doesn’t pick a Zoroark-GX off the board. This inclusion also makes it easier to continuously heal while disrupting the opponent with Delinquent, Team Flare Grunt, or N. Overall, I never missed Acerola. The only reason it’s worth running is to play one fewer Item in the deck.
The trifecta of disruption is also present: Team Flare Grunt, Team Rocket’s Handiwork, and Delinquent. With this combination of Supporters, every type of disruption is able to be used. Team Flare Grunt is great in conjunction with Oranguru UPR. A common loop that’s done is Oranguru + Flare Grunt + Parallel City against a Garbodor GRI to begin sending Items back into the deck while denying the opportunity to take a knockout. The Parallel City lowers the damage of an opposing Riotous Beating while the Team Flare Grunt adds a way to remove Energy and gain a win condition.
On the other hand, Delinquent and Team Rocket’s Handiwork act as “catch” Supporters in Zoroark-GX mirror. They’re not only great for catching the opponent with a low amount of cards in hand, but they also work wonderfully to win a war of attrition. With no other Supporter to play, Team Rocket’s Handiwork is a great choice. Delinquent is also great for catching the opponent with 3 or fewer cards in their hand and forces them to play around it. In conjunction with Counter Catcher, it’s possible to completely discard someone’s hand while Counter Catchering their Octillery or Oranguru SUM.
The final thing I’d like to highlight is the 3 Guzma. This is something present in most Zoroark-GX lists before Magcargo. I still enjoy the 3rd copy because it means I don’t have to Puzzle of Time for it and also ensures that prizing one results in two left in the deck. This deck has a heavier Tapu Lele-GX engine and therefore prefers to use that over Puzzle of Time whenever possible. Also, Zoroark-GX without Garbodor has to take a more aggressive stance because it cannot outlast the opponent and eventually overwhelm them with Trashalanche. Getting an early Prize lead with this deck is crucial in Zoroark-GX mirror, especially against Zoroark-GX/Garbodor.
The first wacky inclusion is 3 Max Potion. The 3rd copy makes up for the lack of Acerola. Enough said. Other than that, the Item line is also very similar to Zoroark-GX/Magcargo. Evosoda can be comfortably fit into this deck because there’s more space without the 2-1 or 2-2 Magcargo line. 2 Enhanced Hammer is also very easy to include.
Specifically, Red Card is an interesting concept that’s been seen in Expanded Zoroark-GX lists for a while, yet hasn’t made much of an impact in Standard. I think that its true strength lies with Garbotoxin because it acts similarly to Red Card + Hex Maniac like it does in Expanded. However, Red Card is also effective in this Zoroark-GX deck because of Delinquent. Leaving the opponent at one card at any time can be especially dangerous for decks without any draw support. The draw support can even be targeted down with Counter Catcher in the same turn. This is especially great against other Zoroark-GX decks because they play fewer Supporters, yet if one is kept, then 3 other cards (that are likely important) are discarded. Red Card can also act as a way to reduce the opponent’s hand size while playing a different Supporter like Mallow or Cynthia to get the small benefit of shuffling their hand into the deck.
The Stadium count is the only one I think that this deck should be running. 2 Parallel City is important so that they’re drawn more frequently and cannot be prized. Parallel City is #1 the best tool in the mirror match because it limits their damage while reducing the number of Zoroark-GX/Garbodor/Magcargo in play. Reverse Valley is also very important against any Buzzwole FLI decks so that it’s easy to get off of the Sledgehammer turn. If I knew that my opponents weren’t playing Reverse Valley in their Zoroark-GX deck, I’d solely use Buzzwole FLI so that it takes them two turns to KO anything. This would give the Buzzwole deck enough of a lead to snowball the game. Finally, Reverse Valley also acts as a good counter stadium to an opponent’s Parallel City without using a Field Blower. The extra 10 damage is important against Magcargo because no other Pokémon have to be Benched (post-Parallel) in the process to KO it.
Alright, the deck runs 4 Double Colorless Energy; what a surprise! Seriously, Rainbow Energy is a very neat idea that’s been somewhat messed with in the NAIC Zoroark-GX/Golisopod-GX deck and is seen in any Counter Energy/Zoroark-GX decks. The idea of Rainbow Energy is to copy an important attack like Sledgehammer or Trashalanche with Mew-EX in order to get a huge turn swing. Copying Trashalanche is the signature idea of including Rainbow/Psychic Energy.
Zoroark-GX mirrors (when either side is playing Garbodor GRI) will come down to the amount of Items in the other player’s discard pile. However, the Rainbow Energy can give the Magcargo/Straight Zoroark-GX player an opportunity to take a OHKO out of nowhere. The idea is that if Trashalanche would be taking a OHKO on a Zoroark-GX or Tapu Lele-GX, Mew-EX can come in and take 2 Prizes on an opponent’s GX Pokémon for 2 Prizes. At that point, the game becomes a Prize race of continuously using Trashalanche. Importantly, this gives non-Garbodor Zoroark-GX decks the opportunity to take a OHKO against the Zoroark-GX deck that can take a OHKO. It’s also unlikely that the opponent will manage their Item count because the Rainbow Energy is an obscure tech.
While this list is great, there are obviously some cards that can be taken out and swapped for other things depending on the meta/performance in testing.
The cards most on the fence (in no particular order) are:
There’s a reason to run each of these, yet there is also a reason not to run each of these. It ultimately comes down to what’s expected in the meta and what matchups are trying to be hedged. For example, in Zoroark-GX mirror, it’s probably better to play a 3rd Parallel City or 3rd Field Blower than the Reverse Valley. This slight change improves that matchup, but worsens the Buzzwole/Lycanroc-GX matchup.
Of the 5 cards, the Rainbow Energy and Red Card are the first to go. I don’t really know what I’d add in place of them, though. Another draw Supporter like Cynthia would be very good against Zoroark-GX/Garbodor, while another Weakness Policy would be very against Buzzwole/Lycanroc-GX. Special Charge is another card that I really liked in the list because it meant Puzzle of Time could be spent on other things than Double Colorless Energy.
In all honesty, it may be worth it to run Magcargo just so that the deck is somewhat running a 5-5 Zoroark-GX line.
For those that don’t understand what I mean, think of the 1-1 (or thicker) Magcargo line as an extra piece of the Zoroark-GX line. Magcargo’s Ability is just as good as Trade when there’s a Zoroark-GX in play, so it can be regarded as such. The other small benefit to Magcargo is the capability to run fewer copies of things. Instantly, I could cut the 3rd Max Potion, 2nd Enhanced Hammer, and the 3rd Tapu Lele-GX and call it a day—Zoroark-GX/Magcargo. However, I truly think the extra cards improve beginning consistency, especially when this list can afford to run better set-up cards like Evosoda.
Overall, Zoroark-GX has a pretty good matchup spread. As a quick overview, this list is slightly favorable against Zoroark-GX/Magcargo but is slightly unfavorable against Zoroark-GX/Garbodor. Likewise, this deck is even-ish against Rayquaza-GX and slightly unfavorable against Buzzwole/Lycanroc-GX when it runs Field Blower. Despite these percentages, I still consider this deck as strong as Zoroark-GX/Magcargo because they’re inherently the same. One being good automatically qualifies the other as being good.
The general strategy is the same as Zoroark-GX/Magcargo, except that it’s extremely important to set up as many Zoroark-GX as possible. Once that’s done, the deck runs smoother than anything else. As always, use Oranguru whenever necessary, hold back Items against Zoroark-GX/Garbodor, and always aim to have a Pokémon with Weakness Policy active against Fighting decks.
That’s it for today. I’m very excited for Worlds this weekend because it’ll be my second time competing in the Masters Division. I thoroughly exceed my expectations last year, and I’m curious how I’ll perform this year. I doubt that I can get T4 again, or even do better, because of the immense competition and fortune required to make T8. Since there are so many good players in the room, it comes down to luck as to who makes T8. However, that doesn’t stop anyone from trying to overcome that and do well back-to-back!
Now that this season is (almost) over, I can comfortably say that I won’t be going for T16 next year. I’ve spent enough time chasing T16, denying other things that I could’ve been doing instead. I’ll still be attending a fair amount of U.S. Regionals, though, because they’re very convenient to attend while keeping up in school. International travel usually means anywhere from 2-5 days out of school, which is something I simply don’t want to do in my final year. I’m already missing 3 days for Worlds, which isn’t a good way to start the year.
If any of you see me at Worlds, please do come and say hi. I’ll most likely be hanging around the event area on Day 1 practicing or talking to people, and obviously be competing on Day 2.
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