Hello SixPrizes readers! I have a lot to talk about in my first post-rotation article today. I have been playing as much as I can since finishing top sixteen at the World Championships, and the new format has been a lot of fun. I definitely miss N, Float Stone, and some other cards, but I have been enjoying the format nonetheless. Deck building is likely my favorite aspect of the game, and it is always the hardest when a rotation happens. Cards that were used before are no longer legal, cards like Brigette get sent away, and a new metagame is born. With that being said, I have been exploring the new format quite a bit. Today I’ll be talking about two of the most powerful decks in the format, Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX, and Rayquaza-GX/Vikavolt. Without further ado, let’s kick off the new season with a look at the new Zororoc.
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 33
1 Pal Pad
Energy – 8
4 Rockruff, 3 Lycanroc-GX
In previous lists, Brigette was the key to a strong early game setup. This meant playing a high number of ways to access Brigette, and made skimping on the secondary basic completely acceptable. 2-3 Rockruff was the norm at this time, but things have changed. With a deck that is relying on ball cards to get setup, maximizing your basic counts can go a long way. The third Lycanroc-GX is actually a bit debatable here, but I have been liking the ease of access. Not only will you actually use three Lycanrocs in a game sometimes, but having the “extra” copy makes it a lot easier to find in the early game. Those early turns are crucial for an aggressive deck like this one, as taking quick prizes can really stunt the opponent’s start.
This was my preferred Tapu Lele-GX count at the end of last format, when I had everything pretty figured out heading into the World Championships. I played a Zoroark variant at the last two major events of the season, both decklists sporting a low Tapu Lele-GX and high Brigette count. Now that Brigette has rotated out and deckbuilding has changed, I am even less of a fan of Tapu Lele-GX. The normal count, at least in most decks, seems to be two. This seems to work pretty well with how decks are being built in the early stages of the new format, as players are reaping the benefits of using their room elsewhere.
Having a higher Tapu Lele-GX count does increase your chances of finding a supporter, especially a specific one, if you are able to include more without removing a supporter card. However, the reliance on Brigette is what made the ability to search for a supporter so strong. With the way decks are currently built, players are essentially just playing their opening turned based on what they started with. Apricorn Maker and Pokémon Fan Club are in decks, but they aren’t being used in the same fashion as Brigette was before, they are essentially just in the deck as an option.
Dedenne, Tapu Koko
This is a pretty sweet combo! I have been really digging this pair of cards in this list. I played this deck at a League Cup last Saturday, but I didn’t have knowledge of Dedenne yet to be completely honest. I had an Oranguru from Ultra Prism in the deck, which I actually didn’t use all day. I had Oranguru in the deck as somewhat of a safety net for handling opposing Zoroark decks, but the metagame was mostly comprised of Rayquaza-GX and Malamar decks. Dedenne would have been amazing at the League Cup, and likely could have prevented my loss to Ultra Necrozma in top 8. I started testing it as soon as I found out about it and was a huge fan, I also felt pretty silly for overlooking it considering Tapu Koko was already in the deck.
Speaking of that, I was a huge fan of Tapu Koko before it become a requirement for my friend Dedenne, so including it is not a downside at all. Having a free retreat basic makes using Guzma a lot easier, which can be somewhat tricky to navigate otherwise. The decklist plays a lot of damage modifiers in Professor Kukui, Choice Band, and Devoured Field. The obvious goal of this is to be able to deal with the beefier threats that this deck will encounter. Tapu Koko’s Flying Flip makes that goal a lot more manageable, and either helps KO Pokémon that were out of range of the full combo, or removes Professor Kukui from the equation.
Other than Choice Band which is played in just about every deck, these are the damage modifiers included in this list. In the new format, being able to 1HKO Pokémon is crucial for success, and Zororoc had to adapt to that. Dangerous Rogue-GX is one way to do that, but it can only be done once and takes some time to setup. With a combination of Professor Kukui, Devoured Field, and Choice Band, you are able to hit 180 damage and KO crucial Pokémon such as Rayquaza-GX.
A Tapu Koko spread before this combination is done can lead to an even beefier Pokémon being in range of the KO, such as Ultra Necrozma-GX. Both cards also have their individual uses too, as just a Professor Kukui is needed to 1HKO an opposing Tapu Lele-GX. Both cards can be used in an individual manner to handle 130 HP Pokémon such as Buzzwole. Additionally, if Sudowoodo find its way into more decks, these damage modifiers will help make up for that basic you miss out on.
Admittedly, this is no N. N allowed for some pretty incredible comebacks to be made, and could really punish poor resource management or overly aggressive play. However, Judge still serves its purpose in this deck and I have been a fan of it. You basically just use Judge to keep your opponent’s hand size in check in the early to mid game, which can be especially necessary after something like Tempest-GX. Judge on turn two can apply a lot of pressure when combined with a KO, as the opponent will then be down a crucial basic and have a low hand size. On the other side of the coin, I have found that Judge in the late game has not been very strong at all, as four cards is usually plenty for the opponent to seal the game. Very rarely will judge prevent the opponent from finding that crucial energy card or Guzma.
I was honestly torn when it came time to decide what supporter to play a second copy of, as Lillie, Apricorn Maker, and Cynthia were all valid options. After doing some testing and playing the deck at a cup, I think the choice really boils down to Lillie or Cynthia. Apricorn Maker didn’t make the cut because draw supporters are as important as ever and you are not reliant on finding a search supporter on turn one anymore. Lillie is obviously better than Cynthia on turn one, but past that Cynthia is usually a bit stronger. Finding basics on turn one is super important, which is why I favored the second copy of Lillie at first. At the same time, Cynthia is one of the strongest turn two supporters, and is an especially strong choice of you got some Zoruas in play turn one. Your turn two is just using Cynthia to dig for Zoroarks at that point, which is definitely something we have seen before. This is something I will need to keep testing to reach a decision on.
I actually hated this card at the end of the last format, labeling it as too slow. I stand by that opinion, but luckily for Acerola, the format has slowed down a ton. Acerola got incredibly buffed by the rotation due to how much slower the decks are, you have way more “time” to play Acerola in the current metagame. Max Potion is Acerola’s biggest competitor, but can’t really keep up anymore because the drawback is simply too costly in Zoroark decks due to a lack of Double Colorless Energy recovery.
Obviously Acerola is not a card that’s strong in every matchup, so the two count might seem pretty high. The card definitely has matchups where it shines, such as Zoroark mirror matches. It won’t be as consistently useful against decks like Rayquaza-GX or Ultra Necrozma-GX, but having it around as an option never hurts you. Palpad adds value to Acerola’s inclusion as well, because you can end up using it four times against other Zoroark decks.
I have seen a lot of debate as to which card is better, Apricorn Maker or Pokémon Fan Club. Apricorn Maker has been my choice thus far, and I have been a big fan of the card so far. Not only does it do a great job of finding basics and thinning your deck, but it also provides flexibility in the sense that it doesn’t have to grab only basics. Using Apricorn Maker turn one when you already have a couple basics allows you to grab another basic, and then you can grab a Timer Ball for use on the next turn.
Judge isn’t super popular, and it is played in low counts if played at all, so you usually won’t get punished for doing this, especially when going first. If the opponent goes second, they won’t want to play judge even if they have it because it will really hurt their setup. Apricorn Maker can also be used past turn one for value, finding more Zoroark-GX or a crucial Lycanroc-GX can be pretty game winning. Pokémon Fan Club can also be used past turn one, and can find a crucial basic Pokémon such as Dedenne, but it doesn’t seem to have the same overall flexibility.
This card is awesome in the new format, I think it belongs in every Zoroark deck at the very least. Being able to toss back in all of these crucial supporters that you play low counts of is very helpful, an extra Professor Kukui or Acerola can be the difference between winning and losing. Trade helps you burn through your deck and find the supporters that you shuffle in, and Zoroark decks are some of the only ones that have room for luxury techs such as this one.
This has been in Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX since the beginning, and that is for good reason. Multi Switch makes attacking with Lycanroc so much easier, especially in the early game when energy attachments are tight and you are battling for board control. Being able to go right into Claw Slash or Dangerous Rogue after having just a Rockruff in play can be game winning, especially if Lycanroc-GX is able to survive and attack again. Multi Switch has gotten even better than it was last year too, as you have no good way of recovering Double Colorless Energy. Multi Switch lets you move it off of a damaged Pokémon, thus helping to protect it and get extra use out of it. You can simply Guzma and use Multi Switch to move DCE from a damaged Zoroark to a fresh one. This play brings a lot to the table, as you get to keep attacking while you protect a DCE and attach a F Energy to Lycanroc-GX.
Like I said, I had this card in my list at my cup and didn’t get to use it. This prompted me to think a bit more about the card, and I realized that I hadn’t really been using it in testing either. I think I overlooked it’s lack of use just so I could have a safety net, which isn’t a terrible excuse honestly. Multiple Hoopa decks showed up to the cup, which is an auto-win due to Oranguru. I definitely would have been glad that I had the money around had I played against any of them. However, playing against Hoopa at Philadelphia Regionals doesn’t seem to be too likely, so I will need a better reason to put it back in than that.
This is a card that I have not tried out yet. When finalizing the list for the cup, I thought about this card being a good idea, but ultimately decided that it was too easy to play around for most decks. Sledgehammer is a very linear attack, and can be navigated around in multiple ways. The obvious one is that the opponent can simply never put themselves at 4 Prizes, by just KOing a basic Pokémon and then a Pokémon-GX. This isn’t hard to do, and will happen naturally a lot of the time. Another thing to note is that Buzzwole is really only worth your time if you can take 2 Prizes with Sledgehammer, which won’t work if your opponent doesn’t give you a great target or you can’t find Professor Kukui.
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 32
Energy – 14
4 Grubbin, 3 Vikavolt
I really wanted to include a fourth copy of Vikavolt in the list, but it didn’t seem to be reasonably doable. Sure, I could definitely make room for it, but nothing felt like a reasonable card to cut for it. Four Grubbin is something that I have been a big fan of, as getting one or two in play turn one is incredibly important. Getting Vikavolt on turn two is the goal of the deck, and this decklist, and getting Grubbin(s) out is the key to doing that.
This card has been incredibly good in this deck, to the point where I have been smacking it into other decks whenever I feel like I have the space. Going first, it can win the game by itself some times, or put you really far ahead at least. Disrupting the opponent’s hand and still getting to play a “real” supporter of your own is a pretty broken concept, and it works well in this Vikavolt deck. Marshadow also acts as a Judge in the mid to late game, so I don’t mind having it in my deck past the first turn either.
This supporter line has been working pretty well thus far, and the turn two Vikavolt percentage feels high in testing. That is what I built the list to do, as consistency is king, especially with stage two decks in a new format. Lillie is a great turn one option because of how many cards you draw, not only does it almost always find you a Grubbin or Two, but sometimes you’ll even have Rare Candy and Vikavolt just sitting in your hand. If not, chances are Volkner can act as a great follow up and go grab the missing Rare Candy, which will allow you to get out Vikavolt and start attacking right away. Cynthia isn’t great for getting out Vikavolt, and while I may have been acting like Viakvolt is exodia, you do have to continue playing Pokémon after getting it out. Cynthia is a great supporter to play each turn once you have Vikavolt out and some basics on the board, as it just refreshes your hand and finds you things like Guzma for a future turn.
Once again, Apricorn Maker feels better than Pokémon Fan Club, even more so in this deck than Zororoc. With Zororoc, the argument can be made that Nest Balls are valuable past turn one, as you are usually also looking for basics on turn two. However, with this Vikavolt deck, that can’t be argued because the only basic you are using Nest Ball to find is Grubbin. If you’ve already used Apricorn Maker/Pokémon Fan Club, you have no need to find Nest Balls and go get more Grubbins. So in this case, thinning your deck of Nest Balls is strictly positive. Additionally, Apricorn Maker can grab you an Ultra Ball, which is pretty sweet for getting out Vikavolt or more Rayquaza-GX if you happen to have Apricorn in your hand on turn two or three.
This seems to have lost a lot of it’s value due to the rotation of N, as I usually only played it in decks that took prizes quickly and needed some sort of N repellent. This essentially leaves me wondering if you can sneak in enough draws off of instruct to make it worth the spot in the deck, which is something that I haven’t gotten to try yet. I plan to try out Oranguru during my next testing session, as it is one of the cards that I am most curious about due to its inclusion in so many decklists.
This is not a card I would just go putting in my deck blindly, as it is really only useful if you use it against the right deck. Decks that have basic energy, obviously, won’t be bothered by this tree. This means that it should only be included if you expect to play against decks that lack a counter, such as some of the Zoroark/Garbodor lists I have been seeing at League Cups. With that being said, this is more of a last minute metagame call, so keep it in the back of your mind for League Cups and maybe even Philadelphia Regionals.
Notes On the New Format
- Consistency is always king, and that is especially true in such a basic format like what we have now. The supporter options aren’t great, and decks are pretty straightforward. Making sure you get to setup every game will do a lot for you in the long run. Maxing Nest Ball and playing higher counts of important Pokémon and supporters are examples of this.
- Malamar has gotten a lot better with the rotation, it’s matchups improved and the deck is very consistent. I would pin a lot of this on the fact that it wasn’t hurt by the loss of Brigette too much.
- Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX was my favorite deck last year, but it feels like one of the weakest decks I have tried in the new format.
- Garbodor GRI and Weavile UP seem pretty easy to play around for most decks, but they remain strong against Rayquaza-GX and Malamar decks.
- Zoroark seems to be the overlord of the format, the options it brings to the table blows most other decks out of the water. Tons of partner options for it and is super consistent as always.
- The format feels a lot slower than the last one, but turn one and turn two always feel incredibly important. Falling behind is a lot harder to recover from with a lack of N.
- Being able to 1HKO feels like a must in this format, whether that is done through techs or simply the main attacker.
- Oranguru UP is up in the air for me, I haven’t really decided if it is worth the spot nowadays. It feels super hit or miss based on matchups, but you don’t even use it 100% time in Zoroark mirrors. However, you miss is some games when you don’t have it.
- Marshadow SLG has been pretty frustrating as the opponent in testing, as it can win Vikaray games on its own. Decks are already not as strong early game as they were before, so being stuck at four cards after your opponent plays Marshadow and then a supporter is rough.
That is all for today everyone! I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on the new format. I have been putting a lot of work into it, and these are two of the strongest decks right now. I plan to do a ton of testing for Philly Regionals before game day, so hopefully I can come up with something sweet to play. I will be going for top sixteen again this year, so every event counts! I will be attending all of the Regionals and Internationals again, and I am super exicted for what this season has in store. With that being said, my next big tournament is Philadelphia Regionals and I hope to see everyone there!
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