Hey all! I hope you’re having a good day in whatever aspect. As for me, I’m currently swamped in a sea of work due to my impeccable skill of procrastination. I need to finish up some college essays before the early deadline, keep up with traditional homework, and of course fulfill my obligations here as a writer. It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks, but it can be done!
Since my last article, several modifications have been made to Zoroark-GX/Banette-GX. We’ve been testing different card choices, ideas, and other outlandish techs. Some of these are quite simple: extra Mallow, Kukui, or whatever slight change to adapt. But the craziest idea has been including a Lycanroc-GX line! The current list plays a 2-1 line, but we’ve even talked about beefing that up, effectively making the deck a Zoroark-GX/Banette-GX/Lycanroc-GX deck with equal weight on both sidekicks.
Tried and True
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 32
1 Pal Pad
Energy – 8
This is the new base list of the deck. Lycanroc-GX has made itself a staple after weekends of tournament results by Rahul, Chip, Fabien, and myself. Fabien’s list posted on Heyfonte runs another Ultra Ball or Friend Ball in place of the 3rd Cynthia. Personally, I don’t like cutting down to fewer Supporters. Cynthia is the best option against BuzzShrine when not playing Acerola. It’s a great card and cutting it lowers Supporter consistency drastically.
Lycanroc-GX has become a staple in the list because it’s incredibly strong in the mirror match. It has the best chance of winning the Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX matchup by getting a snowball lead, but also provides the deck with an insane amount of utility with Bloodthirsty Eyes. It’s much easier to score a T2 KO on Grubbin or Magnemite, improving those matchups as well. It’s a higher impact card than Garbodor because a Rockruff with an Energy is as threatening as a Trubbish. It also does more to alleviate bad matchups than Trashalanche does.
Here is the run through of all ideas that have made its way into one of the heads behind this deck. I’ve personally found plenty of innovation and intrigue in this format. There’s still material undiscovered in terms of creating meta decks, finding things that beat BuzzShrine, and combining attackers to create a new synergy. My one gripe with this format that I’ve outlined before is the focus of *smack* decks. These decks focus on smacking more efficiently than anything else and aren’t very fun to play or face. Examples of this are BuzzShrine, Vikavolt, and Magnezone.
I realize I’m going off on a tangent, but I really want to emphasize my thoughts on this matter. The reason why BuzzShrine is a menace to this format is because it has the same or a greater level of consistency than every other deck in the format. The bane of single-Prize decks in the past has always been their requirement to fuel attackers at twice the rate of the opponent. (They trade 2 for 1 but die quickly, so most of the actions are toward fueling another attacker.) However, BuzzShrine can do this easily because Magcargo exists! Magcargo is broken in this deck. If Magcargo was not legal, this deck would not be nearly as strong as it is currently.
The reason why Magcargo is such a problem is because it fuels the deck to have a smoother engine than everything else. This allows it to access its OP cards: Field Blower, Counter Energy, and Beast Energy. I say these are “OP” because they’re incredibly situational cards, but are overpowered when used at the opportune time. Magcargo gives this deck the capability to do so!
Now you ask yourself: why not target the Magcargo? Simply put, the deck puts too much pressure on with the attackers it establishes. Leaving a Garbodor up simply makes it easier for them to stream attackers, since one is left alive. It’s also incredibly easy for them to either Stretcher or bench another Slugma, effectively giving only one turn of missed Smooth Over. You, as the player, have wasted a Guzma, didn’t draw cards/heal, and are now behind.
The other options:
These are all really cards that transition this deck off of being a Zoroark-GX/Banette-GX deck. I’ve found that most of my matchups really focus on Zoroark-GX or Banette-GX. I never want to attack with both in a single matchup. BuzzShrine and Buzzwole-GX decks call for Banette-GX, but everything else calls for Zoroark-GX. Buzzwole FLI and Tapu Lele UPR are there to shore up the matchups that these don’t carry their weight in.
Bluntly, here’s the reasoning behind each change…
A 2nd Mallow would give the deck more options for fetching important cards against BuzzShrine or anything else. The deck would become more efficient in its Item usage against Garbodor GRI. It would be able to grab the missing piece of Tapu Lele + Rainbow + Choice Band twice, or once if a Mallow is prized. (I lost to VikaRay at a cup because I prized my Mallow and missed the respond KO.) A 2nd Kukui gives the deck the ability to take 1HKOs with Zoroark-GX more frequently. This reduces the reliance on Tapu Lele and works better against random things. A 2nd Judge improves the decks matchup against Stage 2s and Sylveon-GX by disrupting.
A 2nd Lycanroc-GX increases consistency. Escape Board makes up for the lack of Pheromosa/Tapu Koko and allows a Shady Move to happen whenever I promote a new Pokémon. However, the strict downside to this is that Banette-GX is very vulnerable in Zoroark-GX mirror without a Weakness Policy. This is likely bad. Multi Switch is there to increase the likelihood of attacking with Lycanroc-GX or Trickster-GX. Both of these are incredibly strong for creating swing turns and is likely worthwhile.
Beast Energy and Magcargo add a different element to the deck. Why am I trying to beat decks in a fair manner when I could just search for the strongest cards to counter them? The main reason BuzzShrine is strong is because it can search the situational cards upon command with Smooth Over. If I, the Zoroark-GX can search the Enhanced Hammer/Max Potion/Stadium each turn, then I’m doing well enough to counter them. I never need to take a Prize. I can simply sit there, cycle back Items with Resource Management, and discard all of their Energy.
Magcargo allows combos to happen more frequently. Whether they be the easy combos of Tapu Lele + Rainbow + Choice Band or difficult ones, it nevertheless is easier to pull off with Smooth Over. Beast Energy is one such broken card that is atrociously overpowered when combined with this search potential. Buzzwole + Beast Energy + Choice Band + Professor Kukui 1HKOs a Zoroark-GX. Pheromosa can do the same against a Lycanroc-GX.
… This is where my mind began to think: why haven’t I tried Zoroark-GX/Magcargo? I know Zander Bennett topped a Cup with it, and there was a question about it on the Memphis podcast, but I never thought to sit down and think why Magcargo is a strong sidekick.
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 34
1 Pal Pad
Energy – 7
1 Beast p
Here’s what this monstrosity looks like. My idea was to keep the deck’s central nature similar to that of Zoroark-GX/Banette-GX while including the cards that make Magcargo strong: Beast p, Field Blower, Counter Catcher, etc. I think that the right way to go with this kind of deck is to focus on being a Zoroark-GX deck first and an Energy denial deck second. It’s easy to run down the rabbit hole of Crushing Hammer and Team Skull Grunt, but those are unnecessary and don’t contribute well to those matchups. It’s easier to win those matchups (decks that run Basic Energy) with revenge attackers or other methods that play off of Smooth Over. Enhanced Hammer and Plumeria are the two methods of discarding Energy, most notably in Zoroark-GX mirror and against BuzzShrine.
Although we play Magcargo, we must still play a fair amount of copies of each card. Without Puzzle of Time, there is no way to recycle Items or Energies as quickly as before; you must use Resource Management first. With only 1 Weakness Policy or Choice Band, it’s possible to prize it or to run out quite easily. The second copy reduces variance and increases the likelihood of drawing it naturally. Most of the combos require 3+ cards, so it’s necessary to draw at least some of them naturally.
Buzzwole + Pheromosa
These are the two Beast Energy attackers. With their respective first attacks, they can 1HKO a Zoroark-GX or Lycanroc-GX. However, their secondary attacks are also quite menacing in the right situation. The Counter Energy allows access to Swing Around and White Ray when behind, ideally taking a 2 Prize knockout.
Deoxys is the answer to Buzzwole-GX. After a good finish in Frankfurt and several League Cups, I expect Buzzwole-GX/Magcargo or Buzzwole-GX/Zoroark-GX to be played to some degree at Memphis. It’s very efficient at handling these Pokémon and can even 1HKO with the Professor Kukui if they daringly have two Energies attached. In a pinch, Deoxys can also 1HKO a Garbodor GRI with a Professor Kukui.
I opted for 3 total gust effects because it’s the right amount; I’ve liked it so far. However, the Counter Catcher provides utility with Smooth Over, especially because the deck is slower than most other Zoroark-GX decks. In today’s meta, there are very few Switch cards other than Guzma. The repeated Counter Catcher can perhaps waste a Guzma and force the opponent to only hit the Active Pokémon for the rest of the game.
Counter Catcher can resemble the effects of Bloodthirsty Eyes. As I was saying previously about Zoroark-GX/Banette-GX, Lycanroc-GX gives the deck the new aspect of being able to play Acerola and an effective Lysandre in one turn. It’s possible to KO a Sneasel on the Bench and heal the active Zoroark-GX that was just swung into by Buzzwole. This possibility adds a new component to the deck and increases its inherent strength. The deck has more options at its disposal and rewards better play.
I chose this split because even though this deck is a Zoroark-GX combo deck with Professor Kukui, it’s still necessary to have 2 Acerola in order to heal. If there’s only 1 and it’s prized against BuzzShrine, the strategy of removing their Energy is almost impossible because there isn’t any healing. The 2nd copy protects from bad prizes.
The 2nd Professor Kukui is my immediate 61st card. This is for the same reasons as said about Acerola: to protect against bad prizes. The deck runs other ways to 1HKO a Rayquaza-GX: Buzzwole + Beast + Choice, Tapu Lele + Choice, but Professor Kukui has the option of letting Zoroark-GX do it too. It also plays into random math throughout the game, like finishing off a Tapu Lele-GX for game.
1 Beast p, 1 Counter, 1 Rainbow
A split of all three provides the most options. Each has their own scenario where they shine. Beast p works well in how I’ve stated, Counter works well in surprising the opponent with White Ray, Swing Around, or Magical swap, and Rainbow works well for when you’re tied or ahead on Prize cards for swinging with Tapu Lele or Buzzwole. I think it’s worthwhile to have one of each, since they can be recycled with Oranguru (except for Beast p).
I think a Zoroark-GX/Magcargo deck could work well because of its capability to run a diverse list. Energy denial, Beast p attackers, Counter attackers, and other sidekicks are all different ways to take the deck. Magcargo is more like an investment for reduced variance and slight changes in the list in exchange for a smoother match overall. The 3rd Devoured Field is no longer necessary because they can be called on demand through Smooth Over. The Mallow isn’t necessary. In general, lists can take advantage of the consistency of Smooth Over.
In this matchup, limit the amount of Pokémon you Bench. It’s easy for them to pick off Pokémon with Guzma and score their prizes that way. If you can avoid this, it should be much easier to loop Enhanced Hammer back into the deck with Oranguru. In any manner, you’re not in a rush to KO their attackers. It’s more about dealing with the most menacing threat each turn. Items in discard can be considered a threat! And so can a Sneasel or Energy on the board.
It’s really important to stabilize before beginning to attack. Field Blower is their main method of reclaiming a KO, so try and exhaust that before beginning to attack. A Sledgehammer 1HKO is also very scary, so it might even be best not to bother going for Prizes unless you’ve counted their Choice Bands, Professor Kukui, or Beast p. The one saving grace in this situation is that most lists are completely refined and based off of Caleb’s from Philadelphia. 3 Choice Band & 2 Professor Kukui are the common counts.
In this matchup, the goal is to survive while denying Energies whenever possible. Their goal is to load up a Lycanroc-GX, so you must take care of their Energies on board whenever possible. Even though this deck runs the Pheromosa combo, it’s better to be safe in discarding their Energies. They are the aggressive deck, so any Prizes they take are more valuable than those that you take.
Side note: When playing in a good matchup, try to avoid making even trades with your opponent like this. If you’re letting you and your opponent both take 2 Prizes (by choosing to Guzma instead of Acerola) you’re simply giving them a better chance to steal the game. It depends on the manner in which they take Prizes, but try to give the opponent as many opportunities to make mistakes as possible.
The other avenue to take in this game is to be a better Zoroark-GX deck. You play the combo that can 1HKO both of their attackers, so don’t be afraid to use them! Sledgehammer is strong in one instance, but the 1HKO is strong at all points in the game. It’s more unexpected at a prize count different than 4. Enhanced Hammer prevents them from Acerola looping effectively, Counter Catcher gives you a Bloodthirsty Eyes, and Pal Pad lets you create a long game. The one thing to worry about in this matchup is that they have more than 4 Guzma effects and can take 6 Prizes that way. The easy way to win is to never let them take more than 1 Prize per Energy, meaning that they can only take 4 Prizes (with Double Colorless). The F Energy requires two turns and can be prevented with Plumeria.
Plan to hit your 1HKO combos. You have multiple methods against Rayquaza-GX: Tapu Lele + Choice, Zoroark-GX + Choice + Kukui + Devoured, and Buzzwole + Choice + Beast p. You should be able to employ at least 2 of these and get the remaining 2 Prizes with some combination of Riotous Beating and Guzma.
Target the Magnemites and Magnezone. It’s likely you can KO at least two because of Guzma and Counter Catcher. If you can effectively remove these, you should be in a good position to reclaim the game. Important cards that could be added to improve this matchup are Mimikyu GRI and Bodybuilding Dumbbells. Mimikyu can counter KO a Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX and Bodybuilding Dumbbells can put a Zoroark-GX outside of Meteor Tempest range.
Dodge their Sledgehammer turn and effectively play Weakness Policy. Judge them once you put them onto the Beast Ring turn. Have the Deoxys ready to 1HKO their loaded Buzzwole-GX. If possible, 1HKO them with a Buzzwole + Choice + Beast p + Professor Kukui. This combo is incredibly dangerous because they can’t 1HKO it easily in return without a 4 Prize Sledgehammer or a Knuckle Impact. If you can drop yourself down to 3 Prizes with this, you should be in a good position to clean up the game quite easily.
Zoroark-GX decks seemed to be positioned well if they’re built well to handle the format. Its variants are the most dynamic in the Standard format and give plenty of options in terms of decision-making and deck-building. I would expect Zoroark-GX to make a strong showing so long as it can overcome the new mill overlords after Frankfurt. Personally, I don’t think they’ll make a huge splash because of their skill required to play them. In any case, it’s not an enjoyable deck to play, which would hopefully deter people. Though maybe Memphis will be the first event with an unwinnable Mill vs. Mill Top Cut match. It’s hard to say.
Unfortunately, I won’t be attending Memphis—though, you will be able to catch me at future Regionals or Brazil’s International. I hope to be ready for Portland’s Expanded, as it will bring a nice change of pace to the current Standard staleness.
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