Seeking the Top Tier

An Exploration of Lost Thunder’s Impact on the Best Decks of 2018 Standard

Hey everyone! I hope you’re having a nice week so far, likely in preparation for an upcoming Regional (or Brazil). I’ve enjoyed the time away from Pokémon that has since been occupied by homework, college apps, and relaxation. Though with the new format, I largely look forward to preparing for the near Standard Regionals. I expect the Brazil IC to create a general understanding of the strong decks, but won’t cover everything. I’m sure an archetype or two will completely flop, unrepresented, which is a good thing! As some die, others are born. At the very least, Lost Thunder should introduce new decks which may discourage people from continuing to play the same thing. Only time can tell if the new decks can overtake the former gods.

Since we last explored Standard, Malamar was at the focus of everyone’s attention. Chimecho CIN is incredibly annoying in preventing Zoroark-GX and other Malamar players from setting up, giving the deck plenty of time not to be overrun. Thankfully, there are strong decks from Lost Thunder that don’t particularly require Abilities to function. However, I believe Chimecho will still be worth the spot. If it’s useful against 50% of opponents, that’s a strong enough indication of its value as a tech card.

Zoroark-GX decks have been entirely on the decline since Memphis, as both Chimecho and the surge of Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX dominated it. I think the main struggle at the moment is finding what variant is best to counter the meta, whether it be Lycanroc-GX, Control, or a hybrid (as I’ll cover later in the article). It has the strong skeleton, but is inherently weak when compared with 1HKO decks. It lacks the capability of a powerful 1HKO aside from Dangerous Rogue-GX, which can largely be stopped when targeted. It’ll be interesting to see how Zoroark-GX holds up in the new meta now that pseudo-Brigette has returned, and that Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX may be overtaken by quicker decks like Lost March and Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel.

Shrine of Punishment decks have new attackers to consider in White Kyurem, Vespiquen, and Nihilego. The Japanese lists for White Kyurem seem interesting, but are very reliant on Arceus p. I’d be hesitant to play this deck because it probably loses when its prized or is slow to attack with it. Other than that downside, it seems incredibly strong when it does what it’s supposed to. I’m curious how the archetype will evolve to counter the best decks now that other types have begun to shine. Psychic and Fighting were amazing at handling Zoroark-GX, Malamar, and Buzzwole-GX, but it’s possible another group of bandits will run amuck against the strong Grass and Fire type Pokémon that emerge from the set.

I think that, unlike most sets, many former decks get at least one upgrade. There’s at least one card that improves every single deck that was strong pre-Lost Thunder. In this section, I’ll explore a few of these decks and highlight why these changes improve the archetype’s status. However, there are also cards that hurt the deck’s status, as we’ll see as well. The quick example I’ll make is that Shuckle-GX is an incredibly strong card in Zoroark-GX decks, but is also an incredibly strong card in countering Zoroark-GX decks. It’s a card that I believe will outright in the mirror match, since the Poison is an annoying effect and it cannot be targeted. In a Shuckle-GX meta, Zoroark-GX decks may need to start running Oranguru UPR to shuffle in Guzma/Energy as a way to get around the effect, or simply play another method of victory. The Control Zoroark-GX list that Isaiah posted is where I’d start with the archetype, and I think it’s quite powerful moving forward in an uncertain meta. Against many decks, it can simply deplete resources.

Zoroark-GX/Stage 1s

I mark the secondary tag as Stage 1 because this deck revolves around the utility of Ditto p. It effectively allows us to play multiple Stage 1 Pokémon without losing consistency or taking up space. For example, I really would’ve loved to play this in my Zoroark-GX/Banette-GX list. (This is where this is going.) I’d have been able to run it in place of the 2nd Shuppet, most likely, so I could force double Shuppet or double Trubbish in some situations. Now with Lycanroc-GX in the deck, I could force a double Rockruff while also leaving Ditto p for something else. Ditto p is probably the best buff to the deck, even more so than Professor Elm’s Lecture.

Pokémon – 19

4 Zorua SLG

4 Zoroark-GX

1 Shuppet CES 63

1 Banette-GX

1 Rockruff GRI

1 Lycanroc-GX

1 Alolan Ninetales-GX

1 Ditto p

1 Girafarig LOT

1 Oranguru UPR

3 Tapu Lele-GX


Trainers – 33

4 Professor Elm’s Lecture

3 Guzma

2 Cynthia

2 Acerola

1 Lillie

1 Judge

1 Mallow

1 Professor Kukui


4 Ultra Ball

2 Timer Ball

2 Rescue Stretcher

1 Multi Switch

1 Pal Pad

2 Choice Band

2 Weakness Policy

1 Counter Gain


3 Devoured Field


Energy – 8

4 Double Colorless

4 Rainbow

Here’s where I’m at with this chaotic list. There have been plenty of changes and new additions to the deck with Lost Thunder; I’m really excited to see how well they fare in continued testing. As I said before, I’m most excited about Ditto p because it allows for greater fluidity between Stage 1s. Alolan Ninetales-GX has been added to the deck as a way to deal with Blacephalon-GX through Lusamine p, but also functions as a way to search for niche Items. The 70-30 snipe isn’t terrible either, especially in niche situations, where the 30 damage sets up a Riotous Beating for later in the game. Alolan Ninetales-GX has an amazing Ability as well, which lets us search for 2 Items. This is potentially great for finding important Tools like Counter Gain, or Pal Pad to recycle something for Tapu Lele-GX. It’s likely worthwhile to find other niche Items, or work Custom Catcher into the list, to further support the Ability.

Professor Elm’s Observations

This automatically replaces Nest Ball, 4 for 4. This not only increases our turn 1 strength, but reduces the number of Items we need to set up. This betters our Shrine matchup, since we don’t rely on Items as much.

Lycanroc-GX, 0 Garbodor GRI

Garbodor has been completely replaced by Lycanroc-GX, which is why it’s absent from the list. I initially had it in place of Alolan Ninetales-GX, but I think that it’ll be useless against Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel. That deck runs on Energy acceleration, not Item acceleration, so it’ll be difficult for Trashalanche to do meaningful damage.

Girafarig, Oranguru

These are the two other cards that this deck uses to try and beat some of the problems from before. Girafarig has incredible utility against almost every deck. It’s an incredibly powerful effect, which I’m somewhat glad (but also concerned) that it’s been printed. On one hand, it allows for counter-play. On the other, it may be too strong in defusing some strategies. Likewise, Oranguru difuses the mill strategy that decks with Shuckle-GX can employ. It’ll be annoying nonetheless, but it’s less likely that we’ll lose by deckout. I’m unsure if Oranguru will continue to have a spot in the list.

Counter Gain

Have you ever wanted to power up Lycanroc-GX in one turn? I have! And now we can. Counter Gain is the main reason that Alolan Ninetales-GX is in the deck, since it would be incredibly difficult to attack with it otherwise. Counter Gain functions as a better Multi Switch, so long as we’re losing. Multi Switch is great for switching Energy to these niche attackers, but it’s faulty when we can’t maintain Energy on the board.

The deck functions very similarly to Zoroark-GX/Banette-GX from before, but adopts new tools that increases the deck’s inherent strength. It’s unclear if it can handle the meta, but the deck is stronger in a vacuum.

Meta Matchups

Looking at the pre-Lost Thunder decks, this deck should be well poised. Malamar is favorable because of Weakness Policy. It’s much more difficult for them to deal with a thick Zoroark-GX repeatedly with a Weakness Policy since it requires 4 Energy to 1HKO. Combo this with the constant pressure Zoroark-GX can put on, especially if they miss T1 Chimecho. If they miss the Chimecho, the game is usually over because a Malamar falls immediately. This can snowball the game out of control once one attacker is online, since they can never lock you out again.

Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX is probably the hardest matchup. At its core, this is a Zoroark-GX vs. Fighting matchup. This doesn’t end well usually, but I’ve won it in the past. The key is to use the other attackers: Banette-GX and Lycanroc-GX, to take the lead. Their most annoying attacker is Lycanroc-GX because the only answer we have is Dangerous Rogue-GX. If you can manage to take out the Lycanroc-GX first, you should be able to clean up a Buzzwole-GX with Banette-GX and take the remaining 2 Prizes in some fashion.

Now looking ahead to what comes of Lost Thunder, there are a few decks we need to worry about. The main deck on my radar is, of course, Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel. The strategy here is to force them to discard the max amount of Energy possible with each attack. We want to Girafarig two Energy away whenever possible because that removes their max damage cap. At an opportune time, we can use Alolan Ninetales-GX to KO their Blacephalon-GX. The easiest way to force their Energies away is to KO their attackers, overflowing their Energy in the discard. Once they have a surplus, we can send them away with Girafarig. If you find yourself with a lead against Blacephalon-GX, it’s likely you can win by taking 6 Prizes. Focus on loading up either Alolan Ninetales-GX or Lycanroc-GX with two Energy, then use Counter Gain to follow. The plan is to take 2 Prizes with either Lycanroc-GX or Alolan Ninetales-GX, and take the remaining 4 with Zoroark-GX. This requires the 180 combo with Professor Kukui, Choice Band, and Devoured Field.

The other deck that I imagine will emerge from Lost Thunder is a Sceptile/Grass deck, utilizing both Sceptile-GX and Sceptile CES. This matchup is likely favorable aside from Shuckle-GX. I don’t think the deck can run Energy disruption, but Shuckle-GX will provide an early wall while Sceptile-GX is set up. Its Derail/Righteous Edge equivalent (Mach Cut) is incredibly annoying for us to deal with because we solely rely on Special Energy. As of now, there isn’t any counter for this deck. I’m going to investigate what potential Stage 1 Fire options there are, but it’s likely not worth it or nonexistent.

Grass Box

I’m not entirely sure what the final mold of this deck will be, but I’ll cover what I’m exploring. Lurantis SM25, Vespiquen LOT, Leafeon-GX, and Pheromosa may very well make their way into a tournament-winning list. Simply put, the tools for a mono-Grass deck were finally introduced.

Pokémon – 19

3 Treecko LOT

3 Grovyle LOT

1 Sceptile CES

2 Sceptile-GX

3 Combee LOT

3 Vespiquen LOT

1 Fomantis SM

1 Lurantis SM25

1 Ditto p

1 Pheromosa


Trainers – 30

4 Lillie

4 Cynthia

3 Guzma

2 Professor Kukui


4 Net Ball

2 Nest Ball

2 Ultra Ball

2 Max Potion

1 Rescue Stretcher

3 Choice Band


1 Life Forest p

3 Shrine of Punishment

Energy – 10

10 G

The obvious weakness of this deck is the Blacephalon-GX matchup until we get out Sceptile CES. Once this happens, we put a G Energy on each Pokémon and win. However, the difficulty arises when we try to do this. The opponent will try to stop us from evolving into Sceptile by targeting Grovyle, which conveniently lets us continue to attack them. The other way we win the matchup is by taking 1HKOs with Vespiquen. Shrine of Punishment, Choice Band, and Professor Kukui/Lurantis sums to 180. This is the perfect number.

The list takes inspiration from Takahiro Moriyama’s Alolan Exeggcutor/Sceptile list from Champions League Tokyo. I initially had this as a Sceptile-GX deck, then realized that the other components of the deck were stronger. Sceptile-GX is simply the anti-Zoroark-GX tool. The entire Sceptile line is made up of hate cards that crush one matchup. I decided to alter the list a bit for how I think it should be constructed. There should be a greater focus on Net Balls/Nest Balls, so I added an extra two copies. Max Potion is a great card in general with our single-Energy attackers, and is useful when attacking with Sceptile-GX.

The hardest matchup I can imagine for this deck is Malamar. Malamar can 1HKO everything with ease, is faster, and can stream attackers more efficiently. This matchup would end up becoming a Vespiquen vs. non-GX wars, to which we’d likely lose. It’s possible for them to Necrozma-GX or Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX something and be fine in the Prize trade, using more efficient attackers.


I’m excited for what Lost Thunder has to offer because it’ll shake up the current formats. I always enjoy when a new set comes out; there are discoveries to be made. Fortunately, I was one to reap from them with Zoroark-GX/Banette-GX last format, and hopefully can as well! The Zoroark-GX is likely my top choice going into Brazil as long as I can get it to function well. I’m mostly worried about Buzzwole-GX and Blacephalon-GX since I expect those to be some of the most popular decks. Buzzwole-GX surprisingly took 3/8 Top 8 spots in Memphis, so certainly expect to see some more at whatever upcoming tournament you attend.

In a blind meta, the best thing you can do is pick a deck that’s strong and fine tune the list. It’s near impossible to metagame the first tournament of a format with no prior knowledge, especially in Standard with a limited pool of cards. By perfecting the list, you’ll have the best possible 60 cards for that deck. Had I perfected some of my lists at previous tournaments, even if I played a different deck, I’d have done better. Don’t get too hung up on choosing a deck; find one and stick with it.

I’ll be attending Brazil and Roanoke, so if you’re there and see me, feel free to say hi, as usual. The rest of the year is pretty up in the air depending on mood/invite structure/etc.


…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

After 45 days, we unlock each Underground (UG/★) article for public viewing. New articles are reserved for Underground members.

Underground Members: Thank you for making this article possible!

Other Readers: Check out the FAQ if you are interested in joining Underground and gaining full access to our latest content.

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

You are logged out. Register. Log in. Legacy discussion: 0