Doing the Dallas Dance

Zooming in on Zoroark, Cradily Craft Chronicles, and Developing Dependable Decks for Dallas
Not quite the Texas Two-Step…

Hello everyone! Travis Nunlist here again with my monthly piece, focused yet again on the Expanded format. Last I left y’all it was days before the Anaheim Regional Championships where we eventually saw our own Jimmy Pendarvis take down not only his 3rd Regional Championship of the season but also his 3rd in a row! This feat is undoubtedly impressive and clearly demonstrates Jimmy’s proficiency as a top-tier player, but furthermore: Two of these events were Expanded, and he managed to win them with the same deck. For those who are unaware, this is the first time since Expanded tournaments began having their own events that the same Expanded deck has won back-to-back events, and by the same player no less! Even last year when Zoroark-GX had access to the likes of Hex Maniac and Ghetsis we still saw it win only one Expanded event, so it seems like the bans have not gone very far to diminish ’s capabilities in Expanded and have merely caused the deck to adapt into a new kind of powerhouse.

Continuing the “Zoro Convo”

The raw power and flexibility of Zoroark-GX in the Expanded format has dominated the conversation about the format since the card was released, leading many players to renounce the format all together until something is done. I have been an avid defender of the Expanded format for quite some time now, but I’m here today humbly admitting that I think it’s about time that Zoroark-GX finds some kind of check in Expanded. With all of the available tools in the Expanded format there will always be a way for Zoroark to be incredibly powerful, and unless we decide to ban a set of ~10 cards, then I think Zoroark will continue to have undue influence over an otherwise incredibly vast and diverse format. The inherent consistency combined with infinite resources (via cards like Lusamine and Oranguru UPR) is simply too much for most decks to handle.

“Bad” card receives new meaning (in a still-not-good way).

This kind of access allows Zoroark to pull off otherwise ridiculous and inconsistent combos with comedic ease, which can make once “bad” cards now seemingly problematic. The best example I can come up with is Red Card. Red Card saw success exactly one time in a Trevenant BREAK deck if my memory serves me correctly, but has been a near staple in Zoroark decks since Dallas Regionals last year because of how well it combos with Trade and disruptive Supporters like Delinquent, Hex Maniac, and Ghetsis, and how consistently these combos can be pulled off. A devil’s advocate might argue that these combos existed before Zoroark, but I would say they were never successful because of how difficult these combos were to pull off during the normal course of a game while still maintaining a reasonable setup. The consistency that Zoroark brings by itself allows for these kind of previously impossible-to-pull-off combos to become a championship strategy, instead of part of that kid at League’s “troll deck.”

More of a Good Thing

Now, to wrap up this Zoroark analysis, I want to circle back to a previous statement of mine that I worded very intentionally: “I think it’s about time that Zoroark-GX finds some kind of check in Expanded.” I point this phrase out because I’m inclined to think that Zoroark-GX should not be banned, but rather needs a harder counter to its existence that it cannot adapt to as easily. I’ve been very back and forth on this idea, but after reading the viewpoint of our World Champion Robin Schulz I think I’m inclined to generally agree with his stance. He argued something along the lines of “Yes, Zoroark is a very powerful card, but we should be demanding more powerful cards like Zoroark instead of asking for it to be banned.” The consistency that Zoroark brings to the table goes a long way for reducing the inherent luck factor in card games. Introducing more cards like Zoroark allows both players to interact more and have less games decided on luck. If the game can achieve a point where multiple archetypes are as consistent as Zoroark, then it loses the biggest edge it has over the rest of the format. I believe that Alolan Ninetales-GX is an incredibly positive step in this direction, and I truly hope we see more wildly-powerful consistency Abilities enter the format.

Anaheim Aftermath (Cradily…)

In my last article I had all but confirmed that I would be playing my ridiculous Sceptile-GX/Vileplume/Cradily deck at Anaheim and ended in a mildly disappointing 5-3-1 record losing my last round of the event to miss out on Day 2. One of my good friends ended up making Day 2 with the brew, and a handful of others had some solid T64/T128 finishes. The deck was incredibly fun to play and I would absolutely play it again given the chance. For those interested, here is how my event played out and the final list I took into the tournament:

Anaheim Regionals // Day 1 // 508 Masters

R1: Zoro/Control (Isaiah Williams) (L)
R2: (WW)
R3: Greninja (WW)
R4: Archie’s Blastoise (WW)
R5: Blacephalon-GX/Volcanion-EX (LWT)
R6: Archie’s Blastoise (WW)
R7: Golisopod/ (L)
R8: Buzz/Garb/Weavile/Shrine (WW)
R9: Zoroark/Garbodor (LL)

Final: 5-3-1

Pokémon (25)

4 Treecko CES 8

4 Grovyle LOT

2 Sceptile-GX

1 Sceptile CES

2 Oddish BCR

2 Gloom BCR

2 Vileplume AOR

1 Eevee SUM

1 Leafeon-GX

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Cradily PLB

1 Swampert CES

1 Sudowoodo GRI

1 Ditto p

Trainer (26)

2 Guzma

2 Lusamine

2 N

2 Professor Juniper

1 AZ

1 Brigette

1 Brock’s Grit

1 Colress

1 Faba

1 Gladion

1 Lillie

1 Steven

 

4 Ultra Ball

2 Pokémon Communication

1 Computer Search

 

2 Silent Lab

1 Life Forest p

Energy (9)

8 Grass

1 Super Boost p

 

Copy List

****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******

##Pokémon - 25

* 4 Treecko CES 8
* 4 Grovyle LOT 21
* 2 Sceptile-GX LOT 22
* 1 Sceptile CES 10
* 2 Oddish BCR 1
* 2 Gloom BCR 2
* 2 Vileplume AOR 3
* 1 Eevee SUM 101
* 1 Leafeon-GX UPR 139
* 2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
* 1 Cradily PLB 4
* 1 Swampert CES 35
* 1 Sudowoodo GRI 66
* 1 Ditto p LOT 154

##Trainer Cards - 26

* 2 Lusamine CIN 96
* 1 Computer Search BCR 137
* 1 Brock’s Grit EVO 74
* 4 Ultra Ball DEX 102
* 1 Lillie SUM 122
* 1 Gladion CIN 95
* 2 Silent Lab PRC 140
* 1 Brigette BKT 134
* 2 Guzma BUS 115
* 2 Professor Juniper DEX 98
* 1 Colress PLS 118
* 2 Pokémon Communication HS 98
* 2 N FCO 105
* 1 AZ PHF 91
* 1 Life Forest p LOT 180
* 1 Faba LOT 173
* 1 Steven ROS 90

##Energy - 9

* 8 Grass Energy HS 115
* 1 Super Boost Energy p UPR 136

Total Cards - 60

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I’m overall happy with how the deck performed, though I do wish I had grinded it against Zoroark variants a bit more to get a better feel for the matchup and potentially figure out a better solution, as that ended up being the biggest loss among us all throughout the event. Moving forward, I would want to test out Magnezone PLS 46 a bit more as well as a Hugh. Hugh seems like it could be a sleeper card that emerges at Dallas to combat Zoroark decks that traditionally like to sit on large hands. Playing Hugh when they have a 15+ card hand can be absolutely devastating, and, conveniently enough, it is a phenomenal counter to any Unown HAND decks that might pop up.

Developing Dependable Decks for Dallas

If I were attending Dallas I’m not entirely certain what I would play, but I know that any deck I played would have to be an absolutely powerhouse against Zoroark-GX and its many partners. Some solid choices like Lucario-GX, Trevenant BREAK, and Primal Groudon have already been covered this week, so I’ve recently taken to reviving a couple of old favorites that served me very well last year in countering the Zoroark-GX menace in the Expanded format.

Gardevoir-GX/Alolan Ninetales-GX

Pokémon (19)

4 Ralts PLS 59

2 Kirlia NXD

3 Gardevoir-GX

2 Gallade BKT

2 Alolan Vulpix GRI

2 Alolan Ninetales-GX LOT

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Oranguru SUM

1 Ditto p

Trainer (30)

2 Guzma

2 N

2 Professor Elm’s Lecture

1 Colress

1 Professor Juniper

1 Teammates

 

4 Rare Candy

4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

2 Max Potion

2 Mysterious Treasure

1 Super Rod

1 Timer Ball

1 Choice Band

1 Float Stone

1 Computer Search

Energy (11)

6 Fairy

4 Double Colorless

1 Super Boost p

 

Copy List

****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******

##Pokémon - 19

* 4 Ralts PLS 59
* 2 Kirlia NXD 56
* 3 Gardevoir-GX BUS 93
* 2 Gallade BKT 84
* 2 Alolan Vulpix GRI 21
* 2 Alolan Ninetales-GX LOT 132
* 2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
* 1 Oranguru SUM 113
* 1 Ditto p LOT 154

##Trainer Cards - 30

* 1 Computer Search BCR 137
* 2 Professor Elm’s Lecture LOT 188
* 1 Timer Ball SUM 134
* 2 Mysterious Treasure FLI 113
* 1 Colress PLS 118
* 1 Super Rod DRV 20
* 4 Ultra Ball DEX 102
* 2 Guzma BUS 115
* 1 Professor Juniper DEX 98
* 1 Float Stone PLF 99
* 1 Teammates PRC 160
* 2 N FCO 105
* 1 Choice Band GRI 121
* 4 Rare Candy UL 82
* 4 VS Seeker PHF 109
* 2 Max Potion GRI 128

##Energy - 11

* 1 Super Boost Energy p UPR 136
* 4 Double Colorless Energy HS 103
* 6 Fairy Energy Energy 9

Total Cards - 60

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It’s been a minute! (Or one article, more precisely.)

We went one whole article of mine without mentioning Gardevoir-GX, which in my book is about one article too many. Above is the Gardevoir-GX list I’ve been testing in the Expanded format and likely within 3 cards of what I would play if I were to take Gardevoir-GX to the Dallas Regional Championships. has always been strong against Zoroark variants in the Expanded format because of its access to Gallade in addition to being an incredibly large and efficient attacker. Gardevoir has also been traditionally powerful against mill decks because of how incredible Twilight GX can be, so it seems incredibly well-poised to handle the Zoroark Control deck. I specifically remember interviewing Jimmy at the Portland Regional Championships during the stream and he mentioned that Gardevoir was probably the most difficult matchup for their Zoroark Control deck at the time.

From my previous Expanded iterations this variant has essentially just cut the Tropical Beaches for the Alolan Ninetales-GX line. Alolan Vulpix is a quality T1 move for us over Tropical Beach and we can then follow up with Alolan Ninetales to start cranking out our Stage 2 Pokémon. Some other adjustments were made in the Trainer lines to account for having Alolan Ninetales-GX, but the rest of the deck remains relatively similar.

While not as fun looking as what Standard Gardevoir-GX currently looks like, I believe we have to keep in mind the kind of format we’re playing into. Standard does not have any kind of prevalent Item lock while Expanded has Seismitoad-EX, Trevenant XY, and Vileplume AOR. The format is also generally faster and much more aggressive, which leaves less wiggle room for those kinds of decks to get rolling. This combination of factors led me to excluding things like Swampert CES and Solgaleo-GX SM104 which I found to be very useful in some matchups but absolutely horrendous in others.

Additional Options

Aromatisse XY, 3rd Max Potion — Aromatisse is a card that has not seen any amount of competitive play in quite some time, but nonetheless could be solid sleeper play at the right time. Being able to move your Fairy Energy around can allow for some insane Max Potion plays which can keep a stacked Gardevoir-GX alive and well. Ditto p is the reason that interesting strategies like this are event viable, and I have been having a lot of fun with it on PTCGO.

Sudowoodo GRI, Korrina — I wish there were more of a reason to play this outside of Zoroark, but there really isn’t. This card is incredible in that matchup as it can prevent the Sky Field variants from pulling off an 1HKO on your Gallade, which can all but win you the game on its own. I cut both of these from our previous list because Alolan Ninetales-GX fills a lot of the same role as Korrina did and Zoroark variants like Jimmy’s control version don’t rely on Sky Field or doing lots of damage, so Sudowoodo actually becomes more of a liability to get trapped in the Active spot.

Glaceon-GX/Barbaracle

Pokémon (16)

4 Eevee SUM

3 Glaceon-GX

2 Binacle FLF

2 Barbaracle FCO

1 Seismitoad-EX

1 Oranguru SUM

1 Ninetales PRC

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Ditto p

Trainer (32)

3 Professor Sycamore

2 Cynthia

2 Lusamine

2 N

1 Faba

1 Guzma

 

4 Enhanced Hammer

4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

1 Rescue Stretcher

3 Float Stone

1 Computer Search

 

4 Rough Seas

Energy (12)

8 Water

4 Double Colorless

 

Copy List

****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******

##Pokémon - 16

* 4 Eevee SUM 101
* 3 Glaceon-GX UPR 39
* 2 Binacle FLF 48
* 2 Barbaracle FCO 23
* 1 Seismitoad-EX FFI 106
* 1 Oranguru SUM 113
* 1 Ninetales PRC 21
* 1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
* 1 Ditto p LOT 154

##Trainer Cards - 32

* 3 Professor Sycamore BKP 107
* 2 Cynthia UPR 119
* 2 N FCO 105
* 2 Lusamine CIN 96
* 1 Guzma BUS 115
* 1 Faba LOT 173
* 4 VS Seeker PHF 109
* 4 Ultra Ball SUM 135
* 4 Enhanced Hammer GRI 124
* 1 Rescue Stretcher GRI 130
* 1 Computer Search BCR 137
* 3 Float Stone BKT 137
* 4 Rough Seas PRC 137

##Energy - 12

* 8 Water Energy Energy 3
* 4 Double Colorless Energy NXD 92

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=72232 ******

Ah yes, the SixPrizes one-hit wonder of Anaheim last year. For those of you who may not remember, last year a handful of us played an incredibly similar deck at the Anaheim Regional Championships where Alex Hill and Christopher Schemanske made Day 2 and Alex ultimately ended up in T4 of the entire tournament! Our logic for playing the deck then is really starting to line back up with where it feels like the format is headed now. I was so fed up with Zoroark-GX after playing 4/6 mirror matches at a League Cup the weekend before Anaheim that I decided to shove everything anti-Zoroark I could think of into a single deck in order to try and smash Zoroark-GX and Zoroark-GX only. While this may sound like a ridiculous goal in theory, it ended up creating an incredibly powerful deck that was able to take the meta by storm.

Another piece to the lock.

There are honestly not a ton of changes from the list that Alex ultimately ended up making T4 with. We lost Ghetsis in the bans so that becomes a free spot for us, and I ended up cutting Sudowoodo for the same reasons it was cut from Gardevoir which is that not every Zoroark deck is a Sky Field deck anymore. The biggest addition to the deck is that of Ditto p and Ninetales PRC. Ditto is the obvious inclusion as it is one of the best cards for Evolution decks that has been printed in a very long time. I mentioned the Ninetales PRC/Ditto p in my previous article with regards to the new Prism Stadiums because if you can set up one of those along with Ninetales then your opponent cannot move that Stadium until they deal with Barrier Shrine. While Glaceon may not have a Prism Stadium to work with, the potential strengths here are similar. The idea now is that if you ever get Stadium, Barbaracle, and Ninetales PRC all into play at the same time, then you can pivot back into Seismitoad-EX in order to shut off Field Blower. This still leaves your Stadium vulnerable to Delinquent or Faba while giving your opponent their EX and GX Abilities back, but it may be worth it at the right time in order to checkmate your opponent’s options. I will note that you should be cautious as to when the Ninetales comes into play because should your Stadium get hit by Field Blower then you will also be unable to play a Stadium from hand.

Additional Options

Marshadow SLG — This little guy did not see a ton of play at first, but has gained notoriety since the Standard format lost N which promoted it to the new best form of hand disruption. This can combo incredibly well with Freezing Gaze at any point in the game in order to try and stick your opponent with a dead hand by shutting off Tapu Lele-GX and Zoroark-GX, and you still get to play a Supporter afterward!

Oranguru UPR, Girafarig LOT — Both of these cards are good additions if you find yourself needing to play the resource war again Zoroark-GX. Xander swore by the last year in the deck so it definitely has some merit, but I’m still skeptical of ever putting something not named Glaceon-GX into the Active spot.

Team Flare Grunt — With some Zoroark Control lists starting to play basic Energy, having a way to attack the Energy is incredibly useful, which is exactly why we played it in the deck last year. However, the versatility and usefulness of Faba is unmatched which caused me to make the switch. If targeting the basic Energy becomes enough of a need then the card can easily find its way back into the deck.

Conclusion

As I get to this section of the article I find myself somewhat bummed out that I will not be attending the Dallas Regional Championships. I opted out of the event this year due to my travel schedule having been so hectic the last few months; I decided I wanted more of a break to not be on the road, but rest assured I will be following the event very attentively as I’m optimistic that Zoroark can be countered when players place it at the center of the format and realize they cannot take a bad matchup to the deck going into the event. The tricky part now is that there are a few different Zoroark variants to keep in mind, which can make countering them all at once a bit more difficult.

Mark A. HicksBefore I go, I want to end with one gigantic thank you to Christopher Schemanske for everything he did here at SixPrizes. He was a pleasure to work with and someone I consider a good friend in every sense of phrase. I know he will continue to do great things outside of the SixPrizes sphere, and I cannot wait to see what life has in store for him. I actively chose to avoid discussing Greninja as a viable choice for Dallas purely out of a good-humored respect for our departing fellow. As always, please feel free to come up and say hello should you see me out and about. Y’all are why I keep doing this. Until next time!


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