Hungry Like the Wolf

Profiling Zapdos/Lycanroc-GX in Standard and Recapping Archie’s Blastoise in Expanded

Hey everyone! I hope you’re doing well, and I’d like to welcome you to another article. Today, I’ll briefly recap my T16 Greensboro Regionals finish and discuss Zapdos/Lycanroc-GX, the deck I’ve recently begun messing around with in the Standard format.

Greensboro Recap

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Bringing in the firepower waterpower.

Coming into the tournament, I knew that Zoroark-GX/ would be a relatively safe play. I liked the list I had posted because it was consistent against everything, and should I dodge Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, the deck would work well. I liked having the extra Rescue Stretchers, Garbotoxin, etc. for my other matchups rather than the specific anti-Lightning cards that didn’t even make the matchup favorable. Both versions of Zoroark-GX/Garbodor were my fallback, and it was good to see that some people had success with it. Alex Schemanske finished in Top 8 and Arlo Neel in Top 4. Justin Bokhari, whom I was testing with on Friday night, played it and finished in Day 2 (Top 16) as well.

My Decision: ArchieStoise

After talking with people and watching games on Friday night, I decided to play Archie’s. I saw Russell LaParre’s strong finish in Toronto as reason to experiment with the deck; lo and behold, it tested well. I knew that I could pick up the deck because the main chunks of decision-making with the deck are sequencing and risk management. Compared to other decks, there would be fewer places to make mistakes for a clean, focused pilot.

One other motivation for playing a turbo-esque deck was that I wanted to finally play one. I’ve only played Zoroark-GX variants this year (aside from Drampa-GX/Garbodor in Portland). I wanted to enjoy the pleasure of doing overpowered things when drawing well!

Pokémon – 14

2 Blastoise PLB

2 Magikarp & Wailord-GX

1 Kingdra-GX

1 Eevee & Snorlax-GX

1 Volcanion p

3 Shaymin-EX ROS

2 Exeggcute PLF

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Giratina LOT

 

Trainers – 35

2 Archie’s Ace in the Hole

1 Acerola

1 Guzma

1 N

1 Professor Juniper

 

4 Battle Compressor

4 Superior Energy Retrieval

4 Trainers’ Mail

4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

3 Order Pad

1 Field Blower

1 Choice Band

1 Float Stone

1 Computer Search

 

1 Viridian Forest

1 Silent Lab

Energy – 11

11 Water

All credit for the modifications goes to Rahul Reddy. He suggested that I cut the Onix LOT in Russell’s list for Eevee & Snorlax-GX, which was an insanely good call. It served as my Kingdra-GX killer in mirror match and a backup, alternate-typed swinger. The other major addition he said to make was to add Kingdra-GX in place of Palkia-GX. I must admit that I didn’t use Kingdra-GX often because I rarely had the chance to double Archie’s Ace in the Hole, but I realize its importance. It’s a strong card in mirror and against Pikachu & Zekrom-GX to score 1HKOs.

However, there were some sloppy cards in the list. Giratina only had one niche use situation, and Viridian Forest was useful but didn’t justify its spot. I liked Azul’s Onix—cementing the matchup against Pikachu & Zekrom-GX and helping the mirror match as an Eevee & Snorlax-GX counter. I also would’ve liked another Order Pad for consistency.

I haven’t covered how my tournament went, so here goes. I went 7-1-1 on Day 1, losing to Seismitoad-EX/Garbodor R1 and tying the mirror match in R8. Day 2, my deck fell apart. I won R10, lost R11 to some horrific draws on stream, then lost R12 to mirror against Azul. I won R13 against Alolan Exeggcutor TEU 114, then had a pitiful series in R14 (win & in) of dead draw, dead draw, double Archie’s prized. I finished in the middle of the 28 point players, which was just enough to get 15th place.

Moving forward, I would cut Giratina, Acerola, and Viridian Forest for Faba, Order Pad, and Onix. I think this would increase consistency in the right places while increasing matchup coverage. Faba and a 2nd Field Blower are interchangeable, but I think I’d prefer a reusable, Supporter version so that there were more outs to it in deck.

Standard into Denver

“My, what big teeth you have…”

This past weekend, I once again had the pleasure to come to Southwest Florida for some League Cups. (A spring break retreat to warm weather and Pokémon? Plus!) Given that I had earned my invite in Greensboro, I was relatively laid-back as to my deck choice. I played Melmetal-GX/Magnezone on Saturday and Zapdos/Lycanroc-GX on Sunday. I think one of those decks is incredibly strong—take a guess!

Melmetal-GX/Magnezone

Okay, this is not the strong deck—but I’d like to drop the list I used and at least discuss why it isn’t viable. Alex covered this yesterday, so I’ll stay away from detail.

Pokémon – 17

4 Magnemite UPR 81

3 Magnezone UPR

2 Meltan SM177

2 Melmetal-GX

1 Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX

1 Dialga-GX FLI

1 Onix LOT

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Dhelmise GRI

 

Trainers – 31

4 Cynthia

4 Lillie

3 Guzma

1 Lady

1 Steven’s Resolve

 

4 Nest Ball

4 Rare Candy

4 Ultra Ball

1 Rescue Stretcher

2 Metal Frying Pan

 

3 Mt. Coronet

Energy – 12

12 Metal

This list is incredibly straightforward—as Magnezone should be. One piece that I think is lacking from Alex’s list is Energy sustenance, either in the form of Metal Energy or Mt. Coronet. Last minute, I cut the 4th Mt. Coronet for Steven’s Resolve.

I like the idea of Jirachi, but it deducts a lot of spots because of switching cards. I don’t know if the deck can sacrifice that much space, especially in Energy cards, which are incredibly difficult to find outside of Lady.

Lastly, this deck is unviable because it’s incredibly inconsistent. In all of my matches except one, I had a Turn 4 Magnezone. My opponent’s started the game with 3 Prize cards. While I still finished 3-2, and my losses were because of horrendous luck, that’s all the deck can hope to get. Its losses are because of luck, and that’s the limiting factor in its viability.

Zapdos/Lycanroc-GX

On the other hand, one deck that I think is incredibly strong and underrated at the moment is Zapdos/Lycanroc-GX. Rahul pitched this idea to me when I asked him what deck I should play for the second day of the Cup. He promptly directed me to Karl Peters’ T16 Melbourne list, which I then sleeved up and took to the tournament.

Pokémon – 15

4 Jirachi TEU

3 Zapdos TEU

2 Rockruff FLI

2 Lycanroc-GX GRI

1 Buzzwole FLI

1 Tapu Koko p

1 Tapu Koko-GX

1 Wobbuffet LOT

Trainers – 35

4 Guzma

4 Lillie

4 Volkner

1 Erika’s Hospitality

 

4 Electropower

4 Nest Ball

3 Escape Rope

2 Ultra Ball

1 Beast Ring

1 Rescue Stretcher

1 Switch

3 Escape Board

2 Choice Band

 

1 Thunder Mountain p

Energy – 10

7 Lightning

3 Fighting

Basically, this deck is a Zapdos deck with a 2-2 Lycanroc-GX line, a Buzzwole FLI, a wacky Beast Ring, and a few Fighting Energy. While simple in concept, these innovations greatly improve the deck, in my opinion, making it stronger than the Rainbow attackers version including Nihilego LOT.

Here’s a short summary of how my day went:

R1: Blacephalon-GX/ W
R2: Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel W
R3: Zapdos W
R4: Pikachu & Zekrom-GX/Jolteon-GX W
R5: Concession
T8: Zapdos/Rainbow LL

So, the day started off strong and quickly petered off. I conceded in the last round to avoid first seed, which was guaranteed to play against a 3-2. I was trying to dodge the Zapdos pseudo-mirror match, but unfortunately the 2-1-1 that was down-paired lost, so there were two Zapdos decks in 7th and 8th seed. I came in at 2nd seed, so I matched up against one of them.

In my opinion, the matchup still falls close to 50-50. The main problem is that I hit the wrong side of the coin each game. In Game 1, I had no access to Jirachi and instead had to manually attach to Buzzwole in order to Swing Around. I missed the Fighting Energy draw to win the game with Lycanroc-GX. And in Game 2, three Jirachi were devoured by three Guzma as I couldn’t find a draw Supporter.

Fortaleza Innovations

Upon beginning to write this article, I saw that Dalton Acchetta took 2nd place at Fortaleza with the archetype! It’s interesting to compare and contrast the two lists, notice the differences, and begin to understand why the changes were made. As I’ll get into it, you’ll realize why the newer list solves a few of the older list’s problems.

Pokémon – 15

4 Jirachi TEU

3 Zapdos TEU

2 Rockruff FLI

2 Lycanroc-GX GRI

1 Buzzwole FLI

1 Absol TEU

1 Tapu Koko p

1 Tapu Koko-GX

Trainers – 35

4 Cynthia

4 Guzma

4 Lillie

 

4 Electropower

4 Nest Ball

3 Switch

2 Escape Rope

2 Rescue Stretcher

2 Ultra Ball

2 Choice Band

2 Escape Board

 

2 Viridian Forest

Energy – 10

7 Lightning

3 Fighting

While the total counts of each card mechanic remain the same, there are a few substitutions here and there. Rather than reinvent, he innovated and improved upon the original.

Cynthia > Volkner
This exchange may seem strange because Volkner all but guarantees an attack with Zapdos. However, the importance is found once you realize that this deck—when it includes Lycanroc-GXloves to draw cards. In a straight Zapdos deck, it’s alright to get away with attacking and nothing else. However, this has more options at its disposal, and gets to use them more readily when you’re able to play a draw Supporter each turn.

Cynthia outweighs Volkner because you’re likely to draw the cards you need anyway. There are also plenty of added benefits, like searching for more Basic Pokémon, getting Fighting Energy, and increasing hand size. Volkner lets this deck attack for one turn. Cynthia potentially nets the resources to attack for more than one turn.

Absol > Wobbuffet
This change is the redirection of a targeted tech spot. Wobbuffet is the counter to Ditto p, A.K.A. baby Alolan Muk. This was an especially useful tech when Zoroark-GX decks ran a 1-1 Alolan Muk line with 1 Alolan Grimer. It was possible to KO the Alolan Grimer while putting Wobbuffet into play, hoping that the opponent couldn’t bring Wobbuffet Active. However, now that Zapdos has become a strong force, Absol is a great card for shutting down the easy Escape Board on Jirachi.

3 Switch, 2 Escape Rope, & 2 Escape Board
This feels like a change because of the developed SUM–TEU meta. While Escape Board is amazing, it’s unlikely to work because of Absol. Moreover, the deck doesn’t need 3 copies of Escape Board; it runs that many so that it can draw it quickly. Theoretically, the immediate switching effects can work until you draw an Escape Board.

The heavier focus on Switch makes sense now that there’s less reliance on Escape Board. I’ve found that the added effect on Escape Rope is usually negative, as the opponent can send up a wall or otherwise irrelevant Pokémon. 2 copies is enough for utilization in the right scenarios, while the extra copies of Switch allow for added digging with Jirachi when needed, or in insurance for Absol.

2 Viridian Forest
In hindsight, this is a genius idea. Searching for Energy was once Volkner’s job, but now it’s been replaced. This lessens the blow of Volkner’s exclusion. The added benefit is that Viridian Forest can search for Fighting Energy, which is what makes the deck special in the first place! Most of my games came down to finding the Fighting Energy to seal the game with Dangerous Rogue GX or Sledgehammer—it would’ve been easy with Viridian Forest.

The omission of Thunder Mountain p doesn’t surprise me because all of our Lightning attackers swing for a single Energy. Tapu Koko-GX is the exception, but that’s mainly powered up in conjunction with Tapu Koko p or Beast Ring anyway. Thunder Mountain p was always a dead card for me, barring the case of missing an early Energy attachment. It was only useful as insurance in attacking to Rockruff rather than Zapdos for a turn.

2 Rescue Stretcher
When I was playing the deck, I always contemplated if I should shuffle in 2 Zapdos + something else in order to increase my chances later in the game. One copy wasn’t enough, and the card ended up becoming an always-shuffle. With two copies, it’s possible for this to act as Pokémon Rescue.

This (Dalton’s) list is the one I would use and take to Denver if I was going.

Matchups

Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX/Alolan Muk
This is one of the more intricate matchups because of Alolan Muk. Ideally, your plan is to take own an Alolan Grimer; make it hard for them to set up Muk. Obviously, be logical in your target. If they have 2 Zorua and 2 Alolan Grimer, I’d say kill the Alolan Grimer. If they can’t attack you the following turn, you might as well KO the attacker.

Your game-plan is to take a Prize on T1 with Thunderous Assault, then hopefully have a Guzma to take a second on T2 again. Your opponent should have Alolan Muk up at this point. All you have to do now is wait for them to KO a second Pokémon and prepare Sledgehammer. It’s usually best to KO the Alolan Muk with Sledgehammer if they cannot prepare another.

Once this happens, now is the time when you transition into Lycanroc-GX. If you’ve removed the opponent’s Alolan Muk, it should be an easy game from here; Take another easy Prize with Zapdos, or start sweeping with a Lycanroc-GX if your opponent doesn’t have a response. Essentially, you want to be taking a Prize every turn if possible. Otherwise, they can catch up with Acerola, Bloodthirsty Eyes a Rockruff, set up Alolan Muk, etc.

The last piece of advice to give is to only evolve into Lycanroc-GX if it’ll be your sweeper, or if it’s to remove a key Pokémon like Alolan Muk. Your opponent will have to play a 6 Prize game if you can withhold Benching it, but sometimes it makes sense to anyway if you know they cannot 1HKO it. It’s about understanding your opponent’s options.

Pikachu & Zekrom-GX
This matchup isn’t too difficult because of Buzzwole FLI. That card is an absolute beast in dealing with Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, especially if you can conceal your Fighting cards until the Sledgehammer turn. In Round 4 of the League Cup, I didn’t show any Fighting cards until I retrieved Buzzwole and took a 1HKO on Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. That way, you’ll keep your opponent guessing for all of Game 1—you can likely steal a win with it.

If your opponent knows about your plan, they will skip the 4-Prize turn with Tag Bolt GX. There’s no easy way around this other than to 2HKO the Pikachu & Zekrom-GX once it becomes Active. It’ll be difficult to set up a Lycanroc-GX if they can snipe a Rockruff, though it is possible. Worst case, you can fish for Beast Ring + Choice Band to score a 1HKO with a single Heads on Swing Around.


This matchup is strange because it comes down to taking 1HKOs every turn. While Malamar is a slower deck, they place a 130-HP Pokémon Active every turn. You should be able to take a Prize T1, meaning you’re ahead in the race. It then comes down to managing that lead with Guzma, conserving Electropower, and summoning Lycanroc-GX. Most lists don’t run an attackers other than Onix or Giratina, so it should be safe to survive two turns.

General Strategy

Of course, there is always a “general strategy.” That is, obviously, to lead with Thunderous Assault, use Sledgehammer once the opponent hits 4 Prizes, and to finish the game in stylistic fashion with Dangerous Rogue GX. There are hiccups along the way, but that should be your general strategy when mapping your Prizes. You should focus on taking knockouts on important Pokémon like Alolan Grimer or the opponent’s biggest threat.

One of the hardest decision that comes to mind when playing this deck is when to Lillie vs. when to overextend with a Guzma. By drawing cards with Lillie, you’ll likely find a Rockruff which can then act as your Guzma for the following turn. On the contrary, it may be more important to Guzma, taking the Prizes now, so that you can use Lillie or Cynthia on the following turn after burning more cards.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading! Zapdos/Lycanroc-GX is my favorite deck in Standard, and I’m unsurprised and reassured that it managed to pick up another finish. It’s flown below the radar, so I’m curious to see how many people will pick it up now that it’s made it into Top Cut, and into Finals at that. I expect it to be the most popular non-Pikachu & Zekrom-GX Zapdos variant, though I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Jolteon-GX/Zapdos pick up in popularity after Pedro’s performance in Bolzano.

See you in the next article!

Xander


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