It’s Electric

A Complete Run-Down of All Six Major Lightning-Type Decks in Standard for Denver (Pure Zapdos, Turbo PikaRom, Lycanroc/Zapdos, Zapdos/Ultra Beasts, Jolteon/Zapdos, and PikaRom/Zapdos)

Hello 6P! I’m back for another article as we finish a super busy month of March with tons of events all over the world: four Regionals, each in different countries, and two Special Events. I myself attended two of these: Toronto Regionals and, more recently, El Salvador SPE. I’ve already given you the rundown on the Expanded back-to-back weekends and we now have another North American Regional in the Standard format (Denver), which means all the results from this month will definitely be worth looking into.

It’s Electric

If there’s one thing that can be said about the metagame it’s that Team Up had a tremendous impact, arguably bringing two or three decks to the top tier immediately. It also meant the metagame has been a lot more focused and defined than before, as it all revolves around one type: Lightning. Since the set’s release, we’ve seen Lightning dominate in different forms, all of which seem to be extremely viable and potent in their own way:

If you’ve been following my journey on social media, you’ll know that since Collinsville I’ve been favoring the “half-and-half” /Zapdos deck and have successfully collected 450 Championship Points in about a month’s time by placing Top 4 at Collinsville, 1st and 2nd at Cups, double 1st at Challenges, and 1st—finally securing an SPE win—in El Salvador this past weekend!

Last weekend was especially busy, with two SPEs and a Regional taking place. Two of these were won by Lightning decks (PikaRom/Zapdos in El Salvador and Jolteon/Zapdos in Bolzano) and the other one was won by /Lycanroc-GX (in Fortaleza). With the myriad of support cards that there are right now for Lightning decks, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. There are other archetypes that are doing just as well so far, and I would deem those Tier 1 decks as well, but the sheer number of Lightning-type decks present in the Top 8 of all the recent Standard tournaments seem to confirm that Lightning is on a tier of its own. No deck is invincible of course, but Lightning decks have had the biggest presence in the eight Standard tournaments since Team Up was released, winning six of them in the process.

The Star/Starring…

Which Lightning deck is the best? I think that is still up in the air, but all of them have something in common: Jirachi with Stellar Wish. This card is so good that I’m of the idea that either you play it yourself, or you must be actively trying to counter it, by playing Absol TEU (soft counter) or Alolan Muk SUM (hard counter). The card advantage that Jirachi provides is insane, and its “sleeping” drawback isn’t even one when you have cards like Escape Board and Switch which coincidentally synergize with one of the best attackers in the game: Zapdos.

You could even argue at this point that Zapdos/Jirachi is what is winning and placing at these big tournaments, with added spice of either Jolteon-GX or Pikachu & Zekrom-GX as added support, but these are mainly viable thanks to Tapu Koko p and its insane Ability Dance of the Ancients. Without it, I genuinely doubt Lightning would have such variety as it does at the moment.

So which of the Lightning decks should you choose for your upcoming League Cup or for Denver? I honestly don’t think there is a right or wrong answer here. As always, any tournament run can be very easily defined by the matchups you face during the day, and if it’s a lot of mirrors then it can ultimately come down to luck. Out of the six versions I listed in the beginning of the article, these are, in ascending order from weakest to strongest, my preferred choices:

6. Pure Zapdos

We saw this iteration of the deck take down the whole Oceania event, piloted by Isaiah Williams. The deck is the most straightforward and predictable out of them all as it only has two game plans:

  1. The primary one, to attack with Zapdos every turn and supplement the “low” damage output with Shrine of Punishment, Electropowers, and Choice Bands.
  2. The secondary one is to get a big hit “out of the blue” with the combination of Tapu Koko p’s Dance of the Ancients Ability, along with Tapu Koko-GX’s Aero Trail and Tapu Thunder GX.

I can see how that might’ve caught some people off guard in Oceania, but two months into the Team Up set, we should all be expecting and possibly playing around such a play. The only card that makes this deck stand out from the rest is Professor Kukui, which allows the deck to reach a slightly higher damage threshold on some turns, but the one-dimensionality of the deck is what puts it in the lowest spot for me in the Lightning decks rankings.

Sample List

Pokémon (12)

4 Jirachi TEU

4 Zapdos TEU

1 Tapu Koko p

1 Tapu Koko-GX

1 Absol TEU

1 Oranguru SUM

Trainer (40)

4 Guzma

4 Lillie

2 Cynthia

2 Professor Kukui

2 Volkner

 

4 Electropower

4 Nest Ball

4 Switch

3 Escape Rope

2 Rescue Stretcher

1 Energy Loto

1 Ultra Ball

2 Choice Band

2 Escape Board

 

3 Shrine of Punishment

Energy (8)

8 Lightning

 

Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 12

* 4 Jirachi TEU 99
* 4 Zapdos TEU 40
* 1 Tapu Koko p TEU 51
* 1 Tapu Koko-GX GRI 47
* 1 Absol TEU 88
* 1 Oranguru SUM 113

##Trainer Cards - 40

* 4 Lillie SUM 122
* 4 Guzma BUS 115
* 2 Cynthia UPR 119
* 2 Volkner UPR 135
* 2 Professor Kukui SUM 128
* 4 Electropower LOT 172
* 4 Nest Ball SUM 123
* 4 Switch SUM 132
* 3 Escape Rope BUS 114
* 2 Rescue Stretcher GRI 130
* 1 Ultra Ball SUM 135
* 1 Energy Loto GRI 122
* 2 Escape Board UPR 122
* 2 Choice Band GRI 121
* 3 Shrine of Punishment CES 143

##Energy - 8

* 8 Lightning Energy Energy 4

Total Cards - 60

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5. Turbo Pikachu & Zekrom-GX

Another of the good but not quite top Lightning decks, in my opinion, are the pure turbo Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks. With the sole focus on achieving Turn 1 Full Blitz, this deck fits the one-dimensional glove just like the last one. The plan is very straightforward: do your best to achieve Turn 1 Full Blitz to power up another Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, and hope those two can carry you through the game. Sure you have Jolteon-GX, Tapu Koko-GX, and even Xurkitree-GX to adapt to different situations, but 90% of the time you have one goal and plan.

Acro Bike helps the deck run smoother and thin much quicker than the Jirachi variants, but it’s easy to run out of steam at times when you can’t find them in good succession.

Prizing Tapu Koko p is the death of this deck most of the time, but thankfully that only ever happens around 1 every 10 games. Getting that extra attachment is so key, that earlier iterations of this deck even ran a copy of Rayquaza-GX to get that extra Energy on board through the use of Stormy Winds, only to be Energy Switched away immediately. Ultimately the Bench space and liability of said card wasn’t worth it as can be seen in our sample list, but this has definitely been the least successful Pikachu & Zekrom-GX variant since the first major Team Up tournament in Melbourne.

Sample List

Pokémon (15)

3 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX

2 Zeraora-GX

1 Tapu Koko-GX

1 Tapu Koko p

1 Eevee SUM

1 Jolteon-GX

1 Marshadow-GX

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Marshadow SLG

1 Oranguru SUM

1 Absol TEU

1 Xurkitree-GX

Trainer (34)

4 Lillie

3 Cynthia

3 Guzma

1 Acerola

 

4 Acro Bike

4 Electropower

4 Energy Switch

4 Ultra Ball

2 Nest Ball

1 Multi Switch

2 Choice Band

 

1 Thunder Mountain p

1 Wondrous Labyrinth p

Energy (11)

11 Lightning

 

Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 15

* 3 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX TEU 33
* 2 Zeraora-GX LOT 86
* 1 Tapu Koko-GX GRI 47
* 1 Tapu Koko p TEU 51
* 1 Eevee SUM 101
* 1 Jolteon-GX PR-SM 173
* 1 Marshadow-GX BUS 80
* 1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
* 1 Marshadow SLG 45
* 1 Oranguru SUM 113
* 1 Absol TEU 88
* 1 Xurkitree-GX UPR 142

##Trainer Cards - 34

* 4 Lillie SUM 122
* 3 Cynthia UPR 119
* 3 Guzma BUS 115
* 1 Acerola BUS 112
* 4 Electropower LOT 172
* 4 Ultra Ball SUM 135
* 4 Acro Bike PRC 122
* 4 Energy Switch SUM 117
* 2 Nest Ball SUM 123
* 1 Multi Switch GRI 129
* 2 Choice Band GRI 121
* 1 Thunder Mountain p LOT 191
* 1 Wondrous Labyrinth p TEU 158

##Energy - 11

* 11 Lightning Energy Energy 4

Total Cards - 60

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4. Lycanroc-GX/Zapdos

This is the newest Lightning deck that has been doing the rounds and was all the talk over the weekend as it got second place in Fortaleza. It tries to address Zapdos’s weakest matchup, Zoroark-GX decks, in a very direct manner by playing quite possibly the best counter to said deck. Not only is Bloodthristy Eyes arguably one of the best Abilities in the game, but Lycanroc’s Dangerous Rogue GX attack can easily eliminate any potential threat on board. On top of that, it’s also a Fighting type, which allows it to hit both Zoroark-GXPikachu & Zekrom-GX for Weakness.

Lycanroc-GX is a fantastic card, and there’s one key way that this deck can take advantage of it, and that is Dance of the Ancients. You can choose to power up a Rockruff and attach an Energy to it on the same turn, in order to have immediate access to Dangerous Rogue GX. This is a really powerful tool to have at your disposal as usually a Rockruff without Energy isn’t perceived as much of a threat. This combination, along the fact that you can include Buzzwole FLI since you’re already running basic Fighting Energy in the deck, allow Lycanroc-GX to shine here.

I currently rank it at number 4, but I can see the potential in this concept and it might lead to it being higher up in the ranking if proves to be successful over the coming weekends in Denver, Buenos Aires, Guatemala, Peru, and finally at the European International Championship in Berlin. Check out Xander’s article from this week for more on Lycanroc/Zapdos.

Sample List

Pokémon (15)

4 Jirachi TEU

3 Zapdos TEU

2 Rockruff FLI

2 Lycanroc-GX GRI

1 Tapu Koko-GX

1 Tapu Koko p

1 Buzzwole FLI

1 Absol TEU

Trainer (35)

4 Guzma

4 Lillie

2 Cynthia

2 Volkner

 

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

 

Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 15

* 4 Jirachi TEU 99
* 3 Zapdos TEU 40
* 2 Rockruff FLI 75
* 2 Lycanroc-GX GRI 74
* 1 Tapu Koko-GX GRI 47
* 1 Tapu Koko p TEU 51
* 1 Buzzwole FLI 77
* 1 Absol TEU 88

##Trainer Cards - 35

* 4 Lillie SUM 122
* 4 Guzma BUS 115
* 2 Cynthia UPR 119
* 2 Volkner UPR 135
* 4 Electropower LOT 172
* 4 Nest Ball SUM 123
* 3 Switch SUM 132
* 2 Escape Rope BUS 114
* 2 Ultra Ball SUM 135
* 2 Rescue Stretcher GRI 130
* 2 Escape Board UPR 122
* 2 Choice Band GRI 121
* 2 Viridian Forest TEU 156

##Energy - 10

* 7 Lightning Energy Energy 4
* 3 Fighting Energy Energy 6

Total Cards - 60

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3. Zapdos/Ultra Beasts

Coming in third place in my rankings is Zapdos combined with Ultra Beasts such as Buzzwole FLI, Nihilego LOT, and even sometimes Celesteela CES. As a non-GX-based deck, it definitely has a natural advantage in the Prize tradeoff, and offers the same speed and raw power of previous Zapdos decks. However, it runs extra support with Rainbow Energy and Beast Energy p in order to bolster the arsenal of options at its disposal.

Buzzwole helps deal extra damage to Zoroark-GXPikachu & Zekrom-GX in the key Sledgehammer turn. Since the only GX included in the deck is Tapu Koko-GX, it’s very very difficult for decks to play around that attack and thus they are either punished if they choose not to attack and take Prizes, or they get a lot of damage in retaliation if they do.

On top of this, we have access to Nihilego’s Nightcap, another Prize-based attack which allows you to copy any of your opponent’s attacks when they have 2 Prizes remaining. If your opponent is somehow able to play around the Sledgehammer turn early on (perhaps through the + bonus of Tag Bolt GX), they certainly won’t find it easy to play around the 2-Prize Nightcap turn. This gives you access to really powerful attacks such as your own Tag Bolt GX or a Dangerous Rogue GX to finish off your opponent.

With Shrine of Punishment, Electropower, and the Ultra Beasts bolstering Zapdos, this has been a very successful variant even though it hasn’t been able to achieve a big champion result. The deck has been piloted successfully by the most recent World Champion, Robin Schulz, and by his Limitless teammates as well.

Sample List

Pokémon (14)

4 Jirachi TEU

3 Zapdos TEU

1 Eevee SUM

1 Jolteon-GX

1 Tapu Koko-GX

1 Tapu Koko p

1 Buzzwole FLI

1 Nihilego LOT

1 Marshadow SLG

Trainer (37)

4 Guzma

4 Lillie

2 Cynthia

2 Volkner

 

4 Electropower

4 Nest Ball

3 Switch

2 Escape Rope

2 Rescue Stretcher

2 Ultra Ball

1 Energy Loto

2 Choice Band

2 Escape Board

 

2 Shrine of Punishment

1 Thunder Mountain p

Energy (9)

5 Lightning

3 Rainbow

1 Beast p

 

Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 14

* 4 Jirachi TEU 99
* 3 Zapdos TEU 40
* 1 Eevee SUM 101
* 1 Jolteon-GX PR-SM 173
* 1 Tapu Koko-GX GRI 47
* 1 Tapu Koko p TEU 51
* 1 Buzzwole FLI 77
* 1 Nihilego LOT 106
* 1 Marshadow SLG 45

##Trainer Cards - 37

* 4 Lillie SUM 122
* 4 Guzma BUS 115
* 2 Cynthia UPR 119
* 2 Volkner UPR 135
* 4 Electropower LOT 172
* 4 Nest Ball SUM 123
* 3 Switch SUM 132
* 2 Escape Rope BUS 114
* 2 Ultra Ball SUM 135
* 2 Rescue Stretcher GRI 130
* 1 Energy Loto GRI 122
* 2 Escape Board UPR 122
* 2 Choice Band GRI 121
* 2 Shrine of Punishment CES 143
* 1 Thunder Mountain p LOT 191

##Energy - 9

* 5 Lightning Energy Energy 4
* 3 Rainbow Energy SUM 137
* 1 Beast Energy p FLI 117

Total Cards - 60

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2. Jolteon-GX/Zapdos

Another of the more “recent” developments like Lycanroc-GX/Zapdos, this variant has a thicker Jolteon-GX line in order to help soften your opponent’s Pokémon through the use of Electro Bullet, and therefore make it easier for Zapdos and your Electropowers to hit key numbers later in the game. All of Jolteon-GX’s attacks are very cost effective, especially the Swift Run GX attack which gives it immunity from all effects and damage during their next turn. A well-timed Swift Run GX can be game changing, especially if your opponent cannot find a Guzma to play around it. Even then, if they do, you’ve hopefully KO’d a GX with it and thus you get a 2-for-1 Prize trade off as long as you don’t have any other GXs on your Bench that they can target. Every situation is different, but Jolteon’s attacks combine perfectly with Zapdos to give it that extra oomph without becoming an Energy hog like Pikachu & Zekrom-GX is.

Even though the deck popped up only recently, it has already put up great results, and it even won the SPE in Bolzano this past weekend, piloted by Pedro Torres. Even though the list is straightforward, the availability of Zapdos, Jolteon-GX, Zeraora-GX, and Tapu Koko-GX gives the deck an extra layer of complexity and efficiency that the original Zapdos variant lacked. It also offers a slightly better Zoroark-GX matchup as your GX attackers don’t give up half the game like Pikachu & Zekrom-GX does, and you have a very decent way to KO an Alolan Muk with a single Electropower thanks to Head Bolt.

Sample List

Pokémon (15)

3 Jirachi TEU

3 Zapdos TEU

2 Eevee SUM

2 Jolteon-GX

1 Zeraora-GX

1 Tapu Koko-GX

1 Tapu Koko p

1 Absol TEU

1 Marshadow SLG

Trainer (36)

4 Guzma

4 Lillie

4 Volkner

1 Cynthia

1 Erika’s Hospitality

 

4 Electropower

4 Nest Ball

3 Switch

3 Ultra Ball

2 Escape Rope

1 Max Potion

2 Choice Band

1 Escape Board

 

1 Thunder Mountain p

1 Viridian Forest

Energy (9)

9 Lightning

 

Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 15

* 3 Jirachi TEU 99
* 3 Zapdos TEU 40
* 2 Eevee SUM 101
* 2 Jolteon-GX PR-SM 173
* 1 Zeraora-GX LOT 86
* 1 Tapu Koko-GX GRI 47
* 1 Tapu Koko p TEU 51
* 1 Absol TEU 88
* 1 Marshadow SLG 45

##Trainer Cards - 36

* 4 Lillie SUM 122
* 4 Guzma BUS 115
* 4 Volkner UPR 135
* 1 Cynthia UPR 119
* 1 Erika’s Hospitality TEU 140
* 4 Electropower LOT 172
* 4 Nest Ball SUM 123
* 3 Ultra Ball SUM 135
* 3 Switch SUM 132
* 2 Escape Rope BUS 114
* 1 Max Potion GRI 128
* 2 Choice Band GRI 121
* 1 Escape Board UPR 122
* 1 Viridian Forest TEU 156
* 1 Thunder Mountain p LOT 191

##Energy - 9

* 9 Lightning Energy Energy 4

Total Cards - 60

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1. Pikachu & Zekrom-GX/Zapdos

Bulbapedia

As many of you might have guessed, this is my personal favorite. I may be biased due to the recent success I’ve achieved with the deck (450 Championship Points over four weekends of Regionals, Cups, Challenges, and SPEs so far), but I’m not the only one doing well with the deck. Gustavo Wada has also been having extreme success with the deck, having won two SPEs and Top 8’d a Regional in the same time span. Our lists differ by 3–4 cards at maximum, but the core idea behind them is there: combine Zapdos’s strength, reliability, and speed (thanks big time to Jirachi) with the raw high damage output that Pikachu & Zekrom-GX offers with Full Blitz and Tag Bolt GX.

The deck feels extremely strong—even Fighting-based decks don’t fully counter the deck as you’d expect them to—and it is both extremely fast and versatile to adapt to different situations. It combines the best of both worlds and the card that makes it really glue well together is Jirachi (the best card in the format in my opinion). The card advantage that Jirachi offers is unparalleled and it is exactly what makes the deck work.

I’ve gone through a few different iterations of my list, but I think 57 or 58 cards are basically settled 100%, and I decided to switch some things around for the SPE purely because I predicted a Zoroark-GX heavy metagame.

What I switch around for the SPE were the Wobbuffet LOT and Weakness Policy. Wobbuffet’s Shady Tail stops Ditto p from evolving into Alolan Muk, so you only need to worry about dealing with Alolan Grimer to stop it. It also can be helpful in the mirror match in order to prevent a retaliate–KO by a Tapu Koko-GX, or any attacker, really, by stopping Dance of the Ancients. Retreating it isn’t difficult for the deck, in case you benched it or started it before you were able to activate your own Tapu Koko p, though you do have to be very aware of that situation and plan accordingly. Weakness Policy helps mitigate the potential 1HKO of a Lucario-GX or Lycanroc-GX on your Pikachu & Zekrom-GX and can be easily searched for by Volkner. Even though Zoroark-GX decks do play Field Blower, at the very least it requires them to find an extra “piece of the combo” to get a return–KO on your Pikachu & Zekrom-GX if at full HP.

Moving forward onto Denver, I’m not sure I would keep the Wobbuffet, as Absol seems more useful overall against the myriad of Zapdos decks out there, but now that they’re incorporating Lycanroc-GX and perhaps even Lucario-GX, Weakness Policy might become a staple in this Pikachu & Zekrom-GX variant.

Sample List

Pokémon (15)

3 Jirachi TEU

2 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX

2 Zapdos TEU

1 Eevee SUM

1 Jolteon-GX

1 Zeraora-GX

1 Tapu Koko-GX

1 Tapu Koko p

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Marshadow SLG

1 Wobbuffet LOT

Trainer (34)

4 Guzma

4 Lillie

3 Volkner

1 Erika’s Hospitality

 

4 Electropower

4 Ultra Ball

3 Nest Ball

2 Energy Switch

2 Switch

1 Escape Rope

2 Escape Board

1 Choice Band

1 Weakness Policy

 

1 Thunder Mountain p

1 Viridian Forest

Energy (11)

11 Lightning

 

Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 15

* 3 Jirachi TEU 99
* 2 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX TEU 33
* 2 Zapdos TEU 40
* 1 Eevee SUM 101
* 1 Jolteon-GX PR-SM 173
* 1 Zeraora-GX LOT 86
* 1 Tapu Koko-GX GRI 47
* 1 Tapu Koko p TEU 51
* 1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
* 1 Marshadow SLG 45
* 1 Wobbuffet LOT 93

##Trainer Cards - 34

* 4 Lillie SUM 122
* 4 Guzma BUS 115
* 3 Volkner UPR 135
* 1 Erika’s Hospitality TEU 140
* 4 Electropower LOT 172
* 4 Ultra Ball SUM 135
* 3 Nest Ball SUM 123
* 2 Energy Switch SUM 117
* 2 Switch SUM 132
* 1 Escape Rope BUS 114
* 2 Escape Board UPR 122
* 1 Choice Band GRI 121
* 1 Weakness Policy BUS 126
* 1 Viridian Forest TEU 156
* 1 Thunder Mountain p LOT 191

##Energy - 11

* 11 Lightning Energy Energy 4

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=72934 ******

Note: 1 Absol TEU can be played over 1 Wobbuffet LOT.

Conclusion

pokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com

And so, I hope this gives you a very clear idea as to what to possibly expect when you sit down at Denver and your opponent flips over or shows any sort of Lightning-type card. Other decks in the format that will definitely make an appearance there will be Zoroark, , and . All extremely solid, tried and tested, top tier decks, which have been established archetypes for a longer time.

Thank you so much for reading, feel free to reach out here in the comments or on my Tablemon social media for any questions or feedback regarding the article, and I’ll see you guys next month! Until next time!


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