Hey everyone! It’s been a hot minute since my last article where I covered PikaRom and Vespiquen for the SUM–TEU format. Now, with Unbroken Bonds released, there are plenty of new tools for decks to play with. Dedenne-GX gave decks a major surge in draw power, and Lt. Surge’s Strategy gave slow/Stall decks even more support. There’s a lot to consider in choosing a deck for NAIC—I’m here to give you my two cents on what I consider to be one of the strongest and most versatile decks of the format: PikaRom.
PikaRom has been a strong deck since its inception, but Electromagnetic Radar and Dedenne-GX have given the deck a huge buff in draw support and speed. The deck is at its strongest now, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it make a splash at the biggest tournament of the year. It has had success in Madison with myself and others playing it, as well as in Europe with Jesper Eriksen’s Jonkoping Top 4. Without further ado, here’s the current list that I’d play to NAIC if it was tomorrow.
- The Current PikaRom List
- Other Ideas
- The Other PikaRom (Jirachi Engine)
- ReshiZard (Turbo/Kiawe): Slightly Unfavorable
- ReshiZard (Green’s): Slightly Favorable
- Weezing: Favorable
- Zoroark-GX w/ Slowking or Dewgong: Favorable
- Zoroark-GX/Silvally-GX: Slightly Unfavorable
- Blacephalon UNB: Favorable
- Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel: Favorable
- Zapdos: Highly Unfavorable
- Stall: Slightly Favorable
- Conclusion and Non-Rainbow ZapBeasts
The Current PikaRom List
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 35
Energy – 12
As you can see, there isn’t much different from my Madison list. This is also what Jesper played to a T4 finish. Basically, there’s nothing special. I’ll briefly discuss the changes from my Madison list and any extra cards that can be swapped in.
Changes from Madison
Minus: Absol TEU & Marshadow UNB
Plus: 1 Erika’s Hospitality & 4th Guzma
I cut Absol TEU and Marshadow UNB because they didn’t improve the deck’s integral strategy. Absol was meant to improve our ZapBeasts matchup (and it came in handy) but didn’t carry its weight enough to warrant a spot. Erika’s Hospitality is a much stronger inclusion and increases our consistency.
I’m a huge fan of Erika’s Hospitality because it allows us to hold onto cards. Cynthia reshuffles and gives us a new 6, but we have to toss in our previous cards. Erika’s, even when drawing 4–5 cards, allows us to keep 2–4 cards in our previous hand. Theoretically, this allows us to hold onto Electropower or other combo cards that would set up for a Tapu Koko-GX or Tag Bolt GX play. If I miss the cards off of Erika’s, then I haven’t wasted the ones I had before (as it would be had I been forced to play the first few pieces then dig with Cynthia).
Marshadow UNB was there to improve our GreensZard and ZapBeasts matchups; it can discard Power Plant and 1HKO Buzzwole FLI. In these situations it had a use, but it was generally clunky and took up a Bench space. If the opponent never played a Stadium, it inhibited my Bench and I had one less spot for Dedenne-GX or Marshadow SLG. Guzma is a stronger card overall.
This is an idea played by Kevin Baxter, who finished in Day 2 in Madison. The idea behind Alolan Muk is that it shuts off Mew UNB, allowing Tag Bolt GX to dismantle the opponent. Also, I believe that it will be strong against Zapdos decks because they are more reliant on Jirachi than you are on Dedenne-GX and Marshadow SLG. In testing, it was difficult to set up Alolan Muk and was only relevant in checkmate situations. Otherwise, the opponent could potentially swing the game back in their favor. Alolan Muk isn’t worth the space.
I briefly tried Marshadow-GX, but the idea fell through quickly. The idea is to copy Full Blitz on a 2-Prize attacker rather than a 3-Prize one. Marshadow-GX can also 1HKO Fighting-weak Pokémon rather easily, saving Electropower for other targets. The problem here is that Marshadow-GX is very easy to KO, unlike Zeraora-GX and Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. I can see adding it back in if PikaRom becomes an incredibly popular deck, but otherwise it remains in the binder.
Alex Schemanske discussed Red’s Challenge in his article a few days ago. As he put it, the goal of Red’s Challenge (and these other Supporters) are to search for Thunder Mountain p or another key card. These are similar to Volkner, but have their pros and cons. Red’s Challenge can get anything, but costs two cards. Mallow can get an additional card, but must be played in conjunction with Dedenne-GX. Lisia can get Tapu Koko p and Thunder Mountain p, but is otherwise very narrow in its applications.
The downfall for these three Supporters is that they pale in comparison to Volkner. Searching for the Item + Energy is always enough. If I’m searching for the Thunder Mountain p to use Tag Bolt GX or because I’m behind on Energy, then I’d find it too slow to Red’s Challenge for it explicitly. Red’s Challenge functions in the other version because it’s built differently.
The Acro Bike version of PikaRom is one I admittedly haven’t put nearly as much time into as the traditional Volkner version. The purpose behind Acro Bike is to speed up the deck and allow for a draw support system that’s less reliant on Dedenne-GX and Marshadow SLG. This in turn allows the deck to save Dedenne-GX for the most important turn of the game (when you need to hit Guzma + other cards).
The Acro Bike list wouldn’t run Volkner or Erika’s Hospitality, so that shores up space for 3–4 needed copies. The last card that I would cut would be Stealthy Hood, Field Blower, or Escape Rope, but those are all important cards in their own right.
The Other PikaRom (Jirachi Engine)
The other variant of PikaRom that’s had success involves the Jirachi engine and has a thicker Zapdos dependency. Essentially, it’s a modern hybrid of the old Pikabox deck that was played at European Internationals. Chris Fulop covered this in his most recent article. The Jirachi variant is strong against other Zapdos decks, as it can more easily function as a Zapdos deck. The problem with my list (above) is that it almost forfeits the Zapdos matchup entirely. It’s a matter of devoting cards to either a quicker Full Blitz or a stronger Zapdos matchup.
Kiawe): Slightly UnfavorableReshiZard (Turbo/
In this matchup, you want to start attacking as soon as possible. The main factor that decides the victor is the first hit on a TAG TEAM GX Pokémon. You want to be the first one to Guzma and swing at their big Pokémon (with Full Blitz). Once this happens, you can then finish it off with a Zapdos or Zeraora-GX, then close out the game with one final Tapu Koko-GX. The difficult part of this matchup is that they are faster (and more likely to hit Guzma with Stellar Wish). You’ll likely be on the back foot when going second. Tapu Koko-GX is the best tool in the deck to come back from a slow start. You’ll want to blow up their main attacker and hope they miss a return KO.
It’s okay to lead with Zapdos against their Jirachi, but it may also be better to simply swing with Full Blitz. Now that Turbo ReshiZard lists are playing Choice Band, I’d find it incredibly risky to swing with Full Blitz into a Jirachi. It’s very easy for them to Welder to another ReshiZard, attach Choice Band to the Active, and take the first leap in Prizes. From there, you’ll likely have to Tag Bolt GX or Tapu Thunder GX to take a knockout, then find your last 2 Prizes on a Tapu Lele-GX or Dedenne-GX with a pieced-together Zeraora-GX. Depending on board state, I’d more likely swing with Zapdos into a Jirachi and hope that the opponent doesn’t have Choice Band + Guzma.
This play is variable based on the amount of Energy in play. Keep in mind that they can’t play Welder and Guzma in the same turn, so if they need to play Welder to put in Energy in play, then attacking with Zapdos is 100% the correct call.
ReshiZard (Green’s): Slightly Favorable
This matchup is easier than Turbo ReshiZard because of 2 Marshadow SLG. Though they have a counter-play in Custom Catcher, Lt. Surge’s Strategy, and Max Potion, they are much slower and able to be crippled with Let Loose. Escape Rope can be strong in this matchup if timed correctly because they run few Basic Pokémon. Take this matchup the same as against Turbo, except save your Let Loose for the turn in which you start attacking, or for when they have a relatively large hand.
Weezing is a matchup that is favorable on paper, but can go south very quickly if you have the wrong start or make a mistake. The most important part of this matchup is limiting the number of Pokémon you bench. You want to avoid benching Pikachu & Zekrom-GX at the beginning of the game, as it can give up a quick 3 Prizes to Larvitar. Tapu Koko-GX is the best card in this matchup as it allows you to shift your Energy to one attacker that can 1HKO a Weezing. Stealthy Hood is strong as well, as it prevents the 10 tick damage from Weezing.
Ideally, you’ll take 1–2 quick Prizes with Zapdos and have only 2–3 Pokémon in play. Then, you’ll shift into Tapu Koko-GX and sweep from there. 2 Field Blower makes this matchup even easier, as you can remove Spell Tag and Shrine of Punishment. Without that, it’s possible for Weezing to accumulate enough damage to win through Tapu Lele SM45 or pure spread.
Zoroark-GX w/ Slowking or Dewgong: Favorable
This matchup is pretty easy because they don’t have a way to 1HKO Pikachu & Zekrom-GX other than with a fully-loaded Vengeance with Choice Band and Professor Kukui. The easiest way to win is to Full Blitz before they’ve attacked. If this happens, you can sweep the game with 2 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. You’ll be able to Full Blitz with the same Pikachu & Zekrom-GX twice, taking 2–3 Prizes in the process. Then you can close out the game with a Tag Bolt GX. If they play Mew, then simply put Energy on Zeraora-GX instead. Then, you can take 1–2 Prizes with that and close out the game with your 2nd Pikachu & Zekrom-GX that you put Energies on.
The matchup can be somewhat tricky if you go second and they play Mew. You won’t be able to close out the game with Tag Bolt GX. You want to take a Prize with Zapdos on T1 and Full Blitz on T2. If you can only choose one or the other, it’s more important to Full Blitz on T2. You need to be careful of the Vengeance 1HKO, but there isn’t much opportunity to play around it sometimes. The strategy of Pikachu & Zekrom-GX into Zeraora-GX doesn’t work because they took a Prize on Zapdos T2 or softened a GX. In this case, target the Persian-GX and hope they miss the 240 damage combo.
Zoroark-GX/Silvally-GX: Slightly Unfavorable
This matchup is harder than the Slowking or Dewgong counterpart because Silvally-GX can easily 1HKO anything in our deck. It’s important to take 1–2 Prizes with Zapdos early so that you don’t need to stretch with Electropower or Choice Band to take later knockouts. This matchup can be lost instantly depending on how well they draw. Trade Prize for Prize and put down Pikachu & Zekrom-GX at a time when you can Full Blitz for 2 Prizes either on that turn or the following one.
Blacephalon UNB: Favorable
This matchup is favorable. If they’re playing the Jirachi version, you’ll want to take some quick Prizes on those in order to cripple their setup. Zapdos is a great attacker because they have to discard 3 Energy for a single Prize. When you’re forced to swing with a GX Pokémon, that’s usually the best time to Let Loose. Like the Weezing matchup, 2 Field Blower makes this matchup easy. You can remove enough Wishful Baton to the point that they’re struggling to keep up with Energy in play and in hand.
This matchup is easy if they don’t play Mew. The Persian-GX variant makes the matchup slightly harder as it allows them to search for Beast Ring. You either want to play the matchup one of two ways: (1) rush them down or (2) play for a 4-Prize turn and skip Beast Ring. The first way is the only way to play if they play Mew. The latter strategy is preferred as there is usually no way to play around it. You’ll want to Full Blitz for 150 on a Blacephalon-GX then Guzma another GX Pokémon and Tag Bolt GX. If they don’t have two GX Pokémon benched, it’s always possible to take a Prize with Zapdos initially. This is relatively safe and allows you to go for either strategy.
Zapdos: Highly Unfavorable
Zapdos is by far the deck’s hardest matchup. It’s somewhat winnable with the Madison list, or the 4 Jirachi/3 Zapdos list, but the current list greatly struggles. If the opponent plays Mew, you’ll need to do your best in playing Zapdos vs. Zapdos. It’s safe to use Tapu Koko-GX when you’re taking your 3rd Prize, as they don’t have a way to 1HKO it with an Ultra Beast at that point. Save your Rescue Stretcher to shuffle in 2 Zapdos and potentially Tapu Koko-GX. As usual, target Jirachi in order to cripple their set up and hope they miss a knockout.
The other strategy involves rushing them with Pikachu & Zekrom-GX immediately. If you can Full Blitz for your first Prize, then Tag Bolt GX for your next two, it may be difficult for them to keep up. You can then close out the game with Zapdos or Tapu Koko-GX.
The Zapdos matchup is the one thing deterring me from playing PikaRom to NAIC. Every other matchup is winnable, but it’s nearly impossible to trade well against Zapdos. If I expect Zapdos to be as played as it was at Origins, I may end up adding the Absol back in. I doubt that I’ll play Marshadow UNB again, as it wasn’t effective.
To be honest, the best Zapdos counter with PikaRom is to play the other version with 4 Jirachi and 3 Zapdos. If that doesn’t work, then the best way to beat Zapdos is to pick a different deck.
Stall: Slightly Favorable
I expect Stall to make a comeback at NAIC, so it’s good to have some understanding of the matchup. First of all, you’ll need to have Tapu Koko p in order to KO Hoopa. When you take the knockout there, I would Let Loose in order to shuffle in the Lugia-GX + Double Colorless + Counter Gain combo. Then, you should save your GX attack in order to 1HKO a Lucario & Melmetal-GX. Try to get a Full Blitz off so that you don’t run out of Energy in play.
Conclusion and Non-Rainbow ZapBeasts
I think that PikaRom is one of the safest decks to play at NAIC because it doesn’t actively fold to anything. Its worst matchup is Zapdos, but even that can become winnable with the right techs. Another small consideration is that it beats Shedinja. The list has 4 Guzma, 2 Field Blower, Escape Rope, a Zapdos KO on T1, and Tag Bolt GX as ways to take a Prize. 8 outs is certainly enough to take 6 Prizes, whereas most decks fold immediately or only have 6 total.
My fallback deck for NAIC is simply ZapBeasts. At Origins, I finished a mediocre 4-3 after losing due to some bad luck against two mirror matches and a Meganium deck. However, the list I used is eerily close to what Magnus Pedersen won with last weekend. Here’s what I played in Origins. Moving forward, I would cut a Psychic Energy for an Absol TEU for mirror. Marshadow & Machamp-GX may also be unnecessary, but I played it for the Zoroark-GX matchup. (It is useful there.)
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 37
Energy – 10
1 Beast p
More testing will determine if the above Viridian Forest version is stronger than the Rainbow Energy version. I like Viridian Forest because I can search for Energy every turn, so I’m not reliant on Zebstrika LOT for draw power. I can also play Marshadow & Machamp-GX for the Zoroark-GX matchup. Psychic Energy was useless for me, and I think Rainbow Energy is better because it can supply any attacker. By the end of the game, I should be able to find either the Rainbow Energy or Beast Energy p to attack with it. It’s way more important to have the single copy of Rainbow Energy, as it acts as both the 6th Lightning and 3rd Fighting, as well as supplies Nihilego sometimes.
That’s all for today! I wish you luck at NAIC and hope your final days of testing are going well. Whether you’re finishing up your invite or simply playing for fun, it’ll be a good time regardless. NAIC is always my favorite event of the year besides Worlds, as it’s the culmination of the year—the last tournament. If you see me there, feel free to say hi!
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