The Paralysis Papers

A Comprehensive Guide to Shock Lock

Hello 6P readers! My name is Zak and I’m recently coming off a 10th place finish at Portland Regionals where I played . There were two players who played variants of the deck, with both myself and Simon Narode bringing our Raichus to battle. Each of our decks was significantly different: I brought a more traditional version with Stoutland BCR, whereas he used Spiritomb UPR to recur Supporters. I find the deck incredibly interesting to play, but for a myriad of reasons there is not much content for it. This article should get you up to speed on the card choices, matchups, and common play patterns you’ll want to be familiar with if you are interested in playing this deck.

My Background

For a bit of background about myself, I started playing Pokémon around Burning Shadows, and have played in a handful of Regionals/ICs, but had not made Day 2 until this most recent weekend in Portland. Despite being relatively new to competitive Pokémon, I’m no stranger to playing card games at a high level, having played competitive Magic for the past 12 years, including a Pro Tour appearance (their equivalent of an invite-only IC). Furthermore, Expanded has always been my format of choice, basically since I started playing. The depth of the card pool and the number of different decks you can play and do well with has always fascinated me, even throughout some of the more “toxic” Expanded formats we’ve seen. For context, after a long testing session of preparing for Standard events, I’ll jam a bunch of Expanded games for fun.

I picked up Shock Lock around eight months ago, shortly after the Lusamine ban, when a friend offered to lend me Tropical Beaches on PTCGO. Over a hundred matches of testing later, and here we are. This is my second year of trying for a Worlds invite, and I’m currently at 379 CP, which puts me in a comfortable position to hit the 500 threshold soon.

The List

This is the decklist I played in Portland.

Pokémon (21)

4 Lillipup BLW 80

2 Herdier SUM

3 Stoutland BCR

3 Pikachu GEN

2 Raichu BUS

1 Goomy FLI 91

1 Goodra PHF

1 Alolan Grimer SUM

1 Alolan Muk SUM

1 Ditto p

2 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainer (35)

3 Professor Sycamore

2 AZ

2 Brigette

1 Faba

1 Gladion

1 Lysandre

1 Tate & Liza

1 Team Rocket’s Handiwork

1 Teammates

 

4 Trainers’ Mail

4 Ultra Ball

3 Rare Candy

2 Devolution Spray

1 Pal Pad

1 Rescue Stretcher

1 Special Charge

1 VS Seeker

1 Computer Search

 

4 Tropical Beach

Energy (4)

4 Memory

 

Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 21

* 4 Lillipup BLW 80
* 2 Herdier SUM 104
* 3 Stoutland BCR 122
* 3 Pikachu GEN 129
* 2 Raichu BUS 41
* 1 Goomy FLI 91
* 1 Goodra PHF 77
* 1 Alolan Grimer SUM 57
* 1 Alolan Muk SUM 58
* 1 Ditto p LOT 154
* 2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60

##Trainer Cards - 35

* 1 Gladion CIN 109
* 3 Professor Sycamore STS 114
* 1 Computer Search BCR 137
* 1 Rescue Stretcher BUS 165
* 1 Tate & Liza CES 166
* 1 Pal Pad UPR 132
* 4 Tropical Beach PR-BLW 28
* 2 AZ PHF 117
* 1 Special Charge STS 105
* 4 Ultra Ball SUM 161
* 3 Rare Candy GRI 165
* 1 Faba LOT 208
* 1 Teammates PRC 160
* 1 VS Seeker ROS 110
* 2 Brigette BKT 161
* 1 Team Rocket’s Handiwork FCO 124
* 2 Devolution Spray EVO 76
* 1 Lysandre FLF 104
* 4 Trainers’ Mail AOR 100

##Energy - 4

* 4 Memory Energy LOT 194

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=78296 ******

A Note on Tropical Beach

Unfortunately, the largest barrier to more people playing this deck is its reliance on Tropical Beach, a ~$250+ card. While I can’t say that it makes sense for everyone to go out and drop that kind of cash, I can highly encourage being a good member of your local community. If you are, you’re more likely to make friends and acquaintances who might be able to lend you some. I am incredibly thankful to have made local friends willing to lend me cards like these, and if you find yourself in a similar spot, please treat your friends who lend you cards well.

Goals, Basic Strategy

Shock Lock is a lock/prison deck that aims to reduce your opponent’s ability to play the game of Pokémon. In this section I’ll explain the basic lines of play that you will use assuming your opponent does not have any meaningful way of interacting with you (which will be most of the time).

There are two Evolution lines we aim to assemble in order to do just that. The first is the deck’s namesake, Raichu BUS with the Evoshock Ability. Our goal is to leave the opposing Active Pokémon Paralyzed every turn. The second line is the Stoutland BCR line, which is our main “attacker.” With Stoutland Active and our opponent Paralyzed, this deck capitalizes on a weakness of many decks in the Expanded format—that they rely on Guzma as their sole way of getting out of the Active.

The glue that holds our lock together is the Lillipup BLW 80 and Memory Energy. By putting Memory Energy on Stoutland, you can use Lillipup’s Pickup attack to recur an Item, which is usually Devolution Spray.

The Early Turns

Setting up with Shock Lock is pretty similar to setting up with other Brigette-based decks. Your ideal start is turn 1 Brigette, grabbing some combination of Pikachus/Lillipups/Ditto/tech Basics depending both on the matchup and what Pokémon you actually started. A good heuristic here is to try and grab 2 Lillipups and 2 Pikachus. Note! You can count Ditto as a Pikachu, but not as a Lillipup! Critically, Ditto p does not have the Pickup attack we need for our loop, so be mindful of evolving it into Herdier and beyond.

Furthermore, you will want to find a Tropical Beach and use it to refill your hand after playing Brigette. If you have a choice between Brigette or Beach (such as with a Trainers’ Mail), you’ll almost always want to choose the Brigette as long as you have some sort of follow-up to draw cards. While Beach is ideal due to it not costing us our Supporter, getting turn 1 Brigette with a Professor Sycamore to follow up on turn 2 is also fine. If you have no follow-up card draw, you might have to eschew Brigette and dig through your deck with draw Supporters. This is not optimal, but it’s not game-losing. We can use Ultra Balls and set up even without Brigette, it’s just easier if we have her.

In the secondary turns of the game, do not be afraid to evolve a Lillipup to Herdier so that you can use Treasure Hunt to rebuy something like a Trainers’ Mail. Between Beaches, Ultra Balls (for Tapu Lele-GX), and our actual draw Supporters, a single Mail is plenty of looks and I have no issues playing turn 1 Brigette even if my only follow up is a Trainers’ Mail.

You also want to avoid committing Energy early on if you can afford it. During the turns when your opponent is not under Supporter lock, you’ll want to hold Energy unless you absolutely need to use a Pickup for an Item to continue developing.

The Basics of the Lock: Playing Solitaire

In most matchups, the minimum board state you want to achieve will look something like this:

Given this board state, we can perform the most basic iteration of our loop. Simply play Devolution Spray on the Raichu, then evolve the other Pikachu and Paralyze your opponent. Then attack with Pickup and get back Devolution Spray. This line of play preserves exactly the board state shown above, except our opponent’s Active is now Paralyzed.

While this is the usual board state you will find yourself in, there also exists a more minimal board state that allows you to do a similar loop while only needing 1 Pikachu.

From this board state, simply evolve your Pikachu into Raichu, then immediately devolve it. Remember! A Pokémon that has been devolved this turn can not immediately re-evolve, but a Pokémon that is freshly evolved can devolve. Then, Pickup the Devolution Spray. This setup actually occurs less frequently, but it’s important during early turns of the game when things aren’t going as well. The reason this line is slightly worse than the 2 Pikachu setup is that if your hand gets disrupted somehow (e.g., your opponent breaks the lock with an Escape Rope or similar, and then plays N), you now have 2 pieces you need to find from your deck (Raichu and the Devolution Spray). Conversely, if we had the Raichu on the Bench with a 2nd Pikachu, we just need to find another way to get our Raichu back in order to re-establish the lock.

Another variation on the above line is that in lieu of a Devolution Spray, you can use AZ + VS Seeker. Simply AZ your Raichu, replay the Pikachu and the Raichu, and then use VS Seeker to recur AZ. Lastly, Pickup the VS Seeker.

The Endgame

A common question I’m asked is how the endgame of this deck works. We can call the iterations described above mid-game lines—that is lines you take when you have a deck with more than ~2 cards in it. However, we need to make sure that we don’t deck out while we are locking our opponent. This requires 3 cards: a Pal Pad, an AZ, and then some other Supporter. The most common iteration will use Team Rocket’s Handiwork so that we can start aggressively milling our opponent.

From this board state you take the following steps:

  1. AZ Raichu
  2. Pal Pad back in AZ and Handiwork
  3. Evolve Pikachu into Raichu
  4. Bench Pikachu
  5. Devolve the Raichu
  6. Pickup Pal Pad

Note that here we are not picking up Devolution Spray. On the turns where you Pickup Pal Pad, you want to make sure Raichu is in your hand. This is because we can’t be certain of what card we will draw next turn. So depending on the order of our 2-card deck, there are two possibilities:

Case 1: Handiwork on Top of Deck

  • In this case, we play Handiwork, evolve into Raichu, and then Pickup Devolution Spray. Keep the Pal Pad in your hand.
  • Then on the next turn, we will draw AZ. Note, this is the exact same game state described in the graphic above! We can continue from the original steps.

Case 2: AZ on Top of Deck

  • In this case, play AZ on Raichu, evolve into Raichu and then replay the Pikachu. Pickup Devolution Spray.
  • Then, on the next turn, play Handiwork, devolve and evolve Raichu, then Pal Pad back in AZ and Handiwork. Pickup Devolution Spray. (A useful heuristic is that if you have Raichu on your Bench, Pickup Devolution Spray; if Pikachu is on your Bench, then Pickup Pal Pad, assuming you are devolving whenever possible.)
  • Now we are back in the same spot we were at after we used Pal Pad the first time, except we have a Devolution Spray in our hand instead of the Pal Pad, which is just fine.

By alternating between these cases, you can ensure you won’t deck out, and you can play 1 non-AZ Supporter (in this case, the Handiwork) every other turn.

Gameplay Shortcuts

Playing Shock Lock can be time-consuming. It is important to develop good mental shortcuts so that you can determine what you can do on a given board. Here are some that I find useful for reducing the complexity of my decision space, allowing me to play faster.

Prizes

When you check your Prizes, there are a few things you need to make sure you have.

  1. Pal Pad. If this card is not in your deck you must Gladion for it in order to get to the endgame state. If you have to play the game without Pal Pad, you’ll want to conserve cards in your deck as much as possible (Tate & Liza can shuffle a large hand into your deck) while attempting to win non-deterministically.
  2. Raichu. We play 2-of these, but our deck doesn’t work if they’re both prized. You must Gladion for one if so.
  3. Devolution Spray/AZ. You need at least 1 AZ not prized. You can actually do without Devo Sprays, you will just need to use VS Seeker/AZ instead, but figuring out that you need to do it this way is important in the early turns.

Everything else (A) we either play 3–4-of or (B) is not incredibly critical to our core game plan.

Herdier

pokemonkorea.co.kr

Herdier SUM’s Treasure Hunt Ability gives Shock Lock much of its maneuverability and ways to get out of weird spots.

  • If you have a Herdier that evolved from a Ditto, you can effectively move the Herdier to a Lillipup you have in play for 0 cost by Devolution Spray-ing the Herdier, and then replaying it on the Lillipup and getting back the Devolution Spray. This can be useful if you want to set up a backup Stoutland, or if you want to free up the Ditto to evolve into a Muk or Raichu later.
  • If you have a VS Seeker in your discard pile, Herdier’s Ability can effectively retrieve any Item or Supporter.
  • If you have a Herdier in play and a Devolution Spray in your hand, you can effectively switch the Spray with any Item in your discard for no cost.
  • If you have a Herdier and a Lillipup in play, with an AZ in your hand, you can effectively switch the AZ for any Item in your discard pile for no cost.

Endgame Loop Variants

  • You can substitute any Supporter you want with the Team Rocket’s Handiwork as described in the loops above.
  • If you have access to 2 AZs when you begin your endgame loop, you can effectively also recur any Item at the same rate as Handiwork. Using AZs on both turns after a Pal Pad means we do not need to Pickup Devolution Spray on the turn we don’t Pickup Pal Pad, and we can Pickup something else.

Axes of Attack: How Your Opponent Can Try to Stop You

I called the previous section “Playing Solitaire” because we really haven’t covered what happens when someone tries to stop your game plan. And that’s an important part of this deck—in many of your matchups your opponents won’t be able to meaningfully interact with you. I’d say given the information so far in this article you can probably get 40–60% of the wins available to you. However, in order to get some of the harder wins, you need to know how your opponents are going to try and stop you, and how to plan ahead for those scenarios.

Depending on the stage of the game, there are three points at which you are susceptible to different types of pressure.

Early Game: Pre-Lock

Here is where you’re at your most vulnerable. Shock Lock is an Evolution deck, so while we get set up, many of the Expanded decks are going to waste no time in taking Prizes against our crucial Evolution lines. Think carefully before you commit Evolutions or Energy to the board, as investing in your Bench makes a potential Raichu or Lillipup an easy target for Guzma. If you lose multiple cards to an attack early, that’s more cards you’ll need to recoup in order to start the lock.

One play pattern to note that’s not obvious is that if you have a Raichu and plan on committing to the board without setting up the full lock, you want to commit your resources to your Active Pokémon. For example, if you are unable to develop a Stoutland but want to Paralyze your opponent, you will want to evolve an Active Pikachu if available. Or, if your Active is a Lillipup, evolve that one to Herdier and/or attach Energy there instead of one on your Bench. This is because for most decks in Expanded, the way they will get out of an early Paralyze is by using Guzma, which obviously needs to pull up something from the Bench and won’t be able to punish us committing resources to our Active Pokémon. Keep in mind that this pattern doesn’t necessarily apply if your opponent has a way to get out of Paralysis outside of Guzma (the most common of which is them evolving their Active).

A card to be extremely aware of in the early game is Teammates, which is able to help you set up the lock better than any other card in the deck. Teammates ties into my earlier remarks about not wanting to overcommit resources early, because if we have a few of our pieces safe in our hand (e.g., Stoutland/Memory Energy/Devolution Spray), then we can give our opponent a knockout on purpose and use Teammates to grab Rare Candy and Raichu to complete our setup. This sort of thinking is even more important going forward, as our hand is much safer with the bannings of Reset Stamp/Marshadow SLG/Red Card.

It is wise to carefully consider whether benching Alolan Grimer early on is worthwhile. This card’s high Retreat Cost makes it a prime early Guzma target for other setup-based decks. If your opponent is able to pull Grimer up, you now need to find an AZ or Tate & Liza, in addition to setting up your lock. Against decks where Muk is incredibly backbreaking, you will still want to set it up early, but those are matchups where losing a turn or two of Supporter lock are worth it if you can set up Muk. For example, Mewtwo & Mew-GX decks or decks that play Bide Barricade Wobbuffet will often warrant getting Grimer off your initial Brigette. But, for example, against a deck like , you will want to eventually get Muk set up as a way of playing around Malamar-EX—but you don’t want to grab the Grimer until your opponent actually shows you the , or you have otherwise established a lock.

Quaking Punch, the attack of Seismitoad-EX (or other similar attacks) can be devastating against Shock Lock. Without being able to use Devolution Spray or Pal Pad, our lock can be severely disrupted. Fortunately, these attacks are not played very frequently in contemporary Expanded, largely due to the raw speed and power of TAG TEAM decks out-damaging Quaking Punch decks, even without access to Items after the first turn. Currently, the most common place you’ll see this is a Mewtwo & Mew-GX Toolbox deck that packs Noivern-GX. Ideally, your best bet is to Lysandre up a different attacker and Paralyze it with Raichu, and then regain use of Items after one turn. You might need to set up a 3rd Pikachu in order to do this without using a Devolution Spray. Thankfully, none of the Item-locking attacks are able to Knock Out a Stoutland, so if you get the Supporter lock early it is very possible to break out of an attacking Item lock.

Mid Game: During the Lock

It’s at this point in the game where there are only a few things our opponents can do to interact with us. The good news for us is that if we plan ahead for the likely possibilities we can play around most of these. Think of these cards as speed bumps, not roadblocks.

Switch / Scramble Switch / Escape Board

These cards are fairly uncommon in Expanded, but they show up every now and then. The reason I’m discussing them first is that they are the smallest unit of lock-breaking an opponent can do. These cards effectively let our opponent switch out of Paralysis for one turn. Usually this means they will Knock Out our Active Stoutland. The way to play around this is pretty simple: set up another, backup Stoutland. If you’re worried about these cards, a Herdier in play, or a Lillipup with a Rare Candy in hand and a Stoutland, is sufficient. Most times, your opponent will take a Prize, you’ll promote another Stoutland and then re-set up the lock. Use Rescue Stretcher to recover Pokémon if need be and work on setting up another backup while you continue to lock your opponent. Ensuring you have access to Teammates is a great way of playing around this sort of card. Decks that play cards like these are often setup decks like Primal or .

Escape Rope

This card demands more from us than a simple switch card. If we want to preserve our Supporter lock, we need another fully-evolved Stoutland. Note that we don’t necessarily need to switch into a Stoutland that can attack. If you don’t have an Energy, or you have a Stoutland that evolved from a Ditto, then you can use Tate & Liza or AZ to get out of the Active while never risking your Supporter lock. The main deck that plays Escape Rope is (and they have access to a 2nd copy via Dowsing Machine).

Stealthy Hood

This is a card that some people believe just counters Shock Lock, but it’s really nothing too bad to deal with. The first thing to know is that if your opponent’s Active Pokémon is Paralyzed, and they attach a Stealthy Hood to it, the Pokémon does not become un-Paralyzed. But don’t believe my word, check the Compendium:

“Q. If I use Raichu’s “Evoshock” Ability to paralyze my opponent’s Active Pokémon, does the Paralyzed status condition get removed if my opponent attaches a Stealthy Hood to that Pokémon on their next turn?
A. The Evoshock Ability’s effect is to Paralyze the opponent’s Pokémon; once that Special Condition has been placed it is no longer considered an effect of the Ability at the time your opponent attaches the Stealthy Hood. Therefore, your opponent’s Pokémon remains Paralyzed. (Jun 6, 2019 TPCi Rules Team)”

So given that our opponent will likely play Hood and then just pass, we have two ways of getting around it without breaking our lock. We can either (1) Faba the Hood itself or (2) Lysandre up a different Pokémon and then Paralyze that. Since most of your game you’re going to be discarding a bunch of cards to Professor Sycamore and Ultra Ball, it’s very likely that one or both of these cards are in your discard pile. So, if you have reason to believe your opponent might be packing Stealthy Hood, or you just want to be safe, use a spare Pickup during an AZ turn or a Treasure Hunt to grab your VS Seeker if possible. This is more deterministic than if you were to just Pal Pad in one or both of those cards, as we want to draw them right on time without ceding ground to our opponent.

A third, worse option is to set up Slip Trip Goodra before they have a chance to play a Hood. This requires more steps and time, and will also eat up a Bench space, so it’s not really that much better than just having tight VS Seeker and Supporter play.

Stand In / Invasion / Rush In

These Abilities, held by Zoroark BKT, Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX, and Keldeo-EX are much less seen in Expanded than they previously were. They way you address all of these is basically by making sure you have a backup Stoutland if they’re able to KO your Active, and then Paralyzing the new Active. If the Ability is coming from a Basic Pokémon, you’ll want to prioritize setting up Alolan Muk to shut down the switching effects. In the event of , you should just be able to trap the 1 copy of Zoroark BKT Active as it’s incredibly rare for a deck to play more than 1 copy of that card.

Ability Lock

There are two types of Ability lock we are concerned about. They can be set up either (A) before we establish our lock or (B) after in combination with one of the other lock-breaking cards we’ve discussed. These are Garbotoxin (from Garbodor DRX) and Bide Barricade (from Wobbuffet PHF).

In the case of Wobbuffet, we have two ways around it. First, we can Lysandre it out of the Active and then Paralyze something that doesn’t have Bide Barricade. Second, we can set up our own Alolan Muk, which plays around our opponent finding some other lock-breaking card to bring Wobbuffet Active again. So use Lysandre as an immediate fix, but look to set up Muk as soon as possible if you see a Wobbfuffet.

In the case of Garbotoxin, it’s much harder. My current list plays a single Faba and no copies of Field Blower as a way of interacting with Tools. Hoping to interact with by removing all their Tools is pretty much a fool’s errand, as your opponent will get to play Supporters on any turn they attach a Tool to Garbodor. Instead, you need to prioritize setting up Slip Trip Goodra, and then removing the Tool that’s attached to Garbodor. Make sure to wait to Faba the Tool until such time that you have the Goodra set up. If you don’t, you risk needing to get the Faba back when they inevitably attach another Tool. If you expect your Garbodor opponent to also play Klefki STS, then you’ll need to also set up Alolan Muk. You need a lot to work out to beat Garbotoxin.

Late Game: Minimal Cards Remaining in Deck

These angles of attack are usually last-ditch efforts by players to “steal” a game where they are otherwise locked out.

Hand Disruption

The first one is playing around hand disruption. This is much less likely to happen after the recent sets of bannings, but I’ll discuss it to be complete. For example, at Portland Regionals, it was common for players to play copies of Reset Stamp. There are two ways you can be disrupted by a card like Reset Stamp.

  1. The first is that you might be unable to re-establish a lock (for example, your Devolution Spray or Raichu gets shuffled into your deck). To play around this, you want to keep your hand size low, by using Ultra Ball to throw away excess Pokémon or Tropical Beaches.
  2. The second (and more dangerous) way you can be disrupted is if your resources run too low, and your hand and deck combined have 6 or fewer cards in them, causing you to deck out.

Luckily, a happy medium exists where if you keep your hand and deck size around 10–12 cards you will be protected against a Stamp doing too much in either directions. Keep excess cards that can be versatile, like spare Trainers’ Mails or Computer Search to maximize your chances of an uninterrupted lock.

Mill

The second angle of attack is where you let your deck get too small and are decked out. This came up for me in my match against Danny Altavilla in Portland who was playing Control. I knew he had Trick Shovel, so I was careful to never let my deck size go below 2 cards, so that I couldn’t be milled. I failed to factor in the potential for a Dowsing Machine to get back the Trick Shovel, so I had 2 cards milled from my deck and lost a game I had otherwise complete control over. Playing around this involves using Rescue Stretcher and Special Charge to thicken your deck just enough. Remember from earlier, if we use Pal Pad on 2 AZs, we can use an AZ turn to recur a different Item, so we can continue using Rescue Stretcher as needed. Usually in these sorts of game states you won’t need to “infinitely” make your deck large enough, just for enough turns such that your opponent decks out before you reach a dangerous threshold.

Metagaming

Shock Lock is not a deck that loses by players adding a card or two as techs; it wins and loses much more based on archetypal matchups rather than individual cards. Note how we have a response to almost all the threats described in the previous section. Those single cards can be played around with sufficient metagame knowledge and preparation. One factor that exacerbates our advantage is that the vast majority of your opponents will not have tested the matchup, and will largely be devising their own strategy on the fly.

In Portland, the closest I came to playing someone who knew that matchup was someone who proxied the deck but could not find an opponent to pilot it against them.

In short, our matchups are much more polarized than a more traditional deck like Zoroark/Garbodor or Archie’s . Polarized meaning most of our matchups are closer to 90/10 in either direction rather than 50/50. So if you think you’re going to have lots of 90% matchups, Shock Lock can be a fantastic metagame choice, but if you expect many 10% matchups you’re better off playing a different deck instead of trying to tech Shock Lock to beat your worst matchups. Being able to evaluate these sorts of metagame positions is critical if you are looking to be a step ahead of the meta at whatever even you are playing.

Favorable Matchups

To sum up what’s been implied thus far, the matchups that are favorable for Shock Lock can be grouped into two buckets:

  1. Supporter-based decks and
  2. attacking-based decks.

Supporter-based decks are decks like the ones Dead Draw Gaming like to favor, such as their recent Zoroark-GX and Pidgeotto Control decks. These decks rely on Supporters to disrupt the opponent’s game plan, which is largely ineffective when faced with an Active Stoutland. These matchups come down to knowing the Items and Pokémon your opponent has brought and playing around them appropriately. Attacking-based decks are fairly self-explanatory. These decks, such as Turbo Dark or , have linear game plans with minor amounts of disruption. Decks like these are your bread-and-butter matchups that you should expect to beat most of the time.

Unfavorable Matchups

Your unfavorable matchups can be categorized as dedicated disruption decks. These are decks like Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor-GX/Vileplume, or a dedicated Garbotoxin deck. While you do have some ways of interacting with their primary game plan, you will need to rely on excessive matchup knowledge and a little bit of luck. If you decide to play Shock Lock, you should believe that you will face only a couple of decks during the course of a tournament whose primary game plan counters yours.

“But Zak! You played Shock Lock at a tournament a week after a dedicated Vileplume deck dominated Richmond Regionals! What happened?”

It was indeed a dangerous metagame call to follow through on playing this deck in Portland. When the RowEgg/Vileplume deck did well I definitely had second thoughts on whether to follow through and play the deck I had been practicing for months after the hardest possible counter dominated an unsuspecting metagame the week prior. I was actually at dinner with some of my Magic friends who only vaguely know Pokémon (but who have extremely strong metagame fundamentals), and I asked them this question:

“Consider a metagame with three decks: Rock, Paper, and Scissors. I am most familiar with Rock, but would be content to play any of the three in order to maximize my final placement in next week’s tournament. Given that Paper dominated this weekend, what deck are you interested in playing next week?”

In this example, Rock is Shock Lock, Paper is RowEgg/Vileplume, and Scissors is decks that play heavy Supporter counts to beat Item lock decks, or Turbo attacking decks that have an Evolution line such as Turbo Dark with Weavile-GX. After some discussion, most people were interested in playing either (A) Scissors and trying to beat people who are still on last week’s deck or (B) playing Rock and trying to be two steps ahead of everyone else. So on the advice of people I respected, I decided to stick to my guns and play Shock Lock, knowing that if any of the other decks in the format wanted to counter the now-known RowEgg/Vileplume deck, they could, and I would prey on them.

Being completely results-oriented (which is not necessarily advisable), my metagame choice was fantastic. A very small portion of players played Vileplume decks, with scores of players playing Turbo Dark, GardEon, and Supporter-based Control decks. I don’t know if I’ll ever make a meta call this good again.

In the future, if the Expanded metagame looks to be especially weak to Ability or Item lock, but those decks haven’t had success in a while, I would be cautious about registering this deck.

Flex Slots

The core of this deck is extremely tight, and we only have a few places we can change up the list without diluting our core game plan. That said, we have a bit of room we can maneuver with.

Goomy, Goodra

This line is primarily for Garbodor decks so as not to take an auto-loss. I did not use the Goodra at all during the Portland event, but the Goomy did slow down many Turbo decks like GardEon during the early turns. A local player and I had tested the Sableye/Garbodor matchup a great deal, and we were a slight dog with the Goodra, rather than taking an auto-loss there, so I thought it was worth including. That said, if you wanted to remove them for other cards you definitely could.

Tate & Liza

This card is necessary for two main reasons:

  1. First, if you find yourself needing to set up Alolan Grimer/Muk early on, you will need to get out of the Active because retreating either of those is simply unfeasible.
  2. Second, this card is important against any deck playing Hypnotoxic Laser so that we can cure a Poisoned Stoutland. The decks that you’re mostly worried about getting Lasered by are Turbo Dark and any of the various Raticate variants.

The Tate & Liza currently take the place of the 4th Professor Sycamore due to their secondary function as a draw Supporter. Furthermore, in certain late-game scenarios, you can use this card to reduce your hand size and eliminate any risk of decking out.

Team Rocket’s Handiwork

If you play this deck in a Best-of-1 (which you absolutely can if you’re practiced enough—I’ve won a Bo1 Cup with it this season) you absolutely need this card to close out games. In a Best-of-3 scenario, you can consider shaving this card. I still played it for Portland because if you ever go down a game, you absolutely need it in order to try and win Games 2/3 to eke out a win or a tie. If you’re extremely comfortable with your pace of play and don’t believe you’re at risk of losing Game 1s, this card can be cuttable.

Counter Catcher

This card is useful against Wobbuffet decks, namely . This lets you get the Wobbuffet out of the Active without needing to waste your Supporter on a Lysandre. It also gets you out of some of the more random situations you might find yourself in. I was well versed enough vs. Wobb decks, and I didn’t expect people to bring Wobbuffet BREAK (which gets around your Alolan Muk counter plan) so I didn’t opt to register it for Portland. This is definitely a card I will bring with me and decide the week of if I’m going to play this deck again.

Professor Sycamore

If I felt like I didn’t need my extra tech slots for the expected metagame, I absolutely would include the 4th Sycamore. I converted this slot to the aforementioned Tate & Liza, but I did miss the last “draw 7” effect. You want to get down to a small deck as quickly as possible to remove as much variance as possible from your own side of any matchup, and there’s no better card for that than the professor himself.

Bronzor TEU, Bronzong FCO

These cards are ones you’ll want to bring if you’re explicitly worried about Archie’s Blastoise or any other deck capable of using Espeon & Deoxys-GX early in the game. Cross Division-GX is extremely powerful vs our deck because we need to play 50-HP Lillipups—even a 3-Energy Cross Division-GX is able to take out 2-of our critical Pokémon. Going into Portland, I knew Archie’s had an extremely poor performance the weekend prior and poor matchups vs. Turbo Dark and RowEgg/Vileplume which both had done well. That said, they’re cards you want to have in your binder before committing to a final 60.

Wrapping Up

Shock Lock is an extremely powerful deck that rewards knowing both your deck and the entire Expanded format very well. Given the decks that did well in Portland, I’m completely happy to continue playing it for any upcoming tournaments. I am not worried about Zoroark/Garbodor significantly eclipsing other decks in terms of metagame share, even though it won Portland. Furthermore, Zoro/Garb is winnable if you have the Goodra line. If you plan on testing this deck, I hope this article did a bunch of the legwork for you, and wish you all best of luck announcing “Evoshock, Devo Spray, Pickup Devo Spray.”

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me on Twitter @zturchan, and I hope to see many of you at the upcoming Regionals in San Diego and Dallas!

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