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Caleb Gedemer

It's Over — the Best Deck and Other Conclusions from BKT through FLI Standard

Zoroark-GX / Oranguru was a shocker for most. What does its future look like?

07/20/2018 by Caleb Gedemer

Tord Reklev is a machine, and almost a four-time International Championship winner. He fell just shy with another “broken deck” something that has been bounced around, but never proven until now. The first murmurs of this deck began all the way back with our very own Zach Lesage back before Latin America’s own International Championship. He didn’t play the deck himself, but threw the idea around a bit but gave up on the deck after a little while. In short, the players at the North American International Championship weren’t expecting Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Oranguru to be played and things deviated away from those that could have beaten it. Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX saw a resurgence, the deck my crew and I all played, and it got smashed by the deck. Jimmy Pendarvis lost to Reklev in the semifinals in dramatic fashion, not winning a game in the series.

If this format continued, and it will for Europeans, at least, what would change, what would stay the same? I’m here to give one last hurrah to the format and analyze the best deck walking away from it along with other contributing factors. Moving into this event, Americans at least, viewed Buzzwole as the undisputed best deck. It repeatedly did well even when faced with adversity, most recently doing well at the Mexican Regional Championship in late June. Also decided upon going into the event is the inferiority of Malamar (FLI; 51) . Malamar (FLI; 51)  has been seen as a “bad deck” by most top players for a while now, and it’s certainly been very hit or miss in practice. It seems like it can run hot and win games, or beat up on bad Buzzwole players, both of which are common occurrences.

Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  seeing more play seemingly didn’t curb the draw to Malamar decks, and it somehow kept Buzzwole decks out of the Top Eight even still. Zoroark-GX decks adapted with the combination of Counter Catcher and Delinquent, giving them a legitimate way to ice a Buzzwole player out of the game by eliminating an Octillery and dropping your opponent’s hand size low. These strategies considered built for a strange Top Eight cut consisting of the following:

1st: Stephane Ivanoff with Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Garbodor

2nd: Tord Reklev with Zoroark-GX /  Oranguru (UPR; 114)

3rd: Jimmy Pendarvis with Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX

4th: Adam Hawkins with Malamar (FLI; 51)  /  Necrozma GX (BUS; 63)

5th: Ryan Antonucci with Zoroark-GX /  Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138)

6th: Edward Kuang with Malamar Necrozma-GX

7th: Fabien Pujol with Zoroark-GX / Garbodor

8th: Aaron Tarbell with Yveltal BREAK

The biggest surprise here has to be Yveltal BREAK, a deck that came out of nowhere to some deep finishes in the hands of Tarbell and a few others like Dustin Zimmerman, Clifton Goh, and James Arnold, respectively in order of final placement. The deck was well placed with strong matchups against Malamar (FLI; 51)  and Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) , and a even-ish matchup against Buzzwole builds. The disruptive Zoroark-GX deck was able to get the best of it in the Top Eight, though, which was obviously a surprise to show up in the first place. I’m secondly confused about the surge of Zoroark-GX / Garbodor, a deck that always seems to do well regardless of how bad I think it is.

Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Garbodor seems like such an unlikely deck to do well since it takes a rough matchup against Buzzwole and all other Zoroark-GX decks, but I suppose when you run hot and play well you can make deep runs with the deck and even take down entire events! I want to brief you all about Zoroark-GX / Oranguru (UPR; 114) , now, in detail, as the deck is going to appeal to the masses with a mix of disruption and power. Being played by one of the game’s best it’s sure to be on everyone’s radar headed into the World Championship regardless, and will certainly pop up at events from here until then, too. Let’s go!

Explanations

4 Zorua SLG 52

You’re going to be playing four of these little guys because Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  is your main attacker and your main support Pokemon. You can’t afford to not have a full lineup of Zorua. Having extra lets you have one to follow up after one goes down early and defends you against bad Prizes. On average, you want to get three or more Zoroark-GX out every game and that right there affirms the notion of playing as many copies of Zorua as you can to assure that that happens most games.

4 Zoroark-GX SLG 53

This is essentially a mono- Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) deck. For that reason, you want to put all your heart and soul into optimizing your ways of getting Zoroark-GX, and fast. By having four you will have better chances of drawing into it early and often and getting Trade going to find the disruption cards you’re going to be looking for. Zoroark-GX is your main, and only, attacker, aside from Oranguru (UPR; 114) , so you’re going to need to invest as much as you can into its upbringing.

4 Tapu Lele-GX

This seems a little overkill to me, but this deck doesn’t want many other Basic Pokemon, so I understand the logic behind it. You don’t want to play Basic Pokemon that you don’t want just to have more Pokemon to fuel the power of Riotous Beating, so it’s best to focus on a Pokemon that you already want in the deck on average. Wonder Tag is especially important to this list since you do play a wide variety of tech Supporters and you want to have access to them frequently. Brigette is critical to this deck’s suggest on the opening turns, so having four copies of Tapu Lele-GX is going to bolster your opening Brigette percentage higher than it otherwise would as well. There’s so many things to be said about this count, but I find it especially amusing that Reklev was able to make the finals of the event two years in a row with a maxed out set of Tapu Lele-GX; consistency is king!

1 Oranguru

This is the spice this deck brings to the table, with Oranguru (UPR; 114)  you can set your opponent out of a game by recovering excess disruption cards, or even Puzzle of Time, from your discard pile with Resource Management. You can create an infinite loop of healing with Acerola or Max Potion, and completely stop your opponent from executing his or her strategy. While this deck is still a Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  one at heart, Oranguru ties the knot on the disruptive aspect of things and ensures you come out on top in slowly grinding games where you might need a little extra something to finally get you over the last hump in the resource war. Profound Knowledge is a built-in bonus just to win against Hoopa-based decks, giving you a way to damage a Hoopa. 60 and Confusion infliction is solid in general, and you can always use Oranguru in a pinch to provide some much-needed chip damage to set up, or finish, a Knockout.

1 Mew-EX

A Psychic attacker needs to be a staple in every Zoroark-GX deck and Mew-EX outweighs Mewtwo in decks that decide to just play one or the other. It’s more versatile, giving you outs against Necrozma GX (BUS; 63) , and of course, Buzzwole variants predominantly.

3 N

N is the best draw Supporter that Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  decks can play, so using three copies has almost always seemed like the play. You tend to fall behind on Prizes in most games so having that disruptor, along with the shuffle-draw, is a nice way to bring you back in games while still retaining your resources and not overextending too much. Shuffling your deck is also nice once you start to use Resource Management, as the cards from the bottom of your deck get randomized and you could actually draw them if you get lucky off the N.

3 Guzma

I could see going down to two Guzma in this list, since you’re more focused on controlling your opponent’s board and you do have two copies of Counter Catcher, but three Guzma is nice for when Counter Catcher isn’t activated. You frequently use Guzma to push up clunky Pokemon and “trap” them in your opponent’s Active spot, and it’s always great to have some firepower to eliminate threats on your opponent’s Bench.

3 Brigette

Setting up as many Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  as quickly as you can is critical to this deck’s success. Playing three Brigette in addition to four Tapu Lele-GX and four Ultra Ball gives you plenty of ways to find Brigette outside of the cards already in your opening hand, giving you an above-seventy percent chance of beginning the game with it on your first turn. Getting three Zorua with Brigette is almost always the best play, and from there you can get to using Trade and slowing your opponent down with your disruptive tactics.

1 Team Flare Grunt

A way to remove Basic Energy threats like a Grass Energy on a Golisopod-GX, you want a Team Flare Grunt just for that reason. You can even find yourself cheesing games against Malamar where you can prevent your opponent from attacking and get ahead by removing a Metal Energy from a Necrozma GX (BUS; 63)  or a Psychic Energy from other various attackers. Team Flare Grunt is also super useful against Buzzwole decks, giving you chances to potentially remove not only a Basic Energy, but a Special Energy on top of that with Enhanced Hammer, which could very well prevent your opponent from attacking altogether on a coming turn.

1 Professor Sycamore

I like a Professor Sycamore in every Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  deck, as it allows you to ram through your cards and discard fluff that you don’t want anymore. Thinning out cards keeps you kicking in the late game, and this is also the best way to draw cards, period. You should play it, too!

1 Mallow

I have become disenfranchised with Mallow in Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  decks, it’s pretty slow, but it’s nice for this one because sometimes all you want as an Enhanced Hammer, or maybe an Energy. I think I would play it in here because you want to find ways to get the most out of your Zoroark-GX, as it’s your main attacker and you can’t play the game without it. Mallow finds you Max Potion, among other things, that can keep you kicking and draw things out to the point where your opponent runs out of resources, the ultimate goal.

1 Delinquent

I’m in love with Delinquent after playing it in Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  for the first time in Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX. It’s even better in here as this deck’s whole motive is to disrupt the opponent and with Delinquent you can completely lock opposing players out of the game by discarding an entire hand of cards. Not only that, but even when hand sizes are larger, you can force an opponent to discard valuable cards that can’t be recovered. This isn’t Expanded with VS Seeker, and Supporters stick in the bin once they’re gone, Delinquent can run your opponent over pretty quickly.

1 Cynthia

A staple in Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  decks lately, a single copy of Cynthia feels right. You play an Evosoda-based engine to rush Zoroark-GX onto the field and Cynthia is a great way, again, like N, to shuffle cards from Resource Management around so that you maybe draw them off the Cynthia itself. At the least, it gets them (hopefully) out of the bottom of your deck and closer to a place you can draw them with Trade or the like. On average, a draw of six is perfect, especially for situations you aren’t comfortable discarding your hand with from a Professor Sycamore.

1 Acerola

Oranguru (UPR; 114)  can looping healing in part with Acerola, and while this deck is aggressive with disruption, it has a defensive backbone in that it’s hard to knock out its Pokemon. Acerola and Max Potion will keep things kicking for quite some time and this is a must-have for that reason. A guaranteed way to heal, and keep your Energy, is super nice for a deck that only plays four Energy cards and a limited set of attackers.

4 Ultra Ball

Consistency is king and these provide outs to Tapu Lele-GX, getting Brigette, and even just getting Zoroark-GX itself. I would always recommend playing four when you’re using Zoroark-GX.

4 Puzzle of Time

Getting stuff back from your discard pile is a skillset that Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  brings to each match. Oranguru can recover Puzzle of Time with Resource Management at that, so maxing out your copies of these is a must. Just think of them as VS Seekers to start if you’re confused… they’re much more than that, though… You can always complete the pieces of the puzzle when you’re retaining other Puzzle of Time copies in your hand and building a bigger hand with Trade.

3 Evosoda

Zoroark-GX party time! Three Evosoda is super sick to get them out quickly and build a strong board of multiple Trade Abilities.

3 Enhanced Hammer

Here’s where the disruption really heats up, three Special Energy-discarding cards is enough, and will really pull their weight in mirror matches and against other decks that can rely on Special Energy, like Buzzwole.

2 Weakness Policy

These are a shot in the dark to help against Buzzwole decks, protecting your Zoroark-GX from Weakness, and since Buzzwole decks usually don’t play Field Blower, these can be super handy to avoid big Knockouts. Weakness Policy unfortunately has little to no use whatsoever against anything else, so it’s a weird inclusion if you don’t expect much Buzzwole. Going forward Buzzwole might die down a bit, so it’ll be interesting to keep an eye on these two spots here. Two cards can be some seriously large space if you’re looking to fit in other cards!

2 Max Potion

Healing is a staple in every Energy denial deck, and this one is no different. Keeping your Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  safe from Knockouts is a must, and two Max Potion on top of the Acerola that you already play is a great way to accomplish that goal. Max Potion might seem counterintuitive since you discard an Energy, but you an always get Energy back with Puzzle of Time or Oranguru using Resource Management.

2 Field Blower

Field Blower is a must in every Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  deck to counter opposing Parallel City and Garbodor with Garbotoxin. Two is a happy medium for most Zoroark-GX decks, and I like it in here especially since you usually control the tempo of a game, so you can afford to play one less than the luxurious count of three that some variants use.

2 Counter Catcher

You will almost always fall behind on Prizes with this deck since you’re focused on running your opponent out of Energy and whittling down his or her resources rather than being super aggressive, and because of that, Counter Catcher becomes very strong! You can try to lock things up on your opponent’s side or even just drag something important up and knock it out, putting your opponent at an inherent disadvantage.

1 Rescue Stretcher

You will sometimes draw all the cards in your deck since you occasionally aim to funnel the exact cards you want back into your deck with Resource Management. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way, though, and you’re going to want some assurance of avoiding losing via deck out with Rescue Stretcher. Rescue Stretcher is in general better than a second Oranguru, which is likely what I would play in its place if I decided not to run it. Rescue Stretcher is simply much more versatile, and combined with its saving power, I would always play it in this deck from the get-go.

1 Float Stone

Concessions must be made in a deck where you try to force a huge variety of cards in that normally wouldn’t be played in Zoroark-GX. Float Stone is a fine cut, since you’re going to be able to attack literally any Pokemon you have in play and there won’t be much switching to be made very often. Float Stone has usually served as a pseudo healing card in my testing, providing you a way to get a damaged Pokemon out of the Active and to the Bench for safety. Float Stone is always needed in Zoroark-GX decks, though, giving you a way to get Mew-EX into the Active spot. No matter what, I would play at least one copy of the card, and two is going to be a little too luxurious for my taste in this specific list.

2 Parallel City

This card is incredibly disruptive to opposing decks, and I would play at least one starting off. Not only that, but you can even use it to discard damaged Pokemon off your Bench and prevent your opponent from taking big Knockouts. Most decks are playing Parallel City themselves, so having some of your own will stave off your opponent’s, at least until he or she finds a Field Blower…

1 Reverse Valley

130 is a big number to hit with Buzzwole and its Sledgehammer in the format, so Zoroark-GX playing Reverse Valley is something I’m in large support of. It’s slightly better than Devoured Field since your opponent will be able to tack on some extra damage if he or she is playing Darkness or Dragon type Pokemon, so Reverse Valley is a little more safe. The only downside is the damage reduction done to Metal Pokemon, but there aren’t many popular Metal type decks out there right now so that’s widely irrelevant. Reverse Valley can’t do much more than hit for a relevant 130 without Professor Kukui, though, so that’s about all it will be doing in this deck, but that’s more than enough. Mallow can find this card at will when you’re in a bind to get a Knockout on a pesky Buzzwole.

4 Double Colorless Energy

Four of these is all you need for Energy. Every Pokemon in your deck can attack with it, and there’s little reason to play any more Energy on top of this. You need to make a lot of space for all the disruptive tactics you bring to the table, so I like this count for this deck. Riotous Beating away!

Applying Celestial Storm

In general, I think this deck gets a little worse from the release of Celestial Storm. Rayquaza-GX runs it up a creek since you can’t really disrupt it since it plays so many Energy, and even has built-in recovery with Latias Prism Star. You will have to tech for that matchup if you want to be successful moving forward, so this deck might not see much more time to shine other than being the best deck in the North American Internationals format. Buzzwole might start playing Field Blower more often to counter Rayquaza-GX, making this decks prospects weaker yet with Weakness Policy becoming obsolete. Magcargo with Smooth Over comes out, and that could very nicely fit into this deck and give you a built-in means of “Mallow” for an Ability. I think this deck loses more than it gains with the release of the new set, and while that would be pretty bad for most other decks, I think this deck is so great on its own that it might not end up mattering very much.

Options

Garbodor

A thin line of Trashalanche and some Psychic Energy could single handedly win you the Rayquaza-GX matchup. Rayquaza-GX plows through Items like no tomorrow and Garbodor can solo the deck. While that’s kind of awkward to fit in, you can make this deck a little more aggressive against other decks that spend their resources as well, giving opponent’s less incentive to play Items and thin.

Magcargo

Smooth Over could change the way this deck runs, making it unstoppable once your setup is complete. Pulling a card of your choosing and using Trade to draw it seems broken, but in practice it could be harder to setup Magcargo than I think. There have to be diminishing returns of using Magcargo after a certain point, where having another Zoroark-GX in play might just be better. Either way, this is a cool card that Zoroark-GX decks can certainly benefit from, this just might not be the one to make the best use of it. You generally do have a space on your Bench, though, so I could be wrong.

Tapu Lele

You could play Tapu Lele from Ultra Prism for its Psywave, a Choice Band, and a Fairy Energy or two to beat Rayquaza, but that seems awful, as it’s not going to help against anything other than Fairy-weak decks, which aren’t too common outside of Rayquaza-GX itself.

Matchups

Buzzwole: Even

Mew-EX can counter big threats and Weakness Policy stops Fighting Pokemon from becoming a huge problem, at least at first. Enhanced Hammer is super strong and always be on the lookout for Counter Catcher and Delinquent (or N) openings when you can knock out Octillery. Leaving your opponent with a low (or no) hand size is devastating, and can pull you ahead in tight games.

Malamar: Slightly Favorable

Malamar (FLI; 51)  decks are inherently weak to Zoroark-GX ones, and Counter Catcher makes it worse if a Malamar deck does manage to pull ahead. Parallel City is rough also, and Reverse Valley can make it so that a Zoroark-GX can one-shot a Hoopa if your opponent incorporates a non-EX/GX strategy. While you can’t exactly beat your opponent with disruption, you can cycle healing cards to avoid Knockouts. As long as you aren’t crippled too much by an opposing Parallel City or you avoid your opponent running super hot, you can usually come out on top even still!

Rayquaza-GX: Unfavorable

Storm and Stress (I think that’s what it’s called?) is way too much pressure for this deck to handle. Here’s where Garbodor could be decent, but very space-consuming… You don’t have much disruption options against a 180 HP Pokemon that will have at least three Basic Energy on it since you simply cannot discard multiple Energy at once. You could play Crushing Hammer, but that’s flip-based and probably won’t be the pop you’re even looking for. To make things worse, your opponent can play Garbodor with Garbotoxin to stop your Abilities can make it even harder for your to operate your Trade strategy in general.

Zoroark-GX: Favorable

Other Zoroark-GX decks are very easy for this one to beat. You have so much Energy disruption and too many healing cards for them to handle, and on top of that you can continuously recycle those very resources with Oranguru and/or Puzzle of Time. The disruption is real in these matchups and I wouldn’t expect your opponent to come out on top if you keep the strategy up of moving clunky Pokemon into your opponent’s Active and denying Energy. Parallel City is pretty big too, and with it you can even force your Oranguru to get two-shot by an opposing Zoroark-GX if your opponent’s Bench is limited. The scariest Zoroark-GX deck you can face is with Garbodor, but even then you can still execute the Energy denial strategy as per usual.  You just need to monitor your Items so you don’t start losing Zoroark-GX to one-hit Knockouts from Trashanche. Garbotoxin can be a pain too, but you do have two Field Blower to get around it. Oranguru can use Resource Management to put Items from your discard pile back into your deck, too. You have lots of time and many things you can do to slow your opponent down so I would hope to face as many mirrors as possible!

Conclusion

This deck was a surprise at the North American International Championship. I don’t think many people expected it, and it turned out to be a great call for a tournament where Zoroark-GX decks made a large resurgence, even with Buzzwole still in full force. Moving forward the deck’s future is hazy, but it’s still great that I had a chance to show you what it’s all about and hopefully you’ll try it out like me in search of a way to beat Rayquaza-GX. Let’s get after it, and until next time, take care and good luck!

~Caleb

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