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Going Rogue with Zoroark-GX - Three Unusual Zoroark Variants in Standard

Zoroark... it's everywhere. Looking back in history, it's probably the best combination of draw engine and cheap attacker that we've ever had.

03/19/2018 by Cardmarket

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Hey 60cards readers! More than one year has passed since my last article was published. I switched from writing to editing and joined the 60cards editors team. They are doing an excellent job behind the scenes! Lately, my time has been limited because of my studies and my new job at Cardmarket, but I'll try to get my new ideas out there whenever possible.


As was in all my previous articles, I put the focus on one of the top contenders of the current metagame. This time though, I will venture off the beaten track and show what's possible with some courage and creativity in deckbuilding. I'm joined today by Zoroark-GX who is revealing a few of his hidden tricks!

==Introduction==

Zoroark... it's everywhere. Looking back in history, it's probably the best combination of draw engine and cheap attacker that we've ever had. I can only remember a few cards that both provide both support and attack exceptionally well - Magnezone Prime and Empoleon from Dark Explorers come to my mind. But both of them are Stage 2s and have specific Energy requirements which made them less flexible than the Stage 1 Zoroark-GX with a Colorless attack cost.

Zoroark-GX is still in our weekly top articles close to six months after its release. Currently it's the dominating force in both Standard and Expanded and I don't see its popularity dropping anytime soon. Let's quickly make a list of the Zoroark-GX variants that are present in the Standard metagame:

- Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX

- Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX

- Zoroark-GX / Weavile UPR

- Zoroark-GX / Gardevoir-GX

- Zoroark-GX / Decidueye-GX

- Zoroark-GX / Glaceon-GX

- Zoroark-GX / Garbodor GRI

That makes seven variants already and those are just the most discussed ones. With the releases of Crimson Invasion and Ultra Prism, new ideas were tested and played in tournaments successfully. Particularly impressive to me was Tord Reklev's performance at Oceania Internationals with his Zoroark-GX / Gardevoir-GX deck. He proved that there is no idea too unsual to be actually viable (or in his case, much more than just viable).

Tord introduced an engine that is highly consistent and still flexible, allowing for small adjustments or even bigger changes. As you can see in the list, Tord's list features eight (!) cards as one-ofs that can be considered tech cards for specific matchups. How does that work exactly?

==Main Parts of the Zoroark Engine==

-> Zoroark-GX

The deck relies on Zoroark's Trade ability even more than other Zoroark variants. Tord went with just five draw supporters, but three Tapu Lele-GX and three Brigette to ensure a consistent T1 setup of three Zorua that can evolve into Zoroark-GX the turn after. With three Trades available every turn, it is easy to cycle through the deck, discarding cards that are not needed in the lategame and getting access to the important cards.

-> Tapu Lele-GX & Brigette

A good T1 is really crucial for this deck. Three Tapu Lele-GX, three Brigette and four Ultra Ball make 10 cards in total that lead to a T1 Brigette directly. Later in the game, Tapu Lele-GX can be used to find Mallow or Guzma as well as an attacker in certain matchups in which you don't want to attack with Zoroark-GX.

-> Puzzle of Time

Zoroark decks certainly would look quite different if Puzzle of Time wasn't an option. The Trade ability makes it very easy to get two copies of Puzzle of Time whenever needed. They are the main reason why so many one-ofs can even work: depending on the matchup, you can use a Max Potion, an Enhanced Hammer or a Mew-EX either once, twice or not at all.

-> Mallow

Not all players agree on whether Mallow is actually useful in Zoroark decks. Other variants like Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX or Zoroark-GX / Golisopod-GX usually don't rely on having the right combination of cards in hand so much (especially the Rare Candy & Gardevoir-GX in a deck that doesn't even play the Stage 1 evolution). I think that it is an important piece for this particular kind of build.

-> Mew-EX

Mew-EX is rather a tech card than a part of the engine, but I still want to list it here because I think that a Zoroark deck of this style can't work without it. I don't see the popularity Buzzwole-GX decks drop in the near future. Mew-EX is by far the best counter to it. 

==Strengths & Weaknesses==

The actual strengths and weaknesses are a little different for every variant, but I think that some of them are valid for all Zoroark-based decks.

(+) Consistent draw engine

(+) Flexible attacker

(+) Retrieving any cards from the discard pile

(+) Able to splash in tech cards

 

(-) Weak Basic Pokémon

(-) Vulnerable against Mill decks and Energy removal

(-) Gets shut off almost completely in Ability lock

(-) Early Parallel City to three benched Pokémon

 

==Build your own!==

 

Now it's time for some creativity. The main engine works, and we can try to come up with new ideas how to build decks around it. For starters, let's look at a deck that I encountered during PTCGO playtesting.

Kingdra from Burning Shadows is an interesting card at first glance. It features two attacks for just the cost of a single Water Energy and both of them can deal a decent amount of damage, even to Benched Pokémon.

Brine is the main attack we're going to use on Kingdra. It deals 90 damage to an already damaged Pokémon anywhere on the opponent's side. With this attack, we can score 2HKOs much easier as we don't rely on Guzma to pull a previously damaged and then retreated Pokémon back into the Active position.

Tornado Shot is a strong attack too, even though it requires discarding the Water Energy. It can be useful against Volcanion (obviously) or as another way to snatch KOs on the Bench while damaging the opponent's Active Pokémon as well.

The rest of the deck is very similar to Tord's Gardevoir list. The inclusion of 1 Seadra might be useful because Kingdra is stronger in the late game anyways. If you don't like it, switch it back to another Rare Candy. Besides that, I went with Tapu Koko to deal Bench damage in the early game. In a Buzzwole-heavy metagame, I would suggest trying Latios instead.

One could say that there is a synergy between Zoroark-GX's and Empoleon's attacks, but that is not the main reason why they can work together nicely. Instead, they split up the tasks: Zoroark takes care of preparing 2HKOs while Empoleon waits for a good moment to score a one hit KO.

Unfortunately, Empoleon requires more than one Energy attachment, but there is Aqua Patch to help us set the attack up. This reduces the number of available slots for techs, but Choice Band and an additional Water Energy still fit nicely. The fifth Water Energy is a decision based on personal preference - I suggest cutting one of those for another Basic Pokémon or a Rescue Stretcher.

 

Last but not least, here is a deck that I've been working on recently. The new Rotom cards from Ultra Prism feature a unique Ability that allows them to attack without any Energy attachments as long as there are at least 9 Pokémon Tool cards in your discard pile. Zoroark-GX seems to be good at discarding stuff, so it might be worth a try!

I picked Heat Rotom and Frost Rotom because I think they have the most useful attacks and types of the available Rotom cards. In a perfect scenario, Heat Rotom plus Choice Band is enough to OHKO a Golisopod-GX. Frost Rotom's attack is great against Volcanion decks as you OHKO a non-belted Volcanion-EX whenever your opponent has at least four Fire Energy in play.

The fourth Rotom slot is still not set in stone. So far, I've tested Mow Rotom and Wash Rotom. Mow Rotom's attack seems nice, but the damage output is too low to be actually useful against Grass-weak Pokémon like Lycanroc-GX or Greninja BREAK. Wash Rotom can score important KOs on the opponent's Benched Pokémon if needed. The untransformed Rotom card seems to be quite powerful as it deals 120 damage, but the Electric type rarely matter, and the damage output can be accomplished by Zoroark-GX as well.

For the Tools, four Choice Bands are mandatory because the Rotoms don't deal massive amounts of damage on their own. Bursting Balloon discards itself after the opponent's turn which is why it's good here - the effect doesn't come into play often. Two Fighting Fury Belt and two Float Stone make 12 Tools in total which should be enough for the Rotom strategy.

My tech cards of choice are Sudowoodo BKP and Counter Energy for the Zoroark and Buzzwole matchups. Frost Rotom can also attack with Counter Energy which is quite nice. Giratina is the only way to fight Greninja under the Shadow Stitching lock - I don't know yet if it can really turn this matchup around. You can replace it with something else if you don't expect Greninja decks to show up at your tournament.

==Conclusion==

That's it for now. Have you already tried other unusual Zoroark variants? I would love to hear your ideas! Hope you'll have some fun experimenting with the input I gave to you. Thank you for reading and until next time!

 

Ole Stognief

[+12] ok


 

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