Experts' corner

Daniel Altavilla

Nine-Tailed Frogs - Zoroark/Garbodor and Greninja BREAK

Danny goes over Zoroark/Garbodor in Standard and Greninja in Expanded.

04/26/2018 by Daniel Altavilla

What's up 60Cards readers, we have a couple pretty crazy Expanded events coming up and honestly the Expanded format is in a bit of a pickle right now. I think most players can agree with the notion that Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  or anti-Zoroark makes up the entire Expanded meta right now, and with Zoroark being so stupid good with its' unrivaled consistency, ability to use Puzzle of Time (BKP; 109) , Red Card (XY; 124)  and Hex Maniac and still see 6-8 cards a turn, and having enough room overall to run cards like Exeggutor PLF I can see the Expanded meta not changing any time soon.

Maybe you can argue that Lucario does something to Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) , but with a quick Red Card/ Ghetsis (PF; 101) I doubt the Lucario player even has the entire combo in hand. A Zoroark player could probably let the Lucario player get a KO to get pieces out of their hand and then Red Card/ Ghetsis (PF; 101) or Red Card/Hex and if the Lucario player can get out of that it would require a very lucky sequence of draws on their part. All in all this makes for Zoroark being the unrivaled BDIF, and decks like Toad/Garb, Drampa GX (GRI; 115) /Garb, Glaceon and Greninja are still not even fully favored. These decks require the Zoroark player to draw poorly in order to pull out a win. Imagine your deck is so good that Ability lock mixed with N and pray is your only game plan against it. What can anybody really do to feel safe against the deck? This article is going to go over a Standard Zoroark list and an Expanded deck I feel has the best shot to actually beat Zoroark and most of the Zoroark counters as well.

Greninja for Utah

I believe Greninja is one of the most underrated decks in Expanded right now. The deck doesn't necessarily have room to outplay opponents, but it can keep up with Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  variants pretty well and it smashes decks like Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104) , Archie/Maxie, and Glaceon, which obviously aren't prepared for Frogs as much as they are Zoroark. The mentality that should be had going into an Expanded event, in my opinion, is to take a 50/50 against Zoroark and to destroy the tier 2 decks. The reason for this is that no deck outright beats Zoroark, a good Zoroark player can finesse a win through Red Card (XY; 124)  shenanigans against almost anything, so why even go out of your way to try to outright win when we can hope we win or hope that the rest of the room can win while we sit by and feed off of the tier 2 concepts? 

Greninja had a couple Day 2 placements in Costa Mesa so I am using the lists from there as a starting point towards what I feel is the best list for the deck, with influences from Standard to make up for the disruption that Expanded presents us. (Note: Jon Eng actually won a League Cup with a list within 2 cards of my own by complete accident, so I think we are getting somewhere!)


Some key things that separate this list from Standard lists would be the Ace Trainer (ANO; 69)  and Cyrus. Ace Trainer (ANO; 69)  is obviously a card that would be played in a heartbeat in Standard, especially giving Greninja the opportunity to kill a hand harder than N could. More on that later, but I'll go ahead and hop into the specifics of the list.

4-4-4-3 Greninja BREAK (BKP; 41)  - This line is the way it is because of the Splash Energy concept. We want to have a Greninja with every piece under it because when it has Splash attached and gets KO'd we get to add the entire line to our hand. If we ran Rare Candy we wouldn't be able to add a Frogadier to our hand off of a Splash, which is very crucial at times.

1-1 Starmie (EVO; 31)  EVO - This has been played more in Standard and was popularized by Xiao Xiao Long (RIP :( ) throughout the early half of this season. Starmie is great because it gives you infinite energy, meaning you can use Giant Water Shuriken twice a turn until the game is over. Starmie has issues with Hex Maniac in Expanded, but is still included because our opponent's hand usually won't warrant them playing a Hex Maniac as their supporter of choice, thanks to Ace Trainer (ANO; 69) /N/Shadow Stitching combos.

1 Espeon EX (BKP; 52)  - Espeon is included because our win condition against Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  is to devolve their board when all of their Zoroarks have 60 on them, essentially giving us the win, as any Zorua that gets benched from that point forward can be OHKO'd with Giant Water Shuriken. It also has use versus Gardevoir and Glaceon, though both of those matchups are near autowins already. Espeon is fully necessary in the deck in my opinion because Zoroark decks have a way of overpowering a lot of decks in Expanded and taking advantage of entire games before their opponent can set up meaning we need something to make up for the damage deficit we will have. Espeon is the best attempt at this we can utilize.

1 Tapu Lele GX (GRI; 60)  - Tapu Lele is a newer inclusion to Greninja decks that started this year. With the absence of Vs Seeker in the new format post-rotation, Lele was the next best thing to keep our consistency in check, turning all four Ultra Balls into outs to a Supporter card. We don't include Vs Seeker in this list because of how susceptible Greninja is to Ghetsis (PF; 101)  and Red Card, so we want to make sure we can actually play the game from turn one. The Expanded format sort of asks for Lele instead of Vs Seeker, so that is what we are going with. Lele also helps us find Cyrus when we need it, being an extra out to that play.

4 N (FCO; 105)  - N is the backbone of any Greninja deck. Greninja has always been the sort of deck that must fall behind early and then attempt to mount a comeback with Ns to low numbers followed by a Shadow Stitching spam. We aim to use N until our opponent seems to have a dead hand and the couple of turns they lose during any game give us a chance. While there are some games in Standard that can be won without the N spam being necessary to the fullest, Expanded has consistent OHKOs on Greninja BREAK (BKP; 41) s, Hex Maniac and disruption that can push you back further to the point that you need to catch them with a bad hand to win. This is fine in the long run because of the extra dead cards Expanded decks contain that can give us the clutch turn we need.

4 Professor Sycamore (XY; 122)  - My reasoning for this may not be correct over 4th Cynthia, but I feel that Ghetsis (PF; 101)  and Red Card (XY; 124)  spam will leave you with smaller hands early game, so Sycamore isn't going to ever destroy your resources, and the extra draw over the Shuffle Draw lets us slightly compensate for those missing cards. Also you more often need to hit multi-card combos and Shuffle Draw is less reliable when you're digging.

1 Ace Trainer (ANO; 69)  - What a card! Ace Trainer (ANO; 69)  can kill your opponent's hand as early as turn 2, and even though we have no VS Seeker we include a copy, just because it is sort of a 5th N and is a very strong one of to have in this deck.

1 Cyrus Prism Star (UPR; 120)  - I feel this card being very strong in the volatile Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  matchup. In games I've played the Cyrus comes in clutch where I can make my opponent shuffle back in Shaymins, Leles, Eggs, Sudo or extra Zoroark pieces, which are all pretty dead cards late game. Sometimes this card can be a Win More card and force your opponent into a situation where you can now Espeon EX (BKP; 52) and board wipe.
It has uses in other matchups, mostly in situations where they have a board you can't fully deal with.

4 Dive Ball (PRC; 125)  - This card is an objectively better Evo Soda, and is better than Ultra Ball most of the time when your hand is running thin on cards you can afford to discard.

3 Enhanced Hammer (DE; 94)  - This number is huge because DCE is such a widely played card in Expanded and Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  having only Four gives us higher odds of surviving.

1 Field Blower (GRI; 125)  - For dumping Tools on Garbodor (GRI; 51)  and Sky Field. I don't feel Garbodor is big enough to warrant two with Dowsing as your Ace Spec, and against Sky Field Cyrus <*> acts as a Field Blower.

1 Xerosic (PHF; 110)  - This card acts as a 2nd Blower versus Garbodor and can also be an extra Enhanced Hammer. I like this card over 2nd Blower because if you have it against Seismitoad/Garbodor which is growing in popularity you can take the tool off of Garbodor or get out of a Quaking Punch. I feel this card is heavily slept on in the Expanded format right now.

1/1 Super Rod/Rescue Stretcher - A 1/1 split is optimal in this deck, you want the dual effect of Stretcher sometimes or the Energy Recovery Rod gives, and you always like being able to shuffle 3 Pokemon in.

3 Brooklet Hill (GRI; 120) - Brooklet is a great stadium because of the dual effect of acting as a Ball card and bouncing stadiums like Parallel City.

1 Dowsing Machine (PS; 128)  - At the cost of 2 dead cards or a Space Beacon, you get an extra copy of any card in your deck.

4 Splash Energy (BKP; 113)  - This is staple in Greninja for the recovery.

Additional Card Options:

1 Greninja (XY; 41) : This card lets you hit an Egg against Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  for a free prize if they ever bench one, and otherwise just hits a Zoroark twice for 30 to get it in Espeon EX (BKP; 52)  range. It happens as soon as turn three and can be used as a mini third GWS, so this could see play, though I don't include it because I feel you need the extra NInja BKP ready to go for the games your opponent keeps hitting exactly what they need, and it sorta felt like a win more card. If Night March ever gets big again this could definitely see more play.

1 Lusamine (CIN; 96) : I like having the option for 2 extra Stadiums or to grab extra Supporters. Sometimes you have to exhaust your N count so a chance to hit a couple extra is pretty nice. Maybe this card is better with Vs Seeker, but I think it has potential.

1 Red Card (XY; 124) : This can be an extra disruption card and also act like an N on a turn where you need to play Xerosic or Sycamore, etc. It is just as good here as it would be in a Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  deck when paired with Shadow Stitching.

The Expanded Greninja list is a little bit different from a Standard list but is fundamentally the same and is an easy transition for those who may not be as adept in Expanded as they are in Standard. All the Expanded cards for the deck are relatively cheap and not hard to pick up by any means. The deck is also just not as difficult to play as most other decks in Expanded right now, being mostly a disruption and pray strategy. I also wanted to quickly jump into the matchups to make some things apparent:

Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  variants 55-45, 60-40 without Red Card. - No deck can really say they have a positive Zoroark matchup when at any point they can be knocked out of the game over awful variance. But we have a slightly positive matchup because our lock can be so oppressive when it starts up.

Drampa GX (GRI; 115) /Garbodor 40-60 - This matchup is rough but definitely not unbeatable. Being under their own Garbotoxin lock means you can Moonlight Slash and get off heavier damage and you can use Xerosic, Field Blower and Dowsing Machine to keep the Tool off of Garbodor. If your opponent has a bench of attackers you can Cyrus and either make them lose Toxin or make them lose an attacker or two and if they kept Toxin but you have Blower with Cyrus you can create a large board wipe power play. The only issue is that the matchup just naturally doesn't feel favored and Acerola is tricky to deal with.

Archie's Ace in the Hole (PRC; 124) / Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick (PRC; 133) 70/30 - We trade better against most one prize decks because they tend to rely on Lele, Shaymin, or consistent Ability use to get going. These decks also take a huge hit from Cyrus because of the effort they put into playing a Pokemon. A dead hand, no energy and having difficulty trading makes for a positive matchup. They can still steal a win from you quick if your hand is dead though.

Glaceon GX (UPR; 39) / Barbaracle (FCO; 23) 80/20 - Greninja always out-waters the mirrors, Glaceon gets KO'd before it can ever apply real pressure and Stitching makes it harder to find other Glaceon. Barbaracle isn't really an issue because of Space Beacon and all of our Stadium counters.

Durant 80/20 - This matchup is pretty free, but they can actually catch you slipping early game by discarding vital cards before you get a chance to hit them. The chances of Durant ever creating an unplayable situation for you before you can start Moonlight Slashing is very low though, and with 2 Recovery cards and Giant Water Shuriken you put them on a quick timer. I'll give the deck credit for being really scary though, I can see it being a sleeper for this event as well.

Mirror ID/ID - If you ever see the mirror and for some reason neither of you want to ID that torture, your win con is sneaking the Cyrus in there and dropping Espeon EX (BKP; 52)  to mess math up sometimes. I really hope nobody ever has to play a Ninja mirror again.

That's pretty much it for the Greninja deck. I feel it is currently underrepresented and not teched for because of this, making it a deck that can be a true sleeper for Utah and sneak a top 8. People's builds weren't perfect and I'm confident this is the way to go if you want to run Greninja, even after Forbidden Light drops.
For the other deck I have for you today, it is a bit more of an off the wall play that I've been testing to some solid results lately. Relying on the ZoroPuzzle engine is a very safe option in Standard right now and this build rises up to attempt at beating the popular decks in the format right now. The only iffy matchups for this deck are Zoroark/Golisopod, Greninja, Passimian and Glaceon and even then you still have a chance to get a win.

Zoroark/Garbodor in Standard

I think the Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) /Garbodor/Bursting Balloon may have been a good concept, but the Burstings really took away from the deck and the Garbotoxin lock just never worked out. Trashalanche was only good against fighting and other Zoroark decks provided an issue when they ran even as well as mediocre. Recognizing the bad matchups this deck has in the format made me want to take it and fix it with Counter Pokemon which can be really strong in a Zoroark deck. What I like most about this deck is that even though they say good players can play around the counter energy, a good counter player can do the same in reverse, making for a challenging deck with plenty of rough options that rewards perfect play.
This deck has been a great challenge for me lately and has been very strong, my only losses being to dead draws or to mirrors which are highly draw based 55/45s.

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