Experts' corner

Daniel Altavilla

Ice Trade the Game - Zoroark-GX's Comeback in Standard

Danny examines a couple different Zoroark-GX variants that are cemented into the meta going into the final stretch.

06/28/2018 by Daniel Altavilla

Disclaimer: This article was supposed to be posted before Mexico City Regional, however we were unable to post it sooner. We are sorry for the delay. Thank you for understanding :).


What's up 60Cards readers? Danny here with some of my thoughts going into Mexico City Regionals! The Mexico City SPE yielded some surprising results. After Madison Regionals proved that Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  could overcome weakness by winning the prize trade instead, we saw a lot of hype surrounding Mewtwo PR, Dawn Wings Necrozma PR, and Hoopa STS as non-EX/GX inclusions to Malamar to follow suit. Plenty of League Cups saw a healthy mixture of decks, with Mewtwo PR/Malamar and Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor BKP seeing a ton of hype based on the expected shift after Madison. In response to Buzzwole being so big and all the one-prize Psychic Attackers gaining hype, some players were able to see results with Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  decks. It interests me that Zoroark-GX decks are capable of staying in the format even when Buzzwole-GX gives it the beat down, and I think there's a mixture of people not understanding Buzzwole well enough to find their way around a good Zoroark player and just the capability of Zoroark to adapt so heavily to whatever is going to be big.

After Sheffield Regionals saw a Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138) versus Zoroark-GX/ Golisopod GX (BUS; 17) finals match, it is pretty clear that Zoroark isn't going anywhere. In fact, I think Zoroark may actually just be the top contender going into Mexico this weekend. I'm going to go over a couple Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  lists that I think are primed to have a close to even Buzzroc matchup, a positive Malamar matchup by nature, and a pretty solid mirror. Buzzwole/Garbodor is the true silent Zoroark killer and even that deck can have an issue with these lists so I'm positive they are adapted to the meta going forward in a way that can allow them to keep up with these Fighting decks.

Why Zoroark-GX Was Good Again

Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  decks are some of the most consistent decks thanks to the Trade Ability. As soon as Turn 2, you can start seeing 4 extra cards a Turn, and when you start running through your Deck like that you usually can apply heavy pressure and have a response to whatever your opponent does to you. This is a powerful strategy that will allow the deck to remain relevant for awhile, and it is the biggest reason it is such a good concept. Besides the consistency, Zoroark-GX variants are pretty roomy and can fit in a lot of tech cards like Mewtwo EVO, Mew-EX, two  Parallel City and more. It is generally also great to pull these tech cards out of the Discard at any moment with Puzzle of Time. When you have a deck that fundamentally is so sound, you can switch counts and techs for your expected meta and be able to keep performing well. It is going to take a way faster meta for Zoroark to fall out of relevance.

Tech Options in the Current Meta

Delinquent - You can use this card to punish an opponent for going down to 3, or even taking a 4 or 5 card hand and potentially forcing resources to be discarded. This is very powerful right now where people hold bigger hands because of dead cards like Beast Ring, or a deck like Malamar that usually has a smaller hand mid game and potentially even turn 2 after playing the Ball cards which require thinning the hand. This card is dangerous in the right moment and even more so now that people are forgetting about it.

Latios SHL - Sometimes you need an option to apply early pressure in the Buzzroc mirror and Latios is one of the best choices. Usually your opponent won't intentionally play more than 1 GX in the early game, and that GX is usually going to be a Tapu Lele, so you are most likely going to have a swarm of baby Buzzwole and Rockruff to deal with, so spreading out damage is really important, potentially letting you get kos with Tapu Lele-GX or setting up math on Dangerous Rogue GX. Also very good in the Buzzgarb matchup where you can set up a 4-Prize turn on two Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  to prevent Beast Ring use.

Giratina PR - Greninja is sort of a fringe deck at all times, so Giratina is a better tech in a really small event like a League Cup where you know Greninja might be one of your rounds. The trade-off is playing 59 cards to get 3 free Match Points. If you get at least 1 win against Greninja, playing Giratina is worth the risk.

3rd Field Blower - This isn't necessarily a tech as much as it is consistency finding Field Blower against Garbodor BKP. This can be a huge part of the Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104) /Garbodor matchup, and is going to pretty much make or break whether you win a lot of the games in that matchup which requires the Zoroark player to dead draw. It is also safety against turn 1 Parallel City, and can get rid of Fighting Fury Belt so it can really be good in the right meta.


I feel that Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138) is one of the better choices for Mexico City out of all the Zoroark-GX variants currently available to play. Lycanroc-GX's Bloodthirsty Eyes ability is really good in letting you set up big N/KO turns which can swing any game. You also have the option to use utility Supporter cards like Delinquent and Professor Kukui and bring up a benched Pokémon on the same turn which is just oppressive. Zoroark/Lycanroc is going to have to start being as greedy as possible and just try to overpower decks from the get-go and keep consistent pressure going for the entire game. Without the heavy pressure I don't really see the deck being able to keep up with Buzzwole which really is the bdif and if you go into a tournament with an iffy Buzzwole matchup you're going to be in trouble.

Another cool thing about Zoroark/Lycanroc is that it has these games where you start Parallel City and turn 2 Gust effect onto whatever you want to kill and from there you can sometimes just take control of a game asap and make it impossible for your opponent to ever actually develop a solid board state. Meanwhile, you can spam Delinquent and N to try and lessen the chance of a cheesy game where they hit very specific outs at the right moments.

The deck feels really powerful when you play it for a bit and get a hang of it, and it honestly isn't super hard to play. You mostly just need to have faced a situation before in testing to know how to get around it, and the "good" plays usually come when there are situations you already know how to control and you do so, or situations where you can use your better judgement to figure out what to do even with no prior exposure to the scenario.

The List

Here's the list I had in mind, which utilizes a couple of the techs listed above.

The list is designed in a way that fully takes advantage of the cheesy plays Zoroark/Lycanroc is capable of while staying consistent. I'll go over the counts to help explain further.

4-4 Zoroark-GX - Zoroark is necessary at 4-4 because of Prizing issues. If this weren't already a problem you would want 4-4 anyways because of early pressure on Zorua being so easy to achieve. You also just want to be able to naturally draw into Zoroark and Zorua to give yourself a more broken board state.

3-2 Lycanroc-GX - We don't usually see more than 2 Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138)  a game on average anyway so running the third isn't really too important. One Lycanroc can be fine if you Parallel City yourself or just let the Lycanroc die over time and then Puzzle of Time for it so there isn't any reason besides safety to have the third.

3 Tapu Lele-GX - This is pretty standard in Zoroark decks along with three Brigette, no surprise here. Something to keep in mind is how good Lele can be as an attacker against anything. Never count Lele out, because it is so easy to swing with it, take a hit, retreat, and Parallel it off of your Bench. Knowing how and when to use Tapu Lele-GX is really good because it is such a versatile resource.

1 Latios SHL - I explained this above but I like the synergy Latios has with Mewtwo EVO versus Buzzgarb which I expect to see a decent amount of play. It also can turn 1 or 2 KO an Inkay while setting up math elsewhere which can be really strong as a one prize option turn two against Malamar and also just comes up sometimes to get two shots. Not to mention the work it puts in against Garbodor decks!

1 Mewtwo EVO - Mewtwo is pretty good right now because of Beast Ring requiring a three-energy Buzzwole. Mewtwo also puts in a ton of work versus Necrozma-GX and also hits Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  for up to 70 while not being return ko-able barring a Professor Kukui. It also ohkos a 3 energy Hoopa STS or Mewtwo PR, which actually matters versus Malamar/Non-GX.

1 Mew-EX - Mew forces checkmates against Buzzwole and is pretty much your out most games where all skill gets thrown out the window and you have to win a Prize Trade. Most of the time, when you swing with Mew-EX you are losing the Mew-EX the turn after and that means you get to keep a Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) . This card also plays a big part against Espeon-GX, Necrozma-GX and Mewtwo-GX.

3 N/1 Cynthia/1 Professor Sycamore - This is normally just consistent, I like 5 Draw Supporters, no less. Always room for more if a meta allows that. Mallow can never be counted as a 5th Draw Supporter because it obviously only does something when you can pair it with Trade.

3 Brigette - This is just a part of Zoroark decks that usually doesn't change. You usually need the Brigettes so you can fill up your board turn one. Starting Rockruff or Zorua and being able to Brigette and have 2 of each on board turn one is really good and pretty necessary towards the deck's success.

1 Professor Kukui/1 Delinquent - These are two Utility Supporters that are able to see play because of Trade letting you still see up to 8 extra cards a turn even after using them and being able to be pulled out of the Discard by Puzzle of Time at any moment. Kukui is really good in the deck to eat Lele's off of your opponent's bench with a Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) , though that doesn't come up as much now that lists are running Multi Switch and can just hit more anyways with Claw Slash. Delinquent was explained above and is such a good sleeper card right now.

1 Mallow - This card has great synergy with the Trade Ability and is absolutely necessary in a deck with so many moving parts that are meant to come together. Mallow has seen play as a 2-of and while I don't agree with that I feel the card is required at at least one in most Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  decks.

2 Guzma - This is a really greedy Guzma count but most of your opponent's actives are going to be manageable and worth two Prizes if you play well enough so Guzma has less value. Also, you aim to get 2 Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138)  Abilities off in a game so Guzma overall sees less value. We also don't need to continually chase down Pokémon often anymore, because Parallel + KO a target is usually crippling enough already.

4 Ultra Ball - Staple consistency card. I am between this and 3 Ultra Ball/2 Mysterious Treasure, which I think is actually really broken in Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  decks that play at least 2 Psychic attackers besides Tapu Lele-GX. Discarding one less card is so obviously good in Zoroark, and can turn a really good turn one opening hand into an even better one than Ultra Ball's 2 Discards would allow.

4 Puzzle of Time - Picking up whatever you need at the moment out of your Discard Pile is pretty broken as an effect already, but every Puzzle actually can come in handy to save you from a dead hand. Sometimes a Puzzle and single Tapu Lele-GX + no other Supporters or Zoroarks hand can turn into a Lele for Brigette followed by a Puzzle to attempt to hit an out and with so many real outs in the deck it isn't necessarily unsafe.

2 Choice Band - This number is fine, usually Choice Band comes into play more for Zoroark but Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138)  needs it less thanks to Strong Energy and Professor Kukui. Choice at 2 is worse than Choice at 3 for Prizing reasons, but is fine most of the time so we aren't focusing on this count too heavily.

2 Float Stone -  Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) decks should use more Float Stone. 2 gives you plenty more mobility options and can often bail you out of having to leave a Zorua or Rockruff active turn 1 in a meta where Buzzwole can hit 70 on turn one.

2 Timer Ball - Timer Ball is greedier than Evo Soda because though you don't get a guaranteed Pokémon and can get 0, you also can manage to get 2. It is pretty good in this deck because you can also just grab Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138)  off of it and actually use Bloodthirsty Eyes which comes up more than it doesn't. Timer Ball may not be for every Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  deck but is definitely good for this one.

2 Field Blower - Garbodor. Fighting Fury Belt. Parallel City.

1 Multi Switch - This card lets you turn a 0-energy Rockruff into a Claw Slash capable Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138)  and really shifts momentum. The card also can pseudo heal your Zoroarks by moving the DCE over, which can be relevant where your opponent wants to target the Zoroark with the energy. Multi Switch sets up a lot of plays but is only included in this variant because of your 2-attachment attacks.

2 Parallel City - This card fits the oppressive regime of the deck, allowing you to force your opponent down to three as early as turn one. This is especially good turn one because you can make it so your opponent can only grab two Basics off of Lele > Brigette and that is really broken in Zoroark/Lycanroc which can pick off Basics with ease.

4 Double Colorless - Necessary in Zoroark decks that actually care about using Riotous Beating. Every Pokémon in the deck can use Double Colorless Energy so no less than Four is acceptable.

4 Strong - 4 Strong is another pretty greedy number, but it is always nice getting a turn one Strong onto a Rockruff. It actually is pretty broken if you get a turn of turn 1 Parallel, Brigette and attach to Rockruff, usually it is really hard to lose games where you hit all of that.

Zoroark/Lycanroc Matchups

Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX: 45/55

The matchup is really close and they usually have the edge because of how strong Baby Buzzwole FLI is against your entire deck. Sledgehammer puts in work, as does a late game Swing Around and giving up only one Prize is just better than the 2 you give up by setting up Zoroarks. Usually what you want to do is keep applying pressure early while setting up an unmanageable late game Lycanroc and go for N to 1-2 or Delinquent to 0 and using Bloodthirsty Eyes to KO Octillery, and hoping your opponent whiffs. If you run well enough you can trade knockouts, but you pretty much never win the prize trade so KO'ing Octillery is always very viable.

Malamar/Necrozma-GX 70/30, 65/35 with Ultra Necrozma-GX

This matchup is not as close as the Buzzwole matchup by any means. You usually get an early Parallel and a t2 KO on Inkay followed by consistent pressure on their Malamar, usually leaving them with only one very early. You also have the N pressure and Delinquent can catch them off guard at absolutely any moment. Malamar/Ultra Necrozma isn't as easy because of Ultra requiring less Malamar to function, but that can also be their downfall if they don't prioritize multiple Inkay.

Zoroark-GX/Variants 51/49

I give Zoroark/Lycanroc the edge in every mirror. It is simply easier for Zoroark/Lycanroc to apply pressure to the mirror than vice versa because of the Lycanroc which so hard to KO. You can use Multi Switch shenanigans to get around having to keep attaching to Rockruff and getting it Guzma'd or just run hot and keep Zoroarks off of their board early so that you draw better all game. I only consider it a little better than even because absolutely anything can happen in Zoroark mirrors and since they are as consistent as you the games are always pretty fast-paced yet calculated and intricate.

Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor 45/55

This matchup is semi rough but Latios can actually autowin the matchup. Their job is to keep only one Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  on board because if they bench two you can set up the 4-Prize turn. If they limit their bench, you just go after the Garbodor instead and set up a 5 to 2 turn or force them to bench the 2nd Buzzwole-GX. It is really hard to get around N under Garbotoxin when there is a Buzzwole staring you down though, and even harder to set up as perfectly as I depicted above.

Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138) is a very powerful deck and putting any opponent on a clock is strong in the current meta. You also have the best matchup spread out of the Zoroark decks against the non-Buzzwole field because of your beat down strategy. Zoroark/Garbodor is also a wonderful choice for Mexico City because it boasts a positive Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104) / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138) matchup and a pretty free Malamar matchup, only having trouble with Zoroark decks which are still in the 50/50 area.


The differences between this deck and Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) /Lycanroc-GX are pretty great and lie mostly in playstyle. Zoroark/Lycanroc has a fast beat down aggressive style while Zoroark/Garbodor is more reserved and tries to set up a board state your opponent can't get around. Zoroark/Garbodor is one of the most consistent Zoroark variants by nature because you play extra Ball support to be able to find quick Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  and set your board up. At the same time, you have very stretched out resources that can run out if you aren't careful, because you are digging throughout an entire game and have to make rough Trade discards. This forces you to always make the correct decision or you could end up losing a game.

The cool thing about this deck is the comeback potential it has as you are setting up KOs and avoiding drawing early Prizes as you N and draw 6 while your opponent gets 4 or less, and from there you Toxin lock and pray until you come back into the game. Sometimes you even run so well that you don't need to pray they whiff and you can just be the aggressor at a certain point. It is a very hard deck to play because you have to be able to attack with Tapu Lele-GX at the right time and knowing when to do that, Acid Spray, attack with Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  or just set up KOs can sometimes be tough to figure out.

The List

This list only plays three Zoroark-GX because you usually only get 2-3 out a game anyways with this deck. I think it is fine to have a better chance at natural drawing Zorua but not the same chance of Zoroark-GX because you have the two Evosoda. To explain the Ball cards, Mysterious Treasure grabs Tapu Lele-GX, either Garbodor, Trubbish or Latios for only one discard which is actually pretty relevant in this deck because of how many resources you have that you end up needing later on.

The basic strategy is that you use Latios against Buzzwole and Dusk Mane against Zoroark to set up KOs while you build your board up. The 2-shot pressure is just as significant as it needs to be for a Zoroark to clean up and often times can be done enough to help out Trashalanche or Energy Drive. You use Bursting Balloons to keep reusing Garbotoxin and then getting the tool removed at the end of your opponent's turn in order to Trade again, rinse repeat. Bursting also comes in handy when you are facing Buzzwole because they play zero Field Blower so you can manipulate 60 damage sometimes to set up plays where you can get around Sledgehammer and Beast Ring.
Latios can be very strong to get around Beast Ring as well or at the very least fixing your odd prizing letting you go from 5 to 2 or from 3 to 0 at times. I'll go over the matchups really quick to try and help make your game plan apparent.

Zoro / Garb Matchups 

Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX 65/35

This matchup always feels really close and Buzzwole has a tendency to draw what they need a lot of the time but you can take advantage of the deck's inconsistency under Garbotoxin by setting up KOs with Latios, trying to get around Sledgehammer and more importantly Beast Ring and catching them with a large Deck size when you go for the game shifting N. It can get really close when they are able to set a board up under your disruption but it usually works out for you most of the time.

Malamar/Necrozma-GX 75/25, Malamar/Ultra Necrozma-GX 70/30

Malamar is pretty free. You Parallel them, KO Malamar while getting out Garbotoxin and then when you let up on Bursting Balloon pressure you have ideally gotten rid of the Malamar they were able to set up. Even if they push a little with some pressure, you can push right back for one less Prize with Trashalanche, which puts in work when the deck runs eight Ball cards. This matchup is really hard to lose but anything can happen so I didn't put the % higher.

Zoroark-GX/Variants 50/50, Zoroark/Lycanroc-GX 45/55

Zoroark mirror is close as always, but has a chance to go your way even easier than Buzzwole if you stick a good fast and low N after using Dusk Mane Necrozma to set up 60 on every attacker. After pressuring them so hard you can sometimes get away with Trashalanche hitting big numbers which can win you a game and you can even N them, Garbotoxin, Acid Spray with Trubbish or Trashalanche to discard their Energy and potentially leave them passing. The matchups are all very intricate but if you play well enough you can push it into your favor. It is hard to consider any Zoroark deck actually favored vs any other, but Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX is sort of favored over us because of the annoying Delinquent and how hard it is to deal with a Lycanroc-GX once it starts attacking.

Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor 70/30

This matchup is pretty free because you can just attach to Latios twice, choice band it, and OHKO a Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104)  and then after they Beast Ring you can start putting in work with Trashalanche. If they want to win the prize trade they have to ignore Latios, which makes your job even easier. You also can just do the regular 5 to 2 or 6 to 2 plan.

If you remember to keep it slow and steady and not overpower any non-Malamar opponent from the get-go you'll do just fine with the deck, but it definitely will require a decent amount of practice to figure out when certain options are acceptable. The deck has a little trouble versus Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX at the trade off of a great Malamar match up and Buzzwole matchup. I'm currently testing this list and making subtle changes to see what I like most, so by no means is it final. It is okay to mess around with the list but it might be best to stick to Latios and Dusk Mane at the very least because this deck is meant to go full on into the comeback strategy.


Zoroark-GX is a broken card and will continue to be pretty overpowered for the duration of its playability. These are two of my favorite options and I'm going to continue testing them for Mexico City and NAIC. Make sure to buy your TCG singles and accessories from and and keep drinking water! Until next time,

Daniel Altavilla

[+14] okko


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