Experts' corner

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Daniel Altavilla

First I Drop My Top - The New Expanded Zoroark Answer

Danny discusses the state of Zoroark-GX in the Expanded format and offers a counter play.

01/10/2019 by Daniel Altavilla

Hey there 60cards Readers! Last month I discussed a Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)Naganadel (LT; 108) list that I thought was pretty good for Expanded. The deck was pretty fire back then and remains a strong option, with my only main concerns being a very heavy volume of consistent  Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) decks. Blacephalon is a great deck by itself but Zoroark can catch you off guard with  Garbodor (PF; 119) and N-supporter (DE; 96)Red Card (XY; 124) and hitting one or two  Beast Ring (FLI; 102) alone won’t be enough to save you from the Ability Lock and overall control they have. Clown is the alpha of the fast aggressive decks in Expanded right now, but if you don’t catch the Zoroark decks off guard early, you will have trouble dealing with their draw power and can fall behind easily especially vs Zoro/Garb where they shut off your Abilities.

I am fairly confident that Zoroark-GX will peak at Dallas but has already seen a heavy increase in play from Anaheim, and that means you most likely want to play a Zoroark-GX Deck, Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104) / Carbink BREAK (FCO; 51) , or the new Magikarp/Wailord Tag Team-GX. I’d suggest that you want to play something that can handle the Zoroark decks a little better than 50/50 and keep a solid matchup spread all things considered. I would honestly be surprised if  Trevenant (XY; 55) showed up more than it has in the last couple of events, which is relevant because maybe more Stage 2 decks and single prize attacker decks will appear in response.

 Zoroark-GX’s Stance in the Expanded Meta

It is clear as day that Zoroark-GX has actually improved as a deck since  Hex Maniac (ANO; 75) ban. Yes, it is more fair on turn one because they are playing a  Brigette (BKT; 134) now instead of potentially winning off a Hex Maniac or  Ghetsis (PF; 101) alone, but turn 2 and beyond they are hitting you with a Red Card, playing  Colress (PS; 118) for absurd numbers, using Trade multiple times after the Colress and then after setting up a perfect board and putting your hand to four, they Ability Lock you and knock out your Active every turn. They also will N and  Delinquent (BKP; 98) you at perfect moments to really make your already limited amount of tangible resources stretch thin, and that’s only if you face the Zoroark/Garbodor variant. You can either be playing a Zoroark deck right now or be way less consistent than one, which isn’t something you can afford when you’re hitting Zoroark all day at Dallas.

There’s also the Exodia/Hand Lock variant of the deck that just wins turn one half the time, and if it isn’t winning on turn one, it has access throughout the rest of the game to pressure you and kill your hand same turn and can just knock you out of the game at any point.  The pure existence of this deck is going to be attractive to plenty of people, so decks are now forced to tech for this deck or suffer getting combo’d by it.

                             
Zoroark-GX/  Golisopod GX (BUS; 129) and Zoroark-GX/ Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138) are just clearly worse variants of Zoroark-GX/Garbodor BKP. Pod allows you to pressure Zoroark/Toad at least, but even then doesn’t do enough and Lycanroc-GX is pretty useless in Expanded right now, which feels like you need the immediate pressure a Buzzwole-GX or a fully consistent Zoroark-GX deck can provide instead of the slowly built up Lycanroc-GX pressure.
 Overall, Zoroark-GX is what people are going to turn to for Dallas when all else fails or if they just want to earn some Championship Points with the potential to have a deeper run. Ultimately, I’ve been testing the Heavy Anti-Zoroark side of things because I’d like to punish the people who play it. I feel that a deck like this will get a strong Day 1 record and if you hit the right matchups Day 2 you will sail smoothly into Top Cut.

Big Spins in Texas

I’d like to preface this entire section with a fact: 4x Wobbuffet is insanely good in Expanded. To follow that up with a bit less hype, I feel that Wobb suffers from lack of a strong partner, because Wobb can really hurt an Ability-reliant Deck’s consistency. You can’t quite pair it in any sort of “control Wobb” variant and you can’t leave it on its own either, because it is too difficult to close out games against a lot of decks when your consistency relies on Wobb, Tropical Beach, and Steven’s Resolve alone. Wobb just seems to have a moment in every game where it shines and then the adverse happens and it just sort of falls apart. This feels like it is for a couple of reasons – Wobb isn’t really pressuring the opponent past playing Supporters, which makes it no better than Wailord-EX. The only thing that differs is that your opponent cannot use Abilities except for Psychic Pokemon, at the trade-off of having only 110 hp. What you are really accomplishing here is worst case you are putting your Opponent in top deck mode and from here they will presumably not be able to find resources together so you can pressure them with control Supporters like Team Skull Grunt or Team Rocket’s Handiwork when they are playing passive or any of various Energy removal when they are playing aggressive.

While the Quad Wobb control deck feels strong on paper, your deck is hardly as cohesive as your opponent’s and the game is devolved to a top-deck war where your opponent’s deck is usually just more consistent than yours. I may sound like I’m downplaying the deck pretty hard, but it does boast a low-maintenance strategy that typically works against decks that aren’t prepared. I think the issue with any Control variant now is that players will be fully prepared compared to the last couple events, because after the same deck wins two events in a row the first thing we have to do as players is question our own deckbuilding. All of this together screams to me that Wobbuffet is meant to be as low-maintenance as can be but still able to put your opponent on a pretty fast and aggressive clock. The number one Wobbuffet partner besides beefy Primal Groudon-EX for all of time has been Donphan PLS, so now that we have a Basic form of that in Hitmontop LOT I am convinced that we have found ourself a perfect partner for Wobb.

Hitmontop hits for 30 damage and makes your opponent switch with one of their Benched Pokemon. I’d argue that this effect is actually better than Donphan, even if it sets your opponent up to Guzma your Hitmontop right away, and that’s because your opponent won’t always have the Guzma while under your Bide Barricade, so you will actually just be moving their Attacker to the Bench and potentially forcing them to pass or waste Energy or other resources trying to get out of the Active position. This is fine because you still put the damage where you wanted it and now you just get more control over the game. Sometimes this could be an issue when you are just letting your opponent weave between attackers, but I feel I’ve found a pretty good way to combat this strategy and punish it. Hitmontop’s most impressive quality is the amount of damage it can do to Zoroark-GX, clocking in at 200 with Choice Band/Strong Energy/Weakness and Shrine of Punishment to round off 210, or simply using Triple Kick and flipping one Heads with all of the modifiers, needing less modifiers as you flip more Heads. Hitmontop has multiple advantages over Donphan PLS already and to top it all of you have an impeccable amount of pressure versusn Seismitoad where Donphan PLS would otherwise crumble, because you still get 3 shot but it is way easier to stream Hitmontops and Triple Kick can be spammed instead of having to Rapid Spin and switch into Wobbuffett when you can’t attach Float Stone. The card is impressive and when paired with Wobb offers the best balance for a non-GX based deck.

The List

Card Choices

The deck is layered a bit more than just being a HitmonWobb deck though, and I’ll go ahead and get into the list to show this a bit better.

 4 Wobbuffet PHF

                               

This deck is really a  Wobbuffet (PHF; 36) deck before anything else and that means we are going to max out the Wobb line. All things considered, we still run a beefy Basic line because you will still hit a Wobb in starting hand a lot of the time and even if you don’t you can just win the Coin Flip which ups your odds substantially or you could not be playing against a turn one heavy Ability deck. Starting Wobb in your opening hand is only vital for Archie’s Ace in the Hole decks and Zoroark-GX/Hand Lock, and otherwise is only a big plus in other matchups that you’ll still have access to for the rest of the game anyways. Past turn one Wobb is usually just going to buffer KO’s and let you charge up your Tops behind them.

4 Hitmontop LOT

Hitmontop (LT; 113) is the main attacker of the deck and is going to be very good at pressuring EX/GX Pokemon while having a strong chance at trading shots with one-prize decks. A big plus for Top is that your opponents are going to whiff when you make them switch their Active and especially when you put up Wobb after attacking. You have a lot of good options with Hitmontop’s Triple Kick attack as well for pressuring or getting clutch KO’s, and a buffed enough Hitmontop is capable of hitting ridiculous numbers. The card is very underappreciated right now for no reason, it really is an insane addition to the meta.

1 Buzzwole FLI

I want a baby  Buzzwole (FLI; 77) in the deck because of the Counter Gains. You can Sledgehammer against Zoroark-GX, have them Guzma around Buzzwole considering it useless past Sledge turn, and later attach another energy and Counter Gain to Swing Around out of nowhere. You will win games with this play and the Buzzwole lets the deck be so much more aggressive than it is otherwise capable of. Baby Buzz being capable of a Sledgehammer turn lets you crawl out of Prize deficits efficiently so that alone gives the card strong value all around.

1 Diancie <*>

The extra +20 damage is going to help a lot for Hitmontop to two-shot most Pokemon and one-shot  Zoroark-GX. It will provide a ton of value all of the time and Shrine can usually make up for it being prized. The card lets you hit insane numbers constantly and if your opponent targets  Diancie Prism Star (FLI; 74) you always compensate with a beefier Hitmontop.

1 Girafarig LOT

Control decks are getting a little out of themselves, so I feel like the aggression and in-your-face nature of the deck will cause your opponent to use up extra resources and get punished by Girafarig (LT; 94) in return. You also get to catch people off guard by using Get Lost on their one-of Guzma and never giving them the option to hit your Hitmontop again. Girafarig is a lot of value in Expanded period and is the best way for the deck to handle Control because it is so much more cohesive for the deck. I’m not asking myself to find the cards I put back like I am with Resource Management, I’m just picking a couple turns throughout a game to switch up my options and put my opponent at a severe disadvantage.

1 Necrozma-GX

Necrozma GX (BUS; 63) is a no-brainer for this deck. You can just hit different GX Pokemon once and use Shrine, and you just clean up with a Double Colorless/Counter Gain Black Ray GX. You can also just play down Shrine of Punishment and use Black Ray GX and KO every single  Shaymin EX (ROS; 106) in play, which is a power play that punishes Vespiquen and other heavy Shaymin-EX based decks for trying to Guzma around Wobb and have longer turns. You can bench Necrozma and slap a Fighting onto it as pressure too.

1 Tapu Lele-GX

Like any other Expanded deck, we have a bunch of Supporter cards that once found can be reused up to four more times through VS Seeker.  Tapu Lele GX (GRI; 155) is big in this deck not only for the extra Consistency it provides but for the option to just find your Faba or Kukui on demand and it turns Korrina into a different Supporter sometimes as well. You can Energy Drive sometimes too which is actually huge against some of the decks that aim to just slap a ton of energy on the board and swing at you.

3 Professor Juniper

Professor Juniper (DE; 98) is the best Supporter in the game overall and just allows you to get a fresh 7 cards or to play your hand down and replace it with 7 new cards. This card in heavy volumes seems necessary to dig for combo pieces and to compensate for the lack of consistency that Wobb holds you to. Raw Supporter outs in a heavier quantity will help against the Hand control deck as well.

1 N

N is always going to be an asset for any Expanded deck and N/ Spin into Wobb is just as crippling as Garbotoxin a lot of the time.

1 Colress

You want this card to draw greedy amounts of cards against Zoroark-GX. Usually in Expanded it is a Cynthia or better, so it deserves a slot in most decks right now.

2 Guzma

Guzma (BUS; 115) is huge in this deck and 2 is good so you don’t prize it and not have it for a game. Guzma is such a vital card a lot of the time and sets up so many plays so it is arguably the most important utility Supporter for this deck.

 2 Korrina

Korrina (FRF; 95) acts as a free Diancie search and can grab out Computer Search or any of our combo pieces while getting you a Pokemon as well. The card has a lot of value being raw drawn early on which is why I have 2.

1 Professor Kukui

Professor Kukui (SUM; 148) is going to make up for those games that you prize Diancie and will sometimes set up math in your favor for getting KO’s going back into your turn with Shrine. Kukui is very synergetic with the aggressive nature of the deck and really ups your otherwise semi-lacking damage output.

1 Faba

Faba (LT; 173) is a sneaky card that is going to remove your opponent’s Float Stones when you Rapid Spin to try and trip them up and it will also just pressure Special Energy decks. I think you can legitimately mix Faba and Rapid Spin KO’s against quad Double Colorless decks to just win the game by forcing a Wobb active and giving your opponent less Double Colorless to Special Charge back into their deck, which makes for a lot of value out of a tech Supporter. You also get to remove Fighting Fury Belt and Weakness Policy on demand, which can come up and you would rather squash the problem immediately.

                              

4 VS Seeker

You want to reuse your array of Supporter options and I think 4 VS Seeker (PHF; 109) is actually correct for this deck because you want to be able to spam Faba, N or Guzma most of each game.

4 Ultra Ball/2 Nest Ball

Ultra Ball (DE; 102) gives you 4 extra outs to getting Lele and  Nest Ball (SUM; 123) just gives you a free Basic whenever you hit it. You aren’t scrambling to find Basics because most of your starters are really good and you have so many outs all of the time. Ultra Ball at 4 is also just great to get dead cards out of your hand.

4 Choice Band

You want 4 of these because KO’ing a Zoroark-GX is the main goal here – one-prize decks are at an all time low so Muscle Band can take a backseat for now, our damage output suffers by not playing the Choice Band (GRI; 121) .

4 Float Stone

There is absolutely no way a deck that forces you to switch out your attacker every turn is running less than 4 Float Stone (PF; 99) . The 2 Guzma is also helpful for this same reason, so the deck rarely finds itself stuck active at a disadvantage.

2 Counter Gain

This card is insane in the deck and I’m actually at a loss for words at how cohesive it is within the deck –  Counter Gain (LT; 170) just counts as a free attachment so naturally in this deck and sort of turns Korrina into an Energy search card sometimes and being such a boon for the tech cards as much as the main attacker really makes this card a staple.

1 Rescue Stretcher

Rescue Stretcher (GRI; 130) is just better than Super Rod in this deck for the effect to put a Pokemon into your hand.

Special Charge (STS; 105)

You want to use more than 4 Strong Energy a lot of games and even when you don’t have those in discard it can’t hurt to be safe about discarding Double Colorless and Rainbow freely.

1 Computer Search

You want  Computer Search (BC; 137) because it just works so well with Korrina and allows you to dig out whatever card you need on important turns, and it also helps compensate for your Wobb dependency.

4 Shrine of Punishment

Shrine of Punishment (CLS; 143) will spread a lot of damage onto your opponent’s EX/GX Pokemon and when your opponent whiffs an out to your Shrine they start putting Tapu Leles and lower-HP GX Pokemon at risk of a Black Ray GX. This card is also kind of like a PlusPower versus Zoroark-GX that you play once and it hits 3 different Zoroarks. The card is nutty in this deck and can often be unanswered when your opponent sacrifices their Draw supporter to Guzma around Wobb/Rapid Spin, giving them less of a chance to dig.

4 Strong Energy/2 Fighting/1 Rainbow

Strong Energy (FRF; 104) is what makes the deck hit big numbers. 4 Strong is way better with the Special Charge as well. 2  Fighting Energy (XY; 137) is great for letting you place a non-special energy down to try and get a multi-attach set up on one of your attackers, and the  Rainbow Energy (XY; 131) is just better than third Fighting because it lets you use Psychic Assault and can be shuffled back in with Special Charge.

 2 Double Colorless

Double Colorless Energy (ND; 92) is going to fuel your Triple Kicks and the occasional Energy Drive while also letting you Black Ray GX later on in the game. You want them enough to warrant a second. 

Overall I was blown away by how cohesive the deck was when I put it together and in testing it has been very strong. I normally have a matchups section, but this deck is so straightforward that it aims to do the same thing every game with a little mix-up here and there brought on by the aid of your secondary attackers and techs. It pressures most GX decks too heavily and completely obliterates Zoroark, but can lose to some of the Fringe decks or Drampa/Garb. I could see Articuno ROS being a big problem if Archie’s can get set up as well, so the deck certainly is not without weakness. I think it is a very strong option for Dallas and will continue to test and expand on the list with this deck high on my list for potential plays.

 

Conclusion

Hitmontop is making my head spin, I think the deck is very well poised currently and Zoroark-GX is the main victim for us which is very much welcome with the way the meta has been shifting. Either running Zoroark-GX, some sort of Wobbuffet deck or an aggressive and fast deck is going to bring you success in the future of Expanded. I will more than likely pilot this deck for the rest of my Cups in the area and will otherwise be trying to work on similar strategies. Thanks for reading this article, make sure to check out the Team DDG Youtube channel and Dead Draw Gaming, and let’s see some love for Hitmontop! Until next time,

-          Daniel Altavilla

[+26] okko


 

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