04/02/2018 by Caleb Gedemer
We’re in the midst of a short lull before any bigger American tournaments, so I figure it’s a splendid time to share some of my recent tournament success stories with you. Costa Mesa, California Regionals took place on the third of March, but I already knew for months what I was going to play. My team and I played Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX in Texas about a month earlier, and the deck proved to be extremely strong with four of us making it to day two. My friend Kidd Starck took the deck to a quarterfinals finish while I made the Top Sixteen. There’s nothing better than a hard-hitting deck that has comeback potential and consistency that’s unrivaled by any deck. The list we all used at the tournament worked wonders, and I was very set on running something very similar to it come California Regionals…
Ninetales from Dragons Exalted caught my eye once I started focusing on Expanded once again. It shares the same Ability effect as Lycanroc-GX, so I saw a great option in pairing it with Zoroark-GX. It could serve as a way to get around a Glaceon-GX and its pesky Ability too, so I was considering making the switch to it. After extensive testing, I concluded that Lycanroc-GX is much better, simply for its attacks. Dangerous Rogue GX gives you an out against things you couldn’t otherwise one-shot and Claw Slaw is incredible in Zoroark-GX mirror matches.
After Dallas, we all knew that Red Card and Hex Maniac were going to be a huge trend in the Expanded format going forward. While we didn’t play either of those cards at that event, I knew that if I was going to play Lycanroc-GX again I would need to find the room for them. I swapped a few things around and ultimately fit two Red Card and a Hex Maniac; the results were astounding. The big thing about playing two Red Card comes down more to staving off the degenerate combination from your opponent. By playing a Red Card, you make it extremely unlikely for your opponent to play a Red Card on his or her turn, let alone a Hex Maniac in conjunction. Red Card helps out greatly when you rely so heavily on Colress, a Supporter card that I opted to run three of with just one N as other draw.
Hex Maniac was a last-minute addition, as I had been pretty set on playing Ghetsis in its place. Again, my logic for playing Red Card was to stop myself from getting hit by opposing Red Card. With hands of just four cards, my opponents almost never got the combination off on me. I determined that Hex Maniac would be marginally better than Ghetsis because it has use in more matchups than just the mirror. Ghetsis is only good against decks that play a huge Item engine, whereas Hex Maniac was generally useful against most decks, including Glaceon-GX, a deck that saw a bit of an uprising.
I was very confident going into this event and even got my teammate Joey Ruettiger to play the deck as well. I got to sleep super early and woke up with plenty of time to decompress and show up feeling great…
Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX
- 1x Bunnelby
- 2x Shaymin EX
- 2x Alolan Grimer
- 1x Alolan Muk
- 4x Zorua
- 1x Zoroark
- 3x Zoroark GX
- 2x Rockruff
- 2x Lycanroc GX
- 1x Exeggcute
- 1x Oricorio
- 2x Tapu Lele GX
- 1x Computer Search
- 1x Field Blower
- 2x Pokémon Communication
- 4x Puzzle of Time
- 2x Red Card
- 1x Rescue Stretcher
- 4x Ultra Ball
- 2x VS Seeker
- 3x Sky Field
- 3x Brigette
- 3x Colress
- 1x Guzma
- 1x Hex Maniac
- 1x N
- 2x Choice Band
- 1x Float Stone
- 4x Double Colorless Energy
- 2x Fighting Energy
My list didn’t change much from Texas Regionals. I took out one Ghetsis, one N, one Pokemon Ranger, and one Professor Sycamore for one Colress, one Hex Maniac, and two Red Card. The Professor Sycamore-for-Colress swap was just a conceptuality realization. I think Colress is infinitely better and with two VS Seeker I wanted another option to hard drawing cards. I had considered a single Cynthia but decided against it since Colress almost always yields you as many cards or more. Hex Maniac and the Red Card counts were just a doubling down against the perceived metagame. I didn’t want to get wrecked by opposing degenerate combos, so I opted to play it myself. The biggest thing about the double Red Card is that you could stave off opposing Red Card plays like I mentioned earlier. That’s your win condition, since in the average Zoroark-GX mirror match you have the advantage purely because of Lycanroc-GX. Hex Maniac had a lot of uses but was most obviously for plays with the Red Card itself. I was on the ropes about cutting Oricorio but decided against it in the end. I also considered taking out Bunnelby but kept it, which ended up saving me as you’ll read about soon enough…
The only things I was worried about facing were Glaceon-GX, Greninja BREAK, Seismitoad-EX, and run-hot Zoroark-GX decks. In retrospect, I’d have added Garbodor variants to that list too, but I wasn’t as concerned about them going in. I figured most, if not all of these decks (with the obvious exclusion of Zoroark-GX) wouldn’t be very popular since they hadn’t seen success in the past or were unproven concepts. I ended up hitting at least one of each of these but powered through many of them to still get the win. This deck can beat anything because it’s so incredibly versatile with an array of options to win any matchup.
Round One versus Joltik / Lampent / Mew / Pumpkaboo / Tapu Lele-GX / Zoroark-GX
These games were very simple as my opponent seemed to be pretty inexperienced. In the first game, she made the mistake of playing into the stoppage of Abilities from Basic Pokemon that Alolan Muk brings, and she had to pass the turn. Then, from there I got way ahead and took the win. The second game was a bit closer, but Oricorio got me the lead as it should and Alolan Muk carried my deck as it always does in the Night March matchup. Unfortunately, this was the only round where Oricorio got to serve its intended purpose in the deck. It was something I was considering taking out, but I didn’t want to get burnt by Night March for lacking a proper counter to the deck.
Round Two versus Buzzwole-GX / Carbink BREAK / Landorus-EX / Lucario-EX / Lycanroc-GX / Octillery / Tapu Lele-GX
In the first game I pulled out a nice comeback. Using Shaymin-EX to Sky Return against Buzzwole-GX is a very nice strategy you can pull off with this deck in Expanded. Tapu Lele-GX is another great attacker to finish up Knockouts with after using Sky Return a couple times. Zoroark-GX might be weak to Fighting, but since you can take one-hit Knockouts, that’s nothing to be too worried about. The second game I fell behind due to Wide Lens taking Knockouts on my Benched Zorua, so I was never able to get the Trade power that you need to chain together one-hit Knockouts. In the last game I was on the rocks for a bit in the beginning, but a Red Card stuck with my opponent, running him into an unplayable hand and I was able to rush out my last Prizes just before time was called.
Round Three versus Alolan Muk / Exeggcute / Oranguru / Shaymin-EX / Tapu Lele-GX / Zoroark / Zoroark-GX
Being my first mirror match of the event, I was a little nervous to see how it would go. Some of my friends in Texas had been afraid of the opposing Hex Maniac and Red Card combination, even going as far to say that that version of Zoroark-GX was strictly better than ours and that they felt outmatched. I needed to prove that wrong and that’s what I sought out in this match. Going second, I was playing a bit from behind. Zoroark with Mind Jack is a huge part of this matchup and I used it to take a set of two Prizes followed by a Zoroark-GX. My opponent seemingly Prized a few Zorua, so I was able to capitalize on that and stay ahead. Eventually, he got the Red Card and Hex Maniac turn he was looking for, and when I thought I had lost I realized I could use my Oricorio to Supernatural Dance for two Knockouts on two Exeggcute to scoop up my last Prizes. The second game was a blowout as I got completely locked out by Hex Maniac, so it was onto the third game. I was a little nervous now, however, I got Lycanroc-GX going and dropped a Hex Maniac to shut my opponent out of the game and cruise to the win.
Round Four versus Seismitoad-EX / Shaymin-EX / Tapu Lele-GX / Zoroark / Zoroark-GX
This is a bad matchup, but I felt oddly confident even still. The first game I dominated as my opponent was a little rusty it seemed. He didn’t prioritize Quaking Punch with N as often as I thought he should, so I got to build a big hand and hit combinations. He even broke the Item lock to attack with Zoroark-GX, which backfired and might have been part of the reason he lost this! The second game ended up being super close and my opponent used Foul Play to copy Riotous Beating to then copy my Mind Jack for a one-hit Knockout which just about sealed up the game for him. I was going to win the third game I think, but we didn’t have enough time to finish.
Round Five versus Exeggcute / Mewtwo-EX / Shaymin-EX / Tapu Lele-GX / Zoroark / Zoroark-GX
The first game of this series was brutal. My opponent effectively used Hex Maniac around six turns in a row to completely blank me. The second game was fairer, as I got Lycanroc-GX going and took the easy Knockouts I need to get ahead and stay ahead in the Prize exchange with a Zoroark-GX mirror match. The third game he had an okay start but then I hit him with a Red Card and he drew dead for the rest of the game. That’s Expanded for you, though I guess!
Round Six versus Alolan Muk / Bunnelby / Exeggcute / Lycanroc-GX / Oricorio / Shaymin-EX / Tapu Lele-GX / Zoroark / Zoroark-GX
This was another mirror match, but this one was more special as it was a fifty-nine-card mirror against Dead Draw Gaming Amateur teammate Kris Kemp. Game one I took the early lead, using Lycanroc-GX, and this mirror match was especially pleasant as neither of us had to play around Sudowoodo, just good old one-hit Knockouts galore. The second game slipped through my fingers with a disgusting whiff off a twelve-card Colress and a Trade or two. It was disgusting, but I’d have to recover to win the last game. I dropped a Red Card early in the third game and it got me the win almost outright as he lacked a good response.
Round Seven versus Greninja BREAK / Starmie / Tapu Lele-GX
This is a bad matchup, but not-so-bad if you run very well. The first game I got blasted with Shadow Stitching and N lock from the very beginning and there was no way back into it. The second game I scored an early donk on a Froakie and in the third I was able to draw decently off N and crawl back into the game. Eventually one of my Red Card stopped my opponent from having a follow-up draw Supporter of any kind and he had to pass! Having my Abilities back, I was able to use Lycanroc-GX to Bloodthirsty Eyes for Tapu Lele-GX and score my last two Prizes for the win. This was super relieving to know that I basically had day two locked up provided I didn’t bomb my last two rounds.
Round Eight versus Barbaracle / Glaceon-GX / Oranguru / Sudowoodo / Tapu Lele-GX
I got extremely lucky to win this matchup, which is almost always a loss. Game one my opponent landed three Glaceon-GX in the Prizes and scooped. The second game I got thrashed, and then in the third I somehow scraped together a win mainly by using Zoroark with Mind Jack. Normally a Glaceon-GX player should play around the damage of Mind Jack, but I don’t think my opponent was totally in the zone and ready to do that. Since the damage started to add up, Zoroark went in as my opponent also didn’t have a way to take it down in one hit since it does have 100 HP and Frost Bullet can only hit for 90. I got together my last Prizes with a big Colress turn where I was able to fill my Bench with Sky Field out and take a one-hit Riotous Beating Knockout on a Glaceon-GX.
Round Nine versus Buzzwole-GX / Carbink BREAK / Lycanroc-GX / Octillery / Tapu Lele-GX
These were my most dominant games of this tournament. On the second turn of the first game I had the one-hit Knockout with Riotous Beating on a Buzzwole-GX and I proceeded to solo my opponent with it. There was nothing he could do as I set up so fast! The second game was decided in a few turns when he scooped because I was able to take down his only threat, a Buzzwole-GX that was stuck at the time on the Bench. When Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX runs hot, there is almost no way to beat it.
Round Ten versus Exeggutor / Shaymin-EX / Tapu Lele-GX / Zoroark / Zoroark-GX
This first game I felt far behind the whole time. My opponent drew beautifully and completed the Hex Maniac loop by the third turn, to which I never drew out of it. This game was a royal blowout, but I got a game down in the second one. Lycanroc-GX powered through and I was able to start the Prize exchange. My opponent knowing what he was doing just conceded right there and left plenty of time for game three. The third game was another disaster for me, and while I did hit a Colress off a Red Card, that Colress didn’t do me very much good without access to Abilities. This game left me feeling weird like it was a fluke that I had such a great day the day before.
Round Eleven versus Drampa-GX / Garbodor / Oricorio / Sudowoodo / Tapu Lele-GX
I used Red Card on my first turn and that left my opponent drawing dead for at least five turns. The only problem is that my hand wasn’t great and without a way to draw a considerable number of cards outside of Colress (our Benches were very small, too) I was stuck burning Items and using Trade to only get a few cards in return. I was never able to capitalize and eventually my opponent hit me with an N and Garbotoxin and I was left sputtering until I lost the game. The second game was another disaster where I never drew into an Energy card in a series of draw-passing where I was looking to collect the best hand possible before doing anything. I eventually got hit with N and never drew out of it. These two games were even worse than my first round of the day, so things were not looking great.
Round Twelve versus Barbaracle / Glaceon-GX / Oranguru / Sudowoodo / Tapu Lele-GX
This time my round eight opponent had his way with me, getting out Glaceon-GX in each game and I bricked into oblivion. Even in the first game when I was able to play Hex Maniac right away, he was able to just take it slow and get Energy attachments going. I didn’t have much else outside of the Hex Maniac and while I tried using a Shaymin-EX Sky Return loop, it didn’t work well when you get barraged by N. This series was a quick disaster, and I was on the back foot, needing to win both of my next two games to still make Top Eight.
Round Thirteen versus Oranguru / Wailord-EX / Xurkitree-GX
I knew what my opponent was playing and felt a little relieved. My first three rounds had been horrific, and it was about time I hit a decent matchup. I started with Bunnelby in the first game and while my opponent played Oranguru with Resource Management, it was still an incredibly easy match to win. You build back resources and use Zoroark-GX to knock out the Oranguru whenever it comes up. You can switch between your attackers by using Stand In with a Float Stone attached. This matchup is very hard to lose if you do it right, and in the second game I got there again. The biggest scare was a turn where my opponent hit two heads on Team Rocket’s Handiwork and discarded two Puzzle of Time and two Double Colorless Energy. I quickly got those cards back into my deck by using Bunnelby and Rototiller, so it wasn’t much of a meaningful scare.
Round Fourteen versus Exeggcute / Lycanroc-GX / Shaymin-EX / Sudowoodo / Tapu Lele-GX / Zoroark / Zoroark-GX
I still had one more chance to win and make Top Eight, so this was it. The first game I committed to using Lycanroc-GX at all costs and I even had to get my Rockruff back with Rescue Stretcher to make it happen. My opponent made a critical mistake in taking down Alolan Muk instead of the Rockruff the second time, so I was then able to get out Lycanroc-GX and sweep my opponent’s entire board. I got a Hex Maniac off with Red Card and that pretty much sealed it up. The second game went well for me too, but I made a greedy mistake in one of the last turns. While I did get out Lycanroc-GX and have huge momentum all throughout this match, in my second to last turn I opted to use Colress instead of making a safe play with a simple Guzma for a Knockout on a one-Prize Pokemon. If I took a one-Prize Pokemon, then I’d just have two left and be able to overextend on my next turn for what would hopefully be a two-Prize Knockout. I missed what I needed and ended up losing, even though I dropped an N and my opponent drew Lycanroc-GX off it. The third game was decided immediately from a Red Card I played, and my opponent bricked. A lackluster way to finish the series, but I was happy to be able to make Top Eight.
Top 8 versus Drampa-GX / Garbodor / Oricorio / Sudowoodo / Tapu Lele-GX
The first game of this series slipped away from me after an okay start. The combination of Garbotoxin, Roadblock, and Parallel City makes it very hard for you to recover from an N in the late game, so I had my work cut out for me from the very beginning. In the first game I got down to just two Prizes, but I wasn’t able to draw anything off N at a crucial point and I also whiffed a Knockout on a measly Garbodor. He was able to come back and finish it off at that point. The second game wasn’t much better, but I barely scraped by and got the win. It’s important in all of these Garbodor matchups to still be limiting your Items which can be very hard to do while under Ability and Bench locks. The third game was pretty rough for me and I almost got to deck my opponent out with Bunnelby, but I was missing an Energy to do it. A lot of draw-passing was involved, and I didn’t use too many draw Supporters.
7th Place | 100 Championship Points
I was very satisfied to take this Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX deck to another day two finish, and the Top Eight was a nice bonus. I still think the deck is the best overall in the Expanded format because it has so many options, but the Garbodor / Drampa-GX deck is admittingly a rough matchup. While you might be slightly unfavored, it’s very difficult to get another the late game N shenanigans and there are so many things working in your opponent’s favor. The uprising of Glaceon-GX makes it hard for Zoroark-GX decks in general to succeed, but it’s definitely still a winnable matchup if you draw well or get the first turn Hex Maniac off on your opponent to deny an early Glaceon-GX with Energy Evolution.
At this point I have played this deck so much that it seems rather foolish not to be playing it at every Expanded format tournament I attend. My skill and knowledge of matchups is something I won’t get with any other deck right now simply because I haven’t been able to play them as much. While this doesn’t apply to everyone, I still think that Lycanroc-GX is an amazing Pokemon in Expanded because it can make quick work of other Zoroark-GX decks. Having a Pokemon that capitalizes on a certain Weakness, let alone a popular one, is an amazing trait for a deck to have and that’s part of what makes me like this build so much. I think a second Field Blower might shore up the Garbodor matchup, but honestly I'm worried more about Glaceon-GX decks right now since it has huge curb appeal for newer or less-experienced players. The option to just get a crippling first turn Ability lock automatically beats a variety of decks, so looking for a way to beat that deck might be more valuable in the long run of things.
For most of us the next Expanded format event on the list is Roanoke, Virginia all the way in May, and the new set, Forbidden Light, will be out in time for that event. Malamar, a new card from the set, is likely going to change everything in both formats…
Malamar – Psychic – HP90
Stage 1 – Evolves from Inkay
Ability: Psycho Recharge
Once during your turn (before your attack), you may attach a [P] Energy card from your discard pile to 1 of your Benched Pokemon.
[P][P][C] Psy Missile: 60 damage.
Weakness: Psychic (x2)
It’s very similar to Eelektrik from Noble Victories, a bit of a forgotten card at this point. The biggest selling point for it is that it gets to use the new Ultra Necrozma-GX…
Ultra Necrozma-GX – Dragon – HP190
Basic Pokemon (Ultra Beast)
[P][M] Photon Geyser: 20+ damage. Discard all basic [P] Energy from this Pokemon. This attack does 80 more damage for each Energy card discarded in this way.
[P][M] Destructive Light GX: This attack can only be used if there are 6 or less total Prize cards remaining in play. Place 6 damage counters on each of your opponent’s Pokemon. (You can’t use more than 1 GX attack in a game.)
When your Pokemon-GX is Knocked Out, your opponent takes 2 Prize cards.
Weakness: Fairy (x2)
Aside from having an amazing attacker to work with, Mystery Treasure provides some impeccable support to make it super consistent…
Mystery Treasure – Trainer
Discard a card from your hand in order to play this card.
Search your deck for a [P] or [N] Pokemon, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then, shuffle your deck.
You may play as many Item cards as you like during your turn (before your attack).
Zoroark-GX can still go in on Ability-based decks with Hex Maniac, so it will be interesting to see what happens. No matter what, though, Zoroark-GX isn’t going anywhere! I think Lycanroc-GX is still the best way to play the deck but the Red Card-focused versions with heavier counts of Hex Maniac are attractive too. The biggest gripe I have about those is the fact that they’ll more linear and lack the diversity of a backup attacker as well as Weakness advantage in crucial matchups. Having a gust effect Ability at your disposal is quite amazing indeed.
This deck should still be great going forward! I hope you enjoyed reading into how my games went and hearing about some of the cool plays I was able to make. I’ll be back soon with another report on how my Portland, Oregon Regionals went… I played Lycanroc-GX again, this time with Buzzwole-GX! Until next time, good luck, have fun, and be positive!
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