05/01/2018 by Caleb Gedemer
As I begin to write this article, it’s worth noting that I have spent nearly forty-eight hours of the past four days traveling to Germany for an Expanded format Regionals. Generally speaking, I like Expanded, I think it’s a fun and witty format, but I’m afraid it has taken a turn for the worse. Some games feel like pulling teeth, and I’ll tell you why. Nonetheless, I do like this format significantly more than some of those in the past like Seismitoad EX (FRF; 20) or Trevenant BREAK (BKP; 66) dominated metagames. The problem begins with Hex Maniac, and while Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) is a good card for the game, it creates an uncomfortable situation where you can Trade to your heart’s content to get access to Hex Maniac over and over. I haven’t run into many games where I was completely locked out before, but I had a run-in where my opponent literally played Hex Maniac every turn of the game at this German event.
Going into it, I planned on playing a deck that either beat Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) , or to just play Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) myself. As was somewhat expected, nothing really seemed to beat Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) consistently, even the likes of Gardevoir GX (BUS; 93) and Glaceon GX (UPR; 39) , things that were supposed to. This said, I worked with Isaiah Williams on his Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) / Exeggcute deck and ironed some things out. We played a lot of games in the days leading up to the event, and again, nothing seemed to consistently beat Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) .
I committed to playing the deck the day before, telling myself there was nothing better and the best plan of action was to just play the best deck in what was sure to be an unknown metagame. As an aside, I think it’s worthy of note that going into the event I did feel like I had an advantage over many of the European players since I was much more experienced in the Expanded format. Many of the native players attending the event told me that they had simply picked decks that had been successful at American Regionals and rolled with them. While their lists may have been polished in this way, I would say with certainty that only a few of them had extensive play time in the format leading up to the tournament to make sure that they knew how to handle in-game situations.
Zoroark-GX / Exeggcute
- 4x Zoroark GX
- 4x Zorua
- 1x Zoroark
- 4x Exeggcute
- 1x Exeggutor
- 2x Tapu Lele GX
- 2x Shaymin EX
- 1x Sudowoodo
- 3x Colress
- 2x Hex Maniac
- 2x Brigette
- 1x Guzma
- 1x Ghetsis
- 4x VS Seeker
- 4x Ultra Ball
- 4x Puzzle of Time
- 3x Battle Compressor
- 2x Red Card
- 1x Field Blower
- 1x Pokémon Communication
- 1x Rescue Stretcher
- 1x Special Charge
- 1x Computer Search
- 2x Choice Band
- 1x Float Stone
- 3x Sky Field
- 4x Double Colorless Energy
This deck revolves on taking one-hit Knockouts with Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) and Riotous Beating. Unfortunately, most decks play Sudowoodo with Roadblock to slow you down and that’s where Hex Maniac and the Exeggcute come in. You can use Propagation on all of them and then drop a Hex Maniac to stop Roadblock and get to fill your Bench. In doing this you also hurt your opponent’s ability to keep going while you unlock the one-hit Knockout potential that you want and need. Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) is built to be able to Hex Maniac every turn of the game so that’s usually what this deck has in mind each game.
4 Zorua DEX 70, 4 Zoroark-GX SLG 53, and 1 Zoroark BKT 91
Paralyzing Gaze is the best attack that a Zorua can have in the Expanded format. You can use it in conjunction with Hex Maniac to potentially break a Hex Maniac lock in the mirror and buying time in general is much better than other silly ways to do a little damage in other matchups. While most decks have many outs to Guzma, just being able to buy yourself an extra turn in key situations will be more than worth it. Having four Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) available to you in this deck is much better than just three copies like in an Expanded format Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) / Lycanroc-GX deck. Four copies give you more ways to draw cards and keep the Hex Maniac lock up, which is the point of this deck in essence. Zoroark with Mind Jack is nice to have access to so that you can give your opponent a one Prize attacker in the mirror match and give yourself one-hit Knockout potential without having to overextend yourself with a Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) and a full Sky Field Bench of eight Pokemon. It is much better than Zoroark with Foul Play since it’s a strong card in any matchup versus just having select value in a few matchups like Buzzwole-GX, Sableye, or Turtonator-GX.
4 Exeggcute PLF 4 and 1 Exeggutor PLF 5
Propagation is unfair for Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) decks and having access to four Exeggcute makes your life so much easier when playing around Sudowoodo with Roadblock. Hex Maniac can give you access to a full Sky Field Bench once more and all of your Exeggcute can join the party for a nice damage boost. Using Exeggcute to make your Ultra Ball discards much easier is a fine way to do things and getting “free” Trade uses from Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) is incredible as well. Exeggutor is an amazing card and gives you basically free wins against stall decks like Sylveon-GX and Wailord-EX and in mirror matches it can stop the onslaught of Hex Maniac plays as well. Blockade is an incredible attack and you can use it to set up Knockouts in a variety of interesting situations making it more than worth its inclusion in this deck.
2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60 and 2 Shaymin-EX ROS 77
These invaluable setup Pokemon make this deck tick. While a third copy of either can be nice, it’s certainly unnecessary. Of the two options, I would prefer a third Shaymin-EX as it allows you to overextend occasionally in the early turns to get the first turn Hex Maniac play that you look to make as often as you can. Tapu Lele-GX is instrumental in finding Hex Maniac as well as early Brigette plays to get your setup that you’re looking to get after.
1 Sudowoodo GRI 66
Sudowoodo is almost just as good as a Hex Maniac in the mirror match starting off. By putting it down, you can avoid your opponent going wild with Shaymin-EX and getting a bunch of extra cards! It’s incredibly important in mirrors as well to limit your opponent’s Bench and make sure that they don’t use Riotous Beating for massive amounts of damage. Aside from Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) matchups, it has limited use, but it’s still a must-have simply for that one matchup.
Most Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) decks have gone through a slow Supporter-migration that I think is finally complete. The correct number of draw Supporters for Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) decks seems to be three, and by having three Colress you’re utilizing the best draw Supporter in the Expanded game for a deck that often fills its Bench to the brim.
2 Hex Maniac
This card defines this deck, it’s the heart and soul of it. Hex Maniac unlocks your Ability to fill your Bench under Roadblock lock and it stops most Expanded format decks from doing what they would otherwise do best. Ability lock is the most crippling lock of all in the Expanded game right now and Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) can pull off back-to-back-to-back Hex Maniac plays very easily with access to so many extra cards via Trade. Two of these ensures you don’t get wrecked by your Prizes and that you can find it early, and often. Using Battle Compressor to discard one of them and then leaving the other the deck for later use is never a bad idea, either.
We went up to two Brigette instead of one for defense against bad Prizes and it very slightly increases your chances of starting with it without having to use Tapu Lele-GX to Wonder Tag. I loved having two of them all through the event and wouldn’t switch this.
A single Guzma does the job and while there are sometimes games where you Prize it, you can usually hit it off your Prizes quickly and get rolling again right away. Guzma is critical usually once or twice a game to take extra Prizes on a two-Prize Pokemon, so playing two wouldn’t be something awful. However, I have had no issues with just a single copy since you have so many different ways to find it out of your deck in a pinch.
Ghetsis is another key to the lock you aim to build with this deck. Sometimes Hex Maniac isn’t as effective against certain decks and you know one of your opponent’s only outs are an Item card. In those situations, Ghetsis is the perfect call and you can completely cripple your opponent’s game plan. It’s close to being an Expanded staple and I wouldn’t recommend taking it out!
4 VS Seeker
Having as many extra outs to Hex Maniac is integral to your strategy so having a full set of VS Seeker is needed. It pairs well with one of your three Battle Compressor for quick Supporter plays in the early game too, which is incredibly useful. This deck is built for the long game so having four VS Seeker is important.
4 Ultra Ball
Getting your setup Pokemon early is awesome and these guys help you do it. Exeggcute can make most of your Ultra Ball plays “free of charge” which is amazing.
4 Puzzle of Time
Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) loves Puzzle of Time and it improves your late game as well as chaining effects with your Hex Maniac. Just having access to pretty much any card you want at all times is worth it so a full set of these is going to be a must for this deck.
3 Battle Compressor
This count is incredible and greatly improves your consistency, especially in the early game. Getting your Exeggcute in the discard pile and thinning out unnecessary cards from your deck is nice especially once your opponent begins to play N or Red Card against you! You will have much better odds of drawing what you want without a bunch of fluff in the deck still.
2 Red Card
Playing N is too slow for this deck since it wants to play Hex Maniac each turn so Red Card is the best way to disrupt your opponent. Two copies give you better chances to get it early with a Hex Maniac and once you drop that devastating combination in the same turn it might be lights out for your opponent!
1 Field Blower
Having at least one out to Garbodor and Garbotoxin is a must and Field Blower also has many other great uses. Up against a Glaceon GX (UPR; 39) deck with Barbaracle you’re going to want as many ways to clear off your opponent’s Stadium cards so that you can still play your Double Colorless Energy from your hand. Removing your opponent’s Tools can be useful as well to make him or her need more cards to get return Knockouts on your Pokemon.
1 Pokemon Communication
This is just another early game consistency card that is super strong. It can help you get out even more Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) and gives you more outs to Hex Maniac or even Brigette if you’re still trying to set up.
1 Rescue Stretcher
Sometimes you need some extra Pokemon for your Bench to take Riotous Beating Knockouts so Rescue Stretcher can step in and get those Pokemon back for you! Having the option to immediately grab something you want from your discard pile like Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) is a nice consistency boost as well and I particularly like using Rescue Stretcher to get Exeggutor back from my discard pile so that I can use Blockade multiple times to screw with my opponent.
1 Special Charge
Using Special Charge in a Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) deck usually means you want to have to spend a double Puzzle of Time play to get back a Double Colorless Energy from your discard pile. Special Charge will just put that Energy back for you and leave you free to get other, more luxurious cards that will give you higher winning percentages.
1 Computer Search
Consistency is this deck’s focus in the early game and Computer Search is the best Ace Spec for the job. Getting anything from your deck is unmatched in power and it creates so many unique options for you. You can use Puzzle of Time to get it back and get the missing piece you need for a Knockout once you start moving, too.
2 Choice Band
Only two Choice Band is fine with Puzzle of Time at your disposal. Choice Band is instrumental in mirror match one-hit Knockouts be it Riotous Beating with a full Sky Field Bench and a Choice Band to take down an opposing Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) or a Mind Jack from Zoroark with a Choice Band when your opponent only has six Pokemon down for a Knockout. In other matchups the math with come into play, too, and you’re going to need Choice Band a couple times a game to finish up Knockouts. You can be sneaky with your Exeggutor, too, and put a Choice Band on it to Blockade and set up Knockouts on things you otherwise couldn’t take down with Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) like Gardevoir GX (BUS; 93) , for example.
1 Float Stone
A single Float Stone has been perfect for me and having that option of a way to pivot around is valuable. Sometimes you will Puzzle of Time to get your Float Stone back, so you can pull off fancy plays where you need to switch around and overall, I think at least one of these is an absolute must.
3 Sky Field
Sky Field makes your whole strategy in this deck come to life by opening the gate for Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) to do massive damage and it allows you to play down support Pokemon to complement your strategy. It’s such a good card that Sudowoodo with Roadblock is played to combat it so it’s an obvious choice to play three of them, so you have a solid shot of getting it early when you want it and then throughout the game down the road. Four could be nice sometimes but you don’t need that many all too often and you can Puzzle of Time to retrieve it as well.
4 Double Colorless Energy
This deck doesn’t have any meaningful attacks that can’t be used with Double Colorless Energy, so this is all you need! Maxing out is obvious, and Special Charge and Puzzle of Time plays can allow you to get back even more than the four that you play by default.
Supernatural Dance will solidify your Night March matchup for you if you’re having troubles with it. I personally don’t think it’s needed since Red Card and Hex Maniac can already shore the matchup for you but if you really need something more this is the card to play.
First Pokemon Ranger
Giratina-EX and Seismitoad EX (FRF; 20) are scary cards to face up against, but Pokemon Ranger can save the day, sometimes… I don’t think this card is good enough to play since you’ll almost never use it outside of the aforementioned decks which are also super unpopular by themselves.
Second Pokemon Communication
Another way to improve your consistency percentages lies with this card. I don’t think it’s needed but switching between the third Battle Compressor and this to try it out has some merit.
Giving yourself another Shaymin-EX to work with can be very strong to hit turn one Hex Maniac drops more often while also having multiple Zorua down. The only problem I have with it is not having the Bench space to even put it down with opposing Sudowoodo with Roadblock being everywhere. I think the deck operates just fine without this third copy, so I wouldn't play it personally.
Third Tapu Lele-GX
Having the third Tapu Lele-GX falls into the same boat as the Shaymin-EX discussion as it will improve your odds of a first turn Brigette or Hex Maniac, but not much else. The goal of this deck is to get as many Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) out as possible and then start spamming your consistency options with Trade, so I don’t think too many valid arguments exist to this deck needing “more” consistency past the first couple turns. I think the third Shaymin-EX is strictly better in this place, but again, I don’t think either of these is particularly needed.
Buzzwole-GX Toolbox | Slightly Favorable
This deck has died down a ton, so I wouldn’t expect to face it if at all. You can one-shot them just as easily as they can one-shot you, but you can also use your Zoroark with Mind Jack to clean up with a one-hit Knockout at some point. Your opponent’s attacks for one-hit Knockouts are dictated by multiple Energy attachments versus yours just being a single Double Colorless Energy. This said, it’s a lot easier for you to take those big Knockouts than it is for your opponent. As long as you can constantly stream attackers you will win, and to make things even better for you and you can get ahead with Red Card and Blockade from Exeggutor is pretty strong too, especially against an attacker with no Energy on it!
Garbodor / Drampa-GX | Slightly Favorable
Your opponent has no way of taking reliable one-hit Knockouts until you play enough Items for Trashalanche to get there. This means you can dictate the pace of the game which makes it favorable for you from the start. Drampa-GX can disrupt with Righteous Edge but you have Special Charge and Puzzle of Time to recover your Double Colorless Energy. The key to this matchup is taking it as slow as you can if you don’t have a rocket fire start. If you do, then you want to try to run your opponent over as quickly as possible. Never settle for anything less than a one-hit Knockout unless you’re using Shaymin-EX to Sky Return. Sky Return can be very instrumental to setting up knockouts. The weird thing about this matchup is if you Field Blower the Tool off Garbotoxin, then you have to deal with Sudowoodo and Roadblock. Sometimes it’s easier to just play under Ability lock to avoid the bothersome Bench limitations. You can cope with Parallel City since Exeggcute can come back from the discard pile which is always nice. Take it slow unless an opportunity presents itself and if one does then capitalize on it.
Garbodor / Sableye | Slightly Favorable
This deck is seeing a bit of a comeback after a Top Eight spot at Germany, but I still don’t think it’s very good. Use your Field Blower to get your Abilities back and to strip Sableye of its Life Dew. Energy recovery is your friend and a Red Card with Ghetsis play will almost always destroy your opponent’s entire hand which can lead to some cheap wins.
Garbodor / Seismitoad EX (FRF; 20) | Unfavorable
Cross your fingers and hope your opponent bricks! Ghetsis and Red Card can hit the deck hard in the early game, as can some one-hit Knockout pressure that you can put on right away. You’re going to need to survive long enough to take a Knockout or two before the Ability and Item lock hits because once that happens it will almost always be over.
Gardevoir-GX | Even
Hex Maniac and Red Card are you friend in this matchup. Using them in conjunction will make it very hard for Gardevoir GX (BUS; 93) to take Knockouts and then you can force your opponent to trade Prizes with Gallade. Gallade, although extremely good against Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) decks, is super hard to stream consistently since your opponent will need Rare Candy as well as the Evolutionary pieces and a Double Colorless Energy to actually attack still. It’ll be a longshot to keep up an attacking trade with a Stage 2 Pokemon.
Glaceon-GX Toolbox | Even
Glaceon GX (UPR; 39) is rough to deal with but you can still sometimes get around it. Your Exeggcute make it a whole lot easier to take one-hit Knockouts when opportunities present themselves and if you get to go first you can play a Hex Maniac to stop Eevee from using Energy Evolution which usually wins you the game. There is a ton of luck that plays into this matchup so hopefully variance will be on your side!
Greninja BREAK | Slightly Favorable
I don’t mind this matchup at all since you can play Red Card to disrupt your opponent and Hex Maniac to stop Giant Water Shuriken. You can one-shot your opponent’s Pokemon with Sky Field in play and as long as N and Shadow Stitching don’t get you, you should win.
Sylveon-GX | Favorable
Red Card, Ghetsis, and Exeggutor are all you need to win this matchup. Every Ghetsis play should get you a Knockout since your opponent probably won’t be able to heal the damage you do for the turn and if you ever get to use Blockade and Ghetsis in the same turn then your opponent will pretty much have no option as a response.
Trevenant BREAK (BKP; 66) | Even
Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) can easily knock out Trevenant BREAK (BKP; 66) but Espeon-EX and Enhanced Hammer are the bigger problems. If two Silent Fear can go off, then you’re going to be in a rough spot. Staggering your Zorua is important so that they all don’t get knocked out with Miraculous Shine at the same time. Hold onto your resources for turns that you get to take a Knockout and prioritize saving your Colress for turns that you can get far ahead. Trade obviously helps you get the cards you want like Double Colorless Energy, so it can make dealing with Item lock a lot easier.
Wailord-EX | Favorable
This matchup is even easier than that of Sylveon-GX, you just need to use Ghetsis and Blockade again and again. Your opponent does have Enhanced Hammer and Max Potion that he or she can potentially use to hurt Exeggutor, but you can recover your resources and just keep using Blockade. Eventually you will knock everything out and even if you can’t then you can move into Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) to finish things off.
Zoroark-GX / Alolan Muk | Even
Alolan Muk is the issue here but if it doesn’t come into play then things shouldn’t be a problem. Exeggcute is very essential to your strategy and that’s why Alolan Muk is such a big deal. The key to mirror matches is limiting your Bench to play around Mind Jack whenever possible and trading Prizes. Hex Maniac will spot your opponent when you get to use it with Red Card unless your opponent gets insanely lucky.
Zoroark-GX / Exeggcute | Even
This mirror match is toxic and it’s going to largely come down to who gets to start the Hex Maniac lock. Using Exeggutor can buy you a turn of Abilities by stopping Hex Maniac from being played so that’s a great option if you need to find a way back into the game. Frustrating as it may be, this is most likely going to be the matchup you face the most in the Expanded format.
Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX | Slightly Favorable
Lycanroc-GX has been pushed out of the format for the most part because its Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) / Exeggcute matchup is rough. The deck just isn’t as devoted to Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) as this one and eventually Hex Maniac will catch up with it. In this matchup Bloodthirsty Eyes isn’t really a threat since you’re going to be using Hex Maniac as often as possible.
Zoroark-GX / Night March | Slightly Favorable
Getting a Hex Maniac with Red Card play or with Ghetsis play will get you ahead in the Prize trade in this matchup if you happen to be behind. Your Zoroark with Mind Jack can trade Prizes evenly which is super nice and don’t forget that you can take down Joltik with Shaymin-EX and its Sky Return!
This deck is easily the best Expanded format deck. I will almost certainly be playing it for Salt Lake City, Utah Regionals in the coming weeks. Right now, I’m primarily focused on the Standard format for Brazil Internationals however! Catch you guys later, take care.
Seismitoad EX (FRF; 20)
Trevenant BREAK (BKP; 66)
Gardevoir GX (BUS; 93)
Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)
Glaceon GX (UPR; 39)
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