Experts' corner

Jose Marrero

3 Strong Plays for the North American International Championships, Their Pros and Cons and Match-ups

Jose examines 3 strong plays for the North American International Championships this weekend.

29. 06. 2017 by Jose Marrero


Hello once again, 60cards readers! The North American International Championships is this weekend and I'm sure players are testing their butts off as we speak for the biggest Pokémon event to date. The Masters Division capped as of Tuesday and this means we should have over 1,000 Masters. If that's the case, which should be exciting to see what they end up doing as far as pods go, because last season they had two pods of Top 32 move on to Day 2, then 6 more rounds then a Top 8. It's no surprise that this event will be the biggest one yet, and essentially the hardest as well, because of the extra Day 2 round. This tournament isn't for the faint of heart, so you better be ready to play 15+ rounds if you want to make it to the final 8. The winner of this event will surely stand out as one of the elites, whether they are a known player or not, which back when it was named Nationals yielded many great players--a lot of them don't play as much but hopefully, will pop up come this weekend. Anyway, I'll be going more in-depth on three strong plays for this weekend which I feel can give you enough points to finish off those invites or maybe even go further than you expected.

I'll first start off with Daniel Altavilla's Zoroark/Drampa-GX list he used to Top 4 Madison Regionals then win Mexico Regionals the following week. It had a handful of accomplishments over the past month and it's hard to change any cards in the list because if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Next, I'll dive into Espeon-GX/Garbodor as I feel it's the ideal way to play Garbodor right now since it has better matchups across the board compared to Drampa-GX/Garbodor. For this list, I'll be taking a look at Xander Pero's Top 4 list from Mexico Regionals with a couple changes. Finally, I'll analyze Azul Garcia's Top 8 Volcanion/Turtonator-GX list from Madison Regionals also with a couple changes. Going into the North American International Championships this weekend I feel these three decks will be "The Decks" to beat, or simply play, so it's up to you whether you're the one to be joining the trend or trying to counter them. As for myself, I'll definitely be one of the ones trying to counter them.

With that said, let's get right into the most hyped and possibly the new best deck in the format right now, Zoroark, Drampa-GX.


If you're not playing Zoroark/Drampa-GX then you should be trying to counter it because it will pop up in the masses this weekend. The deck is simple and straight to the point. Mind Jack doing 30 damage for each of your opponent's Benched Pokémon is very good right now and it only takes a single Double Colorless Energy. Zoroark BREAK's Foul Play gives it many options no matter what deck you face because for just a Dark Energy you can be doing lethal damage, which is scary to think about. Drampa-GX being able to hit up to 180 with a Choice Band makes it that much better and worse case, you can Big Wheel GX for a fresh hand should your hand be weak. The deck's favorability against Garbodor variants makes it one of the best contenders going into the North American International Championships and why Daniel Altavilla and Seena were able to put up great results with it. The deck hits hard and not many decks can counter it because it has two strong attackers, which are both a stage 1 and a Basic, giving the deck a little of everything. A turn one Brigette or Pokémon Fan Club with an energy on Drampa-GX is the ideal opening turn then you transition into a turn two Mind Jack or Berserk and go from there while having Foul Play in mind. Overall this deck should be taken seriously this weekend because if you face multiple of them and you aren't prepared then your tournament won't go so well especially if you are still chasing the invite.

I think Daniel's list will be the ideal list everyone is going to be playing, should they play the deck, because it's near perfect aside from having a couple rough matchups. Meaning you better memorize this list to the core because it'll definitely see play this weekend. The Pokémon lines and counts are hard to change unless you're Seena--he dropped Tapu Koko for a third Zoroark BREAK which is hard to argue because Foul Play is really really good right now. I also see other lists not running Tapu Koko anymore as well so maybe that's the only ideal changeable card in the list. I don't think I would change anything else aside from maybe Tapu Koko because cards like Teammates, Hex Maniac, and Professor Kukui are good on their own merit so I would keep those in. I can see going up to four Choice Band because of how good they are for hitting those magic numbers for both Zoroark and Drampa-GX. Below are some other options that you may want to keep in mind however as I said the list doesn't need much work because it's had success by plenty of people.

Other card options


This card is a solid backup attacker because it too can abuse Dark Energy and with Eevee's Energy Evolution ability you can get Umbreon-GX going on the first turn of the game. It's first attack, Strafe, does a solid 30 damage which can set up a KO later on in the game. Shadow Bullet can take a KO while setting up another KO which is nice. Dark Call GX lets you discard two energy attached to your opponent's Pokémon which can come in handy.

Octillery BRT:

If you dislike Oranguru as the draw, which only nets you three cards, you can opt to go with Octillery instead because five cards are better than 3. However, Octillery is a stage 1 Pokémon, which is the only downside. On the other hand, I guess Oranguru can be used as an attacker since Octillery needs Water Energy and Oranguru only needs Colorless Energy. Silent Lab isn't being played anymore so Oranguru can be used whenever.

Flareon AOR:

Because this deck struggles against Metagross-GX, having Flareon, so that Zoroark is now a Fire type, can be enough to swing the matchup back into your favor. Decidueye-GX variants can be annoying as well.

Giratina XY 184 Promo:

Another deck that this deck struggles against is Greninja so having Giratina to shut off Giant Water Shuriken just may be enough to steal the game. However, its a dead card against pretty much everything else.

Rainbow Energy:

Because the deck plays Drampa-GX as a secondary attacker means you want to be able to fuel it's attack Berserk and by playing at least one copy of Rainbow Energy you now have a higher chance of achieving its maximum damage output while still having the option to use Foul Play.

Super Rod:

If you are worried about running out of Dark Energy then you can drop one of the Rescue Stretchers for a Super Rod, however, Seena said he would have much preferred a second Rescue Stretcher over the Super Rod which he ran in his winning list from Origins.

Field Blower:

There have been talks about people playing Fighting Fury Belts in decks which makes Zoroark and Drampa-GX unable to one shot a lot of things if that's the case so having a Field Blower as insurance can be clutch.


  • Zoroark BREAK's versatility against pretty much anything.
  • Mind Jack forcing the opponent to watch their bench more closely.
  • Drampa-GX's Berserk attack potentially hitting for 180 damage which is relevant in a lot of cases.
  • Big Wheel GX refreshing your hand.
  • Doesn't have many weaknesses.
  • Yields 1 energy attackers for big damage.


  • Struggles against Metagross-GX and Greninja.
  • Fighting based decks such as Lycanroc-GX and Zygarde-EX can be troublesome.


  • Espeon-GX/Garbodor... 60/40
  • Volcanion/Turtonator-GX... 65/35
  • Drampa-GX/Garbodor... 65/35
  • Vespiquen/Zoroark... 50/50
  • Decidueye-GX/Vileplume... 35/65
  • Decidueye-GX/Ninetales-GX/Tapu Koko... 40/60
  • Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu-GX... 60/40
  • Metagross-GX... 35/65
  • Turbo Darkrai-EX... 60/40
  • Greninja... 30/70
  • Gyarados... 80/20
  • M Rayquaza-EX... 70/30


Zoroark/Drampa-GX has been seeing a huge influx in play after Daniel Altavilla's Mexico Regionals win and Seena's Origins win. It'll definitely be one of the more popular decks going into the North American International Championships that's for sure. Its matchup against Espeon-GX/Garbodor is favorable which says a lot seeing as how Espeon-GX/Garbodor will see tons of play this weekend because it has a lot of favorable matchups and is definitely top 3 in many players deck choices going into this weekend. Espeon-GX doesn't really do much against Zoroark so really it only has an effect against Drampa-GX which is basically to Confuse them. Zoroark can take quick KO's against them while managing their Item use and because Zoroark has resistance to Psychic means it'll be harder to one shot them with Garbodor giving the advantage to Zoroark/Drampa-GX. Against Volcanion you should also be favored because they rely on having a number of Volcanion-EX on the bench so it'll be difficult for them to watch their bench while trying to take KO's at the same time. Zoroark BREAK with a Choice Band and Professor Kukui can one hit KO Volcanion-EX for a single Dark Energy thanks to Foul Play. Or against Turtonator-GX a Zoroark BREAK just needs a Choice Band to one shot. If Zoroark doesn't cut it which it will then you also have Drampa-GX which can one hit KO a Volcanion-EX should it have a Choice Band attached. Drampa-GX/Garbodor is another favorable matchup which is slightly more favorable than the Espeon-GX variant.

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