Experts' corner

Jose Marrero

A Closer Look at the Finalists Decks of the 2018 North American International Championships

Jose examines the two finalists decks from the 2018 North American International Championships.

07/22/2018 by Jose Marrero


Hey there 60cards readers! I'm back once again with another article, though this time I'll be taking a closer look at the finalist decks of the 2018 North American International Championships not too long ago. Before I begin I'd like to talk a little about my experience at the 2018 North American International Championships. First off it was a blast getting to see everyone and players that have taken breaks from the game. On top of that, there were two Pokémon GO events going on at the time. One being Articuno Day and the other being Community Day featuring Squirtle. It was a ton of fun going out and exploring with friends and catching shiny Pokémon. My tournament run ended with a 6-2-1 record finishing in Top 128 out of over 1500 players. I ended up playing Malamar/Hoopa. While I'm excited to have finished strongly it just wasn't enough to keep me in Top 16 of a Day 2 Worlds invite placing me at 17th in US/Canada rankings with 1292 Championship Points.

Unfortunately, I was 16 Championship Points shy of a Day 2 invite so I will be playing in Day 1 of Worlds next month. However, I did make it through Day 1 and into Day 2 last year so hopefully, I can get there again after being so close to skipping Day 1 this year. Heartbreaking for sure but it is what it is and hopefully next year I can finish stronger. Moving on the two finalists were none other than Stephane Ivanoff and the one and only Tord Reklev. The 2018 North American International Championships was the biggest Pokémon event to date. Stephane ended up winning the whole thing with an impressive overall record of 14-0-4. This man did not lose a single match through 18 rounds. Tord actually would have had the exact same record should the final result had been vise versa because Tord was also 11-0-4 going into Top 8. These are two phenomenal players to have met in the finals with an undefeated record and proves that practice, testing, and perfecting your list is important.

Down below is Tord vs Stephane's 2018 NAIC finals match if you want to check it out and see how the games actually played out.

With that said, let's now take a closer look at Stephane's winning Zoroark-GX/Garbodor list from the 2018 NAIC.

Stephane Ivanoff (1st Place Zoroark-GX/Garbodor)

4-4 Zoroark-GX

Zoroark-GX just does not seem to want to go away even with all the Buzzwole decks running around. Zoroark-GX proves once again why it is one of if not the best card to ever be printed. Stephane took advantage of Zoroark-GX and took down the biggest Pokémon event of all time. Most if not all decks run a maxed line of Zoroark-GX simply because they give the deck you are playing a lot of consistency with its Trade ability. Not only that but it's attack, Riotous Beating can do some big damage for just a Double Colorless Energy.

3-2-1 Garbodor

Now, what's interesting is that Stephane played a thin line of Garbodor compared to Zoroark-GX. Stephane decided to play all copies of Acid Spray Trubbish. Acid Spray can sometimes buy you a turn of stalling in case you failed to set up. As you can see Stephane went with two Trashalanche and one Garbotoxin Garbodor. Stephane knew how important and strong Trashalanche is in the current format and took them to victory. Garbotoxin is also important just for shutting off abilities so that you can take control of the game.

1 Kartana-GX

I like the one of Kartana-GX in this deck for a number of reasons. The first for its ability, Slice Off in which discards a Special Energy attached to one of your opponent's Pokémon. Another reason is its GX attack in which can straight up take a prize card for just a single energy. Gale Blade isn't too bad as well because you can reuse it's ability if you shuffle it back into the deck for later use. Overall a very solid card in this deck for sure.

1 Latios

It's first attack, Break Through does 30 damage to the active and 30 to one of your opponent's Benched Pokémon. Great attack for setting up KO's later on. It's second attack, Lagoon Flight does a solid 70 damage. However, with a Choice Band attached it can take out Buzzwole-GX in one blow or simply just a baby Buzzwole.

4 N

When you see decks playing Garbotoxin, usually you will also see four copies of N. This is because N can be crucial at any point in the game once Garbotoxin is on the board. Denying access to Tapu Lele-GX or Octillery can win games for sure.

3 Guzma

Three copies of Guzma in this deck seems ideal because it doesn't play cards like Lycanroc-GX to drag things up. You can always use Puzzles of Time to get them back if need be.

2 Brigette

As much as I'd like to see a third copy of Brigette in this deck I can see why Stephane played just the two. It's hard to fit everything in this deck because it has so many options going for it. Making a cut here seems fine because the deck still plays three copies of Tapu Lele-GX and the odds of prizing both Brigette is very low.

1 Cynthia/1 Professor Sycamore/1 Acerola

One Cynthia and Professor Sycamore make sense as well because the deck plays four copies of N as I mentioned. It'll be rare to want to use any other draw supporter if you are trying to limit the opponent's hand while under Garbotoxin lock. You also do not want to have to discard any copies of Puzzles of Time which is why only one Professor Sycamore. Now, Acerola seems like it can come in the clutch at times. Healing off a Zoroark-GX or Tapu Lele-GX can make games more difficult for the opponent.

4 Puzzle of Time

One of the best cards in the game and best paired with Zoroark-GX. Getting back resources is always a great option to have. Puzzles of Time can win games at a moments notice. Being able to get back any two cards at a time can put tons of pressure on the opponent.

3 Field Blower

Because this deck plays Garbotoxin that means you are also shutting off your own abilities. However, with three Field Blower, you can remove the tool off your own Garbodor and then Trade a bunch and reattach a tool and keep the lock going. Opposing Parallel Cities are annoying too so getting rid of them as soon as possible is a good idea.

1 Evosoda

This card can help evolve into Zoroark-GX or Garbodor. Simply a fast way to evolve your Pokémon without any drawback.

1 Mysterious Treasure

I like the one of Mysterious Treasure in this deck. It can search out Tapu Lele-GX and all Trubbish lines as well as Latios. You only have to discard one card as opposed to two cards like Ultra Ball saving you a resource.

1 Rescue Stretcher

Not having to use Puzzles of Time to get back Pokémon is always nice. Rescue Stretcher can get back three Pokémon or one straight to the hand if you need a certain Pokémon right away.

1 Enhanced Hammer

Energy disruption paired with Garbotoxin has always been a great combo. Kartana-GX also helps in this scenario. Ridding the opponent of Special Energy can force the opponent into discarding big hands just to find energy. If so it is likely they are forced to discard a number of items allowing Trashalanche to hit higher numbers.

3 Float Stone/2 Choice Band

It is important to have tools on Garbodor to make use of Garbotoxin. This means you have to play a solid amount of tools. Three Float Stone seems fine since there is just one copy of Garbotoxin. A couple Choice Band are needed as well to hit those magic numbers for easier one hit KO's. Remember you can use Puzzles of Time to get back tools if need be.

2 Parallel City

I can see why Stephane was able to take the whole event by storm. The combination of energy disruption, ability lock, and Parallel City is a lot to handle for most decks.

3 Unit Energy LPM

The main reason Stephane decided to only play Unit Energy instead of Psychic is that of Kartana-GX. However, Unit Energy acts as Psychic Energy as well so you get the best of both worlds in one card. The only downside to Unit Energy is that they can be discarded by cards like Enhanced Hammer.

Other card options


Buzzwole decks can be troublesome for Zoroark-GX decks. However, the deck plays Garbodor which can handle them just fine. Stephane probably decided against Mew-EX because he knew how important Garbotoxin is against Buzzwole decks. Shutting off Octillery, Diancie, and Bloodthirsty Eyes can go a long way.

Mewtwo EVO

Another great attacker against Buzzwole decks. However, if Buzzwole only has a single energy then Mewtwo isn't doing too much damage. At least Mew-EX can threaten legal KO's.

Dusk Mane Necrozma SM 107 Promo

I know Gustavo Wada played this card in his Top 4 list from Toronto Regionals. It's first attack, Dusk Shot does 60 damage to one of your opponent's GX or EX Pokémon for just a single Metal Energy. This attack can help chip away at the opponent for easier KO's.


The deck already plays stadiums. Delinquent can come in the clutch and win games out of nowhere if played at the right time. It can also assist in discarding opposing stadiums.

Counter Catcher

This card can do wonders if played at the right time. If the opponent doesn't see it coming then even better because it can act as a Lysandre and still be able to use another supporter like N. You can even reuse it with Puzzles of Time if you wanted.

Bursting Balloon

I know both Gustavo Wada and Frank Diaz are fans of Bursting Balloon in this deck. However, Stephane proved to the world that the deck does not need them to be effective. However, the added 60 damage forces the opponent to use early Field Blowers. The neat thing about Bursting Balloon is that if you attach them onto Garbodor then it activates Garbotoxin and the following turn you get your Trades right back because Bursting Balloon only lasts one turn. If the opponent target downs Garbodor then they at least take 60 damage in which Zoroark-GX can finish off.

With that said, let's now get into Tord's Zoroark-GX/Control deck that surprised everyone to a finals finish.

Tord Reklev (2nd Place Zoroark-GX/Control)

4-4 Zoroark-GX

Tord makes the finals of the NAIC for the second year in a row. Tord proves yet again that testing is key. Obviously, 4-4 Zoroark-GX is a no-brainer in any Zoroark-GX build. Trade and Riotous Beating are ridiculous abilities and attacks for a stage 1 attacker to have.

4 Tapu Lele-GX

Tord was actually one of the first if not the first player to play four copies of Tapu Lele-GX to a strong tournament finish. Here he does it again. The deck is basically a Zoroark-GX deck so making sure you have a turn one Brigette is important. You want to have at least three Zoroark-GX by turn two in this build. That way you can pretty much have all the options you want. Four Tapu Lele-GX may seem like overkill but to be honest, it's not. Tapu Lele-GX is also a solid attacker in a lot of scenarios.

1 Mew-EX

You never know when you are faced with Buzzwole. Having Mew-EX to ensure you have a way to one hit KO them is needed. Otherwise, you may get steamrolled and take a hard loss.

1 Oranguru ULP 114

This card was MVP for sure. I've seen Tord utilize this card to the fullest. Tord was able to take down Slyveon-GX and Hoopa decks simply because of Oranguru. Getting back resources and forcing the opponent to be Confused are both indications on why Oranguru isn't to take lightly.

3 Brigette

Tord loves his Brigettes so I wouldn't be surprised to see anything less than three in his builds. Zoroark-GX decks crave on a turn one Brigette because that is what they only want to achieve on the first turn of the game. Getting out at least three or four Zorua assuming none are prized is ideal on the first turn.

3 N

I like that Tord plays three N because I've always been the one to play three N over three Cynthia like many players do these days. N is too important and by playing just two you may not have it when needed most.

3 Guzma

Three Guzma is fine in this build because it doesn't play Golisopod-GX so you aren't going to Guzma as often.

1 Cynthia/1 Professor Sycamore/1 Mallow/1 Team Flare Grunt/1 Delinquent/1 Acerola

These are all the one of supporters Tord went with. One Cynthia to refresh the hand in case N would give fewer cards. One Professor Sycamore because you don't want to have to discard too many resources like Puzzles of Time. One Mallow because it allows you to put any two cards from the deck on top of your deck which then you can Trade into them. One Team Flare Grunt because energy disruption is why this deck was a surprise and did so well. One Delinquent because discarding the opponent's hand and making waste resources is nice. Finally, one Acerola to keep Zoroark-GX out of harm's way. All these supporters have merit and do different things in different scenarios.

4 Puzzle of Time

As I mentioned before getting back resources is nice. This deck can do that with Puzzles of Time and Oranguru. Tord probably got back Puzzles of Time too many times to count thanks to Oranguru.

3 Evosoda

Like I said having three to four Zoroark-GX by turn two is what you want the deck to achieve. Having three Evosoda will surely help without having to discard resources. You can always Trade away the extras if you don't need them anymore.

3 Enhanced Hammer

This card helps run other Zoroark-GX decks out of Special Energy namely Double Colorless Energy. Energy removal can be one of the decks main strategies depending on the deck you are facing.

2 Field Blower

Garbotoxin and Parallel City can be annoying so having at least two copies of Field Blower is fine. However, I'd almost like to see a third copy especially after Zoroark-GX/Garbodor winning the NAIC.

2 Counter Catcher

I was surprised to see Counter Catcher let alone two in this deck because of all the ways to stop the opponent from attacking. Still, they can be helpful for when you want to stall and still use another supporter. This scenario will likely happen when you want to attack with Oranguru to get back resources.

2 Max Potion

This deck keeps getting more harder to take KO's on. That is why it's called Control. Healing off Zoroark-GX and attacking with a fresh one wins games a lot. Denying KO's is something you always want to try and achieve.

1 Rescue Stretcher

Getting back Oranguru with Rescue Stretcher instead of Puzzles of Time is nice. That way you can save your Puzzles of Time for other resources. Mew-EX is also great to get back with Rescue Stretcher against Buzzwole decks.

2 Weakness Policy

One of the newest additions to Zoroark-GX decks. This is because Buzzwole decks are such a huge threat. Having Weakness Policy will make it more difficult for Buzzwole to one hit KO Zoroark-GX. Buzzwole decks did not play Field Blower at the time which was perfect since they could not remove Weakness Policy.

1 Float Stone

Having at least one Float Stone can go a long way. Having a free retreater is important sometimes especially after you have been KOed.

2 Parallel City/1 Reverse Valley

One of the deck's ways to steal games is Delinquent so having at least three stadiums can help achieve this win condition. Parallel City limits the opponent's bench but it can also limit your own if you want to discard Pokémon that are heavily damaged. Reverse Valley gives Zoroark-GX 10 extra damage which is actually very relevant. Zoroark-GX can now potentially one hit KO baby Buzzwole, Psychic Hoopa, and baby Volcanion, and plenty others.

Other card options

Choice Band

Tord didn't play any copies of Choice Band and to be honest I can see why. The deck doesn't care to take fast KO's. That is why it is called Control and plays multiple Counter Catcher. Patience is key when playing this deck and Tord is a pro at that.

Closing Thoughts

That will conclude this article on the finalist's decks of the 2018 North American International Championships. I'll have another article soon with new decks featuring Celestial Storm. Moving forward I think both Stephane's and Tord's decks will still see play even after the release of Celestial Storm in a couple weeks. Worlds is next month and Celestial Storm will be legal for it. Not to mention the Nashville Open will have the new set legal for play as well. Players will have to test and test to get ready for these two events if they want to have a strong showing. If you see me at Worlds be sure to come say hi or take a picture with me. Worlds is always a blast to attend whether you have invite or not. I can't believe the season is almost over and just three weeks after Worlds is the first US Regional of the new season in Philly.

If you want to help support my team, be sure to check out Team ARG's Pokémon page on Facebook: "Team ARG Pokémon-TCG." There you can keep up to date with all the players on the team. Also, check out and be sure to pick up some awesome dice and GX markers. They are by far my favorite dice to use and I recommend getting yourself at least two sets of any given color. I recently started coaching on so if you are interested then check them out to schedule an appointment or just pm me directly. Don't forget my Twitter handle is down below if you want to follow me for when I post lists and other exciting news.

If you have any questions, then please feel free to leave me a comment below or message me on Facebook. I'll be sure to get to them as soon as possible.

As always, if you enjoyed reading this article, then please consider giving it a thumbs up. If you want to see a specific type of article or topic next time, don't hesitate to give me ideas down below, and I'll consider them. As always, keep an eye out for more articles to come. Until next time!

-Twitter @Jose_MarreroTCG

[+18] okko


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