Experts' corner

Ryan Sabelhaus

"La Ciudad de Zoroark" - Analysis of the Best Decks from Mexico City Regionals

Ryan takes a look at his performance in Mexico City Regionals with his Vespiquen/Zoroark deck, along with some analysis of 3 other top contenders at Mexico City (Zoroark/Drampa, Garbodor/Espeon, and Gallade/Octillery).

19. 06. 2017 by Ryan Sabelhaus


How’s everybody doing today? In the little bit of time since my last article, there have been some pretty exciting Regional Championships and the metagame is starting to form leading up to the North American InterContinental’s. Decks have become top contenders and have solidified their dominance with some strong finishes, which mainly can be attributed to the rise of Zoroark BREAK/Drampa-GX. Daniel Altavilla has been dominating Regional Championships with the same 60-card list and has showed the true power of this new archetype in the game. Other decks have just started to come out and prove themselves, such as Metagross-GX and Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu-GX. Both of these options have had very strong showings in the past two Regional Championships that occurred in Wisconsin and Mexico City. Some strong choices in the Standard format have also started to decrease in play, such as the card with the biggest target on its head… Garbodor GUR. Garbodor is still a very strong card and has proved itself immensely in the last few tournaments, but the destruction that happened at Seattle Regionals with nearly 75% of the top 32 decks being Garbodor-based has come to an end. Now tournaments are starting to show normal amounts of Garbodor decks performing well, which could be due to players learning how to build decks that aren’t truly reliant on Item cards.

At the most recent Regional Championship for the North America, which also happens to be the last Regional for this season, I ended up playing Rahul Reddy’s Vespiquen/Zoroark list and finished Mexico City Regionals with a 14th place finish! Out of all the Regionals that have happened, I feel like this tournament was one of the most influential to occur for the current Standard format. Before this tournament, most players just saw Zoroark/Drampa-GX as a good deck that had performed decently well at Madison Regionals. It was the overall first seed after Day 1 of competition, and then finished the tournament with a loss in Top 4. Nobody had truly realized how good the deck actually is at a major tournament. But then, Daniel Altavilla took the EXACT SAME deck with the EXACT SAME 60 cards and dominated Mexico City Regionals to take down the whole tournament. He proved that Zoroark BREAK/Drampa-GX can deal with nearly anything in the format and can strike gold with a Regional Championship win. Even when smart players attempted to play around Zoroark by benching small amounts of Pokemon, Danny had answers to combat this strategy with Drampa-GX and Zoroark BREAK to hit for big damage. After this tournament, the deck with the biggest target on its back is definitely Zoroark BREAK/Drampa-GX, which will completely change the metagame going into the North American InterContinental’s.

For this article, I’ve decided to discuss one of my favorite decks right now, which is the Vespiquen/Zoroark deck that has been tearing up the past few Regional Championships. With Oricorio and Karen not being enough to stop this deck, it truly seems like the only counter is drawing poorly or facing a Decidueye-GX/Vileplume deck. Almost all of my opponents at Mexico City Regionals played a counter to Vespiquen with either Oricorio or Karen, but these cards can be played around with ease by managing resources throughout the game. I’ve also decided to talk about three of the biggest decks that made an impact in Mexico City, which will surely see some play going towards NA InterContinental’s. These decks are Daniel Altavilla and his Zoroark BREAK/Drampa-GX deck, Xander Pero’s Espeon-GX/Garbodor deck, and Noel Totomoch with his new Gallade/Octillery build. All of these choices performed very well in Mexico City and deserve to be under the spotlight with some discussion and analysis. Let’s jump into this article!

“Enter the Bee Hive” – Vespiquen/Zoroark Analysis

The Deck: Vespiquen/Zoroark (6th and 14th Place Mexico City Regionals)

This was the list that Rahul Reddy (6th Place) and myself (14th Place) decided to play at Mexico City Regionals, and also happens to be the deck that Michael Pramawat used to win the Madison Regional Championships earlier in the month. This 60-card combination is almost assuredly the best version of Vespiquen to be played right now and has proven itself through many good tournaments results at the past few Regional Championships. Whenever most players see a Vespiquen deck, they usually just assume that it can be easily countered through playing an Oricorio or a Karen. What most people don’t realize, is that this deck can very easily beat an opponent that is using Oricorio or Karen through conserving their resources and playing smart. Choosing not to play an Acro Bike or an Ultra Ball on some turns to save for after a Karen, making sure to have just around 16 Pokemon in the discard pile during the last few turns of the game to assure a double knockout can’t be taken by an opposing Oricorio, or even just making sure to not play down a Combee that can’t immediately be evolved through a Forest of Giant Plants when an opponent is using an Oricorio. These are just some of the ways to play around opponents that are using counters for Vespiquen.

Zoroark is a fantastic card in the current format right now and fits perfectly into this deck. It is mainly used as an early attacker to “fill the time” while Pokemon are finding their way to the discard pile, but is also very good at dropping quick damage and punishing opponents for over-benching. Not to mention, Zoroark has a fantastic ability that helps to get off attacks quickly by rushing into the active position, while also preventing a Pokemon with a large retreat cost from being trapped later in the game. Though seemingly simple, just having the ability to switch between attackers for free every turn can make a huge impact on the game. After the initial turns of the game are completed and Pokemon have found their way into the discard pile, it’s time to come up and start smacking some Pokemon-GX or Pokemon-EX with a Vespiquen to win the prize trade. Through trading 1-prize attackers with opposing two-prize attackers, the game inevitably turns into a winning exchange for Vespiquen that only requires finding the last couple of pieces to hit a Bee Revenge on every turn.

Just to show the tournament experience that I had in Mexico City Regionals, let’s take a quick look at some of my matchups and show how effective I was against opposing Oricorio and Karen.

Mini Tournament Recap

Round 1: Lapras-GX Waterbox                           WW 1-0
Round 2: Zoroark/Umbreon-GX                         WLT 1-0-1
Round 3: Lurantis-GX/Tapu Bulu-GX                   WW 2-0-1
Round 4: Garbodor/Drampa-GX w/ Oricorio        WW 3-0-1
Round 5: Gyarados/Octillery                              WW 4-0-1
Round 6: Garbodor/Drampa-GX w/ Oricorio        WW 5-0-1
Round 7: Garbodor/Espeon-GX w/ Oricorio         WLW 6-0-1
Round 8: Vespiquen/Zoroark                             (ID) 6-0-2
Round 9: Zoroark/Drampa-GX w/ Oricorio           LL 6-1-2
Round 10: Gallade/Octillery w/ Karen                 WLL 6-2-2
Round 11: Metagross-GX w/ Karen                     WLT 6-2-3
Round 12: Darkrai-EX/Yveltal                             WLW 7-2-3
Round 13: Garbodor/Drampa-GX w/ Karen          WW 8-2-3
Round 14: Volcanion/Starmie                             LL 8-3-3

Overall Finish: 14th Place

Changes for the Future

So, as I was saying in earlier paragraphs, I feel as though this 60-card combination is the perfect list to play at bigger tournaments (Regionals, InterContinental’s, etc.). It has the most effective answers to many decks that are popular in the current Standard format and is also one of the very few decks that can finish a best 2-out-of-3 series in the 50-minute time frame that is given to players. Vaporeon is an effective answer to help against Volcanion, while Flareon helps to counter Metagross-GX, Lurantis-GX, and Decidueye-GX variants. Zoroark and Klefki are perfect answers against any opponent that is using Mega Rayquaza-EX, while just using Zoroark is enough against opponent’s playing any Raichu variants that usually tend to bench multiple Shaymin-EX to help get setup. Shaymin-EX is a great attacker in the Gyarados matchup that helps to preserve Double Colorless energy, while also taking some cheap and easy knockouts on benched Magikarp. Against Darkrai-EX, Vespiquen can easily just sweep through the game if given enough time, especially with the prize exchange swinging in the direction of this deck. Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu-GX is nearly the exact same, as the prize exchange will inevitably swing the direction of a deck that revolves around 1-prize attackers knocking out opposing Pokemon-EX. Garbodor/Drampa is a little more complex of a matchup, but mostly consists of trying to steal some free prizes with Zoroark while exchanging attacker for attacker. The game usually ends with taking a big knockout onto an opposing Pokemon-EX after their Oricorio can’t take their remaining two prize cards off one attack.

If you are going to play in a smaller tournament, such as a League Cup or local event, where you are positive that opposing players will not be using Volcanion-EX or any Pokemon that are weak to fire, the Flareon and Vaporeon line can easily be exchanged for some extra consistency spots. My fellow CCG Castle teammate Jimmy Pendarvis was able to finish the Madison Regional Championships with a very similar list, but took out an Eevee and a Flareon in exchange for a 3rd Klefki and a Teammates. Both additions help greatly with consistency, as Klefki is easily thrown into the discard pile to assist with adding up damage quickly, and teammates is a great answer against matchups that involve trading attackers for prizes (such as Garbodor/Drampa-GX). A well-timed Teammates can just grab the Double Colorless energy and a Vespiquen that may be needed for an easy return knockout, instead of having to constantly just use Professor Sycamore and discard essential resources. These changes are good and helped Jimmy to finish very strong at his Regional Championship, but the extra Flareon line helps immensely towards possible matchups that might be seen at those larger tournaments. It’s better safe than sorry in this scenario.

3 Top Contenders from Mexico City

Like I was saying before, Mexico City Regionals was a huge tournament that will certainly make an impact going forward. Many players and decks performed well at this tournament and proved themselves worthy of receiving some spotlight and analysis, so let’s start off the discussion with Daniel Altavilla and his Zoroark BREAK/Drampa-GX deck.

Zoroark BREAK/Drampa-GX (Daniel Altavilla – Champion)

This deck is one of the best right now in the current Standard Format because of the very simple strategy that it utilizes against opposing players. Zoroark BREAK simply states… “I’m going to use whatever attacks that you were going to use, but mine only require one energy card and can have 30 damage added through using a Choice Band.” It’s a simple strategy that works wonders and can counter many popular decks right now. If an opponent were to try and bench many Pokemon to assure that they would have a good number of attackers, they would get punished from Zoroark swinging for huge amounts of damage. If an opponent were too bench a very small number of attackers to try and reduce the damage from Zoroark, they would get punished through the heavy damage coming down from a Drampa-GX or a Zoroark BREAK. This deck seemingly has an answer for any problems that an opponent attempts to cause. Let’s look at some positive and negative matchups for this deck going forward.

Positive Matchups:

  • Volcanion-EX/Starmie: This deck usually requires benching a good number of Volcanion-EX in order to get damage going to knockout these Zoroark. This helps for Zoroark to swing and trade easily with the baby Volcanions. Once a Volcanion-EX or a Turtonator-EX comes up to try and swing for knockouts, they easily get countered through a Zoroark BREAK with a Choice Band and a Professor Kukui, or possibly through just a Drampa-GX coming in for a one-hit knockout. To make math even easier for this deck, Tapu Koko can help to soften everything on the opponent’s side of the field, which helps Zoroark reach these knockouts with ease.
  • Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu-GX: With their main attacker being a Pokemon-GX that has an attack which can knock itself out in one-hit, Zoroark BREAK is the MVP for this matchup. Vikavolt decks usually require a little bit of time to get setup, which also allows time for multiple Zoroark to find their way onto the board. As long as Zoroark can get setup, this matchup is extremely easy to beat. Drampa-GX can even effectively trade with Tapu Bulu-GX, but just make sure to play down a Hex Maniac to avoid an immediate return knockout from another Tapu Bulu. If they do get that immediate knockout, though, just having a Zoroark BREAK ready to go on the bench can return the favor.
  • Vespiquen/Zoroark: While some of my friends disagree, this matchup seems heavily favored towards this list. Damage is spread so easily through Team Magma’s Secret Base and the Tapu Koko, which eventually leads to a turn where Oricorio can steal multiple prizes in one turn. Both decks utilize Zoroark and trade evenly in the opening turns, but if any amount of free damage falls onto the Vespiquen/Zoroark board, Oricorio becomes an instant game-changer. With two Rescue Stretcher to bring back Oricorio again, it’s nearly impossible to play around.

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