10/03/2018 by Ryan Sabelhaus
What’s going on, 60cards readers?! I’m back with another article and excited to talk about some more Pokémon with you guys. So, in the last article, we discussed Zoroark-GX/Banette-GX and its place in the current metagame. Since that concept already has gotten some coverage and has done well at a large Regional Championship, let’s make this article a little more rogue and talk about a lesser known deck that has some good matchups in the current Standard format. For this article, let’s talk about a concept that won the Wakefield League Cup and was played by Joe Bernard, which is his Lapras-GX/Quagsire deck. When I first heard about this deck, I thought it was a joke and could never stand up against the stronger decks in the Standard format, like Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX or Buzzwole/Shrine. After testing some games, I feel this deck is actually the real deal and can pull of some amazing plays to win games. Major props to Joe for thinking of such a cool and original concept to play in a League Cup. Like I discussed in my last article, this format is all about putting creativity into deckbuilding and making new ideas turn into wins, which is exactly what Joe has done with Lapras-GX/Quagsire.
To go along with discussing this new rogue deck idea, I’d like to add in discussion of another rogue deck that could do well in the current Standard format, which is Ho-Oh-GX/Salazzle-GX. While it may not be talked about, Ho-Oh-GX performed decently well at the Philadelphia Regional Championships. Two of the decks that moved into the second day of competition were Ho-Oh-GX/Salazzle-GX and they were both unique builds that show this deck has plenty of room for creativity. I feel as though many people in this game are not satisfied with the current format and believe it to be stale. In my opinion, there are many decks that could perform well at major tournaments that need to be explored! The format doesn’t have to be stale unless you choose to pick up another Buzzwole/Shrine deck to bring to every single tournament going forward and join the rest of the community that is conforming. It surely is a good deck that can perform well, but this current standard format is new and many ideas are undiscovered. With this article, I’m hoping to put out some new ideas for everybody in the community that reads this, get the brain waves moving in terms of building some new deck ideas, and just to promote players in to having fun with the game again! Let’s get into the article!
Table of contents
Here is the deck list we are going to examine, follwed by an analysis, and a discussion of the deck's strengths and weaknesses.
When trying to build a list for this deck, I figured that the best idea would be to look at the recent builds that have performed well. The two decks that did well at the Philadelphia Regional Championships and both moved into the 2nd day of competition were piloted by Anthony Bruno and James Dorsey. Anthony Bruno played a version of Ho-Oh that was based purely on consistency and had maxed out copies of every important card in the deck. He played 4 copies of: Ho-Oh-GX, Tapu Lele-GX, Cynthia, Guzma, Kiawe, Ultra Ball, and Nest Ball. Anthony finished in 51st place at Philadelphia Regionals when everything was said and done.
The other Ho-Oh-GX deck was played by James Dorsey and focused completely on disruption. James did not play an extremely consistent list, but instead played 2 Marshadow SLG to disrupt an enemy’s hand while Ho-Oh could completely run them over. Interestingly enough, James also didn’t play any Choice Band and focused on adding damage through playing 3 Po Town. While this concept may seem like a good idea on paper, as the added 30 damage can help to knockout a Zoroark-GX with Ho-Oh’s main attack, many decks are also playing larger amounts of Stadium cards so the added 30 damage may not even get placed down. With no other way of adding damage, this deck can’t hit for one-shot knockouts and won’t be able to compete with some of the main decks in the format that are based around Zoroark-GX.
From these two decks that did well, I began to test with Ho-Oh-GX and started forming a list that has been working well for me. With the addition of Dragon Majesty, another attacker has also been added to the deck as a clean-up hitter in Victini Prism Star. To summarize how this deck works for anyone that may not be aware, the main point of the deck is to use a Kiawe to attach 4 Fire energy cards to a Ho-Oh-GX on the first turn of the game. Afterwards, you begin to Phoenix Burn anything in your path and take as many prize cards as possible before you run out of steam. When you inevitably start slowing down, you can then switch to attacking with a Salazzle-GX that has increased attacking for every prize card that you have already taken for just 2 Fire energy. The other option when running out of steam is to send up a Turtonator-GX and use Nitro Tank-GX to fill your board with energy cards to sustain attacks for the rest of the game. The deck is fast, simple, and straight to the point with attack after attack being done to draw prizes as quickly as possible and just show aggression before an opponent can get setup.
Let’s go over some of the card choices included in this Ho-Oh-GX/Salazzle-GX/Victini Prism deck:
4 Ho-Oh-GX: The main attacker for the deck. To be as consistent as possible, we need to have as many of our main attacker as we can put in the build. Playing 4 Ho-Oh also assures that we have a target to use Kiawe on for the first turn of the game, as having a dead turn in the opening of games is terrible for this deck. Early aggression isn’t possible without our attackers being in play.
2-2 Salazzle-GX: Our secondary attacker for the deck that helps to sweep in the late stages. Since we don’t need Salazzle-GX out until later in the game, we play a much smaller line and assume that we will draw into the pieces throughout the game. People truly underestimate how strong Salazzle-GX can be in the mid-late game stretch, as it can one-shot Tapu Lele-GX’s with a Choice Band after just 3 prize cards are taken. When in a pinch, also don’t forget that Salazzle-GX has a useful GX attack against enemies that are trying to build energy on their board. Against opposing Rayquaza-GX decks that are running low on energies, a Queen’s Haze GX can come in handy to slow down an opponent for multiple turns.
4 Tapu Lele-GX: Since hitting a Kiawe on the first turn of the game is all but a necessity for this deck to function at optimum efficiency, there might as well be a maxed-out number of cards that can search for a Kiawe. This deck doesn’t usually struggle with bench space so a couple of Tapu Lele-GX on the bench won’t be too detrimental, especially if opponents will be dealing with too much aggression to capitalize on attacking these Pokémon anyways.
1 Turtonator-GX: As discussed earlier, Turtonator-GX is great at replenishing energy later in the game to close out a win. Aside from that, Turtonator is also a great target to use Kiawe on during the first couple of turns and can be a great replacement attacker against any decks that focus on Lightning attackers to knock out our Ho-Oh-GX’s.
1 Victini Prism Star: One thing that this deck was missing was a great single prize attacker to help play the seven-prize game, as all our attackers are Pokémon-GX and make taking prizes easy for our opponents. With Victini in the mix, we now have a great late-game attacker to force our opponents to use a Guzma to take optimal prizes later in the game. With using a deck that focuses on attackers that need 4 energy to attack, Victini also helps with a great strategy that is now included in this deck. If our opponents don’t use a Field Blower and we get to use our Wishful Batons, then we have no issue with keeping attackers going and should be fine throughout the game. If our opponents use Field Blower to knock off our Wishful Batons, then all those energies will hit the discard pile and fuel our Victini’s attack. Victini is basically our insurance policy against any opponent that keeps hitting Field Blower to discard our Wishful Batons throughout the game, which has always been a problem with this deck.
4 Cynthia / 4 Guzma / 4 Kiawe: Like the thinking of Anthony Bruno, we are playing maximum copies of our best supporters to assure that our game plan works. With 4 Kiawe and 4 Tapu Lele-GX, along with Ultra Balls to find them and Acro Bikes to help draw, we should have no issues with hitting a turn one or turn two Kiawe to one of our main attackers. After that first Kiawe, we play max copies of Cynthia to help draw through our deck and max copies of Guzma to target down any threats on the bench. Guzma also provides a way to reset our Ho-Oh onto the bench, which will allow it to use Phoenix Burn for two turns in a row.
4 Ultra Ball / 4 Nest Ball: Same thinking as before. We max out consistency of our Ultra Balls and Nest Balls to assure that we can get out our Pokémon in the early game to use Kiawe with a target. Ultra Ball can also help to add Fire energy to the discard in the late game for extra damage with Victini Prism Star’s attack.
4 Acro Bike: These are in the deck with many purposes. Acro Bikes can help to draw into vital pieces needed for a first turn Kiawe, they can help to throw Fire energy into the discard pile to strengthen Victini Prism Star’s attack, they can help to discard any extra Kiawe that are still in the deck later in the game, and they can stay in the deck until late game to help protect against a Judge or any disruption coming from an opponent. More drawing in a deck that needs multiple pieces is never a bad thing.
2 Switch / 1 Escape Board: At first, the deck played 3 Switch to assure that we could move our attackers into the active position or possibly to move a Ho-Oh to the bench so that we can use Phoenix Burn for two turns in a row. I soon realized that a Pokémon with free retreat would come in handy on those occasions where I had a Guzma but couldn’t find the switch to bring a Ho-Oh back into the active position. Escape Board helps to solve this problem as it can give one of our Pokémon with a single retreat cost the ability to retreat for free. This can be applied to Salandit, Tapu Lele-GX, and Victini Prism Star when this situation comes about.
3 Choice Band / 3 Wishful Baton: While I would love to play 4 copies of each of these cards, there just isn’t enough space to fit them. Just 2 copies for each doesn’t seem like enough, so I’ve settled at 3 for each. Choice Band is crucial for hitting one-shot knockouts on Pokémon with over 180 HP, such as Zoroark-GX, Lycanroc-GX, Buzzwole-GX, and many more. Though Wishful Baton may always get hit by a Field Blower, it is an extremely powerful card when left in play. It helps to keep energy in play and allows for attackers to keep coming forward, which was an issue for this deck without Max Elixir in the format. Wishful Baton also comes into play in terms of the situation discussed earlier with Victini Prism Star. If it gets hit by a Field Blower, the energies hit the discard pile and only help to strengthen Victini’s attack.
13 Fire Energy: This amount has been just fine for the deck in testing, but I would love space for a 14th Fire energy to give Victini’s attack a little more breathing room. In a perfect world, Victini hits an opposing Zoroark-GX (or something with 210 HP) with 9 energy in the discard pile and a Choice Band, which only leaves 2 energy attached to Victini and 2 other energy elsewhere. When Energy are prized, this can be difficult but not impossible to achieve.
Now that we’ve looked at the card counts, let’s go over some of the strengths and weaknesses of this Ho-oh/Salazzle/Victini deck.
- Ho-Oh GX is a very bulky attacker that can’t be dealt with easily. In most Zoroark-based decks, there aren’t any ways for a Ho-Oh to be knocked out in one-shot, which usually means that one single attacker can take multiple knockouts against those decks.
- When this deck goes first and hits turn one Kiawe onto a Ho-Oh-GX, it is one of the most feared decks in the game. Just blind aggression with this deck can carry one half of the game, and the other half can be done through Salazzle-GX cleaning up and Victini Prism Star to get a big knockout in the end.
- With most decks playing small amounts or zero Field Blower, Wishful Batons have a good chance of sticking around and can help to fuel extra attackers that didn’t have any energy beforehand. Choice Band also has a great chance of sticking on a Ho-Oh and we won’t need to find another, as would be the case in previous formats that played multiple Field Blower in every deck.
- This deck has strange weaknesses that can’t be attacked very effectively, as there aren’t many Electric or Water decks floating arounds in the format (aside from Vikavolt being a secondary attacker in VikaRay).
- When Ho-Oh/Salazzle misses a Kiawe on the first or second turn, this deck is very slow and has no aggression to give out. Nearly every game where a Kiawe isn’t played early will be a loss, as there just isn’t any energy on the board and Ho-Oh-GX won’t be able to attack. With a huge upside of completely swinging a game when Kiawe is hit early, there is also a huge downside of losing nearly every game that it is missed. This build tries to combat the weakness through playing an extremely consistent list with maxed-out copies of important cards.
- A weakness that this deck will always have will be the inherent weakness of an opposing Tapu Lele-GX attacking into a Ho-Oh-GX that has just been hit with a Kiawe. This weakens our attackers and makes the survivability of that Ho-Oh go down the drain, which doesn’t help our deck keep up aggression. Opponent’s do still need to find a way to get Tapu Lele-GX into the active position with a Double Colorless Energy, which isn’t always easy to accomplish.
- 3x Lapras GX
- 2x Quagsire
- 2x Wooper
- 1x Volcanion Prism Star
- 2x Tapu Lele GX
- 1x Oranguru
- 4x Cynthia
- 4x Guzma
- 3x Lillie
- 2x Professor Kukui
- 3x Brooklet Hill
- 4x Ultra Ball
- 4x Acro Bike
- 4x Aqua Patch
- 2x Switch Raft
- 1x Rescue Stretcher
- 3x Choice Band
- 4x Exp. Share
- 11x Water Energy
Lapras/Quagsire is another toolbox type of deck that can switch between attackers with ease and keep energy circulating on the board for many turns. For any players that don’t remember the Lapras Toolbox deck that came out in previous formats, this deck focuses on getting energy out quickly to attack with Lapras-GX while also switching between attackers and swarming multiple Lapras-GX onto the board. The deck could retreat for free with the use of Manaphy-EX and energy were brought onto the board using Max Elixir and Aqua Patch. Since this format doesn’t have Manaphy or Max Elixir, the deck has changed to include a Quagsire line, which can move energies between attackers, and Exp. Share to keep energies on the board to move freely.
A HUGE addition to this deck would have to be the Volcanion Prism Star, as this deck wouldn’t be anywhere near as good without this card. Aside from being a bulky problem for any opponent that this deck faces, Volcanion can also put energy in the discard pile with its Jet Geyser ability that can be retrieved with Aqua Patch, and can setup knockouts on nearly any Pokémon with its Sauna Blast attack spreading damage to everything on the opponent’s board.
Let’s look at some of the card choices in this deck:
3 Lapras-GX: While we would love to play a 4th copy of Lapras-GX, 3 copies are just fine with the added Brooklet Hills to find our main attackers. Lapras is our best attacker in the deck and can swing for 190 damage with a Choice Band, but can even knockout a Zoroark-GX in one-shot with a Professor Kukui added on top. Aside from the Blizzard Burn attack, Lapras has two other great attacks that can be used in many situations. If you have any free time in a game or some extra turns to setup, Lapras can use Collect to draw 3 cards and get anything you need to attack. This is effective against any Garbodor-based decks, as you can just avoid playing items for multiple turns to just draw anything that you need through Collect. Ice Beam GX is a fantastic way to stall for time, as most opponents can only get through paralysis with a Guzma, which would be their supporter for that turn. Ice Beam GX can help to effectively two-shot a threat that would normally knock out Lapras, as it can be stopped in its tracks from being paralyzed.
2-2 Quagsire (DM): This Pokémon is how we can easily move our energy from attacker to attacker without missing a beat. Aside from its utility through moving our energy, Quagsire is also a strong attacker that can even knockout an opposing Pokémon-GX with enough energy attached. Although it doesn’t attack often, look for Quagsire to finish off any game in which Lapras just can’t swing for enough damage. Also, be sure to remember that Quagsire can only move energy from a benched Pokémon to the active Pokémon, not just move energy wherever it wants.
1 Volcanion Prism Star: We talked about Volcanion a little earlier in the article, but let’s go over the star of this deck one more time. Probably one of the most important cards in this deck, Volcanion Prism Star is the guy you turn to when you have problems. Volcanion is bulky and usually can take up to two hits, which allows for this card to spread damage across an opponent’s board and make knockouts much easier to reach. Not only is Volcanion a great attacker, but it also helps to throw energies in the discard pile to be found with an Aqua Patch, and can switch out Pokémon to bring up another threat on the opponent’s bench.
2 Tapu Lele-GX / 1 Oranguru (SUM): Although these Pokémon are mainly used for their abilities and to help get setup, they can also be used as attackers throughout the game. Quagsire can move energies to any Pokémon in the active position, so a Tapu Lele-GX can have upwards of 7 energy pushed onto it and hit for big damage late in the game. Oranguru is another great attacker that only gives up one prize card, which makes it very appealing when paired with its ability.
4 Cynthia / 3 Lillie: These are the draw cards for the deck. Lillie is a great card on the first turn as it helps to get a huge hand and plenty of pieces to start attacking quickly, but just drawing up to 6 cards is a great supporter card in this current Standard format. Cynthia is probably the best supporter that we have in Standard, so we might as well max that out as well.
2 Professor Kukui: Another card that helps to draw through the deck, but also provides us with an additional 20 damage to hit crucial knockouts. Professor Kukui can help a Blizzard Burn hit for 180 damage and to even hit that ever-important 210 damage with a Choice Band attached, which can one-shot a Zoroark-GX, Lycanroc-GX, etc.
4 Guzma / 2 Switch Raft: Since we don’t have Manaphy-EX anymore, these cards will serve as our way of moving our attackers to the bench. These cards are very important, as manually retreating a Lapras-GX will be far too detrimental in the early game and those energies need to be preserved. Not only switching, but Switch Raft also allows us to heal 30 damage from whichever Water Pokémon was moved to the bench, which can disrupt an opponent that was setting up exact damage.
3 Brooklet Hill: An obvious addition to the deck, as the majority of our Pokémon are Water and can be searched easily through using this Stadium.
4 Ultra Ball / 4 Acro Bike / 4 Aqua Patch: These cards are crucial for making the deck work, as Ultra Ball and Acro Bike can help get crucial cards out of the deck while also discarding Water energy that can be retrieved through using Aqua Patch. Without having Max Elixir, it is important to use every Aqua Patch to accelerate Energy for our attackers. These energies must be placed onto a benched Pokémon, but can easily just be moved to the active Pokémon with Quagsire’s ability.
1 Rescue Stretcher: With Ultra Ball and Acro Bike discarding cards left and right, Rescue Stretcher serves as a backup plan to retrieve any Pokémon from the discard pile. This can also be used in the late game to find a Tapu Lele-GX and keep the deck running smooth, which is never a bad thing to retrieve from the discard pile.
3 Choice Band / 4 Exp. Share: Choice Band is an obvious tool card for this deck, as it helps Lapras to hit for huge damage and get some big one-shot knockouts on Pokémon in the current Standard format. Exp. Share may seem a little strange, but in a format with very little Field Blower, it can serve as a sneaky way of keeping energy on the board to be abused with Quagsire. If this deck can always keep energy on the board, it will never run out of attackers and can stay threatening an opponent throughout the entirety of a match.
11 Water Energy: This hasn’t been too many Energy to clog up hands and seems to work out just fine, as energy are constantly being recycled through Aqua Patch and Exp. Share.
Now that we’ve checked out the deck and the reasoning behind some of the cards included, let’s look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of Lapras/Quagsire.
- This deck can be very quick and aggressive when cards are being drawn in the right order. If energies are hitting the discard pile to be used with Aqua Patch and Exp. Shares are hitting the board to preserve those energies, the attackers will keep on coming and prizes will get drawn.
- If an opponent can’t swing for one-shot knockouts, then a different attacker will keep coming to the active position with the same energy cards. Any deck that can’t capitalize on a one-shot knockout will struggle very much against this Lapras/Quagsire deck.
- One of the greatest strengths of a rogue deck is the surprise factor, as most opponents won’t really know how to play against this deck. They may focus on taking out the Quagsire line instead of taking a crucial knockout, or they may leave the Volcanion Prism Star up for an extra turn and allow another attack from that. Some opponents may just be extremely lost when playing this deck, which is a big advantage!
- Probably the biggest weakness for the deck would be the weakness to Grass type Pokémon for our main attacker. When facing down any VikaRay, VikaBulu, or Zoropod decks, it’s going to be a tough matchup to overcome. Those decks can just one-shot our main attacker and ruin the entire strategy of our deck of preserving energies and switching between attackers.
- Another weakness of this deck is the lack of healing cards, as damage just accumulates on the board and doesn’t really go anywhere. This can be solved through adding a Max Potion or two, which would work swimmingly with Quagsire’s ability to move the energy before healing.
That’s going to wrap it up for this article about some rogue decks that could do well in the current Standard format. Ho-Oh/Salazzle has proven itself to be a strong deck with two spots in Day 2 of the Philadelphia Regional Championships, while Joe Bernard was able to take down a League Cup with his extremely unique Lapras/Quagsire deck. Both decks are very fun to play and help to show off some of the creativity that can be used in deckbuilding for this format! Hopefully these ideas and deck lists have helped to bring some ideas into your head or possibly just given you some new decks to play around with and enjoy.
Thanks to everybody that read through my article and hopefully everyone took something away from my writing! If you aren’t currently following me on any social media platforms, be sure to add me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter (@Sabelhaus_TCG). Huge shoutouts to my sponsors at 8Bit Planet and you can follow anything team related on our Facebook page at Team 8 Bit Planet. If you have any questions or comments about the article, feel free to message me with anything!
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