02/20/2019 by Henry Brand
Hey 60cards readers, after snagging a top 8 finish at the recent Oceanic International Championships, I'm here to look back on how the tournament went whilst giving some insights into what I played and why.
Before we begin our deep scientific analysis, I think it would serve you well as readers to know a bit about me. I'm a reasonably well-known player within Australia, but I've honestly only really played on and off throughout the years, partially due to Australia’s incredibly forgiving CP requirement. Last season I placed top 8 and 9th at regionals, then top 64 at the OCIC, before once again taking leave until a few weeks prior to this year's IC.
Table of contents
Thanks to various friends persuading me to break my hiatus, I made my return to Pokemon and commenced testing about 2 weeks out from the IC. Having played almost exclusively Zoroark/Lycanroc for the past year, I started off testing many different variants of that. My primary focus revolved around beating Pikachu/Zekrom and Ultra Necrozma, which led me to some lists that ran heavy Weavile, and some that were essentially a hybrid between ZoroRoc and Zoroark Control. My testing group and I then spent several days solely dedicated to testing Zoroark/Gardevoir. The list revolved around exploiting various defensive cards such as; UB Fairy Charm, Choice Helmet, Wondrous Labyrinth with Diantha acting as a pseudo Puzzle of Time. We were convinced we had a favourable matchup against Ultra Necrozma, and nothing worse than 50/50 across the board. This all changed the day before the IC however, when we began testing against some ultra lists that played Marshadow-GX. The deck lacked the speed and aggression necessary to beat them, providing them with plenty of room to either Guzma around our Gardevoir GX, or use Marshadow GX to bypass the UB Fairy Charm. With our previously favourable matchup suddenly swapped into a 40-60, we abandoned our precious deck and defaulted back to Zoroark/Lycanroc. With less than 12 hours till the IC, local legend Brent Tonisson and I agreed that the best way to play ZoroRoc was to focus on its traditional strengths and consistency to win games, rather than relying on matchup specific techs. With all that said and done, let's break down my 60 cards and the reasoning behind what I chose to play and why.
Top 8 OCIC Zoroark/Lycanroc
- 4x Zoroark GX
- 4x Zorua
- 3x Rockruff
- 2x Lycanroc GX
- 1x Lycanroc GX
- 1x Giratina
- 1x Ditto Prism Star
- 1x Alolan Grimer
- 1x Alolan Muk
- 2x Tapu Lele GX
- 4x Professor Elm's Lecture
- 2x Cynthia
- 1x Erika's Hospitality
- 3x Guzma
- 2x Acerola
- 2x Professor Kukui
- 4x Ultra Ball
- 2x Timer Ball
- 1x Pokemon Communication
- 3x Choice Band
- 1x Counter Gain
- 1x Multi Switch
- 2x Devoured Field
- 1x Judge
- 1x Rescue Stretcher
- 1x Mallow
- 1x Switch
- 4x Double Colorless Energy
- 3x Fighting Energy
- 1x Rainbow Energy
First off, let me touch on why I chose a very linear Zoroark/Lycanroc list, as opposed to playing Weavile, or even the wacky list that Jon Eng and Preston Ellis played to day 2. In testing, Weavile essentially just solidifies your win when you went first, but didn't change that much when you went second. Dedicating those two slots to Weavile ultimately failed to sway the Ultra Necrozma matchup away from a coin flip. In addition to this, Weavile was a dead card against Pikachu/Zekrom, so allocating these slots towards a more linear gameplan made much more sense.
3 Rockruff, 2 Lycanroc-GX GRI, 1 Lycanroc-GX TEU
3 Rockruff is definitely a necessity in this format for the Pikachu/Zekrom matchup. Whilst I'll go into matchups in more detail later, it's imperative that you get 2 rockruff down against Pikachu/Zekrom, otherwise you will continuously lose them to Guzma+Zapdos. A more controversial card, and one that I've seen some people disagreeing with, is the 1 TEU Lycanroc-GX. This card has so, so much value in so many matchups. It enables plays such as discarding a metal off an Ultra Necrozma then killing a Malamar, significantly slowing their tempo. It greatly enhances your mirror matchup, especially by making it much more winnable going second. Lycanroc-GX TEU also has a myriad potential uses against Pikachu/Zekrom. It enables you to steal some tempo back by discarding an energy, it KO's a Pikachu/Zekrom for FCC without any modifiers, and it's GX attack can give you a very easy one energy response. In round 8 against Turbo Pikachu/Zekrom, I managed to pull off a turn 2 splintered shards for 240 on his active PikaZek which mostly sealed the game from there.
1 Grimer, 1 Alolan Muk
Grimer has recently found it's way into most Zoroark lists, due to how devastating Muk can be against the Jirachi reliant decks. Grimer allows you to get Muk down much more consistently than relying solely on your one ditto. This is especially helpful against Zapdos and Pikazek, which have easy access to killing your ditto before you even manage to evolve it into Muk.
This is another card that may come as a surprise to some people. It was picked up in Zoroark/Lycanroc following Brisbane regionals, when it was used as a way to beat Blacephalon by skipping their beast ring turn. Whilst Blacephalon is much less prominent now than it was, having that out to an otherwise horrible matchup is very comforting. In addition to this, it has many uses outside of that. Giratina allows you to kill Tapu Lele-GX without the Bloodthirsty eyes + Kukui combo, instead letting you do it with Choice Band + Devoured Field + Guzma. One other use it had on the weekend was against my favourite European Bert Wolters on stream, hitting a Buzzwole for 120 then using distortion door allowed me to skip the sledgehammer turn.
4 Professor Elm's Lecture
With the release of Pokemon Communication, many people have switched over to using a Lillie/Nest ball engine as opposed to the classic Professor Elm's. In my testing, I found that whilst Lillie/Nest ball was more consistent in making sure you don't brick, it made for less really strong starts. Having the Elm's guarantees the number of basics I'm going to get, and which ones, which made for a lot of incredibly powerful starts that won me many games. That being said, I'm sure it also led to a few more bricks than the Lillie engine would have given me. Ultimately, I still prefer the Elm's variant for this specific list, but both definitely have their merits and I wouldn't fault anyone for playing one over the other.
2 Cynthia/1 Erika's Hospitality
This is yet another inclusion that many people may have disagreed with, believing that Zoroark rarely has a low hand size, leading to Erika's being unplayable. This is just something that comes from thinking rather than playing. Especially with an Elm's build, your hand will often be quite low on turn 2 and even 3, and if it isn't, it is more than easy enough to play it down to 5. Erika's is mostly a better draw supporter than Cynthia in both mirror and Malamar matchups, and is often useable in many other matchups. Having the 1 Erika's in the deck allows for choice when using wonder tag, and enables some very explosive turn 2s. I never had a scenario where I wanted to play Erika's and was unable to, and whenever I did have too large a hand to use it, I didn't want to play a draw supporter that turn.
2 Timer Ball/1 Pokemon Communication
With the release of Team Up, I tested many many different splits of these items, only to finally settle on this. Timer Ball is a card that whilst it can always be used, can often fail, whereas Pokemon Communication has a requirement, but will never fail. The original split Brent Tonisson and I decided on was 2/2, but I chose to cut the second communication at the last minute for Multi Switch, a decision that without a doubt was a crucial part of my success. The one PokeComm over a third timer was a nice compromise, and whilst sometimes i wished it was a timer ball, and vice versa, having that one extra out to a basic and to Tapu Lele felt like a nice bit of added consistency.
3 Choice Band, 2 Professor Kukui, 2 Devoured Field
This is very reminiscent of original builds of Zoroark/Lycanroc, similar to the one that Michael Pramawat won a regionals with. ZoroRoc focused very much on taking quick cheap prizes, often closing out games by KO'ing a lele with Kukui + Choice Band. The increased access to these modifiers made it easier to not only kill Tapu Lele, but also added more modifiers for Lycanroc-GX on PikaZek. Giratina also lowers Ultra Necrozma to 180HP, allowing a Riotous Beating with Devoured Field + Choice Band + Kukui to KO.
1 Counter Gain, 1 Multi Switch, 1 Switch
Most Zoroark/Lycanroc lists recently have been dropping the Multiswitch, but I feel that the deck loses so much versatility from not playing it. Being able to attach an energy to Tapu Lele-GX or Giratina, only to multiswitch it off later, grants you a lot of energy tempo as opposed to losing both your Rockruff and your energy attachment. This preservation of energy tempo allows for plays such as KO'ing a PikaZek with Claw Slash, then KO'ing the next one for one attachment with Splintered Shards. The Counter Gain is a fairly self-explanatory inclusion, allowing for plenty of options with both it and Multiswitch at your disposal. Lastly, the Switch is crucial for pulling off Multiswitch plays, as well as allowing more free general movement of your board.
1 Rainbow Energy
With the lack of Enhanced Hammer in the format, I find really no drawback with playing the 1 Rainbow energy. The flexibility and really cute plays it brings to the deck are invaluable. Being able to Rainbow + Acerola your Muk off the board to use abilities, your Lele, or even your giratina to reuse it, are very niche but very realistic plays that can come out of nowhere and steal you games you had no business winning.
Before we get into recapping my rounds, here's a rough overview of how I perceived the matchups going into the tournament:
- Ultra Necrozma/Malamar: 50/50
- Psychic Malamar: 60/40
- Turbo Pikachu/Zekrom GX: 45/55
- Zapdos/Pikachu/ZekromGX: 55/45
- Zapdos/Jirachi: 60/40
- Zapdos/Beasts/Jirachi: 50/50
- Lost March: 45/55
- Blacephalon: 45/55
- Passimian: 55/45
Round 1: Anthony Smith [AU] (Passimian/Tapu Koko) WLW 1-0-0
Round one I found myself seated across the table from a familiar face, a fellow Australian. Passimian was formerly a bad matchup for Zoroark/Lycanroc, however with Team Up things have changed. Passimian lists have shifted to using a Jirachi engine, making them overall more consistent, but with that consistency comes vulnerability to Muk. Game one I open a completely dead hand with a rockruff active going second. On his turn he retreats into Jirachi and uses stellar wish, then passes. I cornered his jirachi for 6 turns until I managed to draw out of my dead hand and then took game 1. I narrowly lost game 2, then won game 3 in the last turn of time.
Round 2: Jaime McDonald [AU] (Ultra Necrozma/Malamar) WLL 1-1-0
Not much to say about this round. The matchup went fairly standard, I won game 1 going first, lost game 2 going second, then drew fairly poorly game 3.
Round 3: Steven Filiposki [AU] (Ultra Necrozma/Malamar) LWW 2-1-0
Round three saw me face off against yet another fellow Australian and good friend. Game one and two went the standard route of who goes first wins, but game 3 turned out to be one of my most amusing games of the tournament. He benched an Ultra Necrozma turn 1 and attached to it. Turn one I Guzma Energy Drive his Ultra Necrozma, turn 2 I KO it with a second DCE + choice, then turn 3 I Energy Drived a 2 energy Ultra Necrozma with 3 DCE on Lele for the OHKO. Once I'd gone down to 2 prizes and he was still on 5, the game was sealed.
Round 4: Jimmy Pendarvis [US] (Zapdos/Jirachi) LWT 2-1-1
I was pretty thrilled to be playing against a well-known international player, but unfortunately I made a crucial gameplay error in game one. I acerola'd my Zoroark GX, then announced Riotous Beating without attaching the DCE. Unfortunately this caused my turn to end, crucially swinging the game 1 prize into Jimmy's favour. I managed to win game 2 and the series ended with a tie.
Round 5: Aaron Lim [MY] (Ultra Necrozma/Malamar) WW 3-1-1
A quick and thoroughly undeserving win. Aaron opened Inkay and passed, getting himself donked game 1, then game 2 followed up with another firm brick, resulting in a quick 2-0 for me. Condolences to Aaron, who is a great guy.
Round 6: James Xu [AU] (Zoroark/Lycanroc/Weavile) WLW 4-1-1
The ZoroRoc mirror relies heavily on whether you win the coin-flip, and if you get an attachment down turn one. I won the coin-flip, and got the juicy turn one attachment, which puts the game mostly out of reach for my opponent, excluding incredibly poor draws. Game two he goes first and wins, game three I go first, get an attachment and win. The deciding factor in the ZoroRoc mirror is who can take four prizes with one Lycanroc-GX. If you go second, your main goal is to hit their Lycanroc before they can attack with it, so that you deny them their four prize Lycanroc, and you can proceed to take four with your own. The best way to do this is attack it with Tapu Lele, forcing them to either use Dangerous Rogue or acerola their Lycanroc, both of which are not ideal. The acerola slows down their energy tempo, and if they use Dangerous Rogue, they lose their way of knocking out your Lycanroc-GX in one hit.
Round 7: Callan Kudra-Harding [AU] (Passimian/Tapu Koko) WW 5-1-1
It was definitely a pleasant surprise to be facing a second Passimian, especially this deep in the tournament, and I took game one in a fairly unremarkable fashion. Game two he took an early prize lead but was forced to use up 3 DCE early. I brought up a passimian and hit it for 100 damage, keeping even in prizes so that he could never use his counter energy. This slow stalemate of allowing him to take prizes went on for a while, until i rainbow Acerola'd the Giratina off the bench, traded it away, used distortion door to KO the benched Passimian and used Riotous Beating on his active, taking the final two prizes of the game. This was the first time, but not the last, that Giratina proved itself.
Round 8: Justin Kulas [US] (Turbo Pikachu/Zekrom) WW 6-1-1
Another fairly well known player, with a matchup I was pretty nervous about. Fortunately, I went first and got a solid start with an energy down. He drew sub-optimally and I closed out game one in rather quick fashion. Game two on his turn two he used Let Loose, then retreated into a Pikachu/Zekrom to protect it from Guzma. Unfortunately for Justin, he didn't know I played Switch. I drew the perfect combination of cards off the Let Loose, being able to Mallow for Switch + Lycanroc-GX TEU, discarding an energy off his active, attaching Choice Band then using Splintered Shards GX for 240 damage. After that incredibly punishing turn, Justin was far too behind and scooped shortly after.
At this point, to say I was happy about guaranteeing Day 2 would be an enormous understatement. I was ECSTATIC. It was my first relatively deep run at a large tournament, and it pretty much gave me my entire worlds invite once again thanks to Australias very forgiving CP requirement of 250.
Round 9: Isaiah Williams [NA] (Zapdos/Jirachi) 7-1-1
A highlight round of the day, I got to play against an absolute legend, future OCIC Champion Isaiah Williams. He is a super fun guy, and we both had a very chill and enjoyable series with the weight off our shoulders knowing we were guaranteed day two. Congrats on winning Isaiah! Couldn't happen to a nicer dude.
I won the coinflip and had the absolute perfect start. I opened hard Elm's with Grimer in hand. This was followed by turn two Zoroark, DCE, Muk and Judge which pretty much shut Isaiah out of the game from turn two. Game two followed similar suit, with me taking the series quite quickly.
Round 11: Bert Wolters [NL] (Zapdos/Jirachi/Buzzwole) LL 8-2-1
Bert is another standout character I met this weekend, tons of fun to be around and a very skillful opponent on top of that. I bricked and scooped game one fairly quickly and drew fairly poorly game two. I didn't see a Zoroark until turn four but managed to claw my way back into the game. I used Giratina to skip the sledgehammer turn, but then made a pretty ugly misplay by using Dangerous Rogue on a Zapdos foolishly thinking if the card is yellow, it must be weak to fighting! A great way to embarrass myself on stream for sure.
Round 12: Lucas Henrique De Araijjo Pereira [BR] (Pikachu/Zekrom) LWL 8-3-1
A fairly uneventful round, we both bricked game one, I won game two then got destroyed game three. Despite the loss, we had an enjoyable series and Lucas was a pleasure to play against.
Round 13: Preston Ellis [US] (Zoroark/Lycanroc/Ninetales/Weavile) WLW 9-3-1
Game one Preston uses his switch on turn two to take a KO, which enables me to corner his Let Loose Marshadow for long enough that I drew everything I needed to take a dominant position in the game. I Dangerous Rogued his Lycanroc GX and the game fell quickly from there. In the second game I did another whoopsie and traded before playing down a second Zoroark, leading to a prize penalty and losing me the game. Game 3 I open strongly and he unfortunately gets a prize penalty for slow play, letting me close the game out the next turn.
Round 14: Rahul Reddy [US] (Pikachu/Zekrom) WLW 10-3-1
This is it, this is the big one. Not only is it the win and in round, not only am I on stream, but I'm also against a very accomplished international player. I managed to take game one after a relatively slow opening from Rahul. Game two ended in 2 turns as I opened Giratina and passed, getting donked by Sky High Claws the next turn. Now I'm sure most of you reading this have some idea of what happened in game three, or at least some idea of the aftermath. The game basically played out with me having the perfect combination of cards every single turn, even resulting in me drawing all four DCE in under 5 turns. I don't for one second blame Rahul for his emotions or try and pretend that I don't understand exactly how he felt. Kudos to him for regaining his composure so quickly and still being a sportsmanlike opponent, shaking my hand and wishing me luck.
Getting interviewed by Pooka following round 14 was without a doubt the highlight of the weekend. Having spent the formative years of my pokemon TCG career with my eyes glued to his youtube videos, as sappy and cliche as it may sound, it was really a surreal experience to look back and see how far I've come.
Top 8: Kaiwen Cabbabe [AU] (Pikachu/Zekrom) WLL 11-3-1
Unfortunately, much to the disappointment of both us and the rest of the Australian community, top 8 saw the two Australians still in contention face each other. After winning the coin-flip and taking game one, I was feeling confident. Unfortunately, as is pokemon, it wasn't meant to be. In the second game we both drew relatively sub-optimally, with Kaiwen taking the game. Then game three was when it all came crashing down. Like a few of my stream games prior, I unfortunately didn't get to play Pokemon that game. I drew passed for about 6 turns until I finally lost. Whilst it was without a doubt disappointing, it's hardly fair to complain about bricking some games after running plenty hot in many other games.
Well, that about does it for the tournament recap. Kaiwen unfortunately went on to lose in top 4, but maybe Australia will get it's OCIC win next year!
Given that Zapdos/Jirachi is a relatively new archetype in the eyes of many people, I figured it'd be a good idea to provide my insight on how I went about the matchup. Lycanroc is almost entirely irrelevant here, which is great because you're free to dedicate your resources solely to setting up Zoroark and Muk. There are two simple but very important strategies for the matchup in my eyes, and those are as follows: 1. Only bench ditto or grimer when you can bench both, or when they lose tempo by playing guzma 2. Never have more than one energy in play, or else you will fall victim to Tapu Koko GX. The final, fairly straightforward thing you want to do is to avoid benching Lele wherever possible.
Going into the Oceanic IC, Zoroark/Lycanroc was relatively underhyped in comparison to Malamar and Pikachu/Zekrom, and it actually came out of the IC much better positioned than it was. With the success of Zapdos/Jirachi, it should lower the amount of Ultra Malamar, and Zoroark/Lycanroc gains a favourable matchup. There's nothing I'd cut from this iteration of the list, however it'd be nice to fit in either a field blower or a Pal Pad. Field blower would prevent getting caught off guard by something like weakness policy in PikaZek, and pal pad would help strengthen matchups like Zapdos/Jirachi by enabling more use of Acerola.
I seriously cannot describe the emotions that I felt throughout the weekend. I was so humbled by all the support from the Australian community, I don't think anything could replace it. Big shoutouts to Bert, Isaiah, Rahul and everyone else I met this weekend. There was nothing more enjoyable to me than meeting all of these friendly, highly skilled players, and I can't wait to see all of you again in Berlin!
Until next time 60Cards,
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