From Zero Zoro to Hero: Zoroark’s Counterattack in Standard

Right now, the Standard format is in flux. Rather than constant, uninterrupted wins by Zoroark-GX, we have actually seen not one but two different decks completely lock Zoroark out of the finals! However, not even these decks have completely shaken Zoroark-GX off of its pedestal — it just needs a bit of adjustment.

Today’s article is comprised of two parts: some light analysis of the results from Portland Regional Championships, followed by in-depth considerations for how Zoroark-GX can bounce back from losing two big events in a row. I’ll close out with my overall impressions of the biggest Zoroark variants headed into Toronto, as well as a feature discussion of a throwback deck I am currently testing.

Charlotte and Portland: The Rise of the Zoroark-GX Counters

Charlotte, NC Regionals: a.k.a., “What Took You So Long, Buzzwole-GX?”

It finally happened. Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX kept getting close to beating the deck it’s supposed to beat, yet Zoroark-GX continued to find ways to beat it. However, at long last Buzzwole-GX not only beat its weaselly rival — it flat-out dominated it! While we’ve seen a wide variety of single-copy techs thrown into Buzzwole-GX decks since its release, as well as an exciting new variant that features 20 Energy, the fact of the matter is that Buzzwole is simply balancing out all of its bad luck from earlier in the season. With near-misses in Memphis, TN; Sydney, Australia; and, most recently, Collinsville, IL; it was about time for the burly bug to score a win.

Will Buzzwole continue to succeed? Although it certainly saw a metagame backlash in Portland, which we will discuss in a bit, most of the factors that have led to its success up until now are still in place. It’s simply a task of being that singular Buzzwole-GX player to get ahead of all the rest.

Portland, OR Regionals: a Metagame Story Featuring Espeon-GX / Garbodor BKP / Garbodor GRI

This event, which was held just a week ago, featured a 60-card Espeon-GX / Garbodor mirror match in the finals. Here, we saw metagame play a much larger role in the outcome, both in the decks used as well as the decks that succeeded. Such a result will honestly be much more difficult to duplicate in a future large event, but there are some serious lessons to learn from the finalists’ smart metagame calls — namely, appreciation for the large as well as small details in player choices.

For reference, here is the first- and second-place list from the tournament:

Pokemon (17)

2x Garbodor (BKP #57)2x Garbodor (GUR #51)4x Trubbish (BKP #56)2x Espeon-GX (PRSM #SM35)2x Eevee (SM #101)3x Tapu Lele-GX (GUR #60)1x Drampa-GX (GUR #115)1x Tauros-GX (SM #100)

Trainers (32)

4x Guzma (BUS #115)4x N (NVI #92)3x Cynthia (ULP #119)3x Professor Sycamore (BKP #107)1x Brigette (BKT #134)4x Choice Band (GUR #121)4x Float Stone (BKT #137)4x Ultra Ball (DEX #102)2x Field Blower (GUR #125)1x Super Rod (BKT #149)2x Parallel City (BKT #145)

Energy (11)

7x Psychic Energy (RS #107)4x Double Colorless Energy (HS #103)

By now you’ve probably seen this list, but you’ve more or less been seeing it since the start of the season. First via Tord Reklev during a European Regional Championship, and then later on by just about every other Garbodor player in the Standard format, the general structure of “2/2 Garbodor split plus small Espeon-GX line plus tech Drampa-GX” has been a mainstay.

However, our finalists in Portland made one crucial inclusion not so commonly seen in other builds: Tauros-GX. Originally included last year in the first Garbodor list to win a Regional Championship, Tauros-GX’s new applications are found mostly in counter-play as well as Greninja BREAK matchup coverage.

Counter-play: 180 HP is a surprisingly awkward number for the sea of Zoroark-GX decks to hit, so they are usually forced to either Guzma around the Tauros-GX, or charge right into it and risk a big revenge Knock Out.

Greninja: When you think about it, all three of Tauros-GX’s attacks work great in this matchup. Horn Attack for 60 results in some quick Froakie KOs, and quite possibly a free first turn win. Rage keeps the pressure up when they start Shadow Stitching, but without using your GX attack. And then finally when you are in a more desperate position, Mad Bull GX threatens a Knock Out on even small amounts of damage. Aside from the cheap early game wins, all of these moves can be played around by the Greninja player to some extent, but even merely forcing your opponent to “play around” your card can be crucial to securing victory. It’s also much more generally helpful to run a single copy card with more versatility than, say, a hard hate card like Giratina Promo.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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