What’s the Buzz? — Taking on Standard with Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX

Hello PokeBeach readers! I’m excited to be back after a couple months away with a new article for you all. Today I’m going to be writing about my favorite deck in the Standard format, Zoroark-GX  Lycanroc-GX. I’ll be going over my preparation for the Madison Regional Championships as well as my tournament run, followed by an in-depth discussion on card choices and matchups. I’ve put a ton of hours into the deck, and I’m looking forward to sharing the results of my testing and experiences with you!

Preparing for Madison

Having come off of a two and a half month hiatus, I was highly motivated to do well at Madison Regionals. As a result, I wanted to try something new to get the most out of my testing. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to test at least 25 hours a week and log every single one of my games. I tracked things like wins and losses, whether I went first, what my opponent was playing, and included a brief synopsis of each game. At the end of a 25 game sample for each of the top decks, I calculated the overall winrate as well as running some more specific analytics to assess a variety of matchups and conditions. For the decks that I particularly liked or thought had potential, I continued playing past the 25 until I was satisfied.

The inspiration for this approach was an interview with Tord Reklev early in the season. He claimed that he selected his decks for events based on raw win percentage, and I wanted to see if this would be an effective way to select a deck myself. In the end, ZoroRoc with Counter Energy boasted my highest universal winrate at a very respectable 80.49%. I tested many techs and several different lists, but none of them put up the same numbers as this variation. As for the approach, I would highly recommend the process to anyone who is looking to get more out of their testing. It adds just a couple minutes to each game but makes your data and results highly accessible after the end of your testing period. In addition to this, it can give you an objective method of assessing a deck’s matchups which is of great value regardless of your final decision. This was my list for the event:

Pokemon (21)

4x Zoroark-GX (PRSM #SM84)4x Zorua (PRSM #SM83)2x Lycanroc-GX (GUR #74)3x Rockruff (FOL #75)3x Tapu Lele-GX (GUR #60)1x Buzzwole (FOL #77)1x Mew-EX (DRX #46)1x Mewtwo (EVO #51)1x Sudowoodo (BKP #67)1x Shaymin (SHL #7)

Trainers (30)

3x Brigette (BKT #134)3x N (DEX #96)2x Guzma (BUS #115)2x Cynthia (ULP #119)1x Professor Sycamore (BKP #107)1x Professor Kukui (SM #128)1x Mallow (GUR #127)4x Ultra Ball (SM #135)4x Puzzle of Time (BKP #109)3x Field Blower (GUR #125)2x Choice Band (GUR #121)2x Float Stone (BKT #137)1x Evosoda (GEN #62)1x Multi Switch (GUR #129)

Energy (9)

4x Double Colorless (SM #136)2x Strong Energy (FAC #115)2x Fighting Energy (EM #106)1x Counter Energy (CRI #100)

The result of my testing was a list that was a single card from Jose Marrero’s Top 8 list from Toronto, though it went through many iterations before reaching this point. Throughout the testing cycle, I tested Parallel City, Acerola, Mimikyu, Enhanced Hammer, Timer Ball, and several versions with and without the Counter Energy package. Ultimately, the total non-counter win rate was only 60% compared to over 80% with the Counter package. This was from a sample of 20 and over 50 games, respectively. In retrospect, I’m glad I tried the non-Counter versions to confirm that they were less effective, but I wish I’d decided to lock into the Counter version sooner to get more games with it.

The counts in this list are geared toward navigating a format full of One-Hit Knockouts, cutting anything that doesn’t directly contribute to taking knockouts. This meant no Acerola, no Enhanced Hammer, and no Parallel City. This helped my BuzzRoc matchup immensely as I had very few cards that would be of limited use. In contrast, this hurt my Ultra Necrozma-GX/Malamar matchup, but I was not terribly concerned with it due to low popularity and already slightly favorable status.

My run at Madison Regionals went like this:

  • R1: WIN vs. Cristian Juarez with Buzzwole-GX  / Lycanroc-GX (1-0-0)
  • R2: WIN vs. Ben Moskow with Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX (2-0-0)
  • R3: WIN vs. Lucas Johnson with Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX (3-0-0)
  • R4: WIN vs. Cody Walinski with Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX (4-0-0)
  • R5: WIN vs. Brian Holkup with Buzzwole-GX / Zoroark (5-0-0)
  • R6: LOSS vs. Jake Ewart with Greninja BREAK (5-1-0)
  • R7: WIN vs. Caleb Gedemer with Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX with heavy Buzzwole (6-1-0)
  • R8: WIN vs. Brendan Acri with Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX (7-1-0)
  • R9: LOSS vs. Igor Costa with Buzzwole-GX / Lycanroc-GX with heavy Buzzwole FLI (7-2-0)
  • R10: WIN vs. Kolton Day with 59-card mirror (8-2-0)
  • R11: WIN vs. Ryne Morgan with Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX (9-2-0)
  • R12: LOSS vs. Zack Taylor with Ultra Necrozma-GX / Malamar (9-3-0)
  • R13: LOSS vs. Jake Ewart with Greninja BREAK (9-4-0)
  • R14: LOSS vs. Brendan Acri with BuzzRoc (9-5-0)

As you can see, my first day was nearly as homogenous as it could possibly be. I played against seven BuzzRocs, one Buzzwole / Zoroark, and a Greninja. My losses came to a Buzzwole FLI heavy version of BuzzRoc and the Greninja. Round 9 involved a prized Shaymin that lost me game one, and game two came down to a misplay on my part to give the game away. Had I played better, I certainly could have won game two, though the fate of the match would have been uncertain from there.

Day two brought a bit more variety. The first two rounds involved drawing fairly well and capitalizing on misplays made by opponents. I felt like I had a pretty serious advantage in Round 11 as my opponent was not playing Counter Energy, giving me far more OHKO opportunities. Round 12 was where my tournament fell off the rails. I drew poorly throughout the set and played even worse, making a tremendous number of misplays in each game. I partially attribute this to the deafening white noise coming through the stream headset, but in the end my errors were my own. Round 13 was a repeat of Round 6 with Jake getting what he needed when he needed it and my deck being unable to win in that situation. Round 14 featured a critical misplay in game two where I gave my opponent the opportunity to take a three-prize turn and seal the game followed by a game three where Mallow and both Lycanroc-GX’s were in my final four Prizes.

This tournament served as a lesson to me that I feel compelled to pass on; if you don’t prepare for long days, it will drastically worsen your play. This seems obvious, but it had escaped me in my weeks of testing before the event. I tested extensively, but I failed to get in a couple long days to reacquaint myself with the feeling after two and a half months away from tournaments. Aside from the standard “eat well and sleep well” that every article throws around regarding Regionals prep, I would also like to emphasize the importance of having strategies to cope with mental strain. Whether it be music, snacks, other activities, or testing a few eight or more hour stretches prior to your event, being prepared for the grind of a full day of Pokemon can be just as important as knowing your deck and its matchups.

Deck Analysis

With that out of the way, I’d like to move on the topic at hand: Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX moving forward into the Buzzwole infested Standard format. Many people have approached me over the last few days with questions on the deck, various matchups, and a variety of tech choices, and it’s my goal to cover each of them here. I’ll explain my thoughts on the deck overall, move into deck list discussion from there, and conclude with a matchup breakdown for each of the top decks.

ZoroRoc was labeled as a Tier 1 deck coming out of Forbidden Light, and its representation in day two of the Madison Regional Championships supports this claim. Coming in behind Buzzwole, ZoroRoc saw the second most placements in day two with eight total Top 32 spots. However, this does not paint a full picture. Only two ZoroRoc variants broke the Top 16 of the event, and none of them advanced to Top 8. This shows that the deck struggled against the other decks in Day 2, Buzzwole-GX variants being the primary example.

Struggling against Buzzwole-GX is one of the worst problems a deck can have in the current format. While this does not mean ZoroRoc is dead by any means, it does indicate that its representation will likely dip noticeably. This means that decks will be less likely to counter it and the community will begin to write it off. I firmly stand against the tide in saying that ZoroRoc can be built to go even to favorable against BuzzRoc given perfect play (a demanding requirement to be sure) and still maintains a favorable position in the metagame moving forward.

I consider the current skeleton for ZoroRoc to be this:

Pokemon (18)

4x Zoroark-GX (PRSM #SM84)4x Zorua (PRSM #SM83)2x Lycanroc-GX (GUR #74)3x Rockruff (FOL #75)3x Tapu Lele-GX (GUR #60)1x Mew-EX (DRX #46)1x Mewtwo (EVO #51)

Trainers (27)

3x Brigette (BKT #134)3x N (DEX #96)2x Guzma (BUS #115)2x Cynthia (ULP #119)1x Professor Sycamore (BKP #107)1x Mallow (GUR #127)4x Ultra Ball (SM #135)4x Puzzle of Time (BKP #109)2x Field Blower (GUR #125)2x Choice Band (GUR #121)1x Float Stone (BKT #137)1x Multi Switch (GUR #129)1x Evosoda (GEN #62)

Energy (8)

4x Double Colorless (SM #136)2x Strong Energy (FAC #115)2x Fighting Energy (EM #106)

This concludes the public portion of this article.

If you'd like to continue reading, consider purchasing a PokeBeach premium membership! If you're not completely satisfied with your membership, you can request a full refund within 30 days.

Each week we post high-quality content from some of the game's top players. Our article program isn't a corporate operation, advertising front, or for-profit business. We set our prices so that we can pay the game's top players to write the best content for our subscribers. Each article topic is carefully selected, goes through multiple drafts, and is touched up by our editors. We take great pride in our program!