Peeking at Victory — Learning Zoroark-GX First Turn Hand Lock

The OG instant win card.

“Exodia”, as it’s called, is any archetype that aims to achieve a hard or soft win condition on the first turn of the game, ideally being the player to go first to prevent the opponent from ever doing anything to disrupt the strategy (usually a combination of cards that create a nearly unbeatable scenario). Zoroark-GX is by and far one of the best cards in the game, so why not make a Zoroark-GX deck using an Exodia strategy? There’s no reason not to, and DeAndre Holmes and Le Bui have both shown us exactly how strong this archetype can be when paired with Trade.

So, first off, how does this work? One of the Exodia strategies is to kill your opponent’s hand. One way to do this in Pokemon is with the following three-card combination: Red Card (or Marshadow and its Let Loose), followed by Delinquent, then a Peeking Red Card. This will leave your opponent with one card, but if you choose to put your opponent’s hand (should we even call a single card that?) into the deck after playing Peeking Red Card, the odds of redrawing a playable card are extremely slim. While your opponent will still be able to draw a card for the turn, a hand of two is tough to make playable and it’s unlikely that much will come of it. There are other ways to take this even further like Absol, Aipom, Trumbeak, or Trick Shovel, but those are even more cards to ask for on top of a generous combination that can be tricky to pull off as it is.

Is this even balanced? As an opinion it doesn’t matter, but, no, I do not believe it is. If there is some justification for why this combo shouldn’t be banned immediately, it’s that it can be difficult to procure, so this isn’t a guaranteed combination by any means. The sad reality is that Expanded is full of so many draw cards that it will happen more often than not, so it is what it is. This is a deck built for the early turns, a bit of a midgame, but not much of a later one. Hopefully you’ve gotten to a winning position by then so your poor late game won’t come back to bite you. The draw to Zoroark-GX in a deck like this is to give it an attacker than can one-shot almost anything and an attacker that can carry you a bit past the first few turns.

To set the scene, let’s take a different Exodia concept for example: Marshadow-GX / Milotic. This deck aims to do something similar: to use Energy Grace to power up a Marshadow-GX which then copies Dialga-GX from the discard pile to use Timeless GX. This effectively allows you to play two Supporters — an Ace Trainer (since you’re down on Prize cards after Energy Grace) on the first turn, then a Delinquent on the second. This might seem like an unbeatable strategy in theory, but in practice it doesn’t always work. If your opponent happens to hit a small stroke of luck they can immediately offset this “wombo combo” by drawing a playable card, then punishing your fragile deck. Marshadow-GX isn’t a tank by any means and after you’ve floored the gas so hard that you’re left with scraps for the remains of your deck, well, the story doesn’t end well.

Zoroark-GX sets itself up for success with this sort of deck using draw cards like Shaymin-EX, Order Pad, Trainers' Mail, and others. Once the combination has been achieved, you’ll have a solid base to build off on your second turn and those to come with Trade, draw Supporter cards like Colress, and maybe a spare Shaymin-EX that you didn’t have to play. The idea here is to give yourself a second opportunity to build the lock if need be. Say your opponent draws out of it once — maybe they won’t be as lucky the second time around. You have Trade and more to dig through your deck a bit more to reach the degenerate combination of cards once more, and, if you have to, you can use Oranguru to go the extra mile with Resource Management to recover any missing pieces. If all goes well you’ll be using Riotous Beating by your second turn for one-hit Knock Outs and getting too far ahead for your opponent to ever recover. To sum it up, Zoroark-GX is the best partner for the Exodia strategy, and I expect this deck to quickly become a large part of the metagame moving forward to Texas Regionals and other Expanded format events.

Humble Beginnings

Pokemon (18)

4x Zoroark-GX (SHL #53)4x Zorua (SHL #52)3x Unown (AOR #30)2x Shaymin-EX (RSK #77)2x Marshadow (SHL #45)1x Tapu Lele-GX (GUR #60)1x Sudowoodo (GUR #66)1x Oranguru (ULP #114)

Trainers (38)

2x Delinquent (BKP #98)1x Xerosic (PHF #110)1x N (FAC #105)1x Lusamine (CRI #96)1x Guzma (BUS #115)1x Cynthia (ULP #119)1x Colress (PLS #118)4x VS Seeker (PHF #109)4x Ultra Ball (SHL #68)3x Trainers' Mail (RSK #92)3x Rescue Stretcher (GUR #130)2x Red Card (GEN #71)2x Peeking Red Card (CRI #97)2x Level Ball (AOR #76)2x Float Stone (BKT #137)2x Choice Band (GUR #121)1x Special Charge (STS #105)1x Computer Search (BCR #137)3x Sky Field (RSK #89)1x Silent Lab (PRC #140)

Energy (4)

4x Double Colorless Energy (SHL #69)

Here’s the exact list that DeAndre Holmes used in Oregon for a commendable Top 16 finish. While it should have immediately sent shockwaves through the community that a deck like this existed with Zoroark-GX, it truly didn’t and went into California again as a sleeper pick.

Using this list as a baseline, some of the basic ideas were to use Marshadow more heavily as a way to axe your opponent’s hand and then to use Unown as a way to recover from drawing a bad hand of your own from Let Loose. In theory this might seem strong, but it’s a fancy combination that doesn’t always work and takes up valuable space that could be invested elsewhere. While I like the idea, it’s clear to say that this was a starting point. Aside from that, this list doesn’t have many differences from this newer one; Xerosic becomes Faba, obviously, and a few other tweaks were made.

Here’s the concept, though. Let’s get into some further explaining of Le Bui’s Top 4 build.

Pokemon (19)

4x Zoroark-GX (SHL #53)4x Zorua (SHL #52)4x Shaymin-EX (RSK #77)1x Tapu Lele-GX (GUR #60)1x Seismitoad-EX (FFI #20)1x Sudowoodo (GUR #66)1x Marshadow (SHL #45)1x Exeggcute (PLF #4)1x Ditto Prism Star (LOT #154)1x Alolan Muk (SM #58)

Trainers (37)

2x Delinquent (BKP #98)1x Colress (PLS #118)1x Cynthia (ULP #119)1x Guzma (BUS #115)1x Lusamine (CRI #96)4x VS Seeker (PHF #109)4x Ultra Ball (SHL #68)3x Trainers' Mail (RSK #92)2x Rescue Stretcher (GUR #130)2x Red Card (GEN #71)2x Peeking Red Card (CRI #97)2x Level Ball (AOR #76)2x Float Stone (BKT #137)2x Choice Band (GUR #121)1x Special Charge (STS #105)1x Pokémon Communication (BLW #99)1x Battle Compressor (PHF #92)1x Computer Search (BCR #137)4x Sky Field (RSK #89)

Energy (4)

4x Double Colorless Energy (SHL #69)

Some major overhaul took place here, swapping out the Unown for better cards and fine-tuning some other pieces of the list. Battle Compressor, Pokémon Communication, and the fourth Sky Field to name a few. I think this is pretty close to optimal for this archetype. In a little bit I’ll share my own list with some wacky changes of my own.


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