Who’s Scared Now? — Revisiting and Revitalizing ZapBeasts

Zapdos decks didn’t perform well at Wisconsin Regionals. Coming off a pair of semifinalist finishes at California Regionals two weeks earlier, Zapdos was truly seated in a weird, bland place. Many top players were off the deck, feeling it was underwhelming, and the rest of the player base had shied away from it in favor of new archetypes that had a higher powering ceiling like Reshiram and Charizard-GX. It’s strange to see a deck that was so widely popular fall off so quickly. It went from widespread success since its Team Up release to near mediocrity after Unbroken Bonds dropped. So this begs the question, what’s wrong with Zapdos?

Nothing is wrong with Zapdos, in fact, it’s still one of the best decks and dons a great array of matchups with the slight exception to Zoroark-GX builds playing Alolan Muk. It is the goal of this piece to dispel doubt from the perceived notion of viability surrounding Zapdos. The Zapdos lists circulating as of late are missing a big piece that helps you beat matchups like Reshiram and Charizard-GX, an important deck that you need to beat in this format that many people are discounting for the Zapdos decks. Yes, two Zapdos decks did lose to Reshiram and Charizard-GX builds in Santa Clara about a month ago now, but those lists were far off what I would be playing. The list I’ve been working with has a consistently slightly favorable matchup with the deck, so right away it’s something you could consider playing for a big event. It should be everyone’s number one priority to beat Reshiram and Charizard-GX decks right now, with Zoroark-GX following closely behind.

The List

So with a poor Zoroark-GX matchup, how could this ever be the play? Like I said, there are things to improve it. Taking a loss somewhere is fine in most cases, and you won’t be outright tipping your hand to your opponent in the matchup. Pikachu and Zekrom-GX decks have been rising in popularity once again, another favorable matchup for Zapdos, and with that, Zoroark-GX builds should decline in popularity. Zapdos is a great and consistent deck that operates smoothly nearly every game behind the straight consistency of four Jirachi and a streamlined list that plays into itself. I firmly believe that Zebstrika is absolutely essential right now for Zapdos decks to do well, as is Spiritomb. Both of these have been missing from most lists which begs an assumed conclusion: this is why Zapdos has been underperforming. Here’s the current list for Zapdos:

Pokemon (15)

4x Jirachi (TEU #99)2x Zapdos (TEU #40)2x Zebstrika (LOT #82)2x Blitzle (LOT #81)1x Tapu Koko-GX (GUR #47)1x Tapu Koko Prism Star (TEU #51)1x Spiritomb (UNB #112)1x Nihilego (LOT #106)1x Buzzwole (FOL #77)

Trainers (36)

4x Lillie (ULP #125)4x Guzma (BUS #115)2x Professor Kukui (SM #128)2x Cynthia (ULP #119)4x Ultra Ball (SHL #68)4x Nest Ball (SM #123)4x Electropower (LOT #172)3x Switch (CES #147)2x Rescue Stretcher (GUR #130)2x Escape Board (ULP #122)1x Pokégear 3.0 (UNB #182)1x Escape Rope (BUS #114)1x Choice Band (GUR #121)1x Thunder Mountain Prism Star (LOT #191)1x Shrine of Punishment (CES #143)

Energy (9)

4x Rainbow Energy (CES #151)4x Lightning Energy (EVO #94)1x Beast Energy Prism Star (FOL #117)

This list is closer to what used to be standard before lists really got out of hand and messy. The consistent base of four Lillie and Guzma should always be a mainstay in Zapdos decks, you want to have an explosive first turn and then Guzma early and often. A rift I’ve seen in list is a disparity in Cynthia versus Volkner counts. I’ve talked about my dislike of Volkner before in Pikachu and Zekrom-GX (although that’s changed in recent weeks with the introduction of the “new” list debuted in Madison) but never in Zapdos. Let’s start there…

Volkner is horrible in Zapdos, especially against Alolan Muk. Power of Alchemy dismantles much of your strategy. When that happens, Jirachi can’t find one of the, say, two pieces you need to attack for the turn for some significance. Volkner only “works” when you already have one piece of the puzzle in hand, unless you truly just need a switching card and an Energy (very rare). Zapdos is a combo deck when it comes to pieces. You play an Electropower, dig for more cards, sometimes look for a Guzma; there’s more to the deck than just the linear approach that Volkner brings to the table. Volkner is slow. Volkner is weak to Judge. Volkner is very bad in Zapdos, I could go on and on. Playing two isn’t great either, you don’t have a guarantee of when you’ll find it and it’s not great in many situations. There are times where it could get you the one card you want but with Zapdos it’s very often a matter of wanting more than just one card. Two copies of Cynthia fits the purpose of the deck better because it can find multiple things at once and still set you up for your next turn if you draw a follow up Supporter or another Energy already for the coming turn. Volkner is too slow in a deck that’s one of the fastest in Standard and I do not want to compromise a good thing but stoking its flame for speed.

Professor Kukui is something that’s drifted in and out of Zapdos decks for a while since the “original” straight Zapdos deck came out in Australia with three Professor Kukui, I can’t believe we played that many still. Anyways, it’s much better now with hitting numbers against Zoroark-GX when Alolan Muk is down, finding the missing piece to finish off 270 HP TAG TEAM Pokemon-GX, and even taking out non-GX stuff like Arcanine with the pesky total of 140 HP. There’s so much versatility for Professor Kukui right now that I think it belongs in the deck again. Zapdos might be fast, but with the rest of the format catching up to it in that regard and Alolan Muk still paving the way for other decks in the matchup, playing Professor Kukui opens new paths to victory that weren’t possible without it. Having more ways to win is always good and Professor Kukui is just a crafty card that finishes Knock Outs when you need them.


This concludes the public portion of this article.

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