Great In Any Year — Pikachu and Zekrom-GX in Standard and Expanded

Hello everyone! After over a month and a half since the release of Vivid Voltage, it is looking more and more like the set has been a dud as far as introducing new archetypes into the metagame. The most-played decks and top cut results are the same as the Darkness Ablaze Standard meta. What’s more, only a few cards from Vivid Voltage are in any of those decks. Despite the best efforts of some of the more creative players, almost none of the Vivid Voltage archetypes have managed to see sustained competitive success in Standard, nor have they been adopted by any sizable component of the player base. While a few cards such as Jirachi, Leon, and Coating Metal Energy have found their way into existing archetypes for the most part, our current Standard format is a continuation of the TEU-DAA format we’ve had since August. The unfortunate part of this is that the Standard format has begun to feel somewhat stale, despite the deck diversity at the top of the metagame.

Even so, the format has continued to evolve in subtle ways. Since the top decks have remained unchanged, deck lists have become more focused on targeting those decks in particular. For example, Crushing Hammer has seen an increase in play due to how good it is against many of those top archetypes. The one deck that I think has evolved the best in this regard has been Pikachu and Zekrom-GX (PikaRom) and so that is the deck that I will be talking about in this article. While there are many Tier 1 decks right now in Standard, I think you can make a strong argument that PikaRom is the best of them. I believe it is the most well-rounded deck currently, best suited to take advantage of the weaknesses of the top Standard decks. We haven’t looked at PikaRom here at PokeBeach for a while now, so this article will give the deck a fresh look and go over how the deck has evolved. 

Of course, given the staleness of the Standard meta, there have been plenty of players who have been looking for something different. Luckily, Standard is not our only official format. Expanded is a refreshing option, especially as it has recently been shaken up with four newly banned cards. Conveniently, PikaRom has a nifty advantage as it is one of the best decks in Expanded so I will be taking a look at Expanded PikaRom as well! For those of you wanting to play in both formats, the PikaRom strategy in Standard and Expanded doesn’t differ much, so you can realistically switch between the two without much difficulty. This makes PikaRom a great starting point for anyone looking to jump back into Expanded or vice versa.

Pikachu and Zekrom-GX in Expanded

Given how stale Standard has been recently, it isn’t surprising to see Expanded’s popularity increase especially now that there have been several new bans to shake up the Expanded metagame. Conveniently for PikaRom players, PikaRom has turned out to be one of the strongest decks in Expanded. Looking at the bans, the loss of Shaymin-EX may have hurt PikaRom, but it affected other speedy decks more. The other three bans were much more favorable, as Sableye, Oranguru, or Milotic weren’t particularly friendly to PikaRom. 

In addition to all of the wonderful Expanded additions such as Max Elixir and VS Seeker, PikaRom gains all of the recently rotated cards from Lost Thunder that made the deck such a powerhouse. Thunder Mountain Prism Star makes it incredibly easy to get an Energy acceleration-like effect, while Electropower gives this deck the damage boost it needs to be a dangerous threat. In addition to the increased OHKO potential (with three Electropower, a boosted Raichu and Alolan Raichu GX Lightning Ride GX or a powerful Bolt Storm can OHKO Pokemon VMAX), Electropower makes some of your cheaper attacks more threatening. This is most notable when using Vikavolt V. You can expand the stable of possible non-Lightning attackers too; in addition to Mewtwo and Mew-GX, PikaRom has access to Marshadow-GX and Clefairy. While the strategy for the deck remains about the same, the fun part is that the deck is now it’s faster, it hits harder, and there are a few more options in any given turn. As fun as it is to use Crushing Hammer to annoy your opponent, this build is far closer to the quintessential PikaRom deck.

Expanded is a naturally diverse format, so odds are you’ll run into a ton of different decks over the course of a tournament. The most popular archetypes right now are Coalossal VMAX, PikaRom, Dragapult VMAX / Garbodor, Garchomp and Giratina-GX, Rowlet and Alolan Exeggutor-GX / Vileplume, and Zacian V. Among the rest of the meta, common general decks include Max Elixir archetypes (Dark Box), single-Prize archetypes (Mew Box, Mad Party), and control archetypes (Cinccino, Trevenant and Dusknoir-GX). Given the diverse meta, you’ll want to play a list that is robust against a varied field with a focus on consistency and speed. Any tech cards should either target a popular poor matchup or be generally useful against a sizable spread of decks. Here is the PikaRom list that I’ve been using in my Expanded games:

Pokemon (14)

2x Pikachu and Zekrom-GX (TEU #33)1x Raichu and Alolan Raichu-GX (UNM #54)1x Boltund V (SWSH2 #67)1x Vikavolt V (SWSH3 #60)1x Marshadow-GX (BUS #80)1x Clefairy (EVO #63)1x Eelektross (UNM #66)2x Dedenne-GX (UNB #57)1x Crobat V (SWSH3 #104)1x Tapu Lele-GX (GUR #60)1x Tapu Koko Prism Star (TEU #51)1x Sudowoodo (GUR #66)

Trainers (33)

3x Professor Juniper (BLW #101)2x Guzma (BUS #115)1x N (NVI #101)4x Quick Ball (SWSH1 #179)2x Ultra Ball (SHL #68)3x VS Seeker (SV #140)4x Max Elixir (BKP #102)4x Electropower (LOT #172)2x Escape Rope (BUS #114)2x Energy Switch (SWSH1 #162)2x Float Stone (BKT #137)1x Muscle Band (XY #121)1x Stealthy Hood (UNB #186)1x Dowsing Machine (PLS #128)1x Thunder Mountain Prism Star (LOT #191)

Energy (13)

13x Lightning Energy (EVO #94)

Pokemon

As in Standard, your main attackers with this deck will be Pikachu and Zekrom-GX, Raichu and Alolan Raichu-GX, Vikavolt V, and Boltund V. Because you have additional acceleration with Max Elixir and Thunder Mountain Prism Star, you won’t use Boltund V’s Electrify early when playing in Expanded as you can realistically attack with PikaRom’s Full Blitz instead. Boltund V remains a solid attacker thanks to its Bolt Storm, which is more powerful given this deck’s additional Energy acceleration. Vikavolt V’s Paralyzing Bolt is more impactful in the Expanded meta, both because of the higher quality of Item cards in Expanded and that you can increase its damage output with Electropower. In most matchups, those four cards will be the ones to focus on. 

For alternate attackers, I’ve included Marshadow-GX, Clefairy, and Eelektross. Marshadow-GX gives the deck a way to hit for Weakness against Pokemon weak to Fighting-type, fairly common in Expanded. PikaRom, Snorlax VMAX, Zoroark-GX, and Dark Box’s attackers can be easily OHKO’d by Marshadow-GX. Marshadow-GX can be useful too if you want to use a Tag Team Pokemon GX’s attack, but don’t want to give up three Prizes when it is KO’d. Clefairy is another nifty Pokemon. It can OHKO Garchomp and Giratina-GX, Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX, Zacian V, as well as a number of Pokemon in miscellaneous matchups. You can do some fun plays with it to copy GX attacks (such as against ADP) and it is nice to have a Pokemon that can take KOs while only giving up one Prize. Finally, the Eelektross gives this deck both a single-Prize attacker and a non-Basic Pokemon attacker, useful for getting around some walls like Vileplume (even if your Stealthy Hood is Prized) and Decidueye. Without this card, Rowlet and Alolan Exeggutor-GX is a tricky matchup; with it, you’ve got plenty of ways to get around their walls. 

Your remaining Pokemon are mostly meant for consistency, with the exception of Sudowoodo. We no longer have Shaymin-EX, but we do have Dedenne-GX, Crobat V, and Tapu Lele-GX, all of which are excellent options. I haven’t felt a need for more than the quantities I’ve included, though it is certainly worth making sure when searching that none of them are in your Prizes. Sudowoodo is a nice versatile card to annoy your opponent. If your opponent plays Sky Field like in Dark Box or Snorlax VMAX decks, Sudowoodo will slow them down significantly. It will see some usage against other matchups; Sudowoodo can prevent the opponent from playing down a needed Dedenne-GX or Crobat V when played at the right time. While the targeted matchups for Sudowoodo aren’t overwhelmingly popular, I do think it is worth the spot.

Supporters

This Supporter lineup of three Professor Juniper, two Guzma, and one N has become standard in PikaRom lists. Thanks to VS Seeker, it is easy to get by with few Supporters, especially as you can easily search them out with Tapu Lele-GX. I don’t think any other consistency Supporters are necessary, though there are a few worth considering. Guzma and Hala was popular in pre-rotation Standard as it can grab a Speed L Energy and your Thunder Mountain Prism Star at once. In practice, there aren’t many scenarios where I would prefer to use Guzma and Hala over another Supporter. Likewise, Volkner is a card you could add but in most scenarios you’ll want the additional draw of Professor Juniper instead. As techs go, Pokémon Ranger is an option but I don’t believe ADP is seeing enough play in Expanded to justify it.

Items

Most of the items here are fairly straightforward. They either help with consistency, acceleration, or damage output. You want to play a full four copies of Max Elixir and Electropower. For Pokemon search, Quick Ball is the best but you do get access to Ultra Ball in Expanded. Like in Standard, we want to have plenty of ways to switch out our Pokemon in the Active Spot so that we can set up a turn 1 PikaRom or Boltund V, hence the two Air Balloon and two Escape Rope. The only “tech” Item we play here is Stealthy Hood, a must-have against Vileplume. Stealthy Hood has an alternate use against Garbodor; you can attach it onto Tapu Koko Prism Star to block Garbodor’s Garbotoxin Ability and use Dance of the Ancients. Since this deck doesn’t have many other activated Abilities, I’ve not included any Tool removal cards like Field Blower since we don’t care that much about Garbotoxin. In N to 1 scenarios where Garbodor can be annoying, we still have to draw into a Field Blower, which is a long-shot. Other options for Items include HP-increasing Tools such as Fighting Fury Belt or more consistency options like Trainers' Mail.  

My preferred Ace Spec in this deck is Dowsing Machine, as it allows you to re-use Electropower or Max Elixir. Both these cards are critical to the deck and can’t be replaced in any other manner. Dowsing Machine gives you a little bit of protection if you are forced to discard good Items with Professor Juniper or Dedenne-GX. You do have a couple of decent options here though; Computer Search is a helpful consistency card, plus you can do some fun things with Scramble Switch to set up a boosted GX attack out of nowhere (or to spread Energy around after such a GX attack). Overall, I would recommend Dowsing Machine if you have it.

Energy

I tend to prefer more Basic Energy in this deck as opposed to adding Speed L Energy, simply due to the increased Max Elixir odds. It’s a a huge advantage every time you are able to accelerate with Max Elixir, plus it can mean the difference between getting an early attack off and missing one. I believe it is more worth it to improve the Max Elixir odds, as opposed to gaining the draw advantage that would come with Speed L Energy. Additionally, Speed L Energy has a disadvantage as a Special Energy because it can be more easily removed. It can act as a detriment against certain Abilities too. While you can include one if you want to use Guzma and Hala, I would not do so otherwise. 12 Lightning Energy is a common number in this deck, so you can drop down to 12 Energy if there is a particular tech card that you want to include instead.


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