Hello PokeBeach readers! Isaiah here, happy to be bringing you another article about the Standard format! Today I will be taking quite the change from my usual off-the-wall deck options by covering something far more conventional: Pikachu and Zekrom-GX! In the past, I have quite frankly despised this card. I would always acknowledge that it was good whenever it was good, but always I tried to avoid playing it as much as I could! In fact, I can count the number of events for which I’ve played Pikachu and Zekrom-GX on a single hand — exactly five. The most notable was the 2019 World Championships, where I played it alongside fellow writer Charlie Lockyer (who wrote about that particular list here) and a few of our friends. That tournament didn’t go great for me, so barring a couple games on the Pokemon TCG Online Versus Ladder from time to time, I’ve generally avoided the deck ever since.
However, this all changed with Battle Styles.
How Battle Styles has affected Pikachu and Zekrom-GX
Approaching the release of Battle Styles, a lot of people were claiming that Pikachu and Zekrom-GX would be a dead archetype due to the emergence of two new Fighting-type threats, Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX and Single Strike Urshifu VMAX. However, this ended up being far from correct. In reality, Pikachu and Zekrom-GX may have gained more from the release of Battle Styles than it lost!
This is largely thanks to the aforementioned Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX (and Single Strike Urshifu VMAX to a lesser extent) making a huge dent in the power of Eternatus VMAX. Decks with either Urshifu VMAX present the constant threat of an easy one-hit Knock Out thanks to Weakness and a variety of tools such as Martial Arts Dojo. As a result of this new power, Eternatus VMAX has certainly been knocked down from its previous “S Tier” status and has instead shifted down to the lower end of Tier 1, or even Tier 2 in some people’s eyes.
There are very few decks in the format that take advantage of this new change better than Pikachu and Zekrom-GX does. Now, thanks to Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, Pikachu and Zekrom-GX has significantly lower odds of playing against the generally difficult Eternatus VMAX matchup. Furthermore, Pikachu and Zekrom-GX can add in a couple copies of Mewtwo and Mew-GX to have a much better chance of taking down the Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX deck, something that can’t be said for Eternatus VMAX.
With that, let’s take a better look at some matchups.
In my previous article, I included an abridged tier list of the Standard format, including only the decks I felt were the most critically important. Today, I will be covering Pikachu and Zekrom-GX’s matchup against a similar list of decks, but I will omit a few where the matchups are relatively straightforward (for example, the Blacephalon matchup revolves entirely around Marnie to keep the opponent’s hand size down) or far too complicated for the scope of this article (the Lucario and Melmetal-GX matchup is largely dependent on the path your opponent takes; this matchup alone could be its own 2000-word article). In exchange for the lost matchups, I’ll include my analysis of the up-and-coming Mewtwo and Mew-GX Toolbox deck, similar to the deck I covered last time. The matchups split that I provide will omit any major techs on the side of the opponent, but they will be noted in the explanations.
Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX — Slightly Favored
This matchup is really strange — it’s easily the most tech-based matchup in the format, depending almost entirely on the opponent’s use of Jirachi-GX and/or Mimikyu. If they play neither, assuming you don’t start a Lightning-type Tag Team Pokemon-GX, you should win most games. If they play just Jirachi-GX, the matchup gets dicey, but usually you should be able to pull together a win, especially if Boltund V can sneak in a Knock Out. However, if they play both Jirachi-GX and Mimikyu, the matchup becomes unfavored.
As for actually playing the game, it is critical to focus on Mewtwo and Mew-GX, as it has the Weakness advantage over Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX without being weak to the card itself. In addition, try to use Boltund to scrape up some early Prizes, especially on your opponent’s answers to Mewtwo and Mew-GX. I also highly recommend avoiding overbenching Pokemon that can be Knocked Out by G-Max Rapid Flow, as that opens up the opportunity for your opponent to set up a five-Prize turn.
Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX / Zacian V — Even
The Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX / Zacian V matchup is very reliant on Crushing Hammer and how easily your opponent can use Altered Creation GX for its full effect. Other than that, there is not a lot to the matchup. I advise avoiding Pikachu and Zekrom-GX in particular, as its 240 HP is just enough for a boosted Brave Blade to score a one-hit Knock Out after Resistance. If you play Big Charm, it’s critical to get that on either Mewtwo and Mew-GX or Raichu and Alolan Raichu-GX in order to make sure you can survive a Altered Creation GX-boosted Brave Blade with a Rusted Sword on it. One important aspect of this matchup is the lategame. Ideally, your opponent only gets to Knock Out a Tag Team Pokemon-GX before being met with the powerful Tandem Shock + Reset Stamp play, which is often just enough to steal the couple Prizes that give you the game.
Eternatus VMAX — Slightly Unfavored
Crushing Hammer is your best friend here. Boltund V is also critical as it sets up a ton of plays in the midgame and lategame. Oftentimes I find myself going for Electrify on my first turn (going second), then following it up with a Dance of the Ancients from Tapu Koko Prism Star to ramp up to six Energy in play before using Bolt Storm for 190. By doing this, the math is perfect for a Full Blitz to pick up the Knock Out on an Eternatus VMAX. Similar to the Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX / Zacian V matchup, Tandem Shock coupled with a Reset Stamp is very frequently enough to take a win, especially since it is extremely easy to force Eternatus VMAX down to one Prize by first giving them a Boltund V and then giving them a Tag Team.
Based on that, it might seem like the matchup should actually be quite favored for Pikachu and Zekrom-GX, but there are a lot of ways the main strategies can go wrong. Most importantly, if you don’t flip at least one Crushing Hammer heads against Eternatus VMAX, your odds of winning the game are drastically reduced. Conversely, if your opponent flips heads on their own Crushing Hammer, should they play them, you have a lot of issues piecing together your major plays. Eternatus VMAX may also opt to include Power Plant. If they do, you are bound to have a lot of issues setting up to win the game. In addition, there is always the scenario where the Eternatus VMAX player’s setup absolutely explodes and they run you over before you even have a chance to play the game. Overall, the matchup is extremely volatile, and I think that just enough has to go perfectly for Pikachu and Zekrom-GX that the matchups should likely be considered unfavored, even if it is only slightly unfavored like I say.
Victini VMAX — Favored
The Victini VMAX matchup varies a lot depending on the list, as there’s a variety of different Victini VMAX builds. Generally speaking, though, I maintain a relatively similar game plan to the one against Eternatus VMAX. (Sometimes I’m careful not to put out Mewtwo and Mew-GX, as some Victini VMAX lists opt to include a single copy of their own Mewtwo and Mew-GX for the Weakness it can hit, but in the open deck list nature of most online events, this is a less important precaution, as you’ll know the risk beforehand.)
Crushing Hammer plays a dual purpose here as well. While it forces your opponent to Welder when they want to attack, it also has a major bonus factor of reducing the number of Energy your opponent has in play, making Heatran-GX‘s Hot Burn GX much less threatening. In general, I usually end up winning this matchup, but from time to time, something goes wrong, and when it does, Victini VMAX is very good at capitalizing on it.
Mewtwo and Mew-GX Toolbox — Favored
This matchup can get extremely complicated if your opponent is playing atypical techs such as Galarian Sirfetch'd V. However, if they have a list similar to the one in my article, then the matchup is usually favored. Two critically important things to avoid are Gengar and Mimikyu-GX‘s Horror House GX and Incineroar-GX‘s Darkest Tornado GX. Both of these GX attacks can lead to unnecessary losses if you unintentionally play into them. In addition, it’s critical to dodge massive hits from Poltergeist, as well as to make sure your hand size is always big enough that Trevenant and Dusknoir-GX can’t leave you with zero cards with its Night Watch attack. Amid all these things to juggle, you also need to develop your own strategy. One important thing is to be prepared to need at least two Boltund V as you need to be able to deal with Latios-GX‘s Tag Purge. I also recommend setting up the Tandem Shock and Reset Stamp combo, as it is a great way to score a couple free Prizes.
However, most games in this matchup are decided by Crushing Hammer. Mewtwo and Mew-GX Toolbox is extremely vulnerable to a well timed heads flip thanks to the high attack costs and minimal Energy acceleration the deck has to offer. When using your Crushing Hammer, I would encourage you to decide whether you want to use them to slow down the opponent early or you want to hit Energy off of their Benched attacker at the same time you take a Knock Out. Sometimes you’re forced into specific plays and don’t have the luxury of making that decision, but it’s something that I highly advise you to consider throughout most games nonetheless.
Now that we’ve covered some matchups, let’s take a look at a deck list for Pikachu and Zekrom-GX!
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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