Ticking Curse — Hisuian Zoroark VSTAR in the Standard Format

Hello PokeBeach readers! Isaiah here, and I am happy to be bringing you another article! Last time, I talked about what happened at the Peoria Regional Championships as well as several different decks that I thought would be great picks for the Salt Lake City Regional Championships. In particular, I focused on Giratina VSTAR, Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR, and Regigigas. In hindsight, these picks were significantly better than even I anticipated, with these three decks taking up six of the Top 8 spots at Salt Lake City! With that said, I would be lying if I said I did not expect to be at least somewhat correct about what would do well!

Salt Lake City Regional Championships Review

The one part of the Salt Lake City Regional Championships that almost nobody saw coming was Regigigas taking up 50% of the Top 8 spots! FIFTY PERCENT!? It is extremely rare for a deck to make up 50% of a Top 8 at any event, but a deck like Regigigas, which many people felt was not an exceptionally strong deck going into the event, taking up half of Top 8 is borderline unheard of. Not just that, but the deck was also piloted by some of the best players in the game, being fellow PokeBeach writer Grant Manley former PokeBeach writer Caleb Gedemer, Azul Garcia Griego, and Drew Kennett, showing that the deck doing well was not entirely a fluke, as some of the best believed that it was a strong play for the event and delivered on this belief with their performance.

Unfortunately, none of the Regigigas players made it to the finals of the event, which, to some people’s surprise, contained two Arceus VSTAR decks. In the end, Hale Obernolte took down the event with his Arceus VSTAR / Hisuian Goodra VSTAR, a deck that has picked up quite a bit of traction since the Peoria Regional Championships. Thanks to its immense bulk and healing capabilities, the deck was able to make quick work of all of the decks in the format with low damage ceilings, like Lost Zone Toolbox or Regigigas, while also doing reasonably well into decks with slightly higher damage outputs, such as Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR. In the past, Arceus VSTAR / Hisuian Goodra VSTAR’s worst matchup has been Giratina VSTAR and Kyurem VMAX, but with two Big Parasol and a Path to the Peak, it has become much more easier to pick up the win against those matchups. In all honesty, it is absolutely no surprise that Obernolte won the event, as he definitely had made the best meta call in the entire room.

The Salt Lake City Regional Championships left the metagame for this format in a really interesting place, but unfortunately there will be no more North American events in this format, so it is slightly less significant to myself aside from a few local tournaments over the next few weeks before Silver Tempest releases on November 11. With that being said, there are Regional Championships in Lille, France and Warsaw, Poland, so this format does have at least some relevance on a global scale. As such, the format is going to remain my focus for this article.

One deck that was extremely popular at the Salt Lake City Regional Championships was Hisuian Zoroark VSTAR, which ultimately failed to live up to the expectations set by its Top 8 finish at the Peoria Regional Championships. However, myself and other players certainly feel that the deck is much stronger than the results it put up in Salt Lake City would imply. While I am honestly not certain that the deck is one of the best decks in the format or anything exceptional, I do think the deck is very strong still and it is definitely a deck that I would at least consider for upcoming Regional Championships and other major tournaments. In order to better understand why I feel this way, how about we take a look at what makes Hisuian Zoroark VSTAR so strong.

The Strengths of Hisuian Zoroark VSTAR

When Hisuian Zoroark VSTAR was announced, many players considered that the card may be an insanely “broken” or overpowered card. After all, the card was capable of doing 280 damage for a single Energy Attachment, so what changed? Well, many players started to realize the inherent inconsistencies of the deck, noticing that, while Gapejaw Bog, Damage Pump, and Gengar are incredible cards, they are a bit unreliable as means of getting damage in play. However, if you can get the cards you need quick enough, I am sure that most players would agree that the deck is extremely strong.

Of course, to properly understand this, we need to look at what Hisuian Zoroark VSTAR actually does. With its Ticking Curse attack, for only two Colorless Energy, it does 50 times the number of Pokemon in you have in play with damage counters on them. Naturally, any time we see an attack cost of two Colorless Energy, the mind immediately considers Double Turbo Energy and its applications with the attack. Irritatingly, while Double Turbo Energy does provide all of the necessary Energy to power up Hisuian Zoroark VSTAR, it does reduce its damage output by 20. This may seem inconsequential at first glance, needing a sixth damaged Pokemon to take a one-hit Knock Out on most Pokemon VSTAR and needing six Pokemon plus a Choice Belt to still fall short on most Pokemon VMAX (though Radiant Hawlucha can make up for the missing damage) is certainly a bit inconvenient.

Now that we have addressed paying for Ticking Curse, the process of applying damage needs to be addressed, after all, most players will not be spreading damage for us via Noivern V‘s Boomburst or anything like that. In order to accomplish this, we use Gapejaw Bog, Damage Pump, and Gengar like I mentioned earlier. Gapejaw Bog in particular is incredibly important because of how easy getting damage on the board becomes while it is in play, essentially turning a reasonably difficult task into just filling your Bench. Gengar and Damage Pump act as “the cards you use when you cannot find Gapejaw Bog,” offering the ability to distribute high volumes of damage, whether it be damage from an early game attack like Spit Innocently or from Gengar and Gapejaw Bog, Damage Pump can move it to move you closer to achieving a board full of damage. Additionally, Gengar provides a means of “instant access” to getting damaged Pokemon in play, reducing how badly you need to fill your Bench on a turn that Gapejaw Bog is in play, and alleviating a lot of the stress that comes from setting up your board.

Now that we have covered the deck’s setup and understand our attacking plan, how does this deck actually win? Well, the answer to this is far less interesting than you may hope. For the most part, this decks only game plan is sheer aggression and speed. With an incredibly consistent setup for high damage, the decks biggest strength is being able to rush down Prizes by taking one-hit Knock Outs on Pokemon V repeatedly before the opponent is able to set up. Annoyingly, if this exact strategy fails, the deck completely collapses on itself, making it a perfect example of a glass cannon. With that being said, that certainly does not stop the deck from being good, as many decks in the Standard format just cannot keep up with a Hisuian Zoroark VSTAR rushing down Prize cards before they can even set up. Hisuian Zoroark VSTAR is able to accomplish this goal through a variety of different supporting Abilities such as Dark Asset from Crobat V as well as thanks to its incredible VSTAR Power, Phantom Star. Phantom Star is an incredible option for drawing cards in this deck, as it opens up the option to effectively play Professor's Research in addition to any other Supporter that you would want to play in a turn. This makes digging for Boss's Orders a breeze, guiding you more smoothly to your win condition.

From this point, we can consider what is the best way to execute the deck’s strategy. One camp is to consider building the most consistent list possible. After all, this is the best way to ensure that we can get ahead like we need to in order to win. However, doing this could create some problems against decks that Hisuian Zoroark VSTAR does not trade favorably into, such as Lost Zone Toolbox. As such, another option to consider is a list more teched out with healing cards and such in order to improve difficult matchups at the expense of consistency. In my opinion, both of these strategies are valid, but the perfect list might be a delicate balance between these two things, as finding that point is the best way to maximize Hisuian Zoroark VSTAR’s win rate. For the remainder of this article, I am going to take a look at a deck list for each of the two main ideas, first starting with the hyper-consistent variant.

Turbo Hisuian Zoroark VSTAR

One of the more typical variants of Hisuian Zoroark VSTAR has been the “turbo” lists built similar to the Turbo Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR deck that dominated the Melbourne Regional Championships shortly after Astral Radiance format. This deck made use of Mew to find a ton of key Item cards in a single turn, providing a level of digging unlike anything we have seen since the rotation of Jirachi. In Hisuian Zoroark VSTAR, this engine becomes especially strong because of how valuable seeing that many cards can be. Most importantly, though, is that Mew can find Damage Pump, accelerating us to our win condition. Funnily, the combination of Damage Pump, Mew, and Scoop Up Net have an amusing interaction where you can Bench a Mew under Gapejaw Bog, Damage Pump the damage off onto something else, and then use Scoop Up Net to reset the damage counters by rebenching Mew. Overall, this deck list is designed to be consistent and nothing else, and it does an excellent job at that.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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