The upcoming US Regionals in Dallas is Expanded, which means articles will be focusing on exactly that format for a bit. Last week Alex covered Night March and its counters pretty elaborately, so this week I’m going to cover the other most dominant card in Expanded: Zoroark. Alex covered Zoroark a while back, mostly focused on the decks it was in for San Jose. I’m going to go over the basics of Expanded (instead of Standard) Zoroark real quick as well as the way the game has shaped around it, how I think players will go about beating it and I’ve got a variant of Zoroark of my own that I think has a lot of potential.
If you’ve been playing or watching Standard in any capacity for the last couple of months then you know just how big the release of Zoroark-GX has been for the game as a whole. It has caused a tremendous increase in consistency for decks all around while also providing a solid attacker that’s compatible with just about any partner.
Just about the only drawback Zoroark has in Standard, besides its weakness to Fighting, is that it requires you to pitch a card every time you want to draw two with Trade. Sometimes this is a pretty easy choice, like one of the three Brigette in the deck or that tech Mr. Mime against a deck that doesn’t deal bench damage. But sometimes you’re holding on to a hand full of useful cards like Puzzle of Time, Double Colorless and Guzma, and it can be hard to figure out what the best card to discard is.
In Expanded, Zoroark doesn’t have this problem because of Exeggcute. Propagation allows you to get Exeggcute back from the discard, not just once per turn, but as many times as you like. The reason for this is because of the way the rules of the game work. When an Exeggcute is moved from your discard pile to your hand, it goes from a public zone (one your opponent is free to look at any time they like) to a private zone (one your opponent cannot look at). Because of this, the game “loses track” of the Exeggcute: the moment you discard that Exeggcute again and move it back into a public zone, it could be a completely different Exeggcute for all the game knows!
This is fantastic for Zoroark decks because with just 1 Exeggcute in the discard, Trade becomes totally free. And once you have two, Ultra Ball, Computer Search and Dowsing Machine become free as well, making it much easier to conserve strong late game resources. You can still choose to discard cards you no longer want to draw by not using Exeggcute, but you’re not forced into making any awkward decisions.
In a way I think this isn’t all that healthy for the game since picking what cards to discard in Standard is one of the things that sets players apart. The more often players are put into a dilemma, the more often distinguished skilled players will come out on top over the course of a tournament. But it can also just be a lot of fun to go all out without having to worry about repercussions of your actions too much. This goes not just for Trade with Exeggcute but Expanded as a whole as well.
Speaking of going all-out, there’s another card that absolutely breaks Zoroark and that’s of course Skyfield. In Standard the card is capped at 120 base damage: enough to get a KO on a Tapu Lele with Choice Band and Professor Kukui, but that’s about it. In Expanded, you can fill your bench with 8 Pokémon for a total of 180 damage before even considering Choice Band. This turns Zoroark into a cross between Empoleon DEX and Mega Rayquaza EX: a Pokémon that acts as a consistency engine that also OHKOs just about everything.
Between Zoroark and Night March it’s no wonder what the format is shaped around OHKOs: making them and trying to stop your opponent from making them. There’s two cards in the format that (try to) hard counter Night March in Karen and Oricorio, but are there any for Zoroark-GX?
You would think it’s Parallel City to reduce Zoroark’s bench to 3 and capping its base damage at 80, but generally Zoroark decks run at least 3 Sky Field so it’s hard to keep Parallel City on the table for long enough to make a difference. The closest thing to a way to keep it at bay would be Roadblock Sudowoodo, which funnily enough is mostly seen in Zoroark decks to prevent opponents from taking advantage of its own Sky Field.
But Zoroark decks can counter this counter by running a 1-1 line of Alolan Muk, which will shut off Roadblock but not Trade. From San Jose we can see that some but not all high finishing Zoroark players chose to do this. This is interesting but understandable: not many archetypes besides Zoroark have room for Sudowoodo, and Alolan Muk itself doesn’t make a huge difference in the mirror. It shuts off your opponent’s Sudowoodo as well as your own, so either you are Roadblocking each other or you’re not Roadblocking at all. The only time I can see it make a huge difference in mirror is if one player prizes Sudowoodo, or to shut off other abilities such as Wonder Tag, Set Up and Instruct. Which are valid purposes of Alolan Muk, but not its main one.
Alolan Muk does help a lot against Night March though, as if you get it out quickly enough it stops Marshadow-GX from attacking at all, forcing them to discard a lot more Night Marchers in order to OHKO a Zoroark. Night March is also more reliant on Shaymin and Tapu Lele than Zoroark is (since it only plays 2-2 Zoroark and sometimes only gets one out), so they’re more likely to draw dead off an N to 1-2 if you turn off basic abilities.
The final important thing to note about Alolan Muk is that it stops Exeggcute’s Propagation from working, so if you plan on playing it you should learn how to play Zoroark while being forced to discard actual cards like in Standard. It’s not the biggest deal since there are plenty of things you can get rid of in just about every matchup, but it’s something you have to keep in mind when testing with Muk in your deck.
Zoroark + Friends
The most successful Zoroark decks in San Jose played Lycanroc-GX, Golisopod-GX or no other attacking partner at all, just techs like Seismitoad and non-GX Zoroark. The variant I’ll be showing you is one that hasn’t really seen any success but I think is an interesting sleeper play that not many people will expect, and has some advantages over other Zoroark variants. I got the idea from a friend of mine who mostly plays PTCGO for fun but in testing it I really liked the way it ran.
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