Hey everyone!

Coming up next is Costa Mesa’s Expanded Regional Championships, the first time players will get to use the Ultra Prism set in the Expanded format. The last Expanded event was the enormous Dallas Regional of over 1000 people, where the top 8 was literally 5 Zoroark decks (1 with Golisopod, 1 with Lycanroc) and 3 Drampa/Garbodor decks.

Since then there have been two Regional Championships with Ultra Prism in it…but if you only took a cursory glance at the results, you wouldn’t really know there was a new set allowed because the format doesn’t look very shaken up! The top tables seem to have been filled with Zoroark, Buzzwole and Lycanroc as they’ve been for a while now.

In order to determine what to expect for Costa Mesa, I think it’s best to combine what there is to learn from the last few Regional Championships. That includes a couple of Standard ones, but since the lessons are very much applicable to Expanded I think it’s worth going over them.

While most people (including me) expect Glaceon-GX and Magnezone to be the bigger hits of the new expansion, the actual MVP from the new set seems to have been Weavile, taking both spots in the finals of Malmo as well as the 9th place. Weavile is a very interesting single prize attacker in today’s metagame: for a single Dark Energy, it does 50 damage times the number of abilities your opponent has in play.

Player benches have rarely been more full of ability Pokémon than they are right now. Almost everyone plays down a Tapu Lele initially in order to use Brigette, perhaps another one to fish out an important Guzma or just a draw supporter. Then there’s a lot of attackers with abilities, Zoroark and Lycanroc being the most popular ones, but there’s also Volcanion-EX, Gardevoir-GX and Gallade to consider. And finally support Pokémon are usually only played for their abilities: draw support (Octillery or Oranguru) or miscellaneous (Sudowoodo and Magnezone).

Long story short: if you want to limit the damage Weavile does, you’re going to have to be very careful when managing your bench and often limit yourself in the process. You might have to leave Zorua unevolved until you want to attack with it, which leaves you without all the advantages an extra Zoroark on the field would give you. In Expanded, Sudowoodo is often very important to limit Zoroark’s damage output, but by benching it you’re already giving your opponent an extra 50 damage to work with.

Even if Weavile isn’t able to get a OHKO on a 2-prize Pokémon, it’s still doing its job of limiting you, and it can also still be a reasonable way to 2HKO since it’s only worth one prize itself.

 

Adam Hawkin’s Winning Zoroark GX/Weavile Deck

 

Weavile

 

Weavile was most successful paired with (what else?) Zoroark-GX. Let’s take a look at the winner Adam Hawkin’s list, courtesy of LimitlessCCG.

 

Pokemon – 20

4 Zorua BKT 89
3 Zoroark-GX
2 Zoroark BKT
2 Zoroark Break
2 Sneasel UPR
2 Weavile UPR
3 Tapu Lele-GX
1 Tapu Koko PR-SM
1 Mew-EX

 

Trainers – 32

1 Professor Sycamore
1 Professor Kukui
1 Mallow
1 Acerola
3 Brigette
3 Guzma
3 N
3 Cynthia
4 Ultra Ball
4 Puzzle of Time
2 Evosoda
2 Field Blower
3 Choice Band
1 Devoured Field

 

Energy – 8

4 Double Colorless Energy
4 Darkness Energy

 

In order for Weavile to attack at all players had to incorporate Darkness Energy into their list. This is actually a blessing because it enables Zoroark use its Trickster-GX attack to copy opponent’s attacks, even GX attacks. It’s not even limited to their active Pokémon like Foul Play is, which opens up an enormous number of doors. If your opponent has a Lycanroc in play, you can now copy Dangerous Rogue with your Zoroark, letting you OHKO something like a loaded Buzzwole or Lycanroc as long as you can manage to stick two Dark on a Zoroark.

This is an important weapon to have in your arsenal because the deck’s weakness to Fighting is compounded with Weavile as your only backup attacker. That’s why the deck plays another copying machine in Mew-EX, which you generally use to imitate Riotous Beating to OHKO Buzzwole due to their Psychic weakness. Generally Zoroark decks nowadays will play either Mew-EX or Mewtwo EVO to deal with Buzzwole. While Mew has an easier time getting OHKOs and isn’t dependent on your opponent’s energy attachments, Mewtwo is only worth half the prizes while having more HP and can be obtained with Brigette.

With Dark Energy in the deck it also makes sense to include Zoroark BREAK and its more conventional Foul Play, which can also be used to use Dangerous Rogue, Absorption GX or any other attack your opponent might leave available to you. It’s surprisingly tough to KO in one hit with its 140 HP, especially for a single prize attacker. Of course you do need a non-GX Zoroark to put the BREAK onto, but that’s not exactly a punishment when the Mind Jack Zoroark exists. It can even score OHKOs for you if your opponent is careless enough to fill their bench (190 against a full bench before Choice Band).

Besides Weavile the only Ultra Prism card in this deck is Cynthia. Everyone knew this card was going to be in every deck but it’s worth highlighting just how much it helps Zoroark decks especially conserve resources. Zoroark decks were already cutting down Sycamore to 1-2 (and the recent lists still have that count in them) but Cynthia as a way to draw a fresh hand without affecting the opponent or discarding anything is a great boon for them, and increases their chances of being able to use all their Puzzles and other cards to full effect.

While a lot of decks nowadays are playing Parallel City as a disruptive stadium, Adam chose Devoured Field instead. I suspect this is not only because he wanted the occasional +10 damage bonus, but also because it functions as a way to bump opposing Parallel City, which a copy of Parallel City can not do.

Evosoda is a card worth highlighting real quick: it has snuck its way into many decks, especially Zoroark ones. It’s yet another way of showing how much the higher percentile of the playerbase values resource conservation right now. If there’s one thing I hate doing in a game, it’s using an Ultra Ball to grab a Zoroark and then Trading away a third card. Rarely do you have more than 2 completely useless cards in your hand and before long you tend to start pitching things like  supporters and Tapu Lele just to keep the more valuable cards like Puzzle of Time and Double Colorless. Every time an Evosoda saves you from making a painful discard like that, it’s worth its spot.

Other than those techs highlighted above it’s still Zoroark in all its glory with a high Brigette count, 4 Puzzle of Time, the usual 1-of supporters (Kukui, Acerola and Mallow). Despite a field filled with Buzzwole the deck still did wonderful and I expect some people to emulate its success in Expanded, as that format is riddled with ability Pokémon.

 

Isaiah William’s Second Place Zoroark GX Deck

 

Zoroark

 

Speaking of those, I want to take a look at Dallas’s second place Zoroark list as it has a couple of very strong tech choices that have been making all the difference in Zoroark mirrors, which I expect to be a big part of pretty much every tournament to come.

This list was piloted by Isaiah Williams, and even though he lost to Riley Hulbert when all the chips were on the table it still has some tricks that you need to be aware of going into an Expanded tournament.

 

Pokemon – 20

3 Zorua DEX
1 Zorua BLW
4 Zoroark-GX
1 Zoroark BKT
4 Exeggcute PLF
3 Tapu Lele-GX GRI
2 Shaymin-EX ROS
1 Sudowoodo GRI
1 Oricorio GRI 56

 

Trainers – 36

2 Brigette
2 Colress
2 Hex Maniac
1 N
1 Guzma
1 Ghetsis
1 Pokemon Ranger
4 VS Seeker
4 Ultra Ball
4 Puzzle of Time
2 Battle Compressor
1 Rescue Stretcher
1 Field Blower
1 Red Card
1 Computer Search
3 Choice Band
2 Float Stone
3 Sky Field

 

Energy – 4

4 Double Colorless Energy

 

If you’ve ever played a Zoroark mirror in Expanded, you probably know how mind numbing it can be. Assuming both players get set up, the player going first probably gets a turn 2 Riotous Beating for an OHKO on something like a Zorua. Then two Zoroarks are going to start hitting into each other. If Sudowoodo is in effect, Zoroark is limited to about 130 damage, which can be negated by a healing card such as Acerola, Max Potion or AZ. But if Sudowoodo is not in play or shut off, then Zoroark can hit for exactly 210 with a Choice Band and a full bench, making it something that resembles a Mega Rayquaza or Volcanion mirror.

This list (and its player) very much acknowledge the above dynamic and gives what I think are the best odds to prevent the opponent from setting up or, if they do, still throw them off midgame while maintaining consistency at getting OHKOs. A couple of card choices are key for this.

First off, two copies of Hex Maniac. This card can be downright lethal on turn 1, often preventing a turn 1 Brigette unless your opponent starts with it. But it also works wonders midgame, shutting off Sudowoodo so that you can fill your bench and get an OHKO. To rub salt in the wound, your opponent won’t be able to use Trade during their turn, so even though they can fill their bench they might not be able to find the cards they need to do so.

What makes the lock on abilities like Trade and Wonder Tag so powerful with this deck is the single Red Card in here. Normally, a Zoroark player with a large hand is fairly safe from disruption. If the opponent plays Hex Maniac, they keep their large hand and they can use anything they stockpiled to get through the turn. If the opponent plays N, they haven’t played Hex, so they can just Trade to get the needed cards.

But the combination of Red Card and Hex Maniac will both shuffle that hand back into their deck and reduce them to 4, while also shutting off Trade, meaning it’s sort of like playing N and Hex at the same time. This is a great form of midgame/late disruption that can turn the tide in a losing game, which is uncommon in Expanded where usually the player going off first snowballs into a victory.

There’s another clever synergy in this list. As I said before, Sudowoodo has a big effect on this mirror: it being on and off determins whether Zoroark can OHKO an opposing Zoroark or not. This list makes great use of the interaction between Hex and Sudowoodo by playing 4 Exeggcute instead of the standard 2-3. Normally players only run 2 Exeggcute to make Trade, Computer Search and Ultra Ball free.

But 4 Exeggcute gives you another advantage: you can Propagate all of them into your hand, and then play a Hex Maniac to turn off your opponent’s Roadblock. Now you have 8 bench space instead of 4, and you can fill your bench with the disposable eggs, letting you Riotous Beating for 210. Then after your opponent’s turn, your Hex will wear off, and your bench will be reduced to 4 again, letting you discard all of your Exeggcute for re-use!

This makes it so much easier to find all the Pokémon you need in a turn while still using Hex Maniac consistently. As long as you sequence properly, of course! Play the Hex after getting back the Exeggcute and doing all your Trading. Also, remember that if your opponent Hexes you on their turn, the Eggs will stay in play for your turn.

These are all tiny adaptations but they respond so well to the normally mundane exchange of Zoroarks that tends to happen. Unfortunately for Isaiah the snowbally nature of Expanded got the best of him and he lost to a more conventional Zoroark variant with Alolan Muk in it in the finals, but I would not be surprised if he got several wins just due to his clever teching on his way there.

 

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