Champions League Chiba: Top 64 Lycanroc Zoroark Counter Box

Please find the original Japanese-language article here. Note my translation is not a perfect translation and I have rearranged and reworded some parts of the original article for clarity and readability. Find also some explanatory comments inside square brackets, italicised.


I regret having participated with such a ridiculous name… (Mr Homon). [Note: I’m not entirely sure why this is so ridiculous… if someone could enlighten me?]

Hello, this is Kagerou.

This time, I will be discussing the Counter LycanZoro deck I played to top 64 the Chiba Champions League.

Although this will be full of messy prose, please read it until the end.

My thoughts on the CL Chiba Meta

There were lots of predictions on Twitter, but the consensus generally seemed to be that:
  • Pikachu & Zekrom GX;
  • Jirachi Zapdos; and
  • Ultra Necrozma GX
would fill up the top three decks of the meta (I will call these decks the ‘trinity’ from now on).

When I was testing, all of these decks were incredibly strong and this solidified my theory that these decks would be the top three. In the trinity, I thought that Pikachu & Zekrom would be the most popular, followed by Ultra Necrozma and then Jirachi Zapdos.

I have two reasons for thinking this.

One: you can play Pikachu & Zekrom without playing it too well and you can still win because of its inherent strength, however the same cannot be said about Zapdos Jirachi.

Of course, to do well in the tournament you will still need to make good plays, but if you look at the players of the tournament as a whole, I thought there would be many suboptimal Pikachu & Zekrom players. (I didn’t think that it would be strange to hit low skill level Pikachu & Zekrom players up until about rounds 4 or 5).

My second reason is that Takuya Yoneda had released an article about Pikachu & Zekrom.

More players have been getting into Pokemon recently, and they have a tendency to read articles written by strong players and bring the same exact sixty to a tournament. There would also be those players who had Pikachu & Zekrom built and then decided to play the deck because of the article, adjusting the list. For these reasons, I thought there would be high numbers of Pikachu & Zekrom (although I haven’t read the article).

There were also two decks that I believed to be just below the trinity: Pheromosa & Buzzwole GX and Gardevoir & Sylveon GX. These decks are not unfavoured against the top three and are can pull off powerful plays and I thought they could place well, but I did not expect them to be played in higher numbers than the trinity.

I feel that Lycanroc Zoroark would be played less than these two decks. Lycanroc Zoroark has been labelled as the “Loser of the format” but it has been winning City Leagues, so I thought it could perform well. I thought most people would lean towards the Lucario variant.

Below Lycanroc Zoroark, I thought there would be Charizard, Quagsire Naganadel, Counter Box and Blacephalon. I have no patience for Judge and Marshadow, but they would be popular and so there would be a lack of consistency in games. So I decided that if I drew well off these cards, then so be it.

I have played Vileplume myself, and while I understand its strength, I did not think there would be many people who would play it (it came third).

I felt the same way about Gengar & Mimikyu Fossils - I knew of its existence, but I didn’t think anyone would play the deck (it made top 8).

I thought I had seen Unown HAND recently, but I didn’t really have any time to think about it, and I also thought no one would use it (it came second).

So, from the above:

Pikachu & Zekrom > Ultra Necrozma > Jirachi Zapdos > Pheromosa & Buzzwole \$ \geq \$ Gardevoir & Sylveon > Lycanroc Zoroark > Others 

was the kind of meta I was expecting.

With this kind of situation, the kind of deck I would play would satisfy the following three (or four) points:

  • It would be favoured against two out of the trinity and and be able to hold its own for at least five minutes against the third 
  • Would not be hugely disadvantaged against Pheromosa & Buzzwole and Gardevoir & Sylveon 
  • A high skill level is required for your opponent to play against it 
  • (It is not difficult to play) 
Thinking about these conditions, I realised I was too idealistic. After thinking hard about this, I made one conclusion: Lycanroc Zoroark. We must once again believe in our previously-believed-in Lycanroc Zoroark.

While the matchup against Pheromosa & Buzzwole and Gardevoir & Sylveon is dodgy, I figured I would make do somehow and decided that in these matchups I would just pray.

I started bringing my deck to school and hand shuffling the deck, and solitaring with it.

This thorough testing method led to the decklist I used.

First of all, one of the strongest moves in Lycanroc Zoroark that comes to mind is playing Judge and Alolan Muk in one turn.

In the metagame, decks such as Jirachi Zapdos and cards like Dedenne GX are prevalent, and this move can target them almost laughably. With just this move, you can completely halt your opponent’s moves and this can even win you the game.

To pull this off, I decided I would need two Judges, an Alolan Muk line and Nanu. With this, I thought my matchups against Jirachi Zapdos, Charizard and Counter Box would be improved. If I am in the lead, it is also possible to slow down Pikachu & Zekrom.

Next, I needed to think about what I would do against decks against which the above move was not so effective. Alolan Muk is not effective when you are behind in the late game against Pikachu & Zekrom, Pheromosa & Buzzwole and Gardevoir & Sylveon.

I needed to prepare a separate plan for each of these three decks.

Firstly, against Pikachu & Zekrom. You can knock out one Pikachu & Zekrom with Counter Gain and Dangerous Rogue. However, if you are going second and you cannot get a Rockruff with Energy attached,or if you are going first and your Rockruff is hunted down, you will not be able to keep going.

So what I needed was a Pokemon that could use a non-GX attack for one Energy and knock out Pikachu & Zekrom in one shot.

Many Lycanroc Zoroark decks run Lucario GX in order to satisfy this condition. However, I didn’t want to run it myself due to the instability caused by adding another evolution line and needing space for it.

Instead, I ran the non-GX Lycanroc.


With one Counter Energy, and if my opponent had a bench of five, or if they had a bench of four and I had Choice Band, I could knock out a Pikachu & Zekrom in one shot. The strongest point is, however, that it evolves from Rockruff.
I didn’t have to include an additional evolution line, so I was happy.

Now, against Pheromosa & Buzzwole. If you cannot get a Dangerous Rogue off and you bench Rockruff, they can knock it out with Beast Game GX which is troublesome. Thinking about Lusamine Prism Star, I would like to take my Prizes like this: 6 > 3 > 0. Ideally, I would be able to use Judge and one shot a Pheromosa & Buzzwole in one turn. I needed a Pokemon that could do this.

At this point, I had decided to run Alolan Ninetales GX. It was a card I had wanted to put in even without regard to Pheromosa & Buzzwole, so it fit in naturally. However, I didn’t have time to practice against Pheromosa & Buzzwole, but I thought that if my opponent was able to heal loop against me, just having Alolan Ninetales GX wouldn’t be enough.

I wanted another Pokemon which could knock out Pheromosa & Buzzwole in one shot so I ran Reshiram.


With Counter Energy and Counter Gain, you can knock out Pheromosa & Buzzwole in one shot, and you can stop their healing and Jet Punch loop, making it a very strong Pokemon. Against Pheromosa & Buzzwole, you don’t want to bench Rockruffs and you want to maximise your Zoroarks out. This also means you have an easier time hitting your Counter Energies.

What do I do against Unmanned Power Plant? I have no idea...

Against the Jolteon variant, I thought a single Jolteon line was the strongest build, but I didn’t think I would need any specific cards to deal with it - I thought I could hold my own quite easily.

And lastly, against Gardevoir & Sylveon.

Similarly to Pheromosa & Buzzwole, Gardevoir & Sylveon attempts to loop their healing, so I wanted a Pokemon which could knock it out in one shot with Counter Energy, but an incident occurred here. The only basic metal Pokemon that could achieve this easily was Heatran. But this Heatran requires two energy to be discarded and so I found it wasn’t strong. It is true that if I could get even one knock out it would make the game closerl, but this would make it difficult to keep a streamlined list and I did not include it.

I decided in the end to aim to use Judge to stop their heal loop and in the same turn use Riotous Beating with Choice Band and a full bench to hit 130 damage twice.

(Skilled Pikachu & Zekrom players could beat Gardevoir & Sylveon, so I was hoping they could knock most of them out in the earlier rounds, but that didn’t end up being the case.)

With this kind of thought process, I found an effective way for the deck to run in this metagame, and so I built it. 

Deck list explanation



4-4 Zoroark GX 

This is the deck’s engine. I want to set up a lot of them, so I run four copies. Sometimes you will only be able to set up two Zoroarks, but you can then use the other cards as discard fodder, and by running four copies the chances of drawing into the cards are higher.
However, if you wanted to increase the number of counter cards, you may consider cutting this line down.

2-2-1 Lycanroc GX/Lycanroc

This guy is a dangerous one - you don’t need a Supporter and you can still get a Catcher-like effect.

I generally want to use Lycanroc GX once or twice in a game, so I decided on two copies.

As Ditto and Rockruff can serve a similar function, I thought two Rockruffs was OK. Though honestly, three would be nice.

1 Ditto Prism Star


This guy can turn into anything.

It’s your third Rockruff, your second Alolan Vulpix, your second Alolan Grimer - take your pick from one of the three options. You tend not to evolve it into Zoroark.

When playing against Jirachi, I want to set up Ditto and Alolan Grimer in the first turn so I can definitely set up Alolan Muk in the following turn.

1-1 Alolan Ninetales GX

You can search for two items. You often want to find a Choice Band, Counter Gain or Rescue Stretcher.

Alolan Vulpix is great because you can attack going second, but I get very sad when my opponent uses Let Loose....

1-1 Alolan Muk

This Pokemon absolutely stops Jirachi and Dedenne.

It is also good against Absol.

Versus Counter Tapu Koko, it tends to get targeted, so it is important to hold onto Nanu. (Could you seriously stop giving up Prizes??)

2 Tapu Lele GX
I run two so I can have a more reliable first turn.

I have nothing in particular to write, but you need to ensure that you don’t play this under your own Alolan Muk.

Reshiram

The ultimate weapon against Pheromosa & Buzzwole.

When I thought I was the only person who would have played such a card, another Lycanroc Zoroark that made top 16 played it, so I was amazed.

You can see how to use this card against Pheromosa & Buzzwole above.

While this is probably not very relevant, you can hit into a Jirachi for 40 damage with Outrage, leaving it for Alolan Ninetales to clean up later. In other cases, apart from opening it against Pheromosa & Buzzwole, opening it is really bad.

4 Ultra Ball, 4 Nest Ball, 2 Communication
In order to make it easier to set up multiple lines, and to get multiple Zoroarks out I ran this number of search cards.

I only ever get double tails on Timer Ball so that was a big no no.

By including the Alolan Muk line I cut down on Professor Elm’s Lecture, but I think it still has potential.

2 Choice Band


This card is necessary to two shot Tag Teams or to one shot Tapu Leles and Dedennes.

1 Counter Gain

Essentially, this is for getting a Dangerous Rogue or Sublimation off. You will only use it once.

I wanted two copies but I couldn’t fit it in. I can never find it when I need it…

1 Pal Pad, 1 Rescue Stretcher

If you manage your resources properly, you will not need more than two copies of recovery cards, so I am running one of each.

If you want to increase your options, you can cut down on Pal Pad.

3 Lillie

This is the draw Supporter that will help you explode in your first turn.

At first, I ran four Lillie, but then I added a Professor Elm’s Lecture so I cut the count down to three.

To set up reliably, I use Professor Elm, and in order to increase my chances of hitting Energy I will use Lillie.

1 Professor Elm

I run 4 Nest Ball, so I only run one Professor Elm. If this is Prized, it is not so bad.

1 Cynthia

This is a hand reset draw Supporter you can play down at any time, however after you have set up your board you would rather play Judge or Acerola, so I only run one.

2 Judge

This card disrupts your opponent’s hand. I run two to have a powerful turn, as I said above.

I don’t want to play against someone who dead draws off of a Judge and then reacts badly because of this…

2 Guzma

This card allows you to drag up one of your opponent’s benched Pokemon while allowing you to switch your Active.

As this deck also runs Bloodthirsty Eyes, I think two is sufficient.

2 Acerola

From personal experience, I can’t trust a Lycanroc Zoroark deck which only runs one Acerola.

In one match you want to be able to hit it twice, and running two also decreases the chances of it being in your Prize cards.

1 Professor Kukui


Bloodthirsty Eyes Tapu Lele + Choice Band + Kukui + Riotous Beating! Good game!

It can also help out when you are a little bit short of damage. It is convenient.

Against Pheromosa & Buzzwole, you can hit 150 with Choice Band + Riotous Beating, and with Life Forest’s healing, the HP remaining becomes 170HP. While it is possible to knock out Pheromosa & Buzzwole with Kukui, this means you cannot use Judge on the same turn, and if you are countered with a Lusamine Prism and you will lose.

Take care not to make the above play.

1 Nanu

You can set up an Alolan Grimer in one turn from a useless Tapu Lele you have sitting on your bench.

You can also use it to set up an extra Zoroark, which is really strong.

(I would like to make a play where I discard my own Alolan Muk with Nanu and then use Ditto Prism star or Tapu Lele).

2 Devoured Field

You can discard your opponent’s Stadium and increase your damage output.

You can knock out a Zapdos with a bench of four, and you can knock out Dedenne without a Kukui.

Against opponents who are likely to run Abandoned Powerplant, you don’t want to play the first stadium.

4 Double Colourless Energy

If you can’t draw into it your Zoroark is unable to attack, so you need to maximise your count.

3 Unit Energy FDY


Mainly this Energy is for Lycanroc and Alolan Ninetales, but you can use it on Zoroark for Trickster - keep an eye out for this move. As I have Counter Energy, I only ran three copies.

2 Counter Energy
This basically allows Lycanroc and Reshiram to function.

While I won’t say you will never attack with Alolan Muk, it is very unlikely…

Rejected Cards

I have too many cards that I cut so I can’t write them all here…

I tried out too many bad cards.

Twilight Lycanroc GX
Against Pikachu & Zekrom, if they knock out the Rockruff with Energy on it you can’t attack.

Energy removal is not strong enough to warrant including it.

Plumeria, Crushing Hammer

I didn’t include Twilight Lycanroc, so obviously I will not include these cards.

I was thinking to wipe the Energy off a Pikachu & Zekrom’s board…

Weavile
If you don’t have faith in yourself against the Lycanroc Zoroark mirror and you want to improve your Ultra Necrozma Matchup, this card is good. However, it and Alolan Muk don’t have any synergy so I decided not to include it.
Field Blower

It has no purpose.

Dedenne GX

I had to cut a lot of cards I didn’t want to because they do not work together with Alolan Muk.

If you want to increase your counts of Professor Elm, you must also increase your counts of Dedenne.

Mallow
You never have this card when you need it…

Magcargo

This guy takes up space. I feel like my board would be better if I had an extra Zoroark or Lycanroc instead.

However, with this card you are more Judge-proof.

Judge Whistle

I really wanted to put this card in but I had no space, no matter how I went about it.

I will say this honestly, I think the card is really strong.

Switch
This card is a luxury, so you can get away without having it.

Tournament report

I couldn’t remember everything properly, so I will outline what happened roughly.

Round 1 (W): Pheromosa & Buzzwole, First

I just kept announcing Riotous Beating and eventually my opponent missed a turn of healing. I Judged and then used Riotous Beating again to knock out a Pheromosa & Buzzwole.

My opponent didn’t hit Lusamaine so I used Sublimation for the win.

Round 2: Counter Koko, First

I opened Reshiram and could not attack for three turns - it was a hopeless situation.

I got an Alolan Muk set up, but my opponent responded with a Magical Swap, knocking it out.
I Judged in the last turn and my opponent couldn’t hit hard enough so I managed to win.

I definitely thought I had this game lost…

Round 3: Pheromosa & Buzzwole, First

I didn’t get a Professor Elm turn one, and in the following turn I didn’t get any Pokemon set up. My Active and bench was knocked out by a Jet Punch. However, my opponent wasn’t doing too well either. I managed to take down one Pheromosa & Buzzwole with two Riotous Beatings.

My opponent was able to use Lt Surge to chain Judge and Abandoned Powerplant, but I managed to attack with Sublimation.

Round 4: Pikachu & Zekrom, Second
My opponent wasn’t able to set up well in their first turn, so I thought if I could get set up I would win. But my Professor Elm was Prized…

My opponent used Full Blitz on their second turn, but I was able to respond adequately with Dangerous Rogue.

My opponent thankfully played down a second Pikachu & Zekrom and I was able to knock out that one too for the win.

Round 5: Jirachi Zapdos Pikachu & Zekrom, Second
We both had good starts, but after I set up Alolan Muk and got a Dangerous Rogue off, my opponent began to struggle. I kept pushing and I won.

I am the president of the “Do Not Let Dedenne Go Unpunished” Club.

Round 6: Pikachu & Zekrom, Second
My opponent discarded two ElectroPowers in order to be able to set up.

On my end, I saw no draw Supporters in my hand, but I had a guaranteed Zoroark so I used Professor Elm to set up my board.

On their second turn, a Wobbuffet was played down and on top of that, my Rockruff was knocked out and my opponent got six Energies on the Active. I was in a state of despair.

I hesitantly promoted Tapu Lele and used Energy Drive.

My opponent used Tag Bolt to knock out Tapu Lele and Alolan Muk.

My opponent only had a Zeraora with one Energy on their bench, so I figured if I knocked out the Active I could make something of this situation. I attached a Unit Energy to Zoroark and used Cynthia.

I hit the Counter Gain so I declared Riotous Beating.

However, I forgot that Lysandre Labs was in play… ah, a painful mistake.

I managed to survive the next Full Blitz, and I even got the Acerola, but I lost after my Tapu Lele was knocked out.

I didn’t hit Devoured Field or Double Colourless Energy after Cynthia so it didn’t have an effect on the match, but either way it was a terrible misplay…

Round 7: Ultra Necrozma, First

I started Ultra Ball. In my hand I had two Zoroarks, a Lycanroc and Judge, so I obviously went for Tapu Lele into Elm.
My second turn, I got Alolan Muk set up, brought up Inkay and Judged.

This move completely halted my opponent’s flow and they forfeited.

While this is what the move is supposed to do, it went a little too well…

Round 8: Ultra Necrozma, Second
My opponent went first, used Dedenne and set up three Inkays.

My Alolan Muk was Prized so I wasn’t able to set up well.

My Active Zorua was knocked out, and then my Zoroark which I thought would save me was knocked out by a Marshadow. I responded with Judge, Choice Band and Riotous Beating.

My opponent was unable to chain an Ultra Necrozma, so they hit me with Giratina and I responded with Acerola + Riotous Beating.
I knocked out the benched Dedenne for my last Prizes and won.

I was 7-1 and guaranteed into the Main Draw so I was very happy.

Main Draw Round 1: Pheromosa & Buzzwole, First

Elm was Prized and so was my Alolan Vulpix.

My second turn I couldn’t get anything set up so I attached Counter Energy to Reshiram and passed.

I managed to then get out a Zorua and Ditto Prism.
I Judged and used Scorching Breath but I was unable to set up an Alolan Vulpix.

However, my opponent used Surge, Green’s Search, Lusamine Prism, pulling off a crazy move.

After that I used Judge again but my opponent got Guzma and knocked out Zorua with Elegant Soul, which meant I lost.

I made top 64…

Ah, I wanted sleeves… [Note: Top 32 get special edition sleeves.]

After my game I cried a little.

Summary of the CL

If you look at the metagame as a whole, I would say that my predictions were quite accurate.

If you look at the top decks, there was more Pheromosa & Buzzwole and less Jirachi Zapdos than I expected.

However, I did not expect HAND Vileplume or Gengar & Mimikyu Fossils to be played at all… I mean, apart from HAND it’s understandable, I suppose…

Post-Double Blaze LycanZoro

When I saw the set list for Double Blaze, I thought that Lycanroc Zoroark could still survive.

If Pheromosa & Buzzwole decreases in play and Fire type decks take its stead, instead of running Reshiram I think it would be good to play a Water type.

These are my candidates:


Keldeo can deal 300 damage with a full bench of five.

White Kyurem can deal 320 damage with Counter Gain.

Personally, I want to fit in White Kyurem.

With the above, you can also get rid of Abandoned Powerplant.

Apart from that, I also want to fit in a Distortion Door Giratina.

If Fighting types become relevant again, it can attack against those. It can also place damage counters on Tapu Leles so your opponent can’t discard them with Giovanni’s Banishment.

However, it does not have great synergy with Alolan Muk.

Persian GX is also decent. If you leave your Ditto out in play, you can pull off some cool plays and search for specific cards you need.

I like Mew and Mewtwo but I don’t have complete faith in them.

I personally want to put Mew in, but I don’t really need Mewtwo…

Triple Colourless Energy doesn’t exactly become the ‘fifth’ Double Colourless Energy and the fact that it can’t stay in play is very annoying.

In conclusion:

For those of you who have read this far, thank you.

Lycanroc Zoroark is a deck which has consistency, power, and the ability to make space to respond to various metagames. It is a good deck, so I hope you will try it out for yourself some time.

While it seems like many people believe this deck is difficult to play, once you get used to the deck it becomes easy (I say this as a person who made bad misplays). You develop a sense for knowing what cards to Trade away.

I would like to have an even better finish at the Champions League in Kyoto, so I will try my best. Of course, I will be aiming for first place. I will prove that Lycanroc Zoroark is not a dead deck.

On that note, I will conclude this article.

If you have any questions, please contact me @kageroutbt.

I also write articles about things other than the Pokemon TCG so please read them if you like.
Until the next article!


Please find the original Japanese-language article here. Note my translation is not a perfect translation and I have rearranged and reworded some parts of the original article for clarity and readability. Find also some explanatory comments inside square brackets, italicised.

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