Zoroark/Lycanroc: the then and now
Matty B here with my first article as a content creator for Ace Trainer about a deck that made Top 8 at the most recent North American Internationals: Zoroark Lycanroc. A bit about me before going on with the article, I’ve been playing the Trading Card Game since 2015 when I was in seniors after converting over from VGC. In my time playing I’ve received a worlds invite in 2015 and 2016 as well as getting 19th at the 2018 Oceania Internationals.
Personally, Zoroark Lycanroc feels like inherently one of the most powerful decks in the format combining the sheer consistency of Zoroark GX and the oppressive nature of Lycanroc GX, the two just seemed like a match made in heaven and it’s no surprise thats its had consistent Top 8’s at various Special Events and Regionals in the last month. Its impressive matchup spread and the ability to be able to run so many different tech cards makes the deck very flexible in terms of ‘flex cards’ and allows for each list to be tailored to different metagames. The list below, Bodhi Cutler piloted to a 1st place and I piloted to 3rd place at the most recent Brisbane League Cup. Going into the events, we both understood that Buzzwole was the deck to beat so a lot of deck space was dedicated to making the matchup bearable with card choices like the Enhanced Hammer, 4 Strong Energy and 4 N as well as the plethora of psychic attackers.
3 Rockruff (FLI)
2 Lycanroc-GX (GRI)
3 Tapu Lele-GX
1 Mewtwo (EVO)
1 Professor Sycamore
1 Professor Kukui
4 Ultra Ball
4 Puzzle of Time
2 Field Blower
2 Choice Band
1 Float Stone
1 Max Potion
1 Multi Switch
1 Enhanced Hammer
2 Parallel City
4 Strong Energy
4 Double Colorless Energy
3 Rockruff FLI, 0 GUR Rockruff
The 60 HP is very much more of a liability rather than an asset due to the rise in Latios SHL sniping 30 damage on the bench so we made the choice to convert to 3x 70 HP Rockruffs. Besides, I wouldn’t bank on Corner winning the Greninja Matchup regardless.
Mainly added for the mirror, Buzzwole threatens a 1 energy KO on an opposing Zoroark while having exactly 130 HP, putting it out of Riotous Beating range. It also came up as a very good attacker against opposing Buzzwoles with the threat of a 1 energy 140 damage. However the card doesn’t have the liberty of running Diancie as well and the ‘Sledgehammer turn’ can be played around very easily. Since the inherent goal of Zoroark Lycanroc is giving yourself the most possible amount of tools to win the game, I see Buzzwole being very well positioned in the deck as a tech attacker for the scenario that your opponent just doesn’t prepare themselves well enough for a 1 Energy, 1 Prize attacker swinging for up to 170.
This card is insanely good in the Buzzwole matchup, being able to put early pressure onto Baby Buzz while setting up KOs on benched Remoraids or putting damage on a Lycanroc to help deal with an incoming Claw Slash. The card also has uses in other matchups being able to essentially fulfill the same role in the Malamar matchup, setting up KOs on benched Inkays while hitting weakness against almost the entire deck.
0 Diancie Prism
Although it seems nice to be able to hit 180 easier with Lycanroc’s Claw Slash and 190 with Buzzwole’s Sledgehammer, the card is largely useless in most scenarios and in testing was always either benched reluctantly to power up Riotous Beating or instantly traded into the discard pile. There are just better cards to include in this slot to help with situations that would pop up more frequently. And I’m not even taking into account the god awful scenario that you start with this card.
4 N, 1 Cynthia
Originally the list played a more conventional 3 N, 2 Cynthia but with the Buzzwole matchup often coming down to N to 1’s it seemed a lot more efficient to run the full 4 in order to increase your odds of having one left in the late game and not having to waste your puzzles on getting it out of the discard.
I acknowledge that this is very much a greedy count of Guzma, especially since prizing one could be quite a pain but space had to be made somewhere, and Guzma unfortunately had to bite the bullet. With only 2 Guzma, you have to really conserve them as not having any left in the late game could end badly.
1 Professor Kukui
As mentioned above, Zoroark Lycanroc as a deck is designed to give you as many tools as possible to win the game and with the inclusion of Professor Kukui, you give yourself another option to win the game with a Claw Slash or Riotous Beating to take the final KO that wasn’t originally accessible without the extra 20 damage.
1 Float Stone
I would prefer to play 2 as it gives you a generic retreat option in more scenarios but I think 1 is manageable. Just make sure you use it wisely as its the only one you have access to (Unless you do some Blower, double puzzle shenanigans).
1 Evosoda, 0 Timer Ball
I hate coin flips, simple as that. While the idea that statistically 75% of the time, Timer Ball would be a better Evosoda as it gives you access to Bloodthirsty Eyes, the other 25% the card is useless. From my time playing VGC, having to bank on a 75% accurate move (Or in this case card) Is not giving yourself the best chances of winning, simple as that. I would much prefer to Evosoda for Zoroark in almost every situation as even then you could trade into the Lycanroc or Ultra Ball.
1 Max Potion
It was either Max Potion or Acerola in this slot as while Acerola gives the bonus effect of keeping the energy while giving another opportunity to use Bloodthirsty Eyes or Trade, the ability to find the Max Potion with Mallow while also giving you access to another card meant that the Max Potion felt like the most efficient use of this card slot.
1 Multi Switch
Opening up the possibility of a Lycanroc Claw Slash or Dangerous Rogue GX out of nowhere is too much to pass up so I imagine this card will make its way into most current, successful Zoroark Lycanroc lists.
1 Enhanced Hammer
The disruption of discarding the Strong Energy off a Lycanroc or the Beast Energy off an Ultra Necrozma gives you the extra space you need to get some extra damage and survivability that the deck needs against the other top decks in the format. Especially opening this in the mirror is so crucial as you can postpone a Lycanroc Claw Slash
4 Strong Energy, 0 Fighting Energy
With Buzzwole being as prevalent as it is, the 4 Strong energy just gives you another out to getting a Claw Slash one shot. This can be problematic if your opponent plays multiple Enhanced Hammer/ Xurkitree GX but I think I was under the impression that the extra 20 damage with Claw Slash would be much more relevant than the possibility of running into Xurkitree GX or multiple Enhanced Hammers.
The list that made Top 8 at the North American Internationals piloted by Ryan Antonucci took a vastly different approach to the Buzzwole matchup, opting to use 2 Weakness Policy and 2 Reverse Valley in order for Zoroark to hit 130 damage with a full bench. This seemed to be a popular trend across not just Zoroark Lycanroc but various other variants including the Control Zoroark that Tord Reklev used to get 2nd place with. With the lack of field blower in conventional Buzzwole decks, this approach was definitely the most successful in making the matchup favourable and would of been vital in order for Ryan to navigate the many Buzzwole decks In Day 1 and 2. With this in mind, Ryan decided to only play Mewtwo and Buzzwole as his only 2 tech attackers, opting to take out the Mew EX which was a staple card in almost every Zoroark deck going into the event. Also interesting to note is that Ryan decided to not play any sort of healing in his deck which is usually quite common place in literally every Zoroark Variant since the cards release. The lack of Parallel city definitely hindered Ryan and may of resulted in his lost to Adam Hawkin’s Psychic Malamar deck in Top 8 as he has no way to stop Adam from getting 3 Malamars out and setting up 1 hit knockouts on Zoroarks with a 4 Energy Necrozma. This idea is highlighted during the 3rd game of his Top 8 where if the Reverse Valley were a Parallel City, it would of forced Adam to discard an Inkay early while Ryan can work towards KOing another Malamar and limiting Adam’s outs to getting a Necrozma or Marshadow powered up.
In summary I think the choice of Weakness Policy and Reverse Valley is definitely a good choice if you expect to go into a heavy Buzzwole metagame but otherwise, it may sacrifice your chances against other decks like the Mirror or Malamar.
Coming out of the North American Internationals, Zoroark/Lycanroc has probably seen its biggest change to the conventional list since its inception coming out of Michael Pramawat’s win at Memphis Regionals late last year and it continues to be a threat going into worlds. Whether it can keep up with the popular decks going into worlds or not, only time will tell.