Zapdos Variants, Standard Tier 1 and Early Denver Preparation
Table of Contents
- Recap of Meta Progression
- Zapdos/Jirachi/Ultra Beasts
- Tier 1
- Deck Lists
Denver Regionals is almost upon us and the SUM-TEU standard format is soon coming to an end for major NA events. I believe that Tier 1 is set in stone give or take the differing opinions on where Ultra Necrozma-GX/Malamar stands. If Tier 1 is mostly agreed upon as I expect it to be going into Denver Regionals, I believe that Zapdos/Jirachi variants and Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX variants can both be built to perform very well in this defined standard meta.
Recap of Meta Progression
Last week I talked about the progression of the current standard meta and evaluated that Zapdos variants are highly prepared for by most players and decks. I posited that Zapdos/Jirachi variants like Zapdos/Jirachi/Jolteon-GX and Zapdos/Jirachi/Lycanroc-GX would decrease in popularity and possibly in levels of success due to Alolan Muk SUM being a popular tech in Zoroark-GX variants, Blacephalon/Naganadel, and popping up in other decks here and there. While this logic is sound, players are choosing to stick with Zapdos variants through the meta’s movements due to Zapdos being a consistent, aggressive, and malleable archetype.
Zapdos Jirachi Jolteon-GX
Pedro E. Torres piloted Zapdos/Jirachi/Jolteon-GX to 1st place at the Italian Special Event Bolzano on March 23rd. Torres chose consistency over techs in his streamlined list for the Zapdos archetype. Playing no techs for Zoroark-GX decks like Buzzwole FLI to hit Zoroark for weakness or Wobbuffet LOT to prevent opposing Ditto Prisms from evolving into Alolan Muk, Torres managed to play against zero Zoroark-GX variants throughout his swiss and top cut rounds according to his tournament recap post in Facebook group Heyfonte. Zoroark-GX variants were present and successful at this Special Event as shown by 3 Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX (1 including Lucario-GX as well) placing in the top 8. Stephane Ivanoff piloted 59 cards similar to Torres’ first place list to a first place finish of his own in the 76 person league cup on the following day in Bolzano. Ivanoff also managed to completely avoid Zoroark-GX variants throughout swiss and top cut. The takeaway from these amazing runs with the deck? One bad matchup is often not enough to keep a deck from performing well.
Half way round the world on that same day, William Azevedo took down Brazilian Regionals in Fortaleza with ZoroRoc. Runner up was Dalton Accheta with Zapdos/Jirachi/Lycanroc-GX, a Zapdos variant that has been much less popular than Zapdos/Jirachi/Jolteon-GX but definitely warrants attention. The Lycanroc-GX serves as a direct Zoroark-GX counter as well as being able to potentially one-shot most Pokemon in the format. Lycanroc-GX’s utility ability Bloodthirsty Eyes allows Zapdos to stay aggressive towards the opponent’s bench even on turns where Guzma is not played.
Zapdos Ultra Beasts
As for North America, we have only had League Cups and League Challenges going on in recent weekends. Through the results of League Cups seen on Facebook group Heyfonte and results and reports from friends, I am seeing the Zapdos/Jirachi archetype being personalized and refined more and more. Locally in the North-East region, Zapdos/Jirachi/Lucario-GX was piloted to League Cup victories by Jason Annicchiarico in NJ and Will J in MD. Zapdos/Jirachi/Ultra Beasts which is simply Zapdos/Jirachi with Buzzwole FLI and Nihilego saw scattered success and was the variant I decided to pilot this weekend to the cup I attended. Personally my finish was 4-2 and I placed in the top 16 out of 55~ masters, a mediocre placement that does not diminish my high regard for this Zapdos variant. The commonality of these Zapdos/Jirachi variants is that they are both teched to improve the Zoroark-GX matchups.
I currently evaluate Tier 1 as containing 4 archetypes: Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX, Zapdos/Jirachi, Blacephalon, and Pikarom. There is a rock-paper-scissors triangle of ZoroRoc, Zapdos, and Blacephalon while Pikarom is on the outside of it in terms of matchups.
Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX almost always contains Alolan Muk SUM and notably an Alolan Grimer to evolve from, as some early lists only included Ditto Prism Star as a pseudo-pre-evolution for Alolan Muk. Lycanroc-GX TEU is being experimented with across many lists as it can slow down PikaRom, opposing Zoroark-GX decks, and Blacephalon with its ability while also having a one energy GX attack option.
Variations of this archetype include Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX/Lucario-GX and Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX/Weavile UPR. I personally prefer Weavile over Lucario as a third stage 1 attacker in Zororoc since it is a single prize attacker and can either force opponents to play less abilities down or punish them for not restricting their abilities. Lucario-GX demands at least a 2-1 line since Lucario-GX must evolve from Riolu for its Aura Strike attack to deal extra damage.
ZoroRoc is favored versus Zapdos/Jirachi variants due to Alolan Muk crippling the basic ability reliant archetype and Acerola being able to heal Zoroark-GX and Lycanroc-GX before they can be two shot by Zapdos. Keep these attributes in mind because the techs in Zapdos are to counteract these advantages that ZoroRoc naturally has.
Zapdos/Jirachi is possibly the strongest standard archetype overall as it is consistent and aggressive while internally having room for meta-specific techs and list differences. Jirachi TEU is the main source of consistency for the archetype which is why Alolan Muk is such a large threat. Zapdos decks have natural consistency due to Zapdos only needing 1 energy to attack and having access to Volkner as a synergistic supporter card.
Straight Zapdos/Jirachi, Zapdos/Jirachi/Buzzwole FLI/Nihilego, Zapdos/Jirachi/Jolteon-GX, and Zapdos/Jirachi/Lycanroc-GX all exist under the umbrella archetype of Zapdos/Jirachi and are all viable in my opinion. It depends on what you want out of the deck. Straight Zapdos/Jirachi is hyper consistent, but does not offer many options and also can easily burnout over the course of 6 turns or so as you will eventually run out of Guzmas to be aggressive with and Electropowers to buff Zapdos’ damage output with. It is also very susceptible to being shut out by Alolan Muk and Acerolas in the ZoroRoc matchup if it does not include non-Basic Pokemon draw support and/or tech Pokemon better suited for taking down Zoroark-GX and Lycanroc-GX. In addition to the additional attackers found in the other variants of this archetype, Zebstrika LOT is sometimes included as a draw support Pokemon.
Zapdos/Jirachi is naturally favored versus Blacephalon-GX due to it being a single prize oriented archetype that can trade favorably Blacephalon-GX and Naganadel. Fighting techs Buzzwole FLI and Lycanroc-GX can make the ZoroRoc matchups closer to 50/50 or even slightly favored for Zapdos.
PikaRom is currently optimal as a toolbox type deck since it can be played to handle any of the Tier 1 decks. Since the deck is spread out to consist of multiple main attackers, it is less consistent than Zapdos/Jirachi but has more potential and more decisions that can benefit a knowledgeable player who draws decently well with the deck.
This archetype will usually be seen with 2 Pikachu Zekrom Tag Team-GX, 2 Zapdos, 1-1 or 2-2 Jolteon-GX, 1 Tapu Koko-GX, 1 Tapu Koko Prism Star, 1 tech spot normally for Wobbuffet LOT or Absol TEU, a Tapu Lele-GX or Marshadow SGL, and 2 Jirachi TEU. The PikaRom is the preferred main attacker, but is accompanied by other options since PikaRom is heavily countered right now. Full Blitz into Tag Bolt GX to take multiple prizes is usually the optimal course of play, but opposing attackers like Lycanroc-GX and Lucario-GX make this risky. In this case, Zapdos and Tapu Koko-GX become better attackers until the threats are dealt with or you have to make a calculated risk with PikaRom. Jolteon-GX is good versus Zapdos/Jirachi variants and is also the deck’s out to Vileplume BUS which would otherwise lock PikaRom out of the game with its ability.
Out of all of the Zapdos/Jirachi variants and lists I have tried, I think this one has the best overall matchup spread. ZoroRoc feels very close as long as Buzzwole FLI is not prized. Nihilego is also very good vs ZoroRoc as it can copy Dangerous Rogue for a huge KO. I like the thin Jolteon-GX line in here a lot due to its help in the mirror match and the out it provides versus Vileplume BUS.
This Zapdos list is catered towards a ZoroRoc heavy meta. Lycanroc-GX and Buzzwole FLI put pressure on Zoroark-GX and Lycanroc-GX, while also being useful versus PikaRom for the fighting weakness. Zebstrika LOT is included for extra draw under Alolan Muk lock. While I miss Shrine of Punishments versus Blacephalon-GX and other big basic GX decks, Viridian Forest is really nice to have in the deck as two additional outs to finding one of your 3 fighting energy on a crucial turn.
This list is based off of WIlliam Azevedo’s which omitted a third partner for Zoroark-GX and Lycanroc-GX. I took out Absol TEU since I do not think it is needed and I cleaned up the trainers a bit to more consistently carry out the same game plan. Having the Devoured Field/Kukui/Choice Band package means that Zoroark-GX can take care of Blacephalon, Alolan Muk and double Acerola can beat streamlined Zapdos/Jirachi lists with relative ease, and both Lycanroc-GXs are very good versus PikaRom. I think this list is very good and is great for a meta made up of mostly the mentioned Tier 1 archetypes.
Something important to keep in mind is that even with a perfect understanding of a meta and correct speculation of meta shares, you are always at the mercy of what decks the tournament software pair you against. Looking at Pedro Torres’ win with a streamlined Zapdos deck is a great example of winning with a consistent deck and not worrying about techs, but on the flipside of that I am sure most readers can think of a time where they did not tech for a matchup and ran into it multiple times. I am very confident in the lists I shared with you here but I urge you to make adjustments that suit you and your expected meta. I believe that there is a lot of room for preference and variety in deck building in this standard format which is one of the only things that I enjoy about SUM-TEU, but I digress. Until next time, good luck and have fun!
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