My last article covered ZoroKing and Cameron’s latest video went over ReshiZard, meaning the only deck in my top three picks that we haven’t posted about is Zapdos. Not too long ago Cameron and I covered the match ups and list in great detail, but the new meta means everything needs an update. This piece makes an argument for Zapdos, but more specifically this variant of Zapdos. As usual, this article goes over all the big match ups and my exact list.
Why is Zapdos still strong?
If we look at what changes in the meta with the release of Unbroken Bonds, there is nothing out there that Zapdos cannot adapt to. Some challenges of this new meta to overcome might be: ReshiZard (Volcanion-heavy build), Baby Blacephalon, and Weezing decks. Counters to all these possible problems are easily fit; a few of these techs have match up overlap which improves several match ups only taking up three spots or so.
Nothing about this Unbroken Bonds puts Zapdos out of contention in the slightest. If anything the deck is even more well positioned than it was in the past because the Alolan Muk problem is becoming less prevalent. Zoroark is still a deck people see as a solid option, but looks to be overshadowed by other archetypes. This is a poll recently posted in HeyFonte regarding deck popularity at Santa Clara.
I can’t believe the Zoroark version people think is worth playing is with Dewgong…
Why not play the other beasts?
Unbroken Bonds presented new options for Zapdos like Pheromosa Buzzwole GX and Kartana, while Nihilego looks great for copying Flare Strike. I play none of these attackers. The root of my issue with a build including other options like these is the fact that it forces playing Rainbow Energy and Shrine of Punishment rather than Viridian Forest and Basic Energy. The Viridian package is undoubtedly a more consistent version and avoids the annoyance of Rainbow Energy damage counters. Most players are not even considering Viridian so it seems appropriate to make a case for the variant.
The Rainbow build has a negative impact on the Zoroark match up because an opponent trying to find one of two Devoured Field, especially in the first couple turns, will not happen consistently. With 10 damage on Buzzwole, they need no Devoured. I frequently lead with Baby Buzzwole because it one-shots Zorua or Ditto, but one damage ruins my strategy! If you force your opponent into using one of their Devoured to get that first KO, you can knock off the stadium making it even harder for them to find their second copy that they will need to deal with a second Buzzwole when it hits for 240 (Weakness to Fighting). Not only does this strategy not work because of the Rainbow damage counters, but fitting the other Beasts means cutting down to one copy of Buzzwole. The cut of the second Buzzwole alone will make your match up against Zoroark 5 to 10% harder. Past that, having Viridian in play when getting Judged to a low hand while Muk is out frequently means the difference between being able to attack and passing. Judge may be less impactful if you have been discarding unimportant cards each turn with Viridian, while never missing attachments can get an Energy card or two out of your deck and makes a bad hand less painful.
That example will hold true for any deck with Muk. The biggest problem you run into with Zapdos overall is finding yourself with a dead hand because of Muk, which means the variant that can deal with your biggest problem is likely to be the best option. If you throw a Zebstrika line in with hopes that it will make a difference against these Muk builds, I expect you’ll realize that your opponent taking a turn to knock out a Zebstrika in play will happen frequently. When you take out three to four slots to fit a zebra line that dies in one turn, you end up with an even more inconsistent deck. Drawing four cards is just that; even when you do have Zebstrika in play, it really doesn’t get you that far.
Another significant point is the space taken up by each package. I’ll assume that the Rainbow list does not play Zebstrika for the reasons I just explained. Looking at what a basic Rainbow package includes, the line should be something like: 1 Beast, 4 Rainbow, 4 Lightning, 2 Shine of Punishment, 1 Nihilego, and 1 Buzzwole (13 slots). Compare that to the basic Viridian package: 5 Lightning, 2 Fighting, 1 Beast, 2 Viridian, 2 Buzzwole (12 slots). The 12 cards in the Viridian version will provide more consistency and take up one less slot. The Viridian package is more efficient and good deck builders know the value of that extra spot.
I’ll make more of a case for this build as the article continues. If you’re not sold yet, keep an open mind and keep reading. This is my list: