The Resurgence of Zygarde-GX

For most people that have been following the metagame since the tail-end of last season, Zygarde-GX has been getting a cult following since it was popularized by Klive Aw in the run-up to the 2018 World Championships, with the Singaporean piloting it to a popular third place in Nashville. Many people have attempted to bring it back this season, however most have realized that it does not have the same speed and aggression as it did with key cards such as Max Elixir.

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Recently, several Zygarde-GX builds have been popping up in League Cups and League Challenges all over, with the deck taking up two Top8 spots in the recent 84-person League Cup in Malaysia, piloted by Keith Yong and Chen Jinn Chung, each with 5-0-2 records going into Top8. With the rise in Electric-type archetypes and the ever-popular Zoroark GX decks, one would expect it to be the right time for Fighting decks to thrive.

In a sea of Zoroark-GX and Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks at the recent League Cup, Keith & Jinn Chung made the right meta call to run Zygarde-GX, which paid dividends with both players entering Top8 undefeated. We dive straight in and first take a look at Jinn Chung’s list.

Zygarde-GX / Lycanroc-GX (Chen Jinn Chung)

Pokemon (15)
3 Zygarde-GX
2 Rockruff FLI
2 Lycanroc-GX GUR
2 Buzzwole-GX
2 Buzzwole
2 Tapu Lele-GX
1 Diancie Prism
1 Marshadow SHL

Trainer (30)
4 Cynthia
4 Guzma
3 Lillie
1 Judge
4 Ultra Ball
3 Acro Bike
3 Beast Ring
2 Choice Band
2 Energy Lotto
1 Switch
3 Brooklet Hill

Energy (15)
4 Double Colorless Energy
10 Fighting Energy
1 Beast Energy

For Jinn Chung, Zygarde-GX has always been a comfort deck and he feels that it was the perfect meta call seeing how dominant Dark-type archetypes (Zoroark-GX) and Lightning-type archetypes (Pikachu & Zekrom-GX) are at the moment. He plays a build which includes Lycanroc-GX with the Bloodthirsty Eyes Ability, forcing opponents to be more conservative with Benching Pokemon as a Benched Rockruff can always threaten a big Dangerous Rogue attack.

Matchups

Normally, the main attacker of the deck is Zygarde-GX as the aim is to fully power it up as you use Cell Connector, so getting at least two Fighting energy into the discard pile early in the game is key. Putting a lot of early game pressure with a big GX also forces them into knocking it out, playing into your Sledgehammer turn. The Rockruff is often benched early to check opponents into not overbenching and to pick off threats on the bench.

vs Pikachu & Zekrom-GX

The matchup is slightly favored due to weakness but this also depends on how fast they are able to get Pikachu & Zekrom-GX up and going. Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks are able to threaten skipping the Sledgehammer and Beast Ring turns altogether by taking 1 Prize and then 3 Prizes, or simply taking 4 Prizes if a Tapu Lele-GX is benched, so the usual strategy is to pile pressure on the Pikachu & Zekrom-GX player early.

vs Zoroark GX / Lycanroc GX

This matchup is very favourable as KOing Zoroark GX is very easy, and even gunning down their Lycanroc-GXs (with your own Lycanroc-GX) is possible because they Bench a lot of Pokémon in order to get going. Lycanroc-GX is always a big threat so the key is to always attack their Rockruff with Energy as soon as it hits the field, as Zoroark-GXs are easier to deal with later.

vs Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX / Lucario-GX

While similar to the Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX matchup, Guzmas and Bloodthirsty Eyes become more clutch as you would try to avoid hitting into the Lucario-GX if possible, going after other 2-prizers on the Bench.

vs Ultra Necrozma-GX / Malamar

The matchup is quite 50/50, being heavily-dependent on whoever is able to set up first. A big Zygarde-GX is able to take down an Ultra Necrozma-GX but so can a returning Ultra Necrozma-GX.

vs Zapdos / Jirachi

This is arguably one of the hardest matchups for Zygarde-GX. Non-GX decks easily punish GX decks by piling a lot of damage from single-prize attackers. The inability to take damage off the field also makes it hard to deny them Prizes off your heavily-damaged attackers.

Deck Strengths & Weaknesses

The main strength of the deck comes from its versatility in terms of win conditions, aggression as well as its typing. Besides Lycanroc-GX, all the other attackers in the deck can swing with 1 Energy attachment which creates a lot of favourable conditions. Even if an early Zygarde-GX goes down, it activates the Sledgehammer turn, being able to swing for a lot of damage from a single-prize attacker and for only 1 Energy. With Buzzwole-GX and Beast Rings, the deck is also able to create checkmate situations by powering up multiple threats late game.

One of the obvious weakness for the deck is going up against single-prize attacker decks and Shrine of Punishment decks, as the deck is heavily-reliant on Pokémon-GX. Being able to skip or minimize the Beast Ring window is also one of the ways to get around this deck, as there are no other ways in accelerating energy late game. Among the bad matchups include Celebi & Venusaur-GX decks as nearly the entire deck is weak to Grass, as well as earlier-mentioned single-prize attacker decks with Shrine of Punishment.

Zygarde-GX (Keith Yong)

Pokemon (10) 
3 Zygarde-GX
1 Buzzwole-GX
2 Buzzwole
2 Tapu Lele-GX
1 Diancie Prism
1 Marshadow SHL

Trainer (36)
3 Cynthia
4 Guzma
4 Lillie
1 Erika’s Hospitality
1 Judge
4 Judge Whistle
4 Ultra Ball
4 Acro Bike
2 Beast Ring
3 Choice Band
2 Energy Lotto
1 Switch
3 Brooklet Hill

Energy (14)
4 Double Colorless Energy
9 Fighting Energy
1 Beast Energy

Keith opted to play a more streamlined and consistent version of Zygarde-GX, foregoing the Lycanroc-GX line present in Jinn Chung’s list. He cites that he fell in love with Judge Whistle from the moment he saw it and wanted to build a turbo deck with a 4/4 Judge Whistle/Acro Bike line. When looking for the ideal attacker in this meta, Zygarde-GX came to mind as getting out a Turn 1 Cell Connector puts immense pressure on the opponent, forcing them to respond to it.

Matchups

This build is a more aggro version, heavily prioritizing a fast Cell Connector to put pressure on the opponent while setting up the bench with Buzzwole to standby for the Sledgehammer turn. Beast Rings add some late-game juice in charging up other attackers, often times allowing for checkmate situations.

vs Pikachu & Zekrom-GX

This matchup is quite 50/50, depending on both players’ setup. The usual gameplan is to start with Zygarde-GX putting plenty of early game pressure and then threatening to Sledgehammer. Don’t be too excited to Let Loose with Marshadow or play Judge early, as you need to run your own draw support in order to outspeed them. Be weary about overbenching as a surprise Tag Bolt GX can threaten to skip Beast Ring, putting you out of late game outs.

vs Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX

This matchup is favourable, as the usual gameplan puts a lot of early game pressure on them, with you almost guaranteeing an early prize on Turn 2 (or even Turn 1 if you start second). The most threatening attacker would be Lycanroc-GX, so constantly neutralizing the Rockruff would be key to making this matchup manageable.

vs Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX / Lucario-GX

Similarly to the Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX matchup, simply put a lot of early game pressure before they are able to setup whilst taking out immediate threats such as Rockruff and Riolu. Keep your Guzma as when a Lucario-GX hits the board, you’ll be picking off other Pokémon off of the bench for Prizes instead.

vs Ultra Necrozma-GX / Malamar

A slightly unfavourable matchup, especially without the inclusion of Lycanroc-GX which helps tilt the matchup a little closer to being 50/50. Ultra Necrozma-GX is able to more effortlessly knockout Zygarde-GX, which often requires a Cell Connector to charge up.

vs Zapdos / Jirachi

This is a very unfavourable matchup for Zygarde-GX, especially if they are able to consistently stream Zapdos, which are hard to knockout with little Energy on board. A viable strategy would be to take out Jirachi if they only have 1 on the field and use Marshadow’s Let Loose to disrupt their hand.

Deck Strengths & Weaknesses

The main strength of the deck is its speed and consistency and setting up fast. With the 4/4 Judge Whistle/Acro Bike engine, it is also less susceptible to dead-drawing off an early Let Loose (regardless of which player does this). It is absolutely possible to steal games because of the Turn 1 or Turn 2 Let Loose and early Zygarde-GX pressure, with a Buzzwole waiting on the bench for Sledgehammer.

The deck however fizzles and slows down if you are not able to discard a single energy for the early Cell Connector. Even managing to discard 1 Energy is sufficient as after charging off the attack, Zygarde-GX is only 1 Energy attachment away from a big attack the following turn. Another gaping weakness would be Zapdos, as there are no good answers to the fighting-resistant Pokemon.

Comparison

Keith and Jinn Chung extensively discussed their lists prior to the League Cup and while Keith aimed for a more consistent streamline build, Jinn Chung preferred a more aggressive build which allows you to target down immediate threats thanks to Bloodthirsty Eyes. A Rockruff on the bench with a single energy on it creates immense pressure on the opponent on whether to bench more Pokémon, opening themselves up to the threat of a big Dangerous Rogue.

Keith cites that he wanted to add Lycanroc-GX, however he prefers not to have a Rockruff sitting on the bench. With the Pokémon in Keith’s build, Zapdos always needs to spend 2 Electropower in order to Guzma and skip Sledgehammer when a Zygarde-GX is active. Rockruff provides that easy prize for Zapdos, and investing 2 Electropower on a non-GX just to get around Sledgehammer in itself isn’t good for Zapdos decks in the long-run.

Conclusion

Often regarded as an underdog deck, Zygarde-GX has always been popular among fans of the Fighting type. Perhaps this meta is a suitable time for it to make a comeback, especially with the dominance seen by Zoroark-GX and Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks.

If you were considering a slightly different deck for a League Cup or Regional, give Zygarde-GX a try. Keith and Jinn Chung have certainly showed that the deck definitely has potential, as finishes in a League Cup as big as the Perth Regional Championships is definitely nothing to scoff about.

Until next time !

Malik Hisyam

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