Hello guys, Rukan Shao of team DDG and Kidd Starck of The Dark Patch here with a pair of articles on Lucario GX and some variants for Portland Regionals 2018. This article, hosted on the DDG page, will contain the a quick rundown of the Zoroark Lucario archetype. The Dark Patch will host the Lucario Lycanroc part of our two part series. (Click Here to Read Part 2 Of this Article on thedarkpatch.com)
We will not cover any cards from Forbidden Light, namely Diancie Prism Star, that might be obvious inclusions in a hypothetical Zoroark Lucario deck. As those cards will not be available for Portland Regionals.
I played Zoroark Lucario almost exclusively since the release of Lucario GX. This is the list I favored after a week of playtesting. It embodies the goals of building a strong, powerful, consistent, and well rounded deck and not overloading it with too many tech cards for the various matchups.
Just A Better Golisopod?
On the surface, Lucario GX has a lot in common with Golisopod GX.
So one might be tempted to build the deck similarly.
But I think playing Zoroark Lucario in the same fashion as Zoroark Golisopod is a recipe for failure. Or is, at the very least, suboptimal.
Zoroark Lucario is a much more powerful, much more aggressive, and much more combo focused deck than Golisopod.
Lucario can feasibly take 6 prizes by turn 4. Knocking out Leles, using its GX on big threats, and hitting Zoroarks for weakness. Golisopod on the other hand, can’t feasibly take 6 prizes before turn 6 against most decks. This makes Lucario far more likely to choose Guzma over Acerola in order to close out games quicker, even if it means leaving damage on the board. It also makes the deck more willing to give up its own prizes due to its ability to keep up in a prize race scenario.
Unlike Golisopod, Lucario GX needs to be played from hand the turn it attacks, whereas Golisopod GX can be developed onto your board proactively in previous turns. This means a Lucario GX player views their resources more from a card combo perspective.
A Golisopod deck might instantly play an evosoda to thin their deck. But a Zoroark Lucario player might opt to keep an evosoda as an extra out to their Aura Strike combo for when they get N’d. The resource management game is subtler for Zoroark Lucario, and may require an adjustment period for Zoroark Golisopod play.
If we intend to pilot Zoroark Lucario as card combo deck whose win condition is to hit the aura strike combo 2 times, as opposed to a tanky high consistency deck like Zoroark Golisopod, how do we build the deck and how does it differ from Zoroark Golisopod?
4 Strong Energy
Fighting energy is one of the least searchable pieces of the combo.
We can ultra ball or evosoda for Lucario GX and Lele GX for Guzma.
But we have to hard draw our fighting energy or mallow into it.
Additionally, strong energy is necessary to one shot leles, or Bulus/Gallades with Regirock EX.
It is the limiting factor of the aura strike combo. And as a result we choose to run the maximum count of 4.
A 5th basic fighting energy is also a consideration, but perhaps not before a 4th choice band.
3 Choice Band
Choice band is another one of the least searchable pieces in our card combo.
However, unlike strong energy, it is not 100% essential. You can still knock out a Zoroark GX. Plus the extra damage can be meaningless against targets like Golisopod GX and Gardevoir GX.
But it’s still an important combo piece to hit, which is why we’re running a higher count than a typical Zoroark Golisopod archetype
Once again, we are maxing out our critical combo pieces.
Guzma is a critical combo piece because your opponents will always try to wall off with something like a Golisopod GX or a Lucario GX.
Plus, Guzma is already a fantastic card so I do not believe the four count requires further justification beyond that.
Ho-oh GX is not a particularly strong archetype, but it is one that has been gaining traction.
With the release of Lucario GX, I suspect more players might be emboldened to play the Ho-oh Kiawe Archetype.
Lucario does not hit good numbers on Ho-oh GX. Plus it can sometimes whiff a knock out on 180-190 HP basic GXs by a few damage points.
Tapu Koko solves both these problems. It provides an efficient trade against Ho-oh GX, sets up numbers on benched Turtonator GX/Volcanion EX. Plus it can fix can fix numbers in other matchups.
The free retreat is not to be underestimated either. Sometimes you need to cynthia to see what energy you roll into. Leaving a koko promo in the active allows you to attack with either Zoroark GX or Lucario GX depending on whether you whiff the combo or not.
Why Mewtwo? Isn’t Mew EX a stronger counter to Buzzwole?
Mew EX is a faster paced counter, but it is also easier for Buzzwole decks themselves to counter. Buzzwole garbodor can shut it off with ability lock. Buzzwole Lycanroc variants sometimes run FCO mew so they can jet punch with fighting and choice for weakness.
Mewtwo is simply the more stable counter. Plus, the deck has the option to one threaten Buzzwoles with a two strong energy aura strike. So there still exist ways to quickly tempo out a Buzzwole deck.
But I think Mewtwo’s utility in non-buzzwole matchups is what really pushes it over the top.
Being able to skew the prize trade by responding to a Mew EX with a bulky one prizer will push an already positive zoroark match even further. Normally I don’t value win-harder cards highly, I would make an exception given the popularity of Zoroark GX.
And on top of that, it’s still quite useful against Gardevoirs, Espeon GX, Ho-oh GX, or just skewing the prize trade against any deck.
Regirock EX and 2 Parallel Cities
Regirock EX fixes math against Gallade and Tapu Bulu GX.
It can fix math in other scenarios too, but these are the two main ones.
I did consider double brooklet to get it out consistently.
But ultimately testing showed that Parallel City is far too overpowered to let go.
If for no reason other than to protect your own bench from parallels, in order to maintain a healthy riolu count on bench.
1 Acerola 0 Max Potion
As mentioned already, Zoroark Lucario is an aggressive deck that takes prizes quickly. It doesn’t need to play the slow, grindy, and healing focused strategy of Zoroark Golisopod.
Acerola might seem like it has great synergy with Lucario GX, but it’s rarely the optimal supporter in practice. Many opponents will play parallel and snipe your benched riolus, denying Acerola value. If your Lucario GX is damaged, it is often better to use the GX attack rather than heal the damage, simply because you can threaten to win the game in a turn or two.
1 Evosoda 1 Olivia
If you’ve read my articles, you should know I like to simulate deck hands in various programming languages. Recently, I tried out Olivia.
My code will run 1 million simulations of opening hands, simulated from turn 1 to turn 2.
My deck originally ran 2 Evosoda, but I recently tried subbing out one of the Evosodas for Olivia.
And what I found was the version with Olivia would get 1.5 Zoroarks turn 2 on average, as opposed to 1.3 Zoroarks turn 2 with just 2 Evosodas.
You might argue that an extra copy of Cynthia is better than Olivia. But the issue with Cynthia is Cynthia will completely miss Zoroark GX/Evosoda/Ultra Ball about 1 in 3 games, and only hit around 1 Zoroark GX on average. Having the option to lele for Olivia and avoid the gamble altogether is a very powerful option.
As a Pick for Portland
Zoroark Lucario has by far the best Zoroark matchups of any Zoroark variant, and is likely the strongest deck in the format in a vacuum.
It’s particularly strong against Zoroark Golisopod, Gardevoir Variants, and Zoroark Weavile. So I fully expect those three archetypes I just mentioned to see reduced success at Portland.
However, Zoroark Lucario finds a difficult matchup against Lucario Lycanroc. Likewise, we’ve seen numerous Anti-Zoroark decks crop up at Costa Mesa and Charlotte, and those decks tend to counter Zoroark Lucario just as well as any other Zoroark variant.
So while I believe, Zoroark Lucario is the strongest deck in the format in a vacuum, it does not have a flawless matchup spread and may suffer if people bring a large number of counter decks.
But regardless, it’s never a horrible idea to bring a high power, high consistency deck and hope to dodge a few rogues.