Sword & Shield—Silver Tempest Strategy: Zoroark Toolbox
The Illusion Fox Pokémon is once again the real deal thanks to powerful Pokémon and Trainer cards in the latest expansion.
By Stéphane Ivanoff, Contributing Writer
Zoroark from Sword & Shield—Evolving Skies is a card with incredible potential. After new sets are released and a card with potential gains more attacker pairing options, that card can become a viable foundation for a toolbox deck. It just so happens that several new cards from the Sword & Shield—Silver Tempest expansion fit very well into a Zoroark toolbox deck. Read on to see how to build and play such a deck!
Zoroark Toolbox Basics
Zoroark’s Phantom Transformation Ability lets Zoroark turn itself into any Stage 1 Pokémon in the discard pile. This means that if you play multiple Stage 1 Pokémon and can discard them, you can turn Zoroark into the Pokémon best suited for the situation. For this reason, it’s known as a toolbox deck—you can pick and choose the tool (in this case, the Stage 1 Pokémon) that will be the most useful.
To make the most of the Zoroark line, we’ll look for Stage 1 Pokémon that attack for one or two Colorless Energy. This will let us play attackers of many types (using Twin Energy or Double Turbo Energy); this way, we can often hit opposing Pokémon for Weakness. This doesn’t take that much space in the deck—we only need to play one copy of each attacker. After all, once our key Pokémon is Knocked Out, we can simply use another Zoroark’s Phantom Transformation to bring it back into play.
Note that the way the Phantom Transformation effect works is different from some other effects, such as Thorton. Despite the name, Zoroark doesn’t actually transform into another Pokémon (although we sometimes use this word for convenience), it just gets replaced by it. Any cards attached to Zoroark are discarded and not transferred to the new Pokémon. Always use Phantom Transformation to bring your attacker into play before attaching an Energy card to it!
We also need a way to discard the Pokémon we want to transform Zoroark into. This can be done with Trainer cards, such as Professor’s Research, but it’s also a good idea to include Cinccino. Its Make Do Ability lets us draw cards every turn, and in this deck, its drawback becomes an advantage. Minccino also has the Call for Family attack, which helps to set up our board on the first turn when going second.
What’s in the Zoroark Toolbox?
Zoroark is only as good as the Pokémon it transforms into. Fortunately, there are some pretty good choices in the Standard format! Here are my favorites.
The new Braixen from Sword & Shield—Silver Tempest is a strong attacker that can do up to 240 damage for a single Energy card, if there are four Serena cards in the discard pile. It just so happens that Serena fits very well in this deck since it can be used to discard Stage 1 Pokémon and draw cards; you can even play Serena just to discard Pokémon, even if you can’t draw with it. It can also be used to target vulnerable Pokémon V on the opponent’s Bench, such as Lumineon V, and be used to take Prize cards and close out the game. We can even discard Serena with Cinccino’s Make Do if needed, which would boost Braixen’s damage.
Also from Sword & Shield—Silver Tempest, Raichu can do 140 damage if the opponent has used their VSTAR Power. This is particularly useful against Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR and Lugia VSTAR, two Pokémon who are weak to Lightning and tend to use their VSTAR Powers early in the game.
Lugia VSTAR / Archeops is the most powerful deck in the game currently, and that’s in part because it plays many different attackers, not all of which are weak to Raichu. That’s where Appletun comes in: since Lugia VSTAR puts so many Special Energy cards into play, Appletun’s Thick Mucus can Knock Out any Pokémon in the deck.
Appletun’s counterpart Flapple is also useful against a different variety of decks. Lost Zone decks, for example, tend to use Pokémon with Abilities, such as Comfey, Cramorant, and Radiant Greninja. Flapple’s Acidic Mucus will easily get KOs against them.
Against Pokémon VMAX, one of the best attackers we can use is Mightyena, who does 160 damage for no Energy at all. It can score two-hit KOs against all of them, although some Pokémon VMAX have more than 320 HP and will require Mightyena to have a Choice Belt attached. Mightyena shines against the powerful Mew VMAX, who is weak to Darkness and will be Knocked Out in a single attack.
Fighting-type Weakness is another common type to hit. There are several relevant Pokémon that can be used here, but I recommend Kleavor. Its Rout attack can do up to 160 damage depending on how full the opponent’s Bench is, and it can be a powerful answer to strong Fighting-weak Pokémon, such as Arceus VSTAR, Hisuian Zoroark VSTAR, and Vikavolt V.
The last essential Pokémon for this deck is Slowbro from the Pokémon GO expansion. It doesn’t do any damage, but its Twilight Inspiration attack is the perfect way to finish off a close game by taking two Prize cards when the opponent only has one left. Thanks to Slowbro, you can come back in games that you start with a Prize deficit, even if the opponent also only uses one-Prize attackers.
Assembling the Zoroark Toolbox Deck
Using all the Pokémon mentioned above, I arrived at the following deck list:
At this point, the core of the deck is clear: a full line of Zoroark, a supporting line of Cinccino, and an array of powerful attackers. Trainer cards include Serena, which is necessary to make good use of Braixen, and other common Supporters: Marnie, Professor’s Research, and Boss’s Orders. Now let’s explore some of the remaining cards.
There are two Pokémon that I haven’t mentioned. First, Manaphy is necessary in any deck featuring such low-HP Pokémon. Without its Wave Veil Ability, many decks could deliver several Knock Outs to us in one attack with something like Radiant Greninja’s Moonlight Shuriken or Raikou’s Amazing Shot.
Second is another newcomer, Radiant Jirachi. Radiant Jirachi is the best Radiant Pokémon for this deck: if you end your first or second turn with it in the Active Spot, your opponent will likely Knock it Out, activating Entrusted Wishes. This will let you search for 3 cards, which means you’ll easily be able to retaliate. For example, you could search for the ideal attacker (to be discarded thanks to Cinccino), a Zoroark, and a Twin Energy!
Note that your opponent can’t ignore Radiant Jirachi either, due to its Astral Misfortune attack that can, under the right circumstances, Knock Out any Pokémon. It’s not an attack you want to rely on, but the simple threat of it means that opponents can’t simply pass their turn and ignore Radiant Jirachi—they will usually have to Knock it Out.
As for our Item cards, most of them are typical search cards. Level Ball and Evolution Incense make sense in this deck as most of our Pokémon have 90 HP or less or are Evolution cards. I also added an Ultra Ball, which can grab any Pokémon in the deck. Battle VIP Pass is the best way to set up, but only on the first turn. If you draw it later, though, it’s not the worst thing in the world: it can be used as fuel for Cinccino’s Make Do Ability.
We also need cards to get Zorua and Zoroark back from the discard pile so we can keep using them throughout the game, hence the inclusion of Ordinary Rod and Rescue Carrier. Ordinary Rod can’t be used to its full potential in this game since we don’t play any Basic Energy, but it’s still the best option available in the Standard format.
I also included a single copy of Scoop Up Net. Unlike decks that use Drizzile or Galarian Zigzagoon, there’s no point in running a full line of Scoop Up Net in this one. However, a single copy of it can be used to switch between Pokémon. It also lets us get back a Pokémon that’s not wanted on the Bench—like Manaphy, for example—if we happen to start the game with it against a deck that has no way to attack our Bench.
Finally, Path to the Peak can slow down other powerful decks. It is especially useful against Duraludon VMAX, which would otherwise be immune to our attacks (except from Mightyena, which doesn’t need Energy against it). Playing Stadium cards also allows us to counter opposing Stadiums, especially the dangerous Temple of Sinnoh.
Build Your Own Zoroark Toolbox
Of course, the deck list above is only a starting point. The most fun aspect of a toolbox deck is that you can play almost anything in it! Maybe you’ll find other Stage 1 Pokémon that you’d like to include. Below are some other ones to consider, but keep in mind it’s far from an exhaustive list.
Beheeyem: So far, none of our Pokémon can hit the opponent’s Bench. Fix that by including Beheeyem in your deck! Psychic Arrow does 60 damage to any Pokémon, which can KO support Pokémon such as Sobble, Dunsparce, or Pumpkaboo.
Wormadam: All three Wormadam from Sword & Shield—Brilliant Stars (Grass type, Fighting type, and Metal type) have the Matron’s Anger attack, which does more damage the more Pokémon are in our discard pile. Since this deck plays more Pokémon than the average deck, Matron’s Anger can do significant damage, especially if it hits the opponent for Weakness. Choose which Wormadam to play depending on the type of Pokémon you expect to face!
Hisuian Zoroark: If you’re new to the game, you might think Doom Curse is an incredible attack. In most cases, it’s not quite as good as you’d expect because the opponent needs only to switch out the Pokémon that’s affected by Doom Curse to cancel its effect. However, against decks that don’t have many ways to switch out their Pokémon, such as Arceus VSTAR / Duraludon VMAX, Doom Curse is a powerful option. It also shines in unexpected matchups like the mirror match! Think about it: in a matchup between two Zoroark toolbox decks, it is likely that both players will trade KOs back and forth until they each have two Prize cards left. At this point, whoever takes the next KO loses the game, since the opponent can then use Slowbro’s Twilight Inspiration to win the game. Hisuian Zoroark is an elegant solution to this problem: Doom Curse takes a KO at the end of the opponent’s next turn, so if it hits, you can then immediately follow it up with your next attack to win the game without giving the opponent an opportunity to use Twilight Inspiration.
The overwhelming number of options is what makes toolbox decks so interesting to play. With the right cards, you can fine-tune your deck to counter popular archetypes, including the terrifying Lugia VSTAR that recently dominated the Latin America International Championships. Try out the deck for yourself!
For more Pokémon TCG tips and analysis, be sure to visit Pokemon.com/Strategy.
Stéphane Ivanoff is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. A longtime Pokémon fan, he has played the Pokémon TCG competitively since 2010 and is a former National Champion, seven-time Worlds competitor, and the 2018 and 2019 North America International Champion in the Masters Division. He studied mathematics and has a degree in Probability and Statistics, but he says that doesn’t help his game as much as you’d think! You can follow him on Twitter @lubyllule.