One of the smartest ways to improve your game is to examine how the decks of top players work. In this episode of Top Deck Academy, Andrew Mahone does just that with Zach Lesage's championship-winning Pikachu & Zekrom-GX deck. The core of this Lightning-type deck has been popular for quite a while, but the supporting cast around the featured TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX has changed quite a bit as new expansions roll out. Get a closer look at what generates this deck's strength, and see all the modern enhancements it has received from recent expansions in the Sword & Shield series.
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What's up, everybody? Andrew Mahone, TCG player and host of Tricky Gym, here with Pokémon's Top Deck Academy. Today we're going to be taking a look at a powerful Lightning-type deck featuring Pikachu & Zekrom-GX as well as Boltund V and Vikavolt V. This was the winning deck from the Pokémon Players Cup II.
If you're brand-new to the Pokémon TCG or just learning how to play, I highly recommend heading over to tcg.pokemon.com/how-to-play to start your journey with our how-to-play videos.
The deck we're going to talk about today uses the speed and consistency of Lightning-type attackers to get out of the gates early and overwhelm the opponent's field with damage.
This deck uses many cards from the Pokémon TCG: Sword & Shield Series. In Step 1, we'll look at accelerating Energy. Step 2, attacks. Step 3, how to cover your weaknesses. Step 4, the power of Supporter cards. Step 5, support Pokémon.
Boltund V from Sword & Shield—Rebel Clash is emerging as one of the most dominant Pokémon in the Pokémon TCG, and is an excellent addition to the already star-studded cast of Lightning-type Pokémon available in the Standard format. Boltund V's Electrify attack is the perfect way to start off a game. For just one Lightning Energy, it can search the deck for up to two Lightning Energy and attach them to your Benched Pokémon in any way you like.
Most games with this deck begin with Boltund V, but they can also end with Boltund V. Its Bolt Storm attack does 10 damage plus 30 more damage for each Lightning Energy attached to all of your Pokemon. With 10 Lightning Energy in play, this attack can hit for over 300 damage. Now, it might seem unrealistic to get 10 Lightning Energy into play, but it's entirely possible thanks to Pikachu & Zekrom-GX.
Pikachu & Zekrom-GX has been a formidable force in the Pokémon TCG since its release in Sun & Moon—Team Up. Though it only has 240 HP, which is relatively low for a Pokémon that gives up three Prize cards, its attacks are some of the best in the game. For three Lightning Energy, Full Blitz does 150 damage and accelerates three Energy from the deck to one of your Pokémon in play. Boltund V's Electrify is the perfect attack to power up Full Blitz. After a Full Blitz, you'll likely have enough energy in play to use any of your most powerful attacks, including a massive Tag Bolt-GX. Tag Bolt-GX does 200 damage to your opponent's Active Pokémon and, if a Pikachu & Zekrom-GX has three extra Lightning Energy attached for six total, it also does 170 damage to one of your opponent's Benched Pokémon. Tag Bolt-GX can easily take multiple Knock Outs in a single turn, and it will often take three to five Prizes at once. Doing 170 damage to the Bench is enough for a one-hit Knock Out on popular support Pokémon like Dedenne-GX and is perfect for finishing off TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX or Pokemon VMAX that have already taken damage.
Boltund V and Pikachu & Zekrom-GX are fantastic for accelerating Lightning Energy into play, but Tapu Koko Prism Star may be the best of them all. Tapu Koko Prism Star's Dance of the Ancients Ability allows you to attach a Lightning Energy from the discard pile to two of your Benched Pokémon at the cost of putting Tapu Koko Prism Star into the Lost Zone. This can help you boost Boltund V's Bolt Storm attack at the end of the game, but it's also amazing for pulling off a quick turn one or turn two Full Blitz with the help of Energy Switch.
While Boltund V usually helps Pikachu & Zekrom-GX get the battle started, Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX is perfect for closing out a tight game. This TAG TEAM's Tandem Shock attack does 160 damage and leaves its target Paralyzed, if Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX move from the Bench to the Active Spot during your turn. Doing 160 damage is great because it Knocks Out Dedenne-GX in one hit, and two hits can take down almost any Pokémon VMAX. If your opponent has a strong start and is able to KO your Boltund V and Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX is the best Pokémon to mount a comeback. Reset Stamp allows you to limit your opponent's hand while Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX leaves their Active Pokémon Paralyzed, making it tough for your opponent to respond. The Lightning Ride-GX attack is also great for closing out games. For two Lightning and one Colorless Energy, it does 150 damage and switches out to the Bench. If you have two extra Lightning Energy attached, it does a bonus 100 damage. That 250 damage is a great option to have because it one-hit KO's Zacian V, who is a very popular attacker.
The last attacker in this deck is Vikavolt V from Sword & Shield—Darkness Ablaze. Its Paralyzing Bolt attack may only do 50 damage, but it's very disruptive. Paralyzing Bolt makes it so the opponent can't play any Item cards from their hand during their next turn. To put that into perspective, this deck plays 21 Item cards. Most decks are about one-third Items, and making a third of your opponent's resources unplayable can leave them in a tough spot. Vikavolt V is a versatile attacker since its Paralyzing Bolt can disrupt, while Super Zap Cannon can do a significant amount of damage. For two Lightning and one Colorless Energy, Super Zap Cannon does 190 damage, but as a drawback, you have to discard two Energy attached to Vikavolt V.
Up until this point, you may be thinking, this deck is entirely weak to Fighting-type Pokémon. Fortunately, we have a way to cover that weakness. During the Players Cup, the Champion played two copies of Mewtwo & Mew-GX in his winning deck. Mewtwo & Mew-GX's Perfection Ability allows you to copy the attacks of your Pokémon-GX in play or in the discard pile. This is great in combination with Pikachu & Zekrom-GX and Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX. Not only does Mewtwo & Mew-GX have more HP than both of them, it also has a different Weakness, making this deck extremely versatile. Mewtwo & Mew-GX also allows you to easily transition from a Full Blitz attack to a Tandem Shock or even a Tag Bolt-GX. Since Mewtwo & Mew-GX can use any of the attacks of your Pokémon-GX, it can help you to pull off more complex strategies by using a variety of attacks.
Supporters are often the most powerful effects available in any deck. This winning deck list plays three copies of Professor's Research, which allows a player to discard their hand and draw seven new cards. It's a great way to draw cards, but also for getting Lightning Energy into the discard pile for Tapu Koko Prism Star, and for getting Pikachu & Zekrom-GX into the discard pile for Mewtwo & Mew-GX's Perfection Ability to copy.
The Players Cup II Champion Zach Lesage decided to play a full four copies of Marnie. Marnie is powerful not only because it refreshes your hand, but because it disrupts the opponent's hand, placing their hand on the bottom of their deck before giving them just four new cards off the top.
Many games hinge on whether or not a player has a game-winning Boss's Orders. Boss's Orders allows a player to pull one of their opponent's Benched Pokémon into the Active Spot. This is fantastic for finishing off a damaged Pokémon on the opponent's Bench or for taking a game-winning KO.
The last Supporter in this deck is Team Yell Grunt. Team Yell Grunt bounces an Energy from an opponent's Pokémon back to their hand. By itself, the Grunt is mildly disruptive, but in combination with four copies of Crushing Hammer, this deck can be quite a nuisance to play against. Crushing Hammer allows you to flip a coin—if heads, you discard an Energy from one of your opponent's Pokémon. Since Energy acceleration is one of the best things you can do in the Pokémon TCG, Energy denial is also one of the best things you can do. This deck is so consistent and low-maintenance to set up that it can easily accommodate for disruption cards like Team Yell Grunt and Crushing Hammer without sacrificing any consistency or aggression.
As mentioned, one of the best things you can do in the Pokémon TCG is accelerate Energy, and another one is drawing cards. Boltund V, Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, and Tapu Koko Prism Star accelerate Energy, while Dedenne-GX and Crobat V draw cards. Dedenne-GX's Dedechange Ability allows you to discard your hand and draw six new cards. This is great for digging deep into the deck to find game-winning combos, but also for putting Energy into the discard pile to accelerate later with Tapu Koko Prism Star. Crobat V's Dark Asset Ability allows you to fill your hand to six cards when you play it from the hand to the Bench.
And the last Pokémon in the deck, Eldegoss V, is also here for supporting Ability, Happy Match. Remember all those great Supporter cards we talked about? Happy Match allows you to put a Supporter card from your discard pile into your hand when you play it to your Bench—so you can grab a Boss's Orders or a Marnie in a pinch to close out a game.
One of the best things about a Lightning-type deck is having access to Electromagnetic Radar. Electromagnetic Radar requires that you discard two cards from your hand, but in exchange you get to search for two Lightning-type Pokémon-GX in the deck. Electromagnetic Radar can get you an attacker like Pikachu & Zekrom-GX as well as a support Pokémon like Dedenne-GX.
In addition to Electromagnetic Radar, the deck also plays Quick Ball and Cherish Ball. Cherish Ball searches out any Pokémon-GX like Mewtwo & Mew-GX or Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX, while Quick Ball can fetch any Pokémon out of the deck (since they're all Basic).
I mentioned earlier that Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX does more damage and makes the target Paralyzed when it moves from the Bench to the Active Spot during your turn. Tapu Koko Prism Star and Boltund V both accelerate Energy to your Benched Pokémon. In order to make this all work, this deck needs plenty of ways to switch Pokémon in and out of the Active Spot, since you can only retreat once per turn. To assist with this, this deck plays four copies of Switch and two copies of Air Balloon. Air Balloon is awesome in this deck because it decreases the Retreat Cost of the Pokémon it's attached to by two, essentially granting Pokémon like Boltund V and Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX free retreat.
This deck also plays two copies of Chaotic Swell. Although Chaotic Swell doesn't directly benefit this deck, it's a great disruption card because it blocks opponents' Stadiums from having any effect. This is a great strategy against Fire-type decks, which rely on Giant Hearth to get Fire Energy out of the deck. It's also really good against Power Plant, which threatens to stop our Dedenne-GX's Dedechange.
To round things off, this deck plays 10 Basic Lighting Energy and three Speed Lightning Energy. Speed Lightning Energy from Sword & Shield—Rebel Clash is one of my favorite Special Energy printed recently. When you attach it from your hand to a Lightning-type Pokémon during your turn, you get to draw two cards. That means that Lightning-type decks just get to draw more cards by attaching Energy, and that's busted.
And that's it for the Players Cup II winning deck featuring Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. This is definitely one of my favorite decks to play. Hit me up in the comments below [on YouTube.com only]. I want to know what other top decks you want to see broken down next.
It's extra credit time, Trainers! Here's the Player's Cup II–winning Pikachu & Zekrom-GX deck:
Pikachu & Zekrom-GX
3Speed Lightning Energy
3Boss’s Orders (Giovanni)
3Professor's Research (Professor Magnolia)
1Team Yell Grunt