How Zoroark/Garbodor won Worlds

Hey what’s up!
Just over a week ago, after a crazy weekend of Pokemon, I ended up winning this year’s World Championship. In this article, I’ll go over our testing group’s thoughts and testing process leading up to the tournament, explain some of the more unusual choices in the final list, and write a short report.

Worlds preparation

This time, we’ve put in a lot more work than in previous years to prepare for Worlds. Tord, Pedro, Philip, Nico, Heddi, Magnus and me met up in Norway about 3 weeks before the event to test and discuss daily until leaving to the US together. While we weren’t the most productive all the time, it definitely helped a lot in understanding the meta and its relevant decks, and was overall a super fun experience!

The camp started by trying to figure out the strength of the new Celestial Storm decks. I personally didn’t expect Rayquaza to be crazy good, but it was able to impress in initial testing. Zoroark decks were struggling to keep up with it, and an early Marshadow SLG paired with a lot of pressure could take games against any deck.

However, as we became more and more concerned about Buzzroc, the prospect for Rayquaza became worse, as it struggled to deal with the BabyBuzz strategy. Additionally, the Zorogarb matchup was winnable, but not great for our very item heavy build. A lot of games against a lot of decks felt purely random, which made this not a deck we were happy with.

In an attempt to fix these problems, we built a Rayquaza/Garbodor list. When relying purely on Latias to set-up, and foregoing the Stormy Winds ability altogether, while not having many items in the deck to keep the discard relatively clean of them, the ZoroGarb matchup became favorable and predictable. Garbodor was also a good answer to Buzzroc, as shutting off their Diancie and Octillery is crucial. Lastly, most of us liked having elements of control in Garbodor and N, instead of relying on a simple and linear gameplan.

The RayGarb deck performed well and actually was a top favorite for many of us until the end. The main reason we ended up dropping it was the newly emerging Buzzwole/Garbodor/Shrine deck, which was a horrible matchup. We built the deck to have no truly bad matchups, so this very popular creation made Rayquaza a lot less appealing, especially after seeing its success on day 1 of Worlds.

Zoroark/Magcargo was the second big new deck, and as one could expect, we liked it. The control that it gives over a game is unmatched, and at the beginning it looked like the clear go-to deck. However, it turned out difficult to fit all the answers it needed into one list, especially because it wanted to be a defensive deck against Zoroark matchups, but an offensive one against Rayquaza and Buzzroc. In the end we settled on a list we were quite happy with, but while it was doing fine against the most expected decks, it would be helpless against some more fringe decks. Cards like Dedenne or Weakness Policy targeted only specific matchups, and if something like Gardevoir showed up again, we didn’t have an answer.

In contrast to this, Zoroark Garbodor seemingly had all the answers it ever needed built in already. At the start of testing we weren’t huge fans of the deck, but whatever we put in front of it never really convinced. Trashalance is one of the best Rayquaza counters, while Garbotoxin, if used correctly, is incredible against Buzzwole and other Zoroark decks. We were having a lot of trouble beating it, so at some point decided to pick it up as one of our top picks. After all, it was a Zoroark deck, had a lot of options, and good matchups. The only real downside to it was that it was a well-known entity going into the tournament, coming off its win at NAIC. There wasn’t a ton of innovation to the list either, and we would have very much preferred to “break the format”.

Another Zoroark deck that was in heavy consideration for a long time is Zoroark Gardevoir. It has built in Rayquaza and Zoroark answers, but ultimately the Buzzwole matchup was just too scary. It also didn’t operate particularly well against Garbotoxin.

Malamar was the last deck that got some serious attention in testing. It has always had one of the better Buzzwole matchups and was also doing fine against Rayquaza. Marshadow copying Moons Eclipse GX, followed up by a Prismatic Burst, while getting rid of GX on the bench with Parallel City, provided a 3 prize swing and was usually enough to win the game. The deck was also not very expected, which is a very helpful. It still wasn’t doing well against Zoroark though, and in the end also didn’t fully convince against Buzzwole, so I defaulted back to Zorogarb.

At the end of our camp, we didn’t have much of a consensus on what the play is. Pedro didn’t like the reactive style of Zorogarb and was leaning towards either Rayquaza or his trusty Zororoc. Tord wasn’t happy with the Buzzroc matchup, and still heavily considered the Magcargo version. Philip and Nico were leaning towards Raygarb, but had Zorogarb as their backup option. Magnus switched back to Zoropod, the deck he played for basically all season, after it was doing fine in testing. Heddi, the original Zorogarb player in our group, was probably the most committed to the deck.

Here are some of the lists we were working on but didn’t end up taking to the tournament:


The list

Zoroark Garbodor72.71
We mostly tested with lists close to Stephane’s NAIC winning one – it’s just a very good list and didn’t need much adjustment for Celestial Storm. Another consideration was playing a mill heavy build that tried to win mirrors by using Delinquent and Resource Management. It didn’t do as well in non-Zoroark matchups though, so everyone agreed to stick with the regular attacking approach.

You can read an excellent explanation of Zorogarb’s workings in Stephane’s NAIC article, so I’ll only go over the changes that were made.

A card that was annoying me with the deck is Ultra Ball. It felt like the deck had so many good cards that a lot of the time the discards really hurt. The deck would go very low in many games, and while that certainly wasn’t mainly Ultra Ball’s fault, it’s one factor that contributed to it. Most of the time an Ultra Ball was played in this deck, the target ended up being a Psychic Pokemon. Even when getting a Zoroark, it didn’t feel good. Evosoda and Mysterious Treasure on the other hand are very good cards in the deck. Discarding one card to get a Lele is very reasonable, and Evosoda is just the cleanest way to get out Zoroarks. It felt like a very natural decision to make the full switch from UB to those two cards. While the lost flexibility of Ultra Ball can hurt, the added power of not having to discard valuable cards easily made up for it. There were some added benefits to it, like having an easier time spamming Trubbish and Garbodor against Rayquaza decks.

The second unusual choice about my list was the inclusion of Town Map. Its first appearance in our testing was in the Zorocargo list, and seeing it in action reignited my love for the card. After countless of games that were lost to prized Garbotoxins, way more than statistically reasonable, I was pretty set on putting the card into this deck as well. It turned out being great, similar to how it functioned in past Garbodor decks. Being able to pick out any prize that fits the current situation is universally useful, but especially great under Ability lock, when we can’t set-up the hand with Trades. It’s also particularly useful against control heavy Zoroark lists, where games often come down to utilizing every single resource to its best. Not getting stuck with a useful prized card like a Puzzle or an Energy can be deciding. Additionally, racing games against Rayquaza require the deck to never miss a beat, and being able to pick out one of the pieces for setting up the next Trashalance is another potential game-winning use.

The obvious effect of being able to skip the prize check at the beginning of each game is a very nice bonus. It saves time and energy, and lets you focus more on the actual game. I don’t know whether the full certainty about one’s prizes that Town Map provides can be fully replaced by a regular deck search in timely fashion, but it certainly feels good to have that information.

One aspect that has been omitted to fit above cards is healing. I tested a lot with Acerola, but it didn’t impress me. The point of the deck was usually to fall behind and then do the infamous Garbotoxin N. The first Lele or Zoroark was supposed to go down. After having the N to 4 or 3, a simple retreat was usually the same as healing. I had a lot of games where my bench was full of damaged Pokemon, and getting rid of the damage on just one of them would be pointless. When being behind in lategame situations, Garbotoxin would usually be involved as well, and make it hard to find the healing card. Another N would do the job just as fine.

When it’s necessary to get rid of damage, Tapu Cure or Parallel City were still options. If I was to add a healing card, I would prefer Acerola over Max Potion, as it has a lot of miscellaneous uses. Max Potion is mostly a card for prize racing, and Garbodor doesn’t care much about that.

A lot of the concepts in this list can also be found in Philip’s GoliGarb and Yveltal lists from past tournaments. Cutting healing in favor of Town Map and more search has been quite successful for us overall!

Tournament report

R1: LWT vs Zoroark Garbodor (Nico Alabas)
R2: LWW vs BabyBuzz Garbodor Shrine (Otavio Gouveia)
R3: WW vs Malamar Shining Lugia Spread (Tom Hall)
R4: LWT vs Buzzwole Lycanroc (Bert Wolters)
R5: WW vs Zoroark Garbodor (Azul GG)
R6: WW vs Zoroark Garbodor (Joe Ruettiger)
R7: WW vs BabyBuzz Garbodor Shrine (Hunter Butler)
Top 8: WW vs Zoroark Golisopod (Brian Miller)
Top 4: WW vs Zygarde Lycanroc (Klive Aw)
Top 2: WW vs Psychic Malamar (Jeff Kolenc)

The tournament began with a Mirror match against my good friend and teammate Nico. We weren’t happy about this pairing, but at least it would mean the day began with a very laid-back match. We barely managed to finish two close games in 50 minutes and walked away with a tie, a fitting conclusion in my eyes.

In the next round I played against Otavio from Brazil. He has been cutting countless tournaments with Buzzroc throughout the season, but decided to switch it up to BuzzGarb for Worlds. Our first two games were close, with him getting the outs he needed after N in the first one, but whiffing important cards in the second. Time was running low and I expected another tie when going into game 3, but he deaddrew completely and I was able to win in 3 turns after knocking out his only two Basic Pokemon.

Round 3 had me paired against Tom Hall, long time player from Great Britain and team 8bit owner. He played an interesting Malamar build that utilized Shining Lugia and a lot of Spread cards like Tapu Koko, Shrine of Punishments and Tapu Lele Promo. The games were kind of close, but in the end ZoroGarb is just pretty well equipped to deal with his deck. In the first game I was able to clean up a ton of damage by using Parallel City, taking away his win options, while in the second game a N to 1 with Garbotoxin was able to punish his very aggressive start and underdeveloped board.

In the next round I played against another fellow European, Bert Wolters, this time on stream. He was playing Buzzroc, the deck that has brought him a lot of success this season, and the deck he beat me with in our last encounter in Valencia. In the first game I struggled to set-up after going for the turn 1 Brigette and not drawing into a follow-up draw supporter for a while. I tried to comeback with N but he’s able to Guzma up a Zorua and take the easy KO to draw his last prize. The second game goes better, I was able to use Kartana effectively to get around Sledgehammer and tank some Jet Punches, and am later able to win the game with Trashalance, Garbotoxin and a Lele with a bunch of DCEs. When the third game was coming to its close, time was called. I couldn’t possible finish the game due to his excellent item management, leaving me 20 damage off from KOing his Lycanroc with Trashalance. Luckily, an Acid Spray heads in the final turn meant he also couldn’t finish the game, and the match ended in a tie.

The following two rounds I was paired against Azul and Joe, both playing the same Zorogarb list. The games against Azul were close, and I was able to switch around my damaged Pokemon a lot to gain advantages in both games. I felt like his own Garbotoxin ended up hurting him when he went up in prizes, and made him expend a lot of ressources. He got me with a very effective N at the end of the first game, but didn’t have enough cards left and eventually decked out.

My games against Joe were a bit more onesided. He scooped game 1 immediately after not getting a second Basic off Cynthia and looking at 3 useless cards with a Puzzle. In game 2 he started by discarding two items for an Ultra Ball, and the game didn’t get much better from there. We were both attacking with Trashalance towards the end of the game, but at some point he whiffed the Energy to attack and couldn’t win anymore.

In the final swiss round I faced Hunter, who got through day 1 with BuzzGarb and also put up a great run on day 2. In the games against me, he drew pretty poorly though. Game 1 was not very interactive, and even though I whiffed Energy for a lot of early turns, it didn’t matter because he was mostly draw-passing, or attaching energy to irrelevant Pokemon. Once I drew a few prizes and set-up both Garbodor, he didn’t see much hope and we went into game 2. He set-up better there, but when it came to trading hits, he whiffed both an important Rainbow Energy for Garbodor, and an Energy for his Buzzwole the turn after, and the game was basically over after that.

With that I made top 8! I was going to go against Brian and his Zoropod deck. A close matchup, however one I was very comfortable with. In the first game we trade some hits, but when he’s at three prizes my Garbotoxin puts his Trades on hold and gives me control over the game. I am then able to finish the game with a Trashalance KO on his benched Tapu Lele.
The second game was pretty crazy. I open a dead hand, but draw Kartana, which in combination with Town Map gets me a Tapu Lele from the prizes. His start was good, but he had to Sycamore away two Puzzles on the first turn, which hurt him immensely and opened the door for a possible comeback. He whiffed the game winning combo after my first N to 1, I then was able to take a OHKO with Trashalance and follow it up with another N, to which he had to answer.

Top 4 was yet another very intense series. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the matchup, but I knew Klive has had a lot of success with Zygarde this season and that he would be a tough opponent. Game 1 went very well, I was able to get a turn 2 KO on his Rockruff with Energy, and after that Lele took care of his Zygardes. I think I had 3 DCEs on it at one point to get a OHKO, which was pretty cool. The second game was incredibly close. I fell behind a lot, to the point of being down 6 to 1 prizes. His board was very weak though, so N + Garbotoxin was able to put in work. He had a couple of turns to draw out of it, but didn’t get it, so I moved onto the finals!

Winning here and making it to the final day was a great feeling, but there was one more match to be played. I would face off against Jeff Kolenc, an up and coming Canadian player with his Malamar deck. I was happy about that matchup, as Zorogarb was one of the big reasons for me to not go with the Psychic deck myself. However, the match was not be taken easily, as a lot can go wrong still. I ended the day by re-watching his top 4 match to get a good look at his list. The lack of Parallel City was comforting, and his low count of Field Blower worked in my favor as well.

After a lot of waiting, it was finally time for our finals match. I started off the first game with an almost perfect set-up, going first and having 3 Zoroark plus the Garbotoxin on my second turn. He was able to stay in the game for a bit, but after hitting an important Trashalance KO on his Mewtwo I was firmly in control. As in all the prior matches, the second game turned out more difficult. We both got great early draws, which favors me, but he was able to answer my first Zoroark with a Field Blower Marshadow Moons Eclipse turn, which put me in a tricky situation. Fortunately, I got the Guzma and Float Stone response to go down to 2 prizes and lock him out of abilities again. He got his last Blower but couldn’t deal with both Garbotoxin and my attacking Trashalance at once, and decided to get rid of the Ability lock to set-up for winning the turn after. I had access to my second Guzma though and just needed to play that for the game and with that the tournament!

It was hard to believe, but I did it, won Worlds. Huge thanks to everyone who supported me throughout the weekend, I really appreciate it. Biggest shout-out to my friends, couldn’t have done this without you.
Shout-out to Zorogarb for being a broken deck that simply refuses to lose games. Special shout-out to Heddi for being the one in our group who showed us the Zorogarb way.

Thanks for reading! I’m excited for next season and for Regionals to start again, so see you there!

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