#7 Greninja & Zoroark-GX
– Unbroken Bonds
May 9, 2019
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
It’s always the Dark-type that seems to gain some kind of crazy powerful card in its arsenal, and today’s card is no exception. Never mind that it’s a match made in heaven – I mean, they’re both sneaky ninja-types! Greninja can hide and strike from the shadows while Zoroark disguises himself as another Pokemon for infiltration. It’s definitely a combination that works thematically! Let’s see what else works.
Greninja & Zoroark-GX is a Basic Darkness Tag Team Pokemon-GX, 250 HP, with a Fighting Weakness, a Psychic Resistance, and a Retreat Cost of 2. Dark Pulse is a 2-for-30 that is actually really difficult to recreate in real life, cause I mean…how do you make darkness pulse? I guess you could just beat down on a drum in the shadows, but chances are there aren’t enough shadowy parts of the venue you’re at to hide a drum in, much less a drum that you’re going to want to be larger to have that good “pulse” vibe. I guess doing another 30 damage for every Darkness Energy on your field will do just fine. Then there’s Dark Union GX, which for the same amount of Energy lets you grab any 2 Darkness Pokemon-EX or GX from your discard pile and put them onto your Bench, and if you’ve got another Energy attached to Greninja & Zoroark-GX (in addition to its cost, you know the drill), you can attach 2 Energy cards from your discard pile to EACH of those Pokemon.
Needless to say, this guy’s a monster in Expanded. Dark decks are already some of the best performing Expanded decks, with the likes of Darkrai-EX and Yveltal-EX hanging around, but now imagine having a Pokemon that brings them BOTH out from the discard pile for free, and it can power them up for just 1 more Energy! That’s really freaking good! Keep in mind that the Energy you attach doesn’t have to be Darkness Energy or even basic Energy – it can be whatever Energy you want! So needless to say, Expanded is looking at this card and probably shaking in their boots.
But what about Standard? Well that’s the part that kept me from putting him higher up on my list. Only Pokemon-GX are Standard-legal as of now, and of the ones that are available on that shortened list…there aren’t that many that really stand out. Obviously Zoroark-GX is the must-pick, since he’s got that valuable Ability, but what about your second pick? Just another Zoroark-GX? I guess that’ll work just fine, but how are you getting them both in the discard pile? And when are you playing Greninja & Zoroark-GX then to bring them out? On top of that, how are you getting all that Energy into the discard pile, assuming you’re trying to get Energy onto the Pokemon you bring out? And when rotation hits later this year and Zoroark-GX rotates out – since by the way, we’re looking at an USUM-on format at that point – what are you picking to replace him at that point?
At the time of this writing, it seems to me like Tyranitar-GX (LOT) and Incineroar-GX (LOT) might not look so bad as alternatives. Sure, neither of them offer the incredible draw power that Zoroark-GX brings to the table, but they’ve got their own strengths as Stage 2 GX with 250 HP each. On top of that, Incineroar-GX can damage itself to draw out 3 Darkness Energy from your deck, powering up Dark Pulse by 90 damage all on its own, and Tyranitar-GX can be extremely valuable by smashing Pokemon with Dusty Ruckus before banishing them to the Lost Zone with Lost Out. They’re definitely much more aggressive options, but we’re still running into that same problem of how we get them all into the discard pile.
Fortunately there are plenty of new Supporters that came out in this set that help out by discarding cards as part of their effects. Other cards like Ultra Ball and Ingo & Emmett also help out with fueling up your discard pile, which can in turn set up your Greninja & Zoroark-GX pretty handily for a Dark Union GX! The only real catch at that point is fueling up to 3 Energy to get the most out of the effect, but with stuff like Zoroark-GX and Incineroar-GX available to help thin your deck and fuel Dark Pulse respectively, it’s looking like it’ll remain a strong contender in Standard.
Standard: 4/5 (definitely a solid card, just needs good partners for Dark Union GX)
Expanded: 4.5/5 (kinda like what they have here, for the most part)
Limited: 4.5/5 (fueling up is a bit more difficult, and being only one of 2 Darkness Pokemon-GX makes it tricky to use, but that HP stat is really high, and Dark Pulse doesn’t need much to OHKO Pokemon)
Arora Notealus: I keep mentioning rotation in my reviews lately, and that’s mainly because it’s a really big factor to consider – not just in general, but in particular this year. That’s because the official announcement of the 2020 season’s rotation is on August 15, which comes right before the 2019 World Championship on August 16-18. For the more competitive players out there, that makes distinctions like using Zoroark-GX with Greninja & Zoroark-GX extremely important, especially since one day you’ll be playing Zoroark-GX and bringing it back with Dark Union GX, and the very next day when you go to Worlds, you’re going to have to replace it with something else cause it’s no longer Standard-legal! And considering that it’s the biggest event in the World for the TCG, you might want to keep that sort of thing in mind.
Next Time: And now for something hot and spicy to round off this week!
What do you get when you pair a ninja and an illusionist? For today’s 7th best card of the Sun & Moon Unbroken Bonds expansion, that would be Greninja & Zoroark-GX! This Tag Team card comes with two attack that would define how this card would be used. There’s a shuriken on the background just for show, since there’s no attacks or ability that utilize this weapon, so looks like Zoroark’s got all the credit, well almost. Dark Pulse cost DC for 30 damage, plus 30 more times the amount of dark energies attached to all of your Pokemon. At a minimum of DD, it does 90 damage, and that’s before factoring damage boosting items and other Pokémon with dark energies attached to them. When fishing for OHKOs, you would need Choice Band and eight dark energies to knock out Magikarp & Wailord-GX. Otherwise, for other 270 HP behemoths, then seven energies is all you need. While this attack can eventually steamroll beyond your opponent’s control, you would have to quickly get sufficient energies in the first place. Fortunately, there are ways to get dark energies faster.
Dark Union – or what used to be called Night Unison, names after the Japanese Set – is a very good setup move! It costs DC, and if you choose to run the minimum, then it can put two of any combination of Dark typed Pokémon-EX or Pokémon-GX from the discard pile onto your Bench. It doesn’t matter what stage it is; you can even have a Stage 2 or Mega Evolution! However, if you have one extra energy attached to it, – making it DCC – then not only you put those Pokémon in your Bench, you also attach two energy cards from the discard pile to each of your Benched Pokemon that you’ve just placed. Being the any two dark Pokémon that you’ve placed, you get four energy cards on the field! If those energies, ideally, would be four more dark energies, then Dark Pulse’s damage output will skyrocket further. Since this GX attack needs certain cards in the discard pile, then you can easily send crucial cards as discard fodder, knowing that you can easily get those cards back from that GX attack.
With Dark Union in mind, one might wonder which is the best partner to be worth calling forth from this attack. Straight away, I can see that Incineroar-GX from Sun & Moon Team Up fits the bill, as it is a Dark Type Pokemon-GX. It even has an ability which damages itself and grabs 3 more dark energies from your deck to itself. So if, for some reason, couldn’t get the second effect of Dark Union to work, Incineroar-GX serves as further insurance. So far, that’s pretty much the ideal partner for Greninja & Zoroark-GX. Putting it all together, these Pokémon ecplise all other Dark Pulse users like Darkrai-EX from XY BreakPoint, and has a place in the competitive scene, even if there aren’t as many decklist that I tried to find and even if Fighting types are still causing mayhem. Standard is already been established while Expanded is building more stuff for better or worse. In Limited, if you pull one, then by no means use it. The only other Dark Type Pokemon-GX in this set is Honchkrow-GX, so Dark Union isn’t useless in the Limited format, though good luck trying to pull multiple Ultra rares from that set within four packs. Martial Arts Dojo and a couple Fighting Pokemon in this set might cause trouble to Greninja & Zoroark-GX, so tread carefully.
Seventh-place in our countdown of the latest expansions best cards is Greninja & Zoroark-GX (SM – Unbroken Bonds 107/214, 200/214, 201/214, 222/214). Strap in folks, because I’ve got what might be a minority opinion to try and support; that means I’ve got to detail almost every aspect of this card. Tag Team Pokémon are a subcategory of Pokémon-GX, so any card effect that refers to the latter applies to the former, but not the other way around. Of course, there’s only one Tag Team-specific counter so far – Snorlax (SM – Unbroken Bonds 158/214) and I only recall seeing one Tag Team-specific piece of support (and that’s only out in Japan). Tag Team Pokémon give up three Prizes instead of the usual two other Pokémon-GX surrender, have HP scores that match or exceed some of the highest found on other Pokémon-GX, seem intended to have better effects” than would otherwise be found on even the regular Pokémon-GX version of similar cards, and (so far) have GX-attacks that gain some kind of bonus if you intentionally “overpay” for them. Yes, yes, this should be obvious, especially as this is our third Tag Team Pokémon review just this week, but there are plenty of new and returning players… and some of us just need all the bases covered.
Greninja & Zoroark-GX are a [D] Type Pokémon, giving them access to a decent pool of Type-based support in Standard, with even more in Expanded. Unfortunately, some of the newer options are still unproven, or perhaps aren’t as good as they seem. Some of the Expanded-only examples (like Dark Claw) seem obsolete (just use Muscle Band), and even powerhouses like Dark Patch just aren’t as impressive as they once were, which I still struggle to grasp. At least the anti-[D] effects haven’t proven worthwhile, either. All of this is even more important when you remember that all [Y] Pokémon so far are [D] Weak; the only exceptions I know of are [Y] Type BREAK Evolutions, which have no Weakness stat of their own. As for attacking into Weakness, only a portion of the [P] Typing is [D] Weak, those based on the video game Ghost Type… and not all of them, due to mitigating factors (like a secondary Typing from the video games bleeding through). A glance at our current and Japan’s past metagame makes me think we’ll see more decks sporting [D] Resistance, than Weakness, though neither is going to be especially common.
Being a Basic is the best; fastest to the field, minimal deck space, and many effects/mechanics work better for Basics than for other Stages of Evolution. There are many anti-Basic effects, but also a few that support them, so the entire balance is a net positive. Just remember that sometimes, being a legal target as your opening Active can backfire. Their 250 HP is good, the former maximum printed HP score until the reveal of Eevee & Snorlax-GX increased it to 270… then a few days later, the unveiling of Magikarp & Wailord-GX raised it all the way to 300. Some decks can OHKO this amount, but I don’t recall any that can do so rapidly, reliably and repeatedly. There is a very good chance Greninja & Zoroark-GX can survive an attack, and with luck, they might even survive two. Their [F] Weakness means that does NOT include decks attacking with [F] Types. Plenty of other [F] Weakness in the metagame to exploit, and some high profile options for [F] Tech (like Marshadow-GX). [P] Resistance is appreciated, and with the HP, it should matter in at least one matchup. A Retreat Cost of [CC] is low enough you can probably afford it but high enough you’d prefer a workaround, so it’s decent.
Greninja & Zoroark-GX has one regular attack and a GX-attack. Up first is “Dark Pulse” for [DC], which does 30 plus another 30 for each unit of [D] Energy you have attached to all of your Pokémon. Dark Pulse is not a new attack, debuting on Weavile (Diamond & Pearl 40/130) back in 2007! Even as a longtime player, though, I think of Darkrai (XY – BREAKpoint 74/122, 118/122) when it comes to that attack… which means we have a decent idea of how to use Dark Pulse; use what you can to flood the field with [D] Energy. If you want to OHKO just about anything, you’ll need an immense nine [D] Energy to do it. If you’re just worried about 2HKOing most things, three or four will suffice. Not bad, but it gets pretty good when you remember that Energy can be spread out among sturdy Bench-sitters and/or spare attackers. [DC] also pays for “Dark Union-GX”, which lets you take up to two [D] Type Pokémon-EX/GX from your discard pile and Bench them. Yes, if they’re an Evolution, they can still be chosen and Benched, skipping their lower Stages. If you manage even a single Energy Energy attached to Greninja & Zoroark-GX beyond the required [DC] for Dark Union-GX, you also get to attach up to two Energy cards to EACH of the Pokémon you’re Benching from the discard with this attack!
There is quite a bit of synergy here. Just between the attacks, Dark Union-GX easily feeds the damage potential from Dark Pulse. Now factor in how Greninja & Zoroark-GX is a Basic with 250 HP, and you realize that a Greninja & Zoroark-GX just Benching two copies of itself via Dark Union-GX gives you two hard-to-OHKO spare attackers, ready to start swinging, and Dark Pulse swings for 150 even if you “lose” all the [D] Energy that was presumably attached to the Active Greninja & Zoroark-GX which just attacked with Dark Union-GX. If we start looking at other worthwhile partners, two spring readily to mind: Incineroar-GX (SM – Team Up 97/181, 167/181, 188/181) and Naganadel. Incineroar-GX’s Ability lets you search your deck for up to three [D] Energy and attach them to itself. Incineroar-GX places three damage counters on itself each time you do that but also has 250 HP and an adequate three Energy attack of its own. Naganadel should be quite familiar, but if it isn’t clear, we would be exploiting its Ability to get even more [D] Energy into play… plus enjoying a decent single-Prize, [P] Type emergency attacker.
That is a lot to fit into a single deck. Just three copies of Greninja & Zoroark-GX, two of Incineroar-GX (and none of its lower Stages), a 2-2 Naganadel line, and two slots for some semi-generic supporting Pokémon (Dedenne-GX? Tapu Lele-GX?) to 11. That doesn’t sound bad, but you’ll need a lot of basic Darkness Energy to attach to all of them, some from the deck and some from the discard pile given the effects we want to utilize! There are many Trainers we’ll need to work in as well. Between general setup (Cynthia, Ultra Ball, etc.), common Tag Team tricks (Acerola, Max Potion, and Energy Switch), they’ll be very little room for the strategy specific options… though a lot of what I just mentioned also makes sense for a Dark Pulse deck. Don’t forget you need a lot of cards to hit the discard pile at the right time, so some “bloat” may be necessary to provide additional discard options.
I am not saying that Greninja & Zoroark-GX doesn’t have potential, but that you’ll have to make tradeoffs. Maybe the correct approach is to ignore almost everything other than Greninja & Zoroark-GX, so you have room for a massive amount of Trainers and Energy? Perhaps you should only use Incineroar-GX or Naganadel, instead of trying to partner them up. Maybe there’s another partner to consider; needing to put stuff in the discard and draw into combo pieces makes me want a Zoroark-GX or two on my Bench, while the idea of Nanu => Guzzlord-GX is still tempting even though it has never worked out before.
I do expect there to be at least one competitive Greninja & Zoroark-GX in Standard, but they haven’t shown up in the Japanese results to which I have access, and I really do not care for that [F] Weakness. I think there could be one in Expanded. Definitely give this a go in the Limited Format, but in a fleshed out deck. The +39 route is tempting – with luck you might even still be able to utilize the GX attack! – but this set has quite a few [F] Types. Enough to potentially offset how they’re being diluted into 214 cards (plus Secret Rares), and how they are almost all Evolutions, Rare (or higher), and/or have a specialization. Greninja & Zoroark-GX didn’t make my personal top 11, but it did just make my top 20.
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