Zekrom – Vivid Voltage
Date Reviewed: March 5, 2021
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Zekrom (SW – Vivid Voltage 60/185) is a a baseline Pokémon. Okay, okay, it is a “legendary” Pokémon, but at least for now, that isn’t a special designation recognized within the Pokémon TCG. It gives up a single Prize when KO’d, lacks a Rule Box, and doesn’t have anything else (altered name, tag, label, etc.) that makes it not a regular Zekrom card. It is a Lightning type, which isn’t too good at exploiting Weakness at the moment, because Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks have chased away most Lightning Weak Pokémon! The best [L] tricks are in Expanded but there’s enough in Standard that Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks are still one of the best. I’d say the typing is easily a net positive.
Zekrom is a Basic Pokémon, so you don’t have to wait to evolve or run some other card to field Zekrom. For better and worse, it can be your opening Active, and it enjoys natural synergy with certain effects, such as bounce. Zekrom has 130 HP, which is decent; decks focused on even reliably 2HKOs will still score a OHKO with room to spare, but those with poor setups or focusing on more technical attacks may fall a bit short. [F] Weakness isn’t all that bad right now; the few competitive Fighting decks seem to be borderline competitive. That is to say, for the few major events we’ve been having since rotation, they aren’t showing up in the top cut.
Resistance seems to be a balanced TCG mechanic, more or less… which means it pales in importance to Weakness, HP, etc. and so lacking it, while technically the worst, doesn’t really matter. The Retreat Cost of [CCC] stings a bit; too high to comfortably afford, one too high for Air Balloon, one to low for Buff Padding, etc. Still, we have plenty of switching effects, so it shouldn’t be too bad. Speaking of which, “Slash” isn’t too bad, but it definitely isn’t good. This attack does 30 for [CC]; it is nice it is so easy to pay, and at least it does do 30 damage instead of only 20, or zero to 20 with a less-than-useful effect. Odds are, there will be times you need to fall back on Slash, so it isn’t worthless, but I do wish it was a bit better.
The reason we’re looking at Zekrom, though, is “Wild Shock”. Priced at [LLC], Wild Shock lets Zekrom
- Do 130 damage to your opponent’s Active.
- Do 60 damage to itself.
- Paralyze your opponent’s Active.
130 for three, even when two of those three Energy need to be of a specific, shared type, is at least somewhat good. Guaranteed Paralysis is at least somewhat good; it isn’t needed if you’re scoring a KO anyway, but if your opponent can’t shake it they’re not attacking or retreating (barring stuff like Escape Board). Would it be better with less self-damage? Yes. Would it be better if the self-damage and Paralysis were optional? Yes. Is it bad as is? No!
If you don’t include any healing, HP buffs, or means of reducing self-damage, Zekrom can at most pull off three uses of Wild Shock. That’s 180 points of self-damage, but also three turns doing 130 damage, enough to 3HKO anything lacking protective effects or other defensive buffs! Even with Cape of Toughness, Wild Shock does enough self-damage to 3HKO Zekrom as well, and that assumes neither you nor your opponent are doing anything that would place damage counters on Zekrom, apart from Wild Shock’s recoil. Even a single Galarian Zigzagoon (Sword & Shield 117/202; Shining Fates SV078/SV122) using its “Headbutt Tantrum” to place a lone damage counter on Zekrom means two uses of Wild Shock result in a self-KO.
Decks looking to turn Wild Shock’s soft lock into something a bit harder, probably by combining additional disruption or even full-on control elements with it, should also include a form of healing. If you can spare your Tool for the turn, and you’re in the Expanded Format, you could instead use Protection Cube, which eliminates all self-damage from attacks. I am skeptical of either ever seeing success in remotely serious competitive play, but existing Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks should consider a Zekrom or two. Even with the self-damage, it works as a solid single-Prize Basic attacker. “Trade it” to OHKO smaller targets, or use it as a lead-in attacker to try and win the Prize trade with larger ones.
- Standard: 3/5
- Expanded: 3/5
Just a warning, this is an optimistic review. Not only is it built on Theorymon, but now that I no longer award partial points – it is three out of five points, not three-fifths of a point – I’m rounding up. I think a Zekrom or two has a decent use in typical Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks, and maybe in some future control decks. The same holds true in Expanded, though I’m really stretching it here; there are several alternatives, and I think the tactic is less effective in general, but if you go all in, there’s also a lot more support to help pull it off.
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