Zoroark – Evolving Skies
Date Reviewed: October 5, 2021
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Zoroark (SW – Evolving Skies 103/203) is a baseline Pokémon:
- No name alterations
- No Rule Box
- No Battle Style (or other bonus mechanics)
Keeping it simple has its advantages, like no exclusion from generic effects and no extra Prizes taken when Zoroark is KO’d. Only Rule Box Pokémon seem to face actual counters at the moment, though, with no real downsides to the others. Zoroark is a [D] type, which might not even matter due to other aspects of the card. Still, if you end up attacking its good for exploiting Weakness (most [P] types), but has so-so support. There’s also Justified Gloves, which lets the equipped Pokémon do +30 damage to your opponent’s Active when attacking if it is a [D] type. In Expanded, there’s much better support, but [D] Weakness is less common, [D] Resistance actually exists, and the unlikely chance that some old anti-Darkness effect will suddenly prove useful.
Zoroark is a Stage 1 Pokémon, so it is neither easy nor difficult to play. Zoroark’s 120 HP could be a problem; while enough to soak most weaker hits, most semi-serious attackers can score a OHKO. Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX’s “G-Max Rapid Flow” will OHKO two Zoroark at the same time! Zoroark’s [G] Weakness might matter, as they tend to be more technical attackers e.g. less damage with more effects. Attacks doing 60 to 110 become 2HKOs for Grass attackers. No Resistance is the worst, but is also what most Pokémon have. Moving on, we see a Retreat Cost of [CC]. This is also pretty common, and is neither high enough to be a big burden nor low enough to be a big break.
Zoroark has one Ability and knows one attack. “Phantom Transformation” had many people excited when they first saw it, but the official English wording (and rulings) quashed most of it. Once, during your turn, you may activate Phantom Transformation. When you do, you select a Stage 1 Pokémon from your discard pile, then you discard Zoroark and all cards attached to it while playing the selected Stage 1 directly to your Bench, from the discard pile. While this does mean Zoroark is an alternate way to field any Stage 1 Pokémon, you can’t do any prep for that Pokémon ahead of time. Yes, it is nice that damage counters and detrimental Special Conditions don’t carry over, but neither do beneficial effects resting on Zoroark, attached Energy, attached Tools, or even turns in play. You can Evolve the Stage 1 you Benched with Phantom Transformation, but only after it has been in play a turn.
As such, Zoroark isn’t Evolution acceleration. It can be used to try and build a Stage 1 “Toolbox” deck; you don’t have to bother with many (or even any) of the Basic Pokémon the different Stage 1 Pokémon you’re running usually need. You’ll still need the correct Energy, Tools, etc. for them, however. Zoroark can also be used just to supplement another Evolution line. Maybe it is something with an awful Basic Stage, or at least, something worse than Zorua. Maybe it is a branching line, so Zoroark lets you (after using Phantom Transformation), get a total of six Stage 1 or even Stage 2 Pokémon that normally can’t exceed a total of four in play (due to shared Basic and/or Stage 1 Pokémon.
As for Zoroark’s attack… “Night Daze” is decent filler. Priced at [CC], it lets Zoroark do 70 damage. Definitely not great, but Twin Energy (or most other general Energy acceleration) can quickly cover it, and it does do enough damage that Zoroark can either set up or finish off 2HKOs, provided the targets are on the small side or the other attacker hits a lot harder. Again, for something you’ll likely use rarely, it may be adequate. So… is this really enough to support a competitive deck? The answer is a form… maybe. Zoroark-using decks did not show up often enough to have their on entry over at LimitlessTCG. However, a few do show up in the “Other” category for the portion of the site that covers non-major and/or non-official tournaments.
Most of these decks did “okay”, with records like 5-3-1 or 4-3-0. There doesn’t seem to be one concrete list, either. I noticed Cinccino (Sword & Shield 147/202; SW – Black Star Promos SWSH009; Shining Fates SV094/SV122) in all four lists I found, and I mean alongside Minccino as well. Most of the rest of the deck were a selection of Stage 1 Pokémon that had decent attacks and/or Abilities, especially when you factor in that anything you didn’t need that match was just one or two cards and not the entire evolution line. No data for Expanded, but we have the usual; more support, more competition, and more counters. While Phantom Transformation didn’t give us the brilliant combos for which I’d hope, I’m still giving it solid marks in Expanded because it seems like the kind of mechanic that spawns outside-of-the-box thinking. Plus, Stage 1 Pokémon-GX are a legal target.
- Standard: 3/5
- Expanded: 3/5
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