Big Brain Decks: The Top Two Finishers from NAIC

I’m a fan of the Tricky Gym and Andrew Mahone, if you haven’t seen his videos check them out on Youtube.  One phrase he’s used lately is “Big Brain Decks.”  This refers to decks that present a wide variety of choices or decks that require multiple actions made in a particular exact sequence.  I would say that perfectly describes the top two decks at NAIC.  Both of these decks require significant mental acuity but in different ways.

Tord Reklev piloted the 2nd place deck, and Stephane Ivanoff defeated him in the finals.  Both decks were Zoroark GX builds, but the similarities end there.  Stephane’s used the Garbodor BKP Garbotoxin version.  Tord employed a unique, Trainer heavy (he ran 42 Trainer cards!  That’s gotta be a record.) archetype that was simply dubbed the “Control” version.  These two decks illustrate the versatility of Zoroark to such a degree that they might be the most difficult decks to play in our format today.

So we’ll start with Stephane’s deck:


There are a few surprises here. The fact that he wasn’t running Weakness Policy was very interesting – many of the Zoroark decks were teching that into their lists to give themselves a chance against Buzzwole.  The Unit Energy, Kartana, Latios, only one BKP Garb, only one Sycamore, only 1 Cynthia, those choices were interesting, but, by and large, the supporting cards in this decklist aren’t particularly unusual.  No, for this deck the unusual part is the heart of the deck.  I remember hearing about this archetype a couple of weeks ago and thinking, “Zoroark Garbodor?  Really?  Doesn’t that seem like the worst possible pairing in the game today?  Doesn’t this seem like the definition of counter synergestic?”

And yet here it is, NAIC 1st place champion.  Give Stephane credit, he looked beyond the initial repulsiveness of this combo and found a diamond underneath it.  This deck has rules to follow, however, as one commentator said, “There’s definitely a checklist to follow before turning on Garbotoxin.”  This is a great description of this deck – it’s definitely not about simply turning Garbotoxin on as quickly as possible.  You want to make sure that you get your side of the board established first and make sure you have some means of putting more cards in your hand post Float Stone attachment.  Most of the time this involves having a draw card in hand… but not always.  Stephane also ran Field Blower to remove the Float Stone from Garb and (hopefully!) use Trade to draw into another one or Puzzle of Time and reestablish ability lock before the end of his turn.

I said a minute ago that the similarities stopped after the feature Pokemon in the deck, but that’s not quite true.  Both players ran four copies of Puzzle of Time, the once ignored card that has now become a staple in all Zoroark builds.  As much as Buzzwole will miss Max Elixir, Zoroark will miss its Puzzles.  Tord took this card reclamation strategy to the next level, however, as he also ran a copy of Oranguru UP with its Resource Management attack that allows you to put three cards from your discard pile onto the bottom of your deck.

We all know that the beauty of Zoroark is its ability to absolutely tear through the cards in your deck.  Most players throw on the brakes around card ten or so, knowing that you’re really close to decking yourself out.  With Resource Management, however, Tord not only was able to drop to perilously low card counts in his deck, he needed to run his deck down as low as possible.  In fact, Tord actually had ZERO cards left in his deck at one point and was able to put three cards that he needed back with Resource Management to prevent himself from decking out AND ensuring that he could easily draw into the cards he needed.  Not much chance you won’t be able to find the card you need when you have only three cards left in deck (especially if they’re all the same card!).

Here’s Tord’s decklist:

I feel like we should issue a disclaimer: play these decks at your own peril!  They are NOT for the faint of heart, and they are not insta play decks.  It will take you many games to figure out exactly how to work these decks, to get all the nuances, and I’m sure that you will learn from your mistakes along the way.  When properly handled, however, these decks will win you a LOT of matches.

I think Tord’s deck is inherently at a disadvantage to Stephane’s.  I have seen first hand what ability lock will do to a Zoroark player.  I locked one up at Collinsville in one match with Golisopod Garbodor, and he just sat there and squirmed as he top decked card after card that provided neither draw support nor a Field Blower to break the lock.  If you watched MarquisEXB’s Scisor video yesterday, you know that he went up against the Zoroark Garbodor BKP version – and that his opponent made a significant mistake mid game that gave Mike the opening he needed to turn almost certain defeat into a solid victory.  That match exemplifies what I mean by “Big Brain Decks.”

And maybe it’s not “Big Brain Decks” as much as “BigGER Brain Decks.”  Don’t get down on yourself when you make blatant mistakes in Pokemon – we all commit blunders.  I attacked into Verdict GX last night with Dawn Wings Necrozma GX when I had a Mew FAC on the bench that I could have powered up with Squids as easily as I did the Dawn Wings.  I just completely brain farted and forgot the effect of Verdict GX.  Making our brains “bigger” is what we strive to do here, and hopefully playing these mentally challenging decks will help grow your brain cells!