Friday, September 30, 2011

Zekrom/Tornadus - the BDIF

Hi everyone and welcome back to The Deck Out!

Today I’ll be analyzing one of my clear favorite decks of this format – Zekrom/Tornadus. I’ve built the first version of my Zekrom/Tornadus as soon as HGSS-format was announced and I’ve been fixing it ever since. I knew that the time for it would come when the Catcher had been released I was correct – it belongs to the Tier 1 of this format and will belong there for a long time to come.

Battle Roads are already on their way and Zekrom is the most dominating deck of the Battle Roads at the moment. If we look at the statistics:

Masters Winning Decks:
9 x ZPS varients (7 x ZPST, 2 x ZPS)
7 x Reshiphlosion
5 x Primetime (2 x Y/M, 2 x Y/M/K)
3 x Reshiboar
3 x Stage 1's
2 x Magneboar
2 x Zekrom
2 x Gothitelle/Reuniclus/Dragons (1 x G/R/Resh/Z, 1 x G/R/Z)
1 x Reuniclus/Vileplume/Donphan/Zekrom and everything else

As we can see ZPS is very popular at the moment. What makes Zekrom so good in this format if it was in the last format only a failed hype deck? I’m here to find that out.

First, into the skeleton.


3x Zekrom
4x Tornadus
2x Pachirisu
2x Shaymin
= 13


4x Pokémon Collector
2x Pokegear 3.0
2x Dual Ball
3x Professor Juniper
4x Cheren
4x Pokémon Catcher
4x Junk Arm


12x Lighting Energy
4x Double Colorless Energy


Finally I was able to make a skeleton that doesn’t have 50+ cards in it – I’m so proud of myself.


Here comes the fun part. Zekrom is very close to Luxchomp- with the exception that Zekrom is even faster. The main goal is to get either Tornadus or Zekrom attack T1 with Pachirisu + Shaymin Combo. Tornadus is easy to load if you have DCE in your opening hand and if you want to have Zekrom loaded T1 you must have a lot of Lighting Energies in your hand.

The deck relies fully on its speed. I’ve told you many times in this blog that Zekrom/Tornadus is able to get 2 prizes before the opponent’s is even able to evolve their Pokémon. The fact that Zekrom and Tornadus are both Basic Pokémons with great attack and HP is undeniable. Once you have set-upped your Zekrom/Tornadus, your main strategy is to KO anything that looks threatening. That’s why the deck NEEDS 4 copies of Catchers – no exceptions. Just like LuxChomp, you take prize every turn wherever you get it. In theory it would be better if you open with Tornadus because it helps you to set-up the game for the mid-game (you don’t want to play late game with this deck). Tornadus’ Hurricane moves energy from it to the benched Pokémon. It would be optimal that you get Tornadus attacking with DCE and Lighting because once Tornadus is KOed, you only lose 1 DCE. The other reason, why Tornadus is a great opener is because it hits enough – yeah 80 isn’t as much as 120 but it’s enough to OHKO everything that will become threatening (Magnemite, Cyndaquil, Yanma, Phanpy, Zorua, etc.). You can’t win a prize race against ReshiPlosion unless you already have crippled their set-up and have a 2-3 prize lead.

The keys to victory with Zekrom/Tornadus:
1) Speed
2) Catcher
3) Resource management

Let’s make the skeleton alive

There is 15 open rooms for cards in the skeleton list, so I will go through the options card by card and in the end of the analysis you’ll find 2 different full deck lists.

3rd Pokegear

I know, I know, I’m a Pokegear maniac. But there is no denying that Pokegear wouldn’t be exceptionally good in this deck. This deck wants the T1 Collector – more than any other deck. My list runs 3 Pokegears and 4 Collectors and it gets T1 Zekrom/Tornadus 9/10. I’m a huge fun of consistency and consistency combined with speed is a winning combo in this game. You can’t stop me writing about the importance of Pokegear and consistency no matter what you do, sorry.

3rd Pachirisu

This is an addition, I fully understand. Running 2-2 Pachi/Shaymin is always considered a risky choice because there will be games that both Pachis/Shaymins are prized and then you’re naturally pissed off. I don’t like running more support Pokémons in this deck just because they are awful starters. There is nothing you want to open less in this deck than Pachirisu or Shaymin. Runnig 2 of both minimizes your chance to open with them, which is great.

4th Zekrom

You can run 3-4 Zekrom and Tornadus - whichever you feel most comfortable with. I like running 4 Tornadus over Zekrom because in my opinion Tornadus here is THE main starter and Zekrom is just a starter. I’ve played games where I miss the 4th Zekrom so you could also consider running 4-4 of both.


If you want a starter in your deck, Manaphy is your guy. Manaphy has free retreat so it’s a perfect starter for this deck and you don’t want to run a single Cleffa in this deck because you don’t want it to get KOed before you manage to say “Eeeeeeek!”. Since you have Shaymin, you’re neither disturbed by the energy cost of Deep Sea Swirl because you’re most likely to use Shaymin in the early game anyways.


This is a great addition if you run PlusPowers as well. Tyrogue is a donking-machine and it also has a free retreat so it’s a good starter. The amount of Tyrogues has decreased in other decks so a lone Tyrogue start doesn’t always mean that you’ll get donked. Tyrogue is a nice addition and can get you the 1 prize T1 what you wouldn’t otherwise get because the not-so-good hand.

Sage’s Training

Some people don’t like Cheren in this deck- but I do. For those who don’t – Sage’s is a great option. You’re almost guaranteed to get whatever you need from Sage’s but it’s always risky to discard 3 cards in a deck like this. There is always something you don’t want to discard. Sage’s is a great addition if your Juniper and Cheren counts are already full but I don’t suggest you use Sage as your main draw engine.


Bianca is an underrated card. And Zekrom is one of those decks, it works very well in. Zekrom is one of the decks that play with usually a very small hand size. That’s why the deck runs Juniper but there are certaing situations where you don’t want to use Juniper even though you only have 2 cards in your hand. The most usual example is when you have a Junk Arm and Juniper in your hand. It’s always heart-breaking to discard Junk Arms with this deck and it may cost you the game. Bianca is almost every time as good as Cheren in this deck and I encourage you to try it, if you are a fan of straight draw.

Super Scoop Up

Super Scoop Up was considered as a staple in the before-Catcher Zekrom but in my opinion it’s only a tech nowadays. You need SSU every game but there is no point running 3-4 of them in your deck. Tornadus has given this deck so much mid-game power that you don’t have to load a new Zekrom every turn with Pachi/Shay combo. It’s not to be forgotten that SSU is a flip card, which makes you no to want to play it. But the sad part is that you have to – at least 1 copy.


I faced the Canadian National Champion in the Worlds and he was playing 4 Defenders – I thought it was cool. But it was also overkill. Once again, thanks to Tornadus there is no reason running huge amounts of Defenders because you can let Zekrom die when you start attacking with it – you already have a bench full of attackers. Defender is in my opinion consider as a tech in Zekrom nowadays, when it in the past was a necessity for this deck (not many people realized it back then). This deck is so much faster and more stable than before that Defender is only a good addition for the deck. The match-up you need Defender the most is a mirror so if you think you’re going to face a lot of mirrors it’s a good thing to consider running 1-2 Defenders in your Zekrom.


PlusPower is obvious. If you have read my article on the Pokégym about the “Magical Numbers of Pokémon TCG” you know everything about number 130. If you haven’t, then read it immediately! Zekrom needs PlusPower to OHKO his arch-nemesis Reshiram and it also helps Zekrom killing other Zekroms. PlusPower is a must tech for this deck because there are various situations where you need the extra 10 damage. Just remember that PlusPower also adds the self-damage of Zekrom.


Non-flip SSU - gotta love it. That’s what Seeker is here mainly for. In certain situations Seeker is a savior card – in certain situations it just ends up to the discard pile. Seeker is a supporter, which makes it hard to use in a deck like Zekrom, which needs to draw into certain cards every turn (Energy, Catcher etc.). Sometimes you don’t have time to use and you use Juniper instead. In those cases Seekers feels like a wasted space but the more you play games with Seeker in your deck, the more you grow to like the card. Seeker is has also the notorious donk-ability. If your opponent is careless, or has a slow start and you end up having Seeker in your hand, you can end the game. This requires that your opponent has only 1 Benched Pokémon and you’re able to KO the defending Pokémon.

Energy Retrieval

Energy Retrieval is only one tech card but it saves the game every time. This deck’s energy count is already high but it also requires high amount of energies to attack so it’s only natural to run many energies. Energy Retrieval works perfectly with cards like Junk Arm, Juniper and Sage’s. If you have Energy Retrieval in your deck, you can discard your basic energies carelessly because you can get them easily back with Energy Retrieval. Energy Retrieval gets back 2 energies so it’s also an obvious combo with Pachirisu.

Professor Oak’s New Theory

Professor Oak’s New Theory isn’t that good in Zekrom in the early game but in the midgame it’s very good. I don’t recommend running 4 PONTs in your deck but I do recommend 2-3. They give you consistency after the fast start and a safe to draw cards when you have things like both of your Shaymins in your hand. There is no way you can Juniper then. PONT is a great card in this deck that can give you versatility and consistency


I will get back to disturbing later but Judge isn’t really serving the purpose of a “draw” card here. If you want to run Judge, you must run Zekrom in the disturb-way, which I will soon show you an example of.

Crushing Hammer

Crushing Hammer belongs together with a list with Judge. Crushing Hammer is one of the best disturbing trainers in the format and it slows down some decks radically. Crushing Hammer is a flip card but as I mentioned in my Emergin Powers Review it’s the best we have.

Lost Remover

Lost Remover is the last of the disturbing teches. You will get a huge upper hand in a mirror if you get your opponent’s DCEs into the Lost Zone. Tornadus will become unable to attack for a turn if you use Lost Remover on them. Lost Remover is also great against one of the hardest match-ups of Zekrom – stage1 decks.

2-way Zekrom

As promised I will give you 2 full lists of Zekrom that both function a bit differently. First…

The distortion Zekrom


3x Zekrom
4x Tornadus
2x Pachirisu
2x Shaymin
1x Manaphy
= 12


3x Pokémon Collector
2x Pokegear 3.0
4x Dual Ball
4x Professor Juniper
2x Sage’s Training
3x Pokémon Catcher
4x Junk Arm
1x Energy Retrieval
4x Judge
2x Crushing Hammer
2x Lost Remover


13x Lighting Energy
4x Double Colorless Energy

What’s up with distortion Zekrom?

As you can see the list is radically fixed from the skeleton. This deck’s main goal is to disturb your opponent’s set-up and attacking as possible with a Zekrom deck. Once set-upped T1-2 your goal is to get Judge very time your opponent even shows slight signs of set-upping. Here the main attacker is Tornadus. 80 is enough as long as you don’t let them set-up. 3 Zekrom will be enough to take the last prizes. The deck has Sages and Junipers because it needs to draw something from the Judge every time – the need to minimize the chance of dead hands is a must. This version does have a good chance even though you aren’t attacking T2 – as long as your opponent isn’t either!

The outspeed Zekrom


3x Zekrom
4x Tornadus
2x Pachirisu
2x Shaymin
1x Manaphy
= 12


3x Pokémon Collector
2x Pokegear 3.0
4x Dual Ball
4x Professor Juniper
3x Cheren
2x Sage’s Training
2x Professor Oak’s New Theory
4x Pokémon Catcher
4x Junk Arm
2x PlusPower
1x Super Scoop Up
1x Energy Retrieval


12x Lighting Energy
4x Double Colorless Energy

As you can see from the name, this is more straightforward build of Zekrom. This is the most common build of Zekrom and the tournament winning decks are probably built like this. The goal of this build is simple – take 6 prizes in 6 turns. The all tech cards support this strategy. Seeker and SSU helps to get a new Zekrom loaded whenever needed. Energy Retrieval guarantees that you won’t run out of energy and Manaphy is there to raise your chances to open with a good Pokémon. This list is hurt a lot if it doesn’t open with Zekrom/Tornadus/Manaphy and therefore it would be worth considering if it’s prudent to run 4 Zekroms here as well.

This deck probably fits my hands better. Sometimes it just runs over your opponent before he even has a decent chance set-upping himself. This deck abuses the new BW opening rule the most in the whole format and that’s one reason why it must be considered as one of the top decks of this format.


So if Zekrom is so broken and fast, then it shouldn’t have bad match-ups right? It just steamrolls over everything. Well, as we have seen from the Battle Roads results it may very well steamroll through everything.


Slightly Favorable

Stage1 (from even to slightly favorable)

Slighly Unfavorable
Ross’ deck


If you look at the match-ups, it seems like Zekrom isn’t that good of a deck after all. It has few favorable and slightly unfavorable match-ups but the rest ends up in the even section. The most important question is why? Why do the match-ups look so dull even though I have just praised the deck for 2000 words – because this is Pokémon TCG.

Hardships of Zekrom

1) Opening with Shaymin/Pachirisu

It’s Zekrom’s worst nightmare to start with a Shaymin or Pachirisu. It’s almost impossible to get T1 Zekrom if you have a “bad” starter. Zekrom is very weak when it comes to opening with some Pokémon. If you’re old school enough, just think when Zap-Turn-Dos started with Zapdos ex. It’s a very similar scenario.

Zekrom is all about speed so it can’t afford set-upping 3 turns. That’s why I highly recommend running max Tornadus and maybe even max Zekrom. You might as well put in even more good starters like Babies or Manaphy. Starting with a good starter is a matter of life and death when it comes to Zekrom – there is no way you can add too many good starters in the deck – you can always Junk Arm them in the lategame

2) Trainer lock + Reuniclus

Zekrom’s max damage is 120. There is no way over it in the trainer lock unless your opponent is dumb enough to hit your Zekrom 10 or 20 away from being KOed. That’s the reason Gothitelle and Ross’ decks are very bad match-ups for Zekrom – when they’re set-upped that is. Zekrom and trainerlock decks are counterparts of each other – other tries to win with speed – the other set-ups with Twins. In theory Trainer lock decks are straight counters against Zekrom but that isn’t truth.

The truth is that Zekrom can outspeed any deck in the format and that includes trainer lock decks. The pressure that T1 Tornadus/Zekrom gives at your opponent’s deck is very big so unless they have a very decent opening hand they might not be able to recover from it. Trainer locks with Reuniclus are unfavorable for Zekrom but they aren’t autolosses.

3) Slow starts in general

Yeah, as I have said many times – Zekrom is all about speed. So if you have a hand with Tornadus and 6 energies you probably don’t have the game, unless you’ll get a god top deck. Any start without getting prize at least in the turn 2 is considered as a bad start for Zekrom. Zekrom can’t afford slow starts so you’d better make your Zekroms as consistent as possible for the early game.

The future of Zekrom/Tornadus

The future looks even brighter for Zekrom. Basic Pokémons will get even stronger in the future thanks to cards like Eviolite, Skyarrow Gym, Archeops etc. If you don’t what these cards to do, be sure to check their translations from the Pokebeach.

Zekrom has been tier1 deck in Japan for this whole time and still is, so I guess, it doesn’t disappear anywhere here in the West either. Zekrom/Tornadus is a great combination of speed, energy acceleration and heavy hitting Pokémons. These are and will be the keys to victory in the Pokémon TCG always. Zekrom has it all so why not to play it?

That’s it for Zekrom today. Hope you enjoyed the entry and don’t hesitate commenting. I’ll be following the changes Zekrom will be facing in the metagame during the whole season so we’ll see more of Zekrom in the future. Thanks for reading be sure to check The Deck Out daily – the waited “Eye on Japan” will be starting soon!


  1. great post!! really usefull

  2. I'm amazed you could write so much, so interesting, and so quickly. Are you like Santa Claus helped by little gnomes to write articles ? :P

    I was surprised to see trainer lock based deck at worst slightly unfavorable. I though Gothitelle was more of a problem for Zekrom, because of the impossibility of doing 130 damages in one time under trainer lock (in these article's decklistes), and because T1KO really helps Gothitelle to set up. That's why I found the Electrode decklist interesting, it helps prevent the opponent using Twins.

    Anyway, please continue decking out. This is the best article I have ever read about Zekrom.

  3. Okay. I suppose you know of the Zekrom Ex that is to be released in Japan with the Zekrom Ex Battle Strength Deck.

    I can see it possibly having a place in this types of decks, as it will finally break the magical 130 barrier, though it will have to discard 2 energy cards for that. (Unlike Reshiram currently, it can discard any energy it has, not just Lighting. (Curiously enough, the Reshiram Ex will be dealing 150 with a flip on wether it takes 50 damage or not, kind of swapping B/W Zekrom/Reshiram attacks around)

    As I'm a lazy person, is there any realistic way to set up a ReshiPlosion/Boar for electric type pokemon? As it requires 4 energies, it won't be as easy to get armed, and keep it that way unless you can pick your discarded energies back.

    I feel the card has much potential, but as I was out of the game for years, I kinda have no idea about most of the pre-BW cards. -.-

  4. Great post again. By the way in The distortion Zekrom you have 12 Pokemon, not 14. 58 card deck is very interesting :P . I prefer 61

  5. Thank you for this article, I was looking forward to your opinion on my favorite deck. I have a few things to say...

    I'm a bit puzzled about the match-ups. In your Reshiphlosion article, you listed the matchup vs ZPST as favorable for Reshiphlosion, and here you list it as even ?

    I also think that Gothitelle is an auto-loss for ZPST : even if you take 5 prizes to 0, when the opponent is set up (and he will be thanks to Twins), you can't do anything anymore. That's been my experience at least.

    Another thing : you talk about the importance of getting a T1 Collector. In my experience, I rarely have 3 energies in my opening hand, so Collector isn't that useful. That's why I actually run 3 Collector and 4 Dual Ball : I tend to use Dual Ball to find my Pokémon and use a draw supporter such as PONT on the first turn. Maybe I've been doing it wrong but I don't see how you can guarantee a T1 80/120 nine times out of ten.

    Starting with Pachirisu or Shaymin is indeed a huge problem for ZPST. I think playing Switch helps here, as well as for when the opponent tries to stall by Catching a Zekrom on the bench. (SSU works as well but it's flippy)

    As for the future, Mewtwo ex is a Pokémon that could be useful, as he can beat Gothitelle with only a DCE.

    Thank you for your decklists, though, and your analysis of techs. I might try to play the deck with more Cheren and less PONT.

  6. Anonymous: Thanks a lot!

    Zarmakuizz: Yeah, I know, sometimes I amaze mytself and its difficult to write 3000 word things 2 times a week a and still do fairly well in the university. But writing in English also benefits my language skills, so I take this as a challenge for myself. Gothitelle is "only" slightly unfavorable because sometimes - imo - Zekrom can just outspeed Gothitelle and prevent that way their set-up. Thanks for the comments!

    Dante: Yeah 1 Zekrom EX will make difficult match-ups easier. The only Lighting energy abusing Pokémon which can be played in Reshiboar/ReshiPlosion is Rayquaza&Deoxys LEGEND but it's colorless/psychic type. But I can't think any easy way to use Zekrom EX in Reshi decks other than manually loading it with upcoming Prism Energy.

    Anonymous: Thanks for the fix, the first decklist had the same problem but I forgot to fix the distortion list xD

    Luby: As I explained earlier, I've been getting ok results against Gothitelle because T1 starts. Set-upping both Gothi and Reuniclus is IMO difficult if Zekrom goes first and gets T1.

    ReshiPlosion match-up has just been changed in my mind during this time :D After playing more and playing with different deck lists, that's my conclusion of the match-up atm.

    In my opinion, T1 Tornadus is almost every time guaranteed with this list if you start with Tornadus but it's true that gettin T1 Zekrom is harder. You could try running 17 energies, I have tried it as well. Switch should have been there, just forgot it for some reason. It's a great option instead of SSU.

    I think all Reuniclus decks will die as soon as EXs are released. Almost any ex can hit 130 damage and it makes the 130HP Pokémon with Reuniclus unplayable. In my opinion Gothitelle will be a threat to Zekromonly as long as the EXs are released.

    Thanks a lot for the feedback and comments guys! They're higly appreciated.

  7. Another quality article.

    This might just be my favourite Pokemon site right now.

    baby mario

  8. @Esa: When Luby and I were testing ZPST vs Gothitelle, Gothitelle was setting up Gothitelle T2/T3, mostly T2, and Reuniclus often the same turn than Gothitelle or else it was the turn after. So we never saw ZPST win against Gothitelle ^^

    If you ensure this matchup is not so bad for ZPST, then we will try again with a new ZPST list. Thank you for the additional informations in your comment.

  9. Okay, my comment disappeared the second after I posted it, so here we go again.

    @Esa : Luby and I were testing the ZPST vs Gothitelle matchup. Gothitelle was evolved T2/T3 and Reuniclus the same turn or the turn after one Gothitelle was available.
    Since you ensure it's "only" slightly unfavorable, we are going to try this matchup again with another ZPST list. You played with the same list you posted on your Gothitelle article don't you ?

  10. Baby Mario: Wow, thanks a lot!

    Zarmakuizz: I'm impressed you have gotten Gothitelle working so well. I have modified my Gothi list a little but still can't find a decent way winning against Zekrom. At least the way it makes the match-up autoloss. Sometimes Zekrom is just too fast. But you sure do have a great list if it's works so well!

  11. My decklist is amazing : the lock is set up pretty fast, but the energies come slowly :'D So the matchups are closer to an autowin/loose than in your Gothitelle article.
    I haven't used Gothitelle since two weeks. I really would like to try new things, for example Electrode Prime instead of Blissey, or even something more aggressive, no Collector : .

    This becomes off-topic concerning ZPST, so if I find time to try a list that is both quick to set up and to get energies, I'll let you know by mail. ^^

  12. Thank you, for cranking out high quality articles, I hope you continue to do so... Your insight is valuable to both new players and seasoned veterans alike. I am a huge fan of what you are doing and i appreciate every word of it. keep up the good work.

  13. Zarmakuizz: Great to know! I have get the Gothi working better as well so I guess I'll post the updated lists of the serious metagame decks after BRs are done.

    superstarr: That's awesome to hear! Thank you very much for your support.

  14. Awesome blog and post! Are you also interested in playing Pokemon video games?

  15. Anonymous: Thank you! Of course I've played all the video games but I'm not a competitive player in the videogames. You can find more about me here:

  16. Wich one would be more useful? Rocky helmet or eviolite because even if you attach eviolite to Zekrom it's still possible to OHKO it after it has done bolt strike?

  17. Anonymois: I think Eviolite is so much better with Zekrom because Zekrom benefits from staying alive longer more than from additional damage. Zekrom's damage output is high already so it doesn't need any increase for that. However, Zekrom doesn't have enough fuel for the late game if its attackers are always OHKOed. That's why Eviolite>Rocky Helmet always.

  18. Don't you think Research Record could be an useful card in ZPST? i'm thinking about it in a straightforward draw engine maxing out cheren and juniper

  19. Anonymous: In fact, I have never thought about it. However, ZPS will go through a huge change because of NV format. I'll be doing an update about it in the beginning of the next week! Check it out for more details.

  20. Thanks and congrats for your work, pretty great!!!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.