A Moonlit Illusion – Umbreon GX/Zoroark
By far the card receiving the most love from Sun and Moon in the first week after the set’s release is Umbreon GX, the Darkness type Eeveelution.
There are two primary converging factors that makes people love Umbreon so much. First, people are big fan of the Pokemon that evolve from Eevee, affectionately nicknamed as Eeveelutions. Second, a large segment of the Pokemon TCG player base loves Dark type Pokemon and they seem to gravitate heavily towards whatever new Dark cards are released. Of course no one can blame any of these players for sticking to their beloved Dark type when Pokemon has continuously printed strong Darkness type Pokemon like Darkrai EX (x2), Sableye DEX, Yveltal EX, Yveltal BKT, Zoroark BKT, and even Weaville PLF is a strong force in the little played Legacy Format.
Umbreon GX itself pays some homage to cards of the recent past, in particular the Dark Pokemon that started off the recent Dark Age, Darkrai EX from Dark Explorers. Umbreon GX’s Shadow Bullet is identical to Darkrai EX’s Night Spear attack, except that it comes with an easier to setup [D][C][C] attack cost compared to Darkrai EX’s [D][D][C] attack cost. Its first attack, Strafe, has been sparking people’s memory of Donphan PLS and its Spinning Turn attack, but this is a rather silly comparison as the damage modifiers don’t really exist for a true deck to be built around the attack right now, although it is possible such a hit and run deck could be built around Umbreon in the future, although I doubt this will be the case.
We’re only a week into the format and I can already tell that Umbreon GX will be featured in a variety of different builds, there’s so many different types of decks you can build around the card. Some people are building around its hit and run Strafe attack, others are fitting it in as a 2-2 line to use Umbreon as an alternate attacker in Yveltal EX and Turbo Darkrai EX decks, some are playing it alongside Espeon GX in a Dark/Psychic combo deck, and then there is my personal favorite, Umbreon GX/Zoroark.
Umbreon GX/Zoroark has consistently been one of my top performing decks in the Primal Clash through Sun and Moon format. I feel somewhat in disbelief that a Night Spear equivalent is still so strong with all the power creep we’ve seen since Dark Explorers, but the deck has been able to consistently grind out wins for me and I am now a definite believer that it is a tournament viable deck.
Umbreon GX/Zoroark Strategy
Umbreon GX/Zoroark is the new generation Zoroark deck and has many similarities to its ancestor, Yveltal/Zoroark, one of the best decks from last season. Zoroark is used for its Mind Jack attack, which does 10 damage plus 30 more damage for each Pokemon on your opponent’s bench. Players typically have to have Pokemon on their bench to execute their strategy, so Zoroark typically is able to do at least 100-130 damage, good for 2HKO’s, but sometimes can do much more.
Umbreon GX gives you a turn 2 attacking option that you can use to put early aggression on your opponent with Shadow Bullet. With Eevee from Sun and Moon having the Energy Evolution Ability, setting up Umbreon GX is very consistent in the deck as you can use Dark Energy to search out your Umbreon GX on the first turn of the game, allowing you to use your search cards for establishing the Zoroark line.
The optimal turn 1 play is usually to attach a Dark Energy to an Eevee to evolve it into an Umbreon GX with Energy Evolution and then use Strafe if it’s your Active Pokemon. This sets you up to start going after your opponent with a turn 2 Shadow Bullet. You won’t be able to attack, or even evolve into a Zoroark on the first turn of the game and they can be setup with a Double Colorless attachment anyhow, so it makes most sense to setup an Umbreon on your first turn of the game.
In some matchups or situations it can make sense to attack with Tauros GX, such as when you can take a string of knockouts on low HP basics against an Evolution deck, but against other bulky GX or EX decks, setting up that early Umbreon GX is usually best.
Shadow Bullet is the primary attack that we use Umbreon GX for. With Reverse Valley and Professor Kukui, we have a set of damage modifiers that allow us to mess with the math to help Umbreon GX hit 2HKO numbers on most of the popular cards in the format.
The 30 damage snipe from Shadow Bullet is huge too. These can be used to set Pokemon up to be in knockout range for your Zoroark later in the game. Zoroark had struggled to hit for relevant damage numbers earlier this season, but now with a snipe attack to set it up it becomes a lot more viable.
The core strategy of the deck is fairly simple, swing away with Shadow Bullet early game while setting up later knockouts for future Umbreon GX and Zoroark, but beyond this core strategy there is a lot more depth to be found which I cover in the next two sections.
Umbreon GX/Zoroark Decklist
Pokemon – 19
4 Eevee SM
Trainers – 31
4 Professor Sycamore
4 Ultra Ball
2 Reverse Valley
Energy – 10
4 Eevee – With 4 Eevee in this list with 5 other Basic Pokemon we have a 57% probability of starting an Eevee, which is our optimal starter as starting it allows us to use Energy Evolution on turn 1 of the game to get an Umbreon GX setup out of the gate. By running four of these we ensure that we also will almost always have an extra Eevee available to evolve into one of our Ancient Origins Eeveelutions.
3 Umbreon GX – This is your lead attacker in the deck and also your primary attacker. You will typically use 2-3 of these in a game, so playing three copies along with Super Rod typically gives us access to enough of these in a game.
1 Flareon/Jolteon/Vaporeon – The Eeveelution cards from Ancient Origins change the type of your Stage 1 Pokemon to either Fire, Lightning, or Water type depending on which of the Eeveelution cards you have out. This works terrific in this deck as both Umbreon GX and Zoroark are Stage 1 Pokemon.
I’ve seen players only playing 2 of 3, but I think all three of them are very good and help you cover a wide variety of the meta game. Flareon can be used to counter Lurantis GX and Decidueye GX, Jolteon can be used to counter Yveltal EX and M Rayquaza EX, and Vaporeon can be used to counter Volcanion EX.
3-3 Zoroark – This is our secondary attacker. It is a fairly thick line, so it’s not too difficult to get a couple Zoroark out in a game. You typically don’t need Zoroark until a few turns into the game, as you typically lead with Umbreon GX, so you have a bit of time in getting these setup. You can also use Stand In to give the deck mobility, allowing you to do some plays like using Strafe into a wall Pokemon, and then using Stand In to either attack with Zoroark or if you have Float Stone attached to Zoroark, to retreat into the Umbreon GX and attacks with it again.
1 Zoroark BREAK – This adds another layer of strategy to the deck, allowing you to use your opponent’s own attacks against them with Foul Play, as well as give Zoroark an HP boost. This is one of the most skill intensive cards in the deck and figuring out situations where you can leverage your opponent’s own attacks against them can be used to gain advantages with the deck that other players might not realize they should be using. With all sorts of new GX Pokemon with strong attacks, including GX attacks, Zoroark BREAK has a lot more utility moving forward.
As good as it is, I ended up cutting back from 2 copies in the deck to 1. It is the equivalent of a Stage 2 Pokemon, making it inconsistent to get out. When I had two in the deck I found myself in too many games where it was a dead card in early hands, or in other games where it wasn’t needed to win. With Super Rod, we can have still have access to two Zoroark BREAK in some games when needed.
1 Tauros GX – We already are playing 4 copies of Double Colorless Energy, so Tauros GX is a good general utility attacker. Against evolution decks, its Horn Attack can be used to knockout low HP pre-evolution Pokemon. Against anything reliant on 2HKO’s, you can typically use its Mad Bull GX attack for a OHKO on an EX or GX if they are forced to attack into it for any significant amount of damage.
Beyond its general utility, I believe it is a necessity in the deck as a counter to Glaceon EX. Without it, you are without a strong Basic Pokemon to take on Glaceon EX with and would lose most games against it. With Super Rod, if you play your cards right, you can get two Tauros GX out in a game against Glaceon EX decks, and that is typically strong enough to swing the matchup around when you can take some knockouts on other stuff with either Zoroark or Umbreon GX.
1 Shaymin EX – This is included to add consistency to the deck by turning all of our Ultra Ball in to potential outs for drawing cards. I try to avoid having to bench it in most games as I’m finding that Shaymin EX is becoming an increasing liability on the bench in decks and loses a lot of games. In most games you can setup without using it, but it’s there as an out when you need it.
Standard Consistency – The deck plays a fairly standard consistency engine with 4 Professor Sycamore, 3 N, 3 Trainers’ Mail, 4 VS Seeker, and 4 Ultra Ball. This type of engine, alongside Shaymin EX, is being used in most of the successful decks in the format as it is typically very consistent. I tried some alternate engines with the deck but fell back into this engine as it was more consistent than what I was trying to accomplish with higher counts of cards like Lillie.
1 Lillie – Lillie is a welcomed third option for a draw supporter in the deck and is typically very solid in the mid and late games at giving you enough new resources while not discarding some of the resources you may want to hold onto. It’s also almost as good to see off late game N’s as Professor Sycamore is. One of the issues with Bianca was that it was an awful Supporter to see in your opening hand as it could typically only net you a few cards to start the game. With Lillie, Pokemon fixed this problem by letting you draw up to 8 cards on your first turn of the game with Lillie, allowing it to be used for some strong starts that also allow you to hold onto some key resources in your opening hand that you want to save for turn 2.
1 Professor Kukui – This is primary used to add +20 damage. The drawing two cards is a nice side effect, making it better than Giovanni’s Scheme, but its draw isn’t enough to be part of a consistent engine so you use it sparingly in situations where it allows you to hit your damage math, but it’s not something you can rely on for drawing into your needed resources. My initial build played multiple copies of this, but I found out quickly that drawing two cards isn’t powerful enough for this card to be included in higher numbers and reverted back to the Trainers’ Mail engine. Kukui is primarily in here as an additional option for making sure we are hitting our magic numbers with our attacks.
1 Super Rod – This is needed to recover any evolution Pokemon you have to discard in the early game and can be used to get re-use out of tech Pokemon like Zoroark BREAK and Tauros GX. It’s also good for putting Energy back, as 6 Basic Darkness Energy is on the low side.
1 Special Charge – Double Colorless Energy is highly important for all of our Pokemon’s attack, so having access to up to 6 of them increases the deck’s consistency in attacking with exactly what it wants to throughout the game.
3 Bursting Balloon – These serve a few purposes in the deck. The first is that they can be used on the first turn of the game to be put on something that you Strafe into. I had Pyukumuku in my original list of the deck as an option to Strafe into, but ended up cutting it. Bursting Balloon can be attached to a Zorua and Eevee, and for that turn, that Pokemon essentially becomes Pyukumuku.
The Bursting Balloons are great for ensuring that Umbreon GX is able to take 2HKO’s on Pokemon, and can also set Pokemon into knockout range for Mind Jack knockouts. It can also act as a deterrent, forcing your opponent to Lysandre something else, protecting the Pokemon you already have resources devoted to from damage.
2 Float Stone – This is our retreat option. There isn’t much need for heavy amounts of retreat since Zoroark is mobile with its Stand In Ability and Umbreon GX can escape the active position with Strafe. These can be attached to Zoroark, and with Stand In, you will have full freedom to switch into whatever you want as long as you have that combo in play.
2 Reverse Valley – Helps increase our damage output, making it more likely that we’re hitting the damage numbers we need for knockouts.
Alternate Card Choices
I won’t delve too much into the alternate card choices that the deck has it’s disposal as there are so many variations of cards that you can play alongside Umbreon GX, but I will highlight some of the primary cards that people may be considering for the deck that I chose not to include.
Yveltal EX – This was under consideration as the Glaceon EX counter until I came to the conclusion that Tauros GX did the job well enough while being more useful against a wider array of decks. Without any way to accelerate to Yveltal EX in the list, it is diminished as an attacker as it takes two turns to setup, making it somewhat awkward to use in a general sense.
Max Elixir – Speaking of acceleration, Max Elixir would be a nice option for pushing the deck’s setup speed by accelerating Energy. However, the card is very awkward in a deck where your attacker is a Stage 1, and I also don’t see a way to include enough Basic Energy in the deck to make our probabilities solid while also finding room for the actual Max Elixirs.
Yveltal BKT – I had this in the deck for a long time, before taking it out. As an attacker, it suffers from the deck lacking Energy acceleration. With players quickly moving to playing lots of GX’s, its value is diminished as an attacker as well, as there is less to snipe to. Three Energy for 60 damage isn’t that good.
It is still moderately useful against Mega Evolution decks, but those make up a declining share of the meta game, and you already counter M Rayquaza EX, the most popular of the Mega decks, fairly well with Zoroark and Jolteon. Against big EX decks like Turbo Darkrai EX, it could be used to break Fighting Fury Belts too.
Don’t get me wrong, Fright Night was a useful card in a few situations, but I found these situations where it’s useful coming up less and less, so I ended up cutting it from the deck altogether.
Some Tips for Playing the Deck
Here are some tips for playing the deck.
Choosing a GX attack.
In this deck we have the option to use a variety of GX attacks. We have GX attacks available through Umbreon GX, Tauros GX, and we can copy our opponent’s GX attacks with Zoroark BREAK.
Umbreon GX’s Dark Call GX allows us to remove two Energy cards from our opponent’s Pokemon. This can be great for slowing down our opponent early game, as well as running our opponent out of resources in the late game. In a close contest, using N to 1 and then using Dark Call GX can flip a game around.
When your opponent has something with a Fighting Fury Belt attached, sometimes you can strand it in the active position by removing its Energy as your opponent will be unable to attach Float Stone, and they may have exhausted their Switching options, or don’t even play any switch Items.
Tauros GX’s Mad Bull GX attack is a lot simpler to use. If your opponent is unable to knock it out in a single hit, you can use Tauros GX’s Mad Bull GX to take a OHKO for two prizes if your opponent swings into it. As it’s 30x, they don’t even need to hit into you for that much. If they hit you for 60 damage, you’re already hitting for 180 damage with Mad Bull GX.
Just the threat of Mad Bull GX can also alter your opponent’s game play and force them into suboptimal game states if they don’t know how to play around it.
Sometimes it will make sense to use Zoroark BREAK to copy your opponent’s GX attacks. Copying opposing Umbreon GX and Espeon GX are probably the most common ones so far. Some GX attacks, like Chloroscythe GX on Lurantis GX can’t be copied for a good effect.
Saving Bursting Balloons
While our final list doesn’t include it, if you play Yveltal BKT you can save Bursting Balloons by attaching them to your Pokemon and then promoting Yveltal BKT to the active position by using attacks like Strafe. As long as Yveltal can stay in the active spot by the end of your opponent’s turn than your Bursting Balloon will not be discarded because of the Fright Night Ability.
Beware of the BREAK
When you are making use of your Ancient Origins Eeveelutions in a matchup, make sure to keep in mind what stage of evolution you are using. If you BREAK evolve your Zoroark, it is no longer a Stage 1 Pokemon and will no longer get the benefit of the type change Ability.
Type Change and Parallel City
Keep in mind that you could be hit by a Parallel City damage reduction. Sometimes you will evolve into an Eeveelution just because you have an extra Eevee on the bench and you want to thin your deck out before playing something like an N. In these situations be mindful of cards like Parallel City. If Red Side is facing you and you evolve into Vaporeon or Flareon you will face a -20 damage reduction.
Jolteon Is Good in Neutral Matchups
In neutral matchups, you may want to consider evolving one of your Eevee into a Jolteon. Not only does it have free retreat, making it something you can promote and retreat at the start of your turn, but it also makes your Stage 1 Lightning type. This has a general utility as almost every deck plays Shaymin EX, so by turning your Umbreon GX and Zoroark into Lightning types you have a very easy time taking OHKO’s on Shaymin EX.
For League Cups you will have a smaller meta game, so it may make sense to make some alterations to the list. The way I have the list built is for an unknown meta game where we don’t quite know what people will be playing and in what numbers.
In your local area, you might notice that players aren’t playing any Volcanion EX decks for example, which would make it so Vaporeon is a dead card in the deck. Therefore, for your local tournament it would make sense to cut any unneeded Eeveelutions and replace them with cards that can strengthen the deck in other regards.
Foul Play Counts as your GX Attack
Remember, you only get one GX attack in a game. It has been ruled that if you use Foul Play to copy a GX attack it counts as your one GX attack for the game.
Place in the Meta
Umbreon GX/Zoroark has the potential to be one of those decks that is good in a variety of different meta games because the core mechanics behind the deck are inherently strong and versatile, however there are some weak points to consider about the deck.
All three of the attackers in the deck are weak to Fighting, so any fighting variants that pop up are going to be problematic for the deck.
Greninja BREAK was a pain for Zoroark to deal with last season, and it looks like a very daunting task to beat it with this deck as well.
M Gardevoir EX also is an uphill battle. Zoroark is reliant on them having a bench, and they can Despair Ray away their excess Pokemon. Umbreon GX is reliant on getting 2HKO’s, but M Gardevoir EX resists Dark types and can use Fairy Drop to further delay being knocked out.
You’re able to gain massive amounts of leverage in the matchups where you can take advantage of an Ancient Origins Eeveelution. Against Lurantis GX/Vileplume, Decidueye GX variants, M Scizor EX, Solgaleo GX, Volcanion EX, M Rayquaza EX, and Yveltal EX decks you have the ability to OHKO their Pokemon with Zoroark, as well as get OHKO’s in some cases with Umbreon GX.
Yveltal may be the trickiest of the bunch because they play Garbodor, but even if they establish Garbodor in play, I think you have a big advantage because at some point in the late game you can use Dark Call GX to control their Energy and create a favorable game state.
Turbo Darkrai EX seems pretty favorable in the games I’ve played against it. You can slow them down with Dark Call GX in the early game, a fairly significant set back for Turbo Dark, and then you’re free to start setting knockouts for Zoroark in the late game.
Vespiquen also has been favorable. Umbreon GX’s 200 HP is difficult for it to knockout early in the game, and with Jolteon AOR, it’s very easy for you to take out their Shaymin EX if they leave them on their bench. You also have Zoroark as a one prize attacker that you can trade with as well.
One big annoyance for the deck is that the new troll deck, Passimian/Mew is a Fighting type deck that Umbreon GX unfortunately has weakness to, so you would have a very difficult time beating it. You probably shouldn’t see too much of it at tournaments, but if you happen to play some bottom table troll deck players in the early rounds you might take an unfortunate early round loss.
Umbreon GX/Zoroark is one of the most exciting new decks to come out of Sun and Moon‘s release and is one that can probably see immediate success at the Anaheim Regional Championship in a couple of weeks.
The deck has lots of 50/50 and favorable matchups making it well positioned for the PRC-SM format, at least in the early stages until we see some serious meta shifts. For now, the deck is on my shortlist of top contenders for the new format.
Featured Image Credit: Aminako @ DeviantArt