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Hardhat Pikarom — Adding Hammers to an Old Favorite in Standard

How’s it going everyone! Today I’m bringing you a deep dive on Pikachu & Zekrom-GX in Standard. Despite how this deck always seems to fall out of the meta, it somehow comes back. At the time I’m writing this, Pikachu & Zekrom-GX has won three tournaments over the weekend (weekend of October 9). These wins came in the hands of three of the game’s best, Azul Garcia Griego, Daniel Altavilla, and Pedro Torres. I saw Pedro beat Azul on Azul’s stream and was inspired to investigate the deck.

I’ve had a lackluster time playing in the Players Cup II qualifiers, so after playing a few with Pikarom and finding success, I was confident I had fallen back in love with an archetype I have played a ton. Let’s take a look at the deck so many know and love!

PTCGO Code
##Pokémon - 10
2 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX TEU 162
2 Dedenne-GX UNB 57
1 Vikavolt V DAA 60
1 Tapu Koko {*} TEU 51
1 Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX UNM 221
1 Eldegoss V RCL 176
1 Crobat V DAA 104
1 Boltund V RCL 181
##Trainer Cards - 37
4 Professor's Research SSH 201
4 Marnie SSH 200
3 Boss's Orders RCL 189
1 Team Yell Grunt SSH 202
1 Bird Keeper DAA 159
4 Switch HS 102
4 Quick Ball SSH 179
4 Crushing Hammer SSH 159
2 Reset Stamp UNM 253
2 Energy Switch HS 91
2 Electromagnetic Radar UNB 230
2 Big Charm SSH 158
2 Air Balloon SSH 156
2 Chaotic Swell CEC 187
##Energy - 13
9 Lightning Energy Energy 5
4 Speed Lightning Energy RCL 173

After playing with Pedro’s list and seeing what Azul changed from the original build I ended up with this list pictured above. Daniel Altavilla’s winning list had a few other changes including cards like Koko V. I changed the following from Torres’ original build:

-1 Energy Switch

-1 Electromagnetic Radar

+1 Chaotic Swell

+1 Team Yell Grunt

The Main Game Plan

The glory of Pikachu & Zekrom-GX is that there really is not a set game plan outside of the first two turns. Your first two turns should devoted to using Full Blitz as fast as possible. You can power up Full Blitz early (RIP Thunder Mountain Prism Star) with Boltund V’s Electrify or using Tapu Koko Prism Star and manual attachments. Once you’ve used Full Blitz, you want to power up different attackers, depending on the matchup. I’ll dive deeper into the specific routes of different matchups later. Once you Full Blitz, Pikachu & Zekrom-GX becomes a powerful Lightning-type toolbox deck that applies powerful pressure and has great comeback potential. In the instance that you fall behind and have a poor opening hand, you can use Marnie and Reset Stamp to set your opponents hand size to a small count, then take a Knock Out or use Tandem Shock to paralyze the opponent’s active. This play is universally useful and can swing any matchup back into your favor after a slow start.

The Cards

Pikachu & Zekrom plays a plethora of Lighting-type attackers that create a toolbox deck. Pikachu & Zekrom-GX is your main attacker and is usually the first Pokemon you want to attack with. The goal of the deck is to aim for a turn one/two Full Blitz then power up other Pokemon on your board. An alternative play to using Full Blitz is to use Boltund V’s first attack, Electrify, when going second. Using Full Blitz and Electrify is how you will power up your attackers to win the game after the beginning turns. Tapu Koko Prism Star is instrumental in attacking with Full Blitz in the early game, so it is important to check if it is prized when you perform your opening deck search.

Pikachu & Zekrom GXBoltund VTapu Koko Prism Star

The other two attackers in your deck are Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX and Vikavolt V. Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX is an overall strong attacker with two great attacks. Both Lighting Ride GX and Tandem Shock can swing games in your favor after a slow start, and when combined with Reset Stamp you can make a game-winning turn. Tandem Shock can buy you turns because it paralyzes your opponent’s Active, so with a speculation that your opponent might not be able to switch, you can steal some easy Prizes. Vikavolt V has a more niche use. Unlike Raichu & Raichu-GX which can be used in every game without fail, Vikavolt V is more important against certain matchups. The main matchup that Vikavolt V is useful in is baby Blacephalon, where you can use Paralyzing Bolt and Item lock the opponent. Blacephalon struggles to win games when it cannot play Items, so a Vikavolt V straight up win you the game there.

Raichu & Alolan Raichu GXVikavolt V

These three Trainers are the disruption package that can keep Pikachu & Zekrom-GX alive in the current Standard. When so many decks are abusing coinflip cards, it makes sense to join in one the fun! A Crushing Hammer heads flip can set an opponent back an entire turn while you pressure them with your fast Lightning attackers. The reason I opted to play Team Yell Grunt was to further this effect. Against matchups like Eternatus VMAX and Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX / Zacian V I wanted another way to remove Energy from the board for a turn and Team Yell Grunt accomplishes that. Although Team Yell Grunt is a Supporter, there are instances with this deck where you can afford to not use a draw Supporter and simply attack. If you happen to have Team Yell Grunt in your hand during these turns, you can push your advantage by removing an Energy from play guaranteed – unlike Crushing Hammer. This deck also plays Eldegoss V, so you can reuse Team Yell Grunt. Chaotic Swell is your answer to remove Energy search Stadiums like Giant Hearth and Viridian Forest. I opted to play two Chaotic Swell after seeing Azul add another, because when combined with a Marnie, decks that need Energy search Stadiums can struggle.

Crushing HammerTeam Yell GruntChaotic Swell

In this build of Pikachu & Zekrom-GX it is unlikely that you can get a turn one Full Blitz because of the rotation of Thunder Mountain. Therefore, I opted to play only two Energy Switch because the card is less important when you can use Boltund V’s Electrify to power up attackers instead. Two Reset Stamp might be my favorite inclusion in this deck. Reset Stamp has fallen out of favor because the meta rewards decks that can play aggressively with no hand disruption. Pikachu & Zekrom can play aggressively and has comeback potential, which is why Stamp is so important to success with this deck. A well-timed end game Reset with a powerful attacker in the Active spot can make your opponent struggle to find game-winning cards which will bring you back into the driver’s seat of the game. Reset Stamp is powerful when combined with Tandem Shock, because a low starting hand for an opponent can make it difficult to find switching cards. Two Big Charm helps with almost every matchup. Big Charm is especially important against ADPZ because with it Zacian cannot OHKO your Pikarom after you Full Blitz.

Energy SwitchReset StampBig Charm

The Options

After seeing Daniel Altavilla win the recent Hyperluxe x PokeX tournament, I was inspired by his inclusion of Tapu Koko V in the deck. Tapu Koko V is another two-Prize attacker like Vikavolt that can deal a good amount of damage for three Energy. In addition to its attack, Tapu Koko V has free Retreat and Spike Draw can draw you cards in a pinch.

Second Boltund V

With Crushing Hammer on the rise in play, Boltund V is a solid way to power up your attackers for one Energy. The deck currently only plays one because I do not think the second copy is worth the slot, but if you fear prizing Boltund V a second copy might be worth the slot in your list.

Dedenne-GX is crucial to drawing more cards and there have been a few instances where I start Dedenne-GX and prize the second copy meaning I can’t Electromagnetic Radar for a draw out. If you open two copies of Dedenne-GX in your hand and are forced to discard one of them, you cannot use it later meaning Crobat is your only non-Supporter draw out. A third Dedenne-GX could make its way into the deck to boost your consistency and protect you from prizing an important draw card.

I don’t think Tool Scrapper does enough to help the Lucario & Melmetal-GX matchup, but it can be useful against the mirror or a Big Charm on Arceus Dialga & Palkia-GX. Using Tool Scrapper to remove Big Charms can make it so you can OHKO opposing Pikachu & Zekrom-GX with a boosted Lighting Ride GX and it also allows you to KO an ADP in two attacks instead of three. Arceus Dialga & Palkia-GX doesn’t always play Big Charm and the mirror might not be super popular, so Tool Scrapper isn’t worth the deck slot right now.

Tapu Koko VBoltund VDedenne GXTool Scrapper

Starting Hands

As I mentioned earlier, it is important that you can establish a turn one or turn two Full Blitz to power up the rest of your attackers. The thing about Pikachu & Zekrom-GX in the current Standard format is that it is not as aggressive and explosive on the opening turns as it used to be in previous formats.

Without Thunder Mountain, achieving a turn one Full Blitz going second requires:

  1. Two Lighting Energy in the discard
  2. Tapu Koko Prism on board
  3. One Energy Switch in hand
  4. A Pikachu & Zekrom on the Bench
  5. A manual attachment in hand
  6. A Switch or Air Balloon

This is a hefty list of cards to have in an opening hand going second, but if you can pull off a turn one Full Blitz I recommend doing so. The more realistic opening hand when going second would be something more modest like a Pikachu & Zekrom on Bench, a way to get Boltund V into the Active, and a manual attachment to use Electrify – use it to power up a Pikarom on the Bench. If you are going first it is completely fine to manually attach to a Pikachu & Zekrom-GX and to pass. There isn’t a lot of pressure on you when going first, and it is usually better to hold the opening you have so you can guarantee an attachment then explode the following turn with Tapu Koko Prism Star and a second turn Full Blitz.

Top Tips

Always check if your Tapu Koko is prized. Without Koko you can expect to attack on turn three which is way behind the two-turn clock that you want to attack in. Counting your Energy in deck is also important because if you aren’t knowledgeable about the amount of Energy in deck, you might not have enough to attack in the late game especially with Crushing Hammer becoming so popular. If you don’t need to draw extra cards with Speed Energy, I would recommend attaching a Basic Energy instead because it will allow you to use Speed Energy later off of a Marnie or Reset Stamp and draw you more cards. Tandem Shock paired with Reset Stamp or Marnie is an incredibly powerful play and has kept me in games that I should have lost, with some good Prize manipulation you can force your opponent into a Reset Stamp to one/Tandem Shock play, then win from there.

Matchups

Pikachu & Zekrom-GX has always been the king of close matchups. This means that your chances of winning a matchup can come down to the skill of the player playing the deck. A mastery of Pikachu & Zekrom-GX can result in a better matchup against an opposing archetype because you know the ins and outs of your deck and its matchups. Especially with Pikachu & Zekrom-GX not being talked about until recently, knowing your matchups might catch an opponent who does not know how to play against you. It’s time to increase those win-rates!

It is almost always best to go first. It guarantees you get the first attachment, you’ll then have the option to turn two Full Blitz.

Against Centiskorch, I would opt to go second because denying Flare Starter is quite effective against them and it can make them struggle to start attacking for OHKOs.

ADPZ – Even

The elephant deck in the room: ADP. With a broken GX Attack that can win games in as few as three turns, speed and disruption are key in this matchup.

When going first, it is a good idea to get a Pikachu & Zekrom-GX into play with an Energy attachment on it. If you can avoid benching the two-Prize Pokemon in the deck, this matchup will become harder for the opponent to win. Something to note about not benching two-Prize Pokemon is that a sneaky Mawile-GX can come down at any point in the game and force those Pokemon in your hand to be benched with Captivating Eyes. Be sure to play around Mawile-GX by preemptively discarding two-Prize Pokemon. When doing this, just make sure to have a Supporter in hand that can draw you cards, so you aren’t left with a dead hand.

When going second, you want to try and accomplish the same goal of a Pikachu & Zekrom plus an Energy. Once the turn comes back to you, you will want to try and use Full Blitz and power up another Pikachu & Zekrom. It is important to try and have a Big Charm on both Pikachu & Zekrom so a Zacian V that has the additional 30 damage from Altered Creation GX doesn’t OHKO your attacker.

With Crushing Hammer and Team Yell Grunt, you can try to slow the opponent down and then use Full Blitz and Tag Bolt-GX for knockouts on the opposing Pokemon. I have found that Full Blitzing an Active ADP twice for a KO then using Tag Bolt GX with six Energy with a second Pikachu and Zekrom on a pair of non-Zacian V two-Prizers is the best path to victory. Beware: sometimes this play can’t be accomplished because your opponent plays around it and doesn’t bench two support Pokemon. If your disruption cards can buy you turns you will be able to get extra attacks in and win that way, otherwise I would try and figure out how you are going to take your six Prizes based on the opponent’s board then take those Prizes with your attackers. This matchup becomes a lot easier if you can avoid benching two-Prize Pokemon, but a Supporter-less hand can make this option unavailable.

Eternatus – Even

This matchup comes down to the disruption and is one of the main reasons I opted to include Team Yell Grunt in the deck. If Eternatus can consistently attack past turn two, they will win the game because they can OHKO all your attackers regardless of Big Charm. As the Pikachu & Zekrom player, you cannot OHKO Eternatus VMAX.

If you flip heads on Crushing Hammer or the opponent misses an Energy attachment for a few turns (Marnie and Chaotic Swell to bounce Viridian help), you can easily win this matchup. I generally like to Full Blitz early, then set up Raichu and Alolan Raichu-GX on the bench so I have the option to paralyze the opponent and have Lightning Ride GX as a way to switch to the Bench and get Raichu and Alolan Raichu-GX out of danger.

Boltund V can also be a strong attacker if you have enough Energy on board to take OHKOs on non-Eternatus VMAX Pokemon while forcing a two-Prize Pokemon in the Active. Think of this matchup as the more attacks your opponent misses – the more likely it is you will win. This means digging for Crushing Hammer and having Team Yell Grunt plus Eldegoss V can greatly improve your odds of winning the game.

Centiskorch – Slightly Favorable

Marnie, Reset Stamp, and Chaotic Swell shine in this matchup. If you can prevent the opponent from drawing Energy plus Welder by disrupting their Giant Hearth and hand, you can attack without fear of getting KOed. Using Full Blitz onto Alolan Raichu & Raichu-GX is the go to in this matchup – it gets them down to a small hand and you can easily two-shot a big Centiskorch with Tandem Shock.

If you can Full Blitz a one-Prize Pokemon, two-hit KO a Centiskorch VMAX, and KO a two-Prize Pokemon before your opponent KOes your attackers, you will win this matchup easily. Marnie or Reset Stamp plus Chaotic Swell and Tandem Shock is a deadly combination for the opponent to try and draw out of, so keep that in mind while you are navigating this matchup – there’s a lot of comeback potential here.

Blacephalon – Even
The hard carry.

Baby Blacephalon can draw well and win against you easily, but Vikavolt V can help save the matchup and give you a chance at winning. I like to rush into Vikavolt V early and try to make it so my opponent dead draws under Item lock. Because Blacephalon plays a high count of Items, Paralyzing Bolt can make those Items useless – a Blacephalon deck can brick hard.

At some point, the Vikavolt V will likely get KOed so it’s strong to set up two Pikachu & Zekrom-GXs with Big Charms. After this is done, you should try to Marnie or Reset Stamp your opponent to low hand counts while KOing either Oricorio-GX or the attacking Blacephalon. KOing Oricorio-GX is important because Oricorio draws the Blacephalon deck cards after you disrupt their hand, making that strategy less effective.

You can take a three or four Prize turn against Blacephalon if you Full Blitz onto a Pikachu & Zekrom-GX that does not get KOed, then use Tag Bolt-GX. If the Blacephalon player can draw their cards in the correct order to KO your attackers, this matchup becomes difficult to win.

LMZ – Unfavorable

This matchup is not a good one. Without damage modifiers like the rotated Electropower, this is difficult to win. After a Full Metal Wall GX and a Metal Goggles coming into play, all your attackers do little damage to the opposing Pokemon. I try to make my opponent miss attacks by using Crushing Hammer to remove Energy and by playing Marnie when my opponent uses Zacian V’s Intrepid Sword into a large hand. It is important that you do not load up a ton of Energy onto a single attacker early because Lucario & Melmetal-GX will punish you.

If the opponent plays Crushing Hammer this matchup becomes even worse than before. From my testing, Tool Scrapper could be a potential inclusion, but I do not think removing Metal Goggles fixes the problems in this matchup to make it worth a deck slot. If you want to get really wild, you could play Viridian Forest, a couple Fire Energy, and a Ninetales V to one-shot opposing Metal Pokemon without Weak Guard Energy, but I don’t think these techs are worth the space.

Inteleon – Extremely Favorable

Talk about a field day! If I could play against one deck all day with Pikachu & Zekrom-GX it would be Inteleon VMAX. Inteleon V and its VMAX are both weak to Lightning and are easy to OHKO with your attackers. Not to mention, the attackers in Inteleon VMAX do not do nearly enough damage to KO your attackers by the time you KO theirs, so this matchup is easy as can be. Be sure to always have Vikavolt V or Boltund V ready to start attacking because a Keldeo-GX can stop your-GX Pokemon from attacking it with Keldeo’s Pure Heart.

Mew3 / Welder – Even

The Mewtwo & Mew-GX matchup can be super close or you can get absolutely steamrolled. Mewtwo & Mew-GX can copy Charizard-GX’s Flare Blitz-GX and take a free OHKO on one of your attackers, where you need to two-shot all their attackers. If you can successfully Crushing Hammer or Team Yell Grunt the first Energy attachment on a Mewtwo & Mew-GX you will have a much better chance at winning this matchup. Similar to Centiskorch VMAX, Mewtwo & Mew-GX / Welder relies on Giant Hearth to find its energies. This means Marnie, Reset Stamp, and Chaotic Swell can stop them from attacking, but Mewtwo & Mew-GX is more consistent than Centiskorch because it plays four copies of Dedenne-GX and one copy of Crobat V. I would use Full Blitz early to charge a Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX and play this matchup just like the Centiskorch matchup. Try and KO two Mewtwo & Mew-GXs and use Tandem Shock to buy back turns if you must.

Mirror

There isn’t a ton of strategy for this matchup because Crushing Hammer flips are going to be key to set your opponent behind. You want to use Crushing Hammer and Team Yell Grunt to deny Full Blitz from the opponent for as long as possible. You can also use Boltund V to power up your attackers if the opponent gets some early heads flips on Crushing Hammer. Once you have some attackers set up, try to attack with two TAG TEAMs and a two-Prize Pokemon so you can make your opponent go to one Prize. Also, always make sure you have an ample amount of Switch in your deck because a paralysis play from an opposing Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX can be detrimental to your strategy if you don’t have a way to move out of it.

Conclusion

Now you know everything there is to know about Pikachu & Zekrom-GX in the Standard Format! Like I said earlier, understanding your matchups is incredibly important to doing well with this deck – even when others write it off. Understanding your deck is one of the most important things you can do in Pokemon and will help you to achieve the placements you aspire grasp. If you have any questions at all, feel free to message me on any social media platforms or if you want to keep up with me as a creator you can check out my Twitter, Twitch, or YouTube!

Thank you for reading my article, if you want to support me as a creator on the site, be sure to use my code at checkout here on ChannelFireball!

JENKS

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