One of the smartest ways to improve your game is to examine
how the decks of top players work. In this episode of Top Deck Academy, Andrew
Mahone does just that with Zach Lesage’s championship-winning Pikachu &
Zekrom-GX deck. The core of this Lightning-type deck has been popular
for quite a while, but the supporting cast around the featured TAG TEAM
Pokémon-GX has changed quite a bit as new expansions roll out. Get a
closer look at what generates this deck’s strength, and see all the modern
enhancements it has received from recent expansions in the Sword &
Shield
series.

Remember that a new episode of Top Deck Academy comes out
every week, and you can watch the entire series here on Pokemon.com or on
YouTube and Twitch.

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What’s up, everybody? Andrew Mahone, TCG player and host of
Tricky Gym, here with Pokémon’s Top Deck Academy. Today we’re going to be
taking a look at a powerful Lightning-type deck featuring Pikachu & Zekrom-GX as
well as Boltund V and Vikavolt V. This was the winning deck from the Pokémon
Players Cup II
.

If you’re brand-new to the Pokémon TCG or just learning how
to play, I highly recommend heading over to tcg.pokemon.com/how-to-play
to start your journey with our how-to-play videos.

The deck we’re going to talk about today uses the speed and
consistency of Lightning-type attackers to get out of the gates early and
overwhelm the opponent’s field with damage.

This deck uses many cards from the Pokémon TCG: Sword
& Shield
Series. In Step 1, we’ll look at accelerating Energy. Step 2,
attacks. Step 3, how to cover your weaknesses. Step 4, the power of Supporter
cards. Step 5, support Pokémon.

Accelerating Energy

Boltund V from
Sword & Shield—Rebel Clash is emerging as one of the most dominant Pokémon
in the Pokémon TCG, and is an excellent addition to the already star-studded
cast of Lightning-type Pokémon available in the Standard format. Boltund V’s
Electrify attack is the perfect way to start off a game. For just one Lightning
Energy, it can search the deck for up to two Lightning Energy and attach them
to your Benched Pokémon in any way you like.

Most games with this deck begin with Boltund V, but they can
also end with Boltund V. Its Bolt Storm attack does 10 damage plus 30 more
damage for each Lightning Energy attached to all of your Pokemon. With 10
Lightning Energy in play, this attack can hit for over 300 damage. Now, it
might seem unrealistic to get 10 Lightning Energy into play, but it’s entirely
possible thanks to Pikachu & Zekrom-GX.

Pikachu & Zekrom-GX has been a formidable force
in the Pokémon TCG since its release in Sun & Moon—Team Up. Though
it only has 240 HP, which is relatively low for a Pokémon that gives up three
Prize cards, its attacks are some of the best in the game. For three Lightning
Energy, Full Blitz does 150 damage and accelerates three Energy from the deck
to one of your Pokémon in play. Boltund V’s Electrify is the perfect attack to
power up Full Blitz. After a Full Blitz, you’ll likely have enough energy in
play to use any of your most powerful attacks, including a massive Tag Bolt-GX.
Tag Bolt-GX does 200 damage to your opponent’s Active Pokémon and, if a
Pikachu & Zekrom-GX has three extra Lightning Energy attached for
six total, it also does 170 damage to one of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon.
Tag Bolt-GX can easily take multiple Knock Outs in a single turn, and it
will often take three to five Prizes at once. Doing 170 damage to the Bench is
enough for a one-hit Knock Out on popular support Pokémon like Dedenne-GX and is perfect
for finishing off TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX or Pokemon VMAX that have already
taken damage.

Boltund V and Pikachu & Zekrom-GX are fantastic
for accelerating Lightning Energy into play, but Tapu Koko Prism Star may be the best of them all. Tapu
Koko Prism Star’s Dance of the Ancients Ability allows you to attach a
Lightning Energy from the discard pile to two of your Benched Pokémon at the
cost of putting Tapu Koko Prism Star into the Lost Zone. This can help you
boost Boltund V’s Bolt Storm attack at the end of the game, but it’s also
amazing for pulling off a quick turn one or turn two Full Blitz with the help
of Energy Switch.

Attacks

While Boltund V usually helps Pikachu & Zekrom-GX
get the battle started, Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX
is perfect for closing out a tight game. This TAG TEAM’s Tandem Shock
attack does 160 damage and leaves its target Paralyzed, if Raichu & Alolan
Raichu-GX move from the Bench to the Active Spot during your turn. Doing
160 damage is great because it Knocks Out Dedenne-GX in one hit, and two
hits can take down almost any Pokémon VMAX. If your opponent has a strong start
and is able to KO your Boltund V and Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, Raichu &
Alolan Raichu-GX is the best Pokémon to mount a comeback. Reset Stamp allows you to limit
your opponent’s hand while Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX leaves their
Active Pokémon Paralyzed, making it tough for your opponent to respond. The
Lightning Ride-GX attack is also great for closing out games. For two
Lightning and one Colorless Energy, it does 150 damage and switches out to the
Bench. If you have two extra Lightning Energy attached, it does a bonus 100
damage. That 250 damage is a great option to have because it one-hit KO’s Zacian V, who is a very popular
attacker.

The last attacker in this deck is Vikavolt V from Sword & Shield—Darkness Ablaze. Its
Paralyzing Bolt attack may only do 50 damage, but it’s very disruptive.
Paralyzing Bolt makes it so the opponent can’t play any Item cards from their
hand during their next turn. To put that into perspective, this deck plays 21
Item cards. Most decks are about one-third Items, and making a third of your
opponent’s resources unplayable can leave them in a tough spot. Vikavolt V is a
versatile attacker since its Paralyzing Bolt can disrupt, while Super Zap
Cannon can do a significant amount of damage. For two Lightning and one
Colorless Energy, Super Zap Cannon does 190 damage, but as a drawback, you have
to discard two Energy attached to Vikavolt V.

Covering Your Weakness

Up until this point, you may be thinking, this deck is
entirely weak to Fighting-type Pokémon. Fortunately, we have a way to cover
that weakness. During the Players Cup, the Champion played two copies of
Mewtwo & Mew-GX in his
winning deck. Mewtwo & Mew-GX‘s Perfection Ability allows you to
copy the attacks of your Pokémon-GX in play or in the discard pile. This
is great in combination with Pikachu & Zekrom-GX and Raichu &
Alolan Raichu-GX. Not only does Mewtwo & Mew-GX have more HP
than both of them, it also has a different Weakness, making this deck extremely
versatile. Mewtwo & Mew-GX also allows you to easily transition from
a Full Blitz attack to a Tandem Shock or even a Tag Bolt-GX. Since
Mewtwo & Mew-GX can use any of the attacks of your Pokémon-GX,
it can help you to pull off more complex strategies by using a variety of
attacks.

Supporter Cards

Supporters are often the most powerful effects available in
any deck. This winning deck list plays three copies of
Professor’s Research, which
allows a player to discard their hand and draw seven new cards. It’s a great
way to draw cards, but also for getting Lightning Energy into the discard pile
for Tapu Koko Prism Star, and for getting Pikachu & Zekrom-GX into
the discard pile for Mewtwo & Mew-GX‘s Perfection Ability to copy.

The Players Cup II Champion Zach Lesage decided to play a
full four copies of Marnie.
Marnie is powerful not only because it refreshes your hand, but because it
disrupts the opponent’s hand, placing their hand on the bottom of their deck
before giving them just four new cards off the top.

Many games hinge on whether or not a player has a game-winning
Boss’s Orders. Boss’s
Orders allows a player to pull one of their opponent’s Benched Pokémon into the
Active Spot. This is fantastic for finishing off a damaged Pokémon on the
opponent’s Bench or for taking a game-winning KO.

The last Supporter in this deck is Team Yell Grunt. Team Yell Grunt bounces an
Energy from an opponent’s Pokémon back to their hand. By itself, the Grunt is
mildly disruptive, but in combination with four copies of Crushing Hammer, this deck can
be quite a nuisance to play against. Crushing Hammer allows you to flip a coin—if
heads, you discard an Energy from one of your opponent’s Pokémon. Since Energy
acceleration is one of the best things you can do in the Pokémon TCG, Energy
denial is also one of the best things you can do. This deck is so consistent
and low-maintenance to set up that it can easily accommodate for disruption
cards like Team Yell Grunt and Crushing Hammer without sacrificing any consistency
or aggression.

Support Pokémon

As mentioned, one of the best things you can do in the Pokémon
TCG is accelerate Energy, and another one is drawing cards. Boltund V, Pikachu
& Zekrom-GX, and Tapu Koko Prism Star accelerate Energy, while
Dedenne-GX and Crobat V draw cards. Dedenne-GX‘s
Dedechange Ability allows you to discard your hand and draw six new cards. This
is great for digging deep into the deck to find game-winning combos, but also
for putting Energy into the discard pile to accelerate later with Tapu Koko
Prism Star. Crobat V’s Dark Asset Ability allows you to fill your hand to six
cards when you play it from the hand to the Bench.

And the last Pokémon in the deck, Eldegoss V, is also here for supporting Ability, Happy
Match. Remember all those great Supporter cards we talked about? Happy Match
allows you to put a Supporter card from your discard pile into your hand when
you play it to your Bench—so you can grab a Boss’s Orders or a Marnie in a
pinch to close out a game.

One of the best things about a Lightning-type deck is having
access to Electromagnetic Radar.
Electromagnetic Radar requires that you discard two cards from your hand, but
in exchange you get to search for two Lightning-type Pokémon-GX in the
deck. Electromagnetic Radar can get you an attacker like Pikachu & Zekrom-GX
as well as a support Pokémon like Dedenne-GX.

In addition to Electromagnetic Radar, the deck also plays Quick Ball and Cherish Ball. Cherish Ball
searches out any Pokémon-GX like Mewtwo & Mew-GX or Raichu &
Alolan Raichu-GX, while Quick Ball can fetch any Pokémon out of the deck
(since they’re all Basic).

I mentioned earlier that Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX
does more damage and makes the target Paralyzed when it moves from the Bench to
the Active Spot during your turn. Tapu Koko Prism Star and Boltund V both
accelerate Energy to your Benched Pokémon. In order to make this all work, this
deck needs plenty of ways to switch Pokémon in and out of the Active Spot,
since you can only retreat once per turn. To assist with this, this deck plays
four copies of Switch and two copies of Air Balloon.
Air Balloon is awesome in this deck because it decreases the Retreat Cost of
the Pokémon it’s attached to by two, essentially granting Pokémon like Boltund
V and Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX free retreat.

This deck also plays two copies of Chaotic Swell. Although Chaotic Swell doesn’t
directly benefit this deck, it’s a great disruption card because it blocks
opponents’ Stadiums from having any effect. This is a great strategy against
Fire-type decks, which rely on Giant Hearth
to get Fire Energy out of the deck. It’s also really good against Power Plant, which threatens to
stop our Dedenne-GX‘s Dedechange.

To round things off, this deck plays 10 Basic Lighting
Energy and three Speed Lightning Energy.
Speed Lightning Energy from Sword & Shield—Rebel Clash is one of my
favorite Special Energy printed recently. When you attach it from your hand to
a Lightning-type Pokémon during your turn, you get to draw two cards. That
means that Lightning-type decks just get to draw more cards by attaching
Energy, and that’s busted.

And that’s it for the Players Cup II winning deck featuring
Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. This is definitely one of my favorite decks to
play. Hit me up in the comments below [on
YouTube.com only]. I want to know
what other top decks you want to see broken down next.

It’s extra credit time, Trainers! Here’s the Player’s Cup II–winning Pikachu & Zekrom-GX deck:


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