Perhaps the most infamous Pokemon card to ever be printed is Arceus, Dialga & Palkia Tag Team GX or ADP for short. For some, playing the deck means you love torturing your opponents with a despised archetype and/or are just capitalizing on the most powerful strategies in the meta-game.
The two energy Altered Creation GX attack is one of the most powerful attacks in the entire game to date. Once resolved, you can take an extra prize card per knockout and all your Pokemon have their attack’s damage increased by 30, which is nothing short of a monstrous buff. This has led to faster games and even saltier losses (“What do you mean I lost because you KO’d two of my Dedenne-GX!?”).
For those reasons, its existence in the competitive meta-game has been a topic of fierce division, particularly in the Standard format. Games with ADPZ seem to ignore your entire deck’s strategy/identity by punishing you for playing universally used/required two-prize support Pokemon like Crobat V and Dedenne-GX. But what about in Expanded?
ADP In The Expanded Format
Ironically, despite the clear power it has in the Standard Format, ADP does not hold the same meta share in Pokemon’s alternate competitive format, nor the same degree of “gatekeeping” against single prize decks. This is largely due to the robust buffering effect of the Expanded legal card pool. Cards like Pokemon Ranger (a card usually considered to be a ‘bulk box’ trainer) and Pyroar are few among a long list of techs that answer a turn 1 Altered Creation, but also serve other niche uses without interfering too much with deck consistency. This then begs the question: Is ADP Zacian a good deck in Expanded?
The simple answer is that ADP Zacian is indeed an incredibly powerful deck in Expanded and you will usually see a few in the top cut of almost every major Expanded tournament. While it might not always win a tournament, players still view it as an extremely safe pick to top a tournament with. Let’s look at a typical list to find out what makes it so successful.
2 Arceus & Dialga & Palkia
3 Zacian V
1 Cobalion GX or 1 Mawile GX
ADP is played at two copies to ensure that you will have ample opportunities to pull off a turn one Altered Creation Attack. Once resolved, ADP is far from useless. Ultimate Ray is another insanely powerful attack that does 150 damage and accelerates 3 energies of your choice from your deck. Keep in mind that after Altered Creation, Ultimate Ray does 180 damage in total and possibly 210 with a Choice Band or 200 with a Muscle Band. With these numbers, you are not only able to immediately set-up a benched Zacian V with 3 energies from deck, you are also able to knockout many Pokemon GX and V for an immediate 3 prize advantage.
Now with three energies attached, Zacian V has one of the highest damage three energy attacks on a basic Pokemon. With Altered Creation, Brave Blade does 230+30 damage. Toss a Muscle Band or Choice band onto that and you’re now reaching 280-290 – this is one shot territory for Tag Team Pokemon.
Cobalion GX is something that I have found success with. There are a handful of annoying status conditions that can affect your ADP and Zacian, preventing them from attacking and slowing down your game plan. Cobalion’s ability allows you to protect your Pokemon with metal energies attached giving you an added layer of protection. Furthermore, Cobalion’s attack can also serve as a damaging attack. Consider this: with Altered Creation and a Choice Band, Cobalion can hit 170 damage – enough to knockout a Tapu Lele GX for 3 prizes.
If you’re not a fan of Cobalion, consider Mawile GX. Often times, your opponent will recognize that playing a Dedenne GX, Crobat V or Tapu Lele GX will become a 3 prize liability on their bench and hold it in their hands, out of reach from your attackers. Mawile GX has the ability to force them onto your opponent’s bench, making them easy targets to pick off.
4 Professor Sycamore
2 Guzma & Hala
For many decks, this might seem like a very high number of supporters in a format that has VS Seeker. You often see these many copies of these because the deck does not plan to play past turn three or four. Thus, VS Seeker can be a dead card in many situations, especially when you desperately want to access your first copy of Guzma in the game.
Four copies of Sycamore and Guzma will allow you to reliably access their effects in the early turns of the game and give you a sense of comfort knowing that during the mid game, you will have ample opportunity to see additional copies, making your deck perform extremely consistently.
Finally, to bridge the gap between all the pieces that are required to pull of your turn one Altered Creation, two copies of Guzma & Hala are included. This Tag Team Supporter allows you to pull a Double Dragon Energy, Tool, and Stadium from your deck. Seeing this in your opening hand is extremely favorable.
4 Trainers’ Mail
4 Metal Saucer
3 Max Elixir
3 Tag Call
1 Great Catcher
1 Target Whistle
As if it wasn’t already easy to setup multiple attackers with Ultimate Ray, Expanded gifts ADPZ with the most powerful energy acceleration items in the game. Metal Saucer is particularly versatile as you can use it to re-establish an attacker after losing one. To improve your consistency and card access, 4 Trainers’ Mail are in my opinion pseudo-mandatory in the deck. In a deck that typically accesses its resources consistently, Trainers’ Mail extends your reach that much more.
To complement this even further, play 3 copies of Tag Call. I mentioned how incredibly useful Guzma & Hala is above, and since it has a Tag Team tag, it can be the target of a Tag Call search alongside ADP. In effect, a single copy of Tag Call can route into 4 cards in your deck.
The ADP Zacian game plan is not a particularly hidden or malleable concept. It typically follows a rigid sequence of Altered Creation to KO to KO, where each KO is against a two prize Pokémon which you will take three prizes for. You may find your opponent actively starving you of two prize Pokemon to attack by discarding them out of their hand or on their bench.
Target Whistle can force your opponent to bench a Dedenne from their discard that can subsequently be the target of Guzma or Great Catcher. In fact, you can KO 1 Dedenne for 3 prizes, then follow it up with a Target Whistle to get Great Catcher sequence to KO the same Dedenne and close out the game. Insane, right?
With the release of Chilling Reigns on the horizon, you may be wondering if it will affect ADPZ’s postion in the meta-game but I think it is relatively safe. Keep in mind, Fairy Pokemon have been discontinued, so there is a finite list of fairy type Pokemon that can KO ADP before it gets to use Altered Creation. VMAX Pokemon with HP totals higher than 300 have been a problem for ADPZ but then again, two shotting a VMAX pokemon nets you 4 prizes which is not a bad trade.
Furthermore, VMAX Pokemon must evolve on top of two prize Pokemon V. And lastly, most decks still run Dedenne, Crobat and Tapu Lele. So long as your selection of prey remains constant, ADPZ will also be in a position to capitalize.
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