Two Years of Darkness — A Look at the Same Archetype Throughout Different Formats

Hello PokeBeach! You might be surprised to hear that I want to talk about Yveltal-EX again. Being released in the first XY expansion on February 5th, 2014, the card is already over two years old. Over the past two years, countless formats have had Yveltal archetypes dominating or at least present, paired with all sorts of different Pokemon, from Garbodor to Gallade. For myself, I started to play the deck once the card was released. Throughout the past two years, my go-to choice was some sort of Yveltal-EX variant, and since then, I’ve learned the deck inside and out. With every new format came a change which I was able to adapt to, while also using my previous knowledge to be able to play the deck with the same skill level that I had during the prior format.

In this article I am going to describe why exactly Yveltal-EX was, and still is, such a powerful card. I will discuss how the metagame has changed from format to format, and how these changes affected Yveltal-EX builds specifically. Lastly, I will cover the advantages and disadvantages of playing the same archetype for an extended period of time. There is a rich history behind this archetype and it never seems to fully leave a format; it’s always around in some shape or form.

Let’s start with the card itself and why Yveltal-EX may be one of the best cards ever printed.

What Makes Yveltal-EX so Strong?

The Basics

To start with, Yveltal-EX has a relatively high 170 HP and a Fighting Resistance. A Resistance to Fighting is a good type to reduce damage from, with cards such as Landorus-EX being potent before the release of Furious Fists. Once the set hit the Standard format, Fighting gained a massive boost. With great additions, such as Strong Energy and Fighting Stadium, the already-strong type was pushed into new realms.

Even excluding the decks’ multiple free retreat options, a Retreat Cost of two is still manageable. With Double Colorless Energy finding its way into nearly every Yveltal-EX build, it’s possible to retreat for just a single Energy attachment.

Two Complimenting Attacks

Yveltal-EX has both the “all-in” Evil Ball attack and the more conservative Y Cyclone attack, which are almost opposites in terms of what they achieve within a game. The first attack, Evil Ball, is a stronger version of Mewtwo-EX‘s X Ball attack. X Ball controlled an entire U.S. Nationals and World Championships in 2012, and still has an impact on the Expanded format to this day. Evil Ball’s main use is to punish attackers that have a high Energy cost, often times hitting for a OHKO on the opponent’s Active Pokemon. Depending on the amount of Energy attached to the opponent’s Active Pokemon and whatever damage manipulation cards see play, such as Hypnotoxic Laser, Evil Ball could require five or more Energy to hit for a OHKO. This is why it can be a risky play; an opposing Mewtwo-EX or Yveltal-EX could easily return a KO on the opponent’s next turn.

Yveltal’s second attack, Y Cyclone, is brilliant for conserving Energy in play because it gives you the ability to move an Energy to another Pokemon, while also hitting for 90 damage. This affords you the opportunity to move a Darkness Energy or Double Colorless Energy to a Pokemon on the Bench so you can set up another attacker immediately. Furthermore, it allows you to keep Energy that might normally have been discarded had the Yveltal-EX been KO’d. Finally, 90 damage is an amazing number to hit for; it lets you clean up any Pokemon-EX you were unable to OHKO with a previous attack, or go for a 2HKO on most EXs, all while conserving Energy for later use.

These two attacks lead to an interesting skill-based mirror match between Darkness archetypes. It requires you to determine which of the attacks is the best option. Going for a OHKO on the opponent’s Yveltal-EX can put you into a Prize advantage, but leaves you open for the opponent to do the same thing, and usually with less Energy. This forces you into an awkward position while trying to return a KO.

The other option is to go for a Y Cyclone and set up your Benched Pokemon, which would leave your Active Yveltal-EX with only one or two Energy attached. The opponent would then be required to make a large Energy investment to hit for a KO. With damage manipulation cards in the form of Muscle Band and Hypnotoxic Laser, a Y Cyclone can hit for 110-140 damage. This makes it possible for cards like Yveltal and Darkrai-EX to finish off the 170 HP Yveltal-EX, simultaneously putting pressure on the opponent’s Active Pokemon. If your opponent is able to keep up a chain of OHKOs, however, Y Cyclone will end up putting you too far behind.

Energy Acceleration — Item and Pokemon-Based

“Do I really look like a baby?”

Ever since the rotation after Worlds 2014, Darkness archetypes in the Expanded format have had one of the strongest Item-based Energy acceleration cards — Dark Patch. Even before Yveltal-EX was released, Darkrai-EX variants were able to win both the 2012 and 2013 World Championships, with Dark Patch at the forefront of acceleration for both of the winning decks. Being able to both retrieve an Energy from the discard, attach it to a benched Darkness-type Pokemon, and still have the ability to attach an Energy from your hand during the same turn is incredible. When combined with Yveltal-EX, Dark Patch makes it much easier to attach high counts of Energy to take a OHKO on the opponent, or set up Y Cyclone in a single turn with just a Dark Patch and a Double Colorless Energy.

The ability to switch Pokemon between the Bench and the Active can be achieved with ease, and further enhances the acceleration of Energy. Darkrai-EX’s Dark Cloak Ability provides free retreat for each Pokemon with a Darkness Energy attached. Keldeo-EX paired with Dark Cloak or a Float Stone is another option to provide mobility within the deck, making it possible to Rush In and use Dark Patch on the previously Active Pokemon. Keldeo can then retreat back and switch with that same Pokemon, but now with extra Energy attached via Dark Patch.

When Yveltal-EX was released in XY, a “baby” Yveltal was also introduced, which was perfect for Pokemon-based Energy acceleration. Oblivion Wing’s vanilla 30 damage with a single Darkness Energy allows for you to set up KOs in the early game for Yveltal-EX’s Evil Ball, while powering up a benched attacker at the same time. In combination with Muscle Band and Hypnotoxic Laser, Oblivion Wing can even start to take KOs on lower HP Pokemon such as Squirtle. This puts early pressure on the opponent, and it’s all from a non-EX Pokemon. 130 HP is nothing to scoff at for a single-Prize Pokemon, either.

I also want to mention Sableye‘s use within Yveltal-EX builds. Usually as a one-of copy, Sableye can recycle crucial Item cards back into your hand, specifically Dark Patch. A Junk Hunt for two Dark Patch could lead to a sizeable chunk of Energy being able to find its way onto an Yveltal-EX in the next turn to create a huge Evil Ball KO. A speedy Darkrai Night Spear attack could also be set up for the next turn.

Partner Combos

Yveltal-EX‘s variety of useful partners is the main reason why it has been able to keep a strong place throughout different formats. The main one to mention would be Darkrai-EX, an already-strong card that provides both utility in free retreat, and a strong attack. If Darkrai-EX was legal in the format, most Yveltal-EX builds played at least one for this reason. Keldeo-EX also fits well as a single copy within most Yveltal-EX decks, pairing with Darkrai-EX’s Dark Cloak and Keldeo’s Rush In to provide an easy way to move between attackers each turn.

Garbodor is a common partner that has been used to slow down Ability-based decks, such as Keldeo-EX / Black Kyurem-EX / BlastoiseVirizion-EX / Genesect-EX is another great example; whereby being able to shut down Verdant Wind lets you inflict your opponent’s Pokemon with Special Conditions, even if they have a Grass Energy attached.

An Yveltal build, due to its great acceleration, was a strong option throughout a majority of the 2014-2015 season. In the Standard format right now, Yveltal is also the main focus of most Yveltal-EX builds because of the nefarious Night March archetype and its stronghold on the format.

Seismitoad-EX is also a good partner since Yveltal-EX plays a minimum of three Double Colorless Energy and Hypnotoxic Laser. Item lock is excellent in the mirror and provides an edge against builds that opt not to play Seismitoad, and also helps out greatly against Flareon.

There are many more partners I could talk about, but regardless, there has always been a partner in crime for Yveltal in each format for it to keep its place in the top-tiers.

A Look Through the Standard Formats

In each section I’ve listed the format and whatever the top decks were in that particular format, not including Yveltal-EX builds. After a brief overview of the metagame during each time period, I will explain any changes that Darkness archetypes had, and why those changes occurred. Through these descriptions, you will be able to understand how to more effectively play Darkness decks, when not to play them, and what techs to use in specific metagames.

2013-2014 Season

Format: Next Destinies – XY | Top-Tier Decks: Keldeo-EX / Blastoise, Genesect-EX / Virizion-EX, Thundurus-EX / Deoxys-EX / Kyurem PLF

The release of XY did not bring about many new changes when it was released, but there was a single modification that heavily affected the format. There was a reprint of Pokémon Catcher in the Kalos Starter Sets, but with an additional “Flip a coin. If heads” clause added to the card. With this errata, Pokemon became harder to bring from the Bench to the Active, and required either stellar Pokemon Catcher flips or Abilities such as Genesect-EX‘s Red Signal.

Yveltal-EX found itself being played as either a “big Basics” deck, or with Garbodor. Dark Patch was used for Energy acceleration, Ultra Ball for Pokemon search, and the Hypnotoxic Laser / Virbank City Gym combo for extra damage. The Ace Spec of choice was between Computer Search for early consistency or Dowsing Machine to make it so that you could use cards like Dark Patch for a fifth time. The main Tool card used was Muscle Band as a constant damage boost, although Float Stone was also played in the Garbodor build so that Garbodor could be retreated with ease.

VS Seeker was not in this format, so maximum copies of Professor Sycamore and N were played along with one or two Colress. Random Receiver was also played for additional consistency and a way to find a Supporter when using Sableye‘s Junk Hunt.

Although not too common, Jirachi-EX began to see play as an extra boost in consistency since it turned Ultra Ball into a way to find a Supporter of your choice. However, due to Jirachi’s low 90 HP, if the Pokemon ended up in the Active, it was a free two Prizes for the opponent. This made it much easier to take the final two Prizes of any game via a good Pokemon Catcher flip or a Genesect’s Red Signal. Pokemon Catcher was played in high quantities so that it was possible to gain access to the opponent’s Bench at some point throughout the game.

The “big Basics” build played multiple copies of Yveltal-EX and Darkrai-EX, along with one or two Keldeo-EX for mobility. Absol, Sableye, and Yveltal usually found their way into the deck as a one-of due to their utility and non-EX status. The deck had a harder matchup against Keldeo-EX / Blastoise and Ability-based decks compared to the Garbodor version, but had an improved mirror matchup.

The Garbodor build played a similar line of Yveltal-EX, a single Darkrai, and one of the non-EX attackers along with a 2-2 line of Trubbish / Garbodor. I also decided to play one Keldeo in my Garbodor build of this deck, which may seem confusing at first. Instead of setting up Garbodor with a Tool in the mirror match, I would wait until it was crucial to shut off Abilities. This meant that Keldeo could be used with Float Stone to provide some much needed mobility in the mirror match, as a Hypnotoxic Laser heads from your opponent followed by a tails from you would lead to you missing an attack and losing the Active Pokemon with all of its attachments.

The deck concept was simple: use Yveltal-EX as a main attacker. With Yveltal-EX you were able to punish Pokemon that required high amounts of Energy to attack, or take it slow and use Y Cyclone to sustain board presence while also dealing sufficient damage. Even at this point, the archetype had an advantage in most matchups, although decks such as Plasma (Thundurus-EX / Deoxys-EX / Kyurem) became a tier-one threat because of this. With Thundurus-EX being able to take a KO on Yveltal-EX for a single Energy using a combination of Weakness, Deoxys-EX’s Power Connect, Muscle Band, and Hypnotoxic Laser, Plasma was one of the only decks that held a somewhat positive matchup against the Darkness build.

The Darkness archetype was reinvented due to Yveltal-EX, and positioned itself straight into tier one, winning in multiple State and Regional Championships all over the world.

Format: Next Destinies – Flashfire (Nationals & Worlds 2014) Top-Tier Decks: Genesect-EX / Virizion-EX, Thundurus-EX / Deoxys-EX / Kyurem PLF, Pyroar FLF

Flashfire brought around only two cards that had an impact on the format. The first one I’m certain you have all heard of — Lysandre! Without VS Seeker, Lysandre found its way into most decks as either a single copy paired with Dowsing Machine, or two copies without Dowsing Machine. Virizion-EX / Genesect-EX was the exception since Red Signal only required a Plasma Energy compared to the use of a Supporter for that turn.

The other card that greatly affected the format was Pyroar. Intimidating Mane caused a huge problem for decks that played only Basic Pokemon, similar to that of Jolteon-EX in our most recent format. Without Hex Maniac in the format, the only reliable way to get around Intimidating Mane was to use Evolutions or play Garbodor. This lead to the Garbodor builds of Yveltal-EX becoming much more prevalent over the “big Basics” version, since that version was unable to successfully deal with Pyroar builds at the time.

Another tech option that gained some traction was Raichu in the place of Garbodor. It was a strong option against the mirror match and it was strong enough to deal with Pyroar. The main problem was that you were forced to attack with Raichu, which could be OHKO’d by Pyroar, compared to a Garbodor that had to be placed into the Active using a gust effect.

Prior to the U.S. Nationals in 2014, the big question was this: “Will I really see any Pyroar?” The Pyroar builds at the time were based around speed, using three or four copies of Bicycle and Roller Skates to make sure it could set up a turn two Pyroar with ease. Blacksmith was the decks’ main source of Energy acceleration, letting you power up a Pyroar in a single turn. Four copies of Pokémon Catcher were played to pick non-EX threats off of the Bench before they could evolve, or remove a Garbodor from play using Scorching Fang and a Muscle Band.

Charizard-EX and Mewtwo-EX were backup attackers that could deal higher amounts of damage than Pyroar could, if needed. Charizard was especially useful, as it could be powered up in a single turn via Double Colorless Energy and Blacksmith, and then with a Muscle Band, it could take out any Yveltal-EX or Thundurus-EX that was causing problems. This lead to all sorts of tech cards being introduced into other decks. For example, Latias-EX found its way into Plasma builds because it could make use of Prism Energy to power up Barrier Break, which was unaffected by Pyroar’s Intimidating Mane. Latias’s Bright Down Ability meant that Pyroar was unable to touch it, but Charizard could easily make light work of Latias, as long as it had Muscle Band attached.

If you look at the results of U.S. Nationals 2014, you see that Pyroar was a big threat; however, the winning deck of U.S. Nationals was a rogue deck, coming from a Top 16 placement in the U.K. Nationals. Mewtwo-EX / Landorus-EX / Raichu / Garbodor countered each of the top-tier decks at the time, and had good answers to Pyroar via multiple Evolution Pokemon. An Yveltal-EX / Garbodor build, piloted by Isaiah Williams, was able to get to the Top 4, proving that the deck was still strong.

I played Yveltal-EX / Garbodor during the U.K. Nationals 2014, starting off extremely strong at 5-0-1. I lost my next round to an ingenious Aromatisse build using Thundurus as an accelerator along with various different types of Pokemon to make great use of Weakness, while also being able to use Max Potion to remove any damage. In the final round I got paired against an Yveltal-EX / Raichu build and I was unable to deal with the advantage my opponent had with Raichu taking OHKOs on my Yveltal-EX. I placed 13th at 5-2-1.

For the Washington DC World Championships in 2014, the same question was still at the forefront of everyone’s mind: “Pyroar did well at U.S. Nationals; will it be played for Worlds?” A similar situation happened in 2013, where Accelgor / Gothitelle won U.S. Nationals, but did poorly at the World Championships due to high amounts of tech cards to deal with the Item and Paralysis lock. I still stuck with Yveltal-EX / Garbodor for Worlds, believing in its 50-50 matchups across the field and a good amount of consistency. By now, I had a firm grasp on how to play the deck. Here is the list I played for the World Championships to give you an idea of what an Yveltal-EX / Garbodor build was made of:


Pokemon (11)

3x Yveltal-EX (XY #79)1x Darkrai-EX (DEX #107)2x Garbodor (DRX #54)2x Trubbish (LTR #67)1x Sableye (DEX #62)1x Absol (PLF #67)1x Jirachi-EX (PLB #60)

Trainers (38)

4x Professor Juniper (DEX #98)4x N (NVI #92)2x Colress (PLS #118)4x Dark Patch (DEX #93)4x Hypnotoxic Laser (PLS #123)3x Ultra Ball (FLF #99)3x Muscle Band (XY #121)2x Float Stone (PLF #99)2x Switch (RSK #91)2x Bicycle (PLS #117)2x Enhanced Hammer (DEX #94)1x Pokemon Catcher (BKP #105)1x Random Receiver (DEX #99)1x Professor's Letter (BKT #146)1x Dowsing Machine (PLS #128)2x Virbank City Gym (PLS #126)

Energy (11)

7x Darkness Energy (XY #138)4x Double Colorless Energy (PHF #111)

Some counts do seem strange compared to an Expanded Yveltal-EX list of today. Two Bicycle made the cut as an additional draw option, provided you could lower your hand down enough using cards like Ultra Ball. Two Enhanced Hammer helped improve the Plasma matchup by removing their Energy on Pokemon such as Kyurem, taking away their option to use Blizzard Burn on the next turn, assuming they don’t attach another Energy and use a Colress Machine. Enhanced Hammer also gave an edge in the mirror, as it reduced the amount of Energy your opponent could keep on the board. Without Keldeo-EX in the deck, Switch was needed as a way around any bad Hypnotoxic Laser flips. Playing multiple Switch also made it easier to get an Yveltal-EX attacking as soon as possible. I spent a long time testing Jirachi-EX and firmly believed the added consistency was worth it. In a nine round tournament where only eight players would make the cut, consistency was extremely important.

The results of Worlds 2014 showed a format where Pyroar fell out of the metagame, which then let Virizion-EX / Genesect-EX shine. The deck was the most consistent at the time, and had the same opening strategy of getting two Grass Energy on Virizion in the first turns to power up multiple Genesect. Afterwards, Genesect could deal 2HKO damage or opt to take a big OHKO on most threats in the format using G Booster. Virizion allowed for Hypnotoxic Laser not to be an issue for the deck, as long as there wasn’t a Garbodor on the field with a Tool attached.

Another important aspect of the deck was its easy access to the opponent’s Bench using Genesect’s Red Signal. This made it easy to pick off weak Pokemon that just sat on the Bench, like as Jirachi-EX. For this reason, many players opted to include it for the World Championships. Virizion-EX / Genesect-EX got three of the top four places at Worlds 2014, while the other top placement went to a rogue Aromatisse build playing M Kangaskhan-EX as a Pokemon that was extremely hard to OHKO. At this point, Mega Evolution Pokemon did not have any Spirit Links, so being able to get M Kangaskhan-EX into the Top 4 of Worlds was impressive, to say the least.

Yveltal-EX / Garbodor was able to make Top 8, piloted by Chase Moloney, but ultimately lost to Paulo Silva’s Virizion-EX / Genesect-EX. For my Worlds experience I was able to string five wins in a row after I lost my first match to Plasma. I won against Plasma and then obtained ties from a mirror match and Plasma, leaving me at a 6-1-2 record. This record did make Top 8, but my Resistance was abysmal, so I didn’t end up with anymore wins.

2014-2015 Season

Format: Boundaries Crossed – Furious Fists | Top-Tier Decks: Donphan PLS, Virizion-EX / Genesect-EX

I remember the start of this format being all over the place because of the loss of Next Destinies, Dark Explorers, and Dragons Exalted. The first thoughts of many people were that Yveltal-EX decks were dead. Without Dark Explorers in the format, Dark Patch and Sableye were lost (though Darkrai-EX and Garbodor remained due to reprints), removing the best Energy acceleration option the deck had. Dedenne had just been released in Furious Fists, which could easily take a OHKO on an Yveltal-EX for a single Energy due to Weakness. If Yveltal-EX already had damage on it, then Dedenne could take an easy KO; if Yveltal-EX had at least three Energy attached, it was possible with a combination of Muscle Band and Hypnotoxic Laser / Virbank City Gym to take a OHKO.

After a lengthy wait for information regarding the 2014-2015 season, it was finally announced that the U.S. Regionals would be much different this year. The Expanded format was to be implemented for day two of Regionals, along with the option to change your deck for the second day! This meant that Yveltal-EX could be played with Dark Patch again, giving it a new hope in Expanded tournaments. Luckily for the Darkness archetype, however, the Standard format had slowed down to a point where Yveltal was sufficient as an Energy accelerator, now taking three or four spots in the deck.

After many months of testing, decks finally began to take on new forms while dealing with the format change. A new deck had emerged from the start of U.S. Regionals — Donphan. Along with such changes came multiple walls (Sigilyph and Reshiram) and the new Fighting support of Strong Energy, Hawlucha, and Korrina from Furious Fists. As a result, Donphan changed from an unplayable card into one of the best hit-and-run attackers of recent formats.

Yveltal and Yveltal-EX had a big advantage against this new deck; there was a 20 damage Resistance against Fighting types. Since Donphan would usually need to hit a Pokemon two or three times to hit a KO, the 20 Resistance would come into effect each time, turning what would normally be a 3HKO into a 4/5HKO.

An interesting card that Yveltal-EX could take advantage of was also released in Furious Fists, which I’m almost certain you may know of — Seismitoad-EX. Yveltal-EX builds could add one or two Seismitoad into the deck and have an option to Item lock the opponent when needed. Given its Water-typing, it was easy to deal with any Fire-types that were running around also.

Regionals results were difficult to interpret for this season due to the mix between Standard and Expanded. What usually happened was that players would add extra Expanded cards into the Standard decks that they used on day one. Results wise, the Standard format on day one of Regionals that made the top mainly consisted of Yveltal-EX / Seismitoad-EX / Garbodor, Donphan, and Virizion-EX / Genesect-EX. Going into day two with Expanded, the majority of the same decks were able to take home top placements and wins. Yveltal-EX builds were now able to use Dark Patch, giving them an easier form of Energy acceleration, while Virizion-EX / Genesect-EX builds could now use Skyarrow Bridge as an easier way to get Virizion into the Active, compared to playing multiple copies of Switch. Donphan’s Spinning Turn along with Strong Energy was still a good strategy in Expanded, netting multiple Top 4 placements, although no wins.

Something unique that did come out of this format was a new way to play Yveltal-EX, and that was in the shape of an extremely defensive build. An Yveltal-EX or Darkrai-EX with a Hard Charm attached at this time was extremely hard to OHKO, bar cards like G Booster. This idea paired well with Yveltal-EX’s Y Cyclone to move Energy to another attacker and with the use of Super Scoop Up. After you use Y Cyclone, your opponent would hit the Yveltal-EX for 2HKO damage, and then during your next turn with a good Super Scoop Up flip, the damaged Yveltal-EX could be picked up, and the Pokemon you attached an Energy to via Y Cyclone could then attack. The deck also played a suite of Crushing Hammer to slow other decks down a turn or two, or against Virizion-EX / Genesect-EX to make it so that using a G Booster would leave the opponent vulnerable to having all of their Energy wiped off of a Genesect.

Decks were now established for the season, and Yveltal-EX builds still proved themselves as a mainstay. In the U.K., there weren’t many tournaments in this format due to the strange schedule for this season, so they waited for the release of Phantom Forces.

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