Fear the Night: Yveltal in the Standard Format
Hey, fellow PokeFans! I’m Julian Hook and I’m excited to be writing my first ever PokeBeach article.
Three weeks into the new rotation (as of writing this), the meta has somewhat settled for those of us who have tested, and those of us who haven’t may be wondering what to use for near-future official events. I am going to write about a card that seems to have been somewhat ignored (amidst all the hype for the likes of M Mewtwo-EX and M Scizor-EX) but is, in truth, absolutely busted: Yveltal. I will start by analyzing the history of the card in Expanded and then give my opinion on its viability in Standard. Then, I will throw a deck list at you which I believe is the best use of this card. Finally, I’ll share with you my analysis (gained through lots of testing) of how the deck fares against the current meta.
To start with, Fright Night Yveltal (one precious syllable more convenient than calling it “Pitch-Black Spear Yveltal”) is a one-Prize Basic with 130 HP. This is certainly good already (130 is a frustratingly high number to have to KO considering the mere one-Prize return) but what about what it actually does? First, let’s look at the attack. One Darkness Energy and Two Colorless Energy for 60 damage to your opponent’s Active and 60 damage to one of their Benched EXs. The Ability, Fright Night (my favorite name for an Ability, even more than “Goodnight, Babies”), shuts down all Tools if Yveltal is Active. Good, right? No. More like fabulous. Let’s take a look at the card’s history in Expanded.
History in Expanded
When Yveltal BT first came out, many players weren’t sure whether it was worthy to replace the familiar and beloved Yveltal XY. Some players thought it wasn’t, while others were willing to replace one Yveltal XY for one Yveltal BT. But then, when Israel Sosa achieved success with a novel build of Yveltal/Darkrai that used two Yveltal BT (as well as double Parallel City and Silent Lab), it rapidly became clear that this new baby Yveltal was even better than the first. The synergy with Yveltal-EX instantly became obvious (soften ’em up with Pitch-Black Spear and clean up with Evil Ball) and the utility of Fright Night was something that allowed strategic-minded players to thrive. Ever since then, it has become an absolute monster in Expanded. Indeed, it’s the go-to attacker in what many consider the BDIF.
In last season’s Standard format, however, the story was somewhat different. While Dark decks were reasonably popular, Yveltal XY was generally favored over Yveltal BT, usually at a 3/1 ratio. Actually, many Dark decks chose to forgo Yveltal BT altogether. Yet, what I’m here to tell you is that Yveltal BT may be one of the very best cards in all of Standard. So what’s changed in this new format?
Why it’s Even Better in Standard
Seriously, this is big. If there was any one card that put a damper on Yveltal, it was the mysterious old guy. AZ was (and still is in Expanded) perhaps the most universally consistent switching/rescuing mechanism. But what makes it particularly effective against Yveltal is that, not only does it rescue your Hoopa-EX (or whatever it is), it also completely nullifies six damage counters (or 12 if timed perfectly). While healing by itself (Max Potion, for instance) or switching by itself (like Escape Rope) is not usually enough to frustrate Yveltal, one card that does both certainly is. To give an example of this, just look at modern Yveltal-EX Expanded lists. You’ll notice that AZ is almost always there. Think about that. Does it not strike you as odd that a deck that runs Darkrai-EX, Darkness Energy, Keldeo-EX, and Float Stone would also run AZ? As we Yveltal players know, the reason is specifically and almost exclusively to deal with the mirror match. Actually, without AZ, the mirror can simply come down to who fires off the first Pitch-Black Spear.
Now what about Olympia, you say? In truth, Olympia just isn’t as good as AZ. Healing only 30 instead of all damage, as well as the fact that it provides less utility (no picking up Shaymin-EX for the extra draw, or picking up your fifth Benched Pokemon to make room for someone more necessary to the situation) is enough to make many players feel she isn’t quite worth the spot.
A Meta Full of Megas (and Bulky Basics)
Now we’re getting into the meat and potatoes of the matter. This has been noted by almost every person who’s thought about it, but now that Night March is rotated, Mega Evolution Pokemon are actually… good! Actually, the most hyped and popular decks revolve around Megas. You know who I’m talking about: M Rayquaza-EX, M Mewtwo-EX, and M Scizor-EX. Come on out guys, say cheese! Now there are two general facts about Megas that are relevant here: (1) they’re EXs, and (2) they need a spirit link to bypass the “Mega Evolution rule.” Okay then. Need I say more? Well, yes, I suppose I should. It’s true that Yveltal by himself isn’t usually enough to beat a Mega-centric deck (though such an argument could certainly be attempted for the case of Volcanion decks), the amount of impact it does have can definitely be enough to allow the rest of your deck to fill in the strategic gaps. And remember, it’s not only Megas that are prey. Basic EXs can be even easier to destroy. Just look at Giratina-EX. Giratina-EX is poised to have a definite place in this format due to his semi-immunity to Megas. However, his high Retreat Cost–as well as the fact that he can’t even OHKO an Yveltal!–makes him perfect fodder for the bird of destruction (more on this later).
Compare this to the Expanded format of the last season (I say last season because Karen may change things somewhat): Night March, Vespiquen / Flareon, and Trevenant BREAK were all non-EX decks near the forefront of the meta–and Yveltal BT was still dominant.
A Format Without Tool Removal
With no Xerosic or Startling Megaphone, Tools are a lot more useful, reliable–and annoying. So what does this mean for Yveltal? Well, it’s the old economics law of supply and demand at work here. The less supply (of Tool disruption) the more demand (value) whatever existing quantities of it will have. In general, players will feel a lot more liberal about filling their lists with Tools. Thus, when Tools are actually disrupted, these players may not have an answer. The best example is Float Stone. Due to Olympia’s perceived mediocrity, Float Stone has become more popular than ever, with many players relying entirely on Float Stones and maybe one Escape Rope for their deck’s board mobility. And Float Stone, as you might know by now, is definitely a card Yveltal BT wants to see… well, except on a Garbodor. Cause then… yeah. No Fright Night.
So now that you have a better idea of why Yveltal is good in Standard (and by “good” I mean downright INSANE), let’s look at how it’s best applied in a completed deck. Here’s the list I recently used to win two League tournaments:
First off, let me give you a few general guidelines I’ve found myself acting on when using this deck.
- Don’t over-concentrate Energy: What I mean is, try to have Energy spread across your various attackers instead of focusing it all on one (or even two) attacker(s). Otherwise, your opponent can just Lysandre that big attacker on your Bench with four Energy attached and knock it out, leaving you with no easy way to swing back. Ideally, I like to have at least one Energy attached to every attacker, so that I’ll always be prepared for whatever my opponent might do next turn.
- Do everything you can to make Max Elixir successful: The faster you get Energy onto your board, the better (given that you apply the previous guideline). This includes no-brainers like using Super Rod (if there’s any Energy in the discard pile) before Max Elixir, as well as more subtle techniques like playing Trainers' Mail and Ultra Ball before Max Elixir (to thin your deck of non-Energy cards).
- Pitch-Black Spear: Yveltal BT is the closest thing to a go-to attacker in this deck. Against an EX deck, there’s usually no better way to begin the game than with this amazing attack. It’s also great to end your turn with Fright Night online. As for what to target with the snipe damage, I usually do 60 damage to a potential attacker rather than a Shaymin-EX. True, by attacking Shaymin-EX you might get two Prizes faster (given they don’t immediately KO Yveltal BT), but I usually prefer to put all potential threats firmly within Evil Ball KO range.
But while general guidelines can be helpful, the truth is that the strategy of this deck is anything but straightforward. As with the Yveltal-EX decks of Expanded, there are so many different options available that the skill of the pilot really shows through. Should you use Mew? Yveltal XY? Yveltal BT? Or just hit ’em hard with Darkrai-EX or Yveltal-EX? It all depends on the situation and matchup. Therefore, I will provide some analysis of this deck’s matchups across the popular meta decks of the day. But first, let me quickly explain a few notable card choices.
Notable Card Choices
There are three important reasons we use Mew.
- Memories of Dawn allows you to use powerful attacks like Pitch-Black Spear and Evil Ball with a one-Prize attacker.
- The free Retreat greatly benefits your board mobility, which is especially useful for a deck that uses Max Elixir.
- The M Mewtwo-EX match-up. Here, Mew can copy Evil Ball and Dark Pulse to hit Mega Mewtwo for Weakness, providing easy OHKO’s against a deck where OHKO’s are usually necessary due to Shrine of Memories and Damage Change.
So, you know how I just said that you can copy Evil Ball and Dark Pulse to OHKO Mega Mewtwo? Well, with the Endgame attack on your board, Mew has the potential to hit Mega Mewtwo for Weakness and take a shocking four Prizes! Just get one Pitch-Black Spear against a Mega Mewtwo, then attach a Fighting Fury Belt to Mew–and voilà!
Umbreon can also use the attack itself (M Scizor-EX has Resistance to Psychic) and is simply a great card to have against any deck that relies on Megas.
1 Ninja Boy, 1 Olympia
Ninja Boy allows you to pull off Mew/Umbreon combos without your opponent even seeing them coming. It also gives you great flexibility in general. Your opponent just benched a Blitzle and you’re worried about your loaded Yveltal-EX? No problem. Just swap Yveltal-EX for a Mew or a Darkrai-EX. Honestly, the possibilities are endless.
As for Olympia, it’s less spectacular but just as important. Actually, in the first version of this list I only had two Ninja Boy. From testing, however, I found that there would often occur situations where I needed to outright switch rather than replace. Also, the healing can be clutch. In one notable game, my opponent damaged my Darkrai-EX for 180. However, it wasn’t KO’d thanks to Fighting Fury Belt. The huge danger, though, was that next turn he would Lysandre out Fright Night Yveltal in order to both kill Darkrai-EX as well as Yveltal BT. Olympia allowed me to heal the Darkrai-EX and force him to choose between one or the other.
Garbodor makes a big impact in at least three different matchups: Greninja BREAK, M Rayquaza-EX, and Volcanion. However, as it can also be a big liability (it shuts down Fright Night and Memories of Dawn), I wouldn’t think of making it a 2-2 line.
3 Parallel City
OK, so some players might think that three is a bit much. But it really isn’t. It has serious impact against so many different decks: M Rayquaza-EX, Greninja BREAK, Volcanion, Yanmega, Rainbow Road… the list goes on!
vs. M Mewtwo-EX: 65/35
OK, so here’s the deck that I originally designed the list to counter. For me, it’s kind of the de facto “deck to beat,” due to both its popularity and innate power level. The Yveltal BT, Umbreon-EX, and two Mew go a long way in putting this match on your side, but that’s not to say it’s always a breeze. Indeed, if they manage to get out an early Garbodor, your plans can get seriously messed up. Without Mew to hit for Weakness, getting an OHKO against a Mega Mewtwo can be really tough (and since most Mega Mewtwo decks use Shrine of Memories in order to use Damage Change, you can’t really afford not to actually OHKO). Furthermore, Fright Night is turned off: thus, even if you Lysandre out their Hoopa-EX, it’s easily possible that they will just attach a Float Stone and bring up Mega Mewtwo to OHKO your Yveltal. Indeed, Garbodor is public enemy number one in this matchup and you should do everything you can to keep it off the board. The best way to do this is to Lysandre and KO Trubbish before it evolves. This is actually pretty easy to do, and short of any Ninja Boy shenanigans (and from what I can tell, most M Mewtwo lists forgo Ninja Boy) or double Trubbish benching, you should be set for the rest of the game.
vs. M Scizor-EX: 55/45
Like a lot of your match-ups across the meta, Yveltal BT is definitely the go-to attacker here. Firstly, it can force them to miss a turn of attacking due to Fright Night and the Mega Evolution rule. Second, it can wreak irreparable damage on all their EXs (Mega Scizor decks tend to be very EX heavy), putting them hopelessly behind in a matter of two turns. Third, it can force them to devote two whole turns of attack to merely knocking out a one-Prize attacker (Iron Crusher can’t KO Yveltal). On the other hand, they have Crushing Hammer which can really, really hurt you if they flip heads more often than not. Also, Mega Scizor’s attack isn’t flip reliant, so it will definitely get rid of your Active’s Double Colorless Energy. Ultimately, if both players play optimal and draw decently, it can simply come down to the Crushing Hammer flips. Nonetheless, I believe that Yveltal’s innate power and utility gives you a slight edge.
Also, don’t worry too much about Garbodor. It shuts down Fright Night, but after they’ve Mega Evolved they don’t really rely on Tools. And of course, Mew shouldn’t be used in this match-up due to M Scizor’s Psychic Resistance.
vs. M Rayquaza-EX: 75/25
Most of the games I’ve played against M Rayquaza-EX with this list have been very one-sided in my favor. This is mainly due to us having three Parallel City. Garbotoxin also helps ensure that once their Bench has been reduced to three, they won’t be making any unexpected comebacks. It’s interesting to note how much the techs swing this match-up in your favor: without Parallel City, Yveltal decks normally get destroyed by M Rayquaza-EX. As it is, it seems that Ray’s very high-power level itself has been its undoing: as soon as the new format was announced, everyone’s (including my own) first thought was: “Mega Ray will be amazing!” Parallel City inevitably became a near-universal staple as a result, and that was that.
One thing to watch out for, though, is Raichu and/or Zebstrika. While at the moment it may seem that M Ray players are favoring Manaphy-EX and Zoroark as their tech Pokemon, it’s not unlikely that they will start to slip in these cheap Lightning-type attackers in order to counter both the mirror and Yveltal. From my testing, though, a 1-1 Raichu or Zebstrika line is rarely enough to actually swing the matchup. Remember that Ninja Boy tactic I mentioned?
vs. Volcanion and Friends: 85/15
The best strategy here is also the most straightforward: Get Yveltal BT Active and start using Pitch-Black Spear. Usually, you’ll want to Lysandre up that Energy-less Volcanion-EX (or else just a Hoopa-EX) and start sniping the threatening attackers on the Bench. From there it should be a breeze to either keep using Pitch-Black Spear or, if they have an Escape Rope to switch and then KO your Yveltal, clean up with Evil Ball.
Parallel City also has enormous utility here. Early in the game (before you’ve used Pitch-Black Spear) you may want to reduce their Bench to three, while later in the game it’s better to reduce their damage output and discard your benched Shaymin-EX. As for Garbodor, I’ve never actually needed him to win a game. While his utility in shutting down Steam Up can be big, it also shuts down Fright Night, which might not be worth it.
vs. Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX: 80/20
Remember what I said about Giratina-EX’s vulnerability to Yveltal BT? This is where it really shows. Indeed, without Yveltal the matchup would probably favor them. Due to the fact that they run Double Dragon Energy, they can pump out higher damage outputs with Dark Pulse and possibly OHKO you while you only 2HKO them. With Yveltal, however, there is little hope for them to overcome you. The general “play” you want to make in this matchup is to Lysandre a Giratina-EX and Pitch-Black Spear a Benched Darkrai-EX. And what if they decide not to drop Giratina-EX on the board? Well, all of their Double Dragon Energy will be dead (while your Double Colorless Energy will be very much alive). Also, Yveltal is still totally effective here. Even if they OHKO Yveltal, as long as you’ve pulled off at least one Pitch-Black Spear Yveltal-EX can roll over the Darkrai-EX without challenge.
vs. Rainbow Road: 60/40
So here’s a deck that would seem somewhat scary. Xerneas is a one-Prize attacker with a Darkness Resistance that can potentially OHKO your EXs. However, after testing, I believe this matchup actually favors you. Here’s the strategy I generally go for: Instead of targeting Xerneas, I target the Bench. Every turn, I try to Lysandre out their Joltik, Octillery and Pawniard and then OHKO them with either Mew, Yveltal XY (against Joltik), Yveltal-EX or Darkrai-EX. Between that and Parallel City, their damage output will be so low that while you’re taking a Prize every turn, they’re struggling to 2HKO you. The only problem with this strategy shows up when you don’t have enough Lysandre or VS Seeker on hand to keep up the pressure.
There’s one other point that should be obvious, but is still worthy of mentioning: attack with Mew! Xerneas doesn’t have a Psychic Resistance, so when you find that you can no longer ignore him (like when you’re out of Lysandre or VS Seeker), try to Evil Ball him for the KO with Mew.
vs. Greninja BREAK: 65/35
Surprisingly, this is only somewhat favorable. Despite the crippling power of Garbotoxin, their seemingly endless supply of Bursting Balloon and their healing capacity (usually four Rough Seas and possibly a Max Potion or two) can sometimes make this a very arduous and scary duel to the death. Here’s what each player’s win conditions look like, roughly:
Your Win Conditions against Greninja:
- They draw poorly and you steamroll them with Evil Ball (a very common occurrence in testing).
- You get out Garbodor and Float Stone early enough and slowly overpower them with the higher damage outputs of Evil Ball and Dark Pulse, while both reducing their damage output as well as countering their healing capacity with Parallel City.
Greninja’s Win Conditions against you:
- They draw decently and your Garbodor is prized.
- You have a slow start, whether in terms of general setup or just getting out Garbodor soon enough.
Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by to read my first PokeBeach article! I hope you enjoyed my take on Yveltal and its place in the meta. All in all, I believe that Fright Night Yveltal’s raw power and strategic utility are a force that the entire format will have to reckon with. Furthermore, the way the meta currently stands, the deck list I designed seems to have no negative match-ups. So do you agree with my matchup analysis? If you’ve been testing out Yveltal variants in Standard, let me know in the comments! How has it been working out for you? What matchups do you find the toughest to deal with?
Also, I’m definitely open to suggestions in the comments for how to improve my article writing. Suggestions from people who have already written PokeBeach articles are especially appreciated. Thanks, guys!