Addressing the Bird in the Room — Yveltal’s Impact on the Standard Meta
I’m a nostalgic dude. My college dorm room has posters of old games on the wall and I keep little trinkets from places I’ve been on my desk. My back wall is covered with photos of beaches I’ve traveled to and sunsets I’ve watched dip below the horizon. My front wall boldly displays a Pokémon The Movie 2000 poster alongside two other posters from the Kingdom Hearts series. I hold sentimental value highly in my life and the way I’ve decorated my space is a testament to that.
When it comes to the Pokémon Trading Card Game, it’s no different. I’ve kept a Mew Gold Star in a penny sleeve and toploader since I pulled it from an EX Dragon Frontiers Prerelease in 2006 and I build decks from older formats to travel back into those eras every once in a while. To think and compare of how different the state of the game is now and ten years ago is significant, but sometimes there’s an exception or two.
How we doin’ PokéBeach! I’m back with another article for you to cozy up with this Christmas season, so grab some cocoa, the Snuggie you begged your grandmother not to purchase you but did anyways, and a cookie or two (make it two and give me one please thanks) because we’ve got a bit to discuss this time around. That is right ladies and gentlemen, because we’ve had quite the November. A handful of Regionals here and abroad, Thanksgiving, and the release of Sun and Moon. As a Pokémon fan – this is the time to be alive.
But we’re here to talk bacon. No no no, let me finish, the bacon bird: Yveltal. (If you couldn’t discern the general idea of the article by the title, I advise you to learn how to grasp context clues and then get back to me.) The Dark-typed Kalos legend was first seen in the XY expansion all the way back in February of 2014. That’s more than two years ago! So why in the world are we still seeing it being played? How is it winning…and how’s the meta going to shift with all of its success? Is there anything we can do against it? Start the fireplace up and tell Dad to turn the TV down – let’s get right to it.
Some Bird Background
If you’ve been playing the game for a few years, you’ll remember that Yveltal-EX was relatively popular in an era when cards like Darkrai-EX and Dark Patch were also around. Heck, the set that the latter two debuted in was named “Dark Explorers,” buffing the type as a whole and propelling Dark to the top of the meta. While Yveltal wasn’t necessarily the pilot all of the time, (especially when Darkrai had a solid Resistance to the dominant Mewtwo-EX), its utility and two-Energy attack in Evil Ball were helpful in a pinch, softening up other big EX Pokémon that relied on a lot of Energy to deal damage.
Fast forward to 2016 and you’re still hearing the words “Evil Ball” at the top tables. It feels like history is repeating itself in a way, and it feels weird sleeving up the same XY Yveltal I’ve been playing for a couple of years now. Thanks to the EX being reprinted in the Shiny Kalos tins in May of this year, The Pokémon Company International sealed Yveltal’s spot for another year of competitive play. And if you were wondering why we’re still seeing the baby Yveltal, it’s because that got reprinted like five thousand times. You’ve pulled it in every other pack out of Generations and you might’ve scored it in a different holo form in Steam Siege. Heck, you could’ve gone to League last week and gotten a copy or two for winning a few games or breathing. That’s how common this card is!
BREAKthrough would feature its own variation of Yveltal in 2015 with its Fright Night Ability, but the hype wasn’t quite there when Night March Pokémon like Joltik could zap the wings right off of him. PokéBeach Premium Writer Treynor Wolfe, however, would find great use for this version of Yveltal and combined it with Silent Lab for some sick disruptive plays in the Expanded format. Fright Night could nullify Tool effects to make his opponent struggle early game, but then shut off his own Ability with Silent Lab to use his own Tools while negating his opponent’s Basic Pokémon’s Abilities. In the end, this key strategy in Treynor’s Darkness-flavored deck would bring home a big Wisconsin Regional win for him! In a Night March-filled year, this victory was probably Yveltal’s biggest break, but no worries – there were going to be plenty to come in the 2016-17 season.
Whether it was in the States or in Europe, Yveltal was taking wins and taking names. And it continues to do so. Most recently, Yveltal took five Top 8 spots in London (which is insane) and snagged the two top spots (both by PokéBeach Premium Writers!) in Fort Wayne. If this doesn’t reflect Yveltal’s dominance in the metagame, then I don’t know what does. Yveltal flew under the radar to make its way to the top, and it all started before the season actually started. Hyping the “new” Standard format before rotation actually happened included a few decks in particular, especially M Rayquaza-EX, M Mewtwo-EX, and M Scizor-EX. We saw these and predicted and theorymon’d that they were gonna be the biggest threats to look out for. While they’re still prevalent to some degree, they all struggled in a similar manner – they’re Mega Evolution Pokémon. Yveltal pilots saw their opportunity – Fright Night Yveltal exploits this drawback by rendering Spirit Links that the baby EXs need to Mega Evolve useless, while dropping twelve damage counters on the board with Pitch-Black Spear. (The only way out is to remove Fright Night from the Active slot or by Garbodor or Hex Maniac turning off its Ability.) At this point, the Yveltal players have lots of options. You’re powering up an Yveltal-EX with Max Elixir, calculating the amount of Energy required for a sufficient Evil Ball to finish those damaged EXs off, or debating charging up more Fright Night birds to potentially take some cheeky four-Prize pickups. Lysandre can make Pokémon with heavier Retreat Costs (like Hoopa-EX) Active and effectively trap them there. Float Stone no longer becomes an answer with Fright Night in play, and your opponent might have to burn a Double Colorless Energy in the process of simply trying to Retreat. If they can’t move the Hoopa or whatever, you’re spreading a whole lot of damage while making it easier for your bigger birds to wrap the game up for ya.
I snuck in the trash bag in that last paragraph, and you might wonder…why do we play Garbodor with Yveltal? The meta coverage is too great to be ignored. While not every deck revolves around Abilities, you’re gonna see Greninja BREAK struggle to deal extra damage with its Ability…you’re gonna see Volcanion-EX struggle to deal extra damage with its Ability. While Garbotoxin slows the opponent down, you can effectively power up your own side of the field and maintain control of the game. The only Ability you’d be losing under Garbotoxin is Fright Night, but that’s ok – you can transform that Yveltal into a 170-HP attacker that drops thirteen damage counters with a Fighting Fury Belt. That’s a lot of damage for a one-Prize Pokémon.
But let’s talk more about the arithmetic and decision-making involved when calculating key numbers for key Knock Outs. Yveltal flourishes in versatile damage output in the form of its various attacks in its various cards; between Oblivion Wing, Pitch-Black Spear, Evil Ball, and Y Cyclone, you always have an option in discerning the best possible play.
Going in order here, Oblivion Wing’s the first on the list. Honestly, you probably don’t see this one as often as the other three because it’s a bit weaker, only hitting for 30. What I’m seeing, however, is an increase in Energy disruption in Yveltal decks in the form of Hammers and Team Flare Grunt, so you might see this version of Yveltal flying around here and there. To compensate for lost Energy to the aforementioned Trainer cards, Oblivion Wing might come in clutch in bringing those back. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about discarding a couple with Ultra Ball or Professor Sycamore, as sometimes you might opt for a different Supporter to conserve those Energy. I do enjoy the bulk of the XY / Promo / Steam Siege / it’s been reprinted so many times I don’t even know / Radiant Collection Yveltal as well, with a beefy 130 or 170 HP with a Fighting Fury Belt, so you may have the opportunity to sneak 60 or 80 damage in before it finally falls. When I use Oblivion Wing, I don’t invest the Energy onto one with Energy already attached, usually. I prefer to keep my options open, preferably attach one to a Fright Night one if an EX already has an Energy if I can (or vice-versa), simply because I give myself the opportunity to use either of their attacks the next turn. For instance, if I slap both Darkness Energy from two Oblivion Wing to the EX, I fully commit to the EX and my opponent can begin to think about how to play around that. See what I mean? Stepping away from that discussion, the extra Oblivion Wing damage is nice and helps a bit here. Let’s say we’re going up against a Giratina-EX or a Darkrai. Hitting them for 30 doesn’t seem like much, but you can promote an Yveltal-EX, Y Cyclone for 90, rotate a DCE to a Fright Night Yveltal, then Pitch-Black Spear for an exact 180 damage total. (Hold onto this scenario as I discuss the Fright Night version in the next bit.) Not bad eh? But, as mentioned earlier, this is a card that is being dropped by some lists. Check your meta to see if your list would truly benefit from Oblivion Wing, if, you know, your area tends to enjoy discarding Energy.
It is really really hard for me to not see at least a couple of copies of Fright Night Yveltal in an Yveltal-based deck. Its Ability is great and its attack is too. Unfortunately, the need for two attachments is kind of a bummer so the fun usually doesn’t start until the second turn. But, dishing 60 to the Active and 60 to Benched EXs is big, and it makes the math pretty nice for certain Pokémon. Two Pitch-Black Spears Knocks Out Shaymin, and even one can take the stress off of an Yveltal-EX’s wings when using Evil Ball on hefty Megas. An option is to cycle through two Fright Night Yveltal before sending something else up because of how easy those Shaymin Prizes can be. That kind of pressure can force your opponent to Sky Return or to dig for something like Delinquent to bop your Parallel City for one of their own to remove the two-Prize liability. Another is to use Pitch-Black Spear to close out a Knock Out, because its Ability shuts down any lingering Fighting Fury Belt on the field. Let’s use Volcanion-EX as an example. Its attack requires three Energy, so an Evil Ball from Yveltal-EX would hit for 120 if it just has the two for an Evil Ball. Your opponent might go for a Fighting Fury Belt attachment so one Steam Up Ability activation OHKOs our Yveltal-EX, and then think that their 220-HP beast is a tank. Once you promote the Fright Night Yveltal, you then become one Pitch-Black Spear away from a Knock Out. Smack the opposing Volcanion-EX for a Knock Out and smack something else on the Bench, and you’re feeling pretty good. Notice that if you had done the Pitch-Black Spear first and then the Evil Ball, you would still be 40 damage short. This would require two more Energy on the EX for the Knock Out and greater resource investment in order to hit that number. Think about where you want your damage to go (and sometimes, when) because whether you go for the Spear before or after one of the other attacks can be the difference between picking up Prizes or not.
This attack has and always will be powerful because it doesn’t have a damage cap. It takes advantage of your opponent’s high-Energy attacks (like Giratina’s Chaos Wheel) and hits, at minimum, for 60 if your opponent is Energy-less…which is pretty mediocre but I gotta state the facts. Ever since Max Elixir was released, however, Evil Ball’s stock has just gone nowhere but up. Usually needing two attachments to fire off, Max Elixir mitigates that requirement and also adds 20 damage per each Energy you hit off of an activation. If you note that your opponent’s starting slowly, you can even choose to go off on the first turn and attach as many Energy as you can to to have a 170-HP beast swinging for big damage from the get-go. Against the mirror, getting the “first blood” with an Evil Ball is huge. If you choose to promote a fresh Yveltal-EX and hit for 60 (or more, depending on how much Energy the opponent has), the opposing Yveltal-EX would need to make a decision – Retreat into something else, Y Cyclone to preserve Energy, or try to overhit your own EX to set up a Knock Out for the next bird. My rule of thumb is to Evil Ball where the Energy is. When you’re not playing the mirror, this is often times the main attacker or something bulky they’re trying to build up on the Bench, and the decision is easier to make. In the mirror, go for the bigger bird, especially when it’s on an EX. If your opponent Y Cyclones a DCE to a Benched EX, I would choose to drag that one up with Lysandre. At bare minimum, you’re hitting for 100 with an Evil Ball, but this isn’t optimal, as a Pitch-Black Spear would leave it with 10 HP. Thankfully, Fighting Fury Belt or Reverse Valley gives you a 10-damage bump to hit that magic number of 110, if you find yourself just short of that Evil Ball – Pitch-Black Spear combo. This strategy, once again, is especially helpful when your opponent has his own Fighting Fury Belt attached, and you can watch that extra 40 HP dissipate with Fright Night in the Active slot.
I really like this attack early game because it provides flexibility to your Energy attachments and preserves Energy if you’re close to getting Knocked Out. Y Cyclone is a nice last-ditch effort to save a DCE (or whatever Energy) if you’re willing to sacrifice a near-KO’d Yveltal in the Active spot by moving it to your next attacker, allowing you to keep up momentum even after your opponent takes a couple Prize cards. This is especially helpful in the mirror, hitting for solid damage while moving Energy off of the Active, nerfing an opposing Yveltal-EX’s Evil Ball. Firing off a Y Cyclone is very doable on the first turn of the game, courtesy of Max Elixir, and can set the tone of the game if you move an Energy to another able-bodied Yveltal. While you’ll need to use two of them to KO most Pokémon, it’s not a bad option in any shape or form for getting you halfway there. If it’s the first Pokémon I attack with during the game, I usually choose not to commit a Fighting Fury Belt to that particular Yveltal-EX because of a couple of things: my opponent’s board state hasn’t fully developed so I don’t know what he might have up his sleeve, and because 90 is usually enough to get the ball rolling on an EX. Let’s say we’re going up against another Volcanion deck. An extra 10 isn’t going to make or break us, especially if we’re swinging into a baby Volcanion. I would much rather wait and see which Volcanion-EX he’s planning to power up before choosing to soften that up with extra damage modifiers. (In addition, Evil Ball would do more damage in that situation anyways.) I would only see committing a Fighting Fury Belt to an EX early if you can get a Reverse Valley in play as well; 110 is beautiful because it OHKOs Shaymin and would then put most other EXs at Pitch-Black Spear KO range. While Y Cyclone may not be the attack you use all the time, it’s equally as important. Pacing Energy attachments is a major key with this deck and is a reason why it’s so good. Learn to conserve Energy and move it to the right Pokémon, and you’ll realize you’re working with one of the best cards in the format.
There are lots of different ways to build Yveltal right now, but there are more popular versions than others. You’re more likely to see an Yveltal / Garbodor list featuring three Yveltal-EX and two Fright Night Yveltal than, say, for example, Philip Schulz’s, who piloted a unique version with four Yveltal-EX without any Fright Night Yveltal to a Top 4 finish in European Internationals. Because there’s so much going on and so many different directions to take, here’s what I’ve decided to be the barebones foundation for an Yveltal deck:
Pokémon Talk: Want to build Yveltal / Garb? Start here. The 3/2 EX and Fright Night split is the most common and the most popular because it’s the most effective. You’re gonna want to be hitting with the EX most of the time but Fright Night and Pitch-Black Spear are simply too good to pass up. Starting with Fright Night in the Active is great when your opponent starts with something with a high Retreat Cost, but too much of a good thing ends up being kind of cloggy. Therefore, two’s a good number. 2-2 Garbodor is pretty standard in and of itself, and I shouldn’t need to explain why we need the Shaymin. (Hint – it’s for consistency.)
Trainer Chat: The Trainers are where the most creativity comes in. What I have in the list is something every. single. Yveltal list absolutely needs. Maxxing out the Ultra Ball, VS Seeker, and Max Elixir are required for optimum consistency, and there is no reason to run any less than these. While Andrew Mahone ran three Max Elixir in his second-place finishing Yveltal / Garb list during Fort Wayne Regionals, I’m pretty sure he mentioned in an interview that he wished he used four. The only point of discussion here is the Pokémon Tool lineup. Without any substantial, consistent forms of Tool removal, (even Beedrill-EX lost hype pretty quickly), we’re going to take advantage of playing however many Tools we can while keeping our deck from bricking with them. I used to tinker with two Float Stone but realized that I would sometimes see them end up in the discard pile from unfortunate Sycamore discards or in the Prizes. When Garbotoxin needs to be up and running by the second turn, you can’t afford to whiff a Float Stone. Three gives the player a little bit of wiggle room and enough Float Stone for two Garbodor and even a Shaymin or an Yveltal that gets trapped in the Active position. Fighting Fury Belt is so busted that you want to have as many of these on the field as you can. Two-hit Knock Outs can become three-hit ones under the right circumstances, (or OHKOs to 2HKOs, more commonly), and the extra 10 damage goes a long way. Just read the section prior to this one. Two Parallel City are mandatory because they limit your opponent’s options or trim the Shaymin off your Bench. In addition to the latter effect courtesy of the blue side, Parallel City can reduce the damage of Grass-, Fire-, and Water-type Pokémon by 20, effectively neutering the likes of Vespiquen, Volcanion, and Greninja. There really is no downside to this card…except for one small thing we’ll chat about in the next section or two.
Energy Blurb: The 9/4 split of Basic Darkness Energy and DCE has shown time and time again to be the Energy line of choice. When I tried 8 to make some shortcuts, I found that I was missing way too many Max Elixir or relied on a late-game Oblivion Wing to salvage Energy from the discard pile. 9 alleviates a little of that stress despite being just one extra card, but it’s a critical change that made a difference. If you look at the results and the lists of the top-performing Yveltal / Garbodor lists, you’ll find that all of them share this exact Energy split. It’s proven, it’s tested, it’s working. Go 9/4.
Eight Extra Spots: What to Do?
We still have a lot of room to work with, and this is where the diversity of Yveltal is usually found – just eight cards. As mentioned before, there are so many directions you can take with this deck, and it’s up to you to choose how you wanna tech it out. Here are a few cards to consider in your list:
- Oblivion Wing Yveltal: A card that used to be deemed as a must-have one-of has become one of the first cards to cut. We talked about how 30 damage can go a long way in the future, but the fact of the matter is that we’d rather start our engines with an Evil Ball or Y Cyclone over Oblivion Wing. Even Fright Night poses more of a threat than an extra Energy attachment, which is why we’re seeing this version of Yveltal getting dropped. On the other hand, Hammers are still here and there. Team Flare Grunt is a card you might see in the mirror. While not something you’ll use every game, consider Oblivion Wing when testing next.
- Trainers' Mail : I love Trainers’ Mail. It boosts consistency, thins the deck, and helps dig for certain cards when you’ve spent your Supporter for the turn. In my current Yveltal / Garbodor build, I’m reppin’ four Trainers’ Mail. I value consistency over cute one-of techs because I want my deck to function the same way every single game. What you sacrifice, however, is your ability to deal with adversity, as sometimes a couple of out-of-nowhere techs throw you for a loop, and your current build isn’t prepared for it. For example, I competed in a League Challenge the other weekend when a random Jolteon-EX forced me to Lysandre that up for an OHKO so I wouldn’t lose to Flash Ray. My opponent’s Yveltal-EX Evil Balled me for the return Knock Out, and then I had no answers. It was a rough time. Now, you can’t tech for absolutely everything in a format like this one, but it’s good to at least have something in your arsenal to combat the potential thorn in your side. The winningest Yveltal / Garb decks play a couple to none Trainers’ Mail, so I’m going to look at messing with my counts a little bit.
- Pokémon Center Lady : This is a one-of that I’ve seen in a few lists, and it’s pretty helpful in the mirror. Healing 60 is the equivalent to removing a Pokémon of Pitch-Black Spear damage, which sets your opponent back an entire turn if he planned on setting up a Knock Out. The effect of removing Special Conditions isn’t all that amazing just now, seeing as hardly any competitive decks focus on these. I wouldn’t consider this card unless you’re looking at an Yveltal-heavy meta, seeing as most other Pokémon will be able to two-shot most of your deck anyways and Healing 60 isn’t as valuable if that’s the matter.
- Delinquent : You really should play one. Ever since Parallel City became the single-most played Stadium in the format, it was generally hard to counter because…well. You only played Parallel City. Delinquent was the unsung hero in Fort Wayne that found fame in Jimmy Pendarvis’s Regional-winning list. If your opponent beat you to the punch and dropped her own Parallel City, Delinquent not only discards their Stadium (meaning you’re free to play your own Parallel) but forces them to discard three cards from their hand as well. Imagine a late-game N to Delinquent combo and leaving your opponent at the mercy of Lady Luck – absolutely devastating. The hand disruption’s good, the Stadium discarding’s good, but if the stars align at the right moment during the match, you can use both to their greatest extent and cause some table flips. That’s when you know you’ve done something perfectly.
- Reverse Valley: While we’re on the subject of Stadium cards, Reverse Valley is one that I like to include in my Yveltal lists. That extra 10 damage can go a long way and can even give you an edge in the mirror if your opponent can’t bump it out – you’ll get the damage bonus, he’ll get…nothing. Unless he randomly plays a Metal Pokémon. I also like Reverse Valley as an out to Parallel City if I don’t have Delinquent at my disposal. That saves me a Supporter for the turn to do more of whatever I want. Lastly, I like how Reverse Valley gives the extra 10 to Fright Night Yveltal too. I like to Lysandre up Trubbish against Mewtwo or Scizor decks and hit for the perfect 70 there, not only taking a Prize but doing a little damage to a Benched EX. This will keep them under Spirit Link lock a little longer, which I can use to my advantage to smack more EXs.
- Pokémon Ranger : I’m a little hesitant on this one, and I see it as no more than a super soft (think Charmin) counter to Jolteon and Regice. When you Ranger, you have a turn of Knocking Out the offending Basic- or EX-immune Pokémon before you realize they can swing again next turn. Vileplume Toolbox has fallen in play so significantly that I don’t believe a spot for this Supporter is warranted. If you see a decent amount of the already-uncommon Pidgeot-EX / Jolteon it might be something to think about, but most of the time if you see a Jolteon…it’s not gonna be a good time and I’d rather free that slot up for something more beneficial than trying to fight an uphill battle.
- Enhanced Hammer: I find this card a little weird to be in an Yveltal deck…but it works. DCE is everywhere, and I think running one or two of these can come in clutch when your opponent feels like they have a comfortable board state. I was playing my friend who runs Gyarados and hit em with an Enhanced Hammer before N-ing him to one. Plays like these can swing the momentum quickly, or simply cause your opponent to take an extra turn to attach while you pile on more damage. Against Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX / Garbodor, Hammering a Double Dragon Energy reduces Darkrai’s Dark Pulse damage by 40 in a blink, which is big. Against M Scizor-EX, Hammering a Shield Energy lowers its defenses while forcing an extra Energy attachment. You can only imagine the shenanigans in the mirror if both players use Enhanced Hammer, and Max Elixir hits become more important than ever. I’m currently testing one copy of this card in my deck, and it’s heavenly to see when I know my opponent uses Special Energy. At one, it’s not breaking the flow of my deck at all and is usually a card I play nearly every game because of all the Specials running around, so I suggest you give it a go and see how you like it.
- Team Flare Grunt: On the subject of Energy disruption, you have this guy, and at first glance he seems a little out of place. I would agree with you, but hear me out before you finish that eye roll. I find Team Flare Grunt to be most effective when Fright Night Yveltal is in the Active spot, you have Garbotoxin up, and you’re manipulating damage output with Pitch-Black Spear. I’d even go as far as having Fighting Fury Belt on the Fright Night, just so you’re in comfortable 2HKO range. While they spend resources to Evil Ball, Iron Crusher, whatever your one-Prize attacker, you can make the job more difficult by using Team Flare Grunt, (and maybe in combination with the Enhanced Hammer), to keep spreading damage and keep Yveltal surviving. Of course, Team Flare Grunt is literally useless against Greninja and does very little to Volcanion as they can recycle the Energy anyways, but it’s not a bad thought. This and an Enhanced Hammer could strip an opposing Yveltal (or even a Jolteon!) of all of its Energy, leaving the door wide open to take control of the game. As I’ve always said, check the meta and see if it’s appropriate for you to squeeze a Team Flare Grunt into your list.
- Olympia : This is a card I truly enjoy and is every Garbodor’s best friend – especially when a Float Stone just so happens to not be attached. Healing 30 is nice, but I also like having a VS Seeker-able Switch. Sometimes a Fright Night Yveltal gets stuck when I hit the jackpot on Max Elixir and I’ve got a powered up EX on the Bench ready to go, and I really don’t wanna commit the DCE to attach. Cue the Olympia. This is a card that has been dropped by most lists but I think still has potential. There will be times when Fright Night is dirtier than Garbotoxin, so Retreating isn’t a popular option you’d want to do on your own. I think Olympia is good for this reason and is why you ought to give her a test run.
Why It’s Good.
At this point, we’ve got the basics down. You know how the deck functions, you know what the deck looks like…but where’s this success coming from? The answer boils down to the current meta. Yveltal covers so much of it between Ability lock, its sheer bulk, Fright Night, and consistency that few decks can match the meta like this one does. I’m not saying that it’s without weaknesses or bad matchups, like a Jolteon and Raikou‘s one breakout performance proved during Dortmund Regionals. That was crazy, and I’m sure it zapped a whole lot of Yveltal on the way to the top. But, those same Raikou / Jolteon / Electrode decks don’t fare against the rest of the meta like Yveltal does. See what I mean? Here’s how Yveltal beats today’s meta:
Volcanion: Set up Garb.
This is a pretty favorable matchup for Yveltal if Garbodor gets up and running by the second turn. If you give your opponent a look at Steam Up, you’re in for a rough ride. If we’re looking at numbers, two Steam Ups and a Volcanic Heat is enough to OHKO an Yveltal-EX, and it isn’t a difficult play to pull off if you’re an experienced Volcanion player or hit an Energy Retrieval. However, take those Abilities away, and they’re doing no more than 140 via Volcanic Heat with a Fighting Fury Belt boost. I’m all for setting up both Garbodor if you can, so you’re not prone to getting smoked if one gets Lysandre’d. Even if the garbage gets focused, you can continue to Pitch-Black Spear to soften up those 180-HP (or 220-HP) Steam Pokémon on the Bench, ensuring far easier Knock Outs for the future when you bring Evil Ball to the table to finish the game.
Greninja: Set up Garb. And make an Yveltal-EX really, really, fat.
The matchup’s closer than you think, and I’ll tell you why. First, the Garbodor here is pretty self-explanatory. Giant Water Shuriken is free damage on the board, and if you don’t have a Garbodor in play with a Tool, your Trubbish will get taken out and you’ll most likely lose the game. Thankfully, as long as Garbodor is in play, you’re looking at taking no more than 80 damage per turn against a one-Prize attacker with 170 HP. This is a lot of HP for only one Prize, and if you’re not prepared, you could very well see your opponent take all of her Prizes. Fright Night is essentially useless in a matchup that laughs at 60 damage and plays no EXs. Evil Ball isn’t nearly as effective in a game where Greninja bounces back a single Energy to its hand every turn with Moonlight Slash, meaning that OHKOing a frog is out of the question. (Almost.) Our last option is to focus on hitting for 90 with Y Cyclone. Whether that’s from the first or the second turn, you need to begin whittling down the frog’s HP for future (spoilers) Evil Ball attacks. If you’re lucky, you can pick up an early lead by sniping a Froakie on the first turn or a Frogadier on the next. and start building up a bigger EX on the Bench. Anyways, 90 successfully reduces Greninja to less than half of its HP, meaning we’re two-shotting em. That’s not bad, and if you were able to get ahead, it’s good. I like to stockpile Energy onto one Yveltal-EX so I can, eventually, Evil Ball for OHKO damage and waste little time finding extra Energy for the next Y Cyclone. Fighting Fury Belt isn’t as important in this matchup, as you 2HKO with Y Cyclone anyways, but if you’re short 10 damage from missing an Energy on the Evil Ball, you can get there with the Tool. Plain and simple, simple and clean, (is the way that you’re making me feel tonight), just get the Garbodor in play and it should be frog legs for dinner.
Rainbow Road: Parallel City and N.
I struggled with Rainbow Road for a while. Xerneas boasts a Resistance to Darkness and sits at a hefty 120 HP, and that’s before Fighting Fury Belt. Rainbow Force requires three Energy to use, meaning we’d get a nice +60 to Evil Ball. But, it’s that stinkin’ Resistance that makes us need three Energy to OHKO. And that’s, again, for a one-Prize attacker. The deck itself is very explosive and can hit huge numbers on the first turn, but this is where the aforementioned Parallel City-and-N play comes in. Rainbow Road gets its strength by having a bunch of different Pokémon on the Bench, so if you rob your opponent of those…you rob your opponent of a lot of extra damage. N-ing your opponent to a small hand puts a lot of strain on a Rainbow Road player, which has steered me away from the deck for the most part. You have to have another Xerneas ready to go, a counter-Stadium, and more Benched Pokémon if you want to keep the momentum going. If you can pull off this dirty combo, you have an easier chance against Rainbow Road. You can use Pitch-Black Spear to pick up some surprise Knock Outs on Bench-sitters like Volcanion (used for its dual-typing) when you’re out of OHKO range and catch up on the Prize trade that way. Y Cyclone ensures you keep Energy on a healthy Yveltal. And Evil Ball…well. Use it when you can take OHKOs or put a big dent in a Xerneas.
Mega Ray, Mega Mewtwo, Mega Scizor: Fright Night.
The latter two will usually play Garbodor in order to try to work around Fright Night, but it puts pressure on them setting up a Garb over setting up a main attacker. Meanwhile, it’s EXs galore. Snipe as much as you can, while you can, with a one-Prize attacker. Yveltal-EX comes in to clean up the damaged EXs and you’ve generally got game in the bag. This strategy is generally the same for Mega Evolution Pokémon, until the game progresses and each has their own gimmick – Damage Change or Iron Crusher need to be played around in different ways (whether that be keeping damage on Mewtwo low or emphasizing basic Darkness Energy over DCE) and late-game tactics would need to be adjusted. Mega Ray has a three-Energy attack and Mega Mewtwo might throw extra Energy on itself to deal more damage with Psychic Infinity, both of which Evil Ball benefits from. With all that being said, I find that if you get two Fright Night Yveltal in the ring to chuck a couple of Pitch-Black Spears, you’re golden.
Clipping Yveltal’s Wings
Yveltal has positive matchups against six of the bigger decks in Standard, and this caused a couple players to realize that success can be found in finding outs to the most popular deck in-format. What’s the mindset here? If you deem that Yveltal may be the deck you’ll play against in-tournament most of the time, your odds of winning increase if your matchup against it is good. Seems pretty simple. Remember the discussion on Raikou though – a good matchup against Yveltal isn’t going to win you an entire tournament because other people will be playing other decks. What we’re looking for is something that goes positive with Pokémon Y’s coverbird and has a half-decent chance against everything else.
At the European International Championship, Ross Cawthon applied this idea to his run in London with a nifty Jolteon-EX / Lugia-EX / Garbodor deck. You’ll see that it looks similar to a Pidgeot build, but Ross opted to forego the Pidgeot and selected a more legendary bird. While Ross unfortunately didn’t crack Top 32, this was a neat deck that was built to have a positive Yveltal matchup. Having tools to take down other portions of the meta with Garbodor and locking Basic Pokémon attackers with Jolteon, the deck delivered an innovative energy that Ross is so well known for doing. While I wish he could have seen more success that day, he may simply have run into some bad matchups or did not draw as well as he would’ve liked. This might be something I’ll tinker with on my own, as Lugia can pull off some pretty cute stunts with Deep Hurricane, as it’s possible that this deck may have just been in early stages of its testing on a competitive level.
Alex Hill, on the other hand, bubbled at 9th (sad reacts only) during the weekend with an insane build that I don’t think anyone saw coming.
If you’ve seen a Vespiquen deck before, you know how it functions. “With Battle Compressor right?” Sorry bud, this is Standard. This version of Vespiquen uses Pokémon like Klefki and Unown for their Abilities that ultimately throw themselves in the discard pile. But they don’t just do that – Klefki helps with the Mega Evolution Pokémon matchup by giving whoever its attached to a damage-free turn against Megas. This is great for Vespiquen; it’s more difficult to hit those big numbers without Battle Compressor at your disposal, so the extra turn means a lot when trying to take down 210-HP Pokémon. A Klefki attachment gives your opponent two options: take the hit or use Lysandre, hitting around to something they don’t really care for (and potentially taking a Knock Out) to then fuel Bee Revenge. Win-win situation all around. Unown is there for consistency and to provide an extra 10 for the queen bee. Stage-1 decks need to make sure they can consistently pump out attackers, and they can’t do that if they don’t have sufficient numbers of Basics on the Bench. Unown helps get you there. These effects are great when they both join forces to boost Vespiquen damage output to make the Beehive Pokémon competitive again.
What gave Alex the edge was his inclusion of Zebstrika, SOMEBODY THAT I HYPED IN JULY (but didn’t really follow up on but c’mon gimme some credit). Crashing Bolt does 110 to anything with a Fighting-type Resistance, (which Yveltal so conveniently has), which then doubles to a filthy 220 when Weakness is accounted for. What did this do for Alex? OHKO every Yveltal in sight. Three was the right number for the deck as well, seeing as if you trade a Zebstrika for two Yveltal-EX Prizes, that’s enough to win the game. Combine the overwhelming strength of the zebra against the bacon bird with the bumblebee over Greninja, and you have yourself a 9th place finish (which I am most certain would be better if Alex didn’t bubble, sigh) at European Internationals.
Taking these two players’ ideas into account – am I saying you need a 2-2 line of Zebstrika or Jolteon for an advantage against Yveltal? No. Do they help? Absolutely, but the reason these decks worked is because they included those Pokémon seamlessly. Just last weekend, Igor Costa earned a Top 8 slot in a League Cup just this past weekend by throwing some Zebstrika into his M Mewtwo-EX deck, and it works because the deck runs DCE. (Except, he didn’t run Garbodor so you kind of have to pick your battles.) Don’t expect to switch a couple basic Energy in your deck with some Lightning and expect the one Jolteon you teched in to put in work.
So What Does This Mean for 2017?
These guys are onto something, and I think we’ll be seeing a lot of people copy and pasting Alex’s list onto PTCGO to see how it works and how it does against Yveltal. Yveltal’s huge success within these last few months means it’s got a huge target on its back. Heck, I think Yveltal’s gonna start teching against Yveltal in a matter of time. Plus, Sun and Moon will drop in a couple months and we’re gonna see some big changes and bigger shifts in the meta with a bunch of new (and viable) cards. Pitch-Black Spear doesn’t touch GXs (if those get big) and Stage-2 Pokémon-GX are gonna have an obscene amount of HP. Will Yveltal keep up with the power creep? Only time will tell. But, there are still plenty of tournaments left, such as Dallas Regionals, Athens Regionals, and a whole load of League Cups to compete in, and Yveltal will still be very relevant. Take note of what you just read, and you’ll start the next year off right.
Thanks for reading my last article of 2016, and thank you to everyone who has read any of my articles this year. I love having this outlet for my thoughts and your feedback throughout the year kept me going. Let me know what you think of this one down below, so I know what to do to start 2017 off right. I appreciate all of you – finish out the month strong!
Thank you again, have a Merry Christmas, and take it easy,
John / Serperior