What’s up Underground readers! I’m happy to be back again with another article for you! Since my last article — “The Fantastic Mr. Frog” — two major tournaments, Fort Wayne Regionals and the London International Championship, have both occurred. I’m on the docket to discuss Dallas, the next upcoming major tournament, and I want to jump right in. After, I’d like to discuss a revelation I had during my time in London, and how I think it can help players in the game today. You’ll find an intergalactic flair to this article, which is no accident: another entry into my favorite thing of all time, Star Wars, has just released, and I am still one with the Force, the Force is with me.
Before I get started, I want to note something: one thing that you might find in this article is a lack of “new” decks or information. Truthfully, I don’t blame you for thinking this, and it is something that’s bound to occur when we’ve had the same format for what will be three major tournaments over such a large span (Athens Regionals, in January, will also be the same format, PRC–EVO). This is, I believe, the longest stretch of time where all major tournaments occur in the same format: when it is all said and done, it’ll have been over two months and four major tournaments — with only mild change — before we get a breath of fresh air. As a result, the format is extremely well defined at this point, with very few stones unturned (or maybe not!), meaning there probably won’t be too much in the way of bombshells. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, though: many of the best decks have been refined to perfection, which means that this is a time for individual player skill to shine. All of that said, I’ve granted you a seat on the Council, and I can see you’re striving for the rank of Master.
- Episode I: Where can you learn this power?
- Episode II: Only a Sith deals in absolutes.
- Episode III: Always two, there are: a master, and an apprentice.
- Episode IV: Guardian of peace and justice in the galaxy.
- Episode V: Destroy the Sith, you must.
- Episode VI: For my ally is the Format, and a powerful ally it is.
Episode I: Where can you learn this power?
“Not from a Jedi.”
Oh boy, where to begin? Before Fort Wayne, Aaron and Travis released a great two-part series, discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the Darketype. Avoiding the temptation of the Dark Side was too much for our feeble format, and we’ve been thoroughly corrupted. The finals of Fort Wayne Regionals and the semi-finals of the International Championship were all occupied by the same deck: Yveltal/Garbodor. We really seem to be jumping from one extremely dominant deck to the next, though I guess we don’t have to look at spiders and pumpkins anymore. How can a deck be so popular, so countered, and still so good?
Brit did a great job in his last article discussing this more in depth, and I recommend you check out his musings on the topic. Unlike Anakin, I think a lot of players did underestimate this deck’s power — I know I did! After its victory in Orlando, I assumed it was the BDIF. After its victory in Fort Wayne, this view was reinforced. It wasn’t until the Top 8, and more specifically the Top 4 of London was revealed, that I truly grasped just how much better Yveltal/Garb is than every other deck. Yveltal simply has answers for everything, or isn’t stressed to find one. The worst part about this Dark Lord is that it has no trouble manipulating events to transpire as it foresees. Yveltal can win any kind of game any number of different ways with no serious stress to the operator. A game plan exists for every matchup, yet the Force will present improvised paths to victory, should you require.
In London, there was a large influx of counters: Jolteon was seen in high numbers, as well as Zebstrika (Alex Hill had an absolutely dominant record against the deck, going 8-1). Yet, once all the dust had settled, not a single hard counter to Yveltal made it into Top 8. Why is this? Well, the simple truth is is that while the counters may excel at beating Yveltal, more often than not they struggle with any other deck. Because the counters are generally specific in their requirements, they aren’t splashable, so you must either go all-in or neglect them entirely (where oh where is Dedenne!).
Over my weekend in London, I had the pleasure of meditating with some of the deck’s Masters, to learn their secrets. I didn’t learn anything profound that wasn’t readily apparent, but it was interesting to hear their take on why the deck could be so good, and why they were drawn to it so much. The deck is incredibly skill intensive, which is why there’s absolutely no surprise that the people doing well with it are likewise great players. I asked Michael Pramawat, London’s champion, what his favorite mirror match of all time was (keep in mind, he has been playing since the game’s beginning, I believe), and his response actually surprised me: PRC–EVO Yveltal/Garbodor.
Unlike some mirror matches, where obtaining the high ground can all but secure your victory, the only time an Yveltal mirror reaches its conclusion is when one player has drawn their sixth Prize (or gets both legs and their other arm chopped off). In I believe the first game of Jay Lesage and Tord Reklev’s semi-finals match, Jay has a commanding board state with two powered up Yveltal-EX, to what is Tord’s lone Yveltal BREAK (above a Fright Night). Tord N’s Jay to one, then uses Fright Night to KO one of the Yveltal, setting up the second for a KO on the following turn. Jay was lucky enough to draw a Shaymin off the N to one to bail himself out of it, but the point stands that Tord was thought to be completely out of this game before coming within inches of striking down his fellow Sith. This is but one example of why this match can swing back and forth at any moment, and is a great illustration for how close and intricate each game really is.
Episode II: Only a Sith deals in absolutes.
I’ve been trying to get a lot of reps in with Yveltal/Garb, both against random opponents, to get games in with the deck, and against top players, to learn from them. This is a deck that is actually quite skill based, and is not something I would take into a tournament simply because you’re seeing others do well with it. You should actually know the deck, as opposed to just having winning lists for it, and have ample quality experience in the mirror match, which you will absolutely face if you find yourself doing well. Here’s the list I’ve been toying around with so far:
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 36
Energy – 13
I have been discussing this deck at length with Jimmy Pendarvis, who won Fort Wayne with it. He was the one who shared this list with me, though he runs a 4/1 split on the birds. I still like the 3/2 split that Pramawat used, because I think you’ll realistically only use three of the EX in a game, and have a Super Rod to get a fourth, if needed. Further, I think Yveltal BKT is a huge part in why this deck is so strong against the field: Fright Night alone can do serious damage to certain decks, like those that rely on Spirit Links. Yveltal BKT might be one of the most powerful non-EX cards printed in recent memory, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take advantage of it.
Otherwise, the only changes you’ll see from this list are the inclusion of two Trainers’ Mail over the Escape Rope and Delinquent. I played some games with Pramawat’s winning list and was getting some pretty horrific hands, so I wanted to bump up the consistency a little, and wasn’t missing the other cards that much. The low count of two Trainers’ Mail is designed to smooth over the draws of the deck, as opposed to significantly boost it like higher counts would. The deck is naturally quite consistent as is, but sometimes it stumbles over itself because it’s too consistent. Delinquent and Rope, while nice, are not game-winning cards like Grunt or Hammers are. As a result, I feel like you can still win a vast majority of the games without them as you would with them. They are both quite powerful cards (Delinquent especially), and running them is still a great choice. This is mostly a preference thing.
As I mentioned earlier, you’ll notice the list isn’t really special in any way. That’s intentional: most of the best lists you’ll find for the decks you’re interested in are already out there, and if it ain’t broke, ya know? This is a blessing and a curse, because it puts creativity in deck building at odds with definitive results. I don’t personally see myself playing this deck unless I can get a lot more reps in with it, because I agree that its skill ceiling is quite high, and I don’t want to be caught off guard against more experienced players.
Episode III: Always two, there are: a master, and an apprentice.
This analogy doesn’t work too well, because Darkrai/Giratina came first and Yveltal second, but now Darkrai/Giratina can be viable again, so it’s back from the dead, but this doesn’t happen with regards to the Rule of Two, so … oh, whatever.
Leading up to Orlando, Darkrai/Giratina was the talk of the town among a lot of the game’s elite, and it showed up in force, the same list finishing with 3/8 spots for cut there. Since then, Yveltal has become more powerful than you can possibly imagine, and taken on a new apprentice: Darkrai/Giratina/Salamence. There, see, I did find a way to make the analogy work! Yes, Darkrai/Giratina has gained a new weapon in Salamence-EX, boosting what was once a close Volcanion matchup and helping against other EX-hungry decks. Before the order to exterminate all Fairy types had been given, Rainbow Road and Gardevoir helped keep the peace, which made things a little more difficult for a deck that relied on Dragons to boost their damage output. Now, Yveltal has crushed the Fairy plot to overthrow the format, and the Sith may once more rule the game.
Darkrai/Giratina/Salamence has an interesting matchup with Yveltal. While I definitely need to test this matchup more (take these as preliminary findings, as opposed to concrete data on the match), I don’t think it’s actually that bad for Darkrai/Giratina. This one is largely contingent on how many Yveltal BKT the Yveltal player has, and how much damage it/they can do before being dealt with. If the Yveltal split is 4/1 (EX/BKT), then Darkrai usually can get over the hump in a turn or two: it requires 6 Energy on board, but with Double Dragon and successful Max Elixir triggers, this is actually not as difficult to achieve as it sounds. Of course, Enhanced Hammer is a factor, but it definitely can be done. If the matchup is Darkrai-EX vs Yveltal-EX, then the apprentice may be able to overthrow its master: Darkrai does trade better, given that you only need two Energy on it, as opposed to the larger chunks that Yveltal requires.
Of course, tech Supporters and cards like Delinquent, Team Flare Grunt, Pokémon Center Lady, and Escape Rope all can have an effect on how this one goes, but generally speaking, I’d say it’s a little more in favor for Yveltal, though by no means unwinnable. Here’s what I’m working with so far:
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