Writing the last article before a major tournament is a delicate task. Writing the last article before the third major tournament in a historically well-defined format is, well, difficult. Let’s be real here: Yveltal-EX/Garbodor is alone on its perch above the rest of the game, and until something comes along to dethrone it, it’s not leaving. Even a seemingly direct counter like Zebstrika has failed to take hold as a viable deck in Standard. This is testament both to Yveltal’s ability to overcome even the most preeminent threat, and also to the strange durability of other decks in Standard. Yveltal is the leader, but others manage to gain a foothold.
I was an hour into writing this very article about Giratina ruining Greninja and clearing the way for Dark/Dragon concepts, sans Garbodor, but since that wild roller coaster only lasted that hour, I got to do a lot of backspacing. I now know how sports beat writers feel about last-minute comebacks. But, the fact that I’m yet again citing TPCi’s inept handling of promo cards as a factor in tournament life is telling itself …
In any event, forgive the relative brevity of today’s discussion to my normal pieces. I’ll be covering the same information as normal, but in a more bullet-point, regimented format. It’s not something I enjoy writing as much, but I know some prefer it to my normal narrative style, and it’s undoubtedly easier to do when Pokémon decides to invalidate my prior piece and I’m smack dab in the middle of pre-Dallas festivities, League Challenges included. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this vs my normal examination pieces.
Pretty much the only thing I can say for certain about this weekend right now? I won’t be playing Yveltal/Garbodor for Dallas. I don’t relish Expanded Yveltal mirror, let alone its much more gimmicky Standard counterpart. With that said, there isn’t a matchup as singularly important as the Yveltal one. If a deck can’t beat Yveltal, nobody should be considering it for this weekend. Period.
The last comparable phenomena to this was actually not too long ago. Night March was the hyped crème de la crème of Worlds, and yours truly took heat for devoting so much emphasis to Night March as a metagame force after it failed to achieve results at the event. But, anyone who played at Worlds would likely agree that it was a present force. It simply failed to attain success because it was countered out of relevance. All of the Top 4 decks possessed solid matchups against Night March.
Similarly, I would be unsurprised if Yveltal fails to take the top title this weekend. It may well be countered out of success, but its status as the preeminent BDIF means it’ll still see heavy play and be a frequent pick of top players — and it could still be totally successful. But, I personally don’t want to walk into a field of mirrors and counters.
So, today, I’m going to walk through where I’m at in the deck selection process. À la norm, I’m nowhere near a selection, but I do know the criteria I’m running through as I work toward Saturday. If not obvious, beating Yveltal is the foremost priority and my primary litmus test for a deck. This sort of format is where my typical spreadsheet approach loses value, as it’s difficult to mathematically represent the sheer importance of beating Yveltal without distorting the rest of the field entirely.
Without further ado, I’d like to walk through the decks I’m considering for Dallas. There are more ideas that I’m itching to try than I’ve had time to look at — or will have time to look at — and rather than inundate you with 15 lists, these are my favorite concepts at the moment.
At the moment, it’s barely clear what cards are even legal for this tournament (seriously though, Giratina XY184 is not legal until January 6th).
- Vileplume Toolbox
- M Mewtwo
- M Altaria
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 32
Energy – 9
- When it sets up, this is an incredible force that can run over almost anything. Unfortunately, on the flip side, when it fails to do so, things get ugly. Simply, not many decks can deal with a stream of cheap attacks coming from 170-HP monsters that can also dish out Ability-enabled snipe damage. Rough Seas is simply icing on the XL-sized cake. Seas has made its way back into my list to force Yveltal to come up with huge EXs to achieve anything effective and minimize their ability to Y Cyclone. Additionally, Faded Town isn’t nearly as necessary as it once was.
- This demolishes gimmick decks like Raticate or Houndoom Mill. It’s inherently difficult to disrupt a deck that attacks for one Energy whose attackers are all bulky and free retreat-enabled. One key: if you know you’re playing against a deck like that, feel free to mulligan away any Talonflame starts. Team Aqua’s Base tricks can only make its presence on your field a detriment.
- Similarly, even hard counters like Glaceon-EX can fall when faced with Giant Water Shuriken which makes this deck immune to any of the widely-played “wall-type counter” cards in game. With the ability to Ability Lock, it’s a highly dynamic foe that can win games in a number of ways.
- Here’s the problem with that bit about being dynamic: the deck is dreadful when it doesn’t set up. And, when you’re playing such a thick Pokémon line that relies on 90% presence in the deck, something is bound to go wrong a decent portion of the time.
- Garbodor is everywhere in this format. Simply, Ability Lock is such a omniscient threat that you must be ready to deal with it. This list tries through sheer durability using Rough Seas and Splash Energy. The problem is that Yveltal still possesses the means to easily burn through multiple BREAKs if care isn’t taken.
- And that leads us to the ultimate issue: while I strongly believe that Greninja’s Yveltal matchup is competitive, it’s not ironclad. Out of three series, I believe the best case sees Greninja winning two, but going 1-2 wouldn’t be inconceivable. It’s certainly a deck with potential when it runs hot, but you don’t always do so.
Faded Town: If you’re super worried about Megas, this would be the add. I’m not super worried about Megas, so I’m not going there.
4th Froakie: This is a somewhat controversial one, as many people tend to stick with 3 Froakie when using the Talonflame variant. Without getting into too much math, the 4th Froakie docks my Talonflame starts by about 5%. While this isn’t an insignificant figure, the importance of having 2 Froakie on Turn 1 can’t be understated. One way that Volcanion can makes these games a competition is Escape Rope’ing a lone Froakie on its T1 for a KO. This helps keep that from happening.
Team Flare Grunt/Enhanced Hammer: Two cards, one purpose: slow down that Yveltal. Alex Hill and I tested these a lot in Greninja prior to London, and while he didn’t elect to play the deck, these would’ve likely made the final list for their assistance in the crucial Dark matchup.
Eco Arm: On paper, this actually makes a lot of sense as an option over the 4th Bursting Balloon. In most circumstances, it’ll provide a 5th copy, and in the best, a 6th; but in few circumstances will it fail to yield at least the 4th. It’s something I’ll be messing around with over the next few days.
Vs. the Major Field
- Yveltal/Garbodor … Slightly Favorable
- Darkrai/Giratina/Garbodor … Slightly Favorable
- Greninja … Mirror (Even)
- Vespiquen/Zebstrika … Slightly Unfavorable
- Volcanion … Slightly Favorable
Broadly speaking, when it sets up and draws effectively, it will beat things. I have to use the adjective “slightly,” because it only does that so often.
This deck is an enigma unlike much else in the history of the game. When it sets up well, there is almost nothing most decks can do about it, and a loss will simply be a loss. But, getting it to set up is a chore, and Garbodor threatens to be a huge presence in Dallas. Additionally, you may or may not be aware — I’m trying to forget — that I played Greninja in San Jose last weekend to an unremarkable (ok, really, a remarkably terrible) finish. The “Greninja Factor” is something that just can’t be ignored.
Pokémon – 22
Trainers – 26
Energy – 12
- Vileplume is good for obvious reasons. Item Lock continues to be one of the most pervasive strategies in the game, and until Creatures finally decides it’s had enough, we’ll probably continue to see some iteration of it. The deck has some new options in the new promos we’ve received recently, and a friendly metagame centered around Yveltal-EX.
- Jolteon is something a lot of decks have trouble with, but normally if people are playing a counter, it’s very difficult to set up under Item Lock. This is a combo I’ve played to significant success over the last year, and I think it’s something that will continue to do so. Glaceon and Regice follow similar principles.
- There’re myriad strategies you can utilize with this deck. From mill (Beedrill + Bunnelby) to a straight lock, there’re so many things you can achieve. This manifests in the number of matchups it can win through off-the-wall concepts.
- With that great flexibility comes a scarily frequent inability to achieve anything at all. Sometimes, the deck just falls flat. Other times, it may achieve a partial setup of the strategy, but be unable to fully execute. These are possibly the worst games in a Best of 3 environment, because when you lose them, your chance of picking up 3 points off the match flies out the window too. Furthermore, sometimes you’ll have the perfect Ninja Boy play … and top-deck the Pokémon in question. Simply, some elements of the list are just super awkward to work around.
- Some Yveltal lists are teching heavy Enhanced, and if they’re able to get a Garbodor — and you’re not able to deal with it — that can spell trouble. For this reason, I’ve gone for a heavier basic Energy count in this list. It allows for greater flexibility, allows you to play to your outs more effectively, and is helpful against things like Giratina-EX and Enhanced.
- This isn’t something you should simply pick up and play. If you don’t have any prior experience with Vileplume Toolbox, we’re probably too close to the event for you to make any great transformation in that department, and I’d advise moving away from that. Furthermore, for our Junior/Seniors parents, this simply isn’t a deck I’d recommend for younger age groups. For one thing, there are an overwhelming plethora of options to consider, which can lead to subpar play. More importantly, though: with a less predictable metagame, it’s hard to arrive at an appropriate list that doesn’t risk exposure to some of the “random” concepts that can see play at younger age levels. I certainly wouldn’t consider this in Juniors, and only mildly would do so in Seniors.
To be honest, there are too many techs to list here. Trevenant-EX, Togekiss-EX, Sableye AOR, Houndoom-EX, and Latios-EX ROS are just some of the options I’ve heard floated over the last few months as partners in Vileplume Toolbox. Some of my favorites: Float Stone, extra copies of important Pokémon, extra search (like Level Ball), and Misty’s Determination. Cuts? Ugh … where to start? Probably a basic Energy or Regice.
Snorlax-GX merits special mention for its unique potential dynamic as an option in the deck. The deck generally lacks a reliable OHKO option, which this adds. Of course, it’s only a single use, but it’s broadly something to consider. Ironically, I can’t really tell when it’s legal for play, but I believe it’s this Friday …
Vs. the Major Field
- Yveltal/Garbodor … Favorable
- Darkrai/Giratina/Garbodor … Slightly Favorable
- Greninja … Favorable
- Vespiquen/Zebstrika … Favorable
- Volcanion … Unfavorable
Notes: Jirachi/heavy basic Energy puts in work against Giratina, while Beedrill shreds Greninja’s early-game board to the point that a Glaceon should be able to sweep in the remainder of the game. Volcanion, if the list is prepared and the player is competent, is a downright ugly matchup from my perspective, which is somewhat of an issue to take pause at. It’s certainly discomforting if nothing else. Unfortunately, the format lacks good Water types to counter Volcanion.
Item Lock wins games, but hands of Pokémon and Energy don’t. This deck will gladly provide doses of both, but the key to success is that the former outnumbers the latter. I’m hesitant, but don’t doubt this will be a consideration when it comes down to decision time Friday night. The sheer number options at hand is too good to pass up considering.
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