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 topdeck 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 1HKO 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.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 36
Energy – 11
- The raw damage output is 100% unparalleled. Nothing else in the game is currently as good at eliminating opposing threats as M Mewtwo, and Garbodor keeps some of the things that rival it — like Greninja — at bay. It also does so for relatively minimal resource investment, and plays well off Yveltal and others’ Energy investment-heavy approach. Furthermore, unlike most Mega decks, which can have an issue with Fright Night Yveltal, this has Garbodor to enable easy Mega Evolution.
- This list focuses on a healing and durability approach, which is meant to emphasize its strengths against Yveltal. Moreover, it’s a helpful approach against things like Greninja and Volcanion that won’t be 1HKOing a M Mewtwo anytime — with Garbodor in play, anyway.
- This boasts what I believe are the strongest matchups against the rest of the non-Yveltal field of the decks that I’ll present today. In comparison to the other decks, it boasts a strong chance of beating things like Volcanion, Greninja, and Vespiquen. Overall, I believe this makes it a strong consideration for Dallas Regionals.
- Fundamentally, consistency is less than I’d like from the concept. Looking at the this list is likely to be pretty self-explanatory in that regard. While it has the potential to have excellent Turn 1s, starting Hoopa or Shaymin can be detrimental, as it hinders the options you have available for establishing a board. Furthermore, missing Trubbish on Turn 1 can create a difficult situation against a good number of matchups.
- Should now-fringe concepts like M Gardevoir STS or Colorless M Rayquaza-EX fight their way back into relevance this weekend, it’d create an uncomfortably poor environment for Mewtwo. I’ve heard some rumblings of M Gardevoir making a resurgence — with Fairy Drop healing to beat Yveltal. For one thing, these rumblings aren’t yet coming from corners that cause my concern, nor do I believe them especially serious. Even more importantly, I’m very far from convinced that anything can be done to make M Gardevoir reliably beat Yveltal. At some point, its inability to 1HKO Yveltals with Fighting Fury Belt and the unsustainable nature of big damage in the face of Garbodor have to catch up with it.
- Prize cards can be an issue with such a tight list. The list tries to do a lot, which sometimes leads to it being punished for having skeleton lines of essential things like Mewtwo-EX. I’d definitely like to add a 4th copy, but as you can probably see, space is definitely at a premium. Fairy Garden is something I’ve considered cutting, but I’m hesitant to only play Parallel City and would probably need to see a different Stadium added to the list — which doesn’t help the crunch at all.
There’s a lot that can be done here, and a lot I’ve already tried. For one thing, there’s the Fairy suite that definitely isn’t conventional in M Mewtwo concepts. I haven’t found Damage Change to be particularly transformative in any one matchup, and the healing concept has allowed me to continue being aggressive while keeping my Mewtwos alive.
1 P Energy: This probably strikes you as a bit weird, but with the choice of Mewtwo-EX EVO as my pre-evolution feature, it has a lot of hidden utility. In certain game states, like against Greninja and Vileplume Toolbox, Regeneration can be a very useful stall tactic. The P Energy can be willed from the discard easily with Energy Absorption, and also is relevant for the use of Psyburn as well. Psyburn acts as a Glaceon-EX counter while also providing a last-ditch way to take 2 Prizes, as 110 is the perfect number for Shaymin-EX elimination.
4th Mewtwo-EX: This is the 61st card right now for sure. The boon to setup consistency would be significant, and it would help insure against bad Prizes as well. We started with a 4th copy in the list before cutting it for the Super Rod (which was to provide broader prizing coverage for the Garbodor line, the Basic, and the Mega).
3rd N: More draw is always better than less draw, but the inevitable problem of space is a limiting factor in making room for more here. Unfortunately, Standard has quietly slipped into a place where useful Supporters are few and far between, so N is the only truly viable option we have at the moment for such an addition.
Pokémon Ranger: This would be an interesting addition to help counteract Giratina, Regice, or similar issues. It or Hex Maniac will probably make their way into this list at some point, but — stop me if you’ve heard this before — space is tight. I increasingly believe Darkrai/Giratina will play a large role in this event, so Ranger is definitely something I’ll be considering.
Vs. the Major Field
- Yveltal/Garbodor … Favorable
- Darkrai/Giratina … Favorable
- Greninja … Favorable
- Vespiquen/Zebstrika … Slightly Favorable (highly dependent on the speed with which Garbodor is set up)
- Volcanion … Slightly Favorable/Favorable
This is my current top pick for Regionals, and the sheer power is the reason why. Inconsistency can reign, but I could write that about almost every deck in Standard. The healing/Fairy suite adds a new dimension to the list, and while determining its exact role and use in the deck is still a work in progress, I really like how it’s been working out in my testing.
Dallas League Challenge Report
I’m not normally much for tournaments recaps at all, let alone League Challenge reports, but I believe there’s special relevance today: I played this list today at a League Challenge in the Dallas area, part of the mini-Marathon of TCG and VGC events leading up to Dallas Regionals. Unfortunately, it was not a League Cup, but I hope to lend some perspective on how the deck can perform in an actual tournament environment.
Dallas League Challenge // 24 Masters
R1 Darkrai/Giratina (W)
R2 Yveltal/Garbodor (L)
R3 Vespiquen/Zebstrika (W)
R4 Volcanion (W)
R5 M Gardevoir STS (L)
In addition, two other members of my family played the deck today as well. Between the three of us, we netted the following results:
M Mewtwo @ Dallas LC
M Altaria-EX: 1-0
M Gardevoir-EX: 0-2
(60-card Mirror: 1-1)
amzn.toIn my Round 1, the deck operated smoothly despite prizing Hoopa. My hand was absolute perfection for a Hoopa-enabled setup, but instead I had to settle for a Shaymin and hope to draw into a Mewtwo to complement my DCE and Spirit Link. I fortunately found an Ultra Ball, and completed my Turn 1 with an Energy Absorption to leave my Mewtwo with two DCE. I found a 5th Energy and Mega Turbo the following turn, and rolled her relative dead-draw field.
My 2nd Round wasn’t quite as fortunate, as friend Pearce Blend hit me with a Turn 1 Pitch-Black Spear. I was unable to respond quickly enough due to Fright Night and an early lack of Garbotoxin, and I took the loss in a matchup I believe is winnable under most circumstances.
Rounds 3/4 featured standard setups with good matchups, and my 5th Round was a matchup that simply isn’t going to be won. It was interesting to see Gardevoir doing so well, and I mostly blame that on a lack of Yveltal in the room.
My brother went 4-0 before also losing to Pearce Blend’s Yveltal in a match where he prized two Mega Mewtwo. It happens, and is one of the potential pitfalls of the deck. Despite these results, I still believe the matchup is favorable based on my wealth of testing.
. . .
The results may not have been exactly what I envisioned, and perhaps I’ll be building Gardevoir later this afternoon for consideration of its own, but I’m still confident in the deck. I’m planning on playing it at least one more tournament tomorrow, and will definitely still be considering it for Saturday.
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 36
Energy – 10
- This list may look very similar to my M Mewtwo list, and that’s because the concepts are much the same. This trades the big power/1HKO potential of M Mewtwo for insane amounts of healing. Imagine cycling two of these against Dark. What play, exactly, can a Yveltal player make? Their options get very limited very quickly.
- Healing with Garbodor is an inherently powerful combination in this Standard format. Many decks rely on Abilities to augment their damage output, and certain decks can be completely stopped with this combination.
- Surprise! No, but seriously, the fact that your opponent could be reading your main attacker isn’t something to ignore. It’s not going to carry you, but I guarantee few people will have tested against such a concept.
- 130 damage isn’t an especially overwhelming amount. In fact, it’s relatively pitiful, and somewhat difficult to close out games with. This is especially troublesome in Best of 3, where slow games are often punished with ties. To be totally upfront, this is probably the single biggest reason I won’t play this deck on Saturday. It’s here because I hear hype for it, and want to at least provide our readers with something to test against to lessen the surprise factor if you come across it in a tournament environment.
- Needing a Special Energy is somewhat gimmicky. And by somewhat gimmicky, I mean very gimmicky. The deck only does something when it has one, and I’ve contemplated things like Wonder Energy. The problem with Wonder is that the basic Altaria-EX is Colorless for some reason, making it a super niche use. I’ve included Special Charge to help alleviate this, but it’s still problematic.
- In most games I play with this, one hand or another turns out to be totally awkward — usually, a bad Sycamore or an N for 3 cards where I need two specific things. It’s a dysfunctional concept at its base.
I’ll repeat myself from above: in no way am I advocating that you should play this deck, only that you should test against it, as I’m hearing discussion of it from some interesting places. It certainly has the potential to beat Yveltal, though, so if you plan on hitting 9 in a row, who knows?
I’ve not really put enough thought into tech options, because I don’t think this deck is anything more than an aspect of a testing gauntlet. With that said, when it sets up, I believe it’ll theoretically beat Greninja. Volcanion, on the other hand, will likely be fairly sketchy no matter what happens. Altaria will certainly be outsped, and unlike Mewtwo, doesn’t possess a comeback 1HKO option. I imagine it’d have a decent shot against Vespiquen and Giratina concepts, but like I said — don’t worry about it unless you’re considering those concepts yourself.
Sketchy deck is sketchy, meaning you don’t want to play it. But, I’ve heard from people that do want to play it, and it’s something you probably want to be familiar playing against if nothing else.
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 37
Energy – 12
- Nothing is quite as consistent as Volcanion is. Furthermore, it deals significant damage in insignificant time, meaning many decks simply can fall under the speed pressure it induces. It has space for things like excessive switch card and Energy counts, providing a level of consistency and flexibility not found in many other decks.
- That consistency means it has the ability to beat many of the less consistent decks in the format on its setup alone. Seemingly-bad matchups can be turned around on the basis of relentless speed and hefty damage output. There’s something about a simple strategy that allows its repeated precise execution.
- This effectively deals with more “random” decks. You know the type. M Gardevoir-EX PRC, Houndoom, etc. — the things that can make early rounds of a tournament a landmine of chaos.
- For all I said about its flexibility, the strategy is pretty linear compared to the other decks I’ve highlighted today. That’s not all bad, but you’re certainly not about to dish out anything unexpected with this deck. Linearity is something many top players look to avoid, but sometimes the sheer power of a deck makes it worthwhile.
- I’m not sure there’s been a single deck in recent history with quite so much of a vocal hate-corp. There’s a contingent of players that simply refuse to acknowledge any potential this deck has to be successful, and I’m not quite sure why. One of the points of contention: its Yveltal matchup. I believe this list has the potential to take a majority of its series against Yveltal, but others may disagree.
- Greninja may be well positioned, which is bad news. It’s not an explicitly awful matchup, but it’s not something that any Volcanion player relishes playing against either.
Heavy Energy and heavy Elixir is 100% the way to play this right now. There’s simply not a better option available, and this list aims to take advantage of that.
Entei AOR 14: A non-EX that attacks for two Energy for medium–heavy damage. It’s not extraordinary, but can put in solid work.
Extra Fighting Fury Belt: More HP is always better, especially against things like Yveltal and Vespiquen. There’s not really space readily apparent for this sort of thing, though, so I’m currently sticking with two.
Vs. the Major Field
- Yveltal/Garbodor … Slightly Favorable
- Darkrai/Giratina … Favorable sans Garbodor, slightly Favorable–Even with Garb
- Greninja … Slightly Unfavorable
- Vespiquen/Zebstrika … Favorable
- Volcanion … Mirror (Even)
Powerful, fast, and durable, this is a solid play. Yveltal can be hairy, and I’m still working on ways to further improve the matchup, but I definitely know it’s a deck I’m considering for Dallas on Saturday. I especially recommend this for Junior players, as its linearity isn’t nearly as much of a drawback as a plus in that age group under most circumstances.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the bullet-point style analysis I’ve provided today and that it helps you in your decision making process for Dallas. I believe many players’ minds are already made up, so if nothing else, I hope this helps you in thinking through your approach to various matchups.
If you have any thoughts on how this turned out compared to my normal article style, I’d love to hear them. Moreover, if you have any questions about any of the decks I’ve presented, I’m glad to address them as well. Otherwise, perhaps I’ll see you at an event soon!
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