A Baleful Night

Meditations on a Just-Short Season, A Look at Yveltal, and Final Notes

Hello once again everyone! This past season has finally come to an end, and while many players are breathing a huge sigh of relief, I cannot help but look past on it all as a litany of mistakes on my own behalf. Many of my friends and fellow writers spent most of the season grinding away, traveling each and every weekend in an attempt to achieve something greater. Seeing the success of my peers is always so motivating to me and I’m sure such successes are even more rewarding for those who personally achieved them. Over the past year, I have had the pleasure and joy at watching many newer or slightly unknown players really come into their and I could not be happier to see a new guard continue to push older players such as myself out of the forefront and create a better game and community.

The punchline to all of this thought is that I unfortunately did not achieve my invite the past year. I ended up going 5-4 at the North American Internationals Championship. Had I won round 9, I would’ve ended 6-3 which would have gotten me that Top 256 finish to end it all but alas, I had a strange day of ever stranger matchups and could not quite seal the deal. I will talk more about what I played in a later section, but this final stumble on my part has forced me to do lots of reflection and introspection. For those unaware, I have been playing Pokémon competitively for over nine years now and have qualified for every World Championship since 2011. Falling short this year ends my seven year streak and while I have written a number of times that I would not call myself a top player anymore, I do not want to see this incident as the final chapter in my story as a competitive player.

Since Columbus, I have been fielding many questions about what comes next for me and I think it would be easy to lookback on my season this past year and make excuses. I could block out many of the things that happened and simply say that I did not play enough events and had I played a little more, I surely would have earned my invite. In some ways, there is some truth to this, but I think it would be foolish to see it as the exclusive problem. Across all four quarters of League Cups, I only placed 4 Cups in total (with two League Challenges), and so naturally if I had gone to a few more of these, I could’ve been closer and closer to my invite. In addition to this, I only attended Dallas, Collinsville and Madison Regionals, and had reasonable performances at all of them except Madison. Had I gone to more Regionals, maybe the invite would’ve come even easier for me.

However, the fact that I chose to go to less events was a decision I consciously made, and seeing it as the only problem in this failure of mine would be nothing more than an excuse. Hindsight is always 20/20, but had I played above and beyond expectations at 100% of the events I attended, then I still would’ve earned the appropriate amount of points to participate in Worlds this year. It is important to always examine ourselves closer and find the real culprits for our failings. It is easy to try and scour for any excuse and prop that up as the real enemy. “I just got unlucky” or “I hit all the wrong matchups” instead of just examining every game you played and discovering that you could’ve won more of them if you had played more intelligently.

I know for a fact that every event I attended this year where I fell short of my own expectations, I threw at least 1-2 series (per event) by making a small error, playing too slowly or not conceding a game fast enough, and it is these sorts of issues that we need to address in order to become better—and not use small, semantical concerns to justify a poor performance. I think this is something that many players overlook and it is that the hard, real decisions the game requires to make are so miniscule that we often miss them entirely or certainly do not understand their impact. The difference in plays that set my decisions apart from Tord or Igor’s are likely very tin, and perhaps only matter a small percentage of the time, but it is in that small percent when made correctly every time that keeps Tord and Igor at the very top and players like me deep in the rungs of the average player.

I know deep down that I still want to be the best player I can possibly be, and it is my intention to take this desire with me into the next season. I think many people in these very circumstances could use this final stumble to justify quitting entirely or using it to begin playing even less, but I just do not want to see it like that. Everyone who is the very best in their respective field or enterprise stumbles and has trouble evaluating their self-worth, and it is only the foolish who never consider that they could be wrong and see all their hardships (at least in terms of playing Pokémon competitively) as bad luck or bad timing. I know I can be a better player and perhaps more importantly, I want to be that better player and I hope everyone is still willing to stick with me through this next season as I plan to go at with everything I have! With that in mind, my preparations for the World Championships have already begun, and while I will not be competing this year, winning the Nashville Open would be a great pick-me-up to start the year!

Old Yveltal, New Tricks

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Yveltal BREAK was one of the surprise stars in Columbus this year. I recall the card being incredibly hyped upon release, promising to make Yveltal-EX even more powerful in Expanded but the card never quite took off. The concept for an Yveltal BREAK deck was brought to my attention a few weeks before Columbus by Travis Nunlist and Singapore’s own Clifton Goh, but I would be lying if I said I ever took it totally seriously. The idea behind the deck seemed lackluster at best and there was no obvious synergy to explain for it. Yveltal is simply a powerful one-prize attacker that had resistance to Fighting and could prove difficult for Zoroark-GX to kill.

The Darkness typing allowed us to splash Hoopa in the deck to attempt to win a few matchups through Safeguard alone and the rest of the cards were added to continue dealing with the Buzzwole threat and make Baleful Night as effective as possible. None of these ideas ever felt totally complementary and I usually tried to explain the deck as Quad (or Attacking) Hoopa remade in order to have a fighting chance against an army of baby Buzzwole. Hoopa itself was very good against a variety of decks and most convenient answers for it (included in Malamar and Zoroark-GX lists) were weak to Psychic and could be answered by Mewtwo and so many matchups play out by trying to bait out their Hoopa answer and knocking it out with your Yveltals and Mewtwos and then resuming the Hoopa wall strategy.

As wacky or as ludicrous as all of this sounds, my small group of friends tested the deck relentlessly in the final days leading up to the North American International Championship and it kept winning all of these scrappy games. It was never super convincing, and I do not believe any of us thought it to be some “broken deck” or rogue cure-all that “solved” the format, but it was undoubtedly powerful and I felt somewhat confident about the decision to play for the last and biggest tournament of the year. Here is the list that myself, Travis and Dustin Zimmerman all played:

Pokémon – 15

3 Yveltal XY

1 Yveltal SLG

2 Yveltal BREAK

2 Hoopa SLG

2 Tapu Koko SM31

2 Mewtwo EVO

1 Latios SLG

1 Oranguru SUM

1 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainers – 31

4 Professor Sycamore

4 N

4 Guzma

3 Cynthia

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Max Elixir

3 Choice Band

2 Float Stone

1 Super Rod

 

2 Parallel City

Energy – 14

10 Darkness

4 Double Colorless

Aaron Tarbell, who had the most success out of any of us, losing to Tord in the Top 8, made some last minute changes unbeknownst to our group—removing one copy of Parallel City and one copy of Tapu Koko for two Enhanced Hammer. I am not totally sold on either of those changes, but do know that Enhanced Hammer probably would have salvaged 1-2 of my losses, which could’ve made the difference between going 5-4 or 7-2, so I would definitely consider adding them moving forward.

The list went through so many different permutations over such a short time frame that you very easily could have been looking at an entirely different deck had you received a list even hours beforehand but most of the above list is absolutely the “core” of the deck. Not quite a spread deck and not quite a Hoopa deck but somewhere in between, Yveltal finds its way to win odd games and grind your opponent out. I think one of the main strengths of this deck and an often overlooked idea in the game in general is that forcing your opponent to take six prizes can be very taxing on them and gives you plenty of time to miss an energy drop or key supporter without immediately losing the game.

Depending on the way the meta-game shapes up for Nashville, I believe this deck is still very powerful and should be well-positioned against most of the new cards vying for power out of Celestial Storm. Here is the first list I’ll be testing once the new set drops:

Pokémon – 14

3 Yveltal XY

1 Yveltal SLG

2 Yveltal BREAK

2 Hoopa SLG

1 Tapu Koko SM31

2 Mewtwo EVO

1 Latios SLG

1 Oranguru SUM

1 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Sycamore

4 N

4 Guzma

3 Cynthia

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Max Elixir

2 Choice Band

2 Float Stone

1 Super Rod

 

3 Shrine of Punishment

1 Parallel City

Energy – 14

10 Dark

4 Double Colorless

Not a whole lot has changed about this list with the release of the new set, but I do not think that is necessarily a bad thing. One of the more interesting facts about Yveltal as a deck is that it’s been legal for almost the entirety of the season, and yet we only decided to give it a chance this July. A running joke between Travis and I is that it was not necessarily the correct play for the North American International Championship, but it would have been unbeatable in Latin America earlier in the year. Had we been able to catch the format at a time before the release of Baby Buzzwole, I think it would have been close to unstoppable, but I digress.

The core strategy of the deck remains the same. Use Hoopa to bother most decks and then try to set up multiple Yveltal to sweep the things that are able to deal with multiple Hoopa with Mewtwo and company still waiting in the wings to make swift work of various Hoopa counters. The main boon to the deck is obviously our new stadium card and currently, I am not sure any deck that currently exists is able to take more advantage of Shrine of Punishments. Shrine of Punishment is obviously at its best when there are little to no GX Pokémon in the deck and with only one (notably optional) Tapu Lele-GX in this list, I think it will do wonders for this deck.

At times, my group and I really contemplated trying to make Reverse Valley work, but ultimately decided that it had minimal benefits. Shrine of Punishment and Reverse Valley do somewhat similar things, but the former gets better and better if it is able to stick for multiple turns, while Reverse Valley is mostly unnecessary outside of being able to OHKO a fresh baby Buzzwole.

The more damage that is on the board, the better Baleful Night becomes and while I have always been hesitant to think of our deck as a spread deck, the benefit of Shrine of Punishment does make me feel a little more positively about such label.

Beyond this singular new card, I think much of the deck’s advantage in the format is simply a result of being ignored once again. No one played the deck at the SPE in Valencia despite it having shown clear promise in Columbus. The presence of both Tord’s Zoroark deck and Zoroark-GX/Garbodor are somewhat troubling for the deck but I do not think either matchup are drastically unfavorable. Adding Resource Management Oranguru can easily help against both of these deck, but I tested quite a bit against Zoroark-GX/Garbodor the night before the NAIC and found it to be fairly even with the list as is.

As the Yveltal player, you can control how much damage the Zoroark-GX (through Parallel City) and Garbodor (through item management) are able to do to you and so as long as you keep your items below seven, Trashalanche is never able to OHKO your Hoopa which you will want to be attacking with for the majority of the game. Garbotoxin is thusly the main threat and your priority should always be to KO it (and Trubbish) when available. Adding Oranguru to your deck further lets you control Trashalanche’s damage and ought to prevent Tord’s deck from ever being able to deck you out.

I plan on testing this deck more and more for the Nashville Open, but I have high hopes for it. Playing a deck that is mostly ignored by the community will always have its benefits. The surprise factor and knowledge over your opponent’s lists (while they lack knowledge on yours) is always advantageous. I think many of the new and hyped cards out of Celestial Storm continue to do very little against Hoopa and I think if decks like Rayquaza-GX prove to be more viable than expected, then Yveltal will have yet another positive matchup on the board.

My main concern for the deck is whether or not anyone is able to crack the code with Stakataka-GX.

In theory, it is an incredibly powerful card with an even better ability but I am not sure it has enough tools to be a big enough threat. If it is, then this deck (and any other deck with minimal or controllable damage output) will be demolished. I have not begun to try anything with the card but I suspect that going full metal with Stakataka-GX will be stronger than trying to combine it with Nagandel-GX or any of the other Beast Box lists from last format.

Closing Thoughts

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The current format has me very excited, and I think that the World Championships will once again yield new and surprising archetypes that many of us (likely the American community, compared to others) will have overlooked. It does pain me in some capacity not to be competing this year but I plan on making up for that by giving the Open my all and carrying that fire into the next season.

The Expanded bans, additionally, have made the upcoming season look all the more promising and now I just need to see if there will be any changes made to the current invite structure before I make my final call on how to play next season. Like many, I am happy that TPCi made some changes and my only hope is that they will continue to make these positive changes rather than waiting until it is almost too late.

The final punchline of this article, and even my tenure here at Six Prizes is that this piece will be my last contribution for the conceivable future. Before any rumors emerge, I was not asked to leave, and certainly believe my status here would have been maintained without my invite to Worlds this year, but ultimately I have decided to pursue other opportunities within the game and have no doubt that my place will be replaced by a fully competent player and writer. I have been a writer here for over four years and would like to believe that my work has made some tangible impact in the world but this is not a goodbye. I will still be playing, writing, and competing as much as I can and I couldn’t be more thankful that I was able to detail so much of my career on this site. I wish everyone here nothing but the best in the future, and of course:

Until next time!


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