User blog

Kevin Baxter

Virginia Regionals Report and Tips for Improving Technical Play

Kevin shares his 2nd place Virginia Regionals experience and provides tips for technically sound play using both Vespiquen/Flareon in Expanded and Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade in Standard.

02/19/2016 by Kevin Baxter

Hello 60cards readers!  It has been a long time since my last article, but I am very excited to get back to writing and share my thoughts with you all.  My disappointing showing at Worlds last year has made me want to get back and try again next year.  Once again I will be chasing the Top 16 U.S. & Canada rankings (assuming that earns a Day 2 bye again this year).  I look forward to competing at a high level again this year and sharing my journey with you through articles.

My season so far has been more successful than any of my other seasons up to this point in the year.  The past couple years I have struggled at regionals until late winter and spring, but this year I managed to place 2nd at the first week of winter regionals.  This builds on my city championships run of three 1st places and one 2nd place, some league challenge points, and my 40 worlds points from 2015.  So in total, I am currently sitting at 417 championship points which at this point is in the Top 16 U.S. & Canada.  Hopefully I can have a few more good performances and achieve that goal by the end of the year. 

So how did I get to this point?  Well, in this article I will be focusing on the two decks which I have had success with: Vespiquen/Flareon/Gallade in Expanded, and Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade in Standard.  My intention is for this article to be useful both to players with Expanded regionals this weekend and players who are participating in the ECC.  However, instead of just looking at the lists and talking about card choices, I will delve into the intricacies of piloting them correctly.  There are many small decisions that have to be made with these decks which may seem insignificant, but can have lasting effects on the outcomes of games.  A lot of these concepts will transfer over to other decks and future formats, so it is a good habit to get into playing technically sound.  But first, I will give a report of my experience at Virginia regionals. 

Virginia Regionals

For the third year in a row, I have had a poor showing at Fall regionals.  At these tournaments, I tried to play anti-meta decks that I thought would have good matchups against the top decks.  I played Regice/Aegislash EX/Vileplume in Lancaster, PA and I played Mega Manectric EX/Landorus EX at Fort Wayne, IN.  Unfortunately, these decks were a little inconsistent and ended up being mediocre metagame choices for their respective events.  With the Vileplume deck, I was having trouble getting the turn one Vileplume despite running a thick line and four copies of Forest of Giant Plants.  I dropped from the tournament after the fourth round and it was probably one of my worst tournaments to date.  In Fort Wayne, I actually continued playing once I was mathematically eliminated from Day 2 and I finished with a 4-4-1 record.  Some of my losses were due to slow starts that came with trying to do too many things in one list.  I also ran into a couple matchups that I was not expecting to see at the tournament like Archie’s Blastoise after Ghetsis and Hex Maniac had grown hugely in popularity.  The deck was not all that terrible though, because Dustin Zimmerman played the same list as me and finished in the Top 16. 

Looking back on these tournaments, I decided that playing an anti-meta deck was not going to work for me at the winter regional championships.  For this reason, I was focused on playing one of the tier one decks that had proven success.  When cities ended and my attention turned toward Expanded, I settled on testing Yveltal EX and Vespiquen/Flareon decks because of their placing during the Fall.  I have had plenty of experience in the past playing Yveltal EX decks, so I spent most of my time playtesting Vespiquen/Flareon.  I knew it had a steep learning curve and I would need to get used to playing the deck if I was going to bring it to regionals. 

I started off by looking at the lists that had done well a Fall regionals and thinking about any updates that I should make.  After my success in Standard with Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick and Gallade, I wanted to see if I could fit that combination into a Vespiquen deck.  I was convinced it should work pretty well because the Flareon decks that were played last year included Archie’s Ace in the Hole and Empoleon.  Both Gallade and Empoleon provide consistency in the form of an ability and have an energy-efficient attack.  However, Gallade seemed to be one step above Empoleon in both of those categories.  So my first list for the deck basically just replaced one Pokémon and one supporter from the old lists with a 1-1 Maxie’s Gallade. 

I began playtesting the deck with my friend, Carl Scheu to prepare for Virginia regionals.  The first couple times we just played my list against Yveltal so that I could get a feel for the deck.  Once I started winning consistently, we decided to both work more on the Vespiquen deck.  He then built a version that was way more teched out than my list and it had things like Exeggcute and Ghetsis in addition to the cards that ended up making our final list.  In playtesting the mirror, we realized that a key to the matchup was Life Dew.  If one player was forced to knock out a Pokémon with Life Dew on it while the other did not, they would lose.  This was the reasoning for including a Xerosic, and it also had uses in other matchups like discarding Focus Sashes or Double Colorless Energy.  We ended up merging our two lists into one that we felt was consistent enough to set up reliably but also had the techs needed to gain an edge versus the main decks of the format.  Here it is:

I felt very confident against the top tier of decks with this list.  It has answers to Yveltal, Archeops, Seismitoad, Mirror, and more.  The things I didn’t want to run into included Sableye/Garbodor and fast Giratina EX decks, but I didn’t expect those to be too popular.  Now I’ll get into the tournament itself.  I am not particularly good at remembering every detail about every match, so I’ll just give an overview of my rounds. 

Round 1: Kevin Kobayashi with Seismitoad EX/Landorus EX/Crobat

Kevin is a friend of mine and it is never fun to have to play against a friend, especially early on in the tournament.  I didn’t know exactly what he was playing, but I knew he had a history of playing many Seismitoad decks, so it didn’t surprise me to see one that day.  The first game I had a hand with a Juniper and three DCE and nothing useful to attach them to.  I stayed in the game for a couple turns to see if I could topdeck an N or something, but after he took 3 prizes, I just scooped the game.  The second game was much closer and I managed to get down to 2 prizes left, but the snipe damage from Landorus EX was too much for me to overcome and I lost the match.  I’ve had several tournaments where I take a loss in the first couple rounds and still make the cut, but it’s definitely more stressful.


Round 2: Erin Parry with Lucario EX/Seismitoad EX/Garbodor

This was probably the fastest finishing round I had in the tournament.  She had poor draws both games and I won pretty quickly.  In the second game, I even hit 180 damage with Bee Revenge on my second turn.  This round helped me get confidence back that I could still make a run for Day 2. 


Round 3: Bradley Wise with Yveltal EX/Maxie’s

My rounds versus Yveltal kind of run together in my mind a bit, but I’m pretty sure both of our games went similarly.  He was able to get out his Archeops, but I responded with a Maxie of my own to get out Gallade.  Over the next couple turns I sent Wobbuffet active so I could evolve into my attackers.  At that point, the prize trade is in my favor as my non-EX’s knock out his EX’s. 


Round 4: Alex Fusco with Yveltal EX/Mega Manectric EX

I was happy to see another dark deck since it’s what I practiced the most against in testing.  In the first couple turns, he benched a Manectric EX with a Spirit Link and I knew that I would be even more favored against this version.  Gallade basically wins a game by itself and then in the other game I get enough Pokémon in the discard to one shot his Mega Manectric. 


Round 5: Jimmy McClure with Yveltal EX/Maxie’s

I knew it was only a matter of time before I would see another familiar face.  Jimmy beat me when we played at Nationals last year, so I was hoping to get even with him.  I was pretty sure he’d be playing some form of Yveltal, but I was not sure which one he decided on until he used Battle Compressor to discard an Archeops and a Maxie’s.  Both of our first two games were close.  In one of them he got out Archeops and I couldn’t stream enough attackers to keep up with his constant knockouts.  In the other game, he whiffed the Maxie’s and I was able to play my normal gameplan.  Our first two games took long enough that we only got about half way through the third game before time was called.  The game honestly could have gone either way from that point and we ended up tying.


Round 6: Jason Greenberg with Seismitoad EX/Crobat

For some reason, I really can’t remember many details about this round.  The games were pretty long and I think we each won the game that we went first.  Anyway, we didn’t get very far into our third game, so this round ended in another tie.


Round 7: Andrew Ramey with Vespiquen/Flareon

Another friend!  I was really annoyed that I had to face another friend at this point because I knew that a loss would knock either of us out of the tournament.  When I saw that he was also playing Vespiquen, I felt comfortable that my techs would put me ahead in the mirror since his list seemed to be close to the Fall lists.  I believe I got turn one Gallade in both games which is a big advantage.  I won the first game, but it took a while because the mirror is just trading one prize attackers.  In the second game, he opened with a pretty poor draw.  I played a Juniper instead of an N even though I had to discard a DCE and a couple other resources because I wanted to capitalize on his slow start.  Within a couple turns he drew into a Juniper and got back into the game.  I was worried that my aggressive start would run out of gas toward the end as he was able to N me a couple times.  In the end, the game came down to one final turn where I needed to draw into a Lysandre to win.  I thinned my deck to 2 cards, one of which was the Lysandre.  If I drew it on my next turn, I would win and if I didn’t, he would win.  Lucky for me, the top card was indeed Lysandre and I won the match.


Round 8: Chris Murray with Raikou/Eelektrik

I had heard that there were several Eelektrik decks doing well, but I didn’t know much about the list, so I was unsure what to expect in this match.  It turns out that the matchup plays very similarly to a mirror match, but the Eels deck is slightly slower to get set up and going first is a big deal.  Also, if I get a Gallade out, that can swing the game heavily in my favor.  Anyway, the first game, I got Gallade and took a strong lead.  He scooped pretty quickly.  The second game, I had a much slower start and he had four Tynamo down on his first turn.  I stayed in the game thinking I could possibly use N to make a comeback, but eventually he got too far ahead to me to recover from.  In the third game, I get another fast start with a turn one Gallade.  His start was pretty average and I take control early.  I was clearly going to win the game, but I knew time was getting close, so I tried to speed up my play.  Unfortunately, time was called right after I had attacked to take my fourth prize and before he drew his card.  It seemed to me at the time that he was moving more slowly than normal, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it at that point.  I had the game on board if time had lasted one more turn, so I was pretty mad about not getting a win out of that round.  I didn’t think my resistance would be good enough to make Day 2 with 18 match points.


Round 9: Jacob Tolliver with Mega Manectric/Garbodor

I tried to not let myself go on tilt before this round because I technically was still alive if my previous opponents got a few more wins.  We had a nice conversation and he told me this was his first major tournament.  My deck is pretty heavily favored against Manectric, especially if I get Gallade out, so I felt like I should have good odds of winning.  Game one went as planned, knocking out EX’s quickly.  Game two however, I had a very slow start and was swept by a Mega Manectric.  The third game was very close since he was able to get good mileage out of his Tool Drop Trubbishes.  It went down to the wire where I had one Flareon left on board and needed to topdeck either my last DCE or one of two VS Seeker to use Blacksmith.  If I didn’t draw either of those I would lose, but luck fell my way again and I drew into a VS Seeker for game. 


I was relieved to finish with 18 match points because that was the bubble for making Day 2, but I was still pessimistic about my resistance.  Thankfully, I managed to squeak in at the 31st seed and continue on in the tournament.  I knew that I would need to go 4-1 during Day 2 to make Top 8, so that was my goal.  I knew it would be tough, but I felt good about most of my matchups in the Top 32. 

Round 10: Justin Knowles with Seismitoad EX/Crobat

In the first game, he went first and played a Silent Lab.  My only draw power was a Jirachi EX, so I just had to pass.  After a few turns of not doing much, I scooped to game two.  I had a much better start in the second game, getting out multiple Combee and 7 Pokémon in the discard.  I quickly mow through his Seismitoads as he struggled to keep up.  In the third game, he just opened Seismitoad, attached, and passed.  I had another decent start and set up for the turn two knockout.  He drew, attached and used Quaking Punch.  I had the win in hand on my second turn.  Step one of four complete!


Round 11: Rahul Reddy with Vespiquen/Flareon

I know Rahul has been playing Flareon for a very long time, so I needed my techs to carry their weight in the mirror.  I opened game one with a turn one Gallade which puts me pretty far ahead in the early game.  I then found out that he was playing Computer Search instead of Life Dew and he had no way to discard my Life Dew.  The path to victory was pretty clear at that point.  In the second game, he plays a turn one Hex Maniac to try to stifle my setup.  Thankfully, my opening hand had Tropical Beach, so I used the Beach to draw 7 on my first turn.  I follow that up with a turn two Gallade and the game proceeds pretty similarly to the first. 


Round 12: Eric Rodriquez with Raikou/Eelektrik

I had seen from playing near him the past round that he was playing Eels and I felt relieved that it was a decent matchup.  In both of our games, I got out to a fast start taking prizes and he couldn’t set up enough to make a comeback.  I was happy because I knew then that I would only have to win one of my next two rounds to make Top 8.


Round 13: Dustin Zimmerman with Yveltal EX

We were talking in between rounds and I was hoping we would both be able to make Top 8, so it was a bummer to have to play him in the second to last round.  He was playing straight Yveltal which is a pretty positive matchup on my end.  In the first game, I jumped out ahead, but he hit a good N on me, so I needed to take a midgame turn using Tropical Beach.  He started setting up snipe damage on my bench with Darkrai EX and the BREAKthrough Yveltal.  He could make a comeback by knocking out my Jirachi EX and a non-EX in the same turn.  He got down to one prize, but I had a Lysandre for an EX on the bench to seal the game.  In the second game, I got a really good start with Gallade and jump ahead far enough that he couldn’t come back this time due to a relatively poor set up. 


Round 14: Daniel Altavilla with Yveltal EX/Maxie’s

We knew at that point that all people with 30+ points would make Top 8, so we started talking about how the seeding would work out.  We played out our games while talking and he easily won 2-0.  I had horrible starts both games, but at least my deck waited until it was irrelevant!  Daniel was afraid of the Mega Rayquaza deck that was going to make Top 8 at either the 4th or 5th seed.  If he took a win or tie in our match, he would be the 1 seed and could have to face the Rayquaza deck in Top 4.  However, if he gave me the win, I would become the 1 seed and he would be the 2 seed and on the opposite side of the bracket from the Rayquaza deck.  I left the decision up to him because he had won the match and I felt roughly the same about all my Top 8 matchups.  He decided to concede the match to me and take the 2 seed which ended up being the right decision. 


It felt pretty good to come from the bottom of Top 32 and make Top 8.  I definitely didn’t expect it to happen with the number of highly skilled players in the field.  On to my matches!

Top 8: Azul Griego with Raikou/Eelektrik

I felt comfortable with the Eels matchup at this point and went into the match with a lot of confidence.  The first game I had a great start and he stumbled, so I won relatively quickly.  The second game he had a better start, getting multiple Tynamo and I was a little slower to get going so I had to sit behind a Wobbuffet for a while.  He got a Raikou powered up with manual attachments and I couldn’t respond immediately, so I fell behind and lost.  In game three, I get a much better start again with an early Gallade.  His second turn involved benching three Tynamo and a Keldeo EX and using my Tropical Beach.  I respond by knocking out the Keldeo and taking an early lead.  Later in the game, I was down to two prizes left and I made a pretty big mistake.  I had a Flareon with two fire energy and a Gallade with a DCE and I chose to take a knockout with the Flareon instead of the Gallade.  The reason this is a mistake is because Gallade needs a Supporter to knock out Raikou and Flareon didn’t at that point.  On his turn, he killed my Flareon and used Xerosic on my DCE.  I had to Premonition to put a Juniper on top of my 5 card deck (which had my last DCE in it) and hope that he didn’t have Lysandre on my Jirachi EX while I passed.  Thankfully, he did not have the Lysandre, so I won the next turn with Sensitive Blade.

Top 4: Anthony Nimmons with Mega Rayquaza

I felt pretty good about this matchup because I played Jolteon and could slow him down early if I get Wobbuffet active.  To his dismay, I actually started with Wobbuffet in both of our games.  So he needed to use Lysandre just to draw cards with his Shaymin EX’s.  It still made his early game pretty slow because of needing to use a Supporter that didn’t draw cards.  In the first game I got out my Jolteon and took a one hit knockout on a Mega Rayquaza which I think he didn’t expect.  In the second game he went for his Altaria early so I couldn’t make that same play.  However, I was able to just use Lysandre on his Keldeo and Shaymins to win.

Finals: Daniel Altavilla with Yveltal EX/Maxie’s

Our maneuvering in round 14 paid off because we both made the finals.  At that point, I knew it would be a tough match and I wouldn’t be too disappointed with a loss because the prize difference between 1st and 2nd is very small.  In both of our games, he took turn one knockouts and I struggled to respond to both of them.  In one of the games, I was able to evolve multiple attackers through Archeops because I had Wobbuffet, but it was not enough to come out of the deficit.  Apparently that was the story of most of Daniel’s tournament since I heard about him drawing very well throughout the day.  So, I still have yet to win a major tournament, but I am very happy with 2nd and I offer congratulations to my fellow 60cards writer!

Well, that was a lot longer than I had originally expected, but 17 total rounds is a lot of Pokemon!  Anyway, the next half of the article will focus on making the correct small decisions that come up many times in each game.  I will use the examples of Vespiquen/Flareon in Expanded and Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade in Standard to illustrate my points.  While I will use specific examples according to the decks, many of the ideas will carry over to other decks as well.

Technical Play

Uncertainty First

I will start off with a couple general principles to follow when deciding how to play out your hand.  The biggest piece of advice I can give is to play cards that have the most uncertainty first.  By uncertainty, I mean that with some cards you won’t know what the outcome is before you play it.  This refers to things like Acro Bike and Trainers’ Mail because you don’t know what your choices will be until you play them.  With a card like Ultra Ball you know what you need to discard and you know what Pokémon you want from your deck, so that card has no uncertainty.  Also, a major source of uncertainty on the first turn is the prize cards.  You need to figure out what cards are prized so you can form a gameplan accordingly.  For that reason, it is a good idea to play a card like Battle Compressor first so you can find out what cards are prized.  If you have an Ultra Ball and a Battle Compressor in your hand, you should play the Battle Compressor first because the Pokémon you want to search for might be prized.  Actually a good rule of thumb is to just play every Battle Compressor first each turn if you have one in your hand because it will thin the deck of unwanted cards and make your draw cards less uncertain.  Once you have played all of the cards that carry uncertainty, then you can follow with all of the cards that have a certain effect.  This is referring to things like attaching tools, attaching energy, playing Supporters like Lysandre or Xerosic.  The card you find with Trainers’ Mail could change which target you want to Lysandre or the Pokémon you want to attack with!

The next overall concept I want to cover is the management of resources when using cards with discard effects like Battle Compressor, Ultra Ball, and Professor Sycamore.  A lot of the time the decisions can be easy, especially early on.  However, the difference between a good player and a great player will often come down to small decisions like discarding the correct cards even if they may seem counter-intuitive at first.  For example, if you’re playing YZG and on your first turn you Ultra Ball away two Dark energy, you may want to avoid discarding too many more later so you can guarantee an attachment every turn.  This especially comes into play against decks that plan to disrupt your energy attachments with hammers, Xerosic, or Giratina EX.  Another example is keeping track of important Supporters like Lysandre and Blacksmith in Vespiquen/Flareon.  Let’s say that in the first couple turns you’re forced to use or discard 2-3 VS Seeker to get set up.  If you play a Battle Compressor or Ultra Ball later on, you might not want to discard your Lysandres or Blacksmith because you would get fewer uses out of them with less VS Seekers available.  I will get into more specific examples when I break down the individual decks, but remember that each card you discard has an impact on the future of each game. 


Refer to my list above when taking this advice into consideration.  I’ll be giving a general gameplan for how to pilot the deck in a technically sound way.  It would be impossible to cover every situation in this article, but with these general rules and some playtesting, it should lead to more wins if you choose to play this deck.


On the first turn, it is important to make a decision with your opening hand about whether you can get Gallade out or not.  If you can, you should in pretty much every matchup that isn’t Sableye/Garbodor.  The most common way that I’ve gotten a turn one Maxie’s is with a Battle Compressor to discard Gallade and two other cards followed up with an Ultra Ball to search Jirachi EX for Maxie’s.  It is important to play any Battle Compressors first because you need to make sure that both Gallade and Maxie’s are in the deck.  I would not recommend trying to reach for a turn one Maxie’s by playing Shaymin EX’s and hoping to draw into the right cards.  If you don’t have it guaranteed, don’t go for it.  The deck can win a lot of games without ever getting Gallade out.  If you don’t have a Maxie’s hand, then just focus on getting out your basics and drawing cards for the next turn with Juniper or Tropical Beach. 

Battle Compressors

The most difficult part of playing Vespiquen/Flareon is choosing the right cards to discard with every Battle Compressor.  As long as you’re not playing against a mill deck, you usually want to discard the full three cards every time.  The first Battle Compressor is always the easiest since you can just discard the Gallade, a Supporter if you have VS Seeker in hand, and any tech Pokémon that are not relevant in the matchup.  Things get trickier with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Compressor.  There are many cards you want to have in your discard pile with this deck: enough Pokémon to take knockouts, Supporters like Lysandre and Xerosic to use with VS Seeker, and Fire energy to use Blacksmith.  When you can only discard three at a time, you need to predict how the future of the game will play out based on the matchup.  In the mirror match you only need 7-8 Pokémon in the discard to trade prizes, so you will be focusing on using Blacksmith earlier than you would against another deck.  You can discard Pokémon like Audino, Jolteon, Wobbuffet, and Shaymin EX, but you don’t want to discard any of your attackers because you will likely need six of them throughout the game.  Against decks with high-HP EX’s, you will need to discard many more Pokémon quickly, so you will have to forego dumping things like Lysandre and Blacksmith and just wait until you draw into them naturally.  Towards the end of the game is the most difficult time to make the right choices with Compressor.  Once you have taken multiple prizes, you need to start preparing for the opponent to use N.  Because of that, you can start discarding basically anything that isn’t DCE or VS Seeker.  If you have plenty of attackers on the field, then you won’t need any leftover Ultra Balls.  If all you need to win the game is Lysandre and energy, then you can even discard things like Float Stone, Tropical Beach, other Supporters, and the rest of your Pokémon.  One thing I try to do in each game is discard one Shaymin EX early on, but keep one in the deck just for late game N’s. 

Benching and Attaching

Benching Pokémon with this deck is pretty straightforward most of the time.  You want to avoid benching EX’s if at all possible, with the exception of Jirachi EX if it helps you get Gallade out.  Besides that, you just want to get as many Combee and Eevee down early as you can.  One important thing to note is that you should always make sure you have one of each out before you search for a second copy of either.  This is because you want to be able to attack regardless of if you draw into a Vespiquen or a Flareon.  Against decks where you might want to use Jolteon, search out a second Eevee before a second Combee and use a non-Energy Evolution Eevee to play Jolteon.  It is usually a good idea to try and attach a Fire energy to an Energy Evolution Eevee (or another attacker) on the first turn if possible.  That will make it so later on a Fire attachment saves a DCE.  You almost never want to attach a DCE unless you are attacking with it on that turn.  Many decks play ways to discard special energy that you don’t want to give them the option to do so.  An exception of this is if you need to use Juniper and you have a DCE in your hand, then go ahead and attach it. 

Premonition and Unown

Let’s assume that you get a Gallade out at some point during a game.  You want to make sure to get the best use out of it as possible because Premonition is a very powerful ability.  A lot of the time, you want to wait to use Premonition until just before the end of your turn so you can set up your next draw.  The reason for this is that you will likely be playing cards that search your deck throughout your turn.  So you need to wait until all of these cards have been used before you Premonition so that the deck doesn’t get shuffled and make your next draw random.  An exception to this rule is if you have an Unown and you really need a specific card for that turn.  Then you can put the card you need on top and take it right away.  Using Unown’s Farewell Letter is not just as simple as benching it and immediately drawing a card, especially if you don’t know what the top card is.  Only do that if you have a really bad starting hand and need something to get going.  You want to save your Unown for grabbing specific cards throughout the game.  When done right, each Unown should basically be a free Computer Search when your deck is thin enough that you’ll see something good in the top five.  There will be times when you need to Farewell Letter to hit certain damage numbers even if you don’t grab something important with it, but I try to keep one Unown on the bench at all times if I can.  Premonition plus Unown is a great counter to the late game N and it will close out many games that your opponent would otherwise be able to come back in. 


This may seem obvious, but choosing the right Pokémon to attack with is an important decision at all points in the game.  Early on, you want to focus on attacking with Vespiquen and DCE.  This is because you can use Blacksmith to power up Flareon in the late game, but not Vespiquen.  You need to save at least one Flareon for the end of the game so you can maximize your odds of attacking at the end of the game.  You’ll notice that a lot of my reasoning for making certain plays is to combat N.  N is a hugely important card in Expanded because it can completely turn the tides of a game when one player jumps ahead to an early lead.  So, if you have a Flareon left at the end of a game, you could draw a DCE or a VS Seeker for Blacksmith to win instead of specifically needing DCE for Vespiquen.  As for attacking with Gallade, there are certain times when it is better than using another attacker.  If you don’t have enough Pokémon to knock out something like a Darkrai EX or a Mega Manectric EX and it is their main threat, then take it out with a Sensitive Blade.  Another thing to watch out for is if the opponent’s deck is able to deal 150 damage or not.  If they are able to hit 100 damage, but not 150, then attacking with Gallade for a turn may buy you an extra prize from your energy.  Usually though, I try to save Gallade on the bench for as long as possible because of how important Premonition is against N. 


In Standard, I believe that Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade gave me the best chance to win, so I would recommend it to anyone playing in the ECC this weekend.  My current list has gotten me 1st at the last three tournaments I played with it: two City Championships and one League Challenge.  In some aspects, it plays similarly to Vespiquen/Flareon, but there are some differences too that I will go over.  Here is the updated list:


YZG has a thicker Gallade line and for that reason it is more important (and usually easier) to get out the turn one or two Gallade.  The method of doing so is slightly different though because there is no Jirachi EX.  This deck relies more on an item draw engine because it plays Trainers’ Mail and Acro Bike to dig deeper into the deck.  Like I said above, the goal when piloting this deck is to minimize the uncertainty with using cards as much as possible.  For that reason, I will play the cards in this order almost every time: Battle Compressor -> Acro Bike -> Trainers’ Mail -> Ultra Ball.  Battle Compressor is used to check prizes and to thin the deck of cards you don’t want to draw.  The reason for Acro Bike before Trainers’ Mail is that Acro Bike always takes two cards from the deck and Trainers’ Mail can whiff a trainer.  You want to use Trainers’ Mail on as thin a deck as possible to maximize your chance of hitting what you want.  If you Acro Bike first and then Trainers’ Mail, then you effectively dig six cards deep.  If you do it in the reverse order, then you dig four deep followed by two deep and you end up looking at fewer unique cards because you could hit the same card twice.  The card you keep off both Acro Bike and Trainers’ Mail can change what you want to discard with Ultra Ball, so I save that for last. 

Battle Compressors

Choosing targets for Battle Compressor in this deck is fairly unique and takes some time to master.  With the first one, it depends on what is in my hand but I usually choose some combination of Gallade, Maxie’s, and Sycamore.  Gallade and Maxie’s are self-explanatory, but the reason I choose Sycamore early even if I get a Maxie’s off is for the follow up on the second turn.  If your Maxie’s draws you into a VS Seeker for next turn, but not another Supporter, you don’t want the only target to be another Maxie’s in case you can’t get a second Gallade out.  I found that out the hard way by losing games to drawing VS Seeker but no way to get a Sycamore in the discard after a Maxie’s.  It feels very silly to lose this way.  After the first Compressor, the next things I think about discarding are Dark energy and tech supporters.  You want to balance how many energy is in your discard versus your deck because you want to guarantee manual attachments every turn while still getting back energy with Oblivion Wing.  So I’ll usually get one or two Dark energy in the discard with the second Compressor.  If I haven’t already, then I will also discard one Lysandre with the second Compressor so I can open up the option to VS Seeker for it later.  Then if there is another specific tech Supporter I know I’ll need for a matchup I will discard that as well.  This can mean taking Xerosic for decks with Focus Sash or against other Yveltal decks to discard DCE’s.  There are some decks with high-HP pokemon that Giovanni’s Scheme is needed against.  For example, hitting 170 damage with a Sensitive Blade plus Muscle Band and Giovanni is an important play against cards like the basic Mewtwo EX or Sceptile EX and other Pokémon with 170 HP.  One thing I learned from playing this deck a lot is not to discard too many Supporters with Battle Compressor early on.  You want to keep some in deck so that you can fulfill Sensitive Blade’s Supporter requirement while saving VS Seekers for later in the game.  After I’m satisfied with those discards, I’ll ditch extra Battle Compressors or Yveltals or a Shaymin EX if they’re not needed. 

Benching and Attaching

This deck also wants to avoid benching EX’s if at all possible.  Getting out multiple Zoruas in the early game is a priority so they can be evolved as you draw into Zoroarks.  Against Night March you want to bench as many Yveltal as possible to keep up the prize trade, but against most other decks you usually only use one or two of them.  I try to get as many basic Dark attachments early as I can and save my DCE’s because many decks play ways to discard special energy.  I also try to attach to Zoroarks early on because I want to attack with them before I start to use Gallades. 


A lot of the same principles hold true for Premonition between Vespiquen/Flareon and this deck.  You want to save it until after you’re done shuffling the deck for the turn.  There will be times when you really don’t like the top five cards of your deck and in that case, it is good to use a Trainers’ Mail or something to shuffle the deck so you can look at a new top five.  There’s only one Unown in this list, so I try to save it on the bench until I need to grab a specific card, usually a DCE or VS Seeker.  Acro Bike is especially useful after getting a Gallade into play.  Not only can you use Premonition to choose one card to draw with it, but you also get to choose the card you discard.  This eliminates the drawback of using Acro Bike and can even discard good things like Dark energy or useless Pokémon. 


Because there is no N in the Standard format, decks are rewarded for being aggressive.  This means reaching for important knockouts early is a good way to get ahead and stay ahead.  It also means that the game is heavily centered around killing Shaymin EX’s and trying to keep yours safe.  I have included a Target Whistle to bring Shaymin EX back out of the discard for this reason.  This can lead to attacking with Gallade more often since Sensitive Blade is usually the easiest way for this deck to knock out opposing Shaymins and it can sometimes survive an attack.  That is also the reason for including Druddigon, it can knock out a Shaymin with a Muscle Band.  Although, if you can take a knockout with Zoroark, you should prioritize that because each time you knock something out, you reduce their bench size.  Gallade is usually the preferred attacker in the late game because he does not rely on them having a full bench.  Yveltal EX is needed in matchups like Mirror, Entei, and any EX-heavy decks because of the high HP totals that Zoroark and Gallade sometimes can’t reach. 


I hope you have enjoyed this article!  I plan to get back into a more regular schedule for writing these in the future.  With more regionals and states coming up soon I will have plenty to share with you.  If you have any feedback on this article or if there is a topic you’d like me to cover, feel free to contact me and let me know.

My inspiration for talking about technical play in this article is the recent coaching sessions I have had with some local players.  It has gotten me thinking more about the specific ways that players can improve their game through practice and analyzing why certain plays are better than others.  If any of you would be interested in personal coaching, I would be happy to set something up with you!  You can contact me through Facebook message at


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