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John Kettler

"The Dirge of Darkness" -- An Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade List Analysis

Today, I'll be talking about a deck near and dear to my heart this season - Yveltal.

01/02/2016 by John Kettler

It's good to be back! Today, I'll be talking about a deck near and dear to my heart this season: Yveltal. Unlike Karl Peters' article from last week, this will not be an exploration of its many incarnations. Instead, we will be focusing on the one form of the deck that has dominated the City Championship season: Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade. We will be going through the ins and outs of the list, aspects to consider when building your version of the deck, and ideas for techs or even whole alterations of the concept!

Standard Only!

Before we get too far into the article, I should say that we will only be exploring YGZ in the context of the Standard format. Considering that City Championships are still ongoing, and YGZ is much more prominent in Standard than it is in Expanded, focusing exclusively on a Standard list would be a better use of our time. However, you'll find that many of these same ideas apply well to Expanded: just include appropriate Darkness Items, perhaps a tech Archeops NVI to shut off Evolutions, and you're set for a great deck!

The List

Below is the list I have used throughout the four City Championships I have played in thus far, finishing First twice and Top 8 in the others. These featured several well-known and competitive players in the area, such as my fellow article writers Brandon Cantu, Brandon Smiley, and Brad Curcio. I used a relatively standard Yveltal/Gallade list. South Texas' metagame is diverse, so I felt that for the reasons discussed above, YGZ would carry me through to points each time...

Open Spots (3):

List commentary

Overall: These 57 spots remain unchanged, and have more or less been the same since testing of the deck began a few weeks ago prior to Cities. I’ll address the more questionable counts and inclusions in my "core" list, but first, it would be easiest to start with the things we can take for granted. Please note, however, that "taken for granted" does not mean "100% certain": as I'll talk about below, it's rarely a good idea to be so rigid in a deck list! But for the purposes of this article, it would be best to consider the first 50 slots of YGZ set in stone, especially if you don't have basis for it.

3 Yveltal: The leader of most of your early starts, Yveltal XY 78, also known as "Baby Yveltal," is the reason why your exchanges with 30 HP Joltik and 60 HP Pumpkaboo in Night March are so good. It's also how you keep up momentum with Vespiquen in the early game, nabbing KOs on tiny Combee when you can. Most importantly, its high damage in Oblivion Wing combined with the secondary Darkness Energy acceleration is why the deck is so good at conserving resources. I and many other players who have gleamed success with the deck have found three Yveltal to be the safest count: not so low that you won't start with it, but not so high that it clogs your deck for space of other valuable cards.

2 Yveltal-EX: Now a staple in most lists, going so low on Yveltal-EX was initially a tough thing for me to accept. After all, Evil Ball and Y Cyclone used to be the most exclusive attacks you used in this deck! However, without Darkness Patch or Energy Switches, it's rarely that easy to exploit so many of them, meaning your space will be better utilized elsewhere. In the vast majority of games, two Yveltal-EX are enough to get you past most attackers Yveltal XY or Gallade cannot. And again, this is what's so good about the deck: each attacker supports the strategy in ways that the others cannot.

2 Gallade BKT: The decision to run higher or lower counts on both Gallade and Maxie boil down to the degree to which you want Gallade to see play. And why wouldn't you? Almost nothing in the format deals 130 as easily as a Gallade can, and with its Premonition Ability, it grants you some of the most reliably busted, powerful turn ones in the game. Add in the fact that Gallade is your bulkiest non-EX, and you have a reliable method of combatting even your worst matchups.

Among the list points which are taken for granted, this is the one that may require you to revisit it in the future. If for some reason Manectric play fizzles, then I would consider going as low as 1-1 on Gallade and Maxie. However, because it's such a good attacker and source for consistency, I consider that to basically be the same as changing variants entirely.

2-2 Zoroark: Part of what makes not just YGZ, but all Yveltal variants good is the ability to swarm efficiently. Losing Darkrai-EX for the new Standard hurt significantly, but with Stand In, AZ, and Float Stone, we reduce the pain of that loss significantly.

Also, Zoroark is a great attacker to punish explosive setups from your opponent!

On the Supporter lineup: We've already dealt with the Maxie's above, will address the low Sycamore count below, but why do I keep my Supporter count so low in general? After all, you need Supporters to win nearly any game, and you need Supporters to deal big damage with Gallade, right?

With both Maxie's and Archie's decks, it’s important to have what you need, without having too much that gets in the way. Most of my lists of YGZ run a maximum eight Supporter cards and four VS Seeker (one of my three floating spots is usually a Xerosic). That way I pull the maximum variety I need for various in-game situations, achieve the necessary consistency to keep the deck afloat, while not disrupting the core functions of the deck.

On the Item lineup: For the purposes of a smooth, reliable Maxie engine, the "sweet sixteen" of four Battle Compressor, four VS Seeker, four Ultra Ball, and four Trainers' Mail is vital! I can't tell you how many lists have tried to diverge from four-counts on each of these, yet how damaging doing so would be to their chances of doing well with YGZ. 

On the Energy lineup: Up until I started testing YGZ, my Energy lineup had always been eight Darkness, four Double Colorless, and a Professor's Letter. Professor's Letter works wonders (see below), but this particular lineup was always a comfort option of mine. In fact, you can do just fine running an Energy assortment a bit lower. Although my experience shows me that going any lower than seven Darkness would put you into a lot of problematic situations involving unfriendly discards for Ultra Ball and Sycamore, seven alongside with a Super Rod (again, see below) should give you the fuel you need to last throughout a long battle.

Questionable Tweaks

Now that we've talked about , for the stranger decisions in my core 57:

3 Unown: In Standard decks trying to get an early Maxie or Archie, there are many things people place into their decks to maximize odds of this happening, including maximum Trainers' Mail, Battle Compressor, and VS Seeker. But what of those final inclusions that aren't quite as effective at getting you the Maxie you need?

For most players, that usually amounts to running Acro Bike, an easy-to-play Item that digs deep into your deck. However, I've come to loathe Acro Bike due to the many awful discard situations it creates relative to what good it does in actually finding you the last card needed to narrow down your hand.

My answer? Run a high Unown count! Its Farewell Letter Ability practically does the same thing, but unlike Acro Bike, is not something you are forced to play to keep your hand the same size; rather, you can simply Bench an Unown without using it to draw a card if need be. It also works as a clutch attacker against measly 30 HP Joltik, Psychic-Weak Pokmon-EX like Lucario and Mewtwo, and even cannibalizes other Unown for cheap Prizes! All in all, Unown has a degree of versatility Acro Bike couldn't hope to achieve.

2 Professor Sycamore: From friends who I've discussed my list with, this has received the most criticism and confusion. "This isn't like Blastoise! You don't have Computer Search or Jirachi-EX anymore -- you need more Sycamore because you'll whiff Gallade more!"

...Except I don't need it.

As stated above, I operate from a deck-building philosophy where no decision is 100% certain. This includes even core staples like counts on crucial cards like Professor Sycamore, which is usually a four-of. Here, we really do treat the list like last format's Blastoise, because too many Sycamore can spoil our turn one Maxie's.

1 Professor's Letter: Many people are cutting Letter from their Yveltal lists, but I would consider that a mistake. Like any other deck, if you don't get Energy, you are not winning -- simple as that. Throwing a Professor's Letter into the mix not only becomes your de facto twelfth Energy -- it turns all of those Trainers' Mails into outs for Energy, too! And when digging for a single Darkness to attach to an Yveltal XY, it can be crucial in the early game.

1 Super Rod: Even in all of my "taken for granted" discussions, I've permitted a bit of doubt to bleed through in my tone. What if you need more than three baby Yveltal against Night March? What if an Yveltal-EX is Prized? What if a bad discard happens to your Zoroark line? Super Rod or any other Pokémon replenishment! I've found that running a single copy of anything to recover your lost attackers is too important; otherwise, you could quickly run out of steam early game. It also corrects some of the worst early game scenarios, such as having to discard too many Darkness or Evolutions for the sake of setting up a Maxie.

Why am I running Super Rod over Buddy-Buddy Rescue? Both have their advantages, and Buddy-Buddy Rescue when combined with a Battle Compressor can function as an indirect method of acquiring Shaymin-EX for Set Up. However, in YGZ I find Buddy-Buddy Rescue to be less effective in the core goal of replenishment, and near useless in recovering multiple necessary cards that were discarded previously. YGZ has a lot of different moving parts that become useful at different points in a game, so Super Rod becomes your means by which to change tactics at different times.

Open Spot Ideas

Finally, let's discuss some ways to utilize those open spots. The truly great thing about Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade is that unlike most decks, its final slots are fertile ground for increased versatility and consistency. Hitting an early Gallade is valuable, but not so important in most matchups that you have to forego techs. In fact, YGZ is one of the few decks capable of turning entire matchups around this format with a single inclusion.

For the final three spots, I've run a mix between a fourth Unown, Fright Night Yveltal BKT, Zoroark BREAK, Absol ROS, Parallel City, and Xerosic.

Four Unown: I prefer four Unown over Acro Bikes or a mix of Unown and Acro Bike because it is the most reliable way to thin out a hand to trigger a Maxie's. I don't consider four Unown to be "necessary," however, which is why that spot has occasionally become something else, such as...

Yveltal BKT: One of YGZ's only negative matchups is the Psychic Infinity M Mewtwo-EX. Due to the success of myself and others with Yveltal in our area, I expected an increase in M Mewtwo-EX's usage, so this Yveltal became the first part of my Mewtwo strategy. With a "Fright Night" active, you shut off all of their Spirit Links, slowing down their assault by at least a turn. And if they run a Zoroark BKT of their own, they cannot easily Retreat it with a Float Stone because...the Float Stone doesn't work! Include big EX Bench damage from the attack, and it's a good counter to pretty much every Mega.

Zoroark BREAK: This is the second part of my anti-Mewtwo, anti-Mega strategy for the deck. Once your Yveltal BKT is gone, you've already done enough damage to Psychic Infinity right back at them! It's very hard for Mewtwo to follow up after this, so the combination of these two cards makes a losing matchup into a very winnable one.

Absol ROS: Absol is a utility card for mirror. Oftentimes you can find yourself just a little damage short of a knockout on an opposing Yveltal-EX with your own...but if you previously used Oblivion Wing on something, you can move the damage and take over.

Parallel City: One of the weaknesses of most YGZ lists is their failure to run counter-stadiums. I believe outright conceding the Stadium war is a bad idea for YGZ for two reasons: effects like unchecked healing can become quickly unbeatable, and you can punish careless playing. Many times, you win Stadium control just by having a way to influence it in the first place.


Thanks again, everyone! Whether you’re a player trying to make sense out of the YGZ phenomenon for the first time, or someone who’s heavily tested it already looking for some cool new tricks, I hope this article helped you improve your working knowledge of Standard’s top archetype.

-John Kettler

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