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Julian Hook

Evil vs. Evil: A Guide to the Yveltal/Garbodor Mirror Match

My thoughts on the Yveltal/Garbodor mirror match.

12/29/2016 by Julian Hook

This article is part of 60cards article competition



Hey, 60cards readers. Julian Hook here, excited to be writing my first article for you guys. With the European Intercontinental Championships having concluded recently, there is no longer any doubt over what is the hands down best deck in the Standard format. If winning the first two Standard regionals of the season wasn't enough to convince some, it's now undeniable that Yveltal/Garbodor is thee deck to beat—or play yourself. Or both. Yes, the deck is so tried-and-true great against the entire Standard meta field that trying to use a different deck to try to beat it runs the problem of being squashed by one or more of these other decks. In big tournaments where variety is inevitable, this approach is risky. That's why I'm going to give you a guide to beating Yveltal/Garbodor—by using it yourself. In fact, the Yveltal mirror match is probably the most relevant match in the game right now. But despite being the most relevant, it may also be the least understood. Admittedly, it can often feel wild and luck-of-the-draw-based. But as a player who has tested the matchup over and over, tested countless different techs and tactical approaches, I assure you that it is a matchup that ultimately favors the superior pilot. There are definite strategies, tactics—and of course, techs—that can be used to steer yourself to victory. In this article, I will attempt to cover everything you need to know when playing the mirror. Due to the vast scope of different principles, tactics and techs that apply, I will use the loose format of a Question and Answer session. Without further ado…

Q & A

Q. Firstly, can you put up a typical Yveltal/Garbodor list for easy reference?

A. Sure. This about as typical as it gets. It’s at most one or two cards off from the lists that been winning all the major tournaments of late.

Q. So, when you talk about the Yveltal/Garbodor mirror match, can we just assume that you're talking about that list vs. itself?

A. Sure. Some Yveltal/Garbodor lists decide against playing the Yveltal BTs (a poor decision, in my opinion) or maybe replace the Enhanced Hammers for Trainers’ Mail, but in general, this is the epitome of what you should expect when playing against Yveltal.

Q. Okay, so how about we start from the very beginning of a match. If you win the coin flip, do you go first or second?

A. In general, I’ve found the player going first to have the edge. Why is this? After all, with Max Elixir and Float Stone, isn’t it easy for the player going second to get an immediate attack off on their first turn? Well, in most matchups this is the case (even so, you always want to go first in other matchups as well). But due to Yveltal BT’s Fright Night ability, that isn’t always the case in the mirror. Indeed, if the player going first can end their turn with an Yveltal BT in the active (which is quite easy considering we play three Float Stones in addition to the fact that it might be our starter anyways)—then Fright Night is online and the opponent will more likely than not fail to get an immediate attack off (they would need to have Lysandre and/or Olympia in hand as well as not need to use a draw Supporter). Another related reason is that our opening hand might only have a Fright Night Yveltal, forcing us to make it our active. Here, just like when an opposing Fright Night Yveltal is active, our Max Elixir/Float Stone combo is null.

Q. What would you say constitutes the “ideal first turn” for the player going first? What should the player going first be aiming for?

A. The ideal first turn (if you're going first) is essentially where you attach at least one Darkness Energy (whether through Max Elixir, manual attach, or both) to an Yveltal BT, with the Yveltal BT being active by the end of the turn. If you can fulfill this rather basic goal, you should be good to go. Having Yveltal BT active by the end of your first turn (if you go first) is almost always ideal as explained in the following section (hindering your opponent’s Max Elixir/Float stone combo). It’s also very important, that you end with at least one Darkness Energy attached. After all, you want to be Pitch-Black Spearing by your second turn.

Q. Why do you say Darkness Energy but not Double Colorless Energy?

A. Having only Double Colorless Energy attached is actually very risky and not recommended, due to the possibility that your opponent will use Enhanced Hammer and set you back an entire turn from attacking. Indeed, your own Fright Night will stop you from being able to Float Stone into an attacker that has enough Energy (from at least one Max Elixir) to attack and so you’ll most likely be a sitting bird on turn two.

Q. So, let’s say that on your first turn going first you have a Sycamore, one Double Colorless Energy and no Darkness Energy. Also, Yveltal BT is your active. Should you Sycamore away the DCE before attaching it so that you can instead attach the Darkness Energy you will likely draw?

A. I would. The potential tempo-steal of an Enhanced Hammer is just too devastating to ignore. Whenever I’ve made the mistake of trying to conserve DCE by attaching it instead of discarding it on the first turn, I usually find myself lamenting, “Darn, just my luck that he would happen to have an Enhanced Hammer in his opening hand!”. Never act on what you hope your opponent’s hand consists of. Hope for the best, but expect the worst.

Q. So, is Pitch-Black Spear the first attack you want to get off in a game?

A. Usually, yes. This is a bit obvious but allow me to summarize:

  • The disruptive nature of Fright Night can make opposing attacks difficult to pull off.
  • The net damage (120, given there is at least one EX on your opponent’ bench) is great value for only three Energy).
  • Yveltal BT is a one-prize attacker, so even if and when your opponent KOs it, they still have a long way to go in the prize race.
  • The 60 Damage usually puts its victims within Evil Ball KO range; thus, even if your Yveltal BT gets immediately knocked out, you can immediately revenge KO with Yveltal-EX.


Q. Back to the ideal first turn going first, is there anything else you should try to achieve beyond the bare minimum of setting up an Yveltal BT?

A. Of course. Beyond getting an active Yveltal BT with a Darkness Energy attached, it’s also good to:

  • Set up an Yveltal-EX and/or another Yveltal BT. The mirror is often just a back-and-forth series of KOs. You never want to be knocked out and have nothing to take over and attack with.
  • Play Parallel City (reducing your opponent’s bench size to three). This is a no-brainer, but whichever player gets their Parallel City out first has an advantage. Yveltal is not a deck that likes its bench to be constrained.
  • Set up a Trubbish on the bench. This is a more subtle point but it’s nice to have a Trubbish on the bench by turn one, because in all your future turns, you’ll be able to immediately evolve into Garbodor if you need. Garbotoxin is definitely an Ability that could benefit you more than your opponent in certain situations (like if you have something stuck in the active due to Fright Night, or if you want your own Yveltal BT to get higher HP via Fighting Fury Belt). Another reason setting up Garbodor on turn one is good is because of the deck’s reliance on Shaymin-EX for draw power. If your opponent dead draws on their first turn, you can get Garbotoxin going by your second turn, and then even if your opponent draws an Ultra Ball they’ll still be stuck. Remember: little tricks like these can be the difference between a win and a loss.


Q. OK, so I think you’ve covered the first turn of the player going first pretty thoroughly. Now I’d like to ask about how the player going second should act. Any pointers?

A. This one’s a bit trickier since it largely depends on what your opponent has done. But let’s just assume your opponent has set up a Fright Night Yveltal with one Darkness Energy attached and has managed to bench two Yveltal-EX. Your starter Pokemon was an Yveltal-EX. In this case, the best thing you can do is to attach a Darkness Energy to your Yveltal-EX but not bench anything. Indeed, if you manage not to bench anything, your opponent’s Pitch-Black Spear will only do 60 damage. And then you’ll be able to attach a DCE and take a KO. Of course, on the turn that you take the KO, you’ll want to bench stuff (and hopefully Max Elixir onto them) since it’s quite likely your KO will be answered by a revenge KO. Of course, not benching anything isn’t always practical. If you have two Max Elixirs, a Sycamore, and another Yveltal-EX, the resource wastage of discarding everything with Sycamore could be more damaging than the extra 60 damage of the incoming Pitch-Black Spear. As always, context is key.

Q. What if your opponent has the same first start, but you start with an Yveltal BT?

A. In this case, the best thing you can do is to attach a Darkness Energy to your active Yveltal BT and bench another Yveltal BT and maybe a Trubbish. This way your opponent’s incoming Pitch-Black Spear will still only do 60 Damage. You, on the other hand, may be doing 120 next turn if your opponent has benched any EXs. The second Yveltal BT is important so that you have an attacker ready for when your Active is knocked out. It can be tempting to bench an Yveltal-EX but, in this particular situation, I’d try to wait at least one turn before doing so.

Q. Talk a little about benching in the mirror match.

A. Try not to bench any Yveltal BT or Yveltal-EX unless you can immediately get an Energy attached to it. It’s never good to have a two retreat cost Pokemon in play with 2 Energy cost minimum attacks in a matchup where Fright Night and Pitch-Black Spear play such a big part. The threat of being Lysandre’d while wasting a whole turn to simply attach Energy while your opponent Spears away at your board is too much. The principle I always try to apply in the mirror match (and other matchups to an only somewhat lesser extent) is to always have at least one Energy attached to all my attackers. This brings me to a “star battle trick” which is basically the offensive version of the principle I just explained. Basically, if your opponent ever benches an Yveltal BT and fails to have any energy attached to it, a great play is to Lysandre it up and Pitch-Black Spear with your own Yveltal. The math is wonderful on this. While they have zero Energy, you get off your first Pitch-Black Spear. Then, (barring Olympia or a DCE attach and retreat) after they attach an Energy, you get a second Spear but it’s 10 damage short of Knocking them out. And after they finally get enough Energy attached to fire off their own Spear, you will KO them for that final 10 damage—the best part being that you will have spread 180 damage across their bench.

Q. You’ve talked about Evil Ball and Pitch-Black Spear but what about Y-Cyclone? Surely it’s important in the mirror?

A. Definitely! Often if you need to attack with Yveltal-EX, but there’s no possibility of taking a knockout with Evil Ball, you should Y-Cyclone (even though it will probably do a little less damage than Evil Ball). Y-Cyclone is doubly good in this matchup (as opposed to other matchups): not only does it have the value of conserving Energy, it ensures that the opponent’s Evil Ball reply will do less damage.

Q. So go for Evil Ball if it results in a KO, but otherwise Y-Cyclone?

A. More often than not, yes.

Q. The matchup seems quite mathematical at times. Is doing the math important?

A. Yes, getting the match right is crucial in this matchup. You’re both using the same deck, so whoever manages to get the most value for their attacks (least amount of time and resource expenditure for the most prize card netting) will be the player who takes that 6th prize card first. This matchup requires more looking ahead than most matchups. It’s kind of like chess! Really, you don’t want to have a vague idea of what’s going on. Try to be mentally sharp, calculating exact numbers at all times. 10 damage can be the difference between victory and defeat!

Q. OK, so can you talk a little about tech-ing for the mirror?

A. Sure. Let me discuss my top three favorite techs for the mirror match:

  1. Olympia: This card is huge in the mirror. So much of the matchup comes down to trying to strand a Pokemon in the active with Lysandre + Fright Night. Olympia disrupts your opponent’s disruption and lets you heal 30 damage in the process!
  2. Pokemon Center Lady: Healing 60 damage can be really big in a mirror as tight as this one. However, I prefer Olympia, as the importance of having a non-tool-reliant switching mechanism probably outweighs the extra 30 damage heal.
  3. Team Flare Grunt: A great tempo stealing card! The reason it’s so good in the mirror is directly related to the fact that each attacker’s minimum energy requirement to attack is two and each attacker’s minimum retreat cost is also two. Against an opposing Yveltal-EX that just used Y-Cyclone, it can make them miss a turn of attacking. Also, against an opposing active Yveltal BT, combining it with Enhanced Hammer can massively disrupt your opponent’s initiative and, ideally, give you up to two free turns of sniping with your own Yveltal BT. The only disadvantage with this card is that it makes Evil Ball do less damage. So this definitely isn’t a tech you want to use if your Yveltal/Garbodor list opts out of using Yveltal BT. On that note, let me just mention that I think at least two Yveltal BT is essential to a good list. There are just way too many decks out there that it single-handedly takes from being a negative matchup to a positive one (M Gardevoir, M Mewtwo, Darkrai/Giratina…). And of course, it’s one of the most important cards in the mirror!


Q: What about more radical/aggressive techs like Jolteon-EX or Zebstrika?

A: Despite their high impact in the mirror, cards like these really weaken your list against the rest of the meta. Jolteon-EX requires you to put at least three Lightning Energy into your list and it really doesn’t help enough against any other relevant deck. Sure, it might help against something like Rainbow Road, but that’s a matchup that you can already beat with smart play. As for Zebstrika, I like the fact that it also helps against M Ray, but even a 1-1 (or god forbid, 2-2) line is a lot of space for just two matchups. Even though Yveltal/Garbodor is sure to be more popular than ever, I doubt it will ever constitute more than 50 percent of a given tournament’s decks. Remember that consistency against a broad meta field is one of the main reasons Yveltal/Garbodor is so good in the first place.

Q. Don’t mess with a good thing, right?

A. Pretty much. Cards like Olympia, Team Flare Grunt, and Pokemon Center Lady, however, are self-sufficient (don’t require other cards to make them work) and can help against any matchup.

Q. I think that pretty much covers it. Any final remarks?

A. I’d just like to thank everyone who stopped by to read my first 60cards article. Oh yes, and have a Happy New Year!

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