Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

London Fallout

With London's First Ever Intercontinental Championships Behind Us, The Standard Metagame Settles Down And Chris Looks At Where It Stands Going Forward!

15. 12. 2016 by Chris Fulop

Hello everyone! Yveltal. Yes. Yveltal. I'm not even going to beat around the bush with one of my usual attempts to come up with an engaging introduction to this article. I will be discussing the new scourge of the Standard Pokemon format: Yveltal. I guess "new" scourge is a bit misleading, seeing how the Pokemon has been at the forefront of the game's competitive scene more or less since it was released. It is actually somewhat interesting, seeing how I predicted that some sort of Yveltal/Zoroark style deck would be a frontrunner for the budding metagame at the start of rotation this summer. (This is actually a deck that did end up winning one of the younger age groups at Fort Wayne Regionals!)

That being said, at the start of the format, Yveltal was more or less nowhere to be seen. Months went by without much impact by our Dark avian friends. Yveltal-EX was just outclassed by the OHKO potential of Pokemon such as Mega Rayquaza, Volcanion, Xerneas, and Mega Mewtwo. Well, or so players thought. Yveltal took down Orlando Regionals in a pretty surprising turn of events. I wrote how it was my favorite deck to come out of the event, and it wasn't entirely because it did end up winning the whole thing. I just love Breakthrough Yveltal, and have been singing it's praises since it's release. It continues to exceed even my lofty expectations of the card, and that is saying something. Yveltal-EX is really only as dangerous as it has shown to be because Yveltal BKT is so unbelievably strong in conjunction with it. The double shot of 60 damage is just so good at setting up targets for Yveltal-EX to sweep, it isn't even reasonable.

The final piece of the puzzle is Garbodor. Yveltal-EX, even when paired with its BKT counterpart, is still a bit behind in the power creep if that can be believed. The additional disruption of Garbodor allows the deck to fight on even footing with the other more powerful decks. Greninja and Volcanion are at a huge disadvantage without their Abilities. Decks like Mega Rayquaza are less directly impacted, but they certainly rely on Abilities to set up and maintain a flow of resources that is necessary due to the fairly complex board state it relies on to keep up with it's game plan.

Once you force the unfair decks to try and compete on a fair level and cut their legs out from underneath them, you realize very quickly that very few decks are really equipped to play Yveltal's game against it. There are decks that will have a field day against Yveltal if you really want them to. (Alex Hill's Vespiquen/Zebstrika deck, which took 9th place VERY narrowly on breakers at London's Intercontinental,  massacres the archetype, but struggles a bit against other decks in the field.) The problem is, the decks which can fight Yveltal well face a bit of a fundamental issue.

With Garbodor, Yveltal slows decks down and cuts off "unfair", more degenerate strategies. This means if you want to do well against the deck as a whole, you need to be built in a way that lets your deck function optimally ALSO in this slower, grindier, "fair" manner. In general, this means you are likely doing something that is going to be poorly suited to match up against a Mega Rayquaza, a Volcanion, or a Greninja. (These are all "degenerate" decks, admittedly in different ways, but Rayquaza and Volcanion are very pushed proactive stratgies, while Greninja is able to dump a ton of damage into play without really needing to rely on attack damage.)

Yveltal is the natural evolution of a strategy that had already held a place in the format. Mega Mewtwo Garbodor and Mega Scizor Garbodor are really the precursors to this deck. They take a low maintenance, sturdy attacker and pair it with Garbodor. Mega Mewtwo was arguably the best deck for a reasonable length of time. Why is Yveltal just so much better than it, though? Well, things are never extremely black and white, but I think there is a pretty prominent reason for why Yveltal is the best Garbodor partner: Yveltal BKT.

Dark not only gets great attacker in Yveltal-EX, which I like MORE than Scizor and less than Mega Mewtwo, but it gets a fantastic NON-EX attacker. Scizor was paired with Cobalion, occasionally, while Mewtwo really had no good non-ex partner available. Yveltal BKT not only gives the deck a longer game, as it is a non EX, but it gives it the inherent advantage in Garbodor "mirror" matches, where it's Pitch Black Spear attack can easily set up EXes for Yveltal sweeps. (It helps that, prior to Garbodor, it's Ability Fright Night turns off Spirit Links for Mega decks.)

That is another huge factor: Yveltal-EX (and Yveltal) are the best attacking options that are not Ability reliant that are also not Mega Pokemon. This means you can be more aggressive, and do not have to clog your deck with a thicker Pokemon line and Spirit Links. It makes potential t1 Max Elixirs more threatening when your Pokemon are so dangerous right out of the gate.

Even prior to Yveltal's raise to dominance, its style of deck was arguably the "best" deck in the format. Now we've seen the approach refined. It won in Orlando. It took 1st and 2nd in Fort Wayne Masters. It won both younger divisions as well, although one of those lists opted for Zoroark over Garbodor. It took 5 of the 8 spots in London, in what I'll easily call the toughest field that we've seen this year so far since Worlds. Oh, did I mention it then wound up taking up all the top 4 spots?

This accomplishment is really impressive beyond just showcasing that it was the deck of choice for many of the best players. It is impressive beyond just showcasing that those players performed extremely well. It is impressive because this was a tournament where the deck was ABSOLUTELY being gunned for. The deck came fairly well out of left field in Orlando when Azul won with it. By Fort Wayne, it was unsure how "real" the deck was. It was clearly good, but it wasn't certain that it was one of the best decks overall. How much would being a known quantity impact its performance? It was a disruptive deck with a lot of play to it. Those are the types of decks that usually benefit greatly by players being uncertain of how to properly interact with it. Well, in Fort Wayne, it crushed the event again. It was absolutely for real.

In London, it had a huge bullseye on its forehead. You had many great players going to great lengths to try and beat it. As I mentioned, Alex Hill and others ran Vespiquen/Zebstrika. Tyler Ninomura snuck into day 2 at 32nd seed with a Jolteon-EX, Lugia, Garbodor concoction attributed to his friends Ross Cawthon and Team X-Files. At the end of the day, it didn't matter, as over the course of 14 rounds, Yveltal stood tall. VERY tall.

This was the "Night March" test for the deck. Not only did the deck prove it was great, but it proved it was not just a strong metagame choice. When the room built to beat it, it still beat the room. That is a HUGE testament to an archetype's strength. Night March spent months beating back a metagame consisting of ONLY decks aiming to beat it. I'm certain Yveltal's stability isn't to that level, but it still passed a tough test with flying colors. It isn't beating a field of 50% Vespiquen/Zebstrika decks, but it can hold up to being a gunned for known quantity for sure.

Alright, I also want to debunk something: Yveltal Garbodor is the best deck, however, I don't think it is oppressively so. I've seen the pre-emptive witch hunt going on at Virbank and similar groups, and it just makes me roll my eyes. The deck, at face value, is very much a fair deck: What it does isn't degenerate. It doesn't really OHKO things. It doesn't get quick turn 1 KOs. It doesn't present an overwhelming board state. It grinds out decks very, very well. That is not a bad place for a "best deck" to be. It wins, but usually through competitive games and there is a lot of play on both sides. It is disruptive, but not in a Trevenant or Seismitoad or Vileplume manner. The deck doesn't lock decks out of playing the game. Yes, certain decks get hit pretty hard by Garbodor, but even then they can play the Lysandre game to fight over them.

If you want a "best" deck, Yveltal is a pretty reasonable one to have terrorizing the format. It isn't like Night March where if you didn't bring a deck that was dedicated to beating it you were running about a 20% chance to beat it. It has a bunch of 50-50 to 60-40 matchups against the top decks. It was such a popular play because it had few BAD matchups in the known metagame, and it allowed good players a game plan to leverage their expected ability to outplay an opponent.

Anyways, lets look at the top 8 from London quickly before I go into lists for Yveltal Garbodor.

1.) Michael Pramawat: Yveltal Garbodor

2.) Jay Lesage: Yveltal Garbodor

3.) Phillip Schulz: Yveltal Garbodor

4.) Tord Reklev: Yveltal Garbodor

5.) Yveltal Garbodor: Yee Wei Chun

6.) Greninja: Grafton Roll

7.) Volcanion: Pedro Torres

8.) Volcanion: Attar Ricco

9.) Alex Hill: Vespiquen/Z

I included Alex by virtue of the fact that he had the same record needed to top 8, and that it came down to 2nd tie breakers for him to whiff. For the sake of continuing in the event, "close" doesn't cut it, but for the sake of discussing the best performing decks for the weekend, I'll definitely count it. Worth noting is that he lost round 9 on day 1 to Volcanion to finish at 8-1, and due to the nature of day 2 pairings, was immediately repaired against the same opponent losing a second time. While Volcanion was a very popular deck, and a matchup Alex says is winnable (I'll admit it looks pretty rough on paper to me) it is unfortunate to take back to back losses against the same opponent in Swiss.

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