Las Noches Oscuras Del Alma: Your Comprehensive Guide Into The Baleful Night

By Clifton Goh

Clifton Goh is the 2017/2018 No. 1 Pokémon TCG player in Oceania heading into this year’s World Championships. With plenty of major tournaments experience throughout the years, and multiple Worlds qualifications under his belt, he is possibly one of the best players in Southeast Asia.

Darkness falls across the Land
The Midnight Hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of Blood
To terrorize ya’ll’s neighbourhood

1099913

Contents
Witching Hour 1: Nightfall (Introduction)

Witching Hour 2: Wicked Brew (Deck Development)

  • Phase 1: Formulation
  • Phase 2: Refinement
  • Phase 3: Finishing Touches

Witching Hour 3: Execution (Piloting the Deck)

  • Overview
  • Buzzwole Variant
    • BuzzRoc
    • BuzzGarb
  • Malamar Variants
    • Ultra, Psychic, and Non GX Malamar
  • Zoroark Variants
    • ZoroPod
    • ZoroRoc
    • ZoroGarb
  • Greninja

Witching Hour 4: The Akashic Records (Tournament Recap)

  • Tournament Report
  • Additional Remarks

The Final Witching Hour: Daybreak (Concluding Remarks)

 

Witching Hour 1: Nightfall (Introduction)

Perhaps you were fortunate to experience it to know what I mean: a moment of serendipity in a blinding flash. Be it by your own volition in a lucid and inspired moment like a spiritual epiphany in dire straits; or (at least in my case), after a dark and brainstormy night, witnessing streaks of brilliant illumination in the skyscape of the team’s collective hivemind.

Eureka hits you in the aftermath, like a rainbow after the torrential downpour, and you chase after the promise that showed in the wake of this exchange of ideas.

This pot at the end of the rainbow is known as Baleful Night.

In this article, I will detail on the origin of the idea, its development, with detailed explanations of each and every component of the deck to the best of my ability to allow you to best understand why each part fits, and how you can best this construct to build your path to victory.

This is a comprehensive blueprint to the intricate machinations of the winged wonder, Yveltal BREAK. A wealth of scribbles and annotations on aged paper, guaranteed. The Baleful Night is long and confusing, and here’s your roadmap, the constellations that light your way, every step of the way.

It’s a long ride.

Disclaimer: This article is very lengthy! Don’t force yourself to digest everything if it’s not to your palate! This is not a degustation menu for tasting and nibbling: this is a buffet! With respect to this, it is best to TAKE WHAT YOU NEED AND IGNORE WHAT YOU DON’T. However, if my ceaseless ramblings appeal to you, then go ahead and be a glutton for verbal punishment: it’s all you can eat, so clean out the shop if you have to. Your mileage may vary from this very point on.

It’s boarding time and it’s a red-eye flight. Welcome to your Baleful Night.

 

Witching Hour 2: Wicked Brew (Deck Development)

Phase 1: Formulation

This little fun deck started out like many other rogues before it: the by-product of chaotic brainstorming, and of boundless creative energy bounding around in the immediate vicinity to generate enough electricity to cause a lightbulb to go off. I credit Travis Nunlist heavily for the genesis of this concept, and the early efforts of people such as Dustin Zimmerman, Brit Pybas and Amelia Bottemiller for bringing this idea past the childbirth stage and into the world.

It all began when our group had a very random playtesting session in their afternoon (which was basically wee hours of the morning at night for myself) over Discord. Travis told us that he had a great idea and that we would love it. Despite having to work the following morning, I miraculously responded to the 2:30 am alarm I set on the phone and crawled to the laptop.

I would be the first victim of many others who fell to the rogue that lay before me.

The initial iteration of Yveltal was to pair it with Garbodor. Yveltal itself was intuitively pretty good versus Buzzwole variants, it was:

  • Buzzwole’s Non GX, 130 HP counterpart
  • With fighting resistance
  • Potential to circumvent Sledgehammer, ensuring that Buzzwole hits like a wet tissue
  • In possession of a BREAK that does 120, anti Diancie (a card that basically says ‘fighting resistance is now negated’) numbers

In one compact package.

Garbodor was naturally intended to deal with Malamar. And that’s 2 of the 3 parts of the Buzz/Malamar/Zoroark triangle down pat.

And so testing has begun.

I was first to step up to the gauntlet, with a Buzzroc list that I had great faith in, coming in Top 4 at the Singapore SPE with (I scooped at the semi-finals, so who knows where’d I might’ve gone with it!). I was quick to grasp Yveltal’s ability to wall Buzzwole effectively, and immediately went for Lycanroc GX instead (which, as it turned out, was the deck’s best out to Yveltal) but was foiled with a Guzma to Rockruff and having the other prized.

The second game I got Lycanroc GX off, but a horrible trade with 2 non GX Pokémon quickly put that to rest, and Yveltal walled the rest of the attackers with the help of Mewtwo checking any rampaging Buzzwole GX. It was good to go versus Buzzroc, as far as I was concerned.

Next up, Malamar was tested against and though both games were close, Yveltal kept whiffing the final cards (usually a Darkness energy or a Float Stone) required to seal the deal and win the game. Like a wily hare in a thick forest, you simply can’t lay your hands on it. Elusivity was the culprit here, and inconsistency the accomplice.

Despite being a trigger pull away from victory, it lost both games to Malamar, with Garbodor not being very impactful (or present!) at all. However, those were merely unpleasant symptoms. The real plague was that of a malady of infuriating whiffs that put the player one card short of a 3 or 4 prize board wipe for the win.

This aforementioned lack of consistency would be a recurring theme in our refining process, a demon we couldn’t exorcise for much of the Baleful Night. Dear readers: take note of this point.

Lastly, the dreaded Zoroark matchup was tested, with ZoroRoc stepping up to the batting plate. Try as Yveltal might, there was no way to beat a consistently healing monster of a deck with an inconsistent deck that hits for awkward numbers. And when I say awkward, I meant awkward for Yveltal.

We swallowed the toad last, and it was not merciful to us. Riotous Beating has left us in stitches, and off to the bed I went for recuperation.

In all, the results for the night were not encouraging, and how we matched up against the triangle looked like:

  • 2/0 vs Buzzwole
  • 0/2 vs Malamar
  • 0/2 vs Zoroark

I was done for the night, having work the next day and all, so sleep was in order.

What I woke up to was a completed different surprise, like a Christmas present under the tree that you never quite expected, but was glad to find.

In what was probably one heck of brainstorm… no, brain hurricane, the Yveltal deck evolved. Firstly, Garbodor was swapped out for Hoopa.

Remember the awkward hands and inconsistency?

Garbodor was partially responsible: and now it was gone. We took out the trash, and the air was cleared.

Remember the painful experiences with Malamar and Zoroark? Hoopa was the Panacea (do remember at that point non GX Malamar builds were not meta yet).

We had hope. And admittedly while Malamar and Zoroark have outs to Hoopa, the fact that a bare skeleton of a 4/2 Yveltal line and 2 Hoopa can take on the triangle itself in 8 cards showed great promise. We would just work on the padding later on.

The rainbow has appeared after the brainstorm, and with it lies the pot of gold we have to chase from this point on.

I woke up to a busy morning at work.

But I also woke up to the birth of a new rogue.

Phase 2: Refinement

This was indeed the most gruelling phase, spanning from past the first night of conception to the run up to the finishing touches just around a week before the NAIC.

The path to the promised land was rife with trials and tribulations. All sorts of terrain would have to be navigated past, and you’ll draw upon the stalwart support of peers to be able to see the chequered flag, to break past the finishing ribbon.

All this while, you’ll trudge through the prevaricate swamps of uncertainty, the arid desert of playtesting grinds, the fulminating baptism of fire spawned by heated discussions, and the eldritch hellscape of experimentation, one that looks straight out of an Escher painting.

Here’s the tale of the journey of refinement.


Acknowledgment

Throughout the course of this intense ride, I’d definitely want to credit the constant support I’ve received from:

Travis Nunlist, Brit Pybas, and Dustin Zimmerman for never ceasing to work towards the improvement of the lists. We’d touch base extremely regularly with our findings from testing matchups, giving input, and synthesizing them into the current list. Their efforts to put in the legwork gave us a solid foundation from which we could solidly propel ourselves from the start of the refinement phase to the end product.

Joey Ho, Klive Aw, Nicholas Yong, Reuben Fong, and Suikai Wong for the endless encouragement and inexhaustible patience for taking the time and effort to test with this odd little brew and improve my understanding of how best to pilot the list against the rest of the metagame. Without their help, I would neither have any concrete findings to report for ultimate synthesis of the final configuration, nor the mental strength to push on and see the deck to completion.

However, I must once again emphasize on Travis Nunlist’s help in this process. Pestering him past his bedtime with my queries and for clarification became a routine. But never did he brush me off with a blue tick or a half assed reply: not once. Instead, I get constructive feedback and reassurance each and every time, without compromise. Special credit to him for his patience and knowledge.


Rationale for running the deck

For those who know me well enough, I’m pretty much a staunch believer in playing in accordance to the book that the metagame writes.

By that I meant that you can almost always count on me to play not only a meta deck, but also adhere to the most vanilla iterations of said deck. I’ve found great success with this approach, and that is my comfort zone.

So why would I abandon the bucolic pastures of the tried and tested in favour of plunging into the gaping maw of the rabbit hole in front of me, for the biggest tournament of the year (player turnout wise, at the very least), with the biggest CP yield? Well I have 3 layers of justification for this, off the top of my head.

Reason #1: It was well within my means for that to happen
Going into the NAIC, I was ranked #1 in Oceania with regards to the CP race for day 2 and travel awards for the next internationals by a comfortable margin.

Being #1 wasn’t even the objective: a rank of 4thwould have gotten me what I wanted all the same. So, my attachment to the outcome for this tournament was virtually non-existent and would stay that way until the end.

Moreover, my reasons for coming to the NAIC were threefold, and none had to do with results: (i) to experience my first 4-digit attendance Pokémon event,
(ii) to catch up with overseas friends, and
(iii) to be eligible for the lump sum of cash Pokémon awarded me just for showing up.

Expounding upon (iii), I was lucky to have good friends who gave me fantastic deals on both flights and accommodation, so I actually made a profit when one accounted for the lump sum that I was about to receive. Any other cash bonus for performing well (which I received!) would be a bonus and nothing more.

With CP goals and money virtually guaranteed heading into the event, I had plenty of room to do as I pleased for the event. It would be the only event this season that I would take easily and not seriously, and I looked forward to this much needed break from an intense (but fun) CP race spanning almost an entire year.

Here’s a safety net, the rankings said: it’s time to frolic and bounce around. Bounce around (ideas) I did, with great aplomb. It was as if I woke up with the body of a 5 year old with access to the nearest bouncy castle: time to cast off the persona of the beleaguered CP farmer and immerse myself in pure play and experimentation.

I could make mistakes if I was goofing around and goofed up, because I have room to learn from them… bringing me to my next point.

Writer’s Note: I am currently aware that the stipends/travel awards requirements have been changed ever since. However, I was blissfully unaware of this stark reality at that point of time. Thus, the above was merely a reflection of my rationalizations at that time and may not necessarily be accurate in the absolute sense.

Reason #2: It would be a great learning experience
I would like to preface this by saying that though I am a self-proclaimed metagame diehard, I do have experience playing rogue decks, even at the highest levels. Examples include making top cut at Worlds ’12 with the secret deck of the era, ChandyGor, and also grinding in to Day 2 of Worlds ’15 with a mind-boggling complication of a concoction: Landorus/Raichu/Hawlucha/Mewtwo/Victini, the brainchild of Singaporean deck crafting stalwarts like Joey Ho and Kenneth Tan.

However, strengths and weaknesses of rogue wax and wane like moon phases over time, and I’d like to have another swing at the process of developing and ultimately pilot a rogue deck at a high tier premier event once more. It’s an admittedly fun process, but more important, one that is extremely educational.

First off, to build a good rogue, you need a very strong fundamental understanding of the present format. One who can consistently build and/or play rogues for a given format might not necessarily do as well in another format, despite the overlapping skillsets of creativity, deckbuilding mathematics, and the like all coming into play. The format changes and so must the focus of the rogue you’re building. You might be using or even dismantling current deck engines, and you’re most certainly going to be developing counters against the top tier decks of the day. Know thine enemy!

Secondly, to pilot a rogue you need to develop your own lines of play from scratch. Gone are the luxuries of being able to watch a stream of the matchup interaction you wish to learn about, and gone are seeking advice from articles or more experienced players on that matter too. You craft your plays from the ground up, and optimize them on top of that. It’s fun to see your plans blossom into satisfying wins, but it is more important to note that this will teach you so much on your ability to make decisions as well.

There are so many ways making a rogue can teach you more about the game, but these 2 are the main reasons. The rest of the way is themed with the nuances of testing your limits as a player and also of removing the training wheels fastened upon too many a player in this age of abundant information. It’s a baptism of fire, and I can take some burns at this stage already.

I wished to enter the cut and thrust of making a rogue with a dedicated and motivated group of like-minded people again. It would make for a great learning experience and a wonderful experiment no matter the outcome (experiments can fail but you can still get something out of it regardless, right?) and I can afford to pay the price for this bit of education this time round.

That doesn’t happen too often these days, so I jumped at the chance.

Reason #3: The deck genuinely has potential
Lastly, I don’t want to run the risk of being mistaken for running a rogue purely for the mere sake of doing so. So I will add that in addition to the fact that I’m not only fine to play around with any bits of funk I found and that I am in the phase of experimentation over implementation, I also truly saw the goodness in the deck.

Like I mentioned, between Yveltal BREAK and Hoopa, you have answers to the triangle. It’s an 8 card combination between a 4/2 Yveltal line and 2 Hoopa, with space for 52 more cards.

All that is needed is padding to reduce the chances of the opponent playing around your shenanigans, and the practice to pilot this concoction to its fullest potential, including enhancing the deck’s consistency too.

If Yveltal and Hoopa are the flour and sugar of the cake, then the paddings (such as the consistency buffs) are the base. Without said foundation, it would be nothing more than a puddle of confectionery collapse.

So yes, while there is much work to be done on the deck, we have 52 cards remaining to operate with, and that’s plenty of legroom to kick around ideas, with our answers to the “rock paper scissors” lock on the metagame already within our grasp. The field is wide open for us to gallop upon, and exploration shall begin.

And so, our refinement process kicked off with this.

Refinement Process (Pokémon Lines)

The first component of refinement was the Pokémon lines used, for that set the tone for the entire deck. A core of 8 Cards were quickly agreed upon:

4/2 Yveltal BREAK
2 Hoopa SLG

We ran an Oranguru for extra consistency, since internal draw was indeed all the vogue amongst the decks of the time (I’m looking at you Buzzroc and Zoroark decks!). No point deviating from the trend (one that’s tried and tested too!) more than we are already have: even Hipsters clothe themselves.

Admittedly, Octillery was heavily considered, only for it to clunk in testing eventually… so it’s back to the white primate.

We have:
4/2 Yveltal BREAK
2 Hoopa SLG
1 Oranguru SUM

Mewtwo was our intuitive fail safe against an overaggressive Buzzwole GX, as well as Hoopa (Portal Strike) shenanigans, and other assorted non GX attackers Zoroark variant would try against us.

The main purpose was still Buzzwole when all was said and done, and we found that if we:

  • Whiffed the return KO, be it in course of probability, prizing, or are lacking in the faculty to bench it before crunch time (look at point iii)
  • Are forced to bench Mewtwo in an awkward Sycamore discard
  • Pre-emptively got our Mewtwo KO-ed

Then it would require the absurd combination of Super Rod, Mewtwo outs (usually what is left of our Ultra Ball count), Double Colorless Energy, and Choice Band to rally back or risk getting swept. It’s playing one more round of roulette in a game already having inherent elements of variance: I’d rather keep my winnings and exit the casino first.

This led to us quickly coming to the conclusion that we had to play 2 of it. Now we could bench one pre-emptively to increase our probability of replying with it, allow us to elixir to one, and surprise our adversaries with a second Mewtwo. An approximately mere 0.88% chance to prize both is also very welcome.

This led to:

4/2 Yveltal BREAK
2 Hoopa SLG
1 Oranguru SUM
2 Mewtwo EVO

Tapu Lele was a must have consistency fail safe, but the real question was how many were good enough: 1 or 2?

The case for 1 Tapu Lele:

  • You have less chance of starting with it: our deck prides itself on not benching Lele
  • More space for other cards

The case for 2 Tapu Lele:

  • More consistency
  • More flexibility with supporters: get your coveted Guzma for the win!

This was such a contentious issue that it was only in phase 3 that we had this settled:

4/2 Yveltal BREAK
2 Hoopa SLG
1 Oranguru SUM
2 Mewtwo EVO
1 or 2 Tapu Lele GX

Lastly, our choice of spread. This would be the foundation upon which Yveltal BREAK’s Baleful Night builds upon.

The prototype was a mishmash of Hoopa (Portal Strike) for its Hyperspace Punch, Latios, and Tapu Koko. 3 spaces for spread and for a decent chance to start with them seemed intuitively the quantity we wanted to run with. Turns out that this stayed as the number of spreaders we played in the end.

Hoopa was very quickly done away with, being underwhelming in comparison to Latios. Let’s put it this way: if you wanted to run Hoopa, you’d sooner run Latios. It has (i) more value and (ii) between 4 DCE and 4 Max Elixir, it’s not hard to meet the attack cost.

Koko is fantastic in general, and so we went from Hoopa, Latios, and Koko to simply Latios and Koko.

The real question is, how many of each? The initial consensus, which stuck for a very long time, was 1 Latios and 1 Koko. However, some developments occurred that made me vouch for 0 Latios, 2 Koko instead:

(i) The emergence of Non GX Malamar variants
Previously, our primary strategy vs Malamar was to wall with Hoopa and wear them out of their resources and run them over. If it’s a Mewtwo GX tossing their GX attack your way, you’ll use Mewtwo EVO to send them packing, then come back in with Hoopa. Everything revolved around, and was resolved by Hoopa. You take them on a roller coaster ride: they’ll rise and take KOs a few times, but they’ll be back on the floor in no time.

When the non GX variants went into vogue, Hoopa was nothing but a band aid upon a mortal wound: no longer something to be relied upon. Instead, I found that if you pulled off 3 Flying Flips + 1 Baleful Night, you’ll pull off an incredibly debilitating board wipe. Multiple KOs, denial of the use of Beast Rings, and taking away their source of energy acceleration on board were the recipes for their disaster. It’s like the 10 plagues took away everything they had and stood for.

Wait, 3 Flying Flips? How can one achieve that with a singular Tapu Koko and perhaps the use of one Super Rod, assuming it makes a timely appearance? However! With 2, and the use of Super Rod, now with more room for variance to take hold, this is entire possible. It’s fine if they disrupt your attempts to use Baleful Night, the idea is to never stop using Flying Flip!

And so, in view of this I wanted 2 Tapu Koko.

(ii) Its value against Zoroark Garbodor
Of all the major players in the metagame, Zoroark Garbodor was the very last matchup I’ve studied. It’s neither as prevalent as Buzzwole variants or its other Zoroark cousins, nor as quickly figured out as Malamar and Greninja were, so it moved to the back of the priority list and was last to complete.

However, what I did find at the end was Flying Flip’s value against the matchup. It was simple: the conventional Hoopa approach was not very useful here due to Garbotoxin’s auspices. It wasn’t as simple as taking out a Garbotoxin Garbodor: they can delay evolving it while keeping 2 Trubbish on board until they needed it to waste your attachments to Hoopa. From there, it’s academic: a game of attrition for both and an uphill battle for you.

However, it was found that unless you allowed them, they’re capped out at 120 damage. This means if Yveltal BREAK hits the board, it gets 2 turns to wreck face on the board. However, to get it rolling at all, you need to Flying Flip first.

I’ll delve more into it in the matchups section, but this late discovery made me want to raise my Koko count to more than just 1.

(iii) Its value against Greninja
The Greninja matchup is basically, in a phrase, Flying Flip then Baleful Night. If one Tapu Koko is prized, then a good matchup becomes an uphill battle.

With approximately 10 percent chance to prize a Koko if you play just one of it, compared to a less than one percent chance to prize both if you play 2, coupled with a ton of swiss rounds worth of variance ahead of me in the main event, it’s best to play it safe and run Koko numero uno and numero dos alike.

(iv) Unexpected strength against fringe decks
The NAIC is a huge event, with both exponents and casuals in the game in attendance.

Resultingly, the variance in deck choices would be huge. There’s a reasonable chance to face a fringe deck or two, especially in the early stages of the game.

Plenty of the deck’s Pokémon lines are checks to the common suspects in the metagame, such as Mewtwo for Buzzwole and sometimes Malamar, and Hoopa for Zoroark and Malamar.

However, what if I’m up against say, Dusk Mane Necrozma with Magnezone?

Initial Spread + Yveltal BREAK is the deck’s bread and butter stratagem, and it is a line of play we will tend to stick to if the adversary’s deck falls under the “miscellaneous” category. You want to be able to pull said moves off consistently, and Tapu Koko has the best spread all round since Latios is only great against Psychic weak Pokémon.

As my tournament experience would soon show, Tapu Koko pulled its weight and so much more against fringe decks. Its utility in such a situation cannot be understated for sure.

(v) It is a great starter
Lastly, provided you do not get benched out (and to be fair, it is something that’ll happen regardless of your starter for the round) Tapu Koko’s the best starter, with its free retreat serving as both a wildcard and a pivot for you to begin executing your strategy.

And because of its strength as a starter in the matchups outlined in (i), (ii), (iii), and (iv), you actually want to start with it more.

Thus, in the interests of a consistently good start, and of being able to improve your matchups, I was heavily in favour of adding a 2ndTapu Koko to the list.

Still, there was doubt with regards to this. Latios very clearly has great value against Buzzwole variants, and we do (correctly) expect a ton of them to show up at the tournament. Tapu Koko or Latios for the 2ndspreader spot? It was a debate that took a while to arrive at some resolution.

And so, for the Pokémon line, we were here:

4/2 Yveltal BREAK
2 Hoopa SLG
1 Oranguru SUM
2 Mewtwo EVO
1 or 2 Tapu Lele GX
1 Tapu Koko
1 Tapu Koko or Latios

We didn’t know it then, but we were just 1 or 2 cards away from finalizing the Pokémon line.

Refinement Phase (T/S/S Lines)

We began making improvements upon the T/S/S lines around the part where we were debating over the Tapu Lele lines (just before we made constant adjustments to the spreader lines).

This was simply because the slots for potentially extra Pokémon (such as Tapu Lele and spreaders, most specifically) were in direct competition for the last few slots for T/S/S to make the final 60, and so the debate for those heated up during that portion of the refinement phase.

This implies that yes, we did have a baseline configuration for our T/S/S lines, of which were present in the first draft and hardly moved from their point of origin afterwards. This was because those counts were either intuitively or obviously good, and have proven to be so upon further investigation. Here’s some elaboration.

For supporters, we began with the raw standard 10 draw/shuffle options + 4 Guzma present in so many decks in the format. It went down to 8 when Octillery was experimented with, but when the 8 limbed draw engine was found to be clunky and dismissed in the span of less than 36 hours, we reverted back to the previous configuration:

4 Professor Sycamore
4 N
2 Cynthia
4 Guzma

When it comes to our particular mix of draw/shuffle supporters, rumination isn’t too complex: Professor Sycamore was maxed out to increase our chances of discarding Darkness Energy for a Oblivion Wing ASAP; maximum counts played for N goes in line with the fact that we often force opponent to grind through 6 knock outs on meaty Pokémon that drains their resources, and that we frequently rally from behind to make huge comebacks. N to 1s and plays from behind are not uncommon and so we would do well to max our N count.

This configuration is pretty standard and intuitive since it aligns itself with the deck’s operations most suitably.

As for the trainer lines, we went with the standard 4 Ultra Ball count, and similarly played 4 Max Elixir. Max Elixir’s utility cannot be overstated, and has so many purposes, such as:

  • Quickly compensating for Yveltal BREAK’s ridiculous energy cost
  • Powering up a Latios/Tapu Koko/Mewtwo even if we whiff DCE (of which 4 or less are available at any given moment, and is unsearchable) in crunch time
  • Making a sudden Hoopa rush out of thin air materialize and become reality

With practical applications to help our main attackers fulfil their main objective, Max Elixir is a card that cannot be compromised on, quantity wise. We knew that going in at first, and that knowledge has never been questioned.

We are resultingly now at:

4 Professor Sycamore
4 N
2 Cynthia
4 Guzma

4 Max Elixir
4 Ultra Ball

The next definite inclusion was 1 Super Rod. It’s too good, with utility with regards to:

  • Allowing our 2 of attackers to keep going strong in the face of untimely discards because of 1) a full bench, 2) Parallel City woes, 3) Prizing 1 of our 2 of attackers and then having it knocked out, and 4) typical bad but necessary Professor Sycamore discards
  • Letting us swarm 3 to 4 Hoopa in matchups where it is good in, such as against most Malamar and Zoroark variants, a huge part of the metagame
  • Increasing our odds of success in important Max Elixir attempts. Just remember to keep one Darkness energy in the discard pile if you intend to use Oblivion Wing in the near future too

By bolstering the capabilities, consistency, and matchups of our deck all in a single card, Super Rod was well worth its inclusion in the deck. It is the inclusion of a plaster in every first aid kit. Travis, being a natural deck builder with a ton of experience building strong deck lists (such as Spooky sect, and more famously: Honorstoise), had the latent sense to throw one in to his initial draft (Read: YveltalGarb) and it stuck ever since.

This puts us at:

4 Professor Sycamore
4 N
2 Cynthia
4 Guzma

4 Max Elixir
4 Ultra Ball
1 Super Rod

No deck list is ever complete without their tools in this format, and this deck is certainly not an exception.

Choice Band was pretty straightforward in this deck, allowing Mewtwo to serve its purpose in OHKO-ing Buzzwole, and to afford Yveltal BREAK the ability to slug stuff very hard for magic numbers with its 150 damage Baleful Night (e.g. 150 + 30 = OHKO on Lele, Regirock, etc; 150 + 30 + 30 = OHKO on Zoroark). It allows Hoopa to OHKO Dawn Wings Necrozma and 2HKO virtually every relevant GX in format, putting them on a shorter clock to find their non GX answers as compared to its normal 3HKO configuration.

For Hoopa, Fighting Fury Belt was never a consideration: if any matchup has the potential to one shot Hoopa (such as in Buzzroc) on short notice, we should have a different approach against it already, and not rely on a tool that gets eviscerated at the drop of a commonly run Field Blower.

The chosen quantity of 3 was there initially, and has never changed ever since to put us at:

4 Professor Sycamore
4 N
2 Cynthia
4 Guzma

4 Max Elixir
4 Ultra Ball
1 Super Rod
3 Choice Band

Amidst this talk about Choice Band and Fighting Fury Belt, another tool must also be mentioned and considered.

Float Stone was initially run in counts of 3, but was eventually resolved to 2.

It was reflexive to run the same count of Float Stone as Choice Band, but it was decided that this level of mobility was less a necessity and more a luxury, seeing as the need to retreat our beefy non GX units was not urgent, and retreat costs can occasionally be patched with the use of Oblivion Wing.

To elaborate:
(i) Tapu Koko and Latios were mobile enough to get by without Float Stone. Tapu Lele was similar if you start with it

(ii) Mewtwo tends to kamikaze after serving its purpose as a Psychic type counter, and to retreat it was no issue because you tended to stick DCE to it anyway

(iii) If Hoopa is applied, there was usually no urgency to retreat it. Hoopa’s a wall and it will stay as is. Retreat is still no issue in this case because you tend to stick 3 energy upon it in any case

(iv) Yveltal is generally a very good attacker to keep in front and there is often no urgency to retreat it. Strafe Yveltal has its own eject mechanism

(v) Single retreat cost units can retreat and be paid back through Oblivion Wing

(vi) Max Elixir can help to keep you attacking even though you paid for the retreat cost using your manual attachment for the turn and so tempo is still consistent

(vii) Just about all your units are non GX and losing one of them just because you are stranded is not too big of a deal when all is said and done

Float Stone was thus a luxury, a taxi ride when public transport would do, a win more over a must have or a game swinging card, and so the count was promptly cut to 2 in favour of other cards.

4 Professor Sycamore
4 N
2 Cynthia
4 Guzma

4 Max Elixir
4 Ultra Ball
1 Super Rod
3 Choice Band
2 Float Stone

And now comes the part where controversy was rife, and this was with regards to the last 2 spots for T/S/S.

At this stage, the list seemed to have all the essentials firmly in place: a fair shot to give any of the decks in the triangle a good fight and more. Weaponry to stab and gore virtually any opponent out of the mortal plane are now well stocked in our barracks. So the next question is, how would the final 2 cards shore up the matchups that were on the fence?

For quick reference (and I will delve much deeper into this in the matchups section later on), the ones we held some concern over were Buzzroc, a particularly well teched (this meant tech-ing baby Buzzwole and/or Acerola) ZoroRoc build, and ZoroGarb. The rest, as far as we knew, didn’t require further tech-ing against.

It came down to 3 different choices, 2 copies of: (i) Field Blower, (ii) Enhanced Hammer, or (iii) Parallel City.

Only one of these three would be picked to be included in the final list.

Let’s start with the elimination of the most obvious choice, Field Blower.

(i) The Case AGAINST Field Blower
In my opinion, Field Blower is the shakiest of the 3 options we have, seeing as the only relevant tools and/or stadiums we want to be rid of are only 2: Fighting Fury Belt and Parallel City.

The commonly run Choice Band would not be impactful at all against us, since we don’t run Pokémon GX save for one consistency booster.

Another common option, Float Stone, was also not in our list of threats. Whether or not we’d be successful against any matchup was not dependent on their mobility. We’re definitely not one of those “pull you up to stall and then spread” decks: as a matter of fact, we welcome retreats because that’s how Baleful Night’s spread goes even further.

As for Float Stone on Garbodor, we’ve found that Guzma for knock out is far more effective and powerful than merely Field Blowers. To illustrate, the use of Field Blower just requires them to use another tool to keep Garbotoxin back online; the use of Guzma for knock out forces them to pre-emptively bench another Trubbish prior to this at minimum, and then evolve, PLUS HAVE THE TOOL on top of everything to restore Garbotoxin.

Besides, we don’t use abilities a whole lot except Hoopa in specifically the ZoroGarb matchup (we don’t even think of using Hoopa against BuzzGarb most of the time!), an interaction which we have already crafted a systematic game plan against.

Finally, stadiums such as Brooklet Hill were what we’ve decided to live with. It doesn’t matter much to us if you get to search for all your units: we’d simply treat it as more targets for us to spread on. Besides, that card is more of a consistency booster for Buzzroc and BuzzGarb more than anything: if we were to remove it from the field, it would not be particularly impactful against them save for a few select rare instances. For that kind of situational and trivial amount of potential gain, Field Blower doesn’t deserve 2 slots in our deck.

This brings us to the main point of 2 cards that we’d very much like to use Field Blower on. As previously mentioned, they were Fighting Fury Belt.

Fighting Fury Belt allows a fresh Buzzwole GX in BuzzGarb to absolutely survive a Mewtwo/DCE/Choice Band return KO, and potentially allow them to sweep us for another turn.

However, this point was quickly flung out of the window, because of the following justifications:

  1. Of the common metagame decks, BuzzGarb is the only one running Fighting Fury Belt as a norm. It’s questionable to save 2 slots in our list to better just one matchup in the entire metagame, and one which is already favourable no less. It’s counterproductive to save one tree and risk the entire forest.
  2. We’re a spread deck, and so we can always pre-emptively damage their Buzzwole to soften it up for a KO. An FFB Buzzwole survives the Mewtwo/DCE/Choice Band combo by 10 damage only, so any bit of damage on it would be potentially fatal and thus easy for us to prepare. No Field Blower necessary.
  3. They can suddenly lay a fresh Buzzwole GX and throw Beast Ring(s) on it to snatch a KO on us, but that’ll require a large combination of cards, no mean feat in a deck without internal draw and (for the most part) Garbotoxin online that blocks out any Lele play they might have in order to achieve this.
  4. Even if they get through all the hoops we throw at time and force us to settle for Psychic for 220, we’re fine with this. The explanation is simple.

We’re not a heavy GX deck like say, Zoroark GX that finds it hard to handle 2 turn Buzzwole sweep that puts them at 2/3 on the way to victory. We’re a non GX deck primarily, and we can stage comebacks past this easily and typically.

As a spread deck, we can easily take back the KO we’re missing, and still do damage to other units simultaneously in the future. This is especially so in the case of 2 of the 3 spreaders in our deck (Yveltal BREAK’s 120/150 + 30, and Latios’ 60/120 + 30). Our tempo is not compromised.

You’ve leapt past our rings of fire, but all you found at the end is an empty spectator stand, one without applause for your feat. Now you’re in the lion’s pit.

Next, we talk about justifying not giving ourselves an option to remove Parallel City.

We’ve found that we’re a deck that doesn’t need a huge bench space to function. In fact, by and large we thrive on a small bench space. Examples include:

  1. Keeping a bench size of 2 or less against the Buzzroc matchup if we judge that Lycanroc’s Dangerous Rogue would be debilitating to our set up.
  2. The utility of Hoopa, coupled an incentive to bench of less Pokémon than the opponent can take prizes to close the game with, against most Malamar and some Zoroark matchups.

With the propensity to run with a low bench, and comfortably thrive while doing so, against just about some variant of the 3 main metagame decks in this format, we found very little incentive to remove Parallel City if it was played against us.

With such little and very situational utility against the format’s big players, Field Blower didn’t warrant its 2 deck slots.

(ii) The Case AGAINST Enhanced Hammer
The last 2 contenders, Enhanced Hammer and Parallel City, were not so easily coaxed into cuts. It’s a 2 horse race at this point, and we’re set for a photo finish of epic proportions: it’s mane to mane at this deckbuilding stage.

The reasons to include Enhanced Hammer were very strong, with respect to shoring up the 3 dubious matchups it had in the metagame. To elaborate on this point:

  1. Against Buzzroc, it was instrumental to stopping a Lycanroc sweep via Claw Slash.

Yveltal has what it takes to wall and/or counterpunch just about every option Buzzroc has in place. It has 1) resistance to block early Sledgehammer pokes, 2) Mewtwo to check the overzealous usage of Swing Around/Knuckle Impact/Absorption GX, 3) sniping mechanism and numbers to overcome 4 prize Sledgehammer and increments from Diancie, and 4) the ability to comfortably and consistently play properly with a low bench size to defend against a devastating Dangerous Rogue GX (which often segues into Claw Slash sweeps).

However, sometimes an early Lycanroc GX sneaks in with the successful use of 1 or 2 Max Elixirs to perform an uncheckable (well not immediately at least, which is important against a high tempo deck like Buzzroc) Claw Slash sweep.

Your city walls are up, but the catapults are on their way. Granite bulwarks will fall like grey Styrofoam like a shower of despair upon that which you cling on to. So here comes an enhancement, in the form of a hammer.

Enhanced Hammer is so key here. Lycanroc GX needs the assistance of Strong Energy to hit the magic 150 (1 Strong + 1 Diancie or 2 Strong) to OHKO Yveltal, and the magic 170 (2 Strong + 1 Diancie) to OHKO Yveltal BREAK. If they do not OHKO any of these units, which are the most commonly utilized ones against this matchup, their Lycanroc risks getting 2HKO’d or 3HKO’d in return, resulting in a terrible prize trade and even worse misallocation of resources.

So they’d attach the Strong Energy with great aplomb in order to circumvent this. This is where Enhanced Hammer comes in. With instantaneous energy removal to set them back their attachment for the turn, coupled with the fact you cannot accelerate energy to Lycanroc GX when it has evolved, what they have is a) the loss of one of their 4 Strong Energy that cannot be recovered, 2) potential inability to keep up in the prize trade if they whiff the OHKO, and 3) deadweight in the form of a GX that doesn’t typically get healed and is worth 2 free prizes.

Bonus points if they can’t even attack with it (often happens if they rush you with Dangerous Rogue with at least one Strong Energy, and then you hammer it off to leave them with just one Energy) and then whiff the Float Stone/Guzma needed to escape the active position. You just won yourself a free turn against a unit that’s supposed to be your biggest threat. Your most austere adversary has become a sitting duck because you played just one card from your hand.

 

  1. Against ZoroRoc tech-ing in Baby Buzzwole, Enhanced Hammer means the difference between getting OHKO or trading favourably in a crucial prize exchange.

The ZoroRoc matchup is typically handled by walling and then hitting with Hoopa, teasing out their non GX answers.

Typical non GX responses such as Latios and Mewtwo are very weak in the face of 2 Hoopa.

A Latios can easily be stopped by a retreat into Mewtwo/DCE for the knock out, and cannot immediately be recovered by Puzzle of Time for instant use or risk having history repeat itself: our Mewtwo needs to be answered first before anything else can happen with Latios.

A Mewtwo on their part is tankier, but doesn’t deal well getting swarmed with 2 Hoopa. A game of attrition can begin and end in the favour of our Hoopa as we trade 2HKOs but they only typically run one Mewtwo. From that point, we continue to chip away with Hoopa until they dig for Puzzles into another Mewtwo, by which point we’d have done plenty of damage to their board, set up our alternate attackers, and have Super Rod ready to repeat history.

ZoroRoc, however, runs Strong Energy and some specific builds tech Baby Buzzwole to take full advantage of that. With the use of Acerola to preserve such a resource, it can be challenging to deal with for sure.

Barring the 4 prize Sledgehammer that we would actively avoid, Sledgehammer is an OHKO on our primary attackers (Hoopa) if 2 Strong Energy are used. With a beefy 130 HP, it is very hard to pre-emptively knock it out if it chooses to sweep in this manner. Our Mewtwo even falls short at 120 damage.

However, if we played Enhanced Hammer, we can definitely slow down their approach, forcing them to find another Strong Energy to OHKO/begin attacking. Every turn they miss this, they get their GX units slugged hard for 80/110. If they settle for a 2HKO game with just 1 Strong Energy, or are forced into it with a pre-emptive Guzma, we can play an attrition game that would end in our favour, just like how we’ll do against any Mewtwo tech.

Finally, it puts to rest any Hail Mary play centring around Rockruff’s surprise attack. Hammering away Strong Energy on the board means that they have to wait one more turn to pull it off, and we can continue applying pressure smoothly and unhindered, forcing them to dig for, and commit more, resources to even have a shot in progressing in the matchup.

 

  1. Against ZoroGarb, their reliance on Special Energy means that we have the potential to stall them or slow them down long enough to give our spread a chance to make a bigger difference.

ZoroGarb is a unique Zoroark matchup in which Hoopa takes a back seat for the most part, and our bread and butter spread stratagem comes to the fore.

The “market standard” ZoroGarb build, which is the one Stephane Ivanoff and Fabien Pujol used to great success at the recently concluded NAIC, is one with an energy count populated purely by Special Energy.

Because its damage output is capped at 120 (assuming you judiciously watched your item count and don’t exceed the magic number of 6 or 7 in the discard and/or on the field), Yveltal BREAK is key here, getting to spread twice before getting knocked out. Coupled with the prior utility of Tapu Koko, that’s 80 to everyone in one session before giving 2 prizes up.

It’s huge, but 110 to everyone is far more powerful, allowing us 1) easy OHKO on any Zoroark GX, Kartana GX and/or Tapu Lele GX for our sweeping purposes, 2) easy OHKO(s) on Trashalanche Garbodor with one more Flying Flip, and 3) removal of Garbotoxin Garbodor without the use of Guzma, allowing the potential for Hoopa to come in and score major points against the field before being stopped if at all.

This is not even yet accounting for the fact that we’re pulling off 3 120/150 damage on whatever unfortunate unit is in the active position.

We cannot heal: so how do we prolong our Yveltal BREAK’s “lifespan” so that this may be achieved? It’s simple: we attempt to cut their ability to keep attacking. Enhanced Hammer gives us a chance to cause them to whiff on their attacking spree, and cross into the magical threshold, the promised land, of 3 Baleful Nights.

It’s not a guarantee, far from it. However, this is a matchup that’s very close, one that I’d personally rate as a 50/50 matchup. When you’re caught in such a neck and neck race, every edge matters.

Enhanced Hammer is the proposed edge in this particular race.

However, if Enhanced Hammer was so good that it can play a pivotal part in each and every one of our shaky metagame matchups, why didn’t it make the final list?

Before I explain this, I will preface this, I was in the “let us play Enhanced Hammer” camp for the longest time until the T/S/S count was finalized just under one week before the NAIC. I understand that this subsection was entitled “The Case AgainstEnhanced Hammer” , but my writings so far are contradictory to the headings, but that was simply because that was what I thought at the time, and still do now. The above paragraphs answer another important question: “what would you have edited in the final list moving forwards and why?”. Enhanced Hammer is very good.

So good, that if I were to find myself on the morning of Day 1 of the NAIC ’18 again, I would cut the 2 Parallel City in favour of 2 Enhanced Hammer in my list this time.

Hindsight is often 20/20 (and rose tinted to a fault), the rear mirrors of our lives are always polished to molecular precision, with unparalleled lucidity of vision, but only after the fact.

However, to get to the crux of this section, which is the justification was given by the majority to run Parallel over Enhanced Hammer, let’s talk about the perils of running said card.

Actually there was only one, but it is a relevant concern.

Simply put, Enhanced Hammer is sheer deadweight against matchups it wasn’t useful in, such as Malamar. At least you could put down Parallel City for the sake of doing so most of the time, and in most situations but a dead card runs counter to much needed consistency required of anyone playing in a long and large tournament (the longest and largest thus far in fact) such as the NAIC ’18 itself.

This brings me right to the next part.

(iii) The Case FOR Parallel City
Parallel City is the most generalist of the 3 choices, meaning that it has the most well rounded utility. Save for the presence of Parallel City on your opponent’s side, which is a minority of cases and (as I have mentioned before) not very effective on you, you always have the option to play it down.

While I am not wholly in agreement to run Parallel City in the final list, I will attempt to justify the lines of reasoning given when doing so. This would serve to be pertinent to the heading of this sub section.

Benefits include:

  1. Being able to play it down as and when to thin your deck and raise your probabilities of getting cards you want elsewhere.
  2. Against Zoroark, you limit their damage output and force them to rid themselves of good options, very often other Zoroark, cutting their draw power and hence their ability to recover and/or support their non GX answers to Hoopa.
  3. Against Malamar, you either reduce their Inkay/Malamar count or force them to play tighter with their attacking units, drastically making it much harder for them to exercise their non GX options (of which are ordinarily very few already) against you.
  4. Against Buzzroc, you force them to make very difficult decisions, often resulting in the discard of one or the combinations of these key cards if applied correctly: Diancie, Rockruff/Lycanroc, Remoraid/Octillery. Forcing the abrupt cessation of draw power/consistency or firepower needed to blast through your walling capabilities at the drop of one card is powerful. To top it off, you have an icing on the cake in the form of a way to bump their Brooklet Hill to reduce their consistency by a tiny bit.
  5. Against Greninja, which is our resident fringe deck, you force suboptimal Water Duplicates if you time it correctly, or at least the reduction of good options such as backup Froakie and/or Starmie.
  6. If you were forced to use Tapu Lele GX, you can use Parallel City on yourself to remove it and return back to a pure non GX game plan. Since you are very comfortable playing with a small bench, this is less a compromise you make and more of a strong play with little to no drawbacks.
  7. Same logic applies to situations where you’d use Parallel City to “pseudo heal” your other units and continue playing the denial games Yveltal is fantastic at.

Then another big question comes in: won’t it be counterproductive for a spread deck to limit the bench? With the use of Field Blower and benching fresh unit(s), your field wide spread is now in jeopardy. Another example of such counterproductivity is the potential to “pseudo heal” benched damaged units, giving the opponent the options to take heavily damage units off the field and preventing you from obtaining prize cards from them.

The simple answer in response would then be: if it’s not beneficial, don’t use it! It’s a card with multiple uses, but it should not be used all the time.

In view of the very fact that it has nigh universal utility in the metagame in both major and minor ways, Parallel City has earned its spot in the deck, narrowly inching the “situational specialist” Enhanced Hammer out by a majority vote in the process of doing so.

We are finally at the doorstep of the final phase of the deckbuilding process, with the list being this:

4/2 Yveltal BREAK
2 Hoopa SLG
1 Oranguru SUM
2 Mewtwo EVO
1 or 2 Tapu Lele GX
1 Tapu Koko
1 Tapu Koko or Latios

4 Professor Sycamore
4 N
2 Cynthia
4 Guzma

4 Max Elixir
4 Ultra Ball
1 Super Rod
3 Choice Band
2 Float Stone

2 Parallel City

But wait, you say. Isn’t there something missing? There seems to be a glaring and obvious exclusion.

That’s right. I neglected to touch on the energy lines.

Refinement Phase (Energy Lines)

Right from the very beginning of the deckbuilding process, the energy line was a rough draft 10 Darkness and 4 Double Colorless energies. This would give us both fair outs when Max Elixir is played and also allows us to maximize our chances to draw Double Colorless to power up crucial attacks such as Mewtwo’s Psychic and Tapu Koko’s Flying Flip on the fly.

This number has since worked extremely well and was almost never changed, with the exception of brief forays into an alternate 9 Darkness and Double Colorless count in favour of fitting other cards into our 60 card configuration, which were unanimously dismissed as too inconsistent for our purposes on the next review after testing. The return to the original configuration was instant and without hesitation, staying that way ever since.

Because of our group’s decisive and steadfast commitment to these lines, any discussion of the energy line is a triviality: this was the unquestionably optimal count as far as we were concerned.

This puts us at a grand total of 58 to 59 cards just before the final phase, consisting of:

4/2 Yveltal BREAK
2 Hoopa SLG
1 Oranguru SUM
2 Mewtwo EVO
1 or 2 Tapu Lele GX
1 Tapu Koko
1 Tapu Koko or Latios

4 Professor Sycamore
4 N
2 Cynthia
4 Guzma

4 Max Elixir
4 Ultra Ball
1 Super Rod
3 Choice Band
2 Float Stone

2 Parallel City

10 Darkness
4 Double Colorless

Phase 3: Finishing Touches

The first call to arms was a Facebook message to me from none other than Travis himself when I first landed in Columbus and checked in to my hotel room.

The war bugle’s low but booming hum was a very spirited suggestion to max out supported based consistency, running a full suite of 12 draw and shuffle supporter cards by adding 2 Cynthia to our existing supporter line to make this a highly potent count of:

4 Professor Sycamore
4 N
4 Cynthia
4 Guzma

With our 58 card configuration, appending 2 Cynthia to make this happen was well within our means and no big cut was required, or any cut for the matter at all. The emphasis on consistency’s importance in an event of titanic proportions such at the NAIC of 2018 was one that cannot be understated: who can forget Tord Reklev’s winning DrampaGarb list, which bucked conventional wisdom and laid it up face up to a starry sky (what his opponents saw when they took his hits), when he ran 4 Tapu Lele to victory at the previous iteration of the event?

With only one precedent to draw wisdom from, the one nugget of wisdom we would take home from such an instance of success would be: consistency is king.

However, the rest only shared a partial measure of agreement to this paradigm, and there was some objection to going balls to the wall with such a degree of consistency. However, there was also consensus that since we’ve figured out the right tools to fight the rest of the metagame, we can afford to allocate one of our last slots to consistency.

The real question is, which card? The 3rdCynthia or 2ndTapu Lele GX?

Whilst the 3rdCynthia is probably the most generic way we could raise the level of consistency for our list, the 2ndTapu Lele has always been the subject of debate amongst us in the refinement phase, and here are the salient points in favour of its inclusion:

  • Increased flexibility. Primarily in terms of fetching the game winning Guzma or slowing them down with a critical N play.
  • Working in tandem with Ultra Ball, there will be far more outs to a supporter to achieve our goals once the first Tapu Lele GX is played: you can now fetch the 2nd Tapu Lele GX with an Ultra Ball and that’s consistency.

This discussion went late into the night just before Day 1, but the 2ndTapu Lele GX was thrown out for the after certain counterpoints were raised and then agreed upon.

Counterpoint(s) to 1):

  • Being a spread deck, most of our finishing moves are resolved less by Guzma and more by spreading until all the opponent’s units are within easy KO range. Only when we (i) have used up or discarded a Tapu Lele GX and (ii) absolutely need a Guzma for the win or risk losing the very next turn, would we warrant an urgent Guzma from a 2nd This doesn’t happen a lot in our testing, and by now we’ve done a lot of testing to be certain of that.
  • A critical N would not save our relatively lower HP, non GX units in this metagame. Comebacks are often staged by setting up spread KOs and then acting on them, or running them out of resources altogether by winning a cat and mouse game of denial and attrition that we pride ourselves on. Moreover, a 2ndTapu Lele into an N after the first one has been exhausted/tossed aside is a situation that doesn’t come up often enough in our large sample size of testing.

Counterpoint(s) to 2):

  • We exhaust Ultra Ball count very early since we do not run Brigette, and also because a lot of matchups are decided on searching out and benching very specific units early on. Ultra Ball will be exhausted to execute our game plan sooner than relying on a 2ndclutch Tapu Lele towards the mid or late game. Only 1 Tapu Lele is needed for insurance to get us off the ground from bad starts. Using Ultra Ball to increase our effective range for supporters yields diminishing returns.

Other reasons for not adding the 2ndTapu Lele GX:

  • It’s a bad starter: the worst in fact, for a deck that places so much emphasis on playing a non GX game.
  • We rarely needed to play it. In fact, we rarely found the needed to play a Tapu Lele GX at all: it’s pure insurance.
  • For a deck that works off the board and less off the hand as the game progresses, the deck’s most susceptible and vulnerable to poor draws in the early game. In such an event, it is far better to play an additional supporter (read: playing the 3rdCynthia) to get us off the ground than draw a 2ndTapu Lele over it, then be forced to bench it and risk us having a liability on the board from the get go.

At 59 cards, our list so far looked like this:

4/2 Yveltal BREAK
2 Hoopa SLG
1 Oranguru SUM
2 Mewtwo EVO
1 Tapu Lele GX
1 Tapu Koko
1 Tapu Koko or Latios

4 Professor Sycamore
4 N
3 Cynthia
4 Guzma

4 Max Elixir
4 Ultra Ball
1 Super Rod
3 Choice Band
2 Float Stone

2 Parallel City

10 Darkness
4 Double Colorless

There was one more last issue to be resolved: Tapu Koko or Latios?

The answer came to us far easier that we expected, in the final stages of deckbuilding.

It started with 2 things that came to our attention over the days as we worked on our preparations for the NAIC:

  • Non GX Malamar was a variant of Malamar that was virtually non-existent at the dawn of the new format, but has since gained a ton of traction as the days went by. In the run up to the NAIC, it has become a contender in the metagame, one which must now be accounted for.
  • ZoroGarb was the very last matchup that we’ve tested out of all the metagame decks, being (i) the oddball matchup that we had little idea of how to start on, and (ii) the least common of the 3 Zoroark variants. This mix of (i) very imperfect matchup knowledge, and (ii) relative rarity of play pushed it to the very back of our testing gauntlet.

It was nevertheless subjected to eventual testing, and for good reason too, given that it did win the NAIC at the end. In said testing, we have found that full field spreading was the best way to go for this matchup if we could help it.

Tapu Koko was very good against Non GX Malamar, with 3 Flying Flips and 1 Baleful Night spelling certain doom for them; and full field spreading could be more consistently and more powerfully realized with more Tapu Koko.

Couple that with the fact that this decision was made closer to the event, where eleventh hour paranoia over fringe matchups that Tapu Koko was so pivotal in (such as Greninja) hung in the backdrop of our mental landscape like a thick miasma of incoming doom and gloom, and you have everyone agreeing to the inclusion of a 2ndTapu Koko alongside our fellow big basic spreader Latios.

Besides, what harm could it be? It’s the best starter, basically a free retreat unit that represents a “wild card” that can be translated into, by the means of costless retreat, any other unit and allow us to formulate whatever game plan we wished to with minimum delay.

The same benefits can be afforded to us mid to late game in the form of its function as a pivot, as many Max Elixir plays and resulting return KOs become the relevant concern for the opponent.

Consistency is not just the number of draw/shuffle supporter outs we possess: that’s a simplistic and even erroneous view of what consistency constitutes.

Consistency can be more accurately described to be the measure of how frequently we can execute our intended game plan in the face of uncertainty and variance.

Tapu Koko’s role as a “wild card” starter in the early game and as pivot to key plays in the mid to late game improves our chances of executing any intended game plan, affording us a revolving door from which we deploy the units of our preference, and is thus a consistency boost. Given our consensus on improving the deck’s consistency above its current levels at the time, an additional Tapu Koko was a given.

And so, the deck building process was complete with the final 60:

4/2 Yveltal BREAK
2 Hoopa SLG
1 Oranguru SUM
2 Mewtwo EVO
1 or 2 Tapu Lele GX
2 Tapu Koko
1 Latios

4 Professor Sycamore
4 N
2 Cynthia
4 Guzma

4 Max Elixir
4 Ultra Ball
1 Super Rod
3 Choice Band
2 Float Stone

2 Parallel City

10 Darkness
4 Double Colorless

The End of Construction, The Beginning of Execution

So far, I have covered, rather exhaustively, the thought processes behind the creation of Yveltal BREAK. If this deck is a well-oiled machine, then I would have merely shown you the blueprints and specification of its machinations, albeit in a very detailed manner, with annotations all over its countenance like the study notes of a frenzied scholar.

You, the reader, should have consequently attained some understanding of the deck’s workings and how it handles the metagame.

However, that is not enough. It is not sufficient to merely grasp the machinations of the deck, as much needs to be said about how to work the machine to its maximum potential in the field.

And the field is out there, the field of battle. You are to pilot your war machine to its actualization in the austere theatre of war.

Take this tool, this weapon, this harbinger of death and destruction, and bring it to bear upon your adversaries.

If you know how to, that is.

In the following section, I will cover game plans detailing how best to pilot this deck against the most commonly run metagame decks to achieve victory through systematic means with consistent results.

 

Witching Hour 3: Execution (Piloting the Deck)

Overview

At any given event, Premier or otherwise, there’s a good chance you’ll see rogue decks, though they often form the minority of the metagame in said event. I’m not talking about the incomplete 60 card embryonic product of a newer player borne from a lack of sufficient information and/or resources. I’m talking about off the wall concoctions created with deliberation: with a purpose in mind.

The purpose can be of all kinds: an attempt to break from a stale metagame, a fun experiment to take to the field of battle so that one may bear front seat witness to seeing it emit mesmerizing sparks amid the flames of competition, or the purely creative expression of the mind of a player with a penchant for the unconventional.

However, my case is vastly different. I would consider myself a rather pragmatic person when it comes to my personal approach to the game, and the abovementioned motivations are notions I can comprehend but not identify with. It is akin to a having a view from afar with great clarity, but not being incentivized on bit to join them. The scenery is not my endeavour.

Instead, my competitive slant towards this game engenders in me a singular purpose, one that is simple but not simplistic:

To run a deck that I believe gives me the best shot at winning.

Even if I took the NAIC as a respite from the CP grind, and as a “fun event”, I would still endeavour to operate under said notion. It is a default state of mine which I saw no real need or urge to deviate from. I was already ingrained in this mentality, and for those who know me well enough, such a mindset has caused me to deeply entrench myself in the habit of selecting top tier metagame decks virtually all the time for my deck of choice for competitive play.

This doesn’t mean that I’m not open to playing rogue decks, as my attendance and deck choice at the NAIC proved. However, this decision to stray off the beaten path and bore through the dense jungle of the unknown must share the very same raison d’être that guides and motivates my other more mainstream picks in precedent events. My motivation to run a certain deck must uncompromisingly be fuelled by this line of thought:

“I believe that this deck gives me the best shot at winning.”

Digging further down, one then asks: “what gives you the best shot at winning?”

Posing this question to a deck choice, it’s how you fare against the metagame: can you beat your competitors? That’s the definition of emerging as the overall winner: you beat out your competition.

That’s why this deck was constructed with respect to the trio that forms the metagame (Buzzwole, Malamar, and Zoroark variants), as well as the most commonly run fringe deck (Greninja), in mind. These are the competition at hand, by and large. The army you’re to face ahead of you across the plains of battle clearly has contingents of these battalions, and you need to have a workable plan of battle for each and every one of them, ideally.

Correspondingly so, we made sure that we have a solid (not guaranteed, as it was long acknowledged that this is a game of variance) shot at taking down each and every one of them. As for other off the wall concoctions, there would be no way we could anticipate and prepare for all of them, and so we didn’t go thinking about matters we have little to no control about.

In short, this deck’s “shot at winning” was its ability to answer what most of the field was playing, and have a solid chance at besting them. Our deck’s main thrust was its ability to answer the metagame in its current form, with specific measures in place against their main players.

In a different time and place, this deck would be closer to meaningless.

In the metagame it was built for, this deck was my pick to be the “deck that gives me the best shot at winning.”

The approach to piloting this deck is the same.

The need for specificity is the make and the break. The wrong approach in the best matchup similarly holds zero meaning.

Heavily catered to beating out the big players in the metagame, and nothing more, my discussion on how to tackle each and every matchup would only be specifically with respect to the most important parts of the metagame. No more and no less. Deviation from this would spell ugly consequences.

A disclaimer on matchups outside the metagame: we would not have a general game plan to fall back on if we faced a theme deck, (or Typhlosion). We have not prepared considerations in advance for such factors, as they are unpredictable in nature and largely futile to form contingencies for.

Thus, there is no real general strategy, only fall back plans: the beauty lies in the fact that every metagame deck would be tackled in a vastly different way, and each different line of play crafted is specific and exacting.

Therein lies the importance in the section of how to pilot this deck to its fullest potential, else you might be trapped deep within the intricate trenches of the Baleful Night.

This is not an easy deck to run, not by a stretch. There are a plethora procedures to follow, and an encyclopaedia of contingencies to keep in mind. You will be exposed to them in this section.

With that, the big players in the metagame that we’ve worked to combat are:

Buzzwole Variants
BuzzRoc
BuzzGarb

Malamar Variants
Ultra Malamar
Psychic Malamar
Non GX Malamar

Zoroark Variants
ZoroRoc
ZoroPod
ZoroGarb

Most Commonly Run Fringe Deck: Greninja (including builds with up to 2 Max Potions)

In a bid to keep this section as systematically arranged as possible for easy reference, we will label the main subsections as the decks that we’re aiming to combat with our game plans. Think of them as the indexes that are set in place for your convenient thumbing through in this library of information.

Lastly, you will notice that I will make passing statements on how favourable/even/unfavourable the respective matchups are, but not dwell upon such metrics. It is not constructive to know that you are mired in a quicksand of certain mortal peril: it is far more useful to know of ways to escape said predicament.

So instead, I would tend to highlight more explicitly that some matchups require more preparation, which I find is a far more useful way to evaluate a matchup. I prefer to think about how to improve on any situation we might have at hand as opposed to simply passing judgments on our current state. For example, if it’s an even matchup, I will acknowledge so, but I will also move on quickly to talk about how to tilt said matchup in your favour.

With that, let’s start.

Buzzwole Variants

BuzzRoc

Matchup Overview

This is a matchup where the deck’s ability to tank and trade favourably against them via a superior ratio of damage dealt to damage taken, shines.

Resistance to Fighting types, bulky Big Basics, and a Non GX field makes it hard to cash in on the aggressiveness they’re so known for.

Your main attacker, Yveltal and Yveltal BREAK, would act as a wall with its high HP, Non GX status, and resistance to Fighting. The rest of your units (especially Mewtwo) serve to check them if they force their way through your defence with their patented brand of hitting hard.

It’s a concerted defensive formation designed to wear and grind them down, in a (hopefully) systematic way. You rebuff whatever attempts they may take to bake you.

You block off their bread and butter moves, Jet Punch and (base 30) Sledgehammer, forcing them to 13HKO to 2HKO status on Yveltal at base, and 15HKO to 3HKO status on Yveltal BREAK. Considering that you’re using a Non GX unit that doesn’t require much set up and that you’re hitting them hard and building your board at the same time, and they have a losing proposition on their hands. It’s an uphill battle upon the sheer rock face of resistance, and the avalanche is trickling in, threatening to dash their efforts into the dust in one torrential hail of rubble.

This only leaves them with a few options, which form the foundation of our gameplay, which is to stop those options from becoming threats. The desired end goal of the ensuring game plan is to leave them with no good options at all.

The game plan is thus to do these simultaneously:

  1. Playing around D Rogue (And hopefully disincentivizing them to power up Claw Slash)
  2. Playing around 4 prize Sledgehammer
  3. Checking aggression from big Buzzwole and/or Buzzwole GX plays

Because you’re juggling these 3 objectives simultaneously, this matchup is skill intensive and requires practice, even after reading this subsection. You don’t learn juggling by reading about it insomuch as actually getting in some hands on action for it, and then performing in front of a jeering audience under the big white and red striped tent (the NAIC with all your opponents) for the ultimate test to your expertise.

Now I will go into the specifics of achieving these 3 objectives.

Desired Board Configuration

Early Game:
Bench size of 1 or 2, consisting of either 1 Starter + 2 Yveltal, or just 2 Yveltal (if you’re lucky enough to start with Yveltal).

Mid Game (defined as when they’re about to launch a 3 energy Buzzwole and/or Buzzwole GX attack):

2 Mewtwo and/or Hoopa (depends on their attacker of choice) with adequate energy attachments as far as possible in preparation.

Oranguru for drawing into countering outs such a Double Colorless, Darkness, and Max Elixir.

Sequence of Plays

  1. Keep a bench size of 1 or 2, consisting of 2 Yveltal and 1 Starter (Optional).
  2. Lead with Yveltal, attempt to take a cheap Non GX KO, prioritizing Rockruff over everything else.
  3. Complete development of at least one Yveltal BREAK (the more the merrier though), and also look to take prizes 2 and 3 simultaneously.

The most frequently employed ways of taking 2 simultaneous prizes are:

(i) 120 on Baby Buzz, then 120 on Diancie/whatever (though prioritize Diancie).

(ii) 100 on Baby Buzz, then 120 on Diancie/whatever (though prioritize Diancie).

(iii) 90 on Diancie (with Yveltal SLG), then 120 on Rockruff/Octillery (though prioritize Rockruff).

*Important Point*
ITS OK TO PASS WITHOUT ATTACKING IF YOU CANT TAKE PRIZES 2 and 3 BUT IF ATTACKING FORCES YOU TO TAKE PRIZE 2. YOU ARE A TANK ACT LIKE IT.

4. Exactly right before 3), bench, from highest to lowest priority: Mewtwo/Hoopa, Oranguru and Tapu Koko. Then:

(i) Stifle their attempts to run away with the game using a big Buzzwole/Buzzwole GX.

(ii) With the (possible) use of Enhanced Hammers, hold down any attempts to segue into a Claw Slash if they attempt to attack with Lycanroc GX instead.

Additional Notes:

  • Don’t be afraid to get creative with attempting to take prizes 2 and 3 simultaneously. Do anything to get this part done, since a 4 prize Sledgehammer is one of the worst things you have to deal with versus this deck (aside from possibly a Claw Slash sweep) since you can’t check this easily, not even with Mewtwo.

Be open to possibilities given to you by other spread options if your luck isn’t good enough to get a Baleful Night going. Even Tapu Koko should be employed in the pursuit of this objective if it can get the job done.

It may be hard to identify openings to apply your creative prowess in a bid to do so, and this form of lateral thinking is best (in my opinion) honed through playtesting the matchup. I was not kidding when I said this matchup requires practice.

  • To further illustrate the importance of clearing 3) successfully, it is actually fine to PASS without announcing an attack if you cannot take prizes 2 and 3 BUT if attacking results in you taking prize number 2!

You are a deck that tanks BuzzRoc well, and you should do well to capitalize on this fact. You only take prize 2 if the alternative is worse than getting swept by a 4 prize Sledgehammer sweep, which rarely occurs at this crucial stage of the game.

  • You have a ton of room for mistakes. you usually concede 3 prizes maximum when you took prizes 2) and 3), and you can trade favourably using Mewtwo vs Buzzwole GX or spread vs their field thereafter to close the game on your desired terms.

Take this into account whenever you’re tempted to move rashly to 1) overcome a mildly underwhelming hand via overextension, and/or 2) expose yourself to a 4 prize Sledgehammer in favour of taking prizes expediently.

  • Enhanced Hammer is fantastic in this matchup. Claw Slash is the other big threat (next to 4 prize Sledgehammer) to you, and they’ll almost always segue into it via a Dangerous Rogue for KO, something that is usually achieved only with Strong Energy if you kept your bench small in the early game as advised.

Enhanced Hammer takes the wind out of their sails (setting their Lycanroc GX at least one turn back if you reply immediately with it) if they attempt this line of play and you would have just nullified one of their best options.

Since denying them of good options is the name of the game here, Enhanced Hammer is a fantastic addition to your list if you expect to face a whole bunch of BuzzRoc decks. So, focus fire Enhanced Hammer and/or Guzma on their Lycanroc GX lines if possible.

BuzzGarb

Matchup Overview

Buzzroc’s slower, more oppressive (control wise) cousin manifests itself in the deck known as BuzzGarb. However this should be an easier matchup, as it trades offensive options such as Max Elixir, Diancie/Regirock, and Lycanroc GX for a more control friendly Garbotoxin presence.

However, since 1) said offensive options that were given up were what made the BuzzRoc a troublesome beast to tackle, and 2) Garbotoxin shouldn’t be too relevant in this match up, this can be argued to be a way easier matchup.

Moving forward, this simply means you just need to achieved only 2 key objective simultaneously:

  1. Playing around 4 prize Sledgehammer
  2. Checking aggression from big Buzzwole and/or Buzzwole GX plays

Not needing to worry about Claw Slash and/or Dangerous Rogue as with the BuzzRoc matchup simply means you just need to juggle 2 balls instead of 3, and one of these balls (objective 2)) seems to have an assistive grip. Why so? Because their aggression is more easily contained, lacking the explosiveness and unpredictability of damage incremental Pokémon and the fear Max Elixir.

This allows you to play a slower, much more calculated game, supported by your innate tankiness and fighting resistance, which in turn, allows you to meet objective 1) more consistently and easily.

Simply put, you have less of an excuse to lose this matchup. The idea is to tank hard and shut down their options once again, but this time, you can tank harder and they have less options to start off.

Don’t be afraid to be patient this time. That’s the key difference as opposed to the bum-rush that is BuzzRoc. In fact, patience would be encouraged. Stick to your guns and the proposed game plan below.

Board Configuration

A board of 2 Yveltal/Yveltal BREAK, transitioning to double Mewtwo (very important!) towards the midgame.

Followed by luxuries, from most important to least: (i) Tapu Koko (pivot for Max Elixir plays onto Mewtwo), (ii) Latios (to hit numbers for the purposes of circumventing Sledgehammer), (iii) Oranguru (Draw Power if you can keep them away from their Garbotoxin), (iv) Tapu Lele GX (clutch in no supporter situations, but preferable to keep away from the board).

You have 2 to 3 slots for luxury benching, so it might as well be Tapu Koko and Latios, then Tapu Koko and Oranguru if Latios/Yveltal/Mewtwo goes down.

Thus ideally:

Early game board should be 2 Yveltal/Yveltal BREAK, 2 Mewtwo, 1 Latios, and 1 Tapu Koko.

Then followed by a transition to 2 Yveltal/Yveltal BREAK, 2 Mewtwo, 1 Oranguru, and 1 Tapu Koko.

With some compromise on Yveltal/BREAK, Latios, and Mewtwo counts if your prizes are unkind or your starter isn’t ideal.

Sequence of Plays

1) Lead with Yveltal, attempt to take a cheap Non GX KO, prioritizing Garbodor, then Trubbish over everything else.

AVOID TRANSITIONING TO 2) BEFORE THIS IS COMPLETE. THEY’LL BE HITTING YOUR YVELTAL FOR 10 TO 50 DAMAGE TOPS FOR A 3 HIT KO TO 13 HIT KO, AND RECEIVE JUST ONE PRIZE FOR THEIR TROUBLES. MILK THIS CHANCE WHEN YOU CAN.

You are allowed to partially damage any GX (especially Buzzwole GX, which they’ll very commonly lead with) in the meantime though, as it will make step 2) more easy.

2) Now, look to take prizes 2 and 3 simultaneously.

Chances are it will be very easy to do so, as they’ll front Buzzwole GX for the lack of better options. Latios and Yveltal (especially Yveltal SLG here) should do the job very easily. Don’t use Mewtwo for this if possible! You’ll need to keep your Mewtwo alive for the next step.

However, if you have a chance to take a dual knock out with Garbodor/Trubbish being one of their casualties, go for that instead.

Admittedly this rarely happens, and usually would be an incidental by product of being forced to snipe (and damage) Garbodor lines earlier if you start with Latios. Thus, don’t try too hard to make it happen. That said, the rewards for pulling it off are rich, and you’ll almost certain win if you can fulfil that. Conversely, forcing the situation when it is not feasible to do so might cost you the game, so keep this option in the “win more luxury” category and nothing more.

The grand prize is the rare chance to take prizes 2, 3, and 4 if the opponent misplays sufficient to make that happen, coupled with a good set of hands on your side. Don’t count on that happening, but don’t hesitate to go for it if you see such a chance.

However, before you complete this step, make sure you’ve got both your Mewtwo on your bench with the correct pivot (Tapu Koko is best), and the optional Oranguru.

DO NOT PROCEED BEFORE YOUR MEWTWO AND PIVOT(S) ARE SET UP, THE IMPORTANT OF THIS POINT CANNOT BE UNDERSTATED.

3) They’ll rush you with Beast Rings and Knuckle Impacts, to which you should answer with Mewtwo.

If they have FFB on their Buzzwole, you won’t be able to knock them out immediately. However, you will be fine with that. You’re a spread deck with tanky non GX units, which allows you 1) to take back missed KOs (especially since they don’t run healing outs), and 2) plenty of time to do so since you’ve likely given up so few prizes before this.

If you have the chance to score 220 on 2 consecutive Buzzwole before spreading damage to both for the win, cash in on it and do so. Leave the spread KO for the last and don’t worry about their Beast Ring turns: you can handle it with 2 Mewtwo and Super Rod.

This will prevent them from putting you at an N to 1 under Garbotoxin lock, which will almost certainly cause you to miss your return KO via the 2ndMewtwo and give them a chance to Guzma it for the KO. Cash in on both Mewtwo ASAP, then take your time to close the game.

Additional Notes

  • Patience is a virtue, and the ability to exercise it is your luxury. You are a deck with tanky, non GX, fighting resistant Pokémon. You must capitalize on that, and never move on to the next step in the play sequence no matter how bad your hand is.

Your hand will get better before they finish you off.

Passing a turn if you’d otherwise trigger a 4 prize Sledgehammer is fine as well. What is not fine is allowing them a 4 prize Sledgehammer.

That said, you may be excessively aggressively in one specific and rare condition: that is, if the alterative would be for you to outright lose the game.

  • Remember that you can make mistakes, and you can draw badly. They won’t make too much progress early game, so don’t rush things. You won’t concede too many prizes before you’re able to rally back in the fast paced Beast Ring turn.
  • Sometimes (around 11 per cent of the time on average), your 2ndMewtwo will be prized. 2 Mewtwo on the board is far more crucial this time round because 1) you are at liberty to bench them pre-emptively due to the lack of the threat of Lycanroc GX, so they might be picked off as soon as they hit the board, and 2) their increased reliance on aggressive Buzzwole GX plays.

If you discover this happens (preferably during your initial deck check), revert back to the tight play that is required of you when you were facing the BuzzRoc matchup: don’t bench the Mewtwo unless it is on the very turn that you call upon the use of Psychic to counter their Knuckle Impact/Absorption GX play. Benching a pivot right beforehand is crucial to facilitate this.

This is important to note since a good BuzzGarb play would definitely opt to take out your Mewtwo on the bench before anything else, and trying to fish for a Super Rod + Ultra Ball, plus DCE and Choice Band under potential Garbotoxin lock is no mean feat, not especially if a response is suddenly immediately required since you don’t have another Mewtwo immediately and already on the board to attend to the situation.

  • Enhanced Hammer is fantastic in this matchup. Your ability to tank, which is your key asset in the early game, can be mildly compromised by 1) damage modifiers (of which only manifests in the presence of special energy and FFB), and 2) their eventual build up into 3 energy attacks.

You can take both of these aspects of their aggression down, and tank even harder while wasting more of their resources with the drop of an Enhanced Hammer.

  • If you want to practice for this matchup, don’t bother. Or at most, get 1 or 2 games in. You’re better off investing your time and effort on the BuzzRoc matchup. The principles you apply in your game play are almost the same for both instances, only that BuzzRoc will test your skills and push your boundaries to a greater extent, so one might as well test against that instead. I have faced 4 BuzzGarb at the NAIC and beaten 3 of them without a single game of practice against the matchup prior. I was able to achieve this through my extensive testing against BuzzRoc instead.

All you need to keep in mind when transitioning the skill sets you’ve honed over the course of your testing against BuzzRoc is the increased amount of options you have, from the liberty to bench as many of your key units as you like, to the lower amount of stress you face when walling their offensives. That alone will be sufficient for you to get into the correct mindset to face down this match up.

Malamar Variants

Ultra, Psychic and Non GX Malamar

Matchup Overview

I’ll begin by tackling the biggest elephant in the room away first. I’m writing about all 3 matchups simultaneously simply because our game plan against these decks, as different as they may be, are virtually identical. So instead of making you, the reader, sit through 2 copy pasted pieces of my writing, I’ll lump these match ups together into one subsection.

At first, when Yveltal was conceptualized, Malamar builds featuring a heavy line of Non GX attackers were nowhere near in sight. Instead, the traditional Ultra Necrozma and Psychic Necrozma versions were in vogue.

The game plan would be simple then: lead and wall with Hoopa, tearing away at their board and capitalizing on the fact that the damage tends to stick (no healing outs from them truly helps).

They can retaliate with the non GX attackers, of which there are few, and we can reply immediately with our alternative attackers easily (our Mewtwo for their Mew and Psychic Hoopa, and our Yveltal for their Giratina and Lunala Prism Star), then use our second Hoopa to resume the “wall and brawl” situation.

The result? Between 2 Hoopa and 2 Super Rod, the opponent would be forced into a battle of attrition that would consume their resources by an inordinate amount, and result in their swift demise. They can attempt to hit us with their non GX attackers, but this would require plenty of deck digging and resource burning: way too much for them to close the game and take 6 prizes.

This was verified via a little bit of testing. After 10 odd games and losing only one (that one being me dead drawing for 5 to 6 turns, even possessing a hand purely consisting of 5 Darkness energy), I was confident in my Malamar matchup

However, in the run up to the NAIC, Non GX Malamar builds were gaining hype and traction. It was clear that hiding behind our Hoopa, while a good interim strategy, was no longer nearly as effective.

Sure, we’d do well to capitalize on the defensive capabilities of Hoopa against the traditional Malamar builds, but a bigger question comes into play.

The question is, how would we know?

The nature of Malamar decks would be that it is hard to confirm if the build runs a heavy count of Non GX attackers or not at the earlier stages. You’re more likely to see a swarm of Inkay and perhaps the token attacker that any build could feasibly run (such as Mewtwo GX, for example) from the get go. Rushing in to wall with Hoopa might put us at an undesirable backfoot if we were engaging the Non GX build, something we’d do well to avoid in the first place.

As a result, it was absolutely necessary to come up with an alternate strategy that was universally applicable against the 3 commonly run Malamar builds.

Fortunately, such a set of plays are available.

Capitalizing on the fact that 1) Inkay and Malamar are low hanging fruit (i.e. bench sitters that turn up in droves but possess relatively low HP), and 2) they are almost necessary for the proper function of any of the 3 Malamar builds, we have found that the traditional spread strategy works on them best.

Spread would allow us to seize multiple prizes on the frail squids, and simultaneous wipe out the engine by which they run from. Forcing the decks’ backbones (i.e. the Malamar lines) to become its weakest spot is fatal to them, and fortunately our deck is more than well equipped to execute the death blow via spreading.

Afterwards, we pick off the remains of a shattered field with the sturdy walls we call Hoopa.

It doesn’t matter what variant is run: if you’re a Malamar deck, you’d be similarly vulnerable to this approach. If facing Buzzwole variants demands us to disrupt them, then going against Malamar variants requires us to spread with great zest and prejudice.

The efficacy of such a stratagem has since been verified with great confidence via the means of extensive playtesting against each and every one of the 3 variants. We have not looked back ever since.

Here’s the rundown of said game plan.

Board Configuration

Early Game (from the first turn):

2 Tapu Koko and 2 Yveltal.

You are welcome to bench, for the purposes of thinning the deck/finding supporter outs to proceed with gameplay, miscellaneous content such as Mewtwo and Tapu Lele, but DO NOT bench Hoopa as far as possible.

The reason for this is that you do not want them to throw down a Parallel City and force you to choose between your Tapu Koko and Yveltal (ideal leads), as well as your Hoopa (which you want to conserve for future use).

The only exception being that you have to bench Hoopa before the necessary use of a Professor Sycamore to avoid its definite discard.

Mid Game (when they start taking their first KOs):

Begin to introduce Hoopa to the board, but never extend your Tapu Koko + Yveltal/Yveltal BREAK + Hoopa count on board beyond 4. This will prevent the opponent from using Parallel City to force you to make difficult decisions.

The exception to the rule is that if you have 3 or more Yveltal/Yveltal BREAK on board. When they lay Parallel City against you, respond by simply discarding the Yveltal/Yveltal BREAK with the least energy investments upon it. The tiebreaker in the occasion where energy investments are equal, would be to throw away Yveltal XY first, followed by Yveltal SLG, then Yveltal BREAK.

Late Game (when you’re just about to wipe their board of Malamar):

Introduce Oranguru to the board if possible.

If you suspect they’re rearing up to attack with Mewtwo’s GX attack, prepare a Mewtwo EVO to counter immediately.

Sequence of Plays

1) Lead off with Tapu Koko if possible. You want to spread damage as fast and as far as you can, while simultaneously activating the detrimental effect of Baleful Night.

2) For as long as your first Tapu Koko survives, start building up your Baleful Night.

The reason why you prioritize powering Baleful Night up over the 2ndTapu Koko is because while the first Flying Flip is critical as it allows Baleful Night to reach maximum potential, the subsequent ones are not as potent as a follow up Baleful Night could be.

On top of its outright higher damage potential, Baleful Night requires a far bigger investment in energy than a Flying Flip. The 2ndTapu Koko’s attack can be loaded up in a pinch, be via the use of Max Elixir and/or Darkness Energy, or simply a Double Colorless drop, but Baleful Night requires time to set up, and we will accord our resources correspondingly to its development.

All Elixirs and Darkness Energy attachment should go to the realization of Baleful Night first. Flying Flip from the 2ndTapu Koko easily be fulfilled instantly when it is required, and so doesn’t require any prior investment for the most part.

3) The very moment you get Baleful Night up and running, use it (of course this is assuming you’ve done one effective Flying Flip that damages most of their current board, which should be the case).

Do not delay! The opponent would jump at any chance to rid you of your option to do so, and thus you must cash in right away. Or else, bringing back your ability to use Baleful Night would take even more resources than you’d like. Why put yourself through so much pain and trouble when you can immediately reap the benefits of damaging the opponent’s active unit for 120/150/240/300 HP, and 30 to the entire board?

Just remember this: YOU CAN CAST FLYING FLIP JUST ABOUT ANYTIME, BUT A BALEFUL NIGHT DOESN’T COME BY OFTEN. Not the most accurate statement, but one that will drive across the importance of seizing the day (or the Night, for this particular case), and capitalizing on a great opportunity to show the opponent a world of damage counters/dice.

4) One Baleful Night should be enough. That said, use it as much as you can until you are unable to do so anymore.

In the event that the opponent has wasted absolutely no time to rob you of your ability to deal multiple Baleful Night attacks, the last 2 Flying Flips shouldn’t be too difficult to pull off, and you would have a board wipe cleanly on your hands.

Lastly, if your opponent was successful in chaining Guzma frequently enough to stop you from getting even a single Baleful Night off on them, it can only mean that they’ve allowed Flying Flip to run amok. You have simply generated a win-win condition by which a board wipe was still realized regardless.

5) Before the board wipe, Hoopa should ideally be partially prepared (perhaps with one energy attachment of either a preferable Double Colorless or at least a Darkness). They are your clean-up crew members of choices, offering the optimal balance of defence and damage dealing potential (read: Dawn Wing Necrozma GX’s weakness to Darkness) to pick off any stragglers your opponent may so to choose to level against you part the aftermath.

Even against Non GX builds, Hoopa is strong, since nothing can OHKO it without being OHKO’d by Darkness type Hoopa first (remember this matters since they will have to get past your Yveltal BREAK or Tapu Koko first before dealing with your Hoopa, so your Hoopa is almost always dealing a return KO). Mew, Giratina, and Dawn Wings Lunala get crushed by Hoopa first, then their board gets swept. The more resilient pressure Mewtwo and Psychic Hoopa will immediately on the backfoot in the 2HKO war, without any reliable means of energy acceleration left to draw support from.

6) After prioritizing Hoopa, you should choose between benching an Oranguru or a Mewtwo. Mewtwo should take precedence if you suspect a Mewtwo GX with access to its GX attack looming over the horizon. It’s the only unit that can bypass Hoopa’s defence to OHKO it without getting OHKO’d by Hoopa in return. In this sense, it is the biggest threat to you after the board wiping turn is over. Fortunately, Mewtwo with DCE + Choice Band is able to deal with it and advance your prize situation, which should already be fantastic, and a GX KO might be what it takes for your to win the match.

For virtually everything else, Oranguru is the superior unit to bench first, affording you some measure of insurance from an N to a low hand size and allowing you to fetch more resources from your deck to clean up the game without incident.

Additional Notes

  • Parallel City, if you run it, is great ONLY on the first turn or slightly beyond if they start poorly. It serves to slow them down sufficiently so that you can run your spreading game plan against them. With a low bench size, albeit temporarily so, you can wager that they’d prioritize benching Inkay over anything else, and so you can be assured that your spread damage would find it ways to the Malamar line regardless. Parallel City to limit their bench past that vulnerable stage is counterproductive as it would allow them an option to pseudo heal their damaged units on the bench and undo your spread efforts.
  • If you discover (to great joy) that you’re up against the Ultra or Psychic version of Malamar after game 1, you can treat yourself to the option of straight up walling with Hoopa in games 2 and 3. It has been tested to be effective to attack with Hoopa, immediately KO whatever anti Hoopa measure they have struggled to cook up, then go into Hoopa again while using Super Rod to recur this process.

However, this should be a secondary strategy. Stick the game plan as above for most cases. Walling is best done when your hand is bad, as it buys you time to get back to your feet again. If your hand is not in dire straits then stick to spreading upon their board.

  • Savvy players who happen to have pressure Mewtwo in their board would wall with it as a lead to counter Tapu Koko’s attempts to spread. Don’t be frugal with your use of Guzma if that’s the case: you won’t need Guzma once your board wipe is complete: the idea is to achieve the board wipe in the first place, and it begins with spreading.

If it comes down to it, do not be afraid to bear down upon Mewtwo temporarily with attackers of your choice. Mewtwo and Hoopa are great options. Try not to use Yveltal (unless you’re using it to accelerate energy) though, you will need it later.

  • You will find that once you approach the late game that you’ve expended your use of Double Colorless for fast Flying Flips. This is perfectly normal. However, what this also means is that your ability to retaliate with Mewtwo’s Psychic when needed, especially against a rampaging Mewtwo GX, would be put into question.

In view of this, if you find that you’re running low on Double Colorless but need to ready a Mewtwo to respond appropriately to them, do not be afraid to prioritize preparation of energy (be it Darkness energy or otherwise) on it over Hoopa first. This simple adjustment will go a very long way to keep you safe against an unchecked Mewtwo GX sweep in a game that should otherwise have been yours for the taking.

Zoroark Variants

ZoroPod

Matchup Overview

The premise of facing Zoroark variants (with the notable exception of ZoroGarb) is to use Hoopa to wall them into submission, while removing any anti Hoopa outs they may have. Not unlike trying to put your opponent in a submission hold in a grappling match and simultaneously neutralizing any attempts to break out until you win, this matchup is “wall and stall” embodied.

The same goes for ZoroRoc, which I will touch more upon later. In fact, these matchups share a ton of parallels, with the only relevant difference being their anti Hoopa outs, of which ZoroRoc has better options. Once again: a story for a different time.

Thus, your strategy of choice is to go straight in an wall with Hoopa, leaving a trail of destruction in your wake while you set up with plenty of leeway. They have to scramble to set up to respond to you, for the longer they take, the more damage you’ll make.

From then on, its academic. They send their answers to Hoopa to you, and you’ll mark all these answers wrong. A series of red crosses later, your pen would find its way to the match slip to mark your victory upon paper. The subsequent sections would detail the fine art of red cross calligraphy.

The variety in piloting approaches across the metagame landscape is once again evident here. If Buzzwole tests your disruptive ability, and Malamar is an exercise in spreading, then against Zoroark variants (bar ZoroGarb) would when you demonstrate how to muster a solid defence.

Let’s get to it.

Board Configuration

Hoopa Lead, preferably staggered (more on that later) 2ndHoopa.

Yveltal/Yveltal BREAK and the appropriate answer to their anti Hoopa measure takes up the last 2 bench spaces.

Play the rest of your bench tightly. The idea is to prevent them from taking 6 prizes without going through 2 to 4 Hoopa first.

Sequence of Plays

1) Lead off with Hoopa to Wall. You want to be unabashedly capitalizing on your ability to defend from the get go for a few causes:

(i) You put immediate and tangible pressure on them to do something or get hit over the head with 80 to 110 damage worth every turn they do not have a response.

(ii) Resultingly, this forces them to reveal their Anti Hoopa measures from the get go so you can generate the appropriate response with little delay.

(iii) You deny their ability to take prizes early. This means you have have more room to concede prizes over the course of the game, translating into increased room for mistakes and/or bad draws later on. It is always welcome to have this form of insurance by your side.

(iv) You burn a ton of their resources early. This can be a form of Guzma on their side (which is often not worth the trouble seeing that the units you should be benching that are not called Hoopa are Yveltal/Yveltal BREAK and Mewtwo, and cannot be called upon to be one shotted even after gusting up) or healing cards as form of damage control from Hoopa’s attacks every time they fail to respond. This is crucial because ZoroPod has a ton of resources to work with and chipping away at them is nothing but a boon for you. You rather their heal go to Zoroark GX early on as compared to their anti Hoopa measures.

For those reasons, leading with a Hoopa to wall with the sole objective of wasting their resources (so it might not be too important to expend your Max Elixir unnecessarily upon it) is the best way to start the game.

2) Prepare your Baleful Night on the bench, while benching 2nd Hoopa while appropriate.

Let’s address your 2ndHoopa’s bench timing first. I’d like to delay benching Hoopa number 2 until they’ve revealed that they don’t run Tapu Koko and/or filled their bench with everything but Tapu Koko. More on that on the “Additional Notes” sub component.

Yveltal BREAK is your de facto best answer to any anti Hoopa measures they may take, seeing as most of the non GX options they’ll run (such as Tapu Koko and/or Latios) have 120 HP or less, allowing Baleful Night to take them out of the board and not be Puzzled back immediately for a response or risk getting knocked out again. Even tankier options such as Mewtwo cannot trade well against Yveltal BREAK, for Baleful Night is almost always a counter response in a 2HKO war, with the option to spread on occasion to maximize mileage.

There’s also the simple fact that Oblivion Wing to power up your reserve Hoopa while being out of the crucial 120 HP OHKO Riotous Beating range means that you’ll always have a safe haven to return to if you’re in trouble, and when defence is the name of your game, having a safe haven to rely upon is never a bad thing.

Finally, whether or not you choose to power up Hoopa number 2 or Yveltal/Yveltal BREAK first is highly dependent on how hard and fast their anti Hoopa measures come at you, and if you have the facility to power them up.

Have an anti Hoopa unit threatening to KO your Hoopa on the very next turn but you can prepare Yveltal BREAK? Send a Baleful Night their way. Your Hoopa’s in the red and is in danger of getting knocked out right as you announce your attack, but your Yveltal is underdeveloped? Force them into a 2HKO war of attrition with your 2ndHoopa. Underdeveloped resources overall? Prepare to use Oblivion Wing because your wall isn’t easily taken out.

3) Prepare your other answer to their anti Hoopa measure. I’ll elaborate on what that are in the “Additional Notes” sub component so you can best remove them from the board and return to walling them out of the game as smoothly as possible.

4) Repeat this cycle of “wall, eliminate answers, wall once again”, facilitated by the use of Super Rod, until your opponent loses this battle of attrition, one that is steeply uphill for them, and wonderfully favourable for you.

Your anti Hoopa counters should be benched sparingly throughout, for the express purposes of forcing them to go through as many Hoopa as possible to take 6 prizes.

Additional Notes

  • The first non GX answer you’ll find yourself dealing with would be Latios. Its spread would motivate you to stagger your Hoopa drops so that they cannot easily maximize their anti Hoopa capabilities.

Doing merely 10 damage to you means that this is the weakest non GX answer by far, as Hoopa can easily trade squarely with it, matching their 12HKOs against your 2HKOs. You might not need another option (though Mewtwo is absolutely perfect, and stops them from immediately recurring it for use via Puzzle and/or Rescue Stretcher), since Latios’ status as a Hoopa “counter” might be called into question here.

Proceed with walling as normal and ideally stagger your drops until you’re right about to KO Latios.

  • Koko is Latios’ slightly more threatening cousin. Staggering Hoopa is absolutely necessary for a few reasons.

Firstly, it might be tough for you to trade KOs with them if they chain Acerolas and Max Potions, something achievable with builds that run such outs, especially with access to Puzzle of Time.

Second, Professor Kukui + Counter Catcher for 40 + 20 allows them to gain ground fast enough to deal enough damage to trade with you.

Stagger the drop of the 2ndHoopa 1 or 2 (preferably 2 if the situation permits) turns after their first Flying Flip.

For this, Yveltal BREAK is your best answer, with an OHKO to their face serving as the best solution against any potential Acerola/Max Potion recurrences. Coupled with the fact that the deck is not too well equipped to OHKO Yveltal/Yveltal BREAK unless they expend Guzma after a Flying Flip or 2, and you’d expect that there’d be any opening to hit a Tapu Koko that failed to heal.

Your expectations should be met eventually, as you can keep benching Yveltal to test their ability to continuously heal and pull out your Yveltal for the KO at the very same turn.

The moment they drop the ball on this is the moment you KO Tapu Koko, lay to waste a ton of their resources, and proceed to deal incredible amounts of damage to their board before they can get to their feet again, if ever.

Lastly, Oblivion Wing + Hoopa’s attack are perfect numbers to KO Tapu Koko with, while allowing you to hold your board position with energy attachments. You may want to employ this attack sequence to 1) solidify your board position if needed, and 2) catch unsuspecting players off guard and cause them to be less incentivized to look for heal.

  • Mewtwo is the toughest of their anti Hoopa measures, but not impossible to deal with. It is able to engage in a 2HKO war with you, and may be assisted by healing outs.

If you see that Mewtwo is your opponent for the day, make room to throw in a Flying Flip, for this will put Mewtwo in KO range from your own Mewtwo as well as Yveltal BREAK. Segue into the relevant attack to finish off.

Flying Flip is best since it’s hard to reply to it with their Mewtwo, and they have to abandon a heavy retreat Mewtwo to deal with it, or risk falling prey to a sudden impulsive spreading spree from Yveltal BREAK later on. To pull Mewtwo away from the frontlines allows your Hoopa to come right back to the fore and keep chipping away at them.

What you’re creating is a war of attrition in which the end result would be a ton of spread damage getting accrued to the board while they waste their resources reacting to Tapu Koko placing Mewtwo into OHKO range. They’ll lose this war eventually as you give up only one prize for every little victory they win, and as testing indicates, this is not nearly enough.

Lastly, to further facilitate the efficacy of Tapu Koko’s spread, you may want to pull up a Golisopod GX before spreading, especially if you suspect/know if they have an Acerola ready to heal their Mewtwo. This will cause them to use Acerola on Golisopod GX or force them to find a Float Stone to escape a potential spreading spread (granted, Guzma is an option too, but a poor one since it scores them no KOs for the use of a gust, and doesn’t stop the spread at all). An unhealed Mewtwo is one that’s vulnerable for easy pickings. You can afford to spam Guzma their way since you’re not using them for the matchup due to your role as the unmoving wall and not the aggressor. There is a very good chance you’ll wear them out significantly this way and seize the win more surely in an attrition slugfest.

  • On that note, Tapu Koko is a fantastic unit against them. If you can afford it (look at your energy situation and how safe your units are from KOs before making a choice), one Flying Flip would now allow Yveltal BREAK to be an even bigger threat. Forcing the opponent to not only deal with Hoopa, but an Yveltal BREAK (if unchecked, can lay anywhere from 240 to 300 damage on the board plus a spread of 80 to everyone else while giving up one prize only) is always desirable.

Aim to sneak a Flying Flip in if you 1) are sure you have energy attachments to spare for it without compromising the tempo required for the game, and 2) find that you can give up Tapu Koko as a prize while still forcing them to go through a ton of Hoopa to win.

Remember, Flying Flip is a luxury that will allow you to improve your already high win rate against ZoroPod, and should be seen that way. Do not forgo a systematic and safe way of winning for a win more gain. I have simply highlighted the benefits of being able to pull off a Flying Flip attack upon a fully benched ZoroPod field to allow you, the reader, to have a greater set of options in order to maximize your chance of victory in this matchup, especially if you suddenly need to increase the pressure upon them in the event of especially trying situations such as times when they draw great and/or run multiple anti Hoopa units simultaneously and are able to utilize them to their fullest potential against you.

ZoroRoc

Matchup Overview

By and large, the ZoroRoc matchup plays very much like the ZoroPod one, but with one major difference: a non GX attacking option in the form of Buzzwole, an adversary that Hoopa is less than comfortable with.

Admittedly, of all the metagame decks out there, a ZoroRoc build with both Acerola and Buzzwole is probably your only real unfavourable matchup out there, rated as slightly unfavourable by our group.

However, we didn’t take extra steps to tech against such a matchup. Eneporter has incredible mileage against them at the right moments for example, and a tight play of only 2 Strong Energy on their board to circumvent that might not be feasible at all times, regardless of opponent’s skill level.

That said, our group came to a general consensus that it’s not worth tech-ing against something that’s: 1) a particular build of just one specific deck in the metagame, and 2) vulnerable to surprise factor on the part of us.

To expand upon 2), the lethality of running both Acerola and Buzzwole against us is still heavily reliant on their ability to pilot such resources to deadly effect against us. First timers piloting that particular ZoroRoc build, if it comes down to it, will be hard pressed to find the optimal timings to run Buzzwole to best affect us. I will elaborate more on this in the “Sequence of Plays” subsection.

To illustrate the skill reliance of such an interaction, I have tested the worst case scenario, giving my playtesting opponents perfect information of the deck while they ran ZoroRoc with both Acerola and Buzzwole against me. I won the first few sets of the series, but after 20 odd games, the tables started turning and I lost consistently, albeit by the slimmest of margins: with resources and prizes of both sides drawn out to near or complete exhaustion.

After which the verdict was indeed as such: a supposedly slightly unfavourable matchup which is more than likely to be favourable when they first encounter you, as would be the case for the NAIC. Not worth tech-ing for, but definitely worth practicing for. This is the second most practiced matchup going into the NAIC, just behind BuzzRoc. This is also the reason why I wanted Enhanced Hammer in the list, for it allows you a chance to slow the advance of their 2 Strong Energy Sledgehammer (which is the reason why Buzzwole is so threatening against Hoopa) long enough to win the war of attrition with them without allocating any deck space to techs.

If you want to know how to beat ZoroRoc without tech-ing Buzzwole (they can play Acerola for all we care, it won’t matter too much without Buzzwole), just skip to the next section after reading the ZoroPod section above and applying the same methodology. You will see a similar level of effectiveness and hence success. The only thing you may need to keep an eye out for in this situation is Multi Switch into Rockruff’s Surprise Attack, something that you can’t really circumvent if they suddenly drop it, aside from your Enhanced Hammer. However, as far as testing against decks that have a thin line of anti Hoopa cards go, investing 2 turns for a 50% chance to take out Hoopa, only to be return KO’d very easily (especially by your Hoopa if it survives) so that you can return to a stable walling game, is a winning proposition for you through and through. No adjustments needed.

However, for pointers to deal with the bigger threat that is ZoroRoc with Buzzwole, read on. THE FOLLOWING PART WOULD ONLY BE FOR BUILDS WITH BUZZWOLE.

Board Configuration

Single Hoopa Lead.

Yveltal/Yveltal BREAK and the appropriate answer to their anti Hoopa measure takes up the next 2 bench spaces.

The 3rd(and often final) bench space can be reserved for Tapu Koko as a pivot, but you may wish to omit this if you found that you’ve been conceding too much ground (i.e. prizes) during the earlier stages of the match.

Play the rest of your bench tightly. The idea is to prevent them from taking 6 prizes without going through 2 to 4 Hoopa first.

Most important, delay benching your 2ndHoopa until the first one is knocked out as much as possible. It’s very common for them to start attacking with Buzzwole with one Strong attached for a 100 on your first Hoopa. Don’t give them a chance to smoothly transition into a 2 Strong Buzzwole with a Gust on your fresh benched Hoopa: you’ll be left with just one Hoopa with 20 HP remaining, an easy picking. Make them work for it!

Sequence of Plays

1) Lead off with Hoopa first, then set up the recommended board configuration as far as you can to support it.

2) You want to take a Non GX prize ASAP. 4 Prize Sledgehammer Buzzwole shuts you out of your Hoopa game plan and potentially the entire game, so this is an important step. The high level of expediency required also cannot be overstated: this deck is able to transition very quickly into a full GX field of nothing but Tapu Lele, Zoroark GX, and Lycanroc GX to foil your attempts to skip the 4 prize Sledgehammer.

The best approach to tackle this is to quickly load up your Hoopa by T2 and take out one of their low hanging fruits (Read: Rockruff first, then Zorua if there is no such option). You want to do this quickly and safely, so prioritize attacking Darkness Energy first, then Double Colorless to insure against Enhanced Hammer disruption.

The script changes a little if they attempt to bench their anti Hoopa measure, regardless of it is Buzzwole or not. The opportunity to simultaneously play around a 4 prize Sledgehammer and seize the initiative in the 2HKO exchange is too good not to pass up, so pull that up first and do some damage to it, then finish it off later even if they manage to escape your hands.

How actively and how well they try to circumvent your ability to execute this particular step, such as deliberately walling with a Tapu Lele (and so forcing you to have outs to Guzma) until they have a full GX field, is a measure of how skilled and/or adaptive they are.

This is a crucial step for you, but for your opponent to both 1) recognize this in the first place, and 2) act upon this piece of knowledge is unlikely for the first run. This is a very good illustration of the point that I’ve mentioned earlier: it’s a slightly unfavourable matchup for you, but you’re going to leverage on the surprise factor you have to even the playing field.

3) The next step is to take prizes 2 and 3 simultaneously.

Generally, it’s not difficult to do so. However, it gets incredibly complicated if the opponent is very smart. With perfect information and some games under their belt, our playtesting partners started to realize that the best time to bench their Buzzwole and pressure us with Sledgehammer would be right after we took our first prize.

They would press in with their Sledgehammer to initiate a 2HKO war (which can easily escalate into a 1HKO spree very often), forcing us to chain 2 Guzma in order to take out a benched GX unit while incurring a ton of damage to our board in the meantime, as we pray they do not run/whiff on their Acerola. It’s a good thing that the most Acerola I’ve ever seen run in a ZoroRoc deck this format a grand total of just 1.

However painful this step is, it is absolutely necessary. You don’t want to be baited to spend 2 turns to respond to a Buzzwole and take it down as prize #2, only for them to access Puzzle to bring it back and sweep with a painful Sledgehammer attack which you have absolutely no real answer to.

Endure the pressure and don’t be afraid to hide behind Yveltal in the trying times to partially damage Buzzwole/set up your 2HKO. Yveltal SLG is a real asset here, allowing you to clock plenty of damage to a GX. Yveltal SLG might even serve to bait them to expose a Zoroark GX in their bid to hit the magic 120 HP worth of damage, saving yourself a Guzma.

The difficulty of executing steps 2 and 3 against a smart opponent is what makes the matchup unfavourable, albeit slightly so since it’s not something they can pull off too often, requiring precise timings and a fast, near ideal set up for a pure GX field to hit the board speedily.

Once again, this is a very good example of the matchup being one that rewards the opponent if they somehow get perfect information on your deck and act upon said information quickly. If they didn’t realize that benching Buzzwole to attack specifically after you took your very first prize was the best time to do so, this step would be so much easier to complete, as you simply take 2 to 3 turns behind the safety of Hoopa to coast to safety. For the purposes of NAIC, we don’t expect this level of initial awareness on the part of our opponents, and definitely not this level of adaptability within the span of just one Bo3 series either. There are too many factors for this to happen: you need 1) to encounter 2) a skilled opponent running 3) ZoroRoc of 4) this particular build in 5) the total span of your tournament run.

4) This is the home stretch. The difficult of this matchup is heavily dependent on how well you execute, and well your opponent denies your ability to carry out steps 2) and 3).

Steps 2) and 3) would push your resources (especially Guzma) and skills to your limit. Past this, you won’t need the use of Guzma for the most part (maybe 1 at most to quickly close out the game before they have a chance to make a comeback), amongst various other resources. Now you’re fine.

So, simply fight an attrition war against them. A 2HKO game against a Buzzwole which should be, by now, defanged to a high extent is something you can do. The last 2 prizes can be cleared off by Hoopa and a tight bench.

While we’re on the topic of your bench, in this stage take note of your bench size and remaining resources. You don’t want to over bench and give them a free pass to gust a vulnerable unit for a win. Part of the difficulty of this matchup stems from the number of non Hoopa units you may need to bench to relieve the pressures applied to you by their threatens (notably Buzzwole of course), and you might already be cutting it close in prizes that you can concede to your opponent by the time your reach this point. Using Hoopa to secure a hard fought victory should definitely be the recommended way to go.

Additional Notes

  • By now it should be obvious that 2 Strong Buzzwole is the bane of your existence, and you are right to fear it.

However, you can fear it and take action simultaneously, and taking action is what you must do without hesitation. Keeping a Guzma on standby at all time when they drop the first Buzzwole is prudent, as is keeping return KO options. Your resources will be tested, so keep them at hand and in mind.

  • That said, it is not always possible to take such preventive measures. Especially savvy (and shrewd) adversaries who will make use of sudden Multi Switch plays to bring the field to 2 Strong Energies into play in one turn. During the later stages of testing, it was found that if ZoroRoc pulls this off, it is very potent against us.
  • There is actually little else you can do to circumvent that if the opponent is adequately shrewd. “Parking” a strong onto a Lycanroc GX (a tanky enough and viable holder of Strong Energy) is the play of choice before making the big shift via Multi Switch into Sledgehammer for 140.

That said, it is harder to pull off than most people think. Even if they are smart enough to consider this line of play, remember that we are actively trying to down Rockruff (see step 2), so finding a stable unit to hold Strong Energy might not be an option available to them all the time, or most of the time for that matter.

To elaborate, on top of having to evolve into Lycanroc to hold the energy for one more turn before Buzzwole comes in, they need to commit resources (such as bench space as well as Brigette and Balls) to the development of their Zoroark lines as well. Without the Zoroark lines, they can’t draw into the Strong Energies and Multi Switch that makes this line of play possible in the very first place.

Thus, your awareness and commitment to follow the sequence of plays (notably Step 2) to the letter plays a huge role here. By actively keeping Rockruff (and resultingly Lycanroc GX) out of the board so they can’t hold Strong Energy long enough to snowball it on the board, you prevent this disastrous scenario from happening. At the same time, you insure yourself from desperate “Surprise Attack” plays from their Rockruff to raise your chances of winning. Every bit matters in such a challenging match up, and you must seize this margin.

  • Sometimes you can’t prevent this. There are occasions when you’ll miss any one of the 4 Guzma you run, and at the same time they’ll smoothly get their Lycanroc GX up and running, park their Strong Energy, find the second one with Multi Switch and put you in a tight spot. They’re a Zoroark deck: a variant with this much draw power cannot be discounted to pull off a string of combos otherwise considered unlikely.

Preparation in anticipation of this is the next step. It’s your plan B. A Mewtwo ready to hit for 120, followed by a Yveltal XY ready to clean up what Mewtwo started while simultaneously loading a 2nd Hoopa (ONLY TO BE BENCHED ON THE VERY SAME TURN THAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO KO THEIR BUZZWOLE) is the classic set up for salvaging this dire situation.

  • On this note, Enhanced Hammer, especially 2 copies of it, is a great resource to have at your disposal without a shadow of doubt. Simply playing this card down would preclude the need for finding and then expending one of the four Guzma you have to work with in this deck, which might be crucial throughout the game (especially in the clean and successful execution of Step 3).

If you suspect the metagame has a ton of ZoroRoc decks tech-ing Buzzwole (we did not for the NAIC though), then at least 2 Enhanced Hammer is a must have in your list.

  • Whilst it was mentioned repeatedly that keeping track of the low hanging fruits on your bench (trust me, you’ll be conceding markedly more non Hoopa prizes than against ZoroPod and non Buzzwole ZoroRoc decks), as well as key resources like Guzma, you’d find that that opponent’s resources be strained too.

Very often, this matchup is actually a resources war.

Digging for Strong Energy, and having (typically) only 2 Guzma in total means they also have to perform a juggling act. You exacerbate the severity of their low Guzma situation as well by derailing their Lycanroc lines (you have strong motivations to do so! Lack of Strong Energy parking spots, cutting off the possibility of Surprise Attack) during the course of the game.

With their low Guzma lines, you are better able to play a game of attrition by rotating your 130 HP (or more) Non GX units, which dance out of the effective OHKO range of both Zoroark and Buzzwole and win a grindy resources game. A good proportion of our wins in testing did result from a hard fought grind fest that went in our favour.

The main point is, keep a close eye on their resources and play against their remaining outs. You’ll be surprised at how much they are forced to burn through to pierce through your defences and override your current game plan. Exhausting their Guzma outs is just one example of the many ways you can exploit the resource drain they typically undergo.

ZoroGarb

Matchup Overview

Intuitively, this matchup seems to be a matter of “take out Garbotoxin and then wall with Hoopa to victory”. However, this is not one of those instances where intuition prevails. It is precisely what the ZoroGarb player wishes to see out of you.

To elaborate, they can easily circumvent this line of play, and immediately make you rue the exact moment you chose to commit to it.

The simple act of benching more than 1 Trubbish makes the idea of stopping Garbotoxin via knockouts unviable. Go for it if there’s indeed just 1 Trubbish on the board: you’ll buy some turns to wreak havoc on them. Just don’t count on it happening too much.

With more than 1 Trubbish line on the board, they can simply leave at least one Trubbish unevolved at all times. Between Puzzles, Rescue Stretchers, and Zoroark’s insane draw power, it would be unwise to bet against them having yet another Garbotoxin up and running on the very next turn. The result? You conceding a prize and 3 energy along with it, coupled with likely resource burn and no progression on the board.

It’s likely to happen.

Now say you can repeatedly rid his Garbotoxin off the board. You have had a smooth run, getting Flying Flip off on both Trubbish and Hoopa are picking off his constantly revitalized Garbotoxin left and right. What’s the deal then?

Aside from the fact that you do not want to count on “running hot” as your primary mode of play, you trigger another undesirable side effect.

It has a name: Trashalanche.

If you can pull off such back to back KOs, it is usually the end result of much resource burning, especially of Max Elixir. This fuels Trashalanche, an attack that starts out unassuming (especially with Hoopa’s Psychic resistance) but rears its ugly head swiftly and menacingly when you go through enough of their board to otherwise worry them.

It’s catch 22: Garbotoxin denies you of your comfort zone, the place that lies behind the protective shield of Scoundrel Guard; but take that out of the picture and behind the canvas lies the beast that sweeps you without reprise in the form of Trashalanche. It’s the classic Garbodor control story we’ve heard and dreaded since the advent of GRI.

But! What if I told you this needn’t be the catch 22 I made it out to be, and that there is a greener pasture for us to frolic in?

You have a good hand, and I’ll take it, pulling you along as I show you a better picture of the situation at hand. We have a better solution available to us, a more feasible and actionable plan of action to seize our required win.

The realization of this method came when we decided to return back to basics, and execute the spread strategy as per normal.

Yveltal BREAK gets away with a lot. One of the less known flaws of ZoroGarb is the damage output, which is rather mediocre in magnitude. It draws strength from its ability to control the opponent holistically enough to secure the win via a measured pace.

In this instance, we focused on its relatively low damage output, coupled with the fact that we have beefy non GX attackers to execute our game plan.

First, you will notice that if we shrewdly control our items, their maximum damage output doesn’t go past 120, which is a huge boon for our 130 HP Yveltal and 150 HP Yveltal BREAK. Moreover, 120 is also the magic number where a fresh Hoopa dodges an OHKO from Trashalanche, with Psychic Resistance bringing the value down to 100.

Next comes our game plan:

  • Spread and harass with Yveltal BREAK. They need to 2HKO Yveltal BREAK. In that time, you run the board with cumulative 240 to 300 damage (depending on how you chose to execute the game plan), with 80 to the entire board. All this with a non GX attacker. An army of Trubbish and Garbodor may fall under the strain of this damage output, and plenty of Zoroark will be shown the possibility of OHKO by follow up attacks.
  • Limit your items to 6 at most to stay out of KO range so that your Yveltal BREAK (and sometime Hoopa) can prolong the damage you deal to them.

This gives us a more holistic way to win the matchup, as we have more control over the outcome through a measured use of resources, and field wide damage upon the board.

That said, I would consider this a rather even matchup. Garbotoxin has a way to make you whiff your outs when you need them the most. Oranguru and Tapu Lele are especially important when you can afford it, and denying this option makes the matchup more complex than otherwise.

However, it is less useful to dwell on what can go wrong, and more productive to focus on making things right.

I shall then detail how maximize what can go right in the matchup.

Board Configuration

Tapu Koko lead to execute Flying Flip ASAP, and as a pivot later on.

Set up Yveltal and Hoopa on the bench. Build Yveltal mutually into Yveltal BREAK towards the mid game.

The more Yveltal you bench, the better. You can discard damaged Yveltal if they decide to level Parallel City against you (they’ll avoid using Parallel on themselves most of the time, as you can transition easily to Hoopa while you capitalize on their reduced bench and/or Trubbish line if they do so).

Introduce Oranguru if you see that their Garbotoxin line is wavering. Else save it.

Sequence of Plays

1) It is a common mistake to blindly go into spread mode via Flying Flip immediately without looking at the situation. If their bench looks to have a high potential for further filling (e.g. a bad start with a bench size of 3 or less for example), save your Flying Flip for later via the use of Guzma and keep it safe on the bench as a pivot, skip to Step 2).

This step is very simply using Flying Flip if you see that their bench space is 4 or 5. You may make an exception for bench spaces of 3 if you highly suspect that their hand is poor.

2) This step happens right after you’ve completed spread to a large bench size. If you can save your initial Tapu Koko after it has pulled off a Flying Flip, so do! Retreat to the bench to use as a pivot, or as a future finisher. Let’s put it this way: after you’ve spread 80 to the board, raising the number to 100 is a welcome boon. It places Zoroark GX in OHKO range from Hoopa/Tapu Lele + Choice Band, places any Trashalanche Garbodor in OHKO range from spread, and takes out any Garbotoxin.

With that, set up Yveltal BREAK with the use of mutual Yveltal. Do not be afraid to drag them into a war of attrition through aggressive retreats and Guzma use (that said, save around 2 for Yveltal BREAK to hit key targets and circumventing Acerola use). You want to concede as few prizes as possible, and punish their Parallel City usage with pseudo heals on your beefy non GX units. This will serve to accrue token damage that might be exacerbated further with the use of Baleful Night.

3) When Baleful Night is up and running, keep Guzma on standby, if possible. Guzma is fantastic for gusting up fresh units that may be newly introduced to the board, sometimes as a by-product of Acerola. Use it if that’s the case.

If properly sustained, you can pull off Baleful Night twice.

4) Clean up the board. With spread damage upon them, their Garbodor lines should be fairly set. Any Trubbish that has failed to evolve to the next stage are most likely knocked out. A KO on a Garbotoxin Garbodor might not see reintroduction, or at least give you a turn of notice/free rein to further your offense.

In this case, Hoopa is actually a viable clean up unit as you coast to victory.

Of course, if the luxury of another Baleful Night spree is afforded to you, take it with great aplomb for this is almost certainly the way to overwhelming victory.

Lastly, Oranguru can be benched if you foresee that Garbotoxin would be out of the picture for the next turn or so. This insures you against a retaliatory N which might be part of their counter play especially after you’ve taken a good number of prizes via Baleful Night.

Additional Notes

  • Enhanced Hammer is great against ZoroGarb, especially vs builds with Unit Energy. Sometimes causing them to whiff their attack and allowing even more Baleful Nights to enter the picture is all you need to imprint your win in stone.
  • Flying Flip is super important here, you may wish to expend your resources (to perhaps even 4 to 5 items total) to pull it off at a critical timing.
  • When I say ‘limit your items to a maximum of 6’, take note it is not simply items in discard, but rather items that can potentially be discarded. To simplify matters, it is the sum of items in the discard + your tools on board.
  • Be frugal with your items, but don’t be afraid to splurge Max Elixir on Yveltal BREAK and/or Tapu Koko if it means being able to pull off a timely and dangerous Baleful Night and/or Flying Flip. The rule of limiting your items to maximum of 6 still take precedence. You can afford to be patient.
  • Scoop early if a game doesn’t go your way by means of bad draw. This matchup not only tends to go long, but is also decided very early by draws. The rest of the game is very often an extrapolation of said starts, with little deviation.

Greninja

Matchup Overview

I wish to write a little in detail on a fringe deck: Greninja. Going into the NAIC, I personally believed this to be the most commonly played deck outside of the metagame, and it is a good thing that this deck conveniently has a good matchup versus the frogs. I will explain how.

This is the classic example your spreading acumen in action. From start to end, you wish to be spreading, with Tapu Koko taking the reins first, followed by Yveltal BREAK revving you straight into victory gear.

Admittedly, after the 3 turn window right before the first Greninja BREAK hits the board, there is very little room for forgiveness. Water Shuriken is merciless to our high investment MVP, Yveltal BREAK. Resistance and 150 HP grant it no despite from smart placements of sniping.

However, the good thing is that you can absolutely be assured a window to manoeuvre in these 3 turns, with virtually no disruption in the meantime.

You’ll have to make hay while the sun shines then, and I shall now proceed to share with you the fine art of harvesting a win against this great matchup.

Board Configuration

Lead with Koko if possible, or settle for Yveltal XY (not SLG if you can help it!). Oranguru is highly welcome too.

After securing such priorities, bench everything else except for Tapu Lele GX liberally in a bid to thin your deck. Raising your outs in the early stages to execute the game ending Baleful Night in a timely manner is key, and so is insuring yourself against N. 130 is an ugly number to snipe and thankfully most of your bench sitters tend to have this amount of HP.

That said, don’t be afraid to bench Tapu Lele GX if you consider it crucial to your spreading cause in the early game. Simple because 1) it won’t matter if they have a means to take your GX as 2 prizes anymore when you’re bearing down hard on their painstakingly set up Evolutions lines simultaneously, turn after destructive turn; and 2) you might not get a chance to cash in on it when they start committing to Shadow Stitching, so you might as well get some gains from it early on.

Sequence of Plays

1) As with the ZoroGarb matchup, DO NOT BLINDLY USE FLYING FLIP. It is best done right after water duplicates.

For now, try to get Tapu Koko to the active position, with a means to use Flying Flip ready. You’re going to abuse and exploit the fact that the opponent typical won’t run Guzma outs, not the least at this phase of the game (looking at you, Counter Catcher!). A Tapu Koko in active position typically stays in the active position.

2) Meanwhile, power up Flying Flip and Baleful Night. Assuming the worst case scenario for you (I always do in this context, since you can still have a solid game plan despite that!), you have 3 turns to go before the very first Greninja hits the field and your Pokémon with it.

If you’re going second and are hard pressed to meet the “Flying Flip when they Water Duplicates” deadline, don’t be shy to attach Darkness Energy to Tapu Koko if you need to if you found Double Colorless improbable to draw. A Tapu Koko might last you 2 to 3 turns against their first Greninja/Greninja BREAK yet, depending on how they choose to play or how many Water Energy they have access to!

Else, if it’s probable for you to get a Flying Flip off regardless, then start charging your Yveltal/Yveltal BREAK lines already. Focus on committing Max Elixirs onto one particular unit: they won’t be sniping until turn 4 soonest so you are going to enjoy a great measure of safety.

If you have the luxury of going first, then you can afford to play a little loose on the Tapu Koko, and should slant your resource allocation to Yveltal/Yveltal BREAK instead.

3) As soon as they let it rip on the Water Duplicates, Flying Flip comes to the fore. You may want to wrap up your completion of Baleful Night and focus on benching Oranguru if you haven’t done so.

4) As with the Malamar match ups, Baleful Night should take centre stage AT THE SOONEST GIVEN OPPORTUNITY. It’s simple: you won’t have access to Baleful Night for too long with all that sniping going around.

You want to press in to them ASAP to give them little room to set up 2 Greninja BREAKs, which will score an OHKO on you. Fortunately, a fast Baleful Night helps to prevent that from happening, alongside some very cool damage calculations:

(i) Flying Flip + Baleful Night is 140 to the active, and takes out any Greninja, making it hard to set up the prerequisite double Greninja BREAK for them to prevent another Baleful Night.

(ii) Flying Flip + Baleful Night (Spread) KOs Staryu. More pressure on them to search out an extra evolution in the form of Starmie while trying to set up multiple Greninja BREAK lines at the same time. Resource straining at work.

(iii) Flying Flip + Baleful Night + Baleful Night (spread) is 170, and allows you to OHKO and Greninja BREAK (be it by spread first and then active damage, or the reverse) on the dot.

(iv) Flying Flip + Baleful Night (spread) + Baleful Night (spread) is 80 to the board. This will serve to take out any unfortunate Froakie and/or Frogadier that didn’t have a chance to evolve.

That’s not including the delicious bonuses you can score on any GX units they start with/bench down. But we’re not counting on that. A competent opponent who is not too unlucky to start badly will still find themselves in a pickle despite getting to Greninja BREAK by T4 seamlessly, and we all know the stereotype of Greninja as a 60 card brick (not my personal belief, just taking conventional wisdom).

5) If you’ve reached this phase, you’ve cleared the hardest part. As with most strategies revolving around our spreading abilities, the final step is the clean-up phase. Here’s how to pick them off best, for it is important to get this step right against a deck known for its comebacks.

Latios is the attacker of choice if you’ve managed to only pull off one Baleful Night before going under. Your Yveltal BREAK’s rampage might come to a quick end if they swarm their field with a ton of Greninja and get into double Greninja BREAK mode quickly. Unlikely but possible. Or you might have much slower than average start. Less unlikely, quite possible.

With 140 damage on the board, you can take out a Greninja BREAK in short order, then leave the other at 80 damage, 90 HP left. With the use of Max Elixir (you probably have a number saved if your start was that bad), Yveltal SLG can wrap it up expediently and retain momentum by loading your remaining attackers. They’ll fall short if they’re out of energy and/or cannot get a 3rdGreninja BREAK to synergize with their 2nd, surviving one. Your Yveltal should last.

Yveltal SLG and Hoopa are next in line, being fantastic sweepers to go on an OHKO spree, with Yveltal SLG being much better as it retains board strength and still has a decent attack (that might finish off a damaged Pokémon yet!) even past the use of Enhanced Hammer on your DCE.

Lastly, do not be afraid to use Tapu Koko if it accrues you major advantages such as the outright chance or potential to take multiple key prizes (think of Frogadier and Staryu) in one go.

Clean-up work is all about finding the most suitable tools for the job, in order to be as effective and decisive as possible in securing the win. These are only recommendations for specific scenarios I’ve encountered, and should only be taken as suggestions. The key is to clean them up quickly and never let them implement the comeback game they’re so renowned for.

Additional Notes

  • I’ve not quite gone into sufficient detail on the value of Oranguru in this matchup. Oranguru is quite simply your insurance against an N to low hand size, particularly so when you’ve emerged from your Baleful Night rampage and are seeking resources to wrap up the game.

On a more profound level, the mere presence of Oranguru forces them into a dilemma turn after turn. The question they’ll have to ask themselves every single turn would be: Shadow Stitching or Moonlight Slash? A savvy opponent could catch on very quickly that they could feasibly go straight into Moonlight Slash if they find that you don’t rely on abilities past Tapu Lele GX (best not placed down if its already not used prior) and Hoopa (virtually useless in this match up).

With Oranguru, you cause them to have something to think about, and the commitment to either one might end up bad for them, especially during the clean-up phase.

Usage of Shadow Stitching might mean the prolonged survival of your units or added strain to their Water Energy (especially if Staryu/Starmie was caught in the crossfire) and the edge provided to you to win.

Going straight to Moonlight Slash might mean recovery from an N to a low hand size so that you may find your resources to take out their surviving Greninja.

Oranguru puts them out of their comfort zone in this regard and generates a better win percentage for you as you have one more out to victory.

  • Greninja may sport a moderate number of Max Potion, up to 2 from our reckonings. At first, this might seem to derail our spreading endeavours.

However, we always have the option to gust up a freshly healed unit to retain full field spread. Let’s put it this way: we run 4 Guzma, sometimes searchable; they run 2 Max Potion and it’s not searchable at all. At the end of the day, by and large, our maxed out Guzma count should triumph over their heal attempts.

Simply keep your Guzma resources at the ready (and chances, you will, since you would hardly use Guzma until you’re rampaging with Baleful Night) to deal with it.

Yes, there will be occasions where they’d run 2 Max Potion and get to use them simultaneously during the clutch turns. However, this is pretty rare, needing them to 1) run 2 Max Potions, 2) draw right into both of them at 3) the exact turn they need it 4) without searching outs. Have faith that you’ll prevail a much higher percentage of the time, as while this isn’t an auto win, it’s a very favourable match up. Keep a steady head and prepare to take the remaining game(s) you need to win the series, and not be affected if they run this hot. Healing outs shouldn’t change the landscape much.

  • Stay vigilant to the possibility of Enhanced Hammer until they’ve exhausted (usually both of) them. This means a Double Colorless on Tapu Koko should be cashed into a Flying Flip attack as soon as it hits the board, and this should apply likewise for attackers like Latios, Yveltal SLG, and Hoopa.

Too many times during the early phases of my testing against Greninja I’ve taken it for granted that a Double Colorless would stay, and just about every time I get punished for it, even if I just gave them a one turn window to take it off the board before I cashed in. It’s best to play conservatively and stick to attaching Darkness Energy elsewhere first for the most part.

  • If you happen to run Parallel City, then understand that limiting your bench using the stadium for the boon of reducing their damage is not worth it. Aside from the fact that it doesn’t change any OHKO/2HKO numbers aside from causing to Shadow Stitching plus two Water Shuriken to hit for 140 instead of 160 on Yveltal BREAK and missing an OHKO (something that can be countered by the drop of a Field Blower), you limit yourself away from resources you might end up needing, such as back up attackers and Oranguru.

It’s best to instead use Parallel City to limit their bench. Any use of Field Blower, coupled with the introduction of new units to the field, can be circumvented with the use on Guzma to the new entrant (in the case of 2 new entrants, just pick the more threatening one of course!), which is most likely a fragile unit and not a fully evolved threat in the form of Greninja/Greninja BREAK. The fresh new units are definitely not going to be threats and they are absolutely not going to a catch a break from you.

  • In addition, Parallel City cannot be simply played. Using it when you’ve ravaged their field with spread damage is nigh taboo.

Instead, it is best to play it down before the use of Water Duplicates, or generally before your first key spread moment.

 

Witching Hour 4: The Akashic Records (Tournament Recap)

Tournament Report

I will not spend too much time writing about my tournament run, for I found it more productive and constructive to expand on the specifics of wielding the deck to the best it can be, and on the deck itself, as I have already done. My tournament run, with matchups, builds, and opponent calibre, can be vastly different from anyone else’s who ran Yveltal BREAK (I know this was the case for our group), and it is not wise to take my run as an absolute indicator of its performance and standing in the format itself.

That said, for reference and for a little retrospection, here’s my run.

DAY 1
Round 1 VS BuzzRoc WW (1/0/0)
Round 2 VS BuzzRoc LWT (1/0/1)
Round 3 VS BuzzGarb WW (2/0/1)
Round 4 VS ZoroPod WW (3/0/1)
Round 5 VS BuzzGarb WW (4/0/1)
Round 6 VS BuzzGarb LL (4/1/1)
Round 7 VS BuzzGarb WW (5/1/1)
Round 8 VS ZoroRoc WLT (5/1/2)
Round 9 VS Dusk Mane Necrozma w/ Garb WW (6/1/2)

DAY 2
Round 10 VS Magnezone w/ Metal Attackers WLT (6/1/3)
Round 11 VS BuzzRoc WW (7/1/3)
Round 12 VS Psychic Malamar WW (8/1/3)
Round 13 VS Psychic Malamar LL (8/2/3)
Round 14 VS GoliGarb WLL (8/3/3)
Round 15 VS Psychic Malamar WW (9/3/3)

Additional Remarks

As a little mental exercise and to provide a little perspective of how Yveltal handles other off the wall decks (for a more complete picture of how it functions, of course!), I will provide some exposition on how I adapted against 2 interesting matchup interactions that didn’t fall within the 9 deck match ups I have elaborated upon previously.

The idea is to provide a little food for thought regarding Yveltal’s matchups and game plans against these decks, albeit in an informal and anecdotal manner, which is the best mode of expression I can muster for now based on the information I’ve gleaned from the NAIC.

I will now proceed to talk about my runs against both Dusk Mane Necrozma w/ Garb and GoliGarb.

Dusk Mane Necrozma w/ Garb

This was the first instance of an off the wall deck that wasn’t part of the metagame decks I anticipated at the NAIC.

He started off filling his bench with great aplomb, as one would normally do if they have the resources to do so.

What this did was give me an extremely clear idea of what I was exactly up against.

With an assorted mix of double Trubbish, double Dusk Mane Necrozma GX, Tapu Lele GX, and a non GX Dusk Mane Necrozma GX, it was clear that Hoopa wasn’t going to tide me over the entire game.

Immediately, I drew parallels with the ZoroGarb matchup: here’s a Garbodor + attackers deck that takes a while to roll through with KOs, needing a steady diet of Max Elixir and Beast Rings to do so!

Just as with the ZoroGarb matchup, I began evaluating his maximum damage output, as I began thinking of how to use Tapu Koko (my lead of choice versus ZoroGarb, as you will remember) to pressure the field.

Considering his options, with respect to leading with Tapu Koko, we have:

  1. Dusk Mane Necrozma GX’s Claw Slash, which does 70 – 20 (metal resistance, great!) for 50 even with FFB, his tool of choice. It’s a 3HKO.
  2. Dusk Mane Necrozma GX’s Meteor Tempest, which is an outright KO, but takes too many resources for one prize, especially without access to Beast Ring use.
  3. Dusk Mane Necrozma GX’s Sun’s Eclipse, which cannot be triggered immediately (or at all if I can help it).
  4. Non GX Dusk Mane Necrozma’s Dusk Shot, which doesn’t do anything to my non GX field.
  5. Non GX Dusk Mane Necrozma’s Rusty Claws, which does 100 + 10 – 20 for 90, which is a 2HKO.
  6. Tapu Lele GX’s Energy Drive for 80 on my Tapu Koko, a 2HKO.
  7. With option 4) out of the picture and also 3) since I’m not going to race him in prizes (until it’s too late for him) and spread instead, there was very good motivation to start with Flying Flip.

He began investing his energy attachments to both his Dusk Mane Necrozma GX, which was what I was hoping to see. Options 5) and 6) were 2HKO options that gave me less room to spread to my satisfaction, but his commitment to Dusk Mane Necrozma GX denied him those choices, and left him with only 2 options:

  1. A 3HKO
  2. Spending an inordinate number of turns to pull off an OHKO, only for spreading to continue and for him to be on the backfoot in board presence such that even initiating 1) was problematic.

Flying Flip and Baleful Night it was! The idea was to spread with all the turns I was given (a ton, to be sure) and rout him in one fell swoop that would even deny him the use of Beast Ring. Benching Hoopa and Oranguru to clean up after the board wipe to take advantage of the lack of Garbotoxin was the icing on the cake.

I began Flying Flip with 2 Tapu Koko, rotating them to preserve their use, delay his KOs, tempt use of Guzma (to keep Yveltal safe), and coax Meteor Tempest utility.

After his first Meteor Tempest, the board looked ripe for a big reap, and the spoils of war presented themselves to me in the form of Baleful Night to knock out a Garbotoxin Garbodor (which actually slowed his advance, incidentally), a Trubbish, and a Dusk Mane Necrozma GX.

Without imminent threat of Garbotoxin, and denied use of both Beast Rings and a strong Rusty Claws, his ravaged board was unable to prevent my Baleful Night from going off one more time for a victory.

The second game was anti-climactic as far as potential win and ins go, with him being stranded with a lone Lele for 3 turns. I grasped the opportunity and deserted my intended plan with Flying Flip (no bench is a no go) in favour of a safer option in Hoopa, and cleaned up the game in 3 turns to take the set.

Take Home Value: Against an unknown factor, evaluatethe units they level against you and make a quick note of what they can and cannot do, then formulatea game plan that allows you to 1) maximize your chances for a win, and 2) minimize their outs to carry out their own unique strategies.

GoliGarb

Here is another Garbodor variant, one that’s markedly more aggressive than both ZoroGarb and Dusk Mane Necrozma GX with Garbodor.

With the option to blast past the 120 damage threshold rather easily into 150 territory, “spread and run the board with Yveltal BREAK” seems like a strategy that’s fragile and flimsy.

As a result, I was dreading the GoliGarb matchup, while at the same time reassuring myself that I won’t be unlucky enough to face one of just a handful in a field as large as the NAIC.

Yet, in Day 2, I came face to face with one of them. It’s time to stop griping and start fighting.

I’ve faced GoliGarb in testing before, and I’ve found that one of its weaknesses is that it has a tendency to brick on more occasions than is palatable. From this observation, I’ve adopted a mindset that’s speculative but necessary (as far as I know) going into the game:

  1. Milk your own surprise factor as much as you possibly can in Game 1. You will force yourself to keep an eye out for opponent’s slippages more than your game plans, seeing as whatever game plan you come up with would not last.
  2. If you do successful take Game 1 by surprise, play conservatively in Game 2 if you’re on the backfoot to conceal your bag of tricks and retain an element of mystery to your plays.
  3. If you find them finally bricking, be inordinately aggressive: overextend to seize massive advantages. You want to clean them up decisively before they get back on their feet to show you the way to your inevitable doom. If Goliath is down, rush over with haste and stab him on the jugular. You might fall to a desperate struggle, but it is better than waiting for him for get up and force you to be the one fighting for life instead.

As it turns out, part 1) went off without a hitch. I didn’t reveal Hoopa at all and instead went for a hybrid Yveltal tank/Yveltal spread strategy to wear him down. Spread was my offensive of choice, seeing as such decks typically run many Acerola. Tanking with the magic 130 HP was essential to force more resources out of him and get him to reveal his cards.

With the help of some bad luck on his side, he was forced to prematurely discard his other Garbotoxin line and Rescue Stretcher, affording me more room to work with Hoopa in the future.

When I got comfortable in my defence, I introduced new level of harassment in the form of Guzma to trap his heavy retreat Pokémon in the front, and Tapu Koko to spread. I took a few hits here and there once he regained momentum, but I got the information I so sought after when he burnt through all those cards to escape: it was apparent that his build did not run Puzzles.

What does this mean? This means that Garbotoxin won’t be here to stay.

I also exhausted the use of some Guzma, which would soon prove to be an important aspect of game 1.

I immediately stopped allowing him to take prizes off me and took down his lone Garbotoxin.

Finally, I dropped the Hoopa. The cumulative toll of forced Guzma use, untimely Garbodor discards, and tanking him out of taking prizes, coupled with my confidence in his lack of Puzzles meant that Hoopa will wall him out of taking 6 prizes to close the game.

He wisely scooped on the turn I dropped the Hoopa. Knowing what resources you have left and translating it into information that will help you decide if you have a chance to clear the game seems to be a trait of good players, and having made Day 2, I would expect this calibre of decision making.

Exploiting the surprise factor that I indeed do possess seems to have paid off handsomely here.

Unfortunately for me, he didn’t brick in games 2 and 3 as I have hoped, and with an increased vigilance and control over his resources, was able to comfortably take both games. I wasn’t too sure, but it seemed to me that the clock was ticking down very hard towards the end and I might have been close to securing a tie in an otherwise difficult matchup by walling using Yveltal, but he was able to skilfully close it out.

This doesn’t mean that I am going to accord blame on him for “not bricking at all with a Garbodor deck”. Sound deckbuilding skills (11 shuffle/draw, as he revealed), prudence to scoop as soon as he knows his chances of winning went to zilch to eventually narrowly avoid a tie in a favourable matchup for him, and demonstrating ridiculously tight resources control in the face of my “wall and stall” tactics have showed me why he earned his spot in Day 2. It was a great game by all accords, and though I tried my best, it was my opponent who came out on top with a victory rather well deserved.

Still, they are learning points I can take home after this one particular encounter.

Take Home Value:If you’re up against the ropes, focus on finding any weak spotsyour opponent might have. Do this even if you have to take focus off your usualgame plan and plays, and be necessitated to resort to unusualand untested lines of execution. Let’s just say that if you’re pretty certain that you’ve got a disadvantage with what you currently have, then it is definitely high time to abandon the status quo. Leave your comfort zone, seek greener pastures, and you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find. Even if you fell short, it’s better togive yourself the best chance at successthan fend the wolves off at your usual vulnerable corner.

 

The Final Witching Hour: Daybreak (Concluding Remarks)

I believe that I’ve said what I’ve wanted to say about this deck at length already. This section would talk about the deck’s future, in which lies only one major tournament ahead at this stage.

Virtually everything here is retrospect, but looking forward, from the precipice of a new dawn and a new format, does the deck have one last ride into the horizon as the first sunbeams of birth cut through the night behind us?

Only one new thing has appeared on the landscape in front of us perhaps: Shrine of Punishment. Personally, not a fan. Plenty of GX heavy matchups (such as Malamar, Zoroark, and now Rayquaza) can be dealt with via Hoopa itself. It’s going to be a 2HKO at the end of the day at the hands of Hoopa, which provides the best balance of safety and offense by and large.

Sure, Shrine of Punishment improves (by a small measure) the matchups that include a strong line of Hoopa answers, such as the Garbodor ones. However, you must consider that the deck itself is tight on space already. There already was much rumination and heated discussion over the last 2 item/stadium spots and none of us are still sure which is optimal. Add 3 to 4 copies of Shrine of Punishment and you’ll be pining for little estate over little gain.

It’s simply not worth it. I’d rather keep my other existing matchups shored up: Parallel City is still very good against much of the field, and now against RayGarb, you make them think hard on what to discard off their bench; Enhanced Hammer is the tech of choice against Buzzwole, a deck that’s still relevant and not too afraid of Shrine of Punishment.

That said, it’s still just my opinion at the end of the day. Your mileage may vary.

With that, I’ll depart you with your thoughts, hopefully shaped in one manner or another, about Yveltal. I hope you’ve gained a ton of value out of reading this, cheers!

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