Dark Thoughts – The Expanded Format, Yveltal, and the Value of Maxie’s
To start the month of March was the St. Louis Regional Championship, which was played in the Expanded format of Black and White through Sun and Moon. This is going to be the same format used for the Portland Regional Championship at the end of the month, so the lessons taken away from the tournament can be applied towards adjusting decks and strategy for that tournament.
As the tournament was in my hometown of St. Louis, naturally I was able to attend the event. In this article I am going to go over my tournament preparation that led to my deck decision, go over what I learned during the tournament about my deck, and then go over some other thoughts on the Expanded format, and then close it out by going over a new, but old, Yveltal EX deck that could be the play for Portland.
In my last article, Sun and Moon in Expanded and the Collinsville Metagame, I cover a lot of my thoughts going into the format. Expanded is a very diverse format with 20+ viable to semi-viable decks, so there is a lot that can show up. I organized the format into tiers of how much I thought decks would be played, and devoted my testing time based on the tier, giving higher priority to Tier 1, and then working my way down the list as time permitted. I thought the metagame would mostly be unchanged from Sun and Moon, with the addition of Seismitoad EX/Decidueye GX as a Tier 2 deck.
In particular, I tended to devote the most time to testing against Yveltal EX/Maxie’s and Turbo Darkrai EX. Any deck I wanted to try out, I would start by running through a set of games against these decks, and these provided a litmus test of Expanded viability for me. If I found a deck struggled against one of these two decks, I became very hesitant to play it.
I started out my testing with Accelgor DEX/Wobbuffet PHF, but quickly discarded it after finding that it’s matchups against both Dark decks were a lot sketchier than I thought, with cards like Parallel City and Delinquent being able to disrupt the deck to create winning situations.
From there, I moved onto Turbo Darkrai EX. It appealed to me as it is one of the most consistent decks in the format and it puts instant pressure on the opponent with consistent turn 1 attacks, but I found its Yveltal EX/Maxie’s matchup to be unfavorable, so I moved away from that. Next, I tried Trevenant BREAK, swapping out some of the Red Card in Jonathan Crespo’s list for Head Ringer to try to improve the Dark matchups, but still found the deck to go very negative against both Dark decks making me uncomfortable playing it for the event.
From there, I moved to heavily testing Seismitoad EX/Decidueye GX. Most of the testing went fairly well, but the deck kept going negative against Yveltal EX/Maxie’s and Vespiquen/Flareon which made me scared to play it after Archeops just won San Jose, the last Expanded Regional, and Vespiquen/Flareon was getting immense online hype. I made a last ditch effort with Decidueye GX/Vileplume AOR, but went away from it for similar reasons to not playing Seismitoad EX/Decidueye GX, as well as generally not being happy with the list I made for it.
Playtesting Decidueye GX/Vileplume actually ended up paying off for me as I was able to make more informed decisions about how to approach the matchup when I played against John Kettler with the deck in the tournament.
The one constant in all of my testing was that Yveltal EX/Maxie’s was looking very good against everything I had tested into it. Not everything was a positive matchup for it in testing, but nothing was overwhelmingly negative for it, with most of the bad matchups being no worse than 40/60’s, meaning it would have a chance against anything that I had expected to see get played.
With nothing emerging as a dominant deck in my testing, I decided to go with Yveltal EX/Maxie’s as it appeared to have the best matchup spread out of any of the top contenders.
Here is the list I used for the tournament:
Pokemon – 13
3 Yveltal EX
Trainers – 36
3 Professor Sycamore
4 Ultra Ball
1 Parallel City
Energy – 11
For those not familiar with this list, this is the same list that Mark Garcia used to win the San Jose Regional Championship in December. Mark Garcia is one of the best players in the game, and while he doesn’t make it out to too many tournaments any more, when he does he always seems to put up a strong finish, so it’s always worth taking a look at what he’s playing.
When going over the top lists for San Jose, Mark’s list appealed to me the most out of the Yveltal lists I saw. The big things I liked about his list were 3 Yveltal EX and a larger devotion to the Maxie’s engine. I think Yveltal EX is the true engine behind any Yveltal EX, so I’ve never understood why players cut down to two of it, which can create compromising game situations if you run out of Yveltal EX because of prizing or early knockouts.
I’ve also always found the Maxie’s part of this deck to be highly inconsistent, especially as the 1/1/1 split of Archeops/Gallade/Maxie’s, so I liked that more attention was put towards this part of the deck in Mark’s list, theoretically making the Maxie’s more consistent.
I didn’t see any significant reason to change his list for the tournament. The only card choice I really questioned was the Sableye DEX. I tested a Tauros GX in its place, which was awful, and decided to just keep the Sableye for the tournament. I also considered a Team Skull Grunt to attack my opponent’s Energy as another form of disruption, but didn’t want to add another Supporter that could disrupt a turn 1 Maxie’s to the deck.
I think too many players are afraid to netdeck successful decklists in this game. Many players often try to put their own twists on decks, changing up lists for the sake of change and not for the sake of progress, which ends up just making their lists inferior to the list that already saw success. I know this first hand from when I posted my State Championship winning Vespiquen/Vileplume list last season. Many players would change 4+ cards from the list and then come at me complaining about how my list didn’t work for them, even though they had changed it and made it bad themselves, and didn’t actually play my list.
This list had already won one Regional Championship and I saw no reason why it wasn’t capable of winning another.
Here is how my tournament played out:
Round 1 – Kyle Adelsberger – Turbo Darkrai EX – Tie (0-0-1)
Round 2 – James Burnette – Ho-Oh EX/Jolteon EX/Regirock AOR/Sigilyph DRX – Tie (0-0-2)
Round 3 – Justin Kittleson-Burke – Solgaleo GX/Bronzong – Win (1-0-2)
Round 4 – Kevin Murphy – Darkrai EX/Giratina EX/Salamence EX – Win (2-0-2)
Round 5 – Avery George – Darkrai EX/Giratina EX/Salamence EX – Win (3-0-2)
Round 6 – Daniel Altavilla – Vespiquen AOR/Flareon PLF/Herdier SUM – Tie (3-0-3)
Round 7 – Ryan Grant – Night March – Win (4-0-3)
Round 8 – Cole Barnhardt – Yveltal EX/Maxie’s – Win (5-0-3)
Round 9 – Andrew Denkus – Turbo Darkrai EX – Win (6-0-3)
Round 10 – Roberto Lozada – Seismitoad EX/Giratina EX – Win (7-0-3)
Round 11 – Jay Young – Trevenant BREAK – Win (8-0-3)
Round 12 – John Kettler – Decidueye GX/Vileplume AOR – Tie (8-0-4)
Round 13 – Alex Wilson – M Rayquaza EX – Tie (8-0-5)
Round 14 – Rahul Reddy – Volcanion EX – Loss (8-1-6)
Overall 8-1-6, 14th place
Playing Yveltal EX/Maxie’s at a tournament in it’s current state was a very interesting experience. Not only were almost all of my matches very close affairs, almost every single individual game of the tournament also played out very closely, with the deck seemingly being able to grind out close win after close win. It’s very hard to even think about what happened throughout most of my games as the tournament is a big black blur of Evil Balls and Pitch Black Spears, with some Sensitive Blades and Y-Cyclones mixed in.
Overall, the list worked out very well. Some of the more fringe cards in the decks showed their value as the tournament went on. AZ prevented losses by picking up damaged Pokemon or lifting prize liabilities like Shaymin EX off my bench. Delinquent was quiet early in the day, before winning me some games later on by destroying key opponent resources leading to deck outs. Reverse Valley, apparently the Stadium card no one else liked from Mark’s list, was huge throughout the tournament, creating knockout math that otherwise would have been impossible without it.
The Maxie’s engine was still highly inconsistent. In the games you play with the deck, you either have hands that support hitting a Maxie’s or not, and whether you hit the right hands or not is highly random, so there is a lot of variance in regards to that part of deck which can lead to some hot streaks of games where you hit it consecutively, and then other cold spells where you can’t hit it to save your life. With that said, this setup of cards yielded me many more successful Maxie’s than my 1 Maxie’s list from the prior year’s St. Louis Regional Championship did.
The only card that was bad for me through the entire tournament was Sableye DEX. At only 70 HP, it was almost always going to be knocked out if attacked with, and at least in the games I played, giving up that prize was more negative towards my position in games than getting whatever resources back would be. Some of this is matchup based most likely, as I didn’t play against matchups like Greninja BREAK or Sableye/Garbodor, where Junk Hunt can be very useful, but this is a card that I would definitely not play against as those are fringe decks in the meta that you are highly unlikely to play.
I think Yveltal XY is a strictly better 1 Energy attacker for the deck moving forward. It has more HP, which makes it somewhat difficult to knockout, and it can advance your board position by accelerating Energy, while also setting up damage on your opponent’s Pokemon, setting them up for easier knockouts with Evil Ball or Sensitive Blade. It also is useful against the Item Lock decks, while Sableye is useless against them outside of Hail Mary Confuse Ray plays.
Unfortunately, in the last three rounds I was up-paired into a brick wall of competition, unable to secure the last win to make Top 8. My last three rounds were against the three players that would go onto finish 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the tournament.
I could have potentially got up to 30 points, which actually was good enough to make the Top 8 if I had been able to force a tie against Rahul Reddy in the last round. I had conceded when the game went to time as I couldn’t win that match and 29 points should already have put me into Top 16, I had thought 31 points would be needed for Top 8, and conceding would prevent a scenario where Rahul bubbles at 31 (and he’s cool so, so improving his tournament position at no cost of my own was fine to me). He may have still been able to win in the last two turns, but there is a decent chance thanks to the hand screwing power of N and Fright Night shutting off Float Stone, a tie could have been pulled off.
Of course as I walk out of the streaming area, Jimmy Pendarvis comes up yelling about how I should have played for the tie because multiple 30 points would make Top 8. Luckily no harm was done, as I would have bubbled at 30 points anyhow (8th place ended up being 52% resistance, I had 52% resistance myself, but that would have dropped below that from taking a win off Rahul’s record with a tie round 14), so luckily I didn’t screw myself out of a Top 8 by conceding a game Rahul almost assuredly would have won if it was able to play to completion.
However, for future tournaments, it’s something worth keeping in mind. I had assumed that all of the other potential win and in games would result in a winner, but all except one of them ended in ties, so if I find myself in a similar situation in a future tournament I will probably go for a tie in such a scenario.
14th place out of 705 player field was still very good, and it was cool to play Yveltal for a tournament again. It had been over a year since I last played Yveltal at a tournament, with St. Louis Regional 2016 being my last time playing the deck in a tournament.
Yveltal EX + LaserBank
In many of my matches, as my hands didn’t support pulling off Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick, the Maxie’s cards in the deck sat there as dead cards serving no purpose, simply being treated as Battle Compressor fodder. With having the Maxie’s cards being dead cards in the majority of my games at the tournament, I began to think about, especially as I got off to a slow start in the tournament, whether the Maxie’s Engine is the best way to be playing Yveltal EX.
The first thing to look at is why do we play the Maxie’s engine? The primary reason that the Maxie’s engine was introduced into the deck was for Archeops NVI. The deck was originally known as Yveltal EX/Archeops NVI before getting the Yveltal EX/Maxie’s designation when Gallade was released in Breakthrough and added to the deck.
However, I don’t think Archeops is very good with the current builds of the deck. No list that players have been playing are devoted to making sure that turn 1 Maxie’s happens consistently. We aren’t seeing lists with 4 Battle Compressor, and players aren’t playing Acro Bike, another card that immensely helps with Maxie’s consistency. Because lists aren’t being geared towards a turn 1 Archeops, the cards loses some of its value.
For example, in my match against Solgaleo GX/Bronzong PHF, I couldn’t hit a Maxie’s to get Archeops. In theory, Archeops is needed to win that matchup. Luckily my opponent dead drew both games, allowing me to win by using Evil Ball on a bunch of low HP pre-evolutions, but had my opponent drawn better, he would have been able to setup his evolutions, and once that happened, he would have easily been able to roll through my deck. If you aren’t hitting Archeops turn 1, you are giving evolution decks, which typically tend to be Stage 1 variants, or otherwise are Stage 2 variants with Forest of Giant Plants, enough time to rush their evolutions into play making a midgame Archeops have very low impact on the game.
Most evolution decks also have no issue dealing with an Archeops. Vespiquen and Accelgor both play Wobbuffet, allowing them to turn off your Ability. Raikou/Eelektrik, like the variant Andrew Mahone played to an 18th place finish, play Hex Maniac, which can give them the one turn they need to evolve, and because they hit you for weakness they don’t need to setup too many Eelektrik to create an advantage for themselves. Other decks, like M Rayquaza EX and Forest of Giant Plant decks can rush evolve their Pokemon before you get Archeops into play. Other Evolution decks are Item lock based (Seismitoad EX, Vilplume, Trevenant), and once a lock is established, you are almost never going to pull off a Maxie’s against them. You usually only have a one turn clock to get Archeops into play against the Item Lock decks.
The secondary reason to run Maxie’s is Gallade, which provides an alternate attacker and one that can deal with many Fighting weak threats to the deck such as Darkrai EX, M Manectric EX, and Jolteon EX. While Darkrai EX is still popular, you don’t need Gallade to beat it, and M Manectric EX and Jolteon EX are fringe meta cards right now, so I wouldn’t worry too much about them when building a deck.
Beyond the two Maxie’s targets now having lowered utility against the metagame, they’re also mostly non-viable against all of the Item lock decks that have been seeing play. If you go 2nd against a Vileplume or Trevenant deck, you aren’t going to be able to use Maxie’s if they establish the lock. If you whiff the turn 1 Maxie’s against Seismitoad EX, you will be unlikely to get it later in the game after they Quaking Punch. It takes a minor miracle to pull off a Maxie’s after Item Lock has been established.
In addition to Archeops and Gallade now being weaker against the metagame, it’s also worth noting that the Yveltal EX/Maxie’s version struggles to hit relevant damage numbers for knockouts. Throughout the tournament there were so many moments where I was falling just short of the numbers I needed for a knockout, but I would have been able to secure them if only I had LaserBank…which got me to thinking, why not take out the Maxie’s engine, which has proved mostly useless in the two Regional Championships that I have played the deck, and replace it with LaserBank. Taking out mostly useless cards, for useful cards should theoretically make the deck better.
Yveltal EX/Laserbank Decklist
This list is still in the development stage, but I think it has showed good early testing results and covers the general direction that I think Yveltal decks should go in the future.
Pokemon – 11
3 Yveltal EX
Trainers – 38
4 Professor Juniper
4 Ultra Ball
2 Virbank City Gym
Energy – 11
*Still trying to figure out whether Fighting Fury Belt or Muscle Band are better in the deck. Before the next major Expanded tournament I can attend I would make notes during my testing of how often each would have been the preferable Tool in my testing matches.
This list is very straight forward, and is an old school style of Yveltal EX deck, but one I think is probably stronger than the Maxie’s version.
It’s worth noting, last season, when Yveltal EX was played with LaserBank (with and without Maxie’s), Yveltal EX saw success at a dominant level. Since players cut LaserBank out of the deck the deck has still seen success, but at nowhere near the dominant levels that it saw success with Hypnotoxic Laser.
When you use Hypnotoxic Laser with Virbank City Gym in play, you lessen the amount of Energy you need for a knockout by 2 against odd HP Pokemon, and by 1 against even HP Pokemon. Adding a Fighting Fury Belt can make it so even HP Pokemon you need 2 less Energy to OHKO, and a Muscle Band can take it further against odd HP Pokemon, making it so you need 3 less Energy on your Yveltal EX for the OHKO compared to if you had a naked Yveltal EX with no damage modifiers being used.
The added damage from LaserBank helps take Yveltal from being merely a 2HKO deck, which is how it often feels with the Maxie variant, to being a deadly OHKO deck in many matchups.
One other big thing that taking out Maxie’s does is create space to be used elsewhere. One thing I like getting back into the deck is Keldeo EX with two Float Stone, instead of the one that Yveltal EX/Maxie’s typically plays. One thing that I found frustrating about Yveltal EX/Maxie’s was that it almost never was able to get off a turn 1 attack and was mostly a turn 2 deck. By including more retreating options, as well as a 1 Energy attacker in Yveltal XY, we are able to play at a faster tempo.
Hypnotoxic Laser also is solid for creating positive variance for yourself by allowing you to create situations where you get lucky. If you get lucky on your sleep flips, while your opponent gets unlucky, that can completely swing a game.
I also chose to take out Ghetsis and Delinquent and focus on a more streamlined draw engine. I think Yveltal EX/Maxie’s needs more disruption to try to slow the game down, while this variant of Yveltal instead wants to continuously push up the tempo of the game and try to finish it fast, so I primarily would want to focus on using my Supporter for turn to draw or gust in most instances.
I did put Hex Maniac into the deck, however. This card is very good against Vileplume decks on turn 1, as well as midgame to regain access to Items. if Vileplume/Decidueye GX gets too big of a presence in the Expanded format, then a second one might even be warranted. Hex Maniac is also good for shutting off Trevenant’s Item Lock, slowing down M Rayquaza EX’s turn one, and stopping Eelektrik, Bronzong, and Blastoise’s Energy acceleration, among other uses like shutting off Feather Arrow and Giant Water Shuriken.
The last bit of flavor in this deck is Scramble Switch, an Ace Spec I have long favored in straight Yveltal EX variants. Having the option to seamlessly transition from Fright Night to Yveltal EX, or Yveltal EX to Darkrai EX, or vice versa, or consolidating two Yveltal EX’s into one giant one has always appealed to me and I think being able to maximize the utility of your Energy attachments adds another layer of power to the deck. Shaymin UL was integral to the success of Darkrai EX/Mewtwo EX during the 2012 World Championships, and Scramble Switch allows you to pull off similar plays with this deck.
Popularity Contest: Darkrai EX vs. Yveltal EX
One of the biggest shockers of St. Louis Regionals to me that Darkrai EX variants were immensely more popular than Yveltal EX variants. I barely saw any other Yveltal decks throughout the tournament, but it was very common to be sitting next to multiple Darkrai EX variants, as well as not too uncommon to be sitting across from it yourself. Both Turbo Darkrai EX and Darkrai EX/Dragons were played in significant numbers at the tournament, while Yveltal EX/Maxie’s was played in much smaller numbers.
This was shocking because Yveltal EX/Maxie’s has pretty much always shown itself to be a superior deck to the Darkrai EX variants, so I was expecting it to be the more popular of the two, but that was not the case in St. Louis.
One reason that I was given for this disparity is that it can be very difficult for new players to get the cards for Yveltal EX/Maxie’s (like Archeops), but it’s very easy to change their Standard Turbo Darkrai EX or Darkrai EX/Dragons list into an Expanded version.
New Decks, Surprise Decks
- Seismitoad EX/Decidueye GX – The most hyped new deck to come out of Sun and Moon, showed up in small numbers, but proved it to be strong with Alex Schemanske taking the deck to a Top 8 finish.
- Volcanion EX – This has actually made a few Day 2’s already in Expanded, but this was the first time it had this strong of a show of force as top players, such as Rahul Reddy and Brad Curcio, found better ways to build the deck making it one of the best decks of the weekend.
- Lurantis GX/Vileplume – Castaway as being not good enough in Standard, players found the consistency brought to the deck from Battle Compressor, and the utility AZ brought to the deck in Expanded enough to make it a strong contender. This was actually the most populous deck in Day 2, and one of them even made Day 2.
- Decidueye GX/Vileplume – A couple weeks after birthing the deck in the Standard format, John Kettler was able to successfully port over his creation to a 2nd place finish at the largest Regional Championship ever.
- Aeroadctyl/Talonflame/Maxie’s – The craziest deck in the Day 2 field, brought to you by Mike Canaves and Grafton Roll. Mike Canaves, at least, has been piloting this deck for awhile, but I think this is the first time they broke it out for a major tournament.
I’m not sure where decks like Volcanion EX and Lurantis GX/Vileplume AOR came from, but apparently a lot of players were at least expecting the Lurantis GX/Vileplume AOR deck, which in part led to Volcanion EX coming out for the tournament.
I’m not sure what circles these decks are talked about in, or when they popped up in discussion, but it was pretty clear at this tournament that my circle is out of the loop on these types of new deck developments.
New Expanded Tier List
Putting it all together, here is what I would expect the Expanded Tier list to look like as we head towards Portland Regional Championship. These tiers are in terms of popularity, and not deck strength.
- Turbo Darkrai EX
- Darkrai EX/Dragons
- Yveltal EX/Maxie’s (The West Coast Special)
- Decidueye GX/Vileplume AOR
- M Rayquaza EX
- Volcanion EX
- Lurantis GX/Vileplume
- Night March
- M Gardevoir EX STS
- Seismitoad EX/Decidueye GX
- Accelgor DEX/Wobbuffet PHF
- Eelektrik/Raikou BKT
- Rainbow Road
- Seismitoad EX/Crobat
- Trevenant BREAK
- Seismitoad EX/Giratina EX
- Primal Groudon EX
- Greninja BREAK
- M Manectric EX
- Vileplume Toolbox
- Archie’s Blastoise
- Carbink BREAK/Zygarde EX
That is a total of 25 decks for you to worry about as you prepare for Portland. To make matters even worse is that there are even more decks that are more non-meta right now that you might even play against.
With slept on cards like Zygarde EX, M Gardevoir EX, and Volcanion EX becoming strong contenders in Expanded the past two Regional Championships, one has to wonder what new slept on card will emerge in Portland to make a good Expanded deck.