Desert Surge – A Top 8 London International Championships Report

Art by Pellinore

Hi all! My name is Will Tansley aka StarKO90 on Twitter, and I finished Top 8 in the recent Pokémon VGC17 London International Championship. Though I've had some good results in the past, I only used well known standard teams. Resultantly, I saw little point in writing team reports. Since London Internationals was the very first large event of the VGC17 season, I thought it would be cool to share the team I used and my experience of the tournament.

Background

I've been playing VGC since mid 2014 when I decided to go to UK Nationals on a whim. I simply copied one of Ray Rizzo's regional winning teams, added some questionable techs of my own (such as Substitute Mega Kangaskhan) and made the trip to Manchester. Despite losing in Round 2 to a Quick Claw Amoonguss that spored my Kangaskhan as I went for substitute (shoutouts to Daniele Danese, we still laugh about this), I managed to sneak into 32nd seed with a 6-2 record. I was thrilled about this as I had low expectations of myself initially, so I didn't mind when I was defeated easily by Jamie Miller (@MillaVGC) in Top 32. I had an incredible time and met a lot of now close friends at this event. I've been hooked since then!

After a mediocre season in 2015 I managed to get some decent finishes under my belt in 2016. VGC16 was a heavily flawed format at large, however I found it to be simpler due to requiring less in the way of prediction and more planning from team preview. In addition, when using "Big 6" variants, I found that I could often win with a rehearsed sequence or "flowchart" of moves. Though I assumed I would be winning less this year, I was excited to play the new format since VGC16 had become boring.

Learning VGC 2017

It was immediately clear to me that Garchomp / Celesteela / Tapu Koko / Marowak / Water-type was a strong core. Everyone has seen the way Celesteela can win games on its own once you remove the Pokémon that deal heavy damage to it. I set to work on optimising this core and didn't take long to settle on Gyarados and Porygon2 in the last slots. Intimidate is always useful and I enjoyed the way I could pressure my opponents with Dragon Dance and Hydro Vortex. It also felt natural to use a Trick Room setter in the last slot since Marowak was on the team. After testing I decided that Porygon2 fit better than Oranguru. Though I knew this team was solid, I wasn't winning very consistently on the PS ladder and I lost to my friend Brian Zourdani in the final of the Dec 3rd Orpington Premier Challenge.

Even after seeing Chuppa Cross (@ChuppaVGC) win the PC in New York that weekend with the same team, I wanted to build something else for London. I got to testing a ton of different stuff such as stall with a Z move nuke, Eevee/PorygonZ cheese, Torkoal + Lilligant / Oranguru, rain and hyper offense. Out of these I felt the stall idea was the most promising, but I guess I just didn't build it properly. I knew someone with more creativity than me was going to have success with the idea though, and we'll see later that's exactly what happened.

Last Minute Problems

Fast forward to Thursday, the day I would travel to London and register. I had about 30 teams in my teambuilder on Pokémon Showdown! and I was unsatisfied with all of them. At one point I was resigned to going back to the original team. I thought back to the Orpington PC, specifically the game I played against Jamie Miller. He lead Raichu and Tapu Koko with Gigalith in the back. It was quite awkward to deal with, as you really want to set up Trick Room against their fast lead and start taking knockouts with Marowak - but you can't when the Gigalith underspeeds and OHKO's Marowak with Stone Edge. I played around with those 3 Pokémon plus Gyarados and Porygon2 and lazily added Kartana after losing to some Gastrodon teams. I then went on my longest mid-high ladder win streak since the early Big 6 days, going 25-0. This doesn't necessarily mean much, but this made me feel so confident for the first time in this new format. I knew I had to take a risk and bring this team. Despite my lack of real preparation, the team was easy to play and team preview seemed very flowcharted. It consisted of "pick the appropriate fast mode, bring Gigalith if they have Trick Room or weather, bring Porygon2 if Gigalith / P2 can sweep under Trick Room". At this point I had no time to make good spreads. I grabbed my stuff and left, getting my team from a friend while waiting in line to register.

Team Details


Tapu Koko @ Life Orb
Ability: Electric Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
- Thunderbolt
- Discharge
- Dazzling Gleam
- Protect

It's Tapu Koko. It's very fast and it deals damage. Crucially, it sets up Electric Terrain to block Lilligant's Sleep Powder and make my Raichu outspeed everything. The fact that I still had Discharge on a team with no electric immunity shows how rushed I was. I didn't click it a single time over all 3 days. That slot should have been Volt Switch, Sky Drop, Taunt, Hidden Power Poison or anything other than Discharge.

Raichu-Alola @ Psychium Z
Ability: Surge Surfer
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
- Fake Out
- Psychic
- Thunderbolt
- Protect

Alolan Raichu outspeeds most viable Pokémon in the format under Electric Terrain, provides Fake Out support and has enough damage output to take KO's in combination with Tapu Koko. This combination punishes opponents who lead wrong, as well as weakening unprepared teams to a point where it's very easy to clean up the game with the remainder of my Pokémon. I lead them often in the early day 1 rounds to take quick wins, but I consider them a perfectly viable lead against stronger players too. Psychium Z is a necessary item for when more damage is needed to pick up a KO. You usually can't afford to have a turn where both Raichu and Tapu Koko attack and don't take a KO. I ran Encore in the 4th slot in practice but I barely used it, so I replaced it with Protect. This helped at times as some players didn't expect it. With more preparation time, I would have tested Feint.

Gigalith @ Assault Vest
Ability: Sand Stream
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 SpD
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
- Stone Edge
- Rock Slide
- Earthquake
- Heavy Slam

I wanted a lazy way to answer Trick Room modes in the same vein as Amoonguss in past years. Gigalith underspeeds and OHKO's Marowak and Araquanid, both of which are extremely threatening Trick Room sweepers. Conveniently, weather control is also useful in this format. It was difficult for me to lose to Lilligant / Torkoal / Oranguru teams with the combination of Electric Terrain and Gigalith. It helped against Ninetales too.

Gyarados @ Waterium Z
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 68 HP / 252 Atk / 12 Def / 4 SpD / 172 Spe
Adamant Nature
- Waterfall
- Dragon Dance
- Ice Fang
- Protect

This Gyarados was copied and pasted from my original team. A water-type is natural here to check Marowak and bulky ground-types not named Gastrodon. I liked to lead with Raichu and Gyarados against non-Tapu Lele teams for immediate Fake Out and Dragon Dance pressure. I often switched up between Raichu / Tapu Koko and Raichu / Gyarados leads during the same set, as my opponent adjusted their leads to counter the one I used previously. +1 Hydro Vortex is an excellent nuke and allows me to remove most neutral damage target Pokémon or even deal heavy damage to water resistant Pokémon if needed. I initially used Jolly nature to outspeed Timid Tapu Koko after a Dragon Dance, but I switched to Adamant when I noticed Jolly narrowly missing a lot of KO's. I'm still not sure which nature is better, because not outspeeding Timid Tapu Koko at +1 turned out to be a huge pain numerous times. I put enough speed to at least outspeed Modest Tapu Koko (by 2 points) after Dragon Dance with max attack for the most damage.

Porygon2 @ Eviolite
Ability: Download
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 92 Def / 164 SpD
Sassy Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
- Ice Beam
- Trick Room
- Recover
- Toxic

I wanted Trick Room to support Gigalith if needed, and I already had play time with Porygon2 from my original team. In the tournament I used it rarely, as I just brought Gigalith to check opposing Trick Room teams rather than as a TR sweeper. The spread was copied over from the old team - it has enough special bulk to survive a combination of rain boosted Hydro Vortex + Scald from Golduck and Pelipper. In hindsight this is unnecessary on this team, as I have more options against that lead than the last team. The HP EVs result in a stat of 192 which was a basic oversight. I should have used 244 HP EVs, so that my HP stat was not divisible by 16. This change would cause my Porygon2 to take 1 less point of residual damage from things like Sandstorm, Hail and Burn, which was especially important with Gigalith on my team.

Kartana @ Focus Sash
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
- Leaf Blade
- Smart Strike
- Sacred Sword
- Protect

It's Kartana, it kills Gastrodon. I knew that many top players were going to use Gastrodon at this tournament because I kept seeing it high up the ladder on PS. On certain teams it caused me all kinds of problems, such as teams that have Gastrodon and multiple Pokémon that I need Gyarados to check. I had little experience with Kartana and didn't know what to think about it, but I knew I needed something that could delete Gastrodon and in my opinion other counters such as Tapu Bulu and Freeze-Dry Ninetales make no sense on this team. I chose to use the Focus Sash set because it seemed the most consistent. Kartana turned out to be very useful in general, putting on immense pressure with its coverage in combination with my other fast attackers.

That's right, I don't have a fire-type or a single fire-type move on this team. Despite this, I felt my Celesteela matchup was fine with double electric-types, Gyarados and the fact that Kartana walls the standard non-Flamethrower Celesteela. I also didn't expect to struggle with other Kartana considering I could just exploit its pitiful Special Defense with Raichu and Tapu Koko. We'll see later that I probably should have added a fire move somewhere.

Day 1

I didn't expect I'd end up writing a report, so unfortunately I didn't make an effort to record the details of all my sets. I also managed to lose all my notes from day 1. What I'll do is give a general summary of my run and comment in detail on the sets I remember more clearly.

It's all a blur, but I don't recall having any issues in the first two rounds. The first individual game I dropped was in Round 3.

Round 3 vs Ryo Kondo (LWW)

His team:

I wanted to lead with Raichu / Tapu Koko against a potential Garchomp / Tapu Koko lead, but my position wouldn't be great if he lead with Tapu Bulu. I just went with it anyway, thinking that Fake Out would help me adjust if needed. He didn't bring Bulu in game 1 but I ended up losing as he played his Gyarados well. In game 2 he did bring the Bulu, and we reached an endgame where my Tapu Koko needed to survive a Wood Hammer in Electric Terrain with enough HP left not to go down to Life Orb recoil. I really didn't want to lose this early on, so I was super relieved when it lived on 2 HP and I won the game. I managed to ride this momentum and make the right adjustments for game 3 which I took quite convincingly. Good games Ryo, thanks for helping me remember the set!

I won Round 4 comfortably, and it turned out I was to play on stream for Round 5!

Round 5 vs Joshua Lorcy (LWW) (@lorcylovesyou)

His team: 

Josh proved himself to be a great player last season and I saw him reach the finals at a New York Premier Challenge the previous weekend, so I knew this would be a challenge. I was quite glad to see he had Porygon2 instead of the Tapu Lele he had before, as this improves my team matchup significantly. In game 1 I talked myself out of bringing Gigalith, thinking it would be bad if he didn't set up Trick Room for me. This was quite silly of me and highlighted my lack of experience using this team. I still managed to bring the game to a 50:50 call on the last turn of TR where I had to guess if Josh would attack my Tapu Koko or call my Protect and use Recover with Porygon2. He made the right call by attacking and I lost. I brought Gigalith to the subsequent games and managed to take the set but it wasn't easy at all.

In Rounds 6 and 7 I played against the same standard team Josh used, and I was so glad I didn't bring it myself. I won both sets 2-0 by using the same plan I used in games 2 and 3 of Round 5.

I was pleasantly surprised to reach a record of 7-0, but I wanted to stay grounded. I knew from watching the streamed games and doing some scouting that there were a few really tough matchups waiting for me, and I was bound to run into them eventually. Sure enough, this happened in the last two rounds.

Round 8 vs Nico Davide Cognetta (LWL) (@DesuVGC)

His team:     East Sea 

Remember when I talked about certain Gastrodon teams being really hard to beat? I knew that Gyarados was too important in the matchup to not bring, but before it could do anything I had to remove his Gastrodon with Kartana. Of course Davide knew this, and he wasn't going to let me snipe it if he wasn't forced to. I can't remember the games clearly, but he brought Tapu Lele, Arcanine, Krookodile and Gastrodon to game 1 and I lost quite convincingly. He brought the same squad to game 2 and I believe I won with a bit of luck. He once again brought the same for game 3, and there was a crucial turn where I could have won if I called his Gastrodon switch and used Leaf Blade on the correct slot. Unfortunately, I guessed wrong. Either way I was very impressed with Davide's team and play and I fully expected him to get top 8. I wasn't surprised at all when he ended up reaching the finals. We shook hands and wished each other good luck for day 2.

I really didn't want to go from 7-0 to 7-2 because records were being carried over to day 2. If I wanted to reach top 8 from 7-2, I'd have to climb the mountain of (probably) going flawless in day 2. I sat by myself for a while to mentally prepare for another difficult set.

Round 9 vs Tobias Koschitzki (WLL) (@TobySxE)

His team:      

I've known for a while that Tobias is one of the best players in Europe. He's absurdly consistent and achieved paid worlds in both seasons he played in. I also talked to him quite a lot at this tournament for the first time, and he's such a great guy. It would have been cool to play one of those relaxing sets where the result doesn't matter, but we both badly wanted to finish 8-1. Tobias was using a defensive Tapu Bulu team with a Z move Salamence nuke - basically the kind of stall team I mentioned earlier, but wasn't able to build myself. I grimaced a little at team preview because I could see how hard the Mence / Bulu / Magnezone combination would make things for me, and for a second I wished I had the option of bringing Garchomp. There was no way I could justify bringing Gigalith to this matchup; so I had to use Gyarados and Kartana to pressure the Magnezone at all, to which Tobias could lead Salamence to neuter my damage output.

Tobias didn't bring Magnezone to game 1 - he brought Tapu Bulu / Salamence / Politoed / Hariyama. I don't remember details but I put on a lot of pressure with Raichu and Gyarados, reaching a winning position in a few turns.

In game 2 he adapted and brought Salamence / Magnezone / Tapu Bulu / Hariyama. I made a mistake on turn 1 with Fake Out + Dragon Dance and I lost Gyarados immediately to Devastating Drake. I was already too behind so when I reached a lost position, I let the timer run down for the next few turns to develop a plan for game 3. I had to get rid of Salamence to stop it intimidating my Kartana later on, but I also had to at least exert some pressure on his Magnezone.

In game 3 I lead Tapu Koko and Kartana into Salamence and Magnezone. I went for Dazzling Gleam and Protect, but he read me and used Protect on both Pokémon. Some turns later he had Hariyama with a fresh Fake Out and Tapu Bulu on the field, and I didn't know he had Substitute on Bulu. I double protected and after the Substitute went up I lost a lot of momentum. I was close to coming back, but in the end it came down to a 1v1 with Bulu behind Substitute against my leech seeded Gyarados. I had no way to win.

I was pretty upset to finish 7-2 after I had been 7-0. I felt like my sets with Davide and Tobias were indicative of how tough the competition in Day 2 would be, and I lost a bit of confidence in my team. It also didn't help that the staff kept us at the venue for a long time after the final round when we were all exhausted and hungry. They said they needed to check team sheets, but this didn't happen for over an hour and then it took another hour on top of that until we could leave. During this time it spread around that Markus Stadter, Jonathan Evans and Eduardo Cunha had accidentally put some incorrect information on their team sheets. The incorrect Pokémon would be removed from their teams, setting them at a serious disadvantage for Day 2. I couldn't believe what was going on! Everyone was under the impression that team sheets were unimportant and were only to aid the stream commentators. I felt terribly sorry for them - it must have felt so crushing to hype yourself up for competing and have it end in that fashion. I'll admit, I realised it would benefit my own chances that three very strong players were essentially out of the running.

Day 2

As I alluded to before, I had a mountain to climb in Day 2. Records carried over but resistance did not, so even a Day 2 set record of 4-1 would probably not be enough for me to make Top Cut. I reminded myself that anything can happen in Pokémon, and if I played my best and got some luck along the way I could do it.

Round 10 vs Filippo Maccarini (LWW)

His team:     Alola Form 

So, a pretty standard team, but the presence of Tapu Lele over Tapu Koko made things awkward for me. If I lead Raichu / Tapu Koko, I could end up in Psychic Terrain with a disabled Fake Out and very little pressure on Tapu Lele. I decided to go with Tapu Koko and Kartana with Gyarados and Gigalith in the back. In game 1 I needed my Gigalith to take a Waterfall and hit a Stone Edge to win, but unfortunately it flinched. I had only a 64% win chance on that turn, so there was no reason for me to feel overly annoyed. We brought the same Pokémon to the next two games. I managed to take the set, but I remember it being incredibly close.

Round 11 vs Thomas Plater (LWW) (@TheSaxlad)

His team:     Alola Form Alola Form

I knew I would play against a friend at some point. Tom seems to have adjusted quickly to the new format and has done very well on Battle Spot recently, so it wouldn't be easy for me. Fortunately, I had some experience against his team because Brian Zourdani used the same Pokémon at the Orpington PC and we did a number of practice games after that. I knew Gigalith could do well here under Trick Room, but I talked myself out of bringing it in game 1 as I was worried about anti-TR techs such as Taunt and Roar. This was silly of me, because I should have instead used game 1 to scout for these and adjusted later if he had them. Moreover, I didn't necessarily need TR in this matchup for Gigalith to make an impact as long as I kept it away from his Kartana. I narrowly lost game 1 with my fast mode, so I chose Gyarados / Porygon2 / Gigalith / Kartana for game 2. I figured I would simultaneously threaten Dragon Dance setup or Trick Room and punch holes in his team with Gyarados / Kartana or Porygon2 / Gigalith. Tom allowed me to get a Dragon Dance with my Gyarados, so I was able to soften up his team enough for Gigalith to finalise my end-game. In game 3 I tried to set up Trick Room straight away using Porygon2, but he did in fact have Roar on his Arcanine. We got into a strange mid-game where he roared out my Gyarados multiple times. This was fine by me, since it allowed me to re-use Gyarados' Intimidate against his Kartana. A few turns later, I had my Kartana on ~55% HP and Porygon2 on ~90% HP with Gigalith in the back, against his 1 HP Kartana and 100% Muk. I was fairly certain I was going to win even if Tom won the Kartana speed tie and KO'd mine, but both of his Pokémon attacked into my Porygon2 instead. This allowed me to knock out his Kartana, so Gigalith could come in and beat his Muk.

Games 2 & 3 were streamed, and can be viewed here.

Round 12 vs Alessio Yuri Boschetto (WLW) (@YureeVGC)

His team:      Alola Form

As soon as I left the streaming area, everyone was seated and ready for the next round, so I had no break at all. I recognised this as the team Eduardo Cunha used to dominate the Battle Spot ladder as soon as it was online. Whimsicott was awkward for me because I had no way to prevent Tailwind, and he could easily prevent my Trick Room with Taunt. I decided that it was best to accept that Tailwind would be going up, then try to compensate by taking a KO and stalling Tailwind out with Protect and Fake Out. The problem here is that I also had to watch out for a potential Encore from Whimsicott also. There was a turn in game 1 where he taunted my Gyarados, which lead me to believe he probably wasn't running Encore. I figured if he had Encore, he could just let me Dragon Dance and then Encore afterwards, rather than potentially losing momentum by taunting as I attacked. Game 1 came down to my boosted Gyarados against Tapu Koko and Marowak on Alessio's side with all Pokémon at full HP. Gyarados after Dragon Dancing once was still slower than Tapu Koko, so he had a guaranteed win with Brave Bird and Shadow Bone, but he Wild Charged into his own Lightning Rod Marowak and allowed me to steal the game. I was relieved, but felt a bit bad for him as I had made that mistake myself a few times. In game 2 I just remember playing "on autopilot" too much and being outplayed in some key moments. I was determined to play better in the third game and stop being overconfident, so I took a bit longer on all of my moves. I went for Dragon Dance early in the game, and he revealed Encore on Whimsicott! Things were looking bad. I decided to leave Gyarados in, because I figured he could either knock it out and give me a free switch, or risk me stalling out Encore and sweeping. The latter ended up happening and I brought in Raichu the turn Encore ended, to use Fake Out to ensure he couldn't use Encore again to lock my Gyarados into Dragon Dance. From that point, I closed out the set.

Round 13 vs Conan Thompson (WLW) (@conanyk)

His team:      

I felt like I had a decent matchup here with Kartana / Gyarados / Tapu Koko / Gigalith. My fast Pokémon would be able to put on a lot of pressure and I had Gigalith to beat his Trick Room Torkoal mode. I knew I would still have to play well, because Conan is very strong and particularly good at using goodstuffs-style teams. In game 1 I was able to simply take KO's with my fast mode and I took the game handily. In game 2, I should have switched up my plays a bit, because he adjusted well and punished me for not making any reads. I knew I just had to bring the same four Pokémon and play better. The last game went down to the wire, but it was ended immediately when I flinched his Oranguru with Rock Slide in Trick Room. Sorry, Conan.

Round 14 vs Michele Gavelli (WW) (@LordGioppiVGC)

His team:    Alola Form  

I was paired up against an opponent with a higher record, so I figured I had a solid chance of cutting at 11-3 even if I lost this set. I hadn't heard of Michele, but anyone with a 12-1 record at this point in the tournament had to be good. I learned it was his first year in the Masters division, and he told me I was one of his favourite players in Europe. This was quite amazing and humbling to hear. I thought Gigalith under Trick Room looked extremely solid here, so I tried to create that situation in the set. He also brought Porygon2, so there were some double Trick Room mind games which he got the better of. Eventually, I managed to set TR on the same turn my other Pokémon KO'd his Porygon2. From that position I swept the game. I went into game 2 with the same plan, and what happened was ridiculous. I lead Gyarados and Porygon2 into his Xurkitree and Tapu Lele, which gave me no safe plays since I didn't know his sets. I went for the Dragon Dance and Trick Room play again, thinking the only way he could prevent both was if he had Taunt on his Tapu Lele. Well he did, so he taunted Porygon2 and deleted Gyarados with Thunderbolt from Xurkitree. I resignedly wished him good game as I sent in Kartana, but there was one way back into the game. I protected Kartana as he doubled into it and my Porygon2 directed an Ice Beam at his Xurkitree. I got the freeze, he didn't thaw for the turns I needed and so I swept with Kartana. I even got another pointless freeze later to add insult to injury. This game is dumb sometimes.

Day 2 aftermath

I was overjoyed to confirm my spot in top 8, because waiting around to see if you made Top Cut with a lower record and high resistance is one of the worst things in this game. I sat down to watch the streamed games and do some scouting. My friend Ben Kyriakou was also on 11-2 going into the last round, so I hoped he would also guarantee cut with a win. Ben had started off day 1 at 3-2 so he was on a crazy winning streak. Sure enough, he picked up the win and we were both hyped up to represent team UK in Top 8. The standings went up shortly after and I laughed as I saw the two of us sitting at 4th and 5th, meaning we were paired up for the first round of single elimination. It sucked that one of us had to knock the other out, but that's life. I thought my matchup against Ben's team wasn't bad at all, and since I had already lost to Tobias and Davide who were also in Top 8 I thought it wasn't the worst outcome for my own chances of progressing.

I had a drink and grabbed dinner with some friends before heading back to my hotel to prepare. Ben's team was Kartana / Alolan Ninetales / Milotic / Alolan Marowak / Hariyama / Oranguru - the only team in top 8 without an Island Guardian.

I said I thought my matchup wasn't bad, but that was before I recalled he was using Assault Vest Kartana and I ran some damage calculations on it. Remember when I said I should have added a fire move somewhere on my team? I analysed the matchup for a while and figured I'd probably have to win some speed ties between my Kartana / his Kartana / his Ninetales (yes, it was a three-way speed tie). I could at least bring Gigalith to preserve my Kartana's sash and break that of his Ninetales, as well as nerf Blizzard and Aurora Veil. I was pretty sure Gigalith wouldn't even get an attack off against Hariyama, Kartana and Marowak but it was definitely worth bringing for the sand alone. Gyarados also looked really strong here as long as I didn't let it get sniped by Freeze-Dry. For my last slot, I didn't want to bring Porygon2; firstly because I knew he had a Z move on Hariyama, secondly because neither of my Porygon2 or Gigalith had Protect. This makes it easy for him to disrupt my Trick Room mode with Fake Out. I debated between Raichu and Tapu Koko as neither of them seemed great in the matchup. I ended up going with Raichu, since it could do more damage to Marowak and Hariyama, plus Fake Out could potentially help Gyarados set up a Dragon Dance at some point.

Day 3

I've known Ben for a while and I know he thinks of me as a safe and logical player who dislikes taking risks, which is accurate. The last thing I'd want would be letting him get into my head, pushing me to make reads when I usually wouldn't. I decided to treat the set like I was playing against a very high rated player on Battle Spot. I was going to lead Kartana and Gyarados because even if Ben lead with Milotic I assumed I could OHKO it with Leaf Blade from Kartana.

Top 8 vs Ben Kyriakou (LWL)

Game 1

Ben lead with Marowak and Hariyama, which meant I either got a Dragon Dance or Leaf Blade damage on his Hariyama. He chose to Fake Out Kartana and switch in Ninetales, which meant I got a free DD. I protected Gyarados here in fear of Freeze-Dry and switched Kartana to Gigalith to break Ninetales' Focus Sash, as Ben switched Hariyama into his own Kartana. I could have attacked with Gyarados here since he went for Blizzard instead, but I didn't consider it worth the risk since Ninetales would lose the sash. I took the opportunity here to heavily damage his Kartana with +1 Hydro Vortex since it was such a big problem for my team. I also switched Raichu in for Gigalith, since I predicted he would switch out Ninetales and I wanted to have the weather advantage later on. I made a critical mistake on the next turn, when I didn't think for long enough and went for Waterfall on Ben's Kartana instead of Ice Fang. I should've known from the Hydro Vortex damage that Waterfall would probably fail to KO, and Ice Fang has 5 more base power. Sure enough, his Kartana survived on 2 HP and I lost too much momentum after this to come back.

Game 2

I saw no reason to switch up my lead, but Ben went with Hariyama and Ninetales this time. I protected Kartana and switched in Gigalith to preserve my Focus Sash on Kartana again and break his. I figured there was a slight chance he would hard-read me with a fighting-type move into the Gyarados slot, but even if my Gigalith went down I could bring Gyarados back in and then I would still be in a great position if I won the Kartana vs Ninetales speed tie the next turn. He went for Knock Off into my Protect and Freeze-Dry which froze my Gigalith on the switch. I felt annoyed about that, but it didn't matter much since I only needed the sand. I brought Gyara back into the Gigalith slot, since the Ninetales was probably switching out. It worked out perfectly as he wasted his Z move into my Gyarados and I got off another Intimidate. A couple of turns later I was able to close out the game with Kartana.

Game 3

I kept the same lead and this time he switched to Milotic and Hariyama. I was curious about this decision, because if he was built to survive Leaf Blade I wondered why he didn't lead Milotic in game 2. I didn't want to give the Hariyama a free switch on my probable double Protect, so I went for the Dragon Dance and Leaf Blade play. His Milotic survived on 8 HP and brought my Kartana down to its Focus Sash. In hindsight, double Protect followed by a double attack into the Milotic slot would have been safer, but that would have also risked doubling into a Protect from Milotic. Unfortunately, I was already in a horrible position. I needed to preserve Kartana, but it was also my only way of removing his +2 Milotic on that turn. I probably should have sacrificed Raichu instead. I think the only way to come back would be forming a situation where my Kartana was on the field with Ben's Ninetales in sand, even then I'd have to win speed ties to win the game. Instead, my Kartana went down and there was no way left for me to beat his Kartana.

I felt pretty upset for a while. I thought I played well and the set was winnable, but Ben also barely made a mistake. I should have suspected his Milotic would survive a Leaf Blade from Kartana. I congratulated him on the sick win streak and wished him luck for the next set.

Conclusion

It's hard going to big tournaments when 1st place is the only result I'm satisfied with, but it's probably not something I can change. I am still really happy that I finished Top 8, given the strength of the field and my lack of confidence in the format. At this point I essentially already have an invitation to Day 1 Worlds, so the way I play this season will probably be decided by whether or not I get another travel award for the next International Championship.

I'd give individual shout-outs but there are far too many. Instead, I want to thank all of my friends for being great to be around and giving me constant support throughout the weekend. It really means a lot and makes it all worth it.