A New Challenger Approaches – Top 32 NAIC Team Report

Hello everyone! My name is Sean Worcester, but you might see me online as TPO3 or as One Approved. I’m from Green Bay, Wisconsin which has a very strong TCG community. I played that for 10 years before my friends, who saw my enthusiasm for the video games, finally pushed me to give VGC a try. Charlotte Regionals was my first VGC tournament, and I haven’t looked back since. In this article, I’ll be talking about the team I used to finish top 32 at the North American International Championships, as well as factors that led to choosing this team for the tournament.

Coming into Madison regionals, I knew I wanted to center a team around a Poison-type Pokémon. While weak to Earthquake, they offensively threaten all of the Island Guardians as well as Mega Gardevoir. Eventually, I found a team used by Alex Ogloza, and ran with it for Madison Regionals:

This version of the team performed solidly, but there were still a few issues I wanted to fix going into the NAIC (Trick Room modes, and CHALK). I reached out to him and came back with a different version of the team that I ended up running at the NAIC. It featured the same Nihilego/Charizard-Y/Landorus-T core but swapped the last three team members too much more effectively deal with its weaker matchups.

Team’s Achievements

The original version of the team went 5-2 and netted me a top 16 finish at Madison regionals. Alex Ogloza also used the original version to climb two separate accounts into the top 5 of the Battle Spot ladder. The edited version netted me an 18th place finish at the NAIC.

The Team

Link to Paste

Landorus-Therian @ Groundium Z
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 12 HP / 196 Atk / 4 Def / 100 SpD / 196 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Earthquake
– Rock Slide
– U-turn
– Protect

Landorus is the first of the 3-Pokémon core that the team was centered around. Nihilego and Charizard are both weak to 2 of the most common physical attacks in the game, so having a Pokémon that can switch into them, as well as weaken the opponent’s physical damage output is crucial. Groundium Z allows Landorus to target down mons like Incineroar and Metagross with a single-target attack, which is nice since the team only carries 1 other immunity to Ground. U-turn pairs great with Amoonguss’s Regenerator ability, as well as Tapu Lele’s ability to get rid of opposing Terrains. Protect allowed me to navigate into a favorable position throughout the event, and many times caught people unaware who expected either the Scarf or the Assault Vest variant.

The given bulk allows Landorus-T to survive a few key special attacks, which is important on a Pokémon that plans on switching in and out throughout the match. This Landorus drops a bit of speed in order to keep some power, and the lack of max speed never changed any results throughout the tournament. Just note that while this Landorus does still outspeed Mega Tyranitar, there are a few other Pokémon with middling speed that you don’t, such as Nidoqueen (which I found out the hard way, on stream) or Rotom formes.

  • 252+ SpA Tapu Lele Psychic vs. 12 HP / 100 SpD Landorus-T in Psychic Terrain: 136-162 (81.9 – 97.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Nihilego @ Adrenaline Orb
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Sludge Bomb
– Power Gem
– Hidden Power [Ice] – Protect

Nihilego is the star of this team. It carried the team on more than one occasion, and is very well-poised in this metagame. Sludge Bomb and Power Gem cover a large portion of the metagame, and Hidden Power Ice rounds out your coverage by hitting Landorus. Protect is there mostly to get the proper teammate in alongside it. The EV Spread here is simple: maximize your speed and your power. Nihilego is so specially bulky that you don’t really need much of an investment, and its physical defense is so abysmal that it just wasn’t worth investing in.

Adrenaline Orb is an interesting choice for Nihilego, and initially I was adamantly opposed to the idea. I usually don’t like running items, abilities, or attacks that rely on what my opponent does. However, the more testing I did, I found that Nihilego didn’t really need to proc the Adrenaline Orb in order to be a useful Pokémon. It outsped a large number of threats without the boost, and it still threatened KOs on many different Pokémon with its unique coverage. The games where Adrenaline Orb did end up getting activated, it turned neutral situations into very favorable ones. Outspeeding Scarf Landorus allowed me to remove one of the biggest threats to Nihilego itself, as well as Metagross. Outspeeding Tapu Koko also allowed me to keep Charizard safe, and setting up wins either with Tailwind or Heat Wave chip damage.

Charizard @ Charizardite Y
Ability: Blaze
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Overheat
– Heat Wave
– Tailwind
– Protect

Charizard rounds out the core of 3 Pokémon that this team was centered around. Charizard + Nihilego has proven to be one of the most threatening offensive combination of Pokémon in the format, and the two cover each other’s weaknesses fantastically. It also gives me a weather control option, as rain, sand, and hail can all be pretty annoying for the team to deal with. Heat Wave and Protect are pretty standard on Charizard, allowing me to chip at both of my opponent’s Pokémon, and allowing me to scout for Rock Slide. Overheat gives me a single-target option to bypass Wide Guard, and it also gives me a little extra punch to take some crucial knockouts. Tailwind is the only form of speed control that this team has, but it also functions as a solid late-game option to win games.

The EV Spread on this Charizard is again, pretty simple, but very effective. Max speed gets you by max speed Tapu Lele, and allows you to speed tie other base 100 Pokémon like Mega Kangaskhan. Max Special Attack makes sure you chunk Pokémon like Landorus and Seed Zapdos for as much damage as possible, making Nihilego’s job much easier.

Metagross @ Metagrossite
Ability: Clear Body
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Zen Headbutt
– Iron Head
– Stomping Tantrum
– Protect

Metagross was one of the newcomers to the team, and it’s the second mega Pokémon. Having this second option made the team feel a lot less one-dimensional, and I was happy to include it in the second run. Both STAB options are included on this set – Zen Headbutt fires off massive amounts of damage when backed by Psychic Terrain, and Iron Head gives me a safer option when the extra power isn’t necessary. Stomping Tantrum is the coverage move of choice, as it hits Incineroar and more importantly, opposing Mega Metagross. Nihilego helps against Landorus, so Ice Punch isn’t really necessary.

The EVs are again, simple but effective. Speed tying with opposing Metagross is crucial, as they can be quite a nuisance for this team. The extra power was also nice. Amoonguss can be EV’d to survive Zen Headbutt outside of terrain, so knowing that I’m likely to KO if I can pick up a bit of chip damage is nice. Metagross is also the team’s only real solid answer to Cresselia, so chunking it for as much as possible was important.

Tapu Lele @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Psychic Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Moonblast
– Dazzling Gleam
– Shadow Ball
– Psychic

Tapu Lele performed a versatile set of roles throughout the tournament, which is ironic considering the constraints of its item as well as its EV Spread. In some matches, its sole purpose was to keep my opponent’s terrain off the field, allowing Metagross to put out maximum damage, as well as giving Amoonguss an easy out to Spore. In others, it acted as a late-game win condition, when I’d removed my opponent’s best answer. Its Choice Scarf also allowed it to act as a guardian (no pun intended) against specific Pokémon, like Mega Gengar and Kommo-o, that could otherwise run through my team. Protection from Fake Out is also nice when the rest of your team is so frail.

Psychic and Moonblast are the STAB options of choice. Dazzling Gleam was nice to threaten chip damage on both targets, softening them up for Nihilego late-game. Shadow Ball never really came into play throughout the tournament, but I also don’t think there is a better option for this spot. It’s the only choice you have against Mega Metagross and other steel-types, so I don’t think I would have switched it for anything.

Amoonguss @ Wiki Berry
Ability: Regenerator
Level: 50
EVs: 244 HP / 196 Def / 68 SpD
Relaxed Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Clear Smog
– Rage Powder
– Spore
– Giga Drain

Amoonguss was another welcome addition to the team for the NAIC run. It gave me an out against Trick Room modes, as well as defensive bulk that this team desperately needed. Many of the attacks aimed to take out Metagross and Nihilego were physical ones, so having the large investment in defense proved to be valuable throughout the entire tournament. Amoonguss also synergized very well with Tapu Lele’s ability to remove Electric and Misty Terrains, as well as Landorus’s ability to U-turn in and out of the battle at will.

Clear Smog gave me a secondary out against Kommo-o teams, as well as Belly Drum Snorlax. Giga Drain is run here as well, as it’s the only real threat to Swampert and Gastrodon, both of which I played against in the tournament. Not running Protect took a bit of getting used to, but it was definitely the right call as all 4 of the moves proved valuable at some point or another. Amoonguss also soaked up damage from rain teams, which allowed Charizard to pivot in and reset the weather with much more ease.

  • 252 Atk Tough Claws Mega Metagross Zen Headbutt vs. 244 HP / 196+ Def Amoonguss: 186-218 (84.5 – 99%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Pelipper Hurricane vs. 244 HP / 68 SpD Amoonguss: 186-218 (84.5 – 99%) — guaranteed 2HKO after Figy Berry recovery

Team Play

Generally speaking, the goal with this team should be to chunk away at the opposing Pokémon before cleaning up with Nihilego and/or Charizard. Most of the time, these Pokémon will not win you games singlehandedly, but instead snowball out of control after you have dealt a bit of damage. Also note that this doesn’t always mean you lead with your biggest offensive threat and try to fire off large amounts of damage. Sometimes you have to play patient, and cycle Intimidate, weather, or psychic terrain until you have done enough damage to move in.

Core Combinations and Common Leads

These two form one of the most dangerous offensive cores in the game today, and they also function as one of the primary lead options for this team. Both Pokémon threaten each other’s counters, and put out immense offensive pressure. This is also a solid lead against opposing Intimidators, as both Pokémon are special attackers. (Not to mention the Adrenaline Orb.)

This combination was not led as often as you’d think, but usually used as more of a mid-to-late game option. Tapu Lele sets up huge Zen Headbutts from Metagross, and also protects it from Sucker Punch. Taking away terrain also makes it much easier to deal with Tapu Koko.

Slightly unconventional, but very effective. Landorus’s Z-Earthquake easily dispatches Incineroar, which is one of the most threatening Pokémon to Metagross. This is also another effective lead against Intimidate, as Clear Body allows Metagross to dodge the initial Intimidate, and most opposing Intimidators (Landorus, Incineroar, Salamence) carry physical moves that will be weakened by Landorus. Landorus also threatens the ability to U-turn into Tapu Lele and its Psychic Terrain at any time.

Team Match-ups

I always make sure to use Team Preview to its fullest extent with this team. The first think I usually look for are key threats to Nihilego. How many answers does my opponent have, and what Pokémon can I bring to deal with them? Team Preview is also where you have to decide which mega you’re going to bring to the match. If you choose poorly, you will get punished for it. (See: Game 1 of my streamed match against Fiona Skymewicz.) Even if you quickly decide which 4 Pokémon to bring, I almost always thought about how the first turn would play out depending on various leads my opponent might bring. Going into the game with a plan makes the first few turns a lot easier on you.

Some other things I look for – if I see an opposing weather setter, I almost always locked Charizard in as a lead. Mega evolving and then immediately switching out proved to be very beneficial in these matches. It really sucks when your opponent has Rain or Sand in play, and you can’t just switch in to get rid of it. Also take note of any anti-Intimidate Pokémon that are on your opponent’s team. If you see a mon that potentially has Competitive or Defiant, it’s almost always best to keep Landorus-T in the back, if you bring it at all. Charizard + Nihilego is usually a solid lead option against these Pokémon (Braviary, Bisharp, etc.).

One last thing to take note of in Preview are Shadow Tag Pokémon. Depending on what Pokémon are behind them (Bulu + Kommo-o, Mawile + Rain, etc.) you can get locked into some awkward situations. Think hard about what your win condition is going to be, and keep it in the back. You don’t want your opponent to trap and kill your Landorus when it’s the only answer you have to their Metagross in the back.

Against Rain

Leading Charizard and keeping Amoonguss in the back was very effective, especially against Politoed teams. Charizard + Nihilego is especially threatening as Swift Swim isn’t active on the turn Drizzle switches in (unless, of course, the Pokémon with Swift Swim is Mega Swampert and it Mega Evolves). This means that against opposing Ludicolo, you can essentially force them to Fake Out the Nihilego slot while you set up a Tailwind for free. Mega Evolving and switching into Amoonguss to soak up hits while you threaten to take the weather back makes it very hard for Politoed teams to get anything started. Dealing with Mega Swampert is a bit more complicated, as it can Mega Evolve and gain the Swift Swim boost immediately. You have to keep Amoonguss alive at all costs in that matchup.

Against Gengar/Kommo-o/Bulu

This is the other matchup where keeping Amoonguss alive is absolutely essential. Clear Smog is the easiest way to deal with Kommo-o’s Z-move, and it’s also your best answer to Tapu Bulu by far. I usually lead Metagross into these matchups, as it threatens almost all of the Pokémon that like to lead alongside the Gengar. Tapu Lele is usually the best partner as it protects you from Whimsicott’s shenanigans, and it also threatens to outpace and ohko Gengar. If the opponent doesn’t have a Whimsicott on their field, Charizard is a solid option to lead as well, as you can threaten to Tailwind. Keeping Lele in the back isn’t the worst option either, as it will still outspeed +1 Kommo-o and threaten to OHKO.

Against Hard Trick Room

Point Blank: This matchup is difficult. Amoonguss is a solid option against teams that carry a Trick Room mode on them, but against hard TR teams that usually carry Mega Abomasnow or Mega Camerupt, it’s just not that simple. Since the team has no option to actually prevent Trick Room from going up, you have to play smart defense with your switches and with your Protects. Try to navigate yourself into a position where Amoonguss can get a Spore off. This will make stalling the turns out a lot easier. Against Mimikyu, I think leading Charizard or Landorus (or both!) can be effective, as you can break the disguise while simultaneously threatening the teammate. Against something more sturdy like Porygon2, I just go straight for Amoonguss and try to get a Spore off.

Against CHALK

The renovated CHALK teams with Kartana and Fini are difficult fights, but I don’t think the matchup is bad. Charizard + Landorus pose a lot of offensive threats to this team. Heat Wave + U-turn deals a significant chunk to Cresselia, while Z-Earthquake (or even regular Earthquake) will deal with Heatran. Make sure to keep Charizard alive as long as possible – it’s by far your best answer to Kartana.

Rundown of Tournament

Unfortunately, I didn’t use a notebook for the tournament, so I don’t remember the details of every single match. I’ll do the best I can with what I remember.

Round 1: Vs James Stringer (5-4) WW

This round was interesting because it was a 6-mon mirror match. He didn’t opt to bring Metagross game 1 (probably because of Ground Z Landorus, and Charizard Y) so I led Charizard + Nihilego into Landorus’s Intimidate in game 2. Without Metagross, he didn’t really have an answer to Nihilego with a speed boost. It picked up a clean OHKO on his entire team, save for Amoonguss, which was easily handled both by Charizard and Tapu Lele.

Round 2: vs Adam Zimmerman (4-4 drop) WW

Round 3: vs Zac Emerzian (5-4) WW

Round 4: vs Sohaib Mufti (7-2) WW
Incineroar/Charizard-Y/Landorus-T/Raichu/Tapu Fini/Braviary

Sohaib had a really cool team. Unfortunately for him, Nihilego hit 5 of his 6 Pokémon for super-effective damage. Game 1, I lead Charizard + Tapu Lele, keeping Nihilego in the back in case he had a some tricks to deal with it. I immediately targeted down the Braviary, and matched tailwind with my Charizard. Nihilego had a fairly easy time cleaning up from there. Game 2 I just led Nihilego + Charizard. I set up Tailwind and immediately started taking KOs.

Round 5: vs Ben Grissmer (7-2) WLL
Porygon2/Mega Abomasnow/Araquanid/Incineroar/Braviary/Tapu Koko

This matchup was tough. Amoonguss is a solid answer to Trick Room modes, but against hard TR with a Mega Abomasnow on the other side, it wasn’t nearly as good. I don’t remember too much of this set. Game 1, he let his Porygon2 take too much damage, so I was able to double up and kill it, preventing Trick Room from going up a second time. Games 2 and 3, he played extremely well with his Porygon2, conserving it to get Trick Room up a second time. He made some very good reads in game 3 as well, and was just a step ahead of me most of the time.

Round 6: vs Wei Wei Ang (5-4) WLW

Round 7: vs Rajan Bal (5-4) WLW
Game 1 He led Mega Gengar with Icy Wind, which prevented me from swapping out. I think I led Landorus + Charizard game 1. Landorus survived Icy Wind and was able to KO the Gengar early, which made the rest of the match much easier. Game 2 I spent my Groundium Z KOing Gengar’s partner, which unfortunately led to me losing both of my lead Pokémon as Gengar kept them trapped in at lowered speed. Game 3 I think I led Landorus + Tapu Lele, and aggressively targeted down Gengar. He was forced to switch it out, which allowed me to navigate into a position where Nihilego could clean up.

Round 8: vs Ian McLaughlin (8-1) LL
Charizard-Y/Kartana/Pheromosa/Smeargle/Nihilego/Tapu Lele

He lead Kartana + Smeargle both games. Game 1 he went for Follow Me + Z-Tailwind and sent out Nihilego after his Smeargle was KO’d, which covered his Kartana’s weakness to Charizard.

Game 2, I tried to counteract this by leading Charizard, but his Smeargle had Wide Guard. Each turn became a guessing game between whether his Smeargle would use Follow Me or Wide Guard, and unfortunately he read me correctly. I eventually did manage to take out the Kartana, but by that point, Pheremosa and Nihilego were able to clean up easily.

Round 9: vs Alister Sandover (7-2) LL
Pelipper/Mega Swampert/Ludicolo/Tapu Koko/Mega Gardevoir/Stakataka

This was another difficult matchup. Pelipper made my Amoonguss not as great of an answer to his rain mode. Game 1 I brought Charizard, Nihilego, Amoonguss, and Landorus. I didn’t want to bring Landorus to a rain matchup, but I was too scared of getting Stakataka’d. I also didn’t realize before this matchup that if Swampert mega evolves on the same turn that Pelipper switches in, it gets the Swift Swim boost immediately rather than on the following turn. This mechanic completely threw me for a loop game 1, and I actually let my Charizard get KO’d on a turn I thought I was able to keep it safe by attacking with its teammate.

Game 2 I left Landorus on the bench, and brought Tapu Lele instead. The game was much closer, but due to Pelipper’s STAB Hurricanes, I wasn’t able to cycle Amoonguss and Charizard in as effectively as I liked to, and he eventually won a long, drawn out match.

Day 2

Round 10: vs Fiona Szymkiewicz (6-3) LWW
Mega Salamence/Cresselia/Incineroar/Nidoqueen/Amoonguss/Tapu Fini

Game 1 I brought the wrong Mega to the match and got destroyed. I led with Charizard Y and Cresselia immediately started setting up CM Boosts. Heat Wave did ~20% to it. To top it all off, the Cresselia also had Moonlight, so it healed extra HP when I had finally chipped it down to low health.

Game 2 I adjusted and led Landorus and Metagross. I doubled into the Cresselia with Iron Head and U-turn on turn one, taking it out immediately. The rest of the match was much easier, as Nihilego + Metagross cleaned up.

Game 3, she led Cresselia alongside Nidoqueen, which was very scary for me. However, I made the same play, correctly calling a protect from the Nidoqueen, which again, removed the Cresslia immediately. The late-game got dicey as my Zen Headbutt missed her Nidoqueen, and her Nidoqueen then outsped my Landorus (the only time the lowered speed mattered) and KO’d with Ice Beam. But Nihilego was able to pick up a Beast Boost, and forced her into a situation where she had to try to target it down. This match was featured on stream, so feel free to check it out!

Round 11: vs Kamaal Harris (7-2) LWW
Mega Tyranitar/Excadrill/Torkoal/Landorus/Cresselia/Tapu Lele

Game 1 I didn’t Mega Evolve Charizard early, which led to me being unable to counteract his sand without sacrificing a team member. Exacdrill cleaned up pretty quickly. Games 2 and 3, I Mega Evolved Charizard immediately and swapped out, which proved to be a much more effective strategy, as I was able to keep his Excadrill slower than most of my team. He also didn’t bring Cresselia, which meant he had no answer when I set up Tailwind.

Round 12: vs Daniel Thorpe (LWW)
Stakataka/Tapu Bulu/Mega Gengar/Incineroar/Jellicent/***

Daniel beat me at Charlotte Regionals, so I was happy to get a chance at some revenge. He was supposed to have an Amoonguss on his team as well, but it was removed due to a team sheet error. Game 1 I didn’t expect his Gengar to have Will-o-Wisp, so I let my Landorus get trapped in and burned, removing my only answer to Stakataka. Games 2 and 3, I led Mega Metagross + Tapu Lele instead, and aggressively targeted down the Gengar slot, which made the rest of the match much easier.

Round 13: vs William Hall (WLL)
Mega Gardevoir/Tapu Koko/Azumarill/Landorus-T/Amoonguss/Incineroar

Game 1 I double targeted his Tapu Koko and immediately took it out. Removing his terrain control meant I was safe from his Aqua Jets for the rest of the game. Game 2 I made a critical blunder that cost me the match. I needed to switch in Tapu Lele (to remove his Electric Terrain) and attack with Mega Metagross (who could then survive his Gigavolt Havoc), to remove his Tapu Koko from play. Or, I needed to switch in Nihilego, and protect with Metagross, which would have put me in a very favorable board position against his Koko + Incineroar. Instead, I switched in Nihilego and attacked, letting my Metagross get KO’d. Game 3 he led Amoonguss and Azumarill, and was able to find a turn to Belly Drum. He played conservatively with his Tapu Koko, and eliminated me from top 8 contention.

Round 14: vs Justin Crubaugh (WLW)
Mega Gengar/Tyranitar/Kartana/Incineroar/Tapu Fini/Landorus-T

This match was featured on a TV, and can also be viewed on YouTube. Game 1 I led Landorus + Charizard into his Kartana + Mega Gengar. He didn’t want to trade Kartana away, so he withdrew it for Landorus, but I survived the Icy Wind and took his Gengar out immediately, followed by taking Landorus out on the next turn, making a quick 2-on-4.

Game 2 he adjusted and led Incineroar + Gengar instead. He correctly called my protect with Landorus, and went for a Fake Out + Icy Wind on my Charizard. I was able to Z-move and KO his Incineroar on the following turn, but I went for a Tailwind instead of a Heat Wave to KO the Gengar, which ended up being a mistake. My Pokémon were still slower due to the Icy Winds, so I allowed Justin to abuse the advantage and win the match.

Game 3 I led Nihilego + Charizard, into Landorus + Gengar. He had options to deal with Nihilego, but forcing him to deal with it took a lot of the stress off of Charizard and Landorus, which allowed me to win the game.


Unfortunately, despite posting a stellar record of 4-1 on day 2, I didn’t have enough resistance to even make top 16. Despite this, I was still more than happy with the result. This was only my third tournament, and to be in the running for top 16 was much more than I ever expected to do. I’m really excited to compete for the full season next year, and to see how much I can grow as a VGC player.

I also have to give one more shoutout to Alex Ogloza, the creator of this team. Watching his stream matches definitely inspired me to use Charizard + Nihilego for these tournaments, and I definitely feel I’ve learned a lot from all of the content he produces. I also have to give a shoutout to all of my TCG friends – they saw my enthusiasm for the video games, and pushed me to compete in VGC, and they were right by my side on day 2, cheering for me the entire day. I’m grateful to be a part of such a fantastic community, and I’m really looking forward to competing next season.

Credit to Kierq for the featured image

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