A Rainbow after the Rain – Greensboro Regional Champions Report

Hey all, my name is Alex Williams (@Weeblewobs on twitter). I recently moved to St. Louis but I’m originally from Cleveland Ohio, which lucky for me, happens to be the land of plentiful locals. I wouldn’t call it free though because there is a lot of talent in those locals, and you’ll find yourself facing Worlds caliber players such as Ashton Cox, Jeremy Rodriquez, and Nails in simple Premier Challenges. I think that was actually good for me though when I started playing VGC in 2017, because I grew quickly as a player by facing strong opponents since the first Midseason Showdown of my relatively young VGC career. That, along with the helpful videos Cybertron posts on Youtube, got me off to a good VGC start. I earned my Worlds 2018 invite without top cutting any regionals, but came very close several times to breaking that top cut barrier, including going 5-0 to 5-3 in one regional. I pride myself on my teambuilding skills, and always try to think outside the box when teambuilding.

Team’s Achievements

  • 1st Greensboro Regionals 3/16/19 by Alex Williams
  • 4th Greensboro Regionals 3/16/19 by Allan Martinez
  • 3rd Collinsville Regionals 2/22/19 by Allan Martinez
  • 2nd Philadelphia Regionals 9/14/18 by Andrew Burley

The Team

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Valoo (Ho-Oh) @ Safety Goggles
Ability: Pressure
EVs: 244 HP / 156 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 100 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Tailwind
– Recover
– Sacred Fire
– Brave Bird

Ho-Oh is of course the focal point of this team. I love the big bird and wanted to take advantage of the great matchup it has against Xerneas, who is the most dominant Pokemon of VGC 2019. No need for tricks, a simple move set of Tailwind, Recover, Sacred Fire, and Brave Bird allows Ho-Oh to do all it needs to. The 100 speed EVs allows Ho-Oh to outspeed Modest Ludicolo, which is important if I set tailwind up against opposing rain teams. The 156 attack allows Ho-Oh to 2HKO Groudon in sun, and 2HKO Xerneas with a Sacred Fire followed by a Brave Bird. The rest of the EVs just went into bulk, which allows the Fire/Flying bird to survive any Groudon rock move except Stone Edge. I was a fan of Leftovers but Justin convinced me to run Safety Goggles, which was 100% the play. With this item, Amoonguss can’t touch 3 of our 6 mons, and I Brave Birded countless Pokemon who thought they were safe with their mushroom partner Rage Powdering. It’s also extremely satisfying seeing VenuDon players’ faces when their Sleep Powder fails.

  • 156+ Atk Ho-Oh Sacred Fire vs. 252 HP / 4 Def Groudon in Sun: 100-118 (48.3 – 57%) — 89.1% chance to 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Kyogre Origin Pulse vs. 244 HP / 4 SpD Ho-Oh in Rain: 176-210 (83 – 99%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Beedle (Ferrothorn) (M) @ Assault Vest
Ability: Iron Barbs
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 76 Atk / 36 Def / 4 SpA / 140 SpD
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Power Whip
– Gyro Ball
– Knock Off
– Acid Spray

This slot needed to be a bulky grass type to help with the rain matchup, and Assault Vest Tapu Bulu was originally here. While his terrain allowed Ludicolo to OHKO opposing Kyogre, Bulu just wasn’t performing too well (bless him). We switched him out for Kartana, and while Kartana did a bit better, he wasn’t the rain switch-in we needed from this slot. Then we arrived at Ferrothorn, who could take Xerneas and rain attacks and helped with the Trick Room matchup, to which our team was noticeably weak at this point. I have to give all credit to Justin as this is his Ferrothorn set. Ferrothorn was the MVP of many games, and is unexpectedly the key player in Zygarde matchups. Acid Spray allows me to reduce Zygarde’s Special Defense to -1 after the Misty Seed boost, which lets Kyogre dispatch it with ease.

  • 76+ Atk Ferrothorn Gyro Ball (150 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Xerneas: 204-240 (100.9 – 118.8%) — guaranteed OHKO
  • +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 252 HP / 140+ SpD Assault Vest Ferrothorn: 51-61 (28.1 – 33.7%) — 0.5% chance to 3HKO

Keaton (Raichu) (F) @ Focus Sash
Ability: Lightning Rod
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
– Volt Switch
– Encore
– Nuzzle
– Fake Out

So you’re building a team around Ho-Oh Kyogre, what’s the first thing you notice? The glaring Electric weakness was my first concern, and Raichu patches that up nicely. Justin and I were torn between Togedemaru and Raichu since Toge has the steel typing, but I saw the potential in Encore. Raichu outspeeds Xerneas, which allows it to Nuzzle the overpowered deer before locking it into 6 turns of Geomancy with a round of applause. Raichu loves Nuzzling Lunala since it breaks Shadow Shield, and the Focus Sash almost guarantees Raichu gets off at least 2 Nuzzles before going down. Raichu’s Fake Out+Volt Switch along with Incineroar’s Fake Out+U-Turn grants unparalleled control of positioning, which is one reason why I think this team is so strong. The electric mouse single-handedly won me several games.

  • Tapu Koko Thunderbolt vs. Lightning Rod Raichu: 0-0 (0 – 0%) — aim for the horn next time

Kamaro (Ludicolo) (M) @ Waterium Z
Ability: Swift Swim
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Protect
– Hydro Pump
– Grass Knot
– Fake Out

If a team doesn’t have a good answer to a rain lead, Ludicolo and Kyogre can potentially sweep with you just pressing buttons. Without another Z-mover, it made perfect sense to slap it on Ludi. The sombrero wearing pineapple-platypus gives me the edge I need against opposing Kyogre, and is a strong offensive option. Even if you could name me 2 good reasons for Ludi to run Ice Beam in this format, which you can’t, I’d still opt to run Protect since Ludi can often be the most important Pokemon in a matchup, and is notably the only mon on this team running it. Justin and I experimented with Azumarill and Kingdra in this slot to help with the weak Palkia matchup, but none were as consistent as Ludicolo.

  • 252+ SpA Ludicolo Hydro Vortex (185 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Xerneas in Rain: 207-244 (102.4 – 120.7%) — guaranteed OHKO
  • 252+ SpA Kyogre Water Spout (150 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Ludicolo in Rain: 44-52 (28.2 – 33.3%) — Miniscule chance to 3HKO

Gengle (Incineroar) (M) @ Figy Berry
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Atk / 84 Def / 100 SpD / 68 Spe
Careful Nature
– Flare Blitz
– Snarl
– U-turn
– Fake Out

With Intimidate, Fake Out, and U-turn, it’s easy to see why Incineroar has been the most popular Pokemon in VGC since its hidden ability was released. On this team, Incineroar serves as an incredible Lunala check, and can allow Ho-Oh to take rock moves from Groudon a bit more comfortably. Snarl provides another way to reduce the threat of Xerneas, and as mentioned before, U-turn along with Raichu’s Volt Switch allows for amazing positioning plays. Justin and I wanted a fast cat to have an edge over opposing Incineroar, and the 89 speed stat allows us to outspeed Kartana in Tailwind. The 84 defense EVs ensures Kartana’s Sacred Sword doesn’t 2HKO, and gives us a good chance to live even banded Groudon Precipice Blades. Both the speed and defense investments had huge impacts in my Greensboro top cut matches.

  • -1 252+ Atk Choice Band Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 252 HP / 84 Def Incineroar: 186-218 (92 – 107.9%) — 43.8% chance to OHKO
  • 4 Atk Kartana Helping Hand Sacred Sword vs. 252 HP / 84 Def Incineroar: 170-202 (84.1 – 100%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO

Jabu-Jabu (Kyogre) @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Drizzle
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Water Spout
– Thunder
– Scald
– Ice Beam

Choice Scarf Kyogre is so good. The other focal point of this team, the synergy between Kyogre and Ho-Oh is surprisingly effective. Ho-Oh takes care of the grass types Kyogre doesn’t like facing, and Kyogre takes care of the rest. Remember how I mentioned that Raichu and Incineroar allow for great positioning? It’s all about getting Kyogre in a position to launch big Water Spouts off, usually in Tailwind provided by Ho-Oh. One thing I will note is that we chose Scald over Origin Pulse to have a more consistent option, since missing Origin Pulse is a choice.

Team Play

This team is designed to get the bird and the whale in a position to sweep. If there’s a Ho-Oh and a full health Kyogre under Tailwind on the field against you, chances are you’ve lost. The giant turkey has an easy time setting Tailwind with triple Fake Out support, and the team type synergy usually allows you to make safe switch ins. While Ho-Oh can certainly do big damage, it also doesn’t mind whittling down opponents’ health with burn damage while Recovering its own. If you remove Ho-Oh’s threats from the opposing team, and there aren’t many Pokemon that truly threaten it, Ho-Oh just wins. Positioning in this meta is, in my opinion, the most important aspect of battling in 2019, and triple Fake Out + 2 momentum moves in Volt Switch and U-turn ensures you will almost always have the upper hand in positioning.

Core Combinations and Common Leads

+

By far my most common lead, and my personal favorite, a fast Fake Out almost guarantees you get your speed control. If your opponent goes for their own Fake Out or Tailwind, give them a round of applause. Oftentimes I would go straight for a Nuzzle onto the opposing Pokemon turn 1, because the longer they’re paralyzed, the greater chance they have of being fully paralyzed. This is what you want to lead against Koko teams, and if your opponent doesn’t have a Tapu Fini, the mouse and the bird can go to town paralyzing and burning things.

+

No surprises here, this lead is predictable but strong. Ludicolo Fake Out in rain is the 3rd fastest Fake Out in the entire game behind Alolan-Raichu in electric terrain and Shiftry in sun, which prevents your opponent from faking out Kyogre. Your opponent often prepares for this lead game 1, but usually not in subsequent games. Remind them to respect it in game 2.

+

Our cat is faster than your run-of-the-mill cat, which lets the phoenix get Tailwind up more easily. Intimidating Groudon is super important so Ho-Oh can survive the rock move of choice, and you want to start Snarling at Lunala right away. This is what you lead against Xerneas Smeargle teams since you either get a Snarl or Sacred Fire off on Xerneas, and Smeargle can’t Spore Ho-Oh. If they’re running Lovely Kiss, well, get ready to play some Pokemon.

Team Match-ups

The first thing you look for in team preview is an answer to a rain lead. If your opponent doesn’t have one, you know what to do. Otherwise, try and get a feel for what your opponent is trying to do with their team. Do they have Xernala+Amoonguss? They’re going to try to set the deer up, so get some chip on it so Ferrothorn can finish it with a Gyro Ball. Do they have a Groudon? They’re going to lead it to win the weather war, so throw out Ho-Oh to take advantage. One of the things I like most about this team is that you actually don’t mind letting sun stay up, because Ho-Oh does so much damage in the sun. It’s not usually difficult to determine what your opponent’s team wants to do, and if you know that, you’re halfway to victory.

Good Match-ups

This team was built to break the Xerneas Lunala meta. Xernala comps usually have Amoonguss and/or Smeargle for support, and the combination of Ho-Oh, Incineroar, Ferrothorn, and Kyogre is extremely difficult for that team comp to handle. Ferrothorn survives anything the 2 restricted Pokémon throw at it thanks to the Assault Vest, and Ho-Oh can tank even boosted Xerneas attacks. Incineroar’s Snarl does work here, and Kyogre can get big damage off if given the chance. I eat these teams for breakfast.

One of the primary reasons for Safety Goggles Ho-Oh was to help with the VenuDon matchup, and boy did it help. Throw out Incin+Ho-Oh against Venudon: if Groudon is slower than Ho-Oh, Fake Out Venusaur and Sacred Fire Groudon. If Groudon is faster, Fake it out and Tailwind. You can’t go wrong here. While Ho-Oh likes the sun, if you can remove Groudon from play, Kyogre wins.

Bad Match-ups

Justin and I spent many nights wondering how we could make this matchup better, but we couldn’t without sacrificing advantages in other matchups. This matchup is tough because Palkia outspeeds and OHKOES Ho-Oh, and there’s no way to hit it for super effective damage. Paralyzing Palkia with Raichu allows Ho-Oh to outspeed and do significant damage, which was often my game-plan against such teams. Ferrothorn can also tank hits from this restricted duo, but you’ll have to play well to win against Palkia teams.

Yeah, this team has no Zekrom matchup. Our electric check is completely ignored by Zekrom who can easily OHKO both the flying and water legendaries. Fortunately, Zekrom isn’t very common, and I didn’t face a single one in either regional I brought this team to. If I had to, I’d probably just Intimidate spam it and try to chip it into range of an Ice Beam.

Rundown of Tournament

Round 1: Patrick Donegan @P_dOnZ

My day 1 swiss schedule was stacked with elite players, the first of which was PDonz. Unfortunately, his flight was cancelled so I got a free win round 1, but the battle of the gen 2 birds would have been legen- wait for it… dary.

Round 2: Stephen Mea

I led rain both games into Stephen’s Xerneas+Amoonguss lead. I Fake out Amoonguss and Water Spout, doing 90% to his deer which Geomancies. With Ho-Oh and Ferro in the back, that’s not even a problem. I made a wrong call game 2 thinking he’d protect his Xerneas when he didn’t, and took a lot of damage as a result, but his Kartana falling to Ferrothorn Iron Barbs damage sealed me the game. This was the first time my team came through for me despite me making the wrong call.

Round 3: Jimmy Friedle

Normally Nihilego would strike fear into my Ho-Oh heart, but looking at the rest of his team, I realized he had absolutely no way to hit Ferrothorn. I led Ferrothorn both games and Nihilego didn’t last long. In game 2 he realized how much of a threat Ferro was, and smartly started focusing it with attacks, including a Z-Hurricane from Tornadus. It did maybe 35%. His Ludicolo did get an Ice Beam freeze on my Ferrothorn game 2 which made my heart skip a beat, but Ferro unthawed immediately to seal the set.

Round 4: Santino Tarquinio @supah_santi

I’d like to start off by saying how nice of a guy Santi is, and how freaking well he was playing in this regional. This man 2-0’d me cleanly after 2 straight rounds without even coming close to losing. His hard trick room Lunala+Groudon+Incineroar+Gravity Fini was a horrible matchup for me, and I had no idea how I was going to stop it. He played the set perfectly, and there was nothing I could do.

Round 5: Brady Smith @B_Smiffy

Both of us were at X-1 at this point thanks to Santi, and when I saw the mirror match, I knew why. Brady is such a nice guy and chatted with me before our match, and he had a big smile on his face the whole time. That is extremely admirable considering how our match went. He didn’t have Raichu, which allowed my electric mouse to be MVP. I think 3 of his 4 mons were paralyzed in our 3rd game, and they were fully paralyzed on more than several occasions. That’s what Raichu is here for.

Round 6: John Gray

To be completely honest, the main thing I remember about this match was not remembering Heliolisk’s name. I wrote “Electric lizard” in my match notes, and my electric mouse stopped the electric lizard from doing too much. Yveltal didn’t carry an Assault Vest, so I was able to take it out with big water moves.

Round 7: Brian Youm

At X-1 going into the final round, it was win and in. I was in the same situation a few weeks prior in Collinsville where Allan Martinez bested me in an extremely close set to cut that regional. I was determined to cut this time, so I was nervous to see my last match was against Zygarde piloted by Brian. Brian is a veteran player and my Zygarde matchup was shaky at best, so I knew I had my work cut out for me. Going on stream, Ferrothorn put in work Acid Spraying the Zygarde and forcing it out, and picking up the Solgaleo KO with knock off in an extremely close game 3.

Top 8: Kyle Livinghouse @AnimusVGC

Kyle was playing phenomenally all weekend, but I was confident in my matchup against his team. His Koko Lunala lead couldn’t really stop my Raichu+Ho-Oh lead, and Lunala was paralyzed turn 1 game 1. I tried to switch it up and catch him off guard with a rain lead in game 2, and doubled his Assault Vest Koko with a Scald+Hydro-Z, predicting his Lunala Wide Guard. He was on the back foot the rest of the game, but made good plays to stay in it until it was his Lunala and Incineroar vs my Ho-Oh. The phoenix Pressure stalled Lunala’s Moongeist Beams with Recover, and when he ran out, it was GG.

Top 4: Santino Tarquinio @supah_santi

Not gonna lie, I was really hoping Allan would best Santino in their top 8 match, because I felt much better against Allan’s team than Santi’s. My only loss in swiss, I had absolutely no plan against him. I couldn’t stop his Trick Room, I couldn’t really win the weather war, and Ho-Oh was worthless against a banded Groudon with Rock Slide. It seemed like my streak ended here, so I decided to go crazy and have fun with the set. Playing with my fast water types under the sun and under Trick Room, I had to play out of my mind to take a win game 1.

What happened turn 1 of game 2 left me in the worst position I’ve ever been in a Pokemon match. There seemed like no possible way for me to come back from that turn 1, but I was somehow, someway able to make a comeback in the closest set of my life. I had to play some 4D chess in my head to do that, and I encourage you to watch the vids because that was the craziest set of my life. Sanit is such a great guy.

Finals: Ashton Cox

I faced Ashton at the very first Ohio MSS I ever went to, and it was fitting we would face in finals. Everyone in VGC knows how accomplished of a player he is, and while I didn’t necessarily fear his Solgaleo team, I did respect the man himself. Game 1 of our set was played pretty cleanly by me, and I had all the momentum when my Incineroar survived a Helping Handed Sacred Sword from his un-Intimidated Kartana.

Game 2 I led with my whale and firebird, which was horrible against Ashton’s great Tsareena and Kyogre lead. I figured he would Helping Hand Thunder my Kyogre, so I attempted to win the speed tie with my own Thunder and set up Tailwind. You never want to go for speed ties, but I was on the back foot turn 0. He won the speed tie, knocking out my Kyogre while I set up Tailwind. Fearing another Helping Hand Thunder on my Ho-Oh, I doubled his Kyogre which smartly switched to Kartana, letting his Tsareena U-turn my Ludicolo. In the end, it came down to if Origin Pulse hit all of my Pokemon, which it did.

Game 3 was crazy. I led Raichu Ludicolo into Ashton’s Kyogre Tsareena lead. I Hydro-Z’d and Volt Switched into his Kyogre thinking he’d switch out, but he didn’t. Unfortunately for Ashton, his Origin Pulse missed both of my Pokemon, and his Kyogre was in the red with nothing to show for it. After his Kyogre eventually went down, I felt confident in my victory since he had nothing else to hit Ho-Oh. That was until his Tsareena feinted my Raichu and his Solgaleo revealed Wild Charge. Ludicolo’s Fake Out provided Ho-Oh one free turn to do something, and I made the wrong call yet again. Fake Out+Tailwind would have won me the game, but I Recovered instead of setting up Tailwind, thinking I could take 1 more Wild Charge. I guess I wasn’t wrong, because Ho-Oh survived with 6 HP, setting up Tailwind and achieving a sacred victory with a Sacred Fire. That’s what I mean when I say my team came through for me this weekend.

Conclusion

I almost didn’t go to Greensboro. I had to drive 12 hours by myself to arrive at midnight and sleep in my car in a Walmart parking lot. But I was so close at 9th in Collinsville a few weeks prior, and I really believed this team could do it, so I decided to give Ho-Oh one last shot before Moon series ended. I’m glad I did. This win means a lot to me not only because it’s the first time I’ve ever done this well at an event, but because I did it with my own team that I built with my good friend Justin. Unfortunately, I really don’t see Ho-Oh being any good in Ultra series, which starts in a few weeks from the time of this article, so it looks like this was my last ride with the Rainbow Pokemon. I can’t wait to see what the Ultra series meta is so I can break that too.

Shoutouts to Justin (@RexChaosVGC) of course for building the team with me, and to Kyle (@mewtwobaws) who helped prep me for top cut

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