Hello everyone! My name is Meghan Hyman (@PinkySylvie on twitter and PinkSylvie on SD), and I recently ended up Top 8 at Dallas Regionals after ending Swiss as the first seed.
Going into the metagame, I was concerned about a few common team compositions, namely: Kyogre/Lunala, Lunala/Xerneas, Groudon/Xerneas, Groudon/Yveltal and Xerneas/Yveltal. Ideally, I wanted a solid matchup vs all of these compositions for the Regional. A properly set up Xerneas or Groudon had the potential to do this. I originally tested some rather unorthodox Groudon compositions with Shedinja and Scarf Kyurem-White, but they were not the most consistent of teams. The one part I did enjoy about that team was Groudon + Incineroar + Yveltal answer + Tapu/redirection + Grass-type. Going from there, I ended up with my first Dallas team draft.
The team originally started as a Groudon, Xerneas, Incineroar, Smeargle composition with Stakataka and Venusaur (@PyreonVGC’s Sun series composition at most locals); however, that version had serious consistency issues. For one, Groundium Z Groudon struggled with Venusaur Groudon mirrors due to its lack of berry recovery and ground resists. Stakataka was not a reliable way to KO Xerneas due to it being next to a Groudon that could OHKO Stakataka before it could attack. Venusaur without Focus Sash did not have the survivability that I wanted, nor did it have the damage I desired with Life Orb.
The first thing I tried together with @PyreonVGC and @eshivgc was to replace the Stakataka slot with another speed control mon that was immune to Ground-type attacks. The mons that came up to potentially fill this role were Zapdos, Talonflame, Salamence, and Latias. Zapdos offered an extra way to hit Kyogre for a lot of damage, but its Scarf Kyogre matchup was iffy at best. Its Speed also left much to be desired. Salamence and Latias were rather nice as they resist Kyogre Water Spouts; however, they didn’t provide enough support outside of Tailwind and small chip. Talonflame was interesting, as it wasn’t a bulk option. It did give psuedo-priority with Gale Wings, and it could deal massive damage to Kyogre and Xerneas. @AbsurdityVGC kept on arguing in favor for the bird on Showdown and Discord as a method to deal massive chip to neuter scarf Kyogre that locked themselves into Water Spout. This would also give me an extra Xerneas answer with Z-Brave Bird. This offensive option ended up being more consistent than the bulkier options.
I ended up dropping Smeargle in favor of a Tapu to stop Sleep and remove Psychic Terrain. I settled on Tapu Koko, because it could provide extra pivoting and damage to the team. Its Z-Move could OHKO most Stakataka in terrain, which would give me another answer to it aside from Groudon. After the MSS the day before Dallas Regionals, I did think of switching Tapu Koko to Fini (with Nature’s Madness, Heal Pulse, Icy Wind, and Haze) for an extra Water resist and to aid the Kyogre matchup, but ended up opting not to due to Fini’s reliance on potentially inaccurate moves such as Nature’s Madness. Having to rely on Precipice Blades and Sleep Powder was enough for me.
(Oh deer) Xerneas @ Power Herb
Ability: Fairy Aura
EVs: 28 HP / 4 Def / 196 SpA / 28 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Dazzling Gleam
One of the strongest restricted Pokémon going into Dallas, I felt Xerneas could do massive amounts of damage, set-up or not, against most of the common teams at the moment. A lot of people have started dropping Xerneas answers thinking Z-Moves are enough or cannot reliably deal with both Xerneas and Groudon on a single team. A lot of the time, just the threat of a potential Geomancy forces the opponent to lead in ways to deal with it and/or target it down as opposed to the other slot. Xerneas is Timid max Speed for Xerneas mirrors and to outspeed Lunala. Its HP and SpD investment allows it to live a Modest Kyogre Spout 100% of the time and live a Lunala Z-Moongeist a majority of the time, while still maximizing its damage output.
- 252+ SpA Kyogre Water Spout (150 BP) vs. 28 HP / 28 SpD Xerneas in Rain: 172-204 (83.9 – 99.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 252 SpA Lunala Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom vs. 28 HP / 28 SpD Xerneas: 175-207 (85.3 – 100.9%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO
- +2 196 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Lunala: 196-232 (92 – 108.9%) — 56.3% chance to OHKO (KO Lunala after Shadow Shield is broken)
(Lizard) Groudon @ Iapapa Berry
EVs: 132 HP / 108 Atk / 4 Def / 252 SpD / 12 Spe
– Precipice Blades
– Rock Tomb
– Swords Dance
Groudon is on the team to add bulk and a Sun mode. Venudon is an extremely strong duo in the early Moon metagame, and this set was supposed to add not only bulk but weather to neuter Kyogre and enough damage to scare away Steel-types. Careful, bulky Don guarantees that it will live a Venusaur Grass Knot or most boosted Xerneas Moonblasts and then recover back with a Berry. Rock Tomb was chosen over Fire Punch due to the team already having 2 Fire-types (Fire attacks are not necessarily needed in this case) and because I didn’t want Groudon to be Wide Guard bait. The speed drop can also improve the Xerneas mirror matchup by allowing my Xerneas to attack before the opponent’s Xerneas. Swords Dance helps in the Groudon mirror to boost damage and start threatening KOs otherwise out of reach.
- 252+ SpA Venusaur Grass Knot (120 BP) vs. 132 HP / 252+ SpD Groudon: 146-174 (76 – 90.6%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 132 HP / 252+ SpD Groudon: 168-198 (87.5 – 103.1%) — 25% chance to OHKO
- 108 Atk Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Stakataka: 168-196 (100 – 116.6%) — guaranteed OHKO
(Cat) Incineroar @ Figy Berry
EVs: 236 HP / 36 Def / 236 SpD
– Fake Out
– Flare Blitz
Incineroar is an extremely good support on the team, providing not only a Psychic immunity, but also Fake Out, Intimidate, and the ability to pivot with U-turn to preserve Xerneas or Groudon. Snarl is to improve the mirror Xerneas matchup by reducing incoming damage as well as to deal super effective damage to Lunala. The 36 Defense EVs are to give Incineroar a greater chance to live a mirror Don Precipice Blades.
- +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 236 HP / 236+ SpD Incineroar: 169-199 (84.5 – 99.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 0 Atk Incineroar Flare Blitz vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Xerneas in Sun: 118-141 (58.4 – 69.8%) — guaranteed 2HKO
(Toad) Venusaur @ Focus Sash
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Grass Knot
– Sludge Bomb
– Sleep Powder
Venusaur is primarily used as a way to disrupt opposing teams and help with mirror Groudon teams. It is oftentimes also a key lead with Groudon vs Tornadus/Ogre/Tsareena compositions, with Chlorophyll Grass Knot and Sleep Powder. Timid over Modest allows Venusaur to outspeed opposing Venusaur, barring a Speed tie. Neither Modest or Timid guarantee the KO on bulkier Groudon or a mirror Venusaur, unless it carries HP Fire.
- 252 SpA Venusaur Grass Knot (120 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Groudon: 186-222 (105.6 – 126.1%) — guaranteed OHKO
- 252 SpA Venusaur Grass Knot (120 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Kyogre: 132-156 (75 – 88.6%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 252 SpA Venusaur Sludge Bomb vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Venusaur: 66-78 (42.3 – 50%) — 0.4% chance to 2HKO
(Birb) Talonflame @ Flyinium Z
Ability: Gale Wings
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
– Brave Bird
– Flare Blitz
After I finalized the first 4 slots of the team, the team was in dire need of Speed control and Kartana answers. Potential members on this slot also included Zapdos, Stakataka, and Kartana; however, I felt like a Ground and Fire resist would be much more worthwhile for Groudon mirrors. Many Groudon were also dropping Rock coverage in favor of Swords Dance, giving them less of a Fire-bird matchup. Adamant was chosen over Jolly for its increased damage to pick up a KO on Xerneas with Z-Brave Bird + Brave Bird. The only issue with Adamant is that it underspeeds Tornadus by a point; however, Talonflame is generally going to just Z-Brave Bird the Kyogre in said matchups. Flare Blitz was chosen to improve the Kartana matchup as well as to deal more damage to Groudon/Xerneas in Sun. Taunt is to improve the mirror Xerneas matchup in some cases, as well as to stop Trick Room/Roar/Tailwind.
Priority Z-Brave Bird along with Xerneas ended up being the absolute MVP of a majority of my matches which involved Xerneas mirrors. Knowing a Xerneas Gleam plus a neutral Z would KO opposing Xerneas was crucial.
- 252+ Atk Talonflame Supersonic Skystrike (190 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Xerneas: 136-162 (67.3 – 80.1%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 252+ Atk Talonflame Brave Bird vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Xerneas: 87-103 (43 – 50.9%) — 4.7% chance to 2HKO
- 252+ Atk Talonflame Supersonic Skystrike (190 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Kyogre: 142-168 (80.6 – 95.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO
(SparkofLife) Tapu Koko @ Electrium Z
Ability: Electric Surge
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk *Should be 31 IVs in HP. I accidentally had non-perfect IVs at the Regional and MSS
– Volt Switch
– Dazzling Gleam
Tapu Koko has a few roles on the team. Its terrain stops Sleep, it can deal a ton of damage, it can pivot to preserve Sun, and it can potentially nuke key threats such as unboosted Xerneas with Z-Thunderbolt. Modest over Timid was chosen for its increased damage output and to KO Xerneas. Thunderbolt was chosen over Thunder so it wouldn’t be reliant on opposing Rain to hit. Gleam was chosen in the last slot over other options such as Taunt or Grass Knot due to it by-passing redirection and also getting a boost from Xerneas’s Fairy Aura.
- 252+ SpA Tapu Koko Gigavolt Havoc (175 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Xerneas in Electric Terrain: 204-240 (100.9 – 118.8%) — guaranteed OHKO
- 252+ SpA Tapu Koko Volt Switch vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Xerneas in Electric Terrain: 84-99 (41.5 – 49%) — guaranteed 3HKO
- 252+ SpA Tapu Koko Volt Switch vs. 236 HP / 236+ SpD Incineroar in Electric Terrain: 64-76 (32 – 38%) — 93.2% chance to 3HKO
This is the standard Xerneas set-up lead. Ideally, you should Geomancy and Snarl any opposing Xerneas. U-turning into Talonflame to nuke the opposing Xerneas the following turn is also a common strategy. This is a common lead vs opposing Xerneas or teams that are weak to Xerneas set-ups.
This lead was much less common, but it was good in a BO3. The option to turn 1 Z-Move the opposing Xerneas and/or Volt Switch into Incineroar can give you the upper hand from the get-go as an opposing Incineroar can only Fake Out one slot. Also worth noting is that Z-Thunderbolt into Protect followed by double Dazzling Gleam is a roll on 4 HP Xerneas.
This lead is reasonably common for non-Xerneas Sun mirrors and vs Tornogre/Tsareena teams. Usually you abuse Venusaur’s Chlorophyll to either deal tons of damage with Grass Knot/Sludge Bomb or to put things to sleep with Sleep Powder.
I usually lead this vs Yveltal/Groudon/Stakataka compositions. Getting the turn 1 Intimidate and Fake Out pressure usually allows Groudon to set up a free Swords Dance and switch Incineroar into Venusaur to pressure next turn. This also covers a potential Incineroar/Stakataka lead from the opponent.
‘Let’s Protect Xern’
General goal is to set up Xerneas, get a free switch or pivot to Talonflame, then nuke the opposing Xerneas or Amoonguss the following turn.
Keep the sun up, and continuously deal damage with Precipice Blades, Grass Knot, and Sludge Bomb. Usually these three are the best for facing Groudon mirrors.
‘Pivoting and Revolving Door Spam’
This generally revolves around U-turning/Volt Switching and hard switching to always have Groudon in the back to get Sun back up and scare Scarf Kyogre. It is totally fine to pivot into Groudon to immediately hard switch it out to Koko or Incineroar.
This matchup is all about keeping Groudon and Venusaur alive while also KOing the opposing Groudon and Venusaur. Usually this involved a Groudon + Incineroar/Venusaur lead, getting a Swords Dance and Precipice Blading everything.
Getting your own Xerneas set-up before the opponent and/or KOing the opposing Xerneas so it doesn’t run through the team is super important. This usually involved Incineroar/Xerneas with Talonflame in back to nuke the Xerneas after Incineroar pivots out. Just watch out for Timid Xerneas Speed ties, Moonblast Special Attack drops, crits, and Roar Incineroar.
This matchup heavily depends on the rest of the opponent’s composition. Usually Snarl Incineroar is key to reduce Lunala’s damage output, and then Groudon/Tapu Koko/Venusaur/Talonflame to deal consistent damage to the opposing Kyogre. The choice of those 3 depends on the opposing team’s Tapu and speed control choice on Lunala. If it’s Tapu Lele, Venusaur and Koko would potentially be more valuable than Talonflame. If it’s Tapu Koko, Venusaur is not an ideal choice due to Electric Terrain.
This matchup revolves around guessing the Taunt vs Rain Dance 50-50s on Tornadus. Usually the safest lead is Venudon, and go for either a Grass Knot or a Sleep Powder with Venusaur into the Kyogre slot along with a Rock Tomb into the opposing Tornadus or Precipice Blades. Bringing Incineroar/Talonflame and Xerneas in the back helps with middle to end-game cleanup. Going into Dallas, this was the only matchup I truly considered an autoloss barring heavy RNG in my favor.
This matchup involves always having the upper hand positionally. Incineroar, Koko, and Groudon are key for positioning. If you can KO the opposing Kyogre, this matchup becomes much easier. U-turn/Volt Switching to Groudon followed by an immediate hard switch back into another slot is a very solid option for this matchup, as you always need to threaten a Sun switch and/or a Fake Out to prevent a Scarf Kyogre Spout.
Rundown of Midseason Showdown
Round 1: Israel Ramirez – W
He had TR Lunala and Iron Ball Kyogre. He ended up pulling off a double Trick Room at some point, but I somehow still ended up winning.
Round 2: Christian Lira – L
He had the same team as my R1 Opponent. I lost the game off a 50-50 call with Talonflame.
Round 3: Nicholas Lacrampe – W
For some reason, Nick brought Kommo-o to this matchup. I do not know why. Xerneas/Incineroar ended up winning this match.
Round 4: Chuppa Cross – W
Chuppa was not the most familiar with Groudon Venusaur mirrors. I ended up leading Incineroar + Groudon and went for a Swords Dance turn one. At one point he misplayed by going for a Grass Knot into Groudon instead of banking on Sleep Powder.
Round 5: Justin Burns – W
His Charizard was really scary, but Solar Power recoil chip ended up racking up in my favor. I misplayed at the very end, giving Justin an out with a Precipice Blades crit. He ended up getting that, allowing him to KO my boosted Xerneas. I ended up getting a Z-Brave Bird crit on his Xerneas, allowing my Talonflame to win the 1v1 vs his Groudon because it was Banded and locked into Precipice Blades.
Round 6: Andy Anderson – W
For some reason, Andy led Kommo-o. I ended up winning by setting up Xerneas before him.
Top 8: James Baek – LL
I realized that I did not know at all how to approach this matchup after I got truly bodied, so I ended up theorizing through this entire matchup the night before Swiss. Leading Incineroar/Xerneas is not what you do if they have Tsareena on their composition.
Rundown of Regional
Round 1: vs Sam Temple – WW (ended 4-4)
Game 1, I went with the general game plan vs Yveldon/Staka teams by leading Incineroar/Groudon with Venusaur and Xerneas in back. I do not remember a ton about this set, aside from Groudon missing 4 out of 7 Precipice Blades, getting Groudon Flare Blitz Burned, and the opposing Stakataka critting Groudon at one point. His Yveltal was Protect with Berry and his Groudon was a bulky Careful set with Groundium Z.
Round 2: vs Luis Dias – WW (ended 1-4, drop)
I do not remember too much about this set aside from his Tapu Lele being Psychic Seed, his Xerneas not being max Speed Timid, and his Kyogre being slow Choice Specs. He never brought Muk. Xerneas, Talonflame/Tapu Koko, Incineroar, and Groudon kinda just won.
Round 3: Yihui Xu – LWW (ended 5-3, T32)
I lost game 1 because I didn’t expect Z-Ice Beam on Palkia. I used the rest of that game to scout information on the rest of his team. At some point, he revealed Sitrus on his Stakataka, Life Orb Chlorophyll Whimsicott, Taunt Hidden Power Fire Discharge Tapu Koko, and that my Xerneas lives a -1 Gyro Ball in the red. Sadly, I remember nothing of Game 2, but Xerneas probably did stuff along with Groudon. Game 3 I decided to bring Talonflame, predicting that Yihui would not bring Stakataka game 3 (he did not). I ended up abusing Tailwind with Groudon and Xerneas to slowly clean up the game with Blades. I also learned that recoil moves into Shedinja do not make Talonflame take recoil damage (with Focus Sash proc), which was cool.
Round 4: vs Brandon Meckley – WW (ended 5-3, T32) – Stream
This was actually my first time being streamed at a Regional. I was told by someone that his Kyurem was Assault Vest and his Solgaleo was Z-Sunsteel Strike, so I played the entirety of game 1 and the first turns of game 2 assuming such. I also totally forgot that I had faced this exact composition on the Showdown Ladder the week before (with AV Solgaleo and Z-Ice Kyurem) and had gotten annoyed by the team with its bulk and memes. Game 1 I was extremely concerned about Tapu Fini setup, so I played the set abusing Incineroar and Tapu Koko as pivots while getting Groudon and Xerneas in for big damage at key points.
Game 2 I led aiming at a quicker game, assuming something along the lines of an Incineroar/Solgaleo lead (against which I could have Protected Don and switched Xerneas into Incineroar, or if he led incorrectly, simply Geomancied turn 1). On turn 1 of game 2, I still thought his Kyurem was Assault Vest, and I guessed that Ice Beam from Modest max Kyurem-White was a roll on Careful Groudon (Groudon actually lives this easily barring a boosting item or a crit) so I decided to just Precipice Blades and see. He ended up switching Kyurem to Incineroar and let me deal massive damage to both of his mons. This basically gave me a turn 1 advantage, which he was unable to recover from.
Round 5: Kyle Hudson – WW (ended 5-3, T32)
After I lost to James Baek in the MSS, I re-evaluated how to properly deal with Tornadus/Tsareena/Kyogre compositions. I decided that leading Venusaur/Groudon was the only option to have any chance of victory if they had Tsareena. Game 1, I won turn 1 off a Grass Knot crit on his Kyogre. Game 2, he forgot about Gen 7 Gale Wings mechanics and locked his Kyogre into Water Spout while it took a Z-Brave Bird, which basically sealed the game. On any other occasion, or in a rematch, I probably would have lost.
Round 6: Ashton Cox – WLW (ended 7-1, T8)
This was immediately after he played Diana on stream running the same team as me. I knew that in order to win this matchup, I could not play safe. I would have to read him every turn and get some damage roll luck in my favor. Game 1 we both led Xerneas stuff. I ended up winning by getting a switch into Talonflame and Z-Brave Birding his Xerneas. Game 2 he led Crobat/Lunala, and I didn’t bring Koko. I ended up Z-Tailwinding with Talonflame, because my only win condition at that point in game 2 was him messing up and getting a Brave Bird/Flare Blitz crit into his mons (I did get to crit his Incineroar, but still lost. It was amusing though). Game 3 I led Tapu Koko/Xerneas and he led Xerneas again. Turn 1 I believe I Z-Thunderbolted and Geomancied, while he Fake Outed my Xerneas and Protected. Somehow he got Amoonguss in and Rage Powdered, and I went for a double Gleam, managing to get the KO on his Xerneas with a roll that was most certainly not in my favor. He immediately forfeited the next turn, because he had apparently brought Kommo-o in the back.
Round 7: Brandon Huang – WW (ended 6-2, 2nd)
Brandon ended up leading Tapu Koko/Lunala with Kyogre/Kartana in the back both games in our Swiss set. I ended up getting the turn 1 predict on his Lunala using Roar game 1, and eventually ended up Z-Brave Birding his Kyogre. Game 2 I predicted his Nature’s Madness + Z-Moongeist target, then was able to win with a Xerneas setup.
Round 8: Zheyuan Huang – WLL (ended 7-1, T8)
All I remember from this set was that we were both Timid max Speed Xerneas with Snarl Incineroar. The entire set basically revolved around which Xerneas won the Speed tie and/or got a Special Attack drop on the opposing Xerneas with Moonblast. He did reveal fast Waterium Kyogre and Fake Out-less Smeargle at some point, and he also missed a Lovely Kiss.
End of Day 1 Swiss:
15W-4L in games, 7-1 in sets. I ended up cutting as the first seed going into top cut.
Top 8: Brandon Huang – WLL – Stream
I knew that with a night of preparation, Brandon would probably change up his lead and go with Incineroar/Lunala with Kyogre and Kartana in back. My matchup was good as long as I didn’t get unlucky. I assumed his Incineroar had U-turn, so I knew I would have to be extremely careful to not give him a free U-turn into Kyogre. Missing Snarl and Precipice Blades in game 2 hurt, but hitting them would not have necessarily won me the game.
Game 3, I went for a Xerneas sweep lead. I ended up missing a Snarl on his Lunala, which if it hit would have allowed me to win with a Gleam/Moonblast and Snarl/U-turn the following turn. I attempted to try and win after that point, but fell short.
Final record: 16W-6L, 5th place (21W-8L if you include the MSS).
In the future, I would like to give this team some more Kyogre and Xerneas answers. I may end up dropping this team if Kyogre/Tornadus becomes more common in the future. Either way, I hope that Talonflame compositions see more play in the near future.
I would like to extend special thanks to all the people who helped me along the way including:
- Diana Bros (@eshivgc) who worked on this team with me and took Talonflame to Dallas as well
- The rest of the Talon Cult including @AnimusVGC, @AbsurdityVGC, @AuraRayquaza, and @AtmosphereVGC
- @PyreonVGC for helping with not only some of the theorizing, but also building ideas
- Everyone who helped me practice and test matchups
Credit to All0412 for the featured image