Bringing the Drought to Cannes – A Top 8 Report

Hi, my name is Bartosz Ekiert, also known as Naociak. I still think of myself as a relatively new player, as I started playing VGC seriously after Worlds 17. Since then, I’ve managed to cut a few events, the most recent one being the Special Event in beautiful french Cannes. Other than that I also cut the Bremen, Tours and Frankfurt regionals, but unfortunately I can never get through that top 8 match, still awaiting the brick. Being a member of Rest of Europe for the World Cup and New Bark Loud Puppies for NPA 8 really let me develop as a player though so I know getting there is just a matter of time. Even though I didn’t accomplish anything particularly impressive, I was asked to write a report and since I really like this team and thought I understood it pretty well, I figured I could share with the community. Anyways, let’s get to the team!

The Team

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Light (Xerneas) @ Power Herb
Ability: Fairy Aura
Level: 50
Shiny: Yes
EVs: 84 HP / 4 Def / 164 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Geomancy
– Moonblast
– Dazzling Gleam
– Protect

This team is very similar to the Yveltal-Groudon build that became popular towards the end of Sun series and stayed relevant at the beginning of Moon. The only different Pokémon than that original six is Xerneas instead of Assault Vest Yveltal. This obviously affects how the team should be played as a whole, but in general I preferred the way it works having the threat of the best Pokémon in the game able to sweep many games rather than the supportive counterpart that would tank hits instead. The spread is not too complicated, Timid max speed simply because regardless how well you play, there’s always going to be situations where Xerneas will face another Xerneas and the speed advantage can be game-deciding. Obviously running Modest has its advantages, but personally I like fast Xerneas the most and hence decided to go with it. The little bulk is meant to live Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom and Water Spout. It should be noted that Xerneas is not a necessary pick for each battle, in fact I often find it benched. The metagame has obviously adapted to be able to counter most obvious Xerneas lead combinations and not fall to a sweep so I very rarely find myself trying to set up Xerneas in early game, rather slowly chip the opposing team and position myself so that it can safely Geomancy in the endgame to seal up the game.

  • 252+ SpA Kyogre Water Spout (150 BP) vs. 84 HP / 4 SpD Xerneas in Rain: 178-211 (83.9 – 99.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252 SpA Lunala Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom vs. 84 HP / 4 SpD Xerneas: 178-211 (83.9 – 99.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Darkness (Groudon) @ Iapapa Berry
Ability: Drought
Level: 50
EVs: 196 HP / 60 Atk / 4 Def / 236 SpD / 12 Spe
Careful Nature
– Precipice Blades
– Fire Punch
– Swords Dance
– Protect

Honestly probably the most important member of the team. Necessary against rain teams to change to weather and usually very threatening offensively against any non-rain team. The bulk is absolutely essential to sponge some big hits and water moves from Kyogre on a switch in. The lack of offensive investment is made up for with Swords Dance which lets Groudon become a big threat on turns where my opponent plays passively, like whenever they Protect and switch into Incineroar. Extremely strong against Trick Room teams where respecting the threat of Venusaur’s Sleep Powder, Groudon usually gets a free turn while they try to set up Trick Room. Utilising that turn for Swords Dance set up, Groudon instantly becomes a great tool to deal with the opposing team. As for the second attacking move, Stone Edge seems to have become more popular than Fire Punch, however having Tapu Koko, Stakataka and Xerneas on the team as well, the need to hit opposing Yveltal or Ho-Oh with Groudon isn’t as big anymore. Instead, another way of dealing with Tsareena and Ferrothorn takes precedence. Having a move with 100% accuracy is also always nice to seal up some endgames. The bulk takes some nice hits, most notably +2 Timid Moonblast. It’s also worth noting that both Groudon and Incineroar have exactly the same HP and SpDef stats, which makes calculating damage done to one or another during the game so much easier.

  • +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 196 HP / 236+ SpD Groudon: 169-199 (84.5 – 99.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252 SpA Lunala Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom vs. 196 HP / 236+ SpD Groudon: 139-165 (69.5 – 82.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Kyogre Water Spout (150 BP) vs. 196 HP / 236+ SpD Groudon in Sun: 90-108 (45 – 54%) — 36.7% chance to 2HKO
  • 252 SpA Kyogre Water Spout (150 BP) vs. 196 HP / 236+ SpD Groudon in Sun: 84-98 (42 – 49%) — guaranteed 3HKO
  • +2 60 Atk Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Kyogre: 163-193 (92.6 – 109.6%) — 56.3% chance to OHKO

Dream (Venusaur) @ Focus Sash
Ability: Chlorophyll
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Sludge Bomb
– Grass Knot
– Sleep Powder
– Protect

Venusaur paired with Groudon is extremely threatening and everyone knows that. Threatening Sleep Powders left and right wins lots of matchups, however it shouldn’t be always abused. Often times you don’t need to put things to sleep to win the game, but more often than not, contrary to what a lot of people say, you won’t lose the game if you miss a Sleep Powder. Or at the very least you should be able to play the game so that you don’t. Nevertheless, clicking Sleep Powder can be vital in lots of games. You should never rely on getting multiple sleep turns though, unless you can’t win otherwise. Always assuming they will wake up after 1 turn of sleep is a healthy habit. As for this set, the spread is self-explanatory, Timid is chosen over Modest as the superior version to run Venusaur – the damage is not nearly as important as outspeeding/speed tieing other Venusaur and outspeeding Modest Kyogre without sun. Sash helps in a number of situations letting you take a Flare Blitz or another strong move without going down and hopefully still outspeeding and threatening Sleep Powders.

  • 252 SpA Venusaur Grass Knot (120 BP) vs. 4 HP / 4 SpD Groudon: 186-222 (105.6 – 126.1%) — guaranteed OHKO

Heart (Tapu Koko) @ Electrium Z
Ability: Electric Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Thunderbolt
– Volt Switch
– Grass Knot
– Protect

Pretty standard set with some small subtleties. Volt Switch is the move you’re gonna be using most often to be honest, Thunderbolt is necessary for stronger z-move and times you actually want to stay in. Some people suggested Thunder for extra damage since the main offensive move is actually clicked pretty rarely, which I could agree with if it wasn’t for the sun. 50% accuracy is simply unacceptable. The 4th move was chosen as Grass Knot so that Tapu Koko won’t be walled by Groudon and Landorus, and actually do some damage to the first one. However, the damage it deals is actually still pretty pitiful so it comes to play incredibly rarely. This move slot is by far the most redundant on the whole team. I’ve spent the whole evening before the event considering all the moves Tapu Koko gets access to, but all of them are lacking something. Taunt, Discharge, Thunder, Grass Knot, Light Screen, Dazzling Gleam, Electroweb, Calm Mind, Hidden Power Fire, Nature’s Madness and Sky Drop are all potential options that have some utility and I really am not sure which one’s the best, but after playing with this team for quite a while, I think Dazzling Gleam would actually be better here. Modest nature is great as there’s really not anything we need to outspeed with Timid, the most notable Pokémon being Salazzle which is extremely rare, which although, to be fair is a huge pain to handle while Modest. However, being slower than the opposing Tapu Koko is usually beneficial, as we get the slower Volt Switch. But most importantly the damage Modest can do is just way too important. It can OHKO a Xerneas and Assault Vest Yveltal that is EVed to survive Gigavolt Havoc from Timid and also pretty much always OHKOs Lunala if only the Shadow Shield is popped.

  • 252+ SpA Tapu Koko Gigavolt Havoc (175 BP) vs. 4 HP / 4 SpD Xerneas in Electric Terrain: 202-238 (100 – 117.8%) — guaranteed OHKO
  • 252+ SpA Tapu Koko Gigavolt Havoc (175 BP) vs. 220 HP / 244 SpD Stakataka in Electric Terrain: 157-186 (95.7 – 113.4%) — 75% chance to OHKO

Friend (Incineroar) (M) @ Figy Berry
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 236 HP / 36 Def / 236 SpD
Sassy Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Knock Off
– Flare Blitz
– U-turn
– Fake Out

This is a very standard Incineroar with the classic 4 moves that simply are performing the best on this team. Never felt like Snarl or Roar are particularly necessary on here, while Knock Off is extremely useful to deal big damage to Lunala and knock some items off, such as catching Scarf Kyogre on the switch in. Cannot stress how important U-Turn is. Repositioning is key for this team. The standard 236 / 236 bulk survives a +2 Timid Moonblast. I decided to put the remaining EVs into defense to get better rolls against Precipice Blades. There was no point in investing in speed, in fact I decided to go min speed with this Incineroar and I’m incredibly happy with that decision. One important element was being able to always underspeed Tsareena, even if they are min speed, so that Incineroar can protect Stakataka in Trick Room. However, much more importantly, it’s absolutely essential to be always able to U-Turn last for better repositioning and possible weather advantage. Sometimes you can even predict your opponent to U-Turn into something before you and attack the incoming slot with Flare Blitz or Knock Off to get that item.

  • +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 236 HP / 236+ SpD Incineroar: 169-199 (84.5 – 99.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • -1 252+ Atk Life Orb Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 236 HP / 36 Def Incineroar: 172-203 (86 – 101.5%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO

Normal Sprite

Memories (Stakataka) @ Shuca Berry
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 220 HP / 44 Atk / 244 SpD
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Rock Slide
– Gyro Ball
– Trick Room
– Protect

This is the last member of the team, just as important as any other. I think Stakataka is really strong in Moon series, being able to sweep a number of teams with some support from its teammates. Having a Trick Room option is often a way to win games and a Pokémon that can take a +2 Moonblast and OHKO in return is invaluable. The spread is optimised to live Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom and +2 Dazzling Gleam + Moonblast, while preserving reasonable offense to be able to 2HKO Incineroar. Shuca Berry is the item of choice to be able to safely take a hit from Groudon. This actually comes in clutch incredibly often, especially since people often don’t expect Stakataka to be able to eat it up and set up Trick Room to swing the game back in its favour.

  • 252 SpA Lunala Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom vs. 220 HP / 244 SpD Stakataka: 141-166 (85.9 – 101.2%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO
  • +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 220 HP / 244 SpD Stakataka: 85-101 (51.8 – 61.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Dazzling Gleam vs. 220 HP / 244 SpD Stakataka: 54-63 (32.9 – 38.4%) — 98.7% chance to 3HKO
  • 252+ Atk Life Orb Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 220 HP / 0 Def Shuca Berry Stakataka: 127-151 (77.4 – 92%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ Atk Choice Band Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 220 HP / 0 Def Shuca Berry Stakataka: 146-174 (89 – 106%) — 37.5% chance to OHKO
  • 44+ Atk Stakataka Rock Slide vs. 236 HP / 4 Def Incineroar: 102-120 (51 – 60%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • -1 44+ Atk Stakataka Rock Slide vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Volcarona: 168-204 (104.3 – 126.7%) — guaranteed OHKO
  • 44+ Atk Stakataka Gyro Ball (150 BP) vs. 4 HP / 4 Def Xerneas: 252-296 (124.7 – 146.5%) — guaranteed OHKO
  • -1 252+ Atk Groudon Tectonic Rage (190 BP) vs. 220 HP / 0 Def Shuca Berry Stakataka: 138-164 (84.1 – 100%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO

Core Combinations and Common Leads

+

Extremely strong and threatening lead, good when you need to put some things to sleep. Opponents always have to respect it and so their lead options become much more limited. By putting things to sleep, setting up the sun and having a fast Venusaur that can Sleep Powder anytime, you force the opponent to adapt to the threat while in the meantime you can set up Groudon or Xerneas after some repositioning. Always begin the team preview by thinking: ‘what can they do to stop VenuDon from just wrecking them completely?’. Try to answer this question as this is exactly what’s going on through their head and can let you predict their lead much more easily.

+

Another classic lead, Fake Out pressure and Geomancy pressure. Can be very threatening, and against some teams it’s the best way to go in at least one game of a set. To be perfectly honest, I’m not a big fan of this as a lead in this team, but it’s definitely an option. However, more importantly, this can be extremely strong later on in the game. Often times you start the game by getting rid of some threat or burning opposing Fake Out and later can see that you can pretty much win the game if you can get Xerneas + Incineroar in at the same time as long as one Pokémon is not present on the field, or something like that. It’s always good to keep that in mind.

+

This lead is often adapted against Kyogre teams that don’t have Tornadus. It punishes Kyogre lead a lot and if they don’t bring it you can switch Groudon and always have the option of Volt Switching out into it again, or bringing something else entirely.

+

Similar as the one mentioned above, this lead allows repositioning very easily, being able to both Volt Switch Koko out and U-turn with Incineroar. Tapu Koko threatening big Gigavolt Havoc and having Fake Out pressure makes it not as passive as it might seem.

+

This is an interesting lead that works really well against Xerneas + Smeargle teams. Electric terrain ensures nothing can be put to sleep, and both Pokémon threaten Xerneas immensely with Gigavolt Havoc and Gyro Ball. Stakataka can also set up Trick Room, while Tapu Koko can Volt Switch out into Groudon that can be scary in Trick Room or Incineroar that can help to set it up with its Fake Out, while also popping Smeargle’s Focus Sash. It’s also good against Lunala as Volt Switch is ideal for popping Shadow Shield and leaves the option of bringing Incineroar to sponge the Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom.

+(+)

Not the most common lead, but one that lets you set up Trick Room quickly. It’s not a good idea against a number of teams as the opposing faster Fake Out can be a pain and Lunala is unaffected by it and can threaten with a Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom into Stakataka, while Incineroar is on the field and can’t be switched in to take the hit. But it’s worth noting that these 3 make up the Trick Room mode of the team and are very often brought together.

Team Match-ups

+

My plan here is almost always lead Tapu Koko + Stakataka with Incineroar and Groudon in the back. The game consists of 2 parts. The first part is trying to burn their Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom. In general, Stakataka sweeps most of their team and is the main win condition. They obviously respect it a lot so they will be trying to get the z-move on it, which is exactly what we need to deny. For that reason Volt Switching into Lunala is great. From experience I know that if they Protect, you actually want to stay in, so don’t bother trying to Volt Switch the other slot. Trying to get Incineroar in when expecting the z move is crucial, but burning it with Stakataka’s Protect also works and getting the z-move eaten by the full health Groudon to activate berry is another option. After this has been accomplished the second part of the game begins. Namely, it’s all about their Xerneas. You either need to get the Gyro Ball on it or Gigavolt Havoc before it sets up. Trick Room is often the way to go, but often it’s better to try to Gyro Ball it as it sets up, not to let them try to stall out the Trick Room with cycling Incineroar. Min speed Incineroar is great here as it offers protection against opposing min speed Tsareena in Trick Room, which is often the only thing that can touch Stakataka after having burned their z-move. Overall, if played well, I think this is an advantageous match-up.

++

This is the really awkward mirror. The best answer for Venusaur + Groudon is your own Venusaur + Groudon, which makes it so annoying to play. Sleep Powders missing can make or break the game here and there’s not much you can do about it. One thing I can say though, is that it’s never worth protecting Groudon turn 1. If they want to put it to sleep they can still do so turn 2 and you want to burn those sleep turns sooner than later. Also, if they miss Sleep Powder that can be amazing, while if they attack your Venusaur while you Protect Groudon it’s horrible. The idea is usually to try and get rid of the opposing Venusaur and then sweep with Xerneas. Obviously both sides are trying to do the same thing so it’s bound to come to reads and RNG. When playing against most Venusaur + Groudon compositions, since it’s basically a mirror, no one’s a favourite, but at least you’re not behind. However, if they have Heatran, the match-up becomes horrible. Heatran + Venusaur destroys this team and it’s really hard to do anything. I think that’s the worst match-up of all.

++

Volcarona is incredibly scary with its Firium Z and becomes a huge threat the second the sun goes up. The most common composition against that for me would be leading Incineroar + Stakataka to have a reliable way of setting up Trick Room fast to be able to deal with Volcarona, having Groudon to sweep lots of things in Trick Room and finishing up with Venusaur to deal with the opposing Groudon once Trick Room is over. This is definitely not an easy game, but it’s manageable. The big issue is that if they lead something like Tapu Koko + Volcarona, we can obviously Fake Out Volcarona and set up Trick Room, BUT they can use this turn to double switch into Groudon and Incineroar and start setting up Swords Dance. The most reliable way to deal with their Pokémon in a situation like this is setting up your own Groudon. The issue is you would need to predict them switching out correctly or otherwise you could take too much damage on the first turn. Another way of handling this match-up would be to try leading Tapu Koko + Xerneas as Gigavolt Havoc threatens KO onto Volcarona, while Xerneas can set up and deal with the rest of the team. This also blocks potential Spores from Amoonguss. This approach usually makes them save Volcarona for later, which requires some planning of how to use your resources to be able to deal with it in the endgame and not letting it nuke you to death.

++

There’s 2 main game plans I have against this archetype. The first is leading Xerneas + Venusaur which works pretty well against their classic Incineroar + Tornadus lead they often use against Xerneas Groudon teams. The idea is not to let them pop your Focus Sash with Fake Out and utilise the turns they’re spending Taunting both of your Pokémon by KOing Tornadus. When they’re down to 3 Pokémon and can’t Rain Dance anymore, the game becomes much more manageable having bulky Groudon in the back to change the weather whenever needed. The other game plan is to lead Venusaur + Groudon with Stakataka and Xerneas in the back, which works better against Tornadus + Kyogre lead. By having the weather advantage, Venusaur outspeeds Kyogre and threatens a Sleep Powder essentially forcing the opposing Tornadus to Taunt it and therefore not being able to Rain Dance and having to switch Kyogre out. In the meantime you should usually go for Sludge Bomb onto Tornadus and switch out Groudon. Two hits of Sludge Bomb/Dazzling Gleam/Rock Slide should be enough to KO, after which once again, you have the Pokémon advantage and should be good to go. It’s also worth noting that if they set up Tailwind, it’s often best not to KO Tornadus too fast not giving them a free switch in, as offensively it doesn’t threaten the team much other than Venusaur. Setting up Trick Room can often win you the game. A thing that I did quite a few times was to actually try to set up Trick Room and then set up Xerneas. With Trick Room up you can Geomancy before being hit by Scarf Kyogre and that can sometimes seal up the game.

+/

This match-up is all about repositioning. I love playing it, because it requires positional thinking pretty much every single turn and that teaches you a lot. If you misplay on one turn it’s over, but if you play it well I’d say the match-up is favourable, especially if they don’t have Tapu Lele. Lead Tapu Koko + Groudon with Incineroar and Xerneas in the back or swap Groudon with Incineroar if you expect Tapu Lele + Incineroar. The main win condition is setting up with Xerneas while protecting it from powerful Water Spouts or z-moves. However, you shouldn’t be trying to jump the gun and do it fast, it usually takes many turns of repositioning and chipping your opponent before you eventually find yourself in a good spot. The key in this MU is to keep asking yourself the same question every single turn. ‘What if they switch/U-turn into Kyogre here?’. You can never find yourself in a situation where they get in Kyogre and you can’t either switch into Groudon or Fake Out the Kyogre. I can’t stress this enough, the whole game rides on this. If you play well and reposition a bunch, eventually (usually after picking up a KO) you’ll find yourself in a position where you can finally set up Xerneas either having Fake Out or being able to switch into Groudon to reduce the incoming Water Spout damage. That’s how you seal up the game. This match-up gets much more rough when they have Tapu Lele as psychic terrain limits your Fake Out options (although bear in mind you can Fake Out as you switch in your Tapu Koko). It also demonstrates perfectly why min speed Incineroar is so good on this team, as it always allows you to get the slower U-turn for better repositioning.

+

This is a MU that I don’t have a particular game plan ready against, as I think there is a number of solid options. Stakataka can generally deal really well with the two restricted, the big issue being Landorus. On those kind of teams it’s usually Groundium Z so it’s a good idea to try to put it to sleep. Shuca Berry can be deciding in some games. Xerneas is also a good pick as it can sweep most of their team and is the best way to deal with Landorus. Watch out for Haze Tapu Fini and double Snarl from Yveltal and Incineroar though, which can make your Geomancy go to waste. Tapu Koko is also a pick worth considering as thanks to being Modest it can threaten KO with Gigavolt Havoc on both Xerneas and Yveltal as well as usually Tapu Fini.

+

This recently common team with Landorus-T, Raichu, Toxicroak and Ferrothorn/Amoonguss is a huge pain to deal with. You pretty much need Stakataka to deal with Ho-Oh, and you obviously need Groudon against Kyogre to change the weather, bringing Tapu Koko is limited by their Raichu and Landorus-T, and Xerneas is the only reliable way to deal with their Landorus-T. Venusaur is tempting to try to put things to sleep, and finally Incineroar is kind of needed against Ferrothorn. It’s extremely hard to play. One of the first things to establish is whether their Ho-Oh is Flyinium Z or Safety Goggles or pinch berry. Same goes for Landorus-T. You kind of want to put some things to sleep first, but if you get denied with Safety Goggles the game is usually over, so it’s especially hard coming in without knowing the sets. If the Ho-Oh doesn’t have Whirlwind you can try to sweep with Xerneas with proper support, but that’s easier said than done. Tapu Koko can be really good if they don’t bring Raichu but that’s always a risk. There is no general game plan against this team, but you find my NPA W5 match if you want to see how to handle it. When I was in Cannes, I was incredibly scared of facing this team as I have never played it before and I knew of at least 3 players running it, two of whom actually cut as well.

Rundown of Tournament

I came into the tournament really laid back, because for the first time in the season I wasn’t actually caring all that much about the result. I just wanted to have some fun and see my friends and the beautiful Cannes didn’t disappoint me. Despite all that, seeing the pairings for round 1 was a bit of a shock. Alekso is a friend of mine, fellow Rest of Europe World Cup team member, so it was sad we had a teamkill in the first round already. Even more concerning than that was the fact that I knew what he was running and it was, as I mentioned before, pretty much the worst match-up for my team. So as we were sitting there, waiting for the round to start, I started thinking of how the hell am I supposed to beat that team and I knew I have to call everything right.

Round 1: Alekso Letexier – WW

Game – 1
My Team
+

,

Opponent’s Team
+

,

I predicted him going for the lead those teams usually tend to choose. I knew I cannot set up the sun for the opposing Venusaur, but I also need to get rid of it as fast as I can, without letting it put things to sleep. My lead accomplished exactly that, I knew that Heatran will feel very pressured in front of what he knew was Z-move Tapu Koko and therefore is either going to Protect or switch into Groudon, as it did opt for Protect. In the meantime I went for Gigavolt Havoc and Sludge Bomb onto his Venusaur, hoping I win the speed tie and get the KO before it moves, but I unfortunately moved second and therefore lost my Tapu Koko in the process, but more importantly I did manage to get rid of his Venusaur witch was the biggest threat to my team and it allowed my Groudon to come in (as did his) and threaten his Heatran with Precipice Blades. The game became much more manageable from that point and I managed to pull out the win.

Game – 2
My Team
+

,

Opponent’s Team
+

,

I knew that he’s going to be flustered after the previous game and decide to switch it up to Venusaur + Groudon lead, which would destroy my previous lead, as well as any other of my leads other than the mirror. Having called it correctly again, I still needed to outplay my opponent which was not an easy task. Turn 1 I switched my Venusaur into Tapu Koko expecting Sleep Powder onto my Groudon and went for Precipice Blades to get the damage onto his Venusaur. He went for Sludge Bomb into my Venusaur slot, KOing my Tapu Koko turn 1 yet again. After I got the damage onto both of his Pokémon I could bring in my own Venusaur and pressure a KO on both of them. I don’t remember everything about this game, but I remember I needed to call 2 turns correctly and I did, eventually being able to deal with his Groudon and Xerneas. I’m still not quite sure how I managed to beat this match-up, but it made me incredibly happy and confident going into the next rounds.

Round 2 – Sylvain de la Crompe – WW

Game – 1
My Team
+

,

Opponent’s Team
+

,

When I first saw the team I thought it looked not so optimal, but at the same time scary for me to handle because of the multiple threats. I recognised that Venusaur can put things to sleep to make the whole game much nicer and I managed to get 3 turn sleep on his Tapu Lele, which helped out as I didn’t play perfectly. After that I tried to set up Trick Room and sweep from there with Stakataka. I remember that I managed to do exactly that as Stakataka was able to take -1 Tectonic Rage from his Groudon thanks to Shuca Berry and he was incredibly surprised when he saw it survive.

Game – 2
My Team
+

,

Opponent’s Team
+

,

Once again I managed to put Tapu Lele to sleep turn 1 as his Ho-Oh went for Sacred Fire onto my Venusaur and got the burn to KO despite the Focus Sash. I then brought Stakataka and set up Trick Room and as I knew my Groudon is slower than his, so after setting up Swords Dance, I swept his whole team.

Round 3: Edoardo Giunipero – WW

Game – 1
My Team
+

,

Opponent’s Team
+

,

Even though this wasn’t the standard Oceania variant of Xerneas Lunala, I decided to go with the same strategy and see where it gets me. Supposedly Edoardo actually knew my team since he remembered it from my NPA match, so he knew Stakataka doesn’t have Safety Goggles. I, on the other hand, knew his Lunala has Wide Guard and Roar and played accordingly. I think I managed to sponge his Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom with my Incineroar and won the game very cleanly.

Game – 2
My Team
+

,

Opponent’s Team
+

,

This time around he decided to go with the set up + redirection mode. I managed to set up Trick Room but his Amoonguss could still redirect my Gyro Balls. I don’t actually completely remember this game, but I remember I had a plan where I would set up Swords Dance with my Groudon and realised pretty late that it will not be enough to win given the position I put myself in, as the Amoonguss would get a Grass Knot onto my Groudon to put it into +2 Dazzling Gleam KO range. I realised I messed up a bit too late but just then my trusty Groudon decided to make up for my mistake and crit the opposing Xerneas with its +2 Precipice Blades, getting the double KO. I don’t even remember the remaining two Pokémon as my opponent forfeit right after that. Wasn’t quite satisfied with the way I won, but we take those.

Round 4: Filippo Capurro – WW

Game – 1
My Team
+

,

Opponent’s Team
+

,

I went with the Venusaur Groudon mode as I recently practiced it a lot and I felt confident with it. I managed to put Incineroar to sleep as well as Xerneas on the switch in and get a 3 turn sleep, which made everything that much easier. His Kyogre turned out to be Waterium Z, which was an important piece of information for the next game.

Game – 2
My Team
+

,

Opponent’s Team
+

,

Since he opted for the Tornadus + Incineroar lead for G1, expecting the same thing G2, I decided to switch it up for the more classic approach. Not having to worry about Choice Scarf Kyogre made everything even easier as I managed to go through his whole team without having to put things to sleep.

Round 5: Arash Ommati – WW

Game – 1
My Team
+

,

Opponent’s Team
+

,

Arash obviously being a very tough opponent, and seeing his team suddenly made this tournament so much scarier. Turn 1 I switched in Groudon and Flare Blitzed his Amoonguss trying to get the KO as he switched into his own Incineroar and got the Intimidate off. I got lucky for the second time that day and managed to crit his Amoonguss, which put me in a much better position moving forward.

Game – 2
My Team
+

,

Opponent’s Team
+

,

This was a pretty long game that I don’t remember all about. I know that we both switched into our grass types and put the opposing Incineroar to sleep. We also both got 2 turns of sleep. In the end it came down to my Venusaur and Stakataka against his chipped Groudon and Incineroar. I needed to call right whether to Grass Knot Groudon for the KO or expect the Protect and Sleep Powder Incineroar instead, to avoid getting KOed myself and I managed to get it right. Then, at the very end, I noticed my Own Time went down to almost 0 and realised I need to hit the Rock Slide for the win or I’ll lose on time, but he decided to forfeit not going for that win condition. Not sure if he realised it, but if he did and decided he doesn’t want to try to win that way, then I respect that a lot.

Round 6: Riccardo Appamea – LWL

Game – 1
My Team
+

,

Opponent’s Team
+

,

This was a repeat from Frankfurt Regional, me and FireGohan meeting at 5-0, him bringing a crazy team and me not knowing how to deal with it. At least this time the game was much closer than the last time. I have to admit, I remember nothing about this game, other than finding out his Nihilego was Focus Sash and had Grass Knot and I think his Venusaur OHKOed my Xerneas with Life Orb Sludge Bomb from full or almost full health, which I was not expecting. I checked the calc and 252 Modest Sludge Bomb has 25% to OHKO.

Game – 2
My Team
+

,

Opponent’s Team
+

,

I thought this lead would work a bit better against what he did last time. I was scared of Venusaur and wanted to set up Trick Room to deal with it. Since I knew it wasn’t Focus Sash, I could try to OHKO it with Gyro Ball or in the worst case put it in Life Orb recoil range. The moment I saw his lead my heart stopped for just a second as I realised I’m Intimidating the Malamar with my Incineroar and Stakataka on the field. However, when I analysed the situation again, this was actually fine as I went for Fake Out into his Malamar and set up Trick Room as I think Incineroar avoided Nature’s Madness. From that point I could U-turn the Malamar what I imagined would KO it along with Gyro Ball chip. He switched it out and as I U-turned into my own Groudon I started sweeping in Trick Room as he had no Intimidate and my Stakataka could take a hit from his Groudon thanks to Shuca Berry. I managed to win the game.

Game – 3
My Team
+

,

Opponent’s Team
+

,

He now knew that my Stakataka is not carrying Safety Goggles so he countered my previous lead with Malamar + Venusaur, where Malamar would be able to go for Superpower and Venusaur would be able to Sleep Powder the Stakataka. Expecting that adjustment and still wanting to bring both Incineroar and Stakataka I was forced to go for Venusaur + Groudon lead. This game was a bit of a mess, we both put our leads to sleep, eventually I managed to set up Trick Room and expecting him to switch out his Malamar again I didn’t go for the KO on it as it reversed Trick Room. Surprised by this trick, as I didn’t even know Malamar gets Trick Room, I fell so far behind I couldn’t get back and lost.

Round 7: Michele Gavelli – LWW

Game – 1
My Team
+

,

Opponent’s Team
+

,

The win and in match. Since I knew my resistance is not great, I needed to actually win or I knew I’d miss cut. Another really strong opponent I needed to treat seriously and not an easy, but manageable match-up. G1 is another game that I don’t really remember. I know that I was actually a bit surprised with his lead as I barely ever faced it in this match-up. It caught me a bit off guard and I lost.

Game – 2
My Team
+

,

Opponent’s Team
+

,

I was a bit annoyed at myself for having lost the previous game as I realised I haven’t practiced how to play against that lead in this match-up using my previous lead, and it didn’t work out too well the first time I tried. I decided to switch it up to the traditional approach with Xerneas + Venusaur. I managed to put his Incineroar to sleep, I soon found out that our Xerneases are both max speed, but in this particular match-up I had the advantage having Venusaur being able to put things to sleep and having an unused Fake Out in the back as well as the ability to negate his weather with my Groudon. Utilising this edge, I managed to pick up the win.

Game – 3
My Team
+

,

Opponent’s Team
+

,

My opponent seemed confident in the team selection, even though I clearly felt like I have the advantage in the last game. Thinking he’s confident to bring the same 4 again, I went with the same game plan. This time I think he switched his Xerneas out and then back in as I put it to sleep on the switch. In the meantime I set up my own Xerneas, chipped his Xerneas and Incineroar with Dazzling Gleam and was going to KO his Xerneas with Flare Blitz but I forgot that I’m intimidated and the sun is not up so I would need a crit or a burn. I didn’t get either but the Xerneas stayed asleep for the 3rd turn, not getting a chance to set up its own Geomancy, which finally sealed the game. To be fair, at this point he needed to not get crit, burned, wake up and win the speed tie so the odds were on my side. I managed to pick up the win and finish 6-1 advancing to top cut, as did my opponent with his 5-2 as the 8th seed.

Top 8: Jamie Boyt – WLL

Game – 1
My Team
+

,

Opponent’s Team
+

,

What a crazy team I had to face. Had absolutely no clue what to do at first, scouted his team the day before and got some info, then tried to prepare a bit. My thought process was that he must have a general way of dealing with the two common combinations that I have: Venusaur + Groudon and Incineroar + Xerneas. I knew he’s been working on this team for a while so I expected him to be completely prepared for that. Trying a few different things in my prep, I especially like this lead so I went with it. I expected him to lead Salazzle, but not really with Serperior alongside it. Seeing that, I double Protected turn 1 denying him the option to set up Serperior using Leaf Storm and I wanted to bait Encore from the Salazzle on the next turn while I switch Stakataka out. This play seemed good at the time, but as I Volt Switched and switched Stakataka out into Incineroar the next turn, I realised the horrible mistake that I made. Yes, this play makes a lot of sense given this particular moment in this game, but I’m going for Volt Switch at the time when Salazzle is going for Encore. This meant that I revealed right there, at the very beginning of the set that my Tapu Koko is actually slower than his Salazzle as unfortunately I’m Modest. I’d say the play worked out at the time, but this information was so huge, it completely changed the game. I managed to set up Trick Room and kind of sweep from there. I needed a bit more luck than I thought I would though, as at one point my Incineroar went for Flare Blitz into his Excadrill and managed to pick up the KO, which I was sure was natural, but then I saw it was actually a crit. At the same time Jamie couldn’t hide his disappointment and shook his head revealing that his Excadrill was in fact EVed to survive that. In the end I managed to set up Xerneas before Trick Room ran out and finish the game with the win, getting some more info as his Xerneas survived my +2 Moonblast and revealed to be slower as well.

Game – 2
My Team
+

,

Opponent’s Team
+

,

This time around I needed to play a bit differently as he knew his Salazzle outspeeds my Tapu Koko. I almost started regretting running Modest over Timid, but I still think the choice was correct, I just happened to get unlucky to actually face a Salazzle. Since I didn’t have any game plan prepared against that lead, I went with the lead I practiced the most. I knew that this match comes down to some reads between me and him. To do that I think I tried to Trick Room in front of Serperior with Taunt, but he called it right. The next turn I thought he would expect me to switch out Stakataka not to let it get Encored into Protect so I went for Rock Slide, but he got it right again, which put me too far behind. Later, I remember that whatever chance of winning I thought I had disappeared when I switched in Incineroar at around 70% health to take the Earthquake from Excadrill with my Stakataka and activate Incineroar’s berry threatening Flare Blitz KO next turn. When I did that, his Earthquake actually ended up KOing, revealing it’s in fact Choice Band Excadrill, contrary to the information I got from someone the day before, which said it was supposed to be Choice Scarf.

Game – 3
My Team
+

,

Opponent’s Team
+

,

This was probably the worst game for me. At this point the nerves just got to me. After winning G1 I felt like finally getting that brick is so close, but then I got destroyed G2. I got very flustered and wasn’t sure what to do for G3. Thought about switching to Venusaur + Groudon lead, but I couldn’t figure out the full game plan for that in time as I was scared of the Serperior. In retrospect I really should have done that. However, not knowing what to do, I ended up doing the same thing as he brought Salazzle and Kommo-O this time around. I tried to Volt Switch and Protected the Stakataka as he Sludge Bombed my Tapu Koko for the KO and set up Substitute with his Kommo-O. The game was already over.

Conclusion

In the end it was a bit disappointing to be out in top 8 once again, still awaiting that brick, but I have to say that Cannes was absolutely amazing and I probably had the most fun at any event ever there, hanging out with all the people. It turned out (possibly unsurprisingly) that the best results come out when you don’t push yourself and don’t intimidate yourself with expectations, instead try to have fun and enjoy the event. Oh, and listening to Initial D soundtrack between the rounds gets the fire going.

I’d like to shoutout to a bunch of people. First of all the New Bark Loud Puppies for practice before the event and figuring out MUs together. Also Rest of Europe chat for being amazing and supportive people that became great friends and make me really happy I started playing VGC. Also special thanks to Yuree for spending the evening before the event making final optimisations and considering every single move from Tapu Koko’s movepool for the 4th slot. And finally huge shoutout to Ketchupplant (best dutch vgc, sorry Rob) for being an amazing partner for testing and preparing for my top 8 match!

Credit to @bogna_brozyna for the featured image

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