JoeUX9 is Winning Nats: A Day 2 NAIC Report

Hey guys! My name is Joseph Ugarte, a fairly new VGC player who started in late 2017. This tournament was big for me since I needed top 8 for my Worlds invite, so I put a ton of time and work into this team for Nats. Although it didn’t produce the result I wanted, I made a team I was really proud of and that was, most importantly, fun, which was my main goal. This team initially was my idea, and went through many different phases, but with some help from Calvin I was able to evolve this team into something I was super proud of. David Smith and his brother also used this team at NAIC, and they helped with testing specific matchups. After this tournament, I realized that a lot of VGC is preparation and team building as much as it is playing, and this tournament gave me a lot of invaluable experience I will carry into my future years playing.

Team’s Achievements

  • Top 32 NAIC

The Team

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Groudon-Primal @ Red Orb
Ability: Desolate Land
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Eruption
– Earth Power
– Hidden Power [Ice] – Protect

This variant of RayDon thrives on playing hyper offensively and picking up knockouts in quick succession. Due to the nature of the team, we decided to opt for a special Groudon set as it proves to be extremely threatening under Tailwind. Crobat serves as a great supportive partner by being able chunk Pokémon with Super Fang before Groudon uses Eruption, or by negating the opponent’s efforts to Protect in front of Groudon through Taunt. It’s a very oppressive pair which can sweep through an opponent’s team if they have little to no Fire resists. With our Rayquaza being a physically oriented set, we also did not want both of our restricted Pokémon being hindered by Intimidate, so a special set allowed us to not be negatively impacted by Attack drops. With Salamence being an inherent issue for RayDon, we realized that Hidden Power Ice was almost a necessity on this set, and it was one of the few techs we added to combat it.

  • 252 SpA Primal Groudon Eruption (150 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Xerneas in Harsh Sun: 160-190 (79.2 – 94%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252 SpA Primal Groudon Hidden Power Ice vs. 0 HP / 0 SpD Mega Salamence: 168-200 (98.8 – 117.6%) — 93.8% chance to OHKO

Rayquaza-Mega @ Life Orb
Ability: Delta Stream
Level: 50
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpA / 252 Spe
Hasty Nature
– Dragon Ascent
– Earth Power
– Extreme Speed
– Protect

As mentioned previously, this team functions by playing aggressively. Life Orb compliments the core really well by allowing Rayquaza to hit insanely hard with Dragon Ascent and pick up knockouts with ease. Having access to Extreme Speed also allows Rayquaza to finish off any Pokémon that have survived with a sliver of health from previous attacks. Similarly to Groudon, Rayquaza benefits a lot from the support of Crobat. Crobat has the potential to Haze away any attack or defense drops that Rayquaza may receive from Intimidate or Dragon Ascent, and also has the option to chunk Pokémon with Super Fang prior to Dragon Ascent. This Rayquaza set carries Earth Power which hits opposing Groudon extremely hard and also threatens other common Pokémon such as Tapu Koko, Stakataka, and Incineroar.

  • 252 Atk Life Orb Mega Rayquaza Dragon Ascent vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Mega Rayquaza: 172-203 (95 – 112.1%) — 68.8% chance to OHKO
  • 4 SpA Life Orb Mega Rayquaza Earth Power vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Primal Groudon: 161-192 (91.4 – 109%) — 56.3% chance to OHKO

Incineroar @ Assault Vest
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Atk / 52 Def / 108 SpD / 92 Spe
Careful Nature
– Darkest Lariat
– Snarl
– Fake Out
– U-turn

Incineroar is a staple in this year’s competitive format. It provides so much utility to a team through its access to Fake Out, Intimidate, the ability to pivot, and its great typing. You can almost throw it onto any team. However, Incineroar was incredibly valuable to this team as it significantly improved the glaring Lunala weakness. Due to the hyper offensive nature of the core, we needed a strong defensive backbone, too. Incineroar along with Ferrothorn added that, which allowed the team to pivot and tank hits. In hindsight, we believe the Incineroar spread could have been optimized further. We’ve since discussed the option of running Crunch or even Throat Chop over Darkest Lariat. Our main concern with Darkest Lariat is that it ignores opposing Rayquaza Defense drops. Crunch provides some utility through the chance to drop an opponent’s Pokémon’s defense by one stage, allowing Rayquaza to hit even harder.

  • 252+ SpA Primal Kyogre Origin Pulse vs. 252 HP / 108+ SpD Assault Vest Incineroar in Heavy Rain: 174-206 (86.1 – 101.9%) — 12.5% chance to OHKO
  • -1 252 Atk Mega Rayquaza Dragon Ascent vs. 252 HP / 52 Def Incineroar: 90-106 (44.5 – 52.4%) — 20.7% chance to 2HKO

Tapu Koko @ Fairium Z
Ability: Electric Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Thunderbolt
– Dazzling Gleam
– Volt Switch
– Protect

Tapu Koko was the star of this team, improving so many inherently weak matchups. With access to Fairium Z off of Dazzling Gleam, Tapu Koko had the ability to nuke many threats to Rayquaza and Groudon, such as Salamence, opposing Rayquaza, Ultra Necrozma, and Yveltal. Being able to threaten both Rayquaza and Kyogre made the RayOgre match up a lot less oppressive and favorable. The ability to pivot quickly with Volt Switch was really beneficial to the team, too, allowing us to bring in Rayquaza or Groudon next to Crobat after it sets up Tailwind.

  • 252 SpA Tapu Koko Twinkle Tackle (160 BP) vs. 0 HP / 0 SpD Mega Salamence: 242-288 (142.3 – 169.4%) — guaranteed OHKO
  • 252 SpA Tapu Koko Thunderbolt vs. 252 HP / 0 SpD Primal Kyogre in Electric Terrain: 126-150 (60.8 – 72.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Crobat @ Payapa Berry
Ability: Inner Focus
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
– Super Fang
– Taunt
– Haze
– Tailwind

Being the only member of the team with access to speed control, Crobat was absolutely pivotal to the success of the team. Being able to soft-check Xerneas and shut down the opponent’s speed control allowed it to disrupt the opposing team from the start of the match. It reliably carried out its duty of setting up Tailwind with Payapa Berry. In testing, we realized that a priority move such as Fake Out + an attack from a Scarfed Tapu Lele negated Crobat’s efforts when holding a Focus Sash, hence the item. As mentioned previously, Crobat had great synergy with our two restricted Pokémon. Super Fang was really oppressive when paired with Dragon Ascent from Rayquaza or Eruption from Groudon, allowing knockouts to be picked up easily.

  • 252+ SpA Tapu Lele Psyshock vs. 252 HP / 4 Def Payapa Berry Crobat in Psychic Terrain: 135-159 (70.3 – 82.8%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • +2 252 Atk Mega Rayquaza Extreme Speed vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Crobat: 140-165 (72.9 – 85.9%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Ferrothorn @ Figy Berry
Ability: Iron Barbs
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 108 Def / 148 SpD
Sassy Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Gyro Ball
– Power Whip
– Leech Seed
– Protect
Ferrothorn was the single most important member of the team for Kyogre matchups. Its amazing typing makes it a good endgame option against many Kyogre compositions once you remove the Incineroar and Rayquaza (if it has a Fire-type move or Choice Band). It is able to sit there and Leech Seed, and also punish Fake Out into incorrect slots through Iron Barbs. The EVs allow Ferrothorn to guarenteed live a -1 Flare Blitz from Incineroar and a Dragon Ascent From Choice Band Rayquaza, while still being 2HKO’d by Water Spout from Kyogre and +2 Moonblast from Xerneas.

  • 252+ Atk Choice Band Mega Rayquaza Dragon Ascent vs. 252 HP / 108 Def Ferrothorn: 157-186 (86.7 – 102.7%) — 18.8% chance to OHKO
  • -1 4 Atk Incineroar Flare Blitz vs. 252 HP / 108 Def Ferrothorn: 148-180 (81.7 – 99.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Team Play

This team is very aggressive, and focuses on grabbing important KO’s as quickly as possible. This requires good positioning skills and understanding of what is more of a threat to the composition you brought, along with calling Protects and swaps. There are usually two ways this team functions.
The first way is prioritizing speed control for you to sweep in Tailwind. This will be commonly done through a Tapu Koko + Crobat lead, and you will ensure that you are the only one getting Tailwind up. From there, whether it is sacking your Crobat or Tapu Koko/Volt Switching out, you will get either Rayquaza or Groudon in to start taking KO’s.

The second way is what I like to call “defense through offense”. You are a lot more focused on positioning here, and putting your Rayquaza where it can KO a threat to Ferrothorn. This is something that is necessary for Kyogre teams. You are leading Incineroar + Tapu Koko to give yourself the most flexibility going into the matchup so that you can get your Rayquaza in at an advantageous time, ensuring it can take the KO’s it needs to to allow Ferrothorn to thrive in the endgame.

Core Combinations and Common Leads

There are three main core leads that you need to know, and those are:

This lead is essential for denying opposing Tailwinds with the combined threat of Fairy Z on Salamence and Thunderbolt for opposing Crobat. You also have a lot of disruption with Crobat, and this lead allows you to use the two frailer mons as the team as something to sack to get your powerful restricted in, so the momentum will shift in your favor once one of them dies.

This is the most flexible lead against Kyogre compositions and allows you to adjust your board accordingly to the situation at hand. Your options with Volt Switch and U-turn are numerous, and it allows you to get your Rayquaza or Ferrothorn in, depending which is best for the turn, and cycle Intimidates and Fake Out.

This lead is very aggressive and is only something I brought to a few matchups. This is a very good lead vs a Salamence + Ground-weak lead. This is what I led against Paul twice in our sets, and it allowed me to put significant pressure on from the start.

Team Match-ups

Honestly, this team is about memorizing your MU’s and what you need to lead vs everything and making adjustments if need be. For me, the biggest question I always ask myself is if there is anything on the opposing team or anything that they have done that is worth me changing up my normal game plan to give me a good advantage. If you can’t find anything that meets that criteria, then you should be sticking to the respective game plan for each archetype. I never had a team preview where I took more than roughly ten seconds because I knew exactly what I wanted every single time. In terms of terrain management, against Tapu Lele compositions it is nice to get the Tapu Lele in range of a Life Orb Extreme Speed so you can swap into Tapu Koko and Extreme Speed for the KO.

XernDon Salamence: Even
Lead: Crobat/Groudon + Tapu Koko
Back: Groudon/Crobat +Rayquaza
For this MU the focus is denying the opposing Salamence the opportunity to Tailwind, set up your own, and allow one of the lead Pokemon to go down and/or pivot with Tapu Koko to bring in Groudon/Rayquaza, whichever is more appropriate for the board in front of you.

RayOgre: Favorable
Lead: Incineroar + Tapu Koko
Back: Rayquaza + Ferrothorn
The goal here to is to remove the Incineroar and Rayquaza (if it has Overheat) so that you can win with Ferrothorn in the endgame. It is extremely crucial to protect your Ferrothorn until the end, because if not, you will be in a very bad situation. Also, removing Rayquaza and trapping the Incineroar and Kyogre in together in an endgame vs your Ferrothorn also works, as long as you remove Incineroar first.

XernDon Torn Kang: Not Favorable
Lead: Crobat + Tapu Koko
Back: Incineroar + Rayquaza
For this matchup, you can capitalize off of the fact that KangTorn essentially operates like a machine in a very precise pattern, but there are a few alterations they can make that can make the matchup a struggle. One thing that is especially challenging in this matchup is protecting your Crobat so that you can match Tailwind and shut down Xerneas later. You will have to bait a Fake Out from Kangaskhan turn one and call the Tornadus’ move correctly.

LunOgre: Even
Lead: Incineroar + Tapu Koko
Back: Rayquaza + Ferrothorn
I used to think this matchup was awful, but as long as you can manage your Ferrothorn well, much like you need to for RayOgre, it is totally winnable. You just need to make sure to remove whatever Ferrothorn answers they have and burn the Lunalium Z (if they have it). You need to play for the Ferrothorn endgame.

Rundown of Tournament

Day 1:

Round 1- vs. Unknown – WW

(0-0)
I feel bad I can’t remember his name, but I do remember us talking and him telling me how this was his first tournament and how he was excited to play. He was very enthusiastic and it was nice talking to him! I wish I could remember his name. I won the set swiftly.

Round 2 – Caleb Ryor – WW

(1-0)

Caleb was my manager for NPA, so it was definitely funny to run into him Round 2 of the tournament. Caleb is a great guy and it was great being on the Rollouts with him as the manager. I was super excited to play against him and we had fun talking before the match. G1 was a pretty sizable win due to me managing Ferrothorn well. G2 was way closer and I cheesed Caleb out of G2 in our Groudon Kyogre 1v1, with me getting the Earth Power drop and living on a small amount of health to get the kill next turn. This was my first team kill of the tournament.

Round 3 – Raphael Bagara – LWW

(2-0)

Another teamkill! Me and Rapha were staying in the same room, so it was unfortunate to run into him R3. For him not having played the game in months, he certainly gave me a really good set! He outplayed me G1, positioning his Incineroar and Stakataka really well. G2 was close, but I managed to run away with the win! G3 was also super close, with me only being able to win due to my Crobat living his Rayquaza’s Extreme Speed and KO’ing him with Super Fang. We shook hands and I was elated to be 3-0, and kept pushing on.

Round 4 – Bradley Pham – WLW

(3-0)

It was definitely interesting running into an XY team during NAIC, and felt like a blast from the past since I had used XY before. Bradley was quiet but nice, and we had a good set. G1 I took pretty quickly by getting my Groudon in Tailwind and clicking Eruption, then following up with getting my Rayquaza in and clicking Dragon Ascent. He didn’t have many answers to fast Eruption Groudon, which surprised me. In G2, to his credit, he managed his board position really well and managed to preserve his Yveltal for the endgame where I would be unable to kill it. G3 I managed to put out enough offensive pressure immediately to take 2 KO’s on the first turn, and won from there.

Round 5 – Paul Chua – WLW

(4-0)

Me and Paul play a lot at locals, and he is a great guy who is always a pleasure to play against at locals in NY. We had a nice chat before our set, but we both knew we needed to focus, with me going for my invite and him going for Day 2. G1 I took pretty handily with a 4-0 by getting my Groudon and Rayquaza in Tailwind. G2 was the reverse, with Paul beating me and making me have to reconsider my strategy for G3. G3 came down to a 50/50 of whether his Salemence Protected on my Fairium Z, which I called correctly when he didn’t Protect. His Tapu Fini was left alone vs my Tapu Koko, which could not win alone.

Round 6 – Trevor Lang – WLW  (Stream Link)

(5-0)

This was my first time ever being streamed at a big Pokemon event, and it was definitely a crazy experience. Both me and Trevor were a bit nervous, but I knew I had to focus up to be able to win this set. Ferrothorn was the team’s best asset here. I got a bit lucky G1, living the Twinkle Tackle from Trevor’s Tapu Koko and retaliating by KO’ing his Salamence, but I think I still played well. G2, I made a really good play trapping the Dialga and Kyogre in together, but I played very questionably and let my nerves get to me during an endgame I should’ve won if I had just Leech Seeded the Kyogre slot and/or allowed Dialga to Earth Power me and proc my Berry so I could Leech Seed Kyogre again. G3 was close, but by preserving my info on HP Ice, I was able to eliminate the Salamence and set up a favorable endgame for my Ferrothorn.

Round 7 – Melvin Keh – LWL

(6-0)

Melvin was very nice from the start, giving me a keychain from Singapore and talking to me. G1 was close but I called an Ally Switch incorrectly and lost. G2 was pretty much the same game, but I called Ally Switch correctly. G3 also came down to Ally Switch, and I doubled the Shed slot which swapped into Salamence, losing me the set. Melvin was super nice after and apologized for using Shedinja, but I was fine with it, I was happy to be 6-1 anyways. Losing to Melvin, the #1 APAC PLAYER, wasn’t something I minded at all.

Round 8 – Ashton Cox – LL

(6-1)

Ashton is a super nice guy, and it was nice to be able to play him. Pulling another big name was scary, but was to be expected at 6-1. I lost both games, but even Ashton told me that if I had made a few different calls, I could’ve taken those games just as easily. It was a pleasure to play you, Ashton, and hopefully I get to play you again!

Round 9 – Brendan Lewis – WW

(6-2)

Brendan was nice before our match, but I could tell he was very focused from the start. G1 was close, but I was able to take the win due to making a few more correct calls. G2 was a lot more in my favor, due to me making a lot of correct early game reads. GG’s to Brendan. With that, I had locked up Day 2, and I was so excited!

Day 2:

Round 1 – Marco Silva – LL

(7-2)

Marco was very quiet, but I could tell it was because he was focused on doing well. He told me a bit about why he came and it was nice to get to have that conversation before our set. G1 was very far in his favor due to him making a lot of correct calls early game, putting me in a poor position by the endgame. It was mostly the same for G2. It was still a fun set, and taught me a lot about my XL matchup. GG Marco!

Round 2 – Paul Chua – WLW (Stream Link)

(7-3)

Playing Paul again was definitely interesting, and we both had a lot on the line. There wasn’t much difference from our previous set, except we already knew exactly what we wanted to do. Our matches were very close and it came down to a close G3 where I was just able to squeeze a win away. GG to Paul!

Round 3 – Samuel Haarsma – WW

(7-4)

This was definitely a weird team to run into, but I give Samuel a lot of credit for his creative teambuilding and making day 2 with it. Having a pair down was pretty scary, especially since my Worlds invite depended on keeping my x-3 record with the pair down. Both games started the same way, with him Ultra Bursting his Necrozma and me hitting it with Fairium Z, effectively winning me the set from turn one. G2 he predicted that I wouldn’t do the same play, but it was fairly safe, so I repeated our turn one.

Round 4 – Westley Long – WLL

(9-3)

This was a super stressful set that, in all reality, I choked extremely hard. I was able to win G1 by a pretty large margin. G2 I choked hard and let him Flyinium Z my Ferrothorn with Tornadus, which was a mistake. Unfortunately, this cost me the game. G3 was extremely close, too, and I made a really dumb play and paid for it. This was definitely a matchup I should’ve won, but Westley also played to his outs really well. The only person I have to blame for this loss, however, is myself. GG to Westley.

Round 5 – Rene Alvanrenga – LL (Stream Link)

(9-4)

This was definitely the point of the tournament where I was most mentally exhausted. I knew I had to put my all into this upcoming match, even though at this point it was impossible for me to get my Worlds invite. Rene was very polite and super nice before our match, and we knew we couldn’t hold anything back in this set. G1 I misplayed by not clicking Tailwind, and it cost me the game early on. G2 it came down to the endgame, where it was a Speed tie between his Jolly Groudon and my Timid Groudon, which I only discovered after the turn. He won the Speed tie and I lost the set. GG to Rene, and sorry if I seemed upset, I was tired!

Conclusion

Ending at 9-5, I was a bit bummed at first, but after seeing how many people were disappointed that they didn’t even make Day 2, it humbled me a lot. Even though I didn’t make Worlds, this tournament showed me that with practice and dedication, I could perform well at major events. I have so many people to thank, so here we go:

  • Calvin: Thanks so much for helping with the team and everything, I can’t express how helpful you’ve been and how good of a friend you are. Looking forward to us both getting our invites this upcoming year!
  • Maeve and Becca: Thank you for all the support in between rounds!
  • 3AM and other Discord people: Thank you all for being so supportive at the tournament and on discord while cheering me on. It was really amazing to have all that support.
  • NAIC Room: This was one of the best rooms I have been in and you guys all made me laugh even when I was stressed. Thank you!
  • NAIC Car: It was a pleasure driving up with you guys and it was a ton of fun. Thanks Ben, Fevzi, and Sohaib!
  • Everyone else: Thank you so much, appreciate you!

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