This team started off as James Baek’s NAIC team. After what happened at NAIC, I realized that I needed to change some things about the teams I was using. I felt KangTorn XernDon with Mawile and Kommo-o was a great team, but very, very weak to opposing Trick Room. The thing I really liked about my Hartford team was that Bronzong, Fini, and Incin gave me options to fight in and sometimes thrive in Trick Room, even if I wasn’t the one who set it up. I still really liked the way Tornadus played in this format, so I wanted to find a team with Tornadus on it that also had Trick Room, options and James’ team fit the bill perfectly.
I used the same six in Moon series, so the only thing I would really have to get used to was the switch to Primal Ogre. I changed Kartana to Kangaskhan almost immediately. I really liked Kangaskhan and Tornadus’ lead synergy (even though they’re used way less and in very different situations with XernOgre vs XernDon). Kangaskhan’s ability to completely shut down Lunala and still outspeed Xerneas in Tailwind was greatly appreciated, alongside its natural bulk and extra Fake Out.
I first started laddering by reusing a lot of sets from older teams (such as Icy Wind Torn, Grass Knot Amoonguss, and Modest Kyogre). I realized I really liked the six I had, but I knew that, at some point (preferably before the end of July), I would have to settle on sets and commit to them. Over time, I began to experiment with different options and settled on Taunt Tornadus, Protect Amoonguss, and Timid Kyogre as my three major adjustments.
I did the majority of my early Worlds prep with Kyle (Animus), Calvin (Calvonix), and Joseph (C9LifeOrb). I learned that Calvin was starting to use the same six, and we talked a bit about what sets we preferred. He’s the one who convinced me to try Protect Amoonguss despite my initial protests. He and Joseph were also the original proponents of Goggles Incin, which would be crucial in one of my tournament rounds. I reused the old Moon series spread I had that was faster that almost every Berry Incin, because I really really liked being in control with Fake Out. The only set we never saw eye to eye on (before Worlds) was the Kyogre set.
Eventually, I learned that Zain (arcticfish) was planning on bringing the same six to worlds (with Calvin’s Kyogre being the only real difference), so I messaged him and we prepped in-depth together for around the last two and a half weeks. Other prep included a massive Showdown scouting doc I put together with Kyle, Ashton, and Jeremy. Since we were all quite high on the ladder, we were able to track a lot of the teams that saw success, and ended up seeing a lot of them at Worlds. I also put together a massive matchup chart for Zain and me in order for us to share our thoughts and advice on how to approach different comps and techs. I played a lot of Bo3s with Kyle and some with other people, like Kareem, River, and Emilio.
Laddering started off very poorly, but by the end of it, I felt good about winning the games I wanted to win in the matchups I expected to play. When I left for DC on Wednesday, I was nervous, but still felt like I had done all of the prep I could have possibly done. This isn’t a team report; it’s a war story, but here’s the team anyway for some context. Nicknames are just songs I liked and listened to over the summer.
Tyrant (Amoonguss) (F) @ Focus Sash
EVs: 236 HP / 68 Def / 4 SpA / 196 SpD / 4 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Clear Smog
– Rage Powder
Standard Sp. Def Amoonguss. Protect was very valuable in a few games, and I never missed having Grass STAB. The Speed point was nice to scout for opposing Amoonguss, as well as nearly guaranteeing a Spore against opposing Rayquaza + Amoonguss, which would go for Dragon Ascent + Clear Smog to attemp to KO me (this happened on ladder a lot). The Speed made opposing Stak a bit more annoying, but that issue never cost me too dearly.
Sundown (Tornadus) @ Flyinium Z
EVs: 252 HP / 28 Def / 4 SpA / 4 SpD / 220 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Role Play
Standard Tornadus. Role Play is needed to deal with Gengar + Groudon, and could be a cute option against Raichu. Other Torn rarely hit 220 EVs, and I felt the extra Speed would be useful against Kartana. I did not play any Torn mirrors that saw Torn vs Torn happen, but I did outspeed and OHKO the one AV Kart that I played.
I figured 252 Sp. Atk Xern would be rare, so I settled for this.
Not Alike (Kyogre-Primal) @ Blue Orb
EVs: 4 HP / 4 Def / 244 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Water Spout
– Ice Beam
I like doing damage. It’s hard to damage the many restricted that are faster than Kyogre and can chip it before it Spouts. A Timid Nature was used to punish all of the Modest Xern, Modest Lunala, and Adamant Solgaleo I expected to play. Max Speed also allowed me to come in on almost all Groudon and click a Water-type move with no issue.
Me (Incineroar) (F) @ Safety Goggles
EVs: 204 HP / 236 SpD / 68 Spe
– Flare Blitz
– Fake Out
Fast Fake Out was insanely valuable when leading Incin + Kyogre against Groudon-less comps (Raynala, SolgRay, YvelOgre). U-turning first was usually fine because people rarely let you actually U-turn straight into Kyogre as they switch in Groudon. Being the slower U-turn in Trick Room actually proved to be useful more often. Blitz is necessary for damage. Roar was amazing on ladder. Although I did not Roar out any Xern at Worlds, having the option was really nice. Safety Goggles is an incredible item for the team. Amoonguss can be difficult to deal with, especially without Kartana, and having a mon to switch into it and Roar around its redirection was great as a safety measure. The immunity to Spore also won me a round.
Bad Dracula (Kangaskhan) @ Kangaskhanite
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
– Low Kick
– Fake Out
This is probably the most standard set in the format. Low Kick was chosen to help against Ferrothorn and because I already had Roar on Incineroar.
ADDICT (Xerneas) @ Power Herb
Ability: Fairy Aura
EVs: 44 HP / 84 Def / 124 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Dazzling Gleam
Kind of a weird Xern spread. 124 Sp. Atk Timid is the benchmark that always OHKOs 4 HP Xerneas with +2 Moonblast, so that’s where I started (after making it Max Speed, which is necessary in my eyes). I ended up having a lot of Rayquaza vs Xerneas interactions on ladder, so I dumped the remaining EVs into making those matchups as safe as possible.
Combined, these attacks will rarely KO Xerneas, which allows me to Geomancy much safer.
This spread also allows me to usually live -1 Dragon Ascent after Madness (or always, if they’re Jolly).
There really isn’t much to say about this day. A lot of my friends at home (Dunga and Nate, especially) did a great job of scouting stream teams for us. I just tried to have as much fun with the day as I could. The fun American day 2 players decided on a beach theme for the day, so I walked around the venue all day in sunglasses, a towel, and a Hawaiian shirt. I got there for the opening ceremony and wished all of my friends good luck.
The games in the first few rounds weren’t the greatest, but trying to keep track of all of my friends that were playing and hearing about all of the upsets was entertaining enough. The side-TV games were a fun watch at first, but got awful as the judges seemingly refused to (or didn’t know to?) move people who were still in the tournament to the TVs. (I could go on a whole rant about how poorly this event was run from a player and IRL spectator’s perspective, but that’s for another day). Eventually, I just started trying to watch sets outside the fenced-off area while looking up at the main stream every once in a while.
The day 2 qualifiers were a great group (it was insane to see Emilio, Nils, and Yusei make it back to day 2 again). When searching for food, no one had an idea except James, so we ended up at China Express. It wasn’t bad—not my ideal pre-tournament eats, but still not bad. We ran into a bunch of other groups there (China squad, some Smogon, Team Justin people) and had a great time eating and talking about the next day.
I left and went to the Renaissance for a final IRL prep session with Zain. I got back around midnight and went to sleep before 2 AM for the first time in months (waking up at 7 and running around the venue all day helped with that).
I got up, and the first thing I did was take an online quiz for a class that ended that day. After I’d finished stressing over academics, I rewired my mind a bit and got ready for the day. I went down to my hotel’s free breakfast thing and filled a coffee cup with orange juice before running out. I made it to check-in relatively early, and locked my battle box. Then, I talked with Kyle and Zain until pairings were posted.
When I saw the pairing, I was a bit relieved. I saw I was paired against a Japanese player that I did not recognize from day 1, and it was not Hirofumi. I was a bit nervous about playing a big name round 1, so easing my way into it was nice. I didn’t have time to research his team from Japan Nationals before starting, but it did not end up mattering.
No offense to Takumi, but I would’ve laughed at team preview if it wasn’t round 1 of Worlds. I recognized the team instantly from ladder, and it was something I was telling my friends to prepare for. The important sets, which I remembered, were mixed slow Don, Goggles Encore Togekiss, and Sub LO Stak. I prepared specifically for this matchup, and so I was excited to see if I could execute my gameplan.
I lead Kang Xern into Lunala Togekiss and clicked Fake Out + Geo, knowing he would protect Lunala and Encore my Kang. From there, Moonblast + Bite put me in an incredible position, despite not getting the flinch. I hard-switched to Amoonguss as he attacked my Xern with Stak and Ice Beamed my switch (I think). He would KO my Amoonguss next turn and Freeze my Xerneas, which meant I couldn’t KO the Lunala to seal the game. However, I was able to unthaw and Protect to later bring in Kang and Kyogre to clean once Trick Room went down.
Game 2, I Faked Out Lunala and went for the 2HKO on Togekiss with Moonblast as he Encored my Xern into Moonblast (which did over 50%). We pivoted around Kang, Xern, Amoon, and Luna, Stak, Togekiss, Groudon until he got into a great position with my Xern and Kang on the field in front of Togekiss Stak. I Moonblasted the Togekiss as it came in, but it survived, and he was able to get TR up as I used Bite into a Protecting Lunala. Thankfully, I knew he was Sub Stak from ladder, and pummeled the Stak’s Subs with Moonblasts to stall out Trick Room alongside utilizing Spores from Amoonguss against his Lunala and Groudon. Once Trick Room was down, I KO’d the Lunala and cleaned again with Kyogre.
When the set was over, I tried to use Google Translate to ask my opponent if he was indeed the guy from ladder. I’m not going to lie—I never figured it out. I got caught up in seeing my friend Chris Kan next to me circling the win against the defending champion Paul Ruiz. Paul is a great player, and I was really happy to see my friend get that win. We walked our match slips over together and talked about the day. While waiting for round 2, I watched the end of the stream game and wandered around the venue. I also caught up with Zain, who won his first round, so we discussed our games.
Game 1: vs (Win)
Game 2: vs (Win)
This was quite the interesting set. I’d watched Hippolyte on stream yesterday and really liked my matchup. Hippolyte and I have had friendly interactions before, and I think we either played against each other in a team tournament, or we were teammates? (Sorry, Hippolyte, I don’t remember). When I saw team preview and realized he had changed teams, I was a bit shook. The matchup seemed fine, besides the Smeargle, which is really annoying because I don’t have a Tapu that can just switch in and remove the threat of Sleep.
I lead Kang Torn into Smeargle Xern game 1. I played the early game pretty well, I think, but the early game is a blur. We traded Fake Outs turn 1 and I set up Tailwind and was able to KO Smeargle as the Xerneas opted to attack. I ended up positioning my +2 Xerneas out of Blades range with Incin and Kyogre in the back, with two turns of Tailwind remaining (his +2 Xerneas was at 10% and his Special Groudon at around 80%). He ended up getting the double Protect + Speed tie + crit Gleam to KO my Xern once Tailwind went down, as Groudon cleaned up my other mons.
It really frustrated me, but I tried to enter game 2 with a refreshed mindset. Game 2 was a bit cleaner, as he made a good early game play, revealing Roar on Groudon to phase out my Xerneas and eventually set up his own. I made an aggressive play in the mid-game to double Geo on his Salamence’s Protect to give myself a chance at winning, but I would go on to lose another Speed tie as well as the game a few turns later.
I was a bit visually upset, and I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable at all, Hippolyte. I respect you so much for playing to your outs. I walked off and tried to collect myself mentally. Almost all of my friends winning the round made me feel a bit better, and I was determined to refresh my mentality and make a run. Getting tilted by luck has always been a major issue for me, and I really tried to not let it get to me. A good match against a positive matchup was probably the best thing for my mentality, and luckily, TOM gave me exactly what I needed.
Game 1: vs (Loss)
Game 2: vs(Loss)
I was a bit worried when I saw I was playing Yuree. I won the only time we had played in a tournament previously, but he usually washes me in money matches. The first thing that came to mind was him telling me he was running KangTorn with Groudon earlier in the week. KangTorn Groudon is supposed to be a positive matchup for my team, but if played well, it can feel very even, and Yuree was just the player to be able to do that.
He played game 1 phenomenally, perfectly timing his Tailwinds and nullifying the effectiveness of my Kyogre. Despite this, I won a Speed tie in the final turns to seal the game (my low, low +2 Xern against his Xern in tailwind). From about turn 3 in game 1, I knew I was going to lead Amoon Xern game 2, as I expected him to overplay, letting me get off a free Rage Powder + Geo. It worked, and I swept pretty cleanly in game 2. It was nice to make a decently hard call like that and see my instincts work.
Game 1: vs (Win)
Game 2: vs (Win)
I was walking with Emilio and George when pairings went up and a small silence fell upon us. Wolfe is a historically great player that has a positive record against my friends at events. I’d beaten him at an MSS a few months ago, but that was nothing compared to an x-1 match at Worlds day 2. After sitting down and getting ready, a judge moved us to a side-TV that I saw a bunch of people gathering at.
I saw he’d lost his first round to an unknown Korean player, so I figured he brought something different than the team we had him down as being likely to bring according to our pre-tournament scouting. We also had Rayquaza Lunala as a possible team for him after seeing Aaron Traylor use it day 1, but it just didn’t seem like a Wolfe team to us, so I really had no idea what to expect. It turned out it was the LunaRay + Lax team. I had a pretty defined game one plan for typical ladder LunaRay, but his team was a bit different. I knew that him bringing Fini, Incin, and Ray was pretty necessary, and I suspected that the last would be Lunala, even though it fares quite poorly against my non-restricted.
Game 1 was going pretty evenly, with us trading positioning and damage. He ended up using his offensive Haze Fini to both shut down my Xern and pick up a surprise KO on my Kang with Hydro Pump in the Rain. I had Kyogre on the field for most of the game, and he never brought in Lunala, keeping the last mon hidden in the back for a very long time. This led me to suspect that it was Stak, as he would not want to bring it in on a Spout. The endgame came down to Amoonguss Kyogre on my end vs his full HP Ray + low Fini + unknown mon in the back. My Sash was intact, but I figured he would attack the Amoonguss with Ray anyway, so I Spored Ray and Scalded Fini for the KO (to cover me taking damage from Dragon Ascent). My heart made a happy noise when I saw Stak was the last Pokémon. I vaguely remembered that the Stak didn’t have Wide Guard, so I clicked Spout + Rage Powder so that I could Protect Amoon next turn, as Ray was guaranteed a turn of Sleep. He ended up not Protecting Stak, so I got the clean KO and chipped the Ray well into Ice Beam range in Strong Winds (and still had Rage Powder support).
I won game 1 and instantly locked a Kang + Xern lead with Incin Ogre in the back for game 2, expecting him to adjust and bring Lunala. He ended up bringing the same four, but Kang still gives them a lot of trouble, especially with me still having redirection with Amoonguss. He led Ray Fini into my Kang Xern, and I knew he wasn’t going to stay in with at least Ray, so I Faked Out Fini and tried to get off a Moonblast in case he got aggressive. He ended up double switching to Incin Stak, likely to try out the Trick Room gameplan from game 1. I switched Xern for Amoonguss as he U-turned my Kang and Gyro Balled my Amoonguss for around half. However, the Stak took a big Low Kick for its troubles and was within Life Orb recoil range. I knew I was in a fantastic position from there, as Xerneas could win the game with Fake Out and redirection support. Once i KO’d Stak with Xern, the game came down to if I could KO Ray so that Ogre could win unopposed against Incin Fini (as Fini not having a Berry or Madness allowed Kyogre to beat it easily).
We began to trade cycling Fake Outs and Protects, as he tried to Protect his Ray at all costs. He had a really good turn in the midgame where he got off a Fake Out + Swords Dance to get to +2 against my -1 Kang and Xern. I switched Kang out to Ogre to deny Strong Winds, as I expected the Swords Dance when he brought Incin in that turn, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I read the aggressive Dragon Ascent into Xern and cycled Kang back in to regain Fake Out pressure as he brought Fini back in. I had an important decision to make the next turn. I could read the Ray Protecting and respond by Faking Out Fini and Geo’ing to win, or I could Fake Out Ray and attack it as he tried to KO Xern with Dragon Ascent. I ended up choosing a poor midground play by Gleaming, which was a mistake, as Ray lived the Fake Out + Gleam at -1 defenses, but he ended up going for his own midground play and Hazed away his own SD. From there, all I had to do was get Ogre back in and spam super effective attacks into Ray, as he could only KO one of my restricted at a time and needed both gone to win the game. He would go for a Dragon Ascent into my Xern next turn, but I lived with a lot of HP to spare and KO’d back with a Moonblast. I won the game in the next few turns with Kang Ogre.
I shook hands with him and exchanged courtesies, then went over to my friends, who were waiting for me by the TV. They were congratulating me like I’d won the tournament (Sam (Zelda), homie, kissed me on the cheek). The praise was nice, as it was a major upset and put me closer to cutting. I separated myself from them and tried to focus on the fact that I still had to win 2 more sets. I couldn’t get this thought out of my head: 3-1 was a very, very important record. You either win and give yourself two shots at a win and in, or you lose and are forced to win two in a row. I tried to get that negative mentality out of my mind, but it kept bugging me. Luckily, before I could dwell on it for too long, we got next round’s pairings.
Game 1: vs (Win)
Game 2: vs(Win)
I recognized the name immediately when I saw it. We’d played at last year’s Worlds at 1-0, where I 2-0d him with Gardevoir against his Zard-Y team. It was a pair down this time, as he was 2-2. If I was in his position, I would have tried to go into the match fired up. Playing against someone who beat you at Worlds last year in an elimination game? Sounds like something that I’d use to get myself motivated. If he brought this intensity, I knew I was going to have to match it.
I felt a bit of relief when I saw the team preview: it was Wolfe’s six but with Koko over Lax. The Koko didn’t have room for a Z-Move given the team composition, so I made the bold decision to assume it was AV, like I’d seen on ladder a lot. I put myself in an excellent spot to win game 1 by sweeping with Kang and +2 Xern early by setting up in front of Koko. He caught me really off-guard with an Ally Switch on his Stak, which allowed him to KO my Xern with Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom after the T1 Madness. However, all this did was give me a free switch to Kyogre, and I swept with Bite and Water Spout/Ice Beam along with the followup Rage Powder support.
Game 2, he played a lot more offensively against my Xern, but I was able to take a combination of Nature’s Madness + Dragon Ascent in the midgame as I’d brought Incin over Amoon this time around to Intimidate the Ray as I KO’d it with a Moonblast. From there, he had an exceptionally difficult time breaking Kang/Incin/Ogre, and I advanced to 4-1. It felt a bit weird to eliminate someone at x-1, but I took the win and moved on. I had two rounds to get the win, but I really wanted it in round 6 so that I could avoid a top 16 play-in.
Game 1: vs (Win)
Game 2: vs (Win)
I had really good odds of pulling a comfortable matchup round 6, between all of the XernDons at 4-1 and Marco and Agati, who were almost certainly running Xernala. I ended up getting Marco, which got me really excited. I really enjoyed the XL matchup when practicing, and seldom lost to it on ladder. However, Marco was arguably the best Masters XL player, so I knew it would still be a challenge and I kept myself modest and went over my gameplans mentally. It ended up being his NAIC team, but with Amoonguss over Fini. This was exactly the matchup that Goggles Roar Incin would thrive in.
I brought Torn game 1, just in case he brought Crobat. He played game 1 very well by disposing of my Tornadus and making sure Amoonguss + Xerneas would be his last two so I couldn’t Roar out his Xern. However, on the turn he Geomancied, my Timid Ogre outsped and chunked the deer for around 85%. He did not have nearly enough HP to win the game with just Amoonguss and Ogre + Incin cleaned (my Xern was asleep in the back).
Game 2, I locked Amoonguss + Incineroar nearly immediately, hoping he would not bring Crobat. Incin + Amoonguss absolutely tore through his team without Crobat, and when he led with Incineroar, I knew the game was over, because there’s no way he benched Amoonguss in the matchup which left no room for the pesky bat. I made a good read in the early game to Sleep his Lunala and had the majority of his team asleep by the midgame, which let me Xern my way to a win. The game got a bit closer than I wanted, but my Amoonguss was able to 1v1 his Xern with no issue.
I was one of the first matches done, and I went to drop off the slip as nobody noticed. The judge collecting slips congratulated me, and I relaxed near the Seniors area to watch the stream and see how Zain was doing. Gradually, people began to find me and realized I cut and congratulated me. I found out that my good friends Edu, James, and Gabriel all cut also, and I found them and congratulated them. It was incredible seeing all of my friends do well, and Emilio was still in contention, which was great.
Game 1: vs (Win)
Game 2: vs (Win)
James and I were actually comparing resistances when we realized we had to play. We were 2-2 in sets through the year, so having a 5th set at Worlds was only right, although it didn’t matter as much since we were both 5-1. Unlike in Toronto, where I had the advantage in the TornOgre mirror, it was clearly in his favor this time, as he had Kartana over Kang.
I lost game 1 getting too fancy with Xerneas and Kyogre and a questionable Incin bring, but I won game 2 by leading Kang Torn and getting the Skystrike roll on his Kart turn 1. Game 3, he led Xern Ogre into Kang Torn. He double Protected as I set up Tailwind. I was so close to Taunting Xerneas (which was objectively the better play), but I got cheeky and Skystriked as he Geo’d as Origin Pusle double-KO’d. I prayed that he was Modest Xern and clicked Water Spout Geo, but it turns out he’d switched to Timid, and he won the Speed tie and Moonblasted my Xern for the KO.
I wish I had more to say about this set, but it was just a really quick series. I felt pretty confident in my two gameplans for cut if we rematched, as well, so I had that to take away. I spent the rest of the time worrying about my seeding by checking on my resistance and trying to watch Emilio’s game. Almost all of my opponents lost, which really began to stress me out, especially Wolfe’s game on stream.
When cut finally got posted (which took forever), I miscalculated my seed and thought I had to play Graham. I actually had pulled up my notes about the matchup from my phone and was reading them for about a minute when Rene made me realize that I missed it by one. It was quite funny for me to bubble into top 16 by one seed when I had been doing that all year (14th Portland, 14th LAIC, 15th Roanoke, 16th OCIC, 16th Greensboro).
Honestly, waiting around with the other players waiting for the win-and-in games was one of the best hours of my VGC career. Being surrounded by my friends, who also did super well, and going backstage to take the stream photos was amazing. Shoutouts to Emilio for helping so much and helping me develop a really consistent gameplan, despite having just missed cut only a few minutes ago.
Game 1: vs (Loss)
Game 2: vs (Win)
Game 3: vs (Loss)
My opinions on this matchup changed a lot over the hour I had to prep it. I originally thought it was going to be a very Kyogre-based game, but Koko and Shed’s presence just made that really difficult. Kang was the best mon in the matchup, as it soaked up nearly any hit thrown at it and could, most importantly, KO the Shed in one turn with Bite. We also realized that Xern could invalidate Koko if it got set up, as it was Fairium Z, and Koko really couldn’t do much to deny Geo as the Z-Move only doing like 70% was a pretty good worst case scenario. The most important part of the matchup that Emilio and I determined was that Roar wasn’t the greatest of options from him to deny Xerneas’ set up (and its subsequent denial of his Koko). A Roar would give me a free switch, and if my backs were Torn and Ogre, it could be absolutely devastating for him. We settled on Kang Xern Torn Ogre for all the games, as Amoon was nearly useless and Kang was just better than Incin against Koko and Shed. The match ended up being played on a side-TV as he had an American cartridge, which was awesome. I’m going to start talking about the game itself, but if you want to watch it first, here it is.
We expected Incin Koko as his game 1 lead, but his Groudon Koko lead didn’t change the gameplan. Something else we established was that I should not be afraid to use Bite in the matchup. It could always catch Shed on the switch, and its upside of a 51% chance of flinching was a great cover for me misreading. He opted to Volt out, and I was able to get Geo up early as Groudon got Faked Out. I got a Gleam crit midway through game 1 on his Groudon, which was massive. I was eventually able to pick up the KO on Incin and I Bit the Shed, which meant that Ogre could win against Koko and Incin. Koko’s strongest attack against Ogre being Discharge was a bit scary, as I could’ve lost the game if I got Para’d, but fortunately I didn’t and KO’d Koko and Groudon to win.
Game 2, I went with the same gameplan and Faked Out Groudon and Geo’d, but this time, he clicked discharge and Para’d me. The game became very hard to win at that point, but to my surprise, he stayed in with Koko the next turn and OHKO’d my Torn with Fairium on the switch (I needed Kang to beat Shed, so I tried to preserve it). He got bailed out by a full para this time, and I couldn’t KO Koko with Gleam as he proceeded to KO me with single target Blades. Bringing Kang + Ogre in against chipped Groudon against it + Shed + Incin would’ve given me a very good chance at winning, which frustrates me. I would’ve been able to claim his Incin with Spout as he cycled out Groudon to get Sun back up, and Ice Beam from the range the Groudon was at could’ve been a 2HKO. He would’ve been forced to rely on Blades, and any miss or flinch from my Kang would’ve let me win 2-0.
I was frustrated, but buckled down and realized that I was outplaying and out-maneuvering him and just needed to not get unlucky. While this is not a healthy mentality, in the moment, I remembered that I’d had too many tournament runs ended by luck combinations like this, and it took over my mind. I was nervous to the point that I was physically shaking and had a bit of a hard time breathing during team preview of game 3, even though I was bringing the same combination.
My heart almost stopped when he, once again, led Koko Groudon, but I asserted myself as the better player and didn’t get Para’d this time, as I got Geo up. I Gleamed and Bit Groudon as he switched to Incin and Protected. I decided to play defensive for a turn and cycled in Torn to pressure Groudon with a Skystrike, and it paid off beautifully, as he didn’t Roar in fear of my Kyogre coming, instead whiffing Blades on Torn. I Tailwinded and Moonblasted the Protecting Groudon as Shed came back in. I could’ve won the game here by doubling Groudon with Skystrike + Moonblast, but I misplayed and Taunted Shed while Moonblasting Groudon. While he could’ve Ally Switched, he wasn’t going to, and I realized my mistake in the middle of the turn. Luckily, he KO’d Torn with Fire Punch and gave me a free switch to Kang. I played a bit safe and took a Blades and was forced to cycle Ogre in to bait Shed back out. He Protected Groudon on the turn I brought Kang back in, as he cycled in Shed. While the Groudon had Protected and I could’ve won with a Fake Out Gleam, I didn’t want to risk a switch to Incin and Toxic into my Xern, so I Bit Shed and Moonblasted Groudon. If he didn’t Ally Switch, I won; if he switched, I won; and if he Ally Switched, I could win with a flinch as the Don would then be in Gleam range, so I figured the odds were in my favor.
He clicked Ally Switch, and my breathing stopped as I watched my tournament run come down to a 51% chance. I ended up flinching the Groudon, and my instincts took over and I popped off a bit. The game was mine to lose from there, and instead of cycling Incin to try to Toxic my Xern to win with Koko, he Ally Switched again and I punished it with a Gleam + Bite to get a double KO. From there, the game was technically 100% won, but I wasn’t sure about that. He brought in Incin Koko as I protected Xern and brought in Ogre. If he KO’d Ogre, I brought Kang in and won, and if he let Ogre come in for free, it would win the game next to Xern. The only thing that could’ve gone wrong was if a Fairium Z crit through Protect would KO Xern from the range it was at.
My mind was racing so fast that I had no idea what the calc was, and when the Z-Move dropped me into the red, I thought was lucky to not get crit… but it turned out to be a crit anyways. That was it: even through that last bit of interaction that could’ve gone wrong, I locked Moonblast Scald as he clicked the forfeit button. The emotion of not only overcoming a difficult-to-play matchup against Shed but also overcoming the luck factors of the game being used against me to steal game 2 resulted in me getting out of my chair and popping off harder than I’d ever done before. I made a mental promise to myself that I wouldn’t pop off, no matter how far I got in the tournament, but something about the set got to me. I shook his hand and began to comprehend that I was in top 8.
Game 1: vs (Win)
Game 2: vs (Loss)
Game 3: vs (Win)
To be honest, I had thought I was playing Melvin for a few minutes. I’d heard that Melvin won the same matchup in his win-and-in, and I swear I heard someone tell me he won. It was about to be another Shed game, which I felt ready for. I got a bit discouraged when I heard Hirofumi had won, because my matchup was absolutely atrocious.
Game 1, he led Lele Necro, just like we expected, and I led my planned Amoonguss Xerneas. He went for a Magic Room + Photon Geyser into my Amoonguss as I got my free Moonblast off. Next turn, I perfectly cycled in Incin as the Lele went down to another Moonblast. While the first two turns went perfectly, I was still in an awful spot, as neutral physical Don hit the field in Psychic Terrain against my poor Incin. I tried to Protect and dodge Blades by U-turning as he stayed in Dusk Mane form and Geysered my Xern’s Protect, but he hit Blades. I got Kyogre in and threatened a KO onto Don, but even then, he could just switch and mess with me. I Spouted as Mence came in, and his Necrozma bursted and Protected. I was in a pretty awful spot from here, and lost when Light that Burns the Sky knocked out my Ogre next turn when I tried to get aggressive.
Game 2’s first few turns played out the same, except I brought Kang over Incin. This time, I was able to read the Mence switch upon me bringing in Kyogre. I also timed the Dusk Mane Necrozma burst correctly and sacrificed Amoonguss at the right time to KO it with Kyogre. Despite all of these correct calls, the endgame was still close, with low HP Ogre and low HP Kang (both having taken Geysers in Terrain) against his full HP Groudon. I clicked Bite Ice Beam as it was my only win con, as we both laughed at each other a bit. I got the flinch, and brought it to a game 3.
Like game 2, I brought Kang, and the game played out the same until the board became my Kyogre Amoonguss with Xern in the back against his Groudon + bursted Necrozma with Mence in the back in the Rain. I successfully Rage Powdered away the Light That Burns the Sky, but wasn’t able to call the Mence coming in and Spouted both for around 65%. As Magic Room went down and my Xern came in, I still had to make a call or two to win. I tried to Geomancy, expecting a Protect from the Ultra Necrozma as I Ice Beamed the incoming Groudon, but he Trick Roomed in my face and won the game. A Moonblast for the KO would have created another call between his Mence’s choice of speed control or offense.
I made a lot of correct, brazy calls in the set, and it still wasn’t enough. I was truly torn between which offensive option to pick at the start of game 3, and he punished my passiveness perfectly. Bringing that generally impossible matchup so close made me feel satisfied, even if I was a hard call away from top 4. I got up from my seat, shook his hand, and used Google Translate to wish him the best in top 4.
I was brought over to collect my prizes, and I had nothing but a smile on my face. While I wanted to stay to watch James’ top 4 game, I actually had a final for an online class due that day at midnight that I couldn’t move despite trying. I retreated to my room, took the test (submitted at 11:57), and processed what I had just done. Working all summer on ladder and perfecting the team and its matchups with my friends was an incredible experience.
Game 1: vs (Loss)
Game 2: vs (Win)
Game 3: vs (Loss)
This tournament was a once-in-a-lifetime experience I’m never going to forget. The first thing I said to my parents when I saw them after getting knocked out last year was that I just wanted another shot, because I knew I was capable of a good run, but I just made silly mistakes last year. Working all season for that shot and hitting it deep was a great feeling. Also, seeing all my friends do well is always a great feeling and to be able to be there with them for once felt amazing. The team was great, all of my prep felt worthwhile and productive, and I was able to keep a positive mindset for the most part. The only thing I’m upset about is not being able to text a friend to come over and record my top 8 game because the judge wouldn’t let me. Time for the exhaustive shoutout list.
Kyle: Over the course of the year, you’ve become one of my best friends, and building and prepping with you was a great experience. I hope we can keep doing it.
Zain: For being the best XO brother I could ask for. It was definitely a slightly worse team to use for Seniors, but you pushed through that and I’m super proud of your finish.
Calvin: The team is great, and I hope you enjoy your Switch. Protect Amoon really was the future.
Emilio: Literally the best matchup prepper in the game. There’s good odds you know the format better than anyone. Even if you didn’t make cut, you still had an incredible run and I hope we both get another shot at it next year. Also, mini-shoutouts for the Bo3 sessions we had over the summer.
James: For the original paste. Congrats on your run also. Glad we were able to make it together.
River: Thanks for the discussions we had and all the encouragement you gave me in APL. Also, thanks for reviewing the report before everyone else. Your comments helped a lot.
Case/Joey/Carson: Our meta discussions and sets throughout the summer gave me confidence as to what I thought was knowledge of the meta. You guys are some of the most knowledgeable people in the game, and would absolutely dominate the scene if given more opportunities.
Michael: Passing you the team in the middle of the summer and helping you with it gave me confidence in it, and I wish you the best of luck this season.
Sachit/Sam: You guys are probably my most active supporters. Your little messages before and during events mean so much to me. 🙂
Ashton/Jeremy: Thanks for working on the doc with the bunches of us. It helped a lot.
Gaz: Best chat/group/whatever we are. Words cannot begin to describe how grateful I am to each and every one of you for making my life as great as it is. This was absolutely our year (and our gen, tbh), and I cannot wait to keep it up in SWSH.
3 am: Getting to know you all much closer was a great summer experience. The new friends (Freddy, Dunga, Gavin) and all the people I already knew from there (Matthias, Nick, Jeremy, Joe) make it such a fun time. Ilysm!
Until 2020, everyone. See you in London!