No Substitute for Sun – Top 16 NAIC / Season Report

What’s going on guys? My name is Leonard Craft III, but some of you might know me better as DaWoblefet. I’ve been playing VGC since 2013, but I’ve been enjoying Pokémon all of my life. In addition to competing at tournaments, I like to explore the inner workings of the game with mechanics research, and I also love to press the boundaries of EV spread optimization. After a mediocre 2017 season, falling just short of my Worlds invite, I was hungry for another chance to compete with the best at the World Championships in 2018.

At the start of the 2018 season in January, I couldn’t really find anything strong that matched how I liked to play. Thanks to Eduardo Cunha (EmbC), I was made aware of a Charizard Kommo-o team that Tomoyuki Yoshimura (SNOW) had built. I had experience playing with Charizard in 2015, and SNOW’s team had cool stuff, a bulkier Sash Togedemaru to support Mega Charizard Y with Fake Out and LightningRod. Taking SNOW’s team to a Premier Challenge, I managed to win the event, but the team still wasn’t in my comfort zone. Ever since we knew about the distribution of USUM’s new tutor moves, I was eager to try out Icy Wind Tapu Fini, and it seemed like a really strong partner to combine with Charizard. I called Drew Nowak (AceNowak) to help work through the details for the Midseason Showdown the next day, and we decided to go with many comfort picks from previous seasons, adding Snorlax and Tapu Fini to the squad over SNOW’s Heatran and Kommo-o. I placed 2nd at this Midseason Showdown, supplying much of the groundwork for what would become my St. Louis Regionals team.

St. Louis

St. Louis Regionals occurred just after the Melbourne International Championship in February, and I expected the trend of Metagross / Zapdos / Landorus-T / Tyranitar / Amoonguss / Tapu to be very common at the Regional due to its general strength and success in Australia. Charizard inherently has a positive match-up against Metagross; Ice Punch does not 2HKO Charizard, and Heat Wave easily picks up a KO in return. I prepared heavily for this match-up, and because I felt my team was very generically strong, using it felt natural at the event. I won’t go over my team in significant detail right now, but I do want to make special mention of Togedemaru.

Togedemaru @ Focus Sash
Ability: Lightning Rod
Level: 50
EVs: 228 HP / 4 Atk / 12 Def / 36 SpD / 228 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Super Fang
– Fake Out
– Encore
– Spiky Shield

Togedemaru’s presence on this team was instrumental in a number of ways. With LightningRod and a resistance to Dazzling Gleam, Togedemaru turned Charizard’s poor match-up against Tapu Koko into a fantastic one. The combination of Fake Out and Encore is something historically powerful in VGC, forcing uncomfortable situations for my opponents when deciding their moves. Spiky Shield is valuable on a Pokémon that is there to guard my Electric-weaks, not allowing players to simply take knockouts on a Togedemaru that couldn’t Protect. Originally, I had Zing Zap as a way to chip at Tapu Fini and hit other Charizard for non-zero damage. However, I was often hindered by Togedemaru’s lack of offensive pressure; if Zing Zap wasn’t super-effective, it just didn’t do enough damage. Case Bigorne (CasedVictory) suggested Super Fang as a way to remedy this problem. In addition to setting up KOs for Charizard and other teammates, being able to chunk Snorlax for half its health and generally have a more active presence on the field made it a very appealing addition. Togedemaru is EVed to outspeed Jolly Landorus-T by two points, while the bulk allows it to survive the combination attack of 220 Sp. Atk Tapu Fini’s Muddy Water and a 4+ Sp. Atk Zapdos’s Heat Wave 255/256 times; I considered both offensive amounts to be common at the time. The rest of the bulk was engineered so that Persian’s Foul Play was a 3HKO more often, without sacrificing the often noteworthy chip damage Fake Out could provide. Togedemaru’s combination of moves was extremely important in my top 8 match at St. Louis against Nick Navarre (Nails), pressuring his team in numerous ways to allow Charizard to fire off extremely powerful Heat Waves.

Thanks to old work by OmegaDonut, by backing up certain parts of the SD card periodically throughout Swiss, I was able to save all of the final games of each round. Unfortunately, my streamed matches against PacoTaco, Nails, and Jibaku were lost because of a bug on Twitch’s end.

Click on the round to see the Battle Video.

Round 1: Vs. Adam Baltrusaitis (DecimVGC) –   – LL
Round 2: Vs. Austin Thacker –  – WW
Round 3: Vs. Micah Taylor –  – WW
Round 4: Vs. William Marks (MunkeyVGC) –    – WW
Round 5: Vs. Zane Bliss –   – WW
Round 6: Vs. Ethan Simpson –  – LWW
Round 7: Vs. Alvin Hidayat (Jibaku) –  – LWW
Round 8: Vs. Thaddeus Asel –     – LWW
Top 8: Vs. Nick Navarre (Nails) –  – WW
Top 4: Vs. Alvin Hidayat (Jibaku) –  – LL

I was ecstatic to have placed Top 4 at my home Regional. Not only was this my first Top Cut at a Regionals event since my US Nationals run in 2016, but I accomplished it by starting 0-1 in Swiss and winning 7 sets in a row. The high placement was a huge morale boost, and it put me within striking distance of my Worlds invite with just a few local events.

Madison Regionals

As you might have noticed, the St. Louis team is extremely weak to Incineroar; nothing can OHKO it outside of boosted Snorlax, it resists Charizard’s Fire attacks and gets a powered up Flare Blitz, and its Intimidate is valuable against my bulkier Landorus and Snorlax. Fortunately for me, Intimidate Incineroar was not released until after St. Louis, but once it came out, its absurd rise in usage led to a quick retirement of the team in favor of more up-to-date metagame trends. In the interim between Regionals, I got my Worlds invite with a fun Salamence team that David Mizrahi (Platypus) built. However, prior to Madison, I was stuck in a team building rut. The Gengar Kommo-o archetype had surged up in popularity, and it was destroying all the teams that I liked, including David’s. Moreover, I just couldn’t get the hang of the Gengar Kommo-o archetype myself, and I especially despised the mirror. Out of the blue, I received a message from a player, Parth Patel (ParthVGC) who was going to attend Virginia Regionals and liked the 6 of the St. Louis team. After sharing ideas, Parth switched Landorus to a Groundium Z set, Tapu Fini to a Choice Specs set, and made other move and EV changes. He went 5-2 at Virginia Regionals, sparking interest again in the team for me.

Ladder results proved poor, however, the team still felt far too weak to Incineroar even with the offensive changes. I also felt like I was turning the balance-oriented style of Charizard into a more hyper offense variant, without the inherent Speed to keep up consistent pressure. To try and remedy the team, I did a significant analysis of Charizard’s strengths and weaknesses, concluding that most offensive threats to Charizard (e.g. Scarf Landorus, Tapu Koko) weren’t exactly counters due to their inability to take big Fire-type attacks. The bigger problem was defensive threats to Charizard (e.g. Incineroar, Tapu Fini) who were able to block my primary source of damage output with their defensive typings. Reviewing this problem with Ansena, she suggested Nihilego as a strong midground answer. Power Gem and Sludge Bomb both threatened important damage on Incineroar and Tapu Fini. Its natural Special Defense, combined with its great offensive typing, made it an extremely important Pokémon against Gengar Kommo-o teams. Expecting a myriad of Gengar Kommo-o teams at Madison Regionals, I worked out the match-up to be very much in my favor, especially with my ace-in-the-hole, Ally Switch Nihilego.

Again, I was able to save all of the final games in each round thanks to OmegaDonut’s trick, though my round one has been lost to time.

Click on the round to see the Battle Video.

Round 1: Vs. Evan Bates –   – WW
Round 2: Vs. Scott Simonson –   – WLW
Round 3: Vs. Paul Chua (pwny person) –    – WLL
Round 4: Vs. William Marks (MunkeyVGC) –    LWW
Round 5: Vs. Collin Heier (TheBattleRoom) –   – WLL
Round 6: Vs. Dylan Salvanera –    – WW
Round 7: Vs. Daniel Name –   – LWW

I ended up playing 0 Gengar Kommo-o teams at Madison Regionals. Instead, I encountered three teams of the new CHALK archetype of Kangaskhan / Tapu Fini / Kartana / Heatran / Cresselia / Landorus-T. Despite having some matchup practice prior to the event, I lost a close set to Paul Chua (pwny person) and lucked my way through William Marks (MunkeyVGC), though I did win in two games against Dylan Salvanera. My other loss was against Collin Heier (TheBattleRoom), who played excellently with his Mega Scizor Rhyperior Trick Room team. 5-2 and top 16 wasn’t a top cut like the last Regional, and I attributed that primarily to my play throughout the day. Nevertheless, the team itself felt extremely strong, still enabling Charizard to do what it does best; punching holes in teams with its absurdly strong Fire-type attacks.

North American International Championships

At both Regionals, I brought the Charizard team because I thought it would be strong at those tournaments for various different reasons. Nationals was a different situation. I did not teambuild for Nationals during early-to-mid June, and because my family went on vacation for over two weeks on a road trip throughout the Northeast US and Canada, I did not accomplish any significant Pokémon preparation that I would normally do before a major event. Without any new ideas or testing, I headed on my drive to Columbus with nothing more than the Madison team. Through an excellent conversation with Ethan Simpson (PacoTaco), who had Top Cut the Madison Regional with a more offensive variant of Charizard + Icy Wind Fini, and Brandon Wright (Bright Size), another friend and fellow Kansas City area player, I reasoned that Ally Switch Nihilego was probably a stupid idea from the beginning and added Acid Spray as a pseudo-answer for Calm Mind Cresselia. Charizard’s extra moveslot was more interesting. Despite bringing Tailwind to Madison, I never really liked it very much, yet I had already reasoned long ago that Solar Beam and Flamethrower were both unnecessary choices on this combination of six Pokémon. Having a free moveslot, I borrowed logic I had picked up from players like Wolfe and Ray: Substitute is the best filler move on offensive Pokémon that don’t need the coverage or support option. This was certainly an unorthodox choice, especially with literally 0 practice games with the move, but I nevertheless locked it in as my final version of the team for the NAIC.

The Team

Glurak (Charizard) @ Charizardite Y
Ability: Blaze
Level: 50
EVs: 156 HP / 36 Def / 84 SpA / 4 SpD / 228 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Heat Wave
– Overheat
– Substitute
– Protect

Few Mega Evolutions in VGC 2018 can rival the raw power of Mega Charizard Y. Heat Wave is a ridiculous move, 2HKOing nearly all Pokémon that don’t resist the attack and putting on non-trivial chip damage for other attacks to pick up the rest. Overheat is basically a reusable Z-move on Charizard, threatening big knockouts on the likes of Zapdos and averagely bulky Mega Kangaskhan, and when combined with Acid Spray or Helping Hand, it can even knock out Pokémon that supposedly resist the attack. Many of its greatest offensive threats, including Choice Scarf Landorus and Tapu Koko, cannot actually take hits from Charizard. The opportunity to abuse this arises frequently thanks to the various forms of Speed control on the team. Substitute capitalizes on Charizard’s damage output, giving a way to avoid Fake Out flinches and Rock Slide flinches alike if I can predict a Protect or another defensive play.

Charizard’s Speed investment allows it to outspeed Timid Xurkitree and Adamant Mimikyu by a point, also importantly outspeeding Modest Tapu Lele and Adamant Landorus-T as well. Although Timid Tapu Lele and Jolly Landorus-T exist, the drops in offense because of the lack of a boosting Nature is extremely helpful for reducing damage for the rest of my team (e.g. Snorlax). Besides that, I liked the balance of offense and bulk a Modest Nature could provide on Charizard. Charizard’s Heat Wave + Overheat will KO every Snorlax I was concerned about. Heat Wave never activates Snorlax’s Berry, while Overheat always does enough for the KO after the Heat Wave damage. Charizard has enough bulk on the special side to survive Life Orb Thunderbolt from Tapu Koko and Modest Tapu Lele’s Z-Psychic, given they don’t have their respective Terrains. On the physical side, Charizard was EVed to be able to survive -1 Stone Edge from special Landorus-T 15/16 of the time, though there are numerous generic advantages to the physical bulk, including but not limited to:

  • Surviving -1 Return + Sucker Punch from Kangaskhan
  • Being 3HKOed by Metagross’s Ice Punch
  • Being 3HKOed by bulky Snorlax’s Return

With regards to Substitute, -1 Mega Kangaskhan will never break the Substitute with Fake Out on the first hit, and the Substitute withstands both hits 11/16 of the time. Bulky Incineroar cannot break Charizard’s Sub at -1 if Charizard does not boost Incineroar’s Flare Blitz, and bulky Tapu Fini’s Muddy Water will not break Charizard’s Sub in harsh sunlight.

A special note about EVing philosophy for Charizard. I am not a fan of training Charizard to survive Rock Slide from Landorus-Therian. Not only does it require significant investment to do so, but playing against Rock Slide flinch chances is never a good idea (a reasonable EV spread cannot both outspeed Adamant Landorus-T and survive Rock Slide without sacrificing significant offense). While Charizard can survive Rock Slide in an emergency with Intimidate, I try to avoid doing so if possible, instead opting to apply Speed control or pivot to get a better position.

  • 84+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Overheat vs. 252 HP / 52 SpD Zapdos in Sun: 198-234 (100.5 – 118.7%) — guaranteed OHKO
  • 84+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Overheat vs. -2 252 HP / 244 SpD Tapu Fini in Sun: 127-150 (71.7 – 84.7%) — guaranteed KO after Acid Spray damage
  • 252+ SpA Tapu Lele Shattered Psyche (175 BP) vs. 156 HP / 4 SpD Mega Charizard Y: 145-172 (83.8 – 99.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Demeteros (Landorus-Therian) @ Groundium Z
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 132 HP / 76 Atk / 44 Def / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Earthquake
– Rock Tomb
– U-turn
– Protect

Providing important Intimidate for common physical hits, outstanding offensive synergy with Fire- and Ground-type attacks, and emergency Speed control with Rock Tomb, Landorus-Therian fits with Charizard like a hand in a glove. Before Madison, Landorus held an Assault Vest to bolster its primary role of pivoting for Intimidate and specific damage. Groundium Z changed this, allowing Landorus to fire off an important nuke into the likes of Incineroar, Shuca Berry Heatran, and Tyranitar to pick up important knockouts. U-turn is one of the more interesting moves on the set, as most Groundium Landorus opt for Swords Dance as a way to break other defensive targets. However, I never really found myself wanting Swords Dance in situations that were significant, instead preferring the ability to U-turn against Cresselia and utilize it as a move to set up my board. I can U-turn into Snorlax as I Trick Room, U-turn into opposing Scarf Landorus to gain momentum, or perform a pseudo-Ally Switch with switch + U-turn.

In January, I did research on Speed mechanics and discovered that stat boosts/drops are applied before Choice Scarf is factored in when calculating a Pokémon’s Speed stat. As a result, a Choice Scarf Landorus-T at -1 Speed from Rock Tomb or Icy Wind will reach 142 Speed, not 143. Taking advantage of this, I used max Speed with an Adamant Nature on Landorus-T to guarantee an attack first with a second Rock Tomb or U-turn (-1 Rock Tomb + -1 U-turn + Heat Wave easily KOs Scarf Landorus). Borrowing from Giuseppe Musicco’s Regionals winning Groundium Landorus, I opted for Landorus to have enough bulk to survive opposing Modest Landorus-T’s Hidden Power Ice 15/16 times, which also conveniently survives Tapu Lele’s Psychic in Terrain 100% of the time. The Attack investment KOes the majority of Tapu Fini with a Heat Wave + Z-Earthquake combination attack. In addition, important KOs against Shuca Berry Heatran and most Tyranitar, both after Intimidate. The remaining Defense increases the odds of various physical attacks not KOing Landorus, including -1 Ice Punch from Kangaskhan and Scarf Tapu Bulu’s Wood Hammer.

  • 252+ SpA Landorus-T Hidden Power Ice vs. 132 HP / 4 SpD Landorus-T: 156-184 (86.1 – 101.6%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO
  • -1 76+ Atk Landorus-T Tectonic Rage (180 BP) vs. 252 HP / 4 Def Shuca Berry Heatran: 204-242 (103 – 122.2%) — guaranteed OHKO

Kapu-Kime (Tapu Fini) @ Wiki Berry
Ability: Misty Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 84 SpA / 12 SpD / 156 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Muddy Water
– Moonblast
– Icy Wind
– Protect

Traditionally, Icy Wind support for Charizard is seen on Cresselia. Tapu Fini’s offensive moves, however, give it a solid matchup against Heatran and Tyranitar, both Pokémon that Charizard and Cresselia dislike fighting. Icy Wind’s usefulness as a Speed control option against Landorus is very important, allowing Charizard to threaten it with a large follow-up Fire-type attack. Often, my opponent is pinned by the pressure of Icy Wind + Heat Wave; if they switch, they might survive the turn, but Icy Wind’s Speed drop just sets up for a KO on the following turn anyway. Tapu Fini’s offensive STABs aren’t going to pick up OHKOs most of the time, but the damage it does deal is effective for setting up KOs for another big attack. Of course, Tapu Fini’s general usefulness as a Tapu Pokémon is important too, providing a defense answer to Spore and a way to turn off offensive Terrains to help Charizard or Snorlax. It might seem counterproductive to have a Water-type with Charizard, but you learn to manage when to Mega Evolve and when not to Mega. Even in harsh sunlight, weakening Muddy Water was not a big enough handicap to dissuade my use of Tapu Fini.

Rather than a more offensive Timid set with moves like Nature’s Madness, I opted for more traditional Tapu Fini EVs to have a strong generic role in both the Charizard and the Snorlax modes of the team. Tapu Fini’s bulk allows it to survive Mega Gengar’s Sludge Bomb 100% of the time, while Tapu Fini’s Speed allows it to outspeed opposing Jolly regular Tyranitar by a point. I didn’t expect that sort of Tyranitar to be popular, but I wanted to be faster than other Tapu Fini that were Speed creeping Bisharp, and it never hurts to have extra insurance against a random Tyranitar on a Charizard team. Tapu Fini’s Special Attack investment is just a dump from there, allowing it to deal consistent bits of damage to set up KOs for the rest of the team.

  • 252 SpA Mega Gengar Sludge Bomb vs. 252 HP / 12 SpD Tapu Fini: 150-176 (84.7 – 99.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • 84+ SpA Tapu Fini Icy Wind vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Landorus-T: 88-104 (53.3 – 63%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Mondlicht (Cresselia) @ Psychium Z
Ability: Levitate
Level: 50
EVs: 236 HP / 204 SpA / 68 SpD
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Psychic
– Ice Beam
– Helping Hand
– Trick Room

Another classic partner for Charizard, Cresselia’s Trick Room offers a powerful Speed control option, and Cresselia’s offense allows it to pressure big knockouts with Z-Psychic and Ice Beam. Originally, Cresselia was the sole Z-crystal user of this team, but even with Landorus’s Groundium Z, Psychium Z often proved its worth through the sheer versatility of the item. In addition to offering a good burst of damage against opponents in Trick Room and chunking Amoonguss, it could be used as a pseudo-Mental Herb to Trick Room through the effects of Taunt or Encore, and it also weakened the damage from Knock Off. Psychic was chosen because it is stronger than Psyshock’s Z-counterpart, while Ice Beam is there to OHKO opposing Landorus-T, generally having good coverage. Trick Room was another necessity for the set, providing Snorlax with its primary form of Speed control and Charizard with a good secondary form. Helping Hand allows the other members of the team to receive an important damage buff to pick up crucial KOs; for example, Landorus-T’s Z-Earthquake onto Tapu Fini, Charizard’s Overheat into Cresselia, or allowing Tapu Fini to 2HKO Heatran with Muddy Water. Despite Ally Switch’s potential to turn games around with mindgames and +6 Snorlax, it just wasn’t as effective in practice compared to Cresselia’s other options.

Cresselia’s offense is particularly important. Ice Beam is strong enough to KO Giuseppe Musicco’s Groundium Z Landorus (132 HP / 4 Sp. Def) 15/16 of the time, which made me more confident that I would KO the majority of Landorus I expected in tournament. Z-Psychic, unfortunately, does not get the KO on specially defensive Amoonguss, but any relevant chip damage is enough to get the job done (-1 U-turn, a Moonblast from Tapu Fini). This was important to nuke Amoonguss who thought they were safe without my Charizard currently present on the field. Despite the large amount of investment in Special Attack, Cresselia still survives a Helping Hand-boosted Shadow Ball from Timid Gengar. Cresselia’s bulk overall was more generic, capitalizing on its inherent bulk to survive large attacks or avoid being 2HKOed by an attack after Intimidate. Finally, Cresselia is Modest rather than Quiet to better take advantage of Icy Wind, outspeeding Jolly Landorus-T and below.

  • 204+ SpA Cresselia Ice Beam vs. 132 HP / 4 SpD Landorus-T: 180-216 (99.4 – 119.3%) — 93.8% chance to OHKO
  • 204+ SpA Cresselia Shattered Psyche (175 BP) vs. 236 HP / 188+ SpD Amoonguss: 194-230 (88.5 – 105%) — 25% chance to OHKO
  • 252 SpA Mega Gengar Helping Hand Shadow Ball vs. 236 HP / 68 SpD Cresselia: 188-224 (83.5 – 99.5%)

Relaxo (Snorlax) @ Figy Berry
Ability: Gluttony
Level: 50
Happiness: 0
EVs: 180 HP / 84 Atk / 244 Def
Impish Nature
IVs: 29 Spe
– Frustration
– Earthquake
– Belly Drum
– Recycle

Ever since mid-2017, Snorlax has been one of my favorite Pokémon to use in VGC. Fantastic bulk, combined with Recycle’s ability to restore Snorlax’s Berry, pairs excellently with Snorlax’s ability to tear through teams with Belly Drum. Although I think the current state of the metagame has grown less kind to Snorlax, it is legitimately one of my favorite Pokémon to use, and I was happy to include it on the team. Snorlax gives the team a completely different mode, forcing opponents to respect a fight with Charizard out of Trick Room or a fight with Snorlax in the twisted dimensions. While Frustration, Belly Drum, and Recycle are more obvious move choices, many players opt to drop the Ground-type attack for Protect. With three Ground immunities on my team, however, Snorlax often has the opportunity to launch powerful +6 Earthquakes, which can tear through teams without adequate resistance to Ground-type attacks. Having a spread moves eases decision making when fighting against Cresselia + Heatran, knowing they cannot Ally Switch to block the attack against Heatran. Typically, I like to play Snorlax defensively, using Recycle and setting up Intimidates and Misty Terrain to bide time until Snorlax can start taking knockouts safely.

Belly Drum makes Snorlax so strong, therefore, there is less need to invest in offense when it picks up the majority of its KOs anyway. At +6 Attack, a Helping Hand-boosted Earthquake will OHKO Tapu Fini 15/16 times, which I considered to be a good benchmark. Without using Belly Drum, two Earthquakes will knock out 252 HP Heatran through its Shuca Berry 91% of the time, and Frustration + Z-Psychic will KO any Charizard I am worried about playing. The leftover bulk is just generically optimized for physical defense; I was mostly just comfortable with the Defense dump from prior experience. To give an example, my Snorlax will survive other bulky Snorlax’s Frustration at +5, and Mega Kangaskhan’s Low Kick only does about 50% damage after an Intimidate. Using an Impish Nature and 29 Speed IVs allows Snorlax to avoid Speed ties with other Snorlax and Amoonguss more regularly. By discovering my Speed relative to their own Snorlax or Amoonguss, I can decide whether it is better to fight them in or out of Trick Room. By tending towards the faster end, I also can take advantage of Icy Wind to allow Snorlax to outspeed some slower threats, though this was more applicable when Charizard had Tailwind.

  • +6 84 Atk Snorlax Helping Hand Earthquake vs. 252 HP / 4 Def Tapu Fini in Misty Terrain: 175-206 (98.8 – 116.3%) — 93.8% chance to OHKO
  • +5 52 Atk Snorlax Return vs. 180 HP / 244+ Def Snorlax: 217-256 (84.1 – 99.2%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Anego (Nihilego) @ Focus Sash
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Sludge Bomb
– Power Gem
– Acid Spray
– Protect

The final addition to the team, Nihilego functions as a way to hit Tapu Fini and Incineroar with its dual STABs, trades well against Mega Gengar Kommo-o teams, and threatens opposing Charizard. Although Togedemaru’s LightningRod was gone, Nihilego still has a good match-up against the two most common Electric-types, Tapu Koko and Zapdos. Nihilego’s Acid Spray move acted as a replacement to Togedemaru’s Super Fang, permitting Charizard to break through almost every Pokémon after the Special Defense drop, in addition to setting up KOs for Nihilego itself. Although an item like Life Orb is helpful for dealing extra damage to Tapu Fini and Incineroar, I liked Focus Sash so I could play Nihilego slightly more recklessly. Scarf Landorus, +6 Azumarill, Kartana, and Tapu Lele are some examples of Pokémon I could feel more inclined to attack against if there was ambiguity in the turn.

Nihilego’s EVs are fairly straightforward. Timid Nihilego cannot knock out Tapu Lele 100% of the time without a boosting item, I wanted Modest Nature to guarantee the KO. Because I wanted Nihilego to outspeed Charizard for combination attacks with Acid Spray (e.g. against Mimilax), I needed at least 212 Speed EVs. I could not find any relevant damage calculations to justify additional bulk, so I decided to use 252 Speed to guarantee I outsped neutral Natured base 100s as well as increasing the odds of outspeeding slower Tapu Fini at -1 Speed in Tailwind.

Common Leads

+
One of my safest leads overall, this allows me to lay down an initial Intimidate and set up the board for Charizard with combinations of U-turn and Icy Wind. Typically, these two with Charizard + Cresselia in the back are what I bring to the new CHALK matchup as I scouted for their answers against Snorlax.

+
This lead exerts the most amount of offensive pressure, forcing Pokémon like Incineroar and Tapu Fini to think twice before coming in on a resisted hit. I’ll usually lead these two against slower teams that don’t have much offense, or against teams where I want to blow something up turn 1.

+
This is my go-to lead for setting up Snorlax. With the combination of Intimidate, Cresselia’s natural bulk, and Psychium Trick Room’s immunity to Taunt, it’s often difficult to stop Cresselia from getting Speed control for Snorlax. With U-turn, I can often pivot into Snorlax without taking as much damage, and I have the option to cycle a further Intimidate on the following turn.

Anything + Anything

Many different lead combinations are possible thanks to the team’s natural bulk and Speed control options. Having flexibility with my leads allows the team to function well in best-of-three, which lets me make real adjustments to an opponent’s team or playstyle during a set.

Threats to the Team

Heatran completely walls Charizard and Cresselia, and it matches up well against Nihilego. Additionally, pretty much all Heatran have Shuca Berry to withstand the Earthquakes from Landorus and Snorlax. When playing against Heatran, it’s often necessary to play very cautiously with Charizard. Even if I win the turn by taking a KO with Heat Wave, if it comes at the cost of giving Heatran sun-boosted, Flash Fire-boosted Heat Waves, I am often going to lose the game. Playing modestly with Substitute and carefully choosing when to Mega Evolve is key when fighting Heatran with Charizard. Fortunately, Heatran can only realistically use one of Substitute or Roar. If Substitute, Snorlax becomes a lot stronger, and if Roar, Heatran is unable to capitalize in positions which might offer it a free Substitute. Using Landorus-T’s Z-move is especially effective, as well as using Tapu Fini’s positive type match-up to whittle away at Heatran.

In a similar way to Heatran, Tyranitar naturally fights well against Charizard, Cresselia, and Nihilego, and if it carries Foul Play, it even scares off Snorlax from using Belly Drum in Trick Room. Mega Tyranitar poses its own set of problems, using Dragon Dance to outspeed my entire team and threaten it with boosted Rock Slide and Crunch. Landorus is extremely important when fighting Tyranitar, and taking care to time the Z-move when the opponent has limited answers for Tectonic Rage is critical. While not strictly an answer, Tapu Fini’s positive type matchup and natural bulk help it to deal with Tyranitar, especially if Charizard can turn off the sand so Moonblast does increased damage.

/

It might seem strange to include Steel-types as a threat against a team with Charizard, but their threat is well-warranted. Assault Vest Kartana, even though slower than Charizard and cannot Protect, still threatens important damage against the other five members of the team. Even offensive Cresselia often doesn’t deal enough damage with Ice Beam. Similarly, Mega Scizor is bulky enough to trade very well with the majority of my team, using Bug Bite to threaten Snorlax’s Berry and heal itself. +2 Bullet Punch also does non-trivial damage to Charizard if I let Charizard be weakened.

The Event – Day 1

Round 1: Vs. Brock Taulbee [4-5]

  

To start off my tournament, I was up against a Gary Oak team. Nihilego looked really strong here, beating the back half of his team and Pidgeot, while Landorus-T and Tapu Fini looked strong enough to roll through the rest of his squad. Seeing this at Team Preview made me relax a little bit too much, though. As his Arcanine was able to remove Tapu Fini in one hit with a Z-Wild Charge, I had to jump back into focus with one of my key Pokémon down. Brock really played well during this set, and he kept it legitimately close despite the irregular team choice. With a team better suited to the metagame, I would not have been surprised if he had done well at the event.

WW (1-0)

Round 2: Vs. Travis Borron [8-6, 30th]

  

Travis’s team looked like a cool variant of Mega Gengar balance squads, with Aurora Veil Ninetales + trap to get Pokémon like Tapu Fini in great spots. At Team Preview, Nihilego looked generically strong against Travis’s squad, and Charizard was also able to deal huge damage to the majority of Travis’s team, as well as mess with Ninetales’s chances of setting Aurora Veil. I led these two into Travis’s team and got absolutely destroyed by Hidden Power Rock Mega Gengar paired with Scarf Stomping Tantrum Krookodile. HP Rock isn’t a guaranteed OHKO on Charizard, but it is in Gengar’s favor if they are Modest, which Travis’s Gengar was. Although I managed to get the information about which four Pokémon Travis brought, I got thoroughly destroyed in game one.

This game wasn’t that much different. Trying to bait Travis into using Rock Slide, I made successful reads early on. Being able to get up Trick Room to give my Pokémon the speed advantage against his generally faster team. However, good switches and smart playing in Trick Room bought Travis enough turns to stall out my Trick Room, where Substitute’s replacement of Tailwind was punished as I was unable to prevent an Encore in the late-game against my Charizard’s Substitute. I felt frustrated after this set with how it went in general, and I was really kicking myself at the time for making the last-minute switch on Charizard to Substitute over Tailwind, which would have let me win this particular game.

LL (1-1)

Round 3: Vs. Isaac Work [1-6, drop]

 

Similarly to round one, seeing Pokémon like Silvally and Mega Gallade at Team Preview made me complacent, and I hoped for a quick 2-0. In the same way as round one, the poor mentality of underestimating your opponents came back to bite me, this time with Isaac picking up the first game after revealing Rock Slide Mega Gallade to OHKO Charizard. Adjusting in game two, I tried a Snorlax mode despite the Mega Gallade, which paid off thanks to Snorlax’s ability to set up against the majority of Isaac’s team. Isaac’s Celesteela was a real problem though, as I did not feel comfortable enough to bring Charizard in game two.

Based on how Isaac was playing with Raichu, I was hoping I could catch him off guard with the interaction of Z-moves and Encore; despite Landorus getting Encored into Protect, it was still able to use a Helping Hand-boosted Tectonic Rage to OHKO Tapu Fini before Tapu Fini could start doing work. From there, through very awkward positioning, I was able to set up Trick Room to put pressure on his Gallade and Raichu. I barely managed to squeak away with a win after nearly putting myself in a position to lose to Rock Slide Mega Gallade out of Trick Room.

LWW (2-1)

Round 4: Vs. Alex Gomez (PokeAlex) [9-5, 22nd]

PokeAlex was just about the last player I wanted to play at 2-1. While we had never played in tournament before, I knew Alex was a phenomenal player with dozens of accolades under his belt, and I was very nervous going into the match. My fears were compounded at Team Preview when I saw Mimilax with Heatran, which looked to be extremely strong against both of my modes. In game one, Alex led Mimilax into Nihilego + Charizard. If Mimikyu isn’t Jolly, I have an easy Acid Spray + Heat Wave to get a big knockout turn 1, but his Mimikyu was Jolly, which knocked out my Charizard with Destiny Bond as I gave Heatran sun-boosted Flash Fire boosted Heat Waves. Despite Landorus in the back, I was simply unable to break Heatran as it proceeded to destroy my team with the help of Salamence’s Double-Edge.

This game was not pretty either. On turn 2, as I was trying to figure out how to safely get Snorlax in while breaking Mimikyu’s Disguise, I timed out and gave Heatran Flash Fire once more with Heat Wave. Through Alex’s careful positioning and smart play with Snorlax, I was as a result unable to break the combination of Snorlax + Heatran in Trick Room. However, even though I timed out, I was in a really awful mindset throughout this whole set, and I find it unlikely I could have beaten a player of Alex’s caliber at the time.

LL (2-2)

My mindset at this point in the tournament was terrible, and I was well aware that it was affecting my gameplay significantly. Muttering to my friends that I had an autoloss against Alex, I went off on my own to figure out what was going wrong. Normally during a tournament, I feel focused and alert, but I felt exactly the opposite, scatterbrained and distant. Going into the NAIC, I had very low expectations of myself, as I was using a team that I hadn’t practiced within some time. After all, I already had my Worlds invite, so it was supposed to be no pressure. Then it clicked – I was playing without thinking I could actually win. Instead of playing to win, I was afraid to lose, and I had already determined all the excuses to make when I lost the third set and failed to make day 2. To me, such a mentality is inexcusable if my goal was to play to the best of my ability. Following advice I’ve given to others in the past, I started audibly saying to myself that I can win, and it was a great boost of confidence. I think identifying issues with one’s mentality – arrogance, fear, tendency to blame the game rather than figuring out where you could have played better, blaming an opponent for making certain plays, and so on – can sometimes be as important or even more important than having a strong team or making great plays. After figuring out what went wrong, I entered round five with real confidence and determination.

Round 5: Vs. Michael Spinetta-McCarthy (SirChicken) [2-5, drop]

  

While Incineroar still poses a real problem on standard six, ever since the team dropped Tyranitar, Charizard has appreciated it greatly. Against these sorts of teams, typically I’ll scout out how they prepare for Snorlax in game one. If they don’t bring Amoonguss out of fear or respect for Charizard, Snorlax can tear through the team in Trick Room with boosted Earthquakes and Frustration (though Cresselia’s Z-Psychic will chunk Amoonguss even on the Trick Room mode). Michael didn’t bring Amoonguss in game one, and despite bringing both Fire resists and Zapdos, Charizard was able to put in important work with its high damage output.

Snorlax seemed to be a good adjustment, and thanks to the pressure of Landorus-T and Snorlax, I got off to a strong start in Trick Room. However, I miscounted the number of Trick Room turns midway through the game. I intended to get in Cresselia on the final turn of Trick Room, but instead went for a Recycle as I brought in Tapu Fini, leaving Snorlax wide open to a Knock Off punish. Fortunately for me, Michael opted to use Flare Blitz rather than use Knock Off on Snorlax, opening the door for Cresselia and Snorlax to take home the game with relatively safe plays. I still didn’t feel quite back to 100% playing ability, but I was happy to take a 2-0 win against SirChicken.

WW (3-2)

Round 6: Vs. Joseph Nunziata (JoeDaPr0) [5-4]

 

Typically in the rain matchup, I want to set Trick Room for Snorlax, using Charizard to remove the rain for Snorlax’s benefit. In game one, I was able to catch Joseph off guard with some soft reads from Charizard, showing Substitute as Joseph played defensively in respect of Solar Beam. Despite a Heat Wave miss on Kartana in the mid-game, I remember still being able to close out the game in a relatively comfortable manner.

Based on how game one’s rain mode went, I thought Joseph might mix things up in game two and bring Celesteela or Tapu Koko over Swampert. I was really surprised to see both as a lead, but I was overall very happy, as he could only have 2 of his rain mode, Incineroar, or Kartana in the back. My adjustment to bring Landorus was important, letting me cycle Intimidate on Celesteela to make it a non-factor and providing a comfortable switch-in against Tapu Koko and Incineroar. By utilizing the combination of Charizard and Tapu Fini, Joseph ended up stuck in awkward scenarios where both sun-boosted Heat Waves and rain-boosted Muddy Waters were simultaneously threatening his team. Despite letting Charizard go down a bit early, Muddy Water’s repeated usage let me rack up several accuracy drops on Celesteela, letting me close out the game comfortably in the end.

WW (4-2)

Round 7: Vs. Andrew Burley (Andykins) [6-3]

 

I have an enormous amount of respect for Andykins from his skill in the past; we played back at 2014 US Nationals, and I remember getting super lucky against him at that event. He’s a really kind and smart player, so I was both happy and nervous to play against him. Against this sort of team, Snorlax does pretty well on paper in Trick Room. However, it’s difficult to get set up and trade more than one for one, especially with Mega Gardevoir’s ability to reverse Trick Room back to normal. Both Landorus and Nihilego looked important in the match-up, being able to hit a wide range of important targets with their super-effective attacks. I don’t remember much about game one except the Pokémon Andy brought, but I managed to win. In game two, Andy adjusted well by bringing Kartana over Gardevoir, which threatened my team more overall. Additionally, he denied a Snorlax sweep thanks to a Life Orb-boosted Foul Play against my boosted Snorlax, which pretty well sealed up the game for him.

Snorlax basically didn’t do anything in game two, so I left it behind game three in favor of my faster Charizard mode. Andykins begins game three with Tyranitar + Landorus against my own Landorus and Nihilego. Despite the importance of Landorus’s health, I made a soft read that he wouldn’t opt for the turn 1 HP Ice (even though Landorus survives, the HP was important in the match-up). This paid off immensely, granting huge damage on Incineroar and placing Tyranitar in KO range of its own Life Orb. With such a strong start, I was able to maneuver Tapu Fini into a position to drop Landorus’s Speed and give Nihilego a Beast Boost with Power Gem. Unfortunately, Icy Wind missed Landorus, which forced me to give up Nihilego earlier than I had hoped. On top of that, Charizard’s Heat Wave double missed Andy’s Landorus and Kartana, which would have allowed Tapu Fini to close up the game without much trouble. Desperate to mount a comeback, I used Substitute on Charizard, hoping to capitalize on some sort of defensive play from Andy. Catching the double switch, Charizard’s newfound Substitute allowed it to absorb a Stone Edge in the late game. Coming down to Landorus + Charizard against Andy’s Landorus, thanks to my knowledge of Speed mechanics, I knew if I landed a Rock Tomb against Andy, my own Landorus would outspeed his -1 Scarf Landorus 100% of the time. To my delight, Landorus connected both of its Rock Tombs, and I was able to close out the set in a close 2-1. This victory was a huge confidence boost for me, as I thought Andy played great throughout the set, and being able to win despite missing several important attacks really felt good.

WLW (5-2)

Round 8: Vs. Tyler Miller (MononymousVGC) [5-4]

Tyler is another old school player, but I had never played him in a tournament before. At Team Preview, Nihilego looked to be incredibly strong, as it had a positive match-up against Charizard, Venusaur, and Tapu Koko. Additionally, this looked like Electric Seed Calm Mind Cresselia from Team Preview, and Acid Spray is my primary answer to beating Calm Mind Cresselia. Game one started out extremely fortunate for me, as I got an Ice Beam freeze on Conkeldurr switching in for Landorus-T. This gave me the opportunity to whittle down Conkeldurr and Cresselia with Tapu Fini and my own Cresselia for basically nothing. At one point, Tyler made a strange move of using Ice Beam on my Nihilego in Trick Room, when I thought it was unlikely I’d switch Landorus in. As game one continued, I saw all of Cresselia’s moves, Ice Beam / Toxic / Trick Room / Moonlight, which meant it was completely walled by Nihilego. Because of the early freeze and momentum, I gained after a couple knockouts, Tyler realized he couldn’t beat Nihilego and forfeited early to conserve any further information.

With the knowledge that Nihilego beat 4/6 of Tyler’s team and that his primary answer was Scarf Landorus, I knew that playing conservatively with Nihilego would yield great reward. Either due to a misclick or an oversight, Tyler knocked out his own Tapu Koko in an attempt to grab Nihilego turn one. Because of that opening, safe plays were all that were required to whittle down Tyler’s Pokémon and take the set. While I was obviously happy to win, you could definitely feel the disappointment Tyler had – running into an awful matchup and getting frozen + KOing your own Pokémon isn’t fun for anyone. Still, Tyler was kind and respectful after the match. I would have completely understood if he wasn’t, so I want to give a shoutout to his legitimately good attitude.

WW (6-2)

Round 9: Vs. James Baek (Jamesspeed1) [6-3]

 

Having caught a glance at the stream earlier, I saw that James was running the same six with which he won the Toronto Regionals. On one hand, I remembered that my match-up practice against the Gengar Kommo-o archetype went exceptionally well pre-Madison Regionals, but on the other hand, I would argue James is the best player of that archetype in the US. Combined with the general pressure of it being the last round of day 1 Swiss, I was very nervous going into the match. Typically, my game plan against the team is to lead Nihilego and Cresselia, which lets me react with Trick Room or Helping Hand Sludge Bomb as appropriate; Charizard and Tapu Fini round out the back for their general strength in the match-up.

In game one, James led Azumarill and Clefairy and used Belly Drum, which indicated to me he was not aware that my Nihilego had Focus Sash. Because of the security of Focus Sash, Nihilego was able to attack much more recklessly against James’s team without the fear of being OHKOed by +6 Aqua Jet. James found out Nihilego had Sash during the endgame, trading Nihilego for Azumarill, and I was able to take game one without revealing my final Pokémon. In game two, James dropped Azumarill immediately for Kommo-o, and my lack of match-up practice showed. I don’t remember the exact details of this game, but I do remember that James outplayed me significantly even though I got up Trick Room.

Gengar + Kommo-o is an extremely worrisome lead. My Cresselia can survive the combination attack of Shadow Ball + Clangorous Soulblaze, but it’s incredibly dependent on Gengar and Kommo-o’s EV spreads, as well as avoiding critical hits and the chance for a Special Defense drop from Shadow Ball. Fortunately for me, Cresselia survived the double up, affording an important Trick Room against the two faster Pokémon. Cresselia’s Z-Psychic did not pick up the KO on Kommo-o (it will survive if it has some bulk and isn’t -Sp. Def Nature), and gave me Charizard in Trick Room. A successful double Protect on Mega Gengar actually ends up helping my board position, giving Charizard a free Substitute. However, Heat Wave + Power Gem failed to get the knockout on Incineroar, giving James a chance back into the game (that combination only OHKOes about 80% of the time on Incineroar that survive Koko’s Z-Thunderbolt). As Trick Room was ending, it seemed like James’s only win condition was to Rock Slide and hope to flinch Tapu Fini a ridiculous number of times, or lock into Wood Hammer and hope that Heat Wave missed. I thought James went for Wood Hammer assuming that the double miss was greater odds than flinching his way through a full HP Tapu Fini with Berry. However, it turned out that his Tapu Bulu didn’t even have Rock Slide, and Charizard connected its attacks for the game. After the match, James pointed out that if he did have Rock Slide, self-Knock Off would have won him the game if I ended up making the same play that I did, meaning like James’s double Protect, my own double Protect from earlier actually ending up hurting me more than helping (as Tapu Fini + Charizard forces Rock Slide to flinch Tapu Fini as I Moonblast Incineroar, else Heat Wave also picks up a double knockout).

WLW (7-2)

I was ecstatic to have won against James and against Gengar Kommo-o, an archetype that I struggled to find any consistency against during the middle of the season. Having fallen short at last year’s NAIC, which also resulted in missing my Worlds invite, I was overwhelmingly grateful to have reached day 2 of US Nationals for my third time. After the usual tournament formalities, Daniel Thorpe (TTT444), as well as my two roommates for the weekend, Ben Grissmer (chef) and Brandon Wright (Bright Size), went out to dinner at a Buffalo Wild Wings and did preparation work for the second day of competition. For a 7-2 from day 1 to make Top Cut, going 4-1 was realistically the only way to pull it off, and I wanted to be as prepared as I could be for the next day.

The Event – Day 2

Round 10: Vs. Shreyas Canchi Radhakrishna [9-5, 25th]

For whatever reason, pairings for round ten were public on Pokemon.com the previous evening, which gave me the opportunity to scout Shreyas’s set on stream and come up with a rudimentary gameplan. I was honestly pretty angry that they did this, as it was completely unfair to anybody who didn’t get the heads up that Pokémon published the pairings early, and I was worried Shreyas might have comparable information about my team gathered from the previous day.

In game one, thanks to prior information, I knew things like his Landorus-T was special Choice Scarf and that Tapu Fini had a peculiar Z-Water set with Haze. Early on, an important Helping Hand Overheat OHKOed his bulky Kangaskhan, and I was able to accidentally find out that his Nihilego was slower than my Mega Charizard Y, which indicated to me that he was probably a bulkier Trick Room set. I remember that after breaking Bisharp’s Sash with Cresselia’s Ice Beam, Charizard’s pressure was simply too great, setting me up for a strong game one win.

Similarly to game one, Charizard’s ability to exert offensive pressure was extremely helpful. On turn 2, I made a read that Shreyas would switch in Nihilego to block the potential Overheat coming Kangaskhan’s way, but I instead caught Landorus-T with a critical hit Z-Psychic, further pressing Charizard’s strong board. Even with a Heat Wave miss on Kangaskhan, because my Landorus outsped his Nihilego, I was able to wrap up the game through simply being faster than Shreyas’s Pokémon.

WW (8-2)

Round 11: Vs. Ian McLaughlin (raikoo) [10-4, 9th]

 

I think there are few players who would see Ian’s team and not have some fear in their hearts. Typically, beating hyper offense is accomplished via Speed control. However, with no way to stop Smeargle’s Spore on Cresselia and Tapu Fini’s inability to do much other than Icy Wind, I knew this was going to be an extremely uphill battle.

In game one, I used the pressure from Sash Nihilego to whittle away at his own Life Orb Nihilego and Smeargle. Despite using hyper offense, Ian tends to play it relatively conservatively, not going for plays that will lose him the game if he makes one incorrect read. By taking advantage of this, I was able to win enough turn-by-turn calls to let the natural bulk of my Pokémon carry me to a close game one victory. Game two was pretty much a straight up body bag. I adjusted with a Nihilego + Cresselia lead in an attempt to set Trick Room earlier than last game, as Ian led with his same Smeargle and Nihilego. He double targeted Cresselia with Spore and Power Gem as my own Nihilego Protected, and from there it was pretty much over if Cresselia didn’t get an early wake-up. No early wake-up was seen, and I forfeited at 4-3 to try and conceal what little information I could preserve.

Two things went wrong in game two: first, I Protected with Nihilego instead of breaking Smeargle’s Focus Sash, and second, my Cresselia didn’t wake up fast enough. Because Ian had to double target Cresselia to best stop Trick Room from going up, and because I knew Ian’s Smeargle lacked Spiky Shield, I figured that breaking Smeargle’s Sash to force either a Beast Boost or a switch as I was able to burn an extra turn of sleep would give me my best odds of winning. However, in a complete oversight, I used Sludge Bomb on Smeargle rather than Power Gem; while this picked up a KO on Smeargle, my momentum was lost, as I now couldn’t even attempt for a turn 1 wakeup with Cresselia. With some baiting and the yet-to-be-revealed Focus Sash on Nihilego, I somehow managed to get Ian down to his remaining two Pokémon, setting myself up for a situation where a double Protect on Nihilego or a double Protect on Charizard would win me the game. Neither of these occurred, and Ian was able to close out a well-played 2-1 set. Typically I get incredibly frustrated against hyper offense, as they make big reads to win or lose them the game, but Ian played it in a much more positioning-based way, and I can confidently say he played better than me, rather than making huge 50/50 all-in plays.

WLL (8-3)

Round 12: Vs. William Hall (Biosci) [10-4, 8th]

  

Biosci and I were called to be on the side stream for this round, and I was excited to get to play him in general. I remember Biosci as the “high flyin’ Wi-Fi’n Hawaiian” from back in the 2012 days of Nugget Bridge, and I thought it was cool I got to play someone that I viewed as a good player from back in the day. Biosci’s Team Preview looked amazing for Nihilego; it hit Biosci’s three Fairy-types and Incineroar hard, and it walled Amoonguss if one of our anti-Sleep Terrains was up. In game one, I led Nihilego + Charizard into Biosci’s Azumarill + Amoonguss. I double targeted Amoonguss with Sludge Bomb and Heat Wave, but Heat Wave missed Amoonguss as Azumarill set up Belly Drum. With Amoonguss still around, I had to play very carefully against the boosted Azumarill. Still, through careful Protects and abusing Nihilego’s Focus Sash, I was able to remove Azumarill and bring the game down to a 2v2. Biosci had Tapu Koko in Misty Terrain without Z-move access + Gardevoir (both at 100%) against my Landorus-T with Z-move access and Charizard (both at 100%). Assuming Gardevoir to be slower than Landorus, I opted for an Overheat + Tec Rage play to take two knockouts. To my dismay, Thunderbolt landed a critical hit on Charizard for the knockout, and Gardevoir revealed it was faster than Landorus, showing it wasn’t as slow as I thought for a Trick Room variant, and getting the necessary damage with Hyper Voice to wrap up the game next turn.

In game two, I decided to just try the same thing. Hopefully playing better would let me avoid scenarios where those sorts of things could happen. Fortunately, I was met with the same lead as game one and connected Heat Wave, leaving Nihilego in a much stronger position. A surprise Ally Switch from Mega Gardevoir let me confirm that this Gardevoir wasn’t a Trick Room variant at all, but despite the surprise, I was able to take game two in a much more comfortable manner.

Biosci’s new lead signaled to me that he ended on taking a knockout on turn 1. However, it felt like a 50/50 about which one he targeted; even though I could make a reactionary play to a double target, I couldn’t stop Azumarill from setting up Belly Drum if I got the turn wrong. Instead, deciding to attack with both, my Charizard got the Heat Wave OHKO damage roll on Tapu Koko and important damage on Azumarill, setting up my board with enormous pressure to deny Azumarill its Belly Drum. By making safe plays, I was able to wrap up the game, with Gardevoir unable to outdamage the natural special bulk of Charizard and Tapu Fini.

LWW (9-3)

Round 13: Vs. Kyle Livinghouse (Animus) [10-4, 10th]

  

Kyle and I were relegated to the side stream once more, and I did not like the match-up set before me. Gengar + Incineroar + Tyranitar is a nightmare for Charizard, basically forcing me into Snorlax mode. With only one Ground resist, Snorlax’s boosted Earthquake looked like it put in enormous work in Trick Room, though it would be tricky to set up if Mega Gengar had Taunt or Tyranitar had Foul Play. In game one, it actually happened just like that; I got Snorlax in Trick Room, and Animus was simply unable to stop +6 Earthquake from hitting everything on his field. Adjusting for game two, Kyle applied heavy pressure to Snorlax, and won thanks to a preservation of Tyranitar’s HP for Earthquake in the late game. Kyle’s Tyranitar revealed its item to be Weakness Policy, which was a big deal, as using U-turn to pivot on Tyranitar was now not worth the damage trade.

Kyle brought the same Pokémon to all three games: Gengar + Incineroar leads with Kartana and Tyranitar in the back. Conserving Landorus-T’s Tectonic Rage for Tyranitar was extremely important, and I had to be extremely cautious about getting the right timing. Because of Kyle’s strong early game, I felt pressured into launching my Z-move early, instead catching Incineroar for an appreciated knockout, but not the right one. The critical turn of this game was when I had Landorus-T + Cresselia against Kyle’s Gengar + Kartana. Because Kartana was in Ice Beam KO range, a Trick Room would win me the game, as I would be able to use Ice Beam + Belly Drum to close it up. With an easy double target available to Kyle, however, I decided to just hope a -1 Helping Hand Earthquake would pick up the knockout on Kyle’s Kartana. Perhaps Snorlax and Landorus could take the game against solo Tyranitar, though it would be difficult because of Tyranitar’s Weakness Policy (and I assumed it had Foul Play). However, Kyle explicitly read into this win condition and took the knockout on Landorus, sealing the set for him. I was happy to have made the set competitive against what I thought was a difficult match-up, but I was disappointed that I was no longer able to Top Cut. Still, with Top 16 prizing on the line, I knew I had to keep it together and play my best for the last set of the weekend.

WLL (9-4)

Round 14: Vs. Alex Gomez (PokeAlex) [9-5, 22nd]

I sort of just laughed when I saw the pairings. Even though the result from yesterday was in part due to poor mentality, I really did think that Alex had the match-up regardless. Still, I had done some thinking on the match-up during the interim between day 1 and day 2, and I reasoned that Charizard was not doing anything against the four of Mimikyu / Snorlax / Salamence / Heatran that Alex brought yesterday. If anything, it was hurting me, because I was powering up Heatran. I also decided that I needed to be willing to make hard reads, because this simply wasn’t a match-up I could afford to play very safe in. In both games of Swiss on day 1, Alex made the same play against Nihilego + Charizard with his Mimilax lead: switch Snorlax to Heatran and Destiny Bond. This time, I used Acid Spray and non-Mega Overheat into Mimikyu, trading Charizard for a denial of Trick Room. From there, by positioning well with Landorus and predicting one of Heatran’s Protects, I was able to launch a successful Z-Earthquake to KO Heatran at -1 through Shuca Berry. After trading well with Salamence, I was able to actually take game one.

In game two, I figured bringing Charizard at all was just a bad idea. What I had just done in game one was easily counterable with a switch from Mimikyu to Heatran, and giving Heatran Flash Fire was too big of a dealbreaker. Instead, I led Nihilego + Snorlax, calling Mimikyu’s turn one Taunt to get chip damage off on Snorlax with Frustration as Nihilego busted Disguise. Although my Snorlax was unable to boost alongside Alex’s Snorlax, a follow-up Frustration put Snorlax in KO range of Tectonic Rage. The mid-game of this match is a bit fuzzy, but I recall playing to a situation where if Landorus connected two Rock Tombs on Mega Salamence, I would have probably won the game (though it might have survived). Rock Tomb misses however, and Alex takes game two.

Throughout this set, I had attempted to make aggressive reads because I felt like I was so far down in team match-up. For the first time in our two sets, Alex opts to go straight for a Belly Drum and Trick Room, and I thought I had lost immediately. The only Pokémon I had left to deal enough damage to Snorlax in Trick Room was Landorus, and Snorlax has relatively safe Recycles against Nihilego and Tapu Fini. Resigning to a hope for a misplay, Snorlax actually survived Alex’s +6 Return with what had to be a minimum damage roll, importantly buying me a turn of Trick Room and forcing Alex into attacking Snorlax with his own. From there, I had a series of safe plays I could make to guarantee Tapu Fini and Landorus ended up out of Trick Room. Knowing Alex knew that, I opted to use my Z-move into Snorlax rather than Protect, and I get the turn right, sacrificing the weakened Nihilego in the process. From there, I needed to respect Salamence’s ability to Dragon Dance, and I thought I would need to Icy Wind to keep it in check for later. Thanks to a critical hit Icy Wind, however, I had now put Salamence into KO range of its own Double-Edge recoil. I also partially win a 50/50 with the target of Double-Edge, leaving the healthier Tapu Fini alive to fight against Mimikyu and Heatran.

I could not use Muddy Water recklessly. I have to respect the option for Mimikyu to use Destiny Bond, I couldn’t afford to put Mimikyu into Muddy Water KO range until Heatran was also in range for the attack. To pull this off, I win another 50/50 turn, win a Speed tie against Heatran to hit it with Muddy Water before it could use Substitute, and survive Z-Shadow Claw from Mimikyu on a min damage roll. After all this, Tapu Fini was able to close out the game with a 0-0 victory by attacking into Destiny Bond. I don’t think this was a fair game to Alex at all, but I do think it underscores the strong team matchup and skill Alex displayed; I needed everything to go my way, and even when it did, it was still a nailbiter. Good games to Alex.

WLW (10-4)

Conclusion

With that, I ended my North American International Champsionship tournament run with a final record of 10-4, and an individual game record of 22-13. Throughout the season overall, Charizard and friends has earned me 482 CP, already a Worlds invite on its own. Whether or not Charizard will make an appearance at Worlds as well is yet to be seen, but I’m overall satisfied with this team and how I have played it throughout the season.

Thanks for reading!

One comment

  1. Man, it’s been a long while since I have read a detailed report like this. Good job Trey!

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