Sneaking through the Shadows – 23rd Place Worlds Report

Hello, everyone. My name is Christopher Kan, and I am excited to share my team and tournament report from the 2019 Pokemon World Championships with you.

Team Selection

Choice of Primal /

The first teambuilding decision I made was that my team should definitely include either Primal Groudon or Primal Kyogre. I had always felt that these two Pokemon were simply a cut above the other restricted Pokemon. In addition, as a VGC16 player, I enjoyed the classic weather war matchup between the two. I believed that the only true counter to each Primal was the corresponding Primal.

I was initially very excited about Primal Kyogre. I was familiar with its strengths and weaknesses because I had used a RayOgre team in VGC16 and a Choice Scarf Kyogre team throughout most of Sun and Moon Series. Furthermore, Kyogre seemed to be dominating the Ultra Series format based on the results of the North American International Championships. However, after considerable testing and discussion, I came to move away from Kyogre. The reasons why were as follows:

  • Kyogre’s main asset is its high damage output. However, the extent to which it can make use of this is limited. Kyogre is very often forced to rely on Origin Pulse rather than Water Spout, which is a far weaker and less accurate option. Additionally, Kyogre is very often battling in Delta Stream rather than in Primordial Sea, which further weakens its attacks. Finally, Kyogre cannot usually afford to use much Special Attack investment making it miss a lot of crucial KOs.
  • Kyogre’s Speed is underwhelming. Kyogre is slower than common Pokemon such as Rayquaza, Lunala, and Xerneas, which can chunk it for heavy damage. This undermines it defensively, because it is easy to chip into range of powerful attacks. This also undermines it offensively because taking damage removes Water Spout as an option.
  • Kyogre is unsuitable as a defensive option. Kyogre doesn’t appreciate taking damage because it is reliant on Water Spout for offence. Kyogre’s only relevant resistance is Water, which is useless because it can’t do anything in return to other Water-type Pokemon. Additionally, the most common Water-type Pokémon other than Kyogre itself is Tapu Fini, which can easily bypass Kyogre’s resistance with Nature’s Madness.
  • Kyogre has issues with type coverage. Water is only able to hit Groudon and Incineroar for super effective damage. Additionally, a lot of Pokemon resist Water and can easily switch into Kyogre’s attacks, such as Rayquaza, Tapu Fini, Ferrothorn, and Amoonguss.

This left me with Primal Groudon. Groudon’s offensive stats were comparable to Kyogre’s, but its Fire/Ground typing gave it superior coverage, which made it the better offensive option, in my opinion. Additionally, Groudon was undoubtedly the better defensive option because it had a number of relevant resistances.

Support Options

After I settled on Groudon, I wanted to fill out the rest of the team. The two cores that were commonly used alongside Groudon were the Salamence/Tapu Fini/Incineroar core and the Kangaskhan/Tornadus core. I preferred the former, because it gave me more defensive options to work with and had more synergy with my bulky Groudon set.

Secondary Restricted ///

I tested a number of options in the second restricted slot on the team, even down to the really obscure restricted Pokemon. The main options that I gave serious consideration to were Xerneas, Yveltal, Lunala, and Ultra Necrozma.

Yveltal would offer the team favourable matchups against Lunala, Ultra Necrozma, and various other teams. At the same time, Yveltal was underwhelming against Pokemon such as Xerneas, Tapu Koko, Tapu Fini, and Incineroar. I wanted to make the team as robust as possible rather than simply try to call the metagame, so I took Yveltal off the table.

Lunala had a lot of synergy with the other members of the team thanks to its coverage and various supportive options. I decided against Lunala for the same reasons as Yveltal: namely, Lunala had huge issues with Crunch Rayquaza, Yveltal, Incineroar, as well as Lunala mirrors. I didn’t want to include a Pokemon with such a gaping Achilles heel on a team that tries to be as well-rounded as possible.

Ultra Necrozma, on paper, was a good candidate for a secondary restricted. However, like the last two options, it also had major weaknesses to Yveltal and Lunala. I also wasn’t really convinced about this Pokémon’s Xerneas matchup, because it was reliant on gimmicks such as Magic Room Tapu Lele to deal with it. In general, Ultra Necrozma seemed like a glass cannon that didn’t fit with the rest of the team.

Xerneas was the secondary restricted option that I ultimately settled on. Xerneas avoided most of the flaws outlined above. In my opinion, Xerneas did not have a major weakness, because most of its checks were aimed at countering Geomancy rather than countering Xerneas itself. Xerneas was also quite simply the best Pokemon in the format to have against Rayquaza, which was a major threat to Groudon.

Z Move User

The last slot was left open for a Pokémon that patched up weaknesses in the team. None of my other Pokemon was holding a Z-Crystal, so I looked for potential Z-Move users that could be used in difficult matchups. Mimikyu was the first and only Pokemon I tested in this role, and I was satisfied that it solved a lot of the team’s issues. Mimikyu also had actual synergy with the other members of the team, and worked well in conjunction with them. This was in stark contrast to the more gimmicky Shedinja, commonly seen in this slot, which, despite offering the team an alternative win-condition, didn’t really make any strategic contribution to the team.

Team Analysis

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Xerneas @ Power Herb
Ability: Fairy Aura
Nature: Modest
EVs: 164 HP/20 DEF/100 SATK/28 SDEF/196 SPE
-Moonblast
-Dazzling Gleam
-Geomancy
-Protect

This Xerneas is a balance between offence, defence, and speed. Having well-rounded stats allowed Xerneas to vary its role in response to different situations. Xerneas could leverage its considerable bulk to make it more robust as a Geomancy sweeper. Alternatively, Xerneas could make use of its Speed and Special Attack stats in order to pose a threat even without the Geomancy boosts.

The bulk on this Xerneas allows it to survive even the most powerful attacks in the game. It can be used in conjunction with the other tools on the team to give Xerneas a lot of staying power. This is especially so after Xerneas has set up a Geomancy, because the Speed and Special Attack boosts already limit the opponent’s damage output options against it.

The Special Attack investment on this Xerneas allows it to hit a special attack stat of 180, which I considered to be a good benchmark. This gives Xerneas damage output comparable to 252 SATK Timid Xerneas, which helps with making rough damage calculation estimates.

I set Xerneas’ Speed to be one point faster than my Mimikyu. The reason for this was because I would often click Moonblast + Let’s Snuggle Forever to KO bulky Pokemon. For this combination to work, Xerneas had to move before Mimikyu, because Mimikyu might risk triggering a 50% Berry, which would cause me to miss the KO. As an added bonus, this allows Xerneas to speed creep Pokemon that speed creep the Primals by one point.


Groudon @ Red Orb
Ability: Drought
Nature: Adamant
EVs: 252 HP/4 ATK/4 DEF/244 SDEF/4 SPE
-Precipice Blades
-Fire Punch
-Swords Dance
-Protect

This Groudon uses an Adamant Nature, but with negligible attack investment. I anticipated that a lot of players would EV their Pokemon to survive Groudon’s attacks, making additional Attack investment redundant. To the extent that additional power was needed, I decided to rely on Swords Dance to increase its damage output.

I would guess that this Groudon was probably the most specially defensive Groudon used at the World Championships. It was not EV’d to survive any attacks in particular, but benefitted from the additional bulk in a variety of different situations. The high Special Defence investment could also be stacked with Snarl and Light Screen support, enabling Groudon to survive even very powerful special attacks with ease.


Salamence @ Salamencite
Ability: Intimidate
Nature: Hasty
EVs: 84 HP/4 ATK/44 SATK/252 SDEF/124 SPE
-Double Edge
-Hyper Voice
-Tailwind
-Protect

This Salamence is also notorious for its very high Special Defence investment. Salamence is able to survive a variety of powerful special attacks which makes it a very reliable Tailwind setter. In addition, the high Special Defence investment allows Salamence to make better use of its defensive typing. Unlike the more offensive Salamence builds with minimal bulk, this Salamence could be switched into even very powerful resisted attacks without taking too much damage.

The Speed on Salamence was intended to outspeed Timid Nihilego by one point. I wasn’t especially worried about giving up the Speed advantage against faster Pokémon, because in most cases these Pokemon were incapable of KOing Salamence.


Incineroar @ Assault Vest
Ability: Intimidate
Nature: Sassy
EVs: 252 HP/4 DEF/252 SDEF
-Darkest Lariat
-Snarl
-Fake Out
-U-Turn

I decided to use Assault Vest Incineroar to allow it to survive even the most powerful of attacks. The increased survivability allowed Incineroar to stay on the field in situations where it would otherwise have been threatened, allowing it to use Snarl and U-turn as effectively as possible. Additionally, Incineroar could comfortably switch into almost any attack, which provided it with many opportunities to utilise Fake Out and Intimidate.

I used Darkest Lariat as well as Snarl to improve my Lunala matchup. I could use Snarl to break the Shadow Shield first, and proceed to KO it the following turn using Darkest Lariat. I didn’t think that Flare Blitz was necessary, because I already had Groudon to offer Fire-type coverage.


Tapu Fini @ Aguav Berry
Ability: Misty Surge
Nature: Bold
EVs: 244 HP/116 DEF/4 SATK/92 SDEF/52 SPE
-Moonblast
-Haze
-Heal Pulse
-Light Screen

Tapu Fini was a useful support Pokemon that had good synergy with Groudon. The moveset was tailored to cover some of Groudon’s weaknesses. I chose Moonblast as the offensive option for this Tapu Fini so that it could deal damage to Mega Rayquaza, which would otherwise wall my Groudon. Moonblast is also very useful against Pokémon such as Xerneas, Kyogre, and Lunala, because it can deal chip damage and fish for SATK drops. Haze was to keep opposing Xerneas in check and to remove Intimidates from my Groudon. Light Screen in conjunction with Heal Pulse could be used effectively with my specially defensive Groudon to take its survivability to new levels.

Tapu Fini’s Speed was set to outspeed my Groudon by one point. This was important so that I could Haze away Attack drops and attack with my Groudon on the same turn.


Mimikyu @ Mimikium Z
Ability: Disguise
Nature: Adamant
EVs: 36 HP/252 ATK/4 DEF/4 SDEF/212 SPE
-Play Rough
-Shadow Sneak
-Curse
-Protect

Mimikyu was a secondary offensive Fairy type Pokemon that could be used in conjunction with Xerneas. This Fairy Aura spam strategy offered an offensive mode to the team that allowed me to vary my playstyle according to the matchup.

Curse was originally just for Soak Shedinja (which the team has nothing for), but I found it to be a useful tool that could be used in a variety of situations. Curse is a good counter to strategies that rely on staying power, such as Substitute Mega Gengar, Geomancy Xerneas, and Stockpile Snorlax.

Team Strategy

In Ultra Series, I believed that, as a general rule, the first player to remove two of their opponent’s Pokemon would win the battle. In Primal matchups, preserving the ability to switch means that you win the weather war, which is usually your main win condition. In other matchups, preserving the ability to switch lets you one-sidedly cycle Intimidate/Snarl and other supportive options to increase your chances of winning in the endgame.

I thought that the best way to achieve this was through a bulk/offence playstyle that allows my Pokémon to survive for a long time while putting out consistent damage to wear the opponent down. Therefore, I aimed to make my team as well-rounded as possible and to remove any major weaknesses that could be exploited by my opponents. Additionally, I wanted to have a variety of support and switch options that allowed me to maneuver through difficult situations.

The main defensive core of the team was Groudon, Salamence, Tapu Fini, and Incineroar. These Pokémon had very good typing synergy, which made it really easy to switch between them. They were all invested completely in bulk, making it even more difficult for my opponents to break through. On top of this, between these four Pokemon, I gain access to many supportive options such as Desolate Land, Tailwind, Intimidate, Fake Out, Snarl, Light Screen and Heal Pulse. Having access to all of this gave me confidence that my opponents wouldn’t be able to break through my team, and from there I could execute my strategy of grinding the opponent down to their last two.

In addition to the defensive aspect of the team, I also had access to other options using Xerneas and Mimikyu. The defensive playstyle will not be a viable strategy in every matchup, so having access to a setup option via Geomancy or an offensive mode using Fairy Aura spam gives me some more variety to respond to different matchups.

2019 World Championships Tournament Report

On Saturday morning, I was feeling excited but a little bit nervous to get competing. I wanted to avoid feeling as overwhelmed by the Worlds atmosphere as I had been in previous years. Talking to my friends who were also competing in Day Two and in the DC Open helped calm me down a little bit.

Round One v Paul Ruiz Jara (EC)

In Round One, I was paired against the defending world champion. Talk about being thrown into the deep end! As I mentioned, I was already a little bit nervous going into the tournament, and getting an opponent like this to start off with was definitely somewhat intimidating. However, I tried to put all of this out of my mind and concentrate.

In team preview I saw that Paul was using Ultra Necrozma/Groudon. This was an archetype I had tested myself in the lead-up to Worlds.The main reason why I shelved this team in practice was because I felt that its Xerneas matchup was inconsistent, as it relied on Tapu Lele’s Magic Room, which I considered to be slightly gimmicky. In Paul’s case, he didn’t even have Tapu Lele, leading me to think that I could use Xerneas very effectively in this matchup.

Game One: In Game One, I lead with Xerneas/Incineroar into Paul’s Salamence/Tapu Fini. His Tapu Fini revealed Misty Seed. With the Misty Seed reveal, I guessed that the chances of his Tapu Fini carrying Haze were relatively low, so I had free reign to set up a Geomancy. From there, I would simply have to get my Groudon onto the field, and he would be in a very difficult position. The game ended up playing out vaguely along these lines. I was able to set up my Xerneas early on and put out offensive pressure. Because Paul did not bring Stakataka or Incineroar in the back, it was difficult for him to respond to the threat. I was able to Intimidate his Groudon to slow its progress in KOing my Xerneas. By the time my Xerneas went down, I was in a good position to clean up the rest of his team with my Salamence and Groudon in Tailwind.

Game Two: In Game Two, I decided to lead with Xerneas and Groudon as Paul lead with Necrozma and Incineroar. I just kept on clicking Precipice Blades and Geomancy while he tried to set up Calm Minds with his Necrozma. I was never especially afraid of his Necrozma, because he didn’t Ultra Burst immediately and therefore couldn’t use his Z-Move to KO my Xerneas. Ultimately, he ended up trying to set up a second Calm Mind with his Necrozma and losing it to a Precipice Blades before it could put out any damage. At this point, though he was able to pull the game back somewhat by revealing Roar on his Incineroar, he was too far behind to win the game. To add insult to injury, he missed a Draco Meteor into my Salamence, but at that point I was up 4 to 1, so this was probably not relevant to the outcome.

I was pleased with my performance in the first round and glad to get the win. At the same time, as someone who has experienced what Paul is capable of at the top of his game, I didn’t feel that this game did justice to his credit as a player.

1-0


Round Two v Javier Valdes (CL)

I had seen Javier around at previous tournaments and seen his name on tournament standings, but had never had the opportunity to meet or play against him. He was a pretty cool guy who I enjoyed meeting.

Javier’s team looked a little bit unusual at first glance, but I think I understood the idea of it. It was apparent that he would be relying on Tapu Fini/Rayquaza to handle my Groudon and Mega Metagross to deal with my Xerneas. In this respect, the essential strategy was no different to the Dusk Mane/Rayquaza and Solgaleo/Rayquaza teams that I had tested and theorised against. I was also aware of the possibility of Hydro Vortex Tapu Fini, which would give him the ability to KO my Groudon through Protect.

Game One: I lead with Groudon and Tapu Fini into Javier’s Metagross and Tapu Fini. I anticipated that he would switch in his Rayquaza and go for Hydro Vortex into my Groudon, knowing that without my Groudon I would have nothing left to handle his Metagross. I decided to Moonblast into the Metagross slot and switch my Groudon out for Incineroar. The turn plays out exactly as I predicted, and I am able to deal 50% to his incoming Rayquaza while also getting an Intimidate onto it at the expense of some damage on my Incineroar. The following turn, I decide to Fake Out his Rayquaza and Heal Pulse my Incineroar to undo the damage from the first turn. Javier withdraws his Rayquaza back into Metagross and uses Muddy Water. At this point, I realised that Javier would have a lot of trouble with my Groudon, because I could easily keep Desolate Land up by always using Moonblast into the slot next to his Tapu Fini so that his Rayquaza would go down if it switched in. I switch Incineroar into Groudon as I Moonblast his Metagross while Javier Mega Evolves and uses Hammer Arm into the Groudon and Moonblast into Tapu Fini. From there, I am able to execute my gameplan of spamming Moonblast + Precipice Blades to KO anything on his team while keeping my Groudon safe, which ultimately wins me the game.

Game Two: Based on Game One, I felt that Mimikyu could play a similar role to Tapu Fini, because the Z-Move would negate a potential Rayquaza switch-in. I decided to lead with Groudon and Mimikyu while he leads Metagross and Togedemaru. Groudon was in an incredible position to pick up one, or even two, KOs. I Protect my Mimikyu and use Precipice Blades while he uses Fake Out into Groudon and Iron Head into Mimikyu. The reason why I didn’t Protect Groudon was because it wasn’t under any real threat from either of these Pokémon, and I didn’t want to give my opponent a “get out of jail free” card from this bad situation by using Encore to lock me into Protect. On turn two, I decide to use Precipice Blades and Let’s Snuggle Forever into Metagross. Javier makes a very good play, using Protect with Metagross and Nuzzle into my Mimikyu. The end result was trading Togedemaru for Mimikyu’s Disguise and Paralysis. He brings Rayquaza onto the field. Next turn I make a very careless play that ends up winning me the game. Javier doubles my Groudon with Hammer Arm with Metagross and Surf with his Rayquaza as I went for Play Rough and Fire Punch. I had completely overlooked the possibility of his Rayquaza using a Water-type attack. Fortunately, my Groudon barely survives and is able to finish off his Metagross. 252 HP/244 SDEF coming in clutch! Because of this, Javier would be left with just Rayquaza and Tapu Fini and would struggle to handle my Xerneas in the back. Despite Javier playing very well and making multiple correct decisions in a row, I was able to clutch out the win with Xerneas.

I was happy with my performance in this round. I felt that I had done a good job of assessing my opponent’s strategy and developed an effective strategy to deal with it.

2-0


Round Three v Eric Rios (ES)

In Round Three, I had the opportunity to play on stream. My opponent was Eric Rios from Spain, who I had played against on two occasions during the Melbourne IC Midseason Showdown event. From this experience, I knew not to underestimate my opponent’s skill level and preparation.

I had played against a lot of different RayOgre teams in the lead up to Worlds but had never encountered a version like this. I had to think on my feet and try to come up with a plan. I realised that, with all of his Xerneas checks, I would need to bring Groudon to break through some of them. If I could do this, I thought I would be able to use the usual Xerneas mode effectively.

Game One: I lead with Mimikyu and Groudon into his Nihilego and Incineroar. I thought I was in a decent position because I could use Precipice Blades + Let’s Snuggle Forever into his Incineroar slot, which would pick up the KO, and it would be difficult for him to switch in either his Rayquaza or Kyogre. At the same time, I would also bring his Nihilego to its Focus Sash and could later go for Shadow Sneak to finish it off. I decided to go for this play at the soonest possible opportunity. I had a vague suspicion that his Nihilego might have Hidden Power Water, but I decided to let things run their course anyway. I shook my head as he switched into Kyogre because I felt I should have read into this, but it was a good thing that I didn’t, because I ended up surviving and getting my Precipice Blades off. SDEF Groudon coming in clutch again! From there, I felt that the doors were open for my Xerneas to win the game, because he would not be able to threaten it using Nihilego. In response to his Rayquaza setting up a Swords Dance, I decide to use Curse so that I could limit the damage it could do. In the end game, my Xerneas is able to set up a late Geomancy to win very narrowly against his Kyogre and Incineroar.

Game Two: In Game Two, I decided to lead with Mimikyu and Xerneas. I thought that Eric might want to mix up his lead knowing that Hidden Power Water could not KO my Groudon, but it seemed like he remained confident in the Nihilego/Incineroar lead, and was reluctant to move away from it. I decided to switch in my Incineroar so that I could set up an early game Geomancy and put pressure on his Pokémon. My game plan was to set up my Xerneas and then to try to get Groudon and Xerneas on the field at the same time to get into a favourable position, using Dazzling Gleam + Precipice Blades to KO any of his Pokémon. I am able to trade my Incineroar and some damage on my Xerneas for a Geomancy set-up, allowing me to achieve this. I used Dazzling Gleam and Precipice Blades to KO his Incineroar and Nihilego, but he was able to KO my Xerneas with a critical hit Sludge Bomb as his Nihilego went down. This seemed insignificant, because he had the potential to use Extreme Speed to finish it off the following turn. However, I could have Protected my Xerneas and switched my Groudon for Mimikyu to force him to trade his Rayquaza for my Xerneas and win the endgame weather war. Instead, the end game comes down to Mimikyu and Groudon vs Rayquaza and Kyogre. I decide to use my Z-Move into his Rayquaza as I set up a Swords Dance with Groudon. This essentially forced him to go for Protect while simultaneously punishing the Protect. The following turn, I go for Play Rough to try to finish off his Rayquaza, but it survives with 2 HP. Had this attack done slightly more damage and KO’d the Rayquaza, I would have won the game, because my Precipice Blades would have dealt single target damage against his Kyogre to pick up the KO. Instead, I am just left with Mimikyu against his +2 Rayquaza and Kyogre. In hindsight, I actually could have won this game had I made the correct 50/50 call as to which target to use Play Rough into, but at the time I didn’t have confidence that my Mimikyu would be able to KO his Kyogre and thus had already resigned myself to losing.

Game Three: I lead with Incineroar and Groudon in Game Three, hoping to catch Eric’s Nihilego. Sure enough, he sticks with the same lead of Nihilego and Incineroar. Eric withdraws Incineroar for Rayquaza and uses Hidden Power Water for damage against my Groudon and I am able to remove Nihilego on the first turn using Precipice Blades and Snarl. Similarly to the previous game, I now see an opening for Xerneas to sweep the rest of Eric’s team if I can pivot into position to set up a Geomancy. He uses his free switch to switch in Kyogre, and goes for Dragon Ascent into Groudon and Water Spout while I go for U-turn and Precipice Blades. Crucially, Incineroar is able to survive the single target Water Spout allowing me to U-turn into Xerneas and get into position to Fake Out + Geomancy the following turn. 252 HP/252 SDEF AV Incineroar coming in clutch! I decided to Fake Out his Rayquaza over his Kyogre, because I thought that his win condition was a critical hit no matter what, and a critical hit from Kyogre is less devastating than a critical hit from Rayquaza. Additionally, I was hoping that his Kyogre might use Water Spout and KO my Incineroar to give me a free switch-in to Mimikyu, so that I could close out the game. As it happens, the Kyogre manages to land a critical hit on my Xerneas to put him back in the game. But Xerneas is still out of range of Extreme Speed, enabling it to use Dazzling Gleam twice to put damage onto his Kyogre and KO his Incineroar. I made a major misplay toward the end by not using Play Rough to KO Eric’s Kyogre and forcing an end game of Rayquaza v Mimikyu and Incineroar. In the end, I was forced to win the game off of a completely avoidable 50/50, but this time it did work out in my favour, so I ended up winning the game (albeit in quite an unceremonious fashion).

I am glad that I had the opportunity to play this round on stream and to have been able to showcase the classic XernDon vs RayOgre matchup. I think that Eric played the set very well, and I was happy to see him go on to make Top 8 in the tournament. I was excited to have won the first three rounds as I was now just one win away from improving my personal best result.

3-0


Round Four v Alex Gomez (ES)

I was very flustered going into Round Four, because I had to rush immediately back to the play area after my post-game interview and get straight into it. When I saw that Alex was using the exact same team as I had just played against, I started to feel a little bit concerned, because I couldn’t tell how much (if any) of my stream game that Alex might have been able to watch.

Game One: I wanted to mix things up from how I played the game the round before. I came up with the plan of using Mega Salamence to set up Tailwind to allow my Groudon to outspeed and threaten his Nihilego while my Xerneas and Mimikyu could outspeed and threaten his Rayquaza and Kyogre. This did not exactly go according to plan, because he revealed Trick Room on his Nihilego early on in the game. However, even with Trick Room set up, it was difficult for my opponent to transition smoothly into a potential Kyogre sweep and he was quite apprehensive of the possibility of a Groudon switch in. As a consequence, he wasted some of his Trick Room turns trying to bring Kyogre in safely and using Ice Beam. I was able to stall out his Trick Room and set up a Tailwind to gain late game momentum. The end of the game came down to his Beast Boosted Nihilego against my full health Groudon (with no weather set up). I knew that this HP Water would do approximately the same damage as Eric’s HP Water in Primordial Sea from the round before, and sure enough, I was able to survive and KO his Nihilego to take Game One. SDEF Groudon coming in clutch again!

Game Two: I can’t really remember too well what happened in Game Two, but I used the same Pokémon as I did from the game before. I do recall this game being a very, very close game like Game One, with Trick Room being set up, but on this occasion Alex was able to come out on top.

Game Three: In Game Three, I decided to return to the Mimikyu/Groudon/Xerneas mode that I used against Eric the round before. I was able to set up my Xerneas early game and force him to trade his Nihilego and Incineroar to deal with it. He was left with Kyogre and Rayquaza against my Mimikyu, Groudon, and Incineroar. I see that my way to win the game is to KO his Rayquaza by using Mimikyu, and then have Groudon win the weather war against his Kyogre in the end game. I Z-Move into Rayquaza as I switch into Incineroar to enable me to Fake Out and Play Rough for the KO next turn. His win condition is a double Protect, which, unfortunately, he is able to get. Had this not been the case, my Play Rough would definitely have KO’d, because unlike the round before (where Eric’s Rayquaza narrowly survived this combination), the Rayquaza would be taking both attacks in non-Mega form and would also have Fake Out chip damage. This costs me the win, because he could just use his Rayquaza to KO my Mimikyu the following turn, which wins him the weather war and therefore the game.

This was a somewhat disappointing way to lose, but I don’t really have any regrets about my play. I put myself in the position to win the game, but lost to a factor that I can’t control. Still, I must give a lot of credit to Alex for his play throughout the set. It was a really close and memorable game, and the conclusion doesn’t change that. I was happy to see Alex make it to top 8 at the tournament.

3-1


Round Five v Arata Nakada (JP)

My opponent had just come back from playing on stream in Round Four, but I didn’t get to catch any of the game because my previous round took up most of the round time. Team preview revealed that I was paired against a third RayOgre team in a row, and after the last two rounds, I had already had more than enough of this matchup. A major observation I had about my opponent’s team was that he didn’t have any ‘hard counters’ to Xerneas, but instead seemed to have a number of more soft Geomancy checks. I guessed that he would have Haze on his Tapu Fini and possibly Roar on his Incineroar. I saw that my opponent was also a man of culture, with his own Mimikyu.

Game One: I lead with Salamence and Xerneas into Kyogre and Tapu Fini. I felt that I was in a good position, because I had the immediate threat of big damage onto either of his Pokémon with Double-Edge and Moonblast as well as the ability to set up a Geomancy. He withdraws Kyogre for Incineroar and uses Icy Wind with his Tapu Fini while I get some damage off with my Pokémon. With his Tapu Fini chipped, I knew that if I was able to set up a Geomancy with my Xerneas he wouldn’t have much to respond to it. In the mid-game, I am able to get Xerneas + Incineroar in against his Tapu Fini + Incineroar which allows me to go for a Fake Out into Tapu Fini and Geomancy. From there, I am able to spam Dazzling Gleam to finish off his team and take the game.

Game Two: Game One showed me that exerting early pressure and threatening a mid-game Geomancy was an effective strategy in this matchup. For this reason, I decided to lead with Xerneas and Mimikyu while he uses the same lead. I decide to double his Kyogre with Moonblast and Let’s Snuggle Forever. I was very tempted to go for this into the Tapu Fini, anticipating him to preserve his Kyogre, but I didn’t want to risk taking an Origin Pulse for heavy damage into my Xerneas and breaking the Disguise on my Mimikyu. Sure enough, he switches his Kyogre into Incineroar, which goes down, and he then goes for a Nature’s Madness into my Xerneas, which unfortunately misses. My opponent brings Kyogre back onto the field with his free switch. In the face of these two bulky Water-type Pokémon, I decide to go for a different strategy of using Curse with my Mimikyu to weaken them. I Protect my Xerneas as I Curse his Tapu Fini while he uses Nature’s Madness and Origin Pulse into my Xerneas. The following turn, I attempt to set up a Geomancy and Curse his Kyogre as he uses Haze and Origin Pulse to get damage onto my Xerneas and finish off my Mimikyu. The reason I decided to use Geomancy was because by forcing him to use Haze, I could negate the possibility of a Nature’s Madness + Origin Pulse KO onto my Xerneas. I decide to bring Salamence in as my free switch, knowing that I could now spam attacks against these two Cursed Pokemon, which would have a difficult time switching out because the Rayquaza in the back would not be able to come in safely. He withdraws Tapu Fini for Rayquaza on a turn where I doubled into his Kyogre to take it out. In the end game, I trade damage on his Tapu Fini and Rayquaza for my Salamence and Xerneas. My Incineroar is able to finish off the Rayquaza using Snarl while weakening his Tapu Fini. Because of the SATK drop on his Tapu Fini and my Assault Vest, Incineroar is able to Darkest Lariat the Tapu Fini to death before he is able to finish me off with Scald.

This was another good game that allowed me to showcase my team’s game plan against RayOgre teams. My opponent was quite unlucky in this set, missing Origin Pulse and Nature’s Madness on more than one occasion. Though no single miss occured at a determinative point in the game, the cumulative effect of the misses undoubtedly messed with his plans and lowered his chances of winning.

4-1


Round 6 v Gabriel Agati (BR)

I was nervous to be playing against Gabriel in this round, as I expected him to be a very skillful player. I knew that he was using Xerneas/Lunala with Ditto because he had played on stream earlier in the tournament, but I didn’t get to watch much of the battle. From my experience, Xerneas/Lunala can be a difficult matchup for my team depending on what options they use to support the main core.

Game One: I lead with Groudon and Incineroar against his Kangaskhan and Lunala. I was aware that his Lunala was threatening big damage against my Groudon, but I decided to just let things run their course, going for a Precipice Blades and a Darkest Lariat. He uses Fake Out against my Incineroar and Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom onto my Groudon. Gabriel is able to bring in his Ditto to transform into my Groudon, which threatens my Incineroar with Precipice Blades. I struggle to play around this, resulting in damage on my Tapu Fini and Incineroar. At some point, he switches his Ditto out and brings it in against my Incineroar. Knowing that he is Choice Scarf, I realise that he would have to use U-turn to switch out, and I use this as an opportunity to set up a Geomancy with my Xerneas which would be able to KO the rest of his team (except for the Ditto). My game plan was to KO his Kangaskhan, Lunala, and Xerneas using Moonblast and sit my Tapu Fini next to Xerneas to spam Heal Pulse into it. I thought that if I could force him to waste attacks to KO my Tapu Fini first, I might be able to stall the Ditto out of PP by using Protect on every second turn. Unfortunately, he reveals Helping Hand Kangaskhan, and the Helping Hand Dazzling Gleam from his Ditto deals enough damage to remove my Tapu Fini while putting damage on my Xerneas so that it would be in range of a KO the following turn.

Game Two: In Game Two, I didn’t really feel that there was too much I could do to win, and struggled a lot. I wanted to use Groudon as a check to his Kangaskhan and Xerneas, but I was often reluctant to try to get KOs, knowing that if I did so, he could just bring in the Ditto and Transform into it and start spamming Precipice Blades. Ultimately, he is able to Transform into my Groudon, and I couldn’t really respond to the pressure of Precipice Blades against my team. I was forced to rely on the same strategy as in Game One of trying to avoid Precipice Blades and get double Protects to PP stall the Ditto, but I came up short and he was able to get the win.

I thought that this was a difficult matchup, and that my opponent had played very well, so I didn’t feel devastated about losing this one. I had been completely caught off-guard by his use of Ditto, which I had never really encountered in my preparation, and I have to give credit to Gabriel for formulating such an innovative gameplan to deal with the XernDon matchup. If I were more aware of this strategy in advance of the battle, I might have considered bringing Mega Salamence, notwithstanding that it is typically a poor choice in the Xerneas/Lunala matchup. Gabriel went on to finish very well in the tournament, closing the swiss rounds with an impressive 6-1 record and making it to the Top 16.

4-2


Round 7 v Graham Amedee (AU)

This was a devastating pairing and, as you will see, a devastating round for me. Having to play against a good friend and rival for a win-and-in is already rough, but this was also a matchup that I was not especially confident in.

Game One: My game plan against Graham’s Lunala/Medicham lead was to lead with Salamence and Incineroar. I would anticipate him to Fake Out my Salamence as he set up a Tailwind and as I use Snarl, so that my Salamence would not be threatened by his Lunala. I am able to execute this in Game One which allows my Salamence to match his Tailwind after surviving a double up with High Jump Kick and Menacing Moonraze Maelstorm. I am able to remove Graham’s Medicham and Lunala using my Xerneas and, leveraging the fact that my Tailwind expired after his, my Groudon was able to score the KO on his Nihilego. From there, I am able to win the endgame weather war against his Kyogre to take the game.

Game Two: In Game Two, Graham changes his strategy by going immediately for Fake Out and Menacing Moonraze Maelstorm into my Salamence, and it goes down immediately. I am able to bring in my Groudon and set up a Swords Dance while switching out my Xerneas to get into position for a double KO. He withdraws his Medicham for Nihilego, and I am able to score a double KO to leave him with Medicham and Kyogre. At this point, I make the worst play I could possibly have made, and ultimately throw the game. I have Xerneas and Groudon against Kyogre and Medicham, so all I really have to do to win is to withdraw my Groudon for Incineroar and Protect my Xerneas. If Incineroar survives the turn, I can just Fake Out his Kyogre and use Dazzling Gleam to KO his Medicham, leaving me with Groudon, Xerneas, and Incineroar against Kyogre in Sun. If it does not survive the turn, I could simply Protect my Groudon the following turn and use Dazzling Gleam to KO his Medicham, because Ice Beam + Poison Jab would be incapable of KOing Xerneas. This would leave him with Kyogre vs Groudon and Xerneas in Sun, which essentially wins me the game. I knew all of this, but some part of me just disengaged at the crucial moment, and I went for a double Protect, allowing him to just use Water Spout the following turn and win the game. When I think back on this game, I sometimes just can’t believe that I made the play I did. The only explanation I have is that I just cracked under the pressure, or perhaps was suffering from tunnel vision.

Game Three: In Game Three, I did not play well and was punished badly for it. I allowed him to make the same play as in Game Two of just using Menacing Moonraze Maelstorm to KO my Salamence on turn one. I never Protected because I was too worried about the possibility of him using High Jump Kick into my Incineroar straight away, when I should have realised that he would never take a risk like this. I brought Tapu Fini instead of Xerneas this game, and for some reason I expected it to survive an Acid Spray+Moongeist Beam at -1 double-up, and so I left it in instead of making an obvious and safe Incineroar switch, which would have put me in a good position. From there, I was left with just Groudon and Incineroar against Kyogre in Rain so the game was lost.

I was very sad to have lost this game and been eliminated from the tournament. I had no one to blame but myself for making the wrong plays in the heat of the moment. Upon reflection, I think my weakness is not having the confidence to make the right decisions in high pressure situations. I think that, at this tournament, I was playing at a high enough level to be a candidate for top cut, but my misplays against Eric and against Graham show that this was undermined by the fact that I simply couldn’t make the correct decisions in tense endgames where it was absolutely necessary to do so. If I wanted to be the best player in the world, I should have gotten the mental aspect sorted before coming to the tournament.

On a final note, I hope that the above isn’t taken as trying to take away from Graham’s win. Mental fortitude is a part of the game, and in this respect he was ultimately the stronger and more deserving player.

4-3


After the final round, I was feeling a little bit depressed, and so I headed back to my hotel room to have a bit of a sulk and get it out of my system. To my surprise, when I got there, I didn’t really feel all that sad. I started to put things into perspective and realised that, in the final analysis, I was happy with my result and felt that I had done a good job. To fixate on the things I had done wrong would ignore all the things I had done well. Knowing that I had what it takes to make top cut if I didn’t make a silly mistake, though not the same as actually getting there, gave me some comfort. I checked my messages to see that my friends back home had been encouraging me throughout the day, which made me feel a lot better. I decided to head back to the venue to enjoy the rest of the tournament.

Nick was able to make it to top cut in the Senior Division using the same team, but was unfortunately eliminated in top 16. This was still a terrific result, and a big improvement from last year.

Conclusion

I believed completely in this team going into the World Championships, and I stand by my belief in it. I put my all into building and testing this team, and couldn’t be happier with the final result. If I could do Worlds over, I would use this team every time without a doubt.

I am happy with my final result at Worlds, but I think that I still have a long way to go as a competitor. I will try to learn from this experience and come back stronger next year.

I would like to thank everyone who helped me to prepare for this tournament and everyone who encouraged and supported me throughout. I am very grateful to have had people around at every turn to help keep me on the right track. I would also like to thank everyone with whom I shared the Worlds experience. More than anything, it is the community vibe and atmosphere that it is the most memorable part of the tournament. Finally, I would like to thank you for reading this report and I hope that you found some parts of it useful or interesting.

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