Stirring up a storm in Melbourne! – A Melbourne Top 8 War Story

Hi friends! I’m Matthias Loong from Singapore and I placed Top 8 at the Oceania International Championships, attaining 250CP, $750, and securing a paid trip to Berlin. I started playing in 2017 as a Senior and had some neat finishes such as Top 4 at LatAm Internats and T32 at Worlds Day 2. However, I took a break in 2018. Now I’m a Master vying for a Day 2 invite to Worlds and I thought I’d share small piece of that story with you!

Choosing a team

After whiffing CP at two regional level events in a row, I was out of contention for a travel award to Berlin unless I made finals of a Malaysia SPE and at least Top 32 at Oceania Internats, which seemed like a fairly tall order for anyone. Furthermore, since I am fairly new to competing in high level Masters, I realistically shouldn’t be expecting much from the tournaments I play. However, after clinching 160CP from the Malaysian Open 2, the Berlin Travel Award did not seem so impossible after all.

The only problem was that I had barely three weeks to choose a team that I think would perform well at Internats. I was originally contemplating bringing the Groudon Yveltal team that I used to get 2nd at Malaysia Open 2 but I did not like the way that the meta was adapting to it. Furthermore, it felt like a team where you needed to work unnecessarily hard for your wins, leaving almost no margin for error in play (or luck). I was pretty thankful that I made the call to not use YvelDon though because not a single one made it to Top 32 of the Masters tournament. I was also thinking about bringing a variant of the Xerneas Lunala team that Aaron Traylor (@TBFUnreality) piloted to Top 4 at Dallas Regionals, but I could never get the hang of playing the team at a high level.

After about a week and a half or so of losing sleep over not having a usable team, I had a chat with Joseph Costagliola (@c9_joseph) about potentially bringing a Tornadus Kyogre Xerneas team, something I had quite a bit of experience with, seeing as I achieved Top 4 at the Singapore Open with it. Joseph suggested using TornOgre because I knew how to pilot it well enough from the hours I devoted to it in Sun series, and I guess he was right. My confidence in TornOgre before Melbourne was shaky at best though, as I missed CP at two special events prior, placing 18th and 9th. However, this was not the time for me to have any bias towards any team or Pokemon. Thus, I heeded Joseph’s advice and devoted the time I had before Internats getting used to piloting TornOgre in the Moon Series format.

The Team

Link to Paste

Here is the team that I piloted to the Top 8 of Oceania Internats. This is a fairly standard TornOgre build but I will talk a little bit about some of the choices I made in terms of techs and spreads, and why I think they worked well. I think the Fire/Water/Grass core that has proven to be successful over the years works amazingly as an all-rounder base in 2019; and the synergy of Incineroar/Kyogre/Kartana, is partially the reason why the TornOgre archetype has had so many amazing results. The sheer power of both restricted Pokémom and the priority speed control that Tornadus offers are nothing to scoff at either and help complete the team.

Kyogre @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Drizzle
Shiny: Yes
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Water Spout
– Scald
– Thunder
– Ice Beam

I think Kyogre is the best restricted next to Xerneas, in the sense of it being both number two to Xerneas, as well as being one of its best partners. The ridiculous damage output and pressure the two have next to each other is insane especially if Kyogre can be next to a Geomancied Xerneas. Even though the other two TornOgres in Top Cut used different items, I found Choice Scarf a good fit for me because I liked to clean up games with fast Water Spouts when my opponents were severely weakened and running out of resources.

Xerneas @ Power Herb
Ability: Fairy Aura
Shiny: Yes
EVs: 4 HP / 4 Def / 220 SpA / 28 SpD / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Moonblast
– Dazzling Gleam
– Geomancy
– Protect

I think that Xerneas is the best restricted in the format. It provides huge damage output after a Geomancy and still does respectable damage beforehand thanks to Fairy Aura. This spread was from Sun Series and meant to survive Modest Kyogre Water Spout 15/16 times. This does not survive Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom from Lunala and I forgot to change the spread going into the tournament. Good thing it did not really matter, though, because I only played one Lunala during the tournament!

Amoonguss (M) @ Payapa Berry
Ability: Regenerator
Shiny: Yes
EVs: 236 HP / 76 Def / 196 SpD
Calm Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Rage Powder
– Spore
– Clear Smog
– Grass Knot

Amoonguss provides amazing utility in Rage Powder and Spore. Clear Smog is great for dealing with opposing Xerneas but I did not click it much. It is a great pick against Trick Room teams as it can abuse the Trick Room and easily put things to sleep if they did not have a Tapu Koko or a Tapu Fini. I think Amoonguss’s Item is up in the air because I managed to use Red Card and Occa Berry to varying degrees of success, which makes the item definitely more dependent on the meta this team is playing in. I’ll be real with you, I can’t remember what the defensive EVs did, but it worked pretty well for me. 10/10 would Spore again.

Incineroar (M) @ Aguav Berry
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 236 HP / 4 Atk / 4 Def / 236 SpD / 28 Spe
Careful Nature
– Fake Out
– Flare Blitz
– U-turn
– Roar

Incineroar is a staple Pokemon in this format and I really don’t think I need to write much here because everyone knows what it does. Roar was used as a way to surprise players who weren’t cautious with their Xerneas as well as forcing players to be careful when going for a mid-game Geomancy. It also helped against Trick Room and other kinds of boosts, but I did not use it as often in those contexts. This is the most standard Incineroar spread in Moon series, being able to survive a Moonblast from a boosted Timid Xerneas. The speed stat is to underspeed Kyogre and Groudon by one point so that I can U-Turn in Trick Room.

Tornadus @ Flyinium Z
Ability: Prankster
Shiny: Yes
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Hurricane
– Tailwind
– Taunt
– Protect

The glue to this archetype. It isn’t called TornOgre for nothing! Tornadus is, in my opinion, one of the best support Pokemon in both Sun Series and Moon Series, offering amazing support in the form of priority Tailwind and Taunt. Tornadus’ utility in Moon, with the addition of Z-Crystals, is further illustrated by being able to OHKO the likes of Amoonguss and even do 80% to a Xerneas before fainting for the next Pokemon to come in.

Kartana @ Assault Vest
Ability: Beast Boost
Shiny: Yes
EVs: 20 HP / 236 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Leaf Blade
– Smart Strike
– Sacred Sword
– Knock Off

This Kartana is an interesting AV set and I think its EV Spread is really cool. It was given to me by Kyle Livinghouse (@AnimusVGC). The max speed forces speed ties with opposing Kartanas or outspeeds them entirely, and the defensive investment allows it to always live +2 Moonblast from a Modest Xerneas as well as a Flare Blitz in rain from Incineroar 15/16 times.

Rundown of Tournament

PRE-TOURNAMENT (Day 0 – Check in)

I made it to check-in at around 5 or 6pm so that I lock my box early and spend the night relaxing before the big day. I collected my loot from the check-in counter and went to see if I could find any familiar faces. I caught up with some senior friends I made in 2017 and went to talk to Raghav (@mudhimanvgc) for the first time in my life! I also caught a glimpse of James Baek (@JamesWBaek) but I felt too awkward and kept making glances at him until he came up to me and said hello (not my proudest moment!). Thankfully, James was extremely friendly and upbeat and none of my interactions with him afterwards were actually awkward! It felt good finally being back to compete on the international stage and to start making some new friends before the tournament even started. I was ready for whatever the next day could throw at me.

THE TOURNAMENT (Day 1 – Swiss)

I started the day at about 7am, giving myself about seven hours of sleep. I felt well-rested and made a somewhat palatable cup of aeropress while my mother cooked a bacon omelette for me (which is, in my opinion, the best way to start a tournament!). I headed down to the venue pretty early and decided to talk to some friends before Round 1 to calm some of my nerves. The announcement of the Round 1 pairings for VGC was loud and clear, and everyone crowded around the pairings board to see who they were up against. This was it, I was going to play the first round of Oceania Internats…

Round 1: James Pritchard (WW) 1-0

I did not recognise James’s name immediately but I was not going to go into Round 1 complacent. It never pays to underestimate your opponent. I was extremely nervous at team preview because it was the first round and if I lost it wouldn’t be great overall for my resistance (or my morale). James revealed a surprise Focus Blast on his Xerneas in Game 1 to take a quick knockout on my Incineroar, but his reluctance to use Focus Blast on my Kartana allowed it free rein to clean up the board alongside Xerneas. Game 2 was fairly straightforward as well, with me being able to Roar his Xerneas turn 1 while having mine boosted. With no proper Xerneas counters on his team, I managed to take Game 2 in a timely fashion.

Round 2: Raghav Malaviya (WW) 2-0

Generally, I hate playing friends at tournaments, much less an established player who arrived with a fresh Regional win in the form of Anaheim Regionals. I knew I was in for a tough match the moment Raghav’s name appeared next to mine on the pairings board.

I had a better matchup than Raghav did because he could not bring Zekrom to a team with both Xerneas and Amoonguss, which allowing my Xerneas and Kyogre to have board dominance if positioned correctly. In game 1, his lead of Gengar and Tornadus proved to be troublesome for my lead of Kyogre and Tornadus as his Gengar was Focus Sash with Icy Wind while his Tornadus survived a Water Spout and healed back with its Mago Berry. I was in a tough spot but managed to position both Xerneas and Kyogre well enough to win the first game by the skin of my teeth. I made an adjustment to Game 2 where I lead Incineroar and Tornadus into his Gengar Tornadus, giving me insane early game momentum, leading me to a quick victory.

Round 3: Morgan Prieston (WW) 3-0

This was a matchup that I dreaded going into this tournament. Before the tournament, I talked to Ben Goff about what I should be leading and we came to the conclusion that leading Tornadus and Xerneas safe assuming they lead Amoonguss Yveltal. This was a really close set, with Game 1 coming down to a Xerneas speed tie and Game 2 being decided on my opponent calling whether I’d Rage Powder his Yveltal’s Sucker Punch or not. It was one of the most stressful games during Swiss for me. Kudos to my opponent for keeping me on my toes throughout our match!

Round 4: Emiliano Reyes Castro (WW) 4-0

This was an extremely lucky set for me. I managed to get a Paralysis into a full Paralysis on his Kyogre in Game 1 with Thunder which gave me a very clear advantage and allowed me to take the first game easily. Game 2 came down to my Kartana winning a speed tie, which I got, securing a 2-0 victory against Emiliano.

Round 5:  Liam Gilbert (LWL) 4-1

I took a look at team preview and I realised that this would be an uphill battle from the get-go. I assumed his Toxicroak was holding a Focus Sash, which made the entire matchup much harder for me. He had a very clear advantage in momentum in Game 1, where I failed to remove his Toxicroak, allowing it to stay around and apply pressure on 2/3s of my team with both its type coverage in Fighting and Poison, as well as its ability, Dry Skin. Additionally, he managed to set up Geomancy Liam changed his Game 2 plan by leading Tapu Koko and Lunala, which I easily capitalised on with an Incineroar Tornadus lead. I managed to gain enough momentum with Tailwind and U-Turn that my Xerneas could clean up easily. Liam went back to his original game plan in Game 3 though, and an unlucky critical hit on my Incineroar in the early game made a losing game lost.

Round 6: Simon Konsti (WW) 5-1

The restricted combination of Kyogre and Yveltal was one that I did not enjoy playing against, and one that forced some 50/50s that I did not like at all. I had a massive brain fart Game 1 and led Xerneas and Kartana into a Choice Scarfed Kyogre and a Yveltal with Black Glasses. Thankfully, Simon overpredicted and thought that my Kartana was Choice Scarfed as well and retreated his Kyogre. This early game momentum allowed me to take the game fairly handedly with my own Choice Scarfed Kyogre as well as a boosted Xerneas. In Game 2, I switched up my game plan and led Xerneas Tornadus and I matched tailwind with his Yveltal. I do not remember the Game 2 very clearly, but I managed to swing the momentum heavily in my favour when my Xerneas won the speed tie against Yveltal and Geomancied before getting hit by Knock Off. Simon was one of the nicest people I played at the event and was extremely gracious afterwards.

Round 7: Graham Amedee (WW) 6-1

Graham was coming in hot off his Round 6 win on stream, and he was, and still is, considered one of Australia’s finest, so I needed to play my best if I wanted to win. (Graham has also written a report on Trainer Tower and I suggest you check it out!) Thankfully, my friends helped scout Graham’s team on stream and I found out that his Tapu Koko was Choice Scarfed with Discharged. This led me to playing around Tapu Koko and making sure that I had Tailwind up when Kyogre was on the field as a win condition. I gained extreme momentum in Game 1 where I caught my opponent by surprise and roared his boosted Xerneas out, allowing my Xerneas to have huge board dominance. He also revealed that his Groudon was Life Orb, which signaled that it was probably not bulky enough to survive whatever Xerneas threw at it. He actually brought Greninja to the second game but made the mistake of using Z-Dark Pulse instead of using Ice Beam, which allowed my Tornadus to survive the turn. I managed to take the game slowly by chipping away at all my opponent’s Pokemon to set up an end game where Kyogre could clean up even if Groudon was switched in.

I did it. I just Top Cut a Masters International. I was over the moon (haha)! When James Baek found out that I won my win and in, he hugged me from across the table and congratulated me which was really neat! I was pretty mentally exhausted after 7 rounds of swiss, so I decided to call it a day and head back to the AirBnB to rest and prepare for my Top Cut match the next day.

TOP CUT (Day 2)

Top 8 vs Justin Burns

This match was streamed, you can watch it here.

I knew this was going this was going to be a tough set going in, Justin is an excellent player with not only years of experience, but amazing results to boot. I figured the day before that this was not going to a game between matchups, but a game between players as I thought the matchup was pretty even.

Game 1 was pretty rough because I carelessly lost my Tornadus early on and had no check for the Amoonguss coming in, allowing Justin to completely incapacitate my team by clicking Spore and Rage Powder with Amoonguss.

In Game 2, I tried to make a hard read on Turn 1 where I predicted his Amoonguss would switch in place of Incineroar and Xerneas either protecting on going for a Geomancy to match mine. This was a crucial mistake because he saw right through this and went for a Fake Out and a Moonblast into my Xerneas, taking away almost three quarters of my health and allowing Amoonguss a free switch in through Roar. I figured that such a huge Turn 1 choke lost me the game, but I thought that I could potentially force a third game if I had enough luck on my side. I tried to play out into a position where I could have both a fresh Fake Out and Tailwind on my side with Kyogre sitting in the back. I thought that for any chance to get back into the game, I needed to land a Critical Hit with Supersonic Skystrike onto Xerneas, which I unbelievably managed to get. This ended up being in vain though, because Justin’s Groudon resetting the Sun as my Kyogre entered the field meant that I could not realistically beat both Incineroar and Groudon at the same time, which meant that it just wasn’t meant to be.

Justin played extremely well, and adjusted to the TornOgre matchup, which he played the day before, beautifully. After I got off stage, James, Agati, and Edu, who were all waiting for their matches to start, congratulated me on my finish and said it was a good match. Even though I thought I could’ve played much better, it felt amazing to have the people I looked up to when starting VGC commend me on my performance!

Conclusion

Even though I could not continue into the Top 4 of this tournament, I was overjoyed to get Top Cut at a Masters International, and it reassured me that maybe I wasn’t that bad a player after all. However, that Top 8 set made me realise that I was not good enough to be amongst the best in the world yet, and now, I’m even more motivated to keep learning and improve at this game.

Thank you so much for taking some of your time to read this report! It means a lot to me and I hope I continue to have the opportunity to write more as this season continues into Ultra Series.

Here are some shoutouts to the people that have helped me along the way and made my trip to Melbourne worthwhile:

  • c9cult for all the practice as well as being extremely supportive and helping me keep my cool throughout the tournament.
  • The Snacc Bar for giving me all your energy during the tournament
  • Kareem (@treedoodle) for playing a ton of practice games with me and bearing with my angst going into the tournament.
  • Joseph (@c9_joseph) for helping me narrow down my team choices as well as preparing me for my Top 8 match the night before/morning of.
  • Stephen (@gramgusvgc) for talking matchups both before and throughout the tournament
  • Wai Yin (@TextFont) for producing such great team art! Seriously, her Pokemon commissions are one of the best.
  • My AirBnB mates, (@Ryan_Nyterra, @bryandara, @KestyVGC) for showing me a great time especially with late night Jackbox games
  • My mum, for travelling to Melbourne with me without a travel award and supporting me all the way. I wouldn’t have this result without her.

Credit to @Artpharos for featured image

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