The Makings of Espada – A Berlin EUIC Team Analysis

Hey! I’m Willem/Lyam Geurts (@AbsurdityVGC) and I recently got top 32 at the EUIC alongside Fabian Braun (@baked_vgc) using a team we built together with a group of others during the month prior to the event. Although none of us managed to make cut, two of us did make day 2, with Fabian even getting an impressive 8-1 record during the first day. Furthermore, Paul Chua got top 16 with a variant of the team (@Paul_Chua_) at the Hartford Regional Championships which followed the EUIC.
Although a lot of the choices we made were very dependent on the state of the metagame at the time and may no longer be as relevant anymore, we think other players could benefit from some of the thoughts behind it. Hopefully you’ll find something of interest among our many ideas. 🙂

Shout-outs to Calvin (@calvonixVG), Andres (@_000aj), Pontus (@PontusVGC), Agati (@AgatiGa), Sanvy (@SanvyVGC), Alekso (@alesko_poke), and Shawn (@_AquaDragon), who all contributed to the development of various versions of this team and for being a laugh to work with!

Team Process

Main Core

It took us a fair amount of time to settle on which archetype we wanted to bring to the EUIC. At this point in the metagame, a lot of the common teams felt like they each had major flaws—flaws which lead to a feeling of inconsistency. We wanted to create a team which had as few negative matchups as realistically possible, and after a lot of theorising we concluded that a combination of Xerneas with Primal Groudon would do this best. This combination was already notorious in 2016, but has lost some of its dominance since then. New threats in the form of Ultra Necrozma, as well as players now properly utilising the entirety of Mega Gengar’s oppressive trapping capabilities, have made life difficult for this powerful duo. Despite this, the core remained the most consistent overall in our eyes, so we set out to fix its flaws.

The restricted pair of Xerneas and Groudon dislikes opposing Psychic-types, hates facing Mega Gengar when paired with Primal Kyogre, and struggles to deal with the combination of Mega Rayquaza and Primal Kyogre. Furthermore, it requires means of beating opposing Primal Groudon and Xerneas in any potential mirror without having to wholly rely on outspeeding our opponents naturally.
Taking this all into account, the first Pokémon was an easy choice to make: namely, Incineroar. Incineroar supports both Xerneas and Groudon wonderfully, with a combination of Fake Out and Intimidate at its disposal as well as a favourable typing against the Psychic-types we otherwise lack resists to. We gave the cat its signature Z-Move to further increase Incineroar’s pressure against these Pokémon, enabling it to threaten OHKO’s on the likes of Lunala, Ultra Necrozma and Tapu Lele. It also hits Mega Gengar for huge damage, which was an added bonus.

Our next choice of Pokémon was Tapu Fini, a Pokémon which synergises excellently with Groudon and has acted as a sort of swiss-army knife throughout all of 2019. Tapu Fini allowed us to remove opposing Terrains, provided us with a form of speed control in Icy Wind, and could soft-check opposing Xerneas through Haze. Heal Pulse was then added to keep our team on its feet against more chip-based teams, alongside Nature’s Madness, which enabled Tapu Fini to set up KOs for its partners. Tapu Koko was briefly debated as an option over Tapu Fini, with a number of people finding Fini too passive. Although Tapu Koko exerts more direct pressure, it is considerably more frail and lacks a consistent form of speed control. Against XRay teams in particular, this could prove crippling, and thus we opted for Fini.

We now had four Pokémon and no Mega, so it was time to do something about that. Our main candidates were Mega Salamence and Mega Kangaskhan. Salamence provided us with a secondary form of speed control in Tailwind and effectively walled opposing Groudon due to none running Rock-type moves at the time. Kangaskhan, on the other hand, provided us with an incredibly fast Fake Out capable of hitting Ghost-types such as Gengar and Lunala thanks to Scrappy, which could otherwise threaten our Xerneas and hinder setup or positioning. Agati was an especially big proponent of Kangaskhan, but the rest of us were hesitant to add yet another Pokémon we couldn’t switch into Groudon, and as such, we ended up opting for Salamence.

The above five became the core of our team, with the final slot becoming an interchangeable one which underwent many variations as we tested our team over time and made changes to it.

Version 1 – Ground Zero

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The first version of the team we built had Amoonguss as our sixth partner. In theory, Amoonguss threatened opposing Xerneas and Kyogre, as well as working as a support against Mega Gengar and Trick Room. In practice, however, we discovered that we weren’t bringing it very often, if at all. It just kind of sat on the bench throughout practice and didn’t even do the job it was meant to do properly. Players had started running Taunt on Incineroar or Mega Gengar on Kyogre teams to shut down Amoonguss’ redirection, thus rendering it practically useless.

Other notable choices made are the use of Timid Xerneas and bulky physical Primal Groudon with Roar. The idea behind this was to give ourselves as much of an advantage in any Xerneas mirror as possible. Groudon could tank Lunala’s Z-Move or two Moongeist Beams with its bulk, as well as an Earth Power from opposing Groudon. The Speed allowed us to outrun almost all slower Groudon too, and this, paired with Xerneas’ max Speed, meant we were often moving first against many bulkier teams giving us a slight edge. Lyam topped the Showdown ladder with this version, thus showing us it had potential.

Version 2 – Viable Memes

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The second version of the team had us change our Incineroar to Darkinium-Z with Throat Chop for a funny experiment. Although this choice would draw us many an odd look or comment, it did make sense! Malicious Moonsault may boast more base power than Z-Throat Chop, but Throat Chop gave Incineroar a way to block opposing Roar and Hyper Voice, which theoretically could give us even more of an edge in the mirror by better supporting Xerneas. In practice, this never came to use. It was a cool idea, though.

The more interesting change, however, was the birth of TURBO SHROOM. Having realised we never brought Amoonguss against Xerneas anyway, we ditched Clear Smog in exchange for Protect, which gave us a means of blocking Taunt + Fake Out from opposing Mega Gengar + Incineroar leads. We also invested in as much Speed as possible, to outspeed the majority of Incineroar at the time and put them to Sleep before they could Taunt or damage us. By doing so, our team now had a gameplan against the Yveltal + Kyogre teams with Mega Gengar going around, consisting of forcing dumb turn 1 mindgames which could decide the game then and there by leading Incineroar + Amoonguss.

Although it was a lot of fun, players soon caught on and starting running Safety Goggles on Stakataka, allowing them to switch it into our lead and wall us. Funnily enough, Turbo Shroom came 2nd at the EUIC, with Sanvy helping out Daivde Carrer prior to the tournament. His set against Wolfe Glick demonstrates how oppressive the fast mushroom can truly be.

Version 3 – Cat and Mouse

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As is always the case, the metagame evolved, and players insistent on running Kyogre with Mega Gengar found ways to play around Amoonguss. Stakataka with Safety Goggles was also proving to be a huge issue, completely shutting down our Incineroar and happily sitting in front Amoonguss. The combination of Mega Gengar, Primal Kyogre, Stakataka, and Incineroar was proving incredibly tough to beat with our team.

It had us stumped for quite some time until Sanvy floated the idea of running a really offensive Incineroar with Low Kick over Flare Blitz. With 140 Atk investment as well as a boosting Nature, Incineroar could deal huge damage to Stakataka. It also became all the more potent against other Pokémon with its Z-Move, too (which had changed back to Malicious Moonsault), picking up KOs on Lunala, Bronzong and Necrozma even after an Intimidate. Incineroar could now also pick up a guaranteed KO on Gengar by hitting it through Protect with the Z-Move and following up with Darkest Lariat. This always kills, even at -1!

Togedemaru was then tested over Amoonguss for its ability to Nuzzle opposing Rayquaza and Gengar as well as fast Fake Out paired with U-turn to pivot about and disrupt, even when caught by Gengar’s Shadow Tag. It worked somewhat in practice, but for the final version of our team, we each settled on one of two other possibilities…

Version 4 – Paper or Painter

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The final version, and the most obscure to many. A number of smaller tweaks aimed at optimising our matchups were implemented, as well as the addition of one of two very annoying Pokémon.

Firstly, we changed the bulk on our Incineroar so as to maximise the odds of it living two Sludge Bombs from opposing Mega Gengar. We then also tweaked our Groudon set, giving it Earth Power over Roar and changing its bulk. Roar was, and still is, amazing against opposing Xerneas, but physical Groudon is completely shut down by Wide Guard Stakataka, which proved a major issue in certain games. Earth Power OHKOs Stakataka without Shucca Berry, even with the negative Nature and no investment, and also hits opposing Groudon for over 50%. Stomping Tantrum wasn’t used as we wanted to deal the same damage regardless of potential Atk drops due to Intimidate or Beast Boost Defence boosts. Stomping Tantrum does have the advantage of OHKOing Mega Gengar, but we rarely found a situation where this was necessary.

Bulk was taken out of SpD to further increase our Groudon’s Speed stat to now outspeed pretty much every mid-Speed Primal at that point in the metagame. It also came with the added benefit of being faster than Mega Salamence after an Icy Wind drop. Some SpD was also moved to Def so as to increase our odds of living two Precipice Blades from opposing Groudon after an Intimidate.

Tapu Fini was notably changed from Wiki Berry to Misty Seed and given a lot more Speed, as well as Taunt over Heal Pulse. This change gave us significantly more options against opposing Crobat and RayOgre teams, at the slight cost of less effectivity in the mirror matchup. By leading Salamence and Fini, we could guarantee speed control through a mix of Icy Wind and Tailwind, or threaten damage against whatever else they lead. After an Icy Wind, Fini could outspeed opposing Crobat and Taunt them, allowing us to setup Geomancy once we had a Speed advantage without fear of Haze. Taunt also came in very useful against opposing Fini by blocking Heal Pulse, Haze and other moves. Trick Room setters such as Bronzong and Stakataka also did not appreciate getting Taunted.

Roar users such as Groudon and Incineroar could be stopped if they revealed the move earlier during the set. Finally, we used Misty Seed so that we could survive a Z-Move from Tapu Koko, a popular partner to Crobat at the time. Throughout the tournament, Tapu Fini actually outsped some ridiculously bulky Xerneas, thus almost instantly winning us some games, completely shutting down their ability to Geomancy!

The final change was the addition of either Smeargle or Kartana. Smeargle was found to do what our fast Protect Amoongus did, but even better, with the welcome addition of Moody randomly winning you games. Smeargle + Incineroar worked as a lead against YvelOgre teams, and we flowcharted the matchup to the point of nearly always winning it.

Kartana is the more interesting pick of the two, however. Kartana is utterly garbage in this metagame, and we still stand by this. It, however, did one job we required, and only that one job, really freakin’ well. We needed a Pokémon that worked against both YvelOgre and RayOgre, and Kartana was just that! We gave it enough bulk to take some potentially relevant hits and then dumped the rest in Attack, as almost no Kyogre outsped uninvested Kartana at the time (we later added 12 to outspeed those that knew about our secret weapon and had added Speed accordingly, lol).

The rest was dropped into Attack: we had enough Attack to ensure we could KO Incineroar and Stakataka with Fightinium-Z Sacred Sword even after an Intimidate. Z-Detect could also serve as a last-ditch out by going through Taunt and raising your Evasiveness by one stage. Tailwind allowed us to wreak havoc on opposing teams if they lacked the means to Taunt Kartana. Yveltal + Kyogre teams simply had no answers to this thing, and an Incineroar + Kartana lead pretty much autowon this matchup at the time. Against Rayquaza variants, Kartana threatened everything next to a potential Crobat or Gengar beyond Rayquaza itself, which was up to Salamence to deal with.

Special Groudon vs Physical Groudon

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Throughout our preparation, the optimal Groudon set was frequently debated, and in the end both turned out to be legitimate. Physical Groudon is better against opposing Kyogre and generally against a wider portion of the metagame, including Xerneas, but is forced to run a single target Ground move on this team to avoid being walled by Wide Guard Stakataka. Physical Groudon also synergises better with Tapu Fini, with Fini setting up kills through Icy Wind and Nature’s Madness.

Special Groudon, on the other hand, is significantly better in the mirror matchups and against Xerneas. Due to it already running Earth Power as a staple, you have room for Roar as a third move. This frees up some pressure from your Tapu Fini, which can now opt to run Light Screen as well as afford to run a slower bulkier variant with Wiki Berry. The special variant is the one players such as Alekso and Paul Chua ran.

The Team

Xerneas @ Power Herb
Ability: Fairy Aura
Level: 50
EVs: 124 HP / 12 Def / 116 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Moonblast
– Dazzling Gleam
– Geomancy
– Protect

Fast Xerneas to outspeed opposing Lunala before Tailwind and after Tailwind with a Geomancy boost. Not having as much bulk or offence as other Xerneas never really felt disadvantageous throughout the tournament, whereas being able to move before Lunala and special Groudon actually provided an advantage frequently. Moving first in a Xerneas mirror also yields a slight advantage overall. The spread simply made sure we always lived two Fire Punches from Groudon after an Intimidate, as well ensuring we take a Z-Move from Timid Lunala if need be.

  • 252 SpA Lunala Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom vs. 124 HP / 4 SpD Xerneas: 178-211 (82 – 97.2%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • -1 252+ Atk Primal Groudon Fire Punch vs 124 HP / 12 Def Xerneas in Harsh Sun: 93-109 (42.8 – 50.2%) — 1.2% chance to 2HKO

Groudon-Primal @ Red Orb
Ability: Desolate Land
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Atk / 28 Def / 84 SpD / 140 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Precipice Blades
– Fire Punch
– Earth Power
– Protect

One of the fastest mid-Speed Primals at the EUIC, only twice being outsped by an opposing Primal that wasn’t maxed in Speed. This creep gave us a huge advantage in any Groudon mirror where we were faster and could prevent Trick Room from potentially going up with Taunt Fini or Incineroar. The bulk was there to sponge hits from opposing Groudon as well as Lunala and Necrozma.

  • -1 252+ Atk Primal Groudon Precipice Blades vs 252 HP / 28 Def Primal Groudon: 92-110 (44.4 – 53.1%) — 22.7% chance to 2HKO
  • 252 SpA Primal Groudon Earth Power vs 252 HP / 84 SpD Primal Groudon: 170-204 (82.1 – 98.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252 SpA Lunala Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom vs 252 HP / 84 SpD Primal Groudon: 177-208 (85.5 – 100.4%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO

Incineroar @ Incinium Z
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 140 HP / 116 Atk / 252 SpD
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Low Kick
– Darkest Lariat
– U-turn
– Fake Out

Offensive Z-Incineroar was there to threaten any Ghost or Psychic-types, as well as give Gengar-dependent teams a run for their money. This Incineroar picked up KOs on all the relevant targets, although we lowered some rolls to get slightly more bulk in exchange. Incineroar will always KO Gengar which Protects by Z-Moving it and following up with Darkest Lariat, even after an Intimidate.

  • -1 116+ Atk Incineroar Malicious Moonsault vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Shadow Shield Lunala: 204-242 (95.7 – 113.6%) — 75% chance to OHKO
  • -1 116+ Atk Incineroar Malicious Moonsault vs. 244 HP / 0 Def Bronzong: 168-198 (97.1 – 114.4%) — 81.3% chance to OHKO
  • -1 116+ Atk Incineroar Malicious Moonsault vs. 4 HP / 140 Def Ultra Necrozma: 168-198 (97.1 – 114.4%) — 81.3% chance to OHKO
  • 252 SpA Mega Gengar Sludge Bomb vs. 140 HP / 252 SpD Incineroar: 79-94 (42 – 50%) — 0.4% chance to 2HKO

Mega Salamence

Salamence-Mega @ Salamencite
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 28 HP / 76 Atk / 20 Def / 132 SpA / 252 Spe
Hasty Nature
– Double-Edge
– Hyper Voice
– Tailwind
– Protect / Draco Meteor / Roar

A pretty standard run of the mill offensive Mega Salamence, using Hasty to live a Dazzling Gleam from Xerneas. The bulk is there to improve a few rolls when taking attacks from Mega Rayquaza, and the Atk is there to make sure we pick up KOs on Tapu Lele. Draco Meteor can be used as an additional means of hitting opposing Salamence and Rayquaza, and Roar can be used as a crazy man’s answer to Xerneas.

  • 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Dazzling Gleam vs. 28 HP / 0 SpD Mega Salamence: 150-176 (86.2 – 101.1%) — 12.5% chance to OHKO
  • 252 Atk Life Orb Mega Rayquaza Dragon Ascent vs. 28 HP / 20- Def Mega Salamence: 149-177 (85.6 – 101.7%) — 12.5% chance to OHKO
  • -1 252 Atk Mega Rayquaza Dragon Ascent vs. 28 HP / 20- Def Mega Salamence: 76-91 (43.6 – 52.2%) — 16% chance to 2HKO

Tapu Fini @ Misty Seed
Ability: Misty Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 244 HP / 36 SpD / 228 Spe
Calm Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Nature’s Madness
– Icy Wind
– Haze
– Taunt

Really fast Tapu Fini to outspeed base 130’s such as Crobat, Mega Gengar and Tapu Koko after an Icy Wind. Being able to outspeed all other Fini to Taunt them, as well as outspeeding many Primals, is very useful in certain scenarios.

  • +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Dazzling Gleam vs. +1 244 HP / 36 SpD Tapu Fini: 70-84 (39.7 – 47.7%) — guaranteed 3HKO
  • +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. +1 244 HP / 36 SpD Tapu Fini: 112-133 (63.6 – 75.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252 SpA Tapu Koko Gigavolt Havoc (185 BP) vs. +1 244 HP / 36 SpD Tapu Fini: 134-158 (76.1 – 89.7%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Kartana @ Fightinium Z
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 156 HP / 156 Atk / 4 Def / 180 SpD / 12 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Leaf Blade
– Sacred Sword
– Tailwind
– Detect

Really fat, really offensive, really slow Kartana. This thing is an abomination and is utterly useless against anything that doesn’t have a Kyogre. We only needed this slot for that job, however, and it shined in all matches where it was brought.

  • -1 156+ Atk Kartana All-Out Pummeling (175 BP) vs. 252 HP / 4 Def Incineroar: 192-228 (95 – 112.8%) — 75% chance to OHKO
  • -1 252 Atk Mega Rayquaza Dragon Ascent vs. 156 HP / 4 Def Kartana: 69-82 (44.8 – 53.2%) — 32.8% chance to 2HKO
  • 252 SpA Mega Gengar Shadow Ball vs. 156 HP / 180 SpD Kartana: 135-160 (87.6 – 103.8%) — 25% chance to OHKO
  • 252 Atk Life Orb Mega Rayquaza Dragon Ascent vs. 156 HP / 4 Def Kartana: 134-160 (87 – 103.8%) — 18.8% chance to OHKO
OR

Smeargle @ Focus Sash
Ability: Moody
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Follow Me
– Lovely Kiss
– Fake Out
– Spiky Shield

A pretty standard supportive Smeargle with a fair chance to live Sludge Bomb from a max SpA Mega Gengar if supported by a Tapu Lele with Magic Room to break your Focus Sash.
252 SpA Mega Gengar Sludge Bomb vs. 4 HP / 252 SpD Smeargle: 117-138 (89.3 – 105.3%) — 31.3% chance to OHKO

Matchups

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The mirror matchup for XernDon is a bit awkward, but you’ve got a few tools you can use to try and win this. Taunt Fini can be really powerful if you get an Icy Wind off before your opponent sets up a Geomancy with their own Xerneas, and Draco Meteor on Salamence can win you some specific endgame scenarios. Generally speaking, your best leads are Xerneas + Fini / Mence / Groudon or Fini + Groudon. Leading Mence with Groudon or changing one of your Pokémon up for Incineroar can work too. Pay really careful attention to Speed tiers here.

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XRay can either be really easy or really tedious depending on the exact composition of their team. Generally speaking, leading Fini + Groudon is a safe bet, but if they have Nihilego it may be worth considering switching Fini with Incineroar. If you can trade Geomancies in this matchup, you tend to be left with the advantage, as their Rayquaza is held at bay by your own Xerneas whilst Groudon can mop up whatever else.

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Leading Xerneas with Incineroar places this archetype under so much pressure as your Xerneas can Geomancy before Lunala can get its Z-Move off and Incineroar threatens to OHKO their Lunala, thus preventing potential Trick Room plays. You generally tend to have Groudon and Fini in the back here.

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Lead Kartana with Incineroar with Xerneas and Groudon in the back, possibly changing Xerneas for Fini if you deem that best. If you can get a KO on the opposing Gengar or get Tailwind up you tend to just win this matchup.

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Lead Salamence with either Tapu Fini or Kartana if there is no Gengar, and have Kartana/Fini with Xerneas in the back. If there is a Gengar, consider leading Salamence with Incineroar. If there’s a Crobat present, you want to be whittling it down while playing towards an endgame where you either both have traded Tailwinds or you have an advantage with speed control. Not going for Geomancy with Xerneas and instead attacking is often a viable play late-game. You can leave one of your Pokémon behind in exchange for Groudon if you think that will work.

+

Always lead Fini against these teams, and have either Incineroar or Xerneas in the slot next to it. Usually this matchup comes down to a bunch of call-based turns for both players, so try to get into your opponent’s head through your plays and outplay them that way.

Conclusion

That’s all! I hope you picked something up from our thoughts and team which you can utilise yourself. We personally don’t think Xerneas/Groudon is the strongest team to use at this very moment, particularly not with Kartana, but the archetype is definitely one to be respected and taken into account.

Featured image by alexalan

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