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  • Announcements

    • Firestorm

      Welcome to the New Nugget Bridge   12/25/2015

      Hey folks! As you may have noticed, Nugget Bridge looks pretty different right now. We'll have some work done to get it back to looking Nugget Bridge-y but I thought having the information accessible again was more important. Visual changes aren't the only difference you'll see though. The new Nugget Bridge is launching to evolve with the community. The Nugget Bridge Blog Network Today marks the launch of the Nugget Bridge Blog Network. Rather than having all content go through one pipeline, Nugget Bridge will act like a blog network much like naver or hatena but only for competitive Pokémon content. We have removed WordPress completely. You can create your own blog either individually or contribute to a group blog. All posts you make to your own blog will be published immediately and other players can comment on them. All blog posts you create will show up on a feed on the front page and you can link out your blog to anyone to see a full history of your writing. We have some ideas for highlighting strong content so it rises above the rest and will have it implemented soon. When we started the site in 2012, there was no culture of sharing withing the competitive Pokémon community. The scene was fairly hard to get a read on if you were new with little in the way of content out there. By providing a central place to find insightful articles on a regular basis, Nugget Bridge created an easy way for players to find information on the Video Game Championships in a way that just didn't exist before. By keeping to a strict content schedule, we were able to get through event-heavy months without having writers overlooked and readers overwhelmed as well as had reading material for the slower off-season between Regionals. However, it's now 2015 and times have changed. We have significantly more players now and significantly more events. Every week there's a Premier Challenge happening somewhere in the world. Our events aren't only in the North America, Europe, Japan, and Korea. We've added Latin America, South Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia, and even Russia to the circuit! With that, the number of people writing and wanting to share their experiences has become too much for our traditional content pipeline to handle. Additionally, with every member of the co-founding team busy with full-time work commitments it has become hard to work the same way we did when we were fresh out of university. Over the past year or two a lot of players have started up their own blogs so they could put out their thoughts at their own pace in their own space. However, they were spread across multiple platforms and incredibly hard to find out about unless you were already in the know. Something I think we're still bad at is communicating to those outside of our own social circles and this method of content production just furthered that. I believe this solution will help a lot with distribution while providing the freedom players are looking for in writing with their voice and at the pace they wish. Activity Feed Sometimes it can be hard to find out what your friends have been posting on Nugget Bridge. You'll notice your friends list has been wiped clean with this update (okay you probably won't because nobody used that useless feature). In its place, you can now follow other players. This ties into the new Activity Feed functionality launching today. By clicking "Players I Follow" in the top right, you'll find a feed of content posted only by people you follow. If there's someone who makes a lot of insightful posts that you'd like to make sure you don't miss, try this out! You can also set up other activity feed filters to customize your experience on the site. Thanks for Waiting! We're going to play around more with the site to get it working as we want it to over the next little while. The next steps will be getting the site looking a little better and making the front page a bit more functional. However, we thought it's probably better to get the site up and running for you all as we work that out. Hope you all have a Merry Christmas today. Please let us know what you think of the changes and if you have any questions!
  • Featured Blog Posts

    • Decipher #9 - Riccardo Appamea
      By Cypher in Cypher's Deciphers 0
      Now! Step right this way. Read carefully! Don’t miss the next interview! I present to you... Appa!
      Team Aqua's Riccardo Appamea is your Preganziol regional champion! A fairly unknown player to most of the player base, Riccardo scored his best finish yet by winning Italy's Preganziol regional!
      = Cypher  = Appa
       
      When did you start playing VGC?
      I started playing VGC 2 years ago with Pokemon X/Y. But, I was a singles player since 2009.

      You won the Preganziol regional, how do you feel about this accomplishment?
      I'm very happy about that. It's my first best result in an official competition. However, I want to improve even further.

      Do you plan to go to more events? If so, which ones?
      Yes. I'm planning to go to Innsbruck Regional later this month, as well as two Nationals.

      What was the team that you used to win won Preganziol regional? Why did you use that team?
      I used a Goodstuffs team with Kangaskhan, Rayquaza, Mewtwo, Talonflame, Amoonguss, and Suicune. I usually don't like to use commonly used Pokemon like Xerneas, so I tried to use a team that can be those commonly used Pokemon.

      Mewtwo and Suicine are currently two rarely used Pokemon in the format. How did you make these two Pokemon work, especially since you won your regional?
      Mewtwo can do a lot of damage, and its speed and power allows it sweep the opponent, especially if it is behind a Substitute.
      Suicune is the true star of the team. It walls the most powerful special attacks, can reverses match-ups with Tailwind, and use Roar against Xerneas or Trick room teams. Suicune easily helped against opposing Salamence and Talonflame.

      That is very interesting about the use of Suicune! How did you handle Smeargle with your team?
      I played against a lot of Smeargle in this tournament, and I would pressure Smeargle leads with Kangaskhan's Fake Out and Suicune's Tailwind. If Xerneas would try to set up, Suicune used Roar against it. I think Kangaskhan is the best counter to Focus Sash Smeargle.

      What do you like the most about VGC 2016? What you dislike about it?
      I like VGC 2016 because there are more choices this year compared to last year. But, I don't like Xerneas and Smeargle, especially Smeargle, because it makes the game so boring.

      Why did you make the switch from playing singles to VGC?
      I did it for two reason. First, my friends played VGC in live tournaments so I wanted to join them, and second, I wanted to play Doubles since I seemed more difficult than Singles.

      Outside of Pokemon, what kind of things do you do? Are you passionate about anything?
      I have two passions. Pokemon is my first passion and my favorite hobby. My second passion is playing the accordion, which I have played since I was a child. I work hard and spent a lot of time for my two passions.

      Accordion! That is very intriguing. What led you to play accordion?
      When I was six, my mother asked me which was my favourite instrument, and I choose the accordion. Ever since, I have never stopped playing it, even throughout my teen years.

      In this interview, what Pokemon do you want to represent you and why?
      Yveltal, because it's interesting and I want to use it in future. I also won a big Yveltal plush after my win!

      Ah okay, thank you for the interview! Do you have anyone to thank?
      I want to thank my friend and Italian champion Francesco Pardini. He always help me with testings and ideas. I also thank you for the interview and hope to talk again in future, after a good placement!
       
      Thank you Riccardo for the interview! It's always interesting to hear from someone who finally got their big victory! I hope you all enjoyed it as well!
      If you liked this, please tweet/retweet/favorite it so others can enjoy it as well! If you have any criticisms, please post it!
    • Beware Of Dog! A Top 4 Worlds Seniors Report
      By bissiges Bissbark in bissiges Bissbark's blog 7
      Note: This report was written with the intention of being published after Worlds 2015, but it unfortunately never made it through the editing process. Rather than rewrite the report with the attitude of a VGC '15 retrospective, the original report has been posted to show my thought process and analysis at the time.
       
       
       
      Hi^^
      I am Max from Vienna and I am 14 years old. I started playing Pokemon when I was about 5 years old. The first tournament I entered was the German National 2013 in Bochum, where I was able to place in the Top4. I got 704 Cp in 2015, enough for a flight to the WCS in Boston, where I placed third. In this report I am going to cover my teambuilding process, my team and a short warstory. Thank you for reading this report!
      Teambuilding
      Six weeks before worlds I started to test different teams, but I could not find anything that was satisfying. I felt like every team was using was underperforming, had too many flaws or just didn’t fit my play-style. I was close to giving up and just playing with a very shaky SunRoom Team before I noticed that I had tested teams with Charizard, Blastoise, Salamence, Metagross, Gardevoir or Swampert as my mega but never tried Kangaskhan, because I thought, that it would be countered too hard. I decided to take Wolfe's US Nats team and just play a little bit with it on Battlespot.
       

      I really liked the team but I felt that I had not enough experience with Heatran and Thundurus to win the mirror against other players, who may have used them the whole season. Nearly every team I faced on Battlespot had a Milotic in it, so I decided to kick Landorus-T out of the team and start building from the core of Milotic/Kangaskhan/Amoonguss. I then added Arcanine to the team because of its Intimidate support, its access to both Will-O-Wisp and Snarl and its great typing, giving it an advantageous position against Sun Teams and the strong Amoonguss/Gardevoir combination. Then I wanted to add Aegislash but I didn’t, because I thought that my team would be too slow and weak against Gengar and opposing Aegislash. So I decided to add Hydreigon instead. For the last member I switched between Zapdos and Thundurus, though I preferred first because of its bulk.
       
        
      The team worked out fine, but it still had some flaws. The first one was my pretty weak matchups against Gardevoir/Amoonguss and against Rain teams with Ludicolo. The second problem was my own Amoonguss. While I loved it in the team I brought to both Nationals this season, I found it underperforming on this team. Its really weak matchup against Salamence and Charizard (the two megas I expected to see the most at worlds) and against other top threads like Heatran, Thundurus and Cresselia really hurt it, so I decided to change it. I knew that Kangaskhan needed redirection to work, so I decided to play Togekiss instead of Amoonguss, because it had a better Matchup against Charizard and Salamence and access to Tailwind, while still being able to redirect attacks. Now I decided to switch out Zapdos/Thundurus for Ferrothorn, because of its good typing (I now had a FWG- and a Fantasy-Core) and its awesome matchup against Gardevoir/Amoonguss and Rain.
       

      The team had a nice matchup against nearly everything (beside Terrakion or Smeargle, though), so I used it. I also was able to reach above the 1900s on Battlespot and win nearly all of my practice Bo3s so I was pretty confident, but I still did not expect much going into the tournament.
       
      The Team Under The Scope

            Kangaskhan @ Kangaskhanite
      Ability: Scrappy
      EVs: 84 HP / 156 Atk / 12 Def / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
      Jolly Nature
      - Power-Up-Punch
      - Return
      - Protect
      - Sucker Punch
      Survives Superpower from Adamant 252 Atk Landorus-Therian Survives Draco Meteor from Choice Specs neutral-natured Hydreigon OHKOs 4/0 Bisharp with Power-Up Punch OHKOs 4/0 Breloom with Return  
      In my opinion Kangaskhan is the best Mega-Pokemon that was allowed in VGC 15. It has a combination of awesome bulk, good speed and even stronger firepower. Because of the omnipresent Landorus-Therian and the metagame always being bulkier at worlds, I decided to play Kangaskhan as a fast PuP-Booster to double its attack while still doing chip damage. I also felt that the opponent could play around a Kangaskhan with the moves Double-Edge and Low Kick more easily, for example, if they continuously shuffle Intimidate or just lets one of his or her bulkier Pokemon take a Double-Edge and then kill Kangaskhan in return (no pun intended). This set relies on getting a boost, but still can work without it. This team is designed so Kangaskhan can pick up a boost against my opponent most of the time. She just loves coming in against a burned and a snarled opponent to get her boost. I decided to go with Protect instead of Fake Out to bring myself into better positions or to let my opponent's double-target be useless. Return and Sucker Punch are self-explanatory. I went with a Jolly Nature and Max-Speed, because of the rise of Jolly Landorus-Therian.
       

      Ferrothorn @ Rocky Helmet
      Ability: Iron Barbs
      EVs: 252 HP / 152 Atk / 92 Def / 12 SpD
      Brave Nature
      IVs: 0 Spe
      - Thunder Wave
      - Gyro Ball
      - Power Whip
      - Protect
       
      Survives Close Combat from neutral-natured 252 Atk Terrakion Survives one Superpower or two Mach Punches from neutral-natured 252 Atk Breloom Survives Heat Wave from Choice Specs Modest 252 SpA Zapdos OHKOs 252/116 Min-Speed Mega-Gardevoir with Gyro Ball 2HKOs nearly every bulky-Water with Power Whip  
            While Ferrothorn is the team member I brought the least at worlds and during practice, it still did an awesome job when I brought it. I stole this spread from brokestupidlonely and just tweaked it a little bit to have a better matchup against Breloom. I decided to use Rocky Helmet to heavily punish opponents' physical attackers. Ferrothorn is awesome in the back, because most people anticipate it to switch in and thus make suboptimal plays, to avoid Iron barbs if I was to switch in Ferrothorn. My opponent is also forced to bring his Fire-Mon, which is very bad against several other members of my team (Arcanine, Milotic, Hydreigon). Ferrothorns main purpose was to stop Gardevoir/Amoonguss and rain. It also has a rather good matchup against the typical CHALK-Team, if I am able to eliminate Heatran. Power Whip and Gyro Ball are pretty strong STAB moves for a more defensive tank like Ferrothorn, so I decided to play them. Many people asked me why I used Thunder Wave, especially with Gyro Ball. There are several small reasons (Accuracy, surprise) but the most important one is that Ferrothorn tends to stick around during the mid-game very often without being able to do anything. Most of the time it is too early to start a Leech Seed stall and I cannot switch it out safely. With Thunder Wave, instead of doing nothing I can get more control over the battle. It also gives me a huge advantage against Semi-TR teams, where Ferrothorn underspeeds my opponent's slow Pokemon during TR, while paralyzing my opponent's fast Pokemon. They then have to fight as the slower team, no matter if there is Trick Room up or not. Gyro Ball and Thunder Wave together may seem a little bit out of place but if I want to Gyro Ball an opponent's Pokemon, I do not Thunder Wave them and vice versa. I only used Thunder Wave once during the tournament, but I would never have used Leech Seed.
       

      Hydreigon @ Life Orb
      Ability: Levitate
      EVs: 12 HP / 44 Def / 196 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
      Modest Nature
      - Draco Meteor
      - Dark Pulse
      - Earth Power
      - Protect
       
      Survives Close Combat from -1 neutral-natured 252 Atk Terrakion Survives 2 HP Ices from neutral-natured 252 SpA Thundurus 9/10 times OHKOs 4/0 Terrakion with Earth Power after Milotic's Icy Wind  
                Hydreigon worked as an offensive glue of the team. It was able to dish out tons of damage against Pokemon like Thundurus, Zapdos, Cresselia, Charizard or Aegislash, all of which I would have struggled to deal with otherwise. As you can see from the EV-Spread benchmarks Hydreigon was designed to defeat Terrakion with support of its teammates. I really loved how Hydreigon synergized with every single member of my team, while still being able to do work on its own. I liked Life Orb more than Choice Specs or Choice Scarf because Hydreigon's purpose was to deal as much damage as possible by abusing its good bulk and amazing coverage. It really enjoys the damage and speed control Arcanine and Milotic can offer, because it is able to 2HKO nearly every bulky and OHKO most of the fast Pokemon, that aren’t fairies. (Snarl also won't help much against Pixilate Hyper Voices :S ) Draco Meteor and Dark Pulse are played on every Hydreigon and have awesome coverage. I chose Earth Power instead of Flamethrower because I wanted a way to OHKO Heatran and it is better against Mawile in the Rain. If I was ahead in a game during the tournament I often used Dark Pulse against opposing Heatran, because they tend to protect against Hydreigon to scout out for Earth Power. If I now was able to win the first game, without revealing Earth Power, I could OHKO the opponent's Heatran in the next game to get a huge advantage out of nowhere. This worked out once during the tournament.
       

      Togekiss @ Sitrus Berry
      Ability: Serene Grace
      EVs: 252 HP / 132 Def / 4 SpA / 116 SpD / 4 Spe
      Calm Nature
      - Tailwind
      - Encore
      - Follow Me
      - Air Slash
       
      Survives Flash Cannon from Live Orb Modest 252 SpA Aegislash Survives Thunderbolt from Choice Specs Modest 252 SpA Rotom-X Survives 3 Rockslides from Adamant 252 Atk Landorus-Therian 9/10 times Survives Double-Edge from Adamant 252 Atk Mega-Kangaskhan Survives Iron Head from Adamant 252 Atk Bisharp (10/16 times if Life Orb)  
            The more I play with this team the more I start to enjoy Togekiss. While it began as an experiment, it soon became my favorite user of Follow Me or Rage Powder (sorry Amoonguss). Togekiss' typing is perfect for this team. It can redirect fighting-type moves away from Kangaskhan, Ferrothorn, and Hydreigon, while also being able to redirect dragon-type attacks for Hydreigon, grass-type attacks for Milotic, ground-type attacks for Arcanine or anything I just do not want my other active Pokemon to take. I used Sitrus Berry because I wanted Togekiss to take to strong neutral attacks in one turn and still be around for the next. It really helped me out multiple times and let Togekiss function like a sponge. Another great thing about Togekiss was its ability to support the team with Tailwind and Encore. Most of the time your opponent is going to target Togekiss' partner with an attack that also hits Togekiss pretty hard (for example: Return from Salamence-Mega against Kang + Togekiss). I can abuse that by protecting with Togekiss' partner, while setting up Tailwind. While my team is very defensive Tailwind still helps me out a lot and sometimes even gives me enough momentum to win a game. I choose to run it with Encore to be an even better supporter for Kangaskhan. Because what is your opponent going to do against a +2 Kangaskhan, maybe even in Tailwind? Protect! And Encore punishes these Protects while still allowing me to play safe. Encore is one of these moves that gets even better when your opponent knows about it, because you can then be pretty sure that they are not going to use Protect with a Pokemon slower than Togekiss, or if they do, they are probably going to switch out afterwards. I also never used Protect during my practice battles, while Encore came in clutch very often. As the last move I decided to use an attacking move. I first wanted to play Moonblast, but then noticed that Togekiss can't even learn it. So I used Air Slash. 60% flinch chance is really strong, because one flinch can turn the momentum around very easily.
       

      Milotic @ Maranga Berry
      Ability: Competitive
      EVs: 252 HP / 196 Def / 4 SpA / 52 SpD / 4 Spe
      Bold Nature
      - Icy Wind
      - Recover
      - Protect
      - Scald
       
      Survives 2 Double-Edges from -1 neutral-natured 252 Atk Kangaskhan-Mega 9/10 times Survives Rockslide from neutral-natured 252 Atk Tyranitar + Double-Edge from neutral-natured 252 Atk Salamence beside both getting the highest damage-roll Survives 2 Thunderbolts from neutral-natured 4 Sp.Atk Thundurus (thanks to Maranga Berry)  
            Milotic is, besides Kangaskhan, the only member that did not change. For a good reason! It is an awesome Pokemon being able to defeat some of the biggest threats this metagame has seen like Landorus-Therian, Heatran, Salamence and many more. Like Ferrothorn, Milotic gives me a huge advantage during team preview, scaring my opponent away from bringing their Intimidator. In a Bo3 I will almost always lead with Milotic in the first game to scare off my opponent from bringing his Intimidator (only if my opponent even has an Intimidator, but most teams do have one) in the following games. But the good thing about Milotic is, that it doesn't even require a boost to get its job done. Icy Wind is awesome for speed-control while Scald can 2HKO most of the Pokemon that are weak to it. Recover and Protect are awesome together, because your opponent never knows if they are going to target into a Protect or if they are going to ignore a Recover. Talking about Recover, you might have noticed, that Milotic is the only member of this team having a recovery-move, even though 4 members of my team could potentially use one. After Milotic gets a Maranga Berry or Competitive boost it is a huge defensive and/or offensive threat to my opponent. Most of the time I just try to deal chip damage and keep my Milotic healthy, while Arcanine or Togekiss prepare a Kangaskhan-sweep. If one of my supporters gets KO’d, Kangaskhan enters the field and starts to sweep. If my opponent now has brought his Intimidator they have to send it in and give my Milotic a boost. If they have not brought it, Kangaskhan will be able to sweep together with Icy Wind support most of the time.
       

      Arcanine @ Leftovers
      Ability: Intimidate
      EVs: 212 HP / 140 Def / 156 Spe
      Impish Nature
      - Flare Blitz
      - Close Combat
      - Snarl
      - Will-O-Wisp
       
      Survives 2 Earthquakes from -1 neutral-natured 252 Atk Landorus-Therian Survives 2 Hypervoices from neutral-natured 252 SpA Salamence-Mega Survives 2 Earth Powers from -1 Modest 252 SpA Heatran 3/4 times  
      Arcanine is the star of the show. Its great moves Snarl and Will-O-Wisp as well as its ability, Intimidate, allow it to nerf my opponents’ firepower on both sides of the spectrum. I did not exactly know what the worlds-metagame would look like but I felt pretty save to bring Arcanine because there are only physical and special attacks. I choose Leftovers to reach the benchmarks above. If it had Sitrus Berry instead, the attacks would knock Arcanine out if the first hit was a medium and the second hit was the maximum roll. Arcanine is a great Pokemon to lead beside my own Milotic because they both cover each others’ weakness very well. If you are playing against me using this team you can expect me to lead with Arcanine + Milotic about 40% of the time. I choose to run Arcanine with physical attacking moves because of its higher attack-stat and their higher base-power. Flare Blitz was used as a STAB move, when I needed to get good damage. While Flare Blitz seldom gets OHKOs it often does a crucial chunk of damage (e.g. CM-Sylveon, Gardevoir, QD-Volcarona). Close Combat was used to OHKO Scarf Tyranitar and to deal a significant amount of damage to Kangaskhan, Heatran and Terrakion. On paper these to moves really do not seem to fit on such a defensive Pokemon but in practice it was no problem, because I could easily play around their negative effects. Also the 100% accuracy of these moves was pretty nice. If you haven't used Arcanine yet, go ahead and try it out, it is awesome.
      Warstory
      I wanted to make a short warstory about to tournament, so that you can understand how the team played out and how I played with the team. I won't make a turn-by-turn analysis and only point out significant moments or a short story how the game went. I try to keep this short and interesting.
      Round 1 vs. Emanuele Badaunza (25Nano17 / 5-2)

      After seeing the matches I got really excited, because worlds is about playing the best of the best and I had a huge amount of respect for Emanuele after he finished as Runner-Up in the German National.
      G1: I predicted an Amoonguss switch-in correctly and used Flare Blitz against the slot leaving it in the red. I then missed an Icy Wind onto his Amoonguss and he could start using Spore. I then crit his Amoonguss with Scald but he survived with about one HP (but you cannot complain about crit min-rolls xD). He put everything to sleep and in the end he could timestall me with his Cresselia + Heatran against my Milotic. 0-2
      G2: I predicted him to go with Charizard now and that is exactly what he did. He also brought Landorus-Therian but if I recall correctly my Milotic took care of it easily. Milotic won me the game by surviving attacks and just sitting there. Hydreigon helped a lot too. The games took 14 minutes and 30 second (would also have won if it had gone over timer). 2-0
      G3: I remember that I got up a +2 with my Kangaskhan and dealt enough damage to close it out with Hydreigon. This game only took 11 minutes and we were the last ones playing. 2-0
       
      1-0
      Round 2 vs. Brandon Tuchtenhagen (Blueshark11 / 5-2)

      I knew that this was going to be a very tough match because Terrakion is one of the biggest threats to my team. Later on he also revealed Life Orb offensive Thundurus, which was also a pain to deal with. We were on one of the featured screens, which was pretty nice.
      G1: I was able to bring his Terrakion into Rocky Helmet + Iron Barbs range very early and he played a little bit too safe from that point, so I was able to win. 2-0
      G2: He played better with Terrakion this time around and put me in some very bad situations. 0-2
      G3: I knew that I had to get Tailwind up and work from there. He got a flinch against my Togekiss in the first turn and I was not able to recover from that. He then could just make the safe play every turn and I was not able to punish them. 0-3
      1-1
      Round 3 vs. Keegan Meyer (4-3)

            I found his team very interesting because it seemed like a hybrid of Arash Ommati's and Se Jun Park's worlds winning teams. He also had the double water snake (Milotic, Gyarados), which I played around with in the beginning of the season a little bit. Batuhan Can (Hydraa), a good friend of mine, sat beside me and gave me a little bit of information about Keegan's team in German using some funny words for Milotic, Heatran and Gyarados because the names are nearly the same in German. I knew that his Heatran had a Life Orb and his Mamoswine was wearing a Choice Scarf before the games even began.
      G1: His Gyarados was very scary but I could handle it. In the end it came down to a predict, who he would target with Icicle Crash. I made the right call. 1-0
      G2: It went very similar to the first game. I had to hope that his Mamoswine would target my Hydreigon with Icicle Crash, when it was Togekiss + -2 SpA Hydreigon vs his Mamoswine. I protected with Hydreigon and attempted to go for a Tailwind with Togekiss. And it worked! Then I closed the game out with a Draco Meteor + an Air Slash. 1-0
      2-1
       
      I finally had a break between the rounds after being the last player to finish in the first and second round. I now realized that I had to win 4 straight best-of-threes for a guaranteed spot in top cut. Luckily I felt no pressure because the chances of me making top cut were still pretty small.
      Round 4 vs. Dylan Salvanera (3-4)

            G1: I cannot remember anything beside him scoring a Critical Hit against my Hydreigon with Rock Slide to finish it off with Ice Beam. I was acting like my Hydreigon was very bulky and the crit mattered. It actually didn’t, I just wanted to gain an information advantage. 0-1
      G2: I cannot remember. But I won very high so probably it was not very close. 4-0
      G3: I switched my Milotic into an Icy Wind from his Milotic. I kept my advantage but I cannot remember much. 3-0
      3-1
      Round 5 vs. Dale Causey (3-4)

      After looking at the team preview I got really scared. It was nearly the same team Brandon had but with Suicune instead of Milotic, which made things a little bit easier for my Arcanine.
      G1: I find out that his Thundurus was defensive, while his Heatran was carrying a Life Orb in the first few turns. I could get of an Icy Wind against his Terrakion + Heatran with my Milotic in the turn he knocked my Hydreigon out. I used Power-Up-Punch and Scald against his Heatran while he made a very brave play and stayed in with his 30% Terrakion to score a knock out against Kangaskhan. I still was able to close out the game with Milotic. 1-0
      G2: He crit my Kangaskhan with his -1 Terrakion but he did not play very well so I could take a win. 3-0
      4-1
      Round 6 vs. Batuhan Can (Hydraa / 5-2)

      After the second round Batu and I were 1-1 so it was just a matter of time since we had to play each other. I did not want to play Batu, at least not in this setting. I decided to play as well as I could after seeing his team because I really loved my matchup.
      G1: He played very well but I got 3 Air Slash flinches (out of 6 in the whole tournament). 3-0
      G2: I played much better than in the first game and got another flinch. Batuhan played really well but the matchup and the dice roll were in my favor. 3-0
      5-1
      Round 7 vs. Mark McQuiallan (woopahking / Champion)

            I knew that I was just one win away from top cut so I was really nervous. After seeing the pairings I rolled my eyes because Mark was another player I just did not want to play against. He is a player I really respect and a good friend of mine.
      G1: His Toxic Cresselia is able to chip me away to a point where his Charizard can take out my whole team. 0-2
      G2: I can setup my Milotic to a point where I can win the game if I do not mess up. But I messed up. I used Icy Wind against his Charizard + Landorus-T and forgot that Trick Room was still there in the next turn allowing him to pick up a knock out against Milotic. If I just protected there I could have stalled out the last turn of Trick Room and Recover basically winning me the game but I did not. It then came down to his 50% Charizard against my -2 SpA 15% Hydreigon. We both knew that I had to hope for a Dark Pulse flinch or a crit. And I flinched him. In the next turn I could kill his Charizard with another Dark Pulse. 0-0
      G3: I knew that I had to prevent his Trick Room from going up so I decided to lead with Togekiss and Hydreigon and double target his Cresselia hoping for a flinch or a crit. I flinched his Cresselia and set up the Tailwind in the second turn while scoring a knock out on his Cresselia. I encored his Charizard into Protect and did a huge amount of damage against his Landorus-T. 2 turns later he gave up, knowing that he had no more chance. 3-0
      6-1
       
       
      I was so happy after that match. I talked to Mark a little bit and apologized for my Dark Pulse flinch but he told me that the outcome of this match did not matter as both of our tie-breakers were high enough to make it into Top Cut with 5-2. The pairings were posted and Mark made it as 8th seed while Emanuele, Brandon and Batuhan fell short. My opponents win percentage was the same as Mark's so I was really satisfied. My next opponent was Sebastian Escalante. We had enough time so I went into my room and took a shower before coming back to play.
       
      Top 8 vs. Sebastian Escalante (Top 8)

            I met Sebastian together with Christian Milligan in the lobby of the Sheraton some days prior to the tournament. They were two of the nicest guys I have ever met so I felt really bad to play against him. But there was $2500 on the line just for this Bo3 so I really, really tried hard to win this one.
      G1: I cannot remember much beside his Choice Band Landorus-Therian really surprising me. He did not pick Heatran, so Ferrothorn was really nice against him. My Kangaskhan was able to hang on from his Kangaskhan's Double-Edge with a sliver of HP. I then could close out the game. 1-0
      G2: This game went much better after I outsped and OHKO’d his Breloom with my Kangskhan (he thought that I was not running much Speed-Investment and my Kangskhan was still in his normal form at the beginning of the turn). If I recall correctly Milotic was able to close the game out from this point. 2-0
      7-1
      Top 4 vs. Koki Honda (Runner-up)

      I had a pretty neutral team-matchup here but his Zapdos was really scaring me. I knew that if I won this battle I would be able to play on the big screen for the title of world champion on the next day. I was really nervous.
      G1: He outplayed me the first turns and I was down to two Pokemon against his -2 Zapdos and his -1 burned Landorus-Therian with his 100% Kangaskhan and Heatran in the back. I was able to get my Kangaskhan to +2. In the next turn I crit his Heatran with my second Power-up Punch to score a OHKO and knock out his Zapdos. He then sends in his Landorus-Therian and Kangakshan. I double protect while his Landorus-Therian goes down to burn. Now I was in a pretty tricky position because I did not know his Kangaskhan's spread. My Hydreigon had 5% left and was at -4 SpA while my Kangaskhan was at 60% and +3 Atk. I decided to go for a Return because I did not expect his Kangaskhan to be max speed. It was and he won the speed tie knocking out my Kangaskhan while my Hydreigon did 20% with it's Draco Meteor and went down to Life Orb recoil. 0-1
      G2: I cannot remember much about this battle but it was very close. In the end my 35% Arcanine was able to hang on with 10 HP after his' Sylveon used a spread Hyper Voice against it. It then picked up the knock out with Flare Blitz. 1-0
      G3: I got up an early Power-up punch but he played very well. I saw that his Heatran had Flamethrower so it really caught me off-guard when he used Heat Wave to nearly knock out my Kangaskhan. I anticipated him to have his Sylveon in the back but it turned out to be Landorus-Therian. It took my Hydreigon's Draco Meteor, Hydreigon took itself out with the Life Orb recoil and then Landorus-Therian scored a knock out against my Arcanine. 0-1
      7-2
      So the tournament was over for me. At first I was a little bit bitter because my Top 4 matches were so close that they could have gone the other way around but Koki played awesome and really deserved to be in the finals. I gave Mark some information how Koki played and about Koki's Ev-Splitts (my Arcanine and his Zapdos as well as our Kangaskhans were speed-tying for example). Mark played awesome in the finals and took an awesome win.
      How this team works
            I think this team is the best team I have ever built because it can keep control over my opponent with my defensive members, has three ways of speed control and applies offensive pressure with Kangaskhan and Hydreigon as well as defensive pressure with Milotic and Ferrothorn. Another thing I really liked about this team is that it often forces my opponent to make sub-optimal moves. For example Landorus-T is awesome against my Team beside Milotic (of course I can still beat it without it but that is a little bit tricky). But because of the defensive pressure from Milotic my opponent hardly ever leads his Landorus-T and if he does he still gets punished most of the time. I also had four "big" combinations within the team but actually every member could work with every other member. The combinations were:
            Arcanine + Milotic Kangaskhan + Togekiss Kangaskhan + Milotic and  Ferrothorn + Hydreigon From my point of view they are pretty obvious but feel free to ask me if you want to get an explanation. 

      Here is some footage from the NPA 4, where I was able to finish 8-1 (8-2 if you want to count a literal coin-toss) with this team in the weeks 1-11. I then decided to switch up the team, which in hindsight was a pretty bad idea as I lost two out of my 3 top-cut matches. 
      Week 2 vs. Chuppa
      Week 8 vs. Bjart
      Week 9 vs. IamJabberwocky
       
       
      I really enjoyed my time in America and I really enjoyed the tournament. I hope you enjoyed reading my report, feel free to share if you did and feel free to share even if you did not. Thank you for making it this far!
      Shout-outs to:
      Lennard and Leander for team building, cheering and being good friends. Batuhan, Samet, Erik, Jan and Daniel.  Robert, Clemens, Toby, Faaiz, Adrian, Daryl, Tim, David, Wolfe, Wasti, Thomas and Noah for helping me to practice, to team build or to get my Pokemon. Austria Weezing and the Holy Spirits for being awesome teams. Everyone I played or met during worlds. Jip (Keonspy) for the awesome art. Jonathan for correcting. Everyone that I played on Battle Spot or I forgot in the above list, there were too many people that helped me to remember them all.  
    • The ICPA Spring Series Begins!
      By ICPA Writer in The International Collegiate Pokemon Association 0
      Greetings Nugget Bridge!

      The ICPA Spring Series has begun, and this Spring we have 26 schools competing for an invitation to the ICPA Playoffs. Quite interestingly, the league has seen a boon in Mexican schools, now with six total schools from Mexico. The split of schools is thus: 14 United States, 6 Mexico, 3 Canada, 2 United Kingdom, and 1 Australia. These schools have been sorted into four groups, with 6-8 schools in each group. These groups were formed using the placings of member schools in the Fall Series and general geographic region:

       
      For those schools that failed to qualify for the playoffs in the Fall, this is their last chance. Highlighting this group are the University of North Texas (UNT), our reigning ICPA Champions. UNT went a disappointing 2-3 in the Fall series, and will look to bounce back in the Spring. Another school that narrowly missed the mark is 2015 semi-finalist the University of Victoria (UVic), which finished 3-2, just shy of qualifying. These two have found themselves in the same group (Group A), which will spur some intense competition, as both UNT and UVic will have to oust either the currently-undefeated University of California San Diego (UCSD) or Monterrey Tech who both qualified in the Spring. UCSD will be especially difficult to overcome, given that they are yet to lose in the regular season of collegiate play (currently on a record-setting 10-game win streak over two seasons).
      One other school that qualified for the playoffs last year includes the University of Oxford (OU), who also just missed in the Fall Series with a record of 3-2. Oxford finds themselves once again mixed in with their UK rivals the University of Strathclyde, and also the currently undefeated University of Michigan. The University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill is also looking to improve on their Spring Series performance and break out into the playoffs. To do so, they'll have to topple either the Rochester Institute of Technology, or the University of Waterloo. 
      At the end of the Spring Series, the Top 2 teams from each group (top 3 from Group B ) will receive an invitation to the ICPA Playoffs. Group B will be especially interesting to see, as its three invitations give a lot of opportunity to the numerous Mexican schools that joined in the Spring. However, the qualifiers from the Fall Series will not want to roll over. Due to the total participation numbers, the top schools at the end of the Fall + Spring series may be receiving a Bye in the first round of the playoffs. To do this, they must re-claim their invitation from the Fall Series, thus robbing a would-be up-and-comer school from taking a spot. As agreed upon in the ICPA captain's meeting, no more than four schools (two from the "East," and two from the "West") can receive a Bye in the playoffs, and thus this privelege will be restricted to only the very best.
      Who will come out on top? We've got what looks to be an extremely competitive Spring Series coming up, so stay tuned for the results of round one!
      ~ICPA Writer

    • Decipher #8 - Randy Kwa
      By Cypher in Cypher's Deciphers 5
      Now! Step right this way. Read carefully! Don’t miss the next interview! I present to you... R Inanimate!
      Randy Kwa, also known as Canada's Finest, is one of the more strategic minds in VGC. With his innovations, Randy already has several accomplishments, including finishing top 4 at Nationals and competing at Worlds.
      = Cypher = R Inanimate
      Introduce yourself!
      I am R Inanimate, a Canadian VGC player. I'm pretty sure most people in the community just know me by my actual name though, Randy. I've been playing at events since 2005.
       
      What is your opinion on the VGC 2016 metagame, especially since your "Doble-ing in the Dark Arts" team is popular and has already top cutted a bunch of regionals.
      So far, I've felt that VGC2016 has been quite polarizing. Teambuilding itself has felt quite restrictive in many ways due to the presence of Primals, Geomancy, and Dark Void. But the format itself has also led to people looking into some unique supportive strategies and intriguing techs, so the potential for successful creativity still exists.
      As for playing in the format, on one hand we have tons of potential speed ties, due to the cluster of Base 90 speed Pokemon, along with issues of Dark Void sleep rolls, and Moody boosts. Thus creating a lot of situations for luck factors to sway matches. On the other hand, I've felt that there's a lot of freedom in how to use the popular restricted Pokemon, how you decide to choose Pokemon in Team Preview, and what moves you perform in your battles which can mitigate a lot of the current luck factors from swaying a result.
      Overall, I feel like it's a format that is enjoyable for Bo3, and likely terrifying for Bo1 play.
       
      As a long time user of Smeargle, what are your thoughts about it in VGC 2016? What are your opinions about Dark Void?
      The shift towards teams valuing dedicated support Pokemon more, while the overall survivability of non-restricted Pokemon has gone down, has favoured Smeargle quite a bit in this format. Even if it didn't have Dark Void, Smeargle has a wide array of unique support move combinations and its lower durability is somewhat of a non-factor as almost everything falls in 2 hits anyways. Smeargle having Dark Void means that people are required to respect the threat Smeargle holds instead of ignoring it while it does other supportive moves. Reacting and dealing with Dark Void that requires thinking a bit outside of the box, especially if you want to try to cover both the Sash and Scarf Smeargle options. I'm of the stance where I feel that Dark Void is not broken in 2016, but wouldn't hold any complaint if it was actually removed.
      While Smeargle teams have been winning a lot of events so far, you have to ask yourself some questions. Are they winning because they are spamming Dark Void mindlessly and nobody can answer back? Or are they winning because they are managing their team's matchups well, and the presence of Dark Void is only one factor towards their success?

      You have a tendency of sticking with the same team with some modifications throughout the format rather than creating a new team to deal with evolving metagame. What led to your decision to do this?
      The reason for this comes from my run in 2013. Early in the season, I won the 1st NB Major, and a Regional using my Togekiss Excadrill team (Teams located here: NB Major + Wifi Tour Regional+ Wifi Tour Nationals Worlds)  and I wrote a report about it. After that, I felt a bit paranoid that people would know about the team and be more prepared for it over time, so in subsequent WiFi tourneys and the April Regionals I tried some different teams. None of that teams really had the same success or charm as my older team. In June, there was one more WiFi tourney before Nationals, so I used my old team again for it. It worked just as successfully as it did before and gave me the best WiFi tourney result I had in a long time. I then made the decision to stick to my old team for Nationals and then for Worlds. I learned to realize that if a team is good, it doesn't matter if people know what it does, it should still be able to win. And that's why I often stick to a single team and modify it over time. Unless I feel like the team is completely unable to keep up with the current metagame, I'll hold confidence in it to do well.

      Nationals 2016 has been announced to be in Columbus, Ohio. How do you feel about this change?
      I think I've grown a fondness for Indy. It wasn't the greatest place, but after a few national events it did feel like the place grew on me. With that said, I am pretty excited to see a new city in Columbus, Ohio. It's a bit closer for some people, and a bit farther for others. For me it ends up being not much different in terms of airplane cost/route compared to Indy. But at least I've heard that the place will feel like a better and safer place to be in than Indy was. I wonder what new jokes the VGC community will come up with regards to our new nationals venue.
       
      What led you into playing VGC? What is your favorite memory about VGC?
      Pokemon has been a major part of my childhood. Back in the RBY / GSC days, there weren't any live tournaments to participate in, there weren't any players for me to play against locally that I knew, and I didn't want to play on Pokemon Battle Simulators because I wanted to battle using the Pokemon I worked hard to raise in game. Even though I knew that there was nobody else I'd get to play against, I'd often just breed things or train things to L100 anyways. I've always wanted to play in a live, official tournament setting for Pokemon, and in those times in the past my brother and I would always be on the look out to see if there was any news on these kinds of tourneys. 2005 was the first experience for me, while it technically wasn't VGC. Feelings of disappointment were had during the 2006-2008 period, where there were tournaments I could attend, but the tournaments were for US residents only. When VGC 2009 was announced, and Canadian players were once again allowed to participate, I had already set my mind on trying to build a team and play in the event.
      I feel like my favourite memory about VGC would be VGC 2011 US Nationals. It was the first time I got to go to the US Nationals event, it was the first time for me to meet a lot of the older members of the community at the time, and on my first National event I managed to make Top 16. I felt it was a major turning point for me in playing VGC, and was also about the point where I became my own entity in the community instead of being content as a lurker who was someone's brother.
       
      Outside of Pokemon, what do you like to do?
      I tend to be a person of few hobbies, but invest a sizable amount of time on the few that I have. For the most part it's just watching Anime, playing other video games, or hanging out with friends to play some board games. Currently, I've been pretty occupied playing the Japanese browser game Kantai Collection, and I'll probably be pretty occupied playing Fire Emblem: Fates in a month from now when it gets released over here.
       
      Tell me more about board games, that seems really interesting! What kind of board games do you play with friends?
      Fellow Canadian VGC player, and the winner of the only Canadian National event, Chinese Dood owns a fairly broad selection of board games, so every so often I'd meet up with him and a few of our friends and we'd play a few games. Unfortunately, I've been pretty busy with some things as of late and haven't had many opportunities to join in to play. Recently we've been enjoying playing the game "Codenames".
       
      What are your plans for the future?
      I don't have anything big in store for the foreseeable future. I see myself continuing to attend events as a competitor for at least a few years to come, and I do hope I'll once again be competing at the Worlds level. With Nugget Bridge changing to a blog network, I'll try to continue to write articles for people to read, both team reports and ones that are simply informational. I feel like if there is anything that would create change for me, it will be an external reason, rather than a change I decide for myself on a whim.
       

      What kind of informational things do you plan to write?
      As of right now, I've just finished writing up an article with regards to things that can be used on teams to try to handle Smeargle (Article located here). While it probably isn't too new or interesting for veteran players, I do hope that it helps lay out what tools people have at their disposal to try to help them against Smeargle, instead of shutting themselves down and waiting hopelessly for Dark Void to be banned. I might write another piece about how I perceive and try to deal with certain matchups in the future, but nothing committed yet.
       
      What Pokemon would you like to represent you and why?
      I would choose Togekiss, but I think someone else has already had that as a representation in an interview, so instead I'll choose Espeon. It seems like something I'm currently known for using in the current VGC 16 format.

      Thanks for the interview! Any shoutouts?
      Thanks for having me. A shoutout to my fellow Canadian VGC players. Let's try to get more than just one person to qualify into Day 2 for once.
       
      Thank you Randy for the very informative interview! I hope you all enjoyed it as well! As I stated last interview, I am still planning to do these interviews about every 2 weeks.
      If you liked this, please tweet/retweet/favorite it so others can enjoy it as well! If you have any criticisms, please post it!
    • The Joy of 2016, by Smeargle Ross
      By R Inanimate in R Inanimate's blog - Tactical Moon Tour 7
      "Smeargle is your artistic license. It tells you that you can do whatever you want."
      We've seen a lot of discussion about whether certain aspects of VGC 2016 are considered to be good for the game, whether it be in terms of people's enjoyment of the format, or people's concern of the competitive viability of the format. But we won't talk about these things today, instead let's get right down to talking about something a bit more practical and focus on playing the format we have today.
      This article is about methods and tools at hand that people can use to try to play against Smeargle. It can also be seen as a checklist of things to watch out for if playing the contrary. There are two major types of Smeargle, and I will give a personal opinion on how effecitve I believe things are for each given type. There will be options covered that will be good, and some that I will cover knowing full well that they are bad. But that's okay, if you choose to use them you won't be prone to mistakes. Only happy little accidents.
      Smeargle:

      The two major classes for Smeargle are ones that hold Focus Sash and ones that hold Choice Scarf. I'll give an example set of each in a moment, but the general ratio you see between the two is about an 75/25 split in favour of Smeargles with Focus Sash.
      Smeargle @ Focus Sash
      Ability: Moody
      EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 Spe
      Jolly Nature
      - Dark Void
      - Spiky Shield
      - Follow Me
      - Fake Out
      *Fake Out or Follow Me may be subbed out for other moves such as Wide Guard, Transform, or Crafty Shield
      *Rare occasions will have the Smeargle use something like a Mental Herb, just to screw over people trying to use Taunt against it.
      While Dark Void is present on the set, a Focus Sash Smeargle will try to gain control of board position by preventing actions of the opponent Pokemon or by covering their ally with Follow Me. For a more skilled player Dark Void is often one of the last moves to consider choosing for a turn, as there are often plays with better odds that can be made. In this sense, forcing the opponent to perform defensive moves like Safeguard or Magic Coat when there was no intention of using Dark Void in the first place tends to play into Smeargle's favour.
      Smeargle @ Choice Scarf
      Ability: Own Tempo
      EVs: 4 HP / 252 Def / 252 Spe
      Jolly Nature
      - Dark Void
      - Fake Out
      - Transform
      - Sheer Cold
      To be honest, the last two moves on the set will likely only be used in desparation situations for Smeargle. Choice Scarf Smeargle is about surprising opponents who are expecting the Focus Sash moveset, and putting the opponent's team to sleep before they can act. 252 Def is used instead of 252 HP, as it allows Smeargle to avoid being OHKO'd by Mega Rayquaza LO Extreme Speed. While it is easier for Choice Scarf Smeargle to use Dark Void on its opponents, it also means that it is more volatile as a strategy, as it has to rely on the luck factors created by the heavy usage of Dark Void.

      What Can You Use?
      I'll be using a simple set of symbols to assess effectivity: ◎,○, -, △, x where "◎" is best rated and "x" is worst rated. Keep in mind, a lot of this will be in the specific context of dealing with or covering Smeargle in a battle, and trying to reduce its impact. This is only one half of the battle. This is a double battle. Smeargle has a partner, and so do you. An appropriate partner will be required in order to keep Smeargle's ally in check. This part will NOT be covered too much by my personal rankings. Although I will say that better ranked things are probably easier to have an appropriate partner splashed in along side it.
      Also, Moody is a bit hard to quantify and properly account for. In a lot of situations you can be doing the right thing, and Moody can just run the day for you. So I'll mostly be ignoring that Moody is a thing, aside from mentioning that a few things are effective regardless of Moody.
       

      Mega Kangaskhan
      vs Sash: ◎
      vs Scarf: △
      Mega Kangaskhan hits twice, effecitvely nullifying a Focus Sash on Smeargle. Even if a 252 HP Smeargle got a +2 Def Moody Boost, Double-Edge is a clean KO. Coupling this with the fact that Mega Kangaskhan has a faster Fake Out than Smeargle, it leads to Kangaskhan being a very solid way to clear out a Focus Sash Smeargle. If Kangaskhan's ally is slower than it, it means that Kangaskhan can eliminate Smeargle and prevent it from redirecting any moves from Kanga's ally.
      On the other hand, Kangaskhan fairs rather poorly against a Scarf Smeargle. Fake Out does make it so it isn't in a completely dead spot against it, at least on Turn 1. But it does make the window of opportunity to deal with it rather limited. Couple this with the fact that Kangaskhan often does not have room to run Protect and it can make maneuvering around a Scarf Smeargle threat a bit awkward to execute.
       

      Fast Offense
      vs Sash: ○
      vs Scarf: x (◎ if Talonflame)
      The most broad catergory. The Pokemon that fall into this category will certainly be here for other reasons, not because "they answer smeargle".
      Simply put, Pokemon at 140 Speed stat or above. Alternatively, Pokemon with strong Priority moves, such as Talonflame, Scizor, or Rayquaza (though two of those are faster than Smeargle anyways). Usually works better in cases where strong spread moves are involved and when both Pokemon sent out fall into this category. Just fire out the attacks indescriminately, and Smeargle can't do too much to stop it. Wide Guard variants can put a kink to the strategy of course, but single target moves can be redirected by Follow Me and will allow Smeargle's partner to perform their intended set up. I'd say that fast offense pressure works decently as long as it isn't against Smeargle + Xerneas. You'll need a bit more than just fast offense if you want to make sure you are prepared for that particular lead.
      Unforntuately, simple fast offense is completely at the mercy of Scarf Smeargle. With the exception of Talonflame, who attacks at priority and OHKOs it. About all you can do is hope they miss, or hope that the sleep rolls go in your favour at this point.
       

      Fake Out + Feint
      vs Sash: ◎
      vs Scarf: △
      Fake Out pressure can be used to force Smeargle to Protect itself with Spiky Shield. Feint can be used to break that Protect and open Smeargle up for an attack. Feint is also good for breaking through Quick Guard or Wide Guard and letting a partner deal a follow-up attack. The combination of Fake Out and Feint can be very devastating to Focus Sash Smeargles. A correct guess on what action they will take can potentially let you pick up an early KO, while guessing wrong will usually be a manageable state.
      It isn't quite as good against Choice Scarf variants, but can be good in combination with Talonflame, or a Prankster Pokemon, as Feint can break Quick Guard for them, allowing a follow up Brave Bird or Taunt to neutralize Smeargle.
       

      Lum Berry
      vs Sash: ○
      vs Scarf: ◎
      A simple way to answer status effects. It's one-use though, so it is very important to make the turn count. It can be a bit tricky to find the right Pokemon for the job, as it must be able to forego its item for a Lum Berry, and use the berry to open an opportunity to stop Smeargle or stop its ally.
      Having a Pokemon with a Lum Berry provides a bit more flexibility in dealing with Focus Sash Smeargle, and creates a large situation of vulnerability for Scarf Smeargles, who rely a lot more on locking down the opponents with a fast Dark Void.


      Crobat
      vs Sash: ○
      vs Scarf: -
      Crobat is a bit of an outlier case that deserves a special mention. It's a support Pokemon, but instead of Prankster it's just really fast. This both helps and hurts it, as it can ignore the effects of Quick Guard and hit Smeargle with Taunt, but will still be slower than Scarf Smeargle (or +2 Speed Moody Smeargle) so it can't stop them before they get to move. They tend to be a holder of Lum Berries, which provides a bit more flexibility in case it lets a Smeargle slip by with using Dark Void. However, the fact that it is slower than Scarf Smeargle, and cannot actually KO it with any of its moves, makes it a bit underwhelming at best as an answer to that.
       

      Magic Coat
      vs Sash: △
      vs Scarf: -
      I'm personally not a fan of Magic Coat. While it sounds good and cool in theory, it is much harder to pull off in practice. Since Magic Coat will only block Dark Void for the user, your partner is still vulnerable to be put to sleep. As such, to get the preferred result you need to use Magic Coat and Protect with your ally. If the opponent does not use Dark Void, that's the ENTIRE TURN where you do no action. This can be just as bad as if they did hit you with Dark Void. The risks involved with failing with Magic Coat is way too high, and it tends to put you in awkward situations when using it against the usual Sash Smeargle. That's not to say that Magic Coat is completely ineffective, however. If you play your cards right with it, and read well into the timing, it can lead to a quick reversal in a battle.
      If you know you are facing a Choice Scarf Smeargle, there is more likelihood of the opponent using Dark Void, which makes Magic Coat a bit more appealing, but the issue is knowing they are Choice Scarf in the first place for you to actually spring up Magic Coat against them.
       

      Magic Bounce
      vs Sash: ○
      vs Scarf: ○
      While I am not a fan of Magic Coat, I am a fan of Magic Bounce. The big difference is simply the fact that it is always active, and extremely blatant. They can see it in the team preview and know that it is there. If you have a Magic Bounce Pokemon active, nobody is going to want to throw Dark Void at you since they will do more harm to themselves then they will do to you, so it can actually cause people not to bring Smeargle to the match at all. It can also be played in a way like Magic Coat, by having the Pokemon in the back, and switching it in on a potential Dark Void. The presence of an active Magic Bounce Pokemon makes it a lot easier to disregard Smeargle and focus on its ally, as it passively cuts Smeargle's off from its primary threat option.
      The one downside to Magic Bounce is its low accessability. The choices are Espeon, Xatu, Mega Absol, and Mega Sableye. Fortunately, the non-Mega options do have a handful of tricks at their disposal in addition to Magic Bounce to make them potentially worthwhile.
       

      Prankster
      vs Sash: ○
      vs Scarf: ◎
      Using Taunt or Safeguard with Prankster, in particular.
      A relatively staple way to shut down Smeargle's activities. Also one of the few ways to trump Moody Speed boosts. Taunt holds a stronger effect, as it will stop Smeargle from using Follow Me, Guard moves, or Transform, while Safeguard just blocks attempts at putting your party to sleep. While Taunt is usually the go-to option, it isn't infalliable. On occasion, people are known risk using Mental Herb Smeargle. In addition to that, some people may try to give Smeargle Quick Guard support, so that they can focus hard on putting your team to sleep.
      Pranksters restrict Sash Smeargle's operations greatly, but aren't contributing to actually KOing Smeargle. This can be both a good or bad thing depending on the situation. Sometimes it can lead to Smeargle switching out, and returing later in the battle to wreak havoc when the Prankster Pokemon has been eliminated.
      Scarf Smeargle is pretty much at the mercy of Prankster Pokemon unless they have some Fake Out or Quick Guard support to try to stop a Taunt.
       

      Insomnia/Vital Spirit
      vs Sash: △
      vs Scarf: △
      Mostly an issue with what Pokemon have these Abilities. A lot of the Pokemon with Insomnia or Vital Spirit are frail and often run the risk of being OHKO'd by the many restricted powerhouses in the format. The only real exception to this would be Mega Mewtwo Y, but that has a separate issue of being both a restricted and a Mega (and 4HP M2Y gets OHKO'd by Mega Kanga Sucker Punch).
      With respect to Dark Void, having Insomnia/Vital Spirit would be like a better Lum Berry, but the problem is that all of these Pokemon are so easily pushed around by the Restricteds in the format that it is hard for them to take advantage of their immunity to Sleep and deal with Smeargle or its allies. What will likely happen is that Smeargle simply ignores the Pokemon immune to sleep and goes for the Dark Void anyways, just to put their ally to sleep.
       

      Worry Seed
      vs Sash: -
      vs Scarf: △
      A bit of a gimmicky option, and definitely one that has different intended uses than this one. Worry Seed changes the target's ability to Insomnia allowing them to block sleep, and be immediately woken up if they were sleeping. The problem here is that a lot of Pokemon in this format rely on their ability to function properly, so replacing it with Insomnia is detrimental. The other problem is that the user itself is still vulnerable to being put to sleep. Which is probably why Worry Seed isn't too good of a way to deal with Scarf Smeargle, unless you have something changed to insomnia before it enters play. Whimsicott could prankster Worry Seed to trump Scarf Smeargle... but why do that instead of just Taunting it?

      [TM88]
      Sleep Talk
      vs Sash: x
      vs Scarf: △
      I hope you like rolling dice. That's probably the big reason why this is a bad idea. So bad, I can't think of a proper picture to associate with it. The worst part would be when you try to go for Sleep Talk, and they don't even try to put you to sleep. I'll just leave it at that.
       

      Crafty Shield
      vs Sash: -
      vs Scarf: ○
      Crafty Shield is a guard move, like Quick Guard and Wide Guard, but instead it blocks status moves targetted towards your party. It is a pretty intersting move, but it is only learnt by two Pokemon. Kelfki, and Smeargle itself. As far as dealing with Dark Void goes, Klefki is likely better of just using Safeguard, but it can be an interesting tech for Smeargle to use. The use of Crafty Shield on Smeargle feels more like a move that's focused blocking other offensive status moves like Taunts, Encores, and Thunder Waves in addition to Dark Voids.
      Crafty Shield is a nice safety against Dark Void, which is cool, but the Pokemon that have the move aren't going to deal damage. This makes it take more effort to actually remove the opposing Smeargle from the board. Since Crafty Shield will only last for the turn it is used, you are essentially wasting one of your own moves to block out one of their's, and they may not even use Dark Void at all. This is why I feel like Crafty Shield is better in the context of blocking other status moves rather than Dark Void.
       

      Sweet Veil
      vs Sash: △
      vs Scarf: -
      The good news is that your party is immune to sleep. The bad news is that you have a Slurpuff on the field. Slurpuff's lack in offensive presence and supportive move options is the sole reason why Sweet Veil is not a viable option. Helping Hand and Sweet Veil are pretty much the extent of its usefulness. As a result you end up having something on your team that's about as reliant on its ally to do the work as Smeargle is. And that is just not good.
      With this, we are just about done. I'll dab in a bit of the red and sign this article.
      Smeargle Ross
      I hope you've enjoyed this article, it was a lot of fun... it should give you some ideas, and you can build a VGC'16 team at home. Until next time. Happy battling, and God Bless.
    • E-Sports Organizations and You: A Primer on Your First Contract
      By makiri in makiri's blog 6
      Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on some of the following topics. I am not a legal professional; while I have worked in the legal world for some time and have spoken with many lawyers, the following is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
      So you have been offered a contract from an e-sports organization. You don't have much experience with this and really don't know what to do. People have been signing all the time recently, but how do you know if you are getting a good deal or not? You certainly don't want to sign your life away. Hopefully, I can help you. As mentioned: I am not a lawyer, I have had lots of dealings in the legal world (where I got a ton of advice myself), and I have a huge interest in e-sports, especially the money behind it. This leads me into my first piece of advice.
      Talk to a lawyer or legal professional.
      There is a reason lawyers exist: you pay them some money upfront to prevent paying lots of money later. A lawyer can help you understand a contract offered to you. Fees can range from free to several thousand dollars. For our e-sports contract (which probably doesn't require a ton of research or explanation) I think the most you can expect to pay is around $150 to $300. A lawyer will look at the contract and explain what it means for you and your future. They understand the legal mumbo-jumbo so you don't have to. They can tell you what a non-compete clause is and how long yours is for. They can tell you how much you will actually be getting from the organization monetarily—these numbers are sometimes obfuscated by shady organizations so you don't know your rights. Paying some money upfront to a lawyer will potentially prevent you from paying a lot more money down the line when you want to break your contract because you found out your terms were awful. Some places will give you free legal advice when you buy a hot dog and some will charge an arm and a leg just to say hello; be smart and do some research on a law firm before you commit to paying and remember you get what you pay for usually.
      Remember there are shady organizations, they do exist.
      Some organizations are nothing but money laundering schemes designed to hide money from the government. I can't give you a list of every single organization that is suspected of being a laundering front, but remember to do some research into the organization. Find out who the owners are. Was the owner arrested 15 years ago on drug charges? Might not be a good idea to engage with him. Where do they get their money from? Do they have venture capital support or maybe a lot of really good sponsorships? These are legit sources of money. Some of these organizations will offer you the world because they plan on just getting that money back anyway, you are just a cost of "cleaning" their money. 
      Not all organizations have illegal ties, but some do want to take advantage of you. All the contract language is firmly in their favor. They offer under-market deals just because you don't know better. They may lock you into a 4-year contract that ultimately pays you nothing, and if Pokemon explodes as an e-sport they reap all the benefits while you continue working for raviolis. This all ties into the first point I made earlier: a lawyer will be able to see through these contracts aiming to take advantage of you. These shady organizations prey on people not doing research and not knowing what these contracts mean. Be informed and this should not happen to you.
      Now before I say anymore, let me show you what a good contract looks like. I'm not saying these terms are necessarily good—that's up to the person signing the contract to decide, but the legal terms are pretty solid. Keep that contract in mind for some of my following points.
      Contract image link
      Make sure obligations for you and the organization are in the contract.
      The previous contract pretty clearly states what the organization expects from the player and vice versa. I've seen contracts that just say something along the lines of "the player plays for us" and that was the extent of the obligation. That isn't good enough—you need to know what you're supposed to do and what they're supposed to do. While personally I think the company's obligations are a little vague and ambiguous, they are there and combined with the rest of the contract they actually do a decent job of telling you what the company is supposed to do. It is very important that your duties to the organization are there in case they accuse you of breaching the contract because you weren't aware of your obligations. Slightly confusing, but just make sure you know what you can and can't do while being a representative of the organization.
      Hold up your end of the deal! This should be a given and goes without saying. If you are supposed to do something for the organization, do it within reason.
      Make sure compensation is clearly stated.
      Don't accept vague promises of money when the company can afford it. The previous contract very clearly states how much the player will be getting and when. It even has a section for expenses that the player might incur and states they will be reimbursed up to a certain amount without approval and more with approval. The contract clearly states how much money the player gets directly from the organization, how much prize money the player keeps, and how much money from streaming and donations the player keeps. While in the previous contract the player is keeping the competition and stream money, this isn't always the case. Some organizations want a cut of player earned money, and once again that is up to the person signing. Make sure the monetary terms work for you.
      Be very wary of contracts that promise to pay you "when financially able". Either they don't have money, period, to pay you, or if they do they just plan on never paying you ever. You want exact figures of compensation, not promises.
      Make sure the termination, non-compete, and renew clauses are all reasonable.
      Auto-termination clauses are pretty common and usually are there to protect the company's investment in you. Some auto-termination reasons include illegal activity or failure of the company to pay the player within prescribed deadlines. Other termination reasons may include mutual agreement to terminate or bankruptcy of the organization. These are all relatively basic and are included in most contracts; just make sure they are reasonable and don't auto-terminate you for not getting first place at a tournament (as an example). 
      Non-compete clauses seem kind of rare in the e-sports world, but they do exist. I would be wary of non-compete clauses for the simple fact they tie you up with no opportunity to resign with another organization for a period of time after the contract is up. If there is a non-compete clause make sure the time frame is reasonable for you—6 months is a long time, and in an ever-growing and changing e-sports environment that could mean the difference between a chance at a large contract and nothing.
      Renewal clauses can be a double-edged sword. They can keep you in a comfortable relationship for a long time, but if you're in a bad one or wish to renegotiate it can lead to some trouble for you. Some contracts will auto-renew without proper notice to terminate: generally those terms are thrown into bad contracts by bad companies to keep you locked in for a long time. Mutually renewing the contract with your organization is great, but auto-renewing because you didn't give the organization notice that you didn't want to continue under their banner 3 months ago is not.
      Sometimes the sponsorship is in name only.
      In other words, there is no real "benefit" to either party. You put their name on your stream and wear their shirt to events and they give you some money up front or nothing at all. Sometimes, these don't really involve contracts and are just verbal agreements. Ultimately, it is up to you if you want to agree with this. (But let's be real here: there isn't really anything to be gained from these types of deals. You may feel like there is some prestige behind these kinds of deals, but being sponsored doesn't make you a better player and may actually hinder real organizations from approaching you. Make sure this is something you actually want before agreeing to it.)
      Don't get pressured into a deal.
      If an organization is saying things like "this deal won't last" or "the contract offer goes off the table in x amount of time" they are potentially trying to lock you into a bad deal. Much like a car salesman, they want to seal the deal before you realize you have better options. They prey on the uninformed player to lock them into poor deals that benefit primarily them. Tell them you need time to look over the contract and discuss it. There is no reason for a legitimate organization to pressure you into a deal with threats of timetables.
      Non-disclosure agreements exist.
      I don't know the best information to give regarding NDAs. They exist to hide information from the public at large and usually for good reason. They can be used for bad though—by making sure you can't talk about the terms of your deal, you may not realize you are getting a bad deal. Try not to sign an NDA prior to signing with the organization—you need to discuss contract offers with your lawyer and other advisors. 
      Make sure the organization is Pokemon brand appropriate.
      This is a major one. TPCi will not like vulgar, pornographic, violent, or other mature imagery present at their events. This will limit your organization's exposure and will likely upset them greatly if they are unaware of TPCi standards. Remember these tournaments are put on by TPCi and they ultimately decide if what you're doing is okay or not; they can limit your participation or straight up remove you. Wearing a jersey with guns and knives might be fine for a CS:GO team, but will definitely not fly at a Pokemon event. Make sure you can comply with all TPCi rules and regulations even beyond jerseys and such. TPCi is the ruling body of VGC and they control your fate at the end of the day.
      In a perfect world the best players get the best contracts offered by the best organizations, but in the world we live in there are plenty of issues surrounding e-sports and these perfect contracts may not always exist. There is no perfect contract, and you should be prepared to negotiate with organizations to better the terms for you. If I had only one piece of advice, it'd be what I started with: talk to a laywer. Beyond just that, though, talk to people who are experienced in e-sports, experienced with the organization approaching you, and/or experienced with life in general. Signing a contract is a big life step and needs to be researched and discussed with the right people. Get all the information you can get before committing; don't let a shady organization pressure you by saying a deal won't last. Be careful and be prepared to say no to an organization if it doesn't feel right—being sponsored doesn't automatically make you a better player.
    • Red and Blue: Are Primals Healthy?
      By Dim in Blogging in Low Light 15
      Dark Void currently sits as the hot topic of debate in the community. It is, as I discussed briefly in this comment, a powerful metagame force. It can be expected that current teams will maintain some relevant answer to it as current teams already do due to the popularity and strength of teams with Xerneas and Smeargle; while we may see Smeargle in different forms, it is unlikely that it will ever fade from this metagame completely. This makes it, by definition, a centralizing force. In fact, it was argued in that comment that Dark Void could be so centralizing that it restricted more of the metagame than its banning would. That said, its nature as a positive or negative centralizing force is probably best left to that comment, as this blog post is not about Dark Void; rather, it is about the leap in logic that extends from what the Dark Void arguments discuss. This post is about another centralizing force: the Primals (as well as Mega Rayquaza, to a lesser extent), and how they, just like Dark Void, restrict other teams more than their free use gives a variety of choices to the players using them. 
      What? 
      You heard (read) me right! At risk of sounding like a scrub, I'm going to be complaining in a hopefully rational fashion about Primal Kyogre, Primal Groudon, and Mega Rayquaza. I'm going to outline why they could be construed as unhealthy and hopefully start some discussion about what we view as positive metagame forces and why. I had this thought immediately after writing my post about Dark Void; the basic extension is that since Dark Void defines the meta in a heavily restrictive fashion, would it not also be true that the meta defining forces of the Primals and their mediator Rayquaza be unhealthy as well? Of course, this could also be construed as a manifestation of the feared slippery slope of player input. Give the players fair input about Dark Void, and they'll try to change everything! I offer comfort by reminding you of the experimental nature of this piece. While I may or may not prefer Primals to be made illegal, I do not claim any power or scope over the game and fully respect the results that can be derived from leaving things as they are. There is value in any approach, of course, and this is just one of them. 
      The Facts
      The Primals, namely Primal Kyogre and Primal Groudon, are by observation earth-shaking and tempestuous in their impact on the VGC 2016 metagame. During the recent Germany vs. Japan friendly exhibition set every single team had a Primal Groudon or Kyogre (don't believe me? Just watch at approximately 8:00 to see the full teams layout and 9:13 for the usage on each individual Pokemon, with many thanks to Markus, or 13yoshi37, for uploading his analysis of the games and videos of the games themselves), the majority of teams sporting the former. Furthermore, while I have no real way to link you to any proof of this and can only tell you to look it up yourself, as of now at least 9 of the top 10 players on the Pokemon Showdown ladder were using one of either Primal Groudon or Primal Kyogre on their teams (a few using Rayquaza) within the last two weeks. It is interesting to note that in this case in the 9 teams I was able to view (using the Replay feature), the ratio of Primal Groudon to Primal Kyogre was very similar to the one existing in the aforementioned friendly series with Groudon favored, albeit the teams were much, much more varied. However, the point stands. Almost every high-achieving team uses a Primal Kyogre or Primal Groudon at the moment, and that does not seem to be changing any time soon. Mega Rayquaza most often exists as a supplementary Pokemon to Kyogre, although there have certainly been examples, like Jon Hu's PC-winning team using the restricted pair of Rayquaza and Ho-oh, of Rayquaza existing without its fishy friend. The point I'm getting at is that it is not just a "most common" thing, like Xerneas, but an absolution; successful teams include Kyogre, Groudon, or Rayquaza, with very few exceptions usually involving the aforementioned fairy deer. 
      What That Means
      So we have established that the Primals are dominant in the metagame. That, in reality, does not matter. It really doesn't. The game is allowed to take whatever path it will, and there isn't a right or wrong one; any argument I make here is objectively pointless, as the meta will develop around centralizing forces regardless of whether or not they have the word Primal affixed to their name. However, the extension of the Smeargle argument, which essentially stated that Dark Void restricts the metagame more than its banning would, deserves to be analyzed in the Primal context, and I intend to do it that justice. Essentially, the Primal pair restricts both other teams and each other. Each boasts a raw base stat total of 770 after reverting, holds enormous primary defensive stats of 160 (Special Defense for Kyogre and Defense for Groudon), and carry respectable bulk otherwise with 100 base HP and 90 base in the secondary defensive stat. That, of course, does in no way enumerate the benefits of their offensive stats; even their secondary offensive stat is beyond normal for a Pokemon at 150, which, to put in perspective, is regular Rayquaza's offensive stat number. Their primary offensive stat is even more extreme at 180 (again, special for Kyogre and physical for Groudon). That all means that these things hit hard and take a long time to KO, having totals most often at least 90 points above their non-Mega Rayquaza peers. They are essentially restricted Pokemon that are more powerful than the other restricted Pokemon, holding the two capabilities that Smeargle lacks; base stats and offensive capacity. Because of this they dominate in battles, taking powerful attacks like Mega Salamence's Double-Edge and Rayquaza's Draco Meteor against Groudon and Kyogre respectively with little downside, should the Groudon or Kyogre return with their own attacks. Their stats alone make them stand out among their peers.  
      Of course, stats are nothing without a strong movepool, and these two have enough great moves to make them high performers. In doubles, the land ruled by spread moves, Groudon and Kyogre shine with Eruption, Water Spout, Precipice Blades, and Origin Pulse, all receiving Same Type Attack Bonus (STAB). Both also get strong set up moves, Groudon receiving Swords Dance and to a lesser extent Substitute and Kyogre maintaining the semi-defensive option of Calm Mind. To top all of this off, their infamous abilities, Desolate Land and Primordial Sea, take complete control of the game for them, boosting STAB Fire and Water moves even further and keeping other Pokemon not named Mega Rayquaza or the other Primal from interacting with the weather at all. 
      Note that. Non-primal or Mega Rayquaza weather inducers have had no say in this new metagame. Teams have not been rife with Tyranitar, Abomasnow, Politoed, Ninetales, Charizard-Y, Aurorus, or Hippowdown at all. In a metagame some might have expected to bear some similarity to 2010, which saw use from many alternative weather inducers intended to combat the then-dominating Kyogre and Groudon, non-Primal weather Pokemon are nowhere to be seen because of the sheer power of the Primal weather abilities. The Primals are restricting other Pokemon, namely other weather inducers, with the sheer strength of their abilities. It's a shut-out! The only use we are likely to see out of any of these Pokemon is Tyranitar on an Yveltal team meant to abuse Dark Aura, getting almost no use out of an ability, Sand Stream, that has historically been considered quite powerful.
      That said, the sheer strength of the Primals themselves even outside of their abilities cannot be understated. Already, the game has become about speed control above all else, most often in the form of Tailwind. This is largely due to the fact that the Primals share base speeds with themselves and each other, making speed control necessary to guarantee avoidance of troublesome speed ties one hundred percent of the time. Tailwind is made stronger by the shorter games and the surety it provides to the user; if Tailwind is up for you and not your opponent, then your Primal will outspeed another, wholly due to the fact that Primals have no means of holding a Choice Scarf. In most cases this is Primal Groudon out speeding Primal Groudon, important because Primal Groudon can KO itself with Earth Power or do heavy damage with Precipice Blades. Tailwind holds this distinct advantage of certainty over the additional turn provided by Trick Room; through this, Pokemon like Talonflame and Crobat have risen to tremendous popularity. Thunder Wave, a potential alternative, is made weaker by the fact that it cannot hit Primal Groudon, and Icy Wind as it is currently used wastes too much time and is too limited in distribution to slow, bulky support Pokemon like Cresselia to see any effectual use. Therefore, the Primals also centralize the sub-metagame (the meta-meta game?) of speed control, hence limiting further the options provided to the player. 
      In terms of team synergy, Kyogre is seen so often with Rayquaza not just because the two work well together, but have a special synergy against other teams; together they can knock out Primal Groudon with water moves, probably the most efficient way to take out a Pokemon four times weak to water when the effect of Desolate Land is not in play. The fact that the most popular way to use Kyogre happens to be with its bff Ray says a lot about the impact of the Primals. In fact, successful Groudon teams rarely if ever include a Rayquaza as their second restricted Pokemon, because Rayquaza's Air Lock (or, if mega evolved, Delta Stream) doesn't do as much to help Groudon hit hard with fire moves as it does to help Groudon be hit much harder with water moves. In fact, the only time any rain like weather will be in play will be when Kyogre is also in play because the Primals have shut out every other weather inducer. By this logic, if one was to use Rayquaza with Groudon in effort to use more fire moves, they would find themselves unable to damage the Kyogre on the other side, not mentioning the unspeakable damage Rayquaza would allow Kyogre to do to Groudon. Indeed, the better play seems more often to be switching Groudon out of danger or keeping it out of danger to begin with, and options that echo that sentiment are rife throughout the metagame; Groudon is often played in the back against Kyogre teams to give its teammates time to take out Kyogre before Groudon hits the field to deal with leftover Pokemon like Ferrothorn or switch in to block the incoming water move, and loves fast Pokemon dealing heavy physical damage like Kangaskhan to help remove Kyogre altogether. In fact, Kangaskhan is used much less often on Kyogre teams than Groudon teams. That shouldn't be surprising given how we've already discussed that Kyogre teams like to use Rayquaza, most often inhibiting use of the Mega slot, and have less reason to want a heavy-hitting physical attacker given how they expect to be facing down other Groudon teams. Thus, two team archetypes have developed, completely centered around the two Primals; again, outside of rare cases like Jon Hu's Premier Challenge team with Rayquaza and Ho-oh, only teams with one of the two Primals have been exceedingly successful. In fact, in Kangaskhan's physical attacker slot, many of the Kyogre teams opt for Pokemon like Ferrothorn, Mawile, and occasionally Aegislash to both make use of the heavy rain's ability to nullify otherwise super-effective fire attacks and deal with the Xerneas that, big surprise, often appears on Groudon teams, is weak to steel, and buffs up its special defense enough to prove troublesome for Kyogre. It is as if the two Primals are actively hand-selecting teammates to help them deal with the teammates of the other. In a way they are, as their weaknesses are so clearly outlined in stat lines, movepools, and dead even speeds.  
      How does this impact gameplay? We essentially have a metagame that, so far, has shown evidence of two major modes of play that counter one another. Well, if we return to the argument about Smeargle's Dark Void doing more harm than good in terms of metagame restrictions, we can find our answer. 
      The Effects
      The first thing to talk about in terms of effect is the lack of alternative weather inducers I mentioned earlier. Every single weather inducer not named Primal Kyogre, Primal Groudon, or Mega Rayquaza has seen (nearly) zero use. Even non-primal Groudon and Kyogre have very little purpose. Why? Because they can't compete! The new Primal weather abilities take complete control of the matches they inhabit, and make regular weather abilities essentially null. With useless abilities that were often the only reasons for use in the first place, these Pokemon have become vestigial at best. Of course, Pokemon are removed from metagames all the time; Landorus-T edged out Garchomp in 2015, Vivillon is better than Beautifly, Mega Kangaskhan is almost always much better than regular Kangaskhan, and so forth. That is how a metagame works; it is a game within a game, bounded with rules produced by its players usually in effort to defeat others. That said, in 2015 there were more than 2 team archetypes that appeared at high competitive levels; Charizard-Y, Charizard-Y/Kangaskhan, pure Kangaskhan (CHALK), Gardevoir (Sort of CHALK...?), and even Salamence were successful at various events throughout the year. The elements of these teams could be seen at the earliest winter Regionals. 2014 was slightly different; while Kangaskhan was obviously very strong and successful early on in the metagame, the true variety the metagame had to offer really came to light later in the year, when Mawile and Charizard finally appeared on the competitive stage. That is, along with Mega Gyarados. 2016 grasps individuality in how it has hewed two very specific forms centered around two very specific Pokemon from the wide expanse of possibilities the ruleset offers even early on in its development. 
      How are 2016's Primals limiting? Forms deviating too far from these two and the occasional Rayquaza have been largely invalid. Strong Pokemon like Mewtwo, which often takes a mega slot, and Giratina, weak to the new Fairy type, appear rarely at best. They aren't even weather abusers. This would not be so egregious if Primal Kyogre and Primal Groudon were not so obviously more powerful than their peers; counter meta team constructions haven't been centered so much around using attacks that beat the two at opportune times but using almost outlandish strategies to try to match their power with boosts and status. To be completely honest, that's pretty cool to me. New problems being met with new solutions is one of my favorite parts about the game. But the fact that the other restricted Pokemon even inhabit the same tier as Primal Groudon, Primal Kyogre, and Mega Rayqauaza seems like a huge flaw given that we've already discussed how the Pokemon are essentially must-play for a successful team due to their stats and control of the weather sub-metagame. If I am to stomach the fact that I cannot use my beloved Abomasnow this year, it would only be right if there was some separate way that these 3, or maybe just the two Primals, were restricted differently from the other restricted Pokemon. I am not saying, of course, that using both Primal Groudon and Primal Kyogre is in some way overpowered. Rather, if a player is expected by the metagame to play one of the two, would it not also be interesting to see two other restricted Pokemon that were non-primal rather than a single one? These Pokemon are essentially tech choices (as in, choices used to counter specific strategies) rather than keystones of a player's own strategy at this point, and seeing more of them, perhaps still with a two-restricted-per-game rule, would let in more of the power the metagame has to offer to counter its own demons (those being the Primals). While it certainly would not handle the fact that the Primals completely define the metagame, it would give the opportunity to at least consider playing some of the other powerhouse Pokemon available. 
      Of course, there is the alternate universe where Blue Orb, Red Orb, and Dragon Ascent are banned to remove the offending power weathers. That world is one that can only be theorized about, but might finally include more inducers and therefore more of the classic restricted-metagame weather interactions. Maybe even Hail. Maybe even Abomasnow! I forgot to talk about how much I wished that thing would be in this metagame. Can we still have it, please? 
    • A Dark Paradigm - the Overwhelming Presence of Dark Void in VGC 2016
      By Braverius in Braverius's blog 55
      It should be no mystery to anyone by now that there's not a whole lot of love for Dark Void in the format. This sentiment was echoed in previous years, but due to the degree of success Dark Void is having because of the new format, it's louder than ever among players. It isn't improper criticism, either - the real issue here is that the criticism isn't properly expressed or defined. So let's get to the bottom of this!
      First off, I'm not very well-versed in the format yet. There are probably hundreds of players out there who have played more games than I have and I understand that. I'm simply going to provide framework on the issue that doesn't take experience in this format to understand and let everyone who has played a lot so far fill in where needed since there will be those areas. It's not too hard to understand what's going on here and it's pretty easy to lay out.
       
      The Item Crisis
      Arguably the most clear reason for the Dark Void renaissance, the lack of item flexibility in the format is the first and probably the biggest cog in the Smeargle problem. Most players are using 2-3 Pokemon that are all but required to hold a specific item for their Pokemon to have full functionality. Every team has a Mega Pokemon, almost every team has either Primal Groudon or Kyogre, and a lot of teams have Pokemon like Xerneas that basically need one specific item to be viable. There is simply no way a format like this is ever going to be able to handle such a Pokemon effectively, and as a result, you'll see what you've seen - a disgruntled playerbase and Smeargle in the top 5 in usage. 
      This is quite an issue when one of the most prominent threats in the game is using a spread sleep move and goes faster than most of the common threats if they don't invest speed. They're not able to use an item such as a Lum Berry to burn off the sleep turn and heavily damage or knock out the Smeargle. This allows Smeargle to gain x amount of turns for its team, if it even hits the move. Which brings me to the next point...
       
      The Manic Instability of Dark Void
      64%: the chance you have of putting both of the opposing Pokemon to sleep if you fire off a Dark Void. There's a 36% chance that you won't put one of the opposing Pokemon to sleep, and there's a 4% chance that the move fails entirely. Let's ignore the 64% double-hit chance for a minute and examine the problem of the other 36% of scenarios: when the move misses at least one Pokemon. One of every three times you use Dark Void, it will hit one Pokemon and miss the other. Moves such as Hydro Pump and Will-o-Wisp have been heavily criticized in the past for missing at crucial times and people have gone to lengths to avoid these moves because of this.
      So why are so many people using Smeargle in the wake of this? The answer isn't that the odds aren't identified or that we don't yet know how to stop Smeargle; we've had two full years to learn how to identify what it does to the game and learn how to handle it. The answer is that it is an undeniably powerful move, one that even though it has 5% less accuracy and overall reliability about twice as bad as Rotom-Wash's moves, it's still used about twice as much as Rotom-Wash was ever used in a format like 2013 where it served a very significant role. 
      And why do people not complain about taking Hydro Pump or Will-o-Wisp away and instead clamor for increased accuracy of those moves and insist Dark Void is a problem? The sleep turns if Dark Void actually does hit are just as much up to the RNG as the chance of Dark Void hitting. There's a 1-in-3 chance that you sleep for any amount of the 1-3 turns. This puts much more of the game in the hands of the RNG than of the player than most people prefer.
      If you want an anecdote, as someone who's probably one of the biggest advocates of the RNG in the game, I think it's incredibly overwhelming in how it tips the balance of the RNG in the game. I found DV Smeargle to be relatively balanced last year and made a furious run with it at PCs at the end of the season and still found it not worth banning. However, this year it takes too much control out of the player's hands this year because of the aforementioned item problem coupled with the sheer instability of the move's chances. No player is able to have a relatively stable tournament run with Smeargle interfering with it, whether it be on their own accord or their opponents'. When you're required to win seven of eight or eight of nine games to make cut at bigger events you want a certain amount of control of your own situation. The odds that come with Smeargle aren't stable enough to allow that to happen with confidence.
       
      Spread Too Thin
      "The metagame just needs to develop more! People will find ways to beat Smeargle and also be able to put up a fight with strong teams that don't carry Smeargle."
      The third issue is that of the big picture - being able to handle the pressure Smeargle puts on in a general sense. Teams of six Pokemon, one usually being one of the Primals, one being a Mega (unless you've got a Mega Rayquaza, of course), aren't able to handle Smeargle in combination with the opponent's Primal / Legend / Mega next to it adequately. One single Pokemon cannot check the possibility of both the Sash and Scarf variant of Smeargle while being viable enough to compete with the rest of the opposing team, making best-of-one a problem. Teching on a second Pokemon to try and help against the variant you can't cover stretches teams way too thin to be able to cover the other 50-60% of teams they may want a tech for. This is the one issue that is brought up a lot and probably is already answered by the format - it isn't going to be able to adapt to Smeargle, period. It isn't about taking more time and seeing if people find answers. The metagame is a heavily weighted cat-and-mouse triangle with three choices: 
      1) Use Smeargle. You risk the mirror which is virtually out of everyone's control and you risk those who counter Smeargle. You generally win against those who ignore Smeargle.
      2) Counter Smeargle. You risk running into teams with more firepower than you that can adapt to your team better, especially in a best-of-three. You generally win against Smeargle.
      3) Ignore Smeargle. You risk running into Smeargle. You generally win against teams that try to counter Smeargle, and the mirror is typically much more skill-intensive.
      The reason I said it's heavily weighted is because most people are doing either #1 or #3, with the slight majority doing #2. It can't be argued that a shift in the balance would help it at all since regardless of where the balance shifts, there's always a significant problem. This isn't an end-all to the entire issue, rather an answer for the specific question. Make sure not to take this one out of context since using this as the sole argument for the problem is not going to help. This is only meant to answer that specific criticism.
      If you're one to argue that this cat-and-mouse game is something that's just part of the game and that it can be phrased for any Pokemon at all, read above again as to why it's way more condemning for Smeargle than any other Pokemon in our format.
       
      Adapt or (Faint)? Not so Fast
      "But we don't ban things in VGC! We've never banned things before, we shouldn't do it now either!"
      Read here. Got it? Good. 
      "But regardless of that, banning leads to a slippery slope. We'll just start banning everything!"
      This is the one argument that holds a decent amount of value, but again, there has to be a line drawn and a lot of questions get asked. Where do we stop? Why is this issue more condemning than others? Will this issue spur new ones of the sort?
      This is where we have to step back and actually trust what we do know rather than what we don't know. What I mean by this is that we should trust that what many players who have played for many years have learned will likely help us understand the future after a move such as placing a ban on Dark Void is made. Judging by what has been said by a lot of players, there should be no more adjustments to this format that will need to be made after this. There will always be complaining, people clamoring for bans of other things, and all of that sort. We simply have to understand what the majority of educated players are pointing to right now and accept that this is one of the most ridiculous problems we've had in our game to date and also understand that there isn't anything that even compares to how overwhelming the Dark Void problem is.
      We also have to keep in mind that this is something that is actually being watched by those at TPCi overseeing the format. The development of Kangaskhan's Mega Evolution causing havoc isn't really something that has been on their mind enough to single out the problem, so that's probably something you won't get a whole lot of valid support for in the 'actual changes being made department' if you're the type that has extreme distaste for the big ol' kangaroo. The amount of attention given to this type of issue by AlphaZealot isn't going to ever be very high, so we very likely do not have to worry about a slippery slope ever occurring in the first place.
       
      Marketing
      But honestly, does >90% of the game's fanbase really want to see all of those ferocious Primals put to sleep for half of the game? Better know your Sporini history.
       
       
      In conclusion, the Dark Void problem is one that will never be resolved on its own. The lack of item flexibility on this format's other kingpin Pokemon enables Smeargle to wreak havoc on teams that otherwise would have relatively normal interaction in accordance with what our playerbase has experienced in Pokemon battles over the previous 8+ years. The ridiculous amount of control the move Dark Void gives to the RNG knocks the balance way out of what the vast majority of people want to experience - it doesn't allow players who want to minimize the RNG any room to maneuver, and it's even too much in the hands of the game for some of the biggest advocates of playing the RNG. Teams cannot possibly answer Smeargle because of the ridiculous means it requires to answer it effectively, and the format will never balance out the problem on its own because of how overwhelming of an influence Dark Void has on it. Banning it here will very likely not cause any future clamors for other bans beyond the small annoying things we've seen in the past. Many players feel that this is the single issue to fix and after this, we should have a much more playable format with a balance closer to what most players envision the format would have -- and believe should have.
    • Nugget Bridge Circuit Season 5
      By makiri in makiri's blog 36
      Firstly I want to apologize for this taking so long. I initially wanted to debut the new season with a new feature on Battlefy, but after a few weeks it became apparent and then finally confirmed the feature would not be completed I decided to move forward with a new ruleset new season debut. However I had some personal things going on the last few weeks that didn't allow me to spend much time on actually sorting things out. Here it is though and hopefully we can move forward and have an awesome season.
      After every Nugget Bridge Season I like to go back and reevaluate some of the changes made, so before going into any of the future changes for Season 5, I'm going to go back and give an evaluation on the old changes.
      The Nugget Bridge Invitational will give invites via a Circuit Point bar
      This was a good change I think. People got a target to aim for and while it started out too high I think it ended in the right spot at the end of the day. A good number of people made the Invitational but they were mostly all skilled and deserved to be there. It wasn't too big and it wasn't too small.
      The Nugget Bridge Invitational will be seeded
      While I think the bar change was good and seeding the NBI gave people something to fight for after they get an invite, it didn't seem like many people tried to compete for higher seeds and most were complacent with their standing as long as they had an invite. Still this likely won't change since it remains a good incentive to continue playing.
      Live tournaments will now be Swiss plus top cut
      This was the biggest change last year and I think it was a huge mixed bag. It gave players somewhere to practice the Swiss format for TPCi tournaments but it made every live a huge drag. Players drop out early quite often and at the tail end of the season people just stopped bothering to join (though that could be a symptom of being out of range for an invite). I think Swiss is still important to get people practicing in some fashion and I think it is also important for people who put away time to enter a live and end up losing in the first round. 
      More consistent live tournament schedule
      While I still published things to blocks, you basically knew each week when tournaments would be. Blocks will have to remain since it is difficult to schedule hosts for longer than a couple months. 
      Live tournaments will have a lower best finish limit
      This did what I wanted it to do. It gave people who didn't have the time to enter every live a chance to compete with everyone who did. Not much to say here, but making each live "less important" was a good step.
      Now that I reviewed the past season, I think overall I am happy with the results. Most of the changes were good and I think players who played in the Circuit, Major, and Dodrio Cup all got better and some even managed to make names for themselves. There was the one black spot that ultimately ended up a problem and bugged me endlessly, live tournament issues were always cropping up. Disconnects were again a huge issue despite rules implemented to help fight them. Lives were also way too long, taking upwards of 4 hours. I personally don't think that is fun for anyone involved, especially the hosts who put in so much thankless work.
      And that is what I want to change about Season 5. Make playing Pokemon fun again.
      The first real change I'm making is live tournaments will take place on Pokemon Showdown. This is something I really did not want to do for several years. Showdown is filled with a few problems that made me resistant, but I feel this is a necessary change to shorten tournament length. Tournaments are too long for everyone involved and I think this change will cut the length of each live in half. We will be using a room made specifically for the Nugget Bridge Circuit and once again using Battlefy for the bracket (make sure you have an account). Details on how to join the bracket and the private Showdown room will be given during the first Live.
      I'm going to be reviewing all of our tournament rules and reevaluate what rules I want to emphasize and what rules I want to toss. Making Pokemon fun again also involves helping each other learn and understand the game better. Some of the rules may restrict the learning experience for players and I want to make some changes that will help players achieve their goals without being totally constrained by old limited tournament rules. This change won't be immediate but I will make a notice of it soon after.
      Another change that I want to just test for the moment is 3 tournaments a week. We're going to play every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (day may actually vary for you) without fail. There will be no interuptions for things like Regionals or International Challenges. Everyone will know each week when the next tournament is without fail. This will put a lot of stress on our hosts, so as I said for now it will be a test. For now our season schedule will be as follows:
      Fri, Jan 22 Sat, Jan 23 Sun, Jan 24 Fri, Jan 29 Sat, Jan 30 Sun, Jan 31 Fri, Feb 5 Sat, Feb 6 Sun, Feb 7 Fri, Feb 12 Sat, Feb 13 Sun, Feb 14 Fri, Feb 19 Sat, Feb 20 Sun, Feb 21 Fri, Feb 26 Sat, Feb 27 Sun, Feb 28 Times for these tournaments are as follows:
      Spoiler FRIDAY:
      Check-in time
      USA Pacific 7 PM
      USA Central 9 PM
      USA Eastern 10 PM
      UK 3 AM
      Central Europe 4 AM
      Japan 12 PM
      Sydney Aus 2 PM
      Start time
      USA Pacific 7:30 PM
      USA Central 9:30 PM
      USA Eastern 10:30 PM
      UK 3:30 AM
      Central Europe 4:30 AM
      Japan 12:30 PM
      Sydney Aus 2:30 PM
      SATURDAY/SUNDAY:
      Check-in time
      USA Pacific 11 AM
      USA Central 1 PM
      USA Eastern 2 PM
      UK 7 PM
      Central Europe 8 PM
      Japan 4 AM
      Sydney Aus 6 AM
      Start time
      USA Pacific 11:30 AM
      USA Central 1:30 PM
      USA Eastern 2:30 PM
      UK 7:30 PM
      Central Europe 8:30 PM
      Japan 4:30 AM
      Sydney Aus 6:30 AM
      Other information such as best finish limit and point values for tournaments:
      Live Tournament (Best Finish Limit 16)
      Win 20 2nd 15 Top 4 10 Top 8 7 Top 16 4 Top 32 2 Nugget Bridge Major
      Win 130 2nd 120 Top 4 110 Top 8 100 Top 16 70 Top 32 40 Top 64 20 Top 128 10 Dodrio Cup
      Win 110 2nd 100 Non-live Standard Tournament (Scrambles and others) I need to review point values for and will make a final determination of their value soon. However the Holiday Scramble winner has an automatic berth into the Nugget Bridge Invitational with 100 points. 
      To get an invite to the Nugget Bridge Invitational you will need 100 points.
      Keep in mind this number may change, but it will never go up. Last year I was unhappy with the numbers going into the Invitational and opened it for more players, that may or may not happen again this year so play with the 100 point goal in mind.
      The Nugget Bridge Major and Dodrio Cup will return. More information regarding both will be forthcoming.
      I'm planning on running another tournament that won't be involved in the circuit overall but will be exciting for everyone. Look for more information that some time in the future.
    • Let's Talk About Something Important
      By Smith in Smith's Tips 27
      Let’s talk about mentality. Too often players focus all of their energy on merely playing the game itself at the highest caliber, when more often than not, mentality is the difference maker. In a do-or-die, tense situation between two players on the verge of getting what they want, oftentimes it is not the more skilled player, but the one who keeps his composure better who will emerge victorious. We talk every once in awhile about “tournament nerves,” but we never try to pinpoint the root causes of the sensation of nervousness, nor really ever deal with them. In this blog post I hope to cultivate in my readers a greater awareness of their mentality and how it invariably impacts their play.
      Mentality is something I’ve always thought about more than your average player, but the issue became hyper-salient during a conversation with Austin Bastida-Ramos (@Abastidaramos) after a winter break premier challenge in Texas. Austin is a very strong player who has top cut two US Nationals in a row with some impressive wins along the way, but he found himself, like everybody else, struggling to make sense of his mentality. His specific problem was that he found himself pinned between two forces: his belief that Thundurus and Landorus-t were the two strongest Pokemon in 2015, and his concurrent disdain for using them himself. Read that again. Austin was a competitive Pokemon player who did not want to use the Pokemon strategies that he believed to be the strongest. Hold the phone! Isn’t being competitive the state of using whatever has the highest probability of winning? This is an explicit, obvious mindset issue and Austin was right to bring it up to me. It’s something that needs fixing.
       
      Yet Austin isn’t the only player like this. I venture that mostly everybody has had moments where they act in noncompetitive ways. Now, depending on what you want out of Pokemon tournaments, this might be fine. If you truly want to win only if you’re winning using your beloved Pikachu, then by all means, please do so. That is absolutely a choice available to you. Yet if you are wondering why you aren’t winning more, why all your hard work is evaporating, then this article might be relevant to you.
       
      Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation
      I’m going to go off on a little bit of a tangent here, but I hope it will be valuable. I wish to draw a distinction between Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation. Everything we do is motivated, that is to say, we have a reason for all the things we do. Our actions can be motivated either intrinsically or extrinsically.
      Intrinsic motivation is the motivation to do something because we find that activity inherently satisfying in and of itself. That is to say, I play Pokemon because I enjoy it. I play Pokemon because I like the fast-paced critical analysis of team preview, I like considering win conditions, I like evaluating the optimal moves, and I like making hard reads to win the game. These are all intrinsic reasons to play the game- the game itself offers these pleasures, or perhaps even more specifically, the reward for this activity comes from within. We achieve an inner sense of skillfulness and fulfillment that is satisfying in and of itself.
      Conversely, extrinsic motivation is the motivation to do something because that activity offers us some reward out in the real world. For example, I play Pokemon because I fear disappointing expectations of myself, I play Pokemon for the prize money, I play Pokemon so that everybody knows how good I am, I play Pokemon to try to get a scholarship, I play Pokemon to get more subscribers on Youtube, I play Pokemon so I can brag about on Twitter how I beat everybody with Ponyta, etc. These are all extrinsic motivations because the reward comes not from the activity itself but from external forces which have tied themselves to the outcome of the activity. In a sense, you play Pokemon for some outside reward.
      All of us at some point probably picked up Pokemon for its intrinsic value- Pokemon is fun. Yet at some point, we also receive extrinsic motivating factors. This should be fine. The more motivation, the merrier, right?
      Here’s the kicker-- studies have consistently shown that applying extrinsic motivation to an activity somebody finds intrinsically satisfying will undermine that original intrinsic motivation. To me this is hugely significant to almost everything in life and is worth knowing even if you clicked on this article by sheer mishap and don’t play Pokemon, or any game at all, competitively. Let’s say for example that I give my child Legos. Certainly he will enjoy Legos merely because Legos are fun and engaging- a child is intrinsically motivated to play with Legos. Now let’s say I make a deal with my child: for every tower you build out of Legos, I will give you $1. Soon the child is focused on the money and is building Lego towers to get allowance to buy gumballs. This continues for some time. Then I say: ok, deal is off. I will now not reward you at all for building with Legos. Doesn’t it seem as though the child would stop playing with Legos? The sensation of fulfilling expectations replaces the original intrinsic joy. If this example doesn’t land for you, consider a world in which the NFL stops paying its players anything. Most of these guys are richer than God, so money isn’t really an issue for them. They all probably started playing football because they found it enjoyable at some point, so originally they were intrinsically motivated to play the game. Yet how many people do you think would stick around in the NFL? My guess is about zero. Too much extrinsic motivation can take away the agency of your action and decreases your sense of control in your own life.
      In case it wasn’t obvious, I have a somewhat negative view of extrinsic motivation. That’s because it is inherently less satisfying psychologically to grapple with extrinsically motivated situations then intrinsically motivated ones. Now, extrinsic motivation is helpful in situations where people have no initial interest, like in washing dishes, but it has really no place in a children’s video game. I hope you will all agree with me when I say that playing Pokemon for the prize support is a pretty futile gesture. For us, it is, and should be, a hobby. We do it only because we enjoy it (or should, anyway). Our goal not only as people but as competitive players is to maximize our intrinsic motivation to the game, because it is a stronger motivating factor. This will not only make us happier, but more effective players. To maximize our intrinsic motivation, it is therefore necessary to eliminate the extrinsic forces motivating our play.
      I tried to make that as quick as I could. I hope I have shown that we need to eliminate the non-intrinsic, or extrinsic forces motivating our play. I have chosen three common mentalities to focus on, but certainly there are countless others. All of these are motivated by desires outside of the desire to win, and all of them can reduce not only competitive success but enjoyment of the activity (which, in my opinion, basically fall hand in hand). I think everybody has probably found themselves slipping into one of these bad mindsets once in awhile. I’m going to sound pretty rude in the following sections, but I think I’m actually a super bad version of the first one and also a pretty moderate version of the second one, so try not to take the criticism personally. These are things the whole community can improve on.
      Type I: The Artist 
       
      The first mentality I wish to condemn is that which I will call “The Artist.” I think you all know precisely what I’m about to poke at. This is the most obvious example of a faulty competitive mentality. The Artist is a special snowflake, an exception. Her goal is not to win but to make a statement known to all who view her play: I am different that you. What her statement is varies. It can be: I am cool, cooler than you. Or: I am creative, more creative than you. The most complex version is one I often fall prey to: I am merely different from you. While you all pursue wins in this manner, I must pursue wins in a completely different way. In general, the statement is some version of: it is not enough that I win. I must win while also being… fill in the blank.
      This sounds like a positive. How can I discourage art as a motivating factor? Unfortunately, the results are pretty damning. Unless your tag is Viera and you won every tournament you entered last year, you have enough problems just winning as it is. Placing a restriction on yourself that nobody else has to endure is just about the worst thing you can do. We all love winning with Pokemon sets dear to us. There’s just about no better feeling that using a stupid gimmick on Showdown and watching it work. This is an even sweeter sensation than winning with a standard, actually good team. Yet there is a sensation worse than both: losing. If you’re truly competitive, then losing is the absolute worst thing in the world. It means all your hard work went to literally no benefit. Winning with swag is always fun, but it's harder than just winning. And we must always, always try to win. You can either win with swag 10% of the time or just win way more often than that. One lets you go 4-4 at a regional and one puts you in top cut. Your call.
      (And yes, losing, even if it's with your favorites, is never cool.)
      A more specific criticism of this approach is that Pokemon is simply not a good method of self-expression- at least, the way The Artist views it. I’m a creative person who, yes, uses Pokemon to blow off creative energy, but this is almost always damning to me because trying to be “creative” often eschews practicality (see: Surf Rhydon team). There is being creative in a competitive context, and there is trying to be cool. One is intrinsically motivated and healthy for an individual trying to gain an edge in a packed, centralized field, and one is extrinsically motivated and largely unhelpful in a variety of contexts. Believe it or not, you’re creative without even noticing it or thinking about it. Your unique orientation towards the game IS your creativity- you don’t have to try to bring it out, it shines through naturally. A beautiful example of this is a debate I witnessed between Markus Stadter and Blake Hopper at Worlds. Both of these are wonderfully accomplished and of course, highly competitive players. Blake argued that, in the 2015 ruleset, (a) Scarf Rotom-w is incredible and (b) Gengar is horrible, while Markus argued conversely that (a) Scarf Rotom-w is poo and (b) Gengar is a wonderful asset. While both are strong, they perceive the game in completely different ways. That is because Pokemon is a game that rewards different playstyles and viewpoints, at least to an extent. Full creativity is not possible, but at least partial creativity is. If you try to play the game effectively and well, already you are implicitly making assumptions and taking stances about various aspects of the game, and this is a form of self-expression. Anybody who feels a creative urge should be happy that she is already being creative simply by playing the game in any way at all.
      Type II: The Paranoid
      This one is a bit more difficult to articulate. Basically, the premise is that the Paranoid lives in a world where all eyes and ears are clued into his placings at Pokemon tournaments. He lives in a world which is so singularly results-based that he encounters Pokemon games not with an excitement to play at his best, but a fear of losing. This fear of losing prevents him from really wanting to play- the Paranoid, if he could choose so, would prefer not to play at all. He often assumes he has already won when he is playing somebody he deems worse than him. He therefore loses, having refused to play the game. These are often the type of players that say, “just give me a team” the night before. Refusing to actually prepare a team, an enjoyable aspect of the game, they no longer find this joy. Instead, they hope to merely show up and play at an adequate level which will allow them to escape criticism, either from their friends, the community, or themselves. Note that I say “prepare” instead of “create.” Stealing a team and learning its ins and outs is a satisfying and effective strategy. The Paranoid refuses to do this- he believes he is “good enough” to show up and do decently well without needing to prepare. This mentality can be greatly exacerbated by playing an opponent which the Paranoid deems far worse than himself. To the Paranoid, the game is already won and playing it seriously would be an insult to his considerable skills and prowess. For what would the community say if they learned that he almost lost to a scrub, a random? Subconsciously, the Paranoid accepts that he would rather not try and lose, so scary is the prospect of trying and still losing. As I have hinted at in the title, this mentality is motivated by expectation. The player competes out of a feeling of complying with expectations, and wishes to coast through his matches, achieving expected results, without ever having to really play.
      Beyond being disrespectful to the competition, this mentality is confusing when we consider that Pokemon is supposed to be a fun activity. Ostensibly, you got a plane ride to go to a National tournament to PLAY Pokemon: that is your “reason for travel.” The Paranoid is unfortunately somebody who has suffered the undermining of his intrinsic motivation even more than the Artist. The “undermining effect” of extrinsic motivation seems to be closely tied to a feeling of creating and maintaining an expectation. Imagine, for example, that your father is the coach of your Little League team, and that you hit a home run. “Great job!” vs. “Great! I knew the leading hitter would hit one!” creates a completely different sensation in the psyche. The first is unqualified happiness on the success of the home run; the second expresses an eerie sense that if the leading hitter were NOT to get the crucial hit he needed, he would be a disappointment to the team. This disappointment is what the Paranoid fears more than anything. He imagines the whole Pokemon community gathered at a secret meeting asking, “What did you think of scrubguy57’s Lancaster regionals performance?”
      The Paranoid will be pleased to know that nobody gives two donkey turds how he does in tournaments. Consider the average Pokemon community member. He has responsibilities to his family, to his friends, to his romantic partner, to his job, school, other hobbies, taxes, etc. Only a small fraction of his energy goes towards Pokemon. Of this energy, he has to make time for team building, practicing, helping his friends, and other forces. Of this fraction, only the smallest sliver is reserved for even looking on Nugget Bridge to see how you, some guy he doesn’t even know, has done at a Pokemon tournament. In short, nobody cares. We’re all mature enough to understand that Pokemon isn’t your life and even if it was, how you do at the end of the day is completely irrelevant. This is, after all, your hobby. You do it for fun.
      Even if you are, say, a sponsored player, upon whom there IS some expectation placed, your obligation comes first to your play and to yourself. Unfortunately, I don’t have any real insight here besides “tune it out.” I never claimed I had all the answers, did I? Just like how if you’re in the finals, the last thing you want to be thinking about is the prize money, so goes with the reaction of your friends, family, sponsor, etc. If these are healthy forces in your life, they will support you no matter what your results are from a video game tournament. More importantly, however, these are secondary intrusions. In the moment, you have to be excited to simply play a game of Pokemon. Instead of fearing disappointment, imagine the joy of success and sharing that success with the relevant parties. Make your imagination specific by thinking about how you’re going to win the game. Before you know it, you’re playing Pokemon again.
      Type III: The Saint
      The Saint is a breed unique to Pokemon in that she abhors one of the fundamental structures of her game: the luck element. The Saint does everything she can to try to win cleanly and fairly, without ever relying on a full paralysis, sleep roll, critical hit, flinch, or any other necessary component of the game. In general, the Saint only wants to win the game if she can do it in a super clean way, preferably one with a lot of player vs player interaction and possibly a few reads. Perhaps you’ve noticed, but the Saint is actually just a variation on the Artist. The Saint wants to win, but only in a few specific ways that are difficult to make happen. Her motto is: “If I win through luck, then it wasn’t worth winning at all.” The Saint is motivated by her disdain for luck and the philosophy of “let the better player win”, but even more importantly, the Saint wishes to play in this way because she is not really interested in winning- she is interested in letting the whole world know just how vastly superior she is to her insidious swagger-spamming adversary. By taking “the high road,” the Saint lives in the imaginary world of the self-handicapped, where wins are extra-sweet and losses are insignificant trifles that inflict no real sense of defeat.
      The results are obviously quite disastrous. By refusing to accept any wins that aren’t the result of unnecessary extra work, the Saint basically ensures that she will never defeat anybody except for those she outplays significantly. In short, any close game results in the defeat of the Saint. This self-restriction also impacts most of her decision-making. Rather than trying to Earth Power the opposing Groudon with her Groudon, for example, the Saint would rather switch and take a lot of unnecessary damage than risk the speed tie, even if risking the speed tie was her best play. She lives in a world where her own Amoonguss’ Spores will always inflict only one turn of sleep and refuses to bank on them being any longer; and she will always switch out a Swagger’d Pokemon rather than try to move through confusion. In short, the Saint’s decision-making is clouded by her irrational desire for tidy, clean gameplay. It goes without saying that the Saint often refuses to use successful Pokemon and strategies which she deems overly luck-dependant, such as Swagger Thundurus, Rock Slide Landorus-t, Smeargle, Entei, and in doing so, deprives her chances at winning before the game even begins.
      Perhaps the most significant misconception the Saint belabors under is the idea that the goal of a game of Pokemon is to ensure victory. This is, of course, impossible. To maneuver an equally skilled player into a situation where you have a literally 100% chance of winning is an almost herculean task. Rather, it is important to try to maximize the chances of winning, and to play from there. If you can consistently create a situation where you have a 85% or 90% chance of winning the game, for example, that should be strong enough to top cut any tournament. Rather than worrying about the elements of the game that are outside of your control, control what you can by managing your resources effectively, considering your win conditions, and making plays with consistently high rates of return. If you can take care of all of that, you will win most of the games you play. And yes, sometimes you will be the victim of utter ridiculousness and lose a game you weren’t supposed to. Yet equally frequently, you will win a game you weren’t supposed to. In either situation, it’s important to remember that some things are just outside of your control as a player. Just do everything you can and shake your opponent’s hand at the end of the match. After all, no game of Pokemon is worth slamming a table and throwing a hissy fit over. Being a sportsmanlike human being always comes first.
      Exploring Examples of Positive Mentality
      This article is running a little long, so I’m going to wrap up with some examples of players subverting these traps and finding a lot of success:
      -Hayden McTavish at US Nationals 2015: Hayden had one of the most interesting teams at the tournament which was definitely the product of creativity. Yet unlike a lot of other “creative” teams, his team was the product of creativity channeled towards a competitive end. He didn’t use Scarf Rotom-w “for the lulz” or for any other reason besides the fact that he found it effective. His sets and spreads allowed him to surprise and defeat a lot of very strong opponents that day.
      -Logan Castro at US Nationals 2014: I hope Logan won’t get mad at me for saying that he isn’t really that good. How did Logan muscle his way into the Top 4 of such a stacked tournament? Unlike a lot of top players, Logan basically had 0 expectation on himself going into the tournament- not only did the community not really care how he did, Logan himself only scarcely cared. This allowed him to really have fun playing and make risky plays that other players would have been too scared to make. Logan vs Gavin is a perfect example of a healthy mentality vs. an overly paranoid one.
      -Jon Hu at US Nationals 2014, January 2nd Premier Challenge: Jon Hu is one of the best trainers at not trying to play an overly tidy game. By using luck elements in the game, he creates situations where even if you correctly read what he’s going to do, you still have to move through confusion or paralysis to effectively punish his options. There is absolutely nothing to say about this strategy other than that it is effective. Jon realized that his best chance of successfully performing at these tournaments was to use luck-related strategies, so he used them, and they worked. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. By avoiding being too much of a Saint, Jon created results he otherwise could not have created.
      -The successful Japanese players at World Championships 2015: I think mentality is probably the biggest thing separating Japan’s best from America’s best. Japan refused to use anything besides the very best Pokemon used in the best ways, and if this meant all using the same team with minor variations, so be it. They are also the best at recognizing when they can take advantage of a situation cleanly and when they might need some luck to go their way. Finally, the Japanese players (especially Viera, I feel), sincerely enjoy Pokemon for all of its crazy luck elements and this lets them hang with the game and play it more than other American players. Analyzing Viera’s love of the game that he expresses in his World Championships blog post should give a lot of America’s best something to chew on.
      -Any upset at any tournament: Besides skill and luck, the only factor determining outcomes of games is mentality. Any time you hear somebody complaining about losing to a random, you are firsthand witnessing an account of perhaps superior skill losing to superior mentality.
      If I can leave you with any advice, it’s this trite phrase: Pokemon should be fun. If it isn’t fun, you are suffering from an unhealthy mentality and you need to analyze what’s going on with yourself. Nobody is judging you if you don’t get a worlds invite or whatever. Play as much as you want, and only as much as you want. Some people will play more than others, and consequently will achieve better results. This shouldn’t be upsetting to either party- hard work will always pay off. If you need to take a break, then do it. Taking a break is one of the best answers to a broken mentality.
      This is a great game and a great community. Letting yourself not have fun while interacting with either is a real tragedy. Being honest with yourself about your current relationship with the game is one of the best ways to ensure that you will keep playing and creating happy memories for the foreseeable future of the game.
      I apologize once again to all the people I directly criticized in this article. I have nothing but respect for these players and their game, and I'm grateful to them for letting me illustrate my point.
  • Recent Blog Posts

    • Teams & Results from UK Regs Glasgow 06/02/2016
      By Necrocat219 in Necrocat's VGC 2016 Coverage 3
      The UK Regionals held on 6th February 2016 results and teams. 87 Masters attended.
      1. Joseph Richardson (GoGoGo Golems)

      2. Lee Provost (Osirus)

      3. Jamie Boyt (MrJellyleggs)

      4. Benjamin Grover (Arch11Heretic)

      5. Jeremy Mantingh (Jezza)

      6. Adam Mack (MackPlays)

      7. Christopher Arthur (Koryo)

      8. Joshua Penny

       
    • Primal Kyogre in Pokemon VGC 2016 and The Primal Wars
      By hydreigone in Gone Blogging 3
      Finally, another In VGC '16. It's been a little while but here we are, looking at no one's favorite fish, Primal Kyogre. If you though Salmon was fatty wait until you take a look at this whale. Groudon's sea dwelling counter-part is no slouch despite it's lack of popularity compared to the dinosaur. The "bulky waters" of 2015 have entirely dried up from existence in replacement for their type's last hope: Primal Kyogre. 

      Primal Kyogre Stat and Move Overview on The Yellow Magician's Tier List:
      Politoed is the prequel trilogy to Kyogre's original trilogy. Everyone's favorite Drizzle user is back for the first time since 2010 and his name is PRIMAL. KYOGRE. Dun dun dun dun. And as you can see in the gif, he's on a trip in his favorite rocket ship, to find the Dragon balls and summon another restricted Pokemon...   Type: Water (OP) Ability: Mega Drizzle (OP) Stat spread: 100 / 150 / 90 / 180 / 160 / 90 (Has all the right stats in Alderaan places) Hold Item: No (that's not true!!! that's impossible!!!) Key Moves:   Calm Mind, Earthquake, Ice Beam, Origin Pulse, Rest, Roar, Scald, Sleep Talk, Substitute, Thunder, Thunder Wave, Waterfall, Water Spout, Icy Wind, Psych Up, Safeguard, and Sheer Cold.    Verdict: OP   Kyogre v. Groudon   Click here for Groudon analysis.   There is no escape from the mighty Primal weathers, as Kyogre and Groudon are often in a player's mind right when the team building phase starts. Which one do I use, and how do I beat the other? The usage of both of these Pokemon is extreme. Practically every serious team is going to have one of the two, if not both. The way their weathers act is such a crucial game mechanic in itself. While Groudon's Desolate Land effectively cancels Kyogre out completely, Kyogre's Primordial Sea can only really prevent Groudon from using it's Fire type attacks. A Groudon with the weather advantage is a death note for Kyogre, but even under it's own weather, Groudon can still 2HKO Kyogre with Precipice Blades, and Kyogre has to be cautious of Groudon's partner Pokemon. However, Kyogre can be fixed. Using moves like Skill Swap and Role Play, or Pokemon like Rayquaza with Air Lock, can punish Groudon switch ins. Kyogre is the more consistent of the two at damage output, with the stronger and 100% accurate Water Spout at it's side. There is a major lack of options at straight up OHKOing Kyogre, with many being mediocre otherwise (Zekrom, Life Orb Wild Charge Thundurus-I, Zap Plate Volt Tackle Raichu) as oppose to the easily taken down Ground-weak dinosaur.    Sample Sets    1 ) Faster Squirt   Kyogre-Primal @ Blue Orb  
      Ability: Primordial Sea  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe  
      Timid Nature  
      - Water Spout  
      - Origin Pulse  
      - Ice Beam  
      - Protect   The simple sample set. Click Water Spout, kill everything. Kill them fast. Use Tailwind and Thunder Wave to make sure Kyogre squirts first. When health is low, use Origin Pulse to clean up, but watch out for it's accuracy. Ice Beam to hit Dragon types. Thunder can be used in place of something if your team is very weak to other Kyogre, but isn't very good in my opinion and this set is the most consistent in practice.    2 ) Fat Fillet    Kyogre (Kyogre-Primal) @ Blue Orb  
      Ability: Primordial Sea  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 188 HP / 204 Def / 76 SpA / 4 SpD / 36 Spe  
      Modest Nature  
      IVs: 0 Atk  
      - Scald  
      - Water Spout  
      - Ice Beam  
      - Protect   Offensive Calcs:   Spoiler 76+ SpA Primal Kyogre Water Spout (150 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Mega Kangaskhan in Heavy Rain: 184-217 (101.6 - 119.8%) -- guaranteed OHKO
      76+ SpA Primal Kyogre Water Spout (150 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Xerneas in Heavy Rain: 186-220 (92 - 108.9%) -- 56.3% chance to OHKO
      76+ SpA Primal Kyogre Ice Beam vs. -1 4 HP / 0 SpD Mega Rayquaza in Strong Winds: 196-232 (108.2 - 128.1%) -- guaranteed OHKO
      Defensive Calcs:
      Spoiler  
      Physical
      -1 252 Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Double-Edge vs. 188 HP / 204 Def Primal Kyogre: 88-106 (44.2 - 53.2%) -- 18.2% chance to 2HKO
      252+ Atk Choice Band Landorus-T Explosion vs. 188 HP / 204 Def Primal Kyogre: 168-198 (84.4 - 99.4%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      -1 252 Atk Aerilate Mega Salamence Double-Edge vs. 188 HP / 204 Def Primal Kyogre: 85-102 (42.7 - 51.2%) -- 4.7% chance to 2HKO
      52 Atk Aerilate Mega Salamence Helping Hand Double-Edge vs. 188 HP / 204 Def Primal Kyogre: 168-198 (84.4 - 99.4%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      -1 252+ Atk Huge Power Mega Mawile Play Rough vs. 188 HP / 204 Def Primal Kyogre: 85-102 (42.7 - 51.2%) -- 4.7% chance to 2HKO
      252+ Atk Huge Power Mega Mawile Sucker Punch vs. 188 HP / 204 Def Primal Kyogre: 77-91 (38.6 - 45.7%) -- guaranteed 3HKO
      -1 252+ Atk Huge Power Mega Mawile Sucker Punch vs. 188 HP / 204 Def Primal Kyogre: 51-61 (25.6 - 30.6%) -- guaranteed 4HKO
      252 Atk Life Orb Mega Rayquaza Dragon Ascent vs. 188 HP / 204 Def Primal Kyogre: 152-179 (76.3 - 89.9%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      -1 252 Atk Mega Rayquaza Dragon Ascent vs. 188 HP / 204 Def Primal Kyogre: 76-91 (38.1 - 45.7%) -- guaranteed 3HKO
      252 Atk Primal Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 188 HP / 204 Def Primal Kyogre: 87-103 (43.7 - 51.7%) -- 11.3% chance to 2HKO
      -1 252+ Atk Choice Band Talonflame Brave Bird vs. 188 HP / 204 Def Primal Kyogre: 73-87 (36.6 - 43.7%) -- guaranteed 3HKO
      -1 252+ Atk Life Orb Ho-Oh Brave Bird vs. 188 HP / 204 Def Primal Kyogre: 87-103 (43.7 - 51.7%) -- 6.3% chance to 2HKO
      Special 
      +2 252 SpA Xerneas Grass Knot (120 BP) vs. 188 HP / 4 SpD Primal Kyogre: 182-216 (91.4 - 108.5%) -- 50% chance to OHKO
      +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 188 HP / 4 SpD Primal Kyogre: 144-171 (72.3 - 85.9%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      252 SpA Choice Specs Thundurus-T Thunderbolt vs. 188 HP / 4 SpD Primal Kyogre: 168-198 (84.4 - 99.4%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      252 SpA Life Orb Dark Aura Yveltal Dark Pulse vs. 188 HP / 4 SpD Primal Kyogre: 79-95 (39.6 - 47.7%) -- guaranteed 3HKO
      252 SpA Aerilate Mega Salamence Hyper Voice vs. 188 HP / 4 SpD Primal Kyogre: 46-55 (23.1 - 27.6%) -- 70.7% chance to 4HKO
      252+ SpA Primal Kyogre Thunder vs. 188 HP / 4 SpD Primal Kyogre: 118-140 (59.2 - 70.3%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      252+ SpA Primal Kyogre Water Spout (150 BP) vs. 188 HP / 4 SpD Primal Kyogre in Heavy Rain: 66-78 (33.1 - 39.1%) -- 100% chance to 3HKO
      252+ SpA Primal Kyogre Origin Pulse vs. 188 HP / 4 SpD Primal Kyogre in Heavy Rain: 49-58 (24.6 - 29.1%) -- 99.9% chance to 4HKO
       
      Yeah... I really went all in on this EV spread. Obviously Intimidate is necessary here, but IMO every Kyogre team needs Intimidate anyways. The speed is left over just for creeping but you could slap it anywhere. The lack of special attack isn't as important as it may seem at first. I also really liked Scald because of it's accuracy and burn chance, I've been happy to have it, and I've never thought I need Origin Pulse in any situation that I was forced to Scald. Overall this has been my favorite Kyogre to use in practice, though I've been wanting to know what other people think of it. 
      Team Options 
       Fake Out + Water Spout is very deadly. 
       Speed control and Skill Swap or Role Play support. (Worry Seed Whimsicott)
       Intimidate support. 
       Switch in to remove Groudon's weather. 
       Tailwind, help against Xerneas and Groudon.
      Help beat opposing Kyogre and take advantage of the Rain. 
      A cool option I've seen that takes advantage of the Rain. 
      Probably the only really good swift swim user right now. Ludicolo is OK too I guess. 
       Can set Trick Room. 
      Checks and Counters 
       Obviously. 
       Strong physical attacking Megas can 1HKO less bulky Kyogres. 
       Priority to quickly reduce Water Spout's damage output. 
       Geomancy up and take reduced damage form water type attacks, strike back with powerful Fairy type or Grass type moves. 
      Immune to water type attacks. Lapras gets Freeze Dry and Sheer Cold as well. 
      Electric and Grass type attacks are super-effective. 
       Eat up Water type moves for breakfast. 
      Conclusion
      Kyogre may not be as prevalent as Groudon, but it is a force to be reckoned with on the battle field when utilized properly. It's monstrous bulk and sea-deep special attack put it at one of the first Pokemon to counter when team building. whether you like it or not, VGC is going whaling this year. 
      Thanks for reading. What do you think of Primal Kyogre in VGC 2016? Comment below. Discuss. 
      In VGC Archive.
      Next In VGC 2016: TBD 
    • Fitting in: Crobat vs. Talonflame
      By Crawdaunt in VGC with Hats 0
      Hey there Hat Lovers,
      With the advent of VGC 2016 and Xerneas’ Geomancy shenanigans, both Crobat and Talonflame have risen in popularity to the point that they are now metagame mainstays. The two serve very similar purposes, often running both Tailwind and Quick Guard, and also potentially running Taunt (more common on Crobat than on Talonflame). However, each has a unique and useful ability, and also unique and useful tech moves to run. Today will be a quick summary and discussion of the merits of both, and what teams might find them more effective (spoiler alert, they’re both good).
      Talonflame
      I’ve played a lot more with Talonflame than with Crobat this generation, so just recognize my perspective might be a bit biased. Here is your cookie-cutter Talonflame set for clarity (taken from 3ds.pokemon-gl.com):

      Talonflame @ Life Orb
      Ability: Gale Wings
      EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
      Adamant Nature
      – Brave Bird
      – Flare Blitz
      – Tailwind
      – Quick Guard
      Some minor variations do see play. For instance, about one third of Talonflame are Jolly on Battlespot, as Jolly can outspeed Base 110-125 Pokemon with Flare Blitz or Taunt, not to mention opposing Adamant Talonflame. If you’re running Taunt, Jolly is totally fair, but I feel like the extra damage output by going Adamant is much appreciated on a standard Life Orb set. On the teams I’ve played, I rely on Adamant’s damage output to combo for KOs with my team members.
      Talonflame can also run Choice Band sets to good effect. Choice Band sets take advantage of U-Turn to reset Primal weathers, and can hit really hard with Flare Blitz or Brave Bird. For some reason lots of Talonflames on Battle Spot also run Lum Berry, presumably so they can be awake after getting Dark Voided? I don’t like the idea of Lum on Talonflame… it’s got better jobs to do.
      Talonflame’s bread and butter is in its Prankster-like ability Gale Wings. With this, Talonflame can set up a Tailwind with priority, letting it match an opposing team’s Tailwind even if you’re a turn behind. Indeed, the only thing that effectively stops your Talonflame is an opposing Talonflame’s Brave Bird already in Tailwind, or a faster prankster Taunt. This also gives Talonflame’s Brave Bird the amazing bonus of being a priority move, which lets Talonflame threaten opposing Pokemon despite their speed control (e.g. Trick Room, Tailwind). Finally, Talonflame offers a Fire-type attack in Flare Blitz (or Overheat technically), which can be appreciated for clearing Ferrothorn from the field, or can simply be boosted by P-Groudon’s Desolate Land.
      Crobat
      ...
      View the full article on www.vgcwithhats.com!
       
    • Children of Arceus Part II: Space Oddity
      By SuperEffective in Super Effective! 0
      Children of Arceus Part II: Space Oddity
       

      art by Zerochan

       
      Hey guys! This is StuffVGC. Welcome to the second segment of our three part series “The Children of Arceus,” where we explore the Creation Trio’s viability in the 2016 format. This week we will be discussing Dialga’s sibling, Palkia. According to Pokemon.com, Palkia:
      “…is said to live in a gap in the spatial dimension parallel to ours. It appears in mythology.”
      Okay, but why does Palkia have a barnacle for a face, or why it looks like Space Godzilla? Luckily for us, we do not have to figure out if Palkia is an arthropod or a mollusk, or what kind of metaphysical kind it is. The question we want answered is:  Is Palkia worth the restricted space on your Pokémon team, and if so, how can it be used?
      So far in 2016, Cybertron has been the highest profile Palkia user,  having featured his Palkia extensively in a Premier Challenge and in his Youtube “Road to Ranked” series. Also, Japanese trainers seem to have taken a liking to Palkia according to their own tier ranking http://esports-runner.com/pokemon-double/vgc2016-tier-ranking-all/ . These facts imply that Pakia is at least a viable option in this format.
      Before we begin traveling through another dimension, a dimension of sight and sound and mind, please do not forget that you are welcome to leave any thoughts below - there is plenty of space. If you enjoy this article or any of the materials we have provided please leave a like or hit the follow button. Thank you.
       
      Pokemon.com analysis: http://www.pokemon.com/us/strategy/vgc-2016-championship-series-preview/
       
      Palkia is a relatively offensive Water- and Dragon-type Pokémon, a strange type combination shared only by Kingdra. Being a Dragon-type Pokémon is both a strength and weakness in a format with so many other powerful Dragon-type Pokémon, so Palkia often holds Haban Berry to survive a Draco Meteor from an opponent or a Choice Scarf to use its Spacial Rend first. Palkia has a big advantage over many of its fellow restricted Dragon types in its Speed—only Mega Rayquaza is faster than it.
      Palkia is most commonly paired with Primal Kyogre. The two Pokémon share a Water typing, enabling them to do huge damage during Primal Kyogre's Primordial Sea. The drawback is that they're both vulnerable to similar Pokémon as well, which can lead to their team definitively winning or losing battles depending on how well their opponents are prepared for Water-type Pokémon.
      Palkia has access to one of the highest special attacks, and its signature Dragon-type special attack, Spacial Rend, tops the list. With Spacial Rend's 100 base attack power and 95% accuracy, Palkia has an easier time attacking continually than other Dragon-type Pokémon, which are often forced to rely on Draco Meteor's power  at the cost of a nasty special attack drop.

       
      Pakia’s Base Stats:
      Type: Water/Dragon
      HP: 90
      Attack: 120
      Defense: 100
      Special Attack: 150 *
      Special Defense: 120 *
      Speed: 100
       
      Like its brother Dialga, Palkia has a BIG base stat total, and BIG defenses to boot. Unlike Dialga, Palkia’s defenses are more specially biased. Another difference is Dialga has 10 points more in HP and Palkia has 10 more points in its speed stat putting it in an important speed tier with base 100’s.
      Palkia does not miss the general bulk of those 10 HP points. Water/Dragon is a great defensive typing in this format, Xerneas aside.  Dragon removes Water’s weakness to Grass and Electric, while Water removes Dragon’s weakness to Ice and adds a nifty resistance to Steel.  Palkia then has two weaknesses, Dragon and Fairy.
      With 4x resistances to Fire and Water, Palkia is one of the few Pokemon able to safely switch into both Primal Groudon’s Eruption and Primal Kyogre’s Water Spout, making Palkia’s typing arguably one of the best in the format.
       
      Move Set:
       
      Move usage statistics according to Pokemon Global Link 01/25/16:
      Spacial Rend 100.0%
      Earth Power    65.0%
      Trick Room     49.5%
      Protect             49.5%
      Gravity            40.8%
      Hydro Pumps   32.0%
      Thunder             27.2%
      Flamethrower      9.7%
      Surf                      6.8%
      Draco Meteor       5.8%
      Other moves         7.8%
       
      Standard Move set:
      Spacial Rend
      Earth Power
      Trick Room/ Gravity/ Hydro Pump/ Flamethrower/Thunder
      Protect
       
      Another thing Palkia has over its bulkier counterpart, Dialga, is its access to a Dragon stab that is still powerful, but has fewer drawbacks. Palkia’s signature move Spacial Rend is a base 100 and has an accuracy of 95% with a secondary effect of an increased critical hit chance, making it all too easy to just press the X button over and over.
      Palkia comes with its own limitations. For instance, Palkia struggles running dual STABs with Hydro Pump because of Primal Groudon’s ability, Desolate Land, which prevents the use of any Water type attacks, and the existence of Fairies, especially Xerneas, in this generation both makes Palkia’s Dragon STAB less spammable, and Palkia itself more vulnerable to attack. The former generally limits Palkia to the use of Earth Power as a way to hit Steel types and Primal Groudon for super effective damage - While this is certainly still useful, this can crimp Palkia’s offensive presence at times. The latter means that Palkia’s teammates will need to be considered carefully because due to the prominence of Xerneas.
      I still think that Hydro Pump can find usage if your team is confident about its ability to control the weather war with the use of a partner such as Rayquaza and Primal Kyogre, but due to Hydro Pumps accuracy it can sometimes feel like a shot in the dark.
      Palkia’s third moveslot is dependent on the team. Traditionally Palkia is run as bulky support, as it was in 2010. With the extended use of Xerneas and the sheer power of Primal Weather, a bulky support Palkia is likely still the best option.
      Palkia, like Dialga, has access to two noteworthy support options in Trick Room and Gravity. Many players might have assumed Trick Room is less effective on this Pokemon due to it being one of the faster restricted pokemon, but, as Cybertron has shown, it is still very effective as an offensive and secondary Trick Room setter. Gravity can help support by allowing Ground attacks to hit Flying types and Levitating opponents while increasing the accuracy of many moves that otherwise miss. With so many high powered inaccurate moves in this format, Gravity is definitely an option worth considering.
      Additionally, many players now rightly expect Trick Room on Palkia, but can be caught off guard by faster, more offensive sets. In fact, Battle Spot shows Trick Room on Palkia only 50% of the time.
      Obviously, if you are not running Assault Vest or Choiced item on your Palkia then the fourth slot ought to be dedicated to Protect. Protect keeps Palkia from being doubled into, burns  a turn of Trick Room and Tail Wind, and gives your Palkia something to do when faced with Fake-out pressure.
      Palkia does have some other niche coverage options if you want to run a more offensive, less supportive set. If you have no other way to avoid hugging the thorny fern, then Palkia can toast it with Flamethrower. Also, according to the usage statistics, someone out there in the ether of Battle Spot is running Thunder on Palkia, which I can only imagine is some kind of rain sweeper, or perhaps they assume that they only need to carry it for Kyogre and it is always 100% accurate when Kyogre is on the field.

       
      Item Choice:
      Item usage statistics according to Pokemon Global Link 01/25/16:
      (spoiler)
      Haban Berry 36.9%
      Lum Berry 25.2%
      Choice Specs 15.5%
      Life Orb 10.7%
      Lustrous Orb  6.8%
      Roseli Berry        2.9 %
      Expert Belt  1.0%
      Sitrus Berry  1.0%
      According to the Battle Spot statistics, Haban Berry + Trick Room Palkia is definitely a favorite among trainers.  Haban Berry bolsters Palkia’s bulk to ease into a Trick Room after taking a Dragon attack and also turns Palkia into a Dragon check itself. With Rayquaza and Salamence both common, this is a sensible choice, since with the right defensive investment, Palkia cannot be KO’d by their Flying STAB’s either.
      Example Calculations:
      Spoiler 252+ Atk Life Orb Mega Rayquaza Dragon Ascent vs. 252 HP / 120 Def Palkia: 165-196 (83.7 - 99.4%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
       
      Lum Berry or Mental Herb work for Trick Room Palkia. Lum allows Palkia to set up over Smeargle’s Dark Void and is helpful against Mushroom Spore, while Mental Herb allows Palkia to set up through the ever present Taunt users. These options are particularly noteworthy if Palkia is being used as a dedicated Trick Room setter.
      As you can see, Palkia’s Signature item, Lustrous Orb, is finding little usage due to the limitations we discussed earlier regarding making use of STAB attacks. With few  opportunities to abuse the increased power Water attack, many players have rightly decided that it is not worth running, opting to increase Palkia’s damage output with Choice Specs and Life Orb.
       
      Example Calculations for Life Orb:
      Spoiler  
      252+ SpA Life Orb Palkia Spacial Rend vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Mega Kangaskhan: 136-161 (75.1 - 88.9%)
      252+ SpA Life Orb Palkia Earth Power vs. 252 HP / 0 SpD Primal Groudon: 177-211 (85.5 - 101.9%) -- 12.5% chance to OHKO
      252+ SpA Life Orb Palkia Thunder vs. 252 HP / 0 SpD Primal Kyogre: 133-159 (64.2 - 76.8%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
       
       
      Example Calculations of Choice Specs:
      Spoiler 252+ SpA Choice Specs Palkia Spacial Rend vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Mega Kangaskhan: 157-186 (86.7 - 102.7%) -- 18.8% chance to OHKO
      252+ SpA Choice Specs Palkia Earth Power vs. 252 HP / 0 SpD Primal Groudon: 204-242 (98.5 - 116.9%) -- 93.8% chance to OHKO
      252+ SpA Choice Specs Palkia Thunder vs. 0 HP / 0 SpD Kyogre: 172-204 (98.2 - 116.5%) -- 87.5% chance to OHKO
       
       
      Some have chosen to have Roseli Berry as Palkia’s item. I personally do not rate Roseli Berry very high. You will see from the calculations below, Roseli only allows Palkia to survive +2 Dazzling Gleam. While in theory this allows Palkia to survive long enough to set up a Trick Room, it seems a poor investment given the requirement for a good partner next to Palkia to threaten Xerneas, as Palkia itself does not, as well as the need to avoid being doubled up on or taking a critical hit. Xerneas’ bulk is specially biased and it is immune to Dragon attacks; thus, if you are trying to improve your Xerneas match up with your restricted slot, then Palkia is not your pokemon.
      Example Calculations of Haban Berry:
      Spoiler 252+ SpA Mega Salamence Draco Meteor vs. 0 HP / 0 SpD Haban Berry Palkia: 100-118 (60.6 - 71.5%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      252+ SpA Life Orb Rayquaza Draco Meteor vs. 120 HP / 0 SpD Haban Berry Palkia: 152-179 (84.4 - 99.4%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      252+ SpA Dialga Draco Meteor vs. 0 HP / 0 SpD Haban Berry Palkia: 117-138 (70.9 - 83.6%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
       
       
      Examples Calculations of Roseli Berry:
      Spoiler +2 252+ SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 0 HP / 0 SpD Roseli Berry Palkia: 205-243 (124.2 - 147.2%) -- guaranteed OHKO
      +2 252+ SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 252 HP / 252 SpD Roseli Berry Palkia: 168-198 (85.2 - 100.5%) -- 6.3% chance to OHKO
       
       
      Sitrus Berry is an option, but generally you will find that another team member needs it more or better abuses its additional bulk. Expert Belt is also a possible choice, since Palkia has a great selection of coverage moves; though, we have seen from damage calculations, it will not be netting any non-super effective KO’s.

       
      Abilities
      Pokemon Global link statistics 1/25/16:
      Pressure 91.3%
      Telepathy  8.7%
      Choosing between Palkia’s abilities is very teammate dependent. The event  Palkia with Telepathy is locked to a Timid nature.  So, if you want to run Telepathy, this can work against a Trick Room set. Intuitively Telepathy Palkia allows a decently fast mode where one can spam Earthquake and double target with Spacial Rend. I think coupling Gravity with Telepathy makes the most sense in theory because it allows Palkia to be paired with a decent Ground spread spammer. However, Earthquake has not been seen as often in 2016 as it was in 2015, due to its generally low damage output, so Pressure is probably a superior ability unless you have a specific need for it.
      Pressure is a great ability and can be abused to scout the speed of your opponents, particularly the restricted Legends who sit in the base 90 speed tier.  If Palkia’s ability activates first, or prior to Primal Weather,  then you know your opponent will be slower, and since Palkia’s base speed is 100, you can generally be more confident that such an event was not luck of a speed tie. This is probably most valuable as a Trick Room option, especially in Best of Three Play, since you can then ascertain whether using Trick Room is a good option or not, which it may not be in the above case. Obviously, if Palkia’s ability activates last then you know that your opponent is running peed investment, and Trick Room might then be the play.
       
      Team Mates:
      Pokemon Global link statistics:
      Groudon
      Mawile
      Smeargle
      Kangaskhan
      Ferrothorn
      Cresselia
      Rayquaza
      Aegislash
      Talonflame
      Xerneas
       
         
      Palkia is a strong partner for either of the Primal Pokemon; though, it is more often paired with Primal Groudon, since they have good offensive and defensive synergy. Palkia provides a decently reliable switch against either opposing Primals, although it has to watch out for Precipice Blades. With its access to Trick Room and Gravity, Palkia can potentially set up a sweep for either Primal by allowing them to abuse their signature moves, Origin Pulse and Precipice Blades with 100% accuracy if confidence in being the fastest Pokemon in the Trick Room.  Gravity also allows Kyogre’s Thunder to hit outside of its weather, and puts those Flying types a little closer to the ground, allowing Groudon to nab flying and levitating pests with Precipice Blades, which are otherwise unhittable. Further, both Primes are vulnerable to Dragon types which are threatened by Palkia’s Spacial Rend, especially when Palkia is equipped with a Haban Berry.
      Ferrothorn has great defensive and offensive synergy with Palkia. Only Fighting, Dark, and Ground are uncovered defensively, and only Dialga and opposing Ferrothorn resists their STAB attacks. Ferrothorn also helps provide an answer to Xerneas on Palkia’s behalf.
      Kangaskhan + Palkia has gained a decent bit of popularity. Kangaskhan provides Fake-Out allowing Palkia to set up for the rest of the team. Also, the pair have decent offensive synergy, as Palkia hits hard on the special side, while Kangaskhan hits hard on the physical side. Kangaskhan can run into trouble against Dragons and Primals, which Palkia can handle a bit more easily. Respectively, Palkia struggles against Xerneas which Kangaskan can be more effective at damaging provided a Geomancy has not yet occurred.
      Another notable option is Rayquaza, as both of its abilities will allow Palkia to use a Water attack, but this can be risky - *enters Xerneas.*
       
      Beating Palkia

      Ways to beat the draconian arthropod include Ferrothorn( unless Palkia is running a Fire type attack) and Xerneas, as it can soak up anything Palkia throws that it while setting up Geomancy to KO back the following turn.
      Kangaskhan is a big check to Palkia since Palkia simply cannot trade damage well against Kangaskhan 1v1 unless running Draco Meteor and a boosting item.  Without Haban Berry, both Mega Rayquaza and Mega Salamence can pick up a KO with Draco Meteor, and can finish off even slightly chipped Palkia with their powerful physical attacks. That said, a fast Palkia can threaten both before they Mega Evolve due to it outspeeding Rayquaza, and speed tying Salamence.
      Unless Palkia carries a Water move, it struggles to face down the recently popular Ho-Oh. Ho-Oh’s special defense is huge. Also Ho-Oh generally hits on the physical side, which Palkia does not appreciate.
      While Palkia has respectable bulk and offense, it finds it tough to keep up with being doubled into in this format’s high damage output, and even base 150 special attack can seem a bit underwhelming on neutral hits when it is neither weather boosted, and not getting a super effective multiplier.
       
      Example Palkia Sets:
       
      Palkia @ Haban Berry  
      Ability: Pressure  
      EVs: 188 HP / 112 Def / 196 SpA / 12 SpD  
      Modest Nature  
      IVs: 0 Spe  
      - Trick Room  
      - Spacial Rend  
      - Earth Power  
      - Protect
      Here is a basic spread that attempts to mimic some of the virtues of Cybertron’s Haban Berry Palkia.  Cybertron has not revealed the specifications of his EV distribution just yet. Obviously, this spread is not perfect, but it is a nice starting point for anyone wanting to explore Palkia further.
      Example Survival Calculations:
      Spoiler 252+ SpA Mega Rayquaza Draco Meteor vs. 188 HP / 12 SpD Haban Berry Palkia: 132-156 (69.8 - 82.5%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      252+ SpA Mega Salamence Draco Meteor vs. 188 HP / 12 SpD Haban Berry Palkia: 99-117 (52.3 - 61.9%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      252+ SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Dazzling Gleam vs. 188 HP / 12 SpD Palkia: 128-152 (67.7 - 80.4%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      252+ Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Double-Edge vs. 188 HP / 112 Def Palkia: 150-177 (79.3 - 93.6%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      252+ Atk Mega Rayquaza Dragon Ascent vs. 188 HP / 112 Def Palkia: 129-153 (68.2 - 80.9%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      252+ Atk Aerilate Mega Salamence Double-Edge vs. 188 HP / 112 Def Palkia: 142-168 (75.1 - 88.8%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
       
       
      Many trainers have stuck to the simplistic 252/252  set for Palkia. This is viable since it does not necessarily need bulky investment when running full offensive sets. If you plan to run Choice Scarf, I suggest a Modest nature since scarf will allow you to outspeed everything anyway. If you are running Choice Specs, I think the obvious nature is Timid. It is important to note that positive nature + 180 EV’s invested in speed is enough to outspeed base 90’s 100% of the time - Primals, while positive nature + 60 EV’s invested outspeed non-scarfed Smeargle 100% of the time and neutral nature + 156 EV’s invested outspeed non-scarfed Smeargle 100% of the time.
       
      Summary
      When compared to pokemon like Xerneas, Groudon, Kangaskhan, Salamence, and Rayquaza, Palkia might appear to be a bit of a niche pick and generally less viable than the aforementioned options but, as we have seen, Palkia has a great match up against many of the power houses of this format. It’s incredible typing provides its team with a reliable switch into primal attacks; its general bulk, access to Spacial Rend, and access to an item allows it to threaten opposing Dragon types; and, its access to important support options provides teammates the necessary advantage to win games. Space alien barnacle,interdimensional clam, or both, this child of Arceus is definitely worth considering for your team’s restricted slot.
      ,Thank you for reading and good luck Trainers
      by StuffVGC for Super Effective
       
    • Gloria Classic Qualifier #7 - February 6th
      By Hibiki in Japanese Online Tournaments 1
      Gloria Classic Information Page (Japanese)
      Gloria Classic Information Page (English) (coming soon)
      Japanese Online Tournaments 101
      Communicating with Japanese players 101
      ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      Tournament Info
      This will be the seventh of eight qualifier tournaments that will pay out GP (Gloria Points). Please refer to the info page for the payout key. Please refer to the Japanese Online Tournaments 101 post for information about GP and the Gloria Classic main event (Invitational). 
      The format is:
      VGC 2016 Single-Elimination Best of One Date and time: February 6, 1pm JST (click for info in EST/PST/CET)
      Tournament usually lasts around 3-4 hours
      Sign-up Form
      Notes:
      English or Japanese language skills required Signups close 1 hour before the tournament starts How to sign up:
      HN:insert your nickname here
      連絡先:insert your twitter handle here or mail address
      The 3rd text box is for comments, just don't use it I guess.
      How to play:
      10 minutes before the tournament starts, the eSR VGC Twitter will tweet out an article where you'll find a link to one or two chatrooms. Depending on attendance, chatrooms might be split into two, so make sure to check your tournament entry number on the tournament bracket (which should also be found on their Twitter) and enter the room you've been assigned. NOTE: eSR VGC Twitter account has been frozen, so please check @GloriaVGC and @masaVAmpharos instead! Communication between players will happen in the chat room. Please refer to this blog post at all times while in the chat room to ensure basic communication won't be an issue. Try to handle things in Japanese as much as you can, and make sure you recognize when someone is asking if you're here, as this will help keep delays to a minimum. Score reporting will be handled through a Google Form, the forms for this tournament can be found here. The first form found on that page is for reporting your scores. The winner will report the outcome of the match.*
      The fields on the form are: "Winning player number", "Winning player HN, "Losing player number", "Losing player HN". Number indicates the number players have been assigned on the tournament bracket, please make sure you use the correct numbers as failing to do so will result in unnecessary extra work and delays. After the tournament is over, you fill in the 3rd form with your HN, TwitterID/Mail, the 6 Pokémon you've used in the tournament and the amount of GP you earned with your placement, the payout table can be found here. Make sure to refer to the correct table based on attendance (<128 players, 129-256, 257+). Your name won't show up in the usage statistics, so do not worry about that!
      Note: for Pokémon with several forms, please refer to the section right above the third form. About disconnects:
      When a disconnect happens, STAY AT THE SCREEN WITH THE ERROR. This is important! Fill out the second form on this page. It's the form for generally contacting management. HN in the first field, Twitter/Mail in the second. In the third field, copy in 回線切れ報告 After submitting the form, the GloriaVGC Twitter will send you a direct message (you have to be following them for that to happen!). For those that have signed up with a mail address, they will send you a mail instead. The message/mail will contain 6 random alphanumerical characters. You write those 6 characters down on a small note (in real life, duh), place the note next to/on your 3DS with the error message visible, take a picture and send that picture back via direct message or mail. Here is an example picture In the case that your error messages show up as identical, a re-match can be issued. If they're different, they will issue a win for the player with the error message that indicates that it wasn't on their end (I have no idea how that works, so please just accept their ruling in case it is in your opponent's favor. Most likely you will end up with a re-match)  
      If you have any questions, leave a comment below!
    • Sponsored by Smeargle
      By DrFidget in The Lava Pool 7
      This week I’m joined by Gabby (JTK), Chalkey and Paul (Makiri) for what was supposed to be a quick episode that just kind of got away from us. Apparently people still have a lot of thoughts about Smeargle, US Nationals is going to Ohio, and CP is dissapearing. We also go over the International Challenge, the death of VGC, and why you shouldn’t sign contracts with MISSINGNO or something. Look it’s a long episode and it’s kind of a blur. Enjoy!
      0.0.20 Intro: Game day food.
      0.03.30 US Nats in Ohio
      0.08.15 International Challenge January
      0.17.19 Last episodes PC has a new chapter.
      0.21.42 PAX South (but mostly more Smeargle talk)
      0.33.00 Red Blue Yellow Virtual Console Tournys
      0.39.46 Throwback qualification methods.
      0.41.45 Paul talks a bit more about sponsorships. Read his original blog here: http://nuggetbridge.com/blogs/entry/1251-e-sports-organizations-and-you-a-primer-on-your-first-contract/
      0.55.26 Winter Regionals! (But really just more Smeargle talk)
      1.08.00 Questions 1, Megas that got a second chance at a first impression.
      1.15.54 Question 2, Non-weather Cores
      1.19.09 Question 3, Is VGC dying?!?
      1.35.02 Question 4, Common Cores
      1.38.00 Smith_ is dumb/Outro
      (PS I love Smith_)
      If you need a direct link go here: http://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-6k9rg-5c63f8/download
      If you're new to the show you can subsribe on iTunes here: http://t.co/IWn02R0xDm
      Or plug this into an RSS reader: http://t.co/06GBwSBrqs
      Or follow us on twitter @TheLavaPool to see when new episodes go up.

      HEY IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT ANYTHING PLEASE LEAVE THEM HERE.
      It really does help a ton keeping the show to be on topic if we get topics ahead of time.
    • A radiant fenix! 1st place premier challenge blaziken series #4 PKMN DAY
      By sassan in Fosabatalla 5
      1st place Premier Challenge Blaziken Series #4 PKMN DAY
       
      Hi everyone! I’m Julio Nuñez, but in game my name is Sassan, VGC player since 2014 and today I bring you my team report that I won the first Challenge Blaziken Series #4 at Santiago de Chile on January 24 in the Pokémon Day Event with a round 70 VGC players. With no more words to  introduce, here we go!
      The Team

      Centipede(Groudon)@Red Orb
      Ability: Drought
      Level: 50
      EVs: 4 HP/252 SPA/252SPe
      Timid nature
      -Earth Power
      -Protect
      -Eruption
      -Overheat
      The team’s Primal and also the pokémon that help me to put to my favor the weather. I tested many types of Groudon but finally I choose for a Speedy Groudon. Earth Power let me gave KO to another Groudon and Overheat to gave OHKO to Mega Kanga. This, in case  of Eruption hit a little ‘cause it has his HP down.
       

      Jo-Jo( Ho oh) @ Leftovers
      Ability: Pressure
      Level: 50
      EVs:  252HP/76Atk/124Def/52Sdef/4Spe
      Adamant nature
      -Sacred Fire
      -Protect
      -Roost
      -Brave Bird
      Ho-Oh, my second “Big Legend”, it was practically the MVP of my team. A ditionally to have nice defenses tats and a good attack stats it let me fight with no fear against “The Deer CORE”. Roost to recover HP and makes end PP to my rivals. If Groudon doesn’t have Rock Slide it will be a infalible victory to Ho-Oh in a 1vs1.
      252+ AtkGroudon Rock Slide vs. 252 HP / 124 Def Ho-Oh: 152-180 (71.3 - 84.5%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      252+ AtkLandorus-T Rock Slide vs. 252 HP / 124 Def Ho-Oh: 144-172 (67.6 - 80.7%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      252 Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Double-Edge vs. 252 HP / 124 Def Ho-Oh: 145-172 (68 - 80.7%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
       

      Two PunchMOM(kangaskhan)@Kangaskhanite
      Ability: Inner Focus
      Level: 50
      EVs: 4HP/252Atk/252Spe
      Jolly nature
      -Sucker Punch
      -Fake Out
      -Double-Edge
      -Low Kick
      The Mega of the team, I mean is not necessary to describe this beautiful creature in the competitive world.
       

      KaminaSama(Crobat)@Lum Berry
      Ability: Inner Focus
      Level: 50
      EVs: 252HP/4Def/252Spe
      Jolly nature
      -Tailwind
      -Quick Guard
      -Super Fang
      -Haze
      The name becomes from a character of TTGL series, this is that Kamina Sama never flinches again  tit rivals and anecdotally Crobat neither. Super Fang + M-Kanga’s Double Edge let me gave KO  to many Pokémon in meta game. For example:
      Groudon, Kyogre, Xerneas, Cresselia, Yvelta l among other menaces. Haze to restart the stats boosts and downs (Xerneas Geomancy and my Overheat Groudon, you know) and tailwind to get the Speed Control in field.
       

      Amoonguss@Sitrus Berry
      Ability: Regenerator
      Level: 50
      EVs: 140HP/180Def/188Sdef
      Sassy nature
      -Grass Knot
      -Protect
      -Spore
      -Rage Powder
      Amoonguss was my TR teams counter,  and it took the damages with Rage Powder. Sitrus Berry to stay more time in field. The EV spread was the same that I used in VGC 15. I think it is out and I’ve to modify it.
       

      Cresselia@ Mental Herb
      Ability: Levitate
      Level: 50
      EVs: 252HP/32Def/224Sdef
      ivsSdef: 24
      Sassy nature
      -Trick Room
      -Skill Swap
      -Helping Hand
      -Ice Beam
      This Cresselia is special for me ‘cause was a gift from a friend called Panchitou. Practically he introduced me in this competitive world called Pokémon. He before leave the competitive world gave me his Cresselia that he caught with the Soft Reset trick ‘Cause has not perfect IVs. For this reason I use this pokémon when I can. Cresselia was my second TR teams counter, she could cancel TR. I used Cresselia just in one battle and help me to win that match in the Top 4 stage.
      The Matches !
      Round 1 vs Nicolas Villagra
      Rival team:

      I have the great idea of don’t save my battles, is for my inertia always I select “NO” when the game give me the “Save Battle Option”.
      Result: 0-2
      Score: 0-1
      Round 2 vs ???
      Rival team:
       

      In this match my rival started with Liepard an Porygon-Z and I with Kanga-Crobat. I didn’t Mega evolve Kanga ‘cause Liepard’s Fake out. I flinch his Porygon-Z and set Tailwind with the bat. I defeat his team with the SF + DE combination.
      Result: 3-0
      Score: 1-1
      Round 3 vs TG Grandfire
      Rival Team:

      Result: 2-0
      Score: 2-1
      Round 4 vs Leiron
      Rival Team:

      Result: 1-0
      Score: 3-1
      Round 5 vs EduCastroVGC
      Rival Team:

      Result: 2-0
      score: 4-1
      Round 6 vs XECA
      Rival Team:
       

      Result: 2-0
      Score 5-1
      Once the round was over I expect the Top with my crew. When I noticed that I’m in the top, I decided to get as far as possible. Till that moment my friends had more faith tan me to I win the tournament.
      Top 8 vs Pephan
      Match 1
      Rival Team:
       

      In Top I started to save the battles
      Code: JQLG-WWWW-WW3G-AA26
      In this match there was a key turn when his Xerneas missed a Rock Slide on my Ho-Oh. If this didn’t happened… wow.
      Result: 2-0
      Score: 1-0
      Match 2
      Rival Team: 

      Code:  NN2G-WWWW-WW3G-AA2U
      Result: 2-0
      Score: 2-0
      Top 4 vs TR Kid TG
      Match 1
      Rival Team:

      If Im not wrong, This match was very short, because I won all speed ties.
      Code: P7WW-WWWW-WW3G-AA3Q
      Result: 1-0
      Score: 1-0
      Match 2
      Rival Team :

      This match was very hard. My rival had the battle control all time playing very well as you can see.
      Code: ZEFW-WWWW-WW3G-AA4B
      Result: 0-2
      Score: 1-1
      Match 3
      Rival Team:

      As mi rival was played with the same team 2 times and that work to him I decided play Cresselia instead of Ho-Oh, the reason: Cresselia has Ice beam, the perfect tool to defeat Lando-T, that gave me a lot of head eches in the battle.
      Code: 565W-WWWW-WW3G-AA5X
      Result: 2-0
      Score: 2-1
      Final vs Stefano Rubio
      Rival Team:

      My rival played the same in the 3 matches and me too. The result was 2-1 to me. I won the last match ‘cause Ho-Oh woke up in the second turn after fell asleep let me damage his Kanga and have it ready for my Kanga’s Fake Out (My Kanga was not in field) while my Ho-Oh and Groudon were in field. Defeat in Kanga, Victory will be mine ‘cause his Smeargle was Scarf and just used Dark Void. Lamentably I don’t have the video codes ‘cause battles were recorded in the 3DS that was connected to the screen. I was so focused in match that I don’t have much memories of these matches and I’d like to watch all of them if up load them to the net. Forth is battle I was the winner of Premier Challenge organizated at the second day of Pokémon Day event.
      Score: 2-1
      No more words to say to give thank you to all my friends of “Culto Karurista y weá” for the continued support in the matches. To Matías Roa (Boah) ‘cause I used his team as inspiration to create mine. To Gabo H. Ramos (GaboRocker) for translate this report. And finally thank you if you took the time to read this. See ya!
    • Decipher #9 - Riccardo Appamea
      By Cypher in Cypher's Deciphers 0
      Now! Step right this way. Read carefully! Don’t miss the next interview! I present to you... Appa!
      Team Aqua's Riccardo Appamea is your Preganziol regional champion! A fairly unknown player to most of the player base, Riccardo scored his best finish yet by winning Italy's Preganziol regional!
      = Cypher  = Appa
       
      When did you start playing VGC?
      I started playing VGC 2 years ago with Pokemon X/Y. But, I was a singles player since 2009.

      You won the Preganziol regional, how do you feel about this accomplishment?
      I'm very happy about that. It's my first best result in an official competition. However, I want to improve even further.

      Do you plan to go to more events? If so, which ones?
      Yes. I'm planning to go to Innsbruck Regional later this month, as well as two Nationals.

      What was the team that you used to win won Preganziol regional? Why did you use that team?
      I used a Goodstuffs team with Kangaskhan, Rayquaza, Mewtwo, Talonflame, Amoonguss, and Suicune. I usually don't like to use commonly used Pokemon like Xerneas, so I tried to use a team that can be those commonly used Pokemon.

      Mewtwo and Suicine are currently two rarely used Pokemon in the format. How did you make these two Pokemon work, especially since you won your regional?
      Mewtwo can do a lot of damage, and its speed and power allows it sweep the opponent, especially if it is behind a Substitute.
      Suicune is the true star of the team. It walls the most powerful special attacks, can reverses match-ups with Tailwind, and use Roar against Xerneas or Trick room teams. Suicune easily helped against opposing Salamence and Talonflame.

      That is very interesting about the use of Suicune! How did you handle Smeargle with your team?
      I played against a lot of Smeargle in this tournament, and I would pressure Smeargle leads with Kangaskhan's Fake Out and Suicune's Tailwind. If Xerneas would try to set up, Suicune used Roar against it. I think Kangaskhan is the best counter to Focus Sash Smeargle.

      What do you like the most about VGC 2016? What you dislike about it?
      I like VGC 2016 because there are more choices this year compared to last year. But, I don't like Xerneas and Smeargle, especially Smeargle, because it makes the game so boring.

      Why did you make the switch from playing singles to VGC?
      I did it for two reason. First, my friends played VGC in live tournaments so I wanted to join them, and second, I wanted to play Doubles since I seemed more difficult than Singles.

      Outside of Pokemon, what kind of things do you do? Are you passionate about anything?
      I have two passions. Pokemon is my first passion and my favorite hobby. My second passion is playing the accordion, which I have played since I was a child. I work hard and spent a lot of time for my two passions.

      Accordion! That is very intriguing. What led you to play accordion?
      When I was six, my mother asked me which was my favourite instrument, and I choose the accordion. Ever since, I have never stopped playing it, even throughout my teen years.

      In this interview, what Pokemon do you want to represent you and why?
      Yveltal, because it's interesting and I want to use it in future. I also won a big Yveltal plush after my win!

      Ah okay, thank you for the interview! Do you have anyone to thank?
      I want to thank my friend and Italian champion Francesco Pardini. He always help me with testings and ideas. I also thank you for the interview and hope to talk again in future, after a good placement!
       
      Thank you Riccardo for the interview! It's always interesting to hear from someone who finally got their big victory! I hope you all enjoyed it as well!
      If you liked this, please tweet/retweet/favorite it so others can enjoy it as well! If you have any criticisms, please post it!
    • Beware Of Dog! A Top 4 Worlds Seniors Report
      By bissiges Bissbark in bissiges Bissbark's blog 7
      Note: This report was written with the intention of being published after Worlds 2015, but it unfortunately never made it through the editing process. Rather than rewrite the report with the attitude of a VGC '15 retrospective, the original report has been posted to show my thought process and analysis at the time.
       
       
       
      Hi^^
      I am Max from Vienna and I am 14 years old. I started playing Pokemon when I was about 5 years old. The first tournament I entered was the German National 2013 in Bochum, where I was able to place in the Top4. I got 704 Cp in 2015, enough for a flight to the WCS in Boston, where I placed third. In this report I am going to cover my teambuilding process, my team and a short warstory. Thank you for reading this report!
      Teambuilding
      Six weeks before worlds I started to test different teams, but I could not find anything that was satisfying. I felt like every team was using was underperforming, had too many flaws or just didn’t fit my play-style. I was close to giving up and just playing with a very shaky SunRoom Team before I noticed that I had tested teams with Charizard, Blastoise, Salamence, Metagross, Gardevoir or Swampert as my mega but never tried Kangaskhan, because I thought, that it would be countered too hard. I decided to take Wolfe's US Nats team and just play a little bit with it on Battlespot.
       

      I really liked the team but I felt that I had not enough experience with Heatran and Thundurus to win the mirror against other players, who may have used them the whole season. Nearly every team I faced on Battlespot had a Milotic in it, so I decided to kick Landorus-T out of the team and start building from the core of Milotic/Kangaskhan/Amoonguss. I then added Arcanine to the team because of its Intimidate support, its access to both Will-O-Wisp and Snarl and its great typing, giving it an advantageous position against Sun Teams and the strong Amoonguss/Gardevoir combination. Then I wanted to add Aegislash but I didn’t, because I thought that my team would be too slow and weak against Gengar and opposing Aegislash. So I decided to add Hydreigon instead. For the last member I switched between Zapdos and Thundurus, though I preferred first because of its bulk.
       
        
      The team worked out fine, but it still had some flaws. The first one was my pretty weak matchups against Gardevoir/Amoonguss and against Rain teams with Ludicolo. The second problem was my own Amoonguss. While I loved it in the team I brought to both Nationals this season, I found it underperforming on this team. Its really weak matchup against Salamence and Charizard (the two megas I expected to see the most at worlds) and against other top threads like Heatran, Thundurus and Cresselia really hurt it, so I decided to change it. I knew that Kangaskhan needed redirection to work, so I decided to play Togekiss instead of Amoonguss, because it had a better Matchup against Charizard and Salamence and access to Tailwind, while still being able to redirect attacks. Now I decided to switch out Zapdos/Thundurus for Ferrothorn, because of its good typing (I now had a FWG- and a Fantasy-Core) and its awesome matchup against Gardevoir/Amoonguss and Rain.
       

      The team had a nice matchup against nearly everything (beside Terrakion or Smeargle, though), so I used it. I also was able to reach above the 1900s on Battlespot and win nearly all of my practice Bo3s so I was pretty confident, but I still did not expect much going into the tournament.
       
      The Team Under The Scope

            Kangaskhan @ Kangaskhanite
      Ability: Scrappy
      EVs: 84 HP / 156 Atk / 12 Def / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
      Jolly Nature
      - Power-Up-Punch
      - Return
      - Protect
      - Sucker Punch
      Survives Superpower from Adamant 252 Atk Landorus-Therian Survives Draco Meteor from Choice Specs neutral-natured Hydreigon OHKOs 4/0 Bisharp with Power-Up Punch OHKOs 4/0 Breloom with Return  
      In my opinion Kangaskhan is the best Mega-Pokemon that was allowed in VGC 15. It has a combination of awesome bulk, good speed and even stronger firepower. Because of the omnipresent Landorus-Therian and the metagame always being bulkier at worlds, I decided to play Kangaskhan as a fast PuP-Booster to double its attack while still doing chip damage. I also felt that the opponent could play around a Kangaskhan with the moves Double-Edge and Low Kick more easily, for example, if they continuously shuffle Intimidate or just lets one of his or her bulkier Pokemon take a Double-Edge and then kill Kangaskhan in return (no pun intended). This set relies on getting a boost, but still can work without it. This team is designed so Kangaskhan can pick up a boost against my opponent most of the time. She just loves coming in against a burned and a snarled opponent to get her boost. I decided to go with Protect instead of Fake Out to bring myself into better positions or to let my opponent's double-target be useless. Return and Sucker Punch are self-explanatory. I went with a Jolly Nature and Max-Speed, because of the rise of Jolly Landorus-Therian.
       

      Ferrothorn @ Rocky Helmet
      Ability: Iron Barbs
      EVs: 252 HP / 152 Atk / 92 Def / 12 SpD
      Brave Nature
      IVs: 0 Spe
      - Thunder Wave
      - Gyro Ball
      - Power Whip
      - Protect
       
      Survives Close Combat from neutral-natured 252 Atk Terrakion Survives one Superpower or two Mach Punches from neutral-natured 252 Atk Breloom Survives Heat Wave from Choice Specs Modest 252 SpA Zapdos OHKOs 252/116 Min-Speed Mega-Gardevoir with Gyro Ball 2HKOs nearly every bulky-Water with Power Whip  
            While Ferrothorn is the team member I brought the least at worlds and during practice, it still did an awesome job when I brought it. I stole this spread from brokestupidlonely and just tweaked it a little bit to have a better matchup against Breloom. I decided to use Rocky Helmet to heavily punish opponents' physical attackers. Ferrothorn is awesome in the back, because most people anticipate it to switch in and thus make suboptimal plays, to avoid Iron barbs if I was to switch in Ferrothorn. My opponent is also forced to bring his Fire-Mon, which is very bad against several other members of my team (Arcanine, Milotic, Hydreigon). Ferrothorns main purpose was to stop Gardevoir/Amoonguss and rain. It also has a rather good matchup against the typical CHALK-Team, if I am able to eliminate Heatran. Power Whip and Gyro Ball are pretty strong STAB moves for a more defensive tank like Ferrothorn, so I decided to play them. Many people asked me why I used Thunder Wave, especially with Gyro Ball. There are several small reasons (Accuracy, surprise) but the most important one is that Ferrothorn tends to stick around during the mid-game very often without being able to do anything. Most of the time it is too early to start a Leech Seed stall and I cannot switch it out safely. With Thunder Wave, instead of doing nothing I can get more control over the battle. It also gives me a huge advantage against Semi-TR teams, where Ferrothorn underspeeds my opponent's slow Pokemon during TR, while paralyzing my opponent's fast Pokemon. They then have to fight as the slower team, no matter if there is Trick Room up or not. Gyro Ball and Thunder Wave together may seem a little bit out of place but if I want to Gyro Ball an opponent's Pokemon, I do not Thunder Wave them and vice versa. I only used Thunder Wave once during the tournament, but I would never have used Leech Seed.
       

      Hydreigon @ Life Orb
      Ability: Levitate
      EVs: 12 HP / 44 Def / 196 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
      Modest Nature
      - Draco Meteor
      - Dark Pulse
      - Earth Power
      - Protect
       
      Survives Close Combat from -1 neutral-natured 252 Atk Terrakion Survives 2 HP Ices from neutral-natured 252 SpA Thundurus 9/10 times OHKOs 4/0 Terrakion with Earth Power after Milotic's Icy Wind  
                Hydreigon worked as an offensive glue of the team. It was able to dish out tons of damage against Pokemon like Thundurus, Zapdos, Cresselia, Charizard or Aegislash, all of which I would have struggled to deal with otherwise. As you can see from the EV-Spread benchmarks Hydreigon was designed to defeat Terrakion with support of its teammates. I really loved how Hydreigon synergized with every single member of my team, while still being able to do work on its own. I liked Life Orb more than Choice Specs or Choice Scarf because Hydreigon's purpose was to deal as much damage as possible by abusing its good bulk and amazing coverage. It really enjoys the damage and speed control Arcanine and Milotic can offer, because it is able to 2HKO nearly every bulky and OHKO most of the fast Pokemon, that aren’t fairies. (Snarl also won't help much against Pixilate Hyper Voices :S ) Draco Meteor and Dark Pulse are played on every Hydreigon and have awesome coverage. I chose Earth Power instead of Flamethrower because I wanted a way to OHKO Heatran and it is better against Mawile in the Rain. If I was ahead in a game during the tournament I often used Dark Pulse against opposing Heatran, because they tend to protect against Hydreigon to scout out for Earth Power. If I now was able to win the first game, without revealing Earth Power, I could OHKO the opponent's Heatran in the next game to get a huge advantage out of nowhere. This worked out once during the tournament.
       

      Togekiss @ Sitrus Berry
      Ability: Serene Grace
      EVs: 252 HP / 132 Def / 4 SpA / 116 SpD / 4 Spe
      Calm Nature
      - Tailwind
      - Encore
      - Follow Me
      - Air Slash
       
      Survives Flash Cannon from Live Orb Modest 252 SpA Aegislash Survives Thunderbolt from Choice Specs Modest 252 SpA Rotom-X Survives 3 Rockslides from Adamant 252 Atk Landorus-Therian 9/10 times Survives Double-Edge from Adamant 252 Atk Mega-Kangaskhan Survives Iron Head from Adamant 252 Atk Bisharp (10/16 times if Life Orb)  
            The more I play with this team the more I start to enjoy Togekiss. While it began as an experiment, it soon became my favorite user of Follow Me or Rage Powder (sorry Amoonguss). Togekiss' typing is perfect for this team. It can redirect fighting-type moves away from Kangaskhan, Ferrothorn, and Hydreigon, while also being able to redirect dragon-type attacks for Hydreigon, grass-type attacks for Milotic, ground-type attacks for Arcanine or anything I just do not want my other active Pokemon to take. I used Sitrus Berry because I wanted Togekiss to take to strong neutral attacks in one turn and still be around for the next. It really helped me out multiple times and let Togekiss function like a sponge. Another great thing about Togekiss was its ability to support the team with Tailwind and Encore. Most of the time your opponent is going to target Togekiss' partner with an attack that also hits Togekiss pretty hard (for example: Return from Salamence-Mega against Kang + Togekiss). I can abuse that by protecting with Togekiss' partner, while setting up Tailwind. While my team is very defensive Tailwind still helps me out a lot and sometimes even gives me enough momentum to win a game. I choose to run it with Encore to be an even better supporter for Kangaskhan. Because what is your opponent going to do against a +2 Kangaskhan, maybe even in Tailwind? Protect! And Encore punishes these Protects while still allowing me to play safe. Encore is one of these moves that gets even better when your opponent knows about it, because you can then be pretty sure that they are not going to use Protect with a Pokemon slower than Togekiss, or if they do, they are probably going to switch out afterwards. I also never used Protect during my practice battles, while Encore came in clutch very often. As the last move I decided to use an attacking move. I first wanted to play Moonblast, but then noticed that Togekiss can't even learn it. So I used Air Slash. 60% flinch chance is really strong, because one flinch can turn the momentum around very easily.
       

      Milotic @ Maranga Berry
      Ability: Competitive
      EVs: 252 HP / 196 Def / 4 SpA / 52 SpD / 4 Spe
      Bold Nature
      - Icy Wind
      - Recover
      - Protect
      - Scald
       
      Survives 2 Double-Edges from -1 neutral-natured 252 Atk Kangaskhan-Mega 9/10 times Survives Rockslide from neutral-natured 252 Atk Tyranitar + Double-Edge from neutral-natured 252 Atk Salamence beside both getting the highest damage-roll Survives 2 Thunderbolts from neutral-natured 4 Sp.Atk Thundurus (thanks to Maranga Berry)  
            Milotic is, besides Kangaskhan, the only member that did not change. For a good reason! It is an awesome Pokemon being able to defeat some of the biggest threats this metagame has seen like Landorus-Therian, Heatran, Salamence and many more. Like Ferrothorn, Milotic gives me a huge advantage during team preview, scaring my opponent away from bringing their Intimidator. In a Bo3 I will almost always lead with Milotic in the first game to scare off my opponent from bringing his Intimidator (only if my opponent even has an Intimidator, but most teams do have one) in the following games. But the good thing about Milotic is, that it doesn't even require a boost to get its job done. Icy Wind is awesome for speed-control while Scald can 2HKO most of the Pokemon that are weak to it. Recover and Protect are awesome together, because your opponent never knows if they are going to target into a Protect or if they are going to ignore a Recover. Talking about Recover, you might have noticed, that Milotic is the only member of this team having a recovery-move, even though 4 members of my team could potentially use one. After Milotic gets a Maranga Berry or Competitive boost it is a huge defensive and/or offensive threat to my opponent. Most of the time I just try to deal chip damage and keep my Milotic healthy, while Arcanine or Togekiss prepare a Kangaskhan-sweep. If one of my supporters gets KO’d, Kangaskhan enters the field and starts to sweep. If my opponent now has brought his Intimidator they have to send it in and give my Milotic a boost. If they have not brought it, Kangaskhan will be able to sweep together with Icy Wind support most of the time.
       

      Arcanine @ Leftovers
      Ability: Intimidate
      EVs: 212 HP / 140 Def / 156 Spe
      Impish Nature
      - Flare Blitz
      - Close Combat
      - Snarl
      - Will-O-Wisp
       
      Survives 2 Earthquakes from -1 neutral-natured 252 Atk Landorus-Therian Survives 2 Hypervoices from neutral-natured 252 SpA Salamence-Mega Survives 2 Earth Powers from -1 Modest 252 SpA Heatran 3/4 times  
      Arcanine is the star of the show. Its great moves Snarl and Will-O-Wisp as well as its ability, Intimidate, allow it to nerf my opponents’ firepower on both sides of the spectrum. I did not exactly know what the worlds-metagame would look like but I felt pretty save to bring Arcanine because there are only physical and special attacks. I choose Leftovers to reach the benchmarks above. If it had Sitrus Berry instead, the attacks would knock Arcanine out if the first hit was a medium and the second hit was the maximum roll. Arcanine is a great Pokemon to lead beside my own Milotic because they both cover each others’ weakness very well. If you are playing against me using this team you can expect me to lead with Arcanine + Milotic about 40% of the time. I choose to run Arcanine with physical attacking moves because of its higher attack-stat and their higher base-power. Flare Blitz was used as a STAB move, when I needed to get good damage. While Flare Blitz seldom gets OHKOs it often does a crucial chunk of damage (e.g. CM-Sylveon, Gardevoir, QD-Volcarona). Close Combat was used to OHKO Scarf Tyranitar and to deal a significant amount of damage to Kangaskhan, Heatran and Terrakion. On paper these to moves really do not seem to fit on such a defensive Pokemon but in practice it was no problem, because I could easily play around their negative effects. Also the 100% accuracy of these moves was pretty nice. If you haven't used Arcanine yet, go ahead and try it out, it is awesome.
      Warstory
      I wanted to make a short warstory about to tournament, so that you can understand how the team played out and how I played with the team. I won't make a turn-by-turn analysis and only point out significant moments or a short story how the game went. I try to keep this short and interesting.
      Round 1 vs. Emanuele Badaunza (25Nano17 / 5-2)

      After seeing the matches I got really excited, because worlds is about playing the best of the best and I had a huge amount of respect for Emanuele after he finished as Runner-Up in the German National.
      G1: I predicted an Amoonguss switch-in correctly and used Flare Blitz against the slot leaving it in the red. I then missed an Icy Wind onto his Amoonguss and he could start using Spore. I then crit his Amoonguss with Scald but he survived with about one HP (but you cannot complain about crit min-rolls xD). He put everything to sleep and in the end he could timestall me with his Cresselia + Heatran against my Milotic. 0-2
      G2: I predicted him to go with Charizard now and that is exactly what he did. He also brought Landorus-Therian but if I recall correctly my Milotic took care of it easily. Milotic won me the game by surviving attacks and just sitting there. Hydreigon helped a lot too. The games took 14 minutes and 30 second (would also have won if it had gone over timer). 2-0
      G3: I remember that I got up a +2 with my Kangaskhan and dealt enough damage to close it out with Hydreigon. This game only took 11 minutes and we were the last ones playing. 2-0
       
      1-0
      Round 2 vs. Brandon Tuchtenhagen (Blueshark11 / 5-2)

      I knew that this was going to be a very tough match because Terrakion is one of the biggest threats to my team. Later on he also revealed Life Orb offensive Thundurus, which was also a pain to deal with. We were on one of the featured screens, which was pretty nice.
      G1: I was able to bring his Terrakion into Rocky Helmet + Iron Barbs range very early and he played a little bit too safe from that point, so I was able to win. 2-0
      G2: He played better with Terrakion this time around and put me in some very bad situations. 0-2
      G3: I knew that I had to get Tailwind up and work from there. He got a flinch against my Togekiss in the first turn and I was not able to recover from that. He then could just make the safe play every turn and I was not able to punish them. 0-3
      1-1
      Round 3 vs. Keegan Meyer (4-3)

            I found his team very interesting because it seemed like a hybrid of Arash Ommati's and Se Jun Park's worlds winning teams. He also had the double water snake (Milotic, Gyarados), which I played around with in the beginning of the season a little bit. Batuhan Can (Hydraa), a good friend of mine, sat beside me and gave me a little bit of information about Keegan's team in German using some funny words for Milotic, Heatran and Gyarados because the names are nearly the same in German. I knew that his Heatran had a Life Orb and his Mamoswine was wearing a Choice Scarf before the games even began.
      G1: His Gyarados was very scary but I could handle it. In the end it came down to a predict, who he would target with Icicle Crash. I made the right call. 1-0
      G2: It went very similar to the first game. I had to hope that his Mamoswine would target my Hydreigon with Icicle Crash, when it was Togekiss + -2 SpA Hydreigon vs his Mamoswine. I protected with Hydreigon and attempted to go for a Tailwind with Togekiss. And it worked! Then I closed the game out with a Draco Meteor + an Air Slash. 1-0
      2-1
       
      I finally had a break between the rounds after being the last player to finish in the first and second round. I now realized that I had to win 4 straight best-of-threes for a guaranteed spot in top cut. Luckily I felt no pressure because the chances of me making top cut were still pretty small.
      Round 4 vs. Dylan Salvanera (3-4)

            G1: I cannot remember anything beside him scoring a Critical Hit against my Hydreigon with Rock Slide to finish it off with Ice Beam. I was acting like my Hydreigon was very bulky and the crit mattered. It actually didn’t, I just wanted to gain an information advantage. 0-1
      G2: I cannot remember. But I won very high so probably it was not very close. 4-0
      G3: I switched my Milotic into an Icy Wind from his Milotic. I kept my advantage but I cannot remember much. 3-0
      3-1
      Round 5 vs. Dale Causey (3-4)

      After looking at the team preview I got really scared. It was nearly the same team Brandon had but with Suicune instead of Milotic, which made things a little bit easier for my Arcanine.
      G1: I find out that his Thundurus was defensive, while his Heatran was carrying a Life Orb in the first few turns. I could get of an Icy Wind against his Terrakion + Heatran with my Milotic in the turn he knocked my Hydreigon out. I used Power-Up-Punch and Scald against his Heatran while he made a very brave play and stayed in with his 30% Terrakion to score a knock out against Kangaskhan. I still was able to close out the game with Milotic. 1-0
      G2: He crit my Kangaskhan with his -1 Terrakion but he did not play very well so I could take a win. 3-0
      4-1
      Round 6 vs. Batuhan Can (Hydraa / 5-2)

      After the second round Batu and I were 1-1 so it was just a matter of time since we had to play each other. I did not want to play Batu, at least not in this setting. I decided to play as well as I could after seeing his team because I really loved my matchup.
      G1: He played very well but I got 3 Air Slash flinches (out of 6 in the whole tournament). 3-0
      G2: I played much better than in the first game and got another flinch. Batuhan played really well but the matchup and the dice roll were in my favor. 3-0
      5-1
      Round 7 vs. Mark McQuiallan (woopahking / Champion)

            I knew that I was just one win away from top cut so I was really nervous. After seeing the pairings I rolled my eyes because Mark was another player I just did not want to play against. He is a player I really respect and a good friend of mine.
      G1: His Toxic Cresselia is able to chip me away to a point where his Charizard can take out my whole team. 0-2
      G2: I can setup my Milotic to a point where I can win the game if I do not mess up. But I messed up. I used Icy Wind against his Charizard + Landorus-T and forgot that Trick Room was still there in the next turn allowing him to pick up a knock out against Milotic. If I just protected there I could have stalled out the last turn of Trick Room and Recover basically winning me the game but I did not. It then came down to his 50% Charizard against my -2 SpA 15% Hydreigon. We both knew that I had to hope for a Dark Pulse flinch or a crit. And I flinched him. In the next turn I could kill his Charizard with another Dark Pulse. 0-0
      G3: I knew that I had to prevent his Trick Room from going up so I decided to lead with Togekiss and Hydreigon and double target his Cresselia hoping for a flinch or a crit. I flinched his Cresselia and set up the Tailwind in the second turn while scoring a knock out on his Cresselia. I encored his Charizard into Protect and did a huge amount of damage against his Landorus-T. 2 turns later he gave up, knowing that he had no more chance. 3-0
      6-1
       
       
      I was so happy after that match. I talked to Mark a little bit and apologized for my Dark Pulse flinch but he told me that the outcome of this match did not matter as both of our tie-breakers were high enough to make it into Top Cut with 5-2. The pairings were posted and Mark made it as 8th seed while Emanuele, Brandon and Batuhan fell short. My opponents win percentage was the same as Mark's so I was really satisfied. My next opponent was Sebastian Escalante. We had enough time so I went into my room and took a shower before coming back to play.
       
      Top 8 vs. Sebastian Escalante (Top 8)

            I met Sebastian together with Christian Milligan in the lobby of the Sheraton some days prior to the tournament. They were two of the nicest guys I have ever met so I felt really bad to play against him. But there was $2500 on the line just for this Bo3 so I really, really tried hard to win this one.
      G1: I cannot remember much beside his Choice Band Landorus-Therian really surprising me. He did not pick Heatran, so Ferrothorn was really nice against him. My Kangaskhan was able to hang on from his Kangaskhan's Double-Edge with a sliver of HP. I then could close out the game. 1-0
      G2: This game went much better after I outsped and OHKO’d his Breloom with my Kangskhan (he thought that I was not running much Speed-Investment and my Kangskhan was still in his normal form at the beginning of the turn). If I recall correctly Milotic was able to close the game out from this point. 2-0
      7-1
      Top 4 vs. Koki Honda (Runner-up)

      I had a pretty neutral team-matchup here but his Zapdos was really scaring me. I knew that if I won this battle I would be able to play on the big screen for the title of world champion on the next day. I was really nervous.
      G1: He outplayed me the first turns and I was down to two Pokemon against his -2 Zapdos and his -1 burned Landorus-Therian with his 100% Kangaskhan and Heatran in the back. I was able to get my Kangaskhan to +2. In the next turn I crit his Heatran with my second Power-up Punch to score a OHKO and knock out his Zapdos. He then sends in his Landorus-Therian and Kangakshan. I double protect while his Landorus-Therian goes down to burn. Now I was in a pretty tricky position because I did not know his Kangaskhan's spread. My Hydreigon had 5% left and was at -4 SpA while my Kangaskhan was at 60% and +3 Atk. I decided to go for a Return because I did not expect his Kangaskhan to be max speed. It was and he won the speed tie knocking out my Kangaskhan while my Hydreigon did 20% with it's Draco Meteor and went down to Life Orb recoil. 0-1
      G2: I cannot remember much about this battle but it was very close. In the end my 35% Arcanine was able to hang on with 10 HP after his' Sylveon used a spread Hyper Voice against it. It then picked up the knock out with Flare Blitz. 1-0
      G3: I got up an early Power-up punch but he played very well. I saw that his Heatran had Flamethrower so it really caught me off-guard when he used Heat Wave to nearly knock out my Kangaskhan. I anticipated him to have his Sylveon in the back but it turned out to be Landorus-Therian. It took my Hydreigon's Draco Meteor, Hydreigon took itself out with the Life Orb recoil and then Landorus-Therian scored a knock out against my Arcanine. 0-1
      7-2
      So the tournament was over for me. At first I was a little bit bitter because my Top 4 matches were so close that they could have gone the other way around but Koki played awesome and really deserved to be in the finals. I gave Mark some information how Koki played and about Koki's Ev-Splitts (my Arcanine and his Zapdos as well as our Kangaskhans were speed-tying for example). Mark played awesome in the finals and took an awesome win.
      How this team works
            I think this team is the best team I have ever built because it can keep control over my opponent with my defensive members, has three ways of speed control and applies offensive pressure with Kangaskhan and Hydreigon as well as defensive pressure with Milotic and Ferrothorn. Another thing I really liked about this team is that it often forces my opponent to make sub-optimal moves. For example Landorus-T is awesome against my Team beside Milotic (of course I can still beat it without it but that is a little bit tricky). But because of the defensive pressure from Milotic my opponent hardly ever leads his Landorus-T and if he does he still gets punished most of the time. I also had four "big" combinations within the team but actually every member could work with every other member. The combinations were:
            Arcanine + Milotic Kangaskhan + Togekiss Kangaskhan + Milotic and  Ferrothorn + Hydreigon From my point of view they are pretty obvious but feel free to ask me if you want to get an explanation. 

      Here is some footage from the NPA 4, where I was able to finish 8-1 (8-2 if you want to count a literal coin-toss) with this team in the weeks 1-11. I then decided to switch up the team, which in hindsight was a pretty bad idea as I lost two out of my 3 top-cut matches. 
      Week 2 vs. Chuppa
      Week 8 vs. Bjart
      Week 9 vs. IamJabberwocky
       
       
      I really enjoyed my time in America and I really enjoyed the tournament. I hope you enjoyed reading my report, feel free to share if you did and feel free to share even if you did not. Thank you for making it this far!
      Shout-outs to:
      Lennard and Leander for team building, cheering and being good friends. Batuhan, Samet, Erik, Jan and Daniel.  Robert, Clemens, Toby, Faaiz, Adrian, Daryl, Tim, David, Wolfe, Wasti, Thomas and Noah for helping me to practice, to team build or to get my Pokemon. Austria Weezing and the Holy Spirits for being awesome teams. Everyone I played or met during worlds. Jip (Keonspy) for the awesome art. Jonathan for correcting. Everyone that I played on Battle Spot or I forgot in the above list, there were too many people that helped me to remember them all.  
    • Tricks of the Trade: A Support Move Analysis
      By SuperEffective in Super Effective! 1
      Tricks of the Trade: A Support Move Analysis


      Not featured in this article: Zorua, the Tricky Fox Pokemon
       
      Hi again everyone. Today we’re looking not at a particular Pokemon to analyse, but at some of the particularly tricky support moves that we have seen and will continue to see make an impact in the 2016 format. While support Pokemon have always existed, with common support options such as speed control, status and redirection, I want to focus on moves that have risen up from relative obscurity and low usage in previous years due to the nature of this format and its central players. 
      What will be covered in this article:
       
      Ability Changing Moves: Skill Swap/Worry Seed/Role Play
      Shenanigans Protection: Crafty Shield/Magic Coat
      Damage Boosters: Fake Tears/Helping Hand/Tickle, Leer, Swagplay
      Protect Breakers: Feint/Shadow Force
      Others: Gravity, After You, Heal Pulse, Psych Up
       
      What won't be covered: Trick Room, Tailwind, Thunder Wave, Wil-o-wisp, Dark Void, Spore, Wide Guard, Quick Guard, Rage Powder, Follow Me.
       
      Ability Changing Moves
      Skill Swap: 
      Yes, I know that this isn’t exactly a hidden gem of a move, with Levitran being common in 2013, and Woopahking winning the 2015 Senior World Championships with this move, but I think its utility really has skyrocketed in this format with the importance of winning the Primal weather war, as well as Groudon mirrors. It fits perfectly onto Trick Room teams through Cresselia, whose levitate is also a very nice ability for both Kyogre and Groudon to have. Other notable users of this include Bronzong (again with levitate), as well as Mega Gengar and Gothitelle with their Shadow Tag ability useful in preventing switches. Skill Swap is quite widely distributed as a Tutor move, but outside of those four, the only other Pokemon I would think that could run this move well would be Mewtwo, and maybe at a stretch Exeggutor.
      To execute Skill Swap for weather control properly, your Skill Swap Pokemon needs to be able to move before any Primal Pokemon - either by being faster in normal play, or slower, so as to move first in Trick Room. I tend to prefer the Trick Room route as it often gives your setter extra utility after they have set up Trick Room, but that doesn’t make it the only way to run this move. A cheeky way to run a Pokemon such as Cresselia or Gothitelle with Skill Swap is to make it one point slower than a minimum speed Primal Pokemon (which hit 85 speed), so that it will always get its Skill Swap up last in a mirror if the opponent is running their Goth/Cress at minimum speed, and at worst it means it’s a 50/50. This target speed of 84 can be achieved through IV’s, so it is free, from an EV perspective. Cresselia achieves this target with 8 or 9 IV’s in speed and a hindering speed nature like Sassy or Relaxed, while Gothitelle can achieve it with a neutral speed nature and 28 or 29 speed IV’s.
      Skill Swap can also be used for other shenanigans, such as stealing opponent’s abilities, notably Parental Bond, Prankster, and Shadow Tag. One last important thing to note is that Skill Swap goes through Substitutes, but not through Protect, Crafty Shield, or Spiky Shield, so keep that in mind for when you decide to use it.
       
      Role Play:  
      Role Play has an advantage over Skill Swap in that many Prankster Pokemon can learn it, rendering moot the need to worry about Tailwind or Trick Room to successfully complete the move. While it functions differently to Skill Swap in as much as it copies an ability, rather than trades it, the outcome is the same in the weather war. Like Skill Swap, Role Play can also be used to copy other nice abilities, especially Parental Bond (many things like to take what is rightfully Kangaskhan’s, it seems), and Shadow Tag.
      In a 1v1 matchup, Role Play is inferior to Skill Swap for weather control as Skill Swap will always go second to guarantee weather for its own side. However, such encounters are currently not very common. Role Play can be splashed a lot more easily on a Prankster Pokemon to circumvent opposing speed control. Many of these Pranksters can also run things like Taunt, Thunder Wave and Tailwind to help support their team both with and against speed control, as well as other well known Prankster shenanigans such as Swagger and Encore. Role Play also has the advantage of working through Protect and Spiky Shield, which Skill Swap does not achieve. Keep these strengths and weaknesses in mind when deciding which option to go for.
      Notable Pokemon with Role Play: Tornadus, Thundurus, Liepard, Lilligant, Mewtwo, Meowstic, Sableye.
       
      Worry Seed:
      Rather than trading or copying abilities, Worry Seed simply removes abilities and replaces them with Insomnia. This move is something that will predominantly target Primal Groudon when it comes to the weather war, allowing Kyogre, or another Pokemon with a Water Type move, to hit it for super effective damage despite the turn beginning with the sun up. This would give Groudon nightmares, if only it could fall asleep. As with Skill Swap, Worry Seed can also be used to neutralise other scary abilities, particularly Shadow Tag, but also those like Parental Bond, Aerialate, Prankster, and even Air Lock or Cloud Nine, which otherwise neutralise weather.
      Worry Seed can also be used as a niche defensive option against Dark Void Smeargle (or Spore from Amoonguss/Breloom for that matter).You will see this move almost exclusively on Whimsicott, although it faces stiff competition from Whimiscott’s other move options. Additionally, Lilligant and Jumpluff are both fast users of this move, while there are many slow users as well, such as Amoonguss and Parasect.
       
      Shenanigans Protection
      Crafty Shield:
      Crafty Shield is a move learnable only by Klefki and Smeargle. In previous formats it was essentially unseen due to Klefki being outclassed as a Prankster, and Smeargle benefitting from other move choices from its near limitless options. However, with the early success of Smeargle+Xerneas as an option, Crafty Shield has emerged as a potentially useful tech move, at least for Best of One play. Crafty Shield protects against status moves, even some that would otherwise go through a Protect. This is great for stopping opposing Dark Voids, Taunts, Thunder Waves and Swaggers, as well as other potential moves like Fake Tears, Tickle, and the above mentioned ability-changing moves. Keep in mind that Crafty Shield’s priority is +3, so you will need to be careful about Fake Out users when using Crafty Shield, since they share a priority bracket.
      While it may seem a little circumstantial, this strategy did win a Gloria Classic Qualifier, as it often allowed an ally Xerneas to set up a Geomancy and proceed to win. This is something that many people are attempting to limit now through the use of Prankster Taunt and Encore; and it gives some surety to the mirror matchup. While it may become less relevant if the popular metagame shifts away from Smeargle/Xerneas, it is always something to keep in mind when teambuilding, since its surprise value can win games on its own due to the sheer number of Smeargle sets and options opposing trainers need to prepare for in Team Preview.
       
      Magic Coat: 
      Magic Coat is much more widely available than Crafty Shield. It saw limited use in previous formats, but with early season battles seeming shorter and more reliant on decisive turns, the ability to punish opposing status moves has become more important. Slow, Trick Room reliant teams can use Magic Coat to sucker in opposing Dark Void leads and punish them. Magic Coat even has +4 Priority, so you can be sure to execute it prior to any Fake Out.
      Like Crafty Shield, Magic Coat is useless if your opponent does not use Status moves, and unlike Magic Coat, it only protects one Pokemon, meaning in many cases you will spend the turn not damaging your opponent in the hope that using their tricks against them will allow you to make up for it in future turns. Best use of Magic Coat requires skilled reading of your opponent to know when to use it, and when to use other moves.
      Notable users of Magic Coat include: Clefairy, Togekiss, Cresselia, Porygon2, Mewtwo, Gothitelle.
       
      Damage Boosters
      Fake Tears:
      Fake Tears has always been potent next to fast special attackers, but has generally been considered more of a gimmick to be played by Whimsicott or Liepard next to a Mega Gengar, or perhaps Thundurus. This may still be the case to some extent, however pairing a Fake Tears Prankster user next to any number of strong, special-attackers can wreak havoc if an opponent is unprepared. It can even mow through pokemon that usually rely on type resistance to check said attacks. Most restricted legendaries, in particular the Primals, work well with this strategy, though Pokemon like Thundurus and Gengar are still good options for this combination as well. This strategy is probably best against opponents running fast, non-bulky Pokemon, although depending on the hit even bulky supporters like Cresselia can be in some trouble. I’ll include some damage calculations as examples.
      Damage Calcs:
      Spoiler 252 SpA Life Orb Thundurus Thunderbolt vs. -2 4 HP / 0 SpD Xerneas: 199-234 (98.5 - 115.8%) -- 87.5% chance to OHKO
      252 SpA Life Orb Thundurus Grass Knot (120 BP) vs. -2 4 HP / 0 SpD Primal Groudon: 188-222 (106.8 - 126.1%) -- guaranteed OHKO
      252 SpA Life Orb Thundurus Thunderbolt vs. -2 0 HP / 0 SpD Primal Kyogre: 260-307 (148.5 - 175.4%) -- guaranteed OHKO
      252 SpA Life Orb Thundurus Thunderbolt vs. -2 4 HP / 0 SpD Mega Kangaskhan: 195-230 (107.7 - 127%) -- guaranteed OHKO
      252+ SpA Primal Kyogre Water Spout (150 BP) vs. -2 252 HP / 52 SpD Ferrothorn in Heavy Rain: 170-201 (93.9 - 111%) -- 62.5% chance to OHKO
      252+ SpA Primal Kyogre Water Spout (150 BP) vs. -2 252 HP / 252+ SpD Cresselia in Heavy Rain: 241-285 (106.1 - 125.5%) -- guaranteed OHKO
      252+ SpA Primal Kyogre Ice Beam vs. -2 4 HP / 0 SpD Primal Groudon: 157-185 (89.2 - 105.1%) -- 31.3% chance to OHKO
      252 SpA Primal Kyogre Water Spout (150 BP) vs. -2 4 HP / 0 SpD Mega Salamence in Heavy Rain: 200-236 (116.9 - 138%) -- guaranteed OHKO
      252+ SpA Primal Kyogre Ice Beam vs. -2 252 HP / 4 SpD Palkia: 124-146 (62.9 - 74.1%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      252+ SpA Primal Groudon Eruption (150 BP) vs. -2 252 HP / 252+ SpD Cresselia in Harsh Sun: 211-249 (92.9 - 109.6%) -- 56.3% chance to OHKO
      252 SpA Primal Groudon Eruption (150 BP) vs. -2 252 HP / 252+ SpD Dialga in Harsh Sun: 229-271 (110.6 - 130.9%) -- guaranteed OHKO
      +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. -2 252 HP / 0 SpD Primal Groudon: 237-279 (114.4 - 134.7%) -- guaranteed OHKO
      +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. -2 252 HP / 52 SpD Ferrothorn: 184-217 (101.6 - 119.8%) -- guaranteed OHKO

      While Fake Tears is a great option for nuking opponents; especially given the speed control options most Fake Tears users have; in previous formats it generally came with the cost of only being able to properly nuke one Pokemon at a time. Primal Pokemon and Xerneas change the utility of Fake Tears with their ability to launch outrageously powerful spread moves at their opponents, and also potentially completely nullify one or both opposing Pokemon slots with their typing, ability, and/or stat boosts. Additionally, all three are so powerful individually that they can win games without having to rely on Fake Tears support at all, and with support they can win battles with frightening speed. It is also relatively easy to put two of these restricted legendaries on the same team without overly weakening it, making the investment in a Fake Tears user potentially more valuable. Fake Tears can still be outplayed, especially with clever protects and defensive switching, and because of its reliance on having the necessary board position to execute.
      Notable Fake Tears users: Gothitelle, Whimsicott, Liepard.
       
      Helping Hand:
      Helping Hand gets a bit better distribution than Fake Tears, and arguably works better combined with spread moves than Fake Tears does due to it increasing damage output on both targets. It also assists in boosting the damage output of physical moves, making it easier to run beside Pokemon like Rayquaza, Kangaskhan, Salamence, Ho-oh and Physical Primal Groudon, However, in return for this, it fails to nab some of the spectacular theoretical damage calculations achieved by Fake Tears.
      Helping Hand also has the benefit of being +5 Priority, allowing it to be more easily used by non-Prankster Pokemon, as it moves before any priority moves (notably Prankster Taunt), regardless of speed control.
      We have only seen sporadic use of Helping Hand in the past, because many supportive Pokemon now choosing to run this move previously had other options take a higher priority. This is because previous formats did not have quite the same extreme damage output (and bulk) of the 2016 format. While it is still likely to remain niche, it does guarantee some important KO’s, notably in Groudon mirrors, as well as for Rayquaza, Salamence, and Kangaskhan on some Pokemon.
      Damage Calcs:
      Spoiler 252 Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Helping Hand Double-Edge vs 252 HP / 0 Def Kyogre: 245-290 (118.3 - 140%) -- guaranteed OHKO
      252 Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Helping Hand Double-Edge vs. 252 HP / 92 Def Palkia: 205-244 (104 - 123.8%) -- guaranteed OHKO
      252 Atk Mega Rayquaza Helping Hand Dragon Ascent vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Mega Kangaskhan: 196-232 (108.2 - 128.1%) -- guaranteed OHKO
      252 Atk Life Orb Mega Rayquaza Helping Hand Extreme Speed vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Mega Kangaskhan: 114-135 (62.9 - 74.5%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      252 Atk Mega Rayquaza Helping Hand Dragon Ascent vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Xerneas: 204-241 (100.9 - 119.3%) -- guaranteed OHKO
      252+ Atk Primal Groudon Helping Hand Precipice Blades vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Primal Groudon: 216-254 (104.3 - 122.7%) -- guaranteed OHKO
      252- SpA Primal Groudon Helping Hand Earth Power vs. 252 HP / 0 SpD Primal Groudon: 252-296 (121.7 - 142.9%) -- guaranteed OHKO
      Notable Helping Hand users: Clefairy, Cresselia, Gothitelle. Other more niche users: Mantine, Jumpluff, basically anything else that has hands.
       
      Special Mentions - Tickle/Leer/Swagplay:  + 
      While Tickle did win the 2014 World Championships, it has hardly been seen before, or since. With a predominately Special Attacking format, Tickle will see less value and would need to be put on a Prankster user to see any use. It could be handy for slowing down a Kangaskhan, Rayquaza or any other physical Pokemon, but I just don’t see it being enough help in this fast-paced format, as it is single target, and only slows damage output on physical attacking opponents. Users: Whimsicott or Gothitelle. Please don’t try Pachirisu in this format.
      A fast, or Prankster Leer could in theory be a physically helpful version of Fake Tears, with the bonus of being a spread move. However, since the drop is only -1, it does not allow for quite as much attacking power boosts as Fake Tears, and generally the best spread moves in this format are Special. It also does not have the versatile utility of Helping Hand.Given the need to get a lot of damage off quickly in this format, it is questionable if the investment in running this move will be worthwhile, especially when Precipice Blades, one of the few Physical spread moves, doesn’t affect many common flying and levitating Pokemon. Users: Sableye, Meowstic.
      Swagplay is a lot more viable than the two previously mentioned moves, being a combination of Prankster Swagger and a fast Foul Play. In combination with Yveltal and a boosting item, this combination can mow through unsuspecting lineups. Common pairs with Yveltal might be Thundurus, or Liepard, because of their access to Prankster Swagger. This is an offensive use of Swagger rarely seen in other formats. The weakness of this strategy is the relatively poor defensive options present in Swagplay cores, who rely on speed to get attacks off first, or a little luck from confusion hits. Swagplay can pick up big knockouts on many of the formats heavy hitters, but cannot OHKO many other things, most notably Xerneas. Additionally, only being able to target one Pokemon at a time leaves one open to very quickly trading KO’s against a canny opponent who is able to keep multiple offensive options on their side of the board.
      Although I have not mentioned it before, like many of these other offense boosting choices, Swagplay can also be negated with the use of Follow Me and Rage Powder, as well as things like Crafty Shield, Magic Coat, and Quick Guard.
      Users: usually two of Thundurus, Liepard, Yveltal.
       
      Protect Breakers
      Feint:
      With the need to use Protect to help stall out speed control and to assist with defensive maneuvering as important as ever, the ability to break protect can be game changing when coupled with the overwhelming power of the restricted legends, especially the Primal Pokemon. To get the best use out of Feint, one must be almost certain of an opposing Pokemon’s protect, or at least be in a position to not be punished hard for using Feint, since the damage output of the move is rather poor.
      Most of the time, good users of Feint will also be fast and able to use Fake Out, the pressure of which can cause opposing double protects, which can be punished. This makes Pokemon such as Mienshao, Weavile and Infernape good users of the move. Mienshao’s ability to use Wide Guard and Infernape’s access to Quick Guard also augment their utility, while Weavile has the ability to Knock Off Xerneas’ Power Herb prior to a Geomancy.
      Alongside Protect, Feint also lifts the effects of opposing Quick Guard, Wide Guard and Crafty Shield, which allows one to punish defensive use of these moves as well. Feint’s priority bracket of +2 allows it to serve as a good way to get around +1 priority attacks, and finish off Focus Sashed Pokemon quickly and safely.
      Feint users may not always find good opportunities to be useful, as they are often quite fragile.While they can get respectable damage output, they generally are overwhelmed by the power of restricted legends by themselves, and need the assistance of a powerful partner to exert maximum pressure and get maximum reward from running Feint.
       
      Shadow Force:  
      Shadow Force is similar to Feint only in its protect lifting mechanics. It is limited exclusively to Giratina, is much stronger than Feint, but lacks priority, and takes two turns to execute.
      While Feint cannot hit Ghost Types (except in the case of Mega Lopunny and Mega Pinsir), Shadow Force cannot hit Normal types. Giratina also takes up a restricted legendary slot, and the combined damage of a Shadow Force and Shadow Sneak is not enough for it to take out a Xerneas, which is a big concern. However, Giratina matches up well against many other restricted legends based on its unique typing, particularly its Origin Forme with its additional Levitate ability against the metagame defining Groudon. With the right partner, Shadow Force can be an even more threatening pin move than Feint due to its 120 base power, as it get a lot more damage off on targets for allies to finish off if they’re slower than Giratina. The ability to hide away from attacks for a turn is not necessarily a bad thing either.
      Giratina finds it hard to stand out and demand usage in the restricted slot given the power and utility available in other Pokemon, but partnered correctly, it can use its Shadow Force with devastating effect to help its ally clear the field, free from concern about defensive Protects.
       
      Other Interesting Choices
      Gravity:   +
      In previous seasons, the only time Gravity was used was on teams obsessed with putting opponents to sleep with Hypnosis, then trying to bank on 3 turn sleeps to slowly work through opposing sleeping Pokemon. 2016 gives Gravity some much more scary options, chiefly that of a Primal Groudon able to never miss Precipice Blades, as well as hit Flying types with it. This particular combination is also a great way for Groudon to beat an opposing Ho-oh that would otherwise wall everything except a rock slide set. Primal Kyogre also likes not missing Origin Pulse, but arguably Groudon is the stronger of the two with this combination.
      This combination is highly likely to be paired with Trick Room, for a slow Groudon to take advantage against faster opponents by being able to hammer them with strong attacks and not having to worry about the weather war.
      Notable users include Cresselia, Sableye, Palkia, Dialga, Bronzong, Gothitelle, Meowstic, Mewtwo, and Porygon2. Of these, Cresselia is probably the most common and reliable user of this trick, particularly while holding Mental Herb to prevent taunt. Prankster Gravity is also a threat to look out for, especially since both Meowstic and Sableye can also learn Trick Room, despite both being more frail than Cresselia. Palkia is also an interesting choice, since it helps Groudon’s matchup against Primal Kyogre by being able to take rain boosted water moves quite well, and it has respectable bulk.
      Alongside the attacking force of Groudon, Gravity can also be used together with its old sleep shenanigans trick, making moves like Hypnosis and Grasswhistle useable on Pokemon like Gengar, Crobat, and Whimsicott. It may not necessarily be the most complete team, but it is possible to build a team that uses Gravity as a central strategy without as much downside as in previous years. Just remember - if you can’t miss, neither can your opponents. It is also useful to remember that this setup can be made difficult to execute by a clever opponent, and is not always an easy win even if it is set up, since Precipice Blades by itself misses a number of knockouts that leaves Groudon vulnerable to taking damage in return, while sleep moves that aren’t Dark Void can only target one Pokemon at a time..
       
      After You: +
      With speed ties rampant in VGC 2016 due to the accumulation of restricted Pokemon mirror matches and the heavily populated base 90 speed tier, After You has become a useful alternative method of speed control which can catch opponents off guard and allow for surprising amounts of damage to be done. By allowing an ally to move immediately after the user of the move, After You gets around potential turn order issues one might face.
      There are two ways to utilise After You - either as a fast mode, or as an anti-Trick Room mode. Lilligant and Seismitoad both fill the former role, as they can be paired next to a slow Groudon or Kyogre to assert weather control, and use their speed boosting abilities Chlorophyll/Swift Swim to allow their Primal Partner to move first and strike heavy damage. However, this particular strategy is vulnerable to opponents playing smartly with a Primal Pokemon of their own to reset the weather safely.
      The Clefairy, Togekiss, Amoonguss and Parasect lines can also make use of After You, although generally only the former two will find room for it on their movesets. As well as the redirection support these Pokemon offer, After You provides another support option in its speed control, and on these Pokemon is generally more easily splashable than with Lilligant or Seismitoad, as they pair with many other Pokemon, especially fast ones such as Salamence, Rayquaza, or a boosted Xerneas.
      Lopunny is an interesting fast option that also has Fake Out and Encore, and excellent speed outside of weather, but for offensive support it is rather frail and underpowered, and to get the full support of its speed, you need to use your Mega slot, which is a big price to pay for this niche support option.
      As with many support moves analysed here, After You does sacrifice being able to attack with both slots in order to achieve the potential benefits, so you will want to be sure of achieving match winning damage or knockouts when you utilise it, particularly if you have the option of protecting, redirecting, attacking or some other move choice that may have a greater reward. You will also want to make sure your team can accept having a low damage output supporter on it, since many After You users are rather passive on their own, and can only offer After You support in specific situations, again, making it a niche option.
       
      Heal Pulse: 
      While Heal Pulse has seen occasional use in the past, Groudon and Kyogre’s frequent reliance on moves such as Eruption and Water Spout, which require high HP for maximum damage, give it an even better reason to be used. Such is the power of these Primal Pokemon. To be able to safely take 50% damage, only to be healed back up to full health for stronger attacks and greater longevity can be game winning for the Pokemon receiving a Heal Pulse. This helps mute the impact of priority moves such as Brave Bird, Sucker Punch and Extremespeed.
      As the vast majority of Heal Pulse users are slow, Trick Room is generally a good speed control option to have in a team that wishes to make use of it. That being the case, Gothitelle is probably the best user of Heal Pulse because of its good use as a Trick Room setter and its access to the Shadow Tag ability. Clefairy, Slowking, Latias and Gardevoir can also be considered, but have more flaws than Gothitelle, which has trouble keeping up with a lot of the damage output in this format itself.
      It is important to note that Heal Pulse can be redirected, so be careful not to help your opponents out if they have a redirection Pokemon on the field. Heal Pulse has generally been associated with more defensive play in the past, but with the power available in this format, I feel that despite it assisting in your Pokemon’s longevity on the field, it is best suited to supporting offensive play through Primal Pokemon, so make sure that you have alternative support options, possibly to win the weather war or to help damage output in other ways, available if you choose to run it, should Heal Pulsing not be the best option on a given turn.
       
      Psych Up:    vs
      Psych Up is and probably continues to be incredibly niche, outside of minimize stall teams. However, in the early season when Xerneas was most common, it became an interesting way for many Pokemon to deal with a +2 Xerneas. Psych Up has a surprisingly large distribution, notably Groudon and Kyogre, in fact most restricted legends have access to the move. Prankster access to the move is limited, as is most Prankster damage output, since Sableye and Liepard both struggle against Xerneas, and Meowstic-Male is easily doubled into for a KO by most opponents in this format.
      Psych Up can be used both on opposing Xerneas, and your own if you wish to frighten opponents with a quickly set up win condition, rather than a situational Xerneas check. Psych Up can go through Protect, which is very handy, but remember, if you do spend a turn using Protect+Psych Up, that gives your opponent ample opportunity to hit their way back into the game. Psych Up is probably best used then if you can pressure your opponent into not attacking, either through protecting, defensive maneuvering, or simply being unable to withstand attacks.With the variety of team archetypes and ways to stop Geomancy arising, I think Psych Up does not have a lot of room for use defensively at the moment, but it may be worth a try as a surprise offensive option.
       
      Conclusion
      And so, this analysis comes to an end. I understand that there are many other support moves out there that we haven’t discussed today, but if we were to take a look at all of them, I could publish this as a book, so instead I’ve tried to take the most interesting ones, especially those that have seen limited use in previous formats but offer more promise in 2016. Feel free to suggest or analyse your own additional support moves in the comments; I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on things I’ve skipped over, such as Haze, Roar/Whirlwind, Clear Smog, and Snatch, to name a few.

      Thanks for reading, I hope you found this useful, and maybe even got some ideas for your next team. Until next time, Cya.
       
      P.S. Thanks to Jess T. for editing, this article would be much lower quality without your patient work behind the scenes.
       
      Written by Mindape for SuperEffective VGC