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    • By Velocity in The Velocity Vector 22
      Hello everyone, my name is Grant Weldon, also known as Velocity online. I'm a competitive Pokemon VGC player from Michigan and have been playing in tournaments for just over a year now. I recently finished in the Top 4 at the 2016 US National Championships out of over 400 players in the Masters Division. Because of this result, I earned an invitation and paid trip to compete in Day 2 of the World Championships that will be happening next month in San Francisco, California. I'm extremely excited to share my story and team -- I hope you enjoy!

      Huge thanks to Jip Snoek for the incredible artwork. Follow him on Twitter @keonspy!
      The Story
      I began playing Pokemon with Diamond and Pearl in 2007. I played casually after that on and off for several years. What really got me hooked on the competitive scene, though, was watching the 2014 World Championships. I aspired to be on that stage. I aspired to be great. So I chased greatness. Every day after that, I trained as much as possible. There was a fire lit inside of me to pursue my dream. 
      I learned VGC by watching Aaron "Cybertron" Zheng's videos. I watched high level play over and over from previous National and World Championships and spent hours on Nugget Bridge combing through reports, learning and absorbing every detail I could about the game. I attended my first Premier Challenge in January of 2015 where I somehow managed to Top Cut. I also went 6-3 at St. Louis Regionals the next month. These two finishes reassured me as a beginner that I was doing something right, so I decided to continue my journey. 
      Unfortunately, I began to plateau. Two more X-3 finishes at Regionals and a 4-5 finish at Nationals inspired me to look for what I was doing wrong. They pushed me to train harder and to train smarter. I began seeing my results improve, going X-2 at 2 Regionals. Unfortunately, every time, a very small percentage knocked me out of Top Cut. Whether it was a Stone Edge miss or double Rock Slide flinch, it seemed that cutting an event remained elusive. I kept knocking at the door; I was so close, yet so far. Seeing the top players consistently rise to the top again and again showed me that there was something I was missing. I needed to figure that out to prove myself to the world.
      I felt, however, that I was beginning to acclimate into the community. I had made friends from across the country and even across the world. I began to see new perspectives on the game and get new opinions about Pokemon and teams. By learning and gaining these outside viewpoints, I was able to shift my focus and enhance my gameplay even more. Ricardo Pinto was instrumental in this regard, helping teambuild and practice with me one-on-one. His help really allowed me to identify where I was going wrong and what I could do to fix my mistakes.
      Once the 2016 season rolled around, I was able to Top Cut all 4 Midseason Showdowns I attended, and I managed to win in Columbus and make finals of Indianapolis. These really boosted my confidence going into Madison Regionals; however, I finished with another X-2 finish. My first loss was due to a double Precipice Blades miss and my second to a double Protect and another Precipice Blades miss. It seemed that once again, the large finish I was looking for would evade me. I was getting really frustrated, seemingly all the odds in the world were against me every time.
      I didn't give up though; I never threw in the towel. I just kept my goal in mind, learning from each situation. I had failed to make it so many times, yet I persevered. I worked harder and harder, reflecting on what I had done wrong to even allow the odds to happen in the first place. I saw my play steadily improve. I had a dream to make it onto the big stage, and I spent every moment I could working towards that dream. I was able to qualify for Day 1 of the 2016 World Championships, which was a huge accomplishment for me. I was so excited to be able to play in Worlds Day 1, but I wanted more. I wanted the large finish to prove that I was one of the best. I would have that opportunity at the US National Championships, where I could make my dream come to fruition...
      The Team-Building Process
      When I first began using Double Primals, I used a team inspired by Alejandro Gomez @Pokealex and built by Ricardo. I originally used this team because its matchup against Groudon+Xerneas was extremely good. This team featured Minimum Speed Kyogre and Groudon to sweep under Trick Room. The last slots were composed of Mega Salamence, Min Speed Smeargle, Bronzong, and Life Orb Thundurus.

      The team performed well; however, Ricardo suggested that I try Maximum Speed Groudon to complement the team's faster mode. I kept the slow Kyogre because the combination of Bronzong+Kyogre was intended to beat Groudon+Xerneas teams. I also found that I rarely used Smeargle, so I switched to Ferrothorn in that slot to improve some weaker matchups.

      I managed to win the Midseason Showdown in Columbus and seal my Day 1 Worlds invite with this variation. I still felt that the Ferrothorn didn't quite mesh with the team. It helped with matchups but still left me with some awkward positioning. I knew I wanted another steel type, so with the rise in Yveltal to counter teams like mine, I decided to give Mawile a go.

      I really liked this iteration of the team, and I even took it to Madison Regionals. But again, I felt that Mawile was out of place. I had a large weakness to Rayquaza+Kyogre teams and to tricks such as Choice Scarf Smeargle. Groudon+Xerneas teams were increasingly difficult to beat as Xerneas were getting bulkier, and they incorporated new techs specifically for the Double Primal matchup. I tested many different Pokemon, from Lapras to Clefairy to Infernape, but none seemed to be working. I even considered scrapping the archetype and using Groudon+Xerneas, but Ricardo, Zach Droegkamp @Braverius, and Eduardo Cunha @EmbC thankfully talked me out of it, since I was especially comfortable with playing Double Primals. I ultimately decided that Kangaskhan was the most neutral call, offering me a wide range of control against any opposing team. The final six Pokemon looked like this:

      The Team

      Groudon @ Red Orb  
      Ability: Drought  
      EVs: 12 HP / 244 Atk / 252 Spe  
      Jolly Nature  
      - Precipice Blades  
      - Fire Punch  
      - Substitute  
      - Protect  
      Groudon: the most dominant force in the VGC16 metagame and the first component of the Double Primal duo. Even though I had a Trick Room mode on my team, I opted for a fast Groudon; Kyogre was for the Trick Room mode. I could lead with Groudon and brute force my way through teams, then clean up with Trick Room in the back. I was able to cover both ends of the speed spectrum, and because most opponents came prepared for slow Groudon, they were often surprised or underprepared for a fast Groudon and the quick offensive pressure it exerts - even in best-of-three. The ability to deal massive amounts of spread damage with Precipice Blades after little to no setup could not have been more appreciated. Additionally, having both Primals on this team allowed for great defensive positioning; being able to switch in one of the weathers meant I could maintain control of gameflow.
      Substitute was perhaps the most interesting move on this Groudon set. Having a fast Substitute initially was meant to outspeed Smeargle and block Dark Void. While this came in handy many times, Substitute was also used to buy free turns. If I expected a Protect and an attack into Groudon, I could Substitute, allowing me to gain a turn without wasting a Protect. Additionally, if the opponent had little offensive pressure on the field, I could set up a Substitute and make Groudon almost unstoppable. This was also used against opposing teams that had Icy Wind. I could Substitute in the face of Icy Wind, since Icy Wind usually doesn't break the Substitute or lower Speed through it. The 12 HP IVs place Groudon's HP at a 4n+1 number, meaning I could hypothetically set up 4 Substitutes with 1 HP remaining.

      Kyogre @ Blue Orb  
      Ability: Drizzle  
      EVs: 252 HP / 116 Def / 140 SpA  
      Quiet Nature  
      IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe  
      - Origin Pulse  
      - Ice Beam  
      - Thunder  
      - Protect  
      Kyogre is the second restricted Pokemon on this team and completes the Double Primal duo. Kyogre was mainly to pressure Groudon+Xerneas teams and does this exceptionally well when paired with Bronzong, especially under Trick Room. I decided to run absolute minimum Speed to be as fast as possible under Trick Room. Many players complain about Double Primal mirror matches because the first priority is learning opposing Speeds. This was never an issue with my team since my Primals were maximum and minimum Speed, eliminating mindgames and making the worst-case scenario a Speed Tie. I originally ran Water Spout & Scald, but I switched to Origin Pulse & Thunder for Nationals because opposing Kyogre could be difficult to deal with. I really did not want to give up accuracy, but having Thunder allowed me to greatly improve difficult matchups. Also, many teams are surprisingly ill-equipped for Kyogre, so if I can position the Kyogre correctly against these teams, it can often have free turns to fire off large amounts of spread damage with Origin Pulse. 

      Salamence @ Salamencite  
      Ability: Intimidate  
      EVs: 4 HP / 52 Atk / 4 Def / 196 SpA / 252 Spe  
      Naive Nature  
      - Hyper Voice  
      - Double-Edge  
      - Draco Meteor  
      - Protect  
      Salamence is the Mega Evolution that I've had the most experience with. I often use it with Trick Room teams for the utility it provides. While this may seem counter-intuitive, Salamence does a tremendous job at supporting Trick Room. It can Intimidate potential threats to the Trick Room setter, allowing Trick Room to be set up more easily. It can also threaten massive damage, then pivot out into a slower Pokemon to begin taking advantage of the limited Trick Room turns. Additionally, once the effect wears out and the opposing team is thoroughly weakened, Salamence can return to the field and clean up with its high speed and large offense. I opted for Draco Meteor instead of Tailwind because I wanted to be able to win Salamence mirrors, and since Rayquaza was such a large threat to my team, Draco Meteor provided additional pressure to handle it. While Tailwind is good for large momentum swings, I found that I didn't find myself in situations where I needed it and instead chose to go for a more specific attack.

      Kangaskhan @ Kangaskhanite  
      Ability: Inner Focus  
      Happiness: 0  
      EVs: 12 HP / 164 Atk / 76 Def / 4 SpD / 252 Spe  
      Jolly Nature  
      - Frustration  
      - Power-Up Punch  
      - Sucker Punch  
      - Fake Out  
      Kangaskhan was chosen last on this team to fill the slot that Smeargle, Ferrothorn, and Mawile had once occupied. I was the least familiar with how Kangaskhan played, but I did have some experience with it. I needed a Pokemon that was versatile and just generally solid, especially against trickier threats. Fake Out pressure is extremely good at disrupting the momentum that more "gimmicky" teams rely on. It's also useful to help Groudon set up a Substitute or for Bronzong to set up Trick Room. Power-up Punch could instantly swing all offensive momentum into my favor. If +2 Kangaskhan is paired with one of the Primals, there are two powerful threats on the field to be dealt with. I opted for Frustration on Kangaskhan, because I usually don't prefer using Double-Edge in combination with Power-up Punch. Additionally, I used Frustration over Return because I would rather have zero Happiness on Kangaskhan. This is because Smeargle and Ditto usually run maximum Happiness to Transform into the more common Return variant. If one of these Pokemon Transforms into my Pokemon, their Frustrations will be doing minimal damage. Thanks to Nicholas Borghi for the EV spread.

      Thundurus @ Focus Sash  
      Ability: Prankster  
      EVs: 4 HP / 248 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe  
      Timid Nature  
      IVs: 0 Atk / 30 Def / 30 SpA  
      - Thunderbolt  
      - Thunder Wave  
      - Hidden Power [Water]  
      - Protect  
      Thundurus has been one of the most consistent support Pokemon in VGC ever since it was allowed. Prankster Thunder Wave can immediately slow down offensive threats and begin putting dice rolls into the user's favor. If I couldn't bring Bronzong against a Xerneas team, I would often have to rely on Paralyzing the Xerneas before it was able to run through my team. I had used Life Orb on Thundurus all season, but I switched to Focus Sash for Nationals because it was too frail otherwise. Thundurus is able to be led against almost any opposing team because it provides a large amount of support and can even threaten offense with Thunderbolt. The absence of Taunt made Smeargle matchups a lot trickier; however, I did have other means of dealing with Smeargle. I opted for Hidden Power Water instead to be able to snipe Groudon. Many teams rely solely on Groudon for offensive pressure, so I could instantly eliminate all offense on the opposing side of the field. HP Water also helped in the Double Primal mirror. Being able to threaten knockouts, switches, and the weather advantage all gave necessary leverage in combating the mirror.

      Bronzong @ Chesto Berry  
      Ability: Levitate   
      EVs: 244 HP / 124 Def / 140 SpD  
      Sassy Nature  
      IVs: 0 Spe  
      - Gyro Ball  
      - Trick Room  
      - Skill Swap
      - Imprison
      Last, but certainly not least... Bronzong! The bell is something that is no stranger to VGC but hasn't seen much success in more recent years. When the VGC 2016 rules were announced in December 2015, Bronzong was a Pokemon that I was using even then (there are Showdown replays to prove it!). I remember texting Chance Alexander ecstatically that I had discovered the meta call. Fast forward several months, and Pokealex had pioneered Bronzong in the new format. 
      Bronzong is best when supported by Kyogre, since it is then immune to Groudon's most common attacks. It can also Trick Room, shifting offensive power into the favor of my slower Kyogre. I can also Skill Swap my own Kyogre to reset the rain, allowing Kyogre to knockout a potential Groudon switch-in. This also transfers Levitate to my Kyogre, making it virtually immune to Groudon. Not only does Bronzong offer support, it pressures Xerneas offensively with Gyro Ball. This makes Bronzong a better option than Cresselia when attempting to deal with the Groudon+Xerneas core. In the final slot, I chose Imprison, perhaps the most interesting move on my entire team. I predicted that many people would be running Groudon+Xerneas teams with Cresselia or Bronzong. Bronzong typically suffers against Cresselia because it loses the Skill Swap weather war under Trick Room. Since Cresselia is slower under Trick Room, it will be able to Skill Swap last and ensure that the opposing weather dominates. However, if I use Imprison, the Cresselia cannot use Skill Swap, thus winning me the weather war. This also eliminates Trick Room reversal mindgames and can often render Cresselia slots useless. 
      A last unique choice on this Bronzong was the Chesto Berry. I used Lum Berry the whole season, but I realized that Chesto Berry would actually be more beneficial. This is because Burn is largely irrelevant, and Bronzong is immune to Poison. Also, I often actually wanted Bronzong to be Paralyzed so it could deal more damage with Gyro Ball and to prevent Dark Void. I could even Paralyze myself to accomplish these goals. Having Chesto Berry ensured I could be Paralyzed if necessary, while still being able to wake up from Sleep.
      The EV spread was taken from a report by Kelvin Koon, Justin Burns, and Raphael Bagara. It survives an Intimidated Fire Punch from Adamant Groudon. I originally used a Brave Nature with 116 Attack IVs to OHKO Xerneas after Geomancy; however, with nearly all Xerneas becoming more defensively invested, I figured I would 2HKO them anyway and invest more heavily in Bronzong's bulk. Lastly, my Bronzong at the tournament was Shiny, adding tremendously to the aesthetic appeal of my team.
      The Tournament - Day One
      This is the day I had trained for. Countless hours of hard work culminated to this moment. I had locked up my Day 1 Worlds invite, so that pressure was off. However, I wanted something grand. I wanted to Top Cut, something that had eluded me so many times before. I was nervous, but I remained calm and focused. Above all, I tried to enjoy the experience. After all, that's what Pokemon's about, right?
      (Apologies if I make a mistake. I played 45 games over the course of the weekend and am going off memory, so some of the details might be a bit hazy.)
      Round 1: Cassandra Fordyce (Cassie)

      Before the first round started, I told my friends Eric Hogan and Jack Hatch that the one matchup I was the most scared of facing was Choice Scarf Kyogre. You wouldn't believe what I had to play against Round 1! The team seemed really similar to the one that an American used to finish Top 4 at Japan Nationals in Seniors. During these games, my main focus was to eliminate the Rayquaza, something made easier by having Draco Meteor. Once Air Lock/Delta Stream was gone, my Groudon's Desolate Land could overpower the Drizzle from the Scarf Kyogre, winning me the weather war and thus, the set. Defeating one of my scariest matchups early on gave me confidence going forward.
      WW [1-0]
      Round 2: Colby Mearns

      When I first glanced at Colby's team, it seemed that he had almost nothing to stop Bronzong+Kyogre under Trick Room. His Crobat was threatening this setup with Taunt, so in the first game I immediately eliminated Crobat, clearing the way for Bronzong+Kyogre to sweep in the back. In game two, he smartly adjusted by bringing the Crobat late game to Taunt my Bronzong, denying my Trick Room and allowing his Groudon to come in and wreak havoc. In the third game, he used Psych Up with his Groudon, copying his Xerneas' Geomancy. At this point, I needed both Kyogre+Bronzong on the field at the same time, since Trick Room was the only way to win. If I had just Bronzong on the field, he could threaten the Kyogre switch-in. I switched in Salamence and allowed him to get the double knockout on both Salamence+Thundurus. From here, I was able to Protect Kyogre and Trick Room, then dish out massive offense. He still ended up needing a Triple Protect to win. I was nervous when he got the Double, but thankfully his third one failed.
      WLW [2-0]
      Round 3: Jacob Pocta (FlynRider)

      If I thought my Scarf Kyogre matchup was bad, I just needed to wait until I saw Jacob's team. He's a really cool guy and was qualified for Day 1 Worlds, so I knew I was in for an extremely tough match. Rayquaza+Kyogre is an archetype my team struggles against in general. Add Raichu, Ferrothorn, and Landorus-T to that mix, and it's almost unwinnable. Jacob played very well, correctly predicting whether or not I would switch in Groudon and calling other moves of mine as well. I was a bit disappointed to get a loss this early in the tournament, but I tried to not let it faze me.
      LL [2-1]
      Round 4: Jeremy Odena

      Jeremy's team appeared to be a variant of Wolfe Glick's Florida Regional winning team. I remember having to do a lot of shuffling in order to win the weather war. Once I confirmed that his Landorus was Choice Banded, I would try locking it into Earthquake against my Salamence+Thundurus or into Rock Slide against my Primals. In the first game, he landed a Critical Hit onto my Groudon with his Landorus, putting me into a really bad position, unable to knockout his Dialga. To win, I needed to Critical Hit the Dialga back with Draco Meteor from about 75%, and I was actually able to, allowing me to take the first game! He was able to manage his Landorus against my Primals well in the second game, bringing the set to a third. In the endgame, he got a crucial Rock Slide flinch, putting me into an almost certain losing position. On the following turn, however, my Groudon at 14 HP dodged his Rock Slide, allowing me to knockout the Landorus. I may have still won the third game because I had Salamence waiting in the back. Either way, I managed to come out on top in this set. Both games I won involved him getting extremely lucky, forcing me to need to get lucky in return. This was a very nerve-wracking set.
      WLW [3-1]
      Round 5: Chuppa Cross IV (Chuppa)

      For this round, I got paired against Chuppa, one of the most consistent players all season. He was using Double Primals, the archetype that brought him success. I can't remember the exact details of this set, but in the first game he landed a timely Critical Hit onto my Kyogre with a Salamence Double-Edge. This got the knockout, preventing me from getting my Ice Beam off that turn, which would have virtually sealed the win for me. In the second game, Chuppa heavily outplayed me to lock up his win. It would have been nice to get a third game after the bit of RNG in the first, but that's Pokemon for you! There's a good reason Chuppa is one of the most consistent players of the format. This meant that I had my second loss, and it was really early in the tournament. My back was against the wall. I needed to win four sets in a row if I wanted to move on to the second day. Each would be an elimination match where someone packs their bags and goes home, and the other would live for another round. It was time to focus.
      LL [3-2]
      Round 6: Kamran Jahadi (Kamz)

      To stay alive, I got paired against none other than the 2011 Senior World Champion. He had a Groudon+Xerneas team with Bronzong and Thundurus being the more interesting picks. Again, I apologize that I don't remember very much about this set. I probably led Salamence+Groudon to break through most of his team, with the Bronzong+Kyogre mode to clean up in the back. In the first game, I ended up getting a first-turn wake-up with Groudon to win. In the second, a timely full Paralysis helped me seal the set. I'm not sure that either of these fortunate circumstances were game-defining, but they certainly helped. Kamran was a really cool guy, and it was disappointing that we had to play for elimination. I managed to survive another round; there were only three more wins to go.
       WW [4-2]
      Round 7: Toler Webb (Dim)

      And here I am, paired against the defending US National Champion, playing to avoid tournament death. Not only was Toler the former National Champion, he also won Worlds as a Senior in 2012, making that the second consecutive Senior World Champion I faced. Looking at his team, my matchup was atrocious. Weavile defeats my fast mode of Salamence & Thundurus, and the Amoonguss shuts down my Trick Room mode. I suppose at this point I was due for a bit of luck, and boy, did I get lucky. In game one, he revealed that he was Choice Scarf Smeargle; however, he double missed Dark Void, allowing me to get a free Precipice Blades off against his Smeargle+Weavile, giving me almost unstoppable momentum. We both adjusted a bit for the second game, but he was able to outplay me, bringing the set to game three. He correctly called my leads, and I was behind in the opening turns of the match. He then missed another Dark Void, bringing the set back into my favor. The game ended up with his Geomancied Xerneas against both of my Primals. Groudon was in Moonblast, but not Dazzling Gleam KO range, and Kyogre was at full health. I got a first-turn wake up with Groudon and Protected as he Dazzling Gleamed. Then I used Thunder onto Xerneas fishing for Paralysis, and I got it. Now, I just had to hit Precipice Blades and Origin Pulse to win the match. I got extremely lucky in this set, and it was unfortunate that it had to happen against Toler. I suppose that RNG is just an integral part of the game, but I was definitely thankful to get some good dice rolls finally in my favor. We have since spoken, and there was a play in the third game that he could have made to win, without needing to rely on Dark Void hitting. Regardless, I was extremely fortunate to come out with a win and defeat the reigning National Champion. Toler is a great player, and I wish him the best at college and in future endeavors.
      WLW [5-2]
      Round 8: Walter Morales (wally1021)

      I knew Walter was a really good player from the very competitive area of New York, so I was in for another tough match. His team mirrored mine; however, he had Regigigas where I had Thundurus, which was an extremely neat choice. I knew it had Wide Guard, but I wasn't sure what else it was capable of, so I had to play cautiously around it. I don't recall the exact details of the matches, but presumably I opened up with Thundurus to gain leverage against his team and used Groudon to get some fast damage off. Then in the back, I had my Trick Room mode of Bronzong+Kyogre to seal up the game. I believe I also used Imprison to prevent the Bronzong from Skill Swapping or reversing Trick Room. Both games played out somewhat similarly, and I was able to get another win. I found myself now one win away from making Day 2. I was one win from achieving my dreams. Everything I worked for, the hours of preparation, culminated to this moment.
      WW [6-2]
      Round 9: Jon Hu (Jhufself) 

      Jon's a really good friend of mine and a fellow Nationals Semifinalist (though I wasn't a Semifinalist yet). I was really nervous to play him in the last round for elimination, and it was unfortunate that we got paired when we did. He's known for using more eccentric teams, and he didn't disappoint here. I absolutely did not want to fall for any tricks his team might have had. I led Groudon, but pulled a switch to avoid a potential Hidden Power Water from his Gengar or an Encore+Disable on the following turn. This also preserved the Groudon for a potential endgame against Shedinja. I used my Kyogre, Salamence, and Bronzong to deal large amounts of damage to some of his more frail Pokemon. In the end, he brought out Shedinja, and my Groudon was able to win the game from there. The second battle played out in a similar fashion, but was a bit more difficult. At this point Jon had revealed Moonblast, so there was a turn where I had to predict that Whimsicott wouldn't Moonblast my Salamence, allowing me to get tons of damage off. I once again preserved the Groudon and was able to defeat Shedinja in the end, winning me the set and allowing me to move on to the second day. This was one of the greatest moments. After failing to make the cut for so long, it was finally my time.
      WW [7-2]
      My dream had been achieved! I finally proved to myself I was capable of making the cut at an event, but I wouldn't settle for just Day Two. I wanted to come out on top. At that moment, though, I celebrated my achievement. As soon as I turned in my match slip, I rushed around to tell people that I had finally made it! Nick and Chance were really thrilled and supportive. That night, Chance and I went Jim Olivola's house for a party, but I left early to prepare for the matches ahead. 
      The Tournament - Day Two
      Round 1: Ian Lutz (TheLunatoneGuy)

      Another dream of mine was to be on stream. I wanted to give the world a show, and this was my opportunity. The match can be viewed here. If it's ever uploaded to YouTube as a video, I will replace this link. And just FYI, those headphones that streamed players wear have water noises playing to drown out commentary. It got annoying pretty quickly, but it was better than the crowd noises that Chance told me they used to play.
      I heard before the match that Ian had a Lunatone, which was really interesting. In the first game, I was able to break through his team early with Groudon's Precipice Blades, but also conserve it for the Aegislash, as it was really my only means of handling Aegislash. I tried setting up a Trick Room endgame for Bronzong+Kyogre, but it ended up working against me. I managed to stall Trick Room, and it ended up with my Groudon at very low HP against his Aegislash. He then unfortunately managed to get the 1/3 chance to double King's Shield, dropping my Attack to -2. Because of this attack drop, I was now unable to KO the Aegislash and lost the first game. I adjusted a bit in the second game, bringing Salamence instead of Bronzong since Trick Room didn't serve me well in the first. I did get a bit fortunate with some full Paralysis on the Lunatone. It also ended up with his Lunatone+Groudon against my Salamence+Groudon that were at -1 Speed due to Icy Wind. I decided to switch in Kyogre to gain offensive pressure and reset speed, but this was extremely risky and made almost no sense, since he could've just used Icy Wind and Precipice Blades. It wouldn't have necessarily been over since my Salamence was still faster than both of his Pokemon, and Kyogre could have survived two Precipice Blades, but my play was still far too risky. Thankfully, he Protected instead of using the feared Precipice Blades, allowing my Kyogre to freely Origin Pulse the next turn, bringing the set to game three. I suppose I was nervous being on stream for the first time and didn't think clearly, but I gambled a bit too much. Fortunately, it still worked in my favor. In the last game, I revealed Substitute on my Groudon against the Lunatone to survive an Earth Power or block Icy Wind. I did Critical Hit & Burn the Lunatone as he missed Icy Wind; however, these weren't defining. They definitely did help, though. I also eventually managed to HP Water his Groudon, essentially eliminating all offense from Ian's side of the field. From here, I was able to take the set and win my first ever streamed match. I was really delighted and ecstatic to be interviewed as well. Overall, this was a great set and huge credits to Ian on a fantastic run with a really neat Pokemon! 
      LWW [1-0]
      Round 2: Chase Lybbert (I Am a Rookie)

      Chase and I have talked on several occasions, and he's a really cool guy. Little did I know that I was sitting across from the soon-to-be US National Champion. His team was the "BigC" team, so I played against it like I normally would, setting up for the Bronzong+Kyogre Trick Room endgame. The first game wasn't even close. His Smeargle got a bit lucky with Moody boosts, and I really wasn't focused and made some poor plays. I was one step behind the entire time. In the second game, I adjusted nicely, but Chase managed to position a Xerneas Geomancy perfectly. The game wasn't over. However, I ended up timing out on one turn. Instead of Mega Evolving Salamence and using Double-Edge on Xerneas, I didn't Mega Evolve and went for Hyper Voice. Always watch the timer! Regardless, Chase was one step ahead of me throughout the entire set. His high level play definitely foreshadowed his success to come.
      LL [1-1]
      Round 3: Alberto Lara (Sweeper)

      Very few people have managed to win multiple Regionals, and Alberto is one of them. His team was Groudon+Xerneas with Crobat, so I knew I wanted to go for the usual Bronzong+Kyogre Trick Room sweep in the back. I played too afraid of the Crobat, so I led extremely poorly. If I recall correctly, the Smeargle also got a turn one Speed boost in both games. Because of these factors, I was on the backfoot the entire time and was unable to gain enough momentum to come back. I was handed my second loss of the day and couldn't lose again. I found myself in the X-2 position early, just like the day before. I knew I had to seriously refocus and win three matches in a row if I wanted to remain in the tournament. The pressure was on as every match would send someone one match closer to Top Cut and the other going home.
      LL [1-2]
      Round 4: José Reyes-Homs (SirTirzoj)

      José is a Puerto Rican player whom I was really excited to battle. This was a Double Primal mirror match where he opted for Cresselia instead of the Bronzong that I had. When I play against teams like this, the gameplan I have in mind is similar to the one against BigC. I gain leverage with Thundurus and Groudon, then attempt to set up a Bronzong+Kyogre endgame and need to Imprison the Cresselia so that I am guaranteed to win the weather war and prevent Trick Room reversal. The first game played out perfectly. However, just as I gained the desirable positioning, his Cresselia got the 10% chance to Freeze my Kyogre with Ice Beam. Kyogre couldn't unthaw in time as Trick Room began expiring, so I lost the first game. I would now have to win two in a row if I wanted to stay alive in the tournament. I managed to anticipate potential adjustments, so I switched around a bit differently, but still worked my way into the positioning I wanted. Once I brought out Kyogre under Trick Room and secured the Imprison lock on Cresselia, I was able to sweep through his team twice in a row. I was really glad to be able to recover, especially after having the first game slip from my hands. I managed to play these games methodically and execute my gameplan perfectly, giving me a confidence boost going forward, though I still needed to win two in a row to remain in competition.
      LWW [2-2]
      Round 5: Randy Kwa (R Inanimate)

      Randy Kwa, another fellow Nationals Semifinalist and one of the biggest names in VGC. We were placed on the backup stream for this set. Before the match, someone told me that he was using Rayquaza+Kyogre, my least favorite matchup, so I was terrified going in. Much to my surprise, he had Groudon+Xerneas, so I breathed a huge sigh of relief. His team had a revolving door of triple Fake Out, which really disrupted my momentum, but most of his Pokemon were frail, so I knew that if I could set up Trick Room, I could use the sheer power of my Primals to win. I had to play carefully around the Hitmontop's Wide Guard, though. In the second game, Randy adjusted by setting up his Kangaskhan and Xerneas to overpower my team. In the third game, I switched back to my original plan and was able to keep on the offensive pressure. Randy's Smeargle was very tricky, but I was able to manage a win. I found myself now only one win away from making the Top Cut.
       WLW [3-2]
      Round 6: Justin Crubaugh (iMagikarp)

      This match was also placed on the backup stream, so that meant more water sounds! I had just watched the crazy set between Justin and Conan, so I knew that his Kyogre had Psych Up. Words cannot describe how atrocious this matchup was, though. I needed Trick Room with Bronzong to defeat the Xerneas, but the Amoonguss threatened this from Team Preview, so his fast mode would be basically free to set up and sweep me. This was exactly what happened in game one. The combination of Amoonguss and Kangaskhan basically swept through my entire team. In the second game, I managed the tricky positioning much better; I needed to play flawlessly. I was able to Paralyze the Xerneas, which essentially rendered its offensive potential useless. Because I won the second battle, the set would go to game three. I was now literally one game away from Top Cutting US Nationals. This game opened up like the second, with me managing the positioning well. I can't remember what happened exactly, but the game essentially came down to my low HP sleeping Kyogre paired with my full health Salamence, against his 40% health Kyogre and paralyzed low HP Amoonguss. This was a tough call. I could go for the Double-Edge straight onto Kyogre to pick up the knockout, but I risked him using Rage Powder or going for Protect+Spore. I could go for the Hyper Voice to knockout Amoonguss, but if he used Ice Beam with Kyogre, then I would also lose. I decided to Double-Edge the Kyogre, recognizing that it was the offensive threat, and even if I made the wrong call, I could hope for the full Paralysis on Amoonguss. My heart pounded as I clicked my move; this was a $500 decision... It was the greatest feeling in the world to see my Salamence move first with Double-Edge, meaning that he didn't decide to Rage Powder or Protect with Amoonguss. I wouldn't even have to hope for luck. The Double-Edge knocked out Kyogre, which essentially secured the victory. I had done it. I had managed to make the Top Cut at US Nationals.
      LWW [4-2]
      I was extremely delighted to be among the Top 12 players in the country and make it into the final Top Cut. I was brought on stream to be interviewed by Aaron Zheng again, and I just couldn't believe how surreal it was. After the interview, I was surrounded by people congratulating me, and I was so thrilled to see how much support there was. I had managed to Top Cut as the very last seed due to my rough start, but that didn't matter. I was among the best. In that moment, I felt at the pinnacle, the summit. Ever since I began, I always looked at the Nationals Top Cut as an extremely difficult and prestigious achievement. Now I was there, and I would be fighting for the championship title. I was also one win away from earning the paid trip to Day 2 of the World Championships, so more than ever would be on the line in next match. The waiting time was brutal - the calm before the storm.
      Top Cut
      Top 12: Jake Skurchak (Pokebeys)

      For this match, we were placed in the center table, so we thought the whole time that we were being streamed. We found out later we were only on the backup stream. Fortunately though, our third game did make it live! Check it out here.
      Jake is a really good friend of mine, so it was a bit disappointing that we got paired so early in cut. We also both had the same six Pokemon, meaning we were the last Double Primal players in the tournament. I not only needed to win this match to earn the Day 2 invite, but I wanted to become the highest finishing Double Primal player in the country. I knew Jake opted for a "GravNosis" Bronzong, meaning that he didn't have Skill Swap and had no means of resetting his weather. If I could prioritize winning the weather war, I could win the match. Additionally, he didn't have much to handle the combination of Salamence+Kyogre, so leading that and switching around to win the weather war would be my key to victory.
      I don't remember much of the first two games. In the first, my Salamence Draco Meteor plowed through a lot of his team. His Salamence had the more common Tailwind instead, making my matchup a bit easier. I switched around and was ultimately able to win the weather war and ultimately the game. In the second game, I switched my lead to Kangaskhan+Thundurus. I underestimated the pressure that Salamence had provided in the first game. Jake adjusted well, and I was one step behind him for the entire match, so he won the game and brought the set to the third game, the one that was streamed. I changed back to my first lead of Salamence+Kyogre and my original strategy of prioritizing the weather war. Because this lead exerted so much offensive pressure, it put him in a really tricky position from the get-go. I Hyper Voiced predicting the Groudon switch and knowing that he was not pressuring my Salamence anyway. He Paralyzed my Salamence, but his Thundurus fainted to an Ice Beam. As he brought out Salamence, my own was stiil not very threatened, since he had no real means of dealing with it, and I still had Draco Meteor. He used Tailwind with Salamence and Swords Dance with Groudon, as I went for Draco Meteor on the Salamence for the knockout and brought out Bronzong. Because I forced a switch into Kyogre in the Salamence slot, I won the weather war, and my Bronzong was immune to his +2 Groudon. From there I set up Trick Room, so that my Paralyzed Salamence could Double-Edge the Kyogre under Trick Room. Unfortunately, I was fully Paralyzed and unable to put the Kyogre in Thunder KO range, but this did allow me to bring out my minimum speed Kyogre to pressure both of his Primals. Jake smartly enough chose to Protect his Groudon and Thunder my Kyogre, putting me just below 50% as his Tailwind ran out. I didn't know Jake was also minimum Speed Kyogre, and on the next turn he won the Speed tie, knocking out my Kyogre before it could handle the Groudon. The Groudon then was able to knockout my Bronzong (I Skill Swapped my Kyogre at one point). Then, it was my Groudon against both of his Primals. I stalled Trick Room, then used Precipice Blades into his Groudon Protect, but I missed the Kyogre! All of the odds seemed to be against me. On the next turn, however, I was able to use Precipice Blades to knockout his Groudon and bring the Kyogre into Fire Punch range. Jake needed to Critical Hit his Ice Beam to win but thankfully didn't get it. I was now one Fire Punch away from moving into the Top 8 and securing my Day 2 invitation to Worlds!
      I had done it! I asserted myself as the top Double Primal player in America at that moment. Not only that, but I was among the top 8 players in the country! At this point, I had secured my Day 2 Worlds invite, the paid trip to San Francisco, and $750, which was basically everything I went to Nationals for. But now I wanted more... I wanted to win the title of National Champion. 
      After the match, I was interviewed again, this time by Duy Ha. I had spoken with Duy once before at Madison, but it was honestly amazing to be interviewed with him after moving onto Top 8. The day was getting late. I thought it was around 2:00 PM, but someone told me that it was almost 8:00! I really lost track of time. There was only one more match to go before I could rest for the night. If I won, I would be moving on to Championship Sunday.
      Top 8: Stefan Smigoc (Eekthegeek)

      This entire match was streamed. It's a really intense one that you can check out here.
      Stefan was interestingly using Rayquaza+Groudon, the unique combination that won Japan Nationals. Before the match, Wolfe Glick really helped talk me through what I should be trying to accomplish. I would have to force Stefan into positions where he has to choose to make sacrifices. We noticed that Stefan didn't have a lot to deal with Kyogre, so if I eliminated its threats early on, I could win the game. Wolfe told me that the worst-case scenario would be a Kangaskhan+Suicune lead that sets up Tailwind, but we planned on how to deal with it.
      In the first game, Stefan opened up with the lead we were fearing. I managed to set up a Power-up Punch with Kangaskhan to start offering a large amount of pressure. I eliminated the Kangaskhan, but because of a Scald Burn, his Rayquaza was able to hang around a bit longer than I would have liked. I did Paralyze it though, and the game ended up in a really interesting position with his Suicune+Rayquaza against my Groudon and Kyogre. He managed to get a double Protect with Rayquaza, trying to conserve Air Lock for his Scald to knockout my Suicune, but I used Substitute to buy myself that extra turn and prevent my Groudon from being knocked out. The game ended up coming down to a really tough call. He had Ferrothorn+Suicune under Tailwind. I could read the switch into Rayquaza and Scald attempt, or I could predict him not to switch. I made the right prediction as Ferrothorn stayed in. From here, Kyogre was able to clean up the game, putting me up 1-0 in the set.
      In the second game, Stefan adjusted really well and forced me to play from behind. He boosted his Kangaskhan and was able to get a lot of momentum going between the Kangaskhan and his Groudon. I should've HP Watered the Groudon to eliminate the threat, but played a bit too safe. On the last turn, I had a 0% chance to win, and I knew he would Protect to gain Leech Seed recovery, so I targeted the empty partner slot, but this was apparently way less hype than I thought it would be. Stefan adjusted really well, though, bringing the set to a third game, something I was very familiar with at this point. 
      In the last battle, I adjusted my lead perfectly, with Salamence+Kyogre providing tremendous amounts of pressure to his Kangaskhan+Groudon. I played the opening turns really well and had myself in an extremely good position, managing to play around his HP Ice from Groudon, scoring early knockouts, and dealing massive damage to his entire team. Things began falling apart though. I tried going for an HP Water, but I was a bit too late, as this allowed Ferrothorn to fall out of Thunderbolt+Origin Pulse knockout range - the play I should've made instead. I went for it the next turn still thinking it would pick up the knockout, but it just missed, allowing the Ferrothorn to knockout my Kyogre. I honestly thought my double-up would have knocked out, but I overestimated Thundurus, since I had used a Life Orb variant all season and was less familiar with Focus Sash calculations. I was just left with Thundurus+Groudon against his 70% Rayquaza, Low HP Ferrothorn, and 60% Groudon. I used Thunderbolt onto Rayquaza to put in range of a Fire Punch, but I got a Critical Hit, eliminating Rayquaza and its Air Lock. This did allow me to get the double knockout, but now I could no longer use HP Water onto the Groudon because Air Lock was unfortunately no longer in effect. I needed to go for the Precipice Blades and hope to win the Speed tie. Because Stefan had Earth Power instead, the odds were slightly in his favor, since I could miss. Fortunately though, I won the Speed tie and connected, meaning I would move onto the Top 4. I gambled a bit too much in this set, and one slight miscalculation almost knocked me out of the tournament. Thankfully, I had put myself into such a good position that I was able to recover. I was fortunate to win the Speed tie, but there was definitely luck on both sides of the field throughout the set, and that's just the nature of the game. Tremendous credits to Stefan, though! He played phenomenally; making the Top 8 at Nationals twice in a row is an extremely impressive feat. For now, I was still alive in the tournament and would be returning for Championship Sunday.
      At first I couldn't believe it, and I don't even know now if it has sunken in yet. I was somehow one of the Top 4 players in America and was two wins away from becoming the National Champion. After my interview with Anna Prosser, there were so many people that wanted to see me, but the staff had to talk to me first about handlers. Essentially the next day, there would be a handler with me at all times. If I went to my hotel, the handler would have to follow. If I went to eat or even walked ten yards, the handler would have to follow. I asked Aaron Traylor about this, and he had the perfect response, "You're big business now." I was a bit surprised, but I suppose this was really cool nonetheless. When I was finally released for the night, I was instantly rushed by Chance and Nick. So many people came up to congratulate me and to wish me luck. It was incredible. I still couldn't believe that I had made it so far. 
      I knew Saturday night that Aaron Traylor would be my opponent. Aaron was one of the most influential and helpful people when I began just over a year ago, and now I would be facing him in Nationals Semifinals. That night, some friends and I did the usual "go-to-someone's-hotel-room-and-prepare-for-the-matchup-for-a-few-hours" thing. I had always wondered what this would feel like. I had heard the stories of people like Alex Ogloza and Jeudy Azzarelli doing this, but I never thought I would find myself in this situation! Patrick Donegan, Chance Alexander, Pat Ball, Ben Hickey, Sam Lubell, John Mills, Brian Youm, and I all went to Patrick's room where we ordered pizza, then spent the rest of the night preparing for the coming match. Patrick also informed that since I was the only player in Top 4 who had their Day 1 invite prior to Nationals, I was the current CP leader in the US, which was pretty cool.
      Day 3 - Championship Sunday
      I arrived at the convention center early Sunday morning to meet with my handlers. I pretty much spent that day with them and the other Top 4 guys - Chase Lybbert, Aaron Traylor, and Alan Schambers. It was a bit surreal to be surrounded and be part of the Top 4 players in the country. We had some really fun older format battles, but Chase continuously destroyed everyone with Linoone. Someone said we should do a multibattle with our Nationals teams, and since we all were scared of Alan's, Aaron joked that we could gang up on him. We went to the North Market for lunch that was a few blocks away. Aaron suggested that we try chicken & waffles at the Belgian place. Chase seemed a bit suspicious of this meal, so he and I got some regular waffles instead. When we returned and Seniors finals began, the nerves really began to hit. We would be up soon, with $1000 on the line in the next match, and the winner would be one more win away from becoming the National Champion. 
      Top 4: Aaron Traylor (Unreality)

      This match was on the main Pokemon stream and can be viewed here. Before the match, Aaron, the judges, and I did the wave in front of the crowd. We also did the "Bird Up" handshake right before the battle started. Playing a high-level match in front of so many people was such an incredible feeling.
      The night before, with the help of Caitlin Beach, Kevin Swastek, and the others in Patrick's hotel room, we decided that the Bronzong+Kyogre combination under Trick Room and Skill Swapping Levitate onto Kyogre would be my win condition. I was really scared of the bulky Xerneas and Hypnosis Bronzong, but thankfully Aaron never brought these. I knew the Smeargle would be a problem, so we decided that eliminating the Smeargle early on would be the key to winning the matchup, then setting up for Bronzong+Kyogre.
      In the first game, I denied Aaron's bold Helping Hand Double-Edge play and secured the Imprison onto Cresselia. From here, Aaron tried making more predictions, but I played around them and secured the desired positioning of Bronzong+Kyogre under Trick Room. I was in an extremely commanding position. I started picking up some knockouts, but when Aaron brought out Smeargle, this was when the game began slipping from my hands. I should have eliminated Smeargle at all costs, just like my gameplan was. However, I went for Origin Pulse onto it and Power-up Punch onto my own Kyogre in the event of a double Protect. My heart sank when the Origin Pulse missed the Smeargle. By not committing 100% to getting rid of Smeargle, the 15% chance to miss allowed the Smeargle to gain unfortunate Speed and Accuracy boosts. Once Trick Room expired, the Smeargle put my whole team to Sleep and won on timer.
      In the second game, I adjusted a bit, but still played around Aaron's bold predictions. He kept trying to call a Kyogre switch, but always managed to target the wrong slot. I found myself once again with Kyogre+Bronzong under Trick Room with the Imprison lock on Cresselia, the perfect positioning that I wanted. Many have asked me why I was so adamant on using Imprison and why I didn't go for Trick Room first. My rationale is that Aaron knew Trick Room was my win condition, so he might've tried reversing it. Bronzong was not being offensively pressured, so I had a free turn to set up the Imprison. If I used Trick Room without the Imprison up, I risked Aaron reversing the Trick Room and making my turn null. If I could get the Imprison up first, I wouldn't have to worry about a possible Trick Room reversal. Anyways, once I gained the positioning that I desired, I missed an Origin Pulse on his Salamence, which proceeded to deal a large amount of damage to Kyogre. He managed to eventually get his Smeargle+Groudon back in. This is where my first big misplay occurred. I didn't go for the Skill Swap on the last turn of Trick Room. I was tunnel-visioned; I figured I could win with what I had in the back. The pressure must've gotten to me, and I didn't think clearly and consider every possible outcome. If I Skill Swapped Levitate back onto Kyogre and reset the rain, he would've had almost no means of handling my Kyogre. Since I didn't make this play he was free to get the double knockout. Once I brought out Kangaskhan+Groudon, I made my next fatal error. I should have gone for Fake Out onto Groudon and Fire Punch onto Smeargle, which would have brought the game to timer, a win condition I wasn't even considering. Instead I went for Fake Out onto Smeargle and single-target Precipice Blades onto Groudon, but the move missed, costing me the game, and thus, eliminating me from the tournament. 
      LL [13-5 overall] Eliminated from tournament, 4th in the United States
      Did I get incredibly unlucky throughout both games? Yes. However, I wasn't thinking clearly and did not go for 100% win conditions, so I was punished by the small odds that I let occur. I could've played so much better in both games. Aaron played to his outs, and they ended up costing me the game. I was really disappointed since the games seemed so winnable, and I started out perfectly in both. They just barely slipped from my grasp. Regardless, Aaron played a fantastic set, and I was so delighted to see him make finals of Nationals, especially after inspiring me so much. I was saddened that my run for the title of US National Champion was over, yet I was overjoyed to have made it so far. I would be leaving with a $1500 scholarship, an invitation to Day 2 of the World Championships, a flight and hotel to San Francisco, as well as the great finish I had so long pursued and worked for. There's always next year to take the title!

      Concluding Thoughts
      My tournament run proves that anyone who is willing to work hard enough can achieve their dreams. It started with a vision - I wanted to be one of the elite. I saw the legends battle it out on stream time and time again, and I thought to myself... why not me? In about a year, I went from a newcomer struggling to go positive at events to one of the top players in the nation. Anybody who is inspired enough and willing to dedicate themselves to a cause can accomplish their goals as well. Have a vision, let it take root, and work endlessly to pursue it. Someone who has a fire lit inside of them, who is inspired, and who is willing to go to the ends of the earth to achieve their dreams is definitely someone to watch out for.
      Did I get lucky throughout the tournament? Absolutely. However, there were also many games that I lost due to unluckier rolls. This is the nature of Pokemon. RNG is a deciding factor in many games. I don't believe that there has ever been an extremely successful tournament run in the history of VGC that didn't involve some good fortune. Luck not only comes within the actual turns of the game, but in whom you're paired against and what their team is. I can't deny that the dice were hot in many of my games, but they can turn cold just as easily, and they did many times both in this tournament and in the past. It's how you manage the cards you are dealt that determines how well you will do. 
      Did I make some mistakes throughout the tournament? Yes. However, making mistakes is the only way to improve. Learning from each and every one and applying that knowledge in the future is the hallmark of any success. I cannot blame every mistake on nervousness or pressure, some were just pure miscalculations, and in others I was tunnel-visioned. These are aspects of my play that I can improve on in the future. With the Nationals format this year being all best-of-three sets and all X-2 Cut on both days, the format ensures that the best and most prepared players make it to the top. It's really hard to fluke your way through the sheer number of games, especially with them all being best-of-three. Overall, I won the right matches and played to the caliber of a Nationals Semifinalist, and I am extremely proud of my play as a whole and what I was able to achieve.
      Lastly, I couldn't have made it so far without the support of a tremendous amount of people:
      Thank you to my parents for not only taking me to every single tournament, but for their unwavering support and belief that I could make it to the top. Thanks to Aaron Traylor @Unreality for believing in me since the beginning; it was an honor to battle you on such a large stage. I would never have made it if it wasn't for your tremendous help when I began.   Thank you to Aaron Zheng @Cybertron for his incredible dedication to the community through content and commentary and for supporting me from the beginning. It was amazing to be interviewed by you. Thank you so much to Ricardo Pinto @RpIndaHouse for teambuilding help and for working with me on an individual level. Practicing with you has been the largest factor in improving my play. Thank you to Wolfe Glick @Wolfey. You took a longshot when you drafted me, and I'm so glad that it paid off. Thanks for helping me with preparing matchups. I couldn't have made it as far without your expertise and guidance. You've been awesome. Thank you to the rest of the Spirits: Abel, Chris, Christian, David, Eduardo, Emilio, Jip, Joseph, Luka, Luke, Markus, Maxi, Noah, Trey, Wonseok, and Yuree. I've improved exponentially at the game by discussing with you guys. Thank you to Chance Alexander for being my #1 Pokemon friend. I'm really disappointed that I won't get to see you at events, but I wish you the best in future endeavors, and I hope that we can stay in touch. Thank you to Nick Borghi @LightCore for being an amazing and supportive friend. You made Nationals much more exciting. Thanks to Brian Youm @TheOriginalSenior for believing in me and for being a wonderful friend. Thanks to Patrick Donegan @Pd0nZ for supporting me and being a really great guy. Thank you to Joseph Costagliola @Life Orb. You told me before the event that I was one of the best Double Primal players in the country. At the time, I didn't believe it, but I suppose that it's true now. Thanks for believing in me and showing me the power that dedication has. Thank you to Team Rank Up: Adit Selvaraj @LithiumAcid, Ed Glover @Min, Brendan Lewis @mrbdog46, Cameron Swan @Drizzleboy, Eric Hogan @JackOfClubs, Jack Hatch @Logilink, Jackson Hambrick @Hambrick, and Yan Rodriguez @Nucleose for all of the support and opportunities. Thanks to Caitlin Beach @RandomVGC and Kevin Swastek @kswas for helping me prepare matchups. Thanks to the other Michigan people that have supported me along the way: Sam Schweitzer @Sam, Andrew Burley @Andykins, Garrett Yee @GYee, Nick Navarre @Nails, Jonathan McMillan @MrEobo, Alex Collins @nerd of now, and Ben Torres @FallenApostle. Thanks to Jim Olivola for opening up his house and the ride back to my hotel. Thanks to @Pd0nZ for supplying his hotel room to prepare and to everyone else there that offered me Top 4 advice. Thanks to Pat Ball @pball0010, as well, for the title of this report! Thank you to Andy Anderson @TwiddleDee, Evan Anderson @FlashSentry, Stephen Brown @pyromaniac720, Josh Lorcy, @Lorcylovesyou, Brad Warnecke @Darb, Dani Kreigh, and Alex Godlewski @dragonborngamer123 for tons of support.  Thanks to the other Top 4 guys for making Sunday such an enjoyable time. Thanks to the Pokemon Company, its staff, the handlers, and commentators for making this event such a great one. Thanks to Nugget Bridge and its staff for providing a community for all to enjoy. Finally, thanks to you, the reader, for sticking with me until the end! I hope you enjoyed! Now is my story over? Is this the summit, the end? Has everything settled? Am I content with the white noise? No, this is just the beginning. There are still places to go, people to meet, moments to embrace. There are still games to win and games to lose and learn from. There are still oceans to span, mountains to conquer, and walls to break down. Isn't that what Pokemon is about at the end of the day? It can cross language barriers and continents, joining people together from around the world... But no, I will never settle on the path to greatness, there is way too much to experience on that journey. So come with me, my adventure is just unfolding. This story is anything but over.
      See you in San Francisco.
      - Grant Weldon (Velocity)
    • By Talon in Talon's blog 4
      When asked why they attend VGC tournaments, players on the official Pokémon stream will often mention the community. While community is a major motivation for me to come compete in these tournaments, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t attend events with the intent to win. Despite one of my principle motivations being to win events, I haven’t had much luck outside of my home state of Texas. Among other things, Id like to explore what’s come from this difference of expectation and achievement throughout my VGC career.
      On the whole, I’d say I’m a player known more for my online persona than for my skill at the game. I tend not to take myself very seriously online, and as a result I doubt the average VGC player really knows much about Cedric “Talon” Bernier. That comes with the territory of being consistently inconsistent at events and carrying myself online in a way that’s frankly ‘meme-y’. However, unknown to most is a hyper-competitive side that rarely rears its head outside of tournaments. The fun, social Cedric and the intense, victory-driven Cedric never shift from one to the other faster than at a VGC event. Those that have played me at a Texas Premier Challenge know this better than anyone. I tend to joke around right up until Team Preview, at which point there’s a noticeable shift in my attitude and body language. While I doubt this is actually that uncommon, serious is a pretty strange look on me.
      That’s actually pretty strange for me to say, and I’ll explain why shortly, but first I need to revisit early years as a VGC player. Despite my competitiveness and drive to win, I’ve had a fairly unimpressive and extraordinary career. My first event was the Dallas Regional Championship in 2010, which I won as a Junior. Having won a Regional at my first event, US Nationals has always been the prize to me. However, I wasn’t able to earn a strong Nationals finish during my time as a Junior and Senior, leaving me unsatisfied with my time in the younger divisions. After my last season as a Senior, I was fortunate enough to be drafted to the Fallarbor Flames where I was able to hone my skills against some of the best Masters division players in the world. I arrived at Houston 2014 with the best intentions, ready to make my mark on the big-boy division after growing in the NPA… only to go 3-4.
      Now, my main social group in my early VGC years was primarily the #seniors, a group of friends in the division. Many of the people in this group grew up to be successful Masters division players. Aaron Zheng, Aaron Traylor, Gavin Michaels, Toler Webb, Enosh Shachar, to name a few. Now not all of the players in this group grew to be Masters division legends, but that was my perception of what was expected of me. And I’d just gone 3-4 at my first event. To say I was embarrassed was an understatement. Competing was my primary focus at Pokémon events, and I’d just gone negative. Devastated, I decided it was time to call it quits and focus on freshman year of high school.
      Now there’s several things wrong with the way I approached this event and the processed the result. No matter how good you are, everybody has an off day in Pokémon. So to judge your enjoyment of an event off of your final record is horribly detrimental. I think I seriously missed out on a lot of fun and happy memories at VGC tournaments early on in my career because I was too focused on tournament results.
      Next, I had no reason to be embarrassed by that finish. It’s a bad finish, yes, but most players are way too focused on their own success or failure to know how well you did if you aren’t a superstar. Furthermore, I can say the purpose was to focus on high school and sports all I want, but quitting VGC was not a healthy response to a bad event. I look back on that decision and I feel like it showed a fundamental lack of character that I’m not proud of.
      Anyways, I stuck to this decision for the remainder of the 2014 season, avoiding contact with my VGC friends on IRC and Facebook until after Worlds. Oddly enough, a chance Showdown encounter with my friend Kenan Nerad brought me back to competition. I recognized his alt, hit him up, and after catching up we built the next evolution of the legendary team archetype, Dig Boom. It was the first time I’d truly had fun playing Pokémon since 2012 if I’m being honest, and I decided I’d come to Houston Regionals that year to hang out with him, Jonathan Rankin, and of course, Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng. aaron have my child aaron I watch road to ranked everyday you are my inspiration please give me your ssn and your skin
      Now to everybody’s surprise, I ended up winning the Premier Challenge and the Regional itself, despite it being fairly stacked with big names like Aaron, Collin Heier, Omari Travis, and Blake Hopper being present. Though I put in a fair amount of work learning the 2014 format on Showdown and teambuilding, I had still put in far less practice and effort into Houston 2015 than I had for almost any event in my time playing VGC. Despite this, I had achieved my first Masters Regional Championship. With a sizeable chunk of CP, I decided I’d try to invest myself into the remainder of the 2015 season. Though I did well enough at events to get myself into the top 40 of NA and went 3-3 at Worlds, I was always one win or two outside of my expectations. Despite this, I’d consider 2015 the turning point of my VGC career.
      When I say “turning point,” I don’t mean the event that marked my coming dominance as a player, such as Collin Heier’s 2014 Madison Regional Championship. What I mean is that during 2015 I learned many valuable lessons about myself and about the game, some of which didn’t become obvious until later. For one, I feel that my competitive approach was incredibly flawed. I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been for common matchups, instead trusting my ability to play team preview and read my opponent to win games. There’s merit in that, but by choosing not to prepare a game plan against the most common archetypes of the format I was putting me at a competitive disadvantage. Next, at every event during the main 2015 season my team choice was questionable at best. I won’t go into specifics, but the teams I were using were fun and somewhat competitive, but they handicapped me in a format that was already difficult enough. The most important lesson I learned was not from myself playing, but from simply spectating Worlds Day 2. Prior to Worlds 2015, my view on Pokémon was that it was very read based with aspects of luck. However, after watching the Japanese players in Top 8, I realized I was thinking about it all wrong. Turn-by-turn reads and luck can be bypassed when using a strong enough team and with intelligent planning. After speaking with Blake about his experience against these strong trainers in Day 2 Worlds, he described how regardless of whether he won the turn, his opponents seemed to have accounted for it. It was if at one point of the match, they had locked down the win regardless of what moves you were going for. That’s the optimal Pokémon gameplay that I think every player should strive for.
      Though I learned these lessons in 2015, they didn’t immediately go into effect. There wasn’t a very noticeable change in my preparation or teambuilding at Houston 2016, and as such I had a fairly unimpressive 6-2 finish.
      After a short time messing around with the new 2016 format, I was fairly unenthusiastic and decided I’d take a break from playing until US Nationals and focus on my junior year of high school, arguably the most difficult and important for college. However, I kept a close eye on metagame progression and top finishing teams, not wanting to get too behind. During this break I was able to internally digest the lessons I’d noted from 2015 and think about how I could apply them in the future.
      After the end of AP Exams, preparation for Nationals began. I flirted with the most successful teams from US Regionals and European Nationals, and at first I thought Double Primals would be what I ended up using. However, I took a look back at my stint with the famous “Southern Special” in 2015 that focused heavily on using defensive options to choke out opponents, and decided this wasn’t the wisest of team choices. Though some players like Wolfe Glick can pull off this defensive method of play, a fundamental mechanic of the game is against you when you’re playing reactively. Using a reactive team means that you’re extending games by switching around to improve your positioning while your opponent attacks. While this allows you to pin your opponent in awkward positions, you also give them more turns to fire off attacks that could get critical hits and activate secondary effects such as freeze. That’s not to say that Double Primals is not a good team archetype, but I simply felt it was in my best interest to use something more proactive. And thus, I went to the most proactive restricted combination in 2016, Xerneas Groudon.

      Kangaskhan @ Kangaskhanite 
      Ability: Inner Focus 
      EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe 
      Jolly Nature 
      - Fake Out 
      - Power-Up Punch 
      - Double-Edge 
      - Sucker Punch 
      Alright, so I guess this is the point where I actually start talking about Pokémon instead of whatever the wall of text above was. After pretty much improvising matchups against common teams in the past, I decided this year I would have loose game plans against the major archetypes. Using Kangaskhan as my sole-Mega option was really a comfort pick, and one I don’t regret. In planning and practice, I found that Salamence would often sit on the bench. That’s not to disrespect or say Salamence is bad by any means, as I believe it to be one of the best Pokemon in the format. Anyways, the only interesting thing about this set is Double-Edge over Frustration, as after a Power-Up Punch Frustration is conventionally better for longevity. However, the pre-boosted base damage of Double-Edge is just so valuable, and I also value getting OHKO’s on things like Salamence and bulky Groudon at +1, which came up several times during the tournament.

      Groudon-Primal @ Red Orb 
      Ability: Desolate Land 
      252 HP / 156 Atk / 44 SpD / 52 Spe
      Brave Nature 
      - Precipice Blades 
      - Fire Punch 
      - Eruption 
      - Protect
      Along with many other players in Day 2 at Nationals, I decided to use a Brave, bulkier Groudon in order to take hits and function in Trick Room. However, while most opted for Swords Dance to sweep teams in Gravity, I decided Eruption would prove to be valuable with the Tailwind support another member of the team could provide. This EV spread is pretty odd, and extremely tailored to this team specifically so I wouldn't recommend it. The bulk let's it survive Timid 252 SpA Earth Power 93.7% of the time. Brave 52 speed is a fairly odd speed stat, but it let's me outspeed Choice Scarf Smeargle in Tailwind and -1 252 Jolly/Timid Groudon/Kyogre. However, I'm slower than Primals with no speed investment, which let's me utilize Trick Room well. This speed actually ended up being fairly odd in Day 2, as many Groudon were Brave 31/0 IV, so I ended up being the faster Groudon in most situations and still maintaining tons of bulk!

      Xerneas @ Power Herb 
      Ability: Fairy Aura 
      Bold Nature 
      - Moonblast 
      - Dazzling Gleam 
      - Geomancy 
      - Protect 
      My Xerneas is fairly standard, focusing on sweeping with Geomancy. However, while many players decided to use Timid or Modest natures, the lack of Intimidate on my team made me uncomfortable running any nature other than Bold. I’ll once again be keeping the exact details of my EVs secret for similar reasons, but the defensive and special attack investment are very general. Not that I'm good enough for players to specifically speed creep me, but it would be detrimental enough to be the slower Bold Xerneas at one game at Worlds that I'm going to withhold the specifics. Sorry to be that guy :^{

      Smeargle @ Focus Sash 
      Ability: Moody 
      EVs: 4 HP / 252 Def / 252 Spe 
      Timid Nature 
      - Dark Void 
      - Crafty Shield 
      - Wide Guard 
      - Spiky Shield 
      Though many people’s complaint with 2016 is Xerneas, I think this little rascal is the real thing keeping this year from being viewed positively. Every turn Smeargle stays on the field, you risk it getting a game defining Moody boost. I used the standard Smeargle Crafty Shield to prevent Thunder Wave and Dark Void from taking over battles, and Wide Guard to lock down opposing Groudon and most Kyogre on Double Primal teams. I used Spiky Shield over King’s Shield because despite how strong of an option that King’s Shield can be against Kangaskhan, it really opens me up to opposing Smeargle Dark Voids. Lastly, Dark Void is the high risk/high reward move that really let’s Kangaskhan and Xerneas set up and bust games right open. Looking back on the tournament, perhaps an 84 speed Smeargle to beat Groudon or Kyogre in Trick Room might have been a better call for the Day 2 metagame, but Timid definitely came in useful during Day 1.

      Cresselia @ Sitrus Berry 
      Ability: Levitate 
      Bold Nature 
      244 HP / 196 Def / 68 Spe
      - Icy Wind 
      - Trick Room 
      - Skill Swap 
      - Psychic 
      Though I added Cresselia to my team last, it ended up being the glue that held it together in many games. Icy Wind support and Skill Swap made my Groudon a terror for opposing Groudon to deal with. Trick Room allowed me to control speed in yet another way if they gained the speed advantage through some other means, like Tailwind. I rounded out the set with Psychic for consistent damage. The bulk was dumped into HP and defense, with the remaining dumped into speed to outspeed neutral natured Groudon/Kyogre, which actually won me a surprising amount of games.

      Crobat @ Lum Berry 
      Ability: Inner Focus 
      EVs: 176 HP / 108 Def / 4 SpD / 220 Spe 
      Timid Nature 
      - Tailwind 
      - Super Fang 
      - Haze 
      - Taunt 
      Though it’s very uncommon on Xerneas Groudon teams, Crobat more than proved its worth during the tournament. The tools in Crobat’s kit are super disruptive and allow for me to execute my preferred strategy. As previously mentioned, Eruption Groudon in Tailwind was a very frightening prospect to deal with, and combined with Super Fang it was a very threatening game 2 or 3 mix-up. Super Fang was also a useful kill primer for Kangaskhan’s Double Edge. Haze was obviously intended to deal with Xerneas after the Geomancy, but my favorite use of it was eliminating nasty Smeargle Moody boosts and Intimidates. One specific instance of this was Conan Thompson’s Bold Smeargle could survive my -1 Kang Double Edge and was at +2 Evasion, so rather than risk the game on connecting a Taunt, I used Haze and took a risk-free KO. Taunt was useful for Smeargle and Trick Room setters such as Bronzong. The speed EVs let me outspeed Weavile, while the defense allows me to survive Kangaskhan Double-Edge.
      Now that I’ve talked about the team, I feel that I can talk about my tournament experience as a whole.
      Throughout the weekend, I played 15 sets of Pokémon, 12 of which were against XernDon teams (6/8 Day 1, scooping last round, 6/7 Day 2). Needless to say that's a lot of Pokemon to play in a weekend, but I was surprisingly unaffected by exhaustion. I think that’s a combination of steady intake of water and eating assorted nuts that I packed, and also because I had a lax attitude towards my result. At this point I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my two best finishes in Masters have come from events that I went in with low expectations. Playing every battle stressed out makes you play a lot more conservatively and not trust your gut.
      My one major gripe was the break in between Day 2 Swiss and Top Cut. I understand that it makes for a better spectator event to stream every round of the Top 12, but I felt it was very, very detrimental to the players in Top 4 who had a bye. I believe Swiss ended at around 2 PM, and my Top 8 match was at around 7:30 PM. That’s a lot of time to get cold, and I feel like it showed in my early plays game 1. Yeah, I get it, boohoo I didn’t have to play a match in Top 12 and now I’m whining about it, but I think it’s a valid complaint that I had to wait 5 hours to cool down before playing the match with the most money on the line I’ve had in my career. That’s not to say I would have won the set if we had played shortly after Swiss, as Aaron also had an hour or two to cool off after beating Gary in the Top 12.
      There’s actually a lot of reasons I lost that set, and the next one I’ll focus on is a break in my mentality. Throughout the weekend I was trying to take each set as just that: nothing more than 2-3 games of Pokemon. However, as soon as I got to Top 8 and the prospect of being the National Champion came to my mind, I was suddenly playing not to lose, rather than making plays that would win. I think this is most visible in my game 1 lead of Kangaskhan-Crobat against Aaron’s Bronzong-Smeargle. Despite the lead being in my favor, I switched Kangaskhan rather than putting Aaron on the defensive with a Power-Up Punch on his Bronzong slot. I ended up refocusing during game 2 and started making some more confident plays, which I’m proud I was able to do, but that lapse in mentality is something I’m trying to patch up before Worlds.
      However, it’s game 3 of that set that’s going to haunt me for a long time. A variety of critical Smeargle related things happened, which I can’t really complain about. I know I’m not the only person who’s had an important game lost or won based off of Smeargle. Throughout the tournament, I did a very good job of keeping opposing Smeargle from controlling games with my Kangaskhan, Crafty Shield, and Crobat, but this is the one match all tournament that I let it do its thing. I think the lesson to be learned from this match in particular is the necessity of bringing a Smeargle down as quickly as you can without sacrificing too many resources. Turn 1 I had a free Dazzling Gleam onto a Salamence and Smeargle, and even though it wouldn’t have knocked out either, it was a play that respected Smeargle and would have taken a lot of potential luck out of the course of that match.
      That’s something I think a lot of players refuse to acknowledge about 2016. I think this format emphasizes two fundamental skills of the game that many players have a lot to work on, the first being luck management. Now, in the past I feel like I’ve been fairly mediocre when it came to luck management. However, in evaluating this format I quickly came to see how prominent a role luck plays in this format more than any other. With the Primal’s shaky accuracy signature moves and Smeargle introducing Moody, Dark Void accuracy, sleep turns, and life-or-death 50/50s, I decided I’d sacrifice the integrity of the “Big 6” core in favor of something to fortify myself as much as possible against bad luck. Though I was one of the few XernDon users to go about this by using Crobat, many others that did well at Nationals had similar ideas. You’ll actually notice that the many players with this core in Day 2 opted for a core of Crafty Shield Smeargle, Salamence, and Bronzong, and Groudon as a way to mitigate luck factors. They immediately threatened Tailwind and their own Smeargle to end the possibilities of speed ties, and they also could bring in their own Bronzong and set-up an accurate Precipice Blades sweep in Gravity. Most players doing this were clearly able to control opposing Smeargle, as there was a fair amount of this strategy in the Top 12.
      The next skill I feel that many have yet to entirely master is positioning. Momentum can shift in this format more than any other I’ve seen. Giving your opponent a free turn is devastating enough to end a game instantly. Thus, it’s more important than ever before to make sure that every turn you’re maintaining safe board position and preventing your opponent from getting their chess pieces in the position they want. Despite how quickly players cast aside Crobat early format as one-dimensional, I’d argue it to be one of the best positioning Pokemon in the format. Leaving it alone lets it chip away your team with Super Fang, while knocking it out results in a free switch to Groudon, Kangaskhan, or Xerneas to start blowing holes through your team in Tailwind. The goal of VGC is to knock out 4 of your opposing Pokémon before they do the same to you, but it’s very important to understand the implication of each individual KO.
      Now, I’ve talked a lot about mentality and what I’ve learned from Pokémon events in the past, but I guess it’s time to go over what I’ve learned from this event. Overall, I feel like I’ve finally found a good medium in between going complete try-hard and having fun socially at events. Talking to lots of old and new friends at events keeps me refreshed and loose, which leads to success within the game.
      More surprising is despite how much I’ve coveted a strong Nationals finish since the start of my VGC career, I’m not satisfied. It seems silly to say that Top 8 in Masters isn’t enough seeing as I haven’t even Top Cut since 2012, but what can I say, I’m a competitor. Even though I came into this event with low expectations, by Top 8 I was more confident than I’d ever been that I could take a tournament. To lose that early in cut was upsetting, but I think it’s the best thing that could have happened to me coming in to Worlds. I’m driven to get back on the main stage and this time come out on top. It’s going to be tough getting through the minefield that is Day 1, but I think at Nationals I finally proved that I’m capable enough.
      And more importantly, I’m hungry.  See you in San Francisco.
      You thought I wouldn’t give shout outs? Please.
      Biosci and New York Squad- I’m incredibly thankful that William let me stay in his room on my first night in Colombus, and thanks to the rest of the New York player for being a joy to be around.
      Snake- I had a ton of fun just destroying everybody in William’s room with you in Smash 4. Wouldn’t have done it with any other born and raised Texan #teamtexas
      Jake’s Room- Thanks to Andy, Justin, Jake, and Evan for letting us randomly come to your room at night and hang out, it was super fun. Thanks for supplying soda pop and Smash Bros.
      Michael Holmbad- I didn’t know you before this event, but I’m really glad we got to hang out so much at Nationals. You were really encouraging throughout the tournament and have an awesome attitude towards the game. Wishing the best to you in the future.
      Absentee Texans- Gone in body, but not in spirit. To Logan and Benji, I loved seeing you guys the weekend before Nationals and had loads of fun. To David and Austin, even though I didn’t get to see you guys much this year, I’m looking forward to Houston when we reunite <3. And Oliver, you really helped me theory a ton this year and I’m looking forward to seeing you perform at Worlds. You’ll kill it!
      The Boiler (Hotel) Room- David, Collin, and Blake, you guys really made this Nationals one to remember. Oh and I guess Caleb got me some emergency high-quality bred Pokémon the night before. Collin you’re always a joy to be around, and I really got to know you better that weekend David. And Blake, we’ve been friends for a long time but more than that I’ve learned a lot from you. Whether it be from theorying, talking at events, or the countless losses you’ve handed to me, you’re probably one of the biggest reasons for my growth as a player. Hoping that you finally crack Top Cut at Worlds.
    • By R Inanimate in R Inanimate's blog - Tactical Moon Tour 7
      This is R Inanimate. It's been a while since I've written something actually VGC 2016 related. Granted, I haven't really gone to any larger events since my Oregon Regionals victory back in February. While I fell just a bit short of making big waves and stealing away a Day 2 Worlds Invite for Canada, I do feel like I'm happy enough with my team's performance to write about it as I made Day 2 at Nationals, but went 3-3 and 18th place, where a Top 16 in hindsight would have clinched the Day 2 Worlds for me. Anyways, let's get started.
      It was about the time around the Vancouver Midseason Showdown, when I secured my Day 1 Worlds Invite, that I also started to feel like the team I was using in VGC 2016 was finally starting to show some wear to it. Double Primals was about at its peak in popularity, and our good ol' friend Thundurus had finally made a comeback into the 2016 scene making the particular set up of my team a lot less stable to win games. Icy Wind and bulkier Pokemon being used in general made piloting Mega Salamence as the solo mega on my team became steadily less feasible, while the prospects of using Kangaskhan had grown.

      Around this time, I was trying out some interesting ideas involving Beat Up Weavile and CB Terrakion. While Pokemon had been gaining in bulk, +3 and +4 CB Terrakion had some really appealing calculations to it. It felt like it had a pretty solid matchup against Dual Primal teams, while having a completely abysmal matchup against Smeargle and Xerneas. I was considering it as a call for Nationals as Dual Primals were continuing to trend upward. But then suddenly, a complete 180° happened as the Big Six found a second wind shortly after UK Nationals and took some of the late May US Regionals by storm. Bulky Xern was the new play as just about everyone was left wondering why it took so long for this to catch on in the first place. The short bit of doubt in Big Six, and thoughts that it was going away anytime soon, were quickly doused and along with it were the motivations to further pursue my Weavile Terrakion team. I had to look into a new idea.
      My next team idea sort of started off as a bit of a joke team that I used on the final week of NPA. Where I had Groudon Xerneas, and 4 Fake Out users. Two of which had Fling with King's Rock and Razor Fang, giving me a whole revolver's worth of flinch ammo.

      While I say it's a "Joke" team, it's still one that runs well simply by riding on the strengths of Xerneas and the surprises of Smeargle. It does have a few matchups that would undoubtedly be considered auto-losses, but there were a lot of situations in practice where the opponents simply didn't know what to do against excessive Fake Out + Xerneas. As such, I decided that it was worth trying to refine the team.
      The Team:

      The major change that moved my team from "joke" status to a terrifying machine was simply laying off on the Fling gimmick, and replacing Weavile with Hitmontop. This idea came from a different NPA team I had where I threw together a team around a Bold Xerneas, and that team had a Hitmontop on it. While I was skeptical about using Hitmontop at first, the Intimidate support it provided really hit the spot for increasing my comfort in aggressively throwing the deer at people. Once I had my team of 6 Pokemon finalized, I could then work in theorying against various matchups, and figuring out what to fill out my spare supporting moveslots with. In the end, after both practicing a bit on PS, and running my team in a couple live events, I had what will be soon be reported. The nickname theme today is FE:F song titles, with the exception of one.

      Xerneas @ Power Herb ***JIOMANCY
      Ability: Fairy Aura
      EVs: 236 HP / 148 Def / 12 SpA / 108 SpD / 4 Spe
      Modest Nature
      - Dazzling Gleam
      - Moonblast
      - Geomancy
      - Protect
      Let's start off with the centerpiece of the team. A shoutout to NEETScor for the Xerneas. Be sure to give our good friend Jiomancy @Power_Herb a follow on twitter. Let's be honest here, Xerneas has only one moveset and everyone knows what it does, so it's more interesting to just talk about the EV spread I used here.
      After around the time of UK Nats, where Ethan Hall demonstrated the strengths of a Bulky Xerneas on stream, it felt like the bulky Xern movement spread like a wildfire. This one follows that trend. The EVs allow it to survive two Adamant Precipice Blades from Groudon, or two -1 Atk Jolly Double-Edges from Kangaskhan. 12 SpA ensures a OHKO on 4HP Xerneas with Moonblast when I have a +2 boost and they don't. With the remaining EVs, I decided to add it into SpDef instead of trying to fool around playing the speed creep game with other Xerneas. My EV spread almost always lets my Xerneas survive two Moonblasts from 252 SpA Xerneas when we are at parity.
      Due to the nature of the team, I pretty much bring Xerneas to every battle. Even if it doesn't look favourable for it. So it's probably a bad idea to bluff Xern counters against me. Always finish your check.

      Kangaskhan @ Kangaskhanite ***Glory/Ruin
      Ability: Inner Focus
      EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
      Jolly Nature
      - Fake Out
      - Double-Edge
      - Sucker Punch
      - Power-Up Punch
      Basic Mega Kangaskhan. While I do have a lot of Fake Out users on the team, Power-Up Punch was often only taken advantage of when I get Smeargle to put stuff to sleep. Inner Focus was to allow for Kangaskhan to aid against faster Fake Out Pokemon, Weavile in particular. Aside from that, it's pretty basic stuff.

      Groudon @ Red Orb ***End of All
      Ability: Drought
      EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
      IVS: 31/31/27/31/31/31
      Jolly Nature
      - Precipice Blades
      - Fire Punch
      - Eruption
      - Protect
      Mixed Jolly Groudon. I've been using Jolly Groudon all season long. Groudons has gone through all sorts of phases and stuff like Timid Groudon is once again the "in phase". However I really can't see myself using anything except Jolly. The flavour move today is Eruption. There are a few fringe cases where I liked having Eruption on the team, but they didn't come up at all during Nationals. One good example would be handling Amoonguss, and for simply having a strong spread move that isn't liable to miss. Now that we've gotten the Restricteds and Megas out of the way, let's talk about some of the more interesting parts of the team.

      Raichu @ Focus Sash ***Thorn in You
      Ability: Lightning Rod
      EVs: 252 Atk / 4 HP / 252 Spe
      IVS: 31/31/31/31/20/31
      Jolly Nature
      - Fake Out
      - Encore
      - Volt Tackle
      - Feint
      Fake Out Support ver. Lightning Rod. Raichu acts as a strong tool against teams that rely on Thunder Wave in order to deal with Xerneas. It also has a few nice tricks up its sleeve with Feint and Encore, along with a vast pool of other supportive options that aren't used on this set.
      Originally, my Raichu had Fling with Razor Fang instead of Encore with Focus Sash. But I changed it because Encore gave me a much better opening against lead Kangaskhan, as I could forced them to trade Fake Outs to stop Xern's Geomancy, then lock them into Fake Out after with Encore to get my Xerneas set up. Feint is necessary for dealing with certain matchups.
      While it may seem a bit strange that my Raichu has Volt Tackle in addition to a Focus Sash, I felt that it worked well for the context of this team. There were a number of situations where I needed Raichu to be able to survive a hit, so it can continue supporting with Encore or Feint, or to last around one more turn to keep myself from being bullied by Thundurus Thunder Waves. Sometimes people don't expect the Volt Tackle after they see the Sash, which led to a few situations where I got Raichu to do some surprise damage, then take itself off the field so that I could bring in another Fake Out Pokemon to bring things back into my favour.
      Breeding for Volt Tackle Raichu is annoying because I have to hold a Light Ball, so that's why my SpDef IV is ~20.

      Hitmontop @ Eject Button ***Woleb Tsap
      Ability: Intimidate
      EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 SpD
      IVS: Speed < IV 09
      Brave Nature
      - Fake Out
      - Close Combat
      - Feint
      - Wide Guard
      Fake Out Support ver. Intimidate. If there is a rogue Pokemon choice on this team, it would be Hitmontop. During every game I had at Nationals, I balanced my Hitmontop plush upside-down leaning against my 3DS case to keep it standing. Underestimate it at your peril.
      My choice to use Hitmontop came from me wanting to having Intimidate on this team, but did not want to have Salamence. It led me to just throwing Hitmontop onto my team and trying it out, but it ended up working way better than I thought it would. The set itself isn't super ground-breaking as instances of Eject Button + Intimidate/Fake Out etc have been seen on teams in previous years, but the application of it to 2016 has remained largely unexplored.
      Fake Out is a vital move on the set, while Close Combat provides it with at least some form of damaging potential. The remaining two moves are supportive filler moves, of which I chose to have Wide Guard and Feint. Moves like Quick Guard, Helping Hand, Role Play fill up the alternatives. While Wide Guard isn't exactly a move that can catch opponents off guard, it was good in situations where I had Hitmontop and Groudon out, and Wide Guard forces my opponent to take out Hitmontop before being able to take on my Groudon with Precipice Blades. A similar effect happened in cases where Kyogre did not run Scald. Feint was used to let Hitmontop finish off targets that barely survived, which could let its ally focus on the other opponent.
      The trick to using Hitmontop for the team is that Hitmontop is most effective when it is on the team of 4, but not active. It provides a lot of board positioning when it can come in, lower attack and harass the opponent with Fake Outs. Eject Button allows it to escape out of the field easier, and also allows me to spread out damage away to Hitmontop, who I'm a lot more willing to let take some hard hits if it means I can keep Xerneas or Kangaskhan in good health. With Intimidate support, I can be a lot more aggressive with setting up Xerneas, as I know that even if they slam into it with a Kangaskhan Double-Edge, I'll still be in the green.

      Smeargle @ Choice Scarf ***Justice RIP
      Ability: Moody
      EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 Spe
      Jolly Nature
      - Dark Void
      - Crafty Shield
      - Snatch
      - Final Gambit
      "Justice is an illusion. When top cuts and invites are at stake, there's no justice to be found anywhere! Don't you see that by now?!"
      Scarf Smeargle. Outside of Dark Void, it's moveset may not be what you were expecting it to have. I tried to set up its remaining movespots with moves to help me out in certain fringe cases, and set up some "flowcharts" to give myself the potential to steal games against difficult matchups for the team. Since its moveset was effectively finalized after the rest of my team, it makes sense to talk about Smeargle last.
      Let's address the pressing matter first, why Choice Scarf Smeargle? In the past I've said that I don't like Choice Scarf on Smeargle because it was too heavily reliant on Dark Void accuracy and sleep count rolls to be effective. And honestly, I still do. During the tournament, I double missed with Dark Void THREE times. I lost every game that that happened. Even so, things have changed in 2016 that makes me feel like it is worth putting on the team despite its unreliability.
      Let's look back at the previous years. In 2014, it was hard to use Choice Scarf Smeargle because Talonflame and Lum Berries ran rampant all season long. Executing a sleep lock down strategy was a bit hard when the tools to counter the strategy were commonplace on nearly every team. In 2015, while Lum Berries were less common, Thundurus was often around to stop Smeargle. There were ways to support Smeargle to let it Dark Void stuff, but ultimately it also left the player with an extremely passive opening. There were also a lot of ways to hinder the attacking ally and simply outlast through the sleep, at least until stuff like Anger Point Tauros was thrown into the mix.
      2016 provides a perfect storm of Pokemon at the mercy of being put to sleep, along with heavy-hitting offense and powerful setups to take full advantage of the opponent's lost turns. Namely, Xerneas who can become a annihilating force of nature at the press of a button, and Mega Kangaskhan who is no longer being restrained by massive amounts of Intimidates, Ghost-types, Will-o-Wisps, or Rocky Helmets. Another point in Smeargle's favour is simply the fact that Smeargle is used often in the metagame. When people see Smeargle on team preview, they tend to have a sort of set play that they have and lead against it. My team tries to set up to cover a lot of the opponent's set leads. Heavy Fake Out support, in addition to Raichu, can put Thundurus in a bad spot when trying to shut down my Xerneas, and if the opponent's Smeargle answer is just to have some strong fast offense, Scarf Smeargle can easily put them in their place when combined with some Fake Out cover fire.
      While Scarf Smeargle is considered a surprise gimmick mon, I tend to not resort to it immediately in a bo3 set. I often feel like I simply have better odds plays without using it, so I don't. Scarf Smeargle is strong when I'm up a game and can afford risking Dark Void accuracy in a game to seal the deal. Alternatively, Scarf Smeargle is also an answer to a lot of things when I'm backed into a bit of a corner. Issues with Scarf Smeargle costed me a lot in Day 2, but on the other hand, I likely wouldn't have won the games to make Day 2 if my Smeargle wasn't Scarfed.
      Big Six. Big Six teams vary in how focused they are on using Xerneas or on using Groudon. This team is very much on the protect-the-deer side of the spectrum. The team aggressively supports setting up the Xerneas seige engine, and keep the opponent occupied as it Xern tramples over their team. I apply constant Fake Out pressure, while also holding an appreciably variable tool kit of additional support like Lightning Rod, Intimidate, Feint, Wide Guard, and Dark Void. If the opponent can't keep up with my actions, they can very quickly get pinned down as Xerneas gets set up unpunished.
      Team Features:

      The Revolving Door
      The titular Revolving Door of Fake Out. While it turns out that only my Restricted Pokemon have Protect, the constant cover fire I can apply with Fake Out pressure makes up for this, and lets me shuffle my team around without losing too much control over the battle. Sometimes I can force my opponents to try to go for a trade of Fake Outs, but instead switch out my Fake Out user for another Fake Out user, allowing me to maintain control over situations while the opponent expends their Fake Out opportunity. Trick Room and Tailwind can be stalled past as well due to me being able to constantly harass my opponent's offensive threats with Fake Out. The prospect of Feint, Encore or even side PuPs can also punish people for uses of Protect to try to dodge Fake Outs. Basically, the revolving door gives me a ton of cover to set up Xerneas, followed by a ton of control to force opponents to do the moves I want the to after Xerneas has been set up.

      Xerneas + Hitmontop
      This isn't a lead combination itself, but rather the presence of both Hitmontop and Xerneas on a team. Intimidate pretty much lets Xerneas to survive 2 physical attacks from even the hardest hitters in the format, and Fake Out helps make it so I don't have to take a double-targetting on a turn where I go to set up Geomancy in blatant fashion. Hitmontop's Eject Button also can lead to situations where it can quickly jump in, jump out, then jump back in and lead into a situation where both my opponent's Pokemon are at -2 Atk, and my Xerneas is at +2 SpDef making it almost impossible for my opponent to get much damage progess done against my Xerneas.

      KhanArtist, original flavouring. This is often something I'd consider bringing in Games 2 or 3 after I get a bit more information about the opponent's team. With a few exceptions of course, as some teams just look extremely Smeargle weak, while other teams force me to lead it. The idea is simply to catch them with the Dark Void, and either set up Kangaskhan with PuP, or try to get Xern in to set up the sweep. The reason I'd avoid using this if I can, is because Dark Void accuracy is one of the last things I want to rely on to win games.

      When I'm running a team with heavy Fake Out emphasis and a reliance on Xerneas to pull off sweeps, Crobat immediately stands out as Enemy #1 for this team. It does not care at all about my Fake Outs, it sets up Tailwinds and just lets its ally sweep me. Any attempt to set up Xerneas will quickly be stopped by a Haze.
      My team's answer to dealing with Crobat lies in Smeargle. Scarf Smeargle may be able to surprise opponents if they aren't cautious, letting me gain momentum in a battle even if Crobat has Lum and sets up a Tailwind. After they know it is Scarf Smeargle, the idea here is that I force my opponent into playing certain actions, and punish them heavily for it. They will often be forced to lead Crobat into Smeargle otherwise they'll be at the mercy of Scarf Dark Void. From there, I can do things like Fake Out + Final Gambit to dunk Crobat before it moves, or use Snatch to steal Tailwinds and completely turn the tables on my opponent as their ally will need to protect themselves while Crobat can set up. These, however, are mostly just gimmicky one-shot tricks. With these tricks I can hopefully manage to steal a set against an opposing Crobat, but I'd likely end up struggling in a rematch where my tricks are known.

      Talonflame is sort of like Crobat-lite as far as being a threat is concerned. While Talonflame is more vulnerable to Fake Outs, it also is more likely to run Quick Guard. Also, its Brave Birds can really do a number to my team if I leave it unchecked, especially since it will still usually OHKO Hitmontop even at -1 Atk, and is able to outspeed and snipe my Smeargle. I didn't really think too much of it initially, but Talonflame did end up being a pretty dangerous thing to my team when looking back at my games in US Nationals.

      More so because it is a very obnoxious distraction when there's a Eruption Groudon parked beside it. Also, because it tends to be a pretty uncommon matchup, so it's hard to get some good practice against it. I felt like if I even ran into one, I'd be a bit at the mercy of some sleep rolls.

      Other Smeargle
      Smeargle is annoying.

      Xerneas Mirror
      Mirrors are annoying.
      Tournament Summary:
      BC Invitationals:
      Went 1-2. In a 4 man double-elimination bracket. fivepointstars had the answer to my team with Crobat, which I fully knew he would have. I wanted some live tourney testing against a Crobat team, and I was able to steal a game, but my team pretty much just ran out of ideas and fell apart G3. I then lost against rapha in a rematch where he made some solid reads to get past my Fake Out pressures.
      June IC:
      Team changes:
      Raichu: Razor Fang and Fling -> Focus Sash and Encore
      Smeargle: Follow me to Snatch
      Hitmontop: Adamant -> Brave
      Went 32-9, 1836. I pretty much did a marathon run of 35 games or so, and that was the result. The IC's results ended up with a bit of inflation as a lot of the competitive Japanese players were absent from the field, while there was a large influx of people who signed up to play but were pretty much just in it for the shiny Mewtwo. Probably about 10 of my games involved non-competitive teams, but the rest was at least decent practice against. It gave me a bit more of a feel on how I needed to play against Smeargle teams, and affirmed to myself the fact that if they don't know of Choice Scarf on Smeargle, teams with Crobat may let their guard down and let me tag Crobat's partner with a quick Dark Void. The IC reminds me that learning when to bring Groudon to battles, instead of tripling up on Fake Outs, is key for me to go the extra mile. Sash Volt Tackle Encore Raichu turned out pretty solid on the team.
      US Nationals:
      Nationals had a lot of battles and it was a long day. I feel like these days people are busy with playing GO or GO, or perhaps GO. So I won't keep you here for long and just write a quick results summary:
      Day 1:
      R1: vs Noah Pappas 2-0

      R2: vs Jake Magier(Jackofspadesman) 2-1

      R3: vs Joseph Milanere 1-2

      R4: vs William Vega 2-1

      R5: vs Martin Gajdosz 2-1

      R6: vs Jake Muller (MajorBowman) 0-2

      R7: vs Ashton Cox (linkyoshimario) 2-1

      R8: vs Alec Rubin (Namuko Pro) 2-1

      R9: vs Dane Zieman (agentorangejulius) 2-0
      *I wasn't writing notes very much so I forgot to write down the last two mons from Dane, I think it was Kang and Smeargle though.
      Day 1 started off with some interesting trends. I faced what was one of my least desired matchups in Groudon Jumpluff, and somehow 4/5 of my first opponents ran Groudon Yveltal. After a rough matchup, and a double Dark Void miss against MajorBowman, I got dropped to 4-2 and put into a tense set of matches right to the end. Choice Scarf Smeargle came in clutch against Ashton and Alec. My match with Alec got put onto a side stream and was one of the more ridiculous sets that I had that weekend, where I pulled of 3 different opening donk strats against his Crobat.
      Day 2:
      R1: vs Kamaal Harris (Kamaal) 2-1

      R2: vs Jake Skurchak (Pokebeys) 1-2

      R3: vs Gary Qian (ZygardeVGC) 1-2

      R4: vs Jeremy Gross 2-0

      R5: vs Grant Weldon (Velocity) 1-2

      R6: vs Joseph Pokorney 2-1

      3-3, 18th Place. I opening the day with a win against Kamaal, but then quickly fell down to a 1-2 record after a Double Dark Void miss instantly costed me Game 3 against Pokebeys, followed my running into a really tough team matchup against ZygardeVGC. My run for Top Cut ended in round 5 against the eventual Semifinalist Velocity in a match that was once again placed on the backup stream. After that loss I wasn't hopeful for a Top 16 due to my 1-2 start, but it turned out that a lot of my opponents were running strong, so there was a brief glimmer of hope before that got taken away and I ended up as 18th place.
      Overall, while the team is still a Groudon Xerneas team at its core, it was a really fun team for me to run. The revolving door provided me the right amount of aggressive support and flexibility to play the game and control the board the way I liked to. I got to use a rogue Pokemon, and a completely whacked out Scarf Smeargle moveset as well. One of the highlights of my weekend, after the competition, was to show people my Scarf Smeargle moveset. I always got great reactions from it.
      Now, we look ahead to Worlds. Will we see this team again? Will Espeon return to the stage? We'll see in due time. For now though, I'll probably need to figure out what I want to use for the Sinnoh Classic. Thanks for reading. Be sure not to let the revolving door hit you on the way out.
    • By TheSalmon in VGC Yearbook: UNSW Pokemon Society 9
      This is a team report written by Corey Munro (TheCorey0), who placed 13th at the recent Australian National Championships. This is a great report and really captures the mindset of a player who wants to pick apart the meta game in a particular region.
      The Australian National Video Game championships were held last weekend in Melbourne. Jimmy, David, Eric and I attended as part of the Team UNSW contingent. The four of us were there to confirm our worlds invite, as well as hopefully top cut. In particular I wished to improve my consistency, compared to last year, when I went from 6-0, and only needed a single win to top cut, to 6-3. I had also managed to bubble Sydney’s MSS and regional this year, so I was itching for a top cut finish. I’m too lazy to write a whole war story filled to the brim with pictures, and specific reports of each round and matchups.
      Team Analysis:
      Throughout the year, I’d made sure I was continuously knowledgeable on the current meta game. This meant watching a lot of videos, watching replays, reading reports, and analysing showdown stats. Going into each major event so far into the season I used this knowledge to attempt to predict the popular teams. Each time I was disappointed. When the world was using Ray-Ogre, Australia used Groudon-Xerneas. When the world used Dual Primal, Australia used Groudon-Xerneas. When the world used Yveltal, Australia used Groudon-Xerneas. For nationals, I finally took the hint, and realised that Australians aren’t the most creative team-builders and would continue using the same old teams. I predicted ~75% Groudon-Xerneas, 20% dual primal, and 5% others, and was ultimately right. For most of the year my comfort pick was Groudon-Dialga. However, Dialga, generally speaking, has quite a bad matchup against Groudon-Xerneas, and decided to counter team the Groudon-Xerneas archetype as best as possible.
      I decided on Ray-Ogre, an archetype that was quite popular earlier in the season, only to drop off not much later with the rise in popularity of Dialga. Ray-Ogre puts an immense amount of pressure on opposing Groudon, the defensive lynchpin of the Groudon-Xerneas archetype. Kyogre arguably exerts the most immediate offensive pressure in the format, as full power Water Spout deals significant damage to everything in the format. Even resists like Ferrothorn are 2HKO. This meant that if I could set the playing field up with speed control or redirection, a free switch into my Kyogre often meant they were forced to sack 1-2 mons.

      Kyogre @ Blue Orb 
      Ability: Drizzle 
      Level: 50 
      EVs: 148 HP / 164 SpA / 172 Spe 
      Timid Nature 
      IVs: 0 Atk 
      - Ice Beam 
      - Water Spout 
      - Protect 
      - Scald 
      Kind of standard Kyogre. For the recent International challenge I initially ran a Thunder + Origin Pulse set to better handle the mirror (as I didn’t have Zapdos on the team at the time). However I literally missed more Groudon with Origin Pulse than hit so I realised I would rather give up the favourable mirror by using the reliable Water Spout and Scald. Water Spout in particular synergies with fast Kyogre. The spread is kind of basic. Timid nature with 172 EVs speed creeps max speed Modest Kyogre. 148 HP EVs lets me survive a Jolly Kangaskhan Double edge 100% of the time, as well as Life Orb Rayquaza Dragon Ascent.  At one point I EV’d for Life Orb Mega Rayquaza Dragon Ascent, but didn’t like the little Special Attack investment I was left with, and that Mega Rayquaza itself wasn’t the most common (though there had been a surge with Xerneas-Ray teams) and that if I needed it, I could just use Mawile for Intimidate support. The leftover EVs went into Special Attack.
      -          252 Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Double-Edge vs. 148 HP / 0 Def Primal Kyogre: 163-193 (84 - 99.4%) -- guaranteed 2HKO

      Rayquaza @ Life Orb 
      Ability: Air Lock 
      Level: 50 
      EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe 
      Jolly Nature 
      - Dragon Ascent 
      - Extreme Speed 
      - Protect 
      - Waterfall 
      Standard Life Orb Rayquaza with Waterfall instead of Overheat. I’ve never been a fan of overheat, as 95% of the time, it’s there purely for Ferrothorn. Ferrothorn’s usage had been dropping quite significantly in the lead up to nationals. Ferrothorn also isn’t particularly hard to deal with, as Dragon Ascent is still a 2HKO, not to mention the rest of the team can deal with it. Groudon is also much more centralising, and is much more worthy of a tech move. Waterfall 1HKO’s non-bulky Groudon as normal form, and has a 93% chance to 1HKO 252 HP variants, if I mega evolve. Waterfall gave the team better defensive synergy when used in conjunction with my other Groudon weak mons, like Mawile and Amoonguss, as I can easily switch into any Move Groudon can use (outside the rare Hidden Power Ice or Stone Edge), and do significant damage back. I did not mega evolve the entire tournament however - one of the reasons I used Life Orb over Focus Sash, to make up for the lack of stats as normal Rayquaza. A Physical set with a jolly nature and 4 HP EVs also meant I was able to 100% take a neutral Timid Xerneas Dazzling Gleam. I didn’t believe EVing to survive Kangaskhan was worth it, as I needed the attack EVs to maximise my chance of removing Groudon, and if needed I could just use Intimidate or mega evolve.
      -          252 Atk Life Orb Rayquaza Waterfall vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Primal Groudon: 177-213 (100.5 - 121%) -- guaranteed OHKO

      Mawile @ Mawilite 
      Ability: Intimidate 
      Level: 50 
      EVs: 252 HP / 60 Atk / 4 Def / 84 SpD / 108 Spe 
      Adamant Nature 
      - Play Rough 
      - Iron Head 
      - Protect 
      - Sucker Punch 
      Now that the most centralising Pokémon of the format was sufficiently handled, I could now move onto the next most dangerous mon, Xerneas. Mawile has great synergy with Ray-ogre, as outside of Groudon, it can almost single handily deal with the rest of the meta game. It has favourable matchups against Xerneas, Yveltal, Kangaskhan, Salamence, Rayquaza without Overheat and Talonflame in the rain. The moveset is standard. The Speed stat reaches the all-important number of 84. This under-speeds minimum speed primals under Trick Room, and outspeeds up to Kangaskhan under Tailwind, though it unfortunately speed ties with slow Smeargle. The Special Defense investment survives a +2 Timid Xerneas Hidden Power Ground. This is incredibly rare, but not unheard of, and I wanted to make sure my Xerneas check could never be unexpectedly 1HKO’d. The Special Defense investment also has a good chance of surviving most Origin Pulses and Scalds from Kyogre. The rest of the EVs went into Attack. The lack of Attack didn’t seem to be influential, as Mawile pretty much 2HKO’s the entire format regardless of investment. The only relevant calculation, was that 1HKOing Salamence at -1 was no longer possible, rather than a 40% chance with 252 EVs. But considering Salamence can’t touch me back, I found it a fair trade.
      -       +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Dazzling Gleam vs. 252 HP / 84 SpD Mega Mawile: 65-77 (41.4 - 49%) -- guaranteed 3HKO
      -          +2 252 SpA Xerneas Hidden Power Ground vs. 252 HP / 84 SpD Mega Mawile: 132-156 (84 - 99.3%) -- guaranteed 2HKO

      Amoonguss @ Mental Herb 
      Ability: Regenerator 
      Level: 50 
      EVs: 220 HP / 132 Def / 156 SpD 
      Sassy Nature 
      IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe 
      - Grass Knot 
      - Spore 
      - Protect 
      - Rage Powder 
      Mental Herb Amoonguss was selected primarily to help my Trick Room, Kyogre and Thundurus/Electric matchup. Redirection also allowed Kyogre to better fire off more powerful Water Spouts, and Rayquaza to Dragon Ascent without care of its defense drops. The moveset is completely standard. Mental herb was chosen so I can spore in the face of Thundurus. Minimum speed for the Trick Room matchup, and more importantly, outspeed Bronzong after Trick Room goes up. The spread survives plenty, max Special Attack Kyogre’s Water Spout is a 3hko and  Timid +2 Xerneas’ Dazzling Gleam is a 4HKO most of the time. It also survives 4 Attack Mega Salamence Double-Edge at -1.
               +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Dazzling Gleam vs. 220 HP / 156+ SpD Amoonguss: 63-74 (29 - 34.1%) -- 2.3% chance to 3HKO
              252  +SpA Primal Kyogre Water Spout (150 BP) vs. 220 HP / 156+ SpD Amoonguss in Heavy Rain: 92-108 (42.3 - 49.7%) -- guaranteed 3HKO
      -          -1 4 Atk Aerilate Mega Salamence Double-Edge vs. 220 HP / 132 Def Amoonguss: 182-216 (83.8 - 99.5%) -- guaranteed 2HKO

      Whimsicott @ Focus Sash 
      Ability: Prankster 
      Level: 50 
      EVs: 188 Def / 68 SpD / 252 Spe 
      Timid Nature 
      IVs: 0 HP / 0 Atk 
      - Safeguard 
      - Tailwind 
      - Endeavor 
      - Protect 
      Whimsicott was chosen purely to check the ever present threat of dark void Smeargle. In the past I had relied on things like priority, Taunt, being fast, and Lum Berries. However these were never a 100% check. Priority gets beaten by Smeargle + Quick Guard, or if Smeargle is just bulky. Taunt gets beaten by Mental Herb, Crafty Shield, and late game Smeargle (after your Taunter is KO’d). Being fast gets beat by Min Speed Smeargle + Trick Room, or Scarf Smeargle. Lum Berry gets beaten by Fake Out + Dark Void. Prankster Safeguard was the only sure thing I could rely on. Crafty Shield would also be viable, but it means you have to continuously use that each turn. Protect is also necessary so that I wouldn’t lose to Fake out + Dark Void/attack. I also needed to make sure that Whimsicott was not dead weight, if the opponent did not bring their Smeargle. Tailwind was chosen to give the team a form of speed control. Endeavour was chosen so that I was still useful after I had set up Safeguard and Tailwind, or if I was Taunted. Endeavour had great synergy with the Focus Sash, and its high speed, and is much more EV efficient over using moves like Moonblast or Grass Knot. Despite not having room for encore, opponents would often assume I have it, and try to play around, until I showed all 4 moves.
      The spread runs max Speed, to ensure I can do things before Thundurus can Taunt me. It also ensures I speed tie at worst against Grass Whistle Whimsicott. In a relatively unique case, I chosen to run Whimsicott with 0 IVs in HP, to maximise my Endeavour damage. At full health endeavour does around 40% to primals, and ensures I am still able to break Smeargle’s Focus Sash. This surprise chip allows many surprise first turn KOs. 188 Defense EVs allows me to take a -1 Jolly Kangaskhan Double-Edge, and makes Adamant Groudon’s Precipice Blades a 3HKO. The rest of the EVs are dumped in Special Defense.
      -          252+ Atk Primal Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 0 HP / 188 Def Whimsicott: 50-59 (41.6 - 49.1%) -- guaranteed 3HKO

      Zapdos @ Sitrus Berry 
      Ability: Static 
      Level: 50 
      EVs: 132 HP / 8 Def / 92 SpA / 52 SpD / 220 Spe 
      Timid Nature 
      IVs: 0 Atk / 30 Def 
      - Thunderbolt 
      - Hidden Power [Ice] 
      - Heat Wave 
      - Tailwind 
      When I used this team in the IC, I initially had a double guard Hitmontop here, to help with Talonflame, Dialga, Ferrothorn and to provide a second source of Intimidate. I realised however that my matchup against Salamence, Talonflame and the Ray-Ogre mirror was unfavourable, and was happy to remedy this by weakening my Dialga matchup. I chose Zapdos over Thundurus as I’ve always been a bigger fan of Tailwind over Thunder Wave, the option of Heat Wave, the extra bulk, and Static to help the Kangaskhan matchup.
      Thunderbolt is standard. Tailwind was selected, despite Whimsicott also having it, as I would never select both in the same battle. You can never have enough speed control. Hidden Power Ice was selected over Water, as I had waterfall on Ray, and Ice was coverage my team needed, doing 80%+ to Salamence and Ray. Plenty of people feared the HP Water, switching their Groudon out. Heat Wave was to help the Ferrothorn matchup in the early rounds, but was ultimately not useful, and in hindsight I would have preferred protect. The speed EVs make sure I outspeed normal Rayquaza. This Zapdos is surprising bulky despite the lack of defensive EVs, and survives almost anything. The specific calculated benchmarks physically survives a max attack Groudon Fire Punch, a -1 Kangaskhan Fake Out + Double-Edge and a +2 Modest Xerneas Dazzling Gleam.
                +2 252+ SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Dazzling Gleam vs. 132 HP / 52 SpD Zapdos: 153-181 (84 - 99.4%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      -          252+ Atk Primal Groudon Fire Punch vs. 132 HP / 8 Def Zapdos in Harsh Sunshine: 153-181 (84 - 99.4%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      The team was amazing, and did exactly what I had hoped. I managed to Top cut with a 10th position at the end of swiss. I was the only Ray-Ogre in top cut, and one of only 4 not using Groudon-Xerneas. I lost in my top 16 match to eventual Finalist Alex Poole in a tough 3 game set. Although our Nationals has been described as a “Throwlympics”, I did try my hardest to win.  A part of me is happy that he won though, as a loss would have denied him his Day 2 invite. Unfortunately, due to financial reasons I won’t be able to utilise my worlds invite, and will be twiddling my thumbs till the next season starts. A big thanks also has to go out to the Team UNSW crew, In particular those that came to nationals with me, as well as Echomoner for the teambuilding advice throughout the course of the season.
    • By Life Orb in Life Orb's blog 9
      Hi there. You may know me or you may not, but if you don't, my name is Joseph Costagliola and I play competitive Pokemon VGC. I'm in the seniors division and am 14 years old, and I have been playing since January 1st, 2015. I started out with things like using Ditto at Premier Challenges (before there was a Xerneas to copy) and trying to run supportive Azelf. A week before Virginia Regionals that year, I snapped myself out of this facade that these Pokemon were good. I then on accepted that the best Pokemon were the best for a reason, and I used a fairly standard team (which you can view below) to win 7 swiss rounds and a top 8 set all in a row until met with my good friend Michael Spinetta-McCarthy in top 4. He was the one who helped me prepare for this tournament, and he was ultimately the one who eliminated me from it.
      For the rest of 2015, I had very mediocre placings, a horrid 3-3 record at Georgia Regionals and a lucky 5-3 top 32 nationals finished that sealed my worlds invite. I had gotten CP from only one regional, 5 premier challenges, and missed top cut at nationals and still was able to get a worlds invite. Normally I wouldn't be proud of this, but because it was my first worlds invite I was ecstatic.
      Unfortunately, the combination of school starting up before worlds and Boston being a pretty expensive city lead my parents to not book a trip to worlds. I don't blame them, I was fairly ill-prepared and probably wouldn't make it past day 1. But when watching the worlds stream and finding out worlds was in San Francisco... That was what lit a fire inside me. I wanted to be better. I wanted to be the best.
      Fast forward to the Pennsylvania Regionals, in October long after Worlds was over. I analyzed that using a simple core of Pokemon and a set up strategy could be crucial in games, so I decided to go with a CHALK + Azumarill team, substituting Heatran for Entei. I finished Swiss 5-1 and beat London Swan and Ian Terribery in cut to find that I was matched up against one of my best friends; Mark Garas. Mark told me one night playing test games on Showdown that we would be in the Lancaster finals, but I didn't believe him. Here we are, playing for the title of Regional Champion of what would be considered the hardest tournament of the year (bar nationals/worlds). I dominated game 1, he dominated game 2, and in game 3 I missed a few attacks and he was able to capitalize off of that. No hard feelings to Mark. To this day he is one of my best friends and I hold nothing against him.
      So here we go. I was starting off the season with a bang, and I won lots of premier challenges after this and leading up to the anniversary of my first Regional; Virginia 2016. For this tournament I was testing a combination of Groudon and Cresselia setting up Trick Room and Swords Dance followed by Gravity and Precipice Blades, which was shown to me by another great friend of mine, Joshua Lorcy. I was confident in my abilities in this tournament, but my first loss slipped through my fingers and the second loss came at the hands of the VGC 2016 system - a Groudon speed-tie. Thus I was eliminated from the tournament, funnily enough yet again by Michael. I was able to finish 4-2 and lock up my worlds invite, but this was a big blow to me as a player.
      I didn't have any Premier Challenges between Virginia Regionals and Georgia Regionals, so instead I took to the showdown ladder to test. In this time I met some great people - Raghav Malaviya and Hub Bailey. These two are great players and even better friends, and I was able to test out stuff with them and lots of the times I'd learn a lot from our games. Georgia Regionals came up and while I won the first round in a close set, Ryan Swan just barely nabbed round 2 away from me. Losing so early on meant it wouldn't be likely that I could make top cut with a 3-2 record, so I focused on going 4-1, and it happened. In some of the closest sets I've ever played, I moved past Jakob Swilley and Dale Causey to reach the finals vs Edward Chen. Edward and I played in the last round of Swiss and I learned some great info about his team. Ultimately when it came down to that game 3 situation, fate did not want me to be a Regional Champion. Admittedly, I probably could have won this set 2-0 if I focused more, so again I don't blame Edward here. Him and I started talking and helping each other out for Nationals. Which leads us to...
      2016 National Championships - Early Mentality
      Going into this tournament and I had one goal - to top 8. I had established myself as one of the best in the country, but still felt like I had to work for this tournament. So work I did. Day in and Day out. Laddering. Best of Threes. Matchups. Executions. Watching set from previous nationals. Motivational music. Sugar. Caffeine. Blood. Sweat. Tears. And then the final event happened. My best friend from this game, Emilio Forbes, missed his flight to Nationals and couldn't be there. I was NOT waiting until Nationals 2017 to see him again. This was the thing that lit the spark from under me. I was determined to see him and so many other people I knew at worlds. Him and I also played about 200 total Xerneas Groudon mirrors, which probably helped me out more than anything. Finally, Friday the 1st came and I was on the road for the do or die Nationals. I suppose now is the time to introduce my team. I'm just going to list the changes that I made from the Athens, Georgia team report.

      FULL MOON (Cresselia) @ Mental Herb 
      Ability: Levitate  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 252 HP / 156 Def / 100 SpD  
      Sassy Nature  
      IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe  
      - Trick Room  
      - Ice Beam  
      - Gravity  
      - Skill Swap  
      No change.

      JUNGLE (Xerneas) @ Power Herb  
      Ability: Fairy Aura  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe  
      Timid Nature  
      IVs: 0 Atk  
      - Geomancy  
      - Dazzling Gleam  
      - Moonblast  
      - Protect  
      No change.

      PETITBISCUIT (Smeargle) @ Focus Sash  
      Ability: Moody  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 4 HP / 252 Def / 252 Spe  
      Jolly Nature  
      IVs: 0 Atk  
      - Dark Void  
      - Follow Me  
      - Crafty Shield  
      - Spiky Shield  
      No change.

      ONCE AGAIN (Kangaskhan-Mega) @ Kangaskhanite  
      Ability: Inner Focus  
      Level: 50  
      Shiny: Yes  
      EVs: 36 HP / 140 Atk / 76 Def / 4 SpD / 252 Spe  
      Jolly Nature  
      - Double-Edge  
      - Power-Up Punch  
      - Sucker Punch  
      - Fake Out  
      I changed Return for Double Edge to ensure that I got the OHKO on Primal Groudon at +2, as not doing so can be game losing. The spread is built to withstand other Jolly Kangaskhan's Low Kick 100% of the time.

      SUNSETLOVER (Groudon-Primal) @ Red Orb  
      Ability: Desolate Land  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 252 HP / 196 Atk / 60 SpD  
      Brave Nature  
      IVs: 0 Spe  
      - Fire Punch  
      - Precipice Blades  
      - Swords Dance  
      - Protect  
      No change.

      ICELAND (Weavile) @ Life Orb  
      Ability: Pressure  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe  
      Jolly Nature  
      - Icicle Crash  
      - Knock Off  
      - Fake Out  
      - Feint  
      Weavile is cool, right? I'll admit, it had lots of use in testing for shutting down Genies, Rayquaza, Salamence, or basically anything weak to Ice. But I brought it to 4 out of the 19 games that I played in this tournament, and lost two of those. Ultimately Weavile was more of a meta call for playing Double Primal teams, but I ended up playing literally 0 throughout the tournament. I don't think I regret running Weavile just in case I did play said Double Primal or Rayquaza or Double Genie teams, but if I had known what I was going to face in swiss I likely would have gone with Amoonguss, Clefiary, or Salamence.
      Now on to the warstory. I got to Nationals that Friday night and hung out with Hub and we talked about a few matchups. Then tomorrow morning I went down to the venue with him and met up with all of my friends that I haven't seen in forever, there's too many to mention here so they will get their shoutouts at the end! We were all nervous to see what would happen in the crucial round one of this tournament, and out of all the players in this tournament, round 1 I was paired with...
      Round 1 VS Brendan Zheng () [Finished 6-1, top 4] XX
      I wasn't particularly keen on playing a world champion round 1 of a do or die Nationals, but we take those I guess. Big B was something where I had to just remove the Bronzong with Weavile, but in game one Brendan did a great job of protecting his Bronzong. Some moody boosts and maybe a miss or two allowed me to claw back into the game, but ultimately ended up losing a double speed tie on the last turn of Trick Room. Brendan definitely made the better plays in that match and I shouldn't have even had the chance to win that match, so not frustration there. Game 2 started off with Kangaskhan Smeargle on my end versus his Salamence Whimiscott lead. I put some things to sleep and tried to set up Kangaskhan, but he was able to get a Tailwind up at the right time and put himself in a good position to take the match and the set. Good Games to him! Below: Mentality on losing round 1:
      Round 2 VS London Swan () [Finished 4-3] OO
      Of all the people to pull round 2, it's Regional Champion, National Finalist, Worlds Finalist, and friend London Swan. I hated that no matter who lost, that person would have to win 5 games straight to top cut this tournament. In team preview I was pleasantly surprised to see no Smeargle, which made setting up and executing the Gravity-Precipice Blades combo in both games very easy. He really couldn't do much of anything to stop it, especially since his Cresselia was Icy Wind and not a Trick Room set.
      Lots of good players are still 1-1, which means I'm definitely not in the clear here. Thankfully when I check the pairings boards, I'm not up against one of my friends
      Round 3 VS Nathan Becker () [Finished 4-3] OO
      Every tournament it seems you get that one person who may not be the best player, but reminds me why I started going to these events in the first place. He was a really cool guy and our match was lots of fun. Basically both games was Kangaskhan Weavile being able to chip down his Pokemon so much that the late game Rayquaza couldn't do much. Below: Lunch Break!
      Round 4 VS Ethan Bockenhauer () [Finished 4-3] OO
      Round 4 was up against another Big C archetype, and I felt fine playing the mirror with all of time I spent playing Xerneas/Groudon mirrors with Emilio. Game 1 went pretty smoothly until the end game where we realized our Groudon's speed tie, and were in KO Range in of the other's attack. We were both nervous, but mine moved first and I went crazy. Game 2 was a lot smoother, Xerneas just weaved through his team.
      Round 5 VS Jason Chaput () [Finished 5-2, top 32] OO
      There isn't much to say here. In a big six vs big C matchup, it's inherent that the big C player has the advantage, and that was pretty much what happened here. I was pretty scared of him leading Salamence Smeargle after that was what Brenden made quick work of me with earlier, but both games he just went for Xerneas Smeargle. Pretty simple, GGs!
      Round 6 VS Raghav Malaviya ([meowstic]) [Finished 5-2, top 16] OOOOOOOOOOOOOO
      We were in an interesting situation here. Raghav, as I said earlier was a good friend of mine and this was actually a pair up, he was 5-0 and I was 4-1. He decided to scoop to me, just incase I didn't win the last match if he ended up beating me. I'm super grateful for this, because I doubt I could have beaten him in this match and I did NOT want to play a 4-2 vs 4-2 elimination match.
      So at this point, I'm locked for top cut. However, if I win the next round I secure a bye for the top 32 round, meaning I only have to win a top 16 match on Sunday. Winning this game would NOT be easy however, since I was up against Regional Champion and Ping Pong master....
      Round 7 VS Mihrab Samad () [Finished 5-2, 2nd] XOO
      Of all of the people that I had to play for a bye, it was Mihrab. And we both wanted this bye. Game 1 he got the best of me due to the fact that he had min speed Smeargle and I set up Trick Room, but I was able to make a comeback in game 2 with some strong reads from my Xerneas. Game 3 I meant to lead Smeargle Xerneas again, but accidentally misclicked and brought Smeargle Groudon... into Mihrab's Smeargle Xerneas. I was able to set up some swords dances and put myself in good position when Moody happened. I got 4 raised levels of speed, which basically locked the win for me. I feel like I still could have won without the Speed Boosts, especially since I was able to set up those Swords Dances.
      And so I made the dream run, from starting at 0-1 to finishing with a bye at 6-1. I believe that this was all due to the fact that I wanted wins more than anyone else that I played in rounds 2-7. Mentality really is key going into these tournaments. Something as simple as mindset determines if you can sink or swim after a rocky start.
      So later on that night I headed back down to the convention center to watch some top 8 matches and meet up with people. Of which, one of the ones I met up with was Mitchell Davies. I've known him for a long time ever since he hooked me up with the Entei I needed for Pennsylvania. That night was pretty fun, but eventually I had to go back to my room and figure out what I needed to do in those top 16 matchups. I apparently had the potential to play either a similar Big C variant, or the Sceptile Yvletal team that Yuree used to top 8 Italian Nationals. Before that though, I had to be there early Saturday morning for check in. Since I had a bye for the top 32 round, I watched some games up on the TV with Jake Skurchak and Zach Carlson. There were lots of hype points then, such as when Riku Toryara needed to get a one turn wake with his Kyogre to tie the set 1-1, and he got the wake and ended up winning that set and top 16! The other hype came from a Terracotta combo one shotting a Xerneas with Poison Jab. Quickly after that, all of the top 32 matches ended and it was showtime.
      Top 16 VS Daravone S ()
      I knew what this team did so I likely wouldn't see Sceptile show up in this round. Instead, I'm met with a Kangaskhan and Thundurus lead Game 1, which I responded to with Smeargle Cresselia, anticipating Kangaskhan Crobat. I'm able to get Trick Room and Gravity up and quite frankly there is nothing Daravone can do to stop me from taking this match. Bringing Kangaskhan out in the late game and hitting the right Fake Out target sealed the deal. I'm one game away from clinching a day 2 invite and playing in my first world championships, so I have to keep my focus up now more than ever. Of course when you're up a game and you're playing a Yveltal team, what better to do than lead Smeargle Xerneas! He responded with Kangaskhan Crobat, but I was able to weave out of that pressure, very slowly. I was able to take this game in true VGC 2016 fashion, a Xerneas sweep.
      Top 8 VS Beau Burg ()
      Wasn't looking forward to playing another Bronzong, that's for sure. These matches were uploaded to youtube, so I'm just going to analyze one key point from each games. Watch Game 1 Here. Watch Game 2 Here.
      Game 1: The play I made turn one aimed to remove Smeargle from the field on turn 2, but Moody had other ideas. I brought no Lum Berry user or Crafty Shield Smeargle to this game, so it was a fairly effortless sweep for him.
      Game 2: Everyone in their mother wants to know why I went for the Geomancy in Trick Room with my Power Herb consumed. This was because I wanted to punish the double Protect play that I felt he had to go for. The next turn I go for the single target Precipice Blades at +1, in Gravity and the Salamence lives on 5 hp. In case you'd like a damage calc, +1 196+ Atk Primal Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Mega Salamence: 168-198 (98.2 - 115.7%) -- 87.5% chance to OHKO
      So that's it. Just like that, I'm eliminated from the tournament and don't get to get a trophy. I did receive a 750 dollar scholarship and secured my day 2 invite as 5th in Championship Points. See you all at worlds!
      First off, I have to shoutout the one and only Grant Weldon @Velocity . Seeing his development through the season was inspirational. 
      My other masters friends for finishing in the top 16! Joshua Lorcy and Jake Skurchak. You guys are really good and you proved it.
      Everyone I hung out with this weekend: Raghav Malaviya, Nate Wright, Mihrab Samad, Hub Bailey, Jonathan Melendez, Kylie Chua, Stephen Mea, Mitchell Davies, all of the Team Rank Up members that showed up to nationals, and a bunch of people that I am forgetting right now.
      The people I couldn't see at Nationals that motivated me to get to worlds: Emilio Forbes, Adit Severalj, and Gavin Michaels.
      Extra Shoutout to Gavin, Riley Factura, and the rest of the Fortree Brave Birds for being a cool group of people. I didn't play hardly at all, but I learned a lot from you guys.
    • By Eiganjo in Ravings of a video editor 0
      It has been a while since the Nugget Bridge Major concluded, with Chuppa ending up taking the win and valuable money.
      Of course we have been busy as well, collecting battlevideos and steadily uploading them to youtube.
      We have a playlist here which has all the videos up to date in them for your viewing pleasure.
      If you still have some highlight matches that have not been recorded so far and are missing from the youtube, don't hesitate to PM me with the numbers and I'll see to it they get put up as soon as possible. Of course coverage won't end here as NPA videos will be done next so stay tuned for those!
    • By Dreykopff in Dead Man's Chest 3
      Hello world. For those who don't know me, I've been around for what you could say are a few years *cough*, but my past results left a lot to be desired. Now this season is a bit different: Not only did I win a Regional Championship, but I also broke the seemingly everlasting curse of being unable to make top cut at Nationals (with an X-0 Swiss run on that day, no less!). The other thing I would have really loved to add on top of that would have been the illustrious paid trip and day-2 invite, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. However, I didn't just leave it at that single one-in-a-million top cut appearance, since there was still another Nats after that. I went there, I even brought a team fitting a completely different archetype, and well, I somehow made the top cut in that one as well for two in a row! Of course it's a bit sad that my final 736 Championship Points are worth exactly as much as a measly 275, but that's just what it is -- I'm happy to have a had a half-relevant season at least and I'll be back next season to try and go a step further.
      All right then, here's the outline and the two Nats top cut teams in pretty pictures.
      Prologue: Preseason Chapter 1: British and German Nationals with Xerneas Chapter 2: Italian Nationals with Primals Epilogue: Season Review, Shoutouts and Everything Else

      Prologue: Preseason
      The 2015 part has already been covered in a previous comprehensive report, so go check that out if you want to read about that first. Moving into 2016, I played my only Regional for months to come fairly early into the format and wrote a report on that as well. Fun fact on the side: I played this straight Bix Six™ lineup only in two CP events, which were this exact Regional and shortly before the International Challenge, where I got top 16 but later erased that result from my record thanks to winning the full possible six Premier Challenges. There are actually a whole 90 CP that I've gotten with teams not containing the Xerneas/Groudon combination, but doesn't change the fact that those were all one-offs just like a few completely failed attempts -- all the rest I've done with exactly that duo. I never really liked it, but it still was what worked best for me, so I had to go with it. Beyond the teams I already published in a few places, linked or not, there's two more that I want to share quickly leading up to the big stuff.

      This lineup, commonly named "Big C", is pretty popular right now. I won the very first Bo3 Swiss Premier Challenge we had using this team as shown here back in March, and at that point I was absolutely considering bringing this team to Nationals as well, since it just seemed so solid.
      But then I was proven wrong in the International Challenge in the same month. I was actually fully aware that opposing Smeargles were a problem, and that awareness obviously didn't prevent me from getting Moodied out of a fair number of games. The one that was a surprise to me was the special Groudon which at that time I thought was dead, but nope, it was just waiting for teams like this to feast upon. Not expecting it and then being surprised by it is one of the most brutal things imaginable. And the cake for that...takes the slow and bulky Xerneas, what else!? It was only good as long as it didn't have to deal with that -- that was my conclusion back then. The IC went far south and even a meme team I had on my secondary game -- same six, just very different and crazy sets -- did better for me despite being less optimized. It also didn't help that I just started to hate the big-C team. The faith was gone, I couldn't make it work again.
      So, on that meme team I mentioned... Well yes, I had no choice but to work on it, having just narrowly missed top-16 CP but with better record and rating than back in January. It went through several iterations and here's a more optimized one of them:

      About everyone would laugh when they see this on paper, including myself. The bare truth is, I've beaten multiple National Champions or finalists with Choice freaking Specs Xerneas, and some of them even in Bo3. If I had just had the audacity to bring this team to Nats, who knows, tears of laughter might have turned into tears of despair on a good day. Be grateful, world, that we don't know...yet!
      To elaborate on the idea a bit, here goes nothing. With standard teams, I was facing a lot of difficulty having to spend that one turn to get up Geomancy all the time -- it was so predictable, so unflexible and so punishable. The idea of Xerneas being the proclaimed best mon in the format I found ludicrous with the hate it received on good days, I grew so tired of it. With Choice Specs, on the other hand, it has good instant damage output and a sweeping potential that isn't much worse after all, since you also don't have to spend time supporting it but can stack it with all sorts of other attackers easily. There was basically only one big problem to this idea...and that was, well, obviously another Xerneas that gets Geomancy off! This is precisely how I exhumed this "secret" Icy Wind + Thunder Wave Cresselia of gen-4/5 legacy that now is an established standard concept quite a while before it became that big. I had only Icy Wind when I originally made the team and the only out I had to Fake Out + Geomancy with Cresselia on the field was to click good old Swagger and pray. It was hilarious that I actually won games that way, but it's clear that this is not an optimal move -- and since I rarely ever had time to do the Groudon boosting thing, one could only wonder why I didn't have Thunder Wave from the first day.
      Well, but obviously the team was still beatable, and sometimes it was apparent that people weren't trying hard enough. Momentum can be lost quickly from small things, and recovery is much harder than it would be with a standard big-6 build. And then there's Wide Guard, the obvious arch nemesis of a team where one of the restricted likes to lock into Dazzling Gleam and the other completely relies on Precipice Blades even without a lock. Oh, speaking of Choice locks... You know Choice Scarf Smeargle? No? Lucky you. The thing is a legitimate threat. Many teams have no answer to it, and this right here is one of them. During the weeks shortly before Nats, people were discovering this common loophole. Therefore, I needed to adapt -- and thus the team got three good reasons as to why I better avoided playing it if I could.
      ...Oh, right. When I'm having a section for the preseason, I should ideally introduce you to my CP situation at some point. My preseason weighed 514 Championship Points, of which 180 were from winning the maximum amount of Premier Challenges and the other 334 were from winning a Regional (Berlin 2015) and getting top 16 at two more Regionals (Würzburg 2015 and Innsbruck 2016), all of which were stacked and had 7 rounds of the horror that is Bo1 Swiss. Now on to Nats!
      Chapter 1: British and German Nationals with Xerneas
      Coming Up with the First Team

      Essentially, many teams seemed decent but none seemed great. I tried all sorts of things including various combinations of restricted, and they all had holes in them. Anyway, when preparing for a big and important tournament, you always have to ask yourself how exactly you will be winning a maximal amount of games. My own answer to this question, this time around, ended up being to bring a team that's absolutely consistent in winning in favorable matchups, still mostly safe in even matchups and...hopefully won't face too many terrible matchups. That is how the specific team I picked up played out. Just like the 2015 quicksand it wasn't really my own, I ripped off the core and added my own little details here and there.
      And this time we can blame none other than THE Markus S. for that. He brought this horribly cheesy Kangaskhan/Xerneas/Groudon/Clefairy core with wildly changing last two slots to a number of lesser tournaments during the weeks before Nats -- and made a lot of us feel miserable for getting wrecked by exactly that, haha. I used that bulky Xerneas long before, yes, and I also tried Clefairy earlier but without any success, but what I failed to do on my own was to make the connection between these two...as well as with the Timid Groudon I hardly was ever fond of. Long story short, this core is astonishingly clever and I'd assume it's safe to trust someone as humongously accomplished as Markus who also happens to be one of the few chosen human beings that enjoy this format (oh, actually...may he have just been enjoying it because he knew all along that he wouldn't be playing for a trip at all!??). I took the team with the mons I already had on my game anyway to Battle Spot and it was unusually easy for a team I literally just picked up, it was like magic.
      Of course I would risk looking like a fool in case he just trolled us all and the holes in it were apparent...but there was no way I could make an even bigger fool out of myself than if I used Choice Specs Xerneas seriously, so what was there to lose? (Sheesh, I actually found a huge hole on my own: Bronzong and Mawile at the same time, good luck beating that without going to ridiculous lengths.) I took a deeper look into the details, optimized what I was able to optimize in the little time I had, and brought the team to three tournaments straight on three consecutive weekends without even changing any detail between them -- the first two Nationals and...that rather unique Regional following that.
      The Xerneas Team

      Cernunnos (Xerneas) @ Power Herb  
      Ability: Fairy Aura  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 252 HP / 28 Def / 108 SpA / 116 SpD / 4 Spe  
      Modest Nature  
      IVs: 0 Atk  
      - Dazzling Gleam  
      - Moonblast  
      - Geomancy  
      - Protect  
      Brought to 22 out of 23 games (13-9 record) in Liverpool. Brought to 21/21 games (17-4) in Kassel. Bulky Xerneas with the standard moveset. Don't rip the spread mindlessly, it's probably not optimal anymore (especially in terms of Speed) and I was going to make a new one had I decided to use Xerneas again in Italy. What it does, anyway, is to survive all Gyro Balls made to OHKO the 4/0 variant after Geomancy or a 252 +2 Special Attack Moonblast when not boosted itself (which in turn means it's a 3HKO when both Xerneases have Geomancy up). Finally, with the given offensive investment, it roughly matches the traditional offensive Timid one in damage output. That is pretty valuable when dealing with Double-Edge Kangaskhans or a few Fairy resistances.

      Epona (Kangaskhan) @ Kangaskhanite  
      Ability: Scrappy  
      Level: 50  
      Happiness: 0  
      EVs: 36 HP / 140 Atk / 76 Def / 4 SpD / 252 Spe  
      Jolly Nature 
      - Frustration  
      - Sucker Punch  
      - Power-Up Punch  
      - Fake Out  
      Brought to 14/23 games (7-7) in Liverpool. Brought to 16/21 games (14-2) in Kassel. Standard semi-bulky Kangaskhan, survives Low Kicks from all other Kangaskhans unless they crit. I prefer Frustration over Double-Edge because I don't want her to commit suicide when boosted, or commit suicide at all, really. Piling up that recoil always makes it easier for the opponent to remove this slot, and I'm just not interested in saving half-turns for them (especially since the additional bulk would be for nought then). The biggest downside to being that conservative is that you can't threaten Groudons as well anymore when at +2 Attack.
      Power-Up Punch to have another out to setup. In the ideal game, both Geomancy and Power-Up Punch get off at some point, and as long as the setup isn't paid with too much health, all of that in combination with Groudon's Eruptions should be fairly safe for winning games. And that...technically was an unintentional pun, since this team has only one inaccurate move and that one is a filler! Sucker Punch is the preferred last slot because it's fairly useful with boosts, and sometimes necessary to mitigate the overall feeble Speed control of this team.

      Sucellos (Groudon) @ Red Orb  
      Ability: Drought  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe  
      Timid Nature  
      IVs: 0 Atk  
      - Eruption  
      - Earth Power  
      - Overheat  
      - Protect  
      Brought to 22/23 games (14-8) in Liverpool. Brought to 21/21 games (17-4) in Kassel. And Groudon is the one with that filler move, completely standard otherwise. I never was entirely sure with this filler slot, every move has advantages and disadvantages. I picked Overheat to have a single-target Fire STAB that isn't as weak as Flamethrower, isn't as inaccurate as Fire Blast and, well, just does the most damage. It can make the difference when an opposing Xerneas gets Geomancy up before Groudon attacks.
      What about the special vs. physical part? Well, it's no secret I hardly ever was a fan of special, since it's just so unflexible. It's mostly here for the snowballing it can support with its ridiculous damage potential, and also used to be here for getting an easy advantage in Groudon mirrors without a Kyogre around. Naturally, it lost some of its effectiveness as soon as more people went back to Timid and games were decided by those Speed ties again.

      Awen (Clefairy) (F) @ Eviolite  
      Ability: Friend Guard  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 252 HP / 244 Def / 12 SpD  
      Relaxed Nature  
      IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe  
      - Follow Me  
      - After You  
      - Helping Hand  
      - Protect  
      Brought to 18/23 games (10-8) in Liverpool. Brought to 9/21 games (8-1) in Kassel. Friend Guard with bulky Xerneas is amazing, Helping Hand with Xerneas is also amazing. Follow Me with Geomancy is amazing, Follow Me with Eruption is amazing, you get the point. My Clefairy is physically bulky in order to survive two Precipice Blades from Jolly Groudon, as well as two Double-Edges from a Kangaskhan at reduced Attack that pretty please won't ever crit. After You is for Trick Room and Protect is always helpful to keep the Friend Guard around for longer. The only disadvantages to running Clefairy over Smeargle are that it can't click Dark Void, Wide Guard or Crafty Shield -- sometimes that is pretty big, sometimes it doesn't matter. You never know before. But as a matter of fact, there is little danger I'm ever having the wrong moveset on Clefairy, whereas Smeargle learns at least 7 moves beyond Dark Void that I would almost equally appreciate.

      Samonios (Salamence) (M) @ Salamencite  
      Ability: Intimidate  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 4 Atk / 252 SpA / 252 Spe  
      Naive Nature  
      - Hyper Voice  
      - Double-Edge  
      - Flamethrower  
      - Protect  
      Brought to 9/23 games (7-2) in Liverpool. Brought to 5/21 games (3-2) in Kassel. Oh look, it's my good old Salamence from 2015, in fact. There's a fair number of moves one could run in that filler slot, and I like Flamethrower because I really hate relying on Groudon only when facing Steel Pokémon. It's more affordable to skip that Fire move when running Smeargle because Dark Void and Moody sometimes just are too good anyway, but since I'm not having that here...yeah, not feeling like having the luxury of Tailwind, Draco Meteor, Substitute or whatever else it learns. The EVs are straightforward special as usual and that is especially important at those rare times when Flamethrower is actually being clicked. Fire Blast would make a split between the two attack stats more affordable but I hate the lower accuracy and don't see much need in ruining my Hyper Voice damage rolls just for randomly better Double-Edges anyway.

      Taranis (Thundurus) @ Focus Sash  
      Ability: Prankster  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 4 HP / 4 Def / 244 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe  
      Timid Nature  
      IVs: 0 Atk  
      - Thunderbolt  
      - Thunder Wave  
      - Taunt  
      - Protect  
      Brought to 7/23 games (5-2) in Liverpool. Brought to 12/21 games (9-3) in Kassel. Thundurus is the best and worst tech for mirrors at the same time -- he's so annoying for most of the team, but he's also very exploitable by Groudon (and, sometimes, Raichu). Position is absolutely everything. I went for the offensive variant because I don't see too much merit in the defensive Thundurus that does only such pitiful damage against everything, and also because fast Taunts are the best Taunts. There's an intriguing synergy between Xerneas and Taunt, as it puts a 3-turn countdown on the opponent where they can't prevent Geomancy and also can't prevent taking loads of damage. Finally, the odd looking EV spread is there just to adjust the damage rolls from a -1 Double-Edge for little cost and potentially big effect.
      The Tournament in Liverpool, UK
      Having rested unusually well before the event (they have the best beds in England to make up for the worst coined money, period), I arrived at the venue before there was even a line at the registration desks but they still offered me to sign up, lock my Battle Box and everything, which was awesome. With that out of the way, I had a bunch of time to meet people and just relax, really. I had absolutely no regrets when I saw the queue later!
      Round 1:  Rina P. (@SqishyRina) WW

      My last Nats run of 2015 ended with me making the misplay of the century -- and my first Nats run of 2016 started with a shot at revenge! All right, team preview looked fairly good already, because I think that Dialga is just pretty easy to beat with my team. That's exactly what happened in the first game, got my free Geomancy on the first turn and Clefairy made sure I kept it long enough. For game 2, she switched things up with the Serperior Talonflame leading into my Salamence over Kangaskhan this time. I was expecting the usual Contrary Leaf Storm stuff and went for another seemingly free Geomancy just as the royal ivy serpent revealed Glare...but fortunately enough into the other slot. Well, and that pretty much decided this game. 1-0
      Round 2: Thomas D. WW

      A Primals team rather weak to Salamence but without its own Salamence. I brought Salamence and Xerneas with Clefairy and Groudon in the back in both games and just tanked all Speed control he threw at me with the help of Clefairy. Fun fact, I was at UK Nats in 2015 as well, and then I started 0-2 into it, so it was a nice and welcome change from the past to start... 2-0
      Round 3: Matt C. (@Mattsby_VGC) LWW

      I don't remember much about this set beyond my notes, except that it was the first really challenging one. The Whimsicott showed Moonblast, Life Orb, Taunt and Protect over the course of the match but I never learned what the fourth move was, and that fourth move was extremely important. I wanted to assume it was Grass Knot, but I've made similar assumptions before that which usually ended in me getting Encored, and that was absolutely the last thing I wanted to happen in game 3. So yeah, I don't remember what happened exactly, just that it was very close since I absolutely made sure I wouldn't lose because of Encore. 3-0
      Round 4:  Laurin A. (@Lohgock_) LWL

      The standard Bronzong Primals team, at preview at least. A tough matchup for my team and I wasn't optimally prepared to face it yet. In the first game I tried my standard four and got 4-0ed. In the second game, I brought Salamence and left Xerneas at home completely. Having analyzed the matchup more thoroughly after the tournament, I might have absolutely been on the right track here but I didn't want to fully believe that when I needed to, because I only figured that I made it to a third game because my opponent made mistakes and I was pretty sure he wouldn't repeat those mistakes. Thus, I went back to Kangaskhan Xerneas for the last game, went all-in with the double setup and it just wasn't the play. 3-1
      Round 5:  Sergio P. LWW

      A Xdon mirror match, took me long enough to find one. I got pretty solid control over his Groudon Thundurus in game 1 with my Salamence Thundurus, which eventually led into me getting a nice and free Geomancy...except I fell into microsleep and missed a pretty vital detail: Xerneas didn't get the Geomancy off, it flinched from Rock Slide! I played the next turn after that assuming my Xerneas was boosted -- when, funnily enough, I even was free to get the boost in that turn instead --, then only he got the boost on his and then I was in deep trouble. For game 2, my notes say we both picked Groudon Thundurus with Xerneas and a varying Normal type in the back and one would think I had the advantage there, but all I actually remember is that the endgame tipped into my favor just thanks to a Precimiss and a Speed tie won -- I was certainly lucky to get that with how I gave him game 1 for free... And finally, in the third game, it was Salamence and Thundurus again, this time against the infamous monkey lead. I made the correct reads almost every turn, also got through a scary Moody boost or two, got the Thunder Wave onto his Xerneas but no status ailments on mine and eventually cleaned up with Geomancy now for real. Interesting thing to note: All the Smeargle showed was Focus Sash, Fake Out, Follow Me and Wide Guard. So did he skip Dark Void or Spiky Shield? We'll never know. 4-1
      Round 6: Damir K. (Damirovich) LWL

      It's never a real major without playing one of your locals! Well, this was rough, way rougher than the other Yveltal matchup I faced previously. Raichu is the bane of my existence in this format more than anything else and a Mega Gengar right beside it makes it even worse. I was hoping to do things with the double Fairy lead, but I just ate Feint Sludge Bomb. Icy Wind was annoying as well, since one was enough for Gengar to outspeed my Xerneas. I switched it up by having the Fairies in the back for the second attempt and that worked out fine then, repeated it for game 3 but then he actually led with Yveltal and that was bad for me, because it meant the Gengar was in the back. Naturally, it got the Sludge Bomb Poison onto my Xerneas and then all that was left to do for him was to Protect stall me. I probably could have won the whole thing with better playing, but as it is, I made mistakes and they cost me -- like pretty much always when I'm facing a Raichu. I like Raichu as a cutemon but I hate Raichu so much in Battle. 4-2
      Round 7:  Thomas G. (@HaricotTV) WW

      More Yveltal with annoying friends -- but like in round 3, none that Xerneas couldn't cheese its way past eventually. He was looking to pull off a Gravity strategy remotely similar to Baz Anderson's infamous team, but in more flexible ways. All I remember about this match is that my position always was just good enough so it was hard for him to accomplish much. 5-2
      Round 8:  Luis L. (@LuisLoRo88) LL

      Oh boy, the memes are real. If you thought the matchups in my previous losses were horrible, you clearly haven't experienced this one. Icy Wind Kyogre and Thundurus softened my team up unhindered and I couldn't even use Groudon against them because the Thundurus brought back the long forgotten Role Play. That meant I didn't have much beyond Xerneas left to make work, but that one just took turns of chip damage and eventually Ditto came in to reap the fruits of my own work. There was just no way and even my luck with crits and stuff was useless, his team building was just that clever. It was quite something to see him make it all the way to the semifinals! 5-3
      Round 9: David S. WLW

      I hardly remember anything about this match, but my notes tell me of surprising elements like King's Rock Fling on Thundurus and Assault Vest Landorus with multiple Rock moves. Basically, he didn't bring Bronzong in two games and I won them, he brought Bronzong in one game and I lost it. Well, and the last game went to a boosted Xerneas mirror that I won on a correct guess between clicking Follow Me or Protect on Clefairy to match whatever of Moonblast or Dazzling Gleam he did. 6-3
      My resistance wasn't too hot with only one of my opponents making it to 7-2, so I finished somewhere in the 40s I think. This run didn't surprise me at all -- my usual 6-3, but with how clearly defined the team is, it was exactly the hard or impossible matchups I lost and exactly all the others I didn't lose. In other words, it pretty much was predetermined failure, haha.

      So the team choice was about as fatalistic as it gets, but since there was nothing else I was more comfortable with, it didn't make sense to run anything else. There was only less than a week between the first two Nationals, but still I did at least spend a few more minutes trying to find something else that worked just as well. Naturally, that led to nowhere, so let's just talk about what I did with the given team.
      Looking back at my losses to Bronzong and Mega Gengar, I considered to run Aegislash, but I only thought of it literally in the night before my departure. I did some quick testing on Battle Spot with one I had on my game from before and it was indeed extremely helpful against Bronzong teams, pretty much flipping that matchup right around. The only issue was the space, because whatever I would remove for that Aegislash, some other matchups would either suffer from it or the team would become way too linear and predictable. I've always seen it as a defining strength of common Xdon teams that they could bring a variety of things to most games, as in, as the opponent you'd have a hard time knowing in advance what they would use against you -- and using Aegislash in more widely varying matchups is just really hard when you don't even have a Kyogre to protect it from Groudons. I pretty much would have had to get rid of one of the Megas to make my selection less predetermined, and I never wanted to do that in the first place because I'm just very comfortable with both Kangaskhan and Salamence and would very likely miss either of them if removed. Thus, I didn't go with Aegislash yet because I hadn't done enough testing and was too unfamiliar with it and all its implications to just do it anyway.
      I brought the same team, unchanged, accepting my fate.
      The Tournament in Kassel, DE
      256 flat participants. That was exactly one missing for opening the ninth round to everyone. This way, we had only eight rounds officially but a few of the X-2s would have to play an additional match in the evening in order to cut down to 32 players for the second day. Nothing I'd have to ever worry about, ...right!??
      Round 1: Steven L. WW

      While the team looked threatening in preview (it has a Greninja in it, you know how much I hate Greninja!), things got a lot easier once he revealed moveset decisions like Aqua Ring Kyogre or a slow Kangaskhan without a Trick Room mode. So I did what I had to do. 1-0
      Round 2: Arthur O. (@Quaggster) WW

      It was the most obvious thing in the world that there would be some PokéAlex teams around one week after his triumph, and it took me only two rounds to find my first. Well, the matchup is quite read-dependent and tends to be somewhat in favor of the bulky Xerneas, because that bulky Xerneas will just sweep eventually as long as it doesn't get terrible Paralysis luck or locked down by absolutely perfect playing. As this one played out, I made perfect reads throughout the first game, which ended in just the Kangaskhan Xerneas lead sweeping the whole team without me having to show my back two. In the second game, I switched it up by bringing those two in the back instead, preparing the board with Thundurus in the front, and that worked out just fine as well. 2-0
      Round 3: Axel R. (@AkkiVGC) WW

      First-timer and finished the event at 5-3, which is quite decent. Anyway, the team wasn't looking too good against the Xerneas Groudon combination and Clefairy on top of that made it a pretty much perfect matchup for me. 3-0
      Round 4:  Bin L. (@Dr_Aculla) WW

      And the first Xdon mirror in the fourth round, against an eventual top-8 Trainer of the event, no less. It was another two-game match, where I got a perfect lead against his in the first game to decide it quickly. About the second game I remember nothing and can only guess that I probably got rid of his Salamence and then swept with Groudon, because he didn't bring his own Groudon, Jolly and thus somewhat disadvantaged against my Timid one, a second time. 4-0
      Round 5: Jonas W. (wiegelinho) WW

      This match got picked for the official stream. Go watch it! The official commentary explained everything quite well and I have nothing to add. 5-0
      Round 6: Roberto C. (@Drake_VGC) LWW

      Lo and behold, same team twice in a row and it's neither the straight big-6 nor a ripoff of a team with a big result in the UK. Well, I wasn't entirely sure what to do this time because I had no idea whether he had watched part of the stream or not. I tried Groudon Thundurus lead again, with Kangaskhan in the back this time, but due to good reads on his part it went so badly for me that I didn't even get to see his fourth mon -- so that was my first game loss of the day right there, fair enough. In game 2, I went with the Salamence Thundurus lead that always tends to be a safe choice against Primals teams but naturally can go just as wrong with bad reads. In this case, it didn't go wrong and I eventually got my Geomancy to go into game 3. For that last game, I finally brought the Kangaskhan Xerneas lead again and you'd think I was looking good against his Kyogre Thundurus, but...only thing I remember is it was very close. It was just a 1-0 win with my Xerneas left, involving a Precimiss and a Scald Burn -- make the former hit in the same sequence of events and I'd lose that game because of the Burn. 6-0
      Boom, 6-0 start in 8 rounds, or in other words: pretty much guaranteed top cut two rounds before the end. That in itself was nothing short of amazing, considering that I have been struggling with Nats ever since the Swiss system was introduced in Europe. The seemingly never-ending curse suddenly was lifted with a bang, who would have thought? And still my memory is so hazy that it might as well just have been a dream -- except it wasn't, it's just really hard to remember all the details when you're playing so many games but can't save them. But I do remember it felt really good and, no matter what would befall me later, I had no intentions for this to be the last time of me making it this far.
      Round 7: Kai G. (Oh he) WW

      Now at the two 6-0 tables, things got funny. There was three straight big-6 teams, and there was me with the variant. One of them was my local tournament organizer, rival and 2015 Worlds day-2 competitor Christian C., now with a streak of four X-2 Nationals in a row, and I for some odd reason didn't have to face him in this situation when I pretty much always faced either him or his sister with way lower odds, go figure. Not that I'm complaining, haha, just an interesting thing to note.
      Anyway, match time. I absolutely wanted to win one more because I would never trust my resistance ever, so I didn't hold back. We got another two-game match this time, where I both times got a solid start and then just brought it home. One of the most satisfying moments: see Smeargle get a Speed boost when you're in full control with Thundurus regardless! 7-0
      Round 8: Dominik W. (DerDomme) LWW

      All right, now this match definitely wouldn't matter anymore. As it turned out, game 1 was an exact copy of the game 1 matchup against Kai in both leads and backs, yet this time I lost hard because I got (or let myself get?) completely Smeargled. On the other hand, one of my goals in this match was to gather some information on possible unusual spins to the team, and I was happy to discover the Mental Herb on Smeargle that I had suspected he might have right before the second game. For game 2. the lead matchup was my Kangaskhan Xerneas against his Salamence Groudon and it was pretty much over right there, I tied the series up again. In game 3, we led the same duos but switched them around, so naturally I found myself in deep trouble again -- but the difference was, I had Thundurus over Talonflame in the back. I had to get him in somehow, click Thunder Wave onto his boosted Xerneas, get one timely full Paralysis as I set up my own Geomancy, got exactly that, and so I turned this seemingly hopeless game around just thanks to a single 25%. While I couldn't care less about the result, it was a treat to be able to save these final Swiss rankings just for useless bragging rights! 8-0

      And that was it for the day. Stayed a bit longer to find out who I'd play on Sunday morning and ideally get some team intel, but...seemingly no one faced him, whereas I showed maybe even too much of my own team on stream. So that was off to a great start into my first elimination stage of Nats since the dark ages of Bo1 single elimination........... Well, whatever. If anything, I'm very much used to all odds being against me. I rested well enough, got to the venue early and then finally found someone who had team intel for me -- or rather, tried to but didn't quite get it right.
      Top 32: Rafik S. (@DominoRaf) LWL

      The team preview turned out exactly as expected -- no Salamence, no special Groudon and likely no Groudon Speed ties, so my own Groudon would be pretty strong. I figured that a Salamence Groudon lead would win as long as he wouldn't lead Kangaskhan Xerneas. Naturally, he led Kangaskhan Xerneas! No Thundurus luck to bail me out even possible this time, as he had Amoonguss in the back and it revealed to have the Mental Herb that my scout told me was "definitely" on Cresselia. At least I found the misinformation early and in a game I wouldn't have lost because of it, right!? Anyway, this loss made sense -- I risked exactly one bad lead matchup, I ran into it, I lost. I had the luxury available to forfeit at 3-4 and without showing my last, so he definitely wouldn't know my Xerneas is so bulky that a +2 Moonblast can't OHKO it.
      For the second game, I moved over to a Kangaskhan Groudon lead and he actually changed his plan up entirely, and I still won mostly uncontested. So, for the last game... I switched it up again, while he surprisingly went with the losing strategy of Kangaskhan Cresselia with both restricted in the back a second time. I brought what we -- considering all the intriguing reactions I got for making this move in some rare moments -- might just as well call "the Dreykopff special": Xerneas Groudon leading, supporters in the back. It was (almost) the perfect plan. There was no way he could prevent both of the Geomancy setup and massive damage via Eruption or Overheat, since I knew his Xerneas was slow enough to be unable to boost itself before getting severely damaged or maybe even knocked out. There was just one nifty little hole to the plan, and that was...to put up literally no resistance at all to my threats. Here is my recording of the game:
      Well, there you have it. Not going to take away from him that he managed this game as well as he could, and that's why he made it this far to begin with, but the difference in this game was made by nothing else than those feeble crits that may not have scored knockouts but changed damage rolls and damage requirements. What a tragic way to kill my dreams of finally being at Worlds again... The curse of the first, it has prevailed this time. And not only that, I in fact jinxed it.

      Nevertheless, this whole story wasn't over. Not yet. I'll have you know two things, friendos:
      Fatum is dead. I am Dreykopff and I'm not dead before I'm dead. Counting is hard. Chapter 2: Italian Nationals with Primals
      I'm keeping my talk about the illustrious 20-man Regional of Braunschweig short. Naturally, I didn't change my team for it because it obviously worked really well in Kassel and I'd have a hard time coming up with something even better so fast. And then I had a rude awakening. My result was 3-2, 9th place, 50€ wasted for absolutely nothing but the most depressing Bo3 Swiss imaginable. One of the wins was a lucky (or, maybe actually unlucky?) R1 bye, another was an auto-win Dialga matchup and the last one was over a straight big-6 where my opponent played better but I had the out of winning by Timid Groudon Speed ties going my way and that was exactly what happened. About the losses, I lost to another straight big-6, piloted by a player who I had beaten in Kassel and then adapted by...leading Kangaskhan/Xerneas every single game and then I never got a good lead matchup...and ultimately lost because of a failed big read or two. Well, and the last loss was to another Raichu, bane of my existence. I dug my own grave when I tried to get around the Raichu by using Follow Me but then Clefairy was knocked out before Raichu's non-Prankster Encore actually went off -- boom, locked into Geomancy and game ogre.
      All in all, the magic waned. Over were the times of the first two Nationals where almost every result seemed to be explainable purely by the matchup being not too rough, awoken from the dream, back to harsh reality. I started to grow mentally sick of this scripted gameplay and all its implications just like back in the times before I even had Clefairy join the oh so glorified best restricted combination available. Xerneas was being a love-hate relationship as usual. The other time when I had the biggest possible doubts towards Geomancy.exe, I spent a few weeks trying to learn double Primals. With that in mind, it seems like no coincidence that I, this time, made the move to Primals for real.
      Ignoring the possibility of switching the archetype completely, however, I also had plans for the Xerneas team in mind. The main conclusion I drew was that Thundurus and his helplessness against Groudons maybe wasn't so good after all, and Thunder Wave may have been good for some occasional lucky RNG but wasn't really an effective means of Speed control with this kind of team. Paralysis favors slower teams more, you know, but this team is way too fast! The thing I wanted to keep the most was Taunt, but replace Thunder Wave with Tailwind -- considered Crobat at first, but would likely have turned into the same Talonflame I brought to Innsbruck earlier. Smeargle was also repeatedly considered and there wasn't much I could do wrong with it except pick exactly the worst moveset possible for any given tournament run, but still I was a bit attached to Friend Guard and the semi-immortal Xerneas it created. Those were all hard decisions to make because none were convincing, and all of this made it easier for me to abandon the team entirely and get back to enjoying what I was doing -- and in that way also not ruin the memory of a team that helped me accomplish something that will forever mean a lot to me in this game.
      Coming Up with the Second Team

      All right, so let's talk double Primals. What most of you don't know yet, I have a peculiar personal story related to what emerged as the big story of Liverpool. The old Choice Specs Xerneas team led me to discover Icy Wind + Thunder Wave Cresselia, shortly before I was serious about learning to be good with double Primals (let's just call them only Primals from now, since it's clear what I mean!), and naturally I made the connection between Primals and this Cresselia quickly. There are two main things I did differently than most of the others who came up with this as well: I didn't use Thundurus and Cresselia at the same time and my Cresselia was usually fast and had Safeguard, joined by slower Primals to reap the benefits of Gravity in the turn of it being set already. (Hello moveslot syndrome, I can't even remember if I ever dared to fit Skill Swap somehow, because that move is obviously really big, too...) While I liked the whole concept by itself, it wasn't winning me games consistently enough, especially when the Clefairy team came into play.
      In fact, it was my own Primals team that I faced Markus and his Clefairy team with. I got an early turn wrong and it snowballed from there. On the same weekend, I also lost to other Xerneas teams. Common reasons were to not click Prankster Thunder Wave when Xerneas was audacious enough to not Protect, to just miss Precipice Blades or, naturally, to just get Smeargled anyway. The popular belief of Primals being good against Xerneas was a blatant lie and I learned it the hard way. Good Xerneas matchups with Primals weren't happening without a Steel type, and the Clefairy team was even good enough to handle a lone Mawile or Ferrothorn without much difficulty. And let's also not forget that Amoonguss just sits there and does nothing like in bad old times. Non-Steel Megas are inherently Xerneas fodder as soon as the Geomancy gets through. And finally, Thundurus has to flip the coin of whether or not the Xerneas Protects, and even if Thundurus wins the flip, the Xerneas will just be paralyzed but still multiple hits away from being knocked out. In a nutshell, with this kind of team you have to play perfectly in order to not be seriously threatened by Xerneas and friends. Alex showed us all how to do it, but I'm not Alex. It makes sense that a similar strategy didn't work as well for me.
      Another thing is the sudden rise in popularity that Icy Wind Cresselia gained (and also Alex's specific team which is notably weaker to Trick Room than the slightly more wide-spread variants with a slow Grass Pokémon). In my hands, the concept had its maximum level of effectivity when people still were rolling their eyes at why I was this freaking special snowflake (or, to put it more fittingly, unique freezing blow particle) not to use Trick Room like I normally should and all this stuff. (Shoutouts to all the other people who thought of the Icy Wind thing as well. It very much was around a bit, it definitely wasn't only me who revealed that to the public early!) So, as things changed like we've seen...Trick Room was suddenly good again! You can never rule Trick Room out, and people will always be eager to find and run potent strategies that can be literally turned upside-down by some nice little Trick Room. That being said, we might as well consider how mismatching Cresselia and Bronzong generally perform against Xerneas. If I were to ever play Primals again, I told to myself, I would make a point to respect the Xerneas enough.
      Then our good friends from North America had Regionals parallel to our Nationals. There were a few interesting teams going around, and the one brought by Diana B. to win Madison caught my attention as soon as I saw the lineup. I shuddered at the thought of facing that with my Xerneas, and the double Steel was not just something to scare a Xerneas player at team preview but really a hidden gem to make Primal mirrors and Blue Ray more manageable than they would be with a standard Bronzong Primals team. And that's something I say as a Trainer who is notoriously unable to make Ferrothorn work (more on that part later). This also was somewhat fitting with my former intention to possibly use both Bronzong and Amoonguss in the same team, which I just never actually tried.
      With that in mind, we wind back a week, when Jamie B. won a trip with another original Primals team that I deemed very smart from the moment I saw it but still missing a thing or two. You should definitely check out his video report if you haven't yet, and in my further writing I'll assume you know it because it makes things easier and I have no intention to look like I came up with all of those things that I actually just copied on my own. Zapdos is especially nice in my eyes, because it offers that immediate full board control unlike the Thundurus who can just hope to target the right things at the right times and comes with slightly inferior stats on top of that. And well, that difference becomes even more glaring when you consider that Thunder Wave is completely useless in Speed controlling a Groudon, whereas Tailwind simply makes no exceptions. There is always that convoluted Hidden Power Water play to deal with Groudon, yes, but as I said, it's convoluted and sometimes too convoluted. I wanted to have it available for added flexibility but I didn't want to completely depend on it.
      Joining these two teams together and adding in my own things looked so nice. I had even less time than with the Clefairy team but I did it anyway. Desperate times call for desperate measures and I know for a fact that the completely untested Scarf Rotom of one year ago was the one idea needed to breathe new life into a stagnant team. Because of this, I have a reason to believe that I sometimes just know that I am right, and even historically speaking the techs that I tacked onto standard cores were always the best part of my otherwise mediocre team building. The final product was maybe the most unoptimized team I brought to Nats since 2009, but you know, no one cares about that when it's still good. Now that my season is officially over, I can even say that I like the team so much that I'm not at all opposed to working on it further! (And I might have done just that already by the day this report goes live, but since this is mostly a season endgame report, I shall leave whatever I may have found out of here for now. Maybe another time, who knows, no promises.)
      The Primals Team

      Sucellos (Groudon) @ Red Orb  
      Ability: Drought  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 156 HP / 180 Atk / 4 Def / 156 SpD / 12 Spe  
      Adamant Nature  
      - Rock Slide  
      - Precipice Blades  
      - Fire Punch  
      - Protect  
      Brought to 22 out of 26 games (14-8 record). I don't know why but there have in fact been some special Groudons in double-Primal teams lately. I'm not one of them, anyway, and as we are seeing right here, I'm also not one of those who just run Jolly max/max to hope for the best but often get the worst. I don't really like my Groudon to be completely bulkless and do inferior damage at the same time -- and with a Trick Room mode in the team, it's obviously more than affordable to run a slow Groudon. I prefer Rock Slide over something fancy like Swords Dance or Substitute for this team because I knew from the beginning I wouldn't be playing with Gravity all the time, so I needed a way to hit Ground immunities independently from weather. The possibility of fishing for flinches is there as well, but I never got one in the tournament when I wanted to see one if I remember correctly -- which is fair enough, since I also got no crucial miss in return.
      With the given defensive investment, Groudon takes a combination of Dazzling Gleam and Moonblast by any Xerneas that doesn't have unusually high Special Attack, and naturally it also survives an Earth Power from Timid Groudons at full health. The Speed makes it faster than my own Kyogre -- gotta make sure Primordial Sea goes up if I have to put them both in at the same time -- but also has the random use of...outspeeding Mega Aerodactyl in Tailwind. Please don't ever use Mega Aerodactyl though, unless you really want to be hated.

      Toutatis (Kyogre) @ Blue Orb  
      Ability: Drizzle  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 252 HP / 196 Def / 60 SpA  
      Modest Nature  
      IVs: 0 Atk  
      - Water Spout  
      - Scald  
      - Ice Beam  
      - Protect  
      Brought to 25/26 games (15-10). Standard fat ogre, as they like to call it -- survives two Precipice Blades by Jolly Groudons or pretty much all ridiculously strong single-target attacks commonly used. I really wanted to like the Origin Pulse + Thunder set because of reasons, but I ended up not liking it at all as soon as I lost multiple games only thanks to this OP move missing the important targets all the time. Thanks but no thanks, not having it anymore and with this full lineup I'm happy to say I can't even be tempted anymore. The reliability of Scald is so helpful, and I daresay the move is in fact quite mandatory for me at least because Groudon + Wide Guard could become very difficult to handle otherwise.
      And this concludes the double Primal part of the team. Moving on to not the common double Mega, but...double Tailwind!

      Samonios (Salamence) (M) @ Salamencite  
      Ability: Intimidate  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 4 Atk / 252 SpA / 252 Spe  
      Naive Nature  
      - Hyper Voice  
      - Double-Edge  
      - Tailwind  
      - Protect  
      Brought to 26/26 games (16-10). Here's my good old friend Salamence again, always there with Intimidate and nice chip and just about everything else to set up solid wins. I went for the double Tailwind because I already knew from experience that Salamence was a decent setter for it, and not just limiting it to Zapdos was helpful a lot of times (especially in those when I didn't even bring Zapdos but still wanted a quick doubled Speed for my Primals, naturally). I also took the same old boring trivial spread again because that's really what I prefer. I know Jamie used some more physical Attack to guarantee a double-target knockout together with Zapdos on bulky Kyogres but when I calculated that myself I saw that the rolls are very favorable regardless and the scenario just isn't common enough for my own way of playing.

      Zapdos @ Sitrus Berry  
      Ability: Static  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 84 HP / 8 Def / 152 SpA / 12 SpD / 252 Spe  
      Timid Nature  
      IVs: 0 Atk / 30 Def / 30 SpA  
      - Thunderbolt  
      - Hidden Power [Water]  
      - Tailwind  
      - Detect  
      Brought to 10/26 games (6-4). With this one, I also wasn't entirely faithful to the original. The EV spread is pretty much the same, which mimics the bulk of common Timid Sitrus Thunduruses to survive a lot of common strong attacks (up to a +2 Dazzling Gleam or a Fake Out + Double-Edge combination after Intimidate) but has clearly superior damage output with Thunderbolt. I kicked out Roar for the safer Detect because I had less reason to be afraid of Xerneas with a Bronzong in my team (in fact, I rarely ever pick Zapdos against Xerneas to begin with), and having a Protect-like move is always helpful to deny free double-targets as well as strengthen my positioning. And another thing... It's actually quite funny when a Groudon Fire Punches you and then eats some Static. That has happened a few times during my tournament run and it never even interfered with my Speed control because I pretty much never bring Zapdos and Bronzong at the same time.
      Double Primal, double Tailwind. Can we have more doubles in this team? Yes, we can!

      Antumnos (Bronzong) @ Lum Berry  
      Ability: Levitate  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 252 HP / 36 Atk / 220 SpD  
      Sassy Nature  
      IVs: 0 Spe  
      - Gyro Ball  
      - Hypnosis  
      - Gravity  
      - Trick Room  
      Brought to 15/26 games (9-6). Double Steel, part 1. With how common bulky Xerneas got recently, it was just a waste to try and OHKO 4/0 ones consistently, so I opted to have my Bronzong take two +2 Moonblasts instead if it came down to it, and just used whatever was left in Attack to help the general damage rolls just a bit. About the moveset, I'm not too sure anymore if Hypnosis really was the right move to put there. The story behind it is that I basically immediately threw it on there as soon as I lost to a Groudon because my Skill Swap got redirected away, which adds to the fact that a Bronzong without something like Hypnosis sometimes is just sitting there without doing anything, which I don't like. But on the other hand...I just have to accept that Skill Swap would have won me a few games that I lost, and could have made other games a bit safer than they actually were.

      Trinoxtion (Ferrothorn) @ Life Orb  
      Ability: Iron Barbs  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 SpD  
      Brave Nature  
      IVs: 0 Spe  
      - Power Whip  
      - Gyro Ball  
      - Substitute  
      - Protect  
      Brought to 6/26 games (4-2). Double Steel, part 2. I never grew fond of the usual Ferrothorn that just sat there and got hit repeatedly till it went down without accomplishing anything. That's why I decided against running said usual Ferrothorn. Life Orb is different, very different. That strong Power Whip gives me such a nice edge in Primal mirrors, where all unboosted Power Whips usually wouldn't threaten a knockout on a Kyogre and then have not one but two chances to just miss anyway on top of that. Long story short, offensive Ferrothorn is best Ferrothorn at least in my hands. I quite love myself some defensive switchability, but I can't get warm with dedicated stalling -- and guess what, not a single one of the games I played with this team went to time!
      The filler slot needs more testing. I had too little time before the event, so I just picked one and went with it. I think that Substitute and Bulldoze are the two best ones, where the former offers an out to punish slow turns and the latter provides additional Speed control as an unexpected (and most definitely inferior) variant of Icy Wind. Leech Seed I just hate because it's so slow and passive, Curse or Swords Dance don't appeal to me much because I'm not expecting to keep my Ferrothorn long enough to make big use of those boosts (seems more considerable with Leftovers as the Item though!) and then there's also completely random stuff like Explosion or Gravity which is just on a completely different level of situationality.
      The Tournament in Assago, IT
      All right, last chance. Spoilers: In the three nights between Thursday and Sunday, I slept for a combined total of 10 hours. Could have been one or two more, but I had to get my team in-game the night before I left and I'm always taking longer than expected with those things. Whatever. I got through it just fine, I guess. Time to play some games of Pokémon!
      Round 1: Mattia T. WW

      Throw your Xerneas into the gutter and then face Yveltal in the first round already -- off to a great start, heh... I brought Salamence Zapdos with the Primals in the back both games because it's hard to justify something else in this matchup. In the first game, he allowed his Thundurus to go down early while not threatening knockouts as hard as some other Yveltal Trainers tend to do, then I had full Speed control and cleaned up. The second game was supposed to go similarly from my end, except that this time he had the Thundurus in the back and clicked, just when I was feeling safe, the dreaded Swagger onto my Groudon. That went horribly wrong...for him! My Groudon got its very important Fire Punch onto Thundurus and thus the second game was over as well. 1-0
      Round 2: Juan Carlos M. (@JuancaMarcellan) LWL

      I was feeling good in preview, executed my predefined plan for Xdon teams, but then...his Groudon was slower than mine and that was a problem. I pretty much set up Trick Room and Gravity for him and didn't even see his fourth, so that's actually very far from what I really wanted to see. So, for the other two games I went with Salamence, Zapdos, Kyogre and Ferrothorn instead -- a selection that isn't completely unheard of but normally only brought in double Primal mirrors. He brought what I'm assuming was the same in the second game, with Salamence Smeargle leading and Groudon Cresselia in the back, since it was absolutely perfect in game 1 after all. Now this was a more interactive and close game, where I managed to get a Substitute with Ferrothorn and then used it to chip away at the Groudon and eventually beat it. There still was a way of me losing that involved Smeargle having a Focus Sash when it switched into one of my attacks, but in that turn I learned it didn't have a Focus Sash, so my intended double-target into that slot redirected into the other slot and that was big. And then, in the last game, he replaced Smeargle with Thundurus and made multiple good reads to get ahead of me -- cleverly chipped away at my whole team till it was completely helpless against his own Trick Room Gravity setup that he saved for the bitter end. 1-1
      An early loss, not exactly what I hoped for. It was a very bearable one at least, for my opponent played simply amazingly. I can't believe that he was at 5-3 before the last round (and then had to go to 5-4 because he faced a friend of mine who, well, was at the right place in the right time to receive a bit of intel before the match...)! I was pretty sure he'd make top cut if he continued to play like that. That was really sad. Oh well, there's always next year. Hope we meet again one day!
      Round 3: Fatih Y. (@MatriVGC) LWW

      Similar matchup but no Smeargle or Thundurus to troll me this time, so, as a matter of fact, it can't be harder. It definitely was easier in fact, since Cresselia only revealed Thunder Wave and Icy Wind but no Trick Room, and the Groudon now was faster than mine, just as I wanted it. Game 1 I believe offered a good start to me but I lost this advantage when he made an extremely risky play that flipped everything around. After that, I still had an out to win by him missing Precipice Blades -- but I falsely assumed I had set Gravity when I actually hadn't, and forfeited before the game was actually over. Focus, silly, focus! No more presents from now, please. In the other two games, I still brought the standard four for the matchup but in a different order, played better and came out on top. All I remember about those games is that he (rightfully?) assumed I had Skill Swap on Bronzong -- until at one point he set Gravity for me and then I busted out the dreaded Hypnosis to mess up his whole plan. 2-1
      Fun fact about my notes: I wrote Power-Up Punch on Kangaskhan's moveset not once but twice. I probably meant to write Fake Out or whatever attacking Normal STAB it was instead, but that's impossible to retrieve now. Man, I must have been badly out of focus. Glad this went well at least, since I still had some work to do!
      Round 4: Manuel Vittorio M. (@keyboredomVGC) WLW

      Well, I had to face a Raichu again eventually! Remembering this specific Trainer from Battle Spot...he actually seems to have a special place in his heart for the big rat, having used it together with Charizard and Breloom for a while in 2015 and stuff. This time at least it came with friends that I normally don't have to fear more than absolutely necessary. In game 1, I played into a situation where I thought I'd get a free Trick Room against Salamence and Raichu -- except I didn't at all because that Salamence then showed Roar. Then some more turns happened and I still got into a situation where I had Bronzong and Kyogre in Trick Room against his Groudon in Desolate Land. He accepted defeat there and offered me the handshake -- which turned out slightly awkward as the game still got played out for a few turns and I didn't click the obviously expected Skill Swap but instead actually had to show Hypnosis in order to not unnecessarily risk a surprise loss. (To give a bit of context why I remember exactly that: I had a situation in Innsbruck where another player was about to surrender, but I was being a bit too honest for my own good and pointed out that the game wasn't over yet. Well, and then I lost, when I could have absolutely taken a gifted win from opponent's sloppiness. That being said, apologies to Manuel if I made a rather odd impression there -- it was just the normal tactical move, having learned my lesson some months before.) Anyway, back to the game at hand, that Hypnosis connected and I won the first game, so that wasn't the worst for me.
      Game 2 is pretty much completely gone from my memory. My notes tell me that we both (likely, since I didn't see his last this time) brought the same and I even had the advantage of being able to consciously play around the Roar, but still it appears that I got completely wrecked. How did that happen? I wish I remembered! So, for the last game, he brought the same and in the same order yet again, whereas I switched my order up -- led Kyogre over Groudon paired with the regular Salamence this time. I'd be guaranteed to get at least one of Tailwind or Ice Beam, and since he had nothing to switch into that Ice Beam, that was a surprisingly potent threat. The game didn't go completely perfectly for me because I still allowed him to Nuzzle my Salamence against my intentions, but still I was at least playing my Kyogre well enough to take a close win at the end. 3-1
      Round 5: Salvatore D. LWW

      Fifth round, first Primals mirror. I wasn't entirely sure before the event how those would normally go for me, but without a doubt I was readier to tackle them than ever. The first game typically is just a scouting game for me that I might or might not win, no way to tell without knowing Pokémon specifics of the other side. This scouting game I lost pretty clearly, because I brought my full Tailwind mode straight into his endgame Trick Room and had no answer on me whatsoever. The good news: I learned that his Primals were likely slower, and Cresselia seemed to be not carrying Icy Wind because Ice Beam was shown. For the second game, we both switched it up by one slot each, which led to me getting a very good start and a very good follow-up combined, as he presented to me the Salamence-weakest lead imaginable and naturally I had Ferrothorn and Kyogre in the back this time for messing with his otherwise commanding Trick Room mode. Except that...I got severely slowed down by a Freeze on one of my mons. To be absolutely sure he wouldn't come back into the game I needed a double Protect in the last turn of Trick room -- and I got it.
      So that was the series tied up and still we both weren't entirely sure what we liked, as we both brought a different four each yet again. And now this was the scariest lead matchup for me of them all, as I brought Salamence Groudon into the Kyogre Thundurus that I did not see coming at all. I didn't like to switch there because I really didn't want to eat a free Water Spout. My play was to double into the Kyogre, hoping my Salamence wouldn't be fully Paralyzed and there'd also be no Hidden Power Water on Thundurus -- an assumption I felt was sane enough to make, since I had seen Thunderbolt and Swagger at that point (and maybe also Taunt, don't remember when exactly that got revealed). That worked out exactly as planned and I took this juicy 4-3 lead with my own Kyogre safe in the back. From there, I brought this game and thus the match home, even took another Freeze of this mad Cresselia's Ice Beams, but this time my advantage was just too big for it to matter. 4-1
      Round 6: Santi R. (MrSaints) WLL

      Yikes, another Yveltal, and this time with completely unpredictable sidekicks. In game 1, I got a nice and lucky critical hit onto his Yveltal in the first turn and he couldn't recover from that -- a lead I was glad to take at all. Wasn't meant to last too long though, because the other two games just showed me the harsh reality anyway: the matchup was a nightmare. Salamence had Draco Meteor, Liepard had Encore and Thunder Wave and Yveltal had Life Orb Sucker Punch and Oblivion Wing to join the mostly harmless Dark Pulse. My only chance in this matchup was to maybe catch random good lead matchups and make things happen from there, but in both following games I picked the respective wrong lead each time and couldn't do a whole lot as a result. 4-2
      Okay, three elimination matches now, fair enough. At the same place, I got a 1-2 start back a year ago, made it back to 6-2 and was even going to get the 7-2 just fine, but...threw it away in another one of my infamous microsleeps. So if there was any motivation to get, it was exactly this one.
      Round 7: Luigi S. (@LuigiSchiavone8) WW

      Out of the frying pan into the fire. You can't be serious, Tom...................
      But I was on a mission. I played a game 1 that was everywhere beyond good and evil, one of the best I played in my whole life. I led him into Tailwind while also containing his threats, got the great evil bird out of my sight, then was free to set Trick Room in Tailwind's last turn and he got soulcrushingly destroyed under 100% perfect Speed control. Use Yveltal and lose to Bronzong, the popular meme among the Internet's favorite Italians? It's not a meme, it's harsh reality when one-of-a-kind games like that happen! For game 2, I left Bronzong at home and went with my straight Tailwind mode. There was a chance of this becoming a closer game, but then he timed out at move selection and unfortunately for him Fake Out was Raichu's first move. And that essentially decided the game and the match. Also, huge respect to him for taking this defeat like a gentleman -- I'm pretty sure this is one of the most heartbreaking ways to get eliminated from the tournament... 5-2
      Round 8: Lorenzo B. (@VesperoVGC) WW

      That team should look familiar to those who followed the other Nats top cuts. I was very afraid of facing exactly this one with Xerneas, but now with my own Primals and also with Amoonguss being no longer around in this version, I was feeling a lot better about this. I brought Salamence Bronzong with a varying FWG subset in the back to both games, my Trick Room was uncontested and I didn't allow the Mega Gengar to pull any tricks on me. In game 2, he replaced Gengar with Salamence and that led to the funny situation that I got a non-Mega Hyper Voice off in the first turn -- but my Trick Room at the same time, since Weavile just used Knock Off on Bronzong. Well, that turned out better than actually intended (the original plan was to either lose Salamence immediately or preserve Intimidate by switching on turn 2) -- I was free to push the Mega button on the second turn with a nice little Speed advantage and the Primals in the back weren't enough to bring it back for him. 6-2
      Round 9: Gianluca M. LWW

      Just as we met at our assigned table, we got intercepted by a judge who led us to the livestream's stage. Jackpot! As much of a nobody as I am, I did expect to eventually land on stream again should I do well, so it's pretty much the second best time possible to be on it when...it's the final match for making top cut. Now I'd either confirm to the whole world how stupidly bad I am or show the whole world that I'm actually not that bad at all, by making two Nationals top cuts in a row. Truth be told, no less than both of these possibilities actually happened and I can only say that I'm the most grateful person in the world for having Bo3 Swiss. I highly recommend you watch the archive!
      A game thrown away to a Sleep roll, another game managed much better and last but not least a Moody miracle. Just about everyone believed that it was over for me, including myself. But you know what, it just so turns out that I played a bunch of Phoenix Wright in the days leading up to the event, and some of you definitely know how that usually goes. Never give up in deepest despair, trust in your clientabilities, pull some completely unexpected tricks -- and prevail. 7-2
      But Smeargle is dumb regardless. We have seen it all long before this stream happened. #BanDarkVoid #BanMoody #BanSmeargle
      ...Wait, did I actually not use Smeargle at all during those Nats because I'm ostensibly ideologically poisoned? Wrong. I have Smeargled countless people throughout the season and would do it again any day as long as The Pokémon Company let me. I just didn't feel like it was the best option for these specific teams I went with, that is all. And Gianluca, as well as many others, did what was best for him, which no one should take offense at.
      Top 32: Jeremy M. (@JezVgc) LL

      While he also was on stream and I did watch that in the night-long break we had, there sadly wasn't too much information to be gleaned. It would be very likely that he'd bring Salamence and his Primals to every game against me, but there was a big question mark on the remaining slot. Would it be Weavile to disrupt me? Would it be Thundurus to disrupt me? Or would it even be Clefairy to feast on my own Trick Room? It was impossible to tell. All I could do was assume Weavile for a start, because that's what he brought to this other Primals mirror, and that one even had a Kangaskhan of all things which I am missing.
      And I was wrong, it was Thundurus. From ensuing talk, I learned that he might have brought Weavile indeed, but once he knew that my Bronzong didn't have Mental Herb, he felt safe resorting to Thundurus. Thus, my Trick Room got postponed right away, but nothing too bad yet. Some switching and attacking happened, until I came into a position similar of that one Swiss game earlier: Salamence and Groudon facing Kyogre and Thundurus, threatening to remove Kyogre. I went for exactly that again, but this time Thunder Wave insta-FPed my Salamence, Rock Slide to possibly compensate didn't make Kyogre flinch, both Origin Pulse accuracy rolls connected, and I lost both my mons from it. After that, I got my team Trick Room up and there was something like a one-in-a-million chance for my Kyogre to overcome both of his Primals with the help of Hypnosis hits with long Sleeps and multiple Thunder misses. The RNG I got in those desperate attempts was way beyond average in my favor, but still it was fairly far from enough to actually net me the comeback.
      And then in game 2, I pretty much just fell apart. I switched over to the Tailwind mode, got a few reads and possibly damage rolls wrong, and eventually found myself in another bleak position where I needed just another uncanny RNG miracle in order to win. The dream is dead. Salamence Thundurus the gatekeeper, not too surprising when you think about it. That is one of the "safest" combinations to lead into Primal mirrors -- especially those without Cresselia -- and it simply always wins when it doesn't make wrong reads...and still has the option to compensate for bad calls with that sweet and salty Paralysis RNG. Oh that guy at Game Freak's who designed Thundurus, we sure want to have a serious word with him.....................

      Epilogue: Season Review, Shoutouts and Everything Else
      My Season Review
      So that now was definitely my last live competition for this season, since I put all my money towards trying to get day 2 Worlds and failed, leaving nothing behind to just go and play day 1 anyway. No regrets about that, because it was a least fun and I still hate the format enough (hint: it's the worst VGC format ever and I'm being serious about it) so that there would just be absolutely no way I could even consider just going for day 1.
      Okay, let's review my season a bit. Premier Challenges first. I had just a grand total of three Premier Challenges in the old format in my area -- I won one of them and that was as nice as it gets, but got nothing from the other two. I was completely behind everyone else when we moved over to the new year. I was looking for something like 3 wins total and fill the other 3 slots up with some decent other results, which would already have been a major improvement over my 2015 season (final BFL in that one: 1, 2, 2, 4, 8). But lo and behold, somehow I got the illustrious full six wins! That was mostly because I had an outstanding Bo3 record -- I took first place in more than half of my runs that didn't end in Swiss.
      And that leads me to Regionals -- BFL 1, 16, 16. I have in fact never lost a Regionals top cut match in all of my life, but I was only ever allowed to play a grand total of two of them. Going 5-2 just to be eliminated by resistance is fun, you know, my only fault in that is that I kinda failed to "just" go 6-1 instead. Anyway, those were still decent results by my standards. My plan at the start of the season was to get top 16 three times and the rest would be bonus. Now, the disappointing part is...this was really bad compared to most of the others on the first page of the leaderboards hroughout the preseason -- almost all of them had like 3 top cuts, some even multiple first places, and all that stuff. That was just not doable for me, so it was a real disadvantage in the competition for day 2. And finally, I wasn't even able to play more than 4 Regionals. 3 of them -- all that we actually got in Germany -- were in perfectly good reach, but all of the many more ones abroad were so out of reach that it's not at all unfair to say that every single one of them would have cost me about as much as a Nats. Please TPCi, move some of Benelux's ridiculous 5 over to Germany (and Scandinavia's might have a better place in Spain), and while we're at it, let's also have no more Regs after Nats!
      And finally, Nationals. Now this one is obvious. They always ended in Swiss before, now only 1 of 3 ended in Swiss this time. It's a shame that they both ended at that measly top 32, but you know, if I can do it again, chances are I'll also go a bit deeper eventually. It just...may possibly take me another half of a decade, because I'm simply the unluckiest player alive. *cough*
      Another thing: Right in the first weeks of this format, I had this one meme going on: the one and only BIRD CHALLENGE. The rules: You need to have at least one bird in whatever team you're using at any event (common possible choices: Yveltal, Talonflame, Cresselia, Zapdos, Togekiss; and then some rare ones), and then you make a separate CP record based on this rule. Here's my own record:
      222 from Nats (Zapdos) 92 from Regs (Talonflame) 120 from PCs (Cresselia with Ho-Oh, Cresselia alone, Talonflame and Yveltal), and some additional minor results that are there but won't change the big picture That makes a total of 434, far beyond the 275 for day and even meeting North America's requirements as a bonus. Fly my birds, fly across The Pond and accept your day-1 invite for me.
      A Change of Mentality
      Flashback to 2015 Worlds. Japanese who were believed to have little Bo3 skills dominated the event like never before, and they did so using teams that disappointed many who were looking for the cool stuff like Pachirisu, Mamoswine or Gothitelle. However, this very day has changed us all.
      Here's my own story. For many years past, I for the most part used what I thought "was fun". I didn't spend many thoughts on why whatever I used would or wouldn't be the best damned thing in the metagame -- except that when I actually did, I soon hated and abandoned the respective teams because I faced disappointment. When none of that happened though, I took my time to try out ideas and optimize those teams so that they, ideally, never lost their competitiveness. Prime example of this was 2014, where I knew pretty much nothing but MEGATAR. In 2015, that got replaced by different Mega Salamences, because in both years I considered Kangaskhan mirrors to be dumb and just couldn't be bothered to play them. That is my past in team decisions in a nutshell.
      Then 2015 post-Worlds season came around. I still had my one team I was comfortable with, and as you all know, I stuck with it despite the things we learned. In that case, it was an absolutely educated decision though. I had accepted that common Kangaskhan teams likely were the best and I tried some of them -- I just didn't get good enough with them in time for the sake of bringing them to events. I was painfully behind the whole world, since I had literally shunned that fat kangaroo for two whole years. I was looking to catch up by first running Kangaskhan teams at a few Premier Challenges, until suddenly...
      The new format dropped. All the practice and learning I did became pointless in an instant. What I still did, though, is change that Kangaskhan Heatran combination into a Kangaskhan Ho-Oh duo for my very first team of 2016. Naturally, I still think that Kangaskhan mirrors are dumb, but even then, there are so many dumber mirrors in this format that I was perfectly fine running the two most common Megas -- and hey, with Salamence I was very much ahead of half the world, hahah! Whatever. That first team netted me an early PC win but didn't last too long beyond that, other experiments failed long before they got as far, and it was pretty much inevitable for me to arrive at what started as a meme but is now official terminology: the Big Six.
      My old trait of generally looking for unique techs still remained with me, and that has helped my wits a lot to survive all of this madness. From the moment that I decided to bring the Big Six to a Regional it was clear that I wouldn't be content with just using "a" team -- no, I was on the quest for "the" team. And as the metagame evolved, I modified things in various ways, turned my back on Xdon after months, came back to Xdon again, turned my back again, and so on. Always looking for the optimal play at any given event. Avoiding mirrors was appreciated but no longer a valid argument.
      So, have you ever been thinking about this? How has 2015 affected you, if at all? I really do think that 2015 has had a big influence on pretty much everything. And assuming that Sun and Moon will bring us a less extreme format again...I can't wait to experience it!
      Credits and Shoutouts
      As I said, all of 2015's overlords for enlightening us. Markus S. (@13Yoshi37) for destroying me with his team and thus delivering the basis for my own Nats team. Diana B. (@eshivgc) for not throwing the Bronzong/Ferrothorn combination away just because of its theoretical redundancy. Jamie B. (@MrJellyLeggs) for proving that Zapdos over Thundurus and Life Orb over Leftovers on Ferrothorn are good decisions. Also Alexander K. (@hibikivgc), again for the Zapdos part -- he replaced Thundurus with it on pretty short notice in a team that has evolved over many months! Speaking of Zapdos, there is a German forum user who donated me a serial code for an Aldora Zapdos a while ago -- that made it much easier for me to get my hands onto that bird! Oh, and another German forum user for the plush I always have with me and that you saw on stream. All of my Nationals opponents for great games, other friends I've met through Nats, and all the people who made these weekends enjoyable just by their kindness. All of the streaming team for doing an absolutely amazing job at giving our proud region more exposure. My local community that keeps me actively playing -- Christian C. for hosting our events, Tobias K. (@TobySxE) for being the best among us, and many others. Also Christian C., Ester C. and Dominic S. for sharing a room in Milan with me. My old grassroots community -- Christoph K. (@drug_duck) and Mark K. for letting me stay at their place a lot, Thomas G. for reviving the good times in Augsburg for a 10-year anniversary, and many others. ...And finally you for reading all of this gibberish. See you next season!
    • By AcademiaSOS in Academy Bulletin 4
      Greetings, my name is Ulises Arreola, better known as “Kracken” within the Pokémon community. This article holds special meaning to me since it is my first contribution to the Nugget Bridge community, as well as my first Top Cut, which I got in the very first National Championship in Mexico.
      Ever since Mexico’s National Championship was announced, I was aware that my participation was mandatory; however, due to my lack of assistance to the other tournaments throughout the season, I was feeling rather insecure on how I would perform in the most important tournament in the country. The result exceeded my expectations: I got into the Top 8 and the prize were 420 Championship points that got me an invitation to this year’s Pokemon World Championship in San Francisco in August.
      The Core
      Throughout the season I tried different cores of restricted pokémon with Groudon+”something else” as the base for my team until I got to the pair of pokémon that would participate with me: Groudon and Yveltal.
      For Groudon I tried with various sets striving from Special, Trick Room, Gravity and Physical Groudon, which was my final choice. As for the partners for Groudon my first options were Palkia and Rayquaza, but as soon as I saw the damage that Yveltal deals with his powerful dark-type attacks I fell in love and decided that Yveltal would be in my team.
      The Team

      Crobat (Greed) @ Lum Berry
      Ability: Inner Focus
      Level: 50
      EVs: 252 HP / 36 Def / 220 Spe
      Jolly Nature
      - Super Fang
      - Haze
      - Tailwind
      - Taunt
      Xerneas and Smeargle are a duo that has proven to be very problematic, so having a counter for both of them is mandatory. Crobat is a perfect pokémon as a lead for the battle, immune to flinch (thanks to Inner Focus) and also immune to Dark Void and other statuses thanks to the Lum Berry, with the primary function of setting Tailwind as well as to assist in some KO’s with Super Fang.
      Taunt prevents Xerneas from setting up with Geomancy or, in case it is already boosted, Haze resets its stats before Xerneas gets to attack (obviously with a prior Tailwind).

      Clefairy (Envy) @ Eviolite
      Ability: Friend Guard
      Level: 50
      EVs: 244 HP / 172 Def /  92 SpD
      IVs: 0 Spd
      Sassy Nature
      - Icy Wind
      - Thunder Wave
      - Helping Hand
      - Follow Me
      This was the hardest slot to fill. Originally occupied by Cresselia, to make room for Thundurus later and finally making it to the ultimate answer: Clefairy. The most fulfilling supportive set with speed control and increase of both offensive and defensive power, everything in the same cute little pink package.

      Ferrothorn (Sloth) @ Leftovers
      Ability: Iron Barbs
      Level: 50
      EVs: 252 HP / 128 Atk / 30 Def / 100 SpD
      Brave Nature
      IVs: 0 Spe
      - Power Whip
      - Gyro Ball
      - Protect
      - Thunder Wave
      Ultimate counter for Xerneas and Kyogre, as well as speed control. If everything else fails, Ferrothorn is the emergency plan to gain control of the battle. There’s not too much to say about it, Ferrothorn is one of the most trustworthy pokémon in this and past formats.

      Kangaskhan (Lust) @ Kangaskhanite
      Ability: Scrappy
      Level: 50
      EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
      Jolly Nature
      - Fake Out
      - Sucker Punch
      - Double-Edge
      - Low Kick
      A Kangaskhan… with a kangaskhanite. This is pretty much the VGC 2016 standard set, which I found to be useful for this team.

      Groudon (Pride) @ Red Orb
      Ability: Drought
      Level: 50
      EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
      Jolly Nature
      - Fire Punch
      - Rock Tomb
      - Precipice Blades
      - Protect
      I find Groudon to be the best pokémon in this format, even though it hates speed ties, as well as being slower than Rayquaza, Mega-Kangaskhan and Mega-Salamence, which is why Rock Tomb was an invaluable move during the tournament.

      Yveltal (Wrath) @ Dark Glasses
      Ability: Dark Aura
      Level: 50
      EVs: 252 HP / 68 Atk / 188 Spe
      Jolly Nature
      - Foul Play
      - Knock Off
      - Sucker Punch
      - Protect
      This was my first serious participation with Yveltal on my team and it was an incredible experience. The power of dark-type attacks, boosted by Yveltal’s ability, Dark Aura, and the black glasses, is devastating. Any pokémon other than Xerneas is afraid of getting hit by any of these attacks.
      Last Words
      I find myself really happy and proud of the results of this tournament with a record of 6-1 in swiss rounds and a global record of 6-2. In regards to my participation at the Pokémon World Championship… well, that will have to wait until next year, as for this year I’ll just have to cheer up my teammates (Alfonso Esqueda and Israel Olmedo) from home.
      But mark my words: this won’t be the last time you hear from Kracken as I am waiting with excitement for the beginning of the next season and hopefully in VGC 2017 I will finally assist to the Tournament that has been a lifetime dream for me.
      Until the Next Time.

      Bright (Pktrainer1994), kuishi and WolfSOS
    • By Havak in A Veteran's Log 6
      Another season in the life of a competitive Pokémon player; positives, negatives, and a whole host of talking points that I'd like to delve into and start a creative discussion among everyone involved. I do believe that it would be somewhat outrageous to claim that no improvement has been made over the years and I think I can attest to this more than most, having attended every United Kingdom VGC National tournament since the beginning in 2009 (along with a few in other countries as well). The Pokémon Company International has made huge steps toward making this game better for the players and the appointment of Chris Brown (AlphaZealot) in 2012 (?) was and is something I approve of massively. While numbers in European National tournaments are down slightly, I think the growth of the game has been evident everywhere else and I'd put money on more people having Championship and Play! Points worldwide this time than any other season. It's fair to say that it is mostly casual players who have given up on attending tournaments for various reasons in recent years, but on the flipside due to improvements to the games themselves, a lot of once-casual players are now competitive. Why have a lot of casuals given up on attending? Well, speaking for the United Kingdom at least, it's largely down to poorly run National events. However, I'd like to delve into the "Season" approach that was introduced a few years back, meaning that travelling to various events became a necessity. Baris Akcos (Billa) was one of the first to bring up the point of a "pointless pre-season" and it's hard to disagree with it too much. I had my worries once we saw the Championship Point system for this season, so after this brief introduction, let's get to the root of the discussion.
      Disclaimer: This is going to be a Europe-centric discussion, anything regarding North America will be for comparison basis only and how us, as European players, would like to get closer to the system that US players are used to more quickly than we currently are.
      Pointless Pre-Season?
      This is something that a lot of people can relate to, as when we look at the Championship Point table for Europe, there's around 60 players on over 500 Championship Points who didn't quality for Day Two of the Pokémon Video Game World Championships. I would hazard a guess that almost all of these players paid out over 250£/e to compete in this season, receiving very little reward in doing so (other than their Day One Invitation). I think a huge issue with this is the weight of the Pokémon National Championships in terms of Championship Point award, if we really want this to be a season-long game. This is especially evident in the placing of players in the Top 32 and Top 16 of a National Championship. The biggest example of this makes me think the system is truly laughable and it relates to a player called Joseph Richardson (Gogogo Golems). As most people reading this will know, Joseph managed to win three Regional Championships this season alone, along with winning an International Challenge, winning some Premier Challenges, and finishing in the Top 32 of the United Kingdom Championship after unfortunately being paired with Jamie Boyt in the decisive round. Hitting 843 CP with an International Challenge to come this weekend, Joseph cannot quality for Day Two of the Pokémon Video Game World Championships in San Francisco this August even if he were to win that as well. 
      So, this is where the "pointless pre-season" statement comes into play. From 2009-2013, Invitations to Worlds could only be earned in Europe through top finishes at a National Championships (or a combination of finishes at multiple National Championships). Now that we are aiming for a season-long approach, with results across multiple tournaments in all forms and sizes, it is crazy to see that someone who won multiple difficult tournaments and made it to the Top Cut in the National Championship has not managed to acquire the main prize everyone was working toward this "season". After a good start to working out a season-long series of competitive Pokémon, this instance just slams it back in our face as a huge step backwards. If you need to be getting Top 16 minimum (generally even higher than this) just to have a chance at a Day Two Invitation, then why do we have all of these other tournaments in the first place? Given the poor prize support at these non-National tournaments in Europe (and let's be honest, Nationals itself as well), all they do is serve as ways for us to spend even more money that we could be saving toward travelling to the World Championships outright. Of course, developing the metagame and giving us practice is great, but if we're serious about doing well, we'll get plenty of that online anyway. 
      If the weight of Nationals is going to remain so heavy in determining who goes to Worlds, then it should at least offer a Top 2 auto-invitation for Day Two of the World Championships. However, I would much rather see this along with an adjustment to the Championship Point award. It's fair to see this season was a test, especially with the introduction of a Championship Point bar for the first time in the Video Game, but how long will it take until the Pokémon Video Game Championship Series is no longer in a BETA? It seems like it has been in BETA for seven years now, so as a competitive player, a loyal customer and tournament attendee, and just a lifelong Pokémon fan in general, I do feel as though I have every right to demand better and more quicker than it is happening. If it's going to be a case of constantly two steps forward, one or sometimes two steps back, then we might as well just stand still and have it how it was in the beginning. Nationals is all that matters in the end. 
      So, there's my opinion on how the isn't in the best of places right now. But what's the point in me, or anyone else complaining if we can't try and come up with ways to make it better for everyone? Let's try it!
      Why are Tournaments not Tiered? 
      Now, I'm not trying to call out Baris Akcos here by any means, but he and a few other players made the most of travelling to events that had a high Championship Point pay-out coupled with very low attendance and a somewhat inexperienced pool of players (for the most-part). This isn't their fault, it's just how the system is and if someone feels that's their best way to get to Worlds, then they should by all means go for it. It's smart, it saves time and money by earning large amounts of CP at few events. However, why should a Regional tournament with 17 players in, for the sake of a better phrase, in the middle of nowhere, award the same as a Regional in Spain with over 200 players? Premier Challenges had an adjustment if they reach a certain amount of players, so why not everything else? My suggestion is to attempt something like this:
      Premier Challenges - BFL 5
      These numbers are not final by any stretch of the imagination, just a quick thought on how things can be tiered and distributed to make things a bit fairer and balanced. If the CP Bar was 300, and you were in an area of your country that could attract 10-15 players per Premier Challenge, then you could have a realistic chance of winning five of them and making it half way toward your World Championship Day One Invitation. If your area was more active and you were playing in tournaments of over 32 players, then you could get all the way up to 250/300 CP toward Worlds Day One. 
      I won't go into Online Tournaments too much, but I do believe that there should be more of these and they should offer a similar Championship Point award to Tier 1 Premier Challenges. However, I think it'd be an interesting experiment to separate them by region, as I don't think that players who can't earn Championship Points should play against those who can. I also believe that while it is fun to play against players from other regions to test yourself, that it should not be done in CP events. After all, you are competing against players in the same region for a Day Two Invitation, so why should you have to face anyone else before Worlds? If this isn't logistically possible, then I'd like to see placements separated again for North America, Europe, and any other region involved. 
      Regionals - BFL 3
      These are just rough estimates again and more of an idea as to how I think Championship Points should be distributed in terms of attendance levels. Do not take the numbers as final, as everyone will have a different opinion on how much should be awarded. However, for arguments sake in terms of a World Championship Day One Invitation, I think the bar should have been 300 CP - meaning in this system, you'd need to place 1st, 2nd, and 3rd/4th over three Tier 1 Regional tournaments in order to earn a Day One Invitation (not counting Premier Challenge results or Nationals). This is a discussion for another time though, so let's leave it there for now. 
      I also think 'Mid-Season Showdowns' should be scrapped. They were good in theory, but in practice they were actually rather pointless. If they are to be kept in the circuit, then the way they work needs to change. Give them their own BFL, or use them as a means to give smaller participating countries Regional level events to grow the game. However, this is already solved by simply adding Tier levels to all tournaments as explained above. So, Mid-Season Showdowns can go. 
      While I'm discussing Regional tournaments in Europe, we also need a set system like North America. We need to limit Regionals in Europe to 15 at a maximum, over Autumn, Winter, and Spring. As a bias, countries with a National would get one Regional per sector (meaning three Regionals for each of Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom). Some may argue that they already have enough tournaments, but people from outside of these countries will have to travel for the National anyway and it's still less tournaments than these countries have had in the current season. With six other potential Regionals, countries such as Spain, France, the Netherlands etc can all still get major events and with a bit of planning, it can't be too hard to make it easier for the players. For example, make sure that the Spanish and French Regionals are not at the same time, thus travel is somewhat reasonable for players in both countries to attend each one. 
      Nationals should have its Championship Point awarding system streamlined a bit more. I think the difference between Top 16 and Top 32 is far too great for starters. I do not think going one round further than someone else is equivalent to finishing roughly 2nd at a Regional. Why was this even in place from the get-go? I'd argue that 50 Points difference at maximum is enough between one placement and the next, while we can scrap CP all together for National finalists. I think a system where someone could not make it to any other events bar Nationals, be the National Champion, and not be able to get to Worlds using funds of their own, is wrong. The National Champion should be at Worlds (probably even Day Two), and for my money, 2nd Place probably should be as well. I would be all for a system where the Top Two at all three European Nationals are instantly given the paid Day Two Invite, while the remaining Top 10 based on CP form the Top 16 for Day Two of Worlds. Along with this, I think players right down to the Top 32 in Europe should receive some form of travel award in order to get to Worlds. It is madness that finishing on 850 CP and 275 CP earn the exact same rewards. This needs to be rectified in a competitive circuit that involves competing in multiple high level events and travelling your country (and possibly other countries). This leads me onto the last section:
      Prize support at European tournaments has been traditionally terrible. A Wii U for 1st Place, 3DS Consoles for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.. These are generally things people competing already own, and their net worth these days probably averages to about 100£/e, which would likely not even cover the cost of the travel and hotel to take part in the tournament itself. This is even more depressing when players have spent years competing for minimal prizing, only to see tournaments for the new Pokkén Tournament Video Game reach prize pools of actual cash in the thousands at the same event, when there's likely 1/8 the amount of players or less. Even if it meant players need to pay a small entrance fee to take part, I'm sure people would fancy their chances if they could say, at least double their money if they finished in the Top 64. Consoles and boxes of cards are actually OK with me, it's difficult to find much else that is relevant. But come on now, it is time that cash prizes become the norm alongside these things. Reiterating a point from above, travel stipends equal to at least $1000 should be awarded down to at least the Top 32 in Europe based on Championship Points. I left prizes until the end as while they are important to players, and important in attracting more players, most of us do this because we love the game and community first and foremost. However, it would be nice to be rewarded a bit more for continually competing. 
      I think that's all I've got to say for now, but I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions! Have I said anything outrageous? Am I totally wrong? How would you like to see the European circuit improve? 
      Thank you for reading. 
    • By Wyrms Eye in VGC through the Wyrms Eye 4
      It has been a long time since I’ve properly looked to write an article covering anything remotely metagame related, dating back to late January in fact. Since then, we’ve tried to get to grips with the format, had a myriad of Regional events on a truly International scale and are soon heading into the crescendo of the season, with the World Championships just weeks away. While some regions are still to have their National event, Europe’s season has come to an early conclusion with all three of the centrepiece events completed. In this Masters-centric article, we’ll be going over some of the strategic calls made by European players, including the winning squads from each National as well as some other significant points of interest from across the four-week period. For those of you who would like the see the squads that top cut, I heartily recommend Ricardo Pinto’s ongoing project to log every National Top Cut team, which you can find here.
      Fledging Broadcasting
      First off though, I do want to highlight that one of the main features that all three National Championships benefitted from was an official broadcast of the event across all three game disciplines. This certainly was a major step forward for the region being the first official streams run by TPCi, with the full backing of a dedicated production team. Hopefully this will be the first of many official streams that we will see in the coming years, as any streamed content of this calibre is always gratefully received by players competing at the venue as well as those watching at home. It all provided brilliant exposure for the European scene, and we saw a number of high calibre matches being put forward, with a wide mix of familiar names spread out by some fresh faces and rising stars of the future.
      We should also not forget the hard work of those in the front line of the operations; the casters. The guys were kept extremely busy and on their toes across the three weekends and really did a fantastic job for their first time in front of the cameras. Specifically, I want to thank Markus Stadter, Matteo Dorrell, Jay Blake, Nemanja Sandic and Sebastian Ernst who all played a significant role in casting the VGC events, as well as the lesser-spotted Scott Glaza for a surprise appearance at Liverpool!
      Team Analysis
      Before I go into any detail on the overall trends, I want to go over the three trainers and their chosen teams that led them to victory in the respective tournaments:
      Alejandro Gomez’s (Pokealex) UK National Championship Team
      Going into the event one of the favourites to have a deep run, Spain’s Alejandro Gomez certainly lived up to the expectations with a team that saw him use the Dual Primal core that he is certainly familiar with, but notably different from the team he piloted in Wakefield to the finals. The team shares many similarities to the Wakefield team in focusing on Speed control to manage an advantageous board position. This is where the similarities end as the primary modes of Speed control rely on Icy Wind on Cresselia and Thunder Wave rather than the previous reliance on Trick Room. These options allow both the key offensive behemoths of Groudon and Kyogre to relentlessly fire off attacks with limited concern of being beaten to the punch. As a result, Alejandro was able to dedicate more resources into the defensive benchmarks that some teams might not have been able to do. The natural bulk of Cresselia makes it an ideal exponent of Icy Wind in this format, something he used to great effect, going unbeaten in best of 3 all weekend.
      The dual primals also offers greater flexibility to control the weather to suit the ever-changing needs of a battle. On top of this, the option of using either Kangaskhan or Salamence as a complimentary aid to do respectable damage should not be understated, and both have shown incredible reliability for a myriad of teams all season. This complete package therefore offers a great degree of flexibility to the overall strategy behind the team, something that is generally accepted with the archetype compared to the other main offerings.
      Arash Ommati’s (Mean) Germany National Championship Team
      Ex-World Champion Arash Ommati was in imperious form in Kassel after a disappointing championship in Liverpool. His subsequent victory in Kassel mean he now stands as the only player to win a Regional, National and World title in the Masters division. The team he used in Germany greatly mirrors the squad he used to win the Turin Regional back in March, though a minor amendment saw the Amoonguss replaced for the rarely seen Jumpluff. The Groudon and Yveltal core is arguably considered part of the main group of restricted cores that see prominent use and are widely effective. Looking at Yveltal in more detail we could see the build placed an emphasis on physical offense with preference to moves such as Knock Off, Sucker Punch and Foul Play. The Jumpluff also is intrinsic to the team, with Chlorophyll pairing up with the Desolate Land from Primal Groudon to make it one of the few Pokémon in this format able to outspeed a Geomancy-boosted Xerneas. Significant as it then gives him an option to put it to sleep with Sleep Powder. We also saw Jumpluff utilize the Coba Berry, making threats such as Mega Salamence and Talonflame less of an immediate threat to it.
      Once again though, the team is one that Arash has had great success with this year, so his familiarity with the team and knowing its capabilities allowed him to reliably read the board position. This, combined with his ability to unerringly make the safest and correct moves on a turn-by-turn basis meant that he was a fearsome prospect for any opponent, irrespective of some of the frailties that the team suffers from at a casual glance.
      Javier Señorena’s (Proman) Italy National Championship Team
      Javier’s run to the championship gave Spain its second National Champion, certainly showcasing the strength and depth of the country’s talent. The team Javier piloted to victory in Italy departs greatly from much of the conventional wisdom surrounding Rayquaza, electing to use Xerneas as the partnering restricted Pokémon over the commonly-used Kyogre. The team also appears more reliant on its supporting cast, focusing on allowing Rayquaza and Xerneas a free rein to do as they please while they cover the various issues opponents might have to offer. That’s not to say the supporting cast aren’t also able to hit hard though! Once more however, Speed control is integral to the teams’ success, with Thunder Wave and Tailwind both valid options that were available to Javier. The main supporting benefits outside of this control come through the utility of Feint, the various guards and even Substitute.
      While the team departs from common expectations, the synergy within the team, and indeed with any team, is paramount and ultimately proved essential to his deep run. The supporting cast on this team in-particular are central pillars to the overall success in allowing Xerneas and Rayquaza to thrive.
      Close, but no cigar
      Perhaps one of the most surprising facets of all three Nationals was the lack of a so called ‘Big Six’ or variants of the team victory at any of the championships. While the team that has become almost infamous this year in the most rigid sense has seen usage curtailed as more people become accustomed to dealing with it, the variations that trainers have made to give it their own unique spin are still very effective. The key planks to these teams revolves around Xerneas and Primal Groudon, whom together form a fearsome pairing that can cover the majority of the metagame under the right circumstances. The partners that support this duo are always integral gears into making the team the fearsome force it is, with supportive options such as Talonflame, Thundurus, Cresselia and yes, unfortunately Smeargle to name a few. On the offensive side, the Mega Pokémon offer good backup support, with Mega Kangaskhan or Mega Salamence (or both!) on a team to add further offensive pressure.
      While Xerneas and Groudon as a pair failed to win any event, they did appear on the same team in two finals: Liverpool, under the direction of Ethan Hall, and Kassel, under the command of Till Böhmer. Both teams showcased novel variations on the popular archetype to try to eke out a competitive advantage in a metagame often maligned for its uniformity.
      In the case of Ethan, his use of a Scarf Latios meant he could apply significant direct pressure offensively, but also carried some devious surprises in the form of Trick, as well as the highly unusual Memento, which both saw action in the finals. Both were tools aimed to either destabilize the board position of an opponent or carried a unique utility to give his Xerneas a free passage onto the field whilst also neutering offensive pressure from an opponent, by lowering their Attack and Special Attack harshly.
      For Till, the support trifecta of Thundurus, Cresselia and Clefairy really allowed him to pick and choose the appropriate support set for each relative opponent. Clefairy in-particular is a focal point for this team with Friend Guard boosting ally defenses by a third. With the threat of a myriad of supporting options at its disposal including the likes of Follow Me, Clefairy takes hits for the team, literally!
      The results also showcase that the archetype still has great mileage, with a string of familiar names piloting this particular restricted core to top cuts in all three events. It showed particularly good form in Kassel, backed by many big names from Germany who attended the tournament and displayed a very assured set of performances with the team. But it also fared strongly to an extent in Milan as well.
      Divisive metagame trends for Nationals
      While we have touched upon the subject of Xerneas and Groudon showing particularly strongly in Kassel, it is worth noting that all three of the Nationals had distinct archetype focuses within them that really helped to paint a picture of how various countries in Europe focus on in terms of their call on the metagame.
      In Liverpool, the Dual Primal archetype was an extremely common and popular choice for the majority of players, opting to take advantage of the perceived natural advantages it had over Xerneas and Groudon restricted cores and generally having a solid overall match-up with most other combinations. The United Kingdom in general this format has very much tried to shy away from being totally reliant on Big Six which can be seen in the unusual diversity in Regional top cuts. While arguably having a few of the best Big Six players in the format, certainly in Europe, that carved successful streaks, many established UK trainers have tried to forge paths with other cores. In that respect, it was not surprising to see the trend continue into Nationals, or the fact that the Dual Primal core won the entire event, as it became the restricted core of choice for most of the main UK players.
      While Milan certainly had its fair share of Xerneas and Groudon used across the event, the extreme lack of representation at the business end of the event was telling. One notable Pokémon that garnered a lot of attention was Rayquaza. Half of the top eight trainers had it on their teams, with most electing to run it with its spiritual restricted partner, Kyogre to great effect, despite often being considered an inferior choice of restricted core to Dual Primal or Xerneas and Groudon. The Rayquaza mirror in the finals of Milan was very unexpected. We covered Javier’s team to some detail, but the opposing finalist Yeray Núñez was using a team heavily influenced by that of the UK’s Lee Provost in design. The key attributes of the team centred around Assault Vest Rayquaza which under the Delta Stream can tank Ice Beam’s with relative ease, but also included one of the most potent tricks to neutering Xerneas, with Crobat carrying Haze. One other unusual quirk of the top cut saw a surprisingly higher number of fast, frail Pokémon dedicated towards quick and effective Fake Outs, while also carrying an array of supporting options aimed to allow the main threats to break through. Weavile and Raichu in-particular fared very nicely with the rise of Cresselia and Thundurus use respectively, providing useful options as leads to stifle or mitigate early lead choices from the opposing side of the field.
      It’s nothing new for trainers globally to notice themes across Regional blocs with some often borrowing inspirations from others to help the metagame evolve in their Region. The best example of this could be seen last year with Japan’s Quicksand team making big waves in America and Europe, which fed through into the Spring Regional and National circuits respectively to great effect. The diversity between each countries’ metagame is more notable than ever, but it’s interesting to see how Europe as a whole has been very happy to experiment with team ideas to a much greater degree than most and are being able to adapt and play against them with a great deal of fluidity. It’s worth noting that in one of his personal tweets recently, Scott Glaza has been very impressed with the standard of Europe this year but also with the diversity factor on the table. High praise indeed with one of the influential voices of Pokémon!
      The Changing Dynamics of Speed Control
      This year so far has been epitomized by the interactions being opposing teams trying to engage each other with minute but important advantages. As such, Speed control has been at the forefront of many teams in order to hold these advantages, especially given that Speed ties are very much an integral factor.
      Going into Nationals, most teams focused on two primary methods of Speed control: Tailwind and Trick Room. Both moves revolve around a broad field-wide effect, with Tailwind doubling your sides’ Speed for 4 turns, while Trick Room reverses Speed so that slower Pokémon go first for 5 turns. As such, teams largely diverged to either be very speedy or as slow as possible to best use these moves, which made for some interesting match-ups in other events.
      However, the National events were a huge departure for the most part with an increase in the use of moves such as Thunder Wave and Icy Wind. The former, a status move that causes Paralysis on a target was largely re-popularized thanks to the rise in Thundurus usage. While opposing Electric and Ground-types are immune, reducing an opposing Pokemon’s Speed to a quarter while also having the potential to have them fully paralyzed is very effective. Thunder Wave is certainly nothing new in VGC and has proven in the past to be a very effective tactic, but had not really taken off until recently.
      In a similar manner, Icy Wind only really spiked in popularity thanks to Liverpool showcasing Cresselia using this move to devastating effect. While it is a relatively weak move in terms of power, it’s real utility lies in it being a spread move and lowers the Speed of opposing Pokémon by one stage if the move connects.
      The popularity of these moves across the National events meant that more players were intent on defensive investment of their team over raw Speed. The focus for many teams then comes down to hitting integral benchmarks on the Speed front, with most placing emphasis on out-speeding threats such as Groudon, Kyogre and Salamence after a single Icy Wind. It also meant that some teams elected to change their tactical choices on where certain Pokemon sat in terms of Speed. may be a trend that we will see continue in other events and at World’s, where teams tend to prioritize bulk over raw offense.
      Cream of the Crop rises with format change
      Much has been said this year about how the nature of the format makes Best of 1 sets much more of a lottery in terms of seeking out consistency. Therefore, the change to Best of 3 for all of the National events in Europe, bringing it in line with other major events, was widely welcomed by players despite their being some reservations about the time management issues which had dogged these events in the past. Thankfully, it appears that the organization was greatly improved on all fronts, despite some late nights occurring. It did mean that players played well over double the number of games during the Swiss stages, more time dedicated to playing than before and a step in the right direction.
      Without a doubt, the top cuts for each National seemed to have much stronger fields generally than in previous iterations, with the nature of Best of 3 Swiss allowing stronger players the ability to adapt and counter unusual team builds and surprise techs on opposing teams. Such obstacles that would be heavily prevalent in single game matches include unusual move choices or specialized counter-plays. This year the best example of this is the high number of Pokémon carrying Hidden Power Water with either a Kyogre or Rayquaza, designed to directly nail Primal Groudon. Other possible pitfalls included the use of niche or unseen item choices designed to prey on general conventions and give major surprise factors.
      While many players did opt to carry such tricks, teams looked and felt much more refined and avoided the pitfalls of dedicated gimmicks (though there were some arguable exceptions), giving rise to more nuanced conservation of information on sets and moves. Established trainers with significant practice in the Best of 3 format could use this to their advantage to hide key points of information in earlier games to gain advantages later on. It also placed a greater emphasis on managing your mental stamina, particularly with the very real problem of mental fatigue setting in for the length of the day playing. This is an area that a lot of players who are looking to break above the parapet will need to develop. Experiencing the grind is the only way you can train yourself to manage this area better.
      In all, I believe that nearly all of the top players enjoyed the change as it rewarded players with a higher degree of skill and consistency in their plays. I even had a few people tell me that they found the experience of playing Best of 3’s with this format a fun experience, probably not the word I would have expected to be used if you had asked me at any other event!
      Match-defining Seasons
      One of the major talking points during the season was how much of an effect the smaller tournaments leading up to Nationals would actually have an impact into the final standings, and more specifically for the paid invite trips. With the change of best finish limit for Nationals reduced to one event, many people were intrigued to see how fine the balance would be between scoring heavily in Premier Challenge and Regional events against the high value Nationals. The actual results were mixed, but did go some way to highlighting some inherent winners and losers.
      The biggest loser in terms of the paid invites was Joseph Richardson. Joseph went into Nationals leading Europe’s CP standings, winning three Regional Titles and amassing a healthy payload of points from Premier Challenges along the way. Despite securing a top 32 spot in Liverpool, Joseph failed to finish inside the top 16 in Europe, thus missing out on the invite that undoubtedly he was deserving of. In this sense, one match defined his season that it is hard in such circumstances to not feel somewhat aggrieved for his position now. Similar positions can also be meted out for the likes of Simone Sanvito, Andres Escabosa and Florian Wurdack among a host of others, who all fell short of making the cut for a paid invite by a single game. Simone especially can be aggrieved given he top cut in all three events but never progressed past the top 32. I know this was particularly heart-breaking for him given the efforts he had made to earn the paid trip.
      Exactly half of the current top 16 in Europe were inside the threshold as of before the National events. The majority of those eight had deep runs in one National event, with a handful attending multiple Nationals to shore up positions or reclaim lost ground because of earlier results. I think few would argue of the names on that list being deserving of their prize though. The question that should be posed is does the National events place too much emphasis on big results in one event rather than showcasing the consistency across a whole season? It’s a debatable topic area, one that might require some constructive critique of the format of the European circuit in general, but best left for its own dedicated piece.
      Europe’s Diversity
      With the Nationals bringing the curtain down on the season, we now know our full line-up of Day 2 Invitees, with this year bringing forward many fresh faces into the limelight, but also showing the progress the region has made with a greater division of invites among the main powerhouses of Europe. While Germany still leads the way with five invites to Day 2, it is a significant drop on the previous year. The main beneficiaries have been the UK, Spain and Austria, who all have three invites apiece, while Italy and France both have a single player through to the second day.
      Invites for the first day unsurprisingly sees the triumvirate of the UK, Germany and Italy carve out a significant portion of the 200+ invitees who have qualified for the showpiece event. We will see a host of other countries represented at the World Championships however, with Portugal, the Netherlands and Switzerland to name a few of the regions that will be fielding major names in the first day. For the vast majority of the players who qualified, Nationals served as the final place for earning the required points to exceed the CP Bar of 250. While it is a modest total of points and there is much discussion about the value of the Day 1 invite, to see the excitement and celebration of many players was encouraging to see. It shows that people do care about striving towards what they see as an achievable goal, with a great deal of budding debutantes (including myself) who will relish the opportunity to be in San Francisco to play.
      In all, the depth and diversity of countries in Europe continues to improve yearly and bodes well to increasing the competitiveness of the Region as we head towards the next generation of games!
      Final Thanks and Wrapping Up
      I want to take a brief moment now before wrapping up to thank all of the organizers as well as the volunteers at each of the three events for the wonderful job they did to put these festivals of gaming on. There are just far too many to personally thank or even name here, but without your dedication and support, we would not have the opportunities to play Pokémon like we do.
      I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this ‘What We Learned’ article. In the coming weeks the conclusion of the various National Championships will occur and the invites will be set for all internationally. Attention will then turn to focus on the final event of this season. Expect the hype to begin building soon! Thoughts and comments are very much appreciated below, and I look forward to reading them.
  • Recent Blog Posts

    • By LethalTexture in Musings of a PokéFan 0
      Hello all,
      You likely don't know me; but I've been a player of the Pokémon games ever since the beginning, and a competitive player since Generation IV.  I was a moderator for Generation IV forums on PokéCommunity for quite a while and been playing ever since, however I've only been following the VGC circuit for a couple of years and only been playing since late 2015 without entering any tournaments.  I'm looking forward to VGC2017 and hope to go full steam ahead into my first proper season.
      However, that's not what this blog is about.  This is here to talk about Hyper Training and what it means for the future of Hidden Power and IVs in general.  I've been thinking about it ever since the mechanic was announced and I believe I've come up with the most logical conclusion as to what The Pokémon Company is going to do with Hidden Powers.
      First, we know that IVs are definitely still a thing, and with the advent of Hyper Training we will be able to manipulate them for the first time.  We definitely know we will be able to increase them; we know precious little about whether we will be able to decrease them.  However, I believe that it will NOT be possible to reduce IVs, but they will develop a system in which a Pokémon's Hidden Power type will not be affected by the increase in IVs, which we all know determines the type of the move.
      It always struck me as odd that there was no Fairy-type Hidden Power in Generation VI and, with the system currently as it is, it would be impossible to include it without a radical overhaul in the calculation, and every Pokémon would have its Hidden Power type changed, infuriating a lot of players whom have either bred or soft reset for a specific type.  But, with a new system in place for Generation VII, it would be indeed possible to have a Fairy-type Hidden Power without affecting current Pokémon's Hidden Power type.
      I believe, in Generation VII, when the game generates a Pokémon through wild encounters or breeding, the Hidden Power type will be chosen at random and will be fixed, independent of IVs and not tied to a specific IV spread.  This means that it would tie in with their focus on making it easier to get competitive, flawless Pokémon for players to use and discourage players from genning or hacking to get Pokémon.  In this way, a player could breed a 6IV Pokémon and still have a Hidden Power type of their choice, simply breeding egg cycles until a Pokémon hatches with the Hidden Power type the player is looking for, rather than breeding for a specific IV spread. 
      Therefore, using this method they could introduce a Fairy-type Hidden Power without affecting previously bred Pokémon; and Pokémon from Generation VI or earlier would have their Hidden Power type frozen when brought forward into Sun & Moon, even when they have been Hyper Trained to increase their IVs.  The only minor downside of this is that no Pokémon from Generation VI or earlier could have a Fairy-type Hidden Power, however since it is not as of yet possible we have no clue as to its competitive viability anyway.
      As a final point, it is my belief that they have needed a physical Hidden Power for the longest time, and it is a massive frustration of mine that they haven't yet included it.  That is why I hope now is finally the time (as I have been saying since the Physical/Special split happened in Generation IV) that they should rebrand the move "Secret Power" as a physical Hidden Power going forward.  I feel this would be immensely useful on a lot of Pokémon and I hope they implement it, especially since (Super) Secret Bases are likely to be a gimmick confined to ORAS.
      What do you all think?  Do you believe that this is the most logical way forward for the games to implement Hidden Power mechanics?  What do you feel is the competitive viability of a Fairy-type Hidden Power and/or a physical Hidden Power?  I would be interested to hear your thoughts.
    • By Optimura in Reckless VGC 2
      I feel that getting better at Pokémon, especially at VGC is a holistic skill. Getting through a VGC tournament, even at the lowest level of skill possible (say, a Premier Challenge) requires the ability to gather information, physical endurance as the tournament drags on, observational skills to tell at a glance how skilled the opponent in front of you will be and how convoluted their strategy will be and most importantly the ability to look at failure in the face and move on. I also feel like while Nugget Bridge has been making loads of content about tournament results and thus a lot of what goes behind the scenes in each player's head has been neglected. This creates the wrong image about those, especially to newcomers and idiots like me who put their ego on the line at the wrong place and time. But I will talk more about that, later.
      One of the easiest things to fall into is thinking that you're a failure. And, trust me, failure in a community with as many dedicated players like these, is surprisingly easy. Sleep less than six hours and a tournament experience can turn from heaven into Detroit as you get past round 3 and you run out of brain juice to keep going and you start yawning every five to ten minutes (incidentially, yawning is a sign your brain is overheating, so go figure how good that is for your health...), do not do your due research about the metagame nor your team's matchups, or simply be unkind enough to your opponents so that, in revenge, they will reveal any information they have obtained about your team to him just out of sheer spite for that guy who used a Smeargle without dark void to yams him up. Or any of the combinations of the above. Thus, being a good VGC player and acknowledging that at some point you will fail is almost idiosyncratic.
      However, all things said. What is really failure?
      To be honest, I've failed at a lot of things in life, and Pokémon is likely to be one of them. My results tell you that as it stands, I am not even among the best Spanish Pokémon players by any measure of the metrics. You can kick a stone and find players with better teambuilding, better playstyles and a better attitude about the game to boot. There's always the typical "hey, there's always room for improvement", and that's right to a certain extent... Until you realize, everyone else is getting better too as you are. By the time I get to how good say Luis Conti is, if Luis Conti hasn't been slacking off he'll have been to the World Championships.
      There was a point in life (like, two days ago) where this realization would be enough to throw me into depression. After all, in any community, there's always the pressure to succeed, no matter what is it. If it exists, there'll be people driven to succeed in it. If you're not good enough, people will not count you because you do not meet their arbitrary external standards. But, whose standards, exactly?
      Also, what if you're only kind of successful? Going back to my prior example, Luis Conti has had a pretty good season this year. But still, he is nothing compared to Pokealex. Oh, and Pokealex himself might be a good player having a good season, but he still has to win 3 World Championships like Ray Rizzo has.
      What really terrifies me more than anything and I believe terrifies a good deal of this community is fear of being a failure. We have beliefs rooted in us, that makes us think that people who succeed do so because they're good, while people who don't must be because of some shortcoming in attitude.
      But, what makes a successful Pokémon player? All you need to do is win your games, win the top cut, and win right? By that logic, Pokealex should be overwhelmingly more popular than Sekiam this season, or literally than anyone else to the Spanish players given how he's had the best season thus far, but numbers state otherwise. Even if Sekiam has lost skill and drive to win, he is still one of the few people who are the face of competitive Pokémon to many players.

      For that matter, what makes a successful tournament run? Making it to the finals of a VGC National is a huge accomplishment, no matter what. However, if you still do not have enough Championship Points to make it to get a day 2 invite, most VGC players will not also hesitate to call you out on how useless that achievement is and how you've wasted someone else's time, money and invite. Making it to various top cuts of various Nationals within the same season is also a notorious achievement, yet if you did not get enough Championship Points for an invite, is likewise useless. And let's say you somehow got your invite, everything's clear and you're rearing to go yet you get your arceus kicked in day 2 of the World Championships?
      It's all up to your standards, really.
      Looking back at my run at UK Nationals back in 2015, for example, it's reasonable to say I was and I still am a failure as a Pokémon player. Saying I did not do well is... An understatement. I barely managed to go positive. I sunk my money and time into a tournament in which my results will barely make me be remembered by anyone.
      If you look at it another way, to me it's also a huge success. While I did not get what I originally wanted (winning) I still became part of the community by talking to people there, interacting with fellow Pokémon fans who were as passionate about the game as I was, and had fun being silly and getting Pokémon TCG cards and whatnot. It allowed me to go to Nando's with the players I admired and thought of as some sort of demigods when in fact, they're just fun people who one way or another got really good at this. It was the stepping stone to attend more tournaments, to put me into contact with even more players in the Spanish community and worldwide. By that standard, it was a triumph. I can write it down as a huge success, and although "easier" to attain than say, actually winning UK Nationals, it is by no means less remarkable nor worth less.
      The funny thing is, you get to choose which standards apply to you. Yes, even if you went 1-8, if you realize that nobody really gives a grimer about how well you did at the tournament as long as you're funny to be around and aren't an idiot, you can succeed by some form of metric; you get to decide what applies to you and doesn't. You also need to be careful by how you define it, as success doesn't necessarily mean you'll be happy. Let's say you want to become a famous player, yet when you become famous you realize all the eyes are on you, not just on how skilled you are, but on your person. You no longer have your own agency entirely, but you represent your entire community. Any blunder you make, any personal mistake will be immediately reflected upon the image of the entire community you belong to (Such was the case of RubeNCB, for example). Do you care so much about winning that you'd be willing to play in any metagame, even if it's one you despise and you'd rather be off doing anything but play the game?
      Success can be being the absolute best at something... Or managing to accomplish it in the first place. Sure, being in top cut of all tournaments you've attended during the season doesn't mean you are the best nor will give you a Worlds invite (especially if you failed to attend any regionals or nationals due to personal reasons), but it's an accomplishment that says something about your consistency and how you've made an improvement in comparison to the previous season you played in, where you played in a grand total of 3 tournaments. And, even better of an accomplishment is being able to say I have forged friendships and relationships able to withstand me being cranky and even sometimes outright near antisocial because I forgot to follow my own advice and did not sleep long enough, or cared about success in the wrong way.
      And, did I mention that some players have even managed to find relationships through playing VGC and Pokémon in general? That sounds like a pretty big success, if you ask me.
      Even if I failed, I learned from those failures and became a better, wiser person and player, so I'd like to think in a way they were successes. I might've failed at playing Pokémon, but that doesn't mean I am a failure at it forever.
      I guess this wraps up my season. See you next time, whenever there's a tournament and I'm able to attend. Hopefully, I'll be less of a scrub and be readier to give you all the fight you deserve.
    • By Cleffy in EV-nomics 2
      Hello everyone! Today, I'd like to explain a method of analyzing EV benchmarks that involves graphing the benchmark, interpreting them, and... Um...
      Well uh, that's about it actually. The method is quite helpful for visualizing benchmarks as well as performing critical analysis in comparing two benchmarks from the same defensive spectrum. So how do you set up the graphs, and why would you want to compare benchmarks from the same spectrum? These are questions I hope I can answer.
      Setting Up the Graph
      Before I get into comparing multiple benchmarks using a graph, I'd like to start by explaining how to set up the graph and graph a single benchmark. For reference, here is an example of what a finished graph would look like. This is a graph portraying the investment needed for Primal Kyogre to take a Jolly Mega Kangaskhan Double-Edge 100% of the time. I apologize in advance if these images are somewhat blurry; my resources are limited but I'll do my best to get my explanations across.

      Oh God my actual handwriting is so bad, I know. Anyways, allow me to explain.
      The X-axis and Y-axis of the graph represent the (Special) Defense stat and the HP stat respectively. You can of course choose to switch these if you would prefer. Each unit of the grid represents eight EVs, since this is the increment of EVs necessary to gain a stat point at level 50. The exception to this is the first four EVs because they round up the 31st IV to a whole number when reflected in actual stat points. To reflect this, I usually place the origin have a unit away from a line. Since our realm of possible spreads can include up to 252 EVs in both HP and the appropriate defense stat, I've only labeled up to 252 in the case of both HP and Defense.
      Once we've set our grid up, we need to figure out where we're going to be graphing points for the graph. In my previous article The Benchmark Approach to Bulk, I organized my benchmarks in a method that I'm sure a lot of players found rather convoluted, but it's quite ideal for this purpose. Essentially what I do is I open up a damage calculator, start by running max HP, add enough defense to satisfy my benchmark, and then drop my HP from the max as much as I can while still maintaining my benchmark. I document the combination of HP/Defense that satisfies this benchmark. Then, I drop the HP by one, add enough defense for damage to change, and once it changes I drop HP as much as I can while still retaining the benchmark. I document that combination too. And I continue to do this process until I either hit zero investment in HP or max investment in Defense, or both. In the case of this situation, it would look like this.
      And of course, you could also check the investment with a bold nature, but we'll stick with this for simplicity. What's really quite useful about organizing EVs for benchmarks in this way is that they can dual function as coordinate points. Since the first combination I listed is 164HP/0Def, we can plot a point on the graph at the point (0,164). For the combination of 132HP/12Def, we can plot a point at (12,132). And we can continue to do this for the remaining points in question.
      The final step is to bridge the gaps between the points.This would normally be a curve, but the Pokemon games tend to simplify their numbers into whole numbers using a process known as truncation. I'll get more into that later, but for now what you need to know is that it makes a sort of stair-like pattern. In this situation (and in most situations), we just look at the highest point, and draw a line moving right. Once the line is directly above another point, we start moving the line down. Once we intercept another point, we go right again until we're directly above another point, and the we move down until intercepting another point, where we move right... You get the point... Until we eventually hit the bottom or far right hand side of the graph.
      And you're finished! You've created the graph above. How is it interpreted? Well, anything below or to the left of the line is a failed allocation of EVs; your combination of HP and Defense is unsuccessful at preparing for your benchmark. If you are above or to the right of the line, your combination of HP and Defense has achieved the benchmark and it does so with excess EVs. You can potentially drop either HP or (Special) Defense to maintain the benchmark and save EVs for other purposes (assuming that there aren't other defensive calculations you have in mind, which is very much a possibility). If you are on the line, it means you have achieved the benchmark without any excess EVs being allocated to the bulk. What this means is that dropping HP or (Special) Defense would cause the spread to fail the benchmark.
      Now that you understand how to graph a benchmark, it's time to get into some exceptions, and applications.
      Inverse Benchmarks VS Normal Benchmarks
      If you're confused what an inverse benchmark is, it's essentially a term I use for benchmarks that are achieved from having lower stats. It's an idea I go further into in my previous article Stat Inversion and the Sitrus Conundrum. In it, I mentioned designing a Thundurus that was frail enough to take at least 50% from a 252+ Landorus-Therian rock slide to activate sitrus berry, while still retaining enough bulk to take a 252+ Mega Kangaskhan Double-Edge at least 99% of the time. I also mentioned that the only two spreads capable of doing this require either 204HP/100Def investment, or 12HP/236Def investment.
      I was able to solve this by comparing the two benchmarks graphically. It should be noted however that inverse benchmarks have a few different properties graphically however. Let's take a look at the rock slide graph first, and then superimpose the Kangaskhan Double-Edge afterward. Here is the benchmark I was to graph.

      Consider the emphasis when I say "try to be weaker for more survivability". This phrase alone changes two things about the previous depiction of the graph.
      For starters, it means that instead of moving right, then down to create the stair pattern, we instead must move down then right. This is because while it is okay to be bulkier than any point in normal circumstances, it is instead not okay to be bulkier in the case of inverse calculations; rather it is okay to be less bulky in the case of inverse calculations. Similarly, this means that while normal benchmarks present a lower threshold for the spreads we can use, inverse benchmarks present an upper threshold. What that means is that our benchmark is upheld if our combination of HP and (Special) Defense investment is along or below the line, rather than along or above.
      After acknowledging these properties, we can successfully create our graph. Now, let's add in the Double-Edge benchmark.

      Remember, in this situation the Kangaskhan calculation (in red) is considered a lower threshold of possible spreads, whereas the Landorus-Therian calculation (in purple) is an upper threshold. This means the realm of possible spreads that achieve both benchmarks should be in between the two (only if the upper threshold is above the lower threshold) or where the two thresholds intersect.
      There is no instance on this graph where the upper threshold is above the lower threshold. There are however two points where the thresholds intercept. These two points are (100, 204) and (236,12). Since these points represent the HP/Def combinations of 204HP/100Def and 12HP/236Def, it should become clear how I was able to assert that these were the only two combinations of HP and Defense attaining both benchmarks for Thundurus.
      Attesting Desynchronized Truncation
      So you're looking into designing a bulky Xerneas EV spread, and you consider some benchmarks you'd like to try. "Groudon is common" you think to yourself, "Perhaps surviving 2 adamant Precipice blades would be helpful?". And being the witty person you are, you feel you can save some EVs by making the Precipice blades only KO on two really high rolls, an improbable occurence. You decide you want to live two max rolls, and find that it requires 252HP/124Def investment if you make HP as high as possible, or 60HP/236Def if you make defense as high as possible while still affecting the damage in this circumstance.
      As you try some other approximations, you find yourself experiencing something kinda weird. You try to live 2 brave birds from adamant life orb Talonflame (except for 2 max rolls of course) and find it requires 244HP/124Def if you make HP as high as possible with no excess. What's strange is that while this requires 1 point less than the Groudon calculation, it requires 60HP/244Def if you increase Defense as high as possible while still changing damage, which costs 1 more point than the Groudon calculation. You don't care so much about one of these benchmarks, but rather both, and for good measure, you also want a 252+ Mega Kangaskhan's Double-Edge after an intimidate to fail to 2hko at least 98% of the time since you see it as a fairly reasonable estimation. How would we be able to create a benchmark that combines all of these? Likewise, why is it that one benchmark can be more costly at one combination of HP/Def but less costly at another? Shouldn't attacks have relativistic power, as in one attack is stronger than the next, which is stronger than the next, and so on?
      This phenomenon is something which I have called Desynchronized Truncation. If you don't know, Truncation is used in many equations of Pokemon primarily as a way of simplifying numbers. Essentially when an equation uses truncation, it removes all numbers after a decimal point to simplify the value as a whole number. Our fellow nuggetbridge user @DaWoblefet created this nifty guide for understanding the damage formula in which he explains some of the instances where truncation can occur. It's a really cool read for anybody interested in this kind of stuff. Huge thanks to him for giving me the permission to link this.
      Anyways, the reason why benchmarks are inconsistent in terms of which one is stronger than which is because of how the game truncates. If our defense stat truncates the damage awkwardly for one benchmark and ideally for another, this opens up the opportunity for one specific attack generally regarded as weaker than another to actually deal more damage. This is especially the case when we also factor in the truncation applied from various damage modifiers, such as life orb or spread move damage.
      In this situation, we're experiencing the spread damage modifier on one attack, the life orb modifier on another, and Parental Bond which affects the base power of Double-Edge and leads to some wonky truncation situations. This is my reasoning for why these attacks can oscillate between one another in terms of power when we interpret the benchmark. So, I ask again, how would we be able to create a benchmark that combines all of these?
      Well, graphing can help us here. Here are the individual benchmarks at play.

      It may be tough to tell from all the overlapping, but these are all three benchmarks superimposed upon the same graph. The Double-Edge calculation is in purple, the Brave Bird in green, the P-Blades in red. They were all graphed by the normal methods. What we care about is the most extreme portion of all three graphed benchmarks, meaning the parts of the graph furthest right and up since they require the most investment.
      I'm going to post an image below where I've taken a black marker and drawn a line across the most extreme portions. This would reflect the threshold covering all three benchmarks. Additionally, I've reinterpretted this threshold to locate the points that would normally reflect my notes. If you think of the graph as stairs, these points would be the crevices of the steps.

      Having located these points, I can now recreate them into a benchmark in my notes which I can then reference or cross with a special benchmark should I need to. The final benchmark would look like this.
      That should be about all I have to say on the subject. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below and I'll do my best to answer them. Thanks for reading
    • By Espeonguy in Poké Noir 3
      Have you ever seen a Pokemon that, even though it's not fully evolved, you just love it's design, possibly more than its final form? 

      This list is an opinionated piece about Pokemon who I personally believe look better  before  evolving. So if you disagree just let me know! Let's get started!
      10: Wartortle

      The OG of being more stylish than its pre-evolution as well as its evolution. Squirtle is cute and all, and Blastoise looks pretty awesome. But something about this guy just stands out. Maybe it's the cloud ears. Maybe it's that puffy tail that looks like a pillow. Or maybe it's that look of determination like he has something to prove. But even back in the day, I struggled to want to evolve my friend past being a Wartortle for aesthetics alone.
      9: Porygon2

      Porygon, to me, was too blocky looking, and never seemed worth the energy. Until, that is, Porygon2 was released in generation 2. The sleek polish, the waterbird appearance and the normal-looking eyes make this the stand-out of the Porygon line. Maybe I'm just a hater, but I can't stand the way Porygon-Z looks. Besides, eviolite makes this thing too much fun to use in battle.
      8: Rhydon

      "Show me on the doll where GameFreak touched you." That was my first thought after seeing a Rhyperior for the first time. Seriously, look at this thing:
      I've seen evolutions drastically change what the final product looks like, but this is a bit excessive. I'm not even sure what they were going for with this thing, but as much as it grows stronger, it certainly loses a lot of the cool-factor that made Rhydon so loved. 
      7: Chikorita

      I absolutely adore Chikorita. It's so dang cute and I can't get over it to this day. Nothing in the world could change how cute this thing is.... Except for evolution. Bayleaf and Meganium are reasonable evolutions, and you can definitely see the transition. However, neither one looks nearly as cool or cute as Chikorita, and aren't competitive in the first place, so we're left to adore the baby version of them instead.
      6: Wooper

      Wooper, like Chikorita, only had it's cute going for it. Neither Wooper nor Quagsire are competitively viable, so what do they have going for it? Wooper, that's what. Look at how dopey and happy he is. Seriously so cute. It's too bad it becomes one ugly SOB when it mutates into Quagsire.
      5: Nosepass

      I had to include this because I feel like the past 3 generations have been rough since the advent of Probopass. Seriously, Nosepass isn't even that bad of a design. But then someone came along and decided it wasn't enough, and moustaches were under represented at the time. So Nosepass is on the list because I feel sorry for him and want him to know he's still loved.
      4: Cranidos

      I loved Cranidos the moment I saw it. Cute, fearsome and unique design... What's not to love? Well, I loved it in Platinum until it evolved. Rampardos may pack a punch, but boy, that design is a mess. So the award goes to Cranidos for being the saving grace of his Pokemon lineage.
      3: Aipom

      While on generation 4, Ambipom was a hugely unnecessary evolution. Aipom was never my favorite Pokemon, but it deserved better than Ambipom. What up with the Michael Jackson nose it gets out of nowhere? And just growing a second tail? My four year old niece could have designed a better looking evolution. Aipom, we still love you though!
      2: Tepig

      Tepig suffers a fate similar to Chikorita in that neither of if it's evolutions look quite as good as it. For Tepig, this is as good as life gets. Why evolve when you can stay young and appealing? Pignite and Emboar look quite ridiculous, yet this cute little thing is unwavered. 
      1: Zorua

      Unfortunately, I'm probably in the minority who doesn't like Zoroark's design. I prefer to think of these as mischievous Pokemon, not evil ones. Zoroark has a very evil look to him, and I think Zorua just looks better. Simple as that. 
      So obviously these are just opinions! This list isn't about being competitive, just about which designs are better before evolving. Let me know in the comments which designs you like best before evolving, and if you agree or disagree with me about my list. Thank you for the read guys!
    • By Adib in Adib's Winding Thoughts 5
      Hey guys, Adib here. I’m here today to talk about the team I used in the Sinnoh Classic. This report’s going to be a little long, but hopefully you’ll find it different from other reports you’ve seen lately. For newer players who started in 2014 or later, I hope you find this report interesting as a little study on VGC history. For older players, I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane. I’ll talk about why I loved this format, the backstory behind myself & the team I used, teambuilding and finally, the individual Pokémon sets themselves.
      Here’s the team below:

      (for some reason I wasn't able to make the Battle Box screenshot appear in this post. This'll have to do. Sorry)
      Here are some battle videos for you to watch:
      ·         29 Turn Stall War, the bulk of Zapdos & Cresselia: NYEG-WWWW-WW4G-USWP
      ·         Steelix Sweeps:
      ·         Great Wall of Steelix: WQWW-WWWW-WW4G
      ·         Machamp is a Champ:
      ·         ARMALDO—2013 Braverius Nostaliga Edition: NRGG-WWWW-WW4G-USL6
      ·         Frozen Zapdos Makes the Comeback: 6WLW-WWWW-WW5G-US28
      I only had an average finish of about 1700 with a record of 31W-14L. However, I honestly believe this team could have easily gone over 1800 or even 1900. What stopped me from doing so?
      One, my wifi situation is terrible. I got DC’d on my end in 4 or 5 matches that I was going to win. Do you know how annoying it is to know that your rating is about to go up, but then it ends up dropping like a rock instead? It doesn’t matter what wifi I’m using—apartment, mobile hotspot, library, etc.—my 3DS keeps DCing on me wherever I go. It’s probably time for me to replace my 3DS.
      Two, I didn’t run Sunny Day on Cresselia and Heat Wave on Zapdos, which were last-minute ideas I had the day before the tournament to help deal with Abomasnow and Azumarill. DCs aside, almost all my losses were to Abomasnow and Azumarill. Out of 45 matches, there was only one loss that I felt was completely out of my control—and that was due to a freeze. And even THAT could have been prevented if I had run Sunny Day on Cresselia instead.
      You’ll understand more when I go through the rest of this report, but I figured I should get that out of the way. Moving along.
      I absolutely loved playing in this format for a few reasons. One was to get away from all the power creep in 6th gen. Also, while 5th gen Pokémon like the genies and Amoonguss aren’t anywhere near as bad as what 6th gen introduced, it still felt refreshing to play a format where those wouldn’t be allowed either.
      However, the main reason why I loved this format was pure nostalgia. For those of you who don’t know, Pokémon Yellow was the first main series game I played as a kid. Due to certain circumstances, I dropped the series until Diamond & Pearl—the basis of the Sinnoh Classic—came out. After watching a few friends play those games at the end of 9th grade, I gave Diamond a shot and never looked back.
      Five years later, I started playing VGC in 2012. My first tournament was actually in April at the Houston regionals, where I went 5-3 with Cotton Guard Whimsicott and Snatch Snorlax. While I didn’t accomplish anything in 2012, my first major accomplishment came over a year later. I got 10th at the 2013 US National Championships with a Trick Room hybrid team—featuring Steelix!
      Here’s my 2013 team below:

      Reason why I bring this up is because I used my 2013 Steelix team as a base for my Sinnoh Classic team. I loved that team so much. Not only was it the first team I top cut with for the first time, but it also had my favorite Pokémon, Steelix and Gyarados. The team also fit my bulky, offensive setup playstyle perfectly. This team has also netted me several notable finishes in the past:
      ·         10th Place at 2013 US Nationals
      ·         7th Place at Fall 2013 Ft. Wayne regionals
      ·         1st Place at the RIP 5th Gen Wifi tournament (Nugget Bridge online tournament)
      ·         X-1 at the 2013 NPA Farm League (NB online tournament, undefeated until final round)
      This team remains my personal favorite team of all time. I loved it so much that I tried to adapt it to 2014, but gave up after failing to cut regionals. I ended up building a new team that netted me a 2nd place finish at 2014 US Nationals. Ironically, my 2014 Nationals team actually shared a lot of similarities in team composition with my 2013 team. In a way, my wish was granted.
      Note: Goodra really should have been a Zapdos. Oh well, hindsight’s 20/20.
      Anyways, while my 2013 team is retired now, I jumped at the chance to revive it for the Sinnoh Classic. However, it wouldn’t be able to come back in its original form for a few reasons. One, Thundurus, Hydreigon and Conkeldurr were all banned in this format. Two, the Sinnoh Classic is technically a different format from VGC 2012 and 2013, no matter how similar they are. Naturally, some adjustments had to be made.
      And with that, let’s start off with the teambuilding.
      I’m actually going to backtrack a bit and briefly cover how I built the original team so that you can understand the new version better and learn why I chose Steelix in the first place. Then I’ll talk about how I modified the team in a later section.
      The Original Core of Four to Five
      Over three years ago—a week before 2013 US Nationals—I had (what was then) a standard core of Thundurus, Cresselia, Hydreigon and Conkeldurr.

      Volcarona+Hitmontop (TopMoth) was a pretty massive threat back in the day, especially to this core. With Hitmontop’s Fake Out, Intimidate and Wide Guard support, Volcarona was usually able to get up a few Quiver Dances for a quick sweep.
      I also needed Intimidate support. Knowing all this, I decided to use Gyarados as my fifth Pokémon. I decided against Salamence—who also resisted both of Volcarona’s STABs—because I already had Hydreigon as my Dragon type.

      What I Needed my Last Pokémon to Do
      At this point, I needed a Steel type to switch into Latios’s powerful Dragon Gem Draco Meteors. I also noticed that with Gyarados, Hydreigon, Cresselia & Thundurus, I had a whopping four Ground immunities. So, I figured, having an Earthquake user in that slot would be ideal. With Cresselia and Conkeldurr on the team, it would also be ideal if my last Pokémon could also function as a Trick Room attacker. That way, I could have a real Trick Room hybrid team of my own. Others had already used that archetype to perform well back then, so I naturally I wanted in.
      I also figured that with Gyarados and Hydreigon on the team, I needed to have a stronger answers to enemy Thundurus. Abomasnow was also incredibly annoying to fight, so it’d be great if this final Pokémon could handle it as well. Oh and this final Pokémon shouldn’t be weak to Rock, Ice or Bug type moves to avoid having triple weaknesses to any particular type.
      With all these requirements in mind, I narrowed my list down pretty quickly to Steelix and Excadrill. At the time, Excadrill was much more popular and typically came in two forms. One was the standard Sand Rush mode with Tyranitar, while the other was the Mold Breaker variant that Randy Kwa (R Inanimate) popularized with his Togekiss-Excadrill team. However, I knew that Excadrill wasn’t the answer. Using a fast and frail Pokémon like Excadrill in Trick Room is suicide. Out of desperation, I looked into Steelix and found everything I’d been looking for. And I mean, everything.
      What Steelix is and How it Worked
      For those of you who don’t know, Steelix has base 75 HP, base 85 Attack, 200 Defense, base 65 Sp. Defense and base 30 Speed. Apart from Defense, statistically, Steelix looks terrible. However, Steelix gets SHEER FORCE. Which was an absolute game-changer.
      With Life Orb and Sheer Force, Steelix’s Iron Head hit about as hard as Lum Berry Metagross’s Meteor Mash—which was notably stronger in 5th gen than in 6th gen—but never missed. With a Life Orb Sheer Force Ice Fang and Steel/Ground typing, Steelix became one of the few Pokémon in the game who could reliably take out Thundurus without getting damaged or crippled in the process. With base 200 Defense and 212 HP EVs, it could actually survive a super-effective Fighting Gem Close Combat from Hitmontop and survive 100% of the time—without help from an ability or an item! And that’s without factoring in Intimidate support from Gyarados. Speaking of whom…
      Steelix and Gyarados covered each other’s weaknesses perfectly and synergized very well together offensively. Together, they formed a dual snakes combo that was incredibly fun to use. Especially when you consider that with Gyarados’s Intimidate support, Steelix was basically impossible to KO from the physical side. With Intimidate support and/or Trick Room support, Landorus-T, Excadrill and Tyranitar stood no chance against Steelix.
      In addition to the other Pokémon I mentioned before, Steelix could also take on Latios, boosted Scizor, boosted Metagross, Calm Mind Cresselia…literally just about anything in the 2013 meta that wasn’t named Rotom-W. It was a monster. The only real downside to Steelix back then was that it was extremely difficult to fit onto a team, due to its typing and low Speed.
      As a guy who’s been playing since 2012, I haven’t seen any other Pokémon that completely countered an entire metagame the way Steelix did in 2013. It’s basically a Steel type Mamoswine that’s much harder to KO. Whether I was in Trick Room or had spread paralysis on the opposing team, Steelix was often moving first and dealing a lot of damage in spite of its base 30 Speed. And if it wasn’t moving first or the opponent survived, Steelix’s bulk, typing and team support from Intimidate and Light Screen allowed it to survive just about anything.
      After putting Steelix on this team in 2013, I made top cut or better in every tournament I entered. This might sound arrogant, but my 2013 team was the closest I ever felt to being truly invincible with a team. Hopefully you have a better idea now of why I love Steelix so much.
      My only gripe is that I came up with the team very late in the season—right before 2013 US Nationals. And even then, the prototype version of the team I used at Nationals was weaker because my Gyarados and Thundurus sets weren’t optimized back then. If only I came up with this team in January 2013 instead of July…oh well.
      Alright, so we talked about how the original team came to be. Now let’s talk about how I modified my 2013 Nationals team for the Sinnoh Classic.
      So. Cresselia, Gyarados and Steelix were legal. Thundurus, Hydreigon and Conkeldurr were not and had to be replaced.

      Switching Thundurus out for Zapdos and Hydreigon out for Latios was a no-brainer. Thundurus for Zapdos is fairly self-explanatory, but for Hydreigon, well, let’s take a closer look. Its main job on the original team was to wall and KO Rotom-W and other bulky Waters, while taking care of Ferrothorn, Cresselia and potentially other dragons. Latios can do pretty much the same thing, since Ferrothorn is banned and a Life Orb Shadow Ball can hit Cresselia and Steel types like Metagross hard. The only thing Latios can’t do that Hydreigon can is block Ghost and Dark type moves. However, I didn’t expect those to be very common.
      Finding Conkeldurr’s replacement turned out to be much harder than I thought it’d be. Conkeldurr’s original job was to take on Tyranitar, Heatran, Volcarona, Chandelure, Thundurus, Zapdos, Abomasnow and bulky waters. However, a chunk of that list was banned now. While using Machamp did cross my mind, I was wary about using another Fighting type—a 2nd Fairy weakness—when I already had to tread carefully around Azumarill.
      I first tried using Unaware Clefable in that slot, but in testing I almost never brought it. When I did bring it, I was often forced to leave Cresselia behind on the bench, which made the team feel incredibly awkward. I even tried Smeargle in this slot because offensively, there wasn’t much I could think of for this slot to do.
      After being annoyed by Sableye and being afraid of priority +6 Aqua Jets from Azumarill, I realized that QUICK GUARD was the answer. A Fighting type with Quick Guard would replace Conkeldurr quite nicely. That narrowed the list down to Hitmontop and Machamp. I chose Machamp for its extra power and confusion bonus from Dynamic Punch.
      Not only would Machamp combine with Cresselia and Steelix to recreate my Trick Room mode, but with Quick Guard, it would provide a lot more utility to the team. Quick Guard would block +6 Aqua Jets, +2 Bullet Punches, most Hitmontop Fake Outs, and Sucker Punches aimed at Latios or Cresselia.
      With all that teambuilding out of the way, let’s finally check out the sets in greater detail. As for themes, older players might notice that half my team is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood themed, while the other half is Legend of Zelda themed. Just like the original 2013 team!
      THE SETS
      Volvagia (Gyarados) (M) @ Choice Band 
      Ability: Intimidate 
      Level: 50 
      Shiny: Yes 
      EVs: 100 HP / 148 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 252 Spe 
      Jolly Nature 
      - Waterfall 
      - Return 
      - Earthquake 
      - Stone Edge 
      “A long time ago there was an evil dragon named Volvagia living in this mountain. That dragon was very scary! He ate Gorons!”
      At 2013 US Nationals, this used to be a Dragon Dance Gyarados with Return. Back then, I was on the right track, but that set was definitely bad. After seeing my friend Demitri get Top 4 at the same tournament with a Choice Band Gyarados, I decided to give it a shot right after 2013 Nationals. And it did not disappoint. This set remained exactly the same from 2013.
      With this speed and power, this Gyarados basically has a Dragon Dance built in. Which was important, because I was often switching Gyarados in and out to recycle Intimidate. With this moveset, it has coverage on basically everything.
      Three years later, this Choice Band Gyarados still worked wonders for the team. With Waterfall, it does massive damage to anything. With Earthquake and three partner EQ immunities, it deals a lot of spread damage—which Gyarados usually doesn’t do outside its Mega form.
      Back in 2013, the EV spread was built specifically to:
      ·         survive Life Orb Latios’s Draco Meteor
      ·         OHKO 252/4 Thundurus with Stone Edge
      ·         OHKO 252/4 Thundurus with a Helping Hand & Choice Band boosted Waterfall
      ·         outrun and wreck Adamant Landorus-T, Heatran, Excadrill, Mamoswine, bulky Thundurus

      This Gyarados isn’t as bulky as some others you probably know, but it has enough bulk to get by. With Intimidate and Cresselia’s Light Screen, it becomes very bulky in its own right. While Landorus, Heatran and Excadrill are banned, the speed investment was still useful. Mamoswine still existed and threatened my team, while Smeargle emerged as a new threat. Most importantly, however, the extra Speed and Stone Edge proved to be surprisingly useful in sniping opposing Zapdos.
      Pokémon like Zapdos are typically built to be slower than this Gyarados. If I have no good switch options, then I usually just go straight for the surprise Choice Band Stone Edge OHKO. Other times, people predict that Gyarados will either Protect or switch because of the threat of a Thunderbolt. You’d be surprised by how many people decide to leave their Zapdos wide open and try to attack Gyarados’s partner instead. Big mistake.
      In general though, Stone Edge is reserved for Abomasnow. Return allows this Gyarados to deal massive damage to Rotom-W, Politoed, Ludicolo and other bulky waters. I considered using a Double-Edge Gyarados to deal even more damage, but I didn’t like the recoil.
      I named my red Gyarados after Volvagia, the serpentine red dragon in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. This is especially fitting, since my Gyarados also preys on Rock and Ground types. It felt really nostalgic using this Gyarados again from the 2013 team. I still remember RNGing it in the Nature Preserve on my Black 2 game…
      Fullmetal (Steelix) (M) @ Expert Belt 
      Ability: Sheer Force 
      Level: 50 
      EVs: 212 HP / 252 Atk / 44 SpD 
      Adamant Nature 
      IVs: 24 Spe 
      - Protect 
      - Iron Head 
      - Earthquake 
      - Ice Fang 
      “Although if you can endure that pain and walk away from it, you’ll find that you now have a heart strong enough to overcome any obstacle. Yeah…a heart made Fullmetal”
      Ah, good ol’ Fullmetal Steelix. Hybrid Trick Room attacker. Steel type Mamoswine. Gyarados’s best friend. It felt so good to use my 2013 Steelix again. Also, did you know that Pike Queen Lucy in Emerald’s Battle Frontier also used that dual snakes combo? The more you know.
      Anyways, Steelix was pretty strong in the Sinnoh Classic as well. However, it didn’t see as much play as it did in 2013 because Tyranitar and friends were simply gone. Back in 2013, Steelix was often used to protect its teammates from Tyranitar and friends by switching into Rock Slides and Crunches, then OHKOing right back. It was still a force to be reckoned with in the Sinnoh Classic though.
      There were plenty of matches both in 2013 and in the Sinnoh Classic where I’d lead Cresselia+Gyarados, only to swap Gyarados out for Steelix while setting up Trick Room at the same time. The beauty behind this play is that Steelix often does well against common leads, but can’t immediately lead turn 1 because of its lower Speed or Intimidate. Steelix usually got in without taking much of any damage whatsoever, since attacks aimed at Gyarados usually don’t do much to Steelix at all.
      By waiting a turn, I can make Steelix and to a lesser extent Cresselia the fastest and bulkiest things on the field thanks to Trick Room, Intimidate and a turn 2 Light Screen. With Cresselia and Steelix’s offensive synergy and bulk, many teams ended up getting decimated under Trick Room. If they survived, they were usually too weak to put up much resistance against a very angry Gyarados that would come back in later.
      Steelix’s moveset is fairly self-explanatory. Earthquake and Ice Fang hit many Pokémon super-effectively. Iron Head hits Fairy types hard and is a good neutral STAB move. Just like I did later on in 2013, I decided to give Steelix the Expert Belt while moving the Life Orb over to the dragon on my team. As with my Gyarados, this set has stayed exactly the same from 2013.
      I gave Steelix an Expert Belt because Steelix is usually hitting things super-effectively most of the time with its Ground/Ice coverage. After doing a lot of calcs in both 2013 and the Sinnoh Classic, it turned out that the extra 10% boost in power usually didn’t lead to extra KOs. Besides, the few things that weren’t hit super-effectively usually weren’t a threat (i.e. Cresselia, Scizor). Giving Life Orb to the dragon on my team made more sense, since Draco Meteor doesn’t hit most Pokémon super-effectively.
      The EV spread is fairly simple. Maximize attack, survive a super-effective STAB Fighting Gem Close Combat from Hitmontop, and dump the rest into Special Defense. Seeing how Fighting Gem no longer exists, the defensive investment is just for general bulk. The 24 Speed IVs and Adamant nature allow it to outrun paralyzed Latios outside of Trick Room, while still underspeeding Hariyama in Trick Room. The paralysis point didn’t end up mattering this time around though. I had dropped Thunder Wave Thundurus from the team in favor of Tailwind Zapdos. More on that later.
      Seeing how Steelix is just an Onix completely covered in steel and endures some very powerful attacks, there was no better name for Steelix other than Fullmetal. This references Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. This is especially fitting, since Steelix’s shiny form is pure gold.
      Hylia (Cresselia) @ Chesto Berry 
      Ability: Levitate 
      Level: 50 
      Shiny: Yes 
      EVs: 220 HP / 60 Def / 180 SpA / 44 SpD / 4 Spe  220 HP / 60 Def / 230 SpA
      Calm Nature 
      - Trick Room 
      - Light Screen 
      - Psychic Toxic 
      - Ice Beam 
      “Along your travels you have found wisdom, power, and courage, and for this I shall bless your sword with the goddess’s power”
      Her Grace, the Goddess herself. Same Cresselia I RNG’d on Marvelous Bridge from 2013, but different moveset, EVs and item. I gave Zapdos the Sitrus Berry because its great typing allows it to benefit from Sitrus Berry a lot more. I gave Cresselia the Chesto Berry instead of Leftovers so that it and Lum Berry Machamp would give me a good matchup against Breloom and Smeargle. Seeing how I barely ran into Smeargle and didn’t encounter Breloom at all, Leftovers would have been the better choice here. Especially since the only time Chesto Berry activated was against a Hypnosis Politoed—which isn’t even that scary.
      Anyways, the original EV spread accomplished the following:
      ·         OHKO’d 4/0 Salamence with Ice Beam 100% of the time
      ·         Survived Dark Gem Crunch from Tyranitar (Dark Gem = Helping Hand boost in 5th gen)
      ·         Survived Helping Hand Life Orb STAB rain-boosted Hydro Pump from Kingdra
      ·         Minimized sand and hail residual damage
      However, with Ice Beam dropping from 95 to 90 BP, my odds of OHKOing 4/0 Salamence dropped from 100% to 68.8%. Which is bad. On the flipside, with special moves reduced in power from 5th gen to 6th gen across the board, I could now move those Sp. Defense and Speed EVs over to Sp. Attack to regain my guaranteed OHKO on Salamence. In retrospect, I only fought one Salamence both in testing and in the actual tournament, so I should have stuck with the original spread for more special bulk. Especially since I didn’t even KO that Salamence with Ice Beam. I one-shot it with Gyarados instead. That Salamence was also holding a Life Orb, so I would’ve gotten the KO anyways after it attacked just once.
      The moveset is a little different from most Cresselia due to Toxic and Light Screen. Both in 2013 and in the Sinnoh Classic, I used Light Screen to help fight rain and hail by reducing their power. The original 2013 team had no weather changer, which was rare for successful teams in 2013. Steelix and Conkeldurr also had relatively low Sp. Defense, while Gyarados had Intimidate. Knowing all this, I figured that Light Screen would make up for my lack of weather. Light Screen would also patch up Steelix and Conkeldurr’s lower special bulk and combine with Gyarados’s Intimidate for dual power control. In other words, weaken almost every attack in the game launched against this team. It’s pretty much the same deal in the 2016 Sinnoh Classic.
      Personally, Light Screen is my favorite move in the game. It’s basically a special Intimidate that opponents can’t switch out of. It’s so good that it even prevents something as powerful as a +2 Xerneas from getting OHKOs with Moonblast. Food for thought.
      Anyways, Toxic was the last change I made to the team. I got tired of auto-losing to Calm Mind Cresselia on Showdown. Sure, Steelix and Gyarados could all heavily damage Cresselia. However, it’s not like I can bring dual snakes against every team that has a Cresselia. Besides, I remembered hearing something about Toxic Cresselia being used as a counter to Calm Mind Cresselia in 2015. I also noticed that in testing, my Cresselia was often a sitting duck (pun intended) against boosted enemy Cresselia.
      So, I decided to run Toxic over Psychic on Cresselia. Might seem silly, but Fighting types aren’t that common in the Sinnoh Classic and I had multiple ways of dealing with them anyways. This change also improved my matchup against other bulky Pokémon such as Suicune and Porygon2 significantly.
      Toxic ended up working out fantastically in the Sinnoh Classic, so I’m glad I made the change. What I didn’t like about Toxic, however, is that I missed my targets a lot more than I felt like I should have for a move with 90% accuracy. Just ask Jon Hu (JHufself). Maybe that’s the price I have to pay for almost never missing Draco Meteor on every team I have that move on. Oh well.
      Back in 2013, I named my Cresselia after Hylia, the main goddess of Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Cresselia is female, graceful legendary Pokémon who possesses powers to strengthen her team. I think you know where I went with this. Moving along.
      So far, we’ve talked about the three Pokémon that came from the original team. Now let’s talk about the new guys on the block.
      VanHohenheim (Latios) @ Life Orb 
      Ability: Levitate 
      Level: 50 
      EVs: 4 HP / 250 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe 
      Timid Nature 
      IVs: 28 Def  / 30 SpA
      - Protect 
      - Draco Meteor
      - Thunderbolt 
      - Shadow Ball 
      “I am a Philosopher’s Stone…in the form of a man”
      Hydreigon replacement. The Latios I caught in my first playthrough OmegaRuby didn’t have perfect Defense or Sp. Attack IVs. And I never RNG’d Latios back in the day. Oh well, it’s good enough. It’s not like it matters anyways, since Hyper Training will take care of the rest this November.
      Anyways, this Latios basically has a 252/252 spread but an unusual moveset. I went with Shadow Ball because it would let me combine with Zapdos or Gyarados’s attacks to KO unsuspecting Gardevoir and Metagross. Shadow Ball also lets me hammer away at enemy Cresselia without having to drop my stats. Basically, Latios is doing its best impression of its predecessor Hydreigon.
      I chose Thunderbolt because Azumarill + Togekiss combinations are incredibly scary for my team. With both Zapdos and Latios launching Thunderbolts in addition to Machamp’s Quick Guard and Gyarados’s CB Return, I felt a bit better about my Azumarill matchup. Latios happens to be one of two Pokémon on my team that can actually take a +6 Aqua Jet, so I figured I should capitalize on that as much as possible.
      I named my Latios after Van Hohenheim from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Seeing how the Eon Duo’s signature Soul Dew supposedly contains the soul of a dead Latios, I figured I might as well name my Latios after the human Philosopher Stone of FMAB. Especially since my Latios is literally holding the item Life Orb.
      Lanayru (Zapdos) @ Sitrus Berry 
      Ability: Pressure 
      Level: 50 
      EVs: 204 HP / 64 Def / 20 SpD / 220 Spe 
      Modest Nature 
      IVs: 30 HP / 30 Def 
      - Protect 
      - Roost 
      - Thunderbolt 
      - Tailwind 
      “Oh you’ve done it, boy. I can feel the fruit’s effect surging through me! It’s exhilarating! I feel like a proper dragon again!”
      Thundurus replacement. Fun fact: the Zapdos I used on this team is the first Pokémon I ever RNG’d, way back in spring 2012. After sitting in my boxes for four and a half years, it was finally able to stretch its wings in the Sinnoh Classic and wreak some real havoc on this team.
      This Zapdos was an absolute tank. With a bulky EV spread, Sitrus Berry, Roost, Protect…this Zapdos just wouldn’t die. It was fast, it was powerful, it was bulky…what else would you want? Interestingly, it was able to abuse Pressure quite a bit because of its massive bulk. I decided against using Static because I didn’t want to accidentally paralyze someone while in Trick Room.
      My favorite match in the tournament was a massive 29 turn stall war against a Cresselia, Hitmontop, Gastrodon and Rotom-H. I got really unlucky at times, but I ended up winning anyways. My Zapdos literally used all of its Roosts while slowly chipping away at the other team.
      The EV spread was a key part of why it worked so well. It outruns Adamant Choice Band Arcanine and survives its Flare Blitz, while also surviving Timid Latios’s Life Orb Draco Meteor. Arcanine might be an odd Pokémon to benchmark against, but, well, you learn some things the hard way through testing. The HP stat is also an even number so that Sitrus Berry activates if Zapdos is hit by Super Fang. With this spread, Sitrus Berry and Roost, this Zapdos never goes down quickly.
      I built this Zapdos to be faster than my Gyarados for a few reasons:
      One, to have a 3rd Pokémon faster than Smeargle.
      Two, to mask how fast my Gyarados really is. That way, I could trick people into think I was running a more standard, slower Gyarados.
      Three, to ensure that I can outrun and OHKO other Gyarados with Thunderbolt. When you snipe a bunch of slower Zapdos with a Choice Band Gyarados…well, it’d be embarrassing if I lost to the same trick. So yeah.
      Four, well, in a Zapdos vs. Zapdos war, the one with higher speed and Roost will always win. Especially when you factor in Pressure stalling.
      Five, well, fine I’m just tired of Arcanine making my life miserable every year.
      On the surface, Zapdos and my previous Thundurus seem similar due to typing and BST, but in practice they’re distinctly different. Yes, both go after Water types and back the team up with speed control, but they go about it in different ways. While Thundurus usually just spams Thunder Wave and Taunt and calls it a day, Zapdos goes for Tailwind instead and sticks around much longer thanks to Sitrus Berry, Roost and Protect. Roost is especially important, since it helps me stall against Abomasnow.
      I didn’t bother with Hidden Power Ice because the rest of my team handled Garchomp really well. Also, originally, I had Thunder Wave in that last slot. However, now that Electric types are immune to paralysis thanks to 6th gen mechanics, Thunder Wave became a lot less useful. Specifically, Rotom-W and enemy Zapdos couldn’t be paralyzed. Also, Garchomp, being a Ground type, couldn’t get paralyzed either.
      With Tailwind, I can outrun everyone and sweep that way outside of Trick Room. Cresselia could outrun and KO Garchomps, Salamence, etc. Gyarados could rampage even more, while Machamp can launch terrifying Dynamic Punches both in Trick Room and with Tailwind. Long story short, Tailwind really brought this team to the next level.
      The one thing I wished my Sinnoh Classic team had was Thundurus’s Taunt though. In 2013, Taunt was incredibly useful in preventing sleep, burns, opposing setup and redirection. I couldn’t find a way to get Taunt back on this team, which made my matchup against redirection and Dark Void much tougher.
      I wish my 2012 self named this Zapdos after Thunderbird (penultimate boss of Zelda II) instead of Lanayru. I get why I named it Lanayru instead, seeing how both Lanayru in Skyward Sword and Zapdos are legendary electric entities, but still. Oh well, hindsight’s 20/20. At least it shared its nickname with the 2013 Thundurus that came along a year and a half later.

      Armstrong (Machamp) (M) @ Lum Berry 
      Ability: No Guard 
      Level: 50 
      EVs: 244 HP / 78 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 180 Spe 
      Adamant Nature 
      - Protect 
      - Quick Guard 
      - Dynamic Punch 
      - Knock Off
      “Stand back and prepare for a display of Armstrong alchemy!”
      Conkeldurr replacement. Only new Pokémon I had to breed for this team. Also kinda hilarious that Machamp is here, since it made a big splash at 2013 Worlds when piloted by Senior World Champion Hayden McTavish. However, while his Machamp carried Wide Guard, mine carries Quick Guard. I was skeptical about Machamp on this team at first, but I quickly fell in love with it once I added Tailwind on Zapdos.
      Compared to my 2013 Conkeldurr, Machamp covers the same threats, but is sort of the opposite in terms of priority. Whereas 2013 Conkeldurr was launching Mach Punches everywhere, this Machamp blocks priority moves instead. In 2013, the main priority move everyone was worried about was +2 Bullet Punches from Scizor, Sucker Punch from Hitmontop and Mach Punch from Conkeldurr. None of those moves were threatening to my 2013 team at all.
      In the 2016 Sinnoh Classic however, now there were +6 Azumarill Aqua Jets to worry about. But with Quick Guard, the rest of my team can deal with Azumarill fairly well. With Thundurus gone on my team, this team became a lot more vulnerable to Sableye’s Prankster antics. Luckily, Quick Guard allows me to deal with Sableye much more manageably. With Latios on the team, my team became more vulnerable to Sucker Punches from the likes of Hitmontop—and Quick Guard was able to help with that.
      The spread allows Machamp to survive Timid Latios’s Life Orb Draco Meteor. Which is irrelevant since most Latios will just Psychic for the KO anyways, but it was still a good generic benchmark to hit for bulk. The Speed EVs are what made this Machamp work so well though. At 98 Speed, not only is it still usable under Trick Room, but it can outrun even Weavile with Tailwind. The Weavile part is especially important, because without Machamp, Weavile is very threatening to the team.
      My Machamp’s speed is what makes its 100% accurate Dynamic Punches even more terrifying on this team. At 98 Speed, my Machamp outruns 4 EV Hitmontop by a whopping 7 points. Unless Hitmontop wants to sacrifice bulk or even power that it doesn’t really have, my Machamp is going to go first and block its Fake Out with Quick Guard almost every time.
      As for Knock Off? Well, I just ran it because I didn’t want to lose Machamp to Latios while under Trick Room or Tailwind. That’d be embarrassing. It also gave Machamp a way to directly deal a lot of damage to enemy Cresselia. Besides, with Volcarona being banned in this format, there was no need for Stone Edge. Ice Punch would also have been redundant, seeing how well the rest of my team deals with Garchomp.
      Lum Berry was really important. Not only did it save Machamp from countless burns in both testing and the actual tournament, but it also gave me a great counter for Smeargle, Chansey and Blissey. Even if Smeargle survived with a Focus Sash after burning my Lum Berry and got an evasion boost, it would usually KO itself through confusion anyways. I ran into 3 or 4 Chansey & Blissey in the tournament. My gameplan against those was to just KO all of Chansey’s/Blissey’s partners. Then, just let Machamp do his thing.
      I named my Machamp to reference a couple things at once. One, Major Louis Armstrong, from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Both Armstrong and Machamp walk around shirtless with a lot of muscles, so I think you know where I went with this now.
      Two, Neil Armstrong, a fellow Purdue grad. Coincidentally, July 20th—the day before the tournament started in the US—marked the anniversary of Armstrong walking on the moon. Seeing how I have Cresselia on the team, it was even more fitting.
      Like I said at the beginning of this report, I only had an average finish of about 1700 with a record of 31W-14L. This team would’ve done a lot better if I

      1) Had better wifi
      2) If I had run Sunny Day on Cresselia and Heat Wave on Zapdos

      Azumarill and hail were by far the biggest threats to this team. Both were responsible for the vast majority of my losses. I underestimated hail’s popularity going into the tournament. Azumarill was a matchup that I almost solved, but couldn’t figure out completely in a way I liked in time. Long story short, with Quick Guard Machamp, Thunderbolt on Zapdos and Latios, and CB Return on Gyarados, I had most of the right tools to hit Azumarill with.
      The problem was that I often couldn’t have two of those options out at the same time, due to my own Cresselia being completely deadweight against Azumarill. I often needed my own Cresselia to help deal with Azumarill’s partners, but my Cresselia can’t do a thing to Azumarill at all. As a result, Azumarill was often able to get a Belly Drum off and then I’d just lose. I knew that I would be able to have a great matchup against Azumarill if I could just change Cresselia’s set to deal with it.

      One option I considered was swapping Light Screen out for Sunny Day on Cresselia. By running HP Fire over Shadow Ball on Latios and Heat Wave on Zapdos, I’d theoretically have a strong Sun mode that would solve my Azumarill & Abomasnow problems while still dealing with rain and hail as originally intended. The sun would also remove Steelix’s Water weakness, but would weaken the power of Gyarados’s Waterfall. However, seeing how my Gyarados has a bunch of other strong moves, that part probably wasn’t as important as I initially thought. At the time, however, it was part of the reason why I rejected the idea.
      I actually came up with this idea the day before the tournament started. At the time, I really didn’t like the idea of giving up Light Screen, because unlike Sunny Day, it actually cuts the power of Blizzard. Light Screen is also more generally useful overall. I also wasn’t a fan of giving up either Protect or Roost on Zapdos to make room for Heat Wave, since having both moves have helped me win many games in testing and in the actual tournament. I also didn’t feel comfortable with making a last-minute change without being able to test it thoroughly.
      In retrospect, I should have used the Sunny Day version of the team. Azumarill and Abomasnow were more prevalent in the Sinnoh Classic meta compared to 2013. My team basically needed one final touch in order to have  a shot at winning even the bad matchups consistently. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t deliver in time, because I was too attached to Light Screen and my Zapdos set and was too afraid to run a change without testing it. Sure, both of those sets worked incredibly well in testing, but sometimes, there are things that work even better. This tournament confirmed my suspicions that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a terrible saying that encourages complacency and inflexibility.
      Well, that’s it! Thanks for reading if you made it all the way down here. I had a lot of fun playing in the Sinnoh Classic. It brought back a lot of good memories. It felt nostalgic using a bunch of favorite old Pokémon I hadn’t used in years. I also had fun figuring out how to adapt an old team to a new metagame. Now it’s time to retire this team. Again.
      That said, maybe it’ll be reincarnated again one day. I mean, come on, it’s a part-Zelda team. Chances are you’re going to see another incarnation of it further on down the line. If Sun & Moon actually make Mega Steelix good…well, you might see something like this again real soon. A guy can dream, right?
      Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter @AdibVGC. Have a good day!
    • By DexVGC in Scaling the Summits 1
      Hey there, my name is Rob and I am living in Melbourne, Australia (and originally from Brisbane, Australia). Online, I go by the moniker DexVGC. Previously I was using the name dextyrious but I have decided to shorten that before the new season as my VGC16 season is more or less over now. 
      I have decided to start a blog to discuss the new elements in Pokemon Sun/Moon that I believe will impact the VGC17 season and also use this as preparation for myself for next season.
      For the last 2 seasons, I have been unable to commit to proper practice and event attendance due to work and study commitments, leading to results below what I believe I can achieve and I am looking to rectify my situation. It should be fixed for the start of the new season so I have decided that I will be fully committing to regular practice and event attendance. My preparation is starting now.
      Now, onto the discussions!
      I will be covering a range of topics over the off season as information comes to light. A lot of my thoughts do have assumptions attached relevant to my thought process. One such assumption is that every Pokemon (and their mega evolutions) shown within a video will be in the Sun and Moon regional pokedex.
      As such the first topic I will be covering in my next post will be the Pokemon that have been shown so far and how they might affect the metagame. 
    • By Draconid997 in Draconid's Den 97
      Original Article
      This is my first blog at nugget bridge, so hopefully i can share something that you find useful
      This thread is something that i am transferring over from smogon forums, as i thought it may be as useful here for those who haven't read it yet or want to contribute to it. Let's get to it.
      If you’re new to VGC 2016 or are just stuck for ideas on how to team-build in this new format, you can check out this thread for how successful teams have been built. Please feel free to contribute to this thread if you have noticed any patterns from popular/successful teams for me to edit into this OP, or just if you want to comment on existing frameworks etc. The format is still pretty new, so obviously there are only a few ‘standard’ team styles that have risen to success in recent regionals etc, so for the moment i will try to cover them in this OP:
      General team composition:
      1st Restricted Legendary (Generally one of the Primal Trio)
      The primals are some of the most powerful restricted legendaries introduced into this format. They are also the only pokemon in the format able to set harsh sun, heavy rain and strong winds, which will allow you to sway the weather war in your favour:
      2nd Restricted Legendary
      Your second legendary should provide a form of offence, as well as potentially supporting a primal with speed control and alike (You can choose another primal if you wish): etc
      If you're stuck for sets for any of these mons, here is a huge playlist of sample sets created by KyleCole 3. Mega Evolution
       Mega evolutions are a secondary source of offense used on many teams to benefit the legendary core Some players choose to run two mega evolutions. This will give your team two sources of secondary offense for you to use against different popular pokemon in the format Mega Rayquaza/Mewtwo already count as a mega and a legendary Examples:

      4-6. 3 or 4 Supporting mons (depending on your choice of legendaries/megas)
      Hopefully these choices will become a little clearer once the thread develops and more frameworks are contributed. Popular choices here usually have very supportive movepools containing moves such as: Trick Room, Follow me, Tailwind etc alongside useful abilities like prankster, or they just have a good matchup vs some of the top tier threats in the format:
      Team Frameworks:
      These frameworks are the skeletons for teams to be built upon. Of course team building is a completely personal thing, so these will be rough guidelines to what works best with a particular strategy
      Reactionary: Able to lead with versatility against common threats (team preview)
       Xerneas+Primal Groudon
      Sample Teams:
      Playstyle: Set Up / Reactionary
      Xerneas + Primal Kyogre
      Sample Teams
      Playstyle: Set-Up / Reactionary
      Xerneas + Mega Rayquaza
      Sample Teams
      Playstyle: Set Up + Offensive Core
      Sample Teams
      Playstyle: Hyper Offensive
      Sample Teams

      Playstyle: Offensive

      Groudon+Kyogre (Double Primal)

      Sample Teams
      Playstyle: Bulky Offensive

      Dialga+Primal Kyogre (Boom-Room)

      Sample Teams
      Playstyle: Bulky Offensive / Set up

      Ho-oh+Primal Kyogre

      Sample Teams
      Playstyle: Bulky Offensive

      Ho-Oh + Primal Groudon (Sun)

      Sample Teams
      Playstyle: Balanced Offensive

      Palkia + Primal Groudon


      Sample Teams

      Playstyle: Bulky Offensive

      Kyurem-w + Primal Groudon (Gravity Spam)


      Sample Teams

      Playstyle: Set up / Combo-Based

      Yveltal+Primal Kyogre

      Sample Teams
      Playstyle: Balanced Offensive

      Primal Groudon + Yveltal

      Sample Teams
      Playstyle: Balanced Offensive

      Giratina-Origin + Primal Groudon

      Sample Teams
      Playstyle: Bulky Offensive
       Mewtwo + Primal Groudon
      Sample Teams
      Playstyle: Offensive / Combo-Based
    • By DrFidget in The Lava Pool 0
      Toler and Sam switch roles to catch up on the VGC 16 metagame going into worlds. Turns out not much has changed since the last episode. So then we spend the rest of the episode breaking down the Pokemon game everyone is talking about right now: Pokemon Go!
      Just kidding, we spend 40 minutes on Sun and Moon. This is strictly a VGC and sandwich podcast after all.
      00. Intro
      13. Big 6
      20. Japan
      23. US Nats and Metagame
      27. Questions! Venusaur and Safeguard

      Sun and Moon
      32. New Pokemon
      39. Highest Priority
      41. Snatch
      43. Horse
      47. Bounsweet
      51. Mimikyu
      55. Bear
      1.00. Competitive changes
      1.07. Outro
      If you need a direct link go here: http://drfidget.podbean.com/mf/web/mzsaqr/Unbounsweet.mp3
      If you're new to the show you can subscribe on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-lava-pool/id545201249?mt=2
      Or plug this into an RSS reader: http://t.co/06GBwSBrqs
      Or follow us on twitter @TheLavaPool to see when new episodes go up.

      Sorry for not uploading anything in a few months.
    • By SirScrubbington in VGC & Chill 3
      Hey guys! My name is Damon Murdoch and this year I was able to make top 8 at the Brisbane Regional Championship, and top 8 at the Australian National Championships in Melbourne. This was my second year of playing VGC, as I started playing in 2015 around halfway through the season. This was my first full year of playing seriously, as well as my first year attending a national and I'm pretty happy with how I performed! I had a lot of fun attending events and meeting new people and I am really looking forward to playing in next years format.
      The Team:

      Tournament Run
      Round 1: Hamming – W (throw)
      His Team:  
      This game is probably the one I have to talk about the most on this article. Basically I had first round jitters and lost to them through a combination of really bad hax on my part (pblades missing a heatran, getting critted a few times etc.) and general bad management. I was honestly feeling pretty beat up at myself about this, because obviously I had lost to a VGC 2015 team, and had pretty much ruined my chances at cut in the first round. However, my opponent saw the way the game went and felt really bad for me, and wanted to put my name as the winner on the sheet. I accepted their offer, as I knew I really needed it but honestly I felt pretty bad about this- and I honestly still do. I thanked them for what they had done, although they just seemed satisfied with the fact they had beaten someone wearing a team shirt LOL
      Paulo (The Mastodon) still gives me a hard time about this one, and I'm not gonna pretend I don't deserve it. Feel free to laugh at me lol :^)
      Record: 1-0
      Round 2: Tony Nguyen (Bloop) – L (Big Screen)
      His Team:
      Still feeling pretty nervous after my first round, I felt sick when I saw I was playing Round 2 on the big screen - and I had no idea what I was looking at when I saw his team. In hindsight Cresselia Kangaskhan with Groudon Xern in the back was really strong against his whole team, but I was scared to bring Cresselia against their Yveltal. I ended up opting for Kangaskhan Xerneas, and switched out Xerneas for Talonflame in the first turn only for Talonflame to take a final gambit from his scarfed staraptor, easily OHKOing it and removing both pokemon from the game turn one. The next few turns did not go in my favour, his Rayquaza turned out to be banded and effectively started tearing holes in my entire team. It was getting pretty close at the end, although brave bird Crobat turned out to be the last thing I needed and sealed up the win for him. 
      Record: 1-1

      Round 3: Max Bailey - W
      His Team:
      Going into this round, I knew I really needed to start making things happen if I was to cut the event. I didn't seem to take too many detailed notes of this game, however I remember getting gravity room set up pretty early and sweeping through most of his team with Groudon. 
      Record: 2-1
      Round 4: David Palfrey - W
      His Team:
      I knew my opponent for this round, I had played them at one of the Fastbreak premier challenges which were held earlier on in the season and they had performed pretty well - with a second place finish. This game, I felt my opponent had a really passive lead in Ferrothorn Meowstic, which I assume was their smeargle xerneas counterlead. However, I had opted for Kangaskhan Groudon so their lead matchup really worked against them - and I was able to set up multiple power-up punches and sweep with Kangaskhan.
      Record: 3-1
      Round 5: Brendan Wright (@ButtonBash) – W
      His Team:
      My opponent for this round was a good friend of mine, and also a fellow Brisbane Bisharp. I had played against them using the same team at the last Fastbreak premier challenge, so I had a pretty decent idea of how my opponent would play the team. I was scared of seeing Greninja, as it is difficult to predict in best of one but luckily my opponent opted not to bring it. For this game, I hit hard with Kangaskhan and disrupted him with Smeargle, and cleaned up his team with Xerneas and Groudon.
      Record: 4-1
      Round 6: Tom Wang – W
      His Team:
      My first full big 6 team of the day - was pretty frightening to see at team preview. Initially I was pretty scared of seeing trick room Smeargle, although it turned out that he was max speed so I didn't really need to worry about that. I was able to set up gravity room and run through most of his team fairly easily, however I almost lost the game when Smeargle was able to get up a dark void and I got a few bad sleep turns. In the end, I ended up getting saved my a clutch helping hand Moonblast critical hit into his Groudon, which ended up most likely saving me the game.
      Record: 5-1
      Round 7: Alex Kollasch – W
      His Team:
      Pretty much as soon as I hit team preview I had a pretty good idea of what I needed to do against this team. His team looked pretty weak to trick room, so I felt pretty safe leading Kangaskhan Cresselia and setting up. He tricked choice scarf onto my Cresselia which made me pretty nervous, as it prevented me from setting up Gravity. However, I was able to win this one pretty comfortably as Groudon under trick room was able to tear through pretty much their entire team and win me the game. 
      Record: 6-1
      Round 8: Shisir Lama(Auslove) – W
      His Team:
      Neither Auslove nor I were particularly happy about getting paired in the final round of Swiss, as both of us most likely needed this win to make top cut. I lead Groudon Talonflame against his Sableye Gengar, setting up tailwind and eliminating his Mega Gengar very early on in this game to prevent hypnosis shenanigans. He started firing off Grasswhistles with Whimsicott and was able to get a swords dance up with his low health Groudon, but I made the right calls and ended up winning the set.
      Record: 7-1
      Top 8: Mitch Kendrick (@MitchVGC) LL
      His Team:
      I had played Mitch once before in the Nuggetbridge scramble at the beginning of the season, however I wasn't familiar with how Mitch played so I was pretty scared of this pairing. When I saw his team I didn't feel the matchup was too bad, although Bronzong does scare my team as he out-slows my own trick room mode. Game one I failed to account for Crafty Shield Smeargle, and dispatched Smeargle while Xerneas got effectively a free turn to geomancy. My team was then pretty much swept by Xerneas and Kangaskhan. 
      Game two I felt I needed to make some adjustments, and tried to set up my trick room mode for the team. I felt like he was going to fake out my Cresselia first turn to prevent the trick room, so I opted to helping hand double edge his Kangaskhan hopefully removing it from the battle. However, instead he opted to return into my Kangaskhan and brave bird my Cresselia, which meant both of our Kangaskhans were knocked out in the first turn after double edge recoil. Afterwards I felt like that was a really bad play, but I really did not expect Mitch to play that turn how he did. I tried to set up trick room and sweep with Groudon, although an untimely brave bird crit put Groudon in KO range for another brave bird, which pretty much sealed up my hopes of coming back in game two. 
      Closing Thoughts on Brisbane
      I felt Mitch played the set very well, and I wasn't really that upset about losing to him at all. He went on to face a good friend of mine (and the eventual winner of the tournament) Jack Buckley (@Arahpthos), and Jack was quite glad that he faced Mitch instead of myself - He didn't know how I played against him at the time, so he wasn't sure if he would have been able to beat me and I really doubt after losing to Mitch I would have been able to beat Martin Larumbe (BaseIn2) In the finals. 
      I had a really great time playing at the Brisbane Regional championships, and I am really looking forward to going back and playing next year for the new format. Hopefully it will be just as popular next year as it was next year
      Australian National Championships 
      I was extremely excited to go to nationals, as I hadn't been to Melbourne for awhile and a lot of my friends from the VGC and TCG communities were going to be there. I went to Nationals with my girlfriend Megan, who was interested in playing the TCG at nationals as she doesn't like the VGC metagame. After regionals, I didn't have a whole lot of time to teambuild for nationals thanks to assignments and exams for university. I had originally planned bringing a modified version of my cresselia team to nationals, however from practise on Battle Spot in the days before the event I found that my team wasn't as effective as it used to be, so I decided to drop cresselia for Mega Mence and use a fast Groudon. This obviously completely changed the team dynamic, so I was a little concerned that I would be out of practise using this variant of Big 6. However, I knew it would be strong and I was happy to use it at the event. 
      The Team:
      Round 1: Tim Leach - LWW
      His Team:
      Game one, he revealed magic coat Cresselia in the first turn and this put me in a really bad position. Luckily I had not clicked Dark void in that turn, however I ended up clicking it in the next turn anticipating him to switch moves - he didn't. This game ended up coming pretty close, but I remember losing 0-2. Game two I decided Smeargle was definitely going to be dead weight in this matchup, so I opted to bring Talonflame instead for offensive pressure. Talonflame did a lot of work, and was able to help Kangaskhan and Groudon sweep through the opposing team effectively. Game three I made sure to take out Cresselia as soon as possible, as it had given me a fair amount of trouble in the previous two games and I wanted to make sure it was gone. I predicted the protect on the partner and double targeted it in the first turn, picking up the knockout. This immediately put my opponent on the back foot, and my remaining offensive pokemon were able to clean up the game with a few decent reads. 
      Rating: 1-0
      Round 2: Jonathan Hoare  - WLW
      His Team:
      My notes for this set don't reflect the Pokemon I brought, so I am going off memory. He revealed Scarf Smeargle turn one, hitting both dark voids. However, both Kangaskhan and Talonflame woke up on the second turn of sleep, allowing them to pick up the Knockout on the opposing Xerneas as it switched in (turn 1) and set up Geomancy (turn 2). This put the game quite strongly in my favour, as the Pokemon he had in the back were not easily capable of stopping mine and we were able to win game one. I don't remember a whole lot about game two, other than that it came really close towards the end of the game with both of us having set up Xerneas. however his Xerneas was able to pick up a critical hit on mine, which sealed up the game. I wasn't in a particularly great position anyway, so I'm not entirely sure if it mattered but I wasn't particularly concerned heading into game three. This game went in my favour relatively early on, Crobat Xerneas was a pretty passive lead and I was able to knock out his Xerneas easily with a Double-Edge and Flare Blitz. His Scarfed Smeargle came in and he attempted to get a dark void off, however both of them ended up missing my Pokemon and the game was pretty much sealed up from there.  
      Rating: 2-0
      Round 3: Bailey Owens (@BargensVGC) - LWW

      When I saw my pairing for this round, I was pretty scared but really excited. Bargens is one of the players I've somewhat looked up to since I started playing VGC competitively, and I honestly was really not expecting to come away from this game with a win. However, by playing like a retard making the right calls I was able to take the set  2-1. Game one I got destroyed pretty hard, he made the right calls and I was not playing particularly well at all. In addition to this, my battery ended up running flat about halfway through this game which resulted in me not finding out his final Pokemon. I can't remember a whole lot about game two, other than that I won by setting up my Xerneas in front of a Crobat which decided not to taunt, predicting I would protect. Bailey was not particularly happy about this, but I definitely was ;^) After that, we were able to take game two pretty convincingly. Game three was... an experience. His mistake in this game was not removing Talonflame before it could KO his Xerneas, and this put me in a pretty great position. He made a fairly strong comeback later in the game, and it ended up coming down to a 1v1 Groudon speed tie - which I was lucky skilled enough to win :^)
      Rating: 3-0
      Round 4: Sam Hughes – WLL

      This set was absolutely amazing, and my opponent was an absolute legend. We spent pretty much the entire set talking trash, which was heaps of fun and despite the loss, this game was definitely one of my highlights of the tournament. Game one he didn't bring Thundurus which I was pretty happy with, and I was able to overpower his leads with Talonflame and Kangaskhan and clean up with Groudon Xerneas. Game two he opted to bring Thundurus, which gave my team a pretty hard time and he was able to take this game pretty cleanly. Game three was a pretty big meme - I went for a read which really didn't work out here, and my opponent called my play very well. The past three games I had fake outed his Rayquaza turn one, so I really expected him to protect it that turn so I opted to quick guard and Double-Edge his Thundurus. However, he Thunderbolted my Talonflame and Dragon Ascented my Kangaskhan before it could attack, which pretty much sealed up the game turn one. Great games Sam! Hopefully I'll see you at nationals next year :^)
      Rating: 3-1
      Round 5: Mitch Kendrick (@MitchVGC) - LWL

      After how badly Mitch destroyed me in Brisbane, I was pretty nervous to see us paired up again - especially given I couldn't safely afford to take another loss. Pretty much every game of this set was decided by moody hax rolls - In game one, Mitch was able to gt a Smeargle with +6 speed, +3 accuracy and +4 evasion! Not surprisingly, he took this game pretty safely. Game two I was able to set up my Xerneas and do some damage, however he switched in Bronzong and set up trick room. He timed out in the next turn and clicked gravity, which he immediately regretted as my slow smeargle got  a dark void on his pokemon. Xerneas and Groudon were able to clean up the match. Game three went very similarly to game one, I made some clutch reads in order to try and get the game going back in my favour but in the end I really couldn't get past his Smeargle's incredible moody boosts. I wasn't really too upset about how the set went, leaving Smeargle to get free boosts is never a good idea and I more or less did exactly that, which led to the predicament I was put in later in each game. 
      Rating: 3-2
      Round 6: Steven - WW

      My opponent for this round was pretty cool to talk to, and honestly I was pretty relieved to see a team which wasn't Groudon Xerneas. In both games I lead mega evolution + Xerneas, and I was surprised to see his Mega Beedrill live a +2 Moonblast from Xerneas. In game two I opted to bring Salamence over Kangaskhan and the game was pretty one-sided from there.
      Rating: 4-2
      Round 7: Jensen Chen- WW

      Game one I attempted to smeargle Xern him unsuccessfully, as my Xerneas was flinched by an iron head. The game turned out to be extremely close, he revealed explosion on his Ferrothorn late in the game which was pretty scary but we were able to win the game 1-0. Game two I was successfully able to smeargle Xern him to death through some incredible moody boosts, and we were able to win this game fairly comfortably. 
      Rating: 5-2
      End of Day 1

      Round 8: James Farrujia (@faybzplays) - LWW

      James Farrujia came 2nd at the Melbourne Regional Championships, so I was pretty nervous about this pairing as I knew he was a good player and that this would be a difficult match. Game one I lead poorly and lost hard to his Xerneas. Game two I was put in a pretty disadvantageous position, however he really over-predicted my play and allowed me to get a free tailwind up with Talonflame, while he double-targeted into my Groudon's protect. Talonflame and Groudon were then able to clean up his remaining Pokemon. In game three, I adjusted my leads well and brought Xerneas Salamence, which matched up well with his and I was able to sweep with Xerneas. 
      Rating: 6-2
      Round 9: Bailey Gabell – WW

      I was pretty nervous when I saw this team, as I had lost to a RayOgre team earlier on in the day and felt I had a pretty poor matchup. However, I have a lot of experience playing with teams similar to this on Battle Spot and Showdown, so I had a pretty good idea of how he would play against me. I lead Talonflame Kangaskhan against him both games and pretty safely set up tailwind and hit his mons hard with Kangaskhan. Game two it was revealed that he was running max speed Kyogre, which I was afraid of but luckily I was able to win the speed tie when I double edged him with Kangaskhan in the first turn, and then lose it when both primals came onto the field at the same time, winning the weather war.
      Rating: 7-2
      Before Top Cut
      I was really excited after finishing 7-2, as I knew there was a pretty decent chance I could cut - but I was still really nervous. When the standings came up, it turns out I was 11th seed which was pretty awesome. Cutting my first national! Florist would be proud. After checking the positions it was decided that I was going to be paired with Bargens for a second time, and I was honestly really nervous. I checked my notes over and over and made sure I knew how to play against his team, and honestly felt that the way I had been playing in the previous set had worked well enough that I should attempt to play similarly in the next set. 
      Top 16: Bailey Owens (@BargensVGC) - LWW

      This set was heaps of fun to play, and definitely one of my highlights of the tournament. Game one he lead Crobat Salamence and was able to sweep with his Xerneas and Groudon. Game two, the game was really coming down to the wire in the later turns but a clutch double-edge critical hit into his Crobat made a huge difference, which really solidified my position and won me the game. In this game it was also revealed that his Smeargle was able to live Talonflame brave birds without the sash as a roll, as it had dropped his smeargle in game two of the first set which made me assume mental herb. Game three was much more in my favour, he tried to bait me into thinking he had quick guard on his Crobat so I would misplay and flare blitz his Xerneas instead of Brave Birding, but I knew that he would have used it earlier in the set if he were to have it so I just brave birded for the knockout and cleaned up with my own Groudon. 
      Top 8: Sam Pandelis (@ZeldaVGC) – LL (Throw)

      As was discussed in UchihaX96’s report, the Australian national championships was really corrupted and involved a lot of players throwing their matches in top cut to allow players to get paid invites. I was aware that Bailey had agreed to throw to Sam in the next round were he to beat me, so I knew I had a really big decision to make when Sam sat down in front of me. I had little to gain from continuing the tournament, whereas Sam had a lot on the line if he were to lose so I felt my best decision was to scoop and allow Sam to get his paid invite. Good luck to him at worlds
      Closing Thoughts from Nationals:
      I was really happy with my Top 8 finish at my first national championship! I had a great time meeting friends from all over the country who I had previously only ever spoken to online. Megan and I went to Melbourne for around five days (2 before and 1 after) nationals to explore the city, and we both had a really great time and will hopefully be able to return next year! 
      @Arahpthos One of the founding members of the Bob Ross squad who helped me teambuild and practise. Oh also he's actually really bidoof good at the game, no matter how he denies it. Congrats on your Brisbane regional win dude!
      @OmegaKnightVGC Another member of the Bob Ross squad, a great friend who has helped me practise and improve throughout the 2015 and 2016 seasons. We're all looking forward to seeing your comeback in VGC17! 
      @Splozion101 For coming second at Senior Regionals in Brisbane, and overall improving a lot as a competitive player since we both started out in 2015. I look forward to seeing how he performs as a first year master in 2017 :^)
      @FloristtheBudew For helping me talk about teams and theorymon all season, and for convincing me not to use Mega Lucario helping me make better teambuilding and gameplay decisions in 2015 :^)
      @Boomguy For a whole lot of things! helping me teambuild and practise before nationals, drafting me into the Lumiose Mimes for APL and helping me practise at local premier challenges throughout the season. Congrats on your 1st place nats finish :^)
      @MogarMalcolm For helping me teambuild, practise  and always grimering on me when we battle in a Best of Three. Hope you can make nationals next year man!
      @Dawg for giving me his team to experiment with before Brisbane regionals. Thanks for the help! We're still gonna smash you this week for the APL though. <3
      @ZeldaVGC for offering to help me pay for my trip to worlds. Hopefully I'll make it one year! Good luck at worlds fam :^)
      @ludicolopatrol For being an absolute legend who made top 8 with a Magikarp, and helped me heaps with teambuilding and practise before the event. Thanks heaps and congratulations! Oh also Bisharps > Ludis, get good scrubs
      The Mastodon For being the king of trash talk, sheer cold and challenge cup 1v1. I'll never forget that premier challenge you won through hitting 3/4 sheer colds :^)
      The rest of the Bisharps For accepting me onto the team :^) It's really exciting for me to represent the Brisbane Bisharps at events and participate as part of the team, and I'm really grateful for the opportunity. I look forward to representing the Bisharps at events next year as well!
      Megan Ruf for tolerating me, somehow. Love you <3
    • By SamuelTemple2 in A Journey up to the Temple 1
      On July 19, 2016, the Pokemon Company released a 2 minute video that showed 6 new Pokemon, which look amazing, but also showed off a new feature called Hyper Training. Hyper Training promises a lot of great things and I wanna talk about what it can do for the growth of competitive Pokemon.
      What is Hyper Training?
      Before talking about what it can do for the future for VGC, we have to know what it actually is from the information TPCi has given out. As a Pokemon levels up, they can still increase their stats, but they can only increase them so much as their IVs and nature can put this to a halt. They can increase their stats at anytime and at any level. Hyper Training is suppose to make getting strong Pokemon as easy as possible. The way it'll work is that once a Pokemon reaches level 100, they can use Hyper Training to increase or potentially decrease their IVs to the desired amount. You can do this by collecting bottle caps, which can be found throughout the Alola region and presenting them to a man by the name of Mr. Hyper who can take your bottle caps in to train your Pokemon.
      How can Hyper Training be helpful?
      Hyper Training can be helpful as it brings about a simple way to explain the sometime hard to explain concepts in the game. When X&Y came out, GameFreak introduced Super Training, a simple way to explain EVs, which were a foreign concept to a lot of people and did it in a fun way ... 
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