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Graduation Day: 2012 Seniors National Championship & 2013 Philadelphia Masters Runner-Up Team Analysis

blog-aaronzhengphilly.pngGreetings everyone! My name is Aaron Zheng, and I'm a big fan of Pokémon! I've been playing VGC since it started in 2008, and I've qualified for 3 World Championships in the 5 years I've played. I'm not going to bore you with a long introduction, so let's get started right away. The team I will be analyzing in this article is the team I used to win the 2012 Pokémon VGC US National Championships in the Senior Division this past summer. Variants of it have also performed very well last season, such as Wolfe Glick's 1st Place finish at US Nationals in the Masters division, Kamran Jahadi's 5th place finish at Worlds in the Seniors Division and Brendan Zheng's 3rd place finish at Worlds in the Juniors division. I recently placed 5th in the 2012 Autumn Friendly with it.

The team also swept varous Regionals throughout the country this past weekend: Kamran Jahadi (kamz) won over in San Jose Regionals with it in the Masters Division, Brendan Zheng (Babbytron) won on the other side of the country at the Philadelphia Regionals with it in the Juniors Division, Edward Fan (iss) finished in the Top 4 at Philadelphia with it, and of course, yours truly piloted it to a 2nd place finish in the largest and arguably most competitive Regional in the country in my first tournament in the Masters division. Let's get onto the actual analysis!

Team Building

I think one of the most important parts about a team analysis is how the player built the team, so I'll talk briefly about how I constructed my team. It started all the back in May after I placed 3rd in the 2012 Spring Philadelphia Regionals. Nationals was approaching, and I had no more good teams or ideas left. I found myself constantly laddering on Pokémon Online with my Regionals team, consisting of Hitmontop, Tyranitar, Garchomp, Volcarona, Zapdos, and Cresselia. However, I was not pleased with it at all and knew it would not do well at a National level tournament. I also didn’t like the team as it was overly offensive, leaving me with few options in terms of battling.

In the meantime, my very good friend Wolfe Glick (better known as the following: super Pokenob, 2x US Masters National Champion, 2012 Worlds Masters Runner-up, or Wolfey) and I often had practice matches, mainly for him to practice his Nationals team. He used some really weird stuff in those matches, like Expert Belt Hidden Power Fire Cresselia and Psycho Shift Togekiss, but he would also beat me around 75% of the time. After losing to him over and over again, I realized I had to focus and actually get a team for Nationals. But where do I even start? It would take a miracle for me to build a team for Nationals in time.

I finally got a spark of inspiration after videos of Korean Nationals took place. Although 2012 was only Korea's 2nd year participating in VGC, there are some incredibly talented players there, most notably Sejun Park (2011 Worlds Seniors Runner-up and 2012 Worlds Masters 5th Place). Their metagame is also very different from the American metagame. I have a few Korean VGC friends who were able to link me to the final matches there. This proved to be incredibly helpful as most of the American players did not have access to these matches, allowing me to keep my team a secret.

I noticed that Wonseok Jang, their National Champion, used a really interesting team with Choice Specs Cresselia, bulky Thundurus, Dual Chop Life Orb Garchomp, Focus Sash Volcarona, Hitmontop, and Ferrothorn. I took the team to PO and changed his LO Garchomp to the Yache Garchomp I had used at Regionals as I felt more comfortable with it. I instantly fell in love with the team. However, as I continued to play, I realized that I didn’t like how my only Steel-type Pokémon was Ferrothorn because it isn’t nearly as offensive as the others in this metagame (Metagross, Scizor, Heatran). I built the team on Wi-Fi, and although it won the majority of its battles, I still wasn't comfortable with it.

In the meantime, I continued to practice with Wolfe and he commented on how we ended up with similar teams despite not working with each other at all. After a couple of games, he showed me just how strong of a Pokémon Swords Dance Scizor was. He gave me his EV spread and moveset, and I knew it was the perfect replacement for the Ferrothorn I was struggling to use. I finally had an answer to stuff like Metagross and Cresselia, and the pure power of a +2 Steel Gem Bullet Punch is absolutely fantastic.

My team looked something like this now: Choice Specs Cresselia, bulky Calm Thundurus, standard Hitmontop, standard Garchomp, Volcarona, and Swords Dance Scizor. Despite using Volcarona on my Regionals team, I found that it barely did anything for me. I honestly just could not find a replacement for it and finally decided that Tyranitar would probably fit the team better. At this point, Wolfe's team and mine had very minimal differences. We had a couple of different EV spreads and movesets, but the playstyle was pretty much the same. I still didn't feel very confident going into Nationals, especially since I went something like 2-6 in practice battles the day beforehand, but the team clearly worked!

I think I've bored you enough with how I built my team. Let's take a look at it!

The Team

445.png

Garchomp @ Yache Berry

Trait: Sand Veil

EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spd

Jolly Nature (+Spd, -SAtk)

- Earthquake

- Rock Slide

- Dragon Claw

- Protect

As you can see, this Garchomp is as standard as it gets. Despite being standard, I did not find the need to use any unique EV spreads such as a bulky Haban spread. I did not find other Dragon-type Pokémon as a major threat since I had so many different checks to them. I also used Wonseok's Life Orb Dual Chop spread for a while, but I did not like the fact Dual Chop could actually miss, and the LO damage wasn't adding anything significant. In the end, I just stuck with a classic Jolly 252/252 Yache spread. I contemplated using Substitute and Swords Dance over Rock Slide and Protect, but I really disliked facing Volcarona and kept this set. Keeping Rock Slide also gave me an out to sticky situations with the chance to flinch my opponents and can be incredibly useful when paired with Thundurus's Thunder Wave.  Yache Berry saved me from random Ice-type attacks, and it proved its worth against Paul Chua during the semi-finals of Nationals this year, where his Gastrodon got a critical hit with its Ice Beam and Garchomp hung on with 24 HP. And we all know just how annoying Sand Veil can be... Overall, Garchomp had great synergy with the team and I found that he worked well with all the other 5 Pokémon on my team.

237.png

Hitmontop @ Fight Gem

Trait: Intimidate

EVs: 244 HP / 208 Atk / 8 Def / 48 Spd

Adamant Nature (+Atk, -SAtk)

- Fake Out

- Wide Guard

- Sucker Punch

- Close Combat

Wolfe and I both struggled to find a 6th Pokémon for our team in testing: I stuck with Hitmontop while he used a Choice Scarf Chandelure. Hitmontop is a fantastic Pokémon because it provides the team with both Fake Out and Intimidate support, which cannot be found on any other Pokémon in the metagame. Fake Out allowed me to use Icy Wind, Thunder Wave, and Swords Dance more comfortably and often would give me a huge advantage coming out of turn one. Wide Guard was there for attacks like Heat Wave, Earthquake, Rock Slide, Surf, and Blizzard. Sucker Punch allowed me to hit Pokémon like Chandelure and Latios, and Close Combat was obviously his strongest means of offense and offered nice coverage overall, allowing me to hit Pokémon like Tyranitar and Rotom-W with no problem. In the end, Hitmontop hurt me more than it helped me at Nationals as I lost both games I used him in Swiss, but I'm still very pleased with the various options it offers the team.

248.png

Tyranitar @ Chople Berry

Trait: Sand Stream

EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Spd

Adamant Nature (+Atk, -SAtk)

- Rock Slide

- Crunch

- Low Kick

- Protect

Similar to Garchomp and Hitmontop, this Tyranitar is really as standard as it gets. I would have liked to move 36 EVs from Attack to Defense to ensure it would always survive a Metagross' Meteor Mash, but in the end, it did not affect me in either tournament I used this team in. I have seen so many different items used on Tyranitar, such as Dark Gem, Focus Sash, Leftovers, and Sitrus Berry, but I stuck with the classic Chople Berry. The EVs were just to ensure max durability and strength, and with Sandstorm up, he was a specially defensive tank against moves such as Latios' and Hydreigon's Draco Meteor. I didn't use anything special like Fire Punch, Avalanche, Dragon Dance, or Substitute just because I  liked having more coverage and didn't feel the need to have moves that were used only in certain situations.

642.png

Thundurus (M) @ Sitrus Berry

Trait: Prankster

EVs: 196 HP / 60 SAtk / 252 SDef

Calm Nature (+SDef, -Atk)

- Thunderbolt

- Thunder Wave

- Taunt

- Hidden Power [ice]

This is where we begin to see the more interesting parts of the team. Bulky Thundurus was something unheard of before Ray Rizzo (Ray) used a Bold Thundurus to win the 2011 World Championships. I took a very simple but effective spread that allowed me to always survive a Timid Dragon Gem Draco Meteor from Latios, which is pretty much as powerful as special attacks go. The rest of the EVs were dumped into Special Attack to do maximum damage. Sitrus Berry was an incredible item, as it would often heal me back to over 30% after incredibly strong attacks such as Draco Meteor. In fact, against Paul Chua in the semi-finals of Nationals this year, Thundurus was able to tank a Dragon Gem Draco Meteor from Salamence, heal its health, and survive a second Draco Meteor the following turn. The bulk was absolutely fantastic, and it would often take multiple shots to take Thundurus down. Thunderbolt is a self explanatory move. Thunder Wave, in combination with Garchomp and Tyranitar's Rock Slide, allowed me to both control Speed and have some hax factor. Taunt was the one move I was debating on, but it proved very helpful as it prevented my opponents from using moves like Trick Room and Protect. I chose Hidden Power Ice over Flying because I really needed a way to hit Dragon-type Pokémon, most notably Garchomp. Overall, Thundurus plays a huge role on the team, and I find that I use it in 95% of my matches.

212.png

Scizor @ Steel Gem

Trait: Technician

EVs: 172 HP / 252 Atk / 84 Spd

Adamant Nature (+Atk, -SAtk)

- Bullet Punch

- Bug Bite

- Swords Dance

- Protect

Scizor is hands down the strongest part of this team. As I said previously, I originally struggled to find a good replacement for Ferrothorn, but Scizor had everything I wanted: a bulky Pokémon that could switch into various attacks and hit most of the metagame for massive damage. Swords Dance is what really made it unique. Although setup moves are uncommon in VGC, Scizor was able to take advantage of Swords Dance because of the multiple resistances and bulk it had. When I realized my opponent had no good way to hit Scizor with their two Pokémon, I would bring it in, set up a Swords Dance, and proceed to sweep their team. I found the core of Cresselia and Metagross was incredibly difficult to face, but Scizor made it a lot easier to deal with both of them. After a Swords Dance, Steel Gem Bullet Punch would KO full health Pokémon such as Garchomp and Latios. Bug Bite allowed me to hit every other Pokémon for a ton of damage and often netted me Sitrus Berries. The Speed EVs were made to outspeed Metagross, Politoed, and Hitmontop with no speed investment. The Attack EVs are self explanatory, and the rest were dumped into HP. The HP EVs are actually super helpful as it allowed Scizor to live through 2 Garchomp Earthquakes. This allowed me to Earthquake and Swords Dance on the same turn, KOing both of my opponent's Pokémon and setting up to sweep any incoming Pokémon. Scizor is hard to use because of how weak it is to Fire-type attacks, but the trick is correctly assessing whether it can punch holes through your opponent's team and bringing it even if your opponent carries Pokémon with Fire-type attacks or realizing that it's probably better for it to just sit out a match. Although Hidden Power Fire Cresselia and Heatran became a lot more common after Nationals this year, I still really liked how powerful Scizor was, and it is my favorite Steel-type Pokémon of VGC 2012.

488.png

Cresselia (F) @ Choice Specs

Trait: Levitate

EVs: 132 HP / 252 SAtk / 4 SDef / 120 Spd

Modest Nature (+SAtk, -Atk)

- Psyshock

- Icy Wind

- Hidden Power [Fire]

- Trick

And finally, we arrive at Choice Specs Cresselia. Offensive Cresselia was an incredibly bizarre idea prior to US Nationals, but it became a lot more common at Worlds this year. Choice Specs allowed it to do so much damage to pretty much anything that didn't resist it's attacks. Psyshock OHKOed Hitmontop and would often give me a huge 4-3 lead. It was also just a great offensive option, doing over 50% to even Gastrodon. Icy Wind hit Zapdos, Thundurus, Garchomp, Hydreigon, and Latios for massive damage and lowered their Speed. Speed control is huge on this team with Tyranitar and Scizor, and Icy Wind allowed me to weaken my opponents and slow them down before finishing them off with a sweeper. Hidden Power Fire was mainly there for Scizor, but it also allowed me to hit Metagross and Abomasnow more effectively. I chose Trick over Grass Knot / Energy Ball because I liked having the option to hamper my opponent's physical sweepers: especially Metagross. I did not end up using it at all at US Nationals but having the option was nice and worked out great in practice. The best thing about Choice Specs Cresselia is that it would always catch my opponents off guard and leave me with a huge advantage right off the bat. Kamran used Life Orb at Worlds and Regionals, and Wolfe used Expert Belt at Nationals. All three are excellent items, but I'm glad I stuck with Choice Specs for Nationals. Overall, she was definitely my favorite Pokémon in the VGC 2012 metagame, especially with this set.

Philadelphia Fall Regionals, 2013 Season

For Regionals, I made two minor but very important changes to the team that I would like to share with you. Since I did not have too much time to prepare for Regionals, I decided that I would just use my Nationals team for one last shot of glory since it is, in my opinion, the best team I have ever constructed. I kind of regret not using it at Worlds this year, but that's all in the past now. I used my experience from the 2012 Autumn Friendly to slightly edit my team in order to improve it.

237.png

Hitmontop @ Fight Gem

Trait: Intimidate

EVs: 244 HP / 208 Atk / 8 Def / 48 Spd

Adamant Nature (+Atk, -SAtk)

- Fake Out

- Wide Guard --> Stone Edge

- Sucker Punch

- Close Combat

I decided to replace Wide Guard for Stone Edge for two reasons:

1) I almost never used Wide Guard because any smart player would predict into it, wasting a turn for me.

2) I absolutely hated Volcarona for some reason, especially after a Quiver Dance. Since most Quiver Dance Volcarona carry Lum Berry, I would lead Hitmontop + Garchomp against Hitmontop + Volcarona leads, allowing me to get a KO with either Stone Edge or Rock Slide right away even if my opponent uses Fake Out, providing that the attack hits.

I only used Stone Edge once at Regionals against Daniel Litvin (TalkingLion). Since my Hitmontop was Burned from a Flame Body switch-in the previous turn, Stone Edge did not KO. However, it did do enough damage to help me win the game so I'm pleased with my decision overall. I contemplated using Feint or Detect, but as I did not do any testing between Worlds and Regionals, I decided Stone Edge was probably the safest move.

488.png

Cresselia (F) @ Choice Specs --> Expert Belt

Trait: Levitate

EVs: 132 HP / 252 SAtk / 4 SDef / 120 Spd

Modest Nature (+SAtk, -Atk)

- Psyshock

- Icy Wind

- Hidden Power [Fire]

- Trick -->Protect

The two changes on Cresselia were minor but very significant. I knew that going into Regionals that anyone who has ever played me online would recognize my team immediately and associate my Cresselia with Choice Specs. I used this bluff to my advantage and switched Choice Specs to Expert Belt. Although I really liked the amount of damage Choice Specs allowed me to dish out, there were too many situations where my opponent would lock me into a move such as Psyshock against a Metagross and Cresselia and force me to either switch or let Cresselia faint. With Expert Belt, I was still able to do the damage I wanted to while getting a few more options with it. I had never used Expert Belt, so I was unconfident going into Regionals with it, but it proved very handy as I was able to switch between Icy Winds, Psyshocks, and HP Fires.

The second change was Trick to Protect. Without Choice Specs, there was no point in using Trick. I contemplated using Grass Knot / Energy Ball, Helping Hand, Protect, and even Skill Swap, but figured my safest option was Protect. Most players don't even expect Protect on Cresselia because there are a lot of better moves for it, but this played out great with my Choice Specs bluff. It also saved me in a ton of games at Regionals, so it was by far the most helpful switch. With Choice Specs, I found that Cresselia would often get one or two hits off before fainting. I was able to play a bit more defensively with Protect, and it offered me a lot more options. Definitely the most helpful and significant change I had made for Regionals.

Team Synergy

This is a tough section to write because all the Pokémon on the team worked really well with each other. With that being said, here are some of my favorite lead combinations.

642.png

Cresselia + Thundurus

This was by far my most common and effective lead. Offensive Cresselia and bulky Thundurus offer so many different options, and I would often use the first turn to figure out what my strategy for the rest of the game would be. Cresselia allowed me to blow holes through my opponent's team by getting surprise KOs right off the bat against Hitmontop. I also enjoyed the speed control the lead offered me as I could Icy Wind and Thunder Wave right from the start. This lead was very effective due to the amount of bulk and offensive they offered me. The goal with this lead isn't to start getting KOs right away but to put my opponent in a very tough spot by means of speed control. This would allow me to later bring in Tyranitar, Scizor, and Garchomp to get the KOs I needed. The only Pokémon that really gave this lead trouble was Tyranitar, but with my own Tyranitar, Scizor, Garchomp, and Hitmontop in the back, I could easily double switch. This lead was also really nice because of the fact it isn't affected by Intimidate at all. As I use 4 physical attackers, it was crucial to keep them safe in the back to do maximum damage. Overall, I probably ended up leading with these two 90% of all games I've played with this team because of the synergy and strength they offer.

237.png

Cresselia + Hitmontop

This is a combo that has been common ever since European Nationals. Fake Out support is great for Cresselia to use moves such as Thunder Wave, Icy Wind, and Trick Room. In my team's case, this allowed me to Fake Out a faster Pokémon such as Garchomp, Icy Wind, and KO it before it even gets a chance to attack the following turn. I did not like this lead back while I was using defensive Cresselia because the two don't offer very much offense, but with Choice Specs and Expert Belt, I could start attacking safely from the start. Hitmontop offered Intimidate support and hit Tyranitar and Volcarona for KOs, both of which threaten Cresselia. A common but safe and effective lead at the same time.

248.png

Cresselia + Offensive Sweeper

Cresselia is such a great Pokémon that she works well with any Pokémon on my team. Although Thundurus and Hitmontop were often used to slow down my opponent and gain momentum before sweeping with the rest of my team, I also enjoyed starting the game with a menacing sweeper right away. By having an offensive sweeper, my opponent would often panic and try to KO the sweeper right away. This allowed my to safely Protect while using Icy Wind with Cresselia, setting both Pokémon for a KO the following turn. My opponents would almost always target the sweeper and ignore Cresselia, leaving me with an excellent advantage right from the start.

445.png

Thundurus + Garchomp

Although I tend to use Cresselia as my lead in almost all my games, there are some times where Cresselia just can't do anything against my opponent, and I leave it out of the match. Thundurus and Garchomp was a great lead that works similarly to how the Cresselia and Thundurus lead works. Thundurus allows me to gain speed control from the start with Thunder Wave against Pokémon like Latios, while Garchomp hits Pokémon that threaten Thundurus with no problem. Leading with these two also allowed me to start Thunder Waving and Rock Sliding from the start, adding a beneficial hax factor to my team.

Closing Remarks

If you've made it this far and actually read the entire article, props to you! It's lengthy, but I think I gave a pretty good explanation on how the team works. I'd like to just make a few comments on the team in general before we conclude.

To start off, this is by far my favorite team of all time, and I think it is as good as a team can get in the VGC 2012 metagame that fits my playstyle. After my performance with it this weekend, I regret not using it at Worlds, but I'm still pleased to have represented Wolfe's team well in the Seniors division and place in the Top 8 in the world. I find that often after tournaments, I look back and see what I could have improved about my team. For this team, I was incredibly content both after Nationals and Regionals, and everything about it worked perfectly for me in both tournaments. That is, for me, the indication that I have reached a perfect team. No Pokémon team is ever truly perfect, but I was content with everything in my team.

Second of all, the strength of this team is unparalleled to any other team I've played or used in VGC 2012. I remember when Wolfe and I were practicing for Worlds... I beat Wolfe in like 8 out of 10 games using this team while he used our eventual Worlds team. When I played Kamran Jahadi Round 5 at Worlds this year, I knew his entire team since I had built it, but I still couldn't find a solid strategy to beat him. All 3 games in that set were won due to intense hax on both sides, but the fact that I knew my opponent's team down to every single moveset and EV shows just how powerful the team can be. Or maybe it just means I'm a bad player. Yeah, probably that...

Third of all, the team has so many options that it's hard to put into one article. While writing about the lead combinations I realized that I've used every Pokémon with every other Pokémon as a lead combination before. That just shows how many different modes the team can play in! I found that Cresselia and Thundurus was the safest, lead but I even used stuff like Garchomp/Tyranitar with Hitmontop and Thundurus in the back. It's all dependent on the opponent's team in the end.

Fourth of all, the team has really nice synergy overall, especially in terms of switching. I could switch Hitmontop into Tyranitar for Psychic-type attacks, Scizor into any Dark, Dragon, Steel, or Ice-type attack, Garchomp into Electric-type attacks (especially Thundurus's Thunder Wave!), Tyranitar into any special attack, etc. You can see just how well this team is able to switch in

of my 2012 National Finals against Jonathan Hiller (MrFox).

Fifth of all, the team dealt with hax quite well and was also able to have a hax factor. At Regionals, I had luck go against me in almost every Swiss match as I saw myself get paralyzed by Discharge and fully paralyzed for 3 turns, frozen by Blizzards out of Hail, burned by Scald when I would have won immediately without the burn, two Icy Wind misses in 2 turns, crits on a smart switch in, etc. I still won almost all of those battles because I was able to play smartly with the rest of the team and come back from a tough situation. There are just some situations where hax makes the game impossible to win, but this team handled it pretty well. I was also able to get hax on my side with the use of Rock Slide, Thunder Wave, and Sand Veil Garchomp. Although I do not like depending on hax to win a match, I will admit that having these factors on my team make it a lot easier to play when things go my way.

Finally, this team has an incredibly strong showing in tournaments as I have explained before. Personally, I went 6-2 with it at US Nationals in swiss, losing to Daniel Litvin (TalkingLion) and Caleb Ryor (BlitznBurst) due to timely critical hits on their side. In the top cut, I beat Jacob Burrows 2-0, Henry Maxon (Snake) 2-0, David Arnold 2-1, Paul Chua 2-1, and Jonathan Hiller 2-1 in the finals for a 5-0 best 2-of-3 record and an overall tournament record of 16-4. I recently placed 5th in the world in the 2012 Autumn Friendly with an overall record of 84-6. And just last weekend at Philadelphia Regionals, I went 7-1 with it in Swiss. I beat Patrick D. (Pd0nz) in Top 8 2-1, Enosh Shachar (Human) in Top 4 2-1, and lost to Matt Sybeldon (bearsfan092) in a very exciting finals 1-2 for a top cut record of 2-1 and an overall tournament record of 12-5. Variants of the team have performed consistently well in Nationals, Worlds, and Regionals, and I'm proud of how strong of an impact it made on the VGC 2012 metagame. First at US Nationals with it and second at the largest Regional in the country in Masters with it? I'll take it.

Anyway, I hope that provided some insight on one of the most successful teams in VGC 2012. I had a lot of fun using it and even more fun building it. You can even battle it next week in Pokémon Black / White 2 as Brendan will be a downloadable character in the Pokémon World Tournament! Thanks to Nugget Bridge for hosting my article and improving the VGC community one step at a time. Huge shoutout to Wolfe for helping me out with the team and allowing me to practice with him. I've had some really amazing games with this team, and last weekend's finals against Matt was nothing but incredible... congrats to him for taking down the team in a non-haxy best 2-of-3!

Beautiful people and beautiful Pokémon. See you all in Virginia this winter!


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      - Scald
      - Ice Beam
      - Rain Dance
      - Encore
      As the only legal Drizzle user, Politoed makes it onto the team for obvious reasons. Scald and Ice Beam are two very useful attacks; the former provides crucial chip damage that allows Kabutops to snag OHKOs on Zapdos, Aegislash, and Cresselia, while the latter takes out annoying Grass-types and Mega Salamence. Rain Dance gives Politoed a good surprise option against Mega Charizard Y and Tyranitar, allowing me to keep the weather in my favor; being Choice-locked into Rain Dance isn't a huge issue, as Politoed typically wants to switch out to preserve Drizzle anyway. I chose Encore over Hydro Pump in the last slot to pick up an advantage against Fake Out users; this didn't really work out in practice, so I probably should've used Helping Hand instead to make Kabutops even more of a monster.

      Talonflame @ Choice Band
      Gale Wings | Adamant
      4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
      - Brave Bird
      - Flare Blitz
      - U-turn
      - Taunt
      This set is pulled from Alex Ogloza's 2014 US Nationals team. Talonflame just has an answer to everything; Trick Room, Tailwind, or sand up? No problem, priority Brave Bird takes care of every problem. Many people seem to have underestimated Talonflame, but it can turn a game around in the blink of an eye. The bird also handles Grass-types very well, threats that would otherwise doom this rain team. U-turn served as my counter to Perish Trap, but I rarely used it even when its intended use case occurred. Taunt was used as a last-ditch atempt to shut down Tailwind, Trick Room, or Aegislash, and it allowed Talonflame to occasionally masquerade as a Life Orb variant.

      Manectric @ Manectite
      Lightning Rod / Intimidate | Timid
      4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
      - Thunder
      - Thunderbolt
      - Hidden Power Ice
      - Protect
      Looking at the team so far, all three Pokémon are weak to Electric-type moves. Most opponents wouldn't think twice against bringing Thundurus against this team. Manectric allowed me to handily disrupt those plans with Lightning Rod, redirecting those attacks and picking up a nifty Special Attack boost in the process. Thunder dealt tremendous amounts of damage, especially after a boost, while Thunderbolt gave me a more consistent backup option. In retrospect, I should've used Flamethrower instead of Thunder, as I faced many sun teams and did not get many chances to actually hit targets with the stronger move.

      Ferrothorn @ Rocky Helmet
      Iron Barbs | Sassy
      252 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpD
      IVs: 0 Spe
      - Power Whip
      - Gyro Ball
      - Curse
      - Protect
      OHKOes 252 HP / 212+ Def Sylveon with Gyro Ball at +1 Attack OHKOes 252 HP / 164 Def Rotom-W with Power Whip at +1 Attack OHKOes 4 HP / 0 Def Mega Kangaskhan with Gyro Ball at +1 Attack after recoil damage You might notice that this Ferrothorn is extremely specially defensive; I realized that Rocky Helmet and Iron Barbs would deter my opponents from using contact moves (mostly physical) against Ferrothorn, so I EV'd it to take the special attacks that would be inevitably thrown at it. In lieu of Attack investment, I put Curse on the set. It ended up being a great choice, as Ferrothorn was typically given free reign to boost while Kabutops and Politoed knocked out opposing Fire-types. After a single boost, Ferrothorn becomes extremely powerful, knocking out several common threats. It's always a great feeling when Ferrothorn switches in on a Mega Kangaskhan's Fake Out; however, as you'll see shortly, skilled players can sometimes make a smart prediction for a free attack.

      Serperior @ Leftovers
      Contrary | Timid
      252 HP / 4 Def / 4 SpA / 4 SpD / 244 Spe
      - Leaf Storm
      - Glare
      - Taunt
      - Protect
      While Serperior might seem like an odd choice for the final spot, it covered several holes in my team. I needed a powerful special attacker, but I also needed a secondary Taunt user to deal with Trick Room and some form of Speed control. With Contrary, Serperior could take advantage of opposing Icy Wind and Snarl while boosting itself with Leaf Storm. Taunt allowed me to prevent Tailwind and Trick Room without forcing Talonflame to lock itself into it, while Glare provided much-needed paralysis support (and even had the bonus of being able to hit Ground-types). I invested into HP and Speed to allow Serperior to take hits while boosting up, as well as allowing it to outpace Thundurus.
      Day One (Swiss Rounds)
      Anyone who attended the UK Nationals will tell you that the tournament was an unorganised mess and had us all loitering around for 3 or 4 hours before any games even began.  Although for everyone else this was a nightmare, it gave me the opportunity to make new friends who supported me all weekend, despite never having met me.  I think the confidence boost this gave me had a part to play in the events that were to follow.
      Game 1 – Sergio Marcos
      His team:
          ( )
      I brought:
         
      Seeing his team, I thought Kabutops could do what he does best, as long as I could get rid of the Amoonguss with a Brave Bird and the Azumarill with Thunder.
      He led off with Gengar and Lopunny, and at the time I was pretty certain that his Lopunny was the Mega of the pair.  Expecting a Fake Out and Will-O-Wisp onto my Kabutops, I protected, and had Politoed target the Lopunny with a Scald.  As it turns out, the Gengar was the Mega as it sang the Perish Song.  *sigh*  Fortunately, I did predict the Fake Out correctly and left the Lopunny with only the tiniest bit of health or brought it down to its Focus Sash; it didn’t get knocked out, that’s for sure.  Politoed and Kabutops went down to Perish Song easily after the three turns, as I fell straight for the Eject Button Amoonguss.  Believing that the game was already over, my last two Pokémon, Manectric and Talonflame came out against what were his Mega-Gengar and Azumarill, which is when I started thinking.
      His win condition was to get off another Perish Song with either Pokémon and to then stall out the last couple of turns with the two extra Pokémon he has in the back.  The obvious play here was to Brave Bird the Gengar and Thunder the Azumarill, so all he had to do was switch in Amoongus for Azumarill and Protect the Gengar, while following up with redirection and Perish Song.  Was I overthinking my situation?  I probably was, but my prediction turned out to be spot on, as Amoonguss went down easily to a Brave Bird, while Thunder went into Gengar to knock it out too.  Lopunny and Azumarill come out from the back, but now it was his turn to believe the game was all over.  This doesn’t mean that he didn’t put up a good fight until the end, as Lopunny used Fake Out on Manectric while his Azumarill went for the Perish Song.  As his Lopunny had gone down to Brave Bird, he was left with his Azumarill against an on-point Talonflame and an angry Manectric.  In a last ditch effort, Azumarill went for the triple Protect, but fortunately for me, only got the double.
      Sergio Marcos ended making the top cut with a 7-2 record, coming 21st  overall, which is very impressive, considering he lost his first battle of the tournament.  Good game, Sergio!
      1 - 0
      Games 2 & 3 - Micky Orchard & Alex Monks
      Although I definitely won both of these games by leading Politoed and Kabutops, my memory is almost blank.  I know for a fact that both players used a Mega-Kangaskhan and I successfully lured both players into having them use Fake Out on Ferrothorn. Not to downplay their efforts, I'm quite sure that both games were close even if turn one went my way both times. Manectric won the game both times with Lightning Rod boosts and a lucky critical hit at the second game.  I'd have remembered if my opponents were nasty, so I can only assume they were absolutely swell people.
      Looking at the standings, my eyes spy that they both narrowly missed making the top cut with 6-3 and 5-4 records respectively.  Good Game Micky and Good Game Alex!
      3 - 0
      Game 4 – Matteo Gini (Matty)
      His team:
          ( )
      I brought:
         
      Fancy getting a game against someone who shares my name!  As our names suggest, I got to speak Italian with him, which was a pleasant surprise.
      He lead with Charizard and Sylveon, which I was comfortable with.  Having a strong suspicion that he would Mega-evolve, I had Politoed do his Rain Dance and protect with Kabutops.  Matteo did in fact Mega-evolve with the Charizard and had his Sylveon use Hyper Voice.  Politoed took a lot of damage, but didn’t faint.  Knowing that his Charizard was too valuable to him, he switched it out.  Kabutops really shone as he picked up knock outs on both Sylveon and Landorus-T.  I did also play quite recklessly as I did lose Politoed a little bit too early.  On the final turn, his Charizard was up against my low-health Manectric and Ferrothorn, with the sun up.  Manectric managed to knock out the Charizard in one hit with a critical hit, which Matteo said had mattered, as his Charizard was bulky enough to take a Thunderbolt from Timid Manectric.
      The critical hit might have set Matteo back a bit, but he still made the top cut with a 7 - 2 record, finishing 13th overall.  Good Game Matteo!
      4 - 0
      Game 5 - Harry Aurime (Adaranoy)
      His team:
          ( )
      I brought:
         
      Looking at his team, I made the schoolboy error of not thinking about Suicune's Tailwind, meaning I didn't lead with either Serperior or Talonflame to taunt it away.  Instead I lead with Politoed and Kabutops again, seeing as no Pokémon on his team particularly scared me and I had been leading the pair in every game to great success so far, as he lead with Suicune and Bisharp.
      This is when I realised that he could Tailwind and seriously diminish my chances of winning, even if I didn't feel that threatened by his team.  I decided to have Kabutops Rock Slide and hope for the flinch on Suicune.  I was going to Scald the Bisharp but realised that the only play that would make sense for him would be to Protect the Bisharp, so I went for the Scald on Suicune just to get free damage off and maybe hope for the Burn.  Thankfully, Harry is a calm and gracious player, because two critical hits, a burn and a flinch on his Suicune meant that his game plan was probably set back by miles.  But it did not stop there.  He had Sylveon and Kangaskhan in the back, but neither could make a significant impact on the game as Kabutops got even more flinches with Rock Slide while Manectric paralyzed everything it touched.
      The loss here unfortunately set Harry back a lot, as he narrowly missed making the top cut with a 6-3 record.  I had a friendly rematch against him after I got knocked out of the contest.  The rematch was just as eventful.  Good Game, Harry!
      5 - 0
      Game 6 - Matthias Suchodolski (Lega)
      His team:
          ( )
      I brought:
         
      Fun fact: When I was a kid, I was gifted Pokémon Gold Version in German, so that I could learn the language.  Being able to speak German at the Nationals with Matthias was another pleasant surprise.
      Being ecstatic with what I thought would be an easy match-up for my team, I lead with my five-win-streak pair of Politoed and Kabutops, because they had done me proud so far.  Just like in games two and three, I kept Ferrothorn and Manectric in the back to lure in Fake Outs from Kangaskhan and electric-type attacks from Rotom-Heat respectively.  He lead with Kangaskhan and Rotom, which made me very happy.  If I could predict Matthias’ moves to a tee, I would win the game easily.  My plans however, fell apart from turn one.  Rotom switched out for Amoonguss, which was to be expected but his Kangaskhan became the first of the competition to use Fake Out on Politoed instead of Kabutops.  Ferrothorn came in, but I was already disheartened.  The game was still quite close, as Ferrothorn managed to set up enough turns with Curse to knock out quite a few Pokémon, including his Kangaskhan which was burned from a Politoed Scald the following turn and doing significant damage against Amoonguss.  With Terrakion and Rotom-Heat in the back, Ferrothorn struggled to not get knocked out in one turn.  Kabutops would have had free reign if I had bought Talonflame for the Amoonguss.  I'd say this was my biggest mistake.
      For 9 Swiss rounds, Matthias impressively went unbeaten and came 5th overall.  Good Game Matthias!
      5 - 1
      Game 7 - Terence Dray (Ty Flowsion)
      His team:
      [mini name=reuniclus][mini name=staraptor][mini name=charizard-mega-y][mini name=scrafty]([mini name=breloom][mini name=sylveon])
      I brought:
      [mini name=politoed][mini name=serperior][mini name=kabutops][mini name=talonflame]
      The first thing that struck me seeing his team was Reuniclus.  I knew Reuniclus was a Trick Room setter, but I couldn't even begin to guess what its defensive stats were.  My guess was that it was a slightly less bulky Cresselia with higher offensive potential.  His Reuniclus was level 49, which made me assume that it had to be able to outspeed something in Trick Room to presumably beat it, my guess was Amoonguss (turned out I was right).  I was tempted to lead Politoed and Kabutops again as an attack from both could knock Reuniclus out, especially if it had to compensate defensive EV's for Special Attack to knock out Amoonguss.  But I saw other problems, namely Charizard-Y and Scrafty who could both severely hinder my plans to disrupt Trick Room.  I decided to lead with Politoed and Serperior, as Politoed could try getting a burn off on Scrafty or Rain Dance after Charizard Mega-evolves while Serperior could stop Reuniclus from setting up the Trick Room with Taunt.
      Terence led with Reuniclus and Staraptor.  I hadn’t even really considered him leading with Staraptor.  In a moment of bewilderment, I used Taunt on the Reuniclus with Serperior as planned, but completely forgot about Staraptor being able to use Final Gambit.  I lost Politoed, meaning that I had already lost the weather war on turn one.  The battle wasn't lost, because Kabutops had me covered with his Rock Slides.  I was also sure that Kabutops could outspeed his low Speed Charizard because I had prevented the Trick Room.  The only Pokémon Terence had in the back that could potentially cause me problems were Breloom and Scrafty, who were both easy pickings for Talonflame.  He switched in Charizard as my Kabutops came out.  Even if  I did lose my Politoed, I felt that I had the advantage.  Rock Slide was the most obvious move to go for with Kabutops, while I correctly predicted the taunted Reuniclus to switch out.  Charizard used Protect while Scrafty came in to a Glare from Serperior.
      I didn't know what to expect next, and I was also suddenly not so sure whether or not my Kabutops could knock out the presumably bulky Charizard, especially after the Intimidate and Fake Out from Scrafty.  I decided to play safely and switch to Talonflame.  I'd say that this was a misplay.  I would have been far better off stalling out the Fake Out with a double Protect and then switching, but I think I was afraid of the Reuniclus switching back in for the Charizard.  He fakes out the Talonflame and goes for the Heat Wave, putting Talonflame at about half health.  Knowing that Terence would risk too much with a Solar Beam prediction, I switched in Kabutops for Serperior.  I made Talonflame Brave Bird Charizard instead of Scrafty, just in case Scrafty should decide to do anything like Protect.  Having his Charizard at low health would also be good, as a Rock Slide from Kabutops would guarantee the knock out.
      Then came the play that won Terence the game: his Scrafty using Quick Guard.  I did no damage that turn and his Charizard managed to get yet another Heat Wave off, knocking out Talonflame in the process.  Out of options, I knew I had to commit to trying to getting lucky with Rock Slide flinches and the chance of full paralysis.  My Serperior went for the Glare on the Charizard, but Terence switched it out for Reuniclus.  Scrafty either flinched or got fully paralysed, it didn't move, that's for sure.  Next turn, I knew I had to get rid of the Scrafty as it was the only immediate threat to Kabutops, so I had Serperior target it down with a Leaf Storm.  But the unboosted Leaf Storm was nowhere near enough to knock out the Scrafty.  Scrafty overcame the Rock Slide flinch and the full paralysis to knock out my Kabutops with the help of both Pokémons' Life Orbs.  To add salt to the wound, the Reuniclus managed to set up the Trick Room, which decided the game.  Serperior did manage to get a knock out on Scrafty during the last few turns because of Reuniclus getting fully paralysed, but did not stand a chance against the Charizard in the back.
      Using this win, Terence solidified his chances and made the top cut with a 7-2 record, coming 12th overall.  Good Game, Terence!
      5 - 2
      Game 8 - Reece Timms (ChicoMono)
      His team:
      His team:
      [mini name=lapras][mini name=thundurus][mini name=salamence-mega][mini name=breloom]([mini name=sableye][mini name=landorus-therian])
      I brought:
      [mini name=politoed][mini name=kabutops][mini name=manectric-mega][mini name=talonflame]
      It struck me as odd that I was paired with someone who was at a 4 - 3 record and as such, already out of the competition.  I would discover the reason later, but I did joke about bribing him to let me win.  Being such a kind-hearted guy, Reece said he wouldn't mind losing and only planned to play for fun.  This did end up being quite a fun game as Reece brought an interesting team with him.  I didn’t struggle much in this battle, but I did have to do multiple double-takes when his Lapras dodged a Rock Slide from Kabutops, survived a Thunder from Manectric, and knocked Talonflame out with a Weakness Policy-boosted Hydro Pump.
      Even though Reece was knocked out of the competition, he still finished relatively strong with a 5 - 4 ratio.  Good Game, Reece!
      6 - 2
      Game 9 - Yohan Pagonakis
      His team:
      [mini name=charizard-mega-y][mini name=thundurus][mini name=conkeldurr][mini name=breloom]([mini name=weavile][mini name=landorus-therian])
      I brought:
      [mini name=politoed][mini name=kabutops][mini name=manectric-mega][mini name=talonflame]
      Another fun fact:  At the same time that I was gifted a German copy of Pokémon Gold Version, I was also gifted Pokémon Red Version in French, with the exact same aim: to learn the language.  Being paired up against Yohan and speaking French with him meant that I had spoken a total of four languages in one day, which I wasn’t expecting.
      Tensions were high along the 6-2 table, as everybody was mentally preparing for the battle that would decide their place in the top cut.  I didn't know at the time, but Yohan is a veteran player, having gotten 15th place at the German nationals a couple weeks before.
      I led Politoed and Kabutops as per usual and had Politoed do a Rain Dance, because he led with Charizard.  The game went pretty smoothly from there, because Charizard locked into Solar Beam allowing Kabutops to knock it out.  The game was decided when Talonflame picked up a KO on Conkeldurr at -1.  Good Game Yohan!
      7 - 2
      With this final win, I made the top cut, ranking 8th in Swiss being the highest ranked player with a 7 - 2 record, which explains why I was matched against Reece earlier.
      Day 2 (Top Cut)
      Arriving at the venue the next day, I seemed to be the only person who wasn't tired.  I had only gotten a few hours sleep that night because of how late we had finished the day before.  Obviously pumped with adrenaline, I waited with my breath held as my first opponent for the day was to be decided.  As it turned out, I got a bye round for doing so well the day before, and some matches were going to be played by people further down the ranking to determine who would get a place at the top 32.  Some really big names made the top cut, but there was a particular big name that I definately did not want to get matched up against.
      Top 32 – William Tansley (StarKO)
      For my top 32 match I was matched up against William Tansley.  Like me, William made the top cut with a 7 - 2 win ratio, losing only to big names Arash and Sekiam.  The stage was set for Kabutops to prove it was no one-trick pony.  My first ever best-of-three match was about to begin.
      His team:
      [mini name=kangaskhan-mega][mini name=latios][mini name=rotom-wash][mini name=aegislash][mini name=volcarona][mini name=landorus-therian]
      Latios was the first Pokémon that struck me on Williams team.  This was the moment where I had wished I had Knock Off on Kabutops instead of Low Kick.  I would bring Kabutops anyway, because of Landorus-Therian and Volcarona being easy pickings for it.
      Game 1
      I brought:
      [mini name=politoed][mini name=kabutops][mini name=ferrothorn][mini name=manectric-mega]
      He brought:
      [mini name=kangaskhan-mega][mini name=latios][mini name=rotom-wash][mini name=aegislash]
      At this point, I think you can easily guess what pair I lead with, but I should probably mention it anyway.  Politoed and Kabutops were going to be perfect bait for any Fake Outs from the Mega-Kangaskhan or Thunderbolts from Rotom-Wash, as Mega-Manectric and Ferrothorn were lurking in the back again.  Things went wrong from turn one.  Just like against Matthias the day before, William correctly had his Mega-Kangaskhan Fake Out Politoed while his Latios went for the Tailwind.  I decided it might be an idea to take the Tailwind to my own advantage, I wanted Ferrothorn to get a strong Gyro Ball off against Latios.  But on the other hand Ferrothorn would be at risk from the Kangaskhan.  I decided to switch Kabutops in as a sacrifice, which was the best play I could have possibly made, as he double-targeted it with Low Kick and Draco Meteor.  Politoed Scalded Mega-Kangaskhan and got the burn too.  I switched Ferrothorn back in, as I knew that it wouldn't be taking that much damage from either Pokémon.  Knowing that one of his Pokémon would switch out, I had Ferrothorn use Curse.  Unfortunately it did take some damage from Low Kick.
      The Rocky Helmet reveal was important for William, as he had in mind to burn Ferrothorn in future games.  Rotom-Wash came in next along with Latios returning.  Thinking he could get rid of Politoed quickly, I knew it was Manectric's time to turn things around.  Gyro Ball from Ferrothorn did significant damage to Latios, almost knocking it out.  I wanted to stall out his Tailwind as well as my rain, so I could set it up again with Politoed in the back.  I needed Manectric to outspeed everything and launch those high-powered Thunders.  Protecting Manectric, I recall was also a fantastic play on my end, as William had identified it as a threat and double-targeted it.  This allowed Ferrothorn to hit the Rotom with a Power Whip.  The end of the game was easy as all I had to do was knock out the low-health Latios to stop it from setting up the Tailwind again, meaning that Aegislash was left to fight against my last three Pokémon.
      1 - 0
      Game 2
      I brought:
      [mini name=politoed][mini name=kabutops][mini name=ferrothorn][mini name=manectric-mega]
      He brought:
      [mini name=kangaskhan-mega][mini name=latios][mini name=rotom-wash][mini name=aegislash]
      A piece of advice that is often given to best-of-three players is to stick to what works if you win the first game and change things up if you lose it.  At first I thought William hadn't gotten that particular memo, but he would soon prove me wrong.  If the first game was heavily in my favor, the second was completely in his.  I didn't want to risk any more wrong Fake Out predictions, so I just made Politoed and Kabutops go for the Mega-Kangaskhan, as any damage was good damage.  This is possibly the only good play I made this game, because Tailwind became a real thorn in my side.  His entire team became unstoppable, as no Lightning Rod or Iron Barbs predictions could become a reality.  Aegislash sealed the deal for William as I could not read its movements at all.
      1 - 1
      Game 3
      It was back to the drawing board for me from here.  William was not going to fall for anything that I had revealed anymore, I knew that much.  But on the other hand I had dominated the first game with the element of surprise.  This time I had one thing in mind: Speed control.  I had to stop him from setting up the Tailwind, but I needed a backup plan just in case that idea were to fail.  Time for Serperior to shine.  Or should I say Glare?
      I brought:
      [mini name=serperior][mini name=talonflame][mini name=politoed][mini name=kabutops]
      He brought:
      [mini name=kangaskhan-mega][mini name=latios][mini name=rotom-wash][mini name=aegislash]
      And so started the best game of the competition.
      Talonflame and Serperior were to lead and double-Taunt the Latios, because I knew that having one of the pair be Faked Out was no big deal.  He decided to Fake Out Serperior, which was probably to be expected, but there was no Tailwind for him this time.  I might actually have gotten really lucky there, as there might have been a speed tie between Talonflame and Latios. Serperior was the definite hero this game as it started running circles around William's team, Glaring and Taunting, Taunting and Glaring.  All the while Protecting at clever intervals to recover with Leftovers.  William did not go down easily however.  Although Serperior did go largely ignored, my other Pokémon had a hard time between trying to find a way to dent the correct Pokémon and not taking damage.  Talonflame however survived a Psychic from Latios to knock it out in one hit with Brave Bird.  Aegislash also failed to outpredict the combo of Politoed and Kabutops, going down easily due to Serperiors Taunt.  Mega-Kangaskhan and Rotom almost ruined the party as they had free reign because I had not taken Manectric or Ferrothorn with me.  The last turn came about and Serperior, with a Leaf Storm boost and at almost full health, was left against Mega-Kangaskhan and Rotom-Wash.  Mega-Kangaskhan had visible battle bruises, as it lay in low health almost from Double-Edge recoil damage alone.
      I think tiredness and hunger must have set in, because I suddenly drew a complete blank on what William had on Mega-Kangaskhan.  For some reason I was convinced it had Power-Up Punch.  I was also convinced that he was going to predict me to Protect to get Leftovers recovery and so would Power-Up Punch his own Rotom to get enough fire-power to knock out Serperior in one hit.  I had to prevent this from happening.  If my prediction turned out to be wrong, I knew that the chance of me getting knocked out from on Double-Edge was very low (around 10%).  Even if that did happen, there was no way that Kangaskhan wouldn't faint due to recoil.  Putting all my eggs in the snakes basket, I easily knocked out the Rotom with Leaf Storm.  The moment of truth came as Double-Edge hit Serperior.  Time itself slowed down as I watched the health bar fall down...
      to 4 HP.
      2 - 1
      There was no way that this game could have been any more tense.  This was the only other game Serperior was taken to, having lost the first one against Terence.  Not only did Serperior redeem itself, it also won me the game almost single-handedly.  This was my favourite match of the tournament, and possibly the best match I've ever played in my admittedly short VGC career.
      Great Game, William!
      Top 16 – Arash Ommati (Mean)
      If you had told me on the cold Friday morning when I left my flat to get to Manchester that I would be battling Arash Ommati, the former World Champion, for a spot in the top 8, I would never have believed you.  Here I was, with the matchup that I was fearing.
      I looked at his team.  It was very familiar.  Aaron Zheng had been playing a variation of it on his Road to Ranked series that week.  Arash brought a Japan Sand team.
      His team:
      [mini name=salamence-mega][mini name=tyranitar][mini name=excadrill][mini name=aegislash][mini name=azumarill][mini name=amoonguss]
      I tried to keep calm, because I knew Kabutops could thrive in this battle.  If I won the weather war, Kabutops could get off fast Rock Slides and seriously threaten the sand core of Tyranitar and Excadrill.  On the other hand if I lost the weather war, Kabutops could tank the Mega-Salamence, Aegislash, Azumarill, and although I didn’t know this at the time, his Amoonguss.  I figured that I should take Ferrothorn with me, as it doesn’t take Sandstorm damage and was also immune to Amoonguss.  As long as I could get a few boosts with Curse up, I would be safe.  Arash recognised my win condition: Knock out his Salamence, and Ferrothorn could carry the rest of the game.   I didn’t.
      Game 1
      I brought:
      [mini name=politoed][mini name=kabutops][mini name=manectric-mega][mini name=ferrothorn]
      He brought:
      [mini name=salamence-mega][mini name=tyranitar][mini name=azumarill][mini name=aegislash]
      In the first game I decided to lead with my trusted pair of Politoed and Kabutops with Ferrothorn and Manectric on the bench.  The idea was to hopefully find out whether or not Tyranitar was carrying a Choice Scarf, by bating out a Superpower.  Arash led with Salamence and Tyranitar, with Aegislash and Azumarill in the back.  Although I suspected as much, I was comfortable with the confirmation of Salamence being the Mega-Pokémon, as I knew Manectric could threaten it.
      My memory has faded on the details of this game, but I remember feeling that I played terribly.  I remember Manectric getting knocked out early, but getting Azumarill to low health at least.  Politoed also knocked out his Salamence quite early on with an Ice Beam.  Arash must have been playing worse, because I won the game in the end.  It might have had something to do with the fact that Arash targeted my Ferrothorn with a Shadow Sneak from Aegislash and an Aqua Jet from Azumarill after Ferrothorn had set up a Curse.  I remember having a miss-click this game too, but nothing as game-deciding as his.
      1 - 0
      We took a break after the first game, so that we could both have a breather and a think.   The difference between a veteran and a beginner really showed during this break, as Arash thought about whether or not his Azumarill was really worth bringing instead of Amoonguss, while I ran around the venue looking for as many people as possible to tell that I was one game up against the former World Champion.  Now that I’m no longer a fledgling player, I now know not to make this truly obnoxious mistake again.
      Game 2
      I brought:
      [mini name=politoed][mini name=talonflame][mini name=kabutops][mini name=ferrothorn]
      He brought:
      [mini name=salamence-mega][mini name=tyranitar][mini name=amoonguss][mini name=aegislash]
      In the second game, I thought that Arash had maybe identified his Aegislash as a threat to me.  Not wanting to have the same Aegislash-related problems that I had against William, I decided to lead with Politoed and Talonflame.  I fealt safe leading with Politoed because I had a suspicion that he would drop sand altogether.  I’m not sure what he led with, but I honestly felt that I was playing better this game than the last.  I won the weather war, as Kabutops made Arash do a double-take by surviving a Superpower from Tyranitar and responding with a Low Kick to knock the it out.  If Arash hasn’t been at the top of his game, I would have won, because Amoonguss putting all of my Pokémon to sleep really prevented me from doing any other significant plays.  Talonflame was also having a tough time, because it couldn’t find the perfect opportunity to Brave Bird his Amoonguss.
      1 - 1
      Game 3
      I brought:
      [mini name=politoed][mini name=kabutops][mini name=manectric-mega][mini name=talonflame]
      He brought:
      [mini name=amoonguss][mini name=aegislash][mini name=salamence-mega][mini name=tyranitar]
      I cringe every time I watch this game.  I still have no idea what I was thinking that first turn.  When Aegislash was targeted by Kabutops I heard Arash groan quite loudly, which means he must have been relieved when I did not double-target it.  Even if I did get the flinch on Aegislash, I would have been at an advantage if I played recklessly as usual, as Arash kept predicting me to play it safe.  I genuinely thought I was going to win when I got both the critical hit and the paralysis on Salamence, but I just couldn’t capitalise on it.  Having Flamethrower on Manectric would have also been useful, as Amoonguss would have given me much less problems.  I believe that the tiniest bit of bulk on Politoed would have also helped it survive the Shadow Sneak from Aegislash, which sealed the game in his favor.
      1 - 2
      Good Game, Arash!
      The dream was over, but there was no way I could be bitter.  I was lucky to get that far in the first place and it was an absolute treat to get matched against Arash.  In the next round Arash faced Matthias and beat him.  This made me slightly disappointed at my loss as I would have really enjoyed a rematch against Matthias.  Arash got so close to winning it all, only to fall at the final hurdle, but his win against me had already solidified his place at the World Championships.  Hope to see you do well there, Arash!
      Conclusion
      As much as I love this team, I do have to admit that it relies a little bit too much on taking risks. I am happy about the fact that Kabutops proved to not be a one trick pony in best-of-three games. Does it need support? Yes, it does, but I still feel that it carried the team. Would I use it again?  Probably not. I assume that people will start to wise up about the prehistoric critter after reading this article, so it might possibly start seeing more use. Maybe someone could find an even better way to use it in the future!
      I want you all to know that you should not be afraid of going to official events near you, because the Pokémon community is so welcoming to newcomers and I did not meet a single person I disliked. Neither should you be scared of bringing your favourite Pokémon, especially if you can find a clever way to use it. Who knows, you might even make it further than I did my first time.
      Finally, I want to give some thank yous and shout outs to some people, because (and I don't want to sound silly) I would not have made it that far without the praise and support of the people I met that weekend.
      Matt Sheppard (KaSlaps)(high-fives galore), who was even more daring than me and top cut with a Kecleon, coming 35th overall. Gareth Buckley and his friendly friend Lee (or Leigh), who would praise me like a god for using Kabutops and just being the most entertaining person at the nationals with his extraordinary plays (successfully reading a Zapdos Roost with an Earthquake).  Still trying to find you on Nugget Bridge, buddy! Astronautical, who volunteered to make that really awesome artwork you see at the top. Various people on Pokémon Showdown who complimented me on Kabutops and set my decision in stone to bring it with me to the nationals. The lady at the stand who made the bacon butties which were a blessing between games. Every single one of my opponents, for giving me great games and still being supportive and gracious after being beaten or when beating me. Everybody I met at the nationals who I didn’t battle in the competition, including the people who went: “Oh, you’re THAT guy”, after I would tell them about my team. Everyone who helped jog my memories of the event, as they were quite fuzzy at the time of writing. And lastly you, for putting up with the ramblings of a novice and reading this article to the very end.
    • By MudkipVGC
      so i sadly dident TC this year due to a miss play but i still had fun. but the way this team works is pretty much switch gain momentum until a primal can sweep. most of the time i follow the rule of chose Thundurus or Cresselia chose if you want both primals if not take both intimidaters if so pick 1. since the team only has Mawile as a mega and theres matchups you want Landourus over Mawile you have to learn to play at a slight disadvantage. when bringing TR mode i like to lead Landourus Cresselia so T1 i can U-turn and TR and then i chose a primal. when bringing Thundurus theres a lot more switching involved. Mawile is mainly my mega of chose because it works well in TR and it gives me answers to Yveltal and Xerneas. 
       
      Groudon-Primal @ Red Orb  
      Ability: Desolate Land  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 252 HP / 196 Atk / 60 SpD  
      Adamant Nature  
      - Protect  
      - Fire Punch  
      - Precipice Blades  
      - Substitute  
      Kyogre-Primal @ Blue Orb  
      Ability: Primordial Sea  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 252 HP / 204 Def / 52 SpA  
      Quiet Nature  
      IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe  
      - Protect  
      - Water Spout  
      - Scald  
      - Ice Beam  
      Mawile-Mega @ Mawilite  
      Ability: Intimidate  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 SpD  
      Brave Nature  
      IVs: 0 Spe  
      - Protect  
      - Play Rough  
      - Iron Head  
      - Sucker Punch  
      Thundurus @ Focus Sash  
      Ability: Prankster  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe  
      Timid Nature  
      IVs: 20 HP / 0 Atk / 29 SpD  
      - Protect  
      - Taunt  
      - Thunder Wave  
      - Thunderbolt  
      Cresselia @ Sitrus Berry  
      Ability: Levitate  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 252 HP / 92 Def / 164 SpD  
      Sassy Nature  
      IVs: 0 Atk / 9 Spe  
      - Trick Room  
      - Gravity  
      - Skill Swap  
      - Ice Beam  
      Landorus-Therian @ Choice Band  
      Ability: Intimidate  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe  
      Jolly Nature  
      - U-turn  
      - Rock Slide  
      - Earthquake  
      - Explosion  
    • By TheChaotician
      Looking for:
      Bold Cresselia (31/X/31/31/31/31)
      Bold Suicune (31/X/31/31/31/31)
      Adamant Landorus (31/31/31/X/31/31)
      Timid Heatran (31/X/31/31/31/31)
      Luxury, Dusk or matching balls preferred, but all offers considered!
      For trade:
      Redistributable Legends: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1RvmgtxqSh8Hfb5cFUX0E4ti-8dm9gGYRlRbejaHlesc/htmlview
      Breedables: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1UuepyqrQy1xoe4NDJ2TonNHHqluWXw_zsUozlzjwoUo/htmlview
      Thanks for looking!
    • By styrofoameon
      The (Big) 6 Groups of 2016 Nationals Preview
       
      There are currently about 446 players registered for VGC. While some of them are seniors and juniors, most will be masters. This means, as in the past there are in all likelihood 9 rounds and somewhere in the vicinity of 27-36 players (based on 300 to 400 masters) will cut day 1.
       
      However, this year, most people have other goals, and can be broken down into groups based on their objectives. For simplicity we will ignore that a few US and Canada players have CP from other nationals, and simply approximate the targets based on the assumption that this is the last CP of the season, and that most players have a nationals slot open.
      ----------------------------------------------------
      GROUP A: Day 2 or Bust (453+ CP, 21 players)
       
      8 players make a free invite to Day 2 of worlds. This is a hugely important goal. By estimating that most everyone in the current T8 will get at least T32 in this tournament, we can find the minimum target for a day 2 invite: 748. However, something like 59 other players can reach that target with a T16. So a more realistic target is about 819, which assumes that at least 5 of the T16 come from that group of 59.
       
      There are about 21 people who could hope to meet that target with a T32. As most of them are among NA's top players anyway, it is fair to say that not achieving a Day 2 invite would be at least a mild disappointment. At least 13 of these players will of course be disappointed, but such is the nature of Pokemon VGC that it would be silly to discount any of these players a chance for an invite.
      -------------------------------------------------
      GROUP B: As Long as We're Here... (384 - 452 CP, 43 players)
       
      Late in the season VGC confirmed that the T64 would receive stipends contingent on them attending and playing in Nationals. Thus most of them will be in Columbus, but for players at the lower end of the T64, cutting day 1 at Nats is almost certainly required for them to earn the right to skip day 1 at Worlds. More realistically they probably need a T16.
       
      In general, one can expect a lot of these players will drop at X-3, possibly opening up some places for some of the below groups.
      --------------------------------------------------
      GROUP C: Why are we here? (350 – 383 CP, 48 players)
       
      By the current count, 112 players in the US-Canada region have invites. Some of these players will be attending, but many will not, choosing to save their dollars for their trip to expensive San Francisco. Realistically these players can try to pay for their trip to Nationals with T16 or better prize money, but they have little else as a target.
       
      Many of these players are here for the opportunity to see friends and so forth, and one might reasonably expect them to drop at X-3, and perhaps even to scoop if paired with a friend with more at stake.
      -----------------------------------------------------
      GROUP D: Thank goodness for T128 (266-349 CP, 76 players)
       
      About 76 more players (down to #188 in the standings) can reach worlds with a T128 finish. This is easily achieved with a 6-3 finish on day 1. Even with 400 players, a 5-4 finish with good tiebreaks can get the job done, as about a quarter of 5-4 players will finish in the T128.
       
      There will be many pairings between these players in possible win-or-go-home games in the final couple of rounds on Day 1, which will lead to more drama than any of these players want. Players at 5-4 will of course be quite interested in how many people drop at X-3. If attendance is low (<320 or so, possible if virtually no one pays the extra $15 on site to play) and a significant number of players drop, we could even see CP awarded to players with losing records at a nationals not located in South Africa.
      -------------------------------------------------
      GROUP E: Nervous about 6-3... (218-265 CP, 39 players)
       
      This group needs a T64 to make Worlds. Somewhere between about half (with ≈350 players) and a quarter (with ≈410 players) of 6-3 will finish in the T64. This group could be most affected by drops by X-3 players, so it is hard to forecast how many will make it, but there is certainly going to be some suspense waiting for the standings after round 9.
      --------------------------------------------------
      GROUP F: Day 2 or Bust (217 or fewer CP, 228th or worse in the standings)
       
      While some of these players can sneak into worlds with a T32 and technically there may be some T32 at 6-3 depending on attendance, for the most part people in this group cannot really think about worlds unless they are playing on Saturday. T16 of course is enough CP for worlds by itself.
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