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Bliss this Miss: Nugget Bridge Major Team Analysis

blog-blissey_byryuzaki.pngHello friends! It’s Huy again and this time I’m bringing you a little analysis of the team I’ve been using since Worlds. I took this team to Regionals and have been using it in Wifi tournaments and, most recently, the Nugget Bridge Major. I’d like to tell you that there’s something completely new for you to look forward to, but I didn’t feel like I was done with his Worlds team, I was quick to realize that my team would benefit greatly from two things: something to reset my weather and something to help me against Wolfetran, which was growing in popularity. I looked up and down and something quickly caught my eye – Blissey. It did everything I wanted to do. It got Skill Swap to reset Hail and remove Levitate from Heatran, it tanked Chandelure and Heatran which would have given me trouble, and it offered me Speed control that I desperately needed. So let’s take a closer look at what I changed on my team.

blissey.png

Blissey (F) @ Chople Berry

Trait: Serene Grace

EVs: 40 HP / 252 Def / 148 SAtk / 68 SDef

Modest Nature (+SAtk, -Atk)

- Mud Bomb

- Skill Swap

- Icy Wind

- Softboiled

This is by far the biggest change to my team. Blissey filled a good number of holes left by the rest of my team and offered me a brand new toy play with. Speed control and Skill Swap were my main reasons to use Blissey. So why not Cresselia? While Cresselia is probably the best Pokémon for Speed control and Skill Swap, it was not the best for my team. Blissey wouldn’t have to worry about Chandelure Shadow Balls, and it gave me something to switch into Dragon Gem Draco Meteors which I did not really have before. While I could use Cresselia to take the Draco Meteor, Blissey gives me the option to recover all of that damage off with Softboiled. Blissey also offers me a lot of fun things to do with Skill Swap that Cresselia wouldn’t let me do. My team doesn’t really benefit from Levitate, but with 3 Blizzard abusers, they’d all love to take a stab at firing off a Serene Grace Blizzard. An added benefit is that two of my Blizzard users have abilities that can be reactivated. Being able to reset Intimidate and Snow Warning and give my partner Serene Grace would really put a kink in my opponent’s plans.

Now all of that may be self-explanatory but I know what you’re looking at so let’s address the elephant in the room: Mud Bomb. Mud Bomb is a 65 base power, 85% accurate Special Ground-type attack with a 30% chance to lower Accuracy. Now how does that fit into my plan? With 148 Special Attack EVs, Mud Bomb will 2HKO Wolfey’s Heatran while taking negligible damage from whatever Heatran decides to throw back at it. With Serene Grace, the chance of an accuracy drop bumps up to 60% giving me another out with an opponent’s miss. The rest of the EV’s were just dumped in for general bulk. Blissey needed max defense and a Chople Berry in order to survive Fighting Gem Close Combats from Hitmontop so I just ran with that and dumped the rest into HP and Special Defense.

gyarados.png

Gyarados (F) @ Choice Specs

Trait: Intimidate

EVs: 60 HP / 204 Def / 244 SAtk

Modest Nature (+SAtk, -Atk)

- Surf

- Fire Blast

- Thunder → Hidden Power [Flying]

- Blizzard

I dropped Thunder on Gyarados because I added Blissey. I didn’t really need to bring Gyarados against Rain teams anymore so Thunder was a lot less useful than it used to be so I opted for Hidden Power Flying to give it another STAB attack to lock into. It deals heavy damage to Ludicolo and Hitmontop and hits most things neutrally for okay damage, but I still mainly used it for Surf to power Gastrodon. Paired with Blissey, it could still Surf without worry and Blissey could give it even more Intimidate support with a Skill Swap.

abomasnow.png

Abomasnow (M) @ Focus Sash

Trait: Snow Warning

EVs: 140 HP / 116 Atk / 252 SAtk

Quiet Nature (+SAtk, -Spd)

- Blizzard

- Giga Drain

- Protect

- Ice Shard

Abomasnow is the same Abomasnow that I’ve used since Nationals. Straight ripped from Cassie’s team it does what Abomasnow is supposed to do: set Hail and hit things with STAB attacks. Abomasnow greatly appreciated the prescence of Blissey, though. With Blissey on the field, Abomasnow did not have to worry about switching in and out in order to get Hail back up. All it has to do is sit there and fire off a Blizzard as Blissey Skill Swaps Serene Grace onto it. People end up having to think twice about switching in and out to get their weather back up for fear of the 20% freeze and the ease of Blissey just Swapping Snow Warning again to bring up Hail again.

rotom-frost.png

Rotom (Rotom-F) @ Choice Scarf

Trait: Levitate

EVs: 28 HP / 4 Def / 248 SAtk / 4 SDef / 224 Spd

Modest Nature (+SAtk, -Atk)

- Thunderbolt

- Volt Switch

- Blizzard

- Hidden Power [Fire]

Rotom is still very straightforward. In Hail, it’s a powerhouse that fires off strong STAB Blizzards. It keeps the damage flowing by abusing Volt Switch to set the team up for the most favorable matchups. In a pinch, it doesn’t mind Serene Grace from Blissey either.

gastrodon.png

Gastrodon-East (M) @ Sitrus Berry

Trait: Storm Drain

EVs: 252 HP / 108 Def / 28 SAtk / 120 SDef

Bold Nature (+Def, -Atk)

- Muddy Water

- Earth Power

- Protect

- Recover

Gastrodon is still just defensive Casstrodon. It’s maximized in bulk to take a few hits while it grabs boosts from Gyarados. It forces you to choose between taking out a Pokémon firing off strong Specs boosted attacks or one that’s constantly getting powered up by them. A timely Recover can change the tide of a match. The strong spread moves of the rest of the team force the opponent to play defensively giving Gastrodon a chance to Recover and start wrecking.

scizor.png

Scizor (F) @ Occa Berry

Trait: Technician

EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Spd

Adamant Nature (+Atk, -SAtk)

- Protect

- Bug Bite

- Bullet Punch

Feint → Natural Gift

For a Worlds metagame, Feint is definitely the superior choice. But at a Regional where you can’t assume anything about your opponent, it’s hard to be able to use Feint correctly. I opted for one of the lesser known options. Natural Gift with an Occa Berry grants Scizor a one-time use 60BP Physical Fire attack to surprise enemy Scizor. I did not use it very often but on a team with so many thing scared off by Scizor, picking them off in exchange for your item is a great deal. While I didn’t use it much, the times that I did use it, it was probably the reason I won the match.

How it all comes together

This team had a lot more options for me to play around with than the version that I brought to Worlds. The addition of Blissey opened many windows for me and helped me cover a large chunk of my weaknesses. Blissey’s Skill Swap allowed me to move abilities and make my opponent play differently. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ended up with Storm Drain Blissey grabbing boosts from Surf Gyarados or Abomasnow and Scizor eating Heatran Heat Waves with Flash Fire and shrugging it off. Blissey has held more abilities than I can count. It’s fired off Technician boosted Icy Winds, taken Levitates from Rotom so it can Mud Bomb it to pieces and stolen Storm Drain off opposing Gastrodon so that Gyarados can fire off its Surfs.

But nevertheless these are all just techs for my weaknesses. The heart and soul of the team is still Gyarados/Rotom-F/Gastrodon/Abomasnow. I’ve gotten so comfortable with this team that I feel like I can overcome a lot of things. At its core this is still a 4-Pokémon team built to support each other as best they can. But like all Pokémon teams, nothing is perfect. Blissey is the plug for some of these holes and Scizor is the plug for others. I almost always use 3 of the core 4 and use one of the techs as needed. I may be old fashioned in the way I think about Pokémon teams, but I feel like the way to develop a Pokémon team is to just form a core and then find the best way to plug a hole. I’ve gone through a bunch of revisions to this team and this probably isn’t the end of it. Who knows what we’ll see the next time I decide to break this team out again?

Article image created by ryuzaki and used with permission by Nugget Bridge. See more of ryuzaki’s artwork on deviantART.


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      Clefable @ Sitrus Berry
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      – Protect
      Despite never actually carrying the Ability, Bisharp is a Pokémon that exerts a ton of pressure on the opponent. Many players aren’t willing to risk leading their Intimidate users because of the potential Defiant boost, and Sucker Punch is a great move for locking down your opponent. Combine that with offensive STABs that remove items and OHKOs Sylveon and you get a solid Pokémon to round out my fantasy core (Fairy-Dragon-Steel).
      I love Focus Sash on Bisharp, because I love playing in situations where I can attack with Bisharp early on, lose a bunch of HP, then save it for later when the opponent can’t simply swat it. Although the raw power of Life Orb is tempting, I prefer the safety net Focus Sash provides when Protect just won’t cut it.

      Virizion @ Expert Belt
      Nature: Jolly (+Spd, -Sp. Atk)
      IVs: 30/31/31/x/31/31
      EVs: 252 Atk / 4 Def / 252 Spd
      Ability: Justified
      Moveset:
      – Close Combat
      – Leaf Blade
      – Taunt
      – Protect
      The above team members have a decent matchup against Mega Kangaskhan, but I couldn’t immediately threaten Mega Kangaskhan until I got off a Dragon Dance with Mega Salamence. At first, I had Lum Berry Terrakion like Angel did to fulfill this role. In practice, however, other Terrakion and bulky Water-types like Rotom-Wash, Suicune, and Jellicent were problematic. I originally got the idea to use Virizion from watching Lajo on Showdown and, from there, the Grass-type legendary has not let me down.
      Close Combat, Leaf Blade, and Protect are standard on Virizion, but I notice a lot of players opt for Stone Edge as their third move on Virizion for the additional coverage. I really wish I could have fit in the coverage, as it would have improved my Thundurus matchup drastically, but I was more concerned about Trick Room and stopping shenanigans. In the tournament, however, I ended up with a solid matchup against the Trick Room teams I faced thanks to Substitute Heatran. Additionally, Clefable stopped shenanigans pretty well by itself. I was comfortable with Taunt’s usage before entering the tournament, however, so I opted to stick with Taunt instead of including Stone Edge.

      Heatran @ Chople Berry
      Nature: Modest (+Sp. Atk, -Atk)
      IVs: 31/x/31/31/31/31
      EVs: 132 HP / 20 Def / 132 Sp. Atk / 12 Sp. Def / 212 Spd
      Ability: Flash Fire
      Moveset:
      – Heat Wave
      – Earth Power
      – Substitute
      – Protect
      Fast Substitute Heatran with Chople Berry was an idea I picked up from Jeudy Azzarelli’s (SoulSur) Premier Challenge team report. I ended up using a more conventional moveset, however. I really loved playing games where I could eliminate the Heatran or Heatran + Clefable checks, click Substitute, and win. As such, I designed this Heatran with super-specific goals in mind. I chose to invest 212 Speed EVs to outspeed Bisharp and anything speed creeping Bisharp by a point. Next, the 132 Sp. Atk EVs allowed me to always OHKO opposing 252 HP / 4 Sp. Def Heatran with Earth Power. Finally, the rest of the EVs are simply optimized bulk.
      If you play with this Heatran, you’ll notice its Heat Waves do absolutely pathetic damage to neutral targets. However, I wasn’t trying to play Heatran in a way that allowed it to handle a variety of opponents. Rather, I played Heatran so that I would win games with it because it was a Heatran. Chople Berry helped a lot with setting up these types of situations, allowing me to OHKO Terrakion, Virizion, and Cobalion with the appropriate super-effective attack after a -1 Special Defense drop from Close Combat.

      Suicune @ Rocky Helmet
      Nature: Bold (+Def, -Atk)
      IVs: 31/0/31/31/31/31
      EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 132 Sp. Atk / 60 Sp. Def / 60 Spd
      Ability: Pressure
      Moveset:
      – Scald
      – Ice Beam
      – Tailwind
      – Protect
      As the last Pokémon on the team, I wanted something that could check Landorus-T and complete a secondary Fire-Water-Grass core. At first, Swampert and Rotom-Wash occupied this slot. However, Swampert was too slow for my liking and Rotom-Wash was too susceptible to flinches from Rock Slide, which can be devastating if it occurs even once. So Suicune took the place of the bulky Water-type.
      My team does not rely on Tailwind, but it can be useful to force some additional pressure on my opponents with fast Knock Offs or even faster Frustrations. I opted to run Protect over Snarl because I felt like Suicune would be targeted often. I used Clefable to soak up weaker single-target special attacks anyway, so Snarl’s role was mostly fulfilled already.
      Suicune was added to the team very close to the start of Regionals, so the EV spread I made was mostly impromptu during practice time. I started with 60 Speed EVs, which allows me to outspeed Scarf Hydreigon (and subsequently Scarf Landorus-T) after Tailwind. Suicune’s HP and Defense EVs let it survive a +1 Jolly Mega Salamence’s Double-Edge 100% of the time, and the investment in Special Attack allows Suicune to 2HKO semi-bulky Heatran with Scald and has a strong chance to OHKO most Mega Salamence after Rocky Helmet chip damage. The rest was placed into Special Defense to increase the chances of making bulky Rotom-Wash’s Thunderbolt a 3HKO.
      Common Leads
      While I could lead anything + anything depending on what I encountered in Team Preview, these leads popped up a lot throughout both the Regional and the Premier Challenge because of their inherent synergy.
       + 
      Salamence + Bisharp
      This lead is good for creating early pressure, allowing me to get a turn one Dragon Dance if I predicted the opponent to Protect from Bisharp’s attack. I often carried Clefable in the back when I led with these two. Because of the switching synergy, I could easily Protect Salamence + switch Bisharp to Clefable to maneuver myself into a better board position.
       + 
      Bisharp + Virizion
      Surprisingly, this lead was almost more offensive than Salamence + Bisharp. Virizion’s Close Combat allows it to beat out the Terrakion and Mega Kangaskhan that would otherwise threaten Bisharp, while Bisharp’s Knock Off could chunk any Psychic-type trying to pick up a quick KO on Virizion. Taunt + Sucker Punch is also a cool trick the duo can perform, but it is generally better suited for later in a match rather than at the start of one.
      Day 1: Regionals
      Before I move forward, I must give a special shoutout to OmegaDonut, who told me the new location of where Battle Videos are stored on the SD card for ORAS. Thanks to him, I was able to save almost every Battle Video from the event. Unfortunately, I do not own a capture card, so the quality of my Regionals videos is mediocre at best. Additionally, battle animations refused to turn on no matter what I did.  Stick with me though, because my Premier Challenge games were able to be professionally recorded by Eiganjo. In any case, these videos should still serve as a good reference for what actually happened during my matches.
      Round 1 – Aaron Lunsford
      Team Preview: ///(/)
      Brought:  ///
      To begin the tournament, I was paired against an opponent wearing super cool Lopunny ears. When I saw the Blissey in Team Preview along with all the other defensive Pokémon, I knew that I had to consider timer stalling if I couldn’t muscle through Aaron’s team with Mega Salamence. After Vaporeon Baton Passed +4 Defense to Blissey, I started to do just that. However, I managed to be lucky enough to hit through +6 Evasion (and Bright Powder, as Aaron mentioned after the match) to take the game without the timer.
      Win, 4-0; Record 1-0.
      Round 2 – Dakota Meador
      Team Preview: ///(/)
      Brought: ///
      This game has got to be one of the best I’ve played in my entire life. I felt like I was on fire with my predictions, being able to call exactly when the Mega Metagross would attack and when it would Protect. This game was more than just a win; it was a huge confidence boost for me. I do want to elaborate on turn one a bit, though. I assumed I would not be able to KO with a Leaf Blade + Knock Off combination attack if Rotom-Wash ate its Sitrus Berry in between attacks so, rather than Protect with Bisharp, I opted to Taunt to block a potential Will-o-Wisp or stop a switch-in from being able to Protect.
      Win, 3-0; Record 2-0
      Round 3 – Sean Ring
      Team Preview: / //(/)
      Brought: ///
      Before the match, Sean gave me a Star Wars-themed Valentine’s Day card, which was pretty cool. I also learned that Sean lives within twenty minutes of my hometown. Small world!

      In regards to the match, things play out pretty evenly until turn four, where it looks like I chose the wrong targets for my moves. To be honest, I was expecting a double target into Mega Salamence and didn’t want to risk getting paralyzed on a Protect. However, turn five was just bad. Don’t ask me what I was thinking there. Regardless, I knew that with my Heatran in the back and Sylveon as his last Pokémon, I would have the game locked up if I could take out Thundurus.
      Sean makes a great lategame call though, as he opts to lock Sylveon into Hidden Power Ground instead of Hyper Voice. This led to an interesting situation where his Aegislash couldn’t take two Heat Waves, but my Clefable couldn’t take a Flash Cannon. After some careful playing, however, I managed to secure the win.
      Win, 2-0; Record 3-0.
      Round 4 – Nico Villalobos (Calm Lava)
      Team Preview: ///(/)
      Brought: ///
      I didn’t know much about Calm Lava’s playstyle, but I did know that he was a veteran player and a member of the illustrious Team Magma. After staring at a team that had a very similar composition to mine, I knew this was going to be an exciting game. This was the match before lunch too, so the pressure was on both of us to be able to chow down undefeated.
      I wanted to get rid of Clefairy’s Eviolite ASAP to allow my other Pokémon to be able to threaten a KO if Bisharp wasn’t able to get off two attacks. After knocking out Clefairy, Nico sends out Terrakion. Now, judging by his Team Preview, I thought he had Focus Sash on his Terrakion. However, I got flinched in the process of trying to break his “Focus Sash”, leading to a wasted turn. Later I discovered his Terrakion was, in fact, not holding a Focus Sash. I also got to pick up some good information about Nico’s Rotom-Wash and, because I knew it wasn’t bulky, I knew I had a guaranteed KO on Rotom with an Expert Belt-boosted Leaf Blade.
      I played this match’s endgame rather sloppily, however. Because I wasn’t confident on my Virizion’s Close Combat damage calculations versus Heatran, I opted to conserve Mega Salamence when I could have KOed Heatran for sure with Bisharp’s Knock Off after a Close Combat with Virizion, even when accounting for multiple Protects and Leftovers recovery. While I still won the game, I opened up the door for a Heat Wave burn on Mega Salamence, not something I would have enjoyed.
      Win, 1-0; Record 4-0.
      Phew! I was really happy to have made it this far undefeated. After I ate a PB+J sandwich and some applesauce, I found a charging outlet by Mario C. We discussed how we were doing so far in the tournament and what kind of Pokémon we had seen. I didn’t have much time to rest, however, because our round five pairings were soon put up.
      Round 5 – Andrew Hovis (Andrew Hovis)
      Team Preview: ///(/)
      Brought: ///
      This game started off really well for me, but it didn’t take very long for Andrew to reclaim the momentum for himself. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me that most Thundurus-Therian aren’t holding Choice Specs anymore, and I made a huge misplay on turn two by doubling up into a Protect. Honestly, from there, Andrew made the correct plays to win, and I never felt the momentum change from that point on.
      When the second-to-last turn rolled around, I tried to get a double Protect with Heatran, hoping to block Mega Kangaskhan’s potential Low Kick and have Thundurus-T KO itself with recoil. However, Ice Punch sealed the deal on my Mega Salamence in a solid 2-0 victory for Andrew. Between rounds, I knew the best thing to do was to clear my head and not let my poor playing in one game affect the results of another one.
      Loss, 0-2; Record 4-1.
      Round 6 – Sean Preiss
      Team Preview: ///(/)
      Brought: ///
      I was greeted by a vastly different team from the previous rounds in round six’s Team Preview. Approaching this battle, I knew that if I could force switches from my opponent, I could rack up a lot of damage and start to clear Sean’s team of its resources.
      That’s exactly what happened. A strong lead matchup was really all I needed to propel my momentum throughout this game. While I know Sean would have probably taken out a few of my Pokémon if he continued with the match, it’s still cool to say I technically won a game without taking damage.
      The best part about this game, however, was the conversation we had afterwards. It was really cool to talk about the thought process going into each of our teams with Sean. I think I gave some advice as well, though I don’t remember anything specific. Between our conversation and the win, any amount of tilt I had from round five was gone and I was ready to continue with the tournament like I had done in the early rounds of Swiss.
      Win, 4-0; Record 5-1.
      Round 7 – Cody Bernheisel (CodeUmbreon)
      Team Preview: ///(/)
      Brought: ///
      When I first saw this team, my thought process was quite literally “Get a Substitute up. Don’t lose.” My notes aren’t too good for this game, but I do remember doing just that. I unfortunately didn’t save this battle for whatever reason, but if you’d like, the match I had with Cody in the Premier Challenge the following day is somewhat similar to this battle and can be found a bit further down in this report. While our Premier Challenge battle was slightly more in my favor than this match was, the basic principle remained the same: I weakened his Clefable, played carefully to stall out turns of Trick Room, and managed the threats to my Heatran in the proper order.
      Specifically from this battle, I remember Mega Salamence needing to KO Mega Abomasnow outside of Trick Room in the endgame, but I wasn’t certain of Ice Shard’s damage rolls with the HP Mega Salamence had left. Luckily, its massive base 130 Defense stat proved clutch, letting me survive the Ice Shard with about 10% HP to spare. During the entire match, Cody was very friendly and sportsmanlike, giving me a smile and a strong handshake even after taking a loss to a matchup he wouldn’t have liked his team to face.
      Win, 2-0; Record 6-1.
      After this round, my brother informed me that Seniors were finished with their final round of Swiss. While my brother didn’t end up making it, Oreios had, so I went over to congratulate him. He was pretty psyched, and together we made a gameplan for his match against Logan Postletheweight, who defeated Beau in Swiss. However, I couldn’t stick around to watch how the match would go, because it was time for Masters round eight.
      Round 8 – Steven Burton (PikaPastor)
      Team Preview: ///(/)
      Brought: ///
      Team Preview was just a mix of emotions. Although Lum Berry Terrakion would have had a strong matchup against a Kangaskhan + Smeargle lead, I could tell Steven had Rain to handle that exact matchup. I knew that the most important thing I could do going into this match was not panic and to manage my targeting just like I would any other match.
      I knew damage on Mega Kangaskhan was way more important on turn one than breaking Smeargle Focus Sash, and I knew if I double Protected into a Tailwind, I would likely lose the game. After trading moves, I knew I had two guaranteed turns of sleep and could not afford to switch either of my Pokémon out. I absolutely have to KO Mega Kangaskhan next turn though and, luckily, Virizion manages to get a one-turn wake up…but Smeargle quickly Transforms into another +1 Mega Kangaskhan.
      Next turn, I really hoped that Salamence would win the fifty/fifty and wake up, especially since the Smeargle-transformed-Kangaskhan went for a Power-Up Punch, which Mega Salamence easily survived. However, because it did not wake up, I knew Mega Salamence will wake up for sure next turn. I planned on sacking Suicune to a +3 Return, then use Clefable’s Unaware to survive for a turn while I KOed Smeargle-Kangaskhan with Frustration. I get even better than that, however, when both PikaPastor and I discovered Smeargle’s happiness wasn’t maxed out. From there, the momentum swung heavily in my favor and I managed to come out of the match with a victory.
      Win, 2-0; Record 7-1.
      I felt like the win against PikaPastor solidified my position in Top Cut, especially since Andrew Hovis was also 7-1, which gave me good resistance. And when my brother told me that I was playing on stream – well, I was overjoyed. However, as I’m sure most of you know from watching the stream, things didn’t go quite as well as I hoped.
      Round 9 – Drew Nowak
      Team Preview: ///(/)
      Brought: ///
      If you’d like to see our match straight from the source, feel free to check it out on Pokémon’s Twitch channel. Our match starts around 07:08:00.
      I think turn one is the most important turn to discuss here, but I also feel like Scott covered everything I wanted to say about the situation. The Protect + switch play felt like the most obvious thing in the world to me and I had a strong chance to survive an Ice-type attack from either Zapdos or Suicune. Because of this, I thought my best play would be to Dragon Dance, then Follow Me and 2HKO Suicune later. The Thunder Wave was not something I was expecting for some reason, but as soon as it happened, I knew that I would be playing from behind for the rest of the match. Sure, the freeze on Clefable was unfortunate, but as Scott said in the post-match commentary, the Thunder Wave created a potential for things to go wrong. Another big problem with my move was that the prediction was super bold. I had never played Drew before, so making a big turn one prediction without understanding my opponent’s playstyle was a risk I definitely should not have taken.
      Once Mega Salamence and Clefable went down, I basically had to hope for something crazy to come my way, which is why you saw Virizion use Close Combat on the Suicune. The last turn was just for poops and giggles, of course, but I also wanted to conserve any information Drew and I had left about our teams.
      Loss, 0-4; Record 7-2.
      After my brother informed me about how large of a noob I was for losing 4-0 on stream, I found out Oreios had made the Top 4 of the Seniors Division. Encouraged by how well he placed, I congratulated him and waited around for the final Swiss standings to go up.

       
      Like I was hoping, my resistance was good enough to get into Top Cut. As I was doing the mental pairings, however, I chuckled as I saw I was up against Aaron Traylor (Unreality). I couldn’t remember much about his playstyle, but I did remember his 2014 Worlds LCQ report, especially the section about maximizing your odds of winning a game. I went into the match knowing I was against a top tier player and that I’d probably see a couple moves that were out of the ordinary.
      Top 16 – Aaron Traylor (Unreality)
      Team Preview: /////
      Game 1
      I apologize for not having videos recorded for either this game or game two, but because games in best-of-three matches occur immediately after each other, I had no time to save each battle.
      At the start of the game, I lead Salamence + Virizion versus Kangaskhan + Clefable. I felt comfortable in a situation where both of our Megas were surrounded by Fairy-type redirection, so I swap out Virizion in favor of Clefable, who takes a Fake Out as Salamence Dragon Dances. However, a Minimize from Aaron’s Clefable leaves both Aaron and me with a smile. I know that I need to get damage on Clefable and fast, so I simply Follow Me and Frustration, hitting through evasion as Aaron’s Clefable sets up another Minimize. Next turn, I luckily manage to land a hit through evasion again, but get a low damage roll; Clefable barely hangs on. Knowing the odds weren’t in my favor, I go for a double target Frustration + Ice Beam to try and KO Clefable and I hit through Minimize again with Frustration, much to my relief.
      However, Salamence’s power to land all of its attacks was nothing compared to the freezing power of Clefable’s Ice Beam, as the rerouted Ice Beam froze Mega Kangaskhan, I knew I’d just gained a ridiculous amount of wiggle room to work with. I’d like to think I had fairly good position at that point in the game anyway, but the freeze on Mega Kangaskhan very nearly solidified the game right there. After targeting down the most dangerous threats, I cleaned up the game. I remember intentionally dragging out the game to see if I could pick up any information about Heatran’s item, but all I could determine was that it wasn’t holding a Chople Berry or Leftovers.
      Game 2
      Winning a game by always hitting through Minimize and freezing my opponent’s Mega wasn’t what I had planned, but I knew Aaron wasn’t the type of player to get flustered by bad luck. In game two, we both lead with Bisharp + Clefable. I end up calling a switch from Clefable turn one and Knock Off Heatran’s Shuca Berry, but from there, my plays start to get a little crazy, including using a Helping Hand-boosted Knock Off into Aaron’s Bisharp. Although I was making decent turn-by-turn plays, really, any predictions I made resulted in very little reward, because Aaron had a much better positional advantage than I did. Once Aaron removed my Bisharp, he was able to get in a position where I couldn’t take down his Clefable quickly enough. I remember at a certain point in the game, Aaron was confident that the game was locked up. In a last-ditch effort to win, I revealed Roost on Mega Salamence, trying to dodge a Sucker Punch, but Aaron makes the correct play and Returns my Mega Salamence instead, taking a commanding game two.
      Game 3
      This game was lost in a very similar manner to game two; I never really had a strong board position. If I had brought Suicune in sooner, I think the game definitely would have played out differently. I really admire Aaron’s turn four play in this game: he stays in with Kangaskhan, letting me pick up two knockouts. In retrospect, that play really makes a ton of sense to me. If I overpredicted a switch and didn’t KO Kangaskhan with Close Combat, he would pick up a KO on Suicune, but if I did KO Kangaskhan, Heatran could still OHKO me right back with Overheat.
      To come back after turn five, I would have had to play flawlessly. However, I misplayed hard by assuming without a freeze on Clefable, I had lost the game. Instead of fishing for a freeze, I should have Scalded every time with my Suicune. Clefable could have potentially received a burn a turn sooner or, at the very least, Suicune would not have been obligated to Protect to make sure Clefable fainted from burn damage.
      If I wasn’t obligated to Protect, I could have made an Ice Beam + Protect Suicune play, which would have given me a chance to freeze and ensure that a Scald + two turns of burn damage would KO Bisharp. This would give me a 35.6% chance to win (8% from a potential freeze and staying frozen at least one turn or 30% chance of a Scald burn) compared to the actual game scenario’s odds of 9% (30% chance to burn, 30% chance to double Protect). Regardless, either situation required luck to be on my side, and I don’t want to ignore how well Aaron played throughout this entire set. After all, he did win the entire tournament!
      My Regionals run ended with a total record of 8 wins and 4 losses, netting me 15th place, 40 CP, and some trading cards that I sold immediately. With Regionals pressure gone, my brother and I went back to our hotel room, ate some supper, and got ready for tomorrow’s Premier Challenge.
      Day 2: Premier Challenge
      Despite attending an early-morning church service, I still managed to show up before some of the other Top 8 competitors! After chatting with Andrew Burley (Andykins) about how this and Virginia Regionals were going, Unreality showed us this amazing game called Platypus Evolution that intrigued me far more than it should have.
      It was really cool being able to match up names to faces, like Jonathan Rankin’s (JRank) and Zach Droegkamp’s (Braverius). Soon, though, the match between JRank and Unreality was about to begin, so I sat down in the front row to watch the match. I struck up a conversation with Bryce Stewart (Nodochi) about topics like Jolly Landorus-T, his shiny collection, and soft resetting for legendaries. Bryce was super awesome, lending me his smartphone so I could “preregister” both my brother and myself for the Premier Challenge. He also traded me the Global Link event Berries I was missing for nothing. Needless to say, it was pretty cool to hang out with him.
      Unfortunately, the Top Cut matches overflowed into the start of the Premier Challenge, so we all had to turn spectator mode “off” and get back into the swing of things. To start things off, I am paired up against Nathan Powell, who identifies himself as illuminatimon.
      Round 1 – Nathan Powell (illuminatimon)
      Team Preview: ///(/)
      Brought: ///

      I feel like I played rather poorly throughout this game. Nathan had a solid team matchup against me, but honestly, there were several points where I could have made better plays. Notably, I missed out on two KO opportunities against Heatran by playing too conservatively. Overall, Nathan played extremely well, predicting exactly when I’d go on the offense with Heatran.
      However, that forfeit at the end was actually Nathan’s – he had to leave for the trip home to Canada and he gave me a mercy win. It was really awesome to see someone give a win to a person that clearly didn’t deserve it, and I promised myself that Nathan’s generosity would not go to waste.
      Win (Forfeit); Record 1-0.
      Round 2 – Malik Wilson
      Team Preview: ///(/)
      Brought: ///
      This was one of my more intense matches of the day, at least in terms of back-and-forth gameplay. I really liked my turn five play by correctly assuming Thundurus would use an attacking move, while still sacking Bisharp to gain a positional advantage with Clefable. The turn afterwards, however, Malik made a great play by not Taunting Clefable, allowing him to nullify the Speed advantage I gained from Dragon Dance. Unlike round nine the previous day, however, I felt like the Dragon Dance was more justified this time. Because he had already revealed Mega Lopunny, I assumed he hadn’t brought Metagross, meaning either Terrakion or Landorus-T would be Malik’s last Pokémon, and a Dragon Dance would almost ensure a victory against a combination of those Pokémon. The second-to-last turn left Mega Salamence with a full paralysis, however, and I knew that another full paralysis or Ice Punch critical hit would lose me the game. Luckily, neither of those occurred, and Malik got to witness the bulk of a Mega Salamence firsthand by seeing it survive Mega Lopunny’s Ice Punch with 7 HP to spare.
      Win, 1-0; Record 2-0.
      Round 3 – No Show
      Team Preview: ///
      Brought: ///
      My opponent was probably worried about the incoming snowstorm and dropped without following whatever official procedures allow you to drop.  Of course, I didn’t mind the free win and chance to relax, but I knew I couldn’t count on my resistance to let me squeak into Top Cut if I ended up with an x-2 record.
      Round 4 – Cody Bernheisel (CodeUmbreon)
      Team Preview:///(/)
      Brought: ///
      A rematch from yesterday! I went into this match with the same gameplan as last time: “Get a Substitute up. Don’t lose”. Information from yesterday’s match helped tremendously in my decision making, like knowing his Jellicent had Scald instead of Water Spout and that Cody didn’t like risky switches.
      A lucky Heat Wave burn on Jellicent helped me to whittle it down much more quickly than I could have before, and the Cursed Body activation didn’t really justify the extra chip damage I was able to get on it. If anything, it prevented Cody from switching to Heatran to try to pick up a free Flash Fire boost. Overall though, I played with my fundamentals against Trick Room and came out with a victory.
      Win, 3-0; Record 4-0.
      Round 5 – Aaron Zheng (Cybertron)
      Team Preview: ///(/)
      Brought: ///
      Between matches, one of my friends noted that there were only a few 4-0s remaining. And which better 4-0 to go up against than the mighty Cybertron himself? I have a lot of respect for Cybertron because of the maturity he shows when approaching the game, and because of his excellent VGC content that he puts out on his YouTube channel. However, I had theorized the matchup against Cybertron’s Apex-winning team before entering Regionals, so I knew I could approach the match with a clear head.
      I make a strong play turn two, switching out Bisharp to prevent him from safely switching in Suicune after I KOed Gengar. Turn five, though, was an interesting one. Cybertron had already seen my remaining Pokémon, and based on what I had seen so far, I guessed that Cybertron’s last Pokémon was Suicune. Because of this, I figured his best play was to sack Mega Venusaur to give Suicune a free switch-in, while racking up some additional damage with Rock Slide or attacking Heatran with Close Combat.
      With that in mind, my best play would be to not KO Mega Venusaur while getting some extra damage or potentially a KO on Terrakion. I clearly misread Aaron’s thought process, though, because I let Suicune switch in for free. Unfortunately for Cybertron, a lucky critical hit makes up for my misplay, which prevents Ice Beam from knocking out my Mega Salamence. From there, Aaron opts to forfeit and goes off to recollect himself.
      I didn’t think the game was entirely locked up since I would have had to make sure Heatran did not get Leech Seeded from that point on while simultaneously playing around the Terrakion. Needless to say, it would not have been an easy match. If I ever get a chance to play Cybertron again, I hope to be able to rise to his skill level to give him a better match than what I was able to give him here.
      Win (Forfeit); Record 5-0.
      Round 6 – Ryan Brooker (lolfailsnail)
      Team Preview: ///(/)
      Brought: ///
      I recognized Ryan’s face from earlier today, but it took me a while to remember that he had placed in the Top 8 of Regionals. Since Ryan was undefeated so far, I could tell he was determined to do just as well in this tournament as he had done earlier today.
      Similarly to my matches against CodeUmbreon, I wanted to bring Heatran to force a lot of pressure with Substitute. However, I incorrectly lead Salamence into a Mawile and Ryan makes a solid play by getting Conkeldurr immediately in under Trick Room. A hard read into a Salamence switch enables me to KO Jellicent, however, and from there my gameplan becomes “Stall out Trick Room. Conserve Heatran”. Because of this, I intentionally let both Clefable and Bisharp go down in exchange for a positional advantage. Turn eight brought about a double Protect, which seemed very strange to me at the time. However, Ryan’s play lulled me into a false sense of security and I very nearly pay for it when a critical Mach Punch hit my Heatran. Heatran’s natural bulk was on display that turn though, and because Heat Wave did not miss either of Ryan’s Pokémon, I was able to solidify my position in Top Cut with a 6-0 record.
      Win, 2-0; Record 6-0.
      Round 7 – Hans Knutson
      Team Preview: ///(/)
      Brought: ///
      Being 6-0 was no excuse for some of the silly plays I made during this match. Between Dragon Dancing the turn I know Clefable is going down, Sucker Punching into a switching Mega Metagross, and misjudging the damage output of a +1 Frustration, I’m not quite sure how I managed to not fall entirely on my face. While I did make a decent call on the second-to-last turn by using Sucker Punch on the attacking target, I really should not have let myself get into that position in the first place. Still, a win’s a win, and I was happy to be able to advance onto Top Cut as the highest seed in Swiss.
      Win, 2-0; Record 7-0.

       
      I was not surprised to see Aaron Grubb’s (LPFan) name paired up against mine for Top Cut. During every event that he and I have attended together, we have had to play each other during a critical round. During Missouri Regionals last year, I managed to squeak in as 16th seed after a close game with him in the final round of Swiss, and at 2014 Nationals, he dealt me my third loss, preventing me from advancing to day two of that competition. Now, we were playing for a chunk of CP in our first best-of-three set together. I was super excited, to say the least.
      Top 8 – Aaron Grubbs (LPFan)
      Team Preview: /////
      Game 1
      During Team Preview, Mega Salamence looked like it would have a field day if I could successfully get up some Dragon Dances. I start off slowly by trading Bisharp for information about his Rotom-Heat’s Speed stat, but once Clefable came in, I had a very solid positional advantage. Unfortunately, I misjudged Staraptor’s Speed after Tailwind and lost a lot of HP on Heatran because of it, but throughout the rest of the match, I simply made the plays that would give me the greatest chance of winning. I don’t think the lategame Rock Slide miss against Mega Salamence mattered too much, unless it would have landed a critical hit and Terrakion also got a double Protect.
      Win, 1-0.
      Game 2
      At first, I thought I had a repeat of game one on my hands when I had a fresh Mega Salamence and Clefable against Suicune and Rotom-Heat. Aaron plays perfectly, however, and capitalizes on an obvious Dragon Dance + Follow Me play by setting up Tailwind while switching in Terrakion.
      I was disappointed to see the Staraptor come in the following turn, as I knew Frustration would not OHKO Terrakion if Mega Salamence’s Attack stat was at neutral. Terrakion’s Rock Slide told me not to worry about the Intimidate though, as a critical hit and a flinch decided to cancel out a lot of my momentum. I tried to stage a comeback, but my Pokémon had simply taken too much damage to power through four relatively healthy opponents. Aaron ties up the set at 1-1.
      Loss, 0-2.
      Game 3
      Since Aaron had picked up on my habit of trying to use Knock Off on Rotom, a solid switch to Terrakion rewarded him with a +1 boost. Luckily for me, though, decent plays and Rock Slide not flinching Bisharp enabled me to take an early Pokémon lead. Even more luckily, Suicune’s Scald never managed to leave Clefable with a burn, allowing me to use Follow Me for an extra turn and deal loads of damage to Rotom with Knock Off (a 24.01% chance disregarding damage rolls).
      After Virizion came in for Bisharp, I knew I had to pick up a double knockout while also avoiding KOs on my end. Since Virizion’s Protect seemed obvious, I ended up attacking with Virizion and got rewarded greatly, forcing a 2v1 situation against Staraptor that was a guaranteed win if Mega Salamence used Protect. During the match, I wasn’t certain about how much the critical hit mattered on his Suicune, but after discussing it later, it turned out the damage rolls were in my favor of Frustration KOing Suicune with the EV spread LPFan’s Suicune had.
      Win, 2-0; Record 9-1.
      I expected a strong set of games against Aaron and, even with a less than ideal team matchup, he gave me just that. After talking with Sean Ring, who I played at Regionals yesterday, I learned that he was also in the Top 4, but he had to play against Cybertron for his chance at making the finals. I knew my own match was going to be tough as well, though, because I was up against Michael Fladung (Primitive), who had just placed in the Top 4 of Regionals earlier that day.
      Top 4 – Michael Fladung (Primitive)
      Team Preview: /////
      Game 1
      Things start off well as I get an early knockout on his Mega Kangaskhan with a combination of Rocky Helmet and Frustration damage. I even managed to use the potential of Thundurus wasting turns to set up a free Dragon Dance, and I got into a spot where I had a fresh Clefable sitting next to a boosted Mega Salamence.
      My momentum comes to a screeching halt, however, as I Helping Hand Frustration into Suicune’s Protect and Michael shuts down Clefable’s redirection with Taunt. From there, Thundurus did what Thundurus does best and paralyzed my whole team. It’d be easy to blame the match on “hax” from that point forward, but there were better plays that could have been made. For example, I could have easily targeted Thundurus down with a Frustration + Ice Beam combination attack instead of aggressively targeting Suicune. It’s not like Michael was grasping at straws either. He was using Thunder Wave for speed control; the full paralysis was just bonus. Luckily, I managed to pick up information about Suicune’s item thanks to Knock Off before Bisharp went down to a Thunderbolt + Scald combination attack.
      Loss, 0-3.
      Game 2
      Virizion seemed like it would be a solid choice here to help even out the matchup, but for some reason, I didn’t think Taunting Thundurus was the correct turn one play. In reality, it would have forced Thundurus into an awkward Sucker Punch situation that I could have potentially taken advantage of. Bisharp proved clutch and managed to survive a Rock Slide from Terrakion, only to flinch and be unable to move. From there, I think I gave in to exasperation. I wasn’t upset, because I truly knew I was playing against the odds when I opened myself up to Rock Slide flinches, but the plays I make afterwards show that I didn’t think the game was winnable, when it definitely could have been. I could have potentially Dragon Danced and taken out Thundurus with an Ice Beam when I sent out Salamence + Clefable, but I had turned on the “don’t get paralyzed” switch in my head and paid for it when a critical Rock Slide hit me. After confirming my suspicion that Michael’s Terrakion was holding a Focus Sash, I congratulated him on the win and wished him the best of luck in his finals match.
      Loss, 0-3; Record 9-3.
      There are times in Pokémon when you can say “my opponent got lucky” and blame a match on hax. More often, however, there are times when you should say “I could have played this better” or “I shouldn’t have brought a team weak to Rock Slide and Thunder Wave”. Michael apologized for the luck that came his way, but both he and I knew that he wasn’t trying to land a critical hit or get a full paralysis. Those things came as a bonus to making the correct plays and being in situations where those events could occur. After all, you don’t make Top 4 of a Regionals competition and the finals of a Premier Challenge without a lot of skill!
      Conclusion
      Finally, my run at St. Charles is over. After saying hello to both Aryana Welch (feathers) and Clayton Lusk (Zubat), it was just about time to say goodbye to everyone! I finished watching the finals match, and then my family and I went out to eat at Dairy Queen in celebration. While it’s always fun to play at these events, it can be pretty exhausting to consistently make the best plays throughout the day. I was very proud with my overall result, though: a 16-7 record in games overall, two decent placings at both events, and the chance to play ten different people from Nugget Bridge.
      Shoutouts
      Carbonific, for taking the time to properly record my streamed match and upload it to YouTube. It looks much better than the recording I had before and I thank you for taking the time to capture the professionalism of the stream. Vince, the tournament organizer, for stopping the Premier Challenge between rounds to let us watch the finals of Regionals and for giving the Top 4 a cool TCG playmat as a tangible prize in addition to our CP. He really knows how to manage a tournament well. Daniel Cardenas (KermitTheFrog14), for trading me a Bold Suicune on such short notice. Brandon Ikin (Toquill), for trading me Heatran, despite leaving his 3DS in his dad’s car. kamikaze17, for trading me the Virizion from his trade thread for basically nothing. Primitive, for letting me use his pictures of the final Swiss standings from both events in this report. The Anistar Aliens (Stats, Oreios, tlyee61, and KermitTheFrog14), for being awesome to practice with and talk to. The miniNPA has been done for over a year now, but it’s really cool how we’ve all stuck together as a group. You’re the best group of friends a guy could ask for! Article image created by The Knights of Wario Land for Nugget Bridge. View more on his Tumblr, or visit his forum thread.
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