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Gastrodon for Dummies

blog-gastrodons.pngWhether or not Gastrodon is "good" is the subject of much debate. I'm on the side that believes Gastrodon is good, but I can understand the other viewpoints as well. If you take a look at my team analysis for Nationals, it's pretty easy to see that Gastrodon is one of my favorite Pokémon to use in VGC, so I feel like I should share my thoughts on this unique Pokémon.

Why Gastrodon is a Good Pokémon

If you looked only at Gastrodon's stats, you wouldn't be able to see why this Pokémon is good enough to make it in Doubles. After all, it's defenses and attacking stats are only decent, not to mention it's slower than most of the Pokémon used in the current metagame; the only stat Gastrodon has going for it is its base 111 HP, but no one would use a Pokémon based solely on their HP stat, right? If they did, Wailord would be on every team. So what is it that puts Gastrodon above other Pokémon with better stats? Gastrodon's typing and ability hold the answer. Gastrodon's Water / Ground typing gives Gastrodon only one weakness: Grass. At the same time, its ability Storm Drain makes it immune to Water-type attacks and gives it a Special Attack boost when hit by Water-type attacks. Gastrodon's immunity to Electric- and Water-type attacks thanks to its Ground-typing and ability is huge in a metagame where Electric-types and Rain teams are common. Without these two factors, Gastrodon wouldn't see itself used as often, and even then it requires substantial team support to do its job correctly. Overall, I feel like Gastrodon is good enough to be used, it's just used more often than it should be.

The reason people could see Gastrodon as a "good" Pokemon is most likely because people see it as a Pokémon that can work with any team or they feel like it's a hard counter to threats like Metagross or Rain teams, which it isn't. Gastrodon has a number of issues: its Defense stat is pretty bad, it has problems with Grass-type attacks, and it's almost always going last in battle, so it needs substantial team support to cover these weaknesses. In these kinds of situations, it's important to do things to keep Gastrodon safe: switching, Protecting, or using partners to effectively deal with threats. Metagross is seen on almost all serious VGC teams, so the idea that Gastrodon "counters" Metagross has probably played a huge part in its usage rise. The truth is that the most Gastrodon can do against Metagross is check it. With Earth Gem, Gastrodon can OHKO Metagross depending on the EV spreads, while Gastrodon resists Meteor Mash. Still, not a good idea to switch Gastrodon into Metagross thanks to that weak Defense stat, and depending on how the trainers play, Metagross can come out on top, making Gastrodon only a check and not a counter. Another reason for Gastrodon's usage is the fact that Rain teams are the most common type of Weather team. Some players mistakenly believe that it "counters" Rain teams, but well-built Rain teams will have a way of dealing with threats like Gastrodon, most commonly Ludicolo. Gastrodon can only take so many hits, so working around the fact that it's usually last is important in keeping it on the field.

Gastrodon Sets

There are so many possible sets Gastrodon can use. Jio and I have made two that should work a lot better than the usual 252/252 spreads, and may be a good starting point if you want to make your own Gastrodon set.

Offensive Gastrodon

gastrodon.png

Gastrodon-Ea (Gastrodon-East) (M) @ Earth Gem

Trait: Storm Drain

EVs: 252 HP / 20 Def / 100 SAtk / 136 SDef

Modest Nature (+SAtk, -Atk)

- Scald / Muddy Water

- Ice Beam

- Earth Power

- Protect / Recover

First up is the offensive set. The most obvious part of this set is that it's made to be able to OHKO 252 HP / 4 SpD Metagross. That would be the reason behind the Special Attack boosting nature, the 100 Special Attack EVs, and Earth Gem. Of course, not all Metagross use this spread, so it's important to be aware of the fact that it might survive. The defensives allow Gastrodon to survive both a Fighting Gem Close Combat from Adamant Hitmontop or a Dragon Gem Draco Meteor from Timid Latios (therefore handling any Dragon Gem Draco Meteor besides Modest Latios and Hydreigon in VGC 2012) with barely any HP left.

While Earth Power is the highlight of this set, the other moves are decided by preference. The choice to use either Muddy Water or Scald depends on the support you feel you need. If you don't care much about Physical attackers and feel you need to hit two Pokémon, Muddy Water is usually better than Scald and vice versa. Ice Beam is mostly for coverage so you can hit threats like Latios and Garchomp hard. Protect and Recover are both usable on Gastrodon, but Protect is generally preferred. Of course, Recover can work in these situations too. Gastrodon could really use the HP when taking hits from Gems, and it can work really well depending on how you play Gastrodon. For example, if you can make your opponent believe you're going to Protect, a smart opponent will avoid targeting your Protecting Gastrodon so you can use this turn to Recover instead. Modest can always become a Quiet nature for Trick Room conditions, where Recover may work better.

Defensive Gastrodon

gastrodon.png

Gastrodon-Ea (Gastrodon-East) (M) @ Sitrus Berry

Trait: Storm Drain

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

Bold Nature (+Def, -Atk)

- Scald

- Icy Wind

- Earth Power

- Protect

This Gastrodon set is on the bulkier side, though it isn't lacking in the offensive department. Gastrodon's Defense stat is pretty average, so a Bold nature is preferred if you're looking for a mixed defensive Gastrodon. Defensively, this Gastrodon can do a ton. It survives a Fighting Gem Close Combat from Terrakion and  is only 3HKOed by Zen Headbutt from Metagross, Crunch from Tyranitar, and Bug Bite from Scizor. Draco Meteor Dragon Gem from Timid Latios doesn't even KO while Sitrus Berry keeps Gastrodon from being easily picked off afterwards.

Scald is preferred here to make Gastrodon even more of a Physical tank if it scores a Burn, while Icy Wind allows Gastrodon to continue taking hits and lower the opponent's Speed, possibly making Gastrodon not the slowest Pokémon on the field. Like before, the moves depend on what matches your team and your playstyle, so make sure to customize Gastrodon to your own needs.

What to Do with Gastrodon

If you're building a team and you want to use Gastrodon, there are a ton of factors you need to look at to decide what set you will be using. I won't be able to explain how to choose your Gastrodon set specifically, but I will be explaining the thought process behind choices I’ve made.

Why Gastrodon?

Before going too far into detail, you first need to answer the question: Why Gastrodon? Gastrodon isn't a Pokémon that needs to be built around so long as it has some kind of support in the rest of the team. Usually Gastrodon is put on teams as a second check for Metagross or a switch in to Electric- or Water-type attacks that the team would otherwise have problems with. Even though it can be EV'd to take big hits like Dragon Gem Draco Meteor once, you'll still need to have partners that can switch into these attacks regularly and barely take anything. Generally, Gastrodon's greatest strength is its ability Storm Drain. Storm Drain draws in every single target Water-type attack to Gastrodon and gives it a Special Attack boost in the process. Because of this, teams with a few Water-type weaknesses welcome Gastrodon with open arms, though they still need to beware Water-type attacks that hit more than one target -- Gastrodon will still get the Special Attack boost, but the Pokémon it is ostensibly protecting will also still get hit.

Finding Partners with Synergy

Now that you've decided to use Gastrodon, you need to surround it with Pokémon who both support Gastrodon and are supported by it, a concept known as synergy. It's important for Gastrodon to have positive synergy with the Pokémon on the field with it. For example, you don't want to use Hydro Pump with Gastrodon on the field, unless you're intentionally boosting it, as Storm Drain will redirect even your own single target Water attacks to Gastrodon, and you don't want to be walled by other Pokémon. Having a Pokémon out with an attack like Hydro Pump and is walled by the same Pokémon as Gastrodon would be a prime example of a combination that has no synergy. To avoid being trapped in this situation, you need to know what threatens Gastrodon. Rotom-W is the most common Pokémon that walls Gastrodon since Rotom-W resists all of Gastrodon's attacking options short of Hidden Power. On the other hand, Rotom-W cannot really touch Gastrodon with its STAB attacks either, but Hidden Power [Grass] is becoming more and more popular an option on Rotom just to threaten Gastrodon. It's important that one of Gastrodon's partners is able to handle Rotom, as well as other threats to Gastrodon like Virizion or Ludicolo. Gastrodon also needs partners that it can be switched in for or switched out to as well.

heatran.pnggastrodon.pngdrifblim.pnggastrodon.pngchandelure.png

Given all this, I've found a few really good partners for Gastrodon, but I'm sure there are a ton more. My favorite pair would be Gastrodon and Heatran because they can sit on the field and support each other, while also being able to switch into weaknesses. For example, Heatran loves having Gastrodon on the field to redirect Water-type attacks away from it, while Gastrodon enjoys having Heatran in the back to switch in to Grass-type attacks aimed at Gastrodon (Gastrodon and Chandelure, another good partner, work in a similar manner but with less defensive synergy). For a while I used Drifblim / Gastrodon which was made to support Drifblim's Electric-type weakness. If you look at both these pairs they seem like they're walled by Rotom-W, but that's why there are 6 Pokémon! Even though this is more of a Singles term, I've always used Gastrodon on teams with a FWG (Fire / Water / Grass) core because they allow Gastrodon to switch out from threats easier. So when deciding on partners for Gastrodon you should be asking yourself the following questions: Can Gastrodon and "x" work together on the field, and does Gastrodon have partners that it can switch into or out to when needed?

Deciding on a Set

Now that you've decided on Gastrodon and some partners, it's time to build a set. It’s impossible to explain how other people should choose sets, as every set should be tailored to the team, so I’ll be explaining my choices for the Gastrodon I used at the United States Video Game National Championships. For a more detailed analysis of the entire team, in which this Gastrodon featured prominently, check out my US Nationals Tournament Report: HeraBoss and Friends.

gastrodon.png

Gastrodon-Ea (Gastrodon-East) (M) @ Earth Gem

Trait: Storm Drain

EVs: 240 HP / 20 Def / 120 SAtk / 128 SDef

Quiet Nature (+SAtk, -Speed)

- Muddy Water

- Blizzard

- Earth Power

- Protect

Although my spread could have been better if I had added in the Hail damage, it worked really well in the end. I knew I wanted to be able to use Earth Gem because of how common Metagross is and how disruptive it can be to teams that utilize Hail. Gastrodon also played an important role supporting Chandelure, drawing away Water-type attacks that would otherwise wreck it and potentially ruin my Trick Room set up. Muddy Water was preference. As I was already running Will-o-Wisp on Sableye, I was unconcerned with Burning Physical attackers with Gastrodon and much preferred the ability to hit both of my opponent's Pokémon and potential Accuracy drops. I didn’t care if I had Hail up or not, I loved spamming Blizzard so I used that over Ice Beam. Running Abomasnow on the same team was just the icing on the cake for Blizzard. I ended up using Protect over Recover since I wouldn't always have Trick Room up, causing Gastrodon to lose much of its survivability.

Offensive vs Defensive

I’ve always felt that a Pokémon should have a mix of offense and defense, and my own Gastrodon reflects this. Gastrodon’s base 92 Special Attack stat shouldn’t go unused if you’re using attacks on your Gastrodon, so it’s usually a good idea to put at least a few EVs into Special Attack. Gastrodon is one of those Pokémon that is middling in offense and defense, so I feel like using both is best. There are some cases where you might want an all out offensive Gastrodon if you have problems against Fire or Ground types, but you could go defensive here as well. Deciding which way to go with Gastrodon is really debatable, and will usually go by preference and team needs. It's a good idea to assess what the rest of the team's members need and how the team is built and then decide what Gastrodon will do.

Earth Gem vs  Rindo Berry vs Sitrus Berry

I’ve never used anything other than Earth Gem on Gastrodon. Earth Gem is great when playing against Metagross and the like where it can net a surprise KO, while Sitrus is a great item for the bulkier Gastrodon, especially if it’s always going last on the field. It turns some key 2HKOs on Gastrodon into 3hkos, which can be crucial in some cases, while also giving it some health recovery if you aren't using Recover. Rindo Berry, on the other hand, I find hard to justify. You’re not using it every game -- it’s there “just in case,” which I don’t really understand. Some Grass moves KO even through Rindo, and I feel like if the Berry isn’t going to save you anyway, why use it? Besides, with proper teambuilding, it’s pretty easy to play around Grass-types in the first place. Of the three most common item choices for Gastrodon, Rindo Berry is probably the worst in my opinion.

Muddy Water vs Scald

The decision to use either Muddy Water or Scald is very controversial. Both have their benefits, but I would choose Muddy Water because I feel that the benefit of hitting both opponents and possibly lowering the Accuracy of the opposing Pokémon outweighs the fact that its accuracy is 85. Scald's merits include its higher base power by about 9 points when Muddy Water is hitting two opponents and its ability to Burn the opponent's Pokémon 30% of the time. Deciding one way or the other is difficult and, again, comes down to your own team construction. On my Nationals team, I didn't need Scald's chance to Burn the opposition because I already had Will-o-Wisp on another Pokémon so I used Muddy Water. If Physical attackers give your team trouble, however, Scald could be a more attractive option.

Stockpile and Recover vs Protect

Stockpile and Recover have proved to be a strong combo, just ask Fishy who won the Colorado Regionals with it! It works best in Trick Room environments, allowing Gastrodon to bulk up or Recover off damage before being hit, so if you want to use these moves that’s definitely the way to go. Protect is important if you know you won’t be playing with Gastrodon in a Trick Room environment all the time or if you are leading with Gastrodon so that you can increase its survivability. In most cases one of Protect or Recover will be used since there are only so many moveslots, but if you have the room and are willing to build a team to support it, Stockpile is definitely something to look at!

Move Choices

While you'll usually see Gastrodon with a moveset of Scald / Earth Power / Ice Beam / Protect, or something very similar, that's not all there is to use. I've mentioned them before, but skills like Recover and Stockpile are moves you should know. Although it won't always be able to pull it off often, Gastrodon can become a large threat if it manages to get a couple of defensive boosts. There are also moves like Blizzard or Surf that Gastrodon will take advantage of on specialized teams, usually Hail and Rain respectively. Icy Wind is also a great option for Gastrodon as it provides a healthy amount of support for the team by slowing down your opponent's Pokémon. Gastrodon, like every other Pokémon, can carry a Hidden Power -- almost always HP Grass or HP Fire for other Gastrodon and Scizor, respectively. If you're feeling bold, you could even try out Mirror Coat! Most other moves that Gastrodon has access to would probably be called a "gimmick", but that's no reason not to test them. There very well could be more surprises in Gastrodon's movepool that just haven't been unearthed yet!

Gastrodon and Team Archetypes

Gastrodon can find a role on almost any kind of team used in VGC 2012, but it should be handled differently for each kind. While the spreads above might not fit what you need for a specific team type, you can always make new ones to fit your specific needs.

Goodstuffs

Gastrodon has found its way onto a lot of Goodstuffs teams even though it may not be the best fit, which goes a long way in explaining why Gastrodon has become controversial. Some trainers will just slap a Gastrodon onto their team thinking it covers some weaknesses and are disappointed when it fails to hard counter them because it hasn't been tailored to the team. Gastrodon is usually the slowest on the field, but this can be used to your advantage. If it appears that Gastrodon will obviously be using Protect one turn, using that turn to Recover instead can be game deciding. Gastrodon on Goodstuffs teams are generally on the bulkier side because they're filling some kind of void the opponent felt the team had and because Gastrodon will have to take a hit before it can hit back. Using Gastrodon on Goodstuffs is probably the hardest kind of team to use it on out of all the team archetypes because unless you've packed your team with water weaknesses, Rotom-W will usually do many of the same things better.

Tailwind

Gastrodon has a really bad speed for Tailwind abuse, but it can work in a punch. These Gastrodon will generally be more offensive as Tailwind support will allow it to outspeed Pokémon like most Metagross and Pokémon with Base Speed stat of 80 that don't invest in Speed. Deciding whether or not you outspeed these Pokémon is usually a gamble. To avoid gambling you can invest some in Gastrodon's Speed, but investing more than the 4 EVs to outspeed other Gastrodon isn't usually a good idea because it takes away from Gastrodon's bulk. It's not common to see Gastrodon abusing Tailwind because there are better Pokémon to do this, but it is sometimes used in the back of some Tailwind teams.

Trick Room

Trick Room is probably my personal favorite environment for Gastrodon. Outside of Trick Room, most opponents don’t think much of Gastrodon if they know they have something that can get rid of it, but in Trick Room, Gastrodon can become a huge threat. Its base 39 speed stat is only threatened in Trick Room by opposing Amoonguss or Ferrothorn, which you should be able to play around. The kind of Gastrodon on Trick Room teams varies a lot, but I’ve always used an offensive one with bulk, since I’m not so worried about living a ton of hits now that I'm going first. Trick Room is also the perfect environment for Gastrodon to abuse stat boosting moves like Stockpile and Recover. Fishy’s regionals team is a testament to that. Gastrodon is probably one of the best Water-types to use in a Trick Room environment, and some people think they can put it on their team as a “Trick Room counter” because the rest of the team can’t do much against it. If it’s a well constructed Trick Room team, however, Gastrodon definitely won’t be “countering” it. At most, Gastrodon will only keep you from getting decimated by Trick Room teams. You'll still need other ways to combat Trick Room. If you plan on using an offensive Gastrodon, Trick Room is usually the way to go.

Rain

Gastrodon usually doesn’t fit on Rain teams well unless the team will be abusing Surf, which means they’re going to be boosting Gastrodon for easy KOs. You’ll probably see Gastrodon the least on Rain teams because abusing Surf can be hard to pull off, since it’s easily detected by good players and Black and White added some new toys like Wide Guard to counter these strategies. Rain teams will usually use Pokémon with Swift Swim instead of Gastrodon, but spying a Gastrodon on one is a sure sign of what you're in for.

Sandstorm

Sandstorm teams have Gastrodon on them pretty often. This is because many Sand abusers are weak to Water, which Gastrodon helps cover. Gastrodon is immune to Sandstorm damage because of its Ground typing, but outside of absorbing Water-type attacks, Gastrodon doesn’t do much of anything that the rest of the team doesn’t already do. The most common thing for Gastrodon to do on Sandstorm teams is to switch into Water-type attacks for the boost. It definitely does work for Sand teams, but generally I find Cradily to be a stronger Storm Drain Pokémon to use on these teams. Gastrodon will usually be built defensively for greater longevity so that it can protect the Ground- and Rock-types from Water-type attacks as long as possible.

Hail

Hail can be abused by almost any Pokémon with Blizzard. Gastrodon has access to it, and it fits pretty well on Hail teams. In the past I’ve used Gastrodon and Heatran together on a Hail team, and it worked fantastically. The two Pokémon can switch in for each other the majority of the time, and they support the Hail starter, Abomasnow. Though not immune to Hail's passive damage, Gastrodon has enough HP that it doesn't particularly mind it. Hail teams with Gastrodon will usually have Trick Room as well, since they will be using Blizzard over Icy Wind. It also means that Gastrodon will probably be offensive, just like in normal Trick Room teams.

Sun

Sun teams aren’t seen much these days, but they can definitely find a use for Gastrodon. It won’t be using Water-type moves in this environment (although it might be smart to carry one if the weather changes), but Gastrodon is great support for these teams. With Gastrodon, Sun teams can fair pretty well against Rain teams because of their Chlorophyll abusers and the extra protection Gastrodon offers from Rain's strongest attacks. The kinds of Gastrodon you’ll see on Sun teams will vary a lot depending on what kind of support it needs, but of all the Storm Drain users, Gastrodon fits the best here.

So is Gastrodon “Good”?

Well that's your decision to make. If I were to answer this, I’d have to say yes, but you’ll have to play with it to see for yourself. I feel like Gastrodon is one of those Pokémon that uses Doubles to its full potential because of how much it supports and needs support from partners. Gastrodon has its own niche that few other Pokémon can hope to fill in Doubles, so, yes, I think Gastrodon is "good" in the VGC 2012 metagame.

Article image created for Nugget Bridge by ryuzaki. See more of ryuzaki's artwork on deviantART.


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      4 Speed IVs are there to outspeed other Cresselia just in case you want to use Skill Swap that turn to I can have my weather up regardless.
       
      COMMON LEADS
       

      This is my most common lead. When the threat of taunt is evident I'll lead with these two. If I can see a fake out coming my way 8/10 times my opponent expects Kyogre to Protect to one thing I do is Helping Hand+Water Spout and let Cresselia take the hits. Alot of times Kyogre can OHKO most opponents with the sheer force of that combo. The next turn I usually go with TR + Protect lol
       

      This lead was specially developed for Xerneas+Smeargle leads. With this lead I can set up TR safely and let Xerneas Geomancy while Dark Void is used to put Bronzong to sleep as Kyogre Protects. The next turn I usually Water Spout and Gyro Ball the Smeargle to break the Focus Sash.
       
      THREATS

      My team only has one successful way to deal with Ferrothorn and that's Ho-Oh who is usually out when Kyogre is, making it hard to take out.

      With the powerful priority Brave Bird Talonflame doesn't care if TR is set up. My only strategy against it is to Skill Swap Gale Wings away.

      With access to Fake Out and Sucker Punch this big mamma also has no regard for TR. Again I usually try to either Skill Swap Parental Bond away or overpower her with strong attacks.

      Dragon Ascent can OHKO my Kyogre and Heracross as well as take huge chunks out of the rest of my team. All I can do to stop him is change the weather and take him out before he gets to me.
       
      CONCLUSION
      All in all I like this team. Trick Room is harder to pull off in this format and it takes alot of out smarting your opponent to win, but that's what I like about the game. I want to use what I want and I want to use my own abilities to outplay and defeat the opponent. If you have any input into how I can improve the team please let me know. Just know that I want to keep this a Trick Room based team.
       
    • At a stormy summer's Eve
      By Jumpfluffy
      So, this team started out as: I want to be able to abuse Jumpluff. Last year I tried with charizard as sun suplier, but it did not work out. This year, I decided to try again. With the strongest sun setter, and the strongest sun now being playable, I made it work this time. Somewhat. Here follows my team.
       
      Blaster (Groudon) @ Red Orb  
      Ability: Drought  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 SpD  
      Adamant Nature  
      IVs: 15 Spe  
      - Precipice Blades  
      - Protect  
      - Substitute  
      - Fire Punch  
      Substitute is there to give it the opportunity to win vs a kyogre in rain. I felt like the speed iv's do not matter that mush, rather than risking a gamble with a speed tie AND accuracy, I decided I was fine with being slower than all non - speed primals. Only thing I might want to fix the IV's for is to be able to out speed max speed scarf smeargle in tailwind. The (speed) control provided my other pokemon should mean I can avoid losing to  faster restricted pokemon, because I can get it to sleep, slow it down with rock tomb or boost the speed of  my team with tailwind. Precipice blades over earthquake because my team lacks the amount of flying types and levitaters needed to justify spamming earthquake. An earlier versoin of this team had 4 Pokemon that could not be damaged by earthquake. But I switched to this as that number went down.
      Jumpfluffy (Jumpluff) @ Wide Lens  
      Ability: Chlorophyll  
      EVs: 252 HP / 4 SpD / 252 Spe  
      Jolly Nature  
      - Sleep Powder  
      - Encore  
      - U-turn  
      - Protect 
      I do not bring this that often to be honest, and I am fine with that. The whole Idea is to just bring it when you think your opponent does not have a solid answer, like prankster taunt for example. Wide lens is there because of the 75%. 75% is below what i find to be comfortable, so i gave it an accuracy increasing item. The lack of focus sash is not that big of a problem. It can live most attacks that deal spread damage, are resisted, or are neutral and do not have stab. Focus sash was also more needed on another member of the team.
      Wins games when unanswered, does not come in when there is a possible answer.
      These moves do not need that mush explanation I hope. A cool trick is to bait a taunt from a thundorus, protect that, and fake out-encore the next turn. That  only happened once, and I do not expect it to happen again anytime soon. Was cool none the less. I do not like bringing jumpluff into a prankster taunt carrying team.
      Tempest (Tornadus) @ Focus Sash  
      Ability: Prankster  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe  
      Modest Nature  
      - Tailwind  
      - Taunt  
      - Hurricane  Now Air Slash
      - Role Play  
      Speed control, taunt and roleplay. That is all that tornadus offers this team and every single one of them is needed this format. Roleplay is a nice niche in weather wars. Tailwind is really, really, really valuable. Being able to out speed whatever restricted mon they have is amazing. Even Groudon hits 204 speed in tailwind. meaning its just a bit faster than: mega gengar, crobat, aerodactyl, M-rayquaza and most mewtwo!  
       
      Scrafty @ Assault Vest  
      Ability: Intimidate  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 252 HP / 76 Def / 180 SpD  
      Impish Nature  
      - Fake Out  
      - Knock Off  
      - Super Fang  
      - Rock Tomb 
      Bulk and utility: Scrafty is like a swiss knife too huge to handle well. Its really slow, but it can do a ton of stuff you just might need. Like rock tomb, rock tomb is like icy wind. it lowers speed by one stage, so instead of switching to keep your mon alive, protect and a rock tomb can fix the problem. Knockoff knocks off items, fake out flinches, and super fang means he can do meaningful damage against the bulk this format has. Intimidate is always nice to have, and can reduce the damage from opposing Precipice Blades, dragon-descend, brave bird and whatnot. Is in desperate need of a nickname. Because I did not know what to EV for, I spread the bulk evenly, it now has 159 def, and 158 sp def with max HP investment.
      Redox (Metagross) @ Metagrossite  
      Ability: Clear Body  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 84 HP / 252 Atk / 172 Spe  
      Adamant Nature  
      - Protect  
      - Earthquake  
      - Iron Head  
      - Substitute  
      Ctrl C ctrl V from a rain team I had in the 2015 format. It one hits fairy's. That is just about everything I use him for. He can make good use of tailwind, and can do some extra damage every now and then. But getting rid of fairy's is what its meant to do, and does. EV's are in dire need of an update, as I do not even remember what these are for.
      Tidal (Palkia) @ Life Orb  
      Ability: Pressure  
      EVs: 252 HP / 252 SpA / 4 Spe  
      Modest Nature  
      - Thunder  
      - Earth Power  
      - Spacial Rend  
      - Protect  
      Its damage is really solid. And its speed means you need to invest to be able to outrun it.
      Terrakion with a scarf is the fastest thing it out speeds in tailwind, and everything that is faster than it when tailwind is up also needs a boost in the form of its own tailwind, a dragon dance or sort like setup or weather. Thunder is to hit kyogre hard. Kyogre cant hit back that hard becaus eof dragon water typing. Earth power obliterates groudon and spacial rend is a powerful stab. Also kills dragons that might oppose. Its bulk is really solid. the 4 speed ev's are to outspeed the 252 hp 252 atk 4 sdef khan and other bulky base 100's. A better EV spread might be nice.
       
      At the moment, I am looking for better EV spreads, and a possible replacement for metagross, as there probably is a better way to use the mega spot in this team. I have been thinking about mega scizor, as it looked a bit more usefull outside of the killing fairy role. But I am not sure yet. Thoughts?
      Went 3-1 at a local tournament, losing the first round to the winner, that played sound trap. FT kyogre and geomancy xerneas.
      So, the team is far from perfect, but I feel this is a nice team to start my VGC 2016 with. 
    • Double Primals or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Weather Wars
      By Vanilluxe
      Hi every1 im new!
      So, this is my first VGC16 team, based on the very early meta. This team started with a wish to make Tailwind MegaMence work. I began with P-Kyogre, as I had already used Groudon, and wasn’t that confident in it. For that reason, my first pokémon became:

      Kyogre @ Blue Orb  
      Ability: Drizzle  
      Level: 50  
      Shiny: Yes  
      EVs: 20 HP / 252 SpA / 236 Spe  
      Modest Nature  
      IVs: 0 Atk  
      - Water Spout  
      - Origin Pulse  
      - Ice Beam  
      - Protect  
      This thing is a beast, and is the centre of my team. Winning the weather wars means Kyogre always beats Groudon, and not winning it doesn’t necessarily mean a loss. This beast is what the rest of my team is built around. Water Spout is for when I’m faster and/or don’t expect to be targeted, Origin Pulse to crush my opponent’s hope of low damage from her. Max Damage Water Spout does SO MUCH to everything. Ice Beam because Kyogre has a terrible movepool and needs coverage. It also has a chance to 2HKO PGroudon. 236 Spe outspeeds timid Smeargle, the rest in bulk. Some Calcs (The Khan spread I’ll use is from BrokeStupidLonely’s /r/stunfisk writeup on M-Kang in 2016.):
      252+ SpA Primal Kyogre Water Spout (150 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Xerneas in Heavy Rain: 205-243 (101.4 - 120.2%) -- guaranteed OHKO 252+ SpA Primal Kyogre Water Spout (150 BP) vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Aegislash-Shield in Heavy Rain: 142-168 (85 - 100.5%) -- 6.3% chance to OHKO 252+ SpA Primal Kyogre Water Spout (150 BP) vs. 228 HP / 36 SpD Mega Kangaskhan in Heavy Rain: 195-229 (93.3 - 109.5%) -- 56.3% chance to OHKO +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 20 HP / 0 SpD Primal Kyogre: 145-172 (81.4 - 96.6%) -- guaranteed 2HKO 196+ Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Return vs. 20 HP / 0 Def Primal Kyogre: 150-177 (84.2 - 99.4%) -- guaranteed 2HKO 252+ SpA Primal Groudon Earth Power vs. 20 HP / 0 SpD Kyogre: 70-84 (39.3 - 47.1%) -- guaranteed 3HKO Well, most people probably knew this already, Kyogre is great. Lots of things are. BUT! It doesn’t necessarily beat the biggest threat in VGC these days: Groudon. Xerneas doesn’t really accomplish that either. You know what does, though? Fast, special, Groudon.

      Groudon @ Red Orb  
      Ability: Drought  
      Level: 50  
      EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe  
      Modest Nature  
      IVs: 0 Atk  
      - Eruption  
      - Earth Power  
      - Overheat  
      - Protect  
      The weather war is the Big Thing this season, and being on both sides definitely gives you more options for winning it. This Groudon has a similar role to the kyogre: kill stuff. Oh, and it beats other groudon too. Why use Modest instead of Timid you say? Well, to increase chances of OHKOing bulky Groudon, of course. Also, I have Tailwind. Lots of it. Running two primals instead of another Restricted, like Xerneas or M-Ray, is surprisingly easy, and bringing both can happen surprisingly often, especially against other Groudon. Eruption plays a similar role as Kyogre’s Water Spout. Overheat is nearly never used, nor do I yearn for something else, really. Thunder is a viable option, I guess. Earth Power for general damage output, and Groudon. Groudon is here mostly against teams that don’t have Kyogre, as it is rarely viable against it. Some calcs: 
      252+ SpA Primal Groudon Earth Power vs. 252 HP / 0 SpD Primal Groudon: 204-242 (98.5 - 116.9%) -- 87.5% chance to OHKO 252+ SpA Primal Groudon Eruption (150 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Mega Kangaskhan in Harsh Sun: 177-208 (97.7 - 114.9%) -- 81.3% chance to OHKO 252+ SpA Primal Groudon Eruption (150 BP) vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Ludicolo in Harsh Sun: 175-207 (93.5 - 110.6%) -- 62.5% chance to OHKO 252+ SpA Primal Groudon Eruption (150 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Talonflame in Harsh Sun: 118-139 (76.6 - 90.2%) -- guaranteed 2HKO 252+ SpA Primal Groudon Earth Power vs. 252 HP / 0 SpD Dialga: 188-224 (90.8 - 108.2%) -- 43.8% chance to OHKO 252+ SpA Primal Groudon Eruption (150 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Xerneas in Harsh Sun: 178-211 (88.5 - 104.9%) -- 31.3% chance to OHKO 252+ SpA Primal Groudon Eruption (80 BP) vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Amoonguss in Harsh Sun: 222-264 (100.4 - 119.4%) -- guaranteed OHKO 252+ SpA Primal Groudon Eruption (150 BP) vs. 220 HP / 92+ SpD Cresselia in Harsh Sun: 118-141 (52.9 - 63.2%) -- guaranteed 2HKO 252+ SpA Primal Groudon Eruption (150 BP) vs. 252 HP / 244+ SpD Gothitelle in Harsh Sun: 118-141 (66.6 - 79.6%) -- guaranteed 2HKO after Sitrus Berry recovery 252+ Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Double-Edge vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Primal Groudon: 110-132 (62.5 - 75%) -- guaranteed 2HKO These two together can beat lots of other pokemon, without taking up a mega slot. So what should I use in mine? Well, you already know that.
       
      Salamence (F) @ Salamencite  
      Ability: Intimidate  
      Level: 50  
      Shiny: Yes  
      EVs: 84 HP / 172 SpA / 252 Spe  
      Timid Nature  
      - Hyper Voice  
      - Draco Meteor  
      - Tailwind  
      - Protect  
      Why Mence? Well, first of all, he rocks! Secondly, Tailwind! Salamence hits hard with especially Draco Meteor, outspeeding and KOing M-Ray. Hyper Voice does a great job of adding on to the damage from Eruption or Water Spout. A common opening could be to Protect the Primal and Tailwind with Mence, then wrecking shop with HV and a spread move from the primal. Draco Meteor is also a great option against Pokemon like Dialga, other Mences, Hydreigon, or the Primals. I have yet to receive a single Taunt (though I’m relatively low on the PS ladder), but I have been Will-O-Wisped once. Tailwind in VGC16 is simply great, especially when you have these great damage monsters like the Primals on your team.
      252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Dazzling Gleam vs. 84 HP / 0 SpD Mega Salamence: 152-180 (83.9 - 99.4%) -- guaranteed 2HKO 172 SpA Mega Salamence Draco Meteor vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Mega Rayquaza: 200-236 (110.4 - 130.3%) -- guaranteed OHKO 172 SpA Mega Salamence Draco Meteor vs. 252 HP / 0 SpD Groudon: 109-129 (52.6 - 62.3%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
      Crobat (M) @ Focus Sash  
      Ability: Inner Focus  
      Level: 50  
      Shiny: Yes  
      EVs: 252 HP / 4 SpD / 252 Spe  
      Timid Nature  
      IVs: 0 Atk  
      - Tailwind  
      - Taunt  
      - Super Fang  
      - Quick Guard  
      Crobat is actually finally good! All of these moves help out my team greatly. Yes, I have two tailwind options, but it’s just wayy too good to not have them. Getting a tailwind up means I outspeed the entire unboosted meta with the primals, and a few scarfed mons, plus it neutralises the speed boost Xerneas gets from geomancy (Leading Crobat/Mence against a prankster also means I get off both a Super Fang and a Tailwind, letting me wreck shop in the next turns). Taunt is also a great option against Xerneas, and a bunch of other things (Amoonguss or Cress, to name a couple). Super Fang is awesome, especially against the Primals, Xerneas, Cress and other super bulky mons that are 2HKOd by Kyogre and Groudon + others. Quick Guard is a great option against Fake Out, Pranksters, and probably most of all, Sucker Punch. Simply the threat of Quick Guard can help me a LOT. Why Sash? Simply because there’s no way to OHKO it then. Quite a few things can do that, and having the Sash gives me one more turn in most cases. The biggest issue with the bat is that it can’t pick up KOs, meaning it’s often dead weight after getting up tailwind and a Super Fang. Luckily this team hits hard and fast enough that it usually doesn’t matter.

      Landorus-Therian @ Life Orb  
      Ability: Intimidate  
      Level: 50  
      Shiny: Yes  
      EVs: 44 HP / 212 SpA / 252 Spe  
      Timid Nature  
      - Earth Power  
      - Hidden Power [Ice]  
      - Stone Edge  
      - Protect  
      This is probably the weakest member on my team. His main job is to outspeed and KO Groudon, but I don’t feel like I use him for much more than that. HP Ice is somewhat useful for other Landos, Thundurus, Mences and M-Ray, but Stone Edge I’ve only clicked once or twice. Intimidate is nice, but not necessary, because so much of the format is special. I’m having a hard time deciding what to pick otherwise. I’m not sure what my team really needs. As for the spread, here’s the deciding calc:
      212 SpA Landorus-T Hidden Power Ice vs. 44 HP / 0 SpD Landorus-T: 140-168 (82.3 - 98.8%) -- guaranteed 2HKO I’ll get to some ideas I have for possible replacements when I talk about weaknesses.

      Thundurus @ Sitrus Berry  
      Ability: Prankster  
      Level: 50  
      Shiny: Yes  
      EVs: 220 HP / 36 Def / 76 SpA / 4 SpD / 172 Spe  
      Timid Nature  
      IVs: 0 Atk  
      - Thunderbolt  
      - Thunder Wave  
      - Role Play  
      - Taunt  
      Thundurus is great, as well. With tailwind rampant in the format, having a second, more permanent, speed control option allows me to neutralise the other team’s tailwind. The secondary taunt option is great as well, mostly for when I can’t bring crobat. The fact that it gets the 2HKO on Kyogre is not really helpful, as it gets KOd by it anyway, but it’s the best offensive option I have on thundy, and I mostly use it for support anyway. Role Play is simply awesome, especially with Prankster. It’ll probably not be as good later in the format, when it doesn’t have the surprise factor, but it’s still useful quite often. The spread, explained by these calcs:
      196+ Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Double-Edge vs. 220 HP / 36 Def Thundurus: 200-236 (109.8 - 129.6%) -- 12.9% chance to OHKO 76 SpA Thundurus Thunderbolt vs. 20 HP / 0 SpD Primal Kyogre: 90-108 (50.5 - 60.6%) -- guaranteed 2HKO Outspeeds Max Speed Positive base 100s and Max Speed Neutral base 115s (M-Ray) by 1 point  
      Weaknesses to the team
      As I already mentioned, I have a slot that is used way less than I’d like. There are a few situations, pokémon and archetypes that give me trouble, though.
      Xerneas gets a geomancy, and I either: haven’t dealt enough damage yet, don’t have Tailwind up, or, I don’t have anything to take its Dazzling Gleams/Moonblasts. This situation happens rarely, but if I mispredict a couple times, or bring the wrong four, I will lose. This is something I definitely can play around though. Calm Mind. You might have noticed that my team is all Special, which means I have little recourse if a Cress or a Sylveon (or something), gets off two or three CMs.Crobat is a great option for this, but paired with recovery, these situations can get out of hand quick. This means a good option for me would be something physical. Maybe a Scizor or Bisharp. PuP Kang. Kang already deals tons of damage to most my team, but with only one boost, I often have no way to win. This is especially true if I can’t get Tailwind up. Something that is better against Kang could therefore also be an option. Ferrothorn? Something with Will-O-Wisp? Trick Room, provided they can get it up. I have only had TR go up about three or four times, and I won at least two of those matches, though. It does definitely put me in a rough spot, and I definitely struggle with it. Both Ferrothorn, Scizor and Bisharp will help my matchup against it, though, on accord of speed and/or Priority. Conclusion
      I’m really happy with how Double Primals, double Tailwind, and double Taunt works in this format. It’s more how to fill in the last slot I’m a bit unsure of.
    • Dragon Dance Revolution: Top 16 Winter Regionals Team and Tournament Report
      By DaWoblefet
      Hello there! My name is Leonard Craft III, but some of you might know me simply as DaWoblefet. I’ve played Pokémon since I was young, but I never truly got into the competitive scene until Winter Regionals 2013, where Surf Latios piloted me to a 9th place finish in Swiss, just out of the Top Cut. Determined to do better, I joined Nugget Bridge. Over the past few years, I’ve met players better than me and, by playing them and reading about their thought processes in battle, I’ve learned a lot. Going into Regionals, I had three goals: play on stream, make Top Cut, and place well in the Premier Challenge the following day. I’m proud to say that I accomplished all three of those goals.
      My brother Koby (Foob) and I had arrived at the convention center early, so we had about an hour to kill because we showed up at TCG registration time. I spent a lot of that time collecting StreetPasses, checking out the stream equipment, and saying hi to the competitors I knew as they walked in. I did my good deed for the day by trading a Focus Sash to Matthew Carter’s (mattj) daughter, Lilly, and wished her good luck in the Juniors division. I got pumped up as I saw Beau Berg (Oreios) arrive on the scene. He and I had teambuilt together, so I was excited (and a bit nervous!) to see how well his team would work out in the Seniors division today.
      I already filled out a team sheet online, so while others finished writing their teams down in the registration line, I talked with those around me about weird gimmicks like Scarf Sheer Cold Articuno + Mirror Move Pidgeot. Of course, the attendance of Aaron Zheng (Cybertron) sparked a lot of conversation too. After registration, my brother introduced some of his friends to me: Jacob Waller (Thank Swalot), Ian McLaughlin (raikoo), and first-year Master Ian Combs (kittykatterz). It was really obvious they were good friends, and I chuckled a lot when Thank Swalot kept revealing everything about kittykatterz’s team to me, much to kittykatterz’s dismay. Soon after this, I spotted another good friend: Mario Serrano (Mario C). Thanks to our annual warmup battle, I had a lot more confidence in my team and in my ability to play well today. And speaking of my team…
      The Team
           
      Before Regionals, I was having a lot of trouble transitioning back from the hyper aggressive VGC ’14 format to the bulkier VGC ’15 format. Particularly, I was using teams that might only have one or two Protects on them. My Pokemon always wanted four moves other than Protect and I was Choice locking a lot of my Pokémon. While there’s nothing wrong with not running Protect or using Choiced Pokémon, I personally had a lot of trouble fighting my way out of losing situations without Protect.
      Stuck in that mode where it feels like every team you make is garbage, I did some research on what other players were using. Angel Miranda’s (CT MikotoMisaka) winning Premier Challenge team caught my eye and gave me the inspiration I needed to work myself out of my team building rut.

      Salamence @ Salamencite
      Nature: Jolly (+Spd, -Sp. Atk)
      IVs: 31/31/31/x/31/31
      EVs: 52 HP / 172 Atk / 4 Def / 84 Sp. Def / 196 Spd
      Ability: Intimidate –> Aerilate
      Moveset:
      – Frustration
      – Dragon Dance
      – Roost
      – Protect
      Salamence was definitely the star of the team. Mega Salamence’s raw power means Aerilate-boosted Frustration does about as much damage as Jolly Mega Kangaskhan’s Return, which is absolutely ridiculous. Combine that with Dragon Dance, and you have a Pokémon that does over 50% to a bulky Rotom-Wash that resists Frustration. Mega Salamence’s natural bulk is superb as well and, on top of that, the threat of a special set with Hyper Voice can cause opponents to misplay if they can’t guess whether or not Mega Salamence is physical or special.
      Originally, I had Double-Edge on Mega Salamence, because the ability to OHKO Mega Charizard Y, some Sylveon, and Terrakion is really good. However, in testing I found myself KOing myself as quickly as I was KOing my opponents, and the difference in KO power between Frustration and Double-Edge after a Dragon Dance isn’t very noticeable.  Speaking of which, I chose Frustration over Return to counter any Smeargle who wanted to try to Transform into Mega Salamence. 1 BP Frustrations do about as much damage as the saddest Eruption from 2013 Worlds and, besides, I liked Frustration for aesthetic purposes anyway. I chose Roost over coverage moves like Earthquake or Fire Blast because the damage output from those moves were too low for my standards. I also loved being able to get rid of Rock- and Ice-type weaknesses, an Electric neutrality, and low HP. It made Sucker Punch wars with Bisharp considerably easier to deal with as well.
      I started my EV spread with the Jolly Nature, because getting outsped by Terrakion’s Rock Slide and Gengar’s Icy Wind are both very bad things that can happen with Adamant Nature. I definitely wanted to outspeed Timid Gengar and Adamant Talonflame, but since Mega Lucario was so close and gave my team a bit of trouble in theory, I opted to invest 196 Speed EVs to outspeed it as well. After a Dragon Dance, Mega Salamence outspeeds almost everything relevant in the metagame, including bulky Suicune after Tailwind, Scarf Landorus-T, and Modest Venusaur in the Sun.
      I can’t remember exactly what the Attack investment did, but I do know from my notes that +1 Helping Hand Frustration OHKOs a lot of Suicune. In addition, my Mega Salamence also KOes semi-bulky Mega Kangaskhan with a neutral Frustration after two hits of Rocky Helmet recoil. The bulk survives an Ice Beam from the Suicune Zach Droegkamp (Braverius) used at a Premier Challenge, and it makes Terrakion’s Rock Slide a 3HKO most of the time. Basically, I wanted to be able to survive anti-Landorus-T Ice Beams with ease while also assuring those Ice Beams did under 50% after Mega Salamence lost its Flying-type while Roosting.

      Clefable @ Sitrus Berry
      Nature: Bold (+Def, -Atk)
      IVs: 31/1/31/31/31/31
      EVs: 244 HP / 164 Def / 28 Sp. Atk / 68 Sp. Def / 4 Spd
      Ability: Unaware
      Moveset:
      – Follow Me
      – Ice Beam
      – Helping Hand
      – Protect
      Clefable is one of the best Follow Me users in the format, and for good reason. Clefable’s Fairy-typing and natural bulk allows it to stick around for multiple turns, and you never want to give free turns to a Mega Salamence. This Clefable is a near carbon copy of Angel’s and, honestly, that’s because the set worked so well for me.
      Follow Me is the most important and most used move of the set, redirecting super-effective Ice Beams against Mega Salamence, Will-o-Wisps targeted at my physical attackers, and all sorts of other attacks. Similarly to the way Sejun played Pachirisu last year, the threat of Follow Me sometimes allowed me to use Ice Beam or Helping Hand, because my opponent was just going to target Clefable anyway. I preferred Ice Beam over Moonblast because OHKOing Landorus-T is awesome, and it’s good generic chip damage against a lot of the metagame. Protect lets me block attacks I wouldn’t want to take otherwise, particularly Sludge Bomb, Iron Head, and Taunt. It also helps me stall out Tailwind or Trick Room, maneuver into a better position and, well, do what Protect does for every Pokémon.
      I must give credit to Angel for his EV spread, as it met all the goals I wanted Clefable to achieve: survive Aegislash’s Flash Cannon, OHKO Landorus-T 15/16 of the time with Ice Beam, and have enough physical bulk to take attacks like Bisharp’s Iron Head and Mega Kangaskhan’s Double-Edge. That’s why there are 8 EVs shifted from HP to Defense; it takes physical attacks marginally better while still surviving Aegislash’s Flash Cannon.
      Why not Clefairy though? Well, Clefairy does have a great Ability with Friend Guard and does technically have more bulk with Eviolite, but I still prefer the advantages Clefable provides. Clefable’s Sitrus Berry makes it bulkier than Clefairy over a set of turns, and Clefable’s respectable base 95 Special Attack stat means Ice Beam will dent Pokémon that are weak to it. Unaware also works as a nice bonus to prevent boosted Pokémon from being able to set up on Clefable, then swat it next turn with a +6 Aqua Jet, +2 Return, or +2 Bullet Punch. All of these are small reasons by themselves but, when combined, it can become really noticeable in how Fairy-type redirection is played.

      Bisharp @ Focus Sash
      Nature: Adamant (+Atk, -Sp. Atk)
      IVs: 31/31/31/x/31/31
      EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spd
      Ability: Defiant
      Moveset:
      – Sucker Punch
      – Knock Off
      – Iron Head
      – 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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