Reports politoed_byryuzaki

Published on September 3rd, 2012 | by Scott

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Battling in the Heavy Rain: Press X To Bubble, Worlds LCQ and Top 10 Report

HELLO! While most of my articles here tend to be me analyzing what other players are doing with their teams, I somehow wound up playing in Worlds this year, so I figured I’d write about my team and experience in Worlds a little. I got into Worlds through the Last Chance Qualifier after getting eliminated by one of my patented amazing opponent win percentages during US Nationals, only to once again get eliminated through having a good enough record but a horrific opponent win percentage again in Worlds, finishing 10th at 4-2. While I was a little bitter about not cutting at Nationals, I think all of the players who finished above me in Worlds this year are better players than I am who deserved to finish above me. 10th is certainly lower than I hoped to finish, but I learned a lot about myself as a player and about the metagame from playing in Worlds and am grateful to have had the opportunity to play in the event. My team isn’t as creative as Wolfe Glick’s (Wolfey) or as sound as Ray Rizzo’s (Ray) — which is probably why they both did a lot better than me — but I think this will still be an insightful (if far too long) report.

[Read about Ray Rizzo's world championship winning team in his team analysis, Third Time's the Charm, and Wolfe Glick's creative runner-up team in his team analysis, Eggscelent Execution. - Ed.]

Speed Control and Early Team Building

I think to be successful consistently in high level play you need reliable ways to control the movement order within a turn. If you look at all of the teams that ended up near the top of Worlds, you’ll find everyone used one or two different ways to control speed (Thunder Wave, Icy Wind, Trick Room, Tailwind, weather abilities). Typically, rather than starting with a Pokémon or two, I tend to start with how I want to control Speed when I make teams because I find that tends to be what restricts my choices the most in addition to defining how a team plays the most. As usual, Speed control was where I started after choking my way out of Nationals.

I had quite a bit of experience with all of the reasonable ways to control speed going into Worlds. I had built around mostly Icy Wind during Regionals, and while I still think it’s a pretty strong move, it is my least favorite form of Speed control that actually works because it can be switched around and the group of Pokémon who can use it effectively is pretty limiting. Thunder Wave was probably the most common form of Speed control in Worlds thanks to Thundurus, but I went into the tournament expecting Thundurus to be the the second most common Pokémon (after Cresselia) and didn’t want to play a bunch of mirrors due to how important the fully paralyzed RNG becomes. I had also figured after the success of Calm Thundurus with Thunder Wave and Swagger and Cresselia with Thunder Wave and Swagger in Japan (see: Satoru Masukata’s winning team) there would be a lot of teams running similar stuff in Worlds, and I don’t like trying to win a lot of mirrors with that kind of strategy since it invites RNG to decide the game instead of the players. I also had the concern that using a lot of Thunder Wave wouldn’t be consistent enough — I think while some people who correctly used it sparingly as a Speed control tool (such as Wolfe) rather than as if it was Amoonguss’ Spore proved it could be used as part of a successful strategy, most of the people who used teams built around it wound up around 3-3 because the RNG evened out, including Satoru himself.

With those options on the shelf, I was left with weather and Trick Room. While they both have their weaknesses as well, I felt most comfortable with Trick Room going into Worlds after using it at Nationals and liked the idea of supplementing it with weather to give a reasonably threatening fast mode to make it harder for opponents to commit to stopping Trick Room. I think running pure Trick Room is really unreliable in this metagame due to  the inevitable bad matchups with teams that commit very hard to stopping Trick Room’s set-up and teams with Trick Room sweepers of their own that have a good matchup with whatever sweepers I would end up picking, so I decided to play out the Trick Room + weather idea. Needing fast sweepers, a Trick Room set-up Pokémon, and Trick Room sweepers eats a lot of slots, so it was important to have overlap between roles both to give me options in team select and to fit everything on one team: something the team synergy weather creates would help with.

I ended up trying a lot of different variations of that general idea. Mike P. (skarm) had used Rain/TR at Canadian Nationals (a video of Mike’s Rain/TR playing essentially a mirror match in Canadian Nationals can be found here), so I knew I had a starting point with Rain if I wanted to go that route, but I opted to give the other weathers a look first. I worked with Sun/TR briefly, but wasn’t very excited about how the pieces fit together and how ignorable the Chlorophyll Pokémon tend to be, as well as how bad Ninetales is in general (apparently I should have looked harder at manual Sun). Ray had tried a Sand/TR team I got a copy of to play around with a bit but found pretty quickly that I didn’t think Sand’s fast mode was threatening enough and that it was too tough to do meaningful damage with that type of a team due to needing both Excadrill and Tyranitar, who I didn’t like the synergy of. I took a brief look at Hail but didn’t seriously consider it because it has so few tricks compared to the other weathers, so I ended up falling back on Rain. I started out by using the team Mike used for Canadian Nationals — which was a very sparsely modified version of a team made by a Japanese player who goes by the name of R justice — and ended up gradually changing it until it became the team I used for Worlds LCQ and then Worlds itself.

While the combination of Rain and Trick Room I ended up with didn’t make for an impenetrable combination (teams with Taunt, an opposing weather — especially Sun — and Heatran are really difficult matchups, which I apparently underestimated the probability of running to, and bulky Thundurus has a tendency to get to do too much before I can kill it), I felt like both modes covered each other fairly well and that I ended up with a team that was at least capable of winning games even if I couldn’t keep Rain or Trick Room up in spite of the obvious disadvantage when I wasn’t able to do so.

I originally forgot to mention Tailwind in this section about Speed control because Tailwind sucks. Don’t use Tailwind.

The Team

kingdracresseliapolitoedscizorlatioshitmontop

The previous version of this team, which Mike used in Canada, featured Metagross and Hydreigon over Scizor and Latios. I think in general Metagross and Hydreigon are better Pokémon than the two I ended up using because they’re bulkier and easier to get in and out of the battle because of their resistances, but I preferred the typing of the new Pokémon for this team and found the team worked a lot better with them on it. Metagross was the first Pokémon I removed because even though I think other than Cresselia it is probably the best Pokémon in the VGC 2012 metagame, having both a Rain mode and a Trick Room Metagross mode on my team made Gastrodon really irritating to deal with and made matchups with Ludicolo shaky. While it wasn’t a gamebreaker, I also have a hard time fitting Bullet Punch on Metagross and felt like having priority from that slot was particularly important to keep my Steel-type relevant because I wound up playing outside of Trick Room frequently. The last kicker for me switching to Scizor was Scizor’s ability to deal with enemy Metagross when the two Steel-types were isolated, since I had played a lot of Cresselia/Metagross mirrors in practice and didn’t really want my Worlds performance to come down to who won those. After dropping Metagross I found I didn’t have enough reliable ways to removing Fighting-type Pokémon, which were pretty annoying at that point since they did a lot of damage to everyone but Cresselia and completely mashed Hydreigon, so I decided to drop Hydreigon and auditioned about 10 different Pokémon in the team’s final slot before ending up with Latios. In retrospect, it probably should have been the first thing I tried because of the other Pokémon swap. In addition to helping me with Gastrodon, Ludicolo, Metagross, and a few other Pokemon, Scizor’s Bug-typing fulfilled the “eat Cresselia’s brains” slot in my team that Hydreigon Dark-typing had been covering, and by replacing Hydreigon with Latios, I regained the coverage I previously had with Metagross’ Psychic STAB.

While anyone could look at the six Pokémon I used and tell you I would prefer to play with my Trick Room or Rain mode, one thing I really liked about this team was that I was completely comfortable playing with any combination of the four Pokémon and with any two Pokémon as my leads. Of all the teams I played this year, I thought this team had the best collection of individual Pokémon, with all six of them being pretty decent brawlers regardless of the circumstances. As a group, the team was flexible enough that while many combinations of Pokémon I liked to use had potential bad matchups, if I picked appropriately in team preview there wasn’t too much that could give me a lot of trouble. My least favorite Pokémon to battle by far was Heatran, which might seem a little odd given that I had a partial Rain team, but Cresselia, Latios, and Scizor basically couldn’t damage it at all, so if I couldn’t keep Rain up (or worse, if my opponent got Sun up) it was pretty difficult for me to take down. Taunt in general was pretty annoying because of how hard I leaned on Trick Room, but in many cases I could either still get Trick Room up against it by using Fake Out or by just setting it up a few turns into the game. When appropriate, I always had the option of playing the Speed game against teams with Taunt, too, and many Taunters often had to be careful: for instance, one of my opponents had Taunt Tyranitar, but didn’t lead it the first game, likely due to the threat of my Rain mode, allowing me to get Trick Room up uninhibited.

kingdra
Kingdra (F) @ Life Orb
Trait: Swift Swim
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SAtk / 252 Spd
Modest Nature (+SAtk, -Atk)
- Draco Meteor
- Muddy Water
- Substitute
- Protect

While this Kingdra is most famous for its ineptitude in the Canadian finals, mine didn’t have too many skarm moments, other than it (literally) not being able to hit Dan L.’s (dtrain) Scizor to save its scaley life all series. I think for most teams with a partial rain option Ludicolo is actually a better Pokémon than Kingdra because its typing lets it out-battle opponents a little better than Kingdra, but since I felt pretty comfortable with my Gastrodon match-up and needed Muddy Water instead of Surf to avoid blowing up my own team, I went the Kingdra route and was pretty pleased with what I got out of it.

There is nothing subtle about what this Kingdra is doing: it uses Swift Swim to swim SUPER fast and then smashes you with powerful attack moves. More importantly, however, Kingdra’s presence forces opponents to respect my non-Trick Room mode a little more than with any other Swift Swimmer (or with the other fast weather Pokémon I tested), which was Kingdra’s main role on this team. Life Orb Draco Meteor created a lot of pressure for me every time Kingdra was on the field, leading to a lot of wins where I predicted correctly on which target my opponent would try to switch or Protect and blew up the other with Meteor. The synergy of Draco Meteor and Substitute is something out of Picasso, but I ended up needing the extra power from Meteor rather than Dragon Pulse’s consistency against several targets, so I had to make it work. Substitute ended up being pretty fantastic to both stall when Kingdra was focused and to help me out against against opponents that were trying to slow me other than Thundurus (what clueless developer thought Prankster was a good idea, anyway…), particularly shining during a match in LCQ against someone spamming Confuse Ray.

The one thing that surprised me about Kingdra is how much I liked Life Orb. I think as a community we tend to view it as an inferior option to Gems for the most part because of the health loss drawback and the drop in power, but I love having an item that applies to any of my attacks and that I can use to boost Draco Meteor more than once in the same battle.  The games I managed to Muddy Water->Draco Meteor->Switch and then Draco Meteor again later tended to be pretty convincing victories because of Kingdra… It added up to a lot more damage than I’d have gotten off of a Gem.

cresselia
Cresselia (F) @ Sitrus Berry
Trait: Levitate
EVs: 252 HP / 180 SAtk / 76 SDef
IVs: Speed 2
Sassy Nature (+SDef, -Spd)
- Ice Beam
- Trick Room
- Swagger
- Psyshock

I like Cresselia to have some amount of offense because while its Special Attack stat leaves something to be desired, it has the right coverage moves to be a factor offensively, taking out enemy Dragons and the omnipresent Hitmontop fairly easily. 180 Special Attack is the point where Cresselia always kills 4 Hp Salamence, which tends to be good enough as far as offensive investment. The rest of my stats are invested toward making me as bulky as possible with a bias toward Special Defense, because if I commit to setting Trick Room up early in the battle and die while trying to do so it is usually pretty much game over and I found special attackers were the only ones who had a real chance of succeeding at that thanks to Hitmontop. Sitrus Berry is there instead of Leftovers for the same reason: in most battles, Leftovers does more healing, but I wanted the burst healing to help me get Trick Room up when I needed it. Cresselia is minimum Speed to allow Scizor and Hitmontop to be as slow as possible while still moving after Cresselia in Trick Room.

Surprisingly, the one part of this moveset that really didn’t work for me enough at Worlds was Swagger. I think if I had used Metagross instead of Scizor I would have had better results with it, but the combination of Scizor’s flimsiness and the difficulty it had hitting some common Pokemon like Zapdos and Thundurus for enough damage to justify it staying in made it hard to get much use out of Swaggering it, and I think I only remember using Swagger to target an opponent’s Pokémon four times all weekend, preferring to get the reliable damage from one of my attacks instead. I enjoy Swaggering my Berry-holding Pokémon enough that I’m not sure I’d have removed it even knowing what I know now about the matches I played, but it was pretty disappointing for me at Worlds.

politoed
Politoed (F) @ Water Gem
Trait: Drizzle
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 248 SAtk / 4 SDef
IVs: 31/2/31/30/31/3
Quiet Nature (+SAtk, -Spd)
- Hydro Pump
- Ice Beam
- Hidden Power [Grass]
- Protect

I really like Politoed. I am surprised to be writing this because for most of the year I thought it was an incredibly overvalued Pokémon relative to its power that handicapped the teams it was on for perma-weather in a similar way to Ninetales. The more I used Politoed, however, the more I started to respect it. I think it’s somewhat likely if I do something like this team again with BW2 tutors available I’ll give in and use a more defensive set with Helping Hand, but I think this sort of Politoed was the way to go this year and surprisingly it was actually very effective as a Pokémon in addition to a rainbot. It isn’t Politoed’s fault so many people use it badly! :(

When I first started trying this team concept out with what skarm used in Canada, I viewed it as a Metagross-(and later Scizor-)centric team because usually the goal was to create positive situations for them rather than Kingdra, and also because the creator of the original team seems to have an unhealthy love of Metagross. The more I played it, the more obvious it was that this was Politoed’s show, as perhaps would be more expected from a team with Kingdra on it. Politoed is this team’s most versatile Pokémon: it sets Rain to help Kingdra’s offense and Scizor’s defense, it does surprisingly significant damage on its own, its lack of reliance of Cresselia’s Speed lets it be the slowest Pokémon on the team to deal with other Trick Room Pokémon, it does the most reliable damage to Gastrodon, and most importantly it completely shuts down other people trying to use Trick Room + Swagger + Lum. I expect that last part to surprise people a little, but really, it was that quality of Politoed that made me stick with this team more than anything else. Since non-Macho Braco/etc. Cresselia’s minimum speed is 81, most people who use Swagger strategies leave their sweepers at 82 speed to be as slow as possible while receiving Swagger at the right time — much higher than Politoed’s 68. With Water Gem, all reasonable Scizor and all Metagross who had fewer combined HP/Special Defense EVs than about 400 are always KOd by Water Gem Hydro Pump, quickly putting an end to their sweep attempts. Politoed basically won one series in both the LCQ and Worlds itself just by existing to exploit that scenario. Water Gem Hydro Pump in the Rain absolutely chunks anything else that doesn’t resist it as well, allowing it one big shot to remove a major threat before it is relegated to being the mediocre attacker everyone seems to expect it to be all the time. I hate relying on Hydro Pump, but Scald doesn’t get either of those KOs I mentioned or put the same dent in whatever target on the field I can smack that doesn’t resist water, making Scald not even worth considering this time.

The rest of Politoed’s moves are obvious. Protect is probably more common in VGC that it needs to be, but it was nonnegotiable for this one since I had to be particular about when I let my weather control die. Hidden Power Grass is for Gastrodon, who isn’t a huge issue for the team since everyone can hit it decently hard, but is still something that can stall me out if I misplay and prevent Politoed from annihilating anything with Hydro Pump, so HP Grass was pretty useful in theory. I didn’t fight many at Worlds, but usually when I played them in practice I tried to avoid setting Trick Room up so I could Bug Bite + HP Grass them since minspeed Gastrodon is slower than Politoed and getting Bug Bite off first prevents Rindo from blocking the HP Grass KO if they’re holding it, whereas I get hit and don’t get the KO if Trick Room is up. Ice Beam was actually unused to the point I considered dropping it for Scald, but I’d hate to be staring down Salamence or something and not have it, so I hung on just in case.

scizor
Scizor (M) @ Lum Berry
Trait: Technician
EVs: 244 HP / 228 Atk / 36 SDef
IVs: Speed 25
Adamant Nature (+Atk, -SAtk)
- Acrobatics
- Bug Bite
- Bullet Punch
- Protect

Scizor was the star of the show in practice, but he had a rough go of things during Worlds thanks to all of the random HP Fires, Thundurus, Zapdos, that bizarre minspeed Specs Tyranitar in LCQ, and even a couple Heatran it came up against. It is perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay to Scizor to say that if I had expected the metagame to be stacked against it quite as badly as it was I would not have even been carrying it, but it still found a way to at least be effective enough to keep me picking it in spite of a pretty challenging environment. Other than Feint, Bug Bite is my favorite move in the game because of how much resist berries tend to irritate me and because of the surprise kills removing them can net me, and Scizor makes better use of it than any other Pokémon, helping out his friends by eating delicious Chople and Rindo Berries (but not Haban Berries because Bullet Punch + Draco Meteor will get the KO) while doing meaningful damage. Scizor also owns what is probably the best priority move in the metagame, which was a big selling point to me, since every time I make a team I always wish I had priority but never seem to be able to fit it in.

Scizor did his job against the Ludicolo and Gastrodon I came across as far as improving the matchup more than Metagross would have, but I think I missed Metagross’ bulk a little more than I expected to. Scizor doesn’t play quite as much like a traditional Steel-type Pokemon as Metagross or Heatran does just because his lower BST causes him to give up a lot of the bulk those two enjoy, which forced me to be a little more careful using him to absorb attacks, but considering the circumstances I’m pretty pleased with what I got out of Scizor. Scizor is also one of my favorite Pokémon – I have fond memories of using him in my original playthrough of Gold Version what must have been more than a decade ago now — so it was neat to finally get to use him in a real life event. He also got to beat up a couple Metagross, so at least I got to enjoy that part of my decision making working out pretty well.

The defensive EVs let him always survive max Modest Gem/Specs Thunderbolts from Thundurus and Zapdos. While he doesn’t want to duel either of those Pokemon, there were a couple times (most notably Round 6, Game 2 vs Flame) where I let myself take gemmed Thunderbolts knowing I would survive in order to chunk the Thundurus/Zapdos’ partner. Scizor is one Speed faster than Cresselia to be as slow as it can be while still receiving Swaggers before it attacks in Trick Room.

latios
Latios (M) @ Dragon Gem
Trait: Levitate
EVs: 52 HP / 4 Def / 248 SAtk / 4 SDef / 200 Spd
IVs: 31/2/31/30/31/30
Timid Nature (+Spd, -Atk)
- Psyshock
- Draco Meteor
- Hidden Power [Fire]
- Protect

I’m still kind of surprised I wound up using Latios because for most of the year I did not think very highly of it. While its combination of power and Speed is very attractive, its defensive stats are somewhat sketchy compared to some of its competitors, and the weaknesses to Dark and Ghost hurt a lot early in the season when Sucker Punch Hitmontop was still popular (I actually got killed by one of these at Worlds — apparently Germany missed the boat on dropping Sucker Punch) and Scarf Chandelure was seeing more use as a VGC 2011 holdover. As the year went on I started warming up to Latios mostly because of how much the metagame centralized around Dragons: when you have two Pokémon that you know are going to kill each other in a single shot if a defensive item isn’t present, having the fastest Pokémon in that group is pretty advantagous, and Latios and Latias tie for fastest Dragon. This spot on the team was held originally by Hydreigon, and while I think Hydreigon is in general a better Pokémon than Latios due to its slightly more useful bulk and typing, I liked how Latios complimented this team a lot more. Having something that tended to be the fastest Pokémon on the field without the need for weather or Trick Room was also helpful to avoid ending up in situations some Trick Room teams fall into where if they can’t control the field effects they’re getting threatened and not threatening anything back because of the gap in speed.

The moveset and EV spread are not particularly creative. I was just fast enough to be faster than max speed Garchomp (I couldn’t tie other Latios because of HP Fire, and would rather play around not being speed tied than gamble on a 50/50 where one of us are going to die, anyway), maxed Special Attack, and used the leftover EVs to make myself slightly less flimsy. Psyshock is there to deal with fighting Pokémon, Draco Meteor is the Pokémon version of the Staples easy button, and HP Fire gave me extra help against Ferrothorn and Scizor, which were pretty annoying to deal with in general. Dragon Gem Draco Meteor isn’t the kill button it was early in the season due to the community wising up and EVing most Pokémon to survive it, but it does create a lot of pressure and guarantees kills on basically anything that has been weakened at all. It also went a long way toward improving my match-up with Calm Thundurus. If Thundurus is EVed correctly I can’t kill it one shot, but I apply a ton of pressure and can pick up the kill with Fake Out, Feint, or Bullet Punch+ Draco Meteor if my opponent opens themselves up to it. One thing I liked about leading Latios into Thundurus was also that if they didn’t have Taunt to stop Cresselia’s Trick Room (and sometimes even if they did) they would misread my intention because I had something fast out and paralyze Latios while I Trick Roomed, essentially giving me an extra Trick Room sweeper and putting me in a much better position for the first turn of Trick Room than I’d have been in if they’d done literally anything else.

hitmontop
Hitmontop (M) @ Persim Berry
Trait: Intimidate
EVs: 252 HP / 220 Atk / 36 SDef
IVs: Speed 16
Adamant Nature (+Atk, -SAtk)
- Fake Out
- Rock Slide
- Close Combat
- Feint

While I’d make some minor changes to it if I had Worlds 12 to do over knowing the other 32 teams, Hitmontop was the Pokémon I used the most this year and this was my favorite of the sets I’ve tried with it. While Fake Out and Close Combat are givens for Hitmontop, the other two moves are worth explaining. I think Feint is probably the most underutilized move in the game right now. Its popularity is finally increasing, but I think it’s still something more people need to take a look at: it should be on almost every team that is trying to win battles by taking big chunks of damage out of opponents. While I think the initial attraction to the move of Feinting into Protected Fake Outs tends to be somewhat unreliable against unfamiliar opponents, I love Feint later in games when the opponent is a little more restricted and Protects are easier to read. It is also particularly strong when Trick Room is in its last few turns and people are trying to stall it out, since often no matter what the opponent chooses to do Feint ensures I can take a Pokémon. Feint is even one of those moves that I think gets better after your opponent has seen it, because once they know it is there it creates a lot of pressure that leads them into making bad moves while trying not to get burned by Feint. The nicest thing about putting Feint on Hitmontop is that it tends to function as a support Pokémon rather than a sweeper to begin with, so you’re not wasting as much by spending a turn on it to help another Pokémon attack as you would be if you were using Feint on something like Scizor that tends to do more damage per turn than Hitmontop.

The stranger choices I made were the Persim Berry and Rock Slide. I found the closer to Worlds I got, the more often I was getting forced into leading Cresselia/Hitmontop if I wanted to set TR up reliably in practice (thanks a lot, Japan — please stop popularizing Taunt), and while I usually either got Trick Room up or got to blow up the enemy Fake Out user for free depending on the situation, I was ending up in a lot of unfavorable Turn 2s where I had gotten Trick Room up like I wanted, but had taken damage to do so and then had the troublesome situation where my two support Pokemon were out wasting turns of Trick Room and generally not being very threatening. One solution to this I liked was giving Hitmontop a Rock-type move and Persim, since Thundurus had a tendency to be one of the Pokémon alive on the other side and the ability to increase Hitmontop’s power both made it an actual threat and encouraged my opponent to kill it so I could bring in one of the actual sweepers safely if it wasn’t safe to bring them in normally. I used Rock Slide over Stone Edge because I played a decent amount of games in practice where I could kill one Pokémon even with the weaker Rock Slide and do some chip damage to the other Pokémon, because it gave me an extra way to remove low HP Pokémon without dedicating an attack exclusively to killing them, and to help with Hitmontop’s role as a support Pokémon a little more in situations where it would get stuck out and not be doing anything too productive since at least Rock Slide can flinch. This is the the most offensively I’ve ever EVed Hitmontop, which is a little strange with it definitely playing a support role on this team, but I found it was necessary to give it a little more power so Swaggered attacks were actually doing meaningful damage.

Persim wound up being a little weaker than I hoped because I ended up with Cresselia and Hitmontop stranded on the field less often than I expected to, and while my opponents were spamming Thunder Wave left and right, I didn’t get face off with Swagger as often as I’d have preferred to, since part of why I had both Lum and Persim to begin with was to switch into enemy Swaggers to punish them. Rock Slide also wound up being a little less powerful than I expected it to be because I only fought one Volcarona all weekend and the RNG didn’t really let me attack that battle anyway and in most cases where I could have used Rock Slide’s spread to pick up a kill and change I chose to use moves that couldn’t miss to ensure the one kill and do a little less total damage instead. I think if I could do it again I’d just run Fight Gem and switch to Stone Edge to pressure Thundurus harder, but Rock Slide was still pretty strong.

The Speed IV made it as slow as possible while still being faster than Cresselia and Scizor in Trick Room. Hitmontop needed to be faster than Cresselia so that Cresselia could Swagger Hitmontop before it attacked in Trick Room, and I made it one faster than Scizor because I don’t like my Pokémon to be speed tied so that they move in a predictable order. I wanted Scizor to maintain its speed tie with other people using the same strategy, since it could fight enemy Scizor and Metagross and Hitmontop couldn’t, so Hitmontop got the extra point. If I’m fighting out of Trick Room I would rather my opponent Close Combats me first, so being slow was kind of convenient for Hitmontop that way, and if I’m not investing in Speed anyway I don’t want to gamble on hoping I’m faster than other people’s Fake Outs, so I didn’t mind the lack of Speed from that perspective, either, since I had to play as if I would Fake Out second regardless.

Team Synergies and Lead Combinations

While for the most part I could lead any two Pokemon and select any four Pokemon and be fine, these were some combinations I used particularly frequently or otherwise thought were noteworthy.

hitmontoplatios

Hitmontop + Latios

This was maybe the only lead combination I used frequently that didn’t actually work toward setting up Trick Room or Kingdra. On some level I was loathe to run this because if it didn’t work out I wasn’t in a good position for the rest of the battle, but the fact it didn’t seem to play into anything I wanted to do led to a lot of people leading Pokémon that weren’t very good against this duo in hopes of shutting down one or both of my main modes on turn 1. This was kind of a high risk duo, but having the option of Feint or Fake Out+Draco Meteor sometimes netted me some early kills and always at least netted me a switch because of the pressure, allowing me to do things like get Cresselia in to Trick Room safely after the opponent led something I couldn’t have Trick Roomed against on turn 1 anyway.

kingdraunown-questionpolitoedunown-question

Kingdra + Anyone + Politoed + Anyone

I tended to enjoy doing this a lot when I used my Rain mode because people had a tendency to vastly misjudge the damage if I had an opening to use Muddy Water and switched Politoed into the other position to turn the Rain on. Kingdra was also a really nice diversion if I wanted to do things the other way around and use Kingdra as bait for a Latios Draco Meteor or Cresselia Trick Room from the other lead position. Hitmontop was also a common choice in the lead spot next to Kingdra to either try to Fake Out + Substitute or Feint + Draco Meteor like the Latios/Top lead. Sometimes I picked Scizor as the other lead next to Kingdra if I expected non-HP Fire Cresselia to be led against me because Scizor is delightfully threatening if it can get in safely and turn 1 is as good of a way as any to make that happen, with the added bonus that there aren’t many leads that are strong against both of them. I didn’t play any Iron Ball Tyranitar or anything like that, but I don’t like leading Politoed when I’m using Rain to avoid having to worry about that sort of thing stopping my weather until turn 3 at the earliest, something this set-up worked nicely to avoid.

cresseliapolitoedunown-questionkingdra

Cresselia + Politoed + Anyone + Kingdra

I mention this specifically because I tried not to do it for two different reasons.

1) It doesn’t take Miss Cleo to figure out what the fourth Pokémon probably is if I lead Cresselia and use Trick Room, show Politoed and Scizor or Hitmontop, and then hide my fourth Pokémon until Trick Room expires. Being predictable loses games. I only went this route if my opponent’s team was constructed badly enough that I was pretty sure it would work even if they were expecting it.

2) It just isn’t that good. Politoed and Kingdra are super redundant offensively and Kingdra is one of the worst viable Pokemon in the game to try to switch in with, since I really don’t want it taking free damage. As a Life Orb user and the team’s most fragile sweeper, Kingdra had to be protected, which made this set-up pretty limiting, especially with Kingdra taking a good chunk of damage from everything but Water-type attacks.

hitmontopcresselia

Hitmontop + Cresselia

Not a very creative or interesting duo but very good at getting Trick Room up. I didn’t like doing this very much because it limits my momentum going into the Trick Room turns due to Hitmontop not being a real sweeper, but if I was worried about Taunt or Tyranitar and wanted to play Trick Room, Hitmontop tended to start battles. If I lead this duo and the opponent plays their side correctly with their own Himtontop + Taunt user (Fake Out Cresselia+Taunt turn 1, Taunt+whatever turn 2) I can’t stop the Taunt, but if they Fake Out my Top turn 1 I tended to Psyshock theirs instead of Trick Rooming the turn they should have Faked me Out if I suspected Taunt, and typically I would switch out on the 2nd turn if they decided to play it out correctly (which is part of why the previous grouping sucks — Latios was infinitely better offensively and defensively coming from the back in a bad situation than Kingdra). If Trick Room does get up, Swagger + Persim is available to let Hitmontop do some damage if I don’t want to switch. Often this sort of lead would draw Psyshocks to Hitmontop, allowing for easy switches to Scizor as I set Trick Room up.

cresseliascizor

Cresselia + Scizor

While it was rare I led this (but it did happen: if my opponent had garbage Trick Room set-up counters I’d just lead Cresselia + Scizor or Politoed and TR/Protect to get the situation I wanted on the first turn of Trick Room), the two synergize nicely on the team due to Cresselia supporting Scizor by setting up Trick Room and then Swaggering its Lum Berry, giving it the easy +2 Attack and removing its item so it can OHKO enemy Top and Volcarona with Acrobatics, Rotom Appliances and Cresselia with Bug Bite, and do ridiculous damage  to almost everything else with Bullet Punch. Scizor tends to be most troubled by special attackers, which Cresselia can also help deal with by at least making them reconsider staying in with Swagger, but I never seemed to pick that option in real life due to the risk involved when it didn’t work.

cresseliahitmontopscizorpolitoed

Cresselia + Hitmontop + Scizor + Politoed

I don’t think this grouping is particularly well rounded, but they ended up teaming up a lot against players who didn’t have strong Trick Room counters… of which there was a surprising amount. Politoed’s role tends to change a little in these matches because its major job tends to be Hydro Pumping whichever target Scizor would have the most trouble with, which was nearly always conveniently a target that was OHKOd by Water Gem Hydro Pump with Drizzle up. Politoed getting a couple Hydro Pumps off basically always ensured Cresselia and Scizor could clean up while Hitmonop annoyed the opposition with Intimidate and Fake Out.

Notes on Interesting Battles

I’m not going to do a turn-by-turn analysis of any of my battles because I wrote my notes to use rather than to write a warstory off of this time and played too many battles to remember them well enough to write off memory (not to mention that reading 27 battles would be pretty boring). There were a few matches that I thought were particularly insightful as far as how pieces in the team work or that were particularly meaningful to me so I will mention them briefly. Also, I’ve often been described as the type of guy who enjoys the sound of his own voice and that could also be why this report somehow isn’t over yet.

Alison M. (Fishy) — Round 3 LCQ

heatrangastrodonabomasnowcresselia hitmontopmarowak

I think in general my least favorite battles to play in real life events are the ones where I have played my opponent repeatedly with the same sort of teams we are using in the event. I also tend to perform badly when I’m battling friends in meaningful situations because I tend to get irritated having to play them and have trouble concentrating. Naturally, I ended up in the same part of the bracket as Alison, who I love and had battled about a billion times on Pokemon Online since Nationals. She is also the person who knocked me off in the last round of Swiss at Nationals to put me on the bubble for the second year in a row, which added some pressure here, since I’m sure if I had lost I would have gotten a lot of crap for it.

Alison was running a combination of Pokémon I wasn’t very excited about playing against. She had a lot of Pokémon and moves that were conditionally irritating for me to deal with such as Heatran, Gastrodon, an opposing weather, and a slower Trick Room mode of her own to discourage mine. She was as exasperated at having to play me as I was to play her, so I’m sure the people around us were quite confused about why we were talking so much and not as serious as everyone else.

Game 1 came down to a 3v2 where I was up one Pokémon but down significantly on health and needed to double target whichever Pokémon she decided not to Protect with correctly to finish off the game, which ended up going my way. Game 2 ended up being kind of funny because I led something that was not a particularly well synergized lead (Scizor/Kingdra) because I expected her to lead Cresselia and wanted to make sure I was threatening Heatran from turn 1 with something in case she led it to avoid giving it a free Substitute, as previous battles with her team had shown me that if I was going to lose, it was going to be because of Heatran. I ended up kind of hitting the jackpot because she ended up leading Cresselia/Abomasnow and wasn’t really able to do anything to my Pokemon from there, allowing me to get up 4-2 pretty quickly. Observant readers will notice this was exactly the type of situation I lost from against her at Nationals, and while I had a better situation this time since one of her last two was Heatran and I had Politoed to turn the Rain on and Kingdra available, I still played the endgame wrong and would have ended up with at least a tight finish if she hadn’t missed an important Heat Wave, leading to an easier win than I deserved. The 4-2 turn of Game 2 of this match where I misplayed a little (I forget the details, I think I made a switch I shouldn’t have) was the first of two times on Friday I kind of started getting a little panicky in my head thinking “Not again… not again…”, and I think if I had choked up Game 2 I would probably have gotten blown out in the third because of it.

Aita — Round 4 LCQ

ludicolopolitoedmusharnahariyamametagrosshydreigon

While I didn’t realize it at the time, my fourth round opponent was the winner of the Japan Cup, Japan’s National Qualifier Wi-Fi Tournament. He wound up making it to the top 8 in Japan and apparently used a similar team during the Wi-Fi event as he did in LCQ… which would have been fantastic information to have before I battled him rather than afterward.

This matchup ended up being kind of an interesting comparison of two different ways to build similar teams and the type of match-up advantages that can lead to more than anything else. My opponent had just eliminated Rushan (Firestorm) coming in, so I did at least know his six Pokémon before the match started. I wasn’t very excited about the coming battle when I heard what he had because of the similarities between our teams, since I assumed that like my team, his could go with either Rain or Trick Room. I’d kind of assumed he had a more Surf-centric team due to the decision to include Musharna instead of Cresselia, which wound up being correct, whereas the version I was running was more Trick Room-centric with the Rain mode meant at least as much as a diversion as a team strategy. He also had Absorb Bulb on his Ludicolo like he was Randy K. (R Inanimate) or something, which I was kind of pleased to face instead of another Kingdra because it takes time for him to power up using that sort of strategy and my team is pretty punishing when it is handed easy turns.

I ended up getting some of the only meaningful RNG I got all weekend in my favor in game one but didn’t exploit as well as I could have and ended up having to play the game down to a favorable duel between Metagross and Scizor. I had envisioned this sort of showdown occurring earlier in the match when I decided to include Scizor on my team, fighting enemy Metagross was a big part of why I had Scizor to begin with, so I felt pretty good about my choice in Steel-types as I took Game 1.

In game 2 I played a lot better and won pretty handily. He led Ludicolo/Politoed against me both games and tried to outplay me in the Speed game with those Pokemon, Metagross, and Hydreigon, but I picked at least a partial TR team both games and tended to have fairly clean control. His heavy use of Surf ended up being pretty exploitable: both games he wound up finishing his own Politoed off with Ludicolo on a turn where one of my Pokemon was Protecting, and in both games I got a fairly easy first turn off of him because his Ludicolo was (obviously) faster than his Politoed and did somewhat insignificant damage without the Absorb Bulb boost. Additionally, his lead Pokemon being so focused on just dealing early damage made it easy for me to get Trick Room up, under which Scizor tended to have an easy time smacking him around. I had inexplicably decided not to select Kingdra in the first game in favor of Latios, whereas in the second game Kingdra pretty much completely broke the game open due to its superior typing in the strategic mirror match, making it easy for Scizor to clean up. On a somewhat comedic note, I somehow managed to end up with Cresselia at about 30HP the first turn Scizor was out in both games, only to have my Swagger denied to me by Metagross Bullet Punch both times. Jerk Metagross. :(

Daniel L. (dtrain) — Round 5 LCQ

cresseliagyaradosrotom-washscizor rhyperiorhydreigon

Dtrain has a bit of a reputation for getting that famous Team Dan luck, but outside of my Kingdra having occasional bouts of whatever horrific eye problem skarm’s Kingdra has during this series we ended up having three pretty clean, tight games. I had expected based on our practice battles I’d do pretty well in this series, but he ended up playing a lot better against me in real life than he had in practice, and I’m infamous for not being very clutch in this sort of situation which led to things being a lot more exciting than I would have preferred.

I won Game 1 pretty convincingly in spite of him having a bunch of stuff that made it really difficult for me to inflict serious damage such as Light Screen Cresselia, Specially Defensive Taunt Gyarados, Washing Machine Rotom, and a Scizor of his own. In Game 2 I kind of went entered Synre-is-one-game-from-winning-something mode and played sloppily. I was hurt by a Muddy Water miss, but I started out in a pretty good spot and kinda slowly let myself lose it. In Game 2 and then again in Game 3 things got trickier because he actually decided to use Taunt with Gyarados, forcing me to be a little more resourceful. Early in Game 3 I had Trick Room up and made what I think was my single worst play of the weekend. I had Scizor and 40% Politoed out vs his Scizor and Cresselia. I knew his Cresselia had Psychic Gem, which put Politoed into its KO range, and I knew the odds of him giving me Scizor for Politoed were incredibly low given the situation, but didn’t Protect Politoed and Hydro Pumped into the obvious Scizor Protect anyway and lost probably my most important Pokémon in the match-up for no reason to fall down 4-3. It was one of those moves where if I had made it on Pokemon Online instead I would have cancelled it immediately, but I just kinda hit buttons without thinking enough and played myself into a bad spot. I think I described this moment to people at lunch afterward by saying, “My life was pretty much flashing in front of my yamsing eyes,” but I ended up getting Trick Room back off and carefully won the game by double targeting the Pokémon he chose not to Protect for three turns in a row. I remember thinking, “Am I seriously going to choke this away a game from Worlds for the second year in a row?” after Politoed died, but fortunately for me I managed to recover.

Mike P. (skarm) — Round 1 Swiss

kingdracresseliapolitoedscizorlatioshitmontop

I wasn’t super excited about a lot of the match-ups I got this year (Alison twice, Kamaal (FonicFrog) and Zach (Zach) at Ft. Wayne, Matt (bearsfan092), Luke (theamericandream38), and Cassie (Cassie) during Nationals), but this one was just ridiculous. Mike and I had been working on teams together all season and were using identical teams for this event, which made for a bizarre match. More importantly than that, I would consider Mike one of my closest friends, so having to play him round 1 after working so hard to get to Worlds together all year was incredibly infuriating. To make things worse, we were on TV (fun story, we actually shouldn’t have been as the table number sign was flipped during round 1), which is pretty awful for trying to keep team information concealed (thankfully we weren’t using anything particularly subtle, anyway).

I played Game 1 really foolishly. I was a little busy being bitter and didn’t think hard enough about how I wanted to play the match-up and fell back on something I knew from having played skarm in practice without thinking enough about it. I had noticed that the mirror tended to come down to which of us used Kingdra better, and that if one of us led Politoed+Kingdra they tended to win the game because of the lack of safe moves for the other side. I figured skarm would probably do the same sort of thing, as he usually did in practice, so I led Kingdra into his Kingdra + Politoed. The problem with this logic is that rather than trying to counter what I expected him to do I just played into a mirror that was going to essentially be a Speed tie for the game, and in spite of trying to avoid it once, I ended up in a situation where I had to play it out, lost the Speed tie, and lost the game. While this was occurring we had this Japanese woman crawling all up in our space trying to adjust things for the stream which was making a bad situation even more frustrating. It’s like, “Oh, don’t worry lady, it’s not like there’s a timer for this, and it’s not like this is the most important tournament of the year or anything. Take your time.”

Pride kind of kicked in for me during Game 2. Most of my lazy friends hadn’t bothered to wake up to watch the games, so there wasn’t quite as much pressure as there could have been, but I’d have been pretty irritated if I had gotten swept by essentially hoping RNG went my way with Speed ties while on the TVs and while being streamed for the world to see, so I decided to use “strategy” in Game 2. Rather than just flipping coins with Kingdra, I switched around a little more to absorb attacks and set up Trick Room. Shockingly, the game where I actually made even the slightest attempt to use my brain worked out a lot better, and I won off a clutch/unnecessary Feint kill for style points. Game 3 was closer than game 2, but I ended up winning through similar circumstances. Here’s hoping I never have this sort of thing happen ever again…

Martin M. (Round 3 Swiss)

salamencepolitoedthundurusmetagrossconkeldurrcresselia

This was my favorite match of the weekend for kind of bizarre reasons. I tend to have somewhat of a fiery temper and because of this Worlds tends to make me very xenophobic very quickly for about three hours every year. I was particularly irritated this time because I had just played one of my opponent’s countrymen before lunch, who had managed to defeat my Trick Room mode using the always consistent “I don’t have a real counter to Trick Room, so I’m just going to spam Thunder Wave and hope I luck my way through this series” strategy. After that experience I was very happy to see how Martin played because while I think he probably needed to practice a little more with what he was using to win the tournament, he played a pretty clean game against me and he seemed to be a pretty smart player, so he kind of restored my faith in Germany even though I won this series and lost the other one.

His team was of the same archetype as the team Satoru used to win Japan’s national tournament (though he had replaced Hydreigon with Salamence, Rotom-W with I believe Toed, and made some changes like adding Chesto Rest to Thundurus). Seeing his team in preview, I felt pretty confident going into this match because I did the vast majority of my practice against Japanese players and I tend to play a style more similar to theirs than most players — essentially, to win Martin would have to beat me at my own game, which is always a nice position to be in. There weren’t a whole lot of noteworthy moments in this series other than a situation where Politoed basically instantly won game 2 and thus the series for me as Martin got a little overzealous with his +2 Metagross with Politoed on the field in TR and let Politoed do his job as my counter to that strategy OHKO it with Hydro Pump. Of all the players I fought other than Wolfe I expect the most from him the next year. I think if he had a little more practice with what he was using to avoid plays like that one he could have gone deep. He had to play Edgar, Manoj, Me, Yoshi, Matty, and Jumpei, which was an incredibly unfavorable schedule considering where he was in the standings for some of those games, and he still wound up a game away from the cut.

Wolfe G. (Round 5 Swiss)

cresseliaheatranhitmontopthundurusexeggutorterrakion

I had a decent idea what Wolfe was running before we battled and knew this was going to be a pretty uphill battle because of it. Not only did he have Heatran, Taunt, and manual Sun, which make for my worst potential match-up in tandem, but the defensive core I expected him to select (Heatran, Cresselia, and any combination of Exeggutor/Hitmontop/Thundurus) was pretty difficult for me to break regardless of which Pokemon I selected. While I didn’t know it at the time, his lack of Protects removed many of the usual opportunities I would have had of getting cheap kills through exploiting his predictions and either blowing up the other Pokémon or Feinting my way out of jams, as I had done against many of my other opponents when I got behind.

I ended up playing the beginning of Game 1 against him pretty poorly and wound up stuck in his trap for the entire game to eat a 4-3 loss (though in this case I probably look better rather than worse for the timer ending the game). I manned up and made some big plays in Game 2 to at least keep myself in the game but still wound up eating a 1-0 loss. I feel like if the match-up wasn’t so lopsided or if Wolfe wasn’t better than me to begin with I could have made it a little more interesting, but the combination of the two made the match pretty one-sided. It ended up being a pretty fun match in spite of it being my most lopsided loss of the season, and it was nice to yap with Wolfe a bit during the match if nothing else. Sadly, after this pairing nothing that could have happened in Round 6 would have led to me cutting due to my opponent win percentage being among the lowest of the 3-2/4-1 group, but this series made it pretty obvious that I wouldn’t have won even if I’d cut, anyway.

I thought this loss was particularly interesting because it exposed a weakness in my team I had underestimated the severity of. While the Rain mode of my team was very much an auxiliary option to be used when my opponent had a particularly strong TR counter or were particularly weak to Rain, there were certain combinations of Pokemon — especially rosters containing Heatran — that forced me to lean hard on my Rain mode whether I wanted to or not. While I had a lot of experience battling people who were trying to disrupt the Trick Room mode and had several pieces on the team to help me defend against that disruption (Hitmontop in general, Latios on some level, various ways of using TR in the middle of the game instead of the beginning), I hadn’t really worried much about the Rain mode being disrupted because it wasn’t really the focus of what I wanted to do and was so rarely a problem. Typically my opponent only had auto-weather of their own to disrupt my Drizzle with, which was usually easy to deal with because of how simple it was for Politoed and Kingdra to kill Ninetales, Tyranitar, and Hippowdon or for Scizor to kill Tyranitar and Abomasnow. Manual Sun combined with Pokemon like Heatran made it a lot harder for me to get anything done because to get any control over the weather I would have had to spend half my turns switching, which is far too much investment in the weather to expect to win. Manual weather wasn’t something that was completely unheard of coming into Worlds, but it was something I had really only seen on teams I thought were trying too hard to disrupt strategies like the one my team used rather than to actually accomplish anything on their own, which led to them not being very likely to go deep in a tournament like Worlds. I imagine manual weather will make a comeback of sorts moving forward after Wolfe and Toler (Dim) used it well in their Worlds runs, so if I were to use this sort of team again in the future I would make sure to have a better answer to that type of strategy.

Conclusions

While my team wasn’t the best or the most clever, and while I wasn’t one of the best players in the event, I think I played pretty well that weekend. I think I’m probably a lot better at analyzing the game and other players than playing it myself, but I enjoyed being in the thick of things this time and learned a lot about how I would approach Worlds if I qualified for it again in the future. Hopefully this report showed that there was a little more going on on my side than some people might have assumed, and hopefully someone, somewhere found my rambling entertaining and/or insightful. If anyone reads this and has any questions about the team or Worlds in general feel free to ask!

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

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About the Author

started playing VGC in 2011, finishing 17th at US Nationals and then losing in the final round of 2011 Worlds LCQ. He finished 10th in the 2012 World Championships and qualified for Worlds again in 2013. Instead of playing, he is a commentator for Pokemon's 2013-14 World Championship and 2014 US National streams. Follow him on Twitter @NBNostrom!



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