Published on July 14th, 2014 | by Adib24
A Heart Remade Fullmetal: 2014 US Nationals Runner-up Report
Hey guys, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Adib. I also go by honchkro13 on Nugget Bridge. Today, I’m here to talk about my team and experience at the 2014 US National tournament, where I got 2nd place. Since I qualified for the 2014 World Championships, I originally planned on not writing a report at all just in case I wanted to use this team again or improve it.
Then Pokémon uploaded my team with its natures, moves and items to their website for everyone to see (which I don’t have a problem with), so now it doesn’t make a difference if I published a report or not. Other Worlds qualifiers will know exactly what I used at Nationals.
Being a weeaboo, I’ll briefly explain my Pokémon’s nicknames and themes. The title of this article is a pun on the final line uttered in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, my favorite series in all media. It’s also a reference to how I was forced to remake myself as a player in many ways in order to perform well at this tournament.
This report is fairly long, but I’ll go through it in the following order so you know what’s coming and so that you can skip around if you want:
- Team at a Glance
- Team Sets at a Glance
- Teambuilding: First Incarnation and Changes Made
- Teambuilding: How it All Came Together
- Teambuilding: Team Goals/Metagame Calls
- Teambuilding: Notable Tweaks Made
- Team at a Glance (again)
- Closer Looks at Every Pokémon
- Other Notes about the Team
- List of Opponents at Nationals
- Why I Didn’t do Well at Regionals
- Lessons Learned
- Closing Thoughts
It might seem a little excessive to go through the teambuilding but most of the Pokémon here have standard sets anyways. How a Pokémon works together with another Pokémon is the cornerstone of VGC, so that’s why I’ll first discuss the team in a team-oriented way first. Then, I’ll get to any extra details under each Pokémon’s section. If you don’t want to read all this, just feel free to skip ahead to whatever section you want.
Team at a Glance
Team Sets at a Glance
Wrath the Gyarados
Item: Safety Goggles
Ghirahim the Aegislash
Item: Lum Berry
Ability: Stance Change
Goombella the Amoonguss
Item: Sitrus Berry
Lelouch the Tyranitar
Item: Choice Scarf
Ability: Sand Stream
Festus the Goodra
Item: Assault Vest
Ability: Sap Sipper
Ability: Inner Focus -> Parental Bond
Teambuilding: First Incarnation and Changes
So how did this team come to be? Well, that actually happened about a month before nationals when (at the time) a few things turned up and I wasn’t going to be able to compete. No, I did not retire from Pokémon, stop spreading silly rumors, people. My friend El Scorcho came to me with a rough team idea of Goodra, Trevenant, Tyranitar, Mega Lucario, Gyarados and Pyroar. He was inspired to use Goodra after seeing Lajo do well with it over in Germany.
Frankly, I didn’t like the team. It felt awkward since the original movesets on all these guys were all offensive. I also didn’t like the team’s defensive synergy, since it had three Ground weaknesses in a Garchomp-dominated meta, coupled with three Fighting weaknesses, which would make enemy Mega Lucario and Mega Kangaskhan really big threats. However, something about it felt like it had potential. I can’t really explain it. I found three similar replacements for half the team that made the team much stronger defensively while still maintaining decent offense, resulting in what you see below:
With Gyarados and Tyranitar on the original team, the team was practically screaming at me to use Amoonguss over Trevenant in order to redirect dangerous attacks away from them. With Trevenant gone, I decided to replace Lucario with Aegislash, who also walls Kangaskhan but is generally much more effective in the meta overall and can setup Substitute while Amoonguss uses Rage Powder. I then noticed that with Tyranitar and Aegislash using their powers of darkness to blast away Ghost types, Aegislash and Gyarados wrecking Mega Lucario, Amoonguss redirecting attacks, and Goodra’s access to Feint, there was only one possible replacement for Pyroar: Mega Kangaskhan.
Teambuilding: How it All Came Together
- Tyranitar, Aegislash and Goodra beat Steel types, Trevenant and Gourgeist for Kangaskhan
- Tyranitar and Aegislash use their powers of darkness to beat away Ghost types that annoy Kangaskhan
- Amoonguss, Aegislash, Gyarados and even Scarftar will beat opposing Mega Lucario that want to knock out Kangaskhan
- Scarftar with Rock Tomb changes the weather, outruns and knocks out Garchomp with Ice Beam, and provides speed control
- Amoonguss redirects super effective attacks away from everybody
- Sap Sipper Goodra walls every special attacker in existence, including Rain, Sun, Hail, Rotom, and Manectric
- Sap Sipper Goodra Feints targets for Scarftar, boosted Gyarados, and works well with the Fake Out pressure exerted by Kangaskhan
- Kangaskhan beats away enemy Tyranitar for Tyranitar, Aegislash, Gyarados and Goodra
- Kangaskhan can also Power-Up Punch partner Amoonguss and Gyarados for more power
- Kangaskhan can let Gyarados and Aegislash setup by threatening Fake Out support
- Kangaskhan is the best bet against Scarf Mamoswine, who hits everything else hard
- While having a bulky Fire type is usually recommended, it’s not needed on this team. Goodra and Tyranitar fill in pretty nicely
- I predicted Rain to be a popular call at Nationals. With Goodra, Tyranitar, Amoonguss AND Gyarados, I expected to have a relatively easy matchup against Rain, along with Sun and Hail. R Justice’s half-Rain, half-goodstuffs team flew in under my radar though (more on this later), which gave me some trouble in top cut
- On Team Preview, the opponent might expect Dragon Dance Tyranitar, since Amoonguss is next to it. This is great because then I can lure in Lum Berry Garchomps and outrun and OHKO them with Ice Beam!
I really liked the team synergy between all these Pokémon. Since El Scorcho and I each built half the team, we decided to both run it at Nationals.
Teambuilding: Team Goals/Metagame Calls
- Rain seemed to be getting pretty popular, so I decided to have a strong anti-Rain team. At Nationals, I beat out the weaker, bog-standard Rain teams, but half-Rain, half-goodstuffs teams were unexpected and gave me problems in top cut. I didn’t play well against the three people who finished at least within the Top 8 who used variations of the archetype
- Lucario usage would probably rise to deal with Kangaskhan. Which it did, I beat a lot of them
- Mega Tyranitar+Amoonguss was also getting pretty popular. Ironically, I didn’t battle any of them at Nationals. I did battle an Assault Vest Tyranitar+Amoonguss though
- Bisharp should increase in usage to combat all the Intimidates. I only came across one that I remember (in Top 4)
- I did expect Trick Room’s usage to increase a little, since people have had success with it overseas. I only came across two at Nationals, both during best-of-one Day 1 Swiss. Seems like the difficulty in using Trick Room effectively held it back in the states, from my perspective at least
- Mega Kangaskhan would obviously be popular
- Mega Venusaur seemed to be growing more popular, but I ended up only battling one at the last round of best-of-one Day 1 Swiss
- Rotom-W seemed to be getting less and less popular, while Rotom-H was growing more popular. Made sense. I came across a few of each in the tournament if I remember correctly
- I expected Hydreigon to rise up too, since it had some strong tournament finishes before Nationals, and wasn’t surprised to see a few in Top Cut, from Ray to Evan Falco, the new US National Champ. Did not see the shift from Scarf to Specs coming though
- Dark Void Smeargle was still something that was (annoyingly) relevant. Didn’t battle any, but there were at least two in Top Cut, which I believe R Inanimate and Amarillo used
- Amoonguss would surely be popular
I couldn’t address every single point, but I did try my best and I think my team managed to hit most of the marks, which allowed it to perform well at Nationals.
Teambuilding: Notable Tweaks Made
Other than changing EV spreads here or there, I made only one significant change after extensive testing. Uncle Taint was apparently destroying El Scorcho with Amoonguss+Mega Lucario pretty regularly. We were also having a few problems with Mega Tyranitar+Amoonguss. We didn’t want to change the team significantly to deal with those threats, only to become vulnerable to another set of threats. We looked at both threats and realized that the key to beating them was to bypass Amoonguss somehow. We looked at our options. Taunt is a very good move in general, but I didn’t like how Amoonguss could simply switch out or Protect to block it while its partner killed us. We eventually looked at Safety Goggles and saw that the only Pokémon that could use it well on the team was Gyarados.
I had my doubts at first, since I didn’t want to remove Gyarados’s Sitrus Berry. And while Safety Goggles Gyarados did take some getting used to (and can be situational), I do not regret using it all. It’s a monster. I’ll talk about it more under Gyarados’s section in a bit. First, let me remind you what the final team was.
Team at a Glance (again)
Closer Looks at Every Pokémon
Wrath the Gyarados
Item: Safety Goggles
EVs: 92 HP / 116 Atk / 78 Def / 4 SDef / 220 Spd
“I may not have the protection of your Ultimate Shield, but I can clearly see your weakness with my Ultimate Eye”
- Survives +0 Adamant Mega Kangaskhan’s Return 100% of the time
- Survives -1 Jolly Mega Tyranitar’s Stone Edge 100% of the time
- Outruns Noivern and Greninja after a Dragon Dance
This spread took a really long time to make. Jolly sets couldn’t really make great use of that greater initial Speed while lacking in power if I invested in bulk and vice-versa, so I swapped over to this Adamant set. For this team, it provided a nice balance of Speed, bulk and power. Mega Tyranitar seemed scary and I wanted Gyarados to survive at least one of its attacks since I’m using Gyarados to try checking Mega Tyranitar
Fairly standard Dragon Dance Gyarados, except for the almighty SAFETY GOGGLES. It’s not the most revolutionary thing ever, but it felt incredible on Gyarados at Nationals. With it, Gyarados can completely ignore Sleep Powder from Venusaur, and more importantly both Rage Powder and Spore from enemy Amoonguss. This means that common partners for enemy Amoonguss, like Mega Lucario, Tyranitar, Chandelure, Rotom-H, etc. are not safe from my Gyarados at all, even when they’re partnered with Amoonguss. Opposing Amoonguss are usually considered great checks to Gyarados, but with Safety Goggles, my Gyarados can Ice Fang it at its leisure once Amoonguss’s partner has been neutralized. As for bulky Water types that are also partnered with Amoonguss, well, that’s what my own Amoonguss was for.
Safety Goggles also let Gyarados avoid taking damage from my Tyranitar’s Sandstorm, which was especially key in my Top 8 set against Simon. This set was especially important since it determined which one of us would go on to Worlds. My Gyarados hung on with 8 HP and would have gone down to sand damage without the goggles. This would have cost me an important Pokémon in that matchup.
While normally something like Sitrus Berry is the superior item choice, Safety Goggles was what my team needed to perform well. Adjusting my playstyle to Safety Goggles Gyarados’s resulting lower bulk did take a little time, but it was completely worth it.
Safety Goggles Gyarados started out as something just to hit Lucario and Tyranitar while they’re next to Amoonguss, but it became so much more than that. With its fantastic typing, Intimidate, Dragon Dance, coverage and passable bulk (well, in my case), Safety Goggles Gyarados usually threatens or annoys at least four Pokemon on any given Amoonguss team. Including my own. I’m not exactly sure whether this is a property exclusive to Safety Goggles Gyarados, but I haven’t seen any other Pokémon that uses Safety Goggles to essentially take on an entire team archetype (if that’s the right word) on its own. It’s a lot of fun to use. If you’re having Amoonguss problems, try it out!
Gyarados was hands-down my MVP at both 2014 US Nationals and 2013 US Nationals. People always seem to think that Steelix is my signature Pokémon after making 10th at Nationals last year and doing well with it in a few other tournaments. However, Gyarados is the one Pokémon I can never seem to drop. While I was sad that I failed to make Steelix viable again and use it in another Twin Snakes combo with Gyarados, at least I was able to hang on to one of my snakes, right?
I named my Gyarados after Wrath, a major antagonist in the Fullmetal Alchemist universe. Both are blue, have distinct mustaches and are living incarnations of the sin of Wrath. Wrath also possesses the Ultimate Eye (which he hides under his eyepatch), which allows him to see his enemies’ weaknesses. This lets him cut down almost anything with inhuman speed and power. Gyarados’s Safety Goggles and access to Dragon Dance reference both of these traits. Both Wrath and Gyarados also wear some special eyewear (in Wrath’s case, his eyepatch; Gyarados, Safety Goggles). Just like Wrath though, Gyarados ended up losing his final battle at Nationals. Wrath is also inhumanly skilled at swordplay. Speaking of which…
Ghirahim the Aegislash
Item: Lum Berry
Ability: Stance Change
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Atk / 4 Def / 172 SAtk / 78 SDef
IVs: 20 Speed
“This time there will be no heroic escape. I was a fool to toy with you and let you walk away with your life before, but I won’t make that mistake again. That, I promise!”
- Survives Timid Mega Charizard Y’s Heat Wave in the Sun 100% of the time
- Has a 15/16 chance to survive 252 Special Attack Modest Rotom-H Overheat
EV spread and everything is standard. Shamelessly stole it from Simon’s report.
Now where’s Wrath without his sword? This is a standard Substitute Sacred Sword Aegislash, with the possible exception of Lum Berry. It isn’t seen too often (judging by the crowd and Ray’s reaction to his Swagger getting blocked by it), but it’s necessary to stop Dark Void Smeargle. If it wasn’t for Smeargle, I would have happily run Life Orb instead. Thanks TPCi. Anyway, Lum Berry also prevents Will-o-Wisp from cutting Sacred Sword’s power in half. Lum Berry also blocks Spore from people who are trying to be cute with fast Amoonguss, which lets me setup Substitute to block all future status. The combination of Safety Goggles Gyarados and Lum Berry Substitute Aegislash lets my team stomp all over Mega Lucario+Amoonguss teams that try to stop my Mega Kangaskhan. It’s really bulky, has fantastic typing and still hits hard enough. It deals with the Ghosts that trouble Kangaskhan and provides a Dragon and Ice resist. Not much else to really say over here.
Ghirahim is a major antagonist from Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, my favorite Legend of Zelda game and one of my top 5 favorite videogames overall. Both Aegislash and Ghirahim are spirits inhabiting swords boasting incredible defenses, so Ghirahim was the one and only name for Aegislash.
Goombella the Amoonguss
Item: Sitrus Berry
EVs: 196 HP / 190 Def / 124 SDef
IVs: 18 Speed
“That’s a Goomba. Um…yeah, I’m one of those, in case you hadn’t noticed. Ahem…it says here: ‘Goombas are the underlings of underlings’…that’s totally rude!”
- Survives +6 Azumarill’s Play Rough
- Survives Timid Life Orb Greninja’s Ice Beam (more relevant in the June IC)
- Moves before Rhydon and Rhyperior in Trick Room while moving before base 30’s like Reuniclus and Slowbro outside of Trick Room
Standard Amoonguss. Protects Gyarados while it Dragon Dances, Kangaskhan while it Power-Up Punches, Tyranitar while it kills things, redirects attacks away from Aegislash setting up Substitute, and keeps Fairy attacks away from Goodra. You’ve all seen this before. Rant time: I think Rocky Helmet is a terrible item on Amoonguss. Sure, you deal slightly more damage to Kangaskhan, but Sitrus Berry lets you heal 25% of your HP in one go, which is great for redirecting attacks from both opposing Pokémon and still surviving for more redirection. Any extra turn or two where you can waste your opponent’s turns can let you score much more damage in the long run. With Sitrus Berry, you can steal entire games compared to whatever pitiful amount Rocky Helmet does to Kangaskhan.
Paper Mario: the Thousand Year Door is still easily one of my top 5 favorite videogames. Goombella is a Goomba partner for Mario in this game. I think you know where I went with this. Moving along.
Lelouch the Tyranitar
Item: Choice Scarf
Ability: Sand Stream
EVs: 12 HP / 4 Def / 236 SAtk / 4 SDef / 252 Spd
“Attention entire world! Hear my proclamation! I am Lelouch vi Britannia! Emperor of the Holy Britannian Empire and your only ruler! Schneizel has surrendered to me. As a result of this, I am now in control of both the Damocles and the FLEIJA weapons! And even the Black Knights no longer possess the strength to oppose me now. If anyone dares resist my supreme authority, they shall know the devastating power of the FLEIJAs! Those who could oppose my military rule no longer exist. Yes, from this day, from this moment forth, the world belongs to me! Lelouch vi Britannia commands you: obey me subjects, obey me world!”
- Outruns Scarf Abomasnow
- OHKOs 4/0 Garchomp with Ice Beam
- OHKOs Simon’s 12 HP/36 SDef Garchomp 87.5% of the time (highest odds)
- Dumped the rest into bulk to have as many stat points as possible
Scarf Rock Tomb special Tyranitar. Outruns and OHKO’s Garchomp and Salamence, roasts Steel types like Lucario and Ferrothorn, blasts Gengar and other Ghosts out of the way, and OHKO’s Charizard with Rock Tomb. Also provides weather and speed control.
This Tyranitar is a little more utility-oriented than most other Tyranitar out there. Its job is to get in, KO something quickly and then get out. It’s not a powerhouse. Another thing it does is provide the only form of speed control I have on my team with Rock Tomb. For those of you who don’t know, Rock Tomb is 5% more accurate and deals a little more damage to a single target than Rock Slide. It’s also not blocked by Wide Guard, so Charizard and Talonflame aren’t safe at all.
What really sets Rock Tomb apart is the guaranteed speed drop whenever it hits. This means that even if Tyranitar is burned and Intimidated, or is locked into Rock Tomb and can’t switch, it can still be useful by cutting the opponent’s speed while a partner Protects or switches in. This partner can then pick up the KO afterwards. Due to Choice Scarf, I can reliably drop the opponent’s speed in battle before they attack. And if they do get to attack, I can fall back on Tyranitar’s natural bulk. Scarf Rock Tomb Tyranitar is basically a Choice Scarfer that neutralizes other Choice Scarfers. With the Speed drop, they can’t outrun my team anymore.
This Tyranitar was key to winning my Round 2 top cut set against linkyoshimario (Ashton Cox). Notable moments include outrunning and OHKOing his Charizard, while discouraging his use of Wide Guard Gigalith, which I later saw on stream. In game 3, I Rock Tombed his Scarf Sawk on the switch, then safely switched my Kangaskhan in. Thanks to Rock Tomb canceling out his Choice Scarf, Kangaskhan was able to KO a Pokémon that was specifically built to counter it.
Speaking of Choice Scarf, Tyranitar’s Sand was useful for more than just canceling out weather and dealing extra damage to opponents. It also let me scout for opposing Choice Scarf and Safety Goggles. This is how I was able to find out that Ashton had a Scarf Sawk in game 1. This information was key to winning the set. Unfortunately, the Sand was also a bit of a double-edged sword, because I had to work a bit to hide Safety Goggles on Gyarados so that I could pick up key surprise KO’s in later games of best of three sets.
My Tyranitar is named after Lelouch–an eventual tyrant in Code Geass, one of my favorite anime series–who is perhaps the darkest hero protagonist I’ve ever seen. Long story there. Seeing how Tyranitar is also a tyrant, the name was perfect. Lelouch the Tyranitar often ordered enemy Pokémon to get KO’d, which they often obeyed.
Festus the Goodra
Item: Assault Vest
Ability: Sap Sipper
EVs: 252 HP / 20 Def / 230 SAtk / 4 SDef / 4 Spd
“You named him Festus? You know that in Latin, ‘festus’ means ‘happy’? You want us to ride off to save the world on Happy the Dragon?”
- OHKO’s 4/0 Salamence 7/8 of the time with Dragon Pulse
- Survives Jolly Garchomp’s Dragon Claw 62.5% of the time
- Basically mindless investment into HP to absorb special attacks
Confession time: this spread is bad. Remember how I mentioned that Choice Specs Hydreigon wasn’t on my radar? Well, fellow teambuilder El Scorcho found out the hard way that our Goodra is actually KO’d by Choice Specs Hydreigon 12.5% of the time. If you want to use this Goodra, I’d recommend moving 16 Defense EVs + whatever else you need from Special Attack to Special Defense to survive that attack, as it is should be more popular right now. I haven’t run the calc.
Standard Goodra. Due to the relative lack of bulky Fire types in this meta and my distaste towards Rotom-H and Charizard Y, I turned to Goodra. It can also use Fire attacks while not being weak to Water and generally being a great counter to Rain, especially Politoed+Ludicolo. Thunderbolt hits Azumarill and enemy Gyarados, while Dragon Pulse is for STAB. Feint takes advantage of my Kangaskhan’s (bluffed) Fake Out pressure to break through Protect in order to nab a KO. Feint also acts as great priority, finishing off weakened opponents. The +2 priority was especially useful in picking off Talonflame and enemy Kangaskhan, who carry +1 priority attacks.
Sap Sipper was chosen for obvious reasons. With it, it stomps over Charizard Y+Venusaur due to its massive Special Defense and Grass immunity to block Sleep Powder. This immunity also made Goodra a great counter to Amoonguss. Speaking of Special Defense, another reason why I picked Goodra was because I figured that thanks to Intimidate and Will-o-Wisp, most teams would have only 2-3 physical attackers, with the rest being special attackers that Goodra can easily wall. Rotom-H and Rotom-W were also really popular and Goodra was there to stomp all over them.
I named Goodra after Festus, the friendly metal dragon from the Percy Jackson series. The series is kind of like Pokémon in that it’s primarily targeted towards children, but has aspects that appeal to older audiences.
Ability: Inner Focus -> Parental Bond
EVs: 52 HP / 166 Atk / 36 Def / 4 SDef / 252 Spd
Standard 252/252, except Attack EVs were reduced to survive Adamant enemy Mega Kangaskhan’s Double-Edge. I haven’t had problems with the reduced offensive power. The Speed EVs allow it to outrun all non-Choice Scarf Hydreigon and Speed tie with other Kangaskhan.
You guys all know what this thing does and how broken it is, so I won’t spend much time here. It has great synergy with the rest of the team. The main reason why I built and used this team was because I loved using the Kangaskhan+Amoonguss+Gyarados core. It has great defensive and offensive synergy while threatening sleep, redirection, and the ability to boost my stats while cutting down the opponent’s Attack stat with Intimidate. I can use the same three Pokémon and end up going for very different plays from one game to another.
I chose Inner Focus over Scrappy because I’m not running Fake Out to hit Ghosts, who’d most likely Protect anyways. Inner Focus theoretically lets me attack through opposing Fake Out, but I’ve never really used it that way. Speaking of Fake Out, I chose Protect over it instead because Protect allows me to play more defensively i.e. Protecting while switching Amoonguss in so that I can setup and sweep.
Kangaskhan’s nickname actually refers to a show called Captain Kangaroo, a kid’s show from decades ago that my high school calculus teacher used to watch. I’ve never seen the show, but I thought the name Captain Kangaroo described the VGC 2014 metagame fairly well. Captain also refers to its status the sole Mega on my team. It also references Captain Buccaneer from the Fullmetal Alchemist series.
Other Notes About the Team
- With Sap Sipper Goodra, Amoonguss, Safety Goggles Gyarados and Lum Berry Substitute Aegislash, four of my six Pokémon were immune to sleep from enemy Amoonguss and Venusaur. Gyarados and Amoonguss could simply ignore enemy Amoonguss altogether.
- There are only two moves below 100% accuracy on this team: Ice Fang and Rock Tomb. And both of those are 95% accurate
- Being virtually immune to sleep and not having to worry about my attacks missing minimized the RNG against me and maximized my chances of making top cut, as I was much less likely now to lose matches and miss top cut because an attack missed, which happens to many players at these tournaments. While my team isn’t exactly a powerhouse, it still hits hard enough to the point where I didn’t really miss having stronger but less accurate moves. And if I needed more power, that’s what my setup moves are for.
- Note: while I normally veer away from low accuracy moves if possible, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t consider them if I absolutely needed more power that I couldn’t reliably get from setup. Considering that you have to get through the always-volatile best-of-one Swiss in order to make top cut and earn the big CP, I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks. Now if Day 1 at Nationals was best-of-three Swiss as well, then that’d be a different story.
List of Opponents at 2014 US Nationals
Note: I did not take notes at all. Don’t ask me why. Notes have never really been that beneficial to me in battle where it actually matters. If I accidentally listed someone in the wrong round or didn’t remember notable details about a battle 100% correctly, now you know why. I won’t really talk about the battles either since I only remember key points from some of them. I had to go through 30 battles in Nationals after all. My memory’s limited.
Day 1 Best-of-one Swiss Rounds:
- Round 1: Isaac Pollert (lost) (should have used Protect on Kangaskhan to block Azumarill’s Superpower)
- Round 2: Luke Allen Swenson (theamericandream38) (won) (got lucky with Flamethrower crit)
- Round 3: Jonathan Peters (won)
- Round 4: Chuppa Cross (Chuppa) (won) (this is why Rotom-W is a bad Pokémon in best-of-one Swiss)
- Round 5: Gene (won)
- Round 6: Collin Heier (TheBattleRoom) (lost) (led incorrectly with Tyranitar and Goodra, opened self up to Trick Room)
- Round 7: Tony Cheung (Chinese dood) (won) (epic Goodra+Amoonguss mirror match)
- Round 8: Michael Shaw (won)
- Round 9: Reeseesee (won) (very close match, Goodra was clutch)
Swiss Record: 7-2, 44th seed
Day 2 Best-of-one Top Cut Swiss Rounds:
- Round 1: Zach Crawford (nineinchnailed) (won 2-0) (Safety Goggles Gyarados was clutch against Lucario+Amoonguss)
- Round 2: Ashton Cox (linkyoshimario) (won 2-1) (wacky Pokémon, Rock Slide+Icicle Crash flinches+avoids galore)
- Round 3: Alec Bel (Polecat, Darkeness’s younger brother) (won 2-0) (Amoonguss stopped Belly Drum Poliwrath in its tracks)
- Round 4: Gavin Michaels (kingofmars) (won 2-1) (very good set, had to play more aggressively here)
- Round 5: Ray Rizzo (lost 0-2) (first time encountering and hearing of a variant of R Justice’s rain team. Did not play well)
- Round 6: Jeudy Azzarelli (Soul Survivor) (lost 0-2) (Rocky Helmet Taunt Will-o-Wisp Talonflame is really annoying)
Swiss Record: 4-2, 7th seed
Day 2 Best of 3 Top Cut Single Elimination Bracket
- Top 8: Simon Yip (Simon) (won 2-0) (Safety Goggles Gyarados was MVP. Got lucky here or there with Waterfall flinches)
- Top 4: Logan Castro (Yellowbox) (won 2-0) (interesting sets from Yellowbox actually made it easier to win)
Day 3 Finals: Alex Ogloza (Evan Falco) (lost 1-2) (Should have switched Amoonguss in earlier in game 3 to cover for Kangaskhan)
Final Ranking: 2nd
This isn’t going to be a traditional warstory since I barely remember my battles. I had 30 battles over three days with a lot of people, which is a lot to remember for a guy who doesn’t take notes. I also won’t talk about things like grabbing lunch or whatever. That’s not what you came here to read. Instead, I’ll focus on certain highlights throughout the tournament I haven’t already talked about.
Friday (Day 1, 9 rounds of best-of-one Swiss)
Let me get this out of the way right now: I fully expected to go 5-4 with this team, or 6-3 at best. I wasn’t feeling confident with this team at all, and given my performance at the past two XY regionals I went to — where I literally got ZERO CP — I didn’t expect to do well at all. After building this team with El Scorcho, I tested some on Showdown, played 40 matches in the International Challenge, then put this game down and started playing Link’s Awakening instead until Nationals.
And sure enough, I lost round 1 right away, which hurt. However, it was still a good match. It was my fault I lost because I didn’t Protect Kangaskhan from Azumarill’s Superpower when I switched Amoonguss in for my other slot. I got a little too greedy trying to get KO’s. This loss forced me to realize that I needed to play better than that in order to make top cut, since only X-2’s and above can make it.
In Round 2, I was paired up with Luke Swenson (theamericandream38). He used Lajo’s Top 8 German Nationals team, so I knew that bringing Amoonguss would be suicide. I got lucky with a Flamethrower crit on his Mega Mawile, but that’s the game we play. This match was interesting because the last time we played was in Fall 2012 Regionals, so this was a rematch of sorts.
I ended up battling a lot of Nugget Bridgers that day. Chuppa was another strong opponent, while later on, I was paired against TheBattleRoom. He was the last guy I wanted to face in Swiss because I really didn’t want to battle a guy who actually knew how to use Mawile and Reuniclus in Trick Room effectively. I led correctly against his double dragon lead of Garchomp and Hydreigon, but since neither Tyranitar or Goodra had Protect, I was forced into the defensive when he double-switched out for Reuniclus+Mawile and setup Trick Room. I tried to stall with Aegislash, but it didn’t work.
At this point, I had lost two matches. I knew that in order to make top cut, I would have to win the next three matches in order to make top cut.
Afterwards, I was paired down to play Tony Cheung (Chinese dood). We had a pretty interesting match where both used Goodra and Amoonguss, but his Goodra didn’t have Assault Vest. Eventually, I double targeted his Blastoise with Thunderbolt and Giga Drain to grab the win from there.
I was then paired against Reeseesee in round 9 to see who would make it to day 2. I made a risky play to Feint+Return on his Mega Venusaur on turn 1, which I should not have done. I was still able to win though. His team did not like Goodra at all. Still, this battle was way closer than it had to be.
I was so relieved when I won and made it to day 2. I was really disappointed in my low resistance though. My opponents weren’t exactly easy. Maybe they dropped? I don’t know. In any case, I was feeling extremely grateful to Chris Brown (AlphaZealot) for making it so that all X-2’s cut instead of a straight top 32. Otherwise, with my 44th seed finish, I would not have made it to Day 2 and someone else would have been writing a US Nationals Runner-Up report right now.
Swiss Record: 7-2, 44th seed
Saturday (Day 2, 6 rounds of best-of-three Swiss)
This just got real. In order to qualify for Worlds, I would have to make Top 4. In order to have a chance at making Top 4, I would first have to make it to the Top 8 stage. To do that, I could only lose 1 set to guarantee top cut. If I lost twice, I’d have to pray that my resistance was high enough, because apparently only two 4-2’s would make it to the Top 8 cut.
And if I wanted to get the free trip+free hotel room at Worlds, I would have to make it to the finals.
No pressure, right?
Top Cut Round 1–VS Zach Crawford (nineinchnailed)
Wrath the Gyarados took no prisoners that day. It destroyed nineinchnailed’s Amoonguss+Lucario+Staraptor team 2-0 to start things off. One key turn in game 2 was where I had a Dragon Dance up and was up against a -1 Defense Lucario + Amoonguss. Amoonguss used Rage Powder and then Lucario went down in a flash anyways, followed soon by Amoonguss. Oh, and I learned in this set that apparently, Gyarados can’t handle nineinchnailed’s Staraptor. It dodged an Ice Fang and scored a crit Brave Bird right back, go figure. Fun fact: that Ice Fang was the only attack I missed in my 30 game tournament run.
Current Record: 1-0
Top Cut Round 2–VS Ashton Cox (linkyoshimario)
Round 2, I saw that I was matched up against Ashton, which I was both happy and unhappy about, since he’s a really cool guy. I saw his team of Gigalith, Heliolisk, Weavile, Espeon, Sawk, and Charizard. I had some idea of what to expect — people should really research obscure Pokémon if they don’t want to lose to them — but I wasn’t 100% sure. Looking at Team Preview, I wasn’t quite sure what Gigalith was doing there, but I knew it had access to Sturdy and Explosion. Heliolisk was a fast Sun sweeper with Solar Power. Weavile had the Fling+King’s Rock thing going on that Ashton’s known for. Espeon was fast and had Magic Bounce, while Sawk had access to Inner Focus, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it led against my Kangaskhan. Charizard was almost definitely going to be in its Y form since Heliolisk and Gigalith were there.
I can’t exactly remember 100% what happened in game 1, but I learned that he did have Charizard Y and King’s Rock after all. What did surprise me was that Sawk was Scarfed. I didn’t have to find this out the hard way–I had switched in Tyranitar right before Sawk came in and noticed that Sawk took sand damage before my Kangaskhan. I adjusted and won game 1 from there. Game 2 I lost because for some reason I thought it was a bright idea to bring Amoonguss instead of Tyranitar. Very short, embarrassing battle there.
Favorite quote from Game 1: “Why are you using Rock Tomb? AND WHY IS THAT THING SCARFED?”
–Ashton as his Charizard Y gets outrun and OHKO’d by my Scarftar.
Game 3 was one of the funniest battles I ever played. Both of us were laughing at the RNG that kept getting thrown around. Ashton scored multiple Rock Slide and Icicle Crash flinches, while I dodged a few more. I didn’t even know what was going on anymore. Eventually, I hit his Scarf Sawk with Rock Tomb on the switch and that was game as I sent in Kangaskhan to clean up. After I won the match, I started Tebowing, then gave Ashton a hug and wished him luck. I still kept laughing after that match. It really should have been on stream.
GG, Ashton! I hope we get a rematch at Worlds.
Current Record: 2-0
Top Cut Round 3–VS Alec Bel (Polecat, Darkeness’s Younger Brother)
Double Poli guy. The irony is that Darkeness, MrEobo and I think even my opponent had told me the day before that he was running Belly Drum Poliwrath with Politoed. You know what that meant to me? Amoonguss time. My opponent led with Kangaskhan+Poliwrath while I led with Kangaskhan+Amoonguss. Amoonguss and Goodra worked really well against his Rain team for obvious reasons.
Current Record: 3-0
Top Cut Round 4–VS Gavin Michaels (kingofmars)
Me (left) vs Gavin Michaels (kingofmars)+plushie army (right)
Last year’s National Champ? Interesting. Well, what was more interesting was that Gavin had a plushie army with Sandile, which was obviously the best part of our set. Seriously, have you seen that Sandile? Anyways, I won’t bore you with details, since Team Rocket Elite was kind enough to record the matches, which are posted below. After losing game 1 pretty badly, I decided I needed to play a little more aggressively against an aggressive player like Gavin, which is how I took back games 2 and 3. It’s strange, really. After last year’s Nationals, I think people expect me to be a really defensive player. Which I am, to some extent. Some of my top cut opponents even outright stated that they think I’m running a bulky Gyarados with Thunder Wave or other things like that.
But there’s a point where you need to open it up to score the big knockouts, and my Pokémon are offensive enough to do that when needed. Also, while Kangaskhan was the Mega on my team, Gyarados was the MVP of this set. Just because a certain Pokémon is a Mega, that doesn’t mean that it’s your only way to win. I didn’t hesitate to sacrifice Kangaskhan to beat Rotom-W so that Gyarados could sweep through the rest of his team later. At the end of the day, your Mega is just another Pokémon, after all. Anyways, I really enjoyed this set overall, especially since the last two games were closer than game 1. What I found interesting was that this was another Mega Lucario team I had to face at Nationals.
GG, Gavin! I hope we get a rematch at Worlds.
Current Record: 4-0
Top Cut Round 5–VS Ray Rizzo (Ray)
Within two minutes of defeating Gavin, I was told by a judge to go on to the big stage and take on Ray, since we were both 4-0. Which, frankly, I was really excited about. Just how often do you get to battle the 3-time World Champion on the big stage in front of an audience with commentary in the background? As exciting as it was, I do have a LOT of regrets about this battle because the way I played was just plain terrible.
Me vs Ray Rizzo
For starters, I should have seen the Mawile lead coming because of my own Kangaskhan and Gyarados. The reason I led with Kangaskhan and Goodra on game 1 was because up until this point, literally every Rain team I ever faced that had Politoed and Ludicolo would ALWAYS lead with Politoed and Ludicolo. Then again, I shouldn’t have gone into autopilot like I unfortunately tend to do on Showdown against Rain teams. It was a tough team matchup overall since I wasn’t confident about bringing Gyarados to Intimidate and contain the Mawile with that Safety Goggles Zapdos on the loose. I wasn’t confident about Amoonguss being useful for whatever reason but I probably should have brought it to redirect attacks from the rest of Ray’s team so that I could either setup, attack or put things to sleep. I overcommitted to stopping the Rain portion of his team and got demolished by the non-Rain portion of the team.
Ray, if we get to play again at Worlds next month, hopefully I’ll be able to give you a better set than that. GG!
As embarrassing as it was that I lost to a Rain team when I specifically built my team to counter Rain, this set was really enlightening because that’s when I learned about R Justice’s Rain team and how some people were copying parts or all of it and performing well. I pretty much played bog Rain teams up until this point. One other thing that held me back at Nationals unnecessarily was because up until now, I’ve never really actively researched foreign metagames, foreign players and what teams they’re using to win. If I had done some research before Nationals, I probably would have learned about R’s team and either adjusted my team or my playstyle or maybe even both to have a better matchup against all of its variations. Guess it’s better that I learned this now before Worlds next month…
That said, it still felt awesome to battle on the big stage. I still remember the crowd cheering when my Lum Berry on Aegislash stopped it from getting confused from Zapdos’s Swagger. Then it got Swaggered again and almost took itself out in confusion. Still my fault for gambling like that though.
Current Record: 4-1
Top Cut Round 6–VS Jeudy Azzarelli (Soul Survivor)
Now I finally got a loss. Which was bad. If I didn’t win against Jeudy, I’d have to pray that my resistance was high enough to make top cut as a 4-2, since only two 4-2’s would make it. I got to the table. Maybe it was just me, but Jeudy seemed to be on the edge of having a panic attack. Understandable, since he had to win this round and make it to Top 8 in order to qualify for Worlds. He calmed down pretty quickly when I discovered the hard way just how annoying support Rocky Helmet Talonflame is. It survives Kangaskhan’s Return, burns my team with Will-o-Wisp, and Taunts half my team. It was surprisingly disruptive, and I ended up losing to another well-built half-Rain team. Again.
Game 2 didn’t go any better, though I did notice that Jeudy brought his rain mode with Politoed and Ludicolo against me. And I left Goodra on the sidelines this time after seeing how my set against Ray and the first match of this set went. I ended up losing. Again. At this point, I noticed a distinct flaw in my team — against really skilled players using Rain, it becomes really hard to tell if the opponent will bring Rain to games 2 or 3 of a best-of-three set, due to the threat of Goodra. Goodra is really good in some specific situations like Rain and Sun, but against goodstuffs teams with Pokémon like Hydreigon, it becomes significantly harder to use well.
Jeudy ended up winning the set 2-0, and had just qualified for Worlds by doing so. GG! I hope we can have a rematch there so that I can knock outl his annoying red bird in every way possible. I wished him luck and left.
Day 2 Best-of-three Swiss Record: 4-2
Day 2 Best-of-three Swiss Over
I failed. I lost twice. Sure, my resistance must’ve been high after playing Ray, Jeudy, Gavin and Ashton at least, so there was still a chance that I’d make cut, but I still wasn’t sure because tiebreakers are a horrible thing. I paced around the convention center endlessly, waiting for the final rankings to see who made it to the Top 8 single elimination best-of-three cut. Now I was a little worried. Which was ridiculous.
From the very beginning, I came to Nationals just as an excuse to hang out with some friends I hadn’t seen in a really long time. Qualifying for Worlds wasn’t part of the plan. I tried hard to win my matches because that’s what you’re supposed to do in tournaments. I was just curious to see how well I’d do, maybe learn a few things to become a stronger player, then maybe relax on Days 2 and 3 with my friends watching better players duke it out in top cut. I had only built this team with El Scorcho about a month before, played it for two weeks then started playing Link’s Awakening instead.
What kind of person would be stupid enough to hope that they could actually qualify for Worlds by making Top 4 after a horrible Regionals run? But now that I was so close to making Top 4, part of me couldn’t help but hold out hope that I could somehow do it. Then I told myself that feeling hopeful is a just a waste of time when you can think realistically.
Though I probably sounded really pessimistic in that last paragraph, I actually felt pretty calm in general, since I had already accepted going into Nationals that I realistically didn’t have a chance at all. Getting all emotional and hopeful in these events is just a waste of time and energy and ultimately, a trap. I’ve seen many players who were excited to be 4-0 in Swiss, only to end up going 5-4 at tournaments. Save the celebrations for later, people. Don’t count your successes until you actually get them.
Paradoxically, I think that calm resignation is partially why I won most of my matches at Nationals. Getting all emotional or hopeful or arrogant in these events is the fastest way to lose in this game. Don’t let the game’s RNG bother you. Don’t let the attitudes of other players bother you. More importantly, ignore your hope for actually doing well in these tournaments because chances are, with these tournaments growing more and more popular and players getting better, you’re not going to finish as well as you’d like. Keep the big picture in the back of your mind. Take each game or set one at a time.
In my top 16 set against R Inanimate at last year’s Nationals, I tilted hard in game 3 because all I kept thinking about was that I had to win that game or my season would be over. Don’t do that. Just play the game, find the way to win and do it. Don’t get discouraged if you lose a game in best-of-three. Take long walks around the convention center to stay calm if you have to. That’s probably the number one reason why I disappeared a lot last weekend. My legs ended up getting really sore though.
On a related note, to anyone reading this, if I accidentally ignored you when you were trying to talk to me, I’m sorry. I can zone out quite a bit, especially in situations like this. A number of people later confronted me about supposedly ignoring them, but I would never do that on purpose. I’ll try to be a little more attentive next time!
After a REALLY long walk, I found myself back at the standings board. Saw my name. 7th seed!
Day 2 Best-of-three Top 8 Single Elimination–VS Simon Yip (Simon)
After a momentary burst of happiness (and many hugs from my friends), I stopped smiling. I was still in the tournament, but I wasn’t out of the woods yet. I had to win this round in order to gain enough Championship Points to qualify for Worlds. No pressure.
Before playing in the top 8, the judges had each of the top 8 players fill their team in on a sheet. I somehow found myself next to Alex Ogloza, who had apparently secured his Worlds invite in the top 16. I congratulated him, made some small talk, and thought he was a cool guy. I also learned that he was Evan Falco from Nugget Bridge. He encouraged me to keep on going and make Top 4. I then found out who my Top 8 opponent would be: Simon.
Kind of unfortunate there, since both of us needed to make top 4 in order to qualify for Worlds. Since we were matched up, only one of us would make it. I was still kind of surprised by how calm I felt in spite of knowing all this. I guess, considering that I wasn’t going to be able to go to Nationals just three weeks earlier due to some real life stuff, I knew I was lucky to be there at Nationals at all. Top 8 was just gravy, really, especially since this was already my best performance yet. Wanting anything more than that would just be greedy, given my situation.
Team preview came up and I couldn’t help but feel a little hopeful. Five of Simon’s six Pokémon were weak in some way to my Safety Goggles Gyarados alone. I left Tyranitar and Goodra on the bench in both games because their matchups weren’t favorable, but I was certain that the other four would do some major work against Simon’s team. I won’t go into much more detail here since Team Rocket Elite, once again, was kind enough to record the matches (below). I admittedly did get lucky with some flinches from Gyarados, but that’s the game we play. Sometimes the RNG hurts you, sometimes it helps you. My bulky spreads also pulled some major work here as well. I managed to win the set 2-0.
With my 2-0 win over Simon, I moved on to the Top 4 and secured my Worlds invite. Hugs ensued, congratulations everywhere, and I still didn’t feel like I actually made it to Worlds even though I knew it to be true. Guess I was just too wired up from the past two days of battling and still had the nervous energy of waiting to battle the next opponent. Speaking of whom:
Day 2 Best of 3 Top 4 Single Elimination–VS Logan Castro (Yellowbox)
Some of the pressure I’d been feeling the past few days was gone now that I’d qualified for Worlds. But now that I’d come so far — out of 491 Masters that came in on Friday, only four of them were still standing — I still had to do my best to go as far as possible. I hadn’t secured a free trip+free hotel room for Worlds (yet), so I had to win this round in order to get them. If I lost here though, fine. I could live with driving 11 hours to Worlds. If I won, I’d be able to battle in the finals on the grand stage the next day, with a free trip+free hotel room in my back pocket.
The Top 8 Bracket at this point
Logan was a pretty chill guy. We congratulated each other on making Worlds, talked about how far this game had come competitively, and somehow Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came up in the conversation. Don’t ask me why. In any case, we soon cut to the chase and started the match. Once again, thanks to Team Rocket Elite, the matches can be seen below:
Game 1 was pretty close. Game 2 I had the advantage most of the time. Logan had a pretty interesting team, with things like Substitute Garchomp, Zapdos, Bisharp and Chandelure. However, once I realized that his Substitute Garchomp was slower than Kangaskhan and couldn’t flinch Gyarados with a Rock Slide he didn’t have, along with the fact that his Gyarados was Scarfed, it became significantly easier to play against his team. I was able to win 2-0.
Alex Ogloza (Evan Falco) becoming my finals opponent
Me vs Alex Ogloza (Evan Falco) (right)
My back felt like it was practically broken after getting hugged and even picked up by what seemed like everyone I knew. My friends were really excited that I had it made it to the FINALS and won an invite+free trip+free hotel room at Worlds. It didn’t exactly help that I’d been sleeping on the floor of the hotel room I was sharing with the Poke-Pokes from OSU, so my back wasn’t exactly feeling great. Combine that with the fact that I barely ate anything at all for breakfast and lunch during tournaments, my stomach had shrunk over the weekend so I could barely eat half a plate of dinner anymore. Anyway, the fact that I made it to the finals didn’t really sink in for me yet, since I still felt wired up, tense and ready to take on the next opponent.
El Scorcho then told me that my opponent in the finals would either be Jon Hu or Alex Ogloza, and that they were battling on the stage right now. I looked up at the screen and my stomach dropped. Jon had both Confuse Ray Sableye and Mega Gengar, both of whom give my team massive problems. While I’m sure Jon Hu is a nice guy, I rooted for Alex because his team wouldn’t be anywhere near as difficult to fight as Jon Hu’s would be if I were to face him in the finals. While people weren’t exactly supportive of Jon because of Confuse Ray Sableye, I could tell that he was really good at predictions, which to me seemed like the main reason he made it to the Top 4, as opposed to the coinflips from Confuse Ray.
When Alex won, I shamelessly Tebowed again, grateful for not having to battle Sableye and Gengar in the finals. I even went up to Alex, congratulated and thanked him and gave him a hug (are hugs the new handshake at US Nationals?) for winning against Sableye. Then I disappeared from the convention center with the Poke-Pokes in order to talk strategy for the next day. But before that happened, I casually checked my Facebook and was taken aback by what looked like 20 different notifications (which never happens to me, guys). You can guess what happened there.
Preparations for the Next Day
Since El Scorcho and I had each built half the team — and since he and a few other people had apparently scouted Alex out for me already — I was pretty lucky to not have to really do much planning the night before. I watched Alex’s streamed match against Jon Hu. I knew that just as I had information on Alex’s team, Alex would have all the information from my team too and was preparing for the next day as well. I did predict that he would lead Kangaskhan+Hydreigon, since that was the most effective lead combo he could use against me. I decided to lead with Kangaskhan+Gyarados, as that was the safest combo against his team. I knew that he might anticipate that, since Gyarados was pretty good against his team, but I went with it because I figured that going overboard on countering his leads would probably cost me the set.
I even planned that in game 1, I would switch Aegislash into Gyarados to absorb Draco Meteor. I knew there was a chance that he would use Dark Pulse in that slot instead, anticipating the switch, but I decided to go for it because I thought he might play a little more cautiously on game 1. What I failed to realize was that since Alex was using an EXTREMELY offensive team, he would therefore have a more offensive playstyle that relied more on hard reads. This is why I lost Aegislash so quickly in game 1.
I also decided that if Kangaskhan+Gyarados didn’t work, then I’d fall back on Kangaskhan+Amoonguss in game 2 to boost up Kangaskhan and use Kangaskhan to create an opening to boost up Gyarados and sweep through his team. I also decided against using Goodra in games 1 and 2 because both Ray and Soul Survivor avoided using their Rain modes against me. In Soul Sur’s case though, he did bring Rain when I didn’t expect him to in game 2. I decided that if there was a game 3 in the set, I would bring Goodra there because that was when his Rain mode was most likely to show up. Not guaranteed since he might expect that, but I couldn’t think of a better alternative.
A Note About Team Scouting
I want to talk about this a little bit, since I’ve seen some people complain about this in the past. Team scouting is an unfortunate reality we have no choice but to deal with as players. Everyone wants to and will talk about interesting things they saw and will want to help out their friends. And frankly, if you lose because “someone knew exactly what you were running”, then chances are you simply didn’t battle well enough. Stop making excuses for why you lost. People like R Inanimate and gebebo have been known to run the same teams forever and STILL win consistently because they’re great battlers. It’d be a different story if someone knew exactly what you were running AND actively built a team specifically to stop you, but with locked battle boxes, that literally can’t happen in live events.
Dawn of the Final Day–VS Alex Ogloza (Evan Falco)
Nothing much really happened that morning. I just chilled in the Convention Center, was encouraged once again by theGr8, Greyson, Mancuso, Stormfront and a giant horde of other awesome people. I was told by a judge the day before to come back to the stage at 1 PM, so I left my friends halfway through lunch, where we ran into Arti and talked about Soaking things in Pokémon and other goofy strategies.
In front of the stage, I met up with Chris Brown (AlphaZealot), Alex (Evan Falco) and two other judges who were apparently supposed to be our escorts or something. We were told to sit in a reserved row of seats in front of the stage along with the finalists of the other divisions and judges. We sat and talked for a while about past VGC competitions, as these judges and Alex had been around for quite a while. I was relatively new compared to these guys. Alex then had to run back to his hotel room because he apparently forgot his game in his pants back in his hotel room, believe it or not. Good thing he caught it an hour before the Junior finals started!
Alex and I filled out what was basically our competitive resumes and handed them back to the judges so that the commentators would have additional stuff to talk about. We basically sat and chilled until the Junior finals started, talking about silly things like Entrainment Durant, which he apparently lost to once on Showdown. We also talked about how AWESOME Goodra is, and how interesting it was that in Masters, neither Garchomp or Salamence made it to the finals. Instead, we had Goodra and Hydreigon, the superior dragons. We also talked about the tournament in general, and interestingly enough both of us lost round 1 on Day 1 of best-of-one Swiss. We both also had relatively low seeds (he was 30th, I was 44th) from Day 1. If we had kept the simple top 32 from last year, I wouldn’t have even made top cut, and someone else would have been in the finals. Thank you very much, Chris Brown!
We also got to meet the senior division finalists, TechnoZ and Aubrey. TechnoZ brought up that he heard I was going to retire from this game. I was taken aback and said that I had made that blog post back when it looked like real life wouldn’t let me come to Nationals. I never said anything about retiring. I’ll be back in VGC 2015! Why can’t rumors ever get it right for once…
Anyways, Alex and I were both pretty hyped to see Goodra in the Junior finals. I was really disappointed that the Senior finalists didn’t have Goodra like the Juniors and Masters finals did. Come on guys, get with the program. Apart from that (major) flaw, I enjoyed both sets.
Now it was our turn. You can watch the recorded finals here.
Justin Flynn introducing the Masters division finalists
Games 1 and 2
This was probably the most aggressive set I had ever played. Most sets at this high level of play aren’t this aggressive, but the insanely hyper-offensive nature of Alex’s team forced me to go on the offensive as well. On game 1, I didn’t think he’d actually risk using Dark Pulse my Aegislash switch-in in game 1. I lost pretty easily since I was stupid and didn’t bring Amoonguss to let myself setup. Game 2 I turned things around. I predicted that he’d leave my Kangaskhan alone on turn 1 and probably switch Talonflame in to destroy Amoonguss quickly. I KO’d it on the switch, then swept through the rest of his team thanks to first Kangaskhan getting to +2 Attack, then Gyarados getting a free Dragon Dance.
Game 3 Team Preview
Game 3 team preview was pretty tricky and the stakes were extremely high. Here we were, in game 3 of the Masters division finals, the FINAL final battle of the tournament, on the big stage, in front of a cheering crowd. Whoever won would become the 2014 US National Champion and get a Wii U (which I wanted badly since the Wii U is actually getting some great games in a few months!). No pressure, right?
I thought he might lead Rain — possibly with Kangaskhan+Politoed or Politoed+Ludicolo — so that he could setup for a Ludicolo sweep. That’s why I led with Kangaskhan+Gyarados again even though I lost with it on game 1. This combo would Intimidate Kangaskhan and deal massive damage with a Rain-boosted Waterfall to it right off the bat if the former lead was chosen, or simply absorb Rain-boosted attacks and setup with Dragon Dance if the latter lead was chosen. After how easily I destroyed Alex last game with Kangaskhan+Amoonguss, it made sense for him to bring Ludicolo, I thought. It could outrun Kangaskhan and Scarf Tyranitar in the Rain, bypass Amoonguss’s Rage Powder and Spore, and take a few hits from Gyarados.
Predicting all this, I decided to keep Goodra and Amoonguss in the back. Goodra to stop Rain, and Amoonguss to setup and sweep like last time. I’d have to be extremely careful about that Talonflame though. Also, there was a chance that he might predict me to use Goodra in anticipation of him using Rain, and thus not use Rain altogether. In that case, if he led with Kangaskhan+Hydreigon, I would end up in some serious trouble. But would he risk using that lead again seeing how he lost last time? Would he expect me to expect him to adapt to how I played in game 2?
I didn’t know.
In the end, I just decided to go with Goodra and Amoonguss to counter both Rain and his goodstuffs mode. Unfortunately for me, Alex didn’t fall for the Goodra trick. Talking with him afterwords, though, it turns out he did seriously consider bringing Ludicolo. I’m really disappointed in how I played this match.
Game 3 Turn 1–Why I Protected Kangaskhan
Alex’s Kangaskhan+Hydreigon vs my Kangaskhan+Gyarados–I (correctly) Protected against Hydreigon’s Draco Meteor, as it is faster than Kangaskhan on the turn it Mega Evolves and would have knocked me out easily otherwise. After I OHKO’d his Talonflame on the switch in game 2 turn 1, I didn’t expect him to be so eager to leave Kangaskhan alone this time.
Game 3 Turn 1–Why I Tried to Dragon Dance with Gyarados
Gyarados’s slot was much trickier though. Do I Protect, switch, attack or Dragon Dance? Since he sniped my Aegislash on game 1 turn 1 so easily, I was afraid he might predict a switch there and double-target as in game 1 and thus didn’t switch Gyarados out. I decided to try setting up Dragon Dance because I figured that would probably be the least expected move, and if I was able to set up, then I would have an enormous advantage. If Gyarados was indeed KO’d on turn 1, then I could switch Amoonguss in for free and go to town with Kangaskhan’s Power-Up Punch.
For whatever reason, I didn’t think that Draco Meteor on Kangaskhan+Fake Out on Gyarados was the best possible play he could have done on turn 1. While I Protected Kangaskhan partially due to this, I still wasn’t used to the bizarre idea that Hydreigon would be faster than Kangaskhan (only when not Mega Evolved), so that was part of the reason why I didn’t see the Fake Out coming on Gyarados. What made things trickier was that the last time Alex was in a position to use Fake Out, he didn’t use it.
Also, in game 1, Alex had used Fake Out on my own Kangaskhan. I thought I might have been able to bait it again since it was also possible that Alex would want to double target my own Kangaskhan with Fake Out+Draco Meteor to stop it from getting a free KO like it did in game 2 against his Talonflame. It was possible he didn’t know whether I invested in my Kangaskhan’s bulk or not to give it a chance of surviving Hydreigon’s Draco Meteor. I thought this double-target would be a little more likely than usual from his perspective since in both the previous games, I had played very defensively with Gyarados. With this in mind, I was hoping to catch him off-guard with a Dragon Dance right from the start. In retrospect, I should have switched Amoonguss in for Gyarados on turn 1 and play the game out similarly to game 2.
Another thing I probably should have realized is that a boosted Gyarados is very dangerous for Alex. I thought I knew this already, but I didn’t consider all the ramfications. What I mean is that from Alex’s point of view, he had to do everything possible to stop Gyarados from Dragon Dancing.
And that meant Fake Out.
Something Else I Could’ve Done
Even on turn 2 of what actually happened in the game, I should have switched Kangaskhan out for Amoonguss to survive the Draco Meteor, healed up with Sitrus Berry, and also Protected with Gyarados to stave off his Kangaskhan so that I could start Dragon Dancing the next turn. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I didn’t think of all this and lost as a result.
Looking back, a lot of what I could have done seems obvious. If anything, this goes to show that choosing your moves when relaxing at home is very different and not at all representative of playing a high-pressure finals set on the big stage in front of a cheering audience. Even if I was relaxing at home, though, game 3’s team preview and turn 1 would have been very tricky either way.
Even though I’m happy to have finished at 2nd place at the 2014 US National tournament, I’m still disappointed with how I played that final game. Even though Alex didn’t end up bringing Rain, I still had a strong fighting chance with the Pokémon I brought. I failed to give the audience a good show on game 3. I failed to give an epic battle that game 3 of the Masters finals called for. I lost embarrassingly easily. I HAVE to do better than that if I want to stand a chance in August. That said, this set was still a good experience that I’ll carry with me to Worlds.
Alex Oglaza (Evan Falco) becoming Champ, me having lost game 3
Final Ranking: 2nd at 2014 US Nationals
Adib got Worlds invite, free hotel room+free trip, 3DS XL, Finalist trophy, useless TCG cards, playmat, & binder for winning!
*cue victory music*
Yeah, fine, whatever, I didn’t actually win, but you know what I mean. Even though I lost, I was still pleased with my performance in the longest Nationals yet. I was also pretty happy for Alex for becoming the Champ. He’s a great guy and I know he’ll do great at Worlds. That said, I’ll be more than happy to send him packing on the tilt train next month 😉
While I’m disappointed that I didn’t win the Wii U, I’m still pretty happy about winning that 3DS XL. I’ve only had an original 3DS all this time. As of now, I’ve transferred all my data over and upgraded to a system with 90% larger screens. Man, what have I been missing all this time… Anyway, I’ll give my youngest sister my old (now blank) original 3DS. Of course it was only after hearing that that she got happy I went to Nationals, go figure. Looking forward to rocking my new 3DS XL at Worlds!
After stepping off the stage, I practically disappeared under a horde of hugs. If this doesn’t tell you how awesome the VGC community is, I don’t know what will. Many of the audience apparently fell into the same trap that I did where I considered Alex brining Rain, when he didn’t actually do that. I got my pictures taken, then left the convention hall soon afterwards to drive an hour back to my apartment to do some homework that I had to turn in the next day.
Interesting Things I Noticed From Nationals:
- Day 1 30th seed and 44th seed making it to the finals
- Day 2 7th seed and 8th seed–both the only 4-2’s in Top 8–making it to the finals
- Two of my three losses in Top Cut (Days 2 and 3) were featured on the big stage. Great
- No Garchomp or Salamence in the Masters finals.
- This was the 2nd National in a row where I fought someone copying Lajos’s team
- R Justice’s half-Rain, half-goodstuffs team is apparently a thing and I did not account for it going in
- Zapdos surprisingly increased in usage
- Hydreigon was responsible for:
-one Day 1 Swiss loss (theBattleRoom)
-two Day 2 best-of-three Swiss losses (Ray and Soul Survivor)
-my loss in the finals (Evan Falco)
-I think the only Hydreigon I won against was nineinchnailed’s on Day 2 Round 1
-This is incredibly ironic because next to Gyarados and Steelix, Hydreigon is my favorite Pokémon
-I guess this is what I get for betraying Hydreigon. HAIL HYDRA
Villains Always Lose
After Nationals, I remembered how in one of R Inanimate’s regional reports, Randy joked that he lost in the finals because villains always lose the final battle. In my case, with Wrath the Gyarados, Ghirahim the Aegislash and Lelouch the Tyranitar, I guess I was always doomed to lose in the end. Oh well. I’ll just vow revenge and bust out again later or something. As long as the Triforce of Power is in my hand…err I mean, shirt. Whatever.
Why I Didn’t do Well at Regionals
Kind of detracting a bit, but I’m sure people are wondering why a guy who went to two XY regionals and literally got zero CP was suddenly able to finish 2nd at Nationals. I can’t exactly answer that for sure, but I will answer a related question of why I didn’t get any CP at all in winter and spring Regionals, but did so in fall Regionals.
Long answer: check out my blog post here
Short answer: Taking too long to let go of Steelix. After basically inventing Steelix (my favorite Pokémon) as a viable VGC Pokémon last year, I used him successfully at 2013 Nationals, the following Regionals, a few online tournaments, and Apex 2014. It was incredibly hard for me to let go of Steelix when it was no longer viable. I know that in competitive Pokémon, you usually have to accept that you can’t use your favorite Pokémon. That’s one thing. It turns out that letting go of a signature Pokémon that you created & performed consistently well with in the past is a different story altogether. It took getting zero CP from two XY Regionals for me to finally give up on Steelix this year. The fact that I made top 8 at the largest grassroots tournament (Apex) a week after winter Regionals was a big reason why I spent so much time trying to make Steelix work again.
If I had run more standard teams from the get-go, I know I could have gotten some CP at XY Regionals. Maybe even enough so that I wouldn’t have had to go into hero mode at Nationals to clinch my Worlds invite. If you ever invent a viable signature Pokémon, don’t fall for the same trap I did. While other players with signature Pokémon were either smarter or had their signature Pokémon banned this year or some combination of both, I didn’t see them fall into this trap. Don’t make the same mistake I did.
- After the Steelix fiasco from January to April, I am now able to heartlessly give up on any Pokémon if I can’t use it well
- As for Nationals, I gained a ton of best of 3 experience. Not just battling experience, but also how to stay calm and advance through marathon tournaments like Nationals was this year. I realized I had to learn how to do this after tilting on game 3 against R Inanimate in the Top 16 at 2013 US Nationals
- I need to actively research foreign metagames and players so that I don’t get blown up by a strong team from overseas
- Adapting to a new meta by using standard Pokémon first, then branching out to try quirkier things. I started playing Pokémon competitively in VGC 2012, so this year has been a harsh learning experience in adapting to new metas
If you made it all the way down here, thank you very much for reading my report on how I finished 2nd at the 2014 US National tournament. I hope you managed to take something away from it.
I’ve already said this, but thank you, Chris Brown (AlphaZealot). The 3-day tournament format you came up with was probably the best thing you could have done for Nationals. Because of it, not only did we have a larger top cut (which allowed me to squeak in at 44th), but it was great practice for the best-of-three format of the World Championships and allowed for a more accurate ranking of the top cut compared to Day 1’s Swiss results. While I’m not sure what team I want to run at Worlds yet, at the very least, I’m prepared for a marathon of high-pressure battles at Washington, DC. Thank you.
The tournament’s been over for a little while and while I’m happy with my result, I can’t help but note that it took some luck for me to finish as high as I did. I did have to play against some bad team matchups (and even won against a good number of them), but I didn’t have to face anything crazy like Confuse Ray Sableye or Dark Void Smeargle like some of my competition did. I have no doubt that there are a number of players that are stronger than me overall that didn’t place as well as I did because I probably got a little luckier in matchups and whatever the RNG decides to do in-game than they did. That said, I definitely plan to try my very best at Worlds to prove that I really do belong there like my performance at Nationals apparently says I do. That said, this is Pokémon. Luck comes with the territory, and it evens out in the long run.
As for the team I used, I’m sorry it’s not as interesting as my 10th Place 2013 US Nationals Steelix team. Sometimes you can come up with cool tricks, other times you can’t. Either way, you have to play to win, and this team was my play at Nationals. Unlike my 2013 team, I don’t feel pseudo-invincible with this team (even though I didn’t finish as well back in 2013) because of certain holes in it. That said, if you want to perform well, I recommend building a team that is 1) viable and 2) you actually like. If you actually have fun using a certain team that’s viable, then you’ll be more encouraged to keep testing and tweaking the team until it becomes strong.
Special shout-out to Matt Siebert (El Scorcho), who laid the groundwork for this team a month before Nationals. If he hadn’t come to me with his rough team idea, then I likely would not have had the inspiration needed to mold the team into what it became, and later pilot it to 2nd place at Nationals.
I would also like to thank no2moloh for providing me with the Tyranitar, since I was too lazy to breed a flawless one myself. I would also like to thank everyone who took the pictures that I used in this warstory, since I’ve always been too lazy to take pictures myself. And finally, I would like to thank everyone else who supported me at Nationals. I had a bunch of great people like El Scorcho, Uncle Taint, Greysong, theGr8, MrEobo, Darkeness, MurraMyrrh (thanks for the cover art!), linkyoshimario, Mancuso and a giant list of other equally awesome people cheering me on all throughout Nationals. The community is hands-down the best part of VGC and I know that because of it, I plan to be back for years to come. I hope to see you all at Worlds in Washington, DC next month!
I guess this means I can’t go back to reaching the 7th dungeon in Link’s Awakening for now *sigh*