Published on July 4th, 2012 | by Scott


Nationals with the Bubble King

I had been having a hard time finding a team that fit me well this year, so I was excited when we suddenly got a surge of information about what the Japanese were doing this year between the Japanese Nationals and Ray, skarm, Danny, and dtrain going to Japan and bringing home some new information. These events gave me a bunch of Pokemon and team concepts to try out before the United States Nationals that were closer to where I wanted to play stylistically. I tend to prefer teams that are kind of middle speed where I’m not trying to stall but I’m not super offensive either and am aiming to kill Pokemon in two or three hits and win through repeated switching the way most Japanese players tend to, so it was pretty much Christmas for me. I tried out many teams and Pokemon that came out of this new flood of information, but none of them seemed to fit for me quite as well as the team I wound up using. The 6 Pokemon themselves are all as they started on the original team I tried out, but EV, move, and item adjustments were made throughout the team to fit the Western metagame and my playstyle a little better. I think my next step after Nationals is to see if I can use the concepts and ideas this team consists of to make a team more fully my own that takes advantage of what I learned from playing this team, but here’s where it was at during Nationals.

The Team

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You will notice quickly there were a couple other competitors using basically the same team I was. One wound up using it because I had been talking the team up and he was using the same resource I was and found he liked the team as well, the other because he got it from one of my EVer/theory partners. You will likely also notice that for like the fifth tournament in a row I wasn’t nearly as successful with this set-up as people I gave it to. I like the team because it has a lot of options to use as counterplay for potential enemy tactics and because it is effective both in and out of Trick Room (though obviously it works best with TR up). It also has the nice added bonus that while things are easier if the opponent doesn’t know what’s coming, it has enough options that it is still very effective once the enemy knows what I’m running, so it isn’t something that would collapse in a best of three.

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Cresselia (F) @ Sitrus Berry
Trait: Levitate
EVs: 212 HP / 60 Def / 156 SAtk / 76 SDef
IVs: Speed 0
Sassy Nature (+SDef, -Spd)
– Helping Hand
– Swagger
– Trick Room
– Ice Beam

I’m not completely sold on the EV spread I used because there’s not a relevant reason for most of it in our metagame, but it worked, so I didn’t really mess with it too much(though Cresselia’s role in our metagame is so large that I’ll probably work on other spreads that accomplish a similar goal in the future). Speed is absolute minimum to work with the team’s primary function of abusing Trick Room. I am a big fan of Swagger, which is an important quality for someone who wrote an article about Swagger, and a big part of Cress’ role on this team is to help out Metagross with TR and Swagger support as well as by removing Ground types for it with Ice Beam.

I am in general a fan of bulky Pokemon that have some amount of offensive power so that I can play the game through switching and trading attacks when appropriate rather than there being a lot of OHKOs either way, and I think Cresselia is used best as a bulky attacker that helps accomplish those roles than simply a wall. This isn’t the best example of that since I’m only running one attack, even with just Ice Beam Cresselia’s offense was pretty relevant to the teams performance. I know some people went a lot farther with the offense than I did at Nationals with items like Choice Specs and Expert Belt and 2-3 attacks, and I’m glad that the mindset for how to use Cresselia is shifting because I think it’s a much better use of her excellent BST. This particular Special Attack spread is to (normally) OHKO non-Yache Salamence, which isn’t a very common threat in the US, but the feel of the numbers has been good so I haven’t adjusted them much.

Cresselia is a massive terror in this metagame because of how well she takes hits. She’s on the team to support Metagross, assist with dealing damage to bulky targets, Dragons, and Flying pokemon, and to set Trick Room for the team.

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Metagross @ Lum Berry
Trait: Clear Body
EVs: 220 HP / 140 Atk / 20 Def / 128 SDef
IVs: Speed 14
Adamant Nature (+Atk, -SAtk)
– Meteor Mash
– Zen Headbutt
– Earthquake
– Protect

One of what I would consider the team’s three major offensive weapons as it was at Nationals along with Gastrodon and Zapdos.

It originally had slightly more special bulk to survive Infernape Overheats, but given that Infernape is basically never seen here, I moved 20 points of the Special Defense EVs to Defense to give myself a 0% chance of being 2HKOd by other Metagross’ unboosted Earthquakes (or perhaps more importantly recently, to never be OHKOd by Swagger boosted Earthquakes). The Attack is a little lower than I might have preferred but I liked being able to shrug off attacks from Pokemon like Rotom more than being able to get more damage off given that with how high Metagross’ attack is to begin with. I found running Adamant it doesn’t gain many improvements in XHKOs in that range, though I may adjust it to be just a little stronger in the future.

The one thing that really frustrated me about Metagross is its reliability. For instance, it’s not mentioned in the rest of the report because I forgot if it happened vs. bears or vs. Duke, but I actually missed a Swagger on a +1 Meta that saved a weakened Cresselia from what would have been certain death from +3 Meteor Mash. In another game, I came within 17 HP of losing because I missed Meteor Mash on an Abomasnow. In spite of the occasional gaps in reliability I still have a lot of faith in the duo of Cress/Meta and Swaggering both inside and outside of TR. I will, however, likely look into the viability of running Iron Head harder in the future because there’s a lot that can go wrong as is and not having a 100% accuracy move that doesn’t hit my ally makes me nervous. I think due to the combinations of their typing, movepools, and stats Cresselia and Metagross are probably the two best Pokemon of this metagame, so I felt like I was probably best off using a team that had both of them.

While I’m writing about Metagross, a point I think is worth making: every team should probably have a Steel type. I am surprised at how often I see teams that lack one, even with Metagross at nearly #1 usage in every event. It’s really important to have a safe switch-in to Draco Meteors because sometimes the opponent is going to be able to get them off, and Metagross — especially with some Special bulk like this one — is one of the best ways to negate them.

Metagross helps the team on defense by absorbing Normal-, Flying-, and Dragon-type attacks and takes Swaggers to become one of the teams primary attackers with its above average coverage and Attack.

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Volcarona (M) @ Bug Gem
Trait: Flame Body
EVs: 44 HP / 4 Def / 76 SAtk / 220 SDef / 164 Spd
Timid Nature (+Spd, -Atk)
– Bug Buzz
– Heat Wave
– Rage Powder
– Protect

I have a rocky relationship with this Pokemon. I love that it is on the team for team preview because people assume that TopMoth garbage when they see both and people who don’t know me tend to pick the wrong leads and people that do know me tend to be very confused because they know it is not something that I would be likely to be running as it is kind of the antithesis to the playstyle I value.

The orignal Volcarona had Fire Blast over Heat Wave and Substitute over Rage Powder. I like having at least a few spread moves on my team to give myself ways to knock out multiple weakened opponents late in the game, and given that there’s only two present otherwise (Heat Wave on Zapdos, which I try not to use because it’s usually a bad lock when used as anything other than a game-ender and, Earthquake on Metagross) and it just felt more comfortable than using a move that is basically unseen in our metagame. I half-regret this choice: the extra damage would have been really nice for actually killing the targets that are weak to Fire given my lack of offensive investment. As it stands, it needs help from Cresselia or Hitmontop’s Helping Hands to get meaningful 1/2HKOs with both Heat Wave and Bug Buzz. Bug Gem lets it pressure some Pokemon like Cresselia and Tyranitar harder, but it still fails to pick up KOs on defensive versions with this set-up. It’s very focused on winning in two turns reliably with its bulk rather than winning in one, but I feel like I could clean that up a little more if I’d had some more time and get cleaner kills in one turn on flimsy targets.

I love the Rage Powder addition despite not getting many chances to use it this weekend. I decided the night before I left I wanted to make the change and acquiring it wound up being fairly last minute; Paul traded the updated version to me in the registration line (though I ended up having to re-register anyway). I think in general Rage Powder and Follow Me are really underrated moves because it lets you turn dangerous situations into safe ones and force your opponents’ hand pretty substantially. I think it’s particularly interesting on a Pokemon like Volcarona where if you choose not to Rage Powder you have a significant offensive threat to make your opponent make a difficult choice. I feel like if there’s one thing on this team I didn’t master in time for Nationals, it was Volcarona, because there’s a lot that could potentially come from this slot between its ridiculous base 135 special attack, the bulk it has, and Rage Powder, but it made pretty infrequent appearances for me. Rage Powder opens up neat moves like removing the threat of Grass moves from rain teams for Gastrodon as it protects Volc from Water and Protecting Cresselia from Bug Buzzes and Dark Pulses so it can TR. Winning Pokemon matches is all about getting control and using it and Volcarona is a Pokemon that can grab it in multiple ways with several of its potential sets.

The EVs are a little eccentric, but I am a big fan of what I ended up with. Speed brings it one point over Adamant Garchomp to slam it with Bug Buzz when needed as a finisher, and the HP/Special Defense is the highest HP point where the lowest EV investment possibile is made to allow Volcarona to always survive Latios Dragon Gem Draco Meteors. The special bulk also helps it be a general damage sponge with Rage Powder against special attackers, with Hitmontop’s Intimidate helping the team with the physical. There’s a few calcs I can’t recall on standard sets that end up with guaranteed 1/2HKOs within a percentage point of 100% with the minimal special attack investment available with and without Helping Hand, which enables it be just effective enough offensively while keeping the rest of the utiltiy of its set. I saw surprisingly few Latios and surprisingly little Rain in my flight, which kind of limited the use of Volcarona, but I like the checks.

I might have considered replacing it without the team preview impact, but that and the presence of Rage Powder are pretty nice perks. Volcarona supports the team with Ragepowder and helps cover enemies like Latios, Cresselia, and Metagross that annoy most of the rest of the team.

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Hitmontop (M) @ Dark Gem
Trait: Intimidate
EVs: 252 HP / 196 Atk / 60 SDef
Adamant Nature (+Atk, -SAtk)
– Close Combat
– Fake Out
– Helping Hand
– Sucker Punch

Do not use this set-up as is.

One of the things that sucks about making last minute team changes when you lack… some of the resources other players do is that when some of your previous decisions don’t fall in line with your newer ones you just have to roll with it. At 4 am the day before the competition I had kind of decided that I needed to go back to Sucker Punch on Hitmontop after trying out Mach Punch over it, and that in addition to that I was pretty sure I wanted Dark Gem because I was particularly irritated with Latios and Chandelure after playing with evan(which I would consider an overreaction if they weren’t popular mons who I had already been concerned about). This decision, I think, was the right one: the issue was that since I was using Hitmontop as mostly a support Pokemon previously with Fake Out and Helping Hand being its primary function, and because Close Combat tended to get the same XHKOs regardless of EV investment even with the Fighting Gem I was previously holding, I had dropped a good chunk of Attack EVs to get some more bulk. As it turned out, I had dropped enough so that I lost getting the Dark Gem Sucker Punch OHKOs that are the point of running Dark Gem to begin with. I think the extra damage on Sucker Punch was probably still worth it, but not getting a more offensive Hitmontop was a pretty significant mistake that would likely have cost me a game eventually if I had played in enough games.

Helping Hand is a move I really like because there’s plenty of cases with Hitmontop where the enemy will Protect one Pokemon due to fearing CC on something like Tyranitar or trying to play around Fake Out where HH + the partner’s STAB attack can pick up easy kills. I also have kind of a theme on this team where some of the Pokemon have given up almost too much offense for defense with some of the spreads, and Helping Hand helps to negate that.

Hitmontop is a support option on this team that helps his teammates deal extra damage with Fake Out, Intimidate, and Helping Hand while providing some extra damage with Close Combat and Dark Gem Sucker Punch on targets weak to those attacks.

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Zapdos @ Choice Specs
Trait: Pressure
EVs: 204 HP / 200 SAtk / 56 SDef / 48 Spd
Modest Nature (+SAtk, -Atk)
– Thunderbolt
– Volt Switch
– Heat Wave
– Hidden Power [Flying]

The best Pokemon on the team and probably my favorite set in the VGC12 metagame. While it’s a tad slow, it has probably the best combination of significant offensive power and the bulk to use it of any Pokemon I’ve used. Its power constantly surprised opponents, and having a lead option with Volt Switch was an incredible tool for pushing momentum early and getting desirable matchups out of the gate, especially as a Trick Room team. The only change from the original here is actually Volt Switch over Thunder on the original(like the Japanese Masters Winner’s Rotom), which is bizarre to me becuase it’s such a big part of why the team works. It can either scout and help me get the best TR option in or just start attacking itself: it didn’t get as many chances in this tournament, but I’ve had plenty of games where this team where kills were in front of me so instead of setting TR I just let Zapdos start going for kills. It is the biggest part of why the team can function in or out of TR.

There’s two big things I learned from how effective this set is:

Volt Turn and U-Turn should be used a lot more in doubles. Obviously they aren’t as strong as they are in singles, but they’re pretty excellent moves for keeping momentum and creating positive matchups on the field that you can use to sieze control and make plays. They both have some drawbacks, with U-Turn having issues with Intimidate weakening it and Volt Switch having to worry about Pokemon with Lightning Rod and Ground types blocking the move and stopping the switch, as well as the shared drawback of not switching when hitting a Protect, but with decent prediction they are low risk, medium reward moves.

Choice Specs should be used more. Obviously, it’s somewhat high risk/high reward option compared to other potential items like the gems, but it gives you more options as far as being able to do high damage with multiple moves and more damage over the course of the match, creating a big leap in effectiveness from the gems as long as you don’t lock into the wrong move(which is actually what ended up eliminating me from this event). Being able to use, say, 1.5x boosted HP Flying and Thunderbolt in the same game depending on what the situation calls for is really valuable. I would strongly suggest people who are bored with the metagame and looking for something to do before BW2 try this Pokemon out, you’ll learn a lot about the game from it. Expect the furry-form BW2 trio to pull off similar sets next year.

Zapdos is on the team to annihilate everything like its Mewtwo or something. It also deals damage and gets out for a sweeper on turn 1 more reliably than any other Pokemon in the format.

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Gastrodon (M) @ Earth Gem
Trait: Storm Drain
EVs: 156 HP / 68 Def / 236 SAtk / 44 SDef
IVs: Speed 0
Quiet Nature (+SAtk, -Spd)
– Protect
– Recover
– Ice Beam
– Earth Power

The second best Pokemon on the team. Gastrodon is starting to have the same problems typing-buddy Swampert used to in Generation 3 Singles where people are just sick of losing to it and are throwing HP Grass around like it is going out of style, but in spite of that Gastrodon is usually the Pokemon that does the most damage for this team. Helping Hand Earth Gem Earth Power nets OHKOs on a surprising amount of Pokemon including other Gastrodon, and this Gastrodon does a pretty good job of removing common threats like Metagross, Tyranitar, and most Dragons as well.

I feel like when using Gastrodon you have to try to pull some tricks to get around it’s lackluster BST, and the gem and Recover help deal with its offensive and defensive mediocrity, respectively. The gem makes sure it has at least one burst per game where it functions as a threatening attacker to Pokemon that aren’t weak to one of its attacks. Recover is pretty fantastic on a TR team because of the inevitable double Protects to kill turns, which is made even better because Gastrodon itself tends to force switches and draw a lot of attention due to how many Pokemon it walls. These qualities give it no shortage of opportunities to make plays by healing. As with most Pokemon metagames, Ice is one of the best attacking types in VGC 12 and deals with most of what the Ground STAB can’t. I really like not carrying a Water move even though it can be troublesome with enemy Volcaronas: with Gastrodon’s popularity surging a little, it is handy not to have to worry about boosting the enemy, and as a Pokemon expected to counter rain it’s nice not to have a dead moveslot against Rain teams.

Gastrodon helps counter Rain, Metagross, Heatran, protect Volcarona, and serves as one of the teams balanced bulky sweepers once Trick Room is up, Recovering off hits and dealing significant damage with its surprisingly strong coverage.

The Matches


Game 1 vs. Matt S. (bearsfan092)

His Team: Cresselia, Hitmontop, Heatran, Garchomp
My Team: Cresselia, Hitmontop, Gastrodon, Metagross

I forgot to take notes during this one and decided to save the video to make up for it and then accidentally saved another battle video, so my memory of this battle is a little shaky compared to most of the rest. Also, it was like 8:30 in the morning. I don’t even remember the last time I was up at 8:30 for a reason that didn’t involve a Pokemon battle, I’m lucky I remembered to put pants on, forget battling.

Bears an opponent I really didn’t want to deal with because we’d just played on Wi-Fi a few days before the tournament, so we knew each other’s teams reasonably well. We both started the battle off by giving each other Pokemon for little reason. Bears kind of “overpredicted” me and Close Combated my Hitmontop, who was able to pick up his with its own Close Combat after the Defense drop, and then in the next turn I was SO EXCITED to activate the Dark Gem TTS had traded me in line that I Sucker Punched a target that wasn’t attacking and got killed for free, bringing the match to 3-3. We both played excessively defensively to avoid giving each other anything easy after spooking ourselves with our early misplays and the match winds up being pretty anticlimactic for the most part, resembling the CakesofSpan/Crow350 matches that happened the next day. He eventually picks up a kill, leaving the score at 3-2 with about a minute and a half to go. During the games final turn I picked up a kill on his Heatran with my Gastrodon that leaves us at like 70%~ Cresselia and 80%~ Gastrodon vs his 60% Garchomp and his 15% Cresselia. Depending on how the turn came out, the game could have ended 2-1 for him or 1-0 for me depending on if he had killed my Gastrodon before I had been able to attack (his Garchomp had no chance to survive due to having exhausted Yache and my Cress being guaranteed to survive the turn). However, the turn never happens because of time and I “win” 2-2 due to having more remaining HP.


Game 2 vs. Thomas C.

His team: Darmanitan, Eelektross, Hydreigon, Gallade
My team: Zapdos, Cresselia, Gastrodon, Metagross

This was my one low stress battle of the day. My opponent was a really nice guy, but was clearly new to the competitive scene(he mentioned having imperfect IVs, for instance, but I guess at least he knew what they were) so it was a bit of an uphill battle for him. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from his team, which included a lot of uncommon Pokemon and didn’t have a lot of synergy I noticed at a glance, so I decided just to fall back on my TR mode, which tends to be what I use when I don’t know what else to do.

He led with Darmanitan and Eelektross against my Zapdos and Cresselia. Darmanitan wound up being Scarfed and chunked Zapdos for more than 50% with Rock Slide, but thankfully didn’t flinch either of my Pokemon. I Volt Switched off of Darmanitan for 90% or so into Metagross (which in retrospect probably should have been Gastrodon because base Eel is slower than my Metagross, but I feared a Grass attack on Eel) while his Eel Thunderbolted my Trick Rooming Cresselia. His Eel did wind up having little or no Speed investment and went before Metagross under TR, doing a pretty good chunk of damage to Metagross with Flamethrower, while I weakened Eel with Metagross’ Zen Headbutt and finished off Darmanitan with Cresselia. He brought in Hydreigon and I switched Metagross out for Gastrodon and eventually took out Hydreigon with a Helping Handed Ice Beam while eating some more damage the previous turn. I ended up finishing off Eel and having to reset Trick Room before whittling down Gallade as it Drain Punched whatever was in front of him as I finished the 4-0.

I ran into him again by the standings board a few rounds later and he mentioned he hadn’t been doing too well since we played, but hopefully he doesn’t take it too hard and sticks with VGC since he seemed like a nice fellow.


Game 3 vs. Luke S. (theamericandream38)

His team: Sableye, Tyranitar, Zapdos, Landorus
My team: Zapdos, Cresselia, Hitmontop, Gastrodon

I felt a little awkward playing Luke because he was nice enough to let Kaleb and I stay in his room, but as was the trend I was stuck playing against someone who I definitely did not want to play. I had some idea what Luke was probably running because I’d been a conduit to getting him his November Regionals team and there were some similar faces from that team still present and because I had played him on PO plenty of times over the year, so this was an interesting one due to familiarity. Unlike in most of my other matches against friends I didn’t have too much trouble focusing on this one since Luke went into note-writing try hard mode so I whipped out my notes too so I could be hip and happening also.

Sadly, my notes are completely illegible so they aren’t actually going to help me remember anything, and I suddenly realize why my first grade teacher hated me so much for not being able to write coherently. I led Zapdos/Cresselia into Sableye/Tyranitar and ended up having to switch around a bit during the first three turns to avoid Taunts, Will-o-Wisps, and Rock Slides. I eventually manage to Thunderbolt Sableye, which does 95% or so, allowing me to pick up the kill with Tyranitar’s Sandstorm. He ends up replacing it with his own Zapdos, who he’s surprised is 2HKOd by my Zapdos. My Zapdos is faster in spite of the fact I’m only running 48 Speed EVs, which surprised me a little. After my Zapdos kills his he’s left with only Landorus and Tyranitar to fight against my largely healthy team. After he finishes off one of my Pokemon, I send out Hitmontop and hilariously Fake Out his Scarfed Tyranitar with Trick Room up because I somehow failed to noticed it was faster than Zapdos earlier but still manage to pick up a 3-0 win. I feel like if tad had played two rounds prior to this point the game would have been much closer, but he was a move behind for the first few turns of the game as I switched around to get TR up and Sableye dead, which I think was kind of a product of me having warmed up against bears and Thomas while tad lounged in the free win zone.


(For another look at this battle, check out Luke’s Tournament Report from the same tournament: Top 8 Tournament Trial.)

Game 4 vs. Michael F. (DuketheDevil) 

His team: Gyarados, Abomasnow, Heatran, Cresselia
My team: Cresselia Volcarona, Gastrodon, Metagross

I didn’t take notes during this one for some reason, so I again don’t really remember as much detail as I should with this one.

I set up Trick Room fairly cleanly and had a nice turn where I anticipated him having Gyarados in the back and switched to Gastrodon as he switched to it, baited by my Volcarona, which had me feeling pretty good about myself. I was chipping away pretty nicely and had an early lead, but Gastro wound up getting crit twice in three turns by Gyarados Ice Fang and something I forget, including the turn where Trick Room was down as I believe I was resetting it, leading to it dying as I went to Recover and lock down the game.

Because of Gastrodon dying the match ending up being a lot closer than I had hoped it would be. We wore each other down a bit and some stuff I don’t remember particularly well happened which led to a point late in the game where I was up 3-2 with weakened Cress and 80%ish Volcarona, with Paralyzed low health Metagross in the back vs 6.1-11.9% Heatran and 100% Abomasnow with Trick Room up. I ended up Protecting Volcarona and sacrificing the weakened Cresselia to bring in Metagross for free while I still had some time on TR, even though I didn’t like that I was gambling on this potential win condition as far as removing Abomasnow before it could blast me due to the paralysis and the miss chance of Meteor Mash (Metagross had only a 59.5% chance of success). I end up not being fully paralyzed, but miss Meteor Mash on Abomasnow anyway, allowing Heatran and Abomasnow to kill Metagross and weaken Volcarona with Heat Wave on Blizzard. Thankfully, even from 80% I’m able to survive their attacks with enough HP to survive the end of turn Hail and I fire off my Bug Gemmed Bug Buzz at Abomasnow, sighing in relief when he doesn’t have Focus Sash. Heatran dies to Abomasnow’s Hail after taking the other 6% on the sacrifice turn and I survive the battle with only a 17 HP Volcarona for a 1-0 victory.


Game 5 vs. Cassie F. (Cassie)

Her team: Heracross, Reuniclus, Sableye, Gastrodon
My team: Volcarona, Zapdos, Gastrodon, Metagross

Once again, I found myself playing an opponent I had desperately wanted to avoid because nearly every Pokemon I played this year was captured or bred by her and I wouldn’t be playing at all without her.

Prior to this point I’d been playing really well, so I guess I figured it was about time to try something new. I got a little psyched out in team previiew by the presence of Reuniclus, Sableye, and Gastrodon to likely muck up any attempts I made to go TR, so I led Zapdos and Volcarona to give myself a better offensive start while I tried to figure out exactly what she was doing. I don’t even remember why I thought going with my TR attackers was the right call in the other two slots, but with Reuinclus and Sableye Hitmontop wasn’t much of an option and Cresselia was largely negated by Sableye and Heracross (even Reuniclus, in a way) so I was pretty handcuffed.

Cassie led Reuinclus and Heracross into my Zapdos and Volcarona. I suspected that if she was using Heracross in VGC it almost certainly had Choice Scarf, but for some reason decided to go against my gut and play out the turn with HP Flying targeted to Heracross and Bug Buzz Reuniclus (I think I even cancelled Protect on Volc) in spite of how obvious a play it was on my end and how obvious it should have been that she didn’t get to 4-0 by allowing such pedestrian decisions to work against her, which predictably got me Rock Slided. To make matters worse, Heracross flinched Zapdos before it could pick up the easy kill and I ended the turn 3-4 instead of 3-3 or 4-3 as it could have been. The game was pretty much over from there, and my remaining Pokemon were slowly killed, with Gastrodon getting annihilated by Energy Ball from Reuniclus, something I had forgotten was even available (not that it would have mattered). I feel like I had a decent shot at this if I had Protected Volcarona turn 1 like I should have and not gotten flinched, but I kinda just collapsed mentally in this one. I was kind of irritated I had to play Cassie and didn’t really keep my focus. Ended up being the only time I can ever remember being 4-0d in a tournament match.


Game 6 vs. Adam D. (Dozz)

His team: Chandelure, Sableye, Swampert, Terrakion
My team: Hitmontop, Cresselia, Gastrodon, Metagross

I think if I had listed the people I least wanted to play in the tournament Dozz would have been right about fourth on it, but after knocking his buddy out of Worlds LCQ in Round 1 I once again found myself against a Brit early in a tournament held in the US. Dozz did not seem much more excited about this one than I was. Seeing the ghosts on his team I figured this would be as good of a time as any to finally activate my Dark Gem so I led Hitmontop and Cresselia.

Dozz led with Chandelure and Sableye to “counter” Hitmontop and Fake Out, but since his team didn’t look like it would be carrying Trick Room Chandelure and I had had it mentioned to me that Dozz might be using Choice Scarf the day before in a conversation about how good Scarf Chand was with someone, I went for it and Sucker Punched hoping that he’d Fake Out or Taunt with Sableye to stop my Trick Room and not burn me. Naturally, I didn’t actually get the KO this is supposed to award because I didn’t re-EV Hitmontop when I switched items, but I’m sure he was quite annoyed by losing 96% of his HP. Chand Heat Waved for decent damage while I fired a weak Ice Beam at Sableye as I absorbed the predicted Taunt, mildly irritated at myself for not realizing I didn’t have the EVs to OHKO Chandelure and failing to double target to net the KO. I switched Gastrodon in for Hitmontop to dodge the incoming Will-o-Wisp and let Cresselia finish Chandelure off with Ice Beam, which I was a little surprised he gave me, considering how low the cost of a switch would have been to him.

He replaced Chandelure with Swampert, which made me think a little because I wasn’t quite sure what Swampert is supposed to do in VGC, exactly. It was at this point that Sableye surprised me with Captivate, neutering Gastrodon, and allowing Swampert to get some damage in as I fired as Cress Ice Beam at Sableye and Gastrodon recovered off the damage it had taken from Swampert and the burn. I decided to get some damage in on Swampert before switching in spite of the -2 as I wasn’t feeling like Swampert was going to do much to Cress or Gastro and Sableye needed to waste its turn to refresh its Taunt on Cresselia anyway, so I Helping Handed with Cresselia since it would give me more net damage than Ice Beam and attacked with Gastro. After the predicted Taunt Swampert surprised me by using Ground Gemmed Earthquake with Sableye still on the field, and wound up critting his teammate Pokemon for the OHKO while my HH Earth Power dug into Swampert. I eventually cleaned up Swampert and his last Pokemon, Terrakion, with Cresselia and my last Pokemon, Metagross.


Game 7 vs. Michael L. (JiveTime)

His Team: Conkeldurr, Thundurus, Metagross, Hydreigon
My Team: Cresselia, Zapdos, Gastrodon, Metagross

I can’t remember his other two Pokemon, but I remember when I saw his team in team preview it was within a Pokemon of the Japanese Masters National Champion’s team, so I went in expecting him to have similar spreads and movesets.

We start out with his Thundurus/Conkeldurr vs. my Cresselia/Zapdos, which is a duo the team Jive’s team reminded me of favored. I figure it’s fairly unlikely he’ll leave Conks out against my leads, and I didn’t want to fish against that Pokemon slot, since he could Detect or switch to Pokemon that resist any of my Zapdos’ attacks depending on what he brought, and I didn’t want to TR because of the threat of Taunt from Thundurus(especially since the Japanese Masters’ Champ had it on his Thundurus), so I Helping Hand + Thunderbolted Thundurus. Jive switched his Conkeldurr out for Hydreigon and Taunted Cresselia as I’d feared, but Zapdos’ Thunderbolt crits and OHKOs his Thundurus. If he was running the 252 HP 116 SDef Calm Thundurus the Japanese Masters champion used, which seems likely given the rest of his team, I’d still have done 95.7-112.9% and likely OHKOd him without the crit(and definitely would have if he was running a more Skarmblissy spread), but since he doesn’t know my item yet the crit probably shook him up a bit.

He brings Conkeldurr in for Thundurus and Protects while I whiff a Thunderbolt on it. Hydreigon Dark Pulses Zapdos for about 40% and I Ice Beam it with Cress for slightly less than that, leading me to continue my assumption that the spreads are identical or similar to the Japanese Masters Champs’ team due to the bulk on Hydreigon. I withdraw Zapdos for Metagross to try to avoid building up so much damage on Zapdos that I can’t leave it in with Hydreigon later in the match. Jive moves Hydreigon’s Dark Pulse to Cress, which flinches it and deals 40%, and Rock Slides with Conks, taking Cress to 42.5% and Meta to about 90, with Cress finishing the turn by eating her Sitrus Berry to get back to 72.5%. He then withdraws Conks for his own Meta and Protects Hydreigon as I Protect my Meta in anticipation of a Fire move. Cress whiffs another Ice Beam.

On the next turn Dark Pulse crits Cresselia for the kill with a 7% buffer or so, and I switch Meta out for Zapdos expecting an EQ, but get Meteor Mashed instead. I swap in Gatrodon for Cress and switch Zapdos yet again for Metagross to eat the Draco Meteor, but unfortunately dodge it. Gastro dodges a Zen Headbutt and Ice Beams Hydreigon down to 10%. His Hydreigon and my Metagross Protect the next turn as his Metagross EQs and I Recover, having expected Draco Meteor. He switches Hydreigon out for Conks as I switch Meta for Zapdos and I get my Earth Power stopped by another Protect.

He decides to play out his 100% Meta 100% Conks vs my 100% Gastro 45% Zapdos. I HP Flying the Conks for the OHKO with a crit(90.6-107.5% if using the 252 hp/248 sdef Adamant spread of the Japanese Masters Winner if I hadn’t) and Earth Power Metagross, taking it to what literally must be 1 or 2 HP. Hydreigon replaces Conkeldurr and Flamethrowers my Zapdos the next turn, likely expecting Metagross, but gets the kill on Zapdos from 39% anyway because of a crit. Gastro takes another Zen Headbutt from Metagross and falls down to 31% before finishing off Hydreigon with Ice Beam. I Protect Metagross and Recover Gastrodon in case of an enemy Metagross Protect and take the Earthquake, healing back to 53%. Gastro and 84% Meta both tank the Earthquake on the next turn and my Metagross finishes his off with Zen Headbutt for the 2-0.


Game 8 vs. Alison McSonald (Fishy)

Her team: Crobat, Marowak, Volcarona, Vaporeon
My team: Zapdos, Cresselia, Gastrodon, Metagross

We sit down and enjoy an awkward moment knowing that she’s probably safe from the cut (she’d have gotten 8th if she lost) but could improve her chances of going deep by winning and that I probably need the win to cut and avoid another X-2 ending my season. I awkwardly tell her that I hope we have a fun game and that she should play hard.

I feel like I did a really poor job in team preview going my full TR mode with her Crobat likely carrying Taunt, especially due to Alison having played my team before to know what I was likely to be doing. This problem was compounded by the fact she has Volcarona, who is a pain for my team, particularly when it has Quiver Dance. I choose to ignore this possibility for the most part and decide not to bring Hitmontop to help me play around it with Fake Out if it comes.

She leads Crobat and Marowak into my Zapdos and Cresselia. I figure I’ll probably be Taunted on Cresselia and want Marowak off the field as quickly as possible because it will do significant damage to my back mons if left unchecked. I’m a little handcuffed because Cress can’t Trick Room and Zapdos can’t Thunderbolt or Volt Switch due to Marowak’s Lightningrod. I figure Cress, even though I’m running it at her minimum of 81 speed, is probably faster than Alison’s Marowak, as if it is +Attack it’d have to be running a pretty significant Speed investment to outrun me (which turns out to be 132 EVs). I decide to Ice Beam Marowak to get it out of the way and am torn between Heat Wave, to get some extra damage on Crobat, and HP Flying, to ensure I don’t miss and get rid of Marowak if it stays in and doesn’t Protect. I’m kind of frazzled by playing Alison and don’t think as far ahead as I need to as far as what could happen the next turn and focus in too hard on winning the exchange between our leads.

I get what I want. Crobat taunts Cresselia, crushing my dreams of being a TR team, and Zapdos crits it with Heat Wave for the kill and chunks Marowak, allowing me to get the double KO with Ice Beam. She replaces both Pokemon with Volcarona and Vaporeon. We kind of roll our eyes and imagine the game is over, and it is. I lose.

You’re probably wondering how I managed to drop this from a straight 4-2. My team is very Quiver Dance Volcarona weak, but it can mitigate this by punishing the switch-in and the set-up turn because most of my Pokemon are bulky enough to take a shot or two from it even after a QD. Not only have I failed the first condition — the double kill lets Volcarona enter the field for free — but I’m locked into Heat Wave on Zapdos and Cresselia is Taunted and on the field, so I’ve given her a free set-up turn, as well. I double switch, which probably isn’t my best move to being with, as she uses an attack I forget with Vaporeon and QDs. I get annihilated by +1 Heat Wave and HP Grass from Vaporeon on the following turn, not really wanting to take free damage on Cress or Zapdos(which is a mistake on my part, I should have tried to switch around, but I kind of hit “not again…” mode in my head here and continued melting down). There is also the bonus mistake of me not Protecting Gastrodon in case of HP Grass, though I’d not have been able to do anything extra if I had beyond forcing Alison to choose between letting Gastrodon do an irrelevant amount of damage with Earth Power if HP Grass didn’t OHKO clean(which I assume it does) and I had Cress out at the same time to pull Bug Buzz from Volcarona and avoid the extra Heat Wave damage on Gastrodon. I send out my remaining Zapdos/Cresselia and am handily defeated from a situation that would have been easy to win from if I had picked the right move on turn 1(even ignoring my weak Pokemon choices in preview). 0-2.

Final Record: 6-2


For the second year in a row I claim my rightful place as the trainer who ranked the highest without cutting (17th in my flight, 33rd overall, to follow up my 17th in 2011). I’m a little more bitter this time because I’d worked harder than the previous year, because it was ridiculous there were 17 players with byes inflating the records of my flight and only 5 in the other, because of how badly I played in both of my losses, but in the end once the standings are up it doesn’t much matter what happened to get there. I’ll have to learn from this year that I need to keep my cool, focus, and play my best regardless of who I’m against and no matter how little I want to be in the game. I may well have lost the games I lost anyway — both of the players I lost to are strong players and a lot better than most of the community seems to realize — but I didn’t make them beat me. I beat myself.

When it comes down to it, once you get eliminated learning from the experience so you can try to do better next time is all you can do.

I guess since I ended up on the bubble two years in a row I could stand to work on that part, too.


About the Author

started playing VGC in 2011. He finished 17th at US Nationals, then lost in the final round of 2011 Worlds LCQ. He finished 10th in the 2012 World Championships and qualified for Worlds again in 2013 after going into US Nationals second in CP. Instead of playing, he commentated at US Nationals and the World Championships in 2013 and 2014. Follow him on Twitter @NBNostrom!

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