Published on September 23rd, 2013 | by Cybertron80
SWAGGER is NOT GOD! Aaron Zheng’s 2013 3rd Place VGC World Report
Hi everyone, my name is Aaron Zheng, also known as Cybertron online. I’m a 15 year old student from New York City, and as you probably know already, I’m a huge fan of competitive Pokemon. I started playing back in 2005 when Pokemon Emerald was released, and began competing in tournaments in 2008. I’ve become a pretty good player since then, winning two Regional and National titles and qualifying for Worlds five times. Last month, I went to the 2013 Pokemon World Champonships in Vancouver, Canada and finished 3rd in the competition — the highest ranked American in my division. The following is a team analysis and report of the tournament — I hope you enjoy! I originally wanted to release this report after Fall Regionals because I wanted to give this team one more shot, but now that I have an invite to the 2014 World Championships, I decided to publish it a bit earlier!
After aging up from the Seniors division in 2012 without a world championship in hand, I was even more determined to perform well in the Masters division. I had an incredible run as a Senior, finishing 1st, 2nd, and 3rd at the three Regionals I attended, winning two Nationals, and making top 8 at the 2012 World Championships. However, winning Worlds has been my goal since I picked up this game competitively, and I felt as if I had left the division a bit empty handed. I didn’t realize just how seriously I would play this game until after Philadelphia Regionals late in 2012 during the fall, where I surprised myself by placing 2nd in one of the more competitive tournaments in the country.
Pokemon then announced that invites to the 2013 World Championships would be given out based on Championship Points — basically, perform well at multiple tournaments during the year and you’ll have an invite, in contrast to previous years where you needed to finish in the Top 4 at Nationals or make it through the Last Chance Qualifier. Knowing that I just had to be in the Top 12 in the country to get my invitation, I was very determined to get my first invite in the Masters division. I already had a huge lead on everyone else after my great finish in Philadelphia.
The next tournament was in Virginia mid-Janurary — another Regional competition. With the most stacked field I have ever seen at a Regionals (competitors such as Ray Rizzo (Ray), Wolfe Glick (Wolfey), Matt Coyle (OneEyedWonderWeasel), Trista Medine (ryuzaki), and Ben Rothman (Ben7000)) I knew my chances of doing well would probably be slim. With a combination of a really rough schedule and poor playing, I only finished with a 5-3 record — 28th place. Out of the eight Regionals I have attended, I have placed in the top 4 in seven of them. I came out with only 20 Championship Points, and fell from 6th in the country all the way down to 17th. I had blown my lead on everyone else, and several players on the East Coast had moved up on me.
I knew that I would have to take the last Regionals in the circuit very seriously if I wanted any shot at getting my Worlds invite now. Having used my popular team of Hitmontop/Thundurus/Garchomp/Tyranitar/Scizor/Cresselia for so long, I figured I needed to bring a new team if I wanted a shot at winning. April rolled around and it was finally time for Massachusetts Regionals. I piloted an edited version of Sejun Park’s eventual Nationals winning team (Liepard/Scizor/Thundurus/Cresselia/Terrakion/Breloom) and was on top of my game that tournament, winning it undefeated and regaining my position in Championship Points.
After three Regionals and five Wi-Fi tournaments, I was ranked 3rd in the country in terms of Championship Points. There was only one tournament left in the circuit — US Nationals. I knew that even with a mediocre performance, I would probably have my invite locked in. However, I still wanted to see how well I would perform on the national level with all the best players from North America, so I took the tournament very seriously. After a very disappointing 2-2 start, I managed to win five straight games and move on to the Top 32. I was eventually eliminated by Demitri Camperos (Demitri) in the Top 16 in a very heartbreaking game 3 (three critical hits in four turns), but had more than enough Championship Points to qualify for Worlds, which had been my goal all along.
And of course, I have to mention my brother, Brendan “Babbytron” Zheng in this pre-story. He dominated the Regionals circuit this season and locked in his Worlds invite early on after winning two and placing 2nd in the third, but had his third mediocre Nationals performance in four years. This would be the first time in four years neither of us won a free trip to Worlds, but after coming out of Regionals with over $2,000 in extra money, that was more than enough to fund our trip.
After Nationals, we began to look towards Worlds — the tournament we had worked so hard to qualify for. I’m not going to lie, at first my goal was just to qualify for Worlds this year. However, I became more motivated as I read several players’ predictions on who they believed would do well at Worlds — out of everyone who contributed to the article on Nugget Bridge, I wasn’t predicted to make top 8 by a single person. I honestly felt that I was on top of my game this season and believed I could prove my worth in the Masters division. Brendan and I began training for Worlds seriously right after Nationals, and this is where I’ll talk about my team-building process.
I knew right after Nationals that I wanted to use Conkeldurr for my Worlds team — that became my starting point. I started off by replacing Hitmontop on my Nationals team for it and turing my offensive Cresselia into the more common defensive/Trick Room Cresselia, while keeping my Scizor, bulky Thundurus, Landorus-T, and Tyranitar: four Pokemon I had become really accustomed to using. While this team looks very similar to the team I have been using for forever, it actually operates completely differently as it always uses Trick Room and does not rely on a fast mode. In testing, the team operated great, but there were two issues I had.
1. Despite being the MVP for the majority of the season, Scizor seemed to become more of a hinderance of my team as I began to see more Conkeldurr, Heatran, and Intimidate. It also doesn’t work especially well (in my opinion) in a Worlds metagame where there is more bulk everywhere and most Pokemon can survive a +2 Steel Gem Bullet Punch. As much as I loved him, I decided it was time for Scizor to go.
2. Bulky Thundurus is amazing with Thunder Wave and Swagger support, but in a team that relies mainly under Trick Room, I don’t have much of a reason to bring it. I like to bring at least two, if not all three of my Trick Room sweepers (Conkeldurr, Heatran, Tyranitar), meaning I would need Cresselia to set up the Trick Room. This is hilariously ironic because bulky Swagger Thundurus ended my run at Worlds, but I don’t regret replacing it one bit.
To solve these two issues, I had to figure out what could properly replace the role that Scizor and bulky Thundurus had on the original team. My first idea was to replace Scizor with Eruption Heatran. While they do different things on the team, Heatran gave me the Steel-type I needed and offered even more bulk than Scizor did. I actually got this idea from Brendan, who had been testing it on his Worlds team before I did. I instantly liked the chance because Eruption Heatran can sweep teams without a turn to set up, and walls half the metagame. I was also used to using Heatran since it was on Wolfe’s Worlds team in 2012, which was the team I ended up using as well.
I felt closer and closer to a complete Worlds team, but Thundurus still wasn’t performing as well as I wanted it to. Meanwhile, I was lucky enough as I had Mohsyn Bharmal (bcaralarm) as a testing partner for Worlds. When we first tested against each other, we had very similar teams (both focused on a Conkeldurr sweep). We had slightly different EV spreads, and he had Rotom-W > Thundurus while I had Heatran > Volcarona, but the playstyle was alike. As we practiced and practiced more with each other, I realized how much of an advantage he had because of his Rotom-W. With access to both Light Screen and Will-O-Wisp, and no way for me to OHKO it, it was often around for much longer than I liked. His Volcarona was also not offering much for him, so we ended up swapping ideas: he adapted Heatran while I took his Rotom-W, and soon enough, we had identical teams.
Cresselia @ Chesto Berry
EVs: 220 HP / 36 Def / 156 SAtk / 96 SDef
IVs: 0 Spd / 0 Atk
– Ice Beam
– Trick Room
Cresselia is the glue to this team — without her, the rest of the team would not function. Sassy nature and 0 Speed IV for Trick Room, and 0 Attack IV for reduced confusion damage from Swagger (how ironic). 220 HP EVs allow for her to reach a stat of 223 HP to reduce Sandstorm damage. 156 Special Attack EVs is a OHKO on 4 HP / 0 SDef Landorus-T. The rest of the EVs are put into bulk, focusing more on the special side of the spectrum. Ice Beam, Psyshock, and Trick Room are pretty self-explanatory. While Sitrus Berry tends to be the most common item on Cresselia, I went for Chesto Berry and Rest to counter Spore from Amoonguss and Breloom, which I had a lot of problems with while testing. Rest also gave me an additional win condition, as I often used burn and Sandstorm damage to slowly eliminate my opponents Pokemon. The only issue with using Chesto Berry over Sitrus Berry is that your opponent can actually KO Cresselia with two strong attacks right away (Dragon Gem Draco Meteor, Dark Pulse, etc.), so I had to play conservatively and switch her out more. Otherwise, a fairly standard but super effective spread.
Rotom-Wash @ Sitrus Berry
EVs: 252 HP / 116 SAtk / 140 SDef
IVs: 0 Atk
– Hydro Pump
– Light Screen
Ah, my infamous Rotom-Wash! While Rotom-W did not perform as well as I would have hoped it would in the semi-finals, it is still my favorite Pokemon on the team and was definitely the MVP of the weekend. I was very uncomfortable with using it at first since I’ve been using bulky Thundurus since 2012, but this Pokemon came up clutch in so many sets. I have to credit Mohsyn (bcaralarm) for the set, as he convinced me to use it after beating me multiple times with it. This Rotom is not as bulky as the one Brendan won Worlds with, as you see it is Modest nature and does not invest in Defense EVs. The EV spread allows it to always survive a Life Orb Draco Meteor from Timid Latios while hitting as hard as possible. It also has a 31.25% chance of surviving a Dragon Gem Draco Meteor from Timid Latios. Will-O-Wisp and Light Screen allowed me to just shut teams down completely, and burn damage was crucial in many of my games. Hydro Pump and Thunderbolt are self explanatory, and gave me overall coverage. Mohsyn brought up using Volt Switch over Thunderbolt so we could use it and set up Trick Room, meaning we wouldn’t have to spend a turn to switch Rotom-W out once Trick Room was up, but he scratched that idea because it is not always a OHKO on Tornadus.
Landorus-Therian @ Focus Sash
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spd
– Rock Slide
This Landorus-T is very simple, but it gets the job done with its Intimidate ability, a base 145 attack stat, and the ability to U-Turn. I often lead with Cresselia/Landorus-T to get the -1 drop on my opponents, U-turing and Trick Rooming right away to get some chip damage off before starting a sweep on the 2nd turn — this also meant that I would not have to waste a turn switching when Trick Room was up to get another Pokemon in. Earthquake works nicely on this team with Cresselia and Rotom-W. I opted for Rock Slide because I like the flinch factor, and because I tend to miss every Stone Edge I use. Perhaps I should have went with Stone Edge given how it could OHKO bulky Thundurus, but the only match that really mattered in was the semi-finals. I went with Focus Sash because I simply did not like my other item choices and felt that Focus Sash gave me the best overall chance of winning — I was really happy when it came up clutch in my 5th round against Jordi, where Landorus-T was able to take Kingdra’s Muddy Water and KO both his Politoed and Kingdra.
Tyranitar @ Chople Berry
Trait: Sand Stream
EVs: 252 HP / 124 Atk / 36 Def / 96 SDef
IVs: 0 Spd
– Rock Slide
– Low Kick
Tyranitar has been one of my favorite Pokemon in VGC and a staple to most of my teams. A key member of my 2012 Nationals winning team, I really appreciated its natural bulk paired with Sandstorm along with the ability to change the weather, making Rain matchups much easier. I used Ray’s 2012 EV spread because I felt I liked the balance between bulk and offense. Of course, while he had Fire Punch to KO Scizor, I went with Crunch, meaning the attack EVs were not as significant. However, I knew I wanted to be able to always survive a Metagross Meteor Mash, so I started off with 252 HP / 36 Def. I also wanted special bulk, so I stuck 96 EVs into Special Defense and put the others in attack. While I have used 252/252/4 in the past, I wanted more bulk on this one since I knew I’d be switching it in a lot to take attacks that would normally target Rotom-W. I chose Chople Berry to prepare for Breloom and Conkeldurr, since I didn’t fancy being OHKOed by them right away.
Conkeldurr @ Life Orb
Trait: Iron Fist
EVs: 68 HP / 252 Atk / 188 SDef
IVs: 0 Spd
– Hammer Arm
– Ice Punch
– Mach Punch
Conkeldurr, the Pokemon this team was built around! As I have already explained, I wanted to use Conkeldurr because of its sheer power and how hard it hits most of the common Pokemon for. I went with what is probably the most common set of Hammer Arm, Ice Punch, Mach Punch, and Protect (in case of PP, I did not expect anyone to bring Imprison to Worlds) with a Life Orb. For EVs, I just modified the one Scott used at Nationals very slightly since he was wasting one stat point. I didn’t think Conkeldurr’s EV spread needed to be very complex, since it tends to take all attacks pretty well, especially with the right partner. Hammer Arm was crucial for mirror matchups, and I would focus on getting one off immediately to underspeed opposing Conkeldurr and Amoonguss. Ice Punch was for Pokemon like Latios, Thundurus, and Landorus-T. Mach Punch was to finish Pokemon off while getting OHKOes on the likes of Choice Scarf Tyranitar.
Heatran @ Fire Gem
Trait: Flash Fire
EVs: 252 HP / 252 SAtk / 4 SDef
IVs: 2 Atk / 30 SAtk / 3 Spd
– Hidden Power [Grass]
– Heat Wave
The second member of the sweeping duo, Eruption Heatran was also one of my favorite sets of 2013. I knew how powerful of a Pokemon Heatran was after I used it at Worlds last year, courtesy of Wolfe. I built several teams around it this year, but never got to use it at a tournament since I wasn’t very comfortable with it. While I used a bulkier spread when I put it on my teams, I finally decided to try the Eruption set that had grown more popular in Japan. I couldn’t believe how powerful it was, and with Conkeldurr and Trick Room on its side, it’s very difficult to take down. You’ve probably noticed that this Heatran has Hidden Power Grass — that is no mistake! Mohsyn and I thought that Earth Power was basically useless since its mainly used to hit Tyranitar and opposing Heatran — two Pokemon that will lose to our Conkeldurr. We had a minor weakness to Water-type Pokemon such as Rotom-W, Jellicent, and Gastrodon, so we teched in HP Grass instead. It didn’t come into play very often over the weekend (I only used it in one set, against Ben Gould), but I don’t regret covering all our bases and making sure we weren’t weak to any specific Pokemon.
Out of all the games I have used this team, I can confidently say I bring these two as my leads 95% of the time. I lead with the two of them against each of my opponents at Worlds at least one time, and brought it multiple times to many of my sets, such as my semi-final battle. The two work so well together because of their bulk and because Rotom-W is the perfect Pokemon to support Cresselia. With the ability to burn some of the most common physical Pokemon in the format before they can attack, Rotom-W would protect Cresselia from Pokemon that can normally 2HKO it such as Scizor and Tyranitar. It also had the option to Light Screen if my opponent didn’t bring any physical Pokemon that immediately threatened Cresselia. The one thing I was really afraid of going up against with these two was Latios/Hydreigon, which have the potential to launch a Dragon Gem Draco Meteor to OHKO Rotom-W before it could move. However, I would often set up Trick Room right away if this were the case, allowing me to switch in Conkeldurr/Heatran/Tyranitar for free and gaining momentum on the second turn. This was definitely the team’s “go-to” lead combo and was also its safest duo.
The other 5% of the time, I would lead with Cresselia and Landorus-T. As I have mentioned in Landorus-T’s description, I really liked having Intimidate and the ability to U-Turn right from the start. Focus Sash helped it take even the strongest of attacks such as the Dragon Gem Draco Meteor I have mentioned so many times. As you all know, Will-O-Wisps accuracy is not very good, so I would choose Landorus-T if their team was physically oriented and did not take a -1 drop well. U-Turn + Trick Room was a great combo, setting up a sweep under Trick Room and letting Landorus-T clean up the game once it has expired.
How the Team Functions
I want to talk a little about how and why this team functions. First off, let’s take a look at what was probably my “core four” for this team.
I’ve already talked about how well Cresselia+Rotom-W work, and I’ve also mentioned how Conkeldurr+Heatran are my “sweeping duo.” Put those four together and you get one of the strongest cores I have ever worked with. My intention with this team would be to bring these four to every battle — however, it has some pretty notable weaknesses such as its Rain matchup, so Tyranitar often came into play. Tyranitar and Landorus-T were more “techs” to this team –Pokemon that worked well with the core and were strong, but not used unless the team matchup called for them. Very few teams are able to withstand the power of both Conkeldurr AND Eruption Heatran under Trick Room.
As you’d expect, my main priority with this team is to set up Trick Room and bring in Conkeldurr and Heatran. However, that does not mean I used Trick Room right from the start with Cresselia. In fact, Rotom-W performs pretty poorly in Trick Room since it actually outspeeds a lot of Pokemon. Especially against Thundurus and its Prankster Taunt, I would spend the first few turns spreading burn with Will-O-Wisp, getting a Light Screen up, and doing some damage before the Trick Room would finally go up. You don’t always want to set up Trick Room right away because you only have four turns to take advantage of it, and if your opponent still has all their Pokemon at full health, it’ll be hard to use it effectively. Rather, you want to start chipping each Pokemon individually — do some damage here, get a burn off there, and finally when Trick Room goes up, there will be no way to stop Conkeldurr and Heatran. Setting up Trick Room right away with Rotom-W on the field often gave me trouble as I would have to spend one turn to switch my Rotom-W out, leaving me with only 3 turns left to utilize Trick Room. Of course, if my opponent ran Protect in his Pokemon, that really meant 1 turn to attack under Trick Room, which is clearly not optimal.
While Trick Room went up in probably every single game I played at Worlds, this team is not a “heavy” Trick Room team which uses it right from the start to win. Rotom-W and Landorus-T helped me set the rest of the game up so that Heatran and Conkeldurr could finish it up without issue. Of course, there were some games where I had to sit Heatran out and bring Tyranitar instead because it offered nothing in the matchup. Heatran was like how Scizor performed for me in the past — it often just beat my opponent’s entire team with no way to stop Eruption, or my opponent would have too many Pokemon that would give it trouble.
I’m incredibly proud of this team and how it performed at the World Championships last month. I want to thank bcaralarm so much for all his help — this team wouldn’t have its main member in Rotom-W if we hadn’t practiced together. Looking back at it, there is not a single thing I would change about this team, which is always something I take pride in after a tournament. Perhaps Stone Edge on Landorus-T would have been a better choice for Thundurus though! Either way, I felt that this team was really well rounded and didn’t have a specific weakness to any one Pokemon or team in this format. High level prediction wasn’t needed often because the team would just overwhelm my opponents and they had nothing to stop Conkeldurr/Heatran.
I also want to just take a second to explain the aesthetics of the team because while it doesn’t actually affect game play (besides potentially stalling out the timer), I like having the best looking team possible. I went with shiny Cresselia because I think it matches nicely with a Heal Ball, and I chose shiny Conkeldurr because he is the Pokemon the team is built around. Rotom-W loses its “washing machine” feel if its shiny, so I went with the normal one in a Dive Ball. I’ve used shiny Tyranitar for a long time but its honestly really ugly, so I chose a normal one in a Cherish Ball (from the Japanese event). Heatran has to come non-shiny in a PokeBall for Eruption, and I just liked normal Landorus-T in the Dream Ball. I put a Poke Star on all my Pokemon without the shiny stars, and kept those on Cresselia and Conkeldurr. I liked how the team physically looked in the end! Luckily for everyone, there was no Puke Green Scizor to ruin the beauty of my team this time around.
Since I am releasing this report before we officially finish playing the VGC 2013 ruleset, feel free to try this team out next month at October Regionals! Whether its just a single Pokemon or the entire team as a whole, I’m proud of what this team was able to accomplish and I hope you get to see first hand how strong it can be. It’s not a very difficult team to understand, though it does require high level play against the strongest competitors. My friends Sejun Park (pokemontcg) and Luca Pause (sewadle) were able to win two small tournaments in Korea and Germany, respectively, right after Worlds with this team, so it’s still got a lot of potential left in it.
I hope you enjoyed the team and that you now understand the power behind it! I’m eager to see how it performs next month in October Regionals. Now that the team analysis is done, let’s move on to the actual report of the 2013 Pokemon World Championships.
(Note: I don’t remember all my games clearly, so a lot of them are summaries more than anything, but I still included them to make this a complete report and for the readers to get a sense of how this team matches up against the best teams and Pokemon trainers around the world.)
Round 1: Abel Sanz (Flash) (Spain)
To continue the streak of playing someone I knew round 1 at a large tournament, I ran into my good friend and famous Spanish player Abel. I was both excited and incredibly nervous to play Abel — excited because this is exactly what I looked forward to at Worlds, playing the best Pokemon players in the world. Of course, I was nervous as well because I knew how good Abel was: he finished 3rd at Worlds the previous year and placed 2nd at UK Nationals this year. I didn’t want to start the day off with a loss, but if there’s anyone to lose to, it’s a top player like him.
Immediately when we get into team preview, I like my chances because I feel that Heatran and Conkeldurr can rip apart his entire team. Rotom-W can also really help here, with the ability to set up Light Screen to neuter Thundurus, Hydreigon, and Volarona while burning his two physical attackers. I decide my best bet for this match is to probably lead with Cresselia/Rotom-W, set up Trick Room, and clean up with Heatran/ Conkeldurr.
Game 1: Game 1 happened to be one of the most intense games I’ve played in my Pokemon career. I lead with Cresselia/Rotom-W while he leads with his own Cresselia and Hydreigon. Turn 1 goes perfectly for me as he Protects Hydreigon and Icy Winds with Cresselia, while I set up Light Screen and Trick Room. I have a clear advantage now, but the tables turn as he brings in Scrafty, my Will-O-Wisp misses, and his Cresselia reverses the Trick Room. From then on, we basically both switch out one Pokemon every turn for the remainder of the game to try and gain momentum — I am able to avoid an Earth Power on Heatran by switching to Cresselia, but walk into a Protect as I double target his Hydreigon late game. In the end, only one Pokemon has been KOed and I end up winning on timer 4-3. 1-0
Game 2: Abel adjusts a lot better in game 2, and takes out my Rotom-W with a Dragon Gem Draco Meteor from Hydreigon right away to start off the battle. Of course, its never easy coming back when you are down 4-3, and Abel read me incredibly well this game as he predicts a Heatran switch in from my Landorus-T and Earth Powers it. He beats me pretty comfortably in this one and I think the two parts I remember summarize it pretty well — Rotom-W falls right from the start, which is the most important Pokemon in the matchup, and Heatran takes around 80% right away when I switch it in and it takes a -2 Earth Power. He ended up bringing Thundurus and Volcarona to this match, meaning I knew all 6 of his Pokemon after the two games. 1-1
Game 3: Game 3 starts off just like game 2, as he leads with Scrafty and Hydreigon against the same Cresselia/Rotom-W lead I’ve brought the past two games. I’m not sure what I was thinking on the first turn, but after seeing him Earth Power my Landorus-T the first game and calling my switch into Heatran, I thought he might have not went for the Dragon Gem Draco Meteor onto my Rotom-W. Of course, he does and gets rid of the most important Pokemon in the matchup in one turn for the second game in a row. This game is a lot closer this time however as I am able to get Trick Room up and Heatran is able to do work against his team. However, he chose to bring his own Cresselia, meaning he could reverse my Trick Room at any point in the battle. I’m lucky enough to call his Trick Room twice during the game and Trick Room the same turn — a very risky, but rewarding play. In the end, it is his Cresselia and Hydreigon against my Cresselia and Heatran. I get lucky once again as my Eruption gets a critical his on his Cresselia, taking it out before he could reverse my Trick Room again (on a turn I did not Trick Room with my Cresselia), allowing me to take the win for the game and the set the following turn. I wasn’t pleased with how I adjusted from game 2 and lost Rotom-W, but was fortunate enough to take a set away from one of the best players in the world. 2-1
Record: 1-0 (2-1)
Round 2: Ben Gould (Ben91293) (United Kingdom)
I definitely underestimated Ben going into this set. I knew he placed in the Top 8 at UK Nationals with Nidoqueen and that this was his first year at Worlds. We chatted for a bit, and he was a really cool guy. Once Team Preview went up, I was a bit underwhelmed by what he had to offer. It looked like Heatran and Conkeldurr could beat everything on his team bar Jellicent, which Tyranitar and Rotom-W can take care of. Rhydon was a very interesting Pokemon on his side, and I knew I had to be careful of carelessly Thunderbolting into it. I don’t remember much about this set, so I apologize for the lack of detail.
Game 1: He leads with Scrafty and Latios against my Cresselia and Rotom-W. Rotom-W is able to hang out from a Specs Draco Meteor and burn his Scrafty before it gets a Crunch off. Trick Room goes up, and he doesn’t have much to save him from my Heatran and Tyranitar. I am able to set up Trick Room two times during the game, and my slow Pokemon are able to overwhelm him. I remember it being a close game but I come out with the W. 1-0
Game 2: He adjusts in game 2 by not brining Latios and keeping Rhydon in the back. I really have no recollection of this game at all, but it was pretty luck free and he just outplayed me. I also found out Rhydon outspeed my Heatran outside of Trick Room if I recall correctly, which was really surprising to see. Either way, a clean win on his part. 1-1
Game 3: Lots of things went wrong for me in game 3. He leads with Latios and Volcarona, and is able to OHKO Rotom-W with Latios this time and take an early 4-3 lead. I set up Trick Room, and am able to bring in Heatran the following turn while Volcarona gets a Quiver Dance off. I expect a Jellicent switch in at this point from his Latios, but decide going for the HP Grass is too risky and I just use Eruption instead. This later comes into play as I barely miss the KO on his Jellicent towards the end of the game and it is able to reverse my Trick Room. I also misplay by going for an Eruption instead of Heat Wave when I was at very low HP with my Heatran, a mistake I realize right after I locked in my moves. Later in the game, his +1 Volcarona gets a critical hit on my switched in Conkeldurr with Bug Buzz, and the following turn, I get burned from Hammer Arm to KO his Volcarona. In the end, I need to set up Trick Room again to win the game, and if I pull off a double Protect with Heatran, I win. Unfortunately, things don’t go my way and I end up losing the game and the set. I was a bit unlucky on my part but a few misplays here and there was what I was really beating myself over. Ben played really well, and he made me a huge fan of his team — great set. He finished 4th overall at Worlds in the end! 1-2
Record: 1-1 (3-3)
Round 3: Michael Riechert (Michilele) (Germany)
My next opponent in swiss was Michael Riechert, also known as Michilele. I knew he was one of the top German players, and he made top cut at two different European Nationals this year alongside qualifying for/playing in Worlds 2012. In team preview, I don’t like what I see because for the third set in a row my opponent has a powerful Dragon-type Pokemon. He also has his own Heatran, which is not a fun Pokemon to go up against with my own Heatran. Amoonguss is no fun to play against in a Trick Room matchup, and I knew I would have to eliminate it with Cresselia right away.
Game 1: He leads with Amoonguss and Scrafty with Cresselia and Heatran in the back. I barely remember this game but we both get two critical hits in the course of the game, with me getting a game winning critical hit Eruption to KO his Cresselia. I maintain a strong position the entire game until the two critical hits against me, and I was relieved to see lady luck roll her dice towards my way in the end and pull off a win. I think I burned his Amoonguss on the first turn to see that it has a Lum Berry, but he Spores my Cresselia and we trade berries. 1-0
Game 2: Game 2 is not as close as game 1, although I also do not remember it much. I believe he leads with Heatran and Amoonguss, and my main priority is to eliminate the Amonguss. He has Scrafty and Landorus-T in the back, but Conkeldurr is able to close out the game as he easily takes down Heatran, Scrafty, and Landorus-T once Amoonguss is gone from the match. 2-0
Record: 2-1 (5-3)
Round 4: Nabil Lakehal (Showmeasign) (France)
Nabil was the only French player at Worlds, and I actually recognized him since his little sister got Top 4 Juniors at Worlds 2011. His team was the type of team I loved playing against because Heatran’s Eruption beats four of the six Pokemon, and Conkeldurr beats Terrakion and Tyranitar. Once again, Amoonguss is the key to his team so I knew I would need to eliminate it right away before setting up Trick Room.
Game 1: He leads with Landorus and Thundurus against my Cresselia and Rotom. I’m really surprised to see that he is running a physical Thundurus spread with ThunderPunch and U-Turn. However, the game ends pretty quickly as I OHKO his Landorus right away with an Ice Beam and his last two are Cresselia and Terrakion. His Cresselia also had Trick Room, but he doesn’t reverse Trick Room until it’s too late, and I win the game convincingly. 1-0
Game 2: He leads with Tyranitar and Terrakion this time, and I went with Landorus-T predicting he wouldn’t bring Landorus/Thundurus. I start with a 4-2 lead right away after 2 turns, picking up KOes on both Tyranitar and Terrakion with a combination of Earthquake and Psyshock. His last two are Amoonguss and Landorus, which Cresselia beats 1 vs. 1. I take down Amoonguss and he concedes realizing there is no way to come back with just a Landorus. 2-0
Record: 3-1 (7-3)
Round 5: Jordi Picazo (Spain)
Jordi was my 5th European opponent five matches, and I was beginning to think I was at a European tournament and not Worlds! He rose to fame by winning a trip and invitation to Worlds with a Perish Trap team finishing Top 4 at Italian Nationals, and I was incredibly surprised to see it sitting at 3-1 at the World Championships. However, after going into Team Preview, I also realized I didn’t have a solid game plan against Perish Trap and his Rain core + Amoonguss was super scary. However, I’ve played against Perish Trap multiple times, most notably against Wolfe Glick in the finals of the 1st Nugget Bridge Invitational as well as in practice against my good friend George Langford (KobraTail). This match was at table #3, so it was broadcasted to everyone in the audience on TV! (Team Rocket Elite recorded it, hopefully I can link it here so you can watch the set instead)
Game 1: He leads with Politoed and Amoonguss against my Cresselia and Rotom-W. This game was so intense: he got 2 critical hits against me, a Will-O-Wisp miss with my Rotom-W, and a burn from Scald. I am able to burn his Metagross from the start and get rid of it, but his Politoed eventually sets up Perish Song so I am concerned. However, he does not bring Gothorita to this matchup so I am not locked at any given point. At the end of the game he thinks he can win by setting up Perish Song with his lone Politoed against my Cresselia and Landorus-T, and the whole crowd is hyped up as he pulls off one Protect after another and ends up getting three Protects in a row. To make things a bit more interesting I go for the Trick Room on the last turn as the crowd screams, reversing the speeds of everything on the field. However, the game was already over when Perish Song went up since I had one Pokemon faster than him and one slower than him. What an awesome way to win though! 0-0 in Pokemon count and the crowd is nuts at this point. I was relieved Gothorita didn’t come into play this time, but knew the next two games would not be easy by any means. 1-0
Game 2: Jordi adjusts in game 2 by bringing his Gothorita this time over Metagross, which did not help him very much the previous game due to getting burned right away. He leads with his Rain mode of Politoed and Kingdra. He just plays a lot better and is able to set up the Perish Trap combo, locking my Pokemon in with his Gothorita. After eliminating two Pokemon with Perish Song, my last two are not able to hold up against his Kingdra. In addition, his Gothorita also had Light Screen, which neutered the damage of my special attacks, and he takes this game pretty convincingly. 1-1
Game 3: This game was certainly closer than the previous one even though we both chose the same four Pokemon. He leads with Politoed and Amoonguss, and I remember forgetting that my Rotom-W is faster than my Cresselia on the first turn so I end up Hydro Pumping his Amoonguss… oops. However, I realize how key Landorus-T is to this matchup because of its Focus Sash, so I make sure to save it all the way until the end, where it is able to take down both his Politoed and Kingdra. He is surprised to see it hang on with 1 HP after Kingdra launches a Muddy Water, and I manage to take the game and the set. They were some really intense battles, and I’m really glad the crowd was able to watch it. 2-1
Record: 4-1 (9-4)
Round 6: Toler Webb (Dim) (USA)
For my last round of swiss, I ran into none other than the 2012 Seniors World Champion Toler Webb. Toler is a good friend of mine, and I have a lot of respect for him in Pokemon. I know he’s a fantastic player and I definitely think he was very underrated going into Worlds. He had a pretty decent season in America, top cutting both Regionals he attended and finishing 6-3 at US Nationals. The winner of this round was guaranteed to advance to the top 8 but the loser would most likely not, since our resistances were both fairly low. I had seen him practice with this team a lot on Pokemon Showdown before Worlds, so I had some idea of what his sets were. This was also the 3rd Latios in six rounds I ran into, which I was not excited about going into the set.
Game 1: Toler leads with Latios and Rotom-W to start off the battle. I honestly do not remember very much of this battle, but in the end, it comes down to whether he can hit his Draco Meteor on my weakened Tyranitar to seal the game up. Fortunately for me, his Draco Meteor misses and Tyranitar is able to KO his Pokemon to finish the game. I wasn’t pleased with how I played in the game and Toler definitely had me the entire time, so I was very happy to come out with a win. 1-0
Game 2: Game 2 was nearly decided on the first turn as he leads with his Latios and Volcarona against my Cresselia and Rotom-W. While he knows my Cresselia has Chesto Berry and Rest, I decide that setting up Trick Room right away would probably give me a major advantage for the rest of the game, and I hoped he would target Rotom-W with one of his Pokemon. My prediction pays off as Cresselia does set up Trick Room and Tyranitar is able to come in the next turn. I also luckily predict a Bisharp switch in from Latios and double target it with Ice Beam and Low Kick to eliminate it right away. After that, Tyranitar and Trick Room are able to clean up pretty nicely. 2-0
Record: 5-1 (11-4)
Post Swiss Thoughts
After a long day of Pokemon and 15 games later, I managed to finish with a record of 5 wins and 1 loss to advance to the top 8 of the tournament. This was a feat I honestly did not think I could accomplish considering my previous two finishes in swiss at Worlds have been 2-3 and 4-2 in the Senior Division. All my opponents gave me a tough time, and it was awesome to play players from five different countries throughout the course of the day. Beating players I have a lot of respect for such as Abel and Toler was also definitely rewarding since I know how great they are at this game. Luck was on my side for the majority of the day, making my time a lot easier, and my loss to Ben in round 2 helped me reassess what I was doing right and wrong with the team. After standings were posted, I was seeded 4th and my opponent would be Luigi Lo Guiudice (LProx) of Italy. I was ecstatic upon discovering this because Luigi was using a team I was very familiar with — in fact, I built it and won US Nationals with it back in 2012! He had slightly adjusted the team, but I knew all the nuts and bolts of it, including its weaknesses.
In the meantime, Brendan had gone 6-0 in the Junior Division, winning 12 straight games after losing his 1st game of the day. It was such a great feeling to make top cut with him for the 2nd year in a row, but after we were eliminated so early on in Hawaii last year, I hoped that both of us could make it further and possibly take home a World Championship. However, the road to victory would not be an easy one — the Juniors bracket was stacked with talented Japanese players, and Brendan would have to take down all of them. And of course in Masters, I did not like my chances against either of my potential Top 4 opponents in Sejun Park and Ryosuke Kosuge, the National Champions of Korea and Japan respectively. However, I reminded myself to not make the same mistake I did last year and look towards future matchups, but rather focus on a game plan for my Top 8 game. We were soon gathered together to start the quarter-finals of the 2013 Pokemon World Championships.
Top 8: Luigi Lo Guiudice (Italy)
This team may look very familiar to you — as I have mentioned before, it is nearly an exact copy of the team I’ve used for the majority of the 2012 season and the team I brought to US Nationals this year! You can read the original team analysis here and see the updated version I brought to Nationals this past July here. I didn’t know too much about Luigi as a player, but I’ve seen him practice a lot online before. I knew his Cresselia was Choice Specs along with all his other items and sets. My game plan for this set would be simple: set up Trick Room, switch in Heatran and Conkeldurr, and win in the four turns I have with Trick Room.
Game 1: Game 1 couldn’t have gone any better for me. He leads Cresselia and Thundurus against my Cresselia and Heatran. I expect a Taunt from Thundurus this turn, but since his own Cresselia is basically useless right now, my Heatran will be able to get a full power Eruption off. To my surprise, he goes straight for the Thunder Wave on Cresselia while his Cresselia stays in and uses Icy Wind. I get my Eruption and Trick Room off, and after I am able to switch in Conkeldurr, win in the next four turns as it easily decimates his Tyranitar and Garchomp. A five turn win without losing a single Pokemon was definitely the best way possible for me to start the top cut at Worlds! 1-0
Game 2: Game 2 would prove to be a much more difficult challenge for me. His Thundurus goes for the Thunder Wave on my Cresselia right away again, getting the full paralysis on the same turn I went for Trick Room. I am not able to set up Trick Room this game as he reveals Taunt the following turn, and he is able to paralyze my entire team. I bring him down to one Pokemon against my Heatran, but my dreams of winning this game come crashing down as he switches in his Garchomp and takes me out in one hit with an Earthquake. 1-1
Game 3: Game 3 was pretty terrifying for me as he leads with Thundurus and Scizor and starts spreading paralysis once again. I lead with Cresselia and Tyranitar, which is definitely not an optimal lead matchup for me. He paralyzes Tyranitar on the first turn while Scizor goes for the Bug Bite on Cresselia, and I set up Trick Room. I don’t remember the exact details of this game but from what I can make out of my notes, I did not bring Heatran and had Rotom-W over its spot this time after it fainted in one hit the previous game. He is able to flinch me three turns in a row with his Rock Slide, getting a critical hit along the way. In the end, my Conkeldurr is able to hang on from a +2 Steel Gem Bullet Punch and it needs to hit a Hammer Arm through paralysis to seal the game up for me… and it does! Thank goodness, the tides had finally turned in my favor. I win the game 3-0, and advance to my best finish ever at Worlds. 2-1
Record: 6-1 (13-5)
Top 4: Ryosuke Kosuge (Japan)
If you are a fan of competitive Pokemon, you have probably already seen my semi-final set against the National Champion of Japan, Ryosuke Kosuge. We battled on the big stage in front of the entire world as we were streamed with live commentary from our very own Scott and Evan (plaid). This set will haunt me for the rest of my time playing this game, but I’ve also learned a lot from it. I’ll talk a bit about my decision making and why things went the way they did instead of summarizing the actual battle here.
Game 1: Everything I expected to happen did in this game. There was not very much luck involved, Thundurus was not brought to this battle, and the teams matched up the way they were supposed to. The ending was long and drawn out, and he actually could have won the battle after pulling a double Protect with Heatran but I predict his Protect and target his Cresselia for the KO. I also am able to get some nice predicts earlier on in the game, setting up a Light Screen and getting to Rest up with Cresselia while his Heatran Protects. This is exactly the type of game you want in a best of 3, the game where you simply outplay your opponent. 1-0
Game 2: Game 2 obviously starts off on a very sour note as I miss Will-O-Wisp on his Conkeldurr right away. This was my first major error in playing this set. In practice with my team, I had become too accustomed to using Will-O-Wisp whenever applicable because I loved the residual damage. I knew the Landorus-T was U-Turning that turn and expected Conkeldurr to come in, but I also feared Tyranitar so I went with Ice Beam and Will-O-Wisp, which would be able to KO Landorus after burn damage should it stay in, or burn his two main physical attackers. Instead, I should have went for Psyshock and Hydro Pump, which is a KO on both Landorus and Conkeldurr and does over 50% to a slower Tyranitar without Protect. Major error #1. I also Will-O-Wisp the following turn for whatever reason, and his Swagger/Thunder Wave gets the best of me. The double Rock Slide miss from Tyranitar wasn’t any fun either and just brought my mood down even more, though he had the game sealed up at that point as long as he didn’t carelessly lose Tyranitar. Not a fun game to lose in. 1-1
Game 3: Game 3 in the semi-finals at Worlds is terrifying: there’s a $1500 scholarship on the line along with a free trip/invitation to next year’s World Championships. And of course the chance to become World Champion as well as making it into the Worlds Hall of Fame. My decision making was definitely not up to par this game: I let him roll some dice, and they were going his way for the majority of the battle. When Rotom-W was able to connect on Hydro Pump against Heatran through parafusion mid-game, I thought things were about to change for the better. However, I am not able to get any more momentum going on my side until the biggest turn of the battle: the SWAGGER turn. A lot of people have asked me why I didn’t just Protect that turn with Landorus, but in my head I really didn’t expect him to Swagger my Landorus but target my Cresselia instead. If Thundurus went down that turn, I would be able to set up Trick Room and finish the game up with Conkeldurr in the back. I figured even if he got the Swagger off AND I hit myself in confusion, Cresselia would also need to hit herself for me to lose the battle. Of course, that’s just how things played out, and I slowly see my chances of World Champion slip away. After a convincing 1-0 lead, Ryosuke was able to mount an incredible comeback and close the series with a 2-1 victory. 1-2
Record: 6-2 (14-7), eliminated from tournament, 3rd in the world
Although it has already been a month since Worlds ended, I still look back at my semi-finals match a lot. It hurts to get eliminated like that, and for a long time it was hard for me to get over why I made some of the plays I did. Remaining composed after losing game 2 in a best of 3 is difficult to do, especially when you’re playing in front of the entire world. While luck was a major factor in Ryosuke’s victory against me, I feel as if I did not play my best and that I made many errors in the set, such as what I described in the beginning of game 2, not targeting down Thundurus right away games 2/3, and bringing Landorus-T > Tyranitar in the last game. (I wanted to cancel out and switch but ran out of time in the end. I also originally opted for Landorus because he did not bring Cresselia the previous game and I felt it was a great Pokemon to apply pressure against his Heatran and lower the attack of his Conkeldurr).
Regardless, these are the games that make you a better Pokemon player. I don’t think I was very bitter after I lost in person, and I’m surprised how happy I appeared to be as Kyle Bosman interviewed me for GameTrailers after my loss. (If you haven’t watched that video yet, you need to. It’s the best video I’ve ever seen about our game and community). Ryosuke was an incredible opponent, in both humility and skill, and I have the utmost respect for him — I just hope we have a rematch next year! I honestly feel like it hurt more losing in the Top 8 at Worlds in 2012 because my expectations were so high, while getting 3rd this year was a complete surprise to me (and probably everyone else). Top cutting Worlds in the Masters Division is an accomplishment very few players have been able to achieve in this game, and I’m certainly proud of how well I performed this year. Now that I’ve really come so close to winning a World Championship, I’ll be even more driven to take the title home next year in 2014. I think I’ve finally established myself alongside the top Masters in both America and the world in this game, and I’m incredibly excited to have yet another opportunity to win next season. It was really cool to finish as the highest ranked American in the Masters Division and for Brendan to finish the highest ranked American in the Juniors Division!
Speaking of Brendan, I can’t forget his performance — 9-0 at Worlds with an 18-2 record is absolutely phenomenal! I’m so proud of him because he’s had two incredibly painful losses at Worlds the past two years (I feel your pain now!) and finally took home the gold in his final year. He chose a pretty good year to win too, winning the most prizes out of any Pokemon Video Game World Champion and playing in stream in front of the world! I’ve really enjoyed seeing his growth as both a kid and Pokemon player in the past four years, and convincing him to play the game is definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Nice job, Babbytron. Your interview with Evan was kind of trash though.
One thing that I really agreed with is what J. C. Smith in GameTrailer’s video. In competitive Pokemon, there are new winners every time. We end up supporting everyone, whether they win or lose. At the end of the day, we’re all just great friends playing a game we love. Doing well is just a bonus in a tournament — the real prize is seeing all your friends again. There are so many people I hung out with at Worlds, from countries such as USA, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Korea, Japan, France, Singapore, the UK and Australia, and I enjoyed every single minute of it. I’ve been lucky enough to attend four different World Championships in four different locations (Orlando, Florida / San Diego, California / Kona, Hawaii / Vancouver, Canada), and each experience is so special and unique to me. Worlds is always the highlight of the summer, and this one was the best one I’ve ever attended.
Chris Brown and The Pokemon Company did an incredible job with this tournament as well. I’ve played since VGC started in 2008, back when I was just ten years old, but I’ve watched this game grow into something truly special. Getting the #3 trainer card (and seeing Brendan get the #1 trainer card) was the coolest bonus prize… until they extended invites down to Top 4! Playing on live stream was truly surreal and is a memory I will cherish forever, even if I lost. I can’t believe how incredible the game I play is now, and I’m so excited to see how we develop even more next season. Evan and Scott did a fantastic job with the commentary, and it’s something I’d really like to get the opportunity to do at one point in my career… 2014 US Nationals?
I’d like to conclude this article by thanking everyone who has supported me for the past five years — I wouldn’t be the Pokemon player I am today without you guys. This sounds cheesy, but it honestly is true. Years of practice with the best players and interacting with such an incredible community has helped me develop a lot in both this game and as a person, and while I still have a lot to learn, I really appreciate everything this community has done for me. Thanks to Brendan, Aaron, Jon, and Edward for being my roomies and making this trip that much more memorable. Thanks to Mohsyn for helping me construct an amazing team and helping me practice throughout the season. Thanks to my parents for supporting our hobby and letting us compete at Worlds this year. Thanks to my friends back at home for their support as well. Thanks to Nugget Bridge for helping this game grow exponentially in the past year. Thanks to Chris and Pokemon for making this the best Worlds I’ve ever attended and constantly working hard to improve this game. Thanks to all the different friends, both old and new, for all the memories and good times.
I’ve already received my invitation to the 2014 Pokemon World Championships next summer in Washington D.C., and Brendan won us two flights and a hotel room so we’re pretty much set! We’ll still be at Regionals to try and win a free trip to Nationals, but it’s nice to know that we don’t have to play super seriously this season. I hope you enjoyed this team analysis/tournament report, and I’ll see you all in California and Philadelphia next month! Until next time…
Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng out.