Bubble Trouble- Top 32 NA International Championship Report

Hello everyone! My name is Daniel Thorpe, also known online as TTT444. I’m from the Chicago area and I’ve been playing VGC since late 2014. In this article, I’m going to talk about the team I used to get Top 32 at the North American International Championships.

Team at a Glance

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Importable
Gengar-Mega @ Gengarite
Ability: Shadow Tag
Level: 50
EVs: 172 HP / 236 SpD / 100 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Shadow Ball
– Will-O-Wisp
– Taunt
– Protect

Tapu Bulu @ Assault Vest
Ability: Grassy Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 28 Atk / 228 SpD
Careful Nature
– Wood Hammer
– Horn Leech
– Superpower
– Stone Edge

Incineroar @ Aguav Berry
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 180 HP / 212 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 108 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Fake Out
– Flare Blitz
– Knock Off
– U-turn

Jellicent (F) @ Waterium Z
Ability: Cursed Body
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 196 Def / 60 SpA
Relaxed Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Water Spout
– Trick Room
– Recover
– Protect

Amoonguss @ Occa Berry
Ability: Regenerator
Level: 50
EVs: 204 HP / 244 Def / 60 SpD
Sassy Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Clear Smog
– Spore
– Rage Powder
– Protect

Stakataka @ Shuca Berry
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 244 HP / 92 Atk / 172 SpD
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Gyro Ball
– Stone Edge
– Trick Room
– Protect

History of the Team/Team Building Process

Above is a team I used in January to win a match for NPA (an online VGC team tournament) against snow-pokepoke (@BlueYossi), who placed top 4 at 2017 worlds. My friend and teammate, Donguk Jung (@SpringsVGC) also got top 4 at the Korean Winter League with a version of this team. It featured bulky Will-O-Wisp Taunt Mega Gengar, Z-Destiny Bond Mimikyu, Scarf Heatran, and Assault Vest Tapu Bulu. Although I abandoned the team for a long time, it became a central point of reference when building the team featured in this article.

Snorlax brought me a lot of success in the early season before Intimidate Incineroar came out. However, none of the Trick Room setters I used earlier in the season seemed to work for me after it’s release. I decided to try Jellicent because of its ability to one hit KO Incineroar with Z-Water Spout, incredible bulk, and Ghost-typing to avoid Fake Out.

I decided to try out a similar core to the team I highlighted previously. Gengar provided Will-O-Wisp support and trapping, Bulu was able to provide grassy terrain to help with Incineroar and Gengar’s ground weaknesses, and Incineroar was able to provide Fake Out and Intimidate, two vital aspects to a defensive team such as this. Within the first couple days of building this team, my rating on the Pokémon Showdown ladder skyrocketed from around 1500 to a peak of 1878.

I soon realized that I was only bringing Snorlax to matches against Charizard Y and Tapu Lele, and Stakataka would be a better option for those matchups. Stakataka also provided a second trick room setter and didn’t rely so heavily on setting up. This version of the team helped me top cut Zelda’s Columbus Challenge, get top 64 in the June International Challenge, as well as top cut an Ohio Midseason Showdown, which secured me a worlds invite.

For the North American International Championships, I decided to replace Clefairy with Occa Berry Amoonguss. I felt that Friend Guard wasn’t quite as useful as Spore would be against certain difficult matchups, such as Charizard Y. In retrospect, I hardly brought Amoonguss and I think I would rather have had Clefairy.

The Team

Gengar-Mega @ Gengarite
Ability: Shadow Tag
Level: 50
EVs: 172 HP / 236 SpD / 100 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Shadow Ball
– Will-O-Wisp
– Taunt
– Protect

Gengar provided the team with several forms of support. First of all, trapping Pokémon was very helpful for my team. It allowed me to switch between my various types of Pokémon, depending on what the opponent had on the field, in order to soak up attacks. Will-O-Wisp was vital for mitigating threats like Kangaskhan, Kartana, Landorus-T, and more. The combination of Will-O-Wisp and Shadow Tag often meant I was able to completely ignore one side of the opponent’s field for multiple turns. Taunt may seem like a strange option instead of Sludge Bomb, but I felt that shutting down Spore from Smeargle and Amoonguss, as well as various forms of set up, was more important than improving my matchup vs a select few Pokémon.

Calcs:

  • 252 Atk Tough Claws Mega Metagross Stomping Tantrum vs. 172 HP / 0 Def Mega Gengar: 146-172 (92.9 – 109.5%) — 56.3% chance to OHKO
  • 252 SpA Mega Gengar Shadow Ball vs. 172 HP / 236 SpD Mega Gengar: 138-164 (87.8 – 104.4%) — 25% chance to OHKO
  • 252+ Atk Incineroar Knock Off vs. 172 HP / 0 Def Mega Gengar: 134-162 (85.3 – 103.1%) — 12.5% chance to OHKO

Tapu Bulu @ Assault Vest
Ability: Grassy Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 28 Atk / 228 SpD
Careful Nature
– Wood Hammer
– Horn Leech
– Superpower
– Stone Edge

Tapu Bulu was an incredibly valuable member of the team, protecting Incineroar, Gengar, and Stakataka from super effective Earthquakes and providing gradual recovery to some of my Pokémon, which otherwise couldn’t heal at all. I chose an Assault Vest set because it meant that I was often able to switch it in and out multiple times, maintaining Grassy Terrain throughout the game. I also wanted to be able to take special hits with relative ease. I chose Stone Edge over Rock Slide because without any attack investment, Tapu Bulu is unable to KO Charizard Y with Rock Slide.

Calcs:

  • 252+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Flamethrower vs. 252 HP / 228+ SpD Assault Vest Tapu Bulu in Sun: 152-180 (85.8 – 101.6%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO
  • 252 SpA Nihilego Sludge Bomb vs. 252 HP / 228+ SpD Assault Vest Tapu Bulu: 156-184 (88.1 – 103.9%) — 25% chance to OHKO
  • 252+ SpA Choice Specs Tapu Fini Moonblast vs. 252 HP / 228+ SpD Assault Vest Tapu Bulu: 55-66 (31 – 37.2%) — guaranteed 4HKO after Grassy Terrain recover

Incineroar @ Aguav Berry
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 236 HP / 12 Atk / 4 Def / 148 SpD / 108 Spe 180 HP / 212 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 108 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Fake Out
– Flare Blitz
– Knock Off
– U-turn

The combination of Intimidate and Fake out was a key factor in the survivability of my team. I used Incineroar to switch in and out, continually hindering the opposing team’s Attack stats and providing opportunities to set up Trick Room using Fake Out. My original spread (used at every event other than NAIC), was meant to survive a Koko Z-Thunderbolt in Electric Terrain. However, I rarely ever took that attack in testing. I decided to go with a more offensive spread to have a better chance of KOing Amoonguss early on in the game, then trying to shut down the rest of my opponent’s team with Trick Room. I went with 108 Speed EVs because having a faster Fake Out than the opponent meant I could usually get Trick Room up fairly safely.

Calcs:

  • 252+ SpA Nihilego Power Gem vs. 180 HP / 4 SpD Incineroar: 162-192 (83.9 – 99.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • 212+ Atk Incineroar Flare Blitz vs. 252 HP / 252 Def Amoonguss: 200-236 (90.4 – 106.7%) — 43.8% chance to OHKO

Jellicent (F) @ Waterium Z
Ability: Cursed Body
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 196 Def / 60 SpA
Relaxed Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Water Spout
– Trick Room
– Recover
– Protect

The star of the team! I noticed that a lot of the niche mons that were popular in 2015 like Blaziken and Bisharp started coming back, but nobody thought to give Jellicent another try. With its excellent defensive stats and recover, it’s able to survive throughout battles and last out the slow games. Cursed Body gives it the luxury of randomly disabling moves, which can significantly improve the team’s positioning when paired with Mega Gengar. Z-Water Spout allows it to OHKO both of the format’s most popular Pokémon and can do sizeable damage to other non-resistant threats. I chose Protect for the last slot over Will-O-Wisp and Shadow Ball because I already had both moves on Gengar and didn’t think it was necessary to double up. It was also very handy in increasing Jellicent’s survivability even more.

Calcs:

  • 252 Atk Kartana Leaf Blade vs. 252 HP / 196+ Def Jellicent: 188-224 (90.8 – 108.2%) — 43.8% chance to OHKO
  • 252+ Atk Incineroar Knock Off vs. 252 HP / 196+ Def Jellicent: 108-128 (52.1 – 61.8%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • 60 SpA Jellicent Hydro Vortex (200 BP) vs. 236 HP / 148 SpD Incineroar: 200-236 (100 – 118%) — guaranteed OHKO

Stakataka @ Shuca Berry
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 244 HP / 92 Atk / 172 SpD
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Gyro Ball
– Stone Edge
– Trick Room
– Protect

Stakataka was the perfect Pokémon to round out my 5 Pokémon team. It is able to put heavy pressure on Pokémon such as Mega Charizard Y, Tapu Lele, Mega Salamence, and Incineroar that I would otherwise struggle with. Most Stakatakas use Rock Slide as their Rock move of choice. However, I went with Stone Edge to threaten more OHKOs onto Pokémon that are weak to Rock. The accuracy sucks, but Stakataka was usually bulky enough that it was able to use it multiple times. I chose to use Shuca Berry because it allows Stakataka to better take on Pokémon like Landorus and Mega Metagross and set up Trick Room more safely.

Calcs:

  • -1 252+ Atk Landorus-T Tectonic Rage (180 BP) vs. 244 HP / 0 Def Shuca Berry Stakataka: 128-152 (76.6 – 91%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Landorus-T Earth Power vs. 244 HP / 172 SpD Shuca Berry Stakataka: 122-146 (73 – 87.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252 Atk Kartana Sacred Sword vs. 244 HP / 0 Def Stakataka: 136-164 (81.4 – 98.2%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Aegislash-Blade Never-Ending Nightmare (160 BP) vs. 244 HP / 172 SpD Stakataka: 141-166 (84.4 – 99.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Amoonguss @ Occa Berry
Ability: Regenerator
Level: 50
EVs: 204 HP / 244 Def / 60 SpD
Sassy Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Clear Smog
– Rage Powder
– Spore
– Protect

I added Amoonguss to the team because I felt that Spore would be more beneficial than Friend Guard, but I only brought it to 1 or 2 games throughout day 1, and it got removed due to a team sheet error for day 2. I would recommend using Clefairy instead if you want to try the team.

Clefairy @ Eviolite
Ability: Friend Guard
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 212 Def / 44 SpD
Bold Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Moonblast
– Encore
– Follow Me
– Protect

Common Leads


This was probably the most common lead. It allowed me to begin hindering the opposing team immediately with Intimidate and Will-O-Wisp, and gave me a turn to use Fake Out and do as I please with Gengar. This lead was especially good against CHALK because I could Will-O-Wisp trap Kangaskhan or Kartana and switch between Tapu Bulu and Jellicent depending on what the opponent led with.


I used this lead most of the time when I didn’t want to bring Gengar. This allowed me to Fake Out any Pokémon that threatened Jellicent while I set up Trick Room, then U-Turn out into Tapu Bulu or Stakataka.

Tournament Rundown

Day 1

Round 1 vs Sébastien Biagé (@SebbyVGC) (LWW)
Mega-Salamence/Tapu Koko/Kartana/Cresselia/Incineroar/Snorlax

I recognized Sébastien’s name as a Canadian who had a worlds invite, but I couldn’t remember who he was. We made small talk for about 20 minutes before the match actually started. This match was pretty foggy for me, I think I missed a Will-O-Wisp on his Salamence game 1 that would have helped me a lot, but he played really well altogether. It was a very close match and I was happy to be starting with a win.

Round 2 vs Kyle Livinghouse (@AnimusVGC) (WLL)
Mega-Gengar/Kartana/Landorus-T/Tapu Fini/Tyranitar/Incineroar

I was pretty excited to be playing Kyle. I recognized him as Animus, someone who I played a lot on the Pokémon Showdown ladder and spoke to in the chat a few times. I had played against his team at an MSS the week before against Corey Esmeier (@invidious_VGC) and won pretty easily, so I was fairly confident. I was surprised to see that Kyle had Taunt Weakness Policy Tyranitar which made things a lot harder. I made a pretty severe mistake game 3 by leading Amoonguss Stakataka and allowing him to trap me with Gengar + Misty terrain. He pointed out that I should have led Amoonguss + Jellicent instead so I could switch out my Jellicent if needed, and I think that would have been a much better approach. I lost a little bit of confidence but I still felt ok about my play and was looking forward to Round 3.

Round 3 vs Khalid Alhuraiz (@KhalidVGC) (LWW)
Charizard-Y/Kartana/Nihilego/Landorus-T/Tapu Fini/Cresselia

I was happy to meet and play against Khalid in round 3. We have followed each other on twitter for years and we were on the same team for a fun online team tour this season, so it was cool to get this opportunity. I don’t remember for sure but I think I missed multiple Will-O-Wisps on his Landorus-T in game 1 which led to my quick demise. The highlight of this round came on turn 1 of game 3: I led Incineroar/Jellicent and faked out his Landorus as he attempted to Solar Beam my Jellicent with his Charizard, but he forgot to mega evolve and locked himself into Solar Beam. The next turn I was able to secure a free KO onto Charizard and won the game fairly easily from there.

Round 4 vs Jonathan Ray (LWW)
Kartana/Tapu Lele/Tapu Fini/Drifblim/Incineroar/Snorlax

Woo! A pair down! My opponent told me before the game that he built his team with his friend’s Pokémon 10 minutes before the tournament, because he didn’t know about the Gen 7 bred rule, so I figured I would have an easy win. This was not the case; Jonathan gave me one of the most intense games of Pokémon I’ve ever played. Curse Snorlax gave my team a lot of problems. Game 3 came down to whether or not burned Kartana Sacred Sword + -2 burned Snorlax High Horsepower + Flare Blitz recoil would be able to KO my Incineroar at around 85% with no berry. I ended up living the combination with 7 HP and was able to KO the Snorlax with Flare Blitz on the next turn for the victory.

Round 5 vs Mihrab Samad (@Mihrab) (LWW)
Mega-Metagross/Zapdos/Landorus-T/Tapu Fini/Incineroar/Amoonguss

I want to give a special thanks to my friend William (@FootstoolVGC) for helping me come up with the Gengar + Jellicent lead for this specific matchup (He was actually sitting next to me while I was playing too!). I lost game 1 due to timing out and accidentally using Water Spout instead of Hydro Vortex with my low health Jellicent, but I was able to win the next 2 games. Luckily, I found out later that Mihrab still managed to top 64 and earn his worlds invite.

Round 6 vs Summer Hunter (@zilchcloud) (LWW)
Mega-Salamence/Tapu Koko/Kartana/Cresselia/Incineroar/Gastrodon

When I saw Gastrodon, I immediately knew this was going to be a difficult matchup. To my surprise, she didn’t bring Gastrodon to game 1 but was able to beat me anyway. Game 2, she led Salamence/Gastrodon into my Gengar/Incineroar. I knew that I had to make a big play here, so I taunted Salamence as it attempted to Dragon Dance and U-turned into Tapu Bulu, as the Gastrodon attempted to Earth Power the Incineroar. Turn 2, I used Will-O-Wisp on the Salamence so my Bulu could comfortably take a Return and use Horn Leech on the Gastrodon. Once Gastrodon was gone, I was able to use Stakataka and Incineroar to break through the rest of the team. In game 3, I found myself in a tough situation where I had to get Trick Room up with Stakataka without letting her Kartana KO my Incineroar. With some intense switching, I eventually got Trick Room up against only Kartana and Superpowered my own Stakataka to get a free switch into Incineroar and end the game.

Round 7 vs Alberto Lara (@Alberto310) (WLL)
Mega-Gengar/Kartana/Landorus-T/Tapu Fini/Cresselia/Incineroar

I was incredibly nervous about my match against this big name player. Game 1 we quickly realized that our Gengar’s were speed tied when his mega evolved first but mine attacked first. We each lived each other’s Shadow Ball on about 5%. Notable mentions in games 2 and 3: I missed a Will-O-Wisp on Landorus during Game 3 so his Tectonic Rage was able to KO something, but I won the Gengar speed tie and got the roll I needed both games, so I can’t complain. I also had an incredibly difficult time breaking through substitute 50% berry Kartana.

Round 8 vs Abdul Barrie (@Bigslim_World) (LWW)
Charizard-X/Kartana/Nihilego/Tapu Lele/Landorus-T/Smeargle

I played Abdul at Charlotte Regionals as well, and I knew he was friends with Jake Smith, who I was staying with. In Charlotte, he used an incredibly hyper offensive team so I expected the same here. Game 1 he caught me off guard with Charizard X and was able to beat me after I let Smeargle get several moody boosts. I did learn that Smeargle had Wide Guard over Spiky Shield, which was important information for the next 2 games. I knew that I had to Taunt Smeargle with Gengar to prevent it from Sporing my team, but Scarf Tapu Lele and Charizard X made that very difficult. Even though all 3 games were very close, Stakataka had a very good time against Abdul’s team and I was able to win game 3 by Flare Blitzing a Kartana on switch in.

Round 9 vs Zheyuan Huang (@KenVGC) (WW)
Charizard-Y/Tapu Koko/Kartana/Landors-T/Cresselia/Incineroar

I was very scared to be playing Ken to determine which of us makes cut. He beat me at an Illinois MSS a few weeks before, with the same team, but I felt that I got unlucky during that game so I knew I still had a chance. I got a Cursed Body activation on his Incineroar’s Knock Off during both games. At the end of game 2, I called almost all of his moves correctly in Trick Room and was able to win convincingly.

Day 2

Round 10 vs Carson St Denis (*WW)
Mega-Kangaskhan/Kartana/Landorus-T/Tapu-Fini/Cresselia/Heatran

This was my favorite match of the tournament because I got to demonstrate how easily my team can beat CHALK. Unfortunately for me, I got a team sheet error because I switched my Amoonguss to a different spread and forgot to save the game, so I started the round with a Game 1 loss. I did some research and found out that Carson was running Toxic Kangaskhan. Game 2, I led Gengar/Incineroar into his Kangaskhan/Heatran. I had to keep Taunting the Kangaskhan to prevent it from using Toxic, and I switched Incineroar to Jellicent to better match up against the Heatran. He managed to use Substitute before I could Hydro Vortex his Heatran, but his Heatran went down before my Gengar. I was able to Will-O-Wisp the Kartana and clean up the game with Jellicent, Tapu Bulu, and Incineroar still at or around full health. Game 3, I led Gengar/Incineroar again into his Tapu Fini/Landorus. I knew that it would be fairly obvious of me to switch Incineroar into Tapu Bulu, so I instead switched into Jellicent hoping that he would Sludge Bomb. I intended to KO Landorus with Hydro Vortex and Taunt the Fini to stop it from using Calm Mind the next turn, but instead, Cursed Body activates and disables Landorus’s Sludge Bomb. I immediately switch back to Tapu Bulu and Taunt Tapu Fini so it can’t Protect, then KO Fini with Wood Hammer while Landorus is locked into struggle. After Tapu Fini and Landorus faint, there isn’t much Carson can do to come back.

Round 11 vs Jeremy Rodrigues (@SerapisVGC) (LL)
Mega-Megatross/Tapu Lele/Landorus-T/Rotom-H/Drifblim/Amoonguss

I knew Jeremy was going to be an incredibly tough opponent, especially with the team he was using. Game 1, I got a lucky roll on Amoonguss with my Flare Blitz, but for some reason, I tried to call his Lele not taunting my Stakataka and used Trick Room instead of Gyro Ball on his Lele. This allowed him to KO Stakataka the next turn and my Jellicent was stuck against his Metagross and Life Orb Lele. In Game 2, his Rotom got an unexpected KO on my Incineroar meaning I had no answer to Amoonguss. I forfeited as soon as I saw Amoonguss come in against my Jellicent and Stakataka, which confused Jeremy. In retrospect, I probably should have tried to play out the game and hope to get lucky with sleep turns, but I think I would have had a hard time winning anyways.

Round 12 vs Sean Worcester (WLL)
Mega-Metagross/Charizard-Y/Nihilego/Tapu Lele/Landorus-T/Amoonguss

This once again looked like a horrible matchup. Game 1, Sean brought Charizard, and after I KO’d his Amoonguss I was able to win by setting up Trick Room and hitting his Pokémon super effectively. Game 2, he brought Metagross and crit my Gengar with Zen Headbutt after I burned it which practically ended the game immediately. He played well game 3 with Metagross and Tapu Lele and eliminated me from top cut contention.

Round 13 vs Justin Crubaugh (@iMagikarpVGC) (WLL)
Mega-Gengar/Kartana/Landorus-T/Tapu Fini/Tyranitar/Incineroar

Justin and I were both feeling pretty discouraged at this point after being eliminated from the tournament. The main thing I remember from this set was throwing away Game 3 because I forgot about my own Shadow Tag and Superpowered his Tapu Fini with my Tapu Bulu expecting it to switch into Kartana or Tapu Bulu.

Round 14 vs Nico Davide Cognetta (@DesuVGC) (WLL)
Mega-Salamence/Kartana/Nihilego/Tapu Fini/Cresselia/Incineroar

I was pretty disappointed to be playing one of the best players in the world at this point in the tournament. Game 1, I narrowed his team down to Salamence against my Incineroar, Tapu Bulu, and Stakataka. I spent about 20 turns cycling between Pokémon while he spammed Roost and Dragon Dance before I was finally able to end the game. In game 2, I missed a stone edge against his low health Incineroar on switch in which might have helped me win, but he was able to intimidate spam my Stakataka and eventually KO it with Tapu Fini, allowing Salamence to beat the rest of my team. I don’t remember much of game 3 but he won in a similar fashion to game 2.

Shoutouts

  • The NPA 7 New Bark Loud Puppies, especially Ben (@gimmerVGC), Trey (@DaWoblefet), and William (@FootstoolVGC) for supporting me and hanging out with me throughout the weekend
  • Trey, Ben, and Brandon (@BrightSize_) for letting me stay in their hotel room on Friday night so we could prepare for Day 2
  • Jake Smith (@TheLoanRanger17) for allowing me to stay at his house on Thursday and Saturday night
  • Justin Frys (@RexChaos), Lauri Halonen (@Latsu7), Jamie Mancini for hanging out with me at Jake’s house and at the tournament
  • The Illinois Facebook group chat for hanging out and supporting me as always!
  • Trevor Rosberg (@HBC_VGC) & Adam Baltrusaitis (@DecimVGC) for giving me an affordable ride back and forth from Chicago
  • Jake Hockemeyer (@CodenameHokhead) for saving me from getting stranded in Ohio the weekend of the MSS
  • Anyone else who showed their support at the tournament or from home! Too many of you to thank!
  • AutobotTesla for the featured image

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