Contra os Canhões Marchar! – A Top 4 Worlds Report

Olá!

Welcome, friends, to the biggest report you’ll ever see. Wait, maybe I shouldn’t start a report like this… Well, let’s just call it a report that can appeal to the interests of any kind of reader!

As you may or may not know, I recently got an unbelievable Top 4 placing at the World Championships. It was always a dream of mine to even go to worlds, so you can imagine how thrilled I am for reaching so far in the actual competition! To be honest, I think “thrilled” is an understatement, but I can’t really describe all my feelings in words, so let’s go with that.

Obviously, I couldn’t possibly avoid writing a report to celebrate this accomplishment and to share my unforgettable experience with you. I’ve always wanted to write one, but never felt like my online results were good enough. So now that I have the opportunity to finally do so, I will make sure it’s the best I can give you.

In this article, I’ll be writing about multiple aspects of my experience, so it may look a bit too big and boring. To avoid that, I’ll be dividing the report by each aspect so you can browse through the parts that appeal the most to you.


HISTORIC/GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND

To start off, I want to talk to you about Portugal. Although many of you will probably ignore this part, I’d still like to inform you about my country, since many people seem to question what “a Portugal” is.

First of all, Portugal is one of the oldest countries in the world. We’ve been officially a country for 872 years, which is truly impressive. We were also the first ones to go deep into the Atlantic Ocean, which very few people seem to value (besides ourselves, of course), showing great courage by facing our fears and ignoring every silly rumor about the existance of giant monsters around those places. With such bravery came enormous wealth, as we had privileged access to rare raw material. We were one of the (if not THE) most powerful countries in the world, but it seems to have been in vain, as very few people seem to know anything about our glorious country. I can’t really blame them, though, seeing as our people seem to love spending money illogically. We ended up wasting all our wealth with luxury and pure stupidity. I don’t know what’s up with us, but we never hold on to money for too long… It’s truly a shame that the hard work of our ancestors isn’t recognized today because of our economical irrelevance, but that’s what my generation is here to change!

I could honestly just spend the rest of the day typing out incredible stories from our past (which would include our victories in wars against much bigger countries), but you’re not here for that. However, I would like to add a short note about our geographical context.

  • Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, being composed by the mainland and 2 archipelagos (Madeira and Azores).
  • We do have our own language, Portuguese, and it’s one of the most spoken languages in the whole world, as Brazil, Angola, Mozambique and MANY other countries use it as their main language. Although most words are similar to Spanish, these two languages still have many differences. The accents in which they’re spoken, for example, are very distinct and Spanish people usually can’t speak Portuguese at all.
  • We have approximately 10.5 million inhabitants.
  • Our flag is one of the few European ones that isn’t solely made of stripes and I’m very proud of that.

Finally, I’d like to explain the title. “Contra os canhões marchar” is a quote from our national anthem and means “We shall march against the cannons“, representing the courage our people is known for. However, in this context, it’s supposed to be a reference to the heavy cannons we’ve seen in this metagame. Many people backed off when they saw such an offensive metagame, but I kept on fighting to find an answer and managed to succeed, hence why I thought the quote would be fitting.

Now that I’m done with the boring history lesson, let’s move on to our next topic.

PREPARING FOR WORLDS!

It was May, and I had just gone through the upsetting experience of another National going terribly. This time, being sick didn’t really allow me to enjoy my time in Liverpool and a few misplays allowed tough luck to ruin my dreams for the season. I was irritated because I knew exactly what had gone wrong and felt stupid for making such bad plays. I don’t know if the headache I had influenced my thought process, but all that mattered was that I had disappointed myself yet again, for the third year in a row. However, I felt like I was dealing with the situation much better than previous years. High School was almost over and I was excited to start another chapter of my life in college. After Italy in 2015, it’s hard for me to feel upset about any experience, really. That trip to Milan taught me to be thankful for what I have and I believe I’ve been putting that knowledge to good use. It helped me get through some tough times in life and I’m sure it still will in the future.

Nevertheless, there was something else that kept me smiling; my mom had recently told me that going to worlds was a possibility, since she was probably going to get a prize from work. As sort of a defensive mechanism, I usually avoid getting too excited for a trip, as I’ve had many awful experiences before, so I wasn’t really 100% expecting to go to worlds.

A few weeks went by and I hadn’t heard any news on the prize situation, but another idea came up. My 18th birthday had been in March, so I was going to have access to all the savings my mom had ever put aside for me since I was born. Honestly, no matter how much I wanted to go to worlds, I didn’t want to spend 18 years of savings on one trip. However, my mom told me it was my dream and that I had to follow it. After all, we don’t get opportunities like this every day. Still, I postponed the booking until I won a Spanish tournament that helped cover part of the costs.

Now that I had booked the trip, I had to decide on a team. I wasn’t really very formal about it, as I laddered for fun anyway. I tried building around the Xerneas Groudon core, since I had been using that for most of the season. It was going amazingly, as I managed to claim the 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions on the Showdown ladder with a team. One of those accounts even had an 86.9% GXE! However, I overplayed it and started becoming doubtful about certain matchups like Big 6. I started panicking. I couldn’t possibly use a team weak to big 6! That’s a quality of mine that I despise! XRay was another option, since I had found success with it by winning the Spanish tournament and finishing the last season of Battle Spot with VGC rules as 1st worldwide, but I felt like it wouldn’t be that good at worlds, since everyone knew its tricks. I also didn’t like the idea of Scarf Smeargle for such a prestigious event, since it’s so reliant on either luck or 50/50 mindgames that may decide the game.

I started building Anti Big6 Xerneas Groudon cores, but I always found a flaw in the plan. That’s when my good friend Feis started helping me theorymoning. Eventually, I got to the idea of a Kangaskhan + Bronzong lead. With Safeguard on Kang, I could set up Trick Room against any kind of Big 6 lead that included Smeargle. My goal, then, was to sweep with Groudon, so I needed a Pokémon that controlled the opposing Groudon and that was able to break wide guard. Hitmontop sounded perfect. I loved the core and it wasn’t the first time I was using Hitmontop. I added Xerneas because it’s amazing with Intimidate and double Fake Out support, and also because it’s what I was comfortable with. Finally, after testing Weavile for a while, I decided on Thundurus, since it would help me with speed control, the RayOgre matchup and beating Scarf Smeargle. I played some games on Showdown and loved how well it was doing. I didn’t want to spoil it like I did with my previous team, so I stopped practicing. My main goal was to have fun with my friends anyway, so I wasn’t super worried about doing well. I was finally ready to leave for the US!

ON MY WAY TO THE LAND OF FREEDOM!
OH YEAH, BABY! WE’RE GOIN’ TO ‘MURICA!

Before worlds, I had gone to many places. My mom and I love to travel, so, whenever we have the chance, we catch a plane and go to a new country. However, I had never gone to the US. Although it was pretty exciting, I didn’t have that stereotypical desire to go there. Having many american friends allowed me to be aware of many worrying situations going on there, so most of the excitement came from being able to finally meet some friends in person and from the fact that I WAS GOING TO THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS OMG AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

My journey started with a flight from Porto to Paris, where I was going to stay for a day at the IBIS. It was a manual connection flight that I booked to avoid missing my flight to San Francisco, since the flights going from my hometown ended up being more expensive. Then, I flew on a low-cost company from Iceland named WOW air that stopped in Reykjavík before departing directly to San Francisco. However, I wasn’t going on this quest alone, as I found out my good friends Haricot and DrSugus were taking the same flight! We managed to sit next to each other, making it all more bearable. It ended up being a tiring experience, but eventually we got there safe and sound. It was around 8.45 pm and we were looking for the best means of transportation. We found a very cheap bus that was going to pass by at 9.30, so we decided to wait. The problem is that it never showed up… Eventually, we found the train, which was stopping next to the hotel that hosted worlds. By 10.45, we managed to arrive at the hotel. We met some of our friends and it was all very exciting, but all I wanted was to shower and have dinner. Thankfully, Szymoninho was awake when I arrived, so I found myself in our hotel room very soon, but not without almost waking up KaliTheTan and 000aj. I felt terrible using Kali’s room, almost waking him up and making some noise with the faucet, but thankfully, he didn’t even notice anything.

It was now midnight and I was starving. I left Kali a cute message as I took the key with me, and left for the lobby. There I met more friends who were just arriving as well and found out all the hotel bars were closing. Keep in mind I was wearing shorts and flip-flops, so going outside didn’t sound like a great idea. However, megachar10 and I found some flyers of a pizza place. After 2 failed attempts, they finally picked up and, 45 minutes later, I was finally able to satisfy my hunger.

By the time I finished, I looked to the hotel’s entrance and spotted some members of the Texan and the German community. I went outside to greet them all and I can’t really tell you what happened until around 3.30 am, when I headed back to my room and slept like an angel.

THE BOX OF SUCCESS!

It was now Thursday and I had to lock my Battle Box sometime between 5 to 8 pm. I spent most of the day meeting more people, playing a Metronome Multi Battle and hanging out with some friends in pokebeys‘ room. By 6, we left for the venue, only to come across a huge line. Turns out that was the TCG line, and we just had to wait a bit by the door. Inside, however, there was a perhaps even bigger line than the TCG one, since over 400 players had to register. Luckily, I had some friends around that I could talk to, so time went by much faster. It was still a stressful experience, as I had the usual second thoughts about my team. I just relaxed, though, and eventually, it was my turn to lock in the amazing squad you’ll now see!

 


Kangaskhan @ Kangaskhanite
Ability: Inner Focus
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 172 Atk / 76 Def / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Fake Out
– Double-Edge
– Safeguard
– Sucker Punch

“AUSSIE, AUSSIE, AUSSIE!”

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the goddess of VGC, the strongest single mother of Pokémon, the destroyer of every kid’s dreams, KANGASKHAN!!!

Although I’d say that I enjoy using Salamence more than Kangaskhan, I feel like Fake Out coming from a Mega is too strong in this metagame, especially if said Fake Out user can OHKO Smeargle.

However, one of the main reasons for me to choose her is related to that weird, (seemingly) bad move: Safeguard. I feel like Safeguard has amazing potential, but it’s too hard to explore it since most users don’t have enough offensive presence, which is something you really can’t lack in this metagame. The idea of a mega with Safeguard is to have the option to stop Hypnosis and Dark Void while still threatening a strong Double Edge. I ended up only missing Power-up Punch once, and it wasn’t really necessary, I just feel like my opponent was giving me too many opportunities to set up. I don’t recall if I won anyway or not, but I feel like Safeguard was very valuable and did its job perfectly.

The EV spread allows my Kangaskhan to survive a Jolly Low Kick from opposing Kangaskhan 93.8% of the time.

Also, huge shoutouts to the Aussie community. They’re all great people and I’m very happy they adopted me.

 

Bronzong @ Mental Herb
Ability: Heatproof
Level: 50
EVs: 228 HP / 28 Atk / 188 Def / 60 SpD
Relaxed Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Gyro Ball
– Trick Room
– Gravity
– Hypnosis

Ding, dong, Bronzong is here. The goal of this frightening bell is to set up Trick Room and Gravity to support the Groudon, while threatening Xerneas with Gyro Ball and pretty much everything with Hypnosis.

The set is standard for a Groudon+Xerneas team. With Heatproof and this EV spread, it survives most moves from opposing Groudons, including Precipice Blades. The big exception is Modest Groudon, but its moves are still damage rolls. I made this spread before Nationals and I figured Modest Max Special Attack Groudon wasn’t common enough, so I just kept it.

Also, YureeVGC.

 


WhatDidIMiss (Groudon) @ Red Orb
Ability: Drought
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 156 Atk / 4 Def / 60 SpD / 36 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Precipice Blades
– Fire Punch
– Substitute
– Protect

Ruby was the game I grew up playing with, so I had to bring Groudon to worlds, right?

Seriously though, I had been using it for most of the season and, next to Bronzong, it becomes an even greater beast. Its strong Xerneas matchup was also a strong factor for my decision, but it mostly came down to comfort.

The EV spread was made to survive an Earth Power from Timid Groudon, while still having a gigantic attack stat and high enough Speed to outspeed most Primals on Trick Room teams.

Substitute was one of the most valueable moves I had on the team. I love its concept, especially on Groudon, since not many Pokémon actually beat it. As such, I can set it up when its counters are not on the field, allowing me to dish off a STAB move from a 209 Attack Stat Pokémon before having to switch out.

Finally, the nickname is a reference to one of Wolfey‘s most used expressions on the Holy Spirits chat, as well as to the fact that its strongest move is only 85% accurate.

 


Xerneas @ Power Herb
Ability: Fairy Aura
Level: 50
EVs: 44 HP / 228 Def / 68 SpA / 4 SpD / 164 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Geomancy
– Moonblast
– Dazzling Gleam
– Protect

“RRRIIIIUUUUUIIII”!

Some may hate this fellow here, but I love it. I used it for the whole season and it’s such an outstanding punisher of lacking offensive pressure on the opposing field. Xerneas is also much more than an offensive sweeper! The sheer threat of the Geomancy forces the opponent to focus on it, allowing your other Pokémon to run over the opponent’s team more freely. It also brings many mind games to team preview, since they can’t comfortably bring a Pokémon like Scrafty when they see a Xerneas. I’m pretty sure you all know how Xerneas works, though, so I’m just going to move onto the EV’s. The original spread was given to me by ProfShroomish and then improved by DaWoblefet, and it’s meant to be 3HKO’d by Precipice Blades from Adamant Groudon, while still outspeeding Smeargle. I used to prefer Timid Xerneas, since it can outspeed threats like Rayquaza, Primals, Kyurem and Yveltal, but the bulk is just too valuable.

Even though I didn’t get to use it much on stream, Xerneas was a crucial member of my team. Not only did it win me many games, it also forced my opponents to bring certain Pokémon they wouldn’t normally choose just because of the threat on preview.

 


Hitmontop @ Black Belt
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 252 HP / 84 Atk / 172 Def
Adamant Nature
– Fake Out
– Close Combat
– Feint
– Wide Guard

LET IT RIP!!!

Hitmontop is one of my favourite Pokémon. I love both the design and the concept. It’s really inspiring how something so small can be so strong and useful, you know?

Anyway, back to VGC! This little fighter has shown how important and beautiful support roles are in Pokémon! From Fake Out, to Intimidate and the Guards, Hitmontop has an incredible amount of ways to help its teammates. You could be questioning such passiveness, though, as pure support forces the partner to be the only source of damage on the field. But that’s not a problem for Hitmontop, as it can just fire off the 120 base power, STAB boosted Close Combat to damage the opponent severely! This one, specifically, has a Black Belt and an Adamant Nature to boost its impact even further!

Now going into a more strategical perspective, Hitmontop gives my team many important tools. One of them is the combination of Intimidate and Wide Guard on the same Pokémon, a trait only Hitmontop possesses. As you may or may not know, Salamence and Smeargle are a lead theorized by many as one of the strongest ones on Big X teams for plenty of reasons. One of them is how the combination of Intimidate and Dark Void forces the opponent to make certain plays that allow for Xerneas to freely switch in, while having Wide Guard to possibly prevent the, always scary, spread moves to deal devastating damage to the field. With Hitmontop, however, I can just lead with Xerneas and have Fake Out deal similar pressure to the one Dark Void dealt, leaving me with an extra slot, one of them being a Mega, to fill with another Pokémon! All those traits allowed me to use a double Fake Out mode to support a Xerneas sweep which, as I mentioned earlier, was one of the most effective against any team that didn’t have Gengar.

The EV spread was something I came up with last year. It’s meant to survive a Brave Bird from Life Orb Adamant Talonflame after an Intimidate and OHKO Kangaskhan. The only way of accomplishing both would be with those EV’s and a boosting item, hence why I chose the Black Belt. I also only needed 44 EVs to OHKO 4 HP Kangaskhan, but I figured that covering for bulkier versions and improving the overall damage output would be a solid choice.

Hitmontop is, all around, an amazing Pokémon that I’ve used even in metagames it wasn’t very common in, and it ended up being an amazing call for Worlds.

 


Thundurus @ Sitrus Berry
Ability: Prankster
Level: 50
EVs: 220 HP / 44 Def / 4 SpA / 164 SpD / 76 Spe
Calm Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Thunderbolt
– Thunder Wave
– Taunt
– Protect

The electrician everyone hates, but the one I needed to fix the flood threatening my lights (?). I don’t know, something about fixing the RayOgre matchup, allowing Groudon to eliminate the other threats.

Ever since it was introduced, Thundurus has been a common presence in any metagame it is allowed in. The combination of Prankster and Thunder Wave is just too good to pass on! Paralysis is a really strong status condition, since it has that juicy 25% chance of making your opponent stay immobilized, while allowing your team to have the speed advantage and, if we’ve learned anything from VGC, it’s definitely that speed kills! (Shoutouts to the 2012/2013 article on speed control, made by Werford.

For my team in particular, Thundurus allowed my relatively slow team to gain another source of speed control, as well as a RayOgre check. With Thunderbolt and Thunder Wave, I can control the Rayquaza-Kyogre core by dealing strong damage to both and slowing them down, allowing the rest of the team to KO them before they move. The lack of water resists and the overall redundance of the type chart, in this metagame, for switch ins, made my Kyogre matchup a complete array of 50/50 reads throughout the game, since it relies on switching Groudon in when predicting the Rayquaza not to switch in, so Thundurus’ bulk allowed me to avoid that awkward situation and damage Kyogre heavily, while still surviving its hits.

The EV spread was given to me by the EV master himself DaWoblefet. It’s fast enough to speed creep those trying to outspeed Smeargle, while still having enough bulk to Survive a Double-Edge from Mega-Kangaskhan, a Fire Punch in the Sun from Primal-Groudon, a Dazzling Gleam from +2 Modest Xerneas and an Eruption from pretty much every Groudon. except Modest 252 ones (75% chance of surviving). It also has a 50% chance of surviving Water Spout from 252 Timid Kyogre and 75% chance of surviving 56 Modest. It’s a really good spread, since it survives many of the strongest hits, allowing me to spread paralysis around. For a few years now, we’ve gotten to the conclusion that, in a fast paced game like Pokémon VGC, if Thundurus manages to get a single Thunder Wave off, it has already done a lot to put momentum on your side. If it gets the chance to use the move more than once, we can safely assume that all the odds are on your side. Things aren’t usually as simple as this, but this statement is still pretty accurate.

These are the six I used. I feel like it was definitely an amazing team and I absolutely love it, but it had some awkward weaknesses. I’ll cover all that now, starting with common leads.

LEADS

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I would bring:  or File:383PMS.png

Kangaskhan+Bronzong was my main one, since it covers so much! Basically, if they lead with Smeargle, I could make it useless right away with Safeguard and set up Trick Room. Once the dimensions are twisted, I just make sure to deal as much damage with Kangaskhan before sacrificing it while setting up Gravity, allowing Groudon to come in and clean the remaining Pokémon. The main problem with this lead would be opposing Groudon, but, if they do lead with it, I have two options depending on the variant: bringing Hitmontop in if they’re physical, crippling its damage output and pressuring with Fake Out and Wide Guard, or, if they’re special, firing off a Double Edge and reducing the power of Eruption, leaving it without solid spread moves.

Thundurus+Groudon is well known for being a solid lead against Smeargle+Xerneas, as well as pretty much any other lead from Big 6. However, I feel like it relies on winning some guessing games, like the item Smeargle is carrying and if they go for Crafty Shield, Follow Me or neither, making Precipice Blades the logical move to go with. And now the gambling begins. Does Precipice Blades hit? Does Smeargle get an Evasion boost? Don’t get me wrong, I think this lead has the upper hand on the odds, but the possibility of Mental Herb Smeargle makes me prefer the first lead over this one. A Groudon lead by the opponent could also be problematic if they have a Special variant, since switching Hitmontop in could just mean taking an Eruption to its fragile (yet fearless) face.

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I would bring: Active Mode or Active Mode

Ah, the infamous Double Primals… A core concept I began to understand in a very practical way, i.e. by facing it and losing to it multiple times and not quite understanding what I had done wrong. The sheer fact that these two together sum up to an insanely high amount of STATS put them way ahead on the offensive pressure game. I found myself having trouble to come up with a solid plan against this archetype, since I felt like I could play better and still lose when facing it. The strong spread damage was just too overwhelming! But once I figured my team didn’t have the tools to consistently beat them, I came to the conclusion that having Icy Wind would improve my matchup significantly. However, that’s not the one I ended up using at Worlds. Instead, I opted to use Xerneas as the main win condition instead of Groudon and Kangaskhan, so I had to go with Intimidate. The efficiency of Intimidate against Double Primal was shown to me by the Xerneas Rayquaza I used for a few months, when I managed to beat almost every team with that archetype by playing around with Scrafty and Xerneas. I believe that Hitmontop is even better in the matchup, though, as it can also support Groudon with Wide Guard! The Hitmontop lead was especially good against the common Thundurus+Groudon lead, as it heavily crippled Groudon and Faked Out Thundurus, stopping it from Thunder Waving my Xerneas. Kangaskhan also works well if I feel like I need more immediate offensive potential.

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I would bring: Incarnate FormeFile:383PMS.png or Incarnate Forme

Double Primal with Gengar becomes way trickier! Since the ghost “Teddy Bear” (paging Wolfey) is immune to Kangaskhan’s and Hitmontop’s types, leading with them is too risky, so Thundurus comes into play. If I manage to paralyse the Gengar, I can later KO it with Groudon, so it becomes less of a threat. If I have Hitmontop and Gengar is paralysed, Groudon will be free to sweep. I have to be careful with Scald Kyogre, though, which makes me more wary of weather wars. I have to be extra careful with Groudon, seeing as Thundurus can’t really touch it, making the partner the only source of offensive pressure to it. You’ll later see how crucial managing the damage on opposing Groudon is on Game 2 of my Top 4 set, where predicting a Groudon switch in on turn 1 was key to my victory.

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I would bring:Incarnate FormeActive Modeor Incarnate Formeor Active Mode

RayOgre is a matchup I have already discussed a bit, but I think it’s important to pin-point a few key aspects of the matchup. Starting with the first lead option, Thundurus+Xerneas is an amazing lead that doesn’t get to be used too often due to how weak to Groudon it is. You can stop opposing Taunt, Roar, Encore, Thunder Wave, Trick Room, Tailwind, Haze, and many other moves that threaten Xerneas’ set up, while also forcing the opponent to focus on Xerneas, which gives Thundurus a great opportunity to spread paralysis. It can be awkward if the opponent has a Raichu or a Steel type, but Groudon is in the back just for that!

Another incredibly solid lead is Thundurus Kangaskhan, since they’re both Pokémon that, when combined, can KO either Kyogre or Rayquaza, giving me great momentum. It’s also a very effective lead to plan the board position, since I can force Protects to avoid the paralysis and use the opportunity to make the necessary switches to increase momentum as much as possible. Finally, Kangaskhan Xerneas is an overall amazing lead for obvious reasons. The Fake Out pressure gives me the opportunity to set up, while still having the option to just go offensive with Kangaskhan and deal incredibly amounts of damage.

Anything else that isn’t Active Mode or
I would bring: Active Mode or Active Mode

These 2 leads are great to set up the Geomancy due to Fake Out. One has the advantage of Intimidate and Wide Guard, the other one has more offensive pressure.

Tough Matchups

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Special Groudon can be really annoying. Decreasing Eruption’s power by Double-Edging it usually helps a lot, and setting up Geomancy also works very well, but if they have Gengar as well, it’s incredibly hard to come up with a solution. It’s not impossible to beat it, but it’s definitely not easy.

File:383PMS.png or 

This matchup is a bit complicated, to say the least. It’s really hard to use Xerneas against Groudon, Gengar and/or Jumpluff, so I have to rely on other Pokémon to beat it. Thundurus could be strong, as long has they don’t have Mental Herb Jumpluff (and, even then, it’s really useful), but then Groudon becomes the main threat, especially if it’s special. Grass Knot Thundurus is something I had been heavily considering, but I wasn’t sure that would be the solution.

So, as you can see, it doesn’t really have many tough matchups. I feel like this team could still use some improvements, though, but I’m very happy I chose to go with it.

My Battle Box was now locked and I was ready to have an unforgettable weekend with some of my best friends! My roommates couldn’t find me, since we registered at different times, so I ended up having dinner with some members of the Gazpacho chat at the hotel. Mark “woopahking” was still super unprepared, so we had a few practice matches. He ended up being the only player to beat me before day 2, which was pretty hilarious despite the unorthodox circumstances.

After four games, I went back to my room, so I could get some solid sleep before the great event.

THE END OF A LONG-LASTING CURSE!

Since I was in the same room as 000aj, I ended up not having to worry about oversleeping, as he always wakes up incredibly early. We had breakfast somewhat calmly and, eventually, headed to the venue.

It was time. I found out I was going to be playing in the biggest ballroom, which I appreciated, to be honest, as I was at Worlds to battle next to as many people as possible! Pairings are out and I see my opponent is from Argentina. He wasn’t any of my friends, so I felt relieved, but that didn’t mean it would be easy.

R1 – Rodrigo Volpi [AR] (WW)

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As we hit Team Preview, I’m automatically reminded of Boomguy‘s Australian nationals winning team. My opponent was using the same six, so I knew he had a Red Card Amoonguss waiting for my Xerneas to attack it. Not wanting to risk my first match of the tournament on guessing games, I decided to go with the Trick Room mode, which was the most reliable for Xerneas. My opponent, however, went with Xerneas and Scrafty. I had 4 physical attackers. He had Salamence, Scrafty and Xerneas. I think you know how that ended… I could barely deal any damage whatsoever, it was terrible. I was also upset because he didn’t even consider me bringing Xerneas, has he had brought 2 Pokémon terribly weak to it. I wanted to punish that and went with Xerneas Kangaskhan for Game 2. He brought the same lead, so it was a clean sweep, I don’t think he could’ve done much.

Now, I was 100% expecting Amoonguss, but wasn’t sure on the 4th. I think Groudon and Salamence were to be expected, but would he bring Xerneas, Scrafty or Smeargle? I figured that, no matter what, I could just go with the Xerneas mode and bank on predicting the Amoonguss switch in. He lead Groudon Xerneas into my Kangaskhan Xerneas, so I figured he hadn’t brought Scrafty. I Fake Out the Groudon and Geomancy, as he Geomancies as well. This was now the turn. I had to risk getting KO’d if he stayed in just so I wouldn’t get Red Carded, since that would pretty much mean a loss. I Moonblast the Xerneas and Double-Edge the Groudon slot. He actually goes for the switch and uses Dazzling Gleam. It felt pretty good, especially because I managed to burn the Red Card. From there, I could just bring Groudon in and have extremely high odds in my favor. He tried to capitalize on a possible choke and switches Amoonguss into Groudon, but I just go for Precipice Blades and KO the main threat to my Xerneas. It was game. I was 1-0, but not feeling too good, since I felt like I had gotten lucky with how my opponent played Game 3. The Dazzling Gleam play wouldn’t get off my head. It was still a win, though, so I just waited for my next opponent.

R2 – Yoko Taguma (yoko_clover) [SG] (LWW)

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Yoko is a really cool Japanese girl living in Singapore. She did pretty well at APAC events, making Top 8 at Nationals. I was sure I was going to have a great match. As I see Team Preview, I notice that my Thundurus could be an amazing option here, since 3 of her Pokémon are weak to electric and only 1 resist it. It could also Taunt the Crobat and the Amoonguss, as well as spread paralysis for my Groudon to clean up. I believe I lead something like Kangaskhan Thundurus and she lead Kyogre Amoonguss. Game 1 was awful for me, yet again. She managed her board position very well and I got swept by max speed Kyogre using Water Spout on everything. It was a tough loss to experience, but I still had 2 games to comeback.

Game 2 ended up going much more slowly, but, eventually, I saw myself stuck on another Water Spout trap… That’s when I noticed the timer running down. Now, I know this is a very controversial topic, but I’ll tell you that I’m a fan of the timer. It’s not easy at all to use it, since you still have to outplay your opponent to get yourself in the right position, but that’s exactly why I love it. It’s a very refreshing thought process that you have to adopt in order to win and it takes a lot of focus to be able to notice the smallest detail that could define the HP each Pokémon will have in 4-5 turns. It’s also something that you can very easily fail to notice, since we’re used to not using it in untethered matches. I did, however, manage to control my resources well enough to force a third game, by making the correct calculations to the amount of HP my Pokémon would need in order to win. It was an incredible match that I’m proud of. In Game 3, I ended up making the correct calls by winning the necessary mind games. It was an amazing set and I’m very thankful to Yoko.

I was now 2-0, but still not overconfident. I was still feeling hyped, though, and ready for my next round!

R3 – Emilio Estrada [US] (WW)

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When I saw my opponent’s name, I recognized it from following the US events. I didn’t quite know who exactly it was, since, as I found out later, he barely uses online resources, so I wasn’t sure of his skill level. We were called to play on the backup stream and this is where I make my first contact with the famously loud headphones. If you haven’t noticed from the livestreams, players on stream have to wear TPCi’s headphones, which are broadcasting a loud noise that sounds like rain. To be honest, I enjoyed it, as it allowed me to focus on my match instead of outside noises, but, for some people, it was quite annoying.

Going into team preview, I see a Trick Room team with Dialga and Groudon. No Xerneas and no Gengar meant that I could just lead Xerneas and shuffle around the Fake Outs and now I have an example of why Xerneas alone wasn’t the main problem for my opponent, even though I ended up sweeping him with it. As you can see from his 6, even though he had 2 steel types, a poison type and a fire type, Xerneas was tough to deal with if it had a Groudon next to it, since all those are weak to Ground (except Amoonguss, which is weak to fire). So you start noticing how weak to Groudon his team seems. Salamence helps a lot, but he needs to control Xerneas very carefully to be able to dish out any damage towards Groudon. It’s not an impossible matchup at all, since he can set up Trick Room to his advantage and use Dialga’s high Special Attack stat to take off solid chunks of damage onto Groudon, but add intimidate and 2 Fake Out users to support them and he’s pretty much done. He definitely knew what he was doing, but the matchup was too complicated. I won both games relatively quickly, which would’ve been good, but it also meant I wasn’t going to be on stream, since I finished at just about the same time as the main stream. Still, I was confident and looking forward to meeting my next opponent!

R4 – Riccardo Appamea [IT] (WW)

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Once again, the name rings a bell, but I can’t link it to an online username. Turns out this is the guy who won an Italian regional with Rayquaza and Mewtwo and got Top 8 at UK Nationals! I was just happy it wasn’t a friend of mine, so I headed to my table. When I see his team, I find the uncanny coincidence that he has the exact same 6 as Yoko! Was this some trend I hadn’t noticed?

This match was once again about making the right reads, but I recall having some luck on my side as well. Nothing too unlikely, but still somewhat game-defining. I remember being happier with the bulkier and slower build of his Kyogre, which allowed my Groudon to fire off a Precipice Blades before Kyogre could attack. I won 2-0 and was now 4-0! After wishing him the best of luck, I left the table to see how my friends were doing. Later, Riccardo ended up making day 2 with a 6-1 record, finishing 4-3. He’s definitely an amazing player who seems to fly under the radar due to his low profile online.

R5 – Markus Stadter (13Yoshi37) [DE] (WW)

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If I had to face a friend, it had to be Markus. We’ve been facing each other in almost every tournament we’ve both been in since the 2014 NuggetBridge Invitational, where he eliminated me in the 1st round. I wasn’t too happy, but I was at worlds, participating next to many of my friends, so facing some of them was unavoidable. We were called to the main stream, so I was finally going to be on the official Pokémon livestream! Honestly, for some reason, I wasn’t really feeling overwhelmed. Nervous, of course, but not overwhelmed.

Here, you can watch the match yourself:

Eventually, we get into Team Preview, and I see the team Wolfe had been testing before Worlds. I had an idea of how the team worked, so I quickly made some plans. Some friends of mine had been using a very similar concept on Showdown as well, so I wasn’t sure which one had which sets. I see that if I get the speed advantage, I have a solid chance. Thundurus would be amazing if it weren’t for Raichu, so I’m scared to bring it in Game 1. I know he’s also probably leading with Gengar and perhaps Hitmontop or Raichu, so Groudon seems somewhat solid. He could have Hidden Power Water on Gengar, but I was at least 60% sure he didn’t. I also figured that, with Mental Herb, he couldn’t really stop my Trick Room. Something very important about the matchup is that, if he doesn’t bring Rayquaza, Kyogre is the only Pokémon capable of heavily damaging Groudon, so getting rid of it was key. I’m not sure if I noticed that win condition immediately, but I remember thinking of it eventually.

When I saw the Hitmontop Gengar lead, I remembered someone on Showdown who used Helping Hand to KO my Bronzong with Shadow Ball, so that’s why I switched to Kangaskhan. Now with Fake Out pressure, I could just Fake Out the Hitmontop and use Precipice Blades, but that was too obvious. Kyogre seemed like a relatively predictable switch here, so I went for the Double-Edge on Hitmontop. I still didn’t want to risk too much, so I used Fire Punch to cover for the possible Wide Guard. The turn ended up not going terribly, but here’s where things get tricky. He has to attack with Kyogre to KO Groudon before it uses Precipice Blades, so his best play seems to simply be going for the Will-o-Wisp onto Kangaskhan. I knew that he had that move from practice matches, so I protected the Groudon to cover for the possibility of a low roll. The first Double-Edge seemed to have taken 2/3’s of Kyogre’s HP, so half of it would be 1/3 and, therefore, a sure KO, but I never got to find out if it was a roll or not, as I got a critical hit on the last hit. Here, I felt really sorry for Markus. I’m the kind of person who feels bad when he gets lucky, and you can see that from my reaction on the video. Since Kyogre was down, he couldn’t deal enough damage to my Groudon. I make the correct read in the end and won game 1.

From that match, I could infer that those 4 were the main Pokémon Markus chose for the Xerneas Groudon matchup, so I could risk bringing Thundurus to Game 2. It ended up working perfectly, as he did not bring the Raichu, as expected. I ended up getting lucky with a full paralysis, but this one didn’t matter as much as the critical hit from Game 1, as I still had 3 more Pokémon and the speed advantage. It was still annoying, however, and I felt sorry for Markus. After this round, I was 5-0 and one win away from my goal: finally playing on the main stage of Worlds and cutting my first big event. It was a dream of mine, really, and I was a Bo3 away of reaching it. I couldn’t really take my mind off of how lucky I had gotten in round 5 though, which ended up helping me by distracting me from the pressure I would’ve normally felt here.

R6 – Hayato Takaoka [JP] (LWW)

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How fitting… Big 6 was my final boss on Day 1! I knew my matchup well enough, so I felt ready. My opponent seemed to be a really cool dude, always smiling and ready to have fun playing our favorite game!

Game 1 started off with a Groudon Kangaskhan lead against my Bronzong Kangaskhan. It may not look too good for me, but I had a plan. I Faked Out his Groudon and brought in my Hitmontop for Bronzong. He told me how much of a good play he thought that was and I was thankful. This is when he makes an amazing play that showcases the power of Big 6. He switches Groudon to Smeargle and Kangaskhan to Xerneas, knowing that I would KO his Smeargle and give his Kangaskhan a free switch in with Fake Out pressure. That’s what happens and I get swept by Xerneas. Once again, not a nice way to start the set.

Moving onto Game 2, I figured that the game would revolve around a mindgame on turn 2 if the same thing happened. I didn’t think there was much of a reason for either of us to go for a different lead, since they’re both safe. Kangaskhan Xerneas was another possible lead for me, but Bronzong was overall safer. Here, I think I make the right reads to force a Game 3, mainly by predicting where the Smeargle would switch in. I believe I went for a Double-Edge on the second turn against the Kangaskhan as well.

Game 3 revolved around Trick Room and I remember feeling like I was in my opponent’s hands when he had the Groudon on the field when I went for the set up, but still managed to pull it off. It eventually came down to Hypnosis sleep turns and he didn’t wake up on the 2nd turn, meaning that I had just gone 6-0 in the swiss rounds of day 1! I had made it it! I couldn’t believe it myself, but I still celebrated with my friends!!!

I went out to see who had also made it. I found out Wolfey and Mattsby both went 6-0 as well. After reaching the sixth win, I couldn’t play any more matches, so I just stayed around to cheer on my friends and watch the streamed matches. By the end of the day, some friends had made it as well and others didn’t, but we were at Worlds! This event is all about hanging out with friends from all over the world, so that’s what we did! My roommates and I went out to some fast food restaurant with some other friends, shared some memes, and eventually headed back to the hotel, because an even more important tournament was coming up next!

DREAMS DO COME TRUE!

It was the big day and I woke up ready! My main goal for this trip was to make day 2, so I could enjoy the amazing event Worlds is while still achieving something meaningful with my play. As such, I wasn’t really too stressed about the tournament, just really looking forward to it!

As we got there, we got a special reception from the staff, who applauded us as we entered. Once I was at the venue, I hung out with my friends until we were called for the players meeting. Eventually, it was time to start with the first round. Way too many people gathered around the pairings, so I opted to wait until I had enough room to see them myself. While I was waiting, RookieVGC walks up to me and tells me that we were facing each other.

R1 – Chase Lybbert (RookieVGC) [US] (WW)

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I’ve known Chase since 2014, back when he dominated the post-worlds regionals, so we’ve been friends since then. I wasn’t happy facing a friend who happened to be the US National champion, but I wasn’t too upset. I just wanted a great match! But that’s not quite what we got…

Team preview shows me that Chase is using his Nationals 6. I just go with the initial plan of leading Bronzong Kangaskhan as he goes with Smeargle Salamence. I just follow the regular plan of going with Safeguard + Trick Room and then sacrificing Kangaskhan. However, his Smeargle started getting some really annoying Defense and Evasiveness boosts, which allowed it to stay alive when Safeguard ended. This is where it gets crazy. Since I didn’t manage to KO the Smeargle, I’m completely against the wall. He’s at +4 Evasiveness and I haven’t set up the Gravity. I only have one way out: the blindest (I don’t even know if that word exists, levels of blindness shouldn’t even be relevant) Hypnosis you’ll probably see. And it hits! I still hadn’t won though, I still needed to hit another blind Hypnosis against his Groudon, which I pull off again! One of the weirdest sets of Pokémon I’ve played, especially since I barely ever go for blind Hypnosis. Game 2 I decided to go with the Xerneas mode and I think I got a bit lucky here, but ended up taking the game. Chase was super chill about it, so I felt better. I was 1-0, but I didn’t really know what to think…

R2 – Federico Turano [AR] (WW)

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Yet another National champion friend of mine… I guess it’s time to repeat round 1!

When I see his team, I notice that he’s using his Nationals team as well. I knew he’d probably bring Salamence, Groudon and Amoonguss, since those seem to do well against my Trick Room mode. He leads Salamence Xerneas and I believe I lead Kangaskhan Bronzong. From Game 1, I managed to find out that his Salamence was 2HKO’d by Precipice Blades in Gravity, that his Xerneas had some bulk and that his Groudon was max speed with Swords Dance. I’ll be honest here, I don’t remember much from this match. The fact that I had Hitmontop helped a lot, so I managed to win the set 2-0. I was feeling great, since I had already beat 2 National champions, even though I was mostly playing for fun. I left the tables to see how my friends were doing and to just relax a bit.

R3 – Giovanni Costa (The_One_Gio) [US] (LL)

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I had seen Giovanni at some US tournaments before, but I didn’t have a clear idea of his playstyle. I knew before the match that his Kyogre’s only water move was Water Spout, which I found weird, and that his Groudon was Overheat. Looking at the 6, I don’t really like my matchup.

Game 1 he leads Whimsicott Kangaskhan and simply steam rolled me with Primals under Tailwind. I only managed to learn the Whimsicott moveset, which was Safeguard, Tailwind, Moonblast and Encore. Everything else was pretty standard, also got confirmation that his Groudon was fully special.

Game 2 I came up with a plan. If I set up Trick Room and KO’d Groudon as soon as possible, I would beat everything else with Hitmontop and my own Groudon. He lead Kangaskhan Whimsicott again and I lead Kangaskhan Bronzong. I predict the Fake Out onto Bronzong and the Tailwind. Not wanting to stop the opposing Tailwind, I figured that putting his Kangaskhan into Sucker Punch range would be clever, so I Double-Edge it. I also didn’t want to be Encored, so that seemed to be the best play. Everything goes as planned until I fire off my attack. I see the message “A critical hit!” on the first hit. I get scared, but I also see that it only took around 70%, so the baby hit shouldn’t do enough. I watch the bar go down really fast and, as I see it disappearing, I knew that was game, since he could just switch Groudon in and spam Eruption. I was honestly very upset. I thought that I had made the right play, but ended up getting punished. Not much could be done from there and I lose the set. I wished Gio the best of luck and left the tables, trying to compose myself. I realize that I’m only playing for fun, so there’s no reason to feel mad. With that, I feel ready to face my next opponent.

R4 – Matteo Moscardini (Mosca_vgc) [IT] (WW)

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The first time I met Matteo was at UK Nationals. We were facing each other at 2-3, so you can imagine those weren’t joyful circumstances. It was a very dull game that we both were just waiting to finish as quickly as possible. Until then, we kept on facing each other in online ladders until the Spanish “Trip Challenge” tournament, where he made top 4. I was very happy for him that he was doing well. We became friends since then and kept on facing each other on Showdown. Just like me, Mosca had to play through day 1, so it was really cool that we were facing each other on day 2!

Matteo was using the team I had seen him practice with, so I knew what to expect. In Game 1, he goes with his most common lead against Xerneas Groudon teams: Thundurus Mawile. I have to play around with Intimidates and the possibility of Hidden Power Water. While all this goes on, I find out my Hitmontop is faster than his Mawile and that his Cress doesn’t have Sitrus. Both games 1 and 2 were balanced matches, finishing in 2v2/2v3 situations full of mind games. One example is when, in Game 1, I had Xerneas and Groudon and he had Rayquaza and Mawile. I knew he had Water Pulse on Rayquaza and that my Xerneas was slower. His Rayquaza wasn’t at full, so he couldn’t hold on with its sash. I had to predict if he was going for the Protect on Rayquaza and the Iron Head with the Mawile, or the Water Pulse to KO the Groudon and prevent Mawile from being KO’d. I predicted the Water Pulse correctly and Protected the Groudon, leaving Mawile alone against Groudon. I ended up winning the set and moving on with a 3-1 record! It was an amazing set that we both enjoyed.

R5 – Ying Jun Qi (Ying) [AT] (LL)

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My next opponent was another friend, this time from Austria. He’s well known in Europe for his great finishes throughout the season. From winning a Regional, to making Top 16 at UK Nationals, Ying managed to show everyone he’s one of the best we have. I was definitely looking forward to a great match.

The team he brought was definitely a Ying kind of team. Xerneas Groudon with Thundurus and Bronzong is a core known to be used by him. I thought my matchup wasn’t too bad, but then I found out he had either Modest or Quiet Groudon, which ruined any plan I had. It was a very tough set, as the pressure of Thundurus, Salamence and special Groudon was just too much for me. I just couldn’t dish out enough damage with the Intimidate next to the threat of Groudon. He also had Sash Thundurus and I believe Chesto Berry Smeargle, which made everything even tougher! I was down to 3-2 and had to win 2 rounds in a row to make top cut.

R6 – Tatsu Suzuki [JP] (LWW)

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Another Japanese player with Big 6! I wasn’t feeling too much pressure, I was just playing without worrying about cutting at all. Looking at the matchup, I knew what to do.

This match was honestly super crazy. Definitely very enjoyable, but so weird at the same time! This would’ve been a perfect match for stream, to be honest, and I’ll try to show you why.

Game 1 I lead Kangaskhan Bronzong against his Kangaskhan Smeargle. Here I figured that my best play was to switch Bronzong to Hitmontop and Fake Out the Smeargle. But madman Tatsu here went full YOLO and Faked Out my Kangaskhan! I was dumbfounded… In result, I got both my Pokémon sleeping without a single burnt turn. From here, he set himself up with Power-up Punch and Transformed into his own Kangaskhan! Here, I was sure I was 100% done. I still managed to bring it back to a close 2-0, but that’s the best I could’ve done, honestly.

It was time to scratch all that and move on. I decide to go with the Xerneas mode for game 2. I predict the YOLO play again and don’t mega evolve the Kangaskhan. This turn works perfectly and I get the Geomancy off. From here, I just swept very easily.

Now for Game 3, I decide to go back to the first game’s plan, as he leads Kangaskhan Smeargle for a third time. I predict him to not go YOLO now, and I was right, because he just went for the Power-up Punch. Here, I thought I was done. I just figured that the play that covers the most is Double-Edge onto Smeargle and Close Combat onto Kangaskhan, since I was predicting him to go for the Transform onto his own Kangaskhan. A Double-Edge onto his Kangaskhan wouldn’t KO and I’d be facing down two (or four, even) +1 kangaroos, so I was forced to target the Smeargle. I could Fake Out and Double-Edge Smeargle, but that would give him a free switch. He decides to KO my Kangaskhan and wins the speed tie, my Hitmontop surprisingly OUTSPEEDS the Smeargle and OHKO’s the Kangaskhan and Smeargle’s Transform fails! I was coming back! I bring Groudon in and he brings Talonflame. Now, I know that my safest play is definitely the Subsitute, since I would be immune to Dark Void and, more importantly, to Transform, which I was predicting him to go for. He KO’s my Hitmontop and Transforms into the Substitute, which was hilarious. Here, I saw a clean win condition in getting rid of Smeargle with a Fire Punch while setting up the Trick Room, and then going for mind games on wether or not he goes for the double target onto Groudon. If he does, I can protect and set up Gravity, to then use Precipice Blades and Hypnosis. If he doesn’t and I attack, I win by getting off the 2 necessary Precipice Blades to get the KO on his Groudon.

Now, I may be messing up some turns and I’m not sure if I set up safeguard turn 2, but, if I did, then the last turns are a guaranteed win.

Either way, I ended up winning this hilarious set, and here I started actually feeling like I could top cut. I was really anxious, but in a good way. However, no matter what, I had just officially reached another dream of mine: going positive on day 2 of Worlds!

As the pairings are announced, I move to where the crowd is gathering and I’m not too happy with what I’m seeing…

R7 – Alexander Khun (Hibiki) [AT] (WW)

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I’m up against yet another friend, but now for the deciding match of swiss… I’ve known Hibiki since 2014, so I knew very well how good he was. The three Top 4 results at Regionals throughout the season show how strong of an opponent he is. Add a Germany Nationals Top 16 and we have a very deserving opponent for the last round of swiss at Worlds!

The team he brought is very similar to what he used thoughout the season, with Crobat over the Choice Scarf Smeargle he previously had. I knew Thundurus would be strong here, since it checks every Pokémon of his team, except Zapdos, which he can still annoy. In Game 1, I managed to make the correct reads against his slow and bulky Kyogre and Clefairy.

The 2nd game is one I’m especially proud of due to how I controlled it, mainly on a specific situation where Alex had a recently switched in Scizor and a Rayquaza, with Kyogre in the back, and I had Kangaskhan with Fake Out pressure next to Groudon, with something else in the back (probably Xerneas). The most obvious play here is to Fake Out the Rayquaza to put it in Double-Edge range and break the Sash, while Fire Punching the Scizor. If he switched Kyogre in for Rayquaza, a regular Scizor wouldn’t really be too much of a threat. If he made the switch the other way around, I would still get some chip damage off due to Air Lock (or Strong Winds, I can’t remember). I know, however, that his Scizor is Life Orb with Superpower, so I predict him to switch Rayquaza out for Kyogre and to Superpower. The only way to properly overcame this would be with a Fake Out onto Scizor and a Precipice Blades, but this was super risky, since if I wasn’t 100% right, he could fire off an attack with Rayquaza and I’d be done. But an important detail is that, without Kangaskhan, I would be in a terrible spot, so I was, in a way, forced to make this play. I went ahead with it and it worked almost perfectly! I ended up missing Precipice Blades onto Scizor, but I still managed to turn it around with some clever plays.

Just like that, I had made Top Cut of Worlds. It took me a while to really understand what was going on. To be fair, I think I still haven’t today. I made sure to cheer Alex up, he was still on the list of the best players in the World! I could see that he felt disappointed, so I tried to make him smile. When I saw my mission had been somewhat successfull, I left the tables and celebrated with my friends. I WAS SO HAPPY!!! I couldn’t believe it at all!

Nevertheless, Top Cut was coming up next and I was facing the last piece of Japan left in the competition.

Top 24 – Conan Thompson (conanyk) [US] (WW)

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After his Top 8 finish at Nationals, Conan pretty much sealed his position as one of America’s best players. Most people already knew how good he was after winning Regionals and doing well at online tournaments, but that Nationals placing proved how much of a threat he is. I was looking forward to a great match.

I see Big B as expected, so I just go with the plan. Game 1 we have Kangaskhan Bronzong against his Salamence Smeargle lead. I go for Trick Room and Safeguard as he goes for Hyper Voice and Dark Void. Next turn, he switches Groudon in for Smeargle and we Double-Edge each other while I set up Gravity. I bring in Groudon and this is exactly the situation I theorized. The obvious play here is to use Precipice Blades and Hypnosis onto Groudon, but that just allows his Smeargle to come in and Crafty Shield if he protects Groudon, which would be terrible. So I predict the protect and go all in with an Hypnosis onto his Salamence and a Substitute. Here, Conan was in a terrible spot that he didn’t manage to get out off.

For the 2nd game, I decided to use Xerneas, now that he knew my game plan. Thanks to Safeguard, I managed to set up until, eventually, it’s my Kangaskhan and my Xerneas against his Salamence and Smeargle. He gets an evasiveness boost on the last turn of Safeguard and tries to capitalize on a misplay. I just go for Safeguard instead of Double-Edge and win Game 2.

And just like that, I found myself in the top 16 of Worlds… With that came another issues: we had been playing for hours without proper breaks, meaning that I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast! Back then, I didn’t even notice it, but I don’t know how I managed to keep on playing for so long… I guess that’s a consequence of passion ahahah.

In top 16, another friend was awaiting me…

Top 16

Sebastian Escalante (SebasVGC) [AR] (–W)

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Sebas is an amazing Argentinian kid who got Top 8 at Worlds last year in the seniors division, got Rop 4 at Nationals using only 5 Pokémon in Top Cut (shoutouts to untethered events) and was now already in Top 16 at Worlds in his first year as a Master!

It was now our 9th high level BO3 of the day and I hadn’t eaten anything all day nor gone to the bathroom. The latter isn’t a really a problem for me, as I can withstand long hours without any kind of urge, but the food department is a bit more sensitive. At the time, I didn’t really notice it, though, as I was too excited to be so far into the tournament! I believe, however, that the overall tiredness hindered my play for at least this set, which also seemed to be the case for Sebastian.

Since there were only 8 matches going on, most of them were either being live streamed or broadcasted to the local TV’s, so we were one of the few left alone at the original tournament tables. Thankfully, I had to charge my DS, so we ended up being moved closer to a broadcasted match, meaning we weren’t as lonely!

Looking at his team, he seemed to rely on his fire-types and Amoonguss or just playing the mirror better to deal with Xerneas. As such, I was considering Red Card on the Amoonguss, but it also come to my mind that Mental Herb “shroom” next to Xerneas can be very strong against Thundurus Groudon leads, as it forces the opponent to ignore one of the threats.

Something else that I noticed was that he seemed a bit weak to Ground, since nothing on his team took a hit very well. These archetypes usually have Salamence for that, but, without it or another Intimidate user (like my Hitmontop), it relies on strong offensive pressure to KO opposing Groudon before it moves. Nevertheless, he seemed to have an interesting plan by running max speed Groudon with Amoonguss, dealing with slower Groudon outside of Trick Room by outspeeding it and inside Trick Room by putting it to sleep. Despite having Safeguard, I was still a bit afraid of a Groudon lead and, since I didn’t know its moveset, I couldn’t rely on Intimidate to cripple it.

I’ll be honest, I don’t remember much from games 1 and 2. As I said, we were really tired and not having the attention of the public kind of resulted in a less stressful match than my Top 8 and Top 4 matches. Mash those two factors together and you’ll have the perfect conditions for me to wipe out a set almost entirely. I do remember, however, having trouble with his Groudon’s speed in the mirror, since it was harder to use my own Groudon to beat his Xerneas.

In game 3, he lead Smeargle Xerneas, if I recall correctly, and I lead with Kangaskhan Xerneas, I believe. The key part of this set is that I went for Safeguard here. Some shenanigans later, I was having trouble dealing with his Groudon supported by Amoonguss, since I couldn’t really deal with Amoonguss and Groudon at the same time. Or at least that’s what WE BOTH thought, since we both forgot Safeguard was still active! It was one of the weirdest games of my life… I never thought I’d see myself AND my opponent doing such a terrible mistake in a Top 16 match of the World Championships! I mean, I never even saw myself playing in Top 16 at all, but two great players forgetting about such an important mechanic that far into the Top Cut of Worlds is just too unexpected, and shows how hard it can be to withstand so many hours of Pokémon without a single break.

Basically, what happened was that I thought I had lost the game and Sebastian thought he had won the game. I was mostly trying to capitalize on possible misplays and, as I shake my head seeing the development of the turn and predicting my fate, I see the message “Xerneas is protected by Safeguard” and we were both shocked! I didn’t even know what to think! Sebas was really mad at himself for forgetting it, and so was I at myself, but, at the same time, I couldn’t believe I was now winning! Eventually, it comes down to my Xerneas against his Groudon at ~65%. He looked very sure it would KO, but I actually thought it was a roll. Groudon goes down and I move on. Sebas looks clearly disappointed, which made me feel very sorry for him. His friends and I tried to cheer him up, though, so I believe that made him feel better. I use this opportunity to tell you, Sebas, that you’re an outstanding prodigy of VGC who will go very far. Don’t feel bad for forgetting about Safeguard, we were both exhausted.

I was now in the Top 8 of the World Championships!! Just like in Top 32, I still didn’t feel any pressure to do well, just playing it out and seeing where that would get me. I don’t think I was nervous at all, which really helped me focus on my matches. I was already in heaven when I top cut, anything else would just be crazy.

Once again, I was facing a good friend, so I expected a great match (and to lose, to be honest).

Top 8

Baris Ackos (Billa) [DE] (WW)

File:384MMS.pngFile:382PMS.png

Every top 8 match was on stream, so I was back on the big stage. This means that we’ll have access to the full set here:

This wasn’t the first time I was facing that team, so I already had a solid idea of my plan. I lead Groudon Bronzong game 1 because I was mainly expecting a Gengar Hitmontop lead, so I could pressure him no matter which Pokémon he made flinch. Also, if he lead Kyogre, it would allow me to check speed tiers, which could severely hurt me if it went wrong, but I was pretty sure I’d be slower, meaning that he wouldn’t get a rain boosted water move off. Since I have Mental Herb, he couldn’t really stop my set up, which also influenced my lead decision. Seeing those 2 coming out made me go back to my match with Markus, where he Taunted my Bronzong turn 1 and I switched out. Thinking that they could’ve talked to each other about it, and knowing that Billa had gotten the team from Markus, I knew that he would feel relatively safe to go for the Taunt. But, just in case he switched to Rayquaza, I protected Groudon.

On turn 2, I knew he’d switch to Rayquaza, but I needed to have both Groudon and Bronzong on the field with Gravity up to be on a winning position. Since I had Protected the turn prior, I had two choices: going for damage without thinking too much about the consequences, or realizing how much momentum I would win from being on the situation described before and going for the Substitute.

Now, I was free to put his Pokémon to sleep while firing off Precipice Blades. Baris, however, managed to stall out 2 of the 3 turns I had to abuse Trick Room while only sacrificing Raichu and ~60% of Rayquaza’s health. As such, we were stuck on a very awkward position where 4 main scenarios could occur :

  1. If he protects Kyogre and I stay in with both, I would be trapped by Gengar on the next turn, considering he doesn’t try to go for the double Protect with Rayquaza, in heavy rain and outside of Trick Room. This would be problematic, since I was relying on Groudon to deal with Gengar. So I could predict this and…
  2. Switch Kangaskhan in for Bronzong, so I can apply Fake Out pressure the turn after he Protects, while threatening heavy damage from Groudon. He could, however, predict this and…
  3. Attack with Kyogre, which would result in my Groudon being KO’d and Kangaskhan being strongly hit and, probably in my loss. I could prevent this, though, by going for…
  4. Hypnosis on Kyogre and Precipice Blades, which would give me an amazing position. I could still be screwed if he got an early wake up, depending on what I had in the back.

I end up predicting the 1st scenario, making the 2nd one happen. Despite the double protect, I was still in a decent position. Getting the critical hit definitely helped, but I don’t think it mattered too much.

I felt pretty good about game 1, but I still had to win once more if I wanted to make it into top 4.

Looking at how he brought Raichu for game 1, I felt like Thundurus was too risky to lead with like I did vs Markus. However, it didn’t really do too much, so bringing it in the back and analysing the Pokémon he brought to decide when to bring it in seemed safe and logical to me. I also decided to lead with Kangaskhan because of how Baris played the matchup, which is by leading Kyogre and playing the Air Lock switch-in mind games, making Groudon a less powerful lead. With Bronzong by her side, I could set up a sweep with Groudon against his faster Pokémon, giving me outs to most leads.

Seeing two huge threats to Kangaskhan made me feel a bit uncomfortable, since I had to make a tough choice. I was also afraid of the Rayquaza switch-in, so I didn’t want to send in Groudon like a mad man. I had to make a prediction based on drawbacks and I felt like Faking Out his Kyogre and switching Thundurus in was the best play. as it would stop the water move and work wonderfully if he switched Rayquaza in. Also, I’m not sure if I thought of this back then, but using Close Combat on my Kangaskhan meant that, if I went for Trick Room, I would have a free switch for Groudon and be on the same position as game 1, but with the advantage of being able to use Protect. The play works out and, now, I can just switch in Groudon and threaten both of my opponent’s Pokémon.

The third turn is where I feel like I misplayed a bit. My best play was to Substitute and Thunderbolt with Thundurus. That way, I could deal a ton of damage to Hitmontop while forcing a switch with Eject Button, making it impossible for Billa to break my Substitute without a Critical Hit through paralysis. I was, however, afraid of a Kyogre switch in, which could mess me up with powerful spread moves. I was also predicting a Wide Guard, which would work the same way but without the free switch. If I recall correctly, I was very aware of the Eject Button, that’s why I feared a Kyogre switch. Also, if I managed to keep both on the field, I’d be able to get a KO On his Gengar if he didn’t switch out. He ends up making the correct play and my Groudon is now in range of a high roll Dragon Ascent from Rayquaza.

On turn 4, I, once again, didn’t want to activate the Eject Button and, predicting his Rayquaza to switch in, I went for Thunderbolt onto Gengar’s slot, while covering most possibilities with Precipice Blades.

Now, my Groudon was in complete check and I needed to preserve it in order to beat his Gengar, so, seeing how Air Lock was active, Bronzong would take way less damage from the Origin Pulse. Baris sees that and switched Rayquaza out, which was an amazing play. I went for Thunderbolt to put Kyogre in Double Edge range.

Just like that, we’re on the decisive turn of the match, and quite possibly the set. His Kyogre goes down to Double-Edge, neither of us really doubt that. If I KO it, it’ll be too hard for him to deal with my Bronzong and Groudon together, as I can set up Gravity and Trick Room (notice that paralyzed Mega-Gengar is still faster than Bronzong) and win from there. His out for the Double-Edge play is Protecting and burning my Kangaskhan, which, although commonly being an impossible play to punish, since Gengar cannot be KO’d by standard Kangaskhan nor Bronzong, especially when Paralyzed. I did, however, carry Safeguard, so I could prevent the Will-o-Wisp. In hindsight, switch Kangaskhan to Groudon could’ve been the best play, especially on that scenario, but I didn’t want to risk the Rayquaza switch in.

That ended up not going perfectly… I’m now on the hands of my Kangaskhan’s bulk to have the smallest chance to win. I saw my best odds were on KO’ing Kyogre and using Dragon Ascent against Billa to damage him with Fire Punch. I had another way, which was Double-Edging Rayquaza to eliminate Air Lock and then either connect the single target Precipice Blades for the KO before he KO’s me with a second Ice Beam, or hitting one of two Precipice Blades if he went for the water move. That would, however, not work if he protected Rayquaza, which would be a very weird play, since Extreme Speed onto Kangaskhan was much safer. Still, Kyogre had just protected, so it’d make more sense to just KO the Kyogre if I even had a chance to move. Surprisingly, my Kangaskhan survives, I KO Kyogre, and it’s now coming down to timer and/or Fire Punch damage. Baris was forced to reduce his defenses if he wanted to break my substitute, allowing me to do enough damage to win on timer. My heart was pounding as I watched the timer go down. My friends seemed sure I had already won, but percentages could still favor Baris. As it hit A, I waited a few seconds to avoid falling to any glitches, and looked up close to the text. The game just kept on telling me about how the timer had ended, but all I wanted was to know who had won!!! Finally, I see the message “You defeated ~Billa ٭!” and I cheer in pure happiness!

I had just reached the Top 4 of the World Championships and all that was being shown on the official stream!!! My heart still goes crazy everytime I rewatch this moment on the Youtube video. However, something even better started happening right away: I saw all my friends cheering for me and shouting my name! I was at a tournament thousands of kilometers away from home and all I could hear was dozens of people chanting my name! I was absolutely overwhelmed, and also thankful for all the amazing friends I had (and still have <3). I was also extremely honored to represent my country in such a way, especially with my flag on my shoulders. I got up and gave my good friend Baris a strong hug. He had been an amazing opponent and didn’t look upset at all! That’s honestly all you can ask in an opponent, so thanks, friend! I really appreciated it! It ended up being an incredibly thrilling match that I will never forget.

After the interview, I had to go to these isolated chairs where Markus and Wolfe were already waiting. We hadn’t eaten anything yet, so AwesomePlatypus got us some pizza and, while we waited, some of the judges were amazing and gave us as many snacks as they could find! This was a great gesture by both David and the judges, and one that I won’t forget.

Eventually, Jonathan joined us and Markus and Wolfe left for their match. I felt like I was getting actually nervous then, as the stakes were getting higher and higher, which made me feel a bit uncomfortable, but I was ready to give the crowd a show!

Top 4

Jonathan Evans (Ezrael) [US] (LWL)

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The team I saw in front of me reminded me of Markus’ and Billa’s core of Bronzong, Kyogre and Gengar, meaning that Thundurus would be great. Manectric could be a bit threatening, but I felt like Gengar would be his Mega of choice for my team.

You can watch game 1 here !

Having an idea of how this team deals with Xerneas, I predicted Jonathan to bring something like Bronzong Gengar as a lead, making Groudon look very solid. However, I also knew that he was carrying Hidden Power Water on his Gengar, meaning that I could probably bait the Kyogre switch in and send in my Kangaskhan. I’m not sure if this is what I thought in preview, but this was definitely my thought process on turn 1. He ends up going for a totally different play that I don’t completely understand, probably some kind of hard read.

On turn 2, I was pretty much forced to Fake Out Groudon to avoid getting overwhelmed by it, while switching in Hitmontop to regain momentum with Intimidate and Fake Out. The turn ends up being pretty acceptable. I also didn’t think Bronzong was that much of a threat, so I figured I’d try to catch Jonathan off guard with the double target, which doesn’t really result on anything.

Here is where I get severely triggered. My switch into Groudon seems safe and obvious, but there isn’t much he can do if I Wide Guard. However, I was afraid of a Taunt on Hitmontop and a Precipice Blades, leaving me in an awkward position. For that reason, I decide to switch Thundy in and get some damage off. But Jonathan had very different plans in mind, especially because he didn’t have Taunt. Instead, he decides to try to snipe me with Hidden Power Water, not realizing that, if I had in fact switched Groudon in, Desolate Land would activate last, meaning that the Hidden Power wouldn’t work, which would put him in check. As the switching animations go on, he asks me if I switched Groudon in. I reply that I didn’t, and he seems a bit disappointed that his play didn’t work, but, as you can see on the video, I explain to him how his ideal play wouldn’t have worked anyway. I was obviously upset, since I could’ve gotten ridiculous amounts of momentum just from that turn. After his Groudon’s switch in, I was too behind and everything started to fall apart, especially with the timer running so low. I still had outs, but odds weren’t in my favor. As the game ended, I started thinking of plans and came up with Thundurus Groudon. That covered for most situations and allowed Hitmontop + Groudon to clean up in the end game. It also didn’t risk any Hidden Power shenanigans, so I was comfortable with it.

Game 2 !

The leads look favourable to me, as a simple switch into Groudon would give me great momentum. I noticed, however, that he could follow the same logic. Kangaskhan and Thundurus don’t deal too well with Groudon, especially if Shadow Tag stops me from bringing Hitmontop in. That being said, I decided that my only way of beating that play would be to hard read it, so I went for the Double-Edge, risking Kyogre to just attack with Origin Pulse and clean me up. This is a play I’m proud of that worked out perfectly.

Looking at the board, I noticed that the obvious play would be for me to Double-Edge Groudon and Taunt Thundurus, so Gengar was free to deal damage. Knowing Jonathan, I saw a great opportunity to Sucker Punch his Gengar and Thunderbolt it. Once again, the turn goes perfectly, and allows me to perfectly wall the rest of his team with Hitmontop Groudon.

Game 3 !

Moving on to game 3, things start getting interesting. I go for the same lead as game 1, since it still gave me good options and allowed me to actually hit Jonathan’s Groudon. His lead screamed Hidden Power Water, so I felt like I could trap him by Protecting and paralyzing Gengar. He would then be forced to either attack and lose his Gengar or letting me set up a Substitute. Maybe that wasn’t the best play, but that’s what I was focused on. Halfway through turn 2, I realize that he can easily predict the Substitute, which makes me really want to click Precipice Blades. While debating between these two, I noticed I had less than 10 seconds to decide my move, so I panic and go for the original plan of using Substitute. As you can see, that goes awfully and I almost immediately lose the game. Without Groudon, I couldn’t really KO his Gengar safely, meaning that I was pretty much out of the tournament. I wasn’t upset at all, though. After all, I had made the Top 4 of the World Championships!!! I wish Jonathan the best of luck in Finals and leave the area to join my friends and go back to my room. Before I left, though, the staff gave me my prizes and I was thrilled to have a Pikachu trophy of my own!

And that’s where my run ended. From then on, it was all memes and giggles with some of the greatest people I have ever met! I obviously have some amazing stories, but those are reserved for some other time!

Final Words

For now, I’d like to dedicate a small, yet special section to shoutouts for some of the people I haven’t had the opportunity to mention on the report.

First of all, Claúdio Serpa (TrickSage), my Portuguese friend who organizes our events back in Portugal, as well as Sara, Ruben and Tiago. I wouldn’t have gotten my invite to begin with if it hadn’t been for you all, so thank you!

Steven Markhardt (KaliTheTan) for letting me stay at his room and being overall an amazing friend.

Every member of the Hearthome Holy Spirits, who are basically family and helped me go through tough times, both in life and in Pokémon. If I ever got so far, I have to thank all of them, especially Wolfe for believing in me and teaching me so much!

Gazpacho chat! <3

All the Aussies!!! <3

Every single player who supported me for all these years. You may not think so, but every positive message you may have given me has helped me greatly. I deeply value a good mood and transform it into motivation.

With all that being said, I hope you enjoyed my report as much as I enjoyed sharing my experience with you! I hope at least a few of you read this article with the same delight I read the Worlds reports from back when I joined the scene.

Obrigado por lerem (Thanks for reading)!

4 comments

  1. Excellently done Eduardo. I was rooting for you in your final match, the way you played made you a person to stand behind. Don’t beat yourself up for ending your run there, you’ve achieved what so many dream of. Props, my dude

  2. Really well detailed report. I like how you explained a lot of your decision making process in depth. Nice job and congrats!

  3. Cómo estas Edu!!! Pusiste WW en nuestro match, cuando en realidad fue LWW 😛
    Qué gran primer match, ese Protect que tenía que haber hecho con Xerneas no me lo olvido nunca más jajaja Saludos genio y felicitaciones 😀

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