Everything’s Coming Up Aces – Top 16 NAIC Team Report

Art by the amazing @TamtamVGC!

It was about time.

Introduction

Hey there. My name’s Jake, and this past weekend, I placed 12th at the 2018 North American International Championships. If you know one thing about my Pokémon career, it’s that this tournament has plagued me ever since I started playing. Between 2015 and 2017, I had 5 different chances to make day 2 at US Nationals/NAIC and lost every single one. Needless to say, this tournament had become my biggest white whale.

One thing that only my biggest fans will know is that music is incredibly important to me. Especially over the last few years, music has pulled me through some tough times, and I’ve been able to connect pretty deeply with the lyrics of some of my favorite songs, to the point where I even have a song lyric tattooed on my arm. One such song, from Panic! at the Disco’s newest album, is called “Hey Look Ma, I Made It.” When I first heard the song, there were a few lines that I immediately latched on to as a source of motivation for what could be one of my last major tournaments.

Hey look ma, I made it
Hey look ma, I made it
Everything’s comin’ up aces, aces
If it’s a dream, don’t wake me, don’t wake me
I said hey look ma, I made it, I made it
I see it, I want it, I take it, take it
If it’s a dream, don’t wake me, don’t wake me

This whole song is a celebration of achievement, so I used it to inspire myself to celebrate the little victories in life while not dwelling on the negatives. Needless to say, this translates pretty well to Pokémon on a few different scales too. I started to appreciate the good turns and learn from the bad turns within games, while also taking time to be happy when I won a game and regroup after I lost a game. Enough philosophizing though, you came here for some Pokémon.

The Team

QR Code

I knew pretty early on that I wanted to use Gardevoir at NAIC. I was a huge fan of Gardevoir at the end of 2015, but at the beginning of 2018 I thought Gardevoir was pretty underwhelming. When Adrian Sigler (@SaagAlooVGC) won Portland with Gardevoir back in March, I took another look at it. Nothing really substantiated until I bombed Madison with a pretty bad, albeit pretty fun, team. At that point, I wanted to make sure I brought a team that I both enjoyed and believed in to NAIC, so I went back to Gardevoir.

My first couple drafts were pretty bad honestly. I hadn’t built with Gardevoir since 2015 and I had only played with Adrian’s Portland team, so I was getting a little bit stuck. Most of what I built felt way too similar to Adrian’s team, and when I tried to force it to be different it just ended up watering down the team. That’s when I decided to reach out to Adrian, who said he had also been working on Gardevoir for NAIC. We exchanged ideas for a bit, and then he gave me a skeleton for a team he had been testing.

Therian Forme

I liked this group of Pokémon a lot, so I decided to run with it. Gardevoir really appreciates double Intimidate thanks to its pretty awful Defense, so Incineroar + Landorus-T made a lot of sense. Tyranitar and Gardevoir cover each other’s weaknesses pretty well, and Tyranitar brings a lot to teams in a way that not many other Pokémon can. Tapu Koko is my personal favorite island guardian of the four, and the one that I think makes the most sense with Gardevoir. Since Gardevoir teams tend to be a tad slow by nature, Tapu Koko gives the team some much needed natural speed and can immediately clear out a lot of Pokémon with Gigavolt Havoc. Kartana was a hard sell for me, as I’ve spent the last year and a half preaching that it’s vastly overrated and terrible. However, Adrian suggested a set that I ended up loving, marking the first and only time I have ever been wrong about anything.

Hey Look Ma (Gardevoir-Mega) @ Gardevoirite
Ability: Trace
Level: 50
EVs: 236 HP / 124 Def / 76 SpA / 20 SpD / 52 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Hyper Voice
– Psychic
– Trick Room
– Protect

Hey look ma, I made it
Hey look ma, I made it
Everything’s comin’ up aces, aces
If it’s a dream, don’t wake me, don’t wake me

Hey Look Ma, I Made It
Panic! at the Disco

True to form, I named all of my Pokémon after songs. Since Gardevoir was the centerpiece of this team, I naturally gave it the song that was my main inspiration for this tournament. This moveset is exactly what you’d expect really; Hyper Voice is the entire reason I wanted to use Gardevoir. The Fire and Steel types that people had been running recently are Incineroar and Kartana, neither of which resist Hyper Voice. As such, I wanted to take advantage of the lack of Fairy resists and just do some good old fashioned screaming in Columbus. I know I’m guilty of this whole “no Fairy resist” thing too, but I’m the one making the meta call so I get to break my own rules. Psychic and Trick Room rounded out the set, as I didn’t see a need to deviate from the norm on a team that could easily utilize Trick Room. However, when Gardevoir is on the field, you really need a good reason to be clicking anything other than Hyper Voice. Its damage output is just stupid, even after the Pixilate nerf. The Special Attack investment allows Gardevoir to 2HKO 4 HP Tapu Lele with Hyper Voice, so anything equally or less bulky is taking no less than 50% from a spread attack. The bulk investment allows Gardevoir to survive a Gigavolt Havoc coming off Thunder from Timid Tapu Koko, as well as a -1 Tectonic Rage from Landorus-T. I kinda just dumped in Speed from there, I didn’t want to use 0 Speed since this team utilized Tailwind a good amount, but I couldn’t really find any important benchmarks (such as Scarf Landorus-T) that needed any specific investment.

Anklebiters (Incineroar) @ Figy Berry
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 244 HP / 12 Atk / 20 Def / 148 SpD / 84 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Fake Out
– Flare Blitz
– Knock Off
– Taunt

Why do you care what people think?
Are you hooked up to the leash
You know, anklebiters
Ate up your personality

Anklebiters
Paramore

I really don’t think Incineroar needs an explanation at this point. Along with providing insane utility to any team with Fake Out + Intimidate, Incineroar’s typing allows it to very effectively check the Steel, Dark, and Ghost types that give Gardevoir trouble. I went with Taunt instead of the more standard U-Turn because I really love having Taunt on my teams. While it sometimes goes unused, having Taunt allows me to lock down certain options and makes some paths to victory a bit simpler. For example, Taunt allows me to prevent opposing Trick Rooms when I have the speed advantage or block opposing Tailwinds attempting to match my own. It’s also a bit of an anti-cheese measure, since a lot of the more gimmick-reliant teams can be completely shut down by Taunt. The Speed investment on Incineroar allows it to outspeed Mega Metagross in Tailwind, with a couple extra points thrown in to creep other Incineroar. Bulk investment lets Incineroar can survive a Gigavolt Havoc from Tapu Koko and two Stomping Tantrums from -1 Mega Metagross, while the minimal attack investment and Adamant nature still give Incineroar some offensive pressure, nabbing a 2HKO on Mega Metagross with Flare Blitz even when Intimidated.


Silvertongue (Landorus-Therian) @ Iapapa Berry
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 228 HP / 44 Def / 196 SpA / 12 SpD / 28 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Earth Power
– Hidden Power [Ice]

– Sludge Bomb
– Protect

I’m addicted to madness, but what can I say?
I’m addicted to badness, but what can I do?
I got my silver tongue

Silvertongue
Young the Giant

It wouldn’t be a MajorBowman team without some weird sets now, would it? This set was Adrian’s idea, but considering I’ve used and loved a  very similar set in Doubles OU I jumped right on it. In my mind, Landorus was really just on the team as an Intimidate bot. The coverage and defensive typing were nice but not necessary to me, so I felt like I had the liberty to get a little creative here. I think special Landorus is head and shoulders better than physical since you can chunk every relevant Intimidate user that usually likes to switch into Landorus. You can also knock out important Pokémon like Tapu Koko and Mega Gengar through Intimidate, which can come in incredibly handy. While this team could have appreciated something like Scarf Landorus to add some natural speed, I felt that the extra bulk would come in handy and allow Landorus to check what it needed to more effectively. The EV spread is also Adrian’s; Landorus will avoid being 2HKOed by Modest Cresselia’s Icy Wind a vast majority of the time, allowing it to consume its berry and take another before being knocked out. The Defense pushes the damage rolls against Metagross pretty strongly in your favor. Landorus will survive a -1 Ice Punch from 252 Jolly Metagross 91.2% of the time, with that percentage increasing as Metagross drops Attack investment for bulk. Since Landorus is meant to help with the Metagross matchup via Intimidate, I thought it was important that Landorus be able to survive an Ice Punch when necessary. Earth Power and Hidden Power Ice were pretty easy choices, while Sludge Bomb was chosen to round out the set in order to allow Landorus to OHKO Tapu Bulu and do a pretty significant chunk to Tapu Lele and Tapu Fini. Protect is incredibly underrated on Landorus as well. While some sets have begun to run it more frequently, it’s still not a move you would expect Landorus to run. Revealing Protect and catching a double target can create a huge swing of momentum in your favor.


Take a Byte (Tyranitar) @ Life Orb
Ability: Sand Stream
Level: 50
EVs: 108 HP / 252 Atk / 36 Def / 4 SpD / 108 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Rock Slide
– Crunch
– Foul Play
– Protect

Take a byte
Help yourself 
Don’t think twice
I won’t tell

Take a Byte
Janelle Monae

Tyranitar is honestly one of my all time favorite Pokémon to use. It passively provides so much support to any team thanks to Sand Stream, all while having great coverage with its STABs and fantastic natural bulk. As far as its place on my team, Tyranitar was super helpful for improving matchups against Aegislash, Metagross, Charizard, and Rain. Rain could really give this team some trouble if it weren’t for Tyranitar, which can pretty freely be led against Pelipper Rain teams to break Pelipper’s Focus Sash and ensure Sand Stream activated after Drizzle. Tyranitar + Kartana was my go-to Rain lead, since Sand + Tailwind gives Rain teams a lot of trouble. While it might seem weird for a Gardevoir team’s best option for damaging Metagross to be so vulnerable to both Intimidate and Metagross’ main attack, I think the way this team is built alleviates those kinks pretty well. The speed EVs allow Tyranitar to outspeed Mega Salamence (and therefore Mega Metagross) in Tailwind, while obviously underspeeding both in Trick Room. I was pretty adamant (heh) about stick with max Attack, so I distributed the remaining EVs in such a way that gave Tyranitar the best chance of surviving a neutral Iron Head from Mega Metagross. More specifically, this Tyranitar will survive Iron Head from 252 Jolly Metagross 62.5% of the time while also dropping to a Life Orb HP number. Rock Slide and Crunch are easy picks, and Adrian suggested Foul Play for the third attack. I thought it seemed redundant at first, but it’s actually an incredibly useful move. Life Orb Foul Play will pick off all but the bulkiest of Metagross without having to worry about Intimidate, while Crunch will do the same if Tyranitar is at neutral or Metagross is Intimidated itself. Foul Play also gives Tyranitar a way to chunk Landorus when Intimidated and eliminate boosted Snorlax. Low Kick would have been a decent option in this slot as well, but Foul Play paid huge dividends.


Sad Machine (Tapu Koko) @ Electrium Z
Ability: Electric Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Thunderbolt
– Dazzling Gleam
– Volt Switch
– Protect

And though I know, since you’ve awakened her again
She depends on you, she depends on you
She’ll go on, and never speak of this again
We depend on you, we depend on you

Sad Machine
Porter Robinson

I want to say Tapu Koko needs no explanation, but its blatant absence from top teams over the last couple months might say otherwise. I was truly baffled to see Tapu Koko’s usage plummet recently because there isn’t really a great explanation as to why. Being one of the fastest Pokémon in the format with a super high damage ceiling should mean that it has consistently strong usage in my opinion, but maybe I’m just missing something. There was never any doubt in my mind that I was using Tapu Koko on this team. Like I mentioned earlier, I think Koko is a pretty solid partner for Gardevoir since it can clear out some threats immediately while chipping other Pokémon into Hyper Voice range. I originally had Taunt instead of Volt Switch (and U-Turn over Taunt on Incineroar), but I realized that Volt Switch was more valuable on Koko since it was frailer and appreciated pivoting out a bit more than Incineroar. Incineroar is also just a better user of Taunt in general since it can sit on the field against some common Taunt targets like Amoonguss or Aegislash without taking much damage, while Tapu Koko is pretty easily 2HKOed by both.


Warrant (Kartana) @ Aguav Berry
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 172 HP / 4 Atk / 4 Def / 252 SpD / 76 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Leaf Blade
– Sacred Sword
– Tailwind
– Detect

I’ve thought a lot about the way that they fight
Come through the phone lines, not man enough to face me
I can stop or argue about what they say
Yeah the warrants out and I’m not gonna pay

Warrant
Foster the People

Last, and certainly least, we have Kartana – the Pokémon I love to hate. For the entirety of 2017 and the majority of 2018, I was fully convinced that Kartana was a flat out bad Pokémon. I tend to like defensive backbones on my teams, which very often include one or both of a Grass or Steel type. The fact that Kartana was both a Grass type that lost to both relevant Electric types (Zapdos and Tapu Koko) and a Steel type that couldn’t take Moonblasts was always a dealbreaker to me. When Adrian suggested a super bulky pinch berry Kartana set with Tailwind, however, that piqued my interest. Considering the other 5 Pokémon on the team, Tailwind would give the team a huge amount of flexibility as far as speed control is concerned. I reluctantly gave Kartana a shot, and I actually fell in love with it. I think this set is exactly what this team needed to hold it together – it provided a Water resist and vastly improved the Tapu Fini matchup while also acting as a damage sponge that could sit in front of Metagross and Tailwind at will. That last part specifically is what sold me on Kartana, since this team’s matchup against Metagross is pretty heavily reliant on having a speed advantage. Since Kartana really isn’t threatened by Metagross at all, it can often set up Tailwind for free and then start chipping away. The EV spread allows Kartana to survive Gigavolt Havoc from Tapu Koko in Electric Terrain and Superpower from Adamant Landorus-T. The rest was “dumped” in Speed, since I knew that 68 EVs and a Jolly nature outspeeds Timid Tapu Fini and I wanted to creep that by one point. The minimal Attack investment seemed weird at first, but Kartana’s damage output was still quite impressive. Since I hadn’t used any other Kartana all year I didn’t have to worry about getting used to a weaker spread, so it was never really an issue to me.

The Tournament

Round 1 – Jackson Hambrick

I wasn’t too thrilled to play against Metagross Round 1, but the rest of the team didn’t scare me too badly. Mamoswine and Umbreon aren’t exactly threats, and I was confident I could handle the rest of the team without too much trouble. I won game 1 pretty handily and was in position to do the same game 2 when Jackson got a double Protect and a critical hit on the same turn. That was pretty unfortunate, but I regrouped and took game 3 to win the set.

WLW (1-0)

Round 2 – Alex Landry

I immediately recognized this team as one of those Mega Blastoise + Z Tailwind Kartana teams I had seen running around Pokémon Showdown. We traded Fake Outs on turn 1 of game 1, but then he left his Blastoise open to a Thunderbolt on Turn 2 and lost a big source of damage output. After that it was just a matter of keeping my foot on the gas and making sure I didn’t let him back in the game. Game 2 started out with my Koko and Incineroar against his Gothitelle and Kartana. His Gothitelle blocked a Fake Out with Protect and his Kartana survived a Gigavolt Havoc and proceeded to Z Tailwind. At that point, Alex’s DS unexpectedly shut off. We called over a judge, who unfortunately gave Alex a game loss. It felt kinda scummy to end the set like that, especially since it was so early in game 2, but a win is a win ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

WW (2-0)

Round 3 – Kamaal Harris

Playing Kamaal this early in a tournament is never fun. Kamaal is always a threat, but he knocked me out of Nationals back in 2016 so I had some revenge to exact. His team looked pretty cool, but seemed to struggle against my Tyranitar if I could get his Excadrill out of the way. I successfully baited a Tectonic Rage from his Excadrill into a Landorus switch during game 1, and from that point I just carried the momentum to a victory. Game 2 was much closer, and came down to Kamaal’s Tapu Lele dodging a Rock Slide in Trick Room but missing the KO on my Tyranitar with Moonblast. At that point I just needed Foul Play + Hyper Voice to KO Excadrill, so when Excadrill just dropped to Foul Play I had sealed it up.

WW (3-0)

Round 4 – Chuppa Cross

It seemed as though this would be a tournament of revenge, as Chuppa had knocked me out of Top Cut at Dallas Regionals this year. We got pulled for stream, and I was ecstatic to find out it would be cast by Scott and Evan. I recognized Chuppa’s team as the team that Ashton and Serapis had been using for a little while, so I knew some of the tricks it had up its sleeve. I started off Game 1 with a huge bit of momentum, as Gigavolt Havoc picked up the OHKO on Metagross super early on. After that, I was able to handle the Landorus and Tapu Lele in Trick Room while maintaining terrain control so Amoonguss couldn’t put everything to sleep. Game 2 was much closer early on, but I was successfully able to maintain offensive pressure throughout most of the game. The crux of this game was when I switched Koko into Tapu Lele and Metagross to take away Psychic Terrain, which allowed my Landorus to take a combination of Life Orb Psychic from Lele and Rock Slide from Landorus, heal back up with its berry, and get a huge HP Ice off against Landorus. The game got to a point where Landorus, Lele, and Metagross were all within range of getting picked off by a Dazzling Gleam, while Gardevoir and Incineroar could both finish off Amoonguss at will. I was ecstatic to have won this set so emphatically, both because I got some redemption from Dallas and because I put myself in a great spot for this tournament.

WW (4-0)

Round 5 – Fiona Szymkiewicz

Fiona’s team looked pretty similar to the team that won Japan Nationals, but I was blanking on the sets so I tried not to make any assumptions. She revealed Misty Seed Calm Mind Cresselia early in game 1, which caught me pretty far off guard. I had to dedicate too many resources to dealing with the Cresselia, so she was free to chip away with her other slot while Cresselia kept healing up with Moonlight. At a certain point I knew I would have to crit the Cresselia in order to win, so I just kept spamming Leaf Blade and Hyper Voice, hoping for some luck. It didn’t come though, and Fiona took game 1. She adjusted very in game 2 and took advantage of my overcompensation for Cresselia. I thought I was working myself into a pretty good position, but she caught my Tapu Koko switch with a Hydro Vortex and sealed up the set.

LL (4-1)

Round 6 – Jerry Meyers

Jerry’s name seemed super familiar to me, but it wasn’t until I saw the Eevee on team preview that I remembered he had top cut Utah Regionals with this team. I’m not sure if I’ve ever beaten Eevee in a tournament match, and my friends and I were talking about how my Eevee matchup didn’t seem too great before NAIC started, so I was just a little bit terrified to see it on team preview. During game 1 I had no gameplan at all, I just kinda clicked attacks and hoped that it would work. Needless to say, I got wiped pretty badly. After I knew I had lost game 1, I took some time to come up with a plan for the rest of the set. I realized that leading Tyranitar + Kartana would let me passively break the Focus Sash on Smeargle while threatening Eevee with either a Crunch or a Sacred Sword. Turn 1 of game 2 he protected Eevee and Spored Tyranitar while I went for Tailwind. Turn 2 saw me KO the Smeargle after a Follow Me while his Eevee boosted. He brought in Tapu Fini after that, and I didn’t want to risk a Protect + Psych Up so I went straight for a Leaf Blade into his Fini for another knock out while Eevee Baton Passed into Charizard. I believe Tyranitar woke up that turn and missed a Rock Slide on the incoming Charizard, but at that point it didn’t really matter. Once he mega evolved, all I had to do was bring Tyranitar back in and hit one Rock Slide to take game 2. I went with the same lead Game 3, while Jerry led with Eevee and Greninja. I figured it would be Scarf Mat Block, so I just went for a Tailwind and a Crunch into Eevee to cover a non-Mat Block play. When I saw Eevee go straight for Quick Attack, I knew I had won the set. Jerry tried to snipe Kartana with Quick Attack + Ice Beam on turn 1, probably assuming I was Sash, but max Special Defense paid off. Kartana survived both attacks and set up a Tailwind as Tyranitar wiped out the Eevee. Tyranitar carried the rest of the game from there, picking off both Greninja and Charizard with Rock Slide while Gardevoir and Kartana handled the Fini.

I went into more detail about the specifics of this game in particular because I just wanted to give an example of how far I’ve come mentally in the last few years. Not too long ago, I would have let losing to Eevee game 1 get to me pretty badly and probably lost the set as a result. I was really happy with myself for pulling this set out because it meant that I had bounced back from both a set loss the round before and an ugly game 1 loss.

LWW (5-1)

Round 7 – Pedro Lima

Good old CHALK. I had played against CHALK a few times while practicing for NAIC and knew what my general game plan had to be, but figuring out sets on individual teams is always a challenge. Frankly I don’t remember too many details about this set. All I remember is games 1 and 2 being very close, with me taking game 1 and Pedro taking game 2. I turned it up in game 3 though, and was able to break it open after a couple big reads. I was thrilled to have won this set because it put me right back where I wanted to be: fighting for a spot in Day 2.

WLW (6-1)

I had been here before. I had started 6-1 at US Nationals in 2015 and 2017 and couldn’t convert. This time though, I wouldn’t let it happen again. Before the round started, a line from “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” kept running through my head.

I see it, I want it, I take it.</

Day 2 was in my sights once again, and I wanted it as badly as I’ve wanted anything. So I took it.

Round 8 – Trevor Rosberg

Trevor’s team is one of those teams that relies on constant offensive pressure. It has some pretty oppressive Pokémon that can begin to run away with games if not kept in check. Normally I wouldn’t mind facing Blaziken Bulu MimiLax because Incineroar + Landorus handles that pretty easily, but Bisharp threw a pretty big wrench in the mix. I knew if I could successfully play around Bisharp well, I’d have a pretty good shot at taking this set. Game 1 went pretty according to plan; I got a big hit off on Blaziken turn 1 when he left it open to a Gigavolt Havoc, but he switched in Bulu in the other slot so it was able to survive. Instead of Flare Blitzing my Kartana, however, he went after Koko, which left Kartana in prime position for the rest of the game. I got him to reveal Fire Punch Snorlax, which led me to assume it was Choice Band, and Choice Scarf Bulu, which was pretty useful going into game 2. Once we got into game 2, I called him to not lead Bisharp since I had shown him that I didn’t bring either of my Intimdiate users game 1. Luckily I go that call right, as I led Kartana and Incineroar into MimiLax. I immdiately got Landorus on the field before Bisharp could possibly come in since Landorus could OHKO half of his team with either Earth Power or Sludge Bomb. I believe the next turn is when I targeted his Snorlax with an Earth Power just for some damage but instead caught the incoming Blaziken. I cleaned up the rest of his team with Kartana and sealed my place in Day 2 after 3 painful years of coming so close.

WW (7-1)

I was one of the first people to finish this round, so after I turned in my match slip I made my way off towards the side of the room and fought pretty hard to hold back tears. I am 100% certain that if any of my friends had finished their matches and came over to me before I started to calm down I would have immediately fell into their arms and started bawling. That seventh win meant so much to me that I couldn’t help but get pretty emotional. I’m reaching broken record status at this point, but being 0 for 5 on my win-and-ins for Day 2 had been hanging over my head for so long that it had started to become oppressive. The prospect of losing two more chances was terrifying to me, but I was so proud of myself for breaking through that ceiling. I had done what I came to do and gotten the closure I so desperately needed. Anything more was just gravy.

Round 9 – Justin Burns

I was thrilled to see Justin at 7-1 too, since that meant he had secured the Top 32 finish he needed for his Worlds invite. I was still over the moon at this point, so I was just looking forward to playing a fun match against a friend. Justin played this set really well from beginning to end. Specifics are fuzzy again, but he took game 1 pretty convincingly. I was able to catch him a bit off guard in game 2 with Tailwind and Tyranitar so I brought it to a game 3, but Justin again just outplayed me and took the set.

WL (7-2)

Round 10 – Travis Borror

Round 10 pairings somehow got leaked the night of Day 1, so I knew that I would be playing Travis first thing on Saturday. Through other people that had played him, I learned a little bit about his team that helped me going into Round 10. One thing I had been talking to a couple friends about the night before is saving an ace in the hole for game 2 regardless of the outcome of game 1. That’s something I decided to put into practice during this match. I knew that Kartana + Tyranitar in Tailwind was very good against this team, but I wanted to test the waters first and see how Travis played it. Game 1 was pretty close, but I ended up getting into Trick Room and winning the game with Tyranitar from there. Game 2 I went hard on the Tailwind mode and won more convincingly, taking the first round of Day 2.

WW (8-2)

Round 11 – Brendan Zheng

I was excited to play Brendan because I knew it would be a fun set. I was even more excited to be pulled for stream once again, and to have Scott and Evan casting a second match of mine in the same tournament. Brendan’s team looked pretty weak to Tyranitar and didn’t have an Electric resist at all, so I knew that Tapu Koko and Tyranitar would both be very important during this match. I was really happy with how I played game 1, as it felt like I kept up offensive pressure for the entire game. I made what was probably my best play of the tournament during this game when I Sacred Sworded his Clefairy as it switched into Incineroar. I think I flinched his Metagross at one point, which certainly helped, but it felt more like a reward for putting myself into a good position than a bail out for bad play. Game 2 started similarly, but Brendan went more on the offensive this time as he was the one with the pivot momentum early on. There was a point during this game where I thought I had one, but he caught me with fast Zapdos and got a huge Heat Wave off on my Kartana before I could Leaf Blade his Tapu Fini. I struggled to deal with the Fini after that since my Tapu Koko was already pretty low, so Brendan took game 2. Game 3 was pretty close right down to the end, but a key turning point was connecting with a Fake Out through a Muddy Water accuracy drop in order to protect my Kartana from a Heat Wave. From there, I was able to connect with a few Rock Slides to get the last damage I needed in order to clean up the game.

WLW (9-2)

Round 12 – Jackson Finch

I recognized this team as the team that my friends Ethan Simpson and Kevin Swastek had used to each cut a regional, so I thought I knew its ins and outs. Sadly I would quickly learn that this was not the case. While I expected Flyinium Z Braviary and Assault Vest Kartana, it turned out I was wrong about both of those items. My Gardevoir got donked by a Bloom Doom pretty early in game 1, and his Braviary carrying a Mago Berry made it even more annoying. It turned out that his Braviary was slower than my Gardevoir as well, which made my Trick Room mode much less safe than I would have hoped. Jackson wiped the floor with me game 1 and probably should have done the same game 2 had I not made a really weird hail mary play turn 1 that put me in the game. Game 3 I led Koko + Gardevoir into his Braviary and Kartana, and I had a choice to make. I knew that if I could take out Kartana, my Tyranitar would have a field day against Braviary and Raichu. Thinking back, Jackson really had no reason not to bring in Raichu for either slot, but I went for a big read and clicked Gigavolt as he switched Kartana out for Raichu. There wasn’t even a consolation prize, as he Whirlwinded my Gardevoir as it tried to Trick Room. I was so close to clicking Dazzling Gleam + Hyper Voice which could have just won me the game outright, but I was too scared. Had I done that and had Jackson gone straight for a Bloom Doom into Gardevoir, I almost certainly would have lost. I stand by my play as a bit of a do or die, but if I had one turn to do over in this tournament, this would definitely be the one.

LWL (9-3)

Round 13 – Carson St. Denis

At this point, I knew I had to win out in order to make cut. I got into my own head a little bit and didn’t play too well during this set as a result. I led Tapu Koko into his Scarf Landorus and overcompensated for not pulling the trigger on the Dazzle + Hyper Voice play from last round. I tried to call a U-Turn from Landorus and went for a Gigavolt Havoc into his Fini, but he just stayed in and Earth Powered my Koko for a free KO. The next turn I went for an Earth Power into his Landorus, once again trying to call a switch, but he once again just stayed in and Earth Powered my Kartana. I dug myself a pretty big hole early on and couldn’t find my way out, so I lost game 1 pretty emphatically. I did, however, pick up on some of his tendencies to also go for some bigger reads, which I tried to take advantage of in game 2. He had his Heatran behind a substitute in front of my Kartana and Landorus, and I successfully called a Protect and doubled the other slot. Unfortunately, the follow up Sacred Sword to break the sub + Earth Power left Heatran with just a sliver of health thanks to its Shuca Berry, and I lost my Kartana and took an burn on my Landorus as a result. The burn didn’t really matter as any hit from Kangaskhan or Fini would have knocked it out anyway, but missing that KO on Heatran essentially lost me the game since Kartana was pretty important in that set. Regardless, Carson absolutely outplayed me during this set, and I took my fourth loss.

LL (9-4)

Round 14 – Trevor Rosberg

I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty happy to see Trevor’s name come up again for Round 14. I knew that winning this set would likely push me into Top 16, which meant more money and better bragging rights, and I knew that I could replicate my win on day 1. Trevor opened up this set guns blazing and smothered me game 1, punishing most of my safe plays and capitalizing on his constant pressure. I took a minute to regroup for game 2, and went back to what was going so well on Friday. The beginning of game 2 was pretty tight, but I eventually worked myself into a winning position and was able to close it out. I then started to see some of the defeatist tendencies I noticed on day 1 start to creep back in. His body language became less positive and more tentative, and that’s when I made my move. I managed to keep the pressure mainly directed at Trevor for the remainder of the match, and I was able to seal up a 10-4 finish.

LWW (10-4)

Conclusion

I was pretty sure I had good enough resistance to be safe in top 16, but I had some butterflies regardless. When standings were posted and Tommy told me I had made it, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. While making Top 8 would have been incredible, I was beyond happy with Top 16. Making day 2 and then going positive against players that had already proven themselves was so validating for me. I had started to think I just wasn’t good enough to hang with the big kids on the international stage, and this tournament wiped those feelings away.

This was one of the first times I was able to walk away from a tournament truly happy with the ending. I met my goal and then some, and I proved to myself that I belong at the top.

Hey look Ma, I finally made it.

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