Just Playing for Kicks – Oceania International Championships 3rd Place and Singapore Open Champion Report

Hey everyone, my name is Isaac Lam (@hashiriyadon). I’m a Singapore-born permanent resident of New Zealand who’s had a keen interest in competitive Pokémon for as long as I can remember, and finished 3rd in Video Games at the 2018 Oceania International Championships in Sydney. Today, my partner Chelsea Tan (@KomalaVGC) and I have come together to share this report detailing the team we evolved together to take both the Singapore Open and a place in the semi-finals of the Oceania International Championships.

Background

Chelsea and I weren’t particularly enthusiastic in diving into the 2018 format; Chelsea had already secured her Worlds invite and paid trip to Sydney playing several VGC’17 tournaments, and I, stranded in the VGC vacuum of New Zealand with university just around the corner, had nothing to play for. That being said, Chelsea’s paid invite to the Oceania International Championships presented a rare chance for us to meet somewhere more convenient than Singapore, which I had no intention to pass up. I thus began looking for a team which I could, at the very least, enjoy playing with, to make my attendance in Sydney worthwhile.

I started from the fundamentals of the team I used for most of the VGC’17 season, an evolution of William Tansley’s ‘Desert Surge’ team. It combined a strong, fast mode of Raichu-A and Tapu Koko with a slow Trick Room core of Porygon2 and Gigalith, abusing Volt Switch to allow for strong repositioning plays to set up sweeps for Gyarados and Kartana. While looking for something similar, I chanced upon this QR code team by the enigmatic Japanese player ‘Mizuki’, which looked close to what I wanted.

Choice Scarf Landorus-T made a fine substitute for Raichu’s fast and hard hitting offense with the added utility of Intimidate, while Incineroar covered the role of Fake Out user with a decent matchup against Tapu Lele, which I knew from my experiences in 2017 paired really well with Tapu Koko. Gyarados, stronger than ever with its Mega Evolution available, returned as a key setup sweeper for the team, but this time alongside Ferrothorn, which combined Kartana’s valuable STAB offensive coverage with Gigalith’s strength against rain. Cresselia rounded off the team as a much better Porygon2, providing an additional Ground immunity and the added utility of Icy Wind, which I sorely missed in VGC’17.

The team played really well the first week I picked it up, and I shot to the top of the Showdown ladder, peaking at around 1750. Brisbane player Phil Nguyen (@boomguy_gaming) also saw reasonable success in the Trainer Tower circuit piloting the team, convincing me that I was onto something. That sentiment quickly faded as the metagame evolved, however, as the advent of several new threats exposed some crippling weaknesses – most notably Belly Drum Snorlax, Azumarill and Stakataka – which I would have to change the team to correct.

Singapore Open II

Going into Singapore Open II, I expected the metagame to revolve heavily around the Metagross/Tapu Lele/Tyranitar teams seeing steady success, which this team matched up fantastically against. I thus encouraged Chelsea to give the team a shot (at this point we had been practicing independently) and to take it to the Singapore Open. The team impressed her too, aligning well with her experience playing the bulky Arcanine/Tapu Fini teams she favored in 2017.

In an eleventh-hour attempt to fix the team’s aforementioned weaknesses, we tacked on a Curse Snorlax in place of Ferrothorn. Chelsea had a good amount of experience playing with Curse Snorlax from ’17 and it, if played well, could beat both opposing Snorlax and Stakataka without compromising Ferrothorn’s strong matchup against Rain and fast, frail teams. This did little to definitively resolve the Azumarill match-up, which we chose to forfeit, hoping it wouldn’t have caught on in Singapore yet.

Singapore Open II Team

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

Tapu Koko is really the cornerstone of this team. While it doesn’t hit as hard as Tapu Lele and Tapu Bulu or offer the staying power of Tapu Fini, it does offer one thing which keeps me coming back to it: Volt Switch repositioning. Having played with the 2016 World Champion team and Volt Switch Raichu-A and Tapu Koko, I’ve developed a fair appreciation for repositioning, and the 100% plays that it offers when done right. There’s otherwise nothing to be said about this Tapu Koko set, with max speed and special attack to hit as hard and fast as possible.

Chelsea opted to run a Timid nature despite the original QR code running Modest, hoping for the chance to speed tie opposing Tapu Koko and Mega Gengar. Electrium Z was our choice of item since no other Pokémon on the team wanted to run a Z-move, and Life Orb’s residual damage wasn’t welcome on a team which often needed Tapu Koko to take a hit or two.

Rawr (Landorus-Therian) @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
– U-turn
– Earthquake
– Rock Slide
– Superpower

Landorus-T’s as good as ever in VGC this year. Intimidate, STAB Earthquake, U-turn, 145 base Attack and two key immunities all make it a great Pokémon, complementing Tapu Koko by providing another repositioning option. Choice Scarf Landorus-T does this particularly well as its U-turn goes before Tapu Koko’s Volt Switch, letting you perform a psuedo-Ally Switch cum second Intimidate by going for both U-turn and Volt Switch to bring Landorus-T back in over Tapu Koko. This works especially great against opposing leads with non-Scarfed Landorus-T, keeping Tapu Koko safe from Earthquake and getting a second Intimidate off. Choice Scarf Landorus-T supports Tapu Koko very much like Raichu-A did in 2017, being able to hit hard, force hands, and reposition for safe plays in the early game, whilst providing far better defensive synergy than was possible in 2017.

The original team ran Rock Tomb instead of Rock Slide. We could appreciate the value the slow provided in supporting Gyarados and Tapu Koko, but found it too difficult to play with against Charizard-Y. Rock Tomb is not very spammable, so Charizard players could often maneuver around it. Rock Slide also does wonderful things with Scarf Landorus, as most players know only too well by now. In testing, we didn’t feel we needed much bulk on Landorus, and so kept it running max attack and speed.

Diana (Cresselia) @ Wiki Berry
Ability: Levitate
EVs: 252 HP / 252 SpA / 4 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Icy Wind
– Psyshock
– Ice Beam
– Trick Room

Cresselia rounds off the team’s main positioning core nicely, providing more delicious Ground immunity, coupled with exorbitant bulk. Its set might seem counterintuitive, with an unusually straightforward EV spread, and a moveset packing both Icy Wind and Ice Beam. It puzzled me too when I first saw it, but after just a few games of testing, its merits became clear.

After landing an Icy Wind, 4 Speed EVs let Cresselia outspeed everything up to Jolly 252 Speed Landorus-T, which includes Kommo-o (before it gets its boost) , some Tapu Lele and Charizard, and most Zapdos. Thanks to Cresselia’s high Special Attack investment, it could often pick off many of these targets with a surprisingly hard hitting Psyshock and Ice Beam. This was especially good against Assault Vest Landorus-T, which is often lulled into a false sense of security seeing Icy Wind, only to be outsped and taken out the following turn by an Ice Beam.

Changing Psychic to Psyshock from the original QR code team was Chelsea’s idea to better take on opposing Tapu Fini and Charizard. It came at the cost of a tougher time against Kommo-o, which we narrowly miss the KO against with Icy Wind on the switch + Psyshock, but we still matched up well against it with Icy Wind and Tapu Koko. Such an offensive set paid massive dividends playing against Luke Curtale’s Amoonguss, Zapdos and Tapu Fini, and arguably made my match-up against Jens Arne Mækinen far better than I did it justice. With the prevalence of Assault Vest Landorus-T and the Tyranitar/Metagross archetype this set does so much work against, there’s really no other way I’d rather run Cresselia.

Trainer Tower has since featured in their EV spread compendium a more optimized spread for Cresselia which achieves most of our build’s goals. I hadn’t bothered doing any optimization in testing since our spread never felt inadequate, but going forward I’d probably give the optimized spread a shot.(include link here)

Ringpostitis (Incineroar) @ Assault Vest
Ability: Blaze
EVs: 244 HP / 196 Atk / 4 Def / 44 SpD / 20 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Snarl
– Flare Blitz
– Darkest Lariat
– Fake Out

Assault Vest Incineroar was a fantastic Pokémon to play in the early stages of the 2018 metagame, faring well against both Tapu Lele/Metagross and Charizard-Y. I liked most how it covered the one role Psychium Z Raichu-A did that Landorus-T couldn’t – exert Fake Out pressure while making Tapu Lele think twice about switching in. This EV spread was ripped straight from the QR code and quite frankly, I have no idea what it does.

As for moves, Flare Blitz and Fake Out are self-explanatory, and Snarl we kept to slow down opposing Charizard-Y and Zapdos. We chose Darkest Lariat over Knock Off specifically for Singapore Open II, fearing local favorite Palossand as championed vigorously by players–and friends–Matthew Hui and Alan Chia, which this team had no way to beat otherwise. Darkest Lariat also did more consistent damage during the early stages of the metagame, in particular against Mega Gengar and stray choices like Z-move or Electric/Grassy Seed Cresselia.

Lucky Luohan (Gyarados) @ Gyaradosite
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 36 HP / 252 Atk / 68 Def / 4 SpD / 148 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Waterfall
– Crunch
– Dragon Dance
– Protect

Gyarados is, in my opinion, one of the most consistently underrated Pokémon in VGC, especially in 2018. Most don’t even remember that it’s the first Mega Evolution to have won the Masters Division World Championship title on Sejun’s Pachirisu squad.

It shone in 2017 as my favorite Intimidate user to pair with Tapu Koko due to its Ground immunity and ability to take on Arcanine well. While Landorus-T eclipses it in both of those departments this year, and Arcanine is no longer a relevant threat, Gyarados did get a shiny new toy to play with in its Mega Evolution, which happens to be the format’s best Mega Evolution to take on Mega Metagross. That’s exactly what this spread, once again directly lifted from the QR code team, hopes to do, outspeeding Mega Metagross after a Dragon Dance or Icy Wind speed drop, and bringing Metagross down to the red with a neutral Crunch.

Using Mega Gyarados is tricky, and took us a while to get used to. Despite being the team’s only Mega Evolution, you’ll be leaving it on the bench surprisingly often, roughly 50% of matchups. Even when you do bring Gyarados, you’ll have to time your Mega Evolution carefully and account for a whole host of considerations. These include which typing you want Gyarados to keep, whether you need to preserve Intimidate, whether you need Mold Breaker for Pokémon like Mimikyu or Gastrodon, whether you need Gyarados doing more damage or even if you need Gyarados to do less – like I did in my semi-finals match against Jens.

Unlike other Mega Evolutions like Metagross or Charizard-Y, Gyarados isn’t the best bring against a good chunk of the metagame, and blindly committing to setting it up as your win condition will often prove detrimental. It’s a great Pokémon against common archetypes like Mega Swampert rain, Gothitelle Lax and Metagross/Lele teams, but also complete deadweight against others like Metagross/Fini and Charizard-Y. All in all, it’s hard to replace Gyarados due to the value it brings against Metagross, the additional Intimidate support it provides, and its great synergy with Tapu Koko.

Fat Isaac (Snorlax) @ Figy Berry
Ability: Gluttony
EVs: 180 HP / 76 Atk / 252 Def
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Curse
– Double-Edge
– High Horsepower
– Recycle

Snorlax was thrown on haphazardly at the last minute, as you can tell from its EV spread; it came straight from Chelsea’s VGC’17 team on the morning of the event. Leading up to Singapore Open II, we’d seen a surge in hard Trick Room teams built around Belly Drum Snorlax on Showdown, which Choice Band Ferrothorn couldn’t stand up to. Owing to our still fledgling experience with the new format, we took a quintessentially 2017 approach: we threw on Curse Double-Edge Snorlax and called it a day. It ended up working far better than expected, with its staying power coming in key in many of Chelsea’s games against teams utilizing opposing Snorlax and Stakataka. Chelsea particularly enjoyed how Snorlax’s bulk gave the team an alternate win condition: eliminating all threats to Snorlax on an opposing team before setting up for the end game.

Our Snorlax is by no means a hard counter to opposing Belly Drum Snorlax, but made playing against it significantly easier by threatening more damage onto opposing Snorlax under Trick Room than Choice Band Ferrothorn could. Curselax is particularly enabled because the rest of the team already threatens opposing Snorlax and its partners outside of Trick Room, with Superpower Landorus, Gigavolt Havoc Tapu Koko and double STAB Dark moves from Gyarados and Incineroar. Thus, if opposing Snorlax want to set up, they’re facing a faster +1 Double-Edge in Trick Room, making their setup tricky.

Epilogue

Chelsea ended up going 5-0 in Swiss before forfeiting her last round to complete some homework, and would eventually remain undefeated in Top Cut to take home her second consecutive Singapore Open title. This was despite running into matchups in Swiss we’d considered problematic, including Azumarill and All-Out Pummelling Stakataka, which the team surprisingly proved able to maneuver around. Her top cut matchups proved less problematic, consisting the cookie-cutter Charizard-Y and Metagross teams we’d prepared extensively for.

Oceania International Championships

Though we were elated to see our metagame call pay off in the Singapore Open, our joy was short lived, as the move Curse was quick-banned not long after. As solid a Pokémon Belly Drum Snorlax is, it simply couldn’t fit on this team, which lacked the means to support such a high-risk setup.

And to add to our problems, a few of the biggest threats to our team had risen steadily in prominence. Azumarill stood out as a particular concern, having won Sam Pandelis’ Sydney Challenge paired with Raichu and a Korean tournament paired with Clefairy – both combinations that Fake Out + Gigavolt Havoc could only do so much to assuage.

Confident in the team’s main core of 5 Pokémon, Chelsea and I made a list of threats we needed the team’s last slot to handle, and came up with: Azumarill, Bisharp, Tapu Fini, Stakataka, Snorlax and Rain. We experimented with a variety of options, including Tapu Bulu, Araquanid, Amoonguss, Escavalier, Safety Goggles Scizor and even for a brief moment Dhelmise, until Chelsea jokingly mentioned Tsareena, which we realized was just about the best Azumarill counter in the format.

Jumping onto Showdown with Ryota’s 2017 Japan Nationals winning Tsareena set, we saw immediate results, particularly against the aforementioned Azumarill teams which deferred feebly to Tsareena’s Queenly Majesty. Although this change cost the team a good amount of bulk, exacerbating certain match-ups, after a few novel tweaks, (which actually compromised Tsareena’s ability to take on Snorlax) it felt like the team was the best it had been thus far. With Chelsea unable to find any better team for herself, both of us decided to roll with it for the Oceania International Championships.

Oceania International Championships Team

QR Code
Pastebin

Rucky Ruohan (Gyarados) @ Gyaradosite
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 36 HP / 252 Atk / 68 Def / 4 SpD / 148 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Waterfall
– Crunch
– Dragon Dance
– Protect

Viagra (Landorus-Therian) @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
– U-turn
– Earthquake
– Rock Slide
– Superpower

Siyeon (Cresselia) @ Wiki Berry
Ability: Levitate
EVs: 252 HP / 252 SpA / 4 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Icy Wind
– Psyshock
– Ice Beam
– Trick Room

I got mean messages for this as soon as my spreads went public. “What kind of ****ed Cress set did you just cut Internats with?” – Level 51

63.887 (Tapu Koko) @ Electrium Z
Ability: Electric Surge
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Modest* Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Thunderbolt
– Dazzling Gleam
– Volt Switch
– Protect

*Chelsea ran a Timid Nature for the Oceania International Championships

Tapu Koko’s set remained mostly unchanged from our earlier build, except that I ran a Modest nature instead after losing too many practice games to Timid’s lacklustre damage output. I’d also seen that the only common threats Timid Tapu Koko actually outsped, Mega Salamence and Persian, tended to forgo speed for bulk this year, making them slower than Modest Tapu Koko. Chelsea decided she’d rather run Timid owing to her familiarity with its damage calculations. Personally, given Tapu Koko’s hit-and-run style of stacking residual damage through the game, I thought I needed every bit of damage I could milk from it.

Montag (Incineroar) @ Assault Vest
Ability: Blaze
EVs: 244 HP / 196 Atk / 4 Def / 44 SpD / 20 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Snarl
– Flare Blitz
– Knock Off
– Fake Out

Darkest Lariat was replaced with Knock Off on Incineroar, owing mostly to the rise in Snorlax which poses a threat to our team. While we had considered it before Singapore Open II, it took a bit more practice and an enlightening Facebook conversation with our friend Nicholas Ong (@nicholas_cookie) before I finally got used to playing Knock Off well enough to consistently beat Snorlax. Knock Off was also more useful against Gothitelle, which, when supported by Intimidate users like Landorus and Mega Manectric, will not be KOed by Darkest Lariat, which instead triggers its berry.

Although Intimidate Incineroar has since been released, I’m honestly not sure if I’d run it over Blaze on this team. The team already has two Intimidate users in Gyarados and Landorus-T, making positioning around Milotic and Bisharp sometimes difficult. Additionally, Blaze comes in clutch surprisingly often, particularly against threats like Tapu Fini and Tyranitar which frequently trigger it with their spread STAB attacks and do not enjoy the damage done by a boosted Flare Blitz.

Jennie (Tsareena) @ Focus Sash
Ability: Queenly Majesty
EVs: 6 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Trop Kick
– Sunny Day
– Feint
– Protect

Now here’s Tsareena, the Pokémon you’re probably most interested about in this report.

Before we start, I’d like to clarify that this is not an inspiring Karen-esque fairy tale of someone making their obscure favorite Pokémon work competitively. I honestly hate almost everything about Tsareena as a Pokémon. I hate its design, its target audience and what its inclusion as a Pokémon stands for. But like the inspiration for its nickname, no matter what I think of Tsareena, I must admit that it’s got some merits which make the team work. And boy are those merits incredible.

As we’ve highlighted multiple times, the team’s core had a big water bunny problem. Only Gyarados could take a hit from boosted Azumarill, and only Tapu Koko could chunk it for more than 50% ‘reliably’ (assuming there’s no Raichu, Amoonguss, Clefairy, or every other common Azumarill partner, really). Tsareena completely mitigates the threat of Azumarill, blocking Aqua Jet with Queenly Majesty and threatening enough damage with Trop Kick to deny Belly Drum entirely, whilst being immune to Raichu’s Fake Out, ignoring Amoonguss’ Rage Powder and breaking through Clefairy’s Protect with Feint. Although Tsareena is threatened by some other common Pokémon on Azumarill teams like Mega Salamence, Focus Sash and Protect often kept Tsareena around long enough to keep Azumarill at bay. Further these Pokémon did not enjoy having to worry about Feint when playing against my Tapu Koko, Landorus-T and Cresselia. Oh, and Trop Kick hits even Tapu Bulu for almost 30% under Grassy Terrain, and drops its Attack.

Feint is a great move which enabled plays against threats the team wouldn’t beat otherwise, like Bisharp+Blaziken, Mega Gardevoir and Stakataka, which Tapu Koko tears through easily when not fearing a potential Protect. There are many situations in which Feint helps facilitate 100% plays, often in the late-game. For a good example, watch my streamed set against Arash Ommati during Round 6 of Swiss. It also makes it easier to play against strategies heavily dependent on Protect for momentum, like Perish Trap.

Sunny Day was a last minute tech; Chelsea and I literally debated the choice between it and Low Kick or Knock Off on the train to Sydney Olympic Park. Sunny Day was added to improve the rain matchup we had exacerbated by dropping Ferrothorn and Snorlax, drawing inspiration from my friends’ experiences in VGC 2012 running Sunny Day on strange Pokémon like Roserade and Rotom-W. Our oddly frail Cresselia meant we had no reliable means of beating Helping Hand Politoed + Hydro Vortex Ludicolo, which would always take Cresselia out before it could set up Trick Room. Sunny Day Tsareena gave us a better option against this duo, letting us lead Tsareena/Tapu Koko and go for Sunny Day/Protect turn 1. I somehow never played a single Politoed/Ludicolo team in the 20 odd games of testing I had after putting Sunny Day on the team and didn’t face any during the Oceania International Championship, so I’ve never had the chance to put this plan into practice. Regardless, I never missed having Low Kick or Knock Off on Tsareena, and don’t regret the call, which gave me a safer out against one of the most autopilot duos in the format.

I actually only brought Tsareena in 2 matches the entire tournament, against Arash in Round 6 and Luke in Top 8, due to my lack of confidence in it. It’s a Pokémon I feel I’ve grossly underutilised, and failed to appreciate how much it could do against common teams. Tsareena’s definitely not a great Pokémon which you can splash on just any team for immediate benefit. It is, however, a great patch for this particular team and its weaknesses, and a mon you may appreciate if you find yourself struggling against Azumarill. I don’t think I really did it justice this run, but I hope that someone else might someday!

Matches

I’d gone into Sydney expecting absolutely nothing. I only wanted a chance to support and spend time with Chelsea. I was even hesitant signing up as a competitor, only swayed by the season’s slick playmat and Tapu Koko pin.

So needless to say, my tournament run felt rather surreal as I racked up one Swiss round victory after another in an onslaught of surprisingly favorable matchups – especially in contrast to Chelsea’s run, which ended much earlier after facing rougher matchups. Only after beating Arash Ommati in Round 6 did it hit me that I actually had a shot at making cut. After taking Round 7 against Federico Turano, cementing my spot in top cut, for someone who’d never cut an event bigger than an MSS before, gosh, it did feel good.

I don’t take very detailed notes and don’t remember too well how most of my matches went, unfortunately. All I can recall are what Pokémon my opponents had on their teams, which Pokémon I brought against them, and roughly how the matches worked out.

Round 1 vs Guntur Prabowo (ID) (WLW)
Amoonguss, Excadrill, Salamence, Tapu Lele, Tyranitar, Zapdos
G1: Landorus-T, Tapu Koko + Cresselia, Gyarados
G2: Landorus-T, Tapu Koko + Cresselia, Gyarados
G3: Landorus-T, Cresselia + Tapu Koko, Gyarados

Round 2 vs Jimmy Nguyen (AU) (WW)
Ambipom, Tapu Koko, Tapu Fini, Charizard, Mimikyu, Muk
G1: Landorus-T, Tapu Koko + Cresselia, Incineroar
G2: Landorus-T, Tapu Koko + Cresselia, Incineroar

Round 3 vs Damon Murdoch (AU) (WLW)
Amoonguss, Tapu Lele, Metagross, Tyranitar, Zapdos, Landorus-T
G1: Cresselia, Incineroar + Gyarados, Landorus-T
G2: Cresselia, Incineroar + Gyarados, Landorus-T
G3: Cresselia, Incineroar + Gyarados, Landorus-T

Round 4 vs James Katsaros (AU) (WW)
Amoonguss, Cresselia, Charizard, Tapu Koko, Snorlax, Landorus-T
G1: Landorus-T, Tapu Koko + Cresselia, Incineroar
G2: Landorus-T, Tapu Koko + Cresselia, Incineroar

Round 5 vs Aris Katsikis (AU) (WW)
Amoonguss, Tapu Lele, Metagross, Tyranitar, Zapdos, Landorus-T
G1: Cresselia, Incineroar + Gyarados, Landorus-T
G2: Cresselia, Incineroar + Gyarados, Landorus-T

Round 6 vs Arash Ommati (IT) (TieWW) (Game 3 streamed)
Persian, Volcarona, Tapu Fini, Tapu Bulu. Tyranitar, Aegislash
G1: Tapu Koko, Incineroar + Gyarados, Cresselia (Double game state freeze)
G2: Tapu Koko, Incineroar + Gyarados, Cresselia (Arash ran out of Your Time)
G3: Tsareena, Landorus-T + Cresselia, Incineroar

Round 7 vs Federico Turano (AR) (WW)
Gothitelle, Snorlax, Tapu Lele, Celesteela, Manectric, Landorus-T
G1: Landorus-T, Incineroar + Tapu Koko, Gyarados
G2: Landorus-T, Incineroar + Tapu Koko, Gyarados (Federico ran out of Your Time)

Round 8 vs Alberto Lara (US) (WW)
Gothitelle, Snorlax, Tapu Koko, Charizard, Landorus-T, Celesteela
G1: Landorus-T, Tapu Koko + Cresselia, Incineroar
G2: Landorus-T, Tapu Koko + Cresselia, Incineroar

Top cut was a whole other beast in its own right, stacked with big names like Ashton, Yuree and my Top 8 opponent, Luke. My nerves went berserk that Friday night, barely calmed only by the company of my old friends from South East Asia’s VGC scene and a barrage of reassuring words from Chelsea. We knew that I needed at least a Top 4 finish for both us to meet in São Paulo on a paid invite, which at this point we really wanted, so I felt a ton of pressure going into my match against Luke.

Both sets listed below were streamed on the official channels. I think my lack of recent experience really shone through in them, particularly in Game 1 against Luke and both my games against Jens in which I really struggled to find my groove. I do still feel slightly upset still about how terribly I misread Jens’ playstyle – I should’ve known that he’d be playing gutsily, having brought a glass cannon like Nidoking so deep in the tournament – and think my team had what it took to win it all that weekend. Ultimately, I’m just thankful for the chance to play such great matches amongst so many big names, and finish in a position way above what I’d ever thought possible.

Quarterfinals vs Luke Curtale (AU) (WLW) (Streamed)
Amoonguss, Tapu Fini, Metagross, Tyranitar, Zapdos, Landorus-T
G1: Cresselia, Incineroar + Tapu Koko, Landorus-T
G2: Cresselia, Tapu Koko + Incineroar, Landorus-T
G3: Cresselia, Tapu Koko + Tsareena, Landorus-T

Semifinals vs Jens Arne Mækinen (NR) (LL) (Streamed)
Metagross, Tyranitar, Nidoking, Rotom-W, Togekiss, Landorus-T
G1: Landorus-T, Tapu Koko + Cresselia, Gyarados
G2: Landorus-T, Tapu Koko + Cresselia, Gyarados

[divder]

Your Time

In the lead up to Sydney, I’d heard a lot of seasoned players lament the format’s revised timer rules, and how it made it difficult to play games at the pace we’d become accustomed to over the years. I’d built this team bearing that in mind, and, with two of my matches against veteran players going to time in my favor, I think it paid off.

The key to this was the repositioning moves I waxed lyrical about earlier in the article – namely Tapu Koko’s Volt Switch and Landorus-T’s U-Turn. I liked these moves because they allow you to evaluate your board position more safely, and thus quickly, than conventional switching could afford. As a result, they effectively inflate Your Time, giving you a few precious extra seconds to assess your position during their move animations, which occur after all switches, Mega Evolutions and Protects for the turn. This thinking time allows you to make non-committal actions during Your Time, and commit quickly when the switch timer comes. This combined with other soft-control moves like Incineroar’s Fake Out, Tsareena’s Feint and Cresselia’s Icy Wind meant that I often felt like my turns played at a quicker pace than my opponents. Overall, I had a lot of leeway to negotiate tight spots, making it easier for me to force tricky opponents down to timer.

The best example of this was against my second game against Federico Turano, with my Incineroar, Landorus-T, Tapu Koko and Gyarados against his Landorus, Gothitelle, Manectric and Snorlax. With access to two Intimidates, I could contain Federico’s offense by playing carefully around Manectric and denying Snorlax its setup. By continuously shuffling Tapu Koko and Landorus while threatening Gothitelle with Incineroar and Mega Gyarados, I found myself making moves far faster than Federico could. Federico had to spend a lot more time deliberating how he could break the pressure on his Gothitelle, while I could just overwhelm his team by rotating between Tapu Koko, Landorus-T and Incineroar. Gothitelle’s passive nature made it easy to pivot around with my repositioning moves, while Federico struggled to protect it from my more pressurising control options. By the time Federico could maneuver Snorlax into position, we were a good 12-13 turns into our game, and he ran out of Your Time before Snorlax could pick off all of my remaining Pokémon.

I’ve got my own opinion on the current Your Time system, and what I think is healthier for the game. Regardless of my opinion, I think the timer is extreme enough that players should account for it in their teambuilding, particularly in higher levels of play where stressful situations are common. Building a team with mechanisms to help ease the pressure of decision making can definitely pay off.

Conclusion

Playing with this team was an incredible experience for both Chelsea and me, helping us achieve feats beyond our wildest dreams. With Chelsea’s 2nd consecutive Singapore Open victory and solidified spot at the top of the APAC CP standings, and my 3rd place finish in Sydney and the paid trip, we should be getting to visit Brazil together. It’s hard to guess now if this team will remain relevant in the future, or whether I’ll be able to compete for the rest of the year as I begin my university studies. Regardless, finishing amongst so many big names in Sydney has already been more than I could have hoped for, and a great bang to conclude my run-in with VGC as I return to New Zealand and get back down to focusing on adult life.

Shout-Outs

Every step of this journey was a collaborative effort, and wouldn’t be possible without these great people:

  • Chelsea, of course, for being a fantastic other half and strategizing partner, and for keeping me enjoying VGC long enough to get this break in Sydney. Too bad you can’t say now that I’m not good enough to cut a regional.
  • Phil Nguyen, for helping glance through this report, and keeping my nerves down in the audience before top cut.
  • Mitsuki, whoever you are, for the fantastic base team you provided us.
  • My other Singaporean friends: Nicholas, Matthew, Shawn, Melvin, Wei Wen and Rayne, who helped me figure things out for the team along the way.
  • My opponents, including but not limited to, Jens, Luke, Alberto, Fede and Aris, who made the tournament run packed with great conversations.
  • Wai Yin (@textfont) for the art.

One comment

  1. I think that’s more because of who puts Icy Wind and Trick Room in the same set.

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