Tag You’re It!— A 10th Place NAIC Team Report

Hello there! My name is Kyle Livinghouse, but some of you may know me as Animus. To those of you who don’t, I embarked on my VGC journey in the early 2015 format and never looked back. Since then, I’ve attended 3 Regionals along with a few locals around the New Jersey/Philadelphia area. While the results of these events were rather pitiful to me, every failure only fueled my hunger to win. So it is with great pleasure to present the team I piloted to break out and achieve 10th place at the North American International Championships!

Teambuilding Process

Upon the release of intimidate Incineroar, I attempted to build around it in several ways until eventually I stumbled upon the duo of Mega Gengar and Incineroar. The synergy between them as a lead combination gives a plethora of options to gain an early advantage in the first turn of the game. With tools such as Fake Out, Icy Wind, and Shadow Tag, it is easier to take control of the game from the get go in terms of switching and speed control. From there the final 4 seemed to fall in place rather easily, and they were rather standard picks.

I tested this team to great success on the ladder and in various online tournaments, stretching this team from March until June. While I was unable to attend any events during this time span, Diana Bros (@Eshivgc) piloted it to a Top 8 finish in Toronto while Corey Esmeier (@InvidiousVGC) won multiple local events in Ohio with it.

Leading up to the tournament, I had considered using this same team that had worked so well for me. However, I was troubled by its vulnerability to common sun compositions that had been creeping back up, so I looked into other options. Upon heavy discussion with good friends, namely Meghan (@PinkSylvie), Diana, and Corey, we decided that Tyranitar would fit best in the sixth slot along with certain set changes to better round it out.

So what are we waiting for now?

The Team

Link to Paste

The Rover (Gengar) @ Gengarite
Ability: Cursed Body
Level: 50
Shiny: Yes
EVs: 116 HP / 4 Def / 156 SpA / 4 SpD / 228 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Protect
– Shadow Ball
– Sludge Bomb
– Icy Wind

Mega Gengar symbolizes the centerpiece of the team by virtue of Shadow Tag—the crux of the mega itself. Its STAB moves in Shadow Ball and Sludge bomb enable Gengar to hit Psychic-types like Cresselia and the influx of Fairy types that ravage the format. Icy Wind is designated as the final attack as it is a particularly effective form of speed control in conjunction with Shadow Tag. It also deals considerable damage to certain Ice-weak Pokémon such as Landorus or Zapdos.

Protect is absolutely essential in order to pivot Gengar’s partner for optimal positions, this preserves Gengar’s safety while maintaining board control. The EVs’ defensively allows Gengar to take a single spread earthquake after an Intimidate or a Life Orb Tapu Koko’s Thunderbolt, in terrain almost every time. The rest was dumped into special attack, which in conjunction with modest nature, allowed Gengar to reach higher offensively capabilities, in comparison to its timid counterpart. I did not see the value in Timid Gengar as I did not want to ever risk a tie in the first place, and I would have been rather weak if I wanted to hit the same defensive benchmarks.

  • -1 252+ Atk Landorus-T Earthquake vs. 116 HP / 4 Def Mega Gengar: 120-144 (80 – 96%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252 SpA Life Orb Tapu Koko Thunderbolt vs. 116 HP / 4 SpD Mega Gengar in Electric Terrain: 129-152 (86 – 101.3%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO

Royal Orleans (Incineroar) @ Figy Berry
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 220 HP / 36 Atk / 52 Def / 76 SpD / 124 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Flare Blitz
– Knock Off
– Fake Out
– U-turn

Gengar’s partner in crime, Incineroar supports the entire team with its Fake Out and Intimidate. This set is rather standard, Flare Blitz for good STAB damage, Knock off for a strong utility move, versus item dependent Pokémon, and U-turn to keep Incineroar cycling in and out for momentum. The only thing that may potentially stick out with this set specifically is its rather obnoxious speed investment. This allowed me to outspeed opposing Incineroar in the mirror which I preferred, hitting a decent speed under tailwind too. The defensive EVs allow it to survive 2 Jolly Metagross Stomping Tantrum at -1 which allowed me to nature check them while also surviving 2 Modest Tapu Lele’s Moonblast most of the time.

  • -1 252 Atk Tough Claws Mega Metagross Stomping Tantrum vs. 220 HP / 52 Def Incineroar: 84-100 (42.4 – 50.5%) — 2% chance to 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Tapu Lele Moonblast vs. 220 HP / 76 SpD Incineroar: 90-106 (45.4 – 53.5%) — 37.5% chance to 2HKO after Figy Berry recovery

Four Sticks (Kartana) @ Grassium Z
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 68 HP / 108 Atk / 4 Def / 76 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Leaf Blade
– Sacred Sword
– Tailwind
– Detect

Kartana is the obligatory means of speed control in the Bisharp match up. The suicidal tailwind option next to Gengar proved effective to favorably position Gengar and a partner upon the free switch. I chose Grassium Z for fear of Milotic + Intimidate, which did come into play at the event. Otherwise, the set is rather standard, with Sacred Sword to hit fighting weak Pokémon, like Snorlax. This also proved strong in the chalk match up, since most of their Kartanas sacrifice speed for bulk, whilst hitting trappable targets such as Heatran, Tapu Fini, Mega Kangaskhan, and even Cresselia when doubling up with Mega Gengar. The defensive investment allows Kartana to always survive a Life Orb Thunderbolt from Tapu Koko in terrain.

  • 252 SpA Life Orb Tapu Koko Thunderbolt vs. 68 HP / 76 SpD Kartana in Electric Terrain: 120-140 (83.9 – 97.9%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Tangerine (Landorus-Therian) @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Modest Nature
– Earth Power
– Stone Edge
– U-turn
– Hidden Power [Ice]

Simply a scarf special Landorus-Therian here. I did not have a single earthquake partner, so it was an obvious choice. Earth Power enabled me to hit opposing Gengar, Incineroar, and Metagross, without worry of intimidate. Stone Edge offered extra help for the Sun match up, while Hidden Power Ice nails opposing Landorus. U-turn offers momentum, same case as Incineroar. These two U-turn users kept my opponent in awkward positions in tandem with Gengar’s Shadow Tag.

By the Seaside (Tapu Fini) @ Wiki Berry
Ability: Misty Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 28 Def / 100 SpA / 12 SpD / 116 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Protect
– Moonblast
– Muddy Water
– Calm Mind

Tapu Fini completed the FWG core while patching many match-ups, due to its typing and ability to set misty terrain. It was essential in combatting Kommo-o or terrain focused builds such as psychic-spam from Metagross and Tapu Lele. With trap support from Gengar, Calm Mind can take over the game. It’s also the only boosting move on the team so it made the most sense on this Tapu Fini. The set is otherwise what one could expect, with Muddy Water and Moonblast as the STAB attacks of choice and protect to round it off. The speed enables Tapu Fini to be faster than most other Tapu Fini. Otherwise, I am honestly unsure of what the defense and offense hit but it worked well throughout the weekend.

Kashmir (Tyranitar) @ Weakness Policy
Ability: Sand Stream
Level: 50
EVs: 172 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def / 12 SpD / 68 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Rock Slide
– Crunch
– Taunt
– Protect

This Tyranitar was the MVP of my tournament run. Weakness Policy seemed weird at first, but no other items made sense for its set of moves. With Sand boosting its special defense, while intimidate buffed its physical defense, Tyranitar could live almost any super-effective hit and retaliate back with a very strong STAB move. I chose Rock Slide and Crunch for the most consistency, although I considered Assurance. Taunt was essential to patch the Porygon2/Araquinid match-up. Throughout the tournament, Tyranitar was used in 11 of the 14 rounds and got the weakness policy boost at least once during 9 of those sets. Many of my opponents did not seem to heavily prepare for this set in particular and so it was very effective. It is also notable that Side U-turning is a viable play with both Landorus-Therian and Incineroar, as they are both relatively weak U-turns that can activate the Weakness Policy before Tyranitar attacks. The EVs enable Tyranitar to outspeed max speed base 110s such as Metagross or even Raichu after Tailwind, while surviving a Sacred Sword from Kartana after intimidate.

  • -1 252 Atk Kartana Sacred Sword vs. 172 HP / 4 Def Tyranitar: 160-192 (81.2 – 97.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Team Play

When using this team, unless Gengar is simply unable to be brought, generally the goal should be to establish Shadow Tag control early to position ahead of the opponent for the mid to late game. The goal is to keep Gengar active as long as possible, with double Intimidate to facilitate that primarily. Carefully planning a few turns in advance and keeping opposing terrains or weathers in check with my own is important in abusing the trap. By the time Gengar has fainted the goal should be that your opponent is behind to at least their last two. I play to keep the Pokémon count in my favor to have the necessary tools to come out on top in strategically planned end games.

Core Combinations and Common Leads

Gengar+Incineroar

The infamous duo, these two are the most balanced and most popular lead combination I selected over the weekend. Establishing Shadow Tag is easier with Fake Out and Intimidate support, and with Icy Wind it is easy to gain an early advantage in terms of speed control.

Gengar+Landorus-T

Similar to the last lead, as it includes setting up Shadow Tag as soon as possible alongside Intimidate. It can be especially effective when Landorus threatens the opposing team for loads of super effective damage, which is the case against some sun teams.

Gengar+Anything else

In the case that only one or two Pokémon of the opposing team threaten Gengar and a partner covers for it, that partner works as a fine lead to keep Gengar safer in setting up Shadow Tag. Kartana may be used in some situations where Tailwind is essential. Tapu Fini may be important in match-ups where Misty Terrain might need to go up right away. Even Tyranitar is a fine lead for the mirror to scare away opposing Gengar.

Tapu Fini+Kartana

This lead was often the backup plan against many of the teams that Gengar was either was not viable in the match-up or in the rare case where Gengar was brought in the back. This also bluffed Scarf Soak Fini which often let me get a free Tailwind up early.

Team Match-ups

In the team preview, it is important to identify key threats to Gengar and how you might go about trapping and removing them. Looking for opposing weather setters to disrupt them with Tyranitar and deciding on the most ideal means of speed control is also important. However, I did find myself making lots of risky reads the entire weekend. The turns Shadow Tag were not active I was almost always trying to predict how my opponent would switch to reposition themselves and I would attempt to adjust accordingly. It is also notable that the side U-turn option onto Tyranitar is a very viable play with both Incineroar and Landorus as they are both fairly weak U-turns that can activate the Weakness Policy.

For the most part at least, in my opinion, I believe almost all of the match-ups are neutral to slightly favorable, as the goal was to be able to have every match be playable as auto losses are no fun.

Good Match-Ups

CHALK

If they decide to bring Kangaskhan it can be shut down through means of double intimidate pretty easily. This is not an automatic win by any means but predicting when the Cresselia will go for the Z-Move or the Trick Room is the only concern. If Trick Room is set up, Tyranitar can come in and will likely get a Weakness Policy Boost from Heatran’s Earth Power or a -2/-3 Low Kick from Kangaskhan. Protecting Gengar is the primary concern and if you can accomplish this and work around Cresselia, the match-up is one of the easiest in comparison.

Sun

I was paranoid about the sun match-up going into this tournament but looking back it was actually a pretty good one given what I decided on. Between Gengar, Incineroar, Tyranitar, and Landorus, these will shut down most Sun teams’ options if the Shadow Tag is played right. Superpower Braviary makes this a completely different match-up that you have to trade correctly and even go for suicide Tailwind plays with Kartana, but in general, the Shadow Tag + Tyranitar is very strong.

Neutral Match-Ups

Trick Room

As most of the team is relatively fast, Trick Room can be tricky if it is set up. However, with options such as Fake Out on Incineroar and even Shadow Tag on Gengar to limit their switching potential to make the most of the Trick Room in the first place, it isn’t too bad. Taunt Tyranitar is also a big deal specifically for the Araquinid/Porygon2 match-up. Usually, Tapu Fini will be used as the switch into a lot of neutral hits with its berry keeping it around to stall Trick Room turns.

Rain

Rain can be tricky against certain teams but in general, it depends on establishing speed control in Tailwind with Kartana and keeping the rain contained with Shadow Tag and Tyranitar. Z-Focus Blast Thundurus + Mega Swampert is the only worry as it destroys this mode but I did not anticipate facing this and thankfully I never did. In general this match-up is volatile in that it depends a lot on the opposing 6.

Kommo-o

The Kommo-o match-up is tricky but between my own Gengar and Landorus/Tyranitar to scare off the opposing Gengar, the goal is to trap Kommo-o and get Tapu Fini in or remove Tapu Bulu and have Fini win the end game. Clefairy can make it a bit trickier but Tyranitar can usually take over those types of leads. It is also notable that Icy Wind chunks Kommo-o before using its Z-move and keeps it slower.

Blaziken/Bisharp

These types of teams I must resort to Tapu Fini/Kartana most of the time. Muddy Water Tailwind is usually the turn 1 play to get as much mileage as possible right away. Even if Blaziken knocks out Kartana you have lots of momentum and Bisharp’s sash will be broken.

Bad Match-Ups

Milotic

With double Intimidate, Milotic is a really big concern and is the main reason why I opted for Grassium-Z Kartana to OHKO it through Intimidate which I seldom used at the tournament. If carefully played around it is winnable but definitely the scariest Pokémon for this team to face.

Rundown of Tournament

Round 1: Sean Bannen (2-4 drop) LTWW
Mega Charizard Y/Tapu Lele/Accelegor/Landorus-Therian/Snorlax/Mimikyu

Sean’s name certainly wasn’t the first I wanted to see early in the first round, but I knew with a victory I would gain necessary confidence for the rest of the day. Game 1, I scouted out the Tapu Lele’s item, and to my dismay, it was scarfed. This causes many problems for my team as it can outspeed and OHKO Gengar with Psychic and heavily damage many of the other team members. This combined with Encore pressure was hard to overcome. I lost pretty badly but I gained all the information I needed to adjust for the next two games.

In Game 2, I made the necessary reads to put myself in a better position by calling the Tapu Lele’s targets correctly. I also pulled off the cute side u-turn play to boost up with Tyranitar when I knew Landorus was coming in while Accelegor protected. This play put me far ahead of the game and I made the necessary trades to bring it to my Tapu Fini and Incineroar—both with berries intact versus his Charizard. Incineroar even had Fake Out active. That is when disaster struck. We got a double game freeze, and at this point, I was very annoyed as I had the win secured bar critical hits. We received a tie and moved on to Game 3.

I recklessly call the Lele to Moonblast turn one while leaving my Gengar open, taking a free OHKO on Tapu Lele. A few more hard reads and I was back in the set. I was on the edge of my seat feeling crazily pleased with my reads. I took the third game and we moved into sudden death. Game 4 opened with his Landorus and Tapu Lele versus my Gengar Landorus. He was smart to adjust from the Lele Accelegor lead that he used all 3 previous games to avoid the coin flips. I pulled the double switch into my Tapu Fini and Incineroar as he switched his Landorus into Snorlax while his Lele fired off a Psychic into my Tapu Fini, doing around 40%. I was sure a Flare blitz Muddy Water double up into Lele would win the game the following turn no matter what he could switch in, but the Psychic got the special defense drop. I clicked the attacks into Lele hoping he would predict me to protect the Fini or Fake Out, and he just clicked Psychic…but I lived on just 2 HP despite the special defense drop and ate up my berry. I crossed my fingers for Muddy Water to hit, it did, and I took down Lele, barely lived a Snorlax double edge, and won the set! This was by far the most intense set I have played at an event, and it felt amazing to finally overcome the game freeze after a horrid experience at Dallas.

Round 2: Daniel Thorpe (8-6) LWW
Mega Gengar/Incineroar/Jellicent/Tapu Bulu/Stakataka/Amoonguss

I vaguely recognized Daniel’s name, but I didn’t know who he was until team preview showed his IGN and team. Game 1 was very defensive from both ends. Neither of us made many reads, it was defensive switch after defensive switch, and I lost as he was able to get multiple Trick Rooms up whilst outmaneuvering me. However, I took note of no Gengar on his end and decided I would bring my own to the second game in order to take control of the game. I played more aggressively and limited his options to win the second game, utilizing Tyranitar and Gengar to disrupt and Incineroar to stall his trick room and support my primary attackers in another very close game.

Game 3 was pretty anticlimactic as he leads Stakataka Amoonguss into my Gengar Incineroar. I got away with doubling into the Amoognuss with Fake Out Sludge bomb on the Stakataka protect in the first turn and then brought in my Tapu Fini to neuter the Amoonguss. A few intimidate cycles and I was able to easily take the final game. He was able to rebound to make day 2 which was awesome to see.

Round 3: Thomas McCready (4-5) WLW
Mega Charizard-Y/Landorus-Therian/Tapu Koko/Conkeldurr/Cresselia/?

All I knew of Thomas going into the set was that he was from Ohio, and he happened to be using one of the match-ups I did not want to run into. Game 1 I got lucky at the end of the game with Muddy Water getting me an avoid to grab the victory. Game 2 he adjusted to Conkeldurr, which with AV was very troublesome to bring down. The Trick Room Electric seed Cresselia was almost impossible to bring down in tandem with Moonlight and Charizard. Conkeldurr took over the game alongside Cresselia. Game 3 was very tight, I tried to prevent Trick Room but he played it too well. Eventually, I got a lucky crit on the Cresselia with U-turn which got it into range for Gengar to KO it. From there my own Landorus cleaned.

Round 4: Len Deuel (7-2) WW
Mega Salamence/Tyranitar/Excadrill/Amoonguss/Cresselia/Gyarados

I recognized Len but also wasn’t sure who he was, but he filled me in that he went by Alaka. Games 1 and 2 were very similar. I spammed Intimidate next to Icy Wind Gengar and positioned my Tapu Fini and Landorus to take care of his sand core. He did not bring Cresselia either game which surprised me but this would later come back to haunt me. Overall these wins were almost too quick, and we both revealed all our information, but I was happy to be 4-0.

Round 5: Stephen Brown (6-3) LWL
Mega Swampert/Tapu Koko/Celesteela/Pelipper/Ludicolo/Incineroar

The dreaded Rain match up finally was here. It’s not a bad match-up by any means, I just hadn’t practiced it much and was very much afraid heading into this set. Game 1 I played much too defensively and let him get away with some reads, putting me far behind but I got the information I needed. Game 2 I called his plays, trapped and removed Pelipper, and barely won with my Incineroar versus his Mega Swampert intimidated at least 3 times in the end game. Game 3 was very close, I lead Tyranitar into his Pelipper to deny Sand. It becomes a very back and forth match until I set up an end game in where my fairly healthy Tyranitar faced down his twice-intimidated Swampert. I thought for sure I’d live any attack it could throw at me, and that I would retaliate with a Weakness Policy boosted Crunch, until he reveals Superpower on the very last turn of the game to surprise me. Props to Stephen for concealing it the entire set, it completely caught me off guard.

Round 6: Jamie Mancini (5-4) LWW
Mega Metagross/Mega Swampert/Pelipper/Tapu Koko/Ludicolo/Incineroar

Protect Waterium Ludicolo is a problem. I just played Rain so I had a better game plan. The first game I scout out his sets and get surprised by Protect on Ludicolo, which baited a Fake Out/Sludge Bomb combination. This set me behind immensely and he played well to take the first game. The second game I played around rain, calling protects correctly and positioning Gengar and Tyranitar with the help of Kartana’s Tailwind. The third game I felt I played perfectly, he almost got bailed by a thunderbolt paralysis but thanks to my Tailwind I was still able to outspeed and attack through the paralysis on certain targets needed to seal the game and set.

Round 7: Carson St. Denis (10-4) WLW
Mega Kangaskhan/Cresselia/Heatran/Landorus-Therian/Kartana/Tapu Fini

I was very excited to play Carson at an event because we played several times on the showdown ladder the weeks leading up to the event. Let me take that back, not just several times, more like 20 times, which made this match up a headache of mind games. Game 1 I knew exactly how I wanted to approach it, leading Gengar Incineroar into his Kangaskhan Cresselia. I caught him going for the Z move into my incoming Tyranitar, which was key since I knew his Kangaskhan did not have Low Kick. I made the appropriate trades to carry the winning position to a victory. Game 2 he adjusted to Kangaskhan/Heatran which caught me off guard, I ended up losing Gengar early and I lost pretty easily. Game 3 he goes for Kangaskhan Heatran again, but I call every turn whether it would attack or sub, and position myself with a couple hard reads to take the last game and set comfortably.

Round 8: Ben Grissmer (9-5) WW
Abomasnow-Mega/Braviary/Porygon2/Incineroar/Araquinid/Tapu Koko

I saw pairings and instantly I was grateful for my change to Taunt Tyranitar. Game 1, I was however blindsided by Scarf Braviary and my Tyranitar dropped right away. I tried to stall out trick room with my Incineroar and Tapu Fini, and once it expired I made a big read going all in that he would protect his Abomasnow in fear of a double up from my Tapu Fini and Kartana, going for the Calm Mind and leaf blade into the relatively unthreatening Araquinid for the KO. With the Calm mind boost, I am able to prevent Trick Room from going back up and I won the first game in a way I would have never imagined.

Game 2 he leads Braviary Porygon2 into my Incineroar Tyranitar. I just go for Fake Out into the Braviary followed up by a Rock Slide since it guaranteed big damage if he brought Araquinid and Abamasnow in the back again. He overpredicted and went into Araquinid with the Porygon2, hoping that I would Taunt so he could follow up with a Superpower Liquidation the following turn. I took the double KO and won the set easily. This game, specifically, qualified me for day 2 of the event and I started to get emotional, but since it was a pretty quick win, all of my friends were still playing. I had never top cut/day 2’d an event before so it really meant a lot to finally prove myself. However, we had another round of Pokémon to play, so I prepared myself for the final round.

Round 9: Melvin Keh (11-4) WW
Mega Charizard-Y/Tapu Koko/Milotic/Cresselia/Snorlax/Landorus-Therian

It was an honor to play Melvin, and he was nice enough to gift me a keychain from Singapore which was really cool. When team preview came up I recognized his team as the same one from Brazil Internationals. I bluffed scarf soak Tapu Fini with a Tapu Fini Kartana lead, as I did not want to go the Gengar Incineroar mode because of his Milotic. I got very fortunate with a critical hit onto his Snorlax from my Bloom Doom to take it out, and with Tyranitar I was able to win the game. The second game I decided to adjust to Incineroar Gengar to take a more controlled approach to the game since he did not bring Milotic and given my Tapu Fini Kartana lead in the first game, I did not think he would lead it. I also did want to bait his Landorus so that my Tyranitar could beat his remaining Tapu Koko/Cresselia/Charizard, and I hadn’t used Gengar in the first game so I hoped to surprise him with Icy wind. Instead, he leads Tapu Koko and Milotic to match up against my Gengar Incineroar. I know that as the good player Melvin is, he would not risk the speed tie right away, not knowing I was Modest. It also made a lot of sense for his Landorus-Therian to come in, so I faked out the Milotic and went for Icy Wind, hoping Landorus would come in either slot. Sure enough, Tapu Koko retreated for Landorus and I caught it with Icy wind, and removed it the next turn. While Milotic was +4, I was able to now outspeed it for sure with my Incineroar to knock off its berry, and Tyranitar was able to clean up the rest of his team as planned once I focused down on the Milotic.

Day 2

Round 11: Justin Crubaugh (9-5) WLW
Gengar/Incineroar/Landorus-Therian/Tapu Fini/Kartana/Tyranitar

Apparently, pairings were leaked the night before, but I had no clue because I was busy recuperating as far as sleep having only arrived at my hotel at 3AM the day before. About twenty minutes before the round started I found out that I was playing Justin Crubaugh in an exact mirror as far as our 6 Pokémon. I was anxious as Justin was the first to entertain the idea of Tyranitar on these Gengar builds, so I took inspiration from that for my own team, yet I did not know any of his sets. Going into the first game I knew I wanted to use my Tyranitar in the mirror to scare away his Gengar as I figured it was probably faster. On the other hand, Justin used Kartana to establish speed control since he utilized a bulkier Berry set. We both brought Incineroar and Landorus as the last two. As far as the game went, I felt I played very well the first game, calling a lot of his understandably safe plays as I pulled a close win.

Game 2 I pretty much lost when I went for a potential speed tie with Gengar, and after I lost it I assumed he was simply faster, and adjusted for the third and final game. This time I baited the Shadow Ball and switched out into Incineroar, which he actually called and threw a Sludge Bomb into the slot. However, my Tyranitar was able to hold on from his Kartana’s Sacred Sword the same turn which gave me full Shadow Tag control for the late game. He was able to get up Tailwind and it was troubling because he had U-turn to pivot out of the trap. Eventually, I was able to stall out tailwind and put myself to a 4-2 advantage with 4 heavily weakened mons vs his Landorus and Incineroar. It would have been very close had I not won the Landorus speed tie the following turn but it is what it is, and I was happy to take a very close win versus a player I look up to immensely.

Round 11: Alessio Yuri Boschetto (13-1) LL
Mega Metagross/Landorus-Therian/Zapdos/Tapu Fini/Incineroar/Amoonguss

It took a while, but I had finally scaled up to table 1! I was playing Yuree and I was absolutely terrified. We played upon the second stage but not on the stream, yet at the time I thought we were on a side stream or something and I let my nerves get the best of me. Metagross + Amoonguss in tandem gives my team troubles as well, which did not help anything. Basically, he just leads off with those two and takes the set comfortably as I frantically overpredict. I learned the match up a lot better and the experience overall was good for me.

Round 12: Justin Burns (13-3) WLL
Mega Metagross/Landorus-Therian/Zapdos/Tapu Fini/Incineroar/Amoonguss

Hey! That team looks quite familiar! Having played the same 6 the previous round I knew exactly how I wanted to tackle this match-up. I also knew exactly which hard reads I had to make to put myself on top. Game 1 he does not lead Amoonguss Metagross which I take advantage of with Gengar. While his Metagross was extremely bulky enough to live a Shadow Ball very comfortably, I had enough intimidates down to keep the trap up long enough. I made some good calls and took the first game. The second game was a heartbreaker for me. I again positioned my Gengar very well, working around the Amoonguss whilst keeping Gengar safe and cycling intimidate. I get Gengar in a position to chunk Metagross, which it does, but Metagross retaliates with a critical hit Stomping Tantrum at -2. I was devastated as this set me back too far behind to win this game.

The third game I went for a lot of hard reads, and it worked out until the very last turn, where his 40% Zapdos and 30% Metagross faced down my 35% weakness policy boosted Tyranitar and 35% Incineroar. With Fake Out I could double into Metagross to pick up an obvious KO, and I would live a thunderbolt and probably be able to 2v1 his Zapdos. The other option was to predict the Metagross protect and double into Zapdos, which I went for, but he saw right through it and just attacked. Faking out Metagross and Crunching/Rock Sliding the Zapdos was not a plausible move here as he would roost assuming he protected Metagross to survive even boosted Rock Slide/Crunch barely, which would enable him to take a double knock out the following turn. It was an interesting endgame that was essentially a “50/50” but even if I called it right, it wasn’t guaranteed. I was very frustrated about the game 2 crit and knew I had to win out the last two rounds if I wanted to cut.

Round 13: Leonard Craft III (10-4) LWW
Mega Charizard-Y/Nihilego/Landorus-Therian/Cresselia/Snorlax/Tapu Fini

This was also played up on the stage but not on stream. It was a pleasure to play Leonard in a moment like this one, and the match-up was an interesting one for me. Game 1 I got stomped on by Earthquake Belly Drum Snorlax when I expected only single target moves, but it made sense on his team. For game 2, I was able to adjust and get off a Tailwind in the late game for my Incineroar and Tyranitar, but he was able to stall it out thanks to his Landorus having Protect. My Tyranitar was clutch and lived on 7 HP from the earthquake after already taking a bit of chip. In Game 3 I again tried to prevent trick room with Gengar and friends, and eventually, I had a decision in the mid game with my Gengar and Kartana vs his Cresselia and Landorus. I could double into the Cresselia with a Shadow Ball and Bloom Doom, or I could predict the Helping Hand Earthquake play that Leonard could go for to beat this play. I predicted him to predict the double up and Shadow Balled the Cresselia while I Bloom Doomed the Landorus. He brings in Snorlax as his last and the game is pretty much over. More fantastic games from an established player, I was ecstatic with the win.

Round 14: Len Deuel (11-4) LL
Mega Salamence/Tyranitar/Excadrill/Amoonguss/Cresselia/Gyarados

As I saw the pairings go up, I am not going to lie I got a little too excited as I beat Len quite easily in swiss. We got pulled for the side stream and commentated by Duy and Scott, which was as amazing as it was nerve-racking. Game 1 he leads off with Cresselia, and I realize this will be very problematic considering its partners. I lose Gengar too early, make some really obvious plays I regret, and get completely outplayed by Len. Game 2 I let Gengar go down in the first turn and it went downhill from there. The Sand core with Mega Salamence and Cresselia gave me tons of issues and it completely blindsided me after how our swiss game went. In retrospect, I could have done a lot of things differently, but it’s a learning experience for next time. Len played it perfectly and was much more deserving of the Top Cut!

Conclusion

Standings were posted and I placed 11th overall. I knew I was comfortably in Top 16, so it did not come to much of a surprise. After the disqualification, I technically finished 10th, but that doesn’t matter much. Overall I had a blast meeting several new friends and cannot wait to do it all over again. This was my first national level tournament, and it instills much-needed confidence and experience moving forward. To think that I really can keep up with the best in the world is a massive motivator. I look forward to attending a couple Regionals and Nationals again next year to improve on my debut performance! Shoutouts to Meghan (@PinkSylvie), Diana (@eshivgc) and Corey (Nvidious) for working with me to optimize Gengar compositions. From testing to building you guys were a huge help the entire way!

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