Hey all! My name is Justin Frys, or @RexChaosVGC. I’m currently a 21 year old who just finished my first full season of competing in the Pokemon VGC circuit (Yes, I got into it a bit late). While I had played things like Pokemon Showdown and Battle Spot since late 2014, I only attended my first live event in February 2017. As nervous as I was on that day, I managed to come top 8, and I don’t think I’d ever had so much fun. So I continued attending locals, made some new friends, and set out on a new goal: play at the World Championships. Fast forward a year and a half, after playing at countless locals and a few regionals, North American Internats was coming around and my invite was within reach. I hadn’t been this nervous and stressed for a tournament since my first one. Then, something changed the day before I left for Columbus. But for now, let’s go over some of the team’s prior success.
While this was a team I like to credit mostly to myself, there are elements on the team that had done well before, particularly by one of my locals and friends, Ashton Cox. Ashton had used versions of this team at both LATAM and Oceania Internationals. He also brought it to two regionals in a row, and made finals at both of them. The only success (if you can call it that) That I had had with team prior to Columbus was a 4-1 start at Madison Regionals, which included a win over Paul Chua who would go on to win it all. I unfortunately suffered from food poisoning that led to complications and forced me to drop at (technically) 4-2 (and a trip to the hospital). I’ve rambled for long enough though, let’s get to what you wanted to see.
Kaepora (Braviary) @ Mago Berry
EVs: 116 HP / 252 Atk / 36 Def / 100 SpD / 4 Spe
– Brave Bird
I knew I wanted to use three Pokémon to create a base of the team. The first of those was Braviary. The spread, while honestly not fully optimized, had enough general bulk to come in clutch. I also knew a Pokémon with the ability to both set Tailwind and prevent Trick Room would be awesome. It has enough offensive power, coupled with its amazing ability in Defiant to deter intimidators from a mostly physical team. This was easily the Pokémon that held the most value throughout the day. The bulk was specifically to ensure that Lele Psychic in Terrain would always activate my berry and allow me to get Tailwind up and cause chaos from there. Easily MVP.
- +1 252+ Atk Braviary Brave Bird vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Landorus-T: 178-210 (107.8 – 127.2%) — guaranteed OHKO
- -1 252+ Atk Landorus-T Rock Slide vs. 116 HP / 36 Def Braviary: 62-74 (32.6 – 38.9%) — 98.9% chance to 3HKO
252+ Atk Tough Claws Mega Metagross Ice Punch vs. 116 HP / 36 Def Braviary: 160-190 (84.2 – 100%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO
- 28+ SpA Zapdos Thunderbolt vs. 116 HP / 100 SpD Braviary: 152-182 (80 – 95.7%) — guaranteed 2HKO
252+ SpA Tapu Lele Psychic vs. 116 HP / 100 SpD Braviary in Psychic Terrain: 142-168 (74.7 – 88.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 252 SpA Life Orb Tapu Koko Discharge vs. 116 HP / 100 SpD Braviary in Electric Terrain: 166-198 (81.3 – 97%) — guaranteed 2HKO
Reptar (Tyranitar) (M) @ Weakness Policy
Ability: Sand Stream
EVs: 196 HP / 44 Atk / 68 Def / 84 SpD / 116 Spe
– Rock Slide
– Fire Punch
The next Pokémon I was very eager to use was Tyranitar. I wanted a way to deal with Zapdos’ bulk, and the most common weathers of rain and sun (specifically Charizard-Y). With its good defensive bulk and weather boosting special defense, Weakness Policy seemed like a cool item that could win a game all on its own if you can catch the opponent off guard. The spread ensured that Tyranitar could take many super effective hits, pop Weakness Policy and sweep from there, in what sometimes felt like a bo1 gimmick.
- +2 44+ Atk Tyranitar Crunch vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Mega Metagross: 186-222 (119.2 – 142.3%) — guaranteed OHKO
- +2 44+ Atk Tyranitar Rock Slide vs. 236 HP / 116 Def Zapdos: 186-218 (95.3 – 111.7%) — 62.5% chance to OHKO
- +2 44+ Atk Tyranitar Crunch vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Tapu Lele: 168-198 (115 – 135.6%) — guaranteed OHKO
- +2 44+ Atk Tyranitar Fire Punch vs. 252 HP / 204+ Def Ferrothorn: 204-244 (112.7 – 134.8%) — guaranteed OHKO
- 252 Atk Tough Claws Mega Metagross Iron Head vs. 196 HP / 68 Def Tyranitar: 168-198 (84 – 99%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 252+ SpA Tapu Lele Moonblast vs. 196 HP / 84 SpD Tyranitar in Sand: 110-132 (55 – 66%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 252+ SpA Choice Specs Tapu Fini Moonblast vs. 196 HP / 84 SpD Tyranitar in Sand: 134-158 (67 – 79%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- -1 252+ Atk Huge Power Mega Mawile Play Rough vs. 196 HP / 68 Def Tyranitar: 168-198 (84 – 99%) — guaranteed 2HKO
Eltrc ChuChu (Togedemaru) (F) @ Focus Sash
Ability: Lightning Rod
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
– Fake Out
– Iron Head
– Spiky Shield
The next and final Pokémon I really wanted to use was Raichu. I had always loved its support move pool and ability, especially when I already knew I was already going to run Braviary. However because I already had Tyranitar, I knew that I would not be able to run Sash on it, as the sand would break it. That’s when I started looking for other Lightning Rod Pokemon and stumbled upon possibly the best Pikachu clone to date.
- 252 Atk Togedemaru Iron Head vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Tapu Lele: 144-170 (98.6 – 116.4%) — 93.8% chance to OHKO
- 252 Atk Togedemaru Iron Head vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Nihilego: 204-240 (110.2 – 129.7%) — guaranteed OHKO
The only Pokémon Togedemaru really needed to hit was Nihilego, as it was a big weakness to the overall team.
Honestly there are none. It’s a frail Pokémon that really is only there to be a nuisance for a few turns and hopefully eat a few Electric attacks with Lightning Rod.
Dovah (Salamence) (F) @ Salamencite
EVs: 116 HP / 252 Atk / 60 Def / 52 SpD / 28 Spe
– Dragon Dance
Next I wanted an Intimidate Pokémon. I didn’t think Incineroar or Landorus would be the best fit, especially because I had a nagging feeling there would be many counters to these Pokémon. I also needed a Mega, and knew I wanted one more Ground resist or immunity. Lastly, I needed a Pokémon that could set-up and get going. A Pokémon that checked all these categories was Mr Croissant himself, Mega Salamence.
- 252+ Atk Aerilate Mega Salamence Return vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Tapu Lele: 157-186 (107.5 – 127.3%) — guaranteed OHKO
- +1 252+ Atk Mega Salamence Earthquake vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Tapu Koko in Electric Terrain: 174-206 (119.1 – 141%) — guaranteed OHKO
- +1 252+ Atk Aerilate Mega Salamence Return vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Landorus-T: 204-240 (123.6 – 145.4%) — guaranteed OHKO
- +1 252+ Atk Mega Salamence Earthquake vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Mega Metagross: 108-128 (69.2 – 82%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- -1 252 Atk Tough Claws Mega Metagross Ice Punch vs. 116 HP / 60 Def Mega Salamence: 124-148 (67 – 80%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 252+ SpA Tapu Fini Moonblast vs. 116 HP / 52 SpD Mega Salamence: 150-176 (81 – 95.1%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- -1 252+ Atk Landorus-TRock Slide vs. 116 HP / 60 Def Mega Salamence: 40-48 (21.6 – 25.9%) — 0.9% chance to 4HKO
- 4 SpA Cresselia Icy Wind vs. 116 HP /52 SpD Mega Sakamence: 52-64 (28,1 – 34.5%) — 0.5% chance to 3HKO
MasterSword (Aegislash) (M) @ Ghostium Z
Ability: Stance Change
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Atk / 20 Def / 204 SpA / 28 SpD
IVs: 0 Spe
– Shadow Ball
– Sacred Sword
– Wide Guard
– King’s Shield
The fifth Pokémon I wanted needed to help some of my common weaknesses. At this time, the team is weak to Fighting, Rock, Ice, and Fairy. The solution to this conundrum is a Steel type. I didn’t want to run another mega and I needed something slow, so that left Aegislash as the only decent Steel type left that met those requirements.
- 204+ SpA Aegislash-Blade Shadow Ball vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Mega Metagross: 152-180 (97.4 – 115.3%) — 87.5% chance to OHKO
- 204+ SpA Aegislash-Blade Shadow Ball vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Tapu Lele: 146-174 (100 – 119.1%) — guaranteed OHKO
- 4 Atk Aegislash-Blade Sacred Sword vs. 220 HP / 4 Def Incineroar: 106-126 (53.5 – 63.6%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 204+ SpA Aegislash-Blade Never-Ending Nightmare (160 BP) vs. 220 HP / 92+ SpD Cresselia: 218-260 (97.7 – 116.5%) — 87.5% chance to OHKO
- 204+ SpA Aegislash-Blade Never-Ending Nightmare (160 BP) vs. 252 HP / 244+ SpD Gothitelle: 218-260 (123.1 – 146.8%) — guaranteed OHKO
- -1 252+ Atk Incineroar Flare Blitz vs. 252 HP / 20 Def Aegislash-Shield: 98-116 (58.6 – 69.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 252 Atk Tough Claws Mega Metagross Stomping Tantrum vs. 252 HP / 20 Def Aegislash-Shield: 86-102 (51.4 – 61%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 252+ SpA Mega Gengar Shadow Ball vs. 252 HP / 28 SpD Aegislash-Shield: 128-152 (76.6 – 91%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 252+ Atk Landorus-T Earthquake vs 252HP / 20Def Aegislash-Shield: 98-116 (58.6 – 69.4%) — Guaranteed 2HKO
PrincessRuto (Azumarill) (F) @ Assault Vest
Ability: Huge Power
EVs: 196 HP / 252 Atk / 20 Def / 36 SpD / 4 Spe
– Aqua Jet
– Play Rough
– Knock Off
Long story short, the night before I left for Columbus, I’m panicking about my match-up against Blazesharp. I go to bed knowing that there are at least two Blazesharp teams going to be used at NAIC. at 4AM, I wake up after having a weird dream about Pokemon. Something stood out to me in that dream, and I knew that Tapu Fini was no longer the play. I changed my team sheet and left in the morning.
- 252+ Atk Huge Power Azumarill Aqua Jet vs. 0 HP / 0 Def Blaziken: 114-134 (73.5 – 86.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 252+ Atk Huge Power Azumarill Superpower vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Heatran: 160-190 (95.8 – 113.7%) — 75% chance to OHKO
- 252+ Atk Huge Power Azumarill Superpower vs. 220 HP / 4 Def Incineroar: 182-216 (91.9 – 109%) — 56.3% chance to OHKO
- 252+ Atk Huge Power Azumarill Play Rough vs. 236 HP / 88 Def Zapdos: 99-117 (50.7 – 60%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 252+ Atk Huge Power Azumarill Knock Off vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Mega Metagross: 66-78 (42.3 – 50%) — 0.4% chance to 2HKO
- 252 SpA Tapu Koko Thunderbolt vs. 196 HP / 36 SpD Assault Vest Azumarill in Electric Terrain: 146-174 (73 – 87%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 252+ SpA Life Orb Sheer Force Nidoqueen Sludge Bomb vs. 196 HP / 36 SpD Assault Vest Azumarill: 151-182 (75.5 – 91%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 252+ SpA Mega Charizard Y Solarbeam vs. 196 HP / 36 SpD Assault Vest Azumarill: 136-160 (68-80%) — guaranteed 2HKO
The team is actually a very simple concept: clear the way for Salamence so it can set up a Dragon Dance or two and sweep from there. That’s it. Sometimes the best strategies are the simplest ones.
Core Combinations and Common Leads
The only real consistent combinations I had was that of Braviary Togedemaru lead with Salamence in back. By using Braviary’s natural bulk and combining it with Togedemaru’s Lightning Rod, I was generally able to set up a Tailwind by faking out one Pokémon and surviving a single target attack. From there, Togedemaru could Encore anything that had went for a status move or even a Fake Out and continue to put pressure on opponents with Encore threat alone. Most players would take a KO on Braviary to clear the way for their Intimidates, only by that point I bring in Salamence to set up a DD or two during Tailwind and sweep from there.
Again, because the process of setting up Salamence is a very basic one, the only real question I asked in team preview was “What three Pokémon will best support Mence in this situation?” Usually Braviary is a must, and Togedemaru almost always came if there was an opposing Electric type or Nihilego. Tyranitar is a must bring for rain matchups. The only other times I brought it were to try and get a cheeky game off my opponent by catching them off guard with Weakness Policy. Aegislash was a must against most Tapu Lele teams, especially those that had either Metagross or Accelgor. Azumarill is was a bit tougher to know when to bring. The only time all day I knew I needed was against a very specific Pokémon. That said I brought it to many of my games where it performed so much better than I could have ever hoped.
I’m just going to go over a few rough matchups.
Sure I have Tyranitar, but even with the SpDef boosts in sand and weakness policy, scald burn will always be a killer to this weak rain check. If they lead rain you have to make a lot of good calls. Usually what I would try to do is eliminate the rain sweeper, usually Ludicolo, by double targeting it and save Tyranitar in the back.
2.Specs Discharge Koko
To my knowledge, potentially the only auto loss that this team has. Its something you don’t see too often, but between potential paralysis and amazing chip damage against my whole team barring Togedemaru, I don’t think there’s much chance.
3. Blaziken+Bisharp+Tapu Lele
This is another one of those really weird match ups for me as Blaziken Bisharp combination is usually very easily to deal with on its own thanks to Azumarill. With Tapu Lele, however, I am unable to launch Aqua Jets into the Blaziken. This is probably the easiest of the tough matchups to play around because as long as I land Play Rough there’s still not much Blaziken can do. Their only out tends to be pairing a Rock Slide with Iron Head from Bisharp and hoping for the flinch.
4. Trick Room
I may have a lot of ways of stopping most common Trick Room setters, but some niche setters like bulky Nihilego and Porygon-Z can almost certainly get a game off of you if you’re not expecting it. Luckily, Pokemon is a game of information, and you definitely have the tools to adjust for games two and three.
Rundown of Tournament
Round 1 – Jonathan Kincade
(Cresselia Landorus-T Alolan Persian Incineroar Kartana Tyranitar)
Normally a matchup I’m not too worried about, I went into game one only to escape by the skin of my teeth when I realized some of the unusual item choices. Once I figured out the items though, it was smooth sailing.
Round 2 – Kevin Swastek @kswas17
(Kartana Landorus-T Raichu Tapu Fini Braviary Charizard-Y)
This was gonna be one of those days I immediately found out. Kevin is somewhat of a local (He attends a lot of Ohio events). Anyways, the first game I get absolutely bopped. I didn’t bring Tyranitar and struggled to deal with his Charizard’s massive damage output. So, I adjusted for game two by leading Tyranitar, hoping to catch him off guard with the Weakness Policy. Problem is I don’t live Focus Blast. I managed to somehow set up Salamence and claw my way back into it, eventually pulling out an extremely close game two. Game three was more one sided for me, as I got a second Dragon Dance on Salamence and was able to sweep from there.
Round 3 – Carson St Denis
(Cresselia Landorus-T Heatran Kartana Kangaskhan-M Tapu Fini)
I knew I should’ve played more carefully, but I saw Chalk and thought I had a free win. Just goes to show you why you should never underestimate any matchup. He had some things that caught me off guard, particularly the Inner Focus Kangaskhan. Though there really are no excuses here, I played bad and he played perfectly, making read after read. I was unable to do anything in a match-up I had confidence in going into the day.
Round 4 – Will Marks @MunkeyVGC
(Kangaskhan-M Heatran Cresselia Charizard-Y Landorus-T Tapu Fini)
Again, another “Local” who attends a lot of Ohio events and does pretty well to boot. A chalk-esque team with double megas also seemed like a good match-up for me. Only I didn’t respect the possibility Cresselia could have Trick Room. Again I get bopped game one, and while I came better prepared for Trick Room game two trying to Whirlwind out the Cress, he either knew my plan or made a good call and knocked out Braviary turn 1, set up Trick Room the next turn and while I played about as well as I could, the hole was too deep to climb out of.
Round 5 – Daniel Octasek
(Politoed Swampert-M Tapu Lele Kartana Zapdos Aegislash)
Hey look! Yet another Ohio local! (Notice a pattern here?) I didn’t like my matchup at all here. Game one was a shutout. I literally couldn’t stop the combination of Swampert and Kartana. With my tournament on the line, I knew I had to change something. Games two and three ultimately came down trying to sweep with Azumarill. It was brutal as these were the only game I couldn’t bring Salamence and sweep because all six opposing Pokemon chunked it. For the first time I left Salamence on the bench, and managed to claw out two extremely tough games.
Round 6 – Jacob Arkanoff
(Tyranitar-M Landorus-T Metagross-M Volcarona Cresselia Tapu Koko)
This was his first tournament, and was talking about hopefully attending more events after having a good time thus far. While the match slip said I won both games, I really feel like for a first time player he played extremely well. He had some interesting sets that caught me a little off guard even, like Sash Koko, which almost won him game two. I hadn’t mentioned this, but I was feeling really down after losing two in a row. Just talking with and seeing how much fun Jacob was having was really a game changer to me and completely changed my outlook on the rest of the tournament.
Round 7 – Corey Esmeier @Invidious_vgc
(Gengar-M Tapu Fini Incineroar Kartana Tyranitar Landorus-T)
This wasn’t fair. Of course it’s another Ohio local. Of course he is also playing for his invite. Of course he’s a great friend. Of course, it would come down to this. Neither of us wanted to do this. We both knew what was at stake, so we hugged, took our seats, and promised to not hold grudges no matter the outcome. Let me preface this by saying we’ve never had completely RNG set versus one another. This was different, but possibly in a worse way. He had timed out three times, twice in a row if my memory is correct. I wasn’t much better though. I legitimately had a turn where I clicked Wide Guard and Protect. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t fun, but in the end I walked away with a bittersweet feeling, matchslip in hand.
Round 8 – Fiona Szymkiewicz @YoshiandLugia
(Salamence-M Incineroar Cresselia Amoonguss Tapu Fini Nidoqueen)
This was a match-up I had some confidence in, knowing Braviary would do particularly well. At least I thought. I don’t believe I ever saw Salamence or Incineroar, an interesting strategy from her. Game 1 was an information fest. I learned that she had Misty Seed Calm Mind Cresselia, and while I fought hard, she revealed Moonlight at that the end of game 1. I knew I had no chance so I forfeited after that. Game two I was able to catch her off guard with the Weakness Policy Tyranitar and have a pretty clean finish from there. Game three came down to Azumarill taking a Sludge Bomb and being able to finish off her chipped team.
Round 9 – Patrick Donegan @P_dOnZ
(Gothitelle Incineroar Ludicolo Politoed Tapu Koko Mawile-M)
Now this was the moment of truth. Win, and get my invite. Lose and in all likelihood go home out of t64 because of poor resistance. The first thing I noticed was that it was a pair down. Usually an okay thing, but to be paired down to a player of this caliber was a little disheartening. I go to take my seat to find him already sitting there. He remembers me from a Toronto and informs me of how by beating me at that MSS he locked up his invite. I sit down and hear him ask a question. “Where would you need to place for your invite?” I told him of where I needed to place. Before I finished telling him that though, I heard those magic words, “I’m conceding.” My heart literally stopped. He explained his reasoning, asking to play a mach match. I’m not going to lie, my mind was racing and I was just about on the verge of tears (pathetic I know). In the end I misjudged game one on a turn where I as long as I hit Rock Slide, I’m guaranteed to win, but instead I went for Fire Punch and lost. Game two wasn’t even close I called the lead very wrong and couldn’t recover. After thanking him, I walked away realizing that not only did I qualify for worlds, but day two as well.
Round 10 – Brendan Zheng
(Clefairy Snorlax Tapu Fini Incineroar Zapdos Metagross-M)
The only thing I knew going into day two was that Brendan had a fast, Electrium-Z Zapdos. I wasn’t sure of the exact speed, but I found out it was close to Timid max as it out-sped my Togedemaru and I lost game one. Game two I lead Tyranitar who survived the Metagross Iron Head and OHKO-ed it back with Crunch. It ultimately came down to me calling him Z-Moving through Encore and Azumarill finishing up. Game three, Brendan made three great reads. Ultimately the last of those was a 50/50 I got wrong and lost the set.
Round 11 – Fiona Szymkiewicz @YoshiandLugia
(Salamence-M Incineroar Cresselia Amoonguss Tapu Fini Nidoqueen)
Ultimately I don’t think this was a great Match-up for her. She is truly an amazing player who had already locked up her invite before nationals, and a great person too. For me however, I had to Azu what I had to Azu.
Round 12 – Alberto Lara @Alberto310
(Gengar-M Kartana Tapu Fini Cresselia Landorus-T Incineroar)
Game 1 was pretty close from my memory, though I really didn’t take notes this set and did end up losing. Prior to our set I had heard he had Taunt Gengar. He didn’t, and promptly destroyed me with Icy Wind game two.
Round 13 – Alister Sandover @vivalavlade
(Swampert-M Pelipper Ludicolo Tapu Koko Gardevoir-M Stakataka)
Game 1 came down to another 50/50 where I decided to Wide Guard instead of attacking with Aegislash. He called it and knocked out my Tyranitar, losing me game one. game two he revealed Specs Tapu Koko with Discharge. I forfeited after two turns.
Round 14 – Sohaib Mufti
(Charizard-Y Incineroar Landorus-T Tapu Fini Raichu Braviary)
No disrespect intended, but mentally exhausted and out of contention for T16, I really didn’t care about the outcome. I didn’t concede, I just feel I didn’t play my best.
First, thank you to everyone I played throughout NAIC, I dropped their twitter handles throughout the article if they had one, so go give ‘em a follow.
Next, I’d like to thank two very large groups of friends that I’ve made throughout my short time in VGC. 1. Team Ohio. If I forget you please yell at me in chat and never let me live it down. @KyleHoustonVGC @Invidious_VGC @Weeblewobs @MononymousVGC @_Lightcore @Linkyoshimario @SerapisVGC @pball0010 @foreverxerneas @ConicsVGC @yoMancuso @MCUglyKid and without active twitter, Andy Himes, James Stringer, Nick Morris, Chase Grilliot, and Thomas McCready. Special thanks to @theloanranger17 for letting me crash at his place throughout the event.
Team Illinois. I’m not sure if you can even call it team Illinois anymore because of how expansive this chat really is. Honestly you all know who you are, and if I were to shout out all seventy(?!) people in this group chat, it would be cool, but it would obviously take way too long. Either way just know that I love and appreciate all of you, and would not be here without your support, care, and guidance.,
Credit to maelthra-chath for the featured image