Zap x Trap: A St.Louis Regionals Top Cut

What is up, its Louis Milich (@UncleLou21) here to talk about the team I used to top cut St.Louis Regionals. I first got into VGC two years ago, with my first competitive regional actually being St.Louis in 2016, where I landed a spot on stream using the infamous Scarf Kyogre and Mega Sceptile team. My notable finishes include Athens 2017 when I finished top 8 using the even more infamous Tentacruel, winning a special event in Mexico while top 4ing another in 2017, and narrowly missing day 2 worlds in 2017 with a 4-3 finish in day 1.

During my early success as a VGC player, I mostly used teams with hyper offensive strategies and Pokémon sets characterized by their offensive capabilities, whether that be through stats or item choice. However, as 2017 came to a close and I wrapped up my first Worlds experience, I began to try to look for ways to control games on my terms instead of relying on getting the proper read. As the first few weeks of this format were underway, I realized something: I had very little options for defensive team building, and thus my journey into discovering the power of the Manectric Tapu Fini Snorlax Gothitelle core was born.

Team’s Achievements

This team archetype has seen a lot usage this year, but my current version of the team has not had any notable achievements before this tournament. The original version of the team came off of an AMOLGAME team report done by my friend who I played at the Anaheim Open, Kenya Kodera (@angelswatan). After seeing the report and being interested I asked Kenya for the paste in English since my Japanese is just a wee bit rusty (and by wee bit I mean all I know how to say is “Domo” , “Arigato”, and “OMAE WA MOU SHINDEIRU”), and he gave me an updated paste of the team with Misty Seed Celesteela over Mega Mence along with some spicy memes such as Rain Dance Manectric + Waterium-Z Fini and Stockpile Snorlax. The only changes I made from the paste he sent me were a few specialized EV spreads and swapping Heatran out for Incineroar to benefit from the Fake Out pressure and eventually to improve the Azumarill matchup (more on that later).

The Team

Link to Paste
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Bisky-Chan (Snorlax) @ Figy Berry
Ability: Gluttony
Level: 50
Shiny: Yes
EVs: 244 HP / 212 Def / 52 SpD
Sassy Nature
IVs: 14 Spe
– Belly Drum
– Stockpile
– Return
– Recycle

Snorlax is Snorlax, there isn’t really much depth I need to go into to describe the strategy of trying to get a Belly Drum up and destroy everything. Having Gothitelle and Manectric makes this easier because you can Intimidate and Snarl with Manectric to neuter the opposition, then use Volt Switch to pivot into Snorlax all while trapping them in with Gothitelle. The only thing to avoid is getting your Berry knocked off, but even if that happens, Heal Pulse on Gothitelle can still help Lax stick around for a few more turns.

I really don’t have any specific calcs for this Snorlax. All I knew I wanted was for it to be as bulky as possible while not speed tying min-speed Lax. Outspeeding min-speed Snorlax allows me to not set up Trick Room against other Snorlax teams: my Gothitelle and Tapu Fini had Taunt, so I can just prevent opposing Snorlax from Belly Drumming and hit them with my Snorlax. Snorlax also underspeeds everything else I would have if I were min speed.

Originally I wanted to try to give Snorlax enough Atk EVs to be OHKOing other super bulky Snorlax and Cresselia, but I realized I would just be Taunting both of those things with Gothitelle and Fini to keep them from becoming threats anyways, so I decided just going with all bulk would be optimal.

Komugi (Tapu Fini) @ Waterium Z
Ability: Misty Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 12 Def / 228 SpA / 12 SpD / 4 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Muddy Water
– Moonblast
– Taunt
– Protect

Tapu Fini is an integral part of the team because, not only can it prevent Snorlax from getting affected by Toxic or Burn, which is key for preserving Lax’s damage potential, it can smack Fighting mons that threaten Snorlax with Moonblast and OHKO even Assault Vest Landorus (which can’t protect) that like to Knock Off Snorlax’s berry. Also, Taunt on Tapu Fini was huge, as I could Taunt opposing Amoonguss, which could redirect Tapu Fini’s attacks or put my Celesteela to sleep.

  • 228+ SpA Tapu Fini Hydro Vortex (175 BP) vs. 176 HP / 100 SpD Assault Vest Landorus-T: 186-218 (100 – 117.2%) — guaranteed OHKO
  • 228+ SpA Tapu Fini Hydro Vortex (175 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Tapu Koko: 165-195 (113 – 133.5%) — guaranteed OHKO 228+ SpA Tapu Fini Hydro Vortex (175 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Tapu Koko: 165-195 (113 – 133.5%) — guaranteed OHKO

The defensive spread on Tapu Fini is pretty basic. The issue is that since you need so much Special Attack investment to make Hydro Vortex do damage, you lose out on surviving a lot of attacks that Tapu Fini normally lives (Kartana Leaf Blade being the primary one). This just means that you always have to play smartly with your Intimidate cycling and not leave your Tapu Fini in positions where it can take damage if you can help it. The team has plenty of safe switches for offensive threats to Tapu Fini as well, and you want to be preserving Fini as much as possible, considering its lack of berry.

Palm (Gothitelle) @ Iapapa Berry
Ability: Shadow Tag
Level: 50
Shiny: Yes
EVs: 244 HP / 20 Def / 244 SpD
Sassy Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 9 Spe
– Trick Room
– Heal Pulse
– Taunt
– Protect

Gothitelle is one of the most important Pokémon on the team. Gothitelle can trap opposing Pokémon in with its Shadow Tag ability while Manectric halts their offensive pressure, allowing Snorlax to get up an easy Belly Drum. Taunt on Goth was huge in stopping other Pokémon from setting up while I was trying to set up my Snorlax, while the standard Trick Room allowed my Snorlax to move first. Heal Pulse was an interesting pick on Gothitelle, and it was great in situations where I couldn’t afford to reduce my opponents’ damage with Manectric first or where Snorlax’s berry had been knocked off. Heal Pulse wasn’t just effective for Snorlax though and was used in countless other situations to keep Pokémon like Manectric and Fini healthy.

Key Threats to Gothitelle:

  • -1 252+ SpA Aegislash-Blade Never-Ending Nightmare (160 BP) vs. 244 HP / 244+ SpD Gothitelle: 152-180 (86.3 – 102.2%) — 12.5% chance to OHKO

Aegislash is one spooky ghosty-goo. It is one of the things that threaten this team the most, as Gothitelle struggles to take Ghost attacks and Aegislash’s Ghost typing allows it to switch out despite Gothitelle’s Shadow Tag.

  • 252+ Atk Landorus-T Tectonic Rage (180 BP) vs. 244 HP / 20 Def Gothitelle: 186-219 (105.6 – 124.4%) — guaranteed OHKO

If Z-Lando is not intimidated, it can be quite problematic. In order to be (relatively) safe, you have to lead a Manectric into it, which can be dangerous if you can’t safely Volt Switch out.

Killua (Manectric-Mega) @ Manectite
Ability: Lightning Rod
Level: 50
Shiny: Yes
EVs: 244 HP / 20 Def / 4 SpA / 20 SpD / 220 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Volt Switch
– Rain Dance
– Snarl
– Protect

Manectric was probably my favorite Pokémon on the squad, as it easily provided the most utility and allowed me to constantly be one step ahead of my opponents in terms of positioning. Snarl and Intimidate would make sure my Pokémon are surviving attacks, Heal Pulse on Gothitelle would recover off the damage, while Volt Switch would let me control the tempo of the match with position-based play. Also, the Lightning Rod ability was essential in stopping big threats to my team, such as Tapu Koko, while something like Z-Muddy Water could OHKO the threat in return.

  • 252+ SpA Tapu Lele Psychic vs. 252 HP / 20 SpD Mega Manectric in Psychic Terrain: 148-175 (83.6 – 98.8%) — guaranteed 2HKO

The EV spread on Manectric is nothing special; it allows me to outspeed Tapu Koko with the rest going into bulk to help Manectric stick around. At one point I tried to EV Manectric to 2HKO non-bulky Kartana most of the time with Volt Switch, but most Kartana started running bulk anyway and it became too much of a pointless EV dump to continue with that special attack investment

  • 252 Atk Tough Claws Mega Metagross Stomping Tantrum vs. 252 HP / 20 Def Mega Manectric: 142-168 (80.2 – 94.9%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Being able to survive a Mega Metagross Stomping Tantrum is huge, as Metagross Mega Evolves after you do and due to regular Metagross’ Clear Body, it can avoid the attack reduction of your Intimidate.

Rain Dance on Manectric seems like a really strange pick at first, but being able to boost the power of Fini’s Z-Muddy Water meant picking up hordes of OHKOs you wouldn’t have otherwise. Being able to pick up a quick KO with this team and going up on mons 4-3 is a huge advantage due to the power of Snorlax/Celes and Goth’s trap. In addition to using Rain Dance offensively, it could be used defensively with Celesteela and worked wonders especially if my opponent only had one fire type or one fire move to hit Celesteela with. Also, Charizard Y is typically a huge threat to my teams archetype even with Snarl and Volt Switch pressure, and Rain Dance + Gothitelle meant trapping it in and essentially playing 2 vs 1 the rest of the match.

It may not seem like sacrificing a Fire move to hit Kartana is worth it for Rain Dance, but the lack of a Fire move wasn’t as much of an issue as it normally would be on this archetype because of my inclusion of Incineroar instead of the typical Landorus. Even though I played zero Charizard Y in my tournament run (and thankfully enough zero Kartana as well) I still used Rain Dance almost every single set, and would have not Top Cut without it.

Leol (Incineroar) @ Darkinium Z
Ability: Blaze
Level: 50
EVs: 172 HP / 116 Atk / 44 Def / 12 SpD / 164 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Flare Blitz
– Darkest Lariat
– Snatch
– Fake Out

This Incineroar is easily the wildest part of the team. A short time before Dallas Regionals, I realized the team had almost no Azumarill match-up, so l went down the rabbit hole of pre-regional panic and came out the other side with Snatch Incineroar. It actually wasn’t even that bad, as I could Snatch opposing Dragon Dance, Tailwinds, and, more importantly, other Snorlax Belly Drums in Trick Room, giving me a way to prevent Drums from going up both in and out of TR.

In case anyone is wondering what Z-Snatch does, it gives Incineroar +2 speed while also stealing the move it would have otherwise. I decided to put enough speed EVs into Incineroar to outspeed opposing Tapu Koko after the boosts to make the most out of the move (Koko is very common on Azumarill teams). The speed conveniently lets Incineroar outspeed a decent amount of Aegislash as well, so I can Z-Darkest Lariat them to protect Gothitelle. In other situations, I can use Z Snatch for the sole purpose of getting a speed boost to outspeed and OHKO Kartana (if I can read a Detect while trapping them in with Gothitelle).

Z-Snatch aside, the Fake Out + Trick Room and Fake Out + Belly Drum pressure was an excellent addition to the team and could force my opponents into specific leads. Also, my Incineroar allows me to have a better matchup vs opposing Celesteela and Ferrothorn (as opposed to the Landorus-T most teams in this archetype have).

  • 252+ Atk Landorus-T Earthquake vs. 172 HP / 44 Def Incineroar: 156-186 (81.2 – 96.8%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Kite (Celesteela) @ Misty Seed
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 84 Atk / 20 Def / 148 SpD / 4 Spe
Careful Nature
– Leech Seed
– Acrobatics
– Heavy Slam
– Protect

Celesteela was an amazing part of this team to have as a switch in, and a great Pokémon to have at this point in the meta. It does fantastically against the common Mega-Metagross teams, helps shore up the rain match up with Acrobatics, and can return hits handily vs. sand teams. It was also great against teams that had only one Electric-type or Fir- type, as eliminating that one threat to Celesteela ends the game, for all intents and purposes. Rain Dance on Manectric provided especially good support for Celesteela as non-Mega Manectric’s Lightning Rod could stop electric attacks and the rain would neuter fire attacks.

Often times the win con for games is to just get Celesteela and Snorlax next to each other on the field with full health and let your opponent decide if they want to stop Snorlax and let you get up Leech Seeds, or stop Celesteela and get up Stockpiles or a Belly Drum.

  • 84 Atk Celesteela Heavy Slam (120 BP) vs. 244 HP / 76 Def Tapu Lele: 170-204 (96.5 – 115.9%) — 87.5% chance to OHKO
  • 252+ SpA Ludicolo Hydro Vortex (185 BP) vs. +1 252 HP / 148 SpD Celesteela in Rain: 118-139 (57.8 – 68.1%) — guaranteed 2HKO

^^^The Celesteela will also live the double up from Ludicolo and either Pelipper or Politoed, allowing you to OHKO the Ludicolo in return with Acrobatics

Team Play

One of the most frustrating things about this format from the perspective of someone who is trying to build defensively sound teams is that strong Pokémon in this format (e.g., Landorus and Heatran) deal tons of powerful neutral spread damage. This makes safe switch-ins hard to come by, which is where Manectric’s ability to neuter damage is oh-so-important. Also, given that this team has Incineroar instead of a second Intimidator in what would have been my own Lando, Gothitelle’s lack of physical bulk is much more of a weak point. This means that instead of intimidating opponents and taking attacks with Goth, it’s often much smarter to switch Goth out and Volt Switch back into it and then switch Manectric back in beside Gothitelle next turn to get up multiple Intimidates. After your opponent’s Pokémon are trapped and their damage neutered, there is typically nothing that stops Snorlax from becoming too big.

A cautionary tale though: do NOT waste ANY time picking up KOs with Lax if you already have your wincon achieved. Pokémon is the wild west, the only rule is that there are no rules. You will get crit, you will get flinched, you will get haxed. You will question your faith, even if you already have none. All you can do about it is try your best to keep your destiny in your own hands and limit the number of turns your Pokémon will be susceptible to getting flinched or crit to death. The biggest issue this team has is that its passivity invites flinches and crits to make you a sad boy, so you need to know exactly when enough set up is enough and when you can go on to win the game.

Core Combinations and Common Leads

Manectric and Tapu Fini is easily the most common, effective, and malleable lead on the team, allowing you to quickly hinder your opponents’ offensive pressure and switch to Gothitelle or threaten a rain-boosted Z-Muddy Water to blow something important up. Using Manectric and Gothitelle, it becomes easy to pivot into Snorlax and then set it up. These 4 Pokémon are the most commonly used on the team, and if your opponent does not have a way to stop it, it is always going to be the strongest option. The things that usually scare this mode away are opposing Pokémon that can stunt on Gothitelle e.g., mons with Taunt or mons that can destroy it despite Manectric’s presence like Tyranitar.

This combination of mons is most popular against the standard Mega-Metagross teams, and is very good at slowly wearing other teams down. Playing with these mons means you are going to try and more play around Celesteela the whole time, where your win con will more often than not end up being getting Celesteela and Snorlax next to each other on the field at the same time at full health after picking up a quick KO, often through Rain Dance + Z-Muddy Water. When running this mode, the synergy between Celesteela and Manectric becomes very important: Rain Dance protects Cele from Fire and Lightning Rod protects Cele from Electric attacks, so knowing when to Mega Evolve with Manectric is important because you might want to save the Lightning Rod for late game.

Again, Manectric and Fini stay as the stars here, and I led these two Pokémon almost exclusively the entire tournament unless I planned on trying to hard read my opponents, or was playing against rain. These mons also focus on Celesteela play, with Incineroar being able to deal with things that wall Celesteela, such as other Celesteela and Ferrothorn. When facing Azumarill teams I will often choose to drop Celesteela for Lax (depending on the rest of their team) and choose to lead Incineroar and Tapu Fini instead.

This combination is good for most of the rain matchups, leaving Manectric in its base form in the back to switch into Tapu Koko, with Celesteela immediately getting its Misty Seed proceed to threaten Ludicolo with Acrobatics. Also on another note, Tapu Fini can OHKO opposing Mega Swampert with Z-Muddy Water, and in the late game, Snorlax can deal with Ferrothorn in the long run, while also serving as a decent switch into most Pokémon on rain teams due to its special bulk. I do not recall ever losing a single matchup against rain even during my time testing, but I have gotten fairly close a few times as the matchup is not a clear auto-win.

Team Match-ups

In team preview with this team, you instantly look for if they can deal with Manectric, Fini, Lax, and Gothitelle, and if they cant stop it, utterly destroy them. One of the most common Pokémon that prevents this plan is Tyranitar, and is one of the more troublesome Pokémon for this team. The best ways to handle it are to:

  1. Try and catch it with a Z-Muddy Water in the Rain
  2. Land a Leech Seed on it as soon as possible and follow up with Heavy Slams
  3. Always be cycling Intimidates on it to not let it get off big damage. Oh, and pray you don’t flinch.

The way matchups play out is that your opponents will have to stop you from doing what you want, not the other way around. They have to react to your plans to set up, while every turn respecting your option to trap them in with Gothitelle. Using Manectric’s Volt Switch to constantly switch and reset terrain and Intimidate is one of the ways you force your opponent to bend the knee. The only things stopping you from doing this consistently are Pokémon that can blow through your squad with offensive pressure while ignoring Manectric’s reductions, such as opposing Kang and Tapu Koko, which forces you to play exceptionally.

Additionally anytime you see Azumarill + redirection in team preview, it’s time to bust out Z-Snatch Incineroar. I actually never faced a single Azumarill at Dallas or St.Louis, so I never got to test the waters in a Bo3 scenario, but on Battle Spot and Showdown this tech worked like an absolute charm. You just have to lead Incineroar and Fini and Fake Out + Taunt on the first turn as they should double Protect (if they don’t you get a Taunt off and stop Belly Drum anyways), and then follow it up with another Taunt into Amoonguss and Z-Snatch to threaten everything on the next turn.

Edu Team (Metagross, Fini (Lele), Ttar, Amoonguss, Zapdos, Lando)

This matchup is one players should know inside and out. Typically the advantage goes to my squad as long as there are no excessive flinches or critical hits. Their best lead should be Zapdos and Lando, possibly Amoonguss and Ttar if their Tyranitar has Weakness Policy. The main objective for you should be to try and get into a position late game where you have Celesteela and Snorlax next to each other and full health. This forces them to have to deal with one while the other festers into too big of a problem for them to solve. Picking up a quick KO with Rain Dance + Z-Muddy Water puts you in a fantastic position to do just this.

Zard Y, Kartana, Aegislash, Ttar, Amoonguss, Koko

This matchup is pretty confusing to navigate, and you need to understand the matchup deeply, know what mons they have in the back, and mega evolve with Manectric at the proper time to ensure a victory. Usually, Game 1 will go pretty well as Rain Dance can cop you a sweet W and their Kartana will be afraid of Manectric, but that advantage goes out the window quickly. Be sure to let them think you have a Fire move the entire set. Manectric + Fini lead with Celesteela and Incineroar in the back gives you a good shot to win as long as you play every turn optimally.

Ashton’s Team (Koko, Mence, Aegislash, Amoonguss, Ttar, Fini)

If I had won my top 8 set then I would have faced Ashton’s in Top 4 and most likely lost. The Assault Vest Tapu Koko can do damage despite Snarl and Lightning Rod, can live a Z-Muddy Water, and can put everything into KO range for Mence, Ttar, and Aegislash with Nature’s Madness. Also, I don’t have a clean way of OHKO’ing the Ttar or hitting it for big damage without activating the Weakness Policy and then getting dunked on. I am still not sure how to approach this matchup, I would probably go with Manectric Fini Celesteela Incineroar in the first game and see how it plays out and then make adjustments from there. I would have loved to go up against Ashton in top 4 and received a brick for my placement in the process, but alas, that brick is gonna have to wait for another day.

Also one final note, if you remember my Snorlax does not have any way to even hit Aegislash, and often times the Aeglisash matchup ends with it dying to Z-Muddy Water or Incineroar, or an epic stall war with Celesteela or Snorlax, which is why playing quickly and making sure you are ahead on Your Time the whole game is crucial. Handling Aegislash involves playing smartly with Manectric, and making sure to keep alive the things that can deal with it, which includes not blowing your Z-move too early.

Rundown of Tournament

Round 1: Eric Wojcik (2-6)- Pelliper, Swampert, Koko, Ferrothorn, Tyranitar, idk (WW)

Round 2: Alvin Martinez (5-3)- Tapu Lele, Mega Lucario, Porygon2, Cradily, Incineroar, Landorus (WW).

Round 3: Diana Bros (6-2)- Darmanitan, Mega Metagross, Tapu Fini, Landorus, Zapdos, Amoonguss (WW)

Round 4: Brendon Kester (4-3)- Mega Tyranitar, Excadrill, Rotom Wash, Tapu Bulu, Hitmontop Cresselia (? not 100% about the Cress, oops) (WW)

Round 5: Andrew Crandall (5-3)- Tapu Lele, Mega Metagross, Mega Tyranitar, Amoonguss, Zapdos, Landorus-T (W, No Contest, No Contest)

This set was wild, and no, not in a good way. I was able to comfortably take game 1. Then, after a couple turns of game 2 (with me having a solid advantage, up 3-3), a double game freeze naturally decided to kick in. My first thought was to my friend Justin Carris’ experience at Dallas Regionals and immediately thought “No…not like this…I’m sorry god for thinking it was my day please have mercy on me I’ll go back to church I’ll do anything please”. And apparently, my prayers were answered because in game 3 when I was up 4-3, we had a second double game freeze, meaning I won the set. I felt sympathy for my opponent because if he played perfectly and got some flinches he still could have possibly won. I don’t particularly like winning like that, and began to feel angry at the fact that we can have a game patch that doesn’t actually patch anything. That was until I went to register for the MSS after Top Cut and they told me I needed to update to 1.2 to be able to play. How I went through a whole regional on the wrong firmware, I will never know.

Round 6: Nick Navarre (7-1)- Scrafty, Tapu Koko, Snorlax, Landorus-T, Gothitelle, Mega Metagross (LL)

At 5-0 having not dropped a game, I was locked in, confident, and felt I could beat anybody in the world. Then I played game 1 vs Nails and came back down to earth. I lost game 1 due to a mix of bad info such as believing his screens Koko had Protect, not Taunt, which completely stunts my team’s momentum, and also making sub-optimal plays. In game 2, I lost my Manectric for literally nothing as I cycled it twice to stop a Lando that revealed Swords Dance to go along with its Z move. I played from behind pretty well from then on to bring the game to a close end where I almost won but didn’t. Despite losing, it was my most challenging, and fun set of the tourney.

Round 7: Kyle Houston (6-2)- Gothitelle, Snorlax, Tapu Fini, Celesteela, Landorus, Mega Manectric (WW)

Round 8: Alex Arand (8-0)- Tapu Lele, Mega Metagross, Mega Tyranitar, Amoonguss, Zapdos, Landorus (LL)

I don’t really know what to say about this set other than the fortune given to me in the up pair was taken away in the form of a Tbolt crit on my Celesteela in Game 1 followed by a Superpower crit on my boosted Lax to lose in game 1, followed by another Superpower crit on my boosted Lax to lose in Game 2. If I had won this set I would have been the number 1 seed and faced Kyle again in top 8 while Alvin (Jibaku) would have bubbled top cut. #ResistanceIsGood

Top 8: Dylan Salvanera (Tapu Lele, Metagross, Tyranitar, Amoonguss, Zapdos, Landorus) (WLL)

I am very disappointed in my play in top cut; I would rate my play in the event overall an 8-9 with my stream play being a 6-7. In G2 I let Cele die for free, and in G3 the same with Manectric. An unfortunate Rock Slide flinch later, I had missed out on the chance to get my brick.

Conclusion

Going forward I believe the team is still very viable, and other players undoubtedly will be forced to prepare for it. As a result (among other reasons) I have decided I will no longer be using this team. If you are weak to it, an easy solution to the problem is slapping Taunt or Roar on a few mons which completely disrupts the whole flow of this team. Additionally, there are a few matchups I am not entirely confident in facing in addition of Taunt, including Kang + Koko, Aegislash, Tyranitar, and Kartana, which aren’t exactly the most uncommon Pokémon. Also, the team is exceptionally weak to fast Rock Slide and critical hits, and there is no worse feeling than sitting there praying with your destiny out of your own hands hoping the sliding rocks of doom don’t make you a sad boi. No me gusta.

Thank you to my lover Logan (@YellowboxTX) for helping with the mad ideas and sets we had, Daniel (@TTT444) for helping me optimize the spreads, and Kenya (@angelswatan) for the original team paste. Without their help, I doubt I would have cut this regional. See y’all next time, when I get my brick

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