Song and Dance: Top 16 Melbourne Challenge Report

G’day hat lovers!

I recently participated in an online grassroots tournament hosted by Sam Pandelis, with a $1500 cash prize for the winner to go to the Melbourne International. I managed to top cut, and while there was no prize for my finish, I still felt it was worth writing about.

This team of course, was taken from San Jose regional runner up Enosh, who I owe a big thank you for helping me and letting me use his team. I ended up changing a lot of details he had from San Jose, but the team remained fundamentally the same, and much of the changes I made were simply some personal preferences. Yejiang (@Yejiang_CHN) also topped the BattleSpot ladder with a similar structure, and I took some inspiration from watching some of his replays as well.

In other words: I am a team thief but I combined different ideas from different people to make it look a little less obvious that I am a team thief. I am a big fan of the team because I think its suits my playstyle well, and after playing 2016, I am so so so glad to again be able to use a team that has no attacks with imperfect accuracy (well, I had Guillotine, but that move is used far differently from the others)

Porygon2 @ Eviolite
Ability: Download
Level: 50
Shiny: Yes
EVs: 236 HP / 156 Def / 116 SDef
Calm Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Ice Beam
– Tri Attack
– Trick Room
– Recover

In my opinion the best and most consistent Pokemon in the format. Though I think Oranguru is a great Pokemon, Porygon2 is overall more reliable because of its superior bulk, power, and the fact that it can still function well outside of Trick Room and isn’t a sitting duck. I often bring Porygon2 without Marowak or Araquanid because it still serves as a good counter to common Pokemon like Garchomp, and in general just has so few bad match ups.

For a while I thought that running no special attack investment on P2 was inefficient because it already has such absurd defenses, however, there were key attacks that I needed it to survive in order to support the team better. I miss out on being able to OHKO Garchomp without a download boost, but overall, this EV spread has been fantastic. This P2 is able to survive Z-Hydro Pump from Modest Golduck + Scald from Timid Pelipper, and while this calc isn’t guaranteed if Pelipper is Modest, I also had Kartana to pressure this rain lead. P2 can also survive common double targets like Garchomp’s Tectonic Rage + Tapu Koko’s Thunderbolt, or Tectonic Rage + Kartana’s Sacred Sword. Though Tapu Bulu’s usage has plummeted, P2 can also survive its Z-Wood Hammer. Some key details about this spread are that the special defense hits an 11n stat, which gives an extra point from the nature boost, it isn’t max HP to reduce hail and sandstorm damage, and I also found that jumping from 148 to 156 EVs in defense is where the calcs start to show some significant difference. Even with Trick Room, I prefer having Calm nature as opposed to Sassy. As previously mentioned, P2 is strong even when I don’t use Trick Room, and I like being able to Recover before Pokemon like Muk, Marowak, and Adamant Araquanid can attack me.

While Enosh had Toxic at San Jose, he mentioned that the move was fairly useless during the tournament, which would make sense given the team had Tapu Fini. I used Thunderbolt for a while and thought it was a great option, given that this team lacks ways to hit Gyarados for good damage. However, leading up to the tournament, I tested some alternatives. I tried Return but hated it in part because it required me to use a negative speed nature, and I thought that it was incredibly weak without an attack boost. Not to mention it was also weak to Intimidate. Tri Attack was decent because it has decent power even without a boost, and also, the 20% hax chance came in handy many times in practice and during the Melbourne Challenge.

(completely irrelevant tangent: I hatched a shiny Porygon in game and really like its coloration, so I have some sentimental attachment to this Pokemon. Thank goodness for bottle caps)

Kartana @ Assault Vest
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 92 HP / 164 SDef / 252 Spd
Jolly Nature
– Leaf Blade
– Smart Strike
– Sacred Sword
– Guillotine

Assault Vest Kartana defies everything I thought I knew about VGC. I’ve never been a fan of “bad stuffs” Pokemon that rely on power and speed at the expense of bulk and being weak in Trick Room, but Kartana is an exception, and somehow, a Pokemon with base 31 special defense can make Assault Vest work, and it doesn’t offer utility with Intimidate or Fake Out like other common Assault Vest users in the past. Max speed with no attack investment (yet it does nothing but attack) just isn’t a build that we’ve seen before, and this stigma has turned me away from using Kartana for a while even though it really is a great Pokemon.

I’d be lying if I said running no attack investment hasn’t been without its drawbacks. This Kartana is unable to reliably OHKO Pokemon like Tapu Fini or bulkier Tapu Lele, however, Kartana’s role on the team was to cover specific match ups, mostly versus Fairies and Water types, and while running more attack investment would definitely be helpful, I couldn’t do so at the expense of making its paper-thin special bulk a massive hindrance. Kartana usually didn’t need much more than a little bit of chip damage to KO the things that it needs to, and running special defense EVs gave a greater return than attack investment. Having max attack as opposed to zero increases Kartana’s attack by 16%, whereas 164 SDef with Assault Vest increases it by 112%. Just for reference, Kartana’s special defense stat with 164 EVs and Assault Vest is the equivalent of a base 88 special defense stat with no investment. That might paint a better picture of how much more efficient investing in special bulk is, especially when you consider Kartana already has an obscenely high attack stat to begin with.

This EV spread has been great so far and Kartana performed well in the tournament. The spread allows Kartana to surive Tectonic Rage and Fire Fang from Jolly Garchomp as well as survive two Blizzards from Timid Ninetales, even when taking into account the hail damage in between turns. This allows Kartana to at worst trade KOes versus Ninetales, which makes me less reliant on winning that speed tie in order to handle Ninetales. I did also have Scarf Tapu Lele to further improve that match up. As an added benefit, this Kartana can also survive Z-Hydro Pump from Modest Golduck, which along with Porygon2, gave me a strong match up versus rain. Kartana can also survive two Ice Beams from +1 uninvested Porygon2.

Now, onto explaining why I used Guillotine. Marowak’s declining usage and with this team already having Krookodile, Araquanid, my own Marowak (and for a while, Tapu Fini) to handle that match up negated Night Slash’s usefulness. Kartana has a barren move pool so there wasn’t much to pick from, but Guillotine did have its uses. For one, it punished defensive and more drawn-out plays from Pokemon like Curse Muk or Snorlax, and given that those Pokemon generally aren’t that threatening to Kartana, I would have multiple chances to use Guillotine. It also gave Kartana an option to beat Arcanine when it switches in for Tapu Fini, and I’ve had many games where this situation would happen at least twice, giving me a 51% chance of beating a Pokemon that Kartana usually has no business beating. It also provided a desperation Hail Mary that have won me a couple games in practice. For obvious reasons, I use this move sparingly, but given the nature of when I do use it, it still provides a benefit even when it hits less than 30% of the time. I only hit one Guillotine in the tournament and it was in a game that was basically already a loss, but I still don’t regret using it. Night Slash would have been equally useless.

Krookodile @ Groundium Z
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 52 Def / 4 SDef / 196 Spd
Jolly Nature
– Earthquake
– Crunch
– Taunt
– Protect

For whatever reason, I’ve found Garchomp to be really mediocre in practice and greatly prefer Krookodile as a Ground type. I dislike Garchomp’s lack of a reliable STAB move given Tapu Fini’s popularity, and Krookodile has a far more useful ability. Garchomp does have extra stats, but it just hasn’t been enough of a benefit for me personally. Not to mention having Krookodile gives me a better match up versus Garchomp + Arcanine than running my own Garchomp and Arcanine.

This spread speed creeps Timid Xurkitree and the defense investment gives Krookodile a decent chance to survive -1 Leaf Blade from Kartana. Enosh had more bulk and less attack than this, but I found myself needing all the attack I can get in order to OHKO Muk with Tectonic Rage even if Krookodile is at -1. I would honestly also just use 252 Atk / 4 SDef / 252 Spd from now on (the extra 4 in SDef instead of HP so you survive Dazzling Gleam from Life Orb Tapu Koko) because I don’t want to play around with being slower than Arcanine, as the only variants of Arcanine that I’ve seen that run max speed are those that have Choice Band. Almost every other Arcanine I’ve faced has been slower.

Taunt is a really filler move, but there wasn’t much else that would really be useful. I rely less on Taunt than I would with other past Taunters like Thundurus, because Krookodile is frail and doesn’t want to stop set up from Pokemon like Gyarados, Tapu Fini, Porygon2 at the expense of taking a lot of damage.

Marowak-Alola @ Thick Club
Ability: Lightning Rod
Level: 50
EVs: 236 HP / 92 Atk / 4 Def / 148 SDef / 28 Spd
Adamant Nature
– Flare Blitz
– Shadow Bone
– Perish Song
– Protect

Marowak’s popularity has faded dramatically as people now favor Arcanine as their Fire type, and while I can’t speak for Arcanine’s merit because I haven’t used that Pokemon very much, I think people are greatly underestimating Marowak, and I think this mostly stems from people using it incorrectly. The standard set for Marowak still uses max attack and Bonemerang, which I just don’t think is the way to be going about things. Just like with Kartana, investing that much in Marowak’s attack stat gives diminishing returns, and Bonemerang’s usefulness is limited only to KOing Electric type through Focus Sash and hitting Muk for more damage, and while I can’t deny those benefits, they aren’t enough to justify a move slot in my opinion.

The EV spread allows Marowak to survive Gyarados’ Waterfall and Gengar’s Shadow Ball. These are just the benchmarks that I was comfortable with, but you could even up the special bulk to surviving Muddy Water from Specs Tapu Fini and in general using Careful nature, because at a certain point, using Careful becomes more efficient, as Marowak has the same base attack and special defense. Marowak doesn’t need much attack investment to deal good damage, similar to how Careful Mawile became the norm in 2014. You’d be pretty boned if Marowak was KOed by special attacks that it should be surviving. I used Brave Marowak on my San Jose team and used that for a while on this team as well, but I switched to Adamant because I hated getting outsped by random Adamant Araquanid. The 28 speed EVs are there to speed creep other Marowak. To be honest though, I didn’t care much about outspeeding other Marowak as much as I cared about avoiding speed ties. Running 36 and 44 puts me at potential speed ties with Muk, and running less than 28 didn’t give me great confidence that I could out speed other Marowak, even with the option to use Trick Room. I’ve still faced speed ties against Marowak with 28 speed, though I simply try to avoid this mirror as much as possible.

Perish Song was definitely the crux of this set, and is Marowak’s trump card that I feel still makes it a top tier Pokemon. I toyed around with it very early in the season but didn’t see its value until I saw Yejiang do well with it on BattleSpot. I hadn’t realised that Baton Pass transferred the Perish Song counter, but when I started using Perish Song, it offered far more than just beating Eevee teams. The biggest benefit to Perish Song is how much easier it allows you to handle Celesteela. Not only can you lock down Celesteela’s stalling ways in the end game, but having the option to just outright beat it with Perish Song later on also allows you to ignore Celesteela and instead focus on its partner, which makes that slot easier to handle as well. Perish Song also forces out Pokemon that like to set up, and in general once you’ve picked up two KOes, you can have a guaranteed win condition. This benefit is further compounded by the fact that Marowak is strong enough to KO Pokemon on its own. Its not easy to immediately see the benefits of Perish Song simply because it’s a move that plays so differently from usual strategies, but it’s honestly an amazing move, and is something I encourage everyone who’s soured on Marowak to try.

Tapu Lele @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Psychic Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 92 HP / 4 Def / 236 SAtk / 4 SDef / 172 Spd
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Psychic
– Moonblast
– Dazzling Gleam
– Hidden Power [Fire]

Tapu Lele was a late addition to the team, replacing what was probably Enosh’s signature Pokemon on his San Jose team in Tapu Fini. I still think Tapu Fini is an overall solid Pokemon, but not some godsend like its surging popularity might suggest, and on this team, I didn’t find it to really fix too many match ups and I just wasn’t bringing it very often. The most problematic match up I had was definitely Pheromosa, as it threatens an OHKO on three of my Pokemon, one of which being Porygon2, and with no Fake Out or redirection on this team, I had a very hard time establishing speed control against it. In general, I also struggled versus fast and offensive Pokemon if I lead poorly against them.

Though I think Choice Scarf has been incredibly overrated in previous years, Choice Scarf Tapu Lele is an exception. For one, paralysis has been nerfed to near extinction in this format, and two, one problem fast Pokemon had was dealing with priority, which is something Tapu Lele blocks with its ability. I usually hate the approach of overextending to beat fast Pokemon by using something that’s even faster, as its not a good way to solve that problem in my opinion, but it’s something that worked for me in this specific instance. As previously mentioned, Tapu Lele has a lot going for it than other generic Scarf Pokemon had, and it was an easy, catch-all counter that I decided on, just for specific match ups.

I don’t know if this spread is the best way to build Tapu Lele as it’s something I built days leading up to the Melbourne Challenge, but it wasn’t a hindrance, which is all I can realistically expect given that I decided on using it so late. 172 outspeeds neutral speed natured Pheromosa, as I didn’t feel it was worth it to use no bulk to out speed the somewhat rare positive-natured Pheromosa. I speed crept by one point just so I don’t speed tie stuff like Scarf Vanilluxe. I used HP Fire over Thunderbolt just to give me a secondary option to deal with Kartana, something I felt was more threatening than Celesteela. Sadly two of the three Kartana that I lauched HP Fire into during the tournament had Focus Sash and not Assault Vest, though it’s not all bad, as one of them lost a speed tie against my Kartana on the same turn, and the other chose not to Smart Strike my Tapu Lele.

Araquanid @ Sitrus Berry
Ability: Water Bubble
Level: 50
EVs: 244 HP / 252 Atk / 12 Def
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Liquidation
– Lunge
– Wide Guard
– Protect

The spread is basically just 252/252/4, but the HP stat is reduced slightly to hit an even stat in order for Sitrus Berry to activate should Araquanid get hit with Nature’s Madness. I wasn’t too keen on Z-Stockpile when I used it, as I never found myself getting to use it very often and missed having Wide Guard in specific match ups. Wide Guard has been great, as it allows me to lock down end-games with Pokemon that are either locked into a spread move (like Tapu Fini) or Pokemon that rely on spread moves to do damage (like Garchomp). I’ve also had many games where I’ve been able to Wide Guard + Perish Song in a 2v2 situation because a lot of Pokemon are unable to do damage versus Wide Guard and Lightning Rod. For example, the standard Tapu Koko set literally can’t damage me in this situation, Garchomp, if its Z-move has already been blown, can only use Poison Jab and Fire Fang, which do piddly damage to Araquanid and Marowak, and because Marowak and Araquanid are so slow, Perish Song mechanics usually allow me to win in this situation. I got the idea to use Sitrus Berry from Yejiang as the item was available on the team and gave Araquanid good longevity. Waterium-Z also wouldn’t be bad in theory, but I never really tested it and just really liked what Sitrus Berry offered.

For a while I used Sassy just as Enosh did at San Jose, but found Araquanid’s damage output lacking for Trick Room. It’s a change that I haven’t regretted once so far.

The moveset is standard, except maybe for Lunge over Leech Life. Don’t use Leech Life, it’s a dreadful option on Araquanid in my opinion. I’ve always felt that recovery attacks are incredibly overrated to begin with, and especially on Araquanid, where there are few situations where you aren’t going to just be using Liquidation anyway. The healing is negligible and the -1 attack you get from Lunge is far more useful, as it helps greatly versus Pokemon like Tapu Bulu, Kartana, and against opposing Araquanid (and every other physical attacker too, obviously).

QR code for the team:

Melbourne Challenge

Sadly I don’t remember a lot of these games very well, and I’m dumb and didn’t save replays. The only set that I can really comment on in depth is my top 25 game versus Eshi, as that set was streamed. Big, big thank you to Markus as well as Feis for doing a stream + commentary for this tournament, as well as the viewers who suggested that our matchup be streamed!

Round 1 vs Mattie (WW):

I don’t remember anything about this set, other than we had really similar teams. I had a fairly decent idea in how to win this match up because I understood what his team was weak to and how he might try to play around said weaknesses.

Round 2 vs PlatypusVGC (LL):
East Sea

In game 1, my opponent tried to Volt Switch and Earthquake, but I switched to Marowak, so he ended up KOing his own Tapu Koko. I KOed Garchomp on the same turn with Porygon2. Even despite this, I choked this game away and lost game 2 because his Celesteela was a problem, as I mistakenly didn’t bring Marowak. An awfully played set on my end.

Round 3 vs squirrelboy1225 (WLW):

Round 4 vs ChosenFuture (WW):
East Sea

Round 5 vs EshiVGC (LL):

Note to self: Don’t go with a Trick Room mode if your opponent has Curse Snorlax. I burned it in game 1 but it wasn’t enough and I lost this set fairly cleanly.

Round 6 vs Lord Gioppino (LWW):

I think game 1 of this set was the only time I hit Guillotine in this tournament, but I was already so far behind that it didn’t matter. Game 2 I got a crucial Tri Attack freeze on Muk, and while it eventually thawed, it bought be enough turns to win this game (my opponent may have been a tad bit salty, even though there were plenty of other things in this set that were in his control). Sadly I don’t remember anything about game 3 other than I won.

Round 7 vs Lorcrux (WLW):

Round 8 vs Leo (WW):
Alola Form

I finished swiss with a 6-2 record. I didn’t have the best resistance but thankfully this tournament had an all x-2 cut. In the first round of cut, I faced one of my losses in swiss.

Top 25 vs EshiVGC (LWW):

You can watch the set with commentary from Markus and Feis.

In game 1 I made the mistake of going with a Trick Room mode, as I remember doing this in both games of our swiss set and that didn’t go very well. Snorlax proved to be a huge issue, especially considering she ran Recycle on hers. After losing game 1, I decided I wanted to bring Tapu Lele in order to have a second semi-decent answer to Arcanine and Tapu Fini, which frees up Krookodile and Kartana to be able to handle Snorlax better.

I’ve played the game 2 lead countless times before. Usually in that situation I’ve found that people tend to be more protective of Arcanine over Tapu Fini, so I decided to double target Fini for a KO. After that, I tried to play as a safe as possible to maintain my early lead. Game 3 was much of the same, except this time she brought Celesteela. I decided to focus down on it because I didn’t bring Marowak, and because it was Taunted and Garchomp was Intimidated, I had a very safe play in just continuing to double into Celesteela.

Top 16 vs Aaron “Hey guys Aaron ‘Cybertron’ Zheng here” Zheng (LL):
Alola Form

I got eliminated by a YouTuber. 😦

I’m not sure how much more of this team I’ll use as there are other ideas that I want to try, but this team has been incredibly fun to use over the past month. Big shoutout to Enosh once again for this team, and to Sam for stepping up and hosting the Melbourne Challenge.

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