Hello Hat Lovers!
It’s been a very exciting past few weeks to play VGC as players have been scrambling to quickly learn the new format that was announced at the World Championships just a month ago. Last week the first major tournament using the Sun Series rules took place in the outskirts of Philadelphia, it was there that I managed to win with a team that iMagikarp built and also placed top 8 with. Since it was nearly complete when Justin came to me with the team, I don’t have much insight as to how the team was put together, but I’m happy to share the sets and how they interact together from my own perspective.
Kyogre @ Choice Scarf
EVs: 100 HP / 4 Def / 140 SpA / 12 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Water Spout
– Ice Beam
Kyogre was initially hyped up to be the strongest restricted legendary in the format, but in the weeks leading up to this regional many players began gravitating towards Xerneas. While it’s true that a boosted Xerneas is the scariest threat in the format, one thing that Kyogre has going for it is the immediate pressure it exerts as soon as it hits the field at the cost of being slightly easier than Xerneas to check. Choice Scarf plays off of this, and most of the time when you use it your opponent has to react to what you have instead of vice versa. Early on, people used Scarf Kyogre as a lead to just dent things as much as possible, but this team did a better job at paving the way for Kyogre to come into the game later on and clean up anything the opponent has left. I’ll get into that later as I talk about other Pokemon on the team.
The moveset is standard for a Scarf Kyogre except for Scald. I wanted a single target Water move because I didn’t really like the idea of double spread move on a choice item. Scald was originally Hydro Pump but I found myself using it more often near the end of games where the extra damage wasn’t doing much and missing once could end up losing the game. The bulk allows Kyogre to survive a Moonblast from a boosted Timid Xerneas and after that the EVs were dumped into speed first and then special attack.
Yveltal @ Black Glasses
Ability: Dark Aura
EVs: 12 HP / 204 Atk / 4 Def / 36 SpD / 252 Spe
– Sucker Punch
– Knock Off
– Foul Play
After spending all of 2016 and the first few weeks of this format thinking Yveltal was bad, I end up having one of my most successful tournaments ever using it. Like Kyogre, Yveltal has incredible immediate pressure thanks to the combination of Black Glasses, Dark Aura, and various extra effects from its moves. This pressure makes it very problematic for many teams even if they have a Xerneas to answer it. One interesting thing about Sun Series is that with Mega Stones and Z-crystals prohibited, there are few instances where an item cannot be removed by Knock Off. That means Yveltal’s most reliable attack is going to get powered up most of the time and it can really disrupt teams that rely on pinch berries for extra bulk. Foul Play allows Yveltal to keep throwing out strong attacks when its own attack is getting dropped, which happens frequently due to Incineroar’s high usage. Sucker Punch might have been nerfed since the last time Yveltal was allowed, but it’s still decently strong and helps finishing off threats that Yveltal needs priority to beat.
The bulk allows Yveltal to take a Water Spout from Modest Kyogre. Just like Kyogre, the rest of the EVs went into speed first then its offensive stat.
Toxicroak @ Assault Vest
Ability: Dry Skin
EVs: 148 HP / 108 Atk / 4 Def / 244 SpD / 4 Spe
– Poison Jab
– Low Kick
– Fake Out
When most people first saw the team, Toxicroak was what really stood out to them and for good reason. Toxicroak hasn’t seen any action in VGC ever since it won the World Championships in 2009, which was the first year the circuit was branded as VGC. Like most niche Pokemon, Toxicroak has one of the best combinations of attributes that couldn’t be passed up for the team. Dry Skin makes it immune to opposing Kyogre’s strongest attacks and Assault Vest gives it the bulk to tank Thunder and Ice Beam very well. On top of that, it has great offensive coverage that can put dents in common Pokemon like Incineroar and Xerneas, plus lesser used Pokemon that can give Kyogre and Yveltal a difficult time like Ferrothorn and Ludicolo. Fake Out and Feint both have strong synergy with the theme of “immediate pressure” that I used to describe the restricted legendary Pokemon on the team, as they can make it harder for opponents to react to and pivot around strong Water Spout or Knock Off attacks.
Much like Kyogre, the bulk survives Moonblast from boosted Timid Xerneas and the rest was put into attack. I like this set much more than the Focus Sash Toxicroak that people had been experimenting with in this format because you get more benefit out of the passive Dry Skin recovery at the end of every turn when rain is up with this bulky set.
Stakataka @ Safety Goggles
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 252 HP / 44 Atk / 212 SpD
IVs: 0 Spe
– Gyro Ball
– Trick Room
– Rock Slide
After spending most of its debut year on the sideline until it snuck into Worlds top cut, Stakataka is finally getting a big tournament finish, and for good reason too. Its steel typing is a huge asset for dealing with Xerneas and its Gyro Ball will knock out most in one shot, even without much attack investment. My gameplan against Xerneas revolved around getting Stakataka into a position to take it out before the likes of Groudon or Kartana can fire back with a 4x supereffective attack. That may end up not being too great in the future as Xerneas teams get stronger, but it was good enough for this tournament, albeit very barely good enough.
The EVs allow it to 2HKO the commonly used Incineroar EV spread with a neutral spread Rock Slide, which was important to avoid activating the pinch berry. The rest of the EVs went into HP and special defense because taking Xerneas’ attacks as well as possible was extremely important.
Incineroar @ Figy Berry
EVs: 236 HP / 4 Atk / 4 Def / 236 SpD / 28 Spe
– Flare Blitz
– Knock Off
– Fake Out
At this point everyone knows how important Incineroar is to teams. There isn’t much reason to not run it on this one just because of how easily it can reset momentum by switching in and then U-turning out. The EV spread is pretty standard now and I don’t think I’ll want to change it up soon even after revealing it here. Getting close to maximum HP and special defense makes it tank Xerneas Moonblasts and the speed puts it at 84, which is right below minimum speed base 90s, which came into play in my tournament as it undersped and KOd a Groudon that looked positioned to sweep the rest of my team in Trick Room.
Tapu Lele @ Focus Sash
Ability: Psychic Surge
EVs: 4 Def / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
Tapu Lele was the Pokemon that I added after Justin showed me the first 5 Pokemon. It glued up the Xerneas matchup by removing Fake Out from the equation and threatening any possible disruption Pokemon like Smeargle with a Taunt. Since Groudon is commonly used to stop Stakataka or Kyogre from hitting Xerneas, I chose Psychic to be able to deal massive damage to Groudon, making its switch-in unsafe. Since it was pivotal in helping the Xerneas matchup, I used Focus Sash as Xerneas must attack it twice to knock it out, which gives Lele more time to stop Xerneas’ partners should Xerneas take a turn to use Geomancy. If it prioritizes attacking Lele instead of going for Geomancy, then I have more time to prevent a Geomancy from happening. I chose Modest over Timid because I didn’t really expect to see any Jolly Groudon in the tournament, nor did I expect to see any Xerneas with a speed between Modest and Timid max speed Lele.
Round 1 – Dawei Si LWW
In game 1 I led Yveltal Lele with Kyogre and Stakataka in the back and lost after Yveltal went down too early and I didn’t bring anything else to deal with Ferrothorn. I won game 2 without revealing my adjustment of Incineroar over Kyogre when Dawei went to a Smeargle Xerneas lead and I was able to fully execute a strategy I flowcharted. Game 3 was a little more similar to game 1, and I was able to win with my adjustment.
Round 2 -Mark Jackson WW
I went with Kyogre Lele while he led Koko Xerneas in game 1. The Xerneas was slower than the Kyogre, so I was able to keep the pressure on by forcing in Groudon and had an easy time preventing the Geomancy. Incineroar was in the back for him, which didn’t pose much of a threat. In game 2 he adjusted by going to his Trick Room mode in Gravity Cresselia + Groudon and looked to be in a good position, but Lele got a ton of damage off on Groudon as I switched Incineroar in, and Incineroar was able to underspeeed and KO Groudon with Flare Blitz. He had Ferrothorn in the back, so Stakataka and Incineroar were able to take care of everything he had left.
Round 3 – James Manuni LWW
In game 1 he led Crobat and Xerneas while I led Lele and Yveltal. I botched the first turn pretty badly as he was able to get Geomancy up and do enough damage to win with Groudon and Kartana in the back. I learned that this Xerneas was also slower than Lele and that it had Thunderbolt instead of Dazzling Gleam, so in game 2 I led Kyogre and Lele and went for Water Spout + Taunt as Groudon switched in for Crobat and Xerneas tried to Geomancy. Another Water Spout and Psychic threatened two KOs, so he was forced to backpedal and I grabbed enough free damage to win and force game 3. He led Incineroar and Xerneas this time and played around Taunt this time. I was still able to win the damage trades and cleaned up with Kyogre despite it taking an early Thunderbolt from Xerneas.
Round 4 – Martin Gajdosz LWW
I frequently lose round 3 at regionals, so I was happy to make it to 3-0 at this one. I usually recognize Martin as StarRaikou, but for some reason I didn’t this time until I actually saw him sit down at the table. He was always one of the tougher frequent opponents back when I played in NuggetBridge Lives and he had won a regional since then, so I knew I had a realistic chance of losing going into this match.
He left Incineroar and Xerneas on the bench game 1. I brought Lele, Kyogre, Stakataka, and Incineroar, and this game ended up being a slow battle for strong positioning. At some point I figured out he was physical Scarf Koko, and it KOd my Incineroar before I could deal with the Ferrothorn and lost. In game 2 we both brought the same Pokemon but I focused on getting Trick Room up and KOing everything else before taking out the Ferrothorn. In game 3, I changed it up and went with a Toxicroak and Kyogre lead. I left behind Stakataka because he hadn’t been bringing Xerneas, but he ended up leading Xerneas and Koko this time. I went for a Fake Out on Koko and a Water Spout, which knocks out Koko and leaves Xerneas with just a sliver of HP left as it goes for Geomancy. He brings in Incineroar, and I decide to just double the Xerneas with a Feint and a Water Spout expecting at least one of those to pick up the KO. He ends up leaving Kyogre unscathed by doubling Toxicroak with a Fake Out and Moonblast, so I take two more KOs with Water Spout and win as he only has Ferrothorn in back.
Round 5 – Collin Heier WW
This is only my third time being 4-0 at a regional so by this point I’m feeling really good about my play. I see that I’m playing Collin, who is someone that I had never beaten in multiple attempts, which includes a quarterfinal round of a prior regional. I ended up going on stream for this round, so you can watch how it went on Twitch.
I took a ton of damage on the first turn trying to climb out of a poor lead, but I was able to climb back into the game when I doubled one slot while Lele went for Protect in the other. From there, I let Collin have the choice of KOing Yveltal or Kyogre with his Kartana, but I think I had a clear path to winning regardless of which one he went for because of my Lele with its Sash intact in the back and a Stakataka that I could let Groudon OHKO in order to get rain back up for Kyogre. I didn’t think he would lead Groudon again so I went with Kyogre Lele for game 2. He called my Taunt on the Xerneas but I was still able to deal a ton of damage while he was trying to respond to my lead. He is able to pull off a free Geomancy at the cost of losing Kartana but luckily Psychic Terrain ends in time for me to KO Groudon with Sucker Punch which allows Stakataka to end the game with a KO on Xerneas.
Round 6 – Zach Carlson WW
I wanted to at least get any championship points from this tournament and at this point I was one win away from doing so. I see I’m playing ProfShroomish and take some time to appreciate the humor in having to beat the VGC Stats owner to get Toxicroak on the website. I knew he’d be a tough opponent though, so my attention quickly turned to figuring out how I would win and get my first 6-0 start at a regional.
I brought Lele, Yveltal, Stakataka and Toxicroak to game 1. He led Lunala Smeargle in game 1 and tried to nab a surprise KO by switching Xerneas into Smeargle and going for a Fairy Aura-boosted Moonblast into my Yveltal’s Protect. He keeps Lunala in, so I KO it with Knock Off and get to pressure the Xerneas with Lele. I’m able to Taunt the Smeargle and learn that it has Lovely Kiss as I bring in Stakataka, and take game 1 off of that strong position. In game 2 I bring the same 4 while he goes with Smeargle Xerneas instead. This time he positions well against my attempts to get Trick Room up with his own Stakataka in the back. I take out the Xerneas and Lunala, but he still gets into a threatening position with Stakataka and evasion-boosted Smeargle at the end of the game. Toxicroak, having been put to sleep earlier, barely wakes up to KO Smeargle with Feint and Lele + Yveltal is able to overwhelm the Stakataka.
Round 7 – Kyle Livinghouse WLW
Going into this round there were three 6-0 players: myself, Kyle, and iMagikarp. Justin got the pair-down, so I had to play Kyle. I got pretty lucky against him in day 2 of NAIC, so I knew he was going to be gunning for revenge. Despite having a good matchup, I went into this set pretty cautious.
I lead Lele and Toxicroak into his Ludicolo and Koko. From there, I try to get as much damage as possible and quickly learn that he doesn’t have either of his restricted Pokemon in this game. He can’t get much momentum because of this and I end up winning. In game 2 I tried to mix things up with Kyogre Toxicroak as he leads Smeargle and Koko. I try to go for Feint and Water Spout, but that doesn’t go too well and he gets a ton of damage off early then sweeps with Ludicolo and Xerneas. I go back to Lele and Toxicroak for game 3 into his Koko and Xerneas. I double the Koko slot as he goes for Geomancy and Volt Switches into Ludicolo. I take another quick KO and am able to stop Xerneas with Stakataka in the back.
Round 8 – Justin Crubaugh LL
Justin lost the pair-down to Collin in round 7, and I was guaranteed top cut at 7-0, so I just conceded this match without playing it so he would make top cut too. We ended up not playing in top cut either, so I never had to experience the mirror, but from what I can tell it ends up being pretty gross to play. I ended up being the top seed after Swiss, so this match ended up not mattering as far as my own standing was concerned.
Top 8 vs Kyle Livinghouse WLW
My first top cut match was a rematch against Kyle. This was also on stream so I won’t go into much detail, but there are a few interesting things I want to point out. The end of game 1 came down to calling the Wide Guard or Follow Me correctly. I went for Water Spout because I didn’t know for sure if he had Wide Guard, and if he did then it’s likely that he believed that I knew he had it based on a play I made in our first match. I think he played very well despite the tough matchup, but luckily doubling the Xerneas turn 1 of game 3 was enough to win after doing the opposite in our first game 3.
Top 4 vs Angel Miranda WW
Angel was one of the most dominant and influential players in North America when I was new to competing in VGC, so getting to play him in top cut of a regional was pretty cool. He had beaten Crubaugh in top 8, which obviously did not bode well for me since I had the same team. However, the gameplan I had prepped prior to top cut was not utilized in that match, so I felt like I still had a good chance to win if he went with the same leads he used to win in top 8. I managed to get Stakataka in a position to set up Trick Room in both games, and thankfully Incineroar woke up in time to KO Groudon in game 1.
Finals vs Andrew Burley WLW
Finals was a pretty wild ride. Yveltal had free reign in game 1 and I won that pretty quickly. Andrew was able to slow that down big time with Incineroar and Fini, and I lost Kyogre early. This game was pretty drawn out, but Andrew was about to stay ahead with the advantage in firepower from his restricteds. In game 3 I tried to keep Kyogre as safe as possible until it could come in and sweep, but Andrew again did a good job at keeping the game going at his pace and I fell behind once again. I’m sure everyone has seen the ending, and I’m fine admitting that I was completely bailed out by Thunder missing multiple times. I think in games against bulkier teams like Andrew’s where the games have a lot more turns, it’s important to look for turns where a strong prediction can swing the game in your favor without much risk, and I didn’t really do that in finals.
Despite getting lucky at the end of finals, I’m still proud that I was able to have such a strong tournament up until that point. The team was fantastic and I’m glad that myself and iMagikarp were both able to do so well with it and nearly go 14-0 in Swiss against other teams up until the final round. I’m not really the type of player that can do well with the same team over the course of multiple tournaments so I might not be as committed to using Yveltal as much as its 2016 players were, but this team has definitely changed my mind on how viable I think it is. I’ll be playing a lot more of Sun Series, so hopefully I’ll have more teams to write about this fall!
Until next time!
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