51君の物語:僕達の旅とエピログ

October 29th, 2016 | Posted by Level 51 in Team Reports

The Prologue

Hey there. In case you happen not to know me, I’m Yang Ze, a Pokémon player from Singapore. Sometimes people in real life actually call me Level 51. I won a tournament which was fairly important, and as a result of this I can now call myself the Singapore National Champion. The annoying part about this moniker is that I invariably have to explain that technically a National Championship is bigger than a Regional Championship because we’re using terms coined in and for America, so I kind of beat players from around the region as well. Thankfully, this barely ever comes up in daily conversation, which also happens to be one of the reasons not many people call me Level 51 in real life.

Regardless of terminology used, I won a tournament, and upon asking around a bit, people appear to be interested in the team that I used in order to win this tournament, so I decided that I’d do a short write-up about it. Note that I’m writing this introduction before the actual content of the team report, so I actually do fully intend to make this report a short one, but whether this intention comes to fruition or not is probably a separate matter altogether. Now that I’ve wasted two paragraphs talking about absolutely nothing (which unfortunately does not bode well for this report’s length), I suppose it would be appropriate to start talking about the team.

Before I came up with this team I was experimenting primarily with Blu-Ray, which is what literally everyone should be calling RayOgre in a perfect world, running some funky sets like Substitute Kyogre with AV Rayquaza and Aqua Tail Kangaskhan; that they worked is a testament to the ridiculous number of Groudon / Xerneas teams I faced on the Pokémon Showdown ladder. I also played around a little with a Trick Room Mewtwo team I’d had since March, but eventually decided that no matter how many best-of-one gimmicks I shoved into a team, there was no way it would work in best-of-three, at least not as well as I would want it to. While still bearing these two teams in mind, I decided to give Groudon / Xerneas — the restricted duo which brought me to Top 8 at the first Regionals of the year — another shot.

There are a lot of things that I would like to say to make it seem like I carefully analysed the metagame and the team compositions of other players from the region during the process of building my team. To be completely honest, however, all I did was tell my good friend Luke Curtale (Dawg) that I wanted to run a Groudon / Xerneas team and he started flinging random Pokémon at me. Some of them stuck, which is why my team had the six Pokémon it ended up with.

As it turns out, this team composition was arguably a correct choice for the state of the local metagame at the time. After going through a few revisions — which you can see in this screenshot of my VGC 2016 teams from that point in time — I finally decided on this team and went into Nationals with it. Of course, one shouldn’t get the idea that I just made my way to a Nationals win off the back of little to no effort; once I had the team decided, I played over 100 ladder games in the span of the only two nights I had free that weren’t spent preparing for my exams (which started literally the day after Nationals), and put a lot of thought into game-plans while theorycrafting a bunch of matchups as well as I possibly could in the tight window of time I had remaining.

Now that my introduction has somehow managed to drag on for five paragraphs, I suppose it’s time to introduce the team. This team was nicknamed in retrospect, since the Pokémon I used on the day itself were sent to me by my good friend Nihal Noor and were therefore not nickname-able.

The Journey

Clefairy @ Eviolite *** Grand Chariot
Ability: Friend Guard
Level: 50
EVs: 244 HP / 100 Def / 164 SpD
Sassy Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Follow Me
– After You
– Helping Hand
– Protect

  • 0 Speed IVs and a negative nature for better After You usage under opposing Trick Room
  • +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 244 HP / 164+ SpD Eviolite Clefairy: 151-178 (85.7 – 101.1%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO
  • 252 Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Double-Edge vs. 244 HP / 100 Def Eviolite Clefairy: 151-178 (85.7 – 101.1%) — 1.6% chance to OHKO
  • 252+ Atk Primal Groudon Fire Punch vs. 244 HP / 100 Def Eviolite Clefairy in Harsh Sun: 135-159 (76.7 – 90.3%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • 0- Atk Clefairy Struggle vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Xerneas: 8-10 (3.9 – 4.9%) — possibly the worst move ever

I guess I’ll start off this report with the two most interesting Pokémon on the team, Clefairy and Ditto. Clefairy was one of the original Pokémon Dawg flung at me, and I really enjoyed the presence of Friend Guard on my team, so it quickly stuck. Clefairy / Xerneas / Kangaskhan was a ridiculously powerful core in the June metagame, since apparently no one knew how to use Bronzong at that point in time. Often, against unprepared teams I straight up went for a Xerneas / Clefairy lead, getting the Geomancy off on turn 1 and then cycling between Clefairy and Kangaskhan for Follow Me / Fake Out disruption while Protecting Xerneas on the switch to keep it healthy and (more importantly) un-paralysed. In that sense, Clefairy’s role was fairly one-dimensional; next to Groudon or Salamence, Clefairy’s redirection didn’t really help all that much, since the two tend to get hit by Precipice Blades or Hyper Voices or Dazzling Gleams whether Clefairy uses Follow Me or not. Rather, it was the presence of Friend Guard on the field that contributed most notably to the team, increasing the team’s effective bulk in order to manipulate damage calculations to my advantage.

Allow me to explain shortly why Clefairy actually works in this format. Generally, Clefairy is a pretty poor choice on most teams as it leaves you with one source of damage output on the field alongside one piece of Taunt bait. However, in the VGC 2016 format, we had access to ridiculous Pokémon such as boosted Xerneas, which were basically able to delete entire teams on their own with little offensive support. As such, the focus of teams shifted from damaging opponents through carefully balanced offensive synergy to PROTECT THE DEER. And that is what Clefairy does best, whether by reducing Precipice Blades damage courtesy of Friend Guard or by simply redirecting attacks wholesale. If you’re putting all your eggs in one basket, you’d best have a strong basket.

It should be noted that while at Nationals itself, I ran Helping Hand on Clefairy, Heal Pulse would probably have been a far superior option, especially in the first game of my Semifinals match where it could have saved me a lot of trouble. Getting off some Helping Hand Double-Edges into Kyogre was pretty sick in practice, though, so I suppose this is more a matter of what events unfold on a particular day rather than one move being objectively superior to another.

Ditto @ Red Card *** wild card
Ability: Imposter
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 172 Def / 84 SpD
Relaxed Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Transform

  • 0 Speed IVs to reverse speed creep opposing Ditto, ensuring that in a head-to-head scenario their Transform activates first, causing them to Transform into my Ditto and leaving them with only 5 PP and incapable of Transforming further.
  • IVs actually give Hidden Power Psychic or something dumb like that, perhaps HP Ice or Water would be more optimal?
  • 252+ Atk Primal Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 252 HP / 172+ Def Ditto: 130-154 (83.8 – 99.3%) — guaranteed 2HKO: in case Ditto comes in opposite an empty slot and fails to activate Imposter, this gives me a chance to manually Transform and win the speed tie the following turn.

Ditto is, I suppose, the most interesting member of this team, because it’s not every day that you see this pink blob anywhere near competitive battling. Rather ironically, the team took shape fairly quickly around the shapeshifter, with its presence affecting a lot of my team choices. Essentially, the original idea of Ditto was to provide a very solid way to eject opposing (boosted) Xerneas from battle, severely hampering their effectiveness (an unboosted Xerneas is about as strong as a Life Orb Clefable, I’d imagine), especially against my Groudon and my own Xerneas. To this end, in game 1 of a set against an opponent with Xerneas, I’d often bring a lead which would allow the opponent to get a fairly free Geomancy and start spamming Dazzling Gleams, such as Groudon / Salamence, only to switch in my Ditto on Turn 2 to pick up the Xerneas’ boosts and force it out at the same time (as long as Dazzling Gleam didn’t score a critical hit). This was about as flowchart-y as my team got: Dawg and I spent a whole five minutes discussing my approach to a Smeargle / Kangaskhan lead, which is more than I spent thinking about any other part of the team, I suspect.

On the other hand, Ditto’s role on the team arguably developed and became much deeper than merely a catch-all (though rather shaky) solution to opposing Xerneas. In game 2 of the finals, for example, Ditto let me match the opposing Salamence’s Tailwind, giving me a chance to take the game before I rather unfortunately completely blew it by choking so hard you’d need a hydraulic press to successfully perform the Heimlich maneuver on me. A happier ending can perhaps be found in Round 6 (or maybe it was Round 5?), against Actually Good Player and Worlds Top Sixteen Finisher Edward Cheung, as Ditto and Imposter mechanics basically saved the day (watch: F5MW-WWWW-WW54-49YB). So while my most common use of Ditto was indeed to take opposing Xerneas out of the equation, it’d be wrong to reduce its role to merely that.

Groudon-Primal @ Red Orb *** Dreadnought
Ability: Desolate Land
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Fire Punch
– Precipice Blades
– Eruption
– Protect

  • Maximises Attack and Speed
  • No really, that’s it.

Groudon is, generally speaking, a rather important member of any GX team. Groudon was one of the defining members of my team in the sense that its build greatly influenced the direction the rest of my team went in. Although I originally used a Brave Groudon in order to avoid hampering the power that a Sun-boosted Eruption brought, I found that I could not afford the extra team slot required by the Cresselia I brought along for Trick Room, especially as I didn’t bring Cresselia to a lot of my battles and I couldn’t really afford the double momentum sink in both Cresselia and Clefairy. Regardless, a Jolly Groudon worked out just fine in that even at 90% of its original power, Eruption still did a lot; it was also nice to get a nice chunk of spread damage into bulky Xerneas before it went for a Geomancy. This was especially relevant as pretty much every Xerneas I ran into that day was bulky.

In terms of the specific moveset and EV choices, well — uh — there aren’t any, actually. This is about as basic and un-specialised as any fast Groudon spread can get, and it worked well, I guess. I wanted a fast Groudon, so that limited the range of Speed EVs I could use to lie in the interval [252, 252]. Then, I figured that since I only had 256 EVs left to spend I probably wouldn’t be able to EV to survive many relevant things anyway, so I just decided to dump everything left into Attack. Jolly was chosen over Naive or Hasty because I think Groudon’s natural bulk is really impressive even without conscious additional investment, and it wasn’t something I wanted to hinder, while Eruption still does loads of damage even off a hindering nature.

Xerneas @ Power Herb *** Double Helix
Ability: Fairy Aura
Level: 50
EVs: 244 HP / 4 Def / 84 SpA / 4 SpD / 172 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Geomancy
– Moonblast
– Dazzling Gleam
– Protect

  • With Friend Guard:
    • 252+ Atk Primal Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 244 HP / 4 Def Xerneas: 83-99 (35.7 – 42.6%) — guaranteed 3HKO
    • 252+ Atk Primal Groudon Fire Punch vs. 244 HP / 4 Def Xerneas in Harsh Sun: 106-124 (45.6 – 53.4%) — 39.5% chance to 2HKO
  • Without Friend Guard:
    • 252+ Atk Primal Groudon Fire Punch vs. 244 HP / 4 Def Xerneas in Harsh Sun: 141-166 (60.7 – 71.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO
    • 252+ Atk Primal Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 244 HP / 4 Def Xerneas: 111-132 (47.8 – 56.8%) — 88.3% chance to 2HKO
  • Survives one Precipice Blades without Friend Guard + one with Friend Guard

Xerneas was, ultimately, my win condition in many games, and as such I had to put a bit more care and thought into its spread than that of other team members (see: Kangaskhan). While the moveset is fairly standard, the big decision came in the choice between fast and bulky Xerneas. Thanks in part to Ditto’s presence on the team, I eventually opted for a bulkier Xerneas as the need to beat opposing Xerneas 1-on-1 didn’t seem quite as urgent. In many cases, once my opponents found out about Ditto’s function, they were often quite cautious about setting up Xerneas anyway, meaning my own Xerneas had a much easier time setting up and getting some good damage into opposing teams before it even had a chance to lose to a faster Xerneas.

That’s not to say I ran into many faster Xerneas, anyway—pretty much every Xerneas I played on the day itself was bulky, so I didn’t really have much trouble trying to not lose to fast Xerneas. As far as bulky Xerneas go, mine was one of the faster ones in the field; at 172 Speed, Xerneas outruns max Speed (non-scarf) Smeargle by two points to account for speed creep.

Kangaskhan @ Kangaskhanite *** over the top
Ability: Scrappy
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 244 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Fake Out
– Return
– Sucker Punch
– Power-Up Punch

  • It’s a Kangaskhan.

I’m actually not sure what there is to say about this Kangaskhan spread. It’s Kangaskhan. It’s Fake Out. It’s good. The only thing noteworthy I guess is that I chose to use Power-Up Punch + Return instead of Low Kick + Double-Edge, since I really valued the offensive momentum that a simple Power-Up Punch could bring if used correctly, giving me an additional potential win condition over a mere additional ~30% chip damage on select Pokémon. Since I had members like Ditto and Clefairy, I wasn’t too worried about opposing Kangaskhan anyway, so I didn’t really see the point in Low Kick. Furthermore, I wanted to write a furthermore but there really isn’t one. Let’s move on.

Salamence @ Salamencite *** FREEDOM DiVE↓
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 44 Atk / 212 SpA / 252 Spe
Naive Nature
– Double-Edge
– Hyper Voice
– Tailwind
– Protect

  • 44 Atk Aerilate Mega Salamence Double-Edge vs. 252 HP / 252+ Def Amoonguss: 224-266 (101.3 – 120.3%) — guaranteed OHKO
  • 44 Atk Aerilate Mega Salamence Helping Hand Double-Edge vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Primal Kyogre: 205-243 (99 – 117.3%) — 93.8% chance to OHKO

In terms of role, Salamence is honestly the hardest Pokémon to describe on this team. That’s because it really plays so many roles, and is really effective at each one. Its “main” role, I suppose, is to put damage into opposing Groudon so that my own Groudon and Xerneas have an easier time clearing up; apart from that, however, it also provides Tailwind support, which is really amazing in this format as with so much offensive presence on the field at any one time, games can be won or lost off those three turns of doubled speed if the opponent has no answers. Tailwind was also a really effective way to neuter the effectiveness of opposing Xerneas, especially bulky ones which would be outrun by Groudon under Tailwind and were thus no longer safe from the 60% chunks it dealt with Fire Punch.

That being said, however, in teambuilding Salamence was just a dump pick because I had this slot here and I figured the best addition to the team was just to mimic every single other successful GX team out there. It worked, so I can’t complain, though I do wish I had some better reasoning to write here. I suppose a decent way to explain this is that Salamence provides as good an offensive presence as you can feasibly get without resorting to a restricted pick, so I basically brought it every game I didn’t bring Kangaskhan.

After Nationals

So there’s the team, and that was Nationals! It’s pretty boring, apart from the Ditto and the Clefairy, but since I was (probably) playing to win (and especially since I won) I can’t really complain about the team being boring. So what happened after I pulled off a rather improbable win?

Well, after Nationals I had to focus on my exams, and I’m pleased to report that I passed all five of my subjects (wow! what a feat!) and escaped the fate of remedial classes, in the process figuring out how to refine my knowledge acquisition process. However, you’re not here to learn about how I learnt about learning to learn, so let’s move on to the by far more exciting and more applicable to real-life subject of Worlds preparation!

Going into Worlds I was hell-bent on doing well, a mindset which was probably not entirely healthy in retrospect. I put such effort into building, theorycrafting and testing teams in my spare time that I soon encountered every player’s greatest fear — burnout. After a few days of intense theorymoning and practice, I decided that all my teams were awful and decided to fall back on Big B; while I’m not sure about the verity of this statement, I know that not bringing my original (RayDon) team to Worlds could probably have been classified as a mistake. The bigger mistakes, of course, were not buying more plushies at Worlds as well as asking for less sugar in my green tea latte from the Mission Street Pantry. What was I thinking?!

Eventually, though, I brought a team of Rayquaza / Xerneas / Arcanine / Smeargle / Scrafty / Amoonguss to Worlds, finishing Day One 3-5 after a 2-0 start and more than a little upset. Despite this, I can honestly say that Worlds was a great experience, and that I did my best — I have no regrets!

Acknowledgements / Shoutouts

  • Luke Curtale (Dawg) – I always end up citing you in pretty much every single report or team write-up I’ve written, probably because you actually do so much to help me and I don’t deserve any of it. Although you’re one of the main reasons I get so much flak for being a de facto Australian, you’ve also been such a good friend to me, despite us still having never met up in real life ever. Hopefully the latter issue changes in Anaheim next year.
  • Nihal Noor (UchihaX96) – Thanks for saving my tournament career way too many times this year by sending me Pokémon two nights before a tournament. Also thanks for helping me make the decision to attend Top Cut on Sunday, since we all know how that turned out ;).
  • Shang Loh, Matthew Hui, Justin Lok – Thanks for having me on stream and doing commentary on my ridiculously dumb team like 5 times over the weekend, 4 of which ended in interviews, and for making me seem like I’m actually good at Pokémon despite me winning off idiotic things like Clefairy’s Struggle. Also thanks for editing this report, Matthew. Feel free to correct me if the person editing this report isn’t Matthew.

The Epilogue

My 2016 season has really opened my eyes beyond this small pond we call Singapore, and it’s been a journey. While I may not be the biggest fish by any means — regardless of pond structure — winning Nationals and attending Worlds has really been a huge part of my year, and I’m really grateful for the experiences 2016 has brought me, especially with the Singapore community behind, in front of, and alongside me. No matter what jokes or slights I might direct at you guys, you’ve been a wonderful bunch to hang out with — er, most of the time — and I’m really glad to have met you all. The three years I’ve been in this community since I joined in late 2013 have honestly been three really cool years, and I have you all to thank for it — here’s to growing the community even further, heh.

It might be a cliche, but competitive Pokémon isn’t about the destination. It’s honestly about the journey; the people you meet, the places you go, the experiences you have. The time when you lose a won game off a 0.001% chance; the time when you win a lost game off an equally improbable occurrence. The time you feel awful after getting lucked out of top cut; the time you feel awful for lucking someone else out of top cut. It’s all part and parcel of the competitive Pokémon experience, and it’s one that I’m glad I had the opportunity to go through.

And to newer players: perhaps you’re reading this article in awe of some sort, thinking that it takes some sort of otherworldly skill to participate at high levels of competitive play (or at least I used to, haha). But it doesn’t! I’m honestly just your average JC student with a competitive streak. It’s not some mysterious gift or some strange, indescribable sixth sense that contributed to this win; it was a combination of circumstances that built into the perfect storm, and even dark horses have their days in the sun. I’m going to do my best next year; won’t you join me? So work and train to engrave your likeness onto a similar page as this! Let this be our journey and epilogue.

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