Hi everyone, I’m Shang “slyx183” Loh. For those who do not know me, I have been with The Mirage Island since 2013, when we were known as TRVG. While most of my VGC involvement in the Singaporean scene was largely in commentary, I am currently doing my undergraduate studies overseas in London, where VGC streaming hasn’t exactly picked up. I decided it would be a good opportunity to get back into the playing scene and take advantage of the many sanctioned tournaments here to get to know the European community. I recently participated in the London & South East England Regionals on 21st Nov, and here is my tournament report, along with a run down of the team I used to place 22nd out of 124 Masters Division players, ending with a 5-2 record after 7 rounds of Swiss.
The Calm Before the Storm
I’d already decided fairly early that I would be going to London Regionals, but obviously without having played most of the VGC 2015 circuit and going 1-4 with Scar’s Mega Gardevoir team at my farewell Premier Challenge in Singapore, I was clearly short on practice and didn’t have a solid team to deal with the rise of the CHALK metagame. It was then that Martin (mewmart) and Wei Wen (megatimburr) announced that a qualifier would be held to choose 9 players to play for a Singapore vs Hong Kong International Friendly. I immediately jumped at the chance to build and test a team that would be solid against CHALK without overextending into countering the matchup that it gave up general stability. As such, I took the skeleton of CHALK-Thundurus, changing Heatran to Life Orb mixed Blaziken and Cresselia to Melvin Keh’s bulky Substitute Leftovers Aegislash. The idea of that team was to force early trades and eliminate threats to Aegislash and Blaziken, setting up an easy endgame with little to no prediction required.
A Side Note on Blaziken
Although I did not end up using Blaziken at Regionals, I think it’s worth taking some time to highlight how I learned to use Blaziken. With a Life Orb, Blaziken is a massive anti-meta sweeping force with the ability to OHKO Kangaskhan, Aegislash, Amoonguss, Salamence, Heatran, while nuking some of the bulkier Pokemon like Suicune, Sylveon, Rotom formes, Milotic, Zapdos etc. with neutral Superpower or Overheat, setting up KOs with well-timed double targets with Kangaskhan or either of the two genies. However, the Blaziken player must ensure the KO or risk losing the frail Pokemon to any stray neutral move, made worse if the relevant threat was not knocked out due to an easy switch or protect by the opponent. I believe it is precisely because of this that Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng chose to pair Blaziken with Gothitelle on his Worlds 2015 team. However, I could not find the justification to remove Aegislash for Gothitelle as the former had been doing very well in testing.
Thus, I adapted my playstyle to suit Blaziken’s strengths. Blaziken should almost always be brought in the back, and only sent in for free after trading Pokemon with your opponent. This not only gives you a free switch-in to Blaziken, but by trading, you are effectively restricting your opponent’s switching options since they have fewer Pokemon. Predicting switches will still be necessary but far simpler at this point. Even better, if the opponent’s field can be reduced to 2 Pokemon, it is effectively a Shadow Tag trap at that point. When I first started using Blaziken, I found myself tempted to lead it into perceived good matchups, then realized I was forced to switch it out to conserve it early in the game, losing valuable momentum in the process. While endgame Blaziken is a very strong win condition, it requires the team to not be behind in momentum by the time Blaziken hits the field. Pokemon such as Kangaskhan, Landorus, Aegislash, Cresselia are all examples of Pokemon that can help players gain momentum through Fake Out, Intimidate, or setting up Substitutes, Power-Up Punches, or speed control like Trick Room or Thunder Wave. Blaziken, on the other hand, finds it difficult to create those momentum shifts, but absolutely thrives on riding the waves of momentum created by its teammates.
Armed with this CHALK looking variant, I went undefeated in the qualifier, going 5-0 in matches and 10-2 in games, easily qualifying for the friendly. I felt comfortable with the team and knew its tricks inside out. With my team for London Regionals seemingly settled, I put down the game for a few weeks to concentrate on the gradual increase in workload of university life at Imperial.
When it Rains… It Pours.
Having not played VGC in 2 weeks, I took the International Friendly as a chance to refresh my prediction and endgame planning skills, especially since my opponent was going to be 2015 Worlds representative Edward Cheung. Edward used a Rain Mega Gardevoir team reminiscent of what he used at Singapore Nationals, and I felt confident about the matchup going in, trying to play for a Substitute Aegislash endgame. Game 1 goes almost as planned until I get greedy leaving Aegislash in Blade Forme and pay for it with a Critical Hit Hyper Voice, which put me in Scarf Politoed’s Surf range later in the match. Game 2 goes much worse as I don’t know how to deal with Krookodile’s pressure on Aegislash, made worse by a terrible misclick in the middle of the game which hands the series to Edward. Yet even after that I didn’t feel terrible about the loss, as it was clear the team still worked with two strong endgame conditions in Blaziken and Aegislash. Still intent on bringing said team to London Regionals, I played a few practice battles on Showdown two weeks before to see if there were any sudden metagame shifts I may have been unaware of.
To my horror, Mental Herb Sableye had gained massive popularity. Without a Fairy Type on my team and Blaziken not equipped to quickly dispatch the little Prankster, Kangaskhan and Landorus were all too easily burned, while Aegislash, Amoonguss, and Thundurus Taunted. In essence, players were using one Pokemon to completely stop me from gaining any momentum in games. I had to resort to massive over-extensions like leading Kangaskhan Thundurus and going for the turn 1 Scrappy Fake Out + Taunt double target on the Sableye. Having only one out against what could be a potential massive metagame threat is suicidal in any format. However, with only two weeks left, I didn’t have much time to re-work a Mega Gardevoir team to deal with Sableye. I attempted to just learn the matchup and hope to outplay my opponents in a Bo1 situation, but more practice just led to more frustration, and soon I was dreading the idea of even going to Regionals.
In my despair, I approached a small group of friends who knew me and my playstyle well to try to rework my team to include methods to deal with Sableye. We concluded early on that Azumarill would be a strong call, with its ability to Belly Drum shrugging off burns, pressure opposing Heatran, Landorus, and Blaziken with priority Aqua Jet, and all while adding a valuable Fire resist which the original sextet of TALK-AegisBlazi sorely lacked (No, Blaziken, sit down. You don’t resist anything.) Blaziken was also changed to a more conventional Shuca Berry Heatran to further strengthen the matchup against Sun Hyper Offense, adding a Fire immunity and Flying resist. Aegislash was kept on the team because I felt it was still a strong solution to CHALK and endgame win condition. Kangaskhan was changed to a faster Power-up Punch variant to take advantage of the pressure that +6 Azumarill and Aegislash behind a Substitute tend to invite. The team seemed to work on Showdown, with Azumarill satisfactorily dealing with Sableye by KO-ing with Play Rough even through burns. Sun Hyper Offense almost became an instant-win matchup, while Gardevoir could not keep up with the offensive pressure of +6 Azumarill and a PuP Kangaskhan. With Azumarill taking over the Sitrus Berry, I went with World Champion Shoma Honami’s Safety Goggles Thundurus to surprise opponents in a potential Amoonguss + Azumarill mirror match.
[Editor’s Note: Shang insists on non-mega Kangaskhan for her sprite.]
I was set on going to Regionals with this team, but ran it past my friends once more while filling in my Team Sheet the night before Regionals. Zong Ying (TanZYinG) immediately pointed out a lack of Ground resists, while Matthew Hui (Spiritshipper) felt that Intimidate was too good of an ability to play without in the current metagame. Naturally, this meant that Landorus-T needed to find a place on the team. I stumbled upon the following report on NuggetBridge, featuring a team almost similar to what I had, except with Scarf Landorus-T over my Aegislash. Ryan Chiam (DecaDraco) also supported the idea of changing Aegislash into Landorus-T, but we all agreed that the team was not safe enough to lock Landorus into any one particular move, especially Earthquake. Thus, the final verdict was to use the bulky Jolly Assault Vest Landorus that I had grown so accustomed to, having used it on multiple teams in the past.
For those of you who endured that lengthy introduction, congratulations. For the rest of you losers who TL;DR’ed… I don’t blame you xD. Well, here is what you’re all still sticking around for. Without further ado, let’s introduce the team!
PlayBoy Bunny & Friends
PlayBoy (Azumarill) (M) @ Sitrus Berry
Ability: Huge Power
EVs: 196 HP / 252 Atk / 20 Def / 4 SpD / 36 Spe
– Aqua Jet
– Play Rough
– Belly Drum
The focal point of the team’s core of Azumarill, Kangaskhan, Amoonguss, and Heatran. In addition to being a bulky Water, Azumarill provided valuable Fairy Type coverage. While relying on Play Rough can be nerve-wrecking, PlayBoy came in extremely clutch and only missed 2 inconsequential Play Roughs the whole day, and most importantly, hitting when it count. Azumarill did what Blaziken could not as a win condition: It could function as an early game powerhouse if my opponent did not stop me from setting up, while also locking down the endgame by picking off weakened Pokemon with powerful Aqua Jets. The EV spread is rather standard: Maximum attack to abuse Huge Power, and a HP/Def ratio optimized to recover maximum percentage with Sitrus Berry while ensuring survival of Jolly Mega Salamence Double-Edge 100% of the time. The remainder was dumped into Speed to win any mirrors against those who blindly copied the spread on the NuggetBridge Calculator. Also the only Pokemon on the team that actually belongs to me and hence the only one with a nickname.
Kangaskhan @ Kangaskhanite
EVs: 84 HP / 252 Atk / 172 Spe
– Fake Out
– Power-Up Punch
– Sucker Punch
A slight variation off your standard Kangaskhan with a throwback to VGC 2014. Scrappy was chosen over the more popular Inner Focus precisely to be able to Fake Out Sableye. The ability to hit Ghosts types also gave me more outs against the various Perish Trap teams that seemed to pop up now and then, with +1 Scrappy Return getting the KO on Mega Gengar and Sableye after Power-Up Punch damage (Sableye taking Super-Effective damage from Scrappy PuP aids this immensely). If led with Azumarill this could lead to an instant Belly Drum which allows for a +6 Aqua Jet to outspeed and take out Sableye before it can burn Kangaskhan. As mentioned before, Power-up Punch was chosen over Low Kick on this set to fully abuse the openings created by simply having the threat of Azumarill Belly Drumming on the field.
Adamant Nature was chosen so that unboosted Return still gets the important KO on Sylveon. Not running max Speed Jolly Nature forced me to make some safer plays in the Kangaskhan mirror, especially in a best of one situation where making a wrong assumption about the opponent’s speed tiers could cost the entire game. It was one such assumption that resulted in an endgame misplay against my Round 2 opponent, and is a mistake I would definitely try to avoid moving forward. Otherwise, this Kangaskhan outspeeds Timid max Speed Heatran, an important matchup since I cannot immediately pressure Heatran without Low Kick.
Thanks to Zong Ying (TanZYinG) for accommodating my lazy ass and giving me this Kangaskhan so I didn’t have to breed my own 😛
Amoonguss @ Rocky Helmet
EVs: 252 HP / 180 Def / 76 SpD
IVs: 0 Spe
– Giga Drain
– Rage Powder
While Relaxed Amoonguss is the more common choice to better abuse Rocky Helmet, I felt that an Amoonguss with slightly more mixed bulk fit this team and the current metagame better. With Mega Gardevoir, Rain, and slightly more offensive Trick Room Cresselia all prevalent in the aftermath of Worlds, I wanted to be able to take special hits well too and compensate for the lack of physical bulk by playing my Intimidate better. This Amoonguss spread survives Timid max SpA Mega Gardevoir Psychic, as well as Scar’s Modest 116 SpA spread from Worlds. It also turns Ludicolo and Politoed Ice Beams into guaranteed 3HKOs, while bulkier Cresselias would also have to land 3 Psychics to knock it out. The remainder of the EVs was still dumped into HP, then Def, to maximize Double-Edge + Rocky Helmet recoil. Without a Trick Room mode on this team, I did not feel comfortable running Sunny Day over Protect to further synergize with Heatran. Overall, Amoonguss was an integral part of my strategy against the three archetypes mentioned above, and thus I felt the deviation was fully justified.
Shout-outs of course to Kenny for lending me this Amoonguss as I only realized rather late that I didn’t have a Sassy Amoonguss ready in my PC. This Amoonguss came in really clutch, so thank you Kenny!
Heatran @ Shuca Berry
Ability: Flash Fire
EVs: 44 HP / 8 Def / 236 SpA / 220 Spe
IVs: / 24 Def / 27 SpD
– Heat Wave
– Hidden Power [Ice]
– Earth Power
What?! A non-flawless Pokemon?! The HORROR. While Heatran was guaranteed a slot on the team, I wanted a surprising way to overcome the unexpected Clefable/Clefairy + Dragon Dance Mega Salamence combination in a best of 1 situation. Hence, I opted to forgo the more standard Overheat or Substitute in favour of Hidden Power Ice. On hindsight, this is probably the one major change I would have made to the team, although I wouldn’t know whether Overheat or Substitute would have put in more work. Amoonguss is one of the few Pokemon that can stop a +6 Azumarill from sweeping and having a quick way to dispatch the mushroom with Overheat could have simplified games, while a Heatran behind a Substitute is always a force to be reckoned with, buying it that extra turn against opposing Landorus-T and Low Kick Kangaskhan.
The EV spread here looks a bit strange and is a compromise due to the imperfect IVs of this Heatran. With a Shuca Berry, even the uncommon Adamant Scarf Landorus-T only has a 6.3% chance to OHKO this Heatran with Earthquake. -1 Adamant Kangaskhan also cannot OHKO with Low Kick, while HP Ice has a high chance to OHKO neutral SpDef natured Mega Salamence. Finally, the Speed hits 125, a personal favourite number of mine to get the jump on those trying to creep Bisharp, while also outspeeding Max Speed Tyranitar (for the rare situation where opposing Scarf Tar has its item removed). With a flawless Heatran, an EV spread of 36HP/ 252SpA /220Spe would achieve the same results while having increased damage on most calculations.
Continuing the trend of not having my own Pokemon, this Heatran was lent to me by Shawn Tang (AquaDragon). Thanks Shawn and continue conquering the US while I try my luck here in the UK!
Thundurus-I / Landorus-T
Thundurus @ Safety Goggles
EVs: 164 HP / 32 Def / 60 SpA / 252 Spe
IVs: 28 Def
– Thunder Wave
Landorus-Therian @ Assault Vest
EVs: 156 HP / 84 Atk / 4 Def / 12 SpD / 252 Spe
– Rock Slide
– Knock Off
Of course, what would VGC 2015 be without this genie duo, dominating the format in all teams for majority of the season. Everyone already knows what Thundurus-I and Landorus-T do so I’ll just cover what I feel are the more unconventional choices. Timid Max Speed Thundurus was an adjustment to have a guaranteed win condition against Timid max Speed Charizard Y, removing the need to play Speed Tier mind games with my Kangaskhan. In addition, having a Prankster Taunt faster than Liepard would have come in handy in the occasion I ran into anyone trying to run Barry Anderson’s infamous LieLoom team, or worse, Baz himself running his LieLoom team. For the record Baz did not end up bringing LieLoom, nor did I have to play him, but I would have definitely kicked myself if I ended up playing the matchup with fewer tools to beat it.
Safety Goggles allows me to completely ignore Amoonguss and Breloom and Taunt/Thunder Wave the partner, as well as bypass Rage Powder to Thunderbolt Azumarill. I chose Taunt over the more conventional Swagger as I wanted a more guaranteed way of shutting down opposing redirection from Follow Me users. Taunt was also more reliable in testing against Perish Trap and annoying shenanigans like Lopunny/Smeargle/Tauros or Minimize Clefable. The defensive investment was actually a leftover from a previous Sitrus Berry set which I didn’t have the time to change, and given the chance I would remove all investment in Def and SpA and dump the EVs into SpDef. The HP number hits 175 to reduce sand/burn damage, a fairly standard practice on bulkier Pokemon that you want to have sticking around for as many turns as possible.
As for Landorus, Jolly Assault Vest has now become the new standard due to its versatility in exchange for having a fail-safe win button in Scarf Rock Slide. However, I use Landorus as a defensive pivot to switch into neutral or resisted hits to spread Intimidate and Knock Off irritating items like Safety Goggles, opposing Assault Vests, and Rocky Helmets. Since Landorus was not a main damage dealer on the team, I felt comfortable forgoing large amounts of Attack to ensure survival of +1 LO Bisharp Sucker Punch. While this is not the most optimum spread in terms of EVs used (12 HP / 92 Def uses fewer EVs to achieve the same result), one must not forget that giving more overall bulk in HP also makes better use of the Assault Vest. As previously mentioned, this is a Landorus I have been using since before SG Nationals and is one I knew both offensive and defensive damage calculations for, and thus the most comfortable set I could have brought given the last minute addition of Landorus to the team.
Shout-outs to everyone’s favourite Singaporean player Yang Ze (Level51) for the Timid Thundurus and Zong Ying once again for the Landorus. Yes, I am a bad trainer who doesn’t get his own Pokemon and I should feel bad.
Overall, London Regionals was a fantastic experience for me, getting to play in the same field as some of the world’s most recognized players. Highlights were getting to meet Lee Provost (Osirus) and Chis Arthur (Koryo) again after Worlds 2014, as well as exchanging ideas with Arash Ommati (Mean_VGC) and Mark McQuillan (WoopahKing) after the tournament. It was also great to have fellow South-East Asian Zarif Ayman swing by en-route to his sister’s graduation. Hope you enjoyed London and Bristol!
Despite getting lost on the way to the tournament I still found myself arriving really early due to TCG registration taking a very long time. The event hall was rather cold and it was quite disappointing that I wouldn’t be able to play without my jacket on and thus not able to advertise for TMI. My hands got so cold and stiff that mis-clicking started to become a very legitimate concern! (Ironically because I was so concerned about mis-clicking it probably saved me from being careless throughout the entire tournament) I packed lunch because I correctly predicted that the nearest food would not be anywhere near the event hall (#MLGHardReads) and had a leisurely lunch while waiting for Swiss to start. Pairings were put up slightly after noon and I dove right into the action:
Round 1: Nathan Mack
Nathan looked like he was running a variant of Japan Sand with an interesting choice in Volcarona. Double Genies is always a safe lead against Japan Sand while also covering the Amoonguss Azumarill Belly Drum lead, since I wasn’t sure what set Azumarill was running. He does end up leading Amoonguss Azumarill, and Safety Goggles immediately pays off as his attempt to Rage Powder + Belly Drum gets severely punished by Earthquake + Thunderbolt. This leave me free to Taunt his Amoonguss and take out Azumarill with another Earthquake, and a Protect + Spore play on his end allows me to race to a 4-2 lead by picking up a double knock out. With Excadrill and Salamence in the back, I know that if I can Thunder Wave the Salamence, Kangaskhan and Azumarill in the back can clean up. So I play it really safe, not minding losing my two genies. He ends up getting a double Protect on Excadrill, which lets him pick up the KO on both genies with Salamence, but Azumarill and Kangaskhan finish the job. It’s always great to start off a tournament with a win so I was glad to not fall into the 0-1 hole.
Round 2: Erik Anderson
I lead Landorus Heatran to immediately get the Intimidate on his Kangaskhan while pressuring any aggressive Amoonguss/Ferrothorn leads. His Kangaskhan Cresselia lead telegraphs a Fake Out Trick Room play, so I pull a double switch into my Kangaskhan Amoonguss in the back. I call the play correctly, which allows me to immediately put Erik’s Kangaskhan to sleep and start Power-Up Punching with my own. His aggressive play with Cresselia in front of Amoonguss in Trick Room led me to believe it was Safety Goggles, hence I opted not to Spore it. Cresselia ends up being Sitrus Berry as +2 Return fails to get the KO and Amoonguss takes unnecessary damage from Psychic. However, I still enter the final stages of the game with a seemingly strong lead of a +1 Kangaskhan and Heatran, with Landorus in the back against Erik’s Sableye and Arcanine with Trick Room expired.
I proceed to make my worst misplay of the tournament here, thinking that Arcanine was a bulky disruption variant given the Trick Room aspect of his team, and double into Arcanine with Return and Earth Power to ensure the KO with Sableye threatening Will-O-Wisp. Arcanine ends up outspeeding Kangaskhan and knocks Heatran clean out with a Life Orb boosted Close Combat, though the Defense drop allows a burned +1 Kangaskhan to KO back with Return. With a 20 minute timer implemented and 12 minutes left on the clock, I had to hope Sableye was not carrying Recover in order to have any hope of winning. There wasn’t a fairy tale ending here as Sableye indeed had Recover and was able to stall out both Landorus and Kangaskhan. On hindsight, I had the 100% safe play of switching Heatran out for Landorus and Sucker Punching the Arcanine slot. Burned Kangaskhan and Landorus would still be capable of taking out Arcanine, which leaves a rather guaranteed endgame with Heatran against Sableye.
Round 3: Jeremy Mantingh
Jeremy was a really cool guy and when I found out he was a Day 2 Worlds participant I was both excited and nervous. The whole point of coming to events like this is to play against top level competition, yet dropping X-2 this early was not an entertaining prospect.
Jeremy’s team looked vaguely reminiscent of Hideyuki Taida’s World’s Runner-up team, but without effective spread damage outside of Landorus I felt it was safe to lead Amoonguss Azumarill to immediately threaten the Belly Drum. However his lead of Rotom-W and Cresselia had me suspicious of Safety Goggles lurking so I go for the safe play of Protecting Azumarill and Sporing Rotom-W to scout for the Goggles. I end up catching Landorus on the switch with Spore as Cresselia attempts to Skill Swap Azumarill. At this point I’m fairly certain that Cresselia has Safety Goggles but go for the Rage Powder Belly Drum anyway to set up for an Azumarill sweep. Cresselia ignores the Rage Powder and Skill Swaps away Huge Power but that means I get the Belly Drum off for free.
With Amoonguss virtually useless on the field I switch out into Kangaskhan and Aqua Jet into Landorus, revealing Focus Sash. However this actually puts him in a rather awkward position without a free switch in and the Landorus slot dead, which allows me to get a Power-Up Punch off on Cresselia. A surprisingly fast Rotom-W leads me to believe it’s Scarfed as I lose Kangaskhan to a quick Thunderbolt while Azumarill catches Kangaskhan on the switch and lands Important Play Rough #1. With Kangaskhan safely out of the way, I focus on KO-ing Rotom-W to set up for a Heatran endgame. Rotom reveals that it is indeed Choice Scarfed as it pulls a fancy play by Tricking the Scarf onto Amoonguss and forcing me to eat my own Rocky Helmet damage through knocking Rotom out with Play Rough. We both had a laugh about that cool manoeuvre as he extends the handshake after seeing Heatran in the back.
Round 4: Lee Provost (Osirus)
Oh boy. This game. Lee was amazingly friendly when we first met at Worlds 2014 and while it was great to see him again, having to play him while we were both sitting at 2-1 really stank. It meant that one of us was going home early without Top Cut. I definitely didn’t fancy my chances against a player who Top 8 Worlds with a 0 IV Zapdos, and when I saw the team matchup my heart immediately sank. Lee and I were chatting in the registration queue about how he had also been testing Kangaskhan Amoonguss Azumarill and had thought it would be popular coming into Regionals and thus prepared counters for it. With Sableye for Kangaskhan, Ludicolo for Azumarill and Heatran, and Metagross for Amoonguss, my team’s core was effectively shut down.
I reason that he has to lead Sableye Ludicolo to stop me from getting the Scrappy Fake Out + Play Rough play on turn 1, but have no other choice than to lead Kangaskhan Azumarill myself. Turn 1 plays out as expected as we trade Fake Outs, but Lee makes an excellent play in conserving his Sableye by switching into Metagross while I double into the slot with Play Rough and Scrappy Return, dealing around 30% and eating a Scald burn onto Kangaskhan in the process. I’ve effectively lost this game already as I let Kangaskhan go down while dealing as much damage to Ludicolo as possible. Lee even reads my Amoonguss Protect to prevent myself from getting Taunted to get an Iron Head flinch onto Azumarill, and all hope seemed lost.
However, against the odds, we choose to fight! I go for the Rage Powder Play Rough out of desperation as Metagross misses Zen Headbutt and Ludicolo is taken out by Azumarill on the switch with Important Play Rough #2. Lee chooses to send in his last Pokemon, Terrakion, which gives me a glimmer of hope as my last Pokemon is Landorus. The game decided that it just wasn’t Lee’s day as Amoonguss proceeds to avoid another Zen Headbutt AND Terrakion’s Rock Slide, allowing me to Aqua Jet Terrakion to break a potential Focus Sash AND put Metagross to sleep with Spore. From then on I just played the endgame very carefully, and aided by Lee’s decision not to try for Rock Slide flinches on my Landorus (perhaps fearing Choice Scarf), a failed double Protect and Critical Hit Earthquake onto Sableye hands me a very undeserved victory.
I felt terrible after this game but Lee took the result very graciously like the top player he is. His attitude made me all the more determined to win out and hopefully boost his resistance for a top 16 finish.
Round 5: Adam Mack
At this point I was just glad I brought Azumarill as I stared down my third Sableye of the day. I lead Kangaskhan Heatran to pressure any Sableye or Ferrothorn leads. I get half of it right and am really tempted to Power-Up Punch the Ferrothorn slot reading a Protect Charizard + switch into Gastrodon play from my opponent. However with the prospect of a Sableye switch-in, Charizard nuking Kangaskhan, or just Power-Up Punching into Iron Barbs culminated in the decision to safely Fake Out Charizard and Heat Wave. I mentally kick myself as Protect Charizard + Gastrodon switch really happens but I at least land a Heat Wave which seems to put Gastrodon into Return range. The next turn was a case of my opponent not playing according to what my win condition was. With Thundurus and Azumarill at the back I really needed to get rid of Gastrodon, so I risked staying in with Kangaskhan and doubled into Gastrodon with Return and Heat Wave. Charizard switches out for Sableye expecting a Return into that slot and I pick up the KO on Gastrodon through the Sitrus Berry as Heat Wave takes out its last sliver of HP while dealing a good amount of damage to Sableye.
Charizard returns to the field and reveals HP Ground dropping Heatran to below 50% after triggering Shuca Berry, as Kangaskhan eats a Will-O-Wisp, Sableye dodges a Heat Wave, and I bring Charizard to Thundurus T-bolt KO range. From here I’m playing for a Thundurus Heatran endgame to double pin my opponent’s Charizard and Ferrothorn, so I switch Heatran out for Azumarill to conserve it for later in the game. Burned Azumarill still wipes the floor with Sableye as Charizard Protects against Thunderbolt. With Sableye knocked out and reducing my opponent to just his Charizard and Ferrothorn, it was just a matter of getting Heatran back on the field safely while waiting for my opponent to KO Azumarill, thus creating my double pin situation and securing the win. I was really glad that my last minute changes to Azumarill and Timid Goggles Thundurus basically won me 2 games so far, and looked forward to my next match.
Round 6: Michael Wood (PAIR DOWN)
Seeing that I received a pair down going into Round 6 was quite upsetting, because it meant that my resistance was among the lowest of the X-1s and hence going X-2 would most likely put me out of the top 16. However, this meant I was even more determined to win out. Looking at his team, I was suspicious of a Perish Trap mode with double Fake Out, but I also could not discount the possibility of Rain Hyper Offense, and thus led with the safe choice of Kangaskhan Thundurus. I didn’t want to risk Kangaskhan getting Faked Out and burned as it is my main way of hitting Ludicolo, and hence switched it out for Amoonguss. My jaw drops as my fears are confirmed and Gengar Mega-Evolves, Kangaskhan Fakes Out Thundurus and Gengar goes straight for the Perish Song.
I play around the obvious Gengar Protect as my opponent switches Kangaskhan out for Ludicolo to reset Fake Out and deal a good 50% with a Thunderbolt + Giga Drain double target. The following turn I know I need to incapacitate the Gengar one way or another and thus double target it with Thunder Wave and Spore. Michael opts to Fake Out Amoonguss and I get to paralyze Gengar which means Scrappy Kangaskhan in the back could put in some work. Ludicolo reveals Protect on the last turn of Perish Song as I double into it and get no damage off and lose both Thundurus and Amoonguss. Looking back the better play would have been to spore Gengar’s slot and Thunder Wave Ludicolo, since the damage would have been inconsequential anyway, and had I got the knock out, it would mean a free switch into Kangaskhan to reset Fake Out once again.
4-2 down with my opponent’s Perish Song still a threat, I needed to make some big plays to get back into this game. I go for the bold play of Fake Out onto Politoed while Belly Drumming with Azumarill, expecting Ludicolo to safely switch out and reset Fake Out once again. I call the play correctly as Azumarill gets up to +6. With Kangaskhan in non-mega and Rain active I am fairly certain that Aqua Jet will get the KO and thus go for the Return onto Politoed and Aqua Jet Kangaskhan. Azumarill eats the Fake Out as Politoed’s HP falls leaving me to wonder if the second hit will get the KO, but a Critical Hit erases the need for a high damage roll as the game suddenly looks to be in my control again. Gengar hits the field, but fails to get off a Protect through paralysis and is swiftly taken out by yet another Aqua Jet. Return seems to be getting the KO on his Kangaskhan until it reveals the surprise Sitrus Berry and goes for a naughty Swagger onto my Azumarill! Fortunately though, rain ends and Kangaskhan is able to outspeed and KO Ludicolo and even after Azumarill knocks itself out with two turns of confusion damage, I am able to win narrowly with a faster Kangaskhan.
I have never gone into the last round of any official tournament sitting at X-1 and facing the prospect of Top Cutting, and thus this was a very unfamiliar experience for me. I found out sadly that Lee had lost Round 6 and dropped at 3-3, meaning that I really needed to win the last round in order to get any significant CP. However, standing in my way would be a familiar foe…
Round 7: Jonathan Evans (Ezrael)
No, I’m not (completely) referring to CHALK, although I did think back wistfully to the days of ChiKin the Blaziken and Rubato the Aegislash which would have definitely sealed this game up. What was more interesting was that I definitely recalled the name Jonathan Evans from somewhere, and Matthew back home confirmed him to be Ezrael from NuggetBridge, someone who I seem to run into on the Showdown ladder rather often. It turns out that Jonathan is now studying in Oxford and is a first year like me, so we’ll be seeing each other a lot more throughout this season’s circuit for sure.
As for the match itself, I decide during team preview that my win condition for this game would be +6 Azumarill, bringing Heatran to pressure Amoonguss, my own Amoonguss to support Azumarill, and Landorus to Knock Off potential Safety Goggles and Intimidate Kangaskhan. It might seem strange and even wrong that I chose not to bring Kangaskhan, but even now having played this match over and over again in my head I believe I made the correct assessment. The game itself was really enjoyable as we were both fighting for a place in Top Cut. I managed to remove Cresselia’s Safety Goggles in exchange for eating a nice Knock Off + Ice Beam play from his end. I then got especially excited when I pulled off a gutsy read to Spore his Amoonguss slot and caught Landorus on the switch in.
However, I didn’t make the most optimal play from then on, choosing to Hidden Power Ice Landorus and target Cresselia with Play Rough instead of going for Belly Drum fearing Earthquake + Psychic. Landorus indeed clutched out with a 1 turn sleep but Cresselia also woke up to Skill Swap Azumarill, rendering the subsequent Play Rough miss inconsequential. I now realize that my only out at that point was to Protect with Heatran expecting Landorus to wake up and go for the Belly Drum with Azumarill. Although that would have left Azumarill with dangerously low HP eating a potential Earthquake and Psychic, it was my only opportunity to set up Belly Drum the entire game with how well Jonathan played to deny my win condition. With a +6, even with Huge Power Skill Swapped away I would still have been able to close out the game with Amoonguss redirection in the back and Landorus pinned by Aqua Jet. At the end of the day, I forgot the win condition that I set myself at the beginning of the match and conceded defeat to Jonathan. Nevertheless, it was an exciting game worthy of being a final hurdle into Top Cut.
5-2, 22nd Place out of 124 Masters
Event Wrap Up and Closing Remarks
I stayed to watch Top 8 with Arash and Mark to see Ben Kyriakou fall to Mega Latias and Jonathan go out to Arash’s friend running CHALK with Dusclops. In between constantly getting shushed by the Judges for discussing the games, it was truly insightful to discuss board positions with two World Champions which rounded off a wholly positive experience at my first Regionals in the UK.
As for the shout-out corner, I cannot thank Matt, Zong Ying, Kenny, Ryan Chiam, and Skyler enough for helping me construct this team on such short notice. Had I gone in with my original team, I highly doubt I would have the tools to do as well as I did. Massive shout-out to the UK community and the new friends I made over the course of the day and I really look forward to seeing everyone again at future events. Finally, thank you to everyone back home who stayed up and rooted for me throughout Swiss! Hopefully next time I can keep you guys up for longer 😛
There’s one final thing I would like to add before bringing this report to an end. It didn’t hit me until after I had left the tournament ground, but I think it’s something that we really need to take away and see more of back in events in Singapore. Arash and Mark are both World Champions. They both went 3-4 and ended the tournament with 0 CP. Arash FLEW IN from Italy to play. Yet neither were overly upset about their performance, and were more than happy to stay the duration of top cut to discuss the metagame and matches. Neither were wallowing in self pity about wasted money and time, simply because to them it probably wasn’t that at all. The opportunity to gather with people that share a common interest and play a game we all love was reason enough. That is true love for the game, and something I think many lose sight of when attractive externalities such as CP, prizes, and Worlds invites lead us astray. Isaac wrote a very comprehensive article on this a while ago, so I shall not go too far in depth, but my personal experience at London Regionals really drove the point home for me. Few, if any, of us started playing this game competitively for prizes and glory; so when things aren’t going our way, perhaps we should remind ourselves of simpler times, of raw, unadulterated passion for Pokemon.
Moving forward, the next UK Regional isn’t until the next calendar year, so it is highly unlikely that this team will ever be used in its exact form again. However, I’m proud that this is probably the best team I’ve used all season in terms of consistency and having strong outs to the predicted metagame. Had my execution been better and won Round 2 or 7, we could be reading a very different story right now. Yet had a few dices rolls not gone my way I could have been the one dropping out early at X-3 instead. However, this is the game we choose to play, and one should not dwell on what could or could not have happened. Instead, identifying mistakes and striving to make the better play next time is what makes Pokemon such a beautiful strategy game, one that I am intent on improving in heading into the unknown ruleset that is VGC 2016.
“Born in a world of strife, against the odds, we choose to fight! Blossom Dance!”
— Dunban, Xenoblade Chronicles