Darkest before dawn – A solo Singaporean’s Worlds Day 2 Masters Division report

October 25th, 2016 | Posted by Jon Chiang in Team Reports

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Introduction

Hello everyone, I’m Jonathan Chiang, a VGC player hailing from Singapore! I’m a relatively new player compared to the veterans within our community who have represented the nation at Worlds multiple times, having only started entering official VGC events in 2015.

I actually got into competitive Pokemon play much earlier – sometime during 2010 after I was introduced to Smogon singles formats by Chen Tiancheng, who used to take part in the local TCG circuit, while I was serving my National Service. It was only in 2014 that I started dabbling in VGC on Battle Spot. Come 2015 when Singapore started receiving official TPCi support and sanctioned events, I took part in what was the first-ever Regionals for us and a year later, I’m here typing this Day 2 report.

I’m not the most consistent player, having few accolades to shout about. My record for the 2016 season consists of a few Premier Challenge top cuts, a 9th place in Singapore’s January 2016 Regionals, and a Top 8 in Malaysia’s Midseason Showdown. This gave me a total of 243 Championship Points for the 2016 season, barely qualifying me for Worlds in the APAC region where the CP bar was considerably lower at 200 CPs for Masters division players. Frankly speaking, this season was a pretty volatile one for me. Compared to most of my friends in this highly-competitive format, my results in the competitions leading up to Worlds weren’t what you would call exceptional – with a score of 3-3 for both Singapore’s Midseason Showdown and second Regionals, and a score of 4-3 for our Nationals.

In the month leading up to Worlds, I was feeling pretty discouraged over my failings at those events, especially since my middling amount of CPs wouldn’t have qualified me for Worlds if I was based in Europe or North America. On top of that, there were quite a few people not planning to attend Worlds that had far more CPs than me, and I seriously considered cancelling my trip to Worlds as it looked like I was going to just scrub out early in the competition. However, I reasoned with myself that since I had qualified, I should make the best out of an event that is considered by most Pokemon competitive players to be the pinnacle of competitive play. After all, it’s not every year that someone gets the opportunity to enter Worlds, and if they raised the CP bar in the next season (which they have), I would be kicking myself.

As I didn’t want to stress myself out before Worlds, I did not spam practice sessions trying to ladder on Pokemon Showdown. I took part in the qualifiers that determined which SG/MY players made our VGC World Cup squad and used that as practice, which proved really useful as it was a best-of-five double-elimination tournament. I managed to climb all the way up to the finals, losing to the fearsome Melvin Keh in the end. Although I did not get selected, the tournament helped me regain some confidence with my playstyle and my team, allowing me to solidify the final choices for my World Championship team.

Before Worlds

We reached San Francisco on the 16th of August, a few days before the event to allow us to have some time sightseeing and for our body clocks to adjust to the local time, since Singapore is fifteen hours ahead of the US. My three other travel buddies (Emil, Soon and Yoko) and I shared an AirBnB apartment together. Emil was the one who would usually cook our meals, while we would do most of the bumming around. He usually woke up earliest to prepare breakfast, even before Soon, who had to reach the venue the earliest every day since he was a Pokemon Professor who had staff duties to perform.

We booked an AirBnB apartment along Mission Street, which is in the outskirts of Tenderloin district and could get pretty seedy at night. Despite that, the host was extremely accommodating and the apartment was extremely well-furnished and impeccably designed. Safety wasn’t an issue as well, as the apartment had pretty tight security. On hindsight, we should have made better use of the amenities the apartment building offered, such as the barbecue pit. Our apartment was located about one BART stop away from the San Francisco Marriott Marquis Hotel, ground zero for this year’s Pokemon World Championships. It took us only a short fifteen-minute walk to get to the Marriott, which was pretty ideal since we could get to the place relatively quickly while saving on transportation costs.

The first few days were mainly spent on shopping for groceries, enjoying the awesome seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf, and settling into the apartment. Joe’s Crab Shack had really great seafood, and the portions were particularly big! Also, there was a Super Duper burger joint across the street from the Marriott, which was really convenient for grabbing a quick bite. We didn’t really practice or make any last minute changes to our teams, since we were pretty used to our individual playstyles and didn’t want to stress ourselves out before the big day.

However, life had other plans for me. On the morning of registration day, I discovered to my horror that my game cart was corrupted. For some strange reason, I tend to be on the receiving end of ‘hax’ in real life (usually in the form of disconnections during a battle, bubbling four times at position #9 in events big and small, etc.). With close to two years of save data gone (including my trolly Secret Base, my fully-completed Pokedex and my competition stock), I was on the verge of just calling it quits there and then. Emil, however, encouraged me not to and Soon lent me his game cart for the event. We rushed to recreate my team on what little time we had. Though it really rattled my nerves, I’m grateful that my travel mates were very supportive in fixing my blunders. Otherwise, this journey and my results would not have been possible.

Teambuilding

Initially starting out as a Big 6 team, which earned me 9th place in the Singapore Regionals in January this year, I opted to swap out Smeargle and Groudon for Amoonguss and Kyogre respectively, in order to improve my match-ups against Trick Room teams and opposing Groudon. The current team centres on a rather rare core of Xerneas and Kyogre (rarest restricted pair in Worlds Day 2), but one which I am the most comfortable with despite its certain inherent flaws. This team placed Top 8 in the Malaysian Midseason Showdown in April, and that’s about it, really.

Due to the continuing Smeargle infestation of the local meta (especially Scarfed variants), using this team can be very frustrating as I do not have a proper answer to the very popular local lead of Smeargle and a Quick Guard or Fake Out user. I didn’t perform well in any of the big events following the Malaysian MSS, but didn’t opt to change my team since I was too used to wielding it.

Although I was pretty tempted to revert to Big 6 since Dark Void was so devastating, I decided against it as I didn’t want to rely on Dark Void landing in order to ensure a win. With the RNG being a significant element in this meta, opting for a more balanced team with answers for a variety of situations instead of choosing to hard-counter a popular playstyle seemed to be a more prudent path for me to take, especially since I’ve been using this exact team for almost all of the 2016 season and am very used to its ins-and-outs. The only changes that I’ve made throughout the season were minor tweaks to EV spreads, particularly Kyogre’s.

But why Xerneas and Kyogre, since they don’t exactly complement each other the way Xerneas and Groudon cover each other’s type weaknesses well? Simply put, Kyogre scares away opposing Groudon, and if I get weather and speed control up on my side, Groudon will fall to a super-effective Origin Pulse (sans RNG). Opponents who choose to switch Groudon out will have to face an incoming, hard-hitting Origin Pulse, which can be a daunting prospect should they not have Bronzong or Ferrothorn to take the hit. Furthermore, since Kyogre is primarily a special attacker, Intimidate doesn’t faze it. Paired with a boosted Xerneas, Kyogre puts out tremendous offensive pressure, especially if the opponent doesn’t have a check to them, or the checks have already been weakened.

Well, I guess one interesting fact is that despite my team consisting of largely standard stuff, I’m one of only three competitors who brought Xerneas and Kyogre into Worlds Day 2. Notable users of this core like Justin Carris (Azazel), who coined the term ‘RainDeer’ and placed 6th in Worlds, have shown that it is indeed a usable core despite certain inherent weaknesses and matchup disadvantages, so it all boiled down to my skill in wielding my team to account for my performance. Prior to Worlds, I thought hard about making last-minute changes in case I was faced with a lot of Smeargle users or Steel-types, but figured that the Worlds meta might be a lot more diverse than just Big 6 spam, and decided to just use the team that earned me my best performance of the season.

Whisky Collection Team Details


Kangaskhan (Lagavulin) @ Kangaskhanite 
Ability: Scrappy -> Inner Focus
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Fake Out
– Sucker Punch
– Low Kick
– Double-Edge

Pretty standard Kangaskhan, as vanilla as you can get from Pokemon Showdown. Max speed and attack with a Jolly nature to put out high damage and hope win speed-ties against opposing max speed Kangaskhan. It was originally Scrappy due to a small but significant number of Gengars in the Singaporean and Malaysian scene, but I changed it to Inner Focus for Worlds to improve my match-up against faster Fake Out users. The moveset is about as basic as it can get – Double-Edge for high damage, Low Kick for opposing Kangaskhans, Sucker Punch for priority and Fake Out for Fake Out and Geomancy, if I see such an opportunity arise.


Amoonguss (Laphroaig) @ Coba Berry 
Ability: Regenerator -> Effect Spore
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 164 Def / 92 SpD
Relaxed Nature
IVs: 0 Spe (supposed to be, but I made a mistake and brought a 31 Spe one to Worlds)
– Rage Powder
– Grass Knot
– Spore
– Protect

Earthy, peaty and herbal with medicinal undertones, Laphroaig is my Trick Room check, and I usually bring it out when I see Bronzong or Cresselia on my opponent’s team. Rage Powder for redirection, Spore for when my opponent dares to set up Trick Room, and Grass Knot for opposing Kyogre. The EVs, coupled with a Relaxed nature, help it to survive Dragon Ascent from a fully-invested Adamant Life Orb Rayquaza as well as Brave Bird from Talonflame with Coba Berry, so those with Jolly natures pose no problem. Unfortunately, I made a mistake and did not realise that I used one with 31 IVs in speed, allowing opposing Bronzong to outspeed (or rather, underspeed) me in Trick Room, which cost me a match on Day 1.

Effect Spore was Melvin Keh’s suggestion, as since VGC16 is a hard-hitting format, there’s little point switching Amoonguss in and out in order to regain HP. This change turned out to be an incredibly useful one, allowing me to turn the tables after a clutch sleep inducement from Effect Spore.

252+ Atk Life Orb Mega Rayquaza Dragon Ascent vs. 252 HP / 164+ Def Coba Berry Amoonguss: 185-218 (83.7 – 98.6%) — guaranteed 2HKO
252+ Atk Life Orb Talonflame Brave Bird vs. 252 HP / 164+ Def Coba Berry Amoonguss: 107-126 (48.4 – 57%) — 88.7% chance to 2HKO


Talonflame (Peregrine) @ Lum Berry 
Ability: Gale Wings
Level: 50
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 Def / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Brave Bird
– Quick Guard
– Tailwind
– Taunt

I opted for a more support-based Talonflame instead of the one I ran earlier in the season with Life Orb and Flare Blitz. Quick Guard proved to be essential especially when my opponents were targeting my boosted Xerneas with priority. Adamant is used instead of Jolly since Talonflame is already fast enough and I prefer the extra damage. Equipped with a Lum Berry, Talonflame is usually sent out or switched in if I feel my opponent is going to lead Smeargle.


Salamence (Glenmorangie) @ Salamencite 
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Naive Nature
– Double-Edge
– Hyper Voice
– Flamethrower
– Protect

Glenmorangie from the Highlands! Another very standard Salamence set, with Flamethrower instead of Draco Meteor for opposing steel-types. Since I do not have Groudon on my team, and Talonflame lacks a fire-type move, Salamence is one of my few answers to Ferrothorn or Bronzong other than Kangaskhan’s Low Kick. Although not as frequently used as Kangaskhan since I prefer Fake Out pressure at the start of a battle, Intimidate does help against physical leads, and often allows my bulky Xerneas to set up an easy Geomancy. A Naive nature with max investment in special attack was used to maximise damage output.


Kyogre-Primal (Mizuwari) @ Blue Orb 
Ability: Primordial Sea
Level: 50
EVs: 148 Def / 108 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
– Origin Pulse
– Thunder
– Ice Beam
– Protect

Brought to virtually all of my battles, Mizuwari is vital to netting me victory when played correctly. Mizuwari means ‘mixed with water’, and though it’s a popular way to drink whisky, my choice of Dalmore in a mizuwari doesn’t seem to be a popular cocktail in this meta. Nevertheless, I do enjoy whisky on the rocks in a mizuwari, even though this combination can be frustrating at times and can be hard to swallow.

I opted for Thunder to hit opposing Kyogre, which saw some use especially against RayOgre and dual primal teams. The other option I would have used, Water Spout, is dependent on HP, which means the damage output can be nerfed by priority attacks or faster attackers. Thunder is also useful for nerfing opposing Kyogre’s Water Spouts. Also, Origin Pulse seems to me to be more consistent in terms of damage output, bar unlucky misses, and it can still be relied on at low health. Of course, a mizuwari isn’t complete without some ice, so Ice Beam is there for Rayquaza and other flying-types.

The current spread was originally used during the Malaysian MSS, but was changed in favour of much greater bulk at one point (236 HP / 236 Def / 4 SpA / 4 SpD / 28 Spe, Modest nature). I realised that the low speed put me at a disadvantage especially against opposing primals, allowing my opponents to double into Kyogre if I wasn’t careful. When faced with a fast Groudon, Precipice Blades and another hard-hitting attack from its partner can quickly put my primal out of commission without me being able to respond at all. Hence, I switched back to my previous build, which proved to be a better choice as it allowed me a more favourable match-up, speed-wise. I don’t need to care about speed creeping my opponent; I know I will outspeed him if his primals aren’t fully invested in speed, and even if they are, tossing a coin to win the speed-tie is better tactically than definitely getting outsped all the time.

The 148 defence EVs allows Kyogre to survive Dragon Ascent from a non-Life Orbed Jolly Rayquaza, and Double-Edge from a max attack Jolly Mega-Kangaskhan.

252 Atk Mega Rayquaza Dragon Ascent vs. 0 HP / 148 Def Primal Kyogre: 121-144 (69.1 – 82.2%) — guaranteed 2HKO
252 Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Double-Edge vs. 0 HP / 148 Def Primal Kyogre: 139-166 (79.4 – 94.8%) — guaranteed 2HKO


Xerneas (Dalmore) @ Power Herb 
Ability: Fairy Aura
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 108 Def / 148 SpA
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Geomancy
– Moonblast
– Protect
– Dazzling Gleam

Mizuwari has to be paired well with a good whisky, and what better drink then the Dalmore? Though the moveset might be pretty run-of-the mill, this deer isn’t the standard 252 speed Timid variant that I find too frail to survive and dish out damage on the battlefield, but one that can down a couple of shots and still return fire or set up Geomancy.

The investment in physical bulk allows Xerneas to survive Fake Out and Double-Edge from a Jolly Mega-Kangaskhan, and Dragon Ascent from a Life Orb Jolly Mega-Rayquaza. The special attack EVs also allow it to take out a Naive Mega-Salamence 93% of the time with Dazzling Gleam without the Geomancy boost.

Without speed investment, this deer appreciates crucial support from its partners, be it Fake Out pressure from Kangaskhan, redirection from Amoonguss or Tailwind from Talonflame.

148+ SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 0 HP / 4 SpD Mega Rayquaza: 218-260 (121.1 – 144.4%) — guaranteed OHKO
148+ SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Dazzling Gleam vs. 0 HP / 0- SpD Mega Salamence: 168-200 (98.8 – 117.6%) — 93.8% chance to OHKO

252 Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Fake Out vs. 252 HP / 108 Def Xerneas: 49-58 (21 – 24.8%)
252 Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Double-Edge vs. 252 HP / 108 Def Xerneas: 139-166 (59.6 – 71.2%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Mixing the Drinks Usual Leads

Mega KangaskhanXerneas

Kangaskhan and Xerneas

The lead that I relied on most of the time. It might seem like an obvious play, but Fake Out allows me to set up Geomancy almost all the time, especially if my opponent has no Quick Guard or Fake Out users, or if he doesn’t have a way to deal with Xerneas once it’s boosted (e.g. Haze from Crobat). I usually carry either Amoonguss or Talonflame at the back, Amoonguss being useful when my opponent Trick Rooms on me, allowing me to redirect attacks or Spore his team while still attacking with Xerneas.

Mega SalamenceXerneas

Salamence and Xerneas

Used mainly if I feel that my opponent is going to bring in Ferrothorn, since Flamethrower from Salamence is one of the very few ways I can deal with it, the other being Low Kick from Kangaskhan. I still need a Moonblast from Xerneas to pick it off after Low Kick, but Dazzling Gleam and Flamethrower usually takes care of it. Salamence’s Intimidate also helps to soften physical attacks against Xerneas, allowing for greater ease in setting up.

Mega KangaskhanTalonflame

Kangaskhan and Talonflame

I bring this lead whenever I feel my opponent is going to lead Smeargle against me. Kangaskhan applies Fake Out pressure and Talonflame can Taunt or Quick Guard to allow my Kangaskhan to Fake Out opposing Smeargle.

AmoongussXerneas

Amoonguss and Xerneas

I almost never lead this unless I really feel I can get away with redirection and Geomancy. However, it’s a pretty useful lead to fool my opponents into thinking that I will do just that, especially against Trick Room teams. Used only once on Day 1, where my opponent doubled into the Amoonguss slot only for me to switch out into Kyogre to nullify his Groudon’s Fire Punch and easily tank Cresselia’s Ice Beam, setting up Geomancy at the same time.

Day 1 Swiss (Flight A)

Round 1: Antonio Lopez [ES], finished 4-4 (WW)
Mega RayquazaPrimal KyogreMega MawileCresseliaFerrothornSmeargle

His team was really anti-Xerneas with both Mawile and Ferrothorn, and heavily reliant on Trick Room for speed control. In Game 1, fearing his Smeargle, I led with Kangaskhan and Talonflame for Fake Out and Taunt options. However, he led with Mawile and Cresselia. I decided to taunt Cresselia, revealing its Mental Herb, and Fake Out his Mawile, but he read that and Protected with his Mawile while setting up Trick Room with Cresselia. Can’t remember much from the rest of the game but I managed to stall out Trick Room, deal big damage against his Kyogre with Thunder from mine, and with a lucky dodge of his Origin Pulse by one of my team members, I managed to win this round.

In Game 2, I led Salamence and Xerneas while he stuck with his same lead of Mawile and Cresselia. His Mawile Play Roughed into my Salamence while his Cresselia set up Trick Room. With Intimidate lowering Mawile’s attack, my Salamence managed to survive on a sliver of health after landing a Flamethrower onto Mawile. Knowing that he would set up Trick Room, I switched in Amoonguss in Xerneas’ place and from that on it was mainly redirection with Rage Powder and putting his pokemon to sleep with Spore while attacking to seal up the game.

Round 2: Cesar Reyes [MX], finished 4-4 (WW) 581 CPs
Primal GroudonXerneasMega KangaskhanCresseliaThundurus TherianWhimsicott

With Whimsicott on his team I had to be careful not to slip up and lock myself into Protect or Geomancy, and I also had to take note of potential Trick Room and Thunder Wave speed control from Cresselia and Thundurus respectively. In Game 1, both of us led with Kangaskhan and Xerneas, so we traded Fake Outs onto each of our Xerneas. The next turn we both set up Geomancy while attacking opposing Xerneas with Double-Edge on my end and Return on his, and with my bulky Xerneas set, I was able to take his Return quite comfortably. Somewhere in the game he sent in his Thundurus to paralyze my Xerneas with Thunder Wave, while I sent in Amoonguss to Spore his side and to redirect with Rage Powder. Xerneas unfortunately took two turns of full paralysis and was knocked out, but the tables turned in my favour when Effect Spore activated, putting his Kangaskhan to sleep. I managed to pick up the win on the clutch Effect Spore activation.

In Game 2, I could see he was very rattled by the unforeseen turn of events in the previous game, so I took advantage of it and led Amoonguss and Xerneas, while he led Groudon and Cresselia. He thought I was going to redirect and set up Geomancy, so he doubled into my Amoonguss with Fire Punch and Ice Beam. Knowing that he was most afraid of my Amoonguss, I switched out into my Kyogre, changing the weather into my favour and setting up Geomancy. Fire Punch fizzled out in the rain while Kyogre took Ice Beam comfortably (without freezing, thank God). From then on, the game was more or less set for my win – I took out Cresselia with Origin Pulse and a boosted Moonblast, and proceeded to sweep the rest of his team with Xerneas.

Round 3: Carlos Antonio Del Río Ciorino [CL], finished 3-5 (LWL) 312 CPs
Primal GroudonPrimal KyogreMega Kangaskhan TalonflameBronzongMega Manectric

Dual Primal team with possible TrickWind support from both Talonflame and Bronzong, with added Intimidate support from Mega Manectric. I wasn’t too sure about the usual moveset for Manectric as I’ve rarely seen one in our local meta, so I decided to lead with my standard leads of Kangaskhan and Xerneas while he led with Talonflame and Manectric for Game 1. I went for the usual combo of Fake Out and Geomancy, while he set up Tailwind with Talonflame while protecting his Manectric. The next turn I was caught unaware by Roar from his Manectric, and with my boosted Xerneas gone and him having the speed advantage, my team was easily demolished from there on.

In Game 2, both of us led with the same leads but I played around the fact that he had Roar on Manectric and did not set up Geomancy, attacking from the get-go to take out Manectric. At some point in the battle I managed to match Tailwinds with my Talonflame, and since his primals were probably slow as his team had a Trick Room option, my Kyogre was able to outspeed and deal damage first, winning me the game.

I can’t recall much about Game 3, but I know I made a mistake somewhere by using Spore instead of Rage Powder on the same turn that his Bronzong set up Safeguard under Trick Room. I would later discover to my horror that I made a mistake with my Amoonguss and did not run one with minimum speed.

Round 4: Javier Ponce [CL], finished 4-4 (WW) 776 CPs
Primal GroudonXerneasMega KangaskhanMega SalamenceCresseliaTalonflame 

Pretty standard team with Cresselia for Skill Swap and Trick Room support instead of the usual Smeargle, which was a huge relief for me, since it meant that I could stick with my usual aggressive playstyle instead of worrying about potential Dark Voids. Can’t recall fully what happened in my games with Javier, but I know I sent out my standard leads of Kangaskhan and Xerneas against him with Amoonguss at the back. At one point I managed to predict Taunt from his Talonflame, opting to go for Dazzling Gleam to get rid of its Salamence partner. Amoonguss basically helped me with Spore and redirection when he set up Trick Room with Cresselia.

Team Singapore in Round 4 of Day 1
Team Singapore as of Round 4, from right: Ryan Chiam, Melvin Keh, Isaac Lam, me and Guan Yang Ze

Round 5: Darwin Linares Vargas [PE], finished 5-3 (WW) 466 CPs
Primal GroudonPrimal KyogreMega MawileMega VenusaurThundurus Therian Cresselia

Another very anti-Xerneas dual primals team with Mawile and Venusaur, including Thundurus with its pesky Taunt and Thunder Wave options. Venusaur was also threatening to both my Xerneas and P-Kyogre, hitting both super-effectively with potential Sludge Bomb and Grass Knot attacks. In our games he led with either Mawile and Thundurus or P-Kyogre and Thundurus. Again, I cannot recall much from this match but I remember him sending out Venusaur when his P-Groudon was on the field, which was especially scary due to its speed increase from Chlorophyll under harsh sunlight. I managed to avoid Sleep Powder in one of the games, which was pretty crucial for me.

Round 6: Melvin Keh [SG], finished 5-3 (LWW) 875 CPs
Primal GroudonXerneasMega KangaskhanTalonflameTogekissSmeargle 

Dear oh dear, this had to be one of the absolute worst case scenarios possible – facing legendary top Singaporean player Melvin “Shaman” Keh. Known for his exceptional reads, often brilliant meta calls and flawless plays, in conjunction with his calm and collected playstyle, his is truly a name to be feared. Seeing your name paired against his is often enough to cause even veteran local players to lose all hope and tilt before the match. This time was definitely no exception, especially since we had to face each other in the biggest competitive Pokemon event of 2016.

Both of us definitely weren’t happy with how real-life RNG (fate) had to pair two Singaporean players up in Day 1 Swiss, especially since we were the final two Singaporean players in the sixth round of Flight A. What’s more, we had faced each other multiple times in previous events, and Melvin had been guiding me along with my team, so both of us knew each other’s teams inside out. Especially since my team was closely based on what Melvin used in our Regionals at the start of the season.

Melvin ran scarfed Smeargle, which was common in our local meta, and he had Follow Me redirection support with his Togekiss, which also ran Magic Coat for opposing Smeargles and Thunder Wave for speed control. His Xerneas was built similarly to mine (or rather, mine was similar to his), with it having a bulky spread with no speed investment. In game 1, both of us led standard leads of Kangaskhan and Xerneas, trading Fake Outs and setting up Geomancy the turn thereafter. However, Melvin surprised me by switching in his Red Card Talonflame, which took my Xerneas’ boosted Dazzling Gleam comfortably and switched it out. With his Xerneas surviving on a sliver of health after taking Dazzling Gleam and Double-Edge, he managed to sweep the rest of my team and took the first game.

At this point I was pretty rattled, especially since I expected Melvin to read me perfectly like the open book my team was to him. In game 2, we both went with the same leads and I played safely this time to avoid getting Red Carded out. I managed to knock out his Xerneas early by doubling into it with Double-Edge and Moonblast, followed by Sucker Punch, and Tailwind from my Talonflame helped to give me the speed advantage over him, giving me the momentum to win the game.

In Game 3, Melvin led with the dreaded lead of Kangaskhan and Smeargle, and I was starting to lose hope since I had no way to stop the incoming Fake Out and Dark Void combo. After trading Fake Outs, he did launch Dark Void which missed my Kangaskhan but landed on my Xerneas, allowing me to knock out his Kangaskhan with Low Kick. The next turn, his Smeargle attempted to Dark Void my team again but it missed!  Allowing me, of course, to kill off Smeargle once and for all. In another crazy stroke of pure RNG, my Xerneas took one turn of sleep and managed to set up Geomancy afterwards, and I took the game from there.

Although it was definitely a huge relief for me to have played and beaten Melvin in Worlds, I could not help but feel disappointed that we had to face each other, as I really wanted a greater Singaporean presence in Day 2. Melvin lost to Barry Anderson in the crucial third game of his last Day 1 Swiss round due to him losing the scarfed Smeargle speed tie, and he suffered equally bad luck by getting the full three turns of sleep on both his pokemon.

Still, it was a pretty insane experience to have beaten Melvin in an official tournament. I really do owe my victory to him though, Melvin was the one who helped to provide valuable input on my team, and spurred me on when I seriously considered giving up. His level-headedness even in the heat of battle when the tides are stacked against him is really something I admire and hope to achieve one day, and it is this trait that helps him power through Swiss rounds without tilting.

Me and Melvin looking forward to our fated pairing in Round 6 Me and Melvin looking forward to our fated pairing in Round 6

Round 7: Hayato Takaoka [JP], finished 5-3 (WW)
Primal GroudonXerneasMega KangaskhanMega SalamenceTalonflameSmeargle

First pure Big 6 team that I see this set of swiss rounds. Although I’ve faced quite a number of them in the past, it was and still is a daunting team to face, especially the variants with scarfed Smeargle. In Game 1, he did lead Kangaskhan and Smeargle, while I went with Kangaskhan and Xerneas again, but thankfully his Smeargle wasn’t scarfed. We both traded Fake Outs on Smeargle and Xerneas respectively on the first turn, and in the second I took out Smeargle while Xerneas set up Geomancy, allowing me to deal big damage to his team and take this game.

In Game 2, he led Talonflame and Xerneas while I stuck with my usual leads. Knowing that he would Taunt my Xerneas with Talonflame, I doubled into his Xerneas with Double-Edge and Moonblast while he set up with Geomancy. His Xerneas survived with a sliver of health after the Geomancy boost, which I took out with Sucker Punch on the next turn. He brought in his Primal Groudon and I switched out Kangaskhan for Primal Kyogre in order to negate his Eruption, and took the game from there.

Day 1 Swiss Records

Final record for Day 1 Swiss of Worlds: 6-1. Wow! To say the least, it was completely beyond my expectations. Going from what was at first “don’t scrub out too early, at least win a few matches” to “hey, perhaps Day 2 might be a possibility” to actually achieving Day 2 itself was nothing short of incredible and surreal for me. I couldn’t believe this turn of events – I was actually going to participate in the most prestigious set of Swiss rounds in the Pokemon World Championships. What’s more, I was the only Singaporean who had managed to grind through the gruelling rounds of Day 1 to fly my country’s flag high on Day 2.

The next few hours were spent wondering whether all the events that just transpired were actually real, getting spammed on Facebook by friends back at home, thanking the SEA community who journeyed to Worlds and of course catching up on my much-needed dinner. Missing lunch and playing through many intense bouts with world-class players had no doubt left me rather famished. But still, I made Day 2 with 243 CPs!

After a short celebration with the MYSTIC community and grabbing a much needed dinner, we decided to head back early to our apartment to rest early for Day 2. Since I was so used to running this team, I didn’t make any changes to it.

Day 2 started off early for us. Soon had to leave the apartment the earliest to attend to his professor duties, and I left right after him. As usual, Emil prepared breakfast for us, and after wolfing it down and taking a brisk walk from our apartment to the Marriott, I joined the competitor queue with Jira and Adelene and her kids. Shang Loh also came down early to accompany us.

I didn’t know what to expect from Day 2 – not only was I unfamiliar with the big names in the event, but being the sole Singaporean representative for this stage in 2016, I felt that I had to at least put up a good fight in order to carry on the legacy left by past Singaporean main event competitors – Theron Ho, Low Wai Yin, Zulherryka and Poh Yu Jie. I had to be one of the competitors with the lowest total accumulated CPs participating in Day 2, which was pretty nerve-wrecking as I was going to face players probably much stronger and more consistent than me. Still, I tried to put my mind at ease and enjoy the games as they come.

Day 2 Swiss

Round 1: Alessio Yuri Boschetto [IT], finished 2-5(83th place) (LL) 954 CPs

Primal GroudonYveltalMega KangaskhanCresselia AmoongussCrobat

His team had potential TrickWind support from Crobat and Cresselia, so I deduced that his Groudon was probably slower than my timid Kyogre. Amoonguss and Crobat spelt danger to my Xerneas, with Haze and Spore to put it out of commission or remove my Geomancy buffs. He led Crobat and Kangaskhan in Game 1, while I stuck with my usual leads again, and swiftly dealt with my Geomancy boosts with Haze. Tailwind from his Crobat gave him the momentum needed to win this game.

In Game 2, we both used the same leads except that he Taunted my Xerneas while Double-Edge from my Kangaskhan dealt with his Crobat and Moonblast from my Xerneas went into his Kangaskhan. Even though I managed to work around his playstyle, I got some pretty bad breaks, missing a crucial Origin Pulse on his Groudon while he managed to get a double Protect as well, costing me the comeback game.

Round 2: Chase Lybbert [US], finished 2-5(79th place) (LWL) 954 CPs
Primal GroudonXerneasMega KangaskhanMega SalamenceCresseliaSmeargle

Big C-esque team minus Talonflame for Mega Salamence. I didn’t know who Chase was before (my fault really, I didn’t catch up on the US Nationals, and was really busy handling real-life stuff), but I knew he was strong because he told me he received a direct Day 2 invitation. In Game 1, he led Smeargle and Xerneas while I stuck to my usual leads. Wide Guard from his Smeargle and Icy Wind from his Cresselia managed to pull serious weight for his team and I lost the first game. Sitrus Berry on his Cresselia helped it to survive well into the late game, enabling Chase to constantly use Icy Wind to slow my team down.

In Game 2, I led Talonflame and Kangaskhan while I believe he led Cresselia and Groudon. Knowing that he ran Sitrus instead of Mental Herb, I called his Protect and Trick Room play and Taunted his Cresselia. From then on it was just constantly hitting hard with Double-Edge and switching in Kyogre when my Talonflame fainted from recoil and his Fire Punch. I spammed as much Origin Pulse as I was able to and wrapped up the game.

In Game 3, I couldn’t recall exactly what happened but I made a few mistakes and did not bring in Amoonguss when he set up Trick Room with Cresselia. His Kangaskhan had Power-up Punch which helped it deal massive damage with Return. I was unable to keep up with his momentum and hard hitting attacks, and lost the match determining game.

Chase revealed that he was the US Nationals Champion, and I was kinda embarrassed for not knowing such a big name. Still, I was happy to have faced Chase in the ultimate stage of an official Pokemon tournament, and to have played all three rounds with him. At this point with two losses under my belt, I was in danger of dropping out of Top Cut if I lost the next match.

Round 3: Kazi Rahman [US], finished 4-3(51th place) (WW)
Primal GroudonPrimal KyogreMega KangaskhanCresseliaThundurus TherianBronzong

Another dual primals team with lots of speed control options from Cresselia, Bronzong and Thundurus. He led Cresselia and Kangaskhan in Game 1 while I stuck with my go-to leads again with Amoonguss at the back in case of Trick Room. Kazi instead went for Thunder Wave to paralyse my Xerneas after Geomancy, but I managed to not get haxed out by full paralysis in this game and softened his team up with Dazzling Gleam to allow the rest of my team to clean up.

In Game 2, I cannot recall in detail what happened, but Kazi had the momentum in this game. I managed to pull through with a double Protect and a timely miss of Origin Pulse from Kazi’s side. Wasn’t the best way to win a match but I apologised for all the bad RNG towards him. Kazi was understanding though, and we both accepted that it was the nature of VGC. Both of us had two losses under our belts, so this was a make-or-break match for both of us. As much as it pains me to cause a fellow competitor to be denied his potential progression to Top Cut, I was glad that I still had a fighting chance if I didn’t botch the rest of the matches.

Round 4: Joshua Lorcy [US], finished 3-4(58th place) (LWL) 774 CPs
Primal GroudonYveltalMega KangaskhanMega SalamenceBronzongSmeargle

Lorcy used a team that was close to Big-B with Yveltal instead of Xerneas. Still, there was always Smeargle threatening with Dark Void and Bronzong hitting hard with super-effective Gyro Balls and having speed control with Trick Room. I couldn’t remember in detail how all three games went, but in Game 1, Gravity and Trick Room from his Bronzong really helped him out. In one of the games, I did not bring Amoonguss and I failed to stop him from setting up. With Gravity and Joshua having speed control in Trick Room, his Groudon could set up Swords Dance and it was game for him.

I managed to claw my way back in Game 2 by getting Geomancy up early and taking his Bronzong out of commission. Without speed control, my Kyogre was able to tear through the rest of his team since most of his team was slower than mine, and I took this game.

In Game 3, I made a few mistakes and allowed him to again set up Trick Room and Gravity. Hypnosis from his Bronzong then put most of my team out of commission while his Groudon just had to spam Precipice Blades.

Just like Chase, I didn’t realise what a big name he was in the US circuit, but I knew he was very strong as he was a direct Day 2 invitee, and his console had two of those ‘Midseason Showdown Champion’ stickers proudly emblazoned on its front. He revealed that he made the Top 16 of the US Nationals and asked if I’d seen his games on stream. I apologised as I did not as I was busy with other matters during that period. We both thanked each other for the good set of games and Joshua said that I’d managed to keep him on his toes, which was more than I could have asked for from such a well-decorated player.

Although I was sad that I could not meet Top Cut with three losses as of this round, I was happy to have come so far in Worlds, and decided to play to the best of my ability to see where my games would lead me to and what my final standing would be. After all, I did not take a fifteen-hour direct flight from Singapore to San Francisco to give up early.

Round 5: Lukas Müller [DE], finished 2-5(80th place) (WW) 422 CPs
Primal GroudonXerneasMega KangaskhanMega SalamenceBronzongSmeargle

Lukas ran a Big-B team, and like any team with Smeargle and Bronzong, I had to be wary of Dark Void and Trick Room. He had King’s Shield on his Smeargle, which led me to believe that he probably had Mental Herb on it. Like the previous matches, I had to get Geomancy up early and do big damage as much as possible to win. I managed to predict Wide Guard on his Smeargle and call a few of his Protects on his Xerneas as well, which was crucial in winning me this set. Fortunately, his Smeargle did not pick up any evasion or speed boosts when he led with it.

Round 6: Zhang Zhe “politozhe” [TW], finished 3-4(67th place) (WW) 869 CPs
Primal GroudonPrimal KyogreMega KangaskhanMega SalamenceCresseliaBronzong

Zhang Zhe ran a dual primals team supported by both Bronzong and Cresselia, and had been performing very well in all the events he attended, so I knew he was a formidable opponent. I used my standard leads against his team in both games. Even though he brought both Bronzong and Cresselia in our games, he didn’t set up Trick Room, which was likely due to Amoonguss being on my team. Speed control for his team came in the form of Icy Wind instead. In the first game, I managed to again get Geomancy up early to punch holes in his team for the rest of my pokemon to clean up.

In Game 2, I managed to win the Kangaskhan speed-tie against his, and took it out with a critical-hit Low Kick. Zhang Zhe revealed to me that he had EV-ed it to survive Low Kick from a max attack Jolly Kangaskhan, so I was quite lucky in this regard. I got Geomancy up as usual, and he set up Gravity with his Bronzong. But with no Trick Room from his side, Gravity instead helped my Kyogre hit hard with unmissable Origin Pulses.

Round 7: Tatsu Suzuki [JP], finished 4-3(41st place) (LWL)
Primal GroudonXerneasMega KangaskhanMega SalamenceTalonflameSmeargle

Just as with the final Swiss round in Day 1, I got to conclude the 2016 season with another Big 6 team. It felt like I’d come full circle from when I first started the season with Big 6, to end it with Big 6 as well, though not from my side. Tatsu Suzuki came in as the Top 8 for Japan Nationals, and he had a direct Day 2 invite, so I knew he was very strong. In Game 1, both of us managed to get Geomancy up, but Red Card from his Talonflame got rid of my boosted Xerneas. With a boosted Xerneas on his side, he took the game easily.

In Game 2, I managed to play around his team and doubled into his Xerneas with Moonblast and Double-Edge to take it out. With his Groudon being a special or mixed variant, switching in Kyogre also allowed me to win the weather war and prevent him from using Eruption, so I managed to bounce back with the second game.

In Game 3, he led the infamous Smeargle and Xerneas combo, while I stuck with my usual leads. However, I over-compensated and made the risky play by not Faking Out his Smeargle, allowing him to get Dark Void off as I thought he might protect with it. This gave him the opportunity to set up Geomancy the next turn and he took the game easily from there on.

Day 2 Swiss Results
Results after 7 rounds of swiss in Day 2

I finished Day 2 with a final standing of 3 wins and 4 losses, putting me at the 76th position at worlds, which was more than what I could have hoped for in the face of very tough opponents. The result isn’t exactly stellar, but I felt that I’d played my best against the best Worlds had to offer. I’m glad that even against some of the strongest players from all around the world, with far more impressive finisher resumes, I was still able to hold my own, and even beat some of them. And that in most of the sets I didn’t win, I was still able to force a Game 3 before going down. As the only Singaporean representative in the Masters Division, I was happy not just for myself, but for the fact that someone from the tiny land of Singapore could push through into Day 2 and give top contenders a run for their money.

Aftermath

Well, I guess all that can be said has already been said, and all that can be done has already been done. Could I have played better for some of my matches? Definitely. Were there flaws within my playstyle and my team? Of course. Nevertheless, I’m already very happy and satisfied with what I have accomplished for the 2016 season, even though I do not have many accolades to boast of. For a relatively new VGC player who started near the end of the 2015 season, I’ve achieved what many can only dream about and what I set out to do – to qualify for Day 2 at Worlds. After all, I did enjoy myself thoroughly at Worlds, meeting and getting to know top players and matching my wits against them. To be honest, I didn’t believe that it was even possible for me to achieve that, especially with my barely-qualifying CP total of 243, but to be the only Singaporean in the Masters Division to make it to Day 2 was no doubt an honour and privilege in itself.

Future plans? I’ll still be playing VGC, but 2016 is likely to be the first, and last, full season for me. Flying halfway around the world is incredibly expensive in itself already, and even though I’m working, it’s still a pretty huge financial investment. If I was still a student, this trip definitely wouldn’t have been possible without some form of sponsorship. With the 2017 format gearing up to be even more financially taxing, I might have to forgo Worlds next year as travelling around to rack up points through international events will no doubt blow more than a few holes in my wallet, on top of my other hobbies of whisky and photography. Nevertheless, I do advise all Worlds hopefuls to not lose sight of your dreams and aim to be the very best, like no one ever was.

All in all, I’m extremely satisfied with how things turned out at the end of the 2016 season, and I do hope that more players in future will surpass what I did. I’m in no way the top Singaporean trainer based on my standing and my solo rep in Day 2, knowing full well that if the Worlds meta had been the Singapore meta, I wouldn’t have fared as well. Still, I would like to encourage all players, old, new and aspiring VGC trainers, to do the best you can and have no regrets after. Most importantly, enjoy yourself and have fun, even on a losing streak. These words are also for myself as well, because in the end, it’s just a game. Treasure the friends and experience you gain from each event, cliche as it may sound. Singapore is already competitive enough in so many things, and although we are playing a competitive format, the least we should do is have fun, make friends, be gracious in defeat and humble in success.

But of course, this can’t be a complete report without some photos!

Me with Shang Loh, Joshua Lorcy and Jay Blake
Me with Shang Loh, Joshua Lorcy and Jay Blake

Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng, Jira and myself
Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng, Jira and myself

Getting our stuff signed by Masuda-san and Morimoto-san
Getting our stuff signed by Masuda-san and Morimoto-san. Morimoto-san was even nice enough to include “Singapore Day 2 Competitor” on mine!

Team MYSTIC
Team MYSTIC! Not the one from Pokemon Go, of course. The name comes from an amalgamation of the countries within Southeast Asia: Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia Community.

Shout-Outs

  • Tiancheng for indoctrinating me into playing competitively.
  • The Team MYSTIC community for being awesome and supportive.
  • Soon for the much-needed game cart for registration day and driving us around after worlds, even to Yosemite!
  • Emil Ng for all the cooking and encouragement.
  • Melvin Keh for pushing me onwards despite the uphill task of playing and performing in Day 2.
  • Ronald, Cheng Shan and Wilson for being great travel buddies.
  • Corey Yuen for coming in 5th in the world in the Junior Division!
  • Kester Teh for making it into Day 2 in the Senior Division!
  • All the encouragement back at home! You know who you are!

And lastly, thank you, of course! Thanks for reading, or skimming through, this long-winded report about a silly Singaporean’s VGC dream! I hope you enjoy reading it as much I enjoyed writing my thoughts down!

 

Till next time,
Jon

About the Author

Jon ChiangJon fancies himself as a professional guy-with-camera, having won more awards in photography than in competitive Pokemon. Ever since grinding his way into Day 2, he thinks he is now competent enough to write articles for TMI, when really he is probably better off taking photos of sunsets, photoshopping them into ridiculously over-saturated surrealism, and calling them art. His daily routine involves dealing with unfixable bugs as a software engineer in HP, insisting that free exposure does not equate to potential image sales, and drinking whisky. Lots, and lots, of whisky.

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