Hi, I’m Matthew Hui, editor of The Mirage Island, contributing my own content for a change. I was one of four Singaporeans who made it into Day 2 of the 2017 Oceania International Championships in Melbourne, as part of the Top 32 after Day 1 of Swiss, and ended up in 23rd place. It’s my second such finish in Australia, having managed a similar placing in 2015, but this one was achieved in a field with much more international talent and quite honestly was beyond anything I had hoped to achieve going into the event. Here, therefore, are my reflections on the event, to be joined by other attendees in the weeks to come.
Old fogey that I am, I’ve been around for a while now, but I don’t think I’ve ever struggled with a format transition as much as that of VGC16 to 17. I fared miserably at the Malaysian Open, dropping at 3-3, and the first few VGC17 PCs in Singapore saw more of the same as I floundered amidst team preview and an endless sea of surprise kill options.
Ultimately I have Shang Loh over in London to thank for breaking me out of my funk, since he fell in love with the format after attending one MSS and proceeded to engage me in an endless stream of theorymon no matter my reluctance or seenzones. Using his ideas online helped me to slowly grasp the nature of the new format, and eventually I grew comfortable enough to experiment on my own.
I went on to win two consecutive Premier Challenges in February, first taking advantage of a Singapore meta still unsure of how to play against Salazzle and Snorlax, then sneaking a Smeargle-Palossand win in a sparsely-attended PC while the big-hitters were away in Malaysia for the MSS. Buoyed by the wins, I continued to test these and other team ideas to prepare for Melbourne but never really found something that inspired confidence.
Builds such as Z-Nature Power Whimsicott and a Trapinch team inspired by Gary Qian’s Regionals report all seemed to rely too heavily on hard reads that I didn’t trust myself to make under pressure. And the teams based around Salazzle struggled against Gigalith, whose usage kept climbing as we entered March. Faced with these headaches, I ended up going back to Smeargle-Palossand.
This team was honestly never meant to be used seriously by me. I first encountered and lost to the strategy on ladder, and so it was the first thing that sprang to my mind when the topic of autopilot teams came up among the group going to Melbourne. We decided that it was the sort of team that a Senior could win with, so I took the build that Markus Stadter posted on Twitter with the intention of adapting it for Alan’s brother Ming Ze to use. Unfortunately, Ming Ze’s travel award didn’t come in, while in the meantime I was picking up consistent wins online and in the aforementioned PC. Story of Seasons launched, I wanted to make an early decision on my team to avoid last minute panic, so I settled on Palossand, borrowed a Koko from Shang, and off we went.
As previously pointed out, I started from a build posted by Markus Stadter on Twitter, so I take no credit for the team concept, which I’m told may actually have come from our very own Mr Worldwide. Smeargle uses Water Shuriken on partner Palossand, Water Compaction raises Def by 2 with every hit while Weakness Policy also gets activated raising Att and SpA by 2 each, and Tapu Koko comes in later to Psych Up the boosts. Porygon-Z can Trick Room to allow Palossand to set up more easily by Amnesia-ing before getting hit, and can pick up kills using Breakneck Blitz and Hyper Beam. Gigalith is a strong TR attacker whose sand also gives Palossand more healing with Shore Up.
What I wanted was to increase the team’s options, since the combination of Smeargle-Palossand had become so infamous (Kotaku article!) and players knew how to beat it. The infrastructure needed for a team based on Psych Up meant that it was difficult to use the same mons to transition to an entirely different mode. So the obvious answer was to find an alternative stat booster, and with Normalium already on Porygon-Z, Conversion was an easy addition.
Go in with the expectation of a one-trick pony team, or just thinking that the team plays the exact same way as the original, and I might catch you with enough surprises to keep you on the back foot. It turns out the sandcastle is big, scary, but ultimately quite hollow.
Eventually I ended up with this:
Smeargle @ Focus Sash
EVs: 100 HP / 72 Def / 84 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 SpA
– Fake Out
– Follow Me
– Sparkling Aria
– Water Shuriken
Water Shuriken is the combo starter, while Fake Out and Follow Me provide much-needed support for both Palossand and Porygon-Z. The last slot was originally Endeavor, but Smeargle rarely sticks around to use it especially after I de-emphasised the TR mode. So I looked for an option that would beat some of the ‘hard’ counters to Smeargle-Palossand, namely opposing redirection and Storm Drain. Sparkling Aria is Primarina’s signature move that is essentially a Surf clone, letting me get a guaranteed Weakness Policy activation and a single Water Compaction boost even against redirection and Gastrodon, though the latter also gets a boost which can get dangerous. Once in a blue moon you also cure Guts Hariyama’s burn before it attacks which can be hilarious. I ended up barely using Sparkling Aria all tournament, and the two games I pressed it in I lost, so my matchup spread may have been better covered with other support options such as Spore or Wide Guard.
Moody is a double-edged sword, but one side is much, much sharper. The two negative possibilities are the lowering of accuracy or speed. Dropping accuracy can be disastrous if you haven’t attacked into Palossand yet, since your Water Shuriken can then miss and cost you your setup. Dropping speed is bad when up against a slower priority move user such as Metagross and you didn’t manage to setup on T1, if Smeargle loses speed and its Sash then it might get knocked out before it can use Water Shuriken on T2, again losing the setup. However, the potential gains from Moody are enormous. We all know how terrifying Follow Me Smeargle is with an evasiveness boost, and if your opponent focuses on disrupting your setup slot and leaves Smeargle alone for a few turns, even if you lose your main booster all is not lost as Smeargle may have picked up enough useful boosts that can then be Psyched Up as well.
Since I didn’t need 0 speed to Endeavor under TR and actually needed to be able to attack quickly if boosting with Sparkling Aria, I switched to a max speed Smeargle with the remaining EVs in bulk. Offensive IVs are kept as low as possible to minimise damage to poor Palossand; I think I ended up with single digit values on both in-game.
Palossand @ Weakness Policy
Ability: Water Compaction
EVs: 244 HP / 20 SpA / 244 SpD
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Earth Power
– Shadow Ball
– Shore Up
Set does what it needs to do, dual STAB moves allow a boosted Palossand to sweep in its own right, Amnesia patches up the only relevant stat not boosted upon Water Shuriken and offers a Fake Out+Amnesia play on T1 to buffer against special attackers before getting the main boost on T2. Shore Up is reliable recovery that makes Palossand outlast even the strongest of Z-Moves, confident in the knowledge that the damage output next turn will be lower and can be out-healed.
The spread is identical to the original build, I experimented with more SpA over SpD, since many a Drifblim were running Haze, but every Dazzling Gleam or Blizzard Palossand took made me immediately reconsider. Palossand’s priority is to stick around long enough for its partner to Psych Up its boosts, and with Water Compaction covering the physical end, only SpD needs heavy investment. Though Water Shuriken only hitting twice 33% of the time and giving me +4 instead of +6 Def can make things super dicey against things like Kartana (non-Scope Lens, obviously) and Araquanid.
Porygon-Z @ Normalium Z
EVs: 180 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 68 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Shadow Ball
– Hyper Beam
– Trick Room
The clear MVP of my tournament run, as opponent after opponent was ready for Palossand but struggled to deal with the different threat Porygon-Z presented.
Adding in Conversion meant I had to rework Porygon-Z’s moveset and spread. First I had to pick a type to convert to, and since I wanted to keep the option of Breakneck Blitz with Hyper Beam, I couldn’t go the conventional Conversion P-Z route of BoltBeam, and went with Shadow Ball as the best complement to Normal coverage. I believe that Ghost is the best standalone typing for a boosting sweeper, immune to priority attacks like Extreme Speed and the nasty boost-ignoring abomination that is Sacred Sword from Kartana. Shadow Ball’s 10 less base power compared to the elemental beams did hurt especially when things like Arcanine were packing heavy special bulk, but in the end I felt the positives outweighed the negatives.
I did test Tri Attack instead of Hyper Beam since a non-STAB recharging attack is as silly as it sounds, but Breakneck Blitz lost way too much power as a nuke, and non-STAB Tri Attack is about as silly too! P-Z needs to be able to take out threats to my setup such as Haze Tapu Fini, hence the max power Breakneck Blitz. I kept Trick Room instead of Protect since Z-Conversion boosts let P-Z take hits, and TR gives me both the alternate mode of the original team especially against Tailwind Drifblim, along with the option to reverse TR if needed.
The EV spread was difficult, since I needed some speed to get attacks off after Conversion, yet needed the bulk to set up in the first place as well as a low enough speed number to take advantage of TR. I ended up with a speed number of 119, which hits 178 after a Z-Conversion boost to outspeed Kartana and Ninetales, while still slow enough to move before moderately invested Pokemon under TR. The rest went in bulk to keep P-Z around as long as possible.
Tapu Koko @ Aguav Berry
Ability: Electric Surge
EVs: 252 HP / 36 Def / 12 SpA / 108 SpD / 100 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Dazzling Gleam
– Psych Up
Almost entirely the same as the original build, and still by far the best Psych Up abuser in the format. Electric Surge is pretty important to reset terrain against Lele which is a big offensive threat.
STAB attacks are obvious, but hilariously weak when unboosted since I have little investment in SpA. So Tapu Koko is very much reliant on getting the Psych Up off, but generally has little difficulty doing so even in the face of offensive pressure under TW thanks to its bulk. Once boosted, Koko can shrug off hits with Roost and dish out just enough damage with or without Electric Terrain to wear an opponent down.
Aguav Berry can be maddening at times when your health drops just short of activating it, but the potential reward when you do get it is too great, and the turns Koko is on the field typically too low, to justify running Leftovers in its place. Sitrus is not quite as game-changing either.
I kept the original spread with the one minor change of swapping one Speed point to SpD, since 180 and 179 outran the same things. It might seem odd not to run max speed so as to Psych Up defensive boosts as quickly as possible, but there is very little between 179 and 200 that threatens to disrupt you, and the increased bulk from dropping speed helps with that anyway. Speed ties against opposing Koko and Aerodactyl are also not worth the hassle. Koko outspeeds my boosted Porygon-Z by a point, so as to avoid unfortunate speed ties backfiring should P-Z attack into Destiny Bond and die before Psych Up or something.
Chansey @ Eviolite
Ability: Serene Grace
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Def / 4 SpD
IVs: 0 Atk
– Seismic Toss
– Psych Up
- 252 Atk Kartana Sacred Sword vs. 252 HP / 252+ Def Eviolite Chansey: 170-202 (47.6 – 56.5%) — 82.4% chance to 2HKO
- 252+ Atk Water Bubble Araquanid Hydro Vortex (160 BP) vs. 252 HP / 252+ Def Eviolite Chansey: 259-306 (72.5 – 85.7%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 252+ SpA Tapu Lele Shattered Psyche (175 BP) vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Eviolite Chansey in Psychic Terrain: 157-186 (43.9 – 52.1%) — 14.1% chance to 2HKO
Having decided to go all-in on Psych Up with two boosting options, I felt that it was a waste to only have one user of the move. The original team had Celesteela in this slot, which through playtesting I understood as a hard counter to Kartana with Flamethrower as well as an alternate win condition with Leech Seed and bulk. Celesteela though, cannot learn Psych Up, and is threatened by a variety of commonly-seen mons such as Arcanine and Tapu Koko.
Chansey offers the same alternate win condition by stalling out any non-Ghost Pokemon that lacks its own reliable recovery or Toxic through a combination of obnoxious Eviolite-boosted bulk, Seismic Toss, and Soft-Boiled. It honestly felt that despite all the hand-wringing over timer stalling at the start of the format, people seemed to have forgotten that Chansey exists or how to beat it. Chansey’s special bulk is well-known, but Eviolite and max investment means it takes physical hits pretty well, as illustrated by a few calcs presented above.
Now take that bulk and add in Psych Up boosts. +4-6 Def Chansey is nigh unkillable without crits, and even the +1 from Z-Conversion is enough in many cases. The +1 definitely takes special attacks out of the equation, at that point even Tapu Fini at +6 after Calm Mind only 4HKOs. Since Sacred Sword ignores boosts, Kartana is the obvious check to these shenanigans, but as long as it’s still unboosted and Chansey has an active partner, you can keep yourself up long enough to answer the threat. Though even discounting Kartana, it’s not always a walk in the park for Chansey since the rise of Snorlax has led players to carry Fighting-based checks on their teams which can just as easily dismantle Chansey.
On to the most controversial move choice, Minimize is much-loathed from a competitive viewpoint and for good reason, it can turn games into mindless dice-rolls. Since this team often uses Chansey as a win condition however, it makes little sense to leave something so strong off. It’s still not something to rely on, and ended up being a last ditch option that only really helped me in one set on Day 2. Still though, Psyching Up defensive boosts from Tapu Koko, adding evasiveness which Koko can then Psych Up as well? Blech.
Serene Grace was a mistake that was only pointed out to me after the tournament itself. I had tested Flamethrower from time to time as another way to beat Kartana, which is why I started with Serene Grace for the added burn chance. Once I decided on Minimize though, I should have used either Natural Cure or Healer since Serene Grace became totally useless. Natural Cure would allow me to circumvent Toxic as long as Chansey can switch out, taking out the Toxic user before bringing Chansey back in ready to win the game. Healer guards against unfortunate status conditions inflicted on Chansey’s partner, typically Tapu Koko, which did get frozen in one of my Day 1 rounds and might have been saved by Healer.
Torkoal @ Charcoal
EVs: 252 HP / 252 SpA / 4 SpD
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Solar Beam
Dropping Celesteela meant no longer having an absolute hard counter to Kartana, even if Conversion P-Z was somewhat built to beat it. As such, I felt uneasy keeping Gigalith on the team since it was weak to Kartana as well. Switching in Gigalith to give Palossand a 66% Shore Up also rarely ever came into play. Given that Gigalith’s utility as anti-weather was dropping as less and less people played Sun or Rain, I decided to take a different route. I did however lose a strong answer to Koko-Raichu by doing so.
Torkoal offers its own weather so opposing rain is still accounted for, and crucially halves the damage of water attacks aimed at Palossand. I can switch Torkoal in against opposing Fini to allow Palossand to weather the incoming Muddy Water and get an important Amnesia or Shore Up off. Beyond that, Torkoal is still an offensive threat under TR, both psychologically during team preview and in practice. Opposing hard TR teams have to think about whether it’s worth it to TR against me if it means Torkoal coming in later, not even Snorlax enjoys taking sun-boosted Eruption when it already can’t touch Palossand regardless of Belly Drum boost. And of course, any answer to Kartana is greatly appreciated.
I preferred the reliable single target damage of Flamethrower over another spread move in Heat Wave, and the rest of the set is pretty standard. Torkoal saw no use at all on Day 1, which made me question its place on the team, but subsequently proved its worth multiple times on Day 2.
QR Code for my team can be found here.
Oceania International Championships Day 1
I’d won the PC and had extensive experience with the team online, so I knew the plays I need to make in most situations. Still though, a team such as this meant that I was pretty much hoping to hit good matchups all day, and as such I had limited expectations going into Melbourne, hoping for at least a positive record of 5-4 while enjoying the experience of my first International Championships.
Round 1: Robert Whitehill (finished 2-4) WW
After pairings were out online, one of the Australian players sitting near me during the player meeting (Matthew Jiwa?) saw the name on my phone and told me not to be afraid, which I found amusing. In any case, I hit my first Gastrodon of the day in R1, not exactly the matchup I was looking for.
Game 1: With Gastro and Kartana locking down my Palossand setup, I lead Smeargle+Porygon-Z against his Talonflame and Kartana. Fearing Quick Guard, I use Follow Me and Z-Conversion, as Kartana Sacred Sword brings me to Sash and Talonflame Protects. So far so good, but next turn I expect the Kartana to Protect and attack into Talonflame, it instead finishes off Smeargle as Talonflame sets up Tailwind and goes down, allowing him to bring in Garchomp for free with 3 more turns of TW. I send in Tapu Koko.
I again decide that Kartana has to Protect next turn with Garchomp going for Earthquake, attacking into Garchomp’s Protect as Kartana gets a hit on my Koko. Koko does at least get the Psych Up in the meantime. However, Garchomp Tectonic Rages to finish off Koko, as Kartana uses Night Slash to reveal that it is holding Assault Vest (and can’t Protect). Garchomp goes down to Shadow Ball, but with one more turn of TW and Arcanine coming in, things look bleak. I bring in Chansey.
To my shock, he misclicks and targets my Ghost type P-Z with Sacred Sword as Arcanine Flare Blitzes into Chansey, letting me pick up the kill and the game. 1-0
Game 2: Same leads for both, but I now feel comfortable enough to go for Fake Out on Kartana, expecting the Talonflame to TW, but it Protects which is even better as I boost. Supersonic Skystrike goes into Follow Me and Sash next turn as I take out Kartana, and since he keeps attacking and not TWing with Talonflame, I am able to eliminate its partners and close the set out. 2-0
Round 2: Alister Sandover (finished 6-3, made Day 2) LWL
Alister was a name I recognised from the Australian player preview that PokeAus had done, and he had just taken Ryan Loh out in the previous round, so I was pretty apprehensive. Two Gastrodons in two rounds.
Game 1: Without Kartana on his team, I see my chance to set up Palossand. Leading Smeargle-Palossand into Nihilego-Koko, I call the switch into Gastrodon to stop Water Shuriken and Fake Out Koko, setting up Amnesia with Palossand. Everything falls apart next turn though, assuming that he wouldn’t want to activate my Weakness Policy by using a water attack and would instead go for something like Toxic. I opt to Sparkling Aria and set up another Amnesia instead of healing with Shore Up. He goes for Scald with the Storm Drain boost I so kindly gave him, and Palossand ends up taking way too much damage to survive Dazzling Gleam the next turn.
Without the boosts, my team falls apart, especially with his Gigalith having Continental Crush to take out my Chansey. 0-1
Game 2: I know there’s no way he gives me the same situation as in Game 1, so I switch to Porygon-Z. His Nihilego reveals Scarf, but I am able to set up and Psych Up this time, with him watching out for the potential Palossand switch-in and giving me room to exploit. 1-1
Game 3: He’s much more aware of the Z-Conversion option now, and pressures me from the start. The special bulk possessed by Nihilego, Gigalith and Gastrodon prove too much for my team to handle, especially after Nihilego puts my P-Z on a timer by poisoning with Sludge Bomb. 1-2
Round 3: Dorian Maruda (finished 4-5) WLW
Losing in the previous round was disheartening for sure, but Dorian was extremely friendly and reminded me why I attend events such as this in the first place. His reaction during team preview led me to believe he didn’t know how the main combo worked, and so it proved.
Game 1: Smeargle-Palossand against Garchomp-Kartana. Normally a dangerous situation thanks to Leaf Blade, but he was clearly unaware of how my team worked and uses EQ+Protect, allowing for a comfortable set up turn. I am able to get the necessary Psych Ups as the game progresses, Kartana’s Sash means it sticks around for a while to keep me on my toes fearing crits, but Koko and Chansey close the game out. 1-0
Game 2: I expect the Specs Tapu Fini lead now that he knows what I’m going for, so I lead Porygon-Z, but he leads with Muk and Chomp and makes me regret not bringing Palossand again. On Turn 1 I blank out and nearly run out of time considering my options, ultimately mis-clicking and Breakneck Blitzing his Muk for the KO instead of setting up Z-Conversion. Without the boosts and type change, his faster mons are able to put pressure on me, and a missed Hyper Beam on his Kartana costs me the game. 1-1
Game 3: Again tempted to bring Palossand, but I stick it out with Porygon-Z as he leads his Game 1 pair of Chomp-Kart. This time I set up Z-Conversion, get my Psych Ups, and take the set. 2-1
Round 4: Corey Heappey (finished 4-5) LWW
First Drifblim-Lele team of the day, which was something I considered threatening enough to have a substantial gameplan against. I considered it one of the two strongest archetypes going into Melbourne along with Persian-Mimikyu-Snorlax, so I had to be on my toes.
Game 1: Drifblim-Lele does come out as I lead Smeargle-Porygon-Z. Things go downhill pretty quickly as I predict the TW and TR with P-Z, but he goes for double Psychic into Smeargle’s Follow Me instead. Lele does end up being the slow Specs set popularised by Shoma and knocks P-Z out before it can move under TR. His Gyarados reveals Earthquake, and eventually brings me down to just Chansey upon which I forfeit since I have no way to touch Drifblim. 0-1
Game 2: Deciding to stick to the Conversion gameplan even in the face of potential TW, my job is made easier as he leads Pheromosa-Lele. Setting up Z-Conversion on Turn 1 while sacking Smeargle, Koko shrugs off Poison Jab from Phero to Psych Up as I KO Lele. Drifblim comes in with no terrain to activate its Seed, and without TW my opponent has no way to handle a boosted Koko. 1-1
Game 3: He goes back to Drifblim-Lele, but the Specs on Lele along with his apparent unwillingness to switch it out to preserve it means I again get the KO with Shadow Ball. With terrain control and boosted bulk, I hang on through his TW turns to take the set. 2-1
Round 5: Samuel Pandelis (finished 4-4) LL
Sam Pandelis is a pretty well-known name, after his achievements last year, and I just knew that Yang Ze would have something to say if I lost to him. My first thought during team preview was ‘Looks like Nails’ team’, which was ominous given how that team carries Scope Lens. Nonetheless I pressed on with Smeargle-Palossand.
Game 1: ‘Leads like Nails’ team’ is the next thought as Koko and Kartana come out for him. Tbolt brings Smeargle to Sash and Leaf Blade fails to crit, making me hopeful that it isn’t Scope Lens after all. Lol nope. The next Leaf Blade crits as I Water Shuriken to break a non-existent Focus Sash, and after a later crit on my Chansey with Sacred Sword he gives me verbal confirmation that it is in fact Scope Lens. 0-1
Game 2: With no other option, I switch to Porygon-Z. He doubles into Follow Me with Twinkle Tackle and Sacred Sword as I boost, and I take out Kartana next turn while Psyching Up with Koko. I bring him down to his last two of Porygon2 and Gigalith against my boosted Koko and Chansey, and that’s when things start going downhill. Ice Beam freezes Koko, which doesn’t thaw for several turns and eventually goes down, and Thunderbolt paralyses Chansey. Porygon2 sets up TR to allow Gigalith to move first, and with a Curse boost he’s able to do enough damage to keep Chansey pinned through a combination of flinch and paralysis. 0-2
To be quite honest though, even if I had managed to stall out the game and win, we would probably have taken so much time (since I can only beat P2 by pp stalling) that Game 3 would need to be decided on tiebreakers or sudden death, which my team is likely to lose.
Round 6: Emma Williams (finished 5-4) WLW
Already on the brink of elimination this early, I resolved to take things as they came. Another Drifblim-Lele team.
Game 1: Drifblim-Lele come out against my Smeargle-Porygon-Z, and go for TW+Protect as I boost. Drifblim switches out for Garchomp immediately after, indicating that its only damaging attack is Shadow Ball, and I KO the Lele. With Smeargle still sticking around to provide Follow Me support, Porygon-Z picks off first Chomp, then Arcanine, with OHKO Shadow Balls. 1-0
Game 2: She switches it up with Ninetales-Lele, and eliminates Smeargle on Turn 1. Next turn I Shadow Ball into Lele’s Protect as Blizzard gets the crit to knock my boosted P-Z out. Even though I have the boosts from Psych Up, the offensive pressure from Ninetales (Sash still intact at this point) and Lele prove too much especially after Shattered Psyche knocks out my Koko. 1-1
Game 3: No reason to change anything. Things proceed without P-Z getting crit and I close the set out. 2-1
Round 7: Fred Zhou (finished 5-4) WW
Drifblim-Lele again, at this point I was feeling pretty confident about the matchup.
Game 1: Confidence lasts exactly one turn. He leads Arcanine-Tapu Koko and I derp by Faking Out Koko and boosting with Porygon-Z. Arcanine dutifully Roars me out. At this point I consider the game mostly lost and just try to get as much information as I can. His Koko-Arc and my Koko-Smear mess around for a couple of turns, trading occasional hits, and I actually get the first kill with Tbolt on his Arcanine as his Koko wastes turns Sky Dropping my Smeargle. He brings in Chomp.
At this point I’m wondering why my Smeargle is still alive after so many turns, so I tap on the screen to see its stat boosts. I am greeted by 4 pink arrows in evasiveness, 2 in speed, and 1 in defence. Well, that explains why he seemed so desperate to get it off the field. Seeing my chance, I target Smeargle with Koko’s Psych Up and hold my breath. Dazzling Gleam misses Smeargle, I get the Psych Up, but Chomp fires off Tectonic Rage… into 10 HP Smeargle.
Chansey comes in to take the boosts as well, and I get away with daylight robbery as the Specs Lele that comes in later is unable to hit Chansey enough times. 1-0
Game 2: My opponent looks absolutely on tilt, and I don’t blame him after how Game 1 turned out. Same leads for both of us, but this time I use my head and Follow Me the inevitable Roar. Desperate to get back into the game, he keeps going for attacks instead of Protecting, and Porygon-Z secures KO after KO with boosted Shadow Balls. Crucially, Arcanine is unable to survive Shadow Ball and Roar me out. 2-0
Round 8: Samuel Hughes (finished 5-4) LWW
After the miracle escape last round I began to believe. For some reason though, the presence of Hariyama in team preview made me think that Smeargle-Palossand would be nullified due to Fake Out when it merely delays it for a turn, and I brought Porygon-Z to Game 1.
Game 1: Hariyama-Tapu Koko against my Smeargle-Porygon-Z. We trade Fake Outs, which in hindsight is damage P-Z can ill-afford to take, and I boost the next turn while losing Smeargle, as he Volt Switches out into Nihilego. I manage to Psych Up with Koko, but Nihi turns out to be Scarf, and even my boosted Koko goes down to a Sludge Bomb + Thunderbolt from his Koko. I try a last ditch attempt to claw back with Minimize Chansey, but he smartly Dragon Dances several times with Gyarados before finishing me off with an unmissable Hydro Vortex. 0-1
Game 2: I make the obvious adjustment to bring Palossand, and get my boosts on Turn 2. He does get Nihi in though, and pumps his fist when Earth Power from Palossand lands on the other slot. I discover just why he was so excited when he uses Clear Smog to remove my boosts and leave my Koko Psyching Up nothing. His Gyara later sneaks in a DD as Hariyama annihilates Chansey, and it comes down to his Koko and +1 Gyara against my Koko and Palossand. Perhaps either not expecting my Koko to be slower than his Adamant +1 Gyara, or perceiving Palossand to be a bigger threat than it was, he Vortexes to knock out Palossand and allows my Koko to KO Gyara, bringing us to a Koko vs Koko situation with mine having already taken a Gleam.
Life Orb Koko vs Roost Koko can only end one way though. He gets a crit which procs Aguav Berry to add insult to injury. 1-1
Game 3: Even with Scarf Clear Smog looming over me, I felt that Palossand was still my win condition, I just needed to protect Smeargle better to keep it around for Follow Me. Sure enough, he opts to DD then Protect with Gyara instead of attacking Smeargle, so when Nihilego comes in Smeargle is still alive and able to redirect the Scarf attack. Even with Water Shuriken hitting twice to only give me +4 Def, Palossand takes the +1 Hydro Vortex and I am able to Psych Up the boosts and close the set out. 2-1
Round 9: Daniel Parks (finished 6-3, made Day 2) LWW
Another escape after staring at defeat. Melvin had fought Daniel previously and told me how his team uses Sky Drop Aero to set up Z-Conversion, and that the Lele is Scarfed. We didn’t end up getting into the Conversion war I expected though.
Game 1: He leads Lele-Gigalith against my Smeargle-Porygon-Z and outplays me from the start, firing off spread attacks in Dazzling Gleam and Rock Slide to bypass Follow Me, and leave P-Z too weakened to stick around after Z-Conversion, the second Dazzling Gleam taking me out. Without the boosts I find myself just trying to fish out more information about his team, stalling him out with a lone Chansey. He actually does get impatient and switches in Arcanine to do more than 75% with Close Combat, revealing Choice Band, something he could have avoided and a crucial piece of info for me going forward. 0-1
Game 2: I bring both Porygon-Z and Palossand this time, leading with the former, and see my chance to switch Palossand in and Water Shuriken. Unfortunately for me, Tapu Fini also switches in on Turn 1 and reveals Haze immediately after. At this point I am almost certain my run is over, but I catch a lucky break when Arcanine switches in and gets OHKOed by a crit Earth Power. Breakneck Blitz from P-Z takes out Fini, and Chansey is able to close the game out against Scarf Lele and Gigalith. 1-1
Game 3: Having seen Haze, I decide to make boosting an afterthought and leave Smeargle out entirely, leading Koko to reset terrain against ScarfLele and Palossand to wall his Gigalith. At this point I’m pretty certain Gigalith is Assault Vested as it stubbornly hangs on and dishes back a fair bit of damage, but Breakneck Blitz eliminates Lele this time before it can do too much damage. I lose Porygon-Z, and we end up in a situation where I have a <50% Koko entering the field and setting Electric Terrain next to my 100% Chansey, against his newly entering Arcanine and Fini.
He takes the bait, fearing terrain-boosted Thunderbolt on his Fini, and locks himself into Extreme Speed to take out Koko as Fini goes for Muddy Water. For whatever reason, I still manage to nearly ruin my own chances by attacking with Seismic Toss twice instead of healing, only realising the turn after that Extreme Speed has 8 PP and all I had to do was stall it out. He gets one crit with Extreme Speed and nearly takes me out with the subsequent Muddy Water, but I hang on and heal more than I take from that point on.
Arcanine runs out of PP and dies to Struggle, and as Muddy Water continues to hit and lower my accuracy, I begin to wonder if the match will go to time. I whiff multiple Seismic Tosses once my health gets back into a healthy range, but only when the Fini finally Struggles do I realise that it was holding Specs all along, despite having Haze. 2-1
Friendly neighbourhood TO Zong Ying then reminded me that I could have just Psyched Up the Fini to remove the accuracy drops and ended the game more quickly. Derp.
7-2, #22 after Day 1 Swiss, qualified for Day 2
I immediately made the wrong decision of separating from the others to go get dinner from the supermarket, while they went and had a proper meal, but yay Day 2!
Prayed for good matchups and immediately waltzed into Nails and his Scope Lens Kartana. Yikes.
Round 1: Nick Navarre (#6) WLL
Sam had beaten me pretty handily with the team on Day 1, but I felt that game 2 of the set offered me something of a path to follow. At least one that didn’t involve flipping Scope Lens coins with Palossand.
Game 1: He leads Koko-Kartana into my Smeargle-Porygon-Z, Volt Switching out into Gigalith as Kartana finishes off Smeargle for a Beast Boost. Z-Conversion goes off, and I bring Koko in to Psych Up as Kartana Detects against Shadow Ball. He switches +1 Kartana out into Porygon2, again nullifying my Shadow Ball, and Gigalith continues to chip away at my +1 Def mons with Rock Slide. The next few turns get wacky as he Trick Rooms before I reset it with Porygon-Z, twice in total with me fortunately avoiding the flinch from Rock Slide both times.
My Koko continues to chip away while shrugging off damage with Roost, and eventually Gigalith, then his own Koko, go down, as I lose Porygon-Z. His Kartana’s bulk investment comes through though, surviving a +1 Koko Thunderbolt in Electric Terrain (hooray also for my lack of offensive investment!) and getting the Leaf Blade crit, and I am forced to bring Chansey in against +1 Kartana and Porygon2. Thankfully Sacred Sword doesn’t crit, allowing me to KO with Seismic Toss, and after trying a few times with Ice Beam he decides it’s not worth wasting time on pp stalling and forfeits. 1-0
That was scary, as despite basically getting most things to go my way, the power of Scope Lens could swing the game at any point. Also, I think he expected +1 Sacred Sword to cleanly OHKO Chansey or he would have stalled for a turn with Detect to get P2 chip damage on, so I got away with one at the end.
Game 2: Chansey pulled through for me at the end, but it felt like a liability, so I picked Torkoal for the first time all tournament. Same leads for both of us, but he immediately shows the adjustment by Volt Switching out into Arcanine, and taking advantage of Follow Me by getting a Substitute on Kartana. Arcanine’s Assault Vest lets it take a boosted Shadow Ball and throw a wrench in my setup with Bulldoze, making me slower than Kartana who still had a Sub up, and knocking Smeargle out.
I bring Koko in to Psych Up, and try to salvage the situation by Trick Rooming for my Torkoal at the back. I fail to deal with the threat of Sub Kartana though, and he brings Gigalith in abuse my TR. I get a brief glimmer of opportunity when he double misses with Rock Slide, but instead of breaking Kartana’s Sub I go for an unnecessary Roost on Koko. In the end all I have left is a damaged Torkoal under TR against a Kartana with at least +1 (but hey, I finally broke the Sub!) and a 100% Koko.
He calls my play correctly and Protects Koko from Flamethrower, knocking me into the red with Sacred Sword, and next turn I have no way to KO both. 1-1
Game 3: He made necessary adjustments, now it was my turn. I reason that the four I brought could get the job done, and we lead the same 4 from the previous games. This time, I deny Kartana’s Sub with Fake Out, which means Porygon-Z has to eat terrain-boosted Volt Switch before boosting as Arcanine comes in. I predict the incoming Bulldoze and Trick Room, but he also makes the right call and gets Kartana behind a Sub(!!!). Torkoal comes in after Smeargle goes down to put pressure under TR, but once again his Kartana is sitting pretty behind a Sub.
Porygon2 comes in, and I predict a reverse TR to keep Torkoal off his back, so I double into P2 with Eruption and non-STAB Hyper Beam. P2 goes down, as does Kartana’s Sub, and he KOs my Porygon-Z to even save me the recharge turn, getting a Beast Boost.
With 2 more turns of TR and a 100% Torkoal, things look good. Kartana and Koko Detect/Protect to stall 1 turn out, then I know he has to go for at least one double Protect. Koko switches to Arcanine to sack it, and Kartana gets the double Detect as TR runs out.
I already know that my Koko cannot deal 75% to his Kartana without a boost even under terrain, so my only chance is to either crit or paralyse it. I get neither, Kartana KOs my Koko, and his Koko gets the easy finishing blow on Torkoal. 1-2
Three incredible games, and one of the most intense sets I’ve ever played. A shame how it ended for me, but just playing these games gave me the confidence that I could compete on this level and on this stage.
Round 2: Federico Turano (#26) WLL
The other core I was afraid of, if Snorlax gets Belly Drum up then both Koko and Chansey need to Psych Up +6 Def from Palossand if I’m to stand a chance. And Persian offers so much disruption against a team like mine.
Game 1: He leads Mimikyu-Fini against my Smeargle-Porygon-Z. Mimikyu Taunts Smeargle as I Z-Conversion, and I focus on bringing the Fini down since it’s the main thing stopping my Palossand at the back. He manages to get Trick Room up with Mimikyu, and Belly Drums with Snorlax, but in the process reveals his full set of Return/Drum/Rock Slide/Protect, limiting his sweeping and staying potential. I do lose my boosted Porygon-Z, but take the opportunity to set Palossand up with Water Shuriken and Amnesia.
After I wear Snorlax down, I have enough SDef boosts to handle the weakened Fini, and with his Pheromosa only having Poison Jab to hit Palossand, my sandcastle tanks the game out. 1-0
At this point I have no idea what item his Mimikyu is holding, he had at least one opportunity to nail my unboosted Palossand with Never-Ending Nightmare, which made me doubt that he was carrying the Z-Crystal.
Game 2: Mimikyu-Snorlax come out for him as I lead Smeargle-Porygon-Z again. He Taunts Smeargle again as I break Disguise with Shadow Ball, since I want to preserve my Z-Crystal for Breakneck Blitz instead of boosting. He does switch Fini in, so I take my opportunity to fire said Breakneck Blitz into… Z-Destiny Bond. So that was there all along. He gets a Calm Mind up in the meantime, which allows him to easily take my Hyper Beam next turn.
Here I make an even bigger blunder by forgetting that I’m stuck in recharge, locking in my Smeargle’s Water Shuriken thinking that I could switch to Palossand. His Fini continues to boost, and without being able to hide behind an invincible sandcastle, he overwhelms me with a combination of Fini and Snorlax.
Game 3: I don’t remember much about this game, but I do recall thinking that his Fini didn’t carry Protect since he hadn’t revealed it at all in the first 2 games, and whiffed yet another Breakneck Blitz into said Protect. I also brought Torkoal to try and mitigate Fini’s damage against Palossand, but in the end it came down to Palossand with 2 Amnesia boosts against Fini with at least 2 CM boosts and Mimkyu. Earth Power falls just short of KOing Fini before his 50% Berry kicks in, and I miss one Earth Power after a Muddy Water accuracy drop to seal my fate. Also he finally realised he could just Taunt me to stop Shore Up. 😛 1-2
Another good set. I was 0-2 for the day but enjoying myself.
Round 3: Luke Iuele (#28) WW
Game 1: He leads Ninetales-Kartana against my Smeargle-Porygon-Z, basically confirming no Sash on Kartana and a likely Assault Vest. So I Fake Out Kartana and Z-Conversion, eating a Blizzard in the process. Again expecting no Detect from Kartana, I KO it with Shadow Ball as Ninetales Blizzards to take out Smeargle and pile more damage on Porygon-Z.
He brings in Lele and Protects against Shadow Ball, allowing Ninetales to finally finish off Porygon-Z with the help of hail, but not before Koko gets the Psych Up. I’m down to my last two of Koko and Chansey, I heal back with Roost just in time to survive a Shattered Psyche from his Lele, which activates Aguav Berry allowing me to take Blizzard. Chansey Psychs Up as well, and I realise Koko can’t keep itself alive forever.
With nothing else on the table, I press Minimize twice as Koko goes down to repeated targeting (I contemplate Psyching Up the evasiveness on Koko, but decide to use my last turn to get damage on Lele instead). Stupidity starts here as it turns out he has the perfect combination of Encore Ninetales and Taunt Lele to force my Chansey to Struggle if I press Soft-Boiled, but he fails to land both on my +4 evasiveness Chansey at the same time throughout the rest of the game. Garchomp comes in, reveals Scarf, and tries to get flinches with Iron Head, but to no avail and Seismic Toss gets the death by a thousand cuts. 1-0
Game 2: Welp, that happened. Much like R5 of Day 1, my opponent(‘s psyche) looks shattered. He leads Ninetales-Lele this time, but I expect him to play more aggressively and secure a Shadow Ball KO on Lele after boosting. He does get Aurora Veil up with Ninetales this game, helping his Arcanine stick around for a while, but in the end it comes down to his Kartana against my Torkoal. He reveals All-Out Pummelling (not AV) that does just above half to Torkoal and I take the set. 2-0
Round 4: Markus Stadter (#20) LL
I’m not sure a matchup gets much worse than “guy whose pastebin you based your team on”. Nonetheless fighting Markus was a massive honour, and I hoped to put up a good fight.
Game 1: He leads Clefairy-Fini and I immediately regret not going for Palossand out of fear of Persian. I fire Breakneck Blitz straight into Fini which survives thanks to Friend Guard. His Fini essentially boosts unchecked this game with the support of Heal Pulse Clefairy, and I let him since I figure Koko can come in and Psych Up as long as I remove Clefairy’s Follow Me. Arcanine also removes my Chansey with Inferno Overdrive. Unfortunately it turns out he has Scarf Kartana at the back which picks off my Koko, while the Fini whose boosts I stole blows a raspberry. 0-1
Game 2: This time I bring Palossand, and this time he has the Persian. I set up with Water Shuriken, but Parting Shot halves my offensive boosts and gets Clefairy in to support Fini. I Amnesia with Palossand in the meantime to take on Fini, but Clefairy then catches me with Encore. I get Koko in but Follow Me stops me from getting the Psych Up off, and after Palossand goes down, I have nothing to stop his Snorlax. 0-2
Absolutely dominating from Markus, all set it really did feel like he was on another level.
Round 5: Tony Nguyen (#25) LWW
Full circle for me in Australia. Tony was my first opponent in 2015, and now he was going to be my last opponent of 2017. He had Snorlax removed from his team due to a team sheet error, which was unfortunate for him.
Game 1: Garchomp-Haunter come out for him and I scratch my head as to what on earth is going on. I set up Water Shuriken, but Haunter immediately moves before Garchomp and Clear Smogs the boosts away. Wow. I play catch-up for the rest of the game as Garchomp continues to Earthquake freely next to both his Scarf Haunter and Air Balloon Togedemaru. 0-1
Game 2: He leads Togedemaru-Garchomp this time, and I manage to set up Z-Conversion. Haunter can’t come in to Clear Smog so long as Smeargle is alive to Follow Me, which allows me to Psych Up the boosts with Koko. Togedemaru proves irritating to my boosted Koko next to his Fini, but I do eventually wear it down, and I think he forgets that +1 Koko is faster than Scarf Haunter which lets me pick up an easy KO. 1-1
Game 3: He leads Togedemaru-Garchomp again, but this time I bring both my set up mons with Palossand at the back. Seeing my chance, I switch it in and Water Shuriken, setting up as he immediately switches into Haunter. With Smeargle still around to Follow Me Clear Smog, he’s forced to switch Haunter out again and I KO the incoming Togedemaru with Shadow Ball. Haunter does then get the revenge KO with Shadow Ball as my Breakneck Blitz fails to OHKO his Assault Vest Garchomp.
My last mon is Koko and he’s forced to make a decision as to whether or not to conserve the Haunter locked into Shadow Ball. He decides to stay in, dealing around 50% to Koko, which finishes off Garchomp with Dazzling Gleam, and Shadow Ball from Porygon-Z takes out Haunter. His last mon is Arcanine, which gets the KO on Koko with Inferno Overdrive, but I press Hyper Beam and breath a sigh of relief as it hits. 2-1
9-5, #23 overall
Couldn’t have asked for more, really, other than maybe more Singaporeans in Day 2 and one of us making Top 8.
For the group of us that travelled together, Oceania Internationals was our Worlds, our one big event, and nothing has changed now that it’s over. Some of us met vindication, while others had their competitive fire reawakened amid a realisation of where they stand. Worlds itself remains something to aspire to, but there’s no sense single-mindedly zeroing in on a distant target and losing sight of the experiences along the way. My sets on Day 2 were some of the best I’ve ever played, and amid the disappointment of losses, I rediscovered my love for this game at a high level, which is something I hope everyone who went to Melbourne and even those cheering from home can find for themselves.
Art by Valerie Tan