Hi y’all, I’m Ryan Loh, also known as ‘opkil’. I’m back in the circuit after taking a break during the VGC16 season.
I’ve honestly never been a particularly amazing player. If you’d use TVTropes to describe me as a player, I’d be the guy Overshadowed by Awesome. In the 2015 season, we had the Singaporean greats like Wai Yin and Kenny. I was never amazing, but I thought myself to be pretty good. I missed my chance at Worlds in 2016 when I skipped the format with a 200 CP bar, making me pretty much one of the few veterans/founding members to never have gone to Worlds as a competitor.
After watching the finals of Worlds 2016, I resolved to change that this season.
(This post won’t be filled with war-stories, just a good break down of my team.)
Not gonna lie – I walked into the SG Open hoping to place Top 16 and see if my theorymon-ing and practice would be worth anything. One week pre-tournament, I was running this configuration:
The idea behind the team was to use the momentum generated with Smeargle to boost Porygon-Z, and start breaking things with a +1/all Porygon-Z while sleeping things with Smeargle. After some more testing, I decided that Porygon-Z was just not working out, and swapped it out for Chomp. One of the biggest problems was that Pory-Z didn’t have effective spread to abuse.
I also decided my team’s average speed was lacking, so I gave a Scarf to Tapu Lele. It was looking better in this iteration:
The team was starting to take shape, but I felt that I was pushing it by having both Smeargle and Cloyster. While both were favourites of mine, I decided that I wanted the forward momentum that Smeargle gave over the Cloyster silver bullet that this specific team didn’t really need.
On the day before the SG Open, I had no idea what to do with the slot that Cloyster left open. I looked into my box of bred Pokemon, took out the Gyara I used for the Battle Tree, and gave it Protect.
And we were in business. Carpe diem.
Tapu Lele @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Psychic Surge
EVs: 44 HP / 44 Def / 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 164 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Dazzling Gleam
– Shadow Ball
Scarfed Tapu Lele is the first member of this team. 164 Speed EVs allow it to outspeed neutral 252 Pheromosa, 252+ Aerodactyl/Tapu Koko, and a +1 neutral Gyara. These were important benchmarks, because I’d want to score a 2HKO on Pheromosa and Koko, and also eliminate a boosted Gyara with TBolt if I got the chance. 252 SpA is just to hit as hard as possible. The HP and Def EVs were remnants of Wolfe Glick’s own Choice Lele suggestions, but I figured to keep them as 44HP/44Def for general bulk, and the 4 SpD for that additional point.
Lele’s role is usually as a lead or to sit at the back to surprise opponents. If I don’t use her in G1, she tends to surprise opponents because they don’t expect the Scarf. An important bit to note about her speed tier is that I had to play smart with her some games. And in some match ups, no one expected the scarf because she sits at base 95 anyway. Dazzling Gleam/Psychic were the MVP moves, and half my games were spent just spamming Dazzling Gleam in a decent mimicry of Xerneas.
Lele’s coverage moves varied in playtesting, with choices like Shadow Ball, TBolt, Moonblast, Psyshock, Energy Ball and Nature’s Madness all considered. I decided on Shadow Ball/TBolt, counting on heavy Gyara and Marowak usage. I didn’t like/need Moonblast because I felt that I could handle dragons well enough with Dazzling Gleam. Psyshock and Energy Ball felt inferior to Psychic and T-Bolt, though I have to admit that Energy Ball cracks the unsuspecting Gastrodon. Nature’s Madness might be something I’ll playtest in the future.
Marowak-Alola @ Thick Club
Ability: Lightning Rod
EVs: 244 HP / 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 8 Spe
– Flare Blitz
– Shadow Bone
Marowak was pretty bog standard, with both Celes and Gyara staying on the team, the Lightning Rod effect was very relevant. I went with 8 Speed to speed creep opposing 0 Spe Marowak outside of Trick Room.
It’s a Marowak. On hindsight, I could have used Arcanine instead, but Marowak did come in very useful in the SG Open – where I had so many people T-Bolting into it with their Tapu Kokos.
I didn’t use it at all during the KL Open however, because it felt like everyone had a solid counter to Marowak.
Celesteela @ Sitrus Berry
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 252 HP / 196 Def / 4 SpA / 52 SpD
IVs: 0 Atk
– Flash Cannon
– Leech Seed
I love Celesteela, but one of my few gripes about this team was that I couldn’t truly perfect Celesteela’s EV spread or moveset. That being said, Flash/Flame did come in useful for the mirror and in 1v1 situations. Leech Seed and Protect provided me with many safe plays to make.
The EVs were tailored primarily to tank Flare Blitz from a -1 Marowak. This worked out for me most games because it was also able to take the numerous Flamethrowers and Heat Waves that I saw during the SG Open.
I personally don’t recommend this Celesteela set. It tried too hard to be a tank, but also played like an Aegislash. This Celesteela was very in between places, and that generally is not where you want to be.
Garchomp @ Groundium Z
Ability: Rough Skin
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
– Dragon Claw (switched to Poison Jab post SG Open)
– Rock Slide
Just like any other format without Landorus-T, the mighty Sinnohian Land Shark takes its rightful place on the top 10 list.
Early in testing, I had it with a Yache Berry, until Matthew told me that “bro, if you don’t use a Z-Move at ALL on your team, then you’re truly losing out lol”. So, listening to the wise advice from the mentor of heroes, I experimented with Z-Moves. I initially gave Dragonium-Z to Chomp with Dragon Claw, hoping to break Oranguru. It didn’t work too well, so I switched to Groundium-EQ, and that did the trick – giving a decent shot at KOing 252Hp/0Def Oranguru (60%). Tectonic Rage, in the end, does break Orangurus and a lot of random things with some prior Damage. With Lele, I wasn’t too concerned because I could just Dazzling Gleam them into the
Danger KO Zone.
Garchomp also loves to pair up with Gyara and Celesteela – Gyara gets free Dragon Dances in the face of things that can’t answer/take Garchomp’s Earthquakes, while Celesteela also gets free Leech Seeds with all the switches that Chomp forces.
A point of note is that I changed Dragon Claw to Poison Jab post-SG Open. I realised and noticed that you only keep DClaw for the mirror or to go up against Salamence. I didn’t feel that I had any problem with opposing Chomps or Salamence, so PJab was an easy switch to make. It tends to pick up an easy OHKO on 252 HP Bulu, and does heavy damage on any of the other Tapus, chipping off at least 50%.
Chomp does its job of putting consistent pressure on an opponent well with Rock Slide and Earthquake, just like it has done in every format… without Landorus.
Gyarados @ Wacan Berry
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
– Dragon Dance
Gyarados in this format tend to hold Waterium Z. I however, thought differently. In testing, I felt that I was using Gyara and Garchomp together a lot more than I had anticipated. Ultimately, I decided not to stack Z-Crystals because I didn’t want dead items on my team.
Wacan Berry does a beautiful job, surviving Discharge from Koko, and TBolt from Lele. On hindsight though, after a spirited debate at the tables after Swiss at the SG Open, I realised Adamant +1 Gyara did NOT outspeed max speed Tapu Koko. The idea was to survive the Discharge, Dragon Dance and KO with a Waterfall – but I’d fall short with DDance. Not a good idea.
Severe miscalculations there, but thanks to a bit of luck, Gyara did put in a lot of work regardless. While it never did come down to that particular situation, I did manage to grab a few free Dragon Dances to KO random things with Waterfall.
I chose Crunch over Ice Fang, because I was aiming for the heavy damage on Oranguru and Lele, as well as doing a bit more to Gastrodon. Crunch ended up saving me a few times because of its accuracy. During testing, I felt that Ice Fang really doesn’t hit anything super important in the format past Chomp, Mence, and Tapu Bulu. While these were respectable targets, especially Tapu Bulu, you really cannot afford the possible misses with Ice Fang, and Waterfall often hits the same targets.
Smeargle @ Focus Sash
EVs: 252 HP / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Wide Guard
– Follow Me
The Devil’s back.
Timid Smeargle at 252 Speed hits 139, which outspeeds a huge huge chunk of the meta right now. It outspeeds low speed Lele and Arcanine. It outspeeds Celesteela. It outspeeds any Trick Room team, and with status being nerfed into oblivion, Smeargle sits extremely comfortably in a very unique niche in this particular format.
Losing Dark Void may have been a big blow to this Pokemon’s viability in any format going forward, but it still has Spore as a potent weapon in its arsenal, even in a format with Koko and Fini. While I can’t rely on Lele to reset terrain in my favour from the start of a battle (because of Choice Scarf), I can lead Smeargle with Garchomp or Celesteela, and then switch in Lele to get a free Spore. This trick works particularly well if the team leads with their Tapu, and they don’t have a second.
Spore provides tremendous momentum by disabling an opponent’s most important/slowest mon for a minimum of 1 full action. This allows me to basically have a free switch in, Dragon Dance, or just free damage with a move like Dazzling Gleam. If the opponent has no answer to either Spore or Dazzling Gleam, I instantly win the match. If the opponent has a Lum on an unexpected mon however, then they get a free turn with which to attack Smeargle.
Smeargle particularly loves to lead with Lele, because of the mind-game factor of how random a Smeargle can be. While it isn’t exactly unpredictable, having a grand total of (probably) 6 usable moves in its role, you still have to guess which 4 make up this particular moveset. Post-game discussion with my opponents always ended with them saying that they had to hard predict if I were to Spore, Wide Guard, or Follow Me – an information disparity that gave me a huge advantage. I know what 4 moves I have to choose from, me opponent however, has no idea if I have Spiky Shield, King’s Shield or Fake Out – all of which can produce devastating results on the first turn.
The unexpected 4th Move was Tailwind. Most people didn’t expect a speed control option. Smeargle originally was conceived after I had trouble looking for a Tailwind setter. I went from Braviary, to Talonflame, until I eventually settled on Smeargle. Though in all honesty, I feel that was a wasted slot in both the KL and SG Opens. I only used Tailwind on ‘dead turns’ when I had nothing I could realistically do past switching Lele out of a Wide Guarder, or just pressing Dazzling Gleam to win. You never want to waste a move slot if you only get to use it to win more. On hindsight, perhaps Helping Hand would have been a better option.
Wide Guard helped against opponents that were hoping to Rock Slide or Earthquake my leads to death, and also was one of the 2 moves I could call on vs the Torkoal-Lilligant lead. I usually went for Follow Me in that scenario though, to draw a likely After You or Sleep Powder and stall the Lilligant for that single turn.
Smeargle brought me to an amazing start this season, and I encourage whoever has no idea what to put in their sixth slot to give it a shot. It makes for the perfect filler mon, as one of the best support mons in this format. While it’s Taunt bait, and also an easy KO, a well played Smeargle can turn the tides of any battle.
Not all Smeargles need to pair with Eevee!
– Ry Loh