Flare Blitzkrieg – Australia Nationals 2015 Top 32

June 19th, 2015 | Posted by Matthew Hui in Team Reports

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Hi all, The Mirage Island admin Matthew Hui back again to reflect on the recent Australia National Championships 2015, which a small (9) Singaporean contingent attended and did amazingly well at (no one below a 6-3 record and Top 64 out of a total of more than 320 participants). I’m sure they too will have their stories to tell on this website in time to come, but I personally went 6-3, finishing as the second-highest 6-3 and the #31 position good for 150 CP, dropping a winner-cuts-loser-joins-colouring-contests set in the final round of Swiss to a fellow Singaporean (which made the blow a lot easier to stomach).

I think it really was a perfect storm of right team, right playstyle and right environment, which is why I’m writing this reflection since I don’t think I will ever do so well with the team again. Aussie Nats really was a great experience, exceeding my expectations particularly given my apprehensions about the format, and the manner by which I exited leaves me with few regrets.

Background

The VGC 2015 season wasn’t a great one for me, which is why I ended up having to pin all my hopes on an improbably good finish at Aussie Nats. I struggled through 5 Premier Challenges with only 8 CPs to my name at the end of it all. Recognising that the one PC that I had earned CP in was when I played Kangaskhan Hyper Offence, I reverted to my comfort zone and ended up building a new team that pretty much amalgamated things that I had used in different teams throughout the season. There’s no real overarching theme, I basically ended up with what Shang called “6 things that beat the current metagame”. Every member of the team is capable of closing out a game given the appropriate situation, giving me fairly flexible gameplans, though over time I did find myself relying on Darmanitan’s glorious wall-breaking abilities to create winning situations, so I guess if there’s a centrepiece that would be it.

Defensive synergy is almost alien to me, my playstyle thrives on strong offensive pressure that forces my opponent to react rather than the other way around. The flip side of this of course, is that when things go wrong they can go very, very wrong, since I can’t really pull defensive switches to recover board position. Justin and I joked that we spent the entire day pressing the “Pokemon” button, looking at our back two and going NOPE.

Using this team, I finally cut the final (and admittedly sparsely attended) PC of the season, falling to Isaac’s legendary Tyranitar in Top 8. The series did raise doubts in my mind about the viability of the team in a best-of-3 series, so you can imagine my horror when it was announced a few days before we were due to fly that Aussie Nats would be Bo3 Swiss. Eventually I decided it was too late to build and test a new team specifically for Bo3, so onward with Darmanitan I went!

The Team

Kangaskhan @ Kangaskhanite [Kuea]
Ability: Inner Focus
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Double-Edge
– Fake Out
– Sucker Punch
– Low Kick

Tried and tested. Max speed gives me the confidence to freely throw out attacks against the likes of opposing Kanga, Charizards and Hydreigon. My team absolutely thrives on Fake Out pressure so that’s a must, and Inner Focus allows me to play around faster users, especially Ludi in rain. The power difference between Double-Edge and Return is too significant to give up, and there are times my team wants Kanga to sack itself anyway, particularly after multiple Intimidates, burns, etc, to allow me to bring in a fresh sweeper and maintain offensive pressure.

Low Kick is important for Heatran, opposing Kanga, and Intimidated Terrakion, though I try to use it only as a last resort as it really is a terrible attack to throw into switch-ins or redirection. Sucker Punch is somewhat dangerous to rely on but gets me damage on faster foes in a pinch. I also win most Sucker Punch wars if it comes to that.

I led Kanga in almost all my games, and it rarely let me down.

Darmanitan @ Life Orb [Damug]
Ability: Sheer Force
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 12 Def / 12 SpD / 228 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Flare Blitz
– Rock Slide
– Encore
– Protect

The team’s wrecking ball. What I needed from this slot initially was a Fire type that could OHKO Sylveon. After exhausting the saner sounding options (Specs Heatran was especially disappointing), I ended up with my old friend from 2011 and have yet to be disappointed.

I opted not to run Choice Scarf which people seem to assume Darmanitan only ever carries, largely because a team member needed it more, but also because my experience with Choice Band Tyrantrum taught me that there is room in the metagame for middling speed wall-breakers to operate, relying on team-mates to hold off faster threats while threatening OHKOs on almost everything slower that doesn’t resist. This made Darmanitan a key part of my strategy against Trick Room teams by dealing significant amounts of damage before TR had the chance to go up. Life Orb was the natural choice to go with Darmanitan’s Sheer Force ability preventing recoil, and this lack of ingame cues also makes for some interesting mindgames. If Darmanitan gets off the fastest attack on the field, be it because a faster opponent/partner used a move with added priority such as Protect or because it naturally outspeeds everything else, my opponent may well assume that it is Scarfed and play the next turn accordingly, since it is safe to say not many people know their Darmanitan damage calculations that well.

All that aside, just know that with LO, Flare Blitz can burn holes through teams. Apart from the aforementioned Sylveon, which can be OHKOed even at -1, Flare Blitz is also the safest possible check to any Amoonguss shenanigans, easily OHKOing even at -1. It outright OHKOs things such as Thundurus, Mega Gardevoir and Conkeldurr, and even threatens to take out bulky Kangaskhan variants. Depending on its EV spread, even Rotom-W might not want to switch in since it’s potentially two-shotted through Sitrus. Rock Slide is there as a spread move when I need one, and to check Talonflame and Mega Charizard Y (which funnily enough might die to Flare Blitz if sun is up).

Encore is a move that not everyone knows Darmanitan gets, which I use to my advantage. With two Fake Out users on my team, the temptation to double Protect whenever one comes out can be strong. And some opponents may just choose to play defensively in the face of my hyper offense. Encore punishes all of these. Protect is always nice to have, particularly when an opponent assumes that Darmanitan is Choiced and doubles into it.

I decided not to run Superpower since the only key target it hits is Heatran, which admittedly is a huge threat since it is totally immune to Flare Blitz, but I felt the rest of my team already did a sufficient job of handling it.

I dropped my speed by a few points to just outspeed non-scarf Adamant Landorus-T, putting the points into bulk. Max Attack is a given to make Flare Blitz hit as hard as possible.

Nidoking @ Choice Scarf [Naraku]
Ability: Sheer Force
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 196 Atk / 4 Def / 100 SpA / 204 Spe
Naive Nature
– Poison Jab
– Earth Power
– Ice Beam
– Head Smash

The glue that holds my team together, and the main reason I felt I would suffer in Bo3 since it relies fairly heavily on surprise. The inspiration from the set comes from the very start of the season when I was talking to someone about possible counters to Sylveon and complained that Nidoking’s Sludge Bomb just wasn’t getting it done due to Sylveon’s high SpD. Zong Ying overheard and suggested mixed Nidoking, which has done work for me ever since.

Poison Jab easily takes out Sylveon barring significant defensive investment, along with Ludicolo outside of rain (or even in rain if I can place another threat in front of it and force it to pick one). Earth Power doesn’t get many notable OHKOs other than on 4x weak things like Heatran (though it uh, KOs Mega Manectric?), but is a strong STAB move that allows me to pick off weakened Mega Metagross, Mega Mawile and Terrakion, the last of those being unable to hit me effectively. Sheer Force-boosted Ice Beam is what makes this set so dangerous, OHKOing non-AV/Yache Landorus-T (getting rid of Scarf Landy-T is by far this set’s most important role) as well as Mega Salamence not running excessive amounts of bulk.

I tested a number of options in that last slot, including Flamethrower, Megahorn and Rock Slide, but they were either too predictable or didn’t score important enough kills to warrant locking myself into. The Rock attack was the one that hit what I felt were the more relevant targets, but failing to OHKO bulky Zard variants along with doing rather silly damage to things not 4x weak was a turn-off. Enter Head Smash, which absolutely annihilates Zard Y and has a shot at dispatching bulky variants of key mons such as Thundurus and Zapdos. The recoil means it’s almost a one-for-one trade sometimes, and that’s assuming the move even hits, but in all my time with the move I’ve found it to be worth the trade-off.

The EV spread is one I have tinkered with for a long time, and even now sometimes feel the need to change. 196 Attack gives me the OHKO on 252/4 Sylveon and gives Head Smash some oomph. 204 Speed Naive outspeeds Adamant Landorus-T so I can Ice Beam it off the field immediately. There’s probably some merit to going to 220 Speed and beat +Speed base 80 Scarfers like Gardevoir and Mamoswine, but I didn’t feel the need to do so in this team. 4/4 is the minimum amount of defensive investment needed to take a LO Talonflame Brave Bird, and the rest goes into Special Attack.

Nidoking is absolutely integral to my team taking on Scarf Landorus, what with my carrying 4 pure physical attackers, as well as other offensively geared teams, blowing up a key piece early in the game and allowing me to push on from there. What helps it do its job (in Game 1 at least) is that people often assume Darmanitan is the one carrying the Scarf with Nidoking carrying LO. I have to be careful to lead appropriately even if my opponent doesn’t think it’s Scarfed though, Scarf Landy is still going to switch out of a potential FO+Ice Beam even if it doesn’t think the Nidoking outspeeds.

Scrafty @ Assault Vest [Setanta]
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 196 Atk / 60 Def
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Fake Out
– Drain Punch
– Knock Off
– Super Fang

I’ve raved on this website about AV Conkeldurr before, and quite frankly the set only got better in ORAS with access to moves like Ice Punch and Knock Off. But Conkeldurr actually doesn’t enjoy taking on Kangaskhan without speed control like TR, and is unable to switch in to attacks at all. Those who know me well also know that I have trouble managing games without an Intimidate user, Defiant and Competitive be damned, so Scrafty filled this need along with reducing my issues with Cresselia in the endgame.

The set is fairly standard for AV Scrafty, with only the 4th slot really up for debate since Fake Out is so good on my team. That said, I did consider Crunch over Knock Off to have a better match-up against Mega Metagross, who is not always 2hkoed thanks to its mega stone, as well as Moonlight Cresselia which can simply outstall my 65 base power Knock Off once the item is gone. Someone reminded me that Cress is also likely to carry Rocky Helmet though, which would terrorise me without Knock Off, so in the end I went with the status quo.

I tested a few options for that last slot. Initially I tried Cybertron’s set which had Snarl (since I managed to breed one with 31 SA) but my lack of heavy speed control meant I was going last and not really having an impact with the stat drops. Ice Punch was somewhat helpful as an option to take on Landy-T one-on-one, but did rather pitiful damage against Mega Salamence. Ultimately I went with Super Fang as a means for handling bulky things that I couldn’t hit effectively with what I had on the field, though the accuracy did bite me in the ass from time to time.

196 Attack gives me a somewhat comfortable 2hko with Drain Punch against most Kangaskhan variants, and I put the rest in bulk to better take Kanga’s attacks as well as -1 Brave Bird. I went with Brave 0 Speed to underspeed Aegislash and KO it with Knock Off it it attacked. This also puts me one under my own Azumarill to avoid unfortunate speed ties complicating my gameplan.

As the only thing on my team that could switch in (with Intimidate and bulk on both sides), Scrafty saw a lot of time in my back two.

Serperior @ Focus Sash [S Dalamadur]
Ability: Contrary
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 4 Def / 248 SpA / 252 Spe
IVs: 30 SpA 30 SpD
Timid Nature
– Leaf Storm
– Hidden Power [Ground]
– Glare
– Protect

What I needed from this slot was a special attacker that could threaten bulky waters as well as outspeed and OHKO Terrakion. Speed control was also a bonus. I tested LO Timid Thundurus for a while but eventually decided that I needed the LO on Darmanitan more (also I didn’t want to have to borrow from Shang =P). Serperior filled these roles and is a self-sufficient threat that can force my opponent to adjust his or her entire gameplan after a Leaf Storm boost, fitting in with my playstyle.

Leaf Storm is obvious, and I’ve always agreed with Kit Meng that Hidden Power Ground is the way to go for Serperior, handling Heatran and dispatching things like Bisharp after a boost. Glare is kind of an afterthought even though I did say I originally wanted speed control here, every Glare used is a missed chance to boost which is what Serperior really wants to be doing, and it ended up just being a way to seal 100% win conditions. That said I don’t think I would have gotten much out of the added coverage of Dragon Pulse, and while Substitute punishes double Protect it also negates my own Sash. Perhaps Taunt or either of the screens would have done better here.

Uncomplicated Focus Sash spread here. The funny thing about Serperior is that people sometimes don’t realise how little damage it does without a boost (about the only thing that dies outright is Terrakion) and Protect its main target on its first turn out, leaving me to make the arguably better play of firing a (often resisted) Leaf Storm into the partner and subsequently threatening a proper OHKO on what Protected last turn with +2.

Azumarill @ Choice Band [Alsahm]
Ability: Huge Power
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 204 Atk / 52 Def
Adamant Nature
IVs: 5 Spe
– Aqua Jet
– Play Rough
– Superpower
– Waterfall

This slot is reserved for a bulky water, and was occupied by Milotic for a long time, giving my team a way to punish Intimidate as well as a better balance between physical and special attackers. But over time I found it being overly passive without nabbing a Competitive boost, and my team was struggling quite a bit under Trick Room. CB Azu was something used by Cybertron on Road to Ranked and the set really appealed to me, offering either a strong priority in Aqua Jet to clean up with or powerful boosted STAB moves that scored many a surprise OHKO. This skewed my team heavily physical and made me quite weak to Intimidate, but generally I find ways to play around that.

The first two slots are standard, and become quite terrifying when boosted by CB (though Play Rough’s accuracy still loses games). Superpower OHKOs virtually all Kangaskhan builds and is my team’s only way of doing that. Waterfall gives me a strong reliable STAB move to lock myself into without having to risk Play Rough, as well as a more powerful Water attack when Aqua Jet just won’t cut it, that said the temptation to play safe by picking Waterfall over Play Rough against neutral opponents has occasionally backfired.

The defensive EVs were the most I was willing to go to without overly sacrificing attack power, again mostly with surviving Kangaskhan Double-Edge in mind. I went with a reduced speed IV to underspeed 0 speed Aegislash by 1 and OHKO blade forme with CB Waterfall. This also allowed me to outspeed several members of a TR team under their own field condition. I rarely actually hit the Superpower button in order to OHKO opposing Kangaskhan, a testament to how the rest of the team was able to put pressure on it, but it was nice to know that I had an emergency button if I needed it. CB Aqua Jet ended up being a fine win condition that I frequently played to, and the power boost surprised things like Zard Y that thought they were out of range for the kill.

Australia Nationals 2015

The start of the trip was not without incident (*cough*KENNY*cough*), but being told that our US carts were compatible with the official software being used was a huge relief since we had been mentally prepared to spend a portion of Friday speed running PAL carts. With that settled, we enjoyed our Friday out, then prepared for the Saturday gauntlet.

Round 1: Tony Nguyen (competny)

Due to the crowd surrounding the pairings board, I initially couldn’t get a good look at my R1 opponent’s name and only saw the surname Nguyen, so my first reaction was “welp did I get Boomguy R1”. That disappeared when I saw his first name, though I then had a sneaky suspicion I was still fighting a big name that was vindicated after a quick Google search told me that Tony Nguyen had played at Worlds last year (though I would later find out that there were two Tony Nguyens here at the event). Well, have to start somewhere right?

Game 1: Zapdos/Landy-T/Zard-Y/Terrakion

From Team Preview I knew that Nidoking would be key for me especially against that Landy-T, which I was fairly certain would lead since I had 4 obvious physical attackers. I lead Kangaskhan/Nidoking into his Zapdos/Landy-T and immediately fire off Ice Beam while FO-ing the Zapdos. Disconcertingly, he switches out Landy for Zard, making me wonder if he already suspected my Scarf (he later told me he was avoiding the potential FO+Ice Beam double target so I kinda brainfarted with my leads), and I get chip damage on both mons as Zapdos flinches.

Calling the Tailwind+Protect, I double into the Zapdos with Ice Beam and Double-Edge and am rewarded by the KO as Zard does indeed stay non-mega and Protect. Terrakion comes in to threaten my Kanga, but deciding that its usefulness has run its course, I leave myself open to the Close Combat by doubling into Zard with Ice Beam+Sucker Punch and get lucky with a crit on the second hit doing enough to take it down. Landy comes in to be sniped by Ice Beam (indicating either Band or Scarf since it couldn’t Protect) and Tony forfeits to preserve information on his Terrakion’s item. 1-0

Game 2: Bisharp/Terrakion/Zard-Y/Landy-T

Figuring there’s no way he leads Landy knowing my Nidoking is Scarfed, I switch things up a bit by leading Darmanitan, which he didn’t see in Game 1, next to Kanga. He leads Bisharp/Terrakion and immediately puts me on the back foot, shutting down my one window of opportunity by double Protecting on turn 1 to stall out Fake Out. Needing to pull a switch on turn 2, I predict an incoming Close Combat on my Kanga while Bisharp Suckers my Darm (who survives LO-boosted), so I switch Nidoking in and Flare Blitz Bisharp. To my surprise, he doubles into the Nidoking slot with Sucker+CC and Bisharp is OHKOed, indicating Life Orb and allowing me to mentally pencil Terrakion in as the Sash holder. He later told me that he thought I would pull the risky switch of Scrafty in for Darmanitan, giving up a Defiant boost in return for surviving CC and KOing back with Low Kick.

Zard comes in, and with Nidoking new to the field as well I smell blood. Crossing my fingers under the table, Head Smash annihilates Zard-Y as it megas while Scrafty comes in to Intimidate the Terrakion, which takes out Nidoking with Rock Slide after Head Smash recoil. His last mon is Landy and he momentarily terrifies me by playing the double Rock Slide flinch game, but Scrafty Knocks Off the Landy’s Scarf and I close the game out from there. 2-0

1-0

All the Singaporeans were 1-0 after R1, so things were off to a good start!

Round 2: Ding Junkai

Game 1: Clefairy/Zard-X/Landy-T/Thundy-T

I really should have noticed in Team Preview, but it isn’t until Clefairy and Charizard come out together as his leads that I get the horrifying realisation of “Oh crap it’s Zard-X”. The game quickly spins out of control as I lead Nidoking and reflexively lock myself into Head Smash, forcing me to retreat it after his Landy comes in with Intimidate. I notice that his Landy is not Scarfed, and as Rock Slide shreds through my team decide that it must be Banded. All this while I consistently get outpredicted, doubling into Zard Protects and eventually letting it get a DD off. I also misplay by opting to lock Azumarill into the safer option of Waterfall only to discover that it misses the 2hko on his Zard-X (I flinch before I get a second hit anyway).

My last hope is for Nidoking to still outspeed Zard-X at +1 (possible if he went for a spread that only just outspeeds Smeargle at neutral) but unfortunately this doesn’t pan out and I lose the game. I do find out that his Clefairy is OHKOed by Darmanitan Flare Blitz, indicating a non 252/252+ Bold spread. 0-1

Game 2: Suicune/Landy-T/Thundy-T/Zard-X

My notes are sparse and my memory kinda fuzzy for Game 2, but reeling from that Game 1 loss I knew I had to adjust and decided to bring Serperior to either paralyse his Zard or force him to react to my booster instead of the other way around. He leads Suicune/Landy-T this time around and gets TW up, but by locking Landy into Rock Slide he ends up mostly wasting his TW turns by not doing much damage and I am able to establish control of the field and get Serperior boosting. I am able to infer from the damage done by his Thundy-T’s Volt Switch to my AV Scrafty that he is both Specs and Modest (since I have used the set heavily in the past), and by the time Zard-X comes in it’s too late. 1-1

Game 3: Clefairy/Zard-X/Landy-T/Thundy-T

I go all-in on Serperior and lead it next to Scrafty as he goes with Clefairy/Zard-X. Zard Protects against the obvious FO as I Leaf Storm Clefairy for ~40%, setting up the KO next turn while Scrafty takes just over half from Moonblast. Turn 2 I Leaf Storm Clefairy again to either KO or force a Protect and Super Fang the Zard-X, but Leaf Storm misses, Zard-X sets up a DD and Clefairy actually outspeeds my Scrafty (speed investment!) and KOs with Moonblast, leaving me staring at a full health +1 Speed Zard-X.

I bring in Kanga, but he predictably double Protects to waste my FO. Expecting him to go all-in on my Kanga (he hadn’t seen my Sash on Serperior yet but I think it’s fairly obvious), I switch in Azu and the turn plays out even better than expected as he goes for HH Dragon Claw, doing no damage at all to Azu while Serperior KOs Clefairy and goes to +4.

The sequence of moves is somewhat unclear from here, but with both his Landy-T and Thundy-T slower than my Serperior and Kanga, Choiced and unable to Protect, I am able to close the game out from there with no further Leaf Storm misses. His Zard-X actually managed to burn Serperior with Flare Blitz when it finally decided to attack into my Sash, but by then the game was over. 2-1

2-0

Really felt like I had gotten out of jail that last round, since I hadn’t thought about my Zard-X matchup at all. But being able to recover from the game 1 loss made me start to believe that hey, this bo3 thing was working out alright.

Round 3: Andy Spriggs

Game 1: Kangaskhan/Heatran/Sylveon/?

A more familiar line-up in this round. I lead Kanga/Nidoking against his Kanga/Heatran. Expecting either the Heatran to Protect or the Kanga to FO my Nido, I switch in Scrafty and Low Kick the opposing Kanga. The Heatran does Protect, while my Kanga mega evolves first and Low Kicks the opposing Kanga which survives, likely a slower bulky variant, and Power-up Punches my own Kanga to go to +1. Threatened by FO from Scrafty, he switches Kanga to Sylveon while I Low Kick his Heatran which survives with Sitrus Berry and Heat Waves back for middling damage. He forfeits right after, perhaps realising that I would KO the Sylveon that turn, but a rather extreme decision (it was still 4-4) to conserve info in my opinion. 1-0

Game 2: Kangaskhan/Suicune/Landy-T/Heatran

The most obvious adjustment on his end would be to bring the Suicune for speed control and general bulk, so I lead my own Serperior next to Kanga against his Suicune/Kanga. I make a mess of the opening turns however, deciding that Leaf Storm into the Suicune was too obvious and go instead for Glare on Kanga while switching in Scrafty for Intimidate. Suicune does get TW up while Kanga again PuPs Scrafty to go to +1. Assuming no Protect on the Suicune (wouldn’t be the last time this bit me in the ass today), I Leaf Storm into Protect, watch paralysed Kanga still outspeed my Scrafty (due to TW and my slower-than-Aegis spread) and KO my Serperior with Return, while Scrafty finally Drain Punches to bring his Kanga under half.

I bring back my own Kanga but for some reason (afraid of +1 Sucker?) go for FO+Drain Punch on his Kanga and am punished with with switch to Landy-T as Suicune Scalds Kanga (thankfully no burn). Expecting Landy to go for the kill on my Kanga with Superpower, I Sucker Punch it to get some last damage off and it CRITS, taking out the Landy in a lucky break for me. His Suicune did Protect this turn though, making me suspect that he went for Earthquake instead of Superpower which I think I could still have recovered from, but there’s no denying I got lucky there. Tailwind runs out, I switch Kanga out to reset the attack drop, and eventually bring it back to close the game out by Double-Edging his Suicune. 2-0

3-0

Round 4: Low Wai Yin

The first Singaporean self-kill of the day, I was NOT happy to see round pairings. Wai Yin’s team is something I am quite familiar with so I also had the info advantage going into our match.

Game 1: Kangaskhan/Landy-T/Talonflame/Bisharp

I incorrectly assume Wai Yin wouldn’t dare to lead Landy into my Nidoking, and proceed to spend the majority of the game on the backfoot as the early Intimidate+U-turn hurts my ability to present any sort of offensive pressure. I end up sacking something fairly early (Darmanitan, I think?) and even lose a full healthy Scrafty for free as she manages to get Talon in for the Brave Bird OHKO. Down 4-2, I finally bring in Nidoking and am forced to lock into Ice Beam due to the threat of the Landy at the back. I catch a break as she makes the questionable decision to not sack her weakened Talonflame and switch Landy in instead, right into the Ice Beam. Her weakened Kanga and Talonflame meet a similar fate (since my Kanga outspeeds hers, which I knew beforehand), though the latter does get a BB off to put my Kanga under half and in range to be KOed by her last mon, LO Bisharp.

Wai Yin and I were in a similar position during one of the early Singapore PCs, and after exchanging initial Sucker Punches, I blinked first, going for Low Kick and getting KOed by her Sucker Punch. This time I have the additional damage from my Nidoking’s Ice Beam and am able to Sucker Punch more freely, sticking to my guns this time and eventually get the kill as she persists in pressing Sucker Punch as well. 1-0

Game 2: Landy-T/Sylveon/Kangaskhan/Talonflame

Wai Yin was clearly reeling from the first game, and it showed early on as she Earthquaked her own Sylveon with Landy not once but twice, digging a hole that she was unable to recover from. Later in the game Darmanitan OHKOed her Kanga with Flare Blitz and that was that. 2-0

4-0

The previous round was a Pyrrhic victory, and I could only hope that Wai Yin would bounce back. The round pairings proceeded to confuse me as I found myself paired up with Tony Nguyen again. Since this guy was at 4-0, he clearly couldn’t be the same person as the one I fought in R1, but I was still in something of a muddle as I walked to my table. There was a face I didn’t recognise already sitting there, so I just went with it from there. Apologies if I seemed aloof, Tony, I was just really confused.

Round 5: Tony Nguyen

Game 1: Zard-Y/Landy-T/Suicune/Ludicolo

Leading with Kanga/Nidoking against Zard/Landy, I immediately get the OHKO with Ice Beam, but Nidoking immediately becomes a liability as Suicune replaces Landy on the field. Expecting Zard to Protect (since it ate FO last turn) while Suicune TWs, I switch Nido out for Azu and attack Suicune with my Kanga, eating a Heat Wave for my trouble as TW goes up. The rest of the battle is a bit of a blur, but I remember actively playing for an endgame scenario of his weakened Suicune one-on-one against my full health Azu. I end up with full health Azu and near-death Darmanitan against his Suicune in Sun, and decide to sack Darmanitan to get free sun-boosted Flare Blitz damage off, despite the obvious incoming Scald that I could just Protect from, since that damage would put his Suicune within range of 1.5 Play Roughs. 3 things would all have to happen for me to lose from there, my first full power Play Rough had to miss, his subsequent Scald had to burn, and his Suicune had to have Protect (which it hadn’t revealed) to stall out his own Sun and power up Scald to finish me off.

Guess what happens next? 0-1

Game 2: Zard-Y/Landy-T/Suicune/Ludicolo

The way Game 1 ended was a punch to the gut and I had no idea how to adjust, if at all, going into Game 2. Leading Kanga/Nido into his Zard/Landy again, I assume there’s no way Landy stays in due to the threat of Ice Beam and go for Head Smash on Zard-Y instead, Double-Edge-ing the Landy slot expecting a switch. No switch happens, Head Smash misses (costing Team Singapore a free dinner due to a promise made earlier) and Kanga actually outspeeds Landy (not Scarfed as assumed). EQ knocks out Nidoking but I catch a break as he forgets to mega evolve Zard and Kanga is able to survive the Heat Wave.

After that terrifying start, I somehow recover to win the game and I have no recollection how. 1-1

Game 3: Ludicolo/Suicune/Zard-Y/Landy

Again I lead Kanga/Nido but this time he switches things up by leading with what was previously his back 2. Turn 1 we trade Fake Outs, then I bungle by Poison Jabbing the obvious switch into Landy instead of Ice Beaming, a mistake I realised immediately after locking in my moves. Still, he opts not to set up TW and I manage to get Serperior in a position to threaten a sweep. Ultimately he misses a crucial Heat Wave on my Kangaskhan, which hangs on to close the game out together with Serperior. 2-1

5-0

Just a wacky series from start to finish, still no idea how I came out on top.

Round 6: Alexander Poole

Alex was really friendly and apparently knew Shang from Perth Regionals, so we chatted for a while. The atmosphere surrounding the top tables (including Theron) was really quite relaxed as a whole, surprisingly, given the stakes, so full credit to the Aussie VGC community!

Game 1: Thundurus/Amoonguss/Cresselia/Swampert

Team Preview screamed Trick Room, so I lead with Kanga/Darmanitan against Amoonguss/Thundurus. Expecting Amoonguss to either Protect or switch out, I Flare Blitz into Thundurus instead, while still targeting Amoonguss with Fake Out just in case (Spore is scary). Swampert does come in for Amoonguss, while Thundurus reveals itself to be the fast LO offensive variant by attacking Kanga with Thunderbolt before going down to Flare Blitz. Cresselia replaces it on the field.

Assuming it to be the usual Angel Miranda set (WG/IBeam/Scald/EPower) without Protect, I recklessly attack into Swampert, which Protects, and allow Cress to get TR up. Swampert then even reveals Earthquake for good measure to further befuddle me. Recognising Swampert as the only remaining offensive threat on his team, I eventually get rid of it and get both my slow sweepers (Scrafty and Azu) in against Cress and Amoonguss with TR still up. After a few turns of Spore-ing and chip damage from Cress, he forfeits. 1-0

Game 2: Kangaskhan/Amoonguss/Heatran/Swampert

Cress and TR in general were obviously deadweight for him last game so he was bound to adjust, leading his own Kanga/Amoonguss against my Kanga/Darmanitan. We trade turn 1 Fake Outs, to my detriment since his Amoonguss carries Rocky Helmet, then I proceed to walk into the obvious Sucker Punch, losing Darmanitan, as Amoonguss Rage Powders my Low Kick away and I take even more Rocky Helmet damage, dropping Kanga below half. Any hope of recovery is snuffed out later on as his Heatran reveals Will-o-wisp, effectively locking down my slower attackers. 1-1

Game 3: Heatran/Kangaskhan/Amoonguss/Swampert

The Game 2 loss really shook me, and I have very little recollection of what happened here. I do remember playing overly defensively with Darmanitan after losing it so early in Game 2, fearing Earth Power from his Heatran (which didn’t exist, it eventually revealed Flash Cannon as its last move). When I did go on the offensive, he was able to wear me down with judicious switches into Swampert, racking up Flare Blitz recoil. Alex was the one dictating the offensive pressure in this game and could even afford to misclick and Earthquake his own Heatran late in the game. It didn’t matter in the end. 1-2

5-1

This was a harsh loss since I had always prided myself on having a good matchup against TR and Amoonguss. Alex comprehensively outplayed me, so kudos to him, but knowing my penchant for going on tilt, people back home were already scrambling to do damage control.

Round 7: Nathan Farrugia

Game 1: Whimsicott/Kangaskhan/Talonflame/Landy-T

He leads Whimsicott/Kanga against my Kanga/Nidoking. Despite being fully aware of the danger of getting Encored, I judge the turn 1 Fake Out on his own Kanga to be worth it, while I Poison Jab Whimsi to its Sash as it TWs. Forced to switch Kanga out of the Encore, I lose Nidoking to Double-Edge even after Intimidate from my Scrafty. Bringing my own Kanga back, he switches Talonflame in to take Fake Out in place of Whimsicott while his Kanga tries to Sucker Punch mine and fails, Scrafty then Drain Punches to put his Kanga in the red.

I misplay by going for another Drain Punch on his Kanga when it was obvious it was going to sack itself with Double-Edge, the attack ending up on the Talonflame and doing pitiful damage whereas Knock Off would have KOed. The game eventually comes down to his damaged Landy, having taken a Knock Off previously that revealed Yache Berry (just as well I didn’t rely on Nido to kill it), and his 1 HP Whimsi against my severely weakened Scrafty and full health Darmanitan. Having seen non-Choice Landy, the obvious play was for him to Protect+TW, subsequently outspeeding and KOing both my mons with EQ. This meant that my only out was to Drain Punch my own Darmanitan, healing back out of range to be KOed by EQ, while Darmanitan clears Whimsicott, then going for another Knock Off next turn and praying for high damage roll or crit, a play which I strongly considered. But for some reason, a part of me insisted that full health Darmanitan could take an EQ (spoiler: it can’t, not even close, think 130%) and that lowering that of my own volition was absolutely crazy. Things play out as expected and EQ wastes me. 0-1

Game 2: Landy-T/Milotic/?/?

Going on tilt is really just an excuse, but this game is an absolute mess. I am unable to break his Milotic (holding either Sitrus or Kee I can’t remember) after the Landy Intimidate, and it gets a Scald burn for good measure. Scrafty is eventually forced to come in and give Milotic a competitive boost, and I get 4-0ed. 0-2

5-2

At this point I figure I’ve tossed my chances away, but the pairings give me a glimmer of hope: I’m fighting the pair-down against a 6-1, which would do wonders for my resistance if I win out.

Round 8: Callum Witt

Game 1: Amoonguss/Gardevoir/Thundurus/Machamp

This was quite honestly exactly what the doctor ordered to halt my slump. I’d watched Callum’s games on stream in the Melbourne Regionals top cut where he repeatedly led autopilot Amoonguss/Gardy against Chris G for the sake of setting up TR even when it looked unfavourable, and I suspected he’d do the same here faced with some of my more unorthodox choices. I’d also played a fair bit against Shang while he was using a variant of the team, so I knew my outs.

As expected the Amoonguss/Gardy pair comes out as I lead Kanga/Darmanitan, and he double Protects to waste my Fake Out. Not wanting Kanga’s attack to go into Rage Powder, I switch in Azu as Darmanitan OHKOes Amoonguss (no Rocky Helmet), Gardy TRs as expected. Thundurus comes in for my opponent. Deciding that Darmanitan had done its job (and not having safe switch-ins anyway) I opt to keep it in, and Play Rough Gardevoir knowing that I am faster under TR. Play Rough misses however, and Gardy mega evolves to KO Darmanitan with Psychic. Azu takes Thunderbolt from Thundurus with a good bit to spare. I send Kanga in, Fake out Thundurus, and this time land the Play Rough on Gardy for the OHKO, throwing him off quite visibly.

Things do get dicey as he sends in Machamp and proceeds to play the paraflinchfuse game with Thunder Wave from Thundurus and Rock Slide and Dynamicpunch from Machamp. Ultimately it come down to me landing a single Aqua Jet through paralysis on his weakened Machamp, and I get it. 1-0

Game 2: Landy-T/Thundurus/Gardevoir/Machamp

Having brought 4 physical attackers to batter him with last game, I was absolutely certain that Callum would bring Landy this game. I also knew that the original build of the team used Scarf Landy, exactly what I wanted to see. So I lead Nidoking and am delighted to see the expected double genie lead. A turn 1 Ice Beam later, Landy is gone. Nidoking subsequently proves to be something of a liability in the face of potential TR from Gardy, but I dare not switch either Darmanitan or Azu into a Psychic. At the same time though, I know the experience of game 1 would make him think twice about setting up TR. He takes the bait, KOing Nidoking with Psychic, and I get Darmanitan in for free. The rest of the game is basically a Flare Blitz shooting gallery (he seemed particularly shocked at Machamp getting OHKOed) with my Kanga ignoring paralysis from his Thundy to chip in. 2-0

6-2

The dream was on. Almost all the other Singaporeans were alive going into Round 9 as well and spirits were high (despite Kenny giving us a heart attack by losing his bag). At least until I saw the round pairings.

Round 9: Eugene Tan

What a punch in the gut. Friendly fire in the last round and of all people it had to be Eugene, a player I hold in high esteem. Later we would learn that we were the only two Singaporeans at 6-2 with resistance high enough to cut after winning Round 9, making our pairing even more painful.

Game 1: Banette/Landy-T/Heatran/Rotom-W

He brings his Banette mode to deal with my physical attackers, but I lead with the one attacker he can’t burn in Darmanitan along with my Serperior to exert pressure on the special side as well. Having played him in the last PC, I play more carefully around his Banette’s Disable this time, all the while pressuring him with Darmanitan’s sheer power and nabbing Leaf Storm boosts when able. Later in the game I Encore his Rotom-W into Protect, and he forfeits. 1-0

Game 2: Scrafty/Venusaur/Landy-T/?

I suspect he might switch to the Venu mode this game, but fail to adjust by bringing my Kanga. He stops my Serperior from getting any sort of presence on the field whatsoever, poisoning with Sludge Bomb just to add insult to injury, and the double Intimidate does enough to keep me from breaking his Mega Venu. 1-1

Game 3: Scrafty/Venusaur/Landy-T/Rotom-W

Eugene recorded this game afterwards so you can watch it for yourself. A few words on my thought processes throughout: I knew I had to play aggressively to avoid getting bogged down as I did in Game 2, hence my double targeting of Landy that netted me an early kill. Eugene outplayed me the rest of the way though, particularly in the midgame as he called my Protects and switches to regain the upper hand. And at the end, he outplayed me on two key occasions: the first was when Scrafty came back in KO my Kanga with Fake Out, the obvious play on my end would be to switch Kanga to Darmanitan, shrug off the Fake Out and bring Kanga back to close the game out. But I thought the switch looked too obvious and if he called it and Hydro Pumped with Rotom, I lose the game there and then. Finally, it looks as though I ended up stalling myself out by Protecting with Darmanitan immediately after sending it out. I did that in anticipation of Rotom-W Protecting as well so I could freely attack it next turn, but once again, Eugene was a step ahead. Kudos my friend, it’s a pity top cut didn’t go as well as you had hoped. 1-2

Final Score: 6-3, #31 position

Closing Thoughts

Again I reiterate, this was far better than I had expected, but coming so close did make it feel rather bittersweet at the end. I think all of us thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at the event, myself included, and Theron even nearly stole it at the end. On to Singapore Nats we go!

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