The Mother We Share – Wai Yin’s VGC’15 Season Summary

October 25th, 2015 | Posted by Low Wai Yin in Team Reports

waiyin_oct2015

Introduction

Hi guys, Wai Yin here, and this is my VGC 15 season report! Some background on me: I joined the Team Robo Video Games community in 2011 when I Top 16’d that year’s Elite Four tournament, and I’ve been playing VGC ever since. I’m also the first Singaporean to get into the VGC World Championships (2013, 41st position) and now I’ve participated in Worlds twice, finishing 36th this year in Boston.

This year was a completely different season of VGC for us in Singapore. With the LCQs being shut down, Singapore finally gained a tournament circuit of its own, joining the Asia Pacific region. This was the first year that we didn’t have to muster up a contingent of players to send to the LCQs in a desperate attempt to push someone in; we had access to our own PCs, Regionals, and Nationals thanks to the hard work of our Tournament Organizers like Soon and Zong Ying. So, for the first time, qualification to Worlds was much easier to attain, unlike 2013 where I had to slog through 7 rounds of Bo3 Single Elimination in one day to qualify.

Originally, I had no intention of participating in the circuit, but I had been informed that a tournament I had won in December last year had a chance of being considered a Premier Challenge (I had originally only intended to win that tournament for the free ORAS game). Thus, I started out with the idea that I had potentially 40 CP sitting in the bank (also lol first in the region) before any of the actual Premier Challenges started, and I guess I wanted to see whether I could actually gather enough CP to make it to Worlds. Surprisingly (mostly to myself), I did well enough to maintain my CP lead through Premier Challenges and thus decided that I didn’t want to just roll over and let people take an invite slot that I had worked pretty hard to get and maintain.

That, and because after my disappointing finish back in Worlds 2013, I had a chip on my shoulder about proving to myself that my first run at Worlds wasn’t a fluke and that I didn’t manage to luck my way through the LCQs. I figured the best way to prove that would be to get a Worlds invite the ‘legit’ way, which would mean that I would have to do well consistently and in a huge variety of tournaments. Though, Pokemon being the fickle game it is made me uncertain if that was a realistic goal to set. I was far from being the best at either end-game planning, strategy, team-building, or even memorization.

Regardless, if I were to make it to Worlds, I needed to have a team that could get me there.

Teambuilding

As I said, I am not a very good teambuilder. As soon as the VGC 15 rules were announced, I begged my brother, Kit, to build a team for me, and this was the original team he made for me:

The team was a bulky Metagross team that favoured heavy damage and flexibility rather than speed, and for the most part, I managed to make it work; even getting to top 8 at a pre-season warm up tournament. However, I felt the safe ‘switch and do damage over time’ strategy wasn’t quite my style. In the end, the team I lost to, piloted by Shang Loh, would eventually be the team I would use for the entire season:

Okay, I admit, all I did was change Hydreigon=>Bisharp and Metagross=> Kangaskhan, but immediately the team felt a lot more comfortable for me. I spent the later half of 2014 playing Kangaskhan with a Garchomp/Rotom-W/Talonflame core, and the similarities between this team and the old one made it feel like I knew how the team worked.

I think its versatility was why I stuck with this team throughout the year. Compared to the other team types that would appear later in the metagame, this team was neither overtly offensive nor defensive, and could be easily overwhelmed if it lost offensive pressure. However, I always felt that it had a solution to every matchup and had the ability to recover from a bad position via priority attacks.

At the time when I started, there were three other trainers (Shang Loh, Ryan Chiam and Daniel Lee) who were using the exact same team, and we all agreed that it worked. However, as the season continued, all three of them found teams of their own while I stuck with this team. This team was, at the time, the standard of the metagame, but somehow I could never move away from it like other people did. That isn’t to say I didn’t try my hardest to find my ‘own’ team – my showdown team bank is proof enough of that – but eventually I realized that this was ‘my’ team; the team that I was best with.

In retrospect, I think the reason why I stuck with this team over all other teams was because of its blatant overuse of Priority Attacks. As an offense player, I often feel that the one who moves first every turn is the one who best controls the offensive momentum – hence the metagame’s obsession with speed control. Perhaps this is just because I started playing well competitively in B/W OU, where Choice Band Scizor’s Bullet Punch was one of the most reliable ways for me to sweep teams once I weakened them enough, but I’ve always felt that playing towards a priority endgame means that you can circumvent things such as speed tiers, paralysis, Trick Room, and even Tailwind. Having 3 of my pokemon able to threaten with priority attacks makes me feel as though I can not worry about speed tiers as much if I can pin my opponent down and restrict their movements.

Below is the final form of the team that I eventually brought to Worlds. Deep in my heart, I know that I would never have made it thus far without them, and that I would never regret choosing any team other than this as my own.

The Team

Kangaskhan (Cinquefoil) @ Kangaskhanite
Ability: Scrappy
EVs: 140 HP / 252 Atk / 116 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Low Kick
– Fake Out
– Return
– Sucker Punch

Kangaskhan is easily the most versatile mega out there, capable of turning matches simply by her presence. It was because of this versatility that I enjoyed using Kangaskhan – against most other Megas and even some of her checks, she could win given the right conditions. So because I was – and still am – terrible at playing dual megas, the focus of my team was to get Kangaskhan’s offense going – either to clean up, or break holes large enough for the rest of my team to exploit.

Originally, I started the season with 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Speed, because with the introduction of a full Pokedex it felt pointless trying to reach the 100 speed tier when everything else seemed to be sitting there and speed-tying with you, and it seemed more fortuitous to be able to survive their attacks and hit back. It was only after a terrifying defeat by Kenny Lee’s Breloom that I decided to bump Kanga’s speed up so that she could outspeed a Jolly Breloom after mega evolving (SEE THE THINGS YOU MAKE ME DO KENNY).

To mitigate the low speed, I ran both Fake Out and Sucker Punch on Kangaskhan so that she could still push offensive pressure against faster Pokemon; Fake Out had the added bonus of giving me a strong turn 1 advantage which allowed for Kanga’s partners to pull free damage/spread status/set up Tailwind. I preferred Return over Double-Edge because if my goal was to keep Kangaskhan alive as long as possible, I didn’t mind the weaker damage output. I originally ran Power-Up Punch instead of Low Kick, but with Heatran and Terrakion having a very real presence as well as Landorus-T mitigating my attack boosts, I decided it was simply easier to threaten opponents with an attack that could actually OHKO them.

Rotom-Wash (Brucey) @ Sitrus Berry
Ability: Levitate
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 140 Def / 60 SpA / 52 SpD / 4 Spe
Calm Nature
– Hydro Pump
– Will-O-Wisp
– Thunderbolt
– Protect

I chose Rotom-W originally because he was part of my Lando-T/Talonflame/Rotom-W core, absorbing the Water/Ice attacks that neither of his two partners enjoyed. Besides that, Rotom-W was one of the few pokemon that could let Landorus Earthquake safely while being able to pull off water/electric attacks at the same time. Rotom-W also gave the team a much-needed answer to water types like Suicune, or even rain teams. While it is outclassed by other water pokemon like Suicune or Milotic defensively or even Kingdra and other electric users offensively, Rotom-W felt reliable and filled a specific niche that I needed it for; it was a defensive pivot for me to recover from undesirable situations while still maintaining a strong enough offensive presence.

Brucey was my 2014 Rotom-W, and for the majority of the season he remained unchanged. In fact, I was actually unaware that his EV spread was something like 60 SpA/ 160 SpD the entire season until I decided to swap for a more defensive Rotom-W spread before Worlds. Calm with 52 SpD survives Timid 252 SpA Charizard Y’s Solarbeam, and has a 50% chance of surviving Modest. Even with the majority of the metagame being so physically offensive, it took Matthew Hui and Shang Loh a lot of persuasion before I finally switched to 140 Def; it was a number that Shang said would survive Return from Adamant Kangaskhan, eat its Sitrus Berry, and then survive a Life Orb Adamant Knock Off from Bisharp (because Shang plots to destroy my team, I can just sense it).

The moveset is pretty self-explanatory: Standard Dual STABs in Hydro Pump/Thunderbolt, Will-O-Wisp to spread burn because burn damage is fun all day every day, and the obligatory Protect.

Talonflame (Clarion) @ Sky Plate
Ability: Gale Wings
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Brave Bird
– Flare Blitz
– Protect
– Tailwind

If there is ever a Pokemon that doesn’t look like it’d belong on this team, Talonflame would be it. Defensively frail (IT TAKES LIKE 50% FROM SPECS SYLVEON HYPER VOICE), and always hurting itself just as much as it hurts its opponents via recoil attacks, Talonflame initially seems to bring little to the table.

However, much as I have tried to find another fire or flying Pokemon for this team, Talonflame was the one that I always felt the most comfortable with. Priority Brave Bird, when saved in reserve, is excellent for finishing off weakened enemies, and helped to navigate tricky situations involving speed such as facing off vs Swift Swim Ludicolos in Rain or vs Scrafty in Trick Room. Also Talonflame’s presence mitigated situations where Kangaskhan couldn’t outspeed its opponents, and paired up with either Kanga or Bisharp, it could knock out opponents before they even have a chance to move.

Synergy wise, Talonflame helped balance out the fighting weak caused by Kangaskhan and Bisharp, while serving as a Fire type vs. Steel types. Sky Plate was chosen as the held item because Life Orb was on Bisharp, and while Safety Goggles proved hilariously useful on occasion, the boosted power to Brave Bird was needed to net the OHKO on Ludicolo. Of course, this meant that Talonflame never had a chance of OHKOing a 252HP/252Def Bold Amoonguss, but Bisharp definitely needed the LO more.

Talonflame was not Banded because in a team as defensively frail as mine, I needed it to be able to use Protect, which is also my reason for not running Quick Guard. Tailwind was chosen as a ‘safety net’ option – a well-timed Tailwind can easily turn the tide in my favour for my slow but powerful attackers, and Brave Bird and Flare Blitz are pretty much self-explanatory. I chose Flare Blitz over other fire moves like Will-O-Wisp and Overheat because it felt like offense was more of my style instead of sneaky status effects and Overheat didn’t do nearly enough damage as what I needed it to do.

Overall, I can agree when people say that Talonflame is not a brilliant Pokemon, and in fact, it has plenty of issues with many of the main meta threats. However, for all intents and purposes, it was the perfect Pokemon for me. When I fought without Talonflame on my team, I always felt like I had cut off my own right hand.

Bisharp (Achilles) @ Life Orb
Ability: Defiant
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Sucker Punch
– Iron Head
– Knock Off
– Protect

Bisharp, like Talonflame, was a rather uncommon Pokemon in the later part of the metagame. As a Steel-type that didn’t resist Fairy attacks and took a lot of damage because of its almost required speed EVs instead of HP EVs, it was easily one of the frailest steel types that people would actually consider using.

However, with so many members of my team being physical attackers, I needed a Pokemon with either Defiant or Competitive, and dark attacks had insanely good offensive coverage, especially with Knock Off being such a good move this gen. Moreover, Bisharp was one of the few steel Pokemon in the metagame which would guarantee an OHKO vs Sylveon with LO Iron Head (barring 252 HP/252 Def Sylveons). Paired up with Talonflame and Kangaskhan, it also gave the team offensive pressure via LO boosted Sucker Punches. For example, no Charizard-Y can survive a Bisharp+Kangaskhan double Sucker Punch.

However, Bisharp’s presence on the team was actually the shakiest. I originally preferred Aegislash>Bisharp, but the originally overwhelming usage of Bisharp in the local SG metagame made me sway towards Bisharp. I then used a Focus Sashed Bisharp to take on Terrakion far more easily (not that it worked when they ran Double Kick, like Theron Ho’s Terrakion did at one point) but the lack of damage ultimately hurt the team more than not. And while LO Bisharp dominated in the finals of Malaysia Regionals, I ended up using LO Aegislash during SG Nationals, getting to Top 8 with it despite an accident involving me not teaching it King’s Shield. However, that mistake ultimately cost me my chance at winning a Nationals (I had purposely swapped Bisharp for Aegislash to improve my SuiLoom matchup, but ended up losing to SuiLoom because I couldn’t bring Aegislash for the battle without King’s Shield). Yet up to that point, I wasn’t sure which of the steel types I wanted in this particular slot.

It was only when I was told that the Worlds metagame would be similar to US Nationals that I decided Bisharp was the better mon for Worlds. The worldwide metagame had, up till that point, evolved to slower, bulkier mons relying on Trick Room for their speed control games, with Mega Gardevoir being extremely prevalent. Moreover, Aegislash usage was at an all-time high, based on my experiences on Showdown/Battle Spot. Finally, Terrakion usage had all but dropped off- Terrakion had been the main reason why I wanted to replace Bisharp to begin with. It was those factors that made me decide to bring Bisharp for Worlds.

Ultimately, I believe that was the right choice. Bisharp’s ability to pressure just about every Pokemon in the metagame with a powerful dark attack, as well as Defiant limiting Landorus-T/Salamence/Scrafty switches and random Icy Winds definitely made it easier for my own hitters to snatch or maintain the offensive momentum. While using Bisharp definitely played as many mind games on me as it did my opponents, I cannot deny that it was invaluable in this team’s success.

Sylveon (Puck) @ Pixie Plate
Ability: Pixilate
EVs: 252 HP / 252 SpA / 4 Spe
Modest Nature
– Hyper Voice
– Protect
– Hyper Beam
– Sleep Talk

While I started the season with a Choice Specs Sylveon, I ultimately ended up with a very peculiar Sylveon set that even I was sometimes unsure of. In my opinion, Sylveon was ultimately the best Fairy Pokemon you can have on your team for VGC 15; in fact, I daresay it was the reason why most people would run a steel Pokemon on their team. The damage output from Hyper Voice easily punched holes in teams that didn’t have a fairy resist, and coupled with Sylveon’s insane special defense stat, it felt like a natural choice to have on any team throughout the season.

I chose Pixie Plate over Choice Specs because of Protect; Kit and I felt that running a Sylveon without Protect with the current metagame climate would be challenging. We always believed a well-timed Protect was tactically superior to being able to survive an attack and retaliate with a weakened attack. Moreover, locking yourself into one move was disadvantageous for both of us, especially since we ran moves like Magic Coat/Sleep Talk, which we found indispensable in stopping Smeargle, despite being Specs’d. Added on to that was the fact that Sylveon could never pair up easily with Landorus-T if it wasn’t able to Protect, which then limited team choice options.

Sleep Talk was meant to give me an option vs Smeargle, as well as rampant Spores from Amoonguss and Breloom (have I ever mentioned how much I hate mushrooms). Hyper Voice was the standard, but Hyper Beam was my personal favourite. While it sounded really stupid on paper because of the 1-turn recharge, Hyper Beam has become a favourite among Singapore trainers – capable of OHKOing major threats like Mega Kangaskhan, Thundurus, and non-AV Landorus-T. It was also capable of circumventing Wide Guard, catching my opponents off-guard when they believed my Sylveon to be Specs and locked into Hyper Voice.

The entirety of the moveset gave Sylveon options to adapt, even while sacrificing its ability to hit anything that resists fairy attacks. My rationale (however flawed it may be) was that Sylveon’s team mates would be able to pick up the slack, with 3 ‘mons capable of taking down Heatran/Aegislash.

Landorus-Therian (Hector) @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 172 HP / 204 Atk / 132 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Earthquake
– Rock Slide
– U-turn
– Superpower

Landorus-Therian was the obvious choice for the ground type of the team. Taking electric attacks for Talonflame and fighting attacks for Kangaskhan/Bisharp, it synergized very well with the team. Being able to spread Intimidate and use spread moves made it a perfect last member.

Kit suggested using a Choice Scarf for Landorus because barring Talonflame, the team was actually pretty slow in general. While priority alleviated many of my speed problems, I agreed that having a Pokemon that was just fast was useful, especially since Landorus gave me the notoriously obnoxious-but-effective Rock Slide option. I had tried other options such as Lum Berry and Life Orb, but Choice Scarf enabled Landorus to outspeed threats such as Charizard Y and Salamence, either flinching them or outright dealing super-effective damage to push them within KO range of my other Pokemon.

Superpower was a useful move to take out weakened opponents when either Bisharp or Kangaskhan was cleaning up, and U-turn let Landorus escape from tricky situations where it did not want to stick around.

Landorus’s EV spread itself was a bit weird. Because Theron Ho, also infamous for not changing his team and also using a Bisharp, was a top competitor in the field, it was paramount that Landorus had to be able to survive a LO +1 Sucker Punch from Bisharp. However, because that investment would mean dropping either Landorus’s speed or attack, I ended up shooting for an EV spread that would survive LO Bisharp’s +1 Sucker Punch while still outspeeding base 122 Greninja with scarf. That said, this particular Landorus spread had only a 25% chance of OHKOing 4 HP Kangaskhan with Superpower, although apparently it survived non-boosted Raikou’s HP Ice.

I ended up using this team for the entire season. Their record as of today is:

Top 36 Worlds
Top 8 SG Nationals (with Aegislash over Bisharp)
1st Place Malaysia Regionals

They have also top cut every PC that I used them in, even winning one early in the season. That said, I would be the first to admit that they are not perfect by any means, and it took me the entire season to learn the ins-and-outs of this team. Even now, I know that I haven’t fully mastered using this team. However, I know I can attribute my losses more to my playing than the fact that this team is incapable of adapting.

Yet, even then, there were some things that this team had absolute difficulty facing.

Quick Guard

Since the majority of the offensive pressure on the team was generated by priority attacks, Quick Guard became one of the worst things I ever wanted to face. I memorized every Quick Guarder in the book in order to be prepared to face it, but even then, the rogue Quick Guard could throw me completely off focus, especially coupled with faster heavy hitters that could exploit my team’s inability to attack before they did.

Fast fighting types such as Mienshao and Infernape also prove dangerous for this team to face, since they had a large access to moves that could take down the majority of the team. They also generally played support to megas such as Gardevoir and Salamence which, on a good day, threatened my team given their lack of bulk.

SuiLoom

Currently my most hated team combination ever, I can attribute at least one loss in most of the major events (barring Worlds) to SuiLoom. Breloom’s presence made it difficult for Rotom-W or Bisharp to appear, and Suicune threatened Talonflame and Landorus. Sylveon is Snarled to death by Suicune, and usually pinned down by the Mega of the team. It wasn’t impossible to beat, but it became extremely important that I gain a turn 1 advantage vs SuiLoom, and for the most part, I hadn’t had the best of luck against it. This is mainly because my key to breaking SuiLoom would be to play carefully with Kangaskhan, but with Suicune threatening Kanga with 30% Scald Burn and Breloom with Spore/Mach Punch, achieving that was much easier said than done.

Terrakion

Terrakion was easily the Pokemon I absolutely hated to fight against. Being able to take out Kangaskhan, Bisharp, and Talonflame and flinch Sylveon or Rotom-W, as well as having access to Quick Guard, it was easily one of the team’s worst fears. On its own, it can be dealt with through careful playing, but when paired with Bisharp, it becomes nearly impossible to gain a foothold unless I went really reckless and somehow got Sylveon/Kangaskhan into Tailwind, which usually meant sacrificing Talonflame early.


Despite all their weaknesses, this was the team I felt was ultimately reliable and adaptable enough for me to adjust to any situation. There were times where I felt bored with them, but when I felt frustrated with other teams and decided to switch back, I realized I enjoyed playing with this team far more than any other.

When it came to deciding what team to bring for Worlds, especially since I only qualified for Day 1, I had been tossing this idea around about using Kanga-Smeargle, but eventually decided on this team. Not only did the metagame seem to be shifting to a more Kanga-friendly environment, but having used the team for so long, I was extremely familiar with using it. After all, if I lost, I wanted it to be because I made a mistake rather than because the team itself was wrong.

To be honest, I never thought I’d make it past Day 1, what with about a hundred or so of the world’s best players all fighting for the coveted Day 2 slots. Apparently all x-2s would cut, so with 6 rounds of Swiss, I just had to win 4 battles and I would progress into Day 2. While the team had a 66% win ratio in a controlled environment (cough Showdown/BattleSpot cough), my potential opponents were the best of the best and probably had fought more than their own share of Kangaskhan teams. And honestly, my track record internationally with this team (Top 32 Perth Regionals, Top 64 Australia Nationals) wasn’t the best, and I had no idea what to expect. So I was extremely nervous going into Day 1.

I apologize for the scarcity in details for my warstories since my notes tend to be truncated to my opponent’s teams and what Pokemon they brought for the battles, and I kinda didn’t record any videos of my battles, but I will do my best to recount what happened.

2015 Pokemon World Championships

Day 1

R1: Alexander Kuhn (AT)

   

In game 1, he led with Thundurus and Mawile, trying to catch Talonflame (which in theory looked really good against his team). I didn’t bring Talonflame (because Virizion’s potential Quick Guard scared me) and chose to rely on Sylveon offense, hoping that I could pressure Suicune enough so that it wouldn’t be able to get Snarls off to damage me in time. I managed to scrape through game 1, but in game 2, Alexander adjusted and I remember losing momentum.

There was a turn in which I had a chance to switch in a new Pokemon to replace something that had fainted, and I wrongly chose Landorus-T instead of Kangaskhan. I ended up locking Landorus-T into Earthquake and had to send Kangaskhan in when he revealed his last two mons, Virizion and Mawile, both at full health. Landorus would end up killing Kangaskhan with the repeated Earthquakes, so in a desperate attempt I ended up Sucker Punching the Virizion, hoping for a crit. In the end, his Mawile Protected on that turn and Landorus came through with a lucky crit that managed to take out Virizion, leaving the field with only Landorus and Mawile. It was a really lucky battle, but I won.

2-0

R2: Rachel Annand (US)

   

I’m not sure if I believe in fate, but Rachel was actually my R1 opponent back in Worlds 2013, in which she beat me. Ironically, she was also the one person I had inadvertently scouted since I followed her on tumblr (oops). She was using almost the same team I had seen her using (barring Empoleon). Thus, I had some inkling of what her strategy would be.

That said, during game 1 she managed to catch me with a trick I had actually seen her use before in one of her battle videos: she doubled into Kangaskhan’s slot on turn 2 with Low Kick from Lopunny and HP Ice from Zapdos, nabbing an OHKO on Landorus’s switch in. I’m not sure how but I have an odd feeling that I brought Rotom-W to the first game, which enabled me to claw my way out vs Empoleon.

Game 2, I decided to lead with Kanga-Sylveon instead, deciding to push the offensive pressure turn 1 so that if Landorus did have to switch in, I would be able to take something down. Unfortunately she decided to bring Aegislash, which I think I wasn’t very keen on seeing. I’m not quite sure what happened, but although her Aegislash and Calm Mind Sylveon gave me a lot of problems, I somehow managed to scrape a win.

2-0

R3: Christian Cheynubrat (DE)

   

I knew immediately from team preview that he was running Sun Trick Room, although I had a sneaky suspicion he’d prefer the Trick Room part a lot more than the Sun vs my team, given the fact that almost none of his Pokemon were above base 80 speed. Still, Charizard made it worrisome for me to lead with Bisharp, so for game 1 I decided to go with my ‘auto’ lead of Kanga-Sylveon and try to deal out as much damage as I could, with Talonflame and Bisharp in the back to play in Trick Room. However, he managed to get the Trick Room up and it got really touch-and-go when Bisharp took heavy damage from a Helping Hand Power Whip and Kangaskhan was taken out by a Gyro Ball. I wasn’t exactly sure whether Sylveon would be able to outspeed Charizard in Tailwind once Trick Room ended since timid max Speed base 100s would outspeed even under Tailwind. Luckily, it must have been a bulkier variant, and Hyper Beam managed to seal off Game 1.

For Game 2, I decided to lead with my traditional Trick Room lead of Kanga-Bisharp, reasoning that with one win I could afford to play a bit more recklessly, and expecting a pure Trick Room lead. However, Christian led instead with Rhydon and Charizard, which resulted in a major ‘oops’ moment from me. For some strange reason, I had a brainfart and wondered what exactly Rhydon could do to me, and decided to go for a Fake Out on Charizard and Iron Head the Rhydon. Luckily I flinched the Rhydon, because it revealed the Earthquake Turn 2 which took Bisharp out. But by then I had taken down the Charizard with a double Sucker, and Sylveon was more than happy to dance with Rhydon outside of Trick Room. Once Rhydon was down, all I needed to do was to clear Cresselia so that Talonflame would be able to take down Ferrothorn, and Kangaskhan and Sylveon did just that, forcing Ferrothorn to either take out one or the other while being able to KO Cress in the penultimate turn. I ended up taking another lucky victory.

2-0

R4: Alejandro Jimenez (US)

   

Alejandro was the first US player I faced at Worlds, and the first Kangaskhan user I’d met all day. Moreover, he was apparently the person that built Phil Nguyen the team that poor King’s Shield-less Aegislash wasn’t able to fight, back in SG Nats. And his team lineup was disconcerting, to say the least. I already suspected Garchomp and Ferrothorn would be switching in to deal damage to Kangaskhan via Rough Skin/Iron Barbs, and I bet that either one of them held a Rocky Helmet to boot. Arcanine-Milotic was also another core I didn’t want to fight, since Arcanine had access to Will-O-Wisp, Snarl, Close Combat, and the Intimidate ability while Milotic was more than happy to sponge up special attacks while threatening my physical attackers with Scald’s 30% chance burn (not to mention neither Talonflame nor Landorus wanted to fight a Milotic).

I decided to keep Kangaskhan off mega for as long as possible to reduce the damage taken from chip damage, but as it turns out, Cresselia was the one with the Rocky Helmet, which made it very difficult for Kangaskhan. While neither Milotic nor Arcanine showed their faces, I underestimated Garchomp’s offensive ability since I hadn’t seen it all season (and I might have left Landorus at home? I’m not sure) and Alejandro was careful to keep his Kang in the back until my team was weakened enough that he could finish the battle easily. Calm Mind Cresselia also made it difficult for Sylveon to do much of anything, and I think what did me in was my reluctance to bring Rotom-W since I wasn’t sure if I could protect it from Ferrothorn long enough. In the end, I lost the battle of attrition.

0-2

R5: Ben Irons (US)

   

As luck would have it, Ben Irons introduced himself as the friend of someone else I had fought in the 2013 LCQs – Blake Hopper, who had already qualified for Day 2 in Worlds. When I asked, he confirmed that he was part of the Boiler Room and hence, I realized he was probably not an easy opponent to beat. I was uneasy about fighting his team – not only did he and I share 3 Pokemon in Landorus, Bisharp, and Rotom-W (and I knew full well what those three were capable of), Conkeldurr itself has always been a nightmare for Kangaskhan and Bisharp to face, with the added bonus that it might have Wide Guard to protect Charizard from my usual ‘I WILL SPAM ROCK SLIDE’ shenanigans.

As it turned out, Ben led with Charizard-Rotom-W every single game, with Conkeldurr and Landorus-T in the back. I know I managed to take game 1 somehow, but in game 2 his Conkeldurr revealed Ice Punch, and without being Intimidated, it took out Landorus and managed to seize victory. Luckily by game 3 the Conkeldurr had revealed its full moveset: Protect/Mach Punch/Drain Punch/Ice Punch, so I knew it didn’t have Wide Guard. I’m not sure whether Landorus became my key to the game, but I remember being very careful about playing it around Conkeldurr. In the end, I won game 3, and cleared Round 5.

2-1

So somehow, I survived Day 1 of Worlds. Like most of my good tournament runs, I knew that a fair share of luck was involved in both my opponent’s and my game, but at that point, I think I didn’t care because I had already made it to at least the top 70+ players of the World. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to do at that point because I hadn’t really considered making it that far.

Coach Matthew did say that if nothing else, my team was probably the one team that would be least afraid of scouting since it was so straightforward (and disgustingly standard in the sense that it didn’t have many secrets). I resolved that since I had made it this far with the same team I started VGC 15 with, it would only be fitting if I faced Day 2 with the same guys I used all this time. That, and well, I had already run through all possible variations of the team and concluded that the one I had was the most optimal. I believed, at the time, that any last-minute changes, without proper testing, might end up hindering the team rather than helping them. And besides, at that point, my only goal was to get a better rating than my 2013 run. Deep down though, I think it really dawned on me that I might actually have a shot at Top 32 or Top 16.

I didn’t manage to get much sleep, waking up before dawn probably due to jetlag. I was a bit afraid that I would be too tired to fight, but no matter what I tried, I couldn’t go back to sleep. This was it: the culmination of all the time I spent battling and training, literally the final day of battling I would have in VGC 2015.

And even though I was apprehensive, I was as ready as I could ever be.

Day 2

R1: Kotaro Nakagome (JP)

   

Kotaro Nagamane was probably the one player I didn’t want to fight; already infamous as the Heart Swap Geomancy Smeargle user from Day 1. I had actually been counting on the fact that he’d change his team, since Smeargle’s win rate would be iffy at best if his strategy was dependent on Dark Void. Evidently, he didn’t think so.

While my regular check to Smeargle would be to abuse Sylveon’s Sleep Talk to high heaven, the very presence of Lucario made me hesitate leading with it. I knew that, even with Intimidate, Iron Tail (if it ran it) would be an OHKO on Sylveon. So my plan game 1 was to clear the Lucario as fast as possible and send Sylveon in to take out the rest of his team. However, I misjudged the fact that his Aurorus was actually speedy, and it outsped and psyched up the +2 Geomancy’d Smeargle before Sylveon even moved. While Sleep Talk did catch him off-guard, Hyper Beam wasn’t enough to even chip Aurorus down to 35%, let alone help me recover the game.

So for Game 2, I tried to set up Tailwind in order to give Sylveon a bit of a speed advantage once one of my current two fainted. However, instead of going for the kill, Kotaro decided to go for a manual switch on his Lucario, bringing in Salamence. Any chance of recovery was lessened when Smeargle got an Evasion boost in the first few turns, which it then Heart Swapped onto Salamence. Unfortunately, Kangaskhan and Sylveon were unable to hit their targets, and I ended up losing.

0-2

R2: Matthias Suchodolski (DE)

 

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate fighting Terrakion? It seemed that, fresh off a loss, I ended up fighting a team that I really didn’t want to fight. Salamence, backed up by Terrakion, Aegislash, and Rotom-H would be bad news for Bisharp and Kangaskhan to take on alone, and Landorus-T’s utility would be heavily restricted by Milotic’s presence.

Thankfully, for game 1, Matthias decided to go with his Kangaskhan-mode instead. I managed to outplay him for game 1, counting on the fact that I would be able to keep the momentum up before he recovered. However, perhaps because of my inexperience playing with timer, even though I managed to play Matthias into a winning position in game 2, I ended up losing on timer: one full health Kangaskhan vs a low hp Salamence and Aegislash. In retrospect, I knew I should have been more cautious with my Landorus-T – letting it take a burn and a Shadow Ball from Aegislash on a turn when Kangaskhan didn’t sucker eventually sealed my fate.

By the time game 3 rolled around, Matthias seemed to adapt, or perhaps I overextended. Regardless, he pushed forward with his Salamence offense, and nabbed a clear-cut victory when I overfocused my attacks on his mega to the point where his Terrakion could clean up lategame when my own pokemon were too weak to fight back.

1-2

R3: Alejandro Jimenez (US)

   

In an astounding twist, I ended up fighting Alejandro again. It seemed that luck didn’t seem to favour him (or his change of Ferrothorn->Aegislash). Still reminded by how painfully Kangaskhan’s attacks kept hitting pointy surfaces, I was glad that Ferrothorn at least was gone. Not only did it give Kangaskhan one less thing to worry about hitting, the lack of its presence meant that Rotom-W would have a much safer time to play.

Rotom-W was absolutely key in this game. Being able to burn the majority of Alejandro’s pokemon while threatening his defensive core, it was able to slowly turn the advantage of the game in my favour. Moreover, with knowledge of his team, I was able to adjust and adapt to his plays. In the end, I won both games.

2-0

***

It was around this point that I heard that apparently some 5-2s would be able to cut for Top 8. While I knew my resistance was shot to the Distortion World because I lost my first two games, this kept my hopes up that if I managed to go 5-2, I would be able to at least get Top 16 or even Top 32. However, it seemed that destiny had other plans.

R4: Ryosuke Kondo (JP)

 

I was not sure exactly whether this was a Sun Trick Room team. Unlike Christian’s team, it felt like he could go offensive while still keeping a Trick Room mode up. And one exceptional difference was that Ryosuke had a Kangaskhan.

I think my game plan would have been to corner Ryosuke’s leads and force priority spam on the likelihood that I would have to play under Trick Room. I think I actually managed to get an offensive advantage, but I miscalculated when I forgot Tyranitar might carry Superpower over Low Kick and ended up getting my full-health Kangaskhan killed under Trick Room, despite a switch to Landorus-T being my safest option. Then, Ryosuke’s Aegislash revealed Shadow Sneak, bypassing any chance I had of sucker punching it and taking out my weakened Bisharp. He took game 1.

I’m pretty sure my strategy would have worked if I had preserved Kangaskhan a bit longer, but I was still wary about the Charizard since now would have been the perfect time for him to change up his game plan. Hence, I kept Rotom-W and Landorus-T on the team. In fact, he led with Kangaskhan and Creselia again.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stop the Trick Room, but deciding that I might be able to take the Kangaskhan out with a Low Kick if I survived the turn, I swapped Landorus in while attacking-  only for his Kangaskhan to land a critical on my Kangaskhan, taking it out of commission. Ice Beam from Cresselia took out Landorus-T, and I ended up with Rotom-W and Bisharp left on the team. Even then, I felt that it was still possible for me to crawl out of the negative since my last two could handle mostly anything else on his team, but the crits kept coming and I was unable to do anything. I lost Round 4.

0-2

***

Honestly, it sucked to lose a perfectly winnable battle to hax. I suppose one could view it as the hax from Day 1 balancing out the results, but at that point I wanted to drop. It was only by talking to Theron (who was then 4-0) and Zul that I decided to continue fighting. The possibility of breaking even was there, they said, no matter how defeated I felt. In the end, I decided to continue. After all, if this was my last tournament, I might as well go all the way, come what may.

R5: Toler Webb (US)

 

And upon seeing who I was paired up with, I wondered if dropping would actually have been the wiser decision. Toler’s team was troubling – the presence of two fire types made bringing Bisharp iffy, and while bringing Rotom-W seemed like a wise choice, the possibility of dealing with Charizard Y felt dangerous. Rotom-W, too, made me hesitate because not only could it burn my physical attackers, it also threatened poor Talonflame far too much.

In the end, Toler led with Kangaskhan and Cresselia, with Landorus-T and Rotom-W in the back. I don’t recall much of game 1, but I think I won it. I probably took down Kangaskhan as fast as I could since I didn’t even take any notes on its moves, and because of that I could push my momentum. However, in game 2, perhaps deciding that Cresselia lacked enough offensive pressure, he switched it up for Heatran. It was when a rogue Hydro Pump nailed Landorus-T before it even moved that I realized Toler Webb’s Rotom-W was scarfed. While I lost game 2, I realized several things: his Landorus seemed like the typical set, his Kangaskhan’s fighting move was Power-Up Punch, and scarfed Rotom-W probably meant it couldn’t burn me, and that if I trapped it in a position where it couldn’t switch, I could take it out with a priority attack. With that in mind, I pushed back in game 3, and with what I think was Bisharp’s help, I was able to play around the team and grab a win.

2-1

R6: Tirso Buttafuoco (IT)

 

I swear Sun Trick Room seemed like it was everywhere. Still, I decided to play it safe, bringing Bisharp and Kangaskhan to pin down Tirso’s attackers. My main worry was the Bisharp, since I never actually had a good battle plan vs Bisharp, but thankfully he never brought it along. Conkeldurr, too, seemed threatening, and after all the trouble it had given me thus far, I was sure that I’d see it eventually.

Game 1 proceeded much in my favour, I think. I managed to find out that Tirso’s Landorus-T wasn’t one of those Bisharp LO Sucker Punch-surviving Landorus-Ts, and with that in mind and Thundurus and Cresselia not giving him a lot of offensive pressure vs Bisharp, I was able to net a win. In game 2, he decided to bring Conkeldurr as a lead instead of Landorus, but having expected that he would, I might have brought Sylveon or Talonflame. In the end, Conkeldurr wasn’t able to make up enough momentum and I won.

2-0

***

When Round 7 pairings were announced, I couldn’t believe my eyes. My next and final opponent was, ironically, also my final opponent from the VGC 2013 LCQs: Len Deuel. Back then, I had won in spite of Len’s choice of playstyle, which seemed to favour disabling his opponents with paralysis and relying on Sand Veil Brightpowder Substitute Garchomp. In what was an almost fitting manner, he had brought an iteration of the same team he used against me all those years ago.

R7: Len Deuel (US)

 

The moment I saw this team, I knew. It no longer had a Garchomp, but Kangaskhan, which had replaced the Garchomp slot, was almost far worse for me to deal with. Len steamrolled me in game 1, with Togekiss causing far more trouble than I could deal with. His fast Heatran, too, gave me problems since I think my Kangaskhan was probably slower than it. I managed to recover in game 2, playing Bisharp conservatively to pin down his Togekiss and Cresselia. I almost panicked when he revealed HP Ground on his Cresselia, but thankfully Bisharp survived it.

Game 3 came down to the wire. Togekiss’s paraflinch game was strong, but in a weird twist of fate, Air Slash ended up missing, and my pokemon were finally able to attack through the paralysis. I ended up scraping through with a win.

2-1


Epilogue

I think I felt disappointed after Worlds 2015 because, unlike 2013, I knew I could have done far better than my final result. I finished Top 36, 4 slots shy of Top 32, although I suppose one could say that I had a pretty ‘average’ score of 4W-3L, putting me in the same score range of the majority of the Worlds players. While I was slightly miffed that the people I faced (and lost to) ended up doing only as well (or worse) as I and that two of the people I beat dropped and dragged my resistance through the gutter, I think it was an accurate judgement of my skill. I know I should have been a lot more aggressive in my playing, and maybe I should have tried to play with a bit more of the old recklessness that the 2013 me used to have. That said, looking at the teams I fought and the battles I had, I know that my losses were fully and utterly my fault; not my team’s. In fact, were my team in the hands of a better trainer, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they made it to the Top 8, or even higher.

Lessons Learned

I don’t know if I’ll ever play seriously ever again, but if I do, there were some lessons I would take away from my VGC 2015 season:

1) A comfortable team is the best team. Being someone who reacts more on instinct rather than knowledge, I felt that it was better for me to stay with one team that I was extremely comfortable with throughout the whole season rather than play many new teams all season long if they didn’t fit me. Moreover, my playstyle was always more offensive and I realized that I disliked having to do heavy predictions – priority attacks bypassed any of the silly speed tier nonsense one usually has to deal with, which made it easier to read what my opponents would do. In a weird way, this team fit me like a glove.

While we started out slightly awkward, by the end of it, I think I could pull a lot more safer, strategical plays with this team than any other team simply because I know instinctively how to react in every situation possible. I do think I would have played this team at Worlds even if the meta didn’t swing back to being Kang-friendly, but I think sticking with one team the whole year and waiting for the metagame to swing back to when it was most optimal to use it definitely helped the team’s success.

That said, the team was still capable of getting into Top Cut of PCs throughout the year and did relatively well in the APac metagame, so perhaps comfort combined with a solid base was what made us capable of taking on Worlds.

2) Recklessness isn’t always bad. Perhaps in my attempt to emulate ‘safe’ playing, I ended up losing the part of my battling that made everything work: the part that would do reckless things like lead a Bisharp in the face of many threats, or leave a Sylveon out despite the potential OHKO from a Double-Edge Mence. My recklessness made it hard for my opponents to tell what I was going to do; in hindsight, perhaps I need to learn how to better switch from ‘safe’ to ‘reckless’ in order to win more battles, or perhaps find a balance of both that will ultimately lead me to find the most efficient battling style.

3) Trust yourself, but don’t turn down advice. In the end, I know every decision I made – for this team, for every game – was ultimately mine. Despite people telling me that Bisharp/Talonflame were bad, or that my team was outdated, or that my Kangaskhan should be faster – after all these months of practice, I knew what was best for my team and I think I am glad that I trusted myself to see my journey through. Everyone has their own experiences and their own playstyles – for example, I can never play defensively or with chip damage over time, and I always prefer being secure in my knowledge that my attacks will always move first, and being told all the reasons why my team wouldn’t work helped me learn what to look out for. More importantly, knowing how people looked at my team and my playstyle helped me learn how to predict what my opponents would do.

And of course, I had the advice of people I trusted, like Kit, Isaac, Skyler, Justin, Shang and Matt, who knew my playing style and knew how to help me adjust my team without detracting from it’s effectiveness as well as knowing more about the metagame than I did. The majority of my team building decisions were vetted by them, and they had to endure rejecting some of the sillier ideas I came up with. Listening to them helped me keep an open mind on the majority of threats and the metagame, and I think I can attribute any success this team had to them just as much as to myself.

4) Experience is the most solid foundation you can ever ask for. When I started playing for 2015 Worlds, I didn’t expect to even get my invite. I didn’t practice as much as Kenny or Melvin, my team wasn’t extremely solid in the later part of the metagame, and my knowledge was sorely lacking. Yet despite all that, Coach once told me that he believed I had the best chance of making it into Day 2. I thought he was crazy. In hindsight, though, I think I can sorta understand why – I am easily one of the most experienced trainers in the region, and I was extremely experienced with my team. I knew things that most newer players would need time to adjust to – like how to play Bo3, or deal with tournament stress, or how to deal with gimmick strategies from 2011. So in a way, I had a 2 year experience advantage over the rest of my peers – and what I lacked in knowledge or team stability, I made up for with experience, which came from battling for years on end.

While I don’t suggest training blindly for hours on end, I do believe that if one (like me) isn’t a terribly smart person that can figure stuff out in their head, it is necessary to expand one’s horizons and learn about new strategies and new playing styles in order to fully learn how to fight them. The experience will develop your fighting instinct, which will inevitably help you in the long run.

Conclusion

We’ve come as far | As we’re ever gonna get

So here ends my journey. In a weird way, it’s a journey that started back in 2011, when I got Top 16 in the Elite 4 Tournament before being thoroughly walloped by my fellow Worlds Competitor, Shawn Tang. And from every loss since then, I’ve grown and learned till I got to where I am now.

While in previous years, losses were always followed by intense self-reflection and a determination to improve, this is potentially the end for me. While it saddens me greatly to walk away from a game I love to play and the skills I’ve honed, there comes a time when everyone needs a break and time to focus on other areas in their lives; and it just so happens that now is the time for mine.

Perhaps I will return to VGC one day. Perhaps I’ll be able to pick up where I left off and push myself further, stronger, higher.

But in the meantime, I suppose I shall be happy with what I’ve achieved.

(The cover art was done by Wai Yin herself.)

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