This is Ryan Loh again, and this time I’ll be writing a report on a season that went from 0 to an ending total of 328 Championship Points, and culminated with a 4-3 finish as I stumbled at the final Swiss hurdle of Worlds 2017 Day 1.
This season has been a satisfying one, and I’m happy I saw it through to the end. The story begins with Worlds 2016.
For the uninitiated, I have a buncha friends I hang with on the regular, and it started when Amir and I called for the crew to stay the night at my place and watch the Worlds livestream together. We watched as Wolfe Glick took the title of 2016 World Champion, and pretty much all of us decided to try the impossible – qualify for Worlds.
We looked up when the first Premier Challenge of the new season was, and set about practising.
Turning to an old habit of mine – I messaged Matthew Hui, my long time mentor, and confidante.
“Yo Matt, what should I run for VGC 2016.”
I honestly had zero clues on how the meta had shifted. I figured that Big 6 was my jam.
“Lol just run Big 6.”
And that’s how this all started.
I ran a Big 6 variant to a Top 16 finish at one of the last VGC 2016 format PCs.
Release of Sun and Moon
By the time Pokemon Sun and Moon released, pretty much all of my kampung had left. Believing themselves to not have either the skill, motivation, or resources to really commit to the grind.
Fair ’nuff, but that left me alone in a new region with zero clue how the meta worked. I worked a bit with Matt, and crafted my first team for the season in time for the first VGC Open in the region.
SG Open 1, KL Open 1
You can read more about my SG Open team here!
I created the team around Smeargle, who with Tapu Lele formed an early game duo focusing on stealing early momentum, finishing the game with any combination of the back two. A strong motivation behind running Smeargle into untested waters was because I was counting on a strong Post-Traumatic Smeargle Meta. I recall that the strong sentiment in the early part of 2017 was that Smeargle was no longer a threat with the removal of Dark Void.
A notable loss in SG Open 1 was to Yoko Taguma, who ran Tapu Fini and basically shoved a huge mental block into my head.
I was honestly still on the fence on committing to the grind, but after a fantastic Top 8 finish, I took the plunge and booked the next coach to KL for the MY Open.
And it was there that I became the Singaporean Killer – going flawless, and only losing to Kevin Ngim from Malaysia in Top 4.
Who threw me off with Lum Berry Gigalith and Safety Goggles Arcanine. Both the early season opens got me with surprise counters to Spore, but it was fine.
I topped my own record with the same team after minor tweaks, so I decided to once and for all commit to the grind.
I hit a really solid CP count of 200-ish out of the then 400 points. My cousin saw this on Facebook and she committed to funding my trip to Anaheim if I made it.
A key takeaway that I would test in the end-2016 PCs was Ismat’s team – a core with Pheromosa and Tapu Lele. He gave me the skeleton of his team, and I tested it with limited success.
This core was later popularised by Shoma’s ONOG Invitational Team, because Pheromosa’s ostensibly biggest weakness is Arcanine’s Extreme Speed, or whatever weird priority is around. Psychic Terrain helps Pheromosa with this, whilst Pheromosa’s natural speed destroys pretty much everything.
This aside won’t come fully into play until later on in the season report!
The Disaster of Melbourne
I had qualified for a Travel Award to Melbourne IC! Wooooo.
I had no team for Melbourne. Not so woooo.
I did have a notable PC win at Jurong Spring vs Isaac Lam, clinching 20 CP (You can read more about it here). At this point, I was preparing and testing against every single core I could, while focusing on running an AFK-focused core. This was the premiere balanced core throughout 2017, featuring Arcanine-Tapu Fini-Kartana, which provided perfect counters to each other’s weaknesses. These three are supported by any other three Pokemon that could fit into your game plan, be it Snorlax, P2, Tapu Koko, Tapu Lele or what have you.
I ended up with this 6, which won me the PC, but ended up being far from the perfect 6 after continued testing. I loved using Drampa post KL Open 1 because it was the perfect weather-counter against the then-rampant Rain, Sun, and Hail teams. It tanked Golduck and finished it off with Thunderbolt, allowed for plays against Torkoal-Lilli, allowed you to nuke Gigalith easily when Sand is turned off, and allowed you to make an aggressive switch to stop an Aurora Veil from going off. It also allowed for /some/ Trick Room plays since you often move faster than things like Porygon2 under Trick Room.
And then it falls apart after the testing phase. Drampa winning me the PC was the exception, not the rule.
It was around this time when Pokebank was released. This introduced Tailwind Drifblim, which quickly rose to prominence when paired with Tapu Lele thanks mostly to Shoma’s ONOG Invitational Team. It was also around this time when we started to see the rise of Mimikyu-Snorlax.
I ended up hitting upon a variant of Mimikyu-Snorlax, where instead of using Snorlax as a late game grinder, I used it as the feature of the team, running Earthquake over High Horsepower, and running a Defensive Mimikyu which would rely on Snorlax to Psych Up and start sweeping.
After much discussion, Matthew told me that Snorlax with Earthquake was simply not the play, and Matthias pointed out that I was walled badly by Drifblim. I second-guessed myself, and ended up running these 6 at Melbourne:
Which was not the best play. I’m personally just not a good defensive player. I went into a 3-3 downward spiral and dropped.
I was, unsurprisingly, badly demoralised. So to take the edge off, I attended the pretty fantastic after party hosted by Jesse Wilsone and Samantha Diggines, two Australian players. I remember a conversation with one of the Aussie players very vividly.
James: So how didja like the Internationals?
Me: I went 4-3, and didn’t get much CP.
James: You misunderstand. I asked you how you liked it, not how you performed.
We play cuz we love the game. Don’t forget that.
It was a simple conversation, and perhaps it was paraphrased, but James, I never forgot that bit of advice.
Another bit of advice I got from Lionel Pryce was “Pokemon is the least important bit about your trip here to Melbourne.”
And I took that to heart. It realigned my own priorities, and how I saw the game. I let pride get to my head, and I let the CP race get to me a bit too hard.
I had a fantastic time with the damn Aussies. You guys are cool <3
The Downward Spiral
After the disaster of the Melbourne IC, I went back to work to earn money, and back to practice to get the CP. At the time, I reckoned that my final shot would be to score high for the upcoming Regionals in Kuala Lumpur. I was at roughly 200-ish CP, so I needed a good finish to hit the then-400 CP Bar.
While I didn’t have to worry TOO much about maintaining a Day 2 invite (I was FAR behind anyway), I did have to worry about hitting the 400. KL regionals was to be my last hurrah.
So I went back to the testing room and sparred a lot with Matthias. We both ended up with a similar team, focusing on Tapu Koko running Electro Ball. It was a solid play, with Electro Ball off Modest+Specs Koko being able to outright KO typical Snorlax.
252+ SpA Choice Specs Tapu Koko Thunderbolt vs. 76 HP / 12 SpD Arcanine in Electric Terrain: 180-213 (102.8 – 121.7%) — guaranteed OHKO
252+ SpA Choice Specs Tapu Koko Electro Ball (150 BP) vs. 68 HP / 0 SpD Snorlax in Electric Terrain: 237-279 (97.1 – 114.3%) — 81.3% chance to OHKO
If I recall the sequence of events properly, Matthias was testing for the LatAm IC, whilst I was testing for the KL Regionals. I was still stuck. I had no proper team and decided to just run Matthias’s best 6.
The problem? I am not a good defensive player. Matthias’s team focuses and requires the pilot to be more defensive and less reckless about the team. Sacrificing a single mon to gain a better position is not a good idea for this 6, simply because of the way the Pokemon mesh into one another.
You can read a lot more about Matthias’s team at this link. He played it much better than me anyway.
If this were a typical story, this would be where the hero redeems himself. The True Power was Inside You ALL ALONG. You never needed anything special.
To that, I tell you this. Get your head out your butt. I got zero CP from Kuala Lumpur, even from the MSS on Day 2. [Editor’s Note: he was playing something really dumb for MSS, doesn’t count]
The stroke of luck was what they announced on the day of the Regionals – CP bar had changed from 400 to 300!
I Did Not Finish at the KL Regionals, after an X-3 drop, and inched my way to 19th place at the MSS. I was severely demoralised, and I remember telling Alan Chia, “Dude I’m gonna be chilling and sleeping in my hotel room. See you tomorrow.”
I remember this vividly, because I remember buying a small box of cockles, and a bunch of frozen food to cook in my hotel room. I recall paying a fair chunk of money for a nice room. There was a nice bathtub, a nice kitchen, and a nice balcony to look at stuff from. I remember all this because this was it.
This point of my season was the lowest point. It was here that I really felt like just closing shop, and quitting.
I packed my bags, and headed to meet Matthew, Justin, Alan and Ryan to head back to Singapore.
Matt, Justin and I were in the same row on the plane, and I divulged how I felt about the disastrous KL finish. It was the worst finish I’ve ever had in Kuala Lumpur.
“You weren’t playing to your strengths. Ever since the start of your season, you’ve been obsessed with finding a perfect new core to work with. You play with hard reads, not defensive switching.”
Those words from Matt rang true. I hadn’t been playing to my strengths.
This wasn’t a long conversation. It was, after all, only a flight from Kuala Lumpur back to Singapore. It did move to an often overlooked Pokemon – Pheromosa.
“Maybe you should check out Pheromosa. Think about it – if you sieve out the Sashes, the Scarves, and the counters, you get to sweep and clean the field,” said Justin.
“And combine that with your mastery of Smeargle, imagine protecting Pheromosa turn after turn after turn, and then just winning.”
And so I started work by running Ian ‘raikoo’ McLaughlin’s team. He piloted the team to a solid T4 Finish at the LatAm IC and focused on supporting his Xurkitree to destroy any opposition with a +3 Thunderbolt.
I actually started to get decent with it, because it was very in-your-face.
Then came the Dueller’s Point PC, where I decided on a whim to go super jank to prove a point.
This was just a random team I built that focused on Mimilax. I ran the Earthquake set that Matthew told me not to (if I’m throwing out Raikoo’s team, why not throw out everything and flavour it Ry-style?), and I ran Speed Swap on Pheromosa thanks to Justin.
And I finished 2nd. Unfortunately, there isn’t any footage for this PC, but I lost partially because my Pheromosa had a +Speed Beast Boost.
… Not my proudest moment but here’s why that was:
This was only the first of two team screw ups, as you will see shortly.
By this point, I was at 263 CP. I had two good shots left to hit 300 – SG Open 2 and SG Open 3.
I set about finalising my team, and I was ready for SG Open 2.
I loved this team. It combined a lot of ‘bad’ ideas into a cohesive team of 6.
Mimilax was a crazy idea from all the way back before Melbourne, except that instead of Earthquake, I went with Rock Slide on Snorlax. I also upped the defensive EV investment on Mimikyu and made it so it could survive attacks from Arcanine and Garchomp, sometimes even their Z-Moves.
Pheromosa’s presence was the direct result of the pep talk from Justin and Matthew, and Tapu Lele was just a solid terrain control mon meant to work with Smeargle and Pory-Z.
Smeargle and Pory-Z was a holdover idea from Raikoo, Matthew and Ryan Chiam. Matthew favoured Ghost-PZ because of the sheer coverage you had with it outside of any possible terrain. Ryan Chiam favoured Elec-PZ because of the high usage of Koko, allowing a free Choice Specs when the situation favoured it.
I say it’s an idea from Raikoo because it was very similar to the Smear+Xurkitree combination in execution.
I loved how the team played out, and you can read more about how the team works in the report here.
Held at Anchorvale CC, the site where many other solid players have found themselves. I managed to finish Top 16, which would be fantastic… had there been enough players. There were only 50 players.
And here’s the funny bit. I managed to obtain a Pheromosa with the right stats, and was fully confident that my team was alright!
Then, I found out that I ran Download Pory-Z, instead of Adaptability.
Melvin: W-wait, why is your Porygon Download, bro?
Me: It’s not!
Melvin: …Bro, go check lol.
Me: Oh shit.
No matter. After perfecting that bit, I ended up running the perfected team at Jurong Spring’s Open 3.
And after a gauntlet of experienced player after experienced player, I managed to finally hit 300 by clinching Top 8!
I finally managed to qualify for Worlds. It was a huge deal for me, because I was pretty much the only experienced player among all my friends to not have attended one at all.
I ran this finalised team:
Mimikyu @ Mental Herb
EVs: 220 HP / 60 Atk / 228 Def
IVs: 0 Spe
– Trick Room
– Play Rough
– Psych Up
– Shadow Claw
Snorlax @ Figy Berry
EVs: 68 HP / 196 Atk / 244 Def
IVs: 0 Spe
– Belly Drum
– Rock Slide
Smeargle @ Focus Sash
EVs: 100 HP / 72 Def / 84 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 SpA
– Fake Out
– Follow Me
– Helping Hand
Pheromosa @ Life Orb
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpA / 252 Spe
– Ice Beam
– Poison Jab
– High Jump Kick
Tapu Lele @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Psychic Surge
EVs: 44 HP / 44 Def / 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 164 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Dazzling Gleam
Porygon-Z @ Normalium Z
EVs: 180 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 68 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Shadow Ball
– Hyper Beam
A few KEY changes in how I looked at my team:
Smeargle’s main stay moves this season should always be Follow Me, Fake Out. Especially Follow Me, because that’s the true reason for running it.
Spore is debatable. While I’m sure many players would lazily slap it on, Spore-Complacency is a thing that many players manage to exploit when going against me. Spore buys turns when the situation is right. It also requires a comprehensive mental list of speed tiers, to know where your Smeargle might not be fast/slow enough to get the Spore off.
Wide Guard is not mandatory, though it has managed to save my skin in situations like vs Garchomp, Fini or Lele.
Helping Hand imho is the play. Especially since it allows Snorlax, Phero or Lele to destroy things that they usually are unable to when unboosted. AND, it lets an unboosted-DryConverted-Porygon Z go to town on many threats. This seemingly-niche situation happens far more often than one might expect, and managed to save my butt against Diego Ferreira at Worlds.
Porygon Z, as I mentioned previously, is not a dead weight after you’ve expended the Z-Move with Breakneck Blitz.
STAB Shadow Ball allows many 2HKOs, even without the +1.
252+ SpA Adaptability Porygon-Z Shadow Ball vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Tapu Koko: 130-154 (89 – 105.4%) — 37.5% chance to OHKO
252+ SpA Adaptability Porygon-Z Shadow Ball vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Metagross: 224-268 (119.7 – 143.3%) — guaranteed OHKO
252+ SpA Adaptability Porygon-Z Shadow Ball vs. 236 HP / 4 SpD Tapu Lele: 184-220 (105.1 – 125.7%) — guaranteed OHKO
252+ SpA Adaptability Porygon-Z Shadow Ball vs. 76 HP / 12 SpD Arcanine: 122-144 (69.7 – 82.2%) — guaranteed 2HKO after Figy Berry recovery
And these numbers were calculating in the ‘worst’ situation my Porygon-Z would find itself in.
I viewed this combo a bit differently from most other players.
The typical view is that Snorlax is the threat, and with fair reasoning. Snorlax is the premiere Trick Room threat, able to destroy many different threats with solid bulk all around, reliable recovery with Recycle+Figy, and an insane amount of Attack thanks to Belly Drum.
However, I EV’d my Mimikyu specifically for bulk, and focused on its perfect Neutral STAB in Play Rough and Shadow Claw, giving it Psych Up.
With Snorlax carrying Protect, I always ensured that Mimikyu would be the threat left behind, not Snorlax.
With the ever-oscillating style of how my team works, this actually gave a lot more depth to what might seem to be a ‘straightforward’ team.
Day 1 Swiss
I ended Day 1 Swiss 4-3, with a beautiful climb all the way to 4-1 by Round 5, before losing to Eduardo Cunha and finally Huang Zheyuan in R6 and R7.
R5 vs Diego Ferreira
Here I win narrowly with a solid amount of luck thanks to G3’s double miss from his Pheromosa.
Another key highlight is my play to use Dry-Conversion in G1, allowing me to close out the game on the back of Porygon-Z.
R7 vs Huang Zheyuan
Outright, one of the most tilt-inducing games I’ve ever played. After G1, I tilted so hard simply because I was so drained, tired and beaten, leading Mimilax again when I had no business doing so.
While some of my closest friends tell me that the Burn on Smeargle didn’t matter, emotionally it did matter because it just broke me when I was on stream.
[If Smeargle sticks around without a Moody speed drop to Spore Celesteela next turn while Porygon-Z uses Conversion, Celes needs to wake up immediately to stand a chance, so draw your own conclusions. -Matt]
Worlds itself was super fun, and I loved playing at such a high level. I loved that final pressure and atmosphere surrounding Worlds, and I’m not done yet.
I want to go further than 4-3 Day 1 2017, but I’m glad I finally joined the ranks of the best Singaporean players like Wai Yin, Theron, Shawn, Melvin, Nelson and other big names from our small island!
I would like to thank the following people:
- My parents, my family, my cousin Samantha, my Godparents, for supporting me in various ways throughout the season. Thank you for your support in allowing me to play at such a high level at Worlds. I will never forget this.
- My girlfriend Mariel, for always having my back and making sure I ate right even when I was testing late into the night. For taking the time to try playing in VGC tournaments even when I taught you only the rudimentary basics. Thanks babe.
- My mentor Matthew Hui, for always allowing me to leave weird messages throughout the season like “X Pokemon Yes or No” and leaving replies like “Talk to me when you’re sober”. Your advice has been invaluable in helping me shape that jank team I ran at Worlds to (pretty) great effect.
- My training buddy for the season, Matthias Teo. Thank you for being the Yin to my Yang, and running the Defensive Teams to my Offensive Team. Hanging with you has been fun, and thank you for always reminding me to test something.
- My Oldbros in the Pokemon Community, thank you for having my back. Shoutout to Ryan Chiam who gave me something to beat (:P), Justin Lok, Isaac Lam and Chelsea for being so chill and welcoming me back. Alan Chia, for always being the mediator, cheerleader and guy so impossible to hate. Eugene, Theron and Wai Yin, for offering me tips when I asked, on how to view competitive play. Max and Kit Meng for staying out of the circuit to play WoW. Shawn, it was fantastic to see you again at Anaheim <3
- Nelson and Melvin for being bros in Melbourne, and above – while y’all kept to yourselves, I appreciated the advice you gave in Melbourne. I also loved sharing that T4 in APAC in the early part of the season. Nelson, Melvin and I in the T4. That was a pretty amazing feeling to be able to share the pedestal with y’all.
- Su Gi Chandran, for being the only person in my original crew to remain and actually end up qualifying for Worlds. I’m glad that we qualified together, old friend.
- New friends I’ve come to know better this year, thanks for being supportive all the way. Shoutout to Martin Tan, for being the second guy so impossible to hate, and also Team Dad for the Worlds Crew. Wei Wen, Ron, and Wilson, for always treating me like a bro from the time I got back into the game. Harrold Khoo, Bryan Wong, Ian Lim, Xi Wen, Alex Liew etc for being good company during events. Shoutout to my biggest fan, Alex Liew. Thanks for believing in my winning Worlds. I’ll do better next time. Shoutout to Xi Wen, who’s an absolute madman at the game, holy shit you’re a badass for making it so deep in so many of the events for someone who picked up the game in late 2016, hope to see you more at events!
- And of course, not forgetting the magnificent Tournament Organising Team of Singapore+KL, you have done absolutely fantastic jobs making this circuit a fantastic one to play in. Kudos to Ng Soon Aik, Tan Zong Ying, and Wilson Choong, and also their assistants and dedicated volunteers like Alan Chia, Cheeryl Tan, and Nathaniel Joseph Pereira. You have been exemplary this whole season, and without all of you, none of the above in the article would have been possible.
Also, thanks for quietly congratulating me at Worlds, between rounds, guys.
- Nicholas Ong for always delivering MOSTLY accurate breakdowns of metas, and calling my team trash – NGL, half the reason I loved the team was because of how much you hated it. ecksdee
- My crew, Han, Ami, Dan, Boon, Zane, Brendan, Mira, Cole and all my other bros. Thank you for having my back even when you had no idea what some of my gibberish means. Also, shout out to Zane, cuz you can never really beat me at Pokemon but like to pretend you can.
- You. For reading this whole report and all the silly acknowledgements.
Thank you for reading it all, and sticking with me. Thank you for posting on Facebook about how much you want to see me win. I read it all, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Until the next season, I play, I believe I’ve earned the cheesy title I gave myself all those years ago in 2009.
-Grandmaster Ryan Loh