How to grind out a Worlds invite in 188 days (then watch it slip away by 17 mins) – 2018 season summary

Hi, I’m Matthew Hui, editor of The Mirage Island, here this time with a summary of the roller coaster ride that was my 2018 season.

Comic drawn by Wai Yin (https://twitter.com/artpharos).

My 2017 season hit a high point in Melbourne, but ended in tears as first Darkest Lariat Incineroar (Malaysia Open) and then Trapinch (Hong Kong) stopped me from earning the last points I needed to qualify for the World Championships. And quite frankly, forgetting that Smeargle had Baton Pass-ed Moody Boosts to the Trapinch, neglecting to tap the screen to see what boosts the Trapinch had later on when the damage seemed strangely high, AND not making the simple play of Protecting both my last mons to stall out the last turn of Trick Room meant that I could have few complaints.

So it took me a while to get back into the swing of things in ’18, even if we were playing the same format to begin with. I honestly surprised myself by racking up enough points to qualify for Worlds through a series of middling finishes. Still nowhere close to being one of the Play! Points All-Stars though!

Here’s my season summary in an image:

TOG Premier Challenge – Nov 26, 2017

We weren’t supposed to play in the tournament. Alan needed to deliver stuff to one of the TOs before it started, then after saying hi we planned to go watch Coco in Bugis+.

But then we started hearing how other players from Oceania were getting CP from various tournaments, and that Alan’s stipend for a potential Sydney trip was at risk if he didn’t get any points from the PC. So he was out for the movie, and he begged the rest of us to play to “beat the strong people”.

Rusty as I was, I opted to play a team of 6 that Shang had come up with at some point, since it was as stable a build as it got.

Muk



Muk-Alola @ Figy Berry
Ability: Gluttony
Level: 50
EVs: 188 HP / 252 Atk / 44 Def / 4 SpA / 20 SpD
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Poison Jab
– Knock Off
– Curse
– Protect

Best Pokemon in VGC2017™.

Porygon2



Porygon2 @ Eviolite
Ability: Download
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 148 Def / 108 SpD
Sassy Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Return
– Ice Beam
– Recover
– Trick Room

Tapu Fini



Tapu Fini @ Iapapa Berry
Ability: Misty Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 100 Def / 84 SpA / 52 SpD / 20 Spe
Calm Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Calm Mind
– Muddy Water
– Moonblast
– Protect

Garchomp



Garchomp @ Groundium Z
Ability: Rough Skin
Level: 50
EVs: 52 HP / 172 Atk / 4 Def / 28 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Earthquake
– Swords Dance
– Rock Slide
– Protect

Arcanine



Arcanine @ Aguav Berry
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 12 Atk / 4 Def / 132 SpD / 108 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Flare Blitz
– Snarl
– Extreme Speed
– Protect

I detest bulky Arcanine, but in this team it really gets the job done.

Buzzwole



Buzzwole @ Fightinium Z
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 140 Atk / 116 SpD
Adamant Nature
– Superpower
– Ice Punch
– Poison Jab
– Protect

Nothing special happened this PC, really!

Ok fine, I dropped a round to Danny, but ended up cutting anyway, as did Alan. Unfortunately there weren’t enough players for Top 8 CP, so still had to win one more round for CP and we weren’t paired up against each other. As an aside bad teamsheets absolutely wrecked this particular Top 8; Harrold lost his Slowpoke, which his entire team is based around, making our set kind of lopsided.

Alan overcame the loss of his own Porygon(HYPHEN)Z, and I then had to run off to book in for ICT after watching Shawn save the day.

10 points on the board!

Malaysian Open #1 – Dec 16, 2017

Here’s the team, but you can read more about the tournament itself here.

Tapu Koko



Tapu Koko @ Flyinium Z
Ability: Electric Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Wild Charge
– Brave Bird
– Mirror Move
– Protect

Raichu



Raichu-Alola @ Choice Specs
Ability: Surge Surfer
Level: 50
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Electro Ball
– Psychic
– Hidden Power [Ice]
– Volt Switch

Kartana



Kartana @ Focus Sash
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Leaf Blade
– Smart Strike
– Sacred Sword
– Detect

Arcanine



Arcanine @ Choice Band
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Flare Blitz
– Crunch
– Extreme Speed
– Close Combat

Salamence



Salamence @ Life Orb
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Dragon Pulse
– Flamethrower
– Roar
– Protect

Hariyama



Hariyama @ Aguav Berry
Ability: Sheer Force
Level: 50
EVs: 28 HP / 252 Atk / 228 SpD
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Wide Guard
– Close Combat
– Knock Off
– Poison Jab

Malaysia Midseason Showdown side event – Dec 17, 2017

After the Open’s Swiss rounds, we were told that the MSS would be Bo1, so I figured it was as good a time as any to pull out this abomination. I built this team after looking at Pyukumuku’s stats, since Nathaniel was always trying to make it work, and deciding that they were too good to not be usable somehow.

I had taken note of Z-Purify before, since I had a lot of success using Psych Up on my Z-Conversion Porygon-Z and wanted to see what other targets I could use to replicate that. But it didn’t occur to me to use Baton Pass with those boosts, until I saw someone pull off that exact combination while Edward Cheung was streaming the tiny tourney Battle Spot competition. From there, the rest fell into place.

Pyukumuku



Pyukumuku @ Poisonium Z
Ability: Unaware
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 92 Def / 164 SpD
Impish Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Recover
– Purify
– Toxic
– Baton Pass

Z-Purify gets +1 in all stats, which sometimes goes unnoticed as your opponent scratches their head over why you just used a Z-move that failed. Stay in with your increased bulk to Toxic stall with Recover, or Baton Pass your boosts if something dangerous comes in/you can’t use Toxic.

Toxic/Recover with Unaware is nasty in its own right, which Melvin pointed out earlier in the year, and beats most things 1-on-1.

Almost everything on the team appreciates the Baton Passed stats, making it run pretty smoothly.

Marowak



Marowak-Alola @ Thick Club
Ability: Lightning Rod
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 44 Atk / 44 Def / 164 SpD / 4 Spe
Impish Nature
– Flare Blitz
– Shadow Bone
– Flame Charge
– Detect

The most obvious partner for Pyukumuku, redirecting Electric attacks while manhandling Grass types like Kartana. It’s important that Marowak sticks around, hence the focus on bulk even if you do chip away at it yourself with Flare Blitz recoil.

Minimising recoil is why Flame Charge is there, sometimes you don’t need Flare Blitz to get something done, why take recoil just to bring Kartana to its Sash? Marowak is too slow to realistically outspeed fast threats even after multiple boosts, but especially if you get Baton Pass-ed one to begin with, it might just start to add up! Also your opponent doesn’t know how fast you are, and might start to panic after Marowak gets a boost or two.

Tried to use Rest to take advantage of the bulk, and make Purify actually do something (MLG plays!), but with two terrains potentially interfering (including your own) you tend to end up looking silly.

Tapu Koko



Tapu Koko @ Aguav Berry
Ability: Electric Surge
EVs: 252 HP / 36 Def / 12 SpA / 108 SpD / 100 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 4 Atk
– Thunderbolt
– Dazzling Gleam
– Roost
– Psych Up

Worked in my Palossand/Porygon-Z team, does just fine here too. Copy boosts, then stick around and be annoying to deal with.

Lucario



Lucario @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Inner Focus
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 52 Atk / 204 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Final Gambit
– Close Combat
– Bone Rush
– Follow Me

The safest lead partner with which to set up Pyukumuku. Between Gambit and Follow Me, can ensure Pyukumuku only has to take 1 or no hits on T1 before it boosts. Gambit also simplifies the game by removing a mon, while allowing a Psych Up mon to immediately enter the field to grab boosts.

Close Combat is a great STAB move in a format ruled by Snorlax, and Bone Rush is a hilarious way to remove Nihilego even if Sashed. Pity about the accuracy.

Porygon2



Porygon2 @ Eviolite
Ability: Download
EVs: 252 HP / 188 Def / 68 SpD
Sassy Nature
– Ice Beam
– Return
– Recover
– Psych Up

The most common recipient of Baton Pass, but able to copy the boosts itself if need be. Being passed the boosts is better since Download will kick in on top of that, letting you start with +2 in an offensive stat.

Gyarados



Gyarados @ Life Orb
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 84 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 164 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Dragon Dance
– Waterfall
– Ice Fang
– Protect

With Marowak already on the team to protect it, Gyarados is an excellent alternative lead setup sweeper if my opponent is too fixated on stopping Pyukumuku. And it can always be the recipient of Pyuk’s boosts, effectively starting with one DD.

Since the Z-Crystal was taken by Pyukumuku, I went with Life Orb to outspeed and KO Tapu Koko with Waterfall after one DD.

Started 5-0 in Swiss, somehow. Taufik apparently dropped Haze from his Fini, saving us from playing out a prolonged Toxic stall war in R1, Tjun Git’s multiple Lightningrod-boosted Seaking got outsped and OHKOed by Porygon2 +2 Return, Lewis and Chelsea could neither deny nor break the set up, and of course, Justin tried but failed to beat me with my own Surge team. Lost my last round to Mohamed Farhan though, as he was able to do enough damage to break through my defensive mons.

Top 8 – Khairil Haizan WW

Ninetales/Mandibuzz/Koko/Pheromosa/Garchomp/Lele

He actually managed to land Taunt from his Koko on Pyukumuku before I could Baton Pass in Game 1, but I was able to Psych Up the boosts before Struggle became an issue. Once boosted, he struggled to get rid of both Koko and P2 while I wore his mons down.

I suspected he would go all-out to deny the setup in Game 2, so led Marowak and Gyarados as he went double Tapu. Lele’s terrain kicked in before Koko’s, revealing Scarf, which also meant that he couldn’t do anywhere near enough damage to my lead pair.

He did Taunt my Gyara to deny DD, but in the meantime I was doing big chunks of damage to his team with much less coming my way. He ends up switching Pheromosa into an Ice Fang crit, which KOed and he seemed to think was game-changing, but at that point everything on his team was so weakened that a combination of Scarf Lucario and any other mon would have cleaned things up anyway.

Top 4 – Justin Lok WLL

Koko/Raichu/Kartana/Arcanine/Salamence/Porygon2

You can read more about this set in the report already linked, to sum it up though, pulled through a close G1 with Pyuk Toxic stall, messed up a couple of calcs in G2, then tried to bamboozle Justin in G3 but he knows me far too well for that.

Not just a meme, Nathaniel!

Metagame Premier Challenge – Dec 24, 2017

It was Christmas Eve, of course we were going to mess around!

Justin, Alan and I resolved to bring Delibird to spread seasonal cheer, so to give ourselves the best chance of getting anywhere, we shoehorned it into a proven team archetype, the GastroBro TR team that had been piloted successfully overseas by players such as Gavin Michaels.

Delibird



Delibird @ Icium Z
Ability: Hustle
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Fake Out
– Ice Punch
– Drill Peck
– Destiny Bond

The sane version of the team runs Hariyama. But hey, Fake Out user for Fake Out user, absolutely valid swap! Ignore the part about how this Fake Out can miss.

Subzero Slammer’s base power is pitiful coming off Ice Punch, but this was the best we could come up with to salvage Delibird. Merry Christmas!

Slowbro



Slowbro @ Rindo Berry
Ability: Oblivious
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Def / 4 SpD
Relaxed Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Trick Room
– Surf
– Flamethrower
– Heal Pulse

Gastrodon



Gastrodon @ Waterium Z
Ability: Storm Drain
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpA
Quiet Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Muddy Water
– Sludge Bomb
– Ice Beam
– Protect

Marowak



Marowak-Alola @ Thick Club
Ability: Lightning Rod
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 SpD
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Flare Blitz
– Shadow Bone
– Brick Break
– Detect

Tapu Koko



Tapu Koko @ Choice Specs
Ability: Electric Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Thunderbolt
– Volt Switch
– Discharge
– Dazzling Gleam

Lucario



Lucario @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Inner Focus
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 52 Atk / 204 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Final Gambit
– Close Combat
– Rain Dance
– Follow Me

Again, started out unbeaten in Swiss before losing my last round in a miserable ‘mirror match’ with Melvin, since he actually had a Hariyama to demolish me under Trick Room. Made top cut, but again, had to win one more round for Top 4 CP since there were not enough players for Top 8 CP.

Top 8 – Martin Teo WW

Gastrodon/Arcanine/Celesteela/Garchomp/?

Martin’s team was infamous locally at this point, with his Z-Stockpile Gastrodon giving us many a tournament round that went to time. Not knowing what I was up to, he let his guard down in Game 1, and a combination of Delibird Subzero Slammer and Marowak Shadow Bone took his Gastro out before it could properly set up.

Game 2 he played far more carefully, I got his Gastro down almost all the way, but he just needed to Z-Stockpile and there was no way I would be able to bring it down.

I won the 0 speed Gastro speed tie under TR (he didn’t know it was a speed tie) and KOed with Ice Beam.

Top 4 Chelsea Tan LL

Not close. Yikes. Snorlax just sits on me.

But yeah, Delibird helped me earn my Worlds invite.

TOG Midseason Showdown – Jan 1, 2018

The very first tournament (in the world?) under the new format, and I was able to play thanks to Alan and Martin stepping in to commentate.

I never really gave Palossand the farewell it deserved in 2017, so I wanted to try and use it for the last time in a new format, not really expecting to find much success.

I originally tried to use Greninja as my Water Shuriken user, but even with a -SpA nature (which also hurt Ice Beam damage on things like AV Lando), poor Palossand was taking way too much friendly fire damage to set up successfully.

So I switched to Accelgor, and the more I played it, the more I realised that Accelgor is an incredible support Pokemon in its own right. The rest of the team I filled by essentially trying to recreate my 2017 team in 2018, Mega Sableye as the Psych Up user to replace Koko, Zard-Y as the upgraded sun user, and Kommo-o as Porygon-Z on steroids.

Palossand



Palossand @ Weakness Policy
Ability: Water Compaction
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpD
Calm Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Earth Power
– Amnesia
– Shadow Ball
– Shore Up

Long live the king. Too many flying types to get away with using Earth Power as the only attack. Quite frankly, Palossand struggles quite a bit with the elevated power level and better special attackers of 2018, but I sure as hell was going to try.

Mega Sableye



Sableye @ Sablenite
Ability: Prankster
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 140 Def / 116 SpD
Sassy Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Psych Up
– Recover
– Shadow Ball
– Will-O-Wisp

My Psych Up user for the new format. Prankster lets Sableye copy boosts at the start of the turn before anything bad can happen, and those boosts let me get away with keeping the non-mega defences to begin with. Opted for one STAB attack and Wisp since I reckoned they would wear things out in the long run anyway.

Sableye’s abysmal speed lets it mess around with TR teams, so I kept it at minimum. All in all, didn’t quite take over games the way Koko used to do in 2017, even if Magic Bounce keeps it safe from a lot of Koko’s counters.

Tapu Lele



Tapu Lele @ Wiki Berry
Ability: Psychic Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 212 Def / 44 SpA
Quiet Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 10 Spe
– Psychic
– Moonblast
– Calm Mind
– Protect

A similar set to the Lele I ran in my 2017 teams, but instead of Psych Up I gave it CM so as to not have to rely on Palossand, as the Accel-Lele combination was potent enough on its own.

The bulk was useful at the time, but it meant that I couldn’t pull off many Acid Spray+Attack combos to secure KOs. Over time, Alan and I agreed that Lele was better off with a Scarf or Psychium, especially after reading what a Japanese player had to say about the team.

Accelgor



Accelgor @ Psychic Seed
Ability: Unburden
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 SpA
– Final Gambit
– Water Shuriken
– Struggle Bug
– Acid Spray

I love Accelgor so much in 2018. Shuriken aside, Gambit and Acid Spray threaten KOs immediately, forcing your opponent to respond, and Struggle Bug is excellent at neutering common attackers. Unlike Snarl, it can’t miss! Until he figures out your full set, the opponent also has to worry about a potential Encore messing him up.

While obviously better with Lele to activate the Seed and Unburden, Accelgor is fast enough to lead next to other attackers like Zard and Kommo.

Minimised SpA so Shuriken would hurt Palossand less, though it did cost me a few points of damage from Struggle Bug and Acid Spray.

Mega Charizard-Y



Charizard @ Charizardite Y
Ability: Blaze
Level: 50
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Heat Wave
– Flamethrower
– Solar Beam
– Protect

Sun to protect Palossand from Water attacks, and just a great attacker in general. Good fit next to Accelgor to benefit from Acid Spray.

I’m not a big fan of Overheat due to its accuracy and risk of being stranded with SpA drops, though I do acknowledge its usefulness in removing big threats that Flamethrower cannot.

Kommo-o



Kommo-o @ Kommonium Z
Ability: Soundproof
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 4 Atk / 244 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Mild Nature
– Clanging Scales
– Close Combat
– Flamethrower
– Protect

This team doesn’t really put Kommo-o in the best position to succeed, since it doesn’t run enough ways to remove fairies, but again it’s a good fit next to Accelgor, and Sableye can Psych Up those boosts too

R1 vs Dylan Tan LWW

Mega Gardevoir/Zapdos/Ferrothorn/Incineroar/Landorus-T/Fini

This is the point at which I realise how obnoxious it is to fight Incineroar (and it doesn’t have Intimidate yet!).

I fail to stop Trick Room from going up in G1, despite having a clear opening to KO the Gardy, and get slapped around by the Incineroar and Fini. After TR runs out, the Lando reveals Scarf and destroys my Zard.

G2 I try to set up Palossand, only for his Zapdos to reveal Roar. It comes down to Lando against my Zard. He misses Rock Slide, and I steal the game. I really don’t remember how I managed to win G3.

R2 vs Wei Wen WLW

Mandibuzz/Kartana/Lele/Incineroar/Landorus-T/Mega Metagross

He doesn’t bring Incineroar in G1, and Zard methodically picks his team apart. Predicting an adjustment, I try to set up Palossand in G2, but it falls in a single hit to Psychic from his Life Orb Lele. In G3, I manage to force the Lele out before setting Palossand up and Psyching Up with Mega Sableye. Forgetting about Magic Bounce, he tries to Whirlwind Sableye, and that is that.

R3 vs Guan Yang Ze LL

Mega Manectric/Gothitelle/Fini/Celesteela/Landorus-T/Snorlax

I decide not to bring Palossand and focus on setting up Kommo-o, but the Celesteela turns out to be Misty Seed with Acrobatics, stopping my sweep short. The accumulated boosts then make it hard for my Zard to take the Celes out, especially with the threat of Lando Rock Slide next to it.

Realising that he doesn’t really have good answers to Palossand in the sun, I change things up by leading Accelgor-Zard. With him not having great switch-ins to Zard without Snarling first, which he chooses not to do due to the risk of Gambit, I get to set up Palossand without taking much damage, then Gambit to remove my own Accelgor from the field without giving up a Celes Beast Boost. With his Fini already heavily weakened by a Zard Solar Beam, things are looking up.

Water Shuriken only hit twice for +4 Def though, which would come back to bite me. He Rock Slides into my Zard Protect, but gets the flinch on my Palossand, preventing me from using Shore Up, and next turn Tectonic Rage finishes off my Palossand, which had been gradually losing health due to Celes’ Leech Seed.

R4 vs Justin Eng WW

Mega Aerodactyl/Koko/Amoonguss/Kommo-o/Buzzwole/Blacephalon

G1 he leads Blacephalon/Aero, but Struggle Bug hampers him enough that I am able to set up Lele and heavily damage his team.

G2 is decided on turn 1, we both lead Kommo-o next to Accelgor for me and Aero for him. I land the Gambit on his Kommo, get the setup on my own Kommo, and he has no real answer afterwards.

R5 vs Andrew Hoon WLW

Koko/Hawlucha/Kartana/Landorus-T/Cresselia/Torkoal

G1 he leads Kartana-Cress but strangely decides to set up TR, allowing me to remove his Kartana next turn. With a CM up on Lele and Sableye having copied the boosts, Torkoal fails to do significant damage, as does Koko.

G2 he leads Cress-Torkoal, allowing for an even more straightforward Lele setup. I stupidly miscount TR turns though, choosing not to double Kartana with 2 turns left, and choke the game away.

In the first subsequent game I set up Palossand and Psych Up the boosts with Sableye, only for the game to freeze. When we finally play out the decider, bulky Lele comes through for me as I outlast his AV Lando and Kartana.

R6 vs Melvin Keh LL

Amoonguss/Mega Metagross/Zapdos/Landorus-T/Politoed/Lele

Initially felt like an extremely uncomfortable matchup, but I started to figure things out as we played. Amoonguss stops most of what my Accelgor tries to do, and I struggle to break down his Seed Zapdos with Roost. Scarf Politoed checkmates my Zard in the endgame of G1, and he similarly shuts my Zard down in G2 with AV Lando.

As luck would have it, I squeeze into Top Cut, but have to face Melvin again.

Top 8 vs Melvin Keh WW

Amoonguss/Mega Metagross/Zapdos/Landorus-T/Politoed/Lele

You can watch the set here. Not much to add, really, but I realised after our games in Swiss how effective Struggle Bug was against him since he relied on two special attackers to deal the most damage, and as a spread attack it isn’t stopped by Rage Powder.

He also had a clear advantage that he didn’t really capitalise on, the easy KO with terrain-boosted Zen Headbutt against my Charizard. It’s probably fair to assume that he was worried about people running bulky Zard, since Metagross didn’t even show up until our last game.

Top 4 vs Benjamin Tan LL

Gothitelle/Snorlax/Scrafty/Koko/Mega Mawile/Bulu

Not seeing any real answer to Palossand, I lead Accel-Lele with the intention of setting my sandcastle up when I can. He leads Scrafty-Mawile though, and I brainfart, going blindly for the double KO and throwing my gameplan anyway. To make matters worse, Mawile switches to Snorlax to shrug off Gambit, and I get wrecked from there.

Not recognising how badly I had blundered in G1, I over-adjust in G2 by going with Zard, and he punishes me accordingly with Koko.

All in all, better than I expected, but with Yang Ze waiting in the final, it did feel like a missed opportunity. Always trust in Palossand!

Malaysian Open #2 – April 7, 2018

At this point, I had become a fervent believer in the power of Linoone. +6 Extreme Speed is such a ridiculous move, with most common teams not running an answer to it once it sets up. I just had to figure out a way to set up safely.

Linoone



Linoone @ Figy Berry
Ability: Gluttony
Level: 50
EVs: 244 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 4 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Belly Drum
– Extreme Speed
– Stomping Tantrum
– Protect

No real surprises here. Relying on an attack with +2 priority lets you pour the other points into bulk, which Linoone desperately needs, unless you’re really worried about getting around fast Follow Me/Ally Switch users (didn’t happen).

Linoone shreds so many commonly seen mons and is hard to stop once it gets going, when Lando unable to switch in at all and Incineroar needing a lucky roll to survive. The weakness to psychic terrain isn’t as debilitating as you’d think, since you run your own counter terrain, and it’s frankly not uncommon for the Lele player to run several things that are in the air (Zard, Lando) and vulnerable to ESpeed anyway.

Picking the coverage move is tough since both cover crucial things. There was a time when Stomping Tantrum actually covered everything that you needed Throat Chop to hit anyway, when all the Ghost types being used were also weak to Ground (Gengar, Aegislash), they share coverage on Metagross, and Stomping handles Tyranitar and Stakataka. However when Drifblim re-emerged, I really wished I had Throat Chop, which also punishes the Electric Seed Cresselia that ran around towards the end of the year.

Tapu Fini



Tapu Fini @ Iapapa Berry
Ability: Misty Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 100 Def / 84 SpA / 52 SpD / 20 Spe
Calm Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Calm Mind
– Scald
– Moonblast
– Protect

Counter terrain, and just a reliable all-around mon. Muddy Water remains an objectively better move, but not for the first time I opt for the 100% acc move that allows me to plan my turns with more certainty. Teams are a lot better at managing CM Fini at this stage, but it still does its job.

Greninja



Greninja @ Focus Sash
Ability: Protean
Level: 50
EVs: 4 Atk / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Naive Nature
– Mat Block
– Gunk Shot
– Ice Beam
– Dark Pulse

T1 Mat Block + setup move is such a “baby’s first VGC” combo that everyone sees from a mile away, but being able to just threaten the play goes a long way, and now and then you actually get it and set up an easy win.

Full SpA investment since Ice Beam is Greninja’s most spammable attack, covering Amoonguss and even AV Lando, and Dark Pulse is a safe 2hko on Metagross, with the flinch chance as a bonus.

Yet Gunk Shot might be the single most important move on the set, able to clear Lele and Ludicolo, since as it’ll become apparent later my rain matchup is kinda iffy. Revealing only physical or special attacks can also prime opponents into not expecting the reverse coverage when it comes.

Mega Metagross



Metagross @ Metagrossite
Ability: Clear Body
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Iron Head
– Stomping Tantrum
– Rock Tomb
– Protect

Felt like the most reliable mega at the time, and I added Rock Tomb due to how dangerous Zard is to my team. Picking up that surprise KO can be devastating, and the -1 Speed is sometimes handy when things switch in.

Clefairy



Clefairy @ Eviolite
Ability: Friend Guard
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 148 Def / 108 SpD
Sassy Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Follow Me
– Helping Hand
– After You
– Protect

The most obvious partner for Linoone, keeping it safe with Follow Me and Friend Guard, then using Helping Hand boosts to mess with defensive damage calcs. Extreme Speed being +2 priority largely dispenses with the need for Spotlight, although there are still narrow applications against fast Follow Me/Ally Switch, so I picked After You to particularly check Mawile under TR. By now I do think Encore may be the best pick in that slot to stop FO+setup though.

I THOUGHT the spread allowed me to survive Ludicolo Hydro Vortex in rain, but lo and behold, I was off by 8 EVs.

Landorus-T



Landorus-Therian @ Groundium Z
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 20 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 228 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Earthquake
– Rock Slide
– Knock Off
– Protect

I think this is the most consistent Z-Move user in the format, right next to Electrium Koko. Reasonably fast user, hits a bunch of things really hard, and not always expected.

Speed allows me to Rock Slide Modest Charizard, and Knock Off is oh-so-crucial against Snorlax, which Tect Rage also does well against.

R1 vs M Hafidz Syahril LWW

Lando-T/Mega Charizard-Y/Fini/Togedemaru/Snorlax/Cresselia

Oof not the R1 you want to see. Hafidz blew me away with some of the plays he was making during the first Singapore Open, and I was a little intimidated.

G1: A bit of a mess for me. I try to match Belly Drums, but his Lax turns out to be so bulky that I am utterly outmatched. I expend a ton of resources just removing the boosted Lax, but claw my way back after his Toge whiffs a Super Fang and generally just sits around without doing much. I pull it back to a 2v2 situation, just needing to land one hit with my Meta to finish the ScarfLando off, but he gets the Rock Slide flinch.

G2: Despite Linoone looking iffy, I realise that I can kinda oppress him with my fast mons, leading Lando+Meta into his Lando+Zard. Rock Tomb surprises his Zard immediately, and by the time his Lax comes in I am able to Knock Off the berry and dispose of it.

G3: He adjusts by leading Fini and bringing Cress at the back, but his lack of offensive power plays into my hands once Fini burns its Waterium. I get the early Knock Off on Lax to shut it down, and Meta does the rest.

1-0

R2 vs Lewis Foong WW

Tyranitar/Aegislash/Bulu/Lando-T/Mega Charizard-X/Milotic

Lewis was running a team Wolfe Glick had posted on his YT channel, but one that I genuinely do think struggles against redirection+setup.

G1: He can’t stop Linoone from setting up, and is pretty helpless once it gets going. Aegislash Toxics Linoone, sure, but Milotic does a whole lot of nothing (Icy Wind), and by the time I actually go down to poison, Linoone has run through the rest of his team (Zard, Bulu).

G2: He adjusts (?) by bringing Lando, but as stated earlier it can’t switch into ESpeed at all. Special Scarf Lando is cute and all, but nothing really changes for him.

2-0

R3 vs JS Deo WLL

Lando-T/Amoonguss/Mega Scizor/Politoed/Koko/Ludicolo

Set can be viewed here.

JS is something of a legend in my eyes, since he’s a relative newcomer that as far as I can tell, has top cut every single major event he’s ever entered. And this seems true even as of October 2018.

G1: I go for my dodgy anti-rain leads in Greninja-Fini and get the needed T1, Gunk Shot lands and removes Ludi while Fini sets up a free CM without getting Encored. But the Koko comes in, and the threat of HH+LO Thunder makes me play a bit too defensively.

Thankfully I end up catching the Scizor with Tect Rage (a MUCH bigger deal than I thought at the time), and win the 50/50 to take the game.

G2: Yes, I assumed Clef would take the hit from Ludi, and with a full health Linoone I could feel pretty confident (though I later realised ESpeed was not a 2hko /gulp). Things fall apart from there.

G3: I’m just so terrified of the Scizor that I’m just throwing things at the wall and hoping they stick. They don’t and I lose.

2-1

R4 vs Emil Ng WLW

Incineroar/Mega Tyranitar/Bulu/Cresselia/Lando-I/Togekiss

This was a really silly set since like Lewis, Emil didn’t really have a solid check to Linoone. What made this all the more bizarre was that frankly, every time we tried to play an honest-to-goodness game of Pokemon, Emil utterly out-read and demolished me. He punished a low hp Linoone Protect with Incineroar’s Malicious Moonsault, casually left MegaTar open to Stomping since he knew I wouldn’t make that big of a read, and resolutely refused to give me safe plays by Protecting his own mons. But the matchup was so far in my favour that it didn’t matter.

Pure autopilot gave me G1, before I tried to play the game and got wrecked in G2. G3? Back to autopilot, and a win.

3-1

R5 vs Adryan Sutantoso LWL

Kartana/Lando-T/Mega Charizard-Y/Magnezone/Cresselia/Lele

G1: Greninja+Linoone into Lele+Zard. I figure that if the Lele isn’t scarfed, Mat Block + Drum and we’re off!

Lele was scarfed. Teehee.

G2: Same leads for him while I go for Greninja+Meta. Gunk Shot removes Lele, who chunks Meta with Shadow Ball, but Zard survives Rock Tomb to set up TW!!! I wisely preserve Greninja’s Sash to better handle Kartana at the back though, and once TW runs out without too much carnage on my end, I think he forgets that Zard still had -1 from the Rock Tomb, and I KO it before he can set TW up again.

G3: I decide to try Clef+Linoone, with Cress/Lando/Zard on his team I had plenty of ESpeed targets even with psychic terrain up, and the lead would force him to attack with Zard and not set up TW, which I could take with Friend Guard.

Friend Guard can’t stop Heat Wave from burning Linoone though.

3-2

R6 vs Ariff Erzanie Ramli WW

Gothitelle/Mega Mawile/Snorlax/Bulu/Koko/Incineroar

G1: He leads Goth-Maw into Clef-Linoone, but can’t afford to TR due to the threat of Clefairy After You. So he doubles into and removes Clefairy as I Drum, but without TR and having Koko/Inci at the back, I bring Lando in to harass his mons as Linoone picks stuff off. He clearly didn’t expect Linoone to do as much damage as it did, especially to his resistant Mawile.

G2: He drops Goth, correctly, for Bulu, but life is still miserable for him once the Drum goes off, since Maw can never attack freely until my Lando has burned its Z-Move, and +5 ESpeed KOs that same Maw after it takes Tect Rage chip damage through Protect. Nothing else on his team resists Normal.

4-2, Top 16

Malaysia Regional Championship – June 2, 2018

This was my very last shot at getting my Worlds invite. With that in mind, I reasoned that I needed to go all-in on setup mons, especially since the meta at the time looked really vulnerable to Palossand once again, with Fini usage down and Incineroar (without Lariat!) everywhere.

Smeargle



Smeargle @ Focus Sash
Ability: Own Tempo
Level: 50
EVs: 100 HP / 4 Atk / 68 Def / 84 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
IVs: 0 SpA
– Fake Out
– Follow Me
– Baneful Bunker
– Water Shuriken

He’s back! No fancy stuff this time, just a safe Protecting move since Incineroar can be irritating otherwise. No Moody this time, missing -1 Acc Shuriken in HK has scarred me forever.

Palossand



Palossand @ Weakness Policy
Ability: Water Compaction
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpD
Calm Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Earth Power
– Shadow Ball
– Amnesia
– Shore Up

Yep.

Linoone



Linoone @ Figy Berry
Ability: Gluttony
Level: 50
EVs: 244 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 4 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Belly Drum
– Extreme Speed
– Stomping Tantrum
– Protect

Yep x2. At this point I think I should have swapped to Throat Chop though.

Tapu Koko



Tapu Koko @ Electrium Z
Ability: Electric Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
– Thunderbolt
– Dazzling Gleam
– Sky Drop
– Protect

The other consistent Z-Move user in my opinion. I needed a more proactive check to opposing Zards, and I was also getting a bit annoyed with Fini being too slow to impact games from time to time so I switched my counter terrain.

Sky Drop is another way for me to set up Linoone, especially against TR leads.

Mega Charizard-Y



Charizard @ Charizardite Y
Ability: Blaze
Level: 50
EVs: 20 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 228 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Heat Wave
– Solar Beam
– Air Slash
– Protect

Having mocked Air Slash Charizard all year long, it dawned on me how good it was against Kommo-o, which can be extremely irritating in that specific team build with Mega Gengar and Clefairy to mess with Linoone. Still better than Tailwind Charizard anyway.

Landorus-T



Landorus-Therian @ Assault Vest
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Atk / 252 SpA
Quiet Nature
– Earth Power
– Stone Edge
– Knock Off
– Sludge Bomb

One of the more desperate sets I’ve cooked up, this time needing a one slot check to a variety of things that included Zard, Lax, and MGar. Really did save my ass quite a bit.

R1 vs Wan Aqil LL

Drifblim/Lele/Mega Charizard-X/Snorlax/Kartana/Lando-T

Drifblim, ack. Without Throat Chop I had no good lead against LeleBlim, and my goodness I got smoked in this set. I barely saw the rest of his team, such was the dominance of his leading pair against me.

0-1

R2 vs Emil Ng LL

Bruxish/Porygon2/Lele/(my handwriting is illegible for the others)

Another crushing defeat. Emil was in no mood to be swept by Linoone as he was in the previous tournament, and I got utterly manhandled by Scarf Bruxish Psychic Fangs in terrain. The one time I thought I found a foothold, his damaged Lele barely survived Gigavolt and KOed back.

0-2

R3 vs Brian Lee WLW

Politoed/Ludicolo/Incineroar/Gothitelle/Mega Mawile/Bulu

Well my Worlds invite looked dead and buried, but I pressed on.

G1: I gamble a bit by leading Smeargle-Linoone into his rain leads, but he doesn’t go for the T1 Vortex to break Smeargle’s Sash, so I get the T2 Drum and dominate from there.

G2: His Incineroar-Goth lead is even easier to set up in front of, but I absolutely mess things up by leaving the Politoed alone to Haze my boosts away (I was double Protecting for what???), and can’t do enough damage afterwards.

G3: He visibly celebrates when he sees my Koko-Linoone lead into his Goth-Inci, but plays it totally straight. So I Sky Drop the Incineroar as he goes for FO+TR, getting an absolutely free Drum on T2 with the cat stuck in the sky. This time I slap the Politoed when it shows up.

1-2

R4 vs Taylor WLW

Lando-T/Incineroar/Zapdos/Mega Metagross/Fini/Amoonguss

Still hanging in there.

G1: I autopilot Smeargle-Linoone into Incineroar-Zapdos, but become convinced that the Zapdos isn’t carrying Electrium after she doesn’t use it for a couple turns. She doesn’t bring the Fini for this game, which immediately makes Palossand look extremely tempting since it shuts everything else down and G1 got a little uncomfortable once Linoone went down to what turned out to be a damage roll.

G2: I set up Palossand, though the Zapdos does reveal HP Ice to do a bit more than I’d hoped. It gets worse as she brings out Fini, but I’m still pretty confident since I can stall it out with a single Amnesia boost and I have sun.

Unfortunately Incineroar gets the crit with Flare Blitz, and she shuts the door on my other way back by revealing Gigavolt on Zapdos to remove Linoone.

G3: Back to Smeargle-Linoone, I gamble on the T1 Fake Out instead of Follow Me, and get away as she doesn’t Gigavolt. With a full health Smeargle to Protect Linoone this time, the game is much easier.

2-2

R5 vs Andrew Loekmanto WW

Mega Charizard-X/Fini/Ferrothorn/Zapdos/Lando-T/Cresselia

G1: I barely get away with my Linoone lead, surviving Ferro Gyro Ball with single digit hp to maul the rest of his team.

G2: Not wanting to risk the same roll, I sack Smeargle for the boost, but am caught off-guard by his Lando’s Z-Move. It comes down to his full health Zard against my own Zard + heavily damaged Lando, and I’m wondering why he looks so confident until he reveals the Zard-X and removes my Lando. Unfortunately for him though, I outspeed and have Air Slash to 2hko.

3-2

R6 vs Alister Sandover WW

Mega Metagross/Mega Tyranitar/Lele/Zapdos/Lando-T/Gastrodon

Things come full circle as I face Alister once again, with me having Palossand and him having Gastrodon to shut me down.

G1: I get Linoone going early even though he has psychic terrain on his side. The game comes down to a turn in which I go straight for Koko Gigavolt onto his Lele, despite him having a potential Gastrodon to switch in. He doesn’t switch (he did have Gastro at the back!), I get the KO, and with terrain in my favour Linoone goes to work.

G2: While I figure that the obvious adjustment for him is to preserve terrain better, he finds an even better way around my strategy, as I find my Linoone staring down both of his potential megas, rendering my boost almost irrelevant as both resist ESpeed. He actually over-predicts and gives me an opening to attack, but MegaTar survives +6 Stomping!

I’m consistently behind in this game, but slowly but surely my AV Lando grinds me back into it. Sludge Bomb absolutely comes through for me, as everything that switches in to save his Lele ends up getting poisoned. And this poison damage ticks everything down low enough for Koko Dazzling Gleam to save the day.

4-2, Top 16, 304 CP

Worlds, except not really

I just about manage to use my meagre allocation of leave to go to Worlds, but am only able to leave Singapore on Thurs morning. Needing to land in Nashville on Thurs itself for the player check-in, I book a flight with a 1.5 hour stopover in San Francisco, and get assured by various parties that everything will be fine.

Well, 1/2 of us made it through, so I guess? My ESTA runs into issues, I’m thrown into the longer queue, and by the time I get out I’ve missed my deadline to check my bag into the second flight by 17 mins. Travel without a checked bag next time I suppose.

So there’s no way I make it in time for Thurs check-in, but as long as I get there before Fri morning I know Uncle Wilson will come to my rescue. UA puts me on another flight to Nashville that lands at 2139. Everything seems fine.

Then first, I discover that the flight actually stops over at Houston (doesn’t say on the ticket). Ok, fine. Then they tell me that the 1210 flight has now been delayed to 1345. Will that affect my connecting flight to Nashville, I ask. Nothing to worry about, the plane I’m taking to Houston will be the same one that goes from there to Nashville, I’ll just have to leave for a while to let them clean up!

Further delays at SFO mean it’s almost 1500 by the time I take off. I’m surrounded by screeching babies (of course) but that’s ok, I’m finally on my way. I land in Houston, prepare to tell Soon and Wilson the good news, and stroll to a Departures screen.

No flight to Nashville in sight. The UA counter tells me the plane has gone, the plane I was on is actually bound for San Diego, and I’m stuck in Houston until morning, where the next flight lands after R1 Swiss starts.

A couple of Japanese players rage at the counter, but I’m just numb at this point. Besides, never take it out on the counter staff. I spend a sleepless few hours at the airport hotel, discover at 0330 the next morning that unlike Changi Airport, not every airport has check-in likes open 24/7, and amuse the Starbucks cashier by spending all my compensation vouchers on cake.

Wei Wen Cheer Squad got to Nashville in the end. Probably should have played TCG in the Open just for the experience!

Closing thoughts

Awful ending, but a season that I enjoyed as a whole, even if we didn’t get the highlight of an Aussie holiday this time (fingers crossed for 2019!).

Here’s to more successful VGC events in the region going forward!