Analyzing Successful Defensive Set-Up: Sam Pandelis' 2nd Place World Championships Team


With the 2017 World Championships done, I decided to talk about a team used by Australian Sam Pandelis (Zelda) to finish 2nd Place in the event. The goal of this article is to talk about what makes Sam's team unique and why it was able to bring him this kind of success, going through each individual Pokémon and potential leads that you may see.

The Team

Ninetales-Alola @ Light Clay
Ability: Snow Warning
Level: 50
EVs: 100 HP / 4 Def / 4 SpA / 148 SpD / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
– Icy Wind
– Disable
– Aurora Veil
– Roar

Throughout the 2017 season, the goal of many Alolan Ninetales has been simple. That goal is to use its speed in order to use the move Aurora Veil to help its partners to take many attacks better for the next 5 turns, then repeatedly use the move Blizzard to get off as much damage as possible before going down. Pandelis took the idea of using Aurora Veil, but by giving his Ninetales the item Light Clay, the effects of Aurora Veil would last 8 turns instead of 5, which would last for most of any battles that Pandelis may encounters. The use of the move Icy Wind means that along with helping its partners to take hits better, his Ninetales can also help its partners to move before its opponents, which means that Pandelis could effectively turn his Ninetales from a potential offensive powerhouse into a strong support Pokémon. 

Disable is a strong choice as it allows Ninetales to remove an opposing Pokémon's move from play that Pandelis can perceive to be a problem for a few turn in order to either KO the Pokémon or make it so that when the effects of Disable may wear off, that Pokémon may become useless. The final move choice in Roar is very helpful as it can allow Pandelis to temporarily remove a Pokémon from the field by forcing it to switch out. This can allow him to use Ninetales to remove a Pokémon that's attempting to use moves to increase its attacking power like Belly Drum Snorlax, Dragon Dance Gyarados, or the popularity of Weakness Policy Metagross that was picking up popularity leading into the World Championships.

Arcanine @ Mago Berry
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 244 HP / 60 Atk / 52 Def / 76 SpD / 76 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Flare Blitz
– Bulldoze
– Helping Hand
– Protect

Arcanine has had a pretty simple role throughout the 2017 format and for the World Championships, Sam followed this trend and made sure his Arcanine could effectively perform its job. Its Intimidate ability means that Arcanine could assist in lower the attack stat of prevalent physical attackers like Garchomp and Kartana for the rest of his Pokémon. For his move choices, Flare Blitz and Protect are the most standard ones as it allows Pandelis to take advantage of Arcanine's impressive base 110 Attack stat. Helping Hand has been seen as a niche move on Arcanine, only really used if it's needed, but by using Helping Hand, Pandelis could boost the power of other attacks and get off extra damage, even getting knockouts on Pokémon he otherwise wouldn't. 

While Bulldoze isn't known for its damage, but for the secondary effect in lower the speed of any Pokémon it hits. By taking advantage of this secondary effect, it allows Pandelis to use his other Pokémon like Garchomp and Tapu Lele to go for their high powered moves to perform the bulk of the damage on the opponent and even pressure Pokémon that might be giving him trouble to switch out which may mess with their game plan. His item choice in Mago Berry is one that many Arcanine throughout the 2017 season have chosen, utilizing the recoil damage caused by using Flare Blitz in order to increase Arcanine's longevity to help out the team longer. Putting all this together, you're left with a very innovative way to use Arcanine that works well with the way Pandelis wanted to use it.

Garchomp @ Groundium Z
Ability: Rough Skin
Level: 50
EVs: 172 HP / 84 Atk / 4 Def / 76 SpD / 172 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Earthquake
– Rock Slide
– Swords Dance
– Protect

While there isn't anything on this Garchomp that doesn't come off as a major surprise, the simplicity of the way Sam decided to use his Garchomp makes it effective in a variety of situations. His use of the moves Earthquake and Rock Slide makes it so that the only Pokémon that can give it trouble would be Celesteela thanks to its typing and bulk. Garchomp's 3rd move is always changing. Some choose the typing coverage of either Fire Fang or Poison Jab, some choose another strong move like Dragon Claw, but Pandelis went with the popular Swords Dance, which works well with his team's overall theme of boosting your offensive stats. This means that he can decide to boost his Garchomp's attack stat to allow it to become an even bigger threat. His item choice in the always popular Groundium Z makes it so that Garchomp has a strong, single-target Ground type move at its disposal, which when used at the right time can pick up a crucial knockout and with its Adamant nature boosting its attack stat even further, Pandelis' Garchomp can become a major offensive powerhouse very quickly.

Tapu Lele @ Wiki Berry
Ability: Psychic Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 244 HP / 220 Def / 12 SpA / 4 SpD / 28 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Moonblast
– Psyshock
– Calm Mind
– Protect

As the only Tapu Pokémon on the team, Pandelis can only set the Psychic Terrain, which means if Tapu Koko, Tapu Fini, or Tapu Bulu hits the field to set their respective terrain, Tapu Lele's job to reverse it if at all possible. At first glance, the way Pandelis used his Tapu Lele is very interesting. Most of the Tapu Lele in the 2017 format has been a very fast and offensive version that could potentially use Shatter Psyche to KO a Pokémon that has become a nuisance. This Tapu Lele however is holding a Wiki Berry, which can suggest that he decided to take a more defensive route. 

The use of Calm Mind as well contributes to the set-up and sweep idea that we're starting to see with this Tapu Lele. While his choice in using Moonblast is nothing surprising, his choice in Psyshock over Psychic is very interesting as it allows Pandelis to use a very strong Psychic move that hits opposing Pokémon on their defense stat, which can be a very strong decision due to the surging popularity of Tapu Koko holding the Assault Vest item. If you followed the ONOG Invitational, you may remember that Enosh Shachar (Human) used a Tapu Lele that knew the move Calm Mind, so it seems that Pandelis may have drawn inspiration from his tournament run.

Mandibuzz @ Psychic Seed
Ability: Overcoat
Level: 50
EVs: 188 HP / 132 Def / 4 SpA / 172 SpD / 12 Spe
Calm Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Foul Play
– Taunt
– Tailwind
– Roost

Throughout the majority of the 2017 format, Mandibuzz was a Pokémon that was very commonly paired with Tapu Lele, as Tapu Lele gave Mandibuzz the right tools it needed to succeed. The reason is that most trainers would give Mandibuzz the Psychic Seed which means that when Mandibuzz is caught in the Psychic Terrain effect which was activated from Tapu Lele's Psychic Surge ability, the Psychic Seed item would increase Mandibuzz's special defense by 1 stage, allowing it to survive many moves that would otherwise KO it like Tapu Koko's Thunderbolt, Nihilego's Power Gem, and Tapu Lele's Moonblast, which can increase Mandibuzz's longevity. 

Mandibuzz's choice in moves allows it to become an effective support Pokémon. Tailwind gives it great speed control, which can allow it to increase the speed of partner Pokémon. Taunt allows Mandibuzz to stop support moves and can even stop Pokémon like Porygon2 from using Trick Room. Roost is nice as it gives Mandibuzz the option to regain HP and allows it to stay on the field longer. Its final move choice of Foul Play in a format where moves like Swords Dance and Dragon Dance are prevalent, you're able to take advantage of it by using Foul Play, essentially punishing your opponent for increasing their attack stat.

Xurkitree @ Iapapa Berry
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 148 HP / 172 Def / 4 SpA / 4 SpD / 180 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Thunderbolt
– Dazzling Gleam
– Tail Glow
– Protect

The final Pokémon we'll be talking about on the team, Xurkitree continues the trend of boosting your offensive stats. The use of Tail Glow allows Xurkitree to boosts its Special Attack by 3 stages, making it a very offensive threat right after using the move. The 2 offensive moves chosen by Pandelis give Xurkitree generally impressive offensive coverage. Thunderbolt and Dazzling Gleam are going to hit very hard on any Pokémon that isn't immune or resisted to the moves. The only Pokémon that can prove problematic to Xurkitree is Alolan Marowak, as shown in his finals match against Japanese player Ryota Otsubo (Barudoru). His nature in choice of Timid allows Xurkitree to increase its speed to further its chances of either boosting its stats or using damaging moves. His item choice in the Iapapa Berry allows Xurkitree to increase the amount of time it will be on the field. We saw how strong Xurkitree was in the games it appeared in.


The World Championships is typically the type of event that rewards defensive teams that are able to respond to a variety of different strategies and play accordingly, which Sam Pandelis took well advantage of in his team as shown above. While this team was ultimately unable to win the World Championships in the end, this team can prove to be a successful model to the type of team that players can look to build to succeed at the World Championships.


  1. i think this is one of the best VGC blogs that i ever seen. Congratulations for your 2nd place at the wcs.


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