Golden Empoleon's VGC 2020 Post Worlds Report

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Hello, everybody! Thank you for taking the time to read this. My name is Alberto, and I also go by Golden Empoleon in the Pokémon world. I’m 25, I live in Mexico City, and I have a newly acquired degree in Finance (couldn’t pass the opportunity to boast about it). I’ve been playing VGC since the all-mighty Kazuyuki Tsuji won worlds by using Empoleon in 2009, and I have been attending sanctioned events since they started in Mexico back in 2014 with the biggest Premier Challenge ever (330+ people).

Today, I’ll tell you about my experience with Ultra Series post-Worlds. Bear with me, because this is going to be a long read that I hope you’ll enjoy :D

2019 World Championships

I had a blast in Washington D.C.; it’s the only time of the year that I get to see some of my very good international friends, and it’s always an amazing experience. Flopping out of Day 1 for the 4th year in a row is not fun, though. My preparation efforts were just… wrong. I stuck with the team that I had been running during all of Ultra Series, Dawn Wings Necrozma + Xerneas, which was not the correct play for Worlds.
Add a lot of misplays to the equation, and the result is not satisfying at all. The issue was that the team required to make some heavy reads during almost every stage of the match, and even if that meant having a chance against every archetype (which is debatable for Ultra Necrozma teams) it’s never the optimal way to play Pokémon. I also had a very hyper-aggressive mentality and didn’t focus enough on positioning (oh, the irony). After Worlds, I decided to go back to the drawing board and try to find a different approach towards the format if I wanted to do well for the rest of the year.

Before I go on with the rest, just let me tell you guys that I was going through my last semester in college, and studying for my “degree exam” was gonna take a lot of my time, so I had to use my time to the fullest and quickly recognize and discard any useless ideas before committing to them. So, after seeing Hirofimi get 2nd at Worlds by using Dusk Mane Necrozma, I immediately knew my starting point. I had also been toying around with the idea of running both Tailwind and Trick Room for more flexibility, something that Hirofumi's team already accomplished, so, naturally, just as many other players during September, I used Hirofumi's team for inspiration. After some games on Showdown, I knew what I wanted to keep and discard.

Post-Worlds Teambuilding #1

First of all, I think that Tapu Lele is a good support Pokémon for Necrozma teams, but it is not absolutely necessary, and you might get more matchup flexibility by running other Pokémon in that slot. It also went against the slower playstyle that I was trying to accomplish, so it was out first. Kangaskhan was a very loose piece in the team, in my opinion, and I was very rarely bringing it to matches, so that was out next. Lastly, Umbreon was okay, but it was just too passive for me, and it’s a Pokémon that I’ve never felt comfortable while using it, so bye-bye, night dog. That leaves me with only Dawn Wings Necrozma, Groudon, and Salamence. I wanted to have at least two Pokémon that could pivot around the field, so I added Incineroar because it was a staple for VGC 2019, and Tapu Koko to improve my Kyogre and Yveltal matchups.

For the final slot, I struggled a lot with selecting a final slot, but for the first tournament I settled on Nihilego with Trick Room; I actually had 2 or 3 games during the first event where I clicked double Trick Room during the last turn of Trick Room and that was hilarious and super fun. After some testing with the team, I grew very tired of Incineroar. I hate Pokémon that become too centralizing and meta-defining, and I also hated having to guess the speed of opposing cats, so I decided to give another cat, Alola Persian, a shot, as it let me cripple a lot of Pokémon with a single Parting Shot; it’s a very under-explored Pokémon, in my opinion, and during Worlds, I only saw it on Alex Underhill’s team. Paired with Sky Drop Tapu Koko, it gave me a very safe lead against Graham Amedee’s team (which was getting very popular within the Mexico City player base pre-Worlds). It was also great at dealing with Rayquaza, especially the one in Pado’s team (another team very popular amongst the locals).

I was very happy with the wacky team that I had just built. It featured a lot of fun stuff, like no max speed Pokémon to abuse mirror matches under Trick Room, mixed Brave Primal Groudon with Speed EVs, and Protect-less Sunsteel Ultra Necrozma. I took the team to the first Premier Challenge of the season and got Top 4, losing to my own Precipice Blades in an endgame situation in Game 3. I attended two other PCs with the team (without getting CP, though), benching Nihilego and using Kartana and then Snorlax. I felt that the team was only getting worse as I tweaked some sets and tried different stuff in the last slot, so I decided to retire it. (Link to Team)

Competition

At this point, it was already mid-September, school was tough and taking much of my time, and at work, I was getting almost no rest (which is good for my job, but not for my VGC time), and I only had a measly 12 CP after like 4 PCs; I was getting disappointed in myself. That’s when the best that could happen, happened. I was on the bus on my way to school, after work, when I received a message on my phone, from my friend Abby, that just read “help me finish this” followed by a link to a paste.

Abby Orta (Abrai), is a two-times Mexican Worlds player (2017 & 2018), one of the best players in Mexico, and he also happens to be a very good friend of mine. For some strange reason, he decided to leave his adult life and return to this masochistic lifestyle that we call “the CP grind”, and he wanted help with a team for the first time ever. We talked for several days, and I gave him the Necrozma + Groudon team (he was the one that suggested Snorlax), which he didn’t like in the end because of the same Yveltal weakness that we were talking about earlier. We went to another PC and neither of us got points, but now I had a consistent testing partner with whom I could share my frustration and turn it into motivation to improve for the next time. Given this, we started building teams like crazy; at some point, we had something like 15 solid, functional teams, but I wasn’t feeling very confident in any of them (but I’ve gotta admit they were good teams). The thing is, I’ve never been a “multiple team” guy: I build something I’m comfortable with and I just roll with it until I no longer feel comfortable, and I rarely re-use old teams for events. I needed CP and I needed them now, and I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to build and test something properly, but well, I couldn’t prioritize VGC over school now that I was finally getting finished with my degree.

My next choice was to look at Nimbasa City Post’s Ultra Sample teams for the nth time to see if I could get any inspiration from any of the reports that I had already read like a thousand times. I noticed one that was in Italian, written by Alessio Cremonini. Two or three Google Translates later, I was very intrigued by the combination of Substitute Nihilego and Alolan Persian, two Pokémon that I had already been using, but his… His was a completely different approach. Long story short, he stated that in most matchups, when leading Persian + Nihilego, using Fake Out and Substitute would win you the game, in the end, most of the time because it just gave you so much momentum. I told Abby about this and he was interested too. We decided against using his team (or a modified version of) because we didn’t like his approach towards the Xerneas matchup. We were still struggling to build something that we both felt comfortable with, so we just laid it to rest, and agreed on using whichever team we had already built in the next event and hope for the best.

A Pre-double-PC Saturday night I was at a party, and Abby messaged me with a Showdown Teambuilder screenshot that showed six Pokémon, and told me “I was having a beer and thought of this”. I was very interested, so I naturally just ignored everyone at the party for an hour until I had given sets to those six Pokémon. I sent them to Abby, we tweaked some of them, and another team was finished. What follows is a team that both Abby and I are very proud of. It can be improved some more, but now Ultra is dead and we can move on. Here it is:

Teambuilding #2

792Lunala.png
Lunala @ Lunalium Z 
Ability: Shadow Shield 
Level: 50 
Shiny: Yes 
EVs: 4 HP / 44 Def / 204 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe 
Timid Nature 
IVs: 0 Atk 
– Moongeist Beam
– Psyshock
– Wide Guard
– Trick Room

Lunala started as a 252/252 spread, but then we switched to this one (that I think I stole from Chuppa) to improve calcs vs stuff I don’t remember about. Having all 4 moves was imperative, in my opinion, as it allowed for more flexibility when using Lunala. I don’t feel that Protect was necessary because most of the time we would be the ones with Speed Control. Timid Lunala with Trick Room might seem weird, but it was mostly just to set a Groudon sweep or when playing against faster restricteds, like against Xerneas + Rayquaza or faster Primals, which were blocked by Wide Guard anyways.

Groudon
Groudon @ Red Orb 
Ability: Drought 
Level: 50 
Shiny: Yes 
EVs: 188 HP / 100 Atk / 4 Def / 132 SpD / 84 Spe 
Adamant Nature 
– Precipice Blades 
– Fire Punch 
– Swords Dance 
– Protect 

For Groudon, we first had the mixed set featured in the Necrozma + Groudon above, but we decided it was a shitty set anyways, and Abby wanted to try Swords Dance because he figured out that leading Persian + Primal Groudon vs some teams and just clicking Fake Out + Swords Dance gave a lot of offensive pressure; of course, I never made that play in the time we were using the team. The bulk lives Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom 93.7% of the time if I remember correctly, and the speed was selected after reading a lot of reports from this season: we wanted to outspeed almost every non-max speed Primal Groudon, while not being max speed ourselves so we could abuse Trick Room in case they were faster.

793Nihilego.png
Nihilego @ Rockium Z 
Ability: Beast Boost 
Level: 50 
Shiny: Yes 
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe 
Timid Nature 
IVs: 0 Atk 
– Sludge Bomb 
– Power Gem 
– Substitute 
– Protect 

Standard Substitute Nihilego. Having support from Persian allowed it, as said before, to almost always get a Sub up. I liked having Sub as an option on Nihilego, as it creates a situation where a “Pseudo-Follow Me” is in effect: the opponent will acknowledge the Substitute, and try to double it to take it out; then you can just Protect and do whatever you fancy with your other slot. This effect was greater with our team, as we just used Nihilego for specific matchups, like Yveltal teams and Xerdon, and teams with Earth Power-less Rayquaza. In the end, I think that we just used it for every non-Psychic Spam matchup; Substitute Nihilego was that good.

Persian
Persian-Alola @ Focus Sash 
Ability: Fur Coat 
Level: 50 
Shiny: Yes 
EVs: 132 HP / 4 Atk / 116 Def / 12 SpD / 244 Spe 
Jolly Nature 
– Foul Play 
– Parting Shot 
– Taunt
– Fake Out 

Persian is a very underrated mon. Having the fastest Fake Out in the format (Weavile and Salazzle’s usage was super low during all of Ultra, and Kangaskhan very rarely ran Inner Focus) will allow controlling the flow of the match since the start. It was one point slower than Max Speed Rayquaza to hit first under Trick Room, and Parting Shot or Foul Play would just incapacitate it when it was running a slower set, like Swords Dance or Assault Vest. The bulk lives one big hit I don’t remember, gets 3HKO’d by Timid Lunala’s Moongeist Beam if I remember correctly, and there was an instance in a tournament where it was under half of its HP and lived a +2 Extreme Speed to KO back with Foul Play. Taunt was the least used move, but it helped stop Trick Room when the opposing Primal was slower than our Primal Groudon.

Salamence
Salamence @ Salamencite 
Ability: Intimidate 
Level: 50 
Shiny: Yes 
EVs: 4 HP / 212 Atk / 12 SpA / 28 SpD / 252 Spe 
Hasty Nature 
– Double-Edge 
– Hyper Voice 
– Tailwind 
– Protect

We had Salamence for the Tailwind option, and having a very high Attack investment was so clutch at any time. 4/28 lives Timid Xerneas’s Dazzling Gleam when Mega evolved. 12 Special Attack and 212 Attack were completely arbitrary (except for the part where Abby wanted to just nuke stuff with Double-Edge). It was very useful for almost every matchup, especially against Rayquaza teams.

785Tapu Koko.png
Tapu Koko @ Assault Vest 
Ability: Electric Surge 
Level: 50 
EVs: 44 HP / 36 Atk / 36 Def / 140 SpD / 252 Spe 
Jolly Nature 
– Wild Charge 
– U-turn 
– Electroweb 
– Sky Drop 

Lastly, our least used slot: Assault Vest Physical Tapu Koko. I think it lives Kyogre's Origin Pulse or Xerneas' +2 Dazzling Gleam or something. It was added to help vs Kyogre, opposing Lunala, Yveltal, and vs Psychic Spam. Electroweb was nice for faster teams, and Sky Drop was very useful to allow Lunala to set Trick Room up. Again, this slot could be improved, but no-one cares about Ultra anymore.

Abby won the PC and got 2nd in the other one, and, of course, I went 2-0 into 2-3 in both. Both of us made it to 1700 on the Showdown ladder in the following week, and, at last, we were very happy with a team. I think Abby got another PC win & maybe an MSS Top 4 or 2nd afterward, and I flopped again, naturally. I was getting very frustrated with my results, but most of my losses at events were the result of me not approaching a matchup correctly, or to Precipice Blades, which was now becoming a constant. I didn’t mind it that much because I was very happy with my friend’s success, and my last semester at school was also coming in nicely. Groudon turned out to be the nuke of the team. At some point, we were very tired of Precipice Blades, and a lot of players in our local scene were running Yveltal/Groudon + Salamence, and even with Nihilego, Salamence, and Tapu Koko on the team, it was a very uphill matchup that we usually lost. So, naturally, the answer was to run another Yveltal-weak team.

Teambuilding #4

Richmond Regionals happened, and I was very surprised that finals were a Psychic Spam mirror (but not surprised at all to see it was Nils Dunlop vs Paul Chua); I remembered that Abby at one point wanted to play Psychic Spam, so I showed him Chua’s report on the team he used. Abby immediately wanted to switch to Dawn Wings, and I agreed. While Dark Pulse can be a nice tech to have on Ultra Necrozma, the base form has a way weaker Special Attack stat, and even if it’s bulkier, it can do very little without bursting. Dawn Wings provides more firepower when in base form, and Moongeist is a stronger option than Dark Pulse, even if it’s completely expected. It’s also immune to Fake Out, which can lead to some other interesting mind games. We discussed the team for some days, and we came up with the following team.
800Necrozma-Dawn Wings.png
Necrozma-Dawn-Wings @ Ultranecrozium Z 
Ability: Prism Armor 
Level: 50 
EVs: 4 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpA / 12 SpD / 236 Spe 
Modest Nature 
IVs: 0 Atk 
– Moongeist Beam 
– Photon Geyser 
– Earth Power 
– Protect 

There’s not much to say about the Necrozma, other than it's Modest (like Paul’s but faster lol). The bulk lets it live a 252+ Ice Beam from Kyogre 100% of the time, and the speed outruns Max Speed base 110s by one point. I wanted to run Modest just to nuke stuff. In my experience running Ultra Necrozma for all of Ultra (besides our Lunala + Groudon team) I can tell you that Timid Ultra Necrozma will miss a lot of OHKO’s and 2HKO’s, so I wanted to go with the most firepower possible to kill things whenever (for example, Helping Hand Earth Power is a roll in their favor on the standard 236/236+ Incineroar, whereas Modest is an OHKO 93.8% of the time; and that’s a play that happens quite a lot). Being Modest also granted us with a secondary Trick Room sweeper who could go on the offensive once Trick Room ended. On one tournament, Abby wanted to try Timid out, and both of us did terribly, so there’s that.

786Tapu Lele.png
Tapu Lele @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Psychic Surge
Level: 50 
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Modest Nature 
IVs: 0 Atk 
– Moonblast
– Psyshock 
– Dazzling Gleam
– Magic Room

We also ran Modest Tapu Lele, 252/252, to try to at least tie with opposing Tapu Lele and to maximize damage output. Some Pokémon, like Salamence, are very bulk-invested to survive a Moonblast, which is still a not-very-comfortable roll (even if it’s in their favor), and the ones that lived it 100% were slower than our Ultra Necrozma, so we saw no point in running bulk. It’s a very standard set that serves its purpose. I think that it was also our least used mon on the team.

189Jumpluff.png
Jumpluff @ Focus Sash
Ability: Chlorophyll
Level: 50 
EVs: 244 HP / 12 SpD / 252 Spe 
Timid Nature 
IVs: 0 Atk 
– Rage Powder
– Sleep Powder
– Encore
– Helping Hand 

For Jumpluff, I decided to forgo Paul’s Grass Knot for Helping Hand, a move I’m very happy with that lets you take very unexpected KO’s; I also like that it’s a move that has a faster priority than Fake Out, as Jumpluff tends to get targeted by that a lot. Grass Knot had its purpose on paper, but it’s a move that was never getting clicked in practice. On the other hand, Helping Hand got clicked a ton, as it was very useful in a lot of situations. We also had many other ways to deal with Kyogre and Tapu Fini (cases in which Helping Hand is better, in my opinion).

groudon-primal.png     salamence-mega.png
Groudon
Groudon @ Red Orb 
Ability: Drought 
Level: 50 
Shiny: Yes 
EVs: 188 HP / 100 Atk / 4 Def / 132 SpD / 84 Spe 
Adamant Nature 
– Precipice Blades 
– Fire Punch 
– Swords Dance 
– Protect 

Salamence
Salamence @ Salamencite 
Ability: Intimidate 
Level: 50 
Shiny: Yes 
EVs: 4 HP / 212 Atk / 12 SpA / 28 SpD / 252 Spe 
Hasty Nature 
– Double-Edge 
– Hyper Voice 
– Tailwind 
– Protect

We kept the same Salamence & Groudon sets as the previous team, as they were some of the stronger aspects of it, and they were sets that we were very used to piloting.

805Stakataka.png
Stakataka @ Shuca Berry 
Ability: Beast Boost 
Level: 50 
Shiny: Yes 
EVs: 228 HP / 68 Atk / 212 SpD 
Sassy Nature 
IVs: 0 Spe 
– Gyro Ball 
– Wide Guard 
– Trick Room 
– Gravity 

For Stakataka we decided on forgoing Protect in favor of Gravity. We were both tired of  Precipice-miss Blades (are you tired of this pun by now?) in important turns and outright lose endgames that were completely in our favor. It also gave us a way to hit flying mons that usually wall Groudon, like Ho-Oh, and Salamence. Paul mentioned in his report that the way the team deals with Yveltal is only by putting it to sleep and hoping for the best, so it also gave us another way to deal with that pesky Yveltal (the matchup was still tough, though). Thanks to Paul Chua on the inspiration and like 90% of the work, lol.

It seems that some people had similar thoughts to us, like Juan Salerno getting Top 4 in Brazil just a week after Abby won an MSS undefeated the weekend of Portland Regionals. I decided to sit that one out and join the commentary table (it had been a long while since I got to do commentary, an activity I’ve enjoyed a ton since 2014; I might consider focusing on it more after I win Worlds LOL). As stated above, the weekend after Brazil we had another pair of PCs, where Abby got Top 4 if I remember correctly and then missed points in the next one, and I flopped in both; all of this because of running Timid Necrozma, in my opinion.

We still had a pair of PCs and another MSS left before Ultra ended in Mexico City. Abby wasn’t able to attend the weekend of the PCs, and we were already working on ideas for our MSS team, so I decided to just use the teams we already had. In the first PC, I decided to give our Lunala/Groudon + Nihilego team a nice farewell by going 2-2 (one of those victories being a bye lol (I think it’s also interesting to mention that this was the first tournament where we had less than 5 rounds in quite a while)), and for the second PC, I decided to say good-bye to our Paul Chua Psychic Spam.

Round 1 I got paired against Ewok, Mexico’s best player in my opinion, and he was running Yveltal + Kyogre, so I was gonna be starting bad in our Psychic Spam final event lol. I haxxed him a ton with all my Fire Punches burning and all my Precipice Blades critting (they were not missing anymore because of Gravity Stakataka 😉). He was a good sport, though, because he recognized the misplays he made that could have helped him win, even with all my luck. I then won the PC after going 3-1 in swiss, defeating my friend Ike 2-0 in finals, who was my loss in swiss. At last, I got some freakin’ points.

Teambuilding #5

The next weekend we were gonna be having the MSS and our final tournament in Ultra. We decided that we didn’t want to be Yveltal-weak anymore. Abby wanted to use Xerneas/Rayquaza, but I wanted to use Xerneas + Groudon. We built both, but we focused more on the Xerneas + Groudon because our  Xerneas + Rayquaza was bad (Incieroar, Amoonguss, Kartana, Tapu Koko) and we didn’t have enough life experience with the archetype. For the Xerneas + Groudon, we already had built one before the Lunala + Groudon, as standard as it can be (Incineroar, Tapu Fini, Amoonguss, Salamence), but I decided to go with something cheesier and fun. 

During this last week, I went back to Nimbasa City Post to look at all the sample Xerneas + Groudon teams for ideas. Chris Kan’s was not helpful at all, and neither were the Kangaskhan/Tornadus ones, and all the others were too old to even be relevant, except for Ken’s. I liked the idea of having Tapu Koko in Xerdon to help in the Rayquaza and Kyogre matchups. Salamence was a natural addition because it was not gonna end up as a Kangaskhan/Tornadus, and it’s either Kangaskhan/Tornadus or Incineroar and Salamence. A lot of Mexico players were also running Metagross alongside their Yveltals to help with Xerneas + Groudon; we decided on using Persian (again) over Incineroar to outright dominate the matchup. For the last slot, Abby wanted Amoonguss to play more of a “Protect-the-Xerneas” mode, but I wanted to use Gravity Stakataka again to keep with the Tailwind-Trick Room theme our teams had been running, to help a little more in the mirror and against Xerneas/Rayquaza, and to use more of an offensive, speed control-based approach.

Before I show you the team, I’ll take a brief detour. It turns out that there was gonna be another PC the day before the MSS, organized by someone that rarely hosts events, so I decided to take the chance to try and get some points. I wasn’t confident enough in our Xerneas + Groudon yet (and Abby was still very stubborn about using Amoonguss, so our team wasn't finalized), and because literally, no-one was playing Ultra on Showdown I didn’t have any way of practicing with the team. Abby couldn’t attend the event, so I went in alone. I decided to give our Psychic Spam one final-final chance after it gave me that PC win the week before. There were only 7 of us, and there was this player that I knew was the only one that might use Yveltal, so as long as TOM was on my side, I would be okay. You can guess what happened next. I managed to win my other 2 matches (by double 4-0’ing both opponents), and I got Top 4 CP. Nice…?

So, coming back to the Xerneas/Groudon we used at the MSS:
So... Yeah. It’s a Frankenstein team. Every set had been used by us at some point this semester. But if something ain’t broken, you don’t have to fix it. All 6 sets fit with our team, and, on paper, it was very solid. As for the Pokémon I haven’t talked about in this essay yet: You can’t go wrong with the Agati Xerneas. For Tapu Koko, Abby preferred having Z-Thunder over Fairium because it hit more important stuff harder, and we had Gravity Stakataka for the Rayquaza matchup.

We were still worried about the Lunala and Kangaskhan/Tornadus matchups, and maybe Psychic Spam, but we only had to dodge the Lunalas (as the other two were rarely used by Mexico City players in these last few months) and we would be fine. We both lost to a Lunala player in swiss, and in Top 4 we both lost to the Lunala player that the other lost to. My loss in Top 4 involved horrible luck to an already difficult matchup; he crit my full health boosted Xerneas in the 3 games, and the game I won was because my opponent misclicked into a triple protect after my Trick Room ended. Abby lost to Xerneas/Lunala in Top 4. So, Abby finished with almost 200 CP, and I couldn’t make it to 100 CP but, hey! I at least didn’t stay with the 12 CP I started with lol.

Conclusion

So, after a bittersweet ending, Ultra was over. I’m truly gonna miss it because I had a lot of fun with the game, way more than pre-Worlds and at Worlds. I’m glad that Z-Moves are out of the picture, but I’m angry Dynamax is a thing, but, well, we always get terrible formats since 2011; we’re VGC players, we gotta adapt.

Shout-outs to Abby for being the best building, testing, and "theory-Pokémon" partner, and also for doing so good on so little practice. Shoutouts to me for not sucking at the final tournaments, and for managing to juggle Play Pokémon, work, having a social life, and finishing my degree, all at the same time, some props. Props to you if you read this huge wall of text, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it and submerging myself in memories of this semester. Life is good.

Expect to see more from Abby and me in the future, and both of us in London.

1 comment:

  1. Those double PC that never weren't exist?
    You're awesome, i hope to give You a winner's trophy soon

    ReplyDelete