The Little Steam Engine That Could – 1st Place Players Cup Report

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Hello VGC community! My name is Santino Tarquinio, otherwise known as Santi, and I am your first-ever Pokémon Sword and Shield Players Cup Champion! I would like to not only talk about the Players Cup tournament and my run, but also my journey with Coalossal throughout the VGC 2020 season.

I have been playing competitive Pokémon for about four years now and started playing during the tail-end of the 2016 format after joining my university’s Pokémon Society. I really got into the game during the Sun and Moon era of VGC. The club would host monthly best of three Premier Challenges during the 2017 format. I would make an effort to attend each one, and even though I was awful, it gave my much-needed experience playing doubles. I attended my first large-scale event at the Hartford Regionals in 2017 with the club and ended up going to Columbus for the 2018 North American Internationals since it was so close to my hometown of Pittsburgh. After having a taste of the scene, I made a serious push for the World Championship stage during last year’s 2019 season. I had my breakout moment during the middle of the format in the Moon Series portion where I top cut my first Regional at Greensboro, getting Top 4. Unfortunately, I could not get my footing during Ultra Series and missed my chance to qualify for the World Championships that year.

After failing to earn an invite to the World Championships last year, I went into this 2020 season prepared to give it all my all and make my way to London. Unfortunately, due to circumstances far beyond the control of The Pokémon Company International, the VGC 2020 season was cut short and live events were canceled. I felt crushed knowing once again I would miss my chance to compete at the World Championships. Little did I know, however, that TPCI would give me a unique opportunity to salvage my season in the coming months.

Revving the Engine

I think it’s only fair we start at the beginning: mid-March. Despite the cancellation of official tournaments, I still wanted to play the game. My attention thus turned to online grassroots tournaments. I decided to try building around a Pokémon that caught my eye with the introduction of its Gigantamax form: Coalossal. 

I was drawn to Coalossal for several reasons, the biggest of which was its nifty signature move: G-Max Volcalith. Dallas Regionals showed me how potent G-Max Wildfire could be from Gigantamax Charizard and G-Max Volcalith is one and the same. The passive damage added up quickly throughout a battle, even when Charizard was knocked out. That and Coalossal had a fantastic mix of offensive, speed, and bulk that felt unmatched by any other Pokémon in the format. Finally, it had an incredible matchup versus what I considered to be the most oppressive Pokémon at the time; Togekiss. There were already well established Coalossal cores and I knew like the core of Coalossal + Dragapult + Conkeldurr. I started experimenting with my own builds and tried some interesting Pokémon, including Decidueye, Tsareena, and Reuniclus. The Rose Tower Circuit had an Open tournament coming up in April so I decided to compete in the April International Challenge to get some practice in.

I brought the top-most team to the April International Challenge and it was…mediocre. A majority of my losses were games where I chose to Dynamax Venusaur over Coalossal. This quickly led me to the realization that Coalossal should almost always be Dynamaxed; it was by far the best offensive Pokémon on the team and I needed to find ways to enable it rather than push it to the sidelines whenever I faced a strong Water or Ground-type. I decided to start over and fill out the Coalossal, Dragapult, and Conkeldurr core with Pokémon that could further enable Coalossal.

Reuniclus was subbed out for a Colbur Berry Bronzong to set-up Trick Room in the face of Excadrill and Tyranitar. Gastrodon was a Coalossal staple I had been neglecting because I thought it was terrible but begrudgingly threw on for its utility with Storm Drain. Finally, I needed something for the Venusaur Sun teams. And wouldn’t ya know it, Wolfe Glick also brought a Coalossal team to the April International Challenge. His team included a Lum Berry Togekiss that felt like a perfect fit for what I needed. The final team I brought to the Rose Tower Open was very similar to Wolfe’s, albeit with Bronzong over Dusclops.

I got Top 16 at the Rose Tower Open; my first top-cut in over a year. It felt wonderful to be performing well again after my dry spell and I used this newfound momentum to improve the team even further. Bronzong was dropped for Dusclops as it was objectively the best Trick Room Setter in the format. I still hated Gastrodon and subbed it out for a Primarina to activate Coalossal’s Weakness Policy with Aqua Jet in the face of Sand Rush Excadrill and Venusaur, while also providing the team with an excellent Trick Room sweeper. I brought the below version to the Victory Road May Challenge, where I achieved a Top 8 finish and my second consecutive top cut with Coalossal.

It was around this time that we officially got the word from TPCI that the Players Cup would be happening, and I was ecstatic! Not only would we be getting an online circuit, but it would even best of 3 and take place around the time the World Championships were planned. While it wasn’t exactly like the World Championships, it was the next best thing. This would be my chance to put my money where my mouth was after declaring this year would be my year.

The first stop on my Players Cup journey was the May International Challenge. I was coming hot off my Victory Road top cut and obviously decided to keep using the same team I had come so far with. I participated in the May International Challenge and, after a long and stressful best of 1 weekend, I ended my run with a rating of 1722. This was more than enough to secure my spot in the North American Regional Qualifiers and the first part of my journey was complete!

A Fork in the Road

I went to work straight away coming up with a team to use later in July. The format for the Players Cup was unique in that it would be double-elimination and include open-team sheets. It would also be in Series 5, meaning Pokémon from the Isle of Armor expansion would be allowed. Considering all of this I had to make a decision: what team would give me the best chance of carrying me to the top?

While I had come a long way with Coalossal, I was slightly turned off from it after using it in the May International Challenge. I played one-too-many Max Geyser Dragapult and the team had an awful Primarina matchup; a Pokémon I considered to be one of the most dominant in the format. I was also worried that Pokémon such as Kingdra and Terrakion coming back to the format in the Isle of Armor expansion would dash any hopes of Coalossal being viable moving forward. I decided to put Coalossal on the back burner and try looking at other options.

I still wanted a Pokémon good against Togekiss and I began looking at Corviknight. Bulk Up Corviknight seemed like a fantastic Pokémon that could beat teams singlehandedly when set up correctly. Speaking of the Isle of Armor, Pokémon such as Politoed and Amoonguss would be returning to the roster as well and sounded like fantastic partners in theory. I got to work building and testing immediately after the DLC dropped.


My work with Corviknight produced several teams, but none of them felt right to me. I went through a couple laddering sessions with my good friend Jake Powell to see what was wrong. We concluded that the teams I was building did not suit my playstyle. I liked asserting offensive pressure from the start, whereas Corviknight took the time to set up and get moving. Jake asked if I had considered going back to Coalossal for the Players Cup. I was already comfortable with the team and its fast-paced nature suited me well. 

I decided to give my old Coalossal team another try and see how it felt in Series 5. To my surprise, it worked just as well as it had previously. The team came naturally to me and felt much more my speed. Coalossal even had access to the new tutor move Meteor Beam to give it a strong 140 base power G-Max Volcalith. Furthermore, it was excellent against new metagame threats Cinderace and Rillaboom. My previous concerns were still present, but perhaps I could work out solutions with the new additions to the metagame. 

Dwelling on it further, I realized that Coalossal could be a strong pick for the Players Cup. Since the tournament would be run with open team sheets, I could identify the Water-type and Ground-type moves on my opponent’s team and plan accordingly. Finally, Coalossal had dropped off drastically since Series 4. I was no longer running into it in practice and more Dragapult were dropping Dive and Hydro Pump. I suspected people would not be prepared to face Coalossal in Series 5 and I could catch some players off guard. With all this in mind, and a week to go before lock-in, I made my decision: Coalossal was the call for the Players Cup.

Full Steam Ahead

Feeling renewed confidence that Coalossal would be a good call for the tournament, I decided to start from the beginning and reexamine the team I used in the May International Challenge. I knew right away I wanted to remove the Trick Room mode from the team. Coalossal performed best when Weakness Policy and Steam Engine were activated and using Bulldoze Dusclops to activate Weakness Policy did not feel exceptionally good in practice. The fast mode felt more consistent and I wanted to focus on improving my options outside of Trick Room. Conkeldurr itself was not good outside of Trick Room and I would always be forced to bring Dusclops along with it. 

Additionally, I felt Primarina was not contributing much outside of using Aqua Jet to activate Coalossal’s Weakness Policy and Steam Engine. However, Dynamax Primarina was my Trick Room answer, so I would need a new strategy versus those teams. Dragapult and Lum Berry Togekiss still felt like the best support available for Coalossal, so I trimmed the team and started there. The following bullet points were the things I wanted the remaining three Pokémon to accomplish.

A “clean-up” Pokémon that did not need to Dynamax and could ideally function in and out of Trick Room, a Pokémon that could set up Coalossal in the face of faster threats such as Chlorophyll Venusaur while not feeling like dead-weight afterward, and a consistent way to deal with Trick Room strategies.

Rillaboom immediately caught my eye first and foremost. It now had access to its hidden ability of Grassy Surge and the Isle of Armor gave it access to the incredible new priority move Grassy Glide. It matched up perfectly with Coalossal too; it could deal with the Water, Ground, and Rock types that bullied Coalossal, while Coalossal could remove the Fire, Steel, and Flying types that scoffed at Rillaboom’s attacks. I slapped on a Choice Band and was amazed at how strong its damage output was. It satisfied my first bullet point and was a worthy successor to the Conkeldurr that once occupied its slot.

After taking a look at the new Pokémon that learned Aqua Jet, the only one that stood out to me was Rapid-Strike Urshifu. At first, I was incredibly turned off by it; I was doing about a third of Gigantamaxed Coalossal’s HP every time I activated Weakness Policy! But I soon became aware of the advantages it had over Primarina. It had a great speed tier for the format and it made for a solid Sand answer now that Conkeldurr was gone. Like Rillaboom, it shined in the late game and provided the team with a secondary answer to Incineroar and Arcanine if Coalossal went down too early. Unseen Fist is also busted. It easily fulfilled my second bullet point.

It was now the Thursday before lock-in and I had five Pokémon I knew I wanted to use. But the 6th slot was proving to be difficult to fill. Venusaur was once again proving to be a pain, so on top of helping versus Trick Room, I would need this last slot to also improve my Sun matchup. My first thought was a Galarian Slowbro. That could work, right? With Assault Vest, you could eat attacks from Venusaur and Hatterene and it had the typing to hit both. Surely this was the call? Well, it was not, because the two games I proceeded to play versus Venusaur teams ended in losses. Slowbro was quickly removed from the team.

Time was ticking and I was at a loss at what to do. I went to Jake for help; surely he could conjure up a 6th Pokémon for me to bring. His suggestion was a bold and wild one; use Incineroar. He explained that Assault Vest Incineroar with Snarl was the bane of his existence in Ultra Series when he ran Necrozma “Psychic spam” teams and surely it could be just as effective versus Indeedee-F, Hatterene, and even Torkoal. Incineroar also hit Venusaur for super effective damage and could be protected from sleep by Togekiss. I did not care for Incineroar in this format so I was hesitant to even try it. Several games and several wins later, it became clear that Incineroar would be a valuable addition to my team. It, along with Togekiss, created a solid defensive combination my offensive sweepers could rely on to slow down the pace of the game when needed. 

I went to sleep at 2:00am finally feeling comfortable with my team selection. The next morning, I realized I had almost forgotten the most important part: I needed a nickname theme. I consulted my good friend Maeve O’Rourke on nickname ideas and she suggested a dessert-based theme. Hard to argue with that! We brainstormed some names, I locked in my team, and the rest is history. 

Something to note is that we were permitted to change our teams in between the Regional Qualifiers and the Finals. I kept all six Pokémon the same, however, I did change some moves, abilities, and EV spreads in between the Qualifier and Finals. These changes will be noted below.

The Team

Hot Fudge (Coalossal-Gmax) @ Weakness Policy
Ability: Steam Engine
Level: 50
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
Timid Nature
– Heat Wave
– Meteor Beam
– Solar Beam
– Protect

(The Once-Well Trained) The star of the show, it’s Gigantamax Coalossal! A Weakness Policy boost combined with Steam Engine’s 4x speed multiplier and a devastating 140 base power G-Max Volcalith make Coalossal one of the most terrifying sweepers in the format. Coalossal’s natural 110/120/90 bulk makes it tough to take down even when threatened with super-effective damage and the passive damage of G-Max Volcalith cannot be understated. Heat Wave was the Fire-type move of choice to give Coalossal spread damage after Gigantamax was over. Meteor Beam is much preferred over the terrible Ancient Power for stronger a G-Max Volcalith, even if it means you do not have a reliable Rock-type move outside of Gigantamax. Solar Beam was important for letting Coalossal pick up great damage/KOs on the Water, Ground, and Rock types that threatened it. It takes a village to make Coalossal work but the result is well worth it.

Coalossal was used with a Modest nature during the Qualifier run to guarantee knockouts on bulky Togekiss after a turn of Volcalith chip. I switched to Timid for the Finals to get the jump on Charizard and Terrakion in Tailwind, as well as for the Coalossal mirror (although I did not expect to face it). Coalossal was also Gigantamaxed every single game of my run. Set used during Qualifiers
  • 252 SpA Coalossal G-Max Volcalith (140 BP) vs. 228 HP / 12 SpD Togekiss: 152-182 (80.4 - 96.2%) – 87.5% chance to OHKO after Volcalith damage
  • +2 252 SpA Coalossal G-Max Volcalith (140 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Gigantamax Lapras: 362-428 (87.8 - 103.8%) – 75% chance to OHKO after Volcalith damage
  • 0- SpA Dragapult Surf vs. 0 HP / 4 SpD Gigantamax Coalossal: 88-104 (23.7 - 28.1%) – 75.4% chance to 4HKO
  • 252 Atk Urshifu-Rapid-Strike Aqua Jet vs. 0 HP / 0 Def Gigantamax Coalossal: 120-144 (32.4 - 38.9%) – 93.2% chance to 3HKO
  • 252 SpA Rotom-W Max Geyser (140 BP) vs. 0 HP / 4 SpD Gigantamax Coalossal in Sun: 220-264 (59.4 - 71.3%) – guaranteed 2HKO even after Surf damage from Dragapult
  • -1 252+ Atk Excadrill Max Quake (130 BP) vs. 0 HP / 0 Def Gigantamax Coalossal: 288-340 (77.8 - 91.8%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Lapras Max Geyser (140 BP) vs. 0 HP / 4 SpD Gigantamax Coalossal through Light Screen: 288-339 (77.8 - 91.6%) – guaranteed 2HKO

Cannoli (Dragapult) @ Colbur Berry
Ability: Clear Body
Level: 50
EVs: 204 HP / 4 Atk / 44 Def / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Breaking Swipe
– Light Screen
– Surf
– Ally Switch

(The Mist Drifter) Few things outspeed Dragapult in this format, letting it boost Coalossal with Surf before the opponent can even move. Alternatively, you can play more defensive and set up a Light Screen or start throwing out Breaking Swipes. Breaking Swipe can be used multiple times whereas Reflect cannot, and the slight power decrease, when compared to Dragon Darts, is well worth it. Ally Switch gave the team another redirection option as protecting Coalossal should always be a priority. Open team sheets meant the element of surprise was gone, but it also meant Ally Switch had to always be on my opponent’s mind. You could argue the mind game it creates is more trouble than it is worth; however, a 50% chance to take the hit for Coalossal is still better than a 0% chance.  

Urshifu needed the Focus Sash more than Dragapult did, so Colbur Berry was chosen to shut down attempts to stop Coalossal setup via Sucker Punch. Colbur plus Dragapult’s defense investment also let it survive any attack from a Jolly Cinderace holding a Life Orb. Max speed investment was needed for speed ties vs. opposing Dragapult. Set used during Qualifiers
  • 252 Atk Life Orb Libero Cinderace Max Airstream (130 BP) vs. 204 HP / 44 Def Dragapult: 160-188 (84.6 - 99.4%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ Atk Tyranitar Max Darkness (130 BP) vs. 204 HP / 44 Def Colbur Berry Dragapult: 148-175 (78.3 - 92.5%) – guaranteed 2HKO after sandstorm damage
  • 252 SpA Whimsicott Moonblast vs. 204 HP / 4 SpD Dragapult: 146-174 (77.2 - 92%) – guaranteed 2HKO
Mousse (Togekiss) @ Lum Berry
Ability: Serene Grace
Level: 50
EVs: 244 HP / 52 Def / 4 SpA / 20 SpD / 188 Spe
Bold Nature
– Air Slash
– Follow Me
– Yawn
– Protect

(The Great Friend) Redirection support felt necessary considering Coalossal’s two 4x weaknesses. Togekiss was the perfect fit for the role considering its Ground-type immunity, 4x Fighting-type resistance, and its ability to redirect powder moves with Follow Me. Lum Berry lets Togekiss protect its teammates from otherwise crippling status conditions while letting it shrug off the status itself. It was chosen over Safety Goggles to additionally stop Yawn, Thunder Wave, and Hypnosis. I decided to use Air Slash over Dazzling Gleam in Finals to hit Grass-types such as Rillaboom, Venusaur, and Amoonguss while also abusing the 60% flinch rate granted by Serene Grace. Yawn allows Togekiss to exert pressure despite its more passive role and can force Dynamax Pokémon into awkward situations. Protect should be a staple on Pokémon with redirection; I am shocked some supportive Togekiss sets opt not to run it. 

The EV spread I used during the Qualifier was very outdated, so it was updated moving onto Finals. A Bold nature and defensive EVs let Togekiss take a Max Steelspike from Jolly Cinderace holding a Life Orb at -1 Attack. The special defense lets it live a Sludge Bomb or Max Ooze from Modest Venusaur holding a Life Orb. I dumped the rest of the investment into Speed for faster Yawns and more opportunities for Air Slash flinches. Set used in Qualifiers
  • -1 252 Atk Life Orb Libero Cinderace Max Steelspike (130 BP) vs. 244 HP / 52+ Def Togekiss: 159-190 (83.2 - 99.4%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Life Orb Venusaur Max Ooze (90 BP) vs. 244 HP / 20 SpD Togekiss: 159-190 (83.2 - 99.4%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252 SpA Choice Specs Punk Rock Toxtricity Overdrive vs. 244 HP / 20 SpD Togekiss: 159-190 (83.2 - 99.4%) – guaranteed 2HKO

Macaroon (Rillaboom-Gmax) @ Choice Band
Ability: Grassy Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 140 HP / 252 Atk / 28 Def / 4 SpD / 84 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Grassy Glide
– Wood Hammer
– Superpower
– U-turn

(The Galar Champion) The addition of Grassy Glide from the Isle of Armor expansion turned the already great Rillaboom into a force to be reckoned with. Rillaboom serves as an excellent counter to Water-type Pokémon that gave previous versions of my team trouble, primarily Primarina and Rotom-Wash. It is also an excellent late-game cleaner that hit extremely hard and usually attacks first, provided Grassy Terrain is active. Choice Band seemed like a weird option at first because you give up Fake Out, but this slot was for damage output, not support. Wood Hammer was devastating with Choice Band, but you must watch out for the recoil you take when using it on a Dynamaxed Pokémon. I went with Superpower over High Horsepower to have a way to hit Steel-types and Incineroar harder, but the latter is still a good choice. I like Superpower’s ability to OHKO Incineroar if it was not Intimidated. U-turn did good chunks of damage and let me pivot Rillaboom out if I led incorrectly. 

Rillaboom’s defensive investment let it survive Flare Blitz from support-oriented Incineroar, as well as Max Airstream from Dragapult. Max attack investment felt necessary to get off as much damage as possible. The remaining EVs I dumped into speed. I wanted to speed creep Milotic and was comfortable with the stat I ended up hitting. Set used during Qualifiers
  • 252+ Atk Choice Band Rillaboom Grassy Glide vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Excadrill in Grassy Terrain: 186-220 (100 - 118.2%) – guaranteed OHKO
  • 252+ Atk Choice Band Rillaboom Wood Hammer vs. 252 HP / 4 Def Gigantamax Lapras in Grassy Terrain: 506-596 (106.7 - 125.7%) – guaranteed OHKO
  • 252+ Atk Choice Band Rillaboom Superpower vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Dynamax Tyranitar: 408-480 (98.5 - 115.9%) – 87.5% chance to OHKO
  • 4 Atk Incineroar Flare Blitz vs. 140 HP / 28 Def Rillaboom: 162-192 (83.9 - 99.4%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ Atk Dragapult Max Airstream (130 BP) vs. 140 HP / 28 Def Rillaboom: 162-192 (83.9 - 99.4%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252 SpA Togekiss Air Slash vs. 140 HP / 4 SpD Rillaboom: 162-192 (83.9 - 99.4%) – guaranteed 2HKO

Tiramisu (Urshifu-Rapid-Strike-Gmax) @ Focus Sash
Ability: Unseen Fist
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Surging Strikes
– Close Combat
– Aqua Jet
– Detect

(The Tower Master) Urshifu was probably the MVP of the team; I think I brought it to almost every game. It doubled as both a secondary way to boost Coalossal via Aqua Jet while also functioning as a late-game cleaner. Urshifu thrives when Dynamax is out of play thanks to its strong attacks and absurd ability Unseen Fist. The Water and Fighting combination was an excellent addition to the team. Urshifu seriously threatened the Sand duo of Excadrill and Tyranitar in place of Conkeldurr, while also threatening Fire-types that stuck around once Coalossal was knocked out. Urshifu could also punish Dynamaxed Water-type Pokémon; if my opponent chose to knock out Coalossal with Max Geyser, they would set the rain and inadvertently power up my Urshifu’s attacks.

I trained Urshifu completely in attack and speed to make the most of its offensive potential. There really was no reason to run any bulk with it holding a Focus Sash, which was mandatory given Urshifu’s low special defense stat. 
  • 252 Atk Urshifu Surging Strikes (3 hits) vs. 252 HP / 4 Def Incineroar on a critical hit: 222-270 (109.8 – 133.5%) – guaranteed OHKO
  • 252 Atk Urshifu Close Combat vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Dynamax Tyranitar: 376-448 (106.8 - 127.2%) – guaranteed OHKO

Red Velvet (Incineroar) @ Assault Vest
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 244 HP / 4 Atk / 60 Def / 76 SpD / 124 Spe
Careful Nature
– Flare Blitz
– Snarl
– Fake Out
– U-turn

(The Alola Champion) Incineroar was the glue that held this team together, per usual. It was added primarily to help versus Trick Room strategies and Venusaur Sun teams, but it is just a good supportive Pokémon that gives the team its defensive backbone along with Togekiss. The Fire/Dark typing was perfect for the role I needed it to do. It could pressure Venusaur with strong Flare Blitz and pivot around its Sleep Powders next to Togekiss. Additionally, it could safely fire off Snarls versus the likes of Hatterene, Indeedee-F, and Torkoal to reduce their frightening damage output. U-turn gave me a reliable pivot and could position Coalossal for safe setups. I did not bring Incineroar to many games during the tournament; I never played Indeedee-F/Hatterene or Venusaur. However, it was a Pokémon I took comfort in having and I knew it could be useful even if I never ran into the matchups I specifically brought it for. 

I trained Incineroar defensively to take as many strong hits as possible. Once I hit my defensive and special defensive benchmarks, I dumped the rest into speed for two reasons. One was to get the jump on opposing Incineroar to have a faster Fake Out, and the second was to potentially outspeed Lapras and Primarina, and get off a Snarl before they could move. Set used during Qualifiers
  • -1 252+ Atk Excadrill Max Quake (130 BP) vs. 244 HP / 60 Def Incineroar: 168-200 (83.5 - 99.5%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Life Orb Venusaur Helping Hand Max Quake (130 BP) vs. 244 HP / 76+ SpD Assault Vest Incineroar: 161-192 (80 - 95.5%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Primarina Max Geyser (150 BP) vs. 244 HP / 76+ SpD Assault Vest Incineroar: 168-200 (83.5 - 99.5%) – guaranteed 2HKO

Playing the Team

First and foremost, Coalossal should generally be Gigantamaxed every game. Only Dynamax something else if you really know what you are doing. 

The main goal of the team is to enable Coalossal at the perfect moment, whether it be upfront or late game. Your first objective when seeing your opponent’s team is to identify the threats to Coalossal and your own ways around them. Your opponent has to respect Coalossal as a lead and should always lead expecting to face it. Take advantage of this. For example, if your opponent’s only way to stop a Coalossal rampage is their Primarina, you can lead Rillaboom to punish this. Once the Primarina is knocked out or forced off the field, Coalossal can safely come in and boost. Even if they bring in their Primarina later, your Coalossal is already boosted and you’re in control. You do not have to rush to Gigantamax Coalossal!

The other thing to consider is what you need to get out of your Gigantamax. Just as its teammates enable Coalossal, Coalossal enables its teammates. If you’re going to make a trade, make sure it is worthwhile for the rest of your team. You could let Coalossal get knocked out turn 1, however, if you score a knockout on a Pokémon your back Pokémon couldn’t handle, or even just set G-Max Volcalith, you can enable your back Pokémon to clean up the rest of the game. Rillaboom and Urshifu are strong Pokémon to have in the back for this reason and can win games on their own.

A high-risk, high-reward lead. Dragapult does a good job of protecting Coalossal with Breaking Swipe and Light Screen. Protecting Colossal turn 1 and getting off one of those moves is always a safe way to start the game. Sprinkle in some Ally Switches once set up to make the most of Coalossal’s Gigantamax before it goes down. It’s usually a good idea to prioritize the Pokémon your back can’t deal with. That being said, always eliminate the threat to Coalossal first and foremost if it means you get to utilize it for one more turn. Urshifu should be led when facing Pokémon faster than Dragapult. Just keep in mind Aqua Jet can be redirected.

Urshifu and Rillaboom cover most threats to Coalossal, so they can be led to punishing your opponent’s Coalossal-countering lead right off the bat. Togekiss can protect them with Follow Me and fire off Yawns and force switches. Shuffling your opponent’s lead lets Coalossal come in more safely. Alternatively, letting Togekiss go down earns you a free Coalossal switch-in. This is especially effective when Togekiss and Urshifu are led, as you get to boost once Togekiss gets knocked out.

A defensive lead that lets you scout what your opponent intends to do and reposition from there. It may appear passive, but you have the threat of sleep with Yawn, and Incineroar’s Snarls can add up. If you can force a switch with Yawn, Incineroar can pivot out to bring in your heavy hitters. The ideal scenario is Togekiss getting knocked out as you U-turn, earning you switches to both Coalossal and Dragapult/Urshifu. Rillaboom should usually not be brought in the back when Togekiss and Incineroar are led. You want both Coalossal and either Dragapult or Urshifu to activate Steam Engine and Weakness Policy.

These combinations are usually what I lead, but that does not mean other combinations are invalid! Togekiss + Coalossal or Incineroar + Urshifu or Rillaboom can also work if you know what you are doing.

Team's Matchups

Largely depends on the other three Pokémon. Urshifu should be led if they have Sand Rush Excadrill and Tyranitar. Rillaboom should come if Rotom-Wash or Primarina are present. Coalossal + Dragapult can be led if it is Mold Breaker Excadrill. Just go in prepared to deal with the Rotom-Wash + Excadrill lead and the mind game of which of these Pokémon will Dynamax.

A tricky combination. Coalossal deals with the first two, and Rillaboom deals with the bulky Water-type. Get a feel for who you think they will Dynamax and go from there. If they pair their Rillaboom and bulky Water-type with Incineroar and Porygon2, I think you could reasonably Gigantamax Rillaboom and bench Coalossal. 

A boosted Coalossal can outpace most of the offensive threats used on this team composition. Just be wary of Dracovish with a Choice Scarf. These teams usually do not have much bulk; therefore, Rillaboom's late game is usually pretty effective.

Urshifu is very good versus this duo and should usually be led when they are present. Aqua Jet to boost your Coalossal whenever you have the opportunity. 

 /ninetales Victory Road
Togekiss and Incineroar should always be led if they have a redirection user or a Trick Room mode; otherwise, you can go Coalossal and Urshifu. Keep in mind Charizard now learns Scorching Sand to smack Coalossal with a special Max Quake. A tricky matchup, but it can be worked around with good positioning. 

Depends on the team composition, but typically you want to lead with Incineroar and pivot it in and out as much as you can to stall Trick Room turns. Yawns from Togekiss help stall turns as well. Alolan Marowak can be somewhat difficult to deal with. This is the one match-up where it is acceptable to bench both Dragapult and Urshifu. 

Incineroar goes to town on this trio with Snarl. Just be wary of the popularity of Body Press Torkoal. Rillaboom is also good here to change the terrain.

Coalossal is faster than a Terrakion in Tailwind once boosted so it should not be a huge deal even once set up. Rillaboom and Urshifu can also deal with it later if Coalossal wants to focus on Terrakion’s partners.

A difficult combination to play around with. The only threat to Corviknight is Coalossal so if it drops it’s game over. If they Dynamax Corviknight, you can use a boosted Coalossal to deal with the Water-type and go from there. Positioning yourself for a boost is the tricky part. I find it best to bring both Dragapult and Urshifu here. Oh, and if they pair Corviknight with Politoed and Kingdra, good luck.

Probably the closest thing this team has to an auto-loss. Goodra can shrug off hits from pretty much the whole team and dish out massive damage once boosted by its partner-in-crime Comfey. I think you could maybe Gigantamax Urshifu here. But honestly? No clue how to deal with this one. The way I beat Goodra is by relying on its low popularity and not playing any.

You’ll want to rely on Urshifu to deal with opposing Timid Coalossal. If they are not Timid, they most likely have bulk and you can use your own Coalossal to deal with it. Or you can just go for speed ties and Ally Switches if you’re in a chaotic mood. Watch out for opposing Rillaboom in the back.

My Tournament Run – Qualifiers

Winners Round 1 – vs. Madison Roy (Moon)

Araquanid in Trick Room seemed truly terrifying, so I led to Incineroar for Fake Out pressure and Urshifu to threaten big damage onto Porygon2. Game 1, she caught me off guard by Dynamaxing Togekiss, however, this let Coalossal come in freely and made Araquanid more susceptible to Grassy Glide. Game 2, she maxed Araquanid but I managed to knock out Porygon2 before it could set up Trick Room and went from there. My Incineroar’s Intimidate was useful in keeping her Araquanid from going nuts.

Result: WW

Winners Round 2 – vs. Chem Coop

I was most worried about the Talonflame + Dracovish lead so I led Coalossal and Togekiss game 1 expecting that. Instead, he leads Porygon-Z and Clefairy. We both Dynamax immediately and trade blows. Porygon-Z goes down and Urshifu and Rillaboom just barely clean up vs. Talonflame and Dracovish in the back. Game 2, I go in expecting the same lead and adjust with Coalossal and Dragapult, but he switches it up and leads Talonflame + Dracovish. I am forced to dance around Dracovish in Tailwind by shuffling around my Pokémon, but I preserve Coalossal for the late game and bring Dracovish down to low health after two Breaking Swipes. It later succumbs to Volcalith chip after I threaten it off the field with Rillaboom. During this set, I learned that Unseen Fist bypasses Quick Guard, which was neat.

Result: WW

Winners Round 3 – vs. No Show

Thankfully, No Show did not have a Coalossal matchup.

Result: WW

Winners Round 4 – vs. James Evans (TheKingVillager)

I lead Urshifu and Rillaboom expecting Terrakion or Dracovish to be led, but he leads Dragapult instead. I get Coalossal in safely, boost it with Urshifu, and trade blows with Dragapult to eventually knock it out. Rillaboom deals with the Dracovish and Indeedee-F afterward. I correctly call the Cinderace lead Game 2 and lead Coalossal + Togekiss. Mostly a repeat of Game 1; Coalossal deals with Cinderace and Rillaboom takes care of his back mons. Banded Grassy Glide was incredible vs. James’ team once Dragapult and Cinderace were gone.

Result: WW

Winners Round 5 – vs. Thomas DeRosa (Dandy)

His Milotic was a defensive variant that made it easier to handle. Milotic boosts my Coalossal with Muddy Water Game 1 and I sweep from there. Game 2 I led Coalossal + Dragapult, boost with Surf, and set up the Max Flare immediately to take Milotic’s attacks. Dragapult and Rillaboom cleaned up once Coalossal did its thing. Milotic was Dynamaxed in both games and could only use Max Geyser, meaning it could not threaten Rillaboom and Dragapult at all. Colbur Berry came in clutch during the Game 2 endgame vs. Cinderace.

Result: WW

Winners Round 6 – vs. Andrew Ding (Valentine)

Game 1, I led Rillaboom and Urshifu to handle the expected Primarina + Indeedee-F lead. Cinderace is brought in and Dynamaxed once Indeedee-F goes down. I safely switch Dragapult into a Max Strike as Urshifu goes for Close Combat into the now Normal-type Cinderace. Dragapult finishes off Cinderace next turn and the game is basically won. Game 2 plays out about the same. Cinderace is maxed once again, only this time he knocks out Urshifu and I get a free switch into Coalossal. With Primarina unable to Dynamax, I’m free to boost Coalossal with Dragapult, click Max Overgrowth, and sweep from there.

Result – WW

Winners Round 7 – vs. Jonathan Evans (Ezrael)

I was caught off guard by his decision to lead Rillaboom and Tyranitar. He cleverly switched around his Rillaboom and Incineroar to constantly apply Fake Out pressure with both. I never got the chance to boost Coalossal and I take my first game loss of the tournament. Game 2 he leads Clefairy to try and Sing me, but I get lucky and dodge both of its lullabies. This time I manage to get Coalossal boosted and take the game. Game 3 I reason Togekiss + Urshifu is my best lead and it faces down Rillaboom and Tyranitar once again. I correctly call the Rillaboom switch to Incineroar, so I Close Combat the Tyranitar and knock it out immediately. Rillaboom, Incineroar, and Clefairy are left to deal with the rest of my team. Through careful playing, I stall out his Rillaboom’s Gigantamax and Coalossal takes it in the late game. 

Result: LWW (Advances to Finals)

My Tournament Run – Finals

Winners Round 1 – vs. Julián Eduardo Martínez (SimiusBlack)
Link to Match. His Urshifu was the Single-Strike variant. He punished my defensive plays game 1, so game 2 and 3 I switched it up with a more offensive Dragapult + Coalossal lead. Dragapult put in massive amounts of work this set.

Result: LWW

Winners Round 2 – vs. Ben Madigan (Maddo)

Ben had a very similar team to my Round 1 opponent of the Regional Qualifier, only his Araquanid was special. Game 1 he got Trick Room up and I managed to stall turns before his Araquanid came in on the last turn of Trick Room. After Trick Room expired, I double-up into Porygon2 to make sure it does not get to set Trick Room again and Rillaboom closes out the game. Game 2 he catches me off guard by Dynamaxing Togekiss and does not set Trick Room. He opts for a knockout onto my Togekiss, however, this lets me bring Coalossal and boost it risk-free. Trick Room never goes up and Coalossal sweeps through the rest of his team.

Result: WW

Winners Round 3 – vs. Alessio Yuri Boschetto (Yuree)

Link to Match. He leads the dreaded Excadrill + Rotom-Wash combination in both games. I correctly call his Excadrill Max Guard Game 1, knock out Rotom-Wash, and sweep from there. Game 2, I get lucky and High Horsepower from his Excadrill misses my Coalossal on turn 1. He Max Geysers Coalossal with Rotom-Wash anyway, however, had Max Geyser gone into Dragapult, the endgame changed significantly.

Result: WW

Winners Finals – vs. Jiseok Lee (MeLuCa)

Link to Match. His Urshifu was the Rapid-Strike variant. By far my closest set of the tournament. Lum Berry on his Dragapult meant I could not apply pressure with Yawn from my Togekiss. Game 1 I make the mistake of not going for Max Flare during my Coalossal’s Gigantamax turns. I go for Solar Beam outside of the harsh sunlight thinking it was set up and well…oops. Game 2 and Game 3 come down to the wire. I end up taking the set after a lucky chain of events.

Result: LWW

Grand Finals – vs. Jiseok Lee (MeLuCa)

Link to Match. The rematch versus none other than Jiseok. I did not feel good about how I played our previous round so I knew I had to mix things up. My leads were ineffective against his Dynamaxed Dragapult and could not stop it from firing off Max Moves. I needed to apply offensive pressure from the very start to challenge his offensive pressure. I reasoned that trading Coalossal for a knock-out onto Dragapult and setting the G-Max Volcalith could be well worth it, as Rillaboom and Urshifu were exceptionally good against his team once Dragapult was out of the picture. It paid off tremendously.

Result: WW (1st Place Overall)


What a ride this was. After I failed to qualify for the World Championships last year, I tweeted out that 2020 would be my year. When the pandemic hit, I thought I lost my chance. Now, I have the title of the first-ever Players Cup Champion. Not the World Champion mind you, but I suppose it is the next best thing. Thank you for making it to the end of this report by the way. I know it was a long read but I had a lot to say! I have to once again give a shout-out to Maeve O’Rourke for being my rock during this whole experience, Jake Powell for helping me practice and talk through my thoughts, and of course each and every one of you who supported me throughout my entire tournament run. Thank you to Aidan Adkins, Austin ForcinitoMaeve O’Rourke, and Jake Magier for help with editing. Finally, thank you to The Pokémon Company International for hosting this event despite everything that has been going on globally. It was an awesome experience and I look forward to continuing to compete in the online circuit moving forward! See you at the Players Cup II!


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