Snowbelle Says Goodbye – World Championships Day Two Report

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Hello everyone. I am Patrick Donegan, aka P Donz (or Pd0nZ), and you may recognize the name if you watched the World Championships stream from this year. I won a Round 6 game on the Day 1 stream to clinch my ticket to Day 2 at the 2023 World Championships. This team report will break down everything both regarding and surrounding the run.


As a bit of background, I am a 5-time Worlds Qualifier in VGC (2016, 2018, 2019, 2022, 2023). I have Top Cut a few Regional Level events, including making Finals at the 2016 Boston Open and the 2018 Prague Special Event which you can read about here, have made two Day 2s in the 2023 season (Fort Wayne and Fresno), and have been playing this game in some shape or form since Journey Across America an eternity ago. I have also been involved in team tournaments. I founded the Snowbelle Blizzards, which began play in NPA 8. I also managed team New York in USPA, and am currently a co-manager for the Irish National Team, which plays in Victory Road's World Cup each year.

The one true constant, from when I first got Pokémon Red under the Christmas tree ages ago to today, when I am writing this report, is that Articuno has been my favorite Pokémon this entire time. As I got older, the game got harder for Articuno. Articuno’s crippling Rock-type weakness was not helped by the fact that Rock Slide is an incredibly common move in VGC. It also had stats that didn’t reflect its best role. A defensive Snow Bird that had a bad typing for defensive purposes, yet it didn’t have the raw offensive stats to offset this. Its abilities did little to help it too. Pressure and Snow Cloak.

For years, as I was playing VGC, I wondered about Articuno. “Is this where it can finally work?” “Look, Primal Kyogre can set the rain for its Hurricanes. That will scare Primal Groudon away.” “What if it got Snow Warning instead? I could Blizzard spam with it and make it viable!” Indeed, I did play Articuno at a few Premier Challenges where I had already clinched my invite in the past. One time, in Ultra Series, I even Sheer Colded a Solgaleo, which felt very good; Solgaleo would otherwise normally tear Articuno to pieces. But actual viability seemed far away. I settled for having the Snowbelle Blizzards represented by Articuno as the team's mascot. It would have to do instead of “real” viability for the time being.

In Scarlet and Violet, we got the ability to Terastallize and a change to how Hail worked. It wasn't Hail anymore, but rather Snow. It also gave a defense boost to any Ice-type on the field as it was snowing. These two mechanics showed promise, but since Articuno was not in the base game, it would be a while before we could experiment with it.

After a frustrating May capped off with a PC that featured Top 8 Cut/Top 4 Points where I lost in Top 8, I realized the grind of the circuit was destroying me mentally and physically. I dreaded events. Every failure weighed on me and I just could not take the weekly (daily, even) grind anymore. I announced I was stepping away from active competitive play (i.e.: the grind of the circuit) at the end of the 2023 season. At this point, I was about 100 CP away from Worlds with a month left, and I was not sure I would make it to Yokohama.

A few weeks later, Chance Alexander essentially helped me save my season by teaching me his Milwaukee Regionals Day 2 team. I used it to finish Top 16 at Fresno Regionals, earning 80 CP and putting me within a Premier Challenge 2nd place of qualifying for the World Championships. After 2 stupid decisions (please do not mimic me and cash in frequent flyer miles to fly to Premier Challenges), I got the win at a Premier Challenge, qualifying me for my 5th and most likely final World Championships.

After I qualified, I began to pay attention to what was being used in Regulation D. It appeared that Articuno was finally getting some legitimate play and that people were testing it with the new mechanics that Scarlet and Violet provided. I knew on June 18th, the day I qualified, that it was now or never for me. This was my only chance to use Articuno when it finally got some viability. And unless it completely bombed testing, I was taking that chance and playing my likely final World Championships with my favorite Pokémon.

Teambuilding Process

This World Championships was unique. For the first time, we did not have a meta established from official tournaments leading into it, as this was the first Regulation D tournament. Therefore, everyone was starting from scratch. Given this, as well as the above, I knew I was playing Articuno, and it was a matter of me finding the best way to approach the archetype.

My favorite Pokémon was at the right place at the right time. Regulation D being brand new meant new strategies were going to be experimented with. Articuno also had the benefit of Snow increasing its physical defense for the first time in Generation 9, something it could not claim before. Shortly after I qualified for the World Championships on June 18th, I began to research how Articuno was being played in the early stages of Regulation D. This would give me almost 2 months to build a proper SnowBird team for the World Championships.

The early builds of Snow teams featuring Articuno had it on teams that were much closer to Hyper Offense than Bulk. While this team included some bulk options such as Garganacl and Assault Vest Landorus-Therian, this team fully committed to the offense with Chien-Pao, Dragonite, Rapid Strike Urshifu, and Regieleki. I eventually settled for this team to learn how to play the SnowBird archetype in Regulation D. It gave me 2 options to set up Snow, some bulk and defensive Teras, and the ability to go fast if needed. However, Worlds as a tournament tends to allow more defensive and bulky play to shine through, so I knew this was a temporary solution.

As I progressed, I began to learn more about the meta and what I had to make sure I could deal with before the team could be considered ready to go. In particular, I chose to focus on 3 archetypes: Balance/Goodstuffs, Chien-Pao + Dragonite and/or Rapid Strike Urshifu, and Cresselia + Ursulana. If I am to do well at Worlds, I must have some way to handle these three archetypes at a minimum. Sometimes, there is even overlap between the 3, which makes them an even bigger issue to deal with. 

For example, Shohei's team is pretty balanced, but it also has Chien-Pao + Rapid Strike Urshifu. I also needed to consider other archetypes that could be seen and had the potential to do some solid damage. As this was a 2 month prep period, it was only natural that other threats would rise up. I also made sure to have a matchup versus the following: Psychic Spam and/or Lilligant + Torkoal, Gholdengo + Regidrago, and Rain.

The standard I was looking for in these matchups was if I had ways to beat them reliably without having to resort to hax. The RNG component of SnowBird teams inherently exists with Articuno. However, the RNG was supposed to help me seal up a game or give me a chance to come back. Even a bad matchup, in my eyes, had to have a path to victory that didn't explicitly rely on RNG. RNG was not, could not, be “the plan” to win the set. If this was the case, then I have lost already.

I eventually locked in a team that I saw being used on the ladder for a NY/NJ grassroots tournament in July. While I went 1-3 drop and got a lot of bad luck on the day, some things were quickly apparent: Cresselia was a nightmare. Typically, throughout a set, with enough Blizzards, you will get at least 1 freeze. Lunar Blessing forced the Cresselia to specifically be the Pokemon frozen, or it would just heal off its partner's freeze. The 25% heal each turn made me lose the damage trade over time. Paired with something like Iron Hands, the above team is not strong enough to break through this combo. I was also too weak to Tera Ursulana and Trick Room, which had to be addressed. I also did not have the best bulk on this team, so I abandoned the paste and tried to find my own path with SnowBird.

After the grassroots tournament, I began to test manual Snow and dropped Abomasnow from the team. I theorized that Abomasnow was restricting teambuilding and decided to try Chien-Pao with Snowscape instead. This allowed Articuno to be enabled by a strong physical attacker who could also support my other modes. I tried this concept with Iron Hands, Rapid Strike Urshifu, and Ceruledge. While it was okay, something was clearly missing.

I had been posting much of my team building to the Irish National Team server. One of our better teambuilders recommended me a team he had been working on which included goodstuffs Pokémon like Cresselia, Landorus-Therian, and Heatran mixed in with the SnowBird. The core was solid, so I began to experiment more. Spectrier and Cresselia were initially tried, but Snarl & Will-O-Wisp spam did not work as expected and Cresselia got Taunted too much. They were swapped out for Iron Hands and Indeedee-Female to get redirection and a stronger Trick Room mode. The team was close to completion for the World Championships.

I ran calcs for Farigiraf and determined that I could achieve the same bulk I wanted from Indeedee-Female with Farigiraf while getting a much stronger offensive Pokémon with the extra EVs. Although Indeedee-Female still has its use on this kind of team now, the swap to Farigiraf was sufficient for where I was in Worlds preparation. The last consideration I had was whether or not I could improve my Cresslelia + Ursaluna and Psychic spam matchup further. After additional playtesting, I dropped Landorus-Therian for Ting-Lu. The Worlds team was complete.

The Team

Abomasnow @ Eject Pack
Ability: Snow Warning
Level: 50
Tera Type: Water
EVs: 204 HP / 68 Def / 236 SpA
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Blizzard
– Leaf Storm
– Earth Power
– Protect

Most SnowBird teams in Regulation D require Abomasnow, and despite my best efforts, this one was no exception. This Abomasnow is 3 attacks and Protect, and they were all needed. Many Abomasnows typically try to run Aurora Veil on their moveset. Playtesting showed me that not only does Abomasnow have no room for that, but I rarely had a comfortable moment to click Aurora Veil. Earth Power, in particular, is an important move on Abomasnow. This archetype needs every way possible to threaten Heatran, as it is otherwise at high risk of being walled by it. The combination of Earth Power and Blizzard made sure that the standard Tera Grass Heatran could be threatened for Super Effective damage no matter what. Earth Power was also good for hitting Pokemon like Gholdengo, Iron Hands, Hisuian Arcanine, and other Ground-weak Pokemon that Abomasnow might otherwise struggle with.

Leaf Storm and Eject Pack work well together. Although a badly timed Intimidate can ruin Abomasnow's day, this allowed pivoting to get the Snow set up at a later time. It also allowed for a full-power Leaf Storm to essentially function as a U-turn. The same principle works here, just like with the Eject Pack Torkoal popularized in Regulation C. Get your Leaf Storm in, get out of there, and come back later on when the Snow is gone or Trick Room has been set up.

The Water Tera was to handle Rapid Strike Urshifu and Heatran better while also granting resistance to Steel-type attacks. It does have some drawbacks in the Iron Hands matchup. Standard Heatrans will still be able to hit Abomasnow Super Effectively as well if read correctly. However, this Tera did what it needed to for me. The EV spread should be able to be optimized further. I went for the 16n-1 HP on Abomasnow because it didn't have self-healing and I was worried about random burns or Sand chip from Tyranitar. However, perhaps it is not necessary, and it may benefit more from opposing Grassy Terrain anyway.

Offensive Calcs:
  • 236+ SpA Abomasnow Blizzard vs. 252 HP / 60 SpD Assault Vest Landorus-Therian: 180-216 (91.8 - 110.2%) – 56.3% chance to OHKO
  • 236+ SpA Abomasnow Earth Power vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Heatran: 172-204 (102.9 - 122.1%) – guaranteed OHKO
  • 236+ SpA Abomasnow Leaf Storm vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Ursaluna: 228-270 (96.2 - 113.9%) – 75% chance to OHKO
Defensive Calcs:
  • 252+ Atk Choice Band Sword of Ruin Tera-Normal Dragonite Extreme Speed vs. 204 HP / 68 Def Abomasnow in Snow: 118-141 (61.7 - 73.8%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Choice Specs Flutter Mane Moonblast vs. 204 HP / 0 SpD Abomasnow: 157-186 (82.1 - 97.3%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ Atk Guts Ursaluna Facade (140 BP) vs. 204 HP / 68 Def Abomasnow in Snow: 160-189 (83.7 - 98.9%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252 Atk Urshifu-Rapid Strike Close Combat vs. 204 HP / 68 Def Abomasnow in Snow: 158-188 (82.7 - 98.4%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Choice Specs Gholdengo Make It Rain vs. 204 HP / 0 SpD Tera-Water Abomasnow: 72-86 (37.6 - 45%) – guaranteed 3HKO
  • 252+ SpA Tera-Grass Heatran Tera Blast vs. 204 HP / 0 SpD Tera-Water Abomasnow: 174-206 (91 - 107.8%) – 50% chance to OHKO

Iron Hands @ Assault Vest
Ability: Quark Drive
Level: 50
Tera Type: Grass
EVs: 76 HP / 164 Atk / 4 Def / 252 SpD / 12 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Drain Punch
– Wild Charge
– Heavy Slam
– Fake Out

Iron Hands is one of the best Pokemon to be introduced in Scarlet and Violet. Electric and Fighting STABs are always appreciated. Its insane bulk of 154 HP / 108 Defense / 68 Special Defense means it can take Special hits reasonably well and Physical attacks just bounce off of it. Drain Punch is used for longevity. Wild Charge is used for a more offensive attack. Heavy Slam OHKOs the vast majority of Flutter Mane. Fake Out is always a good utility move in VGC, especially to enable Trick Room to be set up on this team. Tera Grass ensures that Amoonguss' impact on Iron Hands is minimized. The added Surging Strikes and Ground type resistance is a bonus.

It can be worth testing Close Combat or Volt Switch on Iron Hands. However, I do not think they are the best choices for this team. Close Combat weakens Iron Hands' bulk, which is what this set does best. It basically has to be taking KOs with Close Combat to make it viable. Volt Switch on paper would be good to pivot Abomasnow in and out to keep the Snow up. However, Iron Hands will be hard-pressed to drop one of these 4 moves for a utility move that does little damage. If Fake Out is dropped, it becomes harder to set up Trick Room.

Offensive Calcs:
  • 164+ Atk Iron Hands Drain Punch vs. 252 HP / 4 Def Ursaluna: 134-162 (56.5 - 68.3%) – guaranteed 2HKO after burn damage
  • 164+ Atk Iron Hands Drain Punch vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Chien-Pao in Snow: 228-268 (146.1 - 171.7%) – guaranteed OHKO
  • 164+ Atk Iron Hands Wild Charge vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Urshifu-Rapid Strike: 168-200 (95.4 - 113.6%) – 75% chance to OHKO
  • 164+ Atk Iron Hands Heavy Slam (120 BP) vs. 252 HP / 204+ Def Flutter Mane: 162-192 (100 - 118.5%) – guaranteed OHKO ~ so Iron Hands will effectively OHKO almost any Flutter Mane
Defensive Calcs:
  • 252+ SpA Choice Specs Flutter Mane Moonblast vs. 76 HP / 252 SpD Assault Vest Iron Hands: 186-218 (77.8 - 91.2%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ Atk Landorus-Therian Stomping Tantrum vs. 76 HP / 4 Def Iron Hands: 144-170 (60.2 - 71.1%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Life Orb Armarouge Expanding Force (120 BP) vs. 76 HP / 252 SpD Assault Vest Iron Hands in Psychic Terrain: 182-218 (76.1 - 91.2%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ Atk Choice Band Tera-Normal Dragonite Extreme Speed vs. 76 HP / 4 Def Iron Hands: 108-127 (45.1 - 53.1%) – 29.7% chance to 2HKO
  • 252 Atk Mystic Water Sword of Ruin Tera-Water Urshifu-Rapid Strike Surging Strikes (3 hits) vs. 76 HP / 4 Def Iron Hands on a critical hit: 198-234 (82.8 - 97.9%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ Atk Sword of Ruin Chien-Pao Icicle Crash vs. 76 HP / 4 Def Tera-Grass Iron Hands: 186-222 (77.8 - 92.8%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Life Orb Beads of Ruin Chi-Yu Flamethrower vs. 76 HP / 252 SpD Assault Vest Tera-Grass Iron Hands: 203-242 (84.9 - 101.2%) – 6.3% chance to OHKO

Farigiraf @ Safety Goggles
Ability: Armor Tail
Level: 50
Tera Type: Water
EVs: 44 HP / 156 Def / 132 SpA / 176 SpD
Quiet Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Hyper Voice
– Psychic
– Protect
– Trick Room

Farigiraf was added due to my worries about Fake Out, Chien-Pao/Dragonite, as well as determining that most of the Taunts I saw in playtesting were Prankster Taunts. Covering other priority attacks such as Aqua Jet and Sucker Punch were bonuses. The EVs are designed in such a way that they mimic the bulk of a 252/252 Bold Indeedee-Female with the rest dumped into Special Attack. For example:
  • 252 Atk Mystic Water Urshifu-Rapid Strike Surging Strikes (3 hits) vs. 44 HP / 156 Def Farigiraf on a critical hit: 126-153 (62.6 - 76.1%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252 Atk Mystic Water Urshifu-Rapid Strike Surging Strikes (3 hits) vs. 252 HP / 252+ Def Indeedee-F on a critical hit: 111-135 (62.7 - 76.2%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Choice Specs Flutter Mane Moonblast vs. 44 HP / 176 SpD Farigiraf: 147-174 (73.1 - 86.5%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Choice Specs Flutter Mane Moonblast vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Indeedee-F: 130-154 (73.4 - 87%) – guaranteed 2HKO
The additional Special Attack was crucial to pick up KOs on chipped Pokémon, as well as to threaten significant damage on Psychic-weak Pokémon such as Iron Hands and Amoonguss. Safety Googles were included to make Amoonguss even more uncomfortable in the matchup. As I’ve learned over the years, you can never have enough Amoonguss hate. Tera Water was selected to make it easier to survive a Chien-Pao & Rapid Strike Urshifu double-up, especially if the Chien-Pao was running Crunch or Throat Chop.

Farigiraf can get much bulkier than Indeedee-Female, which makes setting up Trick Room much easier. However, this will cost about 7-10% of Farigiraf’s damage potential if all of the Special Attack is reinvested into bulk, which is a significant amount. Future users of the archetype will need to consider what they need to survive and what they need to damage to get the best spread possible for Farigiraf.

Offensive Calcs:
  • 132+ SpA Tera-Water Farigiraf Psychic vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Urshifu-Rapid Strike: 204-242 (115.9 - 137.5%) – guaranteed OHKO
  • 132+ SpA Tera-Water Farigiraf Psychic vs. 236 HP / 116 SpD Amoonguss: 144-170 (65.7 - 77.6%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 132+ SpA Farigiraf Psychic vs. 76 HP / 252 SpD Assault Vest Iron Hands: 92-110 (38.4 - 46%) – guaranteed 3HKO
  • 132+ SpA Farigiraf Hyper Voice vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Chien-Pao: 73-87 (46.7 - 55.7%) – 69.9% chance to 2HKO
Defensive Calcs:
  • 252 Atk Mystic Water Urshifu-Rapid Strike Surging Strikes (3 hits) vs. 44 HP / 156 Def Farigiraf on a critical hit: 126-153 (62.6 - 76.1%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Choice Specs Flutter Mane Moonblast vs. 44 HP / 176 SpD Farigiraf: 147-174 (73.1 - 86.5%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ Atk Choice Band Arcanine-Hisui Flare Blitz vs. 44 HP / 156 Def Farigiraf: 169-199 (84 - 99%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 116+ Atk Rillaboom Knock Off (97.5 BP) vs. 44 HP / 156 Def Farigiraf: 118-140 (58.7 - 69.6%) – guaranteed 2HKO

Heatran @ Life Orb
Ability: Flash Fire
Level: 50
Tera Type: Grass
EVs: 20 HP / 52 Def / 156 SpA / 28 SpD / 252 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Heat Wave
– Tera Blast
– Earth Power
– Protect

This is mostly a standard Heatran. Given my issues with other Heatran in general, I considered Tera Bug to give me an edge in the Tera mirror. However, I preferred to keep the Surging Strikes resistance and the appropriate Tera Blast to defeat Rapid Strike Urshifu. Heatran also helps in the Psychic spam + Lilligant/Torkkoal matchup by walling plenty of attacks from the archetype and forcing the likely Grass tera from Armarouge, which can be cleaned up with the Snow mode at a later time. I understand Worry Seed was seeing use from Hisuian Lilligant, not to mention a notable team with Rillaboom using it on Dondozo, so care must be taken to make sure Flash Fire remains intact. 

Although the team has ways to mitigate the impact of Fairy-type moves, Heatran is the only natural resistance to Fairy on the team. This can be especially dangerous in a Flutter Mane meta, so one can consider adding either Flash Cannon or Heavy Slam to Heatran to help deal with the type more easily. Its 4x Steel resistance also helps to slow down Gholdengo, which is important on a team that has a mode entirely weak to Steel.

Offensive Calcs:
  • 156+ SpA Life Orb Heatran Heat Wave vs. 148 HP / 4 SpD Gholdengo: 174-205 (96.1 - 113.2%) – 75% chance to OHKO
  • 156+ SpA Life Orb Heatran Heat Wave vs. 252 HP / 124 SpD Assault Vest Rillaboom: 125-148 (60.3 - 71.4%) – guaranteed 2HKO after Grassy Terrain recovery
  • 156+ SpA Life Orb Heatran Heat Wave vs. 68 HP / 4 SpD Flutter Mane: 64-75 (46 - 53.9%) – 46.1% chance to 2HKO
  • 156+ SpA Life Orb Heatran Earth Power vs. 76 HP / 252 SpD Assault Vest Iron Hands: 94-112 (39.3 - 46.8%) – guaranteed 3HKO
  • 156+ SpA Life Orb Tera-Grass Heatran Tera Blast vs. 148 HP / 4 SpD Tera-Water Gholdengo: 198-234 (109.3 - 129.2%) – guaranteed OHKO
  • 156+ SpA Life Orb Tera-Grass Heatran Tera Blast vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Urshifu-Rapid Strike: 273-322 (131.8 - 155.5%) – guaranteed OHKO
Defensive Calcs:
  • 252+ SpA Choice Specs Protosynthesis Tera-Fairy Flutter Mane Moonblast vs. 20 HP / 28 SpD Heatran: 55-65 (32.5 - 38.4%) – 97.9% chance to 3HKO
  • 252+ SpA Choice Specs Tera-Steel Gholdengo Single Target Make It Rain vs. 20 HP / 28 SpD Heatran: 53-62 (31.3 - 36.6%) – 76% chance to 3HKO
  • 164+ Atk Iron Hands Drain Punch vs. 20 HP / 52 Def Heatran: 128-152 (75.7 - 89.9%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ Atk Choice Band Sword of Ruin Tera-Normal Dragonite Extreme Speed vs. 20 HP / 52 Def Heatran: 69-81 (40.8 - 47.9%) – guaranteed 3HKO
  • 44+ Atk Rillaboom Stomping Tantrum vs. 20 HP / 52 Def Heatran: 144-172 (85.2 - 101.7%) – 6.3% chance to OHKO
  • 252+ Atk Mystic Water Urshifu-Rapid Strike Surging Strikes (3 hits) vs. 20 HP / 52 Def Tera-Grass Heatran on a critical hit: 57-69 (33.7 - 40.8%) – guaranteed 3HKO

Ting-Lu @ Leftovers
Ability: Vessel of Ruin
Level: 50
Tera Type: Poison
EVs: 132 HP / 116 Atk / 100 Def / 156 SpD / 4 Spe
Brave Nature
IVs: 3 Spe
– Throat Chop
– Earthquake
– Protect
– Ruination

Ting-Lu was a late addition to the team; this had been Landorus-Therian until shortly before I left for Japan. Therefore, I wasn’t able to get too much practice with how it would work on this team. However, the limited testing showed that the team was more consistent with Ting-Lu than Landorus-Therian, so I kept the moose. Spread-wise, this is the exact Ting-Lu from my Fresno Top 16 team and from Chance Alexander’s Day 2 Milwaukee team. However, the nature and movesets are different. A Brave Nature, 3 Speed IV, 4 Speed EV Ting-Lu is 1 point faster than the minimum, which could help in the rare mirror. However, it had a more important role in the team.

A minimum speed Ting-Lu can underspeed Ursulana in Trick Room. I wanted a Pokémon that could reliably do this to sandwich Ursulana as best I could. Most Ursulana tend to run Tera Ghost. Therefore, with Blizzard Spam and Throat Chop, I could hit most Ursulana super-effectively, no matter if it was Teraed or not, or if it was in Trick Room or not. In particular, Ursulana cannot OHKO Ting-Lu nor Abomasnow with Facade or Earthquake. This means that barring a crit, typical Ursulana will be KOed by the double-up from these two. It gets even messier if Articuno is next to Ting-Lu, as most Ursulana will only be able to hit one of the 2 targets, and could miss entirely if the Ting-Lu is ignored. This pin on Ursulana is why Ting-Lu ultimately got the nod over Landorus-Therian; it was more effective than even Intimidate.

Ting-Lu also was very good against Cresselia, being able to threaten it with Throat Chop or Ruination, depending on if it Tera'd. It also slowed down Psyspam Lillikoal enough to get some good damage on the opposing Pokémon and to make sure I was not overrun early. Finally, it proved to be an important Pokémon to have to slow down Gholdengo and Flutter Mane, two of the premier Special Attackers in Regulation D. Gholdengo is tricky, with 2 resists and 2 weaknesses, while Flutter Mane was able to hit my whole team for at least neutral damage. This team does not do well if those two get going. Tera Poison also increased its longevity versus Pokémon like Flutter Mane, Iron Hands, Rillaboom, and both Urshifu.

The moveset can still be worked on. Earthquake was chosen to beat redirection because Ting-Lu can Earthquake next to Articuno and not care. Throat Chop was more consistent damage than Payback. I debated Ruination versus Heavy Slam all throughout prep and Worlds. Ultimately, I felt that Ruination offered me a little more. However, at the end of Worlds, there was definitely a case to add Stomping Tantrum instead and run 2 Ground moves. This is also an Assault Vest Ting-Lu repurposed for this team, so one can choose to run a different Iron Hands, give Ting-Lu Assault Vest, and run 4 attacking moves instead.

This Ting-Lu was meant to be behind Reflect and Light Screen while holding an Assault Vest. It lost all of its bulk help from the Fresno team besides its own Vessel of Ruin. Yet, it was still taking heavy hits, and the passive healing from Leftovers helped mitigate the loss of screens. More importantly, it was able to do the damage I needed it to win some sets. As much as this was a SnowBird team, Ting-Lu was probably the glue that held things together, and my Worlds performance likely suffers without it.

Offensive Calcs:
  • 116+ Atk Ting-Lu Throat Chop vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Tera-Ghost Ursaluna: 116-138 (48.9 - 58.2%) – guaranteed 2HKO after burn damage
  • 116+ Atk Ting-Lu Throat Chop vs. 148 HP / 100 Def Gholdengo: 114-134 (62.9 - 74%) – guaranteed 2HKO after Leftovers recovery
  • 116+ Atk Ting-Lu Throat Chop vs. 68 HP / 116 Def Flutter Mane: 81-96 (58.2 - 69%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 116+ Atk Ting-Lu Throat Chop vs. 252 HP / 180 Def Cresselia: 96-114 (42.2 - 50.2%) – 0.4% chance to 2HKO
  • 116+ Atk Ting-Lu Earthquake vs. 108 HP / 76 Def Iron Hands: 98-116 (40.3 - 47.7%) – guaranteed 3HKO
  • 116+ Atk Ting-Lu Earthquake vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Armarouge: 114-134 (59.3 - 69.7%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 116+ Atk Ting-Lu Earthquake vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Heatran: 216-256 (109 - 129.2%) – guaranteed OHKO
Defensive Calcs:
  • 252+ Atk Guts Ursaluna Facade (140 BP) vs. 132 HP / 100 Def Ting-Lu: 159-187 (64.3 - 75.7%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Choice Specs Tera-Steel Gholdengo Make It Rain vs. 132 HP / 156 SpD Vessel of Ruin Ting-Lu: 128-152 (51.8 - 61.5%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Choice Specs Flutter Mane Moonblast vs. 132 HP / 156 SpD Vessel of Ruin Ting-Lu: 206-246 (83.4 - 99.5%) – guaranteed 2HKO 
  • 252+ Atk Iron Hands Close Combat vs. 132 HP / 100 Def Ting-Lu: 182-216 (73.6 - 87.4%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ Atk Rillaboom Wood Hammer vs. 132 HP / 100 Def Ting-Lu in Grassy Terrain: 218-258 (88.2 - 104.4%) – 25% chance to OHKO
  • 252+ Atk Mystic Water Urshifu-Rapid Strike Surging Strikes (3 hits) vs. 132 HP / 100 Def Ting-Lu on a critical hit: 198-240 (80.1 - 97.1%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ Atk Choice Band Sword of Ruin Dragonite Outrage vs. 132 HP / 100 Def Ting-Lu: 175-207 (70.8 - 83.8%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ Atk Sword of Ruin Chien-Pao Icicle Crash vs. 132 HP / 100 Def Ting-Lu: 152-182 (61.5 - 73.6%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ SpA Life Orb Tera-Grass Heatran Tera Blast vs. 132 HP / 156 SpD Vessel of Ruin Ting-Lu: 151-179 (61.1 - 72.4%) – guaranteed 2HKO

Snowbelle (Articuno) @ Bright Powder
Ability: Snow Cloak
Level: 50
Shiny: Yes
Tera Type: Poison
EVs: 212 HP / 68 Def / 124 SpA / 4 SpD / 100 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Blizzard
– Freeze-Dry
– Sheer Cold
– Roost

Where to begin with this one? My all-time favorite Pokémon from back when I caught it as a small child in Pokémon Red. An Ice Bird was fascinating to me and I made great memories with it. 8 more generations and over 850 more Pokémon, and this has not changed at all. Articuno has inspired my VGC branding. It feels like it kept the Kalos Region relevant almost singlehandedly with the NPA team and the city it is named after. It even found its way onto the team NY logo in USPA thanks to the two Winter Olympics that were held in the state. Articuno has never been the best Pokémon to use in VGC. But with the defensive buff Ice types got in Snow this generation, along with Terastallization enabling it to get away from its crippling Rock Slide weakness, Articuno finally found its niche just in time for our last ride.

The moveset is 3 Ice moves and Roost. Haze and Tera Blast were considered, but I came to the conclusion that these were the best moves to use on Articuno. Blizzard Spam is the point of the archetype: a hard-hitting spread move that can also cause freezes. If the opponent is being consistently hit with Blizzards, one of them is going to cause a freeze at some point. Freeze-Dry is a single-target attack to get around Wide Guard, Wind Rider, and to hit Water-types super-effectively. Roost increases Articuno’s longevity, especially with Snow Cloak and Bright Powder active, which drops 100% accurate moves to 72% accuracy. Tera Poison is a fine defensive Tera on Articuno, even though it will lose the defensive boost in Snow from being an Ice-type. The trade-off is that Snow Cloak still works, and the reduced weaknesses let Articuno heal up more consistently.

Now, let’s talk about Articuno’s last attack: Sheer Cold. Not only do I believe that this attack is one of Articuno’s best attacks in its movepool, but I also believe it is a critical attack to make sure the team functions properly. Optimally, Articuno should be using Sheer Cold in one of these scenarios:
  • As a deterrent to a bulky, preferably passive support Pokémon (e.g.: Cresselia)
  • If Articuno has nothing better to do this turn (e.g.: your partner is going to knock out an opposing Pokémon & Heatran is the other Pokémon still alive. 30% OHKO chance>10% chance to freeze.) 
  • In a desperate situation (e.g.: a Pokémon setup like Gholdengo or an unfavored 1 on 1 late game)
Articuno was not meant to be spamming Sheer Cold like there is no tomorrow. Optimally, the team can position itself to win without relying on OHKO moves, and it can. However, this is Pokémon and no one plays perfectly all the time. Articuno’s bulk and Snow Cloak can help buy the turns necessary to land a Sheer Cold if the game situation calls for it.

Sheer Cold also keeps certain archetypes honest. It greatly eases the impact Cresselia can have on a match, where it may become difficult to out-damage a team that can heal 25% a turn and any freeze the team picks up. The damage output on this team is both good and high, but it can be suspectable to debuffs, screens, and boosting Pokémon (e.g.: Dondozo, Bulk Up Annihilape). Sheer Cold can put the team in a position to break these kinds of teams. Finally, Sheer Cold means you are rarely out of a match, turning impossibilities into punchers' chances. Even Heatran, one of the worst Pokémon Articuno can deal with, has a 30% chance of going down to Sheer Cold. It is an important attack to have even when it is not being used. Just its presence on the moveset can force the opponent to play differently.

Articuno is EVed specifically to outspeed Modest Pelipper, a call back to having my 115-speed Gholdengo being outsped by Pelipper at Fresno Regionals, causing me a lot of grief. This allows Articuno to threaten an OHKO (or Focus Sash proc) with Freeze-Dry, as well as being able to get a prominent Wide Guard user and weather changer off the field as soon as possible. 118 speed also outspeeds many Rillaboom and some bulky Landorus-Therian, which lets Articuno threaten Blizzards onto these Ice-weak Pokémon. The HP value is a 16n number to maximize Roost recovery and Grassy Terrain recovery when landed.

Offensive Calcs:
  • 124+ SpA Articuno Freeze-Dry vs. 252 HP / 0 SpD Urshifu-Rapid Strike: 144-170 (69.5 - 82.1%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 124+ SpA Articuno Freeze-Dry vs. 116 HP / 140 SpD Gastrodon: 192-228 (95.5 - 113.4%) – 68.8% chance to OHKO
  • 124+ SpA Articuno Blizzard vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Ursaluna: 134-158 (56.5 - 66.6%) – guaranteed 2HKO after burn damage
  • 124+ SpA Articuno Blizzard vs. 252 HP / 0 SpD Multiscale Dragonite: 114-134 (57.5 - 67.6%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 124+ SpA Articuno Blizzard vs. 252 HP / 124 SpD Assault Vest Rillaboom: 84-102 (40.5 - 49.2%) – guaranteed 3HKO after Grassy Terrain recovery
  • 124+ SpA Articuno Blizzard vs. 236 HP / 116 SpD Amoonguss: 116-138 (52.9 - 63%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 124+ SpA Articuno Sheer Cold vs. 252 HP / 252+ SpD Heatran: 198 (100%) – guaranteed OHKO
Defensive Calcs:
  • 252+ Atk Guts Ursaluna Facade (140 BP) vs. 212 HP / 68 Def Articuno in Snow: 129-153 (67.1 - 79.6%) – guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252+ Atk Mystic Water Urshifu-Rapid Strike Surging Strikes (3 hits) vs. 212 HP / 68 Def Articuno in Snow on a critical hit: 81-99 (42.1 - 51.5%) – approx. 1.2% chance to 2HKO
  • 252+ Atk Sword of Ruin Chien-Pao Icicle Crash vs. 212 HP / 68 Def Articuno in Snow: 63-75 (32.8 - 39%) – 99.5% chance to 3HKO
  • 252+ Atk Choice Band Tera-Normal Dragonite Extreme Speed vs. 212 HP / 68 Def Articuno in Snow: 72-85 (37.5 - 44.2%) – guaranteed 3HKO
  • 252+ SpA Life Orb Heatran Flash Cannon vs. 212 HP / 4 SpD Articuno: 164-195 (85.4 - 101.5%) – 6.3% chance to OHKO
  • 252+ SpA Choice Specs Gholdengo Make It Rain vs. 212 HP / 4 SpD Vessel of Ruin Articuno: 158-188 (82.2 - 97.9%) – guaranteed 2HKO ~ with Ting-Lu on the field
  • 252+ SpA Choice Specs Tera-Fairy Flutter Mane Moonblast vs. 212 HP / 4 SpD Tera-Poison Articuno: 75-89 (39 - 46.3%) – guaranteed 3HKO

Playing the Team

This section won’t talk about flowcharting; I have found that the team is more dependent on the types of Pokemon being run. For example, Booster Energy Flutter Mane which is Speed Boosting is much easier to play against than Special Attack Boosting. Tera Types matter as well. For example, Tera Grass versus Tera Fire Iron Hands. Even with attack choices; Chien-Pao becomes merely annoying or a huge threat depending on if it has Crunch/Throat Chop or not. The nature of these variations means that flowcharting matchups is difficult. However, there are ways to position the team for success regardless.

:Iron Hands::Farigiraf:
Tried and true Fake Out + Trick Room combination, especially for dealing with non-Prankster Taunts. Typically, the Snow mode of Abomasnow and Articuno is in the back to take advantage of Trick Room turns. However, offensive Farigiraf and Iron Hands can deal solid damage as well, which can allow the Snow mode to come in during the late game.

The Snow mode, being able to threaten instant Blizzards and setting up Articuno’s Snow Cloak, can be led to apply immediate pressure. Somewhat effective against Chien-Pao/Dragonite as well as more passive leads. Farigiraf can switch in on the Abomasnow slot to stop Sucker Punch and Extreme Speed if Chien-Pao/Dragonite leads.

If you determine that Farigiraf can survive a double up and get Trick Room off, this ensures instant Blizzard pressure after a turn 1 Protect. Typically, Articuno will be in the back, ready to come in if Farigiraf goes down after setting up Trick Room. The fourth Pokémon is team-dependent. 

This applies even more if Snow is set up. Articuno gets reasonable chip off on a multitude of Pokémon with Blizzard, even with Vessel of Ruin active. Sheer Cold is also not reduced by Vessel of Ruin should the need arise. Ting-Lu has a Pokémon that can Earthquake freely beside. Abomasnow and Iron Hands also can be used here in the 4 to not rely on Speed Control, but rather the natural bulk of these Pokémon. A useful combo, especially if the opponent has a lot of Farigiraf hate.

Team's Issues

Non-Prankster Taunt – Farigiraf was added to block Fake Outs and Taunts, but some non genie Pokémon will also pack Taunt, which is a problem for getting Trick Room set up. In Worlds Day 2, I opened my first three rounds with three consecutive Taunt users that could get around Armor Tail. It made approaching these teams more difficult, even with Fake Out from my own Iron Hands.

Screens – This team cannot boost itself as presently constructed. Setting up Light Screen or Reflect helps to stall out the Snow and Trick Room, while also making it harder to win the damage race. Pokémon such as Grimmsnarl weren’t too common in the format in the lead-up to Worlds, but facing one meant either my play had to be on point, including landing well-timed Ruinations, or I was probably going to have to hit a Sheer Cold. While risky, Iron Hands could shift to a Swords Dance set to mitigate this somewhat. Whether or not it is worth it can be determined by playtesting.

Snarl/Intimidate Spam – This doesn’t mean dealing with one Intimidate; VGC players will always see that in whatever format is being played. Rather, the cycling of Intimidate along with Snarl Spam, an effective tactic in many cases regardless, will have a greater impact on this team than others. This team has a 4/2 Special/Physical split and can deal with one of them, typically. If a team can easily debuff on both sides, Ruination and even potentially Sheer Cold come into play to try to bring the setback.

This one is all theory, as I somehow never played Glastrier in testing or at Worlds. However, I think this would be a huge issue for the team. Glastrier is an incredibly bulky Pokémon physically and specially, and it also gets buffed from this team’s Snow. It is slower than Ting-Lu in Trick Room. With Icicle Crash and Stomping Tantrum, it hits Iron Hands, Ting-Lu, and Heatran super-effectively. Add in Fighting-type moves like Body Press or Close Combat, and it gets Abomasnow too. Articuno does not have the moveset to do solid damage to it. Heatran and Farigiraf would probably have to play carefully around it. Tera Water Abomasnow can help too, though it will have to be careful of Glastrier’s teammates. If Glastrier is forced to Tera, however, Articuno might be able to OHKO it with Sheer Cold. Heatran may be the best option on the team to force a Tera from Glastrier.

Tera Fire Rillaboom was a much bigger problem than I had thought it would be leading up to the event. Abomasnow and Articuno lose the Ice STAB super-effective hits into it. Ting-Lu cannot effectively Earthquake it due to Grassy Terrain. As it typically carries Assault Vest, Farigiraf, Heatran (Earth Power), and Abomasnow (Earth Power) do not deal the damage they need to. The ones with Stomping Tantrum finish off Heatran after one Earth Power. The Grassy Terrain also protects Ground-weak Pokémon like Chi-Yu and Gholdengo as well, which makes it that much harder to deal with. This one Pokémon is why Stomping Tantrum is a realistic option on Ting-Lu, and it would likely make the matchup easier to deal with.

My Tournament Run


Round 1 – vs. Ben Markham (LL)

Being matched up with Ben in the first round was not something I expected, but it was fitting in some ways. He was the first player we ever rostered in NPA with the Snowbelle Blizzards, and at the end of it all, he would be the first one to face the team mascot on the game’s biggest stage. Ben correctly identified the offensive pressure needed to minimize Fairigiraf and I also got zero of the RNG elements that the team can sometimes produce, so that set ended pretty quickly. At least we got a nice picture to commemorate the moment! I hope you get that Day 2 yourself one day, Ben.

Round 2 – vs. Timo van der Vliet (WW)

Sadly, I do not remember much at all about Round 2 except that I was able to win. I guess I was happy that I got Articuno a competitive Worlds win at that point.

Round 3 – vs. David Ridorsa Caceres (WLW)

Round 3 in particular was a nightmare matchup in team preview. Tera Fire Rillaboom, Rage Powder Struggle Bug Volcarona, Screens, Assault Vest Azumarill, and set up Gholdengo essentially reduced Blizzard spam’s effectiveness in team preview and also made the physical mode risky due to Flame Body. The nature of this matchup suggested that I would eventually have to hit a Sheer Cold to win the set, and I did so in Game 3. While most teams won’t have this much hate towards the archetype, it also shows why Sheer Cold should be on Articuno’s moveset. There will be games where the team will have to break through a wall and a set-up Pokémon to win, and Sheer Cold does exactly that.

Round 4 – vs. You-peng Zhuang (WW)
:Iron Hands::landorus-therian::basculegion::tornadus::urshifu-rapid-strike::Farigiraf:

Round 4 I had to make sure that Basculegion-Male was not able to sweep me in the end game, and played towards minimizing its impact as best I could. Fortunately, I was able to do so.

Round 5 – vs. Florian Henry (WW)

Round 5, after winning Game 1, I pinned Ursulana as described above, but started to lose my advantage as the game went on. In the endgame, I missed Psyshock on the OTS for Flutter Mane and Tera Poisoned Articuno. Game 2 ended up with a 1v1 of Articuno versus Flutter Mane. I dodged a Psyshock and went for Roost when that turn should have been Sheer Cold since Blizzard was a 3HKO. I was hit with the second Psyshock, dropped to 6 HP, and landed Sheer Cold to win the set, eliminating the need for a Game 3. While that is not my preferred way to win, especially since I played that endgame poorly, you do what you can at the World Championships to get over the finish line. As Florian still offered the GG at the end of the set and took the Sheer Cold hit in stride, I am very happy he was able to recover and reach Day 2 as well.

Round 6 – vs. Giovanni Costa (WLW)
:flutter-mane::Iron Hands::landorus-therian::Dragonite::urshifu-rapid-strike::Farigiraf:

Not too much to talk about in Round 6, as the stream game is public. But before and after the live portion of the interview, Aaron Zheng and I had a nice chat. It was good to catch up with him, and I wish him the best going forward. I would love to see him win Worlds one day; it would also be great for the game if he did (in my opinion at least). I am also glad Nimbasa City Post got a lot of interaction with this screenshot and tweet.

After Day 1, I analyzed my team and debated changes. While I ultimately made no changes to Ting-Lu, as Ruination helped me Day 1, I did make one small change to Iron Hands' EV spread. Ruination + Heavy Slam into a reasonable Tera Fairy Cresselia spread went from a 12.5% chance to OHKO to a 25% chance to OHKO as a result. As we miss Sleep Powders constantly in VGC, I figured that was a big enough increase to justify the change in EVs.

I also received a small gift of a sticker of an anime character I identified with before Day 2 began, along with sincere good luck from the gifter. We have different approaches on how to play the game, so I am sure they weren’t the biggest fans of what I was using at this World Championships (even if they probably understood why I was using it). Therefore, coming from them, the small token and well wishes meant even more to me than it probably would have otherwise from someone else.


Round 1 – vs. Simone Sanvito (LL)

Round 1 versus Simone was tricky. I had identified what his best lead was and hoped he wouldn’t see it. He did. Twice. Taunt Urshifu and Choice Band Hisuian Arcanine was almost impossible to have a safe plan against. I need Trick Room in the matchup. I can only Fake Out 1 target. If I Fake Out Arcanine, I get Taunted. If I Fake Out Urshifu, Choice Band Head Smash OHKOs me. Not only that, Simone never clicked either move in the set, so he basically got free turns. I got a consolation Snow Cloak miss at the end of game 2, but the set was already over.

Round 2 – vs. Taeseok Roe (WW)

Round 2, I remember winning Game 2 off a decent amount of hax, including Abomasnow dodging a Heat Wave. Not sure how Game 3 would have gone. Game 1, I think, was mostly clean.

Round 3 – vs. Alex Gómez (LWL)
:flutter-mane::Iron Hands::rillaboom::heatran::Gyarados::Chien-Pao:

In Round 3, after I had functionally won Game 2, Alex spent all 45 seconds per turn dragging out the game and also protecting his last Pokémon so he could come up with a plan in Game 3. Not only is this legal, it is also highly recommended. It's your time. You get to use it. I’ve done so in the past as well. I also took this time to think about what he may be planning. I actually did call the lead of Gyarados and Heatran correctly. The issue was I was not sure if it was going to be a Taunt or a switch to Flutter Mane. It took a while before I settled on Fake Out over Heavy Slam from Iron Hands and the Gyarados switched out to Flutter Mane. Got the 50/50 wrong and Flutter Mane came in for free, and it was downhill from there.

Round 4 – vs. Javier Valdés (WLL)
:rillaboom::Chi-Yu::Sneasler::Indeedee-F::Iron Bundle::Gholdengo:

Round 4 showcased why I needed to have Stomping Tantrum on Ting-Lu. Earthquake is a 3HKO on Chi Yu in Grassy Terrain, not to mention Gholdengo causing issues as well. Those + Tera Fire Rillaboom ultimately won Javier the set in 3. The end of Game 3 had Articuno 1 on 4 versus the whole team, and 1 Sheer Cold got hit. Ultimately, I could have dodged every attack and hit every Sheer Cold from there on out, but, as odd as it may sound to say, I just could not put Articuno through that. I would have had to have Sheer Colded Heatran, Gholdengo, and Tera Fire Rillaboom to win that set while dodging every attack, and the Snow had run out already. I chose to walk away and give my favorite a more dignified ending to my chances of becoming World Champion.

Round 5 – vs. Juan Salerno (WW)

Round 5 was a SnowBird fest, as Juan could barely land an attack on Articuno. I guess it was good that it was an x-3 set.

Round 6 – vs. Baris Akcos (WLL)
:Arcanine-Hisui::breloom::basculegion::Roaring Moon::Chien-Pao::Gholdengo:

Round 6, Billa got a game loss for being late. He was celebrating with Abdullah Mohayyuddin, who had just Top Cut Worlds the last round with a 5-0 record at the time. One of the most justified reasons for being late I have ever heard in this game. I was prepared to play out the whole Best of 3 set, but Billa 2-0ed me anyway, so the game loss didn’t affect the round. The team had some interesting choices that made the matchup more difficult than it would have looked on paper. It also didn’t help that Breloom outsped the whole team and could Spore spam.

Coincidentally, I think I may have been the only person to lose to both Billa and Lou this season, as she edged me out in 3 games way back at San Diego Regionals in January. What can I say, they’re both very strong players.

Round 7 – vs. Jasdil Deo (WW)

Round 7 I was able to play around the offensive power of Chien-Pao and Dragapult, and Blizzard spam my way to the round win. I don’t remember too much else, as it was the end of a long day.


So this run was good enough for 3-4, 70th place in the world. Perhaps it is a bit of a modest run compared to the obvious top players in the game, but I was also never one of them; I was always a good, not a great player. Making Day 2 of Worlds, with my favorite Pokémon that had almost no VGC results prior to this, under that lens, is probably the best personal accomplishment I have ever had in VGC. I would put this higher than both the Boston Open Finals and the 2016 US Nationals Travel Award.

I believe that I got the most out of my abilities for this Worlds. Going into it, if you would look at the people who got their invites to Yokohama, one would probably put me in the bottom half of the pool both talent & potential-wise. And it’s a fair assessment; hell, Cedric Bernier tagged me to “Drown in Day 1” on his Worlds preview video. While it stung, I never got out of Day 1 in my previous 4 Worlds appearances and had more often than not compiled points across the season to get into Worlds instead of having a few big finishes, so it was a reasonable take.

Going into this Worlds though, I knew I wanted to use Articuno. I knew the archetype built around it had some viability and I wanted to close with my favorite. I also thought there was a decent chance I could be a Top 5 player in the world using Articuno. I am paraphrasing, but Gavin Michaels has publicly said in the past, and I agree with this, that whatever you bring to Worlds, you want to be a Top 5 player in the world. No one is going to mistake me for a Top 5 player in the world with a team that, say, Víctor Medina used (Flutter Mane, Rapid Strike Urshifu, Rillaboom, Heatran, Chien Pao, Tornadus-Incarnate). But Articuno? A Pokémon I had thought about for years in formats it was legal? A Pokémon that could hold up to the current meta but was not a popular pick? Now we are getting somewhere.

Articuno also hit that unique spot of both being my favorite Pokémon and being exactly what I needed for a Worlds team. When you line up for Worlds Day 1, you are playing some of the best players in the world. When you play Worlds Day 2, you are playing people at the top of their games who will punish you for any small mistake. If you are not one of the “realistic” contenders to win Worlds, you need an X-Factor. In my case, that was Articuno introducing RNG into the set. Yes, you can play well with this team and not need the RNG factors, but it is an unrealistic ask to be perfect doing so on Day 2 of Worlds. Articuno gave me the ability in practice and during Worlds to not always be punished for mistakes. That was enough of an X-Factor to see me through.

I still feel like I left a little on the table. Of my 4 losses on Day 2, two of them I was steamrolled in. The sets versus Alex and Javier, however, went to game 3. Given the caliber of players they both are, it is not the biggest story in the world that I lost those games. However, they were winnable. What if I called Alex’s switch turn 1 of game 3, which I agonized over while making that decision? What if I adapted quicker to Javier’s adaptations, which I knew involved Tera Fire Rillaboom? Could I actually have Top Cut Worlds with this team? At the same time though, I won’t dwell on it much more, especially because my schedule would have been different anyway if I prevailed in one of those two sets. I am quite happy with how everything turned out in the end, even if I didn’t become World Champion (and that was probably unrealistic anyway if we are being honest).

Ultimately, going forward, I think this archetype can do well in Pittsburgh and Barcelona, and perhaps in Regulation E events if the format isn’t drastically altered. There is enough play people can do with the team to make it consistent and have the RNG elements end a game already trending in that direction. The archetype probably hasn’t even hit its final form yet. Some people might replace Farigiraf with Indeedee-Female to get rid of Grassy Terrain. Maybe Ice Spinner gets teched onto Articuno for the same reason. Perhaps someone goes back to the faster version of the archetype with Regieleki and approaches it that way. There’s still a lot that can be done with SnowBird, and I am interested in seeing how the meta approaches it.

Finally, for newer players reading this, please do not take this team as a license to not improve at fundamentals like board positioning, reads, game state, etc. This team was a call from an older player who both understood his skill ceiling and wanted to use his favorite Pokémon at his likely final Worlds. Feel free to play the team. Have fun with it. Try to improve it. Just do not take the team to try to hide behind Snow Cloak, Bright Powder, and Sheer Cold in lieu of actually learning how to “play” VGC. If that is your plan, you would get more out of learning how to play with teams like Zeen’s, FedeCampo’s, and Torviv’s instead.

This rental has had all 6 titles removed and also features a non-Shiny Articuno. The reason for this is twofold. First, removing these unique identifiers will cast a little doubt on your opponent in team preview that it is the same team. For example, if you send out “Ting-Lu the Paldea Champion”, your opponent almost certainly has the 4 moves. But if you send out “Ting-Lu”, maybe you did switch out Ruination for Stomping Tantrum. Maybe you did choose to put an Assault Vest on it.

The second reason, as lame as it may sound, is that my Shiny Articuno is special to me, even to the point where I forfeited Game 3 versus Javier despite having a minuscule chance of winning so it wouldn’t take a full-powered Heat Wave and Make it Rain. Snowbelle the Treasured Memory; my Treasured Memory; basically my greatest treasure as the Scarlet and Violet games would put it. In my opinion, having that bird being used everywhere on a rental team would cheapen what it means to me. So I have provided a non-shiny replacement instead. This works anyway, as it does cast that bit of doubt in battle; maybe Heatran is going to eat a Tera Ground Tera Blast from Articuno instead of just having to worry about Sheer Cold landing. 


Four prior World Championships where I vanished on Day 1. Two failed Day 2 races in 2016 and 2019. Life and stress getting to me and making me re-prioritize the game. And this ends up being the end. It’s not a World Championship, but what a way to go out.

I am stepping away from actively competing on the circuit, not from the game entirely. The intent is to do more judging and Tournament Organizing going forward. However, people who apply to judge Regionals are not guaranteed to be given a staff position. There are also some events in great locations that I’d love to travel to, even to the point that I would play them if I were not selected to judge. Some I would even just go to play in so I have the most time possible to explore the area. Therefore, my Play Points won’t go to 0; they will just be severely reduced.

Based on the new announcements for the 2023-2024 season, it is theoretically possible that one of the few Regionals I actually play in going forward ends with me winning it, and I qualify for Worlds that way. In the unlikely event that happens, you all will see me again competing at another World Championships. However, the grind of the circuit. Thinking about a tournament almost every weekend. Flying to every Regional to get Championship Points. Fully staying on top of the metagame. I worry if I am on pace to hit 500 points. All that stuff is over for me, and with it, the most realistic way that I play in Worlds once again.

For online stuff, Team Ireland has me for World Cup if they need me. We started prep for the 2023 edition before I made my decision to step away, and as a result, I am still fully committed to the program. I have also enjoyed my time playing in Draft Leagues and will continue to do so. So, people like Dan, Mismag, Wakeman, Chad, Archery, Toxic, el flamingo, etc., you all haven’t seen the last of me! I will also continue to hang around in USPA and NPA indefinitely, so I should be around.

My relationship with VGC as a game has not been the greatest recently. However, there can be no denying the impact that it has had on my life in recent years. From teambuilding for Journey Across America all those years ago, to making it to the Top 8 at Philadelphia Regionals back in 2012 with Politoed bringing the Rain (the tournament I referred to in my interview with Aaron; he beat me there in Top 8 and won his first Masters Regional that day). The creation and the upkeep of the Snowbelle Blizzards. Both circuit and draft league sets with Pokémon like Gothitelle, Indeedee-Female, and Dragapult; how fun they are to play. 5 Worlds Invites. Playing multiple events across North America and Europe, and 2 OCICs and a Worlds in Japan. Meeting people and making close friends all around the world. At the end of it all, I’ve been blessed beyond measure, and I will always be grateful for it.

Thank you to everyone who helped me build and test the team. I won’t name everyone because there were a bunch of you. However, I will give a special shoutout to Team Ireland for hearing almost daily updates on this team and helping me put the finishing touches on it. Even if Ireland goes 3 and out at the World Cup this year (and we certainly hope not!), they have already left their impact this season with their contribution to this run. 

Thank you, VGC. At the end of it all, you are perhaps my greatest treasure. Or, more appropriately, my Treasured Memory.

Artwork by Tara MacLachlan. She helped me to capture some of the most important moments and Pokemon of my time on the circuit. You can find her @SmolVGC.


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