? I took a break during most of the 2018 season because I was working a full time job on top of owning a business, so coming back into the scene right before US Nationals was a bit tough.
I still don’t have as much time to play as I used to back in 2016, so I needed to make sure that in order to succeed in events this year, that my teams were going to be as optimal as possible. ? Having an established team could balance out any misplays to pull out wins. Although I was consistently reaching the 1750s on the Showdown ladder with multiple alts, I was still making tons of misplays, was 2-2 in World Cup, and getting haxed by BowtieVGC. ???
A week before Oregon Regionals, I decided to test out the six Pokemon that won the Zelda Challenge on the ladder with my own spreads, movesets, and items. ?
Team at a Glance
Esketit (KARTANA) @ Assault Vest
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 4 HP / 116 Atk / 4 Def / 196 SpD / 188 Spe
– Leaf Blade
– Smart Strike
– Knock Off
– Sacred Sword
The main difference between the Kartana and the Tsareena versions of this team was that I could have a better matchup versus:
- in general being able to outspeed and hit with a 100% accuracy super effective move (vs. Tsareena’s riskier High Jump Kick)
I tested a bulkier variant with less EV investment in Attack, however there were too many games where I was leaving my opponents’ Pokémon in red. I decided to create an EV spread to only give it enough bulk for the calc below, outspeed Palkia, and dump the rest in Attack.
- +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 4 HP / 196 SpD Assault Vest Kartana: 114-134 (84.4 – 99.2%) — guaranteed 2HKO
Stormy D (KYOGRE) @ Wiki Berry
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Water Spout
After testing multiple different Kyogre including Choice Scarf variants, bulkier sets with crazy damage calcs survivals, etc. I fell in love with just the boring 252/252 set. Without Tsareena’s Queenly Majesty (or a Tapu Lele’s Psychic Terrain) to block Fake Out, there were too many instances where my opponent would easily turn the game around in their favor. They would punish me by getting free attacks into this slot and chipped away at Kyogre’s precious health, which was needed to maximize Water Spout damage. ? In conclusion, I needed Protect. I do love Choice Scarf though, and it did really sadden me to take away the immediate speed.
At such a reduced Speed stat, I at least wanted to outspeed Smeargle, which was crucial in winning one of my Swiss rounds. Hitting a 140 Speed stat only gave me 16 extra EVs, which was too insignificant in exchange for speed creeping other Pokémon that may potentially want to outspeed Smeargle as well. ?
The bulkier variants of Kyogre I tested quickly lost my interest due to the significant decrease in damage output I was noticing. Kyogre’s role was to inflict as much damage as possible, so I decided to go with max Special Attack.
THE VVITCH (XERNEAS) @ Power Herb
Ability: Fairy Aura
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Dazzling Gleam
Again in testing, the bulkier variants were not outputting enough damage. Plus the faster Xerneas has a positive matchup in the mirror so I wanted to speed tie at best. Xerneas is the best Pokémon in the format, not Incineroar. If you look at the available legal options to counter it in the VGC19S rules, it’s such a small amount compared to other contenders’ counters. It’s usual counters, like Stakataka, Bronzong, or Ferrothorn, have such a hard time staying on the field due to what’s popular right now. Of course, if the metagame turns into too much Xerneas mirrors, it becomes less effective. Here’s where I’d like to thank Nintendo for noticing VGC 2016 and giving us the gift of Solgaleo & Dusk Mane to make sure Xerneas isn’t too broken…
Kylie Jenner (AMOONGUSS) @ Payapa Berry
EVs: 236 HP / 76 Def / 196 SpD
IVs: 0 Atk
– Grass Knot
– Clear Smog
– Rage Powder
Nintendo had to nerf Amoongus twice, yet it’s still one of the top Pokémon in the current format. I wanted her to live the calc below, and then dump the rest of my EVs into Special Defense so it could take as little damage as possible from opposing Xerneas & Kyogre.
- 4 Atk Incineroar Flare Blitz vs. 236 HP / 76 Def Amoonguss: 186-218 (84.9 – 99.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO
The HULK (TORNADUS) @ Focus Sash
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
I also tested bulkier sets with a 50% berry, but in the end it was advantageous to outspeed Kartana outside of Tailwind if needed. I love Rain Dance. I felt like I could play more brain dead opposed to having to critically think and game plan to position Kyogre. However, I had to give it up because without Protect, opponents were just getting free uses of Fake Out + a move to KO it. Without Taunt, I was exposed to Xerneas, Crobat, Smeargle, Sleep Powder Venusaur, opposing Tailwind, Trick Room, Roar, etc. Taunt is just a good move in general that stops a massive amount of moves.
NetflixNChill (INCINEROAR) @ Figy Berry
EVs: 236 HP / 220 SpD / 52 Spe
– Flare Blitz
– Fake Out
– Knock Off
Alright, so now’s my chance where I can finally go on a rant about Incineroar. However, it’s very important about why it’s so successful right now.
The day the rules were announced, I remember immediately identifying that Xerneas, Kyogre, Kartana, and Amoongus were going to be the best in the VGC19S format. (I’m sure you all did too). And lo and behold to this day, they hold the #2, #3, #5, & #7 spots in top CP earned. The spots might change by the time you’re reading this, but if one of them drops below #10, sue me.
However, not once did Incineroar as a top Pokémon pop into my head, even based on it’s 2018 performance. I thought usage would completely drop like Landorus-T would. A week after the rules, I kept seeing it on the ladder and almost Tweeted out, “PSA: Everyone, please stop using Incineroar. It’s very bad.”
Good thing I didn’t otherwise I would have died from embarrassment, especially after the 1st regional results came out.
I wondered for so long about WHY it was earning so much CP and was on almost every 1st place tournaments’ teams. I threw it on almost all teams in testing.
Is Fake Out really that good? Tapu Lele & Tsareena are everywhere right now.
Is Intimidate really that good? There’s not that many physical attackers anymore, and the main threats Xerneas & Kyogre are special attackers.
How about it’s typing? Like I said, Kyogre is everywhere. You can’t even counter Grass & Steel types THAT well because Sacred Sword Kartana, Amoongus’ bulk especially under rain, Ludicolo for obvious reasons, Stakataka for high Defense & Rock Slide, and Intimidate blocking Superpower Solgaleo. Don’t worry Incineroar, I’ll give you props for Ferrothorn & Dusk Mane.
So after reading all the reports, there still wasn’t a true answer that satisfied me.
I’m going to make a bold claim and say what I don’t think anyone has said before. If you have, kudos to you, and you and me will get a drink sometime.
Incineroar allows you to misplay more often and still win the game.
Ahh so you led incorrectly vs. your opponents leads? No problem! Switch in Incineroar if it’s not already out and use Fake Out so the Pokémon you need on the field gets in safely!
Oops did you switch into the wrong Pokémon at the wrong time? Hey let’s have Incineroar be the punching bag, take the hit, and use U-turn so you know what your opponent does first before making that bad play!
Do you remember seeing me use U-Turn on a Lunala that wasn’t at 100% health during the tournament? It’s because if I KO’d it with Knock Off, Kyogre would have came in for free and either KO’d my Incineroar right back or done a boatload of damage to one of my Pokémon in the back.
So Fake Out + U-Turn + It’s natural bulk is just a role that no other Pokémon can fill as good as it can. I can see usage going down if players are smarter about positioning, or if it just becomes too overwhelming with Kyogre usage.
? In order to win with the team, you need to be outputting as much damage as possible by encouraging a Geomancy sweep with Xerneas, Kyogre’s boosted Water Spouts, or both. So do what you need to do to get yourself in these power output positions.
Remember you can’t always get things done turn 1, so don’t be afraid to setup late game. But hey, sometimes turn 1 Fake Out + Geomancy does work. ??
⚾ In baseball, a “Five-Tool Player” is considered one of the best because of their ability to hit for average, hit for power, run the bases, throw, and field. I could say Kartana is similar to a “Five-Tool Player” and is able to excel in a damage output, typing, ability, moveset, and speed tier. Utilize Kartana as a side threat as much as possible, because the current state of the metagame will easily allow for it to do so.
Core Combinations and Common Leads
I could recommend combos like + or +, but since the goal of this report is to help others become better players, I wouldn’t want to influence people to get into the habit of choosing “cookie cutter” leads. You really need to lead depending on the team you face. There are so many variants of team archetypes, which means that my team (and most others) will have so many different optimal lead combinations. So far, I have led every combination on the team except for +.
If I could have a positive matchup versus most of the six team archetypes below, then the team in my mind was approved for tournament play. ??
– Since it’s a mirror, it will depend on the plays you make. I could get away with sweeping with Tornadus & Xerneas, if mine were faster. Also Kartana gives me the edge vs. Tsareena variants.
– Most of the time I’m bringing Kartana, Xerneas, Tornadus, & Kyogre. Usually Xerneas can overpower their team, especially since you can Taunt any Sleep Powders, opposing Xerneas’ Geomancy, or Roars. Most of this archetypes’ team builds have a bit of trouble vs Kartana as well. The matchup is only in your favor by a slight amount, and since a lot of top players use it, you will have to play well to win.
– Kartana & Xerneas are brought 99% of the time with Tornadus, Kyogre, & Incineroar switching off. This matchup is a bit easier because once their Xerneas goes down, Lunala isn’t as threatening as a Groudon is.
– I didn’t bring Xerneas against any these archetypes at regionals, but in practice there were times where I could chip Dusk Mane enough on top of stalling out Trick Room, recycling Intimidates, and making optimal Fake Out or Rage Powder plays. Usually I’ll bring Kartana, Kyogre, Incineroar, Amoonguss, however you need to plan carefully because this matchup is slightly in your opponent’s favor.
– This archetype was popping up on the ladder frequently, but I felt comfortable bringing Kyogre, Tornadus, Kartana, & Xerneas to win out. I’ve had a bunch of people tell me my team loses to this, but I was winning every match on the ladder against it because generally I was outspeeding, and also outputting more damage than they could do to me in time.
– I wasn’t really seeing this on the ladder anymore, so I was okay with giving up this matchup the most. Either way, I felt like Xerneas supported well could sweep through these types of teams since Stakataka gives your opponent a positioning liability due to its poor typing versus almost everything except Xerneas.
Round 1 vs. Tyler Bennett “AtTehCross” (4W-3L) – WW
Tyler top cut a few regionals and also beat me pretty well in VGC 2018 so I knew it was going to be tough. However, I quickly identified Kartana, Xerneas, Tornadus, & Kyogre could beat this down if I played well. Tyler is a very nice guy and I can’t wait for Idaho to have regionals in the future (I wish!) so I could visit him.
Round 2 vs. Ryosuke Kondo “Ryokon” (4W-3L) – WLW
Japanese players have a slightly better record against me so I felt like another tough match was coming my way. I misplayed once in game 2 and if I had played the optimal move I would have won. I was so upset at myself that I wore my heart on my sleeve, so I’m sorry if I offended you Ryo. Anyway, I knew I had game 3 before the match but he actually played it well to an end game where if he had gotten a crit he would have won.
Round 3 vs. Aaron Nolan (3W-4L) – WW
My Kyogre outspeeding his Smeargle was crucial and I thanked myself for my team building efforts.
Round 4 vs. Giovanni Costa “The_One_Gio” (5W-2L) – WW
It’s always heartbreaking playing one of your best friends, and we have to do it all the time since we show up to most events together. He also just beat Brian the round before who was using the exact same team as me. Lurantis was very scary but he didn’t bring it Game 1. Game 2 he led it, while I led Kyogre. I decided it was best to trade my Kyogre to get off a full health Water Spout onto it so that another mon could finish it off. At first glance, Amoonguss doesn’t look too good here, but I led it alongside Kyogre both games. By doing this, I could bait out the Tapu Fini. He had to leave a crucial mon on the bench and if I could figure out which one, I could quickly attend my gameplan efforts into exploiting the weakness.
Great. I had to play another Dusk Mane + Kyogre, and this time piloted by Randy, a veteran player. To win this, I played near perfect and in Game 2 my Kyogre got a high damage roll on his Dusk Mane.
Round 6 vs. Angel Miranda / I used to know him as “Mikoto Misaka” (6W-2L) – WLW
I got surprised by Trick Room Lunala and somebody had also came up to me before the match and gave me wrong team information, which also threw me off. However, I conserved Xerneas as much as possible and stalled my way out of the TR turns. I didn’t know if he had Wide Guard or not, but I always played it safe and used Scald. Angel is such a cool guy I’ve known since 2015 and glad he’s back playing after taking a break.
Round 7 vs. Matthew Greaves “Picklesword” (6W-2L) – LWW
Matthew & I go way back as well. We were also buddies playing on US West together (like every year). He destroyed me last time we played, and he won a regional the previous format. However, I was pretty thankful we were both guaranteed Top Cut. I didn’t really care about the match too much since my goal was to grab information instead of win.
Top 8 vs. Justin Burns “Spurrific” (5W-3L) – WLW
I spent a good 2-3 hours prepping with Andrew just for this match alone. It felt like such a hard matchup and I couldn’t figure out anything optimal that would put me in a winning position. Showdown practice was easy because no one really knew how to play the team. But facing the Regional winner of the original squad + Justin Crubaugh, the creator, prepping with him was going to be extremely tough. I decided to DM Justin and this was our convo:
My eventual gameplan was to lead Amoonguss + Xerneas all 3 matches, which I had actually originally scrapped earlier in the night. I finally felt confident. One of the leads I had prepped for, a Kyogre + Yveltal lead, came out in Game 2. (Lele + Stak seems better but it’s actually not because I could switch easier and get into a more threatening offensive position). I planned to win the Xerneas / Yveltal speed tie that turn 1, but unfortunately I lost all of them throughout our set. Still, I played near perfect and was able to pull the win.
Top 4 vs. Terry Hong “ScerryTerry” (7W-2L) – WW
It was also heartbreaking to play another one of your best friends, especially in an elimination match like Top 4. I am so glad Terry was able to make it this far because I feel like he’s a great player with not enough time to practice. He goes to a top tier school (USC with Gavin) and studies hard. He actually put in a lot of dedication to get to the United States from Korea. I definitely respect Terry a lot. However, in prep I knew I had this match. I wasn’t sure if his Ho-Oh had Roar or Whirlwind and wondered about his other movesets & items, but I figured Kyogre + Xerneas was just too much for his team. The next day, he surprised me by playing extremely well with such a tough matchup. He was able to put himself in a winning position Game 1 even after I had gotten to my ideal setup. Game 2, we respectively setup our Xerneas & Zygarde, however his restricted ended up taking down mine. I thought I was going to have to play a Game 3 after Xerneas went down, but I made sure to carve out and play near perfect for the win.
Look, obviously I misplayed during finals. Can you tell me you really play 100% perfect all the time? I know I misplayed at least 2 but maybe more times against Lou, 1 against Terry, 1 against Ryokon, and I’m sure there’s a few more I can’t think of right now. I played a total of 25 games throughout the weekend and if we average it to about 5 turns per match and include leads, there were about 150 decisions total I had to make. Under 5% error rate was pretty good for me especially since my average is about 15%. I would like to get it to under 1% or even 0%, but I don’t think that’s happening for me anytime soon.
It was finals and I was under a lot of pressure to snag my 4th regional win. I had also lost Game 1, and it didn’t go as planned because his Lunala was bulkier than I had prepped for. Plus my Kartana was KO’d due to a crit.
⏰ Yes I should have used Tailwind on the 3rd to last turn but I didn’t and so I had to adapt. In the 45 seconds I had, I thought about what would happen if I had got a double Protect, knowing I had to avoid a Thunder paralysis the following turn, as well as play out the match even further. It would have also been more devastating if he had got a crit rather than if I had got one because I was forced to go for Water Spout + Dazzle. This decision may have also not been optimal, however I was running out of time. I saw a win condition, had a feeling it was coming, pressed it, and got it. ?️❓❓ It felt bittersweet and sometimes undeserving after the Hurricane confusion. ? ? BUT WE TAKE THOSE! There have been countless times where a crucial win was stolen from me because of hax so I try not to feel too bad.
The team is definitely still viable, and although a variant of it has already won three huge tournaments, it can just power through the vast majority of the legal Pokémon in the format.
More Solgaleo or Dusk Mane teams might pop up to counter it, but then they leave themselves at a liability versus other matchups.
If I win Worlds this year, which I most likely won’t, I’ll reveal all my other secrets. There are a lot of hidden gems in here so I hope you paid attention. ??
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @GENGARboi_
- 1st Place California, USA Premier Challenge #1
- 1st Place California, USA Premier Challenge #2
- 1st Place California, USA Midseason Showdown
Credit to supersleuth10 for the featured image