Art by @monomit3
I’m Gabriel Agati and I’m here to share the team that I used to place in top four of the Latin American International Championship, hosted in São Paulo, Brazil. But first, a little bit about myself: I started playing Pokémon competitively after the release of Pokémon X&Y, but I used to only play Smogon formats. My first contact with VGC was watching the 2014 World Championships (and I found it amazing), but I just started practising VGC during 2015. I used Pokémon such as Mega Lucario and other bad stuff. And let’s not talk about the 2016 format, except that I found it terrible and that I started to attend official events that year. 2017 is the first year that I’m trying hard Worlds, and after this IC I’m basically already there.
The Teambuilng Process
Arcanine was immediately added because it’s just too good in a metagame with few Intimidator users, and Politoed is here because I wanted to complete the Fire/Water/Grass core. I tried Tapu Fini, but Muddy Water is terrible, the team was struggling against Poison types and I couldn’t Toxic and Will-o-wisp whenever I wanted. Rain, on the other hand, sightly improved my match-up against weather, opposing Fire moves (which is really valuable right now with so many Arcanine) and Nihilego. Perish Song is also awesome, almost always guaranteed me the win if I managed to KO just two of my opponent’s Pokémon before he knocked out two of mine.
For the last slot, I realized that I had no Z-moves. And, after testing Snorlax, Mimikyu, Gyarados, Magnezone, Araquanid and even Granbull, physical Salamence proved to be the most suitable choice for my team and my play-style. At the end of the day, I don’t regret my choices. Even tough my team is terrible against some uncommon Pokémon, it proved to be a great meta-call. I honestly think it can be improved, though.
Tapu Bulu @ Aguav Berry
Ability: Grassy Surge
EVs: 252 HP / 76 Def / 180 SpD
– Leech Seed
– Horn Leech
– Wood Hammer
Tapu Bulu is one of the most underrated Pokémon in the format. Grassy Terrain is great on a stall team because it takes advantage of the timer, and the recovery often benefits you more than your opponent. Halving Earthquake damage on a team with bulky Arcanine and Muk is also fantastic, and Leech Seed, Horn Leech, Aguav Berry and Terrain gives Bulu an outstanding amount of durability. If I had more time to get the Pokémon, I would have used either a Relaxed nature with 0 speed IVs or an Impish nature, but I had to use Gold Bottle Caps to get it on time (and it honestly didn’t matter at all). If someone wants to use my Bulu, I recommend giving it less Special Defense and more Attack so it can hit a little harder. I didn’t try this in practice, but I believe that will make it better.
Arcanine @ Iapapa Berry
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Atk / 36 Def / 180 SpD / 36 Spe
– Morning Sun
– Flare Blitz
I’ve been using Arcanine since the very beginning of the season since the Alola-dex has few good Fire Pokémon and few Intimidate users. While I used Arcanine offensively throughout most of the season, a more bulky and supportive version of this Pokémon fits much better on this team. Many people asked why I run Morning Sun over Protect on a team with Politoed. Well, while I did use to run Protect (it’s good for obvious reasons), I felt that most of the time, I would prefer switching out Arcanine instead of protecting. Other than that, Morning Sun helps this Arcanine stay extremely healthy against Pokémon it normally struggles with, such as Tapu Koko and Calm Mind Tapu Fini. I managed to control rain really well in training, so the hit on recovery wasn’t a problem at all. The only occasion during the tournament I wish I had Protect was in top 8, because the weather-war prevented me from getting any relevant recovery — and because Protect could help me burn a turn of Trick Room or something like that. This set is just great and I have no regrets of using it.
Politoed @ Wiki Berry
EVs: 252 HP / 180 Def / 76 SpD
IVs: 0 Atk
– Perish Song
Politoed is here because rain and Perish Song are great, and because it completes the Fire/Water/Grass core. I stole the set from the Polited Wolfe Glick used during the London International Challenge. However, since I had no intention of using Encore, I put the EVs from Speed into Defense. Initially, I ran Ice Beam and Sitrus Berry, but I missed the extra recovery and wanted tools to deal with setup. So, I decided to try Haze and Wiki Berry. Wiki was definitely a good call, and despite of the fact I didn’t use Haze a single time during the Tournament, it helped me during practice. If I’d had more time to practice though, I most likely would end up using Encore in the last slot because both Haze and Ice Beam are bad (and that would’ve helped me a lot on Top 4).
Porygon2 @ Eviolite
EVs: 252 HP / 124 Def / 36 SpA / 92 SpD
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Trick Room
– Ice Beam
This Porygon2 used to be Relaxed without Special Attack investment, but I was missing offensive pressure on this team. OHKOing non-bulky Garchomp without the Download’s Special Attack boost is really good, as the Swords Dance set may otherwise threaten me. The move-set is standard, and even though I missed Return/Thunderbolt a couple of times, I wouldn’t change any moves. Trick Room is my only form of speed control, and it helps me a lot against AFK and most Lele/Koko teams. Toxic is a must on this team, as otherwise Pokémon like Gastrodon or opposing Porygon2 would be a pain to deal with. Ice Beam has good neutral coverage. The calcs justifies the EV spread, and besides wasting 4 EVs, it works pretty well. To finish, I want to emphasize how important Porygon2’s ability to tank hits and provide Toxic/Trick Room support is. Plus, its ability to offer a safe switch-in for other Pokémon is just as useful.
Muk-Alola (F) @ Figy Berry
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def
IVs: 0 Spe
– Gunk Shot
– Knock Off
I won’t include defensive calcs because this Muk is just supposed to do as much damage as possible while having a good overall bulk. Protect and Knock Off are standard, Gunk Shot is the best move ever 80 percent of the time and Flamethrower was useless during the tour (but again, useful in practice). Sometimes relying on Gunk Shot is bad, but as I barely missed it in Swiss. I’m using it over Poison Jab because I can OHKO Bulk Lele, Fini and Koko after being intimidated, which is cool. Poison Jab is a guaranteed 2HKO on Pokémon that are KO’d by Gunk Shot, so that means we can afford a miss and knock out the Pokémon in 2 turns if we get unlucky missing it. If I had to change something, I guess I would run both Gunk Shot and Poison Jab, but this is a very hard decision because Flamethrower can be extremely useful against Kartana. Overall this Muk is a monster against AFK, and it may be the MVP of the tournament (but then again, maybe not because I missed few Gunk Shots). Another interesting thing is that this Muk doesn’t care too much about Imprison.
Salamence @ Flyinium Z
EVs: 252 Atk / 20 SpD / 236 Spe
– Dragon Dance
I honestly don’t think this Pokémon is really good in this format, but Intimidate is just too good and this Z move hits like a truck. Now that Garchomp forgot it’s also a Dragon type Pokémon and doesn’t carry a Dragon attack most of the time, I can safely switch in Salamence when against Chomp. I’d often get a free Dragon Dance on the next turn, too. I think I used the Z-attack just two or three times during the entirely tournament, and one of them, during top eight, was into a Gigalith. I won every single game I brought Salamence, though, and the way it improves my match-up against physical attackers like Garchomp, Arcanine, Gyarados, Kartana, Muk and Snoralax is very nice. Double Intimidate is also really cool when there’s no Competitive/Defiant users at the other side, but as Salamence out-speeds and KO’s both Braviary and Milotic most of time (and they are rarely seen), I felt that it was worth on this team overall.
USING THE TEAM
I wish I had more time to try out other leads. Here are the ones I liked most during practice:
Arcanine + Porygon2
Really good against Tapu Lele/Drifblim, AFK, Koko/Chomp and almost everything. You may have to switch one of them if you fear getting OHKO’d. This was the most common lead I used during the tournament.
Arcanine + Muk
Good when there’s no Garchomp on the opposing team (or you have Salamence + Bulu/Porygon2 in the back). A more aggressive lead that is also good against Lele/Drifblim and some AFK.
Salamence + Muk
I don’t think I used that lead in the tournament, but they cover each others ‘weakness pretty well, and leading with Intimidate is always good.
Tapu Bulu + Politoed
Useful against teams that find it hard to damage Bulu without using Fire attacks. Used this in top eight and it helped me a lot.
My quickest round on the entirely tournament lasted about 30 minutes, and all my matches during Swiss were 2-0, so don’t expect to play short games with that team (around 15 – 30 minutes per game). I often prioritize switching instead of protecting because board positioning is crucial in this format, and if my opponent predicts a Protect I may give him a lot of free momentum. Status moves, Snarl and Intimidate may be abused that way (recycling Intimidate is a must when playing against physical oriented team). I needed to be wise in evaluating which Pokémon should be taken for each match, in addition to having in mind, when seeing which Pokémon my opponent had chosen, which ones I would have to preserve better throughout the match. Salamence is a smart option when I need to nuke something in order to get an early advantage, syncing well with Politoed’s Perish Song and a more aggressive mode with Muk and Tapu Bulu (as I mentioned before, it could be more offensive than what it actually is). The team has a lot of recovery, which makes controlling weather, speed, terrain and board positioning a lot easier when switching. Overall the team was an excellent meta call and it works really fine against most standard teams at the moment.
Choice Band/Choice Specs
This includes mainly Banded Arcanine and Banded Metagross, because I can’t Wow and Intimidate them, respectively. Choice items may overpower the team’s bulk if you’re not careful. This is much easier to manage in a best-of-three series, but still something to be aware of, overall.
It’s hard to knock these things quickly. Nihilego deals STAB super effective damage against 3 of my Pokémon, while opposing Muk mess up my team with Knock Off. My own Muk helps dealing with Nihilego as Knock Off does more than 75% into it, and opposing Muk is threatened by both Arcanine and Salamence, which may also help against Nihilego by snarling and using Earthquake at +1 speed.
Heavy-Special-Attack-hitters + Smeargle
Porygon-Z OHKOs my entire team with Z-Hyper Beam, and so does Xurktree after a Tail Glow. When paired up with Smeargle, which threatens me by using Spore, Fake Out and Follow Me, this match-up is almost an instant loss, as I don’t have enough offensive pressure to deal with them.
My best tool against physical attackers is abusing Intimidate, but both Arcanine and Salamence are weak to Rock. Aerodactyl is also annoying because of Unnerve (the team has 4 berries), but at least I can knock it out much faster than Gigalith, which also does a lot of damage with Continental Crush. I usually deal with them using Porygon2, Politoed and Bulu.
Support Tapu Fini
Dealing with Heal Pulse and Swagger is too hard when the team can’t knock out things quickly. Intimidate and Bulu/Muk helps here. Much easier to deal in best-of-three series.
Round 1: Sergio (BO) LL
Round 2: Lucas (BR) WW
Round 3: Marcos (BR) WW
Round 4: Gustavo (BR) WW
Round 5: Vitor (BR) WW
Round 6: Edgard (BR) WW
Round 8: André Fumis (BR) WW
I want to thank all the staff because the event was amazing, and it couldn’t have happened without them. Also, thanks to everyone that supported me during this journey, mainly the ones who were in the crowd for me on Day three. You were just incredible. Lastly, shout-outs to all my opponents for the awesome matches. The Pokémon community is amazing. Every single person I talked to was so gracious. I really hope to see everyone again and again from now on. I also hope the foreigners liked my country and people from here. If I forgot any relevant information please feel free to send a PM on Twitter.
See you guys at Worlds!