Hi, my name is Alex Arand, also known as AlexTheRNGLord. I first started playing VGC after joining my local league, where we had somewhat casual play. Then I discovered Pokemon Showdown and Smogon, and played online casually for a while until 2016, when I began playing competitively. I’ve been playing competitively since post-2016 Worlds, starting out as a Senior. I did pretty well in my 1st year, dominating my local scene in the Chicagoland area and finishing 11th on the Senior CP ladder. I would strive for more the next year as a Master, but was unsuccessful in getting my invite last year. Now, with Worlds within my reach, I wanted to share the one team that got over 3 quarters of my invite this year. While watching the Dallas 2019 Regionals and analyzing all the teams on stream that I might want to try for my own locals, I saw Terry Hong and his Zygarde team. I really disliked playing Xerneas, so I gave it a shot. I really wanted to try a more defensive team, and Zygarde seemed like it would be able to accomplish that. After playing with it for the entirety of Moon Series, it’s been super consistent and I wouldn’t be where I am without this snek.
- Collinsville Regionals Top 4
- Greensboro Regionals Top 16
- MSS 1st/8th Place
- February IC Top 32 (20th)
- PC 1st Place
Zygarde @ Misty Seed
Ability: Power Construct
EVs: 36 HP / 188 Atk / 20 Def / 244 SpD / 20 Spe
– Thousand Arrows
– Extreme Speed
Zygarde, also known as Colgate Toothpaste, is the star of the team. Once Power Construct activates, it becomes a very thicc boi, and Zygarde’s maximum HP will increase with its current HP being revised to its new maximum HP minus the amount of HP it had lost before changing to its 100% forme. In order to keep Zygarde healthy after this, support from Tapu Fini is required to help bring it to maximum HP with Heal Pulse as well as boost its attack with a self-Swagger. Zygarde can also sustain itself with Coil, which boosts its Attack, Defense, and Accuracy, if necessary. With Light Screen and Heal Pulse, Zygarde can live a +2 Moonblast from Xerneas and an Ice Beam from Kyogre.
- +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. +1 36 HP / 244+ SpD Zygarde-Complete through Light Screen: 145-172 (48.9 – 58.1%) — 95.3% chance to 2HKO
- 252+ SpA Kyogre Ice Beam vs. +1 36 HP / 244+ SpD Zygarde-Complete through Light Screen: 85-101 (28.7 – 34.1%) — 1.8% chance to 3HKO
The most important offensive calc is 2HKOing Incineroar, since you can set up that KO with Nature’s Madness in case you cannot Swagger due to a terrain change.
- 188 Atk Zygarde-Complete Thousand Arrows vs. 236 HP / 4 Def Incineroar: 102-120 (51 – 60%) — guaranteed 2HKO
Solis Ferro (Solgaleo) @ Solganium Z
Ability: Full Metal Body
EVs: 252 HP / 68 Atk / 124 Def / 52 SpD / 12 Spe
– Sunsteel Strike
– Trick Room
Solis Ferro, Latin for Sun Steel, is the prime Xerneas/Ice-type killer for this team. Both Xerneas and Ice-types like Kyurem-White and Weavile get obliterated by a Searing Sunraze Smash, and being bulky allows it to stick around on the field for a while and live some important attacks. However, because of the bulk, Solgaleo cannot OHKO Xerneas or Incineroar, so it will need some sort of chip before it goes for a Sunsteel Strike or Superpower or, alternatively, it can use the Z-Move to OHKO Xerneas at neutral. It can be self-Swaggered since it’s slower than Tapu Fini, but note that Xerneas will likely Protect against it. It does have a pretty decent chance at getting an OHKO through Protect with the Z-Move at +2 Attack after the self-Swagger. You can also use the Z-Move at +2 to OHKO opposing Incineroar, but this is a coin flip, and should only be done if the Incineroar is chipped or if it is required to win the game.
- +2 68+ Atk Solgaleo Searing Sunraze Smash vs. 4 HP / 0 Def protected Xerneas: 178-210 (88.1 – 103.9%) — 25% chance to OHKO
- +2 68+ Atk Solgaleo Searing Sunraze Smash vs. 236 HP / 4 Def Incineroar: 184-217 (92 – 108.5%) — 50% chance to OHKO
- 252 SpA Lunala Moongeist Beam vs. 252 HP / 52 SpD Solgaleo: 186-218 (76.2 – 89.3%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 0 Atk Dark Aura Yveltal Foul Play vs. 252 HP / 124 Def Solgaleo: 182-216 (74.5 – 88.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO
StarbucksMom (Tapu Fini) @ Wiki Berry
Ability: Misty Surge
EVs: 252 HP / 60 Def / 4 SpA / 76 SpD / 116 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Nature’s Madness
– Light Screen
– Heal Pulse
Tapu Fini, or StarbucksMom, does what moms do best. Supporting her children, in this case Zygarde and Solgaleo, with a healthy dose of Heal Pulse and Swagger. And at times, Tapu Fini is doing more damage than Zygarde with Nature’s Madness, crippling her opponents so that the other attackers can KO them. Since Tapu Fini is only meant for support, and Nature’s Madness always does 50% of your opponents health, all of its EV’s can be invested in bulk. One of the toughest things to deal with on the team is Kartana, and this Tapu Fini is EV’d to live the Leaf Blade from the most common Assault Vest Kartana spread. Tapu Fini can also live a Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom, as well a +2 Moonblast from Xerneas. Hitting these important benchmarks lets Tapu Fini get off at least one Light Screen, Swagger or Nature’s Madness, which can really turn the tide of the game early on.
- 52 Atk Kartana Leaf Blade vs. 252 HP / 60 Def Tapu Fini: 150-176 (84.7 – 99.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 252 SpA Lunala Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom vs. 252 HP / 76+ SpD Tapu Fini: 121-144 (68.3 – 81.3%) — guaranteed 2HKO
sans 2 (Incineroar) @ Iapapa Berry
EVs: 236 HP / 36 Def / 236 SpD
IVs: 0 Spe
– Flare Blitz
– Fake Out
You can blame Daniel Thorpe for the naming of this one. Incineroar’s purpose, as on any team, is to provide Intimidate and Fake Out support and, on this team especially, ensure a good board position. Since the Incineroar is minimum Speed, you get the last U-turn on the field, so if your opponent also uses U-turn to try and gain an advantage, you’re the one who ends up getting the advantage on board positioning. This Incineroar, like Tapu Fini, is also meant to be defensive, so it can live an attack and U-turn off of the field or retaliate against a Kartana or Lunala/Xerneas that doesn’t want to take a Snarl. The Incineroar also has some investment in Defense rather than Attack, allowing it to live some Groudon’s Precipice Blades. This creates more opportunity for board positioning as well as retaliating against Groudon with a Sun-boosted Flare Blitz.
- +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 236 HP / 236+ SpD Incineroar: 169-199 (84.5 – 99.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 4 Atk Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 236 HP / 36 Def Incineroar: 152-180 (76 – 90%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 0 Atk Incineroar Flare Blitz vs. 0 HP / 0 Def Groudon in Sun: 87-103 (49.7 – 58.8%) — 99.6% chance to 2HKO
- 0 SpA Incineroar Snarl vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Lunala: 76-96 (35.6 – 45%) — guaranteed 3HKO
Purple Haze (Toxicroak) @ Assault Vest
Ability: Dry Skin
EVs: 148 HP / 108 Atk / 4 Def / 244 SpD / 4 Spe
– Poison Jab
– Low Kick
– Fake Out
– Sucker Punch
Purple Haze, the stand of Panacotta Fugo, helps with one of the most used Pokemon in the format: Kyogre. Being able to wall Kyogre, as well as knocking out its common partners Ludicolo and Tsareena, makes it essential for Kyogre matchups. This spread is actually from Justin Burns’ Philadelphia Regionals team, and is pretty much standard for any Toxicroak. It can live a +2 Moonblast from a Xerneas, and really pressures Yveltal and Kyogre with its Low Kick. A really fun thing to do is self-Swagger on a Xerneas switch in, and watch the HP bar drop after a +2 Poison Jab. Same goes with Kyogre, but with Low Kick. Low Kick also does ~50% to a standard Choice Scarf Kyogre, in which case it might be safer to go for Nature’s Madness + Low Kick so you don’t miss your Swagger.
- 108+ Atk Toxicroak Low Kick (120 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Kyogre: 94-112 (53.4 – 63.6%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 148 HP / 244 SpD Assault Vest Toxicroak: 150-177 (84.7 – 100%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO
- 252 SpA Lunala Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom vs. 148 HP / 244 SpD Assault Vest Toxicroak: 123-145 (69.4 – 81.9%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 108+ Atk Toxicroak Low Kick (80 BP) vs. 236 HP / 4 Def Incineroar: 126-150 (63 – 75%) — guaranteed 2HKO
Burneas (Volcarona) @ Firium Z
Ability: Flame Body
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Rage Powder
Whimsicott @ Focus Sash
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Grass Knot
– Light Screen
:venu: (Venusaur) @ Focus Sash
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Grass Knot
– Sludge Bomb
– Sleep Powder
So this last slot is one that is up to player preference. Whimsicott, used by Terry Hong in Dallas, was used primarily as a Groudon check. Grass Knot KOs fast Groudons after chip, Charm helps with Swords Dance and weakening Groudon, Tailwind is good for speed control and priority Light Screen is really nice. Venusaur, on the other hand, is meant to deal with YvelDon and XernDon teams, putting Yveltal to sleep while also chunking Groudon and Xerneas with Grass Knot and Sludge Bomb. Volcarona supplies redirection while also doing Venusaur’s job, but can’t put anything to Sleep, and gets obliterated by Landorus. It can also OHKO a Groudon with Firium Z, but that takes away the use of Searing Sunraze Smash. Basically, this slot is to counter Groudon. I used Volcarona the most after Collinsville, so I will be referring to Volcarona for the rest of the report.
- 252 SpA Venusaur Grass Knot (120 BP) vs. 196 HP / 244 SpD Groudon: 146-174 (73 – 87%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 252 SpA Volcarona Inferno Overdrive (195 BP) vs. 196 HP / 244 SpD Groudon in Sun: 219-258 (109.5 – 129%) — guaranteed OHKO
Most of the games come down to getting an advantage early on by setting up with Tapu Fini and/or taking an early KO with Zygarde/Solgaleo/Volcarona, crippling your opponent’s offensive resources. Tapu Fini is definitely the most important, however, as without it you lose sustainability with Zygarde and any way to heal it or set up Light Screen for the late game. Protect Tapu Fini at all costs, but know that you can at least take two hits from most things. There is no “auto-loss” for this team, since it is extremely bulky. However, the more immediate offense your opponent has, like Choice Specs Kyogre, the harder the game will be because you have to outpace it with Light Screen and Heal Pulse, and get it off the field as fast as possible. Speed is also another important factor, and some games may come down to getting Trick Room up with Solgaleo. Speedy Groudon and Kyogre are a huge problem, and if Volcarona/Toxicroak are taken out early on, it becomes incredibly difficult to win the game from that point if you don’t have anything that outspeeds the offensive weather duo.
Core Combinations and Common Leads/+
The standard lead for the team. Tapu Fini supports Zygarde and Zygarde sweeps once it becomes an offensive threat.+
If you aren’t sure what to do, use this lead. It is extremely useful against the popular Xernala core, as well as anything that is too janky to deal with their bulk. Also the only lead for the XY core, since anything else just dies to Yveltal + Landorus-T.+
Mostly for Tornogre teams. Behind a Light Screen, Solgaleo can live pretty much anything that Kyogre throws at it. I don’t lead this much personally, but it is a better option against Flyinium Z Tornadus.+
The best lead against most Kyogre teams, as it forces your opponent to target down Toxicroak and gives Tapu Fini an opportunity to set up a Light Screen or self-Swagger Zygarde.+
Mostly for Xerndon teams, since Volcarona will always outspeed Groudon and KO it unless it has a Choice Scarf. Incineroar pressures both Xerneas with a Snarl and Groudon with an Inferno Overdrive, and you can always Whirlwind away a boosted Xerneas.+
If terrain control is required, it might be better to lead Incineroar instead of Tapu Fini, because you can always U-turn out to have your terrain up guaranteed at the start of the next turn.+/
This is to set up Trick Room on turn 1. Obviously don’t lead this if there is an extreme offensive presence that is threatening an OHKO on Solgaleo. This lead is a nice mix-up for Rain teams with Toxicroak instead of Tapu Fini + Toxicroak. Bringing Incineroar depends on your opponent’s team composition. It’s a must-have against Lunala + Kyogre Trick Room teams, since you can under-speed both of their restricted Pokemon and Snarl away.
In team preview, there are several things to look out for. Playing Zygarde requires thinking long term, taking into consideration how your opponent will react to your lead and what they will do after that. Here is a list I go through once I see my opponents team:
- What is my opponent’s core, and what is required to bring in this match-up?
- What is my opponent’s potential lead?
- Does my opponent have previous knowledge of playing against me, and how do I deal with that?
- What is my win-con for this set, and how do I play to that win-con?
- Does my opponent have any potential techs to counter my team?
Using the leads I listed above, and with a lot of practice, the team becomes very straightforward. I normally just adapt to whatever my opponent decides to do, and always play around what they are going to do next. This is when predictions come into play, and that becomes easier with practice. Minimum Speed Incineroar really helps with this, as well as using Nature’s Madness to prompt a switch from your opponent.+
This is an extremely difficult matchup. Without Focus Sash Toxicroak, the matchup becomes very hard and requires many predictions, since if you Fake Out Kyogre, then Lunala can just Psyshock Toxicroak, meaning you lose a huge amount of offensive pressure from Toxicroak. Switching into Zygarde instead could lead to a KO as Lunala and Kyogre can just double up into it, and now you’re down a restricted. The type of Kyogre is also a big factor, because if they are Choice Scarf, it is much easier since there is less damage going into the Zygarde switch in. If they are Choice Specs, this obviously becomes much harder.+
You always have to lead Incineroar and Tapu Fini, and depending on what the rest of the team is, switch or begin to set up. If they lead Xerneas Lunala, just go for Light Screen + Snarl, so that you ensure they do barely any damage even at +1 and break Lunala’s Shadow Shield. If they lead Lunala + Tsareena, you have to switch out Fini into Zygarde in order to take the double-up into Tapu Fini or the Helping Hand boosted Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom. If they lead Xerneas + Incineroar, just Light Screen and Snarl, so that regardless of who they Fake Out, Xerneas will still be hindered by either move. The main goal is to make sure you can take out Xerneas as soon as possible, because once Xerneas is gone, Zygarde can pretty much clean house.+
Volcarona and Zygarde are the key to this matchup. You always bring Zygarde and Incineroar, with Volcarona and Tapu Fini in the back. Volcarona and Zygarde can also be a good lead, since if they Intimidate your Zygarde, you will take less damage from Foul Play. This is a match-up where you do not want to Swagger yourself. Let Zygarde gain defensive bulk through Coil, so once the endgame hits, Zygarde will barely be tickled by a Precipice Blades. Use Volcarona to pressure and take out Groudon and redirect any potential Roars from Incineroar or a Foul Play from Yveltal by using Rage Powder.+/+
Leading Toxicroak + Tapu Fini is a must here, and is pretty much a 90/10 in your favor for Palkia + Kyogre. For Tornogre, you have to switch out if you realize they are Flyinium Z, because that will always OHKO Toxicroak. If they are Sash or an extremely obvious Tsareena switch-in is about to happen, just self-Swagger and wreak havoc with +2 Low Kicks and Poison Jabs. Once you get Trick Room up in the late game, there is pretty much nothing your opponent can do, since they’ve lost the tools for dealing with either Solgaleo or Zygarde. At some point they will have to switch-in their Xerneas or Kyogre, and either one will have to deal with Toxicroak, on top of dealing with the Solgaleo and Zygarde pressure.
Rundown of Tournament
For most of these, I am going to give a general rundown, and for the more important matches I will go into more detail.
Round 1: Jake Hockemeyer – WW
To be completely honest, I don’t remember much from this match, besides that my game plan was to use Incineroar to a pivot and slowly chip away at my opponent, which becomes harder when facing Landorus-T. Once I got a few Coils going, it was an easy ride for Zygarde from there.
Round 2: Chris Calvet – WLW
Kyogre DM Necrozma Incineroar Koko Tsareena Amoonguss
Highlight from this battle was my non-boosted Zygarde living an Ice Beam from a Kyogre with 3 HP, then being Frozen afterwards. His Kyogre was extremely bulky and slow, which was perfect for Tapu Fini to set up in front of and then sweep with Zygarde once it unthawed, because it stayed Frozen for 6 turns.
Round 3: Jake Magier – WLL
Probably the toughest match all day. Jake’s Volcarona was a huge issue, and I didn’t have many options besides leading Incineroar and Solgaleo and setting up TR to sweep the rest of the game. Bringing Venusaur to G1 and G3 was a mistake, since I didn’t bring Tapu Fini to provide support to its partners.
Round 4: Richard Ashby – WW
After playing 3 matchups I had not practiced much for, the ones I did finally came. I knew exactly what to do against an Edu Team: since there is no Fake Out on Smeargle, I pivot around until I get a good position and slowly weaken his team until I can sweep with Zygarde and weaken Geomancy with Snarl and Light Screen.
Round 5: Andy Anderson – WW
Andy was probably the best Tornogre player I had faced in a while. After a double Protect in G1, I didn’t know if I could come back, but when he revealed that his Tornadus did not have Protect, I won G1 due to it. I then won G2 by figuring out that after getting the KO on Tornadus, setting up TR would just let me sweep from there with Solgaleo, Zygarde, and Toxicroak, with support from Tapu Fini.
Round 6: Cedric Derouchie – WW
I saw Cedric’s name on my phone and I didn’t know what to expect, since he has played really jank Gothitelle stuff in Sun Series. After seeing this in Team Preview, I had a huge sigh of relief. I knew exactly what to do, and it was even easier than my last round with Andy due to the Tornadus being Focus Sash instead of Flyinium Z. G1 came down to reading his Incineroar switch-in and self-Swaggering and using Low Kick on that slot, getting the KO on Incineroar. G2 was just pivoting and setting up Trick Room after obtaining the valuable item info of his Pokemon.
Round 7: Nate Innocenti – WW
You can watch this match here.
Both of us were super excited to play on the last match of the day on stream. I knew what Nate was playing after playing him in a tournament called Stall Wars, and since he revealed Wide Guard there, I played the whole set under the mentality that he had Wide Guard. G1 was a little shaky, since I got the Z-Move crit through Protect, although it didn’t really matter in the end. Once Xerneas went down, Zygarde was able to sweep. G2 was a little easier, since he just lead Incineroar and Xerneas, and I could just click Light Screen and Snarl. After that it was smooth sailing with a few reads thrown in, which allowed me to get a 2nd Light Screen and activate Zygarde’s Misty Seed. It took 12 turns before either of us knocked out someone’s Pokemon, and I’m pretty sure that’s a record lol.
Top 8: Ryan Loseto – WW
You can watch this game here.
I was definitely scared for the Kartana in this match-up. I was told prior that it was Grassium Z, which is better than dealing with Groundium Z Landorus-T, but still not fun to play against. G1 was definitely close, after getting crit by a late game Leaf Blade, my jaw dropped and I thought I had lost. However, I was able to pivot and put myself into a position where either a Flare Blitz or Superpower would go into the Kartana and I was able to win the game. G2 was pretty much the same, leads and all, except I Protected Solgaleo instead of switching it out, really throwing Ryan off. After setting up TR, I made sure to take advantage of my TR turns more, by setting up with Zygarde and taking KO’s earlier by getting off Nature’s Madness on Yveltal, which was the biggest threat to my team.
Top 4: Alex Underhill – WLL
You can watch this game here.
I had no idea how to beat this. After finding out that Underhill had min Speed Lunala, plus a min Speed Tapu Fini and Choice Band Groudon, I knew I had to do a few things. The first was to get Zygarde set up as soon as possible, so I take the least amount of damage from Precipice Blades, and knock out either Lunala or Groudon as soon as I could. Incineroar was very useful, as it chunked Groudon pretty well with a Sun-boosted Flare Blitz and was faster in Trick Room due to being min Speed. I barely took G1, and had high hopes for the next game. After the set I realized that, at some point in G2, I should have Coiled again, since doing so would have removed the chance of a roll on Underhill’s Lunala, which in the end lost me that game. G3 was pretty much the same, but it just went downhill from there. Alex made some good reads, and after switching back and forth with Tapu Fini in G1 and Tsareena in G2, I thought he would bring Tsareena, but he ended up bringing Tapu Fini. This assumption cost me the game, and after losing my Tapu Fini, I had no way of coming back.
This team was amazing to play. Every format, I always try to find something that clicks, and I wasn’t sure at first, but now I am fully confident that Zygarde is one of the best Pokemon in Moon Series when played correctly. With everything being on the bulky end, this team rewards the most patient players. Its bulk is amazing, and there really isn’t much that outright counters it either. I would recommend running this. Make sure to run Volcarona, though, because otherwise Venusaur is just a dead slot.
- My family, for driving me to these events.
- The Peanut Gallery, an awesome group of friends that I will always keep in my heart.
- Soulja Gang, another awesome group that supports me.
- @AnimusVGC , @TemporalVGC , @Jtr524 , the Chicago Crew and Soulja Gang for helping me prep for cut.
- The Chicago TO’s, @crossjd , @Suzannenortrid2 , @immewnity , @RyanPbHebert.
- Terry Hong and @
- Everyone who was supporting me in chat. I read it all and love you guys!
- @criticalhitgg and their commentary team. Awesome commentary and can’t wait to see more from you guys!
- Everyone in the ZyGang. We are a cult now, I guess.
Credit to deltheor for the featured image