Sunday, October 26, 2014

The X-Factor: 2015 Fall Regionals Team Report

The X Factor
Alternatively: How to go X-2 at Fall Regionals

Part one of a three-part series detailing my 2015 Fall Regionals experience.

I was fortunate enough to make it out to two Autumn Regionals this season. Both times, I finished at X-2, one win shy of qualifying for the Top Cut. While a 7-2 finish in the most talent-heavy portion of the country and a 6-2 finish at a tournament filled with big names from out of the region looks good on paper, I can’t help but think I could and should have done better at both. In this of post, I’ll talk about the team I used in Philadelphia and Fort Wayne. In later posts, I'll go through all my battles from both events.

At a Glance

Just looking at the team, I can’t help but smile. Some of these Pokemon, like Ludicolo and Aegislash, are personal favorites. I don’t even mean competitively, I just like the concept and design of these Pokemon. The team was incredibly fun to use, and I wish I’d built something like it sooner in the format. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it to a couple Alpha Series Premier Challenges so I can give it another shot at glory.

The Team In-Depth

Charizard @ Charizardite X
Ability: Blaze
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Atk / 68 Def / 12 SpD / 172 Spe
Adamant Nature
- Dragon Claw
- Flare Blitz
- Dragon Dance
- Protect

Nickname: Ike
Deployed in Philadelphia: 9/9
KOs in Philadelphia: 7
Deployed in Fort Wayne: 8/8
KOs in Fort Wayne: 11

Considering the most common mega Pokemon at the time were Mawile, Charizard Y, and Kangaskhan, I was looking for a mega of my own that stood its ground against all three. Charizard X OHKOs Mawile without a Dragon Dance boost, OHKO’s Kangaskhan at +1 with Flare Blitz, and takes laughable damage from Charizard Y. He has the potential for huge damage output if he gets set up, and has pretty good power should you elect not to start Dragon Dancing. I went with a bulkier spread to make setting up a bit easier. The HP and Defense EV’s allow it to survive a Jolly Life Orb Garchomp Dragon Claw and OHKO back with its own Dragon Claw. Most Rotom-Wash Hydro Pumps fail to 2HKO as well. Being able to safely Dragon Dance in front of these fairly common Pokemon made Charizard’s life a lot easier. What’s especially funny is seeing people switch in a Rotom-Heat, which all but hard counters Charizard Y, and watching them flail when they realize Rotom-Heat is pure setup bait for Charizard X. As you can see, I brought Charizard to all of my battles at each regional. He had, far and away, the most knockouts of any of my team members as well. Charizard was such a powerhouse, and I am very happy I chose to use him.

While this wasn’t meant to be a team that bluffed Charizard Y (I had two water types…why would I use sun with two water types…), Charizard Y + Mega Lucario was just used by Jeudy Azzarelli to take 2nd place at Worlds, and the fact that I also carried Lucario probably flipped the Charizard Y switch in some people’s heads. Charizard Y is also much more popular in general, and most of the time it’s a safe assumption. I was able to capitalize on this fact pretty well, as most of my opponents would say something like “oh I didn’t expect that” when I revealed the Charizardite X. I honestly nicknamed him Ike because I just liked the name, but a friend told me that Ike is apparently the name of the “Hero of the Blue Flame” from the Fire Emblem series, which I haven’t touched. The worked out nicely, considering Charizard had blue flames spewing from his mouth upon mega evolution.

Ludicolo @ Assault Vest
Ability: Swift Swim
EVs: 252 HP / 84 Def / 148 SpA / 4 SpD / 20 Spe
Modest Nature
- Fake Out
- Giga Drain
- Scald
- Ice Beam

Nickname: QuieroBailar
Deployed in Philadelphia: 5/9
KOs in Philadelphia: 6
Deployed in Fort Wayne: 6/8
KOs in Fort Wayne: 7

This is the Ludicolo Blake Hopper took through the LCQ into Worlds. Ludicolo has such a great matchup against a large portion of the metagame, especially teams with a rain component. A lot of times, if you can clear the field of strong physical attackers, Ludicolo can clean up at the end. The EVs are built to make Jolly Garchomp Dragon Claw a 3HKO while OHKOing back with Ice Beam. The rest was dumped into speed to creep slower Ludicolo variants. I thought about adding a little more speed to creep a little bit more, but I valued the defense and special attack benchmarks too much to drop those stats at all. Ludicolo + Charizard was a very common lead for me, since more often than not I can Fake Out the bigger threat to Charizard and start Dragon Dancing right off the bat. Ludicolo also does very well against some of Charizard’s checks, like faster Dragons. The general bulk and diverse type coverage Ludicolo brought to the team were invaluable. I brought Ludicolo to the majority of my battles, typically only leaving him out when I saw a team full of physical attackers. I would say that flying types in general scared Ludicolo away, but there were times when I faced Talonflame or Mega Pinsir and still brought Ludicolo since I was confident that the other three Pokemon I chose could handle them easily. The nickname was inspired by United States Nationals, where the crowd would always start doing Ludicolo’s dance when it was on stream. “Quiero Bailar” is Spanish for “I want to dance,” so I saw it as a fitting name for the pineapple with fancy feet. A clone of QuieroBailar made its way to Top 8 in Fort Wayne under Andrew Burley's control, so I like to think that I made Top 8 in spirit.

Salamence @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 4 Atk / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
- Draco Meteor
- Fire Blast
- Stone Edge
- Dragon Pulse

Nickname: Brutalanda
Deployed in Philadelphia: 5/9
KOs in Philadelphia: 2
Deployed in Fort Wayne: 5/8
KOs in Fort Wayne: 1

Choice Scarf Salamence, though very straightforward, was a helpful addition to this team. With the exception of Goodra and random Haban Berries, it picks off the dragons that could give Charizard a bit of trouble, like Garchomp and Hydreigon. I really hate playing the speed tie game, so I just opted to go with 252/252 Timid. I probably could have optimized the spread a little bit, but I wanted to give myself the best possible chance of outspeeding and KOing opposing Salamence and Hydreigon. In hindsight, a slower, bulkier spread like Simon Yip’s US Nationals Salamence would have worked just fine, but I don’t regret the decision. The moveset is pretty standard as well. I think Rock Slide on Scarf Salamence is a bad choice, considering it’s way too weak to deal considerable damage and is mostly only good for fishing for flinches. The only real reason to use a rock type move on Salamence is to pick off Charizard Y and Rock Slide can’t OHKO it, so I thought it was a pretty clear choice. While it looks like Salamence’s KO count is really low, that is because he isn’t meant to be a powerhouse that knocks out Pokemon left and right. Timid Scarf Salamence is really good at chunking semi-bulky Pokemon for the rest of the team to finish off. He was often switched in and out to preserve and abuse Intimidate, and occasionally was saved for an endgame when there was a Pokemon at low health he could finish off. For example, the only time Salamence knocked a Pokemon out in Fort Wayne was Round 8 when he picked off a Charizard Y late in the game, but he was brought frequently and was key in a few wins. The nickname is just the German translation of Salamence. I really like a lot of the foreign names of Pokemon (in particular - Scrafty's German name Irokex), so if I can’t think of a better nickname that’s usually my default.

Aegislash @ Leftovers
Ability: Stance Change
EVs: 252 HP / 236 SpA / 20 Spe
Modest Nature
- Shadow Ball
- Flash Cannon
- Substitute
- King’s Shield

Nickname: Durengard
Deployed in Philadelphia: 7/9
KOs in Philadelphia: 9
Deployed in Fort Wayne: 4/8
KOs in Fort Wayne: 2

I’ve been playing Sub + Leftovers Aegislash since a little before Nationals and I really, really like it. I know a lot of people have switched to other sets like Life Orb or Wide Guard + Weakness Policy, but the somewhat defensive nature of this set really meshes well with my playstyle. It creates really good endgames if it can get behind a substitute against key threats like Mawile or Kangaskhan, while stacking up well against a lot of common archetypes, like Gothitelle + Mawile Trick Room. The speed EVs were just to creep other Aegislash and slow Tyranitar, with the rest going into HP and special attack. The usage dipped from Philadelphia to Fort Wayne, and the KO count dropped severely. I don’t really have an explanation for why other than less favorable matchups at the latter regional. Aegislash was definitely an MVP in Philadelphia, and my two losses came when I severely misplayed him. In Fort Wayne, however, he was much less important when it came to the outcome of my matches. The nickname is just another German translation that I admire.

Rotom-Wash @ Sitrus Berry
Ability: Levitate
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 76 SpA / 164 SpD / 12 Spe
Calm Nature
- Hydro Pump
- Thunderbolt
- Will-O-Wisp
- Protect

Nickname: Sterling
Deployed in Philadelphia: 5/9
KOs in Philadelphia: 3
Deployed in Fort Wayne: 4/8
KOs in Fort Wayne: 4

Rotom was a bit of a wild card honestly. It felt a bit like deadweight against some matchups but really shined against others. It helped neuter some physical threats like Mawile, Kangaskhan, and Tyranitar with Will-O-Wisp. Rotom also gave me a solid answer to Talonflame, which could otherwise be pretty troublesome. After using Rotom-Heat and Rotom-Wash back and forth this whole format (I’m pretty sure one of the two has been on every team I’ve ever taken to a live event), I preferred Rotom-Wash in general since his secondary STAB was spammable, unlike the oven’s Overheat. Rotom-Wash also helped the rain matchup somewhat, while Rotom-Heat was pretty much helpless there. I think Rotom fit well enough here that I’m not wishing I had used something else, but there may have been a better choice out there somewhere. I’m not surprised by the low usage, as Rotom was never meant to be an integral part of the team. He was mostly around to help out during certain matchups, and that’s certainly what he did. The nickname is just kinda something I thought up. Appliances can be silver, and sterling is a type of silver I guess?

Lucario @ Focus Sash
Ability: Inner Focus
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
- Close Combat
- Extreme Speed / Stone Edge
- Bullet Punch
- Protect

Nickname: Sun Tzu
Deployed in Philadelphia: 5/9
KOs in Philadelphia: 5
Deployed in Fort Wayne: 5/8
KOs in Fort Wayne: 4

Part 2 of the potential Zard Y / Mega Lucario bluff. He served as the “glue” Pokemon, if you will. Lucario was the last Pokemon added to the team, since I was having a lot of trouble with Tyranitar. Even though Charizard X isn’t double weak to Rock Slide like his Y version counterpart, he still doesn't appreciate taking Rock Slides. Non-Life Orb Garchomp fails to 2HKO, but Tyranitar can do a lot of damage. Wide Guard was certainly an option, but I’m just not comfortable playing that mind game on a regular basis and opted to just kill the things that like to spam Rock Slide instead. Lucario was great for the role since Inner Focus prevents him from flinching from said Rock Slides. Close Combat is such a powerful move, wiping out Pokemon like Scrafty, Tyranitar, and Hydreigon with ease. The Jolly nature let me outrun Hydreigon reliably, since I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a Timid Hydreigon in my life. It also gave me a chance to outrun enemy Kangaskhan before they mega evolve. I would often lead with Lucario if I saw a Kangaskhan at team preview, since most people target it with Fake Out assuming it will mega evolve and lose Inner Focus. I gave up my Focus Sash in the process, but OHKOing the Kangaskhan before it can rip through my team was usually worth it. Bullet Punch was great for picking off Gardevoir and Aerodactyl, which can be pretty annoying if left unchecked. I ran Extreme Speed in Philadelphia, but I only used it once on the day and I felt it unnecessary. I switched it to Stone Edge for Fort Wayne since it made my Charizard Y and Zapdos matchups easier in theory, but I never used Stone Edge in Fort Wayne either so that slot seemed like a waste of space. Follow Me, Feint, and Quick Guard are all cool techs that maybe could have helped me out. Follow Me specifically could have eased setting up with Charizard, but there wasn’t really a point in either tournament when I thought “I really need Follow Me right now” since I didn’t usually like having both Pokemon on the field together. All in all, Lucario was a great asset when I needed Tyranitar to die quickly, and helped chunk some other threats to my team. His usage to KO ratio reflects his role on the team. I typically brought him to target a certain Pokemon, and he averaged one knockout per match. My tactical use of Lucario prompted the nickname “Sun Tzu” after the author of the ancient book The Art of War.

I put this team together one night while I was on Pokemon Showdown with some friends (Andykins, Darkeness, AdamHoffer, Seaco), and I won one of the VGC room tournaments with it. Obviously that isn't exactly a measure of prestige, but it was enough for me to feel confident in the team's ability. I decided to not play any battles on the Showdown ladder since that almost always leads to me losing confidence in myself and the team. I limited myself to matches with friends, focusing on Best of Three sets should I find myself in top cut. The first game of best-of-threes function somewhat like Swiss rounds too, so I definitely felt prepared for the Fall Regional season.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out the next two posts for battle reports!

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