Hey all, it’s finally time to publish this report! I chose not to write this after making Top Cut at Madison because of how likely it was that Gavin and I would reuse the team at NAIC or Worlds. The team changed very little between Madison and NAIC. Gavin was behind the vast majority of the team’s building - I’m simply the one who wanted to write about it. I’ll preface the rest of the report by stating that it’s best treated as a retrospective, and discusses a metagame slightly different than the one at the time you’re reading this report. Nicknames are loosely inspired by Vampire Weekend’s recent Father of the Bride album.
Unbearably (Incineroar) (F) @ Assault Vest
EVs: 244 HP / 56 Atk / 12 Def / 196 SpD
IVs: 0 SpA
- Flare Blitz
- Darkest Lariat
- Fake Out
A pretty normal Assault Vest Incineroar. The special bulk let it survive two Ultra Necrozma Earth Powers almost all of the time. This was one of the bigger selling points of AV Incineroar, as I wanted to take every advantage I could get to make Necrozma less hellish to fight. This amount of special bulk prevented opposing Tapu Lele + Necrozma leads from doubling down on Incineroar to remove it. It also let Incineroar survive any Kyogre attack aside from Water Spout in Rain, which makes this particular Incineroar a pretty decent option against Ray Ogre and a more viable pick vs other Kyogre builds.
The moveset is what you’d expect; this team doesn’t need any of the less common alternatives like Low Kick or Snarl. Snarl would allow opposing Lunala to get away with attacking in front of Incineroar without being threatened by more than ~40% of damage, and this team required a more established Lunala matchup than that. The physical Dark move on this team barely matters. Throat Chop’s sound-denying benefit never came up in a single game of practice. Crunch’s Defense drops are unlikely and you need to be in a specific position to abuse them, like Salamence being active the next turn. I went with Darkest Lariat for NAIC because I wanted to be able to OHKO no bulk Gengar at neutral Attack. The issue with this is that Gengar can either be bulkier or paired with their own Intimidate users, so that calc very likely won’t matter. Still, I preferred this more concrete benefit.
Finally, the Speed stat is to U-turn after most other Incineroar. I was Sassy 2 Spe IVs at Madison, but ramped that up so that I could outrun non-boosting nature Primals in Tailwind, which is a pretty niche scenario. Having a faster Fake Out on this team barely matters because Incineroar is often paired with the Ghost type Lunala - even if my cat is slower, going for a Fake Out on theirs denies their move for the turn, either because their Fake Out stopped mine, or because they tried to use some other attack and flinched. Slow U-turn is amazing and I recommend experimenting with it. I avoided going 0 Speed IV because I did not want to speed tie with other minimum Speed Incineroar, namely the ones on Perish Song builds.
Bambina (Lunala) @ Lunalium Z
Ability: Shadow Shield
EVs: 4 HP / 60 Def / 188 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
- Moongeist Beam
- Wide Guard
Lunala was the centerpiece of the team and these moves were essential to its success. The Defense investment allows Lunala to survive Jolly Choice Band Rayquaza Crunch if Shadow Shield is intact. Sacrificing Special Attack EVs for this defensive calc was a blessing in disguise - this Lunala’s Z move rarely activates standard Tapu Fini’s pinch berry. Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom was an attack that I was comfortable throwing at Tapu Fini and leaving it right outside berry range so that Lunala’s teammates could easily finish it off. This team requires that Lunala outruns the fastest primals, so I never felt any need to go slower than Timid max speed.
Lunala has so much flexibility in its 3 moveslots aside from Moongeist Beam, and it’s great how much room there is to explore its variety of support options. Psyshock gave me a slightly stronger attack vs Assault Vest Rayquaza, Kyogre, and Tapu Fini, and allowed Lunala to damage Kangaskhan and Lopunny. However, the main reason that I kept Psyshock was because I wanted to be able to hit Smeargle. If an opponent with Smeargle finds out that Lunala isn’t carrying Psyshock, it becomes easy for them to let Smeargle continuously redirect Moongeist Beam and prevent Lunala from doing any damage. Psyshock was crucial for my team to break down the combination of Smeargle, Tapu Lele and Ultra Necrozma. Wide Guard was incredibly useful vs opposing Primals and allowed Groudon to stand in the face of Kyogre if I learned that my opponent’s only Water moves were Water Spout and Origin Pulse. Lunala’s Wide Guard also granted my Groudon a huge advantage over my opponents’ as long as both legendary Pokemon could end up on the field at the same time. Endgaming with that pair was very common. The downside was that Groudon users savvy to Wide Guard could waste Lunala’s time with Fire Punch or even take down my own Groudon with an unexpected Earth Power or Stomping Tantrum. Protect is almost a necessity, I feel like most balance teams with a Lunala prefer to keep it over alternatives. On the other hand, options like Roar, Trick Room, and especially Tailwind are difficult to turn down, so the Lunala set really depends on the team it’s placed on.
Sunflower (Groudon-Primal) @ Red Orb
Ability: Desolate Land
EVs: 116 HP / 92 Atk / 4 Def / 156 SpD / 140 Spe
IVs: 0 SpA
- Precipice Blades
- Fire Punch
- Swords Dance
The big man. For much of the format leading up to Madison, I’d been thinking about the Groudon speed creep. Groudon is a Pokemon that cares deeply about being able to outrun itself, but also loves the bulk investment that you gain by moving unnecessary points out of speed. I had used 120 speed stat Groudon previously, but never felt especially secure about its ability to outrun other Groudon. The goal with 127 speed stat was to outrun a majority of other Groudon that weren’t going max speed. I was fine with accepting that my Groudon was slower than aggressive ones, since Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom threatened a OHKO on almost all of those. The speed, 128, was 1 point under my own Tapu Fini so that I could follow up Nature’s Madness with Fire Punch or Precipice Blades. The bulk was chosen to give Groudon an 88.5% chance to survive opposing Timid Lunala’s Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom. I considered raising this chance to 93.7% or 100% for NAIC, but decided against it and Groudon’s bulk felt totally fine as is. The Attack investment was arbitrary and could be slightly raised or lowered but I was comfortably satisfied with 92.
The moveset is totally standard for physical Groudon. Precipice Blades and Fire Punch provide coverage for both STABs and always do impressive damage at neutral Attack. Swords Dance ensured that Groudon actually remained at neutral or +1 even in the face of Intimidate, and let me take advantage of my opponent playing passively with Incineroar while trying to stall out Trick Room or Tailwind. This Groudon’s extra bulk, alongside Tapu Fini’s Light Screen, made it very likely to survive attacks and then put out heavy damage after a Swords Dance.
Big Blue (Tapu Fini) @ Wiki Berry
Ability: Misty Surge
EVs: 244 HP / 76 SpD / 188 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
- Nature’s Madness
- Icy Wind
- Light Screen
This was a Tapu Fini created with one defensive calc in mind, and then a bunch of speed! 244 HP/76+ SpDef let Tapu Fini survive +2 Timid Xerneas Moonblast 100% of the time, and it’s such an important calc that you hardly ever see Tapu Fini run less bulk than this. I don’t think running more special bulk than this is necessary either - surviving the same attack from Modest Xerneas takes too much investment to be worth it. This spread hit 129 Speed, which is enough to outrun Mega Salamence after an Icy Wind but not Tapu Koko. To make outrunning Tapu Koko useful, both Tapu Fini and Groudon would need to get faster, when Tapu Fini really didn’t have those EVs to spare in the first place. However, Defense investment would have been great if this Tapu Fini had the EVs free because Precipice Blades at neutral usually scored a 2HKO on it.
Tapu Fini on Luna Don teams tend to run Moonblast to try and keep Yveltal matchups from being especially negative, and it’s all around pretty useful against other threats like Salamence and Rayquaza. Against Salamence I could use Icy Wind and follow up with Moonblast to score a knockout, whereas two Icy Winds would have missed that KO. Nature’s Madness and Icy Wind are Tapu Fini’s bread and butter, making sure that it has useful things to do on the field in most situations. Groudon was the main beneficiary of Icy Wind speed control, but Lunala stands to gain from it as well. Finally, Light Screen was an amazing filler slot that I wish I’d tried out earlier in the format. 5 turns of 33% less special damage is a pretty incredible benefit in a format with ridiculously strong special attackers like Kyogre, Xerneas, and Lunala and often swung matchups against pairs of these special attackers way into my favor. Light Screen combined with Salamence and Incineroar’s Intimidate meant I was covered on both the special and physical sides.
Harmony Hall (Stakataka) @ Shuca Berry
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Atk / 252 SpD
IVs: 0 Spe
- Gyro Ball
- Trick Room
- Wide Guard
Stakataka was a natural fit for a Luna Don team where the Lunala didn’t have speed control of its own, or any other real tech for Xerneas like Roar or Haze. Setting up Trick Room against Xerneas was essential; winning or losing against it revolved heavily around my ability to do so. Between Shuca Berry and Fake Out support from Incineroar, Xerneas was generally manageable. Incineroar’s Assault Vest meant that it was usually outside of Xerneas’ KO range, allowing me to Fake Out Xerneas’ partner instead and still have an Incineroar on Turn 1 of Trick Room, and potentially even use it to set Trick Room up a second time. Special bulk was far and away the most important trait of this Stakataka, so choosing a spread that maximized that was not a hard decision. I rarely missed the extra Attack investment, and it only ever came up against the bulkier Xerneas that were capable of taking a Gyro Ball at neutral. But for those, that meant that Lunala most likely outran them and had the option to Z Move them prior to their setup.
Gyro Ball and Trick Room come as no surprise and Stakataka would not be an effective Pokemon without these options. Wide Guard was important particularly as a response to Xerneas Groudon teams, and left my own Groudon almost entirely safe from theirs (barring Earth Power). As with Lunala’s Wide Guard, the general increase in Special Groudon usage punished this assumption. Since Stakataka needed to be able to function against all Groudon, Shuca Berry allowing it to survive any of their attacks was crucial. Protect felt necessary so that Incineroar or Groudon could be switched in next to Stakataka without it fainting in the process.
How Long? (Salamence-Mega) (F) @ Salamencite
EVs: 196 Atk / 60 SpA / 252 Spe
- Hyper Voice
Salamence was the team’s reliable response to enemy Groudon, providing a secondary Intimidate and a Ground immunity to counteract the 3 Ground weaknesses of the other 5 members. Tailwind was a more reliable positive form of speed control than Tapu Fini’s Icy Wind, and all of Salamence, Groudon, Lunala, and even Tapu Fini were at the right speed tier to benefit from it. This was more important against some teams than others. Against Xerneas, the preferred form of speed control was almost always Trick Room, but for most other matchups Tailwind was a great option. Groudon teams were the most natural to use Tailwind against because of how easy it was to bring Salamence. The EV spread was chosen to make Double-Edge the primary offensive move. I’ve found that Hyper Voice rarely feels like a consequential move in Ultra Series, even on higher Special Attack Salamence. The Aerilate nerf definitely plays a role, but the metagame also favors special bulk more than it did in VGC 2016.
Double Edge has impressive damage calcs against anything that doesn’t resist it, and forced my opponents to keep their Intimidate users in the back, or risk losing something like their Tapu Fini from 65% HP. Hyper Voice was really just the move that was used when there was some reason not to use Double-Edge. The most common reason to click Hyper Voice was that my Salamence was Intimidated to -2 Attack, since Double-Edge was still really powerful even at -1! Some other scenarios were needing to avoid recoil, or wanting to finish off one very low HP Pokemon and chip its partner. Hyper Voice could be changed to Draco Meteor if one was especially worried about Rayquaza, or confident in their ability to win speed ties vs enemy Salamence. Tailwind is a large part of why Salamence is even on this team. It’s fun to use such a potent offensive Pokemon that still has respectable bulk, and even manages to be a pretty good supporter between Intimidate and Tailwind.
Thanks for making it through this report! I wrote it as a love letter to an archetype that I really enjoyed in the past and might even want to revisit later on in Ultra Series, even if I felt it had fallen a little behind by NAIC. Beating the RayOgre builds that became standard with Modest 252 Speed Kyogre was generally difficult, and that became a rather common team immediately after Madison, where I lost to Collin Heier using it in Top 8. Other Groudon also tended to get faster, which meant that the team relied more heavily on its speed control to win Groudon mirrors. Opposing Primals gradually getting faster meant that this team’s speedtiers were outdated, but bulky Groudon is so integrated in the design of this team that it would be difficult to change without other significant changes.
Something else that a number of people brought up, especially after NAIC, was that Luna Don felt like too ‘honest’ of a team. This was something I’d never thought about beforehand - it was an enjoyable team to use and felt like it rewarded solid gameplans while still rewarding the ability to make reads. In hindsight, it’s a very accurate analysis. Luna Don doesn’t have any of the explosive power and ability to defy expectations that many other top teams in the format have. Xerneas’ Geomancy letting it boost 3 terrifying stats to +2 in a single turn is the easiest example of this; Ray Ogre stands out for its ability to make big reads and remove Groudon on switchin, and do clever repositioning with both Volt Switch and U-Turn. Even Graham Amodee’s Lunala Kyogre team serves as an example of this because it did more unexpected things in teambuilding, leading to a Tailwind setup that few of his opponents could prevent or survive. Luna Don had few of these things, it was a balance team that people were familiar with the pieces of that generally aimed to win its mass of neutral matchups by playing better than the opponent. Ultimately, if you’re interested in LunaDon, I recommend experimenting with things that you think have the potential to make it more explosive!
Edited by Zach Carlson