Hello! I’m Zach, and VGC Stats is my own personal project. While VGC Stats has kept me in constant contact with the VGC community this year, I had not seriously played VGC since Worlds 2016. With a new and exciting format coming up this year, I decided that I’d be returning to the competitive field for another go. I put a lot of pressure on myself, valuing this tournament far more than any in my past. I wanted to prove to myself that I could compete with the players whose names I’ve entered into our database countless times.

I knew finding a solid team and practicing enough would be a giant challenge, so I started working immediately after I got home from Nashville. I played nearly 500 games on the VGC 2019 ladder in the eighteen days between then and the day of the regional, which is likely more than I’ve practiced in every other year I was playing VGC (2014-2016) all combined. About halfway through, I eventually found an effective team worth settling on: Lunala/Xerneas. I started regularly asking my friends for Best of 3 sets, and continued playing more and more games on the ladder.

Two days before the tournament, I entered panic mode, as the regional was right around the corner and I started to doubt my team. Chuppa and I nearly switched to Tommy Cooleen’s Kyogre/Ho-Oh team (which would take 2nd place piloted by Andy Burley) the night before the tournament, but on Saturday morning we decided to lock in the six we played the most games with: our Lunala/Xerneas team, with Lovely Kiss Smeargle and Stakataka.

The Team

Lunala
Lunala @ Choice Specs
Ability: Shadow Shield
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
- Moongeist Beam
- Psyshock
- Focus Blast
- Moonblast

Bring rate: 2020 (100%)
Win rate: 1320 (65%)

I picked Lunala because it can soundly handle most of the Pokemon that threaten Xerneas, paving the way for Xerneas to clean up whatever remains. Bronzong, Dusk Mane Necrozma, and Amoonguss were Lunala’s most obvious victims, but Ferrothorn and Stakataka also dropped to two Moongeist Beams. Before I tried Lunala, I was skeptical about using one of my restricted Pokemon to lock into one attack at an average speed tier. However, the power of Moongeist Beam and safety guaranteed by Shadow Shield made Lunala such a difficult force to stop that it quickly grew on me. Choice Specs was necessary, without it Lunala could not always OHKO Bronzong. I preferred Timid to Modest nature because Choice Specs Lunala mirrors are a nightmare and I wanted mine to always be faster.

While virtually every team had an Incineroar to switch into Moongiest Beam, Incineroar was frequently the only Ghost-type resist on opposing teams, which meant Lunala could deal huge damage almost every turn. Psyshock exploited Kyogre’s weaker physical defense, and ignored opposing Xerneas’ Special Defense boosts to cleanly 2HKO. Focus Blast did not KO Incineroar from full HP, but it was still helpful for finishing them off after they already took a little damage. The accuracy was shaky but I only used Focus Blast 4 or 5 times out of 20 games. Moonblast came in handy exactly once in the tournament, when it took out Wolfe’s Zygarde in one hit, but in practice it was also useful for hitting Yveltal while Xerneas’s Fairy Aura was active.

Xerneas
Xerneas @ Power Herb
Ability: Fairy Aura
EVs: 244 HP / 4 Def / 68 SpA / 4 SpD / 188 Spe
Modest Nature
- Moonblast
- Geomancy
- Dazzling Gleam
- Protect

Bring rate: 1720 (85%)
Win rate: 1117 (65%)

Xerneas was excellent for our team because Lunala and Smeargle could handle nearly any Pokemon that might stop Xerneas from boosting its stats with Geomancy and then rampaging through opposing teams. I strongly believe that it is too difficult to have a workable Yveltal matchup if you’re not using Xerneas, and picking Lunala meant our team in particular especially needed the insurance against Yveltal.

Chuppa and I figured that many bulky Xerneas at the regional would hit 140 Speed to outrun Smeargle. To give ourselves an edge we invested 24 extra EVs beyond that benchmark, giving our Xerneas 143 Speed. The extra investment allowed us to outpace (or at least Speed tie) nearly every Xerneas we encountered during the tournament. 143 Speed also made Xerneas faster than any Kyogre or Groudon that did not have Speed-boosting natures or items. Fully investing into HP from there gave our Xerneas a defensive advantage over the Timid Xerneas we knew would be outspeeding us anyway. The dip in Special Attack was barely noticeable because a boosted Xerneas hits ridiculously hard regardless.

Incineroar
Incineroar @ Figy Berry
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Atk / 4 Def / 236 SpD / 12 Spe
Careful Nature
- Flare Blitz
- Knock Off
- U-turn
- Fake Out

Bring rate: 1020 (50%)
Win rate: 910 (90%)

Valued on any team for Intimidate and Fake Out, Incineroar was excellent for mine in particular because it could break down Steel-types for Xerneas, and prevented opposing Lunala from dismantling my team.

My only regret with Incineroar at the regional was that I used it in only half of my games. Roar was a tempting option for my fourth move, but in a format where positioning and planning out the board is crucial to victory, I felt I could not give up U-turn, especially because it allowed me extra opportunities to set up Xerneas. Incineroar’s nearly maxed out bulk allowed it to survive a boosted Moonblast from opposing Xerneas, eat its Figy Berry, and then safely switch to a more appropriate teammate for the situation.

Smeargle
Smeargle @ Focus Sash
Ability: Moody
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
- Lovely Kiss
- Follow Me
- Wide Guard
- Fake Out

Bring rate: 1820 (90%)
Win rate: 1218 (66%)

Here’s the star of the show, it’s Smeargle! Between its access to any support move in the game and a hilariously broken ability in Moody, Smeargle was a perfect partner to ride Xerneas to victory. Oftentimes my opponents would use Tapu Fini or Tapu Koko to prevent their Pokemon from falling asleep, and then ignore Smeargle. Smeargle could then sit there accumulating Moody boosts, becoming more threatening every turn it stayed on the field.

Smeargle’s Lovely Kiss was the most important move on the entire team because it enabled Xerneas to set up in times when it flat out shouldn’t have been able to. Lovely Kiss’s 75% accuracy may seem awful when compared to Spore’s 100% accuracy. But when Amoonguss, Ferrothorn, Venusaur, and a variety of Steel-types holding Safety Goggles are so effective at stopping Xerneas in its tracks, I’d always prefer to have an option to incapacitate them 75% of the time rather than 0% of the time. There were many hopeless games that I ended up winning because I kissed my opponent’s Amoonguss goodnight. The key to Lovely Kiss is to only use it when you really need to. Aside from Lovely Kiss, Smeargle has three of the best support moves in the game, and if you use them properly then you will rarely find yourself gambling on the chance to abuse Lovely Kiss. Facing down Kyogre? Time for Wide Guard. It’s turn 1? Fake Out that Amoonguss! Need to stop a Roar, but you’re at -1 Accuracy? Follow Me’s your best bet. Safety Goggles Bronzong? Pucker up…

Stakataka
Stakataka @ Lum Berry
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 252 HP / 68 Atk / 188 SpD
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
- Gyro Ball
- Rock Slide
- Trick Room
- Wide Guard

Bring rate: 920 (45%)
Win rate: 59 (56%)

Stakataka’s job is to handle opposing Xerneas when I don’t want to rely on my own Xerneas to win the mirror. Stakataka’s typing and colossal base Defense allow it to stand in the face of both Xerneas and Incineroar unfazed, forcing Xerneas players to resort to other means of removing Stakataka. Chuppa and I chose to use Lum Berry instead of Safety Goggles on our Stakataka because we didn’t want to be put to sleep by Lovely Kiss Smeargle. For me, the Lum Berry never activated during the entire tournament. The other odd choice on this Stakataka is Wide Guard, which replaced Protect in an attempt to improve the Xerneas/Groudon matchup. I used Wide Guard several times throughout the tournament, and it worked out for me because almost all the attacks I wanted to protect Stakataka from were spread attacks anyway. I preferred Brave rather than Lonely natured Stakataka (which gets Attack boosts from Beast Boost rather than Defense boosts), because Stakataka’s job on this team is not to try to sweep, but simply to handle Xerneas, so the Defense stat is important.

Ludicolo
Ludicolo @ Sitrus Berry
Ability: Swift Swim
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 Spe
Modest Nature
- Grass Knot
- Scald
- Fake Out
- Protect

Bring rate: 620 (30%)
Win rate: 26 (33%)

I used Ludicolo for many of my practice games but its performance at the actual tournament was a huge flop. Ludicolo’s role was handling Kyogre teams so that I wouldn’t be forced to spam Wide Guard with Smeargle, and in practice it always seemed to have an appropriate target to pummel with either Grass Knot or Scald. By playing conservatively with Kyogre (or, more often than not, leaving it behind altogether) and bringing pairs of Pokemon like Yveltal, Ferrothorn, Toxicroak, Kartana, Venusaur, Gengar, etc., my Philadelphia opponents were able to render Ludicolo useless. I lost 4 of the 6 games I brought Ludicolo to, and in the other 2, I won before it could make an appearance. Despite its horrific performance, I think Ludicolo may have pressured my opponents into using suboptimal leads. Along with Protect and Sitrus Berry, the bulk allowed Ludicolo to waste time against Groudon teams that tried to creep up on me with Trick Room.

The Tournament

Round 1 - Nicholas Martinez (LWW) 1-0


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In Game 1 I started off ahead by using Smeargle’s Wide Guard and Lovely Kiss to enable Lunala to freely spam Moongeist Beam, but lost steam as I couldn’t handle Ferrothorn and Venusaur without Incineroar. I had a nearly identical gameplan for Game 2, but this time I actually brought Incineroar in the back, so I was able to handle the troublesome lategame Grass-types. Game 3 was tougher because Nicholas led with Hawlucha and Tapu Lele, but Smeargle’s Fake Out was a safe Turn 1 play that prevented Tailwind, enabled Lunala to OHKO Tapu Lele before it could move, and kept Smeargle around for long enough to accumulate a game-defining number of Evasion and defensive boosts. Wide Guard was excellent for the whole set because it defended Lunala from Kyogre and Groudon without gambling on Lovely Kiss’ accuracy.

Round 2 - Dylan Evans (WW) 2-0


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At team preview I saw two Pokemon that give Xerneas an awful time, and then I remembered what my friend Aaron Traylor told me: the funniest way to beat supposed Xerneas counters is to throw Xerneas at them. I won Game 1 by forcing Dylan into a position where he had to either let my Xerneas set up unhindered, or Haze away the Geomancy boosts from both of our Xerneas with Crobat. In Game 2, I couldn’t use Lovely Kiss thanks to Tapu Fini’s Misty Terrain, but Smeargle was still amazing because Wide Guard blocked both Icy Wind and Precipice Blades. Smeargle’s Moody boosts were helpful in this match because my opponent ignored Smeargle in Tapu Fini’s Misty Terrain, which allowed Smeargle to stockpile Moody boosts and outlast the 5 turns of Misty Terrain to sleep for the win.

Round 3 - Sean Bannen (LWW) 3-0


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In Game 1 Sean paralyzed most of my Pokemon with Raichu’s Nuzzle, so I figured Trick Room was my out, but my poor Stakataka was Low Kicked by Sean’s Life Orb Bisharp fairly early into Trick Room. For Game 2 I decided to leave Ludicolo out of the match because its advantage against Kyogre was not worth the weakness to the rest of Sean’s team, and bringing Smeargle made all the difference. Game 3 of this set was my favorite match of the whole tournament. After a messy exchange with Bisharp, the tipping point of the game was when I switched Lunala in for Xerneas while Smeargle used Wide Guard, nullifying Raichu’s Feint using Lunala’s Ghost-type and wasting Sean’s turn completely by blocking Kyogre’s Origin Pulse.

Round 4 - Andrew Davis (WW) 4-0


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I noticed in team preview that Andrew had a similar team to mine, but his lack of Smeargle made me confident leading with my own. Smeargle’s Fake Out being faster than Andrew’s Incineroar’s Fake Out granted my Xerneas a quick and easy Geomancy in Game 1, and even though Andrew’s Stakataka KOed my Xerneas, my Lunala was able to clean up the game from there. In Game 2 Andrew led with Tapu Koko, but I figured it lacked Taunt since it had used Electroweb and Protect, so I used Fake Out on his Xerneas and set up my own Geomancy. Smeargle’s Wide Guard saved me in Game 2 by rendering Electroweb useless, and Andrew didn’t bring his Stakataka, so nothing could stop my Xerneas this time around.

Round 5 - James Baek (LWW) 5-0


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In Game 1 I made the mistake of using Geomancy in front of Gengar, who quickly erased my boosts with Haze and cleared the path for James’s own Xerneas. In Game 2, I didn’t want to fall into the same trap, so I started with Lunala instead. I missed a crucial Lovely Kiss on Gengar, but Smeargle redeemed itself with a Speed boost and Accuracy drop. All the times I fed Smeargle Poke Beans in Refresh paid off as Smeargle landed the -1 Accuracy Lovely Kiss on Gengar, and then Xerneas carried me to victory. In Game 3 I led with Stakataka and Incineroar because I wanted to limit James’ momentum by preventing Gengar from tearing apart my team from the get-go. I doubled into Gengar Turn 1 with Gyro Ball and U-turn to knock it out, and winning from there was a matter of getting Xerneas into position at the right time to Geomancy.

Round 6 - Justin Burns (LL) 5-1


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Justin’s team was incredibly threatening for me, as he combined four Pokemon that I usually didn’t struggle with individually to put me into a variety of uncomfortable positions. His Stakataka handled Xerneas extremely well, and Yveltal pressured Lunala big time. I learned later in the set that the Yveltal had Black Glasses, when it completely obliterated Lunala even through Shadow Shield. When Justin’s Tapu Lele revealed Taunt, I realized that he had a secure plan for completely shutting down Xerneas, Lunala, and Smeargle, and I lost quickly. Thanks Justin for giving me a set I could learn from, and congrats on your big win!

Round 7 - Wolfe Glick (WW) 6-1


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Watch this set here!

This match was on stream! I had never been on a stream for a major tournament before, so anxiety was eating away at me before the match. I respect Wolfe a lot and I think we can all agree that he’s one of the best players in the world, but the last thing I wanted was to lose on my first appearance on stream. Lovely Kiss won me the set by putting Wolfe’s Amoonguss to sleep repeatedly. I was so thrilled to win this set! No matter what happened next round, whether or not I top cut the regional, I was so happy with myself at that point that I didn’t even care anymore.

Round 8 - Brian Youm (LWL) 6-2


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From team preview, I noticed Brian had no Tapu Fini to stop Lovely Kiss from putting his entire team to sleep. Amoonguss, Ludicolo, and Safety Goggles Bronzong are all immune to Spore but not Lovely Kiss, so I knew that would be central to how I approach the matchup. In Game 1 I put myself in an awesome position after setting up Geomancy and landing a Lovely Kiss on Amoonguss, but then Brian’s Xerneas (also boosted) broke through my Special Defense boosts with a critical hit Dazzling Gleam. Game 2 started the same way as Game 1, except this time Brian didn’t land a critical hit on my Xerneas. Game 3 came down to a guessing game of Stakataka and Smeargle vs. Amoonguss and a severely weakened Groudon, but I guessed wrong as to which Pokemon would Protect, and my tournament run came to a screeching halt.

Conclusion

I put more pressure on myself to perform well at this tournament than I ever had in the past, and I think I can say I’m pleased with how it turned out. My goal was to prove to myself that I can be a strong player, and that I understand this game in a way that I could not before. Not only that, but I can still grow stronger, especially with all the newfound support I’ve found. It made me so happy when the veteran players I respect told me they’re proud of me!

Thank you to…

  • Aaron Traylor for getting me into this format and encouraging me to play again after leaving competition for years, guiding me through most everything I do that’s related to Pokemon, cheering me on throughout the tournament, and editing this report!
  • Chuppa for talking to me every day whether it’s about Pokemon or just life, for being both my best testing buddy and my closest confidant.
  • Enosh for teaching me how to approach this format by making the best decisions possible every turn, and spending so much time helping me adopt a winning mindset.
  • Jake Magier, Ryan, Wacka, Yan, Dani, Jonathan McMillan, Nails, and all my other friends who hung out with me at the tournament.
  • Jonathan Evans and Gavin for the team.
  • My dad for driving me to the regional and taking such a huge interest in VGC.
  • Everyone else who helped me with Bo3 practice before the tournament.
  • You, for visiting VGC Stats and reading my report!