Hello there! My name is Kyle Livinghouse, also known as Animus online. I’ve been playing VGC for about 4 or 5 years now, but I did not get seriously involved in tournaments until the 2018 season. Most of you may recognize me from my appearance at the NAIC where I finished 10th. This year I hope to secure my first worlds invite, so it is with great pleasure to share with you the team that I used to get off to a good start by placing Top 8 at the Philadelphia Regional held in Oaks, PA.

Heading into the event I had tons of practice in the format but I was unsure of my team. I tested Yveltal but I seriously started to doubt it because of the Xerneas matchup, so I turned to Ho-Oh, which my friend Carson St. Denis had been using on the ladder. I had already tested some combinations with Ho-Oh, but only alongside Groudon and Kyogre, which proved inconsistent due to their inaccurate moves. So I turned to Carson late the night before the tournament and asked him to give me whatever he had. He gave me the six I ultimately ended up using but warned me that it was largely untested and that the spreads weren’t optimized. At that point I did not care so I just took the team and made a few tweaks to their moves and spreads and rolled with it.

The Team:

The Ringer
Ho-Oh @ Electric Seed
Ability: Pressure
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpD
Careful Nature
- Sacred Fire
- Toxic
- Recover
- Protect

The star of the team, and one that is dear to me as HeartGold was my first Pokemon game. Ho-Oh changes the dynamic of games with its ability to stall out and win the endgame. Between Toxic, Pressure, Recover, and Protect, Ho-Oh can be quite annoying for the opponent to take down, especially when they are not prepared for it. Toxic is important in setting up the chip damage necessary to get the opposition in range for other teammates’ attacks or for Ho-Oh itself to stall the endgame with combinations of Protect and Recover. Sacred Fire gives Ho-Oh both a way to hit the Steel-types that are unaffected by Toxic and a means of offense. The spread, like many others on this team, is suboptimal, but it did its job. It easily walled Xerneas and other special attackers, while Electric Seed bolstered its weaker physical defense. This Defense boost in tandem with the option of Intimidate enabled Ho-Oh to survive almost every hit.

Xerneas @ Power Herb
Ability: Fairy Aura
EVs: 252 HP / 92 Def / 92 SpA / 4 SpD / 68 Spe
Modest Nature
- Geomancy
- Dazzling Gleam
- Moonblast
- Protect

Providing the team with a means of offense, Xerneas was an obvious choice as the second restricted slot. I utilized a rather standard build as far as the moveset. I chose Moonblast and Dazzling Gleam for the Fairy Aura boosted STAB attack options. The spread was a generic, bulky one that speed creeps the 52 Speed ones by a couple points.

Incineroar (M) @ Figy Berry
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 236 HP / 4 Atk / 12 Def / 228 SpD / 28 Spe
Careful Nature
- Fake Out
- Roar
- Knock Off
- Flare Blitz

Despite already having a Fire-type in Ho-Oh, Incineroar’s invaluable niche in sporting all of Fake Out, Intimidate, and Roar was more than enough to convince me it was the best to fill the slot here. Fake Out and Intimidate support both Xerneas and Ho-Oh immensely as their Special Defense is naturally higher. Roar can help to not only shut down opposing Xerneas’ set up, but more importantly for this team, put a stop to opposing Trick Room set up. I chose Flare Blitz and Knock Off as the STAB moves of choice.

Tapu Koko @ Choice Specs
Ability: Electric Surge
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
- Volt Switch
- Thunderbolt
- Dazzling Gleam
- Grass Knot

Tapu Koko gives the team some immediate offense thanks to Choice Specs. Volt Switch can be abused to take advantage of positioning and rotate Fake Out users in. Thunderbolt, on the other hand, is the primary Electric-type attack that dealt more damage for end games. Dazzling Gleam was worth it thanks to the boost of the Choice Specs, and it could be boosted further by Fairy Aura. Grass Knot was a cheeky final choice to nab a knockout on Groudon after a tad of chip damage. In retrospect, I would have definitely prefered a Modest nature to have a greater chance at the surprise Groudon knockout. Otherwise, I am glad to have utilized Tapu Koko as it was a reliable pivot that also provided Electric Terrain so that I did not have to worry about Sleep-centered strategies.

Nice Guy
Ludicolo @ Assault Vest
Ability: Swift Swim
EVs: 228 HP / 4 Def / 140 SpA / 36 SpD / 100 Spe
Modest Nature
- Scald
- Icy Wind
- Grass Knot
- Fake Out

Ludicolo is the dedicated Kyogre counter for the team. I would have liked to fit Sunny Day but the extra Special Defense bulk was necessary on a team lacking switchins to Choice Scarf Kyogre. Icy Wind was a nifty form of speed control on a team that lacked any form of it otherwise, which was appreciated. Otherwise, the other moves are rather standard, with another Fake Out to support the restricted Pokemon and dual STAB moves to hit for good chip damage. I’m unsure of what the spread does, but it does not outpace Timid Choice Scarf Kyogre which came as a surprise early in the tournament. In retrospect I would likely adjust the Speed a bit higher to ensure I outspeed all Kyogre.

Lucky You
Smeargle @ Focus Sash
Ability: Moody
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
- Fake Out
- Follow Me
- Wide Guard
- Spore

Smeargle is the third Fake Out user on the team, but has other support options up its sleeve such as Follow Me and Wide Guard. This allows it to be a great partner next to Xerneas in setting up Geomancy and getting a free switch in for momentum. Wide Guard was another nuisance for Choice Scarf Kyogre and other Pokemon dependent on spread attacks. Spore gave the option to threaten Sleep but it was underwhelming due to the sheer amount of Safety Goggles users, Grass-types, and instances where Electric Terrain was active. I would swap to Spiky Shield in an instant if I could go back and do it again.

The Tournament:

Round 1: Sohaib Mufti (WW) 1-0

Right away I got a name I did not want to see early. However when team preview started I was relieved to see virtually no reliable Ho-Oh answers. Sohaib played quite well, calling my obvious Protects and switches in the first game, but the matchup was too much for him to overcome. Ho-Oh simply walled everything with Toxic. Game two was quite similar, and the turn his Xerneas fainted to Toxic damage was the same turn I positioned mine to get boosted up, and from there Xerneas and Ho-Oh won easily. He was a very nice opponent and even encouraged me throughout the day!

Round 2: Nico Villalobos (WLW) 2-0

I don’t remember much about this set, but it was a rough matchup. Nico played it well but allowed me to get away with cycling my Fake Outs to stall out Trick Room in the first game. Both of my restricted Pokemon felt like deadweight here, but Tapu Koko did tons of work outside of Trick Room thanks to its Choice Specs. In the second game, Nico was able to make better use of his Trick Room turns and correctly called some of my Protects. The third game played more similarly to the first in that I denied the second Trick Room and pivoted my multiple Fake Out users.

Round 3: Chuppa Cross (LWW) 3-0

In the first game I brought Ho-Oh to counteract Chuppa’s Lunala and Xerneas, but it ended up dead weight because of the Stakataka. I forfeited at 4v4 to preserve information after taking lots of damage. Games two and three were was mostly about denying his Xerneas while setting up my own. After some complicated maneuvering I managed to take the set in a fashion that I am very proud of.

Round 4: Robert Moore (WW) 4-0

Here was Ho-Oh’s chance to shine again, the only obstacle being Gravity + Precipice Blades. After landing a Sacred Fire burn on Groudon early in the first game he did not have much of a chance to touch Ho-Oh, and it won on its own. The key turn in the next game was him predicting my Tapu Koko to switch out the second time it was out, and targeting the other slot with Venusaur, which allowed my Tapu Koko’s Grass Knot to knock out his Groudon, paving the path for Ho-Oh to win.

Round 5: Michael D’Angelo (WW) 5-0

This match up ends up scarily if he sets up speed control favorable for his Kyogre, so I tried to prevent it no matter what. Tapu Koko was a strong option and at one point Michael should have won game 1 but I got a lucky critical hit on his incoming Incineroar, which set me up for an end game that he could not overcome. Most of this set is fuzzy but the second game I managed to work around his anti-Xerneas checks to put Tapu Koko in a position to sweep. I got lucky again with Tapu Koko snatching another critical hit but I felt much more comfortable in my positioning the second time around.

Round 6: Enosh Shachar (WW) 6-0

This match was streamed here.

Round 7: Justin Burns (LWL) 6-1

I struggled immensely with Stakataka in this set, as Justin paired it with Tapu Lele. Kyogre did not help in the matchup either. Toxicroak also does tons of damage and cannot be reliably knocked out by anything on my team, so it was an uphill battle. I basically had to get Xerenas in a boosted position next to something like Tapu Koko which could threaten his Stakataka. I managed to take the second game but too much was required to sway the set in my favor, and Justin won game three.

Round 8: Michael Lanzano (WLL) 6-2

Michael had the team I had expected a lot of coming into this tournament, but Gravity did complicate things. In the first game I managed to snag a burn earlier in the game and stall out the Gravity turns before he was able to damage Ho-Oh. However in the second two games he played flawlessly, preserving his Bronzong and Groudon for the late game and baiting my Ho-Oh out in the early game with Incineroar + Xerneas. Very well played on his end, he did not give me much room to get my way out of that one.

Top 8: Justin Burns (LWL)

This match was streamed here.


Overall, I am very proud of my result given that I felt pretty awful physically over the weekend. I was mostly hoping for any sort of CP and ended up somehow in my first live event Top Cut! Thanks especially to Carson for the team help and to all my other friends for the support, there are too many to put here and I love you all!