22 February 2017

This past weekend I went to my second VGC2017 tournament, this time the regionals in Anaheim. My first tournament was San Jose regionals where I went 6-2 but didn't make it into the top cut. I wrote up my experience from that tournament in a blog post. This is going to be a much briefer team report, as I didn't take particularly detailed notes on the turn-by-turn decisions, but I'll try to give my impressions of the matches.

## The Team

This team is available as a QR team!

Marowak-Alola @ Thick Club
Ability: Lightning Rod
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 44 Atk / 4 Def / 20 SpD / 188 Spe
- Flare Blitz
- Bonemerang
- Protect  

If there's one thing that's obvious in the current VGC metagame, it's that there's a whole lot of Arcanine. Marowak was my attempt at an answer to it, as it resists flare blitz, is immune to wild charge and extreme speed, and protects your water and flying types from the wild charges. Additionally, a lot of teams that I built had trouble with Tapu Koko, and Marowak helped a ton with those matchups. The speed EVs are set up so that Marowak can outspeed base 109s in tailwind (most notably Kartana). As a side effect, I also get to outspeed most Celesteelas.

During the tournament, I was not particularly happy with Marowak. There were a lot fewer Kokos than on Battle Spot, and it took more damage than I would've liked even from Arcanine. There was one match where I switched Marowak into a flare blitz from Arcanine and it took way more damage than I could really afford there. When you do get to absorb a wild charge or gigavolt havoc, Marowak is great, but I think overall, Arcanine would probably have done the job better.

Mandibuzz @ Misty Seed
Ability: Overcoat
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 20 Def / 4 SpA / 92 SpD / 140 Spe
Calm Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
- Foul Play
- Taunt
- Tailwind
- Snarl  

One of the things I wanted to change from San Jose was to have some sort of speed control. I tried setting tailwind with Talonflame on one of my earlier teams, but I didn't like the fact that it was relatively easy for my opponent to knock out the Talonflame in exchange for the tailwind, and then stall out the tailwind without too much loss. Mandibuzz's bulk with the misty seed fit my playstyle a lot better, and having taunt available for trick room or setup moves felt really good.

The EV spread here is set up for two things. First, I wanted Mandibuzz to outspeed Eevee. My plan for the Eevee + Clefairy lead was to lead Garchomp + Mandibuzz, then tectonic rage the Eevee and tailwind. Assuming that Clefairy used follow me, Garchomp could then pick up the KO on Clefairy with a poison jab, and then Mandibuzz could taunt the Eevee to prevent the baton pass. Of course, I didn't play against any Eevee at the tournament, and so this plan never actually mattered, but being faster than pretty much every other Mandibuzz was a nice bonus in Fini+Buzz mirrors.

Tapu Fini @ Leftovers
Ability: Misty Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 100 Def / 84 SpA / 44 SpD / 28 Spe
Calm Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
- Muddy Water
- Moonblast
- Calm Mind
- Protect  

The other half of the Fini + Buzz combo. I've played a bit with Specs Fini and Calm Mind Fini and in my opinion Calm Mind Fini is significantly stronger. You gain the ability to protect, you gain a significant amount of bulk, and you gain leftovers recovery. You do almost always want to set up to +1 due to Fini's initial damage output being lackluster, but the boost to your bulk makes that feasible in a lot of cases.

The biggest problem with this set is the Muddy Water accuracy. You can say things like "You're more likely to get an accuracy drop than to miss" and not be wrong, but in a huge number of situations you only really care about hitting one of the two targets, so you're basically relying on a weaker hydro pump. Since getting home I've heard the idea of running Waterium Z on Fini to give you that single target perfect accuracy when you need it, and it is certainly a possibility I might explore in the future.

Garchomp @ Groundium Z
Ability: Rough Skin
Level: 50
EVs: 12 HP / 236 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
- Earthquake
- Poison Jab
- Fire Fang
- Protect  

Pretty standard Garchomp set. Garchomp loves tailwind and it answers a lot of generic strong pokemon like Gigalith and Arcanine. Fire Fang is there to hit Kartanas strongly without spending the Z move. Just like always, Garchomp has a few major weaknesses. Ninetales outspeeds and threatens an OHKO, Celesteela essentially walls Garchomp, Kartana can outspeed and kill with bloom doom, and flying types or levitators can switch in on your tectonic rage.

I also found out that Fire Fang barely does anything to Celesteela. In the future, I would run Flamethrower instead, as it does more damage to Kartana and the move really shouldn't be used in any other cases anyway. Plus, flamethrower has 100% accuracy.

Ninetales-Alola @ Focus Sash
Ability: Snow Warning
Level: 50
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
- Blizzard
- Encore
- Aurora Veil
- Protect  

This is a relatively standard Ninetales set, with encore in the final move slot. I originally tried encore based on a suggestion from my stream viewers (by the way, I stream on Twitch and it worked out quite well for me on Battle Spot. With Gyarados and Gastrodon taking a less prominent role in the metagame, Freeze-Dry was feeling less useful, and it really doesn't answer Tapu Fini at all.

During the tournament, however, I rarely got a chance to use Encore. It did make a few of the endgames safer but I don't think any of them was worse than a 70-30 to begin with (like encoring an enemy Gyarados into protect when it's in blizzard range, but hail is gone). One of my opponents used Icy Wind to good effect against me, and I feel like that is probably a stronger call overall, since Ninetales generally sees play in the early stages of a game, and encore is most useful in the lategame.

Kartana @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 68 HP / 120 Atk / 20 Def / 116 SpD / 184 Spe
- Smart Strike
- Sacred Sword
- Night Slash  

When I first built this team I had Assault Vest on the Kartana. However, the way I was playing the Kartana was generally to deal with a single particular threat, and there were a lot of random Choice Scarf users running around Battle Spot. Plus, being able to outspeed Tapu Koko or scarf Leles felt quite nice, and so I made the switch to Scarf at the last minute. I actually messed up with my EV training and intended to have 150 speed (the EVs listed put Kartana at 152 speed), with a bit more attack. It wasn't too big of a deal, but I was a little bit sad.

Of course, this being a tournament setting, most of the scarf users were pretty standard, so assault vest would probably have worked fine. Being unable to switch moves did cause a problem here and there, but outspeeding other Kartanas in order to get a Sacred Sword in was quite useful. Outspeeding scarf Lele was also nice. There were times I wished I could change my move, but it felt quite balanced between scarf and non-scarf. On the other hand, there were many, many times I wished I could protect, and I never actually used Night Slash for the whole tournament, so I feel that Grassium Z is likely to be a better choice for the future.

## Round 1

Game 1 I led Garchomp and Kartana with Ninetales and Marowak in the back, she leads Garchomp and Magnezone with Porygon2 and Muk in the back. Magnezone went down quickly and I had a good lead, then I absentmindedly encored Muk after a protect+trick room turn. Luckily, she had picked Poison Jab so my encore actually ended up protecting my Marowak from any real danger.

Game 2 I led Ninetales and Kartana against Muk and Porygon2. I'm not proud of how this game went and I ended up getting 4-0d, with my opponent not even showing any of her other pokemon.

Game 3 I went back to the Garchomp and Kartana lead against her Porygon2 and Garchomp. I got the turn 1 KO on Porygon2 with tectonic rage and sacred sword and the game was pretty straightforward from there, with her having Magnezone and Muk in the back.

I was very unhappy with how I played this match, but I got away with a win and I am generally quite bad at the start of tournaments like this because I am not used to waking up so early, so I was mostly just relieved.

Result: Win 2-1 (1-0 Overall)

## Round 2

Game 1 I lead Fini and Mandibuzz with Marowak and Kartana in the back, and he leads Gyarados plus Ninetales with Tapu Koko and Turtonator in the back. I got to see life orb and taunt on his Gyarados, and got a freeze on something that instantly thawed so it didn't change anything. Turtonator took out my Kartana when I played straightforwardly against an obvious protect, but I was in a position to take down the game regardless.

Game 2 I switched it up to lead Kartana and Ninetales against his Gyarados and Tapu Lele, and this was pretty much perfect. I had Marowak and Mandibuzz in the back, while he had Turtonator and Koko in the back, which he double switched in on turn 1. I froze the Turtonator, but it then died before taking its turn on turn 2, so I don't think it mattered at all. My opponent mentioned after the game that he was hoping to catch me off guard with Z-Nature Power from his Lele, but my ordering change threw his plan off.

I was much happier with this match, and happy to be off to a good start.

Result: Win 2-0 (2-0 Overall)

## Round 3

Game 1 I led Garchomp and Ninetales with Kartana and Mandibuzz in the back against Oranguru and Snorlax with Ninetales and Mudsdale in the back. I got a freeze on Oranguru on turn 1, but it instantly thawed so the trick room did go up. Don't remember much else, but I won this game.

Game 2 I led Fini and Buzz with Marowak and Ninetales in the back, while he led Aranine and Ninetales with Oranguru and Snorlax in the back. I learned that Arcanine was carrying Firium Z and snarl here, and ended up losing, though I don't remember much about it.

Game 3 we both went with the same plans as game 2, but this time I managed to take the game. I don't remember much about the early game, but I remember that the Firium Z and snarl reveals in game 2 made me feel that he was most likely a burn up or overheat variant, and therefore shouldn't have wild charge, so I wouldn't need to switch in Marowak too quickly. In the late game, I got to taunt the Snorlax while the Oranguru set up trick room, so there wasn't much of a threat. I actually thought that it was a recycle set because of never seeing protect, but my opponent told me that he just never used protect.

At this point, I was quite happy to be 3-0, but the day is long and I'd need to keep winning.

Result: Win 2-1 (3-0 Overall)

## Round 4

Game 1 I led Kartana Garchomp with Marowak Ninetales in the back. My opponent led Lele Ninetales, with Arcanine and Garchomp in the back. I lost the game, but I got to learn that his Chomp wasn't scarfed, so my Ninetales would be properly threatening to it.

Game 2 I led Fini and Buzz with Marowak and Ninetales in the back, while he led Arcanine and Ninetales, with Koko and Pheromosa in the back. I was pleasantly surprised during the game when Pheromosa failed to KO my Fini with a poison jab and went down without a sash (which makes sense looking back as of course Ninetales has the sash). Marowak was quite good against everything he brought, and I managed to win this game.

In Game 3 I decided to switch to a Ninetales and Garchomp lead, with Marowak and Kartana in the back. I was worried about the Pheromosa, but my scarf Kartana would be able to help deal with it. On the other side, my opponent led Lele and Garchomp with Ninetales and Arcanine in the back. This game was very close and came down to a speed tie.

We reached a state where I had Kartana and Ninetales in, with Ninetales at 1 hp and Garchomp in the back. He had Ninetales at almost but not quite full and Garchomp at half. Garchomp had just protected on the previous turn, and Kartana was locked into Sacred Sword. We both have Z moves available. Ideally I'd want to just sacrifice my Garchomp in order to be able to use sacred sword, but if his Z move goes into my Ninetales's protect then I lose regardless. As it turned out, I lost the speed tie so my Ninetales didn't get to kill his chomp, and I lost the match.

Actually, the game wasn't over there. Hail ran out when my Garchomp came in, and I still had my Z move available while he had used his on the Kartana. So if he missed his attack, I would be able to still win by knocking out the Ninetales and then tectonic raging the Garchomp. Unfortunately, Icy wind is 95% accurate and did hit.

This loss was quite frustrating. I definitely didn't play team preview optimally in game 1, but I was happy with my adaptations and felt like I was in a pretty good position in game 3, though there was probably something I could have done earlier on to avoid the speed tie. On the bright side, since my first loss was in round 4, my tie breakers should be pretty good and so I felt like I would have a good shot at top cut if I could go 7-2.

Result: Loss 1-2 (3-1 Overall)

## Round 5

In games 1 and 2 we both played team preview identically: I led Fini+Buzz with Kartana and Garchomp in the back, while my opponent led Lele and Kartana, with Gigalith and Porygon2 in the back. Ironically, while his Kartana's leaf blade killed Fini in game 1 and left it at 1 in game 2, I won game 1 and lost game 2, though a big part of that was my opponent running out of time at one point in game 1 and as a result using psychic into my Mandibuzz (during the game I figured he had just predicted a switch, but he mentioned running out of time after the match).

In game 3, I switched my plan to Kartana and Mandibuzz against Tapu Koko and Tapu Lele. His Lele was scafed (but set up to be slower than his Koko), so the Kartana lead threaened it quite well, and I was able to take the match.

Result: Win 2-1 (4-1 Overall)

## Round 6

Game 1 I led Kartana and Ninetales with Fini and Marowak in the back against his Goodra and Arcanine, with Celesteela and Muk in the back. I was in a commanding position until my Fini missed a +1 muddy water on an Arcanine at approximately 75%, and then got roared out. That swing was enough for my opponent to take the game.

Going into game 2 I looked at his team again and realized that there wasn't a whole lot of play against the Fini Mandibuzz combo. So I led Fini and Mandibuzz with Garchomp and Ninetales in the back. This time, my opponent led Goodra and Muk with Arcanine and Celesteela in the back, and I was able to take the game.

Game 3 I chose the same plan as game 2, and my opponent tried Garchomp and Celesteela with Muk and Arcanine in the back, but the game still ended up in my favor, so I was able to take the match win despite the bout of bad luck in the first game.

Result: Win 2-1 (5-1 Overall)

## Round 7

Game 1 I led Ninetales and Garchomp with Kartana and Marowak in the back, while he led Fini and Mandibuzz with Koko and Celesteela in the back. I lost this game because I wasn't able to get any positions where Marowak could take out Celesteela, and then I had no real options against it.

Game 2 I decided that my best chance was to play a Fini+Buzz mirror, and due to my Mandibuzz being faster I got to deny his tailwind. Unfortunately, I missed snarl on his Tapu Fini, so when I wanted to switch in Marowak it was taking a +1 muddy water instead of a neutral one, the difference between being OHKOd and not. He also got the better end of muddy water accuracy drops, as I repeatedly missed moonblasts on his Fini while only at -2 accuracy.

This was a pretty disappointing match to lose because a huge part of it was missing the snarl on Fini. 95% accuracy moves are accurate enough so that you can mostly rely on them, but as a result when they miss it's a gigantic swing in the other direction. At this point I'd need to win my last two matches in order to have any chance of making cut, and even then I was unconfident, as my first round opponent had dropped after starting out 0-2.

Result: Loss 1-2 (5-2 Overall)

## Round 8

Game 1 I led Kartana and Ninetales with Garchomp and Fini in the back, while he led Aerodactyl and Garchomp with Kartana and Arcanine in the back. I got to learn that his Garchomp was scarfed, when he Flamethrowered my Ninetales and Rock Slided with Aerodactyl. Luckily, Rock slide missed my Ninetales so I got the double KO on turn 1, and I was able to close out the game from there.

In game 2, I led Mandibuzz and Garchomp with Ninetales and Kartana in the back, and this time he led Aerodactl and Garchomp with Porygon2 and Gigalith in the back. Through more luck rock slide missed enough to keep my Mandibuzz alive into the endgame, and I got a very clean win.

This round was undeniably a huge stroke of luck. Game 1 would have gone extremely differently if the rock slide hit, as my Ninetales would not have lived and gotten the KO on his Garchomp. Kartana would KO the Aerodactyl, but his Chomp was faster and choiced into Flamethrower, so the position would still be quite unfavorable. Overall, there were three rock slide misses in a very aggressive matchup on both sides, so they swung the match strongly in my favor.

Result: Win 2-0 (6-2 Overall)

## Round 9

I got to round 9 with a likely win-and-in situation, and my opponent in the same boat. That said, this matchup is probably the hardest that I faced all day, with two ground immunities making it extremely difficult to bring Garchomp, and the double intimidate meant that even Marowak would have trouble checking Celesteela.

Game 1 I led Fini and Mandibuzz with Marowak and Kartana in the back, while my opponent led Krookodile and Vikavolt with Celesteela and Arcanine in the back. This was actually a pretty favorable lead matchup, until snarl missed Vikavolt and Fini took significantly more damage than I would have liked. Muddy water missed Vikavolt on the next turn, and I fell too far behind from there.

In game 2, I decided that Kartana was a liability against his team (I had mostly brought it for the Nihilego, which he hadn't brought), and switched it to Ninetales for more options against Krookodile. My opponent went with the same four pokemon, but with Celesteela and Vikavolt in the front. The game went reasonably, and in the endgame I had a Mandibuzz against a very low health Krookodile and an Arcanine. In my end-of-the-day state, I didn't consider that his flamethrower/snarl/morning sun arcanine would have will-o-wisp, and failed to taunt the Arcanine in an endgame that would have been quite close, and maybe even winning.

During this game, I also made significant judgment errors on which attack to use from Marowak. At one point, I bonemeranged the Arcanine thinking that there was no ground immunity due to Celesteela being on the field, and then being immediately reminded that the Vikavolt was in fact not dead. Later on, I shadow boned the Vikavolt fearing an Arcanine switch in, but this activated the pinch berry, and as a result I lost a huge amount of tempo and overall damage value.

Perhaps if I played this match without 8 rounds previously, I could have done better, but my opponent's team was quite strong and I imagine that fatigue was a factor on his side as well.

Result: Loss 0-2 (6-3 Overall)

At 6-3 my chances for top cut were gone, and I was quite disappointed. It wasn't the worst showing in the world, and I knew going in that my team wasn't amazing, but it was still less than I hoped given that I was spending two full days to travel to the tournament and back. I ended up in 40th place, which I believe is near the top of 6-3s, but it's still not clear that I would have made top cut even with the win in round 9.

The format is a lot harder to play in than it was at San Jose, and my team was something I had only really found a week before, and had very little time to tweak it. Even so, this result is a small step down from how I did at San Jose, so I'm definitely disappointed. I'm still not very likely to do significant travel for events, so I don't know when I'll next show up at a regional tournament, but I'll definitely still be playing the format and trying to rank highly on Battle Spot.