Hi, Zheyuan Huang (Ken) here. I recently attended the 2019 Pokemon World Championships, where I managed to get through Day 1 all the way to top 16, placing 11th overall. It was much more successful than I would have expected, and I am thankful to everyone who have assisted me throughout the season. Shout out to all my Chinese friends as well for giving me advices in regards to different match-ups.
Team Building Process
The purpose of the team
A couple of months ago I attended the North America International Championships where I did not perform up to my standard and finished with a disappointing 5-4 result. I felt the team needed improvements in order to have a more favorable matchup against meta favored teams such as XernDon, RayOgre, LunaDon and LunaRay, as it’s sub-optimal to have a team that auto-loses to them.
The Heart and Soul of the team
I had some experience with Xerneas, so I wanted to build a team around him this season as well. Primal Groudon is easily the best Pokémon to pair them up because of their perfect offensive and defensive synergy. I tried to pilot XRay, Xnala, XernOgre but those teams weren’t my style and required a lot of outplays and mind games to beat a lot of the meta teams. I moved back to XernDon as my core, which coincidently, was also the core for my first Regional event (St Louis Regionals 2016). I wanted to start and end my VGC career with it like a fairy tale
Choosing the supporting cast
Incineroar is the best support Pokémon in the format ever since Intimidate was released. It pairs very well with Xerneas and there’s no more explanation needed because everyone knows how broken it is.
There are quite a few Megas that are good with XernDon, but Salamence fits the best because of Intimidate and Tailwind support. It is very good against opposing Primal Groudon because of its Ground Immunity, which works wonders as a lead to cripple Primal Groudon’s Attack or just have it as a back as a potential Pivot into a Precipice Blades.
Having a Tapu is beneficial for this team because it is somewhat weak to Psychic-Spam, therefore Terrain Control can be crucial to neutralize teams based on it and rely less on just Incineroar. I didn’t like Tapu Bulu because it isn’t achieving anything with this team. Tapu Lele is fine on paper but Xerneas and Groudon does not like being hit by big Psychic Attacks under Psychic Terrain, and in a matchup where opposing Scarf Lele have Magic Room can be a huge problem. Tapu Koko and Tapu Fini are what’s left and they are both great for this team, denying both Spore and Lovely Kiss while overriding Psychic Terrain is great. In the end I chose Tapu Koko because XernDon typically struggles vs RayOgres, and Koko’s high speed and power can pressure both Kyogre and Rayquaza (Celesteela as well in certain RayOgre teams) where as Tapu Fini is a bit too passive for my likings.
The final member of the team is Shedinja. I didn’t want to solely rely on Tapu Koko to handle RayOgre, therefore I needed another Pokémon to bring against them. Gastrodon, Ferrothorn and Togedemaru were all solid choices, But I leaned towards Shedinja because Kyogre can still clean through those Pokémon if they have taken enough cheap damage previously. Shedinja also brings another unique win condition if you can position it well and take out it’s threats so it becomes invincible in the lategame, it is also a great pivot into the likes of Origin Pulses and other Attacks that can usually cause a lot of problems for standard XernDon teams.
▶️ Get the importable version of the team here!
Xerneas @ Power Herb
Ability: Fairy Aura
EVs: 156 HP / 148 Def / 12 SpA / 4 SpD / 188 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Dazzling Gleam
The first core of the team. Since NAIC there are a lot of Modest-Max-Speed Primals, mostly Kyogre since Special Primal Groudons are typically Timid Max Speed. Therefore 188 speed EVs are to outspeed them and Geomancy up before a Water Spout or Eruption. The bulky set is to survive 2 Precipice Blades or a Banded Dragon Ascent. The leftover EVs are to Special Attack and OHKOs none bulk Xerneas with a +2 Moonblast.
In my opinion, it’s much harder and riskier to just set up Geomancy straight up compared to 16 because there’s no more Dark Void Smeargle to abuse (come on GameFreak xD) and random Roars that can catch greedy Xerneas’ off guard. Typically, Xerneas in the team sits at the back and find opportunities to safely Geomancy, or just Attack and let Shedinja become invincible.
+2 12+ SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Fairy Aura Xerneas: 202-238 (100 – 117.8%) — guaranteed OHKO
252+ Atk Primal Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 156 HP / 148 Def Xerneas: 96-114 (43.4 – 51.5%) — 6.6% chance to 2HKO
Groudon @ Red Orb
EVs: 220 HP / 156 Atk / 4 Def / 116 SpD / 12 Spe
– Precipice Blades
– Fire Punch
The second restriced Pokémon, the bulky spread is to survive Timid Max Special Attack Lunalium Z and Modest Primal Groudon Earth Power. 156 Attack is to 2HKO non bulk Xerneas with Precipice Blades. I didn’t feel necessary to invest much Speed into this Primal Groudon, because usually I lead it with Tapu Koko for weather control and taking advantages of Primal Kyogres often being faster. I personally don’t like Special Groudon because it’s not able to hit Primal Kyogre or boosted Xerneas hard enough, and Special Groudon Speed-ties are dreadful. Precipice Blades, Fire Punch and Protect are standard, I gave it Roar because I felt the need of having another way to deal with Geomancy, Trick Room and Perish Trap.
156+ Atk Primal Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Xerneas: 108-127 (53.4 – 62.8%) — guaranteed 2HKO
252 SpA Lunala Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom vs. 220 HP / 116 SpD Primal Groudon: 171-202 (84.2 – 99.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO
Salamence @ Salamencite
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpD / 252 Spe
– Hyper Voice
Yes, it’s Max Speed Max Special Defense. It can survive Modest Lele Moonblast with the roll in my favor. I don’t expect M-Salamence to ko something, so all it needed to do is to provide Speed Control through Tailwind, recycle Intimidate combined with Incineroar and chip opponents’ HP with Hyper Voice or Double Edge. I didn’t select M-Salamence very often during my matches at Worlds because I didn’t face many Primal Groudons.
0 SpA Aerilate Mega Salamence Hyper Voice vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Primal Groudon: 58-69 (32.9 – 39.2%) — 99.8% chance to 3HKO
252+ SpA Tapu Lele Moonblast vs. 4 HP / 252 SpD Mega Salamence: 152-180 (88.8 – 105.2%) — 25% chance to OHKO
Tapu Koko @ Fairium Z
Ability: Electric Surge
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Volt Switch
– Dazzling Gleam
I understand that no matter how I built my team, there would always be bad matchups to make me auto lose, therefore RNG can be an ally in those situations, and Discharge is what I chose. When I first saw Discharge Tapu Koko combined with double Electric Immunity in Groudon and Shedinja was in a Chinese online tournament during Sun Series. I was using Riley’s Portland Champion team and lost to @Yejiang_CHN with his King’s Rock Discharge Koko. It’s a very interesting tech and I wanted to test it out myself.
Discharge can also bypass Lightning Rod to hit Kyogre. In harder matchups I will usually use it and pray that RNG will turn the tide for me. I also gave it Fairium Z to OHKO Non-AV Rayquaza and Yveltal. Rayquaza can really damage my team so I needed another way to remove it from the field.
Tips: Against AV Ray, you can switch in Xerneas to boost the Twinkle Tackle’s power and gives a good Roll to KO it.
252 SpA Tapu Koko Twinkle Tackle (160 BP) vs. 252 HP / 0 SpD Assault Vest Mega Rayquaza: 198-234 (93.3 – 110.3%) — 56.3% chance to OHKO (in fairy aura)
252 SpA Tapu Koko Discharge vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Primal Kyogre in Electric Terrain: 84-98 (40.5 – 47.3%) — guaranteed 3HKO
Incineroar @ Assault Vest
EVs: 252 HP / 20 Def / 236 SpD
– Flare Blitz
– Fake Out
The perfect supporting Pokémon in the format. I gave it Assault Vest to maximize my Special Bulk to tank Xerneas and Psychic Spam Teams. Very standard set with the mandatory Fake Out, U-Turn, Flare Blitz and Snarl. I didn’t like Sassy 0 IV in speed because I needed it to reliably test my opponent’s Incineroar’s speed and identify the faster Incineroar to therefore decide whether I want to go for a fast Fake Out or slow U-Turn.
0 Atk Incineroar Flare Blitz vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Xerneas in Harsh Sun: 118-141 (58.4 – 69.8%) — guaranteed 2HKO
252 SpA Neuroforce Ultra Necrozma Earth Power vs. 236 HP / 236+ SpD Assault Vest Incineroar: 82-97 (41 – 48.5%) — guaranteed 3HKO
Shedinja @ Focus Sash
Ability: Wonder Guard
EVs: 252 Atk / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 HP / 0 Def / 0 SpA / 0 SpD
– Ally Switch
– Shadow Sneak
The Troll of the meta, taking advantage of the new Match Time System. If your opponent can’t touch it, it is game over. I added it to take care of the Primal Kyogre matchup, it is the best Pivot to switch into a Water Spout or Origin Pulse and any Xerneas’ attacks. I selected Shedinja vs Primal Kyogre matchups because it is a reliable win condition once Xerneas remove all the Shedinja checks. It is also nice vs Xnala matchups that doesn’t have Bite Mega Kangaskhan.
252+ Atk Shedinja Shadow Sneak vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Shadow Shield Lunala: 66-80 (30.9 – 37.5%) — 80.4% chance to 3HKO
VS. Groudon + Xerneas
|Archetype||Always bring||Common leads|
Minor advantages, but still a skill-based matchup:
- If it’s Tornadus/Kangaskhan variant, recycle your Intimidate and don’t Geomancy at the start, cripple opposing Kangaskhan’s attack into -2 and go for attacks to bait the Roar from Kangaskhan. KO Tornadus at the last turn of their Tailwind.
- If it’s Salamence/Incineroar mirror, it comes down to the sets, speeds, and board position. If you can Roar the Xerneas as it geomancies, the game is almost won.
In my opinion, my sets have some advantages in the XernDon mirror, as my mirror win rate on Showdown testing is at least 70% (including the games that Precipice Blades and Snarl miss).
VS. Kyogre + Rayquaza
|Archetype||Always bring||Common leads|
The match-up advantage depends:
- If your opponent doesn’t have Celesteela, Ferrthron or M-Gengar, it’s almost an auto win for you. Fairium Z Tapu Koko + Xerneas are going to take care of Rayquaza (use either of them to trade Ray is good enough, use both of them to trade is still acceptable). Groudon is going to take out Incineroar, and Sheninja wins.
- If your opponent has one of Ferrthron or Celesteela, it’s an even matchup. You have to be very careful with Shedinja attacks or switch-ins because of Leech Seed and Iron Barbs. It’s still playable.
- If your opponent has both M-Gengar and Celesteela/Ferrothorn (just like Wolfe’s squad), in my opinion it will be a hard matchup and requires you to outplay your opponent at least on one important turn or Discharge paralysis. Also I have Ally Switch mindgame in my hand, it makes it for your opponent harder to win than other XernDon.
VS. Solgaleo/Lunala + Rayquaza
|Archetype||Always bring||Common leads|
You got the upperhand in both mathc-ups.
I don’t know when these became popular on Showdown, but since it’s there, I had to prepare for them.
- If you lead with Tapu Koko + Groudon, (Incneroar and Xerneas in the back), they will be afraid of your Xerneas boost, so they will lead Solgaleo usually. The game plan is to try Xerneas or Tapu Koko to trade Rayquaza. Since I have Fairium Z and Xerneas, it’s not too hard. Sometimes even if you need both of them to trade it I recommend you to do it. Then Groudon is almost unstoppable.
- Regarding Lunala, just take care of Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom. Incineroar is the most important one in this match-up.
|Wolfe’s NAIC team in general it’s like a 35-65 match-up in my opinion, but Discharge Tapu-Koko and Ally Switch Shedinja as I said in the Rayogre part can help you to raise it to 45- 55.|
|If Stakataka has Wide Guard it’s like 30-70. You have to knock out your opponent’s Wide Guard user as soon as possible, and need some luck like dodge Precipite Blades because koko and sheninja are not likely be chosen in this matchup.|
|If it has Bite, all I can do is pray|
Tournament run: Day 1
Round 1 vs Sejun Park | WW
Round 1 I faced the 2014 World Champion, maybe one of the best players in the world and also my idol. I was both nervous and excited. The match was streamed and the replay is below.
Round 2 vs Trevor Rosberg | WW
I brought Incineroar, Tapu Koko, Groudon and Shedinja. I Expected scarf Tapu Lele so I led with Tapu Koko to control the terrain, but it wasn’t. It revealed Skill Swap so I assumed it was Focus Sash. I played very carefully using Volt Switch, U-Turn and Shedinja to pivot in and out and reposition myself. I ended up accumulating advantages with an excellent board positioning.
Round 3 vs Ben Markham | WLW
As you see, this is one of my toughest matchups. I played very well and I made some aggressive reads to win game 1. I lost game 2 on turn 1 because he won the Gengar-Koko Speed Tie and he managed to Leech Seed my Shedinja… RIP.
In game 3, he led with Gengar and Rayquaza and I led Koko and Groudon. In turn 1 I called the Protect on his Mega Gengar. I switched in Xerneas and went with Fairium Z to Ray, but I just barely missed the KO. Then he Earth Powered my Xerneas. In the second turn I used Dazzling Gleam to finish off the Rayquaza and chip a little on Mega Gengar. After that he knocked out my Xerneas, but then I sent my Shedinja and he sent his Kyogre. He proceed to protect his Gengar as I Discharged and Shadow Sneaked it. His Origin Pulse missed the Koko which was huge for me and in the next turn he won the speed tie again and KOed my Koko but my Shadow Sneak put it into another one range. I switched in Groudon calling his Celesteela and I Fire Punched it. Shadow Sneak also finished off his Gengar that turn, so finally Shedinja won the match.
Round 4 vs Abdul Barrie | WW
I brought Tapu Koko, Xerneas, Incineroar and Groudon. With them, it became an easy match-up for me. In game 1 I Roared his Boosted Xerneas and then I played very cautiously to gather all the information I needed: both his Incineroar and Suicune didn’t have Roar, so I won Game 2 quickly.
Round 5 vs Roberto Porretti | WW
Same game plan as last match. In game 1 I discharged and paralyzed his Salazzle and that sealed the game.
In game 2 he brought Xerneas, Incineroar, Tapu Fini and Amoonguss. After roaring his Xerneas again, he didn’t have enough offensive pressure left so I won the set pretty easily.
Round 6 vs David Partington | WW
For this one, I brought Groudon, Incineroar, Shedinja and Tapu Koko. In Game 1, I played pretty well and got my Shedinja win condition. In game 2 he called my Ally Switch Roar play, so he doubled my Groudon with a boosted Moonblast and High Jump Kick, but he missed the kick saving me from lose the game.
Round 7 vs Westley Long | LWW
He always led with Gengar and Hitmontop and had Groudon and Stakataka in the back. From my part I brought Tapu Koko and I lost game 1 quickly because I lost the Speed tie vs Mega Gengar. I found out that both Hitmontop and Stakataka had Wide Guard and my Groudon was slower than his since mine attacked first under Trick Room.
In game 2 I brought Incineroar Xerneas Groudon and Salamence trying to recycle Intimidate. I dodged one important Precipice Blades and I found out that both my Groudon and his actually had the same speed.
Game 3 came down to a late 50-50, he had a 15% HP +1 Groudon and a 100% HP M-Gengar. I had full HP Xerneas and Groudon. He didn’t choose to opt into the speed tie but also he used Gengar to control the speed with Icy Wind but I knocked it out after that. My chipped Xerneas (by that Icy Wind) survived +1 double target Precipice Blades and could knock out his Groudon.
Tournament run: Day 2
Round 1 vs Aaron Tralyor | WW
I brought Tapu Koko, Groudon, Incineroar and Xerneas. Aaron always led with Stakataka and Tapu Fini with Incineroar and Rayquaza in the back. Knowing this, I always led with Tapu Koko and Groudon.
In game 1 I just used my Fairium Z directly to his Stakataka slot and I caught the Rayquaza switching in. Then my Groudon was unstoppable. In game 2 I did the same but Aaron switched in Incineroar instead, so I knocked it out with both Fairium Z and Precipice Blades. Without Intimidate and U-Turn, his Ray faced my double Fairy pressure and he couldn’t manage to come back.
Round 2 vs Gabriel Agati | WLL
A very tough matchup for me. To be honest I think I won Game 1 because he choked in Turn 1. You can watch the video here:
Round 3 vs Alex Underhill | WW
To this game I brought Tapu Koko, Groudon, Incineroar and Xerneas. Alex brought Solgaleo and Incineroar as his lead with Rayquaza and Tapu Fini in the back in Game 1. Then, he used Snorlax instead Tapu Fini.
Like in Round 1, I played accorded to my gameplan and actually it was very successful. After knocking out his Solgaleo, my Xerneas was unstoppable in the first game. In the following one I managed to read the Ray switch in with Fairium Z. His Snorlax was powerless to stop my both my Xerneas and Groudon.
Round 4 vs Lorenzo Lax | LWW
I brought Tapu Koko, Groudon, Xerneas and Incineroar. In game 1 I got every possible hax I could have received, Fake Out crit twice, Bite flinch and almost everything bad for me, so I lost. I turned it back the second game but I can’t remember exactly how. In game 3 I Discharged and paralyzed his Xerneas and used Fire Punch to put it into Volt Switch range, so in the late game, he had -2 Kangaskhan and -1 Incineroar. From my part I had -1 Incineroar and Xernas both at 100% HP. His Bite didn’t flinch me and I sealed the game with Geomancy.
Round 5 vs Ethan French| WW
I brought Tapu Koko, Groudon, Xerneas and Shedinja. In game 1 I didn’t play well and I almost got swept. He had a full health but poisoned Incineroar and full HP Kyogre. I just had a Shedinja with Sash left, I luckily got a Double Protect and stalled the Toxic turns being able to knock out his Incine with 2 Shadow Sneaks. In game 2 I played much better and made Shedinja the win condition easily.
Round 6 vs Emillio Forbes| WW
In game 1 I didn’t play well and his Incin was slower than mine. My team went down to Salamence and Groudon in Tailwind. He still had Incineroar and Groudon with a 60% Xerneas in the back. He predicted Protect on my Groudon using Fake Out to my Salamence and Substitute but I managed to land Precipice Blades. Finally I hit the Groudon behind the Substitute with Hyper Voice and took the game.
In game 2 I played better, but I think I won some 50-50 crucial turns. I lead Xerneas with Intimidate (I can’t remember exactly if Salamence or Incineroar). His Fini hazed for 2 straight turns but I just kept on attacking with my Xerneas and in the late game I Roared his boosted Xern sealing the game.
Round 7 vs Eric Ríos| LWW
I brought Tapu Koko, Groudon, Xerneas and Shedinja. I was pretty sure I was in cut at that time, so I felt relaxed while playing. I lost game 1 since I didn’t play well, but after he revealed all his Nihilego’s moves, I noticed that it didn’t have Power Gem, so Shedinja was very important in this match. I managed to win game 2 and 3 pretty easily because my opponent was struggling to deal with both my Shedinja or my boosted Xerneas.
Top 16 vs Stephen Mea LWL
Nothing I wanted to say, but you can watch the video here:
Source: Source: Jeremy Gross (@JZGVGC)
I finished with a 13-2 match record and and a 28-8 game record. I never thought I could go this deep into the tournament. and I’m pretty satisfied with both my results and team.
I will be moving back to China for work and I have to announce my retirement from VGC for the time being. So thank you to everyone who have supported me at worlds and all my Chinese Friends that helped me with spreads. Good luck to everyone in the upcoming season, if there is a chance, I might see you guys at an International Championships.
Thanks for reading. Farewell!!!
Featured image art by Cariman