My Journey through VGC with Shadow Tag
I first picked up the game in 2017, when I was studying abroad and found some free time that was usually taken up by extracurriculars at my home university. Having casually played Random Battles/OU on showdown and an extensive competitive background in Yugioh, I had a relatively smooth transition into the game. However, there was one (and disputably the most important) aspect of the game that I struggled to grasp: prediction.
Yugioh is a game all about intelligently crafting a game plan and playing perfectly for any given board state, and had little prediction involved due to the game being turn-based. Once I broke through the low rating trenches of the VGC17 showdown ladder, I would constantly get punished for making obvious plays and had trouble figuring out what factors I should be considering to outwit my opponent.
Though I got 1st on the showdown ladder at one point, I got disappointing results at the few Regionals I attended and it was the beginning of my last year in university before I knew it. I ended up not touching mons for close to another year until I graduated the following spring and was thinking about what team to use for the Nashville Open. I messed around with a few teams that saw success in the VGC18 season up until that point, and the one that stuck for me was James Baek’s Toronto Regional winning team. The reason: the intergalactically busted ability that is Shadow Tag.
Shadow Tag felt like a godsend to a player overwhelmed by the turn-by-turn complexity of VGC. Thanks to just having Mega Gengar on the field, I felt mental ease for no longer having to consider what my opponent might switch-in in which slot, and instead solely worry about what moves they may fire off. Though I was initially greedy and kept Mega Gengar out until it fainted, I eventually began to learn when it was optimal to switch it out and slowly picked up the prediction game little by little. After becoming more familiar with the format, I decided to build my own team with Shadow Tag.
I began my VGC19 on a high note with a Nashville Open top cut using an original Gothitelle + Mega Tyranitar team. The idea was simple: lead Gothitelle and a hard-hitter, support it using Helping Hand, and use Trick Room right when the partner would get knocked out to let Mega Tyranitar wreak havoc. I continued to use Gothitelle in Sun Series in a Xernogre team built with Ryokon to snipe the Xerndon teams that were popular in the very beginning of the format. So when Till Böhmer invited me to a EUIC testing group for a Xerndon team starring Mega Gengar, naturally I was interested.
Lessons from European Internats
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Whether it’s setting up for a Xerndon sweep with Gengar’s Shadow Tag + Icy Wind or going for a grindy game with Fini’s Heal Pulse, the team had a lot of tricks up its sleeve and felt like a very solid composition – validated by Feis’ successful Day 2 finish. Though it had some issues I will delve into later, I was very convinced of Gengar’s strength against defensive teams. Incineroar not being able to fake it out nor OHKO it without forfeiting a Z-move (if it has one), along with having a favorable type match-up against Tapu Fini made the typically trustworthy default lead not so reliable anymore. This was a crucial epiphany post-NAIC, a time when Showdown was infested with teams of the form:
+ [Restricted Pokemon] + + + + /
Though hyper offense strategies like Graham Ammodee’s and Kangaskhan+Tornadus teams showed some success in quelling them, I sensed a low ceiling as I saw skilled players on stream use these support Pokemon to slow down the tempo of the game and pivot themselves into favorable positions. Thinking that this pivoting was the defining weakness for aggro in this format, I decided to deal myself into the game of Shadow Tag again.
Team Building Process
I started with the powerful trio of Mega Gengar and Groudon & Xerneas. The general concept is to be ahead on speed control from the get go with Icy Wind/Taunt, and timely sack Gengar or its partner to bring out the restricted most advantageous in that board state. Due to how absurd restricted mons’ stats are, games tended to end quickly if Groudon or Xerneas came in with a faster speed stat than both opposing mons and were able to consistently apply pressure that the opponent didn’t have enough time to reposition and come back. I anticipated that having my default pick be Gengar + Z-move user with Xerndon in the back would provide the most raw power, so I first set out to find the perfect Gengar partner.
One of the problems I felt with my Berlin team was an unhealthy amount of dependency on Gengar for speed control, so I decided on Braviary as my tailwind user as choice. I opted for Braviary because I didn’t have many other choices for solid non-restricted/non-Mega tailwind users and appreciated its ability to punish foes who wanted to match my Tailwind + Icy Wind maneuver. And unlike Empoleon, it provided pretty good offensive pressure even without Defiant activating, making it a great Z-crystal holder.
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The only other major issue I had with the Berlin team was its severe weakness to Scarf Tapu Lele. Since Scarf Lele can both outspeed and OHKO Gengar, the team usually had to play without its core member if the opponent revealed Tapu Lele at team preview and quickly became messy if they had any speed control too. For this reason, I decided to add Smeargle to the team to provide redirection and make sure Gengar could function against such teams too. It also enabled leads such as Smeargle + Xerneas, which was a great addition to a hyper offense strategy and made players from 2016 regret not quitting.
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For the last slot, I went with Kommo-o based purely off of gut instinct. I knew the TornKang teams used it to deal with RayOgre teams that would otherwise be a tough matchup, and I saw no reason to believe that my RayOgre matchup would be any better. I also thought Kommo-o would make my lead options more flexible, since it can act as a 3rd boss monster and bulletproof is a win condition on its own against teams with certain Steel types.
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- Kangaskhan + Tornadus
- Kangaskhan + Lunala
- Rayquaza + Kyogre + Celesteela
However, my matchup against most other teams felt solid. I anticipated that this team would have good matchup breadth, since Gengar’s Shadow Tag and Xerndon’s unrivaled horsepower and synergy should enable the team to work agnostic of the opposing restricted duo, so this made me feel like I was on the right track. I just needed to find an adjustment that would help patch these points up while still allowing the team to operate as originally intended.
- -> : Not only was Kang annoying because it could fake out Gengar, I also found the move gruesome to deal with in general because it can immobilize Gengar’s partner and allow more time for my opponent to reposition. For this reason, I went with a tailwind user that can’t be flinched. I also liked how it no longer discouraged Incineroar leads, a mon I wanted to see my opponent bring as much as possible.
- -> : As fun as it was to see evasion boosts singlehandedly win me games, I was wishing Smeargle had more bulk too often so I went with a more buff redirection option.
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The Final team
This lead is pretty solid against all the bulky teams I mentioned earlier, especially if their restricted Duo is Xerndon, XRay or RayOgre (in which case you would bring Kommo-o over Groudon). Usually start off with Icy Wind + Super Fang, and wait on firing Tailwind until right before you think Crobat will be fainted. In the case Gengar is taken down before Crobat, Z-Brave Bird is a great way to keep the pressure going.
The most common Pokémon to lead with Gengar is Xerneas. This lead is quite good in game 2/3 or against teams that don’t have much speed control. It’s also a great way to force RayOgreSteela teams to bring out Celesteela out early on so that you can enable Groudon to deal with it before Kyogre can get involved. There are some matchups in which case you want to recklessly push damage and others in which you want to preserve Gengar to let one particular boss monster be a win condition so have a clear gameplan in mind when you go with this lead.
|When you see Tapu Lele en team preview|
You have to depend entirely on the mushroom to fight against Tapu Lele. A lead like Tapu Lele Salamence seems tough to deal with at first glance, but Icy Wind Spore into Lele is actually risk-free.
- If Psychic goes into Gengar: you can safely Rage Powder Geomancy next turn and win with Xerneas (this only fails if the opposing team has an answer to Xerneas after it sets up, which is rarely the case on psyspam teams).
- If Lele and Mence double into Amoonguss: You can get a double KO with xerneas next turn and still have Gengar to setup the endgame for you.
- If Psychic goes into Amoonguss and Mence tailwinds: next turn you can Icy Wind Spore again and get into a position where you stall out Tailwind with Gengar still alive or bring in Xerneas with two sleeping foes.
|Read-heavy boss rush|
|R1||Esteban Hernandez Beita||WW|
|R5||Jens Arne Maekinen||WW|
* You can watch the R9 match streamed here.
|R2||Flavio Del Pidio||LL|
Room for Improvement
- Markus for getting me into this game in the first place and introducing me to some amazing people in the community.
- Till, who did everything from helping train my Pokemon, to testing with me on Showdown, to coming up with matchup gameplans. I truly cannot thank him enough for all the time and energy he lended me for this one tournament and I am glad it did not go to waste.
- Fevzi for also helping playtest.
- Rosemary and Scott for amazing commentary during my stream game.
- The Seattle VGC community for keeping my plays sharp all-season and making me fight hard for this invite.
- Jesse Wong for being a tiger mom and scouting the side streams both days as well as taking me out on a dinner date in celebration of me making day 2.
- My roommate Chris and girlfriend Lexi for unconditionally supporting and encouraging me to pursue this passion to its fullest.
世界大会の構築考察を始めたのはNorth American International Championshipsが終わった直後でした。まずメタりたいと思った構築はガオガエン、カプ・レヒレやモロバレルを使いサイクルを回す構築です。あの時期にはShowdownでこんな構築が流行りました：
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影踏みながらゲンガーの凍える風でグラゼルネをウェイさせることやレヒレの癒しの波動で耐久戦に挑むなど色々とゲームプランを取れるかなり優秀な構築と個人的に感じました ー 結果的に原案の彼は余裕にDAY2を決めたのでそれは実証されました。少数の問題点は後述しますが、この構築を通じて19ルールでのサイクル構築に対してメガゲンガーの実力を感じました。ガエンは猫で動きを止められないことやZ技消費以外ワンパンできないこと、レヒレはタイプ相性が悪いことからその2匹を軸に立ち回る構築にはとても強いと確信しました。また、自分は元から影踏みを好む人種であるため、メガゲンガーをさらに活かせる構築を考察し始めました。
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