A Game of Shadow Tag — Team Report from Yuki Zaninovich, 2019 World Championships Day 2.

Hello, my name is Yuki Zaninovich and I’d like to take the chance to talk about the team I used to make Day 2 at the 2019 World Championships.

salamence-mega 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.

salamence-mega Lessons from European Internats

Despite extensive testing with the group, I finished 6-3 to barely miss out on Day 2 at the EUIC. Below is the team I used then that was made by Feis (you can check out his team report)

gengar-mega + xerneas + groudon-primal + landorus-therian + incineroar + tapu-fini

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:

rayquaza-mega + [Restricted Pokemon] + incineroar + tapu-fini + tapu-koko + stakataka/amoonguss

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.

salamence-mega 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.

gengar-mega + groudon-primal + xerneas

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.

gengar-mega + groudon-primal + xerneas + braviary

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.

gengar-mega + groudon-primal + xerneas + braviary + smeargle

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.

gengar-mega + groudon-primal + xerneas + braviary + smeargle + kommo-o

So with my preliminary six figured out, I started to ladder and test with Fevzi, Markus, and Till. They helped immediately surface my brutal weaknesses to:

  • 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.

  • braviary-> crobat: 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.
  • smeargle-> amoonguss: 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.

gengar-mega + groudon-primal + xerneas + kommo-o + crobat + amoonguss

salamence-mega The Final team

▶️ Get the importable version of the team here! Or if you prefer, get the QR of the team here!

Gengar-Mega Victory Road

Gengar-Mega @ Gengarite
Ability: Shadow Tag
Level: 50
Shiny: Yes
EVs: 244 HP / 4 Def / 4 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Sludge Bomb
– Icy Wind
– Taunt
– Protect
The keystone to this team. Its Shadow Tag ability makes Icy Wind tenfolds stronger than it was designed to be because your opponent is stuck with slower Pokemon until you say so. Its spectacular speed stat means you are almost always guaranteed to land at least one key Icy Wind or Taunt before you pass the torch to 1 of 2 boss monsters in the back. In general, it is okay to use Gengar pretty aggressively because a) you can play in a way that mitigates your dependency on Shadow Tag b) it is a lot bulkier than it appears (except against Ray or Lunala) and c) players tend to over respect Protect on Gengar. There are however some matchups, such as RayOgreSteela, where sustaining the switch-out lock is key to victory. There are also times you want Gengar to live one more turn so that Light Screen or Tailwind expires just in time for Xerndon to come clean up. Therefore, it is important to figure out what role you want Gengar to play in not only every game you bring it, but also every turn it is in play.
There is no real significance behind the EV spread here. I needed max speed to give more chances for Gengar to move and invested the rest into bulk since it already has more than enough special attack for a support mon. I went with 244/4/4 since investing more heavily in either Defense or Special Defense wouldn’t have affected any significant damage calculation.
Xerneas Victory Road
Xerneas @ Power Herb
Ability: Fairy Aura
Level: 50
EVs: 60 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 188 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Moonblast
– Dazzling Gleam
– Geomancy
– Protect
I’ve always cherished Xerneas’ potential in being both a win condition or a hard-hitting beat stick, and this aspect made it a great fit for this team. If I bring it in at a timing in which Gengar can deal with the mon problematic to Xerneas, I can go for Geomancy; on the other hand, I can bring it in as a check to pokemon Groudon struggles with like Rayquaza or Salamence. It is also a mon besides Gengar that has great synergy with Amoonguss, and enabled the powerful strategy of Amoonguss + Xerneas with Groudon + Kommo-o in back, whose power was appropriately showcased game 2 in my stream match.
I decided to go max special attack because this team usually loses when it fails to dish out enough damage. I wanted to outspeed modest max speed Groudon to provide more options against the tough TornKang matchup. This luckily left me just enough HP EVs to live timid Lunala-Z 15/16 of the time.
Groudon-Primal Victory Road
Groudon-Primal @ Red Orb
Ability: Desolate Land
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Eruption
– Overheat
– Earth Power
– Protect
Groudon is here to cover Xerneas’ counters and provide unparalleled damage output. The special variant was chosen to prevent intimidate from stymieing its rampage and give it access to the more trustworthy spread move in eruption. Its great typing allowed Gengar + Groudon to be a very viable lead, especially in a best of 3 setting when you might have a better inclination of the opponent’s game 2 or 3 lead. Eruption, Earth Power and Protect are considered mandatory on special Groudon, and I went with Overheat for the last move to maintain access to fire moves at low HP and further push the damage ceiling – moves like Hidden Power Ice and Dragon Pulse to help against Salamence and Rayquaza respectively didn’t seem necessary because that role is fulfilled by Xerneas/Kommo-o.
I went for the simple max special attack and max speed spread to be more aggro and worst case risk a speed tie against the Groudon in TornKang.

Kommo-o Victory Road

Kommo-o @ Kommonium Z  
Ability: Bulletproof  
Level: 50  
EVs: 20 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 228 Spe  
Modest Nature  
IVs: 0 Atk  
– Clanging Scales  
– Focus Blast  
– Substitute  
– Protect  
Restricted Pokemon #3. Though originally intended to help against RayOgre, this guy has the potential to put in work against any team that doesn’t have Xerneas. Its version of geomancy dishing out damage is a blessing for the other restricteds waiting in the back to finish its work. And as stated earlier, its Bulletproof ability is indeed a great win condition, as well as a nice tech against Gengar mirrors because it is immune to both Sludge Bomb and Shadow Ball (don’t ask about perish trap).
Max special attack for reasons stated repeatedly, speed stat outspeeds 99% of mons after Z-move, and HP stat prevents sub from fading from most Incineroar’s flare blitz.
Crobat Victory Road
Crobat @ Flyinium Z
Ability: Inner Focus
Level: 50
EVs: 236 HP / 4 Atk / 60 Def / 68 SpD / 140 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Brave Bird
– Super Fang
– Tailwind
– Taunt
Gengar’s right hand man. Inner Focus is a godsend for a hyper offense team that never wants to take its foot off the gas for a single turn. It also has the bulk and speed to provide multiple turns of support before passing off to Xerndon in the back. Super Fang is the perfect damaging move to use because you typically want Crobat to faint after leaving the field in a favorable state and delegating the KOs to Xerndon. That said, Z Brave Bird was useful when Gengar fainted early and Crobat needed to take KOs – most things got into KO range after one super fang barring any intimidates activating.
Speed outspeeds Jolly Ray. HP stat is an even number to bluff berry and make nature’s madness hard to spam. Defense stat survives Jolly Ray’s Dragon Ascent and Timid Lunala’s psyshock. Special defense survives most Tornadus’ Z hurricane and timid koko volt switch. The latter is SUPER important because the worst case scenario is the following: Gengar Icy Wind -> koko volt switch into crobat and KO = something comes in unaffected by icy wind and you didn’t setup tailwind.
Amoonguss Victory Road
Amoonguss @ Focus Sash
Ability: Effect Spore
Level: 50
EVs: 244 HP / 12 Def / 252 SpD
Calm Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Foul Play
– Spore
– Rage Powder
– Protect
One famous mushroom after that stream game. Despite being the third poison type of the team, he is the reason this team actually has a favorable matchup against psyspam. Unlike Smeargle, its ability to take multiple hits from neutral attacks helps Gengar stay alive for more turns. It also bolstered my Trick Room matchup – even if a sleep-preventing terrain is up, being able to sponge up attacks helped mitigate damage dealt to its partner and prepare for retaliation after trick room expired. Protect was there to help stall Trick Room/Tailwind as well as punish obvious plays that doubled into it, and Foul Play was terrific in inflicting non-trivial damage to otherwise tough Pokemon for this team such as Lunala, Solgaleo and Metagross. Finally, Effect Spore was simply broken. Being able to drop status at the same probability of scald burning let me spin the wheel of misfortune many times that weekend – especially since I typically brought Amoonguss against Kangaskhan and Metagross, notorious for partaking in contact sports. Regenerator wouldn’t have functioned much on this team since I rarely retreat Amoonguss (or any Pokemon for that matter) and even if I do, it has usually taken enough damage to which point I wouldn’t be able to re-enable focus sash anyways.
Speed stat is to speed creep Snorlax and opposing Amoonguss. HP stat is an even number to once again bluff berry. As for bulk, I put more on the special defense side because I wanted Amoonguss to be stronger against TornKang and LunaKang teams – notably it survives Z-Hurricane through protect + Hurricane from bulky Tornadus and 2 Moongeist Beams from Lunala, all while still surviving Double-Edge from Adamant Kang.

salamence-mega Common Leads

gengar-mega crobat + xerneas groudon-primal /kommo-o

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.

Max Power
gengar-mega + xerneas groudon-primalkommo-o

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
gengar-mega amoonguss + groudon-primal xerneas/kommo-o

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
amoonguss xerneas + groudon-primal kommo-o
This lead is a great way to catch opponents off guard game 2/3 or if you somehow found out your opponent doesn’t have Magic Room on Lele. Not much to say here other than that you better be damn confident in your read game – most of the time Rage Powder Geomancy is not the answer. As a side note, I brought this game 2 on stream because I had an inclination my opponent would lead Koko after Amoonguss put in so much work game 1.

salamence-mega Tournament Run

Day 1: 7-2 (14-6 in games):
R1CRIEsteban Hernandez Beitarayquaza-mega kyogre-primal tapu-koko incineroar crobat stakatakaWW
R2ITARiccardo Castellarirayquaza-mega kyogre-primal tapu-fini incineroar togedemaru ferrothornWW
R3CANAlexandre Lebelgroudon-primal necrozma-dusk-mane houndoom-mega tapu-lele accelgor smeargleWW
R4USAAngel Mirandarayquaza-mega solgaleo tapu-fini incineroar persian-alolan snorlaxWLL
R5NORJens Arne Maekinenrayquaza-mega ho-oh tapu-koko landorus-therian persian-alolan mantineWW
R6JPNHiroyuki Moritarayquaza-mega necrozma-dawn-wings tapu-koko incineroar amoonguss stakatakaLL
R7RUSKirill Shishovkyogre-primal lunala gardevoir-mega incineroar amoonguss naganadelLWW
R8JPNKohei Sakurairayquaza-mega dialga tapu-fini incineroar stakataka suicuneWW
R9AUSHenry Rich*kyogre-primal yveltal metagross-mega tapu-koko incineroar amoongussWW

* You can watch the R9 match streamed here.

Day 2: 2-5 (5-12 in games):
R1AUSJames Katsarosgroudon-primal xerneas kangaskhan-mega tapu-lele incineroar smeargleLWW
R2ITAFlavio Del Pidioxerneas lunala kangaskhan-mega incineroar stakataka smeargleLL
R3USAWolfe Glickrayquaza-mega lunala tapu-fini incineroar stakataka snorlaxLL
R4ITALeonardo Bonanomigroudon-primal xerneas salamence-mega tapu-fini incineroar kartanaLWL
R5JPNYusei Matsunonecrozma-dusk-mane xerneas metagross-mega incineroar crobat amoongussWLW
R6KORJung Wonseokrayquaza-mega lunala tapu-koko tapu-fini incineroar stakatakaLL
R7MYSKevin Ngimgroudon-primal xerneas salamence-mega tapu-fini incineroar amoongussLL
Despite a great day 1 run, I crashed and burned in every sense of the words day 2. I think this can be attributed to my lack of experience and preparation to play against day 2 players as well as the great influx of Lunala I faced, the latter which I will talk about below.

salamence-mega Room for Improvement

Even with the inclusion of Amoonguss, I am kicking myself for still not respecting Lunala enough. My first two losses day 2 came from Lunala teams piloted by the two IC champions of Ultra Series engaging in a bad matchup against players of such caliber felt like being shot at as a fish in the barrel.
There are many problems with Lunala: it can OHKO Gengar, isn’t affected by Shadow Tag, and has enough bulk to survive any one attack even if Shadow Shield is broken from an Icy Wind chip (Overheat is a roll even if they have no bulk invested). I don’t think this weakness could be salvaged without switching out an entire mon, but that could reduce the overall breadth of the team given every member does its job perfectly in my opinion – though I must say I was devastated when I found out early in team building that there was no Dark-type Pokemon with redirection. I didn’t observe any other major pain points to the team but this major one is enough reason to rethink the team entirely.
Despite my underperformance in the second half, I am over the moon for making day 2 worlds for my first competitive season. I have always disliked using standard teams so I am extremely satisfied to have thought of and polished an unconventional team; even more, I am happy to receive some form of validation as a player, since I have always been more confident in myself as a team builder. I will strive to improve even more on both fronts and reach a new height next season.
However, I would be completely remiss and ungrateful to not acknowledge my amazing friends, all of whom this accomplishment would have been impossible without:
  • 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.
Thanks for reading to this point, please feel free to message me if you have any thoughts or questions!


salamence-mega 構築経営

​​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:

rayquaza-mega + 禁止伝説 + incineroar + tapu-fini + tapu-koko + stakataka/amoonguss

Graham Ammodeeの構築(メガチャーレム+ルナアーラ+カイオーガ)やガルーラ+トルネロスのようなゴリ押し的の構築がある程度通じているように見えましたが、強い選手は上記のポケモンでゲームのテンポを遅めつつ試合の流れを徐々に有利に寄せる立ち回りを配信で何度も目撃しました。そこで今シーズン自分がすでに使った構築を思い出します。

4月末にベルリンで行われたEuropean International Championshipsに参加しました。そこではFeis から渡された構築を使い、6−3という惜しい結果でDAY1落ちしちゃいました。彼の構築記事は「こちら」。その時に使ったメンツは以下のようなものです

gengar-mega + xerneas + groudon-primal + landorus-therian + incineroar + tapu-fini

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。


gengar-mega + groudon-primal + xerneas


gengar-mega + groudon-primal + xerneas + braviary



gengar-mega + groudon-primal + xerneas + braviary + smeargle


gengar-mega + groudon-primal + xerneas + braviary + smeargle