Rayogre’s Evolution — A Top 4 North America International Championships Team Report

Hi there, my name is Raghav Malaviya and I go by Mudhiman online. I’ve been playing VGC since 2016. I’ll be discussing the RayOgre teams that I used throughout the season, along with Jonathan Evans and Chuppa Cross, who will discuss specific versions.

salamence-mega Victory Road Teambuilding

First version | Berlin

rayquaza-mega Victory Roadkyogre-primal Victory Roadincineroar Victory Roadtapu-koko Victory Roadgengar-mega Victory Roadferrothorn Victory Road

Team

rayquaza-mega Victory Road
Rayquaza-Mega @ Choice Band  
Ability: Delta Stream  
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe  
Jolly Nature  
– Dragon Ascent  
– Extreme Speed  
– Dragon Claw  
– Crunch  

kyogre-primal Victory Road
Kyogre-Primal @ Blue Orb  
Ability: Primordial Sea  
EVs: 244 HP / 4 Def / 4 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe  
Modest Nature  
IVs: 0 Atk  
– Water Spout  
– Origin Pulse  
– Ice Beam  
– Protect  

gengar-mega Victory Road
Gengar-Mega @ Gengarite  
Ability: Shadow Tag  
EVs: 60 HP / 4 Def / 188 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe  
Timid Nature  
IVs: 0 Atk  
– Sludge Bomb  
– Substitute
– Hidden Power [Water]  
– Protect  

tapu-koko Victory Road
Tapu Koko @ Fairium Z  
Ability: Electric Surge  
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe  
Timid Nature  
IVs: 0 Atk  
– Thunderbolt 
– Dazzling Gleam  
– Volt Switch  
– Protect  

incineroar Victory Road
Incineroar @ Incinium Z  
Ability: Intimidate   
EVs: 236 HP / 4 Atk / 4 Def / 236 SpD / 28 Spe  
Adamant Nature  
– Fake Out  
– Flare Blitz  
– U-turn  
– Darkest Lariat  

ferrothorn Victory Road
Ferrothorn @ Assault Vest  
Ability: Iron Barbs  
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def  
Brave Nature  
IVs: 0 Spe  
– Power Whip  
– Gyro Ball  
– Knock Off  
– Bulldoze  

▶️ Get the importable version of the team here!

After I reached high ladder on Showdown on a few accounts, Tapu Fini and Shedinja felt like like the weaker links of the team. The anti-Xerneas strategies were a bit too reliant on these two (especially Shedinja’s Ally Switch) and as a result, too inconsistent. Around the same time, a Yveltal Kyogre team (whose main focus in the Xerneas matchup was using Gengar offensively) had just taken a regionals, so I tried a similar Gengar set in an attempt to help with the matchup. I put Tapu Koko to help with the mirror match, giving it Fairium Z to OHKO opposing Choice Banded Rayquaza. Most people expected Electrium Z at the time, so Fairium was able to put in a bunch of work against Rayquaza and Ultra Necrozma.

Notable finishes with this variant of the team include Kimo Nishimura placing Top 8 at Berlin IC and James Baek getting Top 4 at Hartford Regionals. Looking back, I might have been able to have a similar placing to Kimo at Berlin, but instead I used RayDon Mimikyu, which was a mistake. Do not use RayDon Mimikyu.

Second version | Whimsicott

rayquaza-mega Victory Roadkyogre-primal Victory Roadincineroar Victory Roadtapu-koko Victory Roadstakataka Victory Roadwhimsicott Victory Road

Team

rayquaza-mega Victory Road
Rayquaza-Mega @ Assault Vest  
Ability: Delta Stream  
Level: 50  
Shiny: Yes  
EVs: 196 HP / 52 Atk / 4 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe  
Hasty Nature  
– Dragon Ascent  
– Extreme Speed  
– Overheat  
– Earth Power 

With Fairium Z Tapu Koko and Choice Scarf Tapu Lele becoming more popular, it was very important for Rayquaza to be able to withstand their attacks and have a few more turns of staying power. Not only did Rayquaza benefit from that by getting to click more Dragon Ascents, but it also supported Kyogre way better by giving it more chances to freely launch off Water attacks in the face of Groudon archetypes by threatening Air Lock/Delta Stream in the back. Ray was also really important for beating Tapu Koko and Ferrothorn as the team has few resists to either and no other Fire moves. I ripped this spread from someone; it is very suboptimal and I do not recommend using it!

kyogre-primal Victory Road
Kyogre-Primal @ Blue Orb  
Ability: Primordial Sea  
Level: 50  
EVs: 244 HP / 4 Def / 4 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe  
Modest Nature  
IVs: 0 Atk  
– Water Spout  
– Origin Pulse 
– Ice Beam  
– Protect  

We didn’t feel the need to change Kyogre’s speed stat, despite adding Trick Room. This team was not a Trick Room team and often times we would just let Kyogre tank a Precipice Blades and OHKO Groudon in return, or Wide Guard with Stakataka as our counterplay to slower Primals in TR. Max speed let us outspeed Smeargle and often times, Xerneas. Double spread was chosen for most damage output.

tapu-koko Victory Road
Tapu Koko @ Fairium Z  
Ability: Electric Surge  
Level: 50  
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe  
Timid Nature  
IVs: 0 Atk  
– Thunderbolt  
– Dazzling Gleam  
– Volt Switch  
– Protect  

The standard Tapu Koko we had been using all year, not much to say. This set was mainly chosen for extra pressure vs Ultra Necrozma, Rayquaza, and Salamence, especially since Band Ray wasn’t completely out of fashion at this point in the metagame. 

whimsicott Victory Road
Whimsicott @ Focus Sash  
Ability: Prankster  
Level: 50  
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe  
Timid Nature  
IVs: 0 Atk  
– Moonblast  
– Tailwind  
– Encore  
– Protect  

This little fluff ball ended up being an amazing add. Leading Whimsicott-Kyogre overpowered tons of opponents with Tailwind, followed up by spamming Water Spout accompanied by Encore/Air Lock pressure. The ability to Encore Xerneas through Rage Powder was extremely threatening and single handedly won games. Whimsicott was also very important in the Psychic spam matchup, threatening Moonblast on the team’s annoying Dragons, as well as allowing Kyogre and Ray to outspeed Ultra Necrozma and Scarf Tapu Lele.

incineroar Victory Road
Incineroar @ Aguav Berry  
Ability: Intimidate  
Level: 50  
EVs: 236 HP / 4 Atk / 4 Def / 236 SpD / 28 Spe  
Careful Nature  
– Fake Out  
– U-turn  
– Throat Chop  
– Protect  

Standard Incin EV’d to take +2 Timid Xerneas Moonblast. I’ve enjoyed using Protect Incin all year and Flare Blitz never felt important. Protect allowed us to pivot more easily around opposing Kyogre and Groudon, and Overheat on Rayquaza provided enough Fire coverage. Others using the team opted to use Flare Blitz and even used Incinium Z over berry. 

stakataka Victory Road
Stakataka @ Shuca Berry  
Ability: Beast Boost  
Level: 50  
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpD  
Sassy Nature  
IVs: 0 Spe  
– Gyro Ball  
– Trick Room  
– Skill Swap
– Protect/Wide Guard

I knew I wanted to use Stakataka but I could never really decide on what set. In the end I think each of us ran a different Stak set. I ran Protect and Skill Swap at Santa Clara Regionals but shifted to Wide Guard in the Online IC. Skill Swap was the only move that I was set on. It gave the team a Xerneas Groudon mode that didn’t require Rayquaza to beat Groudon. While it did do the job in most instances, it always felt like Stakataka wanted two items: Shuca Berry and Safety Goggles. Shuca Berry is better to help take a hit from Groudon, or take Assault Vest/Life Orb Ray’s Earth Power. On the other hand, Amoonguss + Xerneas can be really frustrating with Shuca Berry. (Funnily enough, Jon actually had to play against XRay Amoonguss at an MSS and was down 4-1 but managed to time his opponent out.) As it turns out, players were divided on this too, with Jon, Kimo, Michael and I opting for Shuca while Collin managed to get top 4 at Madison Regionals with Safety Goggles. 

▶️ Get the importable version of the team here!

While Band Rayquaza and AV Ferrothorn were phenomenal at the time, they would not stand the test of time and felt mediocre moving forward. This team proved that the core of Rayquaza, Tapu Koko, Kyogre and Incineroar was very strong but the last two slots desperately needed a change in order to respond to Xerneas, Psychic spam, and the advent of Overheat AV Rayquaza.

This team was built to counter my previous team while also maintaining a strong Xerneas and Psychic spam matchup. While the team above tended to have gameplans that set up a Choice Band Rayquaza endgame, this team was more Kyogre-centric (proving that this tweet, sorry I meant this one, is not always true). Rayquaza was changed to Assault Vest to deal with the increase in Fairium Z Tapu Koko and Choice Scarf Tapu Lele, and provided solid coverage options on the Steel types that could be an issue for the previous version. Fairium Z Tapu Koko + Bulky Rayquaza with Earth Power and Overheat overwhelmed the Berlin version of RayOgre, covering all of its options. Stakataka provided a Trick Room mode to help beat Xerneas, and was a more active response to XernDon than Ferrothorn was.

The rest of those Pokémon were not bad by any means, but the Whimsicott was the MVP. At the time, no one respected the threat of Kyogre in Tailwind enough, in part because the most common Pokémon to get Kyogre into TW was Crobat, and Crobat sucks. Whimsicott, on the other hand, is much stronger in Tailwind and overall as a Pokémon. It could be really disruptive, punishing Protects and passive play with Encore, while maintaining damage output vs Rayquaza and Salamence with Moonblast.

The teams placements were Top 16 in the online IC by Jon, Top 16 at Santa Clara Regionals and 3rd in the online IC by Raghav, Top 4 at Madison Regionals piloted by Collin and 2nd at Madison Regionals piloted by Michael.

Third version | MimiMeta

rayquaza-mega Victory Roadkyogre-primal Victory Roadincineroar Victory Roadtapu-koko Victory Roadmetagross-mega Victory Roadmimikyu Victory Road

Team

rayquaza-mega Victory Road
Rayquaza @ Aguav Berry  
Ability: Air Lock   
Shiny: Yes  
EVs: 236 HP / 20 SpD / 252 Spe  
Adamant Nature  
– Dragon Ascent  
– Swords Dance  
– Extreme Speed  
– Protect  

Rayquaza was the centerpiece of the team and by far and away the best part. This Rayquaza set was the starting point for this team, and everything else came after. This Rayquaza was based on some sets that were used at Japan Nationals; Raghav had been wanting to try it all year and once he saw the success of it in Japan, he was motivated to build around it around it. The first Rayquaza set was Careful and didn’t outspeed Lunala or Yveltal. In practice, I would set up a Swords Dance and prepare to sweep, but my opponent’s Lunala or Yveltal (or Xerneas) would switch in and KO my Rayquaza. It wasn’t fun. Thus, I made Raghav make the Rayquaza faster, and we went with Adamant because there were no relevant defensive calcs with Careful (and the Defense felt better than the Special Defense tbh).

This set was a really good call going into NAIC for a few reasons. First, most Rayquaza were Assault Vest on RayOgre. This meant that gameplans to deal with Rayquaza had to mainly be centered on physical damage, or repeated iterations of special damage. With our massive HP investment, Super Sitrus Berry, and not needing to go Hasty, our Rayquaza was a physical tank compared to most Rayquaza. Quite frequently, our Rayquaza would get chipped to 70%, our opponent would Double-Edge it with Salamence for net 0 damage (after Super Sitrus) as we would Swords Dance and proceed to win the game. Or, in an example that will be discussed later, I had my +2 Ray copied by a Ditto, which did ~ 50% with Espeed. 

Second, people weren’t that scared of Rayquaza’s damage output when it was Intimidated, and as a result, were less prepared to deal with Swords Dance in their gameplans. This let Ray deal a bunch of priority damage with Extremespeed after getting off a surprise or aggressive SD, and one-shot the entire metagame with +1 Dragon Ascent. 

The spread is made to maximize bulk, while also getting a better roll on Ice Beam from 76+ Kyogre at -1 SpDef in Strong Winds. In retrospect, a better spread would have been 252/4/252, with 4 going in whatever you prefer, as that makes its HP evenly divisible by 4, which would have helped in my Top 8 set against Ashton who had Guardian of Alola Koko. The speed stat outruns 252+ Xerneas and Yveltal by 1 point, and speed ties Mega Kangaskhan and Mega Medicham, the latter of which we did not really consider a threat. 

kyogre-primal Victory Road
Kyogre @ Blue Orb  
Ability: Drizzle   
EVs: 244 HP / 68 Def / 4 SpA / 4 SpD / 188 Spe  
Modest Nature  
IVs: 0 Atk  
– Water Spout  
– Origin Pulse  
– Ice Beam  
– Protect  

This Kyogre is pretty basic and honestly I’m not really sure what it does or why it only has 244 HP. The Speed stat was to outspeed Tapu Koko after an Electroweb, as our team is pretty weak to it on the whole, and the rest is dumped in bulk. We also didn’t want to go max Speed, as in the mirror we often go for the Trick Room mode with Mimikyu and wanted to underspeed opposing 252 Speed Kyogre. We were originally a bulkier variant when our Tapu Koko was a Tapu Fini, but with the switch to Electroweb Koko, we wanted to have another Tapu Koko answer. 4 SpAtk Modest tends to be sufficient investment for damage purposes. 

We were considering Scald > Origin Pulse in order to have more answers to Wide Guard Stakataka, but eventually decided against it (Collin used Scald at NAIC though). The problem with Scald Spout is that using Water Spout requires a lot more bravery than using Origin Pulse. It is very difficult to decide that your opponent is not going to target your Kyogre, and that if they do, you’re going to deal no damage. I prefer the 85% chance to deal significant damage to the chance to deal no damage if my Kyogre gets massively chunked. We also decided that Stakataka wasn’t a threat and that we could power through Wide Guard by clicking more attacks than our opponent, by reading them, and that Stak sucked against our team anyway, so it was unlikely to be brought. 

tapu-koko Victory Road
Tapu Koko @ Assault Vest  
Ability: Electric Surge   
EVs: 108 HP / 148 SpD / 252 Spe  
Timid Nature  
– Electroweb  
– Nature’s Madness  
– Volt Switch  
– Sky Drop  

Despite being the last chosen of the four core mons, Tapu Koko ended up being one of the most clutch performers. Tapu Koko performs a few nice functions for the teams. First, it’s a solid form of speed control, and the only form of it between our core mons. Tapu Koko Kyogre is really threatening because Electroweb + Protect makes Kyogre outspeed almost all of the mons in the format. Tapu Koko also provides really decent single target damage with Nature’s Madness, putting everything into Extremespeed and Water Spout range. Koko is also really threatening against Groudon teams because of its ability to Volt Switch into Rayquaza aggressively. Sky Drop was put on the Koko to deal specifically with the XernDon matchup. Against XernDonAmoonguss, it was really important to have Sky Drop, as you’ll see later in the tournament description. Sky Drop also gave me a 100% win con in his first game of Top 4 even though I missed my Play Rough, which will be described below. 

The spread has a very good chance to take Earth Power + ExtremeSpeed from standard AV Ray and also always takes Sludge Bomb from Mega Gengar. Max Speed was chosen because we wanted to go fast. Also by the way, Tapu Koko pretty much singlehandedly beat Dialga Ferro Fairy Z Koko Kyogre, which I was sure was an autoloss. Koko is broken.

metagross-mega Victory Road
Metagross @ Metagrossite  
Ability: Clear Body  
Level: 50  
Shiny: Yes  
EVs: 124 HP / 92 Atk / 4 Def / 108 SpD / 180 Spe  
Jolly Nature  
– Meteor Mash  
– Bullet Punch  
– Stomping Tantrum  
– Protect

The first 4 pokemon were core and came to every generic matchup. The next two Pokemon are there for more specific matchups. Metagross is for Xerneas teams and pretty much nothing else. This Metagross reflects that specific usage, forgoing potential coverage moves like Ice Punch and Zen Headbutt for Bullet Punch to hit Xerneas. The spread was designed to give our Metagross lasting power against Xerneas’ common partners. For example, Metagross takes Precipice Blades, Earth Power, and Moongeist Beam:

  • 252 SpA Primal Groudon Earth Power vs. 124 HP / 108 SpD Mega Metagross: 144-170 (84.2 – 99.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • 156+ Atk Primal Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 124 HP / 4 Def Mega Metagross: 144-170 (84.2 – 99.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252 SpA Lunala Moongeist Beam vs. 124 HP / 108 SpD Mega Metagross: 150-176 (87.7 – 102.9%) — 12.5% chance to OHKO

Meteor Mash is chosen for a little bit of extra damage; Mash + BP is guaranteed against pretty much every Xerneas you can expect to fight, and Mash even OHKOs 4 HP Xerneas:

  • 92 Atk Tough Claws Mega Metagross Meteor Mash vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Xerneas: 204-242 (100.9 – 119.8%) — guaranteed OHKO

Things get a little wonky when you’re considering non-mega Mash + Mega Bullet Punch on Xern in order to prevent Intimidate, but it’s generally pretty solid.

incineroar Victory Road
Incineroar @ Figy Berry  
Ability: Intimidate   
EVs: 236 HP / 4 Atk / 20 Def / 236 SpD / 12 Spe  
Careful Nature  
– Fake Out  
– Crunch
– U-turn  
– Flare Blitz  

This Incineroar’s item was in flux until the day before NAIC. For a while it was Assault Vest because we felt like we needed help in the Psychic spam matchup. However, when we wanted to add Tapu Koko, we decided that the best item on Koko was Assault Vest, so we had to drop AV on Incin for Super Sitrus Berry. The spread is pretty standard, but we went a little slower than the normal 36 EV Incineroar to avoid speed ties.

Now for the part you’ve all been waiting for. Why on Earth is there Crunch on that Incineroar? That is a good question. The team required a Dark move on Incineroar as an answer to Lunala, as Incineroar is the only real Lunala checkon the team. There are 4 Dark moves Incin can choose: Crunch, Throat Chop, Darkest Lariat, and Snarl. We didn’t want Snarl because Incineroar had to actually do damage to opposing Lunala. We also opted out of Darkest Lariat because we wanted to be able to deal more damage to Rayquaza at -1 Def. Therefore, wee had to choose between Throat Chop and Crunch. We decided that it was very unlikely that we were ever going to use Throat Chop to prevent a Roar or a Snarl, as Incineroar should almost always be U-turning in that board state, and there are almost no mons that you would want to Roar on this team. So we ended up with Crunch because it has a 20% chance to drop Defense. Over the course of NAIC, Raghav and I combined got one Defense drop and it was on Graham’s Lunala in day 2. I got bodied anyway, more on that later.

mimikyu Victory Road
Mimikyu @ Mimikium Z  
Ability: Disguise   
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 SpD  
Brave Nature  
IVs: 0 Spe  
– Play Rough  
– Shadow Sneak  
– Trick Room  
– Protect  

This is the Pokemon that everyone was super interested in after my top cut set, but it honestly didn’t come to many sets at NAIC. Including games against Graham, Mimikyu was 4-7, and if you don’t count those, Mimikyu was 3-1. However, Mimikyu put in the work right when I wanted it to, and if I had won the tournament it would have been by using Mimikyu in all the top cut sets. 

Mimikyu is put on the team to improve the RayOgre mirror and it does that a tremendous amount. Incineroar + Mimikyu lead is very powerful, along with a bunch of other Mimikyu modes. Rayquaza teams typically don’t have great ways to break Disguise and Mimikyu puts a lot of pressure on Rayquaza, and a decent amount on Kyogre. Shadow Sneak was used to give Mimikyu some utility when it’s at low health and Trick Room just ended, which is a pretty common phenomenon. The spread is pretty simple: Max Attack Brave for the most damage, and max HP for the most efficient bulk subsequently. You can also run fast TR Mimikyu on this team, which would be pretty interesting, and Destiny Bond (still with Mimikium Z) would be an interesting dynamic to test.

▶️ Get the importable version of the team here!

After Madison Regionals,  it felt like this team had a huge target on its back and was everywhere on the Showdown ladder. It still was strong, but I really did not want to play mirrors at Nationals. I decided that the core of RayOgre was still the strongest but it would need some serious reinvention. The Whimsicott team ended up still performing well at Nationals as Caleb Ryor and Diana Bros managed to move on to Day 2 using the same 6. Wolfe Glick and Aaron Traylor also had almost identical movesets on the core Pokémon of Rayquaza,  Kyogre, Tapu Koko and Incineroar, but rounded it off with Gengar and Celesteela proving that the core was still perfectly capable of strong finishes.

After this, it’s all written by Jon, until Chuppa steps in.

NAIC Tournaments Reports

Jonathan and Raghav did very well, placing in the Top 4 and Top 32 at North America International Championships respectively. Kimo and Collin did less well, but the team proved itself overall. Before we talk about any Pokemon, let’s talk about having fun with friends!

I showed up at nationals on wednesday and got picked up at the airport by TheLoanRanger, who was kind enough to let me stay at his house. While I was there I got to meet Latsu7, who I recognized from Showdown and so forth but never met before. We played some games on the bus ride to the venue, in part because I was worried. I used the Whimsicott variant and won pretty convincingly, which was making me more anxious about using the team that Raghav hadn’t finished at the time.

When I got to the convention center, I met up with Raghav and Kimo and we chilled out for a bit until it got closer to the check-in time for the Airbnb. Collin showed up and had been practicing Raghav’s team, so we talked to him a little bit about that. We had been waiting for a while, so when we were an hour away from check in, we decided to walk the hour to the place.

This is what is commonly referred to as a mistake.

When we were about 10-15 minutes in, it started raining and alternated between raining and pouring until we got to the Airbnb. None of us had an umbrella, so all of our stuff got wet. When we got to the place, we put our shoes and backpacks and stuff in the tub downstairs.

I decided that it would be a good idea to clean off, so I tried to deal with the shower upstairs and make it work. But I couldn’t. Nick came and tried as well, and neither of us could get the shower to work. We couldn’t use the shower downstairs because it was full of our wet belongings, so I decided to take a bath. Subsequent to my bath I was resoundingly ridiculed by everyone for taking a bath.

I do not understand this. There is nothing wrong with taking a bath. There is also not too much wrong with not understanding a shower in the slightest and having to take a bath instead. I promise. I swear. I am not an idiot please do not judge me.
When I was done with the bath, Rajan came upstairs and figured it out in 5 seconds and judged me immensely. Shortly after this we drove to the venue for check in and Raghav came up with the best tweet describing RayOgre players that definitely does not describe me.

We got to reg and I got to hang out a bit with Becca, and then we went to get dinner as a squad at this lovely mediterranean place called Brassica. While we were there, I got to meet some Australians (YT and Akanuma), who I would hang out with a decent amount during the tournament. After that, we pretty much just went back, finished teambuilding, practiced and went to bed.

Tournament Day 1

We got up in time, but struggled to get to the venue on time. When we got there, Nails learned that his friend had traded him the wrong Groudon, so I searched frantically for a decent one and got one relatively quickly, which was nice. Pairings came out soon after.

Round 1 vs DEU Alvin Hidayat | WLW
groudon-primal Victory Roadlunala Victory Roadsalamence-mega Victory Roadtapu-fini Victory Roadincineroar Victory Roadstakataka Victory Road

It was unfortunate to go against one of my good friends round 1, and someone who should have all of my information. We had a discussion about what we each needed, which I ended by indicating that I needed top 8 for my invite and that Alvin had to play it out. Fortunately, this was the team Gavin Michaels had pioneered, and I had a ton of practice against it from playing against Gavin a lot. The matchup is not easy though and Alvin is a good player, so I knew I was in for a bit of a rough time. He brought Lunala Tapu Fini Groudon Salamence all 3 games, iirc. 

Game 1 I won because Alvin didn’t Wide Guard on a specific turn, I believe because he thought my Kyogre was Scald, which I’m very sorry for. Games 2 and 3 came down to the same endgame position of Kyogre vs Groudon at +2 and Salamence at low health and -1 speed in the Rain. I had to decide to Water Spout or Ice Beam. 

Game 2 Alvin didn’t Protect and said some words about it coming down to speed tiers. I thought that he might be trying to psych me out (a bad read in retrospect) and Ice Beamed the Salamence (which was also odds optimal because if he attacked I still had a chance to dodge) and he killed my Kyogre. 

Game 3 came down to the same position, and this time I Water Spouted, expecting Alvin to go for the non-mixup mixup, and correctly called him.

Round 2 vs DEU Jean MarcWW
groudon-primal Victory Roadnecrozma-dusk-mane Victory Roadkangaskhan-mega Victory Roadtapu-lele Victory Roadsmeargle Victory Roadstakataka Victory Road

Jean Marc is a reasonably solid player, someone you’d be comfortable seeing at round 3 or 4 if you’re good enough to win a tournament. The most scary thing is that he runs very unconventional teams. When I saw the team, I thought my tournament run was pretty much over. The night before the tournament, Raghav Collin Kimo and I were testing Psychic Spam vs our team and we barely managed to find a matchup with Tapu Koko. It came down to making a bunch of reads correct in a row, which was possible but gross.
This matchup ended up being a little bit more feasible because Jean Marc was Swords Dance Ultra Necrozma, which let me reduce the damage a little with Incineroar. I ended up making a few good calls and Swords Dance Rayquaza swept pretty hard.

Round 3 vs DEU Diego AguierreWW
rayquaza-mega Victory Roadlunala Victory Roadtapu-koko Victory Roadempoleon Victory Roadincineroar Victory Roadditto Victory Road

This matchup was pretty scary, because RayNala is not something I had a lot of experience facing. I also had a hard time bringing Incineroar because of the threat of the Empoleon. 

Game 1 I decided to go Tapu Koko Kyogre with Mimikyu Rayquaza in the back. Diego eventually reveals that he brought Ditto and copies my Kyogre with it. I manage to send in my Mimikyu against AV Tapu Koko + Ditto’d Kyogre and have it next to my Kyogre. I assume that his Ditto is Scarf and go for the presumptively safe Trick Room + Protect to not lose on silly things, like Wild Charge + Water Spout into my Kyogre. Ditto’s Quick Claw activates and he Water Spouts my Mimikyu to break its Disguise, and Volt Switchs it. If Water Spout had gone second, Mimikyu would have been knocked out and the game would be over. As it was, I set up Trick Room for pretty much free and cleaned up with Let’s Snuggle Forever and Water Spout.

Game 2 I thought he wouldn’t go Empoleon because I showed him that I could win without bringing Incineroar, so I brought Incineroar. As Team Preview ended, I realized that he probably had not brought Empoleon out of fear of Electrium Z Koko and would bring it this game as it’s decent against Mimikyu. He did bring Empoleon though, and that made this game pretty uncomfortable. I was able to win in part due to my Rayquaza at 50% taking an Extreme Speed from his Ditto that had copied my +2 Ray, and activating its berry. On the same turn I knocked out the Ditto and got my opponent to mistarget an attack. I was really happy to take this one as it was a pretty scary matchup.

As a side note, this dude had one of the toughest schedules i’ve seen, especially for someone with his record.

His 4 losses were to Me, Jean Paul Lopez, Pado and Animus.

Round 4 vs DEU Marco Hemantha Kaludura Silva | WW
xerneas Victory Roadlunala Victory Roadkangaskhan-mega Victory Roadtapu-fini Victory Roadcrobat Victory Roadincineroar Victory Road

I had thought about this matchup a bit, mostly because we thought it was super difficult. I also had some info, like knowing the Xerneas was bulky and the Lunala had Icy Wind and Tailwind. Honestly, going in I had felt like my luck had started to run out, but I promised myself that I would kill it. 

Theoretically, it a bad matchup. Our only Xerneas answer was Metagross, and he had a Lunala. I knew the matchup was bad, so I actually played really aggressively. 

Game 1 I believe he led Lunala Kangaskhan into Metagross Tapu Koko? I remember that I thought that he wouldn’t think that my Metagross was bulky, so he was really likely to go for Tailwind in turn 1 and not attack my Metagross. I took this opportunity to mega and break Lunala’s Shadow Shield. The game came down to Metagross Incineroar Tapu Koko vs Incineroar Kangaskhan Xerneas and Metagross Incineroar’s pressure took it home.

Game 2 I did some other stuff, created a super favorable endgame and won. I was playing really well.

Raghav and Rajan were super impressed that I had managed to pull it off, as this was a matchup we decided was very unfavorable and we were never going to win.

Round 5 vs DEU Graham AmedeeWLL
kyogre-primal Victory Roadlunala Victory Roadmedicham-mega Victory Roadtapu-lele Victory Roadtapu-koko Victory Roadnihilego Victory Road

First things first: Graham is a lovely man and I’m very happy that he got as far as he did. He was excellent to talk to during and after rounds, and was quite nice. I’m glad he has a Youtube series now, and I hope life goes great for him in the future. I honestly like Graham Amedee.

Also, I felt lucky to be playing against Medicham, cause I was sure that it was not strong. I could not have been more wrong about it, as you’ll see.

I had heard that he had a Medicham and had heard some of the sounds from the stream when he was playing (and beating) Aaron Traylor. The one thing my friends and I had talked about that was amusing was that my Rayquaza speed tied his Medicham, and that we hoped he wouldn’t notice. 

Game 1 I led Tapu Koko Kyogre with Mimikyu Rayquaza in the back into Lunala Medicham, the lead he brought against me 7 times in a row. I managed to get chip on some of his Pokémon and then clean up the game with +2 Rayquaza Extreme Speed and Mimikyu’s Shadow Sneak, as he brought Tapu Koko instead of Tapu Lele. 

Game 2 I did some of the same things, but he OHKO’d my Kyogre turn 1 with High Jump Kick from his Medicham. I had ways to win the game, but had to hope that Tapu Lele wasn’t in the back, and it was. For the record, the Medicham got a pretty good roll to KO my Kyogre, and if it hadn’t I might have been able to walk away with the round (252 Atk Pure Power Mega Medicham High Jump Kick vs. 244 HP / 68 Def Primal Kyogre: 187-222 (90.7 – 107.7%) — 43.8% chance to OHKO)

Game 3 I went with a different plan, he brought the same Pokémon, mixed me up and caught me out when I got aggressive. I was a little sad after losing but the matchup genuinely felt so negative that I wasn’t sure I could win. I decided to keep my head up, because losing in a tournament happens to everyone.

Round 6 vs DEU Dave Francis | WW
xerneas Victory Roadrayquaza-mega Victory Roadtapu-koko Victory Roadsuicune Victory Roadincineroar Victory Roadamoonguss Victory Road

I got the info on this guy from one of my friends who had played him previously. It was apparently just the Mr. GX paste, which I was pretty familiar with. I didn’t really know the matchup, but decided that it would just work itself out. I think I brought Metagross Kyogre Tapu Koko Incineroar? 

Game 1 I KO’d Incineroar and Amoonguss pretty quickly with some Meteor Mashes and Water Spouts. I had to make a call on what Xerneas was going to do, as X-Ray in the back was scary, but managed it. I also nailed what might have been a damage roll in Game 2, when Dave was playing way better. After the game he told me that I pop off a bit too much, a theme you’ll see later. I also talked to him about his VGC history and when I found out that he was from Pittsburgh, I introduced him to Enosh, who goes to school there. I saw them talking later and I was pretty happy.

Round 7 vs DEU Trevor Lang | LWW
kyogre-primal Victory Roaddialga Victory Roadsalamence-mega Victory Roadtapu-koko Victory Roadincineroar Victory Roadferrothorn Victory Road

I knew that this guy had just been on stream so I went to go talk to my friend who had beaten him, Joseph Ugarte. It was about as bad as I could have asked for. My opponent was running AV Dialga with Ferrothorn. I was sure that this was the time my luck had run out, as opposed to the previous times.

When I went into Game 1, I thought I would go for Tapu Koko Metagross Kyogre Incineroar in some order, and pressure with Water damage and Stomping Tantrum. It did not work at all. Trevor controlled me really easily and took no damage from any attacks. While I was playing Kyogre did basically nothing, as he didn’t bring Salamence or Incineroar. Towards the end of Game 1, I figured out my plan for Game 2: I was going to bring regular Metagross, and Swords Dance with my Rayquaza until I could Dragon Ascent the Dialga.

My game plan was to kill Dialga by Dragon Ascenting it.

Besides the obvious joke, Tapu Koko was actually really good against his team. It could get a bunch of Nature’s Madnesses off against Pokémon that didn’t have a lot of healing. I won Game 2 very cleanly, with non-mega Metagross cleaning up an endgame against his Dialga. 

Game 3 I lead Rayquaza + something into Dialga Tapu Koko. I decided that it was reasonable to switch my Rayquaza into Tapu Koko and as I do that I catch his first reveal of Fairium Z from Tapu Koko into my Tapu Koko. Next turn I crit Stomping Tantrum on the Dialga with my Metagross and I cleaned up the game from there. AV Tapu Koko weakened his Pokémon and Incineroar Rayquaza in the back cleaned them up. There was actually a really funny turn where I wanted both of my Pokémon to get KO’d, so I used Stomping Tantrum on his Ferrothorn to knock Metagross out with Iron Barbs even if Trevor didn’t go for a water attack (all in order to get Incineroar and Rayquaza in at the same time).

At this point I’m on the moon, and I show all my friends the replay after the round in classic Pokémon player fashion. Understandably, they are super confused as to how I managed this win, but are happy for me, and it’s an amazing feeling. I feel like I’m playing very well. Reflecting on the set, I think Trevor suffered from the classic issue of having too good of a matchup and then not playing as well as he could because of it. Apparently it’s Trevor’s first year playing, so I’m really excited to see how he does next year. Not gonna lie though I was glad to not see him in day 2 (he ended up finishing 33rd).

At this point I’m 6-1, and ready to just take one of the last two games and get into day 2

Round 8 vs DEU Davide Carrer | WLW
groudon-primal Victory Roadxerneas Victory Roadsalamence-mega Victory Roadtapu-fini Victory Roadwhimsicott Victory Roadincineroar Victory Road

My first XernDon of the tournament and it had to be a player of Davide’s caliber. I knew I was in for a tough one. 

I recall winning Game 1 in a pretty close one, but the plays seemed to be easier to make for me than for him. Game 2 he managed to clutch it out with a misplay or two on my end, and him revealing Earthquake Salamence (he might have done that in Game 3). Game 3 he brought Whimsicott Salamence, and I was able to set up Swords Dance as his Xerneas protected on the last turn of his Tailwind. I didn’t feel like I really deserved the victory, but I was taking it; sometimes having a matchup and gameplan in advance is good to win games, as you’ll see in the next set.

Round 9 vs DEU Paul Chua | WLW
groudon-primal Victory Roadxerneas Victory Roadsalamence-mega Victory Roadtapu-fini Victory Roadincineroar Victory Roadamoonguss Victory Road

This was the precise matchup we had prepared and had teched moves on for. It was really nice to sit at top tables though, cause we were all just really happy and joking around. It felt a little like a New York local with Paul, James, and I all sitting right next to each other.

Game 1 Paul leads Amoonguss Xerneas as I lead Tapu Koko Metagross. Turn 1 I pray and go for Sky Drop on the Amoonguss and Meteor Mash the Xerneas. Paul goes for Rage Powder + Geomancy, Amoonguss gets brought up and Metagross OHKOs the Xerneas. Paul says, “alright, Game 2,” and Ashton just looks over at us while he’s still in team preview, super confused. Paul and I play the rest of the game out, but there wasn’t much he could do. 

Game 2 Was a little bit less one sided. I threw a little bit in the midgame and let Paul get a Geomancy up to clutch it.

Game 3 I didn’t let Paul do anything too out there and played a solid game of Pokémon that it was hard for him to come back from. And there I was, 8-1.

Raghav and Alex had ended 6-3, and most of the rest of my close friends hadn’t made it to day 2. However, because NAIC was so small, Raghav and Alex both made day 2. We thought about prepping matchups that night, but instead we went to sleep. We thought about Graham, who was also 8-1, but decided my matchup was dodging like I dodged Wolfe/Markus/Billa at 2016 Worlds.

Tournament Day 2

Round 10 vs DEU Graham AmedeeLL
kyogre-primal Victory Roadlunala Victory Roadmedicham-mega Victory Roadtapu-lele Victory Roadtapu-koko Victory Roadnihilego Victory Road

So that plan had worked really well…  This time, I tried different game plans, but they didn’t really do much. I just kinda lost pretty quickly, no matter how much Graham said he was scared to play me again. He also played pretty well, but it was just kinda hopeless from the start. The one thing I noticed was that he liked to Z my Mimikyu even though he also knew that regular Moongeist Beam KOed it. 

Round 11 vs DEU Marco Hemantha Kaludura Silva | WLW
xerneas Victory Roadlunala Victory Roadkangaskhan-mega Victory Roadtapu-fini Victory Roadcrobat Victory Roadincineroar Victory Road

I just wasn’t going to get away from these rematches. I was terrified that he would have learned how to play the matchup after the first set.

Game 1 he led Kangaskhan Lunala, and I managed to win with some aggressive plays.

Game 2 he led Xerneas Lunala, the lead I was scared of. He baited me into attacking the Xerneas early. However, I found a position that gave me a chance to get into the game. My Metagross was at full health, and my Kyogre had taken a Moongeist Beam. He had Lunala at a reasonable health and full health Xerneas in Tailwind. I got a little inkling that he might not make the correct play and went for Meteor Mash into the Xerneas and Origin Pulse (for crit chances). I popped off when the Z went into my Kyogre and didn’t KO it (I knew the roll). But my Meteor Mash missed for the first time all tournament and I lost the game.

I won Game 3 somehow. Not really sure how, but I think I played aggressively and pushed the tempo.

I only had to go 3-2 to guarantee my top cut chances. I might have been able to go 2-3 if I had won r1, but I was unlikely to make it in on resistance.

Round 12 vs DEU Jean Paul Lopez Buiza | LL
xerneas Victory Roadrayquaza-mega Victory Roadtapu-koko Victory Roadkartana Victory Roadincineroar Victory Roadamoonguss Victory Road

I knew Jean Paul was pretty good. He got Top 8 at 2018 LAIC, so I had heard of him before. I had also played him in the online IC, where I was sure he had destroyed me and then it turned out that he had Suicune in the back. Raghav told me that the matchup was hard, which I kinda doubted after my experiences with Dave yesterday. The key thing that Jean Paul had though was Electrium Z Tapu Koko based on Thunder. It was super hard to position around the Electrium Z. I also didn’t play well at all. If you want to see the match, watch here

After this round I promised myself that I was going to put myself together and win the next few rounds. The sad thing is that the next round was a friend.

Round 13 vs DEU Alex Underhill | WLW
groudon-primal Victory Roadxerneas Victory Roadgengar-mega Victory Roadtapu-fini Victory Roadlandorus-therian Victory Roadincineroar Victory Road

Alex and I were staying together and we had actually practiced a decent amount against this comp, expecting to see it a bunch at NAIC. 

Game 1 I led Tapu Koko Metagross (I think), into Gengar Incineroar and was able to win pretty convincingly. I remember Swords Dancing to +3 and having Rayquaza just click Dragon Ascent. I don’t think I even had to Mega my Metagross.

Game 2 I led Tapu Koko Metagross again, this time into Gengar Xerneas. I thought that Alex would be switching his Xerneas into Landorus and Subbing or something, so I went for the Electroweb to break a potential Substitute or get a speed advantage and non-mega Meteor Mash on the Xerneas, in order to preserve my mega for the Rayquaza in the back. Alex went for Shadow Ball and Dazzling Gleam and knocked my Metagross out for free. Next turn, I sent in Kyogre and I predicted Alex to switch in Groudon on the Xerneas slot and Protect Gengar, so I balled out and side Volt Switched and Origin Pulsed and got the KO, as he Dazzling Gleamed  or something. I got a chance in the late game as he Protected his Xerneas and I Origin Pulse missed his Gengar to prevent him from getting the free Incineroar switch. I missed my Origin Pulse next turn though on the Xerneas, and missed the knock out as he Geomancy’d. It came down to my Tapu Koko needing to crit or get a high damage roll when Electric Terrain was down and I didn’t get it. 

Game 3 I led Tapu Koko Metagross for the third time, this time into Gengar Incineroar. Turn 1 I went for the Electroweb, as reducing the speed of the Gengar was super important, and switched Metagross into Rayquaza. Alex went for Fake Out on the Metagross slot and Perish Song

Once Perish Song comes into play, the game becomes really intense and in a way, almost the purest form of Pokémon . The gameplans seem very obvious. I thought that Alex was always going to Protect or switch Gengar. A common gameplan from Perish players is to switch out Gengar and U-turn with Incineroar in order to get Gengar back in for free without Song on it (either Incineroar dies or gets its U-turn off). I also knew that Alex had Protect on his Incineroar, so double Protect was a possibility. I decided that the best course of action was to Mega Evolve Rayquaza and punish the switch + U-turn play as hard as possible, and doubled into the Incineroar with Nature Madness and Dragon Ascent and KO’d it.

The rest of the game was pretty simple (but I don’t remember it that well). I got my Kyogre in on a Groudon and clicked Water Spout to pretty much lock up the game. I think as the Xerneas was in I went for Nature’s Madness on the Xerneas and Swords Dance? Not super sure. 

And now I had a really good chance of making Top 8. I was talking to Alex during the set, and he also thought that some of my mannerisms were distracting (e.g., when I’m doing well I pop off at things like my moves hitting). He also made fun of me for handshaking too much, which I sometimes do when I’m nervous. Before our third game we went for like 6 ironic handshakes.

Round 14 vs DEU Kyle Livinghouse | W
groudon-primal Victory Roadxerneas Victory Roadkangaskhan-mega Victory Roadmawile-mega Victory Roadtornadus Victory Roadkommo-o Victory Road

This was possibly the best pairing I could have gotten. Not only was Kyle 11-2 as I was 10-3, but Kyle also had just gotten his day 2 Worlds invite off of me beating Alex. The pairing RNG which had given me Graham round 1 gave me a break. As it turns out, even if I had lost to Kyle I would have made it into cut on resistance. The cut structure would have been different, but I secured my Worlds invite!

This was the best I ever felt about earning my Worlds invite. I knew that at this point in the season, if I was actually able to get one then I would have earned it. I blazed through one last year, going from 120 to 400 in a matter of 3 weeks. This time, however, I really really earned my invite. I got my second best result of all time and I was playing phenomenally overall.

After the ceremony, I sat down to play Ashton.

Top Cut

Top 8 vs DEU Ashton Cox | LWW
groudon-primal Victory Roadxerneas Victory Roadkangaskhan-mega Victory Roadmetagross-mega Victory Roadtapu-koko Victory Roadtornadus Victory Road

▶️ Watch the match here!

This was possibly the best matchup I could have played in Top 8. Playing Wolfe was scary, Melvin beat Raghav round 1, Jean Paul beat Raghav and I, Graham had beat me twice, and Kyle and Pado both had Kommo-o, which I think is scarier for my team. Raghav and I were prepping during lunch before Top 8, so we came up with a gameplan. Ashton had mentioned offhand that he hadn’t brought Tapu Koko or Metagross at all, so I thought he just didn’t want them, not that he hadn’t fought any RayOgre. We decided Incineroar Kyogre with Rayquaza Metagross in the back was pretty good vs Kangaskhan Tornadus Xerneas Groudon and could answer the pressure, especially as Metagross could take an Earth Power.

Before the game started, Ashton and I were bantering, just having a nice chat. He said that if he Z danced and stuff it wasn’t personal. We just had a nice time talking to each other during the set. 

The video is linked above, so let’s go through it turn by turn.

I sent out Incineroar Kyogre into Tapu Koko Metagross. I had assumed that Ashton would lead Kangaskhan Tornadus so I was a little surprised. I knew his Tapu Koko had some HP investment as he had brought it against Graham on the side stream, but I thought it might just be bulky Fairy Z as I didn’t really know what other item it could be.

Turn 1: I didn’t really know what was going on, so I covered for a potential AV Tapu Koko by switching Incineroar to Rayquaza, forcing damage if Ashton switched out the Tapu Koko. If Ashton Volt Switched, he could go into Xerneas but I would get guaranteed damage on it, even if Groudon didn’t come in. Ashton double protected instead, which was very reasonable.

Turn 2: Since Ashton revealed Protect I was very certain on the Fairium Z read, as opposed to any other set. Kangaskhan Tornadus is pretty weak to Rayquaza on the whole, so having a tech like that for it makes sense. I thus thought my Kyogre wasn’t under any threat, so I switched Rayquaza out to Incineroar to get Fake Out and positioning pressure for next turn and just Origin Pulsed, as there was no way in my mind that Ashton was switching into Groudon. Ashton doubled my Kyogre with Guardian of Alola and Stomping Tantrum, which I was not expecting.

Turn 3: I sent in Rayquaza because my Metagross in the back wasn’t really going to do anything. My only chance, but a reasonable one, of winning was to get some boosts on my Rayquaza, so I Fake Out the Metagross and Swords Dance. Ashton slows my Rayquaza’s speed so that if he KO’s another Pokémon, Xerneas will outspeed my Rayquaza even if it megas. 

Turn 4: I think I made a mistake here in retrospect. I decided that because my Rayquaza was slow and +2 Extreme Speed doesn’t OHKO Tapu Koko, I needed another Swords Dance. However, I possibly could have won with keeping +2 non-mega Rayquaza and Mega Metagross in the back. I was also scared because Ashton had the double power Stomping Tantrum and could knock out Incineroar if I protected the Rayquaza.

Turn 5: I don’t want to reveal any damage calcs, so I just forfeit. It’s worth considering the benefit of taking all the time to think about the next game and just ignoring the Pokémon, because it’s harder to think about the next game if you’re the one on the winning side. However, I felt like I had enough of an idea about what I was going to do in the 2nd game that it wasn’t worth revealing anything.

At some point during this game I got a little frustrated, because I had been playing so well all tournament long, and both games that were shown on stream were going to be of me getting eviscerated with little to no counterplay, so I really needed to think of a plan.

Going into Game 2, we take a small break to calm our nerves. This gives me a bit more time to think about my plan for game 2, which I needed as I got completely eviscerated. This was where my Rayquaza spread really hurt me, as my Rayquaza’s HP was not divisible by 4. That meant that if Ashton went for the Guardian of Alola onto it, its berry wouldn’t get activated

I also knew that because Ashton wasn’t bringing his Kangaskhan or his Tornadus (he was definitely bringing the same thing into Game 2 after seeing how well it worked in game 1) he had almost no way to stop Trick Room. The lead then was going to be Mimikyu Incineroar, so I could Fake Out the Metagross to prevent the 30% flinch chance and also not let Mimikyu get KO’d Turn 1. The question was, which Pokémon do I drop? Surely it had to be Metagross, as I don’t think Incineroar Mimikyu Rayquaza Metagross is good enough against Groudon. But then I am missing my Fairy resist, and so I’m going to have to tempo out Ashton’s Xerneas. However, I felt like I was going to be able to do that, either by setting up a Swords Dance or by getting the Let’s Snuggle Forever off onto it. +2 Rayquaza deals a lot of damage, and Xerneas can’t OHKO Kyogre, so I have a lot of ways to get the chip I need, especially as Ashton doesn’t have Intimidate. I spend all of preview thinking about this, decide it’s a reasonable gameplan, and lock it in

Turn 1: I make the play I had planned out, Ashton breaks my Disguise and brings in Xerneas. I’m not sure why he brought Xerneas in over Groudon, but maybe he didn’t want my Flare Blitz next turn to be sun boosted, and didn’t want me to be able to switch in Kyogre on the Groudon.

Turn 2: I thought Ashton would be a little scared of the Mimikyu and might switch Xerneas out to Groudon or just Protect it, and Iron Head the Mimikyu. I went for Flare Blitz on the Metagross to do as much damage as possible to it, and Protected the Mimikyu, trying to bait out Ashton’s protect. Ashton Iron Heads to cover whatever my Mimikyu is doing and Geomancies, trying to get protects later. 

Turn 3: I think that Ashton’s aggressive play might have come from him not thinking the Mimikyu could do anything to the Xerneas. I also know that if the Xerneas Protects on my Z move I can double into it later to take it out. I decide to Z the Xerneas in case Ashton continues his aggression, and Flare Blitz the Metagross to cover for Iron Head + Protect again. Ashton switches into Groudon which takes a chunk, and protects the Xerneas, which I can tell takes around 25%, meaning that Let’s Snuggle Forever with the Fairy Aura boost will knock it out from full, or with a tiny bit of chip.

Turn 4: Xerneas has just protected, so I decide to double into it. If the Xerneas gets knocked out, my Rayquaza has free reign over the game. I also can’t really do anything to the Groudon, so there’s no real point in punishing a double Protect; the best odds for me of winning the game are to punish the Xerneas and knock it out. I don’t know precisely how much damage Flare Blitz in the sun will do, so I go with Play Rough in addition. Ashton makes his best play, which is go for the double protect + Eruption. In classic Ashton fashion, he gets it, and Ashton and I start joking around. Eruption doesn’t knock out either of my Pokémon as, contrary to what Aaron said, it was not full powered (the Flare Blitz chip put in a lot of work).

Turn 5: Ok. He got the double. And he is Ashton Cox. But I *have* to double the Xerneas anyway. I make the same move as last turn, and Ashton goes for the triple. We’re joking as you can see about how he doesn’t get it, and I pop off. Flare Blitz connects, does a billion, and activates my berry. Ashton’s saying that the Play Rough can still miss, though and I’m just hoping to god that it doesn’t and that he’s not as lucky as he really is. Ashton really is that lucky, Play Rough does miss, and I laugh and fist bump with Ashton (it helps silence the pain). Ashton goes for Earth Power on my Incineroar, leaving it on 1 which was very frustrating, and Ashton points this out.

If my Incineroar had been KO’d, I would have been able to send in Rayquaza and get a Swords Dance to go with my Shadow Sneak, putting me in a really good position to take the game. I’m not sure whether it would have been better or worse than the position turned out, but it would have made sense in a tempo manner.

Turn 6: Even though Ashton could Protect this turn, I go for the Shadow Sneak to cover Xerneas attacking. I also switch Incineroar into Kyogre to prevent Groudon from going for a potential Eruption combined with Xerneas’ Protect. Ashton makes a reasonable play, as I haven’t revealed Shadow Sneak, and attacks with Xerneas while switching in Tapu Koko. This punishes my Kyogre switch in pretty well, as Ashton is able to switch in Groudon.

Turn 7: At this point I’m pretty sure I’ve won, as my Rayquaza beats all of his Pokémon, especially with his Metagross at 5%. However, Rayquaza doesn’t have a HP stat that’s divisible by 4. That means that if Rayquaza is hit by Guardian of Alola, I lose the game, and it’s technically still possible for me to lose regardless. I decide that switching out Kyogre into Incineroar and Trick Rooming is pretty safe, as if Ashton Eruptions I get to set up a Swords Dance with Rayquaza and have it carry the rest of the game

However, I’m not so sure about this in retrospect. It might have been a straight 50/50. If Ashton just Eruption and Electrowebs or something, then he can go for Guardian of Alola + Earth Power into the Kyogre next turn, or Guardian of Alola + Eruption/Overheat on the Rayquaza, or something like that. However, I was pretty sure that Ashton didn’t know my HP stat, and it’s giving me more 50/50s to win.
But let’s consider what happens if I switch my Rayquaza into the Mimikyu slot and go for Origin Pulse (and it hits, potentially Water Spout is better because it’s accurate, you can decide for yourself). Let’s assume that Ashton punishes this optimally and KO’s Kyogre. I get the free switch to Incineroar, and can Fake Out the Tapu Koko + mega (or non-mega if I want to preserve Strong Winds for later potentially, to help beat Tapu Koko’s Electric attacks) Swords Dance. I think it’s pretty favorable for me to, from that point, just click Extreme Speed on every Pokémon. The only thing I’d be worried about is an Overheat from Groudon, so I might go for a second Swords Dance if I had the opportunity. Mimikyu’s slight pressure on the Metagross with Shadow Sneak and its ability to sneak my Rayquaza so 2 Nature Madnesses activates berry might well give me the win. 

I think part of my reluctance to switch to Rayquaza was that I hadn’t revealed it yet, and I wanted to not reveal info to Ashton about the 4 I had brought. In Top 4 of worlds in 2016 Edu mentioned that he had brought Hitmontop in Game 2 and I was able to make plans in Game 3 because of that information. 

Anyway, I switch Kyogre into Incineroar and go for Trick Room, and Ashton Guardian of Alola’s the Incineroar for 3 damage, not 1 as Duy says, and Ashton forfeits.

We had been joking around a bunch during that game, so Ashton says that the next one will be serious. I thought I had been taking it seriously, but I decided to be a little quieter.

Going into Game 3 I kind of expected Kangaskhan and Tornadus. However, I felt that if I got aggressive early with a potential Fake Out + Z move, I could force in the Xerneas early and chip it with Play Rough and the like to put it into Extreme Speed range. I also knew that I had nothing else that was going to beat Metagross Tapu Koko, so I went with the same lead as game 2.

Turn 1: I was expecting a mixup sort of like this from Ashton, but he didn’t bring the Tornadus. That makes my position a lot better. I decide that Kangaskhan almost certainly has Scrappy and that Ashton is going to Fake Out the Mimikyu. I have Protect and have revealed it, but the risk-reward on attacking Incineroar is so low that Ashton makes the super safe play of switching out Tapu Koko into Xerneas and going for Fake Out. The theory behind this play is presumably that after this he can double up on the Mimikyu with a Bite + Moonblast to potentially knock it out, or just exert pressure with his Xerneas in a way the Tapu Koko and Groudon couldn’t. Ashton hard switches Tapu Koko as opposed to Volt Switching to prevent me from Faking Out the Tapu Koko and trapping it in. That was a really smart play that managed risk reward well because the Volt Switch damage isn’t worth the potential risk of not putting enough pressure on Mimikyu on the following turn. I U-turn because I think that I have to be aggressive, especially considering that my Rayquaza speed ties with the Kangaskhan. I also get the second switch which is useful. I go into Rayquaza because I’m trying to bait the Xerneas into attacking or doing something silly, or just baiting it into being scared of the double up from Rayquaza and Mimikyu.

Turn 2: I have Rayquaza Mimikyu in, in front of Kangaskhan and Xerneas. Because of the damage my Let’s Snuggle Forever did in Game 2, and because of the Rayquaza bait, I expect Ashton to be defensive or potentially aggressive, but by attacking into the Rayquaza, with his Xerneas. So I switch Rayquaza out into Incineroar in order to get Fake Out support for my Mimikyu and go for the Play Rough onto the Kangaskhan, which will KO if the Xerneas stays in due to Fairy Aura. Play Rough also plays around a potential Roar to stop Trick Room.
Ashton goes for Geomancy, in a very unexpected play, and Bites my Mimikyu. Thankfully, he flinched it, so I didn’t have to deal with Groudon and +2 Xerneas the next turn, which would have ended the game, as Eruption would KO Mimikyu from that range, and so would Moonblast.
Play Rough was probably a throw, or an excessively aggressive play.

Turn 3: This is the tricky and game deciding turn. I have Fake Out live. My Mimikyu has its Z active. Xerneas is at +2, and Kangaskhan has Bite and Roar. Pause here on the video and try to put yourself in my position. What is Ashton going to do?

I’ll tell you how I thought of the position, but there are many different ways to think about it, and ways that you might think about it are also interesting, and I’d love to have you tweet them at me if you want!

In this position, I have Fake Out pressure. Therefore, Ashton has a few plays. First, he can Protect Xerneas and Roar Mimikyu. This loses to Fake Out the Kang + TR, very quickly. Ashton can Protect Xerneas and Bite Mimikyu, which is roughly the same play. Ashton can Roar the Mimikyu and Moonblast it, or he can Bite the Mimikyu and Moonblast it. 

Protect Xerneas + Bite Mimikyu is almost never going to happen; Roar is way better. It forces the Mimikyu out unless I knock out the Kangaskhan, but if I knock out the Kangaskhan, Ashton pretty much just wins on the spot. Roar the Mimikyu and Moonblast and Bite and Moonblast are pretty equivalent? Bite is a 51% to flinch and covers both my options, so if you think that there’s a 50/50 chance or better that I’m going to attack with Mimikyu, or want to cover your options, then that’s super reasonable. So Ashton’s most likely play is to Bite Mimikyu and attack, or Roar and Protect.

I thought Roar and Protect was pretty unlikely. This is where it gets a bit fuzzy; I’m trying to describe how I felt in the moment and it definitely was not this analytic. I think that basically the risk-reward of going for Protect on the Xerneas is really bad. There’s a decent chance I try to aggressively set up Trick Room by going for Fake Out on the Kangaskhan. Ashton has shown that he can be pretty aggressive with Xerneas, but also pretty passive, and I think the Protect is just a bit too obvious coming out from him. Ashton also has advantages on percentages by going for Bite, so attacking is a reasonable play.

However, this wasn’t really how I thought in the moment. I just kinda had a gut feeling that he really didn’t want to Protect with Xerneas there. I thought that this turn was my best chance to take the game and I thought Ashton was likely to cover for me calling a Protect, so I just freaked out a little and locked it in.
I was kinda surprised that he went for Bite instead of Roar, because I thought Trick Room was scarier; if I Fake Out the Xerneas and TR there I’m still in a good position and so I think that this play was risky, but covered the attack better. It’s possible that the best play from Ashton was to commit, but flinches are nice, and a good crutch, and Ashton is very lucky.
Fake Out goes off, Bite doesn’t flinch, and I KO the Xerneas

The game is pretty much over at this point, but I really hate throwing so I take the rest of it really seriously so nothing can possibly go wrong.
Ashton sends in Tapu Koko instead of Groudon in order to get his Fake Out back in and to preserve weather in the back. 

Turn 4: I don’t really think that hard about why Ashton sent in Tapu Koko. I decide that Trick Room wins me the game 100% of the time if I can get it off, and if Ashton goes for a Roar, then I get a free switch into one of my damage dealers in front of a -2 Kangaskhan. I decide to Flare Blitz the Kangaskhan though, because if I can KO it before it uses Roar that would be great. Ashton decides to let me get off the potential Trick Room, and I do some chip to Groudon.

Turn 5: Switching when you have this much of an advantage is a mistake. There’s no reason to let your Pokémon get crit, especially when the risk-reward is so bad for Ashton on Faking Out Incineroar. Sure, I could get Kyogre in, or miss Play Rough and sac Incineroar for no damage, but Kyogre gets to come in for free and then click Water Spout on a Pokémon that can’t Protect, and I have Rayquaza in the back to clean up. 

Turn 6: I realize that Ashton is the luckiest human on earth, so I need to have a gameplan for if both of his Pokémon get the triple protect. I decided that the way to do this is to make sure he’s forced to Protect on this turn by doubling the Tapu Koko with Water Spout and Play Rough. Once Ashton has protected, I can get guaranteed damage while switching in my Rayquaza next turn to set up some Swords Dances as Trick Room goes on to clean up with the Rayquaza.

Turn 7: Ashton has just Protected with both Pokémon, so I initiate step 2 of the plan. If Ashton doesn’t Protect with his Tapu Koko here I’m still fine because I have a really good chance to get damage onto his Groudon and I also have Mimikyu in the back for some follow up damage. Ashton fails both his double Protects, I knock out the Groudon and bring Tapu Koko down to basically nothing. Ashton forfeits.

After this game, Ashton told me to cool it on the popping off which was reasonable, and I apologized on camera. I wanted to try to get the crowd to cheer for when I was winning, and I also wanted to pop off when I hit my Play Rough, but I see how that was disrespectful to Ashton and I will do my best to be more respectful in the future.

After this set my friends were super happy, and Collin and Mancuso gave me their Mimikyu plushes for stream (Mancuso actually gave his to me permanently, which is awesome of him and I am treasuring it).

I got to watch the Top 8 set between Graham and Melvin just hoping and praying for Melvin to complete the 3-0 over Graham. While I was doing this I got my friends to try and come up with gameplans. Enosh was working on one, and the Australians (YT, Akanuma, and Kimura) wanted to help me with the matchup (after Graham had won). It was the most adorable thing. I told them what the matchup was and they all gave a kind of distressed sigh. I was talking to Enosh and YT walked over to suggest a plan. I told him that I had tried it and that it didn’t work and explained what had happened last time and they let out another sigh and started thinking harder. Eventually they came up with the plan to bring Incineroar over Kyogre, and lead Rayquaza Tapu Koko and turn 1 switch Rayquaza into Incineroar and Volt Switch the Lunala to break the Shadow Shield. This Intimidates the Medicham, which is important, gives me Fake Out pressure, and gives me a chance to set up once the Tapu Koko gets off the field. I brought Mimikyu in the back to set up Trick Room. Having Tapu Koko in the back was really important because I needed to have a way to remove the Psychic Terrain, because priority attacks were critical in how I could win the set. I didn’t really have a gameplan for Game 2, but I decided I could work that out after I saw how Game 1 went.

Top 4 vs AUS Graham AmedeeLL
kyogre-primal Victory Roadlunala Victory Roadmedicham-mega Victory Roadtapu-lele Victory Roadtapu-koko Victory Roadnihilego Victory Road

▶️ Watch the match here!

So going into this set, I was sure I was going to lose. The matchup is so disgusting. Even though there’s a less than 50% chance for High Jump Kick to KO Kyogre, everything is so threatening and I can’t use priority moves because Graham has Tapu Lele. I go in with my gameplan that the ‘Australians’ and Enosh had come up with.

Turn 1: Graham leads Medicham Lunala again, and I lead Tapu Koko Rayquaza again. My plan was to switch out the Rayquaza and hopefully tank a Fake Out and Volt Switch to break Shadow Shield, get Tapu Koko in the back, and have Fake Out pressure next to Rayquaza. Fake Out on Turn 2 is absolutely broken if your opponent doesn’t have it, because you don’t have to play the speed tiers game or anything like that.

Graham remembers part of what I said in the second set we played, possibly, where he got a ton of Fake Out chip onto my Mega Rayquaza and I revealed that I actually take Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom from Lunala, so he thought I would play defensively, which is smart from him. Even if I had called that though, I think that switching Rayquaza out was good because it let me burn another turn of Tailwind. (Graham set up Tailwind)

Turn 2: Graham could switch Tapu Lele in on the Lunala slot and High Jump Kick the Incineroar, but that’s super risky, and the reward is relatively low. First, I could switch my Incineroar into Mimikyu, which I brought the past 5 games against him. Second, my Tapu Koko probably manages to get in the back so I’ll have priority control. Third, I can potentially get my Mimikyu in for free and get some speed control. Finally, I could misplay and Graham making the good move could pay off for him in a big way. Graham Psyshocks my Tapu Koko to do a bit more damage through the AV and I break the Shadow Shield

Turn 3: I’m thinking about switching my Incineroar to Mimikyu, but I know that Graham is going to be doubling down on the Incineroar slot to cover for that, so I decide to give him Incineroar if he wants it and to protect the Rayquaza from the Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom that he’s probably going to launch (as he really likes to Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom my Mimikyu instead of Moongeist Beaming it). High Jump Kick hits, because Graham is pretty lucky, and my Rayquaza takes a bit of chip through protect.

I send in Mimikyu because I need to have Tapu Koko in the back.

Turn 4: This is the last turn of Tailwind, so I need to be setting up to make my Mimikyu able to go for Trick Room on the next turn. I think that there’s a decent chance that Poison Jab + Moongeist Beam doesn’t KO Rayquaza through berry, and also I think that Graham might not read the play I’m going for because Medicham is -1, so I Protect Mimikyu and go for Swords Dance, so I can deal more damage to the Lunala and use a stronger Extreme Speed later. This works out way better than I thought it would, and actually puts me back into the game

Turn 5: I pretty much need to set up Trick Room, so I go for that. In retrospect, it’s worth considering whether I really did have to set up Trick Room. Setting up Trick Room allows me to go for quick Extreme Speeds. On the other hand, consider the position if I don’t set up Trick Room but Play Rough and KO the Medicham. If Graham stays in with his Lunala, I get 2 KOs. He sends in Tapu Lele Kyogre. I switch in my Tapu Koko and Extreme Speed the Tapu Lele, Graham probably Water Spouts, KO’s both my Pokémon, and it’s Mimikyu vs Kyogre. I can win if I manage to get the Z off, but that’s a bit less comfortable than I would like, especially as I think I see how the endgame can work out. Graham could also switch out Lunala if he wanted to and make it really difficult for me to do things outside of Trick Room. Oh, I also know that Lunala can’t protect, so I’m not really worried about that.
I win the speed tie with the Medicham and Dragon Ascent the Lunala, knocking it out. Because I went first, Medicham got to do more damage to my Rayquaza with High Jump Kick, which will matter later.

Turn 6: This turn is a really scary turn, and a hard one to think about. The threat of Tapu Lele switching in is really big. If I Extreme Speed on the Tapu Lele switch in and Graham knocks out my Rayquaza, I instantly lose the game. I decide that Graham has a pretty big incentive to be aggressive, as he might think he could KO my Mimikyu with an Origin Pulse + Bullet Punch, or might just think my Rayquaza is attacking as I had been pretty aggressive in some of our earlier sets. I also think that if I get the Z off onto the Kyogre my Mimikyu should be able to deal with it on its own, which would let me switch Rayquaza out and get better position potentially. Graham reads into this very well though and doesn’t switch into Tapu Lele, just protecting Kyogre. This is super reasonable. I’m likely to double down on the Kyogre or Protect the Rayquaza. There’s a chance I could Play Rough the Medicham, so Graham decides that Bullet Punch is better than Poison Jab even despite the Poison chance. I get some chip on Kyogre through Protect.

Turn 7: If I was scared of the Tapu Lele switching in last turn, I’m terrified now. It’s pretty much guaranteed, and I have almost no way to punish it. Play Rough isn’t gonna KO the Kyogre, and if I go into my Tapu Koko, Mimikyu will switch first so Psychic Terrain will go up anyway. So I see the obvious play to me, one I had been thinking about for a bit. Basically, I’ve lost this game. The only way for me to win, the literal only way is for Graham to choke. If Graham Ice Beams, he cannot lose, but the Water move just looks so tasty that he might decide to throw. (note, Graham could lose if I go for the double protect with my Rayquaza and get extra Play Rough damage on the Kyogre, which might put it in range for a second Play Rough.) However, this is extremely unlikely, and I think that the Water Spout is actually pretty suboptimal. On doing damage calcs, if I Play Rough the Kyogre, Water Spout doesn’t KO my Ray even if I min roll and then Ray can KO Kyogre.
I side Shadow Sneak my Rayquaza, which is in range for the berry because the High Jump Kick went after the Dragon Ascent on turn 5, and I Dragon Ascent the Kyogre to knock it out. If you watch the vod you’ll see I’m celebrating before the turn actually happens, and that’s because I asked Graham what the Kyogre did.
Side note: I side snuck my Rayquaza because it was flying and thus unaffected by Psychic Terrain. However, it turns out that you can use side priority moves on your own Pokémon in Psychic Terrain even if they’re grounded. Quick mechanics lesson for everyone out there.

Both Rayquaza and Mimikyu take the Water Spout and Ray KO’s the Kyogre. From this point, the game is pretty easy for me. Psychic Terrain is up, so Bullet Punch can’t KO Mimikyu. I can just Play Rough and Protect, KO the Medicham, and then switch in Tapu Koko to change terrain and KO Tapu Lele.

Turn 8: I go for Play Rough and Protect. It is 100% the best move.
Play Rough misses and I lose my Mimikyu. Graham apologizes, but I’m just trying to figure out my win cons.

What I do between turn 8 and turn 9 is my biggest misplay of the tournament; even bigger than the misplay I made on turn 9 (but maybe not as big as the Play Rough against Ashton).
I just send in my Tapu Koko the second I can.
That is a massive error and everyone should learn from this. As I’ll describe later, I actually had a 100% win con that I missed because I didn’t give myself enough time to think about it. I had a minute and a half (45 to switch in Koko, 45 to click buttons) to consider my next play, and I should have taken all of it. I didn’t think as clearly about the turn as I could have, partly because of the position of my Pokémon on the field, but I definitely did not give myself every possible advantage in that situation.

Turn 9: Graham has to double target the Rayquaza. There’s a 0% chance he plays a 50/50 with me if he can get a far more guaranteed win. I decide that I need Tapu Koko to put in a bunch of work and go for Electroweb to get some damage on both Pokémon. I also try to get the double Protect with my Rayquaza. I miss the double and Graham takes the game. There were two mistakes here. First, if I wanted to go for the double, my best play by a mile was to go for Volt Switch into the Medicham to get extra damage onto it. Medicham is pretty frail, so Volt Switch actually would have 2HKO’d from that position if I got the double off. So that was a pretty big throw. Of course, even despite the throw, if I had gotten the double, Volt Switch actually had a 75% chance to KO Medicham, so that throw was not game losing necessarily. The other throw is that I actually had a 100% win con. Take a bit and see if you can spot it.

If I Sky Drop the Tapu Lele and Extreme Speed the Medicham I always win. Medicham gets KO’d, and I can protect Rayquaza as Tapu Lele comes down and then Extreme Speed it. I wasn’t thinking about Sky Drop because I don’t really like the move, but maybe if I had had a minute and 30 seconds, I would have been able to come up with this play.

Graham takes game 1 and I’m pretty dispirited. I kinda needed to win that game with my plan, as it was going to be hard to ‘cheese’ another with a complicated plan.
I decide that the same 4 and making mixups with Incineroar and Mimikyu is the best option, but I’m pretty tilted at this point.

Turn 1: I decide that I need to mix up my plays, for some reason I think that the best way to do this is to Dragon Ascent with Rayquaza. Switching Tapu Koko into Incineroar doesn’t really do much. Incineroar is always pinned by the High Jump Kick and Moongeist Beam/Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom double target. Switching Tapu Koko to Mimikyu might have been an interesting play, but the pins are still really tough and it would have been hard to win the game anyway.

Graham Fake Outs the Tapu Koko and I break the Shadow Shield.

Turn 2: I thought that Graham might target the Tapu Koko, or that if he went for attacks into Rayquaza he would respect my potential to use protect. I thought the Moongeist Beam would go into Rayquaza, and maybe a Poison Jab into it or the Tapu Koko. I switched both my Pokémon out to try to give myself some good positioning, but Graham doubled down on the Rayquaza with High Jump Kick and Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom. Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom got redirected to the Mimikyu, and the game was over.

I probably would have lost Game 3, but I’m kinda frustrated that I didn’t get the chance to play it or get the mental advantage going into Game 2. I also would like to think I could have put up a better fight against Wolfe in finals, but that’s a different universe. 

Fourth version | MetaCele

rayquaza-mega Victory Roadkyogre-primal Victory Roadincineroar Victory Roadtapu-koko Victory Roadmetagross-mega Victory Roadcelesteela Victory Road

Team

rayquaza-mega Victory Road
Rayquaza @ Aguav Berry 
Ability: Air Lock  
Level: 50  
Shiny: Yes  
EVs: 220 HP / 4 Atk / 12 Def / 20 SpD / 252 Spe  
Adamant Nature  
– Dragon Ascent  
– Swords Dance  
– Extreme Speed  
– Protect  

Spread is slightly optimized from the Nats version to take a Lele moonblast and have HP divisible by 4 after what happened earlier.

kyogre-primal Victory Road
Kyogre @ Blue Orb  
Ability: Drizzle  
Level: 50  
EVs: 252 HP / 52 Def / 4 SpA / 4 SpD / 196 Spe  
Modest Nature  
IVs: 0 Atk  
– Water Spout  
– Origin Pulse  
– Ice Beam  
– Protect  

Crept myself by a point, and changed a point of Def to a point of HP.

metagross-mega Victory Road
Metagross @ Metagrossite  
Ability: Clear Body  
Level: 50  
EVs: 124 HP / 84 Atk / 4 Def / 108 SpD / 188 Spe  
Jolly Nature  
– Meteor Mash  
– Bullet Punch 
– Stomping Tantrum  
– Protect  

Crept 168 by a point, and dropping one point in Attack didn’t do anything to my calcs.169 > 2x 84, so I could feel reasonably confident that I would outspeed incineroar in Tailwind. This actually came up in my first set and gave me a big advantage that I didn’t sufficiently capitalize on.

tapu-koko Victory Road
Tapu Koko @ Mago Berry  
Ability: Electric Surge  
Level: 50  
EVs: 116 HP / 4 Def / 4 SpA / 132 SpD / 252 Spe  
Timid Nature  
IVs: 0 Atk  
– Volt Switch  
– Nature’s Madness  
– Light Screen  
– Electroweb  

incineroar Victory Road
Incineroar @ Figy Berry
Ability: Intimidate  
Level: 50  
EVs: 236 HP / 4 Atk / 68 Def / 180 SpD / 20 Spe  
Careful Nature  
– Fake Out  
– Knock Off  
– U-turn  
– Flare Blitz  

Crept my Celesteela by a point, in order to get Knock Off + Heavy Slam into something, and to allow my Celesteela to outspeed minimum speed Tapu Fini.

celesteela Victory Road
Celesteela @ Leftovers  
Ability: Beast Boost  
Level: 50  
EVs: 252 HP / 124 Atk / 4 Def / 124 SpD / 4 Spe  
Adamant Nature  
– Heavy Slam  
– Leech Seed  
– Wide Guard  
– Protect  

I just jacked Wolfe’s spread, and creeped it by a point to outspeed min speed Fini, which Japan was relatively fond of.

▶️ Get the importable version of the team here!

Going into worlds, I felt that even though I wasn’t sure RayOgre was the call, I was not practiced enough with anything else. I was helping my friends prep in large part by testing RayOgre against their teams and had been putting up a reasonable win rate. I knew some things had to change though, so I optimized my team to give myself a slightly worse RayOgre matchup but a better matchup against X-Ray, XernOgre, RayNala, XerNala, and arguably XernDon.

A lot of people had tried out my team with Celesteela over Metagross, at least right after NAIC, and found it lacking. On this version, I replaced the Mimikyu with Celesteela. I felt that having two steels would allow me to overwhelm Xerneas teams by having decent Pokémon. The gameplan against Xerneas teams without Groudon would often involve bringing no restricteds, and just using the weight of two steels to pressure Xerneas and its partner.

I think that something about this team was interesting, but I’m not really sure what it was, and the team itself wasn’t great.
Chuppa went 5-3 with this team in day 1, and I had a bit of an unlucky run ending at 1-3. I’ll let Chuppa talk a bit more about the team.

After seeing the success of Jon, Wolfe, and others at the NAIC, I decided that mastering RayOgre was almost sure to be a good Worlds call, regardless of how the metagame might shift in the meantime. I started by using Wolfe’s team verbatim, and found that I really enjoyed Celesteela, which had the important combination of bulk and the ability to damage Xerneas, but its most unique trait was its Ground immunity that made it impossible for most Groudons to damage it while Primordial Sea was active. However, being a Steel type immune to Fire type damage didn’t allow Celesteela to threaten those Fire types. Additionally, Celesteela needing to have Kyogre next to it for Fire immunity meant that Kyogre often had to switch in in front of boosted Xerneas and Incineroar or Groudon, and risk taking massive damage from boosted Moonblast.

After messing with Celesteela variants of RayOgre through about the end of July, I started using one with Metagross and Whimsicott in the 5th and 6th slots of the team. While Whimsicott rarely impressed me or felt consistent, I saw how powerful of a Xerneas response Metagross could be. In many ways it felt like an upgrade from Celesteela, trading the Ground immunity for the ability to OHKO Xerneas at neutral, the pre-mega Clear Body to stay at neutral, Bullet Punch to finish weakened Xerneas, and even Stomping Tantrum to threaten Fire types. Jon was testing a similar version of RayOgre around the same time, and when he mentioned that he liked that the archetype forced him to play “on a razor’s edge”, I started having second thoughts about the consistency of the team, as I don’t like teams that have especially many high stakes turns.

A few days before Worlds, I was ready to lock in a version of RayOgre built by Jeremy Gross, with HP Water Poisonium Nihilego and Celesteela in the filler slots, when Jon mentioned that he was probably using the combination of Metagross and Celesteela. After a few test games with it, I felt that it played closer to how I wanted the archetype to play than about any other version that I’d used so far, and decided to lock it in.

One of my favorite parts of it was the support Berry Tapu Koko. This set felt like almost a straight upgrade over AV sets, as the combination of pinch berry and Light Screen gave it more bulk than them. It allowed Tapu Koko to be played much more safely than Fairium sets, which live and die by your ability to successfully land the Z-move, with the punishment for hitting into a Rayquaza protect being very steep. I found that Tapu Koko was led in most matchups, as essentially all of its moves are things that you’ll get the highest value out of early in the game.

Going from RayOgre with Rayquaza as the only mega, to a version that also had a Metagross, was quite jarring at first. It took several games to get acquainted to only being able to mega one per game, but it wasn’t until I used this version that I realized that you often only need one per game. This depends on matchup, but I felt like this version of the team could get away without bringing Rayquaza to Xerneas/Groudon matchups, which in the past was an almost unthinkable idea to me. Having Celesteela as a secondary Ground resist option meant that it was possible to pivot around Groudon without a Rayquaza that could truly wall it. Metagross/Celesteela/Kyogre/(Incineroar/Tapu Koko) made for a mode that could truly oppressive teams that set up Xerneas too early in the game, which was a mistake some of my Day 1 and Open opponents made.

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