Hi! I’m Aleksandra Ćwikiel, also known by my gaming tag Rubinek. I’m a Polish VGC player and a Pokémon fan in general. I’ve been actively competing in face-to-face VGC tournaments since around late VGC18, with my most recent achievement getting to top 16 of the Bochum Regional Championships. Without further ado, lets get started!
Since VGC20 was a fresh format in a completely new generation, I didn’t have many resources to go with when I first opened the Sword and Shield Pokémon Showdown teambuilder. Like many other players, I initially gravitated towards the tried-and-tested Tyranitar/Excadrill duo, if only to get the hang of the budding metagame and to see how good that brand new Dynamax mechanic really is. Needless to say, it didn’t take long to realize what kind of force I was dealing with. I immediately started drawing comparisons between Dynamax and the explosiveness of VGC19’s Xerneas – given the stat changing nature of Max Moves as well as considerable bulk of Dynamax Pokémon, essentially anything could become the next Xerneas given the right set-up. The key to success, of course, lied in finding the correct Pokémon for the job – the newly introduced Dragapult quickly drew my attention. With it’s combination of sky-high Speed and nice mixed attacking stats, it reminded me of last gen’s Tapu Koko. Regardless of how it’s final set would turn out, I was confident it would remain the centrepiece of my new team.
Adding Dragapult still left me unsure in which direction should I push my team. In previous generations I leaned towards hyper-offensive archetypes such as Rain in VGC18 and PsySpam or XRay in VGC19 – although they were all very fun to use, they carried inherent risks that bulkier teams didn’t have to worry about quite as much. Mispredictions often resulted in OHKOes of important Pokémon and hax ruined your day even harder than it normally does. I decided to go against my usual preferences and included a bunch of bulky Pokémon – defensive Arcanine, 3 attack Iapapa Gastrodon and defensive Rotom-Mow formed the well known FWG core , while Clefable provided the much-needed redirection support for Dragapult, which was initially a Dragon Dance + Dragon Darts with Lum berry variant. Keeping the theme of bulkiness I rounded out this composition with another new Pokémon – Iron Defense Corviknight, which unexpectedly turned to be one of the mainstays of the final team. In any case, my initial composition looked like this:
This team performed okay, with late game Corviknight sometimes being able to win games almost on its own, but I eventually started yearning for some more offensive options. This became especially evident when Ranked Season 1 ended, and the new, much stricter timer rules made me nervous about bringing a Pokémon as passive as Iron Defence Corviknight to a big tournament. Moreover I discovered I’m very weak to the then-newly discovered threat of Solar Power Charizard. Charizard made me irritated enough that I started brainstorming some unconventional ideas to counter it. I ran into some Fake Tears centred teams on the Showdown ladder before, which I thought was an interesting tech in the Dynamax meta – so my first choice became a Whimsicott with Fake Tears. I decided to stick with Dragapult, Arcanine and Corviknight as well, switching the former to a Special Life Orb set. As I wasn’t too happy about the lack of synergy between Shadow Ball and Max Phantasm’s Defense drops, I swapped it to Surf. This gave me another idea of using Specs Swift Swim Seismitoad as a less passive Gastrodon of sorts. With Muddy Water and Max Geyser setup from itself or Dragapult, as well as the metagame generally not being prepared for Ground Special attackers, it could clean surprisingly well even without Pelipper support (which I considered to be a rather poor option in general). Testing numerous things in the last slot, I eventually settled for Scarf Galarian Darmanitan, as the meta started becoming more and more weak to Ice attackers, as evidenced by the results of the Galar Weekly (now Friendly) tournaments.
This rather gimmicky version of the team performed surprisingly well, achieving around 1736 rating on Showdown’s VGC20 ladder and 1560/75% GXE on a fresh alt. Confident in the team’s strength I brought it to the first Sword and Shield era Premier Challenge in Warsaw (swapping G-Darm for Vanilluxe in the meantime) – only to leave the venue without earning any points. I was sad, but thinking this might be just my local’s bias, where everyone knows my “playstyle”, I decided to join the Galar Weekly 6 as a final test before Bochum. The results were even more underwhelming, ending my run at 3-3 after losing to almo’s Perish Stall and Tutpup’s winning team. With only about a week left to prepare for Bochum, I was devastated – my team just plain didn’t work in a best of 3 format. I started analysing my losses and what exactly made me lose so many games. Eventually realized I lack any solid leads that aren’t Whimsicott + Dragapult (Whimsicott + Seismitoad could work in a pinch, but that’s about it), which relied on a gimmicky setup that could be easily counteracted. I opened the Showdown teambuilder again, with a intention of diversifying my lead options as much as possible. I swapped Fake Tears for Helping Hand on Whimsicott in order to allow me to use it alongside physical Pokémon. Finally changed Corviknight to a bit more offensive/anti lead set with Lum Berry (thanks Edu!), with an intention of using it alongside Whimsicott. Finally I also added Sunny Day over Energy Ball on Whimsicott and put my ex-nemesis Charizard in place of Arcanine. Dragapult was changed to a bulky-ish Weakness Policy physical set, combining bits of my previous Dragon Dance and Special Dragapults in once package. As Seismotoad was now too anti-synergetic with the rest of the team, I went back to Gastrodon, which now had Yawn as per my friend’s suggestion (thanks Yoship). Finally, I decided to stick with Vanilluxe as the Hail wasn’t too disruptive to the team’s overall strategy, and gave me another lead option thanks to Ice Shard and Aurora Veil. Not having much time to test it out properly, I went in almost blind to Bochum, not knowing it would end up as one of my most successful teams to date.
Dragapult @ Weakness Policy
Ability: Clear Body
EVs: 124 HP / 252 Atk / 132 Spe
– Phantom Force
– Dragon Claw
As intended from the very beginning, the centerpiece of my team. Fast, powerful and decently bulky under Dynamax, Dragapult was almost everything I ever wanted from a Pokémon and then some. Thanks to the built in defense drop mechanism, Max Phantasm along with the fantastic Clear Body ability punished defensive play we’ve all grown accustomed to in previous generations like nothing else. Max Wyrmwind, despite having a rather common Fairy immunity, also proved to be extremely useful. Dropping the attack stat of the opposing Pokémon proved to be very abusable in a physical-oriented metagame of Bochum, especially since switching was already made awkward due to Max Phantasm. Fly/Max Airstream was intended to fix the lower speed of my Dragapult compared to the more common max speed variants, but I ended up rarely using it – Steel Wing/Max Steelspike should probably be considered to better combat Grimmsnarl and Togekiss leads.
The given spread lets Dragapult outspeed Jolly Durant with an additional point of speed creep on top. Max Attack Adamant nature was used to maximise the damage output even without Weakness Policy proc (as per my idea of diversifying lead options as much as possible), and also because max Speed is frankly just not that necessary, other than speed tying with other max speed Dragapults. The rest was put in HP in order to increase the chance of surviving super effective attacks. If you’re not concerned about Durant and don’t care about lead flexibility as much as I do, the speed could be dropped to as low as 44 EVs (one point faster than max speed Charizard), which allows Dragapult to be sturdy, powerful and still one of the fastest threats around.
Whimsicott @ Focus Sash
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Helping Hand
– Sunny Day
As one of the best support Pokémon of the format, you rarely if ever lose much by including this adorable puffball in your team, and mine was no exception. It’s role hasn’t been that crucial ever since I dropped Fake Tears, but nevertheless Prankster Tailwind was hard to pass on with the new speed mechanics. Moonblast is nice for picking off weakened threats, most notably Dragapult and opposing Whimsicott. Sunny Day was pretty much just for Charizard, but there were times where I was glad I could shut off the opposing team’s weather (most notably Sandstorm). There is not much to be said about this set otherwise – anyone who’s played VGC has used this Pokémon at least once, we all know what it does.
EV spread is pretty self- explanatory – didn’t go for any bulk as Whimsicott fainting is more often than not more beneficial than having it sit there on the field. I’ve seen some people suggest running Modest Whimsicott for similar reasons as Adamant Dragapult, but frankly with only one offensive move and the threat of Taunt Whimsicott being real I’ll gladly take the 50/50 speed tie instead.
Charizard @ Life Orb
Ability: Solar Power
EVs: 6 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Heat Wave
– Solar Beam
– Air Slash
Another pretty straightforward Pokémon – just hit hard and claim lives. Ended up being the least used Pokémon of my party, as I was often too afraid to bring it out due to it’s fragility – nevertheless, the times it did appear in battle it ended up doing it’s job very well. Fire + Flying + Grass all provide fantastic coverage. Heat Wave being one of the two spread moves in my team proved to be a great aid in cleaning up the enemy team later in the battle.
Not much to be said about the EV spread either – with Life Orb and Solar Power there was absolutely no reason not to go for minimum bulk and max Speed. Choice Specs could be considered as Charizard is not that great of a Dynamax Pokémon due to it’s fragility, and 90% of the time you want to be clicking that Heat Wave button anyways. It has an additional advantage of OHKOing non-AV Duraludon under Dynamax with a Sun boosted Heat Wave. However I generally enjoyed being able to switch my attacks, so I sticked with Life Orb.
Vanilluxe @ Light Clay
Ability: Snow Warning
EVs: 252 HP / 68 SpA / 188 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Aurora Veil
– Ice Shard
A somewhat unconventional addition that ended up being one of the MVPs of the team. Vanilluxe allows you to self-proc Dragapult’s Weakness Policy while scaring away the opposing Togekiss that might want to redirect the hit and counter your Dragapult in general. Snow Warning was a nice aid against enemy weather teams and broke Focus Sashes more consistently than Sandstorm does. Blizzard is the second spread move on the team, having great damage output and a threat of freezing. Freeze Dry provides some nice coverage against common water types, especially Gyarados, Dracovish, Ludicolo and Pelipper, which all take a 4x super effective hit. Finally, Aurora Veil considerably amplifies the team’s bulk, and once up it almost always lasts nearly the entire battle thanks to Light Clay.
As I couldn’t run Focus Sash due to it already being used on Whimsicott, a bulkier spread was needed. Max HP was just enough to survive most non-Maxed super effective attacks and often allowed me to both put Aurora Veil up and Ice Shard my Dragapult. 188 EVs in Speed allowed to me to outspeed max Speed Butterfree and the rare max Speed Ludicolo and Blizzard/Freeze Dry away before they did too much damage. Reminder was put into Special Attack to put some oomph into Blizzard. Overall I believe this spread can be further optimised, as Butterfree isn’t that common and you can double it up with Ice Shard anyways. Nevertheless, I can’t complain to much, as it did it’s job exceptionally well at the tournament.
Corviknight @ Lum Berry
Ability: Mirror Armor
EVs: 252 HP / 116 Atk / 36 Def / 100 SpD / 4 Spe
– Iron Head
– Brave Bird
Credits to Edu for coming up with this set. A wonderful Pokémon that, unlike my earlier Iron Defence set, boasts both offensive and defensive presence. The addition of a Lum Berry proved to be critical in allowing this Pokémon to 2HKO important threats that would otherwise stop it cold with a simple Scald/Will-O-Wisp burn. Taunt was a fantastic move that I initially underestimated on this Pokémon – allowing it to beat things like lead Grimmsnarl and Recover Gastrodon almost single-handedly. Brave Bird and Iron Head were both great on their own and even better once Dynamaxed. I didn’t miss not having fighting coverage with Body Press, since Excadrill rarely does much to Corviknight, while Ferrothorn could be shut down with Taunt. A greatly underappreciated Pokémon IMO.
The given EV spread provides a good all around balance between defense and offense, being mostly tailored to beat the likes of Arcanine – Max Airstream 2HKOes common defensive variant, with Brave Bird having a decent chance to do so as well, while avoiding the OHKO from both Burn Up and Flare Blitz in a non-Dynamax form. The thing I didn’t really account for were Arcanine with max Speed, which in theory gives them two chances to burn you as one Airstream is not enough to outspeed– however, as I usually ran this Corviknight as a lead with Tailwind Whimsicott, this didn’t bother me too much. To not be too reliant on Whimsicott, you can put 162 EVs in Speed, which allows you to outspeed Arcanine after just a single Airstream. This is obviously a rather hefty investment, so I leave the choice up to the reader’s preference.
Gastrodon-East @ Rindo Berry
Ability: Storm Drain
EVs: 116 HP / 212 Def / 132 SpA / 44 SpD
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Earth Power
– Clear Smog / Scald
Another unexpected MVP of Bochum, all thanks to the single inclusion of Yawn (thanks Yoship!). The utility of this move in VGC20 is generally nothing new – it already saw fairly extensive use on Togekiss as a way to punish early Dynamaxers. The way I used it on Gastrodon was however a little different – I’d always try to bring it out near the lategame as a sort of a “checkmate” when half of the opponent’s team has already fainted (or was about to). It was also a great safety measure against players who preferred to Dynamax late – with no way to switch out, a late Dynamax could be comfortably played around with sleep. Earth Power and Clear Smog were both chosen as offensive/utility moves that don’t clash with the Sun weather – however, the latter proven to be a poor choice and didn’t saw almost any use during the tournament. I’d highly recommend switching it with Scald.
The EV spread was tailored to survive Adamant max Attack Life Orb Excadrill’s Max Quake, which is just about the strongest physical move you’ll ever encounter (not counting the likes of Dracovish or Dracozolt for obvious reasons). 132 EVs in Special Attack lets you comfortably OHKO Rhyperior without Dynamax (assuming Scald) and the rest was put into Special Defense. A Modest nature with max Speed IVs can be considered as I often found myself wanting to hit Rhyperior outside of the Trick Room, but Quiet min Speed is perfectly serviceable if you want some extra insurance against those kind of teams.
An aggressive lead that lets you start hitting hard right of the bat. If you’re confident in surviving the opponent’s attack with Vanilluxe, a turn 1 Aurora Veil is not a bad option and will increase the survability of Dragapult dramatically. Avoid using if there is Tyranitar and Excadrill in the opponents Team Preview.
This is one of the slower modes, focused on building up bulk and 2HKOing or just softening up things for the (usually) Charizard and Gastrodon in the back. Corviknight is very difficult to remove once fully set up. Avoid using if there are any potential strong Fire attackers in the opponents team (Charizard or Justified Arcanine).
Overall inferior to Vanilluxe + Dragapult, however has a notable niche in Tailwind, which combines nicely with Max Airstream. Helping Hand can also bypass Fake Out users, unlike Ice Shard. Due to how common this lead is in general I’d avoid using it unless there are truly no better options.
Probably my best anti-TR and maybe even Grimmsnarl + Duraludon lead, however I found myself using it way less than I expected. Both Pokémon are viable for Dynamaxing. Corvinight works well against most common Trick Room Pokémon Torkoal, which is beaten by Gastrodon (sadly doesn’t underspeed under Trick Room).
Your typical Charizard mode. Charizard can certainly sweep unprepared teams or just bad lead choices in general, and it doesn’t rely on Dynamax to do massive damage. However due to Charizard’s general fragility I tend to avoid using this lead unless necessary.
|Very difficult to remove. Not even Weakness Policy boosted Dragapult can break past some of the bulkier sets, which I learned the hard way during the Galar Weekly and my game against Jonathan. My defensive Pokémon either do unremarkable damage or get flat out destroyed (Freeze Dry).|
|This thing under Trick Room is able to sweep my entire team. I don’t have any good switch-ins to boosted Eruptions/Heat Waves save for Gastrodon, which doesn’t like taking Solarbeam/Max Overgrowth to the face. Dragapult can take a hit in a pinch, but fares badly under Trick Room conditions and doesn’t like Torkoal’s high physical bulk, so not really a viable answer.|
|Always tricky due to the screens and paralysis spread. Shuts down Dragapult pretty badly, often forcing me to go for Corviknight, which doesn’t like facing Duraludon, especially if it has Thunderbolt. Not unwinnable, but definitely requires some cautious play.|
|Defensive sets are easy to play around, but offense can spell trouble especially if it’s the Scope Lens Super Luck variant, which can easily break past my screens and badly hurt or KO Dragapult.|
Due to it’s versatility and damage output, Dragapult should never be underestimated. Special sets with Infiltrator are especially troublesome since they ignore my screens and don’t care about Corviknight very much.
Round 1 vs Borja Martínez | WW
The round started out pretty awkward due to connectivity issues, but once we got going it was a quick 2-0 victory with some hax (Blizzard freeze) on my side. I’m actually unsure of the last 2 Pokémon, so apologizes if there are some inconsistencies.
Round 2 vs Jorijn Raijmakers | WLL
My first and only loss in Swiss, I ended up making some poor choices that ruined the good start I had in the first game. Assault Vest Excadrill proved to be a particularly difficult opponent, locking down the win for Jorjin in game 3 with Horn Drill against my boosted Corviknight. Actually all three games ended up being quite haxy, both for me and Jorijn, but that’s Pokémon for you – I took the L and moved on to the next round.
Round 3 vs Lucas Auer | WLW
My first encounter with a Trick Room team went surprisingly well given my Torkoal weakness. Charizard ended up surprising me in game 2 due to being an uncommon Choice Scarf variant. Thankfully being familiar with the match-up helped a lot here.
Round 4 vs Nemanja Sandic | WLW
One of the most unconventional teams I ran into this tournament. Nemanja would most often lead with Butterfree and Dragapult, boosting his speed with Max Airstream while putting my Pokémon to sleep with Sleep Powder. Lum Corviknight absolutely saved my skin in this battle, shaking off Buttefree’s Sleep Powder while boosting his defense against Nemanja very physical focused team. Togekiss thankfully ended up being the defensive Babiri variant, which made things even easier for Corviknight. A very tough match nonetheless.
Round 5 vs Carlos Lima | LWW
A fairly standard team with some non-standard twists. Had a good start game one which ended up coming to a quick halt once it was revealed Excadrill was in fact a bulky Swords Dance + Weakness Policy variant, which swept most of my team. It the end I was forced to go for an (unsuccessful) time out attempt with Corviknight. Game 2 I started out slower, building up bulk with Corviknight and being careful not to proc the Weakness Policy on Excadrill. Carlos caught on it, and started focusing on Tyranitar, which ended up being the Dragon Dance variant, likely with a Lum Berry (didn’t even attempt to Yawn it). Barely won the 2 games after two very long matches. Probably the most mentally exhausting round I played in the tournament.
Round 6 vs Daniel Dunlop | LWW
Lots of potential leads, so I decided to play it safe and went with Whimsicott and Corviknight – only to promptly regret it once I saw Whimsicott and Arcanine on the opponent’s side. Suffered a serious brainfart and forgot to Dynamax my Dragapult later on, KOing it with my own Moonblast.
Game 2 started out much better, went immediately on the offensive with Vanilluxe and Dragapult and KOed Arcanine before it could do too much damage. The game was still very close due to Snorlax setting up Belly Drum and Gigantamaxing in the lategame – thankfully Gastrodon and Corviknight managed to take it down.
Game 3 ended up being another very close game that I haxed out pretty badly by KOing my opponent’s Shuca Arcanine with crit Earth Power – that was the moment I regretted not having Scald on my Gastrodon. Sadly it was far too late for any changes.
Round 7 vs Burak Achmed Oglou | WW
Seeing Grimmsnarl in the Team Preview made me concerned, so I lead out with Corviknight which ended up faring quite well against Burak’s team, with some little assistance needed against Rotom-W (Arcanine was defensive so not really a threat). Put Vanilluxe in the back which turned out to be very helpful against Rotom and Ludicolo (Ludicolo Dynamaxed and set up it’s own rain). Gastrodon helped close out game 2 – it was also one of the only games Clear Smog ended up being somewhat useful, dealing a surprisingly strong hit to Ludicolo.
Round 8 vs Pietro Xella | WW
Probably the most surprising team I faced in the tournament. Pietro ran a similar strategy to mine, Ice Sharding his Weakness Policy Togekiss with Inteleon. Ended up winning on sheer speed advantage of my duo and thanks to Vanilluxe doing a great job in general. Had some issues lategame due to Rotom-C being the Life Orb variant, which took a clean OHKO on my Gastrodon even through it held a Rindo Berry.
Round 9 vs Jonathan Marston | WW
Already completely exhausted after 8 rounds of Swiss, being called to go on stream against a well-known player didn’t make me hopeful for this match. Neither was seeing Lapras and Indeedee in my opponent’s team. I started out with Vanilluxe and Dragapult, attempting to weaken the Lapras as much as possible – was met with an Indeedee and Excadrill lead instead. This was both good and bad for me, as Dragapult was mostly free to fire off Wyrmwinds, but Vanilluxe was pretty much useless. Swapped the latter out to Corviknight, then I realized it doesn’t actually do much here, so I went to Gastrodon. Thankfully Excadrill was weakened enough at that point that it’s attacks didn’t do much damage. My opponent was unwilling to switch it out due to having Chandelure and Dragapult in the back, so my own Dragapult was mostly free to do whatever it wanted.
Game 2 I finally faced against Lapras I was expecting initially. We both Dynamaxed our leads, I proc’d my Weakness Policy and did around 60% to his Lapras while weakening Excadrill in the process. Thankfully survived the Max Hailstorm thanks to the bulk investment. Vanilluxe survived Excadrill’s Iron Head and managed to set up Aurora Veil in the following turn – at that point I started feeling pretty confident. However it turned out both his Dragapult and Chandelure had Infiltrator so that turn ended up being completely useless. I put Dragapult to sleep after a risky read and managed to clutch out a win thanks to Air Slash flinch against his Chandelure, which could have easily KOed my weakened Gastrodon. Hax aside, I was pretty happy about the way I played this game.
Ended Day 1 with a 8-1 result – needless to say, I was very happy. I rested easy for the rest of the round knowing I was guaranteed to get into Top Cut.
Top 16 vs Emre Sahan | LL
As Emre also appeared on stream I had an opportunity to study his team before our game. Unfortunately, despite knowing most of his sets, my preparation ended up being very lacking in practice – not knowing Helping Hand Max Phantasm doesn’t even OHKO max/max Dusclops ended up being a grave mistake that was very hard to fight back from. I ended up getting a lucky outbreak later in the game by avoiding Torkoal’s Heat Wave with my Charizard – last turn I was forced to make a read on Protecting vs his Fake Out Gothitelle + Heat Wave Torkoal or attacking as he Protects and tries to set up Trick Room. Unfortunately ended up making a wrong call and lost.
Game 2 he lead Togekiss, which I knew was a Nasty Plot variant. We both Dynamaxed and started exchanging blows. Made a bad choice in focusing on KOing the supporting Pokémon, and Togekiss ended up one-shotting my full health Dynamax Dragapult with a critical hit Max Starfall. Later I learned Togekiss was a Super Luck + Scope Lens variant, so the the chance of that happening was actually really high.