For a little background on me as a player, I first discovered VGC in late 2015, and really started taking it seriously at the start of 2016. I have gotten Top 8 at regionals in every year since then, with my best finish being a 2nd place at Portland Regionals in 2019. I am mainly known for employing weird teambuilding choices, such as top cutting with Tentacruel in 2017 and using an Amoonguss without Spore in my 2nd place run at the Portland Regionals, but I have also seen success by bringing standard teams whenever I feel they give me the best chance of winning. For this tournament, the latter was the option I chose to go through with as I ended up bringing a team of Venusaur, Togekiss, Incineroar, Wash Rotom, Excadrill and Dragapult. Due to the state of sleep deprivation I was in for the Swiss rounds of the tournament (where I literally hadn’t slept the entire night before due to the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons), this team is hereby given the acronym V-TIRED (VeryTIRED).
When I first started building when Series 3 was announced, the sole thing I wanted to focus on was giving myself as many flexible tools as possible to deal with anything that was thrown at me because of the amount of variance Dynamax introduces to matches. My general beat on this format is that it feels easier to reach success through mastery of a specific team or archetype instead of slaving over building the play for each event. This is because with the increased variance and depth added to the game because of any one Pokémon being able to Dynamax on any turn, fully understanding the complexity of the layers of all of the different interactions between Pokémon (including elements of early game vs late game Dynamax, threats of switch-ins to get boosts and, in general, annoying Weakness Policy shenanigans), wasn’t something that I wanted to have to recalibrate to every time I was gearing up for a new tournament.
A big influence on that mindset for me as well is that I do not play as much VGC now as I used to, so I wanted something that gave me as many options as possible that I could just make minor adjustments to as the meta evolved. This means having enough tools to get momentum, capitalize on it and also have enough defensive flexibility to pivot out of bad situations if I find myself out of position vs another Dynamaxed Pokémon wreaking havoc.
In regards to the defensive flexibility, it felt pretty balanced as not only is there a Steel (Excadrill), Dragon (Dragapult), Fairy (Togekiss) core, but also a Fire (Incineroar), Water (Wash Rotom), Grass (Venusaur) core as well.
There are also tons of typings that offer immunities, such as Togekiss having Flying typing (and Wash Rotom having Levitate) to blank Ground-type moves coming in to Incineroar and Excadrill, while Excadrill blanks Electric-type and Poison-type attacks coming into Togekiss. In general, Venusaur, Incineroar, Togekiss and Wash Rotom are all pretty bulky Pokémon with Excadrill having STABs that boost both defenses, so I felt like I had more than enough defensive flexibility to play out of bad positions.
In conjunction with the defensive flexibility in terms of typing, the team is full of all of the basic VGC staple tools such as Fake Out pressure, Intimidate, ways to pivot, redirection, multiple set-up Pokémon, speed control and sleep, but I do feel it is maybe lacking a bit in ways to deal with sleep from opponents despite having Max Lightning on Wash Rotom and Max Starfall on Togekiss (as they are off the ground and would then be my one Dynamax for the game that can STILL be put to sleep).
The tools I mentioned above offer tons of defensive utility, but also provide an edge in gaining and capitalizing on momentum. Having Fake Out, redirection and sleep can all be used to gain momentum through making it much easier to get Nasty Plots and Sword Dances off, and then launching tons of boosted attacks turn that momentum into victories. Another underrated aspect of this team is that essentially any Pokémon on it can Dynamax, allowing me to make decisions on the fly to respond to my opponents’ Dynamaxes themselves. I built this team literally the day that Series 3 was announced, seeking to find ways to abuse Incineroar and Venusaur in some sort of meta, standard context.
From then on, I hadn’t really played much of VGC20 at all after deciding to not go to Worlds, but with the increase of readily available online tours due to the coronavirus outbreak, I figured busting out this squad would make for a fun weekend from the comfort of my own home.
Venusaur @ Focus Sash
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Sleep Powder
– Sludge Bomb
– Earth Power
– Energy Ball
Venusaur is one of the most influential Pokémon that became available to us in Series 3, and is one that I was absolutely going to start trying to find ways to use right as the format began. Sleep as a status is so useful in wasting opposing Dynamax turns and maximizing your own, and the new access to Earth Power as insane coverage against Fire types and an additional way to smack Steel types is a bit ridiculous.
Chlorophyll is a good ability, and with three different Pokémon on the team being able to set up sun with Max Flare, it came into play countless times over the course of the tournament. Focus Sash came into play a ridiculous amount of times as well, and I couldn’t imagine using another item for Venusaur on this team. With Focus Sash it’s hard to come with another optimal use for the EVs, but with Intimidate on Incineroar and Venusaur’s large natural bulk, I’m certain that there is a better spread to at least get 3HKO’d by some -1 calcs out there that I am too lazy to come up with.
Incineroar @ Aguav Berry
EVs: 236 HP / 140 Atk / 84 Def / 12 SpD / 36 Spe
– Fake Out
– Parting Shot
– Flare Blitz
– Throat Chop
Incineroar is another massively influential new Series 3 Pokémon that I really wanted to use having been a huge fan of it since 2018. Having Fake Out pressure is important for breaking up a few common early game speed control and redirection threats, and being able to have Parting Shot to get extra stat drops and reposition is incredible flexibility. I remember one of my favorite quotes from 2019 being “Incineroar and Amoonguss are invited to my wedding”, and, in this format, I think it’s safe to say the same for Venusaur and Incineroar. With the combination of Fake Out + Sleep Powder or Parting Shot + Sleep Powder, it felt like I at least had some sort of answer to even the worst matchups, and Incineroar could even set up sun for Venusaur if I needed to match speed for some reason.
Also having Intimidate and Parting Shot enabled Weakness Policy Excadrill with STAB defense-boosting Max Moves to get to heightened levels of bulk to take even multiple super effective hits. Incineroar + Dragapult is another lead combo I saw myself bringing a lot, as it can exploit defense drops from Dragapult’s Max Phantasm, increase Dragapult’s survivability, and then pivot into something like Venusaur or Wash Rotom that can go crazy after Dragapult boosts its speed. The bulk allows Incineroar to live -1 Max Rockfall/Max Quake from Life Orb Hustle Durant (which was important); the Attack allows Incineroar to OHKO Dragapult with Throat Chop (which was super important), and the Speed is speed-creeping the stat you need in order to outspeed Charizard and Parting Shot it after two Max Airstreams (which was very important). The special bulk is just an EV dump, and I’m very happy with how the Incineroar spread worked despite having literally random EVs dumped in there until the night before the tournament.
140+ Atk Incineroar Throat Chop vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Dragapult: 162-192 (98.7 – 117%) — 93.8% chance to OHKO
-1 252 Atk Life Orb Hustle Durant Max Rockfall (130 BP) vs. 236 HP / 84 Def Incineroar: 169-200 (84.5 – 100%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO
Rotom-Wash @ Sitrus Berry
EVs: 148 HP / 68 Def / 68 SpA / 4 SpD / 220 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Nasty Plot
– Dark Pulse
– Hydro Pump
I love this Wash Rotom set, and it was one that I used to go 7-3 at Dallas Regionals at the start of VGC20, only now having Dark Pulse over Substitute since the popularity of Dusclops and Gothitelle Trick Room teams has gone down. Dark Pulse won me multiple endgames against Gastrodon as well, and being able to snowball Special Defense drops for Togekiss and Venusaur is pretty useful too.
Wash Rotom is this team’s answer to a lot of opposing Togekiss + Incineroar combinations, and is also very useful against some Lapras, Rhyperior, Braviary, Gyarados and sand teams. Nasty Plot is a must-have move on Rotom, and combined with Sleep Powder, Fake Out pressure, and redirection, it is easy to set up and destroy. The Speed EVs outspeed max Speed Gyarados, the Defense investment is to live a 252+ Attack Max Rockfall from Rhyperior plus sand chip, and the Special Attack can OHKO a specially defensive Solid Rock Dynamaxed Rhyperior in sand with a +2 Max Geyser, OHKO Dragapult with Dark Pulse at +2, and OHKO standard Togekiss with a +2 Thunderbolt.
+2 68 SpA Rotom-W Max Geyser (140 BP) vs. 68 HP / 188 SpD Solid Rock Rhyperior (Dynamaxed) in Sand: 432-507 (108.5 – 127.3%) — guaranteed OHKO
+2 68 SpA Rotom-W Dark Pulse vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Dragapult: 170-202 (103.6 – 123.1%) — guaranteed OHKO
+2 68 SpA Rotom-W Thunderbolt vs. 236 HP / 12 SpD Togekiss: 200-236 (105.2 – 124.2%) — guaranteed OHKO
Dragapult @ Life Orb
Ability: Clear Body
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
– Phantom Force
– Dragon Darts
– Fire Blast
Dragapult is the most interesting Pokémon on this team, and the one I struggled with the most in regard to nailing down the right set. Originally it ran Dragon Dance with no Fire Blast, but I quickly realized after the few games of testing with this team that it was much more important to have as many options as possible to grab momentum early in games as opposed to setting up with Dragapult, as Dragapult is almost always lead and rarely brought in the back. Also without Fire Blast, Durant teams become a massive problem as the lead threat of Incineroar + Dragapult no longer can deal with Togekiss + Durant or even Gothitelle + Durant. Also, Max Flare opens so many more possibilities to abuse the sun with Venusaur and/or Incineroar in the back, regardless of the damage it does. I literally used Max Flare in this tournament about three times as much as Max Wyrmwind, heck, maybe even more.
Max Airstream was also so important because of the rampart awkward speed tiers that Togekiss and Venusaur find themselves in, so having the fastest Pokémon on the field being able to also make them act first with the dynamic speed mechanics was massive (especially to let Venusaur get off a faster Sleep Powder). Plus, matching opposing Charizard’s Max Airstreams is vital in the matchup (meanwhile Max Flare to try and enable Venusaur in this matchup would benefit the Charizard player), as this team would struggle massively against other Charizard + Venusaur teams without this option. In addition, Max Airstream being able to stop opposing Whimsicott and Venusaur in their tracks along with Incineroar’s Fake Out while also gaining speed keeps momentum snowballing in the user’s favor.
Real quick, I think it’s also important to emphasize how awesome Dragon Darts was for me in this tournament. The big disadvantage it has over Dragon Claw is not being able to one-shot Dracovish, but with the decline in Dracovish usage and Togekiss, Fake Out, Intimidate, Wash Rotom and Venusaur on my team, I felt like I had enough resources to deal with Mrs. Fish (especially since Dragapult still bops it with Max Wyrmwind regardless). Otherwise being able to gather maximum momentum off of things chipped into Dragon Darts KO range, the inherent ability to cover Fairy switch-ins, and Life Orb spread damage that can’t be reduced because of Clear Body, which takes advantage of defense drops lingering after Max Phantasms, was too good to pass up.
Togekiss @ Scope Lens
Ability: Super Luck
EVs: 36 HP / 36 Def / 180 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Follow Me
– Heat Wave
– Air Slash
– Dazzling Gleam
Crit Kiss is, well, crit Kiss. Follow Me is the mandatory support move on Togekiss, being able to enable its teammates to get up boosts, get off as many Max Moves as possible and also waste turns of opposing Dynamaxed Pokémon. It is able to fulfil this defensive and positioning roll even without a lot of bulk investment, allowing it to also double as a massive offensive threat with Scope Lens, Speed, and Special Attack investment. Sure you live a lot less attacks than you normally do when you are bulky, and even get OHKOd by others, but I am much more of a fan of the added flexibility you get by being able to threaten to go on the offensive so successfully. Plus, as long as you are aware of what you live and don’t, you can optimally position Togekiss regardless, and even take advantage of the fact that you are getting KO’d easier to get free switch-ins to something like Venusaur, Wash Rotom or Excadrill.
The decision to run max Speed on this variant is so that at the worst I could speed tie other Venusaur and outspeed the entire metagame when at +1 Speed after my own Max Airstream or sometimes even my own Dragapult’s Max Airstream. Heat Wave is something that a lot of people are foregoing on their Togekiss right now, but I personally found Max Flare even more important on Togekiss than on Dragapult. Not only does it have similar effects of setting up sun for Venusaur and Incineroar while offering a way to hit Durant, but being able to lead it and Dynamax in the face of sand to Max Flare Excadrill, get rid of sand and then threaten a OHKO into Weakness Policy Tyranitar with Max Starfall just gave me even more answers in case I needed them in a pinch and single-handedly won me multiple matches throughout the tournament. I completely forgot what this bulk does.
I made this team on the first day of the format and only made some minor adjustments since, and just figured it looked like it has some sort of relevant importance. I vaguely remember it being radically some important calc that I need in order to live some Max Move when I am Dynamaxed, but I guess it isn’t important enough for me to remember what it is. Just try this set, I promise its good af lol. If you may have noticed, Togekiss is also speed tied with Venusaur, and normally you never want Pokémon on the same team to be speed tied with one another. However, due to the abundance of 80 base Speed Pokémon in the metagame, I figured it was a +EV play to have the chance to win potentially vital speed ties against my opponent vs the chance that having both of my Pokémon being the same speed hurts me (especially when Togekiss has spread damage to help cover switches anyways and Venusaur is often going for Sleep Powders on more healthy targets).
180 SpA Togekiss Max Starfall (130 BP) vs. 244 HP / 60 SpD Tyranitar on a critical hit: 282-332 (136.8 – 161.1%) — guaranteed OHKO
Excadrill @ Weakness Policy
Ability: Sand Rush
EVs: 36 HP / 236 Atk / 12 Def / 12 SpD / 212 Spe
– Swords Dance
– High Horsepower
– Rock Slide
– Iron Head
Excadrill is the Pokémon on the team that was brought to matches the least, but when it was brought, it put in tons of work. Now you may notice that this spread shown above is complete and utter garbage and should never be used on an Excadrill ever in the history of time. Yep, I actually brought that garbage to a tournament and somehow got away with it. In my head I figured all the Rotom I faced would only have enough investment to outspeed Gyarados so I could throw some into bulk. Every Rotom I faced was max Speed, probably to outspeed Duraludon. Ah, Duraludon. The main Pokémon that Excadrill is on this team to help beat. And I undersped it. I just forgot it existed when editing the EVs last minute. Don’t do what I do. Don’t try to get too cute with your Excadrill EVs. Outspeed Duraludon and Rotom. A better EV spread for this Excadrill is:
EVs: 20 HP / 244 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 236 Spe
Anyways, Weakness Policy Excadrill actually shone pretty brightly for me in this tournament despite the terrible EV spread. With the combination of Intimidate + Parting Shot Incineroar, Defense and Special Defence boosting STAB Max Moves, and a doubled HP from Dynamaxing, Excadrill can actually get insanely bulky. Being able to handily live a super effective attack to active Weakness Policy as you Parting Shot into Togekiss to spam Follow Me is a pretty nasty combination, especially when you can also threaten switching Togekiss in for Excadrill and then Parting Shotting it back in on the other side to also set up a Follow Me + Swords Dance.
On the last turn of Dynamax, Excadrill can also fire off a Max Rockfall to help ensure it matches opposing Tailwinds or Max Airstreams, so it can continue dishing out as much damage as possible. In the one day of practice before the tour, I used Swords Dance a lot, however during the tour I actually never used it once. Protect might be a better move, as it also allows Excadrill to get Weakness Policy activated by Max Moves through Protect and allows further flexibility in alternating between Incineroar, Togekiss and Venusaur, in addition to having a better matchup vs some Fake Out lead options, but it needs further testing. In general I went with Swords Dance since I have been using Togekiss + Excadrill with Follow Me + Swords Dance since Dallas Regionals and know the threat that it provides.
The Speed EVs are actually important, as I wanted to outspeed Duraludon still, but underspeed opposing Excadrill, so in the mirror I can take a Max Quake at -1, proc my Weakness Policy and then OHKO in return with a boosted Excadrill even at just +1. In general, Excadrill is the best Steel type in the format providing a multitude of resistances and immunities, and was a comfort pick for this role. It could potentially be replaced by Max Quake Durant, but I really enjoy the defensive versatility Excadrill provides plus being able to function without having to Dynamax, and didn’t really have the time to test Durant before the event, so I went with comfort more than anything.
+1 236 Atk Excadrill Max Quake (130 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Excadrill (Dynamaxed): 510-600 (137 – 161.2%) — guaranteed OHKO
-1 252+ Atk Excadrill Max Quake (130 BP) vs. 36 HP / 12 Def Excadrill: 242-288 (63.6 – 75.7%) — guaranteed 2HKO
Most of the format struggles with facing off against the Fake Out + Sleep Powder or Sleep Powder + Parting Shot combination, and then being able to Parting Shot into something bulky like Wash Rotom or Togekiss to start going ham is pretty threatening. In addition, the synergy between Wash Rotom and Incineroar is pretty beautiful, and when bringing these four Pokémon, as long as you correctly identify the right time to Dynamax the most effective Pokémon to start breaking holes in the opponent’s team, you will be winning plenty of matches.
Some teams have Venusaur answers, but a lot of them don’t have Venusaur answers + a fast Max Airstream or Max Flare. Whenever someone does not have a Venusaur matchup, it’s easy to just want to spam Sleep Powder all game, but it’s important to remember that the odds of landing a Sleep Powder and NOT getting a one-turn wake up is just about a coin flip, so when comprising a strategy it’s important to know when it’s more optimal to start going for damage instead of risking the sleep.
Always remember that the threat of Sleep Powder is just as important as going for Sleep Powder itself, and trying to hard-read an opponent’s limited Dragapult + Venusaur answers from the leads after catching them in Game 1 has the added value of not risking the RNG involved with Sleep Powder. This way of thinking was instrumental for me during my tournament run in the BO3 setting, as although I did have pretty good Sleep Powder RNG (despite missing two really big ones), what was way more important than getting good RNG was actually knowing when the RNG itself was absolutely necessary vs being able to be avoided through its threat.
As mentioned a bit above, Dragapult + Incineroar is a pretty great lead especially against Durant teams and Dragapult-weak teams in general. Both of these Pokémon can threaten Durant AND Gothitelle in addition to a faster Fake Out than it, and being able to Fake Out Togekiss or Whimsicott and Follow Me, that up with a Dragapult attack, can end these games on the first turn. Whenever Incineroar has done its job with Fake Out and Intimidate to support Dragapult, you have the decision between going really offensive with Dragapult’s Max Phantasm or Max Flare with Incineroar’s now super powerful attacks, or going for the Parting Shot to get in something like Venusaur to abuse sun and sleep, Togekiss for redirection, Excadrill if a Fairy type is threatening Dragapult, or Wash Rotom to threaten a potential Max Airstream + Nasty Plot.
Against Excadrill-weak teams, Incineroar and Togekiss basically mean that the game is over in team preview. Even if a team thinks they have a decent Excadrill matchup, the threat of Weakness Policy, Intimidate + Parting Shot cycling, sleep and redirection can change the face of any matchup. During the tournament I never got the chance to go for something like my own Incineroar -1 Flare Blitzing my +1 Def Dynamaxed Excadrill as I Max Steelspike on my opponent’s Incineroar switch-in, self Fire Blasting boosted Dynamaxed Excadrill with Dragapult, or a self Earth Power/Hydro Pump from Venusaur or Rotom. However, I did have those options as a back-up win condition in case my opponent took a super defensive option to stall out my Excadrill’s Dynamax in one of my matches.
Against opposing Charizard + Venusaur teams, it’s difficult to play the mind games involved with leading my own Dragapult + Venusaur, which is where Togekiss’ both redirection and relative frailty is useful. It can soak up a Sleep Powder as a +1 Speed Dragapult can outspeed a Venusaur in the sun, keeping the opposing Sleep Powder threat at a minimum and making it possible for my own Venusaur to come in later on to sleep my opponent’s Dynamax. This threat works if they set up sun for their Venusaur, but even if they don’t, I can still opt to do so on my own with my own Max Flare to KO an opposing Venusaur and also give mine the speed to outspeed opposing +1 Speed Charizard. Incineroar is also a fantastic defensive switch-in for this matchup, Fake Out is great against stuff like Venusaur, which don’t always carry Protect, and its typing is great for cleaning up in the end game.
While playing through the different rounds of the tournament I definitely felt as if the more the tournament was progressing, the more I felt my team falling behind the meta. Early on I felt confident in my team’s advantage over my opponents’, but as the tournament continued and I kept winning I began to face more innovative teams like the sun team ran by Markus Stadter, and teams way more prepared to handle Venusaur with stuff like Sweet Veil Alcremie, Lum Berry Tyranitar and Safety Goggles Incineroar. This required me to make more and more hard reads to try and win games, which is something that long-term isn’t as reliable as having a better matchup.
In general Safety Goggles was an item that really caught me off guard in the later rounds, when expecting to gain tons of momentum with Venusaur all of a sudden turned into a struggle where I had to reposition. The winner of the tournament, Justin “Lukamir” Ramirez, also ran Safety Goggles Indeedee, which is great at helping quell both Incineroar and Venusaur, and his opponent in finals, Teemu Mankinen, had Alcremie, Lapras and Incineroar, which was another combination I would have rather not faced, though I believe Weakness Policy Excadrill, Incineroar and Togekiss does make it playable.
The biggest problem I had with this team, and is what I lost to in Top 16, was going against Roserade + Togekiss lead. I have to commit very early on to Dynamaxing and going after one of these Pokémon. Making the right call on the mind game only keeps me in the game, while losing it means I am essentially screwed. I will probably have to go into the lab a bit deeper to fit a more viable solution to that matchup for when I compete in another one of these tournaments.
At the end of the day I went 9-0 in Swiss, won my Top 32 match, and lost in Top 16, ending the tournament with a record of 10-1. It is pretty disappointing to have had such a good record and be out of the tournament with no prize money and no chance at a run back, but I had so much fun playing and really competing in this tournament this weekend regardless. With everything terrible going on in the world right now, it was nice to be able to get an escape for a while and focus on something else.
A few shoutouts I want to give are of course of Victory Road for putting on the tournament and providing us that opportunity. In addition, a few people such as Preston “heKtik” Gadling and Benjamin “Cleffy” Goodbrake spent some of their time helping me out with spreads last second the night before the tournament, and I appreciate that. Also Vicente Matus came in clutch to help me get some Pokémon the night before as well.
While I was playing the event, I had a couple disconnect problems with Gemma Merchant and then again later on my end against Donald Smith, and both of them showed fantastic sportsmanship in resolving the problem amongst ourselves instead of just trying to take the wins. My interactions with them were some of the highlights of the tournament for me, and really made me enjoy competing and still being a part of the VGC community.
Jakob Swilley was great in helping me prep for the top cut on Sunday morning, and Samuel Temple helped me with scouting top cut a little bit as well. Also, I have to thank Will “Scout” Wetzel for dragging me into playing VGC still, and helping me test and improve the squad. Finally, Last Stock Gaming for being generous enough to sponsor me as a VGC player and helping me to continue pursuing my goals for VGC.
That about sums things up from me, and always remember, kids: if you want to do well at a VGC tournament, the key is to do as very little prep as possible, bring Pokémon with god awful EV spreads, use an outdated team that you built a month ago and get literally zero sleep the night before. Deuces y’all!