The Lion King – A Players Cup III Top 16 Team Report

Hi everyone! My name is James Mainey, also known as Mufasa_245 on Twitter. I am an Australian Pokémon fan, but only ventured into the world of competitive play in the last 12 months.

My first-ever competitive tournament was the first Players Cup, where I managed to make the Top 16 in the Oceania Online Qualfier. Now, less than 12 months later, I have played my way into the Top 4 in Oceania for Players Cup III and have had the chance to play against the best of the best in the Global Finals for Players Cup III.

Teambuilding process

At the start of Series 8, and the change of rules, I tested a number of different Restricted Pokémon to get a feel for how they all functioned (and keep in mind that I had no prior experience of how these Pokémon had been used in previous formats). I initially found some success with the successful combinations of Tornadus + Kyogre (“TornOgre”), Venusaur + Groudon (“VenuDon”) and hyper-offense Shadow Rider Calyrex teams, but I never felt quite comfortable with these archetypes.

I soon realised that the meta was running a lot Intimidate, Snarl and Eerie Impulse to cripple the opposing teams’ Restricted Pokémon. The solution was simple: use a Pokémon whose stats can’t be dropped. That’s what lead me to the lion Pokémon Solgaleo (and with the moniker “Mufasa” how could I not centralise my team around the lion?).

solgaleo

My original concept was based on the Solgaleo team by Flavio Del Pidio (Pado) that made it to #1 on the ranked ladder early in Series 8. Centralised around Solgaleo, the remaining Pokémon provided support and coverage for Solgaleo’s weaknesses.

I started with the core from Pado’s original team of Solgaleo, Spectrier, Galarian Moltres and Grimmsnarl. Spectrier was the perfect Pokémon to activate Solgaleo’s Weakness Policy with Bulldoze, since it is so fast and is immune to Fake Out. Moltres works well with Solgaleo as it covers its Ghost, Dark and Ground-type weaknesses. Grimmsnarl was there to set up screens to ensure the team could take multiple hits, as well as slow the opponent down with Thunder Wave.

solgaleospectriermoltres-galargrimmsnarl

Next, I wanted to ensure that I could withstand the rain match-up. TornOgre was a massive thorn in Solgaleo’s paw and I needed something that could take Water Spout, and knock-out Kyogre in return. That’s when I came across Zapdos. Its natural bulk worked well in this team composition and it helped the team approach the rain match-up with renewed confidence.

solgaleospectriermoltres-galargrimmsnarlzapdos

Last, but not least, was Incineroar. The team was missing both Intimidate and Fake Out, and Incineroar ticked both boxes.

solgaleospectriermoltres-galargrimmsnarlzapdosincineroar

With that the team was ready to take on the competition.

The Team

▶️ Get the team’s paste here!

Normal Sprite

Solgaleo @ Weakness Policy
Ability: Full Metal Body
Level: 50
EVs: 212 HP / 100 Atk / 4 Def / 124 SpD / 68 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Sunsteel Strike
– Earthquake
– Rock Slide
– Protect

Solgaleo (Simba) was my Restricted Pokémon of choice. Its Full Metal Body ability allowed it to circumvent any stat-lowering abilities or attacks, and allowed me to play without fear. Its immense bulk gives it plenty of survivability. Add in Dynamax, doubling its huge HP stat, and Max Steelspikes and Max Quakes (boosting the teams’ Defence and Special Defence respectively), this Pokémon can become an absolute monster. I added Rock Slide as the last attack to hit those pesky Flying types (in particular Thundurus) who are immune to Ground-type attacks. Weakness Policy is the default item to further increase its Attack, with confidence that the opponent can’t lower its stats once set up.

With 68 Speed EVs Solgaleo could outspeed Cinderace at -1 (after a Bulldoze drop), which I thought was a good benchmark. The 212 HP EVs was one HP below 240 – to ensure Solgaleo took 1 less HP tick from residual G-Max Moves. This HP bar was also important to ensure Solgaleo could live a Wicked Blow from Focus Sash Urshifu. The Attack EVs ensured Solgaleo hit a break point in Attack, and the rest was dumped into Special Defence to help against special attackers like Shadow Rider Calyrex and Charizard.

Defensive calcs

urshifu 252 Atk Urshifu-Gmax Wicked Blow vs. 212 HP / 4 Def Solgaleo on a critical hit: 198-234 (82.8 – 97.9%) — guaranteed 2HKO

zacian-crowned +1 252+ Atk Zacian-Crowned Sacred Sword vs. 212 HP / 4 Def Solgaleo: 97-115 (40.5 – 48.1%) — guaranteed 3HKO

calyrex-shadow-rider 252 SpA Life Orb Calyrex-Shadow Helping Hand Astral Barrage vs. 212 HP / 124 SpD Dynamax Solgaleo through Light Screen: 229-270 (47.9 – 56.4%) — 84.4% chance to 2HKO

Normal Sprite

Spectrier @ Focus Sash
Ability: Grim Neigh
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
– Shadow Ball
– Will-O-Wisp
– Snarl
– Bulldoze

Spectrier (Maximus) was my Bulldoze user, whose main function was to activate Solgaleo’s Weakness Policy. It also provided additional support with Snarl and Will-o-Wisp. Shadow Ball was added to the last slot to provide some additional offense. The Focus Sash ensured that I could complete Solgaleo’s set up and potentially get another move off to aid in crippling the opponent’s main Pokémon.

I used a simple max Speed and max Special Attack set to enable Spectrier to move first and to ensure that Shadow Ball hit the opponent hard.

 

Normal Sprite

Moltres-Galar @ Safety Goggles
Ability: Berserk
Level: 50
EVs: 172 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 76 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Fiery Wrath
– Air Slash
– Nasty Plot
– Protect

Galarian Moltres (Maleficent) covers Solgaleo’s weaknesses perfectly, and with a Nasty Plot and/or a Berserk boost it can become a massive offense threat. Its STAB Max Moves are arguably the best combination possible with the potential to increase the team’s Speed or decrease the opponent’s Special Defence for a devastating follow-up next turn.

Moltres was necessary for the Shadow Rider Calyrex match-up, which would otherwise cause Solgaleo huge problems. Safety Goggles were the item of choice to help with the Venusaur/Amoongus match-up – Sleep is a major issue for this team and this was my best option when I saw a potential Spore/Sleep Powder match-up.

The 76 Speed EVs allowed Moltres to outspeed Thundurus by 1 Speed point after one Max Airstream. I ended up with max Special Attack EVs to ensure that Moltres could OHKO Urshifu with Air Slash. The HP investment meant that Close Combat from Choice Band Urshifu was a favourable roll – but far from comfortable.

Offensive calcs

urshifu 252+ SpA Moltres-Galar Air Slash vs. 0 HP / 4 SpD Urshifu: 176-210 (100.5 – 120%) — guaranteed OHKO
calyrex-shadow-rider 252+ SpA Moltres-Galar Fiery Wrath vs. 0 HP / 0 SpD Calyrex-Shadow: 216-256 (123.4 – 146.2%) — guaranteed OHKO

Defensive calcs

urshifu 252 Atk Choice Band Urshifu Close Combat vs. 172 HP / 4 Def Moltres-Galar: 166-196 (88.7 – 104.8%) — 31.3% chance to OHKO

calyrex-shadow-rider 252 SpA Life Orb Calyrex-Shadow Helping Hand Astral Barrage vs. 172 HP / 4 SpD Moltres-Galar: 73-86 (39 – 45.9%) — guaranteed 3HKO

 

Normal Sprite

Grimmsnarl-Gmax @ Light Clay
Ability: Prankster
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Atk / 140 Def / 76 SpD / 36 Spe
Careful Nature
– Light Screen
– Reflect
– Spirit Break
– Thunder Wave

Grimmsnarl (TinkerBell) was the MVP during my Regional Finals run. With the Prankster ability and Light Clay I could set up 8 turns of screens before the opponent could get off an attack. With so many powerful Restricted Pokémon in the format, the ability to attack from behind screens can be the edge you need to irk out the win. Thunder Wave was a last-minute addition to the set and adds additional speed control. Not only can it slow down the opponent by halving its Speed, it has a 25% chance of full paralysis – further crippling the opponent’s Restricted Pokémon.

Also, as mentioned, sleep is a real issue for the team. A self-paralysis play can be an option to avoid being put to sleep at an inopportune moment. I used this tactic in my final match in the Regional Finals and it worked effectively… until Solgaleo was fully paralysed just as we were about to take out the game.

The Grimmsnarl set is pretty standard, however I opted to add some additional EVs into Speed to ensure that my Grimmsnarl would move first in the mirror match.

 

Offensive calcs

urshifu 4 Atk Grimmsnarl Spirit Break vs. 0 HP / 0 Def Urshifu: 204-240 (116.5 – 137.1%) — guaranteed OHKO

Defensive calcs

kyogre 252+ SpA Mystic Water Kyogre Water Spout (150 BP) vs. 252 HP / 76+ SpD Grimmsnarl in Rain through Light Screen: 146-172 (72.2 – 85.1%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Normal Sprite

Zapdos @ Assault Vest
Ability: Static
Level: 50
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Hurricane
– Thunderbolt
– Heat Wave
– Ancient Power

Zapdos (Zeus) with an Assault Vest was used as my TornOgre counter. With the support of screens this Pokémon can take lot of heavy hits and respond in kind. Zapdos is also used as a solid Zacian counter, as it is strong against Zacian’s most-used attacks, and with access to the hidden ability Static it has a 30% chance of paralysis. The moveset is pretty standard, however Ancient Power was added last-minute to help counter sun cores by overwriting the Harsh Sunlight.

The set I used for the Regional Finals was slower and bulkier than the set I used for the Global Finals as I wanted to ensure that Zapdos could outspeed Urshifu and keep up with Charizard’s base 100 Speed.

Offensive calcs

charizard-gmax 252 SpA Zapdos Max Rockfall vs. 0 HP / 0 SpD Gigantamax Charizard-Gmax: 280-332 (91.5 – 108.4%) — 50% chance to OHKO

kyogre 252 SpA Zapdos Max Lightning vs. 0 HP / 0 SpD Kyogre: 164-194 (93.7 – 110.8%) — 62.5% chance to OHKO

Defensive calcs

kyogre 252+ SpA Mystic Water Kyogre Water Spout (150 BP) vs. 0 HP / 4 SpD Assault Vest Dynamax Zapdos in Rain through Light Screen: 102-120 (30.9 – 36.3%) — 59.2% chance to 3HKO

 

zacian-crowned +1 252+ Atk Zacian-Crowned Behemoth Blade vs. 0 HP / 0 Def Dynamax Zapdos through Reflect: 131-155 (39.6 – 46.9%) — guaranteed 3HKO

Normal Sprite

Incineroar @ Sitrus Berry
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 244 HP / 4 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Impish Nature
– Flare Blitz
– Taunt
– Fake Out
– Parting Shot

Incineroar (Tom O’Malley) had a simple role, to lower the opponent’s Attack with Intimidate and Parting Shot, and provide Fake Out pressure. With so many Zacian and Groudon in the meta, every team should run an Intimidate user to pivot in and out of battle. It’s not a coincidence that Incineroar is the most used Pokémon in Series 8.

The Incineroar set is somewhat different, as I went with max Speed to ensure I had the fastest Incineroar on the field. This Speed stat also ensures that it outspeeds max Speed Charizard after a Max Airstream from Moltres or Zapdos. This came in handy to get a Parting Shot onto Charizard before it could get an attack off. The Impish Nature was chosen to ensure that Incineroar could take a Sacred Sword from Zacian after the Intimidate.

Defensive calcs

zacian-crowned 252+ Atk Zacian-Crowned Sacred Sword vs. 244 HP / 4+ Def Incineroar: 136-162 (67.6 – 80.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Common leads

Depending on the opponent’s team composition there are a number of ways this team can approach the match-up. Below are some of the most used leads. The Pokémon in the back can vary depending on the opponent’s team composition.

The standard lead

solgaleo + spectrier

If the opponent doesn’t have Tailwind or anything that can outspeed Spectrier then this is the go-to lead. The plan is simple: Spectrier uses Bulldoze, Solgaleo Dynamaxes and hits the opponent hard.

The solid lead

solgaleo + grimmsnarl

This was my most frequent lead in the Regional Finals. This allowed me to get screens up, Dynamax Solgaleo, and go for Max Steelspike or Max Quake to make Solgaleo super bulky for the late game. Grimmsnarl can also help by slowing the opposition down with Thunder Wave – with the added bonuses of a potential full paralysis.

The rain lead

zapdos + grimmsnarl

As previously mentioned, Zapdos was selected for this match-up in particular. After the Light Screen, Zapdos no longer fears Water Spout and can go for the Max Lightning to deal massive damage to the Kyogre.

The anti-Solgaleo team lead

moltres-galar + grimmsnarl

Moltres can pick up the slack when the match-up is tough for Solgaleo. If you get the opportunity, then go for the Nasty Plot and then start picking up big KOs. Note that with the Safety Googles this lead can also work against teams that utilise Spore or Sleep Powder.

Conclusions

That’s the basics of the team I used in the Regional Finals – going 6-0 in the winners’ bracket. This team is very balanced and consistent and I recommend using Solgaleo to anyone who is looking for a nice, well-rounded team.

However, there are a few match-ups that are difficult (although not impossible) to approach.

  • Dragapult is a major issue for this team, as it is faster than Spectrier and is immune to the Bulldoze Speed drop. It can also go for Max Phantasm to check Solgaleo or Max Airstream to increase the Speed of its partner, and finish off Spectrier before it can get the Bulldoze play off. It also has access to Will-o-Wisp, which can cripple Solgaleo’s attacking output – even if the Weakness Policy is procced.
  • The usual sun core of Groudon, Venusaur and Charizard are very difficult to effectively counter. Grimmsnarl’s screens are essential to ensure that Solgaleo can go toe to toe with this match-up, and Thunder Wave was useful in slowing down Charizard in my Regional run. However, Venusaur Sleep Powders can be a massive pain in the late game.
  • Late-game Urshifu was almost impossible to counter. I spent a lot of time trying to optimise Attack and Speed stats to help against this match-up, but it continued to be a huge threat. The best option is to ensure that Zapdos is conserved in the late game to outspeed it and hope Urshifu is not Focus Sash’d.

Although the team was countered hard by the popular sun core teams, I still enjoyed piloting the only Solgaleo Team to make the Player Cup III Global Finals. The rental code is below if you want to give the team a go. Thanks for reading!

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