(Editor’s note: Bread was not obtained at any point during the tournament.)
Howdy y’all! I’m Daisy Pupel (@mcdarvarian on Twitter) and have been playing VGC on and off since 2015 (mostly off, but I’ve played a lot more in the past 3 months). I’m a huge fan of chess and that’s been a huge influence on how I like to play. So if you want to hear about how I played the most boring team and had fun with it, well, the ticket’s paid for the whole seat and you might lean forward once or twice but you’ll get good value out of that chair for sure.
Now for the team…
I used Venusaur + Torkoal (“VenuKoal”) because I had that built on cart for a version of the Dusk Mane Necrozma + Alcremie team I ran in Series 8. I only had 2 weeks to make the team so I didn’t have a whole ton of time to test, analyze, and optimize a lot of my decisions, but with VenuKoal I didn’t need to.
For the few choices per Pokémon I did make:
Venusaur-Gmax @ Coba Berry
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Frenzy Plant
– Sleep Powder
– Weather Ball
– Earth Power
I opted to run Weather Ball over a poison move because while Follow Me users were definitely a fear, Weather Ball and Max Flare allowed me to put more pressure on potential counters like Celesteela, as well as maybe give me options against other VenuKoal teams. Overall I would stick with this decision despite the fact that this team does struggle with redirection, because not all redirection is Togekiss or Clefairy.
Torkoal @ Charcoal
EVs: 252 HP / 252 SpA / 4 SpD
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Heat Wave
– Earth Power
I am aware that there are bulkier sets that use Yawn and are less focused on damage, but if I need something asleep I would rather use Sleep Powder given the fragility of the team.
Porygon2 @ Eviolite
EVs: 244 HP / 124 Def / 36 SpA / 100 SpD / 4 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Tri Attack
– Trick Room
– Ice Beam
The “duck” is by far the most annoying threat on the team because I have 3 Flying-type weaknesses and 0 resists, so Porygon2 allows me to look at Max Airstream and just ask: “Are you sure about that?”
With this team my goal was not to have to make the best play but instead to punish my opponent’s game plan. Do they want to try to go faster than Venusaur? That’s fine, we’re a slow team now. Ice Beam really makes Landorus (Therian) have a bad day, which is very important given how much that one Pokémon can basically 1v5 everything but Porygon2. If you use the team, don’t be afraid to Dynamax the “duck” if you feel like they’re going to double target it, because the chonk will go miles. Eerie Impulse was something I considered over Tri Attack, but given that I do have ways to play around things that Eerie Impulse could do a lot against (Tapu Fini, other VenuKoal, Celesteela) I opted for Tri Attack for (a) better Dynamax “duck” moves and (b) to be able to take chunks out of more off-meta Pokémon that I expected to encounter.
Landorus-Therian @ Assault Vest
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
– Rock Slide
Sleeper MVP that will never get the credit it deserves: Intimidate to help things live when they shouldn’t, Flying type to let Torkoal dodge Max Quakes, and Max Rockfall to set up Venusaur’s Weather Ball to kill unexpecting Flying types. Landorus does it all, but everyone will look at VenuKoal and be afraid of the VenuKoal, ignoring that Landorus is the key to disrupting them just enough to give my team an inch and turn that inch into a mile. Incredibly good and I wouldn’t change a single thing about this pick.
Urshifu-Gmax @ Focus Sash
Ability: Unseen Fist
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
– Wicked Blow
– Sucker Punch
– Close Combat
Where Landorus overperformed to my expectations, Urshifu underperformed, or at least the form-specific side of it. I would have much preferred the Rapid Strike Style but a few misidentified match-ups led me down the wrong path. Overall it did fine when I had to hit things with Close Combat, but didn’t do much else.
Whimsicott @ Mental Herb
EVs: 252 HP / 4 SpA / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Fake Tears
Missing but not lost. Really good against hyper offense, Tailwind with priority giving pretty much guaranteed speed control is nice, but its only shortcoming is that Torkoal gets next to no benefit from it so it can be somewhat tricky to use. In hindsight, Fake Tears should have been replaced with Helping Hand, but I was too fixated on making Venusaur do tons of damage. As a result, I didn’t recognize that it pairs really well with Landorus and that + being able to go before Fake Out would give it more utility than Fake Tears provided.
Follow Me Fairy types
I really struggled with these because I did not have Sludge Bomb on my Venusaur and my “Dark-Flavored PunchBear” can’t touch them with resists, and in Clefairy’s case, Eviolite… Put them to sleep and let Torkoal deal with them later.
Somewhat scary due to its bulk and ability to hit VenuKoal for super effective damage, boosting its own power in the process. The only way past it is simple: if you hit it enough, it will die, and sometimes that’s what you have to do. You can use Max Flare, Eruption, or both, but regardless of what you end up using, play with confidence and deal with what’s in the back later.
So you dealt with Celesteela and traded your Venusaur for it, so how do you deal with the Tapu Fini in the back? The answer is to use spread moves like Rock Slide to hit it in the physical defenses that it isn’t boosting or Eruption to kill its partner and get some chip in on it. It’s also helpful to just understand that Fly can be incredibly good at forcing Fini to Protect, allowing your partner (likely Porygon2) to Recover if it needs to.
How to pilot the team
Like I mentioned above, I enjoy chess, and a man who is smarter than me has said: “Complicate the position and they will blunder”, and that’s exactly what you have to do.
There were several plays that can be strong and I found that when I make simple moves better things happen. Don’t over complicate your own decisions and do your best to make your opponent make mistakes. With that being said Max Duck is Best Duck and if Porygon2 either killing a Landorus is your win condition don’t be afraid to Dynamax it in order to make sure it lives some crit or it won’t get flinched to death by Rock Slides or some other silliness that could happen. Also VenuKoal are not a couple, don’t be afraid to separate them, they both have healthy relationships with their parents and don’t have any abandonment issues you’ll have to worry about.
So! If I’m being honest the day was a huge blur so I can’t remember much about the games I played off stream but luckily there were 4 games on stream so I’m going to run through those and just talk about some decisions I made.
I lead Porygon2 + Venusaur vs the Urshifu + Landorus. This game, in my opinion, exemplifies how to complicate and force mistakes. Launching a Max Airstream into Venusaur was incredibly safe except for the fact that +1 Speed is absolutely devastating in Trick Room, and Close Combat won’t OHKO Porygon2, forcing a double target, which should be generally safe due to the fact it rarely runs Protect, right? Cue a surprise switch into Torkoal, getting sun up, and all but getting a 2HKO onto their Dynamaxed Landorus with Venusaur (insert math here).
With the free switch-in, I sent in Landorus, getting an easy Intimidate onto two scary physical Pokémon. Going for a Fly to try and dodge damage is a little silly considering they had a +1 Speed boost, but I wasn’t interested in Earthquaking my own Venusaur and Rock Slide wouldn’t really do any damage. Potentially using a U-turn into Porygon2 was an interesting idea, but Porygon2 and Venusaur don’t really have great synergy with Torkoal gone, so Fly was the pick. Heatran switched in, and I’m going to fast-forward to after my opponent’s Landorus and Heatran died.
Venusaur aimed a Sleep Powder into the Urshifu slot, and Landorus went for a Rock Slide. I missed, which was unfortunate, but not where the game was lost by any means. The game was lost when I prioritized my Venusaur living over Urshifu dying. Two Earthquakes into the Urshifu is 80% to 2HKO after G-Max Vine Lash chip. Add the Defense drops from Close Combat and it’s all but guaranteed if either of my Rock Slides were replaced with an Earthquake, and I would have had a much better chance to win. So yeah, I had a bit of bad luck, but I could also very much have controlled my RNG in that game by choosing the right move. Game 1 is a loss.
Operation BEEG DUCK is a go.
Dynamaxing Porygon2 instead of Venusaur means Landorus dies and if Landorus dies it means theres a lot less offensive pressure on all of my team. Landorus is incredibly good into VenuKoal, so I want to get rid of it. Making sure Porygon2 gets to live a double target means I have a lot more room to maneuver in the match-up, and also makes for very fun mind games if I get to a Game 3.
Now I trade my Landorus’s chip health for their Landorus’s entire HP bar. Where things go wrong is turn 2. Rather than trying to play for future turns with a VenuKoal endgame in mind, I get too aggressive with my Dynamaxed Porygon2, and try to hit Togekiss with a Max Hailstorm. The smarter move would be to go for a Max Strike to slow the Heatran down, which would in turn allow for Sleep Powder to go into the offensive Pokémon, or at the very least get redirected into the Togekiss. I’m fine with either option. But going for Max Hailstorm really puts me in a tight spot and makes the game really hard to play.
Overall from there I feel this game isn’t worth talking about so I’m going to move on. Game 2 was a loss, putting me at 5-2 in Swiss, which was still good enough for Top Cut.
The VenuKoal mirror!
So this game gave me a lot of good information, and taught me a lot of what does (and doesn’t) work against less common picks like Safety Goggles Umbreon. What is important to note is that because their Landorus is not carrying a Life Orb, Max Airstream is not a guaranteed OHKO against Venusaur. This is why I felt comfortable keeping it in and not Gigantamaxing turn 1, fearing a Yawn to ruin most of my plans.
I also learned that their Venusaur is not a Weather Ball variant, which is VERY good to know, but most importantly we learned that Whimsicott is not the answer I thought it was. I could meme about how Porygon2 Ice Beam crits are too strong, but Torkoal never wins that end game so it really didn’t matter. I just tried to scout as much as I could and maybe get lucky with like crits of my own, but I wasn’t holding my breath. Game 1 ends up as a loss.
First adjustment: Porygon2 is the better speed control, it doesn’t give my opponent Sun for their Venusaur without threatening Trick Room. Leading Porygon2 just means that I can complicate a VenuKoal lead, as well as do much better into the Landorus + Umbreon my opponent played Game 1, and ran back Game 2. Don’t sleep on the Download boost.
My other lead was Landorus, using U-turn for chip damage, as well as giving me the ability to scout a switch which was very helpful. I sent in Urshifu to threaten Close Combat + Tri Attack (remember the Download boost? It is now later). I do also have to acknowledge that my Porygon2 saved the RNG for when it mattered, with a freeze making it so their Porygon2 couldn’t do anything to stop the Trick Room.
Because I can threaten a KO onto Umbreon it’s not really safe to Taunt, allowing for a clean switch into Torkoal, and dimensions get twisted. Eruption + Porygon2 attack means I can kill whomever I want, and I chose Umbreon to lose its “being alive” privileges, mostly because Taunt and Yawn are infinitely more scary than Eerie Impulse.
Now I do get read and lose my Landorus (to another crit) but dying is probably better for us as it means Torkoal gets to come back in and hit things until they die. Ice Beam + Eruption is 100% a KO on both of their Pokémon, so all that matters is Porygon2 wakes up, which it thankfully did. Now if you’re paying attention, this game really comes down to Landorus and Porygon2 and who can use those best, so Game 3 is really interesting to play. A win in Game 2 takes this match to Game 3.
They lead Porygon2 + Umbreon which in my opinion is way too passive. I got hard read and it really didn’t matter, because even at -2 Torkoal still has more pressure than their pair of Pokémon for that turn, at least. Bringing in Urshifu is super safe because they have no offensive pressure.
They then double switch into Landorus and Torkoal, but again I don’t really have to care. Wicked Blow into Torkoal all but knocks it out, and Max Hailstorm not only forces the Landorus out, picking up either a KO onto Porygon or a very good chunk onto Umbreon, but also lets me reset the weather. Losing sun for hail makes Torkoal’s damage onto the big duck pretty irrelevant, and it means that if Landorus does try to target Porygon2 with an attack, I can get any sort of weird crit RNG to lose, AND it’s funny.
After this I think that this game is very hard to lose. Kill Torkoal, chip Umbreon to a point that is too low to matter, and Intimidate the Landorus. With all that in play, they need to get a lot to go right in order to win. Overall I’m really happy with how this game went and it was an incredibly fun time. Game, set, match, and I’m on to the semifinals.
So if you’ve noticed there was a very long break between last set and this set. There were many technical issues and I was a part of the troubleshooting process. In the end we used my webcam mounted on my water bottle.
This is important as you’ll see a lot more silly mistakes and a decrease in how well I played. If I had one regret about this tournament I wish I would have used literally anything else for the stream and had water to drink, as well as possibly a little bit of time to relax before Top 4 and Finals. But let’s get into Top 4 match.
So I was either scouted or she played with no fear cause Max Ooze Venusaur is pretty gosh-dang good against a Sylveon + Grimmsnarl lead. Even so, not having it wasn’t that big of a deal. I chose to prioritize Grimmsnarl early, as I didn’t really know what Sylveon did and Grimmsnarl can be annoying if it’s left alive.
I think that, where the first set was a good example of complicating the position, this set is a wonderful example of how to deal with Tapu Fini if you lose your Venusaur. You have to trade up. My lead traded 1 for 2 and let me bring Torkoal into the Trick Room.
Now fastforward to the position of Porygon2 and Torkoal vs Tapu Fini and Metagross. Eruption is key to beating what I wrongly assumed was a Weakness Policy Metagross. After G-Max Vine Lash and Hail damage, Eruption has a 65% chance to OHKO a Metagross with 252 HP / 0 SpD, and Assault Vest Metagross can’t OHKO Torkoal back with Max Rockfall (as was evidenced by the fact Torkoal didn’t die to said move). So the Eruption crit didn’t matter, as Heat Wave the next turn accomplishes the same thing.
The last thing I want to talk about here is that Fly spam on Landorus is incredibly important because, after the accuracy drop, clicking Earthquake is the fastest way to lose the game. Keeping it alive means Porygon2 takes less damage from Muddy Water, which remains a spread move. It also lets Porygon2 go for a free Recover when it needs the extra HP. It’s slow but it is less risky and that’s all that matters. Game 1 goes my way.
For real I got pretty fortunate for the 3-turn sleep. I will say that this game has an incredibly glaring flaw of the fact I missed clicking Dynamax when going for the Venusaur attack on the turn after putting Spectrier to sleep. I got bailed out by it missing but that could have been disastrous had Venusaur had to sit around for a turn and do nothing. Overall this game was pretty fortunate and could have been a disaster which is why I’m not going too deep into it. A win with a bit of luck, and I find myself in the finals.
To start off, this is a really tough set to rewatch. I misled Game 1, which wasn’t that bad but immediately tilted me. I made such silly mistakes that could have been avoided if I was willing to step away and get some water. Maybe let my room vent a little so it wasn’t 100 degrees. What I take away from this set is all related to out of game preparation and personal management rather than in-game decisions. In terms of actual in-game decision making I should have clicked Max Quake turn 1, and Game 2 on my second-to-last move I should have clicked Fly. Well, “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts we’d all have a Merry Christmas”, as the children say.
Next Hatterene Series you can bet your sweet bippy I’m going to set up my webcam on something other than my water bottle, and take a walk and eat more food. Maybe next time I’ll win, but even if the series ended sour I had a ton of fun and learned a lot and I hope I can do even better!
VenuKoal go brrrrrr!
But for real, this team has a lot of great ways to pressure your opponent. The core of Venusaur, Torkoal, Landorus and Porygon2 is incredibly versatile and really lets you make strong plays as long as you are confident and willing to look silly Dynamaxing Porygon2 when it’s time to call your opponent out.
I would love to see how people feel using this team and get their feedback. Right now I want to change the color of my punch bear and put Helping Hand on Whimsicott, as well as maybe make a few minor EV changes, but besides that I really enjoy this team and I hope you all have fun with it too! Best of luck!!!