Hi, my name is Cameron Smith and I finished 6th place at the 2022 Liverpool Regional VG Championship using the unconventional Restricted duo of Lunala + Groudon. Whilst I’ve been playing VGC since 2015, I’ve only ever played in one other live event, being the infamous 2017 Europe International Championship, which took place just a week after the Sun & Moon games were released. Apart from that, my exposure to tournaments has been limited to three online International Challenges.
To explain my lack of tournament play, I’ll share a bit about myself. I’m 27, live in Kent, England, have a first-class degree in Economics and work in asset management in London. I work long hours and half of my weekends have typically been taken up by sport – I played football semi-professionally up until last year. When an injury to my shoulder coincided with news that live events would be returning, I knew it was my chance to give it a go.
Table of Contents
I’ll start at the very beginning, when the Series 12 rules were announced — yes, I’ve been using this team idea for that long! As I said before, knowing that live events were returning really motivated me to build something that I would be incredibly comfortable with and that would fit my play style, which tends to favour bulky Pokémon that can set up in some way. So, for inspiration, I started by going back through my old teams from previous formats and one jumped out to me straight away. A team featuring Power Herb Trick Room Lunala, Rocky Helmet Amoonguss and bulky Rapid Strike Style Urshifu from Series 10 that I loved and managed to climb very high on the Pokémon Showdown ladder with.
I started here and immediately thought about what other Restricted Pokémon I wanted to pair with Lunala. Groudon was the first that came to mind, as it covers Lunala’s most obvious weakness, being that Incineroar was still so common in the metagame. Not to mention that it won the 2019 World Championships alongside Lunala, admittedly with its amazing Primal form. Anecdotally, over the months of theorising and testing, I came to the conclusion that Groudon was the best partner for how I wanted to play Lunala: I wanted the partner to cover Lunala’s weaknesses well, thrive in Trick Room and attack on the physical side (looking back, the best GS Cup teams have typically featured one physical and one special attacking legendary, i.e. Xerneas + Groudon, Rayquaza + Kyogre, dual Primals, Xerneas + Rayquaza, etc.).
Incineroar from the Series 10 team was added next for its resistances to Dark and Ghost-type moves, Fake Out and Parting Shot utility and ability to hit very hard in Sun with STAB-boosted Flare Blitz. I then added Gigantamax Venusaur in place of the Amoonguss on the Series 10 team to have a primary Dynamax candidate, counter Kyogre and for the obvious and well-known synergy with Groudon and Sun.
Without thinking too much more, I wanted to practice the team of four on the ladder. So, I slapped on the same Urshifu from the Series 10 team and a Glastrier as a quick Stakataka substitute (I didn’t want three weaknesses to Water) and got testing. I quickly realised that the four had an incredible time against standard Zacian + Kyogre builds (and still do to this day) but the other two slots needed to be dedicated to Yveltal and Shadow Rider Calyrex answers. Venusaur hated Yveltal and I still wasn’t deterring people from bringing Incineroar, so I wanted a second Dynamax option that could beat both.
Defiant Thundurus was the answer and provided a second fast mode the team could utilise (the other being Venusaur in Sun). Whilst Lunala was already EV’d to survive a Life Orb-boosted Astral Barrage from Shadow Rider Calyrex, it was still causing some problems, especially as Will-o-Wisp was gaining popularity, which meant I couldn’t safely go with Thundurus. Also, the format was still new and Regigigas + Weezing was still knocking around. As much as I tried, I could not think of a way my current five could beat it safely. After theorising and testing an unreasonable amount of Pokémon for this sixth slot, such as Grimmsnarl, Porygon2, Charizard, Sableye, Umbreon, etc., I settled on Urshifu… but this time Single Strike Style. I now had a clear plan against Regigigas + Weezing (lead Thundurus + Urshifu) and Urshifu’s Sucker Punch could OHKO Shadow Rider Calyrex when it was not holding the Focus Sash (if they did, they were doing nowhere near enough damage to Lunala to prevent Trick Room).
The team felt amazing in practice, and I felt ready to tackle the February International Challenge after reaching second on the Pokémon Showdown ladder the day before. The tournament went really well as I finished 73rd with an 1843 rating (which could have been better, if not for some silly mistakes at the end of my run). Despite this result, doubt started to creep in about how the metagame was starting to take shape. Zacian was everywhere and I was starting to suspect that people would try to counter it by using Shadow Rider Calyrex, which, despite my best efforts, still felt like an unfavourable matchup if my opponent played well. I put the team (and game) down for a little bit while I considered different team ideas.
The March International Challenge was approaching, and I knew I needed to compete for the chance to earn CP and for the quality in-game practice it would provide ahead of the Liverpool Regionals. I spoke to my twin brother, Henry Smith, about my thoughts and worries, and he gave me the advice I needed to hear that I know this team and how to play it better than any other. He was exactly right. With renewed faith in the team, I did well in the March IC, finishing 251st with a 1787 rating. I beat all Shadow Rider Calyrex along the way but was noticeably complacent against Zacian + Kyogre teams that had small but important modifications, such as those with Amoonguss or Indeedee. I knew I could do better in a best-of-three setting. I also gained confidence when the Brisbane and Salt Lake City Regionals passed, as Zacian teams still dominated, Calyrex struggled, and after hearing top players say the three archetypes they wanted their teams to cover for were Zacian + Kyogre, Zacian + Groudon and Ice Rider Calyrex + Palkia. I knew my team had a good matchup against these three duos and I was comfortable with my game plan against them. I was ready for Liverpool!
Before I finally present you with the team, I’ll just make a quick couple of caveats:
- I won’t describe every move and item choice; and
- I won’t go into loads of detail around flowcharts.
Given the sheer amount of time I had spent crafting the team, I explored an abundance of different moves and items for each Pokémon. I’ll save you from having to read the equivalent of a full-on research paper… On the flowcharts point, I’d still like there to be something of an air of mystery around the team.
Get the team’s paste here!
Lunala @ Power Herb
Ability: Shadow Shield
EVs: 28 HP / 44 Def / 180 SpA / 252 SpD / 4 Spe
– Moongeist Beam
– Meteor Beam
– Trick Room
The one you’ve been waiting for. As I mentioned before, Lunala was primarily EV’d to survive a Life Orb-boosted Astral Barrage from Shadow Rider Calyrex with as minimal investment as possible, whilst also maintaining a guaranteed OHKO with +1 Meteor Beam on any Incineroar barring those with 252 HP / 252 SpD and a Careful nature or those holding an Assault Vest. The Speed was important, being faster than most Incineroar out of Trick Room, being slower than Groudon and Kyogre that had more than 68 Speed EVs and being faster than Yveltal at +1.
Lunala, alongside Venusaur or Thundurus depending on matchup, was the lead for the majority of games. I would choose to Dynamax Lunala on rare occasions, usually against White Kyurem or Ice Rider Calyrex teams.
Groudon @ Sitrus Berry
EVs: 252 HP / 76 Atk / 4 Def / 172 SpD / 4 Spe
– Precipice Blades
– Rock Slide
– Swords Dance
I don’t have a lot to say about Groudon. Rock Slide and Sitrus Berry clicked with me when I tested them. The latter in particular felt like the catalyst to my high climb on the ladder, as it allowed me to switch more safely.
The EVs are nothing special. I wanted to max HP, hit the ‘bump’ in Attack (shout out to Baz Anderson who is my favourite youtuber), and dump the rest in Special Defence. The Speed is to essentially ensure I was the slower Groudon but does hit 111, which speed-ties with Shadow Rider Calyrex at +2. I was comfortable with this though, as I never expected it to come into play.
Precipice Blades threatened to give me a heart attack on multiple occasions due to it being 85% accurate, but it was something I had grown to accept.
Venusaur-Gmax (M) @ Coba Berry
EVs: 156 HP / 20 Def / 236 SpA / 4 SpD / 92 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Leaf Storm
– Sludge Bomb
– Earth Power
– Sleep Powder
Venusaur was the primary Dynamax (Gigantamax) option, especially against Kyogre teams.
G-Max Vine Lash was incredible, doing the chip damage needed to make Lunala one-shot many unexpecting victims. Sludge Bomb, coupled with the Speed stat, was the real surprise factor. I saw this EV spread online while doing my initial research and I never looked back. The Speed makes Venusaur hit 112, which is slower than Lunala under Trick Room (and Groudon and Kyogre with more than 8 Speed EVs) but faster than Shadow Rider Calyrex in Sun. In Trick Room, I could Max Ooze to boost Venusaur to +1 and Lunala to an immediate +2 if used on the same turn as Meteor Beam. Lunala can then OHKO Zacian, especially after G-Max Vine Lash chip.
I often see people forgot Sludge Bomb on Venusaur, but it was so important for how I played the team.
The Coba Berry was brilliant as many Zacian + Kyogre teams would try to deal with Venusaur with a Zapdos, for example.
Incineroar (M) @ Figy Berry
EVs: 252 HP / 36 Atk / 84 Def / 132 SpD / 4 Spe
– Flare Blitz
– Darkest Lariat
– Fake Out
– Parting Shot
Incineroar has been a staple pick of mine for years and I didn’t change any of the moves from the moment I started testing. The defensive investment ended up doing nothing special, I was just comfortable with it. Adamant Nature was amazing and made Incineroar an unexpected offensive threat in Trick Room and especially in Sun. Incineroar’s Speed was the last thing I tweaked on the team, as I took out a decent amount of Speed investment to make sure it would be slower than min-Speed Groudon and Kyogre and slower than the common Grimmsnarl, so I could Flare Blitz before it could attack my Lunala in Trick Room.
Thundurus (M) @ Life Orb
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
– Wild Charge
Thundurus was used against Yveltal teams and Zacian + Groudon teams with Charizard.
The Life Orb was important because I wanted to deal as much damage as possible. I would often lead Thundurus and Lunala and use Max Airstream + Meteor Beam to deal a huge amount of damage immediately and set up a sweep. I thought long and hard about whether a Dark-type move, such as Foul Play, would be a better choice than Superpower, but I ended up sticking with what I knew. In hindsight, Foul Play would have been more beneficial at Liverpool, especially in my Round 6 set against Filip Idczak and his Swords Dance Groudon.
Urshifu-Gmax (F) @ Focus Sash
Ability: Unseen Fist
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
– Wicked Blow
– Close Combat
– Sucker Punch
As I mentioned before, Urshifu was chosen as an additional Shadow Rider Calyrex answer, and also to help with the Regigigas matchup. The important biproduct of using Urshifu was that it helped against Indeedee, Porygon2, Solgaleo, White Kyurem, Ice Rider Calyrex and Dusclops.
Standard set and item but it always worked hard when it was brought to games.
Jack and I had a great chat before the match while we waited for the green light from the judges. He mentioned that his team was unorthodox and that it utilised a relatively uncommon Restricted duo. We both laughed when we eventually saw that we were both playing Lunala + Groudon! I knew this was going to be difficult.
Unfortunately, as Jack so brilliantly put it after the match, the game chose chaos and what ensued was the most ridiculous RNG-filled pair of games I’ve ever seen. Fortunately for me, I got the better end of it. To keep it brief, whilst I missed a Leaf Storm and Meteor Beam, I hit Jack back with some hugely important critical hits (4 or so) which took the games away from him. A massive shame. I was so happy to see that Jack battled back and achieved 17th place with a 6-2 record.
After that Round 1, I was pleased to see I was facing a very standard Zacian + Kyogre team in Round 2. Not much to say here, I knew exactly what I needed to do as I had practiced the matchup hundreds of times at this point. I brought Venusaur, Lunala, Incineroar and Groudon to both games and set up Trick Room in both. Grimmsnarl didn’t have Foul Play, so it wasn’t a threat to my Lunala.
Thomas and I got on well. He was playing the exact same team as I had just beaten, so I never really felt too uncomfortable and managed to win the set 2-0 with the same team of four.
I went into the lunch break with a beaming smile sitting at 3-0. Henry (who wasn’t playing but came to support) and I got some lunch and relaxed before the next round.
Richard and I have some history which I recited to him before the game (I have a particularly good memory!). We were opponents in Round 1 of the only other tournament I have attended, way back in 2017. I had lost that set 2-1 but remember him saying that it may have been different, if not for a Thunderbolt paralysis and full paralysis on the same turn on my Politoed. Looking for revenge, I was pleased to see he was using Zacian + Kyogre, but knew I had to be more careful because his team included Amoonguss (I couldn’t freely set up Trick Room).
This was a really great set. I won G1 with my usual strategy under Trick Room, as he didn’t bring Amoonguss. I identified before G2 that he would likely bring it this time to counter how G1 played out. Then, for some reason, my eyes lit up when I saw the standard Tornadus + Kyogre lead and went into autopilot, forgetting that I knew I shouldn’t set up Trick Room this game. I paid the price and lost the game. G3 was very close, but I played how I should have done in G2 and managed to scrape the win. Phew.
Lee and I had a good laugh before the match. I saw his team and immediately knew it was time for the Thundurus mode for the first time in the tournament. I led Thundurus + Lunala and had Urshifu and Groudon in the back. The games went very smoothly as Thundurus went on an angry rampage (probably at me for not using it before this point).
I saw Filip’s team and knew this would be my toughest test yet. Whilst I knew and felt comfortable with my game plan against Yveltal teams, the presence of Regieleki made this much more awkward. A lead of Yveltal + Regieleki was scary as he could use Electroweb + Foul Play on the same turn to knock out my Thundurus.
It essentially came down to a read. I can’t remember everything that happened across the three games (I didn’t take any notes) but it was a great set, in which Filip played very well, especially in G3. I won G2 after positioning a 2 vs 1 situation at the end with my Groudon + Urshifu vs his Yveltal. G3 came down to whether my Urshifu in Dark Aura would do enough damage to knock out his Groudon. I knew it wouldn’t, but it was close! GGs.
Filip and I had a good laugh after the game and spoke at length the following morning as we bumped into each other in the queue to get into the centre for our Top 8 matches.
Although I had lost my first match of the day, I didn’t feel discouraged: Filip is a great player, the matchup was very difficult, and I took positives from coming back and winning G2.
You can read Filip’s team report here!
Jay and I instantly got on well and spoke before and after the game, as well as the day after. Whilst I was happy to see exactly the same team I had beaten twice before this point, Jay, with a smile, said they didn’t have a clue what to do against my team. Jay made a great adjustment in G2 by using Max Flare into my Venusaur as I used Trick Room, but it wasn’t enough. GGs Jay, it was great to meet you and thank you for your support on the Sunday!
I was immediately told after the game from a judge (quick side-note – the judges were all fantastic, so thank you!) that I had made top 8, so I waited around to get briefed on how it would all work the following day. Henry and I eventually left the centre and walked into the city to find some food, laughing in disbelief the whole time at how well I had done.
This was another fantastic set of games. I came in absolutely blind – I didn’t know a thing about what Thomas was using (I wouldn’t have known where to start in terms of getting information from other players).
G1 went well (enough), where I used my standard 4 of Venusaur + Lunala with Incineroar and Groudon in the back against Zacian + Kyogre teams that had served me so well the day before. Thomas brought his trusty Shedinja in G1, but it didn’t cause too many problems as all four of my Pokémon could handle it in some way.
G2 came, and Thomas led with Zacian and what I assumed to be a Defiant Thundurus, an absolutely horrible lead for my poor Venusaur + Lunala. I took a gamble and tried to Sleep Powder the Thundurus, which actually turned out to be Prankster, but it missed. I couldn’t get back into the game after, as Thomas played very well.
For G3, I changed it up and led Incineroar + Lunala into his Kyogre + Thundurus, which meant I had been out-led again. In hindsight I would have preferred to have led normally into this, but the Prankster Thundurus was really scary due to having Taunt and Eerie Impulse. I lost Incineroar turn 1 and whilst it was relatively close, Thomas made all the right calls to close out the game.
I’ve thought long and hard since about how I could have won G3 with that lead and how I would approach the game again. Overall, I have ideas, but I don’t regret how I played at all. Thomas is a great player, evidenced by his 2nd place finish.
You can read Thomas’s team report here!
I’m incredibly happy to have finished 6th with an unconventional team that I worked so hard in creating. I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has congratulated me since!
As for the team, again, I believe it has a good matchup against many of the common archetypes, such as Zacian + Kyogre, Zacian + Groudon and Ice Rider Calyrex + Palkia teams, and I really think it can go further with some small refinements (I have some ideas…).
I hope you enjoy using the team as much as I did!