Solgaleo’s Sunsteel Striking Success – A Salt Lake City Regionals Top 8 Team Report

Hi, everyone! My name is Zac Emerzian; I’m a technical game designer by day, lecturer by evening, and VGC player by night. My first event was back in the ancient days of 2010 and after a gnarly mirror match in 2011 (which was single elimination and best-of-one) knocked me out round one, I stopped playing until 2017. Since the pandemic, I have been largely taking VGC pretty lax, but even still I would perform far better than my meager expectations in the few online events I did attend. This trend of far exceeding my low expectations is all the more obvious with my recent results in the Salt Lake City Regionals.

I was incredibly hesitant with the return of live events, still feeling like it was too soon for such large gatherings. (Me getting sick after the last three regional or larger events I had been to didn’t help either.) However, after being put at ease by TPCI’s strict COVID policies, I was convinced by Devyn Powers (BlubVGC) to go. And once travel plans with him and my brother Ben Emerzian (Nyphus) were put in place, the biggest question was what team I was going to use.

Table of Contents

About teambuilding

From reading many other team reports, I am always struck by how methodically people usually explain how their team came about, no doubt with tremendous help from hindsight. In my experience, teambuilding is rarely a linear or predictable process, so if the story of how this team came to be seems chaotic and flawed, that’s because it is; teambuilding is as much a science as it is an art.

One more topic of preamble before getting into the actual process: teambuilding is half of the game, and the half that I think I enjoy the most (slightly more than actually playing) due to the massive possibility space and the time you have to explore it. Everyone has different play styles and priorities when teambuilding. To better explain my priorities when teambuilding, I want to talk about different sources of randomness in the game and ways teams can be built to find consistency despite them. The way I see it, there are three main kinds of consistency teams can have in VGC: matchup consistency, execution consistency, and team/gameplan consistency.

Let’s walk through a couple quick examples to explain this taxonomy. Sun teams in the current format often have excellent matchup consistency (they rarely lose on team preview), but tend to struggle with team/gameplan consistency due to their reliance on inaccurate attacks (their gameplans are more susceptible to bad RNG). Hyper-offense teams, when built properly, can have high matchup consistency and team/gameplan consistency, but can require near-perfect execution, and thus have low execution consistency; said another way, they are less forgiving to players not always playing their best.

I mention all this theory to say that, as a player, I prioritize team/gameplan consistency over the other two. As such, I often take tremendous care when making teams to make sure to use the most accurate attacks possible, have ways of preventing status conditions, and minimize speed-ties. You will see these priorities in how I approach teambuilding.

Of course, prioritizing the other types of consistency are completely valid tactics as well, that’s part of what makes VGC so interesting. But for me, I like maximizing team/gameplan consistency because it’s the only part of playing VGC that you have complete control over; you can’t always play your best (execution consistency) and you can’t always play against the teams you want to (matchup consistency). And while you can’t always hit Play Rough (team/gameplan consistency), you can always use a team that doesn’t have to.

Teambuilding process

Alright, so, to the actual team now! … Well not quite… Teambuilding in a vacuum isn’t very good teambuilding. A team’s value is judged based on the options it provides the player when up against other teams. As such, knowing what the common Pokémon, movesets, item choices, teams and archetypes are is the crucial first step I took (since I had only really been passively aware of what the meta was in Series 12). To do this, I looked at the usage stats on Pikalytics, grassroots and official tournament results, watched Aaron Zheng‘s Road to Ranked episodes, and played on the ladder (with a number of teams). This process of gaining metagame awareness is crucially important for both teambuilding and playing, especially when coming off of a break, like I was.

zacian-crowned

These were my takeaways: Zacian is obviously incredibly busted (the coldest take ever, I know), but I found myself disappointed with it in practice. Zacian is so common that not only does everyone know what it can do and how to play against it, but I found the Zacian mirror incredibly awkward. Zacian can benefit a lot from extra bulk, but in doing so it becomes significantly worse against opposing max Speed Zacian, and since Zacian is on more than half of teams, that’s a huge deal. So just use max Speed? You absolutely can, but the number of speed-ties I saw when doing so made me really not a fan (again, trying to promote team/gameplan consistency in teambuilding). So I realized that I did not want to use Zacian, despite its power (and similarity to my name). What I did want was a Restricted Pokémon (or maybe two) that could go toe-to-toe with Zacian.

I also noticed that a large chunk of the most common Pokémon in the format resist Steel or are weak to Ground, such as Kyogre, Regieleki, Incineroar, Zacian, and Thundurus. This meant that I wanted to make sure I had a strong Max Quake on any Max Steelspike user on my team, for both the coverage and the Max Move synergy. And finally, with Incineroar as common as ever, I wanted to focus more on offensive treats that wouldn’t be slowed down by Intimidate, Parting Shot, and Fake Out.

zacian-crownedpalkiaincineroaramoongusslandorus-theriangrimmsnarl

Now, the team I was using on the ladder to get a better feel for the format was a version of the Zacian + Palkia team that my brother and BlubVGC ended up using in Salt Lake City (with Grimmsnarl, Landorus-T, Incineroar, and Amoonguss as the other four in this version). I knew Zacian and Palkia were a strong duo and even though I decided not to use the team, I did learn some key lessons from trying it. As strong as Zacian and Palkia are together, they can struggle against teams that have good Zacian answers and can stall out Palkia’s Dynamax since the rest of the team often has little in the way of offense. These teams usually lack strong Dynamax options other than Palkia, so I wanted a team with a little more Dynamax flexibility.

grimmsnarl

The Grimmsnarl was easily the Pokémon that impressed me the most on the team; screens are incredibly strong in this format (thanks to how they can slow down the overwhelming power of most Restricted Pokémon and because they stack wonderfully with Dynamax) and Grimmsnarl can set them up reliably. Grimmsnarl was something I wanted to keep in mind while building.

dialgagrimmsnarl

I first tried Life Orb Dialga. It fit the bill as a strong special attacking Restricted Pokémon with a reasonable Zacian matchup (when Dynamaxed) and the coveted Max Quake and Max Steelspike combo. In the process of trying a random assortment of other ideas and seeing what sticked, I tried out the following hot mess of a team:

dialgaho-ohmarowak-alolarillaboomgastrodongrimmsnarl

The main idea was to get a feel for Dialga and try out some off-beat Fire-types to further swing the Zacian matchup in my favor. Special Choice Scarf Ho-oh was interesting, but far less useful in practice than it seemed on paper (though it looking decent on paper is also questionable). Marowak was much the same; I had trouble capitalizing on its good Zacian and Thundurus matchups, but there is probably something there. Yveltal proved to be a huge problem for this team since repeated Snarls just ruin Dialga and everyone else except for Grimmsnarl, and support Grimmsnarl can’t beat Yveltal on its own.

This highlighted the biggest problem I had with Dialga: it was often too easy for my opponents to slow it down. To explain exactly why this is, I want to contrast Dialga with the next Restricted Steel-type with a strong Dynamax option I tried, Solgaleo. Thanks to Full Metal Body, Solgaleo can actually ignore Incineroar more effectively than Dialga can, since Parting Shot is still a nuisance for Dialga while it outright fails when targeting Solgaleo. And while Solgaleo has an even worse matchup into things like Yveltal, that was alright because I didn’t expect it to be good against Yveltal.

The last part is that it’s better to be a physical attacker that’s weak to Max Quake than a special attacker that’s weak to Max Quake. This is because your opponent already wants to click Max Quake into Dialga for the damage, and they get the added benefit of weakening Dialga’s attacks at the same time. Solgaleo doesn’t have this issue; Max Quake does good damage to it, but the boosts from Max Quake aren’t relevant against it. This makes opponents choose between a super-effective Max Quake for the damage or a resisted Max Steelspike to better take hits from Solgaleo. So although nearly every team is equipped with Max Quake, Solgaleo is much better at handling it. Add to that that Solgaleo is faster, has a far more impactful Ability, and isn’t weak to Zacian’s Sacred Sword, and there are a number of reasons to like the metal lion over the metal dragon.

solgaleo

It was for those aforementioned reasons that Solgaleo was a Pokémon I wanted to try out. Weakness Policy and Life Orb were the premier item options. I decided to look into Weakness Policy to leverage Full Metal Body and the fact that Solgaleo has more weaknesses than Dialga. Weakness Policy has the added benefit of making Incineroar even less useful against Solgaleo: Flare Blitz, Darkest Lariat, and Snarl all do minimal damage and activate the Weakness Policy, Fake Out is not reliable since Solgaleo Dynamaxes often, and Parting Shot is as useful as Splash against it.

I then started looking into good options to support Solgaleo. The following three Pokémon came to mind at the same time. Grimmsnarl was already on my mind and its typing and ability to increase the team’s bulk perfectly complemented Solgaleo. Tapu Fini was a Pokémon I had used alongside Solgaleo back in 2019’s Ultra Series and I quite liked their type synergy, as well as Tapu Fini’s Misty Surge preventing the only reasonable way to slow down Solgaleo’s damage output: burning it. Lastly, I wanted something to activate Solgaleo’s Weakness Policy on demand, preferably Bulldoze for its additional utility as a speed control option. Since Shadow Rider Calyrex is the fastest Pokémon with access to Bulldoze, I thought it was worth trying despite how foolish it seemed to make this offensive monster effectively a support Pokémon (more on that later).

solgaleocalyrex-shadow-ridertapu-finigrimmsnarl

Just like that I had a core to work with. Putting them together I realized a couple things (both good and bad). Zacian + Palkia is an archetype that really doesn’t like this core. With Tapu Fini on the team, Thunder Wave on Grimmsnarl becomes a lot less appealing as an option (for myself and my opponents). Despite the abysmal matchup of Solgaleo and Shadow Rider into Yveltal, the two bulky Fairy types already go a long way to help with this problem matchup.

Because I wasn’t too confident in the core’s matchup against Rain and Sun, I slapped Charizard and Ludicolo on the team and took it out for a drive (yeah, it looks weird).

solgaleocalyrex-shadow-ridercharizardludicolotapu-finigrimmsnarl

I learned a lot of useful information at this stage. Solgaleo and Grimmsnarl were working extremely well, able to mow down unsuspecting teams, especially teams that rely on Zacian and Kyogre or Palkia for most of their damage. Shadow Rider Calyrex rarely would snowball and sweep teams, but its immediate offensive pressure was very appreciated. Charizard was very useful against Sun teams, where Solgaleo was not. Yveltal was still a little tough to deal with, and both Tapu Fini and Ludicolo were quite lackluster.

In situations like this, it can be difficult to determine what the actual source of the problems are. Was it the set on Ludicolo and Tapu Fini that made them underwhelming or their item choice, their EV spread, their matchups against the teams I played, my inexperience with them, or just that they weren’t the right Pokémon for the job? While Charizard was great against Sun teams, I came to realize that, when played properly, Ludicolo wasn’t needed in Rain matchups. So I looked to replace Ludicolo with something else with Fake Out.

Though Tapu Fini was underwhelming initially, it was proving its usefulness with Misty Terrain alone; blocking burns, Thunder Waves, and Spores has been criminally undervalued in the format so far. Tapu Fini has been a comfort pick for me for the longest time; I’ve used all sorts of sets on it in every format in the past and am intimately familiar with its strengths and weaknesses. However, the supportive set with Icy Wind and Nature’s Madness was not at all what this team needed. The support that I needed from Tapu Fini was being fulfilled just by switching it in and setting up Misty Terrain. So what I needed was to make sure it was more impactful when it did show up and strong enough that I would want to bring it for reasons beyond its support (as a side note, this was the exact same reason why I came to like Bulldoze Calyrex; I never felt like I had to compromise much to bring Bulldoze into a game). I decided to try out the exact same Choice Specs Tapu Fini that I had used in Series 7/9, and it turned out to be the sleeper MVP of the whole team.

Since Thundurus and Regieleki could be annoying for the team, I decided to pluck out another Pokémon that I used alongside Choice Specs Tapu Fini back in Series 7/9: Raichu. It also has Fake Out, which was the one thing I really wanted out of the Ludicolo slot most. This left me with this team:

solgaleocalyrex-shadow-ridercharizardtapu-finigrimmsnarlraichu

And I know what you’re thinking: “That’s one Pokémon away from the final version of the team, surely this part of the team report is nearly over!” And it would be very easy for me to just say that I realized that Therian Landorus was better against Yveltal while keeping a positive Sun matchup and so I swapped Charizard out for it (which is true). However, it took me a little longer to come to that conclusion.

After ironing out some details, like the last move on Grimmsnarl and Solgaleo’s EV spread, the team felt alright, but the Sun matchup was shaky at best. After some feedback from BlubVGC, I decided to try out Entei and Zapdos instead of Charizard and Raichu to see how it felt.

solgaleocalyrex-shadow-riderenteitapu-finigrimmsnarlzapdos

That version didn’t last too long before I had another realization: if I could set the sun for Charizard, I could bring it to more matchups. In hindsight, I can see that that was solving for a problem that the team didn’t really have. The problem wasn’t that Charizard needed to contribute more to other matchups, but that it wasn’t good enough in the matchups I needed it for: Sun and Yveltal. Again, these things always seem obvious in hindsight, but when we are in the thick of it, it can be hard to see what the actual problems you need to solve are. The best way to improve at this is to critically reflect on your teambuilding process. Anyway, in order to better support Charizard, I decided to do the unthinkable and swap out Grimmsnarl, for Klefki of all things!

solgaleocalyrex-shadow-ridercharizardtapu-finiklefkiraichu

Even though I don’t think it was what this team needed, Klefki is still a solidly underrated support Pokémon; it’s basically a Grimmsnarl with access to Sunny Day and Rain Dance that can survive a Behemoth Blade after Reflect. And sure enough, Klefki was able to put in work by powering up Charizard and pulling the rug out from under opposing Kyogre ready to drench my team with Water Spout, all while providing the same support with dual screens. However, it wasn’t long until I realized that Klefki didn’t improve my matchups against Sun or Yveltal, but made them slightly worse.

At this point I was sold on Raichu, but I knew that it was the Charizard slot that needed to be better against Solgaleo’s problem matchups. I had also been burned by Charizard speed ties a fair amount at this point and I didn’t want to hang my Sun matchup on a coin flip; I wanted something that could naturally outspeed and OHKO Charizard in the Sun. I decided to try out Terrakion for its positive Charizard and Yveltal matchup.

solgaleocalyrex-shadow-ridergrimmsnarltapu-finiterrakionraichu

And Terrakion was certainly great against Charizard and Yveltal. But it was at this point that I realized that my lack of Ground-type resists was untenable. I needed a Flying-type to act as a Ground switch-in, especially since the Terrakion slot was supposed to be for Sun teams and Groudon isn’t afraid of Terrakion. So I tried, with few expectations, the fastest Flying and Rock-type: Aerodactyl.

solgaleocalyrex-shadow-ridergrimmsnarltapu-finiaerodactylraichu

I can say now that Aerodactyl was a choice rooted in denial. I had a sneaking suspicion I knew what would fit perfectly in this slot, but I wanted to make sure I exhausted every other possible option first. With the little time I had left, this wasn’t the best idea, but we can often be our own worst enemies. Thankfully though, Aerodactyl’s flaws perfectly highlighted what I need from this slot, which was a strong Dynamax candidate that was immune to Ground, could threaten Charizard and Yveltal with huge damage, and had positive matchups against Groudon and Zacian (since they are frequently paired together). I can only think of one Pokémon that fulfills all that… Flygon!

flygon

…Nah, just kidding, sorry Flygon, you don’t have Intimidate, unlike Therian Landorus, which checks all of those boxes and brings us to the final team I brought to the Salt Lake City Regionals.

solgaleocalyrex-shadow-ridergrimmsnarltapu-finilandorus-therianraichu

Now let’s dive into what the team is exactly and how it works.

The Team

▶️ Get the team’s paste here!

Solgaleo @ Weakness Policy
Ability: Full Metal Body
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 188 Atk / 4 Def / 60 SpD / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Sunsteel Strike
– Psychic Fangs
– Earthquake
– Protect

The star (get it?) of the show and this team’s premier Dynamax option. Solgaleo is a force to be reckoned with when supported properly and can plow through a significant number of teams in the metagame. Weakness Policy is an excellent item on Solgaleo for a number of reasons. First, its typing is great thanks to its 4 weaknesses and lack of any 4-times weaknesses. Secondly, Solgaleo’s tremendous bulk, especially in conjunction with Dynamax, means it can often tank super-effective hits. And finally, Full Metal Body means that the boosts from Weakness Policy (not to mention Max Quake and Max Steelspike) are there to stay, barring the use of something like Haze. Full Metal Body is what makes Solgaleo as good as it is. Being able to ignore the drops from Intimidate, Electroweb, Icy Wind, Bulldoze, Max Strike, Fake Tears, Charm, Scary Face, Screech, Max Wyrmwind, and Parting Shot is incredible.
The Speed is incredibly important because it makes sure Solgaleo can outspeed Zacian and opposing Shadow Rider Calyrex after a -1 speed drop.

Moves:

  • Sunsteel Strike is a strong, no drawback Steel-type STAB move that lets Solgaleo boost its Defense with Max Steelspike and KO Mimikyu through Disguise (which is nice). It’s a no-brainer for a set like this.
  • Earthquake is the only Ground-type move it gets, but it’s invaluable for coverage against opposing Steel and Fire types and letting Solgaleo Max Quake to boost its Special Defense. These two moves allow Solgaleo to snowball its bulk and give it the longevity to continue to pressure big damage on the opponent even after its Dynamax is over.
  • Psychic Fangs is the less common choice, but one I greatly appreciated. The original idea was that it would be good for removing opposing screens, working to make Solgaleo’s offense even more difficult to stop, but, in practice, that hardly ever came into play. I did really appreciate the ability to hit Amoonguss as well as Water-types, like Kyogre and Palkia, much harder than would be possible otherwise. Max Mindstorm also gave me more control over the terrain; letting me protect Shadow Rider Calyrex from priority moves that would break its Focus Sash if I needed that to secure an endgame. Meanwhile the other common 3rd attack on Solgaleo, Rock Slide, would give weather control, but the Sand it summons when used as Max Rockfall would break Shadow Rider Calyrex’s Focus Sash, which I wasn’t keen on.
  • Protect is very important for keeping Solgaleo safe and baiting the opponent’s Max Moves to activate the Weakness Policy while taking minimal damage.
Offensive calcs

 

Zacian-Crowned
188+ Atk Solgaleo Sunsteel Strike vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Zacian-Crowned: 84-99 (50 – 58.9%) — guaranteed 2HKO
+2 188+ Atk Solgaleo Sunsteel Strike vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Zacian-Crowned: 166-196 (98.8 – 116.6%) — 93.8% chance to OHKO
+2 188+ Atk Solgaleo Max Steelspike vs. 252 HP / 84 Def Zacian-Crowned: 199-235 (100 – 118%) — guaranteed OHKO
incineroar +2 188+ Atk Solgaleo Earthquake vs. 236 HP / 28 Def Incineroar: 196-232 (98 – 116%) — 87.5% chance to OHKO
palkia
+2 188+ Atk Solgaleo Max Quake vs. 252 HP / 20 Def Dynamax Palkia: 158-187 (40.1 – 47.4%) — guaranteed 3HKO
+2 188+ Atk Solgaleo Max Mindstorm vs. 252 HP / 20 Def Dynamax Palkia: 237-280 (60.1 – 71%) — guaranteed 2HKO
+2 188+ Atk Solgaleo Max Quake vs. 4 HP / 4 Def Dynamax Palkia: 161-190 (48.4 – 57.2%) — 94.1% chance to 2HKO
amoonguss 188+ Atk Solgaleo Max Mindstorm vs. 252 HP / 252+ Def Amoonguss: 218-258 (98.6 – 116.7%) — 87.5% chance to OHKO
kyogre +2 188+ Atk Solgaleo Psychic Fangs vs. 4 HP / 4 Def Kyogre: 172-204 (97.7 – 115.9%) — 87.5% chance to OHKO
mimikyu 188+ Atk Solgaleo Sunsteel Strike vs. 252 HP / 252 Def Mimikyu: 170-204 (104.9 – 125.9%) — guaranteed OHKO
calyrex-ice-rider +2 188+ Atk Solgaleo Max Steelspike vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Dynamax Calyrex-Ice: 342-404 (82.6 – 97.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO
Defensive calcs

Zacian-Crowned +1 252 Atk Zacian-Crowned Sacred Sword vs. 4 HP / 4 Def Solgaleo: 89-105 (41.7 – 49.2%) — guaranteed 3HKO

calyrex-ice-rider 252+ Atk Calyrex-Ice Max Quake vs. 4 HP / 4 Def Dynamax Solgaleo: 182-216 (42.7 – 50.7%) — 2% chance to 2HKO

kyogre 252 SpA Mystic Water Kyogre Max Geyser vs. 4 HP / 60 SpD Solgaleo in Rain through Light Screen: 175-207 (82.1 – 97.1%) — guaranteed 2HKO

calyrex-shadow-rider 252 SpA Life Orb Calyrex-Shadow Astral Barrage vs. 4 HP / 60 SpD Solgaleo through Light Screen: 161-192 (75.5 – 90.1%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Tapu Fini @ Choice Specs
Ability: Misty Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 204 HP / 28 Def / 204 SpA / 4 SpD / 68 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Moonblast
– Scald
– Dazzling Gleam
– Muddy Water

A fantastic Ability, great stats, one of the best types in the game, and a surprisingly deep movepool make it difficult for Tapu Fini to be outright bad, though it has certainly been neglected in Series 12. As mentioned in the teambuilding section, Misty Terrain is extremely useful in the format and Choice Specs can make Tapu Fini a respectable offensive option. Choice Specs Tapu Fini is particularly great against Palkia, especially since Dazzling Gleam lets you do good damage to it without having to worry about the redirection it’s often paired with. Misty Terrain makes Amoonguss in particular much easier to play against as well, which is always a positive in my book. I hope people can look at this and realize the potential and room to grow Tapu Fini has in Series 12, since it’s currently underutilized or underexplored.

For the spread, the Speed allows Tapu Fini to outspeed base 100s after an Electroweb from Raichu and there’s a little creep (because this was a spread from Series 7 and I wanted to outspeed -1 Nihilego).

Moves:

  • Moonblast is one of the best moves in the game and it’s STAB on Tapu Fini. This is a great move to lock into when you are less concerned with redirection or hitting into Protects and just need to hit as hard as possible.
  • Scald won’t burn very often thanks to Misty Terrain, but it’s the most reliable Water-type STAB option Tapu Fini gets, so it’s worth it for that alone. Unsurprisingly, I recommend locking into it when the remaining Pokémon on your opponent’s team resist Fairy (e.g. Zacian), are weak to Water (e.g. Incineroar), or Rain is up.
  • Dazzling Gleam was probably the move I clicked most with Tapu Fini. Dealing repeated Fairy-type spread damage can be quite valuable against a lot of teams as it can chip things into Astral Barrage KO range or finish off weakened Pokémon. This is a great move to lock into when you want consistent spread damage or Fairy-type damage that cannot be redirected away, such as against Palkia and Amoonguss or Indeedee.
  • Muddy Water was easily the least used move on this set. Let me explain why. If you’ve only used Calm Mind Tapu Fini, you might be wondering why I’m saying Muddy Water is so much worse on Choice Specs Tapu Fini; this was something I had to realize when I first tried Choice Specs Tapu Fini. Muddy Water as a primary Water-type STAB option on Calm Mind Tapu Fini is fine because you don’t have as much space for moves and it gives Fini a spread move while getting to keep the excellent Moonblast. And since Calm Mind Tapu Fini can choose its moves freely, you can always pick Moonblast when you just need to hit something to get a KO; in other words, you get to choose every turn if you want to roll the dice and hit both or consistently damage one target. With Choice Specs Tapu Fini, you have to make this choice when you first lock into a move, and don’t get to pick a more reliable option if you need it until you switch out and back in. This makes Muddy Water a considerably weaker option overall, but is still useful in some situations.
Offensive calcs

palkia 204+ SpA Choice Specs Tapu Fini Moonblast vs. 12 HP / 4 SpD Palkia: 176-210 (105.3 – 125.7%) — guaranteed OHKO
zacian-crowned 204+ SpA Choice Specs Tapu Fini Scald vs. 4 HP / 4 SpD Zacian-Crowned: 78-93 (46.4 – 55.3%) — 64.8% chance to 2HKO
yveltal

204+ SpA Choice Specs Tapu Fini Moonblast vs. 236 HP / 12 SpD Assault Vest Yveltal: 138-164 (59.7 – 70.9%) — guaranteed 2HKO
204+ SpA Choice Specs Tapu Fini Moonblast vs. 4 HP / 4 SpD Yveltal: 210-248 (103.9 – 122.7%) — guaranteed OHKO

Defensive calcs

zacian-crowned +1 252 Atk Zacian-Crowned Behemoth Blade vs. +1 204 HP / 28 Def Tapu Fini through Reflect: 61-72 (35.6 – 42.1%) — guaranteed 3HKO

rillaboom 252+ Atk Rillaboom Grassy Glide vs. 204 HP / 28 Def Tapu Fini in Grassy Terrain: 144-170 (84.2 – 99.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO after Grassy Terrain recovery

palkia 252+ SpA Life Orb Palkia Max Quake vs. 204 HP / 4 SpD Tapu Fini through Light Screen: 63-75 (36.8 – 43.8%) — guaranteed 3HKO

Grimmsnarl @ Light Clay
Ability: Prankster
Level: 50
EVs: 244 HP / 68 Def / 196 SpD
Careful Nature
– Spirit Break
– Sucker Punch
– Reflect
– Light Screen

This hairy gremlin is a phenomenal support Pokémon that helped to frame the entire teambuilding process. As I mentioned before, screens are one of the best ways to mitigate the large amounts of damage being thrown around in the format and Light Clay is important for making sure that they stick around until the end of the game.

Normally, I am very meticulous about making custom EV spreads to do exactly what I want. That did not happen with Grimmsnarl here. I got this spread from BlubVGC and never felt the need to change it. During the tournament, I had no idea what the spread did other than survive Behemoth Blade from neutral Zacian with Reflect up, which never came up. But for this team report I have reverse engineered the spread to get my best guess at what it is supposed to do, or at least what it can do.

Moves:

  • Spirit Break is an excellent move that helps to make Grimmsnarl not too passive while also doubling down on its role of mitigating the opponent’s damage. It does pretty respectable damage, even with no Attack investment, especially into things like Palkia and Yveltal.
  • Light Screen and Reflect are great for making Solgaleo and the rest of the team take attacks a lot better and the Light Clay makes sure those screens are up nearly the entire game.
  • Sucker Punch ended up being the last move that I settled on after trying a number of other support moves. I mainly chose Sucker Punch to give my team some priority damage options other than Fake Out and to help make sure opposing Shadow Rider Calyrex can’t run away with the game as easily. I never felt like I really needed Thunder Wave or Scary Face.
Offensive calcs

calyrex-shadow-rider 0 Atk Grimmsnarl Sucker Punch vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Calyrex-Shadow: 228-268 (129.5 – 152.2%) — guaranteed OHKO

palkia 0 Atk Grimmsnarl Spirit Break vs. 252 HP / 20 Def Palkia: 98-116 (49.7 – 58.8%) — 96.5% chance to 2HKO

yveltal 0 Atk Grimmsnarl Spirit Break vs. 4 HP / 12 Def Yveltal: 102-122 (50.4 – 60.3%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Defensive calcs

seismitoad 252+ Atk Life Orb Seismitoad Max Geyser vs. 244 HP / 68 Def Grimmsnarl in Rain through Reflect: 162-192 (80.5 – 95.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO

zacian-crowned +1 252 Atk Zacian-Crowned Behemoth Blade vs. +1 244 HP / 68 Def Grimmsnarl through Reflect: 177-209 (88 – 103.9%) — 25% chance to OHKO

groudon

-1 252+ Atk Groudon Max Quake vs. 244 HP / 68 Def Grimmsnarl through Reflect: 83-98 (41.2 – 48.7%) — guaranteed 3HKO

252+ Atk Life Orb Groudon Max Quake vs. 244 HP / 68 Def Grimmsnarl through Reflect: 161-191 (80 – 95%) — guaranteed 2HKO

palkia 252+ SpA Life Orb Palkia Max Geyser vs. 244 HP / 196+ SpD Grimmsnarl: 173-204 (86 – 101.4%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO

charizard-gmax 252 SpA Solar Power Charizard G-Max Wildfire (Heat Wave) vs. 244 HP / 196+ SpD Grimmsnarl in Sun through Light Screen: 135-159 (67.1 – 79.1%) — guaranteed 2HKO

yveltal 252 SpA Life Orb Yveltal Max Airstream vs. 244 HP / 196+ SpD Grimmsnarl through Light Screen: 88-105 (43.7 – 52.2%) — 16.4% chance to 2HKO

Calyrex-Shadow @ Focus Sash
Ability: As One (Spectrier)
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 4 Def / 244 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 7 Atk
– Astral Barrage
– Pollen Puff
– Bulldoze
– Protect

If Lunala taught us anything in 2019, it’s that Restricted Ghost/Psychic types can thrive even with Incineroar on most teams, and Shadow Rider Calyrex is no exception. Its excellent speed tier, access to Astral Barrage, and two Abilities already make it a fearsome sweeper. Because Astral Barrage is so good, Calyrex doesn’t need much coverage most of the time, so I was completely comfortable with half its moveset being support moves. Max Speed is certainly the way to go, since you can only go one point slower and ensure you outspeed Zacian, and outspeeding Zacian is absolutely worth it since you see it so often. Being immune to Fake Out is incredibly useful for a Pokémon this fast and powerful and makes Focus Sash an even better item for it.

The spread is basically 252/252/4, but with marginally more bulk and stats since Calyrex’s bulk is actually pretty decent, so it doesn’t even need the Focus Sash in some situations. Of course, there are still plenty of situations where the Focus Sash shows its worth, perhaps most notably in the mirror match. If I had a little more time, I would have looked to optimize this EV spread a bit more, but as is it did the job.

Moves:

  • Astral Barrage is an absurd move; it’s a Ghost-type Origin Pulse that can’t miss. Wide Guard isn’t nearly common enough to make me worried that this is my Calyrex’s only STAB option. It’s basically the only move that Shadow Rider Calyrex actually needs to function, and as such has a lot of flexibility on what its last two moves are (I do think Protect is too useful to give up on non-Choice-locked sets).
  • Bulldoze on Calyrex is honestly incredible, to the point where I would highly consider it even if I didn’t have Weakness Policy Solgaleo on the team. The speed control it gives is extremely useful, in a similar vein to Electroweb on Regieleki. It also makes the 1v1 against other Shadow Rider Calyrex much easier, since you can just Bulldoze to break their Focus Sash and then outspeed and KO them with Astral Barrage next turn. Provided your Calyrex’s Focus Sash is intact, you don’t have to care about the speed tie at all, which is a big plus in my book.
  • Pollen Puff is one of the many random tech moves that Calyrex gets access to and it was a great addition to the team. I didn’t use it all the time, but it did win me two games during the Regionals. Pollen Puff is generally useful for keeping the likes of Solgaleo or Tapu Fini healthy if they need to close out the endgame. It also proved useful for allowing Calyrex to threaten a fair amount of Indeedee that popped up in Salt Lake City.
  • Protect is vitally important to keep Calyrex safe and preserve its Focus Sash.
Offensive calcs

zacian-crowned 244 SpA Calyrex-Shadow Astral Barrage vs. 0 HP / 4 SpD Zacian-Crowned: 81-96 (48.5 – 57.4%) — 91% chance to 2HKO

dusclops 244 SpA Calyrex-Shadow Astral Barrage vs. 252 HP / 252+ SpD Eviolite Dusclops: 74-90 (50.3 – 61.2%) — guaranteed 2HKO

calyrex-ice-rider 244 SpA Calyrex-Shadow Astral Barrage vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Calyrex-Ice: 146-174 (70.5 – 84%) — guaranteed 2HKO

groudon 244 SpA Calyrex-Shadow Astral Barrage vs. 236 HP / 4 SpD Groudon: 99-117 (48.2 – 57%) — 89.8% chance to 2HKO

Defensive calcs

rillaboom 252+ Atk Miracle Seed Rillaboom Grassy Glide vs. 4 HP / 4 Def Calyrex-Shadow in Grassy Terrain through Reflect: 79-94 (44.8 – 53.4%) — 1.2% chance to 2HKO after Grassy Terrain recovery



Raichu
@ Shuca Berry
Ability: Lightning Rod
Level: 50
EVs: 188 HP / 20 Def / 28 SpA / 20 SpD / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
– Electroweb
– Charm
– Eerie Impulse
– Fake Out

My second favorite Lightning Rod Pokémon with Fake Out, Raichu, brings a wealth of utility to the table. I chose to forgo more common moves like Nuzzle, because of Tapu Fini, or Brutal Swing, because I felt I already had enough ways to activate Solgaleo’s Weakness Policy. Just like in Series 7, I instead wanted to focus on Raichu’s ability to act as a stopgap to a number of offensive threats, such as Groudon (I’m not kidding), Zacian, Yveltal, Charizard, Therian Landorus, Dialga, and Regieleki. While this moveset is very support-oriented and useful in a number of situations, against some things, like bulky support Pokémon, opposing Solgaleo, or Defiant Thundurus, Raichu can’t contribute much at all.

This EV spread has max Speed investment to mainly get the jump on all the Pokémon in the 90 to 100 base speed tier, such as Kyogre, Charizard, Yveltal, and Palkia. I probably could have gotten away with less Speed, but had I played any Kartana, I would have been kicking myself if I was outsped by one.

Moves:

  • Electroweb is crucial for letting my Therian Landorus and Tapu Fini get the jump on the likes of Charizard or Yveltal, since Calyrex can’t Bulldoze them. The chip damage on Charizard also helps Landorus get the KO with Max Rockfall. It’s also another way of letting Solgaleo outspeed Zacian and opposing Shadow Rider Calyrex.
  • Charm and Eerie Impulse allow Raichu to neuter a lot of powerful Dynamax Pokémon and better stall them out. For example, after a Charm, Raichu can use its Shuca Berry to survive a Max Quake from Groudon or Therian Landorus. Eerie Impulse can be equally devastating to a Dialga or Yveltal hoping to get a lot of mileage out of their Dynamax. Watch out for White Herbs undoing your stat drops. You can also use Intimidate from Landorus or Spirit Break on Grimmsnarl to get the White Herb out of the way too.
  • Fake Out is excellent for buying turns against the likes of Zacian, Whimsicott, Incineroar, and Tornadus. It also subtly pressures opponents to Dynamax, which Raichu can capitalize off of by Charming or Eerie Impulsing them.
Offensive calcs

charizard-gmax 28 SpA Raichu Electroweb vs. 0 HP / 4 SpD Gigantamaxed Charizard: 50-62 (16.3 – 20.2%) — possible 5HKO

Defensive calcs

landorus-therian -2 252+ Atk Life Orb Landorus-Therian Max Quake vs. 188 HP / 20 Def Shuca Berry Raichu: 133-157 (83.6 – 98.7%) — guaranteed 2HKO

groudon -2 252+ Atk Life Orb Groudon Max Quake vs. 188 HP / 20 Def Shuca Berry Raichu: 146-173 (91.8 – 108.8%) — 50% chance to OHKO

zacian-crowned +1 252 Atk Zacian-Crowned Behemoth Blade vs. 188 HP / 20 Def Raichu: 120-141 (75.4 – 88.6%) — guaranteed 2HKO

yveltal -2 252+ SpA Life Orb Dark Aura Yveltal Max Darkness vs. 188 HP / 20 SpD Raichu: 122-146 (76.7 – 91.8%) — guaranteed 2HKO

dialga 252+ SpA Life Orb Dialga Max Quake vs. 188 HP / 20 SpD Shuca Berry Raichu: 138-162 (86.7 – 101.8%) — 18.8% chance to OHKO


Landorus-Therian @ Lum Berry
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 156 HP / 124 Atk / 4 Def / 20 SpD / 204 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Earthquake
– Rock Slide
– Fly
– Protect

Good old Therian Landorus was the final addition to the team, to act as replacement Dynamax Pokémon in matchups where Solgaleo would struggle, namely against Sun and Yveltal teams. Lum Berry was chosen to make it resilient to burns and other status, since it’s the only Flying-type on the team and therefore doesn’t get the benefit of Tapu Fini’s Misty Terrain. Lum Berry is especially nice since you can play a lot more aggressively and safely in the face of Yawn from the likes of Gastrodon, and its Ice Beams do negligible damage after Lando gets a Max Quake boost. It’s worth noting that, like Solgaleo, Landorus can benefit from Shadow Rider Calyrex’s Bulldoze to gain a speed advantage over the likes of Zacian.

The Speed on Landorus was to basically give it the same speed tier as Solgaleo, so it can outspeed Shadow Rider Calyrex and Zacian after a Max Airstream. I didn’t want Solgaleo and Landorus to speed tie, however, since that would add more randomness into my games, so I made Landorus one point faster to theoretically be able to give Solgaleo a Max Airstream boost before it would move.

Moves:

  • Earthquake is the best physical Ground-type STAB option that Landorus gets. It gives Landorus a strong Max Quake when Dynamaxed and a solid spread move when not. Be careful though: aside from Solgaleo and Calyrex (because of Protect), Landorus can’t Earthquake next to anyone else on the team without damaging them.
  • Rock Slide is the most accurate Rock-type attack Landorus gets. The main draw of Rock Slide was the Max Rockfall option it gave against Yveltal and Charizard. And while setting the Sand is usually less than ideal for my team, as explained in the Solgaleo part, I was more okay with it on Landorus for two reasons. The first is that Landorus is primarily on this team to deal with Charizard and Yveltal, and it can’t really do that without Max Rockfall, whereas Solgaleo can still do its job without Rock-type coverage. And the second reason is that Landorus is here to help against Sun, and having some way to remove Sun from the field is useful for weakening Charizard.
  • Fly is a thoroughly lackluster move, but, for three turns it’s one of the best moves in the game. If there was literally any other way for Landorus to use Max Airstream, I probably would have considered it, but alas, it’s got to be Fly. STAB Max Airstream is excellent for damage and speed control in one. Fly does have the benefit of being able to waste a slower opponent’s Max Move, which is a situationally useful option.
  • Protect could have been Swords Dance, but I figured that Protect would be more consistently useful, so I decided to stick with it. If I had a little more time, I would have tested Swords Dance more.
Offensive calcs

charizard-gmax -1 124 Atk Landorus-Therian Max Rockfall vs. 0 HP / 0 Def Gigantamaxed Charizard: 244-288 (79.7 – 94.1%) — guaranteed 2HKO

zacian-crowned 124 Atk Landorus-Therian Max Quake vs. 252 HP / 4 Def Zacian-Crowned: 198-234 (99.4 – 117.5%) — 93.8% chance to OHKO

Defensive calcs

charizard-gmax 252 SpA Charizard G-Max Wildfire (Blast Burn) vs. 156 HP / 20 SpD Dynamax Landorus-Therian: 133-157 (36.1 – 42.6%) — guaranteed 3HKO

zacian-crowned 252 Atk Zacian-Crowned Behemoth Blade vs. 156 HP / 4 Def Landorus-Therian through Reflect: 76-90 (41.3 – 48.9%) — guaranteed 3HKO

How to use the team

You usually want to plan on Dynamaxing Solgaleo or Landorus in the vast majority of games, but Calyrex can be a good Dynamax option in the right situations too. I wouldn’t recommend Dynamaxing Tapu Fini, Grimmsnarl, or Raichu unless your name is Aaron Traylor. Below I have broken down some common Restricted duos with example supporting casts, what Pokémon I suggest bringing against them, and notes about the matchups.

ArchetypePokémon to bring

Zacian + Palkia teams

zacian-crownedpalkiaincineroaramoonguss
indeedee-femaleporygon2

or

zacian-crownedpalkiaincineroaramoongussdittothundurus
solgaleocalyrex-shadow-ridertapu-finigrimmsnarl
If they don’t have Foul Play on Porygon2, you can kinda just go to town with Solgaleo + Calyrex. You do need to keep Solgaleo and Calyrex around long enough to take out Zacian, unless it’s very low and Tapu Fini can get the KO. Tapu Fini can pressure Palkia a lot, especially if they set up Trick Room for you. Amoonguss usually isn’t brought much, but be aware that leading Tapu Fini gives them the option to switch in Indeedee and Spore.

Zacian + Kyogre teams

zacian-crownedkyogreincineroarferrothorngrimmsnarllandorus-therian

or

zacian-crownedkyogreincineroarrillaboomgrimmsnarlzapdos

or

zacian-crownedkyogreincineroarseismitoadgrimmsnarltornadus
solgaleocalyrex-shadow-ridergrimmsnarltapu-fini
This matchup is much easier if they don’t have a way to outspeed Calyrex, since you can just Bulldoze and start slugging it out. If Prankster Tailwind, Swift Swim, or Choice Scarf Kyogre is an option for them, you probably want to slow down the game with Grimmsnarl’s screens and stall out their Dynamax or Tailwind and set Solgaleo up later.

Zacian + Groudon teams

zacian-crownedgroudonincineroargastrodongrimmsnarlcharizard
raichulandorus-theriancalyrex-shadow-ridergrimmsnarl
I’m not as familiar with this matchup, but figuring out the speed control option on Grimmsnarl and item on Charizard is important for ensuring that Charizard doesn’t get too many attacks off, since it’s the scariest part of the team. Landorus is very important for weakening Zacian and Groudon and threatening Charizard. Raichu is important for Charming Groudon and Electrowebbing Charizard so Landorus can outspeed. You always want to Max Rockfall into Charizard, to find out if it’s Charti Berry (if it’s not you get a KO) but also to remove the Sun before Charizard attacks. Provided Charizard doesn’t get out of hand with Max Airstream boosts (in which case you probably aren’t going to win anyway) Calyrex can help close out the game with Astral Barrage or heal Landorus with Pollen Puff.

Zacian + Shadow Rider Calyrex teams

zacian-crownedcalyrex-shadow-riderincineroarrillaboomblastoisethundurus
solgaleocalyrex-shadow-ridergrimmsnarltapu-finiraichu
This one can be tricky since you have to contend with Shadow Rider Calyrex speed ties. Getting Max Quakes with Solgaleo is important to survive Astral Barrage, but make sure you are still getting enough damage down since Rillaboom and Thundurus aren’t ideal Max Quake targets. Grimmsnarl is very important here for screens and countering Calyrex with Sucker Punch.

Zacian + Dialga teams

zacian-crowneddialgatalonflamedittoumbreonindeedee-female

or

zacian-crowneddialgadittorillaboomgrimmsnarlthundurus
solgaleocalyrex-shadow-riderraichugrimmsnarltapu-fini
This is Max Quake City, population: be careful not to whiff into a Flying-type. Ditto is the part of the team that makes this more challenging since without it, Solgaleo matches up well into the rest of the team. So be careful when you get a KO and open the door for Ditto to copy Solgaleo or Shadow Rider, as Ditto reverse sweeping you is possible.

Zacian + Yveltal teams

zacian-crownedyveltalincineroaramoongussgrimmsnarlgastrodon

or

zacian-crownedyveltalincineroaramoongusslandorus-therianregieleki
landorus-theriancalyrex-shadow-ridertapu-finiraichugrimmsnarl
Yveltal makes Solgaleo much less of a desirable bring. Tapu Fini and Landorus are your best offense against Yveltal. If the team has ways to be faster than Raichu, then Grimmsnarl is probably better. You can use Shadow Rider to bait in Yveltal, and try to KO it early so that Calyrex has a lot more freedom to threaten Zacian. Remember that Calyrex can Bulldoze next to Landorus to get the speed advantage on Zacian as well.

Ice Rider Calyrex + Palkia teams

calyrex-ice-riderpalkia
incineroaramoongussdusclopsindeedee-female
solgaleocalyrex-shadow-ridergrimmsnarltapu-fini
Solgaleo has an amazing time here. You have a lot of freedom, but don’t get careless and let Solgaleo take too much damage. You can either activate the Weakness Policy with Calyrex or expect your opponent to do it with a Max Quake. Either way, try to stall out Trick Room enough so that Shadow Rider Calyrex can come in when it’s over and pick up KOs.

Main threats

ThreatApproach
ferrothornAs you may have noticed, this team doesn’t have any Fire or Fighting-type moves on it, which can make removing Ferrothorn difficult. Since Ferrothorn is commonly used with Kyogre, that means that it is often hard to justify bringing Landorus to those games. And since Tapu Fini and Grimmsnarl can’t do much damage to it, that means that you have to overwhelm Ferrothorn with Shadow Rider and boosted Solgaleo. So either try and take it out early or make sure you have enough offense left in the tank if it shows up late game. See my streamed Round 8 for more info on that.
yveltalWhile Solgaleo and Calyrex want nothing to do with the death vulture, the rest of the team is quite competent against it. Grimmsnarl can wall it and slow down its damage with Spirit Breaks and Light Screen, Tapu Fini can do big damage to it with Fairy moves, Raichu can slow it down with Electroweb and Eerie Impulse, and Landorus has Rock Slide in large part to deal good damage to Yveltal. So make sure to rely on the non-Restricted Pokémon of the team when dealing with Yveltal, and consider bringing Landorus over Solgaleo. It’s also worth noting that Calyrex can also be worth bringing if you can get it in the right spots against Yveltal teams, since they tend to be weak to Shadow Rider Calyrex if you can manage the Yveltal. See my Round 3 below for more info on that.
Random things with Foul PlayFoul Play on the likes of Porygon2 or Amoonguss can throw a wrench into things if you aren’t prepared for them, so watch out for that possibility. They can be played around, but especially on something as bulky as Porygon2, it can make positioning much more difficult. See my Round 5 and my Top 8 set for more info on that.
dittoWhile Ditto copying any of my non-Restricted Pokémon isn’t the end of the world, Ditto copying Shadow Rider Calyrex or a Weakness Policy-boosted Solgaleo is really bad. You must be extremely aware of when you could be potentially giving Ditto a free switch to copy either of them. Sucker Punch on Grimmsnarl can be helpful for making sure a Scarf Shadow Rider Calyrex doesn’t run away with the game. See my Round 2 for more info on that.

My tournament run

I’ll briefly go over my tournament run in Salt Lake City Regionals to give some insight into how I used the team in practice and how this unexpected journey to top 8 came to be. Now, I will be the first to say that I got quite fortunate with matchups for my entire run. As you’ll see, I played no Groudon or Charizard, no Thundurus or Regieleki, only one Yveltal, and only one Ferrothorn. That being said, every single one of my opponents played well, which made for close games that I greatly enjoyed.

Swiss rounds

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
 R1LWWUSA
Richard Macey
(Rich)
zacian-crownedcalyrex-shadow-riderglastrierrillaboomblastoisethundurus
Match summary

It was a great set, but it was too early in the day for me to remember that much about it apparently. They never brought Thundurus. They Dynamaxed Glastrier G1, I think. Rillaboom was Grassy Seed, which proved to be more annoying than I expected as it meant I had to rely more on Calyrex than Solgaleo to do significant damage to it. Bulldoze proved very useful in the Shadow Rider Calyrex mirror.

1/0

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
 R2WLLGTM
Nathan Ortiz
(Kortex)
zacian-crowneddialgatalonflamedittoumbreonindeedee-female
Match summary

They led Dialga + Talonflame into my Solgaleo + Raichu in all three games.

I let Solgaleo get burned in G1, but it still was able to do enough damage to pull through thanks to a double Protect on Calyrex to stall out Tailwind.

In G2, I did not bring the Pokémon I should have; I was afraid of Ditto more than anything else on the team after learning that it was Choice Scarf in G1 and brought Grimmsnarl so I could Sucker Punch their Ditto after it transformed into my Calyrex. Great plan, right? Well it would have been, if I had remembered to actually bring Calyrex. As it was, I didn’t have the offense to close out the game.

For G3, I figured I needed to get rid of Talonflame as soon as possible to make sure it couldn’t burn Solgaleo or set up Tailwind, so I doubled into Talonflame with a Fake Out and Max Mindstorm to get the KO. At the end of the game, Ditto came in to copy my Weakness Policy-boosted Solgaleo and locked into Earthquake against my Calyrex and Solgaleo. Ditto ends up getting a critical hit on my Solgaleo with Earthquake to KO both of my Pokémon and win the set for Nathan. I couldn’t remember exactly how much HP my Solgaleo had, but I calced it afterwards and I think it was damage roll on whether or not +2 Earthquake KO’d, but there was no chance of survival with a crit.

This was a scary team that was well piloted so I was just happy to get a good set out of it.

1/1

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
 R3WLWUSA
Jonathan Bauer
(JD)
solgaleoyveltalincineroaramoongussgrimmsnarlgastrodon
Match summary

I didn’t want to face an Yveltal, but here one was in Round 3. This was Landorus’ time to prove itself.

I didn’t bring Calyrex and Raichu in G1 and Landorus was able to carry me through the Yveltal and Life Orb Solgaleo. Gastrodon ended up being a non-issue for Landorus since Ice Beam did little damage after a Max Quake boost and Light Screen, and the Lum Berry kept it safe from Yawn. In the end it was Solgaleo + Landorus against Gastrodon, and between both of them I was able to seal the victory in G1.

G2, I decided to give Solgaleo a shot. That was not a good idea. Their Solgaleo was faster than their Yveltal, which was, in turn, faster than my Solgaleo. I Dynamaxed Solgaleo in the face of the both of them (for some reason) and watched as it was promptly KO’d by Max Quake and +2 Foul Play.

G3 I decided to ditch Solgaleo in favor of Landorus, which is what I should have done in game 2, and used Calyrex to help against the opposing Solgaleo. It worked out much better and I was able to narrowly take the set.

2/1

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
 R4WWUSA
 Bridger Snow
(Bridger)
dialgacalyrex-ice-riderincineroarrillaboomblastoiseclefairy
Match summary

Both games, they led Dialga + Blastoise into my Restricted duo. 

Blastoise Yawned Solgaleo turn 1 of G1 and I knew it wasn’t going to work, but I switched in Tapu Fini turn 2 in the hopes that my opponent would forget I had it. They didn’t fall for it and just Flip Turned with Blastoise into Rillaboom to ensure the Yawn would put Solgaleo to sleep at the end of the turn. It was a great play, but their offense against Solgaleo wasn’t enough to fully capitalize on the sleep (it might have been a first-turn wake too) and I took G1.

Blastoise Gigantamaxed turn 1 in G2 and I switched Calyrex out for Tapu Fini turn 2, this time in order to minimize the G-Max Cannonade residual damage. The endgame came down to Blastoise + Incineroar against a low-health Tapu Fini with a Max Quake and Max Steelspike boost under its belt locked into Dazzling Gleam + Calyrex with its Focus Sash broken. I surely would have lost the game if I didn’t Pollen Puff Tapu Fini to give it enough HP to close out the game.  

3/1

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
 R5WWUSA
KevinJason Ng
(KJ)
zacian-crownedpalkiaincineroaramoongussporygon2indeedee-female
Match summary

This was the sort of team that Solgaleo can just sort of plow through, so I led with Calyrex + Solgaleo in both games and did just that. The only wrinkle was learning that the Porgyon2 knew Foul Play, but even still, two Foul Plays in a row weren’t enough to KO Dynamaxed Solgaleo and I was able to win both games.

4/1

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
 R6WWUSA
Kevonne Boreland
(KB)
solgaleokyogreincineroarrillaboomtornaduszapdos
Match summary

This Weakness Policy Solgaleo mirror got easier when I realized that I had the faster Solgaleo. I led Solgaleo + Grimmsnarl into their Solgaleo + Tornadus both games.

Turn 1 of G1, Tornadus used Brutal Swing to activate both Weakness Policies on both Dynamaxed Solgaleo. But my speed advantage plus Reflect from Grimmsnarl allowed me to take favorable trades and win from that advantage.

For G2, I knew they wouldn’t risk Brutal Swing turn 1 again, and thought they would Tailwind and just KO Grimmsnarl. To get value from the single turn Grimmsnarl would be around and activate my Weakness Policy first, I had Grimmsnarl Sucker Punch my own Solgaleo as it Max Steelspiked into the Tornadus to bring it down to its Focus Sash. I almost lost this advantage later in the game when Zapdos confused Solgaleo with a Hurricane, but thankfully Solgaleo didn’t hit itself and was able to close out the game.

5/1

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
 R7WWUSA
Wolfe Glick
(Wolfey)
calyrex-ice-riderpalkiapheromosaamoongussdusclopsindeedee-female

At this point, I was already far exceeding my expectations for the event.  I was not nervous at all for this match since I could not justify even slightly feeling bad about losing to one of the most accomplished players in the history of VGC. I was totally prepared to be a stepping stone on his road to top cut.

Game 1

And then I saw team preview and how much this team hates Solgaleo. As much as I wanted to lead Tapu Fini and immediately threaten the Palkia he led with both games, I didn’t want to risk it, as giving Amoonguss a way to get a Spore off (by potentially switching in Indeedee to overwrite Misty Terrain) could give him the free turns he needed. G1, I was able to set up screens and stall out Palkia’s Dynamax. Dusclops set up Trick Room and Hazed away Solgaleo’s boosts, but I was able to get Shadow Rider Calyrex onto the field when Trick Room ended to pick up a double KO on Dusclops and Ice Rider Calyrex. And though Pheromosa was able to outspeed and KO Calyrex with a Throat Chop right afterwards, I was able to clean up the game with an Earthquake or Dazzling Gleam (I can’t quite remember).

Game 2

At this point I was already over the moon; I had taken a game off of a world champion. For G2, I decided to lead with Grimmsnarl + Calyrex as Wolfe led Palkia + Indeedee. I went for a Spirit Break into Palkia as Solgaleo switched in for Calyrex and got absolutely demolished by a Helping Hand-boosted Max Geyser from Life Orb Palkia. After losing my best Dynamax option instantly in turn 1, I realized that my best Dynamax option left was Calyrex, so I Dynamaxed it for the first and only time in the tournament. Not wanting to Max Phantasm into Indeedee using Follow Me, I realized that Max Flutterby off of Pollen Puff was actually my best move, so I used it to take a good 60% off of Indeedee (crucially dropping Palkia’s Special Attack to -2 in the process) while Grimmsnarl set up a Light Screen to help weather Rain-boosted Palkia. After stabilizing after that turn 1, I was able to pressure the rest of his team with Choice Specs Dazzling Gleam and Astral Barrage to close out the set.

6/1

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
 R8WWUSA
Jourdan Bul-lalayao
(Ragna)
zacian-crownedkyogreincineroarferrothorngrimmsnarllandorus-therian

This match was featured on stream, so I’m only going to explain my thoughts on it, not so much a rundown of what happened. First off, it was an absolute joy to be on stream. It has been one of my goals since I started playing again in 2017 to get to play on stream and I’m so glad I was able to accomplish that and hopefully help give everyone a good show.

Game 1

Ferrothorn was one of the Pokémon that I absolutely did not want to see at all in this event. As previously mentioned, my team has no Fire or Fighting-type attacks. I was pretty scared on team preview that I was just going to get stonewalled by this thing and lose 0-2, but I had come this far and wasn’t about to give up now. I figured that my best bet for beating Ferrothorn was to just hit it as hard as I possibly could as often as possible. That meant I needed to activate the Weakness Policy on Solgaleo to start muscling through Ferrothorn along with help from Astral Barrage. Grimmsnarl and Tapu Fini wouldn’t be much help against it.
I was incredibly relieved to see that they had led Ferrothorn and decided to take the opportunity and focus it down as soon as possible. “What’s that? Kyogre, lord of the ocean, is Dynamaxing and has a Life Orb? Oh well, I wish I could help, but I’ve really got to exterminate this little seed monster first.” Thankfully, I was able to exert enough pressure to KO Ferrothorn while maintaining enough momentum to finish off their Zacian and Incineroar. I might not have revealed my last two Pokémon, but it was a far closer game than it looked.

Game 2

For G2, I figured they would save Ferrothorn for the endgame. To respond to that, I decided to lead Tapu Fini + Grimmsnarl to really slow down the game and stall out their Dynamax with the hope of having enough firepower in the back to plow through in the late game. It ended up being a little more awkward since they led with Ferrothorn again, but it still worked out in the end.
7/1

You can read Jourdan’s team report here!

Top Cut Preparation

I didn’t try to scout my opponent because Pokémon is largely an information game and extra information on an opponent’s team gives an unfair competitive advantage, which is the definition of cheating. When the community is going to reconcile with this unambiguous source of foul play, I don’t know.

Top Cut Matches

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
Top 8LWLUSA
Alex Arand
(Alex)
zacian-crownedpalkiaincineroaramoongussporygon2indeedee-female
Game 1

Alex was running what looked to be the same team as my Round 5 opponent, and based on how that set had gone, I wasn’t especially worried. The only thing I really wanted to know was whether or not the Porygon2 had Foul Play and because of a teamsheet error – I erroneously said Landorus knew Earth Power instead of Earthquake – I didn’t have a game of leeway to figure that out; I had to play it safe and assume it did.

Game 2

Like all of the Top 8 matches, this game was also on stream. In G2, the Max Steelspike critical hit into Porygon2 certainly mattered.  Since it was so early in the game, I can’t say if it won me the game right there, but it certainly helped me and made the game play out differently. Porygon2 is really the only part of this team that gives mine much trouble, so once it was out of the way, I was able to take G1 with little issue.

Game 3

Now G3 was interesting. I think it’s easy to look at the turn where I lost Calyrex to a double up from Incineroar and Porygon2 and say that that was the mistake that cost me the game. But since that happened on the second-to-last turn of Trick Room, Alex could easily have just done the same play again and I would have had to go for a double Protect, which is probably what I should have gone for. I think the larger issue overall with my play, which ended up costing me the game, was wasting too many attacks into Porygon2, which could Recover off all the damage. Had I spread my damage out more and gotten a Max Quake boost instead of a third Max Steelspike boost, I would have been in a better spot to close out the game. But kudos to Alex; he turned what should be a matchup that heavily favors my team into one where he had a lot more control by leveraging Foul Play Porygon2 very well.

 

You can read Alex’s team report here!

Conclusions

Overall, this event ended up being far better than I ever could have imagined. If you had told me that Friday that I would play on stream, beat a world champion, go undefeated in games for 5 rounds (and 12 games) straight, and make top cut, I honestly wouldn’t have believed you. I’m still having a hard time believing it all happened, even after writing way too many words about it.

If you’ve made it to the end of this absolute unit of a team report, I thank you. Hopefully, you’ve come away with a slightly better understanding of this strange and fun team, Series 12, or maybe even VGC as a whole. I think ideas like metagame awareness and different sources of randomness don’t get talked about enough and are things that we can all improve on.

I want to thank Devyn Powers and Ben Emerzian for making the event that much more fun and helping tremendously in the writing of this team report.

Thank you for reading! Feel free to try out the team and let me know what you think. And don’t sleep on Tapu Fini or Solgaleo!

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