When in Doubt, Tailwind Spout – A North America Internationals Top 16 Team Report

Hey, everyone! I’m Siddharth Singhal, and I go by Ink online. I started playing VGC back in September 2020, after stumbling across some YouTube videos of Regionals matches. Having been interested in Pokémon for much of my life but never really knowing much about competitive Pokémon, I was super intrigued by them. I decided to try my hand at VGC and have not regretted my decision since then.

This was only my third-ever in-person event, and I used a similar version of this team in my first two events, at Indianapolis and Secaucus. The duo of Tornadus and Kyogre helped carry me to getting CP at all three tournaments I played, as well as finish top 16 at the North America International Championships.

This report is going to cover my process for how I made the team, how to use it in some important match-ups, and my tournament run.

Table of Contents

Teambuilding Process

I’ve been using the core of Kyogre with Tornadus ever since the Series 12 format was announced. I prefer it to most other Zacian + Kyogre variants as it blends the options available to the other two most common Zacian + Kyogre teams (Whimsicott and Grimmsnarl-based ones) by letting me choose between playing a very aggressive, hyper-offensive game or one where I switch around a bit and reposition. The first version of the team I used was the one used by Mike D’Angelo, from the VR January S12 Challenge:

zacian-crownedKyogreincineroaramoongusstornaduszapdos

Unfortunately, I had to drop the team soon afterwards. Using it in a metagame where Rinya Sun (the team of Zacian, Groudon, Incineroar, Gastrodon, Grimmsnarl and Charizard popularised by Rinya Kobayashi) was winning back-to-back majors just wasn’t feasible, between Peng Chongjun’s win at Salt Lake City and Eric Rios’ win at Liverpool (and later EUIC).

I started testing lots of different teams at this point, but I couldn’t get them to work. I performed very poorly and realized that I was doing something wrong —I just couldn’t quite figure out what. I decided to try going back to my roots in the format and use Kyogre with Tornadus again.

I knew I had to use a team with a good matchup vs. Rinya Sun, and, more generally, vs. Groudon teams. Sun was tricky for my old Kyogre team with Tornadus: Groudon dealt far too much damage to all of my Pokémon when not Intimidated, and Venusaur also proved troublesome at times. This led me to select Therian Landorus for the team, as it could severely limit the options of the average Groudon team.

zacian-crownedKyogretornaduslandorus-therian

This core of four Pokémon was extremely powerful, and I felt it could reasonably beat most compositions. The most glaring weakness here was the matchup against opposing Kyogre, as the team had no way to hit it super effectively and also had no proper Water-type resists (outside of my own Kyogre). I knew that I’d also need an offensive Grass type, as Kyogre teams like mine generally struggle with Gastrodon and other bulky Water types.

My most likely picks for a Grass type were one of Rillaboom, Venusaur, and Kartana. Venusaur and Rillaboom didn’t really fit with how I wanted the team to play; I wanted the slot to be able to Dynamax frequently and steadily generate momentum against opposing Kyogre teams. With the ability to do incredible damage to Dynamax Kyogre with Max Overgrowth as well as snowball with Beast Boost and Max Knuckle or Max Airstream, I decided that Kartana was easily the best choice.

zacian-crownedKyogretornaduslandorus-theriankartana

With only one team slot left to fill, I noticed I had 5 of the 6 Pokémon on Gabriel Agati’s team from the VR February S12 Challenge. I figured that, since I was having trouble figuring out a last slot, I might as well just slap his last Pokémon on the team: Incineroar.

zacian-crownedKyogretornaduslandorus-theriankartanaincineroar

Surprisingly, the Incineroar slot still bothered me. While it’s broadly considered the best Pokémon in the format, it just wasn’t providing me the value I needed in my games. I was having a lot of trouble against Ice Rider Calyrex + Palkia Trick Room teams, as well as (to an extent) Lunala + Groudon teams.

Incineroar was useful against Lunala + Groudon, since it could pivot into Venusaur’s Sleep Powder thanks to its Safety Goggles while Intimidating Groudon and threatening Lunala offensively, but it still felt like I was playing with fire. Meteor Beam, Precipice Blades, and Earth Power were all mainstay moves on these 3 Pokémon, and it felt very difficult to safely maneuver Incineroar in that matchup. Ice Rider Calyrex and Palkia was an entirely separate nightmare. When up against a strong player, positioning my Kyogre and Zacian in such a way that I could beat their restricted Pokémon was incredibly hard. Meanwhile, they could almost always set up their Trick Room freely and then pressure me with Spore.

The solution to the Incineroar conundrum was kind of handed to me on a silver platter: I saw my NPA teammate, Ren Chengfu, use the six that I ultimately brought to all 3 major events I played. Instead of an Incineroar, like on Agati’s team, he had an Amoonguss.

zacian-crownedKyogreTornaduslandorus-theriankartanaamoonguss

Amoonguss made many of the previously tough matchups much more playable. It pressured Ice Rider Calyrex and Palkia teams with Sleep under Trick Room, wasting much of their offensive pressure (or, if they had it, forcing Tapu Fini to come, which was advantageous for me in and of itself). Lunala + Groudon players would also feel pressured to not set Trick Room, as doing so would give Amoonguss free reign to click Spore and put their restricted Pokémon to sleep.

Before my first Regional in Indianapolis, I played a lot of games on the ladder and reached a pretty high rating. Given that, I felt pretty confident, but didn’t really have a ton of best-of-3 experience with the team ⁠—so I decided to get some practice. I entered an online tournament (Rose Tower’s 2022 Season Opener) and finished top 4. I now felt as ready as could be.

At Indianapolis, I went 7-2 and got 60 CP for my top 32 finish, missing out on top cut due to resistance. Two weeks later, after doing mostly similar prep on the ladder, I finished 6-2 at Secaucus Regionals, getting top 16 and 80 CP, yet again missing cut on resistance.

I had only one more tournament left in my 2022 Season, and it was surely going to be the toughest one of them all: the North American International Championships (NAIC). I knew that I’d need a more focused prep strategy that wasn’t just laddering a bunch. I’d already lost to relatively common teams at Secaucus when, in retrospect, I really shouldn’t have.

Going into NAIC, I talked to a lot of strong players and tested a lot with friends. After a team of the same six Pokémon piloted by Kentaro Matsumoto (albeit with somewhat different sets) won the Japan National Championships, I knew I would have a harder time than ever before, because now the team I planned to use would surely have a big target on its back. Still, after a lot of testing on Pokémon Showdown —peaking at second on the ladder— as well as many best-of-3 sets with friends, I felt ready for the tournament.

The Team

▶️ Get the team’s paste here!

Zacian @ Rusted Sword
Ability: Intrepid Sword
Level: 50
Shiny: Yes
EVs: 124 HP / 164 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 212 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Behemoth Blade
– Play Rough
– Sacred Sword
– Protect

Zacian was vital to the execution of pretty much all of my game plans. I’d bring it into basically every standard matchup, and when I didn’t, it was usually due to me making a G2 adjustment. I think I brought it to every single game at NAIC, though.

Zacian is an extremely powerful Pokémon —arguably the best restricted in the format— and is very good at supporting Kyogre in its weak matchups. It deals massive damage to opposing restricteds, such as Ice Rider Calyrex, Yveltal, and Palkia. Behemoth Blade is obviously needed on Zacian, but I chose to run Play Rough and Sacred Sword over other options like Substitute and Swords Dance because Zacian’s role is mostly to just do damage to things that Kyogre cannot break through on its own. I needed Play Rough to hit Palkia and sometimes Yveltal, but also to have a generally strong neutral coverage option. Sacred Sword was important for getting rid of Incineroar, which allowed me to clear a path for my Kartana or Therian Landorus (if Kyogre didn’t KO Incineroar first). It was also valuable against opposing Kartana.

The spread aims to maximize the amount of damage I can do while also retaining the bulk and Speed needed to be functional. I initially used a spread with minimal bulk and near-max Attack, but later opted for some more bulk instead. At +1 Speed (usually obtained after a Max Airstream), Zacian will outspeed max Speed Venusaur in Sun. While I could do this with one less point in Speed, I figured that it was worthwhile to have the extra point to creep anyone with a similar idea for their Zacian spread. The Attack investment is one more than the second bump for the Adamant nature, and it doesn’t really do anything specific—it just felt nice to be able to pick up KOs on chipped Pokémon, or chip Pokémon to put them in range of Kyogre’s attacks. There isn’t a lot of bulk, but what’s there let me play comfortably and get ahead in some matchups.

Defensive calcs

groudon

156+ Atk Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 124 HP / 4 Def Zacian-Crowned: 156-186 (85.2 – 101.6%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO

-1 76+ Atk Groudon Max Quake (140 BP) vs. 124 HP / 4 Def Zacian-Crowned: 152-182 (83 – 99.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO

calyrex-shadow-rider 252 SpA Calyrex-Shadow Rider Astral Barrage vs. 124 HP / 4 SpD Zacian-Crowned: 81-96 (44.2 – 52.4%) — 18% chance to 2HKO

Kyogre @ Mystic Water
Ability: Drizzle
Level: 50
EVs: 76 HP / 20 Def / 156 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Water Spout
– Origin Pulse
– Ice Beam
– Protect

Kyogre is the second of the two restricted on the team, and arguably the more important one. Kyogre’s role is that of a sledgehammer of sorts: it’s there to break through the defenses of the opposing team. A Mystic Water-boosted Water Spout at full health has an effective base power of 180, which is further boosted by Kyogre’s STAB and the Rain. This is enough power to KO most Pokémon, including some resists.

I chose Mystic Water as the item for Kyogre over Life Orb and Assault Vest because it’s, essentially, the best of both worlds. I felt the main drawback of Assault Vest Kyogre is its lack of damage and inability to use Protect, but I like how it enables you to play Kyogre both in and out of Dynamax. Life Orb, on the other hand, was very powerful but felt awkward outside of Dynamax. Mystic Water gives me access to Protect yet retains some of the sheer power of Life Orb Kyogre, and lets me use Kyogre in the flexible sort of way I prefer —it’s good both in and out of Dynamax.

This Kyogre spread is similar to my Zacian spread in that it tries to maximize damage output and Speed in exchange for less bulk. While there were times that I felt a Timid Nature would’ve been useful (as it would let me, for example, outrun Shadow Rider Calyrex after a Speed boost), I preferred a Modest Nature because it let me dish out more damage in general.

Offensive calcs

zacian-crowned 156+ SpA Mystic Water Kyogre Water Spout (150 BP) vs. 156 HP / 4 SpD Zacian-Crowned in Rain: 175-207 (93.5 – 110.6%) — 62.5% chance to OHKO

calyrex-ice-rider 156+ SpA Mystic Water Kyogre Max Geyser (150 BP) vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Calyrex-Ice Rider in Rain: 211-249 (101.9 – 120.2%) — guaranteed OHKO

Defensive calcs

zacian-crowned +1 164+ Atk Zacian-Crowned Play Rough vs. 76 HP / 20 Def Kyogre: 156-184 (84.3 – 99.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO

calyrex-ice-rider 252+ Atk Calyrex-Ice Rider High Horsepower vs. 76 HP / 20 Def Kyogre: 76-90 (41 – 48.6%) — guaranteed 3HKO

regieleki 252+ SpA Life Orb Transistor Regieleki Max Lightning (140 BP) vs. 76 HP / 4 SpD Dynamax Kyogre: 320-377 (86.4 – 101.8%) — 12.5% chance to OHKO

Tornadus @ Focus Sash
Ability: Prankster
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Hurricane
– Icy Wind
– Tailwind
– Protect

Tornadus forms the second part of the “TornOgre” core. Much like the two restricted, it’s incredibly important to most of my game plans and comes to a majority of my games. The ability to use Tailwind to allow Kyogre and the rest of my Pokémon to outrun almost everything in the format is too good to pass up.

Tornadus was chosen over other Prankster Tailwind users like Whimsicott because of its typing and because of the unique advantages it has over its alternatives. The Flying typing is important, as it lets Tornadus swap into a variety of attacks that some of my other Pokémon may not want to take, for example Groudon’s Precipice Blades or Max Quake, or Rillaboom’s Grassy Glide.

Hurricane lets Tornadus threaten Pokémon like Rillaboom, Amoonguss, etc., and it also lets me go for Max Airstream should the situation call for it. Icy Wind helps break Focus Sashes and provides additional Speed control, and Protect is important to make sure Tornadus isn’t the target of easy double-ups in the early game to deny it Tailwind. In some situations, it also allows me to position Tornadus in a way which lets me set up a second Tailwind. The Focus Sash also gave Tornadus some longevity in situations where I needed to both set Tailwind and follow up with an Icy Wind.

Landorus-Therian @ Life Orb
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 36 HP / 212 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Earthquake
– Fly
– Rock Slide
– Swords Dance

Landorus is one of the main Dynamax options on the team. I gave it a Life Orb over the more common White Herb mostly because of personal preference. I don’t think there’s an actual “optimal” item choice on the composition, and I’m more comfortable with the damage ranges that Life Orb gives me over those that White Herb does.

Landorus is key to the team for two main reasons:

  1. It provides me with Intimidate and a way to switch into attacks, which is particularly useful since I lack an Incineroar.
  2. Landorus is essentially my entire Groudon matchup. If I see that my opponent has a Groudon, then Landorus is almost always coming to the game.

Landorus is best when Dynamaxed, so I will rarely bring it to games where Dynamaxing Landorus is not my main game plan. In some scenarios, though, I prefer Dynamaxing the Kyogre or Tornadus.

Landorus is incredibly useful vs. most Groudon teams because Groudon itself struggles to do much damage to Landorus with non-STAB attacks, and the Pokémon that Groudon supports (like Venusaur and Charizard) are vulnerable to Landorus as well.

Offensive calcs

charizard-gmax -1 212 Atk Life Orb Landorus-T Max Rockfall (130 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Gigantamaxed Charizard: 333-395 (108.1 – 128.2%) — guaranteed OHKO

zacian-crowned -1 212 Atk Life Orb Landorus-T Max Quake (130 BP) vs. 156 HP / 4 Def Zacian-Crowned: 179-213 (95.7 – 113.9%) — 81.3% chance to OHKO

incineroar -1 212 Atk Life Orb Landorus-T Max Quake (130 BP) vs. 244 HP / 76 Def Incineroar: 205-244 (101.9 – 121.3%) — guaranteed OHKO

venusaur 212 Atk Life Orb Landorus-T Max Airstream (130 BP) vs. 252 HP / 4 Def Coba Berry Venusaur: 175-208 (93.5 – 111.2%) — 68.8% chance to OHKO

Kartana @ White Herb
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 36 HP / 4 Atk / 4 Def / 212 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Leaf Blade
– Smart Strike
– Aerial Ace
– Sacred Sword

Kartana is the second of my main Dynamax options on the team. It’s mostly here for the Rain matchup and to threaten Gastrodon. At first, I used Assault Vest Kartana to improve its bulk (that was the version I brought to Indianapolis and Secaucus Regionals).

After Kentaro Matsumoto won the Japan National Championships with White Herb Kartana, I was initially skeptical, but Mike D’Angelo convinced me to try it out. To my surprise, it was really strong. In most matchups where I brought Kartana, the Assault Vest wasn’t necessarily that useful. As Mike pointed out, in most cases, the Assault Vest just made 2HKOs do less damage, but the attacks still 2HKOd. White Herb enabled us to play more aggressively against teams that wanted to use Intimidate to weaken Kartana so that Kyogre could still Dynamax and take hits from it.

White Herb was vital to my Day 2 run, as in my sets against Collin Heier (which was streamed and you can watch here) and Raghav Malaviya, Kartana was able to remain threatening because it was able to shrug off a Charm (and Whimsicott typically doesn’t get to go for Charm twice).

The spread tries to maximize special bulk, as despite dropping the Assault Vest, I still wanted to be able to survive attacks from Kyogre. Max Speed on Kartana was also important, as it ensures I’m not at a complete disadvantage in the Kartana mirror and also gives me an edge on anyone who chooses to run non-max Speed Kartana.

Defensive calcs

kyogre 252+ SpA Life Orb Kyogre Max Geyser (150 BP) vs. 36 HP / 212 SpD Dynamax Kartana in Rain: 234-276 (84.1 – 99.2%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Amoonguss @ Coba Berry
Ability: Regenerator
Level: 50
EVs: 236 HP / 116 Def / 156 SpD
IVs: 0 Atk, 27 Spe
Calm Nature
– Spore
– Rage Powder
– Giga Drain
– Protect

Amoonguss was the last addition to this team and is probably one of the coolest pieces, even if I didn’t really run into the matchups where I’d need it much. This team really loves going fast, so Trick Room can be an issue. Amoonguss is the single best Pokémon one can use as a catch-all Trick Room answer. Ice Rider Calyrex + Palkia teams and Lunala + Groudon teams have a tough time dealing with it, as they have to spend time positioning around Amoonguss under Trick Room instead of doing damage. The spread was the same one I’ve been using for a year at this point, and to be completely honest, I don’t really know what it does.

Amoonguss’ item choice doesn’t necessarily come up too often—I believe it was activated maybe once during NAIC—but it’s key if Amoonguss is in front of, for example, a Thundurus. Ideas like Bright Powder and Quick Claw were floated to maximize random wincons, but Bright Powder seemed like it could hurt us (e.g. if we wanted to sack Amoonguss), and Quick Claw felt like it wouldn’t come up as much as the Coba Berry might.

Gameplans

PokémonComments
zacian-crownedkyogre

There’s a lot of different Zacian + Kyogre teams, and my game plans tend to differ from variant to variant:

  • In a Tailwind mirror, you generally want to bring Tornadus + Zacian as your lead with Kartana and Kyogre in the back. You can realistically lead Tornadus with any of these Pokémon, but Zacian tends to be the most consistent. You want to Dynamax Kartana in a position where it can use Max Airstream and end the game decisively next to Kyogre.
  • Against Grimmsnarl + Kyogre teams with an Assault Vest Kyogre, you can lead either Tornadus or Amoonguss with Zacian or Kyogre, with the other of Zacian or Kyogre and Kartana in the back. Try to use Kyogre to do as much damage to Incineroar and Zacian as possible, while Kartana deals with the opposing Kyogre.
  • Against Grimmsnarl + Kyogre teams with Life Orb Kyogre, the plan is fairly similar, but you have to be much more wary of their Kyogre’s damage output. Try to find ways to use Protect and smart switches to waste their Dynamax turns and then try to gain momentum with Kartana, Kyogre, or Zacian in some way.
  • Against teams with Shedinja and Prankster Thundurus, leading Tornadus + Zacian with Landorus and one of Kartana or Kyogre is generally your best bet. This isn’t a very positive matchup since they can leverage Kyogre, Zacian, and Shedinja in very tricky ways, making use of Ally Switch or Endure to force mind games.
zacian-crownedgroudon
Rinya Sun is more or less the only common variant of this team. You have a few gameplans available to you against it. Landorus + Amoonguss with Kyogre and one of Tornadus or Zacian in the back can be a strong option if you don’t expect Charizard in the lead. They have to respect Amoonguss a lot without Charizard, as they generally can’t remove it without a double up into the slot (unless they use Heat Crash or Max Flare, which will not kill in the Rain or outside of the Sun). This is a good answer to leads like Charizard + Groudon or even Charizard + Incineroar, but it requires you to make predictions and is not necessarily consistent.
Otherwise, leading Tornadus + Zacian with Kyogre and one of Kartana or Landorus in the back is your best bet. Try to find positions where you can safely bring in Kyogre and your Max Airstream user out and sweep (without losing to Gastrodon).
zacian-crownedcalyrex-shadow-rider

Against variations of the team that have Gastrodon with no Tailwind, you should usually lead Tornadus + Zacian with Kartana and Landorus in the back. In game 1, they’ll typically bring some combination of Shadow Rider Calyrex, Thundurus, Gastrodon, and Zacian to punish your Kyogre. Play smart against Calyrex and try to Dynamax either Landorus or Kartana under Tailwind to break through their team. Don’t let Zacian keep its Substitute for too long or it can become extremely dangerous. In subsequent games, adjusting by bringing Kyogre may be a good idea if you expect them to bring Incineroar.

If they have a Whimsicott and Thundurus, then you should lead Zacian + Tornadus with Landorus and Kyogre in the back. This is a somewhat unfavorable matchup. Try to find ways to not let their Calyrex get boosts, and set up a late Tailwind so that your Kyogre and Landorus can beat their team.

lunalagroudon
Against a good opponent, this can be a tricky matchup, especially depending on the pieces they have. Generally, you want to use Landorus, Zacian, Amoonguss, and Kyogre in some order. This can be pretty risky against Charizard or Thundurus, which is where you might want to consider bringing Tornadus. Leveraging Amoonguss to make it hard for them to use Trick Room effectively is critical in this matchup. Tornadus, as mentioned earlier, can replace Landorus in some game plans, and can sometimes be brought over Amoonguss, though this is generally not the best idea since they can set Trick Room pretty freely against any combination of Tornadus, Zacian, Landorus, and Kyogre.
calyrex-ice-riderpalkia

This matchup is fairly straightforward, especially into the variants that are more common at the moment (with Tapu Fini, Incineroar, and Amoonguss). You want to lead Zacian + Kyogre with Amoonguss and Kartana in the back. Their most common lead will be Incineroar and Palkia, and usually they will bring Tapu Fini and Calyrex in the back, though sometimes Amoonguss may replace Tapu Fini. Attacking with both Pokémon is a safe play here, as usually they won’t Dynamax Palkia in game 1. Swapping one of the leads to Amoonguss and attacking with the other is also a reasonable option.

If their restricted Pokémon carry items that prevent Sleep, like Safety Goggles or Lum Berry, things can get hairy, but otherwise, Amoonguss is very strong in the matchup.

calyrex-shadow-ridergroudon

This matchup can be tricky depending on the individual Pokémon they have. If they don’t have a Gastrodon, you’ll usually bring Tornadus + Zacian as a lead with Landorus and Kyogre in the back. Try to find ways to do damage early and sweep with your back Pokémon.

If they have a Gastrodon, the matchup becomes much more difficult. You can try bringing Landorus + Kartana and dropping Kyogre here (or even Kyogre + Kartana and dropping Landorus). Dynamax your Tornadus early in the game to build momentum. Going for an end game with Kartana or Kyogre could be a good idea.

yveltalgroudon
If your opponent has a Trick Room setter, you will usually pick four out of Landorus, Zacian, Tornadus, Amoonguss, and Kyogre.

If not, you don’t bring Amoonguss. If the Trick Room setter is Bronzong or Slowbro, try to find ways to finish them off with Kyogre and Amoonguss respectively in the end game (Amoonguss’ Giga Drain does about 40% to Slowbro, and you can put it to Sleep). Venusaur can still be tough, but positioning your Kyogre and Zacian correctly in front of Venusaur and Groudon is key to this matchup.
zacian-crownedyveltal
Lead Tornadus + Zacian and go for an end game with Landorus and Kyogre in the back, or, alternatively, lead Tornadus + Kyogre with Landorus and Zacian in the back. Maintain the Speed advantage and it’s pretty straightforward.

Tournament run

I went into NAIC knowing that I had to get Top 4 to obtain my Worlds invite, which I realized was a lofty goal, so I didn’t really have any expectations other than to play my best and have fun.

Day 1

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
R1WWUSA
Wade Bridgeman
(jaiden)
zacian-crownedkyogreclefairyrillaboommimikyumetagross
R2LWLUSA
Sebastian Guerrero
(sebas)
zacian-crownedkyogregarchomprillaboomgrimmsnarlthundurus
R3WLWHKG
Hayden Sheung
(Hayden)
lunalagroudonincineroarvenusaurcharizardregieleki
R4WWUSA
Austin Anderson

(Steeno)
xerneasgroudonincineroarvenusaurgrimmsnarlcharizard
RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
R5LWLUSA
Joel Nino
(Mariano)
zacian-crownedkyogreincineroarkartanashedinjathundurus
Match summary

Being at X-2 this early in the tournament was very stressful. I lost G1 because his Zacian got a double Protect on the last turn of Tailwind in front of my Landorus, and while I managed to win G2 by using Landorus effectively to neutralize his Shedinja, he adjusted his play well for G3 in order to use Shedinja effectively to force mind games where he was able to come out on top.

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
R6WLWUSA
Calvin Nisson
(Gazoney)
lunalagroudonincineroarvenusaurgrimmsnarlthundurus
Match summary

I recognized my opponent from the stream of the previous week’s Milwaukee Regionals, as he had gone 8-0 in Swiss. I was super nervous, both because I wasn’t confident in the matchup and because my tournament life was on the line. I managed to win, putting myself at a record of 4-2.

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
R7WWUSA
Alberto Lara
(Alberto)
yveltalgroudonregigigasweezingwhimsicottregieleki
Match summary

Seeing Alberto’s name on the pairings board for Round 7 was really nerve-wracking. While being afraid of the player you’re playing isn’t necessarily logical, I was extra nervous going into every round since I was already X-2. The matchup was pretty positive for me, though; I led Tornadus and a restricted both games and used my Landorus to outpace his Yveltal and Regieleki in Tailwind, and managed to win the endgame, with my Landorus and Zacian against his Whimsicott and Groudon by calling his Protect correctly.

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
R8WWCHN
Han Near
(绝剑)
zacian-crownedkyogreincineroarkartanagrimmsnarlthundurus
R9WWCHL
Luciano Muñoz

(hummus)
zacian-crownedyveltalincineroarrillaboomlandorus-therianregieleki

After winning Round 9, I’d qualified for Day 2! It felt really great to have made it this far after a rough start, and I felt like I could go pretty far the next day.

Day 2

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
R10LWWUSA
Collin Heier
(BattleRoom)
zacian-crownedkyogreincineroarvenusaurwhimsicottthundurus
Match summary

This was my first time ever playing on stream, and it was also the first round of Day 2. I was really nervous going on (you could probably see me nervously fidgeting on camera a lot on stream), but I’d prepped the matchup before NAIC and I had a good idea of what my game plan should be.

 

My G1 went poorly, because I was expecting him to try to set up Tailwind early or pressure Zacian with Charm, but instead he doubled into the Tornadus and I more or less lost the game on the spot. I had to adjust to this for the remaining two games, because I knew how pivotal speed control was to the matchup. In the following two games, I set up Tailwind immediately and tried to sack my Tornadus afterward to send in Kartana and begin stacking up Max Airstream boosts on it and my Kyogre. This plan worked out perfectly in both G2 and G3.

You can watch this set in the official stream, starting at 03:58!:

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
R11WWUSA
William Marks
(Munkey)
zacian-crownedyveltalincineroarrillaboomurshifucoalossal
Match summary

This was a matchup I’d prepared for before NAIC as well. I knew that, in G1, Tornadus and Zacian were generally safe to lead, and I managed to win off of that. In G2, I adjusted to Tornadus + Kyogre, calling out an Urshifu + Coalossal lead from my opponent, and got it right again.

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
R12LWLUSA
James Baek
(SoulUnison)
zacian-crownedcalyrex-shadow-riderincineroarrillaboomgastrodon-eastthundurus
Match summary

I was sitting at a pretty good position of 9-2 going into this round; all I needed was to win two of three sets to make it into top 8. Seeing that I was playing James was kind of nerve-wracking for me, though. He’d played Mike D’Angelo the previous day, who was using the same team as me, and⁠ —according to Mike— he’d won the set in a commanding fashion.

 

I thought about the matchup a bit going into Day 2, and came up with a general game plan. I led Tornadus + Zacian in G1, with Landorus and Amoonguss in the back. Unfortunately, Amoonguss wasn’t really able to do much, as James’s Zacian was behind a Substitute and threatening the Landorus. In G2, I replaced Amoonguss with Kartana, while James led Calyrex + Thundurus (with Zacian and Gastrodon in the back again). This allowed me to win the game by pressuring Zacian and Gastrodon more than I had in the previous game. G3, however, was a mess on both of our ends. I led Tornadus + Kyogre with Landorus and Zacian in the back, expecting James to adjust by bringing Incineroar. James led Incineroar + Calyrex with Gastrodon and Zacian in the back. In turn 1, I used Hurricane into the Gastrodon, getting a critical hit and confusing it, causing it to hit itself in confusion a turn or two later. The game proceeded in my favor as a result, until I swapped my Kyogre into my Zacian as he used Ice Beam into the slot, freezing my Zacian on the swap. I subsequently lost the game and knew I had to win out from here in order to top cut.

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
R13WLWIND
Raghav Malaviya
(love)
zacian-crownedkyogreincineroarvenusaurwhimsicottthundurus
Match summary

I played my set against Raghav knowing that he would have information from my set against Collin, and therefore I also knew I needed to adjust my game plans slightly. I expected that he would try to lead Incineroar because it was effective against the lead that I used all 3 games against Collin, and instead led Tornadus + Kyogre, winning the game by managing to take early KOs and force him on the back-foot immediately. I lost G2, repeating my game plan vs. Collin. In G3, on the other hand, I decided to just put my cards on the table and lead Tornadus + Kartana, catching the Whimsicott + Kyogre lead and winning the set. I was one match away from top cut, and after this set, I felt like I definitely had a shot.

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
R14LLBRA
Gabriel Agati
(Agati)
zacian-crownedkyogreincineroarkartanalandorus-theriantornadus
Match summary
Gabriel was probably the player I least wanted to play out of everyone at 10-3. The “TornOgre” mirror is one of the most volatile matchups in the format; a single turn going wrong could potentially cost either side the game, and speed ties between the two Tornadus could also pose a problem.Gabriel and I had played many times on the ladder, so we had a good idea of what our game plans against each other would probably look like. I managed to get into a position I mostly liked, with Kartana and -1 Speed Zacian in Tailwind vs. his low HP Kyogre and Tornadus without Tailwind. He used Protect on Tornadus as I doubled into the slot, but he missed Origin Pulse on the Zacian. This should have theoretically won me the game, but I slipped up, using Max Airstream into the Kyogre slot the next turn as it Protected. I missed the KO here, which probably cost me the win. Securing a knockout on Kyogre here meant that I could double up into the Kartana the next turn (before Tailwind ran out) and force a 2v1 in the endgame, with my Kartana + Kyogre vs. his Zacian. In G2, he adjusted his game plan by leading Landorus + Kyogre with Incineroar and Zacian in the back. The double Intimidate was a bit off-putting for me as it hindered my Zacian, but I made a good call on turn 2 and doubled into his Kyogre, taking a vital KO. However, I missed an Icy Wind into his Landorus later and ultimately lost, as I lacked the necessary damage onto Landorus to win the endgame.

It was kind of sad to lose when I was so close to top cut, and only two set wins away from my Worlds invite, but I can’t really be too unhappy with how this run went. It was ultimately still a satisfying conclusion to my first time attending an International Championship.

Conclusion

I couldn’t have done this without the aid of everyone who helped me. Thank you so much to Mike D’Angelo and Aaron Traylor for helping me prepare for NAIC.

Thank you to all my friends that supported me in person, as well as everyone online who encouraged me throughout the tournament. There’s too many of you to list out, but it means a lot to me.

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