Hello, (Max) Darkness, My Old Friend – A Milwaukee Regionals Top 16 Team Report

Hello! My name is Evan Witz, and I was the 9th place finisher at the Milwaukee Regionals. I go to school in Massachusetts, but Milwaukee is my hometown and it was such a joy to play in my own city. As it happens, this was also the first in-person event I’ve ever attended. I finished 6-2, which was far better than anything I expected and a hugely pleasant surprise.

I started playing VGC in August 2020 after being randomly YouTube recommended Wolfe Glick and James Baek’s streamed match in the first Players Cup – that was my first exposure to mechanics like Trick Room, Weakness Policy, and why was there a Dusclops on my screen?! I decided this was the game for me and I’ve only gotten deeper into it since.

Table of Contents

Teambuilding Process

The team composition I ran was Zacian + Yveltal, where Yveltal is offensive with Life Orb instead of the alternative in Assault Vest. This composition has fallen off in popularity the last few months, but the thing it’s always had going for it is a neutral-to-positive matchup against essentially everything. There are bulky variants with Grimmsnarl, but I decided to play a heavily Yveltal-centric offensive version with multiple means of speed control. The six Pokémon I ran were:

zacian-crownedyveltalincineroarlandorus-therianregielekigastrodon-east

This team composition is one that I’ve been gradually building and iterating on since Series 8. Back then, it was Zacian with Dragapult, where you generally lead Dragapult + support and play into a position where you can get Zacian in safely, get a Max Airstream boost onto it, and win the game from there. My Milwaukee team generally plays in the same way, despite the lack of Max Phantasm drops that Dragapult provides. The original six were:

zacian-crowneddragapultincineroarlandorus-therianrillaboomclefairy

Going into Series 12, I tried playing Dragapult with Zacian and Assault Vest Yveltal for several weeks, but found that, against restricteds, Dragapult just can’t trade well enough against the types of things that have become more and more popular as the series went on. While it does well against Tailwind + Water Spout versions of Kyogre, Grimmsnarl gives it a lot of trouble, it can’t threaten Charizard + Groudon quickly enough, and you can’t even consider it against Trick Room teams. Dynamaxing an Assault Vest Yveltal is also incredibly underwhelming – your best option is usually a base 110 Max Darkness coming off of Snarl.

I knew I’d have to find a new overall goal for the team, but I still liked playing Zacian + Yveltal. I gave Yveltal the Life Orb and made it my new main Dynamax target, and essentially threw together a “default” team of 6:

zacian-crownedyveltalincineroargrimmsnarlrillaboomregieleki

While this team could win some games on the ladder, it didn’t really have anything that the opponent needed to deeply respect. I didn’t feel like I was getting enough value out of screens, it couldn’t trade at all well against Dynamax Kyogre, and Trick Room is always tough to play around. I scrapped all the support except Incineroar and added Gastrodon to help against Kyogre, though it mostly ended up stalling out Trick Room against Ice Rider Calyrex + Palkia teams. Having Taunt on Incineroar also helps with the Trick Room matchup, so that one is pretty 50/50 most of the time.

What made the team really start to fly was when I had the idea to add Landorus, but not the standard White Herb or Life Orb Landorus. I gave mine the Choice Scarf item and made it a mixed attacker with Earth Power and Bulldoze. I originally added Choice Scarf Landorus to help the Charizard matchup, which became extremely relevant after Peng Chongjun won Salt Lake City Regionals with Charti Berry Charizard. The idea being that against Charizard + Groudon leads, you can Rock Tomb + Max Darkness the Charizard for the KO, even through Charti Berry. It also allows you to Bulldoze when next to Yveltal, and Earth Power gives you an offensive option that doesn’t hit the partner, avoiding the awkwardness of Zacian + Landorus endgames. Choice Scarf has become one of my favorite items because it allows you to steal a Game 1 when your opponent doesn’t expect it, while giving you strong tools even when they know it’s there.

zacian-crownedyveltalincineroarlandorus-theriangastrodon-east

I knew that with these five, Dynamax Kyogre (such as those on Stefan Mott‘s versions of Kyogre or Assault Vest variants) is still essentially impossible to beat, and a single Gastrodon isn’t enough. I considered offensive options such as Regieleki and Rillaboom, but even Dynamax Regieleki gets OHKOd by Max Geyser and Rillaboom does pitiful damage after an Intimidate or Reflect and Dynamax.

I decided that if I can’t remove Kyogre quickly enough, I’d have to slow down the damage output. So I came to the last member of the team, which was Regieleki with Eerie Impulse. Getting Kyogre to -2 allows Yveltal to finally trade well against most Kyogre teams. I gave Regieleki the Focus Sash, allowing it the flexibility to Electroweb in front of Kyogre + Tailwind leads. It finally felt like the team was in good shape.

Given that Gastrodon was mostly a Trick Room answer on this team after finalizing my Regieleki set, I also considered replacing it with Bronzong, but I decided I wanted to keep the team preview mind game against Kyogre teams who might be encouraged to bring Rillaboom against me. Since I don’t usually bring Gastrodon in that matchup, this usually ends up being a relatively dead slot for my opponent against Zacian, Incineroar, and Yveltal.

zacian-crownedyveltalincineroarlandorus-therianregielekigastrodon-east

I don’t have much of a VGC group to playtest best-of-3 matches with, so most of my practice with the team came from ladder games, both on Pokémon Showdown and on Battle Stadium. After playing a LOT of games over this entire building period of several months, I was starry-eyed and finally ready to play in my very first tournament.

The Team

▶️ Get the team’s paste here!

Yveltal @ Life Orb
Ability: Dark Aura
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
– Protect
– Dark Pulse
– Oblivion Wing
– Foul Play

Yveltal is the centerpiece of the team, and truthfully the only real Dynamax option, potentially a weakness of the team. Regieleki and Landorus can Dynamax if the situation calls for it, but this is very very rare. In my tournament run (and in almost all ladder games), I never felt like there was a matchup in which I needed to Dynamax anything else, except possibly my final match in which I was beaten hilariously badly very publicly on stream. This cool bird with the right support just has a good matchup into everything. Being immune to Prankster is a godsend in this format, and having STAB on the best move in the game in Max Airstream is even better.

The choice with offensive Yveltal is Timid or Modest – in my opinion, Timid is necessary to outspeed Landorus. Trying to play Dynamax Landorus into Timid Yveltal should be an auto-loss most of the time, and even very strong opponents don’t necessarily know that. I also went with max Speed to not only outspeed the random Kyurem and Urshifu you may run into, but also to at worst speed tie with opposing Yveltal. Some players will add a bit of bulk, but on my team max Special Attack is necessary for certain Charizard calcs.

I believe that every team should have a nuke it can launch if the opponent doesn’t prevent it, and for me, this is Max Darkness into Max Darkness into Max Darkness. This thing does stupid damage, and often getting a single Special Defense drop onto one of my opponent’s important pieces can end the game, because it puts them extremely out of position to take another hit. Even defensive pieces like Incineroar, Porygon2, and Asault Vest Groudon can’t switch in on a turn when Max Darkness goes off, because even if they’re not targeted and stay at full HP, they’re in range of another Max move.

Not only is Yveltal excellent as a damage-dealer, but as with all Max Airstream users, it’s exceptional at controlling the board state and snowballing games with speed boosts onto itself and its partners. If you can ever pull off a “switch to Zacian and Max Airstream” turn, it can often end the game. Getting a Max Airstream onto Incineroar also lets you Taunt before the opponent can Parting Shot, which comes up often.

I chose Foul Play as my fourth move, and truthfully I never really considered anything else because I don’t think Heat Wave is good or worth the slot since it makes Yveltal so weak to Parting Shot. Foul Play is simply the best option, and it’s useful in so many situations when you’re out of Dynamax, you have a speed boost, and you’ve taken a Parting Shot. It’s also the strongest option against opposing Zacian. I generally consider Yveltal to have done its job in a match if it can get its 3 turns of Dynamax off and a Foul Play onto one of their restricteds, either Zacian or Groudon. It also gives you a physical Max Darkness, which is actually the best option against most Kyogre if Yveltal isn’t Intimidated, despite being Timid with no investment.

Offensive calcs

regieleki 252 SpA Life Orb Dark Aura Yveltal Max Darkness (130 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Dynamax Regieleki: 331-390 (106 – 125%) — guaranteed OHKO

groudon 252 SpA Life Orb Dark Aura Yveltal Max Darkness (130 BP) vs. -1 252 HP / 60 SpD Assault Vest Groudon: 199-235 (96.1 – 113.5%) — 81.3% chance to OHKO

charizard-gmax 252 SpA Life Orb Dark Aura Yveltal Max Darkness (130 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Gigantamaxed Charizard: 220-261 (71.4 – 84.7%) — guaranteed 2HKO (combine this with Landorus’s Rock Tomb calc below)

landorus-therian 252 SpA Life Orb Yveltal Max Airstream (130 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Dynamax Landorus-T: 175-207 (53 – 62.7%) — guaranteed 2HKO

dialga 252 SpA Life Orb Dark Aura Yveltal Max Darkness (130 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Dynamax Dialga: 195-230 (55.3 – 65.3%) — guaranteed 2HKO

indeedee-female 0- Atk Life Orb Dark Aura Yveltal Max Darkness vs. 252 HP / 252+ Def Indeedee-F: 268-320 (151.4 – 180.7%) — guaranteed OHKO (physical Max Darkness ignores the Psychic Seed)

zacian-crowned +1 156+ Atk Life Orb Dark Aura Yveltal Foul Play vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Zacian-Crowned: 118-140 (59.2 – 70.3%) — guaranteed 2HKO

calyrex-ice-rider 252+ Atk Life Orb Dark Aura Yveltal Foul Play vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Calyrex-Ice Rider: 260-307 (125.6 – 148.3%) — guaranteed OHKO

landorus-therian 252 Atk Life Orb Dark Aura Yveltal Foul Play vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Landorus-T: 165-196 (100 – 118.7%) — guaranteed OHKO

Defensive calcs

kyogre -2 252+ SpA Life Orb Kyogre Max Geyser vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Dynamax Yveltal in Rain: 157-187 (38.8 – 46.2%) — guaranteed 3HKO (8.2% chance to 2HKO after two Life Orb ticks)

landorus-therian -1 252 Atk Landorus-T Max Rockfall (130 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Dynamax Yveltal: 112-134 (27.7 – 33.1%) — guaranteed 4HKO

charizard-gmax 252 SpA Life Orb Solar Power Charizard G-Max Wildfire (150 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Dynamax Yveltal in Sun: 337-398 (83.4 – 98.5%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Zacian-Crowned @ Rusted Sword
Ability: Intrepid Sword
Level: 50
EVs: 196 HP / 140 Atk / 172 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Protect
– Behemoth Blade
– Sacred Sword
– Play Rough

I love playing Zacian, and especially this Zacian. This spread gives you a lot of value when you switch it in as the partner uses Max Airstream, since it’s already so fast that it takes a lot of advantage of +1 Speed. I went with Jolly over Adamant to outspeed opposing Zacian, which I think is the right choice on Yveltal teams that can be very weak to opposing Zacian. You will essentially never find a faster spread besides the rare max Speed Imprison sets. The specific Speed stat allows Zacian to outspeed base 90s like Kyogre in Tailwind when Zacian is at +1 (or they are at -1).

The cost of this is that you’ll probably never find a Zacian with a lower Attack stat. This specific stat allows you to always OHKO Shadow Rider Calyrex, and all but one roll will OHKO Ice Rider Calyrex. You also can’t guarantee a 2HKO on opposing bulky Zacian after an Intimidate, so you need to play around this in the lategame either through chip damage or by resetting any drops.

The bulk is general bulk and I originally used this spread to give 12 points of recovery in Grassy terrain, though I kept the spread even after Rillaboom was dropped from the team.

Protect + 3 attacks is the most popular Zacian set, and with good reason. You need Protect, you need Behemoth Blade, you almost certainly need Sacred Sword for Incineroar, and Play Rough allows you to threaten bulky waters like Palkia, Kyogre, and Gastrodon as well as opposing Yveltal for a lot of damage if you don’t miss.

Offensive calcs

calyrex-shadow-rider +1 140 Atk Zacian-Crowned Behemoth Blade vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Calyrex-Shadow Rider: 177-208 (100.5 – 118.1%) — guaranteed OHKO

calyrex-ice-rider +1 140 Atk Zacian-Crowned Behemoth Blade vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Calyrex-Ice Rider: 206-246 (99.5 – 118.8%) — 93.8% chance to OHKO

incineroar 140 Atk Zacian-Crowned Sacred Sword vs. 252 HP / 148+ Def Incineroar: 102-120 (50.4 – 59.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO

palkia 140 Atk Zacian-Crowned Play Rough vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Palkia: 176-210 (89.3 – 106.5%) — 37.5% chance to OHKO (this is the drawback of Jolly Zacian)

Defensive calcs

groudon 156+ Atk Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 196 HP / 0 Def Zacian-Crowned: 156-186 (81.2 – 96.8%) — guaranteed 2HKO

yveltal +1 140 Atk Dark Aura Yveltal Foul Play vs. 196 HP / 0 Def Zacian-Crowned: 82-97 (42.7 – 50.5%) — 2.3% chance to 2HKO

calyrex-shadow-rider 252 SpA Calyrex-Shadow Rider Astral Barrage vs. 196 HP / 0 SpD Zacian-Crowned: 81-96 (42.1 – 50%) — 0.4% chance to 2HKO

Incineroar @ Shuca Berry
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 28 Def / 228 SpD
Careful Nature
– Fake Out
– Parting Shot
– Taunt
– Flare Blitz

Incineroar is one of the best supports in the game, and Yveltal really appreciates the Intimidate support against Pokémon like Landorus and Zacian. I went with specially defensive Incineroar because I’m used to playing it, and the Shuca Berry means you aren’t terribly concerned with switching in on most Max Quakes anyway.

Fake Out, Parting Shot, and Flare Blitz are standard, and I went with Taunt over Throat Chop because it’s so good against Trick Room, Amoonguss, and Indeedee, while still being able to prevent opposing Parting Shots.

I decided not to run Speed on my Incineroar, which I believe is the right choice if you’re concerned with Trick Room. It allows you to Taunt their generally faster Incineroar before they can Parting Shot out and stall another turn. Truthfully I don’t miss the speed – I don’t feel like it’s too hard to play around an opponent’s faster Fake Out, and I don’t remember this ever coming up in the tournament in an important way, while the Special Defense did. I didn’t calc anything specific with my Incineroar, but while preparing this team report I actually found a few important ones.

Defensive calcs

landorus-therian (Neutral Atk) 252 Atk Landorus-T Max Rockfall (130 BP) vs. 252 HP / 28 Def Incineroar: 170-200 (84.1 – 99%) — guaranteed 2HKO

groudon -1 156+ Atk Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 252 HP / 28 Def Shuca Berry Incineroar: 61-73 (30.1 – 36.1%) — 52.4% chance to 3HKO

regieleki 252+ SpA Life Orb Transistor Regieleki Max Lightning (140 BP) vs. 252 HP / 228+ SpD Incineroar: 169-200 (83.6 – 99%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Landorus-Therian @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 92 HP / 108 Atk / 4 Def / 52 SpA / 252 Spe
Naive Nature
– Earth Power
– Bulldoze
– Rock Tomb
– Fly

After adding this Therian Landorus, the team really felt like it started to fly. It’s so good in G1s, it’s so good in the late game, it’s so good against Charizard, Zacian, Calyrex, Intimidate, you name it. This is absolutely my favorite set for this Pokémon. I used to play Lum Berry or White Herb sets against Sun teams, and it’s just hard to play against Charizard because you get one-shot by G-Max Wildfire even if you Dynamax, and even if you have speed control, opposing Charizard can switch out and stall your Dynamax and reverse sweep you.

This Landorus set allows you to threaten a Rock Tomb + Max Darkness into Charizard, while still doing huge damage if they try to switch and stall. It also allows you to Bulldoze next to Yveltal or Earth Power next to anything else to threaten opposing Zacian. This Landorus will always 2HKO bulky Zacian with Earth Power, and 3HKO with Bulldoze. It’s an excellent means of speed control against Zacian, Shadow Rider Calyrex, and Regieleki. It has honestly done everything I’ve needed it to do in pretty much every situation and I think it’s an extremely underrated support pick for teams that don’t need the Dynamax option. You typically see this set on Telepathy Dialga compositions, which is where I originally had the idea – I realized that Yveltal is just as immune to a partner Bulldoze as Dialga is and appreciates the same Intimidate and speed control support.

To make the spread, I calced Earth Power against 252 HP / 12 SpD Zacian, Rock Tomb + Max Darkness against Charti Berry Charizard (a double min roll doesn’t KO but I’ll risk that), went for max Speed, and put the rest in bulk. The max Speed may not be necessary, but I didn’t want to risk anything against other things that speed-creep Calyrex. I also went for Naive over Hasty so that Landorus would need a LOT of chip to go down to an Intimidated Behemoth Blade. You’ll notice that a lot of the team was built to beat opposing Zacian in the late game – given the way most players will play Zacian, this ends up being an important thing to consider when teambuilding in my opinion.

Adding Fly gives you a second Dynamax option, but this is rarely necessary and won’t do too much damage anyway without White Herb and with this little Attack investment. A really spicy choice for that slot would be Grass Knot for the Groudon matchup, but I couldn’t justify giving up the Dynamax option entirely.

Offensive calcs

zacian-crowned 52 SpA Landorus-T Earth Power vs. 252 HP / 12 SpD Zacian-Crowned: 102-120 (51.2 – 60.3%) — guaranteed 2HKO

charizard-gmax 108 Atk Landorus-T Rock Tomb vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Charti Berry Gigantamaxed Charizard: 84-100 (27.2 – 32.4%) — guaranteed 4HKO

Defensive calcs

zacian-crowned 156+ Atk Zacian-Crowned Behemoth Blade vs. 92 HP / 4 Def Landorus-T: 118-139 (67 – 78.9%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Regieleki @ Focus Sash
Ability: Transistor
Level: 50
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
– Protect
– Electroweb
– Volt Switch
– Eerie Impulse

This Regieleki was designed to beat any Kyogre variant, and that’s exactly what it does. Eerie Impulse allows you to neuter even the most offensive Kyogre Dynamaxes, which allows Yveltal to play freely against Kyogre and the rest of the team. More generally, Eerie Impulse gives you an excellent option against any team that relies on a special attacking Dynamax, including Palkia, Dialga, or Reshiram, as well as the more recent development of Eternatus.

Electroweb is necessary, and the other main choice is Volt Switch vs. Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt gives you a stronger Dynamax, while Volt Switch gives Regieleki more supporting potential. Since I was committing to an Yveltal-centric team, I ended up going for Volt Switch. This may be a mistake, but it does allow some very threatening turns with a Volt Switch into Zacian as Yveltal uses Max Airstream, which is usually a game-winning play when it goes off since that combination can usually remove Incineroar and allow Zacian to get huge uninterrupted damage for the rest of the game. Thunderbolt would give you a stronger Dynamax option against Thundurus, which can easily roll through the team if left unchecked.

Gastrodon @ Leftovers
Ability: Storm Drain
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Def / 4 SpA
Bold Nature
IVs: 0 Atk 0 Spe
– Protect
– Earth Power
– Ice Beam
– Yawn

Gastrodon is very much a “sixth Pokémon” on this team. It’s essentially a team of five, with Gastrodon added for the slower mode. It’s very good against Palkia and decent against Ice Rider Calyrex that don’t carry Seed Bomb. It also provides an option against Kyogre teams in the later games in a set, when you’ve convinced your opponent not to bring Rillaboom.

I went physically defensive to make it stronger against Glacial Lance and Play Rough from Zacian – I don’t remember the particular spread mattering too much in my tournament games, except for the time when Gastrodon was not 2HKOd by an opposing Zacian Play Rough, so this spread was probably fine. If I were to redo it, I’d probably go with the standard mixed bulk spread.

Defensive calcs

calyrex-ice-rider -1 252+ Atk Life Orb Calyrex-Ice Rider Glacial Lance vs. 252 HP / 252+ Def Gastrodon: 86-101 (39.4 – 46.3%) — guaranteed 3HKO after Leftovers recovery

zacian-crowned 156+ Atk Zacian-Crowned Play Rough vs. 252 HP / 252+ Def Gastrodon: 90-106 (41.2 – 48.6%) — guaranteed 3HKO after Leftovers recovery

Gameplans

Overall gameplan against a generic team: maintain the speed advantage through your natural Speed, Electroweb, Max Airstream, Bulldoze or Rock Tomb, and Taunt, so that you can take advantage of the very powerful attacks of Yveltal and Zacian. Play towards a late game where you have the speed advantage and you can clean with Zacian + Landorus or Incineroar. I’d consider the team to be generally offensive but obviously not hyper-offense.

PokémonComments
zacian-crownedkyogre

Regieleki + Yveltal is almost always the lead with Incineroar and Zacian in the back against most variants:

  • If Tornadus + Kyogre with a Kyogre lead, it’s a mind game whether they Tailwind + attack or Protect + Icy Wind to break your Focus Sash. Opponents will typically cover for offensive Dynamax Regieleki by Dynamaxing and trying to one-shot it, but once they find out about the Focus Sash they may play differently. If Zacian is in the lead, you can make the obvious pivot to Incineroar, try to trade the Zacian off, and try to win the endgame against -2 Dynamax Kyogre.
  • If screens + Assault Vest Kyogre, you can safely Eerie Impulse and physical Max Darkness and they can’t really do too much and your Zacian can usually 1v1 theirs in the late game since it’s faster. This is usually a pretty comfortable matchup once you weaken their Dynamax, especially since Yveltal will usually stick around with a speed boost to get a Foul Play onto their Zacian.
  • Against Zapdos variants, again, Eerie Impulse is very strong.
zacian-crownedgroudon

This matchup is pretty 50/50, and depends a lot on whether they bring Grimmsnarl and who it replaces. They may be tempted not to, since the picks of Charizard, Incineroar, Zacian, and Groudon look pretty strong against this team on paper, and Prankster isn’t great into Yveltal. Zacian + Yveltal + Incineroar beats Zacian + Groudon + Incineroar pretty comfortably in my opinion if you can get a speed boost, so the matchup is essentially determined by how they play their Charizard. This team has leads that beat any Rinya Sun lead, but you have to cover for Charizard. Some combination of Yveltal, Incineroar, Landorus, and Zacian generally gives you the most options once Dynamaxes have been removed, so it’s mostly a matter of getting through the early game.

  • Landorus + Yveltal lead punishes Charizard + Groudon heavily, but can get punished by Charizard + Incineroar depending on whether or not the opponent knows about the Choice Scarf and Fakes Out into that slot. Leading Incineroar + Yveltal is a little safer but allows Charizard to always get its G-Max Wildfire off. Yveltal in Dynamax is naturally bulky enough to always live a G-Max Wildfire against even Life Orb Charizard, though it’s a roll whether it dies to its own Life Orb chip + end-of-turn residual damage. The opponent doesn’t want to let Yveltal get out of control, so they’re incentivized to target it turn 1 which gives you the option to Max Guard + Parting Shot or hard switch turn 1 and go for Landorus + Yveltal turn 2. This tends to be pretty consistent, and Incineroar + Yveltal covers for other leads as well.
  • Grimmsnarl + Incineroar is the worst case if the opponent finds that lead. In that case, we don’t under any circumstances Dynamax until they show their Charizard. Protect + Taunt the Incineroar turn 1 is best, though you can’t stop the screens from going up. Getting Zacian in quickly to try to deplete their resources before Charizard comes in is the play, though this can be tough to execute.
calyrex-ice-riderpalkia
  • Incineroar + Yveltal is pretty much always a safe lead here. When I originally built the team, Indeedee versions of this team were very common and this lead usually ends the game with Max Darkness + Taunt. Against Amoonguss, they’re much more likely to get Trick Room up successfully since Amoonguss will generally have an item that allows it to survive an Yveltal attack, which makes Dynamax a waste of time in that scenario. This isn’t the end of the world, since Gastrodon is on the team specifically to stall out Trick Room. Against Amoonguss, we can switch Yveltal to Gastrodon turn 1 to cover for the Palkia Dynamaxing and Taunt or Yawn everything on the screen.
  • Porygon2 versions of this team aren’t any scarier, since we can Taunt that as well. If they lead Fake Out + Trick Room, we have to let Trick Room go up and Taunt their generally faster Incin turn 2 to prevent Parting Shot. This team has a number of tools to stall turns so this matchup is somewhere between even and favorable. The big danger is if Calyrex is allowed to pop off under Trick Room – if you can prevent that, it’s usually a winning matchup.
lunalagroudon
Once again, the restricteds are not too scary, but the Thundurus very much is. If the opponent wants to play towards Dynamax Thundurus, the best overall gameplan is to lead Zacian + either Regieleki or Yveltal and try to trade off Zacian and Regieleki HP for Thundurus, up to and including Dynamaxing Regieleki if necessary. If that threat can be removed, Yveltal can generally beat the rest of the team with Incineroar support, especially if you can either keep Trick Room from going up or get an Eerie Impulse onto the Lunala to force them to either switch out or use a weakened Meteor Beam.
zacian-crownedcalyrex-shadow-rider

The two restricteds are not the scariest given the tools on the team, but Thundurus can snowball the game quickly if it’s allowed to.

  • This team always threatens to pick it off turn 1 with Electroweb + Foul Play, so against Calyrex + Thundurus lead you can take advantage of that pressure and try to go for the speed advantage. Against Zacian + Thundurus or Whimsicott + Thundurus, unfortunately the best option is probably Dynamax Regieleki.
  • Against Regieleki variants, especially physical ones, Incineroar is a strong option in the lead and allows Yveltal to pretty much do what it wants. Choice Scarf Landorus in the back is very strong against their late game restricteds for speed control and can always 1v1 a Zacian if necessary.
zacian-crownedyveltal
While I’ve never run into this in a tournament, in many ladder games I have never lost the mirror matchup since adding Choice Scarf Landorus to the team. Incineroar + Yveltal up front, Landorus and Zacian in the back. If the opponent does the same, then turn 1 switch Incineroar to Zacian + Max Airstream into Yveltal. If they stay in with Incineroar, then turn 2 Yveltal can switch out to Incineroar and they can’t save their Yveltal unless they switch out, at which point it’s a mirror where you have double intimidate and the speed advantage with Jolly Zacian and Choice Scarf Landorus.
calyrex-shadow-ridergroudon
As with many matchups, Yveltal beats both restricteds, but needs to get through the Thundurus or Charizard. Regieleki + Yveltal covers most things, but has to be wary of Dynamax Groudon. One key to the match is that the opponent has to make a choice on what to Dynamax – if they Dynamax Groudon, they’re weak to Incineroar, while if they Dynamax Thundurus, they risk taking an Electroweb + Foul Play and getting sniped or losing to Dynamax Regieleki. If you’re able to pivot, trading off Zacian in the early game is a good trade, since they may not have the resources left to deal with the combination of Regieleki, Yveltal, and Incineroar.

Tournament run

This was my run at Milwaukee Regionals!

Round 1 my opponent no-showed, so we start with Round 2.

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
R2WLWUSA
Alex Underhill
(Lexicon)
calyrex-ice-riderpalkiaincineroaramoongussgothitelletapu-fini
Match summary

My first-ever opponent in my first-ever tournament, and it was against none other than Alex Underhill, a person who I knew had one of the scariest teams in the format with Focus Sash Gothitelle with Hypnosis and Trick Room.

In G1, I led Incineroar + Yveltal and went for Taunt as he Dynamaxed Palkia and KOd my Incineroar. This is less threatening than Calyrex under Trick Room in my opinion, and I ended up winning the game narrowly.

In G2, he played more standard Trick Room with Dynamax Calyrex, and without being able to switch with Gothitelle on the field, I didn’t have the resources to stall it out and he won the game.

Gastrodon didn’t do much the first two games, so in G3 I went with Regieleki + Yveltal. This forced him to respect either slot Dynamaxing, so instead of going for Fake Out + Trick Room, he switched Gothitelle to Incineroar and used Max Quake with Palkia into Regieleki as I used Eerie Impulse + Dark Pulse. The game was essentially over, since he had wasted his Dynamax, I’d delayed mine, and Trick Room could never go up as long as I kept targeting the other slot. Did I cheese him with my set? Yes. Was that the reason I had that set in the first place? Also yes.

My excitement at beating someone who I had been watching on stream for a long time was enormous, and it partially carried me through the rest of the tournament.

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
R3WWUSA
Giovanni Cischke
(GiovanniVGC)
yveltalgroudonincineroarvenusaurslowbroregieleki
Match summary

I wasn’t terribly worried about Slowbro in this matchup, and I knew the restricted matchup was in my favor, but he had very very scary options in Venusaur and Regieleki.

In G1, he led Groudon + Venusaur into my Incineroar + Yveltal, which was immediately in my favor since the Groudon wasn’t holding a White Herb and I could essentially ignore it. I went for the obvious Fake Out + Max Airstream as he switched Venusaur into Assault Vest Yveltal, which took very little. This gave me the room to get Zacian in and get attacks off. He stalled me out somewhat and regained some momentum with Incineroar, Yveltal, and Rock Tomb Groudon, but in the end he didn’t have the resources left and resigned before Dynamaxing.

 

In G2, he went for Venusaur + Regieleki, which was terrifying. He could Volt Switch + Sleep Powder, hard switch out either one, Max Lightning, G-Max Vine Lash, and everything was pretty scary. Fortunately, going for Max Lightning was also pretty scary for him, since he knew I had Landorus in the back. In the end, he went for Helping Hand + Max Lightning into Incineroar as I went for Max Darkness into Regieleki, getting the OHKO. The game wasn’t over, since that gave him a free switch into Groudon. He used Sleep Powder on my Yveltal, which connected, but fortunately I woke up rather quickly and won the game.

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
R4LWWUSA
Grayson DeWolfe
(Gray)
zacian-crownedkyogreincineroarrillaboomgrimmsnarllandorus-therian
Match summary

Truthfully, I don’t remember much of this set because it was extremely long – G2 in particular nearly went to timer.

In G1, I led Regieleki + Yveltal with Incineroar and Zacian in the back into his Incineroar + Zacian with Landorus and Kyogre in the back. I didn’t position well enough and he took the first game, though I learned somehow his Kyogre was Assault Vest.

I don’t remember G2 except that he played Incineroar + Landorus with Zacian and Rillaboom in the back, and I ended up winning an extremely long and grindy positional game. It was time for the lunch break and most of the tables were empty, but Grayson and I had to go into a G3. I didn’t make the adjustment to Gastrodon in G2, so I didn’t think he’d bring Rillaboom to G3. So this time I did bring Gastrodon.

 

I figured that, in a drawn-out game, I could definitely lose, so I decided to play the early game extremely aggressively to try to deplete his resources and win a faster game with my faster restricteds (also, I wanted to eat lunch). He went back to Incineroar + Zacian into my Incineroar + Yveltal, and I hard switched Incineroar to Zacian and Max Airstreamed into his Incineroar as he went for Fake Out and did ~45% with Play Rough to my Yveltal. Turn 2 I finished off Incineroar as his Zacian Protected, giving my Zacian a lot more room to play in the late game. He brought in Kyogre, and I switched Zacian to reveal Gastrodon as Kyogre Dynamaxed. I ended up catching his Landorus on the switch with a Foul Play, leaving him with no more defensive resources. I missed a Play Rough and he missed an Origin Pulse, and eventually my Zacian and Gastrodon cleaned up.

 

We both agreed that it was an excellent, hard-fought set, and I had to laugh when he went over to his friends and one of them said “ah, you got Yveltal’d.”

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
R5LLUSA
Alex Arand
(Alex)
zacian-crownedkyogrelandorus-therianrillaboomgrimmsnarlamoonguss
Match summary

In G1 he played Amoonguss + Landorus into my Yveltal, so I knew the game was essentially over in my favor off the leads. He went for Rage Powder as I used Volt Switch + Max Airstream – when I saw that he didn’t Dynamax I thought there’s no way he Earthquakes, so I brought in Zacian as he went for Swords Dance. Grimmsnarl came in and I doubled into a Max Guard as he used Light Screen. A little annoying, but I still felt like the game was mine. I used Max Darkness + Behemoth Blade into Landorus as he went for Scary Face + Max Quake into Zacian. I lose my Zacian, but Landorus is pretty low and I can still definitely win with Yveltal + Regieleki. I thought Landorus was in range of an Oblivion Wing, so I got greedy and went for the healing instead of revealing Foul Play – it just barely missed the KO and I lost the game to Kyogre off it. So it was three wrong turns in a row, and it was just barely what he needed to win the game. It just went to show that Yveltal is very very strong into Landorus, but only if it’s played correctly.

 

G2 was also very close after we traded off the Zacian and I got an Eerie Impulse onto his Dynamax Kyogre, but he had just the resources he needed to finish it off and I lost 0-2. Alex played it perfectly other than the leads of game 1, and found exactly what he needed to win both games. I had my first loss, but I knew the team was good and I still felt good going into later rounds.

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
R6WWUSA
Marc Metcalf
(Marc)
zacian-crowneddialgaurshifurillaboomsableyeregieleki
Match summary

Dialga is a very good matchup for Yveltal. Sableye is definitely threatening, but I do have two Dark types and fortunately it isn’t paired with White Kyurem.

In G1, I got an Eerie Impulse + Max Darkness onto Dialga after his Sableye went to Fake Out into Yveltal – a reasonable target if it’s Assault Vest going for Snarl, but unfortunately mine is Life Orb. That gave me the flexibility to get Max Airstreams up and eventually beat his Zacian and Regieleki in the back with my Choice Scarf Landorus while gaining a lot of information on his sets.

In G2, I went for Incineroar + Yveltal and got a Taunt onto his Sableye – my Incineroar lived his Life Orb Max Rockfall on 12 HP, which is a 50/50 roll on my Incineroar and only possible with heavy Special Defense investment. Incineroar died to sand, and I was able to bring in Zacian for free with the threat of Quash or Will-o-Wisp removed, and won the game from there.

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
R7WWUSA
Rob McNeilly
(Deishu)
zacian-crownedcalyrex-shadow-riderlandorus-therianamoongusstornadusregieleki
Match summary

Seeing team preview, I knew I had to wrangle this very fast, aggressive team with Incineroar while getting the speed advantage with Yveltal – if I was faster with my restricteds at any point, the game was over.

Both games, he led Tornadus + Landorus into my Incineroar + Yveltal. In G1, I was able to cycle Intimidates and get double on Landorus, bait Max Quake into my Landorus, and knock out the Tornadus at just the right time to deny Zacian and Calyrex in the back any speed advantage. Choice Scarf Landorus was able to do enough work in the late game to close it out.

In G2, I gave up Landorus early to two Icy Winds and he was able to preserve his Tornadus by switching it out. But he could never switch it back in safely to get Tailwind up, and my faster Zacian was able to knock his out, finishing the game.

RoundResultOpponentOpponent’s team
R8LLUSA
Chris Yingling
(Chris)
lunalagroudonincineroarvenusaururshifuthundurus
Match summary

Those who watched the stream will know that I was absolutely shadwracked on this one. He led Lunala + Thundurus with Incineroar and Groudon in the back both games.

G1 was at least competitive, but I misread the board state off the leads – I thought his Lunala was under pressure from my Yveltal and wanted to play defensive, so I ignored it and doubled the Thundurus. In retrospect, I was threatening a lot of damage onto Thundurus with either Dynamax Regieleki or Electroweb + Foul Play, and it Protected. I tried to go for a weaker version of that play under Trick Room with a switch to Incineroar + Foul Play. I had seen that KO on ladder, but didn’t know the calc – turns out the roll was over 80% in his favor. With Yveltal gone, I didn’t have the resources left to win the game.

 

In G2, I decided to make a hard read of Venusaur in the lead. It didn’t work out, and I got rolled. In retrospect, he had no reason not to play Thundurus against my team anyway. Physically defensive Gastrodon is an interesting consideration here – it can annoy the Thundurus with Ice Beam and Yawn and maybe that could have worked, but Gastrodon wasn’t really a part of the repertoire of the team most of the time, so I didn’t think of it. I was also still scared of Venusaur, so it’s tough to bring regardless.

 

Chris played beautifully in our set, and speaking to him a little bit beforehand, I found out he was an incredibly nice guy and a relatively new player like myself. So I was very happy to see him move on and make it to the Top 8.

You can watch this match below, starting from 5:57:58!

Conclusion

With that loss, I finished 9th in the tournament overall. Since all my opponents were 5-3 or better, my resistance was good and I finished 3rd among the 6-2s, but only the top 2 players with a 6-2 record would advance to Top Cut. Overall, I believe I found a team with a very good place in the metagame for that specific tournament, matching up well into almost everything I faced. Another Yveltal actually ended up going on to win the whole event, piloted by the amazing Zhang Zhe.

In retrospect, the team has a definite weakness to Thundurus, and Thundurus in Tailwind can feel nearly unbeatable. Although, part of that is due to the leads I usually choose – finding a way to lead Zacian + Regieleki into some Thundurus matchups allows you to put a lot more pressure onto it, potentially giving Yveltal the room to do what it wants to do later in the match. Charizard or Grimmsnarl can also give the team some problems, but the Intimidate supports can at least be on the field in front of Charizard and put some work in.

As a retrospective on the Jolly Zacian spread, it was the right choice in no less than 4 rounds – Rounds 4, 5, 6, and 7. Adamant would have been better in Round 1, where I barely missed a KO with Play Rough + Max Darkness onto a Dynamax Palkia in a game I ended up winning anyway. Based on the arithmetic that 4 > 1, I believe Jolly Zacian was correct.

Overall, I’m very happy with the team and with my first-ever tournament, despite the rough on-stream loss. Missing out on Top Cut by a few points of resistance is an excellent performance, and most of all I look forward to seeing how the meta shakes out at Worlds. See you all next year!

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