I was determined to go all in on VGC when the new games came out, so I could be on a somewhat equal playing field with experienced players and I was excited to take part in exploring the new metagame.
I didn’t know how good my teambuilding skills were compared to the pros and so I went in with my only expectation being to have fun and to try to get a win or two.
I knew however that Palafin could work against a plethora of different team styles, whether that be Tailwind offense, Trick Room or most setup strategies, thanks to Jet Punch being easily exploitable with Palafin’s enormous Attack stat and the possibility to further increase its damage output with Rain.
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When I played through the game, there were two new pokemon that caught my eye: Kilowattrel and Palafin.
I immediately thought I could incorporate them into a Rain team and, after calculating the power of a Jet Punch powered up by STAB, Terastallizing, a Choice Band and Rain, I was sure this was going to be a force to be reckoned with.
I also had a Discquake (Discharge + Earthquake) combo in mind with Kilowattrel and Krookodile, since I wanted an Intimidate user that I could switch in for Palafin, but Krookodile never saw use and I quickly dropped it from the team.
Since everyone was originally playing with the Treasures of Ruin and Paradox Pokémon, I also used Flutter Mane and Chien-Pao. The former could deal with Iron Bundle and chip everything into Jet Punch range, while the latter provided lots of important tools in Ice Spinner to remove Psychic Terrain, a Dark-type move to threaten Farigiraf and of course Sword of Ruin to maximize Palafin’s damage output.
Lastly, Pelipper was the obvious choice as my Rain setter and could come in handy with Wide Guard, while Amoonguss tied it all together and gave me a switchout option that resists Palafin’s weaknesses as well as a better Trick Room matchup.
So that was the first version of the team, which I probably would have used if Series 1 included Paradox Pokémon and the Treasures of Ruin!
The first tournament in Stuttgart was announced and I was hyped to find out how well I could do with Palafin, which I imagined was considered a bit of a niche pick that most people wouldn’t prepare for too much. Then we got to know we’d have to play without Paradox Pokémon and Treasures of Ruin. I knew I still wanted to go for the same strategy since Palafin was still available, but I wasn’t sure I knew the best Pokémon to replace Flutter Mane and Chien-Pao.
I thought about Arcanine as a good allrounder and Intimidate switch in for Palafin, but didn’t like having to use it under Rain; and Weavile simply because of how similar it is to Chien-Pao.
After a lot of thought, I decided I would go for Meowscarada instead of Weavile. This was really more my gut telling me to go for it rather than me thinking it was the best choice, and I liked the idea of trying to make a starter work at the very first tournament. Meowscarada crucially improved my Gastrodon (and less importantly Dondozo) matchup by a lot and also had a stronger Dark-type move in Knock Off.
I really wanted Ice Spinner on one of my Pokémon, but I just couldn’t fit it on my team since Gholdengo came to mind as a good replacement for Flutter Mane. With a Choice Scarf it could deal spread damage and threaten Dragapult which might see more use with Flutter Mane being gone.
Settling on Meowscarada and Gholdengo as the two replacements, I eventually decided to run Grassy Terrain on the former as my sole way of terrain control. It could theoretically also help me against Garchomp’s Earthquake and increase Flower Trick’s damage in combination with Overgrow, which I could take advantage of thanks to Focus Sash. Needless to say, knowing all my opponents would get my team sheet and see that I was running Grassy Terrain was an argument against it.
So that was my final team: Palafin, Pelipper, Kilowattrel, Amoonguss, Meowscarada and Gholdengo. I didn’t have high hopes, since it felt like I just somewhat patched up my old team that broke apart, and so I went into the tournament just hoping to get the most out of a fun combination of new Pokémon.
Overall, a Rain team seemed like a good anti-meta call since I expected to see Torkoal everywhere, and every weather seemed somewhat viable.
Get the team’s paste here!
Palafin @ Choice Band
Ability: Zero to Hero
Tera Type: Water
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 SpD
– Flip Turn
– Jet Punch
– Wave Crash
– Close Combat
The star of the team, Palafin, turned out to be as effective as it is straightforward. I used Jet Punch 99% of the time, except for the odd turn 1 Flip Turn if I knew I could get it out alive. Most of the time that risk didn’t seem worth taking however. Close Combat is only there to deal the most possible damage to Gastrodon, since against every other Water-type resist you still get more damage with Wave Crash.
A hard switch on turn 1 was usually my best bet, because Palafin also gets bulkier after it transforms so I really didn’t want it to take a hit before that.
I didn’t see the need for any Speed EVs and ultimately its bulk was essential to it surviving and taking out several opposing Pokémon, as was usually the gameplan.
Palafin is the main Terastallization user and it rarely hurts to use the extra strength right away, even before it transforms.
Pelipper @ Damp Rock
Tera Type: Ground
EVs: 76 HP / 252 SpA / 180 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Hydro Pump
– Wide Guard
The question when using Palafin is: what can you switch it into? For me the best possible option is a Pokémon with Drizzle. An Intimidate switch-in sounds nice on paper, but nothing beats giving Palafin an extra 50% to its damage output. Focus Sash was always taken by another Pokémon, so I just went for Damp Rock and I was not disappointed. Those 3 extra turns of Rain probably won me a lot of games, and for this team it is definitely the best item to give Pelipper. Also, Pelipper doesn’t really mind going down on switch in, since you can immediately bring out Palafin again.
Hurricane helps a lot against Grass types (notably Amoonguss) and just to chip things into range for Jet Punch (this is a common thread throughout the whole team). Hydro Pump gives Pelipper a strong offensive presence. Tailwind is there to help the other attackers stay on top of the opponent speedwise, and take advantage of Protects. Wide Guard is great for dealing with Armarouge, Sylveon and for example Garchomp, which often only ran Rock Slide and Earthquake as its attacking moves.
The EV spread would let it deal big damage and speed-creep Pokémon that were EVd to outspeed Dragapult after Tailwind.
Kilowattrel @ Life Orb
Tera Type: Steel
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
Kilowattrel was overall the least reliable Pokémon and saw the least usage. That being said, it found its place on the team thanks to its high natural Speed and its ability to hit Water-type resists for big damage. It is also the main reason I ran Ground Tera Type on Pelipper, so it could Discharge next to it, but Wide Guard on Pelipper turned out to be good enough for that purpose.
I found Steel to be the best Tera Type, since it struggles with Extreme Speed and Ice Shard and the key to making Kilowattrel work was finding a way to make it stay on the field for more than one turn.
Amoonguss @ Wiki Berry
Tera Type: Water
EVs: 252 HP / 100 Def / 156 SpD
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Rage Powder
– Clear Smog
– Giga Drain
Putting Amoonguss on the team was a no-brainer, since I needed a way to redirect moves targeted at my damage machine Palafin and something to deal with Dondozo. I originally ran Pollen Puff instead of Giga Drain, but decided it was more important to have several ways of dealing with Gastrodon.
Amoonguss was also a perfect switch-in for Palafin thanks to its Grass- and Electric-type resistance. I wasn’t sure if the EV spread was the best and I had no clear idea what attacks I wanted it to take, but I decided to lean more into Special Defense in order to deal better with Sylveon.
Gholdengo @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Good as Gold
Tera Type: Steel
EVs: 52 HP / 252 SpA / 204 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Make It Rain
– Shadow Ball
– Dazzling Gleam
Gholdengo’s purpose was mostly as a lead next to Palafin that could pave its way to success by chipping opponents into range for Jet Punch with its strong spread move, Make It Rain. I also liked that it gets access to Thunderbolt, so I could have more damage against Water types. The Choice Scarf and the Speed EVs were there to deal with Dragapult.
In the end I see a lot of potential for improving Gholdengo’s set, since the Choice Scarf Speed boost got nullified more often than not by opposing Tailwind and it didn’t take hits as well as I thought it could.
Meowscarada @ Focus Sash
Tera Type: Ghost
EVs: 12 HP / 252 Atk / 244 Spe
– Flower Trick
– Knock Off
– Grassy Terrain
The last piece of the team had the big responsibility of being my main Gastrodon answer and could Terastallize into a type (the second in my team) immune to Final Gambit, Extreme Speed and Fake Out. I also found Ghost to be perfect, since it would turn the tables against Bug- and Fighting-type moves, while being weak to types that were resisted by Dark. Since I only ran Grass- and Dark-type moves, there was no need for Protean and I could profit from Overgrow really easily thanks to its Focus Sash. Once again, Grassy Terrain was only really there to remove Psychic Terrain.
With 12 HP EVs, it had an HP stat divisible by 3 which was optimal for Overgrow, but I really should have maxed out its Speed for the Meowscarada mirror. I just didn’t expect it to be something I’d need and therefore only cared about outspeeding Cyclizar and +2 Dondozo.
This was my run at the 2023 Stuttgart Regionals VG Side Event!
As I expected, Palafin flew a bit under the radar before this early-meta tournament and I could surprise my opponents with Jet Punch’s damage output. That’s probably one of the reasons I performed so well in my first VGC tournament. Another one could be that I knew from the beginning what I wanted to use and had time to get a lot of practice in, while others might have had to completely scrap their plans after the bans were announced.
Something I learned during the tournament is that this team has to be able to function without Palafin. I faced an absolute nightmare matchup when I played against Jannis Hermann in round 3 of Swiss and that’s where I got my only loss in those 5 rounds. I realized I couldn’t win against both Gastrodon and Indeedee, if I brought Palafin. When I faced him again in Top 8, I decided to do what I hadn’t really prepared for and relied on the rest of my team to be balanced enough to be able to win.
In Top 4 I went up against Thomas Gravouille (Hari) and struggled against his two Pokémon with Grass Tera Type in Talonflame and Gyarados. Kilowattrel was essential in this matchup and its Steel Tera Type came in clutch against Gengar. Ultimately, I also got lucky with a crit Jet Punch against Gyarados and moved on to finals. This set showed me Grass types were still big trouble for my team, since they ignored my Amoonguss and threatened my Palafin and it was hard to keep Kilowattrel around in order to deal with them.
In Grand Finals, I was definitely thrown off guard by Markus Stadter‘s Murkrow surviving Jet Punch and 2HKOing Palafin with Foul Play in return. I think I did a decent job at adapting to Markus’s gameplan in game 2 and managed to tie 1-1. In the heat of the moment, I didn’t have the foresight to prepare for his Maushold to come out and wreck my team in game 3, but that’s definitely where my lack of experience showed and I will keep this lesson in mind at my next competition.