Sunday, January 26, 2014

VGC14: New Format, Old Tricks

Last weekend was a long one...but a good one! So Saturday wasn't the best, missing Legacy of the Valiant Sneak Peek. But, at least Sunday turned out to be great for my Pokemon VGC prospects! Like the previous years I've gone, I participated in the Southern California regional in Long Beach, this year being in the Winter regional. Unlike the Fall regional back in October, which used Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 due to the release of the newest games being a few days prior, the Winter regional required the use of Pokemon X and Y; this meant new format, new rules, and new challenges. What would be my choices this year?

To make matters worse, Pokemon Bank, the app in which you could store Pokemon to the cloud and bring over older Pokemon from the past gens over to X and Y was delayed due to server overload (I curse you Nintendo 3DS owners for not having a Wii U and getting a Nintendo Network ID. :P). Oh, and of course, little brother decides to tag along and spends his time playing Yugioh and dumps me the job of making his team (a thousand lunches from him for life for this), so of course between my testing of the team, over analytical thoughts on the team, and days of flipping out over my choices, those new problems made it seem like I wouldn't have time to make the team on my game. But...I somehow managed to get it, staying up until well past midnight on Saturday to put the final touches on the team (and watching my anime on Toonami). Therefore, behold the team itself!

Meowstic (M) @ Leftovers
Ability: Prankster
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpD
Calm Nature
- Safeguard
- Swagger
- Psychic
- Charm

Talonflame (M) @ Life Orb
Ability: Gale Wings
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Spe
Adamant Nature
- Flare Blitz
- Brave Bird
- Protect
- Tailwind

Salamence (M) @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 4 Atk / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Rash Nature
- Draco Meteor
- Rock Slide
- Dragon Pulse
- Flamethrower

Mawile (F) @ Mawilite
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Spe
Adamant Nature
- Sucker Punch
- Iron Head
- Play Rough
- Protect

Rotom-Wash @ Sitrus Berry
Ability: Levitate
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 132 SpA / 124 SpD
Modest Nature
- Hydro Pump
- Thunderbolt
- Will-O-Wisp
- Protect

Garchomp (M) @ Rocky Helmet
Ability: Rough Skin
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
- Dragon Claw
- Earthquake
- Protect
- Rock Slide

Kind of a standard fare here, didn't really consider the EV spreads much. This was, after all, a new format and therefore, there wasn't much to consider in regards in threats. Keep in mind that all the troubles I have in making a team (yes, I'm a horrible team builder). Still...physical attackers seemed to be the norm this year; a good amount of the popular spread moves are physical such as Rock Slide and Earthquake. Garchomp is my favorite and for the third year in a row, made it. Rotom-W is its favorite partner and happens to be quite bulky, so that was chosen. Mawile was a bit of a late addition to add some priority, and its Mega Evolution happens to be a favorite; plus, a Steel-/Fairy-type makes for some good Dragon-type hate. Salamence was the latest addition, a good foil to Garchomp's physical set while another speedy attacker thanks to its item choice. Talonflame was fast becoming a popular choice in teams during my testing, and for good reason: priority Brave Bird is simply amazing and it could even support the rest of the team with priority Tailwind. Finally, I may hate cats, but Meowstic was too good to pass up. With Prankster, I could go with some Swagger hilarity and protect my team from status thanks to priority Safeguard; such a combo would also bolster my own physical attackers.

So, the morning of the event, we arrived late. Again, I blame my little brother for this (henceforth referred to as Navimeister), but thankfully, we were preregistered and ready to battle, though as I've alluded to, the little bro was lazy. He hadn't played his game much and he was scrambling to get the items for his team. He did have the benefit of a certain large crowd (more on that later). Anyways, beforehand, I decide to bring alone a little pal:

"I'm watching you..."

Pikachu would watch my back while I battled. He also came handy with some cute entertainment. So, some bullet points of the day's events:
  • Wow...the registration line was long! I got there five minutes after the registration was to have ended, but they still had a long line wrapping a quarter of the building. That's how you get 499 Masters in one regional. I had a better shot of it, but my phone didn't save it. So, stay happy with Magikarp!
"Golden Magikarp swims in a sea of trainers."
  • Those 499 Masters meant we had to do two flights: Flight A and Flight B. 
  • Curse you Alaka for being my second opponent! It's like he built his team to counter mine. Wait...did he?!
  • After a 1-1 start, the wins kept on coming. A bit of luck, some smart strategizing and then Round 9 came, a record of 7-1. I, of course, lose it, but thanks to the 6 game win streak, I made the cut to the Round of 32 (wow...499 Masters?)! Navimeister missed the cut in his flight after starting 4-0. Unfortunate for him...
Yay! 10th place in my flight!
  • Remember that Pika cute moment I mentioned? Well, since flight A was ahead by one match, we finished early. So while waiting for the Navimeister to finish his final match, I hung around Flight B's primary room. A future Poke Trainer was doing typical baby stuff such as grabbing his mom's possessions and sucking on them. When he saw the Pikachu in my bag, his eyes lit up and he started sucking on Pika! Oh babies...
  • Huy sucks...charging per slice of pizza? Gah! ;)
There is even a bit of battling here. Though I don't have a recording of it, my first round opponent of top cut, GoomSquad, still has the match and was kind enough to provide a text of the our final match. The score was tied 1-1, with GoomSquad taking the first match while I took the second. Tensions were high as both of us were now much more familiar with each others' team. It would come down to strategy implementation, choices, and a little bit of luck:

Turn 1:

+Jedi sent out Talonflame and Mawile!

GoomSquad sends out Garchomp and Tyranitar!

Mawile Intimidates both Garchomp and Tyranitar.

Sandstorm begins.

Well, that's not good. I have a Garchomp and Tyranitar staring at my poor little fire bird that could straight in the face, ready to sling some rocks my way. Meanwhile, my deceptively cute Mawile Intimidated the beasts with her looks, but I know something about this Tyranitar: it wields Fire Blast, so my cutie will end up pretty much dead. Not wanting to go 4-2 at the start, I decide on the double Protect:

Talonfalme uses Protect!

Mawile uses Protect!

GoomSquad's Garchomp uses Rock Slide.

Tyranitar uses Fire Blast intended for Mawile.

Both Protected.

Talonflame takes damage from the Sandstorm!

Nothing really major, except a bit of scouting as my predictions came through. GoomSquad doesn't want the match to drag on, since the possibility of Rotom-W exists and if he gets a burn on either, it's over. Meanwhile, out of necessity, I figure saving Mawile for later is the best choice due to previous team scouting (GoomSquad packs some Dragon-type hate with Aromatisse) and with a softened blow thanks to Intimidate, I figure switching in to Meowstic is the best choice. I have the feeling that Talonflame won't be around for long either, so I figure best to get off a Tailwind and get the jump on some foes with the reserved Garchomp and Mawile.

Turn 2:

+Jedi withdrew Mawile, sends in Meowstic.

Tyranitar uses Protect.

Talonflame uses Tailwind.

Garchomp uses Earthquake, Talonflame is unaffected. Meowstic takes little damage, around 15% from the EQ. Leftovers recovery, though negated due to Sandstorm. Talonflame takes damage from Sandstorm.

Well, that turned out better than expected. Meowstic investment in HP paid off as it took only a little damage and though Sandstorm negates my Leftovers recovery, sitting at around 85% health is a good place for the cat. However, I kind of expected Talonflame to die the previous turn; GoomSquad must have felt it wasn't worth his time to KO that turn and tried to get Mawile out of the way. With Talonflame's job practically done, I figure Brave Bird on Garchomp should do a good chunk. Meanwhile, Meowstic would Charm said Garchomp to weaken its attack even further.

Turn 3:

Talonflame uses Brave Bird on GoomSquad's Garchomp, dealing ~65% damage to Garchomp. Talonflame takes recoil damage from Rough Skin + Rocky Helmet, Talonflame is now at low health, ~35%.

Meowstic uses Charm on Garchomp. Garchomp's attack is at -3.

Garchomp uses Dragon Claw on Talonflame - It's a Critical Hit! - faints Talonflame.

Tyranitar uses Crunch on Meowstic. It's super effective! Faints Meowstic.

+Jedi sends in Garchomp and Mawile.

Mawile Intimidates again. GoomSquad's Garchomp's attack is now at -4, Tyranitar at -2.

Well, that's an unfortunate case. I don't doubt that Talonflame would have fainted for sure due to the recoil, sand, and item choices. But at -3, would Garchomp have been able to knock Talonflame out with Dragon Claw, even if the bird was nearly pooped? Not sure. Meanwhile, poor Meowstic was misused, as I should have aimed the Charm at Tyranitar instead.

Turn 4:

Mawile mega evolves to Mega-Mawile.

Garchomp Protects!

Mega-Mawile Protects!

GoomSquad's Garchomp uses Protect!

Tyranitar uses Fire Blast intended for Mega-Mawile. +Jedi is protected.

The Sandstorm rages.

Hmm, so another turn spent on scouting. But with me down 4-2, it's imperative that I play it safe. Yes, GoomSquad's Garchomp is nearly dead and Mega-Mawile can easily trample over Tyranitar with Iron Head. But, the other two Pokemon GoomSquad has for this match are unknown; I'd seen Aromatisse in previous matches, which is one of the reasons I brought Mega-Mawile along. With Tailwind's last turn, I figure getting rid of Garchomp is best while Mega-Mawile thrashes Tyranitar with Iron Head.

Turn 5:

GoomSquad withdraws Garchomp, sends in Reuniclus.

+Jedi's Garchomp uses Dragon Claw on Reuniclus - dishes out ~25% damage.

GoomSquad's Tyranitar uses Protect.

Mega-Mawile uses Iron Head on Tyranitar. Tyranitar is protected.

Sandstorm ends, the Tailwind petters out.

So, Reuniclus makes an appearance in the match for the first time and takes a Dragon Claw like a boss. GoomSquad also read my move and Protected his Tyranitar from the incoming Iron Head. Recalling from previous matches that GoomSquad favored Trick Room, with Aromatisse setting it off the first time I encountered it, Reuniclus practically screamed "Imma Trick Room!" With such a massive Special Attack, if it got Trick Room off, I'd be in some trouble. I double targeted the Reuniclus, deciding to leave Tyranitar alone for a bit.

Turn 6:

GoomSquad withdraws Tyranitar, sends Garchomp in.

+Jedi's Garchomp uses Dragon Claw on Reuniclus(@ ~75% HP) - It's a Crit, fainting Reuniclus.

Mega-Mawile uses Iron Head on my Garchomp, faints it - Rough Skin + Rocky Helmet damage. Mega-Mawile is at ~80-85% HP.

GoomSquad sends out Aromatisse and Tyranitar. Sandstream kicks in.

That crit helped out big time. With Aromatisse and Tyranitar, I knew I could at least outspeed both with Garchomp, so long as Reuniclus was gone. But with two big threats gone, I now faced two problems. There's no worry about the Sandstorm, but, the Fairy-type is a problem; Garchomp is practically useless right now, since Earthquake is more hurtful to me and Dragon Claw is useless on Aromatisse (and I figure not as effective as I would hope on Tyranitar). I decide the best choice would be a swift KO on Aromatisse with Mawile and Rock Slide to do some damage to both targets.

Turn 7:

+Jedi's Garchomp uses Rock Slide.

Aromatisse uses Protect. Protects against incoming Iron Head from Mega-Mawile.

Tyranitar flinches from the Rock Slide - cannot get off Fire Blast intended for +Jedi's Mega-Mawile. 

Bummer for him, but Arceus smiled on me that turn. However, my luck can't last forever. I still prioritize knocking out Aromatisse, but I can't use Earthquake for fear of KOing my own Mega Mawile; a guaranteed OHKO with Iron Head is better than giving Tyranitar an opportunity to survive an Earthquake. The best choice remains Iron Head on Aromatisse and Rock Slide for another chance at flinching (and the desire not to kill my own Mega-Mawile).

Turn 8:

+Jedi's Garchomp uses Rock Slide (hoping for more flinchy goodness?) - does nominal damage to Tyranitar.

Aromatisse tries to protect again, but fails. Takes an Iron Head from Mawile. It's super effective and faints!

Tyranitar uses Fire Blast against Mega-Mawile (at ~80% HP), survives with ~10% HP.

The game is nearly in the bag. Aromatisse is now out of the way, so Gachomp doesn't have to worry about anything except crits. Meanwhile, the turn establishes two things: 1. Mawile's HP investment works!...and I guess that slight Special Defense buff when it mega evolves helps against uninvested, unSTAB super effective moves; and 2. Mawile outspeeds Tyranitar. Garchomp may easily win this with Earthquake, but that would mean Mega-Mawile would faint (unless I Protect). Still, if it wasn't for Mega-Mawile, I wouldn't have made it this far in the match. I decide the deceptive fairy deserves to win it, since she'll outrun Tyranitar.

Turn 9: 

Garchomp uses Rock Slide and Mega-Mawile uses Iron Head.

Tyranitar faints.

+Jedi wins!

And a most satisfying and a tense win! Thanks again to GoomSquad for the great battles and for taking the time to pull out a call log (and shame on you Game Freak for removing the feature to save your battles after a match in Live Tournaments). Unfortunately for me, that would be the last match I would win for the day; my next opponent had practically the same team I did, minus Salamence. He mentioned he had been practicing with the team for three months, so shame on me for only using three weeks to prepare.

But a top 16 finish wasn't so bad. And besides, with the late start and computer messes, it was 10pm when I bowed out. I was kinda of glad to be out of it. Oh, and a special shout out to the tournament host, whose staff stayed well into what I heard was at least 2am the next day just to finish up. As for my prize, nine packs of Pokemon TCG (which I don't play) and 50 Championship Points (which I do care for!). Now, most of the cards didn't seem to be worth much, but the bottom row...

Something about the bottom row...

The bottom row seems to be worth something. Hmm...we'll see what, exactly. As for the top, well, the Bagon was given to everyone attending while the Gible, Gabite, and Pikachu are being held for collection. A new Pikachu card is always welcomed to the family!

It's a Pika Party!

So, how was this year's regional? Aside from the lack of sleep, the somewhat unpreparedness on my part, and the hitches in getting the whole tournament started...it went good. I'm proud of the team I had, even if it did resemble someone else's team (of which I had no knowledge of). My leanings toward physical attackers will probably be revised and I'll most likely turn to disruptive strategies next time. I was also surprised as it seemed that most of my opponents deviated from many spread moves. It was great to see old faces, such as the Smogon and NuggetBridge members, and meeting new people, such as GoomSquad. Now, as for me...is Nationals or Worlds next? This VGC season is something I'm definitely excited for!

Post-edit: 12th Place!