Monday, 15 June 2015

[VG] Wearing the Ferrothorn Crown -- A "Short" 2015 Season Report

Hello friends, just came back from the last Nationals and...sadly have to say this year is over for me now. I'll be finishing at 300 Championship Points plus whatever I may get from the International Challenge in two weeks. This post tells a bit about how I got there, and then some other things I experienced or noticed.

Late 2014: Screw Dead Formats

I'm making this part as short as it deserves to be. I had exactly two Premier Challenges in reasonable distance during the dead format. The first one I got both unlucky and cheesed in early rounds, so it was just a top 16 for a pitiful 8 CP that I fortunately later erased from my record playing the actual format. The second one I couldn't attend because it was scheduled on the dumbest date for me imaginable.

January 2015: Some Togekiss/Excadrill Fun

Time for my first Premier Challenges that actually are Premier Challenges and not fake Regionals! Three of them in a single month, which is very, very nice (and never had that again...not counting those further away), but the results were quite mixed. Two of them I threw away on my own by playing badly or not knowing mechanics, the other one I won. Fun fact, I used freaking Kangaskhan too (but she didn't do much, only protected me from a Low-Kick-less Greninja and that's it), and it actually was the only event I won all year. That's a bit sad I guess, but realistically spoken, my standards weren't any higher to begin with.

March: Salamence/Heatran Country Domination Tour

This is the month that I actually got the bulk of my pre-Nats CP in. We're starting with 20 from a super-weird 2-2 run with the baby version of a team I ended up using for a long time -- but it didn't have too much in common with the second version I used one week after. That's where I introduced the double-redirection part, and because I also kept in the Fire/Water/Grass thing, I randomly ended up with a team that remotely resembles Bopper's from 2014 Worlds. And with this, I got second place at the other local PC.

"Country domination"? Well close, but not really, haha. Considering the somewhat limited amount of PCs nearby and some reasonable travel options, I decided that I wanted to play 1 or 2 PCs elsewhere, hopefully also play some world-level players in them and maybe even beat them. And this is exactly what happened over in Erlangen, where I won over a Yoshi seemingly mentally unprepared for my core and after that had 4 games total against Lati that should all belong to the closer ones I had this year. Both teams threatened each other a lot, and the most significant example was both of us having Mega Dragons + redirection. The scariest part of it definitely was my Clefairy getting fully paralyzed thanks to his Pachirisu's Nuzzle so that his Latios could randomly drop a Draco Meteor onto my Salamence. I dubbed that kind of thing a "nuclear stalemate" -- and I just went out of it alive. The remaining path led me to yet another second place, and a total 84 CP earned in a single month. And...I did it with Amoonguss, wtf. Amoonguss sucks.

April: Finishing Up Pre-Nats

Two more PCs in Berlin, one more elsewhere, and some team experimentation. For the first one, I used Salamence and friends again and got a top 4 with it, finally erasing the one unfortunate result form last year. Could have been more though, as I definitely had the perfect lead for that matchup but then completely mismanaged my mid- to end-game. That's a way of making one believe that a team is working, too, isn't it? Oh well, we will get to that later...

Next is the one and only one in Giesen near Hildesheim, where I was looking to best north Germany after having a really good showing in the south in my bag. Here I brought the first version of my Charizard team and had to learn the hard way that Bisharp was a problem, after being spoiled with the Heatran/Amoonguss/Rotom core that is simply better against Bisharp than pretty much anything else in the world. I did get a top 8 finish though, and while I gained no actual CP from that, I at least erased the 2-2 top 8 from before this way. This also ended up being my last result before Nats at all, because in the final PC I tried an experimental Salamence/Sylveon/Gothitelle team, where horrible things happened, and the International Challenge on the same weekend was the most disastrous marathon I ever attended, just barely getting a positive record, lol. That team was way too good on freaking Showdown, just can't trust that thing...

German Nationals: The Core Breaks

All losses I had with the Salamence team before, I could feasibly blame my own misplaying for most of the time, so I actually believed that the team was good. Leading up to the event, I tested various new variations of the concept supposed to patch up matchup (I didn't just do that pun, wtf) holes of the old ones. They seemingly did that, but always invited other problems too. The lineup I ended up taking to the first really important tournament was: Salamence / Heatran / Wash Rotom / Amoonguss / Clefairy / Aegislash.

I started into it 4-0, which was the best start I ever had at Nationals, not counting the darker ages of single elimination. However, I was already clinging on falsish hope, as I just barely survived not one but two Thunder Wave + Swagger Thunduruses that completely nullified one of my mons each. Then I faced Blacklag, the eventual champion of this same event. The game was disappointing again, as he just got a Heat Wave Burn on my Charizard on the first attempt, and right from there there now really was nothing I could do to get back into this game. At this point it was more obvious than ever that my team simply attracted bad luck while having no real ways available of forcibly getting good luck itself (it starts, you know, with running no Rock Slide at all, haha).

Round 6 I faced Glurakxy, eventual semifinalist of Italy, who only introduced himself as a "random" to me before the match. Well, that worked out perfectly... I led Salamence + Rotom into his Kangaskhan + Thundurus. I switched Rotom to Amoonguss and Protected Salamence, he Taunted the Rotom slot and Power-Up Punched himself. Then he also had Timid Life Orb Thundurus and I was simply dead after turn 1 if not even before that! All things considered, this was the perfect and a very safe play on his end and there was nothing I could do about it without the Scrafty that I had decided not to use. 4-2 after that, still alive naturally, but I very much assume people noticed how upset I was, haha. It was an absolutely horrible tournament to this point, and so it made sense to completely murder it in the final rounds...

Next was a guy with an annoying quartet of Kangaskhan and Thundurus again, and then Gastrodon and Aegislash as the equally annoying supporting cast. He read me like a book except for a single turn, it was mentally destroying at this point. Was it actually legit or did he read my actual screen somehow? We will never know, we will never know... There was just this generic rumor flying around of various south-European people cheating this way, and the small tables in the venue were way too inviting to do that. For the remaining Nats, I just made sure that I always took the 3DS back to me for entering my commands, and everyone else should do the same so that this shit doesn't even become an option.

Anyway, 4-3 at this point, and next matchup, the 10% effects continued to do their job of ruining my win condition. And then for the final round, I had a no-show and thus went 5-4 for 50 CP with an amazing resistance of having played three people who made top cut. Again, it was my best start at Nats ever, but then led into my worst Nats result ever, haha. Back to the drawing board!

UK Nationals: Two Sides of the Same Coin

It was already in the hotel near Stuttgart where I caught Chiron's translation of the "Japan sand" team on Twitter. I hadn't rated sand too highly before, but seeing this one really intrigued me. I ended up testing it with a few minor changes, and it felt amazingly good. It felt even so good that I considered it the spiritual successor to my 2013 Hail Room -- it was a similar concept after all, destroy the opposition with chip and spread damage and occasional strong single-targets all adding up to a simply wonderful offensive and unresistable force. At the same time, I simply lost all trust in my Salamence setup team, so my team choice for my first time ever in the UK was very obvious. And it made a lot of sense even for another reason, as I had taken that team straight from the Japanese best-of-1 gods and the thing I personally always had most issues with was, well, playing Bo1. This team was and is so good for Bo1, and it strikes the perfect balance between Bo1 and Bo3 for these events.

I started with a first-round loss. I have a tendency to hate first rounds, and there were ways to just win the game, but I simply didn't take them. He had a Choice Band Bisharp that I didn't hit immediately with both my mons having moves that OHKO, and then I had a 2-2 Greninja endgame where he didn't Ice Beam my Protecting Salamence but Scalded my Tyranitar and got the ultimately match-deciding Burn. I appended a second-round loss by facing a weird team with two bulky Waters. Classic Nats matchups, friends, classic Nats matchups, who in their right mind...!? Yeah, bulky Waters were just really annoying to face with this team, and multiple of them were almost impossible to manage. I lost on turn 1 as he just doubled into my Amoonguss that tried to get a Spore off, nothing I could so. Round 3 was a meaningless win against in-game trash and round 4 I just ran into the Milotic + Landorus lead that I would just have an autoloss against any time I didn't lead Aegislash + Amoonguss.

1-3 start, there is...only one way this could have been worse, haha. For the rest of the tournament, I got only one good-ish match, and finished up 6-3 without too notable opposition. 50 CP again and one more chance to save this season that had started well from ultimate misery. The fun story along the way had to be that Mean got second place with the very same lineup, so now you also know what I mean (I didn't just do this random pun shit again, it's not even funny...) by the sub-headline. It's probably safe to say he has played better than me in order to get there, but I would be very surprised to learn he didn't have better matchup luck in Swiss than I did.

Italian Nationals: A Most Surprising End

While I did look into a few different things (and they ended up failing), it made sense to just continue with sand in some way. I tested all sorts of changes. Some acceptable ones, some shitty ones, who knows. The testing itself got very depressing though, as I most of the time just played so horribly that I lost totally winnable games on details that were fully in my control, while also often even winning games just because my opponents choked. There's just not much you can take from these... Thus, I made a hard cut, stopped practicing eventually and decided on my final team blindly. It was one where I was experienced with 5 of the 6 slots in different constellations, and one was completely new, I supposedly hated it for me lifetime, but it made so much sense given the issues with this team. Anyway, the team preview was just the 6 that Cybertron popularized, but I believe that everyone except the Amoonguss was different in some way.

First round I got matched up with a full Trick Room team full of mons that are annoying to deal with. I played probably my best first round in a very long time, but it ended up being just unwinnable thanks to my Amoonguss getting frozen and never thawing. 10% effects, here we go again, oh boy... I'd hope he went 6-3 or something because he really wasn't bad or something, but likely not, given where the final rankings put me. 0-1

Second round the randomness showed its ugly face again. Support Whimsicott with Moonblast, Mega Absol with Night Slash and Ice Beam not knowing its type-chart, and a Suicune that he for some very arbitrary reason didn't even bring against me in favor of all those super-frail single-target mons. I won the game 4-0 possibly thanks to lucky damage rolls, and that felt as good as it can feel. 1-1

Third round was again a tough break, but a fun one. He was playing very boldly with his Breloom, and this led to his Breloom Sporing exactly all of my Breloom checks early-game, and he had an annoying Suicune beside it. You'd think I'm dead right there, wouldn't you? The truth is, I just somehow figured out a way to wake up at least one of them, sack the other one at a good time and actually get into a really promising endgame. That's when the Heatran revealed Chople Berry in order to stand my Superpower from yellow health. No one I talked with knows why he was running Chople over Shuca to begin with in this team, but he did and I lost. 1-2

Fourth round, more randomness. Kangaskhan, three Ghosts (one of them being a Giga Drain Gengar) and a Rotom. What a team. My fellow Germans would probably call it "Team Geistige", haha. I 4-0ed him too, but pretty unspectacular this time. 2-2

Fifth round, even more randomness. Dry Skin Surf Air Balloon Heliolisk with both of Politoed and Ninetales. I would have liked to see a Scarf Politoed so I win the weather war more easily, but alas I didn't, so I had to play patiently. I ended up getting a 4-2 lead and saw that his Mega Gardevoir had Energy Ball, besides his Hariyama. Then, I made a possibly unnecessarily risky play by assuming the Gardevoir wouldn't have (or use?) Trick Room somehow, and made a score-evening double switch to get both Excadrill and Salamence in at the same time. It worked out. 3-2

Sixth round, and I got a killer matchup in Matty. Now we're in for something! In this match, almost all the changes I made compared to the more known Cybertron variant of my team put in some solid work, but still it was just as close as you would expect sand against Charizard + Landorus to be. I got somewhat of a weak early-game by not actually figuring out my lead options well (if there are any, even, against this particular team), and effectively losing my Rotom after just one successful move for it. But this move alone ended up making the Landorus almost a non-issue, and I later got around to making the Aegislash a non-issue as well by hitting it with Rock Slide + Assurance on the switch. Then it came down to 2-1 against Charizard in sun where I had to hit whichever Rock Slide I got off, and I did. I actually want to thank Rock Slide for letting the Landorus flinch after seeing a greatly painful miss on an Assurance attempt, and well, then hitting Charizard when it absolutely had to.
At this point I was hyped. I just had caused an upset pretty much no one would have expected (while also having my first near-death of the day that I escaped, mind you). I just was not allowed to let this all go to waste, I had to go the distance and finally reach my goal. 4-2

Seventh round, another Wide Guard Charizard matchup, and this time I actually saw the Wide Guard. Ugh. The game was somewhat funny in the aspect that he brought all 3 of his Water-weak mons against my Rotom, and I got off 4 or 5 Hydro Pumps in this game (only 1 missed, so that's fair enough), but still far from easily won. I don't remember how, but I somehow ultimately got me into a bad position where it was 2-2 full Amoonguss + Tyranitar against weakened Charizard + Swampert. He just had to click Heat Wave + Wide Guard like he tried to do initially, and then I would have needed a Heat Wave miss on Amoonguss to not lose. But then for some reason I absolutely don't understand he deviated from this and clicked...Wide Guard + Solar Beam. This allowed Amoonguss to Spore the Charizard and now I actually was in a good position! Next turn I took the Swampert out to get 1-1 with health in my favor, but still a bit more of time left than I'd have liked. I had to bank on him not getting the 1-turn Sleep, and then I would safely win by timer stall. Weeeelll.... He got the freaking 1-turn Sleep for the second out of two possibilities in this whole game and AND MISSED HEAT WAVE! And then I won on timer. He called the judge not accepting defeat and denied me the handshake. At least he didn't insult me in Italian like other people did as I heard, lol, some people are just not nice... It really is his own fault he was salty as fuck, as he clearly choked a 90% win away by not clicking Heat Wave that one turn. 5-2

Eigth round, my first of two Salamence matchups. I assumed physical at preview, but it turned out to be a quite unusual set. I want to say I went complete beast mode this game, and maybe I really did, as it was 4-1 before he finally got around to kill my Amoonguss at least. However, the very first turn could have gone very wrong with knowledge that I got as the game progressed: I doubled the leading Sylveon with Rotom and Excadrill while his Salamence Protected. Later the Salamence showed Hydro Pump and that could have potentially just led to a 2-4 start for me had he just clicked it earlier. Yikes! 6-2

Ninth and last round. I couldn't possibly throw this away, could I? Well, I was pretty much in full control the entire game and cleanly got into my intended endgame which was Tyranitar + Excadrill against something severely weakened whatever the last mon was at 2-2. It was Ferrothorn, I hit it with Superpower and Rock Slide as it got a Leech Seed off, 2-1 after that, obvious Protect to follow. And there I had the game won would the Ferrothorn not get a double or maybe a triple Protect. It didn't even attempt it, AS I CLICKED FREAKING ASSURANCE FOR ABSOLUTELY NO REASON IN HELL WHATSOEVER. The Ferrothorn survived with 3 HP and I just randomly threw away my first and safe top cut in the very last turn of the very last round. 6-3

On the Day of Judgement, the Chokes Are Real

The ironic thing is, I'm far from alone with pointlessly throwing match points away like a fucking idiot. I am a fucking idiot anyway, and I still believe my choke was the most unforgivable one of them all during these Nats, lol. And it's mostly ironic really, because you know, I wanted that top cut for years, then I actually had it, barring Drill Run's 95% accuracy, and somehow subconsciously didn't really want it at all. It can't get sillier than that, it just can't... I guess the good thing is that, unlike last year, I don't feel so horrible about losing the run. Losing 2014 kinda wasn't my fault, but this time I just fucked up in the most entertaining way possible. It merely prolongs my stupid curse and MAYBE NEXT YEAR™ we can break it once and for all. I'm sorry, didn't mean to somehow disappoint anyone but myself...

But before I go on doing other things, there's one more thing I want to get out there. I've observed this now for a while and it's probably a good time now to finally talk about it: people judging people. You all have seen how Dominic has thrown away the possibly third German champion title this year by apparently not knowing that Sash Bisharp would not OHKO Aegislash. People are giving him a lot of shit for it, and that's only one of many examples. I legitimately heard people say things that essentially mean "player X who did well is bad because he did not do Y in game Z". That's fucking horrible, stop it! It's pure jealousy. Obviously these guys did better than you, and hell, maybe even beat you along the way. That is all that matters at the end of the day. Just because they don't belong to your circles of friends or something, doesn't mean you have a right to discredit them. Everyone fucks up from time to time, and a single game says nothing about a whole player, let alone the whole run up to there. This still is one of the nicer competitive gaming communities, but this begrudging behavior is not nice at all, so please just be nice and stop it. You want to be treated respectfully as well even when you forget about something that you are safely supposed to know.

And Then Some Words on My Own Future

Nothing spectacular to say here. I have no reason to quit (but no one does that anyway). The Italian Nats especially was one of my favorite tournaments ever; the absolutely shitty organization was pretty much the only thing I actually hated about it, but playing-wise I can barely remember having so much fun playing Pokémon before, and hanging out with friends again naturally was great too. I want to say a huge thank you to all the people that made me have a good time, be it those friends or my opponents that gave me so enjoyable and highly competitive matches independent from the result. If we are getting any format I deem sane, there is a good chance I'll be making my return to all the European Nationals next year. Come join me.

And as for this summer and stuff, I still have a Nugget Bridge Invitational to play in. This has always been the tournament of the fallen heroes, haha, so who knows, maybe I can win it this time!? But before that, for the rest of the official season, I'll just be chilling with the next International Challenge in a bit less than two weeks, since going to Bochum Regionals makes no sense in my position. Depending on what Wyrms Eye will hopefully figure soon out, I may lose a Worlds invite by getting no points from there if I even still am in the top 60 to begin with, but that's nothing I have to worry about if not very soon some minor with a trip jumps at me telling they'd want me to be their legal guardian. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I again got 50 CP from Italy, haha. Oh yeah, three so very different Nats runs from each other and all amounting to the same mathematical result... And this is only one of many reasons as to why this year's CP system pretty much is complete bogus.

Other than that, I'll be releasing the various teams I used throughout the season soon, as well as my thoughts behind them. Likely one on every Friday, that sounds good. Take care and smell ya later. *cough*

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