Friday, 3 July 2015

[VG] At the Point of No Return

(Artist: Chenks-R)

Time for the tragedy's fifth act. You can read the previous four acts (in other words, the previous article) to get a better picture of the whole story, but I'll treat most of this here is if the other article didn't exist, as in, I'm repeating explanations on EVs and stuff. With that out of the way, let's just get into it.

Nationals Preparation

So there was this one team that I had used for the bulk of the season and gotten most of my Championship Points with. I did try a few completely different things here and there, but none felt like they were solid enough for thos nine rounds of Best-of-1 Swiss against a mix of a few random German players and then Europe's whole elite at the same time. In total, I ended with 150 CP before Nats -- looking at how I got them, something like 170+ would definitely have been possible, but it's whatever, maybe next year etc. pp. 150 was still good for my awful standards! My pre-season goal was actually just a 100, and I got around to meeting that just early enough to get a few improvements on it in the first place. However, in getting those points, I faced quite a few 2014 Worlds players, including a national champion, and against none of them I ended up with a negative record. One would think this to be an excellent position, but...reality tends to have some twisted plans at times. Nats is where everything matters, PCs is not. It's worth absolutely nothing to beat the World's best players when you can't get past the decent unknown that you have no solid read on.

Back to the actual team-building aspect. The team was what I considered to be the best possible Salamence moveset (the serious one, not the more joking one that I'll show to you as well eventually), and then a bunch of flunkies. Your standard Heatran was the fattest of them. A normal game for the team would play out in a way such that one of these two would always end up winning whenever I brought them both. Rotom and Amoonguss completed that Fire/Water/Grass buzzword thingy and gave me solid control over games, where Rotom matched up very well with primary threats like Landorus, Heatran, Suicune and others, and Amoonguss was that fail-safe way of handling potentially annoying Bisharps and Kangaskhans, while also delivering pretty useful general support with its Powders. Clefairy as another redirector was in it as well, and it was very much necessary, because without it, the team wouldn't be able to beat Ludicolo rain at all. What changed the most over the history of the team was the sixth slot: it changed between various Fighting or Ghost types, starting at Scrafty, getting to Hitmontop, then to Gengar, then back to Scrafty und ultimately to making one of my bigger enemies my ally. If you remember it, bonus points to you!

The Complete Team

No Return (Salamence) (M) @ Salamencite
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
Happiness: 0
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
IVs: 3 SpA
- Frustration
- Dragon Dance
- Roost
- Protect

I would rarely play games without this one. It was just too good. As long as I wouldn't be facing Greninja or something, a 1-for-1 trade at worst is pretty much guaranteed, and a clean protected setup would likely mean the entire win. About the filler slot, I didn't actually keep Roost just because I had it all the time or whatever, that is mere coincidence. There were times when I was doubtful if I really shouldn't just have some kind of coverage move with how rarely I used Roost, and sometimes it not even winning me games when being used, I was was really doubtful. I then over the final weeks took careful notice of what I really needed in that slot, and yes, Roost ended up being the clear winner. Earthquake was just not worth it because the Flying STAB was enough to beat Heatrans and Earthquake actually would never be enough to beat Aegislash. I would run something like Rock Slide or Dragon Claw before that to have more against bulky Electric types. I just didn't do it anyway, because Roost really ended up being more helpful. It helped me a against those as well sometimes, and one of the nicest things about it still is the ability to dodge Sucker Punches and not just delay them like Dragon Dance would but in fact change the board in that turn.

Yes, I really changed my old Return Salamence to a Frustration Salamence. If you think maximum friendship is dedication, then getting maximum friendship and drop it all the way down to maximum hate is passion. This beast has to be full of anger to be the strongest possible, no way around it. But all jokes aside, Frustration actually is legitimately better than Return to fuck up Transform plays which assume maximum happiness. The EV spread lets it outspeed Garchomp and all just below that and makes sure I'm dealing optimal damage at all times. I saw not much point in bulking up in favor of all that, and I had Clefairy's Friend Guard to just do it on the fly whenever I actually needed it.

Darth Vader (Heatran) (M) @ Leftovers
Ability: Flash Fire
Level: 50
EVs: 212 HP / 80 SpA / 4 SpD / 212 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 30 SpA
- Heat Wave
- Earth Power
- Substitute
- Protect

Oh you, Heatran... The sword it is not, but double-edged it is more than anyone else in here. Leading up to Nationals, I saw Heatran's usefulness on a worrisome decline. People were loading up their teams with more and more Heatran hate; I felt like this was Kangaskhan all over again. They justifiably did, because I naturally can attest to how strong Heatran originally was. The present was different: teams were full of mons that Heatran just couldn't touch with only two moves, full of mons that were able to hit it with a neutral STAB at the very least, and those that still actually looked Heatran weak seemed likely to just pack those Hidden Powers Ground on their special attackers. Know Hidden Power Ground Charizard paired with Hidden Power Ice Venusaur? Absolute nightmare for this team, all I can do is bring Clefairy and pray. Another thing I was very afraid of was Safety Goggles Sylveon. A few people do know how actively I've been painting the devil on the wall and they tried to appease me. I also checked Battle Spot statistics to appease myself, and what do I know, apparently Safety Goggles was an Item so rare on Sylveon it was below 1% and not even mentioned. I couldn't possibly face this in my tournament run, right?...right!? (Well, fortunately enough I didn't face it indeed. It did however win a whole event two weeks later. I fucking knew it all from the beginning, you ignorant shits!)

Let's get back to Heatran. This one outspeeds Adamant Bisharp and Speed-ties Jolly Tyranitar. With the whole team, I actually had reasons to be fairly worried about Tyranitar, but I just went in not expecting many of them to begin with, and this at least was a correct assumption at the time. The offensive investment lets it OHKO 252/0 Blade Aegislash with a safe Earth Power. The defensive investment gives it a good HP number for Leftovers and lets it survive another Heatran's Earth Power after Friend Guard, albeit that never actually happened.

Anyway, I ended up keeping Heatran around because there was not enough time left to play with other Fire types and be experienced enough with them to make sure that they'd actually perform better. Arcanine was a big one on my to-do list, but as fate would later have it, I just threw away the team for good and used something completely different, so that became redundant.

Black Dahlia (Amoonguss) (F) @ Rocky Helmet
Ability: Regenerator
Level: 50
EVs: 140 HP / 252 Def / 116 SpD
Relaxed Nature
IVs: 22 Atk / 0 Spe
- Giga Drain
- Rage Powder
- Spore
- Protect

Hi Amoonguss, you still suck. The advantages pretty much outweighed the disadvantages though, and I couldn't find a more useful Fairy-resisting Grass type at all, so Amoonguss still was the best I could possibly have in this slot. The EV spread optimizes between Mega Metagross and Life Orb Hydreigon, which made perfect sense since this duo would mean quite some trouble to the team and was fairly likely to eventually pop up. (Their common team compositions usually had me favoring Clefairy over Amoonguss though.)

No Regrets (Rotom-Wash) @ Sitrus Berry
Ability: Levitate
Level: 50
EVs: 244 HP / 12 Def / 84 SpA / 20 SpD / 148 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 6 Atk
- Thunderbolt
- Hydro Pump
- Will-O-Wisp
- Protect

Heatran wasn't the only team member that fell from grace at the wrong time of the year. This mostly standard Rotom grew old as well. It looks especially good on paper and there's just no way at all to replace it in all that it brings to the table, but actual gameplay eventually revealed how mediocre this thing in fact became. Rotom still has its old problem in its EV spreads always making it painfully weak in one or two aspects, and that's where you can always hurt it as the opponent if you're good. The distribution of stats is ill no matter what you do. For example, you may be faster than Adamant Bisharp, but it still helps loading up loading up damage on you as well, and Knock Off means there'll be no Sitrus Berry to help. The Landoruses and Heatrans Rotom is supposed to hard-counter often are faster, and this lets them have ways of escaping that fate with Substitute, Rock Slide and other stuff. Some teams can look as Rotom-weak as they want, for they still may just have the right ways to overcome it anyway... It can be so helpless when it has more jobs than it can feasibly handle! Looking back at Nationals, we can in fact make the observation that other Electric or Water types tended to perform better overall. Ones that weren't such typical bad-luck magnets as well. I really couldn't believe how much bad luck I got with my Rotom prior to Nats on Battle Spot, it sometimes even felt like Will-O-Wisps accuracy was completely inverted, lol, but it may have been a warning I should have taken more seriously. Anyway: using Rotom in that ancient way isn't doing the trick anymore, Rotom needs to be either re-invented like Heatran or dropped for good I'd say.

With the given EV spread, this Rotom outspeeds my own Heatran by 1 point, opening up that fancy self-WOW play whenever the situation calls for it. The HP were corrected to have Super Fang activate Sitrus Berry immediately, since that had become more common recently. The defenses optimize damage rolls between Mawile's Play Rough and Life Orb Hydreigon's Draco Meteor and the Special Attack is to keep some offensive pressure, including a safe OHKO on pretty much any non-AV Landorus as long as the Hydro Pump actually connects, and no fucking around with freak bulky Talonflames as well.

Iridium (Clefairy) (F) @ Eviolite
Ability: Friend Guard
Level: 50
EVs: 236 HP / 236 Def / 36 SpD
Calm Nature
IVs: 1 Atk
- Follow Me
- Icy Wind
- Helping Hand
- Protect

There never was something I changed about Clefairy ever, it just couldn't feasibly be any better. The first thing I could have potentially liked instead would be Thunder Wave against mons like Ludicolo, but what I would have had to give up for that felt too costly for me. Contrary to LightCore, I used Helping Hand a lot and it was in fact vital for a few matchups, like the pesky Calm Mind Cresselia or any bulky Waters. Running no attacking moves would have been an absolute no-go as well, because in case Clefairy does get Taunted -- which is a common thing to happen -- it would be literal suicide to be forced to Struggle. And then Icy Wind is really good to fulfill that, because it has a potentially very useful side effect whereas Moonblast tends to do nothing of much value a lot of the time from a mon that isn't even meant to do damage.

This rarer more balanced stats distribution lets it survive Mega Gengar's Sludge Bomb and I believe some weaker Charizard Overheat as well. This Special Defense also was quite vital against the rain matchup -- well should be, but instead they just had a profound habit of Scald Burning it and then all that shit ended up not mattering anyway, lol... In any case, I didn't see too much value in going for Bold max like most people do. I had Intimidate, Amoonguss and Will-O-Wisp for the usual physical shit out there.

My Best (Aegislash) @ Life Orb
Ability: Stance Change
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 252 SpA / 4 SpD
Modest Nature
IVs: 1 Atk
- Shadow Ball
- Flash Cannon
- Wide Guard
- King's Shield

Life Orb Aegislash, do you remember it? It had given me some trouble, and it quite intrigued me. The more common Weakness Policy is a concept I don't enjoy too much, since people usually found ways to play around it and then it had a lot of potential to miss its original point (but more on that later, as I actually later used a team where I felt like Weakness Policy was the right call). Life Orb Aegislash offers high instant damage output and the only real defense against it is to kill it, plain and simple. It naturally made it into the team as Hyper Voicing Fairies crept back up from near oblivion and it was clear that I would eventually need a better defense against them than just walling them with Heatran and Amoonguss until I can somehow kill them.

Generic EV spread again here, I didn't really have a convincing idea for something else. It seemed to have the best odds of winning Aegislash mirrors without having to compromise its stats against everything else for it.

The Fall

Final Practice

My final practice sessions showed me the signs all too well... I somehow managed to get above 1900 on Battle Spot for the first time and my record didn't look too bad, but...something was off in the way how it's been done. I felt like I ran into five straight bad matchups in a row and I won in all of them, but none of these wins felt really deserved. All I was seeing was my opponents' mistakes or my own luck in shit like Sleep turns. And to that we can add Rotom's bad luck and other small things. The consistency I had known from earlier was magically gone and I didn't really want to believe it. Well, not that I was allowed to, even... I had no other options at this point. The Charizard team was even more inconsistent and most notably didn't like the official timer, and something completely new out of nowhere would only be crying for disaster, wouldn't it? I pretty much was Hell-bent in the real sense of the word. I clung to the false hope that all these problems would just solve themselves.

Stuttgart and Aftermath

I've already written an account on that in the perfectly desirable level of detail, so go look that section up there. Back home after the fact, I tried to give the team another chance between playing around with new things, also tried to bring in new changes and all, but it was pure despair. There was nothing I could do to save it, absolutely nothing. I had to move on. And what makes it actually funny: the nickname theme, I had completely jinxed it. The team was meant to finally bring me that Nationals top cut result I so longed for, and I finished farther away from it than ever before.

Landorus and Kangaskhan as the metagame's superstars weren't too problematic to handle for me, Heatran as the next in line wasn't too bad as well. I always seemed to do all right against them over the years, so fair enough. But what this whole experience has taught me: never be so vulnerable to freaking Thundurus again ever. Thundurus shouldn't be more than a garbage mon as soon as he can't get his RNG bullshit going the right way, but yeah, you're seeing it, I can't even remove him easily when my mons are allowed to move most of the time, and by the time he's gone, who knows how much I had to pay for it. I can't believe how this issue slipped me for whole months, leading me to falsely believe it wouldn't be that much of an issue...

Moral of the story: I was pretty much behind with my team-building, but my nickname jinxing was spot-on.

We're continuing the Nats story without a break, so up next is what you commonly call "Japan sand". I'm planning to do that in three parts now, because I think that archetype clearly is good enough and I'm also feeling it strongly enough to warrant this much space. Take care.

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