Friday, 10 July 2015

[VG] Azumarill Quicksand

(Artist: Syrabi)

Hello friends. Japan sand time. As a good introduction before my own introduction, I recommend you be familiar with what actually was a thing in Japan. The team I'm showing you this time consists of the same 6 but I tampered with the sets a bit.

The Quest for a New Team

Oh, believe me, it could have been much worse. Between Stuttgart and Manchester, I tried a lot of different changes to my old team and...they were so shit, I don't even want to talk about it. At the same time, I also played around with this new sand thing. I don't want to imagine what would have been without it.

My first contact with the archetype actually was on Battle Spot, during the only time I got ever matched up with THE Paul from the USA. Salamence, Tyranitar, Excadrill, Amoonguss, Aegislash and Wash Rotom. And then not even physical Salamence. Not gonna lie, I thought the team was shit. Then we played, and I suddenly noticed that my matchup felt disgusting -- my old Salamence team basically completely ignored Tyranitar's existence! (And the special Salamence that I believed to be not too good was actually annoying as well.) Well, the team wasn't shit, but the game was. I in fact somehow won it, but I wouldn't have won it with one turn less of Sleep and a different damage roll somewhere or something like that. Because it was too late to get crazy over things at that point, I just relied on me not running into any of this stuff in Stuttgart, which, you know, worked out fine enough. But regardless, I had to take this archetype seriously from then on.

It just so happens that Chiron posted this Japanese team with Azumarill right when my group arrived near Stuttgart, and my hotel Internet was nice enough to show it to me. And man, I have to say, I liked it a lot when I first saw it. "Assurance: the team", always fun! Oh yeah, and we also had some talk in the car before, where Szymon in particular was very enthusiastic about Azumarill with sand. He had a point there, Azumarill really is good fit with a team that doesn't like to see bulky Fighting types for the most part -- and there it was, at the illustrious third place of the Japan Cup rankings!

So I then went on to test my own interpretation of this team in parallel to my real self-built teams. As clear as it is that Showdown isn't to be trusted, this was kinda amazing. I got longer winning streaks than normally and it felt good -- something I only before experienced back in 2013 with Hail Room. It felt like a revelation. And everything about the team made sense, too! It actually turned out to become a quick lock for the second Nats, since everything else I tried simply was shit.

And not only did it feel good, it also had favorable matchups against most of what was successful in Stuttgart. Those Venusaur teams? -- let them come, they can't bring anything better than Rotom and 3 shit mons against it, almost felt free. Billa's team? -- Suicune definitely is annoying, but Breloom loses a lot of its power to the weather, so that looked soundly beatable, too. American Megagross? -- always annoying, but well, without some nice RNG magic, what are they even gonna do? And the list goes on. For some reason, Stuttgart had neither of Azumarill and Excadrill in top cut and the only Tyranitar was Mega. The metagame felt absolutely ripe to drop in quicksand. ツ Naturally, I ended up not being the only guy with this idea... (But still, let's not forget the fun fact that quicksand actually won Stuttgart Seniors. Now that I think of it, it feels a bit hilarious to see that...Seniors were ahead of Masters!?)

The Team

In the article that I linked at the very start, the (subjectively?) surprising moveset choices were bolded. I am changing that up a bit, and instead bolding things I have changed compared to that original team.

Another One (Excadrill) (F) @ Life Orb
Ability: Sand Rush
Level: 50
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 Def / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
- Rock Slide
- Drill Run
- Iron Head
- Protect

It's Excadrill. It's fast. It hits hard. I may expand on it more in a future article, but for now...

I can't get rid of the feeling that Earthquake is a somewhat terrible move. Chances are, in fact, that I have more experience actually using Earthquake Excadrill than most who are reading this, so I must know something about it. Obviously, Wide Guard is a big thorn in Excadrill's side, and the most popular Wide Guard user is Aegislash. Now the only move Excadrill could hit Aegislash with would be Earthquake, and generally Aegislash is a tricky target to hit for the whole metagame. Consequentially, it can just sit there and wall you forever with Wide Guard, and if you then can't even remove its partner with Iron Head, well, you're fucked.

And the other thing is that Drill Run not only allows you to ignore Wide Guard effectively, but let you have a Ground move available that can't potentially limit your other side of the field. Naturally, Tyranitar/Excadrill would be a common duo to have on the field, and when every use of Earthquake infers a switch or lethal friendly fire, options are limited -- too limited for my liking. Most notably, I'd like to go hammer into those annoying bulky Waters hard with a nice double-target from time to time, and yeah, you simply can't do that without Drill Run. Finally, another note regarding the original team: Earthquake usability is in fact very limited with it, just go look at it.

BitesTheDust (Tyranitar) (M) @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Sand Stream
Level: 50
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 Def / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
- Rock Slide
- Assurance
- Ice Punch
- Superpower

Scarftar with Salamence sure is something as long as you can avoid Thunder Waves. Even max Speed Scarftar as seen here is just slower than max Speed Mega Salamence, so you have those crazy Hyper Voice + Assurance combos available pretty much for free, and they're stupidly fun. Like, for every time I actually would have preferred to have the consistent Crunch, I screwed over three people with the additional power of Assurance. Assurance, Sucker Punch, Foul Play, Taunt, Dark Void... Oh yeah, Game Freak sure has some favoritism for the evil type going, with all these very special moves!

I think that Low Kick is a poor move on pretty much all non-Mega Tyranitars. Kangaskhan, Hydreigon and Ferrothorn are a whole set of three common targets that Low Kick would only hit for a 100 base power. Superpower just hits absolutely everything for 120, including these naturally, and it matters a lot of the time. It's also noteworthy that Low Kick does pretty much nothing against a bunch of neutral targets (most prominently a Rotom that might switch in), but the team's main theme is to rack up damage quickly, so I want to take all I can get. And finally, since I'm not running Crunch...Superpower essentially also works as a one-time Crunch on neutral targets.

Beat Him (Azumarill) (F) @ Assault Vest
Ability: Huge Power
Level: 50
EVs: 124 HP / 252 Atk / 132 Def
Adamant Nature
IVs: 5 Spe
- Aqua Jet
- Play Rough
- Superpower
- Knock Off

Assault Vest Azumarill (Avumarill!?) is quite underrated in the West, I'd say. The only thing I hated about it was random Burns by random Fire moves (or Scalds), but I didn't even long for Protect a lot, because this fucking adorable rabbit is just so bulky and threatening at the same time that you're almost guaranteed to gain momentum from it simply being there. And the typing is nothing short of awesome for this team, too!

It seems like I have some thing for Superpower, don't I... In this case here, I'm actually doubtful whether that was the play or not. It's most prominent use is to simply remove Kangaskhan -- a task that this more multi-target-focused team has the potential to struggle with from time to time. On the other hand, it's very obvious how much better Waterfall would be to handle any Fire types, Rhydons/-periors and additionally neutral targets without having to rely on Play Rough too much. And all other moves are pretty much mandatory, so I can't really have both.

About the stats, I have no clue how exactly Japanese players generally tend to build their Avumarills, so I made my own boring one. The shown defensive split minimizes residual sand damage and balances the damage taken really well, which matters a lot when you'd like to not be 2HKOed by pretty much anything a lot of the time! So, with this, I'm gaining more bulk on the physical side than I'd lose on the special side when running simply max HP. Short sentence on the Speed, obviously we are underspeeding Aegislash with this for the Knock Off of Death.

Cheat Him (Amoonguss) (F) @ Rocky Helmet
Ability: Regenerator
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 212 Def / 44 SpD
Relaxed Nature
IVs: 4 Atk / 0 Spe
- Giga Drain
- Spore
- Rage Powder
- Protect

Hi. There's actually a new thing here with the EV spread, but guess what, I'm leaving that one for my Italian Nats team article so that I still have something to say there. (But I can recommend you go try and figure it out on your own. Amoonguss is quite a fascinating mon to EV.)

PlentyOfWays (Salamence) (F) @ Salamencite
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
- Hyper Voice
- Dragon Pulse
- Flamethrower
- Protect

I do like this set for what it's worth, so I wasn't keen on changing it. Fire Blast over Flamethrower could potentially turn games because Flamethrower OHKOs literally nothing in this world, but in both directions really, with that shaky accuracy. Dragon Pulse has a similar problem: It's very, very inconsistent in getting OHKOs on your fellow Dragons, including the very special Salamence mirror. I ended up still keeping it because I really hate to lower my Special Attack on a mon that I actually don't want to switch out too often. So yeah, sure is enough for me to have to deal with that on Tyranitar's end!

StandTheHeat (Aegislash) (F) @ Weakness Policy
Ability: Stance Change
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Atk / 12 Def / 108 SpA / 132 SpD
Quiet Nature
IVs: 8 Spe
- Shadow Ball
- Flash Cannon
- Shadow Sneak
- King's Shield

Oh boy, this fallen hero almost makes me want to cry... I was so proud of this slot when I finalized the team, but then the tournament had other plans for me.

You may remember, normally I'm no fan of Weakness Policy. Normally, people can just chip its holder with any neutral attacks, and look, the threat is gone in literally one move. But this very team here, it sports such a beautifully crafted offense that there hardly will be time for opponents to apply these measures of caution without paying an equivalently huge price in return. It's literally Damocles's Sword.

Shadow Sneak I pretty much mindlessly copied from the original, and I happened to use it a lot in practice. I, too, will never forget how many games good old Ice Shard Abomasnow has won me back in 2013, and Shadow Sneak Aegislash is an even more powerful instance of that concept. Also looking at how similar these teams indeed are to each other...this priority move blends in so well. Wide Guard, on the other hand, would pretty much have only one use: make the Fairy matchup that seemed already fairly good even better. Against Landorus, on the other hand, not too useful, because I'd rather just let him activate my Weakness Policy and die for it -- or lock into something that he simply won't ever scratch Aegislash with. (Sadly, I did change the set to an infamous Wide Guard variant eventually, but for entirely different reasons...)

As for the stats, I did do a bunch of calcs here, but I didn't write them down and I'm too lazy to reverse-engineer them now, I'm sorry. The point is, you're not OHKOing it. Specs Hydreigon won't OHKO, Life Orb Aegislash won't OHKO, Life Orb Excadrill won't OHKO. About the Speed, I just hate Speed ties a lot and especially when I'm not even getting advantages out of them, so that's why I didn't go with 0 or 1.

And this is it. Stole the 6, didn't change much, and it felt like there wasn't much to change at all. A neat detail I especially liked about the whole design was how it had 3 super-fast and 3 super-slow mons, and then also redirection and priority in the mix. Speed control basically was a non-issue, it was all there for free. (Only Tailwind was annoying to face actually, but no more annoying than with anything else, really.)

The team only has one weakness that I'm aware of, and that is bulky Water. Absolutely no mistakes allowed against them, and even then benevolent RNG may be needed. I'm still traumatized by UK Nats, which is why I never played the team without Rotom for weeks and months afterwards, essentially denying how good Azumarill really was against everything else. This team has to be one of my worst best memories, as it was destined to do so much more -- and the second place it won at Nats (albeit not the exact same team, since Arash also made changes but different changes), it was just not I who was the Trainer.

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