Sunday, 5 February 2017

Freezing Beauty -- A Ninetales/AFK Team

Alola friends. I've been patiently waiting for this moment ever since Alolan forms were revealed, and it was worth it. My first team with Ninetales turned out better than I had expected and here I am sharing it now. (Actually, it wasn't just my first Ninetales team but my first self-made team in this format, not counting things I threw together for Battle Spot without much thought before.) However, if you for whatever reason want to copy it, I recommend not actually copying it straight away but changing a thing or two. I promise you the team is good, but I know it can be better.

(Artist: GralMaka)

For those judging stuff by results: I brought the team to my first MSS yesterday, finished Swiss as first seed but got knocked out in top 8 in a nightmarish matchup that still went to the third game, which then possibly was decided against me due to a lost Kartana Speed tie. So yeah, I've played many worse teams in my life. If you have a fighting chance, you know there's hope. Well then, on to the good stuff!

The Idea

I didn't play at all during the first weeks of Battle Spot S2, just watched various streams and stuff. While doing that, I noticed a bunch of things that inspired me to make this team. I don't remember the order of everything, so...unordered list it is, haha.

  • The best attacking type this year turns out to be Ground. Paul's Regionals team features 3 mons weak to Ground, an Araquanid and no immunities, as a prominent example. And for an underground example, I've been theorymoning a completely different team, where I found that almost everything I wanted to use in it was weak to Ground. Furthermore, usable Ground immunities are hard to find in general. Salamence is just trash right now, Gyarados isn't trash but really doesn't like Tapus and Kartana, Vikavolt is nice per se but awfully slow, Mandibuzz is awfully passive, and that just leaves us with the predictable and hated Celesteela. Obvious conclusion of all this: it's a Garchomp format, possibly more so than 2014.
  • Garchomp struggles with mons that it can't Tectonic Rage, and mirrors, as always with mons that can threaten themselves, are trouble. This is where Ninetales comes in -- mirror turns into a non-factor, flyers are covered and it has a nice pool of support moves available. I drew inspiration most notably from the Melbourne Challenge, where Ninetales did a lot of work and I so loved it. I wouldn't forgive myself to leave this format without ever using my favorite Pokémon/form of this new generation, and it seemed like Ninetales was right on its zenith on that day. If anything, I'd have to feed on the afterglow, you know.
  • The other thing to talk about is the infamous AFK core, as well as the three parts that constitute it. Arcanine is a pretty logical most commonly used mon right now, being the best Intimidate user period, and that's nothing to do with AFK. Now Tapu Fini, the defining part of this triangle, is most fascinating. Everything about it looks so mediocre (shoutouts to general Water type syndrome *cough*), but magically it isn't. We expected Fini to be gone as quickly as it emerged, and we were wrong. It took all the following Regionals and said Melbourne Challenge by storm. There was no way I could write it off any longer without at least trying it first, and so I did. Finally, Kartana, that's an easy one. It's my favorite mon of this format from a competitive viewpoint, because it's literally the best thing available. Amen.

So, I just talked about Garchomp, Ninetales and AFK. If I put them all together, I happen to receive a lot of synergy already. In fact, those very 5 ended up winning Battle Spot S1! (Just with really goofy sets that I don't quite agree with, you know...) All I had to do was find a good last slot. I'll talk about that one at its place specifically. Anyway, a fun thing I noticed in all these weeks since the idea came to me: This team is looking very standard right now and I'm getting a lot of 5/6 matches, but I have yet to see a 6/6 match at team preview anywhere. That's because your last slot is shit and you should change it, dumbass.If you ever notice one, please tell me, haha. I'm curious to see how they went about designing those movesets!

The Team

Cassandra (Ninetales-Alola) (F) @ Focus Sash
Ability: Snow Warning
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
- Blizzard
- Icy Wind
- Aurora Veil
- Protect

The star of the show, my fluffy, snowy and just generally awesome best dog in existence. There's a moveslot syndrome here where I willingly took the risk to have Ninetales be complete Araquanid fodder, and it just so happened to be part of my downfall in that tournament...with little of any regrets though, because Freeze-Dry just doesn't do much for the team beyond that. Aurora Veil is a lock, that move is so fucking good and still no one runs, lol, Brick Break to counter it. Protect is a move that I just generally like to have, because without it there's no way I'm getting through turn-based Speed control alive -- I already have 2 other slots without Protect and almost all of the teams I ever truly liked have no less than 4 Protects or like moves. Finally, Icy Wind is just a cool (and rare) move to click when there isn't much to be gotten out of a Blizzard running off a feeble Special Attack base stat. Most notably, with the combination of Focus Sash and Icy Wind, odds are in your favor when you're facing Kartanas. With one of the two missing, it'd be just the pure Speed tie game between them.

Sancta Terra (Garchomp) (M) @ Groundium Z
Ability: Rough Skin
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 228 Atk / 20 Def / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
- Earthquake
- Fire Fang
- Swords Dance
- Protect

Have to send a quick apology to the NY/NJ community. I considered Swords Dance to be a gimmick when I first saw it on their stream, because at that time I was only thinking about Garchomp's coverage (and lack of Ground-immune partners!). But now, the idea actually was just to get the most insane Tectonic Rage ever (at +2 Attack, it OHKOs most Porygons!) and to counter Arcanine's Intimidate much more efficiently than switching. I didn't quite get to do the boosting part in every game because the team just isn't made to support that in the hardcore way (and Aurora Veil, while generally helpful, comes at the cost of also taking hail damage). Also, people know perfectly well how good Garchomp is, so it's hard to find mons other than Arcanine, Gigalith and Muk to set up on. Especially all the faster mons that 2HKO it are annoying.

Reverence (Arcanine) (F) @ Aguav Berry
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 204 HP / 4 Def / 36 SpA / 100 SpD / 164 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
- Flamethrower
- Snarl
- Roar
- Protect

The other part of Arcaninetales, nothing...I mean, a lot of "special" here, lol. It's mostly there for Intimidate and Snarl spamming, to stack with or replace Aurora Veil. Roar I put on mainly for Eeveemancy, and it was free with Will-O-Wisp being useless by default on a Fini team. It also helped me once in a Calm Mind Fini mirror, where I can just Roar theirs out after a few boosts to gain an advantage, haha. Oh yeah, and I still hate FIWAM Berries more than any other Items, but with all the debuffing and hail chip going on, you know, might just as well help myself this one time.

Last Crusade (Tapu Fini) @ Leftovers
Ability: Misty Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 84 Def / 60 SpA / 4 SpD / 108 Spe
Bold Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
- Muddy Water
- Moonblast
- Calm Mind
- Protect

Ah yes, the cute little purple dolphin/clam/mermaid/swordfish/whatever who has terrible diarrhea. You've all seen this set before, and no, unfortunately this is really just the best Water STAB we got. Gave me some unexpected wins with the accuracy drops, lost me some games with painful misses, dead even on that -- and the problem with Surf as the accurate alternative is that partners don't enjoy it. Also, many thanks to Twitter. I wasn't sure if I should run it bulky or offensive, and the only answers I got were bulky and naturally "don't run CM Fini at all". The bulk helped so much, it was pretty important. And finally...the auto-Safeguard that Misty Surge offers is very fucking nice, but using Leftovers only to cancel out hail half of the time is a bit meh, I have to say. The struggles of running Ninetales, you know...

The Blade (Kartana) @ Assault Vest
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 68 HP / 4 Atk / 20 Def / 164 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
- Leaf Blade
- Smart Strike
- Sacred Sword
- Night Slash

Another set you've seen a million times by now. I changed the EVs to keep all the common calcs but have the 16n-1 HP number for hail.

Never Enough (Snorlax) (M) @ Iapapa Berry
Ability: Gluttony
Level: 50
Happiness: 0
EVs: 20 HP / 236 Atk / 252 Def
Brave Nature
IVs: 3 Spe
- Frustration
- High Horsepower
- Curse
- Recycle

The last slot on that Battle Spot team was Koko. That doesn't fly here. With 4 Speed-natured mons in the other slots, I needed something real for Trick Room, period. Snorlax and Muk were the ones I considered, and Snorlax is what I just went with because it looked so good on paper. (Also, as a GSC player, I can't really say no to a good old Curselax with recovery, haha.) Speaking of paper, it's really bad against Kartana and that sucks. As games played out, Snorri just had little business to be brought to non-TR matchups overall. Ricardo's story with his own "hail AFK" team comes to mind here.

Known Issues

  • Araquanid. I rely a lot on Fini walling it and I have no way to quickly remove it. It's still beatable just fine as and only as long as the rest of its team isn't too bad.
  • I can't outspeed Kartana and my Fire moves, while they are two all right, are both on mons slower than it.
  • Kokos and fast Leles can cause a lot of trouble depending on their sets. Fini is terrible at Terrain wars and the only mons that can deal with max Speed Lele can be assumed to be common targets by its partner.
  • Fast stuff like commonly seen on Battle Spot in general, as always. I've seen worse teams against that, but still it defeats half of the purpose when it's outright impossible for me to get out an Aurora Veil. Along with the Ground weakness, the threat of random hyperfast teams not caring about defensive synergy at all is really just the biggest downside of this otherwise nice format.

Well jeez, somehow I always manage to produce endless walls of text when I really just wanted to keep it short but not Pastebin-short. Anyway, that's it from me for now. I'll be trying to lift the next of Captain Dreykopff's Treasures by this Wednesday or not long after. Not yet with this team right here though, but rest assured that there will be games with it later. The MSS gave me some nice material obviously, and I'm guaranteed to get more should I decide to further work on the team. Alola!

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