Friday, 21 April 2017

We Are Your Leaders -- IDM 2017 Champion's Team

Alola friends. One month ago, I did the unthinkable: I've finally won this prestigious online tournament that we literally call "inofficial Nats of Germany", hosted on Bisafans and sponsored by Nintendo and other partners. I've written a more detailed report in German, click here for it. It's slightly more "noob-friendly" and also contains the tournament run, whereas in here, I'll just focus on the team.

Finding the Team

tl;dr: I literally copied the team from freaking low ladder.

It happened two weeks before the tournament, in the night of 13 March on Battle Spot. I just was trying to get a somewhat decent rating in the ending season. Didn't work, I was just forever trapped in the low ladder. *cough* And then this happened: I ran into Trainer Agatiiiiii(...)iiiii from Brazil, rated 1528, and with the team preview as seen above in the Battle Box picture. Eu sou o melhor, tornem se homens e respeitem os desejos da Game Freak. ツ It was my first real encounter with Driflele, and as the game progressed, I was just like: "fucking hell, this is just too good, how am I supposed to beat that!?!??" (Correct answer: "you better don't.") Somehow I still did manage to make it a close game and stuff, but still, I had seen enough.

Next day in the Gamblers Discord, I was gushing for hours on just how good I thought the combination of Tapu Lele and Drifblim was. To add some background: Throughout the weeks leading up to this, my teammates dropped like flies trying to make some Drifblim/Fini garbage (sorry) work. Never was a fan of that combo really, because it's so passive and their synergy is more forced than natural. Well, and the other thing is Lele itself: it's a mon had a hard time wrapping my head around originally. It has hardly any resistances of value and it's too slow to really be a potent independent attacker. It's basically Drifblim, which I since then also tend to fondly shorten to Driffy, that saved Lele for me -- I might still not have used it up to right fucking now if it weren't for the purple zombie balloon! Sad but true. Anyway, still on the same day, I made my first draft for a team, and it ended up being the same six as Agati's, got them without actually looking at my notes again. Then I went on Showdown and kidnapped poor children's souls. There was little in the way of it instantly becoming my favorite team in this difficult format. And there's more: In the two weeks leading up to the IDM, if we don't count EVs, I changed absolutely nothing from the first draft, that's how solid it was! Might as well put it like this: the team fell from the heavens just like a popped balloon at the end of its wild journey, and still it was mine. ♥

Another thing, the ONOG Invitational. I wasn't too sure what to think of the event and especially its peculiar metagame. Apart from Cybertron, they all brought teams that were rather original in their ways, and you know, when something like that happens, it's obvious that there's a high chance that one of these "special snowflake" teams will win it all, while not having been tested much by what we would consider the actual metagame of the format. This pending scrutiny then was carried out by the public, everyone caring on their own. And not rarely, it was a success.

The Team in Detail

MotherOLight (Tapu Lele) @ Choice Specs
Ability: Psychic Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 236 HP / 228 Def / 36 SpA / 4 SpD / 4 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
- Psychic
- Dazzling Gleam
- Moonblast
- Thunderbolt

Bulky Spex Lele, also known as Pink Panzer, the MVP. Slow but dishes out much more than it receives. Especially with a partner that reduces damage taken even further, the opposing side may have to do ridiculous things in order to get rid of this killing machine quickly. That being said...resistances!? Pure luxury. Let's say it resists all hits except those it doesn't. ツ

Psychic for the very obvious and sometimes spammable main STAB, but I want to direct your attention to Dazzling Gleam as a strong secondary as well. While always underwhelming by itself, it creates mighty chip damage for getting into good positions later -- just like good old Mega Salamence with Hyper Voice, in a way. It also means Lele isn't a pure single-target weapon, which is good in my book because I hate to lose turns by hitting into the wrong Protects. Still, Moonblast is also very important for a few common 1v1s. Finally, Thunderbolt...I just had no better idea for the slot at the time, but it isn't the worst anyway.

The EV spread, for the most part, is the same as Viera's, except I removed some Speed to try and fish for more Finis (fish for Fini, nice one) with investment that would always be around this mark. It doesn't change anything notable under Tailwind (the benchmark is Adamant Scarfchomp). And here's all those amazing Pink Panzer calcs:

  • 36+ SpA Choice Specs Tapu Lele Moonblast vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Tapu Koko: 144-171 (98.6 - 117.1%) -- 93.8% chance to OHKO
  • 36+ SpA Choice Specs Tapu Lele Psychic vs. 0 HP / 4 SpD Garchomp in Psychic Terrain: 184-217 (100.5 - 118.5%) -- guaranteed OHKO

  • 252 Atk Garchomp Tectonic Rage (180 BP) vs. 236 HP / 228 Def Tapu Lele: 150-177 (85.7 - 101.1%) -- 6.3% chance to OHKO
  • -1 252+ Atk Garchomp Earthquake vs. 236 HP / 228 Def Tapu Lele: 46-55 (26.2 - 31.4%) -- guaranteed 4HKO
  • +1 252+ Atk Garchomp Poison Jab vs. 236 HP / 228 Def Tapu Lele: 146-174 (83.4 - 99.4%) -- guaranteed 2HKO

  • 252+ Atk Arcanine Inferno Overdrive (190 BP) vs. 236 HP / 228 Def Tapu Lele: 154-183 (88 - 104.5%) -- 31.3% chance to OHKO
  • -1 252+ Atk Arcanine Flare Blitz vs. 236 HP / 228 Def Tapu Lele: 66-78 (37.7 - 44.5%) -- guaranteed 3HKO

  • 252 Atk Kartana Smart Strike vs. 236 HP / 228 Def Tapu Lele: 150-176 (85.7 - 100.5%) -- 6.3% chance to OHKO
  • 252 Atk Kartana Leaf Blade vs. 236 HP / 228 Def Tapu Lele on a critical hit: 144-171 (82.2 - 97.7%) -- guaranteed 2HKO

  • 252 SpA Life Orb Tapu Koko Thunderbolt vs. 236 HP / 4 SpD Tapu Lele: 71-86 (40.5 - 49.1%) -- guaranteed 3HKO
  • -1 252 Atk Mimikyu Never-Ending Nightmare (140 BP) vs. 236 HP / 228 Def Tapu Lele: 120-144 (68.5 - 82.2%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
  • -1 252+ Atk Water Bubble Araquanid Liquidation vs. 236 HP / 228 Def Tapu Lele: 69-82 (39.4 - 46.8%) -- guaranteed 3HKO
  • +2 252+ Atk Gyarados Waterfall vs. 236 HP / 228 Def Tapu Lele: 142-168 (81.1 - 96%) -- guaranteed 2HKO

Oh yeah, I think I also want to say something about my Item choice, too... Psychium Z I'm not very fond of in here because it would mean that Lele would just have one strong attack per game and would be mostly harmless afterwards. I get better value out of having the Z-crystals somewhere else, and sure as hell I have good options available. The other thing is Life Orb, which I in fact considered just hours before the tournament: It would grant me the ability to Protect in exchange for some bulk and add recoil on top. Still, that sounds like a pretty rough tradeoff and I'm very happy that I didn't use the IDM to test the change, because then I certainly wouldn't have won the whole thing. The full bulk was just too good time and time again, so Life Orb's just off the table again for the time being. Offense wins games and defense wins championships, you know.

A Nightmare (Drifblim) (M) @ Psychic Seed
Ability: Unburden
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 28 Def / 36 SpA / 236 SpD / 204 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
- Shadow Ball
- Will-O-Wisp
- Tailwind
- Sunny Day

The Bank's got the bucks, guys, the Bank's got the bucks. We've been well aware that random Tapus are qualified to inflate our favorite balloon, but there's some special synergy exclusive to Lele: There's no shared Electric weakness, Lele can be guarded with Will-O-Wisp better than anything could ever do for Fini, and the attacking options are more potent, too. While I'm absolutely not saying that I'd lead this duo to every game, it's still safe to say that it's a threat to many teams, for they'll have a hard time dealing with both threats at the same time.

Shadow Ball as the attacking move here because it hits more (Kartana, other Leles, Ghosts) than Acrobatics would (Araquanid). Tailwind combined with Psychic Seed Unburden, naturally, is the thing that made Drifblim viable in the first place, being essentially guaranteed to get the setup (or something else equally good, for that matter) in every game. For the last slot, there's many options, and I picked Sunny Day because rainbirds are very annoying and I just don't know what I'd do against them without it. It also proved useful against Fini and other random bulky Waters in situations where I need Arcanine on board for the partner but would be forced to take Water attacks to the face.

The EVs, this time, are my own, and the idea is super simple: fast and durable. It outspeeds Modest Golduck to set Sunny Day before the Hydro Vortex comes out, and then it survives just about everything that's reasonable. I want to force people to spend a full turn to pop my balloon, so that gives either my other slot more time to do its thing, or Drifblim another turn to do something nasty. (I was inspired to do it this way when another Lele clicked Shattered Psyche to remove it, so I never wanted to see that happen again, and with it came other benefits.) All of this goes at the cost of Drifblim's damage output, but that's fine because I average maybe just one Shadow Ball click per game, never the same target twice and non-AV Kartanas still get absolutely wrecked.

  • 252+ SpA Tapu Lele Shattered Psyche (175 BP) vs. +1 4 HP / 236 SpD Drifblim in Psychic Terrain: 190-225 (84 - 99.5%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252 SpA Tapu Koko Gigavolt Havoc (175 BP) vs. +1 4 HP / 236 SpD Drifblim: 186-222 (82.3 - 98.2%) -- guaranteed 2HKO

  • 252+ Atk Water Bubble Araquanid Liquidation vs. 4 HP / 28 Def Drifblim: 189-223 (83.6 - 98.6%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
  • -1 252+ Atk Arcanine Inferno Overdrive (190 BP) vs. 4 HP / 28 Def Drifblim: 186-220 (82.3 - 97.3%) -- guaranteed 2HKO

Reverence (Arcanine) (F) @ Mago Berry
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 204 HP / 92 Atk / 4 Def / 148 SpD / 60 Spe
Adamant Nature
- Flare Blitz
- Extreme Speed
- Wild Charge
- Protect

In my favorite teams, I always like to have multiple slots to fulfil similar roles. This would make our common hot dog Lele's other partner in crime -- a combination we've already known since the first week of the format and still as strong as ever. Arcanine itself also happens to be the first major difference between my team and Viera's as well as more faithful derivates: I'm trading Gyarados's snowballing for better defensive synergy and utility. Steels are just too annoying in general, and they're in fact a strong reason why Arcanine even is the most commonly used Pokémon in this format -- there's a lack of competitive options.

The moveset, at the time of building, seemed unconventional for Lele teams in a way, but it seems it actually is no more. It's just a solid set and gets you immediate value out of your moves. Snarl's too slow for a fast team, Will-O-Wisp is already been done better by Drifblim, Bulldoze is just inefficient with all those grounded partners and Helping Hand also isn't as powerful in this team as it would be in others. Roar is one support move I actually could make good use of, but if it's worth, that's a good question, too...because Wild Charge just gives you so much flexibility when dealing with bulky Waters, instead of a harmless slot. Well, and Extreme Speed, even with Psychic Terrain in the team, is just kinda the best thing ever. As experience taught me, there's no way Psychic Terrain will be on all game, it's completely predictable when it goes away and that makes it easy to play around. And finally, Protect and other moves like it...I generally value them a lot in my team building, and this team right here being at only 3 of them total is a new low record for a good team of mine. In other words, skipping it on Arcanine is no option.

Oh yeah, and then there's also the thing with the fancy fruits... Normally, I'd prefer Sitrus any day of the week, you know that from my common rants about non-Gluttony FIWAM Berries' randomness. I could never bury my teams in them like others do, never! (Physical) Arcanine still getting one from me is a rare exception because it's just so easy to activate it between recoil from the attacks, Rough Skin doing its thing (in rare occasions, even with my own Garchomp, haha), and maybe even weather damage helping further. But still: Sitrus is the best healing Berry, just because. Even when I used Flamethrower/Snarl in a different team recently, I hardly got the thing to activate, and thus went back to Sitrus's reliability.

Outspeeds Adamant Metagross regularly and Timid Scarf Lele in Tailwind. Calcs:

  • 92+ Atk Arcanine Flare Blitz vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Tapu Koko: 102-120 (69.8 - 82.1%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
  • 92+ Atk Arcanine Extreme Speed vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Tapu Koko: 45-54 (30.8 - 36.9%) -- 72.9% chance to 3HKO

  • 36+ SpA Choice Specs Tapu Lele Psychic vs. 204 HP / 148 SpD Arcanine in Psychic Terrain: 163-193 (85.3 - 101%) -- 6.3% chance to OHKO
  • -1 252+ Atk Water Bubble Araquanid Liquidation vs. 204 HP / 4 Def Arcanine: 168-200 (87.9 - 104.7%) -- 31.3% chance to OHKO
  • 252 Atk Garchomp Earthquake vs. 204 HP / 4 Def Arcanine: 152-182 (79.5 - 95.2%) -- guaranteed 2HKO

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

VGC 2017 is like GSC: no good team without a big fat Normal type. Und just like I back then eventually couldn't stand Blissey anymore, I'm having a hard time running Porygon2 today -- so I'll just have good old Snorri Snorrisson in every team again. How very bland and predictable.

Anyway: Snorlax with Lele is actually cooler than just Snorlax and whatever because now you have something that removes Fighting mons like Hariyama in one click, regaining some strength against the Trick Room matchup that should normally be prepared at this point. Well, except it's still hard for them, and Trick Room is really hard for Driflele. You may be able to check Porygon2 with Taunt, Ultra Beasts, specific Z-moves and all that stuff, but none of it would help you against, say, Mimikyu or Follow Me, and then things are getting ugly. Snorlax is just safe there, and it's so rock-solid (screw you Gigalith, you can't win without luck) that I can actually just forget about running all the other stuff. It proved very valuable in the tournament, I ended up facing various Trick Room components in more than 2/3 of my tournament run.

Nothing new about the set, same as always. Curse once and hit hard with Frustration, High Horsepower for best coverage (including the very threatening Nihilego and common Trick Room attackers that resist Normal), and Recycle for these situations where removing this best plushie of all time is just a little too hard.

  • 252+ Atk Water Bubble Araquanid Hydro Vortex (160 BP) vs. 20 HP / 252 Def Snorlax: 207-244 (86.9 - 102.5%) -- 18.8% chance to OHKO

  • 236+ Atk Snorlax Return vs. 0 HP / 0 Def Garchomp: 88-105 (48 - 57.3%) -- 91.4% chance to 2HKO
  • 236+ Atk Snorlax Return vs. 252 HP / 4 Def Araquanid: 90-106 (51.4 - 60.5%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
  • +1 236+ Atk Snorlax Return vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Tapu Koko: 144-171 (98.6 - 117.1%) -- 93.8% chance to OHKO
  • +1 236+ Atk Snorlax Return vs. 244 HP / 92 Def Eviolite Porygon2: 84-99 (43.9 - 51.8%) -- 9.4% chance to 2HKO
  • +1 236+ Atk Snorlax High Horsepower vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Muk-Alola: 200-236 (94.3 - 111.3%) -- 68.8% chance to OHKO
  • +1 236+ Atk Snorlax High Horsepower vs. 204 HP / 4 Def Arcanine: 188-222 (98.4 - 116.2%) -- 87.5% chance to OHKO

Death Squad (Magnezone) @ Electrium Z
Ability: Sturdy
Level: 50
EVs: 92 HP / 4 Def / 156 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
- Thunderbolt
- Flash Cannon
- Magnet Rise
- Protect

Maggi brings the seasoning. Some/many hate it, I like it. I agree that Arcanine and Garchomp can be quite demotivational in many endeavours to make good use of Magnezone, but if we just allow ourselves to forget the necessary evil for a moment, nothing's changed since London: literally half the Metagame can't hit Magnezone well. Gigalith without Earthquake, Porygon2, Nihilego, Muk, Koko, Drifblim, Ninetales, and the list goes on. Additionally, it actually has the high Special Attack you'd expect from an Electric type, unlike that one charged chicken over there, you know...

This time, I ripped it from Viera without changing a thing, and I'm happy with it. The double STABs along with Protect and the Z-nuke are self-explanatory, it's just that filler move that is moderately hard to work with. Magnet Rise is pure situationality and I never ended up clicking it during the tournament at least. I did have plans to use it once or twice in some matchups actually, but games played out in different ways. At this point I still like to keep it because if the possibilities I'm seeing, and because all other options are just as situational. Discharge or Hidden Power Ice would be the best so you have more for Lightning Rod or hitting Garchomp respectively, but Discharge's damage is rather pitiful without Terrain and I'd rather deal with Garchomp in different ways (and even then, Magnet Rise can situationally help right there). Substitute and Toxic seem possible too, so use whatever you like best when running a similar team. Just make sure to always pick Sturdy as Ability because having two Items with one of them being Focus Sash is fucking great on a mon that's still offensive.

The full Speed unfortunately is just necessary on poor slow Magnezone, in order to outspeed +Speed Pheromosa, Modest Scarf Lele, Jolly +1 Gyarados and other stuff in Tailwind, also helpful for slow Finis and most Celesteelas outside of Tailwind. About the split between the rest, I'm not completely sure if these calcs show just what Viera actually wanted, but they look decent enough.

  • 156+ SpA Magnezone Gigavolt Havoc (175 BP) vs. 12 HP / 124 SpD Kartana: 137-162 (100.7 - 119.1%) -- guaranteed OHKO
  • 156+ SpA Magnezone Gigavolt Havoc (175 BP) vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Tapu Koko in Electric Terrain: 145-171 (99.3 - 117.1%) -- 93.8% chance to OHKO
  • 156+ SpA Magnezone Gigavolt Havoc (175 BP) vs. +1 4 HP / 252 SpD Drifblim: 234-276 (103.5 - 122.1%) -- guaranteed OHKO

  • 252 SpA Life Orb Tapu Koko Thunderbolt vs. 92 HP / 4 SpD Magnezone in Electric Terrain: 66-78 (42 - 49.6%) -- guaranteed 3HKO
  • 252+ SpA Tapu Lele Psychic vs. 92 HP / 4 SpD Magnezone in Psychic Terrain: 69-81 (43.9 - 51.5%) -- 10.5% chance to 2HKO
  • -1 4 Atk Kartana Sacred Sword vs. 92 HP / 4 Def Magnezone: 68-82 (43.3 - 52.2%) -- 10.5% chance to 2HKO

Sancta Terra (Garchomp) (M) @ Groundium Z
Ability: Rough Skin
Level: 50
EVs: 12 HP / 228 Atk / 12 Def / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
- Earthquake
- Poison Jab
- Substitute
- Protect

Apparently, it's nigh impossible to build a decent team without Arcanine and Garchomp in this format. And look, what little of a surprise it is as soon as you notice they they, if you will, are literally Landorus split up in two. Same thing as 2014 with Garchomp and Salamence, you can't fool me. This world is addicted to Landorus.

Anyway, here's the thing: I needed something for Muk, some more for Gigalith, something for other Garchomps and just something fast and reliable. Garchomp's really good at all of that, also adds another Z-move, and I do like to have 2 of them in a team if I can. Substitute is the one thing that I took from Thowra's team, versatile generic move, and super helpful in a bunch of situations, definitely more than Swords Dance in this team. Swords Dance is just awkward when you lack the partners to Earthquake with and also rely on Tailwind sometimes (especially when you don't even have Jolly!). Speaking of the Nature and Speed know, I appreciate the Slowchomp fad for one and one reason only: less Speed ties, because mine's just faster! And if a Speed tie in fact does get revealed, then...

252 Atk Garchomp Tectonic Rage (180 BP) vs. 12 HP / 12 Def Garchomp: 159-187 (85.9 - 101%) -- 6.3% chance to OHKO

Oh yeah, and about the second attack: Fini is annoying and Poison Jab is a single-target move that doesn't miss. Fire Fang over it would allow me to pick Garchomp in Celesteela matchups more easily, but I don't know, I already have more answers to Celesteela than I have to Fini. And Rock Slide without STAB isn't my thing because I never get flinches that matter and its damage is worthless.

Using the Team

It was quite easy at least to me in the early days, but it's safe to say that things have changed at this point. Driflele got noticed and some people even go as far as coming up with horrible memes just designed to beat Driflele and worthless for other teams. Half of them is probably well beatable by smart play, but ladders are always the worst anyway, so... Anyway, yes, other than that, I found it to be quite easy to pick up the team because it almost perfectly fits my "controlled offense" mindset and preference. I like to win games quickly by knockouts by damage but I delay risks as long as possible and reasonable, and well, that's what I do when running this team.

About the leads, if all of this is just confusing you, you already catch a lot of situations just by leading Driflele or Lele with Arcanine every game, and then having whatever in the back. That's really predictable, but it's safe for the most part. And for the more advanced stuff...some is plain logical, other needs you to get a good feel of everything. If Drifblim's fast enough without Unburden already, you can keep Lele safely in the back. When you'd want Tailwind rather late than early, you can consider bringing Drifblim from behind. When Drifblim just makes no sense to bring whatsoever, then yes, don't bring it -- no Speed control is fine, we have the bulk and priority to manage it. When someone is threatened by Magnezone, you can try to bring it right in the front. And when you see a Nihilego...that happens to be really threatening and is probably the very first thing where you'd want to consider deviating from a standard lead. Anyway, matches have played out quite varyingly for me while using the team. Sometimes, I would just stubbornly bring the same in the same order every game and be fine, and sometimes (especially in the slower games) I would bring up to 3 different leads to avoid being too predictable. In fact, predictability is Driflele's probably biggest weakness, and I've effectively erased that part right here.

And for playing out the games, as I said, I personally like to play conservatively, and this is part of why the team is as defensively solid as it is. The following applies to every game of competitive Pokémon, really, but I think this team is quite nice to practice it in the first place: think carefully about every move and what it accomplishes. Think about what has to happen, what has to be prevented and what has to be accepted in order to win the game at the end. Always look ahead far enough. And for this team specifically...I just have no idea what to say, it's so simple and flexible at the same time, haha.

About the unsolved problems the team has, I've already mentioned Nihilego a bunch, and another problem is what we commonly refer to as cheese. Eevee is basically an autoloss and other Snorlaxes can be difficult to handle as well. For the weather cheese, I've decided to have an autowin against rain, which in turn means that sun will still be dangerous, for the lack of another strong tech somewhere else. Can't win 'em all, same as every time. You can probably find less of the really rough matchups by running a different standard team, but it will also mean that you'll have less easy matchups and have to work harder for every win. With Driflele (as well as other teams I preferred in the past), some wins are just really easy and straightforward. Anyway, if we are allowed to ignore the dumb stuff, the team should still be decently runnable at events, possibly with some adjustments.

And as far as these adjustments go...well yes, I've made a few between the IDM and now. I'll post a quick follow-up in one week, till then you can try to figure out on your own what I did. And for the actual tournament report, as explained in the intro, that's exclusive to the German version (but it does contain pictures of the matchups). Alola!

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