Hello everyone, I’m Davide Carrer and this is my Berlin IC Team report, with which I have reached an unexpected final (I apologize to Giorgio Orlandi for suggesting him not to draft me for his Berlin Fantasy League).
Long story short about me: I began playing VGC after watching 2016 World Final. I was almost 23 years old at that time, definitely an unusual age to get into this. After four months I got second place at my very first regional (2017 Leipzig); just over a year later, I cut my first International (2017 London) and now, two and a half years since I started, I did even better by getting second place at Berlin and earning my first two travel awards at once (Columbus International in June and then World). In between, two World Day 2 qualifications, both times coming from Day 1, without doing exceptionally well.
I decided to bet on XernDon after playing it almost by chance at the Zelda Challenge, getting my third loss only at the last round of swiss. I put Ditto without much thought, sometimes it did its job.
I realized that the losses were all due to teambuilding mistakes, and therefore they could have been avoided in the future: I lost a mirror match because I didn’t have Tapu Fini, I lost to Bronzong because I didn’t have the Z-Move on Incineroar and lastly I lost to a RayOgre Koko Metagross because I didn’t have Togedemaru, which Simone Sanvito was testing as the sixth XernDon slot.
From that point on, my pal Leonardo Bonanomi and I (this year we’re almost always playing the very same teams) began chatting with Simone a little more frequently, as Berlin was approaching. We exchanged opinions, laddered on Showdown, but most importantly played a ton of games between us to understand how to beat DaniHotaku’s infamous team (for those who don’t know, Rayquaza Lunala Purugly Ditto), something that ended up being worth it as Leonardo actually faced the guy in Berlin. In the end, our plan was to keep Xerneas in the back, to avoid getting copied by the opposing Scarf Ditto, and take full advantage of Purugly’s recharge turn following Giga Impact.
Once the major problem was solved, we focused onto the troublesome RayOgre and YveOgre compositions. Togedemaru was super useful against Crobat variants, but a lot less if Gengar was there instead, as it couldn’t do much besides Fake Out and U-turn. At the first two Premier Challenges in Milan I played Sash Timid Amoonguss, winning the first one and bubbling the other as ninth seed. A few days later, I tested Smeargle at an unofficial tournament and noticed how bad my match-up against Gengar Incineroar Bronzong Kyogre was.
In the meantime, Japanese player Oisiihati tested with good results Z-Fighting Kartana to solve these match-ups. This success was repeated by Alekso Letexier, who was also in contact with Simone, easing the knowledge sharing from Japan to Italy. In fact, even when I tested it myself it seemed to be working, even though I wasn’t sure it would have worked as well in bo3 or in general against someone who knew Kartana’s set beforehand.
Xerneas @ Power Herb
Ability: Fairy Aura
EVs: 236 HP / 140 Def / 4 SpA / 100 SpD / 28 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Dazzling Gleam
Simply the best. It was really fun to play Lugia all throughout the Moon Series (with which I beat Flavio Del Pidio himself at Bolzano Special) with decent results, but it’s very important not to be influenced by past formats: right from the beginning of the Ultra Series I bet on Xerneas, cycling between Rayquaza, Lunala and Groudon as the second restricted. Whenever I tested a team without Xerneas, I was never able to make it through 1300s on Showdown (even though every non-Xerneas team I played was pure garbage).
The few times I have played Xerneas during the Sun and Moon Series, I was a firm supporter of the timid nature, as it could setup before the attacks of threats like Lunala. Now that there is Mega-Rayquaza, what is the point in investing so much into speed, if you’re just going to be knocked out by Dragon Ascent + Extreme Speed? This set is faster than -1 speed Mega-Rayquaza, but slower than -1 Mega-Salamence (at least 60 evs are needed for this), because I gave priority to defensive calcs. Notably, the Special Defense investment grants great chances to survive Fake Out + Light that Burns the Sky in Psychic Terrain with Light Screen up (in an Incineroar Necrozma lead scenario, they would usually go for Fake Out + Protect, then switching Lele in and Z-Move on the Xerneas), as suggested to me by Alekso.
4+ SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Fairy Aura Xerneas: 102-120 (50.4 – 59.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO
252+ Atk Choice Band Mega Rayquaza Dragon Ascent vs. 236 HP / 140 Def Xerneas: 195-229 (84.4 – 99.1%) — guaranteed 2HKO
252+ Atk Primal Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 236 HP / 140 Def Xerneas: 97-115 (41.9 – 49.7%) — guaranteed 3HKO
252 SpA Ultra Necrozma Light That Burns the Sky vs. 236 HP / 100 SpD Xerneas in Psychic Terrain through Light Screen: 188-222 (81.3 – 96.1%) — guaranteed 2HKO
252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 236 HP / 100 SpD Fairy Aura Xerneas: 100-118 (43.2 – 51%) — 4.7% chance to 2HKO
Groudon-Primal @ Red Orb
Ability: Desolate Land
EVs: 12 HP / 4 Def / 236 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Earth Power
Straight from Japan, this full special set capitalizes Groudon’s best move, which is Eruption and not Precipice Blades as you may think. Roar is very good, to the point that there were three Roar Groudons in Top 8 in Berlin. I didn’t play VGC16 much, but I guess it wasn’t as common back then due to the popularity of Smeargle; there weren’t many occasions to Roar opposing Xerneas, with the constant threats of Dark Void and Follow Me. I was fine being max speed, since it is important to attack before other Primals or other non-speed boosting natured Ubers: I felt way safer playing it as fast as I could. I always assume my Groudon will be attacking before other Groudons, if this doesn’t happen due to a lost speed tie, I’ll think about it later.
252+ SpA Primal Kyogre Ice Beam vs. 12 HP / 4 SpD Primal Groudon: 78-92 (44 – 51.9%) —
14.1% chance to 2HKO
Salamence @ Salamencite
EVs: 4 HP / 156 Atk / 92 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
– Hyper Voice
Just as I scrolled through the list of Intimidate users in VGC17, looking in vain for alternatives to Arcanine, I did the same with Mega Evolutions this year. If you play Xerneas, Groudon and Incineroar together, you’re in desperate need of a Groudon resist and you also need a Mega: nothing is as good as Salamence. Being able to deal consistent physical damage onto targets such as Tapu Fini is very important, since both my restricted are full special attackers. Moves I tested in place of Protect or Hyper Voice: Draco Meteor, Roar, Hidden Power Fighting (for Stakataka).
156 Atk Aerilate Mega Salamence Double-Edge vs. 252 HP / 140 Def Xerneas: 114-135 (48.9 – 57.9%) — 96.1% chance to 2HKO
92 SpA Aerilate Mega Salamence Hyper Voice vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Mega Gengar: 60-72 (35.9 – 43.1%) — 87.1% chance to 2HKO (after a Substitute)
252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Dazzling Gleam vs. 4 HP / 4 SpD Mega Salamence: 146-174 (85.3 – 101.7%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO
Incineroar @ Incinium Z
EVs: 236 HP / 124 Atk / 4 Def / 116 SpD / 28 Spe
– Low Kick
– Darkest Lariat
– Fake Out
This Incineroar is the purest essence of “countering your counters”. I never ever suffered for the lack of Flare Blitz, but I don’t know if I would have ever considered dropping it, if not for Sanvito’s advice. Flare Blitz would have been a way to hit Xerneas, but this team was not made to win a Xerneas Incineroar mirror lead, since my Xerneas was almost always going to be the slower one. It still may happen to bring Incineroar against opposing Xerneas (paired with FIni against XernAla, with Salamence/Fini+Ubers against X-Ray). The Z-Move and Low Kick deal with Bronzong and Stakataka, making it easier for Xerneas.
U-turn is undoubtedly Incineroar’s best move; most of the time, Fake Out is there just for psychological conditioning. Regarding the spread, but I wouldn’t recommend a non-adamant nature, as it is important to deal damage even at -1 (i.e. KOing Stakataka with +2 Moonblast and -1 Low Kick). A little more speed would come in handy in certain situations (like being faster than Mega Metagross, when Tailwind is up), but I preferred being able to U-turn out before Primals in Trick Room (U-Turning before Kyogre and after Bronzong or Stakataka’s Skill Swap in order to have harsh sunlight on the field).
124+ Atk Incineroar Low Kick (120 BP) vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Stakataka: 132-156 (78.5 – 92.8%) — guaranteed 2HKO
(-1) 124+ Atk Incineroar Malicious Moonsault vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Shadow Shield Lunala: 204-242 (95.7 – 113.6%) — 75% chance to OHKO
60+ SpA Primal Kyogre Origin Pulse vs. 236 HP / 116 SpD Incineroar: 168-200 (84 – 100%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO
252 SpA Primal Groudon Earth Power vs. 236 HP / 116 SpD Incineroar: 164-194 (82 – 97%) — guaranteed 2HKO
Tapu Fini @ Wiki Berry
Ability: Misty Surge
EVs: 244 HP / 12 Def / 252 SpD
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Icy Wind
– Heal Pulse
– Light Screen
Tapu Fini is a great Pokémon for obvious reasons; it becomes irreplaceable for any Xerndon team as it is extremely good at handling mirrors and psyspam; a good quartet is Tapu Fini Salamence Xerneas Groudon (Fini always in lead). I tested for a whole lot a fast set carrying Taunt, something really useful for mirrors, but I almost never survived Fake Out + boosted Moonblast. The moveset must be thought carefully: Icy Wind is a must; Haze also is, as a way to deal with Xerneas in a team with no Steel or Poison type moves; Light Screen replaced Taunt to handle the previously said match-ups; last but not least, one between Heal Pulse and Nature’s Madness in order to never be dead weight on the field. Do not underestimate Heal Pulse’s usefulness against Shedinja: it allows to stall it out until it runs out of PPs, even though I never tried doing it on DS and I’m unsure on how much it takes to select moves. Being min speed offered various advantages: I could Heal Pulse before Primals in Trick Room and after my Incineroar’s U-turn, allowing a super safe healing for the switch in; or also Icy Wind after opposing Incineroar’s U-turn. Note on the Berry: I feel like Sitrus Berrt is a superior choice since a cautious player will always play around the Wiki Berry and almost never let it activate.
(+2) 252+ SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 244 HP / 252+ SpD Tapu Fini: 144-169 (81.8 – 96%) — guaranteed 2HKO
Amoonguss @ Mental Herb
EVs: 12 HP / 244 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Rage Powder
– Grass Knot
The five mons mentioned above make a well-known core, but, as I previously said, they absolutely need a way to deal with RayOgres and YveOgres with Gengar and/or Crobat. As long as there won’t be an outbreak of Safety Goggles/Lum Berry Bronzong/Crobat or Safeguard, I think Amoonguss is the best option.
I usually bring it alongside Xerneas, Groudon and either Salamence or Incineroar, but in very specific situations I might consider benching one of the restricted.
Bonanomi’s opinion was crucial, because I was convinced to play Kartana, whereas he wasn’t; I changed it the day before the tournament. It is true that against Koko + Crobat you’re not free to Spore everything you want, but you can still Spore Crobat and the opponent will have to play basically without a Pokémon, since Tapu Koko is borderline useless, aside from setting the Electric Terrain. Clear Smog isn’t needed, since its purpose is not to beat Xerneas: after Harrogate and Cannes, Berlin was the third major tournament Leonardo and I played Amoonguss with no Poison move (in the first two we had After You instead of Protect). This particular spread, max speed with almost max special defense, was taken from a Japanese report, thus I have to thank once again the Land of the Rising Sun for offering interesting ideas.
(-1) 4 Atk Incineroar Flare Blitz vs. 12 HP / 0 Def Amoonguss: 134-162 (70.1 – 84.8%) — guaranteed 2HKO
4+ SpA Primal Kyogre Ice Beam vs. 12 HP / 244 SpD Amoonguss: 114-136 (59.6 – 71.2%) — guaranteed 2HKO
A German player at his first tournament. I managed to lose a game to mono-Uber Zekrom (Assault Vest and the only move it ever did was Rock Slide) and Z-Poison Landorus-Incarnate; it was only because of a crit, but it was still humiliating.
My opponent told me she didn’t even play a single game in the last two months.
A really talented player, who later got Top 32, and a not too optimal match-up (XernDon + Kangaskhan/Tornadus) caused my first loss of the tournament.
I was standing at the edge of a cliff facing a RayOgre with Normalium Z Purugly; I don’t know how, but I managed to come back after losing G1 and almost losing G2.
Tapu Fini’s spread came in handy to survive Salazzle’s Z-Poison for an easy G1 win. I lost G2 just as quickly, then I won G3 thanks to a brave turn 1 Geomancy and a small mistake of my opponent. I take this moment to thank him for helping me with the translation of this report.
Once I lost Game 1, Game 2 was tragicomic: a Precipice Blades miss directs towards my favour a game 1 would have lost, just to be overturned by a Double Protect and then overturned once again by my Xerneas critting his.
Since he lost only due to bad luck, I was confident he would have locked the same four mons. So I decided to bring Amoonguss for the first time in this tournament, stealing the game thanks to the Mental Herb to avoid Gengar’s Taunt and putting it to sleep. Amoonguss being faster than everything else under Tailwind was pretty useful.
Full mirror. I rightfully won G1 and proceeded to crit my way out for G2.
The only RayOgre I lost to in Berlin, thanks to a crucial freeze onto my Amoonguss right from Turn 1 of G1. I smoothly won G2, then in G3 I found myself in a position where my opponent would have won just by attacking with both his mons (Kyogre and Stakataka against my Incineroar and Xerneas) but he doesn’t and I don’t cover this play, with Stakataka surviving a +2 Dazzling Gleam and a -1 Low Kick. I fall into despair, because since I was going to lose no matter what if he made the right play, I should have gone for the misplay he in fact made. Losing G1 that way was crucial since I had no chance to adjust to what my opponent had brought G3. Day 2 was one step away and I missed my shot.
RayOgre+Whimsicott, Terrakion, Bronzong and Incineroar, a typical nightmarish team preview. I lost G1 after his Terrakion blocked my Geomancy with a -2 Rock Slide, allowing his Kyogre hit my Xerneas with a full power Water Spout. I won G2 against his Z-Trick Room Bronzong having a very hard time, not having brought neither Tapu Fini nor Amoonguss, thanks to not getting three turns of sleep. In a similar way I take G3, this time avoiding a crucial blind Hypnosis.
I don’t mind admitting I passed Day 1 due to a mix of luck in pairings and in games. I realized how thin the difference between a 7-2 and a 6-3 is. I’m gonna take Bonanomi’s case as an example: he would have definitely deserved to make it to Day 2 (he was playing the same team as mine), but he instead finished 6-3 after a much more difficult swiss. On the other hand, I feel I played god-like well the whole Day 2.
Round 10 vs Serkan Tas | WLW
Even before pairings came up, a clairvoyant Luca Lussignoli warned me about my team having an auto-loss against Serkan’s team, a RayOgre Koko Crobat. But instead I won, not without sweating: we came down to G3 with my full Amoonguss and Incineroar facing up his 35% Kyogre, full Crobat and full Rayquaza in the back. I redirected Kyogre’s Scald and took him down with a Darkest Lariat. Rayquaza, being Choice Band, had no choice but to obliterate Amoonguss with a Dragon Ascent and then fall to Incineroar’s Z-Move after the defense drop. In the end, Crobat failed to KO Incineroar with two Super Fangs and a U-turn; so I take it home with three Darkest Lariats
Round 11 vs Jaime Boyt | WW
Before Berlin, my record against Jamie was 0-3 (losing to marvellous things such as Z-Mirror Move Tapu Koko, Scarf Latios, Serperior Salazzle), so you may imagine how joyful I was when I saw the name of my new opponent after the repair. However, as seen on stream, Mental Herb Amoonguss completely turned an almost auto-loss match-up into a borderline auto-win one. Knowing him far too well, I was sure he was carrying Encore+Disable. I cautiously played while avoiding to do the same move twice, but it slipped through my mind on a crucial turn where he could have made the combo onto Groudon (even though I could have redirected it away). In any case, he was forced to do it onto Amoonguss and Mental Herb’s activation sealed the game.
Round 12 vs Enrico Mostallino | WW
Facing X-Ray Fini Incineroar, two very long matches took place. Notably, I finished G1 with a 3 vs 1 with all my mons being under 5% HP, and vice versa in G2, when my Xerneas won the 1 vs 4, being extremely careful not to give him a free switch to Fake Out + Haze.
Round 13 vs Luca Marcato | LWW
Against psyspam, it was a competition of whoever would have made the craziest play. I quickly lost G1 due to a surprising Roar coming off from his Groudon, but I won G2 back. In G3 I managed to come back from a difficult situation thanks to Tailwind.
Round 14 vs Melvin Keh | WW
Even though I had made a perfect Day 2 swiss until then, top cut wasn’t guaranteed yet. I won 2-0 a good mirror and sealed my second international cut out of two I played. I thank Melvin for the keychain from Singapore he gifted me.
Top 8 vs Kimo Nishimura | WLW
Among the various Steel-types paired with RayOgre, Ferrothorn is undoubtedly the most annoying for my team. With G3 coming to an end, I was one step away from losing an International trophy for the second time and the Columbus paid trip too. I thought all hope was lost. Groudon Amoonguss were left against his Tapu Koko, Ferrothorn and Kyogre in the back, but it couldn’t easily switch in since it wouldn’t have survived Earth Power + Grass Knot. I get the first turn right by not going for Eruption, with Tapu Koko protecting over my double-up and Ferrothorn going for Bulldoze. I get the second turn right again by getting a double KO with Eruption. Kyogre comes in, KOing Groudon while I protected Amoonguss expecting an Ice Beam. Then, it goes down to a 1 vs 1, Amoonguss against Kyogre, both at 70% health. It hangs on Ice Beam with 12 hp (the spread was crucial, since it wouldn’t have hanged on if it were max hp instead of max spdef) and I Spore. First turn of sleep, Grass Knot puts Kyogre in range of another. It is all up to a coinflip: Kyogre didn’t wake up and I made it to top 4. After such a heart-stopping endgame, you’ll understand why losing in finals was a lot less harsh than it should have been.
Top 4 vs Wolfe Glick | WW
Once again, Mental Herb Amoonguss turned an auto-loss into an auto-win: I just needed to be careful not to let Amoonguss faint to a double target (like Sludge Bomb or Super Fang + Ice Beam) unpunished and the hardest part was done.
The Grand Final
Finals vs Flavio Del Pidio | WLL
Let’s start from the end. Flavio seemed so sure of himself, given that the match-up was unanimously in his favour and he ended up G3 in a 70/30* losing position (see note below). But still, I give him credit for getting the 50/50 right and thus his win is more than deserved, I just hope I have been a more challenging opponent than expected. I know everyone at home watching must have thought that Xerneas was obviously going for Geomancy (in fact, in a very similar situation against Ashton Cox, I called it right, doubling the deer), but winning the 3 vs 1 against Nihilego wasn’t super easy. After thinking about it in the following days, I came up with a plan that would have worked if he went for Clear Smog, but I’m not sure I could have made it up in 40 seconds. That plan was going for another Geomancy and switching out Salamence (since it was at -1 speed) for Groudon; his only way out would have been predicting it and critting Groudon with the Z-move, or attacking Xerneas and then getting a triple Protect to stall out the Tailwind. Funnily enough, if he went for Sludge Bomb instead of Clear Smog, it could have KOed Xerneas right away (it was a roll in my favor if it had 252 spatk), bringing the game into a nasty 50/50 (Protect + Tailwind or attacking with Groudon) that I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed. Actually, Flavio’s Nihilego just had 196 spatk, so it couldn’t have knocked out my Xerneas without a crit. In the end, I’m proud of how I played; the absolute perfection would have been required for me to win.
*This percentage comes from the 50% of guessing whether or not Xerneas would Protect and roughly 60% (waiting for Gianluca Ghosty Grassi’s final verdict) in his favor of winning the 2 vs 1, given the moves we chose and factoring rolls and crits on both sides. Moonblast + Eruption + Earth Power would have done around 89-106%, so I could have still lost even without the crit on my Xerneas. It should be noted that Dazzling Gleam also took the second highest roll on my Groudon, further reducing the damage from Eruption, so evaluating every possible scenario is not so trivial.
G1 went exactly as planned, forcing the exchange to get rid of Nihilego as soon as possible. Then, it was just a matter of putting Flavio’s Tapu Fini in range of Salamence’s Double-Edge (it was probably a roll, but I can’t be blamed for not expecting a bold nature) and click Geomancy.
I knew the same plan wouldn’t work twice, so for G2 I made a lead I didn’t plan beforehand. I thought he could lead Nihilego and Rayquaza just as he did against Melvin Keh in top 4; and in that case leading Salamence + Groudon would have worked well enough, I just had to Tailwind + Protect. That was a mistake I could have avoided, because I know for personal experience that it’s hard to bring Tapu Fini into a game and not leading with it. He seriously did lead that way just because he was scared of Shedinja. I ended up in a pretty bad position after Flavio’s Tapu Fini survived Double-Edge and then Hazed my Xerneas’ boosts, but even if I predicted that by going for Double-Edge on Rayquaza and Dazzling Gleam, I wouldn’t have been in a great position after Nihilego’s entrance. More than Nihilego itself, it’s the move Clear Smog that made the match-up so hard for me. Then, I could have easily gotten the double KO with Double-Edge on Xerneas and Moonblast on Tapu Fini, but then I would have been swept by Nihilego; I thought my only way out was getting the double KO with Hyper Voice and switching Xerneas for Incineroar, in order to Fake Out + Tailwind and then win the speed tie between Nihilego and Incineroar to knock it out with the Z-move. I didn’t (and I didn’t even expect to, since the Light Screen was up) and actually Salamence was in range of Extreme Speed, so I really had no way to win. In retrospect, I should have tried the other lead that worked when I tested: Incineroar + Tapu Fini, Fake Out the Nihilego and Light Screen, in order to withstand the Z-move; then play it out with Groudon and Xerneas in the back.
Lesson learnt: first of all, always monitor the latest reports from Japan, the guys out there know their stuff; secondly, just as the antimeta must counter the standard, the standard must be refined to perfection to counter the teams born under the assumption of having a good match-up against you. And, maybe, this is an even more interesting challenge, but it’s clear that a certain level of experience is required to look beyond the same 4-5 Pokémon on every team and appreciate the small, but essential, differences (this part does sound like “to be fair, you have to have a very high IQ to…”).
I would like to thank the friends I built and tested with, because a well-done preparation makes all the difference in the world. I also thank the friends which I have shared the vacation with in Berlin, because there would be no meaning in travelling solely for pushing buttons on a Nintendo 3DS. Lastly, shout-out to all the spectators who cheered for me and also for Flavio, especially the Italian audience who exceeded every expectation in terms of numbers.
Next stops, Columbus and Washington D.C!