2023 Portland Regionals Top 8 Report

Hello Hat Lovers,

We’re back! After eight years since attending my first one, I finally top cut a regional. This is the report of my team building process, the final product, and my tournament run.


Given that I was not able to prep for Portland very well after returning from EUIC three weeks prior, I decided to use some variant of Palance for this regional  (Flutter Mane / Amoonguss / Arcanine / Palafin). Palance is a stable team that rarely gives away big advantages per turn, and while it also often only creates incremental progress, I figured that a team like this would give me the best chance of success. I figured that because of my poor prep, Palance could allow me to simply outplay my opponent even if I did lack understanding of the meta game and match ups. I also had some understanding of the archetype given it is what I used at London, and the fact that it was such an established core meant that I did not have to prove to myself with practice that the team could succeed.

I used Ting-Lu and Gothitelle as the last two at EUIC and I tested the most vanilla version of the team with Baxcalibur over Gothitelle, but did not feel either version suited what I wanted to accomplish with the team. Gothitelle felt like a sidegrade rather than something that improved match ups, and I did not want to use Baxcalibur as I felt people would know the match up far better than I did. Despite its success, the Baxcalibur version also felt like it could be something that people could overprepare for. 

After testing different ideas and Lexar Dondozo, Chi-Yu + Iron Bundle was the only duo that I resonated with and thought would be unlikely to be overprepared for, but I had no idea how to build around it. I found Dondozo too difficult to use. I figured that it would probably be okay to mush Chi-Yu + Iron Bundle together with Palance even if doing so meant that I had two Fire types and two Water types. Despite this, I second guessed bringing Baxcalibur + Palance and only submitted my teamlist on the car ride to Portland. I decided that the process that lead to committing to Palance + Chi-Yu + Iron Bundle gave me a better chance to succeed than the reasoning to use Baxcalibur, even if the Baxcalibur version was a more established team.

Iron Bundle generally has a positive match up versus opposing Palance, which was suggested to me as an important goal to meet when deciding one of the last slots on Palance. The combination of Iron Bundle + Chi-Yu also gave me an abundance of options to break Amoonguss, which I felt was the backbone of Palance’s stability. This team did have structural issues when I wanted to bring Palafin, though. Palafin was awkward when I brought it without Arcanine and Amoonguss because Iron Bundle and Chi-Yu are difficult Pokemon to switch in. My general game plan for the tournament was to bring Palance whenever I was unfamiliar with the match up, and to bring Iron Bundle + Chi-Yu if I faced Palance. This plan did not work as intended at all as I only brought Palance to one set and somehow did not face opposing Palance, but the team performed well anyway.

Flutter Mane @ Choice Specs
Ability: Protosynthesis
Level: 50
Tera Type: Fairy
EVs: 108 HP / 76 Def / 116 SpA / 4 SpD / 204 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Dazzling Gleam
– Moonblast
– Shadow Ball
– Psyshock

  • 252 Atk Sword of Ruin Chien-Pao Ice Spinner vs. 108 HP / 76 Def Flutter Mane: 121-144 (84 – 100%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO
  • 252+ SpA Flutter Mane Shadow Ball vs. 108 HP / 4 SpD Flutter Mane: 120-144 (83.3 – 100%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO
  • Jump point in special attack
  • Outspeeds Lycanroc, as well as other Flutter Mane that speed creep Garchomp

Fairly vanilla Flutter Mane set, outside of Psyshock. It was suggested to me in order to hit Amoonguss and Pokemon that Tera Poison to resist Fairy. I clicked it twice at Portland, only once successfully, but it did have an awesome moment on stream (more on that later!). I thought Psyshock was a fantastic idea as even though moves like Thunderbolt and Power Gem were better moves in a vacuum, I rarely would actually be willing to lock into them, and Psyshock complements Flutter Mane’s STAB moves better. The EV spread is inefficient, but it performed well enough, and I did not have time to change it.

Amoonguss @ Sitrus Berry
Ability: Regenerator
Level: 50
Tera Type: Water
EVs: 244 HP / 180 Def / 4 SpA / 60 SpD / 20 Spe
Bold Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Pollen Puff
– Rage Powder
– Spore
– Protect

  • 220 Atk Tera-Flying Roaring Moon Acrobatics (110 BP) vs. 244 HP / 180+ Def Amoonguss: 186-222 (84.5 – 100.9%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO
  • 252+ SpA Choice Specs Tera-Steel Gholdengo Make It Rain vs. 244 HP / 60 SpD Amoonguss: 190-224 (86.3 – 101.8%) — 12.5% chance to OHKO

These calcs were from my Series 2 Amoonguss that I kept out of familiarity, and never found newer calcs to change the spread. 220 Atk is the highest attack that speed boosting Roaring Moon can have, which was relevant back then in order to survive and be able to redirect its partner. If Roaring Moon was attack boosting, its partner would often move first and both Pokemon could be redirected. The speed was to Pollen Puff my Tera Grass Pokemon before opposing Amoonguss could KO them with Pollen Puff, which annoyingly comes up fairly often. Otherwise, a vanilla Amoonguss set.

Arcanine @ Safety Goggles
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
Tera Type: Grass
EVs: 244 HP / 4 Atk / 44 Def / 20 SpD / 196 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Flare Blitz
– Extreme Speed
– Will-O-Wisp
– Protect

  • Outspeeds Great Tusk

I honestly do not remember what the defensive benchmarks do, as it was something I hastily put together for EUIC and never found worthwhile to change. The speed did feel nice, though. Tera Water felt better in a vacuum, but I felt Grass improved specific match ups more, which was beneficial because Arcanine rarely Terastalizes anyway. Maybe Water is still better, but it did not come up enough for it to matter as Arcanine was the least brought Pokemon at Portland. Otherwise, this is also a vanilla set; I do not have Howl as I do not have Baxcalibur and only Palafin can benefit from it.

Palafin @ Mystic Water
Ability: Zero to Hero
Level: 50
Tera Type: Grass
EVs: 236 HP / 252 Atk / 20 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Jet Punch
– Wave Crash
– Haze
– Protect

Vanilla set, apart from Tera Grass instead of Tera Water. This was done because it improves the mirror greatly, as much of people’s gameplans versus Palafin was to Rage Powder it. I felt that Palance as a team handles Rage Powder quite poorly, and Grass Palafin can Jet Punch Flutter Mane and Arcanine through redirection. Tera Grass does mean that my Baby Palafin plays are almost nonexistent, making my turn 1 plays much more predictable, but that was a tradeoff that I felt was worthwhile. Somehow I had the only Haze Palafin in day 2 of Portland as many people have been opting for other moves and finding their Dondozo counters elsewhere. I felt that Haze still had other applications outside of beating Dondozo, and because my Palafin is not Tera Water, it can still beat the most common Dondozo set of Tera Grass Tera Blast.

Chi-Yu @ Focus Sash
Ability: Beads of Ruin
Level: 50
Tera Type: Ghost
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Heat Wave
– Dark Pulse
– Overheat
– Protect

Standard set. I briefly had Modest but I was losing mirrors and got outrun by Great Tusk too often. I considered Tera Grass, but never had time to adequately test it, and I felt that my Amoonguss match up was good enough that I did not need it. I figured Tera Ghost was fine because it was the most common Tera. Tera Ghost had a useful immunity to Extreme Speed, and when paired with Flutter Mane, I could have two Pokemon immune to Fake Out, which helped against Trick Room leads.

Iron Bundle @ Booster Energy
Ability: Quark Drive
Level: 50
Tera Type: Ice
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Freeze-Dry
– Hydro Pump
– Icy Wind
– Protect

Standard set. I briefly tested Safety Goggles to counter Palance even better, but I found myself losing mirrors too often. Iron Bundle without Booster Energy could be Icy Winded and swiftly KOed by a fast partner like Flutter Mane. Tera Ghost to dodge Extreme Speed did not come up very often in practice so it was only briefly considered, and Tera Ice improved many lines significantly; when paired with Beads of Ruin, Tera Ice Freeze Dry could pick up surprise KOes on Pokemon as bulky as Amoonguss and Palafin. Many people opt not to use Hydro Pump on Iron Bundle because of its accuracy, however, I felt that despite how frustrating it is to use, the coverage with Hydro Pump was necessary for me. It is still also only Iron Bundle’s third most used attack as on this team I mostly click Icy Wind and Beads of Ruin boosted Freeze Drys. 

The Tournament

Opponents’ team lists are linked.

Round 1 – Ben Larson (WW) (5-4 finish)

I recognize my opponent’s name but do not remember from where; Ben mentioned before the set that they had made day 2 of back to back regionals prior to Portland, which is likely where I saw their name. I do not remember this set very well. Thunder Wave Scream Tail was annoying to play around, but all I remember is that Iron Bundle gave my opponent trouble, and in game 2, I got a crucial max turn sleep to seal the set. Also in this set Chi-Yu missed its only attack of the entire tournament, and it was a Heat Wave target that did not matter. In my fourth tournament of this season, I finally won round 1!

Record: 1-0

Round 2 – Alexander Padgett (WW) (4-5 finish)

This was the only set that I brought the Palance four. In game 1 my opponent committed their Tera too early on Arcanine, fearing an attack from my Intimidated Palafin. This allowed me to Will-O-Wisp their Arcanine which made it easier to control. In game 2 I was in a familiar Arcanine + Amoonguss mirror. I learned from having played this position many times prior that it is safer to simply hold the position than to risk Palafin getting Will-O-Wisped on the switch in, however, my Amoonguss got crit by Flare Blitz which made the game much more difficult to play. In the end game I Hazed away my Arcanine and Palafin’s Intimidates and only barely finished off a burned Tera Poison Ting-Lu with Jet Punch + Flare Blitz + Wave Crash.

Record: 2-0

Round 3 – Blake Zahari (WLW) (5-4 finish)

In game 1 I anticipated the Trick Room mode and led Flutter Mane + Chi-Yu, intending on Terastalizing Chi-Yu to block Fake Out and overwhelm my opponent with strong spread moves. They instead lead Killowattrel, and I am in immediate trouble as I have nothing to stop Tailwind and have poor resources to stall it out safely. However, I win this game off of an Air Slash miss onto my Amoonguss, which bought me an extra turn to stall out Tailwind. On turn 1 of game 2 my opponent makes a good play in Protecting Killowattrel in fear of Icy Wind + Heat Wave, and Garchomp gets good damage off on my Pokemon. I would have been able to stall out Tailwind when my Flutter Mane survived a double up, however, Killowattrel paralyzed my Flutter Mane with Thunderbolt and I drop game 2. I guess that makes up for the Air Slash miss? In game 3 I lead Flutter Mane with Iron Bundle instead of Chi-Yu + Bundle so I can more safely deal with Garchomp + Killowattrel; I can deny Tailwind with a double up and Garchomp is not an immediate threat to my Pokemon. My opponent instead leads Iron Hands + Farigiraf and I am in serious trouble if I do not play turn 1 correctly. I figured they’d be highly unlikely to actually Fake Out my Ghost type, so I Tera Fairy my Flutter Mane and OHKO Farigiraf with Moonblast to deny Trick Room, and the game is virtually over from there.

Record: 3-0

Round 4 – Matt Walker (WW) (4-5 finish)

Solo Tatsugiri. I don’t remember this set very well; all I remember is that I really hate playing against Chien-Pao + Dragapult, especially when Dragapult Teras. All I can remember is that in game 2 I OHKOed Dragapult with Freeze Dry + a switch to Chi-Yu.

Record: 4-0

Round 5 – Peter Chen (WLW) (8-1, 9-4 finish)

Peter would end up making it on stream a couple rounds later and made day 2 with an 8-1 record. Apart from maybe my future sets against Nick Navarre, this match up was probably the least comfortable to play. I can’t say that I know my lines versus Hawlucha very well. I don’t remember game 1 apart from that I won. In game 2 I was ultra spooked by Sandy Shocks and committed my Tera to Flutter Mane to OHKO it (this was not successful, as Sandy Shocks switched to Indeedee to take the boosted Moonblast). This was probably a mistake as I needed to Tera my Amoonguss in order to deal with Hawlucha and Armarouge. Game 3 is when I figured out that the position I should have been playing to was Tera Water Amoonguss + Chi-Yu. Next to redirection, my opponent cannot hit Chi-Yu with anything and cannot OHKO Amoonguss even with boosted Hawlucha. I play the end game a little messily but still manage to close out the game and the set.

Record: 5-0

Round 6 – Allan Martinez (WLW) (8-1, 10-4 finish)

I may be mistaken and may have actually lost game 1 and won game 2. I don’t remember the first two games very well other than I thought my match up versus Maushold + Annihilape + Gholdengo was fine because I had a lot of fast offensive threats, but could still very well lose if I got calls wrong. Chi-Yu + Bundle exerts a lot of pressure on Gholdengo, and if it turns into a Water type, Flutter Mane can finish it off. I make a mistake in game 3 not realizing that my opponent can Icy Wind + Make it Rain to KO my Flutter Mane. My judgment slipped for a moment and thought that Iron Bundle was not strong enough to stop Flutter Mane from KOing Gholdengo, so I was safe to just attack. Oops. This led to an end game where I had to call whether or not Iron Bundle would attack Amoonguss or Palafin, and I manage to call it exactly each time and KO Ting-Lu with two Jet Punches (crucially I did not Wave Crash because I could not afford to take recoil). This led to Palafin surviving Freeze Dry with single digit HP, as Palafin KOed Iron Bundle with a second Wave Crash.

Record: 6-0

Round 7 – Nick Navarre (WLL) (9-0, 13-3 finish)

Hilariously the first of three times I get paired against Nick in this tournament. In game 1 he doubles into a Protecting Chi-Yu with Dragonite and Flutter Mane as Iron Bundle Icy Winds. A second Icy Wind KOes Dragonite and Chi-Yu finishes off -2 speed Flutter Mane, which led to the only game I won versus Nick. In the end game of game 2 his Tera Fairy Flutter Mane was in Extreme Speed range from my Arcanine, and I correctly call its Protect and Will-O-Wisp the Great Tusk and he Headlong Rushes to KO my Flutter Mane. At this point I probably should have won the set had I known that a burned and Intimidated Great Tusk cannot 2HKO Arcanine without a crit, as I could Extreme Speed Flutter Mane, take a Headlong Rush, take a second Headlong Rush, and KO minus 3 defense Great Tusk with Flare Blitz (I guess there was a line where he could side target to avoid taking a defense drop to survive Flare Blitz and put me in range of a second HLR after recoil, but Flare Blitz at -2 defense + Extreme Speed still likely KOes Great Tusk from there). My lack of practice showed there, but I maybe should have known that calc anyway. I’m not sure. I don’t remember game 3 other than I probably got rolled by his leads of Abomasnow + Flutter Mane as I did not get to see the fourth Pokemon. 

Record: 6-1

Round 8 – Grant Laird (WW) (6-3 finish)

In game 1 my opponent led with Chi-Yu and I figured that because it was a Nasty Plot set, it was likely slower than my Arcanine, so I doubled into it with Baby Jet Punch and Flare Blitz to KO it. The end of game 2 comes down to whether or not my Chi-Yu can KO Gyarados from >50% with Dark Pulse. Gyarados survives as I mentally prepare for game 3, however, Gyarados flinches, and Chi-Yu finishes it off with a second Dark Pulse as I seal a day 2 finish. Unfortunately my opponent also lost their last round to miss day 2. I also burned Gyarados earlier with Heat Wave which may or may not have mattered, and I definitely felt awful for my opponent that the Dark Pulse flinch cascaded into their missing day 2.

Record: 7-1

Round 9 – Masanobu Suzuki (WW) (7-2, 9-5 finish)

Winning this set still mattered given that records carry over to day 2, but the pressure was definitely off at this point. In game 1 I was in a bad spot versus burned +1 Kingambit + Talonflame versus my two Water types. I was down to my last two and they still had an unrevealed final Pokemon. I figured I needed to KO Kingambit on this turn and win an end game where I force Talonflame to break its Gale Wings, Jet Punch it, and maybe win any sort of 1 v 1. Thankfully Talonflame does not set up Tailwind before it breaks its Gale Wings as I KO Flying Kingambit with Freeze Dry + Wave Crash. I then Jet Punch Talonflame and Freeze Dry the Garchomp to win game 1. In game 2 my opponent runs back their same leads of Iron Bundle and Kingambit into my Iron Bundle and Chi-Yu. I correctly anticipate a Sucker Punch + Hydro Pump double up into Chi-Yu as I Protect and Freeze Dry the Iron Bundle for 90%. On the next turn I opt for a speed tie because I could not find a better play, and figured that it was in my favor anyway because I only needed to hit an Icy Wind and my opponent needed to hit Hydro Pump for it to be a negative outcome for me. My luck continues as I win the speed tie to KO Iron Bundle, and I also get the roll to KO Kingambit with a single target Heat Wave. Thankfully this set ended in two games as I then had time to watch Randy also seal his day 2 invite, while on the official stream!

Record: 8-1

Day 2

Round 10 – Gavin Michaels (LWW*) (10-4 finish)

Before this round started one of my previous opponents pointed out to me that I incorrectly had Protosynthesis as the ability on my Iron Bundle. Strangely neither I nor 8/9 of my day 1 opponents noticed this. I tell the judges and receive a game 1 loss for this round, but thankfully, they let me keep my Iron Bundle, likely because it is impossible for it to have Protosynthesis. Even beyond needing it for the rest of my tournament, I was extra relieved because I knew I would need Iron Bundle in this match up. In game 1 Gavin leads Amoonguss and Pelipper into my two Water types. I badly wanted to bring Chi-Yu to this match up just for Beads of Ruin + Freeze Dry but it felt deranged to bring a Fire type versus Rain. Because I did not have that play available, I double into Pelipper with Jet Punch and Freeze Dry, not able to find a better play, figuring that my opponent would Hurricane an obvious Palafin switch into Amoonguss. They Protect as Iron Bundle gets Spored. I don’t remember how I got out of such a bad turn 1 but the end game was Grass Palafin + Flutter Mane versus Amoonguss + Azumarill. I double into Azumarill with Wave Crash and Shadow Ball as Amoonguss Rage Powders and Azumarill KOes Flutter Mane. In hindsight it would have been better to double into Amoonguss and play towards a Play Rough miss as Palafin KOes Azumarill with two Wave Crashes. However, I missed the fact that Rage Powder meant that my attacks would have been split because Shadow Ball would get redirected and Wave Crash would still hit Azumarill. However, I crit the Azumarill out of Rain which knocked it down to Jet Punch range. Both Azumarill and Amoonguss are in range to be KOed and at this point the game comes down to Protect mindgames. I insta lock Jet Punch into Azumarill, thinking that my opponent might be able to read my body language, and the longer I pondered my move, the more likely it would be that I’d make something other than the obvious play of Protecting Palafin. I’m not sure if this actually worked as intended but I called the play correctly as Azumarill doesn’t Protect against a Jet Punch KO, Grass Palafin survives a Pollen Puff with single digit HP, and on the next turn, Palafin finishes of Amoonguss. In game 2 I committed heresy by bringing a Fire type instead of Amoonguss versus Rain, which allowed me to OHKO Azumarill with Tera Ice + Beads of Ruin boosted Freeze Dry. I KO Grass Iron Hands with Moonblast + Rain boosted Wave Crash to seal the game (I did also crit the Iron Hands from <50% with Wave Crash, but I assume that because of the Rain boost, it would have KOed anyway. I’m honestly not sure though). 

Record: 9-1

Round 11 – Scott Iwafuchi (WW) (11-3 finish)

I don’t have much recollection of game 1 other than I Wave Crashed Ting-Lu on turn 1 with Baby Palafin. In game 2, Palafin survives with single digit HP once again, and I am able to get a crucial Jet Punch off through Rage Powder against Flutter Mane. The end game of game 2 comes down to sleep turns and accuracy with my Chi-Yu and Bundle. My good fortune stays alive as Chi-Yu gets a first turn wake, double connects Heat Wave, and Iron Bundle connects Hydro Pump to finish off Iron Hands.

Record: 10-1

Round 12 – Nick Navarre (LL) (13-3 finish)

Round two versus Nick. At this point all of our games start to become jumbled so hopefully I can still remember this specific set. In the end game of g1 my opponent was down to an Extreme Speed locked Dragonite and full health Great Tusk with Tera still available, versus my two Fire types and Flutter Mane in the back. I feared Great Tusk locking into Headlong Rush so it could deal with my Flutter Mane in the back, but don’t see that their correct play was always to lock into Earthquake. In this case I should Extreme Speed the Great Tusk to knock it down into Shadow Ball KO range (Shadow Ball instead of a Fairy move to cover for Tera Steel), and beat Dragonite as it was locked into a Normal move versus my Ghost type. I don’t see this in time because I also had to calculate a line where they could Tera Normal Dragonite and beat Flutter Mane with Earthquake + Struggle because it would be immune to Shadow Ball. Instead, I don’t get an Extreme Speed off, both my Fire types go down, and Great Tusk finishes of Flutter Mane with two Earthquakes as it, surprisingly to me, survives a Shadow Ball. In game 2 I miss a Hydro Pump versus Tera Fire Kingambit to seal the set. The end game was still really unclear though even if I did hit Hydro Pump, and it was still only game 2 of the set. I can’t say for certain that I would have won game 3 for that miss to really change the outcome.

Record: 10-2

Round 13 – Zishuo Ding (LL) (14-3 finish)

Easily my worst set of the tournament. I feel like I had the match up with Grass Palafin + Iron Bundle + Amoonguss but just did not play this set well at all. In game 1 I missed that Tatsugiri could just Icy Wind to allow my Pokemon to get KOed by the partner, the same mistake that almost cost me my round 6 versus Allan. I was up in score 4-2 and had such a safe play in simply switching to Amoonguss and threaten with Spore, instead, I drop this game. In game 2 I play Palafin way, way too recklessly and made really predictable plays and allow Dondozo to beat my Grass Palafin. At this point I was x-3 and needed to win my last set. It definitely crossed my mind that I likely only needed to win one more after starting day 2 with two wins, and I was dreading that I might actually drop three straight sets to miss cut. I really needed to recuperate mentally to win my last round.

Record: 10-3

Round 14 – Ashton Cox (LWW) (10-4 finish)

This set was on stream! It’s small in the grand scheme of things, but this set really did mean a lot to me, and I am eternally grateful to those who decided that this would be the stream match. The last time and only time that I had been on the official stream was eight years prior in the finals of 2015 US Nationals where I lost by making Mickey Mouse plays and clicking Swagger. Cutting a regional was my personal white whale and I am thankful that I get to watch the set that clinched that goal. I am also glad that this was the match up; some of the allure would have been lost if I had won off of extreme luck or if the match up was near auto win in my favor.

This match up favors Ashton, so I knew I had to really work to win this. They have a greater number of threats that I have to account for, namely the Assault Vest Baxcalibur and Kingambit. Because this was on stream, I am able to explain my thought process turn by turn.

Game 1 team preview

I figured I wanted to bring Palafin here to handle the two Fire types and to be a capable secondary option versus Kingambit and Flutter Mane. I leave Arcanine behind as I do not want to risk feeding Kingambit a boost and I figured that it was strictly worse than Chi-Yu in this matchup, and bringing both was likely a unnecessary. Amoonguss was brought because I felt that it could control Flutter Mane, as well as Kingambit and Baxcalibur if I Terastalize it. I bring Bundle because of the Fire types and also Amoonguss, but was still unsure if it was actually a better choice than Flutter Mane.

Turn 1

I did not expect for Ashton to immediately leads the two things that I thought were most threatening, and my choice to bring Iron Bundle instead of Flutter Mane is already giving me issues. I figured that I needed to maximize my turns as much as possible here and Freeze Dry the Baxcalibur as I did not think Hydro Pump damage into Kingambit was relevant, and switch Palafin into Chi-Yu, fearing a hard read into an Amoonguss switch.

Turn 2

Chi-Yu is already down to its Sash. I figured that I could position it next to Amoonguss versus two single target attackers and get two Heat Waves, and have Palafin maybe clean up, even if the Kingambit and Baxcalibur are both boosted (Baxcalibur had Earthquake which I had missed; I was still adjusting to the stream set up and had trouble reading the team sheet). I Protect Chi-Yu and switch to Amoonguss.

Turn 3

I Terastalize Amoonguss to take the Ice attacks and continue with the plan to weaken the two Pokemon for Palafin to clean up. The commentators mentioned a play of Overheating one of Ashton’s Pokemon, but I did not want to commit to this as it would immediately put me in a bad position. I assessed that with the plays I was making, the positions would be negative, but still playable.

Turn 4

I continue with the plan to weaken the Kingambit and Baxcalibur for Palafin to clean up. I was content with sacrificing Amoonguss in order to set up this position.

Turn 5

This was the critical turn of this game, and maybe the last chance for me to turn this it in my favor. I figured that a Palafin attack into Kingambit + switch to Bundle to take an Ice Shard was too obvious. With that, I could pin the Baxcalibur with two Ice Shard resists in Palafin and Iron Bundle. I get the call wrong as Kingambit does not Protect and it KOes my Palafin. I felt in the moment that I was not playing this game very well, but looking back, I think I approached it fine, I simply got the calls wrong with the lead and what Kingambit would do on this turn. It’s also worth noting that Ashton instalocked his choices on this turn; my guess is that he felt the position was favorable enough that he did not feel the need to make overly complicated plays, which is likely correct given that he still had Amoonguss to redirect my two Water types, and my Chi-Yu was pinned with priority. Hindsight 20/20, I could have Jet Punched Baxcalibur and Heat Waved Kingambit, but I still don’t think I could break Amoonguss at that point in order to deal with Flutter Mane.

Turn 6 to Turn 7

The game is over at this point. Despite its speed, Iron Bundle is pinned by Tera Dark Black Glasses +2 Sucker Punch, and my slower 1 HP Chi-Yu is pinned by Flutter Mane.

Game 2 team preview

I realized it immediately in game 1 that I probably needed to bring Flutter Mane over Iron Bundle. I gave his two biggest threats way too much avenue in that game. Flutter Mane could pressure Baxcalibur with Fairy attacks or Psyshock regardless on if it Teras or not. It could also hold its position versus Kingambit given that Kingambit did not have Iron Head, and if I decide to Tera Fairy, Kingambit does poorly into Flutter Mane.

Turn 1

I figured that Baxcalibur would likely Terastalize, which I why I hard committed to using Psyshock on it. I figured that even if it doesn’t Tera, Psyshock might still do relevant enough damage that I could maybe overwhelm Baxcalibur with Chi-Yu or Palafin. I also thought that Kingambit was more likely than not to Protect here given how safely Ashton played in game 1, but also did not feel that it was threatening enough that it likely did not matter much what it did on that turn. I was opening up the possibility of Ashton hard reading a Palafin switch to Amoonguss, but sometimes, you do need to challenge your opponent to make specific plays rather than playing too conservatively on every turn.

Turn 2

Turn 1 goes perfectly as I catch the Poison Baxcalibur with Psyshock and take acceptable damage in return. At this point, I can sense that I have a very advantageous position, and look for the plays that would maintain that advantage. I did not want to KO Baxcalibur here because I felt that it was already so weakened that I could handle any way I chose with Flutter Mane / Palafin / Chi-Yu. All three were faster than Baxcalibur and could KO it. KOing Baxcalibur would also always give back some positional advantage because Flutter Mane would be locked into Psyshock. I figured that switching to Palafin and Terastalizing Amoonguss + Sporing Kingambit would keep me in a strong position, and allow me to play into the following turn better. I knew that Amoonguss could survive a double up, so this play was fairly safe. Kingambit doesn’t switch into Amoonguss to take the Spore, which was my greatest fear.

Turn 3

Baxcalibur is now pinned by Palafin. On this turn I figured that any sort of switch to Amoonguss was my opponent’s best play to weave in to a better position, so I bring Chi-Yu in to account for that, and Wave Crash the Baxcalibur. It cannot Protect and Kingambit could already be handled by Chi-Yu.

Turn 4 

Chi-Yu is now threatening two KOes, and I switch Palafin to Amoonguss to protect Chi-Yu on future turns as well as to account for a Flutter Mane coming in either on this turn or after I pick up a KO. Unfortunately Kingambit wakes up to break Chi-Yu’s Focus Sash to make this position a little more tricky, but I do get a critical hit to KO Kingambit (a higher roll would have also likely KOed it, but even if it doesn’t, I can still always Heat Wave again).

Turn 5

I figured that it was highly unlikely that Ashton would Moonblast Chi-Yu with redirection on the field, and I knew that Chi-Yu could survive Dazzling Gleam. As such, I go for the best possible play I could see in Heat Wave + Spore into Flutter Mane. I don’t make the Protect + Spore into Flutter Mane play because I felt that it was too slow, and it is principled to continue to apply pressure when you have a positional advantage.

Turn 6

This turn might have been imprecise, as I mess up with my internal calcs and Flutter Mane and Amoonguss both survive Heat Wave. This could have been very sketchy if I missed my Heat Waves and Amoonguss Spores Chi-Yu, but thankfully neither of those things happen.

Turn 7 to Turn 8

I have a near guaranteed win condition with Rage Powder + Dark Pulse into Flutter Mane. Rage Powder prevents a Moonblast into Chi-Yu and Dazzling Gleam will not KO Chi-Yu without a critical hit, and Dark Pulse cannot miss and will KO Flutter Mane from there. The best the opposing Amoonguss could do was to Rage Powder, in which case, it would also get KOed by Dark Pulse, and Flutter Mane cannot solo a come back from that position. The only way this could go wrong is if Ashton makes an absurd read, Flutter Mane gets a first turn wake, Protects, and Amoonguss Spores Chi-Yu. Even then I feel like the position is still winning, just not guaranteed.

Game 3 team preview

I was very weary of running back my game 2 plan even if I did feel that it was my absolute best lead + best four choices. I once again contemplated bringing Iron Bundle, but decided Baxcalibur was far too threatening and Flutter Mane needed to come to this match up.

Turn 1

In practice my Flutter Mane has been faster than the majority of special attack boosting Flutter Mane, and I figured that I would give up far too much damage if I opt out of the mirror. Near distaster strikes as Ashton’s Flutter Mane is revealed to be faster than mine, as I lose the damage trade on this turn as Arcanine also comes in to resist my Dazzling Gleam. I also waste my Tera on a Pokemon that can only get one attack off.

Turn 2

I am in a bad spot here, as Ashton has a very easy Dazzling Gleam + Flare Blitz play. I figured that my best play is to Protect Amoonguss and sacrifice Flutter Mane. Even though I would be behind in score, I figured that the game would be playable because Palafin could come in safely and at least exert a lot of pressure versus weakened Flutter Mane + an Arcanine that can’t Tera. Despite an easy to find and safe Flare Blitz play here, Ashton makes a better play by switching Arcanine into Baxcalibur. My guess is that he did this because he did not think the position was all that great after Palafin came in; Baxcalibur pins Amoonguss all the same and is not immediately threatened by Palafin, and the only thing I can do to punish this is to make a deranged read and Spore the Arcanine slot, which is just not a play that I can realistically make in the position.

Turn 3

This position is very, very bad. I need to be absolutely precise here and do everything I can to maximize progress. I figured that Flutter Mane would likely Protect here and that the most Baxcalibur could accomplish was to Icicle Crash the Amoonguss. In assessing that that was the most likely play from my opponent, I figured most I could make of this turn is to switch Amoonguss to Chi-Yu, ignore the Flutter Mane, Wave Crash the Baxcalibur, and play the game from there. There was also the possibility that Ashton would continue to ignore the Amoonguss because it was so threatened and instead Glave Rush the bigger threat in Palafin. This play would also have been problematic for me. Aaron also mentioned on commentary that the position is so dire that I might need to hope for an Icicle Crash miss, which definitely crossed my mind, but I thought that it was still too soon to play towards that.

Turn 4

I didn’t entirely realize it because it was only slightly more precise than Jet Punching Flutter Mane, but somehow, that Wave Crash into Baxcalibur completely flipped this game in my favor. I didn’t honestly see that that damage meant that Baxcalibur was put in range of a single attack from Chi-Yu; I was simply trying to maximize my turn with that Wave Crash. I still didn’t fully know if an Overheat actually KOes Baxcalibur from that range, but figured that it probably did, and I did not think that there was a better play than the obvious Jet Punch into Flutter Mane and Overheat into Baxcalibur. I thought that every other option was too risky. It was also crucial evidence that Ashton switched to Arcanine to take the Overheat; this likely signalled that he also thought that the Overheat would KO, and he would likely have a better idea of that calc than I do.

Turn 5

The most ambitious play for me here would be to Dark Pulse Arcanine and Wave Crash Baxcalibur. However, this is very risky as there were a lot of plays to counter this, as Arcanine could Protect or switch to Chi-Yu, and Baxcalibur could KO my own Chi-Yu. I also feared that double priority moves could also KO Chi-Yu. I figured that it was essential to maintain the option to Overheat the Baxcalibur, so I switch Chi-Yu to Amoonguss to reset the special attack drop, and Jet Punch the Arcanine as it was the most that Palafin could accomplish on that turn. Fortunately Arcanine does not Protect to prevent itself from getting KOed and Amoonguss takes the double up fairly well.

Turn 6 

With my opponent now down to two Pokemon, I could sense that my advantageous position was now a winning position, but I still needed to really work to find the correct plays on every turn. I Rage Powder and Jet Punch the Chi-Yu on this turn. I figured that if Chi-Yu attacks on this turn to KO Amoonguss, it would be permanently be pinned by a second Jet Punch, and my Chi-Yu could pin the Baxcalibur with Overheat. If Baxcalibur KOes Amoonguss and Chi-Yu Protects, the same position would arise except that I would need to Jet Punch twice, which thankfully I would still be able to do. It was essential to Rage Powder to keep Glaive Rush away from Palafin, and risking an Amoonguss KO was correct in order to make this happen. Also, I thought that in this end game it was crucial that I was going for Jet Punch instead of Wave Crash; Wave Crash would only end the game faster, but risk a flinch or critical hit. I assessed that I would always be able to Jet Punch a second time which negated the advantages of Wave Crash. Further, I saw a line where the game could end up in a Chi-Yu mirror, and my faster Chi-Yu could win that position when aided by the Jet Punch damage. Maybe on this turn though it was slightly more precise to go for Wave Crash as the Rage Powder protected Palafin from a Dark Pulse flinch anyway, and it could open up the possibility that I do not need to hit an Overheat to win the game. I also wouldn’t telegraph my intention of Jet Punching instead of Wave Crashing, but it likely did not matter anyway as Chi-Yu Protected. It’s difficult to be this precise in 45 seconds though, and my intuition was telling me that Jet Punch was always tactically the more accurate play.

Turn 7

In this spot, I basically have to assess if Glaive Rush + Dark Pulse into Palafin is more likely to happen than a flinch or crit when deciding between Wave Crash or Jet Punch. If I predict a double up, I should Wave Crash, if I predict an Ice Shard into Amoonguss, I should Jet Punch. I should always Protect Amoonguss here to account for the intuitive Ice Shard play to negate the Glaive Rush side effects. It was probably better to play the odds and click Wave Crash and not Jet Punch like I did, but I can’t say that my play was “incorrect” given that it was the correct response to my opponent’s play. It may have just been slightly more risky. It is frightening though that Ashton did consider a double up into Palafin, as evident by his decisions on stream.

Turn 8 to Turn 10

At this point, a path is clear that this game will be decided by whether or not Overheat will hit and KO Baxcalibur, and it was my best option to play towards this even if I could miss or still miss out on the KO if I am wrong on that calc. I Protect Palafin and Spore Baxcalibur to either force a free switch in to Chi-Yu or permanently pin the opposing Chi-Yu with Jet Punch. Chi-Yu Protects and Baxcalibur amusingly misses out on a KO on Amoonguss, and the game is over here, even before I need to hope for Overheat to connect.

Top 8 – Nick Navarre (LL) (13-3 finish)

Round three versus Nick! The end of game 1 comes down to whether or not he would Tera his Iron Bundle to avoid a Freeze Dry KO or his Kingambit, and the appropriate response would be to Hydro Pump whichever one Teras, or to Freeze Dry the Iron Bundle if it doesn’t Tera. Kingambit turns into a Fire type as I Hydro Pump the Iron Bundle and proceed to lose the game. In game 2, Nick leads Iron Bundle and Kingambit versus my Flutter Mane and Arcanine. It felt way too obvious for him to simply click the supper effective attacks to pick up two KOes, so I opt into a different line. Instead, he does Hydro Pump my Arcanine and Iron Head my Flutter Mane, picking up two KOes on turn 1, and the game and set are basically over from tere, also ending my tournament run. Nick also gave his perspective on our three sets in his team report. He attributed his three wins against me as coming down to his calling plays more often than I did, which I think is largely true. This is also likely influenced by the fact that he did also seem to have a better understanding of the match up and the positions better than I did, as even after seven games, I am still not quite sure how I was supposed to approach this match up. Snow is quite strong versus Palance but I think having Chi-Yu + Iron Bundle made the match up playable. Despite the game record versus Nick being very lopsided at 1-6, I was in advantageous positions in multiple of those losses, and felt like I had outs in others, but simply could not find the required plays.

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