Hey everyone! Today I want to talk about how I prepared for Players Cup 3 over the past month and a half in hopes that it will help you in your future tournament prep by giving you an insight as to how I would prep for such an event.
I wrote an article very similar to this in the past about the Players Cup 2 Qualifier that you can read here.
Season 8 has been quite the journey for me, lots of highs, lots of lows with almost no time in the middle. As I came off a 6 week break from VGC after the qualifier for PC2, I came into series 8 with a fresh mind and a readiness to grind and prepare for this upcoming Players Cup. My prep for PC3 started immediately as series 8 was announced and today I would like to take you through my thought process of how I approached the meta, tournaments, and team building.
Phase 1: Meta Call Phase
To start off in early meta I was split into two different thought processes, I could either start testing everything and see if I find anything I like, or build around 1 restricted Pokémon, get really good with that team and make tweaks as the meta evolves. Considering that there was no set meta yet, testing everything didn’t seem wise as the meta was changing so rapidly that it was hard to understand matchups when I would just be constantly be switching teams vs the switching meta. So I looked at the restricted Pokémon available, took some data from ~100 showdown games and began to form a mini tier list of restrictions to find what my best starting point will be.
I started off series 8 playing Sun/Trick Room with minimum speed Weakness Policy Groudon that I would trigger with Porygon2’s ice beam (https://pokepast.es/8b641318f69e37d6). I used this team exclusively for the first few weeks in tournaments as Groudon felt the strongest at the time for me against the expected field of restrictions being Dialga, Zacian, and Kyogre. Despite the team being able to win over 15 showdown VGC room tournaments in the span of 5-6 days I wasn’t able to see any consistent results with the team in Bo3. After a lot of tweaking to try and fix the team I decided to drop it after the UX9 championship due to the team not having a great matchup if the opposing team had multiple good answers to Groudon as well as Calyrex-Ice began to start popping up on showdown. I also noticed that Groudon seemed to be a really unreliable Pokémon outside of dynamax. I was consistently missing precipice blades and rock slide which made me think I was throwing by using the only restricted Pokémon that could miss so consistently.
I started off my new phase of testing by using a Yveltal team built by NJ11 (https://pokepast.es/2ddc1f33aba190d3), and was really thrilled by it. Yveltal seemed so extremely powerful with an assault vest combined with screens, snarl Spectrier and the ability to heal with oblivion wing. Yveltal became my restricted to build around for the next couple weeks due to me being able to peak very high on the ladder, win a Mt.Silver weekly, and continue to demolish showdown VGC room tours everyday. Unfortunately the meta seemed to shift away from the common Tornadus/Kyogre teams and more towards Lapras/Zacian, Calyrex-Ice, and VenuDon teams and the usage of Thundurus began to drastically shoot up which caused these Yveltal teams to be extremely hard to build.
I was having a hard time at this point of testing because it seemed that Yveltal was going to be quite the challenge to build around effectively and that was the archetype I was most comfortable with.
Phase 2: Gotta Test ‘em All!
At this point a true meta was starting to form so I decided that the best course of action was to stop focusing on just 1 restricted to build around and instead just start testing lots of teams with all the restricted Pokémon. This is one of the best ways to test without a doubt. Being able to learn what beats all the main archetypes by playing them extensively gives you a large advantage when both playing, and team building.
I began to see a lot of success with this training strategy as I was taking lots of notes about each archetypes strengths and weaknesses and implementing that information into my practice. I had a really good 2 week period where I was able to win 2 Mt.Silver Weeklys, top 4 in 2 other weeklies, won a TPL weekly, and barely missed day 2 of a Victory Road qualifier with a swiss score of 5-3 all tournaments I used a completely different team or archetype. This really helped boost my confidence as I was performing really well with different teams but despite this I wasn’t finding one team that felt good enough to take to PC3 and was just tossing between teams trying to find one that I wanted to commit to.
Here are links to a couple of the teams I used in these tournament (not all I saved on showdown after)
This is where things got a bit ugly and really put a damper on my training. About 10 days before PC3 team submission things took a complete 180. I started barely making top cut in Mt.Silver, I was holding on to 60% or worse win rate on showdown ladder, and no matter what I used I couldn’t seem to find any teams that clicked with me on a PC3 viable level. All the teams I was having success with not too long ago stopped winning, I started to find too many holes in teams and it seemed to be borderline impossible for me to perform up to my normal standards.
This is when it finally hit me, you can’t solve this meta. The meta began to evolve to the point where there were too many viable archetypes in this meta that are too far different from each other to be able to cover everything. With this in mind I changed my testing patterns once again. Instead of testing around with all the archetypes like I had been for the past 3-4 weeks I decided that the best course of action would be to select one team/archetype that I feel does the best vs the 3-4 most popular archetypes and just grind out that team until I iron out all the kinks that I could and just go in and hope I don’t hit the few bad archetypes vs my chosen team.
This was extremely uncomfortable for me to do as in all previous metas I would always use a team that had a chance vs no matter what team I was up against. I would have matches that were worse than others but nothing that was an auto loss. But no matter what team I used in my last month of testing each team had 1-2 teams that seemed like auto losses unless my opponent didn’t understand the matchup. I had to just accept that if I wasn’t able to solve the meta in the past month I wasn’t going to be able to do it in the last remaining week leading up to team submission.
When emails were sent out for PC3 there were exactly 10 days until team submission, and I was still in my rut struggling to find a team I liked. Despite this I had to figure out a way to give myself the best shot going into the Players Cup 3
Phase 3: The Final Prep
These were mostly unproductive days for me. Although I was positive, sticking to my preparation habits, and playing smart, every team I tried didn’t feel right to me. This was obvious from my lackluster top 16 performance in Mt.Silver with a team that I felt like had a chance to make it deep in PC3 but ended up with a barely passable swiss score and a stomping in top 16. My go to strategy when I hit walls like this is to step away from the game and allow the information I have gained from the current meta to fully digest in my mind. This is not what I want to do as there isn’t much time until team submission but this random slump came so close the event. I don’t want to keep playing in a negative mindset as it will only be harder to fix so the break must happen.
Days away from VGC. Still did some watching on twitch, and worked on articles but I didn’t play any games.
The 2 day break was probably the best thing I could have done. As much as I wish I could have had productive days of testing during that time, if I didn’t take a break to step away and mentally reset I would have just kept digging myself into a deeper and deeper hole. I came back with days 6-10 remaining to figure out my team for PC3. Despite not playing VGC for the past 2 days I was still thinking about the game, and came up with the plan I would follow the last days leading up to the event regardless of how I did.
- Spend days 6-7 testing a final couple archetypes I would be interested in submitting.
- Day 8 Commit to a core that I would be using
- Day 9-10 Final testing, tweaks, and flowcharts, submit team
- Day 11 Game Time. Play my best, have fun!
Now with that plan in motion its time to get to work and figure out what I’m going to do. Here is my journey the final days leading up to PC3.
Collected some sun teams and Calyrex-Shadow teams then ran some games on showdown to get a feel for the teams before playing some Bo3’s with some friends.
This ended up being a huge success. Sun feels very well positioned in the meta, and really fits how I want to play. I think this may be the direction I want to take for PC3 but I will still be using tomorrow as a test day for some more teams.
Today I will be testing out a couple Kyogre variants, as well as a Zacian/Pult team that I found that peaked my interest. Before going into today’s testing though I am fairly confident that I will take either Kyogre, Groudon, or Zacian to PC3 as those 3 are the ones that feel the best, seem the best on paper, and overall are the strongest.
After 1.5 months of testing, lots of best of 3s, and a lot of last minute scrambling for a team I decided to lock into sun. It’s the archetype I started off with and thought had the best matchups, and the one I am going into PC3 with.
This was the team I tested that caught my eye the most.
What I really liked from this team was the fact that it had a grass type that was extremely powerful outside of Dynamax which Venusaur wasn’t in a lot of cases. I’m also a huge fan of Thundurus as its one of my top 3 favorite Pokémon, but it wasn’t doing too much for me, and neither was Clefairy.
I noticed this team had issues vs Landorus-T and had a near auto loss vs Zygarde. With that being said I wanted to take the concept of Zard/Don/Incin/Grass type but fix the holes that I saw. I knew I wanted an Ice type as the meta is very ice weak as well as it would patch up the Landorus and Zygarde issue, and I also wanted to try and incorporate a TR mode as it adds a lot of comfort for me and supplies me with options. My first thought was P2 and Glastrier, but that would leave me with 4 physical attackers which isn’t something I was very thrilled about. So I looked into other possible options and Lapras stuck out immediately. Supplying me with ice coverage as well as a bulky water type make my team much better defensively, gave me a better matchup vs Kyogre, and aurora veil supported Porygon2 and Groudon in late game. I also took off Kartana as I was unimpressed by its performance and replaced it with Rillaboom, giving me a better fake out lead into Tornadus/Kyogre, as well as Rillaboom felt just more proactive with its nice coverage, slow u-turn, and priority grassy glide supplying large amounts of damage and gave me a Pokémon with priority to clean up end games.
This is the starting point for the team. I opted to go ice beam over eerie impulse on P2 while using trace as I really wanted extra ice coverage to hit previously mentioned Zygarde and Landorus, but I also wanted to be able to reliably hit Rillaboom who could potentially be a problem for this team late game.
Not sure on some of the item choices on the team so today I will just be playing games on showdown and determining the best items for zard/lap/and incin.
As I write this there is about 24 hours until the deadline for team submission. I will be submitting tonight to avoid any potential issues I may face and allow myself as much time as i need to make sure everything on my team list is exactly how I want it. Today I will mostly be working on finishing the final EV spreads as well as flowcharts vs more of the popular teams so I can be prepared for anything. After testing this sun team a lot these past two days this is the paste I am submitting.
Here is the final team I will be submitting for Players Cup 3
Overall I am very happy with how this whole testing process turned out. I was able to learn a lot by mixing up my preparation styles over the past 1.5 months and despite having a bit of a downswing towards the end I came out with something I’m happy and confident in bringing to this major tournament. The series 8 meta is very confusing, frustrating, and challenging, but despite all of that I had a good time chilling in call with friends, playing tournaments, and playing hundreds of ladder games to work towards our next major event.
I hope this look into how I went about preparing for this event, the stages of testing I went through, as well as the ups and the downs brought you some value that you can use to improve your future tournament testing.
Groudon @ Wide Lens
EVs: 156 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 92 Spe
– Precipice Blades
– Rock Slide
– Swords Dance
Groudon was my restricted Pokémon of choice. This was the Pokémon I started this format with, and ended up being the one I bring to PC3. Sun felt super good in this meta, and Groudon being an amazing ground type with huge damage output really fit my style of play and at the same time was a comfort pick. This spread is simple, the speed stat hits 122 which speed creeps Aurarayquaza’s Kyogre by 2 points which means I’m speed creeping the speed creeps, max attack to supply the most damage possible, and the rest in bulk. I decided on wide lens despite hating the idea of it for most of the format, but the main reason I stepped away from Groudon despite my high levels of belief in the Pokémon was due to its constant missing of precipice blades. Wide lens made that not anywhere near as much as a problem and since I was hitting moves now I was doing way more damage than I was before with life orb and weakness policy. I should note that I was very torn between swords dance and fire punch. I genuinely thought fire punch was better in a lot of matchups but the ability to click swords dance came up too often to remove it.
Charizard-Gmax @ Charcoal
Ability: Solar Power
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Heat Wave
– Air Slash
– Scorching Sands
Charizard was the odd one to complete. The more I tested this team the more it felt like a Lapras team with a sun mode option. Charizard did really good in the matchups it did well in but it had a weird item situation. I decided I needed life orb on Lapras, and safety goggles on Incineroar, that left me with a hard choice of items for Charizard. I came down to choice scarf or charcoal. Choice scarf would help me in a few Zacian matchups but when I looked at what Charizard was meant to do it was obvious that he was there to click heatwave or g max wildfire which meant I needed an item that was going to allow for zard to do its job best. Since I no longer had life orb available the next best option was charcoal and so I locked that in and was happy with my item choice despite it being a weird and uncommon item for Charizard.
Incineroar @ Safety Goggles
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Atk / 84 Def / 156 SpD / 12 Spe
– Fake Out
– Flare Blitz
– Parting Shot
There isn’t much to say here. Incineroar is pretty dang good, has access to amazing moves with a great ability and provided the team with dark typing which was going to be very important vs Pokémon like Calyrex-Shadow. The spread was also plain. “If it’s not broke don’t try to fix it”
Rillaboom @ Assault Vest
Ability: Grassy Surge
EVs: 252 HP / 196 Atk / 4 Def / 20 SpD / 36 Spe
– Fake Out
– Grassy Glide
– Knock Off
Rillaboom was the last Pokémon to round off my original core. I wanted a grass type that was more proactive outside of dynamax, and had a better matchup vs Kyogre than the common sun grass type, Venusaur. I’m just a huge fan of Rillaboom and he fit what I was looking for perfectly. Rillaboom provided a lot for this team with a 2nd fake out option that was safer vs matchups like TornOgre, Rilla was also a late game clean up mon just taking low HP KO’s with grassy glide and was also very bulky with the help of assault vest. The only potential weird pick on here I could see people questioning is knock off. I chose knock off as a comfort pick as I didn’t need high horsepower since I had good ground coverage already, wood hammer wasn’t necessary as with this team there were very little times where wood hammer would be better than grassy glide, so I went with knock off as it gives me a better matchup vs late game porygon2, and Dusclops. As well as with open team sheet I knew what items my opponents had and I could potentially knock off any key items to disrupt their strategy. The speed allows you to be faster than Urshifu at +1 which came up a few times and out speeding their priority move with grassy glide was huge. 196atk hits bump then the rest in bulk.
Porygon2 @ Eviolite
EVs: 252 HP / 140 Def / 116 SpD
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Ice Beam
– Foul Play
– Trick Room
When deciding on the rest of the team I knew that I wanted a trick room option on my team and this was the first part of 2 that gave me a trick room option. Not much to be said about P2 as we all know what it does and why you would want to use such a bulky Pokémon. I will talk about the move and ability choice. Normally trace P2 is for foul play only P2 as you have no need for the stat boosts, and this P2 has ice beam yet I still went Trace. Ice beam was on this P2 for Landorus, Zygarde, and to hit Rillaboom harder than foul play could especially after its intimidated by incin. With that being said I could OHKO most Landorus with ice beam, chunk Zygarde ignoring its defense boosts, and 3hko’s Rillaboom without the boost making download mostly irrelevant when I’m clicking foul play vs most Pokémon outside the 3 previously listed. Trace also won me many games in practice by tracing amazing abilities such as water absorb, intimidate, lightning rod, prankster and many more great abilities. It was very uncommon for P2 to trace an ability that negatively impacted my game plan, the only notable ones being chlorophyll and steam engine when in TR mode, and most abilities traced were just neutral and didn’t change anything.
Lapras-Gmax @ Life Orb
Ability: Water Absorb
EVs: 252 HP / 52 Def / 196 SpA / 4 SpD
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Hydro Pump
Yep, min speed Lapras. I decided on Lapras because it solved a lot of issues I had with the rest of the team, good check for Zygarde and Landorus, provides veil which supports late game p2/don/incin and provides me another good mon into Kyogre teams. I opted for min speed on Lapras as I only brought it to the games I would be going the trick room route and with min speed I could guarantee that I would under speed opposing Incineroar and then OHKO them with max geyser preventing a parting shot or snarl. Life orb felt necessary on Lapras as without it a lot of the calcs are off and without it Lapras felt really bad yet with it Lapras felt really good. I did test clay but like I said LO made Lapras feel good and I wanted to use a good Lapras.
Well that’s it for my Players Cup 3. I ended up going out in losers round 5 which is not quite what I wanted but considering how I just came out of a really bad downswing, and didn’t bring the best team vs the field I’m pretty happy with my performance. Double elim tournaments punish losses super hard and since I lost in winners round 3 I had a long and stressful day ahead of me at that point. I can’t wait to get back to swiss bracket official events but I’m just happy we had an event to prep for/play in opposed to not having anything at all. Overall I say I’m not the biggest fan of Series 8 and prepping was a bit more stressful compared to previous formats but testing/hanging out with friends made it a lot more enjoyable and I’m grateful for that time. Until next players cup!!!
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