After participating in my first non-official Pokemon tournament in December, I thought I’d try my hand at taking part in an official Pokemon tournament. The open qualifiers for Pokemon’s Players Cup III tournament took place from January 15th-17th. Since it was an open qualifying tournament, I thought I’d try my hand at competing. I did this despite never making it above the Poke Ball rank in Sword and Shield’s online ladder system — aka the second-lowest possible ranking. I went in with no delusions about having a chance to actually qualify. My goal was to not embarrass myself while running a team strategy that I am convinced will work. That strategy is that of a Hail-centric team. I’ll get into how that worked in a moment, but if Game Freak happens to read this, if you could give Ice types a boost in Hail like Rock/Steel/Ground types get in Sand, that would be great.
Over the three days of the Players Cup, participants were allowed a maximum of 15 battles to attempt to get as many rating points as possible to qualify for the next round. If you won a match, you gained points. If you lost a match, you lost points. Here were my records over the three days.
- Day 1: 2-13
- Day 2: 9-6
- Day 3: 0-3
Two things probably jump out at you — but exactly what those things are likely depends on how familiar you are with the Sword and Shield ladder system. Regardless of how familiar you are with the ladder, you’ll see that I only did three matches on Day 3. That’s because Day 3 was a maelstrom of everything going wrong at home, so I barely played. That said, if you’re not very familiar with the ranking system, that 2-13 record on Day 1 likely jumps out at you. And to be fair, Day 1 was rough — just not as rough as 2-13 makes it look. Of my 13 losses, 7 of them came down to the last Pokemon on each team. Furthermore, only one of my losses across all three days was worse than a 4-2 loss. I was keeping matches close, but in a lot of cases, couldn’t quite pull it off in the end.
If you are familiar with Sword and Shield’s ladder system, as other folks who also participated in the qualifiers are, I’m told it’s the 9-6 record on Day 2 that stands out. Getting to the Poke Ball rank in the online ladder just requires playing online battles. Getting above it requires winning. I don’t win enough to get above it. So to go over .500 in spite of that (I win at about a 33% clip in online ladder) is apparently a great thing.
Here’s the team I brought to Players Cup III. There are a few minor changes I would have made to it, only to run out of time before qualifiers started. That said, this is pretty close to what I was initially planning to go in with.
Dusclops @ Eviolite
EVs: 252 HP/164 Def/92 SpDef
– Night Shade
– Trick Room
– Pain Split
If this Dusclops looks familiar to those who follow this blog, it’s because it’s the same Dusclops I brought to Wolfe Glick’s GS Cup tournament a few weeks back. As was the case in that tournament, Dusclops did pretty well here, though Taunt was MUCH more rampant in this format, meaning it was tricky to setup Trick Room effectively. Haze and Pain Split came in particularly handy in this tournament, provided I could avoid Taunt.
Zapdos (Kanto) @ Safety Goggles
EVs: 252 HP/20 SpAtk/4 SpDef/232 Spd
– Eeire Impulse
Zapdos is a shockingly good1Pun totally intended. Hail setter. My original intent was to run Aurorus or Abomasnow in this spot, doing my best to underspeed whatever Sand/Sun/Rain setter the other team may have. That said, just throwing up Hail turn one served its purpose more often than not. Having a Hail setter that is weak to Rock was an error, though the fact that I only had to do limited math to make Zapdos faster than my Aurora Veil setter was nice. Much like the utility Calyrex I ran, I think utility Zapdos has some potential.
Froslass @ Focus Sash
Ability: Cursed Body
EVs: 252 HP/4 SpAtk/252 Spd
– Aurora Veil
So I meant to make this a Snow Cloak Froslass…but then I forgot. Oops. Cursed Body didn’t kick in often enough to be truly helpful, so the ability here was a waste. That said, so long as people weren’t doubling Froslass or Zapdos before I could get the Hail/Veil combo up, it was a decently reliable lead set. Weirdly enough though, it wasn’t my best lead combo in terms of wins. That came from Dusclops and the next member of the team.
Togekiss @ King’s Rock
Ability: Serene Grace
EVs: 132 HP/252 Def/124 SpDef
– Follow Me
– Dazzling Gleam
– Air Slash
I think I was trying to cover too many things at once with Togekiss. On one hand, King’s Rock plus Air Slash was great at inducing flinches. That said, it was rare that I found myself using it, as if I was attacking, I was dealing with the abundance of Dark and Fighting Pokemon running around in PCIII via Dazzling Gleam. Beyond that, if I was leading it with Dusclops, I found myself running some combination of Protect and Follow Me for 85% of the turns it was on the field. I’m interested in running a full offensive Togekiss in the future, if only because there is some potential with the current meta.
Kingdra @ Weakness Policy
Ability: Swift Swim
EVs: 252 HP/120 Def/12 SpAtk/120 SpDef/4 Spd
– Muddy Water
– Flash Cannon
– Draco Meteor
Poor Kingdra. Of all my Pokemon bad luck that happened in this tournament, Kingdra caught the brunt of it. There was a three match run on day one where my Kingdra lost 1v1 matchups in the following ways, all right in a row.
- Muddy Water missing both opponents, then both opponents hitting not very effective critical hits on Kingdra
- SEVEN straight turns of paralysis to lose to a Politoed running Scald
- Back-to-back-to-back Muddy Water misses against Incineroar (Draco Meteor had been disabled the turn prior via a Cursed Body KO)
Kingdra did win a few matches for me, particularly with Protect/Weakness Policy shenanigans. But nothing else I’d planned for it panned out. I saw two rain setters across three days, it was rarely targeted with super effective moves in Dynamax, and Muddy Water’s hit rate was abysmal.
Glastrier @ Assault Vest
Ability: Chilling Neigh
EVs: 4 HP/252 Def/252 SpDef
– Close Combat
– High Horsepower
– Smart Strike
– Icicle Crash
I built a pretty bulky Glastrier set. This did not matter. I was getting wrecked, particularly from physical hits. Granted, Glastrier was still my best Pokemon — it scored multiple KOs in nearly all of my wins and even some of my losses. But this was not the tanky offensive beast I’d hoped it would be. Getting Trick Room up helped, but the prevalence of Taunt did make doing so a significant challenge. And if Trick Room wasn’t up, Glastrier had an uphill battle it often couldn’t overcome.
While Day 1 was horrid — and make no mistake, it was — I think this went about as I expected as a whole. If you had asked me how often I’d win, I would have said I’d win somewhere between 25% and 33% of my matches. Even then, an official tournament tends to attract better players overall, not to mention folks taking it more seriously, than just regular online battles. So the fact that my record ended where it did shouldn’t be too shocking. The fact that Day 2 ended with me at 9-6 is much better than I ever anticipated. Though I think more practice with my team would have benefited me, I’m largely fine with how my Players Cup III went.