【VGC2018 1st Place Japan Nats】Outer Cloud-Cerulean Sky Cress-Queen


Alola, it’s Ka El! I was able to win 2018 Japan nationals and within this article, I would like to showcase the Cress-Queen team that allowed me to perform exceedingly well with a 6-1 record in swiss, and undefeated in top cut. The teams that I’ve built in the past include CressLax and Gengar-Incineroar but the team I am about to show you will be Salamence as the core.

Team Building Process

It took me approximately a month and a half for me to polish this team. As I kept changing the slots, the team appears to be different than what I built initially.


This is how it initially looked like. I wanted a team that was strong against Fini-Gross, which was the top-tier core during that time and my team building process began when I thought about trapping the opposing Metagross with Gothitelle’s Shadow Tag and endlessly decrasing Metagross’s attack by cycling Incineroar’s Intimidate. Although the team was strong against Metagross, the team was very fragile to the extent that it was weak against the surrounding mons of the team and the fact that I was guaranteed to lose without setting up TR. There were times when the Snorlax slot became Audino (Thought a hard TR team would’ve been stronger with two TR setters) (It was bad) 

During the next phase

The team became something like this, an orthodox Mega-Manectric team. The team has two win conditions of setting up TR with Goth while allowing the prime attacker to hit hard or lowering down the opposing mon’s statuses with Manectric while setting up Belly Drum with Snorlax. The team appeared to be strong but the team was disbanded because I couldn’t use Manectric effectively. Considering the Mega-Manectric and Celesteela slot to be questionable, I tested out various mons and…


Third Step

 It became something like this. Win conditions for the team included setting up DD with Mence while trapping with Goth or sweeping with Lax under TR. But as you can see, Koko was a huge threat to the team. Moreover as there are many Knock Off users, I felt that having Lax and Goth next to each other would be a bothersome. Thus, I searched for a mon that can function under TR, strong against Koko, not weak against Knock Off and as suitable as Snorlax.
Through this inspection, I found Rhyperior with a Z-crystal. This pokemon was perfect as not only it can prevent opposing Koko from escaping with Volt Switch through Lightning Rod but it can OHKO many mons with its Z-move boosted by Helping Hand and will not get affected by opposing Knock Off’s, However when I began testing it, the team became extremely weak against Fini. Thus I had to search for a slot that fulfils the requirements mentioned above and is also strong against Fini.
And I thought that…
would be suitable. However, Xurkitree cannot make safe-switch ins because it still gets more than half of its HP decreased from Koko’s Gigavolt Havoc and its other disadvatange was how it doesn’t resist Knock Off and can receive significant damage from it. Although it was svery satisfying to start attacking after setting up Tail Glow, I eventually had to search for another slot because I felt that Tail Glow was hard to set up and even if I did, Xurkitree died quite easily due to its moderate defences and speed.
Firstly, I needed something that can switch into Koko’s moves so a Ground-type was necessary. Next, I needed something is strong against Fini since the team struggled facing it.
I immediately searched for a Ground-type and I found…
Its Life Orb boosted Sludge Bomb has a high chance of OHKOing Fini if it had max Sp.Atk with a beneficial nature, it’s also able to OHKO any Metagross with Earth power and most importantly it can resist both Koko’s main means of offence, thus it was the perfect mon for the final slot.

Afterwards the team was built like this:

 Now, as the team is composed of mons with mid-tier speed, it would be difficult for them to function under TR. If I lower Nidoking’s speed it would allow Fini to attack it when TR is not up and if I increase it speed, Nidoking would be questionable as a TR attacker. The only slow mon within the team is Incineroar but this mon function more efficiently as a supporter rather than an attacker. Moreover, the only mon that negates Ground moves for this team is Mence and I was concerned of how the team is weak to Earthquake spams. Due to this, I replaced Gothitelle to Cresselia because it can negate Ground moves and its capability of using Icy Wind, a move that intensifies the pressure from mid-speed mons.
The above six were chosen. However, I started to become concerned about Nidoking’s defences when I tested the team. The concerning aspects in regards of Nidoking’s bulk were:
• 252 Atk Tough Claws Metagross-Mega Ice Punch vs. 0 HP / 0 Def Nidoking: 150-178 (96.1 – 114.1%) — 81.3% chance to OHKO
• 252 SpA Gengar-Mega Helping Hand Shadow Ball vs. 0 HP / 4 SpD Nidoking: 157-186 (100.6 – 119.2%) — guaranteed OHKO
Obivously it would be ideal if I was able to play around without receiving any damage, but that sort of playstyle is impossible and a mon like Nidoking which can get easily OHKO’d is unstable because you’re forced to play conservatively. (Most importantly, it would be meaningless if it dies without attacking).
Considering its bulk, I changed the Nidoking slot to Nidoqueen and thus the team was established. I sometimes feel the lack of firepower since I replaced it with Nidoqueen but I can cover for the decreased firepower through chip damage fired by other mons alongside with making better plays.

Individual Analysis


Salamence-Mega @ Salamencite
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 84 HP / 68 Atk / 4 Def / 252 SpD / 100 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Return
– Dragon Dance
– Protect
– Roost

• 252+ SpA Ludicolo Ice Beam vs. 84 HP / 252 SpD Salamence-Mega: 152-180 (83.9 – 99.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO 
• 252 SpA Tapu Koko Gigavolt Havoc (175 BP) vs. 84 HP / 252 SpD Salamence-Mega in Electric Terrain: 153-181 (84.5 – 100%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO
• Outspeeds max speed Mega-Kangaskhan and Charizard if neutral natured (152)
Many Salamanece users are fond with the tailwind set to allow Mence to speed control but I’ve chosen the Dragon Dance + Roost set which significantly increases Mence’s individual strength.
The reason for this decision is that:
• Kartana can use Tailwind 
 • Incineroar’s support through Intimidate and Snarl allows it to increase the amount of opponents that can be taken for advantage to set up 
• As both its attack and speed increases and if I can just set up one DD, I can threaten more opposing mons (=it will be easier to play around)
Mence’s utility was very high, both as a DD sweeper and shutting down opposing mons with Roost. However, I often used it to deal chip damage with Return. The moveset is pretty much complete with the above.
In regards of its EV spreads, I aimed to significantly increase its special defence. The reason being that its physical bulk can be supported through Intimidate and if it’s specially bulky the number of opponents to set up against will increase too. In regards of its speed, I invested enough EVs to outspeed max speed neutral natured base 100’s but this was resulted from initially wanting to outspeed max speed Kommo-o (150) and outspeeding neutral-natured max speed Gardevoir and Mega-Blaziken (152) for extra coverage. The rest of its EVs were invested towards Attack and gave the remaining 4 towards its defence. Many could be concerned with the lack of firepower from minmum physicial attack investment but Return’s firepower was quite high with a power stat of 120 boosted by its ability, so I wasn’t concerned at all. 


Kartana @ Grassium Z 
Ability: Beast Boost 
Level: 50 
EVs: 44 HP / 252 SpD / 212 Spe
Jolly Nature 
– Tailwind 
– Leaf Blade 
– Sacred Sword 
– Protect 
 • Speed set to outspeed max speed Nihilego (170)
Kartana was able to activate Tailwind and forcefully eliminate opposing mons with Grassium Z. I gave it a Grassium Z despite overlapping with Fini’s Waterium Z because: 
• Able to OHKO opposing Mimikyu and Fini 
• I don’t often bring Fini when I choose Kartana (Even if I did I can probably win)
If I just wanted to pick up an OHKO against Fini or Mimikyu, giving it a Life Orb could’ve been an option since it can increase the power from Sacred Sword. However, I was concerned about how Life Orb decreases its HP every time it attacks and moreover Nidoqueen had the Life Orb thus I settled with Grassium Z.
In regards of its movesets, Detect was essential to use Kartana carefully, Leaf Blade as its main means offence, Sacred Sword to check Incineroar, Heatran and Bisharp and Tailwind for speed control. At times I make the play of setting up Tailwind at the same turn the opponent sets up theirs but within this metagame, the common Tailwind setters are Zapdos, Charizard and Salamence thus I don’t often make such plays. (I use Cresselia for speed control when facing such opponents)
For the EVs, I invested enough to outspeed max speed Nihilego and invested the rest towards special defence to enhance its bulk. Due to this, Kartana has a very high chance of surviving Pelipper’s Hurricane and able to aggressively switch into Nihilego or Fini’s attack.
The fact that it has no attack invested, prevents it from OHKO’ing Fini with Leaf Blade or Mega-Tyranitar with Sacred Sword but it wasn’t much of a problem because once the other mons deal chip damage to them, it would put them in a KO range. 


Incineroar @ Figy Berry 
Ability: Intimidate 
Level: 50 
EVs: 236 HP / 44 Atk / 228 SpD 
Brave Nature 
IVs: 0 Spe 
– Fake Out 
– U-turn 
– Flare Blitz 
– Snarl 
• HP set to activate berry when hit by Guardian of Alola 
• 44+ Atk Incineroar Helping Hand Flare Blitz vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Metagross-Mega: 186-222 (99.4 – 118.7%) — 93.8% chance to OHKO
Incineorar is the key member of this team, and I try to put as much burden as possible to this mon.
In regards of its movesets, Fake Out was very useful when supporting Mence, stalling out Tailwind or TR turns and doubling up to mons without Protect. Due to its low speed, it will almost move last everytime it uses U-turn but because of how Incineroar often moves last, it can switch out into whatever is in the back and move after scouting the opponent’s movement, allowing me to be in an advantageous position. Snarl is used to assist Mence to set up DD, punishing opponents from switching into their special attackers or forcing them to switch out. It’s also useful to stall out TR turns since it decreases the opponent’s firepower. Flareblitz is used to hit hard against steel types such as Ferrothorn and Mega-Metagross but also to activate its berry,
Its typing synergy is astounding because it can frequently switch out and into things and spread Intimidates and Fake Out. It’s undeniably a flawless pokemon.
In terms of attack, it especially functioned well under the sun. If Incineroar was under harsh sunlight, it can OHKO paper defence mons such as Koko thus it can take advantage of the opposing Zard-Y’s Drought. The special defence investment allows it to survive Koko’s Gigavolt Havoc (175 BP) in Electric Terrain (and in range of activating Wiki Berry).
As a side note, if a mon with a nature that hinders special attack consumed Wiki Berry, it will get confused. I wanted opposing Scizors to munch on it but I never faced once. 

Tapu Fini

Tapu Fini @ Waterium Z 
Ability: Misty Surge 
Level: 50 
EVs: 244 HP / 4 Def / 204 SpA / 4 SpD / 52 Spe 
Modest Nature 
IVs: 0 Atk 
– Muddy Water 
– Moonblast 
– Protect 
– Haze 
• Outspeeds Base Speed 100s with Max Speed after Icy Wind
I will choose this mon in team preview if the opponent had mons such as Kommo-o or Snorlax in their team. Considering its synergy with Cresselia, I invested this much speed but it worked well as I was able to move first during a Fini mirror match.
The moveset is pretty much an orthodox Haze Fini. Protect is to prevent it from being KO’d by threats, Moonblast to check Dragon types such as Kommo-o, Muddy Water to hit hard against Landorus and Incineroar and Haze to shut down Eeevee teams and Belly Drum from Snorlax and Azumarill. This team was very weak to Eevee teams and Snorlax’s thus Haze was extremely beneficial.
Waterium Z was given to OHKO opposing Incineroar or Lando-T and to reduce the chances of losing from Muddy Water misses but its utility was very high.
In regards of its spreads, its speed allows it to outspeed base speed 100’s after an Icy Wind, 252 EVs were invested towards HP and the rest were given towards its special attack (Instead of just investing 252 EVs towards HP, its overall bulk will slightly increase if it was 244HP 4 Defence and 4 Special Defence). Because I invested this much bulk Fini has a very high chance of surviving a Timid Mega-Gengar’s Sludge Bomb. Although I had to decrease it special attack, I wasn’t too concerned about it since Fini’s main play style is to slowly deal damage to the opponents. 


cresselia @ Sitrus Berry 
Ability: Levitate 
Level: 50 
EVs: 196 HP / 244 SpA / 68 Spe 
Modest Nature 
IVs: 0 Atk 
– Icy Wind 
– Psyshock 
– Helping Hand 
– Ally Switch 
• HP set to activate berry after Super Fang or Nature’s Madness 
• 244+ SpA Cresselia Psyshock vs. 0 HP / 4 Def Nihilego: 186-218 (101 – 118.4%) — guaranteed OHKO 
• Outspeeds max speed Nihilego after an Icy Wind
Cresselia’s role is to support Nidoqueen enhance its fullest potential. I think that Nidoqueen was able to do action during that finals match because of Cresselia.
I chose Psychock to check Nihilego and Calm Mind Fini but it yielded a lot of prssure because I invested a lot of special attack. Helping Hand is there to cover Nidoqueen’s somewhat lacking firepower, to forcefully annihilate the opponent with Kartana’s Grassium Z or Fini’s Waterium Z and to boost Mega-Mence’s Return. In regards of Ally Switch, it’s relatively easy to read so I don’t often use it other than the beginning phase of the match. I will use if I think that I would lose if played normally. Icy Wind is there for speed control and its role is to allow my mid-speed teammates to attack before the opponents do and to check the opponent’s Tailwind.
Its EV spread is invested to check Nihilego, which is a huge threat to the team. Instead of giving it 196 EVs towards HP, having 188 for HP and 4 for special defence would increase its bulk but to counter the movement of “Super Fang or Nature’s Madness + whatever deals more than 50% to Cresselia”, I gave it 196 EVs so that it is enough to activate the berry. 


Nidoqueen @ Life Orb 
Ability: Sheer Force 
Level: 50 
EVs: 12 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 236 Spe 
Timid Nature 
IVs: 0 Atk 
– Earth Power 
– Sludge Bomb 
– Ice Beam 
– Protect 
• 252 Atk Tough Claws Metagross-Mega Ice Punch vs. 12 HP / 4 Def Nidoqueen: 136-160 (81.4 – 95.8%) — guaranteed 2HKO 
• 252 SpA Gengar-Mega Helping Hand Shadow Ball vs. 12 HP / 4 SpD Nidoqueen: 142-168 (85 – 100.5%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO 
• Outspeeds max speed Tapu Fini with neutral nature (137)
The pokemon that did exceptionally well in the finals. I will choose her when facing Tapu + Gross teams, Gengar-Incineroar and Salamence teams. Nidoqueen is very strong against teams that are popular within the current metagame, and I chose her 5 out of 7 times during swiss and brought her to every single game in top cut.
The moveset is hyper offensive. Protect, which is self-explanatory and at times I would first protect Nidoqueen while speed controlling with either Cresselia or Kartana, allowing Nidoqueen to attack before the opponents in the following turn. Sludge Bomb is to hit the Tapu’s. As specially defensive mons such as Fini or Mega-Garde can survive Sludge Bomb, I would defeat these mons by doubling up with whatever is next to Nidoqueen or boost the damage output from Cresselia’s Helping Hand. Ice Beam allows it to hit hard against Landorus, Mence and Zapdos. When using against opponents that aren’t x4 weak to Ice, I sometimes feel the lack of firepower from this move due to Ice Beam not being STAB. At last, Earth Power is there to damage Metagross and Heatran. It can also hit hard against the currently popular Incineroar, displaying its force within the current meta.
The EV’s are invested mostly towards special attack and speed. Believing that I won’t face max speed Bulu, I adjusted its speed to be able to outspeed max speed Modest Fini, but having a small amount of defensive investment doesn’t significantly affect some damage calcs thus an orthodox spread of 252 special attack and speed is fine too. (Nidoqueen can still survive Mega-Metagross’s Ice Punch without any EVs towards bulk).
I often get asked “Why not Nidoking?” and to answer that, I would like to first highlight its defences. Nidoking cannot survive Jolly Mega-Gross’s Ice Punch or Timid Mega-Gengar’s Helping Hand boosted Shadow Ball (I’d rather choose Nidoqueen than giving Nidoking enough EVs to survive those attacks)
Nidoking is superior in regards of firepower. It can almost OHKO opposing Fini or bulky Metagross but if fired by Nidoqueen, they will survive (bulky Metagross’s survival will depend on the damage roll). But I thought that I can cover this flaw in firepower through the help of its teammates and ultimately compromised with Nidoqueen.

Leads and Combinations

The following list are just examples, and there could be better ones (if there is please let me know).
The advantageousness of teamatch-ups are ranked by: 

◎Very advantageous 〇Somewhat favourable
△50/50 (Slightly disadvantageous) ×disadvantageous 

v.s. Fini-Gross (Match-up rank:)

The goal is to fully support Nidoqueen through Incineroar’s Fake Out, Cresselia’s Icy Wind/Ally Switch and Kartana’s Tailwind. The battle will heavily depend on how many opposing mons Nidoqueen will be able to OHKO. 

v.s. Lele-Gross (Match-up rank: )

Just like with Fini-Gross, the battles outcomes will depend on how much you’re able to push through with Nidoqueen. Lele’s Psychic Surge prevents Incineroar’s Fake Out thus it will stay in the back. Fake Out is used against Zapdos and Landorus. One miss can lead to defeat so you must be careful with your choices. 

v.s. Koko-Gross (Match-up rank: )

The basic goal is to effectively move Nidoqueen and allowing Mence and Kartana to move more freely by eliminating Gross and Koko which checks Mence and Incineroar for Kartana. Porygon-2 does seem to be a threat but its damage output will be decreased from Snarl. I’m still unsure of whether Fini or Mence would be suitable in the back. 

v.s. Big-K (Match-up rank:)

Again, the matchup will come down to how much you can push through with Nidoqueen. If the opponent leads with Inci + Gengar, switch Mence into Incineroar and protect Nidoqueen. 

v.s. Gardevoir-Incineroar teams (Match-up rank:)

The goal is to deal chip damages to Incineorar and Zapdos whilst trying to create a position where Kartana can cause havoc due to its typing consistency against these teams. I lead with Kartana but I immediately switch it out into Incineroar in the first turn. 

v.s. Rain (Match-up rank: ×)

A team that I don’t want to face. I have to predict whether the opponent would lead with their standard rain lead or leading with something that checks our anti-rain leads. Just like above, I would choose Nidoqueen if I face rain teams with Koko and Mence. 

v.s. CHALK (Match-up rank:)

Very advantageous matchup. The goal is to cause havoc with Incineroar and Fini, whilst creating a position where Mence and Kartana can sweep. Kartana should use the Z-move. If the opponents Cresselia slot was Zapdos, choose Nidoqueen instead of Fini. 

 v.s. Charizard teams (No Snorlax) (Match-up rank: )

There are so many variants of Charizard teams without Snorlax, so there isn’t a particular matchup selection. However Charizard teams struggle against Incineroar and Salamence therefore choosing them both would be valuable. The matchup itself is usually favourable, but if the opponent had Tyrnaitar or Aegislash just like above, the matchup becomes even. 

 v.s. Charizard teams (with Snorlax) (Match-up rank:)

The goal is to prevent Snorlax from causing havoc with Incineroar’s Fake Out and Fini’s Haze. As long as you conserve Fini you can pretty much win. 

 v.s. Blaziken-Bisharp (Match-up rank:)

The opponents will most of the time lead with Koko and Bisharp, so during the first turn you need to switch Fin into Nidoqueen while Kartana sets up Tailwind. Afterwards you just keep attacking and win. Be mindful of potential Calm Mind Cresselias. 

 v.s. Goth-Mawile (Match-up rank: ×)

As much as I want to weaken Mawile by cycling Intimidates, Gothitelle doesn’t allow me to that. However, Mega-Mawile isn’t that bulky so it’s important to identify the right moment to eliminate it. Rain Goth-Mawile is a nightmare for this team. 

 v.s. Mence teams (Match-up rank:)

The key of this matchup is how much Nidoqueen can fire off its attacks. Support from Cress and Incineroar are necessary. If Nidoqueen gets eliminated, use Mence as the second main attacker. 
Bad matchups 
Calm Mind Moonlight Cresselia/Calm Mind Recover Mega-Latias 
The team’s coverage against these two are very limited, lacking moves such as Toxic or Perish Song to counter bulky mons. Although it is possible to weaken these mons through Fini’s Haze or Incineroar’s Snarl, the team can get easily demolished if you don’t watch out for whatever is next to them. I was contemplating on whether to put Toxic on Cresselia just for these two. Consequentially, I never faced any of these during nats so I guess Ally Switch was the correct option but… Toxic Cresselia could be essentiall depending on how the metagame changes 
 Defiant/Competitive users 
It’s pretty obvious due to the team having double Intimidate. But as long as you’re being cautious of not boosting the opposing mons firepower with Intimidate or even if you did, eliminating them immediately it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. However, you must be careful of surprise factors such as scarf Braviary or Adrenaline Orb Milotic since it can ruin the gameplan. 
 I didn’t face any of these too during Japan nats.
I may have won the tournament because of the team and the plays I made, but perhaps because I managed to avoid facing bad matchups.

In Conclusion

Despite the tournament being my first ever nationals, I was able to win more than I expected and I’m very glad that I was able to win the entire tournament. It was definitely worth spending numerous amount of time towards teambuilding and practice. I only had 3 moves with shaky accuracy (with 2 being 95%), I guess another factor which lead to my victory was how I decreased the risks of my moves missing. I faced very strong players from swiss, feeling extremely nervous during every match (honestly was about to throw up) but I was able to enhance my full strength without making any misplays.
I was really happy seeing how numerous people were rooting for me, including those from my pokemon club and my followers too. Thank you very much!
Also, shoutouts to those who helped me out with practice matches! It honestly boosted my confidence before nats!
I would expect worlds to be much more difficult, but I will do my best to win worlds too!