Back to the Lab: Putting Theory into Practice
What’s good PUCL crew, it’s the squirtle squad affiliate himself, and we’re back in the lab to synthesize everything we’ve discussed from previous articles, make a team, and get a few battles in to see how it works. I’ll be explaining how I choose my team members, what I think about in each step of plan, and final notes on how I think matchups will go against other OU teams. Then I’ll be linking to my battles via Pokemon Showdown, discussing some of the turns that highlight how the team works and what I’m considering when making moves. Let’s get right into it!
At the time I was brainstorming, Kyurem-Black had relatively low usage but seemed to be an incredible wall breaker with the physical equivalent of ice beam/thunderbolt coverage. More importantly to me, it actually hits a very nice speed tier, able to tie with the common adamant Zygarde and outspeeding the majority of Landorus-T variants, save for scarf and max speed Jolly.
I figured Tapu Koko was a natural choice for the first teammate, hitting a very nice speed tier, able to outspeed Greninja and KO a lot of the offensive threats that outspeed and hinder Kyurem’s wall breaking potential, like Gren or Mega-Pinsir. We run HP Fire in place of Ice on this variant to hit Ferrothorn and similar steel types, as we already sport the ice coverage to hit things like Landorus safely. We also don’t want to be forced to use subzero slammer on Ferro as a result.
For the next two mons I wanted to cover my physically and specially bulky sides. The always popular Landorus T+ Tangrowth seemed like a natural choice, both being reliable checks to Zygarde, with Landorus-T checking other ground types like Excadrill and Dugtrio, while Tangrowth being the much needed defensive check to Ash Greninja, easily eating choice specs dark pulses and retaliating with giga drain.
With a lack of reliable answers to offensive fire types like Zard Y, and the ability to pressure steel more effectively, I think that Scarf Keldeo is a natural choice to some of the faster threats that pressure my team. My final pick is Latios, since we need a defogger and something that can additionally punch holes in teams if need be. I think you typically won’t be spamming moves on Lati, rather I tend to play Lati as a lure for my other Pokemon. Since it’s mainly utility, sometimes if having Kyurem-B not take rocks damage is the key to winning, we’ll sacrifice Latios just to get a defog off.
Mixing all our elements together, we come up with a blend of speedy offense, reliable pivots, and serious wall breaking potential. Although I started this team with Kyurem-B and Koko, since we have Latios and Kyurem in the final version I’ll name it:
We got the team, we got +1 for a retro game reference, now let’s push start and see how it plays!
Although we initially have a rocky start, and I made a misplay revealing hidden power fire too early, I quickly gain back momentum by placing rocks and pivoting between my threats, sacking Latios early but also using it and Kyurem to break holes in my opponents defensive core. The lack of reliable speed control on my opponent’s team meant I could often switch in Kyurem for free, eventually forcing Charizard out to take rocks damage, which gets me a safe win once Tangrowth knocks it out of the park. You can see in this game that despite my misplays, having rocks up and simply putting Kyurem-Black on the field often forces switches, allowing you to chip damage throughout the game and secure KO’s with the rest of my squad. Onto game 2!
The unorthodox Hippowdown presents an early problem for my team, as it is able to freely get up rocks and spam whirlwind for the first few turns. My opponents crucial misplay was not earthquaking my Tapu Koko, as neither a dazzling gleam nor HP ice would have KO’d at that range. This is my chance to bring in Keldeo and force out Hippowdown, KO’ing Kartana on the switch. They follow up with the appropriate Mantine check, and this is the perfect opportunity for Kyurem B to start cleaning clocks. The Fusion Bolt of course is anticipated, and keeping in mind that KO’ing a Sandrush Excadrill or Hippowdown would be nice, I decide to go for Subzero Slammer right off the bat. That eliminates probably the most reliable check to Tapu Koko on that team. Towards the late game my opponent brings out Mega Gardevoir, and to my horror I realize I don’t have any consistent checks to it. I bring out Tangrowth to soak a few hits, and through the combination of Koko, Latios, and Keldeo spamming their coverage moves we whittle down Gard+ Gren, sliding by with another win, 2-0. Definitely noting this game that anything with wall-breaking fairy coverage could be a serious threat to my team
This team really threw me for a loop, especially that sub-seed ferrothorn. Due to lack of reliable answers to Ferro, and the fact that I wanted to keep my Keldeo healthy to check Volcarona later, I’m forced to use Koko and HP fire to pressure it out, trying to create momentum with my u-turn to eventually get out Kyurem Black. However the sheer bulk on his team made me want to get chip off first before, which gave him a chance to send out Mimikyu and get up two swords dances. Thankfully the mixed bulk I run on my AV Tangrowth allowed me to eat a play rough, and put it in range of going down to giga drain. This, however, gave him the chance to go into Volcarona; so naturally I go into Keldeo – but MISS the stone edge. What a heartbreaker. Seeing that, he doubles into Ferrothorn to knock out Keldeo with the iron barbs chip, but I realize this is the perfect moment to go into Kyurem and click subzero slammer. If Tapu Fini came in it would have gone down to the follow-up fusion bolt, and so getting rid of Ferrothorn was a huge boon to my team’s cleanup potential. Perhaps if my opponent had brought out Chansey earlier they would be able to tank some of my hits and spread toxic around, making my decision-making a lot more costly throughout the match. Regardless , I’m able to take it out with the combined efforts of the Double Dragons, and a well placed Scald puts Volcarona out of commission. Not too shabby!
So a lot of the issues I thought of with the team weren’t encountered thankfully, but I did get glimpses of what could go wrong. I’ll leave my closing thoughts on fixing the team, as well as my full list of notes when building here.
With my explanations and the replays to show them, ideally you can see what my thought process is and how I reflected on the gaps in my team once I actually put it into play. No team will ever cover all the threats in the metagame as a whole (except stall) but you should feel comfortable using it against the most common matchups. It’s really a numbers game, so if your matchups are most favorable against the Pokemon or strategies that are putting up the highest numbers in the tier, then that’s the benchmark you should be aiming for. This shouldn’t discourage innovation and creative move sets; in fact, often seeing the same teams or strategies repeatedly encourages unique and interesting sets. So never be afraid to experiment! That’s what the lab is for.
This is the end of our team building series for now, but I’ll be sure to visit this segment again if need be. Next time we’ll be going into the underground of Smogon tiers, working our way down to Underused and ending with a format only a Skuntank could love: PU. I’ll give brief primers, a common threat list, and my own take at trying to navigate through depths of the lower tiers.
Diving for now, it’s Aero