VGC17 Sand Team for International Competition (help appreciated)

Hey guys, I'm finally able to post here after completing the Homework Assignment.

First of all, I've been playing the last weeks VGC17 with Se Jun Park's team (which is also in the Sample Teams thread), and more or less I learned something about the format, and what I wanted from my team.

So there's my considerations (before going into the team I built):
1) There are many synergistic leads, and a way to stop them is needed: for example against Eevee+Clefairy just nuke Clefairy, let Eevee Z-Move, and then nuke Eevee (which will Baton Pass first and the attacks will go against the boosted sweeper). Obviously that happens if you don't have any Fake Out users; same goes for Trick Room teams (where I want a slow-speed Pokemon anyway, or Roar user), and Weather setters;
2) The most common moves are Ground, Electric, and Fire, and after those there's Grass, Water and some others. The most common cores I saw are AFK, Dragon-Fairy-Steel (usually Chomp-Celesteela-Tapu of choice). After these, there are Trick Room teams, such as heavy TR (Mimikyu+P2, Hariyama+Magnezone+Araquanid and such), Sun TR (Torkoal+Oranguru+Lilligant core);
3) Everyone has atleast one Levitate/Flying Pokemon to play around Garchomp, and Tapu Fini and Tapu Lele are very popular;
4) Everyone plays some form of speed control: Tailwind or Trick Room are the most common;
5) Everyone plays atleast one Terrain user, to counter or rely on terrain.

Why choose sand instead of Sun, Rain or Hail?
First of all, I like Sand because it does chip damage (like Hail does), and is synergistic with some pokemons I want to use (like Garchomp and Kartana, which would get damage from Hail). Other than that, Gigalith is my Sand Stream user of choice, and it gives good coverage against many types with his Rock STABs, EQ and Heavy Slam (which currently is Flash Cannon because I'm so noob that I bred it without Golem's Egg move, so I need to redo it), and after that he's very slow and Bulky, giving me a nice wall against special attackers and a Pokemon to use under Trick Room.
And lastly, Gigalith can setup Sandstorm against every weather setter except for Torkoal.

After Gigalith, I took Garchomp and Kartana to form a "core" for Sand. These three offer excellent coverage and they manage to get each other's weaknesses: Kartana manages Fairy and Water types that threaten Gigalith and Garchomp, while Garchomp and Gigalith help take on Fire types that kill Kartana.
Other than that, with this trio I have many resistances, and two immunities (Poison and Electric).

After watching some VGC Teambuilding guides on the Tube (by Cybertron), I noticed that this trio focuses on physical attack, and as such I need some special attackers to not be dead to Intimidate users.
Other than that, I wanted an Intimidate user myself, a Flying-type pokemon (to be able to EQ freely with Gigalith and Garchomp), and some extra Bulk for physical and special attacks.

That said, the most common weakness to the core was Fighting, which is a type of move that I didn't see very often on cartridge Ladder.
So the first option was Tapu Lele: very aggressive, manages to kill easily Fighting types and has access to terrain. The problem is that it's not very Bulky.
Tapu Fini fit into the team better, as it has enough bulk to survive some attacks, and with Choice Specs it has access to enough attacking power to do serious damage to the other team.
Lastly, being the slowest Tapu, it ensures that Misty Terrain is active in case there's a Tapu vs Tapu lead.

For the last two slots I was missing an Intimidater and a Flying type pokemon, so I went with Arcanine and Mandibuzz.
Arcanine (completing the AFK core) has enough bulk to survive some attacks and enough attacking power to get a kill on some important threats, such as Celesteela, Kartana, and with Intimidate it can lower the enemy damage output.
Mandibuzz on the other side is the Flyer of choice. I went on this pokemon as it has good physical bulk and special with Misty Seed, it has access to Taunt and Tailwind. Lastly, it gives the team an immunity to Psychic (so it's an easy switch in against Tapu Lele, forcing him to switch out).

The other options I thought of were Salamence as an intimidating special attacker, but it required me to change a lot on the team (change Tapu Fini's EVs to be more bulky and giving him Leftovers instead of Specs), but I don't like having double Dragon in the team, as it gives a hard weakness to the Tapus.
With Tapu Fini, the team has a weakness to Grass types, so Arcanine was preferred with STAB Fire moves against Grass and Steel pokemons, even if it is another physical attacker.

So this is the thought process I used to make the team. I'm sure there are some things that I missed. But let's get to the team:

Gigalith @ Assault Vest
Ability: Sand Stream
Level: 50
EVs: 228 HP / 228 Atk / 52 Def
Brave Nature
IVs: 10-14 Spe (couldn't breed a 0 IV one, and after 100+ eggs I resigned to RNG)
- Rock Slide
- Stone Edge
- Heavy Slam
- Earthquake

Spread taken from Trainertower, the idea here is to have a special bulky pokemon that can dish out loads of damage. Thanks to AV I can switch him in/out in case Sandstorm needs to refreshed (or to remove opposing weather).
Sadly I couldn't breed a 0 IV one, so I'll retry to do that (as I'm currently missing Heavy Slam, didn't know it was a egg move), but for now the non 0IV Speed is good to outspeed opposing Gigaliths in normal conditions, and even with a 0 IV Speed it's not possible to setup Sand against Torkoal (which is slower).
What I'm asking on this is: how important is the 0 IV Speed? Under Trick Room that could be a problem against opposing Gigaliths (no more speed tie, as opposing Giga attacks first), but other than that, I didn't see any "downsides" to having more IVs in Speed.
Can someone explain me how important is the 0 IV here?

Garchomp @ Groundium Z
Ability: Rough Skin
EVs: 4 HP/ 252 Atk/ 4 Def/ 44 SpD/ 204 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Protect
– Earthquake
– Poison Jab
– Fire Fang

I took this spread from Ricardo Pinto's team report on Trainertower (he made it to 2000+k rating in the first season of VGC).
Shortly, his explanation on the spreads is that with that little investment in Special Defense gives extra percentage points to survive some attacks (like Porygon2's unboosted Ice Beam), while 204 Speed lets him outspeed some important threats it needs to kill (for example Arcanine).

Kartana @ Focus Sash
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
- Smart Strike
- Leaf Blade
- Sacred Sword
- Detect

Just a very standard Kartana set. I usually use it to remove some key threats such as Tapus, and after one boost usually it is able to kill most non-bulky pokemons in the format.
As always, I chose Detect instead of Protection to play around eventual Imprison Muks.

Tapu Fini @ Choice Specs
Ability: Misty Surge
EVs: 252 HP / 252 SpA / 4 Spe
Modest Nature
- Muddy Water
- Scald
- Dazzling Gleam
- Moonblast

This is Se Jun Park's Tapu Fini set. Trying his team I liked a lot the fact that Tapu Fini is able to dish out big chunks of damage, and with 252 HP it can survive enough damage to let his partner kill the weakened enemies.

Arcanine (F) @ Sitrus Berry
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 76 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def / 12 SpD / 164 Spe
Adamant Nature
- Flare Blitz
- Wild Charge
- Roar
- Protect

Always Se Jun's EV spreads. This beast does A LOT of damage, even without Firium Z. I went with Roar over Extreme Speed to have an out against Trick Room setting Pokemons, Setupped Pokemons (such as Z-Conversion Porygon Z, Eevee after Z Move, or Eevee's switch after Baton Pass).

Mandibuzz @ Misty Seed
Ability: Overcoat
Level: 50
EVs: 248 HP / 244 Def / 16 Spe
Impish Nature
- Foul Play
- Tailwind
- Taunt
- Roost

This is my physical check. Thanks to Misty Seed, it can be a decent wall against special attackers too, but it is best used against physical pokemons. Thanks to Roost and Tailwind it provides good staying power and speed to the team, while Foul Play do good damage against physical pokemons.
Taunt is used over Toxic because I don't want that the opponent is able to setup any type of speed control / extra damage.

So, I've tried the team yesterday in some games, and sadly I lost more matches than the ones I won. Some games were lost because I played badly, others because I didn't know some sets (for example I got destroyed by a Eevium Z Krookodile + Psych Up Tapu Fini. Never saw that Psych Up set, and made a different play instead of killing the Fini before he could setup).

Usually the leads I used the most were:
-Tapu Fini + Kartana: This was the most common lead I used against Tapu teams. With Fini I'm able to get the terrain at the start, while Kartana gets an early kill (Tapu Fini, Tapu Lele);
-Mandibuzz + Arcanine/Tapu Fini: Tapu Fini in case the opponent had many special attackers, ready to switch out for Gigalith, Arcanine if the opponent had many physical attackers. Mandibuzz is used here to give early Tailwind to the team, negating opponent's initiative;
-Garchomp + Gigalith: Against teams that are really soft to EQ spam, with Gigalith switching out for Mandibuzz (so I'm using it just to setup Sandstorm);
-Arcanine + Mandibuzz: Against Trick Room teams. This lead ensures me to stop TR from setting up. In case the opponent has a Follow Me partner to the TR setter, I'll switch one of my pokemons (the weaker one, usually Arcanine) to Gigalith, so I'm able to play under Trick Room with Gigalith's EQ spam (with Mandibuzz as partner).

The problems (not regarding my noobie skills and such) were that Tapu Fini was taking a bit more damage than expected, and AV Gigalith was great but without access to Protect, I can't EQ with Garchomp as freely as I'd like to.
So for now I think I'll try to make Fini more bulky with some investment in Defense and Special Defense, and try Gigalith with Sandstorm-lengthening item: this way I can give Protect to Gigalith giving him more versatility, and Tapu Fini will be able to get some extra hits while still doing good damage with Choice Specs.

Lastly, a final question: How efficient is to play 2 Z-Moves in doubles? Like if I wanted to give Arcanine Firium-Z, should I drop Earthium-Z from Garchomp? In this case I think both pokemons are good enough that they can play "without" an item, so it shouldn't be a problem to bring them both in and use the Z-Move only against specific threats.

Thanks for reading, looking for some input! :)
as much as i want to help the team is too good for me to criticize
Heh, thanks!


I made some modifications to the team (being helped from a friend of mine), which were:
1) Get an actual 0 IV Gigalith, and kept it AV;
2) Changed Tapu Fini to a more defensive spread, being able to dish out good damage thanks to CM;
3) Changed Mandibuzz's spread, as it was just not very good as a physical checker;
4) Gave Firium-Z to Arcanine: this way I have another option to do serious damage, and usually Arcanine and Garchomp aren't together after team preview, so it isn't a big problem.

Tapu Fini @ Leftovers
Ability: Misty Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 20 Def / 164 SpA / 44 SpD / 28 Spe
Modest Nature
- Moonblast
- Scald
- Calm Mind
- Protect

Thanks to this spread, I have more versatility with Protect, and CM allows me to setup to do enough damage in the long run. With leftovers, I can negate Sandstorm's chip damage and get some extra recovery during stall turns.
These are all under Misty terrain, as Fini is the slowest Tapu.

252 SpA Life Orb Tapu Koko Thunderbolt vs. 252 HP / 44 SpD Tapu Fini: 127-151 (71.7 - 85.3%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
252+ Atk Meadow Plate Tapu Bulu Horn Leech vs. 252 HP / 20 Def Tapu Fini: 150-176 (84.7 - 99.4%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
252+ SpA Choice Specs Tapu Fini Moonblast vs. +1 252 HP / 44 SpD Tapu Fini: 57-67 (32.2 - 37.8%) -- 93.2% chance to 3HKO
252 Atk Kartana Leaf Blade vs. 252 HP / 20 Def Tapu Fini: 170-204 (96 - 115.2%) -- 75% chance to OHKO
252+ Atk Garchomp Tectonic Rage vs. 252 HP / 20 Def Tapu Fini: 147-174 (83 - 98.3%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
252+ Atk Garchomp Poison Jab vs. 252 HP / 20 Def Tapu Fini: 90-106 (50.8 - 59.8%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
252+ Atk Muk-Alola Poison Jab vs. 252 HP / 20 Def Tapu Fini: 114-134 (64.4 - 75.7%) -- guaranteed 2HKO

As you can see, Tapu Fini can hardly be OHKOed, which gives its partner a window to kill its threat, or if a switch out is expected CM can safely be used.

Regarding offensive Damage Calcs, with a +1 in SpA it can obliterate most non-bulky, non-resistant pokemons:

+1 164+ SpA Tapu Fini Moonblast vs. 4 HP / 210 SpD Garchomp: 186-218 (101 - 118.4%) -- guaranteed OHKO (the only Chomp variant to resist this is Sash or AV, or some fringe 210+ SpD Chomp. For AV a +2 is needed)
+1 164+ SpA Tapu Fini Moonblast vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Kartana: 117-138 (86.6 - 102.2%) -- 18.8% chance to OHKO (even on the switch in Kartana is severely crippled)
+1 164+ SpA Tapu Fini Muddy Water vs. 76 HP / 12 SpD Arcanine: 168-198 (96 - 113.1%) -- 68.8% chance to OHKO

Mandibuzz @ Misty Seed
Ability: Overcoat
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 16 Def / 228 SpD / 12 Spe
Bold Nature
- Foul Play
- Taunt
- Roost
- Tailwind

Mandibuzz was given more Special Defense investment, as it is mostly used against Trick Room teams (where Porygon 2 is able to dish out good damage), and against Tapus.

Under Misty terrain (as most of the time I use Mandibuzz and Fini as a lead):
252 SpA Life Orb Tapu Koko Thunderbolt vs. +1 252 HP / 228 SpD Mandibuzz: 88-109 (40.5 - 50.2%) -- 0.4% chance to 2HKO

Not under Misty terrain:
252+ Atk Mimikyu Play Rough vs. 252 HP / 16+ Def Mandibuzz: 116-138 (53.4 - 63.5%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
28 SpA Porygon2 Ice Beam vs. 252 HP / 228 SpD Mandibuzz: 62-74 (28.5 - 34.1%) -- 0.7% chance to 3HKO

The role of Mandibuzz is to setup an early Tailwind against non-TR teams, use Taunt on TR setters or spamming Foul Play on physical attackers.

I played the team with these modifications in the International Online Challenge, but couldn't log on Friday and Saturday (because of connection issues), so I managed to do some games on Sunday.
I started 11-1, but then I lost concentration and started playing very badly and got very upset after some losses (which I knew I could win if I played better, as I saw every single error I did), and stopped: there's no reason to play if you aren't concentrated in what you are doing.

My loss was against a Choice Scarf Leaf Blade Kartana + Choice Specs Dazzling Gleam Tapu Koko lead which I didn't expect at all, and it destroyed my early lead even after a switch. It was a high-rated player, so I didn't expect to win it in the first place, but his lead just caught me off guard and didn't even give me a chance to fight back.
The other losses were because of my low concentration and then low motivation, I could have won them all (except against a heavy Trick Room team which had an offensive Porygon2 that managed to kill my Garchomp before I could kill him).

So what did I learn from that experience?
1) If you are not focused, don't play. It just makes things worse;
2) Trying to go for all 45 battles in one day is just a mental suicide (atleast for me). If for some reason it isn't possible to play one day, try to get the best from the next ones.

So, going forward, these are the plans for the team:
1) Try Rockium-Z Gigalith. AV set is really good, but there were times where I had Chomp+Gigalith on the battlefield and couldn't EQ as freely as I would have liked to. Having the possibility to run Protect gives me a better time in these situations;
2) With another Z move on the team, I want to try Life Orb on Arcanine. It gives him much more raw attack power, but at the cost of recoil.

What do you guys think? Is there something else you would change?