VGC 2010 (Chalkey): Team Magma Forever - A Combination Atlanta and Newark Warstory/Dissertation
I. Prologue: The History Of Team Magma, For You Young Folk
May 25, 2005. This was the day of the Battle in Seattle National Pokémon tournament, and the day I met Stephen Parrish, Travis Standiford, Kevin Ellis and Mike Papaginis (a name which, to this day, I can never spell correctly. Damn Canadians)—better known in the Smogon world as Stess, BSTS, Multi, and Skarm respectively. Skarm taught me about Smogon, and Stess and BSTS taught me about Netbattle. I can't begin to describe how vital these guys were to my development as a trainer.
But that day, we joined together as Team Magma, for better or for worse (for better when we joined in making fun of Chris Darling, the now infamous user of the Fly/Hyper Beam Rayquaza with all 31 IVs that the shitty hack checkers at the time overlooked entirely, and for worse when we all lost to the bastard). I don't remember why we liked this name in particular, but we swore we'd all play in future tournaments and make Team Magma proud.
And in the five years since then, we've kept our word. Skarm won the Chicago JAA State Championships despite exploding into Double Protect first turn and being down a Pokémon the whole final match, only to be disqualified by Nintendo for being Canadian—which was a breaking point not only for his tournament time but for the season as a whole, as his alternate Calvin Chan would go on to get 2nd place in JAA Nationals.
When I got home from Seattle, I talked to my friend Justin Epstein (Jeps to Smogoners) about how great it was to play in a National tournament, and his first words were "Eh, I could do that". So I incorporated him into regular Netbattling sessions with Team Magma, and he joined. He went on to get 3rd in JAA Nationals—better than all of Team Magma did that year, and better than any Smogoner (though Minn Ba Lee admitted later that he lurked regularly).
Stess and BSTS have had great success in local tournies, most notably without the use of ubers. To this day, Stess is forever ingrained in my Pokémon memories as the only guy I've ever witnessed take down a Groudon with a Crobat (he's also there for swearing while playing on stage and being mic'ed in front of little kids, and being the smart ass that responds to the announcer asking "What is your team made of?" with a long pause and the word a snarky "Uhh... Pokémon"). Oh, and let's not forget Multi, who was the first Team Magma member to make top 16 this year at the Atlanta stop.
And as for me? Well, here's my Pokémon resume:
Astute veterans will note that my '08 and '09 performances where one win away from getting to the next stage of tournaments (Worlds and Nationals respectively). So, needless to say, I've been a little discouraged the last few years. But I knew that if I ended my Pokémon career on a bad note I would never forgive myself, so I decided to play for one more year. And damn it if this isn't the best year of my life [for Pokémon related things].
Plus, last year when I lost to Imperfect Luck in the top 8, the announcer got the audience to clap for me and said "I know this isn't the last we'll see if Chalkey". I had to come back for that, at least.
II. The Team
Out of 768 people entering the tournament, only one person acknowledged that I named all of my Pokémon after famous philosophers. Oh well.
Typically, I go for one of two things: an anti-metagame team that shuts down the popular top-tier Pokémon for VGC, or a team of staple ubers. This time around, I chose the latter. Multiple mirror matches in JAA Cincinatti have taught me that just having strong Pokémon isn't enough; predictions play a huge key. After beating three teams that were exactly the same as mine, I didn't feel too bad about using common guys; how you use them is an often ignored part of the credit that's due to a team.
Anyway, here's mine:
Ludicolo has been a recurring joke of mine ever since Bugenhagen and I played Pokémon Colosseum and got wrecked by Miror B's team of all Ludicolo. He hates the guy with a passion, and so I couldn't resist throwing one on my team just to spite him. Plus, Ludicolo has a 4x resistance to the infamous Kyogre's Water Spout, making a top tier uber a laughing matter. I opted to ignore Protect in exchange for a more versatile move set, which I'm ridiculously grateful for now—each one of those moves got me a KO somewhere that day (yes, even Fake Out).
Ah, Moby Dick. It hurt to not have Groudon on my team as a Team Magma man, but Kyogre's powerhouse synergy is just something a lot of pros can't resist, myself included. My only minute difference from the rest of the cookie cutter Kyogres is that I ran Ice Beam instead of Blizzard, just because I'm prone to moves missing.
This guy deserves some sort of award. Dry Skin heals him in the rain, while Black Sludge heals him every turn. Surf and Water Spout graciously heal him 25% too—that makes ~50% I could heal per turn when I wanted, causing hilarity to ensue when he can eventually shrug off two or three Shadow Forces. Switching him in was his claim to fame; switching into a Surf or letting him take damage for another teammate and then healing back to full made everyone else's job much easier.
I prayed I would have a good warstory to write at some point this year just so I could say something about Hitmontop. Back in the winter, when JTK and I first heard about the rules for regionals in Japan, we played on Netbattle like kids in a candy store, testing all sorts of things. At some point, for about a week straight, I honestly did run Kyogre/Hitmontop against her—and this was in January, completely independent of Zerowing's influence. Now what makes this story hilarious is that JTK would get so frustrated with Top that I distinctly remember one night where she specifically said "I can't wait to play in a tournament with other people so I don't have to fight Top ever again." Funny how these things work out, isn't it?
Hitmontop was both a champion for this metagame and one of my personal favorite Pokémon of all time (I'd run Blastoise to play with my absolute favorite, but somehow I don't think that would go over as well). While I do stress that Top was an idea many people independently came up with, I applaud Zerowing for perfecting it past what I originally conceived. His influence gave me Sucker Punch, a move that shuts down most things that can't be Mach Punched, like Giratina or Mewtwo. My original Hitmontop had Helping Hand for boosting Water Spout further (which pretty much decimates anything it didn't already), but both testing and watching regionals has taught me that it's not necessary. And, at TTS' suggestion, I gave it a smudge of speed just to be one step ahead of opposing Hitmontop (which came in handy).
Believe it or not, testing online led me to believe that there would be a lot of matches where I thought I could win with only one uber. I've felt that, as the metagame drags on, Palkia becomes more and more of a liability with opposing Palkia being everywhere—which is shameful when Palkia's biggest weakness is his own STAB Dragon attacks. But to be fair, Palkia had his time to shine on my team just like everyone else, and he also did a great job holding an extra item for me. When he did get play time, he got an item of actual relevance.
In Atlanta, I ran Draco Meteor over Spacial Rend and Flamethrower over Blizzard, both of which worked well in grudge matches and the VGC side event "King of the Hill", but not quite so well anywhere else.
Okay, without further ado, onto the story!
III. Journey Across Atlanta
The things you do for friends are some of the best things you'll ever do. Last weekend, I took an eighteen hour bus ride to a state I've never been in to compete with the guys that first got me my start in competitive play: Stess, BSTS and Multi.
The whole bus ride there, I was stuck sitting next to a man who reeked of alcohol and vomit. As he staggered onto the bus from the Detroit station, I noticed he didn't have a single item of luggage to his name, and concluded he just drunkenly decided to buy a ticket.
During this trip, I stayed with a guy named Andrew Vogel, who was my Editor in Chief on my college newspaper. This led to a weekend of painful awkwardness when I realized that a) We have nothing in common, and b) he hates video games. He offered to take me in as a way of saying thanks for the hard work, but we didn't have the nerve to tell his parents that he let someone he didn't really talk to stay in his house for the weekend. Whenever things got eerily silent, we hit the town and went drinking to break the ice. I spent a great amount of this weekend inebriated and arguing about which female member of the newspaper staff was the hottest. Being a pig is kind of the ultimate male equalizer when you're drunk.
At some point, Stess, BSTS and Multi arrived in town, and I crashed with them in a hotel for the night. We woke up the next morning, had Denny's (the breakfast of true champions), and headed out, arriving at the tournament site blasting The Pokémon Theme Song loud enough for everyone within a ten mile radius to hear.
I didn't do so well this time, but I knew I was going to New Jersey the next weekend for a college graduation party at a friend's house, so I wasn't too concerned.
Charizard, Umbreon, Mewtwo, Blastoise
Your stereotypical unnamed noob. The only Pokémon on his team to even touch mine was Umbreon. Though I give him props for using Blastoise, my favorite Pokémon. I prolonged the match by switching in Toxicroak just to see my his inglorious Blastoise a little longer. 4-0
Ludicolo, Kyogre, Abomasnow, Palkia
This match was not my best work. After a lot of switching to dominate weather, it ended with his Abomasnow against my Toxicroak. Toxicroak, unfortunately, had taken too much residual damage to outlive the faster Abomasnow. At the time, I argued that I could have won had a critical hit not happened, one-shotting Palkia before he could kill his Abomasnow. But, as painful as it is to say, crits are just part of the game.
But the tournament wasn't all bad. As mentioned, Multi got top 16, putting Team Magma on the map for Nationals, and I got to watch the Arnold family decimate the entire tournament. This was pretty funny when I heard all sorts of people complain that they lost to a thirteen year old, but it was even funnier when said thirteen year old's father came back from a 1-2 disadvantage by freezing both of Alaka's final Pokémon. Alaka looked like he was able to laugh at it too, at least. He even removed his hat and hung it up on the TV screen, a gesture the announcer joked as his sign of surrendering to hax.
I also met a kid named Cody, who pretty much validated my entire Pokémon existence. He had his in-game trainer name as "Charles", which was immeidately odd given he was clearly not named Charles, and his Smeargle was nicknamed "Chakka" (my old username before this one—Travis nicknamed me Chakka Khan, after the terrible singer, when he heard my real name was Chalkey). I asked him if he knew me, and he said he saw/played me in Nashville Regionals and that he was my biggest fan. This was pretty freaking sweet—pretty much the highlight of my trip. We had a just for fun match that was really close, although he actually ended up beating me. He assured me he'd still be my fan anyway, but I'm glad he got his revenge nonetheless. It can't always be one person's time to shine.
IV: I <3 NJ
Finally, the New Jersey stop. I was a little nervous because this stop was going to have some big names coming, but the ride there was enjoyable enough for me to take my mind off things. I rode there with two veteran platers, FiveKRunner and my childhood friend Bugenhagen (who's played every tournament that Jeps and I have with minor successes and a lot of Hydro Pump misses). Other said childhood friend Jeps couldn't make it this year, but I promised to make at least Nationals in honor of him. He said that if, hypothetically speaking, I made it all the way to Worlds, he'd buy a ticket to Hawaii and enter the Last Chance Worlds Qualifier.
FiveK and I took turns driving for eleven hours straight (while Bugenhagen sat on his ass the whole time—thanks, man), leading to us arriving in New Jersey around 2:00 a.m. We stayed at my previously mentioned friend Bill's house, where FiveK printed off the Ducks logo and ironed it onto a shirt for good luck the following day. After getting settled in and catching up, we went to bed at 3:00 a.m., and woke up at (ugh) 5:00 a.m. to get to the convention center on time. FiveK and I both were mad about times we didn't get to play last year (though he was far more adamant for not getting a chance at all), so we were determined to get there by 6:00 a.m. to guarantee our spots in the tournament. This proved to be the best idea FiveK had all day, as I heard there were a fair number of people that were turned away after the 768 people cap came around 2:00 p.m. This also led to a tired and disoriented FiveK ripping his Ducks team shirt ("Recently shaved heads are not good for delicate shirts"), and him panhandling for a Ducks shirt later.
FiveK, Bugenhagen and I arrived on-site at around ass-thirty in the morning as planned, and JTK was already there in line holding our spot (not that we needed it, as we were maybe the fourth, fifth and sixth senior division players to arrive). After catching up with JTK, her dad offered to buy us breakfast at Dunkin Donuts and eventually lunch from Burger King. We were warned that a few machines were having problems at Burger King, but I ate anyway, thinking "What's the worst that could happen?" From this day forward, I shall remember to never again ask myself this question.
So after a long wait in line, we got our spots and started playing. Now, these matches are a little hazy in memory as Bill and I went out to celebrate afterwards and I'm almost positive the morning after that I have dramatically fewer brain cells. If I make a mistake somewhere, I'll happily and humbly change it upon request.
Groudon, Cherrim, Shiftry, Palkia
First things first. I switched Kyogre for Abomasnow to take away Cherrim's boost and make Blizzard 100% accurate, sweeping them both (Cherrim in one shot, Groudon the next turn). From there, I just ganged up on the survivors one at a time. 3-0 win.
He used: ???
I'll never know what this guy would have used. The aformentioned bogus Burger King finally caught up with me here, and I threw up on the purple station. FiveK was right next to me, and didn't notice the vomit at his feet due to being entirely engrossed in his game. He reacted after he won.
The tourney officials sat me down and got me some water, and told me to come back when I was feeling better. After watching a few more people go, I decided I couldn't take it any more just sitting on the sidelines (plus, I was honestly afraid that if I waited too long they wouldn't let me back in). I told them I was ready, and away I went.
Round Two, Take 2
He used: Arcanine, Infernape, Mewtwo, Metagross
I thanked God for being switched. I was once again only touched once. 4-0.
Palkia, Giratina, Hitmontop, Abomasnow
I swapped Kyogre again and put in Abomasnow like last time, hoping to hit both for decent damage. This guy was EVed to take minimal damage from this, however, and he ganged up on Ludicolo afterwards. My Hitmontop Fake Outed his Palkia, letting me hit Palkia while he switched out Giratina for his own Top. This match was probably the closest call I had all day, as I had a Kyogre with 1% health against his Giratina with ~20%, and I was Scarf-locked into Surf. I barely killed him 1-0.
Palkia, Weezing, Mewtwo, Abomasnow.
I saw Weezing and laughed, thinking that this kid had just sort of squeaked by, and that I was going to get a free win. I led with ganging up on Palkia, which led to two moves going into Palkia's Protect and me taking a Weezing Explosion. TopOgre, for some reason, still won the match despite a distinct disadvantage. There was a well-predicted Fake Out, followed by Mach Punch and Sucker Punching the three into oblivion while they cheekily went for Kyogre. Somehow, this was still a 2-0 victory.
From here, I turned in my cart for the usual finalist hack check they do. When I went to the counter, the two staff members were like "Hey, aren't you that kid who threw up in the purple station?" I sighed, and nodded. This same reaction came when a few finalists I didn't know told me they saw it happen. One guy I didn't know had just heard about it. Out of all the things to be remembered for from that day, I never would have guessed that'd be one of them.
Top 32 vs 3lmo
Groudon, Mesprit, Abomasnow, Palkia
3lmo broke the ice and mentioned that there was some YouTube video out there where someone used my exact team from regionals last year, and there were a few comments defending that it was my team. Between this and Cody, I was becoming really shocked that I have a fanbase outside of, well, myself. Flattered, we started the match.
Despite winning 3-0, this was actually the hardest match all day. I don't remember exactly how it went, but Mesprit used Imprison to block my Blizzard spam, and there was a lot of switching (this was also my longest match). It was a constant brawl to keep weather control and outlive Imprison, one that I barely squeaked by winning. Again, 3-0 implies I did far better than I did. All of my guys were in the red when I won. There was a lot of predicting and outpredicting—the thing I love most about metagame. 3lmo is truly a great battler and the best I saw all day.
The announcer asked me how it felt to qualify for Nationals once again, and I just sorta shrugged and said "I did what you told me to". He put his hand over the mic and said it was good to see me playing again. I was a little shocked that he actually remembered me beyond just being a face that's around a lot, so I was a little happy there.
Infernape, Weavile, Palkia, Giratina
This is the one match I still have recorded, although right now I'm kicking myself for not saving the match right before this one. Still, as the sole one recorded, this will have some good detail.
Predicting a Fake Out but not sure from where given the starters, I decided to play it safe and Surf twice. This led to me Surfing into a switched in Palkia and Giratina, doing more residual damage to my own Kyogre than to her Pokémon. Well, that's just great, I thought. From there, I called back Kyogre and switched in Abomasnow for Ludicolo to Blizzard (and to take the Choice Scarfed Surf off of Kyogre). Giratina vanished and Palkia used Thunder, which missed after switching the weather. Next turn, Palkia used Flamethrower on Abomasnow, at which point she laughed and went "But, knowing you, you probably have Focus Sash on him, don't you?"
"Actually, I do, thanks for noticing!" I cheekily responded, only to have Abomasnow one-shotted anyway. At this point, I remembered that I switched in Palkia the round prior and gave him my Focus Sash just in case. Abomasnow had Rindo Berry, and I sat there for a good ten minutes cursing Palkia's name and telling him to go kill himself. "It's dumb shit like this that makes you an alternate, Palkia!" I shouted, only immediately after realizing that the audience and small children could hear me. Giratina Shadow Forces Ludicolo the same turn, causing me to come to an early 2-4 disadvantage.
I sent in Kyogre again, and my fresh Hitmontop. By this point, Palkia was in the red and Giratina was at about half health, so I Sucker Punched Giratina hoping for another Choice Scarfed Shadow Force to take it down enough for me to kill it. Not only did she not have Scarf, but she outprediced me here and used Will-o-Wisp instead. For better or for worse, I had chosen Water Spout as the last move Kyogre would use that round. It killed Palkia and sent Giratina into the red. After she switched in Infernape for her fallen comrade I Sucker Punched with Hitmontop again, and she burned my Hitmontop with another Will-o-Wisp. But, for some reason, she forgot to Fake Out, giving me a nearly fresh Water Spout to still kill both Giratina and Infernape. From there, Hitmontop Mach Punched Weavile incessantly until he died, putting me in the top 8.
For some reason, I had this strange urge to be an asshole. Maybe it was because I knew the audience could see our match, but I really feel ashamed for what came over me. I had basically won 3-0, but then suddenly thought it would be funny to stall him into the loss by making his Palkia die by his own Tyranitar's hail. Three turns of Protecting like a little bitch and intentionally using an already useless Fake Out won me the match. This guy did play well, for what it's worth, though. He seemed a little nervous, but was overall a nice guy and a great battler. I know he's from Smogon, but I can't remember his name. Sorry man, I'll correct it if you post.
Top 4 Vs Danny Zollner (TTS)
I'll let him describe this one. I'm sure my own version of the story would make me look less like a dumbass, but I'm pretty much okay with letting people think what they want.
TTS definitely deserves the win. Multiple Smogoners at the tournament site claimed that he was on Pokémon Online just about every hour of every day, so it's not like he hasn't done his homework. Also, the underdog in me was hoping I'd get to see his team make it on the Pokémon Web site just to see an unconventional team highlighted.
TTS' friend Max, however, gave me a Ducks team shirt to wear during the match, on principle that the announcer had previously mentioned he'd quack for the audience if enough Ducks made it into the top 4. I told him I didn't really consider myself a Duck because I wasn't invited in, and didn't want to consider myself one just because they're good battlers (I didn't want to be "that guy" that just followed them around claiming to be one of them). He said I should have talked to Zerowing about it before and that I probably could've been considered a member if I wanted, and that I should just take the damn shirt. Wanting to see the announcer quack, I threw it on. During my match with TTS, I felt momentarily guilty about not wearing my Team Magma shirt (not that I feel like I should only be on one team, but I still wanted to support Stess and Travis whenever possible). This led to me ripping the shirt off mid-battle, throwing it aside, and re-donning my Magma shirt.
Upon thinking it over, between throwing up, cursing, and stripping in front of the audience, I almost judge the Pokémon League staff for not kicking me out for being a bad influence on the junior division.
And, as you all know by now, TTS went on to win. The tournament staff took some pictures of the final four, and we parted ways.
V. Final Thoughts
It's ridiculous how far the official tournament metagame has come. Five years ago, when I first started, half the kids didn't know about EV training. It wasn't every day that people were Smogoners; Smogon swore we'd take JAA by storm, but only had 6 people in Skarm's report that were known Smogoners. Now, Smogon is taking these tournaments by storm, and virtually every player past the second round has heard of them and either lurks or has an active account. It's no longer an effort to find Smogoners at a tournament and doing well; it's an inevitability. These damn young-ans and their internet.
Cheers, boys. Let's go kick ass in Nationals.