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Bye Week Finale: FTRS Pokemon Tournament feat. Trainer Power Rankings

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In which the staffers battle it out for Pokemon supremacy

JAPAN-AVIATION-SKYMARK-POKEMON Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images

Ben’s hot takes on Pokemon starters (author’s note: I was strangely okay with his top handful but the placements of Empoleon, Blastoise, and Typhlosion were criminal) were only the beginning. Four of the Nintendo Switch owners on the staff came together to battle each other in a Pokemon tournament to crown the completely meaningless title of staff Pokemon champion.

Leading up to the tournament, each of the four competitors built up teams, and earlier this week the players came together to play it all out. And seeing how there’s no formal gameday today, this can be something of a stand-in.

In a perfect world, we would have had video of all of the matches instead of written play-by-play. Unfortunately, Pokemon Sword/Shield has no multiplayer match recording function that we know of, and none of us felt like shelling out $100 for a capture card just to make a [Styx]post that much better.

Rules

The standard Pokemon Sword single battle rules were used, which capped all fighters at Level 50 and prevented two members of a team from using the same item. Allowable Pokemon and items were based on Smogon’s OU tier, which allows all but a couple dozen Pokemon, including a good fraction of legendaries. The only other rule imposed was that while players could freely mix and match Pokemon in round robin play, they had to commit to a team of six for the tournament bracket.

Team Descriptions

Ben: Weezing (Galar), Magnezone, Gyarados, Zapdos (Galar), Blacephalon/Volcarona, Kyurem/Haxorus

All images via Bulbapedia

It’s the bye week, so what better way to list my Pokemon than to power rank them!

6. Weezing, Galarian Form (Poison/Fairy): This was my planned lead for the tournament in an effort to set up Toxic Spikes as an entry hazard, which was subsequently foiled every time I used it. I really just love the design of Galarian Weezing, so that’s mainly why I wanted to use it.

5. Kyurem (Ice/Dragon): This was my other pre-tournament switch. I originally had the Haxorus I used in my run-through of Pokemon: Sword, but it performed very poorly in the Round Robin, so I swapped it out for another legendary. It didn’t make much of an impact in the Tournament, unfortunately.

4. Magnezone (Electric/Steel): I knew early on that Kieffer was going to be using Toxapex, which is a Water/Poison type. He bragged about how he managed to catch one with perfect IVs, so I knew from the start that it was going to be a pain and that I would need a counter. Enter Magnezone. As a steel type, it is immune to the effects of poison, and electric has a type advantage over water. To make up for the quad weakness to ground, I also ran Magnet Rise on it, which came in handy in a battle against Nishant when I called his switch and used Magnet Rise as he brought in Nidoking.

3. Zapdos, Galarian Form (Fighting/Flying): This was a late add for me. I was originally going to use a Pangoro as my fighting type, but in an effort to step things up on my team, I opted to add the legendary Galarian Zapdos.

2. Blacephalon (Ghost/Fire): This was a mid-round robin switch. I initially had planned to use Volcarona in this spot, and I had done a lot to get it pretty good. I was going to run Quiver Dance, and it was going to be awesome. I swapped it for Blacephalon for pretty much one reason. It’s an Ultra Beast and nobody was quite sure what type it was, so I was able to use that to my advantage. It also has a lovely ability called Beast Boost, that serves a similar purpose as Moxie. It raises a Pokemon’s highest stat after beating another Pokemon. In Blacephalon’s case, that would be its special attack. With Shadow Ball and Fire Blast, that ability came in handy a good bit.

1. Gyarados (Water/Flying): My ace was also my best Pokemon: Gyarados. I ran Dragon Dance on it to buff it early on and swept a good bit. It was because of this Gyarados that I nearly beat Nishant. One thing I wish I had done with it was get its hidden ability Moxie instead of Intimidate. It would have boosted my attack stat after each Pokemon it made faint.

Kieffer: Ferrothorn, Marowak (Alola), Toxapex, Togekiss, Mamoswine, Terrakion

All images via Bulbapedia

I set out to create a balanced team with a strong defensive core and an effective array of wallbreakers and sweepers. There wasn’t a huge amount of synergy to my picks, I just wanted to cover the threats I anticipated. I didn’t anticipate Nishant’s rain team.

  1. Ferrothorn - The first part of my defensive core was Ferrothorn, my special wall and hazard setter. Ferrothorn and Toxapex have complementary typing and wall off different threats. Thunder wave also synergized well with my Tokekiss.
  2. Alolan Marowak - Marowak was placed on this team to remove opposing walls. Marowak isn’t fast, but has a massive Attack stat with the Big Club and recoil-free Flare Blitz due to rock head. It KOs anything that doesn’t resist it. However, facing a rain team, fire moves were suppressed. This is one I would want back if I’d know what I was getting into.
  3. Toxapex - The heart of my defensive core was my status spreader and staller, Toxapex. With excellent defensive stats and typing, Toxapex was able to force switches and spread poison in several matches.
  4. Togekiss - Serene Grace is everything with Togekiss. It gives Air Slash a 60% chance of causing a flinch. If Ferrothorn paralyzed the opponent with Thunder Wave first, the opponent has a 70% chance of not being able to make a move if Togekiss goes first. Unfortunately Nishant had a lot of Pokemon that Togekiss could not outspeed, which hampered its effectiveness.
  5. Mamoswine - My heavy hitter and main revenge killer. It was the only Pokemon I had with a priority move, Ice Shard, which is basically ice type Quick Attack. The pivotal mistake I made in the championship match was switching Mamoswine into Nishant’s Zapdos anticipating that he would use Thunder, which Mamoswine is immune to. Instead he OHKOed Mamoswine with Weather Ball. In that moment I lost the one Pokemon I had that could out-prioirty Nishant’s Barraskewda and one of only 2 that could OHKO his Ferrothorn. I was doomed after that.
  6. Terrakion - My most fearsome sweeper. Didn’t even need to set up with Swords Dance most of the time. Single handedly won me my seeding match against Nishant.

Jeff: Machamp, Beartic, Rhydon, Chandelure, Klinklang, Inteleon

All images via Bulbapedia

Jeff was the last of us to pick up the game and had the least amount of time available to build up his team, so he assembled a crew based on which ones were sufficiently leveled up when he reached the end of the core game, anchored by his starter Inteleon. But he still managed to put together a fairly balanced squad with some creative movesets that caught the others off guard at times.

In the round robin matches he also used a Togedemaru, which was at the center of one of his most creative gambits in round robin play: he had his Inteleon use Soak on one of Nishant’s Pokemon and then pummeled it with a pair of electric attacks from Togedemaru to pick up a KO.

Nishant: Pelipper, Ferrothorn, Kingdra, Barraskewda, Nidoking, Zapdos

All images via Bulbapedia

I figured it’d be fun to try out a weather-based team just to throw a curveball at everyone, and rain turned out to be a compelling team to build and use. Following Ben’s lead, let’s power rank them based on how they performed.

6. Nidoking (Poison/Ground) - I armed Nidoking with a bunch of powerful special attacks to provide some type coverage outside of the rain core, including my team’s lone fire and ground attacks. He was a valued member of the team but just didn’t do much in this tournament and lost a couple battles by being outsped.

5. Zapdos (Electric/Flying) - Zapdos is a versatile anchor in rain, where Thunder and Hurricane both get their accuracy boosted from 70% to 100% and Weather Ball becomes a powerful water-type attack. The legendary bird had one or two letdown moments for me but also came through with one of the most timely KOs of the tournament.

4. Pelipper (Water/Flying) - The natural leadoff hitter for a rain team, Pelipper’s combo of Drizzle and a Damp Rock provides eight turns of rain right off the bat. I also gave him Knock Off to annoy opponents and U-Turn so he can withdraw to restart the rain later when it ends. Pelipper didn’t do much of note in combat, but his presence alone made this team possible.

3. Ferrothorn (Grass/Steel) - Ferrothorn is an especially good tank in rain thanks to the reduced fire damage. I equipped mine with Spikes as an entry hazard, and that chip damage proved vital on numerous occasions—as did Ferrothorn’s ability to soak up damage with her high defenses.

2. Barraskewda (Water) - The unassuming fish is a physical bruiser who gets a speed boost in rain from Swift Swim. Barraskewda is an extreme glass cannon who can one-shot anything and be one-shot by anything, and I made that even more extreme by giving him a Choice Band for extra attack power. I called on him in a lot of vital moments when I needed to bust through a wall with brute force, and with water, fighting, and psychic attacks in his arsenal, he almost always delivered.

1. Kingdra (Water/Dragon) - One of my favorites dating back to gen 2, I had to pick Kingdra to be my special attacker after finding out he could carry Swift Swim. Armed with Choice Specs and good type coverage, Kingdra turned out to be an offensive juggernaut in the rain, carrying the team on multiple occasions.

While training up the rain team, I also trained up a bunch of other Pokemon in parallel and used several of them in other round robin matches. These included a Regieleki for setting dual screens; an offensive and defensive Garchomp; offensive powerhouses Latios and Azelf; and my old main-game stalwarts Venusaur, Ribombee, and Mudsdale.

Round Robin

To figure out tournament seeding and just so everyone would get to play everyone, all four players faced off against each other in a round robin format (aside from Kieffer and Jeff, who didn’t battle each other in this round due to time constraints).

Round Robin Results

Player Wins Losses KO For KO Against vs. Ben vs. Jeff vs. Kieffer vs. Nishant
Player Wins Losses KO For KO Against vs. Ben vs. Jeff vs. Kieffer vs. Nishant
Ben 1 2 8 12 n/a W 6-0 L 0-6 L 2-6
Jeff 0 2 1 12 L 0-6 n/a not played L 1-6
Kieffer 2 0 12 6 W 6-0 not played n/a W 6-6
Nishant 2 1 18 9 W 6-2 W 6-1 L 6-6 n/a

The match between Kieffer and Nishant went down to the wire and required a tiebreaker of sorts to resolve, but most others ended up being comfortable victories for one trainer over the other.

Playoffs

The players were reseeded for the playoffs based on their round robin finishes and faced off in a four-person bracket. Pokemon selections were locked in; players were not allowed to rotate out team members between matches. Here were the results:

Match Power Rankings

This article would be twice as long if we wrote up a summary for every match, so here are the rundowns for the five most compelling matches of the tournament:

5. Round Robin: Ben vs. Jeff

This match isn’t on the list because of how competitive it was, but rather because of how decisive the outcome was. Ben only needed a single Pokemon to win the day.

Ben led with Gyarados and, thanks to a favorable initial matchup, was able to open with a pair of Dragon Dances, which doubled the sea monster’s attack and speed. Those stat boosts proved overwhelming. Gyarados took some initial damage from Jeff’s Machamp using Dual Chop, but it went on to sweep Jeff’s entire team, taking out Togedemaru, Corviknight, Beartic, Machamp, Inteleon, and Chandelure with a combination of Waterfall, Bounce, and Earthquake. It was fast, brutal, and impressive.

Final Score: Ben wins 6-0

4. Playoff Third Place Match: (3) Ben vs. (4) Jeff

The rematch between Ben and Jeff was the most fast-paced match of the tournament, with both players going right at each other, and it was a fun ride.

Ben’s Blacephalon had a bad matchup off the bat against Jeff’s Rhydon, so Ben quickly swapped to Kyurem, which successfully tanked an Earthquake and fired off Ice Beam for a one-hit KO. Jeff went to Beartic, which took a brutal shot from Kyurem’s super effective Flash Cannon... but barely held on and retaliated with Superpower, taking down Kyurem in one shot to even the match. But then Blacephalon reappeared and scored two quick kills, finishing off Beartic and then one-shotting Jeff’s Chandelure with Shadow Ball to give Ben a 5-3 lead.

Jeff went with Inteleon and rolled the dice on using its strongest attack, Hydro Cannon. Ben swapped in Magnezone that turn, and it took heavy damage but held on, leaving it with an opening to promptly dispatch Inteleon with a Discharge. Jeff’s Machamp struck back by taking out Magnezone with a Cross Chop, but that would be his last KO of the match. Ben sent out Galarian Zapdos, and a combo of Drill Peck and Thunderous Kick was enough to finish off Machamp and Klinklang to seal the match for Ben.

Final Score: Ben wins 6-2

3. Playoff Semifinals: (2) Nishant vs. (3) Ben

Nishant had gone to his rain team for the playoffs, while Ben shuffled his roster to replace Haxorus with Kyurem to the mix for some extra firepower.

Both players used the early turns to work on setting up entry hazards. Ben was able to lay down two layers of Toxic Spikes with his Galarian Weezing, but Nishant found an opportunity to bring in Nidoking to negate the hazard.

It took a few turns of early maneuvering, but Nishant scored the first KO when he gambled on bringing in Barraskewda to face Ben’s Magnezone and managed to take it out with a single Close Combat.

Ben went straight to his trusty Gyarados and bought himself enough time to get off two Dragon Dances. With Gyarados’s attack and speed both doubled from the boosts, he suddenly had an opportunity to sweep Nishant’s entire team. He tried using Bounce against Nishant’s Pelipper, but the move’s 85% accuracy backfired and it missed. That gave Nishant an opening to use U-Turn to bring out his own stalwart, Kingdra.

If Gyarados had been able to go first, the match might have ended right here. But it turned out that Kingdra’s rain speed boost made it even faster than the double-boosted Gyarados, and since Nishant had put some dents in Gyarados earlier, a single Dragon Pulse from Kingdra was enough to finish the job. Ben sent out Kyurem in hopes of using his most powerful Pokemon to retaliate, but Kingdra went first by way of the rain speed boost and was able to dispatch Kyurem in one shot with a second and super-effective Dragon Pulse.

Pelipper came out a couple turns later to reset the rain and dispatched Ben’s Galarian Zapdos. Ben followed by taking it out with his Blacephalon, but with the rain back in place, Kingdra returned and powered through the remainder of his team.

The entire match turned on that missed Bounce and was a lot closer than the final score indicated. Had it landed and finished off Pelipper, the rain would have ended for good a couple turns later, and Nishant may not have been able to do anything to stop Ben’s double-boosted Gyarados from running over his entire team.

Final Score: Nishant wins 6-2

2. Round Robin: Kieffer vs. Nishant

The very first match of the entire tournament—a round robin match pitting Kieffer’s balanced team against Nishant’s rain team—ended with all six Pokemon on both teams knocked out. It might have been the single wildest match of the entire event.

After both players spent the early turns setting up hazards and trying to create openings, Nishant drew first blood with his physical bruiser, Barraskewda. He correctly predicted that Kieffer would counter it with his water/poison tank Toxapex and used Psychic Fangs for super-effective damage. Kieffer had to switch out and ended up having to sacrifice his Mamoswine to the Psychic Fangs assault for the first KO of the match.

Kieffer took the lead soon after, knocking out Nishant’s Barraskewda and Nidoking in rapid succession with his Ferrothorn and Terrakion. The rain had finally ended, so Nishant brought out Pelipper to restart it. While Pelipper promptly fell and put Nishant in a 5-3 deficit, the rain set the stage for his special sweeper, Kingdra.

Kingdra’s Surf hit like a hammer even against opponents that resisted it, and Kieffer was forced to spend several turns rotating between his Pokemon just to try to survive the onslaught. Over the next several turns, just by stacking up damage from repeated hits, Kingdra took out Ferrothorn, Marowak, Togekiss, and even Toxapex despite its resistance to water attacks. Up 3-1 and with that pesky Toxapex out of the way, victory seemed inevitable for Nishant.

But then the rain ended, and with it went Kingdra’s oppressive attack and speed boosts.

Kieffer had only his Terrakion left. But with two Close Combat attacks, Terrakion took out Kingdra and Ferrothorn, evening the score. A combination of Life Orb and Iron Barbs damage had left Terrakion at just 1% health to face Nishant’s Zapdos. But Terrakion was faster and took down Zapdos with a single Stone Edge—while also itself fainting from damage from its Life Orb.

Both players had lost all six Pokemon, but by rule, this apparent tie went to the player who landed the finishing blow. Kieffer took home the win.

Final Score: 6-6, Kieffer wins tiebreaker

1. Playoff Title Game: (1) Kieffer vs. (2) Nishant

When the title game matchup was set, both players were terrified of the rematch after how stressful their round robin bout was. Alas, it had to be done. Trivial bragging rights were at stake.

The opening salvo was a familiar flurry of set-ups and switches. Nishant set the rain with Pelipper and then evacuated to set up Spikes with Ferrothorn. Kieffer opened with his own Ferrothorn to set up Stealth Rock and paralyzed Nishant’s echo using Thunder Wave. As both players began looking for lanes for their attackers, Nishant’s Zapdos scored the first KO on Kieffer’s Mamoswine. Kieffer had predicted Zapdos would use Thunder in the moment and planned to counter with a ground-type, but instead Nishant chose Weather Ball, which became a powerful water attack in rain that was super effective on Mamoswine. Despite the setback, though, Kieffer promptly struck back, calling upon his trusty Terrakion to finish off Zapdos.

Nishant brought out Barraskewda and did some damage to Terrakion with Flip Turn, but then the rain ended. He was forced to bring out Pelipper, and Kieffer took advantage by taking out the rain-setting pelican with his Alolan Marowak’s Shadow Bone. Nishant countered by reprising Barraskewda and finishing off Marowak with Psychic Fangs, evening the match at 4-4, but at the cost of knowing the rain would soon end for good.

The next several turns were a switch-fest in which little damage was done, but Nishant was able to lay down a second layer of spikes with his Ferrothorn to increase the entry hazard damage. He then got lucky with a gambled attack. He predicted a switch to Toxapex and had his Barraskewda use Psychic Fangs, but Kieffer instead switched to Ferrothorn, which resisted the attack. However, chip damage had built up for his Ferrothorn over time, and even a weakened Psychic Fangs was enough to finish it off and give Nishant a 4-3 lead.

Kieffer went to Togekiss and Nishant countered with his own Ferrothorn just as the rain finally came to an end. Ferrothorn did more damage in the initial salvo but was in danger of fainting, so Nishant switched to Nidoking, which promptly got burned by Togekiss’s Flamethrower. But somehow Nidoking was still able to go first on the following turn and knock Togekiss out with a Thunderbolt, putting Nishant ahead 4-2.

But lest he get too comfortable, out came his old nemesis Terrakion for vengeance. Terrakion finished off Nidoking with an Earthquake, and when Nishant made a blunder and brought out Kingdra in a non-rain situation, it too went down to Terrakion’s Close Combat. Just like that, the match was even again at 2-2.

Nishant’s last hope was Barraskewda. In the rain, it would have been faster than Terrakion without question. With no rain, it was anyone’s guess. In the end... Barraskewda was indeed faster, whacking Terrakion with a Flip Turn to finish off the formidable bruiser.

That speed battle decided the match. Kieffer had his trusty Toxapex left, but as devastatingly effective as Toxapex could be in the scope of a broader team battle, it just didn’t have the offensive strength to mount a comeback on its own. Kieffer conceded, wrapping up the match and the tournament.

Final Score: Nishant wins 6-4

Final Trainer Power Rankings

And thus we come to the staff power rankings for Pokemon trainer supremacy:

4) Jeff - Had some very crafty team selections and put up a good fight despite having the significant handicap of not having any DLC Pokemon available

3) Ben - Went 2-0 against Jeff and was one unlucky miss away from potentially knocking off Nishant in the playoff semifinals

2) Kieffer - Undefeated in round robin play and came up just short in a tense title bout

1) Nishant - Avenged his lone defeat in the title match to come out on top