The Power of the Sun! An Invitational Report
Hi everyone! My name is Rowan Hall, but you might know me by Mocha on the Littleroot Lessons Discord. I've been a big Pokemon fan since I was a kid with Blue version, but I didn't get started with VGC until Series 5, right around the beginning of the pandemic. More recently, I qualified for the LRL Invitational by winning the second qualifier tournament during Series 9, and was motivated to prep for it. I worked with PA, who you might know as Angelost from Discord, and took lessons with Paul Ruiz on Metafy to put together what we felt was the most optimized Zacian sun (or "Hot Dog") team we could manage, and put together detailed game plans for it. We laddered extensively to test (also thanks to Captain Unova for helping with playtesting) and all managed to consistently place high in the Series 11 Showdown ladder, with PA getting all the way to top 50. This past weekend that work paid off as I was able to clutch the Invitational through the winner's bracket with the team, admittedly with the help of some favorable RNG in the final stretch. I'd love to share the team with you all, and go through my tournament run.
It's a long one, so I'm putting links and socials at the top:
Rental: 0000 0007 04WF 9T
Zacian @ Rusted Sword
Ability: Intrepid Sword
EVs: 204 HP / 84 Atk / 4 Def / 12 SpD / 204 Spe
- Behemoth Blade
- Sacred Sword
This set is built for consistency with relatively low Atk investment, but great bulk and speed. 204 Spe investment allows it to outspeed Timid/252 Spe Venusaur in sun after a single Airstream boost, 204 HP investment is optimized for potentially using 4 Substitutes while also providing substantial survivability, 84 Atk/Adamant gives us about the same power as a 252 Atk/Jolly set to leave it threatening. It comes to basically every matchup, usually as a mid-lategame cleaner that appreciates Airstream boosts, but also serves as a fantastic way to stall Trick Room and Max turns with Substitute.
Torkoal @ Sitrus Berry
EVs: 244 HP / 36 Def / 228 SpD
IVs: 0 Atk
- Body Press
- Burning Jealousy
Support Torkoal is absolutely invaluable on this team. Apart from standard weather duty, it functions very well as a defensive switch-in and a bulky sleep/burn setter, so we calced to account for as much of this as possible. It lives a 252 SpA/Modest Water Spout from Mystic Water Kyogre when switching in with sun, a 252 SpA/Timid Max Airstream from Life Orb Tornadus, and 94% of Max Quakes from 252 Atk/Jolly Life Orb Regigigas. It comes to a large number of games, either in the back as a switch-in for defensive/weather reasons or as a lead to play defensively with screens and potentially stall a Max. It's also a vital part of our Trick Room (especially Calyrex-Ice) and Regigigas matchups.
Venusaur-Gmax @ Weakness Policy
EVs: 148 HP / 52 Def / 84 SpA / 4 SpD / 220 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
- Leaf Storm
- Sludge Bomb
- Weather Ball
- Sleep Powder
Bulky Weakness Policy Venusaur feels extremely underrated, and we found great success with it. While the standard Venusar/Torkoal lead is always strong with Sleep Powder/Vine Lash mindgames, I found myself vastly preferring to lead next to Grimmsnarl. Screens in addition to Max and substantial bulk investment allows Venusaur to comfortably live a super effective Max move, gain its +2 boost, then snowball with speed control from either Prankster Thunder Wave or a Torkoal switch-in. Speed is to creep other Venusaurs that invest just enough to beat base 100s at +1 in sun, and bulk allows to live a 252 Atk/Jolly Max Airstream from Thundurus-I or a 252 Atk/Adamant Max Airstream from Landorus-T when behind Reflect. It's our most common Max choice, extremely versatile but useful in particular for matchups like Rain, dual weather, and Lapras/Zacian.
Charizard-Gmax @ Life Orb
Ability: Solar Power
EVs: 4 HP / 4 Def / 236 SpA / 12 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
- Blast Burn
- Air Slash
- Scorching Sands
It's not news, but Life Orb Solar Power Charizard just has insane damage output in addition to its potent residual G-Max effect. It can lead with Grimmsnarl for bulk/speed control or Torkoal to provide combined pressure of crazy damage and sleep/burns, but also functions as a lategame sweeper after stalling an opponent's Max/Trick Room. The spread is mostly basic, but the small amount of SpD investment gives it a very favorable roll to live a Helping Hand Max Mindstorm from 252 SpA/Timid Calyrex-Shadow on Psychic Terrain when Light Screen is up in addition to Life Orb chip, allowing it to get a Gmax Wildfire off after a Max Airstream. It's our other main Max choice and is generally brought for our matchups with the mirror, Regigigas, Coalossal, sun (Zacian or Groudon), and Calyrex-Ice.
Grimmsnarl (M) @ Light Clay
EVs: 244 HP / 4 Atk / 148 Def / 84 SpD / 28 Spe
- Spirit Break
- Light Screen
- Thunder Wave
If it hasn't been obvious since halfway through Series 8, Screens are extremely powerful in the Dynamax/single-restricted meta, and apart from Lapras Grimmsnarl is the only serious choice. Thunder Wave brings solid speed control, and while I do miss the consistency of Scary Face in terms of both accuracy and immunities, the potential for full-paras to completely alter a game in such a high-powered meta is just too big to pass up. We invest just enough physical bulk to live a Behemoth Blade from 156 Atk/Adamant Zacian after Intimidate when Reflect is up, speed to beat base 100s after two Max Airstreams, and the rest in special bulk. It can be brought to almost every matchup as a lead, with a few rare exceptions like Regigigas.
Landorus-Therian (M) @ Assault Vest
EVs: 244 HP / 36 Atk / 76 Def / 12 SpD / 140 Spe
- Rock Tomb
Bulky Assault Vest Landorus-T is probably the least flashy member of the team, but its ability to eat hits while pivoting and provide crucial speed boosts/drops makes it a vital part of a lot of matchups. While we almost always prefer to use our Max on Venusaur or Charizard, it can be a viable second option to provide 4x type coverage with Max Quake/Rockfall and speed boosts with Max Airstream. Its speed is set to 1 higher than our Venusaur's to avoid speed creeps while also beating most Venusaurs out of sun and Zacians after an Airstream boost/Rock Tomb drop. Its bulk gives it a 75% chance to live a Behemoth Blade from +1 252 Atk/Jolly Zacian (although we obviously hope to hit that Intimidate), and its Atk hits a breakpoint that gives it reasonable damage output considering its generally supportive role. It is generally brought to our matchups with the mirror, Sun, and Coal.
Winner's Round 1 v Shanto (Zacian/Regigigas/Weezing/Venusaur/Torkoal/Moltres-G)
Game 1 - This was effectively the mirror, but I had to respect the Regigias lead with a Charizard/Torkoal lead. Zacian obviously comes in the back, and I decided on Landorus for its special bulk and Intimidate. Luckily, my opponent did indeed opt for a Regigigas/Weezing lead, so I was able to go for a G-Max Wildfire into Weezing and a Yawn into Regigigas. Their Weezing used Protect, meaning the Yawn landed into Gigas while I still dealt solid chip and set residual damage. Notably, their Weezing was fast enough to beat a -1 Charizard, which was able to pick up the KO after the Max Guard/Protect to stall for Yawn to set sleep. Still, the combination of Wildfire residual, sleep, and Substitute Zacian allowed me to close this game out comfortably.
Game 2 - Not wanting to change what worked, I brought the same lead/back as the first game. My opponent adapted very well with a Venusaur/Moltres-G lead, and the game quickly ran away from me as they called my Charizard Protect with a Sleep Powder into Torkoal and a Max Airstream. Some good switches combined with a 1-turn sleep on Torkoal allowed me to almost claw my way back in by stalling their Max and forcing Venusaur our with Yawn, but ultimately a Fiery Wrath flinch stopped Torkoal from setting a crucial Yawn and my opponent took this game in a 2v1 scenario.
Game 3 - I very much wanted to adapt by leading with Venusaur/Grimmsnarl because Moltres-G would very likely proc our Weakness Policy while not doing much damage through Light Screen, particularly without Life Orb, but ultimately I feared the switch back to Regigigas too much to pull the trigger. Unfortunately this didn't pan out as my opponent chose to stay with their Moltres-G/Venusaur lead, but I got a much better start by correctly calling their Sleep Powder into Charizard with Protect and hitting their Venusaur with Yawn. They used this time to set up with Nasty Plot, but non-Life Orb Moltres can't OHKO Max Zard even at +2, so I chose to Airstream Venusaur while Yawning Moltres and they Airstreamed Zard while switching Venusaur into Torkoal, which immediately went down. Life Orb and Solar Power chip made this call uncomfortably close as we ended the turn on 1 HP, but that survival combined with the subsequent 3-turn sleep on Moltres allowed Zacian and Landorus to run away with the endgame as Venusaur lost its sun for speed control.
Winner's Round 2 v pocoyo (Calyrex-I/Venusaur/Incineroar/Indeedee-F/Torkoal/Mimikyu)
Game 1 - While Charizard is capable of OHKO-ing bulky Trick Room setters like Dusclops and Porygon2 with a sun-boosted Wildfire, Mimikyu plus Fake Out makes that impossible, so I chose to go with a Zacian/Grimmsnarl lead while bringing Tokroal and Charizard in the back. My opponent decided to eschew their Trick Room mode for a Venusaur/Incineroar lead, which I responded to with a Thunder Wave into Substitute - this accounted for a potential Torkoal switch to Sleep Powder/Max Flare or a Fake Out into Grimmsnarl. They chose to go for the sun/Max Flare, and as luck would have it we got an immediate full para, so Zacian even got to keep its Substitute. From here, the combination of G-Max Zard, Zacian, and Torkoal was able to take it against the remainder of the team as Calyrex-I was never given a chance to set Trick Room.
Game 2 - This game my opponent went with the more traditional Incineroar/Mimikyu lead while I stuck with the same selections. Predicting a Fake Out or Flare Blitz into Zacian while Mimikyu sets Trick Room, I swapped Zacian for Torkoal while breaking Mimikyu's Disguise with Spirit Break. Using Torkoal's Speed control under TR combined with its physical bulk behind Reflect, I was able to stall out all but one of my opponent's Trick Room despite their neat Safeguard tech on Mimikyu and Calyrex-I's Weakness Policy proc. Then on the final turn, they went for the very cool double Trick Room play reading a double Protect on my end, but I read that and chose to double attack, netting me a KO on Calyrex. From here it looked like I'd run away with it as my opponent was forced to Max their half-HP Incineroar against our Charizard with Max Quake, but unfortunately my opponent scored a double crit with their Torkoal's Eruption and I lost both Charizard and Torkoal in one hit. From here, Zacian couldn't handle the Torkoal plus Mimikyu and my opponent took the game.
Game 3 - My opponent and I both brought the same four to this game, but I opted to set a sub with Zacian instead of swapping to Torkoal. This was ultimately a worse decision as my opponent just broke it, but it evened out because they got greedy with a Will-o-Wisp into the Zacian slot as I switched it for Torkoal the following turn, meaning they had to waste another turn of their Trick Room using Protect/Safeguard since Torkoal underspeeds Calyrex-I with Yawn. Unfortunately I then proceeded to proc Calyrex-I's Weakness Policy, give it a Grim Neigh Boost, and also fail to call their double Trick Room play, so they were set up with a +3 Calyrex-I in a fresh Trick Room. They were forced to Max Guard to live a hit from Torkoal, and Charizard was able to set Wildfire into the other slot as they swapped into Incineroar for Fake Out. After a Protect, Wildfire chip took out Calyrex and Torkoal's Body Press in Trick Room plus Charizard's Scorching Sands mopped up their remaining Incineroar/Torkoal.
Winner's Round 3 v Patillac (Zacian/Rotom-H/Grimmsnarl/Gastrodon/Dragapult/Landorus-T)
Game 1 - Expecting a Rotom-H lead against my sun team, I decided to lead passively with Grimmsnarl/Torkoal and bring Charizard/Zacian in the back to clean up after spreading some sleep/para/burn. My opponent led with Grimmsnarl/Dragapult, eventually swapping Grimmsnarl for Landorus while I forced their Dragapult to retreat with Yawn, then hit their Landorus with a Burning Jealousy that consumed its Lum Berry. Luckily they chose to go for a Rock Slide rather than Max because I had swapped in Charizard, so Torkoal was able to land a Yawn on the now-vulnerable Landorus while I swapped in Grimmsnarl, correctly predicting the Scary Face/Thunder Wave. Not wanting to waste their Swords Dance, my opponent goes for a Rock Slide while I Protect Torkoal. This gives me a free switch into Charizard as Grimmsnarl goes down, and I'm able to stack speed boosts by swapping Zacian in as use Max Airstream. Landorus sleeps another turn, and we run away with the game using Wildfire and a speed-boosted Zacian.
Game 2 - This game I choose to lead with Landorus in place of Torkoal as I felt pivoting Intimidates would help keep their Swords Dance Landorus under control, since they were unlikely to let me both burn and sleep them again. Unfortunately this ends terribly, with my opponent adapting with a Gastrodon/Rotom-H lead, the former of which carried Ice Beam. Eventually I was able to almost claw back with some nice Rock Tomb drops, but Gastrodon was just barely able to live a Max move from Charizard, allowing it to get a Yawn that resulted in a 3-turn sleep. My opponent ultimately takes this one.
Game 3 - Deciding that Landorus didn't really carry its weight last game, I decided to go back to my lineup from the first game. My opponent throws me a wild curveball, leading Landorus/Dragapult. I know Patillac is a great player that wouldn't immediately burn their Max into such a physically defensive lead, so I decide to take a risk and swap Charizard into the Torkoal slot while using Thunder Wave into their Dragapult. This works out fantastically as the Dragapult suffers a full para and Landorus goes for Swords Dance, meaning Charizard is now in the sun with speed control. Knowing that Life Orb Wildfire based off Blast Burn in sun is a guaranteed OHKO on non-Assault Vest Landorus, I decide I have nothing to lose by just going for it. My opponent recognizes this by swapping into Rotom-H, but Charizard is so absurdly strong that it OHKO'd that too despite the type advantage. From here I was able to score two more Wildfire OHKOs into their Max Landorus and Zacian (after a Thunder Wave) as their Dragapult slowly went down to Spirit Break and residual damage.
Winner's Finals v neighbornati (Dialga/Grimmsnarl/Urshifu/Landorus-T/Venusaur/Torkoal)
Game 1 - I lead Venusaur/Grimmsnarl while they lead Dialga/Grimmsnarl. The possible moves from here come down just mindgames - they could Fake Out my Venusaur and attack if predicting a Sleep Powder or double into Venusaur with Fake Tears/Hailstorm if they predict a Max with screens. Luckily I guess right and swap Grimmsnarl for Torkoal while they Fake Out Venusaur and launch a Steelspike into the Grimmsnarl slot, which Torkoal tanks comfortably. From here I'm able to land a Sleep Powder into Dialga despite a Scary Face, revealing that my Venusaur outsped their Dialga at neutral. My opponent suffers a 3-turn sleep as I'm able to Ooze/Vine Lash to set up a comfortable endgame with Zacian and Grimmsnarl against their heavily-damaged Landorus and Urshifu-S.
Game 2 - My opponent and I both bring the same lineup to this game. I make a bad opening play opting to switch Torkoal into the Grimmsnarl slot as I Max Guard - this worked fine because my opponent went for a Fake Out/Hailstorm play, but Light Screen + Vine Lash would have been better to have my Weakness Policy procced. From here my opponent reveals Max Rockfall, denying my Torkoal's Yawn and ruining my potential Fire-type Weather Ball/Max Strike. I'm down 2-4 when our Maxes end, and a Sleep Powder miss into Dialga seals the game for my opponent, especially when they reveal their Torkoal that easily dealt with my Zacian.
Game 3 - My opponent and I again bring the same lineup, and they incorrectly predict a Torkoal switch-in by using Fake Out into Venusaur and Max Rockfall into Grimmsnarl while I'm allowed to set Vine Lash and Light Screen. They do manage to KO Venusaur with Fake Tears/Max Hailstorm but a full para ends their Max, and Vine Lash residual allows my remaining three mons to take the last game.
Grand Finals v neighbornati (Dialga/Grimmsnarl/Urshifu/Landorus-T/Venusaur/Torkoal)
Game 1 - Honestly my opponent deserved to win this game, but I'm not one to look an RNG gift horse in the mouth. I made the mistake of leading Venukoal into their same lead from the last set to go for Sleep Powder + Yawn. I apparently didn't realize that Fake Out + Rockfall completely neutralizes that, putting my opponent in a very dominant position. But the RNG gods sang and I got a crit Sacred Sword into Dialga and a crit Vine Lash into Landorus on the same turn, leaving my opponent with just a Grimmsnarl and Torkoal to deal with Venusaur, Zacian, and Charizard.
Game 2 - Realizing my mistake, I went back to the Venusaur/Grimmsnarl lead, but I decided to replace Torkoal with Charizard to have an answer to my opponent's own Torkoal. I went for a Vine Lash into their Grimmsnarl and a Thunder Wave into Dialga as they tried to account for Sleep Powder with a Fake Out. I definitely won the decision-making of turn 1, but I was once again blessed when their Dialga immediately suffered a full para. The game might have been salvagaeable if they had gone for Fake Tears/Hailstorm again since I had no offensive pressure into Dialga, but instead they chose to swap in their Landorus while KO-ing my Grimmsnarl. They tried to correct this by swapping Grimm back in the following turn, but that just gave up their only form of speed control while wasting a their last Max move into Zacian's Substitute. From here Venusaur managed to take out Dialga before going down, and the Charizard/Zacian combo was able to deal with their remaining Landorus/Torkoal.