Teambuilding For a Reason: An Interview With 2017 Virginia Regional Champion Nick Navarre
Nick Navarre is your 2017 Virginia Regional Champion thanks to what most would consider quite an unusual team. Navarre is now the third best player in the country in Championship Point rankings, and is known in the community for his teambuilding prowess. One of the most consistent players this season with three top 4 placings at regionals, a top 8 placing at the Oceania Internationals, and finally a regional win to add to this already impressive list.
I sat down with Navarre to discuss his Virginia team but also to gain some insight on how he approaches teambuilding as a whole. Here’s what he had to say:
So, you finally claimed your first regional title? How does it feel?
“It’s pretty nice. I wasn’t really playing the tournament to win, I was just going to hang out with friends. I had a friend in the area who I wanted to meet.”
This wasn’t exactly the closest event for you
“Well, eight hours is about the limit I have for driving in a day. We did a similar drive from Cleveland to Dallas for that regional, but we split it.”
You have some friends in the area?
“Yeah I wanted to hang out with a friend of mine who I’ve played in tournaments with for years. Unfortunately he went 3-5 at the regional since he hasn’t really played VGC at all.”
What brought about the idea this team?
“Well I’ve been playing with Scope Lens Kartana for a while, and I think it’s a good set in general. I noticed when playing against Bulu teams a switch flips and it goes from being a strong mon to just really obscene. So I tried to make a team with both of them on because the highs are really high if you can pull it off.”
Navarre talks very highly about Scope Lens Kartana, and I myself having tested it, can vouch for its viability.
Why run Grassium Z on Bulu?
“Bulu really sucks, but Grassy Terrain is incredible. Finding a way for it to be a nuke was the best for it, and if you click your Bloom Doom you either get rid of a mon or deal massive damage. It’s not that good, but I wanted Grassy Terrain.”
“Arcanine is a big problem for it, so I basically ran a bunch of speed and gave it Substitute. If you’re faster than Arcanine you know it’s likely bulky and you can sit in front of it and just use Substitute and Protect. And if you’re slower than it, you can tell its an offensive Arcanine so either way it allows you to formulate a game plan around turn zero.”
“As for the set, I played against Wolfe in Melbourne and his Bulu really pressured me so I decided to use his set.”
Toxic: Salamence and Arcanine
So…Toxic (on both Salamence and Arcanine)?
“So the Salamence actually came first. Salamence has a lot of defensive synergy with Tapu Bulu (helps with Arcanine, Porygon2, Celesteela, etc) and has a wide range of coverage and good resistances. They’re both really terrible Pokemon, but they have a lot of defensive synergy. If you’re running one, you have a good reason to run the other, since (Salamence) doesn’t really fit with anything else.”
“As for the Arcanine, Flare Blitz, Extreme Speed and Protect are mandatory unless you have good reasons. It started with Helping Hand because I wanted to one-shot things with Grassy Terrain-boosted Scope Lens crits from Kartana. But Toxic ended up being too good to forgo. There are a lot of situations where Arcanine is looking at an another Arcanine and having something that helps you win that match-up is big. A lot of the popular Arcanine that weekend had Thief which kind of does the same thing, it helps win the Arcanine mirror. I think Arcanine is a crutch for most players, and I think it’s good for players to make better use of Arcanine.”
“My first team of the format, which I would’ve played at London, had Arcanine, Bulu, and Snorlax. I felt like this was a good combo, as Snorlax has great coverage plus it can switch into Fire and Ice-type attacks with its Thick Fat ability. I tech’d Wild Charge onto it since Celesteela is a big problem for ‘Grass Spam’. It hits Arcanine, Muk, and Celesteela and having something to cover those three mons was important for the team. It’s basically a Tank that I can set up, but it doesn’t have to be set up for it to deal out damage.”
So I guess you’re not super reliant on the berry like most Snorlax?
“Yeah you have Grassy Terrain. Also, it benefited a lot from Helping Hand Arcanine since it enables you to get one-shots on opposing Muk and Arcanine without having to worry about Intimidate.”
“It had Heal Pulse, and Friend Guard helped me get around not having Gluttony on Snorlax with the help of Grassy Terrain. Normally if a Snorlax with Thick Fat is at 26 percent of its health (just one percent outside of the “pinch berry” activation range) it’s pretty easy to knock it out. But with Grassy Terrain, it can heal, and with Friend Guard able to be switched in, you’re basically having to deal with a Gluttony Snorlax. Redirection was good, but was kind of underwhelming in some match-ups.”
Why is that?
“It’s not the easiest thing to build with since it kind of turns its partner into one and a half Pokemon essentially. For that to be worthwhile, it can be tricky since Clefairy itself doesn’t deal a lot of damage.”
Assessing the Team
Which parts of the team were the most effective in the match-ups you played?
“The Snorlax was really good. The Arcanine set was really good for being able to deal with other Arcanine. The defensive core plus having Grassy Terrain and Toxic to get damage over time. When I brought Bulu+Kartana it took over games.”
“Honestly, I don’t have many complaints since overall the team worked well. The Salamence was not brought much. It was only brought to one game, but that game was on stream and it did really well.”
“The team is a way to play Bulu, and most of the time an opponent’s only check to the overwhelming amount of Grass-damage was Arcanine (Which the team already has a ton of answers for). Not many teams are prepared to deal with the amount of Grass-damage.”
So basically the game plan is: deal the Grass-damage, heal up with Grassy Terrain and Toxic to wear down the opponents.
“Yeah, and just shuffle the team around.”
What would you change?
“I don’t know, I thought the team was effective and it was really just a meta call. I don’t think any of my opponents had much in terms of Bulu checks, but now that I’ve shown it can be effective, I’m not sure how good it’ll be at future tournaments. It just sort of walked into a tournament where no one respected it. Much like Gavin’s team near the beginning of the season, people were not prepared for something that could do a lot of damage.”
“It’s a team that’s designed to with the first game in a best-of-three really hard. It loses a decent amount of its luster after that.”
How Do You Approach Teambuilding?
To conclude our interview, I asked Navarre a bit about his approach to teambuilding as a whole. Being quite a respected member of the field, he had an interesting perspective to share.
Where do you start?
“It depends a lot on the format you’re playing in, for a format like VGC ’17 it’s a lot more abstract than past formats. You kind of just pick something you want to build around and you can come up with combos that work well together and figure out a way to win games.”
Navarre touched noted a couple of these combos in some of his past teams:
Virginia Team: Tapu Bulu + Kartana
St. Louis/Melbourne: Porygon2 + Gigalith & his Tapu Koko set (“Volt Tackle”)
“Its about identifying how you want to win. That feels a bit too simplistic but that’s basically it.”
Navarre went on to talk about how it’s not a bad thing to build “bad teams”:
“I build a lot of ‘bad teams’, but just because the team didn’t work, doesn’t mean it didn’t have good ideas. Being afraid to experiment, is one of the worst things. Coming up with new ideas is one of the most consistent ways to do well.”
Navarre stressed his philosophy of a team “having a goal” while also “having reasons” for doing what a team does.
“A lot of it boils down from that main point.”
“When a lot of new players are starting out, it’s obvious when their teams are not trying to accomplish something.”
“A good team isn’t just a collection of good Pokemon, but a collection of Pokemon that work well together.”
How early do you start building teams for tournaments?
“I never stop. I have a good group of friends, and we put a lot of time into teambuilding.”
Is it just trying to find something that sticks?
“It’s about just continuously trying out new ideas. I don’t exactly build specifically for tournaments, especially now considering the amount of CP I have. It’s just building good teams in a vacuum is what I’ve had success with, if you build for a specific meta game you can become blinded and miss things.”
“Playing the tournament is what you do with a team, but it’s not the end. It’s not about just building a team for a given tournament.”
What are the most important aspects for a good team in your opinion?
“It is an abstract concept. A good team should do something interesting. There should be a reason for everything you’re doing. There’s a bunch of different boxes you can tick with teams, but really it just goes back to trying to accomplish something with a team. A tournament team shouldn’t just be six standard sets because people know they exists and it’s likely they’ve prepped for them. It’s more reliable to use something no one has seen before and that no one has prepped for.”
“Give yourself tools to adapt to what your opponent has, but not to the degree that CHALK did (the standard team from the end of VGC 2015). It’s a difficult question to answer.”
What kinds of things are important to building a good team in this format (VGC 2017)?
“Having a plan or multiple plans you want to execute. Rather than just having a Swords Dance Garchomp KO something with a +2 Tectonic Rage and win the game off of that, you should know how you’re going to win the game from that.”
“It feels like a lot of people’s teams are not completely thought out. I’m just gonna stick with: have a goal or have plan for how you want to win games. That’s the important part of having a good team because there are multiple ways to get through a game. Don’t just delegate the majority of your plan to sitting at team preview. I think teambuilding is to show how my group of Pokemon is better than yours.”
You said your style of teambuilding is very adaptive, but can you think of any particular cores or strategies you default to?
“I like to play control. Generally, I like to set up situations where I have more stats on my side than my opponent, and beat them over the head with it. It’s just trying to maneuver the game as quickly as possible into a game state that’s in my favor.”
What do you mean exactly by “having more stats on my side”?
“For example, the Mandibuzz team (Dallas Regionals), my goal for Mandibuzz was to be able to tank any special attack thrown at it, Foul Play to hit physical attackers and have Taunt for status moves. It was to create checkmate scenarios where I don’t have to predict what my opponent will do. Setting up scenarios like that is what I try to do when playing and while building. I try to take as much of the game out of my opponent’s as possible.”
Do you like to start teambuilding from scratch or do you like to borrow ideas?
“We always start from a one to three mon core of something we want to use. The best teams start when you have two or three different mons that are all interesting and fit well together. Coming up with the interesting mons to use is part of the challenge.”
“You can definitely take sets from other people. I took Wolfe’s Tapu Bulu since it pressured me pretty well and Scope Lens Kartana was Enosh’s innovation. The source doesn’t really matter, but I still do build everything from mostly scratch with the exception of some individual sets.”
Some Bonus Questions
What has been your favorite Pokemon to use in VGC 2017?
“‘Volt Tackle’ Tapu Koko (his name for Twinkle Tackle + Volt Switch Tapu Koko). It does really well against the two main Ground-types and I think it’s caught on that Volt Switch is the best move for Tapu Koko.”
Which underrated or underused Pokemon do you think have the most potential?
“I’ll leave it at Muk, Gyarados, and Buzzwole.”
Navarre favored Muk for its access to Knock Off, Gyarados for its versatility and access to Dragon Dance, and Buzzwole for its ability to threaten the growing popularity of Porygon2 and Gigalith.
He also added that he thinks the results from the Korean National Championships are a “good representation of where the meta should be right now.”
Plans for the Rest of the Season
With a solid number of Championship Points under his belt, Navarre doesn’t seem to be stepping away from regionals anytime soon. He’ll be competing at the Toronto regionals this weekend along with Madison regionals after that. Navarre has expressed how much fun he’s had playing in VGC 2017 so far, with the preparation aspect being his favorite. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Navarre in another Top Cut before his appearances in Indianapolis for the North American International Championships and finally at the World Championships in Anaheim later this year. For a player who is always looking to innovate in a format that has rewarded creativity thus far, Navarre is looking like a player to watch out for when Worlds time comes around.
Thanks for reading!
Art of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori
Featured Image from @PokeCenter_VGC