Substitutes have never looked better.
Joaquin Salerno may not be a name you have heard in the competitive Pokémon scene, but with his first Regional win on May 7with the unusual Orthworm, to top things offfans and players alike would be foolish to not respect this upcoming VGC star.
Salerno started out in the São Paulo Regional with an impressive 11-3 run in Swiss followed by an astoundingly dominant run on day two, where he beat the VGC veteran and 2018 Pokémon World Champion Paul Ruiz in a tight 2-1 finals set.
This win netted Salerno $3,000 in prize money along with 200 CP to make his journey to the 2023 Pokémon World Championships just a little easier.
And yes, you did read that right earlierSalerno did win the entire tournament with a team built around Orthworm. While Salerno may have not come up with this ingenious strategy and team composition, he did indeed pilot it perfectly.
This team composition was originally popularized by David Koutesh, one of the most creative teambuilders and players currently in VGC, who brought the team to EUIC last month where he finished with a top 32 placement using it. While it is not confirmed that Koutesh built the team himself, we can safely assume that he actually did, given the off-meta nature of the composition which is quite indicative of his style.
The team stars Orthworm, a Pokémon whose main use case is its access to the very rare move Shed Tail. This move lets it pass on a substitute to dangerous sweepers waiting in the backsuch as Dragonite and Flutter Mane for this compositionto let them safely sweep the opponent’s team as they are guarded by a Substitute.
The rest of the team is rounded off with strong Pokémon that fill the defensive and offensive roles the composition needs while making sure these mons also support Orthworm well by exploiting the strengths of its ability, Earth Eater.
Not only does Earth Eater make Orthworm immune to Ground moves, but it also heals the goofy little guy for one-fourth of its total health, something that Salerno showed off and utilized perfectly in his finals match with Ruiz.
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Lets take a more in-depth look at Joaquin Salernos Orthworm team sheet and break down what exactly all of his mons do. Please note the team sheet below is David Kouteshs original version of the team since team sheets for the São Paulo Regional are not available as of now.
It is entirely possible that Salerno made tiny adjustments to EV spreads, moves, and so on, but the team majorly remains and functions the same as its original version. We will make sure to update this space as and when new information comes out.
Orthworm @ Sitrus Berry
Ability: Earth Eater
Tera Type: Fire
EVs: 212 HP / 4 Atk / 36 Def / 252 SpD / 4 Spe
– Shed Tail
– Body Press
– Iron Defense
– Heavy Slam
Dragonite @ Lum Berry
Tera Type: Flying
EVs: 12 HP / 180 Atk / 60 Def / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
– Dragon Dance
– Tera Blast
– Extreme Speed
Ting-Lu @ Choice Band
Ability: Vessel of Ruin
Tera Type: Water
EVs: 4 HP / 76 Atk / 4 Def / 196 SpD / 228 Spe
– Rock Slide
– Throat Chop
Gyarados @ Safety Goggles
Tera Type: Water
EVs: 236 HP / 4 Atk / 92 Def / 4 SpD / 172 Spe
– Thunder Wave
Flutter Mane @ Choice Specs
Tera Type: Fairy
EVs: 148 HP / 132 Def / 92 SpA / 12 SpD / 124 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Dazzling Gleam
– Icy Wind
Chien-Pao @ Focus Sash
Ability: Sword of Ruin
Tera Type: Dark
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
– Ice Spinner
– Sucker Punch
Let us talk about the star of the show, Orthworm. Orthworm has one of two options when it’s sent out onto the field: either immediately click Shed Tail or stay on the field and start setting up with Body Press.
Since Orthworm is so slow, it is likely going to be the slowest Pokémon on the field, which is good as this lets it safely pass a substitute to its teammate at the end of the turn using Shed Tail, making sure no attacks from the opponent touch the passed Substitute.
With this EV spread, Orthworm has an HP stat with an even number, making sure that it gets its health in the yellow zone after using Shed Tail and let it recover some health with its Sitrus Berry. This allows Orthworm to more easily set up future Shed Tails as the match progresses.
Alternatively, Orthworm can instead opt to apply more offensive pressure on the board by staying in and setting up with Iron Defense, raising its damage output from Body Press significantly with each sharp Defense boost while also becoming a much bigger threat to deal with if the opponent is mainly relying on Physical attackers.
If you happen to use Shed Tail, however, there are two main sweepers on this team that you want to be passing that Substitute onto: Flutter Mane and Dragonite.
The Flutter Mane on this team is running a Choice Specs set, which means it does not have the liberty of running the move Protect, something which it benefits heavily from due to its poor bulk. But when it is at full health behind a Substitute while holding a Choice Specs, suddenly its offensive and defensive prowess is looking way too overpowering.
The Dragonite on this team is meant to take lives as well, but just like Flutter Mane, it suffers from a lack of the move Protect, which is exactly why it benefits so much from a passed Substitute just like its teammate. Apart from this, it is also running a Dragon Dance set, and without help from Orthworm, Dragonite would be much more vulnerable to attacks from the opponent while it tries to set up.
If Dragonite is fortunate enough to find itself behind a Substitute at full health, not only does it have the safety net of the Substitute, but also the bulk provided by its ability, Multiscale. Once its Substitute is broken, Dragonite can then easily tank at least one strong super effective hit from an enemy, since Multiscale halves the damage from an opponent when its user is at full health, giving Dragonite multiple turns to safely set up and proceed to sweep the opponents team.
And then comes the myriad ways in which this team perfectly enables Orthworm to stay healthy and keep doing Orthworm things. Three Pokémon on the team, namely Dragonite, Ting-Lu, and Gyarados, all possess Ground moves such as Bulldoze and Earthquake. These Ground moves hit every Pokémon on the field, including their teammates, which would usually be a problem for a player, but not when you have Orthworm around.
Since Orthworm has the ability Earth Eater, the player can constantly spam Bulldoze and Earthquake with either of the three Pokémon while Orthworm is on the field, either to heal it up and let it use Shed Tail, or just keep it healthy while it sets up for a Body Press sweep, which is where this team shows off its true creativity.
Ting-Lu is probably Orthworms best friend in this team composition. Running a Choice Band set, this Legendary moose can safely go for supercharged Earthquakes to hit both foes at the same time and provide immediate offensive pressure that Orthworm admittedly cannot dish out, all the while keeping its worm buddy healthy and free to do what it needs to.
Since this Ting-Lu is running a Choice Band, it is quite notably not running Fissure like most of the meta does. The remaining moves on its set consist of Rock Slide, Throat Chop, and Bulldoze, which let it deal more spread damage while also providing crucial Speed control to the team.
If Dragonite is in the back, Orthworm can use Shed Tail and bring in a protected Dragonite to begin setting up and sweep while Ting-Lu can continue to spam its Choice Band-locked Earthquake without any worry of hitting its teammate since Dragonite is a part-Flying-type mon.
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If the opponent is putting on too much offensive pressure with their Physical attackers, you can always bring in your Gyarados to cripple their damage output with Intimidate. Like the rest of the composition, Gyarados fits in perfectly with the team.
Being a part-Flying-type, Gyarados is not affected by Ting-Lus Ground moves as well. It also carries the move Bulldoze, letting it lower the opponents Speed while healing up Orthworm when it needs to. It can also spam Bulldoze when Dragonite is on the field since it cant get hit by Ground moves either.
Apart from this, Gyarados is an extremely bulky support pick, running moves like Thunder Wave to entirely cripple opponents while reducing their Speed further, and Taunt to prevent any sort of setup and Status moves from the opponents side of the field.
The team is rounded off with Chien-Pao for a quick and hard-hitting mode, while also letting the team have a better matchup into Dondozo and Tatsugiri through its move Haze, getting rid of all stat changes on the field.