A New Tapu on Top? – VGC 2017 Dallas, TX Regional Championships Recap
The second North American Regional for the 2017 format has concluded in the midst of celebration bringing in the New Year. In such a young meta game it’s astounding how much variety we’ve seen develop for VGC 2017, and Dallas brought us a plethora of new strategies and teams that may shape the meta game for tournaments to come.
Results & Teams (Top 16 Cut)
1. Drew Nowak
2. Collin Heir
3. Sam Schweitzer
4. Nick Naverre
5. Austin Bastida-Ramos
6. Justin Burns
7. Kimo Nishimura
8. Caleb Ryor
9. Alberto Lara
10. Kamran Jahadi
11. Patrick Smith
12. Jeremy Rodrigues
13. Giovanni Costa
14. Joseph Brummet
15. Dylan Salvanera
16. Eugene Tarlton
Pokémon Sprite Images courtesy of Game Freak
Tapu Fini Makes Waves in Dallas
As you can see, Tapu Fini was a popular pick for this tournament, appearing in nine of the sixteen teams in Top
Cut. In the format’s early stages, Tapu Fini was practically non-existent as it was not a popular pick for either a Tapu or bulky Water-type on a majority of early meta game teams.
Tapu Fini made its first major tournament Top Cut appearance a few weeks ago in San Jose as a member of finalist, Enosh Shachar’s, team. In fact, Enosh’s exact same team composition made it into Dallas’ Top Cut three times piloted by Justin Burns (6th), Caleb Ryor (8th), and Kamran Jahadi (10th). Enosh himself was left out of Top 16 due to some unfortunate resistance at a 7-2 record which left him at 17th place. Bummer.
Is Tapu Fini the Real Deal?
Anyway back to Tapu Fini’s viability. I think Dallas’ results prove exactly how viable Tapu Fini is, and it’s quite a nice Pokémon in the format right now. Tapu Fini has found itself a Fire/Water/Grass core with Pokemon like Kartana and Arcanine which can help it both offensively and defensively.
Kartana is able to switch into Electric, Grass, and Poison-type moves while also being able to one-hit KO Gastrodon which can absorb Tapu Fini’s Water-Type attacks with Storm Drain.
Arcanine provides Intimidate & Snarl support to further increase Tapu Fini’s already impressive defenses, while also being a nice way to scare away Grass-Type Pokemon like opposing Kartana.
The remaining three slots to compliment this core are honestly pretty flexible. Teams utilizing this core in Dallas’ Top Cut mainly opted for a Ground-Type Pokemon (Like Garchomp or Mudsdale), some slower Pokemon to add a possible Trick Room component (Like Porygon2, Muk, or Gigalith), and an Electric-type for a sixth slot (Like Tapu Koko or the less common Vikavolt). Or you could run a team like Giovanni Costa’s who just Baton Passes or has Tapu Fini Psych Up raised stats from his Evoboosted Eevee (more on this later).
What Tapu Fini Does
The most common sets right now for Tapu Fini are either Enosh’s Substitute plus Calm Mind set with Leftovers, or a more offensive set utilizing Choice Specs. Speed control options such as Tailwind or Trick Room are common alongside Tapu Fini to take advantage of Calm Mind boosts or the raw power of Choice Specs boosted attacks.
Water and Fairy-type attacks like Muddy Water, Moonblast, Dazzling Gleam, and Hydro Pump are the extent of what most Tapu Fini run in terms of offense. Though Tapu Fini does get a lot of other cool options like Ice Beam, Grass Knot, Nature’s Madness, and Shadow Ball.
Tapu Fini also gets access to a few supportive moves like Toxic, Heal Pulse, Reflect, Light Screen, and Taunt if a defensive Tapu Fini ever peaks interest in the future.
Can It Be Beat?
Naturally when something like Tapu Fini becomes popular, the next big thing to do will be to try and counter it. Currently, Tapu Fini and Kartana plus a Pokemon with Intimidate (like Krookodile or the aforementioned Arcanine) does not seem to have a single Pokémon weakness.
However, a team with its own Kartana and/or a Tapu Koko (much like Drew Nowak’s Team) can put on some decent pressure if properly supported. I guess we’ll just have to see if Tapu Fini will continue to thrive in the meta game as a Tapu to be reckoned with.
Giovanni Costa’s Extreme Evoboost Shenanigans
I never thought I would ever see an Eevee that hasn’t evolved in a game of competitive Pokémon. Well thanks to Pokémon Sun and Moon we were given the Eevium Z; one of the new Z Crystals which allows for an Eevee with the move Last Resort to double all of its stats with its exclusive Z-Move: Extreme Evoboost.
And now thanks to Giovanni Costa, we now have a standard for the Extreme Evoboost strategy. This strategy is nothing but a gimmick but is terrifyingly consistent.
Giovanni has proven his talent as a player through his 10th place finish at the 2016 World Championships so it’s no wonder the team he built to support Eevee did this well.
Unfortunately, despite being featured on stream, Costa was not able to make it to Day Two of the European International Championships, but since then has changed minor aspects of the team.
How Does This Work?
Well it’s actually VERY simple. You start off by leading with Eevee and Clefairy. Clefairy uses Follow Me to redirect any potential attacks away from Eevee; then Eevee becomes enveloped in the power given to it by its evolved brethren giving it +2 in all of its stats. Next, Clefairy uses Follow Me again as Eevee Baton Passes into either Tapu Fini (there it is again) or Krookodile. Then you clean up from there!
How it Performed
But if it’s this easy, how come Giovanni didn’t win it all? Well unfortunately for Giovanni, he met his end in Top 16 in the form of a Mandibuzz with Taunt. Giovanni was able to take one game in the set, however could not find a way to beat Mandibuzz.
If you are able to Taunt a majority of Giovanni’s team you can shut down the strategy pretty easily. Clefairy can’t use Follow Me, Tapu Fini can’t Psych Up, and Eevee can still boost but can’t Baton Pass. Mandibuzz was even more annoying for Giovanni as it had Tailwind to boost the speed of its teammates as well as Roost to heal itself when Giovanni would Protect his Pokémon to stall out Tailwind or Taunt.
Will It Become the New Meta?
While I don’t think this strategy will catch on, I can’t deny its consistency and how easily it can be pulled off. I’m eager to see if Giovanni will continue to develop the team or even have greater success with it in the future. I do think this makes a better case for Taunt to be included on more teams to combat this strategy as well as Trick Room, Celesteela, and Toxic stall, but that’s a discussion for another time.
The Blade over The Blaster
Kartana is quickly climbing to the top of usage, appearing on half the teams in Dallas’ Top Cut including the Champion’s. In San Jose, Celesteela beat Kartana six to four in Top Cut appearances, but in Dallas Celesteela dropped to half as many appearances as its more offensive counterpart.
The most popular Kartana we saw in Dallas was an Assault Vest variant adding Night Slash over Protect, which players would run on Focus Sash variants of Kartana. This new Kartana build favors more bulk to increase Kartana’s pitiful Special Defense while also complimenting its phenomenal Defense and Attack power.
Grass and Steel is both a great defensive typing seen in the likes of Ferrothorn in past formats, and a great offensive typing, having good matchups against common Pokemon like Gastrodon, Tapu Lele, Tapu Bulu, and Garchomp.
As it’s able to score valuable knock-outs, Beast Boost increases Kartana’s Attack to make it even more of a threat to deal with. A fast, bulky, boosting sweeper like Kartana makes a Fire-Type move an essential on any team this format.
The End of The Blaster?
Now wait a minute, just because Kartana’s all the rage now doesn’t mean Celesteela is going away. Celesteela is still the insanely bulky, win-condition of a Pokémon that it was in the beginning of the format, but now we might see some new tricks from it going forward.
One thing Celesteela has going for it is that it’s an excellent counter to Kartana, with the ability to resist both of Kartana’s STAB moves while also having access to Flamethrower to easily one-hit-KO it.
We actually saw Patrick Smith use a Life Orb Celesteela with Flamethrower perhaps as a way to deal with Kartana. I wouldn’t be surprised if Flamethrower replaced Substitute on a lot of Celesteela because I know I’m not the only one who would LOVE to avoid hour-long Celesteela Leech Seed stall wars. I hope for our sake Flamethrower becomes the preferred move.
The Niche Picks
This is a segment I want to use to talk about some of the more interesting Pokémon choices that have success in big tournaments. Dallas gave us a few that I think could pop up in a few more Top Cuts later in the season.
With Trick Room being such a popular strategy and Ground-types appearing on a majority of teams, Mudsdale seems like a natural choice. Making two appearances in the Top 4, I think Mudsdale has a lot of potential in a meta game favoring Trick Room modes.
It’s bulky with its Stamina ability, has access to a powerful, single-target Ground-type move without the need for Groundium Z, and a fair amount of solid move options for a Trick Room attacker. Whether Trick Room is the centerpiece or just a mode on a team, Mudsdale is a solid pick for a Ground-Type.
Another Ground-type that’s been creeping into the realm of relevance is Krookodile. Dark I feel is a pretty underrepresented and underrated type in this format, and a Pokémon like Krookodile gives you a good option when considering one for your team.
Access to Intimidate and a middle-tier speed stat allows Krookodile to function on a variety of teams (including ones with Trick Room modes) while also being able to run a nice assortment of moves (with interesting choices like Snarl, Rock Tomb, and Taunt) to fill a unique role as an offensive Pokémon with support options. Not to mention its Ground typing is good for handling the abundance of Electric and Fire Pokémon which are present on pretty much every successful team in the format.
Mandibuzz is such a weird pick, but honestly is a pretty good Pokemon when used correctly. Filling mainly a support role, Mandibuzz can control speed with Tailwind, Toxic stall with Roost for recovery, and also can deal decent damage to physical attackers with STAB Foul Play. So many options, yet only four move slots. Access to Taunt is pretty nice too. Don’t sleep on this bird, it can be really annoying if you don’t have an answer for it.
USA! USA! USA!
Ok but seriously, Braviary is another bird you shouldn’t sleep on. Only used by Patrick Smith with success in Dallas, but Braviary fills a pretty neat role as a sort of physical attacking Pelipper without rain (if that makes any sense).
Access to Tailwind and a cool ability in Defiant to take advantage of the abundance of Intimidate instantly makes Braviary a threat. Also, Braviary gets some pretty good moves for a Flying-type such as Rock Slide and Superpower giving it some decent coverage. I’m not sure if it’ll skyrocket in usage, but a cool pick nonetheless.
The first Ultra Beast that is not named Kartana or Celesteela that I’d like to touch on. It’s fast (like REALLY fast), strong, but its defenses are equivalent to wet paper. I would’ve thought that the item of choice would be a Focus Sash, but a majority of the Pheromosa we saw in Dallas held the Fightinium Z.
All-Out-Pummeling from Pheromosa could easily wipe a Porygon2 off the field, and even something switching in would not appreciate the hit (unless the Pokémon switching in is a Ghost). It has a pretty nice move pool of both physical and special attacks, giving it a lot of options to score quick KO’s and Beast Boosts. Typically paired next to Tapu Lele to stop priority moves and Arcanine to support with Intimidate, it has some solid synergy with popular Pokémon.
There was only one Nihilego in Top Cut, but it carried Austin Bastida-Ramos to the number one seed heading into cut and a 5th place finish overall. Nihilego’s superb Special Defense, Special Attack, Speed, and assortment of attacks easily makes viable. Power Gem and Sludge Bomb (its two most popular attacks) hit most of the meta game for neutral or super-effective damage, making it easy to start racking up Beast Boosts.
The final Pokémon that made a shocking impact in Dallas is the levitating, electric bug: Vikavolt. I, among others, love Vikavolt’s design but was severely let down once I saw its stats. 145 base Special Attack but mediocre…everything else. Yet somehow this Pokémon managed to make its way deep into the tournament.
Levitate is nice as it pairs well next to a Ground-type Pokémon, and its low speed makes it a viable Trick Room sweeper. We saw some fun item choices like Assault Vest, Wiki Berry, and Iapapa Berry likely trying to increase Vikavolt’s time on the field to dish out damage.
String Shot was a move I never would’ve expected, but Sam Schweitzer’s Vikavolt made very good use of it, being able to decrease both of the opposing Pokémon’s Speed. This format could use more viable Electric-types, and I think Vikavolt definitely made its case in Dallas.
Dallas was a fun tournament to watch, with a ton of new Pokémon solidifying their place in the meta game. I would like to personally give a huge shout out to @PokeCenter_VGC who streamed the event with a surprising level of quality. Also have to give props to the commentators: Gabby Snyder (@iBidoof) and Adam Dorricott (@Dozzalon) for their fantastic job giving solid commentary and analysis. Lastly, congratulations to Drew Nowak for his win in Dallas earning him $3,000 and 200 Championship Points. The next set of Regionals are coming up in just over a week in Athens, Georgia and Leipzig, Germany. Hopefully we’ll have live coverage from these events, but come back to The Game Haus for a full recap of results and analysis from both tournaments! Thanks for reading!
Art of Pokemon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori
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