Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng is HERE: VGC 2017 Portland Regional Championships Recap

Another regional championship wrapped up in Portland, Oregon with Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng taking the title. With his first regional win of the season, Zheng finally claims his Day One invite to the 2017 World Championships.

Zheng’s Tapu Lele and Drifblim combination should be familiar to most of us considering its success over the last two months. Despite three recent big tournament wins, Portland showed us that the meta game is about adapting to this new fearsome combo. But before we get into that, let’s check out the results:

Results & Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1) Aaron Zheng

2) Conan Thompson

3) Max Douglas

4) Hayden McTavish

5) Alberto Lara

6) Jirawiwat Thitasiri

7) Nikolai Zielinkski

8) Bennett Piercy

Countering Drifblim & Tapu LeleImage result for gigalith

Despite the popularity of the combination, we only saw two teams running it in
Portlands’s top 8. What we did see twice in top 4 is Gigalith, which can be an excellent counter. Conan Thompson’s Trick Room mode of Gigalith and Mimikyu was able to effectively pressure Zheng’s Tapu Lele and Drifblim after Mimikyu was able to set up Trick Room.

Without the speed advantage, Tapu Lele can easily be knocked out before it gets Image result for mimikyua chance to make an impact. This is most likely why we’ve seen the adaptation of Taunt on Tapu Lele in order to stop a potential
first-turn Trick Room. Thompson was prepared for this as his Tapu Koko had Sky Drop in order to stop Zheng’s Tapu Lele from Taunting his Mimikyu. Zheng made a great adjustment to his play in game three by double-targeting Mimikyu, which allowed a clean Tailwind sweep with his Tapu Lele and Garchomp.

This new development in the meta game adds yet another piece to the conflict of Tailwind and Trick Room teams. Each strategy seems to keep finding new ways to counter the other, which makes the match up increasingly more difficult. It shows how vital speed control is in competitive Pokémon, so expect to see either Tailwind or Trick Room on any successful team.

Highlight Analysis: Finals

The finals set between Aaron Zheng and Conan Thompson was nothing short of exciting. Here are some of the many highlights with analysis. You can watch the entire set HERE.

 

Highlight #1: Thompson reveals his tricky Sky Drop strategy to ensure Mimikyu’s Trick Room. This is clever since the Pokémon taken into the sky cannot move the next turn if it is faster than the Pokémon that used Sky Drop, and Trick Room makes Tapu Koko the slowest Pokémon on the field. Thompson gets up a free Trick Room and takes Tapu Lele out for essentially two turns.

Highlight #2: Zheng makes an excellent call on Thompson’s switch into Celesteela. Zheng knocks out Thompson’s Mimikyu allowing his Arcanine’s Flare Blitz to redirect to and KO Thompson’s incoming Celesteela.

Highlight #3: Kimo explains this really well in his commentary when he remarks on Thompson’s ability to get so much free damage all at the cost of Mimikyu’s disguise.

Highlight #4: Zheng’s Garchomp outspeeds Thompson’s Garchomp in the Trick Room (not sure if it was a speed tie) allowing it to score a crucial KO with Tectonic Rage.

Highlight #5: Zheng misplays here as Garchomp could have easily just used Earthquake to finish off Thompson’s Tapu Koko and Gigalith despite being in Trick Room. Thompson’s Tapu Koko is Assault Vest and can’t protect itself so Garchomp would’ve easily knocked it out while surviving Gigalith’s Rock Slide. Even if Gigalith were to survive the Earthquake, Trick Room would be gone and Zheng would have a 2v1 against Gigalith. Zheng could’ve been fearing Wide Guard which Thompson reveals next turn.

Highlight #6: Thompson finally reveals Wide Guard to stop Zheng from winning the game as Tapu Koko gets the KO on Drifblim. Even though this was a clutch turn from Thompson, it revealed a ton of information. Plus the game’s not over yet.

Highlight #7: The longest highlight that just involves mind games with Gigalith using Wide Guard, Garchomp trying to attack, and Tapu Koko trying to whittle down Garchomp. There’s an interesting moment at the end of this highlight where Zheng Protects on a turn where Gigalith uses Rock Slide, which could have been a big missed opportunity for Zheng.

Highlight #8: Thompson’s Tapu Koko finally uses Sky Drop to try and take out Garchomp which allows Gigalith to set up a free Curse. The Curse is not only good to increase Gigalith’s Attack, but it’s the Defense boost that proves to be more crucial.

Highlight #9: Zheng makes an amazing play to no avail as Gigalith survives the Earthquake and recovers 50% of its HP with its Figy Berry. Its hard to say if it was a roll or not, but it was definitely a momentous break for Thompson.

Highlight #10: Zheng makes a great play to KO Mimikyu on turn one. Shutting down the Trick Room option makes the game much more difficult for Thompson which Zheng capitalizes on.

Highlight #11: Another great play from Zheng as he correctly predicts the double protect from Thompson’s Pokémon in order to set up a free Swords Dance. This play basically guarantees Zheng the win as he now has a +2 Garchomp and his Tapu Lele with a turn of Tailwind to spare.

Highlight #12: Zheng is a very safe player in the endgame which is exactly how he plays it here. Amazing set from both players, but Zheng made the better moves in the end to take Oregon Regionals.

A Niche Pick: SlowkingSlowking

A bit of an interesting choice for a Trick Room setter made its first top cut appearance in Portland courtesy of Bennett Piercy. I’m surprised that it took this long for a Slowbro or Slowking to make its way into the meta game, since both have been reliable Trick Room setters in the past.

One advantage Slowking has over Slowbro is its higher Special Defense, which seems like the preferred defense stat to train in this format. Slowking gets access to some versatile attacking options which likely explains it being on a team with Tapu Lele to potentially capitalize on Psychic Terrain. Expect Slowking to slowly make its way into the late-season meta game.

Final Thoughts

Shoutout to NuggetBridge for streaming the tournament with some great commentary from a variety of commentators. The next upcoming regional is keeping it out west as we head to Salt Lake City, Utah. We’ll have a recap just like this one for all upcoming major tournaments so make sure to come back for coverage from Utah regionals. Thanks for reading!

Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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Pokemon VGC’s Championship Point Dilemma

Recently, there have been a number of players voicing their opinions on the current championship point structure and what it could mean for the future of Pokemon VGC.

A Rundown of the Problem

The current championship point (CP) requirement for Worlds qualification in the two major regions (United States and Europe) is 500. The remaining regions of Latin America, Asia Pacific, and South Africa require 350 points.

With the adjusted tournament structure now offering smaller CP payouts for placings beyond top 16, best finish limits set in place, and limits to the frequency of local tournaments, The Pokemon Company (TPCi) has quite a problem to fix.

The current structure caters heavily to high-level players who can afford to travel, which isn’t ideal for the game’s growth. With the bar at 500 CP to qualify for Worlds and fewer ways to earn those points, there is less incentive for new players to compete. Basically, it’s extremely hard to qualify for Worlds if you are a less-experienced player who can’t afford to travel to higher CP events.

Perhaps a solution would be to lower the Worlds’ CP bar to 350 or 400 with the current CP payouts as a way to properly scale how much CP is awarded at each tournament level. This way, there’s incentive to attend local tournaments which could translate to higher attendance at larger ones. This could make Worlds qualification more accessible, which would allow top players to shift their focus to making it further in the tournament.

However, some would say lowering the bar would make Worlds too easy to qualify for. This was an issue in 2016 when local tournaments could be “farmed” for CP, which made higher level tournaments seem less significant. However, it also made the scene much more accessible for local players, which is obviously great for the game’s potential growth.

See the problem here?

We either have tournaments that appeal to top performing players and “wallet warriors”, or we lower the CP bar making Worlds an easier tournament to qualify for.

Now that there’s a general outline of the problem, let’s dive into some specific topics that players have brought up regarding the issue.

International Championships and the Best Finish Limit

With the best finish limit for Internationals set at four, the mentality of “quantity over quality” is very applicable if a player is able travel and perform well. With top players in each region receiving stipends to travel to each country’s Internationals, it makes it too easy to flood these tournaments with players from regions that already have enough tournaments to qualify for Worlds.

On the other hand, if TPCi restricts the best finish limit to one and limits incentive to travel, one or two bad finishes for a top player could end their season.

Regional Favoritism

It’s obvious that North America is the region with the best treatment in Pokemon VGC. The US has the most tournaments and most coverage over any region in the circuit, which explains the large number of American players at Worlds.

More US players receive stipends, allowing them to travel to and dominate tournaments overseas. The more developed scene makes community-organized tournaments possible to award a travel award to the winner.

Of course, countries like Japan need an improved qualification structure, buts that’s been an issue since the beginning.

The Return of the LCQ?

The Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) was a tournament held the day before Worlds as an opportunity for non-invited players to play for a chance to compete at the main event.

No one is certain why the LCQ was discontinued, as it was an incentive for non-invitees to attend Worlds. Not to mention, it also produced a World Champion in the Seniors division in 2013.

It was popular among the community, which gives it even less of a reason to be absent from Worlds. With the recent attendance restrictions at the 2016 World Championships and now the Sao Paulo Internationals, you’d think TPCi is deliberately trying to make their tournaments smaller.

Final Thoughts

What we should take away from this is that no tournament structure is going to please everyone. The championship point structure is crucial to every aspect of Pokemon VGC’s tournament structure including maintaining the player base. If you don’t appeal to new players, the game won’t grow, but if you disappoint the veterans, people will leave.

TPCi has some big questions to answer when deciding how to handle their 2018 season. There’s no clear solution, but there’s a lot that needs improvement.

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Defending the Land Down Under: VGC 2017 Melbourne International Championships Recap

That’s a wrap from Melbourne, and what a great tournament it was. Zoe Lou, a rather unfamiliar face to the big stage, was able to take her home country’s tournament, overcoming a stacked Top 8. Zoe’s historic win makes her the first Australian player to win an International, and the first female Master to win a National-level tournament since 2011.

Results & Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1) Zoe Lou

2) https://i1.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/italyflag.png?resize=32%2C32Nico Davide Cognetta

*

3) ukflagBen Kyriakou

4) Luke Curtale

Alola Form

5) argentinaflagSebastian Escalante

6)usflagNick Naverre

7) usflagTommy Cooleen

Alola Form

8) germanyflagBaris Akcos

Alola Form

*Nico’s Kartana was removed due to a team sheet error

Pokémon Sprite Images courtesy of Game Freak

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix ItImage result for drifblim

Zoe’s team was heavily inspired by former World Champion and ONOG Invitational Champion, Shoma Honami’s
famous Tapu Lele and Drifblim combination. This combo takes advantage of Drifblim’s Unburden ability, which doubles its speed when it doesn’t have an item. Since Drifblim consumes its Psychic Seed after Tapu Lele hits the field, Drifblim can set up a quick Tailwind.

Zoe’s tournament run may have hit a rough patch in Day 2 Swiss, but her Day 1 and Top Cut performances wereImage result for tapu lele nothing short of dominant. Zoe finished 8-1 in Day 1 and barely managed to squeeze into the Top Cut as the 8th seed. From there, Zoe won by a forfeit in Top 8, but proved herself in her Top 4 match against Ben Kyriakou, and her Finals match against London International Finalist, Nico Davide Cognetta. Although Cognetta was playing with only five Pokemon due to a team sheet issue, Zoe proved she won this match by playing exceptionally in her 2-0 sweep, and she had a number of fans to cheer her on.

Five Pokemon? No Problem.Image result for kartana

After losing his Kartana due to the same team sheet woes that plagued players in London, Nico managed to take his weakened team all the way to the finals. Nico had already proved himself as a skilled player after his run to the finals in London, but his skill could only propel him so far. Kartana would’ve been invaluable for handling Zoe’s nearly unchecked Magnezone, as Nico’s Arcanine had issues with Zoe’s Garchomp and Gyarados. Despite Nico’s success, this got players talking again about how unfairly harsh these team sheet rulings were, and how they should be reformed in the future.

Streamed From An iPhone

image courtesy of @BillaVGC on Twitter

Honestly, the community was the real MVP of the weekend.

With permission from The Pokémon Company, a phone was provided to commentators Ty Power (@SarkastikVGC) and Tom Schultz (@SchultzyVGC) who actually dropped from the competition to commentate the last-minute stream. There was even live coverage from PokemonAustralia.com who live tweeted the event, with assistance from other members of the Australian Pokémon community. A huge shout out to everyone who helped to provide coverage as you have made our jobs as spectators and journalists a lot easier.

 

Final Thoughts

Melbourne was an event filled with story lines that turned out to be a great overall tournament experience. With Melbourne behind us, we set our sights on São Paulo, Brazil for the next International Championships that have shrouded themselves in controversy due to the newly announced player caps. Now that Europe and Australia have crowned players who have successfully defended their continents, let’s see if Latin America can do the same.

Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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Sao Paulo’s Attendance Cap – Another International Issue

These International Championships cannot seem to distance themselves from controversy. First, London’s timing and team sheets, and Melbourne’s lack of a stream. Now, an attendance cap for the upcoming Sao Paulo International Championships. The tournament is only a month away, and this news has likely ruined a number of non-South American player’s planned trips that were not courtesy of an official stipend.

First, Let’s Talk About Melbourne

Failure to provide live coverage from another large tournament? Sounds like TPCi.

After setting up the International Championships structure, and allowing top players from across the world to compete in different countries, you’d think there would be an extra push to stream these high-profile tournaments. Sadly no, and we’ll likely never receive an explanation for why this happened. Streaming should be a priority for TPCi when it comes to an international event. Getting people to watch the game will only help it grow. We as spectators should not have to rely on Twitter or other unofficial sources (that usually do an amazing job) for live coverage. I can understand not streaming a few regionals. However, there is little excuse for not streaming the International Championships, regardless of what country they’re in.

Now Onto That Attendance Cap…

128. 128 players is the max attendance for an International tournament. Does this bring back memories of how the 2016 World Championships was closed off to spectators, and how we found out about it only a month in advance?

Seriously, I have no clue why TPCi would have an attendance cap that is lower than the amount of players at Worlds last year. Not only that, they’re giving stipends to the top four players in each region. This further restricts the number of players who are able to compete. For a series of tournaments that encourages players to travel to other countries, it makes little sense to cap the attendance at such a low number. It also makes the communities’ efforts to organize tournaments to award stipend money a complete waste at this point.

Another aspect affected is Championship Point and prize money distribution, if the player number were to not reach 128. How CP and prizes are given is based on attendance. For example, if 127 people were to enter instead of 128, Championship Points would be distributed to the Top 16 instead of the Top 32 according to the current system. This is more of an issue with the number the player cap is set at rather than there being a cap at all. This wouldn’t be an issue if the cap wasn’t in place, however.

To make matters worse, since this is now a smaller tournament, there’s probably not going to be an effort to stream this event either.

What Does This Mean for Indianapolis?

Honestly, I have no clue. North American tournaments are usually well organized. In light of the circumstances that have plagued these Internationals, there’s a reason to be worried. TPCi needs to drastically improve their communication with their players, as announcements like these cannot be tolerated. It seems like every announcement about these tournaments are nothing but bad news. Players will continue to voice their complaints into the void of Twitter, only to not receive any official response.

If you would like to view the official announcements for the Latin America International Championships, check here for stipend info and here for more info on the attendance cap.

Images courtesy of Pokemon.com

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A Magnezone Mirror Match Finale! – VGC 2017 Sheffield Regional Championships Recap

Our second piece of Pokemon VGC regional coverage comes from Sheffield, UK. Like Collinsville in the US, it was given an official Pokémon stream. The exciting Top Cut came down to a Spanish mirror match between Alex Gomez and Albert Bos who featured identical unique teams. Getting to see this team go against itself made for a great final set. Before we break it down, let’s see the rest of the teams from Sheffield’s Top Cut.

Results & Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1. Albert Bos

2. Alex Gomez

3. Javier Senorena

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/89-1.png

4. Daniel Nolan

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/750.png

5. Daniel Oztekin

6. Rob Akershoek

Alola Formhttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/778.pnghttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/143.png

7. Alessio Yuri Boschetto

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/630.png

8. Andrea Ciccone

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/143.png

Finals Mirror Match: The Breakdown

Here’s a link to watch the Finals.

Slow Mode

Anyone who watched Game 1 of this set saw how little Nihilego was able to accomplish in the face of the slower and bulkier Pokémon. Games 2 & 3 concentrated mainly on the slow aspect of the team, with both players leaving Nihilego and Tapu Bulu on the bench. Trick Room wasn’t used nearly as much as one would expect, seeing both of these teams; but the theme of this match was positioning, and Trick Room was a clutch aspect for setting up Araquanid.

Positioning: Competing Substitutes, Intimidate, and Trick Room

Arcanine Image result for arcanine

Arcanine’s main purpose in this set was to Intimidate the opposing Arcanine so that Magnezone was able to safely set up a Substitute. The Arcanine, assuming they were similar, were built more for support rather than offense. Alex’s used Helping Hand to assist his Magnezone, and both utilized Snarl to weaken each other’s Magnezone.

Magnezone Image result for magnezone

Magnezone getting up Substitute was a primary objective for both players in the early game. In Game 1, Alex showed how important this was to the match-up. Albert adjusted and was able to use this strategy to take the next two games. Although Magnezone being behind a Substitute seemed like a huge advantage for either player, Arcanine’s Snarl was a factor in complicating this strategy (as Snarl is able to bypass Substitute).

Araquanid Cleaning UpImage result for araquanid png

In the first two games, Araquanid didn’t really make an impact. However, Game 3 was able to show how much of a threat it was. There was a moment where Alex’s Porygon2 set up Trick Room to which Albert’s Araquanid took complete advantage of. After scoring a huge Hydro Vortex on Alex’s Porygon2 upon switch-in, Albert’s Araquanid was in position to easily clean up the rest of Alex’s team after having the Trick Room set up.

The Niche Picks

Since the meta game has kind of leveled, here’s an abbreviated entry to The Niche Picks.

Alolan PersianImage result for alolan persian png

Everyone’s least favorite Alolan form made its way into a regional Top Cut again. This time, it’s thanks to Rob Akershoek, who we saw three times on stream. Rob’s team was built to support Snorlax, which Persian is able to do nicely with access to moves like Fake Out, Parting Shot, and Snarl to weaken the opponent’s team and boost Snorlax’s bulk. Persian is also a bit defensive with access to the Fur Coat ability, so players using Persian usually opt for a 50% HP healing berry to increase its time on the field.

Tapu Bulu Image result for tapu bulu png

Tapu Bulu finally won a tournament, which could mean a potential comeback for the forgotten deity. It does well against its Tapu brethren, as it can interrupt opposing Terrain while also having a type advantage against Tapu Fini. There’s also a smaller amount of Poison-type moves in the meta game now that Garchomp have forgone Posion Jab. However Tapu Bulu still struggles with the popular Arcanine. Alex and Albert’s Trick Room-based team could be a good fit for Tapu Bulu, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see future Top Cuts consistently have all four Tapus present.

Final Thoughts

It was nice to see another non-US Pokemon VGC regional have an official stream, and Sheffield did not disappoint. The European meta can be rather unique which is evident by the team that managed to make it to the finals twice. We have another action-packed weekend coming up in Melbourne for the 2017 season’s second International Championship. It should be an exciting tournament with a ton of big names to look out for, but make sure to check back here for a full recap of the action! Thanks for reading!

Art of Pokemon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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Bold Predictions: Who Will Take ONOG’s Pokémon Invitational?

One Nation of Gamers Pokémon Invitational tournament is happening this weekend, and the hype has reached its peak. Picking a potential winner from such a small pool of top-level players in a game like Pokémon, is insanely difficult. So, I’ve narrowed down my Top three players that I think will take the tournament, based on overall skill and performance in the 2017 format. In no particular order, here they are:

Sejun Park

While Sejun has remained rather quiet in the last two years, outside of the Trading Card Game, he looks poised to come back strong in this tournament. Since winning Worlds back in 2014, Sejun hasn’t made headlines in VGC until this year. His 2017 accomplishments include a win at a large Korean grassroots tournament and his top placing on the Battle Spot Ladder with Tapu Fini. Sejun was one of the early pioneers of Tapu Fini, which is one of the most popular Pokémon in the format right now. This is why I think Sejun will shine when his opportunity comes.

When Sejun enjoys a format, he is a threat. Not to mention, this format hugely rewards innovation, and innovation might as well be Sejun’s middle name. In his interview with Trainer Tower, Sejun explained he,”like(s) the regulations and there [are] many people who support me. And it is fun! It is fun to play this meta!”

Regardless of what kind of team Sejun brings, standard or weird, I would expect nothing less but a plethora of new tricks from our former World Champion.

Aaron Zheng

Aaron has been in the scene for as long as it has been a thing, and he consistently shows promise to put up a big performance. After starting the season a bit sluggish after missing Day 2 at the London International Championships, Aaron came back in full force with two Top Cut appearances in San Jose and Anaheim. Although he still has yet to win an official tournament this season, he’s coming off of a huge win in the stacked Melbourne Invitational, which also guarantees him an appearance at the Melbourne International Championships in March.

Aaron has high hopes for Pokémon’s growth as a result of this tournament, and I think that will motivate a big performance from Zheng. In his own interview with Trainer Tower, Zheng had this to say about the tournament:

“For this [One Nation of Gamers] tournament, I’m actually really excited because it’s a huge opportunity. I don’t think people realize how huge this really is… Having an organization that does full-time esports come in and help us… is something that is really great… I’ve never seen a grassroots event or tournament organized as well as this, so I have high expectations for this weekend’s competition. And I think it’s really good, because VGC is something where no one really has the time to dedicate to content creation full-time, or writing articles full-time or streaming full time. So being able to get the help of a professional company that has experience in this is really, really big. I think this is honestly a huge step forward.”

Markus Stadter

In traditional fashion, I’m placing my top choice at the end. Markus is one of the top players in Europe, hailing from Germany where he recently claimed his first regional title of the season. Markus’ knowledge of the game (this format especially) is high, and it shows in his play as well as his team building. He was one of the first players to give Mandibuzz a name in VGC 2017, while also helping to popularize Snorlax. On the same team.

After Leipzig Regionals, Markus became very interested in the growth of Pokémon VGC into an esport. In his interview with Trainer Tower, Stadter said, “There’s always been change, and a lot of people still have the goal of ‘getting Pokémon to the next level,’ ‘growing the game’ or ‘becoming esports,’”

“But I want to give it a final try now. I had resigned before and thought Pokémon was ultimately only going to be a fun thing on the side. However, I’m motivated now and want the scene to prosper. There’s still some boundaries we need to cross, but I think it might be possible. I don’t think we’ve ever been this close before.”

Markus’ drive to push Pokémon to the next level serves as powerful motivation for him to do well. Not to mention, he has the capability to make exceptional meta game calls, and capitalize with exceptional skill in best-of-three. The current third best player in the world is my pick to win it all.

 

Images courtesy of Trainer Tower

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Slow and Steady Wins Another Race – VGC 2017 Anaheim Regional Championships Recap

Gavin Michaels, VGC 2017’s King of Trick Room, takes his second regional title in a dominating fashion. Over the course of the entire tournament, consisting of nine best-of-three Swiss Rounds and a Top 16 cut, Gavin only dropped a single game in his conquest of Anaheim. Not to mention, his team was nearly identical to the team that won him San Jose Regionals just a few months prior. We’ll break down Gavin’s team, but first let’s look at what managed to reach Top 16.

Results & Teams (Top 16 Cut)

1. Gavin Michaels

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/778.png

2. James Eakes

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/758.png

3. Kamran Jahadi

Alola Formhttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/778.png

4. Raghav Malaviya

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/426.png

5. Tyler Bennett

6. Riley Factura

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/630.png

7. Giovanni Costa

8. Anthony Jiminez

Alola Form

9. Aaron Zheng

Alola Form

10. Nelson Ocampo

Alola FormEast Sea

11. Shreyas Radhakrishna

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/778.pnghttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/750.pnghttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/149.png

12. Alicia Martinez

13. Jirawiwat Thitasiri

Alola Formhttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/750.png

14. Sam Johnson

15. Alia Lee

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/794.png

16. Gary Qian

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/330.pnghttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/198.png

Pokémon Sprite Images courtesy of Game Freak

Gavin’s Trick Room: The Breakdown

To put it simply: Gavin’s team is entirely reliant on setting up Trick Room, and sweeping with strong sweepers. The unique traits of having two setters, a Fighting-type, and Magnezone allow for Gavin to pretty much ensure that the dimensions are twisted and damage will be plenty. But let’s break down the individual aspects of the team.

The Trick Room Setters

This team features the combo of Porygon2 and the less common Mimikyu (which actually might Image result for porygon2start to grow in popularity) as the team’s primary Trick Room users.
Porygon2 is about as standard of a Pokémon as you can get, but Gavin’s Porygon2 favored more physical Defense with special attacks like Thunderbolt being favored over Return.

Mimikyu on the other hand is a little bit more interesting. Gavin’s Mimikyu is fully Image result for mimikyu pnginvested in Speed and Attack, which is beyond unusual for a Pokémon who sets Trick Room. But Mimikyu has other utility with moves like Taunt and Destiny Bond which it can take advantage of with its higher Speed. Ghostium Z is the item of choice, with Mimikyu being able to fire off a Never-Ending Nightmare into opposing Tapu Lele (*which it will out-speed by the way). A trick we saw in the finals was Z-Destiny Bond, which redirects attacks to Mimikyu with the added effect of Destiny Bond. This strategy was used to get rid of James Eakes’ Gigalith which was crucial in eliminating James’ only Trick Room answer.

HariyamaImage result for hariyama

Hariyama is commonly seen alongside Trick Room modes as a Fake Out user to assist
its partner in setting up Trick Room. Gavin basically invented standard Hariyama with Flame Orb + Guts being used to transition Hariyama’s role to a sweeper under Trick Room. Hariyama is brilliantly supported by Mimikyu, which can eliminate Tapu Lele, which can cancel out Fake Out due to the Psychic Terrain (also Tapu Lele can easily OHKO Hariyama, so there’s that).

The Sweepers

MagnezoneImage result for magnezone png

A grossly underrated Steel-type Pokémon in the format that has only been used successfully by Gavin and Wolfe Glick. Magnezone is a powerful sweeper if given the speed advantage, and with Gavin equipping his with Choice Specs, Magnezone is primed to decimate unprepared teams. With its Magnet Pull ability, Magnezone can trap other Steel-types, like Celesteela and Kartana, making it easier to dispose of them if they’re major threats.

AraquanidImage result for araquanid png

Fun Fact: Did you know that teams featuring both Porygon2 and Araquanid have won all four 2017 regionals so far? It’s a strong combo that can’t be beaten easily.

Araquanid is a Pokémon that has died down a bit in usage, but still manages to snag high placings at tournaments. Under Trick Room, Araquanid is an unstoppable force that can easily just click Liquidation and chunk everything it hits. Gavin’s Araquanid featured some interesting move options in Lunge and Substitute, making it more offensive in favor of the more popular Leech Life and Wide Guard variants.

SnorlaxImage result for snorlax png

A familiar Pokémon to most, but a new one to Gavin’s team, Snorlax replaced Drampa in this new iteration. Snorlax traditionally likes Trick Room and also likes to boost with Curse, so it’s the absolute slowest, tank-iest, and threatening thing once Trick Room goes up.

Now a new combination that Gavin put to very good use is Belly Drum Snorlax next to Mimikyu. The HP sacrifice is zero issue for Snorlax as Gluttony allows it to recover all of that HP with a Figy (Aguav, Wiki, etc.) Berry. Mimikyu can easily set up Trick Room and Snorlax proceeds to annihilate you with maximum strength. I would strongly advise you to have a way to stop this combination if you’re playing at a best-of-one tournament.

May or may not be speaking from personal experience…

Celesteela’s ComebackImage result for celesteela png

This was the first time Celesteela topped Kartana in usage at a Regional or higher tournament since San Jose all the way back in December. We saw a couple Celesteela variants with some being Special attackers and some going back to the classic Leech Seed strategy; but the defining move of Celesteela now is Flamethrower.

With Flamethrower, Celesteela easily beats Kartana. I don’t think Kartana will drop in usage, but I expect that Celesteela and Kartana will be evenly represented in coming tournaments.

What’s New With Eevee?Image result for eevee png

Giovanni Costa managed to make another Top Cut appearance with his now famous (or infamous even) Eevee team. There was a different team member that replaced Gengar on this new version of Giovanni’s team: Tapu Lele. Unfortunately, we never got to see Giovanni featured on stream, I can speculate what Tapu Lele could’ve been useful for.

Tapu Lele, like all of the other Tapu’s, gets access to Psych Up, which enables it to be able to copy the Evoboosts from one of its teammates. Since Tapu Lele’s Psychic Terrain boosts the power of Psychic-type attacks, Tapu Lele could be a more efficient sweeper than Tapu Fini. Psychic Terrain also helps block priority moves aimed at Eevee or any of Giovanni’s other Pokémon.

The Niche Picks 

The current meta game appears to be settling, but Anaheim brought a fair amount of odd choices that managed to do well.

SalazzleImage result for salazzle png

*For anyone looking to use a Focus Sash on Salazzle (like James Eakes), I would definitely recommend not running it next to a Sand Stream Gigalith.

With the introduction of Pokémon to Sun and Moon, Salazzle gained access to Fake Out through breeding, which made it much more viable. Salazzle has a great offensive typing, being able to hit the ever present Steel and Fairy-types. Encore was the fourth move choice from James, which effectively punished Protects, which Salazzle is great in baiting out due to its high Speed.

DrifblimImage result for drifblim png

Honestly, one of the last Pokémon I would’ve expected to see in a tournament at all. Drifblim is by far one of the most unique options for a Tailwind supporter, having access to Unburden, allowing it to double its Speed without an item. Raghav Malaviya used a Misty Seed Drifblim which took advantage of Unburden after the usage of Misty Seed thanks to Tapu Fini. Raghav’s Drifblim had access to Swagger which it could use on his own Garchomp in the Misty Terrain to boost Garchomp’s Attack without the drawback of confusion. With Tailwind becoming increasingly more popular, I anticipate we’ll see Drifblim again soon.

TalonflameImage result for talonflame png

Keeping with the theme of Tailwind, Talonflame managed to break into Top Cut and have about 30 seconds of stream time before being knocked out. Despite the insane nerf to Gale Wings, Talonflame is still a fast Tailwind setter that can still fill an attacking or support role.

MurkrowImage result for murkrow png

Another Tailwind user, but Mukrow functions a bit differently than most. Being the only Prankster Tailwind user, other than Whimsicott, Murkrow has an arsenal of useful support moves that Gary Qian was able to use effectively. On Gary’s Murkrow, we saw Quash (which can put a stop to even the speediest of opponents), Taunt (stops supporters in their tracks), Foul Play (standard Dark-type STAB), and Tailwind. While Murkrow is certainly an odd choice, it can definitely catch opponents off-guard with its multitude of tricks.

XurkitreeImage result for xurkitree png

Another unique Ultra Beast to have success in a major tournament, Xurkitree shocked the competition under Jirawiwat Thitasiri. During Xurkitree’s brief stream appearance, we saw Gigavolt Havoc secure victory for Jirawiwat, indicating a rather unusual item choice. At this point you can expect any Ultra Beasts to do well at major tournaments.

FlygonImage result for flygon png

To round out this section, I would like to touch on Flygon, which absolutely fascinates me in this format. Unfortunately, Flygon’s stream appearance was brief and we never really saw it do anything in Gary Qian’s Top 16 match. I have no idea where to begin with Flygon, but Gary has promised a short team report, so I’ll update this piece with some of my analysis when he finally publishes it.

*Edit: You can read about Gary’s Flygon and the rest of his team here!: linkis.com/wordpress.com/LsMuS

Final Thoughts

Nugget Bridge came back strong with a great stream of Anaheim Regionals, featuring excellent commentary from Gabby Snyder, Adam Dorricott, and Duy Ha. Gavin’s victory in Anaheim guarantees him a trip back in August for the 2017 World Championships, which could be a promising tournament for him. Foreshadowing perhaps? Our next set of Regionals are coming up on March 4th in Collinsville, IL, and over in Europe in Sheffield, UK. Check back to The Game Haus for recaps of both of these tournaments along with other great Pokémon articles! Thanks for reading!

Art of Pokemon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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ONOG’s Pokémon Invitational Is Monumental for the Growth of VGC

“To celebrate the recent resurgence of Pokémon, ONOG, in collaboration with GEICO Gaming, would like to invite you to witness a tournament between the best and most storied Pokémon video game players of this generation.”

One Nation of Gamers in association with GEICO Gaming presents a Pokémon Invitational tournament featuring eight of some of the best players in the world, with a sizable amount of prize money on the line. The tournament will take place over two days (February 25th-26th) and will be multi-stage, double elimination format. The tournament has already generated a lot of positive feedback from the community, as there a large potential for Pokémon VGC’s growth.

Who Ya Got?

Courtesy of ONOG

The eight players that will be competing include the past three World Champions: Wolfe “Wolfey” Glick, Shoma “SHADEviera” Honami, and Sejun Park. It also includes players and popular YouTubers: Markus “13Yoshi37” Stadter, Enosh “Human” Shachar, Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng, Alex Ogloza, and Dan “aDrive” Clap.

The cast of players featured ensures that the level of competition will be high. It seems that every single match will be a feature. With this many well-known players going up against each other, the viewership is sure to be on par with official tournament streams.

What’s On the Line?

There are no Championship Points or trips to Worlds up for grabs. Rather, a $1000 prize pool will be distributed among the top four.

Not Your Traditional Format

The tournament will be structured in two stages: A group stage that is double elimination where players will play best-of-three matches, and a playoff stage that will be single elimination with best-of-five matches. This new approach to the traditional VGC tournament structure is sure to shake things up. It may further mitigate chances of a set coming down to RNG too.

Where Can I Watch the Tournament?

Each match from the tournament will be live on ONOG’s Twitch and YouTube channels. Justin Carris, a newer yet polished commentator, will be leading the match commentary with competitors coming on to assist him.

Why This is a Huge Deal

This is the first independent Pokémon VGC tournament with this big of a sponsor since APEX in 2014. Esports organizations like ONOG and GEICO Gaming bring promise for others to set their eyes on Pokémon as a game that has potential to rise to the level of other major esports. The prize pool, as well as the caliber of players, legitimizes a high level of competitive play that spectators will be excited to watch. The potential viewership numbers makes this tournament sure to attract a ton of attention to the game. Hopefully more of these tournaments are on the way, as this one is sure to set a stellar example.

Final Words

This tournament has a ton of well deserved hype surrounding it. The matches will be exciting, the tournament will be well covered, and the potential growth for VGC is almost certain. In partnership with Trainer Tower, profiles for each player will be posted throughout the week. For more details about the tournament, visit the official site at: http://pokemon.onog.gg/, and get hyped for February 25th!

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A New Gimmick That’s Shore to be a Threat – Palossand & Smeargle

Oh no, not Smeargle again! I thought we got rid of that thing after last season!

*Cue traumatic flashbacks to VGC 2016*

Well Smeargle isn’t exactly what you should be scared of. It’s the sandcastle that Smeargle is going to help destroy you.

Who’s That Pokémon?

Image result for palossand png

It’s Palossand!

Yeah I don’t really remember this thing either.

Who thought this Pokémon would ever see play in any competitive format? Palossand is a new Pokémon, courtesy of the seventh generation that has developed a rather interesting strategy that has taken the current meta game by storm. It involves everyone’s favorite dog Smeargle, and getting Palossand to unbelievable levels of bulk and strength.

Here’s How it Works

The basic strategy involves the combination of Smeargle and Palossand, where Smeargle buffs Palossand and Palossand just has to stay alive long enough to get all of its boosts. Smeargle uses Water Shuriken, a priority Water-type move capable of hitting multiple times, on Palossand which basically deals no damage. This triggers Palossand’s ability, Water Compaction, which increases its Defense by one stage every time it is hit with a Water-type attack.

Now here’s where it gets fun.

On this team, Palossand will typically hold a Weakness Policy which doubles its Attack and Special Attack stats when hit by Water Shuriken (since Palossand is weak to Water). So now to recap, you should have a Palossand with (ideally) 4+ stages of Defense, doubled Attacking stats, and now double Special Defense after you use Amnesia.

And after all of that, if Palossand took any damage, it can heal pretty much all of it back with its signature recovery move: Shore Up.

Then What?

Now, Smeargle is either gone or continues to support with Wide Guard or Follow Me. When Smeargle finally goes down, the next move is to switch in your Psych Up sweeper and copy all of Palossand’s boosts.

Good Game.

What Does the Rest of The Team Look Like?

Really, once you set up Palossand, the rest of the team doesn’t matter. But, there are a few ways to support your unstoppable sandcastle.

courtesy of Quassihollic Art on Tumblr

Tapu of your Choice

Since all of the Tapu Pokémon gain access to Psych Up, the choice of which one to use is completely up to player preference. Tapu Fini may be a popular choice considering how popular it is in the format right now, thanks to its already impressive bulk. Second to Fini would likely be Tapu Koko due to its Speed and capability of sweeping with the increase to its Special Attack.

Image result for espeon

Espeon

A choice for a Psych Up sweeper seen on a successful Japanese player’s version of the team. Espeon gets access to Stored Power, which is a Psychic move that increases in strength for every stat boost on the user. With the added defensive boosts, Espeon could be terrifying to go up against.

Image result for arcanine

Arcanine

The literal “Top Dog” of VGC 2017 seems to find its way onto pretty much every flavor of team out there. Arcanine can deal with the ever-present Kartana, which may cause problems for Palossand since Leaf Blade can easily score a critical hit and wipe out your set-up sandcastle.

Image result for Kartana

Kartana

Speak of the devil. Kartana can deal with Water-types (mainly Tapu Fini) that can hit Palossand pretty hard due to its low Special Defense.

Gigalith

Gigalith is a Pokémon that has been rising up in popularity as of late, and it makes a good teammate for Palossand. Palossand is able to recover even more health with Shore Up since it’s boosted by the presence of a sandstorm, which Gigalith can set up for it.

How Do You Beat It?

It shouldn’t be too hard to beat this strategy if you follow one or more of these steps:

  • Get rid of Smeargle (Just watch out for Moody)
  • Taunt Palossand so it can’t use Amnesia or Shore Up (also Taunt is useful for Psych Up users)
  • Strong Water and Grass-type attacks (Tapu Fini and Kartana work well)
  • Resistances/Immunities for Palossand’s attacks (mainly Earth Power)

Finally, Here Are Some Sample Teams to Try Out!

These teams can be found and scanned using the QR Team feature in the Pokémon Global Link.

Art of Pokemon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori unless otherwise credited

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Filling the Holes of the Swiss Format: Pokemon’s Less Than Perfect Tournament Structure

The Swiss Tournament Format was introduced to the official Pokémon tournament structure in 2012. As of late, it has been creating a bit of controversy among players in the competitive scene.

Admittedly, while being a huge step up from the single-elimination format that was present prior to the 2012 season, there’s still a ton that could be fixed to accommodate the traditional Swiss Format to a game like Pokémon. Since there has been no apparent alternative, instead of getting rid of the Swiss structure, we should try to alter some aspects to satisfy the community’s plight . But like I said earlier, Swiss has brought good with it, and we’ll start with that before we begin criticizing.

Note: The main points of argument/analysis are mainly going to apply to larger tournaments (above Premier Challenges and MidSeason Showdowns).

courtesy of VancouverSun

What Swiss Does Right

Casual Friendly 

Could you imagine traveling to a Pokémon tournament prior to 2012 just to get unlucky in your first game and instantly be out of the tournament? Luckily, my first ever tournament was literal minutes from my house so I took my Round 2 exit a bit easier than most.

With Swiss however, you can lose as many games as there are rounds and still play a ton of Pokémon by the end of the day. You won’t be in contention to win if you drop more than two, but at least you can continue to play games to either learn or improve your skills.

The Swiss format was one of the first great steps for The Pokémon Company to make their competitive scene more accessible. It makes tournaments more than just competitions, but it also gives players a reason to travel to not only compete but to socialize and meet new people which gives the competitive scene a much larger appeal.

Decreasing Odds of Elimination Due to RNG…For the Most Part

It’s Pokémon, so RNG is something that will always be a factor. But with more games to be played, there exists decreased chances that a critical hit or a miss will end your tournament run.

Not to mention, all tournaments that are Regional and beyond play best-of-three sets for each round so your odds of luck screwing you over should further be decreased.

But, like previously stated: it’s Pokémon.

courtesy of Photobucket

What Pokémon’s Swiss Format Doesn’t Do So Well & How to Potentially Fix It

I’ll break this section down into three main points where the most complaints seem to derive from:

  1. Tiebreaker Percentages When Determining Top Cut
  2. Not Stream Friendly
  3. Tournaments Take Forever

Your Record vs. Your “Resistance”

So here’s how determining who makes Top 8,16, etc. in Pokémon works:

  • If multiple eligible players have the same record at the end of Swiss (let’s say 6-2 for example), who makes Top Cut will be determined by each of their Opponent’s Win % and their Opponent’s Opponent’s Win %. So basically their “strength of schedule” and thus “tiebreaker” is almost completely out of their hands.

The reason I say “almost completely” is because a simple rebuttal to this could be “don’t lose early” or don’t lose at all. But, as mentioned several times by now; this is Pokémon. An RNG heavy game which can mean certain doom for a player if their not on the favoring end of several rolls. If a player faces a gimmick they weren’t prepared for or their initial opponent just gets really lucky, that could mean the end of Top Cut for them if their opponent goes on to lose their next six games.

Most players in the VGC scene seem to hate this being the way that potentially determines their chances of getting a shot of winning it all, and I can definitely see as a player myself how this could be frustrating. So let me turn to a way that many others have suggested to alter the Top Cut selection.

“All X-2 Records Advance”

The idea that after the initial Swiss rounds all players with 2 (or 3 in some cases) should advance to the Top Cut, much like how players with X-2 records move on to Day Two of National or World Championship competition, is by far the most popular solution among players. This seemed to be very positively received at the 2016 US National and World Championships where all X-2 players after the second day of play were allowed into the Top Cut.

Now the only issue with this is that the number of players does not always come down to a bracket-friendly number (like 16 or 32), but the tournaments mentioned above handled this by deciding play-in matches to narrow the field down to a workable Top 16.

Since Regional and above tournaments are now multiple-day events anyway, if this solution works, I think it should be implemented. It’s shown success in the past, and it’s what players seem to want in order to fairly assess who makes it to Top Cut.

Courtesy of twitch.tv/pokemonvgc

The Suffering Stream

Most of us who watch tournaments courtesy of live streams are familiar with the infamous “We Will Return Soon” or “We’ll Be Right Back” cards that usually stick around for 45 minutes in-between rounds.

When trying to stream matches from these tournaments you never know how long the match being streamed will last, as well as when the last game of the round will last. So if there’s only one game able to be streamed and that game finishes quickly, you’re left with a ton of down-time as the round finishes.

This is a killer for viewer retention, as most of the time there is nothing substantial going on in-between rounds to keep viewers engaged with the stream. Fortunately there are methods to alleviate this issue, and allow for more content to be featured on stream.

1. Have multiple matches able to be streamed

We’ve seen this utilized at larger tournaments, like Nationals and Worlds, but it’s often never used consistently or there’s only one other game to switch to. Having multiple matches off of the main stream would allow for more to watch in case the featured match concludes quickly. In addition to this adding less room for downtime on the stream waiting for a round to finish, the stream gets to showcase more matches and keep their audience interested.

2. Prepare filler content

If there are no other games that are able to be put on stream, the least TPCi can do is prepare some sort of segment or videos or something to interest the audience in-between rounds. We’ve seen instances of commentators discussing Pokémon Global Link data for Pokémon that were featured in a previous round, but these segments are often drawn out and unprepared so it really turns into just reading stuff someone could easily look up themselves.

Something like this could work, but if refined and added to, official streams could actually make the time in-between rounds somewhat entertaining.

Courtesy of propokemon.com

Tournaments Take Too Long

I remember seeing an argument for keeping tiebreaker percentages, that suggested adding more Swiss rounds. Well before anyone considers doing something like that, we need to figure out how to make 8 or 9 rounds not take until midnight to complete.

Yes that actually happened, and it impeded a lot of people’s New Year’s Eve plans.

Anyone who has attended a tournament of any scale can report back with some issue regarding time taken to get through Swiss. Even starting the first round can take upwards of two hours or more which is kind of absurd. If you’ve experienced this as a stream viewer, then just imagine how the players feel.

Honestly, there’s not a real easy answer for this one. It all really depends on tournament staff and how quickly they can get through registration and finalizing pairings. Some tournaments could require larger staffs to accommodate potentially larger attendance numbers to help speed up the process. Also with registration, it would be nice to have an accessible method for players who are not super familiar with the rules to have access to them so as not to cause any delays.

Final Thoughts

Although it’s not perfect, Swiss is by far the best tournament structure we could ask for. It allows for more games to be played and for RNG to be less of a factor, but often leads to long, painful tournaments for spectators and players alike. With some tweaking, TPCi could easily alter their traditional tournament format that better addressing the player base of their competitive scene.

Let’s be thankful that single-elimination is a thing of the past.

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