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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Pokémon VGC Content Creator Spotlight – Who You Should Watch

The amount of Pokémon VGC YouTube and streaming content has exploded in the last few years. Players and other popular Pokémon content creators have started showcasing VGC content, which has helped the format gain a ton of exposure. In this piece, I’ll be directing you to some Pokémon YouTubers and streamers to start watching if you’re looking not only to improve but also be entertained!

Courtesy of the Official Pokemon YouTube Channel

Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng

“Hey guys. Aaron ‘Cybertron’ Zheng here!” is a familiar phrase to most in the VGC community; as it’s the intro used for all of Aaron’s videos. Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng is a 19 year-old college student who has been in the competitive Pokémon scene ever since it began back in 2008.

One of the most decorated players in Pokémon VGC history with six World Championship appearances, two National Championships, multiple Worlds and National Top Cuts, and a bunch of Regional wins; Aaron has solidified himself among the best.

Aaron started his YouTube channel back in 2014, and now currently has over 71,000 subscribers. He pretty much invented the “Road to Ranked” format that countless others have emulated, where he showcases different teams as he climbs the Rated Battle Spot Ladder. While this is the majority of what he uploads, he occasionally posts team reports, guides, and various discussion videos to add some variety. Being a full-time student does require a lot of time though, so Road to Ranked is mostly what you’re going to see.

Aside from being a competitor, Aaron actually forfeited playing at the 2016 National and World Championships to work as a commentator for the official Pokémon stream. In fact, Aaron sort of became a meme after performing a segment in front of a monitor where he analyzed a previous match; almost looking like a weatherman. For the fans, he introduced himself with “Hey guys, Aaron ‘Weatherman’ Zheng here!” to the crowd’s immediate delight.

“Hey Guys! Aaron ‘Weatherman’ Zheng here!” Courtesy of twitch.tv/Pokemon

Being one of the pioneers of Pokémon VGC content creation, Aaron’s channel is definitely one you should be subscribed to. His knowledge of the game, as well as his relatable and fun personality, provides a great mixture of education and entertainment.

Here’s where you can find Aaron!

YouTube: youtube.com/cybertronproductions

Twitch: twitch.tv/cybertronvgc

Twitter: twitter.com/CybertronVGC

Courtesy of SaffronCityPost

Wolfe “Wolfey” Glick

Your current World Champion does indeed have a channel of his own, and it’s quite a good one. Wolfe Glick is a player who needs no introduction. 2016 World Champion, National Champion, multiple Regional Champion, are just a few of his many accomplishments.

From starting out small, Wolfe now has over 55,000 subscribers and looks to be on pace to catch up to his good buddy Aaron Zheng. Wolfe’s content is pretty diverse, including a plethora of guides, battle videos, and even a series where he plays through the “Battle Factory” modes on Pokémon Platinum and Emerald Versions. Wolfe’s formula is nothing close to formal, but he does showcase a deep knowledge and understanding of the game and its various mechanics.

In addition to the top-level analysis, you’ll often watch Wolfe hilariously outline why a particular situation is bad for him, or give you all of the reasons why Exeggutor is a good Pokémon. Wolfe’s videos are a ton of fun and give new players another great way to learn the game; this time, through the current best player in the world.

Here’s where you can find Wolfe!

YouTube: youtube.com/wolfeyvgc

Twitch: twitch.tv/wolfeyvgc

Twitter: twitter.com/WolfeyGlick

 

Courtesy of Nintendo Enthusiast

Alex Ogloza

Okay, I know what most of you who know Alex are thinking: “He doesn’t post VGC videos on his channel anymore.”

Unfortunately, Alex doesn’t post VGC videos to his YouTube channel, but he does amazing work for those who support him on Patreon. He provides VGC videos, teams, guides, and even one-on-one help to his Patrons who donate a certain amount every month. If you can’t afford it, or just don’t feel like shelling out the monthly amount, Alex does do a fair amount of VGC content streaming on his Twitch channel for all to see.

Regardless of what battle format you enjoy, Alex is probably one of the most entertaining of the bunch. Not only that, but he’s a National Champion, so he’s pretty good at the game too. Even though it’s not VGC, I highly recommend his Fight For First: Singles series on his YouTube channel just because of how entertaining I find him. If you like his stuff, consider supporting him on Patreon to get access to all of his great VGC material!

Here’s where you can find Alex!

YouTube: youtube.com/alexogloza

Twitch: twitch.tv/alexogloza

Twitter: youtube.com/alexogloza

Patreon: patreon.com/AlexOgloza

 

Courtesy of Alchetron

Ray Rizzo

Arguably THE greatest player of all time: three-time World Champion Ray Rizzo. Ray runs a bit of a smaller channel compared to those listed above, but still has 7,500+ subscribers. Despite announcing a possible come back to the game, he has been mainly doing work as a commentator for official Pokémon streams. Ray’s channel primarily features his own take on the “Road to Ranked” formula with his series Rayce to the Top. Ray has done tutorials and guides from time to time, so he does have a bit of variety too. Ray’s style is more formal, with him giving analysis and talking through his decisions as he plays battles. Ray looks like he’ll be uploading a ton now, so make sure to subscribe to him to support his content!

Here’s where you can find Ray!

YouTube: youtube.com/rayrizzovgc

Twitch: twitch.tv/rayrizzopkmn

Twitter: twitter.com/RayRizzoVGC

 

Courtesy of SaffronCityPost

Barry “Baz” Anderson

Barry Anderson might not be as well-known as the players I’ve listed, but I hardly consider that a reason to discredit his content. He’s a pretty accomplished European player, with him recently making it to the Top 8 stage of the 2016 World Championships. On his channel, Barry mainly uploads Battle Spot and Showdown content where he frequently teams up with friends to use some fun strategies. Other than battle videos, he sometimes uploads team reports and other discussion-type videos. It’s a fun channel with a ton of unique battle content that definitely deserves a subscription.

Here’s where you can find Barry!

YouTube: youtube.com/user/bazandersonvgc

Twitter:  twitter.com/bazandersonvgc

 

Courtesy of RedBull.com

Markus “13Yoshi37” Stadter

A two-time European National Champion, Regional Champion, and now a World’s Semi-Finalist, Markus Stadter’s content is deserving of viewership.

His posts on YouTube are mainly battles with his Mark Us Back On Top series. He has definitely branched out to include discussion videos, team reports, and some great collaboration content too. Markus’ on-camera personality has definitely improved as a result of working as a commentator, as he effectively combines great analysis with the occasional funny or witty remark.

I personally recommend his collab videos with Wolfe since they’re pretty much best friends and their chemistry is on point. Markus recently has been regularly streaming on his Twitch channel, so do yourself a favor and follow him!

Here’s where you can find Markus!

YouTube: www.youtube.com/13yoshi37

Twitch: twitch.tv/13yoshi37

Twitter: twitter.com/13Yoshi37

Courtesy of the Official Pokemon YouTube Channel

The Official Pokémon Channel(s)

Despite not having regular competitive Pokémon content, the various official Pokémon YouTube and Twitch channels upload and stream from select large tournaments each season. On YouTube, you can find footage from the Top Cut stages of big tournaments that were previously live streamed. It’s a good source for viewing VOD’s from bigger tournaments, while also catching streams of those events live.

Here’s the list of Pokémon’s Official Channels!

YouTube: youtube.com/pokemon

Twitch:

  • twitch.tv/pokemonvgc
  • twitch.tv/pokemonvgc_eu
  • twitch.tv/pokemon

Stream Website: pokemonchampionships.com

Twitter: twitter.com/Pokemon

 

 

Finally, Support Your Smaller Channels!

In addition to all of the great channels I’ve talked about in this piece, there are a ton of other, lesser-known content creators out there! If ever you come across a small YouTube channel with only a few hundred subscribers or a Twitch streamer with only a handful of views, show them your support! The growth of the Pokémon VGC community starts with more exposure, and the more popular content creators we have the better! Go give these people your view, subscription, and a follow! Thanks for reading!

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The Battle Spot Top 30! – A Guide to the Most Popular Pokémon in VGC 2017

Want to know what the top Pokémon are right now? Want to know how to use them effectively? Well then this is the article for you!

In the most recent Global Link update (1/23/2017), the Top 30 Pokémon (usage-wise) were revealed for each format on the Battle Spot Ladder. Other information, such as most popular teammates, items, natures and more are shown when viewing each Pokémon, showing how most players like to use that Pokémon.

But we’re going to take it a step further.

Not only will we show you all of that, but we’ll also provide sample move sets and spreads for each Pokémon! This article will be updated to reflect current meta game trends and new Pokémon that break the Top 30 each week!

Note: This won’t be updated to resemble a traditional “Top X” List, so here’s how this will work:

-If a new Pokémon enters the Top 30, it will simply be added to this list along with all of the data associated with it.

-If there is a shift in placement for some Pokémon, that won’t be reflected here.

The Top 30 (1/24/2017)

Image result for Tapu Koko global link

Tapu Koko

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Tapu Koko @ Life Orb/Focus Sash/Fairium Z/Electrium Z
Ability: Electric Surge
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
– Thunderbolt/Nature Power
– Dazzling Gleam
– Discharge/Hidden Power (Ice/Fire)/Taunt
– Protect

The most common set for Tapu Koko which mainly focuses on speed and attack power. There are many variations on this move set to fit certain teams or roles for Tapu Koko on a team. EV’s can also be changed depending on personal preference.

Tapu Koko @ Assault Vest
Ability: Electric Surge
EVs: 236 HP / 12 Def / 28 SpA / 132 SpD / 100 Spe
Timid Nature
– Volt Switch
– Dazzling Gleam
– Discharge
– Nature’s Madness

Assault Vest mainly takes advantage of Tapu Koko’s very diverse attacking move pool, while also giving it some added bulk.

Tapu Koko @ Choice Specs
Ability: Electric Surge
EVs: 236 HP / 12 Def / 84 SpA / 76 SpD / 100 Spe
Timid Nature
– Volt Switch
– Dazzling Gleam
– Discharge
– Thunderbolt

This is the Choice Specs variant of Tapu Koko that Ray Rizzo featured in his video showcasing his set. You can check out his video here if you’re interested in seeing damage calcs or just want to hear his take on it.

 

Image result for Tapu Lele global link png

Tapu Lele

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Tapu Lele @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Psychic Surge
EVs: 84 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 164 Spe
Modest Nature
– Psychic
– Moonblast
– Dazzling Gleam
– Thunderbolt/Shadow Ball/Hidden Power [Fire]

Standard Choice Scarf Tapu Lele designed to out-speed Pheromosa and deal tons of damage.

Tapu Lele @ Psychium Z/Life Orb/Sitrus Berry/Psychic Seed
Ability: Psychic Surge
EVs: 28 HP / 44 Def / 228 SpA / 4 SpDef / 204 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Psychic
– Moonblast
– Taunt/Dazzling Gleam/Substitute
– Protect

A slower, more bulky Tapu Lele which allows for some support options in addition to standard attacking moves.

 

Image result for Tapu fini global link png

Tapu Fini

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Tapu Fini @ Leftovers
Ability: Misty Surge
EVs: 252 HP / 44 Def / 196 SpA / 4 SpD / 12 Spe
Calm Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Muddy Water
– Moonblast
– Calm Mind
– Substitute/Protect

 

Tapu Fini @ Choice Specs
Ability: Misty Surge
EVs: 252 HP / 20 Def / 164 SpA / 44 SpD / 28 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Muddy Water
– Hydro Pump
– Moonblast
– Dazzling Gleam/Ice Beam/Grass Knot/Shadow Ball

A Choice Specs set focused on just dealing damage. Tapu Fini has other cool attacking options, but most just stick to Water and Fairy-type attacks.

 

Image result for Tapu bulu global link png

Tapu Bulu

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Tapu Bulu @ Miracle Seed
Ability: Grassy Surge
EVs: 244 HP / 116 Atk / 140 Def / 4 SpD / 4 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Wood Hammer
– Horn Leech
– Substitute/Rock Slide/Superpower
– Protect

Tapu Bulu might not be so popular nowadays, but it still can deal a ton of damage with strong, Grassy-Terrain boosted attacks.

Tapu Bulu @ Lum Berry
Ability: Grassy Surge
EVs: 252 HP / 36 Atk / 60 Def / 140 SpD / 20 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Horn Leech
– Leech Seed
– Substitute
– Protect

Here’s a set that was piloted by our current World Champion at the London International Championships. You can watch his team report here where he discusses the set more in depth.

 

Image result for kartana png

Kartana

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Kartana @ Focus Sash
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Smart Strike
– Leaf Blade
– Sacred Sword
– Protect

Simple Focus Sash Kartana. Sacred Sword can be traded out for moves like Night Slash or X-Scissor depending on what kind of coverage you need.

Kartana @ Assault Vest
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 84 HP / 116 Atk / 4 Def / 52 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Leaf Blade
– Smart Strike
– Sacred Sword
– Night Slash

The EV’s for an Assault Vest vary largely among players, but this one is meant to get you started.

 

Image result for celesteela png

Celesteela

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Celesteela @ Leftovers
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 252 HP / 116 Atk / 4 Def / 60 SpD / 76 Spe
– Heavy Slam
– Leech Seed
– Flamethrower/Substitute
– Protect/Wide Guard

The EV’s and Nature make it so Beast Boost raises your Attack stat.

 

Celesteela @ Leftovers
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 180 HP / 180 Atk / 148 SpD
Careful Nature
– Heavy Slam
– Substitute/Flamethrower
– Leech Seed
– Wide Guard/Protect

The EV’s and Nature make it so Beast Boost raises your Special Defense.

 

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Nihilego

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Nihilego @ Focus Sash
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Power Gem
– Sludge Bomb
– Hidden Power [Ice] – Protect

 

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Pheromosa

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Pheromosa @ Focus Sash/Fightinium Z
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature/Naughty Nature
– Lunge/U-Turn
– High Jump Kick/Low Kick/Brick Break
– Poison Jab/Ice Beam/Feint/Taunt
– Protect

Pheromosa can have a TON of moves on it, though the item choice and EV’s are pretty simple.

 

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Garchomp

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Garchomp @ Groundium Z
Ability: Rough Skin
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Earthquake
– Dragon Claw/Fire Fang
– Poison Jab/Rock Slide
– Protect

 

Garchomp @ Assault Vest
Ability: Rough Skin
EVs: 28 HP / 172 Atk / 4 Def / 52 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Earthquake
– Dragon Claw
– Poison Jab
– Fire Fang/Rock Slide

Assault Vest allows Garchomp to survive crucial Special hits like Golduck’s Hydro Vortex in Rain and a Moonblast from Tapu Lele.

Garchomp @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Rough Skin
EVs: 36 HP / 252 Atk / 220 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Earthquake
– Dragon Claw
– Poison Jab
– Rock Slide

Probably the least common of all main Garchomp sets, but this set can be useful to snag surprise KO’s on some of Garchomp’s faster threats.

 

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Alolan Muk

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Muk-Alola @ Figy Berry
Ability: Gluttony
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 44 Atk / 108 Def / 100 SpD / 4 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Poison Jab
– Knock Off
– Curse/Shadow Sneak/Imprison
– Protect

Another set from our current World Champion. Mukl EV’s can be all over the place, Figy Berry (or whatever variant) will more than likely be your item of choice. The third move slot has changed a lot, and which one you go with is entirely dependent on what works for you.

 

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Alolan Ninetales

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Ninetales-Alola @ Light Clay/Focus Sash
Ability: Snow Warning
EVs: 4 HP /252 SpA/ 252 Spe
Timid Nature
– Blizzard/Freeze Dry
– Icy Wind
– Aurora Veil
– Protect/Encore

Ninetales has a pretty standard set. You can mess around with the EV’s a bit if you want to add a bit of bulk.

 

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Alolan Marowak

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Marowak-Alola @ Thick Club
Ability: Lightning Rod
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 172 Atk / 4 Def / 68 SpD / 12 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Flare Blitz
– Shadow Bone
– Bonemerang/Substitute/Perish Song
– Protect

Marowak EV’s are pretty diverse, so here’s a starter set. You could ditch the speed for a Trick Room attacking variant.

 

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Alolan Raichu

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Raichu-Alola @ Psychium Z/Alolaraichium Z/Focus Sash
Ability: Surge Surfer
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
– Fake Out
– Psychic
– Thunderbolt
– Protect/Encore/Feint

Even though Raichu will double its Speed in Electric Terrain, it’s still worth running max Speed since Raichu is naturally fast.

 

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Porygon2

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Porygon2 @ Eviolite
Ability: Download
EVs: 252 HP / 92 Def / 164 SpD
Careful Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Trick Room
– Return
– Ice Beam
– Recover

Porygon2 can be run a ton of different ways, but the set above is probably the most basic way to use it.

 

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Snorlax

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Snorlax @ Figy Berry
Ability: Gluttony
EVs: 68 HP / 196 Atk / 244 Def
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Return
– High Horsepower
– Curse
– Protect/Recycle

Standard Curse Snorlax. You have the choice of Recycle (much like Markus Leipzig’s Snorlax) to keep using your Figy Berry.

 

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Arcanine

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Arcanine @ Iapapa Berry/Sitrus Berry
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 84 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 164 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Extreme Speed
– Flare Blitz
– Snarl/Wild Charge/Will-O-Wisp
– Protect

The new standard Arcanine that leans more on the offensive side. Wild Charge can be added in place of a support move for more coverage.

 

Arcanine @ Firium Z/Sitrus Berry/Aguav Berry/Safety Goggles
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 148 HP / 164 SpA / 4 Def / 28 SpD / 164 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Will-O-Wisp
– Flare Blitz
– Snarl
– Protect

The more supportive Arcanine runs a Special-Attacking set with Snarl and Flamethrower. The EV’s can be changed pretty freely on this set depending on personal preference.

 

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Pelipper

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Pelipper @ Focus Sash
Ability: Drizzle
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Modest/Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Scald
– Hurricane
– Tailwind
– Protect

The most standard Pelipper set. Primarily functions to set up Tailwind and the Rain for a likely Golduck partner.

 

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Metagross

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Metagross @ Weakness Policy
Ability: Clear Body
EVs: 252 HP / 204 Atk / 52 SpD
Adamant Nature
– Meteor Mash
– Zen Headbutt
– Bullet Punch
– Protect

This is the Metagross that Collin Heir used to get 2nd place at Dallas Regionals. Metagross has a ton of other viable items if Weakness Policy doesn’t suit your needs.

 

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Gigalith

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Gigalith @ Assault Vest
Ability: Sand Stream
EVs: 228 HP / 228 Atk / 52 Def
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Rock Slide
– Stone Edge
– Heavy Slam
– Earthquake

Standard attacking set with added bulk from the Assault Vest.

Gigalith @ Rockium Z
Ability: Sand Stream
Level: 50
EVs: 196 HP / 124 Atk / 188 SpD
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Stone Edge
– Heavy Slam
– Wide Guard/Rock Slide/Earthquake
– Protect

If Assault Vest is already taken, this is an ideal set with a possible support option.

 

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Torkoal

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Torkoal @ Charcoal/Life Orb
Ability: Drought
EVs: 116 HP / 252 SpA / 140 SpD
Quiet Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Eruption
– Heat Wave/Flamethrower/Solar Beam
– Overheat/Flamethrower/Solar Beam
– Protect

The EV’s are pretty flexible as long as you max your Special Attack and make sure you’re as slow as possible.

 

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Gastrodon

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Gastrodon-East @ Sitrus Berry/Aguav Berry
Ability: Storm Drain
Level: 50
EVs: 236 HP / 156 Def / 12 SpA / 100 SpD / 4 Spe
Bold Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Scald
– Ice Beam
– Recover/Protect
– Toxic

Purpose just to suck up Water attacks and Toxic stall. Just watch out for Kartana.

 

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Araquanid

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Araquanid @ Sitrus Berry/Waterium Z/Life Orb
Ability: Water Bubble
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Liquidation
– Leech Life/Lunge
– Wide Guard/Poison Jab
– Protect

Simple spread mainly to maximize bulk and Attack. Can switch up some of the moves to make Araquanid more offensive.

 

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Mimikyu

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Mimikyu @ Ghostium Z
Ability: Disguise
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Play Rough
– Shadow Claw
– Taunt
– Trick Room

If you want a good Mimikyu spread, look no further than Gavin Michael’s one he used to win San Jose Regionals. Max Speed on a Trick Room setter might not make sense at first, but Gavin wanted to be able to out-speed and KO Tapu Lele with Never Ending Nightmare. Mimikyu basically gets Trick Room up for free as long as it doesn’t get double targeted.

 

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Gyarados

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Gyarados @ Waterium Z
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 52 HP / 196 Atk / 76 Def / 4 SpD / 180 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Waterfall
– Dragon Dance
– Ice Fang/Earthquake
– Protect

Standard Dragon Dance set meant to spread Intimidate and get off boosted attacks.

 

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Porygon-Z

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Porygon-Z @ Normalium Z
Ability: Adaptability
Level: 50
EVs: 20 HP / 28 Def / 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 204 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Shadow Ball/Thunderbolt/Ice Beam
– Tri Attack/Shadow Ball/Thunderbolt/Ice Beam
– Conversion
– Protect

You can run a ton of different attacks on Porygon-Z, any of these types (Ghost, Electric, Ice, etc.) are viable.

Porygon-Z @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Adaptability
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Tri Attack
– Dark Pulse
– Hyper Beam
– Ice Beam

This is the Porygon-Z that Sejun Park used on his Tapu Fini team that had a bit of time in the meta spotlight. If you want to know more on how Sejun used this Porygon-Z, you can read a translated team report here.

 

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Vanilluxe

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Coldstone (Vanilluxe) @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Snow Warning
EVs: 52 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 196 Spe
Timid Nature
– Blizzard
– Freeze-Dry
– Icy Wind
– Sheer Cold

I would consider Vanilluxe a more offensive Nintetales. Scarf is to account for Vanilluxe’s lack of speed so it may be free to spam Blizzard.

 

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Talonflame

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Talonflame @ Life Orb/Flynium Z/Choice Band
Ability: Gale Wings
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Brave Bird
– Flare Blitz
– Tailwind/U-Turn
– Taunt/Will-O-Wisp/Protect

Talonflame functions pretty much the same way it did in past formats. Now just without full-power Gale Wings.

 

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Oranguru

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Oranguru @ Sitrus Berry/Mental Herb
Ability:Telepathy
EVs: 252 HP / 140 Def / 20 SpA / 92 SpD
Sassy Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Psychic/Foul Play
– Instruct
– Trick Room
– Protect

 

 

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Hariyama

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Hariyama @ Flame Orb
Ability: Guts
EVs: 92 HP / 252 Atk / 164 Def
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Fake Out
– Close Combat
– Feint
– Knock Off

 

 

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Salamence

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Salamence @ Dragonium Z
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Draco Meteor
– Flamethrower
– Substitute
– Protect

Dragonium Z basically gives Salamence two Draco Meteors before it take a hit to its Special Attack. If the damage output disappoints you, Life Orb or Choice Specs are also great items for Salamence.

Art of Pokemon courtesy of Pokémon Global Link and Ken Sugimori

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Pokémon Hits DreamHack! – VGC 2017 Leipzig, Germany Regional Championships Recap

Our first European tournament coverage comes to us from DreamHack Germany, which happened last weekend, along with the Georgia Regional Championships in the US. Despite being held at such a huge event, the tournament itself was not given any stream coverage (more on this later). It was a bit of a smaller tournament compared to Georgia, but there were still some cool teams and Pokémon to break into the Top Cut. Check them out below!

Results & Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1.Markus Stadter

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/143.pnghttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/630.png

2.Davide Carrer

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3.Baris Ackos

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4.Alexander Fijalkowski

East Sea

5.Joshua Schmidt

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6.Nico Davide Cognetta

7.Andrea Di Francesco

East Sea

8.Andrea Sala

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

 

No Stream?

You’d think at an event like DreamHack, who advertised the Regional a ton on their website and their promo video, would stream the tournament knowing that it would draw a lot of viewership. That wasn’t the case, however. To be fair, Leipzig was a relatively small tournament for Masters (only 129 competitors), so that most likely would explain the lack of a stream from the local scene. I hope that Pokémon VGC events in the future will be held at events like DreamHack due to the amount of exposure Pokémon could gain as an esport from that large of an event. Hopefully if there is another event like this, DreamHack (or whoever is hosting) will recognize that there are people that would love to see Pokémon streamed with the quality they can provide.

Also, a quick note:

Since there wasn’t any significant coverage (like a stream) analyzing specific Pokémon and strategies that were used, spectators may be left in the dark. Plus, many of the “niche” Pokémon that appeared in Leipzig I’ve already covered in other pieces. In addition to some new thoughts, I’ll provide links to the pieces where certain Pokémon were covered.

The Niche Picks

Mandibuzz Image result for mandibuzz

We haven’t seen a Mandibuzz since Dallas, and this time there were two! Both in the finals! Mandibuzz could be something that jumps up in popularity since it has cut a Regional twice. It now also has a Regional win under its belt, thanks to the current third best player in the world. Markus mentioned in one of his streams that he usually brings Mandibuzz when he faces a team that is fast and without speed control. Tailwind, and speed control outside of Trick Room, haven’t seen much use in this format, and I’m not sure why. It’s most likely that most teams don’t have room for a Flying-type Pokémon, but Mandibuzz has a lot more utility than just setting up Tailwind. You can read my other thoughts on Mandibuzz here.

Snorlax  Image result for snorlax

Speaking of Pokémon who are going to jump in popularity thanks to a Regional win; here’s Snorlax again. Another Eastern trend is making its way to the Western meta game, and now I think we all know how good Snorlax can be. Here are my thoughts on Snorlax as a Pokémon.

Lapras Image result for lapras

All I’m going to say is that Lapras cut two Regionals in one weekend. I have an entire piece dedicated to why this Pokémon is good.

Final Words

In conclusion, this event should’ve been streamed. Congratulations to Markus Stadter for his win, solidifying his spot among the top players in Europe (according to Championship Points, but also you know…current 3rd in the world). The meta game looks pretty concrete for now, but we’re only three months into the season, so anything could happen. The next Regional Championships are coming up in February in Anaheim, California, where the World Championships will be held later this year.

Art of Pokemon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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The Power of the Sun! – VGC 2017 Athens, GA Regional Championships Recap

Athens, Georgia is the first of two Regionals that we’ll be covering from last weekend, and boy was there a lot. I think what Athens showed us is that the meta game seems to be settling, Pokémon wise, but the amount of new and innovative techs seem limitless in this format.

Let’s take a look at what teams performed the best:

Results & Teams (Top 16 Cut)

1. Paul Chua

Alola Form

2. Joohwan Kim

3. Ian McLaughlin

East Sea

4. Alvin Hidayat

Alola Form

5. Wolfe Glick

Alola Form

6. Louis Milich

Alola Formhttps://i1.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/73.pngAlola Form

7. Rajan Bal

Alola Form

8. Chuppa Cross

9. Brain Youm

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/794.pngAlola Formhttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/28-1.pngAlola Form

10. Jackson Hambrick

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11. Diana Bros

12. Josse Calzado

Alola FormAlola Form

13. Edward Glover

Alola Form

14. Mike Suleski

Alola Formhttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/91.png

15. Chris Danzo

Alola Form

16. Janice Lee

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Pokémon Sprite Images courtesy of Game Freak

Same Pokémon, New Techs

We saw a lot of similar Pokémon choices and team compositions in Athens, but it seemed like almost every Pokémon was run differently. There are standard Pokémon, but the move sets for each one have tons of variation. Here are some highlights of some cool, new move and item choices that made it deep in the tournament.

Tapu Koko 

Fairium Z: Paul Chua’s winning team featured a Z Crystal on Tapu Koko, but not a very common one. The Fairium Z allows Tapu Koko to use Twinkle Tackle (my favorite name for any move) which gives Tapu Koko a super strong Fairy-type move to deal big damage to pretty much anything it can’t KO with a Terrain-boosted Thunderbolt.

Nature Power: Wait, Tapu Koko can use Moonblast? Well if Misty Terrain is up, Nature Power allows it to do just that! We saw this strategy from players who paired Tapu Koko and Tapu Fini together, allowing Tapu Koko’s Nature Power to either be Moonblast or Thunderbolt, depending on which Terrain was set up. Seems like finding stronger Fairy-type moves for Tapu Koko is becoming a trend.

Hidden Power Fire: It beats Kartana. That’s probably what Alvin Hidayat was going for. It did help in his game versus Joohwan, where it managed to KO his Lilligant in the sun, but unfortunately that didn’t seem to be enough.

Porygon2 

Return/Frustration: I honestly thought Porygon2 was about as standard as a Pokémon could get, but somehow we have a new attacking option for it. A Porygon2 with the Download ability seems to rarely get Special Attack boosts, so why not run a physical attack? Not many Pokémon in this format excel in the Defense stat, so a +1 Return (or Frustration if your Porygon hates you) actually does a good amount of damage, even when Porygon2 is Intimidated. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Return (or Frustration) become the new standard for Porygon2.

Alolan Muk Alola Form

Imprison: Alolan Muk is a Pokémon that made a huge imapct in Athens, and Imprison was present on a few of its move sets. Imprison basically blocks your opponent from using any moves known by the user of Imprison. So not only can you completely shut down opposing Muks (which is nice since I think we all know how annoying Muk can be for some teams to deal with), but it can also prevent your opponent’s other Pokémon from using Protect. Muk’s third move slot differs a lot on different teams, but now Imprison makes that third move choice much more difficult.

The Sun Rises into Top Cut, but Sets in Finals

Image result for torkoal crying gif

Image courtesy of the Pokémon anime

Joohwan Kim (or “Sun Dude” as he’s known in the community) made an amazing run with a very unique team, featuring VGC 2017’s sole Drought user: Torkoal. This team was full of tricks, including things like Groundium Z, Gyarados with Taunt, Bulldoze Torkoal, Choice Scarf Tapu Bulu, and a Grassinium Z Lilligant with Hidden Power Fire…just to name a few.

Lilligant: The Centerpiece

Players that know Joohwan know he is a huge fan File:549Lilligant.pngof Lilligant, and who better
to innovate with it than Joohwan. Contrary to the typical Lilligant and Torkoal
strategy, Joohwan’s combination did not feature After You on Lilligant, or Eruption on Torkoal. Joohwan’s Lilligant focused mainly on offense, with it holding a Z Crystal and having Hidden Power Fire. To help make sure it can fire off Sleep Powders, Joohwan had both Tapus whose Terrains allow status conditions in order to counter the ever present Electric and Misty Terrains. Lilligant demolished a fair amount of Kartana with its sun-boosted Hidden Power and was able to score a bunch of surprise knock-outs with Bloom Doom.

This team was meant to make sure Lilligant was able to thrive, and it succeeded all the way up until the Finals. Joohwan definitely fought his way through a ton of teams with Tapu Koko, Arcanine, and Muk, but Paul was able to effectively preserve his best Pokémon for the match up. Second place is still a great finish for such a unique team, and I’m certain this will inspire future Torkoal and Lilligant users to achieve similar levels of creativity.

The Niche Picks

Athens brought us a few new Pokémon in Top Cut, but some of them seem like the epitome of “niche”.

Incineroar File:727Incineroar.png

If only the Hidden Abilities for Alola’s starters were released…Intimidate on Incineroar would probably allow it to rival Arcanine for usage. This wrestling cat is a bit of an odd pick for a Fire-type, but it does have a lot of cool moves to make use of. Fake Out, Snarl, Roar, Swords Dance, and even two solid STAB moves in Flare Blitz and Darkest Lariat allow Incineroar to function as an attacker with support options.

Blaze seems like a sub-par ability (it kind of is) but if Incineroar gets down to low enough HP and is able to get a Fire-type attack off, it can be devastating. Unfortunately we never got to see Ian Mclaughlin’s Incineroar on stream, but according to the commentators it did apparently have Taunt…that’s all we know.

Snorlax   File:143Snorlax.png

Another Trick Room counter. A pretty good one I’ll have to admit. Snorlax actually has a decent match-up against most Trick Room sweepers, being that a lot of them are physical attackers, and don’t appreciate taking either a Return or High Horsepower.

Snorlax also (like our good pal Muk) gets access to Gluttony which further adds to Snorlax’s phenomenal bulk. Not to mention that you can also boost your Attack with either Curse or Belly Drum to increase your threat status. Definitely not a Pokémon to sleep on.

BuzzwoleFile:794Buzzwole.png

Still waiting on Guzzlord’s Top Cut appearance, but honestly I’m kind of surprised that Buzzwole managed to make it first. Unfortunately we weren’t able to see Brian Youm’s Buzzwole do anything but Protect and perish to a Dazzling Gleam from Chuppa’s Tapu Koko.

My guess would be that the most common items would be either Fightinium Z or Assault Vest. Buzzwole gets some cool coverage options like Poison Jab and Ice Punch and a ton of Fighting moves to choose from. I don’t think we’ll see Buzzwole in Top Cut too often, but it was nice to see another Ultra Beast for a change.

Tentacruel File:073Tentacruel.png

I don’t even know what to say about this one. This monstrosity was piloted by Louis Milich who actually managed to get all the way to Top 8. With a Tentacruel.

I guess Tentacruel has a decent match-up against the Tapu Pokémon (with the exception of Tapu Koko in Electric Terrain) with its high Special Defense and Poison-typing. Alvin’s Tentacruel carried the Poisonium Z, which I’m assuming was to ensure a KO on any Tapu since Tentacruel’s Special Attack isn’t the greatest.

Is Tentacruel a new bulky Water-type to be reckoned with? Who knows. Could just be a one time thing.

Cloyster File:091Cloyster.png

We saw Cloyster once on stream, and it immediately fainted to a Nihilego Sludge Bomb. But, thanks to a PasteBin, courtesy of Mike himself, we do know that he was running Life Orb with a ton of bulk and Shell Smash.

I guess if left unchecked, Cloyster could run through an unprepared team. Skill Link allowing Cloyster’s multi-hit moves to hit 5 times every time give it some pretty good attacking power. It just seems like it needs to be set up to be effective with such a low Speed stat. Maybe there’s potential here and Mike was the only one to notice it.

There were many other cool Pokémon in Top Cut, but I primarily focused on the ones that were featured alongside standard Pokémon, as well as ones we actually got to see on stream. I would’ve touched on Mimikyu if it hadn’t already won a Regional, and I would’ve said some things about Jackson’s Alolan Golem if I knew what it did. To be honest, exploring Jackson’s team could be a whole other article entirely. I’ll leave it here, but definitely consider trying some of these Pokémon out if you want to learn more about them!

Final Thoughts

To conclude, I would once again like to give a big shout out to @PokeCenter_VGC for streaming the tournament for all of us at home. Also, have to give props to Bryan Wood (@KantoCastBlue) for a great debut on commentary, alongside returning commentator Adam Dorricott (@Dozzalon). Congratulations to Paul Chua for his Regional win, netting him $3000 and 200 more Championship Points, putting him at 386 overall. We still have one more Regional to recap from Leipzig and plenty more to cover in the future! Make sure to come back soon to see what won big at Leipzig! Thanks for reading!

Art of Pokemon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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Lapras Can Carry You to Victory! – [VGC 2017] – The Underrated List

Welcome to The Underrated List! In this series we’ll be looking at Pokémon that aren’t really popular, but could have a ton of potential in a given format. Today, I’d like to make a case for the Seafaring Shuttle Pokémon: Lapras, and why it deserves some recognition in the VGC 2017 meta game.

Stats & Typing

WaterIce

Images courtesy of Bulbapedia

Stats

At face value, other than its HP, Lapras’ stats are pretty average. Although, this allows for Lapras users to invest in its defenses and Special Attack stats to make a nice, bulky attacker.

Despite its attacking stats being the exact same, Lapras shines mainly in its special-attacking move pool. I wouldn’t worry about Speed, as it’s not worth trying to speed-creep anything at Lapras’ speed tier. Might be useful for Trick Room if a team has it as an option.

Type(s)

Water and Ice is a decent type combination on the offensive side, being able to hit everything (besides Water) for neutral or super-effective damage. Lapras can mitigate the Water-type issue with a cool move I’ll be touching on later. I feel like Lapras’ typing helps it primarily on offense, as being an Ice-Type gives Lapras access to a plethora of useful moves, including some that a pure Water-type wouldn’t get.

When it comes to defenses however, having the Ice-typing leaves much to be desired. It’s common knowledge that Ice is the worst defensive typing in the entire game, and Water does little to help it. In total, Lapras has 4 weaknesses (two being added from being an Ice-type) and 2 resistances (Ice helping resist itself) which might not seem great, but its stats allow it to tank attacks if necessary. If properly supported, Lapras’ type can easily be more of a strength than a weakness.

Movepool

There is a ton a Lapras can potentially carry on a move-set, but just to make sure you optimize Lapras for VGC 2017, I’ll be only showing moves that I think are (somewhat) viable.

Learned by Level-Up

  • Ice Shard: Priority move than can be great for picking off weak opponents. Just be careful you’re not in Psychic Terrain.
  • Perish Song: A win-condition that can be utilized if you have an extra move slot. Your team might need to help support this option for it to be worth running.
  • Ice Beam: The primary STAB option for most Ice-types, but I’ll get to an Ice move later that I think works a lot better.
  • Hydro Pump: A powerful (yet shakily accurate) Water-Type move that would fit nicely on an attacking-based set. If you are not running an attack-boosting item, I would recommend this to make up for lost damage.
  • Sheer Cold: My personal favorite. But let me explain myself. This is the epitome of what you would run if you have that extra move slot. I’m not saying to rely on a 30% one-hit-KO move, but if you have a free turn or don’t threaten a lot of damage, why not roll the dice? It also makes a nice win condition in a normally un-winnable match-up if it comes down to it. I’ll say that Sheer Cold has bailed me out way more times than it should’ve.

Learned by TM or HM

  • Roar: I doubt I’d ever use this move, but if you really don’t want your opponent to set up Trick Room, the random Roar option could be for you.
  • Toxic: In VGC 2017 (especially under this new timer) Toxic is used on a majority of more defensive Pokémon. I would consider Toxic if you’re looking for a support move option, because it’s is one of the best out there.
  • Blizzard: I only mention Blizzard since Alolan Ninetales is reasonably common. Plus it has a chance to freeze which is always nice. But like I said with Ice Beam, a better Ice-Type move exists.
  • Thunderbolt/Thunder: I’ll put these in the same category because they function very similarly on a Lapras set (Thunder is better if you have some sort of Rain setter on your team). If you don’t like Sheer Cold, this is probably the next best attack to use.
  • Substitute: A cool move that could be run on almost any Pokémon really. Try it out if you don’t like any of the other moves listed.
  • Surf: Probably not the best Water-type move for Lapras, but other than Hydro Pump (or Water Pulse), your strong, special Water move selection is very limited. Would be nice to pair with a Pokémon that absorbs, resists, or doesn’t get hit by moves from an ally.

Learned from Breeding

  • Ancient Power: A move used back in 2014 when Mega Charizard Y was popular, but Rock-type moves in this format aren’t that great. Just thought I’d mention it due to its past success alone.
  • Freeze-Dry: A bit of a tough move to breed onto a Lapras, but boy is it worth it. This is Lapras’ claim to fame in my opinion. Freeze-Dry on a Water Pokémon makes Lapras a hard counter to any other Water-type Pokémon in the format. It also pretty much ensures victory against a 1-on-1 with Gastrodon as it will Toxic, but you knock it out in two hits. Not many VGC 2017 Pokémon get this move, and Lapras is by far one of the best to have access to it.

Abilities

Water Absorb is by far the best ability for Lapras. Remember I mentioned how Lapras can wall pretty much all other Water-types? Well this is another method for it to do so. Water Absorb gives Lapras the ability to heal itself when hit by a Water-type attack making it an excellent switch in to opposing Water Pokémon. This ability combined with Freeze-Dry almost single-handedly counters the common Rain duo of Pelipper and Golduck, making it a pretty safe go-to lead in a common match-up.

As for its other abilities (Shell Armor and its Hidden Ability Hydration), there’s not a lot to say here. Water Absorb giving Lapras all it does is invaluable to its function, and I can’t see any reason to not run it.

Potential Held Items

File:Bag Leftovers Sprite.png/File:Bag Sitrus Berry Sprite.png Leftovers & Sitrus Berry

I put these two together because they both are standard recovery items. Which ever one you use is up to personal preference depending on which item fits better on a team. These items would favor a bulkier Lapras with possibly Toxic and Protect to function like most other bulky Water-types.

File:Bag Choice Specs Sprite.png Choice Specs

Since Lapras is almost always a Special Attacker and doesn’t have the greatest Speed, Choice Specs is probably the best for a “Choice” item. With this boost in attack power, this gives more leeway for defensive investment. Just 4 of Lapras’ best attacking moves would be optimal, which ones are your choice (and there are a lot to choose from).

File:Bag Assault Vest Sprite.png Assault Vest

The most popular, as well as my favorite held-item for Lapras, is the Assault Vest. Lapras becomes a Specially Defensive tank that can take hits while also dealing good damage back. Assault Vest allows for more diverse attack options like Ice Shard and Sheer Cold since Lapras isn’t dedicated to just Special Attacks. Unfortunately with an Assault Vest you won’t be able to Protect Lapras (much like with Choice Specs) so it leaves it susceptible to being targeted. Honestly, I think Assault Vest fits Lapras’ role the best and I would recommend starting with it when first trying out Lapras.

File:Bag Weakness Policy Sprite.png Weakness Policy

A bit of a more fun item choice, but it could work well for a Pokémon like Lapras. Lapras fits into a special category of a defensive Pokémon with weaknesses to very common types which makes Weakness Policy great for it. It’s able to take a super-effective attack (depending on where it comes from) and get boosted to +2 Special Attack instantly increasing its threat status. Trick Room works amazingly well with this item choice, as even though Lapras gets boosted Special Attack, it needs the speed advantage to fully utilize it.

Checks & Counters

Strong Electric-Type Attacks

I put Tapu Koko here because Electric Surge is a terrifying ability for Lapras to deal with. Other Pokémon to be scared of include but are not limited to: Raichu, Magnezone, Vikavolt, Arcanine (w/ Wild Charge), Xurkitree, and others. Depending on the item or investment Lapras could survive a hit, but I wouldn’t count on winning the exchange.

 

File:798Kartana.png

Kartana

Lapras is easy-pickings for Kartana’s hunger for Beast Boosts. Lapras might be able to deal good damage to Kartana on a switch-in depending on Kartana’s item (because of its pitiful Special Defense), but realistically Lapras shouldn’t be anywhere near this thing without a Fire-Type partner.

File:297Hariyama.pngFile:Bag Fightinium Z Sprite.png

Fighting-Type Attacks

All-Out_Pummeling or Close Combat should scare Lapras away easily due to its low Defense. Fighting-types aren’t the most common in VGC 2017, but Hariyama appears on a bunch of Trick Room teams, and Pheromosa may possibly be on the rise so it’s a threat to consider.

File:787Tapu Bulu.png

Tapu Bulu

I don’t know where Tapu Bulu went, but I don’t think it’s going away forever. Just because Lapras is an Ice-type, doesn’t mean it deals well with Tapu Bulu. Lapras can’t KO it with an Ice-type attack, but Tapu Bulu destroys Lapras with a Grassy Terrain boosted Wood Hammer or Horn Leech.

File:797Celesteela.png

Celesteela

Most Water-types have issues with Celesteela, but Lapras is also an Ice-type so Heavy Slam can damage it effectively. Bottom line is: Lapras can’t effectively damage Celesteela and Celesteela can set up Leech Seed and Heavy Slam to its heart’s content. This does make Celesteela a nice Sheer Cold target if it becomes too much trouble. Just saying.

Viable Teammates

File:105Marowak-Alola.png

Alolan Marowak

Here’s your easy solution to those Electric-types I mentioned earlier. Marowak gets access to Lightning Rod as well as Bonemerang so it not only redirects, but it also can strike back. Also this gives you an answer to Kartana and even another slow Pokémon to add to a potential Trick Room Mode. Marowak is a solid partner for any bulky Water-type in the format and Lapras is no exception.

File:059Arcanine.png

Arcanine

Another token partner for Water Pokémon, Arcanine basically handles the Grass-types that threaten Lapras. Intimidate also helps immensely by artificially increasing Lapras’ physical bulk, which could possibly allow it to take a strong Grass or Fighting-type attack. Arcanine is a more defensive pick if you don’t feel Marowak’s offensive nature fits your team.

File:798Kartana.png

Kartana

Hey if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! Kartana helps take Rock and Grass-type attacks and works well in building a Fire/Water/Grass core for Lapras. Kartana’s common moves like Smart Strike and Sacred Sword can handle things like Tapu Bulu and Magnezone which can give Lapras trouble.

File:376Metagross.png

Metagross

If Kartana isn’t your Steel-Type of choice, Metagross is a solid pick to be paired with Lapras. Metagross has the Steel-typing to do the things Kartana can, but its Psychic typing can help deal with Fighting-types that may show up from time to time.

File:233Porygon2.png

Porygon2

Honestly you could slap Porygon2 on any team and it’ll work. Porygon2 can do things like set up Trick Room to give Lapras a speed advantage and provide offensive coverage with Thunderbolt which works well with Lapras’ Ice-type attacks. Not specifically tailored to Lapras, but a solid teammate.

 

So Why Use Lapras?

With so many other bulky Water Pokémon that pretty much do the same thing, Lapras can fill a unique role on a team needing a good Water-type. It’s bulky, has an exceptional move pool, and has common Water-type synergy with other great Pokémon in the format. It’s Water Absorb ability gives it an amazing match-up against other Water-types, including the infamous “double duck” Rain+Swift Swim combination that many other teams struggle with. Lapras may not be the most popular choice, but it can be a fantastic choice for a Water Pokémon in the format.

Image courtesy of the Pokémon anime

Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

Held-Item pictures courtesy of Pokémon Sun & Moon

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Let’s Talk About the New Timer

Congratulations TPCI. You got rid of timer stalling, but you might’ve created something worse.

Pokémon Sun and Moon brought a ton of changes to battle mechanics, with most of them being for the better. However, one of the most controversial additions comes to us in the form of “Your Time,” or basically the new version of the in-game battle timer.

What is “Your Time”?

The new iteration of the in-game, in-battle timer. But what makes it different?

The description of “Your Time” on the official Pokémon Sun and Moon website reads as follows:

“A new system being introduced to the battle time settings is “Your Time.” When using this method of time accounting, players will have a maximum of 60 seconds each turn to select a move or Pokémon, and they will also each be awarded 10 minutes of “Your Time.” Under these rules, if a player runs out of their 10 minutes before the battle ends, that player loses the match. This will mean matches can be decided more quickly than in the past, allowing players to enjoy thrilling battles.”

“Thrilling” is hardly the word I would use for battles under this new timer, but I’ll get to that in a bit. Now we pretty much have a chess timer. Each player gets a total of 10 minutes for decision-making for the entire battle, but you still only have 60 seconds a turn for move selection. Only now, there is no timer for the battle itself, and if one player’s time runs out, they lose. I don’t care what TPCI tells you with this description of “Your Time”; battles being decided “more quickly” is the literal opposite of what it does.

Battles DON’T Happen “more quickly”

In fact, sometimes individual battles can take up to an HOUR to finish. Since the battle itself isn’t on a timer, the battle ending is entirely based on either a player losing all of their Pokémon, or a player’s individual time running out.

Let me put this into perspective.

10 minutes is 600 seconds. A player can input a move quickly in about two seconds (for this I’m using the fastest time I’ve seen a move selected). That allows for up to 300 turns for a full 10 minutes. That is insane. Even with three minutes left on the timer, where the rest of the battle has allowed for 20-30 seconds a turn to make a decision, you’re still looking at about 90 turns. This more than doubles what a 15 minute battle timer would have allowed. Combine that with move animations, abilities activating, and even Grassy Terrain giving each Pokémon a recovery animation. You could be in for a long battle. Just imagine how agonizing that must be from a spectator’s perspective.

How the Meta Game Has Adjusted

The Great Celesteela Leech Seed Wars

Let me start off with an anecdote about my very first game on the Pokémon Sun “Championship Battles” ladder on Battle Spot.Celesteela

The members of my own as well as my opponent’s team don’t really matter, other than the fact that we both
had Celesteela. Wouldn’t you know it, the game comes down to both of our Celesteela in a Leech Seed, Substitute stall war. Fortunately, my opponent was nice enough to forfeit when it became obvious his Celesteela would lose this stalemate, after almost 30 minutes of clicking nothing but Substitute and Protect.

It seems almost hilariously fitting how they would change the timer to be this way, in a game where they introduce a Pokémon that shows exactly why this timer was a bad idea. Celesteela is one of the most popular Pokémon in competitive play, and is most likely to survive the longest in battle due to its amazing defenses and access to Leech Seed. So naturally, Celesteela stall wars happen way too often. However, Celesteela isn’t the only problem here.

A Toxic Meta Game

Porygon2

Toxic has become almost a staple on any defensive Pokémon that can learn it (the most popular right now being
Porygon2 and Gastrodon). What’s worse is they both get access to Recover. So while these two fire weak attacks at each other, either one can just Recover to heal all of the damage. Since Toxic inflicts the “badly poisoned” status, which stacks damage every turn, it makes it necessary to win if you ever get into a situation like this.

Minimize?

Chansey

Also, Minimize is now technically a “viable” strategy since you can’t stall time to beat it. Luckily, this “strategy” has not had any major success…yet. Just saying, if you see a Chansey, get rid of it immediately.

The New “Sudden Death” Rule

In a best of three, if game three cannot be completed before time is called, the match will now be decided by Sudden Death. In the official Play! Pokémon rules for VGC, Sudden Death is detailed as follows:

“During Sudden Death, players begin a new game. Players are required to gain an advantage in number of remaining Pokémon over their opponent. Tournament staff will evaluate the game at the end of each turn to determine if an advantage has been gained. After each turn has been completed, the tournament staff will determine the number of Pokémon that each player has remaining.

  • If both players have the same number of Pokémon remaining at the end of the turn, the game continues for another turn.
  • If a player has more remaining Pokémon than the opponent at the end of any turn, that player wins the game.”

So basically, the first player to end the turn with more Pokémon than their opponent wins the set. Many players feel that this is a not a good way to decide games, especially after having to go through two games that took 50 minutes to complete. Not to mention if you happen to lose in Sudden Death due to a critical hit or losing a speed tie, it makes the outcome of the game appear more dependent on chance rather than skill. I don’t think this happens very often, but this scenario could be handled better.

So…Why Make This Change to the Timer?

Honestly, I’m not sure what demanded this change. The popular belief among players is this change was TPCI’s response to people complaining about “timer-stalling” as a win condition. This was primarily a spectator complaint, after seeing this strategy being used on stream at the 2016 Pokémon World Championships.

A Few Words on “Timer-Stalling”

Timer stalling was never a dedicated strategy, and really wasn’t viable due to the faster nature of Double Battles. If a battle happened to come down to the final minutes, the player with the better end-game position could use the timer as a way of safely securing victory.

Rather than being a cheap, unsportsmanlike strategy, it shows a player’s skill of time management, which really only players at the top level can pull-off effectively. Now, instead of spectators complaining about having to sit through a battle taking a maximum of 15 minutes, they get to watch battles that could take as long as an hour.

What This Means Going Forward

For now, it looks like the new timer and the new rule changes are here to stay. TPCI has never made a real drastic rule or in-game change in the middle of a format, and I think this time will be no different.

Just the fact that the staff in charge of battle mechanics would make a change this detrimental to the game really lowers my confidence in Pokémon’s knowledge about their competitive scene. This change didn’t solve much at all, and if anything only encouraged stalling now without a timer to punish it. Hopefully, in the next game or format, TPCI will learn to respond to community concerns and seriously consider the rules and game mechanics they are subjecting their players to. Perhaps after doing some research on how they could make them ideal.

 

Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

 

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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

File:752MS.png

2. Collin Heir

File:788MS.pngFile:445MS.pngFile:059MS.pngFile:376MS.pngFile:738MS.png

3. Sam Schweitzer

File:788MS.pngFile:059MS.pngFile:526MS.pngFile:376MS.pngFile:738MS.png

4. Nick Naverre

File:788MS.pngFile:059MS.pngFile:445MS.pngFile:630MS.png

5. Austin Bastida-Ramos

File:785MS.pngFile:793MS.pngFile:797MS.pngFile:130MS.png

6. Justin Burns

7. Kimo Nishimura

8. Caleb Ryor

9. Alberto Lara

10. Kamran Jahadi

11. Patrick Smith

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/628.pnghttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/765.png

12. Jeremy Rodrigues

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/778.pnghttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/143.pnghttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/297.png

13. Giovanni Costa

14. Joseph Brummet

15. Dylan Salvanera

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

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

Image Courtesy of Pokemon Sun & Moon

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 Blade

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.

Mudsdale   

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.

Krookodile  

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 

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.

Braviary  

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.

Pheromosa 

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.

Nihilego

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.

Vikavolt 

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.

Final Thoughts

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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