anaheim open

Is the Anaheim Open a good idea?

With the World Championships just under a month away, a topic that’s causing a fuss in the community is a side event known as the Anaheim Open. The Anaheim Open is being held at the World Championships this year and awards regional-level Championship Points to those who place well.

Upon closer examination, this seemingly harmless side-event could actually have a major impact on the 2018 season. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of the Anaheim Open, and evaluate whether or not it should exist.

pokemon world championships 2017 logo

Pros

It’s a huge incentive for more spectators to attend the World Championships

After the spectator ban at last year’s World Championships, it seems TPCi is almost pushing for spectator turnout. A tournament with Championship Points on the line is an incentive for any competitor. Also it is a great way for spectating players to spend their time while their friends compete in the main event. Entry does come at a bit of a hefty cost, but the potential to get a solid head-start on the 2018 season is huge for any player looking to compete next year.

It could be an “easier” tournament to earn this much CP

This is more of a pro for a prospective player, but not so much when evaluating the quality of the CP being earned. With most of the top players already competing in the main event, that would mean the Open would be an “easier” tournament right?

Well…not exactly.

Not every single top player in the world will be competing at Worlds, plus the tournament is open to Worlds players who fail to qualify for Day 2. It will likely be an “easier” tournament considering most of the world’s finest are battling to become the world champion, but that doesn’t mean winning this tournament will be easy.

It’s open to Worlds competitors too!

Of course, with an event like this, the players competing in the second day of the World Championships are sure to be upset that they missed out on potentially half of a 2018 invite. However, Day 1 players who fail to move on are eligible to compete, but there’s a slight problem.

For a Worlds player, signing up for the Anaheim Open is a gamble, as you’re basically betting on your success at the main event. If you register and end up making it to Day 2, that’s $30 wasted. If you are eliminated from Worlds play, you’re able to compete in the Open, but you’ve lost your opportunity to become World Champion.

There seems to be a negative either way unfortunately.

It’s great practice for events in the Fall 

All tournaments before the end of the year, even after Worlds, will still be using the VGC 2017 ruleset, so having the open is a good opportunity for getting in some high-level practice for fall regionals.

Cons

*Just a disclaimer, a couple of these points are speculation, and could turn out to be less bad than we thought.

 

With this much CP up for grabs this early, this could potentially start the “snowball” effect 

Something that 2017’s CP/travel award structure was notorious for was the snowball effect for players who earned a lot of CP early in the season. Having a lot of CP early on would mean travel awards to other big tournaments, which would then lead to a player gaining an absurd amount of CP by constantly being able travel and earn CP from other large events.

While this was the case for 2017, we’re still not sure if there will be any changes come the 2018 season. This CP earned from the Open could mean a lot less than we think, but I think it’s rational for some to be worried considering how the 2017 season was handled.

Prepare your wallet for entry

For a Masters player, the entry fee for the Anaheim Open is $30. In addition, players in the Open must have at least a World’s spectator badge which means an extra $20 just to be allowed into the event. Plus, if some players are traveling to Anaheim just for this event, there’s also potential airfare and other costs from the trip that stack up as well. With just entry alone, you’re looking at $50 at least for those who need a spectator badge. That’s already higher than the average entry fee for a 2017 regional. If you’re looking to compete in this event, just be prepared to make a sizable investment.

The Anaheim Open’s odd structure

The tournament, we’re assuming, will be run similarly to a normal regional event. The difference for this event however is that one less Swiss round will be played in order to accommodate the Top Cut to include all players with the same record as the 8th seed. Fortunately, this eliminates resistance being a factor in deciding Top Cut, but this does mean extra play-in games will be required, plus there’s the issue of pairing luck in Top Cut.

For those interested, here’s a chart with projected Top Cut numbers for the Open compared to a normal regional.

Anaheim Open

Image from user Wyrm’s Eye on Trainer Tower

So what do we think about the Anaheim Open?

pokemon world championships 2017 anaheim

 

As it looks right now, the Anaheim Open seems fine for the time being. Having such a valuable side-event for 2018 competitors will increase spectator attendance greatly and is a great incentive for those wanting to attend the event without an invite. The Anaheim Open is by no means perfect, as the potential it has to negatively affect the 2018 season is there, in addition to high-performing players at Worlds basically missing out on potentially half an invite plus more for the 2018 season.

Until the 2018 circuit officially begins, we have no way of knowing at the moment how this will affect it. This is something that could be brought back every year at Worlds, so knowing its effects on the upcoming season will be essential in evaluating it further.

For those competing, there’s definitely a ton of benefits, and it would be foolish to pass on unless you aren’t competing next season or just don’t want to pay for it. In the meantime, instead of dwelling on this smaller tournament, let’s shift our focus to the main event and get hyped for the most exciting event of the year.

Thanks for reading!


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Images from Pokémon 

alolan marowak

Alolan Marowak has a bone to pick! – VGC 2017 – The Underrated List

VGC 2017 is a format with basically one Fire-type. At least, that’s someone would think considering how often we see Arcanine on the tournament result pages. Believe it or not, there are other Fire-types that exist in the metagame, and the one we’re looking at today can be a fine team member for someone competing at the World Championships.

Meet Marowak’s Alolan Form. A Pokemon that drastically deviates in typing from its Kantonian counterpart, existing as a Fire/Ghost type. Like Arcanine, Marowak has a very useful supportive ability along with a powerful Flare Blitz to threaten its opponents with. Marowak is no stranger to the Top Cut stage this season, but in the face of Arcanine, this Fire Pokemon is quite underrated. Marowak might be the mix up a Worlds team needs to go all the way, and I’ll tell you why.

Stats & Typing

FireGhost

alolan marowak stats

Images courtesy of Bulbapedia

Stats

At face value, Marowak’s stats aren’t impressive by any means. A mediocre attack stat, terrible speed and alright defenses that are slightly undermined by Marowak’s low HP. Luckily, Marowak has a way to skyrocket its attack stat thanks to something we’ll get into later, which leaves a lot of room for investment into Marowak’s bulk. In a format filled with Trick Room, the low speed isn’t a big deal either, but Marowak does have to worry about slower sweepers that can deal with it.

Type(s)

Fire/Ghost is a very unique type combination that only three other Pokemon have. It’s especially unique to this format considering the relative obscurity of Ghost-types as well as Fire-types (outside of Arcanine of course). Defensively, it’s not great, being weak to Rock, Ground, Water, Dark as well as other Ghost-type attacks. However, offensively, there is little that wants to switch in on a Shadow Bone from Marowak, while Flare Blitz also being a great way to fry a Celesteela. Plus, Marowak’s most common ability does give it an immunity, helping it pretty much hard counter every Electric-type in the format. Speaking of abilities…

Abilities

Lightningrod

By far, Alolan Marowak’s most popular ability, Lightningrod, makes Marowak a hard counter to, arguably, the format’s best Pokemon: Tapu Koko. Thanks to updated mechanics courtesy of the fifth generation, Marowak gains an immunity to Electric-type attacks while receiving a pretty useless Special Attack boost. This ability gives Marowak synergy with most Flying and Water-type Pokemon in the format, while also making an opposing Tapu Koko’s life on the field much more difficult. This is the best ability for Marowak in VGC and likely the one that you’ll want on your team.

Rock Head

Since Marowak has access to Lightningrod, it’s doubtful Rock Head will see use in doubles. Though, I’d be lying if I said I’ve never seen a Rock Head Marowak successfully bluff Lightningrod while taking absolutely no recoil damage from Flare Blitz. It’s solid as a bluff, but for VGC I’d stick with the former.

Cursed Body

A very disruptive ability on a Pokemon like Gengar or Jellicent, but probably not the best choice for Marowak. Disabling moves can be nice, but Cursed Body would likely only come in handy once thanks to Marowak’s sub par bulk.

Movepool

Marowak’s arsenal is admittedly limited, with Flare Blitz, Shadow Bone and Protect being relatively standard. Although, that third move slot has seen some variation, and is capable of carrying some fun tricks.

Learned by Level-up

  • Flare Blitz: Marowak’s main Fire-type attack of choice. Despite the recoil, even a resisted hit from Marowak’s Flare Blitz is sure to do a lot of damage. Usually recommended only for super effective damage, as this next move also can do damage, without Flare Blitz’s recoil.
  • Shadow Bone: A new physical Ghost-type type introduced in Generation 7 that is exclusive to Alolan Marowak. At 80 base power coming off of Marowak’s impressive attack stat, is sure to pack a punch. Not many popular Pokemon resist Ghost-type attacks in VGC 2017, so Shadow Bone is very reliable damage output from Marowak.
  • Bonemerang: A move previously unique to Marowak’s Kantonian lineage has made its way to Alola. Ground-type moves that aren’t Earthquake are always useful, as they are not nerfed by Grassy-Terrain. Another neat aspect of Bonemerang is that while it’s only 50 base power, it hits twice, effectively turning it into a single-target Earthquake that can also bypass a Focus Sash. Despite how good this move sounds, Alolan Marowak doesn’t receive the same type attack boost since its not a Ground-type, so the damage output can be lacking. Also, 90% accuracy isn’t fun to play around with at times.
  • Will-o-Wisp: A lot of physical attackers in this format already don’t like going up against Alolan Marowak, and Will-o-Wisp can further put that matchup in your team’s favor. There are a lot of strong, physical attackers in the format right now, making Will-o-Wisp a nice move to pack on a team.

Learned by TM or HM

  • Substitute: Being a heavy hitter, Marowak often causes defensive plays, and what better way to punish defensive plays than with Substitute. This move will likely work better with a Trick Room mode, as Marowak with a speed advantage is way more dangerous.
  • Toxic: I’ve said before how good I think Toxic is right now, and Marowak is yet another example of a Pokemon who can use it.
  • Rock Slide/Stone Edge/Rock Tomb: A Rock-type move could be nice, but the coverage it provides isn’t really necessary for Alolan Marowak.
  • Rain Dance/Sunny Day: If your weather matchup is this bad, you should probably re-think your team. I would really only advise this in best-of-one play.

Learned from Breeding

  • Detect: Probably better than using Protect so you aren’t affected by Imprison.
  • Perish Song: A late-game win condition and an excellent answer to Eevee teams that actually has seen success on Marowak thanks to Hayden McTavish. Along with Substitute, I’d consider this the best third move option for Marowak.

Potential Held Items

There’s really only one.

Thick Club Alolan MarowakThick Club: Not to be confused with the Rare Bone, the Thick Club is an item that doubles Marowak’s attack stat. This is the only item you should ever run on Marowak, as this item is essential to Marowak’s offensive presence. It’s important to make sure Marowak holds on to this item, as you’ll quickly see how less scary Marowak becomes when it’s boneless.

Checks & Counters

Dark-type Pokemon (Foul Play+Knock Off)

alolan persianalolan muk

Alolan Persian, Alolan Muk and Mandibuzz are likely the biggest threats. Foul Play does a ton of damage to Marowak after its attack boost and Knock Off can remove Marowak’s essential item. Marowak also can’t really do much to Dark-types and will likely not live long enough to try.

Garchomp

Image result for Garchomp

Having both a speed and type disadvantage makes Garchomp a hard stop to any sweep an Alolan Marowak attempts. Marowak will be melted by a Tectonic Rage, and will not appreciate an Earthquake in addition to potential Rough Skin Damage.

Rock-type Pokemon (Nihilego/Gigalith)

nihilegogigalith

Nihilego can easily pick up a free Beast Boost from KOing a Marowak as Marowak’s Special Defense is not well equipped for Nihilego’s Power Gem. Gigalith outspeeds Marowak under Trick Room while Marowak can’t do much back, even with a super effective Bonemerang.

Water-types

Tapu Fini

Marowak hates the rain and will have a hard time dealing with bulky Water-types like Milotic and Tapu Fini. Definitely a better partner than an opponent for Marowak.

Intimidate

arcanine

The bane of most physical sweepers is VGC’s most popular ability: Intimidate. Marowak can out-damage Arcanine but struggles against the likes of Gyarados and Salamence.

Good Teammates 

Gyarados

gyarados

Probably Marowak’s most common (arguably best) partner is Gyarados. Gyarados can be difficult to take down without Electric attacks, which is where Alolan Marowak’s Lightningrod ability comes in. This allows Gyarados to set up Dragon Dances and deal with Marowak’s threats while Marowak can deal with a majority of Gyarados’ threats. This pair does have to watch out for Nihilego and other strong Rock-type attackers.

Celesteela

celesteela

Another Pokemon that appreciates not having to eat a Thunderbolt is VGC’s greatest defensive Pokemon: Celesteela. Celesteela loves the Lightningrod support, but Marowak doesn’t help much when these two are staring down an Arcanine.

Other Water/Flying-types

And basically every other Pokemon in the format that hates dealing with Electric-type attacks.

Trick Room

porygon2

Since Marowak is relatively slow, Trick Room seems like a natural choice. However, Marowak isn’t as slow as other popular Trick Room sweepers, so it has to be careful around opposing Snorlax, Araquanid and Gigalith.

So why use Alolan Marowak?

Why not use Arcanine?

Well, honestly, Marowak seems like an excellent metagame call for Worlds. We’re all aware how popular Tapu Koko is, and the popularity of Electrium Z makes Lightningrod a terrifying ability for most Tapu Koko to go up against. If you’re missing Arcanine’s Intimidate, Gyarados is a great team mate for Marowak, that provides both Intimidate and insane offensive pressure when those two are on the field.

Hopefully this showed off another great Fire-type in a metagame seemingly dominated by Arcanine. Marowak has a ton of fire power and can be a great supportive Pokemon with its Lightningrod ability.

Just be careful. If you have your own Electric-type on your team, try not to accidentally switch Marowak in when you click Thunderbolt. Trust me, it happens way more often than you think.

Thanks for reading!


You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Eric!

Images from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

pokemon weakness cup

Pokemon Global Link tournament analysis: Welcome to Weakness Cup!

While we wait for the inevitable showdown in Anaheim, let’s talk about a tournament with much lower stakes that has players excited to compete. Welcome to Weakness Cup, an online, double-battle tournament courtesy of the Pokemon Global Link that is restricted to Pokemon with five or more weaknesses (with some Legendary and all Mythical Pokemon being excluded). While this may sound like a format that features only some of the weakest monsters out there, you’d be surprised how many competitive staples have their fair share of weaknesses.

That being said, a lot of these previously viable Pokemon struggle with the other main restriction of the tournament: the allowed items. Held items in the Weakness Cup are restricted to berries that reduce super effective damage and Weakness Policy. Oh, and there’s also an item clause too so choose your berries and your Weakness Policy user wisely.

Hopefully by now I’ve captured your interest, but right now I can expect that some of you might be asking “Well, how do I build a team for this? What should I be expecting?”

Great questions!

To answer them, let’s take a look at some of the Pokemon that will likely dominate this format, split up into various categories based on their prospective roles on a team.

The full list of eligible Pokemon can be found here (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

Fast, Frail Attackers

Greninjagreninja pokemon weakness cup

Greninja is one of the most versatile Pokemon in the game thanks to its Protean ability, allowing it to change into virtually any type it wants. This allows Greninja’s move set to be almost infinitely modifiable, and allows it to carry a plethora of surprise moves. Although Greninja hasn’t seen too much play in doubles, the type coverage it offers for this tournament makes it a fine addition to a team.

Weavileweavile pokemon weakness cup

A fast Fake Out user is always good for a doubles team, and Weavile’s back to serve that very role. Weavile might be a bit underwhelming without a Focus Sash, but having access to strong Ice-type attacks in a format filled with Grass types is valuable. Knock Off is also a great tool for setting up KO’s on Pokemon that lose their berry.

Breloombreloom pokemon weakness cup

Breloom isn’t nearly as fast as the previously mentioned Pokemon, but it does get a solid priority move in Mach Punch. Fighting-type coverage in a format full of Dark, Rock and Ice-types makes Breloom a great late game sweeper with Mach Punch’s increased base power thanks to Technician. Spore can also be helpful, but there are a lot of Grass-types that can easily switch in.

Support

Togekisstogekiss pokemon weakness cup

Togekiss was one that a lot of people were surprised had more than five weaknesses due to just how bulky it is. Being one of the only viable Fairy-type Pokemon in the format, Togekiss loves being able to redirect the Dark, Dragon and Fighting-type attacks with Follow Me. Plus, Tailwind offers a solid speed control option that even allows Togekiss to go on the offensive with its terrifying Air Slash flinch chance. A Pokemon you’ll definitely see on a lot of high rated teams, probably paired with a set-up sweeper.

Whimsicott whimsicott pokemon weakness cup

One of the game’s most formidable Prankster users still has a place in this format despite also being without its signature Focus Sash. Whimsicott can do a lot of things. It can set up Tailwind, Encore opponents into Protect or a set-up move, Taunt opposing support Pokemon and even threaten some damage with Moonblast. With Terrakion also being present, the classic TerraCott combo threatens to sweep unprepared teams with Whimsicott using Beat Up to boost Terrakion’s attack by four stages. A Pokemon that suffers a lot from how frail it is, but if played right, can be really annoying to play against.

Aerodactyl Aerodactyl pokemon weakness cup

Keeping with the theme of Pokemon who miss their Focus Sashes, Aerodactyl is also a solid support Pokemon for Weakness Cup. Sky Drop can disrupt your opponent’s moves while also setting up some cool combos like Weavile using a boosted Assurance on the Sky Drop target. Also, fast Rock Slide is always a win condition that Aerodactyl can set up from turn one.

Dragons

Hydreigon hydreigon pokemon weakness cup

A destructive force that thrives in the absence of Fairy-type Pokemon, Hydreigon is a solid Special attacker that only slightly misses holding a boosting item.

The Lati Twins latios and latias pokemon weakness cup

Normally, players favor Latios since it’s the more offensive of the two, but Latias could be a solid Weakness Policy candidate due to its natural bulk. While these two may not thrive on dropping Draco Meteors in this format, they both have a variety of other useful attacking options coupled with being able to use Tailwind.

Guzzlordguzzlord pokemon weakness cup

Poor Guzzlord. Always having to be associated with the word “weak”. Guzzlord actually wouldn’t be a bad choice for a Trick Room sweeper, as its natural bulk pairs well with a Roseli Berry to cover its Fairy weakness. Its ability to boost its Special Attack turns it into a potent sweeper too.

Kommo-o Kommo-o pokemon weakness cup

A lot of people were disappointed with Kommo-o, but it could see some play in this tournament. Like I said, Fighting-types are strong in this metagame, and Kommo-o doesn’t really have to worry about Fairy-types outside of Togekiss. Kommo-o has viability on the physical and special side and could see play as a formidable attacker with its solid stats and impressive move pool.

Trick Room Setters

Slowbro/Slowking slowbro and slowking pokemon weakness cup

These two are pretty inter-changeable depending on which defense stat you prefer. Both Slowbro and Slowking are insanely bulky, have solid move pools and can heal off damage with Slack Off and the Regenerator ability. With the help of the Colbur berry, these two don’t have to worry about taking a Dark-type attack in order to set up Trick Room, but they do need to fear Grass and Ghost-types.

Chandelure chandelure pokemon weakness cup

This format does lack solid Fire-types, but Chandelure is by far the best while also being a viable Trick Room setter. A monstrous Special Attack stat that is able to fire off strong Heat Waves and Shadow Balls makes Chandelure an offensive powerhouse that is also able to give your team some support.

Trevenant trevenant pokemon weakness cup

Trevenant is always a tough Pokemon to deal with, and the amount of Fighting and Rock-types works very well in its favor. Having the ability to spread burns and recover its health with Harvest and Horn Leech, don’t be surprised if your team has trouble dealing with this thing.

Trick Room Attackers

Gigalith gigalith pokemon weakness cup

Arguably the best Weakness Policy user in the format, outside of Tyranitar, Gigalith can tear through teams if it’s able to boost. Even without a boost, Gigalith’s excellent Attack works very well with spamming Rock Slide under Trick Room. Its attacking move pool may be kind of shallow, but there’s always the supportive option of Wide Guard which can be a good best-of-one tech to catch opponents off-guard.

Crabominable crabominable pokemon weakness cup

The reason this lovable crab makes it onto this list is because the offensive typing of Ice/Fighting is amazing for this metagame. Crabominable has some strong attacking options too, and can easily abuse Trick Room to start sweeping. Don’t sleep on this monster.

Other Offensive Powerhouses

Tapu Bulu tapu bulu pokemon weakness cup

The only Island Guardian in the format is certainly one not to be trifled with. In a format filled with Grass-types, Tapu Bulu can both boost itself as well as other Grass Pokemon without having to worry about losing its Terrain. Grassy Terrain also makes Earthquake a lot weaker, which can help Rock and Fire-type teammates while also recovering some health. As the only terrain-setter, I’d expect to see a lot of Tapu Bulu.

Tyranitar tyranitar pokemon weakness cup

These last two years of VGC have almost made me forget how good of a Pokemon Tyranitar is. Tyranitar has been known in the past to make good use of both Chople Berry (lessens Fighting-type super effective damage) and Weakness Policy, so it seems like a natural fit for this metagame. The combination of Togekiss and Tyranitar looks to be a popular choice considering Tyranitar benefits immensely from Togekiss’ typing and Follow Me support. Another Pokemon I’d expect to see a lot of.

Serperior serperior pokemon weakness cup

Being able to spam a powerful move like Leaf Storm while also boosting your Special attack with Contrary is what makes Serperior a threat. Serperior hasn’t seen too much play in doubles, but I think it could still make waves in this format.

Terrakion terrakion pokemon weakness cup

Finally, we have the only musketeer that I expect to see play: Terrakion. I touched on the TerraCott combination already, but also having a fast Fighting-type that can also use Rock Slide makes Terrakion a pretty strong pick. The TerraCott combo will likely be the main way Terrakion is played though, because a) it’s really strong and b) it’s best-of-one.

So that’s just a bit of a taste of Weakness Cup! This is a tournament that I’m personally a huge fan of and I would love to see more interest in it. VGC and Doubles players should feel right at home, with the item restrictions feeling like enough of a twist to make it more challenging.

This tournament may not have any big prizes or glory on the line, but it seems like a fun format to play for a weekend. Plus, for playing just three games you are eligible to receive the unreleased Mega Stones Altarianite, Ampharosite, Latiosite and Latiasite. Registration begins on the Pokemon Global Link starting July 20th and ends on July 27th. The competition runs from the 28th to the 30th.

Thanks for reading!


You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Eric!

Art of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

Featured Image from Pokemon Global Link

pokemon big 6

Taking a look at VGC 2017’s potential “Big 6”

After securing a second place finish at the North American International Championships following numerous Top Cut appearances, this team composition of VGC 2017’s best is looking like it has become VGC’s new “Big 6” archetype.

The “Big 6” is a name given to a team archetype that usually consists of a combination of the best Pokemon in a given format. In 2015 there was CHALK and 2016 found its “Big 6” very early on with the popularity of Xerneas and Primal Groudon. It doesn’t take a teambuilding genius to put together a successful “Big 6” team, as we’ve seen just how effective slapping the format’s six best Pokemon on a team has been.

Whether or not this team is worthy of being called the “Big 6”, there’s no denying the consistency of its recent results. Let’s take a closer look at each member of the team, as well as some other potential options that could appear on future variants.

Tapu Koko 

tapu koko pokemon big 6

Nature(s): Timid, Modest

Item(s): Life Orb, Choice Specs, Assault Vest, Electrium Z

Common Moves: Thunderbolt, Volt Switch, Dazzling Gleam, Hidden Power (Ice, Fire), Sky Drop, Nature’s Madness

Undeniably the format’s most consistent Pokemon, Tapu Koko is no doubt the Island Guardian of choice for this team. It’s speed, power and flexibility allow it to function in a multitude of roles which range from dealing damage or supporting its team mates. Going into the North American International Championships, we saw the rise of the Assault Vest item on a majority of Tapu Koko. In addition to adding to Tapu Koko’s defenses, The Assault Vest allowed for great supportive moves like Nature’s Madness and Sky Drop which can be crucial in setting up KO’s for Tapu Koko’s partners.

However, despite the Assault Vest’s popularity prior to Indianapolis, there were no Assault Vest Tapu Koko in the Master’s Top Cut. Instead, players favored the Electrium Z, allowing Tapu Koko to fire off a powerful, terrain-boosted Electric attack. Having access to Gigavolt Havoc allows Tapu Koko to claim crucial KO’s on less defensive variants of Arcanine as well as opposing Tapu Koko. Paul Chua opted for Thunder on his move set, deciding that the risk of Thunder’s shaky accuracy was worth the increase of Gigavolt Havoc’s base power.

Cesar Reyes proved that Choice Specs was still a worthy item choice, enabling Tapu Koko to threaten consistent damage without needing to set up. Life Orb variants still exists, but my guess is we won’t see nearly as many on the World’s stage.

Arcanine

arcanine pokemon big 6

Nature(s): Adamant, Jolly, Careful

Item(s): Iapapa Berry, Figy Berry, Mago Berry, Firium Z, Assault Vest, Choice Band

Common Moves: Flare Blitz, Extreme Speed, Will-o-Wisp, Snarl, Helping Hand, Toxic

Sitting up there with Tapu Koko as arguably the format’s best Pokemon, it’s no wonder Arcanine appears on this team. With the format’s lackluster amount of good Fire-types, Arcanine’s great base stats and access to Intimidate make it a solid fit for most VGC 2017 teams.

Arcanine is able to function in both an offensive and a supportive role. Flare Blitz and Extreme Speed are pretty much standard for all Arcanine variants, but Arcanine’s third move slot can see a ton of variation. Helping Hand looks to be the most popular according to Indy’s Top Cut, as the Helping Hand boost can be crucial for Arcanine’s team mates to pick up KO’s. Snarl is a move that can almost be spammed at points in order to severely weaken the opponent’s special attackers. Will-o-Wisp is also not a bad option for punishing physical attackers as Pokemon like Alolan Muk and Snorlax become a lot less scary when afflicted with a burn. Finally, Toxic can be a great surprise move that can rack up much needed damage on slower, more defensive Pokemon like Snorlax and Porygon2.

Arcanine can certainly be used in a variety of ways, but we’re likely to see the defensive variants of Arcanine dominate the World’s stage.

Garchomp

garchomp pokemon big 6

Nature(s): Jolly, Adamant

Item(s): Groundium Z, Choice Scarf, Assault Vest

Common Moves: Earthquake, Rock Slide, Fire Fang, Flamethrower, Poison Jab, Swords Dance

Garchomp’s been a staple in VGC in the absence of Landorus, and the implementing of Z moves in Generation 7 have made it even more threatening. Most teams in the format struggle to resist Ground-type attacks, and teams with poor answers to Garchomp can find themselves being swept rather easily. Groundium Z gives Garchomp an insanely powerful attack that does a ton of damage, especially after a Swords Dance. The rising popularity of Assault Vest Tapu Koko created a deadly duo with Tapu Koko’s fast Sky Drop next to a Swords Dance Garchomp. This combination is able to guarantee KO’s on slower Pokemon, and serves as a great way to deal with opposing Trick Room modes.

If it weren’t for Paul Chua’s impressive use of the Choice Scarf on Garchomp, odds are I wouldn’t have touched on it. Definitely something that can catch an opponent off-guard. A Choice Scarfed Garchomp has the capability to run through teams that aren’t equipped to deal with it. Having two spam-able moves in Rock Slide and Earthquake, make the Choice Scarf a pretty good win condition when set up right. We saw Paul Chua use this set effectively after whittling down his opponent’s Pokemon in order for Garchomp to quickly pick up KO’s with Earthquake. Also, a fast Rock Slide is always threatening with that terrifying 30% flinch chance.

After Chua’s run in Indianapolis, I expect Choice Scarf to become a lot more popular. Although, Groundium Z is by far the more flexible option, and will likely remain the most common variant.

Celesteela

celesteela pokemon big 6

Nature(s): Relaxed, Impish, Modest, Adamant

Item(s): Leftovers, Pinch berries, Assault Vest

Common Moves: Heavy Slam, Leech Seed, Flamethrower, Wide Guard, Air Slash, Flash Cannon

Just barely holding off Kartana as VGC 2017 most common Ultra Beast, we have Celesteela. Celesteela is an amazing defensive Pokemon with its fantastic typing, move pool, and immunity to Earthquake. A majority of Celesteela opt for the standard Heavy Slam, Leech Seed and Flamethrower move set, but the North American International Championships showed us a couple new tricks. Baris Ackos ran Air Slash on his Celesteela perhaps as a way to hit Buzzwole while also having the chance to flinch slower opponents. Paul Chua decided protecting his team with Wide Guard was more valuable than hitting Kartana with Flamethrower.

Celesteela might appear standard in team preview, but like I said, Celesteela has a very diverse move pool. Attacking variants of Celesteela aren’t unheard of, but by far the most consistent Celesteela set is the standard Leech Seed variant. Let’s hope that World’s doesn’t subject us to any Celesteela stall wars, especially if none of them are running Flamethrower.

Snorlax

snorlax pokemon big 6

Nature(s): Brave, Impish, Sassy, Adamant

Item(s): Pinch Berries (Figy, Mago, Iapapa)

Common Moves: Return, Frustration, Facade, Curse, Belly Drum, Recycle, Wild Charge, High Horsepower

Where would this team be without a Trick Room answer? Indianapolis showed us that Snorlax is in and Gigalith is (potentially) out. Snorlax is the very definition of a tank. It takes a ton of damage to take one of these things down, but only if its not able to Recycle its berry.

Depending on whether or not a Trick Room setter is present, Snorlax can run either Curse or Belly Drum to set itself up. Curse is a lot safer since it also boosts Snorlax’s Defense and is far less of a commitment. Belly Drum is the more aggressive option that puts Snorlax in a better sweeping position at the immediate cost of its berry. The Curse variant is the more popular option for this team due to its consistency, and allows for Snorlax to work better outside of Trick Room.

In regards to Snorlax’s move options, we saw a lot of change to what looks like a pretty standard Pokemon. Facade was present on both Snorlax in the Master’s finals which was likely a great call for a tournament that featured the use of Toxic. In exchange for Snorlax’s coverage, Stockpile was seen on some Belly Drum variants as a way of adding more bulk in addition to Snorlax’s monstrous Attack boost.

Snorlax looks to be VGC 2017’s most consistent Trick Room Pokemon regardless if a team has a way to set up Trick Room. Curse will likely see more play in Anaheim over Belly Drum, but both sets are equally viable.

Alolan Ninetales

alolan ninetales pokemon big 6

Nature(s): Timid

Item(s): Focus Sash, Light Clay

Common Moves: Blizzard, Freeze Dry, Icy Wind, Aurora Veil, Roar, Encore

Finally, we have probably the most expendable member of the team: Alolan Ninetales. Even Paul Chua mentioned in his tournament report that he brought this Pokemon the least over the course of the weekend. Basically, Alolan Ninetales is really only needed for Aurora Veil. Other than that, spamming Blizzard is nice in some situations but its damage output will leave you hoping for a freeze.

Having Alolan Ninetales is a decent way to check opposing weather, but weather teams aren’t as common as they used to be. Still, having other interesting support options like Roar and Icy Wind can make Ninetales a bit more useful.

There’s a lot of debate over whether or not Alolan Ninetales is a “good” Pokemon, but you have to agree that it can be quite solid in certain situations. Aurora Veil protecting Snorlax is always tough to deal with, which is why we’ve seen this duo before.

Other Options

Trick Room

mimikyu pokemon big 6

With a Pokemon like Snorlax, having a Trick Room setter is never a bad idea. Mimikyu has seen the most play with this archetype since it has great synergy with Snorlax. Porygon2 has awkward synergy with Snorlax, since they’re both Normal type, but Porygon2 is consistent enough to work.

Another Tapu

tapu fini pokemon big 6

Tapu Lele and Tapu Fini have had many great tournament teams next to Tapu Koko, and this team composition could be a great fit as well. Tapu Lele provides another source of damage while Tapu Fini can support the team with Misty Terrain. Having either on the team can help keep the terrain advantage which is always good to have.

Kartana

kartana pokemon big 6

Kartana and Celesteela by no means function the same role per say, but when needing a Steel-type, either one works well. Celesteela will usually be favored due to its use as a defensive pivot and synergy with Garchomp, but Kartana can also work as another offensive option for the team.

Another Trick Room Attacker

gigalith pokemon big 6

Ninetales and Snorlax could easily be swapped out for Porygon2 plus Gigalith or Alolan Muk. Probably not the most likely change considering Snorlax’s overall consistency, but still an option.

So, is this team really the “Big 6” of VGC 2017?

While it has been a consistent team, it’s hard to say at this point. It’s very possible that this team could have a big showing at Worlds and will likely see some variation if players decide to bring it. Overall, this “goodstuffs” team is a solid pick for this stage of the format, but we’ll just have to wait and see if the “Big 6” can have another big tournament run in Anaheim.

Thanks for reading!


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Art of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

A clean Australian sweep: VGC 2017 North American International Championships recap

The first ever North American International Championships and the final tournament in the 2017 season before Worlds was a historic tournament for both sides of competitive Pokemon. While we saw the largest Pokemon TCG tournament in Play! Pokemon’s history, what emerged in the VGC was quite an unlikely rivalry that appeared in all of the finals matches.

USA vs. Australia was the story of this tournament’s top cut, despite the diverse array of nations that were represented in the tournament’s final stages. Former Seniors TCG World Champion Christopher Kan, as well as his younger brother Nicholas Kan, were both able to claim titles for their home nation with a little help from Alfredo Chang in the Seniors Division.

Let’s take a look at what made it big in Indianapolis and where this leaves us with Worlds coming in just over a month.

Results & teams (Top 10 Cut)

1. Christopher Kan [AU]

2. Paul Chua [US]

3. Cesar Reyes [MEX]

4. Sean Bannen [US]

5. Sebastian Escalante [ARG]

Alola Form

6. Markus Stadter [GER]

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7. Nils Dunlop [SWE]

Alola Form

8. Nick Navarre [US]

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9. Diego Ferreria [CHI]

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10. Tyler Miller [US]

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Tapu Koko and the new “Big 6”?

paul chua team

If it wasn’t clear by VGC 2017’s usage stats coming into the North American Internationals, the results from this tournament make a strong case for Tapu Koko as the format’s most dominant Tapu Pokemon. With this Pokemon’s place at the top, a possible new variant of the “big 6” could finally be emerging in the 2017 format.

vgc 2017 usage

The core of Tapu Koko, Celesteela, Arcanine and Garchomp is commonly referred to as a “goodstuffs” core as it features some of the best Pokemon in the format. To compliment this core, a popular team featuring Alolan Ninetales and Snorlax has been taking a number of high placings, including at this tournament.

What Paul Chua did differently

choice scarf garchomp

Paul Chua’s variant, being the most successful, featured this standard six, but a couple of unique tricks. One of the biggest surprises was Chua’s choice of the Choice Scarf item on his Garchomp. Many players don’t expect this item as it’s a common “best-of-one strategy” that is meant to catch players off-guard. Chua managed to play with this tech in a way that won him numerous games. Whether he was able to spam Earthquake after whittling down his opponent’s team or maybe score some clutch Rock Slide flinches to turn the tide his way.

Image result for electrium zElectrium Z was Chua’s item of choice for his Tapu Koko, in favor of the popular Assault Vest item that many other players have opted for at this stage of the season. Using Thunder as a means for a powerful Gigavolt Havoc, was risky given Thunder’s shaky accuracy, but the extra power boost was clutch in scoring KO’s on less bulky Tapu Koko and Arcanine.

Image result for alolan ninetales png

Chua’s Ninetales was also quite unique as Protect was left out in favor of Roar. Roar was important during one of Chua’s earlier matches against Markus Stadter where it was able to disrupt Stadter’s Z-Conversion boosted Porygon-Z, eliminating its stat boosts by switching it out of play. Ninetales also did a lot of work during the finals as it managed to set up Aurora Veil while also scoring a clutch freeze on Kan’s Porygon2, essentially winning game two for Chua.

Snorlax’s Facade

Image result for snorlax

A tech for Snorlax that was not unique to Chua was the inclusion of Facade as Snorlax’s Normal-type attack of choice. We saw this come into play during the finals set as both Kan and Chua featured the less common move. Facade is a move that doubles in power when the user is afflicted by a status condition, and the choice to use this move was likely in anticipation of the popularity of Toxic which we saw Kan use to effectively wear down Chua’s team.

With these kinds of metagame adaptations, this team is quite powerful. Though Kan’s effective use of Toxic was able to clinch the final game, which is why I think this move deserves a bit more depth.

A metagame turned Toxic

Toxic.png

In the finals match, we saw just how important Toxic can be for getting much needed extra damage on any of your opponent’s Pokemon. Despite boosting the power of Facade, Kan’s use of Toxic ended up being the crucial way for Kan to deal with Chua’s boosting Snorlax, as well as the rest of his team.

With the metagame naturally becoming a lot slower and more defensive, using Toxic as a way to punish slower play is almost a necessity for a team at this stage in the metagame. So many common Pokemon like Arcanine and Porygon2 have access to Toxic, and definitely have a good reason to use it. Nick Navarre used Chansey as his team’s Toxic user, but Chansey’s slow, defensive play style was able to be brought down by…You guessed it. Toxic.

Toxic could be a great weapon or the ultimate downfall for more defensively built Pokemon heading into Worlds. Tapu Fini might shoot back up in popularity as Misty Terrain could be a go-to strategy to ensure Toxic doesn’t slowly wear down your team. Definitely a move to watch out for.

What we’ve learned

Don’t sleep on any region

Image result for australia

Despite being a region that looked to be slightly doomed by their lack of tournaments, Australia came to play in this International. Beyond Australia, Nils Dunlop’s stellar run put the small VGC nation of Sweden on the map, and his mission to improve his country’s competitive scene looks to be in full swing. Sebastian Escalante and Cesar Reyes were able to represent Latin America and also the lesser known North American Mexican scene as legitimate contenders with their performances. The US and Europe may be strong regions, but I don’t think we should be surprised to see any new countries make the Top Cut stage in Anaheim.

Tapu Koko is the best, and will remain on topImage result for tapu Koko

With 26 day two appearances and eight of them in the tTop 10 teams, it’s reasonable to conclude that Tapu Koko is the most consistent Island Guardian in VGC 2017. It’s speed, power and versatility make it so vital to a ton of strategies, including the previously mentioned “goodstuffs” archetype. Is there potential for any more unique Tapu Koko variants to pop into relevance in Anaheim? At this point, I think we’ve seen it all, but Tapu Koko is not one to be considered predictable by any means.

Toxic will be popular and prepared for

Like I said before, if Tapu Fini’s usage begins to dramatically rise again, you’ll know why. Toxic is a fantastic move for this new defensive stage of the format, but now the world has seen how effective it can be.

Final thoughts

Overall, the North American International Championships was the perfect tournament to transition into Worlds. The sheer amount of high level play brought out some of the most exciting Pokemon of the entire season. I highly recommend watching or re-watching a lot of the streamed matches from the tournament, as there is a lot to take away and a lot to enjoy as well. We saw both established and newer players to the big stage make a statement in Indianapolis, and I expect nothing less from Anaheim this August. Only this time, we’ll have an even bigger pool of players, nations and strategies to watch. It should be an exciting finish.

Thanks for reading!


You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Eric!

Featured Image from Pokemon and The Pokemon Company International

Art of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

Pokémon Sprite Images courtesy of Game Freak

Other Image(s) from ishmam on deviantart

VGC 2017 North American International Championships metagame preview

Previously, we looked at a list of Pokemon that could be great off-meta choices for a team competing in Indianapolis this weekend. This time, we’ll supplement that list with an overview of the current strategies and cores that define the current VGC 2017 metagame. These are strategies that players should expect to play against, and spectators should expect to see.

Common cores + team compositions

FAKEPG (and its variations)

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One of the most popular team compositions to hit VGC is the awkwardly named “FAKEPG” archetype. The clumsy acronym, for those unfamiliar, stands for: Tapu Fini, Arcanine, Kartana, Electric-type, Porygon2 and Gigalith. The team is popular for a reason, as its brilliant type synergy and move coverage makes it tough to go up against. The team also features a variety of modes, even being able to effectively abuse Trick Room with the combo of Porygon2 and Gigalith.

To avoid being predictable, the team has undergone a bit of change since it first came onto the scene. Tapu Lele has replaced Tapu Fini on some variants, while Tapu Koko has solidified itself as the go-to E in FAKEPG. Speaking of Tapu Koko, the rising popularity of the Assault Vest item on it has also given rise to a new breed of Kartana that carries Swords Dance and the Fightinium Z. Tapu Koko is able to use Sky Drop on Pokemon that threaten Kartana, so it can then set up a Swords Dance and pick up a KO with a boosted All-Out-Pummeling on the next turn.

Other than these notable changes, the rest of the team is fairly standard. Slight move changes can vary from player to player on Gigalith and Arcanine, but you should expect things like Flare Blitz and Rock Slide.

How to beat it

I found that both a well-played Alolan Muk and/or Kartana do very well against FAKEPG. These two do struggle with Arcanine, but Muk does well against the Tapu’s while Kartana can be hard to stop to the team’s Trick Room mode. Dealing with Arcanine should be a priority, as Arcanine is usually the team’s main answer to common Steel-types and strong, physical attackers that give the team trouble.

The team is good, but it can struggle if against a player who knows the match-up, and has ways to win against it. Prediction is key, and a lot of it goes into predicting what mode the FAKEPG player will bring.

Goodstuffs

Basically, all of the metagame’s best Pokemon on one team. The most popular version at the moment is a variant with Alolan Ninetales and Snorlax. This composition has also hopped on the Assault Vest Tapu Koko hype-train, with the Swords Dance partner as Garchomp. Instead of Kartana, Celesteela has made itself the team’s go-to Steel-type.

How to beat it

Again, this team relies on Arcanine a lot for Fire-damage and its Intimidate ability. The lack of ways to manipulate speed can make the team weak against Tailwind and Trick Room based teams. Most well-built variants will be prepared to deal with speed control, so taking advantage of Tailwind or Trick Room turns is essential.

Drifblim+Tapu Lele (Tailwind)

A combination that has remained relevant despite the slight drop off in its usage, Drifblim teams are still pretty scary. Users of Driblim are now not only able to abuse the power of Tapu Lele, but also Ultra Beasts that could benefit from the speed boost like Nihilego and Buzzwole.

Despite the predictability when it comes to the leads, this team has a lot of options. Drifblim can work well with any of the team’s main sweepers, while Drifblim itself could be carrying a bunch of unique techs in its move set.

Drifblim is great and all, but Mandibuzz has recently been climbing back up in usage and makes a good fit for this team’s Tailwind mode. Mandibuzz is harder to take down, but its lack of Drifblim’s speed could leave it susceptible to Taunt or Sky Drop. Mandibuzz is a bit more flexible, being able to work with Tapu Fini and apparently Tapu Bulu like we saw in Japan.

More than likely, Drifblim will be the one to be prepared for, as its almost guaranteed Tailwind set up is hard to pass on.

How to beat it

The team’s hyper-offensive nature leaves it very susceptible to a match up where it loses the speed advantage. Tapu Lele’s Taunt gives the team a way to stop Trick Room and slower Tailwinds, but can easily be baited out with a lead that threatens either option. Snorlax is a popular sixth member to help against Trick Room, but without it, an opposing Trick Room mode can run over the team.

Disrupting Psychic Terrain also hurts the team a bit by weakening Tapu Lele. Tapu Fini is usually the best candidate for this role since Misty Terrain can prevent potential burns from Drifblim’s Will-o-Wisp.

BAN (Tapu Bulu, Arcanine, Nihilego)

Since Tapu Bulu has been quickly climbing the usage charts, it’s fitting that it should get its own core. Drew Nowak proved that this combination could win a big tournament and is worth preparing for. Tapu Bulu is able to threaten huge damage by setting up the Grassy Terrain which helps its teammates not lose to Earthquake. Other popular teammates are Pheromosa, Porygon2, Tapu Koko, Metagross and Hariyama just to name a few. The team is able to support a ton of damage with Tapu Bulu and Nihilego, bulk with Intimidate and Grassy Terrain as well as a slower mode with Hariyama and Araquanid.

A surprisingly diverse team that has a very solid matchup against many of the metagame’s other top teams.

How to beat it

One common thread of Tapu Bulu teams are the many Ground weaknesses the team has. Getting rid of Grassy Terrain makes Earthquake a fatal move for the majority of the team’s members, so preserving a method of Earthquake spam is helpful.

If Nihilego is dealt with, the team may struggle with Arcanine. It’s reasonable to assume Nowak’s Madison team, or a variation of it, will be what most players opt for so Araquanid is to be expected. Terrain advantage is crucial in the matchup, and denying Grassy Terrain is a consistent way to cripple this team.

Weather teams

Rain

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Double Duck hasn’t gone away just yet unfortunately. Coming off a recent victory in the Japanese National Championships and the confirmation of Tommy Cooleen’s attendance in Indy makes Rain worth discussing. Often relying on the Pelipper+Golduck lead to set up Tailwind and drown threats with Golduck’s rain-boosted Hydro Vortex, the team relies on rain for both speed and power.

That being said however, the team can still function without the rain with Pokemon like Tapu Koko and Kartana being good checks to popular rain answers. Plus, the consistency of the team allows off-meta picks like Buzzwole, Metagross and now even Tsareena to function in the meta game. A team composition that looks standard, but is surprisingly sticking around and adapting.

Sun 

Not quite as common as Rain, but this archetype could still be a possible matchup. Torkoal+Lilligant is arguably a bit easier to deal with than Double Duck, but the mind games of predicting After You Eruption, a Z Move or Sleep Powder is not fun to play against.

Ashton’s Latin America team is a well-built version that might be the go-to for Sun team players, but its lack of recent success makes it less likely for it to do well in Indianapolis.

Sand

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The reason I’m even mentioning this mode is the fact that Lycanroc+Gigalith did make it to the Top 8 of the Japanese National Championships. Other variants use Stoutland as their Sand Rush abuser, being able to act more supportive rather than offensive. The team functions similarly to the aforementioned weather teams, but the reliance on Sand doesn’t extend far past Gigalith and its Sand Rush-ing partner.

It’s a strategy that most likely wouldn’t expect, but its lack of success at a best-of-three tournament leaves a lot of players skeptical.

Note: I’m not mentioning Hail since the weather mode has been pretty much non-existent. Still, Vanilluxe and Alolan Ninetales are solid on their own.

How to beat weather

Weather disruption is by far the best way to shut down every weather mode. If you don’t have a way to set up your own weather, here are some Pokemon that do well against each mode.

Rain: Gastrodon, AV Tapu Koko, Goodra, Kartana

Sun: Arcanine, Tapu Koko, Tapu Fini, Snorlax

Sand: Garchomp, Kartana (watch out for Fire Fang), bulky Water/Grass-types

Less common, but viable teams, modes, etc. 

Eevee

Someone always manages to take a tournament by storm with Eevee, and it’s still a team to be feared. I’ve gone into depth about Eevee before, but tl;dr Eevee sets up the Extreme Evoboost and Baton Passes it to a sweeper.

You beat it by denying that. Eliminate the boosts, Eevee and/or the sweeper(s). Sometimes this is easier said than done.

Porygon2 + Araquanid 

Remember when this pair won four consecutive regionals in North America? Well Araquanid is still a huge threat under Trick Room since many teams don’t have great Liquidation switch-ins.

MimiLax (Mimikyu+Snorlax)

Another Trick Room duo that has fallen off a bit, but can still rip through teams after Snorlax sets up Belly Drum. Mimikyu doesn’t go down easily, and nearly always has Mental Herb so good luck trying to Taunt it. Not to mention, Mimikyu can copy Snorlax’s maximized attack with Psych Up.

*shudders*

Lightningrod+Gyarados (or a combo of Water and Flying-types)

Togedemaru and Marowak could be good calls for Indianapolis considering the abundance of Tapu Koko, and one of the most common partners for these two is Gyarados. Gyarados can be troublesome to KO without an Electric attack, and leaving it unchecked could mean a Dragon Dance sweep.

Lightningrod Pokemon have also seen usage on teams with Mandibuzz, Tapu Fini and Celesteela which can make these bulky Pokemon also pretty annoying to take down. Lightningrod support helps Mandibuzz set up Tailwind, Tapu Fini set up Calm Mind and Celesteela do its thing.

Smeargle & Ultra Beasts

Ian McLaughlin taught us that Smeargle is still scary, especially when paired with a few Ultra Beasts. Smeargle’s ability to disrupt opponents and support its teammates make an Ultra Beast partner terrifying to go against. Xurkitree can Tail Glow, Nihilego can set up Substitutes and Pheromosa can out-speed and annihilate its main threats. All while Smeargle racks up stat boosts from Moody.

It’s almost here

Hopefully I was able to provide a solid overview of the most common Pokemon and strategies in the current VGC 2017 metagame. We’ll likely see all of these strategies, even the lesser-used ones, appear in one shape or another. However, as VGC 2017 has showed us time and time again, the player who finds a way to successfully counter the meta with their own unique strategy, likely wins it all.

I guess we’ll find out which teams will make it to the top in just a couple more days. A champion will be crowned, and all eyes will shift towards Anaheim, and what the World’s metagame will have in store.


Art/Images of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Eric!

Is this the new meta? VGC 2017 Japanese National Championships recap

The Japanese National Championships have decided the nation’s World Championship qualifiers, but the results have us western players scratching our heads a bit. Not only did a Pokemon that was unheard of in VGC 2017 win it all, but a bunch of other weird and unconventional strategies managed to succeed. Let’s take a look at the marvel that was the teams of the Japanese National Top Cut.

Results & Teams (Top 8)

Champion

Ootsubo Ryouta

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Runner Up 

Kimura Shouhei

Top 4

Nakagawa Gouki

Kinoshita Tohru

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Top 8

Amano Hikaru

Yonemura Takuya

Nakajima Teru

Yamane Souma

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A Popular Choice for Held Items    Image result for choice band

One thing that managed to be consistent was the popularity of Choice items for a number of popular Pokemon. I think this is the first time in a major tournament Top Cut where we’ve seen a Snorlax without its signature pinch berry. Instead, Amano Hikaru opted for a Choice Band to boost Snorlax’s Attack without having to rely on Curse or Belly Drum.

Hikaru’s team also featured a Tapu Koko holding a Choice Scarf, which also seems like an odd item considering Tapu Koko’s already impressive Speed stat. Moving away from Hikaru’s team, Nakagowa Gouki featured a team with a Choice Scarf Celesteela, and a Lycanroc with Choice Band. We’ll get to Lycanroc in a bit, but Celesteela holding a Choice Scarf is pretty bizarre. We’ve seen offensive items like Life Orb and Assault Vest have success with Celesteela, but never a speedy variant with Choice Scarf. It does make some sense since Celesteela has a very diverse move pool, but its very low base speed doesn’t compliment a Choice Scarf very well.

Besides Choice items, there were a few other weird item choices sprinkled around the Top 8. What could’ve spawned these unique ideas is beyond me, but let’s move on to the Pokemon themselves.

Niche Picks: Japan Edition

Japanese players are often known for their creative approach to the game, and their 2017 Nationals are no exception.

TsareenaImage result for tsareena

Is there a new queen of VGC? For 2017, it looks like it. Grass types as a whole aren’t very popular outside of Tapu Bulu and Kartana. So what makes Tsareena so special? With Ootsubo Ryouta’s choice of Fightinum Z for a held item, Tsareena can fire off a pretty strong All-Out-Pummeling with access to High Jump Kick.

Tsareena’s signature move, Trop Kick, is also fairly unique. It’s not the strongest attack at only 70 base power, but it always lowers the target’s Attack stat when it connects. Could be a useful tool for wearing down fast, physical-hitters after Ryouta’s Pelipper is able to set up Tailwind for Tsareena.

Finally, Feint is a highly underrated move that only a few viable Pokemon can make use of. Feint breaks the opponent’s Protect while also being a damaging move with priority. Feint works very well in a format full of strong Z-moves, and Golduck’s rain-boosted Hydro Vortex is one that often baits out Protects.

Overall, a Pokemon like Tsareena requires a very specific team composition to work, and Ryouta’s team looks to be a good fit. Is Tsareena a good Pokemon in VGC 2017? I’m not sure. We’ll just have to see if any western players are inspired by Ryouta’s success.

Lycanroc (Midday Forme)   Image result for lycanroc

With Gigalith’s current popularity, the Sand-abusing ability of Lycanroc’s Midday Forme makes it a solid partner. This scary combo threatens a ton of damage for a team without many Rock-type resistances. Lycanroc itself doesn’t have the greatest move pool, but Fire Fang is a very useful tool for dealing with Kartana who threatens this duo immensely. Coupled with the speed boost from the Sand Rush ability, Lycanroc becomes a threat under sandstorm.

But this lead, much like other “combo” leads, has its weaknesses. Since this combination almost always acts a lead, an opposing Ground or a bulky Water or Grass-type Pokemon lead can shut this combo down fairly hard. Also, opposing weather takes away Lycanroc’s speed boost which can make it a lot less threatening.

Lycanroc is a cool Pokemon for sure, but its necessity for Gigalith and its lackluster move pool do set it back. However, this combo can be scary for teams that aren’t prepared for it. Don’t expect Lycanroc to dominate the meta game, but definitely have a check for some sort of sand mode.

Gengar Image result for gengar

You’d think that in a format dominated by Fairy types, a Pokemon like Gengar would thrive. Well that would likely be the case if Gengar still had Levitate, as Ground resists are rather hard to come by.

Despite Gengar’s shortcomings, it’s by no means a bad Pokemon in this format. Having the ability to Taunt and set up Trick Room on its own, makes Gengar a tricky Pokemon to go up against if you don’t know what it has. Amano Hikaru opted to forgo Protect on his Gengar in favor of Destiny Bond which takes down Gengar’s attacker if it’s KO’d.

A Pokemon that still has potential in VGC 2017, but the loss of Levitate and its rather odd speed tier have made it a less popular choice. Don’t sleep on Gengar though, as its bag of tricks could be useful for a number of team archetypes.

Porygon-Z Image result for porygon-z

Porygon-Z has had significantly less time in the limelight when compared to its pre-evolution, but when properly supported it can turn into a problem. Most Porygon-Z this season have opted for Normalium Z to maximize the power of Hyper Beam, but Yonemura Takuya decided to take advantage of a strategy more often seen in the Single Battle meta game.

With the Normalium Z, Conversion not only changes Porygon-Z’s type to the type of the first attack in its move set, but also boosts all of its stats by one stage. Takuya opted for the Electric variant with support from a Smeargle holding a Choice Scarf. With Smeargle’s virtually infinite support move pool, Porygon-Z is likely able to set up and start mowing down its opponents.

Converting into the Electric type is a smart choice for VGC 2017. Not only is Tapu Koko’s Electric Terrain pretty much everywhere, but not many popular Pokemon resist Electric attacks either. Even more defensive Pokemon don’t appreciate taking an Adaptability boosted Thunderbolt after a Special Attack raise. Ground-types like Garchomp are still scary when setting up, but with Ice Beem, Garchomp in no problem after setting up Z-Conversion.

This strategy can run through a lot of popular team compositions, but struggles if played around correctly. Plus, even with the defense boosts, Porygon-Z is relatively frail and easy to KO. A fun strategy for best-of-one play, but a bit harder to pull off in best-of-three matches.

What This Means for The Western Metagame

So does this mean we’ll see all of these strategies at the upcoming North American International Championships? Perhaps some, but definitely not all.

The reason is that due to Japan’s National Championship having best-of-one Swiss rather than best-of-three, it makes these rather odd strategies a lot harder to pull off. Having the surprise factor of a faster Tapu Koko or an exploding Snorlax might work out for one game, but may suffer if your opponent is expecting it. Though, considering Ootsubo Ryouta’s Tsareena squad managed to do well in the best-of-three stage, it’s not too far fetched to expect to run into this team in practice or even in tournament.

Japan’s meta game has always made some sort of an impact on the West, so we’ll just have to see which strategy becomes the most popular among western players in the coming weeks. Will Tsareena take the west by storm? We’ll just have to wait to find out.

Thanks for reading!

Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Eric!

Five Pokemon that could be “the play” for the North American International Championships

With the North American International Championships just two weeks away, many players are scrambling to find the winning team. For a tournament that is sure to be in a tier of worlds-caliber difficulty, a “standard” team might not be ideal.

Unpredictability is key for a tournament this late into a format. Bringing just one Pokemon that many teams aren’t prepared for could be huge for making a deep tournament run. Here are five Pokemon that could be great metagame calls for the final International Championship of the 2017 season.

1. Tapu Bulu

Pokemon North American International Championships

 

Despite being the format’s least popular Island Guardian, Tapu Bulu has shown that it’s a force to be reckoned with. Winning two of the last four North American Regionals, Tapu Bulu is surely capable of making a deep run in Indy.

I’ve talked a lot about Tapu Bulu already, but it’s worth repeating some of Tapu Bulu’s main strengths. Grassy Terrain is an amazing field effect that not only boosts Tapu Bulu’s Grass-type attacks but also adds bulk to its teammates through the gradual HP gain.

Since Tapu Bulu is slower than most other Tapu Pokemon, Tapu Bulu is likely going to have the terrain advantage. Strong, physical Grass-type attacks are difficult for most Pokemon to take in this format, and with Tapu Bulu you’re always threatening huge damage.

Tapu Bulu has great synergy with both common and slightly less common Pokemon. Being able to set up Grassy Terrain covers one of the format’s most common weaknesses, in Ground, by halving the damage of Earthquake and Bulldoze.

While Tapu Bulu itself doesn’t have the greatest defensive-typing, teammates like Arcanine, Pheromosa, Nihilego and even Mudsdale can threaten many of Tapu Bulu’s scary match ups.

Power, diverse team builds and Grassy Terrain all make Tapu Bulu a great choice for a team right now. With its recent success, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or more break into Indy’s Top Cut.

2. Alolan Muk

Pokemon North American International Championships

 

Speaking of Tapu Bulu’s scary match ups, Alolan Muk is a scary Pokemon that every Tapu hates going against. One of the prime users of the Gluttony ability, Alolan Muk can take hits and also dish out valuable Poison and Dark-type damage.

Alolan Muk being one of the few viable Pokemon in the format with access to Knock Off makes it very useful. In a format dominated by the “pinch berries,” being able to Knock Off a berry from an Arcanine or a Snorlax can put your opponent in a pretty rough spot.

Knock Off and a Poison-type move are staple, but Muk surprisingly has a lot of flexibility in its third move slot. There are support options like Taunt or Imprison and tons of offensive ones like Gunk Shot, Flamethrower and Curse.

If Alolan Muk is a Pokemon that interests you, make sure you have an answer for Garchomp. Without a strong Ground-type move to hit it, Alolan Muk becomes a huge problem for most teams to deal with. However, its Dark-typing has made strong Fighting-type moves from Buzzwole or Pheromosa serve as fine answers to it.

3. Metagross

Pokemon North American International Championships

One of the format’s lesser used Steel-types, but still a strong choice. Metagross doesn’t quite have the speed of Kartana or the bulk of Celesteela, but its great typing and offensive power make it quite threatening.

The reason why Metagross is on this list is because it seems like a great metagame call. Metagross can hard counter Pokemon like Nihilego, Tapu Lele and even Gigalith (as long as it doesn’t have Earthquake). Plus, if paired with Tapu Lele, Psychic Terrain-boosted Zen Headbutt does a ton of damage to targets that don’t resist it.

Meteor Mash and Bullet Punch are great Steel-type attacks for Metagross, helping give it a priority option and even a pseudo-Beast Boost with Meteor Mash’s chance to boost Metagross’ attack.

Metagross looks solid on paper, but its main weaknesses in low speed and shaky accuracy can make it difficult to use. However, with a great team to support it, Metagross can easily turn into a major threat.

4. Buzzwole

Pokemon North American International Championships

Buzzwole’s weak defensive typing and low speed can make it a bit tricky to build around, but it can turn into a monster with its offense. Coming off of a regional victory in Birmingham, Buzzwole has once again cemented itself in the realm of relevant threats. Its monstrous attack, insanely diverse move pool and its ability, Beast Boost, give it the power to run through unprepared teams.

We’ve usually seen Buzzwole as a member of teams with a Tailwind mode, with notable examples being Rachel Annand’s Driflblim team and Tommy Cooleen’s rain team with Pelipper. Buzzwole’s ability to fire off strong, STAB Superpowers into Pokemon like Porygon2, Gigalith and Snorlax make it a popular check to common Trick Room modes.

With a Beast Boost, Buzzwole can easily use the rest of its moves like Poison Jab and Ice Punch to finish off other popular team members like a Tapu or Garchomp.

The main draw of Buzzwole is that immense Fighting-type damage with either Superpower or possibly an All-Out-Pummeling. We’re likely to see a lot of Porygon2 and Gigalith in Indy, and what better way to deal with that pair than a giant flexing mosquito. Plus the crowd is sure to go wild if they see Buzzwole flex its way onto the big screen.

5. Milotic

Pokemon North American International Championships

The last, and arguably the most underrated Pokemon on this list, is none other than Milotic. Milotic has seen usage here and there, but has never had a break out performance. The reason I’m listing it here is that the Intimidate ability is everywhere in VGC, and Milotic is one of the best Pokemon to punish it.

Competitive is an ability that doubles Milotic’s Special Attack if one of its stats are decreased. Intimidate has always been around, but with the rising popularity of Gyarados and teams with multiple Intimidate users, Milotic is looking a lot better. Not to mention, most of the Intimidate users, barring Gyarados, are weak to the combination of Water and Ice-type attacks that Milotic often carries.

While Competitive is an amazing ability, Milotic can also function as a standard, defensive Water-type without the boost. Having access to Toxic and Recover makes Milotic a solid defensive Pokemon that’s able to win slow endgames. But if you’re looking to go more offensive, the Adrenaline Orb can pair well with the Competitive boost as the lowering of Milotic’s stats will allow the Adrenaline Orb to boost Milotic’s speed as well.

A bulky Water-type that can turn into a huge offensive threat, Milotic can be quite an annoying Pokemon to deal with. If you’re looking for a non-conventional Water-type member for your Fire-Water-Grass core, Milotic could be the one.

Only Scratching The Surface

This is only a short list to potentially generate some ideas for those of you making the trip to Indianapolis later this month. There are still a bunch of other underused, underrated and flat out weird Pokemon that have potential to go far in this penultimate tournament for the 2017 season. We’ll just have to see which unorthodox strategy or Pokemon choice topples the metagame in just a couple more weeks.


You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Eric!

Images from Pokemon, Ken Sugimori and The Pokemon Company International

What happened in Mexico City: A matter of the rules or sportsmanship?

The final regional championship in Latin America has shrouded itself in controversy due to reports of actions that paint a very unpleasant picture of the community. Improper issues of game loss, judges mocking players and a stolen TCG deck are just to name a few, but the one that we’ll be focusing on today is the story of Kenneth Gamboa.

What Happened?

According to multiple accounts of players who attended the tournament, Kenneth Gamboa’s 3DS console ran out of power during round five, and his opponent refused to move closer to a charger. At this point in the tournament, Gamboa was in a good position to make it to Top Cut but unfortunately ended up losing a completely winnable set due to his system dying during game three. Gamboa did call a judge over to attempt to remedy the situation, but the judge was unable to do anything due to the nature of the rules concerning a system low on battery.

The Rules

Would you believe me if I said this entire situation was entirely legal under the official Play! Pokemon rules for VGC events?

The official rules regard the loss of power during a game or set as a major Game Play error that results in a game loss for the player whose system lost power during the match. While the player with the system low on power is allowed to request to move to a charging station, a request is all that they’re allowed. If your opponent denies your request to move, there’s nothing you or even a judge can do.

The Debate

Most of you are probably wondering why there is even a debate about this situation. Honestly, I’m not sure either, but a debate exists. The divisive issue in this scenario is where the accountability lies when one player’s system is running low on power.

There are players on both sides of the debate, with one side arguing that this type of behavior is unsportsmanlike and the other arguing that a system running out of power is the fault of the player.

Regardless of the technicalities, would you really want to win a match this way? It’s one thing for a system to run out of battery, but in this instance, Gamboa’s opponent was intentionally taking his time to make his decisions. While it doesn’t specifically violate a rule, there’s something that is in the rules that this situation complicates.

Sportsmanship and The Spirit of The Game 

spirit of the game pokemon

At the end of the day, we as players are expecting a fun and pleasant tournament experience. In the Play! Pokemon general event rules, The Spirit of The Game is the first rule listed for good reason. Above all, regardless of who wins and loses we as a community should ensure that our events provide a good experience for everyone involved.

Stories like this floating around paint a picture of the community that may discourage players from attending events. It’s an image of a community that values winning and prize money over fairness and sportsmanship. When examining both Gamboa’s story as well as the various others that tainted this tournament, it’s apparent that our community still has much to do to better itself. It’s on us as players, judges and spectators alike to maintain the Pokemon communities’ status as one of the best gaming communities out there.

Some Things to Remember

Regardless of which side of this issue you’re on, if you ever attend a tournament, remember these few tips to ensure something like this doesn’t happen to you:

  • It is a player’s responsibility to arrive to matches on time, have a tournament legal team and to make sure their system is charged.
  • It is a player’s responsibility to know the rules, but if there is ever a question about them, always contact a judge or TO for clarification.
  • Winning shouldn’t be the most important thing. Always make sure you are presenting yourself in a way that puts the Spirit of the Game above all else.

Despite what happened at Mexico City regionals, the discussion this event is generating is positive for the communities’ growth. Instead of making this a hostile back-and-forth battle of opinions, we should use what we’ve heard about from this event to ensure that things like this don’t happen in the future. It’s our job as a community to present ourselves in a way that keeps these events fun and inviting to players of all backgrounds. Mexico City was a stumble, but a necessary one to keep going towards improvement.

Thanks for reading!


You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Eric!

Images from Wikimedia Commons, Play! Pokemon and the Official Play! Pokemon Rules

Drifblim Soars to Victory Again: VGC 2017 Birmingham Regional Championships Recap

Our second piece of Regional Championship coverage comes from Birmingham, UK where Rachel Annand took a clean victory for her first regional title. Annand’s win in Birmingham places her comfortably at 17th in Europe’s CP standings, but unfortunately she sits just outside of a Day 2 World Championships invite. Drifblim+Tapu Lele was Annand’s team of choice, and her results prove that this combination is far from outdated.

Results & Teams (Top 8)

1. Rachel Annand

2. Lukas Muller

3. Matthias Sucholdulski

4. Jamie Dixon

5. Jamie Boyt

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/795.png

6. Matt Carter

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/212.png

7. Alex Gomez

Alola Form

8. Jason McCullough

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/773.png

A Balloon That Hasn’t DeflatedDrifblim

While the combination of Drifblim and Tapu Lele might appear outdated, Annand’s victory in Birmingham proves the opposite. The hyper-offensive nature of the team pairs quite well with the recent trend of multiple Ultra Beasts on top teams.

Annand’s Buzzwole and Nihilego arguably put in more work than Tapu Lele, picking up KO’s left and right with the help of Drifblim’s Tailwind. The recent popularity of Nihilego paired with Pheromosa, works well on this team with Buzzwole in Pheromosa’s place. Both can make use of Tailwind, allowing for more bulk rather than taking gambles with Pheromosa.

Players at this point are prepared to deal with Drifblim and Tapu Lele, but are they prepared to handle potentially new teammates. Annand’s decreased reliability on the classic lead shows that this team is able to adapt and doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon.

A 6-1 Missed Top Cut?

birmingham regionals top cut

(from @HamstermaniaVGC on Twitter)

The Pokemon VGC tournament structure is by no means perfect, and I think we’re all aware of it by now. David Koutesh was victim to a lesser-known tournament error that cost him a place in Top 8 at a 6-1 record.

According to Koutesh on Twitter, the error had to do with players being added after Round 1, but the amount of rounds staying the same. Due to the increased amount of players and the misaligned round numbers, this is likely what caused the error.

Luckily, at 9th place, Koutesh was able to claim his invite to the World Championships, but missing Top Cut could’ve cost him potentially 120 more Championship Points.

Niche Picks

ScizorImage result for scizor

Scizor was a Pokemon that thrived for years in VGC, but so far in 2017 has been pretty quiet. Scizor’s usage usually drops a bit in seasons where it doesn’t have access to Bug Bite, but the issues for Scizor this season are beyond its own capabilities. Despite Scizor’s favorable matchup against Tapu Lele, Psychic Terrain has heavily nerfed Scizor’s main selling point: Technician-boosted Bullet Punch. Combined with the fact that Celesteela and Arcanine dominate the metagame, Scizor’s success in 2017 has reasonably been non-existent.

Matt Carter managed to find a way for Scizor to work, by ensuring he had ways to disrupt Psychic Terrain and stop Scizor’s biggest counters. This team composition is not entirely new however, as those who watched the stream for Toronto Regionals saw Nick Navarre feature a very similar team that unfortunately missed Top Cut after losing in the final Swiss round.

For those not familiar, the strategy centers around a Scizor holding Choice Band with a more supportive Tapu Fini that can Swagger Scizor in the Misty Terrain without the drawback of confusion. Salamence functions in a similar role on the team as a set-up sweeper with Dragon Dance.

It’s a clever strategy, but its skill curve is quite high. A lot of set-up is needed for the team to succeed, and making a few wrong plays can spoil the Scizor strategy rather quickly.

Can Scizor still be viable in this format? I still think so, but it’s heavily outclassed by Steel-types that can do its job much better.

SilvallyImage result for silvally

Speaking of a niche Pokemon that reappeared on a familiar team, Silvally finally showed up in a western tournament’s top placings.

Ever since Japan’s “Battle Road Gloria”, Silvally has remained in relative obscurity. For those unfamiliar with this strategy, Silvally is normally holding a Choice Scarf with the moves: Flamethrower, Rock Slide, Parting Shot, and Explosion. In this role, Silvally functions as an offensive support Pokemon that can assist Mimikyu with setting up Trick Room for Gigalith. Parting Shot gives Mimikyu a higher chance of surviving, and Explosion can pick up two quick KO’s while not harming its partner Mimikyu.

I feel like Silvally is still heavily underrated, and its potential hasn’t extended far past this team. Silvally can literally be any type and has access to a ton of moves both offensive as well as supportive. Its stats leave a little to be desired, but Silvally can fit into a variety of roles that haven’t been explored.

Final Thoughts

Birmingham was Europe’s final regional for the pre-Worlds 2017 season, but there’s still a rather large tournament happening in the states that could interest some European players still looking for a Day One or Day Two invite. This last International could have a major impact on European CP results as there’s sure to be a lot of players looking to make the trip. There’s a little over three weeks to go, so we’ll just have to see if any Europeans will take North America by surprise.

Thanks for reading!


You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Eric!

Featured Image from Pokemon and The Pokemon Company International

Art of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

Pokémon Sprite Images courtesy of Game Freak

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