Game Freak: Competitive Pokémon’s Worst Enemy

Build It and They Will Come

Game Freak did a fantastic job creating the Pokémon franchise. Working hard over the last twenty years, the massive following of fans is a testament to this effort.

Coming together for a variety of reasons, all of these fans share a common passion for battling and collecting the hundreds of available Pokémon. Some fans, however, take playing Pokémon to another level. These trainers focus on the competitive aspect of the Pokémon franchise.

The Elite Four is Just Beginning

Game Freak Elite Four

Image courtesy of Game Freak

For trainers around the world, beating the Elite Four is just the start. Seeking a tougher challenge, these trainers search forum groups and message boards for communities that foster the same competitive spirit. This search ultimately leads to Game Freaks official tournament series, the Videogame Championship Series, or VGC.

VGC, while a great offering by Game Freak, falls short of what is needed to truly grow the competitive community. Tournaments are few and far in between. This leads to terrible pacing throughout each season.

Also, the broadcasts leave much to be desired. Some casters make you feel like you are watching a golf tournament, and there is no type of spectator mode. Game Freak has been slow to develop the tools needed to create a powerful viewing experience.

Everybody Loves Pokémon

You would’t think everyone loves Pokémon by the lack of sponsors found in the VGC series. Game Freak opts to avoid sponsorship completely for whatever reason. This is most apparent during major events where long lapses of time go by between matches with “We will be right back” screens in the place of an epic match.

These moments between matches can be filled with commercials and other content. Sponsorship can go even further than that though! Esports teams and corporations around the world would jump at the chance of partnering with Game Freak for competitive Pokémon, I am sure.

GEICOGaming logo tournament

Image courtesy of GEICOGaming

Just as an example GEICOGaming, the esports arm of GEICO Insurance, is sponsoring an unofficial Pokémon Invitational this weekend. Contributing not on the $1000 prize pool, but also all the costs related to hosting the tournament. Now just imagine if Game Freak were negotiating these deals.

 

 

 

 

Game Freak, Your Work is Not Yet Done

20 years has proven Game Freak has created something special. This does not mean Game Freak should ignore such a passionate constituency of their fans. While Pokémon may not be a democracy, Pokémon fans do certainly vote with their dollars.

Game Freak 20 years of Pokemon

Image Courtesy of Game Freak

If Game Freak would take a moment and listen to these loyal fans they really could grow the Pokémon brand even more over the next 20 years.

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

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

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

Who Ya Got?

Courtesy of ONOG

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

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

What’s On the Line?

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

Not Your Traditional Format

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

Where Can I Watch the Tournament?

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

Why This is a Huge Deal

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

Final Words

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

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QR Rental Teams – A New Way to Play Competitive Pokémon

A New Challenger Approaches

Capturing, Breeding, Training, there has always been a lot of monotony to preparing for a competitive Pokémon match. Trainers spend countless hours picking Pokémon for their team, and working on training the perfect specimen. Each time a trainer chooses to replace even a single member, they must go through the process again. Not anymore with QR Rental Teams.

QR Rental Team scan prompt in game

TPCI has added the option to bypass breeding and training with the introduction of QR Rental Teams. QR Rental Teams allow trainers to register teams they train and share them with other trainers. Has TPCI finally removed the need for breeding and training in competitive Pokémon altogether?

QR Provides First Steps Towards Convenience 

QR codes now grant trainers easy access to battle with teams they put no work into. Simply access teams of Pokémon on the Pokémon Global Link website and generate a QR code for the team. Then scan the generated QR code when prompted in Pokémon Sun and Moon and BOOM, you are battling with a team bred and trained by another trainer.

It has never been easier to practice and battle with some excellent Pokémon teams. QR Rental Teams are not without their restrictions, however. Here is a list of battles in which you trainers can use QR Rental Teams:

List of battles that allow QR Rental Teams

Furthermore, QR Rental Teams are not permitted at all for official tournaments. So the hopes of moving away from breeding and training for trainers interested in VGC competition is still not entirely possible.

Helpful But Not Entirely Convenient

As with many things TPCI does, QR Rental Teams are a fantastic idea with implementation that leaves much to be desired. In order for a trainer to share their teams, they must register it to their Battle Box. Then the trainer must log into their account on the Pokémon Global Link website. From there they can access the Pokémon teams in their Battle Box and register them as a QR Rental Team.

Example Pokémon QR Rental Team from Pokemon Global Link website

At this point the team is ready to be used by trainers around the world. While you would think in order to use a rental team, you would simply scan a QR code that is shared with you. Sadly it is not that easy. A trainer has to access the Pokémon Global Link website, and locate the team or trainer who owns the team. Once they locate the team they wish to rent, they can generate a personal QR code to be scanned with their Pokémon Sun and Moon game. Not exactly the epitome of convenience.

The other area that needs improvement is the user interface. Rental Teams are separated into only two different formats, Single and Double. This makes hunting down teams for specific things, like VGC format, difficult and time consuming. On top of that, there are very few options for filtering through teams outside of specifying specific Pokémon.

A Hope For the Future and a Word of Caution

Overall, Rental Teams are a fantastic move for TPCI to make. Allowing easier access to trainers to try out the more competitive aspect of Pokémon is certainly a step in the right direction. Hopefully they are able to iron out some of the kinks with the current system and provide more and more convenience to their fans and prospecting competitive trainers.

One word of caution however, there are rumors going around that currently QR codes contain Pokémon trainer ID info that can be maliciously accessed. This data can then be used to get the trainer account attached to the Rental Team banned from the Pokémon Global Link. Please use this new service with caution until more info comes out!

All images courtesy of Game Freak

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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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Top in Class: VGC 2017 Top Three Fire Types

Where There is Smoke, There is Fire

Fire typing is undoubtedly one of the most powerful typings in all of Pokémon. Fire types have been burning their foes to the ground since generation one. VGC 2017 has been no different, and three fire types have risen to the top of the class.

Specializing primarily in offense and speed, fire types like to hit their opponents fast and leave them with a burn. Burning an opponent in Pokémon will actually serve to reduce the amount of physical damage they are capable of doing.

Not all fire types fit into this formula, however, let’s take a look at which fire types have risen to the top of the pack in VGC 2017.

Slowest Finishes Third

Pokémon Torkoal placing ni VGC

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

While Torkoal may not be finding a massive presence in high end tournament play, this fire type turtle defined the meta early. Doing work a bit differently than other Pokémon, Torkoal would come onto the field and overpower its opponents with help from its partner’s status effects or Trick Room.

Unlike most fire type Pokémon, Torkoal is slow and bulky, with high special attack. Changes in Sun & Moon have granted Torkoal the ability Drought, which allows it to summon the sun when it enters the field. This grants its already strong fire attacks a tremendous bonus to damage.

Stranger in the Night

Pokemon Marowak-Alola places 2nd among fire pokémon in vgc 17

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

Marowak used to be a ground type that never saw competitive play, but Sun & Moon have changed that completely. Marowak-Alola is a monstrous opponent if left unchecked. Shedding its previous ground typing, Marowak-Alola is now a Fire/Ghost type.

Just like its type changed, so too has its use in the competitive scene. Marowak-Alola started out the VGC competitive tournament circuit as most used fire type, but has since fallen to second place. While Marowak-Alola packs a punch, he can be somewhat predictable and lacks some utility.

They’re Gonna Hear Me Roar

Pokemon Arcanine places in VGC

Offensive Arcanine

Arcanine @ Iapapa Berry/Sitrus Berry/Life Orb
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

Support Arcanine

Arcanine @ Firium Z
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 204 HP / 4 Def / 116 SpA / 4 SpD / 180 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Overheat  / Burn Out
– Will-O-Wisp
– Snarl
– Protect

Arcanine has been a fan favorite since generation one, and he is still putting in work. Sitting as the most popular fire type at this point in the 2017 VGC circuit, Arcanine has been a reliable pick for many trainers. It is no surprise, due to the plethora of ways it can be run.

Always packing intimidate support, Arcanine makes his presence felt as soon as he enters the field. From there, the battle plan is based on the trainer’s choices during breeding. Arcanine can run Snarl support to lower Special Attack and deal chip damage to its opponents, or Will-O-Wisp to inflict burns.

An offensive set can also be run abusing Flare Blitz and Extremespeed. Utilizing items from Sitrus Berry, to Assault Vest, to Life Orb, Arcanine is great at leaving the opposing trainer guessing. That is why, season after season, he continues to be on top.

A Prediction For the Birds

pokemon talonflame could rise the ranks of vgc

Talonflame @ Flyinium Z
Ability: Gale Wings
EVs: 236 Atk / 20 SpD / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Brave Bird
– Flare Blitz / Overheat
– Protect
– Tailwind / Taunt

Due to nerfs, Talonflame has yet to take off like it has in previous seasons. My prediction is that moving forward, Talonflame will play a much more prominent roll. Offering great offensive pressure, Tailwind support, and the ability to pressure the popular Kartana, Talonflame is poised to make a comeback!

All images courtesy of Game Freak

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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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VGC 2017 – Meta Overview and the Rise of AFK

The Shaping of a Meta

The competitive Pokémon meta in the VGC format changes from season to season. The VGC 17 season has seen its meta develop at a breakneck pace. After last year’s rules allowing restricted Pokémon to compete, this year’s lower power-curve has resulted in many changes to the variety in the metagame and strategies teams are employing.

Many components come together to form the VGC meta. With the most important being how the Pokémon on trainer’s teams work together to beat their opponents. Things like covering each others weaknesses or setting up a gimmick are examples of this. Trainers build their teams with these factors in mind in order to overcome many of the challenges they will face.

Empowerment Through Terrain and Weather

Since its rise in popularity in gen five, weather has had the propensity to be a dominate force. Rain especially has been strong in the Pokémon VGC meta. This season, however, terrains have been introduced as somewhat of a compliment to weather. When a Tapu comes onto the field, their ability creates a terrain effect, much like weather. These terrains create different benefits. From rendering status effects ineffective, to increasing the damage grass type moves do, terrains along with weather can truly shape a match.

Terrains are extremely popular at the moment due to the strength of Tapus, and appears on almost every team. Where as weather is seeing popular use with a few popular teams.

Pokémon Torkoal placing ni VGCPokemon Liligant places in Pokémon VGC

Torkoal + Liligant

Torkoal provides Sun weather when he comes onto the field. Sun both boosts Torkoal’s fire attacks, but also provides Liligant with a speed boost. This allows Liligant to set up sleep and provide Torkoal with an opportunity to sleep.

Tokoal + Liligant saw a quick rise in popularity in the beginning of the season, but since has become more of a sleeper. However, it is extremely dangerous if you are unprepared for it.

Pokemon Pelipper places in pokemon VGCPokemon Golduck places in Pokemon VGC

Pelipper + Golduck

Pelipper sets Rain when he enters the field, and provides a sharp boost in speed to Golduck. Golduck will then attempt to use the boost in power from rain to sweep the opposing team. Much like the Torkoal team, this strategy can be strong, but easily dismantled.

Speed Control is So 2016

Speed control has always been an extremely important part of any VGC season. In the early days of VGC 17, however, tools such as Tailwind and Thunder Wave become less popular. Trick Room is the de facto form of speed control for VGC 17. While Tailwind still makes an appearance, Thunder Wave’s popularity has plummeted with a nerf to its accuracy.

There are a few popular Trick Room users, but one is solely responsible for its shear popularity this season.

Pokemon Porygon2 places in VGC

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

On top of having Trick Room, Porygon2 has an extremely diverse move-pool. It also benefits from holding an Eviolite, granting it tremendous bulk. Combined with the fact gen seven introduced many slow and bulky Pokémon, and Cresselia is not allowed in VGC 17, Porygon2 has found itself right at home.

Pokemon Pelipper places in pokemon VGC

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

Pelipper finds itself as the most popular Tailwind user this year, receiving buffs to both its stats and ability. Now with the ability Drizzle, Pelipper can summon Rain as it enters the field. Rain will serve to both boost Pelipper’s own STAB Scald, as well as grant Hurricane 100% accuracy. This gives Pelipper a lot of offensive potential, on top of Tailwind and Rain utility.

How About Some Goodstuff?

Goodstuff is a term coined in Pokémon VGC for Pokémon and teams of Pokémon who are individually strong and well rounded. VGC 17 is no different.

Pokemon Tapu Koko places in VGC

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

Tapu Koko creates Electric Terrain when it enters the field. This prevents sleep, along with boosting the power of electric type attacks. Combining this boost of electric damage with Tapu Koko’s already impressive offensive stats results in quite the monster.

Pokemon Celesteela places in VGC

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

A master of stall, and a great defensive pivot, Celesteela has a fantastic steel/flying typing. When Celeteela enters the field, prepare for a long drawn out conflict, unless you have an answer prepared immediately.

pokemon Muk-Alola places in VGC

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

Muk-Alola not only provides impressive stats and good move-pool, but its typing leaves it with only a single weakness to ground. Muk also acts as a fantastic counter to all of the Tapu Pokémon.

Pokemon Snorlax places in VGC

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

Snorlax provides a neutral powerhouse that can be a force to be reckoned with. Generally running the Curse set and lots of bulk, Snorlax will mow down teams and counter Trick Room in a pinch.

All of these Pokémon have one thing in common. They are all extremely deadly in almost any setting without any work needed. When building for VGC 17, it is important to supplement your core to counter as many Goodstuff Pokémon as possible. While no true Goodstuffs team has solidified for VGC 17, there are many Pokémon who fit the mold.

Gimmicks Can Be Silly, But They Are Dangerous

VGC 17 has brought with it a host of gimmicks. Two, however, are seeing use at some of the highest levels of play.

Pokemon Eevee places in VGC

Eevee @ Eevium Z
Ability: Adaptability
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Last Resort
– Baton Pass
– Helping Hand
– Protect

You will normally find Eevee alongside Pokémon like Clefairy or Smeargle for Follow Me support. While holding an Eevium Z item, Eevee is able to use an exclusive move called Extreme Evoboost which doubles all of its stats. Eevee then attempts to use Baton Pass to pass the stat increases to a sweeper such as Tapu Lele or Espeon.

Pokemon Porygon-Z places in VGC

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

Porygon-Z now gains access to Z-Conversion while holding the item Normalium Z. Z-Conversion both boosts all of Porygon-Z’s stats by one stage, as well as change its type to match that of the move in its first slot. This turns Porygon-Z into quite a formidable enemy, and must be accounted for.

In VGC 17 AFK Will Put You Away

One core has risen to the top so far during the course of VGC 17. AFK, standing for Arcanine, Fini, and Kartana. These three Pokémon comprise a fairly traditional fire/water/grass core. However, these three bring some seriously deadly synergy.

Pokemon Arcanine places in VGC

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

Arcanine is a proverbial swiss army knife of a Pokémon. It can be run fast or bulky, with a focus on offense or support. Bringing Intimidate to the field to weaken the opposing Pokémon’s physical attack also allows Arcanine to immediately apply pressure.

Pokemon Tapu Fini places in VGC

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’s ability to support its teammates is without question. Its Misty Terrain prevents status effects from taking place. While Tapu Fini’s bulk and boosting ability make it a powerful force on the field if it is able to set up.

Pokemon Kartana places in VGC

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

Then there is Kartana. Kartana brings a grass/steel typing and high offenses and speed. When Kartana is on the field it has one objective: apply as much offensive pressure as possible and rack up the KOs.

This is Only Just the Beginning

VGC 17 is only just getting started. What we see now could quite possibly be totally different from the most popular teams in two months. This is one of the things that makes Pokémon VGC so exciting. Who will be the key player in the World Championship is anyone’s guess, let’s find out together.

All images courtesy of Game Freak

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Breeding Cheaters – Why The Pokémon Company Should Close a Window and Open a Door

Assembling the Best in Breed

Pokémon Pikachu holding a Pokémon egg from breeding

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Becoming the very best in competitive Pokémon requires much more than just showing up to tournaments and winning battles. Competent trainers must spend a plethora of time developing teams of six Pokémon that have synergy together. Then for each Pokémon selected, the trainer must breed the perfect candidate. Finally, the trainer has to train a proper EV, or effort value, spread into each Pokémon in order for it to optimally perform its role. This entire process is referred to as teambuilding.

Arguably, teambuilding poses one of the single biggest hurdles when it comes to new trainers attempting to get into competitive Pokémon. The amount of research, trial & error, and knowledge of the current metagame, means a high barrier for entry. Top that off with the fact that each time you want to try something new, or change any member of your team, you must start the breeding process over.

Worst yet is that both teambulding and breeding contribute little to the viewing experience of competitive Pokémon. Furthermore, both of these activities reduce a trainers ability to practice while discouraging experimentation due to time commitment. None of these things foster a healthy competitive community. In fact, the current breeding issues are causing more harm than good.

Breedings not Cheating… or is it?

Investing time into mastering the nuances of battling is extremely important. For the most part, trainers consider riding a Tauros in circles for hours hatching eggs and praying to the RNG gods to be a waste of time. As with most things in life, the path of least resistance is found and the floodgates open.

Pokémon breeder riding a Tauros in circles while breeding Pokémon

Image courtesy of @akamiso0608

Cheating, more specifically genning Pokémon, has risen to popularity as a way to cut out the timesink breeding creates. Trainers use a computer program to instantly create the Pokémon they need for their teams. This successfully bypasses the need for breeding and decreases the time teambulding takes tremendously.

In the end, the effect is a lack of consistency and an uneven playing field. While genned Pokémon will end up totally identical to their bred counterparts, the savings in time cannot be understated.

Furthermore, genning requires the trainer to have access to a Nintendo 2/3DS with hacked firmware. This encourages any aspiring Pokémon trainers to almost have to break TOS on Nintendo hardware to stay competitive. Nintendo and TPCI would both benefit from solving this issue.

An Argument for Breeding Consistency

Regardless of whether you are for genning Pokémon for convenience, or doing it the hard way, consistency is needed. With the current system in place, the community finds itself fractured. Those with experience and drive to win will take the most reliable route to victory. The result is a large gap for new trainers to cross.

Pokémon status screen used when breeding Pokémon

Image courtesy of Game Freak

TPCI and Game Freak need to streamline the entire teambuilding process. Either enforce the system of breeding in some way, or make the ability to build teams for competitive events easier. There really isn’t another option. Removing the need for reliance on third party applications is paramount.

Ultimately the goal should be to create an easy and transparent way for new and aspiring trainers to get into competitive battling. By lowering the barrier for entry, TPCI can stimulate the competitive community and interest in competitive Pokémon as a whole.

 

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Player Skill Be Damned! RNG is a Critical Part of the Pokémon Formula

RNG Is All Around Us… But What Is It?

Pokémon Pokéball shakes using RNG to capture

Image courtesy of Game Freak

RNG, or Random Number Generator, is a term used to describe a background process for decision making. Much the same as luck, it is used in games such a Pokémon to determine things like critical hits and status effects. In other types of games, such as MMOs, RNG is used to determine what monsters drop from their loot pool. Think of it like the result from the flip of a coin, or roll of the dice.

RNG is a controversial topic when it comes to eSports, and in particular competitive Pokémon. One of the main critiques of competitive Pokémon is its reliance on RNG. There are many that feel that due to the fact that these elements are not affected by players skill, they have little to no place in competitive sports/eSports. However, others feel the inclusion of RNG tests a competitors risk management.

So which side is right? While reliance on player skill is an important factor in all competitive sports and eSports, so is unpredictability. It is when both skill and luck come together that a truly great competition is born.

 

Milotic Goes for the Scald on Celesteela, HE GETS THE BURN!

Pokémon Milotic uses Scald and RNG grants a burn

Image courtesy of Make A Gif

There is no doubt that RNG plays a large roll in all Pokémon matches. Critical hits and Status effect are the two biggest examples of RNG altering matches. It is also true that in some cases, no matter the skill of a trainer, RNG will lead to their defeat. This does not mean that each match is won by the flip of a coin though. The fact you see many of the same great trainers winning tournaments over and over again is proof that skill is the ultimate deciding factor in win-rate.

Sure, a Trainer can’t force a critical hit to kill that Celesteela, but they certainly can predict a Leech Seed and swap a Sap Sipper Goodra into it. This type of play only comes with lots of training and practice. Understanding the meta, observing your opponents play style, and getting into their head are huge parts of competitive Pokémon. The best players are reacting to what their opponent will do before they even do it. This is the level of play that separate the good from the great.

At the end of the day, even the best Trainers will inevitably lose matches that they have no business losing due to RNG. Normally though, this is not enough to prevent great Trainers from winning consecutively. Official matches are even structured in a way to prevent the influence of RNG. Rather than each match ending with a winner and loser, all matches are played in a best of three series. This not only helps to prevent RNG from determining winners and losers, but also allows Trainers to get a feel for each other as the series progresses.

 

Do You Feel Lucky? Well Do Ya Punk?

Let’s be honest, RNG or luck influences many of the sports and eSports that we know and love also. Actually if you step back and look at all of these activities, you will see they all fall on a continuum. On the left is pure luck, like playing the lottery, and on the right is pure skill. Chess would be the best example of purely skill based gameplay. Every other sport or eSport falls somewhere on this continuum.

Think about things like weather and coin flips. These are excellent examples of RNG at play in popular sports. Baseball has variable field sizes, Basketballl has game winning shots from half court; the list goes on and on. Then look at eSports. League has crit chance, DOTA has crit chance, accuracy penalties, and much more. Even CS:GO has shot variance, creating some situations where a long range shot is missed simply due to luck. Yet all of these games are leading the charge in the eSport market.

Going even further, even the Super Bowl’s outcome can be determined by luck. Think back to Super Bowl 46 when Wes Welker dropped an easily catchable ball that would have won the game and the Super Bowl for the Patriots. There is not even a best-of series for the Super Bowl, so if luck is the deciding factor, that is it. This has not stopped the popularity however, and very few games have come down to pure luck.

Patriots Tight End Wes Welker drops game winning pass in Super Bowl 46. Demonstrating lucks influence in traditional sports.

Image courtesy of NBC

At the end of the day, the best way to think about it is great competitors create their own luck. This is, in essence, the risk management of competition.

 

Luck vs Skill: The Ratings

Looking at ratings alone, luck is actually the more important factor for spectators. Consider the continuum, while very luck-based games such as Texas Hold’em have aired all over ESPN and cable television, you would be hard pressed to see a Chess Tournament in primetime. The fact is, unexpected results create drama, and drama is good for viewership. Some of the most memorable sporting moments have been upsets that were part skill and part luck, but amazing television.

This is why the focus on the influence of RNG on not just Pokémon, but eSports in general is misguided. Rather than making RNG the end all be all, it should be another element that adds to the fun. Great competitors will understand RNG, and even bend it to their advantage. This will lead to those “Oh My God” moments, and who doesn’t want more of those in their sport?

For Pokémon this means learning to blend the elements of range subtly into the playing experience. If something like burns or critical hits seems to be too powerful, tweak it until you get the right mix. However, you can never forget the three dimensional game that Pokémon is. Between subtle things like team building and dynamic actions (like masterful switches), Trainers have a multitude of methods to tip a match in their favor.

Pokémon VGC world championship 2015 Wolf Glick shows expert prediction during finals match

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Full Stop. Pure Skill Based Gameplay is Boring

RNG or luck makes for excitement, and observers like excitement. It keeps competitors on their toes and keeps games from getting stale. While taking all reliance on skill out of a game is a terrible idea, so too is removing all aspects of luck. Finding the perfect formula of gameplay, skill, and luck should be the ultimate objective of aspiring sports. While Pokémon by no means has the mix perfect, TPCI should not let the critics convince them RNG has no place in an eSport.

 

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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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