Xurkitree Glows in Toronto: VGC 2017 Toronto Regional Championships Recap

Another regional in the books, with Martin Gasdosz taking the title in Toronto. Gajdosz successfully defended his home country against an onslaught of US players who made it into Top Cut. Gajdosz’s team was a relatively standard choice, but we saw quite a diverse group of Pokemon and teams in Toronto’s Top 8.

Results & Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1. Martin Gajdosz

2. Joshua Lorcy

3. Ian McLaughlin

4. Alex Lebel

5. Nicholas Borghi

6. Sam Partin

7. David Mancuso

8. Trista Medine

Xurkitree On the RiseImage result for xurkitree png

Ian McLaughlin places in yet another Top 8 with his infamous Smeargle and Ultra Beast team. His strategy centers around Smeargle’s ability to disrupt and sometimes take over games with its insane support abilities while his Ultra Beasts sweep their opponents. One of the shining examples (literally) on this team is McLaughlin’s Xurkitree, which likes to set up Tail Glow with help from its friend Smeargle. We saw this strategy take McLaughlin to yet another impressive finish, but he was behind another Xurkitree user with a similar strategy.

Joshua Lorcy put a new, but similar spin on the common Xurkitree formula, with his partner of choice being Hariyama. Hariyama is a Pokemon valued for its bulk and access to Fake Out, which Lorcy showed could be quite useful to Xurkitree. Fake Out from Hariyama buys Xurkitree a turn to set up Tail Glow, and at this point I think you know where this goes.

If Smeargle and Xurkitree reminds you of Smeargle and Xerneas from last year, think of Kangaskhan & Xerneas when you see another Fake Out user like Hariyama.

Bottom Line: This is a deadly combo that will likely show up in many more Top Cuts this season.

The Blaster over The BladeImage result for celesteela png

Toronto’s Top Cut produced another interesting bit of data: Celesteela beat Kartana in usage. Something unheard of since the early stages of 2017, Celesteela appeared on five teams, with Kartana only featured twice. Are players beginning to move away from Kartana? I don’t think so, but I think it’s fair to assume that this is a usage battle that will likely flip-flop between tournaments.

Kartana and Celesteela serve similar roles on teams as a reliable Steel-type, but serve them a bit differently. Kartana threatens opponents with absurd amounts of damage, while Celesteela is threatening for its solid defenses. They both fit on a lot of popular team compositions, but Celesteela often fits better with the other common “goodstuffs” core with Pokemon like Tapu Koko and Garchomp.

A trend that we normally see emerge towards the end of formats is the increased bulk of teams. Teams usually opt for more defensive Pokemon and bulkier variants of offensive Pokemon. There’s no single explanation for why this is, but Celesteela’s usage dominance over Kartana could be a strong signal for the beginning of this trend in 2017.

Niche Picks

Toronto finally gave me a reason to bring this segment back. We have two interesting Pokemon to talk about today.

MachampImage result for machamp png

Despite winning two World Championships in the last two years, Machamp has flown under the radar for most of 2017 so far. Sam Partin finally brought the four-armed fighter into relevance with his rather unique take on Machamp. According to the stream casters, Partin’s Machamp was running Scope Lens as a means of helping the critical hit rate of Cross Chop.

Cross Chop is quite a smart move choice for this format and I’ll tell you why. The most common Fighting-type move on Machamp is Dynamic Punch, as its low accuracy is remedied by Machamp’s No Guard ability, with it also having a 100 percent chance to confuse the target. Unfortunately, the confusion chance is undermined by Tapu Fini’s ability to set up Misty Terrain, which will block any Pokemon from becoming confused.

Here’s where Cross Chop comes in. Cross Chop has middling accuracy as well as the same base power (100) as Dynamic Punch, but the critical hit chance will remain. Having the ability to score critical hits makes Machamp almost just as threatening as a Pokemon that can spread confusion. Although I think Scope Lens is a bit of an odd item-choice for such a slow Pokemon, Cross Chop makes a lot of sense when using a Machamp in this format.

VanilluxeImage result for vanilluxe png

This adorable ice-cream cone has fallen into relative obscurity in the presence of the new Alolan version of Ninetales. What you might not know about Vanilluxe is that it too was given the ability Snow Warning which allows it to summon hail when it enters battle.

Why Ninetales over Vanilluxe? Well, Ninetales is a lot faster and has access to the amazing support move Aurora Veil. The downside of Ninetales is that its offensive capabilities leave much to be desired. That’s where Vanilluxe can shine. Despite having a much lower speed stat, Vanilluxe has an impressive base 110 Special Attack stat which allows for much stronger Blizzard-spam. That’s why normally we see Vanilluxe hold the Choice Scarf to serve as a more offensive alternative to Ninetales.

This is the variant of Vanilluxe that Trista Medine used to get Top 8 in Toronto and will likely be the only kind of Vanilluxe we’ll see if another manages to make it this far in the future.

Final Thoughts

As the number of regionals left in the season dies down, our sights are now set on Madison, Wisconsin for the penultimate North American regional. Madison has been the sight for some exciting tournaments in previous years, and I’m sure 2017 will not disappoint. Huge shoutout to twitch.tv/kemony for their great stream coverage from Toronto and make sure to tune into twitch.tv/NuggetBridge for their stream from Madison Regionals!

Thanks for Reading!

Art 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!

Teambuilding For a Reason: An Interview With 2017 Virginia Regional Champion Nick Navarre

Nick Navarre is your 2017 Virginia Regional Champion thanks to what most would consider quite an unusual team. Navarre is now the third best player in the country in Championship Point rankings, and is known in the community for his teambuilding prowess. One of the most consistent players this season with three top 4 placings at regionals, a top 8 placing at the Oceania Internationals, and finally a regional win to add to this already impressive list.

I sat down with Navarre to discuss his Virginia team but also to gain some insight on how he approaches teambuilding as a whole. Here’s what he had to say:

Virginia Regionals 

So, you finally claimed your first regional title? How does it feel?

“It’s pretty nice. I wasn’t really playing the tournament to win, I was just going to hang out with friends. I had a friend in the area who I wanted to meet.”

This wasn’t exactly the closest event for you

“Well, eight hours is about the limit I have for driving in a day. We did a similar drive from Cleveland to Dallas for that regional, but we split it.”

You have some friends in the area?

“Yeah I wanted to hang out with a friend of mine who I’ve played in tournaments with for years. Unfortunately he went 3-5 at the regional since he hasn’t really played VGC at all.”

The Team

What brought about the idea this team?

“Well I’ve been playing with Scope Lens Kartana for a while, and I think it’s a good set in general. I noticed when playing against Bulu teams a switch flips and it goes from being a strong mon to just really obscene. So I tried to make a team with both of them on because the highs are really high if you can pull it off.”

Navarre talks very highly about Scope Lens Kartana, and I myself having tested it, can vouch for its viability.

Tapu Bulu

Why run Grassium Z on Bulu?Image result for Tapu Bulu png

“Bulu really sucks, but Grassy Terrain is incredible. Finding a way for it to be a nuke was the best for it, and if you click your Bloom Doom you either get rid of a mon or deal massive damage. It’s not that good, but I wanted Grassy Terrain.”

“Arcanine is a big problem for it, so I basically ran a bunch of speed and gave it Substitute. If you’re faster than Arcanine you know it’s likely bulky and you can sit in front of it and just use Substitute and Protect. And if you’re slower than it, you can tell its an offensive Arcanine so either way it allows you to formulate a game plan around turn zero.”

“As for the set, I played against Wolfe in Melbourne and his Bulu really pressured me so I decided to use his set.”

Toxic: Salamence and Arcanine

So…Toxic (on both Salamence and Arcanine)?Image result for salamence png

“So the Salamence actually came first. Salamence has a lot of defensive synergy with Tapu Bulu (helps with Arcanine, Porygon2, Celesteela, etc) and has a wide range of coverage and good resistances. They’re both really terrible Pokemon, but they have a lot of defensive synergy. If you’re running one, you have a good reason to run the other, since (Salamence) doesn’t really fit with anything else.”Image result for arcanine png

“As for the Arcanine, Flare Blitz, Extreme Speed and Protect are mandatory unless you have good reasons. It started with Helping Hand because I wanted to one-shot things with Grassy Terrain-boosted Scope Lens crits from Kartana. But Toxic ended up being too good to forgo. There are a lot of situations where Arcanine is looking at an another Arcanine and having something that helps you win that match-up is big. A lot of the popular Arcanine that weekend had Thief which kind of does the same thing, it helps win the Arcanine mirror. I think Arcanine is a crutch for most players, and I think it’s good for players to make better use of Arcanine.”

SnorlaxImage result for snorlax png

“My first team of the format, which I would’ve played at London, had Arcanine, Bulu, and Snorlax. I felt like this was a good combo, as Snorlax has great coverage plus it can switch into Fire and Ice-type attacks with its Thick Fat ability. I tech’d Wild Charge onto it since Celesteela is a big problem for ‘Grass Spam’. It hits Arcanine, Muk, and Celesteela and having something to cover those three mons was important for the team. It’s basically a Tank that I can set up, but it doesn’t have to be set up for it to deal out damage.”

So I guess you’re not super reliant on the berry like most Snorlax?

“Yeah you have Grassy Terrain. Also, it benefited a lot from Helping Hand Arcanine since it enables you to get one-shots on opposing Muk and Arcanine without having to worry about Intimidate.”

ClefairyImage result for clefairy png

“It had Heal Pulse, and Friend Guard helped me get around not having Gluttony on Snorlax with the help of Grassy Terrain. Normally if a Snorlax with Thick Fat is at 26 percent of its health (just one percent outside of the “pinch berry” activation range) it’s pretty easy to knock it out. But with Grassy Terrain, it can heal, and with Friend Guard able to be switched in, you’re basically having to deal with a Gluttony Snorlax. Redirection was good, but was kind of underwhelming in some match-ups.”

Why is that?

“It’s not the easiest thing to build with since it kind of turns its partner into one and a half Pokemon essentially. For that to be worthwhile, it can be tricky since Clefairy itself doesn’t deal a lot of damage.”

Assessing the Team

Which parts of the team were the most effective in the match-ups you played?

“The Snorlax was really good. The Arcanine set was really good for being able to deal with other Arcanine. The defensive core plus having Grassy Terrain and Toxic to get damage over time. When I brought Bulu+Kartana it took over games.”

“Honestly, I don’t have many complaints since overall the team worked well. The Salamence was not brought much. It was only brought to one game, but that game was on stream and it did really well.”

“The team is a way to play Bulu, and most of the time an opponent’s only check to the overwhelming amount of Grass-damage was Arcanine (Which the team already has a ton of answers for). Not many teams are prepared to deal with the amount of Grass-damage.”

So basically the game plan is: deal the Grass-damage, heal up with Grassy Terrain and Toxic to wear down the opponents.

“Yeah, and just shuffle the team around.”

What would you change?

“I don’t know, I thought the team was effective and it was really just a meta call. I don’t think any of my opponents had much in terms of Bulu checks, but now that I’ve shown it can be effective, I’m not sure how good it’ll be at future tournaments. It just sort of walked into a tournament where no one respected it. Much like Gavin’s team near the beginning of the season, people were not prepared for something that could do a lot of damage.”

“It’s a team that’s designed to with the first game in a best-of-three really hard. It loses a decent amount of its luster after that.”

How Do You Approach Teambuilding?

To conclude our interview, I asked Navarre a bit about his approach to teambuilding as a whole. Being quite a respected member of the field, he had an interesting perspective to share.

Where do you start?Image result for tapu Koko png

“It depends a lot on the format you’re playing in, for a format like VGC ’17 it’s a lot more abstract than past formats. You kind of just pick something you want to build around and you can come up with combos that work well together and figure out a way to win games.”

Navarre touched noted a couple of these combos in some of his past teams:

Virginia Team: Tapu Bulu + Kartana

St. Louis/Melbourne: Porygon2 + Gigalith & his Tapu Koko set (“Volt Tackle”)

“Its about identifying how you want to win. That feels a bit too simplistic but that’s basically it.”

Navarre went on to talk about how it’s not a bad thing to build “bad teams”:

“I build a lot of ‘bad teams’, but just because the team didn’t work, doesn’t mean it didn’t have good ideas. Being afraid to experiment, is one of the worst things. Coming up with new ideas is one of the most consistent ways to do well.”

Navarre stressed his philosophy of a team “having a goal” while also “having reasons” for doing what a team does.

“A lot of it boils down from that main point.”

“When a lot of new players are starting out, it’s obvious when their teams are not trying to accomplish something.”

“A good team isn’t just a collection of good Pokemon, but a collection of Pokemon that work well together.”

How early do you start building teams for tournaments?

“I never stop. I have a good group of friends, and we put a lot of time into teambuilding.”

Is it just trying to find something that sticks?

“It’s about just continuously trying out new ideas. I don’t exactly build specifically for tournaments, especially now considering the amount of CP I have. It’s just building good teams in a vacuum is what I’ve had success with, if you build for a specific meta game you can become blinded and miss things.”

“Playing the tournament is what you do with a team, but it’s not the end. It’s not about just building a team for a given tournament.”

What are the most important aspects for a good team in yourImage result for landorus png opinion?

“It is an abstract concept. A good team should do something interesting. There should be a reason for everything you’re doing. There’s a bunch of different boxes you can tick with teams, but really it just goes back to trying to accomplish something with a team. A tournament team shouldn’t just be six standard sets because people know they exists and it’s likely they’ve prepped for them. It’s more reliable to use something no one has seen before and that no one has prepped for.”

“Give yourself tools to adapt to what your opponent has, but not to the degree that CHALK did (the standard team from the end of VGC 2015). It’s a difficult question to answer.”

What kinds of things are important to building a good team in this format (VGC 2017)?Image result for garchomp png

“Having a plan or multiple plans you want to execute. Rather than just having a Swords Dance Garchomp KO something with a +2 Tectonic Rage and win the game off of that, you should know how you’re going to win the game from that.”

“It feels like a lot of people’s teams are not completely thought out. I’m just gonna stick with: have a goal or have plan for how you want to win games. That’s the important part of having a good team because there are multiple ways to get through a game. Don’t just delegate the majority of your plan to sitting at team preview. I think teambuilding is to show how my group of Pokemon is better than yours.”

You said your style of teambuilding is very adaptive, but can you think of any particular cores or strategies you default to?

“I like to play control. Generally, I like to set up situations where I have more stats on my side than my opponent, and beat them over the head with it. It’s just trying to maneuver the game as quickly as possible into a game state that’s in my favor.”

What do you mean exactly by “having more stats on my side”?Image result for mandibuzz png

“For example, the Mandibuzz team (Dallas Regionals), my goal for Mandibuzz was to be able to tank any special attack thrown at it, Foul Play to hit physical attackers and have Taunt for status moves. It was to create checkmate scenarios where I don’t have to predict what my opponent will do. Setting up scenarios like that is what I try to do when playing and while building. I try to take as much of the game out of my opponent’s as possible.”

Do you like to start teambuilding from scratch or do you like to borrow ideas?Image result for kartana png

“We always start from a one to three mon core of something we want to use. The best teams start when you have two or three different mons that are all interesting and fit well together. Coming up with the interesting mons to use is part of the challenge.”

“You can definitely take sets from other people. I took Wolfe’s Tapu Bulu since it pressured me pretty well and Scope Lens Kartana was Enosh’s innovation. The source doesn’t really matter, but I still do build everything from mostly scratch with the exception of some individual sets.”

Some Bonus Questions

What has been your favorite Pokemon to use in VGC 2017?

Image result for tapu Koko png

“‘Volt Tackle’ Tapu Koko (his name for Twinkle Tackle + Volt Switch Tapu Koko). It does really well against the two main Ground-types and I think it’s caught on that Volt Switch is the best move for Tapu Koko.”

Which underrated or underused Pokemon do you think have the most potential?Image result for alolan muk png

“I’ll leave it at Muk, Gyarados, and Buzzwole.”

Navarre favored Muk for its access to Knock Off, Gyarados for its versatility and access to Dragon Dance, and Buzzwole for its ability to threaten the growing popularity of Porygon2 and Gigalith.Image result for buzzwole png

He also added that he thinks the results from the Korean National Championships are a “good representation of where the meta should be right now.”

Plans for the Rest of the Season

With a solid number of Championship Points under his belt, Navarre doesn’t seem to be stepping away from regionals anytime soon. He’ll be competing at the Toronto regionals this weekend along with Madison regionals after that. Navarre has expressed how much fun he’s had playing in VGC 2017 so far, with the preparation aspect being his favorite. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Navarre in another Top Cut before his appearances in Indianapolis for the North American International Championships and finally at the World Championships in Anaheim later this year. For a player who is always looking to innovate in a format that has rewarded creativity thus far, Navarre is looking like a player to watch out for when Worlds time comes around.

Thanks for reading!


Art of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

Featured Image from @PokeCenter_VGC

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!

Toppled By Toxic and a Rare Tapu: VGC 2017 Virginia Regional Championships Recap

Finally breaking his top 4 regionals curse, Nick Navarre takes home his first regional title in Roanoke.

While we saw a lot of the same teams featuring Tapu Koko and Tapu Fini this weekend, Navarre was able to take Tapu Bulu to its first major tournament win in North America. Aside from using the format’s least prevalent Island Guardian, Navrre’s team featured a plethora of unique Pokemon and strategies that managed to break through the Tapu Koko and Tapu Fini saturated field in Roanoke.

Results & Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1. Nick Navarre

2. Robbie Moore

3. Toler Webb

Alola Form

4. Kazuki Kanehira

5. Cameron Swan

6. Jake Hockemeyer

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/547.png

7. Aaron Traylor

8. Rajan Bal

Well That Looks Familiar

Image from Pokemon Sun and Moon

The team of Tapu Koko, Tapu Fini, Kartana, Arcanine, Porygon2 and Gigalith took Virginia Regionals by storm this past weekend. The team was featured a total of four times on stream during Swiss Rounds, and in nearly every Top Cut match. Despite its dominance in usage, the team was only able to claim the title in Seniors but had an impressive finals run in Masters under Robbie Moore.

New Tricks

This team, of course, features some of the metagame’s most popular Pokemon, but some of the move and item choices were quite unique.Image result for tapu koko png

The popular Tapu Koko variant for this archetype opted to hold a Focus Sash to allow it to survive attacks and continue to Volt Switch in and out of play. Another interesting tech was Hidden Power Fire instead of Thunderbolt. In exchange for one of Tapu Koko’s most reliable forms of damage, Hidden Power Fire allows Tapu Koko to score a valuable knockout on an opponent’s Kartana which can give this team some trouble.

Image result for arcanine pngArcanine maintains its place as the literal “top dog” of VGC 2017, but this dog has learned some new tricks. Thief was a crucial part of Arcanine’s arsenal of attacks this weekend, as it robbed a number of Snorlax’s of their precious pinch berries. Taking away Snorlax’s berry basically shuts down its Belly Drum strategy, as it is unable to Recycle its berry after being hit with a move like Thief or Knock Off.Image result for kartana png

Instead of the popular Focus Sash or Choice Scarf on this team’s Kartana, most opted for the Grassium Z which can help Kartana quickly begin racking up Beast Boosts. In combination with Kartana’s more offense-oriented item choice, Substitute was present in order to punish defensive plays from opponents looking to protect themselves from Kartana’s rampage.

The Rise of the RockImage result for gigalith png

Porygon2 and Gigalith are a Trick Room duo that shouldn’t be messed with. While being featured in full force on the tournament’s most common team, this duo can easily place itself on a number of other builds (see Cameron Swan’s team). While Porygon2 remains mostly the same, Gigalith can either demolish its opponents with a Continental Crush followed by a flurry of Rock Slides or set up Curses like its friend Snorlax. Not having a reliable answer for these two can mean huge trouble for future teams.

Toxic Everything

Nick Navarre’s beyond conventional strategy featured two “modes” that allowed him to both pick up quick knockouts and also slowly wear down his opponent with Toxic.Image result for tapu bulu png

The first mode, which Navarre appropriately dubbed “Grass Spam”, is the offensive mode of the team. It features his Tapu Bulu carrying the Grassium Z which makes for one heck of a Bloom Doom in the Grassy Terrain field. Navarre returned to his reliable Scope Lens Kartana which he claimed is the one the mode was built for. Continuously putting multipliers on Kartana’s already monstrous Attack stat was Navarre’s goal for this mode, and an increased critical hit chance on top of the boost from Grassy Terrain, makes Kartana’s signature Leaf Blade terrifying to take a hit from.

Image result for salamence pngThe second, and likely most noteworthy, mode of the team was the use of Toxic. Those who look at Navarre’s team on the surface may not see anything that would normally run Toxic. Then you go up against Arcanine and Salamence. Arcanine is useful as a supportive Pokemon, but Toxic is quite low on the list of its common moves. Even Salamence, a Pokemon known for its offensive prowess, was utilized as a Toxic user holding a Sitrus Berry (an item you would normally never associate with a Pokemon like Salamence). Combined with the shifting of Terrain and Follow Me + Friend Guard support from Clefairy, this strategy proved quite difficult to break. This likely explains how Navarre did not drop a single game after his fourth round of Swiss.

Final Thoughts

I feel like I emphasize this in every article I write about this format, but VGC 2017 is prime for creativity. A team that dominated usage this weekend fell to a team that defied convention. Congratulations to Nick Navarre as he solidifies his place at the top of North America’s Championship Point standings with a whopping 1114 CP.

With only a few regionals remaining in the 2017 circuit, players are looking to make a final push towards claiming their World Championship invites. All of this culminates in the final International Championships coming up in just a few months in Indianapolis.

We’ll be back next week for coverage of a regional from just up north in Toronto!

Thanks for reading!


Art 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!

Ashton Cox’s Lucky Pineapple: VGC 2017 Latin America International Championships Recap

Ashton Cox is your first ever Latin America International Champion for Pokémon VGC, thanks to a lucky pineapple. Yes, you read that right. A pineapple.

Aside from Cox’s innovative good luck charm, he played an impressive finals set in the face of a dominating Game 1 win from his opponent. With some controversial, lucky critical hits going his way in Game 3, Cox took Torkoal and Lilligant to their first major win of the season. There’s a lot more to discuss from São Paulo, but let’s first take a look at the Top 8 results.

Results & Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1. Ashton Cox [US]

2. Javier Senorena [ES]

3. Gabriel Agati [BR]

4. Carlos Ventura [PE]

5. Ian McLaughlin [US]

6. William Tansley [UK]

7. Tommy Cooleen [US]

8. Markus Stadter [DE]

Weather WarsImage result for torkoal png

São Paulo’s Top 8 consisted of five different weather setters, with three different weather conditions being featured in the top three teams. We saw weather playing a pivotal role in the finals match between Ashton Cox and Javier Senorena. Positional switching determined the effectiveness of both Cox’s Torkoal and Lilligant, and Senorena’s Ninetales. Is it possible that weather will finally make its way to the top of VGC 2017’s usage?Image result for lilligant png

So far, only two weather team modes have made themselves known: Double Duck and
Torkoal+Lilligant. With Double Duck recently claiming its first major tournament in Utah, and now Torkoal+Lilligant with a victory in São Paulo, we could see a dramatic rise in weather usage in the coming months.

But not just Torkoal and Pelipper, this also means definitive rise in the hail and sandstorm setters, Alolan Ninetales and Gigalith. A popular way for teams to counter opposing weather is by setting their own, which Ninetales and Gigalith perform effectively.Image result for alolan ninetales png

Aside from their weather benefits, Ninetales and Gigalith mainly play much more pivotal roles. Ninetales is effective in supporting its teammates with Aurora Veil, which boosts both defensive stats for the entire party for five turns. Gigalith, on the other hand, takes advantage of its low speed to act as part of an ant-Trick Room or pro-Trick Room mode on a given team.Image result for gigalith png

What’s fascinating about weather in this format is the slight alteration to its role. Instead of weather-based modes and teams becoming popular, we’ve seen weather being used mainly to disrupt opposing weather conditions. Pokémon like Ninetales and Gigalith serve much different roles, with their weather conditions simply being a plus.

Poor Politoed probably misses its friends Kingdra and Ludicolo.

Xurkitree & Smeargle: An 8-0 Swiss Run

Hm… Smeargle paired next to a boosting sweeper? Where have I seen this before?

image courtesy of PokémonShowdown!

Oh right, last year’s atrocity of a format…Image result for xurkitree png

Anyway, Ian McLaughlin piloted a rather new strategy that could launch this shocking Ultra Beast into the realm of relevance. Meet Smeargle’s newest partner in crime: Xurkitree. Another powerful Pokémon with an amazing set-up move that can just as easily take advantage of Smeargle’s insane supportive abilities to ruin your life.

Despite Xurkitree’s very sub par defenses, this strategy features a bulkier build, holding one of everyone’s favorite 50% HP recovery berries. By abusing Fake Out and Follow Me from Smeargle, Xurkitree can boost to absurd levels of Special Attack by using Tail Glow (boosts the user’s Special Attack by three stages).Image result for smeargle png

While we didn’t see Xurkitree shine in McLaughlin’s streamed match versus Eduardo Fontana, what we did see was just how scary Smeargle can be when paired with another Ultra Beast. By, once again, abusing Fake Out and re-direction, McLaughling was easily able to sweep through Fontana’s team with Pheromosa. With Smeargle there to protect the constantly boosting Ultra Beast, Fontana stood no chance against Pheromosa’s onslaught.

I think McLaughlin’s performance with this team proves just how scary Smeargle still is. There are still powerful Pokémon in this format, mainly the Ultra Beasts, that can easily take advantage of Smeargle’s endless supportive move pool.

Carson St. Denis: The 5 Mon Champion 

The Senior division rarely gets a lot of attention, but Senior player Carson St. Denis did the impossible in São Paulo. He won the entire tournament with a party of only five Pokémon.

St. Denis most likely fell victim to a fate that has plagued a number of strong players this season: team sheet errors. For those unfamiliar with the rule, if there is information on a player’s team sheet that is inconsistent with what appears in game, the affected Pokémon can be removed from the player’s party.

Luckily, St. Denis is one of the strongest Senior’s players in the world and really did not need Snorlax much in his Finals match against Jan Tillman. Tillman’s team featured his own Snorlax, but not an accompanying Trick Room mode which would’ve been a reason for St. Denis’ Snorlax to be useful. St. Denis played an amazing set despite his handicapped party to take a 2-0 victory, and another International title.

Tman’s Top 8 Curse Image result for pelipper png

I unintentionally called this in my last piece, but Tommy Cooleen made it yet again to an International Championship Top 8 with his signature Double Duck team. But, unfortunately like London and then Melbourne, Top 8 was as far as the ducks could swim.

Nevertheless, Cooleen’s consistent performance with the same archetype is beyond impressive. Out of the three International Championships so far, Cooleen has made it to the Top 8 in all three tournaments. With just one International left, can Cooleen make the cut again and potentially break his Top 8 curse? We’ll find out in Indianapolis.

Final Thoughts

With the penultimate International Championship behind us, we set our sights stateside for the upcoming Virginia Regional Championships, which proves year after year to be one of the US’s most competitive events. As for the International stage, the final tournament in Indianapolis could be a make or break tournament for players both native and foreign. It’s going to be an exciting end of the season leading up to the World Championships in August. Only time will tell what groundbreaking new strategies will claim these last few tournaments.

Thanks for reading!

Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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The Third (or Fourth) Move Slot: Uncommon Move Choices For Common Pokemon

The beauty of a format like VGC 2017 is that even though there are common Pokemon, there are a ton of different viable moves. As the metagame develops, we’re likely to see move sets evolve beyond what we could’ve originally thought for some Pokemon. For this piece, we’re breaking down some unorthodox move options for the top ten Pokemon in the format right now (in terms of current Battle Spot and Pokemon Showdown usage).

ArcanineImage result for arcanine

Close Combat: If I were you, I wouldn’t consider your Fighting-weak Pokemon safe in the face of an Arcanine. Mainly since Close Combat is a move more common on Arcanine who carry the Choice Band. Close Combat gives Arcanine some valuable coverage against Pokemon like Gigalith and Snorlax who can hit Arcanine for super-effective damage. Probably not preferable over Wild Charge or Extremespeed on an offensive set foregoing a Choice Band.

Helping Hand: I expect Helping Hand to be on the rise in popularity for Arcanine’s divisive third move slot. It’s a flexible move that can work on both offensive physical attackers as well as bulkier special attacking variants. Helping Hand works best when Arcanine is on the field with a faster teammate who’s able to take out a threat with Arcanine with the extra boost.

Roar: Roar works better as a fourth move slot. What I mean by that is, since Roar is more common on bulky, support Arcanine that values moves like Snarl, Will-o-Wisp, and Flamethrower, you’ll likely choose Roar over a move like Protect. If your team struggles to handle Trick Room, an Arcanine with Roar could be a valuable surprise.

Tapu KokoFile:Tapu Koko.png

Sky Drop: A move that can work on almost all variants of Tapu Koko, Sky Drop can be useful for disrupting your opponent’s strategy. We’ve seen Sky Drop on Tapu Koko commonly paired next to a Trick Room setter, a strategy that effectively removes the Sky Drop target for two turns due to the reverse in speed order. Out of all of Tapu Koko’s lesser seen moves, this one has the most potential to appear in higher-level tournament play.

Nature’s Madness: The Island Guardian form of Super Fang is likely only going to be used on Assault Vest variants. A bulkier build of Tapu Koko can make better use of this move due to its longevity on the field. Nature’s Madness can be useful for dealing good damage to more defensive Pokemon, which can set up potential KO’s for Tapu Koko’s partner. A solid move, but a bit of an exclusive one.

Z-Move (Gigavolt Havoc/Twinkle Tackle): Paul Chua won a Regional with a Tapu Koko holding Fairium-Z, but I wouldn’t discount the Electrium-Z. Twinkle Tackle mainly serves to KO Tapu Koko’s tricky type-advantageous match-ups (Garchomp and bulkier Fighting-types). Gigavolt Havoc is boosted by the Electric Terrain which makes it a solid option for threatening huge damage on opponents who don’t resist it. I’d say Twinkle Tackle has more utility overall, but both are viable.

GarchompImage result for garchomp png

Dragon Claw: It seems like Garchomp’s typical move set has shifted to include everything but a Dragon-type move. Dragon Claw is really only useful in the mirror match. Since Garchomp is so common, it could be a useful move to have if Garchomp is a problem for your team though.

Flamethrower: I know Garchomp has access to Fire Fang, but I’m including this since I once fell victim to a Flamethrower Garchomp in tournament play. Fire Fang is probably the better call, but Flamethrower is not a bad option if you’re only using it for Kartana. Or if you’re really afraid of Intimidate.

Substitute: With the rise of Swords Dance’s popularity, I think it’s inevitable for Substitute to become an option for Garchomp. I would expect Substitute from a Garchomp on a team without Tapu Fini, as Misty Terrain would eliminate the worry of Garchomp being burned.

Tapu Lele Image result for tapu lele png

Thunderbolt: I think we all know how much Tapu Lele hates going up against Celesteela. Thunderbolt gives Tapu Lele a means of dealing with Celesteela. However, it would only be worth running on an offensive based set running likely a Choice Specs. Tapu Lele’s Thunderbolt doesn’t come close to KO’ing Celesteela otherwise, but Heavy Slam will easily squash Tapu Lele.

Psyshock: It’s surprising how Psyshock hasn’t become a more common option since a majority of the format favors Special-bulk. Psyshock is weaker than Psychic, but Psyshock calculates damage based on the target’s Defense, which most Pokemon don’t tend to invest much in. Makes Nihilego a lot more afraid of Tapu Lele.

Hidden Power (Fire): Tapu Lele would likely only be able to make use of this move if it had a way to out-speed Kartana. The favored item would be Choice Scarf, as a surprise Hidden Power could mean a quick, surprise KO on an opposing Kartana.

KartanaImage result for kartana png

Night Slash: You will likely only see Night Slash on the increasingly more rare Assault Vest versions of Kartana. Although, with the increased usage of Marowak and Drifblim, Night Slash could make its way onto other sets.

Guillotine: An absolute troll of a move, but can be critical if executed. A One-Hit-KO move can easily win a game for Kartana, as it means the removal of a likely threat and an Attack boost. Only consider using this move if you really want to use it.

Bloom Doom: The Ultra Beast loves the instant KO power of Z-moves, and Kartana is no different. Grass is a not a common resist on most Pokemon in the format, but Kartana’s frail defenses make this a risky option. If used correctly, a Z-move from Kartana could be game-changing.

Celesteela

Wide Guard: If Leech Seed, Flamethrower, or even Protect suit your fancy, Wide Guard is a good choice as well. Wide Guard would mainly be for the benefit of Celesteela’s partner, since a majority of spread-moves in the format don’t hit Celesteela very hard (or if it’s Earthquake, not at all).

Flash Cannon/Air Slash/Giga Drain: I put these in the same spot since they are only meant to work with a Special-attacking Celesteela. These variants mainly opt for Assault Vest, but can work with other offensive-oriented items. Flash Cannon can also be used as a substitute for Heavy Slam on standard Celesteela.

Tapu FiniImage result for tapu fini png

Haze: Tapu Fini does get support moves, but they serve a very niche purpose. If Calm Mind doesn’t appeal to you, or if you’re really afraid of CurseLax or Eevee, Haze might be for you.

Swagger: Using Swagger on a physical sweeper in Misty Terrain will double their Attack without confusing them. An interesting strategy popularized by Wolfe Glick’s Top 8 run in Georgia, this gives Tapu Fini a much different role than the boosting, Muddy Water spammer that we’re all used to.

Heal Pulse: I think I’m starting to notice a trend, in that Tapu Fini’s less common move choices are support moves. This worked well with the Swagger strategy I mentioned.

Porygon2Image result for porygon2 png

Toxic: Toxic was common on Porygon2 towards the beginning of the format, but has dropped off a bit since Tapu Fini’s popularity rose. A move like Toxic can instantly win a stall war if the opponent doesn’t have Toxic as well. Porygon2’s ability to take hits and recover its health make it an effective user of Toxic, but using it will make Porygon2 weaker to Taunt.

Shadow Ball: Another early-format choice for Porygon2 that dropped off in favor of other attacking options. With the rising popularity of Ghost-types like Marowak and Drifblim, Shadow Ball could be an anti-meta tech worth considering.

Protect: They never expect Protect on Porygon2. In a lot of weird scenarios, Protect can come in handy. Most players like to double-target Porygon2, only to have a wrench thrown into their plans when you reveal Protect. I don’t recommend this move for Best-of-Three play, but for Best-of-One Swiss it could win you some games.

SnorlaxImage result for snorlax png

Wild Charge: If you hate missing High Horsepower or facing Drifblim and Celesteela, Wild Charge is a valid choice. Works great if you have a Tapu Koko on your team as well, though this does leave you much weaker to the Lightningrod infused Marowak.

Crunch: Speaking of Marowak, If you’d like a way to deal with it, here you go. However, much like Wild Charge, using this over High Horsepower does leave you weaker to things like Arcanine, Kartana, and Muk, to name a few.

Facade: A Snorlax without Tapu Fini would have a case for Facade. Since Drifblim’s Will-o-Wisp is a common answer for Drifblim+Lele teams to deal with physical sweepers, Facade does have a case for a move set in this stage of the meta game. In all other cases, Return/Frustration are the better attacks.

 

*Note* The difference between Showdown and Battle Spot’s Top Ten is between Ninetales and Gigalith. I’m giving the last entry to Gigalith due to higher recent tournament usage and diversity in its move set. 

 

GigalithImage result for gigalith png

Heavy Slam: A less common choice for Gigalith that’s effective in dealing with Tapu Lele without the use of a Z-move. It also could be useful in a Gigalith mirror, but Earthquake is better for that, while also having more utility.

Wide Guard: Wide Guard can save Gigalith from being Garchomp food, while also making said Garchomp easy pickings for Gigalith’s partner. It can be a game-saving move, but can be played around if your opponent is experienced.

Explosion: If Gigalith is able to get a last-ditch attack off before it goes down, Explosion has a utility. On a standard Gigalith, I probably wouldn’t use this move due to its underwhelming damage potential. Could be useful on a Choice Band Gigalith if you decide to go that route.

Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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The Return of Double Duck!: VGC 2017 Utah Regional Championships Recap

Preston Clark is your 2017 Utah Regional Champion, taking the “Double Duck” combination to its first major tournament win. Utah was a relatively small tournament, with only 118 Masters in attendance. Still, we were able to see some great games, courtesy of Nugget Bridge who streamed the event. There were a few interesting meta game developments in Utah, but first let’s see the results.

Results and Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1. Preston Clark

2. Kyle Hudson

3. Raghav Malaviya

4. Patrick Smith

5. Riley Factura

6. Kamran Jahadi

7. Matthew Greaves

8. Jarek Makarchuk

Raining On Your ParadeImage result for pelipper

For the record, yes, the VGC community is aware that Pelipper is not in fact a duck. For the sake of having an easy name for the pair, Pelipper is a duck.

Anyway, these two have been in the meta game since the beginning. While not having won a major tournament until now, Double Duck has had solid tournament results under well-known American players Tommy Cooleen and Aaron Zheng. Cooleen has been piloting the duo for pretty much the entire season, and recently added Buzzwole to his team during his Top 8 run at the Oceania International Championships.

In Utah’s Top Cut, we saw Double Duck twice in the Top 8 with two different teams. Utah’s Champion, Preston Clark, opted for the popular Tapu Lele + Tailwind combo with other standard Pokemon like Kartana, Arcanine, and Snorlax. A bit of an interesting choice to include a Fire-type on a rain-based team, but Arcanine is so good it really doesn’t matter.

Jarek Makarchuk’s team looked to be somewhat inspired by Cooleen’s through his inclusion of Tapu Koko and Buzzwole. What’s really neat are the last two members. We’ll get to Trevenant later, but Marowak is a clever choice as it can provide Fire-type coverage, but also redirect electric attacks with its Lightning Rod ability.

Why is Double Duck So Good?

It’s an amazing lead against everything. Pelipper is able to set up Tailwind for free if Golduck scores a knockout with a rain-boosted Hydro Vortex or baits a Protect from your opponent. Even if your opponent uses Protect first turn, Golduck is able to punish defensive plays with Encore. Basically, these two can out-speed and threaten big damage against anything your opponent leads with. The combo is good, however, there are a few ways to counter it.

Gastrodon

Storm Drain. Gastrodon can redirect Water-attacks and boost its Special Attack if you’re able to switch it in to these two. This is why a majority of Double Duck teams run Kartana, and even in rare cases, Hidden Power Grass on Golduck. Kyle Hudson was able to take Preston Clark to Game 3 by using his own Gastrodon, but unfortunately decided to Hydro Vortex with his Gyarados while said Gastrodon was on the field. It was pretty rough to watch.

Weather in the BackImage result for ninetales alola

Disrupting the rain with either Ninetails or Gigalith in the back shuts this combo down pretty hard. Not having rain up weakens the Water-type attacks from Pelipper and Golduck, shuts down Golduck’s Swift Swim, and makes Hurricane 70% accurate instead of 100%. Just be careful with slower weather setters like Gigalith and Torkoal since they’re still weak to Water.

Trick Room Setters that Can Survive Hydro VortexImage result for porygon2

Porygon2, Mimikyu, and others can survive, especially when paired with a Gigalith switch in. If Double Duck can’t eliminate Trick Room, it’s in a pretty bad spot. These two rely heavily on the speed advantage, and need to be careful before they start firing off attacks.

Move Over Arcanine – An Intimidating PairImage result for gyarados png

We saw the return of a pair that hasn’t really had much success since the beginning of VGC 2017: Gyarados and Marowak. A viable combination that could easily replace Arcanine on some teams, covering both a Fire-type and an Intimidate Pokemon.

This combo thrives with Marowak’s ability to redirect Electric attacks away from Gyarados. Not being able to use Electric Image result for marowak alola pngattacks against Gyarados makes dealing with it much more difficult. Gyarados does well against its only other weakness, Rock, and can deal with most Rock-type attackers with Waterfall. A couple of Dragon Dances could be good game if Marowak isn’t dealt with.

Speaking of Marowak, this thing supports and can hit really hard. Flare Blitz and Shadow Bone hits most of the format for neutral or super effective damage, which makes Marowak a decent threat.

I feel like this pair could easily rival Arcanine in usage in tournaments coming up. It’s a solid pair that can support each other and counter common threats in the meta game.

A Niche Pick – TrevenantImage result for trevenant

A newcomer to a VGC 2017 major tournament Top Cut is none other than the spooky tree known as Trevenant. In the past, we’ve seen Trevenant usually on Sun-based teams to take advantage of the Harvest ability which allows Trevenant to recover its berry more often if the sun is out. Jarek Makarchuk decided to use Trevenant alongside the aforementioned Double Duck, which put Trevenant in the rain instead.

In the two sets we saw Markarchuk’s Trevenant, it managed to sit around and spam Leech Seed to keep its HP near 100%. I don’t think we saw Trevenant use any other moves besides Horn Leech and Leech Seed, but I guess that’s all Makarchuk needed from Trevenant. It’s likely it could’ve had Trick Room, however both of Makarchuk’s games on stream featured opposing Trick Room modes which most likely discouraged that option. Other than that, its last move could’ve been either Will-o-Wisp or Protect most likely.

Trevenant is a Pokemon that I think could see more usage later on in the format. With a lot of Trevenant’s weaknesses not hugely present in the format, it could serve a nice role as a bulky Trick Room setter. Pairing Rain with Trevenant is smart as a majority of teams will rely on a Fire-type to deal with it. Although, Arcanine can still beat Trevenant even with the rain up if Trevenant’s Water-type teammates are knocked out.

Final Thoughts

With yet another North American Regional in the books, we set our sites on the International stage in just a couple of weeks for the Latin American International Championships. Was Pelipper and Golduck’s victory in Utah just a fluke, or could we see a similar strategy break into the Top Cut in Sao Paulo? Odds are, it will most likely be Tommy Cooleen to bring this combo to another Top 8 placing at an International.

Thanks for reading!

Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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pokemon murkrow using shadow ball

Niche Picks – The Darkness Pokémon, Murkrow

Meet Murkrow

Portrait of Pokémon Murkrow

One of the first dark type Pokémon to be introduced by Game Freak, Murkrow originally hailed from the Johto region of the Gold & Silver games. It is considered an omen of bad luck, and has a propensity to play pranks on people and Pokémon.

In appearance, Murkrow bears a strong resemblance to a crow. The feathers on its head jut forward and up, creating a witch’s hat appearance, while its tail feathers mirror the head of a broom.

Along with its unique appearance, Murkrow possesses a unique ability, Prankster. Prankster allows Murkrow to use its status moves with increased priority. However, if evolved into Honchkrow, it loses access to the Prankster ability. Due to this, Murkrow finds itself fulfilling a niche role on certain teams.

Not only does forfeiting evolution grant Murkrow access to Prankster, but also allows it to use the item Eviolite. Holding this item boosts an un-evolved Pokémon’s defense and special defense.

Pranking the Competition

Pokémon Murkrow uses swift

Murkrow’s main goal is supporting its party by using Prankster to get Tailwind up on turn one. Once Tailwind is up, the Trainer can take advantage of the speed boost to gain the upper hand in the match.

There is another surprise move that Murkrow can use against unsuspecting foes though, and it has the potential to really mess up a Trainer’s synergy. The move is Quash, and it forces the target to move last for the round. The key is for Quash to work, it needs to go before the target.

With Prankster, this is not an issue, however. Murkrow is free to Quash any threat that is faster than it, unless it is a dark type (dark types are immune to Prankster-enhanced moves). The result is a speedy sweeper, such as Kartana, being forced to go last and getting KO’d before it can even use its first Leaf Strike.

Using these two moves, Murkrow can dictate the flow of battle. Beware though, even with the boost to bulk provided by the Eviolite, Murkrow is still fairly delicate.

Example in the Wild

Spectators were able to observe the Darkness Pokémon in action during the Anaheim Regional Championship in February. Used by Trainer Gary Qian, the team managed to place in the Top 16.

Gary Qian’s Anaheim Regional Murkrow:

murkrow
Murkrow @ Eviolite
Ability: Prankster
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpD
Calm Nature (Gary’s was Impish due to shiny)
IVs: 0 Atk
– Quash
– Taunt
– Foul Play
– Tailwind

Gary’s Murkrow is par for the course as far as these birds go.

Moves are self explanatory with Tailwind and Quash providing immense tempo control as described in the previous section. Along with that, Taunt gives Murkrow a way to shut down opponents from setting up. Finally, Foul Play gives it a way to do some damage and not become worthless if taunted.

The EV spread, along with Calm Nature, gives enough special defense to survive a Moonblast from Tapu Lele. This bulk provides Murkrow enough staying power to hang around a couple rounds and be a real nuisance.

As for teammates, Pokémon that benefit from Tailwind and can immediately pressure the opponent are best. This includes, but is not limited to, Gyarados, Garchomp, Kartana, and Pheromosa.

pokemon Murkrow showing its swag

All images courtesy Game Freak

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salt lake city utah

Pokémon VGC Regional Preview: Salt Lake City, Utah

Ten Regionals Down

Salt lake city Utah Pokemon Regional logo

 

Salt Lake City Utah will play host to the upcoming eleventh North American Pokémon Regional. The Tournament is scheduled to take place this weekend, April 8-9.

With only five Regional Championships remaining in the 2017 season, Salt Lake City promises high stakes to those wishing to win admission to the World Championship. Between the remaining Regionals and the upcoming International Championship, time is running out.

What too Expect

Without a doubt we will see a combination of Tapu Lele and Drifblim. Ever since the ONOG Invitational the spirit of Trainer Shoma has lived on as his powerful lead has flourished in the Meta.

It also shouldn’t be a surprise to see Arcanine, Porygon2, and Garchomp as team staples. This trio of Pokémon have proven themselves as three of the most abundant species this season. However this is for good reason, as each one can carry its own weight on an abundance of teams.

Pokemon Gigalith at salt lake city utah regionalFinally Gigalith is very likely to be a key player in Salt Lake City. Already a fairly popular choice with its impressive attack, and Trick Room flinch-locking. With the rise of the Tapu Lele and Drifblim lead, Gigalith has only found more work for himself.

Supposedly the energy that Gigalith stores in its core is powerful enough to blow away mountains. How fitting it would be then for this rock Pokémon to blow away the crowds in this Rocky Mountain Pokémon Battle.

Battle in the Mountains

utah state fairpark logoUtah State Fair Park is going to be the venue for the tournament. Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, and bordering Constitution Park. This event should provide great access to trainers from Nevada, Colorado, and Idaho.

If you are planning to attend, more information can be obtained from both the Utah State Fairpark website. As well as the official Pokémon website. Trainers should attempt to get their early on tournament day, on top of eating a solid breakfast and getting plenty of sleep.

Good luck to everyone who attends. Make this a Regional tournament to remember.

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VGC 2017 Spring Metagame Preview

With a sizable amount of tournaments in the books, what’s next for the VGC 2017 metagame? In a format that’s been flipped on its head after every tournament, creativity has begun to slow but has not stopped. Many new cores and strategies have emerged and are waiting to be countered, which further expands this format’s potential development. These months leading up to Worlds should be exciting, and here are the Pokémon we should expect to see:

A War of Speed Control

Trick Room and Tailwind are the most popular forms of speed control, and they are set to clash until the format’s end. With both modes becoming increasingly more viable, there are some solid Pokémon to add to a team if you’re looking for a speed advantage.

Tailwind

DrifblimImage result for drifblim

I think we’re all sick of this thing already. Everyone knows what Drifblim does, but for those unfamiliar, let me explain.

Drifblim, usually paired next to a Tapu Lele, will lead with said Tapu Lele activating Psychic Seed which boosts Driflbim’s Special Defense by one stage due to Lele’s Psychic Terrain. Unburden now doubles Drifblim’s speed since it has no item allowing it to be the fastest thing on the field. Drifblim sets up Tailwind and now Tapu Lele and friends can wail on your opponent’s team.

Although Drifblim might appear standard, there’s a lot of move options outside of the standard Tailwind and Shadow Ball. Will-o-Wisp is common to burn physical threats like Garchomp, Snorlax, and Muk. Recently, Aaron Zheng won Oregon Regionals with a Destiny Bond Drifblim, which was able to clutch some cheeky KO’s if Drifblim becomes expendable. Then there are fun options like Disable and Hypnosis if you want to make your opponent smash their 3DS.

MandibuzzImage result for mandibuzz

Mandibuzz functions very similarly to Drifblim as Mandibuzz opts mainly for Seed items. However, Mandibuzz is the more defensive option. With access to great support moves like Snarl, Taunt, Foul Play and Toxic, Mandibuzz can set up Tailwind and stick around to torture your opponent. Plus Mandibuzz is a bit more versatile as it can work with Tapu Fini as well as Tapu Lele.

Trick Room

Porygon2Image result for porygon2

This little duck will never go away. Porygon2 is such an adaptable Pokémon that it doesn’t even need Trick Room to thrive. Though that’s an option most tend to opt for.

The standard Porygon2 set has morphed significantly over the course of 2017, which is a testament to Porygon2’s versatility. It’s insanely bulky due to Eviolite and has a ton of move options for both offense and defense. I think Special Attacking Porygon2 might be making a comeback, but Trick Room and Recover are still staples.

If unchecked, this thing can win a game 1v4, so either Taunt or a Fighting-type should be present on a team.

MimikyuImage result for mimikyu png

The newest member of the Trick Room club is everyone’s favorite Pikachu knock-off: Mimikyu. Mimikyu’s unique ability Disguise brings an interesting dynamic to how it can function in a match. It’s able to take a free hit allowing it to set up Trick Room for its partners or deal some good damage with its solid STAB.

Mimikyu has found some good synergy next to Trick Room sweepers such as Snorlax and Gigalith since it doesn’t share a Fighting-type weakness like the aforementioned Porygon2.

If you want a full Mimikyu analysis, I recommend my buddy Drew’s piece showcasing all of Mimikyu’s talents. Regardless of what the Pokédex says, everyone loves Mimikyu.


The GoodStuffs

Every format has its standard and VGC 2017 is no exception. These are the Pokémon you will see at least once per game in this format.

GarchompImage result for garchomp png

When Landorus isn’t around, the Ground-type to rule them all is Garchomp. We’ve seen Garchomp undergo a lot of change so far with moves like Poison Jab, Fire Fang and Rock Slide revolving in and out of the standard move sets. Right now the most popular build is a bulkier set-up sweeper with Swords Dance to take advantage of Tailwind being set up.

Without a Ground resist in its way, Garchomp can annihilate teams that aren’t prepared for it. It makes a Fairy-type or an Ice-move a necessity to any team.

ArcanineImage result for arcanine png

When Arcanine is good, it’s really good. By far the most popular Intimidate user in the format, Arcanine is a fantastic blend of offense and occasionally defense. Stopping Kartana and Celesteela in their tracks is one of the main reasons (other than Intimidate of course) Arcanine finds a place on a majority of successful teams.

SnorlaxImage result for snorlax png

Much like its role in the single-player game, Snorlax can be quite the formidable obstacle. Insane bulk coupled with Gluttony to take full advantage of the 50% berries, Snorlax isn’t easily removed. Plus it can set up Curses while sitting there and endlessly Recycling its berry.

The premier Trick Room sweeper at this point in the meta game, however, there is another that has been rocking the format as of late.

GigalithImage result for gigalith png

This thing is a stone-cold killer under Trick Room. With an amazing Attack stat, Gigalith can hammer on opponents with strong Rock Slides. To complement its offensive prowess, Gigalith can also set up with Curse or protect your own team with Wide Guard. What’s most attractive about Gigalith right now is its excellent match-up versus Drifblim and Tapu Lele, but it has to have Trick Room up first.

Tapu KokoImage result for tapu koko png

In my opinion, the perfect sixth member for any team in this format is none other than Tapu Koko. Dominating the format in usage, Tapu Koko is by far one of the most versatile threats in the game. Mainly valued for its offense and speed, Tapu Koko can take advantage of many different items and move options.

The most popular item is often Life Orb, but we’ve seen success with items like Assault Vest and Choice Specs to capitalize on Tapu Koko’s offensive presence. Electric and Fairy-type moves are standard for Koko, but easily can be added or replaced by Hidden Powers, Sky Drop or Nature’s Madness just to name a few.

It’s essential to have an answer to this Pokémon or have it on your team for success in 2017.

Tapu LeleImage result for tapu lele png

I’ve already briefly touched on Tapu Lele’s primary role in the format right now, but there’s more to it than just being Drifblim’s right-hand. Psychic Terrain combined with Tapu Lele’s high Special Attack stat makes it a threat as soon as it hits the field. Tapu Lele’s move set doesn’t often deviate from its STAB attacks, but it can branch out depending on what item it holds.

Most Lele now are much more defensive rather than speedy since they’re usually accompanied by a Tailwind user. Expect either a choice item (Specs or Scarf mainly) or a Life Orb with Taunt to help stop Trick Room.

Tapu FiniImage result for tapu fini png

The Tapu Fini hype might have died down a little, but Tapu Fini is far from gone. Tapu Fini’s ability to disrupt opposing Terrains and offer decent offensive support gives a comfortable role on many teams in the game. Plus the AFK (Arcanine, Fini, Kartana) core is still really good, so I wouldn’t let Tapu Fini slip under your radar.

KartanaImage result for kartana png

One of two Ultra Beasts that continues to top the usage charts is the slashing sweeper Kartana. Most Kartana have moved away from the once popular Assault Vest for just full on offense and speed with a Focus Sash.

Although now a new trend featuring Scope Lens (an item that raises critical hit ratio) has popped up to many players’ dismay. Scope Lens gives Kartana’s Leaf Blade 50% chance to critical hit which can be clutch in racking up Beast Boosts.

Yeah this thing is the reason Fire-type moves are a necessity for any team.

CelesteelaImage result for celesteela png

Speaking of things that make Fire-type moves essential, let’s talk about Celesteela again.

Celesteela has done its fair share of adaptation, but the ol’ bread and butter Leech Seed strategy is still going strong today. Though now, Flamethrower has become the default rather than Substitute in order to deal with those pesky Kartana running around.

A new trend that’s appeared recently are offensive Celesteela, mainly focused on the Special Attack side. Believe it or not, Celesteela gets access to a bunch of great moves like Air Slash and Giga Drain if a Special Attacking Celesteela that can boost interests you. But let’s not forget Celesteela’s physical side with moves like Flame Charge and Earthquake which could be valuable.

Celesteela may be unbelievably annoying at times, but it’s been quite a fun Pokémon to see used as of late.


Common Cores

Tapu Lele & Drifblim

Image result for tapu lele pngImage result for drifblim

Not to be redundant, but if I’m talking about cores, I have to mention these two. The only thing left to add is that the typical team composition for these two can suffer significantly if a loss is suffered in terms of speed control. Speed is the name of the game with this team, with Pokémon like Garchomp and Kartana being present to take full advantage when it’s time to sweep.

AFK or ATK 

Image result for arcanine pngImage result for tapu fini pngImage result for kartana pngImage result for tapu koko pngImage result for tapu lele png

Remember the Arcanine, Fini, Kartana core I mentioned? I think it’s fair to branch out to include the other Tapu Pokémon despite the less attractive acronym. The Tapu Pokémon compliment Arcanine and Kartana well in terms of offense and defense which is why this combination retains its popularity. Its quite often to see more than one Tapu on a team with this core because of how well some of the Tapus work together. A common starting point for most teams that will probably remain in the meta game until the end of the format.

Mimikyu & Snorlax

Image result for mimikyu pngImage result for snorlax png

MimiLax, as those familiar with this core know it, is a common Trick Room mode for teams not solely dedicated to Trick Room. Both of these Pokémon can be tough to remove in the first few turns, so for this combo, setting isn’t hard at all.

While most Snorlax opt for Curse, we have seen Belly Drum pop up from time to time ever since its success in the Top Cut of Anaheim Regionals. This is a bit more risky of a strategy, but can be used effectively in the right hands.

With recent success in Oregon, Gigalith can easily replace Snorlax as Mimikyu’s partner. It functions pretty similarly while also having a much better match-up against Tapu Lele and Drifblim teams.


Unseen Forces

We’ve seen a lot of niche Pokémon thrive in this format, and here are some that I think have the most potential going forward.

Alolan PersianImage result for persian alola png

This shady cat has snuck its way into a few recent Top 8’s and even secured a Regional win in Buenos Aires. Persian is a special blend of bulk and speed that is able to offer effective support for its teammates. Its become popular next to Snorlax dues to its ability to switch into it with Parting Shot after lowering a threatening opponent’s stats. With some valuable synergy with other common Pokemon, Persian has potential to keep placing well in future tournaments.

Tapu BuluImage result for tapu bulu png

Tapu Bulu being the least used of its Tapu brethren has earned it a bit of a bad reputation in the format. But despite this, it has since earned a Regional victory under its belt and a few solid placings at Internationals.

Grassy Terrain is still a powerful terrain allowing for not only Tapu Bulu, but for its teammates as well. Tapu Bulu can fire off strong Grass-type attacks while its partners are protected against Ground moves and are slowly healing.

Since a lot of common Pokemon right now struggle with being Earthquake-resistant, Tapu Bulu offers a nice solution to this problem. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tapu Bulu top the results of another major tournament in the near future.

Togedemaru Image result for togedemaru png

With the rising popularity of Gyarados and the current popularity of Tapu Koko, Togedemaru has a great place in the meta game right now. Dan “Adrive” Clap initially showed us the power of the electric rodent in the ONOG Invitational, leading to Alex Underhill taking it all the way to a Regional victory in Collinsville.

Togedemaru has a great defensive typing, outside of being Garchomp food, that excellently supports the great Water Pokémon in this format. It also has neat moves like Zing Zap which can score crucial flinches to halt your opponent’s momentum.

All I’m saying is an electric rodent won Worlds once. A bit of a bold prediction, but I think Togedemaru can do it.

BuzzwoleImage result for buzzwole png

In a metagame full of speed control, a Pokémon like Buzzwole can shine. Buzzwole’s awkward speed stat places it in a special place to be useful under Trick Room and Tailwind.

Buzzwole flexes for a reason, as its Attack stat is pretty beefy. Its move pool is great too, with moves like Ice Punch and Poison Jab offering great coverage for popular threats. With a big All-Out-Pummeling courtesy of Fightinium-Z, Buzzwole can easily start racking up Beast Boosts.

This monstrous mosquito’s success hasn’t expanded much farther than a couple Top 8’s, but its usage will definitely increase with things like Snorlax, Porygon2, and Gigalith being popular.

MudsdaleImage result for mudsdale png

Galloping into the last entry for this section, Mudsdale brings some untapped power. Since a Ground-type is nearly essential to deal with Tapu Koko and the occasional Muk, Mudsdale can play a role suited for an effective Ground-type.

It’s speed and usability under Trick Room is Mudsdale’s main selling point, being able to threaten huge damage when speed is in its favor. Not to mention every time its hit with an attack, Stamina kicks in to give it a Defense boost. All of this with a solid arsenal of attacks gives Mudsdale a good case for a Trick Room attacker.

Having claimed a Regional title in Dallas, Mudsdale shows promise for more solid finishes. Its unique role as a Ground-type in the format is one that more players will consider adding to their team.


Just a Snapshot

As the title of this section would suggest, this is only a small look into the vast pool of Pokémon that are viable in VGC 2017. I’m just telling you what to expect, not what to bring. This particular year in VGC is immensely rewarding for creative minds looking to find the next big strategy. These last few months before Worlds are sure to produce some great tournaments, and the ones who innovate will be leading the charge.

Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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A Wild Silvally Appears – Claims First in Japan’s Battle Road Gloria

The Battle Road Gloria

Banner for Pokémon Battle Road Gloria in Japan

Image courtesy of amalgame.jp

During the weekend of March 18th-19th, Japanese Trainers came together to compete in an epic tournament. The Battle Road Gloria provided spectators lots of excitement, along with a few surprises. Most notable of which is Silvally appearing on the first place team.

Trainer KOOTA managed to devastate opponents left and right, handily taking home first. Swapping between a tricky Mimikyu/Silvally lead and a more aggressive Tapu Koko/Garchomp. This strategy left many of his challengers unable to adapt, and eventually they would crumble one by one.

Just Who is Silvally?

Pokemon Silvally with trainer gladion

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Seeing Silvally on a first place VGC team just fills me with so much joy. Being introduced with Pokémon Sun and Moon, Silvally has been ripe with controversy. Everything from its stats to its move pool have been targets of attack, and now it has proven itself.

Silvally is basically a clone of the God Pokémon Arceus. However, unlike Arceus, its base stats are a model 95/95/95/95/95/95. Combine that with a somewhat mediocre move pool and it is easy to see why Silvally has been shunned by the community.

What it lacks in specialization, it makes up for in mystery. Much high level Pokémon play revolves around reading your opponent and predicting their moves. Silvally can prove to be tricky to read, causing your opponent many headaches during the course of a battle.

There are a couple of factors that make Silvally especially hard to predict. First is the fact it can change its type by holding an item. Want a steel type? Make him hold a Steel Memory, same goes for the other 17 types, other than normal. Silvally is normal by default, and therefore can run a normal type by holding any item other than a memory.

Silvally type variations

Image courtesy of serebii.net

Second, its access to a narrow, but varied move pool. While many critique Silvally for its lack of access to some of the more powerful physical attacking moves, what it does have is variety. As such, a trainer can build their Silvally in a plethora of viable ways. No matter if they want a physical attacker, special attacker, or support.

Silvally’s First Place Performance

On KOOTA’s team, Silvally played a very specific role. Serving as a pivot/suicide scout, it was not always present; but when it was, its presence was felt.

Here is the build, though I am unsure of how it was EV trained:

Pokemon silvally

Silvally @ Choice Scarf
Ability: RKS System
Level: 50
Jolly Nature
– Parting Shot
– Explosion
– Rock Slide
– Flamethrower

Choice Scarf  – Means that Silvally is a normal type, giving the already powerful Explosion STAB damage.

Parting Shot – Gives a means to pivot out of a bad position, while at the same time lowering the targets attack and special attack as well as letting Silvally swap out.

Explosion – Sacrifices Silvally to deal massive damage to all Pokémon on the field. Ghost is immune, so work great next to Mimikyu.

Rock Slide – Abuses Choice Scarf speed boost in order to attempt a flinch-lock.

Flamethrower – Acts as a powerful special attack to check prominent threats, such as Kartana.

In practice, Silvally was a pleasure to watch. KOOTA would generally send it out on turn one alongside Mimikyu. Then, based on his opponents’ Pokémon, he would either Parting Shot to a better matchup, or launch an attack while Mimikyu set up Trick Room.

The Silvally/Mimikyu pair was especially deadly due to Mimikyu’s ghost type immunity to Explosion. Because of this, Silvally was free to blow up the opposing team on turn one if they were not prepared.

In a Top 8 game, KOOTA pulled this strategy off, using Explosion to KO both Ninetails-Alola and Tapu Koko on turn one. This left his own Mimikyu unscratched to set up Trick Room, finally sending out his Gigilith to replace the fallen Silvally.

The strategy was brilliant, to say the least.

A Future for Silvally

While certainly fantastic seeing Silvally take a spot on the winners podium, I doubt it will achieve any kind of critical success during the remaining VGC season. Too much stigma has formed around this Pokémon, and not enough is known about its potential.

Maybe this can be the first step for Silvally onto the MainStage of Competitive Pokémon. I would love nothing more than for this new demigod to prove all the naysayers wrong. KOOTA demonstrated that, in the hands of a capable Trainer, Silvally certainly can perform.

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