pokemon regional championship banner

Winter Regional Diversity – A Look Back at the Last Three Years of VGC

Diversity of the VGC

Each year Game Freak changes up the rules that govern the VGC. With the release of Pokémon Sun & Moon, for example, only Pokémon who can be captured in the Alola region are allowed to be used.

As the metagame develops through the season, sometimes the Pokémon lineups that emerge victorious from the countless tournaments can be varied and unique. However, sometimes the rule-set Game Freak rolls out leaves the meta with little wiggle-room for unique teambuilding. The lack of diversity in the VGC is an often cited complaint for the format. Unofficial formats such as Smogon have even formed to try to solve some of these issues.

So how is the VGC 2017 season stacking up compared to previous seasons? Taking a look at five winning teams from the Winter Regionals of the last three seasons, we can see how the meta is developing.

VGC 2017 Winter Regional Champions

VGC 2017 is unique due to the fact it is restricted to a regional Pokédex, in this case the Alola-dex. This generally only happens when Game Freak releases a whole new generation of Pokémon games to their fans.

Regional dex restrictions can be a mixed bag. Sometimes fan favorite Pokémon are left out, or a poorly balanced Pokémon makes its way into the mix. The one thing that is certain in these instances, however, is there is always an air of mystery as the season progresses.

Let’s take a look at the five Champion teams from the 2017 Winter Regionals.

San Jose, California Regional

Gavin Michaels –

sprite of porygon2sprite of haryanamimikyuAraquanidDrama

 

 

 

Dallas Regionals 

Andrew Nowak –

tap kokokartanaSalamencemudsdale

 

 

 

Georgia Regionals 

Paul Chua –

tap kokokartanaarcanine  muk-alola

 

 

DreamHack Leipzig Germany Regional

Markus Stadter –

tap finekartanaarcaninegar chompmandibuzzsnorlax

 

 

 

Anaheim, California Regional

Gavin Michaels –
mimikyu sprite of haryana snorlax

 

 

VGC 17 Pokemon

Number of times used

Porygon2

4

Araquanid

4

Kartana

3

Magnezone

2

Hariyama

2

Mimikyu

2

Tapu Koko

2

Arcanine

2

Snorlax

2

Drampa

1

Salamance

1

Mudsdale

1

Muk-Alola

1

Tapu FIni

1

Garchomp

1

Mandibuzz

1

With 30 potential slots, only 16 unique Pokémon appeared on these five winning teams. Seven Pokémon had a unique one-time appearance.

Porygon2 and Araquanid come in as the most used Pokémon, with four appearances each. Porygon2’s usage is not surprising at all. Eviolite bulk, combined with a decent move pool and Trick Room support, see Porygon2 as a staple of the VGC 2017 season. Araquanid packs a punch, and becomes a real threat when Trick Room is up.

VGC 2016 Winter Regional Champions

VGC 2016 flipped the rules of competitive Pokémon on its head. Trainers were allowed to include two super powerful Pokémon from a list of what was called “Restricted Pokémon”.

Pokémon such as Groudon, Xerneas, and Kyogre finally had a chance to make an appearance on the MainStage, and they did not disappoint.

Virginia Regional 

Paul Chua –

kangaskhanSalamence regional championgroudonxerneastalonflame regional championsmeargle

 

 

 

Collinsville Regional 

Andrew Nowak –

kangaskhanSalamencekyogre regional championxerneasthundurusscizor

 

 

 

Anaheim Regional 

Aaron Zheng –

Salamencemawilegroudonkyogrebronzongsmeargle

 

 

 

Florida Regional 

Wolfe Glick –

Salamencedialgakyogrelandorusthundurusferrothorn

 

 

 

Oregon Regional 

Randy Kwa –

Salamencegroudonxerneastalonflamesmeargleespeon

 

 

 

VGC 16 Pokemon

Number of times used

Salamence

5

Groudon

3

Xerneas

3

Smeargle

3

Kyogre

3

Kangaskhan

2

Talonflame

2

Thundurus

2

Scizor

1

Mawile

1

Bronzong

1

Dialga

1

Landorus

1

Ferrothorn

1

Espeon

1

Only 15 Pokémon filled the 30 team slots for the 2016 season. Not really surprising considering a third of each Trainer’s teams were picked from a very short list.

What is surprising though is how similar the number of unique winning Pokémon from the Winter Regionals of 2016 & 2017 are. Considering the major difference in rule-sets, it is incredible to see that the overall variety of winning Pokémon didn’t change so much.

VGC 2015 Winter Regional Champions

Oh 2015, what a great season to be a competitive Pokémon fan. Following the regional dex restriction of the 2014 season, VGC 2015 opened up the playing field to all Pokémon, other than those considered restricted.

Many remember 2015 for its diversity, but was the Winter Regional season really more diverse than 2016 and 2017?

VGC 2015

Missouri Regional 

Aaron Traylor –

kangaskhan regionalbisharp regionalconkeldurr regionalclefableheat ranlandorus

 

 

 

California Regional

Alberto Lara –

kangaskhan regionalSalamencerotomsylveonferrothorn regional championlandorus

 

 

 

Virginia Regional

Karl Concepcion

mawilevenusaurchandeluresprite of haryanacresseliabisharp

 

 

 

Oregon Regional

Conan Thompson –

SalamenceterrakionaegislashWeavilecresseliathundurus

 

 

 

Florida Regional Championship

Wolfe Glick –

Banetterotomlandorusheat ranscrafty

 

 

VGC 15 Pokemon

Number of times used

Landorus

3

Kangaskhan

2

Bisharp

2

Heatran

2

Salamence

2

Rotom-W

2

Venasaur

2

Cresselia

2

Conkeldurr

1

Clefable

1

Sylveon

1

Ferrothorn

1

Mawile

1

Chandelure

1

Terrakion

1

Aegislash

1

Weavile

1

Thundurus

1

Banette

1

Scrafty

1

20 original Pokémon showed up in our five Winter Regional Winners of 2015. Top that off with the fact that a single Pokémon showed up three times or more, and a shocking 12 Pokémon showed up once.

VGC 2015 really did shake things up and give Trainers a unique and fun metagame. While 2017 is not nearly as stale as 2016 ended up being, it does not seem to be shaking it up like 2015.

On the Way to Worlds

We are marching closer and closer to the 2017 World Championship, and it will be interesting to see how the meta continues to develop. Will Porygon2 ever fall out of lineups? Are Tapu and Ultra Beasts really as powerful as they seemed at first glance?

One thing is certain right now though, Trick Room is the defacto 2017 strategy to beat, and Gavin Michaels seems to be piloting it with precision. It really makes you wonder what Worlds has in store for us this year.

All images courtesy of Game Freak

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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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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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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 Pokésport competitive logo

Pokésports VI: Satoshi’s Dream and the Future of Pokémon

Generations Come and Go

Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri appearing on a Pokémon Direct presentation

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Twenty years ago, Pokémon existed as 151 8-bit sprites players attempting to catch on the original Nintendo Game Boy. Envisioned by its creator, Satoshi Tajiri, to be a catalyst for interaction in a culture that was spending more and more time indoors. Satoshi had a passion for collecting bugs and turned this passion into Pokémon. The idea went full speed ahead when the Game Boy Link Cable was introduced, allowing data to be transferred between Game Boys. This inspired Satoshi to press forward with turning his idea for a social video game into a reality.

Two Game Boys trading Pokémon using a Game Boy Link Cable

Image courtesy of GameSkinny

Twenty years later, Satoshi’s vision has paid off. Pokémon has grown from two Game Boy games into a multifaceted franchise. Containing a TCG, long running anime, multiple Manga series, multiple video game spin-offs (including a new Tekken-based fighting game), and much much much more. The common theme always being Trainers coming together to trade and battle.

What does the next twenty years hold for TPCI, Game Freak, and the Pokémon franchise? This is the exciting proposition that inspired me to start working on this series to begin with. The same vision that saw a social phenomenon in the Game Boy Link Cable is exactly what is needed to move Pokémon into esports.

Pokémon Jirachi using Future Sight on Pokémon Warlord

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Future Sight 

From Game Boy to 3DS, Pokémon has come a long way. Just like the Game Boy Link Cable allowed the original Pokémon trainers to trade and battle, smartphones today have allowed new and old Trainers alike to catch Pokémon in the real world. Trainers around the world can bond over the joy of Pokémon in ways Satoshi never even imagined back in the 90’s. However, moving forward, what could be the next platform to really push Pokémon to its limit?

Fans cheer at a concert of Splatoon sisters Calie and Marie performing as holograms

Image courtesy of neoGAF

Simply put, Holograms. Augmented and Virtual Technology are both being fast tracked by Silicon Valley. These new types of technologies are breaking down the walls between the physical and the digital. Allowing users to create and enjoy experiences beyond their wildest imaginations. Pairing Hologram technology with the Pokémon franchise would potentially yield an eSport juggernaut.

Consider sitting in an arena, lights dim, and the announcers voice breaks over the intercom and announces two trainers as they walk onto the field. Lining up across from one another, they take time to consider their options, and then like lighting, four monsters appear in the middle of the field ready to do battle.

Hologram of Charizard and Latios

Image courtesy of Nerdist

This type of imagery is precisely what is needed to give the extra oomph to a competitive Pokémon battle. The type of drama and energy that could be created by this type of spectacle would be hard to rival. I have no doubt that if TPCI and Game Freak were to pioneer the systems to make something like this happen, they would easily create an esport phenomenon. While unlikely TPCI will pursue this, chances are some ambitious competitor will see this new tech being developed. Then just like Satoshi with the Link Cable, they will be inspired to change the world.

 

Esports Glass Ceiling

Pokémon GO fans gather in chicago

Image courtesy of Ubergizmo

Simply put, Pokémon as a brand stands for more than just collecting Pokémon. Where Pokémon truly shines is using innovative technology to break down barriers and bring people together. TPCI, Game Freak, and Nintendo should truly take heed of this point.

Throughout this series, my focus has been to identify both the reason Pokémon would work as an esport, as well as the struggles it would face. My hope was to show that ultimately the reward for TPCI was much greater than the risk.

The Pokémon brand has stood the test of time. Sustaining and growing over two decades is an incredible feat. Stagnation, however, leads to a collapse of market share. This is why taking the majority of market share in the new and fast growing esports market should be imperative to TPCI and Game Freak. So many new potential fans, with more interest growing every day could be at TPCI’s fingertips.

With a brand focused on bringing people together via trading and battling, as well as an already established tournament circuit in the VGC, puts Pokémon well on the path. Though the viewing experience and prize pool need a lot of work, there is still so much potential. Putting the focus on the Trainers, and pushing match commentary to be exciting and engaging would be easy first steps that could yield a lot of results. Working on refining competitive match tempo and fostering diverse metas would then create a seriously competitive esport product.

Trainers battle with Pokémon in real life

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Satoshi Was Right

In the end, Satoshi had it right from the start. Use new and evolving technology to bring people together. This theme underpins the core of appeal for Pokémon. It is why such things as the Pokémon GO phenomenon can happen. Pokémon has become a cultural brand due to more than just cute monsters.

Being a sports fan, and now esports, has always been to me about bringing people together. This is the underlying theme that I see between Pokémon and the traditional sports our societies love. I know that if TPCI and Game Freak took this idea seriously, Pokémon could be a success as an esport. It could even revolutionize sports as we know them.

Thank you for reading this series. Pokémon means a lot to me and I want to share that passion with the world. A future with competitive Pokémon is a future I want to live in. If not than I just wonder… What will be the Game Boy Link Cable of the 21st century?

Pokémon Train On logo

Image courtesy of Game Freak

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Armada Secures His Place in History Winning Genesis 4

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/VGbootcamp

Adam “Armada” Lindgren cemented his spot in history, winning his third Genesis title. The win came over Joseph “Mango” Marquez, making it three wins in a row in a Genesis Grand Final for Armada. Armada’s run of dominance continues as he narrowly edges out Mango in the winner’s bracket and follows it up with one of his strongest finals performances ever.

Mango and Armada were destined from the start to meet again in Grand Finals. In four Genesis tournaments, no other players have made Grand Finals. It took Armada squeezing by Johnny “S2J” Kim in top 64 to even stay in winner’s bracket, and then avoiding losing 3-1 to Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman in winner’s finals. At the same time, Mango had one of the more difficult losers bracket runs to make this rematch possible.

After falling 3-1 to Armada, Mango went straight into a loser’s bracket match with William “Leffen” Hjelte, who fell into losers before top 8. In a rather sub-par top 8, Leffen vs. Mango stands out as a must-watch match. The intensity and stakes of this moment added the extra pressure, and made for a wild set. Mango took the 3-2 victory, but that’s after falling behind 2-1 in games, and even down in stocks on both games four and five. It was a set that will be remembered.

Genesis is known for its memorable moments. Mostly because of the rivalry between Mango and Armada that started at Genesis back in 2009. Four Genesis’s and still no other player has broken into the top-two. M2K had the best chance to break up the streak at G4, when he was up a stock on game four, up 2-1. But in the end, Mango and Armada found themselves facing off in Grand Finals.

The finals matchup that seemed as if destiny had intervened, felt lackluster in the end. Armada thoroughly dominated Mango, beating him in less than nine minutes, with a three-stock victory on game three. Armada went 6-1 overall against Mango, and a staggering 4-0 on Yoshi Island, which was Mango’s primary counter-pick.

Mango seemed to have used up all his mental fortitude just getting back to Grand Finals and wasn’t mentally prepared for the robot that is Armada’s punish heavy Peach. It was a showing of Armada’s consistency and mental strength, as even when he’s down 2-0 to S2J or losing to M2K, he never plays like he’s out of it. He always sticks to the game plan.

Here are the final results at Genesis 4:

1.Alliance Armada (Peach/Fox)

2. C9 Mango (Fox/Falco)

3. Echo Fox M2K (Marth/Sheik)

T5. Liquid Hungrybox (Jigglypuff)

T5. Panda Global Plup (Sheik)

T7. Tempo Storm Axe (Pikachu)

T7. G2 Westballz (Falco)

 

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Genesis 4: Smash Doubles Bringing the Hype

Photo courtesy of http://wiki.teamliquid.net/commons/images/a/ab/G4logo.jpg

The doubles events have delivered at Genesis 4, with upsets, new faces in top 8, and extremely high-level play. After a lackluster day one, with the Smash Crews somewhat falling apart with top players exercising their right to skip the event, doubles made up for it.

The lead story of the day is the brilliant play from arguably the most underrated team in Melee doubles: William “Leffen” Hjelte and Mustafa “Ice” Ackakaya. They took out the second seeded Swedish duo of Adam “Armada” Lindgren and his brother, Andreas “Android” Lindgren. The set went to five games, and the Fox-duo of Leffen and Ice combined the excellent team spacing and synergy with their constant ability to survive the Swedish brother’s team combos.

Ice and Leffen advanced to winner’s finals and will face off against the top overall seed, and hometown favorite, in PewFat. Kevin “PewPewU” Toy and Zac “SFAT” Cordoni had little trouble disposing of every team in their path. They beat Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman and Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma in a quick 3-0.

Afterwards, the most successful Melee team in history (M2K and Hbox) ran into another up-and-coming doubles team, with Jeff “Axe” Williamson and Justin “Plup” McGrath. The Pikachu and Sheik composition allowed for supreme edge guarding and the back-and-forth hits from both Plup and Axe. The estranged team only lost on game 5 to Ice and Leffen, so this team is a serious threat to make a loser run and win this event.

Unfortunately for Plup and Axe, they face Andorid and Armada first thing tomorrow morning. In the only other matchup between these two, the Swedish team got the better result. In winners, the question is: can anyone take out the world’s most consistent Melee team in PewFat?

PewFat’s strength is dominating individual matchups while always being in range to help their teammate. Ice and Leffen excel in the same areas, so this could potentially be a bad matchup for the top seed. The key in losers will be to take stocks from Android early and often, as we saw in the loss to Ice and Leffen.

Smash 4 Doubles Bringing the Hype

Unexpectedly, Smash 4 doubles has stolen the show at Genesis 4 day two. The meta-game is clearly still developing and the use of Cloud has almost become necessary in team compositions. Obviously, Cloud has the strongest follow-up finishes with his limit break, and teams are finding interesting ways to use him optimally.

The champions, Elliot “Ally” Carroza and Leonardo “MKLeo” Lopez Peres, had MKLeo on Cloud, ready for any of Ally’s Mario back throws. The win came over the Japanese team, Rei “komorikiri” Furukawa and Ryuto “Ranai” Hayashi, who managed to reverse sweep the top seeded team at Genesis 4 in Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrio and Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada.

MKLeo and Ally took out the Japanese pair twice, once in winners round 2 and again in grand finals. It was a huge statement for both teams. Considering every player in grand finals was from outside the United States, it was also a huge day for international Smash fans.

 

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Genesis 4 Preview: Will The Top Seeds Run the Table?

The importance of the Genesis tournament series for the longevity and growth of the Super Smash Bros scene can’t go understated. It’s a legendary event that has produced arguably the best Smash sets of all time. It’s where the Joseph “Mango” Marquez and Adam “Armada” Lindgren rivalry began. Genesis is history, and more history will be made this weekend at Genesis 4.

Genesis 4 will be the biggest Genesis to date. Six individual Smash tournaments. 11 overall events that will be taking place, including Rivals of Aether and Street Fighter V. Two crew battle tournaments, one for Smash 4 and the other for Melee. It has something for every type of fan.

The main events will be Melee and Smash 4 top-8. The competition for the doubles tournaments and even Smash 64 will be fierce and deserve your attention though. 3,000 players are registered and ready to compete. Here’s a preview for every single event happening at Genesis 4 this weekend.

Smash 64 Singles

Smash 64 has significantly less entrants than the other two Smash games (185 for singles), but the story lines and competition is still top notch. Recently signed Daniel “SuPeRbOoMfAn” Hoyt, who won Super Smash Con to round out 2016, is once again the heavy favorite. In terms of dominating his personal game, no other player in the Smash community comes close.

The field has nearly every player in the top 10, so expect some of the more notable names to reach top-8. Boom won’t have an automatic trip to winner’s finals. Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett is a rising star and a real threat to take out the game’s best. His second-place finish at Super Smash Con showed his potential. Wizzrobe is slated to play Boom winners round 2 in top 64 which could be on upset alert.

Outside of those two, classic names like Isai, the Mexican players Arturo “Mariguas” Nunez Hernadez and Distrito “Dext3r” Federal, and the ever so dangerous Peruvian slayer Alvin “Alvin” Leon Hara will also be in attendance as the second seed. It’s a stacked field, but the real story will be whether Boom can win another Smash 64 major.

Winner Prediction: SuPeRbOoMfAm (sorry, he’s just too good)

Smash Melee Doubles

Don’t sleep on Melee doubles this weekend; the top five teams will be in attendance, and certain teams will be put to the ultimate test. PewFat, Kevin “PewPewU” Toy and Zac “SFAT” Cordoni, had a great 2016 as the year’s best team, but let’s see how they perform at an event with M2Box (Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman and Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma), team Alliance (Armada and Andreas “Android” Lindgren), and team Europe (William “Leffen” Hjelte and Mustafa “Ice” Akcakaya).

Therefore, the winner of this event is nearly impossible to predict. Even Mango and Johnny “S2J” Kim could make a run. An event of this magnitude with players taking the doubles side seriously will result in some of the highest-level teams matches possibly ever. Most of the teams registered, who have a shot at winning, are combos of players who have teamed before and have chemistry. It will be a great gauge on the best doubles team in the world.

Winner Prediction: PewFat

Between Hungrybox’s hand issues, the northern California crowd, and the introduction of PPU’s Fox play for counter-picks, it just feels like it’s finally their time to take a Genesis.

Smash Melee Singles

Three Genesis events and three Mango vs Armada grand finals. Will it happen again? The biggest hurdles for the possible quadruple rematch is easily Leffen and Hungrybox. Hungrybox made huge strides in 2016, and despite a hand injury, can ruin everyone’s fun by winning. Leffen, on the other hand (get it?), missed last Genesis and is a huge threat to ruin the Genesis script.

Furthermore, this could be the event of the breakout star. Players like SFAT, Ice, Justin “Plup” McGrath, and James “Swedish Delight” Liu have been threatening to take out the top-six players for the better half of last year. Genesis 4, with the extra month of preparation, could be the event one of these names creates a Melee upset that will never be forgotten.

In addition, expect the brackets to be filled with upsets. A tournament with 80 of the top 100 players in attendance is sure to set off some unfamiliar matchups and results. Expect the unexpected; last year Michael “Nintendude” Brancato took out M2K before top 8. If I had to bet, I’d say a God falls before top-8.

In the end, the event will almost surely come down to if anyone is good enough to beat Armada. He has been on a tear of tournament wins in the winter months, and it’s unclear if the Swedish snipers reign of terror is ending. That said, Mango will be playing in front of a raucous crowd all cheering for him, and we all know what happens when Mango gets momentum and a crowd behind him.

Melee is the marquee event this weekend, with 1,700 players signed up. The matchups in top 64 will all be entertaining, from Ice facing off against Sami “DruggedFox” Muhanna, to the Evo runback of Jeff “Axe” Williamson against Otto “Silent Wolf” Bisno. The story lines will be endless and the amount of high-level Melee waiting to be played is staggering. There’s a reason most Melee players consider Genesis the holy grail.

Winner Prediction: Armada

It’s hard seeing anyone beating this guy at the level he’s playing at right now. Mango can win this tournament but it will take some diligent play and making sure he gets a shot at Armada in Winners bracket.

Smash 4 Doubles

Smash 4 doubles is still in its infancy. The team that wins is usually the two best players, as opposed to the best strategy, character choice, and the most skill combined. Keeping that in mind, Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios and Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada are clearly the best team. The only other team even on a comparable level is Elliot “Ally” Bastien and Leonardo “MKLeo” Lopez Perez.

It will still be interesting to watch the different team compositions and styles. Japan will have two of the more interesting teams: Yuta “Abadango” Kawamura and Takuto “Kameme” Ono, plus Rei “Komorikiri” Furukawa and Ryuto “Ranai” Hayashi. They will present interesting styles and a possible threat to the top players. Jason “Anti” Bates and Salem will be the other team capable of winning the entire event.

As is the case for every tournament at Genesis 4, the focus will be on if anyone can take out the top team. Nairo and ZeRo are incredibly talented players with chemistry. There are some serious contenders who could beat out those two, but it’s unlikely at this point.

Winner Prediction: Nairo and ZeRo

Smash 4 Singles

ZeRo is once again the favorite to take Genesis. He’s starting to return to form after a sporadic 2016. But with that, it’s safe to say Smash 4 is the widest open tournament of them all. It’s not out of the question to wonder if a player not named ZeRo can win Genesis.

MKLeo wasn’t at Genesis 3 or many of the 2016 majors, so this will be his first real test at a major. He has shown the ability to hang with anyone. Ally is another player who can win this event. He’s clearly not fazed by large crowds (Evo 2016 champion) but has unfavorable draw in bracket (he’ll face ZeRo in Winners Semifinals).

Even a couple years into Smash 4, the meta game still is developing. It makes these major tournaments more fun because the results can be random at times. ZeRo might be the clear-cut favorite, but the rise of Cloud players like Gavin “Tweek” Dempsey and Kimorikiri are lurking, waiting to pull off the upset. That’s not even mentioning players like ANTi, Salem or Larry Lurr who have taken out every single one of the top five players, including Zero.

Winner Prediction: MKLeo

This is MKLeo’s moment. Here is a kid the Smash world has been waiting on for the past two years, and he has finally got his chance. If anyone can take out ZeRo and run the table, it’s the versatile MKLeo.

I hope I provided fans with a guide to what to watch for this weekend. It’s impossible to predict what will happen. One thing is certain though, it will be entertaining to watch it all unfold.

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