Plup Takes Home Largest Career Win at Runback 2017

 

Justin “Plup” McGrath fought his way to a victory at Runback in Mesa, Arizona. The win over Weston “Westballz” Dennis in Grand Finals secured Plup’s largest career tournament win.

In fact, it’s his first win at a tournament with over 200 entrants and Runback featured four of the top 10 players, so it was no cakewalk. He ended the day with two set wins over Westballz and a 3-0 to James “Duck” Ma in winners semi’s

For Plup, it’s been a strong year with consistent 5th place finishes, but he’s still looking to get over the hump. A win at Runback, even with none of the top five in attendance, instilled confidence that he’s a level above the players eyeing his spot in the rankings. If he can figure out players like Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma, he has the potential to win majors.

On a day where the raucous Arizona crowd was going off, Plup was calm and composed. It doesn’t matter who he’s playing or the stage he’s on, his demeanor is always the same. Even when Westballz had Plup against the ropes on game five, his approach didn’t change and he ends up winning the tournament on a ridiculous combo.

Westballz vs SFAT. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/SAKGamingTV

The return of Westbawz

The other main story out of Runback was the return of the cocky Westballz. After a lackluster start to 2017, Westballz seemed to get his mojo back this weekend with the second place finish. It was good to see the defense first, punish heavy Westballz this weekend.

Also, the fact that Westballz beat Zac “SFAT” Cordoni in two separate sets on Sunday sparked some flames. As one of the most heated Smash rivalries in Melee, Westballz has historically had SFAT’s number (9-4 lifetime) and Runback was no different. He ends the two game losing streak with an emphatic victory at Runback.

In the end, he gave Plup a run in grand finals but got edged out in last stock scenarios. It’s his highest finish in 2017 and could be a confidence booster heading into the summer.

Top 8

1. Panda Global Plup (Sheik)

2. G2 Westballz (Falco)

3. CLG SFAT (Fox)

4. Phoenixl1 | Duck (Samus)

5. MedZ (Marth, Fox, Falco)

5. Tempo Storm Axe (Pikachu)

7. Bladewise (Peach)

7. EngGameTV Syrox (Fox)

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Kirihara Wins His First Tournament Ever at Frame Perfect Series 2

It’s been an impressive couple of weeks for the Japanese Smash 4 scene. Random Japanese players, in their first American tournament, have come in and had tremendous success against American competition. First, Tsu at Frostbite, now Kirihara (Noriyuki Kirihara) at Frame Perfect Series 2 as he took Grand Finals over the world’s best, ZeRo (Gonzalo Barrios).

Photo via twitter.com/mvgleague

Additionally, it’s the first Rosalina main since Dabuz (Samuel Robert Buzby) to win a major. The “Japanese ZeRo” surprised us all, winning his first Smash 4 tournament EVER at a major in the United States. His road to his first title came rather easily. He didn’t drop a set the entire tournament, and beat ZeRo in straight sets 3-2, 3-2.

Japan’s hidden bosses are coming out of the woodwork. A region that’s been known to have a strong Smash 4 scene is finally backing it up with results. Komorikiri, who’s basically a United States citizen, made another deep Losers run, sending home Dabuz and getting revenge for the legendary “.9” moment at Genesis 4 against Captain Zack (Zack Lauth).

It was a strong showing from Japan. The road to ZeRo wasn’t easy for the eventual champion, having close sets with Mr. E’s (Eric Weber) Marth (3-2), and ESAM’s (Eric Lee) Pikachu. He proved Rosalina is much better than the general perception. His use of Luma even proceeds the consensus world’s best Rosalina in Dabuz. If Luma is still alive, it’s extremely tough to approach or escape Kirihara’s approaches.

A trend is developing, visit the US and face ZeRo in Grand Finals. It’s been known how deep the Japanese scene is, but now it’s being displayed right before our eyes. Even Tsu, who nearly beat ZeRo, said that there’s a lot of players better than him back home, and he’s correct. The turf war for Smash 4 dominance begins now.

Hungrybox holds it down in home state

The Melee tournament was a disappointment. The favorites either decided not to play or only play half-halfheartedly. It setup for expected results without much excitement behind it.

That said, Hungrybox (Juan DeBiedma) deserves a ton of credit. He was able to just come out, play Melee, and win. He didn’t overthink it. Hbox knew he had the advantage in top 8 and rode that all the way to another win.

Unfortunately, the fans didn’t get the classic Armada (Adam Lindgren) vs. Hungrybox Grand Finals, or Mango (Joseph Marquez) making a losers run; but this event seemed to be a warm up for Full Bloom 3 next weekend. Mango clearly was apathetic towards this event, going Captain Falcon all the way through top 48. He lost 3-0 to Drunksloth (Jay Dahya), who had a strong weekend, finishing in the top 8, and Kels (Kelly Smith) who also finished in the top 8.

Armada was in attendance, but decided to only play doubles. It’s not clear why players were dropping out, but it left a dull product at times. As a Melee purist, I could watch any match and be happy, but most fans would see Mango or Armada and shut the stream off.

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Filling the Holes of the Swiss Format: Pokemon’s Less Than Perfect Tournament Structure

The Swiss Tournament Format was introduced to the official Pokémon tournament structure in 2012. As of late, it has been creating a bit of controversy among players in the competitive scene.

Admittedly, while being a huge step up from the single-elimination format that was present prior to the 2012 season, there’s still a ton that could be fixed to accommodate the traditional Swiss Format to a game like Pokémon. Since there has been no apparent alternative, instead of getting rid of the Swiss structure, we should try to alter some aspects to satisfy the community’s plight . But like I said earlier, Swiss has brought good with it, and we’ll start with that before we begin criticizing.

Note: The main points of argument/analysis are mainly going to apply to larger tournaments (above Premier Challenges and MidSeason Showdowns).

courtesy of VancouverSun

What Swiss Does Right

Casual Friendly 

Could you imagine traveling to a Pokémon tournament prior to 2012 just to get unlucky in your first game and instantly be out of the tournament? Luckily, my first ever tournament was literal minutes from my house so I took my Round 2 exit a bit easier than most.

With Swiss however, you can lose as many games as there are rounds and still play a ton of Pokémon by the end of the day. You won’t be in contention to win if you drop more than two, but at least you can continue to play games to either learn or improve your skills.

The Swiss format was one of the first great steps for The Pokémon Company to make their competitive scene more accessible. It makes tournaments more than just competitions, but it also gives players a reason to travel to not only compete but to socialize and meet new people which gives the competitive scene a much larger appeal.

Decreasing Odds of Elimination Due to RNG…For the Most Part

It’s Pokémon, so RNG is something that will always be a factor. But with more games to be played, there exists decreased chances that a critical hit or a miss will end your tournament run.

Not to mention, all tournaments that are Regional and beyond play best-of-three sets for each round so your odds of luck screwing you over should further be decreased.

But, like previously stated: it’s Pokémon.

courtesy of Photobucket

What Pokémon’s Swiss Format Doesn’t Do So Well & How to Potentially Fix It

I’ll break this section down into three main points where the most complaints seem to derive from:

  1. Tiebreaker Percentages When Determining Top Cut
  2. Not Stream Friendly
  3. Tournaments Take Forever

Your Record vs. Your “Resistance”

So here’s how determining who makes Top 8,16, etc. in Pokémon works:

  • If multiple eligible players have the same record at the end of Swiss (let’s say 6-2 for example), who makes Top Cut will be determined by each of their Opponent’s Win % and their Opponent’s Opponent’s Win %. So basically their “strength of schedule” and thus “tiebreaker” is almost completely out of their hands.

The reason I say “almost completely” is because a simple rebuttal to this could be “don’t lose early” or don’t lose at all. But, as mentioned several times by now; this is Pokémon. An RNG heavy game which can mean certain doom for a player if their not on the favoring end of several rolls. If a player faces a gimmick they weren’t prepared for or their initial opponent just gets really lucky, that could mean the end of Top Cut for them if their opponent goes on to lose their next six games.

Most players in the VGC scene seem to hate this being the way that potentially determines their chances of getting a shot of winning it all, and I can definitely see as a player myself how this could be frustrating. So let me turn to a way that many others have suggested to alter the Top Cut selection.

“All X-2 Records Advance”

The idea that after the initial Swiss rounds all players with 2 (or 3 in some cases) should advance to the Top Cut, much like how players with X-2 records move on to Day Two of National or World Championship competition, is by far the most popular solution among players. This seemed to be very positively received at the 2016 US National and World Championships where all X-2 players after the second day of play were allowed into the Top Cut.

Now the only issue with this is that the number of players does not always come down to a bracket-friendly number (like 16 or 32), but the tournaments mentioned above handled this by deciding play-in matches to narrow the field down to a workable Top 16.

Since Regional and above tournaments are now multiple-day events anyway, if this solution works, I think it should be implemented. It’s shown success in the past, and it’s what players seem to want in order to fairly assess who makes it to Top Cut.

Courtesy of twitch.tv/pokemonvgc

The Suffering Stream

Most of us who watch tournaments courtesy of live streams are familiar with the infamous “We Will Return Soon” or “We’ll Be Right Back” cards that usually stick around for 45 minutes in-between rounds.

When trying to stream matches from these tournaments you never know how long the match being streamed will last, as well as when the last game of the round will last. So if there’s only one game able to be streamed and that game finishes quickly, you’re left with a ton of down-time as the round finishes.

This is a killer for viewer retention, as most of the time there is nothing substantial going on in-between rounds to keep viewers engaged with the stream. Fortunately there are methods to alleviate this issue, and allow for more content to be featured on stream.

1. Have multiple matches able to be streamed

We’ve seen this utilized at larger tournaments, like Nationals and Worlds, but it’s often never used consistently or there’s only one other game to switch to. Having multiple matches off of the main stream would allow for more to watch in case the featured match concludes quickly. In addition to this adding less room for downtime on the stream waiting for a round to finish, the stream gets to showcase more matches and keep their audience interested.

2. Prepare filler content

If there are no other games that are able to be put on stream, the least TPCi can do is prepare some sort of segment or videos or something to interest the audience in-between rounds. We’ve seen instances of commentators discussing Pokémon Global Link data for Pokémon that were featured in a previous round, but these segments are often drawn out and unprepared so it really turns into just reading stuff someone could easily look up themselves.

Something like this could work, but if refined and added to, official streams could actually make the time in-between rounds somewhat entertaining.

Courtesy of propokemon.com

Tournaments Take Too Long

I remember seeing an argument for keeping tiebreaker percentages, that suggested adding more Swiss rounds. Well before anyone considers doing something like that, we need to figure out how to make 8 or 9 rounds not take until midnight to complete.

Yes that actually happened, and it impeded a lot of people’s New Year’s Eve plans.

Anyone who has attended a tournament of any scale can report back with some issue regarding time taken to get through Swiss. Even starting the first round can take upwards of two hours or more which is kind of absurd. If you’ve experienced this as a stream viewer, then just imagine how the players feel.

Honestly, there’s not a real easy answer for this one. It all really depends on tournament staff and how quickly they can get through registration and finalizing pairings. Some tournaments could require larger staffs to accommodate potentially larger attendance numbers to help speed up the process. Also with registration, it would be nice to have an accessible method for players who are not super familiar with the rules to have access to them so as not to cause any delays.

Final Thoughts

Although it’s not perfect, Swiss is by far the best tournament structure we could ask for. It allows for more games to be played and for RNG to be less of a factor, but often leads to long, painful tournaments for spectators and players alike. With some tweaking, TPCi could easily alter their traditional tournament format that better addressing the player base of their competitive scene.

Let’s be thankful that single-elimination is a thing of the past.

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Pokesports II competitive Pokemon logo

Pokésports II: Not Quite There, Not Farfetch’d

Segue, I Choose You

Last time we established the impressive growth of eSports along with the power of the Pokémon brand. This time we will cover what competitive Pokémon entails and how that translates into a successful eSports brand. Or does it?

Pokemon "Psyduck" holds heads in hands and shrugs.

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Pikachu, Team Rocket, and Ash’s inability to win anything of significance are common Pokémon themes. These themes however, have little in common with the world of Competitive Pokémon Battling. Trainers in the real world spend hours developing tricks and strategies using the hundreds of available Pokémon. Forming teams of six to compete in varying levels of Tournaments. From local Premier Challenges, to massive International Championships, Trainers battle each other for a chance to compete at the annual World Championship.

A Wild Pokémon Appears

Before a Trainer can even think about battling, they must decide which six Pokémon will be on their team. Teambuilding involves deciding stat spreads, natures, and abilities for each Pokémon along with the four attacks to be used in battle. This process is crucial to success as a Trainer. Once a match begins, the choices made during Teambuilding will effect the Trainers options in battle and can have a major impact on matchups.

Pokemon and Construction Workers gather together and grimace.

Image courtesy of Game Freak

While a critical part of competitive play, Teambuilding can also be long and tedious, involving countless in-game hours breeding Pokémon and practicing with different strategies. The tedious time investment Teambuilding requires is often cited as a major reason aspiring Trainers abandon Competitive Pokémon. Worst yet, Teambuilding provides no actual benefit to spectators since it all happens behind the scenes. In the end, many Trainers come away feeling the many hours spent breeding and leveling Pokémon is a needless time sink that prevents access to high level competitive play.

In all fairness, TPCI has slowly worked to make it easier to train competitive teams; slowly is the key word. Streamlining Teambuilding, or creating an independent system for tournament play is truly needed to help grow the competitive scene.

 

Double, What’s Doubles!?

Zebstrika smashes head into wall.

Image courtesy of Tumblr

While playing the games or watching the anime, you might think Pokémon battles were one on one matches. You would be wrong. All officially sanctioned Pokémon matches are in the Doubles format. A Trainer brings a team of six Pokémon and picks four at the start of each match. Each Trainer then sends two Pokémon at a time on to the field. For many fans this is a major shock compared to what they know and love from the series.

While this disconnect from the traditional series can be startling, it is not without it’s benefits. Double Battles provide a fast-paced style of gameplay compared to Singles matches. Many new strategies also become viable when there are two Pokémon on the field together. These factors help keep matches fresh and moving swiftly. Working to build awareness of just what Doubles is could help build fan acceptance through further ingraining them into the soul of the brand.

Another interesting change that could take place in competitive Doubles is the introduction of two Trainer teams. As it stands now, one Trainer controls both Pokémon on their side of the field. If, however, TPCI incorporated teams of two Trainers, each controlling their own Pokémon, we could see some new and interesting dynamics appear.

 

See You at VGC

Play Pokemon banner

Image courtesy of Play Pokemon

TPCI sanctioned Pokémon tournaments are referred to collectively as VGC. Given Pokémon’s place as a global brand, it is a surprise how few people are actually aware VGC exists. During the VGC season, Trainers collect points at Premier Challenges, Midseason Showdowns, Regional Championships, and International Championships. Collect 400 of these points by the end of the season and you will be invited to compete at the World Championship. The tournament structure is rather straightforward, but not without its flaws.

Tournaments can be plagued with poor organization and rule enforcement. Matches involve two Trainers sitting on either side of a table in front of their respective 3DS’s with a judge off to one side. Gameplay is then streamed from one of the Trainers so that spectators can join in on the action. As you can imagine, many of these things do not make for exciting television. Revamping how Pokémon tournaments work and what they have to offer is an absolute must. Especially considering the most successful sport in the world, the NFL, makes the majority of its revenue through TV and TV related contracts.

Team Rocket's James being showered in Gold Coins

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Worst yet is what is at stake for each Trainer. The prize money awarded at the end of each tournament is a sad fraction of what it should be. In an effort to grow the competitive side of the Pokémon franchise, wealth needs to be shared with Professional Trainers. If TPCI showed the willingness to invest into its own competitive scene, sponsors would react in kind. Regardless, $5,000 and $10,000 first place prizes for major international tournaments is really a shame. You can do better TPCI.

 

What You See is What You Get

Viewership, it all boils down to viewership. Sports and eSports live and die by the viewership numbers they bring in. This is a place where Pokémon has a built in advantage. Its exposure around the world and ability to resonate with all age ranges is a huge boon as an aspiring eSport. Combine that with Pokémon’s ability to merchandise means some serious revenue potential.

While Pokémon is not lacking fans, viewership is one of the weaker aspects of the competitive Pokémon scene. There is only one thing responsible for the lack of competitive viewership, get ready for it. Competitive Pokémon is boring to watch. That’s right, I love you TPCI but this is the major hurdle that stands between the niche that competitive Pokémon maintains, and the runaway success it could be. That is not to say boring matches can’t be fixed.

Changes to the way matches work, such as two Trainer teams and shorter turn timers, could serve to alter match dynamics. Ultimately though, new approaches to broadcasting the matches are needed most. Being a Turn-based Strategy Game at its core, creative methods for animating action between turns and capturing that with exciting camera angles and transitions would serve to keep momentum building throughout matches. Add on exciting commentary to complete the package.

Pokemon battle in an arena between Bisharp and Emboar.

Image courtesy of Bulbagarden

Ultimately TPCI should work to make watching a Pokémon match more like sitting in an arena and watching powerful monsters battle, and less like watching two Trainers take turns picking what to do from one trainers perspective. If a dynamic, and exciting broadcast of exciting Pokémon matches can be achieved, fans will watch. The rest will be history.

 

Wrap It Up Will You

A massive fanbase and established competitive scene puts Pokémon in a great position as a potential eSport. The ability to attract young new fans, as well as merchandise, invites lucrative sponsorship potential. With these things in mind, TPCI must make some changes.

Making these changes could lead to a formula of success only seen in the traditional sports world though. Capitalize on this, TPCI, and you could redefine sports for generations.

Until next time Trainers.

 

Missed the first issue? Check it out! Pokesports: Power of a Brand and One Fans Plea

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Gary Oak driving away.

Image courtesy of Game Freak

A New Tapu on Top? – VGC 2017 Dallas, TX Regional Championships Recap

The second North American Regional for the 2017 format has concluded in the midst of celebration bringing in the New Year. In such a young meta game it’s astounding how much variety we’ve seen develop for VGC 2017, and Dallas brought us a plethora of new strategies and teams that may shape the meta game for tournaments to come.

Results & Teams (Top 16 Cut)

1. Drew Nowak

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2. Collin Heir

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3. Sam Schweitzer

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4. Nick Naverre

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5. Austin Bastida-Ramos

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6. Justin Burns

7. Kimo Nishimura

8. Caleb Ryor

9. Alberto Lara

10. Kamran Jahadi

11. Patrick Smith

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12. Jeremy Rodrigues

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13. Giovanni Costa

14. Joseph Brummet

15. Dylan Salvanera

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16. Eugene Tarlton

Pokémon Sprite Images courtesy of Game Freak

Tapu Fini Makes Waves in Dallas

As you can see, Tapu Fini was a popular pick for this tournament, appearing in nine of the sixteen teams in Top
Cut. In the format’s early stages, Tapu Fini was practically non-existent as it was not a popular pick for either a Tapu or bulky Water-type on a majority of early meta game teams.

Tapu Fini made its first major tournament Top Cut appearance a few weeks ago in San Jose as a member of finalist, Enosh Shachar’s, team. In fact, Enosh’s exact same team composition made it into Dallas’ Top Cut three times piloted by Justin Burns (6th), Caleb Ryor (8th), and Kamran Jahadi (10th). Enosh himself was left out of Top 16 due to some unfortunate resistance at a 7-2 record which left him at 17th place. Bummer.

Is Tapu Fini the Real Deal?

Anyway back to Tapu Fini’s viability. I think Dallas’ results prove exactly how viable Tapu Fini is, and it’s quite a nice Pokémon in the format right now. Tapu Fini has found itself a Fire/Water/Grass core with Pokemon like Kartana and Arcanine which can help it both offensively and defensively.

Kartana is able to switch into Electric, Grass, and Poison-type moves while also being able to one-hit KO Gastrodon which can absorb Tapu Fini’s Water-Type attacks with Storm Drain.

Arcanine provides Intimidate & Snarl support to further increase Tapu Fini’s already impressive defenses, while also being a nice way to scare away Grass-Type Pokemon like opposing Kartana.

The remaining three slots to compliment this core are honestly pretty flexible. Teams utilizing this core in Dallas’ Top Cut mainly opted for a Ground-Type Pokemon (Like Garchomp or Mudsdale), some slower Pokemon to add a possible Trick Room component (Like Porygon2, Muk, or Gigalith), and an Electric-type for a sixth slot (Like Tapu Koko or the less common Vikavolt). Or you could run a team like Giovanni Costa’s who just Baton Passes or has Tapu Fini Psych Up raised stats from his Evoboosted Eevee (more on this later).

What Tapu Fini Does

The most common sets right now for Tapu Fini are either Enosh’s Substitute plus Calm Mind set with Leftovers, or a more offensive set utilizing Choice Specs. Speed control options such as Tailwind or Trick Room are common alongside Tapu Fini to take advantage of Calm Mind boosts or the raw power of Choice Specs boosted attacks.

Water and Fairy-type attacks like Muddy Water, Moonblast, Dazzling Gleam, and Hydro Pump are the extent of what most Tapu Fini run in terms of offense. Though Tapu Fini does get a lot of other cool options like Ice Beam, Grass Knot, Nature’s Madness, and Shadow Ball.

Tapu Fini also gets access to a few supportive moves like Toxic, Heal Pulse, Reflect, Light Screen, and Taunt if a defensive Tapu Fini ever peaks interest in the future.

Can It Be Beat?

Naturally when something like Tapu Fini becomes popular, the next big thing to do will be to try and counter it. Currently, Tapu Fini and Kartana plus a Pokemon with Intimidate (like Krookodile or the aforementioned Arcanine) does not seem to have a single Pokémon weakness.

However, a team with its own Kartana and/or a Tapu Koko (much like Drew Nowak’s Team) can put on some decent pressure if properly supported. I guess we’ll just have to see if Tapu Fini will continue to thrive in the meta game as a Tapu to be reckoned with.

Giovanni Costa’s Extreme Evoboost Shenanigans

Image Courtesy of Pokemon Sun & Moon

I never thought I would ever see an Eevee that hasn’t evolved in a game of competitive Pokémon. Well thanks to Pokémon Sun and Moon we were given the Eevium Z; one of the new Z Crystals which allows for an Eevee with the move Last Resort to double all of its stats with its exclusive Z-Move: Extreme Evoboost.

And now thanks to Giovanni Costa, we now have a standard for the Extreme Evoboost strategy. This strategy is nothing but a gimmick but is terrifyingly consistent.

Giovanni has proven his talent as a player through his 10th place finish at the 2016 World Championships so it’s no wonder the team he built to support Eevee did this well.

Unfortunately, despite being featured on stream, Costa was not able to make it to Day Two of the European International Championships, but since then has changed minor aspects of the team.

How Does This Work?

Well it’s actually VERY simple. You start off by leading with Eevee and Clefairy. Clefairy uses Follow Me to redirect any potential attacks away from Eevee; then Eevee becomes enveloped in the power given to it by its evolved brethren giving it +2 in all of its stats. Next, Clefairy uses Follow Me again as Eevee Baton Passes into either Tapu Fini (there it is again) or Krookodile. Then you clean up from there!

How it Performed

But if it’s this easy, how come Giovanni didn’t win it all? Well unfortunately for Giovanni, he met his end in Top 16 in the form of a Mandibuzz with Taunt. Giovanni was able to take one game in the set, however could not find a way to beat Mandibuzz.

If you are able to Taunt a majority of Giovanni’s team you can shut down the strategy pretty easily. Clefairy can’t use Follow Me, Tapu Fini can’t Psych Up, and Eevee can still boost but can’t Baton Pass. Mandibuzz was even more annoying for Giovanni as it had Tailwind to boost the speed of its teammates as well as Roost to heal itself when Giovanni would Protect his Pokémon to stall out Tailwind or Taunt.

Will It Become the New Meta?

While I don’t think this strategy will catch on, I can’t deny its consistency and how easily it can be pulled off. I’m eager to see if Giovanni will continue to develop the team or even have greater success with it in the future. I do think this makes a better case for Taunt to be included on more teams to combat this strategy as well as Trick Room, Celesteela, and Toxic stall, but that’s a discussion for another time.

The Blade over The Blaster

Kartana is quickly climbing to the top of usage, appearing on half the teams in Dallas’ Top Cut including the Champion’s. In San Jose, Celesteela beat Kartana six to four in Top Cut appearances, but in Dallas Celesteela dropped to half as many appearances as its more offensive counterpart.

The Blade

The most popular Kartana we saw in Dallas was an Assault Vest variant adding Night Slash over Protect, which players would run on Focus Sash variants of Kartana. This new Kartana build favors more bulk to increase Kartana’s pitiful Special Defense while also complimenting its phenomenal Defense and Attack power.

Grass and Steel is both a great defensive typing seen in the likes of Ferrothorn in past formats, and a great offensive typing, having good matchups against common Pokemon like Gastrodon, Tapu Lele, Tapu Bulu, and Garchomp.

As it’s able to score valuable knock-outs, Beast Boost increases Kartana’s Attack to make it even more of a threat to deal with. A fast, bulky, boosting sweeper like Kartana makes a Fire-Type move an essential on any team this format.

The End of The Blaster?

Now wait a minute, just because Kartana’s all the rage now doesn’t mean Celesteela is going away. Celesteela is still the insanely bulky, win-condition of a Pokémon that it was in the beginning of the format, but now we might see some new tricks from it going forward.

One thing Celesteela has going for it is that it’s an excellent counter to Kartana, with the ability to resist both of Kartana’s STAB moves while also having access to Flamethrower to easily one-hit-KO it.

We actually saw Patrick Smith use a Life Orb Celesteela with Flamethrower perhaps as a way to deal with Kartana. I wouldn’t be surprised if Flamethrower replaced Substitute on a lot of Celesteela because I know I’m not the only one who would LOVE to avoid hour-long Celesteela Leech Seed stall wars. I hope for our sake Flamethrower becomes the preferred move.

The Niche Picks

This is a segment I want to use to talk about some of the more interesting Pokémon choices that have success in big tournaments. Dallas gave us a few that I think could pop up in a few more Top Cuts later in the season.

Mudsdale   

With Trick Room being such a popular strategy and Ground-types appearing on a majority of teams, Mudsdale seems like a natural choice. Making two appearances in the Top 4, I think Mudsdale has a lot of potential in a meta game favoring Trick Room modes.

It’s bulky with its Stamina ability, has access to a powerful, single-target Ground-type move without the need for Groundium Z, and a fair amount of solid move options for a Trick Room attacker. Whether Trick Room is the centerpiece or just a mode on a team, Mudsdale is a solid pick for a Ground-Type.

Krookodile  

Another Ground-type that’s been creeping into the realm of relevance is Krookodile. Dark I feel is a pretty underrepresented and underrated type in this format, and a Pokémon like Krookodile gives you a good option when considering one for your team.

Access to Intimidate and a middle-tier speed stat allows Krookodile to function on a variety of teams (including ones with Trick Room modes) while also being able to run a nice assortment of moves (with interesting choices like Snarl, Rock Tomb, and Taunt) to fill a unique role as an offensive Pokémon with support options. Not to mention its Ground typing is good for handling the abundance of Electric and Fire Pokémon which are present on pretty much every successful team in the format.

Mandibuzz 

Mandibuzz is such a weird pick, but honestly is a pretty good Pokemon when used correctly. Filling mainly a support role, Mandibuzz can control speed with Tailwind, Toxic stall with Roost for recovery, and also can deal decent damage to physical attackers with STAB Foul Play. So many options, yet only four move slots. Access to Taunt is pretty nice too. Don’t sleep on this bird, it can be really annoying if you don’t have an answer for it.

Braviary  

USA! USA! USA!

Ok but seriously, Braviary is another bird you shouldn’t sleep on. Only used by Patrick Smith with success in Dallas, but Braviary fills a pretty neat role as a sort of physical attacking Pelipper without rain (if that makes any sense).

Access to Tailwind and a cool ability in Defiant to take advantage of the abundance of Intimidate instantly makes Braviary a threat. Also, Braviary gets some pretty good moves for a Flying-type such as Rock Slide and Superpower giving it some decent coverage. I’m not sure if it’ll skyrocket in usage, but a cool pick nonetheless.

Pheromosa 

The first Ultra Beast that is not named Kartana or Celesteela that I’d like to touch on. It’s fast (like REALLY fast), strong, but its defenses are equivalent to wet paper. I would’ve thought that the item of choice would be a Focus Sash, but a majority of the Pheromosa we saw in Dallas held the Fightinium Z.

All-Out-Pummeling from Pheromosa could easily wipe a Porygon2 off the field, and even something switching in would not appreciate the hit (unless the Pokémon switching in is a Ghost). It has a pretty nice move pool of both physical and special attacks, giving it a lot of options to score quick KO’s and Beast Boosts. Typically paired next to Tapu Lele to stop priority moves and Arcanine to support with Intimidate, it has some solid synergy with popular Pokémon.

Nihilego

There was only one Nihilego in Top Cut, but it carried Austin Bastida-Ramos to the number one seed heading into cut and a 5th place finish overall. Nihilego’s superb Special Defense, Special Attack, Speed, and assortment of attacks easily makes viable. Power Gem and Sludge Bomb (its two most popular attacks) hit most of the meta game for neutral or super-effective damage, making it easy to start racking up Beast Boosts.

Vikavolt 

The final Pokémon that made a shocking impact in Dallas is the levitating, electric bug: Vikavolt. I, among others, love Vikavolt’s design but was severely let down once I saw its stats. 145 base Special Attack but mediocre…everything else. Yet somehow this Pokémon managed to make its way deep into the tournament.

Levitate is nice as it pairs well next to a Ground-type Pokémon, and its low speed makes it a viable Trick Room sweeper. We saw some fun item choices like Assault Vest, Wiki Berry, and Iapapa Berry likely trying to increase Vikavolt’s time on the field to dish out damage.

String Shot was a move I never would’ve expected, but Sam Schweitzer’s Vikavolt made very good use of it, being able to decrease both of the opposing Pokémon’s Speed. This format could use more viable Electric-types, and I think Vikavolt definitely made its case in Dallas.

Final Thoughts

Dallas was a fun tournament to watch, with a ton of new Pokémon solidifying their place in the meta game. I would like to personally give a huge shout out to @PokeCenter_VGC who streamed the event with a surprising level of quality. Also have to give props to the commentators: Gabby Snyder (@iBidoof) and Adam Dorricott (@Dozzalon) for their fantastic job giving solid commentary and analysis. Lastly, congratulations to Drew Nowak for his win in Dallas earning him $3,000 and 200 Championship Points. The next set of Regionals are coming up in just over a week in Athens, Georgia and Leipzig, Germany. Hopefully we’ll have live coverage from these events, but come back to The Game Haus for a full recap of results and analysis from both tournaments! Thanks for reading!

Art of Pokemon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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Super Smash Con Becoming The Event for Smash

Super_Smash_Con_logo

Super Smash Con has only been around for two years, but the impact the event has made on the Smash community is jarring. It not only caters to Smash fans in general, but gives space to all of the individual Smash game fans to enjoy their favorite title. The Dulles Expo center was host to 2,224 Smash fans from all over the world for one of the most Smash Bros. filled weekends you can ask for.

The main organizers being Justin Wykowski alongside one of the most respect tournament organizers in the community, Rob “Juggleguy” Harn, and Michael “Nintendude” Brancato, the world famous Ice Climbers main has created the perfect environment for pure Smash Bros. fans and players. The four-day event gave ample time for every request the Smash community asked for.

First off, making the event a four day affair allowed the tournament organizers to be more lenient on their decision making. Deeper in brackets, the tournament turned to all best of fives in every single Smash game. The reason they went with the top 24 instead of a top 32 is too save time. Mostly because the best of fives extends sets by a significant amount of time.

The fact that every game gets an equal opportunity, is a great thing for the community. The convention aspect as well as the Smash 64 combo contest gave Smash Con a very special feel. The tournament future of Smash is not always clear but, with the Super Smash Con team running this type of event it insures Smash will always be loved.

Now let’s talk about results…

Super Smash Bros 64 Champion: SuPeRbOoMfAn

Believe it or not, this might have been the biggest non-surprise of the weekend. Daniel “Superboomfan” Hoyt was the clear favorite heading into this event with no Wario and the Japanese Pikachu staying home. Superboomfan has only not finished first at one other event in 2016, in Genesis 3.

The event itself was a huge success for the Smash 64 community. A resurgence is happening and the roots of a comeback, similar to the rise of Melee back in 2013, are forming. Super Smash Con was the largest Smash 64 of all time and local numbers are rising. If they make the game more tournament friendly, we could see it popping up more often.

The competition was unreal. A large percentage of the top 20 players showed up and the big names like Joel “sai”Alvarado, Wangera from Japan, and Arturo “Mariguas” Nunez from Mexico. In the end, it came down to SBF and the surprising (but not really suprising) Wizzrobe in Grand Finals using Yoshi.

The Melee pro rolled through winners by beating all the worlds top Yoshi’s in a Yoshi mirror. He took out Prince, in a fairly dominant set with a three-stock and a two-stock. He also took out Kurabba from Japan. His only loss coming to SBF in winners and grand finals with his Kirby counter-pick.

Outside of the two main storylines, the event provided a litany of major upsets. Canada also poured it on with three players in the top eight (Z, Revan, and SBF). The most exciting part of the weekend for any of the games, was Wangera’s time-out on game five against D3xter. A last second hit for the survive and advance buzzer beater

Super Smash Bros. Melee Champion: Mango

Joseph “Mango” Marquez looked broken a week before Super Smash Con at Clutch City Clash. His set against Zac “SFAT” Cordoni was some of the sloppier play we’ve seen from Mango all year. He didn’t have any answers then, but as he proved this weekend it was just an off weekend for him.

Mango’s run gave him a chance to get back on some players that ruined past events. His road in top 24 started with Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett, who Mango absolutely dominated with his Fox play. His next match he got a shot at SFAT and promptly took the set 3-1, still using Falco, a character he struggled with last week.

Mango made it through winners bracket unscathed, but he now faced a player in Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma who’s had his number and the confidence all year round. The set count wasn’t close at all this time, Mango had every answer for every Hungrybox situation could be put in. It was a dominating Fox effort reminiscent of the past where Mango had a firm grasp on beating Hungrybox.

Mango’s now won his third major event in 2016, proving he’s still a major threat and could be considered the best in the world. He needs to show some consistency heading into events like The Big House 6 and Dreamhack. But it is good to see Mango back up on the trophy stand.

The rest of the event was filled with upsets and insane runs through losers bracket. Jeff “Axe” Williamson and Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman started Sunday off in the losers bracket. But, by the end of the day the two of them were fighting for third place. Axe went through (in order): Abate, MacD, Wizzrobe, PPU and Shroomed. We also got to see Misaya “aMSa” Chikomoto finish in the top 12 while taking out top ranked American players.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl Champion: Vinnie

The biggest surprise of the entire weekend was undoubtedly Vincent “Vinnie” Cannino taking home the Brawl title. Vinnie was known as a top Brawl player, but never to the point that he’d win a major tournament. His Ice Climbers and his grab heavy neutral game carried him all the way through.

He took out the famous Diddy Kong Brawl main ADHD and the most practiced Brawl player at the tournament V115, who he beat twice in winners and grand finals. Vinnie showed how strong the Ice Climbers are in Brawl, considering how strong the grab game is. V115 and his Zero Suit Samus took him to the edge in both sets (losing 2-3, 2-3) but Vinnie was able to clutch out stocks.

The other interesting aspect of this tournament being no prominent Meta Knight mains, beside Jason “Anti” Bates, made top 8. M2K didn’t make an appearance because he wanted to focus on Melee, but we still got a chance to see an out-of-practice Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada and Elliot “Ally” Bastien. Formerly, the second and third best Brawl players in the world, take each other out.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U Champion: Nairo

The final game of the weekend and for good reason. Smash for Wii U at Super Smash Con reached 1,200+ players. Making it the third largest Smash 4 tournament in history. Nairo came out on top, after a rather long losing streak for the widely regarded second best player in Smash 4.

Nairo had to play out of his mind to win this event. His run through winners consisted of James “Void” Mekaku-Tyson, who has been on a tear recently, beating him in 5 game series. Mr. R followed and then in Grand Finals he took out his toughest matchup in Samuel “Dabuz” Busby . The Zero Suit Samus reigned again.

Smash 4 saw a lot of early upsets, so Sunday was a bloodbath in loser’s bracket. Ally took out Abadanago in losers quarters, making the Clutch City Clash champion finish tied for 7th. As all the recent Smash 4 events, this one also provided many upsets.

Esam, like he did at Evo, made it further in Melee than he did in Smash 4. Nakat missed top 24, as well as many notable players. After a year of absolute dominance from one player, it feels good to see that the landscape for Smash 4 has completely opened up and it’s truly anyone’s game to win.

Super Smash Con 2016: Bringing the Community Together

Super Smash Con is this upcoming weekend and will be holding tournaments for every single Smash game ever released by Nintendo. The tournament will be running singles and doubles for every game and will be filled with rank players across all games.  It’s a convention put on by the Smash community for the Smash community.

Smash 64

The original Smash game that started it all will be back at Super Smash Con 2016. The event is stacked with international talent and is expected to be the largest Smash 64 in the games long history. It will be the toughest test yet for a community that isn’t used to the large turnouts, with 314 players registered for the events.

Last year’s champion, Dan “Superboomfan” Hoyt, will be back to defend his title in both singles and doubles. The Canadian Smasher has been the best player in North America for the past five years, with Joel “Isai” Alvarado not consistently showing up to events.

Superboomfan’s been the best player, but he won’t have an easy road to another Super Smash Con title with players like Texas’s Eduardo “Tacos” Tovar and the best American player Joey “KeroKeroppi” Speziale, who finished third and second at last years’ event,  a solid performance for the event. Isai is always more than a threat to take his game to another level and take the event. He’s still widely considered as the best Smash 64 player in history.

The last time these players met in a tournament was at Snosa 2 in Pasedena, California where Superboomfan took out Tacos in Grand Finals. Isai finished third and Mexico’s best player Arturo “Mariguas” Hernadez finished fourth. Realistically, any of the top five players are capable of winning this event.

Courtesy of http://www.ssbwiki.com/Snosa_II

Courtesy of http://www.ssbwiki.com/Snosa_II

Expect to see the top players to be switching off their main characters constantly in certain matchups. The average characters played throughout a tournament is 2.43 and only players like Melee pro Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett and Abacus “LD” Zilch will rarely switch off their Yoshi and Fox picks. Aside from Genesis, which just recently made its return, Super Smash Con is the biggest event with the biggest payout for Smash 64.

It will be tough to take out Superboomfan who is so proficient with all his characters and in every matchup, but he’s not unbeatable. The crowd will get a good look at a game that didn’t have a chance at making a real competitive scene, but is still extremely technical and fun to watch.

(Look back here later for a full Melee preview)

Super Smash Bros Brawl

Super Smash Brothers Brawl is the game people feel is not on par with the rest of the franchise. Brawl players will tell you the exact opposite. The one game that doesn’t ever get the love and attention of the other three will be back at Super Smash Con and should provide some intense action.

The undisputed best Brawl player of all time will be in attendance. Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman had a run in Brawl on par with the great Justin Wong runs in Marvel vs Capcom and the long run Zero had at the start of Smash 4. He won last year’s event using the controversial character Meta Knight over Eric “ESAM” Lew, who surprised everyone by taking out the second best player in Brawl’s lifespan Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada.

Smash COn

The tournament didn’t necessarily have the viewership or notoriety of the other events considering most of Brawl’s best players have moved on or retired from playing the game, but the game did provide hype. Watching Jestise “MVD” Negron play his zoning game with Snake, a uniquely interesting character in Brawl, or Kero play the spacing game with Olimar is something we don’t see in any other smash game.

Yes, a majority of the entrants will play the standard Meta Knight, but even Meta Knight’s style is unique to Brawl and extremely hard to take your eyes off of. Brawl will add a nice blend of old and new players and characters that all have the same goal in mind: take down M2K and his insanely good Meta Knight.

We didn’t quite get the Grand Finals we were hoping for last year with Nairo falling out of the tournament to Esam’s aggressive Pikachu, but it’s hard to see a scenario where that doesn’t happen this year. The event, like Smash 64, has an incredible prize pool. M2K walked away with $2,235 after winning Brawl at Super Smash Con 2015.

Super Smash Bros. For Wii U

Comparing this year’s event to last years is going to be difficult. The entire Smash 4 landscape has changed, Gonzales “Zero” Barrios is no longer the juggernaut he was a year ago and the field is wide open. Considering the Evo 2016 champion Elliot “Ally” Bastien finished outside the top 32 at CEO 2016 only to come back two weeks later and win Evo tells you that the Smash 4 landscape is very fluid at this moment.

Super Smash Con should be no different. It’s nearly impossible to pick a winner or which character will win at this point in the meta-game. Anyone can lose to anyone, as proven by the fact that the last four major tournaments which all have different winners with similar player pools. It’s a complete toss up at this point.

The favorite would probably have to be Ally, who lost at last week’s Clutch City Clash, but took home top honors at the biggest Smash tournament of all time (Evo 2016).  Other names like Japanese best player and winner at Clutch City Clash, Yuta “Abadango” Kawamura, will be competing. The CEO 2016 champion Jason “Anti” Bates will also be in attendance.

Super Smash Con will boast the third largest Smash 4 event in the games short history which says a lot considering the next two events ahead of it were the two most attended events in Smash history. The community will also get the respect it deserves by catering to a Smash contingent audience with best of fives in all of top 32.

Expect to see a wide variety of characters throughout top 32 and names that you’ve never seen before taking out top players. Smash 4 is volatile so at an event this big upsets will happen and amazing players will fall before top 8.

Watch the entire event at: http://twitch.tv/VGbootcamp (hyperlink)

Check back to The Game Haus for more Super Smash Con coverage. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ them on Twitter. We also have our own subreddit. Be sure to check out TGH’s newly revamped forums if you want to discuss with Blake or any of the other writers!

My Top 10 Video Games of All Time

Courtesy of, www.reddit.com

Courtesy of, www.reddit.com

I have been an avid gamer for many years. Video games have brought me much joy over those years and many of them for very different reasons. They are what I do to relax. They have allowed for me to expand my mind and become much more creative. They have also driven my love for history and strategy. Overall I feel like video games have had a very positive impact on my life.

Making this list was not an easy task. Because I have played so many games in my life it is hard to just narrow them down to 10. This will not be a list of similar games mind you. This is a list of games spanning different genres and many different gaming systems.

These are games that I have spent countless hours on and I love them all for very different reasons. Here is my top 10 games of all time: