Xurkitree Glows in Toronto: VGC 2017 Toronto Regional Championships Recap

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

Results & Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1. Martin Gajdosz

2. Joshua Lorcy

3. Ian McLaughlin

4. Alex Lebel

5. Nicholas Borghi

6. Sam Partin

7. David Mancuso

8. Trista Medine

Xurkitree On the RiseImage result for xurkitree png

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

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

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

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

The Blaster over The BladeImage result for celesteela png

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

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

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

Niche Picks

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

MachampImage result for machamp png

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

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

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

VanilluxeImage result for vanilluxe png

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Thanks for Reading!

Art of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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

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

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

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

Virginia Regionals 

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

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

This wasn’t exactly the closest event for you

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

You have some friends in the area?

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

The Team

What brought about the idea this team?

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

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

Tapu Bulu

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

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

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

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

Toxic: Salamence and Arcanine

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

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

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

SnorlaxImage result for snorlax png

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

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

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

ClefairyImage result for clefairy png

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

Why is that?

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

Assessing the Team

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, and just shuffle the team around.”

What would you change?

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

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

How Do You Approach Teambuilding?

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

Where do you start?Image result for tapu Koko png

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

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

Virginia Team: Tapu Bulu + Kartana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How early do you start building teams for tournaments?

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

Is it just trying to find something that sticks?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Bonus Questions

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

Image result for tapu Koko png

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

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

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

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

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

Plans for the Rest of the Season

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

Thanks for reading!


Art of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

Featured Image from @PokeCenter_VGC

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

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

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

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

Results & Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1. Nick Navarre

2. Robbie Moore

3. Toler Webb

Alola Form

4. Kazuki Kanehira

5. Cameron Swan

6. Jake Hockemeyer

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

7. Aaron Traylor

8. Rajan Bal

Well That Looks Familiar

Image from Pokemon Sun and Moon

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

New Tricks

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

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

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

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

The Rise of the RockImage result for gigalith png

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

Toxic Everything

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!


Art of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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

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

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

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

Results & Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1. Ashton Cox [US]

2. Javier Senorena [ES]

3. Gabriel Agati [BR]

4. Carlos Ventura [PE]

5. Ian McLaughlin [US]

6. William Tansley [UK]

7. Tommy Cooleen [US]

8. Markus Stadter [DE]

Weather WarsImage result for torkoal png

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

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

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

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

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

Poor Politoed probably misses its friends Kingdra and Ludicolo.

Xurkitree & Smeargle: An 8-0 Swiss Run

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

image courtesy of PokémonShowdown!

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

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

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

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

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

Carson St. Denis: The 5 Mon Champion 

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

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

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

Tman’s Top 8 Curse Image result for pelipper png

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Thanks for reading!

Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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

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

ArcanineImage result for arcanine

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

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

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

Tapu KokoFile:Tapu Koko.png

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

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

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

GarchompImage result for garchomp png

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

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

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

Tapu Lele Image result for tapu lele png

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

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

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

KartanaImage result for kartana png

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

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

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

Celesteela

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

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

Tapu FiniImage result for tapu fini png

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

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

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

Porygon2Image result for porygon2 png

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

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

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

SnorlaxImage result for snorlax png

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

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

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

 

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

 

GigalithImage result for gigalith png

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

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

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

Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng is HERE: VGC 2017 Portland Regional Championships Recap

Another regional championship wrapped up in Portland, Oregon with Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng taking the title. With his first regional win of the season, Zheng finally claims his Day One invite to the 2017 World Championships.

Zheng’s Tapu Lele and Drifblim combination should be familiar to most of us considering its success over the last two months. Despite three recent big tournament wins, Portland showed us that the meta game is about adapting to this new fearsome combo. But before we get into that, let’s check out the results:

Results & Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1) Aaron Zheng

2) Conan Thompson

3) Max Douglas

4) Hayden McTavish

5) Alberto Lara

6) Jirawiwat Thitasiri

7) Nikolai Zielinkski

8) Bennett Piercy

Countering Drifblim & Tapu LeleImage result for gigalith

Despite the popularity of the combination, we only saw two teams running it in
Portlands’s top 8. What we did see twice in top 4 is Gigalith, which can be an excellent counter. Conan Thompson’s Trick Room mode of Gigalith and Mimikyu was able to effectively pressure Zheng’s Tapu Lele and Drifblim after Mimikyu was able to set up Trick Room.

Without the speed advantage, Tapu Lele can easily be knocked out before it gets Image result for mimikyua chance to make an impact. This is most likely why we’ve seen the adaptation of Taunt on Tapu Lele in order to stop a potential
first-turn Trick Room. Thompson was prepared for this as his Tapu Koko had Sky Drop in order to stop Zheng’s Tapu Lele from Taunting his Mimikyu. Zheng made a great adjustment to his play in game three by double-targeting Mimikyu, which allowed a clean Tailwind sweep with his Tapu Lele and Garchomp.

This new development in the meta game adds yet another piece to the conflict of Tailwind and Trick Room teams. Each strategy seems to keep finding new ways to counter the other, which makes the match up increasingly more difficult. It shows how vital speed control is in competitive Pokémon, so expect to see either Tailwind or Trick Room on any successful team.

Highlight Analysis: Finals

The finals set between Aaron Zheng and Conan Thompson was nothing short of exciting. Here are some of the many highlights with analysis. You can watch the entire set HERE.

 

Highlight #1: Thompson reveals his tricky Sky Drop strategy to ensure Mimikyu’s Trick Room. This is clever since the Pokémon taken into the sky cannot move the next turn if it is faster than the Pokémon that used Sky Drop, and Trick Room makes Tapu Koko the slowest Pokémon on the field. Thompson gets up a free Trick Room and takes Tapu Lele out for essentially two turns.

Highlight #2: Zheng makes an excellent call on Thompson’s switch into Celesteela. Zheng knocks out Thompson’s Mimikyu allowing his Arcanine’s Flare Blitz to redirect to and KO Thompson’s incoming Celesteela.

Highlight #3: Kimo explains this really well in his commentary when he remarks on Thompson’s ability to get so much free damage all at the cost of Mimikyu’s disguise.

Highlight #4: Zheng’s Garchomp outspeeds Thompson’s Garchomp in the Trick Room (not sure if it was a speed tie) allowing it to score a crucial KO with Tectonic Rage.

Highlight #5: Zheng misplays here as Garchomp could have easily just used Earthquake to finish off Thompson’s Tapu Koko and Gigalith despite being in Trick Room. Thompson’s Tapu Koko is Assault Vest and can’t protect itself so Garchomp would’ve easily knocked it out while surviving Gigalith’s Rock Slide. Even if Gigalith were to survive the Earthquake, Trick Room would be gone and Zheng would have a 2v1 against Gigalith. Zheng could’ve been fearing Wide Guard which Thompson reveals next turn.

Highlight #6: Thompson finally reveals Wide Guard to stop Zheng from winning the game as Tapu Koko gets the KO on Drifblim. Even though this was a clutch turn from Thompson, it revealed a ton of information. Plus the game’s not over yet.

Highlight #7: The longest highlight that just involves mind games with Gigalith using Wide Guard, Garchomp trying to attack, and Tapu Koko trying to whittle down Garchomp. There’s an interesting moment at the end of this highlight where Zheng Protects on a turn where Gigalith uses Rock Slide, which could have been a big missed opportunity for Zheng.

Highlight #8: Thompson’s Tapu Koko finally uses Sky Drop to try and take out Garchomp which allows Gigalith to set up a free Curse. The Curse is not only good to increase Gigalith’s Attack, but it’s the Defense boost that proves to be more crucial.

Highlight #9: Zheng makes an amazing play to no avail as Gigalith survives the Earthquake and recovers 50% of its HP with its Figy Berry. Its hard to say if it was a roll or not, but it was definitely a momentous break for Thompson.

Highlight #10: Zheng makes a great play to KO Mimikyu on turn one. Shutting down the Trick Room option makes the game much more difficult for Thompson which Zheng capitalizes on.

Highlight #11: Another great play from Zheng as he correctly predicts the double protect from Thompson’s Pokémon in order to set up a free Swords Dance. This play basically guarantees Zheng the win as he now has a +2 Garchomp and his Tapu Lele with a turn of Tailwind to spare.

Highlight #12: Zheng is a very safe player in the endgame which is exactly how he plays it here. Amazing set from both players, but Zheng made the better moves in the end to take Oregon Regionals.

A Niche Pick: SlowkingSlowking

A bit of an interesting choice for a Trick Room setter made its first top cut appearance in Portland courtesy of Bennett Piercy. I’m surprised that it took this long for a Slowbro or Slowking to make its way into the meta game, since both have been reliable Trick Room setters in the past.

One advantage Slowking has over Slowbro is its higher Special Defense, which seems like the preferred defense stat to train in this format. Slowking gets access to some versatile attacking options which likely explains it being on a team with Tapu Lele to potentially capitalize on Psychic Terrain. Expect Slowking to slowly make its way into the late-season meta game.

Final Thoughts

Shoutout to NuggetBridge for streaming the tournament with some great commentary from a variety of commentators. The next upcoming regional is keeping it out west as we head to Salt Lake City, Utah. We’ll have a recap just like this one for all upcoming major tournaments so make sure to come back for coverage from Utah regionals. Thanks for reading!

Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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Pokemon VGC’s Championship Point Dilemma

Recently, there have been a number of players voicing their opinions on the current championship point structure and what it could mean for the future of Pokemon VGC.

A Rundown of the Problem

The current championship point (CP) requirement for Worlds qualification in the two major regions (United States and Europe) is 500. The remaining regions of Latin America, Asia Pacific, and South Africa require 350 points.

With the adjusted tournament structure now offering smaller CP payouts for placings beyond top 16, best finish limits set in place, and limits to the frequency of local tournaments, The Pokemon Company (TPCi) has quite a problem to fix.

The current structure caters heavily to high-level players who can afford to travel, which isn’t ideal for the game’s growth. With the bar at 500 CP to qualify for Worlds and fewer ways to earn those points, there is less incentive for new players to compete. Basically, it’s extremely hard to qualify for Worlds if you are a less-experienced player who can’t afford to travel to higher CP events.

Perhaps a solution would be to lower the Worlds’ CP bar to 350 or 400 with the current CP payouts as a way to properly scale how much CP is awarded at each tournament level. This way, there’s incentive to attend local tournaments which could translate to higher attendance at larger ones. This could make Worlds qualification more accessible, which would allow top players to shift their focus to making it further in the tournament.

However, some would say lowering the bar would make Worlds too easy to qualify for. This was an issue in 2016 when local tournaments could be “farmed” for CP, which made higher level tournaments seem less significant. However, it also made the scene much more accessible for local players, which is obviously great for the game’s potential growth.

See the problem here?

We either have tournaments that appeal to top performing players and “wallet warriors”, or we lower the CP bar making Worlds an easier tournament to qualify for.

Now that there’s a general outline of the problem, let’s dive into some specific topics that players have brought up regarding the issue.

International Championships and the Best Finish Limit

With the best finish limit for Internationals set at four, the mentality of “quantity over quality” is very applicable if a player is able travel and perform well. With top players in each region receiving stipends to travel to each country’s Internationals, it makes it too easy to flood these tournaments with players from regions that already have enough tournaments to qualify for Worlds.

On the other hand, if TPCi restricts the best finish limit to one and limits incentive to travel, one or two bad finishes for a top player could end their season.

Regional Favoritism

It’s obvious that North America is the region with the best treatment in Pokemon VGC. The US has the most tournaments and most coverage over any region in the circuit, which explains the large number of American players at Worlds.

More US players receive stipends, allowing them to travel to and dominate tournaments overseas. The more developed scene makes community-organized tournaments possible to award a travel award to the winner.

Of course, countries like Japan need an improved qualification structure, buts that’s been an issue since the beginning.

The Return of the LCQ?

The Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) was a tournament held the day before Worlds as an opportunity for non-invited players to play for a chance to compete at the main event.

No one is certain why the LCQ was discontinued, as it was an incentive for non-invitees to attend Worlds. Not to mention, it also produced a World Champion in the Seniors division in 2013.

It was popular among the community, which gives it even less of a reason to be absent from Worlds. With the recent attendance restrictions at the 2016 World Championships and now the Sao Paulo Internationals, you’d think TPCi is deliberately trying to make their tournaments smaller.

Final Thoughts

What we should take away from this is that no tournament structure is going to please everyone. The championship point structure is crucial to every aspect of Pokemon VGC’s tournament structure including maintaining the player base. If you don’t appeal to new players, the game won’t grow, but if you disappoint the veterans, people will leave.

TPCi has some big questions to answer when deciding how to handle their 2018 season. There’s no clear solution, but there’s a lot that needs improvement.

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Defending the Land Down Under: VGC 2017 Melbourne International Championships Recap

That’s a wrap from Melbourne, and what a great tournament it was. Zoe Lou, a rather unfamiliar face to the big stage, was able to take her home country’s tournament, overcoming a stacked Top 8. Zoe’s historic win makes her the first Australian player to win an International, and the first female Master to win a National-level tournament since 2011.

Results & Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1) Zoe Lou

2) https://i1.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/italyflag.png?resize=32%2C32Nico Davide Cognetta

*

3) ukflagBen Kyriakou

4) Luke Curtale

Alola Form

5) argentinaflagSebastian Escalante

6)usflagNick Naverre

7) usflagTommy Cooleen

Alola Form

8) germanyflagBaris Akcos

Alola Form

*Nico’s Kartana was removed due to a team sheet error

Pokémon Sprite Images courtesy of Game Freak

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix ItImage result for drifblim

Zoe’s team was heavily inspired by former World Champion and ONOG Invitational Champion, Shoma Honami’s
famous Tapu Lele and Drifblim combination. This combo takes advantage of Drifblim’s Unburden ability, which doubles its speed when it doesn’t have an item. Since Drifblim consumes its Psychic Seed after Tapu Lele hits the field, Drifblim can set up a quick Tailwind.

Zoe’s tournament run may have hit a rough patch in Day 2 Swiss, but her Day 1 and Top Cut performances wereImage result for tapu lele nothing short of dominant. Zoe finished 8-1 in Day 1 and barely managed to squeeze into the Top Cut as the 8th seed. From there, Zoe won by a forfeit in Top 8, but proved herself in her Top 4 match against Ben Kyriakou, and her Finals match against London International Finalist, Nico Davide Cognetta. Although Cognetta was playing with only five Pokemon due to a team sheet issue, Zoe proved she won this match by playing exceptionally in her 2-0 sweep, and she had a number of fans to cheer her on.

Five Pokemon? No Problem.Image result for kartana

After losing his Kartana due to the same team sheet woes that plagued players in London, Nico managed to take his weakened team all the way to the finals. Nico had already proved himself as a skilled player after his run to the finals in London, but his skill could only propel him so far. Kartana would’ve been invaluable for handling Zoe’s nearly unchecked Magnezone, as Nico’s Arcanine had issues with Zoe’s Garchomp and Gyarados. Despite Nico’s success, this got players talking again about how unfairly harsh these team sheet rulings were, and how they should be reformed in the future.

Streamed From An iPhone

image courtesy of @BillaVGC on Twitter

Honestly, the community was the real MVP of the weekend.

With permission from The Pokémon Company, a phone was provided to commentators Ty Power (@SarkastikVGC) and Tom Schultz (@SchultzyVGC) who actually dropped from the competition to commentate the last-minute stream. There was even live coverage from PokemonAustralia.com who live tweeted the event, with assistance from other members of the Australian Pokémon community. A huge shout out to everyone who helped to provide coverage as you have made our jobs as spectators and journalists a lot easier.

 

Final Thoughts

Melbourne was an event filled with story lines that turned out to be a great overall tournament experience. With Melbourne behind us, we set our sights on São Paulo, Brazil for the next International Championships that have shrouded themselves in controversy due to the newly announced player caps. Now that Europe and Australia have crowned players who have successfully defended their continents, let’s see if Latin America can do the same.

Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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Sao Paulo’s Attendance Cap – Another International Issue

These International Championships cannot seem to distance themselves from controversy. First, London’s timing and team sheets, and Melbourne’s lack of a stream. Now, an attendance cap for the upcoming Sao Paulo International Championships. The tournament is only a month away, and this news has likely ruined a number of non-South American player’s planned trips that were not courtesy of an official stipend.

First, Let’s Talk About Melbourne

Failure to provide live coverage from another large tournament? Sounds like TPCi.

After setting up the International Championships structure, and allowing top players from across the world to compete in different countries, you’d think there would be an extra push to stream these high-profile tournaments. Sadly no, and we’ll likely never receive an explanation for why this happened. Streaming should be a priority for TPCi when it comes to an international event. Getting people to watch the game will only help it grow. We as spectators should not have to rely on Twitter or other unofficial sources (that usually do an amazing job) for live coverage. I can understand not streaming a few regionals. However, there is little excuse for not streaming the International Championships, regardless of what country they’re in.

Now Onto That Attendance Cap…

128. 128 players is the max attendance for an International tournament. Does this bring back memories of how the 2016 World Championships was closed off to spectators, and how we found out about it only a month in advance?

Seriously, I have no clue why TPCi would have an attendance cap that is lower than the amount of players at Worlds last year. Not only that, they’re giving stipends to the top four players in each region. This further restricts the number of players who are able to compete. For a series of tournaments that encourages players to travel to other countries, it makes little sense to cap the attendance at such a low number. It also makes the communities’ efforts to organize tournaments to award stipend money a complete waste at this point.

Another aspect affected is Championship Point and prize money distribution, if the player number were to not reach 128. How CP and prizes are given is based on attendance. For example, if 127 people were to enter instead of 128, Championship Points would be distributed to the Top 16 instead of the Top 32 according to the current system. This is more of an issue with the number the player cap is set at rather than there being a cap at all. This wouldn’t be an issue if the cap wasn’t in place, however.

To make matters worse, since this is now a smaller tournament, there’s probably not going to be an effort to stream this event either.

What Does This Mean for Indianapolis?

Honestly, I have no clue. North American tournaments are usually well organized. In light of the circumstances that have plagued these Internationals, there’s a reason to be worried. TPCi needs to drastically improve their communication with their players, as announcements like these cannot be tolerated. It seems like every announcement about these tournaments are nothing but bad news. Players will continue to voice their complaints into the void of Twitter, only to not receive any official response.

If you would like to view the official announcements for the Latin America International Championships, check here for stipend info and here for more info on the attendance cap.

Images courtesy of Pokemon.com

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Bold Predictions: Who Will Take ONOG’s Pokémon Invitational?

One Nation of Gamers Pokémon Invitational tournament is happening this weekend, and the hype has reached its peak. Picking a potential winner from such a small pool of top-level players in a game like Pokémon, is insanely difficult. So, I’ve narrowed down my Top three players that I think will take the tournament, based on overall skill and performance in the 2017 format. In no particular order, here they are:

Sejun Park

While Sejun has remained rather quiet in the last two years, outside of the Trading Card Game, he looks poised to come back strong in this tournament. Since winning Worlds back in 2014, Sejun hasn’t made headlines in VGC until this year. His 2017 accomplishments include a win at a large Korean grassroots tournament and his top placing on the Battle Spot Ladder with Tapu Fini. Sejun was one of the early pioneers of Tapu Fini, which is one of the most popular Pokémon in the format right now. This is why I think Sejun will shine when his opportunity comes.

When Sejun enjoys a format, he is a threat. Not to mention, this format hugely rewards innovation, and innovation might as well be Sejun’s middle name. In his interview with Trainer Tower, Sejun explained he,”like(s) the regulations and there [are] many people who support me. And it is fun! It is fun to play this meta!”

Regardless of what kind of team Sejun brings, standard or weird, I would expect nothing less but a plethora of new tricks from our former World Champion.

Aaron Zheng

Aaron has been in the scene for as long as it has been a thing, and he consistently shows promise to put up a big performance. After starting the season a bit sluggish after missing Day 2 at the London International Championships, Aaron came back in full force with two Top Cut appearances in San Jose and Anaheim. Although he still has yet to win an official tournament this season, he’s coming off of a huge win in the stacked Melbourne Invitational, which also guarantees him an appearance at the Melbourne International Championships in March.

Aaron has high hopes for Pokémon’s growth as a result of this tournament, and I think that will motivate a big performance from Zheng. In his own interview with Trainer Tower, Zheng had this to say about the tournament:

“For this [One Nation of Gamers] tournament, I’m actually really excited because it’s a huge opportunity. I don’t think people realize how huge this really is… Having an organization that does full-time esports come in and help us… is something that is really great… I’ve never seen a grassroots event or tournament organized as well as this, so I have high expectations for this weekend’s competition. And I think it’s really good, because VGC is something where no one really has the time to dedicate to content creation full-time, or writing articles full-time or streaming full time. So being able to get the help of a professional company that has experience in this is really, really big. I think this is honestly a huge step forward.”

Markus Stadter

In traditional fashion, I’m placing my top choice at the end. Markus is one of the top players in Europe, hailing from Germany where he recently claimed his first regional title of the season. Markus’ knowledge of the game (this format especially) is high, and it shows in his play as well as his team building. He was one of the first players to give Mandibuzz a name in VGC 2017, while also helping to popularize Snorlax. On the same team.

After Leipzig Regionals, Markus became very interested in the growth of Pokémon VGC into an esport. In his interview with Trainer Tower, Stadter said, “There’s always been change, and a lot of people still have the goal of ‘getting Pokémon to the next level,’ ‘growing the game’ or ‘becoming esports,’”

“But I want to give it a final try now. I had resigned before and thought Pokémon was ultimately only going to be a fun thing on the side. However, I’m motivated now and want the scene to prosper. There’s still some boundaries we need to cross, but I think it might be possible. I don’t think we’ve ever been this close before.”

Markus’ drive to push Pokémon to the next level serves as powerful motivation for him to do well. Not to mention, he has the capability to make exceptional meta game calls, and capitalize with exceptional skill in best-of-three. The current third best player in the world is my pick to win it all.

 

Images courtesy of Trainer Tower

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