ONOG Invitational – GEICOGaming Puts Its Weight Behind Pokémon VGC

Come One Come All

GEICOGaming ONOG Invitational Lineup

Image courtesy of GEICOGaming

This weekend marked a great day for competitive Pokémon and the VGC. GEICOGaming and One Nation of Gamers brought together eight of the world’s top trainers for a spectacular invitational tournament.

Breaking the eight trainers into groups of four, the initial group play round was double elimination. Trainers competed in best of three format for group play. The four trainers to emerge from group play victorious would move onto semi-finals and finals. In these rounds, trainers competed in best of five, single elimination to ultimately crown a champion.

GEICOGaming sponsored the tournament, covering both the cost of the event along with the $1,000 prize pool. The competitive Pokémon scene has seen few sponsored events, so a major sponsor like GEICO is a promising sign. Given enough success, GEICO may seek further sponsorship of VGC events. Such an occurrence would only bode well for the VGC.

More than Just Saving You Money

GEICOGaming logo tournament

Image courtesy of GEICOGaming

Started in 2015, GEICOGaming was created by the insurance company GEICO Insurance. Driven by a passion for digital offerings, GEICO found a natural ally in the online gaming community. This then lead to the formation of GEICOGaming and hosting various Hearthstone tournaments, such of the ONOG circuit and championship at PAX.

Fast forward two years and GEICOGaming is the leading force in the fast growing world of esports. Not only do they continue to host Hearthstone events, but GECIOGaming has gone on to sponsor two successful esports teams, Team SoloMid and Panda Global.

A Sponsor, a Shiny Hunter, and a Spotlight

For the VGC, this is a great moment. GEICOGaming has provided the format with a platform that it did not have. Combining an expertly crafted broadcast experience, with the esports exposure their clout brings, something magical is happening; people are starting to see how amazing competitive Pokémon can be.

Kotaku even got in on the excitement, publishing an article on Sunday covering some of the drama of the tournament. In an expertly written piece by Jason Krell, the perseverance of Shiny Pokémon Hunter, Dan “aDrive Clap”, can be witnessed as he overcomes two of the VGC’s most prolific talents. In his piece, Jason documents aDrive’s start as a streamer and singles trainer, and walks through his day one invitational victories.

These are the memories that will resonate with the community and go on to last more than just a season. You can even imagine the aspiring trainers watching the stream on twitch thinking, “If he can do it, I can totally do it!” Moving forward, competitive Pokémon needs more of these moments. Finally, Pokémon could have a chance to go from a blip on the radar, to a dominate esport in the fast growing industry.

Doing Your Part

Now with the tournament concluded and the team reports being published, it is easy to think the moment has come and gone. However, that is the wrong attitude to have. If you wish to see competitive Pokémon continue to grow with events like this, now is the time to act. Once you’ve done that, let GEICOGaming know what you thought and how much you appreciated them getting behind this event.

If you haven’t already, follow @GEICOGaming and @ONOGesports on twitter. Once you’ve done that, let them know you want them to keep supporting the VGC. Maybe Game Freak and The Pokémon Company will even take notice and address the aspirations of the competitive Pokémon community.

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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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pokemon regional championship banner

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

Diversity of the VGC

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

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

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

VGC 2017 Winter Regional Champions

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

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

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

San Jose, California Regional

Gavin Michaels –

sprite of porygon2sprite of haryanamimikyuAraquanidDrama

 

 

 

Dallas Regionals 

Andrew Nowak –

tap kokokartanaSalamencemudsdale

 

 

 

Georgia Regionals 

Paul Chua –

tap kokokartanaarcanine  muk-alola

 

 

DreamHack Leipzig Germany Regional

Markus Stadter –

tap finekartanaarcaninegar chompmandibuzzsnorlax

 

 

 

Anaheim, California Regional

Gavin Michaels –
mimikyu sprite of haryana snorlax

 

 

VGC 17 Pokemon

Number of times used

Porygon2

4

Araquanid

4

Kartana

3

Magnezone

2

Hariyama

2

Mimikyu

2

Tapu Koko

2

Arcanine

2

Snorlax

2

Drampa

1

Salamance

1

Mudsdale

1

Muk-Alola

1

Tapu FIni

1

Garchomp

1

Mandibuzz

1

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

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

VGC 2016 Winter Regional Champions

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

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

Virginia Regional 

Paul Chua –

kangaskhanSalamence regional championgroudonxerneastalonflame regional championsmeargle

 

 

 

Collinsville Regional 

Andrew Nowak –

kangaskhanSalamencekyogre regional championxerneasthundurusscizor

 

 

 

Anaheim Regional 

Aaron Zheng –

Salamencemawilegroudonkyogrebronzongsmeargle

 

 

 

Florida Regional 

Wolfe Glick –

Salamencedialgakyogrelandorusthundurusferrothorn

 

 

 

Oregon Regional 

Randy Kwa –

Salamencegroudonxerneastalonflamesmeargleespeon

 

 

 

VGC 16 Pokemon

Number of times used

Salamence

5

Groudon

3

Xerneas

3

Smeargle

3

Kyogre

3

Kangaskhan

2

Talonflame

2

Thundurus

2

Scizor

1

Mawile

1

Bronzong

1

Dialga

1

Landorus

1

Ferrothorn

1

Espeon

1

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

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

VGC 2015 Winter Regional Champions

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

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

VGC 2015

Missouri Regional 

Aaron Traylor –

kangaskhan regionalbisharp regionalconkeldurr regionalclefableheat ranlandorus

 

 

 

California Regional

Alberto Lara –

kangaskhan regionalSalamencerotomsylveonferrothorn regional championlandorus

 

 

 

Virginia Regional

Karl Concepcion

mawilevenusaurchandeluresprite of haryanacresseliabisharp

 

 

 

Oregon Regional

Conan Thompson –

SalamenceterrakionaegislashWeavilecresseliathundurus

 

 

 

Florida Regional Championship

Wolfe Glick –

Banetterotomlandorusheat ranscrafty

 

 

VGC 15 Pokemon

Number of times used

Landorus

3

Kangaskhan

2

Bisharp

2

Heatran

2

Salamence

2

Rotom-W

2

Venasaur

2

Cresselia

2

Conkeldurr

1

Clefable

1

Sylveon

1

Ferrothorn

1

Mawile

1

Chandelure

1

Terrakion

1

Aegislash

1

Weavile

1

Thundurus

1

Banette

1

Scrafty

1

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

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

On the Way to Worlds

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

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

All images courtesy of Game Freak

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Game Freak: Competitive Pokémon’s Worst Enemy

Build It and They Will Come

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

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

The Elite Four is Just Beginning

Game Freak Elite Four

Image courtesy of Game Freak

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

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

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

Everybody Loves Pokémon

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

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

GEICOGaming logo tournament

Image courtesy of GEICOGaming

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

 

 

 

 

Game Freak, Your Work is Not Yet Done

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

Game Freak 20 years of Pokemon

Image Courtesy of Game Freak

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

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

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

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

Who Ya Got?

Courtesy of ONOG

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

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

What’s On the Line?

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

Not Your Traditional Format

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

Where Can I Watch the Tournament?

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

Why This is a Huge Deal

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

Final Words

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

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