Top in Class: VGC 2017 Top Three Fire Types

Where There is Smoke, There is Fire

Fire typing is undoubtedly one of the most powerful typings in all of Pokémon. Fire types have been burning their foes to the ground since generation one. VGC 2017 has been no different, and three fire types have risen to the top of the class.

Specializing primarily in offense and speed, fire types like to hit their opponents fast and leave them with a burn. Burning an opponent in Pokémon will actually serve to reduce the amount of physical damage they are capable of doing.

Not all fire types fit into this formula, however, let’s take a look at which fire types have risen to the top of the pack in VGC 2017.

Slowest Finishes Third

Pokémon Torkoal placing ni VGC

Torkoal @ Charcoal/Life Orb
Ability: Drought
EVs: 116 HP / 252 SpA / 140 SpD
Quiet Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Eruption
– Heat Wave/Flamethrower/Solar Beam
– Overheat/Flamethrower/Solar Beam
– Protect

While Torkoal may not be finding a massive presence in high end tournament play, this fire type turtle defined the meta early. Doing work a bit differently than other Pokémon, Torkoal would come onto the field and overpower its opponents with help from its partner’s status effects or Trick Room.

Unlike most fire type Pokémon, Torkoal is slow and bulky, with high special attack. Changes in Sun & Moon have granted Torkoal the ability Drought, which allows it to summon the sun when it enters the field. This grants its already strong fire attacks a tremendous bonus to damage.

Stranger in the Night

Pokemon Marowak-Alola places 2nd among fire pokémon in vgc 17

Marowak-Alola @ Thick Club
Ability: Lightning Rod
EVs: 252 HP / 172 Atk / 4 Def / 68 SpD / 12 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Flare Blitz
– Shadow Bone
– Bonemerang
– Protect

Marowak used to be a ground type that never saw competitive play, but Sun & Moon have changed that completely. Marowak-Alola is a monstrous opponent if left unchecked. Shedding its previous ground typing, Marowak-Alola is now a Fire/Ghost type.

Just like its type changed, so too has its use in the competitive scene. Marowak-Alola started out the VGC competitive tournament circuit as most used fire type, but has since fallen to second place. While Marowak-Alola packs a punch, he can be somewhat predictable and lacks some utility.

They’re Gonna Hear Me Roar

Pokemon Arcanine places in VGC

Offensive Arcanine

Arcanine @ Iapapa Berry/Sitrus Berry/Life Orb
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 84 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 164 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Extreme Speed
– Flare Blitz
– Snarl/Wild Charge/Will-O-Wisp
– Protect

Support Arcanine

Arcanine @ Firium Z
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 204 HP / 4 Def / 116 SpA / 4 SpD / 180 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Overheat  / Burn Out
– Will-O-Wisp
– Snarl
– Protect

Arcanine has been a fan favorite since generation one, and he is still putting in work. Sitting as the most popular fire type at this point in the 2017 VGC circuit, Arcanine has been a reliable pick for many trainers. It is no surprise, due to the plethora of ways it can be run.

Always packing intimidate support, Arcanine makes his presence felt as soon as he enters the field. From there, the battle plan is based on the trainer’s choices during breeding. Arcanine can run Snarl support to lower Special Attack and deal chip damage to its opponents, or Will-O-Wisp to inflict burns.

An offensive set can also be run abusing Flare Blitz and Extremespeed. Utilizing items from Sitrus Berry, to Assault Vest, to Life Orb, Arcanine is great at leaving the opposing trainer guessing. That is why, season after season, he continues to be on top.

A Prediction For the Birds

pokemon talonflame could rise the ranks of vgc

Talonflame @ Flyinium Z
Ability: Gale Wings
EVs: 236 Atk / 20 SpD / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Brave Bird
– Flare Blitz / Overheat
– Protect
– Tailwind / Taunt

Due to nerfs, Talonflame has yet to take off like it has in previous seasons. My prediction is that moving forward, Talonflame will play a much more prominent roll. Offering great offensive pressure, Tailwind support, and the ability to pressure the popular Kartana, Talonflame is poised to make a comeback!

All images courtesy of Game Freak

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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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VGC 2017 – Meta Overview and the Rise of AFK

The Shaping of a Meta

The competitive Pokémon meta in the VGC format changes from season to season. The VGC 17 season has seen its meta develop at a breakneck pace. After last year’s rules allowing restricted Pokémon to compete, this year’s lower power-curve has resulted in many changes to the variety in the metagame and strategies teams are employing.

Many components come together to form the VGC meta. With the most important being how the Pokémon on trainer’s teams work together to beat their opponents. Things like covering each others weaknesses or setting up a gimmick are examples of this. Trainers build their teams with these factors in mind in order to overcome many of the challenges they will face.

Empowerment Through Terrain and Weather

Since its rise in popularity in gen five, weather has had the propensity to be a dominate force. Rain especially has been strong in the Pokémon VGC meta. This season, however, terrains have been introduced as somewhat of a compliment to weather. When a Tapu comes onto the field, their ability creates a terrain effect, much like weather. These terrains create different benefits. From rendering status effects ineffective, to increasing the damage grass type moves do, terrains along with weather can truly shape a match.

Terrains are extremely popular at the moment due to the strength of Tapus, and appears on almost every team. Where as weather is seeing popular use with a few popular teams.

Pokémon Torkoal placing ni VGCPokemon Liligant places in Pokémon VGC

Torkoal + Liligant

Torkoal provides Sun weather when he comes onto the field. Sun both boosts Torkoal’s fire attacks, but also provides Liligant with a speed boost. This allows Liligant to set up sleep and provide Torkoal with an opportunity to sleep.

Tokoal + Liligant saw a quick rise in popularity in the beginning of the season, but since has become more of a sleeper. However, it is extremely dangerous if you are unprepared for it.

Pokemon Pelipper places in pokemon VGCPokemon Golduck places in Pokemon VGC

Pelipper + Golduck

Pelipper sets Rain when he enters the field, and provides a sharp boost in speed to Golduck. Golduck will then attempt to use the boost in power from rain to sweep the opposing team. Much like the Torkoal team, this strategy can be strong, but easily dismantled.

Speed Control is So 2016

Speed control has always been an extremely important part of any VGC season. In the early days of VGC 17, however, tools such as Tailwind and Thunder Wave become less popular. Trick Room is the de facto form of speed control for VGC 17. While Tailwind still makes an appearance, Thunder Wave’s popularity has plummeted with a nerf to its accuracy.

There are a few popular Trick Room users, but one is solely responsible for its shear popularity this season.

Pokemon Porygon2 places in VGC

Porygon2 @ Eviolite
Ability: Download
EVs: 252 HP / 92 Def / 164 SpD
Careful Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Trick Room
– Tri Attack
– Ice Beam
– Recover

On top of having Trick Room, Porygon2 has an extremely diverse move-pool. It also benefits from holding an Eviolite, granting it tremendous bulk. Combined with the fact gen seven introduced many slow and bulky Pokémon, and Cresselia is not allowed in VGC 17, Porygon2 has found itself right at home.

Pokemon Pelipper places in pokemon VGC

Pelipper @ Focus Sash
Ability: Drizzle
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Modest/Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Scald
– Hurricane
– Tailwind
– Protect

Pelipper finds itself as the most popular Tailwind user this year, receiving buffs to both its stats and ability. Now with the ability Drizzle, Pelipper can summon Rain as it enters the field. Rain will serve to both boost Pelipper’s own STAB Scald, as well as grant Hurricane 100% accuracy. This gives Pelipper a lot of offensive potential, on top of Tailwind and Rain utility.

How About Some Goodstuff?

Goodstuff is a term coined in Pokémon VGC for Pokémon and teams of Pokémon who are individually strong and well rounded. VGC 17 is no different.

Pokemon Tapu Koko places in VGC

Tapu Koko @ Life Orb/Focus Sash/Fairium Z/Electrium Z
Ability: Electric Surge
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
– Thunderbolt
– Dazzling Gleam
– Discharge/Taunt
– Protect

Tapu Koko creates Electric Terrain when it enters the field. This prevents sleep, along with boosting the power of electric type attacks. Combining this boost of electric damage with Tapu Koko’s already impressive offensive stats results in quite the monster.

Pokemon Celesteela places in VGC

Celesteela @ Leftovers
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 180 HP / 180 Atk / 148 SpD
Careful Nature
– Heavy Slam
– Substitute/Flamethrower
– Leech Seed
– Wide Guard/Protect

A master of stall, and a great defensive pivot, Celesteela has a fantastic steel/flying typing. When Celeteela enters the field, prepare for a long drawn out conflict, unless you have an answer prepared immediately.

pokemon Muk-Alola places in VGC

Muk-Alola @ Figy Berry
Ability: Gluttony
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 44 Atk / 108 Def / 100 SpD / 4 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Poison Jab
– Knock Off
– Curse/Shadow Sneak/Imprison
– Protect

Muk-Alola not only provides impressive stats and good move-pool, but its typing leaves it with only a single weakness to ground. Muk also acts as a fantastic counter to all of the Tapu Pokémon.

Pokemon Snorlax places in VGC

Snorlax @ Figy Berry
Ability: Gluttony
EVs: 68 HP / 196 Atk / 244 Def
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Return
– High Horsepower
– Curse
– Protect/Recycle

Snorlax provides a neutral powerhouse that can be a force to be reckoned with. Generally running the Curse set and lots of bulk, Snorlax will mow down teams and counter Trick Room in a pinch.

All of these Pokémon have one thing in common. They are all extremely deadly in almost any setting without any work needed. When building for VGC 17, it is important to supplement your core to counter as many Goodstuff Pokémon as possible. While no true Goodstuffs team has solidified for VGC 17, there are many Pokémon who fit the mold.

Gimmicks Can Be Silly, But They Are Dangerous

VGC 17 has brought with it a host of gimmicks. Two, however, are seeing use at some of the highest levels of play.

Pokemon Eevee places in VGC

Eevee @ Eevium Z
Ability: Adaptability
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Last Resort
– Baton Pass
– Helping Hand
– Protect

You will normally find Eevee alongside Pokémon like Clefairy or Smeargle for Follow Me support. While holding an Eevium Z item, Eevee is able to use an exclusive move called Extreme Evoboost which doubles all of its stats. Eevee then attempts to use Baton Pass to pass the stat increases to a sweeper such as Tapu Lele or Espeon.

Pokemon Porygon-Z places in VGC

Porygon-Z @ Normalium Z
Ability: Adaptability
Level: 50
EVs: 20 HP / 28 Def / 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 204 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Shadow Ball/Thunderbolt/Ice Beam
– Tri Attack/Shadow Ball/Thunderbolt/Ice Beam
– Conversion
– Protect

Porygon-Z now gains access to Z-Conversion while holding the item Normalium Z. Z-Conversion both boosts all of Porygon-Z’s stats by one stage, as well as change its type to match that of the move in its first slot. This turns Porygon-Z into quite a formidable enemy, and must be accounted for.

In VGC 17 AFK Will Put You Away

One core has risen to the top so far during the course of VGC 17. AFK, standing for Arcanine, Fini, and Kartana. These three Pokémon comprise a fairly traditional fire/water/grass core. However, these three bring some seriously deadly synergy.

Pokemon Arcanine places in VGC

Arcanine @ Iapapa Berry/Sitrus Berry
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 84 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 164 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Extreme Speed
– Flare Blitz
– Snarl/Wild Charge/Will-O-Wisp
– Protect

Arcanine is a proverbial swiss army knife of a Pokémon. It can be run fast or bulky, with a focus on offense or support. Bringing Intimidate to the field to weaken the opposing Pokémon’s physical attack also allows Arcanine to immediately apply pressure.

Pokemon Tapu Fini places in VGC

Tapu Fini @ Leftovers
Ability: Misty Surge
EVs: 252 HP / 44 Def / 196 SpA / 4 SpD / 12 Spe
Calm Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Muddy Water
– Moonblast
– Calm Mind
– Substitute/Protect

Tapu Fini’s ability to support its teammates is without question. Its Misty Terrain prevents status effects from taking place. While Tapu Fini’s bulk and boosting ability make it a powerful force on the field if it is able to set up.

Pokemon Kartana places in VGC

Kartana @ Focus Sash
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Smart Strike
– Leaf Blade
– Sacred Sword
– Protect

Then there is Kartana. Kartana brings a grass/steel typing and high offenses and speed. When Kartana is on the field it has one objective: apply as much offensive pressure as possible and rack up the KOs.

This is Only Just the Beginning

VGC 17 is only just getting started. What we see now could quite possibly be totally different from the most popular teams in two months. This is one of the things that makes Pokémon VGC so exciting. Who will be the key player in the World Championship is anyone’s guess, let’s find out together.

All images courtesy of Game Freak

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Breeding Cheaters – Why The Pokémon Company Should Close a Window and Open a Door

Assembling the Best in Breed

Pokémon Pikachu holding a Pokémon egg from breeding

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Becoming the very best in competitive Pokémon requires much more than just showing up to tournaments and winning battles. Competent trainers must spend a plethora of time developing teams of six Pokémon that have synergy together. Then for each Pokémon selected, the trainer must breed the perfect candidate. Finally, the trainer has to train a proper EV, or effort value, spread into each Pokémon in order for it to optimally perform its role. This entire process is referred to as teambuilding.

Arguably, teambuilding poses one of the single biggest hurdles when it comes to new trainers attempting to get into competitive Pokémon. The amount of research, trial & error, and knowledge of the current metagame, means a high barrier for entry. Top that off with the fact that each time you want to try something new, or change any member of your team, you must start the breeding process over.

Worst yet is that both teambulding and breeding contribute little to the viewing experience of competitive Pokémon. Furthermore, both of these activities reduce a trainers ability to practice while discouraging experimentation due to time commitment. None of these things foster a healthy competitive community. In fact, the current breeding issues are causing more harm than good.

Breedings not Cheating… or is it?

Investing time into mastering the nuances of battling is extremely important. For the most part, trainers consider riding a Tauros in circles for hours hatching eggs and praying to the RNG gods to be a waste of time. As with most things in life, the path of least resistance is found and the floodgates open.

Pokémon breeder riding a Tauros in circles while breeding Pokémon

Image courtesy of @akamiso0608

Cheating, more specifically genning Pokémon, has risen to popularity as a way to cut out the timesink breeding creates. Trainers use a computer program to instantly create the Pokémon they need for their teams. This successfully bypasses the need for breeding and decreases the time teambulding takes tremendously.

In the end, the effect is a lack of consistency and an uneven playing field. While genned Pokémon will end up totally identical to their bred counterparts, the savings in time cannot be understated.

Furthermore, genning requires the trainer to have access to a Nintendo 2/3DS with hacked firmware. This encourages any aspiring Pokémon trainers to almost have to break TOS on Nintendo hardware to stay competitive. Nintendo and TPCI would both benefit from solving this issue.

An Argument for Breeding Consistency

Regardless of whether you are for genning Pokémon for convenience, or doing it the hard way, consistency is needed. With the current system in place, the community finds itself fractured. Those with experience and drive to win will take the most reliable route to victory. The result is a large gap for new trainers to cross.

Pokémon status screen used when breeding Pokémon

Image courtesy of Game Freak

TPCI and Game Freak need to streamline the entire teambuilding process. Either enforce the system of breeding in some way, or make the ability to build teams for competitive events easier. There really isn’t another option. Removing the need for reliance on third party applications is paramount.

Ultimately the goal should be to create an easy and transparent way for new and aspiring trainers to get into competitive battling. By lowering the barrier for entry, TPCI can stimulate the competitive community and interest in competitive Pokémon as a whole.

 

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Player Skill Be Damned! RNG is a Critical Part of the Pokémon Formula

RNG Is All Around Us… But What Is It?

Pokémon Pokéball shakes using RNG to capture

Image courtesy of Game Freak

RNG, or Random Number Generator, is a term used to describe a background process for decision making. Much the same as luck, it is used in games such a Pokémon to determine things like critical hits and status effects. In other types of games, such as MMOs, RNG is used to determine what monsters drop from their loot pool. Think of it like the result from the flip of a coin, or roll of the dice.

RNG is a controversial topic when it comes to eSports, and in particular competitive Pokémon. One of the main critiques of competitive Pokémon is its reliance on RNG. There are many that feel that due to the fact that these elements are not affected by players skill, they have little to no place in competitive sports/eSports. However, others feel the inclusion of RNG tests a competitors risk management.

So which side is right? While reliance on player skill is an important factor in all competitive sports and eSports, so is unpredictability. It is when both skill and luck come together that a truly great competition is born.

 

Milotic Goes for the Scald on Celesteela, HE GETS THE BURN!

Pokémon Milotic uses Scald and RNG grants a burn

Image courtesy of Make A Gif

There is no doubt that RNG plays a large roll in all Pokémon matches. Critical hits and Status effect are the two biggest examples of RNG altering matches. It is also true that in some cases, no matter the skill of a trainer, RNG will lead to their defeat. This does not mean that each match is won by the flip of a coin though. The fact you see many of the same great trainers winning tournaments over and over again is proof that skill is the ultimate deciding factor in win-rate.

Sure, a Trainer can’t force a critical hit to kill that Celesteela, but they certainly can predict a Leech Seed and swap a Sap Sipper Goodra into it. This type of play only comes with lots of training and practice. Understanding the meta, observing your opponents play style, and getting into their head are huge parts of competitive Pokémon. The best players are reacting to what their opponent will do before they even do it. This is the level of play that separate the good from the great.

At the end of the day, even the best Trainers will inevitably lose matches that they have no business losing due to RNG. Normally though, this is not enough to prevent great Trainers from winning consecutively. Official matches are even structured in a way to prevent the influence of RNG. Rather than each match ending with a winner and loser, all matches are played in a best of three series. This not only helps to prevent RNG from determining winners and losers, but also allows Trainers to get a feel for each other as the series progresses.

 

Do You Feel Lucky? Well Do Ya Punk?

Let’s be honest, RNG or luck influences many of the sports and eSports that we know and love also. Actually if you step back and look at all of these activities, you will see they all fall on a continuum. On the left is pure luck, like playing the lottery, and on the right is pure skill. Chess would be the best example of purely skill based gameplay. Every other sport or eSport falls somewhere on this continuum.

Think about things like weather and coin flips. These are excellent examples of RNG at play in popular sports. Baseball has variable field sizes, Basketballl has game winning shots from half court; the list goes on and on. Then look at eSports. League has crit chance, DOTA has crit chance, accuracy penalties, and much more. Even CS:GO has shot variance, creating some situations where a long range shot is missed simply due to luck. Yet all of these games are leading the charge in the eSport market.

Going even further, even the Super Bowl’s outcome can be determined by luck. Think back to Super Bowl 46 when Wes Welker dropped an easily catchable ball that would have won the game and the Super Bowl for the Patriots. There is not even a best-of series for the Super Bowl, so if luck is the deciding factor, that is it. This has not stopped the popularity however, and very few games have come down to pure luck.

Patriots Tight End Wes Welker drops game winning pass in Super Bowl 46. Demonstrating lucks influence in traditional sports.

Image courtesy of NBC

At the end of the day, the best way to think about it is great competitors create their own luck. This is, in essence, the risk management of competition.

 

Luck vs Skill: The Ratings

Looking at ratings alone, luck is actually the more important factor for spectators. Consider the continuum, while very luck-based games such as Texas Hold’em have aired all over ESPN and cable television, you would be hard pressed to see a Chess Tournament in primetime. The fact is, unexpected results create drama, and drama is good for viewership. Some of the most memorable sporting moments have been upsets that were part skill and part luck, but amazing television.

This is why the focus on the influence of RNG on not just Pokémon, but eSports in general is misguided. Rather than making RNG the end all be all, it should be another element that adds to the fun. Great competitors will understand RNG, and even bend it to their advantage. This will lead to those “Oh My God” moments, and who doesn’t want more of those in their sport?

For Pokémon this means learning to blend the elements of range subtly into the playing experience. If something like burns or critical hits seems to be too powerful, tweak it until you get the right mix. However, you can never forget the three dimensional game that Pokémon is. Between subtle things like team building and dynamic actions (like masterful switches), Trainers have a multitude of methods to tip a match in their favor.

Pokémon VGC world championship 2015 Wolf Glick shows expert prediction during finals match

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Full Stop. Pure Skill Based Gameplay is Boring

RNG or luck makes for excitement, and observers like excitement. It keeps competitors on their toes and keeps games from getting stale. While taking all reliance on skill out of a game is a terrible idea, so too is removing all aspects of luck. Finding the perfect formula of gameplay, skill, and luck should be the ultimate objective of aspiring sports. While Pokémon by no means has the mix perfect, TPCI should not let the critics convince them RNG has no place in an eSport.

 

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Pokémon Pokésport competitive logo

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

Generations Come and Go

Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri appearing on a Pokémon Direct presentation

Image courtesy of Game Freak

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

Two Game Boys trading Pokémon using a Game Boy Link Cable

Image courtesy of GameSkinny

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

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

Pokémon Jirachi using Future Sight on Pokémon Warlord

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Future Sight 

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

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

Image courtesy of neoGAF

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

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

Hologram of Charizard and Latios

Image courtesy of Nerdist

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

 

Esports Glass Ceiling

Pokémon GO fans gather in chicago

Image courtesy of Ubergizmo

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

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

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

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

Trainers battle with Pokémon in real life

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Satoshi Was Right

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

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

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

Pokémon Train On logo

Image courtesy of Game Freak

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The Battle Spot Top 30! – A Guide to the Most Popular Pokémon in VGC 2017

Want to know what the top Pokémon are right now? Want to know how to use them effectively? Well then this is the article for you!

In the most recent Global Link update (1/23/2017), the Top 30 Pokémon (usage-wise) were revealed for each format on the Battle Spot Ladder. Other information, such as most popular teammates, items, natures and more are shown when viewing each Pokémon, showing how most players like to use that Pokémon.

But we’re going to take it a step further.

Not only will we show you all of that, but we’ll also provide sample move sets and spreads for each Pokémon! This article will be updated to reflect current meta game trends and new Pokémon that break the Top 30 each week!

Note: This won’t be updated to resemble a traditional “Top X” List, so here’s how this will work:

-If a new Pokémon enters the Top 30, it will simply be added to this list along with all of the data associated with it.

-If there is a shift in placement for some Pokémon, that won’t be reflected here.

The Top 30 (1/24/2017)

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Tapu Koko

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Tapu Koko @ Life Orb/Focus Sash/Fairium Z/Electrium Z
Ability: Electric Surge
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
– Thunderbolt/Nature Power
– Dazzling Gleam
– Discharge/Hidden Power (Ice/Fire)/Taunt
– Protect

The most common set for Tapu Koko which mainly focuses on speed and attack power. There are many variations on this move set to fit certain teams or roles for Tapu Koko on a team. EV’s can also be changed depending on personal preference.

Tapu Koko @ Assault Vest
Ability: Electric Surge
EVs: 236 HP / 12 Def / 28 SpA / 132 SpD / 100 Spe
Timid Nature
– Volt Switch
– Dazzling Gleam
– Discharge
– Nature’s Madness

Assault Vest mainly takes advantage of Tapu Koko’s very diverse attacking move pool, while also giving it some added bulk.

Tapu Koko @ Choice Specs
Ability: Electric Surge
EVs: 236 HP / 12 Def / 84 SpA / 76 SpD / 100 Spe
Timid Nature
– Volt Switch
– Dazzling Gleam
– Discharge
– Thunderbolt

This is the Choice Specs variant of Tapu Koko that Ray Rizzo featured in his video showcasing his set. You can check out his video here if you’re interested in seeing damage calcs or just want to hear his take on it.

 

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Tapu Lele

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Tapu Lele @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Psychic Surge
EVs: 84 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 164 Spe
Modest Nature
– Psychic
– Moonblast
– Dazzling Gleam
– Thunderbolt/Shadow Ball/Hidden Power [Fire]

Standard Choice Scarf Tapu Lele designed to out-speed Pheromosa and deal tons of damage.

Tapu Lele @ Psychium Z/Life Orb/Sitrus Berry/Psychic Seed
Ability: Psychic Surge
EVs: 28 HP / 44 Def / 228 SpA / 4 SpDef / 204 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Psychic
– Moonblast
– Taunt/Dazzling Gleam/Substitute
– Protect

A slower, more bulky Tapu Lele which allows for some support options in addition to standard attacking moves.

 

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Tapu Fini

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Tapu Fini @ Leftovers
Ability: Misty Surge
EVs: 252 HP / 44 Def / 196 SpA / 4 SpD / 12 Spe
Calm Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Muddy Water
– Moonblast
– Calm Mind
– Substitute/Protect

 

Tapu Fini @ Choice Specs
Ability: Misty Surge
EVs: 252 HP / 20 Def / 164 SpA / 44 SpD / 28 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Muddy Water
– Hydro Pump
– Moonblast
– Dazzling Gleam/Ice Beam/Grass Knot/Shadow Ball

A Choice Specs set focused on just dealing damage. Tapu Fini has other cool attacking options, but most just stick to Water and Fairy-type attacks.

 

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Tapu Bulu

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Tapu Bulu @ Miracle Seed
Ability: Grassy Surge
EVs: 244 HP / 116 Atk / 140 Def / 4 SpD / 4 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Wood Hammer
– Horn Leech
– Substitute/Rock Slide/Superpower
– Protect

Tapu Bulu might not be so popular nowadays, but it still can deal a ton of damage with strong, Grassy-Terrain boosted attacks.

Tapu Bulu @ Lum Berry
Ability: Grassy Surge
EVs: 252 HP / 36 Atk / 60 Def / 140 SpD / 20 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Horn Leech
– Leech Seed
– Substitute
– Protect

Here’s a set that was piloted by our current World Champion at the London International Championships. You can watch his team report here where he discusses the set more in depth.

 

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Kartana

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Kartana @ Focus Sash
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Smart Strike
– Leaf Blade
– Sacred Sword
– Protect

Simple Focus Sash Kartana. Sacred Sword can be traded out for moves like Night Slash or X-Scissor depending on what kind of coverage you need.

Kartana @ Assault Vest
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 84 HP / 116 Atk / 4 Def / 52 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Leaf Blade
– Smart Strike
– Sacred Sword
– Night Slash

The EV’s for an Assault Vest vary largely among players, but this one is meant to get you started.

 

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Celesteela

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Celesteela @ Leftovers
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 252 HP / 116 Atk / 4 Def / 60 SpD / 76 Spe
– Heavy Slam
– Leech Seed
– Flamethrower/Substitute
– Protect/Wide Guard

The EV’s and Nature make it so Beast Boost raises your Attack stat.

 

Celesteela @ Leftovers
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 180 HP / 180 Atk / 148 SpD
Careful Nature
– Heavy Slam
– Substitute/Flamethrower
– Leech Seed
– Wide Guard/Protect

The EV’s and Nature make it so Beast Boost raises your Special Defense.

 

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Nihilego

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Nihilego @ Focus Sash
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Power Gem
– Sludge Bomb
– Hidden Power [Ice] – Protect

 

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Pheromosa

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Pheromosa @ Focus Sash/Fightinium Z
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature/Naughty Nature
– Lunge/U-Turn
– High Jump Kick/Low Kick/Brick Break
– Poison Jab/Ice Beam/Feint/Taunt
– Protect

Pheromosa can have a TON of moves on it, though the item choice and EV’s are pretty simple.

 

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Garchomp

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Garchomp @ Groundium Z
Ability: Rough Skin
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Earthquake
– Dragon Claw/Fire Fang
– Poison Jab/Rock Slide
– Protect

 

Garchomp @ Assault Vest
Ability: Rough Skin
EVs: 28 HP / 172 Atk / 4 Def / 52 SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Earthquake
– Dragon Claw
– Poison Jab
– Fire Fang/Rock Slide

Assault Vest allows Garchomp to survive crucial Special hits like Golduck’s Hydro Vortex in Rain and a Moonblast from Tapu Lele.

Garchomp @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Rough Skin
EVs: 36 HP / 252 Atk / 220 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Earthquake
– Dragon Claw
– Poison Jab
– Rock Slide

Probably the least common of all main Garchomp sets, but this set can be useful to snag surprise KO’s on some of Garchomp’s faster threats.

 

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Alolan Muk

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Muk-Alola @ Figy Berry
Ability: Gluttony
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 44 Atk / 108 Def / 100 SpD / 4 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Poison Jab
– Knock Off
– Curse/Shadow Sneak/Imprison
– Protect

Another set from our current World Champion. Mukl EV’s can be all over the place, Figy Berry (or whatever variant) will more than likely be your item of choice. The third move slot has changed a lot, and which one you go with is entirely dependent on what works for you.

 

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Alolan Ninetales

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Ninetales-Alola @ Light Clay/Focus Sash
Ability: Snow Warning
EVs: 4 HP /252 SpA/ 252 Spe
Timid Nature
– Blizzard/Freeze Dry
– Icy Wind
– Aurora Veil
– Protect/Encore

Ninetales has a pretty standard set. You can mess around with the EV’s a bit if you want to add a bit of bulk.

 

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Alolan Marowak

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Marowak-Alola @ Thick Club
Ability: Lightning Rod
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 172 Atk / 4 Def / 68 SpD / 12 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Flare Blitz
– Shadow Bone
– Bonemerang/Substitute/Perish Song
– Protect

Marowak EV’s are pretty diverse, so here’s a starter set. You could ditch the speed for a Trick Room attacking variant.

 

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Alolan Raichu

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Raichu-Alola @ Psychium Z/Alolaraichium Z/Focus Sash
Ability: Surge Surfer
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
– Fake Out
– Psychic
– Thunderbolt
– Protect/Encore/Feint

Even though Raichu will double its Speed in Electric Terrain, it’s still worth running max Speed since Raichu is naturally fast.

 

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Porygon2

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Porygon2 @ Eviolite
Ability: Download
EVs: 252 HP / 92 Def / 164 SpD
Careful Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Trick Room
– Return
– Ice Beam
– Recover

Porygon2 can be run a ton of different ways, but the set above is probably the most basic way to use it.

 

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Snorlax

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Snorlax @ Figy Berry
Ability: Gluttony
EVs: 68 HP / 196 Atk / 244 Def
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Return
– High Horsepower
– Curse
– Protect/Recycle

Standard Curse Snorlax. You have the choice of Recycle (much like Markus Leipzig’s Snorlax) to keep using your Figy Berry.

 

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Arcanine

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Arcanine @ Iapapa Berry/Sitrus Berry
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 84 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 164 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Extreme Speed
– Flare Blitz
– Snarl/Wild Charge/Will-O-Wisp
– Protect

The new standard Arcanine that leans more on the offensive side. Wild Charge can be added in place of a support move for more coverage.

 

Arcanine @ Firium Z/Sitrus Berry/Aguav Berry/Safety Goggles
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 148 HP / 164 SpA / 4 Def / 28 SpD / 164 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Will-O-Wisp
– Flare Blitz
– Snarl
– Protect

The more supportive Arcanine runs a Special-Attacking set with Snarl and Flamethrower. The EV’s can be changed pretty freely on this set depending on personal preference.

 

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Pelipper

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Pelipper @ Focus Sash
Ability: Drizzle
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Modest/Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Scald
– Hurricane
– Tailwind
– Protect

The most standard Pelipper set. Primarily functions to set up Tailwind and the Rain for a likely Golduck partner.

 

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Metagross

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Metagross @ Weakness Policy
Ability: Clear Body
EVs: 252 HP / 204 Atk / 52 SpD
Adamant Nature
– Meteor Mash
– Zen Headbutt
– Bullet Punch
– Protect

This is the Metagross that Collin Heir used to get 2nd place at Dallas Regionals. Metagross has a ton of other viable items if Weakness Policy doesn’t suit your needs.

 

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Gigalith

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Gigalith @ Assault Vest
Ability: Sand Stream
EVs: 228 HP / 228 Atk / 52 Def
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Rock Slide
– Stone Edge
– Heavy Slam
– Earthquake

Standard attacking set with added bulk from the Assault Vest.

Gigalith @ Rockium Z
Ability: Sand Stream
Level: 50
EVs: 196 HP / 124 Atk / 188 SpD
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Stone Edge
– Heavy Slam
– Wide Guard/Rock Slide/Earthquake
– Protect

If Assault Vest is already taken, this is an ideal set with a possible support option.

 

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Torkoal

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Torkoal @ Charcoal/Life Orb
Ability: Drought
EVs: 116 HP / 252 SpA / 140 SpD
Quiet Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Eruption
– Heat Wave/Flamethrower/Solar Beam
– Overheat/Flamethrower/Solar Beam
– Protect

The EV’s are pretty flexible as long as you max your Special Attack and make sure you’re as slow as possible.

 

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Gastrodon

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Gastrodon-East @ Sitrus Berry/Aguav Berry
Ability: Storm Drain
Level: 50
EVs: 236 HP / 156 Def / 12 SpA / 100 SpD / 4 Spe
Bold Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Scald
– Ice Beam
– Recover/Protect
– Toxic

Purpose just to suck up Water attacks and Toxic stall. Just watch out for Kartana.

 

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Araquanid

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Araquanid @ Sitrus Berry/Waterium Z/Life Orb
Ability: Water Bubble
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Liquidation
– Leech Life/Lunge
– Wide Guard/Poison Jab
– Protect

Simple spread mainly to maximize bulk and Attack. Can switch up some of the moves to make Araquanid more offensive.

 

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Mimikyu

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Mimikyu @ Ghostium Z
Ability: Disguise
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Play Rough
– Shadow Claw
– Taunt
– Trick Room

If you want a good Mimikyu spread, look no further than Gavin Michael’s one he used to win San Jose Regionals. Max Speed on a Trick Room setter might not make sense at first, but Gavin wanted to be able to out-speed and KO Tapu Lele with Never Ending Nightmare. Mimikyu basically gets Trick Room up for free as long as it doesn’t get double targeted.

 

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Gyarados

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Gyarados @ Waterium Z
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 52 HP / 196 Atk / 76 Def / 4 SpD / 180 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Waterfall
– Dragon Dance
– Ice Fang/Earthquake
– Protect

Standard Dragon Dance set meant to spread Intimidate and get off boosted attacks.

 

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Porygon-Z

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Porygon-Z @ Normalium Z
Ability: Adaptability
Level: 50
EVs: 20 HP / 28 Def / 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 204 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Shadow Ball/Thunderbolt/Ice Beam
– Tri Attack/Shadow Ball/Thunderbolt/Ice Beam
– Conversion
– Protect

You can run a ton of different attacks on Porygon-Z, any of these types (Ghost, Electric, Ice, etc.) are viable.

Porygon-Z @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Adaptability
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Tri Attack
– Dark Pulse
– Hyper Beam
– Ice Beam

This is the Porygon-Z that Sejun Park used on his Tapu Fini team that had a bit of time in the meta spotlight. If you want to know more on how Sejun used this Porygon-Z, you can read a translated team report here.

 

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Vanilluxe

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Coldstone (Vanilluxe) @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Snow Warning
EVs: 52 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 196 Spe
Timid Nature
– Blizzard
– Freeze-Dry
– Icy Wind
– Sheer Cold

I would consider Vanilluxe a more offensive Nintetales. Scarf is to account for Vanilluxe’s lack of speed so it may be free to spam Blizzard.

 

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Talonflame

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Talonflame @ Life Orb/Flynium Z/Choice Band
Ability: Gale Wings
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Brave Bird
– Flare Blitz
– Tailwind/U-Turn
– Taunt/Will-O-Wisp/Protect

Talonflame functions pretty much the same way it did in past formats. Now just without full-power Gale Wings.

 

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Oranguru

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Oranguru @ Sitrus Berry/Mental Herb
Ability:Telepathy
EVs: 252 HP / 140 Def / 20 SpA / 92 SpD
Sassy Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Psychic/Foul Play
– Instruct
– Trick Room
– Protect

 

 

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Hariyama

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Hariyama @ Flame Orb
Ability: Guts
EVs: 92 HP / 252 Atk / 164 Def
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Fake Out
– Close Combat
– Feint
– Knock Off

 

 

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Salamence

Top 5 Moves

Top 5 Items

Top 3 Natures

Top 6 Teammates

Popular Sets

Salamence @ Dragonium Z
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Draco Meteor
– Flamethrower
– Substitute
– Protect

Dragonium Z basically gives Salamence two Draco Meteors before it take a hit to its Special Attack. If the damage output disappoints you, Life Orb or Choice Specs are also great items for Salamence.

Art of Pokemon courtesy of Pokémon Global Link and Ken Sugimori

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Pokémon Hits DreamHack! – VGC 2017 Leipzig, Germany Regional Championships Recap

Our first European tournament coverage comes to us from DreamHack Germany, which happened last weekend, along with the Georgia Regional Championships in the US. Despite being held at such a huge event, the tournament itself was not given any stream coverage (more on this later). It was a bit of a smaller tournament compared to Georgia, but there were still some cool teams and Pokémon to break into the Top Cut. Check them out below!

Results & Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1.Markus Stadter

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/143.pnghttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/630.png

2.Davide Carrer

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/630.png

3.Baris Ackos

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/89-1.png

4.Alexander Fijalkowski

East Sea

5.Joshua Schmidt

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/89-1.png

6.Nico Davide Cognetta

7.Andrea Di Francesco

East Sea

8.Andrea Sala

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/778.png

 

No Stream?

You’d think at an event like DreamHack, who advertised the Regional a ton on their website and their promo video, would stream the tournament knowing that it would draw a lot of viewership. That wasn’t the case, however. To be fair, Leipzig was a relatively small tournament for Masters (only 129 competitors), so that most likely would explain the lack of a stream from the local scene. I hope that Pokémon VGC events in the future will be held at events like DreamHack due to the amount of exposure Pokémon could gain as an esport from that large of an event. Hopefully if there is another event like this, DreamHack (or whoever is hosting) will recognize that there are people that would love to see Pokémon streamed with the quality they can provide.

Also, a quick note:

Since there wasn’t any significant coverage (like a stream) analyzing specific Pokémon and strategies that were used, spectators may be left in the dark. Plus, many of the “niche” Pokémon that appeared in Leipzig I’ve already covered in other pieces. In addition to some new thoughts, I’ll provide links to the pieces where certain Pokémon were covered.

The Niche Picks

Mandibuzz Image result for mandibuzz

We haven’t seen a Mandibuzz since Dallas, and this time there were two! Both in the finals! Mandibuzz could be something that jumps up in popularity since it has cut a Regional twice. It now also has a Regional win under its belt, thanks to the current third best player in the world. Markus mentioned in one of his streams that he usually brings Mandibuzz when he faces a team that is fast and without speed control. Tailwind, and speed control outside of Trick Room, haven’t seen much use in this format, and I’m not sure why. It’s most likely that most teams don’t have room for a Flying-type Pokémon, but Mandibuzz has a lot more utility than just setting up Tailwind. You can read my other thoughts on Mandibuzz here.

Snorlax  Image result for snorlax

Speaking of Pokémon who are going to jump in popularity thanks to a Regional win; here’s Snorlax again. Another Eastern trend is making its way to the Western meta game, and now I think we all know how good Snorlax can be. Here are my thoughts on Snorlax as a Pokémon.

Lapras Image result for lapras

All I’m going to say is that Lapras cut two Regionals in one weekend. I have an entire piece dedicated to why this Pokémon is good.

Final Words

In conclusion, this event should’ve been streamed. Congratulations to Markus Stadter for his win, solidifying his spot among the top players in Europe (according to Championship Points, but also you know…current 3rd in the world). The meta game looks pretty concrete for now, but we’re only three months into the season, so anything could happen. The next Regional Championships are coming up in February in Anaheim, California, where the World Championships will be held later this year.

Art of Pokemon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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TPCI Competitive Pokemon Logo

Pokésports V: Good Job TPCI, But Your Work Is Not Done

A Brand New Look

This series has sought to outline the viability of Pokémon as an eSport. Taking time to detail both the benefits from such a move, as well as the challenges the brand would face. Such things as game mechanics, tournament structure, and brand awareness have all been touched on. One major point, however, has not been sufficiently covered. Pokémon is a casual brand focused on children. Why would TPCI change that?

Pokemon Trainer Ash thinking about TPCI future

Image Courtesy of Game Freak

The Pokémon brand is indeed, at its core, focused on kids. The protagonist in the stories is always an adolescent, and growing, learning, and adapting to change are always major themes. Pokémon as a game is also indeed casual. The primary focus has always been on providing audiences with lots of marketable characters for them to become attached to. However, these two points do not detract from the ability for the Pokémon franchise to be a smash eSport success. To the contrary, they would in fact bolster Pokémon’s chances at eSports fame.

 

Kids Grow Up, Dreams Never Fade

Kids competing a Pokemon TPCI tournament

Image Courtesy of Pokemon.com

Pokémon is not precluded from eSports simply because it targets children. Considering the fact that the Pokémon brand has existed successfully for 20 years now means that it has already penetrated multiple generations of people. This ability to connect with all generations is extremely important from a marketing perspective.

World-wide, one thing that ties almost all major sports franchises together is a shared passion by all ages. This was touched on briefly in issue three, though I think its importance cannot be understated. Basketball, Baseball, Field Hockey, and both types of football are all played extensively by children. Few kids actually go on to play these sports professionally. Most do carry on a passion for their sport and competition in general. This is generally then passed down to their children and the cycle repeats itself.

Child Pokemon Trainer get TPCI trophy

Image Courtesy of Pokemon.com

There is one potentially fatal difference. Successful, traditional sports are driven by the spirit of competition and the memories that are made. By comparison, Pokémon’s fate is tied to Nintendo’s handheld consoles. One misstep by Nintendo could cause tremendous damage to the Pokémon brand. If this where to happen, what recourse would TPCI be left with? To build their own console and strike off on their own? The most likely result is a decline in the value of the brand.

Casual Is Key To Success

Some decry Pokémon as being a casual game targeting a casual audience. Why would such a game chase eSports fame? I would suggest that time and time again, the company that provides the most casual solution generally dominates their market.

Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games, or MMORPGs, are a perfect example. In the late 90’s the MMORPG market began to blossom. Games like Ultima Online. Everquest, and Final Fantasy XI, soon took center stage. Players were given incredible worlds to adventure with their friends in. Utilizing the power of the internet, this new genre of game started to command a very loyal following. MMORPGs were considered hardcore by their very nature. They took a large commitment in time and resources to accomplish anything. In fact, back then they were considered by many to be mainly for college kids and basement dwellers.

Chart showing difference between WoW and other MMORPGS

Image Courtesy of inanage.com

Everything changed when a little game called World of Warcraft was launched into the MMORPG market by Blizzard. Where successful subscription MMORPGs were lucky to have 500k subscribers in 2005, by 2010 WoW had rocketed to 12 Million subscribers. One thing drove WoW’s success, it focused its model on making MMORPGs more accessible to average people. Blizzard made MMORPGs casual. In doing so, they forever reshaped the MMORPG market.

 

The Choice Is Yours

In the end, TPCI really must decide what their goal for the franchise is. Maybe relying on Nintendo while pushing out marketable creatures for licensing revenue is what TPCI is content with. I would suggest this is an erroneous path.

Utilizing the growing eSports market to present an easy-to-access competitive product, wrapped in a Pokémon package, could provide a WoW-effect. Bringing in tons of new fans and changing eSports, and Pokémon, forever. Finally, no more would The Pokémon Company’s destiny be tied to Nintendo. In fact, at that point, TPCI could feasibly design their own system specifically to cater to competitive play. The only question is, does TPCI want to define an industry while taking back their destiny?

Pokemon Wobuffet using Destiny Bond on Hoot Hoot

Follow me on Twitter: @aeroashwind

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The Power of the Sun! – VGC 2017 Athens, GA Regional Championships Recap

Athens, Georgia is the first of two Regionals that we’ll be covering from last weekend, and boy was there a lot. I think what Athens showed us is that the meta game seems to be settling, Pokémon wise, but the amount of new and innovative techs seem limitless in this format.

Let’s take a look at what teams performed the best:

Results & Teams (Top 16 Cut)

1. Paul Chua

Alola Form

2. Joohwan Kim

3. Ian McLaughlin

East Sea

4. Alvin Hidayat

Alola Form

5. Wolfe Glick

Alola Form

6. Louis Milich

Alola Formhttps://i1.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/73.pngAlola Form

7. Rajan Bal

Alola Form

8. Chuppa Cross

9. Brain Youm

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/794.pngAlola Formhttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/28-1.pngAlola Form

10. Jackson Hambrick

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/76-1.pnghttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/131.png

11. Diana Bros

12. Josse Calzado

Alola FormAlola Form

13. Edward Glover

Alola Form

14. Mike Suleski

Alola Formhttps://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/91.png

15. Chris Danzo

Alola Form

16. Janice Lee

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/778.png

Pokémon Sprite Images courtesy of Game Freak

Same Pokémon, New Techs

We saw a lot of similar Pokémon choices and team compositions in Athens, but it seemed like almost every Pokémon was run differently. There are standard Pokémon, but the move sets for each one have tons of variation. Here are some highlights of some cool, new move and item choices that made it deep in the tournament.

Tapu Koko 

Fairium Z: Paul Chua’s winning team featured a Z Crystal on Tapu Koko, but not a very common one. The Fairium Z allows Tapu Koko to use Twinkle Tackle (my favorite name for any move) which gives Tapu Koko a super strong Fairy-type move to deal big damage to pretty much anything it can’t KO with a Terrain-boosted Thunderbolt.

Nature Power: Wait, Tapu Koko can use Moonblast? Well if Misty Terrain is up, Nature Power allows it to do just that! We saw this strategy from players who paired Tapu Koko and Tapu Fini together, allowing Tapu Koko’s Nature Power to either be Moonblast or Thunderbolt, depending on which Terrain was set up. Seems like finding stronger Fairy-type moves for Tapu Koko is becoming a trend.

Hidden Power Fire: It beats Kartana. That’s probably what Alvin Hidayat was going for. It did help in his game versus Joohwan, where it managed to KO his Lilligant in the sun, but unfortunately that didn’t seem to be enough.

Porygon2 

Return/Frustration: I honestly thought Porygon2 was about as standard as a Pokémon could get, but somehow we have a new attacking option for it. A Porygon2 with the Download ability seems to rarely get Special Attack boosts, so why not run a physical attack? Not many Pokémon in this format excel in the Defense stat, so a +1 Return (or Frustration if your Porygon hates you) actually does a good amount of damage, even when Porygon2 is Intimidated. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Return (or Frustration) become the new standard for Porygon2.

Alolan Muk Alola Form

Imprison: Alolan Muk is a Pokémon that made a huge imapct in Athens, and Imprison was present on a few of its move sets. Imprison basically blocks your opponent from using any moves known by the user of Imprison. So not only can you completely shut down opposing Muks (which is nice since I think we all know how annoying Muk can be for some teams to deal with), but it can also prevent your opponent’s other Pokémon from using Protect. Muk’s third move slot differs a lot on different teams, but now Imprison makes that third move choice much more difficult.

The Sun Rises into Top Cut, but Sets in Finals

Image result for torkoal crying gif

Image courtesy of the Pokémon anime

Joohwan Kim (or “Sun Dude” as he’s known in the community) made an amazing run with a very unique team, featuring VGC 2017’s sole Drought user: Torkoal. This team was full of tricks, including things like Groundium Z, Gyarados with Taunt, Bulldoze Torkoal, Choice Scarf Tapu Bulu, and a Grassinium Z Lilligant with Hidden Power Fire…just to name a few.

Lilligant: The Centerpiece

Players that know Joohwan know he is a huge fan File:549Lilligant.pngof Lilligant, and who better
to innovate with it than Joohwan. Contrary to the typical Lilligant and Torkoal
strategy, Joohwan’s combination did not feature After You on Lilligant, or Eruption on Torkoal. Joohwan’s Lilligant focused mainly on offense, with it holding a Z Crystal and having Hidden Power Fire. To help make sure it can fire off Sleep Powders, Joohwan had both Tapus whose Terrains allow status conditions in order to counter the ever present Electric and Misty Terrains. Lilligant demolished a fair amount of Kartana with its sun-boosted Hidden Power and was able to score a bunch of surprise knock-outs with Bloom Doom.

This team was meant to make sure Lilligant was able to thrive, and it succeeded all the way up until the Finals. Joohwan definitely fought his way through a ton of teams with Tapu Koko, Arcanine, and Muk, but Paul was able to effectively preserve his best Pokémon for the match up. Second place is still a great finish for such a unique team, and I’m certain this will inspire future Torkoal and Lilligant users to achieve similar levels of creativity.

The Niche Picks

Athens brought us a few new Pokémon in Top Cut, but some of them seem like the epitome of “niche”.

Incineroar File:727Incineroar.png

If only the Hidden Abilities for Alola’s starters were released…Intimidate on Incineroar would probably allow it to rival Arcanine for usage. This wrestling cat is a bit of an odd pick for a Fire-type, but it does have a lot of cool moves to make use of. Fake Out, Snarl, Roar, Swords Dance, and even two solid STAB moves in Flare Blitz and Darkest Lariat allow Incineroar to function as an attacker with support options.

Blaze seems like a sub-par ability (it kind of is) but if Incineroar gets down to low enough HP and is able to get a Fire-type attack off, it can be devastating. Unfortunately we never got to see Ian Mclaughlin’s Incineroar on stream, but according to the commentators it did apparently have Taunt…that’s all we know.

Snorlax   File:143Snorlax.png

Another Trick Room counter. A pretty good one I’ll have to admit. Snorlax actually has a decent match-up against most Trick Room sweepers, being that a lot of them are physical attackers, and don’t appreciate taking either a Return or High Horsepower.

Snorlax also (like our good pal Muk) gets access to Gluttony which further adds to Snorlax’s phenomenal bulk. Not to mention that you can also boost your Attack with either Curse or Belly Drum to increase your threat status. Definitely not a Pokémon to sleep on.

BuzzwoleFile:794Buzzwole.png

Still waiting on Guzzlord’s Top Cut appearance, but honestly I’m kind of surprised that Buzzwole managed to make it first. Unfortunately we weren’t able to see Brian Youm’s Buzzwole do anything but Protect and perish to a Dazzling Gleam from Chuppa’s Tapu Koko.

My guess would be that the most common items would be either Fightinium Z or Assault Vest. Buzzwole gets some cool coverage options like Poison Jab and Ice Punch and a ton of Fighting moves to choose from. I don’t think we’ll see Buzzwole in Top Cut too often, but it was nice to see another Ultra Beast for a change.

Tentacruel File:073Tentacruel.png

I don’t even know what to say about this one. This monstrosity was piloted by Louis Milich who actually managed to get all the way to Top 8. With a Tentacruel.

I guess Tentacruel has a decent match-up against the Tapu Pokémon (with the exception of Tapu Koko in Electric Terrain) with its high Special Defense and Poison-typing. Alvin’s Tentacruel carried the Poisonium Z, which I’m assuming was to ensure a KO on any Tapu since Tentacruel’s Special Attack isn’t the greatest.

Is Tentacruel a new bulky Water-type to be reckoned with? Who knows. Could just be a one time thing.

Cloyster File:091Cloyster.png

We saw Cloyster once on stream, and it immediately fainted to a Nihilego Sludge Bomb. But, thanks to a PasteBin, courtesy of Mike himself, we do know that he was running Life Orb with a ton of bulk and Shell Smash.

I guess if left unchecked, Cloyster could run through an unprepared team. Skill Link allowing Cloyster’s multi-hit moves to hit 5 times every time give it some pretty good attacking power. It just seems like it needs to be set up to be effective with such a low Speed stat. Maybe there’s potential here and Mike was the only one to notice it.

There were many other cool Pokémon in Top Cut, but I primarily focused on the ones that were featured alongside standard Pokémon, as well as ones we actually got to see on stream. I would’ve touched on Mimikyu if it hadn’t already won a Regional, and I would’ve said some things about Jackson’s Alolan Golem if I knew what it did. To be honest, exploring Jackson’s team could be a whole other article entirely. I’ll leave it here, but definitely consider trying some of these Pokémon out if you want to learn more about them!

Final Thoughts

To conclude, I would once again like to give a big shout out to @PokeCenter_VGC for streaming the tournament for all of us at home. Also, have to give props to Bryan Wood (@KantoCastBlue) for a great debut on commentary, alongside returning commentator Adam Dorricott (@Dozzalon). Congratulations to Paul Chua for his Regional win, netting him $3000 and 200 more Championship Points, putting him at 386 overall. We still have one more Regional to recap from Leipzig and plenty more to cover in the future! Make sure to come back soon to see what won big at Leipzig! Thanks for reading!

Art of Pokemon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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