pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

Strategies to expect for the remaining 2017 Pokemon VGC season

The 2017 World Championships have come and gone, and so far, two regionals have already taken place. There are still many remaining events that will use the 2017 rule-set, including the London International Championships happening in November. If you are planning on competing in one of these upcoming tournaments, you’re probably wondering what kind of metagame you should prepare for. This can be difficult considering the last two top cuts in Ft. Wayne and Bremen looked almost nothing like Anaheim’s. So, how should you prepare for the post-worlds VGC 2017 metagame? Hopefully we’ll have some answers for you.

An Overview

For starters, I’d like to break down the current metagame into two categories: successful world’s teams and counters.

The three most popular teams to come out of Anaheim’s top cut are Sam Pandelis’ Mandibuzz and Tapu Lele team, Tomoyuki Yoshimura’s take on MetaMence and Paul Ruiz’s Persian and friends composition. The reason I mention these specifically is that all of these teams have appeared on popular VGC YouTubers channels (including but not limited to CybertronProductions, Osirus Studios and Ray Rizzo).

These teams are picking up popularity because they’re 1) Relatively easy to play and 2) Are quite consistent in a number of match ups.

I wouldn’t count on not seeing any other teams from the Top Cut of the World Championships, but if you’re bound to run into any, it will likely be one of these three.

Of course, when teams do well, the next logical step is to figure out a way to counter them. We’ve already seen Mandibuzz and Persian pick up in usage (not just because of Ruiz and Pandelis) but because Foul Play is a solid answer to MetaMence. I’ll get into some other counters in a bit, but your mission as a team builder is to create something that counters the meta and something that counters the counters.

Sounds easy right?

Popular World’s Strategies

I’ve already mentioned the teams from World’s that I think will be the most popular, but adaptations aren’t totally out of the question. These are modes from successful World’s teams that are the most likely to be adapted.

MetaMencesalamence pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

We’ve already dedicated an entire piece to MetaMence, so make sure to check that out if you want a detailed breakdown. One thing I praised MetaMence for is its flexibility in team building, which is why I expect it to return with a different supporting cast.

Foul Play users like Mandibuzz and Persian or bulky Water-types like Tapu Fini and even Milotic are good answers to this combo. Foul Play makes Metagross think twice about wanting to boost while the bulky Water Pokemon can these two for either neutral or super-effective damage.

Mandibuzz, Tapu Lele and Friendsmandibuzz pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

Tailwind and Tapu Lele go together so well and it looks like Mandibuzz has taken over Drifblim’s spot as Lele’s speed-boosting partner. This team has become slightly harder to deal with now that Ninetales can buff up its teammates with Aurora Veil while Xurkitree and Garchomp set up in your face. The hyper-offense nature of the team forces a lot of defensive play so setting up and sweeping can be easy for this team to pull off.

Alolan Marowak was clutch for Ryota Otsubo in the finals as Marowak was able to break Pandelis’ Aurora Veil with Brick Break and halt Xurkitree’s Thunderbolts with Marowak’s Lightningrod ability. Tapu Fini works pretty well here too, being able to switch the Terrain and threaten Fairy-type attacks on Mandibuzz and Garchomp. Basically, denying the team set-up by taking away things like Tailwind, Aurora Veil and Psychic Terrain are the way to beat it. It’s tough considering one mistake could lead to Garchomp and/or Xurkitree 2-0’ing you.

Whimsicott’s Z-Nature Powerwhimsicott pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

How could I mention Worlds without talking about the team that won it all? We saw how much of a threat Whimsicott was, being able to fire off priority Z-moves and support Otsubo’s team with Charm and Tailwind. 2013 World Champion Arash Ommati has already earned a Top 4 and Top 8 placing with a team very similar to Otsubo’s with a bit more of a standard approach (Arcanine > Marowak, Garchomp > Krookodile).

While I don’t think Otsubo’s exact team will make big waves post-worlds, Whimsicott might solidify itself as a viable Tailwind supporter.

Persian and Boosting Sweepersalolan persian pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

Paul Ruiz showed us yet again how terrifying and annoying Alolan Persian can be to deal with, especially with two monsters who can boost their stats next to it. Persian has a lot of disruptive options at its disposal making it easy for Pokemon like Snorlax to set up and sweep without even needing a Speed advantage. Fake Out can buy you a free turn, Parting Shot weakens your opponent’s threats and Foul Play can eliminate your opponent’s heavy physical hitters.

As for Dragon Dance sweepers, Gyarados and Salamence are great next to Persian. In his team report, Ruiz liked Salamence because of its higher Speed and Attack stats compared to Gyarados. Salamence, arguably, has better matchups, but like Gyarados, it has a 4x weakness to a very common attacking type. Something they also have in common is their heavy hitting Supersonic Skystrike coming off of moves that would normally take two turns to hit (Fly and Bounce respectively). What I personally don’t like about the Flynium-Z route for these two is that their attacking options become severely limited after the Z-move is burned. However, if that Z-move hits into a non-resisted target, expect a KO to start the game.

For counters, Ruiz didn’t like his match up against Mandibuzz and Trick Room (Mimikyu+Snorlax mainly). Mandibuzz does threaten his mostly physical team with Foul Play and can easily take away the speed advantage with Tailwind. Trick Room is threatening simply because this team has a fast Snorlax, allowing most other Snorlax to beat it under Trick Room.

Go check out his team report here!

Counters to Consider

Now here’s the fun part: the counters that you’ll have to counter.

Mandibuzz/Persianalolan persian pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

Not to be redundant, but these two have picked up a ton of popularity after Worlds. Both can decimate a boosted Metagross and Snorlax with Foul Play while providing excellent support.

Lightningrodtogedemaru pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

Tapu Koko and Xurkitree are as popular as ever following the World Championships, and there’s nothing that these two hate going up against more than Lightningrod (and maybe a Garchomp holding a Choice Scarf). Alolan Marowak looks to be the favorite, but I wouldn’t count out Togedemaru. Togedemaru can be a pain to deal with being able to Fake Out, Encore and flinch your team to death with Zing Zap. Marowak mainly just does damage. Lot’s and lots of damage.

Weathertorkoal pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

News flash: Rain and Sun are still good. It’s mainly the sun I want to talk about though. Since Worlds, Torkoal has won two regionals with a second one appearing in Ft. Wayne’s Top 4. Rain, on the other hand, has had zero appearances. I think players were sleeping on Torkoal while Pelipper and Golduck were tearing up the metagame, but Torkoal can still bring the heat. Whether partnered with Lilligant or under Trick Room, those Eruptions are going to melt teams unprepared for the Sun match up. For any team being built after Worlds, make sure you pack something that can deal with Torkoal, Lilligant and the other usual suspects (Tapu Lele, Pheromosa, etc.).

MimiLaxmimikyu pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

Despite all of the Foul Play, Snorlax is here to stay. Mimikyu looks like its back after an impressive showing at the World Championships as Snorlax’s main Trick Room setter. Mimikyu can be an incredibly annoying Pokemon to deal with especially since it basically has a free hit it can take thanks to Disguise. Not to mention, Ghostium Z has become the go-to item for Mimikyu so have fun trying to predict whether or not your opponent goes for NeverEnding Nightmare or Z-Destiny Bond.

Snorlax on the other hand, well, it’ll just keep using Belly Drum.

Smearglesmeargle pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

For our last Pokemon, here’s a bit of an underdog that I expect to do well post-worlds (I promise I’ll stop the puns now). A couple Smeargle have popped up in Ft. Wayne and Bremen next to Ultra Beasts that Smeargle likes to partner up with. Smeargle is a very disruptive Pokemon that can easily draw attention away from the boosting monsters known as Nihilego, Xurkitree and Pheromosa. Oh did I mention that Porygon-Z took home a regional title in Bremen next to Smeargle?

Taunt is likely going to be a good choice for your team.

Final Thoughts

So far we’ve seen two regional Top Cuts that look completely different from the World Championships that were just a month ago. I’m not sure how far VGC 2017 has left to go in terms of creativity, but I think I summed up what we’re most likely going to see in the next couple months. Then again, Dragonite has been on the rise so at this point anything can happen.

Hartford, Connecticut is our next location for regionals coming up at the end of the month. A stream will be provided thanks to Clash Tournaments which brings a huge sigh of relief for us journalists. We’ll be recapping everything that goes down in Hartford, but until then we’ve got you covered with everything Pokemon VGC!

Thanks for reading!


You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Eric! (@aricbartleti)

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vgc 2017 metagross salamence analysis

Analyzing Meta-Mence: Is it really that good?

What were once some of the most niche Pokemon in the metagame have solidified themselves as a duo to be reckoned with in the late stages of the 2017 format. Salamence, a dragon that is mostly inferior to Garchomp, and an Intimidator that appears outclassed by Arcanine. Metagross, a solid Steel-type attacker that suffers immensely from its main methods of damage not being 100% accurate. These off-meta picks have seen sparse usage over the course of the season, but ever since the North American Internationals, these two have skyrocketed in popularity. Is this combo the next big thing for the VGC 2017 metagame? Let’s find out.

How this combo worksvgc 2017 metagross salamence analysis

Salamence has been known in the past for dealing fast damage as one of the game’s best Dragon-types. This season, realizing Salamence’s offensive potential has been stunted by the abundance of Fairy-type Pokemon, players came up with a more defensive variant holding the Assault Vest.

Metagross is still pretty much the same, being able to threaten major damage with attacks like Meteor Mash and Zen Headbutt. The Weakness Policy is an item that Metagross users have been satisfied with already, but what if there was a way to gain the boosts from Weakness Policy by activating it yourself?

Enter Salamence, and the move Bulldoze. Bulldoze is a pretty weak Ground-type attack that damages all Pokemon on the field while guaranteeing a Speed drop on those hit. Players usually train their Salamence defensively and in the Special Attack stat so Bulldoze won’t do a lot of damage to the partner Metagross. Metagross’ Clear Body negates the Speed drop of Bulldoze, but the super-effective hit activates the Weakness Policy, doubling Metagross’ Attack and Special Attack. This instantly turns Metagross into a massive threat, while Salamence can continue to provide Intimidate support for the team.

This seems like a solid strategy on paper, and believe me, it is a neat combo. However, this duo has its fair share of weaknesses which we’ll examine shortly.

Pros and Consvgc 2017 metagross salamence analysis

Pro: Team Flexibility 

  • Dragon and Steel is already a solid defensive core, and many players add a Tapu to complete the “Fantasy” core of Dragon/Steel/Fairy. Since most teams can easily complete this core, Meta-Mence has found itself on a number of different teams.

Con: Common Weaknesses

  • Salamence has been pushed aside for the majority of this format due to its weaknesses to the popular Fairy and Ice-type attacks. Metagross may not be able to have its stats lowered, but it does struggle against the ever-present Arcanine. Plus, neither of these two handle the format’s most popular Tapu (Koko & Fini) very well, and both can find it hard to take strong, special hits.

Pro: The Good Matchups 

  • While Salamence and Metagross do have their share of weaknesses, they both have the ability to deal with some pretty popular Pokemon. Salamence walls Kartana as well as Arcanine, while also being a great switch-in for Garchomp since Garchomps normally don’t run Dragon Claw. Metagross has a ton of resistances for just being a Steel-type and has a great move-pool to compliment its offensive presence. Together, these two work pretty well at handling each other’s weaknesses.

Con: The Mirror Match

  • When playing with these two, the likelihood of facing a mirror match at a large or local event is high. It can be difficult to gain an edge in the mirror match without accidentally activating the other player’s Weakness Policy. There is a lot of positioning needed to gain the upper hand, and knowing where you have advantages is crucial.

Pro: Consistency 

  • This duo can win, and if played correctly through Swiss, a title run is possible. Setting up Metagross can be quite simple if you’re given even the slightest advantage, and Bulldoze is a great way to disrupt the opponent as well. If you want results, Tomoyuki Yoshimura had a very unique take on a team fitting for these two and managed to get Top 4 at this year’s World Championships. That being said…

Con: People are prepared 

  • I should also mention, Yoshimura was the only one in Top 8 using Meta-Mence with only one other player in the Top 19 cut doing the same. Also, there was only a single Metagross in the Top 8 of the recent Ft. Wayne Regional Championship. By now this strategy has been in the game for a while and players will be prepared to face it. Like any other popular strategy, a new take on it might be necessary for success.

So how good is Meta-Mence?

Overall, I’d still say this strategy is pretty good. It fits on a number of different team compositions and is consistent enough to reach the highest levels of even the World Championships. If you’re thinking of building a team around these two, be warned, as you may run into a lot of mirrors since this combo has become so popular. It’ll just take the right team and the right plays for this strategy to potentially take one of the remaining regional championships for the 2017 format. We’ll just have to wait and see which player will take Meta-Mence to a title.


You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Eric! (@aricbartleti)

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pokemon world championships 2017 metagame preview

Pokemon World Championships metagame preview

Just one week remains between now and the long-awaited Pokemon World Championships. With the metagame virtually on hold since the end of July, many are wondering just how the Worlds metagame will look. The VGC 2017 season has brought nothing but surprises to the season’s biggest tournaments, and Anaheim is sure to be far from an exception. Let’s attempt to predict the upcoming World Championship strategies as we take a look at the Pokemon that are sure to dominate the field.

Tapu’s and Terrains

Arguably the main aspect of a team for the 2017 format has been a team’s choice of Tapu Pokemon. At this point, all four Island Guardians have seen major tournament success, but which one(s) will take home a World Championship?

tapu koko pokemon world championships 2017

Tapu Koko will likely be on a majority of teams in Anaheim, keeping its place on top of usage. Its speed, power and versatility are unmatched by any other Pokemon this season, able to utilize the Electric Terrain to deal shocking amounts of damage. Though, there has been a trend in two of the three last World Championships of the strongest Pokemon being toppled like Mega Kangaskhan in 2014 and Xerneas and Groudon in 2016. Could we potentially see the same fate for Tapu Koko?

tapu lele pokemon world championships 2017Tapu Lele is nothing short of a powerhouse. Combined with a Tailwind setter like Drifblim, Mandibuzz or even Pelipper allows Tapu Lele to freely spam boosted Psychic attacks thanks to its signature Terrain. Psychic Terrain also has some defensive utility in blocking moves with increased priority, allowing more frail team mates like Nihilego and Pheromosa to fully utilize their speed. Tapu Lele has dropped on the usage charts in recent times, but that doesn’t by any means make it a weak choice.

tapu fini pokemon world championships 2017

Tapu Fini is another Guardian that’s fallen off a bit but is surely not going away. Being the one Tapu with the most lacking damage output (and accuracy) has not been the best for Tapu Fini, but its natural bulk along with the benefits of Misty Terrain make it a valuable team member. Misty Terrain looks to be a good choice for this stage in metagame as many players may rely on status effects like burn and poison to slow down the rampaging Snorlax. Let’s also not forget that Tapu Fini can easily turn into an offensive threat after a couple of Calm Minds or if it holds a Choice Specs.

tapu bulu pokemon world championships 2017Finally, the anti-Tapu Tapu Bulu looks to have a promising tournament in Anaheim. To compliment the format shifting to more defensive play, the Grassy Terrain is perfect for nerfing the damage from other Tapus while also gradually recovering the rest of the team’s HP. Grassy Terrain can also allow Tapu Bulu to bring the hammer down on its competition with Grassy Terrain’s boost to Grass-type attacks. I’m sure this off-meta choice will be a popular one for World Championship competitors.

Boosting Beasts

The Ultra Beasts are some of the strangest, yet most powerful Pokemon introduced in the seventh generation. With the ability to boost their stats after a successful KO, we’ve seen these Pokemon become terrifying sweepers or unbreakable walls.celesteela pokemon world championships 2017

Speaking of unbreakable walls, Celesteela is my pick for Anaheim’s top Ultra Beast. With it having such a strong showing in the North American International Championships as a prominent member of the “goodstuffs” archetype, it looks like Celesteela has found itself at a comfortable place in the metagame. Despite being known as a wall, Celesteela has shown its offensive capabilities utilizing moves like Flamethrower and Air Slash to deal with troublesome opponents. It’s likely Celesteela will remain popular with its standard Leech Seed set, but don’t be surprised if a Celesteela’s third or fourth move is an unexpected tech.

kartana pokemon world championships 2017Celesteela’s offensive Steel-type counterpart Kartana has dropped significantly in favor of the aforementioned Blaster. Kartana still finds a comfortable role as a Grass-type sweeper on teams with other Tapus and Arcanine, but it seems just too frail at times. Perhaps players will go back to the days of Assault Vest Kartana as a way to make sure this Pokemon won’t drop to an Ember.

buzzwole pokemon world championships 2017

Pheromosa and Buzzwole are two Pokemon that are very similar in type, but function in very different ways. Both seem like good choices considering they both threaten strong, Fighting-type attacks to opposing Snorlax, but which one is the better option? Pheromosa is infamous as the 50/50 Pokemon as since it’s so frail, every play with it feels like a coin toss. If you happen to win that coin toss however, the game can be catapulted into your favor. Buzzwole is much slower, bulkier and the all-around safer option of the two and will likely be the pheromosa pokemon world championships 2017more popular pick for its consistency. Buzzwole has the movepool and strength of Pheromosa, but just needs a little help in the speed department to really get going. Both of these Pokemon are equally terrifying to go up against, but like I said, I believe Buzzwole has the edge in the role of a strong Fighting-type.

nihilego pokemon world championships 2017Nihilego was a lesser known option in the beginning of the season, but quickly rose higher in usage once players began to realize how good its matchup was against the metagame. Despite Nihilego’s naturally high speed, it’s found a niche role as a surprise Trick Room setter. Still, that Speed is put to good use on other variants, especially when you’re able to raise it with Beast Boost. Nihilego, unfortunately, has terrible Defense and a x4 weakness to Ground, but the rise of Tapu Bulu makes me think that we’ll see a couple Nihilego at the World’s stage.

Finally, the Ultra Beast that is the most underrated, yet has the most potential in a xurkitree pokemon world championships 2017Worlds metagame is Xurkitree. Xurkitree is sort of in Tapu Koko’s shadow as a slower Electric-type, but when Xurkitree has the proper support it starts to resemble a 2016 Xerneas. Unlike Tapu Koko, Xurkitree gets access to Tail Glow, which can boost Xurkitree’s already absurdly high Special Attack by three stages. Smeargle has recently resurfaced and Xurkitree can make great use of Smeargle’s incredible support abilities. Xurkitree has a lot of potential and I wouldn’t count Xurkitree out of winning it all.

Trick Room: More than just Snorlax

snorlax pokemon world championships 2017

Snorlax will definitely be one of the most used Pokemon at the World Championships just because of how hard it can be to take down. Couple that with Snorlax’s ability to boost its Attack stat to insane levels and you have yourself a threat. Fighting-types, being Snorlax’s only weakness, will surely be popular as a means to deal with the plethora of Snorlax that will litter the World’s metagame. But Snorlax shouldn’t be the only Trick Room sweeper players should be worried about.

gigalith pokemon world championships 2017

Gigalith still remains popular alongside its Trick Room setting partner: Porygon2. This duo rounds out the infamously standard FAKEPG team, which is likely either to be played the same or perhaps slightly differently on the Worlds stage. Strong Rock-type attacks are Gigalith’s specialty, and can still be hard to deal with if Gigalith is under Trick Room.

araquanid pokemon world championships 2017Finally, two of the lesser known Trick Room attackers that are still able to dent opposing teams are Mudsdale and Araquanid. Araquanid doesn’t have the best attacking stats, but its Water Bubble ability doubles the damage of its signature Liquidation, to where it can almost two hit KO any Pokemon in the format. Araquanid’s typing and reliance on Trick Room make it struggle a bit, but the power of Araquanid’s Water-type attacks are dangerous to underestimate.

mudsdale pokemon world championships 2017

Mudsdale is a Pokemon in the shadow of Garchomp as the format’s main Ground-type attacker. Where Mudsdale excels is in its lack of reliance on Earthquake which Tapu Bulu’s Grassy Terrain weakens. Instead, Mudsdale gets to fire off power High Horsepower’s without having to worry about Grassy Terrain weakening its power. Mudsdale also gets access to a great ability in Stamina while also having other solid move options like Heavy Slam and Close Combat. Mudsdale could be the Pokemon that potentially knocks Garchomp off of its pedestal as VGC’ 2017’s main Ground-type.

 

What about the Setters?

porygon2 pokemon world championships 2017

I’m positive Porygon2 will remain the go-to setter for any Trick Room abuser outside of Snorlax. Porygon2’s BoltBeam coverage, bulk and access to Toxic will likely have it remain the top Trick Room setter, but there are some other options. Mimikyu is a great partner for Snorlax that can either support with moves like Taunt and Will-o-Wisp or go on the offensive by setting up Swords Dances or copying a Snorlax’s Attack boosts with Psych Up.

Oranguru is a Pokemon that I believe has a lot of potential, as it has great synergy withoranguru pokemon world championships 2017 Snorlax and the sun sweeper Torkoal with its signature move Instruct. Instruct gives Oranguru’s partner an extra use of its last used move which leads to the popular combo of Oranguru allowing Torkoal to use Eruption twice in one turn. However, this combo can also work with a Belly Drum Snorlax, which Oranguru can assist by giving it an extra boosted hit.

Weather Wars

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/324.png

Rain will likely remain the most popular form of weather mode at the World Championships, especially after coming off an International Top 8 and a regional victory coming into Anaheim. Torkoal and Lilligant could potentially make a return at the World Championships as the Sun archetype still has a lot of room for innovation. Alolan Ninetales will probably remain the sole Hail representative, but will work alongside other team compositions with Aurora Veil and a bunch of other support moves.

 

Japan’s Influence?tsareena pokemon world championships 2017

 

Japan has consistently performed at the top level in the Video Game Championships, and

Western players have taken notice. Tsareena is a Pokemon that had a lot of players talking, but is it “the play” for the World Championships? I think a lot of people are asking the same question about other strategies from the Japanese National Championships Top 8, but we’ve already seen one do well in the West.

porygon-z pokemon world championships 2017Markus Stadter earned another Top 8 placing for the Porygon-Z plus Smeargle combination in Indianapolis that previously had success in Japan’s National tournament. The duo focuses on setting up Porygon-Z with Z Conversion which changes Porygon-Z’s type while also boosting all of its stats. The type chosen by both aforementioned teams was the Electric-type, and these Thunderbolts are no joke. I foresee this combo being more explored further in some Worlds teams, as this strategy seems surprisingly consistent.

Japanese players are always surprising us with their unpredictable and innovative strategies and we’re sure to see more during the World Championships.

Popular Cores/Team Compositions 

AFK (Arcanine/Fini/Kartana)

The format’s most standard Fire/Water/Grass core that is able to cover its weaknesses while also dishing out some damage. This trio has recently expanded into another popular team composition known as FAKEPG (Tapu Fini/Arcanine/Kartana/Electric-type/Porygon 2/Gigalith). This team builds upon the previous core by adding an Electric-type (mainly Tapu Koko or Togedemaru) for extra coverage and support and the Trick Room option of Porygon2 and Gigalith in order to provide the team even more options to work with.

https://i0.wp.com/www.trainertower.com/wp-content/uploads/pokedexminisprites/426.png

Tailwind + Tapu Lele 

First popularized by Shoma Honami during the ONOG Invitational quickly turned into a popular team type that went on to win multiple Regional titles and even an International. The combo has evolved beyond Drifblim to include other Tailwind setters like Mandibuzz and even Pelipper for Rain teams, but Drifblim remains the most popular. Basically, the strategy is to get Tailwind up and start sweeping with Tapu Lele, Garchomp and maybe even some Ultra Beasts. The team suffers a bit without the speed advantage, but Snorlax is a popular sixth member to deal with opposing Trick Room. A team type that’s kind of fallen off, but remains viable even now.

Goodstuffs

Pretty much the format’s most popular Pokemon all on one team. I’ve already written a piece about VGC 2017’s goodstuffs archetype so if you’d like a more in depth look at the team I recommend clicking here. This particular team had a very strong showing at the North American International Championships and will likely remain a popular choice for players looking for straight consistency…unless the most popular team in the format gets heavily countered like previous years. We’ll just have to wait and see.

NBA (Nihilego/Tapu Bulu/Arcanine)

This core has emerged alongside the rise of Tapu Bulu. The Ground-weak Nihilego and Arcanine benefit greatly from Tapu Bulu’s Grassy Terrain which these two to be less afraid of Garchomp. The team is able to accommodate a Trick Room option like Drew Nowak’s team that featured Hariyama and Araquanid or the aforementioned Smeargle+Porygon-Z duo that debuted in Japan. A well-built team using this core has potential to go all the way in Anaheim and what was once an off-meta core is turning into a team needing to be countered.

A Tournament Full of Surprises

Despite what looks to be the established metagame, the Pokemon World Championships are known to break previous conventions. Although Kartana and Celesteela are the format’s most popular Steel-types, Metagross is waiting for its opportunity to mash its way to the top. Arcanine might be the format’s top Intimidator, but Pokemon like Gyarados and Salamence have been showing just how scary they can be. Chansey is also a Pokemon to watch out for as yet another bulky Normal-type to take down.

There’s a ton that has been done and a ton still left to be done with this format, and the World Championships are sure to stretch the limits of creativity. Players preparing for the World Championships have a daunting task in building a team for what looks to be a nearly unpredictable metagame. A strong team and on-point predictions will be essential for a player to become the World Champion, and I can’t wait to see what strategies will emerge next weekend.

Thanks for reading!

Check out five Pokemon that could be “the play” for the World Championships here!


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pokemon big 6

Taking a look at VGC 2017’s potential “Big 6”

After securing a second place finish at the North American International Championships following numerous Top Cut appearances, this team composition of VGC 2017’s best is looking like it has become VGC’s new “Big 6” archetype.

The “Big 6” is a name given to a team archetype that usually consists of a combination of the best Pokemon in a given format. In 2015 there was CHALK and 2016 found its “Big 6” very early on with the popularity of Xerneas and Primal Groudon. It doesn’t take a teambuilding genius to put together a successful “Big 6” team, as we’ve seen just how effective slapping the format’s six best Pokemon on a team has been.

Whether or not this team is worthy of being called the “Big 6”, there’s no denying the consistency of its recent results. Let’s take a closer look at each member of the team, as well as some other potential options that could appear on future variants.

Tapu Koko 

tapu koko pokemon big 6

Nature(s): Timid, Modest

Item(s): Life Orb, Choice Specs, Assault Vest, Electrium Z

Common Moves: Thunderbolt, Volt Switch, Dazzling Gleam, Hidden Power (Ice, Fire), Sky Drop, Nature’s Madness

Undeniably the format’s most consistent Pokemon, Tapu Koko is no doubt the Island Guardian of choice for this team. It’s speed, power and flexibility allow it to function in a multitude of roles which range from dealing damage or supporting its team mates. Going into the North American International Championships, we saw the rise of the Assault Vest item on a majority of Tapu Koko. In addition to adding to Tapu Koko’s defenses, The Assault Vest allowed for great supportive moves like Nature’s Madness and Sky Drop which can be crucial in setting up KO’s for Tapu Koko’s partners.

However, despite the Assault Vest’s popularity prior to Indianapolis, there were no Assault Vest Tapu Koko in the Master’s Top Cut. Instead, players favored the Electrium Z, allowing Tapu Koko to fire off a powerful, terrain-boosted Electric attack. Having access to Gigavolt Havoc allows Tapu Koko to claim crucial KO’s on less defensive variants of Arcanine as well as opposing Tapu Koko. Paul Chua opted for Thunder on his move set, deciding that the risk of Thunder’s shaky accuracy was worth the increase of Gigavolt Havoc’s base power.

Cesar Reyes proved that Choice Specs was still a worthy item choice, enabling Tapu Koko to threaten consistent damage without needing to set up. Life Orb variants still exists, but my guess is we won’t see nearly as many on the World’s stage.

Arcanine

arcanine pokemon big 6

Nature(s): Adamant, Jolly, Careful

Item(s): Iapapa Berry, Figy Berry, Mago Berry, Firium Z, Assault Vest, Choice Band

Common Moves: Flare Blitz, Extreme Speed, Will-o-Wisp, Snarl, Helping Hand, Toxic

Sitting up there with Tapu Koko as arguably the format’s best Pokemon, it’s no wonder Arcanine appears on this team. With the format’s lackluster amount of good Fire-types, Arcanine’s great base stats and access to Intimidate make it a solid fit for most VGC 2017 teams.

Arcanine is able to function in both an offensive and a supportive role. Flare Blitz and Extreme Speed are pretty much standard for all Arcanine variants, but Arcanine’s third move slot can see a ton of variation. Helping Hand looks to be the most popular according to Indy’s Top Cut, as the Helping Hand boost can be crucial for Arcanine’s team mates to pick up KO’s. Snarl is a move that can almost be spammed at points in order to severely weaken the opponent’s special attackers. Will-o-Wisp is also not a bad option for punishing physical attackers as Pokemon like Alolan Muk and Snorlax become a lot less scary when afflicted with a burn. Finally, Toxic can be a great surprise move that can rack up much needed damage on slower, more defensive Pokemon like Snorlax and Porygon2.

Arcanine can certainly be used in a variety of ways, but we’re likely to see the defensive variants of Arcanine dominate the World’s stage.

Garchomp

garchomp pokemon big 6

Nature(s): Jolly, Adamant

Item(s): Groundium Z, Choice Scarf, Assault Vest

Common Moves: Earthquake, Rock Slide, Fire Fang, Flamethrower, Poison Jab, Swords Dance

Garchomp’s been a staple in VGC in the absence of Landorus, and the implementing of Z moves in Generation 7 have made it even more threatening. Most teams in the format struggle to resist Ground-type attacks, and teams with poor answers to Garchomp can find themselves being swept rather easily. Groundium Z gives Garchomp an insanely powerful attack that does a ton of damage, especially after a Swords Dance. The rising popularity of Assault Vest Tapu Koko created a deadly duo with Tapu Koko’s fast Sky Drop next to a Swords Dance Garchomp. This combination is able to guarantee KO’s on slower Pokemon, and serves as a great way to deal with opposing Trick Room modes.

If it weren’t for Paul Chua’s impressive use of the Choice Scarf on Garchomp, odds are I wouldn’t have touched on it. Definitely something that can catch an opponent off-guard. A Choice Scarfed Garchomp has the capability to run through teams that aren’t equipped to deal with it. Having two spam-able moves in Rock Slide and Earthquake, make the Choice Scarf a pretty good win condition when set up right. We saw Paul Chua use this set effectively after whittling down his opponent’s Pokemon in order for Garchomp to quickly pick up KO’s with Earthquake. Also, a fast Rock Slide is always threatening with that terrifying 30% flinch chance.

After Chua’s run in Indianapolis, I expect Choice Scarf to become a lot more popular. Although, Groundium Z is by far the more flexible option, and will likely remain the most common variant.

Celesteela

celesteela pokemon big 6

Nature(s): Relaxed, Impish, Modest, Adamant

Item(s): Leftovers, Pinch berries, Assault Vest

Common Moves: Heavy Slam, Leech Seed, Flamethrower, Wide Guard, Air Slash, Flash Cannon

Just barely holding off Kartana as VGC 2017 most common Ultra Beast, we have Celesteela. Celesteela is an amazing defensive Pokemon with its fantastic typing, move pool, and immunity to Earthquake. A majority of Celesteela opt for the standard Heavy Slam, Leech Seed and Flamethrower move set, but the North American International Championships showed us a couple new tricks. Baris Ackos ran Air Slash on his Celesteela perhaps as a way to hit Buzzwole while also having the chance to flinch slower opponents. Paul Chua decided protecting his team with Wide Guard was more valuable than hitting Kartana with Flamethrower.

Celesteela might appear standard in team preview, but like I said, Celesteela has a very diverse move pool. Attacking variants of Celesteela aren’t unheard of, but by far the most consistent Celesteela set is the standard Leech Seed variant. Let’s hope that World’s doesn’t subject us to any Celesteela stall wars, especially if none of them are running Flamethrower.

Snorlax

snorlax pokemon big 6

Nature(s): Brave, Impish, Sassy, Adamant

Item(s): Pinch Berries (Figy, Mago, Iapapa)

Common Moves: Return, Frustration, Facade, Curse, Belly Drum, Recycle, Wild Charge, High Horsepower

Where would this team be without a Trick Room answer? Indianapolis showed us that Snorlax is in and Gigalith is (potentially) out. Snorlax is the very definition of a tank. It takes a ton of damage to take one of these things down, but only if its not able to Recycle its berry.

Depending on whether or not a Trick Room setter is present, Snorlax can run either Curse or Belly Drum to set itself up. Curse is a lot safer since it also boosts Snorlax’s Defense and is far less of a commitment. Belly Drum is the more aggressive option that puts Snorlax in a better sweeping position at the immediate cost of its berry. The Curse variant is the more popular option for this team due to its consistency, and allows for Snorlax to work better outside of Trick Room.

In regards to Snorlax’s move options, we saw a lot of change to what looks like a pretty standard Pokemon. Facade was present on both Snorlax in the Master’s finals which was likely a great call for a tournament that featured the use of Toxic. In exchange for Snorlax’s coverage, Stockpile was seen on some Belly Drum variants as a way of adding more bulk in addition to Snorlax’s monstrous Attack boost.

Snorlax looks to be VGC 2017’s most consistent Trick Room Pokemon regardless if a team has a way to set up Trick Room. Curse will likely see more play in Anaheim over Belly Drum, but both sets are equally viable.

Alolan Ninetales

alolan ninetales pokemon big 6

Nature(s): Timid

Item(s): Focus Sash, Light Clay

Common Moves: Blizzard, Freeze Dry, Icy Wind, Aurora Veil, Roar, Encore

Finally, we have probably the most expendable member of the team: Alolan Ninetales. Even Paul Chua mentioned in his tournament report that he brought this Pokemon the least over the course of the weekend. Basically, Alolan Ninetales is really only needed for Aurora Veil. Other than that, spamming Blizzard is nice in some situations but its damage output will leave you hoping for a freeze.

Having Alolan Ninetales is a decent way to check opposing weather, but weather teams aren’t as common as they used to be. Still, having other interesting support options like Roar and Icy Wind can make Ninetales a bit more useful.

There’s a lot of debate over whether or not Alolan Ninetales is a “good” Pokemon, but you have to agree that it can be quite solid in certain situations. Aurora Veil protecting Snorlax is always tough to deal with, which is why we’ve seen this duo before.

Other Options

Trick Room

mimikyu pokemon big 6

With a Pokemon like Snorlax, having a Trick Room setter is never a bad idea. Mimikyu has seen the most play with this archetype since it has great synergy with Snorlax. Porygon2 has awkward synergy with Snorlax, since they’re both Normal type, but Porygon2 is consistent enough to work.

Another Tapu

tapu fini pokemon big 6

Tapu Lele and Tapu Fini have had many great tournament teams next to Tapu Koko, and this team composition could be a great fit as well. Tapu Lele provides another source of damage while Tapu Fini can support the team with Misty Terrain. Having either on the team can help keep the terrain advantage which is always good to have.

Kartana

kartana pokemon big 6

Kartana and Celesteela by no means function the same role per say, but when needing a Steel-type, either one works well. Celesteela will usually be favored due to its use as a defensive pivot and synergy with Garchomp, but Kartana can also work as another offensive option for the team.

Another Trick Room Attacker

gigalith pokemon big 6

Ninetales and Snorlax could easily be swapped out for Porygon2 plus Gigalith or Alolan Muk. Probably not the most likely change considering Snorlax’s overall consistency, but still an option.

So, is this team really the “Big 6” of VGC 2017?

While it has been a consistent team, it’s hard to say at this point. It’s very possible that this team could have a big showing at Worlds and will likely see some variation if players decide to bring it. Overall, this “goodstuffs” team is a solid pick for this stage of the format, but we’ll just have to wait and see if the “Big 6” can have another big tournament run in Anaheim.

Thanks for reading!


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Art of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

VGC 2017 North American International Championships metagame preview

Previously, we looked at a list of Pokemon that could be great off-meta choices for a team competing in Indianapolis this weekend. This time, we’ll supplement that list with an overview of the current strategies and cores that define the current VGC 2017 metagame. These are strategies that players should expect to play against, and spectators should expect to see.

Common cores + team compositions

FAKEPG (and its variations)

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One of the most popular team compositions to hit VGC is the awkwardly named “FAKEPG” archetype. The clumsy acronym, for those unfamiliar, stands for: Tapu Fini, Arcanine, Kartana, Electric-type, Porygon2 and Gigalith. The team is popular for a reason, as its brilliant type synergy and move coverage makes it tough to go up against. The team also features a variety of modes, even being able to effectively abuse Trick Room with the combo of Porygon2 and Gigalith.

To avoid being predictable, the team has undergone a bit of change since it first came onto the scene. Tapu Lele has replaced Tapu Fini on some variants, while Tapu Koko has solidified itself as the go-to E in FAKEPG. Speaking of Tapu Koko, the rising popularity of the Assault Vest item on it has also given rise to a new breed of Kartana that carries Swords Dance and the Fightinium Z. Tapu Koko is able to use Sky Drop on Pokemon that threaten Kartana, so it can then set up a Swords Dance and pick up a KO with a boosted All-Out-Pummeling on the next turn.

Other than these notable changes, the rest of the team is fairly standard. Slight move changes can vary from player to player on Gigalith and Arcanine, but you should expect things like Flare Blitz and Rock Slide.

How to beat it

I found that both a well-played Alolan Muk and/or Kartana do very well against FAKEPG. These two do struggle with Arcanine, but Muk does well against the Tapu’s while Kartana can be hard to stop to the team’s Trick Room mode. Dealing with Arcanine should be a priority, as Arcanine is usually the team’s main answer to common Steel-types and strong, physical attackers that give the team trouble.

The team is good, but it can struggle if against a player who knows the match-up, and has ways to win against it. Prediction is key, and a lot of it goes into predicting what mode the FAKEPG player will bring.

Goodstuffs

Basically, all of the metagame’s best Pokemon on one team. The most popular version at the moment is a variant with Alolan Ninetales and Snorlax. This composition has also hopped on the Assault Vest Tapu Koko hype-train, with the Swords Dance partner as Garchomp. Instead of Kartana, Celesteela has made itself the team’s go-to Steel-type.

How to beat it

Again, this team relies on Arcanine a lot for Fire-damage and its Intimidate ability. The lack of ways to manipulate speed can make the team weak against Tailwind and Trick Room based teams. Most well-built variants will be prepared to deal with speed control, so taking advantage of Tailwind or Trick Room turns is essential.

Drifblim+Tapu Lele (Tailwind)

A combination that has remained relevant despite the slight drop off in its usage, Drifblim teams are still pretty scary. Users of Driblim are now not only able to abuse the power of Tapu Lele, but also Ultra Beasts that could benefit from the speed boost like Nihilego and Buzzwole.

Despite the predictability when it comes to the leads, this team has a lot of options. Drifblim can work well with any of the team’s main sweepers, while Drifblim itself could be carrying a bunch of unique techs in its move set.

Drifblim is great and all, but Mandibuzz has recently been climbing back up in usage and makes a good fit for this team’s Tailwind mode. Mandibuzz is harder to take down, but its lack of Drifblim’s speed could leave it susceptible to Taunt or Sky Drop. Mandibuzz is a bit more flexible, being able to work with Tapu Fini and apparently Tapu Bulu like we saw in Japan.

More than likely, Drifblim will be the one to be prepared for, as its almost guaranteed Tailwind set up is hard to pass on.

How to beat it

The team’s hyper-offensive nature leaves it very susceptible to a match up where it loses the speed advantage. Tapu Lele’s Taunt gives the team a way to stop Trick Room and slower Tailwinds, but can easily be baited out with a lead that threatens either option. Snorlax is a popular sixth member to help against Trick Room, but without it, an opposing Trick Room mode can run over the team.

Disrupting Psychic Terrain also hurts the team a bit by weakening Tapu Lele. Tapu Fini is usually the best candidate for this role since Misty Terrain can prevent potential burns from Drifblim’s Will-o-Wisp.

BAN (Tapu Bulu, Arcanine, Nihilego)

Since Tapu Bulu has been quickly climbing the usage charts, it’s fitting that it should get its own core. Drew Nowak proved that this combination could win a big tournament and is worth preparing for. Tapu Bulu is able to threaten huge damage by setting up the Grassy Terrain which helps its teammates not lose to Earthquake. Other popular teammates are Pheromosa, Porygon2, Tapu Koko, Metagross and Hariyama just to name a few. The team is able to support a ton of damage with Tapu Bulu and Nihilego, bulk with Intimidate and Grassy Terrain as well as a slower mode with Hariyama and Araquanid.

A surprisingly diverse team that has a very solid matchup against many of the metagame’s other top teams.

How to beat it

One common thread of Tapu Bulu teams are the many Ground weaknesses the team has. Getting rid of Grassy Terrain makes Earthquake a fatal move for the majority of the team’s members, so preserving a method of Earthquake spam is helpful.

If Nihilego is dealt with, the team may struggle with Arcanine. It’s reasonable to assume Nowak’s Madison team, or a variation of it, will be what most players opt for so Araquanid is to be expected. Terrain advantage is crucial in the matchup, and denying Grassy Terrain is a consistent way to cripple this team.

Weather teams

Rain

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Double Duck hasn’t gone away just yet unfortunately. Coming off a recent victory in the Japanese National Championships and the confirmation of Tommy Cooleen’s attendance in Indy makes Rain worth discussing. Often relying on the Pelipper+Golduck lead to set up Tailwind and drown threats with Golduck’s rain-boosted Hydro Vortex, the team relies on rain for both speed and power.

That being said however, the team can still function without the rain with Pokemon like Tapu Koko and Kartana being good checks to popular rain answers. Plus, the consistency of the team allows off-meta picks like Buzzwole, Metagross and now even Tsareena to function in the meta game. A team composition that looks standard, but is surprisingly sticking around and adapting.

Sun 

Not quite as common as Rain, but this archetype could still be a possible matchup. Torkoal+Lilligant is arguably a bit easier to deal with than Double Duck, but the mind games of predicting After You Eruption, a Z Move or Sleep Powder is not fun to play against.

Ashton’s Latin America team is a well-built version that might be the go-to for Sun team players, but its lack of recent success makes it less likely for it to do well in Indianapolis.

Sand

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The reason I’m even mentioning this mode is the fact that Lycanroc+Gigalith did make it to the Top 8 of the Japanese National Championships. Other variants use Stoutland as their Sand Rush abuser, being able to act more supportive rather than offensive. The team functions similarly to the aforementioned weather teams, but the reliance on Sand doesn’t extend far past Gigalith and its Sand Rush-ing partner.

It’s a strategy that most likely wouldn’t expect, but its lack of success at a best-of-three tournament leaves a lot of players skeptical.

Note: I’m not mentioning Hail since the weather mode has been pretty much non-existent. Still, Vanilluxe and Alolan Ninetales are solid on their own.

How to beat weather

Weather disruption is by far the best way to shut down every weather mode. If you don’t have a way to set up your own weather, here are some Pokemon that do well against each mode.

Rain: Gastrodon, AV Tapu Koko, Goodra, Kartana

Sun: Arcanine, Tapu Koko, Tapu Fini, Snorlax

Sand: Garchomp, Kartana (watch out for Fire Fang), bulky Water/Grass-types

Less common, but viable teams, modes, etc. 

Eevee

Someone always manages to take a tournament by storm with Eevee, and it’s still a team to be feared. I’ve gone into depth about Eevee before, but tl;dr Eevee sets up the Extreme Evoboost and Baton Passes it to a sweeper.

You beat it by denying that. Eliminate the boosts, Eevee and/or the sweeper(s). Sometimes this is easier said than done.

Porygon2 + Araquanid 

Remember when this pair won four consecutive regionals in North America? Well Araquanid is still a huge threat under Trick Room since many teams don’t have great Liquidation switch-ins.

MimiLax (Mimikyu+Snorlax)

Another Trick Room duo that has fallen off a bit, but can still rip through teams after Snorlax sets up Belly Drum. Mimikyu doesn’t go down easily, and nearly always has Mental Herb so good luck trying to Taunt it. Not to mention, Mimikyu can copy Snorlax’s maximized attack with Psych Up.

*shudders*

Lightningrod+Gyarados (or a combo of Water and Flying-types)

Togedemaru and Marowak could be good calls for Indianapolis considering the abundance of Tapu Koko, and one of the most common partners for these two is Gyarados. Gyarados can be troublesome to KO without an Electric attack, and leaving it unchecked could mean a Dragon Dance sweep.

Lightningrod Pokemon have also seen usage on teams with Mandibuzz, Tapu Fini and Celesteela which can make these bulky Pokemon also pretty annoying to take down. Lightningrod support helps Mandibuzz set up Tailwind, Tapu Fini set up Calm Mind and Celesteela do its thing.

Smeargle & Ultra Beasts

Ian McLaughlin taught us that Smeargle is still scary, especially when paired with a few Ultra Beasts. Smeargle’s ability to disrupt opponents and support its teammates make an Ultra Beast partner terrifying to go against. Xurkitree can Tail Glow, Nihilego can set up Substitutes and Pheromosa can out-speed and annihilate its main threats. All while Smeargle racks up stat boosts from Moody.

It’s almost here

Hopefully I was able to provide a solid overview of the most common Pokemon and strategies in the current VGC 2017 metagame. We’ll likely see all of these strategies, even the lesser-used ones, appear in one shape or another. However, as VGC 2017 has showed us time and time again, the player who finds a way to successfully counter the meta with their own unique strategy, likely wins it all.

I guess we’ll find out which teams will make it to the top in just a couple more days. A champion will be crowned, and all eyes will shift towards Anaheim, and what the World’s metagame will have in store.


Art/Images of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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VGC 2017 Spring Metagame Preview

With a sizable amount of tournaments in the books, what’s next for the VGC 2017 metagame? In a format that’s been flipped on its head after every tournament, creativity has begun to slow but has not stopped. Many new cores and strategies have emerged and are waiting to be countered, which further expands this format’s potential development. These months leading up to Worlds should be exciting, and here are the Pokémon we should expect to see:

A War of Speed Control

Trick Room and Tailwind are the most popular forms of speed control, and they are set to clash until the format’s end. With both modes becoming increasingly more viable, there are some solid Pokémon to add to a team if you’re looking for a speed advantage.

Tailwind

DrifblimImage result for drifblim

I think we’re all sick of this thing already. Everyone knows what Drifblim does, but for those unfamiliar, let me explain.

Drifblim, usually paired next to a Tapu Lele, will lead with said Tapu Lele activating Psychic Seed which boosts Driflbim’s Special Defense by one stage due to Lele’s Psychic Terrain. Unburden now doubles Drifblim’s speed since it has no item allowing it to be the fastest thing on the field. Drifblim sets up Tailwind and now Tapu Lele and friends can wail on your opponent’s team.

Although Drifblim might appear standard, there’s a lot of move options outside of the standard Tailwind and Shadow Ball. Will-o-Wisp is common to burn physical threats like Garchomp, Snorlax, and Muk. Recently, Aaron Zheng won Oregon Regionals with a Destiny Bond Drifblim, which was able to clutch some cheeky KO’s if Drifblim becomes expendable. Then there are fun options like Disable and Hypnosis if you want to make your opponent smash their 3DS.

MandibuzzImage result for mandibuzz

Mandibuzz functions very similarly to Drifblim as Mandibuzz opts mainly for Seed items. However, Mandibuzz is the more defensive option. With access to great support moves like Snarl, Taunt, Foul Play and Toxic, Mandibuzz can set up Tailwind and stick around to torture your opponent. Plus Mandibuzz is a bit more versatile as it can work with Tapu Fini as well as Tapu Lele.

Trick Room

Porygon2Image result for porygon2

This little duck will never go away. Porygon2 is such an adaptable Pokémon that it doesn’t even need Trick Room to thrive. Though that’s an option most tend to opt for.

The standard Porygon2 set has morphed significantly over the course of 2017, which is a testament to Porygon2’s versatility. It’s insanely bulky due to Eviolite and has a ton of move options for both offense and defense. I think Special Attacking Porygon2 might be making a comeback, but Trick Room and Recover are still staples.

If unchecked, this thing can win a game 1v4, so either Taunt or a Fighting-type should be present on a team.

MimikyuImage result for mimikyu png

The newest member of the Trick Room club is everyone’s favorite Pikachu knock-off: Mimikyu. Mimikyu’s unique ability Disguise brings an interesting dynamic to how it can function in a match. It’s able to take a free hit allowing it to set up Trick Room for its partners or deal some good damage with its solid STAB.

Mimikyu has found some good synergy next to Trick Room sweepers such as Snorlax and Gigalith since it doesn’t share a Fighting-type weakness like the aforementioned Porygon2.

If you want a full Mimikyu analysis, I recommend my buddy Drew’s piece showcasing all of Mimikyu’s talents. Regardless of what the Pokédex says, everyone loves Mimikyu.


The GoodStuffs

Every format has its standard and VGC 2017 is no exception. These are the Pokémon you will see at least once per game in this format.

GarchompImage result for garchomp png

When Landorus isn’t around, the Ground-type to rule them all is Garchomp. We’ve seen Garchomp undergo a lot of change so far with moves like Poison Jab, Fire Fang and Rock Slide revolving in and out of the standard move sets. Right now the most popular build is a bulkier set-up sweeper with Swords Dance to take advantage of Tailwind being set up.

Without a Ground resist in its way, Garchomp can annihilate teams that aren’t prepared for it. It makes a Fairy-type or an Ice-move a necessity to any team.

ArcanineImage result for arcanine png

When Arcanine is good, it’s really good. By far the most popular Intimidate user in the format, Arcanine is a fantastic blend of offense and occasionally defense. Stopping Kartana and Celesteela in their tracks is one of the main reasons (other than Intimidate of course) Arcanine finds a place on a majority of successful teams.

SnorlaxImage result for snorlax png

Much like its role in the single-player game, Snorlax can be quite the formidable obstacle. Insane bulk coupled with Gluttony to take full advantage of the 50% berries, Snorlax isn’t easily removed. Plus it can set up Curses while sitting there and endlessly Recycling its berry.

The premier Trick Room sweeper at this point in the meta game, however, there is another that has been rocking the format as of late.

GigalithImage result for gigalith png

This thing is a stone-cold killer under Trick Room. With an amazing Attack stat, Gigalith can hammer on opponents with strong Rock Slides. To complement its offensive prowess, Gigalith can also set up with Curse or protect your own team with Wide Guard. What’s most attractive about Gigalith right now is its excellent match-up versus Drifblim and Tapu Lele, but it has to have Trick Room up first.

Tapu KokoImage result for tapu koko png

In my opinion, the perfect sixth member for any team in this format is none other than Tapu Koko. Dominating the format in usage, Tapu Koko is by far one of the most versatile threats in the game. Mainly valued for its offense and speed, Tapu Koko can take advantage of many different items and move options.

The most popular item is often Life Orb, but we’ve seen success with items like Assault Vest and Choice Specs to capitalize on Tapu Koko’s offensive presence. Electric and Fairy-type moves are standard for Koko, but easily can be added or replaced by Hidden Powers, Sky Drop or Nature’s Madness just to name a few.

It’s essential to have an answer to this Pokémon or have it on your team for success in 2017.

Tapu LeleImage result for tapu lele png

I’ve already briefly touched on Tapu Lele’s primary role in the format right now, but there’s more to it than just being Drifblim’s right-hand. Psychic Terrain combined with Tapu Lele’s high Special Attack stat makes it a threat as soon as it hits the field. Tapu Lele’s move set doesn’t often deviate from its STAB attacks, but it can branch out depending on what item it holds.

Most Lele now are much more defensive rather than speedy since they’re usually accompanied by a Tailwind user. Expect either a choice item (Specs or Scarf mainly) or a Life Orb with Taunt to help stop Trick Room.

Tapu FiniImage result for tapu fini png

The Tapu Fini hype might have died down a little, but Tapu Fini is far from gone. Tapu Fini’s ability to disrupt opposing Terrains and offer decent offensive support gives a comfortable role on many teams in the game. Plus the AFK (Arcanine, Fini, Kartana) core is still really good, so I wouldn’t let Tapu Fini slip under your radar.

KartanaImage result for kartana png

One of two Ultra Beasts that continues to top the usage charts is the slashing sweeper Kartana. Most Kartana have moved away from the once popular Assault Vest for just full on offense and speed with a Focus Sash.

Although now a new trend featuring Scope Lens (an item that raises critical hit ratio) has popped up to many players’ dismay. Scope Lens gives Kartana’s Leaf Blade 50% chance to critical hit which can be clutch in racking up Beast Boosts.

Yeah this thing is the reason Fire-type moves are a necessity for any team.

CelesteelaImage result for celesteela png

Speaking of things that make Fire-type moves essential, let’s talk about Celesteela again.

Celesteela has done its fair share of adaptation, but the ol’ bread and butter Leech Seed strategy is still going strong today. Though now, Flamethrower has become the default rather than Substitute in order to deal with those pesky Kartana running around.

A new trend that’s appeared recently are offensive Celesteela, mainly focused on the Special Attack side. Believe it or not, Celesteela gets access to a bunch of great moves like Air Slash and Giga Drain if a Special Attacking Celesteela that can boost interests you. But let’s not forget Celesteela’s physical side with moves like Flame Charge and Earthquake which could be valuable.

Celesteela may be unbelievably annoying at times, but it’s been quite a fun Pokémon to see used as of late.


Common Cores

Tapu Lele & Drifblim

Image result for tapu lele pngImage result for drifblim

Not to be redundant, but if I’m talking about cores, I have to mention these two. The only thing left to add is that the typical team composition for these two can suffer significantly if a loss is suffered in terms of speed control. Speed is the name of the game with this team, with Pokémon like Garchomp and Kartana being present to take full advantage when it’s time to sweep.

AFK or ATK 

Image result for arcanine pngImage result for tapu fini pngImage result for kartana pngImage result for tapu koko pngImage result for tapu lele png

Remember the Arcanine, Fini, Kartana core I mentioned? I think it’s fair to branch out to include the other Tapu Pokémon despite the less attractive acronym. The Tapu Pokémon compliment Arcanine and Kartana well in terms of offense and defense which is why this combination retains its popularity. Its quite often to see more than one Tapu on a team with this core because of how well some of the Tapus work together. A common starting point for most teams that will probably remain in the meta game until the end of the format.

Mimikyu & Snorlax

Image result for mimikyu pngImage result for snorlax png

MimiLax, as those familiar with this core know it, is a common Trick Room mode for teams not solely dedicated to Trick Room. Both of these Pokémon can be tough to remove in the first few turns, so for this combo, setting isn’t hard at all.

While most Snorlax opt for Curse, we have seen Belly Drum pop up from time to time ever since its success in the Top Cut of Anaheim Regionals. This is a bit more risky of a strategy, but can be used effectively in the right hands.

With recent success in Oregon, Gigalith can easily replace Snorlax as Mimikyu’s partner. It functions pretty similarly while also having a much better match-up against Tapu Lele and Drifblim teams.


Unseen Forces

We’ve seen a lot of niche Pokémon thrive in this format, and here are some that I think have the most potential going forward.

Alolan PersianImage result for persian alola png

This shady cat has snuck its way into a few recent Top 8’s and even secured a Regional win in Buenos Aires. Persian is a special blend of bulk and speed that is able to offer effective support for its teammates. Its become popular next to Snorlax dues to its ability to switch into it with Parting Shot after lowering a threatening opponent’s stats. With some valuable synergy with other common Pokemon, Persian has potential to keep placing well in future tournaments.

Tapu BuluImage result for tapu bulu png

Tapu Bulu being the least used of its Tapu brethren has earned it a bit of a bad reputation in the format. But despite this, it has since earned a Regional victory under its belt and a few solid placings at Internationals.

Grassy Terrain is still a powerful terrain allowing for not only Tapu Bulu, but for its teammates as well. Tapu Bulu can fire off strong Grass-type attacks while its partners are protected against Ground moves and are slowly healing.

Since a lot of common Pokemon right now struggle with being Earthquake-resistant, Tapu Bulu offers a nice solution to this problem. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tapu Bulu top the results of another major tournament in the near future.

Togedemaru Image result for togedemaru png

With the rising popularity of Gyarados and the current popularity of Tapu Koko, Togedemaru has a great place in the meta game right now. Dan “Adrive” Clap initially showed us the power of the electric rodent in the ONOG Invitational, leading to Alex Underhill taking it all the way to a Regional victory in Collinsville.

Togedemaru has a great defensive typing, outside of being Garchomp food, that excellently supports the great Water Pokémon in this format. It also has neat moves like Zing Zap which can score crucial flinches to halt your opponent’s momentum.

All I’m saying is an electric rodent won Worlds once. A bit of a bold prediction, but I think Togedemaru can do it.

BuzzwoleImage result for buzzwole png

In a metagame full of speed control, a Pokémon like Buzzwole can shine. Buzzwole’s awkward speed stat places it in a special place to be useful under Trick Room and Tailwind.

Buzzwole flexes for a reason, as its Attack stat is pretty beefy. Its move pool is great too, with moves like Ice Punch and Poison Jab offering great coverage for popular threats. With a big All-Out-Pummeling courtesy of Fightinium-Z, Buzzwole can easily start racking up Beast Boosts.

This monstrous mosquito’s success hasn’t expanded much farther than a couple Top 8’s, but its usage will definitely increase with things like Snorlax, Porygon2, and Gigalith being popular.

MudsdaleImage result for mudsdale png

Galloping into the last entry for this section, Mudsdale brings some untapped power. Since a Ground-type is nearly essential to deal with Tapu Koko and the occasional Muk, Mudsdale can play a role suited for an effective Ground-type.

It’s speed and usability under Trick Room is Mudsdale’s main selling point, being able to threaten huge damage when speed is in its favor. Not to mention every time its hit with an attack, Stamina kicks in to give it a Defense boost. All of this with a solid arsenal of attacks gives Mudsdale a good case for a Trick Room attacker.

Having claimed a Regional title in Dallas, Mudsdale shows promise for more solid finishes. Its unique role as a Ground-type in the format is one that more players will consider adding to their team.


Just a Snapshot

As the title of this section would suggest, this is only a small look into the vast pool of Pokémon that are viable in VGC 2017. I’m just telling you what to expect, not what to bring. This particular year in VGC is immensely rewarding for creative minds looking to find the next big strategy. These last few months before Worlds are sure to produce some great tournaments, and the ones who innovate will be leading the charge.

Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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Play pokemon vgc logo

Three Interesting Stats Halfway Through the 2017 Pokémon VGC Season

A Plethora of Pokémon

Half way through the season and one thing is certain, no meta has developed. Having completed nine events so far, VGC 17 has yet to see a single team reign supreme. Due to this, some 25 Pokémon have found their niche and appeared on the winner’s pedestal during the course of these nine events.

Pokemon who have placed first vgc 2017

Though no core of Pokémon has risen to dominance yet, one core has seen more play than any other. The AFK core, consisting of Arcanine, Tapu Fini, and Kartana, has been popular; but thus far it has only finished first in one out of nine major events, piloted to victory by the great Markus Stadter during the Dreamhack Regionals in Germany.

World Class Trainers

Even though there are still four months to go until the Pokémon VGC World Championship, 23 Trainers have already qualified for an invitation.

VGC 2017 Pokemon Standings

These are the trainers lucky enough to have earned enough Championship Points for an invitation so far. Will one of these 23 be the very best? Only time will tell.

Trainers still have time considering there are still two International Championships, as well as a plethora of Regionals and other smaller events to go. Names like Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng, and Gary Qian, still have time to claim an invite.

Going Against the Grain

2017 is the year of the Tapu and Ultra Beast. Introduced in Pokémon Sun and Moon, these creatures are incredibly powerful. It is no surprise then, that they have appeared on every winning team of a major VGC tournament. Every winning team except for two.

Image of Gavin Michaels

Gavin Michaels Second from the left | Image courtesy of @komvgc

Those two teams belonged to the same Trainer, Gavin Michaels. Gavin was able to claim victory in both California Regionals during the winter matches. Winning both tournaments without use of either a Tapu or an Ultra Beast. Truly a feat to watch.

All images courtesy of Game Freak

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Pokemon togedemaru steals the show

Pokémon VGC 2017 Collinsville Regional Wraps Up – Alex Underhill Takes First, Togedemaru Steals Show

Farewell Collinsville

Competition wrapped up this weekend at the Pokémon VGC Collinsville Regional tournament, and fans were not disappointed. Around 300 Trainers showed up for their chance at walking away with $3,000 cash, and Championship Points towards entrance to the World Championship. While many Trainers competed, only one proved he had what it took to be a champion. Alex Underhill marveled the crowd as he battled his way to his first major VGC victory.

Alex Underhill using Togedemaru to win Collinsville regionals Pokemon

Image courtesy of @LexiconVGC

Alex combined offensive pressure from Gyarados and Arcanine, with Celesteela’s stalling ability. To top it off, Alex’s centerpiece was his Togedemaru, a little steel mouse capable of unnerving foes with its shocking tactics. Throughout the entirety of the tournament, Alex impressed the crowd with the expert use of his Togedemaru. Whether it was faking out opposing Tapu Koko, or Encoring Kartana into repetitive sword dancing. Alex was nothing short of fun to watch.

Togedemaru Wasn’t the Only Interesting Trend

Pokémon Togedemaru

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Togedemaru may have Zing Zapped his way into the fan’s hearts with his shocking display, but there was another interesting trend occurring. Teams running Tapu Lele and Drifblim were on full display in Collinsville this weekend. In fact, four of the top ten teams ran the combo. If this sounds familiar, it should be. This is because Tapu Lele and Drifblim are the pair Shoma used to claim victory in the recent ONOG Pokémon Invitational.

Watching the impact Shoma’s play had on many of the Trainers was an interesting thing to see. Even the second place finisher, Justin Berns, was using Tapu Fini and Drifblim. However, the disruption caused by Togedemaru’s antics just proved too much to overcome. After three full rounds, Justin found himself yielding victory to Alex when the final match came down to Snorlax versus Celesteela.

See You Down Under

melbourne australia for pokemon international

Image courtesy of Australia.com

The next major Pokémon VGC event will be the International Championship in Melbourne Australia. This will be the second in a series of four tournaments in the brand new International Championship Series. With a massive Championship point payout and open admittance to all Trainers worldwide, International Championship Series tournaments promise to bring a large crowd of talented Pokémon Trainers.

Scheduled to begin March 10th, the tournament will run until March 12th. Make sure to keep an eye out for new strategies. Will Porygon2 still be a staple? Could Togedemaru be a surprise VIP? Maybe Evoboost Eevee will take the cake. If nothing else, the VGC 2017 season certainly has been dynamic. See you in Melbourne!

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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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QR Rental Teams – A New Way to Play Competitive Pokémon

A New Challenger Approaches

Capturing, Breeding, Training, there has always been a lot of monotony to preparing for a competitive Pokémon match. Trainers spend countless hours picking Pokémon for their team, and working on training the perfect specimen. Each time a trainer chooses to replace even a single member, they must go through the process again. Not anymore with QR Rental Teams.

QR Rental Team scan prompt in game

TPCI has added the option to bypass breeding and training with the introduction of QR Rental Teams. QR Rental Teams allow trainers to register teams they train and share them with other trainers. Has TPCI finally removed the need for breeding and training in competitive Pokémon altogether?

QR Provides First Steps Towards Convenience 

QR codes now grant trainers easy access to battle with teams they put no work into. Simply access teams of Pokémon on the Pokémon Global Link website and generate a QR code for the team. Then scan the generated QR code when prompted in Pokémon Sun and Moon and BOOM, you are battling with a team bred and trained by another trainer.

It has never been easier to practice and battle with some excellent Pokémon teams. QR Rental Teams are not without their restrictions, however. Here is a list of battles in which you trainers can use QR Rental Teams:

List of battles that allow QR Rental Teams

Furthermore, QR Rental Teams are not permitted at all for official tournaments. So the hopes of moving away from breeding and training for trainers interested in VGC competition is still not entirely possible.

Helpful But Not Entirely Convenient

As with many things TPCI does, QR Rental Teams are a fantastic idea with implementation that leaves much to be desired. In order for a trainer to share their teams, they must register it to their Battle Box. Then the trainer must log into their account on the Pokémon Global Link website. From there they can access the Pokémon teams in their Battle Box and register them as a QR Rental Team.

Example Pokémon QR Rental Team from Pokemon Global Link website

At this point the team is ready to be used by trainers around the world. While you would think in order to use a rental team, you would simply scan a QR code that is shared with you. Sadly it is not that easy. A trainer has to access the Pokémon Global Link website, and locate the team or trainer who owns the team. Once they locate the team they wish to rent, they can generate a personal QR code to be scanned with their Pokémon Sun and Moon game. Not exactly the epitome of convenience.

The other area that needs improvement is the user interface. Rental Teams are separated into only two different formats, Single and Double. This makes hunting down teams for specific things, like VGC format, difficult and time consuming. On top of that, there are very few options for filtering through teams outside of specifying specific Pokémon.

A Hope For the Future and a Word of Caution

Overall, Rental Teams are a fantastic move for TPCI to make. Allowing easier access to trainers to try out the more competitive aspect of Pokémon is certainly a step in the right direction. Hopefully they are able to iron out some of the kinks with the current system and provide more and more convenience to their fans and prospecting competitive trainers.

One word of caution however, there are rumors going around that currently QR codes contain Pokémon trainer ID info that can be maliciously accessed. This data can then be used to get the trainer account attached to the Rental Team banned from the Pokémon Global Link. Please use this new service with caution until more info comes out!

All images courtesy of Game Freak

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