Is this the new meta? VGC 2017 Japanese National Championships recap

The Japanese National Championships have decided the nation’s World Championship qualifiers, but the results have us western players scratching our heads a bit. Not only did a Pokemon that was unheard of in VGC 2017 win it all, but a bunch of other weird and unconventional strategies managed to succeed. Let’s take a look at the marvel that was the teams of the Japanese National Top Cut.

Results & Teams (Top 8)

Champion

Ootsubo Ryouta

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Runner Up 

Kimura Shouhei

Top 4

Nakagawa Gouki

Kinoshita Tohru

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Top 8

Amano Hikaru

Yonemura Takuya

Nakajima Teru

Yamane Souma

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A Popular Choice for Held Items    Image result for choice band

One thing that managed to be consistent was the popularity of Choice items for a number of popular Pokemon. I think this is the first time in a major tournament Top Cut where we’ve seen a Snorlax without its signature pinch berry. Instead, Amano Hikaru opted for a Choice Band to boost Snorlax’s Attack without having to rely on Curse or Belly Drum.

Hikaru’s team also featured a Tapu Koko holding a Choice Scarf, which also seems like an odd item considering Tapu Koko’s already impressive Speed stat. Moving away from Hikaru’s team, Nakagowa Gouki featured a team with a Choice Scarf Celesteela, and a Lycanroc with Choice Band. We’ll get to Lycanroc in a bit, but Celesteela holding a Choice Scarf is pretty bizarre. We’ve seen offensive items like Life Orb and Assault Vest have success with Celesteela, but never a speedy variant with Choice Scarf. It does make some sense since Celesteela has a very diverse move pool, but its very low base speed doesn’t compliment a Choice Scarf very well.

Besides Choice items, there were a few other weird item choices sprinkled around the Top 8. What could’ve spawned these unique ideas is beyond me, but let’s move on to the Pokemon themselves.

Niche Picks: Japan Edition

Japanese players are often known for their creative approach to the game, and their 2017 Nationals are no exception.

TsareenaImage result for tsareena

Is there a new queen of VGC? For 2017, it looks like it. Grass types as a whole aren’t very popular outside of Tapu Bulu and Kartana. So what makes Tsareena so special? With Ootsubo Ryouta’s choice of Fightinum Z for a held item, Tsareena can fire off a pretty strong All-Out-Pummeling with access to High Jump Kick.

Tsareena’s signature move, Trop Kick, is also fairly unique. It’s not the strongest attack at only 70 base power, but it always lowers the target’s Attack stat when it connects. Could be a useful tool for wearing down fast, physical-hitters after Ryouta’s Pelipper is able to set up Tailwind for Tsareena.

Finally, Feint is a highly underrated move that only a few viable Pokemon can make use of. Feint breaks the opponent’s Protect while also being a damaging move with priority. Feint works very well in a format full of strong Z-moves, and Golduck’s rain-boosted Hydro Vortex is one that often baits out Protects.

Overall, a Pokemon like Tsareena requires a very specific team composition to work, and Ryouta’s team looks to be a good fit. Is Tsareena a good Pokemon in VGC 2017? I’m not sure. We’ll just have to see if any western players are inspired by Ryouta’s success.

Lycanroc (Midday Forme)   Image result for lycanroc

With Gigalith’s current popularity, the Sand-abusing ability of Lycanroc’s Midday Forme makes it a solid partner. This scary combo threatens a ton of damage for a team without many Rock-type resistances. Lycanroc itself doesn’t have the greatest move pool, but Fire Fang is a very useful tool for dealing with Kartana who threatens this duo immensely. Coupled with the speed boost from the Sand Rush ability, Lycanroc becomes a threat under sandstorm.

But this lead, much like other “combo” leads, has its weaknesses. Since this combination almost always acts a lead, an opposing Ground or a bulky Water or Grass-type Pokemon lead can shut this combo down fairly hard. Also, opposing weather takes away Lycanroc’s speed boost which can make it a lot less threatening.

Lycanroc is a cool Pokemon for sure, but its necessity for Gigalith and its lackluster move pool do set it back. However, this combo can be scary for teams that aren’t prepared for it. Don’t expect Lycanroc to dominate the meta game, but definitely have a check for some sort of sand mode.

Gengar Image result for gengar

You’d think that in a format dominated by Fairy types, a Pokemon like Gengar would thrive. Well that would likely be the case if Gengar still had Levitate, as Ground resists are rather hard to come by.

Despite Gengar’s shortcomings, it’s by no means a bad Pokemon in this format. Having the ability to Taunt and set up Trick Room on its own, makes Gengar a tricky Pokemon to go up against if you don’t know what it has. Amano Hikaru opted to forgo Protect on his Gengar in favor of Destiny Bond which takes down Gengar’s attacker if it’s KO’d.

A Pokemon that still has potential in VGC 2017, but the loss of Levitate and its rather odd speed tier have made it a less popular choice. Don’t sleep on Gengar though, as its bag of tricks could be useful for a number of team archetypes.

Porygon-Z Image result for porygon-z

Porygon-Z has had significantly less time in the limelight when compared to its pre-evolution, but when properly supported it can turn into a problem. Most Porygon-Z this season have opted for Normalium Z to maximize the power of Hyper Beam, but Yonemura Takuya decided to take advantage of a strategy more often seen in the Single Battle meta game.

With the Normalium Z, Conversion not only changes Porygon-Z’s type to the type of the first attack in its move set, but also boosts all of its stats by one stage. Takuya opted for the Electric variant with support from a Smeargle holding a Choice Scarf. With Smeargle’s virtually infinite support move pool, Porygon-Z is likely able to set up and start mowing down its opponents.

Converting into the Electric type is a smart choice for VGC 2017. Not only is Tapu Koko’s Electric Terrain pretty much everywhere, but not many popular Pokemon resist Electric attacks either. Even more defensive Pokemon don’t appreciate taking an Adaptability boosted Thunderbolt after a Special Attack raise. Ground-types like Garchomp are still scary when setting up, but with Ice Beem, Garchomp in no problem after setting up Z-Conversion.

This strategy can run through a lot of popular team compositions, but struggles if played around correctly. Plus, even with the defense boosts, Porygon-Z is relatively frail and easy to KO. A fun strategy for best-of-one play, but a bit harder to pull off in best-of-three matches.

What This Means for The Western Metagame

So does this mean we’ll see all of these strategies at the upcoming North American International Championships? Perhaps some, but definitely not all.

The reason is that due to Japan’s National Championship having best-of-one Swiss rather than best-of-three, it makes these rather odd strategies a lot harder to pull off. Having the surprise factor of a faster Tapu Koko or an exploding Snorlax might work out for one game, but may suffer if your opponent is expecting it. Though, considering Ootsubo Ryouta’s Tsareena squad managed to do well in the best-of-three stage, it’s not too far fetched to expect to run into this team in practice or even in tournament.

Japan’s meta game has always made some sort of an impact on the West, so we’ll just have to see which strategy becomes the most popular among western players in the coming weeks. Will Tsareena take the west by storm? We’ll just have to wait to find out.

Thanks for reading!

Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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Five Pokemon that could be “the play” for the North American International Championships

With the North American International Championships just two weeks away, many players are scrambling to find the winning team. For a tournament that is sure to be in a tier of worlds-caliber difficulty, a “standard” team might not be ideal.

Unpredictability is key for a tournament this late into a format. Bringing just one Pokemon that many teams aren’t prepared for could be huge for making a deep tournament run. Here are five Pokemon that could be great metagame calls for the final International Championship of the 2017 season.

1. Tapu Bulu

Pokemon North American International Championships

 

Despite being the format’s least popular Island Guardian, Tapu Bulu has shown that it’s a force to be reckoned with. Winning two of the last four North American Regionals, Tapu Bulu is surely capable of making a deep run in Indy.

I’ve talked a lot about Tapu Bulu already, but it’s worth repeating some of Tapu Bulu’s main strengths. Grassy Terrain is an amazing field effect that not only boosts Tapu Bulu’s Grass-type attacks but also adds bulk to its teammates through the gradual HP gain.

Since Tapu Bulu is slower than most other Tapu Pokemon, Tapu Bulu is likely going to have the terrain advantage. Strong, physical Grass-type attacks are difficult for most Pokemon to take in this format, and with Tapu Bulu you’re always threatening huge damage.

Tapu Bulu has great synergy with both common and slightly less common Pokemon. Being able to set up Grassy Terrain covers one of the format’s most common weaknesses, in Ground, by halving the damage of Earthquake and Bulldoze.

While Tapu Bulu itself doesn’t have the greatest defensive-typing, teammates like Arcanine, Pheromosa, Nihilego and even Mudsdale can threaten many of Tapu Bulu’s scary match ups.

Power, diverse team builds and Grassy Terrain all make Tapu Bulu a great choice for a team right now. With its recent success, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or more break into Indy’s Top Cut.

2. Alolan Muk

Pokemon North American International Championships

 

Speaking of Tapu Bulu’s scary match ups, Alolan Muk is a scary Pokemon that every Tapu hates going against. One of the prime users of the Gluttony ability, Alolan Muk can take hits and also dish out valuable Poison and Dark-type damage.

Alolan Muk being one of the few viable Pokemon in the format with access to Knock Off makes it very useful. In a format dominated by the “pinch berries,” being able to Knock Off a berry from an Arcanine or a Snorlax can put your opponent in a pretty rough spot.

Knock Off and a Poison-type move are staple, but Muk surprisingly has a lot of flexibility in its third move slot. There are support options like Taunt or Imprison and tons of offensive ones like Gunk Shot, Flamethrower and Curse.

If Alolan Muk is a Pokemon that interests you, make sure you have an answer for Garchomp. Without a strong Ground-type move to hit it, Alolan Muk becomes a huge problem for most teams to deal with. However, its Dark-typing has made strong Fighting-type moves from Buzzwole or Pheromosa serve as fine answers to it.

3. Metagross

Pokemon North American International Championships

One of the format’s lesser used Steel-types, but still a strong choice. Metagross doesn’t quite have the speed of Kartana or the bulk of Celesteela, but its great typing and offensive power make it quite threatening.

The reason why Metagross is on this list is because it seems like a great metagame call. Metagross can hard counter Pokemon like Nihilego, Tapu Lele and even Gigalith (as long as it doesn’t have Earthquake). Plus, if paired with Tapu Lele, Psychic Terrain-boosted Zen Headbutt does a ton of damage to targets that don’t resist it.

Meteor Mash and Bullet Punch are great Steel-type attacks for Metagross, helping give it a priority option and even a pseudo-Beast Boost with Meteor Mash’s chance to boost Metagross’ attack.

Metagross looks solid on paper, but its main weaknesses in low speed and shaky accuracy can make it difficult to use. However, with a great team to support it, Metagross can easily turn into a major threat.

4. Buzzwole

Pokemon North American International Championships

Buzzwole’s weak defensive typing and low speed can make it a bit tricky to build around, but it can turn into a monster with its offense. Coming off of a regional victory in Birmingham, Buzzwole has once again cemented itself in the realm of relevant threats. Its monstrous attack, insanely diverse move pool and its ability, Beast Boost, give it the power to run through unprepared teams.

We’ve usually seen Buzzwole as a member of teams with a Tailwind mode, with notable examples being Rachel Annand’s Driflblim team and Tommy Cooleen’s rain team with Pelipper. Buzzwole’s ability to fire off strong, STAB Superpowers into Pokemon like Porygon2, Gigalith and Snorlax make it a popular check to common Trick Room modes.

With a Beast Boost, Buzzwole can easily use the rest of its moves like Poison Jab and Ice Punch to finish off other popular team members like a Tapu or Garchomp.

The main draw of Buzzwole is that immense Fighting-type damage with either Superpower or possibly an All-Out-Pummeling. We’re likely to see a lot of Porygon2 and Gigalith in Indy, and what better way to deal with that pair than a giant flexing mosquito. Plus the crowd is sure to go wild if they see Buzzwole flex its way onto the big screen.

5. Milotic

Pokemon North American International Championships

The last, and arguably the most underrated Pokemon on this list, is none other than Milotic. Milotic has seen usage here and there, but has never had a break out performance. The reason I’m listing it here is that the Intimidate ability is everywhere in VGC, and Milotic is one of the best Pokemon to punish it.

Competitive is an ability that doubles Milotic’s Special Attack if one of its stats are decreased. Intimidate has always been around, but with the rising popularity of Gyarados and teams with multiple Intimidate users, Milotic is looking a lot better. Not to mention, most of the Intimidate users, barring Gyarados, are weak to the combination of Water and Ice-type attacks that Milotic often carries.

While Competitive is an amazing ability, Milotic can also function as a standard, defensive Water-type without the boost. Having access to Toxic and Recover makes Milotic a solid defensive Pokemon that’s able to win slow endgames. But if you’re looking to go more offensive, the Adrenaline Orb can pair well with the Competitive boost as the lowering of Milotic’s stats will allow the Adrenaline Orb to boost Milotic’s speed as well.

A bulky Water-type that can turn into a huge offensive threat, Milotic can be quite an annoying Pokemon to deal with. If you’re looking for a non-conventional Water-type member for your Fire-Water-Grass core, Milotic could be the one.

Only Scratching The Surface

This is only a short list to potentially generate some ideas for those of you making the trip to Indianapolis later this month. There are still a bunch of other underused, underrated and flat out weird Pokemon that have potential to go far in this penultimate tournament for the 2017 season. We’ll just have to see which unorthodox strategy or Pokemon choice topples the metagame in just a couple more weeks.


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Images from Pokemon, Ken Sugimori and The Pokemon Company International

What happened in Mexico City: A matter of the rules or sportsmanship?

The final regional championship in Latin America has shrouded itself in controversy due to reports of actions that paint a very unpleasant picture of the community. Improper issues of game loss, judges mocking players and a stolen TCG deck are just to name a few, but the one that we’ll be focusing on today is the story of Kenneth Gamboa.

What Happened?

According to multiple accounts of players who attended the tournament, Kenneth Gamboa’s 3DS console ran out of power during round five, and his opponent refused to move closer to a charger. At this point in the tournament, Gamboa was in a good position to make it to Top Cut but unfortunately ended up losing a completely winnable set due to his system dying during game three. Gamboa did call a judge over to attempt to remedy the situation, but the judge was unable to do anything due to the nature of the rules concerning a system low on battery.

The Rules

Would you believe me if I said this entire situation was entirely legal under the official Play! Pokemon rules for VGC events?

The official rules regard the loss of power during a game or set as a major Game Play error that results in a game loss for the player whose system lost power during the match. While the player with the system low on power is allowed to request to move to a charging station, a request is all that they’re allowed. If your opponent denies your request to move, there’s nothing you or even a judge can do.

The Debate

Most of you are probably wondering why there is even a debate about this situation. Honestly, I’m not sure either, but a debate exists. The divisive issue in this scenario is where the accountability lies when one player’s system is running low on power.

There are players on both sides of the debate, with one side arguing that this type of behavior is unsportsmanlike and the other arguing that a system running out of power is the fault of the player.

Regardless of the technicalities, would you really want to win a match this way? It’s one thing for a system to run out of battery, but in this instance, Gamboa’s opponent was intentionally taking his time to make his decisions. While it doesn’t specifically violate a rule, there’s something that is in the rules that this situation complicates.

Sportsmanship and The Spirit of The Game 

spirit of the game pokemon

At the end of the day, we as players are expecting a fun and pleasant tournament experience. In the Play! Pokemon general event rules, The Spirit of The Game is the first rule listed for good reason. Above all, regardless of who wins and loses we as a community should ensure that our events provide a good experience for everyone involved.

Stories like this floating around paint a picture of the community that may discourage players from attending events. It’s an image of a community that values winning and prize money over fairness and sportsmanship. When examining both Gamboa’s story as well as the various others that tainted this tournament, it’s apparent that our community still has much to do to better itself. It’s on us as players, judges and spectators alike to maintain the Pokemon communities’ status as one of the best gaming communities out there.

Some Things to Remember

Regardless of which side of this issue you’re on, if you ever attend a tournament, remember these few tips to ensure something like this doesn’t happen to you:

  • It is a player’s responsibility to arrive to matches on time, have a tournament legal team and to make sure their system is charged.
  • It is a player’s responsibility to know the rules, but if there is ever a question about them, always contact a judge or TO for clarification.
  • Winning shouldn’t be the most important thing. Always make sure you are presenting yourself in a way that puts the Spirit of the Game above all else.

Despite what happened at Mexico City regionals, the discussion this event is generating is positive for the communities’ growth. Instead of making this a hostile back-and-forth battle of opinions, we should use what we’ve heard about from this event to ensure that things like this don’t happen in the future. It’s our job as a community to present ourselves in a way that keeps these events fun and inviting to players of all backgrounds. Mexico City was a stumble, but a necessary one to keep going towards improvement.

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!

Images from Wikimedia Commons, Play! Pokemon and the Official Play! Pokemon Rules

Drifblim Soars to Victory Again: VGC 2017 Birmingham Regional Championships Recap

Our second piece of Regional Championship coverage comes from Birmingham, UK where Rachel Annand took a clean victory for her first regional title. Annand’s win in Birmingham places her comfortably at 17th in Europe’s CP standings, but unfortunately she sits just outside of a Day 2 World Championships invite. Drifblim+Tapu Lele was Annand’s team of choice, and her results prove that this combination is far from outdated.

Results & Teams (Top 8)

1. Rachel Annand

2. Lukas Muller

3. Matthias Sucholdulski

4. Jamie Dixon

5. Jamie Boyt

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6. Matt Carter

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7. Alex Gomez

Alola Form

8. Jason McCullough

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A Balloon That Hasn’t DeflatedDrifblim

While the combination of Drifblim and Tapu Lele might appear outdated, Annand’s victory in Birmingham proves the opposite. The hyper-offensive nature of the team pairs quite well with the recent trend of multiple Ultra Beasts on top teams.

Annand’s Buzzwole and Nihilego arguably put in more work than Tapu Lele, picking up KO’s left and right with the help of Drifblim’s Tailwind. The recent popularity of Nihilego paired with Pheromosa, works well on this team with Buzzwole in Pheromosa’s place. Both can make use of Tailwind, allowing for more bulk rather than taking gambles with Pheromosa.

Players at this point are prepared to deal with Drifblim and Tapu Lele, but are they prepared to handle potentially new teammates. Annand’s decreased reliability on the classic lead shows that this team is able to adapt and doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon.

A 6-1 Missed Top Cut?

birmingham regionals top cut

(from @HamstermaniaVGC on Twitter)

The Pokemon VGC tournament structure is by no means perfect, and I think we’re all aware of it by now. David Koutesh was victim to a lesser-known tournament error that cost him a place in Top 8 at a 6-1 record.

According to Koutesh on Twitter, the error had to do with players being added after Round 1, but the amount of rounds staying the same. Due to the increased amount of players and the misaligned round numbers, this is likely what caused the error.

Luckily, at 9th place, Koutesh was able to claim his invite to the World Championships, but missing Top Cut could’ve cost him potentially 120 more Championship Points.

Niche Picks

ScizorImage result for scizor

Scizor was a Pokemon that thrived for years in VGC, but so far in 2017 has been pretty quiet. Scizor’s usage usually drops a bit in seasons where it doesn’t have access to Bug Bite, but the issues for Scizor this season are beyond its own capabilities. Despite Scizor’s favorable matchup against Tapu Lele, Psychic Terrain has heavily nerfed Scizor’s main selling point: Technician-boosted Bullet Punch. Combined with the fact that Celesteela and Arcanine dominate the metagame, Scizor’s success in 2017 has reasonably been non-existent.

Matt Carter managed to find a way for Scizor to work, by ensuring he had ways to disrupt Psychic Terrain and stop Scizor’s biggest counters. This team composition is not entirely new however, as those who watched the stream for Toronto Regionals saw Nick Navarre feature a very similar team that unfortunately missed Top Cut after losing in the final Swiss round.

For those not familiar, the strategy centers around a Scizor holding Choice Band with a more supportive Tapu Fini that can Swagger Scizor in the Misty Terrain without the drawback of confusion. Salamence functions in a similar role on the team as a set-up sweeper with Dragon Dance.

It’s a clever strategy, but its skill curve is quite high. A lot of set-up is needed for the team to succeed, and making a few wrong plays can spoil the Scizor strategy rather quickly.

Can Scizor still be viable in this format? I still think so, but it’s heavily outclassed by Steel-types that can do its job much better.

SilvallyImage result for silvally

Speaking of a niche Pokemon that reappeared on a familiar team, Silvally finally showed up in a western tournament’s top placings.

Ever since Japan’s “Battle Road Gloria”, Silvally has remained in relative obscurity. For those unfamiliar with this strategy, Silvally is normally holding a Choice Scarf with the moves: Flamethrower, Rock Slide, Parting Shot, and Explosion. In this role, Silvally functions as an offensive support Pokemon that can assist Mimikyu with setting up Trick Room for Gigalith. Parting Shot gives Mimikyu a higher chance of surviving, and Explosion can pick up two quick KO’s while not harming its partner Mimikyu.

I feel like Silvally is still heavily underrated, and its potential hasn’t extended far past this team. Silvally can literally be any type and has access to a ton of moves both offensive as well as supportive. Its stats leave a little to be desired, but Silvally can fit into a variety of roles that haven’t been explored.

Final Thoughts

Birmingham was Europe’s final regional for the pre-Worlds 2017 season, but there’s still a rather large tournament happening in the states that could interest some European players still looking for a Day One or Day Two invite. This last International could have a major impact on European CP results as there’s sure to be a lot of players looking to make the trip. There’s a little over three weeks to go, so we’ll just have to see if any Europeans will take North America by surprise.

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!

Featured Image from Pokemon and The Pokemon Company International

Art of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

Pokémon Sprite Images courtesy of Game Freak

Tapu Bulu is back on top: VGC 2017 Madison Regional Championships recap

After winning Madison Regionals this past weekend, Drew Nowak becomes only the second player this season to win multiple regional titles. Nowak also becomes the second player in North America to take Tapu Bulu to a regional victory. This win was quite valuable to Nowak as not only a confidence booster but also for the needed Championship Point boost heading into the North American International Championships.

With 200 CP now added to his season total, Nowak is at 790, which places him in the top eight of North America. A spot in the top eight before Internationals is huge for Nowak’s chances for a Day Two invite to the World Championships, and this placing helps solidify him as a top contender from North America come August.

Results & teams (top 8)

1. Andrew Nowak

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2. Zheyuan Huang

3. Terry Hong

4. Tyler Miller

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5. Jeremy Odena

6. Justin Carris

7. Samuel Haarsma

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8. Kazuki Kanehira

Is Tapu Bulu still bad?Image result for tapu bulu

At this point, the notion of Tapu Bulu being “bad” isn’t very accurate. Of course, the metagame trending towards double Tapu teams, the rise of Porygon2 and Gigalith as well as the decline of Alolan Muk’s popularity has helped Tapu Bulu rise in usage. It remains the most unpopular choice, but now with three regional titles under its belt, players competing in the season’s final tournaments should respect it.

Tapu Bulu has a great matchup versus the rest of the Tapu Pokemon, being able to take attacks as well as dish them out under Grassy Terrain. Despite the agonizing end-turn animations, Grassy Terrain does well to add longevity to Tapu Bulu’s teammates. It also makes the lack of Ground-resists a lot more forgiving since Grassy Terrain nerfs the damage of Earthquake and Bulldoze. This allows Pokemon like Arcanine and Nihilego to work well with Tapu Bulu, which is what happened to be on Drew Nowak’s winning team.

How Drew Nowak made Tapu Bulu workImage result for nihilego

Nowak’s team, in particular, was quite unique. Utilizing the dubbed “BAN Hammer core” (BAN standing for Bulu, Arcanine and Nihilego), Nowak was able to use this combination, alongside a Trick Room mode and Pheromosa, to overwhelm his opponents with damage. Though we rarely got to see the Trick Room component of the team during Nowak’s stream matches, it’s worth noting that Nowak’s Nihilego was carrying Trick Room much like Justin Burn’s Nihilego from his Seattle-winning team.

Image result for phermosaLooking at Nowak’s stream matches, by far his go-to lead was Pheromosa and Nihilego. This combination as a lead is deadly, as both were able to threaten a ton of damage to most leads in the format. Nowak’s Pheromosa was slightly different from the typical Fightinium-Z variant, as this Pheromosa featured a mixed attacking set of both physical and special moves. This lead was so effective, it was often the result of Nowak spending very little time in team preview during a few of his games in Top Cut.

Examining Tapu Bulu itself, we see a lot of the same, but there was an interesting tech in its move set. We saw Nowak whip out Disable in his top eight match against Justin Carris. In this situation, Nowak’s Tapu Bulu was able to survive a Flare Blitz from Carris’ Arcanine, then Disable Flare Blitz so Justin couldn’t use it to finish off Tapu Bule next turn. In a best-of-three tournament, it’s valuable to have ways to surprise your opponents and taking advantage of the flexibility of Tapu Bulu’s third move slot was a great way for Nowak to catch his opponents off-guard.

An all-Ultra Beast team?

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Samuel Haarsma’s signature all-UB team has popped up a few times on various regional streams, but always during Swiss. Finally at Madison Regionals, Haarsma’s team was able to reach the top eight as the highest 6-2 record.

Running a team like this seems very odd considering the highly offensive nature of the Ultra Beasts (minus Celesteela). That being said, all seven are viable, so slapping them all on a team could work in theory. The team itself capitalizes on its sheer offensive power with Pokemon like Pheromosa, Nihilego and Kartana having the ability to sweep through teams with Beast Boost.

However, with such offensive Pokemon, this makes defensive play rather tricky. The previously mention Ultra Beasts are infamous for their lacking defenses, so if the damage output from Haarsma’s team is able to be stopped, the team often suffers tremendously. We saw in Haarsma’s stream matches that if his beasts were able to get going they weren’t easy to stop, but if the team fell behind, the team easily fell apart.

A unique team idea that is by no means easy play. Have to give a ton of credit to Haarsma for being able to pilot this team to a regional Top Cut.

Shiny Tapu Koko

This particular Tapu Koko that appeared on Zheyuan Huang’s team in Madison has been the source of some discussion of whether or not its smart to use the shiny version over a normal Tapu Koko. Since this Tapu Koko is event-only, it means its nature is set to Timid, and by using it you are basically giving your opponent a ton of free information.

But is it really that big of a deal? Obviously, the Shiny Tapu Koko hasn’t been that big of a set back considering the number of them we’re seeing in regional Top Cuts. The thing is, most variants of Tapu Koko, even the slower ones holding the Assault Vest, run the Timid nature anyway. Tapu Koko’s speed benchmark is rather standard, and the Timid nature allows it to hit that benchmark for the Assault Vest variant, or allow it to be insanely fast with max speed investment.

With the Timid nature on Tapu Koko being as standard as it is, I can’t see too much of a detriment to using the Shiny version. In any case, using an event Pokemon in a best-of-three tournament does remove a lot of the surprise factor of that Pokemon if your opponent is aware of it. But for Tapu Koko in this format, the Shiny version is fine for most teams.

Looking to Indy 

Image result for north america international championships pokemon

As regionals have wrapped up in North America, all eyes are now all focused on Indianapolis. The North American International Championships are the final opportunity players have to earn Championship Points this season, so this will likely be a make-or-break tournament for a lot of players. After Madison, 29 North American players have earned their invites, with Indy surely securing more. Though this is an International tournament, so we’re sure to get some visitors from overseas possibly looking to secure Day One or Two invites for themselves. It should be quite the tournament, and its approaching quicker than we think.

Thanks for reading!

Make sure to check back here on Friday for our recap from Birmingham Regionals!


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!

All Images from Pokemon and The Pokemon Company International

Art of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

Pokémon Sprite Images courtesy of Game Freak

Casual Misconceptions About Competitive Pokemon

One of the biggest barriers to the growth of competitive Pokemon is, ironically, the Pokemon community. Among the “casual” crowd, there are a number of misconceptions that cloud people’s perceptions about the game competitively. These misconceptions ultimately generate a ton of complaints and hate about aspects of the game that casual players barely understand. For this piece, we’re going to clear up some of these beliefs and show the casual crowd that competitive Pokemon isn’t so bad.

Misconception #1: There’s no diversity

vgc 2016 teams

By far one of the biggest complaints I hear from casual players is how there is no diversity in successful competitive teams. People usually reference 2015’s Worlds Top Cut or any Regional Top Cut from 2016 with nothing but Groudon and Xerneas teams. What most don’t realize is that even though teams might look similar, each Pokemon is usually built differently depending on the player. For example, 2015 World Champion Shoma Honami’s team featured some uncommon move choices like Sunny Day on Amoonguss and Protect on his Thundurus and Cresselia. Aside from that, the teams themselves in Top 8 were pretty unique with Pokemon like Volcarona, Aegislash, Scrafty and Hydreigon being featured in addition to standard Pokemon.

To be honest, I think we were pretty spoiled from the results of the 2014 World Championships, where Sejun Park won it all with Pachirisu. This is by far one of the greatest examples of the potential creativity that exists in competitive Pokemon. But you also have to take into account that Sejun was also using two of the most common Pokemon in the format in Garchomp and Talonflame to compliment his Pachirisu and Gyarados combo.

Going back to 2016, what won Worlds again? Wait, not Groudon/Xerneas? Oh yeah it was Rayquaza and Kyogre with the help of another electric rodent: Raichu. Even in a format as volatile to creativity as VGC 2016, the unorthodox team still came out on top.

Basically what I’m getting at is that a “metagame” will always exist, but it will never define every single tournament in a given format. Standard teams usually appear in trends anyway, and when a new one emerges, players will end up countering it in some way. There’s diversity for you.

Misconception #2: Legendaries are too overpowered

Image result for xerneas

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen RMT (Rate My Team) threads on forums where the poster will say that they’re trying not to use legendaries.

Why not?

Let me tell you why I hate when people say this. When a format allows legendaries, that means everyone gets to use them. Since legendary Pokemon typically have higher stats, people will use them. You can’t call them overpowered if everyone has access to them.

Also, most legendaries can be KO’d by non-legendaries. For example, in 2016 the most common answers to Xerneas were non-legendary Steel-types: Ferrothorn and Bronzong. Even the most common legendary in the format, Primal Groudon, could be taken down by a Golduck. You don’t need legendaries to beat other legendaries, because even legendary Pokemon have type disadvantages.

Just because a format allows legendaries, doesn’t mean they’re required. A recent example is Gavin Michaels’ two-time regional winning team that featured zero Tapus and zero Ultra Beasts. Like I mentioned earlier, legendaries have weaknesses, and Gavin’s team was perfectly assembled to exploit them.

No one is going to shame you for using legendary Pokemon. The self-imposed challenge of not using them isn’t worth it if you’re trying to win.

Misconception #3: Competitive Pokemon is too complicated

pokemon tcg bebe's search

Competitive Pokemon may involve a lot of numbers, but the math required does not exceed basic multiplication. What I can say is that there is a lot of memorization that goes into learning the game competitively. You need to know the type chart, what a majority of the Pokemon do, base stats, a few damage calculations and the list goes on. Casual players can get a basic idea of most of these aspects just by playing through the single-player game. It just requires a couple steps further. But what separates the normal game from competitive play, is the dreaded topic of breeding and EV training.

I’m not going to explain the intricacies of EV’s and IV’s because a YouTube video or forum post could probably do it better. It involves numbers yes, but the core mechanics are not complicated at all. What it boils down to is just a lot of research and time. Once you understand the mechanics, the process of obtaining competitive-ready Pokemon is a fairly repeatable process.

The amount of knowledge required is a reasonable barrier of entry into the competitive scene. It’s not super complicated, but there is a rather large time commitment. But that’s getting into any competitive game right? Just a lot of dedication.

 

Misconception #4: It’s all luck based

While there is a ton of RNG influence in Pokemon, it often doesn’t decide games. While there are pokemon gamblersome ridiculous mechanics like freeze, sleep and flinching, the better player will usually win. Pokemon is all about strategy, and the player who better executes their strategy will more than likely win. Plus there’s a lot that goes into matchups and team-building that gives a player an advantage before the game even starts.

Players complain about bad luck all the time, but I assure you it happens a lot less often than you think. Experiencing bad RNG or “hax” is inevitable, it’s just something you have to deal with.

Misconception #5: Competitive players aren’t “real” Pokemon fans

pokemon vgc

The wonderful thing about Pokemon is that it’s not just a competitive game. A majority of players are introduced to the competitive side after being long-time fans of the franchise. Pokemon players play the game because they’re passionate about it, and nothing shows passion like dumping hundreds of hours into training to be the very best.

In the end, we’re all Pokemon fans, and regardless of whether you play competitively or not. I hope this gave you casual players out there a better insight into what competitive Pokemon is all about. If the normal game has felt stale to you, getting into the competitive scene will definitely renew your interest.

The issue of competitive versus casual doesn’t need to be so divisive. We can all enjoy the game in our own way, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Thanks for reading!


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Images courtesy of Pokemon, Ken Sugimori, Trainer Tower & Pokemon Merch UK

A Tricky Nihilego Takes Seattle: VGC 2017 Seattle Regional Championships Recap

Congratulations to Justin Burns for not only winning his first regional but for also qualifying for the World Championships. While Justin’s team is very reminiscent of the FAKEPG archetype that dominated Virginia Regionals, Burns decided to switch the “E” with an “N”. Nihilego was an interesting pick for an event seemingly dominated by Kartana, Gigalith and Garchomp, but Nihiliego’s excellent matchup against Arcanine and the Tapu Pokemon made it a fairly reasonable call. Let’s take a look at what else performed well in Seattle.

Results & Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1. Justin Burns

2. Hayden McTavish

3. Conan Thompson

4. Alberto Lara

5. River Davis

6. Brian Zourdani

7. Collin Heir

8. Demitrios Kaguras

(Fun Fact: Hayden McTavish, Conan Thompson, and Alberto Lara are using nearly identical teams as the ones they used to Top Cut Oregon Regionals.)

A Tricky NihilegoImage result for nihilego

An Ultra Beast that pops up every so often, Nihilego’s experience in the 2017 format has been a little complicated. An excellent offensive typing of Poison and Rock suffers slightly due to Nihilego’s pitiful Defense and weaknesses to Ground and Steel. Still, covering these weaknesses can make Nihilego just a threatening as its Ultra Beast brethren as it starts racking up Beast Boosts.

A Pokemon normally valued for its speed, A Trick Room option seems rather odd for something as fast and frail as Nihilego. Usually, Nihilego’s third move slot is fairly flexible with some of the more common choices being Substitute or a Hidden Power. Trick Room isn’t unheard of as Burns himself mentioned in his post-finals interview that the team idea came from a Japanese blog as well as from a friend who had been using the team before him. With some slight alterations to the original concept, Burns was able to turn this strategy into an effective threat.

Why Trick Room?

Image result for trick room

Normally, a Pokemon with a base 103 speed stat is not your ideal Trick Room setter. Nihilego uses Trick Room as an option rather than its go-to strategy. That’s mainly what the Porygon2 on the team does as its bulk makes it more likely that it will survive long enough to set up Trick Room.

This Trick Room variant of Nihilego actually pairs really well with Gigalith. Gigalith’s Sand Stream ability also raises Nihilego’s already massive Special Defense much like Gigalith’s in a sandstorm. While the combination doesn’t excel defensively, the amount of damage threatened by the duo is massive if played correctly.

I recommend checking out 2015 US National Finalist Raphahel Bagara’s report from Oregon Regionals if you’re interested in learning more about the team.

Tapu Koko’s Assault…VestImage result for assault vest tapu koko png

While we saw a couple other callbacks to earlier in the 2017 format such as the return of Driflbim/Lele and Tapu Fini paired with Mandibuzz, Assault Vest Tapu Koko’s popularity in Seattle could be significant for future tournaments.

Assault Vest was never “common” but still appeared on a few well-known teams earlier on in the format. As Tapu Koko shifted more towards offensive items like Life Orb, the Assault Vest became even more of a niche pick that has recently made a comeback.

VGC formats start to trend towards more bulky and defensive teams as the season progresses, and Assault Vest Tapu Koko could be yet another sign of that. As Pokemon are built more defensively, Tapu Koko’s lacking Image result for assault vest pngdamage output will make items like Life Orb less desirable. With an Assault Vest, Tapu Koko users find a nice balance between Tapu Koko’s offense and its ability to support. We’ll just have to see if the item catches on.

A New Type of Gastrodon?

Gastrodon was yet another popular pick in the beginning of the season before the mainstream usage of Kartana. Having excellent matchups against standard Pokemon like Tapu Koko and Arcanine, Gastrodon was often a go-to Water-type. However, with Kartana’s rise in usage and its overall lack of damage output, Gastrodon sort of fell out of the metagame. Recently, a few players have been using Gastrodon a bit differently than normal. Will this new variant be able to bring Gastrodon back into relevance?Image result for gastrodon

Meet Curse Gastrodon. Curse is a move that allows Gastrodon to boost its Attack and Defense at the expense of its Speed, much like Snorlax. Carrying Waterfall as its primary Water-type STAB, what most choose for a Ground-type attack is a bit unorthodox, to say the least.

Fissure is a one-hit-KO move that paired with the Groundium-Z gives Gastrodon an Earthquake-esque powered Tectonic Rage. At least you get one guaranteed strong Ground-type attack, but afterwards you have to play with 30 percent accuracy for a possible one-hit-KO. Hype when it hits, but terrible otherwise.

Will this be the new meta though? Gastrodon still does well defensively against a lot of the metagame and its access to Toxic and Recover is valuable for a stall matchup. However, Gastrodon’s middling base 83 Attack stat requires a couple of Curses to be useful with the reliance on Fissure not helping much. I could see it as a niche pick for some teams, but not something that could rival other Water and Ground-types for team slots.

One More to Go

With Seattle behind us, we have just one more regional left in the US. Madison is always a stacked event, and with an official stream coming to the event, all eyes will be on this tournament. Seattle champion Justin Burns’ qualification makes 23 Masters qualified from North America, with surely a bunch more relying on Madison and the upcoming North American International Championships. Make sure to check out twitch.tv/pokemonvgc for coverage from Madison, and right back here in a week for a recap of the action!

(Also there’s a regional happening across the pond in Birmingham, UK that’s also getting an official stream! We’ll give you a recap from there as well!)

Thanks for reading!


Art of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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

VGC Player Profile: Joshua Lorcy

Pokemon VGC (Video Game Championships) is growing. Every year it seems like more and more people attend and watch events. Not to mention the thousands of players that faithfully play the game every year to begin with. I myself have been competitively playing Pokemon since about 2014. This year I had to step back due to life decisions. Between being a full term college student, a father of two, and a husband to an ever loving wife, I just had no time to dedicate to actually grinding out those long hours of gameplay that are required to compete in any game nowadays.

This does not mean that I did not keep up with the latest and greatest things in the scene though. I kept an eye on everything, from team compositions to the National standings in CP (Championship Points). I even took a look at international players that I knew I would be seeing on the main stage during World Championships this year.

 

Photo Courtesy of Joshua Lorcy’s Twitter Page

This brings me to the main point of why I am writing today. I bring to you a player that has created a lot of buzz for himself in the past year. Joshua Lorcy is the man who I am speaking of. Placing well in last years World Championships, he showed that he would be someone to watch out for in the coming years. I got a chance to ask the man a few questions in order for us to get to know him better. So let’s get in to the interview!

 

Maurice : So go ahead and introduce yourself to the readers!

Joshua : Hello! I’m Joshua Lorcy. Born and raised in Queens, NY. I am a professional Pokemon VGC Player. I am also a huge fan of basketball.

Maurice : What first got you in to Pokemon?

Joshua : My mother first introduced me to Pokemon at the age of 3. I’ve been hooked ever since! It has become a passion of mine.

Maurice : What is your favorite Pokemon?

Joshua : My favorite Pokemon is Electivire. In the animated series it was portrayed as a fierce, thick skinned Pokemon.

Maurice : How long have you been playing VGC competitively?

Joshua : I started playing VGC back in March of 2015. So overall I have been playing for a total of 2 years!

Maurice : What has been your favorite VGC format?

Joshua : My favorite format was the 2015 format. It was new to me so I didn’t quite grasp it. This made it challenging to me. I love challenges so that’s what made it fun!

Maurice : What is your favorite Pokemon in the current format?

Joshua : In the current format, my favorite Pokemon would have to be Tapu Fini. It has great bulk, the ability to set up with Calm Mind, and its terrain has a great ability in being able to deny status moves.

Maurice : What are some of your goals as a VGC player?

Joshua : As a VGC player, my ultimate goal is to become the Pokemon World Champion. This should be everyone’s goal, however, I believe I can achieve this if I continue to stay focused and play the best I can.

Maurice : Do you have any tips for anyone trying to become a VGC player?

Joshua : For those who are trying to pursue their dreams in VGC you should practice laddering on either showdown or battle spot and watch youtube videos by Cybertron, Wolfey and Ray Rizzo. These are the top 3 VGC content creators in my opinion. I can almost guarantee you will learn a lot from them.

Maurice : Do you have any shout outs to give?

Joshua : I would like to shout out my fans, family and friends who have supported me while playing VGC and that’s just about everyone.

 

As you can tell, Josh is an awesome guy with great potential to one day be Pokemon World Champion. You can see below that Joshua Lorcy is currently ranked #30 in the World based on CP (Championship Points) with 625. He is even 25 points ahead of last year’s World Champion Wolfe Glick, so that is definitely making a statement!

 

The Standings

 

It was definitely an honor for me to pick the brain of someone I consider to be one of the top contenders for World Champion this year. Make sure you guys check him out on his Twitter @lorcylovesyou to keep up with what he has going on. He also has a YouTube channel and streams on Twitch here and there as well. Go show him some support!

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 Maurice!

Featured Image courtesy of The Pokemon Company

 

 

Xurkitree Glows in Toronto: VGC 2017 Toronto Regional Championships Recap

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

Results & Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1. Martin Gajdosz

2. Joshua Lorcy

3. Ian McLaughlin

4. Alex Lebel

5. Nicholas Borghi

6. Sam Partin

7. David Mancuso

8. Trista Medine

Xurkitree On the RiseImage result for xurkitree png

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

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

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

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

The Blaster over The BladeImage result for celesteela png

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

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

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

Niche Picks

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

MachampImage result for machamp png

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

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

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

VanilluxeImage result for vanilluxe png

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Thanks for Reading!

Art of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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

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

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

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

Virginia Regionals 

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

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

This wasn’t exactly the closest event for you

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

You have some friends in the area?

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

The Team

What brought about the idea this team?

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

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

Tapu Bulu

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

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

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

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

Toxic: Salamence and Arcanine

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

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

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

SnorlaxImage result for snorlax png

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

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

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

ClefairyImage result for clefairy png

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

Why is that?

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

Assessing the Team

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, and just shuffle the team around.”

What would you change?

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

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

How Do You Approach Teambuilding?

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

Where do you start?Image result for tapu Koko png

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

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

Virginia Team: Tapu Bulu + Kartana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How early do you start building teams for tournaments?

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

Is it just trying to find something that sticks?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Bonus Questions

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

Image result for tapu Koko png

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

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

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

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

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

Plans for the Rest of the Season

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

Thanks for reading!


Art of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

Featured Image from @PokeCenter_VGC

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