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

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!


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

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

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

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

Results & Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1. Ashton Cox [US]

2. Javier Senorena [ES]

3. Gabriel Agati [BR]

4. Carlos Ventura [PE]

5. Ian McLaughlin [US]

6. William Tansley [UK]

7. Tommy Cooleen [US]

8. Markus Stadter [DE]

Weather WarsImage result for torkoal png

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

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

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

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

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

Poor Politoed probably misses its friends Kingdra and Ludicolo.

Xurkitree & Smeargle: An 8-0 Swiss Run

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

image courtesy of PokémonShowdown!

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

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

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

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

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

Carson St. Denis: The 5 Mon Champion 

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

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

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

Tman’s Top 8 Curse Image result for pelipper png

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Thanks for reading!

Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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pokemon murkrow using shadow ball

Niche Picks – The Darkness Pokémon, Murkrow

Meet Murkrow

Portrait of Pokémon Murkrow

One of the first dark type Pokémon to be introduced by Game Freak, Murkrow originally hailed from the Johto region of the Gold & Silver games. It is considered an omen of bad luck, and has a propensity to play pranks on people and Pokémon.

In appearance, Murkrow bears a strong resemblance to a crow. The feathers on its head jut forward and up, creating a witch’s hat appearance, while its tail feathers mirror the head of a broom.

Along with its unique appearance, Murkrow possesses a unique ability, Prankster. Prankster allows Murkrow to use its status moves with increased priority. However, if evolved into Honchkrow, it loses access to the Prankster ability. Due to this, Murkrow finds itself fulfilling a niche role on certain teams.

Not only does forfeiting evolution grant Murkrow access to Prankster, but also allows it to use the item Eviolite. Holding this item boosts an un-evolved Pokémon’s defense and special defense.

Pranking the Competition

Pokémon Murkrow uses swift

Murkrow’s main goal is supporting its party by using Prankster to get Tailwind up on turn one. Once Tailwind is up, the Trainer can take advantage of the speed boost to gain the upper hand in the match.

There is another surprise move that Murkrow can use against unsuspecting foes though, and it has the potential to really mess up a Trainer’s synergy. The move is Quash, and it forces the target to move last for the round. The key is for Quash to work, it needs to go before the target.

With Prankster, this is not an issue, however. Murkrow is free to Quash any threat that is faster than it, unless it is a dark type (dark types are immune to Prankster-enhanced moves). The result is a speedy sweeper, such as Kartana, being forced to go last and getting KO’d before it can even use its first Leaf Strike.

Using these two moves, Murkrow can dictate the flow of battle. Beware though, even with the boost to bulk provided by the Eviolite, Murkrow is still fairly delicate.

Example in the Wild

Spectators were able to observe the Darkness Pokémon in action during the Anaheim Regional Championship in February. Used by Trainer Gary Qian, the team managed to place in the Top 16.

Gary Qian’s Anaheim Regional Murkrow:

murkrow
Murkrow @ Eviolite
Ability: Prankster
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpD
Calm Nature (Gary’s was Impish due to shiny)
IVs: 0 Atk
– Quash
– Taunt
– Foul Play
– Tailwind

Gary’s Murkrow is par for the course as far as these birds go.

Moves are self explanatory with Tailwind and Quash providing immense tempo control as described in the previous section. Along with that, Taunt gives Murkrow a way to shut down opponents from setting up. Finally, Foul Play gives it a way to do some damage and not become worthless if taunted.

The EV spread, along with Calm Nature, gives enough special defense to survive a Moonblast from Tapu Lele. This bulk provides Murkrow enough staying power to hang around a couple rounds and be a real nuisance.

As for teammates, Pokémon that benefit from Tailwind and can immediately pressure the opponent are best. This includes, but is not limited to, Gyarados, Garchomp, Kartana, and Pheromosa.

pokemon Murkrow showing its swag

All images courtesy Game Freak

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salt lake city utah

Pokémon VGC Regional Preview: Salt Lake City, Utah

Ten Regionals Down

Salt lake city Utah Pokemon Regional logo

 

Salt Lake City Utah will play host to the upcoming eleventh North American Pokémon Regional. The Tournament is scheduled to take place this weekend, April 8-9.

With only five Regional Championships remaining in the 2017 season, Salt Lake City promises high stakes to those wishing to win admission to the World Championship. Between the remaining Regionals and the upcoming International Championship, time is running out.

What too Expect

Without a doubt we will see a combination of Tapu Lele and Drifblim. Ever since the ONOG Invitational the spirit of Trainer Shoma has lived on as his powerful lead has flourished in the Meta.

It also shouldn’t be a surprise to see Arcanine, Porygon2, and Garchomp as team staples. This trio of Pokémon have proven themselves as three of the most abundant species this season. However this is for good reason, as each one can carry its own weight on an abundance of teams.

Pokemon Gigalith at salt lake city utah regionalFinally Gigalith is very likely to be a key player in Salt Lake City. Already a fairly popular choice with its impressive attack, and Trick Room flinch-locking. With the rise of the Tapu Lele and Drifblim lead, Gigalith has only found more work for himself.

Supposedly the energy that Gigalith stores in its core is powerful enough to blow away mountains. How fitting it would be then for this rock Pokémon to blow away the crowds in this Rocky Mountain Pokémon Battle.

Battle in the Mountains

utah state fairpark logoUtah State Fair Park is going to be the venue for the tournament. Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, and bordering Constitution Park. This event should provide great access to trainers from Nevada, Colorado, and Idaho.

If you are planning to attend, more information can be obtained from both the Utah State Fairpark website. As well as the official Pokémon website. Trainers should attempt to get their early on tournament day, on top of eating a solid breakfast and getting plenty of sleep.

Good luck to everyone who attends. Make this a Regional tournament to remember.

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A Wild Silvally Appears – Claims First in Japan’s Battle Road Gloria

The Battle Road Gloria

Banner for Pokémon Battle Road Gloria in Japan

Image courtesy of amalgame.jp

During the weekend of March 18th-19th, Japanese Trainers came together to compete in an epic tournament. The Battle Road Gloria provided spectators lots of excitement, along with a few surprises. Most notable of which is Silvally appearing on the first place team.

Trainer KOOTA managed to devastate opponents left and right, handily taking home first. Swapping between a tricky Mimikyu/Silvally lead and a more aggressive Tapu Koko/Garchomp. This strategy left many of his challengers unable to adapt, and eventually they would crumble one by one.

Just Who is Silvally?

Pokemon Silvally with trainer gladion

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Seeing Silvally on a first place VGC team just fills me with so much joy. Being introduced with Pokémon Sun and Moon, Silvally has been ripe with controversy. Everything from its stats to its move pool have been targets of attack, and now it has proven itself.

Silvally is basically a clone of the God Pokémon Arceus. However, unlike Arceus, its base stats are a model 95/95/95/95/95/95. Combine that with a somewhat mediocre move pool and it is easy to see why Silvally has been shunned by the community.

What it lacks in specialization, it makes up for in mystery. Much high level Pokémon play revolves around reading your opponent and predicting their moves. Silvally can prove to be tricky to read, causing your opponent many headaches during the course of a battle.

There are a couple of factors that make Silvally especially hard to predict. First is the fact it can change its type by holding an item. Want a steel type? Make him hold a Steel Memory, same goes for the other 17 types, other than normal. Silvally is normal by default, and therefore can run a normal type by holding any item other than a memory.

Silvally type variations

Image courtesy of serebii.net

Second, its access to a narrow, but varied move pool. While many critique Silvally for its lack of access to some of the more powerful physical attacking moves, what it does have is variety. As such, a trainer can build their Silvally in a plethora of viable ways. No matter if they want a physical attacker, special attacker, or support.

Silvally’s First Place Performance

On KOOTA’s team, Silvally played a very specific role. Serving as a pivot/suicide scout, it was not always present; but when it was, its presence was felt.

Here is the build, though I am unsure of how it was EV trained:

Pokemon silvally

Silvally @ Choice Scarf
Ability: RKS System
Level: 50
Jolly Nature
– Parting Shot
– Explosion
– Rock Slide
– Flamethrower

Choice Scarf  – Means that Silvally is a normal type, giving the already powerful Explosion STAB damage.

Parting Shot – Gives a means to pivot out of a bad position, while at the same time lowering the targets attack and special attack as well as letting Silvally swap out.

Explosion – Sacrifices Silvally to deal massive damage to all Pokémon on the field. Ghost is immune, so work great next to Mimikyu.

Rock Slide – Abuses Choice Scarf speed boost in order to attempt a flinch-lock.

Flamethrower – Acts as a powerful special attack to check prominent threats, such as Kartana.

In practice, Silvally was a pleasure to watch. KOOTA would generally send it out on turn one alongside Mimikyu. Then, based on his opponents’ Pokémon, he would either Parting Shot to a better matchup, or launch an attack while Mimikyu set up Trick Room.

The Silvally/Mimikyu pair was especially deadly due to Mimikyu’s ghost type immunity to Explosion. Because of this, Silvally was free to blow up the opposing team on turn one if they were not prepared.

In a Top 8 game, KOOTA pulled this strategy off, using Explosion to KO both Ninetails-Alola and Tapu Koko on turn one. This left his own Mimikyu unscratched to set up Trick Room, finally sending out his Gigilith to replace the fallen Silvally.

The strategy was brilliant, to say the least.

A Future for Silvally

While certainly fantastic seeing Silvally take a spot on the winners podium, I doubt it will achieve any kind of critical success during the remaining VGC season. Too much stigma has formed around this Pokémon, and not enough is known about its potential.

Maybe this can be the first step for Silvally onto the MainStage of Competitive Pokémon. I would love nothing more than for this new demigod to prove all the naysayers wrong. KOOTA demonstrated that, in the hands of a capable Trainer, Silvally certainly can perform.

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Catching Pokérus – The Cure to Slow Training

A Different Kind of Flu

Pokerus tag

The Pokémon franchise contains a multitude of ways to train your Pokémon and get them ready for battle. Though time-consuming, there are certain tools to speed up the training process. One such tool is the Pokémon virus, or Pokérus.

Like so many things concerning competitive Pokémon, Pokérus is mostly shrouded in secrecy. In the games it is only indicated with a tag next to the Pokémon’s name. You may even have an infected Pokémon in your PC box and not even know it.

Catching the Virus

Nurse joy giving the pokerus news

Introduced into the series with Generation two, Pokérus is mostly shrouded in mystery. However, unlike many virus’s in our world, this virus is beneficial to those it infects.

A Pokémon who has contracted Pokérus will experiance increased Effort Value gain while training. Because of this, competitive Trainers seek to get their hands on an infected Pokémon so that they can spread it to others they wish to train.

Getting an infected Pokémon yourself is not easy though. A Trainer has about a 1/21,900 chance to actually encounter an infect Pokémon in the wild. So you are more likely to find a shiny Pokémon, than one infected by the Pokémon virus.

Fear not though, most Trainers turn to the Pokémon Global Link in order to obtain Pokérus. Once obtained the virus can be transferred between the Trainers Pokémon, as well as placed in stasis by putting an infected Pokémon in PC Storage.

Life After Pokérus

 

Pokemon Bagon with PokérusSo now that you have a Pokémon with Pokérus, you can pass it to that young Larvitar you plan on EV training. Simply place the infected Pokémon into your party next to the target Larvitar and go battle. After each battle their is a chance for the virus to spread to adjacent Pokémon.

Now that Larvitar has Pokérus, you can head to your favorite EV training ground. EVs gained while infected by the Pokémon virus are doubled. Now Larvitar can power through that training session.

Combine Pokérus with power items for an even more dramatic effect. Using these methods, EV training can be reduced to a fraction of the time it generally takes.

Final Thoughts

Secret tools do not mix well in a competitive environment. While cool from a role-playing perspective, things like Pokérus really only serve to hurt the competitive community.

Competitive Trainers and the Pokémon community as a whole would benefit Game Freak would open up when it comes to matters concerning competitive battling. Making it more accessible to more trainers is only a good thing for the franchise.

All images courtesy Game Freak

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Pokémon Best in Show – Unmasking Mimikyu

The Nightmare of Alola

The Pokémon VGC 2017 season rule set brought with it a plethora of bulky and slow Pokémon. This shifting of the speed curve has seen the rise of Trick Room tactics, as can be seen by the Porygon2 on almost every Trainers team. Do not let this fool you, however. While Porygon2 is a fantastic Trick Room setter and utility Pokémon, he is not the best of the format. That title goes to Mimikyu.

Once you get past Mimikyu’s frighteningly cute exterior, you will quickly realize the arsenal of tools and tricks it masks under its sheet. Whether it is scaring opponents with a Never-Ending Nightmare or constructing a Trick Room, when Mimikyu is summoned it must be dealt with.

Mimikyu Breakdown

Mimikyu stat chart

Image courtesy of Bulbapedia

Taking Mimikyu at face value, it seems like a somewhat underwhelming specimen. While its Ghost/Fairy typing leaves it with a single double-resistance to Bug, and three immunities to Normal, Fighting, and Dragon, its stats leave much to be desired.

Special defense it Mimikyu’s highest stat, boasting a base of 105. However, Mimikyu’s pitiful base HP of 55 means that it won’t have the staying power to take many hits regardless of how hard it tries. Rounding these out with an average 90 base Attack and 96 base Speed, and it is easy to see why Mimikyu can get overlooked.

Trainers who follow this line of surprise are in for a shock. Mimikyu makes its average stats absolutely workable by means of a great move pool and amazing ability. The combination of these two factors leads to a game winning machine.

Don’t be Fooled by the Disguise

What really makes Mimikyu such a versatile asset while team build is the tools it can bring to a team.

First is Mimikyu’s signature ability, Disguise, acts as a single-use substitute for Mimikyu. Basically, the first time Mimikyu would take damage during a battle, the damage nullified and the Disguise is broken. From that point on during the battle, Mimikyu can be damaged normally. Disguise does not prevent status effects.

Busted Mimikyu

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Disguise will basically give Mimikyu one free pass. This can allow it to do things such as set up Trick Room for its team or boost itself with a Sword’s Dance. It can also serve to give Mimikyu a free switch in. Whichever you choose to use Disguise, it is easy to see how effective this ability can be.

Moves to Die For

While focusing on Mimikyu’s Disguise can be tempting, forgetting about the moves it is packing can be deadly. Mimikyu is anything but a one-trick pony.

Here is a list of moves you can expect to encounter during the course of VGC17:

Offensive:

  • Play Rough – Physical Fairy STAB attack. Packing 90 Base Power and hitting most things for at least neutral damage. Play Rough’s only real drawback is its 90% accuracy rating.
  • Shadow Claw – Physical Ghost STAB attack. 70 Base Power and 100% accuracy makes it weaker, but more reliable than Play Rough. However, the two moves provide 100% neutral coverage.
  • Shadow Sneak – Priority Physical Ghost STAB attack. 40 Base Power and 100% accuracy. Shadow Sneak is good due to the fact it provides elevated priority.
  • Wood Hammer – High Power Physical Grass attack. While gaining no STAB, Wood Hammer provides a massive 120 Base Power at the expense of recoil damage.

Support:

  • Taunt – Prevents opponents from setting up. As well as shuts down status effect users, and protects. Great Trick Room counter.
  • Will-O-Wisp – Burns a Pokémon causing residual damage. Also lowers the opponent’s Attack, causing their physical damage to be lowered.
  • Trick Room – One of the greatest threats Mimikyu has on the right team. Reverses speed priority causing slower Pokémon to go first.
  • Swords Dance – Boost Attack stat by 2 levels. One Swords Dance will allow for immense pressure on the opposing team.
  • Thunder Wave – Paralyzes and reduces speed of opponent. Recent changes have reduced its accuracy to 90% however.
  • Curse – Causes massive residual damage to the opponent at the expense of 1/2 the user’s HP. Can be used to break walls.
  • Toxic – Applies poison damage that increases each turn. Another way to build residual damage and break walls.
  • Destiny Bond – Faints the opponent if Mimikyu faints. Paired with Ghostium Z, Z-Destiny Bond also takes on the redirection of Follow Me.
  • Protect – Standard VGC move

An Item for all Occasions

Depending on the moves Mimikyu runs, here are a few items you can expect it to be holding:

  • Ghostium Z – Dual use item. Use to either turn Shadow Claw/Sneak into Never-Ending Nightmare for serious damage. Otherwise, you can augment Destiny Bond to add the Follow Me effect.
  • Fairium Z – Used to turn Play Rough into Twinkle Tackle, providing Mimikyu with a great way to take out major threats.
  • Mental Herb – Heals effects such as Taunt and Encore. Especially effective on Trick Room builds as Mental Herb + Disguise can practically guarantee turn one Trick Room.
  • Focus Sash – Due to Disguise, Focus Sash isn’t as useful. On a Swords Dance variant, it can provide a second layer of protection to set up a sweep though.
  • Life Orb – Increase damage output and does damage to the user in return. Great item for a Swords Dance Mimikyu.

Whether you choose to run Mental Herb, or Ghostium Z, on your Trick Room Mimikyu, the options are plentiful. The ability to leave the opponents guessing is one of this Pokémon’s greatest assets.

Sample Builds

 

Mimikyu sprite

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

This is standard Trick Room support. Disguise works to give Mimikyu the leeway to make things happen on the first turn. Trick Room is used to give your team an advantage against faster opponents. While Destiny Bond or Taunt are taken depending on Mimikyu’s partners. Shadow Claw and Play Rough are just there for offense once supporting is done.

With Ghostium Z, the Destiny Bond variant can become particularly deadly. Using Ghostium Z will give the trainer an option to either launch a devastating Never-Ending Nightmare. Otherwise, they can power-up Destiny Bond. Adding a Follow Me effect to Destiny Bond, thereby allowing Mimikyu to redirect opponents and allow its partner to set up.

Mimikyu sprite

Mimikyu @ Ghostium Z / Fairium Z / Life Orb
Ability: Disguise
Level: 50
EVs:  252 Atk / 4SpD / 252 Spe
Jolly / Adamant Nature
– Swords Dance
– Shadow Sneak / Protect
– Shadow Claw
– Play Rough

Hyper offensive Mimikyu variant. The simple goal of this set is to use the safety of Disguise to boost with Swords Dance. If successful, Mimikyu can become a force to be reckoned with. There are few Pokémon in the VGC meta game that can take a +2 Twinkle Tackle.

With Mimikyu, You Can

No matter if you need an offensive pivot, a reliable Trick Room setter, or a supplementary support, Mimikyu has you covered. This is the Pokémon to consider if your team is missing that extra oomph. Whatever you do though, don’t look under its sheet.

Pokemon Mimikyu jump out

Image courtesy of Game Freak

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