Members of the Pokemon VGC community love sharing their “hot takes” with varying degrees of sincerity. Since the last major tournament before the 2019 World Championships is coming up this weekend, the time is now to serve up some hot takes and predictions. One of the key skills in being a good Pokemon player is the ability to make predictions, so let’s see how well that skill translates outside of battle.
A Mega Rayquaza Team Will Win it All
At this point, we should all be in agreement that Mega Rayquaza is one of the best Pokemon in the Ultra Series metagame. Sky-high stats, endless variety in item/moveset combinations and compatibility with many of the game’s other powerful restricted Pokemon. Mega Rayquaza already has an international title under its belt, and it has a high change of snagging another.
Now, as for Rayquaza’s restricted partner? That’s where the discussion gets a bit more interesting. Flavio del Pidio demonstrated the power of Xerneas as Rayquaza’s partner in Berlin, but something tells me Xerneas and Rayquaza won’t be the top duo again. A lot of buzz has been surrounding the Mega Rayquaza/Primal Kyogre pairing that ended up being the best pairing back in the 2016 season. Many were skeptical in the beginning of the Ultra Series as it didn’t seem like this duo was as potent as it was three years ago, but over the course of the Ultra Series, these teams have been getting stronger and more innovative. If I had to put money on a Rayquaza partner to win with it in Columbus, it would be Primal Kyogre.
But wait! There is still room for other restricted Pokemon to help Mega Rayquaza on its conquest. We just saw over in Japan Kimura Hirofumi pair Solgaleo with Rayquaza to win a his second Japanese National tournament in a row. Rayquaza has also been shown to work well with Solgaleo’s mascot counterpart, Lunala, and even Kyogre’s Primal counterpart in Groudon. One of the best aspects of Mega Rayquaza is its versatility in team building, and it could easily win this tournament in a standard way or a with some creativity.
Lunala Will Flood Day 2 and Top Cut
Lunala will be a popular pick in Columbus as many players are beginning to rediscover how good this Pokemon can be. Primal Groudon has been a powerful asset for Lunala in dealing with one of its main threats in Incineroar. Lunala can also offer two types of speed control in both Tailwind and Trick Room, which can be excellent in mixing up a team’s game plan. This combination has been doing quite well overseas leading up to the showdown in Columbus, and it’s about time to test its might on the international scale.
However, there exists another archetype that has slowly been building up hype and that is Xerneas/Lunala. This duo was one of the best in the Sun and Moon series, but experienced a significant drop off once the Ultra Series came around. Many players have begun to try to resurrect this archetype by adding Mega Evolutions like Kangaskhan, Lopunny and Lucario which all threaten big offense with useful support capabilities. This team can perform either extremely efficiently or fall totally flat due to its new hyper-offensive persona and I expect to see at least one of these kinds of teams reach day two.
Japan Teams Won’t Break the Western Metagame
Even though the teams from Japan’s National Championships were metagame shattering in terms of their techs and takes on certain archetypes, these kinds of teams won’t fare well in the International Championships tournament style. Japanese National teams have to succeed in best-of-one and best-of-three play so naturally they’re loaded with unconventional techs and gimmicks to get past the initial tournament stages. However, some teams from this tournament that we’ve seen in the past have been able to perform well in all best-of-three play, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the winning team make it to the second day of competition.
While the teams won’t break the western metagame, I think some of these individual techs and Pokemon could translate well. Some that have potential are the bulkier set-up variant of Mega Rayquaza, Tapunium Z Tapu Fini and Solgaleo as an Ultra Series option. If this ends up being the case, it’ll be interesting to see how western players adopt these Japanese innovations.
The Race for North America’s Day Two Invites Will Be Shaken Up
The race for Top 8 in the Championship Points rankings for North America is tight and has the potential to look quite different by this Sunday. While I think it is totally possible that one of North America’s best players could take this tournament and cement themselves as a day two World Championships invitee, I think someone on the outside looking in could as well. I’m looking at just outside of the Top 8, mainly at players like Paul Chua, Kyle Livinghouse and James Evans. Chua is coming off an impressive late-season regional win in Madison while Livinghouse and Evans have been performing consistently over the course of the 2019 season. Livinghouse and Evans specifically have come very close to the top in past regional outings this season, and their time for a major tournament run might be approaching.
Then again, there could be someone around the 500-600 range that wins it all and shoots themselves up into the day two race or a foreign player could win and shake up their own region’s Championship Point standings. Crazier things have happened.
So there are some hot takes for the North American International Championships. We’ll just have to wait to see how well these predictions hold up by the end of the weekend, but regardless of how right I end up being, this tournament will be a lot of fun to watch.
Images from Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, Pokken Tournament, Ken Sugimori and The Pokemon Company International