Players across the world are currently battling in what will (presumably) be the final International Challenge tournament to take place in Pokemon’s 3DS era. These tournaments are usually opportunities for players to try out more creative and fun strategies, but there are still some Championship Points on the line. To most, the small amount of Championship Points at stake doesn’t really matter, but there are some players that do try a little harder to achieve a high enough placement.
Due to the best-of-one nature of this tournament which can be filled with gimmicky strategies, achieving a high result can be tough. Getting cheesed or poor RNG can lead to quick, frustrating losses; while these things are usually inevitable, there are measures you can take to mitigate the potential roadblocks in your run.
Choosing the Right Team
While it may be tempting to rush into the thick of things with a new team you’re testing out, a lack of experience with said team won’t get you very far. One of the key aspects of being able to play well in Pokemon is using a team that you’re decently comfortable with and knowledgeable about. Granted, for an International Challenge knowing every intricacy to your team isn’t necessary, but it helps. Just being familiar with some of the individual Pokemon you decide to use can go a long way.
Have a go-to Plan
Since you’re going to be playing a ton of single games in a row, making the early part of your run as efficient as possible can help a lot. Many players you will likely encounter at the beginning will not have the “strongest” of teams, so having an “autopilot” mode on your team can be a good way of speeding up team preview as well as the game itself. One of the most basic ones you can add to a team is either Smeargle or Incineroar plus a Xerneas. If your opponent can’t easily stop the onslaught of Geomancy Xerneas, you can easily win a game in less than five turns.
Of course, once you get far enough, the autopilot will become less and less reliable depending on the matchup.
Try to be as Gimmick-proof as Possible
A best-of-one tournament like the International Challenge is a perfect place for the most absurd strategies to succeed. A random Z Move, speed control option or RNG set-up could be game-ending in the right circumstances, and losing to an unexpected gimmick can be severely tilting.
Not to say your team should be totally anti-gimmick, but having a tech here and there will help out a ton in unfamiliar matchups. Having moves like Taunt, Haze or any other kinds of disruptive moves can usually shut down most gimmicky set-up strategies that rely on the opponent not to spill all of the eggs that they just put in the proverbial basket. One of the best Pokemon to have in terms of shutting down nonsense is Crobat since it can provide speed control, Taunt opposing support Pokemon, Haze away any problematic stat boosts and reliably do damage with Super Fang (as long as you’re targeting a non-Ghost-type Pokemon).
Special mention needs to go to Shedinja, since that has to be the most consistent gimmick in VGC 2019 at the moment. While you think it might be as simple as carrying moves that either hit Ghost/Bug-type Pokemon, that doesn’t help when a partner Tapu Fini uses Soak on a Shedinja turning it into a Water-type. Surprisingly, this makes Shedinja a ton more annoying to deal with, and it’s this strategy that has seen a ton of mainstream success in VGC 2019 so far. Just make sure you have a way of hitting both forms of Shedinja, and if there’s one hard counter that exists out there it would be Ferrothorn. Ferrothorn can not only hit a Water-type Shedinja, but Shedinja faints if it makes contact with Ferrothorn due to its Iron Barbs ability and Ferrothorn can use Leech Seed to bypass Shedinja’s Wonder Guard.
Optimizing Your Play
Avoid Unnecessary Predictions
While the team you’re using might call for this kind of approach or you just want to style on a lower rated opponent, going for non-essential reads is not recommended. Since you are likely only going to face an opponent once, treat that game like game one of a best-of-three set. Get as much information as possible and try to gauge your opponent’s play style. Don’t play too safe of course as an opponent can easily punish that, but just try not to go for game on turn one. Unless you’re only out here for the big plays, then go for it.
Curb Tilt by Knowing When to Stop
While it may be tempting to grind out a certain amount of games each day, knowing when to step away when things are going bad is key to preventing your rating from tanking. Going on tilt is very easy in such a volatile tournament like the International Challenge as, like I said, bad RNG or a loss to some gimmick that nobody runs is inevitable. No matter how much you want to finish your allotted games for the day or simply end on a win, that mentality can easily lead you to a losing streak.
When a frustrating loss or series of losses comes, it’s okay to step away from your 3DS for a little while and calm down. Go outside, spend time with friends/family or do literally anything else besides think about Pokemon for a few hours while the tilt shrinks. You always play better with a clear head, and playing mad or frustrated will just ruin your run and overall experience.
Pay Attention to Your Rating
This one sort of ties into the philosophy of “knowing when to stop”, but not in regards to tilt. If you’re a player aiming to earn a certain amount of Championship Points (that isn’t the amount granted to first place) keep an eye on your rating so you know where you stand. Sometimes playing all 45 or so games in an International Challenge isn’t necessary to earn Championship Points as having a good enough record/rating will guarantee some points. Think of your rating roughly like this:
High 1500’s-1600’s: Good enough for some points
High 1600’s-1700’s: Good enough for enough for a decent amount of points
High 1700’s-1800’s+: You’re likely at the top of the standings.
And most importantly…
Playing this game should never feel like a chore or torture, even though it can feel like that sometimes. The International Challenge tournaments are an opportunity to try out new teams and strategies and maybe even learn about some of the wackiest things some Pokemon have to offer.
At least when all is said and done you’ll have yourself a nice and shiny Tapu Fini (as long as you’ve played at least three games). Good luck to all those competing this weekend!
Images from Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, Pokken Tournament, Ken Sugimori and The Pokemon Company International