One of the most important tournaments of the VGC season has finally come to pass. And like usual, it didn’t disappoint. The Japan National Championships is a pivotal tournament due to their worldwide impact on the VGC scene. This tournament has historically taken place before the final International Championship of a given season (usually North America), and has greatly influenced the metagame last-minute. Not only that, but this tournament also decides which Japanese players get to compete at the World Championships, letting the entire world know a new list of threats for the season’s biggest tournament.
Results and Teams (Top 8)
A Repeat Champion
Hirofumi Kimura has once again conquered Japan’s national tournament, a feat certainly not easy to achieve. The buzz was around Kimura last year when he shocked the world with his team that featured a Nidoqueen. Kimura has once again chosen an unorthodox Ground-type for his team this year, as Gastrodon was his pick. Even though Gastrodon is a world champion, courtesy of 2018 champion Paul Ruiz, it is a Pokemon rarely seen in the 2019 metagame. This Gastrodon was also more offensive, carrying three attacking moves with the Expert Belt item. Gastrodon’s main role on this team was likely to sponge Water-type attacks from Primal Kyogre (thanks to Storm Drain), but also to dish out some serious damage with its impressive range of coverage.
Though, Gastrodon wasn’t the only thing that made Kimura’s team unique. Solgaleo seemed like a restricted Pokemon that faded into obscurity after the conclusion of Moon Series, but it seems that Sun’s mascot still has some serious potential. The rest of the team looks rather standard, until closer inspection reveals Tapu Koko carrying an Iapapa Berry and the physical Wild Charge.
Even though Kimura’s Worlds run didn’t pan out last year, he’s got another shot to make it all the way. Repeating as Japan’s champion has cemented him as one of the biggest threats in day two of the World Championships, especially considering the last two Japanese world champions had also won their nation’s title prior to their world championship win.
Metagame Highlights: Japan Edition
Arguably the best part about this tournament was the creative teams and strategies that spawn from the Japanese metagame. There are quite a few to go over.
Dawn Wings Necrozma: Normally this isn’t that strange, but the thing is Terada Takouro’s Necrozma carried the Lunalium Z over the Ultranecrozium Z. With just standard Necrozma in its Dawn Wings form, you get a significantly stronger Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom at the cost of some speed and bulk. Takouro’s team appears reminiscent of the Psychic-spam teams that usually carry Ultra Necrozma, but with the Tapu Lele exchanged for a Smeargle.
Bulky Berry Rayquaza: Mega Rayquaza is a Pokemon renowned for its pure offense, but some Japanese players decided to devote more to Rayquaza’s defenses for a more set-up oriented approach to damage output. Yamane Ryuusei opted for the Aguav Berry for recovery while Souma Takuma used the Roseli Berry as a means of better defending against super-effective Fairy attacks. It’s unknown whether or not this particular variant of Rayquaza will catch on, but it shows that innovation still exists even in one of the format’s most standard Pokemon.
Tapu Fini with Z Crystals: Speaking of cookie-cutter Pokemon that have been developed further, we have players using their Z Move on… Tapu Fini? A popular pick was the Tapunium Z which takes away a whopping 75% of the opponent’s health regardless of the conditions. This likely allows Tapu Fini to set-up KO’s for its teammates, and can actually work quite well considering how naturally fast Tapu Fini is. Naoto Mizubuchi opted for a more traditional offensive approach with the Fairium Z likely to dispose of opposing Dark-types, like Yveltal, which can compromise his restricted duo of Groudon and Lunala easily.
Mimikyu: Yet another Pokemon that seemed lost to the changing of formats, we have Mimikyu. This once coveted Trick Room setter has lost some of its ability to accomplish said role, so players this season have decided to go all in on offense with Mimikyu’s signature Z Move. Swords Dance is a great way to help Mimikyu get a big hit off, and this set-up can often be accomplished safely thanks to the free hit Mimikyu can take thanks to its ability.
Mega Metagross: An uncommon Mega Evolution choice for the 2019 season, but one that has slowly been picking up in popularity worldwide. With its recent finish at this tournament, this could mean some more Mega Metagross usage at the North American International Championships and maybe even the World Championships.
A Change Coming to Moody?
— PokéJungle (@pokejungle) June 9, 2019
The Moody ability is one of the most controversial ones out there, and is 99% the reason why players despise playing against Smeargle. During an interview at the tournament, Game Freak’s Shigeki Morimoto disclosed that the ability Moody would be changed in the upcoming Pokemon Sword and Shield, and many players are speculating that it is likely a nerf. Even though a small pool of rather underwhelming Pokemon get this ability, most of us have seen how ridiculous a Smeargle with evasion, speed and even accuracy boosts can do to steal a game. This ability has been banned in the Smogon singles formats for a while, and for good reason. This ability is borderline broken.
All we know is that Moody is being “changed”, but we still don’t know how. This is good news, not only because the game is being balanced, but also because it seems that Game Freak is interested in bringing positive changes to the game competitively.
The results of the Japan National Championships always strongly reverberate throughout the Pokemon VGC scene, whether it be changing the metagame or producing a future world champion. We’ll just have to see how the results from Japan immediately impact Pokemon VGC, as the North American International Championships kick off in just over a week.
Images from Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, Pokken Tournament, Ken Sugimori and The Pokemon Company International