Our first tournament for the 2018 season comes to us in grassroots form thanks to Rutgers University Esports. Even though there were no Championship Points on the line, this tournament gave us a very important glimpse into what the first few months of the 2018 format could look like. Being held in the northeast was a plus as the tournament featured many of the best players in the region such as Paul Chua, Chuppa Cross and the winner of the whole thing, Stephen Mea. Mea managed to win this tournament without even owning a copy of the game, having to borrow a copy and a team just for this tournament. Mea pulled off an impressive win versus Chuppa Cross in an intense three-game set in the finals, with a team archetype that you’ll see a lot of in this tournament’s Top 8.
Results & teams (Top 8)
1. Stephen Mea
2. Chuppa Cross
3. Paul Chua
4. Mihrab Samad
5. Bryan Tong
6. Irving Johnson
7. Will Vega
8. Steven Lasso
Rain reigns supreme
As many predicted, the Rain team archetype is going to be a very popular choice in the beginning of the format. Rain has a bunch more options now with the return of Ludicolo and better Steel-types to take advantage to the nerf to Fire-type moves. Ludicolo might be a tad weaker than its fellow Swift Swimming duck Golduck, but Ludicolo’s Grass-typing plus its access to Fake Out makes it the far better choice as a rain partner.
One interesting thing to note was the popularity of Politoed over Pelipper. Although Pelipper ended up winning the tournament, the favorite Drizzle user was clearly Politoed. In favor of the fast, aggressive play that Pelipper promotes with Tailwind, it seems that many players took the defensive route by using Politoed. Politoed is able to stay on the field a lot longer than Pelipper, but it also has a bunch of different support moves it can utilize such as Icy Wind, Helping Hand and a favorite for this tournament, Perish Song. I think Politoed’s bulk and versatility will slowly make it the favored rain setter in the upcoming format.
As for countering Rain, you can definitely see evidence of it here. Chuppa Cross opted for a more standard team, using Zapdos and Tapu Fini in order to utilize Zapdos’ Misty Seed. The Special Defense boost from Misty Seed enables Zapdos to live the onslaught of rain-boosted Water-type attacks including Z moves as we saw Cross’ Zapdos take a Hydro Vortex from Mea’s Ludicolo no problem. Bryan Tong tried to use Gastrodon to redirect Water-type attacks using its Storm Drain ability, but something tells me that Gastrodon didn’t appreciate the abundance of Grass-type Pokemon on these rain teams. Finally, Steven Lasso decided to change the weather altogether with a team featuring Mega Charizard Y.
Overall, Rain came out on top, but as official tournaments get under way, players will continue to find ways to shut this team down.
Every Tapu has a place
A rare sight in VGC 2017 took just one tournament to show up in 2018. Every Island Guardian was represented in Top Cut. Oddly enough, Tapu Bulu was the most popular, which again, was a rare sight in the previous season. The team compositions here give a pretty clear indication of how each Tapu will be played. For example, Tapu Bulu fit on rain teams with more defensive Pokemon that benefited from the gradual HP recovery from Grassy Terrain, with the Grassy Terrain also boosting the power of Ludicolo’s Giga Drain. Tapu Lele fit on to more hyper offensive teams utilizing the power of Mega Evolutions like Metagross and Mawile to deal big damage fast. Tapu Fini was interestingly only seen on one team, but its role as a bulky attacker and support Pokemon can fit on a wide variety of teams. Tapu Koko seems like it is the same way, mainly being a solid fast, attacking option with players like Mea taking advantage of Electric Terrain boosted Thunders that have 100% accuracy in the rain.
Right now, I think it’s fair to say that all of the Island Guardians have their place in the metagame which is great for promoting diversity in teambuilding. Tapu Bulu seems like it has a great start, with Tapu Fini likely still being the most popular. Considering the popularity of Landorus-Therian, I expect to see these two being the most popular for a while.
The return of Mega Evolutions
Considering the popularity of Rain at this tournament, the most used Mega Evolutions seem to reflect that. Mega Mawile ended up being the most popular, with players like Mihrab Samad and Paul Chua taking advantage of the Goth/Maw combo which aims to trap your opponents in with Gothitelle’s Shadow Tag as they’re devoured by Mega Mawile under Trick Room. Of course the rain from Politoed helped with Mawile’s weakness to Fire-types, but Politoed also has another role on this team by being able to set up a late game win condition with Perish Song and Gothitelle’s trapping ability.
Speaking of Shadow Tag, a one-off choice for a Mega Evolution came from Stephen Mea’s use of Mega Gengar. Mega Gengar is usually on teams which take full advantage of Perish Song in conjunction with Shadow Tag in order to slowly lock their opponent’s Pokemon into KO’s. Mega Gengar can also provide a solid offensive role as well, as its coverage with Sludge Bomb and Shadow Ball deals with the plethora of Fairy-types and other popular Pokemon like Aegislash and Cresselia.
There was only a single Mega Kangaskhan which would’ve been unheard of a couple years ago. Mega Kangaskhan appeared on the team you probably expected it to, as it was accompanied by the VGC 2018 standard. One interesting thing to consider is how this standard has changed from the worlds-dominating CHALK archetype from 2015. We still have Kangaskhan and Landorus, but instead of Cresselia and Heatran, we now have Tapu Fini and Volcarona that are beginning to define the “goodstuffs” archetype. Mega Kangaskhan’s narrative will be an interesting one. Will the nerfs finally catch up to it or will it still be one of the best choices for a Mega Evolution?
The Rutgers Fireside Open was a great introduction to the potential of what the 2018 metagame has to offer. While there was a dominance from the downpour of rain teams, we saw a diverse representation of the Tapu as well as a good variety of Mega Evolutions which gives me hope that 2018 will be a great year for teambuilding.
Huge shoutouts to the Rutgers Esports organization as well as their Pokemon team which will continue to host great events for the 2018 season. VGC 2018 is just under a month away, but one more 2017 regional is coming up in Memphis, Tennessee which will serve as our final goodbye to the 2017 format. If this tournament showed us anything, it showed us how excited we should be for the 2018 season.
Thanks for reading!
Images from Pokemon Sun and Moon, Ken Sugimori and The Pokemon Company International
Featured Image from @aProjectCypher on Twitter
To continue enjoying great content from your favorite writers, please contribute to our Patreon account! Every little bit counts. We greatly appreciate all of your amazing support! #TGHPatreon