Athens, Georgia is the first of two Regionals that we’ll be covering from last weekend, and boy was there a lot. I think what Athens showed us is that the meta game seems to be settling, Pokémon wise, but the amount of new and innovative techs seem limitless in this format.
Let’s take a look at what teams performed the best:
Results & Teams (Top 16 Cut)
1. Paul Chua
2. Joohwan Kim
3. Ian McLaughlin
4. Alvin Hidayat
5. Wolfe Glick
6. Louis Milich
7. Rajan Bal
8. Chuppa Cross
9. Brain Youm
10. Jackson Hambrick
11. Diana Bros
12. Josse Calzado
13. Edward Glover
14. Mike Suleski
15. Chris Danzo
16. Janice Lee
Pokémon Sprite Images courtesy of Game Freak
Same Pokémon, New Techs
We saw a lot of similar Pokémon choices and team compositions in Athens, but it seemed like almost every Pokémon was run differently. There are standard Pokémon, but the move sets for each one have tons of variation. Here are some highlights of some cool, new move and item choices that made it deep in the tournament.
Fairium Z: Paul Chua’s winning team featured a Z Crystal on Tapu Koko, but not a very common one. The Fairium Z allows Tapu Koko to use Twinkle Tackle (my favorite name for any move) which gives Tapu Koko a super strong Fairy-type move to deal big damage to pretty much anything it can’t KO with a Terrain-boosted Thunderbolt.
Nature Power: Wait, Tapu Koko can use Moonblast? Well if Misty Terrain is up, Nature Power allows it to do just that! We saw this strategy from players who paired Tapu Koko and Tapu Fini together, allowing Tapu Koko’s Nature Power to either be Moonblast or Thunderbolt, depending on which Terrain was set up. Seems like finding stronger Fairy-type moves for Tapu Koko is becoming a trend.
Hidden Power Fire: It beats Kartana. That’s probably what Alvin Hidayat was going for. It did help in his game versus Joohwan, where it managed to KO his Lilligant in the sun, but unfortunately that didn’t seem to be enough.
Return/Frustration: I honestly thought Porygon2 was about as standard as a Pokémon could get, but somehow we have a new attacking option for it. A Porygon2 with the Download ability seems to rarely get Special Attack boosts, so why not run a physical attack? Not many Pokémon in this format excel in the Defense stat, so a +1 Return (or Frustration if your Porygon hates you) actually does a good amount of damage, even when Porygon2 is Intimidated. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Return (or Frustration) become the new standard for Porygon2.
Imprison: Alolan Muk is a Pokémon that made a huge imapct in Athens, and Imprison was present on a few of its move sets. Imprison basically blocks your opponent from using any moves known by the user of Imprison. So not only can you completely shut down opposing Muks (which is nice since I think we all know how annoying Muk can be for some teams to deal with), but it can also prevent your opponent’s other Pokémon from using Protect. Muk’s third move slot differs a lot on different teams, but now Imprison makes that third move choice much more difficult.
The Sun Rises into Top Cut, but Sets in Finals
Image courtesy of the Pokémon anime
Joohwan Kim (or “Sun Dude” as he’s known in the community) made an amazing run with a very unique team, featuring VGC 2017’s sole Drought user: Torkoal. This team was full of tricks, including things like Groundium Z, Gyarados with Taunt, Bulldoze Torkoal, Choice Scarf Tapu Bulu, and a Grassinium Z Lilligant with Hidden Power Fire…just to name a few.
Lilligant: The Centerpiece
Players that know Joohwan know he is a huge fan of Lilligant, and who better
to innovate with it than Joohwan. Contrary to the typical Lilligant and Torkoal
strategy, Joohwan’s combination did not feature After You on Lilligant, or Eruption on Torkoal. Joohwan’s Lilligant focused mainly on offense, with it holding a Z Crystal and having Hidden Power Fire. To help make sure it can fire off Sleep Powders, Joohwan had both Tapus whose Terrains allow status conditions in order to counter the ever present Electric and Misty Terrains. Lilligant demolished a fair amount of Kartana with its sun-boosted Hidden Power and was able to score a bunch of surprise knock-outs with Bloom Doom.
This team was meant to make sure Lilligant was able to thrive, and it succeeded all the way up until the Finals. Joohwan definitely fought his way through a ton of teams with Tapu Koko, Arcanine, and Muk, but Paul was able to effectively preserve his best Pokémon for the match up. Second place is still a great finish for such a unique team, and I’m certain this will inspire future Torkoal and Lilligant users to achieve similar levels of creativity.
The Niche Picks
Athens brought us a few new Pokémon in Top Cut, but some of them seem like the epitome of “niche”.
If only the Hidden Abilities for Alola’s starters were released…Intimidate on Incineroar would probably allow it to rival Arcanine for usage. This wrestling cat is a bit of an odd pick for a Fire-type, but it does have a lot of cool moves to make use of. Fake Out, Snarl, Roar, Swords Dance, and even two solid STAB moves in Flare Blitz and Darkest Lariat allow Incineroar to function as an attacker with support options.
Blaze seems like a sub-par ability (it kind of is) but if Incineroar gets down to low enough HP and is able to get a Fire-type attack off, it can be devastating. Unfortunately we never got to see Ian Mclaughlin’s Incineroar on stream, but according to the commentators it did apparently have Taunt…that’s all we know.
Another Trick Room counter. A pretty good one I’ll have to admit. Snorlax actually has a decent match-up against most Trick Room sweepers, being that a lot of them are physical attackers, and don’t appreciate taking either a Return or High Horsepower.
Snorlax also (like our good pal Muk) gets access to Gluttony which further adds to Snorlax’s phenomenal bulk. Not to mention that you can also boost your Attack with either Curse or Belly Drum to increase your threat status. Definitely not a Pokémon to sleep on.
Still waiting on Guzzlord’s Top Cut appearance, but honestly I’m kind of surprised that Buzzwole managed to make it first. Unfortunately we weren’t able to see Brian Youm’s Buzzwole do anything but Protect and perish to a Dazzling Gleam from Chuppa’s Tapu Koko.
My guess would be that the most common items would be either Fightinium Z or Assault Vest. Buzzwole gets some cool coverage options like Poison Jab and Ice Punch and a ton of Fighting moves to choose from. I don’t think we’ll see Buzzwole in Top Cut too often, but it was nice to see another Ultra Beast for a change.
I don’t even know what to say about this one. This monstrosity was piloted by Louis Milich who actually managed to get all the way to Top 8. With a Tentacruel.
I guess Tentacruel has a decent match-up against the Tapu Pokémon (with the exception of Tapu Koko in Electric Terrain) with its high Special Defense and Poison-typing. Alvin’s Tentacruel carried the Poisonium Z, which I’m assuming was to ensure a KO on any Tapu since Tentacruel’s Special Attack isn’t the greatest.
Is Tentacruel a new bulky Water-type to be reckoned with? Who knows. Could just be a one time thing.
We saw Cloyster once on stream, and it immediately fainted to a Nihilego Sludge Bomb. But, thanks to a PasteBin, courtesy of Mike himself, we do know that he was running Life Orb with a ton of bulk and Shell Smash.
I guess if left unchecked, Cloyster could run through an unprepared team. Skill Link allowing Cloyster’s multi-hit moves to hit 5 times every time give it some pretty good attacking power. It just seems like it needs to be set up to be effective with such a low Speed stat. Maybe there’s potential here and Mike was the only one to notice it.
There were many other cool Pokémon in Top Cut, but I primarily focused on the ones that were featured alongside standard Pokémon, as well as ones we actually got to see on stream. I would’ve touched on Mimikyu if it hadn’t already won a Regional, and I would’ve said some things about Jackson’s Alolan Golem if I knew what it did. To be honest, exploring Jackson’s team could be a whole other article entirely. I’ll leave it here, but definitely consider trying some of these Pokémon out if you want to learn more about them!
To conclude, I would once again like to give a big shout out to @PokeCenter_VGC for streaming the tournament for all of us at home. Also, have to give props to Bryan Wood (@KantoCastBlue) for a great debut on commentary, alongside returning commentator Adam Dorricott (@Dozzalon). Congratulations to Paul Chua for his Regional win, netting him $3000 and 200 more Championship Points, putting him at 386 overall. We still have one more Regional to recap from Leipzig and plenty more to cover in the future! Make sure to come back soon to see what won big at Leipzig! Thanks for reading!
Art of Pokemon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori