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A Tricky Nihilego Takes Seattle: VGC 2017 Seattle Regional Championships Recap

Congratulations to Justin Burns for not only winning his first regional but for also qualifying for the World Championships. While Justin’s team is very reminiscent of the FAKEPG archetype that dominated Virginia Regionals, Burns decided to switch the “E” with an “N”. Nihilego was an interesting pick for an event seemingly dominated by Kartana, Gigalith and Garchomp, but Nihiliego’s excellent matchup against Arcanine and the Tapu Pokemon made it a fairly reasonable call. Let’s take a look at what else performed well in Seattle.

Results & Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1. Justin Burns

2. Hayden McTavish

3. Conan Thompson

4. Alberto Lara

5. River Davis

6. Brian Zourdani

7. Collin Heir

8. Demitrios Kaguras

(Fun Fact: Hayden McTavish, Conan Thompson, and Alberto Lara are using nearly identical teams as the ones they used to Top Cut Oregon Regionals.)

A Tricky NihilegoImage result for nihilego

An Ultra Beast that pops up every so often, Nihilego’s experience in the 2017 format has been a little complicated. An excellent offensive typing of Poison and Rock suffers slightly due to Nihilego’s pitiful Defense and weaknesses to Ground and Steel. Still, covering these weaknesses can make Nihilego just a threatening as its Ultra Beast brethren as it starts racking up Beast Boosts.

A Pokemon normally valued for its speed, A Trick Room option seems rather odd for something as fast and frail as Nihilego. Usually, Nihilego’s third move slot is fairly flexible with some of the more common choices being Substitute or a Hidden Power. Trick Room isn’t unheard of as Burns himself mentioned in his post-finals interview that the team idea came from a Japanese blog as well as from a friend who had been using the team before him. With some slight alterations to the original concept, Burns was able to turn this strategy into an effective threat.

Why Trick Room?

Image result for trick room

Normally, a Pokemon with a base 103 speed stat is not your ideal Trick Room setter. Nihilego uses Trick Room as an option rather than its go-to strategy. That’s mainly what the Porygon2 on the team does as its bulk makes it more likely that it will survive long enough to set up Trick Room.

This Trick Room variant of Nihilego actually pairs really well with Gigalith. Gigalith’s Sand Stream ability also raises Nihilego’s already massive Special Defense much like Gigalith’s in a sandstorm. While the combination doesn’t excel defensively, the amount of damage threatened by the duo is massive if played correctly.

I recommend checking out 2015 US National Finalist Raphahel Bagara’s report from Oregon Regionals if you’re interested in learning more about the team.

Tapu Koko’s Assault…VestImage result for assault vest tapu koko png

While we saw a couple other callbacks to earlier in the 2017 format such as the return of Driflbim/Lele and Tapu Fini paired with Mandibuzz, Assault Vest Tapu Koko’s popularity in Seattle could be significant for future tournaments.

Assault Vest was never “common” but still appeared on a few well-known teams earlier on in the format. As Tapu Koko shifted more towards offensive items like Life Orb, the Assault Vest became even more of a niche pick that has recently made a comeback.

VGC formats start to trend towards more bulky and defensive teams as the season progresses, and Assault Vest Tapu Koko could be yet another sign of that. As Pokemon are built more defensively, Tapu Koko’s lacking Image result for assault vest pngdamage output will make items like Life Orb less desirable. With an Assault Vest, Tapu Koko users find a nice balance between Tapu Koko’s offense and its ability to support. We’ll just have to see if the item catches on.

A New Type of Gastrodon?

Gastrodon was yet another popular pick in the beginning of the season before the mainstream usage of Kartana. Having excellent matchups against standard Pokemon like Tapu Koko and Arcanine, Gastrodon was often a go-to Water-type. However, with Kartana’s rise in usage and its overall lack of damage output, Gastrodon sort of fell out of the metagame. Recently, a few players have been using Gastrodon a bit differently than normal. Will this new variant be able to bring Gastrodon back into relevance?Image result for gastrodon

Meet Curse Gastrodon. Curse is a move that allows Gastrodon to boost its Attack and Defense at the expense of its Speed, much like Snorlax. Carrying Waterfall as its primary Water-type STAB, what most choose for a Ground-type attack is a bit unorthodox, to say the least.

Fissure is a one-hit-KO move that paired with the Groundium-Z gives Gastrodon an Earthquake-esque powered Tectonic Rage. At least you get one guaranteed strong Ground-type attack, but afterwards you have to play with 30 percent accuracy for a possible one-hit-KO. Hype when it hits, but terrible otherwise.

Will this be the new meta though? Gastrodon still does well defensively against a lot of the metagame and its access to Toxic and Recover is valuable for a stall matchup. However, Gastrodon’s middling base 83 Attack stat requires a couple of Curses to be useful with the reliance on Fissure not helping much. I could see it as a niche pick for some teams, but not something that could rival other Water and Ground-types for team slots.

One More to Go

With Seattle behind us, we have just one more regional left in the US. Madison is always a stacked event, and with an official stream coming to the event, all eyes will be on this tournament. Seattle champion Justin Burns’ qualification makes 23 Masters qualified from North America, with surely a bunch more relying on Madison and the upcoming North American International Championships. Make sure to check out for coverage from Madison, and right back here in a week for a recap of the action!

(Also there’s a regional happening across the pond in Birmingham, UK that’s also getting an official stream! We’ll give you a recap from there as well!)

Thanks for reading!

Art of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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