San Jose Regionals Preview
Written by Jeremy Gross
Welcome to the first 2018 season preview, which will hopefully become a staple article before most major tournaments. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the players and metagame trends to watch out for at this weekend’s San Jose regionals, the second to last VGC 2017 regional in North America.
Common additions:+ ( or )
Teams of this composition go by many names, but they typically share some common characteristics. They are primarily consist of the above Pokémon in some combination, have excellent offensive and defensive synergy and are very difficult to defeat when played well.
Common additions: (+ )
You may see these types of teams referred to by different acronyms, but they both stand for the same core: Tapu Bulu, Arcanine, and Nihilego. These teams usually feature two offensive modes: a semi-fast, semi-bulky mode centered on the eponymous core (sometimes with the addition of a pokemon such as Pheromosa to deal with threats that outspeed the other team members) and a Trick Room-oriented mode, which uses either the Nihilego, or a pokemon such as Mimikyu, as the setter.
Tapu + setter combinations:(+) (+ /) (+/)
These teams all attempt to execute a similar strategy: establish speed control and then sweep. The Drifblim and Mandibuzz cores generally use a combination of a Tapu (usually Lele or Fini) to trigger a seed on the tailwind setter, which activates Unburden on Drifblim and increases Mandibuzz’ already fantastic bulk. Whimsicott uses terrains for a different purpose: turning Z-Nature Power into a strong Gigavolt Havoc, Twinkle Tackle, or Bloom Doom. With Tailwind up, these teams aim to sweep either with the natural offensive capabilities of Tapu Lele or with an Ultra Beast such as Xurkitree that will boost its stats as it takes knockouts and become harder and harder to stop.
Hard Trick Room
This core deserves special mention because, after all, this is a California regional in VGC 2017. The previous two have both been won by Gavin Michaels using hard Trick Room. While the way to beat this core (namely, preventing Trick Room from going up) seems obvious, it’s much easier said than done. With Trick Room set up, powerful attacks from Torkoal, Drampa, or Mudsdale can win the game outright (even striking twice if next to an Oranguru with Instruct), or the team can aim to set up Snorlax with Belly Drum or Curse and deal massive damage in the ensuing turns.
Rain:(+) + ()
Sun:(+) + ()
While this regional may not feature some of the more well-known weather users like Tommy Cooleen, Ashton Cox or Joohwan Kim, anyone wishing to make a deep run at any major event should be prepared for weather. Both rain and sun utilize a weather setter and a Pokemon that gains boosted speed from the weather with its ability, namely Golduck’s Swift Swim and Lilligant’s Chlorophyll. Golduck dishes out the damage on its own with powerful rain-boosted water type attacks, while Lilligant can put opponents to sleep with Sleep Powder or use After You to enable the normally slow Torkoal to fire off powerful sun-boosted Eruptions. Facing them without this archetype without a way to disrupt your opponent’s weather is very difficult.
Stipends at Stake
The North American top 8 is in store for a lot of potential movement depending on how this tournament shakes out. And, with the Oceania Internationals stipend cutoff coming up fast, this movement could have a massive effect on which players receive day two invites to the 2018 World Championships.
Alberto Lara, the current leader, will look to solidify his already commanding hold on the number one spot. The lower spots, however, are where the most action would take place. At the time of publication, the number 8 spot is occupied by Nick Navarre, with 335 CP. There are 3 players attending San Jose within easy striking distance of this mark: 3x World Champion Ray Rizzo (320), recent Vancouver regional champion River Davis (at 289) and Anaheim regional championships runner-up James Eakes (at 265). Davis needs any points whatsoever to break into top 8, while Eakes needs a top 16 finish. Several other players can break into top 8 with very strong finishes, including Kevin Swastek (top 8), Matthew Greaves (top 4), Aaron Zheng (finals), and Riley Factura (finals).
Something interesting to note: This tournament cannot affect the Top 4 CP Standings for US Travel Awards to Melbourne at all. Mathematically it is impossible, because if even Ray Rizzo wins, he will be 1 CP short of the Travel Award
Players to Watch for
Lara’s post-worlds achievements practically speak for themselves. Despite finishing 38th at the most recent European International Championships, he’s nigh unstoppable on American soil. Aside from winning Hartford regionals, he also top cut the Anaheim Open, Fort Wayne and Daytona — each time with a slightly different team. Choice Scarf Garchomp and Celesteela seem to be recurrent themes, but he’s also shown non-standard team choices such as Flyinium-Z Salamence and Gengar. Regardless of what he brings, though, this calculated player isn’t afraid to take the game to time if it means a sure victory.
3 time World Champion Ray Rizzo will be entering the fray this weekend. Coming off a top 32 at London, Ray seems to be on a mini-hot streak. With 2 Regional top 16s also under his belt this season, it would be to no ones surprise if he made Top Cut. Interesting to note is that he has been using Sam Pandelis’ worlds team for the entirety of the post-worlds season.
A regional championship, regional 2nd place finish, several more regional top cuts, and a worlds top cut is a great list of accomplishments. Patrick Smith is a player who has all of these, and will be trying his hand this weekend as well. He has had what he considers a sub-par season, with only a Day 1 Worlds invite and a Top 16 at the early-meta Dallas Regionals. Patrick will be looking to return himself to the Top Cut of this regional.
With 3 regional championships under his belt and having come off a top cut in Vancouver last month, Factura is always a player to watch out for. He’s been running ducks for the past few events, and he’s well versed in its aggressive playstyle. Even if he doesn’t manage to win the event, he’s one of the safest bets a person can make to top cut.
Do you Believee? While Costa has been singing Eevee’s praises the entire season, he never got farther than a couple regional top cuts. Many looked down on his decision to keep iterating on the archetype, but Jeremy Rodrigues might have changed some minds after finally winning a regional with it, and Daniel Oztekin getting Day 2 at London. This will be his last chance to prove that he’s the true Eevee master. Press 1 for no crits.
Eakes took some time off in latter half of the 2017 season, but it’s important to remember that he is a regional runner-up — with Salazzle no less. He did fly out to London, though, demonstrating that he’s fully committing to this season. Considering that’s the case, keep an eye on him. At least one member of Yung Money always seems to do well at California regionals.
Poor Kimo. After narrowly missing out on his Worlds invite last season, he’s trying to defend his territory and prove that RNG doesn’t control his fate. Despite some infamous bad luck, Kimo is one of the most veteran and talented players on the west coast. And even though he missed out on Worlds, he did have London as a good opportunity to shake off any rust that might have accumulated since NA Internats. Plus, he’s been keeping his mind sharp as a commentator for Nugget Bridge — which should probably count for something. If nothing else, he’ll have the best hair at the tournament.
With possibly one of the best Worlds 2017 interviews, Jahadi is looking to keep it YUNG in San Jose. He didn’t manage to win any major tournaments last season, but he was the only player to take a game off Gavin Michaels during his dominate Anaheim regional run — in top cut no less. Plus, y’know, he’s a former World Champion in the seniors division. What it really all comes down to, though, is whether there were any spicy teams out there for him to make his own.
Malaviya is probably one of the best players to come out of the senior division recently, and he’ll likely be looking to prove that his first year as a master was no fluke. And before you say that he didn’t do so hot, remember that he was on quite the tear before he was unable to keep attending events. Back when Drifblim was still new, he surprised much of the community with a top 4 finish in Anaheim, taking down Aaron Zheng in the process. He’s capable of great play and has a good mind for team-building. San Jose could be a chance for him to remind the community of that fact.
Scary Terry surprised much of SoCal last season, coming out of nowhere to dominate many of their events. He did make a bit of a splash in Seattle, as well, making top cut for the first time. Hong has proven to be a big fan of Mandibuzz in 2017, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him fall back on a comfortable team for what may be his last regional of the format. Regardless of what he brings though, he’s easily one of the sleeper picks to do well at this regional.
Wan finally caught his first break in Vancouver this season, finishing 7th with a modified version of Pandelis’ runner-up team. While he, too, has Lele, Ninetales, Garchomp and Xurkitree, he uses Drifblim over Mandibuzz for his speed control. Oh, and then there’s his OKHO-move running Smeargle, which has claimed more than a few victims in its time. If you’re playing Wan in San Jose, be prepared to roll the dice.
Zheng is always capable of big performances, whether he’s prepared much or not. And while it’s still too early in the season to gauge whether he’s planning to fully commit to this season or not, few players eagerly look forward to a matchup against him. He’s one of the smartest players in the scene, and don’t forget he won Oregon last season. It’s hard to say whether he’ll bring Metagross back again considering his has a penchant to miss, but he’ll be a formidable opponent regardless of what he runs.
Team DweeSports returns to the battlefield for the first time in some time. While most newer players will only know him for his work behind the desk, he spent years dominating the west coast as one of its best players. As one of the crispest and most practiced VGC analysts, expect him to be prepared for just about anything despite not having competed in a live, major tournament in 2017.
As the Vancouver regional champ, Davis is poised for a coveted travel award to Sydney for the Oceania International Championships. He wasn’t able to compete in London due to the registration issues that plagued much of community, but it would have been interesting to see if he would have brought Slowking again.
As the current Worlds-runner up, all eyes are on Pandelis to see if he can make another deep run in a California tournament. He was running one of the most threatening teams put together all season and was seen using it again last weekend, in London. Speaking of, Pandelis narrowly missed Day 2 on a purported judge error, which makes judging his current state-of-play a bit tricky. Regardless, he will be hungry to make a statement after having the opportunity taken away in Europe.
Alverenga is not an entirely uncommon sight at California regionals, but this will be his first U.S. tournament since finishing 7th at the 2017 Pokémon World Championships. Despite doing so well there with a good-stuffs team (plus Hariyama), he decided to bring a sun team with Porygon-Z and Smeargle. Things didn’t turn out as he’d have hoped, but Alverenga did walk away with 100 CP — putting him in good standing to represent Latin America as a snowballer. And what was that they used to say about Latin America? Don’t sleep on it? Might be worth keeping in mind.
Nicky Krammer and Alex Din
Both of these players recently aged up from the Seniors division, and are looking to replicate their success there in the Masters stage. Alex Din placed Top 64 at the Anaheim Open, and Nicky has 4 Worlds invites in the senior division, two Regional Top 4s and a Worlds Top 16. It will be exciting to see how these players show their skills against this new field of competition.
Here are some other players to watch that we don’t have the time to go in-depth on:
- Alicia Martinez
- Anthony Stefani
- Arvin Roman
- Brandon Tuchtenhagen
- Bridger Snow
- David Kapelle
- Daniel Cardenas
- Emilio Forbes
- Franklin Lewis
- Greg Rowson
- Huy Ha
- Jason Fish
- Jirawiwat Thitasiri
- Joseph Selmer
- Josh Mecham
- Kyle Hudson
- Matt Alcina
- Mitchell Davies
- Nathaniel Christmas
- Raul Ramirez
- Sam Johnson
- Sandy Martinez
- Shreyas Radhakrishna
- Thomas Nishimura
- Tommy Yee
- William Hall
While the players mentioned are solid bets to do well this weekend, this is by no means guaranteed. Pokemon is a game where anyone can beat anyone with enough practice and a well-constructed team. With that in mind, what will happen this weekend? Will we see established players continuing to do well, or will someone new appear to make a name for themselves? Keep an eye on Twitter to find out, since there unfortunately won’t be a stream to let us watch live.
Smart Money is on:
Last December, Gavin Michaels won San Jose regionals using a hard Trick Room featuring Waterium-Z Araquanid, Choice Specs Magnezone, and a Cloud Nine Drampa to stop the early onslaught of LilliKoal. A few months later, he won Anaheim regionals using a modified version of the team that relied heavily on Mimikyu and Snorlax. During that run, he didn’t drop a single set and only dropped one game in total. The rest of the season was a bit quieter for Michaels, but he’ll certainly be looking to make some noise once more. Will he bring Trick Room back for one last ride, and will he be able to complete the VGC 2017 California regionals hat trick?