In the wake of the thrilling Oceania International Championships, North American players return to a smaller stage at this weekend’s Collinsville Regional Championships. While last season had a larger turn out than what is expected this year, the quality of players makes up for the lacking quantity. With that being the case, here is a look at where things stand in terms of the metagame and the players to watch.
State of the Metagame: In the tyrant’s grasp
After the first three major events of the tournament, it’s obvious that Tyranitar’s reign will be strong in 2018. Two of the three tournament winners (Alessio Yuri Boschetto and Flavio Del Pidio) won with the same team. The third, Cedric Bernier, simply brought Porygon2 over an alolan guardian, ran regular Tyranitar and brought Mega Charizard Y. Meanwhile, the Dallas runner up, Chuppa Cross IV, used almost the exact same team as Boschetto and Del Pidio.
Suffice it to say, this is the team to watch out for in Collinsville. Now that this archetype has won three events and helped other players place well throughout them, expect competitors to start considering harder checks.
Of course, the problem with that is this archetype might be one of the safest checks to itself. Metagross can bop a significant portion of the team if supported properly, and Bernier demonstrated how Low Kick helps a Tyranitar under Trick Room win the near-mirror. So if players can tech this archetype for an advantage in the mirror while also having strong chances against the rest of the field, VGC could see more consistency in usage than it had in 2017.
The good news is, competitors have demonstrated a penchant for creativity, with many unique teams exceeding expectations. Just looking at Sydney, most top 8 teams were significantly different outside of Landorus-T (62.5 percent), Metagross and Tyranitar (50 percent). Considering this diversity, it will be interesting to see how the Midwest opts to answer these common threats.
Players to watch
Ashton Cox | 3rd NA | 863 CP
Fresh off a top four finish in Sydney, Ashton Cox will look to maintain his momentum and get within striking distance of first place in North America. Considering his performance last weekend and the fact that he won last season’s Latin America International Championship, top cutting a regional shouldn’t be too tricky. It helps that, since much of his CP comes from success at Midseason Showdowns in the Midwest, he should have a lot of experience facing down his fellow competitors in Collinsville.
The tricky part for Cox will be whether he mixes up his team. Known for his unconventional building habits, the squad he brought to Sydney seemed standard at first glance. However, he revealed on stream that there were plenty of tricks up his sleeve. And while that helped him get very close to taking the title, there’s a chance those sets will have lost their effectiveness now that players know about them.
Now Cox will have to make a decision: go with what brought him success in Sydney or try to brew up something potent in a week’s time. He no doubt has at least a couple of teams in his back pocket, but the question is whether any are ready for prime time. Plus, the man does have a history to uphold. He finished in 13th place at this same regional last year, and he followed that up with the same placing at the 2017 Oceania International Championships. Perhaps this year he’ll do the same, but in reverse.
Alex Underhill | 5th NA | 681 CP
It’s always exciting when a player returns to try and defend their title, though few have proven able to do that in VGC. Will Underhill join those prestigious ranks this weekend? Honestly, he has a very good chance. At the least, odds are he’ll top cut. After all, he’s done so at least once during every season since 2015. He’s actually already won a 2018 regional, too, in Fort Wayne before the format changed. And not only did he win two 2017 tournaments, he did so with two very different teams.
Speaking of his teams, they also trend toward the unique. He was one of the only players to make Lucario work in the format, and he somehow was able to give Drampa one more win than anyone expected it to get after Gavin Michaels pulled it out at the beginning of the season. It’ll be interesting to see what he ends up bringing, since we didn’t get a peek at what he fell short with in Sydney. It’ll have to be good if he wants hit 4th in North America to go from a stipend to that sweet, sweet travel award.
Brady Smith | 7th NA | 629 CP
Brady Smith may not be a household name in the VGC community, but he did string together an impressive fall regional season. After losing to Alberto Lara in the finals of Hartford, he bounced back in Memphis to get his first major win. Smith used a similar team in both attempts, and proved his ability to iterate on a good team to close the gap between first and second. Unfortunately for him, Dallas wasn’t as kind.
If you look at his history, though, he tends to alternate between making top cut and falling short. So with plenty of time to build between now and Dallas, he’s worth keeping an eye on. And on top of that, he needs to do well if he wants to keep snowballing. He has more than a few players nipping at his heels.
Justin Crubaugh | 8th NA | 520 CP
This man may only have a pair of second place regional finishes (and one third place!) to his name, but he sure slays basically every Midseason Showdown in his local area. Seriously, he’s already won five of them, which almost accounts for half of his CP. It’s also worth noting that he earned all but 100 of his CP with the same team, which made excellent use of positioning to defeat opponents.
Arash Omatti was able to rack up four top cut appearances with the team as well, so Crubaugh clearly has good taste. The main question now is whether he can find the right flavor for the new format. He’s won 100 CP since then, so he’s clearly off to a good start.
Crubaugh is trying to avoid melting, which is now what we’ll call it when a player’s snowball runs out of steam. Navarre’s performance in the latest International Challenge probably already puts him on the wrong side of the top eight, but he can reclaim his place with a good finish. Doing so could potentially require him to defeat Navarre, but it more importantly puts him on a potential collision course with one of the players who kept him from winning his first event. Smith is also still smiling down on him from 7th place, which Crubaugh surely wouldn’t mind claiming along the way.
Nick Navarre | 9th NA | 518 CP
Just because Nick Navarre doesn’t like this format doesn’t mean we don’t like his chances of top cutting! Despite an underperformance at the 2017 World Championships, he is easily one of the most consistent competitors in North America. Most of that is thanks to his ability to find teams with similar structures suited for the metagame without sacrificing his ability to take a paced approach to matches. Altogether, that earned him six trips to top cut in 2017.
The one sticking point here is that his first foray into the new format didn’t go so well. A 5-4 run at Dallas may seem like it should disqualify him from this list, and he didn’t hit his groove until four months into the 2017 format. Still, since a more defined “standard” has emerged earlier this season than it did last season, his odds seem better. Give Navarre a good idea of what he’s going up against and he’ll build a team that can dance around it better than a Tyranitar next to an Amoonguss.
Brendan Zheng | 52nd NA | 223 CP
A world champion is always a threat, even when they won it in another age division. It helps that Zheng quickly demonstrated that the transition from seniors to masters wouldn’t slow him down at all. He finished second at the first Midseason Showdown of the season (while using a Bronzong no less) and followed that up with a top cut finish in Dallas. He was unfortunately knocked out in the first round in a very close set, but he demonstrated the skill to be a serious threat.
In all honesty, it’s only a matter of time before he follows in his older brother’s footsteps and starts taking titles as a master.
Justin Burns | 121th NA | 120 CP
What is someone so far down the CP standings doing on this list? Well, Justin Burns is quietly one of the best players competing at this regional. He is a regional champion (Seattle 2017) and fell just short of taking home the title in Collinsville last year. On top of that, he’s one of the few Americans who contended for a top cut spot at the 2017 World Championships, finishing in 22nd. The point is, he’s a smart and skilled player with the team building chops to make the best of his talent.
Otherwise, we had to do it for the narratives. Since the returning champ will be there, think of how incredible it would be to get a rematch. If putting him on this list helps make that happen, then that’s the play.
Carson Confer | 2nd NA | 1050 CP
Confer played some of the best Pokémon in North America during his first full format in the master’s division, with four top cut finishes at major events. One of those majors was the European International Championships, where he finished third. He also earns points for being one of the more successful players to stick with a similar core and iterate. That all started last year in Collinsville, where he hopped on the “one last ride” train by running a version of Eduardo Cunha’s Mudsdale team.
What’s really impressive, though, is that he’s carried over half the team from 2017 to 2018. Confer is one of the most dedicated Kartana users, and he has yet to abandon Porygon2 for Cresselia. Instead, he traded Arcanine for Mega Charizard Y, Gigalith for Tyaranitar, and dropped his water type for the best Intimidate-user in Pokémon, Landorus-T. This squad almost brought him a title in Dallas before eventual winner, Cedric Bernier beat him with a slightly different version of his own team. Sydney didn’t go too bad either, though 23rd was a far cry from 3rd. To his credit, one of the losses in his 6-2 run seemed to have a fair bit of RNG.
That being said, Confer must be starving for a win. He’s been close so many times on much larger stages, and this is his last chance to attain victory before Sao Paolo comes around in April. Here’s hoping he breaks the smart money curse!
While Trainer Tower is trying to go for more depth than breadth, we’d be remiss not to mention a handful of attendees who just barely missed making the list. Shout outs to Dane Zieman, Ethan Simpson and Jon Hu who all top cut this tournament last season. If Hu manages to pull off top cut again while using another team that features three Pokémon with the same type, I’ll make him smart money at the next tournament he goes to. Then there’s Zheyuan Huang, who always manages a couple of Midwest top cuts in any given format. Finally, shout out to Diana Bros, who seems hungrier to win a regional than she ever has before. It’ll be great to see whether she can claim her first win since stepping onto the scene during the 2016 Madison Regional Championships.
Where to watch
As for where you can see all this awesome action, it appears as if the folks behind Critical Hit GG are handling the show. Follow them on Twitter for information on when the stream begins on Saturday morning.