Written by Jeremy Gross and Nick Borghi
The first regional of VGC 2018 is upon us! Players from across North America will descend on Dallas, Texas from January 27-28 to take their first shot at big prizes and Championship Points in the new format.
Check out the Twitter account run by the Tournament staff! @Dallas_Pkm_Regs
/5 (Six angry Texans out of 5)
This. Regional. Is. STACKED. Attendance is very high (Masters is likely to have over 300 players), and almost all of North America’s top players are going to be in attendance. Since there are so many incredible players in attendance and it’s the first, major NA-event of the new format, we decided to sacrifice depth for breadth. We’ll be back to our deeper dives on individual players once there are some 2018 regional records to examine.
Tournament Organizer: Christine Noah
Last Year’s Winner: Andrew Nowak
We have a star-studded cast of champions at this regional in the past, but most are either not attending, or are not trying their hardest it seems. 2012 champion Ben Irons will not be competing, without plans to do so until post-worlds 2018, but will be hanging out around the venue. 2014 champion Cedric Bernier, is looking for any excuse to not attend the regional right now. 2015 champion Blake Hopper is going to be competing, but the amount of effort he will be putting in is unknown. 2016-2017 Champion Andrew Nowak will be not be able to attend unfortunately.
Elites and Veterans
The first thing that must be mentioned is both of the United States’ Masters Division world champions will be in Dallas: 2010-2012 World Champion Ray Rizzo and 2016 World Champion Wolfe Glick. Not to be overlooked, a formidable cast of other veteran players will be there as well, including Gavin Michaels (two-time regional champion and 2013 national champion), Collin Heier (top 4 worlds 2014), Tommy Cooleen (three time 2017 internationals top 8), Alberto Lara (2017 Hartford regional champion and current North American CP leader) and Chuppa Cross (frequent regional top cut and day 2 2017 worlds player).
But that’s not all, because this regional is stacked! Duy Ha will continue his return to competition from the commentary desk, and we have even more players with notable finishes in their past: Oliver Valenti, Patrick Donegan, Evan Bates, Greg Rowson, Mitchell Beyer, Sam Haarsma, David Mancuso and Sam Johnson. To wrap it up Caleb Ryor and the legendary Kimo Nishimura will be returning in order to try to move further into cut than they did last year.
Building the Snowball
These players have already solidified their invites to the World Championships, but are currently looking to keep moving forward with their plans for a Day 2 invite. Nick Navarre (480 CP, 7th Place) is looking to keep his momentum rolling after a very strong top 4 showing in Memphis. Brady Smith and Stephen Mea will both be in attendance as well. They have had very strong finishes as of late, both of them showing up in the Hartford regionals Top Cut. Brady is also looking strong as he recently won the Memphis Regionals back in December. Justin Crubaugh is currently sitting at 9th on the CP chart, and is hoping to get his way into top 8 before the São Paulo stipend cutoff. Crubaugh has had a strong season so far, having won 4 MSS’ in a row in his local area, as well as finishing 2nd place at the Memphis Regional Championships.
Jeremy Rodrigues (601 CP, 3rd) is hoping to keep his top 4 position locked going into Sydney, as he had a less than stellar European Internationals. Carson Confer (740 CP, 2nd) is coming off a strong top 4 finish in London along with an X-2 finish at Memphis, and is looking to unseat Alberto Lara (810 CP, 1st). Alex Underhill is boasting a regional win from Ft. Wayne back in September. He has shown to be very consistent this past year, so hopefully we will see that continue going into Dallas. Juan Naar is making the trip to Dallas from Colombia. He is currently #6 in LATAM CP and is looking to keep his Day 2 invite secured. Ashton Cox will be making his way to Dallas as well. Ashton currently has no Regional Top Cuts (the only player in this section to have none), but he is still very high in the CP standings due to his immense amount of traveling. Ashton currently is sporting a 9th at Portland Regionals as his crowning accomplishment this season, but if you look beyond that, he is very accomplished. Just recently, Ashton placed Top 19 at the 2017 World Championships. He will be a name to look out for.
In the Hunt
Kyle Houston cut nine events in a row (mostly in Ohio) earlier this season, and finished the run off with a 6-2, top 32 finish at Memphis. Case Bongirne started out the season strong with a top 8 at Ft. Wayne regionals, and has since added a 6-2 finish at Memphis and several strong local finishes to come within striking distance of his invite. Sandy Martinez has two excellent regional finishes already, placing fourth at Daytona and ninth at Memphis. Daravone Souphommanychanh and Jean-Marc Hebert have both gotten the bulk of their CP from local events in Canada, with a little bit from Hartford regionals on top, and both could lock in their invites with a very high finish. Over on the west coast, Patrick Smith earned top 8 at San Jose regionals and won the first North American Midseason Showdown of the 2018 format.
Brian Youm started off his season well with a Top 16 finish at Hartford earlier in 2017, and nailed a top 32 finish at Memphis as well along with some solid local finishes. Jake Muller is currently 3-0 in both the National Pokemon Association (NPA) and Smogon Premier League (SPL), and said he is feeling very good going into this event. He also has a top 4 finish at the Anaheim Open, as well as a top 8 finish at Ft. Wayne Regionals. Ben Grissmer has shown to be good in the 2018 format as of late, as he recently got top 4 at the Sydney Challenge, hosted by Zelda. He also sports a Day 2, 2017 NA Internats and a top 16 finish at Memphis regionals. Alexander Williams has had multiple strong Ohio finishes, as well as a Top 16 finish at Ft. Wayne. With no current major top Cuts, Williams is looking to finally break into the promised land. Jake Skurchak has been extremely strong as of late, having just won the first New York MSS and earning a top 16 finish at Daytona. Shurchak boasts an impressive list of accomplishments, but his two best are a top 8 at the 2015 Seniors World Championships and Top 12 at the 2016 US National Championships.
Early season regional cuts seem to be a common theme here. Kevin Swastek and Don Czech have both done exactly that. Swastek got top 8 at both Ft. Wayne and Hartford regionals, and Czech placed 3rd at Daytona. Don Czech also sports a 10th place finish at Hartford, and a 17th place finish at Memphis. Dylan Salvanera has a top 16 finish at Ft. Wayne along with a string of local finishes. He also placed top 16 at Dallas last year. James Eakes began his season by cutting the Anaheim Open, finishing top 16. He has since added a top 32 at San Jose regionals and a top 128 at London internationals. Brandon Meckley finished top 16 at Memphis and top 32 at Hartford, and both he and Eakes have second place finishes from last season, at Mexico City regionals and Anaheim regionals, respectively.
The Freshmen Class
We have quite a mixed-bag of first-years entering the fray. Ben Goff has had an underwhelming Masters year so far, going to multiple regionals but failing countless times to get CP. Goff’s most notable accomplishment as a master is popularizing the Chansey team that has become the bane of many player’s existence during the past month, winning the Kansas City MSS with it. Ben Omnes-Norton will be making his Masters regional debut, and had a very good showing as a senior with a Day 2 Worlds invite in 2017. He has also done well at multiple of his local MSS’ to act as some in real life practice.
Jared Woitalla has done well at locals, but has failed to step up on the regionals stage past an X-3 finish. Perhaps Dallas and this new format will be able to do him some justice. Eli North has shown consistency so far in this new frontier, boasting 6-2 finishes at both Memphis and Hartford regionals. He is a strong contender to finally break into top cut.
Giovanni Costa has gotten his beloved Mega Gengar-Whimsicott core back, and has started the format off strong with a second place finish at the Los Angeles MSS on January 1. He also placed top 64 at the Anaheim Open at the beginning of the cycle. Riley Factura earned a day 2 worlds invite in 2017, and already has a regional top cut this season, placing top 8 at Portland in October. Gary Qian also cut that regional and will be attending this one. He’s known for his VERY unconventional teams, which can be somewhat hit or miss, but when they hit they’re hard to stop. Finally, rounding out the west coast cast is the up-and-coming Scerry Terry himself, Terry Hong.
New York/New Jersey:
Justin Carris has 0 regional finishes this season, so all of his points have come from his local NY/NJ MSS’. Overall, he is a very strong player, with 2 Regional Top 8 finishes, a Day 2 National Finish, and 2 Day 2 Worlds finishes; one of which was a Top 8. Maura Hazen has multiple MSS and PC finishes in NY/NJ. She is one of the strongest players in the region, but has yet to see any sort of success on a bigger stage. As of right now, she has 2 MSS Top 8 finishes and Top 4 at a PC. She will be looking for success this weekend. James Baek is just below the 200 CP mark, and has gotten there with a Top 8 at Orlando and a Top 64 finish at Hartford along with some MSS and PC finishes. James is feeling cool and confident right now, he thinks of Dallas as just another event. Sohaib Mufti is coming off of a Top 8 at Hartford regionals as well as a 2nd place finish at the AON Grassroots tournament in New York. Mufti is looking to add a 3rd Top Cut in addition to his Top 16 at Georgia in 2015. Vincent Moltavo is the strange card here. He is not the most well-known player, even amongst some of his locals, but has shown to be a very strong player. So far, Vincent has a Top 4 finish at the NY MSS, as well as a win at the MIT MSS. He has been using a variant of TheRazer’s early meta team, and has been extremely strong with it. Vincent is hoping to add a second regional Top Cut to compliment his Top 16 at Lancaster back in 2015.
Justin Burns kicks off this section as probably the most accomplished player here. Burns so far only has an MSS 2nd place and a Top 16 finish at Memphis regionals to his name this season. Overall, Burns has a Regionals Win, Runner-Up and multiple Top 8 finishes in addition to 2 Day 2 Worlds finishes. Corey Esmeier is a very strong Ohio native, being able to do well at multiple of the local events. His crowning achievement is getting 11th at the 2017 Toronto Regional. Corey is going to be looking for his first regional Top Cut this weekend. Ethan Simpson is known to be a Top 8 hound, having 3 regional Top 8 finishes and more Top 16’s. Ethan has a Top 8 at Memphis regionals to his name this season, and that’s about it. He’ll be hoping to break into the high echelon of CP standings this week. Diana Bros has all of her CP from MSS’ this year, as she has not attended a single Regional. Bros also has won the award for “Least Amount of Confidence Compared to their Actual Skill,” as she never seems too confident going into events. She will be looking to get higher into the standings this week. Sam Schweitzer has done nothing this season, and probably isn’t hoping to do well this weekend either. To be honest, he’s kind of a wild card going into this event. Louis Milich is quite the workhorse. He has a Top 64 finish at the Anaheim Open, and 2 MSS finishes to his name this season. He has been putting in a lot of work for this event, so I guess we’ll see how it works out for him.
Kazuki Kanehira was introduced to VGC by 2015 national champion Toler Webb at college, and started out 7-0 at his first event ever, eventually ending up with a top 4 finish at Roanoke regionals. The east coast crew contains several members of the Smogon squad as well, namely Rajan Bal, Robbie Moore, Alvin Hidayat, and Jeremy Gross. The 4 of them have a similar list of accomplishments: all have made day 2 of a national championship, and all have at least one regional top cut. Bal and Hidayat made day 2 of 2017 worlds, while Moore and Gross both fell a win short and then placed top 64 at the Anaheim Open. Of the 4, Gross is the only one who hasn’t managed to break into top 4 at a regional and earn one of those coveted trophies.
Call us a fanzo of Chris Danzo. Despite a lack of tournament finishes since making day 2 of the 2017 world championships (due in no small part to a shortage of east coast events) the New Jersey native has been playing extremely well as of late. Danzo is no stranger to regional top cuts either, having cut four in a row through VGC 2016 and 2017. Watch his NPA analysis streams and you will see the depth of his understanding for this game and this format.