Where are you from, and how did you get into competitive Pokémon (and Pokémon in general)?
I am from Chicago, Illinois and I am a longtime Pokémon player. My relatives in Texas gave me a Game Boy Pocket and Pokémon Blue Version as a parting gift during my family’s summer vacation in 1999. I have played through every generation, even when Pokémon’s popularity was declining in the early 2000s.
Nintendo Power magazine is what I credit for entering me into the competitive Pokémon scene. In the winter of 2005, there was a one or two-page spread advertising qualifier tests that funneled into a Pokémon tournament celebrating the release of Pokémon Emerald. I managed to make it all the way to the tournament, which was single battle, later that spring. I didn’t win it but from the other players there I learned a lot about many of the hidden features Pokémon has to offer, such as effort values. Knowing that I could improve my training, I was always on the lookout for future competitions after that tournament. My search led me to the Journey Across America (JAA) in 2006 and VGC’s first official season in 2009.
What was the team you used for this event?
It was a spin of Wolfe Glick’s Winter Regional 1st place team. While the team normally consists of Primal Kyogre, Dialga, Mega Salamence, Ferrothorn, Thundurus and Landorus-Therian, I used Mega Gengar instead of Landorus.
Why did you choose the Pokémon you did?
Several members of the team are very good checks to the common Pokémon in the 2016 format. To provide some basic examples, Salamence does well against Groudon, Ferrothorn does well against Kyogre, and Dialga does well against opposing dragons such as Salamence and Rayquaza. The team also has several options for speed control, such as Thunder Wave, Tailwind, and Trick Room, which is an important part of any VGC format. As for Mega Gengar, I selected it over Landorus simply due to personal preference-I wasn’t really comfortable with the way Landorus was played on the team despite its incredible synergy. On the other hand, I have been using Gengar for a good majority of this format, so I went with what I knew how to play. Gengar is quite useful against teams built around Xerneas and simplifies the game a little with its Shadow Tag ability.
Were there any particular matches that stood out in your mind?
I would have to say the quarterfinals against Calvin Chan, in part because we have a long history. Back in 2006, we actually played in the Chicago Regional for JAA in the round of 8 or 16-I can’t remember exactly. Regardless, Calvin won and ended up playing in the finals for both that regional and the national championship later that summer in New York City. He was somewhat of an idol to me growing up, so it is always an honor to play against him.
For this tournament, both our Swiss round and Top 8 matches were extremely tight, 3-game sets. I lost game 1 in both series, and lost the match in Swiss, but was fortunate enough to come back from that deficit in the Top 8 match.
If you used a team similar to this again, is there anything you might change?
I would actually consider using Landorus instead of Mega Gengar as was originally intended. The rest of the team is a very solid core so reconfiguring that doesn’t really make sense to me. However, minor adjustments can always be made to suit a player’s personal playstyle.
What are your thoughts on the new VGC format?
I enjoy the 2016 VGC format, but a majority of the community probably doesn’t share that sentiment. The general complaints consist of too many luck factors outside of players’ control and strong centralization around a select group of Pokémon. I have been playing competitively for a long time and those issues have arisen every year to varying degrees. I simply brush them aside because I’m used to it and well hey, it’s Pokémon. Another important thing I don’t think players realize is how special this format is. This format allows for two restricted Pokémon to be on your team from a group of 15, such as Mewtwo, Groudon, and Kyogre. Normally, since they are so overpowered compared to other Pokémon, they are always sitting on the sidelines because they are not allowed to play in official formats. This year is only the 3rd time I’ve been able to use these Pokémon in a double battle format (the last two being in 2006 and 2010), so I am appreciating every second of this format because who knows, it may be another four to six years until we see these Pokémon in competitive play again.
Any advice for other players?
First, I strongly recommend watching the YouTube channels created by accomplished players Aaron Zheng, Markus Stadter, and Wolfe Glick. All three of them are repeat National Champions, provide high quality content, and are generously using their own time to entertain and more importantly to educate the VGC player base, both old and new. Also, I think for beginners it’s important to stay positive and not get easily discouraged if success eludes you early on. Pokémon players also need to be self-critical about their play, which many struggle to do. To elaborate, I tend to be very hard on myself when I make mistakes and accept the luck factors for what they are. Lastly, be sure you are playing Pokémon for the right reasons: Play because the game is fun for you. Play because you enjoy the people you are around when you compete. Play for the love of the game.