Wolfe Glick’s tournament run at the 2016 Pokémon Video Game World Championship in San Francisco proved that he is the very best in the world.
What made the accomplishment truly memorable is that he had to claw his way to the top from the very bottom of the tournament. Because Glick finished with only a 5-4 record at the US National Championship, he missed the coveted invitation into the second day of the World Championship. So, if Glick wanted to even get within sight of the championship, he first needed to escape the bloodbath of the first day by winning six out of eight rounds.
Glick charged straight through the competition, making a statement by going undefeated with a 6-0 record in day one. He never applied the brakes in day two, either. Once again, he dominated his peers and finished 6-1. His only loss went to 12th-place-finisher, Edward Cheung of Hong Kong.
Once he moved onto the single elimination bracket portion of the tournament, competition began to heat up. However, Glick continued winning and kept moving closer to the title of World Champion. One of his toughest matches was in the semifinals, where he had to face his best friend and team-building partner, Markus Stadter of Germany. Glick was ultimately able to outpace Stadter and move onto the finals. The last time he’d made it that far was in 2012, where he lost to three-time world champion, Ray Rizzo.
In what may go down as the most important match of Wolfe Glick’s career, he was paired against fellow American, Jonathan Evans. Evans was certainly the underdog going into the battle, but he was now one of the top two players in the world and proved to be a formidable opponent.
Above all else, Glick has finally earned the title of “World Champion,” which has eluded him for so long. Immediately after winning, during in his interview on stream, Glick explained what winning meant to him.
“This is something that I’ve worked really hard for,” Glick said. “I came really close a couple of times, so to finally achieve what I was starting to feel was un-achievable is just, like, the best feeling in the world.”
Glick went home at the end of the tournament with $10,000, but he won’t be staying there forever. His win this year has earned him an invite to the second day of Worlds 2017, in Anaheim, where he will likely try to secure his second victory and knock at Ray Rizzo’s door for the title of the “greatest of all time.”
After many years of coming close to winning the championship, what pushed Glick over the top this year? The difference seemed to be in his innovative team.
Despite many players expecting Groudon/Xerneas to dominate Worlds, it was Glick’s Rayquaza/Kyogre team that rose to the top. RayOgre is an archetype that saw minor success throughout the season but wasn’t on the top list of threats going into Worlds. That being said, Glick’s team wasn’t like most RayOgre teams seen before. Instead of utilizing Rayquaza’s Air Lock ability so that Kyogre can use devastating water type attacks to check Primal Groudon, Glick pioneered a more defensive variant that focused instead on maintaining good board positioning while protecting Kyogre.
To allow for such a defensive playstyle, the team used the move Fake Out on both Hitmontop and Raichu. This disruption on a turn-by-turn basis allowed Glick to fire off massive damage or gain a desired switch. Additionally, he used Volt Switch on Raichu and an Eject Button on Hitmontop to consistently gain the right positioning and reset Hitmontop’s Intimidate. This “revolving door” also meant that the Fake Out would again be ever-present on the field, buying Glick an additional advantage.
While the team featured the positioning-oriented mode, Glick also had another trick up his sleeve geared towards the Groudon/Xerneas matchup. His use of Mega Gengar allowed him to have many options against the common Pokémon on these teams: Taunt for Smeargle, Sludge Bomb for Xerneas and Will-O-Wisp for Kangaskhan. Additionally, Mega Gengar’s Shadow Tag ability prevents switching, allowing Glick to capitalize on favorable positioning against Groudon/Xerneas teams.
The last member of the winning team was Bronzong, a Pokémon that has seen increasing success throughout the season. It is primarily used for the move Trick Room, making slower Pokémon move first. This allowed Glick to put the speed favor on his side if his opponent’s Pokémon were faster. Bronzong also had Gyro Ball to deal massive damage to the ever-present Xerneas, and Skill Swap to reset Kyogre’s Primordial Sea. The most atypical move on his Bronzong, however, was Safeguard. This prevented status from afflicting his side, stopping Dark Void in its tracks.
“[The team] wasn’t about taking KO’s now,” Glick said of his strategy on stream after his victory. “It was about setting yourself up to win the game later.”
Glick’s winning team led others to success as well, as semifinalist Markus Stadter, quarter-finalist Baris Akcos, and Seniors quarter-finalist Brendan Zheng all used the same team.
Feature photo courtesy of Doug Morisoli