The 2017 VGC season kicked off in Arizona this past weekend at the Phoenix Regional Championship as 129 masters division competitors battled it out for an early lead in the Championship Point standings. Let’s take a look at the players that rose to the top and the Pokémon they chose to bring.
Riley Factura claims a third regional title
The community has seen Riley Factura rise to the top again and again. After his win in Phoenix, Factura has joined the ranks of only a handful of elite players by attaining his third Regional victory. He dominated the Saturday Swiss rounds with a record of 7 wins and 1 loss and proceeded to clean up on Sunday by winning 3 consecutive top cut sets.
Factura’s team featured the Dual Primal archetype consisting of Primal Groudon and Primal Kyogre, with Mega Kangaskhan, Whimsicott, Cresselia and Bronzong serving as the supporting cast. These teams focus on the offense and defense afforded by the Primals, relying on masterful positioning to provide the proper speed control and weather needed to win.
While some may view the duo of Cresselia and Bronzong as redundant, the combination of two Trick Room setters has seen much success. Aaron Traylor (@NBUnreality) notably piloted the pair to the finals of the US National Championships, and Carson Confer (@carson_confer) brought the duo all the way to a World Championship victory in the Seniors Division. The idea of using both Pokémon allows for a wider range of options against opposing teams. Bronzong serves as the Trick Room setter of choice against teams that feature Groudon and Xerneas, whereas Cresselia offers leverage against most other archetypes. This matchup flexibility gave Factura many options in deciding what to bring to battle.
Whimsicott was another interesting choice on Factura’s team, a Pokémon that has seen sparse success throughout the format. Whimsicott allowed Factura to utilize additional control options and dealt significant damage to Yveltal, which can become quite a nuisance to Dual Primal teams.
The combination of innovative tactics maximized the potential of the Dual Primal archetype that he chose to bring, allowing him for optimized control in almost every scenario he faced. This victory netted Factura $1,000 and the spot as the current leader of worldwide Championship Points.
A blend of both new and familiar faces in top cut
The defending Phoenix Regional Champion Patrick Smith (@SalaMenaceVGC) found himself finishing in the Top 4, just shy of the finals. He also finished 2nd at the Southern California Regional, and most recently, 17th at the World Championships. Smith utilized the same six Pokémon as Traylor’s US Nationals team: Primal Groudon, Xerneas, Mega Salamence, Smeargle, Cresselia and Bronzong. Though the scene has seen a decline in Groudon/Xerneas teams since the World Championships, Smith demonstrated it was still quite capable of wreaking havoc.
2-time Regional Champion Alberto Lara (@Alberto310) managed to finish in the Top 8 in Phoenix with a team of Primal Groudon, Xerneas, Mega Salamence, Mega Kangaskhan, Talonflame and Cresselia. This team is similar to the “BigC” variant of Groudon Xerneas that has seen success. However, Lara’s team features Talonflame in the slot that usually contains Smeargle, opting for a more offensive team member.
Also finishing in the Top 8 was Brandon Tuchtenhagen (@DankVoid_), a player who has seen success by finishing in the Top 16 at Worlds in Seniors in 2012. He brought a team consisting of Primal Groudon, Xerneas, Mega Kangaskhan, Hitmontop, Bronzong and Cresselia. Tuchtenhagen, similar to Factura and Smith, also brought the combination of Bronzong and Cresselia, revealing the incredible strength in options that the two Pokémon provide.
Though many known players performed well, several players made the top cut who have seen notable, but intermittent success. Zach Miller finished in 2nd place in Phoenix, bringing a team of Primal Groudon, Xerneas, Mega Kangaskhan, Gengar, Talonflame and Amoonguss. Anthony Stefani (@AndoVGC) brought a Dual Primals team consisting of Primal Groudon, Primal Kyogre, Mega Kangaskhan, Mega Salamence, Thundurus and Bronzong to the Top 4. Jorge Paz (@captainbrockVGC) similarly led Dual Primals to finish in Top 8, using Primal Groudon, Primal Kyogre, Mega Kangaskhan, Mega Mawile, Thundurus and Cresselia. Matthew Jackson (@MatthewMJ17) brought Primal Groudon, Xerneas, Mega Kangaskhan, Mega Gengar, Bronzong and Whimsicott to Top 8, as well.
Though the World Championships seemed to have foreshadowed a decrease in the use of Groudon/Xerneas teams, they proved to be stronger than ever in Phoenix. The other most common archetype in Top 8 was Dual Primals, suggesting that its strength still endures. Though many predicted Wolfe Glick’s World Championship team to have a solid showing, it did not see any strong performances in Phoenix. Perhaps the most interesting taekaway, though, is the use of both Bronzong and Cresselia on three top cut teams. While this duo has seen occasional success, its matchup coverage proved to be highly beneficial on teams in Phoenix.
The stage is set for 2017
Many well-known players placed just outside of top cut, finishing with a record of 6 wins and 2 losses, but barely missing out due to resistance. Kimo Nishimura, Giovanni Costa, Carlos Coss, William Hall, Chase Lybbert, Tommy Cooleen, Ian McLaughlin, Bridger Snow, Jake Muller, Justin Wan and Tyson Gernack all finished just short. With so many big names missing top cut due to resistance, it begs the question as to whether the policy of only 8 players in top-cut is healthy for the competitive scene.
Regardless of tournament finishes, Phoenix also reintroduced trophy “bricks” for the top four finishers, an award previously reserved just for the finisher in 2016. Additionally, it was the first Regional with significant monetary prizes for high performances, paving the way for upcoming larger tournaments. As the commencing event for the 2017 season, only time will tell to what extent it will influence the scene.