When most players win a regional, they’re happy to have the championship points or the cash prizes. However, when Drew Nowak finished first in the Dallas Regional Championship, the only thing he really cared about was respect.
“Anyone will say they’re happy because, I mean, that’s $3000 you just put in your pocket and another regional title,” Nowak said. “But that was big for me because my whole goal with 2017 was to prove that 2016 wasn’t a fluke. Being able to do that in a really stacked regional felt really satisfying to me.”
Nowak explained that, even after winning the 2016 Collinsville regional, two Mid-season Showdowns and top-cutting the World Championships, people were still quick to blow him and his ideas off. On top of that, since he’s never been able to travel much, few outside his area know of his accomplishments.
Part of that might have to do with 2016’s perception in the community. That year, qualifying for Worlds was easier than it had ever been and there were only a handful of viable team-archetypes. Nowak said no one openly wrote off his performance, but he understood the way his peers felt about 2016. A supportive tweet following his victory only reaffirmed his beliefs.
— 🌲Caleb Ryor ⛄️ (@CableVGC) January 2, 2017
Still, with a solid win early in the 2017 season, Nowak has proven he is a force to be reckoned with. To make it more impressive, he did it with a team he got the morning before the regional started. In the days leading up to Dallas, Nowak said he was testing Pokémon like Snorlax which, while good in theory, wasn’t working well enough.
“I needed something consistent, and I needed something that would be good against whatever I played,” Nowak said. That’s when his friend, top four World Championship competitor Eduardo Cunha came in. He had the perfect team.
With Tapu Koko, Kartana, Salamence, Mudsdale, Porygon2 and Araquanid, Nowak was able to make top cut with a 7-2 record in Swiss. During that time, he played plenty of other top 16 competitors, such as Kimo Nishimura, Patrick Smith and Nick Navarre. While all three games were intense, his decisive loss in the last match would be a huge factor in top cut.
After beating Kamran Jahadi and Austin Bastida-Ramos in two, close, three-set games, Nowak found himself staring down Navarre once more in the top four. This time, though, Nowak was ready. Out of all his potential top-cut opponents, he spent most of his time preparing for a rematch with Navarre.
While Nowak admits it was risky to only prepare for a single top four opponent out of the potential four players he could have faced, he said he carefully thought through that portion of the bracket. He predicted that Navarre would beat Giovanni Costa, that Nishimura would beat Jeremy Rodrigues and that Navarre would beat Nishimura in top eight.
During their set, Nowak was able to stay one step ahead of Navarre in the prediction-game. This let him maintain the momentum, keeping up the offensive pressure and ensuring that his few switches provided maximum value. Granted, a pair of Snarl misses on Tapu Koko across games one and two may have been a factor.
Regardless, Nowak had done to Navarre what he said Navarre had done to him in the last round of Swiss. And with the set he was afraid of most behind him, a strange feeling settled in before his final match against Collin Heier
“I know this is gonna sound weird with finals and a $2,000 money match, but I really didn’t care at that point,” Nowak said. “I was felt really laid back rather than uptight, like really able to joke around with everybody there. I wasn’t really expecting to beat Collin anyway, because he’s such a great player.”
Heier demonstrated his skill straight out the gate, taking advantage of Trick Room to put Nowak on the ropes. He also exploited Nowak’s lack of knowledge about Araquanid/Vikavolt speed tiers to take a free knock out. In game two, Nowak returned to his more aggressive play-style and started off by covering a Tapu Fini switch in with a Kartana Leaf Blade. Both players would eventually trade those mons, but Nowak had taken care of a huge threat to his team.
In the following turns, Metagross and Arcanine on Heier’s side stared down a Salamence and Araquanid on Nowak’s. After Nowak chunked Metagross for about half of its HP with a Liquidation, Heier didn’t want to risk a Flamethrower KO from Salamence the following turn. Playing it safe, he protected with Metagross and tried to weaken Salamence’s damage output with a Snarl. However, Nowak predicted that and blocked it with a Wide Guard. From that point on, Nowak said he never relinquished control.
“I’m not sure why,” Nowak said, “but immediately after he snarled into my Wide Guard in game two, I just knew the set was mine.”
Following a double KO on Heier’s side, the finalists wasted no time getting into game three. Nowak immediately secured the advantage, getting a turn one Tapu Fini knock out with a critical hit from Kartana’s Leaf Blade. Then, one turn later, a defense drop onto Porygon2 enabled a second Liquidation to take it out on turn three. From there, it was just a matter of mopping up Metagross with a Tapu Koko Thunderbolt and forcing Vikavolt to deal with Koko and Salamence. With no chance of winning, Heier conceded the championship to Nowak.
Now, with the win under his belt, Nowak said he plans to focus on locking up his local Mid-season Showdowns in an attempt to secure a stipend for Australia’s International Championships. Otherwise, he’ll bide his time until March’s Collinsville regional, where he hopes to defend his title.