Pokémon Players Cup III Video Game Global Finals Preview

By contributing writer Aaron Zheng


This weekend is your chance to watch 16 of the best Pokémon video game players in the world compete in the Pokémon Players Cup III Video Game Global Finals! The Global Finals use the Ranked Battle Series 8 rules, allowing Trainers to field one restricted Pokémon—the extremely powerful Legendary Pokémon normally prohibited from tournaments. Series 8 is particularly exciting as it is the first format in competitive Pokémon video game history that allows just one restricted Pokémon. In 2010, 2016, and 2019, players were allowed to use up to two restricted Pokémon!

Our 16 finalists had to fight through multiple different qualifying tournaments to make it to the Global Finals. Here are the players who are competing for the title of Pokémon Players Cup III Champion this weekend:

Europe: Leonardo Bonanomi, Rafael Busutil, Francesco Pio Pero, Roberto Porretti
Latin America: Gabriel Agati, Alberto Daza, Alejandro Diaz, Orlando Luna
North America: Michael D'Angelo, Jonathan Evans, Alec Rubin, Joseph Ugarte
Oceania: Christopher Egan, James Mainey, Daniel Quek, Yoav Reuven

Just like the previous Pokémon Players Cup Global Finals, they will be playing in a double-elimination tournament. Players will also be given access to their opponent's team lists before each match, allowing them to see what items their opponent's Pokémon are carrying and what moves the Pokémon have (though not stats).

One new addition to the Pokémon Players Cup III Global Finals is the introduction of best-of-five sets, which will be used in the final sets of the tournament (winners bracket finals, losers bracket finals, grand finals). Very few players have experience playing best-of-five sets, so it'll be especially exciting to see how the last few players adapt to this brand-new tournament format.

Let's take a look at some of the top teams from the Region Finals and what you might expect to see in the Global Finals this weekend! As a reminder, you can watch the Pokémon Players Cup III finals live at Twitch.tv/Pokemon or YouTube.com/Pokemon on April 23–25, starting at 11 a.m. PDT each day.


Standout Teams from the Pokémon Players Cup III VG Region Finals

We got a sneak peek of how top players approach team building in Series 8 through the Region Qualifiers, which took place a few weeks ago. Here are some standout teams that were especially interesting! As a reminder, the finalists can switch up their team between the Region and Global Finals. However, these standout teams highlight some of the strongest strategies in the format, and it is likely that players will bring similar ideas to the finals. You can see all of the finalists and their teams here.


  • Incineroar
    Regieleki
    Charizard
    Venusaur
    Umbreon
    Groudon
    Francesco Pio Pero’s Region Finals Team
Incineroar
Regieleki
Charizard
Venusaur
Umbreon
Groudon
Moves:
  • Flare Blitz
  • Darkest Lariat
  • U-turn
  • Fake Out
Held Item:
  • Assault Vest
Ability:
  • Intimidate
Moves:
  • Protect
  • Thunderbolt
  • Volt Switch
  • Electroweb
Held Item:
  • Focus Sash
Ability:
  • Transistor
Moves:
  • Protect
  • Blast Burn
  • Hurricane
  • Heat Wave
Held Item:
  • Life Orb
Ability:
  • Solar Power
Moves:
  • Sleep Powder
  • Sludge Bomb
  • Frenzy Plant
  • Weather Ball
Held Item:
  • Coba Berry
Ability:
  • Chlorophyll
Moves:
  • Moonlight
  • Foul Play
  • Yawn
  • Snarl
Held Item:
  • Leftovers
Ability:
  • Inner Focus
Moves:
  • Protect
  • Swords Dance
  • Precipice Blades
  • Rock Slide
Held Item:
  • Sitrus Berry
Ability:
  • Drought
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  • Regieleki
    Groudon
    Charizard
    Umbreon
    Venusaur
    Incineroar
    Leonardo Bonanomi’s Region Finals Team
Regieleki
Groudon
Charizard
Umbreon
Venusaur
Incineroar
Moves:
  • Electroweb
  • Thunderbolt
  • Volt Switch
  • Protect
Held Item:
  • Magnet
Ability:
  • Transistor
Moves:
  • Precipice Blades
  • Rock Slide
  • Swords Dance
  • Protect
Held Item:
  • Sitrus Berry
Ability:
  • Drought
Moves:
  • Blast Burn
  • Heat Wave
  • Hurricane
  • Protect
Held Item:
  • Life Orb
Ability:
  • Solar Power
Moves:
  • Foul Play
  • Snarl
  • Yawn
  • Moonlight
Held Item:
  • Leftovers
Ability:
  • Inner Focus
Moves:
  • Sleep Powder
  • Leaf Storm
  • Sludge Bomb
  • Weather Ball
Held Item:
  • Focus Sash
Ability:
  • Chlorophyll
Moves:
  • U-turn
  • Flare Blitz
  • Darkest Lariat
  • Fake Out
Held Item:
  • Assault Vest
Ability:
  • Intimidate
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Both undefeated players from the Europe Region Qualifiers—Francesco Pio Pero and Leonardo Bonanomi—used the same sun strategy-based team to qualify for the Global Finals! Their team centers around multiple offensive options, such as Gigantamax Venusaur, Gigantamax Charizard holding a Life Orb, and Groudon with Swords Dance.

Francesco and Leonardo made several interesting choices for their team. The first is their Charizard move set, opting for Blast Burn and Hurricane. These moves become high base power Max Moves during Gigantamax at the expense of being less flexible under normal conditions. They also had Venusaur hold a Focus Sash, which has fallen out of popularity recently in favor of items like Coba Berry, Life Orb, and Weakness Policy. Finally, they chose to use Umbreon for support. Umbreon is a strong pick in Series 8, as it can disrupt opponents with moves like Snarl and Yawn and synergizes particularly well with Groudon, since Umbreon's Moonlight can heal for more in harsh sunlight.


  • Mimikyu
    Calyrex
    Venusaur
    Torkoal
    Indeedee
    Incineroar
    Alec Rubin’s Region Finals Team
Mimikyu
Calyrex
Venusaur
Torkoal
Indeedee
Incineroar
Moves:
  • Shadow Sneak
  • Trick Room
  • Will-O-Wisp
  • Safeguard
Held Item:
  • Mental Herb
Ability:
  • Disguise
Moves:
  • Glacial Lance
  • High Horsepower
  • Trick Room
  • Protect
Held Item:
  • Weakness Policy
Ability:
  • As One
Moves:
  • Frenzy Plant
  • Earth Power
  • Weather Ball
  • Sleep Powder
Held Item:
  • Life Orb
Ability:
  • Chlorophyll
Moves:
  • Heat Wave
  • Eruption
  • Yawn
  • Protect
Held Item:
  • Charcoal
Ability:
  • Drought
Moves:
  • Expanding Force
  • Helping Hand
  • Follow Me
  • Protect
Held Item:
  • Safety Goggles
Ability:
  • Psychic Surge
Moves:
  • Fake Out
  • Flare Blitz
  • Darkest Lariat
  • U-turn
Held Item:
  • Assault Vest
Ability:
  • Intimidate
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Alec Rubin dominated the North America Region Qualifiers, finishing with a perfect 7–0 record to qualify for the Global Finals. He built his team around two of the strongest duos in the format right now—Ice Rider Calyrex with Mimikyu and Torkoal with Venusaur.

The first duo centers around Trick Room. Since Ice Rider Calyrex is relatively slow, players typically like to set up Trick Room to help it move before its opponents. Mimikyu holding a Mental Herb is a popular partner for several reasons. First, its Disguise Ability helps it set up Trick Room more reliably. Mimikyu can also use Shadow Sneak to activate Calyrex's Weakness Policy, allowing Calyrex to tear through opposing teams under Trick Room. Alec opted for a supportive Mimikyu using Safeguard and Will-O-Wisp to protect Calyrex as much as possible.

The second duo centers around harsh sunlight. Torkoal and Venusaur have been a dominant pairing for several formats now and they continue to be popular in Series 8. While Groudon is often the preferred partner for Venusaur, Alec already has a restricted Pokémon on his team in Calyrex, making Torkoal the best available Pokémon with Drought.

Alec's team is particularly tough to prepare for due to its flexibility. Pokémon that typically do well dealing with the sunlight core of Torkoal and Venusaur often struggle immensely against the Trick Room core of Ice Rider Calyrex and Mimikyu, and vice versa.


  • Urshifu
    Thundurus
    Weezing
    Calyrex
    Regigigas
    Rillaboom
    Alberto Daza’s Region Finals Team
Urshifu
Thundurus
Weezing
Calyrex
Regigigas
Rillaboom
Moves:
  • Sucker Punch
  • Close Combat
  • Wicked Blow
  • Detect
Held Item:
  • Focus Sash
Ability:
  • Unseen Fist
Moves:
  • Wild Charge
  • Fly
  • Superpower
  • Foul Play
Held Item:
  • Assault Vest
Ability:
  • Defiant
Moves:
  • Taunt
  • Sludge Bomb
  • Will-O-Wisp
  • Protect
Held Item:
  • Aguav Berry
Ability:
  • Neutralizing Gas
Moves:
  • Psyshock
  • Protect
  • Substitute
  • Astral Barrage
Held Item:
  • Spell Tag
Ability:
  • As One
Moves:
  • High Horsepower
  • Ice Punch
  • Giga Impact
  • Protect
Held Item:
  • Life Orb
Ability:
  • Slow Start
Moves:
  • Grassy Glide
  • High Horsepower
  • U-turn
  • Fake Out
Held Item:
  • Miracle Seed
Ability:
  • Grassy Surge
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Alberto Daza had one of the most unique qualifying teams, using Shadow Rider Calyrex as well as Weezing and Regigigas. Regigigas was a popular pick in Series 7 and even made it to the Players Cup II Global Finals. While it is not as common in Series 8, it can be a fantastic offensive option, especially on teams that prefer not to Dynamax their restricted Pokémon. In Alberto's case, Shadow Rider Calyrex is often better when it is not Dynamaxed so it can hit both opponents with Astral Barrage. (Note that both can be on the same team because many Legendary Pokémon, including Regigigas, aren't on the usual restricted list.)

Alberto's team is very fast-paced and hyper-offensive. It aims to win games as quickly as possible by utilizing Dynamax effectively. Alberto also had several interesting move choices on his team, such as Foul Play on Thundurus and Substitute on Calyrex. Substitute is a particularly strong option on Calyrex to help stall out an opposing Dynamax.


  • Zacian
    Coalossal
    Salamence
    Rillaboom
    Dragapult
    Urshifu
    Gabriel Agati’s Region Finals Team
Zacian
Coalossal
Salamence
Rillaboom
Dragapult
Urshifu
Moves:
  • Protect
  • Iron Head
  • Sacred Sword
  • Substitute
Held Item:
  • Rusted Sword
Ability:
  • Intrepid Sword
Moves:
  • Protect
  • Meteor Beam
  • Heat Wave
  • Solar Beam
Held Item:
  • Weakness Policy
Ability:
  • Steam Engine
Moves:
  • Protect
  • Dual Wingbeat
  • Outrage
  • Rock Slide
Held Item:
  • Life Orb
Ability:
  • Intimidate
Moves:
  • U-turn
  • Grassy Glide
  • Knock Off
  • Fake Out
Held Item:
  • Assault Vest
Ability:
  • Grassy Surge
Moves:
  • Breaking Swipe
  • Surf
  • Will-O-Wisp
  • Light Screen
Held Item:
  • Safety Goggles
Ability:
  • Clear Body
Moves:
  • Detect
  • Surging Strikes
  • Close Combat
  • Aqua Jet
Held Item:
  • Focus Sash
Ability:
  • Unseen Fist
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Gabriel Agati is the only player in the world to qualify for all three Pokémon Players Cup Global Finals. It's only fitting that he used a Coalossal team to qualify for this weekend's finals, considering that Coalossal has been on the last two teams to win Pokémon Players Cups.

Gabriel used the standard Coalossal core of Rillaboom, Coalossal, Dragapult, and Urshifu. For his restricted Pokémon, he opted for Zacian—a strong choice considering Coalossal is Gigantamaxed in almost every game it's selected for. Gabriel's last Pokémon was a unique Salamence, designed to beat the popular sunlight core of Venusaur, Charizard, and Groudon. Sunlight teams in particular can give Coalossal a tough time, but Salamence drastically improved Gabriel's matchup with them.

Gabriel wasn't the only player to qualify for the Global Finals with Coalossal. Three other players—Mike D'Angelo, Roberto Poretti, and Joseph Ugarte—also used Coalossal teams, each with their own unique twist. Mike, for example, used an offensive Dragapult with Life Orb to give him another potential Dynamax option. Roberto used an Incarnate Forme Landorus on his team, while Joseph was the only player out of the four to not use Zacian, opting for Yveltal instead.


What to Expect from the Pokémon Players Cup III VG Finals

Pokémon to Watch

If the qualifying teams are any indicator, it's clear that the most popular restricted Pokémon are Groudon, Zacian, Ice Rider Calyrex, and Shadow Rider Calyrex. (You can learn more about each of these Pokémon in the Pokémon Players Cup III Video Game Region Finals Power Rankings.) I expect that the majority of our finalists' teams will include one of these Pokémon due to their consistency. Kyogre in particular is interesting to me—many players expected it to be one of the most dominant restricted Pokémon, but it failed to live up to expectations in the Region Finals. Only one finalist, Jonathan Evans, qualified with a Kyogre on their team. Despite this, I still think it can go toe-to-toe with the other common restricted Pokémon, although it might not be as popular in the finals. Other less common restricted Pokémon that I think could be strong picks going into the Global Finals are Dialga, White Kyurem, Yveltal, Solgaleo, and Dusk Mane Necrozma.

As for non-restricted Pokémon, expect to see the following Pokémon in supportive roles: Umbreon, Whimsicott, Amoonguss, Tornadus, Incineroar, Grimmsnarl, and Indeedee. These Pokémon typically don't do very much damage, but they aim to set up their teammates for success. Grimmsnarl in particular has been an extremely consistent option in Series 8 and will often set up Light Screen and/or Reflect to help its teammates survive more attacks.

It's also important for teams to have offensive options outside of just their restricted Pokémon. Some common picks include Therian Forme Thundurus, Therian Forme Landorus, Rillaboom, Urshifu, and Regieleki. Several Gigantamax Pokémon have also had an appropriately outsized impact on the format. Venusaur, Charizard, Lapras, and Coalossal were all popular picks among the qualifying teams and will likely continue to see usage in the Global Finals.


General Strategies

Sunlight: Teams featuring the Drought Ability have been incredibly dominant in Series 8 and will be one of the top strategies to look out for in the Global Finals. Six of the 16 finalists qualified using some kind of harsh sunlight core. More dedicated sunlight teams will utilize Groudon as their restricted Pokémon alongside Pokémon like Gigantamax Venusaur and Charizard. You may also see players just use Venusaur and Torkoal, allowing them to take advantage of harsh sunlight while also utilizing a restricted Pokémon other than Groudon. These teams typically aim to deal massive amounts of damage, especially through residual damage from G-Max Vine Lash or G-Max Wildfire. Venusaur in particular is such a strong option in Series 8 because it is unpredictable—it can either go for a Sleep Powder right away or just Gigantamax and start attacking immediately. I think that it's highly likely that the top teams in the Global Finals will either have a Venusaur or an extremely strong counter to Venusaur.

Hyper Offense: Hyper offense teams in Series 8 typically utilize extremely powerful but frail Pokémon. They are heavily reliant on gaining an early lead with their Dynamax in the opening turns of the game. Speed control is especially important for these team compositions, so expect to see Pokémon like Whimsicott or Tornadus to help set up Tailwind. Many hyper offense teams in Series 8 use Shadow Rider Calyrex as their restricted Pokémon—Alberto Daza, Alejandro Diaz, and Daniel Quek all qualified for the Global Finals with a hyper-offensive team featuring Calyrex.

Weakness Policy Setup: Weakness Policy is an extremely popular item choice in Series 8, turning already-strong Pokémon into offensive juggernauts. Eight out of the 16 qualifying players had a Weakness Policy on their team, giving it to Pokémon like Metagross, Solgaleo, Coalossal, or Ice Rider Calyrex. These teams also have some way to easily activate Weakness Policy. Such strategies are especially difficult to play against because they often command a lot of respect just in team preview. If you do not lead properly against a Weakness Policy combo, your opponent can activate it immediately and start making knockouts from the opening turns of the match. One thing to watch out for in particular is how competitors position their Weakness Policy holders. Many teams don't actually lead with their Weakness Policy setup if they think it'd put them at risk of giving up early knockouts.


Concluding Thoughts

It's been a couple of years since we last saw restricted Pokémon in competitions. Since then, several Pokémon, such as Rayquaza, Xerneas, and Lunala, have fallen out of popularity, while new Pokémon, especially Zacian and Calyrex, have risen to glory. Meanwhile, Kyogre and Groudon continue to be staples in the format, as they have been in every format where they've been permitted. Will the new Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield Legendary Pokémon finally knock Kyogre and Groudon off their throne, or will the Hoenn duo continue their reign on top? We'll have to wait and see this weekend!

Moving away from restricted Pokémon, we have to talk about Coalossal. After Coalossal teams won both Pokémon Players Cup I and Players Cup II, players started to joke about the possibility of it winning a third title in a row. After the Region finals, it doesn't really feel like a joke anymore—four of the 16 qualifying teams used Coalossal. I'm eager to see how players counter it this time around, because few were able to stop it in the last two finals.

Speaking of the last two finals—both Pokémon Players Cup I and II were won by North American players. It'll be exciting to see which region takes home the title this time around, especially since almost every finalist is looking for their very first major win. The tournament is filled with familiar faces, such as Jonathan Evans, runner-up at the 2016 World Championships, as well as Joseph Ugarte and Gabriel Agati, who will be competing in their second and third Players Cup Global Finals respectively.

The combination of double elimination and best-of-five sets for the Winners Finals, Losers Finals, and Grand Finals will certainly be a sight to watch as well. We can theoretically see up to 15 games of Pokémon between the same two players in this tournament! Either way, I can't wait to see how the largest Series 8 tournament concludes—don't forget to tune into the Pokémon Players Cup III finals live at Twitch.tv/Pokemon or YouTube.com/Pokemon on April 23–25!




About the Writer

Aaron Zheng
Aaron is a VGC competitor, commentator, and content creator. He has been competing in the Video Game Championships since 2008. Since then, he's won five Regional Championships and two National Championships. He has also qualified for eight World Championships and placed third at the 2013 World Championships. In more recent years, Aaron has been focused on creating online content. He joined the live commentary team for VGC streams in 2016. Outside of Pokémon, Aaron is completing two undergraduate degrees in Economics and Applied Mathematics.

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