Pokémon VGC World Championships Recap

31 August 2022

Pokémon VGC World Championships Recap

The marathon four-day event provided unbelievable action, drama, and new World Champions.

By Barış Akcoş, Contributing Writer


The 2022 Pokémon VGC World Championships were unlike any other. It was the first and only worlds featuring Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, so Trainers were even more driven to prove themselves to be the very best in this format. Many team cores and restricted Pokémon duos were tried and tested along the way, with fans and experts predicting that Zacian paired with either Groudon or Kyogre would take the top spot. Ultimately, victory did go to Zacian, but it was partnered with the speedy Shadow Rider Calyrex as opposed to one of the popular weather setters. Let’s take a look at why these three combinations in particular were so dominant throughout the four-day event, and also address some spicier action that was spotted on the battlefield.



Day 1

The Pokémon World Championships started with matches featuring multiple former World Champions amongst the excited competitors. Players advanced to Day 2 as soon as they garnered six match wins in the eight Swiss rounds to qualify for the next day. The competition saw 225 Day-1 players compete, with only 32 advancing into Day 2, where they would join the top Trainers from each region to have earned Day 2 invitations. There was the expected mix of Trainers selecting well-tested teams they had experience and confidence in, or Trainers bringing wildcards to their matches to throw off their opponents. Most success was found in a balance of the two, with Trainers picking often-played Pokémon but perhaps utilizing them in new ways. A movement in favor of Weakness Policy Charizard, Protect Incineroar, and Quick Attack Zacian was evident as the competition started to unfold on Day 1.

To no one's surprise, the battles were filled with Zacian! It was featured in 22 out of 32 advancing teams, beaten in appearances only by Incineroar, which was featured 23 times, largely in a supporting role. Zacian was often accompanied by Kyogre due to its synergy as both a Physical and Special attacker. Kyogre can also pressure Intimidate users such as Incineroar or Landorus from entering the field, which stops its partner Zacian from having its Intrepid Sword Attack boost negated. Players also showed a preference for the Assault Vest item on Kyogre, as it allowed Kyogre to take powerful Electric-type attacks from Special attackers such as Regieleki, who was also a popular choice in team composition. There were however a few Trainers who stuck with more popular items such as Mystic Water or Choice Scarf for their Kyogre. Zacian was also often seen alongside another weather-wielding restricted Pokémon in Groudon. Groudon was often used as a support for dealing with Fire-type Pokémon, providing sun support for Charizard or Venusaur, or battling it out with Kyogre for weather control.


A few surprises stood out from Day 1, however. Ferrothorn was well represented, with many players—including 2015 world champion Shoma Honami—opting to bring it over the more popular Grass-types such as Venusaur or Rillaboom. Stacking defensive boosts on Ferrothorn through Max Steelspike and Max Quake coming from Dynamaxed Dialga helped position Ferrothorn against the opposing threats. The same combination was also found on David Koutesh’s Team, pairing Dialga and Ferrothorn with Yveltal and Gyarados, the latter a Pokémon we rarely see in Series 12. Both of these Trainers advanced to the next stage of the competition.

Ben Grissmer once again proved that heavy offensive teams have their place in the metagame. Combining White Kyurem with Zacian and Urshifu as attackers, with three difficult-to-deal-with Supporters in Sableye, Shedinja, and Ditto, meant this team was eye-catching for all the right reasons. This team featured no protecting moves at all—which is almost unheard of—and it challenged the opponent to find the right line of plays. He did this without giving up their answers to Shedinja too early or allowing Ditto to enter the field at the right moment to sweep by making use of its Imposter Ability.


Off the stream, some innovative teams also managed to make it through Day 1. Joonas Hakalahti was piloting a team around Eternatus and Kyogre to great success, having found a way to make the generally underrated Eternatus assert itself in top-level teams. Kotaro Nakagome also caught attention with their team building skills, featuring a very unique team of Dialga, Origin Forme Giratina, and the force of nature trio Landorus, Thundurus, and Tornadus. It is possible that Kotaro was able to catch opponents off guard who may not have prepared for such a match-up, and this creativity gained them an advantage over more standard teams.

Francesco Pardini, with excellent results going back all the way to a Top 8 finish at Worlds in 2011 and 2 National Championship titles between 2011 and 2015, demonstrated that even cores such as Zacian + Kyogre have more options to explore, as he paired it with Charizard and Sableye to great success. Both Pardini and our finalist Guillermo represent the amazing endurance of some of our qualifiers, having performed well at the highest level of competition for over a decade.

Players advancing through Day 1 have a great history of deep runs at the World Championships. Let’s now see how our players have performed at the second day of the competition, now joined by even tougher competition.


Day 2

With over 120 players competing at Day 2, the players were looking at 7 Swiss rounds ahead of them to advance into Top Cut. All players with fewer than two losses after these rounds would advance, with the highest-seeded players earning byes for the first round of Saturday. This was the first time since the introduction of this tournament format, that players would play out the single elimination rounds on a separate day, which only added to the excitement.

Day 2 kicked off with a battle between Eric Rios and Chongjung Peng, probably the strongest players from their respective regions to have piloted Rinya Sun to great success, including the EUIC title for Eric and Chongjung’s Regional title at Salt Lake City. In a nail-biting three-game set, Chongjung’s Gastrodon was able to overcome Eric’s Charizard and Incineroar against the odds to win the first round on stream. This team, named after its creator Rinya Kobayashi, features Groudon, Zacian, Gastrodon, Grimmsnarl, Incineroar, and Charizard. The team is incredibly consistent because the six Pokémon are reliable and flexible. Sometimes Charizard can run away with a match, firing off sun-boosted, Solar Power-boosted G-Max Wildfires into opponents. Rinya Kobayashi himself was present in Day 2 (having qualified for Day 2 after a runner-up finish at the Japanese National Championships in 2021) and was one of the first four players qualify for Day 3.

Thomas Gravouille showcased another smart adaptation of the established Zacian, Kyogre, and Shedinja team by replacing Kartana with Incarnate Forme Landorus. He told us Kartana was the least used Pokémon on the team, and he made this rare switch in favor of adding an unknown factor to this team composition to potentially catch opponents off guard. Kartana’s meager Special Defense made the team vulnerable to fast Special attackers such as Shadow Rider Calyrex and Regieleki. Running Assault Vest Landorus helped in dealing with Special attackers while keeping some of Kartana’s offensive pressure. However, Landorus had to rely on Grass Knot, which does not affect Dynamax Pokémon and suffers from low base power against Gastrodon due to its relatively low weight. Thomas played around that by Dynamaxing Landorus when needed, giving it access to Max Overgrowth, that hits opposing Dynamax Pokémon and gets a one-hit Knock Out on Gastrodon.


Another standout pick for Day 2 was the return of Galarian Moltres. Having been largely replaced by Yveltal in recent months, it showed its strong potential during matches shown on the broadcast. Its use of Max Airstream to gain Speed control allowed Flavio Del Pidio to take a commanding victory over crowd favorite Joseph Ugarte. Its Flying/Dark typing helps immensely when dealing with the popular core of Lunala and Groudon, which typically has a positive matchup against Zacian + Kyogre teams. Flavio continued to use Galarian Moltres to great success against Joseph Ugarte when they met again the following day in Top Cut.

After seven rounds of Swiss, 26 players would advance to the single-elimination stage of the tournament. This included reigning champion Naoto Mizubuchi who, just like in 2019, lost their first two rounds to fight their way back into Top Cut with five consecutive wins. Additionally, four players managed to reach the Top Cut both 2019 and 2022 worlds: James Baek, Meaghan Rattle, Eric Rios, and Eduardo Cunha. This is just another example of how the formats may change, but the mastery stays the same.


Day 3


The third day of action started off with reigning Senior World Champion Ko Tsukide in their first year as a Masters division player facing off against Tatsuya Watanuki, who had arguably the most unique team of the tournament, one that featured Golisopod and Raikou with both Kyogre and Groudon. Tatsuya was coming of a strong Top 8 finish at Japan Nationals this year and was looking at another deep tournament run. Golisopod was a great choice to cover the shared Grass-type Weakness of Groudon and Kyogre. Plus it knew First Impression as a priority move available upon entering the field, as well as Leech Life to damage and recover HP, making it harder to knock Golisopod out. Its signature Emergency Exit Ability gives extra pivoting options at the cost of having to switch out before attacking. Priority attacks such as Sucker Punch and First Impression allowed Golisopod to get a guaranteed attack off before potentially switching out. Tatsuya was able to demonstrate this expertly during the first two games, but sadly Golisopod was unable to take the set for its Trainer.

The second highlight of the day was the match to determine the highest placing Rinya Sun player at Worlds when Davide Carrer faced Rinya “Sun” Kobayashi himself. Both players opted for the most recent version of the team running a bulky Charizard with the Weakness Policy item. While this item choice played only a passive role in this matchup, it made sure neither of the players would attack the opposing Charizard with super effective moves such as Ancient Power unless they could guarantee a Knock Out. Rinya Kobayashi won the first game in commanding fashion, but as a former International Championship runner-up, Davide kept his composure and fought his way back in this intense set, eventually coming out as the winner. This was a historic moment, as he had not only secured his spot in the Top 8, but had also defeated Rinya Kobayashi claim the title of the best Rinya Sun player.


Championship Sunday


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Seats were filling up in the venue as players were getting ready for the final three games of the weekend. Kicking things off with the Junior Division, Kiara N. from Australia and Kosaku M. from Japan entered the stage to battle for the title in a very fast-paced, offense-heavy game, both making use of Tailwind as their preferred way of speed control. Kosaku was able to set up a board state to manage the end game, as all of Kiara’s Pokémon on the field were damaged to a point where Kosaku’s Shadow Rider Calyrex could pick up easy Knock Outs with Astral Barrage. This strategy was executed perfectly in two games, and with Quick Attack Zacian taking the final Knock Out on Kiara’s Kyogre, Kosaku was crowned as the first VGC World Champion of the weekend.


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The Senior Division also saw a face-off between Australia and Japan. Former Worlds Junior Division Champion and reigning EUIC Champion Nick K. piloted Kyogre, Zacian, and Shedinja into the Worlds Finals with an undefeated record of 10-0. There he faced Yasuharu S. with their team core of Zacian, Groudon, and Venusaur. Yasuharu’s only loss at this point was against Nick in an earlier Swiss round on Saturday, so the stage was set for an intense rematch. One key to victory for Yasuharu was to not get psyched out by the opposing Shedinja and its ability to switch positions with its partner through the use of Ally Switch. Protect on Incineroar allowed Yasuharu to reposition themselves against Kyogre's Water Spout, which would otherwise have taken two Knock Outs at the same time. Venusaur’s Chlorophyll Ability allowed it to outspeed all opposing Pokémon once Groudon set up its weather effect. And with smart targeting, Yasuharu was soon crowned the Senior Division World Champion. With Gigantamax Blastoise taking the Juniors title and Gigantamax Venusaur victorious in the Senior Division, could Charizard make it a triple win for Kanto?


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In the highly anticipated Masters Division Final, fans were eager to see if Eduardo Cuhna of Portugal could carry his undefeated run all the way to glory. He’d have his hands full against Guillermo Castilla Diaz. During the match, the focus was on Gastrodon; often the downfall of many Kyogre teams due to its Storm Drain Ability pulling in Max Geyser attacks, Gastrodon proved its worth in the finals through its supportive capabilities. Eduardo used Gastrodon’s Icy Wind to gain speed control advantages while the Pokémon applied even more pressure through Yawn. Very early into the Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield era, Eduardo found great success in countering Dynamax Pokémon with the use of Yawn, a strategy he honed all the way up to this moment. This technique forces opponents to consider switching their yawned Pokémon out to stop it from falling asleep, which allows the Gastrodon player the opportunity to capitalize on a new board position and take control of the match.

In the highly anticipated Masters Division Final, fans were eager to see if Eduardo Cuhna of Portugal could carry his undefeated run all the way to glory. He’d have his hands full against Guillermo Castilla Diaz. During the match, the focus was on Gastrodon; often the downfall of many Kyogre teams due to its Storm Drain Ability pulling in Max Geyser attacks, Gastrodon proved its worth in the finals through its supportive capabilities. Eduardo used Gastrodon’s Icy Wind to gain speed control advantages while the Pokémon applied even more pressure through Yawn. Very early into the Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield era, Eduardo found great success in countering Dynamax Pokémon with the use of Yawn, a strategy he honed all the way up to this moment. This technique forces opponents to consider switching their yawned Pokémon out to stop it from falling asleep, which allows the Gastrodon player the opportunity to capitalize on a new board position and take control of the match.


This problematic Pokémon was difficult for Guillermo to play around. The Spanish player had two options. One was set up Electric Terrain with Max Lighting from Regieleki to prevent their Pokémon from falling asleep. This strategy was countered by leading Rillaboom and Gastrodon, which makes it incredibly hard for Guillermo to make use of Dynamax Regieleki. The second option was repeatedly pivoting Incineroar and its Fake Out pressure in and out while protecting Lunala or Groudon to prevent Yawn from connecting. Eduardo's ability to see through the drawn-out, defensive game and keeping the option to Dynamax open until the very end allowed them to take Game 1 of the Finals.

Anticipating a new approach from their opponent, Eduardo switched to a more offensive lead in Game 2, pairing Thundurus with Zacian and Dynamaxing it right at the start of the battle. Eduardo took an early lead and it seemed as if the game was over. But Groudon survived multiple Astral Barrage attacks, bringing Guillermo back into the set and pumping up the crowd for a winner-take-all third battle.

The final game started with Eduardo bringing out Thundurus and Zacian to face off against Guillermo’s Charizard and Grimmsnarl. Guillermo delayed the Gigantamax option on Charizard for one turn by Protecting Charizard to trade Grimmsnarl in favor of setting up Reflect. Then Gigantamax Charizard paired with Groudon one last time on the final stage, but thanks to the damage Max Airstream had caused through Protect, Eduardo managed to take out Charizard even through the damage reducing effect of Reflect with the combination of Behemoth Blade and Max Lightning from Thundurus. After that, there was nothing Guillermo could do to stop the damage onslaught from Eduardo, who was then crowned the 2022 Pokémon World Champion!






After four hard days of competition, the Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield competitive era draws to a close. Video Game players will soon prepare for new battles in the Paldea Region with the upcoming release of Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet and begin the quest to become the next World Champion when events resume in 2023!


About the Writer

Barış Akcoş
Barış Akcoş is a contributing writer covering Play! Pokémon VGC events for Pokemon.com. Having played competitively for nine years, earning top placements at both International- and World-level events, Barış has recently turned his attention to being a Pokémon Professor and Judge. You can find him playing, judging, or podcasting at Play! Pokémon Events, as well as online as BillaVGC.

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