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The North American Autumn Video Game Regionals Have Begun!

The Autumn Video Game Regional Championships kicked off on October 4th in North America. These Regionals in Houston and Arizona were the first opportunity for North American players to gain a large amount of Championship Points toward their invitations to the 2016 World Championships. It was also the first opportunity for players to show what they learned from the 2015 Pokémon World Championships, with players from all over the country taking notice.

We saw plenty of teams built around the anticipated Mega Kangaskhan, but players expecting to see only standard team compositions were likely surprised by many of their opponents. Mega Charizard Y, Mega Salamence, and Mega Gengar both earned Regional victories, and they did so with teammates such as Weavile, Smeargle, Porygon2, and Gothitelle—all rarely seen at the World Championships.

A trend among many of last weekend's top performers was to start their team with four or five of the most powerful Pokémon available. The players then mixed in an unexpected Pokémon or two to improve their team matchups against common Pokémon like Landorus and Thundurus and to throw off their opponents. Pokémon with Ice-type attacks were especially popular, which helped some unheralded Pokémon, such as Weavile, Mamoswine, and Porygon2, win Regional Championships.

Here are the top-8 finalists in each division. Click on a name to see his or her team, and read on to find out more about each event.

Phoenix, AZ

Masters Division

1. Patrick Smith
2. Leonard Avila
3. Gavin Michaels
4. Nikolai Zielinski
5. Travis Evans
6. Michael Lily
7. Bjorn Johnsson
8. Gunner Martineau

Senior Division

1. Carson St. Denis
2. Mostafa Afr
3. Ethan Evans
4. Matthew Perrotta
5. Jake Fischer
6. Keegan Meyer
7. Vivienne Zielinski
8. Abram Burrows

Junior Division

1. Adyson Meyer
2. Jonathan Carranza
3. Nevin Hoff
4. Nathan Tu

Houston, TX

Junior Division

1. Aiden McKinney
2. Enzo Reci
3. Jonathan Kasmir
4. Phillip Barragan
5. Jessica Alspaugh
6. Georgia Honts
7. Joshua Kasmir
8. Jackie Jausey

Senior Division

1. Christopher Alspaugh
2. Tristan Lankford
3. Devin Winter
4. Carson Confer
5. Brett Brooker
6. Samuel Mowery
7. Jeremiah Sheppard
8. Vardaan Bhat

Masters Division

1. Blake Hopper
2. Brianna Birt
3. Aaron Grubbs
4. Preston Chew
5. Hanna Coder
6. Collin Heier
7. Ian McLaughlin
8. Eric Graham

Teams built around the tricky combination of the move Perish Song and the Shadow Tag Ability of Mega Gengar and Gothitelle were popular in all age divisions at the Arizona Regionals. Adyson Meyer proved to be the most successful player using this strategy, taking it all the way to a Junior Division championship. Adyson's team of Gengar, Gothitelle, Smeargle, Scrafty, Politoed, and Ludicolo was able to use either the increasingly popular “Perish Trap” strategy or a more-offensive strategy based around Politoed's Drizzle, depending on the opponent. We saw players use a variety of uncommon Pokémon to support other Perish Trap teams in Arizona, including Arcanine, Clefairy, and Dewgong.

Arizona Regional Senior Division Champion Carson St. Denis is no stranger to success, recently finishing second at the 2015 Pokémon US National Championships. Once again he used a team built around the powerful Mega Kangaskhan, but his team in Arizona saw Kangaskhan surrounded by some new teammates: Milotic, Aegislash, Volcarona, Thundurus, and Landorus Therian Forme. Carson's team followed one of the winning trends from the Masters top cut of the recent World Championships by giving his Landorus an item other than the previously popular Choice Scarf to hold. Carson faced off against some impressive opponents on his way to the championship, including a victory over 2012 Junior Division World Champion Abram Burrows.

The final winning team in Arizona was the most surprising. After Swiss play concluded, the two top players were 2013 Masters Division US National Champion Gavin Michaels and 2013 Senior Division World Champion Nikolai Zielinski. The established veterans, both using solid teams built around Mega Kangaskhan, seemed to be on a collision course to meet in the finals. Instead, both players were defeated in the semifinals, and newcomer Patrick Smith took the championship home instead. Patrick surprised the opposition with a team of Weavile, Mega Charizard Y, Heatran, Landorus Therian Forme, Cresselia, and Conkeldurr. Many players went to the tournament expecting teams built around Mega Kangaskhan to dominate the competition, but Weavile was able to provide enough support with Feint and Fake Out to help Patrick power through his more-defensive opponents.

Reigning US National Champion Aiden McKinney added another tournament win to his resume in Houston. The Junior Champion used a team similar to his Nationals team by using Excadrill, Tyranitar, and Mega Salamence. One big adjustment he made was adding Porygon2 to his team, a Pokémon that has recently been getting second looks from players in all age divisions. It's one of the game's sturdier Pokémon, thanks to the move Recover and the item Eviolite boosting its already solid defensive stats. Aiden's Porygon2 also knew Trick Room and Ice Beam, giving Aiden new strategic options and a great way to deal with popular Pokémon like Landorus and Thundurus.

Houston Senior Division Champion Christopher Alspaugh continued the trend of mixing an unexpected Pokémon into a roster full of more-popular Pokémon. In his case, it was the risky Mamoswine. Mamoswine's Ice- and Ground-type attacks are devastating to many common Pokémon, especially Landorus, Thundurus, and Heatran. Mamoswine isn't used often in the Video Game Championships because it can be difficult to protect Mamoswine long enough for it to knock out Pokémon it has a type advantage against, but Christopher was able to use Mamoswine wisely enough to earn a victory.

The final event last weekend was won by Blake Hopper. Blake's team consisted of Aegislash, Mega Kangaskhan, Volcarona, Wash Rotom, Cresselia, and Landorus Therian Forme. On the surface, his team seemed very similar to the team used by Worlds runner-up Hideyuki Taida, but his team had some interesting twists. Like the team 2013 Senior Division World Champion Hayden McTavish used at US Nationals, Blake's team had a Wash Rotom holding a Choice Scarf. The surprisingly speedy Rotom created many matchup problems for the opposition, thanks to its supereffective attacks. Cresselia with Skill Swap was another trick we hadn't seen much of this year outside of Mark McQuillan's 2015 World Championship team, but Blake piloted it to another big tournament win. Cresselia with Skill Swap was part of both Masters Division winners' teams last weekend, something players are sure to take notice of moving forward.

The Autumn Regional Championships continue this weekend in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The East Coast is famous for producing some of the top players in North America, such as Ray Rizzo, Wolfe Glick, and Aaron Zheng. It's also famous for having a variety of local trends that are rarely seen elsewhere, so it should be one of the most interesting events to follow. Stay tuned to next week to see what rises to the top in one of the country's savviest regions!

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