By Jason Krell, Contributing Writer
After two incredible days of Pokémon video game action here in Columbus, Ohio, just two players remain in each age division at the 2019 North American International Championships. Each proved their immense skill as Trainers against the best players in the world, but their matches on Sunday will determine who walks away with the title. Before they duke it out on Twitch.tv/Pokemon, here's a look at how the players reached this point and how they match up. Please note that the matches will begin with minimal break after the conclusion of the Pokémon TCG finals, which start at 10:00 a.m. EDT.
Graham Amedee vs Wolfe Glick: Sword vs Shield
Wolfe Glick went from accomplished player to household name after winning the 2016 World Championships, which was the last time players could compete with restricted Legendary Pokémon. Meanwhile, this is Graham Amedee's first deep run outside of Australia, and his first opportunity to win a major tournament in the Video Game Championship Series.
Both players are hungry for the title, but who has the advantage?
Wolfe and Graham separately told us the answer is up in the air, as each expressed mutual admiration for their respective accomplishments. Graham has admired Wolfe for years and acknowledges him as one of the most challenging opponents possible in the Ultra Series. At the same time, Wolfe said he was impressed with Graham's ability to craft such a successful team.
In many ways, though, Graham said he and Wolfe have clashing playstyles. Graham has always favored hyperoffensive teams that can swiftly tear through opponents—or burn out just as quickly. Wolfe is known more for defensive teams that allow him to squeeze out a measured advantage over a long period of time. When these two approaches go head-to-head, it should be exhilarating to see which player comes out victorious.
There is one hint about how the Masters Division finals could play out. Back in Round 2 of Day 1, Graham defeated Aaron Traylor, Wolfe's team-building partner who was running the exact same six Pokémon as Wolfe. That match was the first time Graham got to demonstrate the powerful combination of Primal Kyogre, Lunala, and Mega Medicham on stream, and he scored a quick 2-0 victory over Aaron. But while that might imply Graham has the upper hand, Wolfe had the perfect chance to analyze the match and develop a better game plan. Commentator Aaron Zheng thinks that may give Wolfe a slight edge.
“Wolfe is one of those players who can use prep really, really well relative to most other players,” Aaron told us. “But I'm so excited to watch the finals, because I think Graham has built one of the coolest teams in the history of this game.”
Graham's team came through for him time and again this weekend, even against uncertain odds. The three sets he played against Melvin Keh serve as the best examples, especially since he lost to Melvin during both Day 1 and Day 2 Swiss. However, when it came time for their second rematch in the Top 8, Graham employed a new strategy that helped him overcome Melvin's tricky Shedinja.
Once Graham realized he could use the move Magic Room to neutralize the crucial items on Melvin's team, it was easy for his Lunala and Tapu Lele to knockout Shedinja through its Focus Sash. With that threat out of the way, and with Melvin also unable to use Power Herb for a one-turn Geomancy with Xerneas, it was only a matter of time before Graham overcame his greatest obstacle.
As for Wolfe's run through the tournament, he said most of his team did fine. His Mega Rayquaza and Tapu Koko came in handy toward the end of Day 2, but one Pokémon performed far better than the rest.
“My team is below-average at best, and Celesteela is putting the other five Pokémon on its back and dragging them over the finish line,” Wolfe said.
As Wolfe explained on Friday, the offensive way he trained his Celesteela gives it a good matchup against the likes of Xerneas, Kangaskhan, and the various Tapu. But at the same time, it's also one of the most durable Pokémon on a team that otherwise lacks any means of recovery.
We'll soon know which player brought the right team or prepared better for his opponent, but winning would mean a great deal for either Graham or Wolfe. This would be Graham's first ever major win, and the perfect chance to leave his footprint on a hobby he said he enjoys so much.
Wolfe, on the other hand, already has two US National titles under his belt—both from his first two years of competition in 2011 and 2012—and reached even greater heights by winning the World Championships. So, for Wolfe, winning this tournament is a chance to repeat his past excellence and earn his first International Championship eight years after he last became US National Champion.
A Stacked Final for Juniors and Seniors
While the Masters Division finals will close out the event, the finalists in the Junior and Senior divisions are just as exciting this year. In the Junior Division, Connor Yuen has another shot at a first-place finish after coming in second at last year's North American International Championships, and his opponent, Kenneth Fung, also reached the Top 8 last year. Adding further intrigue, Kenneth's only loss in the Swiss Rounds of this year's tournament came at the hands of Connor—so a rematch should make for plenty of excitement.
In the Senior Division, Quentin Colòn and Kareem Muakkit are set for an all-North American final. Quentin has a half-dozen Regional wins to his name and the most Championship Points in the world for his division, but he's never won an International Championship. To prepare for this year, he said he played about 500 practice games. Conversely, Kareem has fewer Regional wins to his name, but he arguably has the favorable matchup and a renewed sense of confidence after bouncing back from an early loss in Swiss. It will be exciting to see which of these players wins their last shot at an International Championship before aging out of the Senior Division at the end of the season.
Between those three matches, there's no way you'll want to miss any of the action on Sunday. Tune in at Twitch.tv/Pokemon to see the conclusion of the interesting storylines between these talented players. Full team lists will be up after the tournament, but be sure to witness the hype first hand. Good luck to all of our finalists!