With many similar teams battling it out at the US Pokémon Video Game National Championships, these Masters Division players had to use their best tactical skills to separate from the pack. For the most part, team construction came down to subtle changes and coin-toss decisions to prepare for the battles ahead. Be sure to check out more Pokémon TCG and video game tournament coverage and analysis at Pokemon.com/Strategy.
Most of the players we saw using Groudon and Xerneas in Columbus opted to include a Pokémon that knew Trick Room on their team, but the most common choice for this role was Bronzong. Chase Lybbert instead chose Cresselia, which helped him out more against Groudon at the expense of not being as strong against Xerneas. Cresselia also provided Chase’s team with Icy Wind, which probably helped more than Trick Room in matches where Chase wanted to use Tailwind or Geomancy.
While most players used one of Bronzong or Cresselia on their teams so they could use the powerful move Trick Room, Aaron Traylor was one of the few that selected both for his team. Using each of these Pokémon allowed Aaron to make sure he could bring a Pokémon that knew Trick Room to almost every match, enabling him to use a slower, bulkier Groudon and Xerneas than most other players.
Alan made it all the way to the top cut of the 2010 Video Game World Championships, which was the last year restricted Pokémon were allowed. He showed he still knows how to come out on top in a similar format using the combination of Kyogre and Rayquaza, a pairing we didn’t see from many other players this weekend. Alan also had a Gengar holding Gengarite on his team, giving him access to Mega Gengar’s tricky Shadow Tag Ability.
Grant Weldon’s Groudon was among the few in the competition that were taught Substitute, which could have a huge impact on battles where his opponents weren’t able to keep up the pressure on Groudon. The other big twist on his team was teaching Bronzong Imprison, which was sure to trouble the many other teams using Trick Room.
The most unexpected Pokémon on Cedric Bernier’s team is definitely Crobat. It began the year as a pretty popular choice, but recently it has been overlooked by most players. Many, many other players in the tournament used Xerneas like Cedric did, so the Poison-type Crobat probably gave him an advantage against similar teams—especially because he taught his Crobat Haze.
Stefan Smigoc was the most successful player in Columbus using the combination of Groudon and Rayquaza that we recently saw win at the Japan National Championships. Stefan’s version of the team had some exciting twists, including a Rayquaza that knew Swords Dance, a Gengar that held Lum Berry, and a Suicune that knew Roar.
Leonard Craft III probably shocked some foes by teaching his Kangaskhan Safeguard. Most Trainers use Kangaskhan as a very offensive Pokemon, but the combination of Safeguard and Fake Out allowed the Parent Pokemon to function in a more supportive role on this team. When Leonard was looking for some offense, he also had the option of using Kangaskhan’s Power-Up Punch or Groudon’s Swords Dance to boost his damage.
Michael Lanzano is one of the more veteran players in the top cut at US Nationals. He took advantage of his experience by choosing to use a pretty conventional team, opting to win by strategizing better than his opponents in battles instead of by using a team with a bunch of twists. Michael’s one big surprise was teaching his Kangaskhan Fire Punch, a move likely selected to ring the bells of opposing Bronzong.
Conan Thompson isn’t a player known for trying out too many unconventional tactics, but he was one of several players that proved playing common teams better than the competition can still rack up victories. The only major adjustment he made from his Spring Regional team was swapping his Cresselia out for a Bronzong, a change that paid off for Conan with so many opposing Xerneas in the field.
Jake Skurchak chose to use both Primal Groudon and Primal Kyogre on his team despite its fading popularity late in the season. Jake’s team was pretty similar to the teams using these Pokémon we’d seen at recent events, but teaching Kangaskhan Power-Up Punch, Salamence Tailwind, and Groudon Swords Dance gave Jake enough potential to jump ahead in matches to keep his opponents honest.
Gary Qian’s team was one of the most exotic we saw all weekend, and he was able to take it all the way to the top cut. Few players have risked using the frail Mewtwo this season, but Gary was able to put up impressive results by teaching it the combination of Psystrike, Ice Beam, and Substitute. Mewtwo was one of three Pokémon on Gary’s team that knew Substitute, a tactic sure trouble any foes trying to use status moves. The spectacle didn’t stop there: he also added a Raichu that knew Endeavor and a Mega Venusaur to his team.
Rajan Bal taught his Gengar both Will-O-Wisp and Hidden Power. These two moves aren’t very common on Gengar, but they could easily turn the tide of a battle if his opponent is caught unaware. He was also one of the few players that brought Weavile to Columbus, giving him some high-risk offensive potential that was available to few other players.
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