The opening day of the 2017 Pokémon World Championships is in the books. More than 900 Pokémon TCG and video game competitors from 40-plus countries arrived in sunny southern California for one reason—to become the next World Champion. The event floor was abuzz with action as players and spectators battled and watched matches all day long.
The Pokkén Tournament Last Chance Qualifier also took place today, with nearly 100 competitors fighting for the last four spots in tomorrow's main event. They'll join 12 players who have already qualified via events earlier in the year. By the end of Saturday we will have a new Pokkén Tournament World Champion.
Get a closer look at the action from the Pokémon TCG and video game competitions.
Many Paths to Victory in the Pokémon TCG
It has already been a fascinating competition on the Pokémon TCG side, with an incredible variety of decks in play. All year we've seen a robust metagame environment while waiting for one deck to establish itself at the top. That simply hasn't happened. The closest we have right now is Garbodor and Drampa-GX, and while there are a lot of them in the field, the presence of so many other decks shows that players aren't exactly trembling in fear of this duo. From venerable decks such as Mega Rayquaza-EX to emerging ones that feature cards from the Sun & Moon—Burning Shadows expansion, the metagame remains as robust as ever in the Pokémon TCG. Take a look at the standout decks from here at the 2017 Pokémon World Championships.
The World Championships have become a fascinating snapshot in the Championship Series calendar—it's the last time a lot of these decks will be legal in the Standard format, while also the first time cards from the latest expansion are permitted. For example, the next time you'll see Golisopod-GX with Vileplume or Eevee's evolutions, it'll be at an Expanded format event.
We anticipated a strong showing by some of the new cards from the Sun & Moon—Burning Shadows expansion, and we haven't been disappointed. Gardevoir-GX and the aforementioned Golisopod-GX have shown up in force, though it's apparent that players are still tinkering with whom to partner them. Competitors have also wasted no time incorporating new Trainer cards into their decks, with Guzma serving double duty as both a Lysandre replacement and a Switch alternative. Similarly, the Po Town Stadium card has slid into the role of Team Magma's Secret Base to help pump up Drampa-GX. And Acerola has already made her presence known, giving players an easy way to get their Pokémon out of danger.
This is also the swan song for several decks that have practically defined the metagame over the past year or more. Greninja BREAK has been incredibly resilient, and is already enjoying success one last time here in Anaheim. The same goes for Vileplume and its many iterations, though the many players who have been frustrated by its Irritating Pollen Ability won't be shedding any tears.
Unlike the International Championships, players advancing to Day 2 are free to change the decks they played today. Will they stick with what brought them success, or will they react to what they saw and go in a different direction? The addition of all the Day 2 invitees will also shape the field in new and exciting ways. Be sure to watch the action tomorrow on Pokemon.com/Live to see which players and decks rise to the top.
Bulldozing Through the Video Game Championships
Trainers who excelled during the 2017 Championship Series were invited to compete in the first heat at the Pokémon Video Game World Championships and vie for the final spots in Saturday's competition. Most of the top finishers from last year's Pokémon World Championships started their runs that Friday—including 2016 World Champion Wolfe Glick—so don't count these Trainers out tomorrow.
Competitors from all over the world were looking to enhance their teams with the hottest summer trend—a Salamence that could use Bulldoze and a Metagross holding Weakness Policy. The Ground-type attack Bulldoze targets all three other Pokémon on the field, lowering afflicted Pokémon's Speed and dealing a paltry sum of damage. Metagross benefits from both effects—its Clear Body Ability prevents its Speed stat from being reduced and the low damage safely increases Metagross' Attack by activating its Weakness Policy.
We first saw Trainers expand on the early teams featuring this duo from the North American International Championships by adding Politoed and Tapu Bulu. Politoed's Drizzle Ability summons Rain that helps negate Metagross' Fire-type weakness, while the Grassy Terrain created by Tapu Bulu can do the same for the Iron Leg Pokémon's weakness to Earthquake. This four-Pokémon core requires a lot of positioning, but teams like Kamran Jahadi's show it can be powerful.
Other Trainers modified this strategy by incorporating Salamence and Metagross into more conventional teams. Competitors auditioned a wide variety of teammates to strengthen their Weakness Policy strategies, but the combination we saw most often on the livestream was undoubtedly this team featuring Clefairy, Snorlax, Alolan Raichu, and Tapu Koko. This variant adds plentiful damage, reducing the pressure on Metagross and Salamence to carry matches. Keep an eye out tomorrow to see which twists on this strategy perform best.
Most Trainers may have removed Politoed from their Metagross teams, but we still saw plenty of Rain. A Drizzle-based strategy made it to the top cut of each International Championship, and some Trainers seem to be betting that it will have the same success at the World Championships. But the teams we saw in Anaheim were quite different from what Tommy Cooleen used during Internationals—check out the Poliwrath on Gary Qian's team and the Trevenant on Estephan Valdebenito's.
One of the key attackers on most Rain teams is Tapu Koko, but several Trainers brought some extra defense against it to Anaheim. Several players selected Togedemaru or Alolan Marowak to add the Lightning Rod Ability to their teams, reducing the effectiveness of Friday's most frequently selected Pokémon. Till Bӧhmer's team is one of the most inspiring examples, and we saw several other veteran Trainers try similar tactics, including Trista Medine and the reigning Champ.
Some strategies that hadn't seen much success at recent International Championships made a comeback in Anaheim. Several Trainers returned to the Arcanine, Tapu Fini, and Kartana trio that dominated February, including 2016 semifinalist Eduardo Cunha. And one of the most recognizable elements of Kaede Waga's team was the pairing of Tapu Lele and a Mandibuzz holding Psychic Seed—a strategy we saw much more frequently back in March. He cruised through to Day Two with the help of newer looks on his team, like Metagross's Weakness Policy, so keep an eye out for teams that resemble proven winners while adapting to modern trends.
The battles continue tomorrow when all of the Day Two Pokémon TCG and video game invitees join the players who advanced from Day One. It's sure to be a star-studded event with even more of the world's best players ready to compete. And by the end of the day we'll know who will face off on Sunday in the grand finals.
Once again, we'll be showing Pokémon battles all day long on four separate streams at Pokemon.com/Live, with our expert commentators analyzing all the action. Be sure to catch your favorite players and see which decks and teams will continue to be victorious as the day unfolds. The Pokkén Tournament semifinals are scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. on the main stream, too. And remember to visit Pokemon.com/Strategy for follow-up analysis and continued coverage of Play! Pokémon events.
Good luck to every Pokémon TCG, video game, and Pokkén Tournament Trainer here in Anaheim at the 2017 Pokémon World Championships!