By Ana Hoffman, Contributing Writer
The 2022 Pokémon GO World Championships showcased people and Pokémon from all over the globe who battled hard to earn their place in London. And every one of them came ready to take on the highest challenge and battle it for the first with the title of Pokémon GO World Champion.
The many spectators who came to watch the inaugural Pokémon GO Worlds were not disappointed. Everyone was treated to three days of incredible battles, sportsmanship, and celebration that won’t soon be forgotten!
Pokémon GO World Championships Day 1
The first day of competition highlighted just how deep the talent pool was at this event with many talented and well-known players unexpectedly knocked out of the tournament. The upsets began when Ziggomatic17’s core meta team defeated the winner of the Vancouver International Championships winner Hsineerg, who surprisingly did not bring her signature Shadow Ninetales into battle. The momentum continued with a match between Iomero0 and 23EJB in which a number of unconventional Pokémon appeared including Pelipper, Skarmory, and Shadow Machamp. Kiengiv debuted a Shadow Beedrill but lost 0-2 to JBYang4 (Yang).
Trainer 00danke1219 brought an unusual pick in Mascargo but was defeated by MartoGalde whose fan favorite flashy Toxicroak delivered a Sludge Bomb KO against 00danke1219’s Diggersby. In keeping with the anti-meta theme StoneCollection’s team included a Samurott, Shadow Victreebel, and Umbreon which helped deliver their Trainer a 2-1 match win against KUJIRA12GO.
While it was shocking to see so many incredibly talented Trainers eliminated, after the Day 1 action concluded, fans looking toward Day 2 saw a remarkable remaining group: global representation of Trainers from each competitive region vying for the trophy.
Pokémon GO World Championships Day 2
Day 2 started out with Zarddy vs. CrescentAngels, resulting in a decisive 2-0 victory for CrescentAngels after he made a show-stopping Poison Fang catch on his Swampert to close out the match. Later in the day, fans saw DancingRob (Rob) and his Shadow Venusaur take on JBYang4’s team of meta staples with Rob’s Swampert finish a three-battle match with an Earthquake that garnered Rob the 2-1 win.
NAIC Champion ItsAXN took on Liverpool Regional winner LurganRocket. ItsAXN won the first match with clever energy management, but the remaining two battles swung in LurganRocket’s favor when his Diggersby matched up against his opponent’s Nidoqueen for a 2-1 win.
Zarddy brought his anti-meta Cofagrigus and Deoxys Defense Forme against DancingRob’s Shadow Venusaur with DancingRob’s Galarian Stunfisk making an exceptional Earth Power catch for a 2-0 win, earning raucous applause from the crowd. Then MartoGalde and LurganRocket squared off with LurganRocket’s Cresselia giving him an edge and a 2-0 win against MartoGalde and his favored Toxicroak. In the lower bracket semifinals DancingRob and LurganRocket went back and forth with a DancingRob win followed by a LurganRocket victory and finally another DancingRob success for a 2-1 match in DancingRob’s favor.
The Pokémon GO World Championship Final Rounds
The Winner's Bracket Finals of CrescentAngels against godanhada started with an extremely good Psychic catch from CrescentAngels onto his Sableye to take Game 1 in style. Game 2 saw Obstagoon from CrescentAngels into Shadow Ninetales, getting a Night Slash boost and ultimately spending a shield to win the lead matchup. CrescentAngels still had his Alolan Ninetales, looking extremely potent against the backline of Medicham + Walrein. Godanhada however remained composed and used his shield advantage to tie up the set 1-1. In Game 3, CrescentAngels led Obstagoon into godanhada's Altaria, stuck in the unfortunate matchup due to his team having Swampert in the back. From there godanhada maintained his control with his Lickitung and Medicham to take Game 3 with zero Protect Shields used from either side, going up 2-1 in the set in the process. Game 4 saw the Altaria lead return from godanhada against a Swampert lead, again doubly strong against CrescentAngels' team. Altaria stayed against the switched Sableye, ultimately finished off by a Hydro Cannon. A failed bait from godanhada's Medicham allowed CrescentAngels a glimpse of hope but ultimately the Medicham was too powerful, setting up the match win 3-1.
In the Lower Bracket Finals CrescentAngels faced off against DancingRob, starting off a rollercoaster match with Registeel into Galarian Stunfisk. Neither player shielded the super effective move, leading Rob to store a surplus of energy on his Stunfisk before catching a parting Zap Cannon from Registeel on his Shadow Venusaur. From there CrescentAngels brought in Sableye, Rob brought in Alolan Ninetales to farm which was then met by CrescentAngels’ Venusaur. Rob pivoted to utilize his saved energy from Galarian Stunfisk, but CrescentAngels caught the Earthquake on Registeel, closing out a skill-intensive Game 1. Game 2 saw a mirror lead, Shadow Venusaur against Venusaur. Both Trainers drew shields from their opponents with Frenzy Plants, and then again with Sludge Bomb. Both Trainers also tried to simultaneously catch on their Steel-types, only to see an incorrect Registeel from CrescentAngels which resulted in a cacophony from the crowd and a forfeited second match. Game 3 saw a Registeel into a Shadow Swampert, switching to another Venusaur mirror match. CrescentAngels then utilized his Sableye to line up his Venusaur against Swampert, farming it down and then throwing Frenzy Plant against the Galarian Stunfisk. Rob landed Stunfisk’s Earthquake on Venusaur and then on Registeel, closing out Game 3 to push the set to 2-1. Game 4 started with Venusaur into Medicham, CrescentAngels shielding his Venusaur twice to gain switch advantage. Rob brought in Galarian Stunfisk but Crescent’s Swampert came to meet it. Rob’s final Pokémon—his two shielded Shadow Venusaur—was enough to win the game, the match, and move to the Grand Finals.
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The Grand Finals included Trainers godanhada and DancingRob, both taking an exceptional path through talented battlers to make it there. Godanhada started Game 1 with Registeel into Rob’s Galarian Stunfisk. Registeel took a shield from the Stunfisk and then went down; godanhada brought in his Shadow Walrein, met by Medicham. Godanhada maneuvered a shield advantage with two Pokémon remaining but could not best Rob's Alolan Ninetales, which took the victory in Game 1. Game 2 started with Shadow Ninetales into Galarian Stunfisk. Rob ultimately utilized his team composition advantage to close out the battle with his Swampert, taking a 2-0 lead in the set. Game 3 saw a great lead for godanhada of Shadow Ninetales against Alolan Ninetales. Ultimately the Fox Pokémon and switch advantage were too much for Rob and godanhada took a game back, 1-2 in the set. Game 4 started out with Altaria against Medicham, again facing off against a team doubly weak to the Humming Pokémon. The alignment of teams wound up better for Rob than initially expected, as his Stunfisk avoided Medicham and his Shadow Swampert avoided the Lickitung in the endgame. Godanhada's Medicham however proved too strong, tying up the bracket 2-2. Game 5 began with Shadow Ninetales against Galarian Stunfisk. Rob switched his Medicham in, being met by Altaria from godanhada. Rob was able to farm a lot of energy on his Stunfisk, only to have it caught by the Ninetales. Godanhada then was able to bait a shield with his Body Slam and knock out Shadow Swampert with Power Whip. Rob, however, was able to pull off a game-winning Rock Slide with one turn and a sliver of his Galarian Stunfisk’s HP to spare, resetting the match and getting a standing ovation.
Grand Finals, now even in standing. Godanhada against DancingRob. The action picked back up with a Ninetales face-off, Rob instantly switching out his Ice-type to his Medicham and godanhada matching with his Registeel to catch a Psychic. Registeel survived to throw a charged attack at minimal HP remaining, taking an advantage for godanhada. With 2 shields advantage godanhada was able to close out a Game 1 win with his Shadow Walrein. Game 2 saw Medicham into Rob's Lickitung, godanhada using a Psychic before bringing in his own Lickitung. Met by the Steel-type Stunfisk, Lickitung took it down to a sliver before fainting. Bringing his Registeel in only to be met by Rob's Medicham, godanhada opted to shield the first Psychic to maintain Registeel's health, but ultimately Rob's Medicham proved too powerful, tying the match 1-1. Game 3 started with Altaria against Galarian Stunfisk, godanhada switching to Lickitung and Rob counter switching to Medicham. Rob's Alolan Ninetales was then able to take out godanhada's doubly weak to Fairy backline to go up 2-1. In Game 4, we saw godanhada lead Altaria into Rob's Swampert, godanhada staying in after a Medicham switch from Rob and winning the evenly-shielded matchup. Godanhada was able to line up his Ninetales against its Alolan variant to maintain advantage and win the game, tying the set 2-2. In a decisive Game 5, godanhada led Altaria into Galarian Stunfisk, quickly pivoting to Lickitung vs Medicham. Rob took an early shield advantage, opting to close out Lickitung with his Galarian Stunfisk. After a Rock Slide, Stunfisk went down to Ninetales. Rob brought in his Alolan Ninetales which Charmed down the Fire-type and the Altaria behind it, winning him the game and World Championships! Massive congratulations to DancingRob for an incredible 11-1 performance in the World Championships!
Prior to the start of the Masters Division Finals, the Senior Division finalists MEweedle vs alan716 took the stage to determine who would be World Champion. Alan716 was notably the Trainer who won the Road to Worlds community competition hosted by caster SpeediestChief2; alan716 was able to both attend and make finals on the back of that community generosity. A strong performance from both players took the game to five rounds, with MEweedle and his trusty Araquanid closing out the match 3-2 to become the 2022 Seniors Division World Champion! Congratulations to MEweedle!
So what were the big takeaways from Pokémon GO’s first World Championships? I sat down a few days later to recount what we saw.
First, this World Championships was defined by a single decision from each Trainer! In Game 3 of DancingRob vs JBYang4 the match came down to which Pokémon each Trainer selected after a simultaneous faint. Had Rob selected Lickitung instead of Shadow Swampert, or if Yang had selected Trevenant instead of Registeel, Rob would have surely been knocked out of the tournament. Rob showed skill throughout the tournament, but it’s easy to see just how close so many of these battles were!
Second, this tournament showed just how much an “established” meta can continue to change. In my Worlds Preview article, I went over how common picks changed over time throughout the season, and that continued to the World Championships! While two players did qualify for the tournament with Venusaur, nobody used its Shadow variant to qualify for Worlds. DancingRob saw its potential and brought a meta-adjacent pick that paid off for his party, crediting trainer aerosol2505 as a driving force in the decision in his post-match interview. The meta’s ability to shift despite having no substantial balance changes for nine months speaks to Trainers’ ability to innovate in this format.
Third, this was an amazing showcase of what the game can be at its highest level. Throughout the competitive season the game had significant performance improvements to the Trainer Battle function, leading to increased consistency and smoothness of gameplay. By the time the World Championships came around, were able to watch some incredibly mechanically intensive players play to the full depth of their ability, taking the action down to a fraction of a second in deciding matches. As a longtime player it was incredible to watch the game play so well on the whole, and to see such high level technical play.
Fourth, the event featured Trainers from all over the world, providing an incredibly geographically diverse group into the final day of competition. Regions that had very limited interactions with each other during the Regional and International Championships were able to meet up, play, and build community relationships. We saw two competitors—godanhada and CrescentAngels—who had effectively zero English-language coverage make it to the Top 3 of the tournament, showing incredible skill throughout their battles. From the perspective of someone who stays close to competitive coverage that was wonderful to see, and I’m excited to watch as these two continue their journeys in the future!
Finally, this was an incredible look to the future of competitive Pokémon GO. The Senior Division showcased some incredibly talented Trainers up and down the bracket, including MEweedle and alan716 in the Finals. From listening to the sentiment throughout the community, I can confirm the competitive hype is very much there, and Trainers are hustling to figure out their plans for the 2023 season. And Worlds presented a reminder of what in-person events are like, the community aspect being truly can’t-miss.
The proceedings of the World Championships included information about the series leading up to next year's Worlds. Pokémon GO is back in action next month, and I am extremely excited to get back to competing and watching along for Regionals and Internationals through the competitive season. I hope the event this past week has inspired you to consider it yourself, as everything continues to be a champion time.