2023 Oceania VGC International Championships Preview Roundtable

February 13, 2023

2023 Oceania VGC International Championships Preview Roundtable

We gather our VGC experts to provide some insights on the first International Championship of the new era.

The anticipation ahead of the 2023 Oceania International Championships (OCIC) is off the charts. It’s the first International of the 2023 Championship season, the first to feature the Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet games, and the first to showcase Paradox Pokémon on a competitive level. To say there’s a lot to look forward to when the matches begin in Melbourne, Australia on February 17, 2023, is a massive understatement.

To get a handle on all the excitement leading up to the big event, we’ve invited back three top Pokémon VGC minds—Aaron Traylor, Aaron Zheng, and Markus Stadter—to discuss what to expect when the battles get underway. They’re joined by Chris Shepperd from the official Pokémon website.

Aaron Traylor

Markus Stadter

Aaron Zheng

Remember that you can watch all the Oceania Internationals action live on February 17–19, 2023. Get streaming details from the official Pokemon YouTube channel.

Shepperd: Thanks again for getting together to do another preview roundtable. They’re always fun and informative.

I want to open by asking about the mood of the competitive community right now. The events are all packed, but there have to be some tight nerves as official events return.

Traylor: I think that a lot of people are scrambling right now. There are a lot of powerful threats in the Series 2 metagame now that the Paradox Pokémon have been introduced, and I feel like many players are trying to find something that works well for them, especially given the stakes of how large these tournaments are.

Stadter: I think everyone is really excited for this season! The tournaments keep getting bigger, the level of play is very high, and the newly discovered Pokémon offer a lot of new options to the game.

Zheng: The Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet VGC scene has been incredibly exciting overall. I think many have enjoyed Series 1 thoroughly. I also think a good amount of the community wishes we could have played Series 1 for a bit longer—switching to a new format just two months in is daunting for many. There’s so little time between transitioning from Series 1 to 2, so I agree with Aaron’s overall sentiment.

Traylor: Oops, I kinda whiffed on what you were asking for. I was just so ready to start talking about the Series 2 metagame!

Shepperd: We’ll get there! But I think you bring up an interesting point. How difficult is it for players to adapt to a fresh set of Pokémon and rules? It’ll be only about three months between game launch and the first Internationals.

Stadter: With big tournaments in February happening in the US, Australia, and Germany, everyone will have a look at what is popular in other tournaments. With how the series are evolving, there is less buildup over multiple tournaments. Instead, many competitors only have one tournament in a certain ruleset and want to give it their all at this event.

I think there is still a lot left to discover with some of the new tools and new mechanics, but overall, I think people are pretty quick to identify what works and what doesn’t. However, mastering a format usually takes a few months, so a different skill set is required to do well at the moment—being quick to adapt and to come up with innovative ideas rather than perfecting a strategy like last season.

Traylor: Definitely agreed with the above. Aaron and Markus, do you guys like it when tournaments change formats quickly? I feel like one of my strengths as a player who’s been around for a while is knowing how to adapt to a metagame that has been around for a few months where everyone knows the important threats, but changing metagames often seems to be a good thing too, because it makes it easier for newer players to get in on the ground floor.

Zheng: I think adapting to a new set of Pokémon and rules is always challenging. Many players are at least now acclimated to the majority of new Pokémon and strategies after playing Series 1. However, the introduction of Paradox Pokémon in Series 2 will dramatically shake things up, so competitors will have to combine their experience with their intuition.

Shepperd: Do you think that the shift to online play during Covid helped open ways to see what is going on in other tournaments? Has it opened lines of communication that weren’t there before to make it easier to scout worldwide events?

Stadter: There are so many community-run online tournaments right now. You can play against some of the best players in the world every day of the week!

Zheng: Hmm, I’d actually point to something else: there are lots of community run tournaments that have hundreds of people participating that're really driving the early formats forward.

Stadter: And most of those are showing team lists, publishing stats, etc. I think this is a big shift that happened here.

Zheng: It is definitely also easier to scout worldwide events with more information being published online now. However, for Orlando Regionals, for example, there are no official events to scout since it’s so early on in the format and it’s the first major in-person event, so players will generally observe what’s popular in online events.

Traylor: Things definitely feel more “worldwide,” if that makes sense. Players have figured out that people who aren’t going to the same tournaments they’re attending are useful practice partners. It makes it easier to work with players from other regions if you can find them!

Stadter: Without the community tournaments, it would be difficult to practice for Orlando and OCIC. Since this season has a new open list format where saving information is not as big of a deal, players might be more willing to use some of their best teams in these community tournaments to practice.

Shepperd: How much will playing on the in-game ladder in the new Series affect the meta?

Zheng: I think Orlando Regionals will push the meta for OCIC the most. Ladder and in-person tournaments are completely different experiences since ladder is closed team sheet, best-of-one matches, while in-person tournaments are open team sheet and best-of-three.

Traylor: Because OCIC is such a large event, a lot of players have already started working for it, so I don’t know how much the ladder will change things. The ladder is really important for players in Asia (i.e. Japan, China, Korea) who may not be going to Orlando or OCIC, so I definitely think we’ll see some awesome new strategies.

Zheng: In addition, I feel like the biggest takeaways from the online ladder really come after the season has concluded at the end of the month. At that point, people will gather the top players and teams and dissect them. But since OCIC is midway through February, we won’t have as much info about them.

Shepperd: Thanks for bringing up the move to open lists. How has it changed players’ tactics?

Traylor: Open list makes players feel less bad about being public with their ideas before the tournament. If your opponents are going to see your teams anyway, might as well share it with practice partners ahead of time.

Stadter: Adding to this, I think before a tournament, people would still try to be a bit more secretive, but then during an event, it doesn’t really matter if someone knows which moves you are running.

Traylor: Absolutely. You don’t have to worry about people finding out your team before you play them.

Stadter: Now that you have access to your opponent’s Tera Types, moves, items, and such, you can approach Game 1 with a totally different mindset. It’s not about finding or hiding information; instead, you should use what you have to try and win Game 1.

Traylor: I think it’s way more about the plans that you make against your opponent. You don’t have to find a path to victory that is conditional on surprises, or that has to hedge because you don’t know what your opponent has.

Stadter: Previously, a surprise move or item could be used here and there to win a game unexpectedly. Now people have started to experiment with unexpected ways to train their Pokémon to get an information advantage. This could be a Pokémon that is usually trained to be quick and hard hitting but now is trained in a defensive way, for example. Since stats are not shown on the open team lists, such strategies are difficult to see through until it might be too late, and the Pokémon you thought you could knock out if was trained the “regular” way suddenly survives an attack.

Zheng: You can look at the impact on several different angles: team building, practice, and battling. For team building, I’d say it generally incentivizes strategies that are more consistent, rather than relying on surprises that aim to catch your opponent off guard. For practice, I’d mirror what Aaron said—many players are more willing to practice online on the ladder or in community events and are less worried about scouting. For battling, players can limit the number of plays their opponent has access to, rather than covering for a random move or tactic that they don’t know about, as they might in a closed team sheet format.

Traylor: It’s an interesting calculus, though. If you have something good, and you’re public about it, other people will think about it and how to beat it and may even take it for their own. So you have to know that you’re going to use it better than anyone else.

Shepperd: This might be not going out on a limb much, but players who execute better in-game tactics should excel here, right?

Stadter: I think this is mostly true.

Zheng: What do you mean by in-game tactics, specifically?

Stadter: If you are saying the focus is more on the battling aspect rather than team building and hiding information, then I think this is mostly true. But building a good team is of course still very relevant.

Shepperd: Yeah, that’s what I’m getting at, Markus. You’re not as likely to sneak some odd team construction or move selection through, so you better make the right calls during the battle.

Traylor: It’s so challenging to isolate battling skills from what the team is allowing you to do. A performance at a tournament is really about the Trainer and their Pokémon working in harmony to achieve the result. Chris, I would say that it’s true for the tippy-top level players.

Stadter: Because there will always be unfavorable team matchups, I think making calls about the metagame and hiding some information about your team before an event will always have a place in Pokémon. Despite what some might believe about competitive Pokémon, we will never have an era where everyone is literally running the same team and it only comes down to battling.

Zheng: I also think that the general level of both team building and battling has risen exponentially since we all started playing during 2011 and before. As a result, as Markus pointed out, making smart metagame calls during the team building phase is crucial to succeeding at events. If you look at the teams that won the San Diego and Liverpool Regionals, they both had components that I thought allowed them to stand out from the rest of the competition—Garganacl in San Diego, Pawmot in Liverpool.

Shepperd: Let’s shift to talking about what players and viewers are going to see on the field when the matches begin in Melbourne.

We’ll start with Terastallization. First, I’d just like to ask what magnitude of shake-up this has been? How are players going to be able to manage that huge new vector?

Traylor: I think the first thing to say about Terastallizing is that it’s really fun. There are a ton of strategies that you can enable with it, and any Pokémon can make use of it to turn the battle on its head.

Stadter: Currently, Terastallizing feels very balanced and fair to me, especially with open team sheets.

Zheng: I think Terastallization is the most interesting battling mechanic we've ever had.

Traylor: Seconding Aaron. It’s a great time to be playing competitive Pokémon.

Stadter: For sure!

Zheng: There are so many interesting applications of Terastallization. When it was first introduced, I think many players focused on using it offensively. Since then, we've also seen lots of interesting defensive applications, like Poison–Tera Type Hydreigon, Ghost–Tera Type Maushold, and Poison–Tera Type Garganacl. In addition, you can use it for very specific options, like Grass–Tera Type Annihilape to ignore Amoonguss’s Rage Powder or Dark–Tera Type Armarouge with Weak Armor and Weakness Policy that Sylveon can activate with Quick Attack.

Stadter: With the Dynamax phenomenon, I had sets that would go very similarly, with both players choosing the same Dynamax Pokémon all three games. Now you have many more options to alternate your plan and adjust to what your opponent is doing.

Zheng: I also thought that with Dynamaxing, there was no downside to using it, other than the opportunity cost of not being able to Dynamax another Pokémon on your team. With Terastallizing, there is always a trade-off as soon as you use it—you often gain new resistances but also gain new weaknesses.

Shepperd: Is there a clear trend about how Terastallizing is being used, then? You mentioned defensive benefits. Is that where most of the emphasis has been?

Zheng: I’d say generally, most of the best teams I’ve seen have a good combination between offensive and defensive Tera Pokémon. For example, the team that won the San Diego Regionals has Steel–Tera Type Gholdengo with Choice Specs to maximize damage output. It also had defensive Tera Types such as Poison–Tera Type Garganacl and Water–Tera Type Baxcalibur.

Stadter: Sometimes just making it through one more turn is enough to swing the battle around. Other times, getting that extra damage from a same-type attack bonus is what you need. It’s very difficult to rank the different uses of Terastallization. I’m glad you actually have to decide the Tera Type before battling. I would just be too much to handle for me if you could select ANY type at any moment!

Traylor: I think defensive Tera Pokémon are really important and can make the difference between a weak team and a strong one. To successfully pick a defensive Tera Type, you have to really understand the Pokémon that you might go up against. It won’t be the same defensive Tera Type on the same Pokémon on every team, which is really interesting.

For example, Armarouge is a Fire/Psychic type, which means it’s weak to Dark. Most players choose to Terastallize Armarouge with its own Dark Tera Type so it resists Dark-type attacks and becomes immune to Murkrow’s Prankster-powered Taunt. However, Hydreigon, which would normally use a Dark-type attack to one-hit KO Armarouge, can just attack with Draco Meteor and knock off most of Armarouge’s health. If you’re really worried about Hydreigon specifically, you could instead Terastallize an Armarouge with Fairy as its Tera Type, thus becoming totally immune to that Draco Meteor while still resisting Dark-type moves.

Stadter: But even with your fixed choices, you still have six different options to choose from for each game. Due to open team sheets, scouting is not that important, but during a battle it makes a world of a difference whether you or your opponent have already Terastallized or not.

Zheng: I think one of my favorite things about Terastallization is how it impacts the team building process. With team building, one of the things that a lot of top teams and Trainers would historically aim for is having at least one resistance or immunity to the most common attacks and Pokémon.

Traylor: I like that you have to commit to your Tera Pokémon, yeah. That makes you exploitable in other ways, like Fairy–Tera Type Armarouge being weak to Gholdengo’s Steel-type moves in a way that Dark–Tera Type Armarouge is not. It means every battle is a new and interesting puzzle to solve. It keeps me really engaged.

Zheng: With Terastallization now, you can patch up typing weaknesses by simply finding a good Tera Type for a Pokémon already on your team, where previously, you often had to find a new Pokémon with a certain typing.

Shepperd: I’d like to hear about changes to battles as we go into Series 2. First off, just watching Paradox Pokémon in battle is a lot of fun. That said, which ones should we be watching for from a battling standpoint?

Zheng: The Paradox Pokémon I expect to see the most are Flutter Mane, Roaring Moon, Iron Bundle, and Iron Hands.

Traylor: The biggest ones to watch out for are Flutter Mane, Roaring Moon, Iron Bundle, and Iron Hands, but I think all of them have some interesting uses.

Shepperd: Well, we apparently have a consensus...

Zheng: There are many other Paradox Pokémon that I think are strong enough to win a tournament. But in terms of absolute usage, the four that Aaron and I mentioned should be represented the most for Orlando and probably the OCIC, too.

Stadter: Out of the Paradox Pokémon that were not named yet, I think Scream Tail and Iron Moth also have some value.

Traylor: What makes these particular Paradox Pokémon stand out is their Speed (Flutter Mane, Roaring Moon, and Iron Bundle) and their defensive stats (Flutter Mane, Iron Bundle, and Iron Hands). They just have good fundamentals that VGC players classically like to take advantage of.

Zheng: Great Tusk is really strong too.

Stadter: Agreed!

Shepperd: Is this a case where the metagame hasn’t tightened up around a few favorites, or is there just really good balance among this set of Pokémon?

Stadter: To me, they feel a bit like the Ultra Beasts, but their stats are a bit better balanced. They have pretty unique typing combinations and are flexible to use, but don’t seem overpowered.

Traylor: There is good balance among this set. They’re all very flexible and can fit on a wide variety of teams. That’s what I like about the Paradox Pokémon. They have high base stats, unique types, and cool tricks, but they all have some sort of Achilles heel that your opponent can take advantage of.

Shepperd: In the broader picture, how has the introduction of these Pokémon affected team construction? What other Pokémon have gone up or down as a result of Paradox Pokémon being added in Series 2?

Traylor: That’s a great question, Chris. I need to go look at some usage stats, LOL.

Zheng: Meowscarada has definitely taken a big hit, but it’s still solid and many people are still using it. It just went from a Pokémon that was easily in the top 3 in usage to something that’s maybe top 10–15 now.

Traylor: It’s really hard to pick out that effect from “Things that were good in Series 1 that people just hadn’t realized.”

Stadter: Meowscarada has a bit of a rough time with Flutter Mane and Iron Bundle in the format, two Pokémon that outspeed and quickly knock it out.

Traylor: Meowscarada was on nearly half the teams in Liverpool across the entire tournament. In Series 2, it might be lucky to be on 10% of them.

Stadter: Gholdengo also took a bit of a hit as there are more heavy hitters available now.

Traylor: On the plus side, Torkoal stands out because harsh sunlight powers up so many of the Paradox Pokémon.

Zheng: Arcanine has seen a huge increase too.

Traylor: Pincurchin does not stand out as it is far weaker. Poor li’l guy.

[Editor’s note: Pincurchin’s Electric Terrain powers up the remaining Paradox Pokémon with the Quark Drive Ability.]

Zheng: I also think Garganacl winning the San Diego Regionals really helped people realize how good it is.

Stadter: Farigiraf saw quite some usage early on in Series 2, but I think that’s already gone down a bit, similar to where it was at the start of Series 1. There’s also a question of what the best set is for Garganacl!

Stadter: Can you believe everyone ran Body Press and Iron Defense at the beginning of the format?

Zheng: And then the San Diego Champion’s set did not have either of those moves!

Stadter: That’s another good example of the fact that it takes a bit of time for a format to develop.

Traylor: That feels like a classic underestimation of the Salt Cure move. Feels very similar to how G-Max Wildfire was treated at the beginning of the Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield era.

Stadter: I have seen people pair it with Jaw Lock from Roaring Moon in Series 2.

Zheng: As a side note, Jiseok Lee was one of my favorite players in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield. It was really cool to see him win the San Diego Regionals. His team had no speed control at all, which I feel breaks conventional team-building standards. But it had some really interesting sets: Mimikyu with Life Orb, Paldean Tauros, Baxcalibur with Loaded Dice, and of course, Poison–Tera Type Garganacl. It's a team that I would not have prepared for very much if I played in San Diego.

Stadter: There might still be a lot to discover about Salt Cure and Garganacl.

Shepperd: It sounds like the game is really well-balanced right now. Even with Terastallization, Paradox Pokémon, and new Paldean Pokémon in general, nothing is pulling the game in a particular direction. Does that also play into an offense/defense standpoint? Like, the metagame doesn’t feel overly one way or the other in that regard?

Traylor: I think it would be hard to find a player who didn’t agree with that, Chris. Although, balance means that when every Pokémon is good, you’re not going to find a team that covers everything that you want it to, which can be stressful. Can you tell I’m a little stressed for these tournaments?

Shepperd: That’s what Pokémon matches should be though, right? If it were totally solvable, it wouldn’t be much fun.

Traylor: Definitely!

Stadter: In this format, there can be really quick games, games of middling length, and also “long” games lasting 10+ turns. I think most games take maybe around 8–12 turns though, which I think is pretty healthy.

Traylor: I will say that offense feels a little harder to execute given the defensive synergy of Pokémon such as Arcanine, Amoongus, Garganacl, and Iron Hands.

Stadter: One reason why Light Clay with Light Screen or Reflect was so powerful in 2022 is that the battles usually didn’t last much longer than eight turns, so you’d have the effect set up for the entire battle. This is not the case right now.

Traylor: I kind of still like Light Clay with Reflect in some cases, though. To me, 2022 felt like we were underestimating them in years past.

Zheng: Speaking of defensive Pokémon, it’s really interesting how little Grimmsnarl has been relevant. It’s still a solid Pokémon, but I thought its usage would be higher after seeing it so much in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield.

Stadter: I think it’s still pretty good. It won a big community tournament recently! But it’s not anywhere near where it was in 2022.

Traylor: I think Grimmsnarl is still really good. I’m interested in other uses of it besides the classic Light Screen / Reflect setup we saw in 2022.

Zheng: Yes, I think Fake Out is much better on it now than before.

Stadter: I want to see how the “triangle” from Series 1 will do: Dondozo/Tatsugiri, Indeedee/Armarouge, and Maushold/Annihilape. They made up three out of four finals spots in Series 1 and don’t see that much play right now. So I wonder how these strategies can use the powerful Paradox Pokémon to best effect.

Shepperd: It sounds like we’re at a good place to talk specifically about what we’ll see at the OCIC. How much of the unexpected should we expect? It sounds like big events might have fewer huge surprises and off-meta strategies than previous majors.

Traylor: OCIC will be tough to predict, but I think we’ll see a lot of well-executed fundamentals. Not to mention these Pokémon too much, but putting Pokémon like Arcanine, Amoonguss, Garganacl, and Iron Hands on a team together in order to grind down opponents who can't break through their defensive synergy is a tactic that many experienced players are familiar with. I would expect several teams focusing on these defensive synergies to place very highly at OCIC.

Zheng: We’re doing this preview before Orlando Regionals, so my predictions will be before we see anything from there. I think OCIC will likely look quite similar. If you look at trends from San Diego Regionals to Liverpool Regionals, Liverpool’s top teams very much resembled a lot of the top strategies from San Diego.

Traylor: It’s worth noting that OCIC is geographically close to Asian countries, like Japan—although those players can’t qualify for Worlds through the event, they can still come for the sake of the high-level competition. I’m really interested to see what strategies those players bring.

Stadter: Orlando Regionals is probably the tougher tournament, all things considered. So anything that does well in Orlando should also be a candidate for OCIC.

Traylor: I think OCIC is going to be difficult in different ways. I think your hard matches will be much much tougher, given that the very best players from around the world are flying in.

Shepperd: The attendance numbers for both are sky-high for VGC. You’ll get a good sampling at Orlando for sure.

Zheng: I’d expect many of the Series 1 strategies to still be relevant, specifically the ones Markus called out earlier. I also think a big question is how players will build around Paradox Pokémon. Iron Hands, for example, can be used as a general attacker but I’ve also seen Belly Drum sets.

Stadter: Or Swords Dance.

Zheng: Iron Bundle is excellent for Speed control thanks to Icy Wind and an incredible base Speed, reminding me of Regieleki in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield.

Stadter: Iron Hands is a Pokémon we will definitely see at the top.

Zheng: Flutter Mane is just a strong attacker and also gets access to Perish Song, which I predict will be used by many top players.

Stadter: Personally, I believe Iron Bundle is a bit better placed in the format compared to Flutter Mane.

Traylor: Booster Energy is an interesting item that we haven’t used yet. You can use it to boost one of your Paradox Pokémon’s best stat one time. Usually, this item is used to boost Speed on Roaring Moon, Iron Bundle, or Iron Moth, all of which can really change how the battle flows.

Shepperd: With a long time off between official events, I’m sure there will be a fair amount of turnover in top talent. Do you think OCIC favors players who have been around longer, or newcomers who have been able to get their practice in through online battles but haven’t been on players’ radars?

Zheng: In general, I’d say the game favors players who have been around longer. Experience really goes a long way.

That being said, Aaron Brok finished in the Top 4 of San Diego Regionals and that was his first in-person Regionals ever!

Stadter: Also the experience of travelling to Australia to participate in a tournament is really big. The farther you travel, the higher the pressure can be to do well. At least for me, there’s not much farther than Australia!

Shepperd: OK, with the little bit of time left, give me some names of players to watch for.

Traylor: Me! I think I’m the only one of the three of us going!

Stadter: Aaron!

Traylor: I’m touched, Markus!

Stadter: One name I want to throw in the mix is my friend Yuki Zaninovich. He had some decent results in the past but is still waiting for his big trophy.

Traylor: I want to talk about Australian players. Meaghan Rattle placed Top 8 in back-to-back World Championships before and after the COVID break, and that is an incredible feat. Not many players out there can do that. I think she is a real frontrunner.

Stadter: Another Australian player would be Henry Rich. He has also been playing in a lot of the community tours and did pretty well in a couple.

Traylor: Excellent player! And if Christopher Kan is going, he’s a force to be reckoned with. He won the North America International Championships (NAIC) in 2017.

Zheng: Two other legendary Australian players are Chris Kan and Sam Pandellis.

Shepperd: Is there a “home-field advantage” in VGC?

Traylor: Well, yes, but also no, as you can see with that Chris example.

Stadter: I have to adjust my statement from earlier—very little travel also leads to high pressure. I think there has to be a medium amount of travel that leads to the least pressure...? Or maybe tournaments always come with some pressure no matter how far or close they are?

Traylor: I believe players from Australia and New Zealand haven’t won their own tournament since Zoe Lou did in 2017. A European has won the tournament every year since then.

Zheng: Yeah, we’ve talked a lot about Australian players but Europe has an incredible track record at OCIC. I wish I knew which European players were going, but I believe Marco Silva is attending. He won OCIC in 2020 and will be looking to defend his title.

Traylor: I think because this tournament is so important for Australian players specifically that they’re sweating bullets. That definitely adds to the pressure.

Traylor: We gotta start talking about Eric Rios again. He was so dominant in 2022 that every player out there needs to respect him.

Shepperd: Players are essentially competing for a Worlds invite to Japan for the first time. That has to up the stakes a little, doesn’t it?

Zheng: Certainly, especially for local players who may not be able to attend too many events outside of their region. And International Championships are the biggest opportunity for Championship Points.

Stadter: Plus the biggest opportunity to make a name for oneself...besides Worlds, obviously.

Traylor: Whereas players flying in from Europe and the US have their own Internationals, and players from Asia are really there for the glory of competition.

Shepperd: OK, we’re pretty much out of time, but I wanted to give you a chance to add your own final thoughts. What should we watch for when the matches start?

Stadter: Going into OCIC the format is super wide and open. That means we will likely see a lot of different strategies, making matches particularly exciting. We don’t know what the most dominant strategies are going to be! Will we see something entirely new come out on top? How will the Japanese players in attendance do for the first time in an open team sheet format?

There are a lot of questions that I can’t wait to get the answers to!

Traylor: Series 2 enables players to play in a “bulky offense” way, where every Pokémon can take a hit and contribute to the offense in some way. This is often characterized by a Fire-, Water-, and Grass-type combination. Lots of experienced players really value this defensive style of play, but I’m interested in how players will find opportunities to find offense that busts through. I’m also really interested in seeing strategies that start out on a strong foot and overwhelm opponents despite their defensive prowess. I’ll definitely be looking for that in the matches throughout the weekend, especially as we get closer to deciding a Champion.

Also, people should watch out for Maushold. I think it’s really cute. Just watch it for a little bit if you see it throughout the matches.

Zheng: For me personally, I’m eager to see what region wins OCIC. A European player won the last three Masters Division OCICs, and Europe in particular performed very well at the 2022 World Championships, so I’m curious to see if that trend continues.

Shepperd: That’s plenty to think about! There’s so much new to watch for that we could probably get into the weeds all day, but mostly where we are is: we’ll have to watch the stream and see what happens.

Stadter: Definitely.

Zheng: The last thing I’d highlight is that for OCIC, I generally expect to see many top performing Pokémon and strategies from Orlando carry over. But I’m personally hoping some of the top players are cooking total anti-meta teams to surprise us at OCIC.

Shepperd: Thanks again for your excellent insights!

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