The 2015 Pokémon US Video Game National Championships featured three days of fantastic battles. Pokémon fans came from all over North America to battle for prizes and the chance to become a National Champion, and to have a great time with other Pokémon fans.
Let's look back on an amazing tournament full of impressive teams and prepare for the Pokémon Video Game World Championships. There are plenty of trends to keep an eye on as players prepare for Boston in August.
If you're looking for a little extra information about the teams and Pokémon used at the 2015 Pokémon US National Championships, check out the top 8 teams from the Junior, Senior, and Masters Divisions, the other Masters Division Day 2 teams, and a breakdown of the Pokémon, moves, items, and Natures from the teams that made it to Day 2 in the Masters Division.
Players battling in the 2015 Pokémon US National Championships saw lots of Landorus Therian Forme since it appeared on almost 73% of teams that made it to Day 2 of the Masters Division. Aegislash appeared on 48% of teams, and Thundurus 43%. This trio of Pokémon were the keys to victory for many players (Trainers with a Pokémon that had a favorable matchup with Landorus in its Therian Forme could expect to have an easier time in almost 75% of their matches), so the most common Pokémon were also important Pokémon for players to defeat.
Landorus Therian Forme appeared on 27 of the 37 teams that made it to the second day of Masters Division Swiss play. Many players try to put at least one Pokémon with Intimidate on their teams to weaken enemy Pokémon with powerful physical attacks, such as Mega Kangaskhan and Mega Salamence. In addition to bringing Intimidate, Landorus can also produce some of the game's strongest Earthquakes, and, when aided by a Choice Scarf, it's also one of the game's fastest users of the powerful move Rock Slide. Few players would argue with the statement that Landorus is one of the strongest Pokémon available for any team.
Two players who made it to the top cut of the Masters Division chose to use a Landorus of their own that favored special attacks over physical attacks. Their tricky Landorus were capable of using an Ice-type Hidden Power to knock out other Landorus in a single blow. Finding ways to use primarily special attacks instead of physical ones was a trend for many players looking to reduce the effectiveness of Landorus Therian Forme's Intimidate.
The Masters Division was full of difficulties for Landorus. Most of the top teams had a defensive Water-type Pokémon to ease matches against the Ground- and Flying-type Landorus. Among the most difficult hurdles for Landorus to overcome were Wash Rotom with the Levitate Ability and Milotic which could take advantage of Landorus's Intimidate and receive a sharp Special Attack boost from its own Competitive Ability. Players also tried to freeze Landorus in its tracks with a barrage of Ice-type attacks from Conkeldurr, Thundurus, and even Tyranitar. The Senior Division finals featured another great solution to Landorus: Bennett Piercy's Ice Beam Latios holding a Choice Scarf. It was able to outrun his opponent's Landorus, securing a Knock Out for Latios and a National Championship for Bennett.
The Masters Division top cut also featured three players using Aegislash with Wide Guard to stop Landorus from using Earthquake and Rock Slide. Wide Guard proved to be a very popular choice: 13 of the 16 Aegislash in Masters Day 2 play chose to carry Wide Guard. Other popular Pokémon, like Charizard, Heatran, Tyranitar, Salamence, Sylveon, and Gardevoir, used moves that targeted multiple Pokémon as well, making Wide Guard a valuable move at the 2015 US Nationals. Aegislash even created problems for the Normal-type Mega Kangaskhan due to its Ghost type, as well as for the Fairy-type Sylveon and Mega Gardevoir because of its Steel type.
Aegislash's popularity led to Trainers adapting the move sets of other Pokémon. Overheat and Flamethrower were each used by 40% of Charizard, while 50% of Heatran carried one of the two moves. Both of these Pokémon traditionally rely on Heat Wave as their Fire-type attack, but, because of Wide Guard's popularity, they carried a single-target attack more frequently than we've seen in the past. Another important obstacle players threw at Aegislash was Taunt, which was carried primarily by Thundurus (81% of Thundurus had Taunt). While afflicted by Taunt, Aegislash isn't able to use King's Shield to activate its Stance Change Ability and return to its Shield Forme. Stuck in Blade Forme, and no longer able to use Wide Guard because of Taunt, Aegislash becomes much easier to handle.
When players are deciding which Pokémon to counter, Thundurus doesn't usually receive the same type of attention that Landorus or Aegislash does. That's because Thundurus is primarily a defensive Pokémon. Thundurus can slow Pokémon with Thunder Wave or disrupt Pokémon with Taunt. However, it's a Pokémon that doesn't usually deal much damage, so some trainers choose not to focus on it early in battles or when teambuilding.
One of Thundurus's most dangerous foes was other Thundurus. All of the Trainers who made it to the second day of Masters play trained their Thundurus defensively, making Taunts between two Thundurus highly impactful. Due to the focus on training defensively, Taunted Thundurus often struggled to deal significant damage to foes when forced to attack.
Players responded to Thundurus's popularity with a resurgence of the Tyranitar and Excadrill duo. Both can execute powerful Rock Slide attacks, both take little damage from Thundurus's attacks, and Excadrill's Speed-boosting Sand Rush can't be negated by Thunder Wave due to its immunity to Thunder Wave as a Ground-type Pokémon.
Selecting Mega-Evolving Pokémon is one of the most important decisions Trainers make when forming their teams. With most of the Pokémon in the National Pokédex available to tournament players this season, Mega Evolution gives a smaller advantage now. Plus, Trainers could Mega Evolve only one Pokémon per game, so most competitors had only one Mega-Evolving Pokémon on their team. Only five of the 37 Trainers who made it to Day 2 in the Masters Division had two of their Pokémon hold Mega Stones. The decision of which Mega-Evolved Pokémon to select is extremely important, as Mega-Evolved Pokémon change the way a team plays more than any other Pokémon on the team.
As with most events in the Video Game Championships since the release of Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, Mega Kangaskhan was the most common Mega-Evolved Pokémon in Indianapolis (and the fourth most popular Pokémon overall), appearing on 13 of 37 Masters Day 2 teams. Unfortunately for some Trainers, six of the 13 Kangaskhan finished Day 2 with losing records. Most Trainers chose to use a Kangaskhan that had an Adamant Nature to try to do as much damage as possible—a change from the faster Jolly Kangaskhan many chose last season. As with the 2014 Video Game World Championships, Kangaskhan was a Pokémon that Trainers seemed to be focusing on defeating (with all of the Intimidate users and Aegislash in the field), which made every round tough for players relying on Kangaskhan.
Mega Charizard Y solidified itself as the second most common Mega Pokémon, appearing on 10 teams in Masters Day 2 play. Players have had to work to keep Charizard near the top, with only three competitors falling back on the typical Charizard move set of Overheat, Heat Wave, Solar Beam, and Protect. Four Charizard had a Ground-type Hidden Power to help deal with Heatran (itself used on 10 teams). Four more used Flamethrower to deal with Wide Guard Aegislash and Pokémon trained to survive a single Heat Wave, while also avoiding the Special Attack drop of Overheat. Two Charizard even used Tailwind, a move rarely known by Charizard, but a tactic that contributed to a German National Championship victory.
Mega Salamence was the third most popular Mega-Evolved Pokémon at US Nationals. Of the seven Salamence that made it to Masters Division Day 2 play, two focused purely on Special Attacks, one boosted its stats with Dragon Dance before using only physical attacks, and the remaining four used a mix of physical attacks like Double-Edge and special attacks like Draco Meteor. Salamence's Intimidate allowed players who didn't want to use Landorus to maintain access to the powerful Ability: teams using Salamence accounted for six of the ten teams that didn't use Landorus Therian Forme.
The only other Mega-Evolved Pokémon to appear on more than one team during Masters Day 2 was Mega Gardevoir, which also appeared on both of the teams in the Masters Division finals. Six Mega Gardevoir were paired with Amoonguss, while five were paired with Landorus Therian Forme. Amoonguss used its Rage Powder to help three of the Mega Gardevoir use Trick Room safely and to make it easier to use their powerful Hyper Voice move. Meanwhile, Landorus's Intimidate helped support Mega Gardevoir's weaker Defense stat, encouraging opponents to try to attack its much higher Special Defense.
One major trend coming into the tournament was the increasing popularity of Tyranitar. Often paired with Excadrill and Mega Salamence, teams built around Tyranitar's Sandstream Ability were one of the biggest obstacles players tried to overcome. While only three such teams made it to Day 2 in the Masters Division, they certainly made an impact in the overall competition. Tyranitar combined with Landorus Incarnate Forme and its Sand Force Ability on one Masters Division top four team, throwing a curveball at players who expected to counter the Tyranitar and Excadrill duo with Intimidate and Earthquake from a Landorus Therian Forme. Tyranitar and Excadrill also teamed up to help Aiden McKinney win a National Championship in the Junior Division.
Some Pokémon were noticeable by their absence. Mega Metagross had some impressive battles during the St. Louis Regional Championships and was part of 10 teams that made it to the top cuts of Spring Regional Championships events in the Masters Division, but it was unable to crack Day 2 in Indianapolis. Terrakion only appeared on three Day 2 Masters teams in spite of being the fourth most common Pokémon in the top cuts of Masters Division Spring Regional tournaments.
Perhaps most shocking is the fall of Mega Venusaur. After winning the German National Championships in the Masters Division, being part of 10 teams that made it to the top cut of national tournaments in Europe, and being the second most common Mega-Evolved Pokémon during North American Spring Regionals, only one Mega Venusaur made it to Day 2 in the Masters Division.
The Worlds Championships Await
As players and fans return home from Indianapolis, they will be looking to learn from US Nationals and from all of the other Nationals tournaments as they prepare for the Pokémon World Championships in Boston, Massachusetts, on August 21–23, 2015. Click here to see who will be competing in Boston.
Stay tuned to Pokemon.com for coverage of the Pokémon World Championships starting soon. And remember, you can always find the most recent strategy content at Pokemon.com/Strategy!