Reports aaronzhengphilly

Published on October 17th, 2012 | by Cybertron

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Graduation Day: 2012 Seniors National Championship & 2013 Philadelphia Masters Runner-Up Team Analysis

Greetings everyone! My name is Aaron Zheng, and I’m a big fan of Pokémon! I’ve been playing VGC since it started in 2008, and I’ve qualified for 3 World Championships in the 5 years I’ve played. I’m not going to bore you with a long introduction, so let’s get started right away. The team I will be analyzing in this article is the team I used to win the 2012 Pokémon VGC US National Championships in the Senior Division this past summer. Variants of it have also performed very well last season, such as Wolfe Glick’s 1st Place finish at US Nationals in the Masters division, Kamran Jahadi’s 5th place finish at Worlds in the Seniors Division and Brendan Zheng’s 3rd place finish at Worlds in the Juniors division. I recently placed 5th in the 2012 Autumn Friendly with it.

The team also swept varous Regionals throughout the country this past weekend: Kamran Jahadi (kamz) won over in San Jose Regionals with it in the Masters Division, Brendan Zheng (Babbytron) won on the other side of the country at the Philadelphia Regionals with it in the Juniors Division, Edward Fan (iss) finished in the Top 4 at Philadelphia with it, and of course, yours truly piloted it to a 2nd place finish in the largest and arguably most competitive Regional in the country in my first tournament in the Masters division. Let’s get onto the actual analysis!

Team Building

I think one of the most important parts about a team analysis is how the player built the team, so I’ll talk briefly about how I constructed my team. It started all the back in May after I placed 3rd in the 2012 Spring Philadelphia Regionals. Nationals was approaching, and I had no more good teams or ideas left. I found myself constantly laddering on Pokémon Online with my Regionals team, consisting of Hitmontop, Tyranitar, Garchomp, Volcarona, Zapdos, and Cresselia. However, I was not pleased with it at all and knew it would not do well at a National level tournament. I also didn’t like the team as it was overly offensive, leaving me with few options in terms of battling.

In the meantime, my very good friend Wolfe Glick (better known as the following: super Pokenob, 2x US Masters National Champion, 2012 Worlds Masters Runner-up, or Wolfey) and I often had practice matches, mainly for him to practice his Nationals team. He used some really weird stuff in those matches, like Expert Belt Hidden Power Fire Cresselia and Psycho Shift Togekiss, but he would also beat me around 75% of the time. After losing to him over and over again, I realized I had to focus and actually get a team for Nationals. But where do I even start? It would take a miracle for me to build a team for Nationals in time.

I finally got a spark of inspiration after videos of Korean Nationals took place. Although 2012 was only Korea’s 2nd year participating in VGC, there are some incredibly talented players there, most notably Sejun Park (2011 Worlds Seniors Runner-up and 2012 Worlds Masters 5th Place). Their metagame is also very different from the American metagame. I have a few Korean VGC friends who were able to link me to the final matches there. This proved to be incredibly helpful as most of the American players did not have access to these matches, allowing me to keep my team a secret.

I noticed that Wonseok Jang, their National Champion, used a really interesting team with Choice Specs Cresselia, bulky Thundurus, Dual Chop Life Orb Garchomp, Focus Sash Volcarona, Hitmontop, and Ferrothorn. I took the team to PO and changed his LO Garchomp to the Yache Garchomp I had used at Regionals as I felt more comfortable with it. I instantly fell in love with the team. However, as I continued to play, I realized that I didn’t like how my only Steel-type Pokémon was Ferrothorn because it isn’t nearly as offensive as the others in this metagame (Metagross, Scizor, Heatran). I built the team on Wi-Fi, and although it won the majority of its battles, I still wasn’t comfortable with it.

In the meantime, I continued to practice with Wolfe and he commented on how we ended up with similar teams despite not working with each other at all. After a couple of games, he showed me just how strong of a Pokémon Swords Dance Scizor was. He gave me his EV spread and moveset, and I knew it was the perfect replacement for the Ferrothorn I was struggling to use. I finally had an answer to stuff like Metagross and Cresselia, and the pure power of a +2 Steel Gem Bullet Punch is absolutely fantastic.

My team looked something like this now: Choice Specs Cresselia, bulky Calm Thundurus, standard Hitmontop, standard Garchomp, Volcarona, and Swords Dance Scizor. Despite using Volcarona on my Regionals team, I found that it barely did anything for me. I honestly just could not find a replacement for it and finally decided that Tyranitar would probably fit the team better. At this point, Wolfe’s team and mine had very minimal differences. We had a couple of different EV spreads and movesets, but the playstyle was pretty much the same. I still didn’t feel very confident going into Nationals, especially since I went something like 2-6 in practice battles the day beforehand, but the team clearly worked!

I think I’ve bored you enough with how I built my team. Let’s take a look at it!

The Team

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Garchomp @ Yache Berry
Trait: Sand Veil
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spd
Jolly Nature (+Spd, -SAtk)
- Earthquake
- Rock Slide
- Dragon Claw
- Protect

As you can see, this Garchomp is as standard as it gets. Despite being standard, I did not find the need to use any unique EV spreads such as a bulky Haban spread. I did not find other Dragon-type Pokémon as a major threat since I had so many different checks to them. I also used Wonseok’s Life Orb Dual Chop spread for a while, but I did not like the fact Dual Chop could actually miss, and the LO damage wasn’t adding anything significant. In the end, I just stuck with a classic Jolly 252/252 Yache spread. I contemplated using Substitute and Swords Dance over Rock Slide and Protect, but I really disliked facing Volcarona and kept this set. Keeping Rock Slide also gave me an out to sticky situations with the chance to flinch my opponents and can be incredibly useful when paired with Thundurus’s Thunder Wave.  Yache Berry saved me from random Ice-type attacks, and it proved its worth against Paul Chua during the semi-finals of Nationals this year, where his Gastrodon got a critical hit with its Ice Beam and Garchomp hung on with 24 HP. And we all know just how annoying Sand Veil can be… Overall, Garchomp had great synergy with the team and I found that he worked well with all the other 5 Pokémon on my team.
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Hitmontop @ Fight Gem
Trait: Intimidate
EVs: 244 HP / 208 Atk / 8 Def / 48 Spd
Adamant Nature (+Atk, -SAtk)
- Fake Out
- Wide Guard
- Sucker Punch
- Close Combat

Wolfe and I both struggled to find a 6th Pokémon for our team in testing: I stuck with Hitmontop while he used a Choice Scarf Chandelure. Hitmontop is a fantastic Pokémon because it provides the team with both Fake Out and Intimidate support, which cannot be found on any other Pokémon in the metagame. Fake Out allowed me to use Icy Wind, Thunder Wave, and Swords Dance more comfortably and often would give me a huge advantage coming out of turn one. Wide Guard was there for attacks like Heat Wave, Earthquake, Rock Slide, Surf, and Blizzard. Sucker Punch allowed me to hit Pokémon like Chandelure and Latios, and Close Combat was obviously his strongest means of offense and offered nice coverage overall, allowing me to hit Pokémon like Tyranitar and Rotom-W with no problem. In the end, Hitmontop hurt me more than it helped me at Nationals as I lost both games I used him in Swiss, but I’m still very pleased with the various options it offers the team.

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Tyranitar @ Chople Berry
Trait: Sand Stream
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Spd
Adamant Nature (+Atk, -SAtk)
- Rock Slide
- Crunch
- Low Kick
- Protect

Similar to Garchomp and Hitmontop, this Tyranitar is really as standard as it gets. I would have liked to move 36 EVs from Attack to Defense to ensure it would always survive a Metagross’ Meteor Mash, but in the end, it did not affect me in either tournament I used this team in. I have seen so many different items used on Tyranitar, such as Dark Gem, Focus Sash, Leftovers, and Sitrus Berry, but I stuck with the classic Chople Berry. The EVs were just to ensure max durability and strength, and with Sandstorm up, he was a specially defensive tank against moves such as Latios’ and Hydreigon’s Draco Meteor. I didn’t use anything special like Fire Punch, Avalanche, Dragon Dance, or Substitute just because I  liked having more coverage and didn’t feel the need to have moves that were used only in certain situations.

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Thundurus (M) @ Sitrus Berry
Trait: Prankster
EVs: 196 HP / 60 SAtk / 252 SDef
Calm Nature (+SDef, -Atk)
- Thunderbolt
- Thunder Wave
- Taunt
- Hidden Power [Ice]

This is where we begin to see the more interesting parts of the team. Bulky Thundurus was something unheard of before Ray Rizzo (Ray) used a Bold Thundurus to win the 2011 World Championships. I took a very simple but effective spread that allowed me to always survive a Timid Dragon Gem Draco Meteor from Latios, which is pretty much as powerful as special attacks go. The rest of the EVs were dumped into Special Attack to do maximum damage. Sitrus Berry was an incredible item, as it would often heal me back to over 30% after incredibly strong attacks such as Draco Meteor. In fact, against Paul Chua in the semi-finals of Nationals this year, Thundurus was able to tank a Dragon Gem Draco Meteor from Salamence, heal its health, and survive a second Draco Meteor the following turn. The bulk was absolutely fantastic, and it would often take multiple shots to take Thundurus down. Thunderbolt is a self explanatory move. Thunder Wave, in combination with Garchomp and Tyranitar’s Rock Slide, allowed me to both control Speed and have some hax factor. Taunt was the one move I was debating on, but it proved very helpful as it prevented my opponents from using moves like Trick Room and Protect. I chose Hidden Power Ice over Flying because I really needed a way to hit Dragon-type Pokémon, most notably Garchomp. Overall, Thundurus plays a huge role on the team, and I find that I use it in 95% of my matches.

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Scizor @ Steel Gem
Trait: Technician
EVs: 172 HP / 252 Atk / 84 Spd
Adamant Nature (+Atk, -SAtk)
- Bullet Punch
- Bug Bite
- Swords Dance
- Protect

Scizor is hands down the strongest part of this team. As I said previously, I originally struggled to find a good replacement for Ferrothorn, but Scizor had everything I wanted: a bulky Pokémon that could switch into various attacks and hit most of the metagame for massive damage. Swords Dance is what really made it unique. Although setup moves are uncommon in VGC, Scizor was able to take advantage of Swords Dance because of the multiple resistances and bulk it had. When I realized my opponent had no good way to hit Scizor with their two Pokémon, I would bring it in, set up a Swords Dance, and proceed to sweep their team. I found the core of Cresselia and Metagross was incredibly difficult to face, but Scizor made it a lot easier to deal with both of them. After a Swords Dance, Steel Gem Bullet Punch would KO full health Pokémon such as Garchomp and Latios. Bug Bite allowed me to hit every other Pokémon for a ton of damage and often netted me Sitrus Berries. The Speed EVs were made to outspeed Metagross, Politoed, and Hitmontop with no speed investment. The Attack EVs are self explanatory, and the rest were dumped into HP. The HP EVs are actually super helpful as it allowed Scizor to live through 2 Garchomp Earthquakes. This allowed me to Earthquake and Swords Dance on the same turn, KOing both of my opponent’s Pokémon and setting up to sweep any incoming Pokémon. Scizor is hard to use because of how weak it is to Fire-type attacks, but the trick is correctly assessing whether it can punch holes through your opponent’s team and bringing it even if your opponent carries Pokémon with Fire-type attacks or realizing that it’s probably better for it to just sit out a match. Although Hidden Power Fire Cresselia and Heatran became a lot more common after Nationals this year, I still really liked how powerful Scizor was, and it is my favorite Steel-type Pokémon of VGC 2012.

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Cresselia (F) @ Choice Specs
Trait: Levitate
EVs: 132 HP / 252 SAtk / 4 SDef / 120 Spd
Modest Nature (+SAtk, -Atk)
- Psyshock
- Icy Wind
- Hidden Power [Fire]
- Trick

And finally, we arrive at Choice Specs Cresselia. Offensive Cresselia was an incredibly bizarre idea prior to US Nationals, but it became a lot more common at Worlds this year. Choice Specs allowed it to do so much damage to pretty much anything that didn’t resist it’s attacks. Psyshock OHKOed Hitmontop and would often give me a huge 4-3 lead. It was also just a great offensive option, doing over 50% to even Gastrodon. Icy Wind hit Zapdos, Thundurus, Garchomp, Hydreigon, and Latios for massive damage and lowered their Speed. Speed control is huge on this team with Tyranitar and Scizor, and Icy Wind allowed me to weaken my opponents and slow them down before finishing them off with a sweeper. Hidden Power Fire was mainly there for Scizor, but it also allowed me to hit Metagross and Abomasnow more effectively. I chose Trick over Grass Knot / Energy Ball because I liked having the option to hamper my opponent’s physical sweepers: especially Metagross. I did not end up using it at all at US Nationals but having the option was nice and worked out great in practice. The best thing about Choice Specs Cresselia is that it would always catch my opponents off guard and leave me with a huge advantage right off the bat. Kamran used Life Orb at Worlds and Regionals, and Wolfe used Expert Belt at Nationals. All three are excellent items, but I’m glad I stuck with Choice Specs for Nationals. Overall, she was definitely my favorite Pokémon in the VGC 2012 metagame, especially with this set.

Philadelphia Fall Regionals, 2013 Season

For Regionals, I made two minor but very important changes to the team that I would like to share with you. Since I did not have too much time to prepare for Regionals, I decided that I would just use my Nationals team for one last shot of glory since it is, in my opinion, the best team I have ever constructed. I kind of regret not using it at Worlds this year, but that’s all in the past now. I used my experience from the 2012 Autumn Friendly to slightly edit my team in order to improve it.

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Hitmontop @ Fight Gem
Trait: Intimidate
EVs: 244 HP / 208 Atk / 8 Def / 48 Spd
Adamant Nature (+Atk, -SAtk)
- Fake Out
- Wide Guard –> Stone Edge
- Sucker Punch
- Close Combat

I decided to replace Wide Guard for Stone Edge for two reasons:
1) I almost never used Wide Guard because any smart player would predict into it, wasting a turn for me.
2) I absolutely hated Volcarona for some reason, especially after a Quiver Dance. Since most Quiver Dance Volcarona carry Lum Berry, I would lead Hitmontop + Garchomp against Hitmontop + Volcarona leads, allowing me to get a KO with either Stone Edge or Rock Slide right away even if my opponent uses Fake Out, providing that the attack hits.

I only used Stone Edge once at Regionals against Daniel Litvin (TalkingLion). Since my Hitmontop was Burned from a Flame Body switch-in the previous turn, Stone Edge did not KO. However, it did do enough damage to help me win the game so I’m pleased with my decision overall. I contemplated using Feint or Detect, but as I did not do any testing between Worlds and Regionals, I decided Stone Edge was probably the safest move.

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Cresselia (F) @ Choice Specs –> Expert Belt
Trait: Levitate
EVs: 132 HP / 252 SAtk / 4 SDef / 120 Spd
Modest Nature (+SAtk, -Atk)
- Psyshock
- Icy Wind
- Hidden Power [Fire]
- Trick –>Protect

The two changes on Cresselia were minor but very significant. I knew that going into Regionals that anyone who has ever played me online would recognize my team immediately and associate my Cresselia with Choice Specs. I used this bluff to my advantage and switched Choice Specs to Expert Belt. Although I really liked the amount of damage Choice Specs allowed me to dish out, there were too many situations where my opponent would lock me into a move such as Psyshock against a Metagross and Cresselia and force me to either switch or let Cresselia faint. With Expert Belt, I was still able to do the damage I wanted to while getting a few more options with it. I had never used Expert Belt, so I was unconfident going into Regionals with it, but it proved very handy as I was able to switch between Icy Winds, Psyshocks, and HP Fires.

The second change was Trick to Protect. Without Choice Specs, there was no point in using Trick. I contemplated using Grass Knot / Energy Ball, Helping Hand, Protect, and even Skill Swap, but figured my safest option was Protect. Most players don’t even expect Protect on Cresselia because there are a lot of better moves for it, but this played out great with my Choice Specs bluff. It also saved me in a ton of games at Regionals, so it was by far the most helpful switch. With Choice Specs, I found that Cresselia would often get one or two hits off before fainting. I was able to play a bit more defensively with Protect, and it offered me a lot more options. Definitely the most helpful and significant change I had made for Regionals.

Team Synergy

This is a tough section to write because all the Pokémon on the team worked really well with each other. With that being said, here are some of my favorite lead combinations.

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Cresselia + Thundurus

This was by far my most common and effective lead. Offensive Cresselia and bulky Thundurus offer so many different options, and I would often use the first turn to figure out what my strategy for the rest of the game would be. Cresselia allowed me to blow holes through my opponent’s team by getting surprise KOs right off the bat against Hitmontop. I also enjoyed the speed control the lead offered me as I could Icy Wind and Thunder Wave right from the start. This lead was very effective due to the amount of bulk and offensive they offered me. The goal with this lead isn’t to start getting KOs right away but to put my opponent in a very tough spot by means of speed control. This would allow me to later bring in Tyranitar, Scizor, and Garchomp to get the KOs I needed. The only Pokémon that really gave this lead trouble was Tyranitar, but with my own Tyranitar, Scizor, Garchomp, and Hitmontop in the back, I could easily double switch. This lead was also really nice because of the fact it isn’t affected by Intimidate at all. As I use 4 physical attackers, it was crucial to keep them safe in the back to do maximum damage. Overall, I probably ended up leading with these two 90% of all games I’ve played with this team because of the synergy and strength they offer.

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Cresselia + Hitmontop

This is a combo that has been common ever since European Nationals. Fake Out support is great for Cresselia to use moves such as Thunder Wave, Icy Wind, and Trick Room. In my team’s case, this allowed me to Fake Out a faster Pokémon such as Garchomp, Icy Wind, and KO it before it even gets a chance to attack the following turn. I did not like this lead back while I was using defensive Cresselia because the two don’t offer very much offense, but with Choice Specs and Expert Belt, I could start attacking safely from the start. Hitmontop offered Intimidate support and hit Tyranitar and Volcarona for KOs, both of which threaten Cresselia. A common but safe and effective lead at the same time.

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Cresselia + Offensive Sweeper

Cresselia is such a great Pokémon that she works well with any Pokémon on my team. Although Thundurus and Hitmontop were often used to slow down my opponent and gain momentum before sweeping with the rest of my team, I also enjoyed starting the game with a menacing sweeper right away. By having an offensive sweeper, my opponent would often panic and try to KO the sweeper right away. This allowed my to safely Protect while using Icy Wind with Cresselia, setting both Pokémon for a KO the following turn. My opponents would almost always target the sweeper and ignore Cresselia, leaving me with an excellent advantage right from the start.

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Thundurus + Garchomp

Although I tend to use Cresselia as my lead in almost all my games, there are some times where Cresselia just can’t do anything against my opponent, and I leave it out of the match. Thundurus and Garchomp was a great lead that works similarly to how the Cresselia and Thundurus lead works. Thundurus allows me to gain speed control from the start with Thunder Wave against Pokémon like Latios, while Garchomp hits Pokémon that threaten Thundurus with no problem. Leading with these two also allowed me to start Thunder Waving and Rock Sliding from the start, adding a beneficial hax factor to my team.

Closing Remarks

If you’ve made it this far and actually read the entire article, props to you! It’s lengthy, but I think I gave a pretty good explanation on how the team works. I’d like to just make a few comments on the team in general before we conclude.

To start off, this is by far my favorite team of all time, and I think it is as good as a team can get in the VGC 2012 metagame that fits my playstyle. After my performance with it this weekend, I regret not using it at Worlds, but I’m still pleased to have represented Wolfe’s team well in the Seniors division and place in the Top 8 in the world. I find that often after tournaments, I look back and see what I could have improved about my team. For this team, I was incredibly content both after Nationals and Regionals, and everything about it worked perfectly for me in both tournaments. That is, for me, the indication that I have reached a perfect team. No Pokémon team is ever truly perfect, but I was content with everything in my team.

Second of all, the strength of this team is unparalleled to any other team I’ve played or used in VGC 2012. I remember when Wolfe and I were practicing for Worlds… I beat Wolfe in like 8 out of 10 games using this team while he used our eventual Worlds team. When I played Kamran Jahadi Round 5 at Worlds this year, I knew his entire team since I had built it, but I still couldn’t find a solid strategy to beat him. All 3 games in that set were won due to intense hax on both sides, but the fact that I knew my opponent’s team down to every single moveset and EV shows just how powerful the team can be. Or maybe it just means I’m a bad player. Yeah, probably that…

Third of all, the team has so many options that it’s hard to put into one article. While writing about the lead combinations I realized that I’ve used every Pokémon with every other Pokémon as a lead combination before. That just shows how many different modes the team can play in! I found that Cresselia and Thundurus was the safest, lead but I even used stuff like Garchomp/Tyranitar with Hitmontop and Thundurus in the back. It’s all dependent on the opponent’s team in the end.

Fourth of all, the team has really nice synergy overall, especially in terms of switching. I could switch Hitmontop into Tyranitar for Psychic-type attacks, Scizor into any Dark, Dragon, Steel, or Ice-type attack, Garchomp into Electric-type attacks (especially Thundurus’s Thunder Wave!), Tyranitar into any special attack, etc. You can see just how well this team is able to switch in the first game of my 2012 National Finals against Jonathan Hiller (MrFox).

Fifth of all, the team dealt with hax quite well and was also able to have a hax factor. At Regionals, I had luck go against me in almost every Swiss match as I saw myself get paralyzed by Discharge and fully paralyzed for 3 turns, frozen by Blizzards out of Hail, burned by Scald when I would have won immediately without the burn, two Icy Wind misses in 2 turns, crits on a smart switch in, etc. I still won almost all of those battles because I was able to play smartly with the rest of the team and come back from a tough situation. There are just some situations where hax makes the game impossible to win, but this team handled it pretty well. I was also able to get hax on my side with the use of Rock Slide, Thunder Wave, and Sand Veil Garchomp. Although I do not like depending on hax to win a match, I will admit that having these factors on my team make it a lot easier to play when things go my way.

Finally, this team has an incredibly strong showing in tournaments as I have explained before. Personally, I went 6-2 with it at US Nationals in swiss, losing to Daniel Litvin (TalkingLion) and Caleb Ryor (BlitznBurst) due to timely critical hits on their side. In the top cut, I beat Jacob Burrows 2-0, Henry Maxon (Snake) 2-0, David Arnold 2-1, Paul Chua 2-1, and Jonathan Hiller 2-1 in the finals for a 5-0 best 2-of-3 record and an overall tournament record of 16-4. I recently placed 5th in the world in the 2012 Autumn Friendly with an overall record of 84-6. And just last weekend at Philadelphia Regionals, I went 7-1 with it in Swiss. I beat Patrick D. (Pd0nz) in Top 8 2-1, Enosh Shachar (Human) in Top 4 2-1, and lost to Matt Sybeldon (bearsfan092) in a very exciting finals 1-2 for a top cut record of 2-1 and an overall tournament record of 12-5. Variants of the team have performed consistently well in Nationals, Worlds, and Regionals, and I’m proud of how strong of an impact it made on the VGC 2012 metagame. First at US Nationals with it and second at the largest Regional in the country in Masters with it? I’ll take it.

Anyway, I hope that provided some insight on one of the most successful teams in VGC 2012. I had a lot of fun using it and even more fun building it. You can even battle it next week in Pokémon Black / White 2 as Brendan will be a downloadable character in the Pokémon World Tournament! Thanks to Nugget Bridge for hosting my article and improving the VGC community one step at a time. Huge shoutout to Wolfe for helping me out with the team and allowing me to practice with him. I’ve had some really amazing games with this team, and last weekend’s finals against Matt was nothing but incredible… congrats to him for taking down the team in a non-haxy best 2-of-3!

Beautiful people and beautiful Pokémon. See you all in Virginia this winter!

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About the Author

has been playing VGC since 2008, winning two regional and national titles along the way and racking up four Worlds qualifications (2008, 2011, 2012, 2013). He is the first person to qualify for Worlds in all three divisions, and was the highest ranked American in Masters at the 2013 World Championships with a 3rd place finish. Aaron is currently a junior studying at the Trinity School in NYC.



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