Thursday, October 19, 2017

Khalid's Guide to Running a Grassroots Tournament

Image result for alola league

Written by Khalid. If you have an article, you'd like to be posted to the site, send a direct message on twitter to @NimbasaCityPost or an e-mail to nimbasacitypost@gmail.com
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I'm Khalid, and you probably know me better as KhalidVGC. I run Pokemon UAE, a fan group based in the United Arab Emirates, that is focused on the competitive aspect of all major Pokemon games. While I'm no professor (yet), I've successfully run many VGC tournaments, and some TCG tournaments since late 2014, I was also the head judge for a TCG special event, but don't tell anyone! 

The thought of running a tournament may seem scary at first, especially since you'll have a number of people showing up, expecting you to run things, but it's very easy once you get the hang of it.

This article, while focused on running a grassroots tournament (i.e., a non-sanctioned Pokemon tournament), I'm sure some of the points here would benefit would-be professors in running sanctioned events.

But first, what makes a judge a good judge? In my opinion, a good judge should be able to:

  • Smile and use positive language, tone, and body language in all communications
  • Be able to think on the spot and make the right decisions
  • Adapt to every situation 
  • Stand firm on his/her decisions
  • Able to speak loudly and clearly
If you think you're lacking in any of the above qualities, don't worry. You can learn and practice them through running tournaments. Not everyone is born perfect. Since we've cleared up what you should be able to do, let's focus on what you should for your upcoming tournament.

1 - Find a suitable venue to host your tournament in

While looking for a good venue, you need to make sure it is actually able to carry you and your tournament. Some questions to ask while looking are:
  • Are you able to get permission to host in this venue?
  • Is the venue owner charging you for this space? (consider charging entrants an entry fee, if your local laws allow it.)
  • How many players are you expecting?
  • How many are you able to host with said venue?
    Does the venue have the necessary equipment for a successful tournament (eg. sufficient chairs and tables, air conditioning, Wi-fi if mobile internet is unavailable if you're using an online tournament system, etc.)?
  • Is the venue easy to access?
  • Is the venue in a public space
If you are running this tournament online, a venue isn't needed obviously, but you do need to have a singular communication platform. Personally, I prefer using Facebook or Discord for online tournaments.

2 - Schedule a date

You should probably know every person has their own schedule, so being mindful of what's happening around you is important to know when picking a date. Some questions to ask yourself are:
  • Are people free on that day?
  • Is it a public or religious holiday? (Not all holidays are good days for tournaments.)
  • Are any other major events conflicting with your potential tournament dates?
  • Are any local gaming communities running any events on that day?
  • Are schools having exams right now?
  • Is it that time of the year where businesses are facing the annual end-of-year crisis? 
Generally, you'll want to host on weekends since that's when people are generally free. If you believe a workday is best, that's your call.

3 - Schedule the Tournament Timings

Make sure you are prepared for the full duration of the tournament as a worst case scenario. My usual schedule looks like this:
  • Registration (1 hour): 11:00 - 12:00
  • Player Meeting (10 minutes): 12:00 - 12:10
  • Swiss Round 1 (1 hour): 12:10 - 13:10
  • Swiss Round 2 (1 hour): 13:10 - 14:10
  • Swiss Round 3 (1 hour): 14:10 - 15:10
  • Swiss Round 4 (1 hour): 15-10 - 16:10
  • Break (20 minutes): 16:10 - 16:30
  • Top Cut Round 1 (1 hour): 16:30 - 17:30
  • To Cut Round 2 (1 hour): 17:30 - 18:30
The above are just example timings. The time it took from Registration until the end of the final round is 7.5 hours. While it may seem like a lot, do keep in mind this is a worst case scenario, under the assumption every round will end in a timeout. Realistically, the whole tournament would likely take about 5 hours. There is some preference for running small-scale tournaments as a best of 1 to have the tournament run quickly. That is up to you and your players.

Also, if you don't want to have the event go to overtime because more players came that expected, don't be afraid to put a player cap! If you're running an online tournament, the above still applies, even if the tournament is not live, where players don't all have to be online and available for the tournament and is done over multiple days. In fact, in non-live tournaments, having a clear schedule is even more important, as players need to know when to check back or their new pairings

4 - Set up a tournament page


This is where players can look to check the rules and sign up. For this, I prefer Battlefy. Though it can be slow sometimes, it's very reliable and never gave me issues in running any tournament. Make sure you put up all the tournament details on here, including the date, time, schedule, and location.
Opening self-sign ups are optional, depending on what you prefer. If you have a player cap, be sure to set it here.


5 - Re-familiarize Yourself with the Rules

Even if you've been playing for years, it doesn't hurt to give the rules another fresh look. You may miss some minor changes on things you haven't noticed. Do keep a printout of the rules handy during the tournament in case you need to doublecheck with something.


6 - Announce the Tournament

Is it over yet? Not quiet. After posting up the event on your favorite social media platform (eg, on Facebook) You're just starting. Don't be shy to advertise your tournament in local communities like other gaming groups, especially Nintendo-focused ones. Be sure to ask permission from whoever runs those communities.


7 - Tournament Day!

Nervous? Calm down. Be at the venue on time, preferably an hour before registrations open. This gives you enough time to settle down and relax until people start coming. Sometimes, some people will come SUPER early because that's their only option, so coming early is worth it.

Make sure all your announcements are clear. Here are what you should be announcing:
  • Registration Opening
  • Registration Closing
  • Tournament info during player meeting (Number of players, number of rounds, expected tournament end time, etc.)
  • When pairings are up
  • Timer announcements (30 minutes, 15 minutes, time's up)
  • Breaks and what time players should be back (Give the exact time, not the duration!)

7.5  - Tournament Finish?!

Battles are won and lost, group pictures are taken, and now you have a group of players ... what to do with them?

Simple: Try to build a community with them. No community equals no tournaments to run, so be sure to nurture it and make it grow. There is no one right way to build a community, but do try to keep it positive, fun, and inclusive, while keeping all the toxicity out.

Running a community deserves its own article, so let's leave that for later.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

VGC 2018: What to Expect in Games

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With VGC 2018 coming up, it's time to start looking at the metagame. Throughout this article, you'll see team cores, how they operate in terms of what to expect, and hopefully give you some helpful information for getting started in VGC 2018. This information will be based on Battle Spot Doubles as the 2 formats will be very similar barring game updates from Sun and Moon to Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. Hope you enjoy and let's begin!

Before, it's important to check out these 4 tweets and links. The first 2 tweets were made by ProfShroomish who made 2 very important infographics. The 3rd tweet was made by Fallingmindz who also made a very important infographic. The first one linked here shows the Top 100 Pokemon that we're used in Season 5 of Battle Spot Doubles from July to September 2017 in the format and the percentage that they were used. The second one linked here shows the Top 50 Pokemon and their respective Z-Crystal they held. The third tweet linked here shows how team archetypes looked in Season 4 of Battle Spot Doubles as well as common teams. It is a little outdated is that this was made when certain Mega Evolutions were not legal, but does give an early idea of the metagame. The 4th link from Victory Road linked here shows 8 of the top performing teams from Battle Spot Doubles. These teams are very diverse as there built from different cores that have proven themselves to do well in the format. The reason these 4 tweets are important is that they show how the metagame is forming and gives a strong idea of how the metagame works.

Mega Evolutions You'll See in Matches 

kangaskhan-mega.png charizard-mega-y.png charizard-mega-x.png salamence-mega.png metagross-mega.png gengar-mega.png gardevoir-mega.png mawile-mega.png swampert-mega.png venusaur-mega.png blastoise-mega.png abomasnow-mega.png camerupt-mega.png manectric-mega.png lucario-mega.png lopunny-mega.png sceptile-mega.png gallade-mega.png
These 18 Mega Evolutions are the Megas that were seen as the Top 100 Pokemon used in Season 5 of Battle Spot Doubles. Through one reason or another, these Pokemon have been able to show both in the past and now that they're essentially the cream of the crop and the niche that they provide will make them viable in the future and can function well for their respective reasons.The other Mega Evolutions not listed may not necessarily be bad choices, but haven't found success yet but can very easily find it if used on the right team, which can very easily change as a metagame is being developed and it can find a strong niche.

Pokemon that have Fallen from Grace

thundurus.png smeargle.png talonflame.png
The changes between generation 6 and generation 7 have not been kind to these 3 Pokemon and their impact in VGC, either directly or indirectly. Thundurus-Incarnate was hit the hardest out of the 4 due to the popularity of Tapu Lele who sets the Psychic Terrain which makes its priority moves null and void, how the accuracy of Thunder Wave was lowered to 90% and the speed is only lowered by half not quartered. These changes have made Thundurus-Incarnate much weaker as shown by how Thundurus-Incarnate' ranking in Season 5 of Battle Spot Doubles is only 93/100. That and how better offensive electric types like Tapu Koko and Thundurus-Therian as well as defensive ones like Zapdos have made Thundurus-Incarnate not the Pokemon it used to be and unless something amazing happens, it'll be seen as an inferior Pokemon. Smeargle losing Dark Void isn't helping it, but Smeargle still having access to 99% of all moves available in the game will still be its appeal on teams. Talonflame's Gale Wings ability only working when its at full HP while still isn't good hasn't killed it mostly because its base 126 speed stat makes it one of the fastest Pokemon in the game. Most Talonflame will most likely go for Tailwind or its Z-Brave Bird turn 1 so it can make use of its ability.

Approaching Rain Teams

Setters:politoed.png pelipper.png
Abusers: swampert-mega.png kingdra.png ludicolo.png
Others:tapu-koko.png thundurus-therian.png zapdos.png ferrothorn.png aegislash.png mawile-mega.png metagross-mega.png tapu-lele.png salamence-mega.png kangaskhan-mega.png

At its core, this is how you should expect Rain teams to look. Pelipper and Politoed both set the Rain for the abusers since they all have the ability Swift Swim which will double their speed stat in the rain. Mega Swampert has seen a lot of popularity going into the 7th generation due to how after Mega Evolving in the Rain, it's ability activates right away and it's speed increases to make Swampert a speedy powerhouse. Kingdra is a strong Dragon and Water type that can work well with most Pokemon due its most popular strategy of using Focus Energy to give it an increased chance at landing critical hits so it can take out important threats. Ludicolo is the most tried and true Swift Swim user due to its great coverage of water, grass, and ice moves as well as learning Fake Out, which makes Ludicolo a great option for rain teams. Rain teams are often accompanied by an electric type that knows Thunder for a strong 100% accurate electric type move, as well as a steel type to allow it to take fire type move better. Ferrothorn is seen as a strong defensive pivot due to how it's able to take a lot of strong hits and by pairing it with Pelipper for example whose water and flying type moves can handle Ferrothorn's weaknesses to fire and fighting types. Aegislash and Mawile work in the same vain as Ferrothorn, but these 2 are more offensive and uses the Rain in order to allow them to get off more damage. Metagross and Tapu Lele are here because they form a very strong offensive duo whose main goal is to spam high powered Psychic moves. Tapu Lele sets the Psychic Terrain for to boost the power of its main move Psychic while helping Metagross boost the power of its main move in Zen Headbutt. Salamence is a very strong Mega Evolution as it brings its Intimidate ability to help its partners take physical moves while also packing strong dragon and flying type moves to help take out major threats. Kangaskhan brings a safe Mega Evolution due to its strong Normal type moves that deals decent damage to a majority of Pokemon.


Approaching Sun Teams

Setters: charizard-mega-y.png torkoal.png
Abusers: venusaur.png lilligant.png heatran.png
Other: cresselia.png landorus-therian.png tapu-koko.png thundurus-therian.png zapdos.png ferrothorn.png kangaskhan-mega.png tyranitar.png hitmontop.png

At its core, this is how you should expect Sun teams to look. Charizard and Torkoal setting the sun is nice because they work on different sides of the spectrum. Charizard works best outside of Trick Room due to its base 100 speed stat while Torkoal works best in Trick Room with its base 20 speed stat. You can find these 2 using most of the same fire type moves expect Torkoal having Eruption while Charizard learns more supportive moves like Tailwind. Like Rain, the abusers Venusaur and Lilligant exist because of their Chlorophyll ability and how their strong grass moves can answer the water types that might give your Drought user some trouble. They also both learn the move Sleep Powder and are able to combine it with its speed under the Sun to put threatening Pokemon to sleep. Venusaur has been shown to be the most popular due to its secondary Poison typing being able to threaten the Tapu Pokemon with Sludge Bomb as well as Venusaur being able to take hits better than Lilligant due to its better bulk. Lilligant may still see some play due to how it learns After You which Lilligant can use its very fast speed under Sun to allow its partner to move directly after. The remaining slot examples listed above are meant mainly for supporting the team. Cresselia works well due to its amazing defenses and also learns Trick Room, which combines with Torkoal to form the popular "SunRoom" core which which combines the Sun and Trick Room. Landorus-Therian works due to its speed, mainly with Charizard because it allows Landorus to use Earthquake next to Charizard thanks to its flying type while also bringing Intimidate so Charizard can take strong rock moves like Rock Slide and Stone Edge better. Tapu Koko, Thundurus-Therian, Zapdos, all can work since their Electric and Grass moves can threaten Water types that might prove to be annoying but all bring something extra to the mix like Zapdos bringing Tailwind and Ferrothorn bringing its defensive bulk. Kangaskhan brings a more depth to the team since your opponent will have to prep for both the Sun option and the sheer power of Kangaskhan. Tyranitar brings a second weather option as well as strong rock moves. Hitmontop's Intimidate ability makes it very helpful in allowing Charizard to survive power Rock moves as well as threatening Kangaskhan.

Approaching Sand Teams

Setters: tyranitar.png gigalith.png
Abusers: excadrill.png stoutland.png lycanroc.png
Other: salamence-mega.png tapu-koko.png thundurus-therian.png zapdos.png ferrothorn.png aegislash.png tapu-fini.png gastrodon.png amoonguss.png azumarill.png volcarona.png tapu-bulu.png

Common Sand teams are dubbed "Japan Sand" because they were popularized in 2015 by a Japanese player who used a Sand team in the VGC 2015 Japan Cup to finish extremely well. The team was then picked up by multiple players that same year to do well at their respective National Championships. The idea of this core is to use a strong Sand setter in Tyranitar or the newly available Gigalith to activate Sand Rush of its partner Excadrill, Stoutland, or Lycanroc which will double their speed and allow them to use very powerful attacks to pick up important KO's and damage. Excadrill was the original partner due to its powerful ground, rock, and steel moves being able to threaten a large majority of Pokemon which with the release of the 7th generation, now includes the Tapu Pokemon. Stoutland's niche is that since it's a Normal type, Stoutland has access to a variety of moves ranging across different types that can allow it to threaten a lot of Pokemon. The newest Sand partner, Lycanroc is the naturally fastest of the 3 with its base 112 speed stat making it very speedy threat. Its priority Rock type move in Accelrock and access to a lot of the same coverage moves Stoutland but also can use a very speedy Rock Slide to increase its chances of flinching more Pokemon. The other slots on the team are meant to handle other threats. Salamence's flying and dragon moves can pin a lot of strong Pokemon. Tapu Koko, Thundurus-Therian, and Zapdos can handle the troublesome water types while bringing their own niche to the team being Tapu Koko's electric terrain, Thundurus' Volt Absorb ability, and Zapdos' support moves in Tailwind, which all make them viable options. Ferrothorn can also handle water types, but also the Tapu Pokemon and its slow speed makes it appealing to use as a counter to Trick Room. Aegislash also handles the Tapu Pokemon and can beat some of the top Mega Evolutions like Kangaskhan and Salamence. Tapu Fini, Gastrodon, and Amoonguss are all strong defensive pivots that bring their own niche to the team in Tapu Fini's misty terrain, Gastrodon's Storm Drain ability, and Amoonguss' support moves in Spore and Rage Powder. Azumarill can work well with the right support, mainly another Tapu to combat Tapu Lele so Azumarill can use its priority Aqua Jet. Volcarona is a good bulky fire type that can take ground moves better than most, but can also use moves like Quiver Dance to become a threat or Rage Powder for supportive reasons. Tapu Bulu can also handle water types, but might work well with Azumarill to allow it to use priority Aqua Jet and can also give Azumarill residual health gain each turn.

Approaching the Standard

Core: kangaskhan-mega.png landorus-therian.png cresselia.png
Other: tapu-fini.png suicune.png tapu-koko.png zapdos.png thundurus-therian.png heatran.png aegislash.png celesteela.png tapu-lele.png amoonguss.png volcarona.png

The beauty of this team is that it's the most standard team you'll see so preparing for it will make your life easier. The main 3 in Kangaskhan, Landorus, and Cresselia all work well together due to Landorus' Intimidate allowing the other 2 to survive big hits, Kangaskhan's offensive power and Cresselia's amazing bulk and plethora of support moves can make these 3 a viable core of Pokemon to build a team around. The remaining 3 slots should answer the problems the core faces while improving the overall quality of the team. Tapu Fini and Suicune are the bulky water types that can take multiple hits while bringing something special to the mix whether its Tapu Fini's misty terrain or Suicune's Tailwind. Tapu Koko, Zapdos, and Thundurus all bring their electric moves and something special whether its a terrain or support moves. Heatran, Aegislash, and Celesteela can all handle the Tapu Pokemon pretty easily with their steel types moves in either Flash Cannon from Heatran and Aegislash or Heavy Slam from Celesteela. Although Tapu Lele and Cresselia both share the Psychic typing, Cresselia can be seen as the defensive Psychic type while Tapu Lele is the offensive Psychic type. Should you add Tapu Lele, you'll get another answer for the fighting types that will trouble Kangaskhan, but be weary as Kangaskhan won't be able to reliably use Fake Out and Sucker Punch in Tapu Lele's psychic terrain. Amoonguss works well with all 3 as it can use Rage Powder to allow Kangaskhan to use Power-Up Punch should it have access to it in VGC 2018, Landorus to use its strong moves like Earthquake and Rock Slide, and Cresselia to use its supportive moves like mainly Trick Room or Skill Swap, Helping Hand and Gravity. Volcarona can work well with Kangaskhan due to how Kangaskhan can use Fake Out to allow Volcarona to use Quiver Dance to increase its stats and become a bigger threat.

Other cores not posted above but should still be recognized

1. Psychic Spam (metagross-mega.pngtapu-lele.png)
Relies on Tapu Lele's ability to set the psychic terrain which can power up its main move Psychic as well as Metagross' Zen Headbutt. Commonly seen on rain teams and supported by teams that can handle the ghost and dark types that they may struggle against.

2. Perish Song + Shadow Tag (gengar-mega.pnggothitelle.png)
Centered around Mega Gengar using Perish Song along with its Shadow Tag ability to trap Pokemon in and stall out the turns to KO as many Pokemon as possible with the move while using the other Pokemon to execute the strategy and win games.

3. Gardevoir & Friends (gardevoir-mega.png landorus-therian.png amoonguss.png)
The goal is to support Mega Gardevoir by fixing its 2 main issues being weak physical bulk which Landorus' Intimidate ability can help manage and how it doesn't take hits well which Amoonguss' Rage Powder move can help fix.

4. Mawile & Friends (mawile-mega.png)
Goal is to support Mawile to allow it to do its job. Commonly seen with rain to allow Mawile to take fire moves or speed control options like Tailwind or Trick Room to take advantage of its low speed stat.

That wraps up everything. I hoped you enjoyed this article. Check out the links posted at the beginning of the article and more importantly, check back to the Nimbasa City Post for more VGC 2018 content as the format comes. See you next time. Bye!