The Story of Patrick Donegan

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In a game like VGC, where the circuit is global, which allows players to travel to new places and even meet new people, having the opportunity to travel to different places can give players more chances to achieve their dreams of doing well in VGC and at the World Championships. As a player who has been fortunate enough to travel to multiple events in multiple countries, this is the Story of Patrick Donegan (Pd0nZ)!

Personal Information

  • Favorite Pokémon: Articuno
  • Accomplishments: 3x Worlds Qualifier, Top 8 2012 Philadelphia Regionals, Top 16 2014 Philadelphia Regionals, Top 8 2015 Nugget Bridge Open, 2nd Place 2015 Boston Open, 2016 US Nationals Trave Award Winner, Top 8 Prague Special Event, Top 32 2019 Nashville Open, Top 32 2019 Oceania Internationals, NPA 9 Champion, Top 16 2020 Anaheim Regionals, Top 64 2020 Bochum Regionals, Top 4 NPA 10

The Beginning

In Patrick's early years of competitive Pokémon, he started with TCG, though his local scene died out. Before his scene died, he used to talk with people who played GSC and RS Singles. Patrick then learned about both EVs and IVs while leveling up his teams. While playing on Smogon, he learned about Journey Across America and thought, "I can do this!" In 2008, Patrick remembers that a VGS qualifier was a 45-60 minute bus ride to the old Pokémon Center (now Nintendo NYC) but chose not to go due to bad weather and a random lottery system that determined participants, meaning playing was not guaranteed.

In 2009, Patrick drove 90 minutes to King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, for another VGS event and got a wristband that put his name in the lottery. “If they drew your Pokemon, you got to play. I was offered a choice of Larvitar, Pupitar, or Tyranitar, and I took Tyranitar. Unfortunately, Larvitar got drawn, not Tyranitar. Even worse, Articuno also got drawn, so if I got my favorite, I’d have been able to play.” Patrick then battled against other players who weren’t picked and proceeded to win ten matches, only losing one against Abomasnow, which countered his rain team. This showed Patrick that he could play at a high level against strong players.

The Articuno Story

In case you don't know, Patrick's favorite Pokémon is Articuno. As the first legendary caught in 1998, it fascinated him that a Pokémon could control snow. Patrick also liked the things associated with colder weather, such as snow, Christmas, cozy houses, and how scenic the world looks during the winter. Even though Patrick is okay with a warmer vacation, he prefers a colder trip and finds its lore in the Pokémon games fascinating. Also, thanks to Articuno, it has inspired some great moments in Patrick's time playing VGC, such as his ice throne picture from Prague, his Twitter banner drawn by Janice Lee, and the Snowbelle Blizzards art drawn by Nicole Saeed, and the Snowbelle Blizzards team in general. Patrick hopes that Articuno is available in the Galar Region and finally gains the Snow Warning ability so it can become a threat in competitive battles.

VGC Travel

ID Card for TPCi's first
Professor Program
Since a young age, Patrick has always been interested in different cultures and countries. “I remember when I was 5 years old asking what sport they play in England because I would always see the same cities being played on TV in the NFL, NBA, whatever, and I couldn’t understand why New York didn’t play against England.” This sparked Donegan’s interest to see what the world has to offer, which trickled into his Pokémon after the 2015 season, though in 2014, he started to get used to traveling. The main thing that traveling in VGC allows is to meet people and places you usually wouldn’t be able to, and Patrick certainly took advantage of that. However, in February 2015, since there were only 4 Regionals Americans could attend, with the closest being in Doswell, also known as the barn Regional in the VGC community, he decided attending wasn’t worth it and decided to go to the cheaper Portland Regionals.

Four months later, in June, Patrick decided to go to Italy Nationals as his first out-of-region event. Even though there were Championship Points on the line, the chance to go to Milan and see people he only knew online, like Jake Birch, a Nugget Bridge Major opponent whom he befriended while setting up the match, made the trip worth it. Alongside Jake and his twin brother Joe, Patrick also got to meet Rachel Annand, who he played Round 1, and Brandon “Toquill” Ikin. Patrick got to take the iconic picture of Toquill sprawled out on a bus floor on the way to catch flights home. This experience made Patrick fall in love with VGC travel. Afterward, he traveled to Glasgow for his birthday, Harrogate during England’s Christmas season, Liverpool, which allowed him to meet Nicole Saeed and Pontus Westerlund, London for 2 International Championships, Sweden for two Regionals held there, and Prague, which he credits as his best trip for both the game and sociability, various other places in Europe, and after three years of trying, Australia in 2019. “Countless memories I will never forget.”
"I also need to touch on something. Yihui Xu and I were in the VGC 2019 Day 2 race in part due to our robust travel schedules. There has been some talk of wanting to Region Lock people from attending other out of region Regionals. Although I could potentially get behind some modified plan where results out of region don’t count for Day 2, a total Region Locking would be a colossal mistake. It was a mistake in 2015 when people wanted it after invites were “stolen” due to European CP, and TPCi reaffirmed our ability to play anywhere then. It remains a mistake now. One of the greatest things about this game is the ability to play anywhere and forge in-person friendships around the globe. Some have done it via the snowball. Others, like me, have used our full-time jobs to do it. Regardless, there are people out there that I have met due to the travel that I would not have been able to meet any other way. A few of them have truly enriched my life and I could not possibly imagine not knowing them. I can’t fully speak for Yihui’s experiences, but, knowing him, I have to imagine they are similar. Do we really want to deprive people of the chance at these connections and life experiences? I vehemently believe that we should not and I hope TPCi reaffirms our ability to play anywhere. However, 8 Regional finishes may be a little too much."

The Early Years

Patrick's serious early years in VGC were spent on Pokémon Battle Revolution and reading Smogon before transitioning to Skarmbliss after they split from Smogon. He was uncomfortable playing on Pokémon Online or any possible Smogon tournament at that time. In both Battle Revolution and later in Generation 5, Patrick was winning more than he was losing but didn't enjoy playing online. He had issues getting perfect IV Pokémon, especially legendary Pokémon, so it was a challenge to surpass 1700 points. It was also during this time he started attending local events. He missed the 2010 tour in New Jersey due to it being on the same day as the US vs. England World Cup match so the first opportunity to play at an event was in 2011. Patrick was unfortunately knocked out in Round 1 as he was paired against a good player (Patrick used Terrakion/Whimsicott against Trick Room). After being knocked out, Patrick once again proceeded to play and beat everyone he could. This included a King of the Hill event where Patrick held the hill for 3 consecutive battles, which was the limit they let you win in a row.

In 2012, there were 2 tournaments in Philadelphia. At the event in April, he started 4-0 and made it to table 1 in Round 5 before losing the next 4 in a row. This losing streak was started by Michael Lanzano and would become a recurring theme. It would take Patrick almost 7 years to finally beat Michael, and when he finally did at a PC in March 2019, he then lost to Michael yet again in the finals of the same PC. One thing that losing to players of Michael’s caliber did both back in 2012 and presently in 2019 was provide opportunities for Patrick to get better. He would take advantage of this in October 2012. To start the October 2012 Regional in Philadelphia, there was a mass hack check that disqualified about 25-30% of the field for both “real hacks” and using egg moves and tutors from Black and White 2. Players were not allowed to touch the then-week-old games for anything, though this information was not actively communicated before the event. Patrick’s Round 1 opponent, who taught his Gastrodon Earth Power in Black and White 2, fell victim to this and was disqualified, though they battled anyway and Patrick won the game regardless.

With a team of Politoed, Ludicolo, Kingdra, Jolteon, Reuniclus, and Metagross, Patrick went 7-1 in Swiss to cut his first-ever Regional, with his only loss being in round 3 to Enosh Shachar, who advised him to join Nugget Bridge. Top Cut included big names like Enosh, Matt Sybeldon, Toler Webb, and Aaron Zheng. Patrick faced off against Aaron Zheng in Top 8 and after giving it his all, he lost 2-1 to the more experienced big name. Although this was Patrick’s breakout performance and showed that he could play alongside the top players in the community, he sat out the rest of the 2012-2013 season due to life and only played sparingly online during this time.

With the release of X&Y in 2014, a renewed interest in traveling to events was sparked. Patrick went to Doswell, Virginia in January 2014 for his first out-of-area event. After Doswell, he went to Orlando, Salt Lake City, and Indianapolis for U.S. Nationals, which showed him he had a chance to become a real VGC threat. After the 2014 World Championships, he was able to Top Cut 2014 Philadelphia Regionals with an 8-1 Swiss Record using a Mega Charizard Y team. Notably, this team featured a Shed Shell Azumarill to answer the Gothitelle/Hariyama team that was popular at the time. Patrick took another loss in Top 16 to Aaron Zheng, who went on to win the Regional. 2015 was filled with mediocre results until Patrick found success with the popular Japan Sand team and used it to finish 2nd in the Boston Open, losing to Michelangelo Baudanza’s GothMaw Rain team in the finals. Before the Boston Open success, Patrick also played in and won 4 Premier Challenges at GenCon to start his season with 250 CP out of the 350 CP needed for a Worlds Invite. Patrick kept up the pace and earned his first Worlds Invite after earning CP at Collinsville Regionals in 2016. He then earned a paid trip to US Nationals by placing 10th in CP before the tournament, putting him in a great position to contend for an Automatic Day 2 invite. However, this was when Patrick's season started to spiral downwards. He finished 4-3 drop at US Nationals and 4-4 at the World Championships. He did not play well in post-Worlds VGC 2016, never truly adapted to VGC 2017, and was greatly discouraged by the borderline uncompetitive 500 CP bar and the extremely harsh CP kickers of the 2016-17 season. After that season, Patrick considered quitting if changes to the bar and kickers were not made. Fortunately, the bar was lowered to 400 CP and the kickers were relaxed a little to what they are today. With these changes, Patrick decided to give it one more shot.

2018 and 2019 Season

The start of the 2017-18 Season was both impactful and rewarding for Patrick. He went to Liverpool Regionals in July 2017 to see Liverpool and Manchester, as well as to get a head start on earning a 2018 Worlds Invite. Using a Porygon-Z team that was popularized by Lou Cromie, Patrick was able to finish 6-2 in Swiss and Top 32 overall. At this regional, he also met Nicole Saeed, one of his closest friends in the community. "It was a very rewarding regional for both gameplay and personal reasons. The Porygon-Z team would only earn 40 or so more CP before the format shifted. Though I did not do great in the 2017 portion of this season, it was a far better showing than I had in 2017 proper and the team kept me afloat, meaning it did its job."

In the VGC 2018 format, Patrick went to Montreal twice, Dallas, Malmo, and Prague in 2 months. With a Midseason Showdown win in Montreal and a Top 64 finish in Dallas, Patrick was halfway to a Worlds Invite. Malmo ended with 0 CP earned but also included an amazing experience. The second trip to Montreal, however, ended with Patrick not winning a single game. Therefore, a drastic change was needed. While waiting for his flight home, Patrick talked to Nicole about a team that was currently on meta. He was also talking to Benjamin Tan about the team, as he had won a recent Midseason Showdown with it. Combining their advice, Patrick took a team of Mega Metagross, Mega Venusaur, Tapu Koko, Incineroar, Porygon2, and Araquanid to Prague. He went 7-0 in Swiss and finished Top 8 in Prague, putting him above 300 CP. The remaining amount of time earning his Worlds Invite was spent gathering CP from Premier Challenges and Midseason Showdown, with one in May at Toronto Regionals, where his Rhyperior landed a Horn Drill on Milotic to clinch his 2nd Worlds Invite.

Shortly after, Patrick obtained a GothMaw Rain team from Benjamin Tan. Even though this team archetype has caused him huge problems in the past facing it, using this version, which Benjamin used to earn 400 CP in 2 weeks, felt right. Patrick played well at a New York Midseason Showdown, won 6 rounds at the 2018 North American Internationals, and finished 14th Place at the Valencia Special Event which was held shortly after the North American Internationals. His Worlds run didn't go well, but a Top 32 finish at the Nashville Open gave Patrick 140 CP to start his 2019 season off. "It also convinced me to play 1 last season to try for Australia; I would never get another opportunity like this. I did not adapt to Sun or Moon as well as I did that team, so I missed the Australia Stipend. However, the 140 CP from these 2 events looms large. I am still in the Day 2 race as of this writing (barely) because of GothMaw Rain in VGC 2018. It also helped me to clinch my 3rd, and likely final, Worlds Invite."

Patrick ended up doing ok in both Sun and Moon series but is still struggling with Ultra Series as of this writing. He found Moon Series to be the most enjoyable of the 3 thanks to Henry Rich. Henry had been using Aura Break Zygarde all throughout Sun and Moon Series and taught Patrick how to use the team. This helped Patrick finish 19th place at the Oceania International Championships. However, thanks to shifts in the metagame after the event, Patrick would not be able to exploit the team upon his return to the United States. "2018-19 so far has been challenging, but I have seen so many places because of my Australia Stipend/Day 2 pursuit. When it is all said and done, a lot of goodwill has come from playing this season. Now, let’s see if we can go out a winner."

The VGC Future

Patrick's future in VGC is complex, but it won't end with him never playing VGC again after this season. With 2 Worlds Invites in formats with legendary Pokémon and one Worlds Invite in a National Pokédex format, a small goal of Patrick is to earn a Worlds Invite in a Restricted Pokédex format to complete the trifecta. Patrick is also committed to playing if there is a huge reason to. One of these reasons would be if the World Championships end up being held in New York. Qualifying for a Japan Worlds during the Olympics would be incredibly tempting as well. Patrick also intends on playing some Regionals more casually next year, but if he finds himself in a position to earn an invite based on strong finishes, he will pursue it if it's feasible.

However, he does know that heavily pursuing a Worlds Invite as he has in the past is unrealistic. Patrick wants to more focus on his career and professional life and the rigor of having to play every week to stay competitive interferes with this. "There is almost no way I will be at every event going forward. I also intend to transition towards the more administrative side of VGC. This means my primary purpose will involve judging and organizing Premier Challenges and Midseason Showdowns. I have a lot of experience in this community and my area has a lack of TOs relative to our population. Local scenes, especially one as strong as New York’s, enable people to test themselves, get the ball rolling on their Worlds Invites, and form strong bonds. My talents as I get older are better spent focusing on this portion of the community. I also want to thank Jen Badamo for showing me that this path is both possible and realistic in the community; what we did with Liberty Garden has undoubtedly influenced my future vision in VGC."

As Patrick is one of the older players in VGC, few around his age play VGC and even fewer are as active as he is. Patrick credits himself as doing a good job of keeping up with the younger players. However, he feels that Pokémon VGC is a younger person's game, and seeing that many of the best players are either in high school, in college, or are recent graduates gives support to his theory. Being at that age gives those players more free time to play and test in the game. This becomes harder to do as one gets older and gains more responsibilities. Patrick has relied on the instincts and skills he's developed over his decade playing VGC, but it's not an adequate substitute for the testing and practice that's required in high-level VGC. These factors help influence his decision to step back, to put his energy into judging, to become a TO, and to give back to VGC.

Patrick also plans to continue managing the Snowbelle Blizzards in NPA and various other draft leagues that happen in the future. Draft leagues have set up strong social circles and created natural teambuilding and testing partners. They also influence the social lives of both the people who are drafted as well as those who are not. Patrick realizes the responsibility and influence he has in this role and believes his experience in VGC will help him as a manager. He may not always get every pick correct, but he takes this role very seriously and will put in the best effort possible for him and his players.

Final Thoughts

To wrap up, Patrick has some thoughts for anyone who reads this, some things he hopes to see in the future, and some personal opinions. 
  • You're a better player than you think. This also includes Patrick, his favorite slug enthusiast, and also countless other players who've lost confidence at one point. Listen to your experience because you have what it takes.
  • In the early years, you could publicly apply to manage NPA teams on Nugget Bridge, which Patrick did in season 3. The Seafoam Islanders were also in NPA at the time before going on hiatus. Dreykopff may not remember but at the time, he posted on that topic, "2 Articuno teams, what is this?" It was a reach at the time but 5 years later, the Snowbelle Blizzards played the Seafoam Islanders in NPA 8. 
  • Due to Patrick's extensive time traveling and playing for CP, although he may never end a season as the player with the most Play Points, he can comfortably say he's the player with the most Play Points earned since he started traveling. They’ve led to many great memories and experiences.
  • Thanks to NPA and the Snowbelle Blizzards this year, Patrick managed 17 players this season and gave over half of them their NPA debut. Even though the Blizzards finished one win shy of a playoff spot in NPA 8, he is very proud of that number for a league that sometimes seems a little too exclusive. He hopes to win NPA in the future while giving new people chances as well.
  • Patrick is not backing down on VGC 2017 being the worst format of all time, failing to even clear the low bar set by VGC 2011. The kickers and CP Bar that season, combined with a miserable format, make VGC 2017 something to never forget!
  • After the recent announcement that not all Pokémon will be available in Sword and Shield, Patrick hopes that Articuno, his favorite Pokémon, will be available and gain the Snow Warning ability. He also hopes that Smeargle, Politoed, and Gothitelle will also be available and new Pokémon that learn Perish Song will be allowed. He also hopes Amoonguss isn't available.
  • For the Pokémon VGC World Cup, he hopes that Scandinavia and China will get their own teams. He has knowledge and comfort with the VGC skill level in the Scandinavia Region and believes they can hold their own. China has over 1 billion people and the extended VGC community is now somewhat familiar with some of their players. He believes that it is time to see what they can do on the World Stage.
  • Don't be afraid to cut your own path. The friends Patrick has made and the fact that he has an NPA team would not be possible if he'd stayed in his comfort zone. Traveling historically in VGC has been a taboo subject but it has enriched his life. The Snowbelle Blizzards started as an unofficial team that helped to send Estephan Valdebenito, Edward Glover, Karim Dabliz, Oliver Eskolin, Ben Omnes-Norton, and Brian Youm to NPA via the midseason draft, gave others the experience of being on a team closely affiliated with NPA, and played a pivotal role into getting into NPA. Not just in VGC but in life, don't be afraid to cut your own path.
  • Finally, he hopes that future player profiles can help share the amazing stories the VGC community has to offer and hopes they see the light of day and are recorded before they're lost to time.

Photos courtesy of Stephen Morioka, Nicole Saeed, Jen Badamo, and Patrick Donegan
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