Pokémon is an ever-changing beast, but there is currently one constant: The Pokémon World Championships. This year was the 16th event and it was the biggest one to date, with over 8,000 people in attendance. This did cause some delays in starting the Opening Ceremony as people were still outside, but after that, everything went off without much of a hitch.
This year, it returned to Washington D.C. and went with a rather clever theme: Museums, to tie in with the local Smithsonian establishments. This meant that we saw life-size fossils of Tyrantrum and Bastiodon on the stage and various other additions to the motif – a very cool feature.
What are the Pokémon World Championships?
For those that don’t know, the Pokémon World Championships is an annual event and a culmination of all three competitive arms of Pokémon: the Pokémon video game series, the Pokémon Trading Card Game and the fighting game Pokkén Tournament. Over the past year, players have been going to various events around the world to earn Championship Points to get an invite to the World Championships.
The World Championships kicked off on Friday to win a place for Day 2 on Saturday, where the top players in each region have already gained an invite. From there, the Top 8 players in each age division battled in a 'Top Cut' until there were two players each. Those players then battled on the Sunday for the grand finals. Anyone could come to the event to watch as well, if they had bought a Spectator Pass.
This year was also notable as it added a fourth arm into the World Championships, with the Pokémon GO Invitational involving 8 players who were invited to play in a tournament. This included 2 staff members from Game Freak, 5 Youtubers and 1 person who applied for an invite.
The Pokémon Center
Once again, the Pokémon World Championships opened with a Pokémon Center store. This opened on the Thursday and contained a variety of merchandise – typically all Pokémon Center-exclusive – as well as a lot of gear that was totally exclusive to the Pokémon World Championships itself. This year, with the motif being 'museums', that theme was clearly seen in the merchandise. There were exclusive plushes of Pikachu, Eevee and Piplup, deck boxes, card sleeves, hoodies, t-shirts and much, much more. We dread to think how much coinage was spent during the event.
While many items were on sale, competitors also got a unique competitor bag which contained even more exclusive items – including accessory pouches, water bottles and luggage tags, all with the 2019 motif on them.
Pokémon World Championships have become famous for their annual announcements. Since 2013, there has always been something announced for the Pokémon franchise, and this year was no different, bringing two different reveals.
First up was the reveal of Pokémon V-Cards in the Pokémon Trading Card Game. These cards replace Pokémon GX as of the Pokémon Sword & Shield expansion with some currently unknown mechanics, including V-MAX cards. Only Zacian-V and Zamazenta-V were shown.
For the Pokémon main series games, Pokémon Sword & Shield, unlike past years a new Pokémon was not unveiled. Instead, they took the opportunity to showcase some of the more competitive aspects of the upcoming games, showing focus on new moves, items and abilities that are sure to be seen more over the next year. It was also confirmed that Pokémon Sword & Shield will be the games played in the 2020 Pokémon World Championships.
What was there to do?
If you weren’t competing in the Pokémon World Championships, then there may be a question of what there is to do at the Pokémon World Championships? Other than watching matches, this year was filled to the brim with even more activities than ever before.
As usual there were side events for Pokémon VGC and TCG. The big one was the DC Open, one of the first competitions of the 2019/2020 season and a quick opportunity for players to earn points towards next year’s competition. However, there were also standard VGC pick-up events and TCG pre-release style tournaments. These all gave various prize points that could be exchanged at the prize wall for a myriad of prizes, including plushes and playmats.
New to this year, there was also Pokémon GO Trainer Battle side events where players entered a tournament in Pokémon GO’s PvP mode, as well as a Pokémon GO scavenger hunt where you had to complete multiple tasks in order to win special Pokémon GO related prizes of T-Shirts, Flasks and more.
There was also a trade area for trades of Pokémon in main series games and GO and Trading Card Game as well as a retro corner where many games from Pokémon’s past were playable. Everything from Pokémon Stadium up to Pokémon Let’s Go was available to try out. This provided a welcome opportunity to bring Pokémon’s past to the forefront for the younger audience; seeing young faces light up while playing N64 games was heartwarming, to say the least.
Unlike past years, there were public meet-and-greets with Shigeki Morimoto, Junichi Masuda and Tsunekazu Ishihara. While the official site did list it as just being public, this was still restricted to wristband owners only and you had to find the person giving the wristbands out and prove that you deserved one through means such as being first in line and other elements. While it would have been nice to get a heads-up regarding the wristband requirement, it still went well.
There was also a demo area for Pokémon Sword & Shield, playing the same demo as has been around since E3 and even a demo of the upcoming mobile game, Pokémon Masters. These demos were huge draws to the event and had queues exceeding an hour long in order to play.
Once again, Pokémon GO also included an event within a mile of the convention centre. A special PokéStop was placed and increased spawns of all the available fossil Pokémon adorned Washington D.C. alongside unique field research which allowed players to get the previously New Zealand exclusive Pokémon, Relicanth.
The Pokémon World Championships also coincided with the Suicune Day Raid Day event and, at 4pm on the Saturday, a good portion of the show floor emptied as players went out to do raids. With most starting at the Gym at the Convention Center, there were in excess of 500 people at one Gym trying to do the raid before all going their separate ways. Unfortunately, we were not able to get a Shiny Suicune during the event, but it was lots of fun meeting players from all parts of the world while raiding. Our raid path even took us to the White House!
Pokémon GO Invitational
We’ll start off with the Pokémon GO Invitational. While it was originally given a 2-hour slot on the stream, it ended up running for over 5 hours. This was due to it being the first time it had been seen on such a level and it being a 'Best of 5' format. With 8 players, it did go somewhat quickly with Game Freak staff and many YouTubers getting out quickly. However, the finals ended up being PogoKieng versus Poké AK. These finals were tense, with several mirror matches involving Deoxys and Azumarill, and it was hit with a few problems including connection issues which resulted in matches having to be restarted.
In the end, however, PogoKieng ended up taking the win and being the first Pokémon GO Invitational Champion. Overall, the games were more fun to watch than we had expected it to be, partly due to the recent upgrade in Charge Attacks shifting from quick tapping to a touch-based mini-game. While it does need work to fix the issues that plagued the tournament, this was a good sign that Pokémon GO could easily take its place alongside VGC, TCG and Pokkén in future years.
Pokkén Tournament DX
Pokkén Tournament made a return once again for the 4th year. This year it had a change in format to Team Battles; each match, rather than 'Best of 3' in the match itself, had players select 3 Pokémon to fight with and the winner is the first person to knock out all three opponents. This ran in a Best of 5 format and started on Friday with a Last Chance Qualifier containing over 200 people who wanted to earn a place in the Top 16 on Saturday before the finals and the World Champion was decided. As always, the atmosphere is electric when Pokkén is being played with the audience always being so engrossed and tied into the action.
This year, the finals ended up being between two Japanese players: Subutan and Haruyuki, both well-known players in the Pokkén Tournament community and have both appeared on the World Championship stage before. The battles were really tense and while Subutan seemed to have the advantage, getting to 2 of the wins first, Haruyuki managed to fight back and get 2 wins himself. The final match was so close ending in a Braixen VS Darkrai with both players on their final Pokémon, but with a successful combo and inclusion of Mimikyu support, Subutan managed to take the win.
Masters: Hiroki Ishida (Subutan) – Japan
Seniors: Collin Jones (ashninja1) - US
Pokémon Trading Card Game
The Pokémon Trading Card Game had a unique challenge this year. This year, the Pokémon World Championships fell on the date of the format change. Starting on Day 1 of Worlds, many sets that include many commonly used cards like Guzma, Buzzwole GX, Zoroark GX and many others were all rotated out of play and the new set, Unified Minds, was rotated in. This gave players a major challenge as they were essentially playing blind, though the Japanese players have played with cards in Unified Minds since February, giving them a bit of an advantage.
Due to this, we saw many unusual decks around, including some using Pidgeotto of all cards, so the games were a lot of fun to watch. However, one of the common themes seen was Reshiram & Charizard GX from Unbroken Bonds and various cards to accelerate energy on it. However, there was a lot of differentiation.
The Masters Final was a bit controversial with Shintaro Ito, the 2016 Pokémon World Champion, getting a penalty for taking too long to play. Normally this would be a warning but as he had repeated instances of this and of not sufficiently randomising his deck, the judges at the finals decided a 2 prize penalty which cost him the first game against Henry Brand. However, he never truly recovered and Henry managed to clinch a victory with his Mewtwo & Mew GX deck utilising Marshadow and Reshiram & Charizard GX for support.
Masters: Henry Brand (Australia)
Seniors: Kaya Lichtleitner (Germany)
Juniors: Haruki Miyamoto (Japan)
Pokémon Video Game Championships
The video games were a bittersweet year as well. This is the final Pokémon World Championships to be played on the Nintendo 3DS and this year it ran a similar ruleset to 2016: “GS Cup”. This is where you can use up to 2 Restricted Legendary Pokémon, such as Groudon, Rayquaza, Mewtwo, etc. on your team and, as part of the Ultra Series which has run since April 2nd, you can use Mega Evolutions and Z-Moves as well.
The video games are always the backbone of the Pokémon franchise and when the crowd goes really wild and the convention center fills up so people can watch as many of the matches as possible, and this year had some of the best plays that have been seen, in all divisions.
In Juniors, the match was between Teddy French from the UK against Pi Wu from Taiwan. Teddy brought a team of Dusk Mane Necrozma, Smeargle, Stakataka, Primal Groudon, Mawile and Ferrothorn while Pi Wu brought a team of Rayquaza, Xerneas, Tapu Fini, Incineroar, Nihilego and Amoonguss. Teddy immediately took the first victory using a unique strategy of using his Smeargle to explode while next to his Psychic/Ghost-type Necrozma so as to not damage it, while doing huge damage to the opponent’s Amoonguss with Necrozma’s Z-Move. However, despite getting the first victory, Pi Wu managed to get some good plays in with an unusual Earth Power Rayquaza which managed to take out much of Teddy’s team and prevent Teddy from setting the Trick Room that his team most vitally needed, causing Pi Wu to be the first VGC winner from Taiwan.
The Seniors match was equally as exciting, with Lewis Tan from Australia facing against Ko Tsukide from Japan. Lewis brought a team built somewhat around his Gengar with Incineroar, Primal Groudon, Yvelta, Ferrothorn, Tapu Fini and Gengar facing against Xerneas, Rayquaza, Togedemaru, Tapu Fini, Incineroar and Amoonguss. Lewis’ strategy worked in the first match, with him able to get the Perish Song off against two of Ko’s strongest Pokémon, while being able to juggle his Pokémon to make sure the Shadow Tag stayed in play to keep his opponents from switching, but he unfortunately could not get the combo going again as Ko managed to make some excellent plays and reads with his Togedemaru which locked his Incineroar into Protect and eventually took the win.
For Masters, it was a Japan-only final with Naoto Mizobuchi facing against Hirofumi Kimura. Naoto brought Lunala, Primal Groudon, Incineroar, Mega Salamence, Tapu Fini and Stakataka while Hirofumi brought Dusk Mane Necrozma, Tapu Lele, Mega Kangaskhan, Mega Salamence, Primal Groudon and Umbreon. Unlike the Juniors and Seniors matches, this match was a bit more conventional but featured some of the best plays with Lunala’s Z-Move and Ultra Necrozma coming out, but Naoto managed to keep control of the field at all times and managed to take out his opponent’s Dragon-type Pokémon with a well planned Dragon Claw from his Groudon. Eventually, he took the win.
Juniors: Pi Wu (Taiwan)
Seniors: Ko Tsukide (Japan)
Masters: Naoto Mizobuchi (Japan)
Next Year: LONDON, BABY
As the Closing Ceremony ended, the news came as to where the Pokémon World Championships will be held next. For the first time in the 16 years of the World Championships, they are to be held outside of North America, in London, England. This was welcomed with rapturous applause in the convention center.
With it being in London, it opens up all kinds of possibilities for the future, but the question is, what will the motif be next year? With Pokémon Center London already taking the English Gentleman look, we are trying to work out what it will be. What do you think?
This Pokémon World Championships was undoubtedly the best we have attended. It has grown with each year and the motif keeps improving. Meeting so many players from across the world is always nice and, despite such negativity filling the Internet about Pokémon at present, none of that was found here. It was a hugely positive event and everyone was so nice to each other. You had great matches to watch, lots to do and many people to meet.
If you’ve ever thought about coming to the Pokémon World Championships, don’t hesitate as next year is bound to be a good one!