Hey there Hat Lovers,
Today I’m gonna chat a bit on the new Premier Challenge series. If you’re looking for a travel stipend and/or invite to Worlds, these are going to be very important. First, what are they?
The Premier Challenge series are local tournaments. They have a first place payout of 40 CP (that’s like adding a Top 16 at Regionals to your CP) and a best finish limit of 5, meaning you can get an additional 200 CP from these local events. For more details on how this will work, check out the Nuggetbridge article on the VGC 2015 Championship Structure.
As this is the first attempt to expand the VGC tournament series to a lower-than-Regionals level of play (outside of online competitions), there’s a lot to be excited about! There are also going to be hiccoughs along the way, and today I’m planning to outline what this tournament series is going to add to our season, what you can do to help it grow, and how you can approach it from event to event.
How these tournaments change the way you qualify
First and foremost, this tournament series adds a lot of CP into the pool. By adding easier CP into the circuit, this gives top players a bit of a buffer for performing below their expectations at larger events like Regionals. I would expect that anyone that ought to be getting a travel stipend to Nats this year is going to have racked up a full five Top 4 finishes at these Premier Challenges (heavier on the 1st/2nd side). We still don’t know where Worlds is, or how players qualify for this mystery event, but Premier Challenges offer a great tie-breaking procedure for the cutoff.
Previously, with 3 Regionals events one could reasonably attend, and a National Championships, the potential for players to tie in total Championship Points was quite real. This past year, there was a tie for 16th/17th place in North America alone! The main goal (as I see it) of the online tournaments was not only to host more events, but to provide a means of distinguishing players in the top percentile for awarding travel stipends and ultimately Worlds invitations. These Premier Challenges act as an extension of that philosophy, meaning that players with five 1st place finishes and a good Regionals performance can distinguish themselves from players with middling Premier Challenge results and a good Regionals performance. Last year, the cutoff for a travel stipend to Nationals required someone to have one deep run at Regionals and pick up some CP on the side. This year, anyone capable of doing that will have to further prove they deserve that stipend by showing consistent success at these lower level events. So getting this tournament series is a big plus for a lot more reasons than are immediately obvious.
These are Local-level events
This means a lot. Players are now reporting their victories at these Premier Challenges. In some areas, tournament attendance is sparse with barely enough Masters to have 3 rounds of swiss (and sometimes not even)! In others, attendance is about 30-40 players. And I’m sure on the opposite extreme some localities will be fierce competition boasting twice that. The point is, these tournaments are going to be very different experiences depending on where you live. If we want to keep this event series around, and if you want your area to hold on to its privilege to run these events, it’s imperative that attendances be as high as possible. So try your best to bring a buddy along to help boost numbers and let TPCi know that we appreciate the change!
At the same time, you can take advantage of this disparity. If you’re looking to score some easy CP, you can take note of Premier Challenges that have occurred around you and check their attendance and even player roster. If you’re able to attend a well-attended event 30 minutes away, or a sparsely populated event 2 hours away, it’s both good to support smaller events and more likely to result in a top finish. Stay informed on your area to be sure you’re making the most of the opportunities available to you! If you’re a competitive player looking for the thrill of top competition, I can definitely understand ignoring this rationale and attending the better-attended event. Nonetheless, it’s a good option to keep in mind as Nationals approaches and travel stipends are about to be handed out.
Metagaming is to build your team around the threats you expect to face. “Is there a lot of Mega Kangaskhan running around? Bring Mawiles, Lucarios, Choice Scarf Inner Focus Sawks, whatever you want! Just make sure you don’t lose to the popular Pokemon of the time.” This is an obvious statement from the perspective of preparing for a large event like Regionals or Nationals. You don’t want to enter the tournament with a tough matchup against a common threat.
But local level events function very differently from large online or Regional-level tournaments. If you’re in an area where there are only two or three players who consistently finish in the top spots, then you have a very good idea of who you’re likely to face. These tournaments may even be held back-to-back with large overlaps in attendance, meaning what won the first day can be expected to show up on day 2.
This sort of micromanagement is something Pokemon TCG players are all too familiar with thanks to the City Championships, but VGC players are just getting their feet wet. By no means would I suggest drastically changing your team to deal with whatever won the other day. But swapping out one Pokemon or changing a moveset or EV spread could be a very useful local adaptation.
An example of a way this could apply is as follows:
You’re attending two Premier Challenges on a Saturday/Sunday nearby. Entering the event, you’re unsure if there will be many Smeargles, or other Pokemon where Taunt is a useful move to have access to. Entering day 1, you make the choice to run Taunt on your moveset to be safe. You go through the day and find out that there was only 1 Smeargle and 2 Amoonguss (I’m simplifying) amongst the 20 Masters that played on day 1. Your team already has a good answer to Amoonguss, and so you now have to question whether Taunt is worth having on the team for only one other person. If they won the event, then that’s very likely! But if they finished in the middle of the pack, you might make the risk of dropping Taunt and adding a utility/coverage move instead.
Essentially, these tournaments offer VGCers their first real taste of day-to-day metagaming. Understanding how to take advantage of local knowledge will likely be crucial for racking up CP at these Premier Challenge events.
However, this advice is age-old and sound: You should always go into a tournament with a team you’re experienced using.
In VGC, there are so many permutations of potential teams out there. The only one who knows your team inside and out is you; that’s a big advantage. The better you know your team, the more of an advantage you gain over your opponent. It’s really important that you don’t give that advantage up by playing a team you’re still in the process of figuring out. So like I say, I wouldn’t recommend changing your team drastically from day to day in these events, but tech’ing a move can be a useful tool for taking on day 2.
I’m pretty excited for these Premier Challenge events! Based on last year, I have to admit to myself that I’m likely not going to find the time to be highly competitive this season. But Premier Challenge events offer a great way to keep you playing the game throughout the year; they also offer a tournament level where you can be a bit more risky/silly without giving up on the season. Given how infrequently I find time to play these days, I’m really excited to experiment without jeopardizing my one tournament a year. To me, that really brings the spirit of Pokemon back into the game, and that’s something I think we will all appreciate. That is… until you face some punk with Prankster Double Attract (<3 Falco).