California Love By Luke Swenson Preface: This story will recount the events that took place in San Diego, CA from August 11, 2011 to August 15, 2011. Fortunately, in addition to my steel-trap memory, I am writing this story (relatively, compared to years past) soon after I have come home so I should be able to remember most of what happened on each day. As with my other stories (including my unfinished nationals story from this year), my hope is that as a reader you will either enjoy reliving the experiences that were shared at Worlds this year (or perhaps seeing what others were doing on each day, as we often split into groups) or that you may be inspired to attend a VGC tournament next year. As always, this vacation was one of the best that I have ever had, and I will cherish these memories for the rest of my life. You all are some of my very best friends and I would not go to these tournaments (or I would certainly not have as much fun) if not for you. Thanks again for making this year so awesome, and hopefully next year will be even better! Now, enough sappy sentiments, on to the story! Thursday, August 11, 2011 My day was actually quite normal for the most part, as I woke up at my usual time and went to work. As I was leaving work, the excitement that I would be in San Diego in less than 12 hours hit me, and I started to get pumped for the trip. I had already packed my clothes and stuff the night before, so I just hung around my house for a few hours before heading off to eat dinner with my family. After a nice meal, my brother drove me to the airport. I got my boarding pass and got through security without trouble and headed to my gate. When I found the seating area for the gate, I noticed a kid sitting with a Nats ’10 bag, so I obviously sat near him. At some point, his mom turned to me and asked if I was going for Pokémon (I was not wearing an obvious shirt, for reference), and so we briefly discussed the tournament. I learned that he had made top 8 in Seniors at Nats (I later learned that his name is Brandon Mitchell), and his mom encouraged me to think positively about the upcoming LCQ. Little did she know how well it would work out! My flight went relatively well, as I was able to get an hour or so of sleep and spent of the rest of the time reading (Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku for those curious). Upon landing, I called Huy and left a message saying that I had just landed. I texted Chalkey asking when he was arriving and departed the plane, which had of course landed at gate 38 because I’m awesome like that. I had arranged to be picked up by Huy from the airport, but if I were not a donkey I would have just asked around when other people were getting in and learned that TAY’s cousin had in fact been on the same airplane as I and gotten a ride with him ._. Regardless, I got a call from Huy’s number and answered only to hear an unfamiliar voice – it was Jeps! He was the 4th member of my room for the first 3 nights (Chalkey and Gabby being the others), and was already waiting in Huy’s car outside the baggage claim. A few minutes after I got my bag, Chalkey notified me that he had landed and we quickly found each other. After piling into Huy’s car (very carefully, as the trunk was quite full and barely fit all of our suitcases), he took us to our hotel with a little aid from my GPS. As Chalkey was checking us into the hotel, we all were standing around behind him. The second guy working the desk asked if we needed to be helped, and we all said we were with Chalkey. The first guy paused for a second, and then asked Chalkey “…You know that you’re going into a room with one double bed, right?” To which he responded “We’re close.” As that was being sorted out, I realized I had forgotten my backpack in Huy’s car. I called him up and asked if he could come back, which he responded with an exasperated “yes”. I gave him $5 for his troubles (probably didn’t even cover the gas for the trips, considering the absurd price of gas in California), but I later learned that he was rear-ended as he pulled up to the stoplight after dropping off my backpack, and the other driver sped off (running the red light). Sorry Huy! =[ We held a small tournament on PO to determine who got the bed for each night, but we didn’t really stick with the results considering that I could rarely finish a battle due to randomly being disconnected (regardless of what server we were playing on). It was determined that I could have the bed the first night, which was very pleasing for me as I wasn’t able to sleep very much on my flight out. Everyone settled in for the night and I passed out, planning to wake up early the next morning to get down to sign up for the TCG LCQ. Friday, August 12, 2011 I woke up and got ready for the day, donning my ducks shirt as Chalkey was unable to provide me with a magma shirt. I also made sure to wear shorts, so that I could be prepared to play basketball (I didn’t know of the hoopster tradition of wearing basketball shorts under your jeans). We all headed down to the hotel where the tournament was taking place (about a 25 minute walk away), and as we passed by the San Diego Convention Center (location of Comic-Con International), I saw some familiar faces (or backs, as it were) up ahead of us. We greeted Paul (zerowing, if you call him makiri you are dead to me), Tyler, and Min (GEC) and asked them where everyone was/where to go inside the hotel and such. Chalkey and the others joined them as they headed into Starbucks, as they weren’t planning on playing in the TCG event, and I went off on my own to find the line to register. I got a decklist and noticed that there was a spot for a POP ID#, and I immediately became worried. I was actually unsure of whether I had a POP ID at all, and if I did I definitely did not know the number. I asked around and was informed that if I didn’t have a POP ID, I wouldn’t be able to play in the TCG LCQ, which was a bit disheartening. Nevertheless, I waited in line after filling out the decklist (I managed to secure a sweet ReshiBoar deck from Len (Alaka) so that I didn’t have to play the original pile that I had with me). As I waited, I noticed Kikuichimonjii and the Deagle Bros (official name) standing a few people behind me, but I didn’t know if they would recognize me so I didn’t greet them. When I got to the front of the line, I had to be lectured by one of the staff (I didn’t tell him that I was there mostly to play VGC because then I knew for sure they wouldn’t let me play) for not having my POP ID, and then got sent to wait in the line with the rest of the people who didn’t have theirs, which included Kikuichimonjii. I tried to call Gabby and asked her to use her laptop to check to see if she could access my account and find my ID online, but she was having problems accessing the internet inside the building. As I was talking to her and telling her my username/password, I was standing near the other people in line and Kikuichimonjii must have overheard me say my username because he introduced himself to me after I hung up. We chatted a bit about the event and whatnot before finally being moved forward so that they could get the event started. I talked to the dude who was handling the POP ID problems and it came up that I had never participated in a TCG tournament before. They made up some logically inconsistent excuse so that I couldn’t play (“this isn’t a tournament for first time players”), but it was fine with me because Dave Schwimmer gave me a free pass to the prerelease on Sunday! I wasn’t planning on participating originally but I would have gone using the free pass… had Len not offered me $20 for it after I told him the story. Up $20 and feeling good, I headed out of the tournament area and tried to locate some other people, eventually finding jeps and the others hanging around the LCQ line with Danny (TTS), Mitch (imperfectspider), Trista (ryuzaki), Matt (Enfuego), Michael (DuketheDevil) and others. I hadn’t eaten anything all day, so I bid them adieu after chatting for a while and headed down to Starbucks to get some food. I got two pastries that I can’t remember the exact details of but they were quite good all things considered! I also got one of those sweet Frappuccino things (the ones that come in the glass bottle) to go with it, which helped me wake up a little bit considering my relative lack of sleep. After eating and saying hi to a few more people, we decided to start waiting in line for the LCQ. I stood in line with Scott (Synre), Thomas (PokemonBattleBrain), and a few others. We passed the time discussing various things, and I engaged in a game of Magic: the Gathering with another person in line and also played him in the Pokémon TCG (he was using some cards he had found in the open gaming room, so it wasn’t very close). One of the most entertaining parts of our time in line was Scott’s ability to fall asleep simply by sitting down and putting his head in his hands despite the commotion around him. Once the line started moving, we split up from one another so that we didn’t have to play each other early. I had received my team from Unreality (Aaron, but Cybertron is Aaron so he is Unreality) earlier while I was in the TCG line, and put everything in the battle box without a second thought. Little did I know how that would turn out… I registered my team with one of the many cute staff girls and was seated for my first round against SPF Dragon Tamer (or something along those lines). We chatted a bit while we waited for everyone to be seated so that we could start, and as we talked I looked down at my screen and my stomach dropped. Here was what my team looked like for the LCQ: darkbolt (Eelektross) (F) @ No Item Trait: Levitate EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def Adamant Nature (+Atk, -SAtk) - Protect - Acrobatics - Wild Charge - Dragon Claw spies (Krookodile) (M) @ Choice Scarf Trait: Intimidate EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spd Adamant Nature (+Atk, -SAtk) - Beat Up - Crunch - Earthquake - Rock Slide xColdBrzx (Thundurus) (M) @ Electric Gem Trait: Prankster EVs: 4 HP / 252 SAtk / 252 Spd Timid Nature (+Spd, -Atk) - Protect - Discharge - Thunder Wave - Hidden Power [Ice] SSBM Roy (Terrakion) @ Chople Berry Trait: Justified EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spd Jolly Nature (+Spd, -SAtk) - Protect - Rock Slide - Sacred Sword - Safeguard Mecha Soul (Druddigon) (M) @ Dark Gem Trait: Rough Skin EVs: 136 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def / 116 Spd Adamant Nature (+Atk, -SAtk) - Protect - Snatch - Sucker Punch - Dragon Claw Juiceman (Amoonguss) (F) @ Sitrus Berry Trait: Effect Spore EVs: 252 HP / 244 SDef / 12 Spd Calm Nature (+SDef, -Atk) - Protect - Rage Powder - Spore - Giga Drain (hi5 if you know every single one of the users my pokemon are named after, especially because I used their super old usernames in some cases) Notice anything unusual? Elektross’ item is supposed to be Flight Gem, not nothing. Apparently Unreality had forgotten to give my Elektross his Flight Gem and gave it to his instead (we were using the same team). I prayed that it wouldn’t change the outcome of any of my games and let him (and several others) know of my error. I even told my opponent what had happened, because he was going to see it on the team preview screen anyway. Soon enough everyone entered the battling area and we were ready to start! Round 1 vs Holland K. (SPF Dragon Tamer) I looked at his team on the team preview and chuckled at his appropriate internet moniker: his team was made up of only dragons. I don’t remember everything, but I know I chose Krookodile/Thundurus as leads and had Terrakion and Druddigon as backups. I knew I wanted to abuse Intimidate as much as possible and also T-waved a few of his guys. This match was actually quite close and I believe I was down to just my Terrakion as I finished off his last Pokemon. For those curious, the only attack he used the entire match (with any of his Pokémon) was Outrage. After the battle was over, I moved on to my next round, where I was seated against a person who had a 1st edition German Koffing (the origin of the name Smogon, for those who are unaware) card in a case hanging around his neck, so I knew my opponent would be knowledgeable at the very least. We chatted a bit before starting and I learned that he was Ashenlock on the forums, whom (as I mentioned) I definitely had seen posting. Round 2 vs Chris M. (Ashenlock) I don’t remember too much about this battle, but I think I got a little lucky once or twice (paralysis I believe) and made some nice predictions and won 2-0 or 3-0. Hopefully he saved the battle or has a better memory of this battle, because I seem to have forgotten the details =/ After the battle, I happily moved on to the third round, as this was the farthest I had ever gotten in any VGC tournament. I sat down and awaited my opponent, but to my horror I saw the staff leading Gabby over towards me. After a little pleading, they agreed to allow us to battle other people, and she was set against this german guy with a Zelda shirt whom I would see later, and I was paired against an older man. Round 3 vs Chris H. This guy must have been the father of someone who was at least relatively skilled, as he said his son played the games a lot and had taught him how to play. I underestimated him a bit and it almost cost me. I remember he lead Amoonguss/Mienshao and I lead Thundurus/Terrakion. I double protected to avoid the fake out, then set up safeguard and paralyzed one of his pokes I think. At one point in the battle, he used feint with Mienshao very skillfully and broke my Terrakion’s protect so that it died from my Thundurus’ discharge. The battle eventually came down to his Terrakion (about half health) against my Elektross and Druddigon, both with very low HP. I originally selected Volt Charge with Elektross, but then realized my only out was to hope he missed with Rock Slide, so I quickly went back and chose Acrobatics and Dragon Claw and prayed. He used Rock Slide and… missed Elektross! I cheered, but I knew I wasn’t out of the woods yet, because I did not have Flight Gem on my Elektross. Fortunately, the Acrobatics KO’d his Terrakion and I won the match. I moved on to my fourth round, and was seated against Wesley Morioka, last year’s national champion. We chatted for a bit before the match and then got ready to battle. Round 4 vs Wesley Morioka I saved this battle video, so I’ll just give the turn-by-turn description and what my reasoning was on each turn. I lead with Krookodile and Thundurus and he lead with Vanilluxe and Haxorus. Turn 1: He protects with Vanilluxe and I use rock slide with Krook. It hits but doesn’t crit or flinch. He also uses rock slide (going before Thundurus so I know he has a scarf) and hits both. Thundurus flinches (had chosen HP Ice on Haxorus). Turn 2: I switch out Thundurus for Terrakion, anticipating an ice attack as well as another rock slide. He switches Vanilluxe to Elektross and my RS crits and flinches his Haxorus. Turn 3: He switches Haxorus for Cofagrigius and I rock slide and sacred sword his Elektross. I wanted to take out the eel as fast as possible and thought that another rock slide might KO his Haxorus anyway (it had less than a quarter of its health remaining). Elektross is KO’d by the sacred sword and he sends out Vanilluxe in its place. (I’m up 4-3) Turn 4: I know he’s going to try to set up Trick Room, but I totally blank on the fact that Cofagrigius learns Will-o-Wisp and just double rock slide him, hoping for the flinch. The better play would have been to set up safeguard with Terrakion so as to prevent his Cofagrigius from doing much. He protects with Vanilluxe and sets up TR (both RS hit but neither crit or flinched). Turn 5: I switch out Krook for Thundurus, knowing it will be KO’d by an ice attack. Unfortunately, he WoW’s my Terrakion and it hits. Thundurus dies to Ice Beam and I sacred sword his Vanilluxe for about 50%. I send out Druddigon. (3-3) Turn 6: I protect with Druddigon and use rock slide, doing minimal damage to Cofagrigius (now about 30% health) and nothing to Vanilluxe (he protected). He attempted to WoW my Druddigon. Turn 7: I sucker punch his Vanilluxe, almost KOing it before Druddigon goes down to ice beam. I rock slide with Terrakion and hit both, finishing off Vanilluxe. He WoW’d my Druddigon and missed (prior to it dieing to IB). (2-2) Turn 8: Both of us now down to our last pokemon, him with an intimdated Haxorus (about 25%) and Cofagrigius (about 30%) against my almost full Krook and 60%ish Terrakion. I sacred sword his Haxorus with Terrakion and crunch his Cofag for the KO, but not before it can burn my Krook. His Outrage hits Krook down to 3 hp, so it dies from burn. Haxorus has a sliver of health remaining, but TR ends and he is now faster than me (and can almost assuredly KO). Turn 9-10: I realize my only out is to protect with Terrakion until he becomes confused and pray he hits himself in confusion. After my first protect, he becomes confused. The second time, my protect goes off, but it doesn’t matter as he hits himself in confusion to end the battle. As I saw the animation zoom in on Haxorus and the animation of it hitting itself plays, I exploded with excitement. Some would later tell me that they found my celebration a little disrespectful, and I made sure to apologize to Wesley for that. Nonetheless, years of trying to qualify for VGC had finally paid off and I thought for sure I would be competing in the World Championships the next day. Little did I know that I would have one more battle… I went over to the staff table and they took my stuff and whatnot, and I exited the competition area to hang out with the other players. I received lots of congratulations, and it was greatly appreciated (thanks again everyone!). We watched the last few battles take place, and then the top 12 had been decided. I was pleased by how well we (when I saw “we” I generally mean the internet Pokémon community as a whole, as I find that the whole “teams” thing is a little silly) had done in the LCQ: myself, Synre, Ryuzaki, OmegaDonut, Gabby, Sixonesix, TAY, Metabou, someone from SPF (sorry I don’t remember your username ._.), Duy, and 2 randoms made up the top 12. Mike (OD), Trista, Alan (Metabou), and one of the randoms got byes into the top 8 (qualifying them for worlds), while the others had to play. Unfortunately, Scott ended up losing to the random and TAY lost to the SPF dude, while I defeated Duy (battle was recorded/streamed so I won’t bother including a description except that it was a good game and both teams played hard) and Kamaal beat Gabby. After the celebrations and condolences resulting from the last round, we all gathered around and decided to get some food. I knew I was starving, and it sounded like a lot of other people were as well. Paul knew of a place he had seen on Man vs. Food (excellent show) called “Taco Smackdown” (the restaurant was actually named Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop, but the website was tacosmackdown.com or something like that) , and there was a lot of support for it so we all agreed on it. We actually managed to get organized and decide on who was in what car fairly quickly this time, which was quite different from the rest of the weekend. I ended up with TAY and his cousin in his car, which was nice because all of the other cars were pretty cramped. We chatted in the car about Starcraft among other things, which was nice as I hadn’t had much opportunity to talk to TAY since Nationals last year. At the restaurant, we all got some awesome and interesting food. I had the Surfin’ California, which was a burrito with lots of typical things in it as well as shrimp and French fries. It was surprisingly delicious and I would definitely recommend trying it if you ever have the chance. Not only was the food good at the restaurant, but they had this awesome TV show playing that featured 3 dudes wearing Luchador masks being badasses by defeating criminals and flirting with women. It provided endless entertainment, especially the episode where they saved a man on a boat by diving into the water and killing sharks with their bare hands. Another source of entertainment were the names that people used to order their food under. Paul was “foodking” in honor of our fallen friend, and Kathleen (Age of Kings) was “foodqueen” to match him. I don’t remember if anyone else had anything clever this time, but I knew that the next time we visited would be excellent. Several people tried to convince me that I should change my team for Worlds the next day because my battle had been on the screen and everyone saw my team, but I had had so much practice with that team that it was hard for me to accept. Duy, however, had an excellent suggestion involving Eject Button Whimsicott that really showed me how amazing of team builders the Ha brothers are. In the end, I decided to stick with the team I knew well and hoped for the best. After eating, TAY and his cousin took off, and the rest of us decided to head over to a nearby park to play some basketball. Because I got a ride to the restaurant with TAY, I needed to get in someone else’s car, which proved to be a bit of a problem. At first we had Min (GEC) sit on my lap in the passenger seat of Huy’s car, but after about 3 seconds we decided to just sit 4 in the back and save me and Min. The game has been pretty well documented by Duy and Andrea, so if you haven’t already read their stories you should definitely check it out! This was definitely a very fun activity and I look forward to more Smogon athletics in the future =D We were all pretty beat after the basketball games and it was getting somewhat late, so I decided to just head back to my hotel. My fellow roommates were also quite tired from the day’s events, so they went to bed absurdly early (by my standards). I stayed up for an hour or so after they fell asleep (Chalkey and Gabby took the bed the second night) and decided to get a lot of sleep for the big day the next day. Saturday, August 13, 2011 I awoke from my long sleep and got ready as usual. I wore my comic-con shirt this day but had my Worlds competitor shirt over it for most of the day. One of the staff members had told me the previous day that I needed to be at the tournament site promptly at 8:00 AM to get registered and get my free stuff for qualifying. This caused me to literally sprint the last few blocks to make sure I got there on time, getting in around 7:57 AM. However, the staff hadn’t even opened the upper floor of the hotel yet, let alone started registering people. I found Unreality and a few other people hanging around at the bottom of one of the escalators and chatted with them a little before going upstairs to get in line to register. After registering and getting my bag with free stuff, I found PBB wandering around and we headed up to hang out in Ray’s room for a little before the tournament started. We chatted a bit about various things and Thomas showed us his awesome custom GBA SP that he got in 2005 from the battle in Seattle that he, skarm, Chalkey, and several others attended (the one that Chris Darling won). He got it signed the next day by the Pokémon execs that were there (musical director and game director, if I’m not mistaken). Soon enough it was time for the tournament to start, so we all headed down and registered our teams. I made sure that Elektross had a Flying Gem this time, but other than that my team was the same as the day before. I got to wear the American flag for round 1 (thanks Fish/Duy!), and I ended up getting some pictures/video taken before the tournament started. My current facebook profile picture was posted on IGN: We were allowed to sit wherever we wanted for the player meeting, and I ended up across from Wolfe (superwolfe), who was a pleasure to meet and chat with. He definitely proved himself over the weekend as a superb battler and he can say that he is the first US National champion to make top 8 at Worlds the same year they won Nats! After they read all the rules and whatnot we were seated alphabetically, so I ended up across Lionel Fey from France. I chatted with him throughout the weekend about the tournament, and it was a pleasure to meet and talk with him as well. After a long wait (I was under the impression that someone was disqualified, as there was an odd number of people at first and then once the tournament started there was an even number, but I could be mistaken) the first round pairings were posted: Round 1 vs Rebecca Wolf (DE) My first battle of the day was on the TV, and I was pretty excited (and nervous)! We had a fairly large crowd gathered, and there was a surprisingly equal amount of support for each of us (or maybe that was just because the German fans were very loud – which I loved by the way! We need more enthusiasm at Pokémon events). Rebecca was very kind and respectful and she was also a very talented battler, which she proved throughout the day. When I saw her team on the team preview, I actually did not recognize one of the Pokémon. I thought it was a normal type, but I was not sure. It ended up being a Life Orb Cinccino, which was quite strong. I don’t recall the entire battle, but I remember I won game 1 after leading Terrakion/Thundurus and she lead Amoonguss/Cinccino. I set up safeguard on turn 1, and got lucky when her tail slap only hit Thundurus twice. I think there was a key fully paralyze at one point in the battle as well. Games 2 and 3 involved a lot of mind games and prediction based on what had been shown in the previous battles, but one thing I never did was bring in my Druddigon to try to snatch one of her Haxorus’ DDs. In the end, game 3 came down to my Terrakion vs her paralyzed Amoonguss, but it did not flinch or fp and killed my Terrakion for the win. Round 2 vs Min Datoo (GB) I was disheartened to have to play a friend this round, but I knew simply because I was friends with so many other competitors that it would be difficult to avoid. At the very least, one of us would win this round! Our battles were pretty good, I got lucky a few times in the first game and pulled it out and then made some good predictions in the second game to overcome the hax that Min got to win 2-0. After round 2, there was a lunch break for all the VGC competitors. Paul, Fish, Fish’s friend (Jimmy I am fairly sure) and myself all walked down to this place where they had apparently eaten in 09 and got some food there. Unfortunately, we missed the finals of the Smogon VGC tournament, which took place over the lunch break. I would have liked to see “commentator guy” myself =[ Round 3 vs Greyson Garren (US) I got matched up against another friend, a trend that would continue for most of the rest of the day. Greyson and I had a series of very close games, and I ended up pulling it out in game 3. His swords dance Samurott definitely caught me off guard in game 1, and big ups to him for sticking with that sweet underused pokemon throughout the year! Playing against the great battlers at Worlds was a lot more stressful and difficult (for me at least) than grinding ladder matches on PO at home, not only because there was actual prizes on the line but also the environment of the event and being in such close proximity to your opponent. I don’t know if other people felt this way as well, but I know I definitely made a mistake or two for reasons that would be unlikely to occur at home. Round 4 vs Kamaal Harris (US) I was near the back of the mass of people when pairings were posted, but I heard Kamaal groan and say “this is going to be a tough match”. My heart sank because I knew what was coming, but I asked him who he was matched up against. He simply nodded towards the pairings board and sure enough, I was paired against him. I won game 1, and then in game 2 he made some excellent predictions and beat me pretty handily. Game 3 was very close and would have come down to the last turn had I chosen my moves correctly, but he got a critical hit with his Jellicent’s water spout to KO my Elektross anyway. I wished him luck and pretty much resigned myself to not making top 8. Round 5 vs Mike Suleski (US) Before the match started, I asked Mike what his tiebreakers were like. He said his were pretty good, because he had played a number of people who were near the top tables, while I knew mine were quite bad as I had lost early (weaker opponent’s strength) and Min was 0-4 at this point. As a result, I strongly considered scooping to Mike if I were about to win. Luckily, it never came to that. I don’t remember everything from our battles as they were all long and very close, but I will say that Mike is without a doubt the best player that I have ever played against. All of my opponents on the day were extremely good battlers, but I felt like I was able to keep up with their predictions. Meanwhile, Mike was outpredicting me at every turn of the game and I needed to get lucky in order to win game 2. I was disappointed to see that he missed top 8 on tiebreakers, but it was my pleasure to battle him and I hope he continues competing for years to come. Round 6 vs Eric Parker (US) Out of top 8 contention, I resolved to win my last match so that I would at least go 3-3 on the day. I was matched up against SPF BEACH, so I knew I was in for a tough battle. I managed to get lucky at just the right moments and made some good predictions to take down the match 2-0. Eric was a pleasure to meet and battle and I hope to see him again next year! At the conclusion of the final round, we all milled about anxiously waiting for the final standings to go up. A number of good players ended up at 4-2, so it was going to be interesting to see who made the cut. Unfortunately, Trista, Fish, and Mike all missed on tiebreaks (among others) while Albert and Alexis made it through (and congrats to them for their excellent performance!) Enfuego impressed everyone with his undefeated run through the swiss, and a few other people ended up 5-2 including Ray, who everyone was now pulling for to repeat. After things wrapped up at the tournament site, we all decided to head down to the beach. However, it was not so simple as organizing a few cars and heading on our way. We first headed down to the free play room, where a number of other people were hanging out. After watching him beat up on some younger kids, I decided to take on Bruno (whom if you are not aware is approximately a real-life avatar of Elite Four member Bruno from RBY/GSC) in arm wrestling and nearly defeated him in right-handed (I was quickly crushed in left-handed, but my right arm is a lot stronger than my left arm ^__^). After that, there were rumors of free cupcakes, so the fatties of the group *coughUnrealitycough* ran off to find some. We waited what seemed like forever for them to come back, but when they finally did, no one could decide on who was going in what car. Eventually, Jose (Supe) (whom I had met the day before, and was an awesome guy to hang out with) drove me among others to my hotel so that I could go in and get my swimsuit, which was very kind of him. We dropped off Ashenlock and Greyson before finally finding the beach, but the others had already been there for a while. We saw Tyler and his car walking while we were trying to find a spot, so we had a general sense of where the group was, but we weren’t sure. Supe and I tried to contact Paul several times, but eventually we found them ourselves. Various athletic activities on the beach ensued, among them soccer (football), which the Brits were naturally the best at, ultimate Frisbee, which provided endless entertainment including the scenario described in andrea’s story (Aaron or someone threw the Frisbee towards Jeremy, but Jeremy just kept running and running and didn’t seem to notice anything), and kickball (which I failed miserably at but I will blame the poor lighting as it was getting late). A grand time was had by all and we got some great group shots which you can find in andrea’s thread. At this point everyone was getting hungry and we decided to get some food. Thomas wanted to go to in-n-out, and the Brits wanted to go as well because they had not been there yet. Alaka and his group ended up going to the Corvette Diner that some of us would go to the next day, but the majority decided to hit up Taco Smackdown once again. There we hung out and ordered food under some awesome names, including the obligatory Mike Sankey, John Mitchell, Darnell Washington, etc. but also some more creative ones such as Aaron being Jackie Chan. I had the quesadillas this time, which were also quite good. Bruno’s (Kid Kadabra) parents were apparently upset about him being out with us, so they made his aunt/uncle (with whom he was staying nearby) come pick him up, which was unfortunate. After sitting around and chatting for a long time, we finally headed back to the hotel. The party was in Ray’s room, and our group slowly got larger and larger. Marvel vs Capcom 3 was the game of choice, and I enjoyed getting my ass handed to me by BI and Paul several times. It was awesome having so many people all in one room, but every single time someone new would come in everyone would start screaming and shouting “HOLA!!!” and other such phrases. It was no surprise to me when someone from the hotel came up and threatened to kick Ray out of his room if they had to come up again (they had apparently been called by 12 different rooms about our noise). At that point, some people started heading down to get in line for the store the next morning, and Supe took Dubs and I back to our hotel after I stomped everyone in a few games of Halo (best Halo player on smogon now that seph is gone!) I believe it was around 2 AM when I finally got back to my room and I promptly crashed while jeps played LoL into god knows when. Sunday, August 14, 2011 We all wanted to make sure to get to the event before the matches started, so we woke up bright and early. Jeps and I were in need of a place to stay that night, so I called dubs and asked to make sure that we could stay in his and Biffster’s room for the night. He said we were good to go, so our group headed across the street and got breakfast at Wendy’s. Chalkey and Gabby headed to the convention center while jeps and I dropped our stuff off in dubs/Biffster’s room. When we finally got to the tournament site, the first game of several of the matches was already over! I rushed in and managed to catch the ending of the battles: babbytron was victorious, as were human and kamz (over Jeremy =[). 7014gree had come to the event suited up, which I appreciated, but unfortunately he lost his top 8 match. In Masters, Enfuego squeaked by Albert, Ruben and Matty won their matches, and Ray defeated Wolfe in a very close third game. Before the semifinals began, they announced that autographs would be starting soon, so we headed over to get in line before the line got too long. I got the top of my DS signed, which was pretty sweet, but I am nervous that it may come off after a while. Unfortunately, the semifinals came and went while we (myself, Trista, Thomas, and a few others) were in line. I texted jeps to try to get an update on the battles, the results of which I loudly exclaimed when he said that Ray was in the finals. We learned that babbytron had lost in the semifinals, which made us all sad, but kamz made it to the Seniors final which was good. After getting the stuff signed, we regrouped and a massive group decided to head out to eat. The finals didn’t start until 3 in the afternoon, so Ray was able to join us on our quest. We decided on TGI Friday’s, and our group of about 28 set out. After a seemingly endless walk, we finally made it to Friday’s, and they surprisingly were able to accommodate us in just 15 minutes. While we waited for our food, a lot of people busted out their DSes and multiple Mario kart games were set up. Len was extremely tired from staying up the night before in the store line, so he ended up taking a nap (luckily he had the corner seat) and I played his DS for a while (mine was out of battery). Once I learned you could inflate your balloons, I did a lot better and I think I won or got second one game (Jeremy was dominating everyone). During the course of the meal, Dozz made the bold claim that he would swallow a steak knife if a certain player won in the finals, which of course is exactly what happened. The food was fine but nothing amazing, as Friday’s tends to be. The worst part was when the bill came: they of course had not split up the checks, so we had a total bill for $440+. Here is a picture to give you a rough estimate of the amount of food we ordered: After getting money from everyone, we were still about $50 short, which was pretty upsetting. We asked everyone for $2 more, which would have been enough, but only some of the people actually pitched in. Big ups to Mitch (ips) and others for being willing to throw in way more money than they owed to help us get out of there (I think I ended up paying $25 for what was likely $15 of the check). Separate checks next time, never doing that shit again. On our way back to the tournament site, Ray and I (among others) discussed what he planned to do in the finals. We knew most of his opponent’s team/items from other people having played him before, so we knew that Ray likely wouldn’t be able to use his Gothitelle or Escavalier (unfortunately). He decided that he was just going to wing it and do whatever seemed to be best for the situation, which was probably better than going in with a set plan and not adjusting from it. While we were walking, we apparently got way ahead of everyone else, but that was probably because a number of people went into a store along the way to trade in a DS for a 3DS or something along those lines. We came back to see the TCG finals going down on the main stage, which was pretty interesting to watch. A Brazilian kid won the Juniors division, which I thought was awesome, and an Aussie won the Seniors division which prompted Paul to shout out “OZZIE! OZZIE! OZZIE! OY! OY! OY!” An American won the Masters division, which would be relevant later that night. We gathered from the way that the TCG finals were set up that the Masters division would take place on the left side of the stage, so we all rushed over after the TCG finished and made sure to get front row seats. The finals matches have been well documented at this point, but I will just say that it was the most intense series of Pokémon battles that I have ever watched and I was very glad that I had the opportunity to see it unfold in person instead of online like last year. Here is a link to TTS’ stream, where you can watch the Masters finals in its entirety, including our awesome celebration at the end: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/16651557 . (Watch it even if you saw it live, definitely worth reliving!) Brief aside: for those who have noticed from other videos, I was the first person up on the stage and attempted to lift Ray up after hugging him in celebration. However, I went straight from hugging him to trying to pick him up, which was a bad idea (I also apparently accidently grabbed Min’s leg). As a result, it looks like I am very weak and cannot lift a rather skinny young man, but this is far from the truth! Once we repositioned, it was quite simple to lift him, and I plan to display my strength by defeating CaptKirby in arm wrestling at US Nationals next year for all to see. If anyone else wants to question my strength, I’ll just have to go jhud on them. After we got off the stage from celebrating, we returned to our seats and got ready for the closing ceremonies. It was pretty cool to see some more Pokémon execs there to give out the trophies and banners (or whatever you would call them), and I thought Nick did a great job even when there was a little miscommunication. I was a little disappointed by the lack of applause from some of our guys for the non-smogonites, but I made sure to chide them for it. After the ceremonies concluded, we decided to take some group pictures in the area outside the tournament area. Unfortunately, the outdoor area was reserved for a private event, so we took over the area in front of the big Pokémon banner and started snapping pictures. I think about 10 different people were taking pictures, and everyone got multiples. Not only that, but every time someone we knew came out, we would scream and shout and wave them over. We ended up with a pretty absurd series of pictures, the largest of which looked like this: Finally, we decided to head outside and try to play some more soccer on the grass fields outside the hotel. Unfortunately, it took forever to find the ball from yesterday, as it had ended up in Thomas’ car by accident. While we waited, Enosh (Human) broke out some sweet chocolates he had got when he was in Israel a few weeks before. One of them was called “Kinder”, which was greatly appreciated by everyone. Andrea has some great videos/pictures from this time, including the “Final Thoughts” video which is pure gold. Also during this time, Babbytron fought Snake in what was the most adorable thing all weekend, and he even took on Paul in a wrestling match! After we finally got the ball, the Brits enjoyed crushing some people in a brief game, while the others stood around and continued chatting and laughing at Zog attempting to play soccer. Around this time, some people had to start leaving, which was saddening. Tyler had left immediately after the finals, and now several other people including Maski, the Brits, and Thomas were headed out. We said our goodbyes and decided that we were all pretty hungry. A group of 8 or so of us including myself, Alan, Paul, Ray, Scott, Kathleen, Min, Greyson, and maybe a few others decided to go to the Corvette Diner that Kathleen had taken Len, Chad, and Andrea the night before. Greyson, Ray, and myself all piled into Kathleen’s car (the “champion car”) and helped her navigate her way to the Diner while having some interesting conversations covering a wide range of topics. I hooked up my iPod and played some tunes but was stupid and forgot to play anything relevant, such as some of the joke songs that have been posted by musically inclined smogonites over the years or anything by DM. I didn’t even remember to play the namesake of this warstory, which I had been planning to do the whole weekend =[ The Diner had awesome food including peanut butter burgers (despite what you may think, they were excellent) and some sweet malts that Greyson and I had. Unfortunately, we did not get much of an opportunity to play in the arcade, but I was able to show my ineptitude at air hockey (and my dominance at super shot) plenty at Nats. Another aspect of the Diner that we appreciated was that you could request songs and include a shout out in your request. First, Paul went up and requested a song with the message “I love you Min!” under his real name, but that wasn’t good enough. I proceeded to find a song to request and then wrote to bharmalm from Darnell Washington “GEC! GEC! GEC!” This proved to be an interesting situation when the announcer asked me how to pronounce both the recipient’s name and the message xD The one downside to our meal was that the service was pretty bad, and they of course forced gratuity so we did not tip any extra. Kathleen dropped the champion car off at the hotel and was headed home, so we said goodbye to her and headed in. We encountered some familiar faces in the lobby, namely the German group and Mike (OD) and his girlfriend. We sat around and chatted with them for a while, and drug_duck’s girlfriend Jennifer had a notebook that we all wrote in to give Christoph our greetings. After a while, I spotted Aaron and some others in the open gaming room, so we went in there to say hi. There was a massive gathering of players from all countries playing in multi battles and chatting. I watched various people play some TCG games, and battled and defeated ips (in VGC 11). Eventually, we saw the Masters TCG champion playing some games with some of his friends, so we headed over there and asked if he would like to play against Ray in both the TCG and VGC. He happily obliged, which was very kind of him, and a large crowd gathered to watch the matches. Ray took 2 prizes playing Len’s TCG deck, but eventually succumbed because this little British kid was giving him poor advice and he listened instead of listening to me or someone else that knew what they were doing. The same kid proceeded to provide David (the TCG champ) with a VGC team and basically played the match for him, which was unfortunate. Ray of course 4-0’d him soundly =D I got the video of them playing TCG on my phone, but I have been having some trouble uploading it to anything as it is quite long (17 minutes+) and thus the file is pretty large. The best part about the night was seeing everyone from all the various countries interacting and having fun with one another and being able to communicate (more or less) through the language of Pokémon. As the night wound down, Alan and I decided to trek back to the hotel. Along the way, we saw Paul and Min walking back as well, and so we talked with them along the way. I won the contest of “who has been to the most major league stadiums” between Dubs/Paul/myself, but then Dubs tied me the next day when he went to PetCo with TAY =/ We said goodbye to Paul and Min and passed out immediately upon getting back to our room. Monday, August 15, 2011 My flight didn’t leave until 2 PM, so we decided to try to get lunch with the people who were still there. I had got Trista’s number the night before because she was worried about not being able to get the airport, so I invited her to come to lunch with us and Len would take her and I at the same time. However, she declined as she had found a group to catch a cab with and apparently wasn’t interested in having lunch with us =[ Dubs and I found a sushi place to eat at, but they didn’t open until later, so we decided to go to Friday’s again. We made the long trek there, and our lunch group consisted of Andrea, Chad, Scott, Len, and the two of us. I just ordered an appetizer, as I was already going to be cutting it close, but the food took a while to get to us so I started getting more worried. It was nice to have lunch with everyone one last time, and I wish I could have stayed longer, but I had to eat pretty quickly and go. As Len and I were walking back to his hotel to get his car, we encountered the Arnold family and stopped to chat with them for a little while. We talked about rumors we had heard of possible changes to the format of VGC tournaments next year, which look like they might be coming to fruition in the next few weeks. After saying goodbye to them, we encountered Min not long after, which prompted a loud GEC GEC GEC from us. Unfortunately we were not able to talk much as we were in a hurry, but he was with his family anyway so I didn’t really want to hold them up. Len did his best driving, but he was defeated by the stoplights of San Diego (I think we hit literally every single one red), and I got to the airport with only 20 or so minutes before my flight left. I thanked him for driving me and gave him some cash to pay for my meal (I would never screw my friends like that!). Thankfully, the security line was very short, and I was able to make it to my gate with time to spare. Coincidentally, as I waited to board, Lionel Fey walked up to me and greeted me. He would be on the same flight as me before making a connection to Amsterdam and then on to France. We talked about the tournament and other things and before I knew it the plane was boarding. The flight home was pretty uneventful and consisted mostly of me daydreaming and reminiscing about Worlds. After I landed and got my bag I was picked up by my dad and we got some dinner before he brought me home. Epilogue Sitting here in my apartment at school almost a month later, it seems like Worlds was just yesterday. I had an absolutely amazing time with each and every one of you, both those who I have met before and those who I had the pleasure to meet for the first time. I will always remember this vacation as one of the best times of my life, and will look back fondly on these stories for years to come. 2011 was a great year for VGC, but let’s make 2012 even better! Myself and others have remarked time and time again how truly incredible these opportunities are, and I hope that they never end. I know that even if Pokémon were to die tomorrow, I would stay in contact with all the friends I have made through Smogon for the rest of my life. I love you all, and I can’t wait to share even more unforgettable experiences with you in the near future. …And he lived happily ever after, to the end of his days.