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Each year in the tournaments forum, there are several major annual events—competitive mainstays, so to speak. One of these is the World Cup of Pokémon, a much-anticipated tournament now in its fifth year of running. Rivalries and bonds between some of the older teams are ingrained deeply between players, some of whom have stood by their regional team for many years, perhaps even captained it.
The World Cup of Pokémon (WCoP, or the more ambiguous WC for short) continues to expand along with the community it is a part of. This year, sixteen hotly-contested team slots were made available—eight players and four substitutes per team, adding up to 192 players. While many teams had some shoe-ins, no team was entirely predictable in its line-up. Hopefuls have flocked to the tournament forum and IRC, aspiring to play for their region. Furthermore, splinter teams from broader regions (such as the newly-formed Spanish team, which previously fell under Europe) have resulted in some notable defections. The captains all did well in selecting fantastic rosters, which are viewable here. All eyes are now on the remaining teams, waiting to see who wins the prestigious new red trophy. For anyone who hasn't been following the tournament, hopefully this article will encourage you to get into it!
The WCoP has always been best-of-one, single elimination OU. The first round focused on players, with each player grouped into a round-robin division with an opponent from three random teams. While this placed more emphasis on individual player skill, it was still quite important as a team effort, as the combined points from each division decide seeding for the next round, and thus ultimately each team's path through the bracket. The scoring system for each player is elaborated upon here.
The qualifiers were, needless to say, fiercely competitive. The new teams were subject to quite some curiosity, and old teams in their turn were scrutinised heavily based on past performance. More than eight great teams started out this round, but that was the total number of teams qualifying. Thus, there was a lot of pressure on each player to win and take home as many points as possible, in order to secure a coveted Round 2 slot.
At the end of the round, three teams were tied for 8th seed: Oceania, Canada, and US East. The tiebreaker involved each team selecting a single representative, which would then play the two others. If all players went 1-1, the process would be repeated with a new set of three. There was no need for this, however. Gouki (Canada) and Earthworm (Oceania) ended up playing for their team's survival, with Earthworm winning the decider match against Gouki.
From Round 2 on, the teams knew what was required of them. The bracket was seeded based on qualifier performance, leaving a clear route for each team. In these rounds, the players are matched against an adversary from their opposing side, and whichever team has the most wins progresses to the next round. Should two teams tie, they must select a tiebreaker to play a single match to decide the winning squad. Ties are a very real part of the WC; last year, the finals were decided by a tie-breaker between Earthworm and husk. This Round 2, teams competed neck-and-neck, and all but one match-up resulted in a tie-breaker. It is also worth mentioning that Salamence was banned during Round 1, so, while it was allowed for the remainder of Round 1, the Round 2 game is significantly different.
Don't let the seeds dictate your opinion. Some very talented sides failed to make the cut, and each division had a number of factors in play. Player skill is definitely the most important part, but division difficulty also plays a part. Unfortunate aspects of the game, such as as hax and one-sided team match-ups, can also wreak havoc, though it's important to remember that it's just Pokémon. At the end of the day, the top eight teams are all fantastic and a good representation of the Cup's talent—but there's more to consider than the order of the seeding.
Top seed US West was matched against bottom seed Oceania. Last time, US West were knocked out by the eventual runners-up, but would the tables turn this WC? It seemed quite possible, if the stellar performance of this year's West squad in the qualifiers is any indication. Of course, Oceania have also been in great form, and that's why this has been a tense and close clash—whichever team emerged from this favourite vs. favourite match would have an excellent shot at the trophy. In the end, Oceania's side won 5-3; the close and haxy (on both sides!) end-game in TheFourthChaser vs. Earthworm sealed the deal for US West's 2010 hopes.
Highlight matches included the captain vs. captain faceoff between TAY and Blue Kirby, Frontier Brains Scofield vs. panamaxis, and talented veteran Hipmonlee vs. remlabmez, whose form recently has been nothing short of excellent. In the latter two matches, Oceania pulled no punches and managed to come out on top of their opponents. Both battles were particularly memorable because of Oceania's unique deployment of Gallade. TAY v. Blue Kirby was an intense and fast-paced KO exchange where both made some great plays, but the Blue Kirby Special (Agility Metagross) clinched it. Overall, every battle was heated and fast-paced, with many vocal supporters turning up in each match: Pokémon at its finest.
ISGME finished the qualifiers just one tiny point behind US West. The newly-formed team, which is comprised of both new players and many WC veterans from other squads, boasts the likes of husk, Aldaron, and ToF. Meanwhile, US Metro, which has an equally talented roster with names like Kevin Garrett, reachzero, and alex. The stage was set for a close match between the two teams, and they did not disappoint, ending tied 4-4, with husk and reachzero respectively as tiebreakers. Whichever team progresses will face either the UK or Europe.
The highlight match was Delta 2777 vs. Aldaron. Though Aldaron is nowadays more known for his UU prowess, he proved he is still good at OU by outplaying Delta, which is no mean feat. The tiebreaker is exciting, too; while husk is one of the overall greatest players of Pokémon, reachzero has rapidly become one of the most solid tournament participants, having 2009's most tournament wins.
Another geographical showdown between mainland Europe and its offshoot, the United Kingdom. On paper, UK's current roster has an edge with some fantastic players, but Europe is a good and balanced team in its own right and has given UK a run for its money—the round ended up 4-4 with a tiebreaker between twash and Megan_Fox.
Highlight matches included Megan_Fox vs. Mechazawa, Sage Abdul (Minato.) vs. Blue_Tornado and fellow SPL Cryonicles Kinneas vs. B-Lulz. The players named are notable talents from their sides and all evenly matched. Mechazawa, who has shone in the recent Smogon Premier League, triumphed in a game played well by both him and his opponent, Megan_Fox (another notable ladderer and tournament player). Blue_Tornado beat Minato in what was disappointingly a luck-filled match, and B-Lulz's creative use of Bronzong saw him emerge victorious against ST6 semi-finalist Kinneas.
Latin America has never done as well in the past; the team has disappointed in previous World Cups, failing to make Round 2 in 2009's tournament. Meanwhile, Brazil, one of the more unknown teams, cruised into an impressive 5th seed, leaving a number of surprised opponents in their wake. Many of Brazil's players are new to the Smogon community, and most of their opposition expected an easy win. To their shock, however, Brazil went 14-10 in the qualifiers, securing them a spot against their geographical cousins. Now both teams have something to prove, even if just to back up the trash talk and trolling exchanges in the World Cup thread! Whichever team wins the tiebreaker will face Oceania.
Highlight matches include the underrated Mizuno vs ex-Latin American Mosh and reyscarface vs. DarkLynx. DarkLynx (who has not participated much in Smogon tournaments, but lost in Round 4 of the Smogon Tournament #6 to the runner-up) was definitely the underdog against successful ladderer reyscarface (who has also enjoyed decent success in tournaments), but managed to bring home a point for his team. Mizuno beat Mosh in a close call, resulting in a 4-4 deadlock and tiebreak. Rurushu was Brazil's delegate, and Latin America sent hanke, the most recent Smogon Tournament champion.
The World Cup is always eagerly anticipated and impatiently waited for, year after year. The drama, the matches, and the suspense are incomparable to other tournaments. Bonds are formed between players and rivalries are formed between teams. To many people, it is a great honor to be chosen alongside each region's top players. Also, the trash talk is (from some people…) almost as exciting as the battles themselves! Overall, the WC is a very thrilling tournament that is quite enjoyable to follow. The teams left will enjoy their fans' support, so make sure to cheer them on! Whichever squad earns the trophy this year can truly call themselves Pokémon masters. However, keep in mind that many teams are craving revenge come June 2011!
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