The World Cup of Pokémon 2021: Tournament Coverage

By Finchinator. Released: 2021/05/16.
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Logo by Iyarito

Logo by Iyarito.

Introduction

If you enjoy Regenerator loop switching or fishing for Shadow Ball Special Defense drops, then get your popcorn and fishing rods ready for what's to come! Smogon's longest-standing tournament tradition is soon to be underway once more. After Italy did the seemingly impossible, ending the European WCoP curse with a dominant victory in 2020, we are back for yet another year of competition. In 2021, the tournament is larger than ever before, fielding 11 teams attempting to qualify as well as 13 teams who already qualified for the field. This makes the 2021 World Cup of Pokémon the official team tournament with the most teams in recent Smogon history, giving us a fantastic opportunity to showcase our flagship metagame with our large and diverse playerbase.

The qualifiers this year were better than ever before! They involved multiple intense rounds of do-or-die Pokémon featuring dozens of fresh faces to the Smogon tournaments community and three teams ultimately advancing in to the field. We will be recapping all of the qualification period, including some huge surprises such as a level 99 Slowking and Mr. Rime both making appearances! Finally, we will be sure to shed some light on the teams who made their first ever appearance in the Smogon tournaments arena and how they performed!

Of course, there is also the main tournament that is going to be starting very soon! The core of this article will be dedicated to the 15 teams who will pursue the blue trophy in the coming weeks and whatever the hell US Northeast is doing—nobody is too sure after last year. We will be examining everything from the players who stand out on each and every roster to the chances each region has of winning it all. Let's see what is in store for this exciting tournament!

Qualifiers

Three teams who did not perform up to the level of the competition last year had to fight for their place in the field this coming year: US South, Canada, and India. In addition to this, long-time competitor United Kingdom was also in the mix, fielding a roster with hopes of requalifying after an absence from the main field in 2020. Joining this group of established teams was a handful of WCoP hopefuls! China, boasting recent SS OU standout Separation, and Austria, led by long-time tournament player Charmflash, had some familiar faces. Meanwhile Argentina, Africa, Bangladesh, Belgium, and Pakistan hoped to get their first taste of WCoP success in qualifiers as well!

In the first round, two series finished close, with China edging out an impressive new Bangladesh team thanks to some early victories and Austria upsetting the lads from the United Kingdom. While qualifier standouts 1 True Lycan and Stareal brought home expected victories for the United Kingdom, Austria managed to bring home four of the other five matches, including a dominant Hawlucha sweep from Charmflash to take out ADV main Triangles in one of the most recognizable pairings of the round. The enigma of Bangladesh, darius45, emerged victorious with a surprisingly effective Mr. Rime, but their efforts proved futile, as China dominated the earlier games in the series to take it home. While India and Argentina both dropped a pair of games against Africa and Belgium, respectively, both advanced comfortably. Finally, Canada nearly swept Pakistan—who made their WCoP debut in this qualifier—showing their determination to return to the field this year once more.

With South already having a place in the final round of the qualification phase due to their prior performance, we were down to six teams fighting it out for three slots in the field. Despite ACR1 decisively upsetting Eo Ut Mortus and the pride of NeverUsed, Abejas, upsetting FMG, the remainder of South's proven lineup held strong, while Gray also won one of the more bizarre games of the round to solidify US South's advancing to the main tournament. In a more lopsided affair, Canada swept the Austrian hopefuls with veterans Genesis7, soulgazer, Bushtush, and watashi all emerging victorious alongside up-and-comer Skypenguin. Canada looked dominant in both series thus far, so it will be interesting to see if this can translate in to the main tournament or not. Finally, the highlight series of the three was the battle for Asia—no, not team Asia—between India and China. In a series that came down to a sudden death game 7, both of these teams had some phenomenal showings. Separation won the highlight match against Serene Grace with the help of a timely Swords Dance Aegislash while China won three of the final four games to cement a fantastic comeback. Both of these teams had some strong teams and plays, but China was able to qualify for their first World Cup of Pokémon ever ultimately, while India will be left to wait to make their big splash next year!

Teams

US South Team US South avatar

After a third straight disappointing season, US South not only found themselves staring elimination in the face, but they also risked upsetting Smogon's true nicest user, TPP, which would be the single most egregious offense known to mankind. With veteran manager presence Stone_Cold paired up with man of the people Jacob, it is surprising that this group has yet to find sustained success. With some fresh faces such as Gray and Ox the Fox finding their way in to the starting lineup, perhaps the negative impact of crusty faces such as HSA will be mitigated sufficiently. A handful of veterans such as FMG, FlamingVictini, and Christo also find their way into the lineup; each of these three have prior experience in SS at this level, with FlamingVictini excelling in particular, so perhaps this core can help South reach their potential. TPP may finally be breaking out of his shell as a player, too, which makes his spot at the conclusion of the lineup one to watch closely. Finally, long-time OU Tier Leader TDK will sit in the reserves alongside old generation aficionado GaryTheGengar, lower tier mainstay and team chat godsend Bouff, and the player voted second most likely to be banned by the end of the World Cup of 2021, Samqian, who gave Eternal Spirit a run for his money before cursing him out. On paper, this team has the ability to compete with anyone in the field with a great deal of experience accompanying some promising new talent. In practice, all of that potential has gone to waste in prior years, which begs the question: will anything change in 2021 or will they be relegated once more?

Team Spotlight: eoat

Eo Ut Mortus—affectionately referred to as eoat by teammates when he does not lose in qualifiers to Africa—has been one of the strongest OU players since last generation. With his seemingly endless flow of practical innovations, Eo has helped shape both SM and SS OU. His results are a great testament to his level of understanding and skill in these metagames, too, as he has achieved great records a number of times. However, Eo has been on the streaky side, with a less-than-ideal conclusion to the most recent SPL and a weaker performance last WCoP. At his peak, Eo is perhaps the best player on Smogon, which was made clear by his 10-1 SSD performance. At his floor, Eo is going to struggle to win games against his pool. It is hard to say where he will fall here, but the loss in the qualifying round was not a particularly good start. In order for US South to live up to their potential, Eo is going to have to get it together and play well in order to set the tone for less proven teammates and bring in some wins on his own. If he does this, then US South may very well be an underrated threat to advance far into the tournament.

China Team China avatar

China is making their debut in the World Cup of Pokémon's main field after a triumphant run through the qualification phase. Before we proceed, congratulations to each player on their roster who made this possible—it is always impressive seeing new teams make their way in to the tournament, and hopefully this group will make the most of this opportunity! While the players on this roster may not be quite as well known as some of the other teams, they still have a very dedicated bunch. For example, Iza—who is not to be confused with old generation player Isa or SPL ORAS player Isza—went 2-0 in qualifiers with some strong teams and even stronger piloting of them. He defeated denger, who surely was danger given his name, and J0RIS, who has been a ladder fiend since the PO days. It is likely Iza will be able to hold his own against just about any group in the qualification phase. In addition to Iza, 6-post wonder kahili was able to clutch the decisive game against Team India for China, which is surely a huge confident boost going into the main tournament. 4-post wonder fyfyk also won his game against Team India standout pj in the qualification phase. Unfortunately, the living Smogon encyclopedia known as Finchinator could not find much data on most of the other starters for Team China, but it is worth noting that Vusty. has an active presence in the community and managed to split his two qualifier games, while gaungguang has been around for over four years on the forums and split his games as well. It will be interesting to see how other players such as weilainevercome, Master Origami, ChickWayne, cscl, line38324, and wuqianying can handle the big stage with the assistance of their proven leader, Separation.

Team Spotlight: Ladder god turned tournament mainstay

Separation has been around for a number of years now; he is known for his creative team choices and flashy plays. Thanks to his fearless nature, Separation is never truly out of games until they are virtually on lock for the opponent. A combination of unpredictable sets and novel team structures allows for Separation to employ chaotic strategies that could help both himself and the remainder of Team China shock the competitive Pokémon world this World Cup of Pokémon. Of course, there will be roadblocks. Separation is still on the newer side to the realm of official team tournaments, and he did struggle at the start of Smogon Premier League, but one hopes that his adjustments will stick and this will be a strong showing. So long as Separation finds a healthy middleground between innovation and practical stratagies—which he has done a good job at doing in the past—then he is likely to find success in his games. However, he will have to carry even more weight in order for Team China to thrive. Will he be able to handle this, or will it be too much? We will find out in the coming weeks!

Canada Team Canada avatar

Unsurprisingly, the team led by a washed-up BW aficionado and an ORAS turned RBY main struggled in the first year of World Cup of Pokémon being all SS OU. Tokyo Tom and Genesis7 have been staples on Team Canada, now captaining the group together with plenty of experience. Genesis7 will also be on the playing roster, starting after a strong showing in the qualifiers. However, the team is going to need much more experience and success in the SS OU arena, specifically in order to perform better than they did last year and avoid relegation. Enter SS OU mainstays watashi, Jytcampbell, and Bushtush. While all three of these players have experience across a number of OUs, they all have played this generation well in official capacities before, with watashi in particular being one of the more dominant performers of the generation. If these three can lead the charge, then we may see a return to the playoffs for Canada. If not, it is going to be hard times as they attempt to fall back on less proven options like Hayburner and Skypenguin, who have shown great promise, but only over limited stretches. Skypenguin in particular is more known for his play in unofficials and is making his true debut here. Canada does have wild card soulgazer, who seems to excel no matter where he plays, but one wonders what support he will have given how picky he can be with teams. If the fit is right, then expect soulgazer to dominate, but there is risk of a lower floor if it is not right. Fresh face SpookyZ starts off the bench after a successful game in the qualifiers. A few more experienced players round out the roster, with Ubers main CKW and Fairygen OU player Splash looking to leave their mark while Jrdn hopes to substitute in to work his way back to the winning form he showed in a previous SSD. Overall, there are a lot of winning pieces on this roster ranging from a group of established veterans to some promising prospects, but their ability to work together and generate consistent victories in this metagame is largely in question due to recent performance.

Team Spotlight: -outl

suapah has not been participating in many tournaments recently, but he has excelled when he plays. Be it in the first Smogon Premier League of the generation or throughout the Smogon Charity Bowl, suapah has stood out as a player. He has always utilized strong teams and avoided doing anything egregious. While suapah may not be the most flashy player and he has not quite reached the status of top player due to sporadic participation, it is clear that when suapah has the time and puts in the effort, the results will come. In order for a Canadian team with shaky results to turn it around, they are going to need an anchor with building and playing prowess that helps set an example for their less proven slots. suapah can provide that, but he will have to show up and put his best foot forward in order to fill those shoes. Will that happen or will there be some rust after a lengthy break from the action? Stay tuned and we will be sure to find out!

US West Team US West avatar

US West has been a strong team in recent years, even winning the tournament the final edition before it shifted to all SS OU. This year they find themselves without some noteworthy names, but a handful of fresh faces will be given an opportunity to prove their worth instead. lax and ima in particular find themselves in a new role: management. These two top SS OU players have relegated themselves to leadership roles while passing up on playing, which likely compromises the chances US West has. This does open the door for some prospects such as 1v1 mainstay and Tournament Director Boat, longtime UU contributor and everyone's friend vivalospride, Monotype leader Decem, and PU staple turned tutoring head TJ, who all have demonstrated their dedication through great responsibilities already on the site. While it is not entirely certain who will get the starting nod of these quite yet, all four have a good track records as users and could transition well into the spotlight if given the proper support. In addition, Attribute, Maki, 64 Squares, and ez, who have all flirted with smaller scale tournament success in the past in various formats, also are given opportunities on this new-look US West roster! There are some returning faces to the roster, however. z0mOG remains an option for US West, but he intends to start the tournament in the reserves. Valentine is also back for another season on the west side, but his level of competency in the SS metagame remains a question mark at this point in time—his aggressive playstyle has potential to pay dividends for this otherwise depleted lineup, but many wonder what, if anything, Valentine has in the tank as an individual player at this point in time. Finally, jack of all trades but master of none apologies rounds out the roster. He has been playing in many tournaments across a plethora of different formats, but apologies is yet to make a big name for himself in recent times, leaving us to wonder if now will be his grand opportunity to do so. Overall, the US West roster looks very different than prior years, and it has a lot less conventional firepower. In order to replicate historic results, US West will have to have a few of their sleeper picks stand out in the first round for the sake of qualifying and cementing themselves as legitimate playoff contenders.

Team Spotlight: Poised for breakout

Vaboh has been a soft-sPokén tournament player with middling results in a limited sample thus far, but there have been signs of promise. Vaboh has gotten his feet wet in officials like Snake and used seemingly solid teams along the way. Couple this with his activity playing SS OU and being thrust into the position of being one of US West's anchors this season... and we come to a make-or-break point for Vaboh. If he can minimize the in-game errors, then Vaboh can and likely will put up a good record in most pools, helping lead his team to success. If his periodic sloppy execution carries over in to this WCoP, then it may be a long season for both Vaboh and US West. With at least a few of his fellow starters being virtually new to the official tournament arena, Vaboh is going to have to step up, perhaps leading by example with his own games. In order for US West to remain as regulars in the playoff conversation without the likes of ima, lax, and Sjneider, someone has to step up, and Vaboh seems like one of the most likely prospects.

US Midwest Team US Midwest avatar

An enigmatic group led by an affluent triangle enthusiast and Smogon's most star-studded blanket finds themselves looking to build off of a surprise playoff showing in 2020. Long-time staff member turned filler character Sam will manage alongside the one who will actually do all of the managerial work, starry blanket. Under the leadership of starry blanket, US Midwest managed to outperform both US South and US Northeast in impressive fashion. A core of developing star players have led the way in this resurgence; John W, who has had great success in both team and individual tournaments; Tace, who now has multiple trophies under his belt; and Luthier, who went from standout Little Cup main to SPL OU player, form a trio of prospects who exceeded expectations for the Midwestern gang. Each of these players has had sustained success in the past and likely will build on it this World Cup of Pokémon. However, there are still some question marks along the way for Team US Midwest. dice has a great ceiling as a player, but his motivation and metagame knowledge are largely unknowns at this point in time. Fruitdealer is one of the best OST performers and has some WCoP experience, but how will he look this time around? It is hard to say what elements of his individual success will translate and what others may not. In addition, odr, who is only known for his RU prowess, and Confide, who has yet to have sustained team tournament or OU success, also find themselves starting. Both are very capable players overall, but how sure can Midwest be that this will translate to wins in a potentially foreign environment? If either of these slots do not pan out, then they may have to call on one of their two DPP mains in the reserves, as Loki and Groudon await an opportunity to make an impact. KlefkiHolder, whose spot may be the reason why CB Jose Altuve and SPACE FORCE are not spammed this World Cup, and Expulso, who is more known for his work in lower tiers, also round out the roster as potential help. US Midwest has one of the more promising cores in the tournament and a supporting cast that has had success in other formats at the very least, which can be a stepping stone to OU success. Their second straight playoff berth seems likely if execution continues to be solid as it was in 2020. However, they cannot take any of this for granted given the developmental state of various slots in their lineup.

Team Spotlight: Draft...ed into his Smogon debut

IronFlashGaming may seem like a random to most Smogon regulars who are reading this article prior to the tournament, which would be a very fair observation, seeing as he is yet to do anything of note on Smogon. However, I can personally assure you that he is anything but a random. IronFlashGaming comes from the draft community, which is also where his teammate John W originated from as a player. While IronFlashGaming does not participate in every single draft tournament nowadays, he has made a name for himself as a strong and creative competitor with great gameplay abilities. Any transition to Smogon or OU will not come without struggles, but if IronFlashGaming is willing to put in the work, which his spot in the starting lineup should imply on a team this dependent on high-effort performers, then the results can and will come. IronFlashGaming recently won the Cash Gang circuit, which was comprised of three recent generations of draft in which many strong players, including some Smogon regulars, participated. Ultimately, his play should not be a weak point for US Midwest, and this could be one of the most underrated slots in the tournament if IronFlashGaming puts in the work.

Latin America Team Latin America avatar

Team Latin America is back and hoping to make another playoff run after a surprisingly strong round 1 showing last year. Unfortunately, their playoff run ended promptly with a crushing 7-1 defeat against Italy, but that was how most teams fell in 2020 in all honesty. This year, Latin America has a clean slate with some new options coupled with a handful of more polished players from prior rosters. Perhaps this will be the year that Team Latin America makes a deep run into the playoffs, though perhaps they could also take a step back if they do not continue to execute at a high level. With friendly face Raichy taking the lead alongside innovative mastermind Flamita, Latin America seems to mostly be led by committee with most of their veterans chiming in. These veterans make for a solid backbone, too. Gondra is one of the main faces of Team Latin America and he has had a number of strong showings across tournaments like SPL. Joining him will be recent standout beatiful, who has had one dominant tournament after another over the last year. beatiful has become a staple in the starting lineup of each team he is on due to strong teambuilding and gameplay. Returning starters Leo and Feliburn also look to build on some past success; Feliburn in particular has picked it up with a good run last season and a dominant Snake performance in RU now under his belt. Gtcha, who has a few official showings in the books as well, will also try to cement himself as a reliable starting option this year. Lycans seems to be returning from a lengthy hiatus so long as his internet holds up, while Latin America adds dahli, who has been a very active player in recent times, to their starting lineup as well. If either of these slots does not live up to expectations, they also have a respectable bench with ex-Smogon Tour champion Posho being accompanied by Smogon Snake Draft starter ZDen, emerging Latin American prospect Javoon, and everyone's favorite user(name) Let's In The Sun. While there is a lack of true starpower beyond beatiful and Gondra, Team Latin America still has a respectable group with more experience than ever before. If they can parlay this into greater execution in their games, then perhaps we will be witnessing a deep run from this squad!

Team Spotlight: The metagame shaper

Storm Zone is known for his unique approach to the game that has delivered great results on the ladder and recently translated well to the best tournament of them all, Smogon Premier League. While nobody is sure how consistent a player of Storm Zone's caliber can be if he continues to take larger-scale risks in the teambuilder, everyone will have their eyes on him as he continues to push the limitations of the metagame with each carefully crafted team. This will be Storm Zone's debut World Cup of Pokémon, too, so it will be interesting to see if his flashier tendencies rub off on his teammates or if they continue their own approaches. Regardless, Storm Zone is a true difference maker, being able to hold up to even the strongest of opponents in SS OU with thousands of games worth of modern experience in the metagame. If this can pay off in even the slighest way, that could make a huge difference for Latin America this year!

Brazil Team Brazil avatar

In recent years, Brazil has been one of the most successful teams in the WCoP, but the shift in formats was not friendly to the group last season, as they missed playoffs outright. With a handful of historically good players and some promising prospects, Brazil seems poised to make it back to where they belong. Led by long-time Smogon tournaments great Tamahome and soft-sPokén Brazilian tournament player Spl4sh, this group was able to add a few major pieces. Lusa finally joins his true team with his first year on Brazil; while his SPL showing was unremarkable, Lusa has shown a knack for taking big risks that pay off when needed the most. His presence in this lineup adds a valuable depth piece that Brazil could have used in prior years. Of course, there are some even more established members of this roster. For example, bruno, who is also known as KratosMana or Anti, is back after taking a WCoP off, and Eternal Spirit is looking to bounce back from a rough SPL and return to his normal winning ways. Rewer and elodin also have scattered experience in CG OU over the years and likely can do well in this field, especially in the case of elodin, but neither has proven themselves in SS OU quite yet. After these two, there is admittedly a bit of a dropoff, which is what could determine the fate of Brazil if none of the remaining players can prove their consistency. HANTSUKI has been around for many years and plays decently in many formats, but can the one-time captain prove to be a reliable option? We are less sure. Askov has decent success in UU, while Century Express is great in older generations, but both are out of their element here, leaving us to wonder how their results will translate. Finally, Ash KetchumGamer has been a great option in some individual capacities and on the ladder but has yet to make a name for himself in official team tournaments, while TDNT, who unfortunately is not as well known as his teammates quite yet, is likely more of a bench piece than anything else given the alternatives on this roster. There are a few question marks no matter how you look at it, but this team should be able to field eight competitive slots with the top half being above average, which could just be enough to make them sneaky competitors this tournament!

Team Spotlight: Fake it until you make it...

The man once only known for his name being an abbreviation of mencemeat, thus making mncmt the "fake jamvad", has skyrocketed to stardom after an impressive series of performances this generation. mncmt is a one-man show with his flashy plays that have led to dominant results across various team and individual tournaments. While he has yet to claim his much-deserved individual trophy due to falling short in OST finals last year, mncmt is clearly on the brink of brilliance and is one of Smogon's top players right now. If he is able to play his games as well as he has previously while also contributing to the team dynamic, then mncmt may be one of the most valuable pieces in the entire tournament. Perhaps his continued development could help complete Brazil heading into the tournament this year!

US Northeast Team US Northeast avatar

After one of the biggest failures in recent WCoP history, US Northeast is back to pick up the pieces this year...if they can get their act together. In 2020, US Northeast's performance can be described as nothing short of poor. Their preparation was unremarkable as a collective, oftentimes coming off as outright lazy, and their execution was nothing to brag about either. US Northeast began their tenure picking up where US East left off before the realignment by bringing home the blue trophy. However, their sterling reputation has been marred by multiple early exists, with a first round loss followed by missing the playoffs outright. With two of the best players ever, ABR and bro fist, both starting on the bench while another one of the best players ever, BKC, is not on the playing roster at all as he is managing, one must wonder if the remains of this US Northeast roster can muster up enough firepower to get back to elite status. Star is coming off of an absolutely dominant SPL that concluded with a trophy and robjr had an unprecedented 18-0 round 1 last WCoP, but this roster lacks the depth it once did. While Finchinator, who continues to flirt with being strong but not elite, and Insult, who is caught in the fringe between good and great himself, both return as reliable starting options, this still leaves four more vacancies in the starting lineup. Sabella is a returning player who has been in and out of the lineup at various times and hopes to establish himself further here, but the remaining starters are all newer to the WCoP scene. DeeJ has played on US Metro during older times but is a completely unknown entity in the current tournament landscape. Nat is a more known presence with great individual results in SS OU, but her team tournament performances have been less consistent, and her composure is always put in question. If she can put it all together, this may be one of the strongest slots in the tournament, but there is a certain degree of risk present. Finally, YouTube sensation and long-time tournament player aim joins third-year substitute Chaitanya to round out the bench in case anything goes south with one of the previously mentioned newer starting options. Overall, Northeast still has above average levels of experience, but their depth is lacking relative to prior years, and one must wonder where they are at mentally after a couple of poor showings. They will need to pull it all together to have a shot at the blue this time around!

Team Spotlight: Young blood

Giannis Antetokommo-o also joins the starting line-up for US Northeast. This will be his team tournament debut, but do not mistake him for a novice. Giannis has been one of the most dominant performers in individual official tournaments recently; he is currently in the middle of a dominant Smogon Tour run, which is following a deep playoff run last season. He also has put up strong results in other tournaments such as OST. While Giannis, much like his basketball-playing namesake, lacks a ring to solidify his accomplishments, his trajectory leads us to believe he will get there sooner rather than later. Perhaps Giannis can help expedite this process with a strong showing here as he helps revitalize a struggling roster. With his unique teambuilding footprint and consistent execution in-game, Giannis is poised for a great season if his individual tendencies can fully translate to the team tournament arena. Of course, there is a degree of risk here, as team tournaments are a pressure-filled environment, but Northeast must hope that they hit on this prospect in order to succeed this time around.

Asia Team Asia avatar

Asia has been a promising group without many solidified stars for a couple of years now; last year they missed out on playoffs by a single game, which arguably felt like a good performance given the personnel they had. This time around they have another year of valuable experience under their belts as Alpha Rabbit and Altina look to lead this team back to the playoffs. While there is still no true star on this roster, they have a number of pieces to the puzzle that can—and likely will—bring in consistent wins. devin has gained lots of official tournament exposure in the recent year, even bringing home some wins, and shawyu 1313 has been holding his own across various formats. haxrme may not be the biggest name, but he has his fair share of OLT success, which could be parlayed into some victories on the big stage. Similarly, we have a few players such as Analytic, who has been around many official team tournaments and even made a deep run into the most recent OST, and sugarhigh, who also has some exposure and amazing bursts of creativity, who have the potential to break out depending on their groups. Rounding out the lineup will be ShinyAzelf, who looks to continue improving after a decent debut last year, and IPF, who has been very active in the OU community while flirting with Smogon Tour qualification in the past. IPF's resume as a player is not quite there yet, but he knows the metagame as well as just about anyone, which could give him a leg up in preparation. Curiously, Team Asia has a bench with one very experienced player and three new players to the tournament scene. curiosity himself is a long-time dedicated OU contributor who is yet to do much in tournaments, while yoppie has been around a few teams but is yet to get much playing time in. TezGreninja is not super well known, but he is a Monotype player who gives them some depth, and DeepBlueC is a long-time official tournament player in DPP OU who may look to make a big splash in SS OU if needed in the reserves. Ultimately, they have some nice depth to back up a starting lineup with plenty of developing prospects. If someone does not pan out, they have alternatives, but there is not much room for error here, so they will have to do their best to make the most of their roster.

Team Spotlight: Advanced...SS OU mind!?

Altina has been a strong option in older generations like ADV OU, but he has yet to have prolonged success in SS OU or officials in general. Now is a golden opportunity to change that, as he has as much, if not more, experience than most of his impressionable teammates and plenty of support from active players of the metagame. If Altina can effectively put his good form as a player to work while adjusting to the conditions of SS OU, then he could be one of the more surprising success stories of this WCoP for a motivated Asian group. Not only is Altina a starter on this developing roster with a handful of lesser-known entities, but he is also one of the leaders as a captain and long-time member. While he may not have the same name recognition as other spotlight players, do not write him off under any conditions, as Altina is very composed, willing to learn, and motivated. There are so many promising signs in play here, so it will ultimately boil down to if the execution is there or not. Hopefully for the sake of Team Asia, it will be!

Italy Team Italy avatar

After a strong start to the tournament, Italy turned it up yet another notch and dominated the entirety of the 2020 playoffs, which led to their first-ever WCoP victory. This was also the first time a team from Europe won the WCoP, which made their achievement even more impressive. They are back in business this time around with a similar core that comes with another year of experience. Empo and Tricking, who are quickly solidifying themselves as two of the best players and WCoP teammates of all time, are each starting once more. It will be hard to defeat either of these two players given their aggressive take on the game. Both now have individual trophies under their belts too, and many believe that when it is all said and done, they will have more team and individual tournament victories as well—it is hard to see what is stopping this from happening given their current trajectories. If this one-two punch is not sufficient for some reason, then Italy has plenty of depth to go along with these two. Punny is one of the top players in SS OU and looks to keep up his strong play, Raiza has been a consistent force in official tournaments over the last year in SS OU, and Niko is coming off of an impressive breakout SPL campaign as well. All three of these players are good enough to be top starters on most teams, so they fit well into the mix for Italy. BK has also been doing very well, even if his time was split in other generations like ORAS during SPL, while Rexus had a strong Smogon Snake Draft showing of his own. Do you notice a trend yet? If not, you should—all of these players have been on fire at some point recently and there are few, if any, signs of struggle. Kebab mlml has a decent amount of official experience under his belt as well, and he is coming in as their eighth starter, which just shows how ridiculously deep this lineup is. This is all with umbry, who may be one of their better pure Pokémon players, and Santu, who is a great player going through some tougher times recently, waiting in the reserves in case anyone does have a difficult time. Finally, Corckscrew will round out their roster as another potential substitute with some good experience in officials recently.

Team Spotlight: The man behind the madness

Will of Fire, who is not in the starting lineup and likely will not be playing, is arguably the most valuable member of this roster despite how amazing players like Empo and Tricking are. While you need eight players to field a starting lineup, you also need three teams for each of these players during the qualifying round and another one for each playoff round they compete in. It is safe to say that Will of Fire is involved with the creation of many of these teams; he is the architect of some of the most innovative structures and surprising sets that we have seen all generation. His skills as a team architect have led to much of Italy's aforementioned success, and while he may not be as prominent of a player as their premier starters, Will of Fire's importance to the functionality of Team Italy should not be minimized whatsoever. If he continues to keep up with the metagame and pump out quality ideas, then it is likely Italy will be successful. If not, we reach uncharted territory that they surely do not want to flirt with. Hopefully there is still plenty of willpower left so Italy can make another amazing run this year!

France Team France avatar

After a strong first year to a fresher France roster, they are back to continue their growth in the post-Ojama era yet again this year. Under the leadership of long-time French tournament presence Cdumas and soft-sPokén standout Welli0u, they have a good mixture of French staples and prospects. Sacri' is back as one of the main stars of this roster; he has struggled with inconsistency at times this generation, but when he is on, Sacri' is easily one of the top players and can be trusted to win against just about every opponent. Akola and BIHI are also both starting on France; both have been around on Smogon for roughly 10 years and come with some solid performances in SS OU recently, but neither has fully broken out quite yet. Now may be a chance to build on their experience and continue to progress, especially in the case of BIHI, who has done very well in other formats such as DPP OU. Cicada has been around for even longer than both of those two on Smogon surprisingly, but his activity in recent years has been pretty sporadic. Recently Cicada has been active and seems motivated to regain his form, but he has never been a true top player, so it will be interesting to see how he can make a name for himself in a newer metagame. There are also some newer options such as Dflo, who did well in OLT despite using a plethora of unorthodox strategies, and Pierrick, who has flirted with periodic success for a few years now in tournaments like OLT as well. These slots offer a great deal of promise but could struggle against stronger pools. Thankfully, Team France also has experienced players in the reserves such as the aforementioned Welli0u, who will begin the tournament as a substitute. Rouding out the lineup will be RedEmption, who has embodied an average tournament player for a while now. He has some quality wins under his belt but is yet to break out fully. If he or other starters struggle and The Well is unavailable, then we may also see LC mainstay Xizaaa, unorthodox NU main 0NI, or lesser-known French OU player MS3D in relief. Overall, Team France looks like a likely playoff team, but they will need a few of their less surefire slots to achieve higher levels of success to make a deeper run this year.

Team Spotlight: Mainer or not, here he comes

Ktütverde was largely known as a PU mainstay as recently as a year ago, but he has blossomed in to a promising OU option recently. Through a series of great showings, Ktüt managed to qualify for Smogon Tour, showing a great level of interest in OU metagames over the last few months. His ability to transition from one format to another is quite impressive. While Ktüt has been one of the best PU players for a few years now, not many were too sure where his true limits as a player were as a player. After testing them himself, Ktüt has proven to the community that he is capable of greater success beyond the confines of his initial main tier. If he can acclimate to team tournament play in SS OU as smoothly as he has to different formats themselves, then France has another top option in their arsenal that could pay massive dividends. If not, then it could be back to the drawing board for this group, who need the depth to expand their already strong core.

Spain Team Spain avatar

After a disappointing 2020, Spain is looking to return as one of the perennial World Cup of Pokémon favorites in 2021. They have a roster featuring many returning veterans that includes two of the best players of all time, SoulWind and M Dragon. While neither of the two Sharks has the same killer instinct in SS OU that they do in older generations, SoulWind still has an impressive resume in the metagame while M Dragon's timeless ability to compete will always warrant great respect. These two will be under the leadership of long-time captain Malekith, who received criticism that was quickly shut down by his loyal teammates in the preliminary threads. With this behind him and the team being as united as ever, perhaps he and esteemed SS OU expert Colchonero can help lead Team Spain back to where they belong: deep in the playoffs. Trosko and Garay oak have both put together great runs in recent times. Trosko was a promising prospect from the start of his time in Smogon tournaments, but he got even better with time. He did struggle in WCoP last year, going winless, but Spain hopes this is behind him. As for Garay, many wondered if he would ever get past being a lower tier player, but recent trends from Smogon Snake Draft and Smogon Premier League indicate that Garay can be clutch and hold his own in OU. reiku is another Team Spain staple that keeps up with the current generation always and has a solid track record; his performance last year was one of the few positives from Team Spain, and he hopes to keep it up this year. Sagiri is a bit lesser known than the other starters in this lineup, but it seems he has a solid grasp on the metagame and will likely be eager to compete. Rounding out the lineup will be Poek, who seems to always be in strong enough form to compete. He is comfortably positive on the sheet and has multiple dominant seasons under his belt in official team tournaments. While WCoP has not been as kind to Poek as SPL has been, many expect him to perform well nonetheless. If any of these starters encounter trouble, experienced substitutes Axel and London Beats, who both have positive performances in their past, are ready in the reserves. Luispeikou, who was a member of the Stark Sharks, and Blanko, who seems to be a newer supporter to the team, help round out the roster. With all things considered, Team Spain looks strong, but they will need to do a better job adapting to the metagame this year than they did last in order to succeed.

Team Spotlight: Free at last...

After a controversial tourban kept Kenix out of his debut SPL, the man himself is free to unleash his wrath on Luthier any and all opponents he encounters this World Cup! While Kenix lacks the experience of many Team Spain starters or even the flashy success of some substitutes like Axel, he has shown great form in his brief experiences in SS OU. Between hype surrounding the return of Kenix to the official tournament arena, despite his lack of experience prior, due to the dramatic nature of his ban and people excited to see his WCoP debut to begin with, this could be one of the most intriguing slots in the tournament. It is easy to get drowned out by the stars of Team Spain such as SoulWind and M Dragon, who are amazing players. However, we know they are strong and will bring in some wins. The question mark for Spain is if they can field a balanced lineup; if slots like Kenix's can generate consistent victories, then they have a chance to get over the hump and back in to playoff—and perhaps championship—contention!

Greece Team Greece avatar

After a strong campaign last year, the Greeks have solidified themselves as great competitors with the all CG OU format, which is a pleasant sight to see, as they were previously known for their gauntlet of veterans in the older generations. These veterans will be giving SS OU their best effort this World Cup of Pokémon alongside a group of Greek regulars and a few older players returning for another shot at glory. Long-time Ubers main and delightful chat presence Mysterious M is going to take charge as the captain of the Greeks this time around while doubling as a substitute; he will be joined by co-captain Christos, who is a similarly pleasant addition to the roster that can provide veteran insight. Experience is not something this squad is lacking, of course. The trio that once manned generations 1 through 3 consisting of roudolf13, Fear, and Astamatitos, respectively, stand out as starters on this roster. While none of them are regarded as top players in SS at the moment, all of them have experience under their belt and have amazing ceilings as players. If they can get up to speed with the metagame, then we could see these three dominate, giving Team Greece a strong backbone. Some other veterans who have not been as prevalent in recent years or other formats also join them, too. Ace-11, who is most known for solid BW play and has been a regular on this roster, gets the starting nod once again. In addition, a relic from the PO days of BW2 is returning to the scene for a WCoP performance in 2021; nikitas stood out in a competitive generation 5 landscape for a few years before fading out to a less active role in more modern times, but he is back to test if he still has it or not! If he does not, perhaps more polished teammates CBU, who has had scattered success over the last few years, and the pharoah, who is still looking for his big breakout performance, will be able to compensate thanks to their experience in the metagame. Greek staples BluBirD252 and amber lamps return as substitutes who have been exposed to this level of competition before, which can always prove valuable, while Lycon rounds out the roster as a slightly lesser-known but still knowledgeable final substitute. Overall, Team Greece has a deep assortment of experienced players from both the past and present that give them the tools to make a deep run, but they are going to have to adjust well to an evolving metagame in order to reach their full potential!

Team Spotlight: A long-awaited return

Stathakis, who is known for his aggressive style that led him to multiple positive WCoP showings during generation 6, is back in business after a few years away from the tournament community. His return will be a refreshing change of pace for a veteran group that was in need of an extra piece to jump from playoff team to championship contender after their successful round one last year. Stathakis himself is a bit of a question mark in generation eight due to being far removed from his last true tournament exposure, but if he can return to form—which one would imagine he has if he is in the starting line-up—then one would hope that this is the case. Stathakis also would mesh well with the various offensive minds of the Greek community, which were showcased last year by their being ahead of the curve with sun hyper offense last WCoP. Perhaps this dynamic can lead to both Stathakis and Team Greece achieving great results this year!

Europe Team Europe avatar

Jordy and Lilburr are putting out a strong Team Europe roster after a finals appearance last year. Coming off of an SPL win, long-time manager TonyFlygon will be returning to the battlefield this World Cup of Pokémon, where he has had mixed results. His familiarity with SS OU should come in handy here, as he has been exposed to it frequently through tournaments he has closely followed, but there will always be an adjustment when it comes to playing firsthand that one has to account for, so Europe will have to proceed with caution here. Thankfully this may be the ideal conditions for Tony, as it seems likely he will be bringing a number of his SPL champion teammates along for the journey this WCoP as well. OST champion and old generation aficionado mael, Fairygen frequent Quaze, and jack-of-all-trades Leru all find themselves in the mix for Team Europe; any of these players has potential to do well, but none of them have had a great opportunity to stand out in SS OU quite yet. Quaze was given time last year, where he went 3-3, but aside from that there will be lots up in the air here. All-time great McMeghan is making his Team Europe debut this WCoP; he is not known for his SS OU play, but it would be a treat for the entire community to see him take up the current generation. McMeghan's ability to innovate metagames while playing near the top of competition never ceases to amaze. Speaking of innovating metagames, Eeveeto will be back for yet another campaign on Team Europe, where he hopes to continue working on his improving track record as one of the better OU tournament players. Eeveeto's team choices strike many as unorthodox, but they oftentimes work out in practice, which is quite impressive. Kushalos—Smogon's favorite chef—will also be returning to Team Europe for another year as a potential substitute. Mana is also returning to the roster despite his unwillingness to actually play Pokémon; Mana is a fantastic player who distances himself from competition often, but when he does give it a go, the results tend to be more impressive than not, which could be a spark plug for Team Europe. Stark Sharks tryhard Ruft will be occupying one of the remaining slots as a frequent builder with great metagame insights. Team Europe is also adding a couple of depth pieces to help fill any potential holes in their lineup such as Void, who has many years of tournament exposure in different generations such as DPP, and Frania, who has shown great levels of competency in singles tiers despite being more of a DOU main than anything else. Regardless of who may be starting or substituting, Team Europe is an experienced group with great levels of composure, and this can help compensate for a slight lack in firsthand SS OU experience. If they put it all together, expect another deep playoff run, perhaps even getting over the finals hump that they have encountered as a roadblock twice in recent years.

Team Spotlight: The face of consistency

Pohjis is back for another year with Team Europe as his legend as one of Smogon's most versatile and succesful players grows. While he may be a step behind the likes of SoulWind, who has unmatched individual results in many formats, not many other people are looking down upon Pohjis. SS OU may not be his main tier, but that should mean virtually nothing when it comes to this European sensation. Pohjis is able adapt to novel metagames without much struggle; his seemingly effortless approach allows for great adaptation and strong results. Team tournaments have not been quite as friendly as individual circuits for Pohjis, but they have a smaller sample size, and Pohjis's consistency as a player should leave spectators confident in his abilities regardless of the setting or format he is involved with. Pohjis may not be the most outsPokén individual or even the most involved teambuilder, but he is actively finding ways to win games and provide for his team, which shall absolutely go a long way for Team Europe this year!

Oceania Team Oceania avatar

Managers false and Tom Bus will be putting out a fresh lineup to try to get back into the playoff conversation this time around. Team Oceania has a rich history of being stacked with veterans who have dominated old generations. However, we are not entirely sure if that is in the cards this time around as Team Oceania continues to transition to the current format, meaning we have some fresher faces to focus on this time around besides team staple Stallion, who appears to be back in the reserves! LC mainstay Ninjadog stands out as an option with a good amount of exposure to tournaments who is very capable of outplaying opponents in different formats, which is a great start for this group. byronthewellwell, who is coming off of a strong showing last year for Team Oceania, will also surely be occupying a slot in the starting lineup as he hopes to continue his World Cup of Pokémon success moving forward. The experience does take a bit of a drop-off after these two and the aforementioned captains, unfortunately. March Fires has been around for a number of years as an Ubers player and he had a very impressive showing last year, giving Oceania a great addition. Meanwhile longtime prospect Snowy is back with for another run at the World Cup of Pokémon after some mixed results in recent years. Lesser-known players PureJules and afakedugong have been around the scene previously and likely keep up with the metagame themselves, but their ability to perform on the biggest of stages is also something we are uncertain of. Thankfully, Team Oceania has a history of great execution, so perhaps they will naturally fit the mold and exceed expectations if given the opportunity to start. If not, Team Oceania should be fine with other options such as long-time OU player Escavalier, who has shown the combination of metagame knowledge and gameplay competency in the past and likely can do so again here. Finally, TrueNora and TectonicDestroyer are also included on their roster if there are not any extra signups; both of these players are active in the community currently and should be motivated to help the Team Oceania cause, but it is yet to be seen if they can do the trick as players or if they will be more supportive pieces in this setting. With everything considered, Team Oceania may have a tougher draw this year with the current format, but they have a motivated group of users who seem to be wholesome, so they are a team to root for, and maybe they will work some of the Oceania magic to have a deep run as a dark horse of the entire tournament!

Team Spotlight: Smogon's OG Sheet Standout

false, who is known for successfully dabbling in PU and falsifying spreadsheet columns in each tournament he participates in, is back and in charge of Team Oceania this year. His track record in OU metagames is not quite where he would like it to be, lagging well behind his strong PU showings. However, false has taken strides in other generations such as GSC as recently as SPL, which is a challenging format to take up, leading us to believe he has improved as an overall player, too. If this is the case, then we may be able to expect a steady diet of leadership and victories from this slot, which is what this team needs the most. false is a determined individual who has fought for this team before, having to learn from defeats and brace for impact last season after they lost some of their best prospects due to the format shift. false has managed to get past all of this adversity, and he hopes to lead Team Oceania back into the playoffs this time around!

Germany Team Germany avatar

There has been quite a bit of turnover from prior years of Team Germany, with many of their strong performers returning to the equation under the management of xray and CMx this year, which bodes well for a team that feels like they are a perennial deep playoff contender. CrashinBoomBang may not be the most well-known for his SS play, but his presence will surely be a helpful one thanks to his many years of experience in the official tournament arena. This slot sets the tone for much of what is to come, too, as Team Germany has a slew of seasoned veterans on their roster. Relous and Dragon Claw have been going at it in OU officials for multiple years now, both holding their own in more recent generations and hoping to build on that for this coming World Cup of Pokémon. This duo was also linked together in the most recent SPL, where they both emerged with trophies in hand after a great stint on the Wolfpack! In order to repeat that result here, they will need to continue achieving good results while also assisting lesser-known teammates such as surprise Stark Sharks pickup MAX UND MAX or potentially lesser-known options such as MichaelderBeste2, LNumbers, and Reje, who all could get themselves into the mix of substitutes or lower-end starters depending on how things pan out. None of these options have an abundance of official or SS OU experience, but they all are capable overall players. Returning players mind gaming, who had some intriguing team selections last time around, and Gefährlicher Random, who has quickly grown into one of the better tournament players in the community, also hope to bring in consistent victories for Team Germany this season. Finally, Lord_Enz is coming off of a superb run into the final stages of the most recent OST, which may lead to him being a staple on Team Germany moving forward if he continues to grow as a player to even more impressive heights. Overall, Team Germany is filled with experienced players who are ready to win now and surging prospects who hope to contribute to a strong campaign. This roster has plenty of winning tools, but they will need to execute well if they wish to finally claim a blue trophy for Germany.

Team Spotlight: The god scanner

xray was once known for his ORAS OU expertise, but nowadays he has similarly impressive results in SS OU. The SPL standout turned councilman has turned it up a notch this generation, doing well in numerous officials and leading Germany deep into the tournament last time around. xray's ability to build coupled with his understanding of the metagame has been good thus far this generation, but he will need to remain motivated and effective in order to keep up his current trajectory and give Germany what may be the final touches needed in order to be a clear championship contender. If xray is able to scan his way around any obstacles and through the competition, then he may very well dominate this field like he has others in the past. If not, then it could be a long season for Team Germany. The leadership in chat and by example that xray displays will go a long way for this group, so hopefully we will see a continuation of xray's strong showings this WCoP!

Closing Words

It will be exciting to see what teams will heat up this summer and which will struggle. As always, you can track the tournament in the World Cup subforum with replays here and games played on the Smogon tournaments server. Will one of the United States teams find themselves on top, or will they continue to struggle to make it deeper in to the tournament? Is this the generation of Europe, or was last year an exception to the historic rule? Can one of the dark horse teams with less experience and historic success find their way to the blue trophy? Stay tuned for the World Cup of Pokémon to find out! Thanks to everyone for reading and good luck to all teams participating in WCoP!

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