World Cup of Pokémon 2019 Playoffs Preview

By Finchinator. Released: 2019/07/19.
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Logo by LifeisDANK

Logo by LifeisDANK.

With summertime knocking on the door, we find ourselves in the middle of another tense edition of the World Cup of Pokémon. Playoff time has finally arrived after a closely contested opening round and dramatic tiebreak, leaving us with eight strong teams remaining. This playoff field is comprised of some teams returning from previous years and some more surprising additions, all of which we will get into. With lots of developing storylines ranging from if favorites Northeast will become a true dynasty to if Cinderella story Latin America is the real deal, we have lots to be excited about in the coming weeks of the tournament! Let's get into the eight remaining teams that will be fighting for the blue trophy this summer.

Playoff team breakdown

1. US Northeast (21-9)

Northeast logo

The returning champions did not skip a beat, following up on their dramatic finals win last summer with a historic 21-9 record in Round 1. While they set the record for the most wins in the first round ever, Northeast still has their work cut out for them, seeing as each playoff run they have seems to come down to bro fist bailing them out the wire. However, this year they do have recently unbanned Star, up-and-comers Gilbert arenas and Insult, and another year of experience together, so there are very high expectations for the incoming favorites. With a spectacular 13-5 old generation record during the first round, Northeast may be very hard to beat out in the playoffs if they keep this up. Their SM will always be strong as well, with captains ABR and bro fist taking charge. Will Northeast meet their lofty expectations and repeat as champions, or will they get upset by the strong competition? Only time will tell, but it will definitely be an exciting watch!

2. Latin America (18-12)

Latin America logo

From being on the brink of not even qualifying for Round 1 to being the second overall seed, the most surprising team remaining in the field surely is team Latin America. While their roster may lack the experience of Oceania's old generations or the success of Northeast's core, they surely have a lot of momentum and surprise factor at their disposal, which makes them a threat in this field. Led by a trio of surprising 3-0 performances from ZDen (SM), Lycans (DPP), and Raichy (GSC), this Latin American team hopes to keep up their winning ways. While they will likely have to perform even better to remain in the tournament given their relative lack of experience and everyone getting some more information on their players throughout Round 1, we should not doubt their collective capabilities given how well they did throughout the generations to start the tournament. Keep in mind that these guys have been playing for a few weeks before everyone else in the qualification phase, so perhaps their form will continue to be ahead of everyone else, leading their improbable run to continue further than anyone imagined.

3. Europe (18-12)

Europe logo

In recent years, Europe has settled into a very consistent position; the team that was once one of the most pedestrian out there has become a yearly playoff contender, making it as far as the finals in recent memory. However, they have never been capable of taking it all. With a roster filled with experienced tournament players such as Pearl and Jimmy Turtwig, it should be no surprise that they have been consistent. With that said, they will need some new blood to step up under pressure if they wish to go all the way; Twixtry put up an impressive 3-0 during Round 1 and could be a strong SM spot for them, but Smogon Tour qualifier le LLiolae and recent standout head Tournament Director TonyFlygon will have to also hold their ground in new environments if Europe wishes to have a balanced approach throughout the playoffs. While Tony put up a strong showing in Round 1, he is now in SM OU instead of DPP OU, so his transition may be crucial for Europe moving forward. With a respectable 18-12 opening round, Europe has shown that they have a strong core and can make some noise this tournament. Will they continue to execute with higher stakes, or will they fall in the playoffs once again?

4. Germany (17-13)

Germany logo

A couple years removed from one of the most widespread ghosting cleanses, Germany is back to being a dangerous team comprised of new and old faces alike. With your expected cast of strong players such as xray, Conflict, Fakes, and Lusch, it should be no surprise to see Germany back in the middle of the playoff picture again. However, they do have a few additions this year that could make the difference, finally pushing them back into championship contention with the favorites of the tournament. menci and Relous in particular are two SM starters that combined for an even record during Round 1 and have a good chance to make some noise against Oceania in the opening round of the playoffs. Melle2402 and FriendOfMrGolem120 both showed promise in their old generation groups, too. CrashinBoomBang is back, playing his first serious tournament games in years, and could perhaps be a big addition to the lineup as well if this pans out. The effectiveness of these starters will likely determine if Germany is championship bound or if they will fall short once again, as their other core members are among the stronger players in their respective tiers.

5. Oceania (17-13)

Oceania logo

Many people expected Oceania to be a fairly average team this time around, especially after losing star ADV player thelinearcurve before the tournament began. They proved to still have enough to be a comfortable playoff team though, putting up a strong 17-13 record. Thanks to some clutch performances in generations 1-3 and a surprising positive record in SM, which is seen as Oceania's weak spot historically, the bab-themed team is back for another attempt to reclaim the glory Oceania once had in their golden days. It seems to be a much harder ask for this group, unfortunately, as they drew a surging German team and they still lack a lot of experience in the newest generation. Regardless of experience, if their old generations can play to their fullest potential, led by veterans such as Earthworm and Golden Sun, and their SM can continue what they had going during Round 1, then they may have found the path to a deep playoff run. Newer faces like Essence and GypsyKing are going to have to perform in SM against top competition, but this may be Oceania's best shot in recent history, so only time will tell what they make of this grand opportunity.

6. Brazil (17-13)

Brazil logo

Back in 2014, a Brazilian team with the likes of prime sogeking, Destiny Device, and dekzeh took WCoP by storm, upsetting a stacked US East roster that seemed virtually unbeatable in the finals. Since then, it has been a long, inconsistent road for the Brazilian team. They have qualified for playoffs but never matched their heroic run from '14. This year, they are back and perhaps as strong as they have been since then. With a dominant SM core featuring crazy good Eternal Spirit, creative mastermind KratosMana, and all-time great Tamahome, this Brazilian roster is strong and deep. While their old generations may lack some of their normal characters such as Tiba and dekzeh, they still have a number of strong players like elodin and Century Express holding down the fort. If Luigi can continue his streak of success and Hyogafodex can continue to play up to his potential, then their old generations will be nearly as threatening as their SM, and this team could be very hard to take on. The main problem is that a couple weak slots have held back Brazil in recent years, so between the last SM slot and RBY, they are going to have to overachieve a bit to find themselves back in the winner's circle.

7. Spain (16-14)

Spain logo

Team Spain has one of the scariest rosters in the tournament, proving to have lots of depth and underrated talent in the wings each year. Last year, they underachieved and did not qualify for the playoffs, but make no mistake: Team Spain can be a championship contender every single year. This time around, new face Jardem had a strong showing in Round 1, while Axel came back from the dead to prove that he still had what it took to win. Given this, it should not be a surprise that Spain dominated SM during Round 1, going 10-2. What is even scarier is that SM is not their only strength; Spain has Poek, SoulWind, Malekith, and M Dragon in old generations—four players who are very strong in their respective tiers and can stand up to the best of the best on any given day. While this group did suffer some losses during the initial round that led to them tiebreaking, they are capable of bouncing back for sure. They do have a few question marks with a fairly unproven ramboss in another SM slot, but he did manage to go 2-1 in Round 1, and Garay oak making his ADV OU debut. With this said, each slot has plenty of support, and reiku may be making his debut in RBY as well, but Spain's trusty Gengar will have ample opportunity to pull through. All things considered, Spain has one of the strongest rosters that features ridiculous upside. If they play their cards right, any team will struggle to defeat them, including the other likely favorites. They have struggled to do this recently, but with this group anything is possible. Everyone better watch out, as Spain is not your ordinary no. 7 seed.

8. US West (16-14)

West logo

Last, but very much not least, we have perhaps the flashiest team in the tournament, comprised of some of Smogon's most recognizable tournament players. Lavos and lax both come hot off of an SPL win, with the former also dominating Smogon Classic, and look to lead their WCoP team to another trophy for the two of them. West is coming off of a dramatic finals loss against Northeast last year, being one tiebreak game away from a trophy. They have grown stronger since then, too, with the addition of three starters in rozes, Oristeros, and ADV standout undisputed. While they started off strong, West cooled off during the final week or so of Round 1, leaving them to limp into the tiebreak, which they escaped thanks to some clutch play by lax and craing ;_;. They are going to need many more clutch performances to win the tournament, but if anyone is capable of upsetting Northeast, it is West, who came so close last year and happen to be matched up with them again in quarterfinals this year, letting them enter the series with some momentum from the tiebreak. West vs Northeast has quickly formed into a rivalry and an amusing spectacle for everyone on the outside, pitting some of Smogon's best against each other on both sides. Hopefully for the West side, they can change their fortune from last year and take down Northeast, leaving them in a position to perhaps take the entire tournament if they continue to do well from there on out.

Round 1 breakdown and highlights

Latin America surprises everyone and surges to the 2 seed....

Team Latin America was on the brink of elimination, faced with Team China in the qualification phase. Captain Spectear took out worthy adversary yjh971203, and since then they have not looked back at all. They were ranked last among teams in Round 1 but finished second in the standings, showing that they have improved dramatically from the year before. Not many people thought they would even contend for a playoff spot, let alone qualify, but a number of lesser-known players put up 3-0 records for the Latin Americans. ZDen has been seen in tournaments before, but his breakout 3-0 was quite impressive. Raichy has been around on and off for years, but going 3-0 in GSC was not anticipated from him either. Lycans, unlike the other two, is very well known, but only in the newer generations. He went 3-0 in DPP to cap it all off and cement this team as a clear-cut playoff team. During the last half of Round 1, this team did better than any other and surprised the entire Smogon tournament community. Will their Cinderella run continue or come to an end finally in the face of even stronger playoff competition?

Playoff regulars Italy and France come up short...

Team Italy has been a playoff contender for the last couple of years, even making the semifinals before. Team France is in similar standing, having some of Smogon's strongest competitors and oftentimes finding themselves in the playoff picture as well. This year, most people who followed the tournament expected them to qualify once again, but both teams had some rough luck and faced some strong competition, leading to them falling short. While we all are looking forward to better days in which these two teams can play to their full potential, it was admittedly surprising that they fell short this year. It would not be fair to ignore the fact that a lot of players on both teams played well but simply did not end up winning due to the game not going their way, but at the end of the day, it was not the year for these countries, and perhaps this will motivate them to come back even stronger in the coming years!

Tiebreak for the final two seeds comes with plenty of dramatic performances and a tight conclusion...

Spain, US West, and US South all finished with a 16-14 record, giving them a tie for the no. 7-9 seeds. Unfortunately, only 2 of these 3 seeds advanced to the playoffs, so they had to duke it out in an extensive tiebreak to decide which 2 teams would enter the playoffs. The first round of tiebreaks was done traditionally, with each team picking a generation they wanted to play against the opposing team and the teams all facing each other in a best of three comprised of SM OU and the tier each team picked, making it a round robin of best of threes to decide the fate of each team. However, this opening tiebreak round ended in each team going 1-1, causing for a bracket reset that was a best-of-1 SM OU round robin. From there, Trosko continued his dominance, defeating both TDK and craing ;_;. craing ;_; also emerged victorious against TDK, giving US West the no. 8 seed and eliminating US South. Spain was awarded the no. 7 seed due to their winning the tiebreak outright. These games were well fought and intense, so I would personally recommend giving them a look if you have not yet. For all of the tiebreak pairings, you can view the bottom of this post. For all WCoP replays, you can check this thread. And speaking of replays...

Round 1 Highlight Games

Brazilian standout Eternal Spirit is poised to continue his recent streak of success, spanning back well over a year now. He is pinned against a pretty dynamic opponent, Will of Fire, who has become a household name due to his role as a builder of teams in the current generation for his fellow Italians and some other tournament performances. While Will of Fire is not nearly as established as Eternal Spirit on Smogon, this game was pretty exciting, and both teams had a shot to qualify at the time, with Brazil in the thick of the playoff picture, so the stage was set for a big game. Looking at the teams, you could tell that this one would be a pretty tight, offensive contest, too.

Both players were rocking Mega Diancie, which is not too common of a pick. Eternal Spirit seemed to be using it with a more balanced supportive cast, making use of defensive presences like Heatran, Ferrothorn, and Landorus-T. He also had another unorthodox pick in Keldeo, which has fallen from grace in SM. On the flip side, Will of Fire seemed to have a more aggressive build, almost appearing to be hyper offense. He had Kommo-o, which is another sporadically seen Pokémon that has been gaining traction in recent months, and strong offensive metagame staples such as Kartana, Greninja, and Magearna, which let him round out the team with ol' reliable Landorus-T. Looking at Team Preview, Eternal Spirit could likely make progress with Keldeo due to his opponent lacking a counter, but he had to be very careful of the opposing Kartana, depending on the set, as it could easily grab KOs if it was a breaker variant whereas it could snowball into a sweep with just one or two things weakened or removed if it was a Choice Scarf variant. Both Mega Diancie could go a long way when it comes to controlling the hazard field and firing off strong attacks, too.

Eternal Spirit got the advantage earlier on, prioritizing positioning that let him make progress in the form of a layer of Spikes. To add insult to injury for Will of Fire, it appeared his Kartana was walled by Ferrothorn, which Eternal Spirit seemed to risk, seeing as he had no hard counter to it. This let him set up multiple layers in return for taking a Knock Off and then make a very risky read on the follow-up +2 Knock, getting in his Mega Diancie safely on the Kartana. With this demanding position in hand, Eternal Spirit made another strong play, correctly predicting Magearna to come in on a STAB attack and clicking Earth Power, which clocked it for over 60% damage. Will of Fire was not giving up, however, as he made his own series of strong plays following this. First, he went to Landorus-T on the follow-up Earth Power from Mega Diancie. This was wise, as the Magearna was weakened, so he was able to save it as fodder while making Eternal Spirit believe he was just going to let it go there, making him feel comfortable clicking the safe Earth Power once more instead of making another aggressive play like he had in the prior turns. This opening that Will of Fire gave himself let him eventually pivot in his own Diancie, which set up Stealth Rock despite being in the face of the opposing Landorus-T. Eternal Spirit predicted a Protect or double switch and, wanting to stay on the aggressive, switched out while Diancie clicked Stealth Rock. Finally, Eternal Spirit was able to get recover by forcing a Magearna fodder a couple turns later.

This let Will of Fire go to his Kommo-o, which was a threatening presence at this point in time. It set up a Substitute on a Leech Seed from Ferrothorn and we all knew what was coming next—Belly Drum. Unfortunately, everyone's favorite klangy Pokémon was still not capable of breaking OU staple Landorus-T at +6, using Drain Punch that fell short, letting a follow-up Explosion break the Substitute. This was a smart play by Eternal Spirit, as Kommo-o could not recover any more HP with Drain Punch on the following turn, letting Weavile revenge kill it with Choice Band Ice Shard. At this point, the game was in a state of back-and-forth trading. For Will of Fire, he took his turn with Greninja, which eventually 2HKOed the weakened Ferrothorn with Hydro Pump. This let Greninja transform into Ash-Greninja, but he still needed damage on Keldeo to even think about cleaning with it, which was likely the gameplan from the start for Will of Fire. Eternal Spirit went to Keldeo after this, claiming the Mega Diancie as fodder on a Hydro Vortex. Will of Fire tried to follow up with Kartana, to open the door for Ash Greninja, but given his less-than-ideal set, he did minimal damage to Heatran, which opened the door for Eternal Spirit to get off a free Magma Storm that put him squarely in the lead, as it forced a lot of damage on the Ash-Greninja pivot, meaning it was KOed by hazards, and Will of Fire no longer had a clean path to victory. Will of Fire's best bet was to provoke a sequence in which once Weavile revenge killed the Ash-Greninja, he could win with Landorus-T if he dodged a Hydro Pump or got a high roll critical hit Earthquake with Landorus-T against Keldeo, KOing it before it could KO Landorus-T. If Landorus-T fell, then Eternal Spirit's Mega Diancie would ultimately win the game. If Keldeo fell for Eternal Spirit before Landorus-T did for Will of Fire, then Will of Fire would ultimately win the game. The suspense was huge, but finally Eternal Spirit avoided the high roll critical hit and connected with his deciding Hydro Pump, letting him win a couple turns later with Mega Diancie in a tight 1-0 game.

Bonus Rivalry Spotlight

US Northeast vs US West: Round 2...

Last year, these two American teams battled in the finals of this tournament. While US Northeast emerged victorious, it was only by the slimmest of margins, and there was an instant rivalry that formed between the two teams. The West side took a quick 3-0 lead but then lost 5 consecutive games until they shockingly tied it back up at 5-5 to force a tiebreak. The tiebreak went to Northeast in 3 games, with bro fist winning the final game over z0mOG. US West is the scrappy challenger, trying to take down the defending champions and some of Smogon's most respected players. US Northeast, on the other hand, is trying to defend their title with continued consistent teambuilding and gameplay that has led them to this point. Last year, we had powerful pairings such as august vs Philip7086 and BKC vs Lavos, which we will see once again this year. However, now we also get gems such as lax vs bro fist and craing ;_; vs ABR, which are sure to be treats for the SM players out there. This rivalry may have some new faces on each side, but the same closeness and strong desire for each side to prove their superiority as the best US team is still very much present. One can only hope for another gut-wrenchingly close series that ends in a dramatic, three-game tiebreak once again.

Closing Words

With 8 strong teams left, we are set up for some exciting, high stakes games over the next number of weeks. While the favorites are established and dominated Round 1, there are plenty of capable opponents looking to get their crack at the returning champions and take the blue trophy home themselves. With national and regional pride on the line, who will step up and bring home clutch victories? Who will fall just short? And how will it all go down? Only time will tell, so get ready for some exciting playoffs!

HTML by The Dutch Plumberjack | Script by HoeenHero | Logos by anundeadboy, Blazenix, Bummer, Dooger41, habajiga, and LifeisDANK.
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