The VGC Spotlight: Featuring 2011 Regional Champion Robbie "biffsterPKMN" Miles!


i've been crawling through the falling
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Wolfe is my boy and is v cute <3333

Jesus my man.... YEAH. I don't mean to derail this topic but we are gonna tear up Hawaii (providing we make it) like crazy <33333


I swear.
is a Forum Moderator Alumnus
I'm glad to see that everyone is enjoying these, and I'm really working hard to pump out as many high quality ones as I can. My friend, dtrain, will be working and writing with me and will post articles of his one! I hope you guys enjoy his and continue reading mine. This has now become a daily thing for me, and you can expect one every day, maybe every two days if schoolwork is heavy, from me. Please welcome Dan to the VGC Spotlight!
UK's Cutest Finest Trainer Dale Jacob

Dale is the one in the bottom left corner


2010: 2nd Place UK Nationals

Total Winnings

2010: Invitation and Trip to the 2010 World Championships.

Biography and History

This week’s player is UK’s very own Dale “Kinneas” Jacob! Dale is well known on Smogon as a Moderator for the VGC Forums. Just like Min, Dale is very talented and although he originally was a singles player, he transitioned over as a doubles competitor. Although he faced some bad luck during VGC 2009, he overcame hundreds of other fellow players and made it to the finals losing to Rees “MrsBlackbird” Hamilton at the VGC 2010 UK National Championships. Dale's account of the 2010 UK National Championships can be seen here. His finals match can be found here. Although he made it into the World Championships, Dale’s journey soon came to an end after he was disqualified Round 1 when Marrilland hack checked his game and found that the EV’s on his RNG’d Pokemon had been illegally SAV'd on by Smogon member Gazooki. However, this didn’t stop Dale from having a blast. He went on to record his entire weekend, including video of Ray Rizzo’s triumphant win which can be found here in three parts. 1 2 3 Although Dale was eliminated in the fourth round at the UK Nationals last year, he is deemed an incredible player by his fellow peers and will be a name to watch out for at this year's National Championships.


I find Dale at THE MAYFLOWER, a local pub in Rotherhithe, London with his mates GEC and Havak. I quickly grab the jug he is about to take in but he uses his ripped muscles to hold onto it firmly and gulps it down in seconds. We exchange words, and after he realizes who I am, apologizes and offers me an interview with him. Read more about one of our best international players!

Why don't we start off by introducing yourself?

I am Kinneas. I am a moderator on Smogon, I am the cutest user and I am the best UK battler by a country mile and I taught GEC everything he knows if he says otherwise he's lying

How did you get introduced to VGC and competitive battling?

I've been playing Pokemon competitively since I was about 14. I played on NetBattle with Havak back during the RSE era, he introduced me to things like EVs and team building. I was a singles battler on Smogon for a while before I got into VGC, I got pretty far in quite a few official tournaments and was on team UK for the world cup of Pokemon. I started playing VGC in 2009, I can't remember why. I think Havak said we should go because we'd probably get pretty far and there were prizes. We didn't get very far because we both got haxed quite badly, so I just went the next year and got to the finals instead.

What is the VGC environment like in the Masters division?

Honestly in the UK I don't think it's too difficult. I could probably list the battlers I rate highly on my fingers. The problem with Masters in the UK is that it is our only shot and there's so few prizes compared to say, Regionals AND Nationals in the US. However, because we only have the one national event the community is much closer knit. The top battlers who I can name are all pretty much people I know and am friends with. If you look at the past top 4 each year, most of them have been pretty well known beforehand, so there's less surprises I suppose.

Whom are the players people should look out for from the UK? How is the competition like with players coming from all over Europe?

Last year we were invaded by the Spanish players, and I know for a fact that Ruben is planning to attend the UK event again this year. He's definitely one of the biggest threats. There's also Zog, who despite being one of the strangest people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, is a very solid player and always does well. Twash is one of the best singles battlers I know, and came 2nd at his first VGC event last year. There's also a lot of great players such as Havak and Osirus182 who haven't made finals before but are very good mechanically. Gec, Keelhauled, 7014Ggee, MrsBlackbird, TBlakey, and probably the most underrated battler in the world: Foodking. Those are really the people to look out for.

What teams did you use for VGC? What worked? What failed?

In 2009 I was still very new to doubles and hadn't learn that set up Pokemon don't work as well as in singles. I ran a team with Dark Void Smeargle, Belly Drum Snorlax, and Psych Up Dusknoir and Metagross. I actually ran into an exact mirror team and lost because my Dusknoir missed his Snorlax with WoW as he Belly Drummed, and then my Dusknoir missed his Metagross with WoW, and then my Dusknoir missed his Metagross with WoW again, and then I died. That was a bad year.

Author's note: Dale’s team reminds me of 2008 Japan National Champion and World Champion Izuru Yoshimura and his MOLF team. This was when Dark Void Smeargle was first introduced and was very annoying. Luckily, The Pokemon Company International (TPCI) realized this and decided it was time to ban Dark Void from VGC since it affects the Spirit of the Games due to its 80% accuracy of putting both of your opponent’s Pokemon to sleep.

In 2010, I ran a modified version of one of makiri's teams. Me and GEC made some changes to it based on how we thought the metagame would have developed by the time it reached the UK. It worked out very well as we both made the semi finals, where I beat GEC with the same team. In 2011, I actually can't remember what I used. I was pretty demotivated as I really hated that metagame. I got haxed out in round 4 because of a critical Giga Drain on my Thundurus.

So, tell me about your experience at Nationals. What was it like meeting Smogoners from all over Britain and beyond? How did it compare to Worlds?

Nationals is always a lot of fun. I've met a couple of the British Smogoners before at other events. VGC is the best meet up for the UK and we usually have a group of 20 or so players who hang out before, during and after the event. Worlds was quite a different experience because there were a lot of US players who I didn't know too well before going and I felt a bit out of place at first because most of the American players already knew each other from their own events. But everybody was really friendly and I made some great friends who I still talk to all the time. I also formed the legendary team of KINNAHAZA who are undefeated at foosball (apart from all the times that we lost).

How have you been preparing for VGC 2012? '

I've been playing a lot of VGC 2012 matches on PO. I'm an admin on the Skarmbliss server so I'm pretty active on there. I use a lot of fun gimmick teams because I get very bored of using the same thing as everything else. I also do a lot more serious testing and theorymonning with GEC and Keelhauled. I also talk strategies with a couple of ducks such as Makiri. I think it's pretty important to work with people you can trust on a team. If you keep things to yourself you can miss some pretty gaping holes that you won't be able to correct on the day.

What are your thoughts about the new changes for VGC?

The new metagame is great compared to last year, though I think anything would be! Seriously though, the more Pokemon available, the more options and the more diverse the metagame can become. I think there are a few things I'd personally like to get rid off, such as the Lati twins. Dragon Gem Draco Meteor from those speed and SpA stats is pretty annoying, but I'll deal with it. I think that's one of the strengths that VGC players can have over singles. We don't get to ban things in VGC, but we do learn to shut up and deal with it.

What do you do outside of Pokemon?

I used to do a lot of athletics and I was very good, but now I'm too lazy. I write for my student newspaper, I play video games, I hang out with my friends when we're not busy, but we're always busy nowadays. I also have a girlfriend who is very cool and likes video games and is sitting right next to me so I better say something nice about her!

Do you have any encouraging words for new players who are looking to get involved in the VGC action?

Just do it! Even if you aren't very good at doubles or you've never played before, just going to the events and meeting people who play Pokemon is a completely different experience to playing online. There's also prizes too, everyone loves prizes!

What color is your hair now?

It's blonde, I haven't changed it in a while now. ):

Who has better hair, you or Min DATOO?

Min Datoo. It's like a cute little hedgehog living on his head.

Any closing words?

I'm the best.



I swear.
is a Forum Moderator Alumnus
3x Regional Champion Paul Hornak

The Father of VGC: Veteran Paul Hornak


2008: 2nd Place LA Qualifier, Top 32 World Championships
2009: 1st Place Phoenix Regional, 4-1 National Championships
2010: 1st Place Seattle Regional
2011: 1st Place San Jose Regional, Top 16 US Nationals
2012: 3rd Place Long Beach Regional

Total Winnings

2008 Qualifier: Invitation and trip for five days to compete at the World Championships in Orlando, Florida
2009 Regional: Champion Plaque, invitation and trip to compete at the National Championships in St. Louis, Missouri
2010 Regional: DSi, trophy, invitation and trip to compete at the National Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana
2011 Regional: 3DS, medal, invitation and trip to compete at the National Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana
2012 Regional: Medal, $300

Biography and History

Paul "makiri" Hornak is one of the most distinguished and recognized players in VGC. As one of its first players since 2008, Paul has put incredible effort in turning the online community into what it is is today. He took VGC under its wing while it was still young, and evolved it into what it is today. He has changed and impacted both the VGC 2009 and 2010 metagames with his creative and incredible teams, most noteably with his "TopOgre" team. He also has the most consistent Regionals record out of any VGC player, finishing in the Top 4 every year along with 3 consecutive first place finishes, an achivement unmatched by anyone else. Paul is also a moderator on Smogon and is incredibly helpful with the community. He is also known for creating the "Mighty Ducks," a "team" of elite players throughout the world.

In 2008, Paul finished 2nd at the LA Qualifiers, losing to Chris Tsai. He went to represent the US at the World Championships, but lost in the first round against a Japanese player that had a counterteam to his. The following year, he won the Phoenix Regional and fell short of an Worlds invite at Nationals because of the poor system. Paul was placed in the hardest "pod" out of the four pods at Nationals that year, and although he finished with a 4-1 record within his pod, only the top 4 of each pod advanced to the Top 16. Because Paul's tiebreakers were not as high as the other 4-1's, he finished in 5th place and barely missed out. Paul then trekked to Seattle in 2010 and finished 1st again, creating a team that would change the metagame for the rest of the year.

The infamous "TopOgre" team consisted of a Hitmontop and Choice Scarf Kyogre lead, with Pokemon such as Abomasnow and Palkia in the back. Kyogre was able to 2HKO essentially anything, and Hitmontop, a normally underrated Pokemon, was brought out to its full potential by Paul's team. When teambuilding, Paul realized that Hitmontop had access to several priority move such as Sucker Punch and Mach Punch that gave even Uber Pokemon such as Dialga and Mewtwo trouble. Since it used all priority moves, it could be as bulky as possible. Paired with a Kyogre, the TopOgre team blew though the Seattle Regionals and changed the metagame. When Paul won with the team, players throughout the country had to make sure their teams did one of two things: They either played WITH a TopOgre team, or had to make sure their team fared well against it. The TopOgre team went on to make an impact at all the remaining Regionals, most notably winning the one in Texas and inishing 2nd at the one in New Jersey. Smogon user Rory was able to then use it to qualify for the World Championships at Indianapolis. Paul's genius creation shaped the metagame while it was very early and made players think twice while making their teams.

In 2011, Paul was able to win yet another Regional at San Jose, defeating several well known players such as Huy Ha, Duy Ha, and Alan Schambers. He then finished in the Top 16 at the National Championships: Just 1 game short of an invitation at the World Championships. Unfortunately, he had to play against Jason "Fish Fisher-Short, whom he defeated to win the 2010 Regionals in Seattle. Paul attended the LCQ in San Diego, but because of some bad luck, was eliminated in the second round. Most recently, at the 2011/2012 Fall Regionals, Paul finished 3rd. He was the only undefeated player going into the last round, but was paired down and lost. Because of tiebreakers, Paul finished 3rd overall out of all the people with the same record as him. With travel allowance to Nationals already secured, Paul will definitely be a threat at this year's National Championships and future years to come.


Thanks for taking some time out your busy schedule to talk to me today Paul! Why don't we start off by having you introduce yourself to all the readers?

I'm Paul "zerowing, makiri, dwayne elizondo mountain dew herbert comacho" Hornak. I'm 23 and currently going to school to be an air traffic controller in Southern California. I've been playing Pokemon since 1999 or so with some breaks thrown in there because of lack of interest or other things. I've been playing VGC since 2008 and I also manage the Stark Sharks SPL team. (They are currently the defending champions.)

Sweet. The first thing I have to ask you is, how did you get involved in VGC? You've been playing since it started in 2008, and have done consistently well every following year. What inspired you to play, and what made you stay?

Playing Pokemon for prizes has always interested me, I've always been very competitive in whatever I do and Pokemon came naturally to me. I first started caring about playing Pokemon IRL back in 2005 where I joined the Emerald Battle Frontier Tournament (Skarm's "Fly Raquaza" tournament), but I didn't make it to the final round in Seattle. Then, in 2006, I decided to try JAA, otherwise known as the Journey Across America tournaments, but the day before the Los Angeles tournament my car broke down and I was unable to attend because of that. Finally, in 2008, I got a chance to compete at the VGS in Los Angeles and I've sorta been hooked on doubles and VGC competition since. I've "retired" a few times but the drive to compete and win always brings me back, not to mention the chance to hang out with some very good friends I've met over the years.

Yeah, speaking about the VGC in LA, let's talk about your Regionals performances. You have the most consistent Regional finishes out of anyone in the whole country, finishing in the top 4 every year with 3 consecutive wins from 2009 to 2011. How are you able to do so well every year?

I'm still not sure, a lot of it is luck, a lot of it is the support of all my friends. I do put a lot of work into my teams prior to Regionals to make sure I go into a tournament with answers to everything, and I feel like I can beat anyone at any time. Confidence goes a long way and I am very confident in my ability to do well at any tournament I go to. I just play to the best of my ability and hope I don't get haxed, I've done pretty well for myself in that regard, though I'd still trade in all my regional performances for one world championship.

While we're talking about the World Championships, I've noticed that you have actually only qualified for it once out of the four years you have compete. What happened in 2009, 2010, and 2011?

in 2009, I was kind of a victim of circumstance and the, in my opinion, poor tiebreaker system. I went 4-1 in the Swiss rounds but my early opponents did poorly (one of them didn't even get a win) and it wrecked my tiebreaker with me finishing 5th when only the top 4 advanced to the Top Cut and an invite to the World Championships. A really bad loss put me in that position, a one turn sleep and a missed Bullet Punch caused my one loss when by all accounts I should have won the match. In 2010, I didn't even get to play at Nationals due to some family circumstances and I couldn't afford to go to Hawaii on my own to try to LCQ. Finally, in 2011 i made the Top Cut at Nationals, but unlike other years only the top 8 got an invite and I played pretty poorly in my top 16 match. My LCQ ended early because of some more one turn sleeps from my opponent.

Wow, it sounds like bad luck just keeps you hanging every year. Tell me about the first VGS attended: If I recall correctly, you ended up finishing 2nd at the LA qualifier. What happened at Worlds?

Yeah, I got 2nd at the LA Qualifier and I went into Worlds with a team jeps helped me put together based around Imprison and Explosion. I had two versions of it, but the one with Uxie and Azelf was likely the better of the two and I went into the tournament with that. Those two leads really only feared Weavile, and low and behold, my opponent was running a hail team with Weavile as his lead. My first turn went down exactly how I planned and I got rid of his Weavile without it doing too much damage to my team, but when his Abomasnow lived through my Snorlax's Fire Punch, I sort of panicked and used Self Destruct on the next turn despite Snorlax having a very good match up with Thick Fat. I still had a chance to win at that point but I can't exactly recall how it ended but my last Pokemon, Shiftry, is terrible against a Hail team.

Yeah, that was a pretty bad year for all the Americans. I want to move on to else. You've been a huge advocate for VGC ever since it was introduced by Pokemon, and have really expanded the community on Smogon to what it is today. Tell me more about what you've done for VGC both online in general and on Smogon.

Back in 2008, VGC was contained in one single thread and the same thing in 2009. I pushed for a few years just to get our current VGC forum which has helped grow the community since it has a lot more exposure compared to what it used to. I just try to get the word out at every VGC tournament I attend. I help promote Smogon with not only my shirts but by casually talking to people who may not know what Smogon is. I helped get some of our resources off the ground like C&C and trying to get warstories published on site because they are a very important part of VGC history and I want to get documention of everything that goes on for VGC. In 10 years from now, who knows who will be around to tell the story of any number of tournaments from our early days? Getting a record of everything is interesting for people joining the game now and down the line will be a good resource to see what happened these days as a way to reminisce about the old days and for new people to know who the grandfathers of the game are.

Absolutely. This also brings me to another topic, the "Mighty Psyducks." Can you tell me more about your team?

A lot of the inspiration is on Huy's shoulders, back in 2009 he wanted to name his Worlds Pokemon after the Mighty Ducks movies and during the tournament several of us quacked when he would win a match. I guess I sorta figured it would be the end of that gimmick but with some motivation from Nick Mccord we made it a full fledged "team." I put team in quotes because while some outsiders view us as a clan or something we're really just a group of friends, we started at 8 people in Seattle in 2010 and kept expanding as more and more of our friends wanted to join. We've probably outgrown our original usefulness of just a group of dudes and have become a full fledged mulitnational group of people including some Juniors and Seniors.

It sounds really similar to what Team Seniors is, actually! Pretty neat. I think one of the most well known things you are known for are creating exceptional winning Regional teams, namely your 2010 "TopOgre" team. Can you tell me more about your Regionals teams, especially your 2010? What is it like, having the rest of the world create their teams to match or beat yours?

I can't take full credit for all of my teams. I usually get some inspiration from someone or something. TopOgre, for example, never would have came about if Huy hadn't shown us a video of a Japanese player using Hitmontop. We (The Ducks) all tried to get it to work but I threw it on a team with Kyogre and basically found gold. It obviously wasn't perfect but putting it with what was in my mind, the best Non-Uber, Abomasnow, and an Uber who can take advantage of both weathers, Palkia, made it a very formidable team. I put a lot of work into my teams to make sure they are perfect and I really don't go into a tournament without feeling like my team is the best. I have notebooks full of failed teams that I had no confidence in. I also pour over stats and trends in order to make a great team, those notebooks filled with failed teams are also filled with tons of statistical analysis about types, base stats, whatever you could think of. The teams don't usually just come to me, but a combination of inspiration from others and a ton of analysis makes me create very good teams. I do find it interesting how often the teams I made in the past became centers of the metagames that year, but I think that's what comes with winning. Had I not done well at those tournaments, I'm sure a different team would have popped up and be used by or countered by everyone.

Would you like to tell me about your recent Regionals run? I recall you were undefeated before losing the last round, what happened?

I went into the final match knowing my opponent was good, but I think a combination of bad team choice for the battle and poor play caused the loss. He ran Scizor and Hitmontop, which usually I have no trouble dealing with, but one of his other Pokemon was Heatran which really causes some problems in tandem with those other two Pokemon. I really only had 2 Pokemon that could deal with Heatran, but one of them is really weak to Hitmontop and Scizor, and i let my other counter die early which really sealed my fate. I think some of my confidence did me in there as I felt really confident about my move but thinking back it was probably the worst decision letting my better counter die early knowing Heatran was the main problem for my team.

Ah, thanks for clarifying that. One thing I've noticed is that you don't really practice on PO, as you said in our statistics thread here. How do you practice then? Do you find not practicing on PO helps you?

I am at the point in my Pokemon career that I really don't need to practice, I know what every Pokemon does. Sure, there will be a surprise factor thrown in sometimes, but for the most part every Pokemon has a standard role and usually follows it. Even if a random surprise move or Pokemon is thrown at me, I have so much experience that I can quickly deduce what to do about the situation and go from there. With that said, I do play a few matches with my teams to get used to certain things, like the feel of a team and just to make sure it actually works, sometimes theorymon will fail. Getting a feel for the team is very important for me so using it feels like second nature and I can have answers for whatever is thrown at me. I just happen to get very comfortable with my teams very quickly.

That's a very impressive skill to have, to say the least. I have just a few more questions before we finish. The first is, tell me about your personal experiences at the VGC tournaments. You've obviously been to all kinds of different competitions. What's the environment like? What about the social experience? How about the tournaments itself and prizes?

I rarely get to spectate and hang out with people during the actual tournament because I'm usually on the other side of the ropes, but before and after it's always very fun to hang out with people you might only know on the internet. Everyone is usually very nice and really easy to get along with. The tournament enviroment can be very tense at times though, people are there to win and you can feel the tension in the air because only one person will be declared the winner. One thing I will sorely miss is Nick Mccord doing the announcing and such at Regionals. He really helped keep Regionals a fun place to be and the tension low. He is a great guy and knows how to make the tournaments fun to be a part of. Winning is always fun but it shouldn't be the only focus you have going into a tournament. Hanging out with a bunch of other people who love Pokemon is great because for the most part everyone who is part of the Pokemon community as a whole is very friendly and accommodating.

Yeah, I think everyone can say that Nick really made the last few years so incredible. I just have a few more closing questions. You are currently the manager of the defending SPL champions, the Stark Sharks. How were you able to pull off a victory last year, and how is it looking for you guys currently?

Last year, we had a very good team through draft and trades. We also had a top notch managing crew with MOP being a star. We had a never say die attitude and it propelled us to quite a few victories and eventually the championship. This year isn't looking as bright: We're currently 1-3 through a combination of hax and really bad misplays. The week long break is about to start so hopefully we can kick it up a notch and get back to winning, we really need it.

Well, good luck to you and your team Paul! Before we finish, do you have any final words? Shoutouts?

Shout outs to everyone who has ever taken part in VGC and helps keep this community going, it's awesome knowing you all.


I swear.
is a Forum Moderator Alumnus
Two more for you guys to read to conclude this week with 5 player coverages! Hope you guys enjoy them, I've had a ton of fun writing and interviewing my fellow friends. Time to go study some Latin :3


You'll always be a part of me
is a Forum Moderator Alumnus
UK's Cutest Finest Trainer Dale Jacob

Dale is the one in the bottom left corner

the legendary KINNAHAZA
shall rise again
like a majestic phoenix from the ashes of yesteryear
shall was again be established

and should the 3 legendary birds of fire[GEC], Thunder[Ninahaza] and Ice[Kinneas]
fly to Hawaii in the summer of 2012
a legedary new beast shall be born from KINNAHAZA and GEC

KINNAHAZA is evolving!

yes, the world shall be introduced to a force so great, so undeniable and so cute
Hawaii itself shall bare witness to the birth of MINNAKINNAHAZA
YES! revel in fear, awe, pleasure and tears all mixed into one

i cannot guarantee that the world will not end in 2012, but do know this, should the three birds make their way to hawaii and be united


VGC India & SPL Veteran of the Cryoniggles
is an Artist Alumnusis a Forum Moderator Alumnusis a Smogon Media Contributor Alumnus
Totally jacking this thread to say

It's me
1000 posts
These interviews are wonderful. I'm still pretty new to the community and I don't know many people outside the Seniors division. Keep up the good work!


I'm the Best. You're a Towel.
is a Top Tutor Alumnusis a Site Staff Alumnusis a Forum Moderator Alumnusis a Top Contributor Alumnusis a Battle Simulator Moderator Alumnus
Awesome reads again. All the players so far I have enjoyed hearing about their experiences :)
These keep coming faster than I can read them XD. Great work, and I'd love to see these interviews branch out to seniors and juniors as well. I volunteer the Arnolds family for the first group interview :P.


I swear.
is a Forum Moderator Alumnus
Don't worry, it is a priority for me to interview my fellow Team Seniors and other Senior players. As for Juniors, other than Brendan, it'll be tough getting in contact with any prior to April Regionals but I'll try my best. Stay tuned for today's interview!


is a Top Researcher Alumnus

I had the pleasure of talking to GEC while waiting in line last year and cheering for Kinneas in '10. Good times :')

My brother placed top 8 in Worlds '09 Juniors and UK Nationals '11 Seniors *wink wink nudge nudge*


I swear.
is a Forum Moderator Alumnus
Rising Senior Jonathan Rankin

Posing with my man.


2010: Top 16 Texas Regionals, 22nd US Nationals
2012: 1st Place Crestwood, MO Regionals

Total Winnings

2010 Regional: Invitation to compete at the National Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana.
2012 Regional: Medal, invitation and trip to compete at the National Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana, Round 1 & 2 Bye at Nationals.

Biography and History

Jonathan "JRank" Rankin is known on Smogon for being an incredible contributor, constantly writing VGC analyses for the website. He is also known for being one of the best VGC players in the Seniors division currently. Jonathan was one of the youngest competitors to qualify for the 2010 US National Championships in the Seniors division. He finished in the Top 16 at Dallas in 2010 and won an invitation to compete at Nationals. He finished with a 4-3 record overall, and placed 22nd. During the following year, the new "Seniors" division was created, which was designed for players between the ages of 11 and 15. Jonathan was expected to be one of the strongest competitors in the division, but fell short of an invitation to Nationals when he lost Round 4 at the 2011 Texas Regionals. He tried his luck again at the LCQ in Indianapolis, using a creative Sun team he designed, but lost in the first round after Rock Slide flinched both of his Pokemon in the same turn. However, Jonathan came back, ready for vengeance in the 2012 season. He attended the Crestwood Regionals in November, and won the tournament undefeated. Jonathan has proved himself to be a threat to all his fellow Senior competitors this year and will be a strong contender for this year's national title.


Thanks for taking some time to talk to me today, Jonathan. Why don't you introduce yourself?

I'm Jonathan Rankin, known here on Smogon as JRank (and to a lesser extent as the "red backpack kid"). I'm 14 and a freshman in high school in a small town in Arkansas. I've played Pokemon since the first grade, but didn't get into VGC until the 2010 Dallas regional.

Awesome, thanks! So, tell me, how did you get introduced to VGC and what made you stay?

Well I was browsing around Smogon and happened to stumble upon a VGC 2009 warstory (maybe Huy's or OmegaDonut's, I'm not really sure), and it looked like a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I'd missed the chance to play in 09 but once the 2010 rules got announced I started playing and realized "hey, I'm way better at this than singles!" Out of a desire to not get my butt handed to me on Shoddy Battle and win prizes (I am a sucker for the $$$), I started playing it exclusively. I attended the Dallas regional, and somehow managed to qualify for Nationals, and had probably the best time of my life in Indianapolis in 2010 (usurped only by Nationals 2011, of course). The great community is really what made me stay, because unlike singles where no one ever meets and they're just usernames, in real life you could put faces to a name and hang out with other nerds Pokemon players!

Sweet. So tell me about your first VGC event. You finished in the Top 16 in the Seniors division at the Texas Regionals, if I recall correctly? You were also one of the youngest competitors in your division. What was it like, competing at such a young age against people twice your age? How did you do so well? What team did you use, and what did you eventually lose against?

Yeah, I convinced my dad to take me down to Dallas to play (it helped that we had family because otherwise a 7 hour ride for Pokemon probably would've been a no-go) in the regional, and yes I finished in the Top 16 of Seniors, which was basically ages 13 and over at the time. It was pretty different playing against people who were more than 5 years older than me (the only person I played close to my age was a hacker :/), but I'll admit the look on their faces after I won was pretty sweet, "did I just get beaten by a kid?" I think I was able to do well mainly because I had flawless Pokemon with good (correct, strong? Don't know which word is appropriate when describing EVs haha) EVs (thanks andrea!). I also ran a rain team which allowed me to pretty much mow over any team that wasn't prepared for it, though in that metagame you should've been. I was using Weavile/Palkia/Ludicolo/Kyogre, and I didn't even bring 2 others because without team preview there was no point in just blindly guessing what to bring, and I didn't want to have to play the "what if I'd brought ___". My loss in the Top 16 was to the eventual runner-up (I think his name is Danceswithninajs on Smogon), who was using a really unique sun team that utilized Tangrowth. I didn't really know what Tangrowth could do and I also pretty much got outplayed.

Nice. You also competed at Nationals that year, finishing 22nd with a 4-3 record. What was Nationals like for you? What was it like, playing so many incredible players?

Nationals 2010 was definitely a blast. Even though I really didn't talk to many people (outside of my opponents, you (Cybertron), dtrain, and Ninahaza were really the only Smogonites I talked to), the overall environment and feel definitely drew me in. It was really difficult playing against such strong players, after the day was over I had wound up battling BadIntent, ninahaza, imperfectluck, dtrain, and jgiles (the winner of the same Dallas regional I attended). How I went 4-3 I still don't know, but I was happy to come out of it with a winning record regardless.

Yeah, you did really well, especially considering how you were one of the youngest competitors. Let's move on to VGC 2011. You attended both Regionals and LCQ, but didn't perform too well. What happened?

Heh, my poor performance in VGC 2011 (actually, it was awful) could be accredited to a couple of things. For one, I played really poorly the first time I came up against an EV'd team at both Dallas and the LCQ in Indianapolis (in this case the fourth round at Dallas and the first round at Indy). I'd been cruising through previously (at Dallas at least), playing people who had no idea what an EV or an IV was. I played pretty dumb and made awful mistakes, and at the LCQ I made a terrible move (if I had done either of 2 of the moves on one of my Pokemon I would've won) that allowed me to get in a situation where Rock Slide decided the game. Some may say it was karma that made me lose, because before the season I'd made some rather confident comments about how "no one would stop me" in the newly-created Senior division. (I actually wrote an entirely terrible warstory on the subject, but that's for another day).

Well, you redeemed yourself by recently winning the fall Regionals at Crestwood, MO. What was the competition like there? What team did you use? How did you practice prior to the competition?

The competition (all 19 of them) was unfortunately not the highest I'd played against. My third battle was definitely my toughest, and had he not made a crucial last-turn mistake, I may not have won. (though he'd gotten quite lucky earlier in the game and without it I would've won without trouble). A testament to quality of my opponents was that in my last battle an opposing Ninetales used Solarbeam on my Zapdos, while I had a Scizor on the other side of the field. (I set up rain with Zapdos and then he proceeded to use Flamethrower on Zapdos.) I used a standard rain team (again), that consisted of Politoed/Ludicolo/Toxicroak/Scizor/Zapdos/Togekiss. It may look similar to your brother's team, but I didn't steal it from him. (I think I gave you the template for the team or something, but maybe not ;)) I practiced on Pokemon Online to get ready for the tournament, but I had been playing with different versions of the team for about a week leading up to the regional on the Global Battle Union, though my final team wasn't prepared until the night before the event.

Editor's note: Yes, Jonathan did give me the idea of giving Brendan a Rain team. :heart:

Well, you already have a free trip and byes secured for the National Championships. What is your goal for this year's competition? How have you been preparing for it?

My goal this year is to finish the Swiss rounds with at least a winning record, not choke so fantastically, and maybe get a trip to Worlds, though just playing well all day would make me perfectly happy. To be honest, I haven't really prepared very seriously. Nationals is 5 months out and I won't be attending a spring regional, so I have plenty of time to get serious and prepare. I do have several teams prepared though, and will probably have a few more by the time nats rolls around, making my decision about what to use really tough!

Certainly, best of luck to you and (hopefully) see you in the finals? Anyway, do you have any closing words or shoutouts you'd like to make before we conclude our interview?

Yeah it'd be great to meet up in the finals (though haven't you said that to like 10 people? haha). As far as closing words go I don't have a whole lot to say, aside from thanking everyone who has made my VGC experience a great one, specifically my great friends in Seniors. Also contrary to popular *coughhuy'scough* belief, I am not a racist. (southern stereotypes muttermuttermutter)


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is a Contributor Alumnus
well, seeing as how JRank is my co-writer for my article, have to gratz to him for winning at regionals and great work cybertron :D

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