Aaron, on the right, after winning the 2011 San Jose VGC Regionals.
2011: 1st Place Regionals, 4th Place Nationals, 14th Place Worlds
2012: 17th Place Regionals
2011 Regionals: 3DS, medal, invitation and trip to compete at the National Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana
2011 Nationals: Medal, 3DS, Invitation and trip to Worlds in San Diego, California
Biography and History
Aaron "Unreality" Traylor was one of the most successful Seniors throughout VGC 2011. Originally from Boston, MA, he flew to California to compete at the 2011 San Jose VGC Regionals as his dad had a job meeting there. Aaron managed to go undefeated and win the entire tournament. He beat several well known players throughout the tournament, including Bruno "Kid Kadabra" and Gavin "kingofkongs" Michaels. He also managed to defeat 2009 Juniors World Champion Jeremy "AlphaOmega" Fan in the quarter-finals. Aaron then faced Richard "PaperGlaceon" Escalante in the finals and won. His battle can be shown here, a shorter version is shown here. Aaron's recap of the 2011 San Jose Regionals is here.
With an invitation and trip secured to the National Championships, Aaron had made a name for himself and was one of the favorites to win the 2011 US National Championships. At the National Championships, Aaron faced several well known players including Ryan Arnold, 2010 Juniors National Champion Wade Stanley, Gavin "kingofkongs" Michaels, and 2011 Regional Champion Natalie "Maski" Kaspszak. He finished with a 5-2 record after the first day, and qualified to play in the Top 16 the following day. Aaron then beat Ben Hickey, who finished in the semi-finals at Newark in 2010 in the Juniors Division and eventually qualified for Worlds, to move on to the quarter finals and secure an invitation to the 2011 World Championships. He then defeated Kristian "Mosquito" Mosquito, winning himself a free trip along with his invitation. His run was eventually stopped by eventual national runner-up David Arnold, and Aaron finished 4th overall. His warstory of the tournament can be read here.
At the 2011 World Championships, I unfortunately had to face Aaron in the first round and beat him in the one closest set of three games I have ever played in VGC 2011. Aaron quickly rebounded from his loss, defeating three American players in a row, but eventually lost to Matteo "Matty85" Gini's little brother in the last round, Nicola Gini. Aaron finished with a 3-2 record overall, and placed 14th.
Having moved up from the Seniors division into the Masters division, Aaron transitioned fairly well and attended the Fall Rhode Island Regionals. Aaron managed to go 4-1 before losing to Smogon's own sandman, and finished with a 4-2 record, netting him 17th place. Although he is one of the younger Masters players right now, I know personally that he is an incredible player, matched with a very mature but funny personality. Don't underestimate his age: he will certainly be a threat at this year's Regional and National Championships.
Thanks for taking some time out today to me today! Even though we talk every day... why don't you introduce yourself!
My name is Aaron Traylor! I'm 15 and just graduated from the Seniors Division. I live in Massachusetts.
Perfect, thanks! So, you had a really successful VGC season last year. How were you introduced to Pokemon and VGC? What was your first year of competitive Pokemon like?
I started playing Pokemon when I was 3, back in 1999, and haven't stopped since. I remember hiding behind the couch cushions in our house at 6 AM, playing Pokemon on my purple Game Boy Color because my parents limited the amount of time I had available. I was introduced to VGC in 2006 when I heard about JAA. Since we live relatively close to where the Massachusetts event was, my dad drove me and my sister Amanda (age 13- played in Worlds 11) down for the day. I prepared my team weeks before the event. On the day of the event, however, I walked into my parents' room early in the morning. I was excited to play in the tournament that day and I didn't want to wait a minute. My parents uneasily looked at me and told me that I might not be allowed to play because my dad was working with Pokemon on Pokemon Learning League and it wouldn't be seen as fair for me to play. The officials at the event confirmed my parents' suspicions and gave me a t-shirt to compensate for it, saying I would not be allowed to compete.
I tried to convince my parents to let me go every year after that, to no avail- until in 2010 when I was determined to make my parents bring me. I tried to convince my dad to take me to Newark, but then he shocked me and brought me to San Jose because it coincided with a children's media conference I was invited to! I won the event somehow, and met a lot of awesome people! I'll go more into each event later on.
That's awesome. Tell me more about your experience at the San Jose Regional last year. You ended up winning your first VGC event ever! What was it like? You also beat a lot of known players including 2009 World Champion Jeremy Fan. What did it feel like to be the underdog throughout the whole tournament?
I was really scared going into the event- I had no idea what it would be like, or who I would be up against. The new Seniors division also frightened me; since there are literally 0 Seniors who went to Seattle, I had no idea if the division would be difficult. When I got to the event, I remember seeing this huge line even though I got there forty minutes early. That scared me until I realized that there were more parents and Juniors in the line than Seniors. When I finally got into battle, I felt like I was going to pass out because I was shaking so much; now I understand that my nerves get the best of me in Pokemon tournaments but back then I had no clue how jittery I would get. You can see my first battle on YouTube: the kid almost beat me, and if that happened I wouldn't be talking to you right now.
From then on I coasted; every one of my games was 3-0 or 4-0 until I met my first Smogoner of the day, Kid Kadabra (also known as Adult Alakazam). It was top 16 so I knew I had the invite to nats; I wasn't too nervous anymore. His Trick Room team was really good and we had a nice battle, but I won 2-0. I thought that I would get a reprieve but out of the eight top 16 matches, I was seventh to advance; and I saw Jeremy Fan v. Random Kid was still going on. I groaned because I knew Jeremy would beat the little guy and then I'd be top 8 against him. Jeremy advanced, and our battle was probably the most nerve-wracking one of the day. I think he saved it, but it's probably long gone. At the turning point in the game, I realized that Adamant Krook's Earthquake could not kill my Terrakion; and I seized the opportunity and won 2-0.
It didn't stop there; I had to play against kingofkongs; he missed with Heat Wave but it didn't matter much. I won that game too, and faced off against Richard in the finals- you can see that one on Youtube. It was funny being the underdog; during the first round, Nick McCord, announcer extraordinaire, asks who came from furthest away, and my dad yells out Boston and points at me. Nick didn't forget that, and he kept repeating throughout the top 16, "The kid from Boston is still in this!" Overall, it was a great experience!
It sounded like it was a really good experience for you! Tell us about how you prepared for Nationals, and what it was like, the weeks leading up to it. How was the competition itself? What was your social experience like? You finished 4th overall, and won free trip to compete in San Diego. How did that feel?
I didn't change much in my team from Regionals to Nationals; I avoided posting sets and EVs in my warstory so that nobody could steal my team (which had a very definitive quirk) and so that I could run it again at Nationals. I prepared for Nationals by training in the mountains with my good friends Solace and Muffinhead; these two helped me prepare my team before Regionals and they helped for Nationals too. Before Nationals, I got the super-cool idea of inviting a bunch of seniors that I found on IRC into a chatroom which had the gimmick of being Senior-exclusive. It kicked off fast, and before I knew it, we had 3 or 4 regional champs and we had a bunch of other strong trainers who were ready to go to Nationals and kick some Senior butt, but that's for a separate question.
The competition went well: I lost my first game because I forgot Cryogonal's defensive stats and because a Mach Punch broke through my Terrakion's Chople Berry for the KO, but after that I pulled together enough wins to qualify for the next day. I was elated; I never dreamed that in three months, I could go from a regular Wi-Fier to someone playing in the top 16 at Nationals. My social experience was really great; I met a lot of teenagers who were so much fun to hang around. I regret not talking to the Masters- like, at all- but I made up for that at Worlds. I was so excited to have made top 4 and to be traveling to Worlds, because it was one of the things I dreamed about since I was 9- winning one of these godforsaken competitions. I thought I really had a chance at winning Worlds.
I have to say that one of the best parts of Nationals was meeting Aaron Zheng- Cybertron. We had met online and tried to take a taxi together, but my dad denied that and we just met up at LCQ. I really got to know this guy and his brother over the weekend,and it was awesome to see the that the two of them nearly won the whole darn thing. I remember sitting outside the competition room and people would walk by and congratulate Aaron for winning, and I'd say "Thanks, guys" and he'd be like "UGHHHHHHHHH! "It was great. That night, the Seniors swam and congratulated Aaron on his victory by throwing inflatable Pokeballs at him. I finally said goodbye to Aaron and his brother Monday morning while our flight was delayed, and I couldn't wait for Worlds.
Yeah you don't realize how annoying it was every time said congrats to me and you said thanks.... , just kidding! Anyway, what was your first Worlds experience like, meeting and playing against people around the world?
Well, I certainly met a lot of people from around the world; but I didn't play many. Between Nationals and Worlds, I didn't change my team AT ALL (except for the nicknames) and I practiced a lot with Aaron. We were talking about how funny it would be if we played. It wasn't so funny when the round one pairings went up. He beat me 2-1 (very strong national champ) and I just lost all faith in the tournament at that point. Speaking of Worlds, I played three more Americans from that point on and won narrowly 2-1 in each match-up. I played CalmSnivy, who I haxed for the victory (I am so sorry about that); I played Mosquito, who Surfed his own Conkeldurr; and I played Talon, who I beat very narrowly in the last match. I was 3-1; if I beat the last guy, I would make it into Worlds Top 8. Unfortunately, this very strong Italian had the same leads as me; I didn't beat him and I lost two matches to my one when his Scrafty got a critical hit on me.
I was disheartened with the tournament and I don't know how I slept that night; in fact, I don't know how anyone in the hotel slept that night when there were thirty people playing Marvel VS Capcom in Ray's room. So yeah, if you think playing four Americans- all of which I knew from online- counts as a "Worlds", then I guess I had a fun Worlds. The only thing that was good about Worlds in my opinion was the people I hung out with; it definitely did not have the tournament fun that I had at Nationals (albeit watching Ray vs Matteo, all my hair fell out during that match).
I agree, playing round 1 was a complete downer for both of us. It was still a incredible experience regardless. So let's talk about this season now: You're a Master playing in a completely new metagame. What are your thoughts on the transition from Seniors to Masters? How different is the competition?
I think Seniors is more about just not overpredicting; while Masters is more about the matchup and not being surprised by your opponent. I didn't do so well at Rhode Island; I lost my first and last games, just like in Nationals and Worlds. I regret the use of Will-O-Wisp; its accuracy is far too low. However, my longtime friend Damon (Charzaro on Smogon) won the whole tournament; we had brought him to the event, which made for a really great ride back! I don't think there's too much differentiating the best of Masters from the best of Seniors or even the best of Juniors; Babbytron and Snake have been known to dominate Masters for breakfast, and that's to say nothing of people like Cybertron and AlphaOmega (Jeremy Fan).
How have you been preparing for VGC 2012? Will you be going to a spring Regional or Nationals?
I've been kind of slacking off for VGC 2012: unlike VGC 2011, I was editing my team the day of Regionals. I've been using a team with Galvantula on the PO ladder; I admin there, so if you see me in my rare free time, shout out to me and I'll ban you! I'm saving up to go to Nationals or maybe Worlds, and I'm not counting on being at Regionals; even if Philly does coincide with my April break. Now I'm going to Regionals to socialize with my friends because I shouldn't be focusing on the competition- it breeds negativity.
I know I'm part of Team Seniors, but I'm sure not everyone knows the story behind it. Care to share?
NOTHING BUT A GIMMICK. Team Seniors is really used to describe a group of Seniors who are now friends that met each other last summer and stuck together FOREVER (right guys?). The member list now spans nearly thirty people- including nine super amazing Masters- the "chaperones" and two juniors, Babbytron and Snake. We were more of a thing at Nationals- we had one of our members win, and five of our members in top 16 without playing each other (except for Vince v. Enosh that was a sad exception)! If you attended Nationals, you might have heard our "KARP! KARP! KARP!" chants that were inspired by the Ducks chants. Team Seniors has kinda been controversial because of its name; since people think that the name covers the whole division, they often claim that they are part of Team Seniors- a false statement. We're pretty exclusive.
Great! Do you have any concluding words you would like to say to the readers?
I'd like to thank Aaron for having this interview and also for being a RADICAL GUY. Outside of Pokemon, I like League of Legends and Scrabble. Concluding words: Take it easy, trainer! Do not forget to love!
2011: 2nd Place Italy Nationals
2011: 2nd Place World Championships
2011: Medal, 3DS, invitation and trip to Worlds in San Diego, California
2011: Trophy, 3DS, invitation and trip to the 2012 World Championships
Biography and History
This weeks VGC Spotlight interview will be with Matteo "Matty85” Gini! Although his name is unfamiliar to many, Matteo proved to everyone this past Worlds that Italy should be taken seriously, which he did by making it to the finals where he placed second losing to defending World Champion, Ray "Bluecookies" Rizzo. His team (Tornadus, Haxorus, Krookodile, Thundurus, Scrafty, Eelektross) sweeped the competition where he fought against top players from around the world. His account of the World Championships can be found here. Even though this will only be Matteo’s second season playing in the VGC, Europeans and world competitors should take note and be prepared should they encounter him in upcoming tournaments!
Thanks for taking some time out for this interview today Matteo! Why don't we start off by introducing yourself to our readers?
I'm Matteo Gini, also known as "Matty" or "Matty85". I'm 26 and I'm an Italian Pokemon player.
How did you get introduced to the VGC and competitive play?
I played Pokemon since RBY, but I started playing competitively in 2007, when Pokemon Diamond and Pearl came out. I have always been dedicated to singles but when it was announced that Italy would get its own qualifier, I decided I wanted to try it out and started to learn how to play doubles. In the beginning it was hard because although the game mechanics are similar to singles; the way to build and to figure out your match ups are completely different. Added to this was also the release of team preview, which was another thing to get used. I remember in the early days I lost almost every battle lol...luckily the fact that the rules of VGC 2011 would restrict the use solely to Unova Pokemon limited the variety of the metagame, so I managed to get used to everything soon enough.
The experience of the double metagame introduced me to a whole new world that I never expected. Double battles are really fun and coincides perfectly with the way I interpret the strategy and philosophy behind this game. Furthermore, the social experience and the organization of the events are unique and indescribable which made my Worlds experience one of the best times of my life. Just the fact of being in the same place together with the best trainers of the world is incredible. Let's add to this the chance to meet and get to know great people and make new friends in places you probably never dreamed you would ever go to after the tournament is long over.
I totally agree! I never imagined I would make so many friends, especially from around the world! Since last year was the very first time Italy got to host its own National tournament, what did you do to prepare for the undeveloped metagame there?
I had never participated in an official tournament, and for me doubles was something new to me, so I really had no idea what to expect and how to prepare. Fortunately Pokemon Online solved that problem and was a very valuable resource to me. With the chance to practice on the simulator, I was able to realize what were the most effective strategies and the best Pokemon to use. From March to May I played a lot on Pokemon Online, testing many teams and finally finding the one that was close to my style of gameplay. Once I found the right synergy, I continued to do a lot of battles to fix the team, the EVs of the Pokemon and their attacks, addressing many different types of strategy, different situations, and increasing my experience in the VGC metagame. Honestly the day before leaving for Rome, I had no idea what my chances were of getting to the finals and getting the invite for worlds. I had a lot of experience playing on Pokemon Online and I was able to win easily a lot of battles, but at the National Championship I could even find different things, and with single elimination, one wrong move at the wrong time or bad hax could compromise a match and lose the entire tournament. Fortunately this did not happen, and to my surprise and joy I could easily beat all my opponents until the final, where I faced my good friend Alexis. We used the same team and we perfectly knew our playing style, cause we prepared together and we've known each other for a long time. Unfortunately I lost the final, but the important thing was to have both qualified for worlds and seeing that the team worked. Even my brother Nicola managed to place second in the Senior division (he was the youngest in his division and had started playing Pokemon only two months before...), so we won two Nintendo 3DS and three paid trips to San Diego!
That's so awesome that you and your buddy got to duke it out on the big stage! After placing as a finalist at Italy Nationals, what kind of training did you do to prepare for the World Championships? Was it any different when you were preparing for nationals?
After Nationals, I only had two months to prepare for Worlds. However the metagame hadn’t really changed after Nationals so my training and preparation for Worlds had remained the same. By competing at Nationals, I was able to experience what it was like to really be a competitive doubles player. At Worlds I knew who most of my opponents were and the styles of play that I would face so that I could prepare in advance unlike Nationals. Pokemon Online was even more key for my training: battles, battles and more battles. This could be my only opportunity to participate in such an important event, and I wanted to be as prepared as possible. Then if something had gone wrong it would be okay, but if I had compromised the World Championships because of silly mistakes caused by poor preparation, then I would never forgive myself. The strategy and style of play of the National Championships had given the right results, so the team has remained largely the same, except for some small changes. The VGC 2011 metagame was very centralized on massive use of genies and other few offensive Pokemon, so I decided to go with an anti metagame team, and using Eelektross and Krookodile instead of Amoonguss and Terrakion. Here too I never expected to be able to do so well. If someone had told me that I would play at the worlds final, I would think the person was joking. My goal was to play my best and maybe come in the top 8. Then whatever happened after that would happen.
Yea, VGC 2011 was pretty stale. There wasn't much creativity cause of the limited pool of pokemon to choose from. So how have you been preparing for VGC 2012?
Since I already qualified for Worlds I could just take it easy, but to tell you the truth I was very curious to know the rules of the VGC 2012 and try out the new metagame, so I immediately started to play. The 2012 metagame is much more difficult than last year, and I'm sure we'll see a lot of strategies and various play styles. For now I have built very standard teams, but come Worlds I want to use something a little different. I will follow the National Championships carefully and see the strategies and play styles that would be adopted at Worlds.
Since most of our readers are from the U.S., tell us what the environment was like competing at Nationals? What about the social experience?
The National Championships was my absolute first official tournament, and I was really nervous, but at the same time the idea of a competition of this type made me very excited. Being the first year of VGC in Italy, there was not a lot of competition, but nevertheless there were good quality players. We were also "invaded" by the Spanish guys who attended expecting not a lot of competition and trying to win the some Worlds invites. However Italy prevailed in the end, and both me and Alexis managed to play in the finals. When I heard that Rome would host a VGC event I was really happy. We had long been expected this opportunity and in the last season we have fully shown to deserve it, especially with the good performance at worlds. A lot of people underestimated us because Italy never had a major role in the competitive scene but we showed that this wasn't true. I even heard that we were the nation with the best "wins/match played" ratio. We have earned respect within the competitive scene, but there is still much work to do. I hope that in the 2012 season we'll have the opportunity to do just as well and even better!
Regarding the social aspect it’s definitely the best. The National Championships are played in a single day so it's hard to meet new people but Worlds was completely different. In San Diego I knew many great people and made new friends. It was great! We especially made friends with Ruben and Albert who are really cool people and with whom we enjoyed hanging out with a lot. We often chat on Facebook and play on Pokemon Online now. I can’t wait to see them again this year! Sharing the passion for a game with other people is really fantastic. It’s amazing that even though we all may live in other parts of the world or don’t speak the same language as one another, we all are able to connect with one another through Pokemon. Basically we know that the purpose of a Pokemon trainer is not only to win battles, but also to make new friends. This is exactly what the VGC does.
Are there any players in Europe that fellow competitors should be watching out for in the upcoming tournaments?
Although having only been involved in the VGC environment for only one year, I only know the players who have attended last season. I think that in San Diego, Europe in general has given a great demonstration of strength, making a good show and qualifying 5 players in Top8. At worlds I had the chance to play against Ruben, Albert and Zog who are among the best players in Europe and certainly this year they will do their best to get to the top. The ease with which they play and the results they have achieved in recent years makes them the most obvious "European threats." Unfortunately Alexis will not compete this year because he is stubborn and is not listening to me although I insisted he should compete (I'll miss you my friend, surely even you would have been a part of this list). In any case it would be naive to think that the strong European players are limited to them. Both Spain and England have many strong battlers which will want to do their part in VGC 2012. The same is true for Drug Duck and the other Germans guys, who last season proved to be formidable opponents. I am also sure that just like last season, VGC 2012 will have some interesting surprises, and unknown players that despite the lack of experience in official tournaments, will be able to do very well. If we add to this list the Americans elated by their success last season and the Japanese players who were unable to compete last season due to unforeseen circumstances, we can say that these will all lead to a fantastic year of VGC. I can't wait to start!
That is unfortunate to hear about Alexis. I hope he reconsiders! Compared to teams like the Mighty Psyducks and team Skarmbliss, does Italy have any teams similar to the U.S.?
Yes, even in Italy we have teams of this type, but they are dedicated solely to singles. There isn’t much interest in doubles here in Italy and there has never been any. However it’s beginning to emerge little by little. I am pleased that doubles is starting to take off, and I'm sure this year's Nationals will have many more people than last year.
What do you do outside of Pokemon?
A lot of things, but mainly I’m attending University where I’m studying computer engineering. I also practice Shaolin Kung-Fu since I was 9 years old, I like anime and love video games. I'm also a big Nintendo fan. Much of my free time is spent with my friends on the weekends because I’m usually pretty busy during the week.
What is the image that's tattooed to your leg? Does it have a meaning?
Oh it's a Dragon, and I got it tattooed eight years ago. It doesn't have a special meaning but I love oriental culture and at the same time I was looking for something cool so I went with it (ok it's stupid because you shouldn't get tattoos if you have no reason to, but that's the truth). When a year ago I decided to compete in VGC I promised that if I had won, I would have tattooed on me one of the Pokemon in my team. Of course I did not remotely imagine I would qualify for the World Cup, and much less to be able to reach the final!! If I ever decided to get a tattoo of a Pokemon it would be either a Scrafty or Eelektross, though that would be a bit embarrassing to walk around with it exposed lol. In any case, if one day I should be able to win the World Cup I think I will do it.
Matteo's Dragon tattoo
Thanks for the interview Matteo! Do you have any words or shout outs for our readers?
Good luck to all those who will compete at the National Championships! Work hard and you'll surely reach good results. I hope you enjoyed the interview. See you in Hawaii!
2010: Top 16 South Regional, 20th at Nationals
2011: 1st Place South Regional, Worlds LCQ Qualifier, 9th Place at Worlds
2010: Invitation to compete at the National Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana
2011: 3DS, medal, invitation and trip to compete at the National Championships, Invitation to compete in the World Championships
Biography and History
She may be unknown to most players, however Trista “ryuzaki” Medine has been playing competitively since Pokemon started the Video Game Showdown (VGS) back in 2008. Although she ran into some bad luck at the VGS and VGC 09, she went on to place in the top 16 at the South Regionals (with unused Pokemon like Delibird!) during the 2010 season and later placed 20th at U.S. Nationals.
The following year Trista competed again at the South Regionals where she came in first place defeating opponent Len “Alaka” Deuel. Their match can be viewed here. Trista is the only girl in America to ever win a Regional in the Masters division. Although she faced some bad luck at Nationals, Trista took a chance and traveled to San Diego to compete at the Last Chance Qualifier tournament for entry into the World Championships. The trip paid off and Trista was able to qualify for Worlds after defeating known players like Mitchell Horning, Chris Tsai, and Len Deuel. Although Trista faced a disappointing run during Fall Regionals, she is a very strategic player and is someone to look out for during Spring Regionals!
Fun fact: Trista qualified for Nationals and Worlds with a problematic Eelektross. At Regionals, her Eelektross was missing over 70 EVS and at the Worlds LCQ she forgot to teach her Eelektross Acrobatics and was left with a moveset of Spark/Grass Knot/Thunderwave/Charge Beam.
Thanks for meeting to talk with me today, Trista. Why don't you introduce yourself?
I'm Trista aka ryuzaki. I've been playing competitive doubles since 08 when Pokemon first introduced the Video Game Showdown. I’m also in charge of the Skarmbliss server on Pokemon Online.
How did you get introduced to VGC and what made you continue playing?
I've been playing Pokemon ever since Red and Blue and I always knew about the tournaments and stuff, even back then. I never had the opportunity to go though so when VGC was announced and I was old enough to go on my own I pretty much had to.
Last year you won the South Regional tournament by defeating Veteran Len “Alaka” Deuel. What was the feeling like?
I think everybody goes into a tournament hoping they'll win, but actually getting that far was pretty surreal. Even though I practiced nearly everyday, once it got to the point that I realized I might actually win the entire tournament I just didn't know what to think.
You also managed to qualify for the World Championships by winning out through the Last Chance Qualifier last year. What was it like competing at worlds for the very first time?
It was nice to be able to play in Worlds after all these years. I had only been to Nationals once and never been to Worlds at all because I could never afford it. The LCQ itself was actually pretty weird. I don't know how many people know this, but during my first round match I realized I forgot to teach Acrobatics to my Eelektross, so I had to play my other matches with only 5 Pokemon to choose from. On top of that, I had probably the worst matchups I could have possibly had, playing imperfectspider, halordain (who I lost to in 09), and Alaka (so, Dallas finals rematch) all in a row. During Worlds itself, I was actually falling asleep during half my battles because I hadn't slept!
Wow, that was an incredibly tough lineup of opponents! So what was your experience like attending VGC tournaments?
I used to just keep to myself every year until 2011. I was very secretive and I didn't know anybody or really want to. I think that may also have something to do with why I didn't do as well those years. Only after I made friends with other people and started talking strategy with them did I only start to do better.
Pokemon is definitely a lot more fun playing together and coming up with strategies instead of being secretive and to yourself. With Spring Regionals approaching, how have you been preparing for VGC 2012?
I've been testing on PO some, but I have a really long way to go. I just haven't really had time to get into team building like I want to this year compared to previous years.
You have made great contributions to VGC by being an admin for both Skarmbliss.com and moderating Skarmbliss PO. Explain to us what you have done to expand VGC competitively?
As an admin/server owner I just try to make sure everything is fair. I don't butt into other peoples business or tell them they have to play a certain way. I also provide resources like the weekly server usage statistics so that players can find out what Pokemon are being used. I pretty much leave that up to the players and they are free to do what they want with them.
As a female player, why do you think there are not that many females who play competitively?
I don’t feel comfortable answering this question.
So, what do you do outside of Pokemon?
I have a degree in visual arts, so there is that. I also worked on post-production for the last Harry Potter movie. (No my name's not in the credits unfortunately so don't bother looking).
Thanks for the interview Trista! Do you have any closing words you would like to add?
2011: 1st Place Georgia Regionals, Top 16 US Nationals
2012: 2nd Place California Regionals
2011 Regional: 3DS, medal, invitation and trip to compete at the National Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana
2012 Regional: Medal, $600, Round 1 & 2 Bye at Nationals
Biography and History
Natalie "Maski" Kaspszak is not only known for being one of the best Senior division players, but is also widely recognized as one of the few competitive female players. She blew into the competitive scene last year with VGC 2011, entering the Georgia Regional. She swept through the entire tournament to become 2011 Regional Champion, having defeated Brandon "Brandon13569" Mitchell in the finals, shown here. Natalie is the only girl in America to ever win a Regional in the Seniors division. With a free trip and invitation secured, Natalie flew out to Indianapolis to compete in the 2011 National Championships. She finished with a 6-1 record overall and was seeded 5th going into the second day. (Fun Fact: Natalie threw up before the competition started on Saturday. We thought it was because she was disqualified from the hack check! Turns out it was just out of pure nerves.) With the Top 16 full of Regional Champions and well known names, Natalie faced one of the few "randoms" at the time, Brandon Tang and was a favorite to win her match. Unfortunately, due to some bad luck and nerves, she was eliminated out of the Top 16. However, this would not end her VGC 2011 run as she tried her luck again at the LCQ. She played 2010 US Junior National Champion Wade Stanley in the 2nd round and pulled an impressive victory before meeting eventual 2011 Seniors World Champion Kamran "Kamz" Jahadi in the 3rd round. Their match was featured on the screen for everyone to watch. With some hax, Natalie had the victory secured when she got a bit overconfident and made some poor moves, not expecting a Heat Wave critical hit. Kamran got the critical hit, and managed to win the game with 15 HP left on his Chandelure. Who knew that Natalie's loss would result in the eventual World Champion?
(Fun Fact: She also became part of the whole "Win Worlds, Get the Girl" theme when a bunch of Masters joked that if I won Worlds, I would "get the girl." I think we all know who the girl is."
Natalie has proven herself to be a top competitor through her results last year, and her finish this year at the Fall Regionals shows that she is a consistent player. At the California Regionals, filled with well known Seniors such as Matt "TheCalmSnivy" Dunham, Gavin "kingofkongs" Michaels, Colin "V17" Bos, and Kamran "Kamz" Jahadi, Natalie finished 2nd overall after losing to Matt "TheCalmSnivy" Dunham. She has now won $600 and 2 byes secured at this year's National Championships. Don't let her feminine tactics let your guard down! She is an incredible player who manages to build teams the day before competitions and perform extraordinarily well, and will be a threat to all the Seniors this year at the National Championships.
Interview or pretty much the warstories she never wrote
Hi Natalie, thanks for letting me interview you today! Why don't you introduce yourself?
Hi! I'm Natalie, but everyone just calls me Maski. I'm 14, a girl, and I live in Arizona.
Sweet! So, how did you get introduced to Pokemon and competitive VGC?
I have been into Pokemon since I was five years old. I had watched the first Pokemon movie, hated it, went over to my cousin's house and saw him playing Pokemon Sapphire, and decided "Hey, this is actually kind of cool." When Diamond and Pearl came out, I found Smogon and would always look at the competitive analyses. Back then I was really into Pokesav, so I would sav "legit hacks" and play my friends. I made one or two singles teams and a doubles team and would play all the time on PBR. Those teams were godawful, let me tell you. Later I got into anime and pretty much forgot about Pokemon until HGSS, but never got into battling, only the fandom.
At the beginning of 2011, my friends and I were really into Pokemon BW; we were so psyched for the new Pokemon and new characters/storylines/whatever. During February of last year, I remember finding the thread on Smogon about the BW mall tour when looking for dates and stuff and thought to myself, "Hey, I remember Smogon. What is competitive battling with the new Pokemon like?" Well, I found a thread about VGC and Pokemon online and everything kinda went downhill from there. I mean, I thought I was good, so I thought I could win events and started practicing. My first team consisted of Volcarona, Virizion, Excadrill, Jellicent, and some other ridiculous mediocre crap.
Then I met Deagle, and he taught me about VGC 2011 (cringe) and around the same time I found Skarmbliss. I only played with a standard Trick Room team that he gave me-- until I met TheCalmSnivy. We became really good friends and would literally talk all day and practice and teambuild and I sure as heck wouldn't be the player I am today if I hadn't met him. During that time until Regionals, I learned how to make decent teams through trial and error (thought there really wasn't that much to test back in those days....) And, I wouldn't have half of the confidence I have had I not met kingofkongs. I already had seen him around on the forums and regarded him as a "good player" (rofl.) Once he found out I was a girl, he started making me known to other players and writing silly stories about me which he posted to Skarmbliss. (Basically, OH MY GOD SOMEONE NOTICED ME KJBSKJBFKJ WOW) Then I won Regionals, and even more people found out about me!
Right, speaking about you winning Regionals, what was that like? It was your first VGC tournament ever, I'm sure that must have felt really awesome.
My first tournament experience was amazing, and I think winning it is what really got me into the VGC community for good. Since I haven't ever written a warstory (I have a really bad memory), I guess I'll go into some more detail. My dad travels a lot, so we have a ton of free tickets via frequent flier miles. My dad and I flew out to GA instead of CA because it was the first regional after school ended for me. Again, we had frequent flier miles, so it didn't really matter distance-wise. I had changed my whole team the night before we left, and ev'd my team on the plane. Unfortunately I am really clumsy, so I messed up on more than half of them, and had to stay up until 2 or 3 the night before regionals getting some Pokemon from TheCalmSnivy and re-eving the other half of the messed up mons. I finished my Eelektross in the car on the way to the convention center, and forgot to give it flamethrower... so I actually won the tourney with tbolt, HP Ice, protect, and tackle!
In line, I found we were actually behind Alaka, mingot, and his daughter Malison. Me and Malison got to be really good friends during the course of that day. I was really nervous in line, but once I sat down for my first match and saw my opponents team (really standard, the kid was like 11) I relaxed. I felt really bad for beating him though, because we talked a lot with his family in line :( The next couple of matches went similarly. 2nd round I played someone who lurked Smogon, but I 4-0ed him IIRC. Somewhere along the line (again, forgive my memory) I played TheCanadianKid in a good match, gg man! In the finalist's lounge Mal and I hung out and we both got byes. I remember playing green hornet t4, but easily predicted his first turn explosion with Landorus. In the finals I faced Brandon, and played really bad. Like, terribly. I just finished watching my match which you can find here, and am actually laughing out loud and yelling at the screen (NO HE'S GONNA PROTECT ISN'T THAT OBVIOUS OH MY GOD YOU ARE SO DUMB UGH WHAT IS GOING THROUGH YOUR HEAD). Once I saw that first turn KO (crit didn't matter,) I pretty much resigned to myself that I would lose. He basically destroyed my team until Conkeldurr and Amoonguss came and cleaned up.
I felt really amazing once I won-- I honestly didn't expect to even get into top 16.... which is all I wanted, so once I got that far, I just relaxed and let what would happen, happen. I am so fortunate I won though, because I started going on IRC and met Unreality and Cybertron, who were fellow senior regional winners. We made a chatroom called #Seniors, and invited our friends and some other seniors players in. And thus, Team #Seniors was born. I felt I was finally a part of the community, and had a whole team of friends backing me up. It's a pretty amazing feeling.
Note by Natalie: Wow, ok, sorry, this is kinda turning into one big warstory.
Haha, don't worry! The longer responses, the better and the more interesting! So, tell me about your experiences at Nationals. Tell me about how it was, the team you decided to use, and how far you got with it.
By the time Nationals rolled around, everyone in #Seniors was really close friends. Just getting to meet everyone in person was the best experience I've ever had. I mean, we're like a family.... each event is just a big family reunion. It was a little awkward meeting the masters and the Ducks because I had no idea what they looked like, haha. Our group would be talking to someone for like 15 minutes before I would finally ask, "Uh... sorry... but who are you?" and then the typical "Oh, hiiiii! Hi! So nice to meet you! (then occasionally an "Oh my God!!") I'm Maski! How are you??? :D :D :D" I guess most people's impression of me was "a really hyper girl." I'm not hyper, but way too overexcited to meet people. Also I guess I laugh at everything? I don't know, lol.
Anyways, the night before LCQ, we had just gotten to our temporary hotel and I was testing my team until like 2 AM. I lost almost every single battle, and freaked out. I realized this team was NOT going to work for me. I didn't sleep the whole night, partially because I was nervous, partially because I just plain couldn't fall asleep, and partially because my stomach really hurt! Little did I know that was actually some form of stomach flu creeping up on me. I think I dozed off for around 30 minutes at 8 AM.
After I woke up again, I got dressed and waited for my dad to wake up so we could get to the winner's hotel and the convention center. We met Unreality in the lobby; he was the first member of Team #Seniors I had met that day. Then I got to the convention center and met the rest of our team. That evening, we all stayed in my room and tried to build a new team for me and Snake, since he had lost his cart! Everyone left at around 10 PM, and I just couldn't piece a team together with what we had come up with. I remembered Aaron's Quick Guard Terrakion (Fun Fact:I managed to showcase Quick Guard Terrakion at the Washington DC Regionals in the Finals. It was the only time I ever used it), and realized that a majority of the Seniors would be using Fake Out + Spore, Tailwind, Trick Room, etc. I paired Terrakion with Tornadus for obvious reasons and then added Pokemon I was comfortable with in the back like Amoonguss, Conkeldurr, and Eelektross, which also had the added benefit of working great in Tailwind. Snivy had given me the good idea of using Water Gem Jellicent which is a great Tailwind Pokemon, too, and that completed my team. I got my whole team AND half of Snake's new team from him that night. What a godsend. He is LITERALLY the most selfless person.
The next morning, I had NO appetite, and my stomach was just screaming. In line, I had to excuse myself to the restroom because I was positive I would throw up. When I sat down before first round, I took some ginger and mint tablets (to calm my stomach) and then ate some Altoids. Unfortunately, instead of calming my stomach, it finally made me toss my cookies. @_____@ That whole weekend, I was known as "The Girl Who Threw Up First Round." Sexy. B)
Anyways, usually, once you get rid of your stomach contents you feel a little better, which I did. (⊙‿⊙✿) Every round in Swiss, I faced a Fake Out lead, like I predicted. So, winning was really easy! I went 5-1 beating Unreality in the final round, and getting haxed by Mosquito in an earlier round. I ended up 5th seed. Team #Seniors spent the evening in my room again, where we looked at PO logs and discussed about our opponents the next day. I didn't eat anything the whole day, save for a milkshake at Steak & Shake and some crackers before bed. It was literally the only thing my stomach could handle. :( The next morning I decided it would be in my best interest not to eat, lol. I had a bet that I would wear a dress if I made it to the next day, and I did! But I lost t16 to bad crit hax. (I'm really superstitious: I swear it's because I didn't wear my lucky Skarmbliss shirt!) So, I didn't have the invite to Worlds, even though it was just a 6 hour drive. Oh well! I was confident I could make it through LCQ.
I remember making your team with you literally the night before the tournament! It's really quite impressive how you managed to play so well with it and keep your cool about it. I'm sure losing one match short of a Worlds Invite it slightly disappointing though, but you managed to go to Worlds. What was LCQ like? What about meeting people all around the world?
At Worlds, we hung out with the Ducks instead of just Team #Seniors. What a great group of guys, oh my God. I love you all so much. (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧
LCQ.... wow. Just wow. I, like usual, settled on my team the day before: I decided to use my Nats team, but with a few adjustments. I met TheCalmSnivy in the LCQ line, and made the switch from slow to fast Amoonguss seconds before I registered. First round went great, just a girl around my age which was an easy 4-0. Second round I played Wade Stanley, 2010's Junior Nats champion. He was running Endeavor Whimsicott on a Trick room team, and I just remember I double targeted the TR Pokemon and then his strategy was screwed after that. I also got some crits in that match, but nothing would have prepared me for my next match.
I was then paired up with Jeremy Fan, and we were really good friends so we were like "NO 8( I don't want to play you! Do I have to play him/her?" And then the other pair before us finished their match, so Jeremy was paired up with the winner, and I was paired up with none other than ~*~*~SOON-TO-BE WORLD CHAMPION KAMZ JAHADI~*~*~. I see the team preview and I was like "oh wow this is Aaron's team rofl w/e" and picked my usual leads, Terrakion and Tornadus. His Terrakion was named ZHENG so, in a bout of stupidity and blind faith, assumed it was scarfed like Aaron's. Turns out I was right... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ IIRC, I Close Combat the Terrakion and Acrobatics the Tornadus and it lived. I probably did something else, I don't remember, but I just know his Tornadus was left at like 10%. I should have Tailwinded; I think he did. He sends out a Chandelure and Heat Wave misses. He then starts Overheating, which missed something crazy like 3 times in a row while I picked off his other Pokemon. In the end, he had Chandelure at around 80%, I had a full health Amoonguss, and an Eelektross at 75%. At this point, I was SO confident I was going to win, I forgot he had used Heat Wave earlier and thought he was scarfed and locked into Overheat. I Rage Powder the incoming Overheat which misses (AGAIN) and Crunch. He now has roughly 15% left. This turn, I would have won if I spored, but again, thought he was scarfed so I just did a Rage Powder + Crunch without thinking it through. And then he uses Heat Wave and it misses Amoonguss (rofl) and crits my Eel for the KO. I had a really bulky Eel and the crit mattered. :( I just calc'd both Modest and Timid. Anyways, he Overheats next turn for the win. GG gg. Too much hax is bad. Overconfidence is bad. u___u
But, hey! It was a super fun and CRAZY game, and it meant the rest of the weekend was nice and stress-free! :D Team #Seniors spent the rest of the weekend just hanging out in our free time, and, of course, playing Pokemon. It was fun watching everyone's matches, even though we all kinda flopped in the end. Again, hanging out with the Ducks was GREAT. Went to the beach, hung out in Ray's room, etc. Cybertron has a great warstory which you should TOTALLY read instead of hearing it from someone lame like me, hehe!
Yeah, I think this is said a lot but the best part about Worlds for many of us, including me, was really the social experience and hanging out with all the awesome Masters, especially the few international guys! Well, now that we're done talking about VGC 2011, I have to ask you about 2012. What do you think of the metagame? How did you transition from your first year of competitive play in a metagame that is rather restrictive to a metagame that allows almost anything? What was Fall Regionals like?
Well, it took me like 4 months to fully learn the metagame and every possible use for a Pokemon last year, which was like 20 Pokemon. I'm really slow... It was my first year last year too, so all Pokemon gens 1-4 that people were used to playing with are brand-new to me this season. I practice a little on PO with moof, Snivy, and kingofkongs, even though I've only made like 3 teams so far. I don't really ladder anymore. I like to watch people's matches, though. I had taken a break from Pokemon after Worlds, and only picked it back up about a week before Regionals. I just built a quick ZapTop lead team, with stuff like Cress and Jellicent in the back. I gave my Cress Calm Mind on the ride to Cali, but didn't know enough about Cresselia to know that you should use Rest with a CM set... lol.
Anyways, my rounds were easy and I beat kingofkongs with a lot of hax t4. Sorry man. @v@ I didn't care what happened after i got t4, because I had the partially paid trip. When I beat kinfogkongs I got the byes too, so that was good. I played Snivy t2 and he had tested and practiced a lot and totally shut down my ZapTop. :p In the end I had my CM Cress and he had all special Pokemon left, so I would have won if I had the Rest. Oh well, my fault for making the change last-minute. Snivy probably wouldn't have been able go to Nationals if he hadn't gotten the fully paid trip, so I am really glad I lost. (Maybe the stars were aligned in his favor so that I didn't know better than not to put Rest on Cress... but that's my superstitious side talking again, lol.)
I'm pretty impressed to be honest, I don't know how you manage to build teams right before events and consistently do so well with them! On a different note, you've been competing in the Seniors division for two years now. What are your thoughts on the competitors in it, and who are you afraid to go up against at this year's National Championships?
The Seniors division... huh. I have mixed feelings about it. In Seniors, you really have to remember to ignore the PO metagame. It's easy to forget about what people will actually be using in the division. Random Matchup is good for testing; that's what I mostly do now. As for Seniors players, I am personally scared of playing Cybertron, Snivy, kok, JRank, iss, Snake, Jeremy and Lucien. (aka the remaining Seniors in Team #Seniors)
Other than the fact you're a Senior, you're also a girl! What's that like? Do you feel like it's slightly uncomfortable, playing a male dominated game?
It's great, actually! I love guys. Often they are so much more fun and easy to be around. I have always been more friends with guys than with girls. I get teased sometimes, but it's all in good spirit, you know? I just absolutely love hanging out with everyone and being a part of the community. Like I said earlier, we are a family.
That's really great to hear, we really need more girls like you that play, haha! Anyway, thanks for all the answers and taking your time to respond to all of these questions. To finish up, why don't you tell the readers what you do outside of Pokemon and do some shoutouts?
I am into a lot of fandoms. I really like puzzle video games like Professor Layton (recently Ghost Trick, too.) I like MSPaintAdventure's webcomics (read: Homestuck) and am into some anime. I also play the flute and am really into music. I sew and draw sometimes too.
No, actually, I just sit on my butt all day IMing and keeping up with my fandoms on Tumblr.
idk wow i just love you guys so much
also why is team #seniors a thing i dont get it we're just friends guys
apparently people worship us or s/t? lol