Nicholas won the first game decisively. So decisively, in fact, that he knocked out the same amount of his own Pokémon that Phillip did.
Memorable VGC Matches Wrap Up in the Circle City
Revisit the unforgettable final matches of the Video Game North American International Championships.
The Pokémon VGC North American International Championships concluded on Sunday. The livestream featured five fantastic matches—the Junior Division final, the Senior Division final, both Masters Division semifinals, and the Masters Division final. Each match was best-of-three.
Trainers who made it to today had previously won dozens of games over the weekend, and they’d already earned tons of Championship Points and prizes. But the final step on this journey is the hardest—and the most rewarding. Each series today was tense, well-fought, and came down to the wire. Almost every series wound up in a close third game. Truly, either Trainer could have won any of these matches.
The story of the tournament is certainly the Australian Trainers coming out of nowhere to show their mastery of Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon in every age division. Read on to find out more about each division’s decisive match, and don’t forget to check out the Masters, Senior, and Junior Division top cut teams.
A Champion Crowned Again
The final match in the Junior Division came down to two extremely accomplished young Pokémon Trainers—Phillip Barragan and Nicholas Kan. No one in North America has more Championship Points than Phillip, and he was red hot going into the finals—he defeated Nicholas during the final Swiss round en route to a perfect record. But no Trainer in any age division has been as successful this season as Nicholas, who won the previous two Junior Division International Championships and finished top-4 in the other.
At home in seemingly his natural environment—the final round of an International Championships— Nicholas won the first game decisively. So decisively, in fact, that he knocked out the same amount of his own Pokémon that Phillip did. Nicholas started game two with another sizable advantage, but this time Phillip stormed back with an impressive Tapu Koko performance. After two games, both young Trainers were a step away from becoming North American International Champion.
Phillip got off to an early lead in game three for the first time in the set. He began the battle with Mudsdale as one of his active Pokémon, gaining a key advantage against Nicholas’ active Arcanine and Tapu Koko. After scoring the first knockout, Phillip seemed to be in control. But Nicholas quickly showed he wasn’t horsing around and scored a game-changing knockout against Phillip’s Arcanine via Garchomp’s Tectonic Rage—despite Arcanine’s attempt to defend itself with Protect.
The two prodigies continued trading blows until they were left with Phillip’s healthy Kartana and Tapu Koko facing down Nicholas’ damaged Garchomp and Arcanine, with both Trainers still having one Pokémon in reserve. Despite appearing to have an advantage on the field, Phillip tried to make a safe play by having his Tapu Koko use Protect and switching his Kartana out for Mudsdale.
But Nicholas showed why he’s been so successful and took advantage of Phillip choosing not to attack by swapping out Garchomp for his own Kartana. With Kartana thus checking Mudsdale, Nicholas’ Arcanine landed a Flare Blitz on his opponent’s Tapu Koko, nearly knocking it out. That left Tapu Koko in range of being knocked out by Arcanine’s Extreme Speed, and with Phillip’s Arcanine knocked out, Kartana easily cleaned up a third consecutive International Championship for Nicholas.
A Senior Division Showdown
The rivalry between the United States and Australia continued in the Senior Division finals as Australian Alfredo Chang-Gonzalez faced off against the host country’s Nathaniel Sitler. The two Trainers had also battled Saturday during Swiss play, where Alfredo came out on top. With a top-8 finish at the Oceania International Championships already under his belt, Alfredo seemed poised to net Australia another title.
Just as with the Junior Division, the first game of the Senior Division final featured a decisive early lead by the Australian Trainer. Nathaniel was quickly left with only his Celesteela, and though it’s one of the Pokémon best fit to turn around a match, Alfredo had wisely preserved his Arcanine, and with it a first-match victory.
Nathaniel battled back hard in game two. Using an aggressive lead pairing of Tapu Koko and Pheromosa, he found himself ahead 4-2 almost immediately. Alfredo battled back, but with Arcanine going down early to Pheromosa’s All-Out Pummeling, the endgame situation was swapped. Nathaniel’s Silvally and Celesteela easily closed out Alfredo’s Kartana and Gigalith, leading the Trainers to a decisive third game.
This time it was Alfredo’s turn to adjust. He brought Togedemaru to the match for the first time, an excellent solution to the Tapu Koko Nathaniel led. The Roly-Poly Pokémon’s Lightning Rod made it difficult for Nathaniel’s Tapu Koko to use its Electric-type attacks, enabling Alfredo’s Porygon2 to set up Trick Room. With the tables turning against him, Nathaniel commanded his Silvally to use Flamethrower in hopes of catching Togedemaru, deciding to forgo a safer Parting Shot. However, the attack caught Gigalith instead as it switched into battle.
After just two turns, Alfredo had created unbelievable board position with Trick Room active, Gigalith on his side of the field, two fast Pokémon on Nathaniel’s side, and Silvally locked into an ineffective attack. Nathaniel battled back admirably, surviving Trick Room and even knocking out Alfredo’s Porygon2. But Alfredo was just too far ahead, and he cruised to Australia’s second International Championship of the day.
Masters Division Mayhem
The first Masters Division semifinal match continued the streak of battles between the United States and Australia. Christopher Kan, Nicholas’ older brother, faced off against Sean Bannen. The American took a sizable lead early, leaving hope that an American player might finally win a game one. But Christopher continued Australia’s domination with a little help from Sean’s Metagross, who misplaced its face and whiffed on a key Zen Headbutt, creating an opportunity for Christopher to turn the match around. Game two was close the whole way through, but Christopher took control and seemed to be a turn ahead in the match’s most important moments.
In the other semifinal featured Paul Chua, the last hope for the United States to win at least one age division in Indianapolis. He’d need to defeat César Reyes to get the chance, who himself was battling to become the first Mexican player to reach the finals at an international VGC tournament. Paul made the surprising choice of selecting Snorlax instead of Arcanine in game one, which worked out in his favor when the Sleeping Pokémon helped him squeak out a tight victory. César took the advantage in game two and held his lead masterfully—only once did he seem to be in real danger, and his Celesteela dodged a critical Thunder from Paul’s Tapu Koko. On the brink of elimination in game three, Paul Chua seemed to gain the ability to glimpse the future and moved on after playing almost flawlessly.
The Masters Division final was set: Paul Chua and Christopher Kan would face off in the third championship match between Australia and the United States. Paul seemed to have an advantage when the Pokémon left their Poké Balls, leaving his Ninetales staring down Christopher’s Garchomp before turn one. But its Blizzard wasn’t powerful enough to knock Garchomp out through its Assault Vest, allowing Christopher to gain control of the match. Paul battled back to an advantageous position, but just as he did, his Garchomp scored a game-changing critical hit with Earthquake—on his own Snorlax, which had boosted its Defense with Curse.
Suddenly, Paul needed to win two games in a row to avoid an Australian sweep of the North American International Championships. Christopher attempted to play defensively against Paul’s Snorlax in game two, when the Sleeping Pokémon again powered itself up with Curse. This time, Snorlax’s teammates gave working together a shot—Paul’s Ninetales got a massive freeze on Christopher’s Porygon2, allowing Snorlax to slowly dismantle Christopher’s team and force a game three.
Paul’s Tapu Koko went on the offensive against Christopher’s to start the final game in Indianapolis, knocking out its counterpart and reminding Trainers everywhere that Shiny Pokémon aren’t any more powerful than their conventionally-colored counterparts. Paul pushed his edge to a 4-2 advantage and seemed to have the match firmly under control. But Christopher’s Arcanine and Snorlax kept fighting. They knocked out Paul’s Snorlax. Then Paul’s Tapu Koko. And quickly, the game was back to a tumultuous 2-2 tie.
Paul scored another knock out on Christopher’s Arcanine, but damage from Toxic was quickly whittling down his Garchomp’s remaining health. Christopher had only one Pokémon remaining, but as long as it wasn’t flinched by Rock Slide, or fully paralyzed, Paul was left without a way to deal sufficient damage to break through the recovery from Recycle. Paul’s final Rock Slide went off and… Snorlax was able to use Recycle, clinching a third North American International Championships for Australia and the second for the Kan family. Watch this momentous match again here, and don’t forget to check out all the Masters Division Top Cut teams.
The North American Video Game International Championships were a truly historic event. The matches are over, but the season is not. Trainers will have one last chance to prove they’re the best of the best next month at the Pokémon World Championships in Anaheim, so keep an eye on Pokemon.com for more information about the event. And remember, keep checking back to Pokemon.com/Strategy for more Pokémon TCG and video game tips, strategies, and tournament coverage.