On his way to becoming the World Champion of Pokémon’s Video Game Championship series, Wolfe Glick had to fight through hell.
A lackluster 5-4 finish at US Nationals meant Glick missed out on a coveted “day two invite” to the Pokémon World Championships. That meant he had to win six extra sets to even advance to day two (with the possibility of playing more matches if he dropped any), and winning at least five more sets on day two to make it to the top-cut, elimination bracket.
Glick won, and kept going.
From there, it was three more single elimination rounds. During one of those rounds, he had to play his best friend, Markus Stadter, who shares the other half of the Pokéball pendant hanging around Glick’s neck.
But Glick won, and kept going.
In the grand finals, he had to stare down the tournament’s other toughest competitor, Jonathan Evans. Despite Glick being the favorite, Evans had proved himself capable of an upset after a strong season in the US and abroad.
But despite everything working against him, Glick ultimately made winning look easy. He only dropped a single set the entire tournament (to Edward Cheung of Hong Kong, during the third round of the second day). And it wasn’t as if he had free matches, either; Glick faced UK power-houses William Tansley and Jaimie Boyt as well as US favorite Blake Hopper (who finished the tournament 14th), just to name a few. He even had to face Evans in an earlier round of the tournament.
So, what was the difference maker between this year (and every other)? Experience might have played a factor, but Glick has been considered one of the world’s best VGC players for a long time. This year, the team made the difference.
Glick’s squad, made up of Mega Rayquaza, Primal Kyogre, Mega Gengar, Hitmontop, Bronzong and an event Raichu, was not something anyone would have expected to see win. All six had been used to varying degrees throughout the 2016 season, but most players spent the better part of the year thinking that Ray/Ogre was inferior to both Xerneas/Groudon or dual primals.
It wasn’t until US Nationals that players caught their first glimpse of Ray/Ogre’s power when both Rajan Bal and Alan Schambers brought the duo to top-cut alongside Mega Gengar. Bal even had the Bronzong.
Still, no one used either Raichu or Hitmontop quite as artfully as Glick’s team did. By putting an Assault Vest on the Raichu, it could survive powerful special attacks from powered-up Xerneas and Primal Kyogre. That let it redirect super effective electric type attacks away from Glick’s Kyogre, which was then free to devastate opponents.
Raichu could play a more active part in battle, too. By using an event-exclusive move, Endeavor, it could bring targets down to the same amount of hit points. And with how often it survived hits with barely any health, it easily softened up opposing Pokémon it could otherwise never touch.
Meanwhile, Hitmontop held an Eject Button, which automatically forced it to switch out after taking its first hit in battle. This, plus its solid natural bulk, allowed Glick to spread Intimidate around and reduce the attack of Mega Kangaskhan, Primal Groudon and other dangerous foes. It could also hit reasonably hard with its Close Combat attack and break protects with a Feint. On the defensive side, it could block powerful spread attacks with Wide Guard.
But the most important part of the Raichu/Hitmontop synergy was their shared move: Fake Out. Only usable on the first turn a Pokémon is active, the attack’s target is rendered incapable of doing anything that turn. It is one of the most useful moves in VGC for obvious reasons — but its limited window of use keeps it from being over-powered.
Despite that, Glick showed how easy it was to switch between the two every turn between Hitmontop’s Eject Button and Raichu’s Volt Switch. That let him use Fake Out two to three times more often than most players get to in a single game, and that let him control what his opponent could do on any given turn.
On top of that, and in typical Glick style, the team let him control the game’s 15-minute clock. Because players are given 45 seconds to make any decision, he could burn time as he needed with all his switching.
It required a level of knowledge surpassing what most players possess.
All that being said, it was obviously a very technical team that required a level of knowledge surpassing what most players possess. The current format’s use of restricted Pokémon only makes it harder to pilot, since switching has been more dangerous than ever this year. An imprecise switch or a bad prediction could spell game-over for a lesser player using this team, but Glick danced around his opponents with ease.
He wasn’t the only player to use the team, though, nor does he claim sole credit for building it. Glick built the team with Stadter, and senior-division US competitor Brendan Zheng helped improve it. A fourth friend, Baris Akcos, decided to use the team the night before day two started. Glick won the tournament, but the rest also had immense success with it. Stadter played Glick in top-four and Akcos made it to top-eight. Meanwhile, Zheng took the team to top-eight in the seniors’ division.
Together, at a point in the year when many thought the meta-game had reached its zenith, those four players blew the entire game wide-open.
But above even that, Glick finally owns the title of “World Champion.” After six years of competition and plenty of notable accomplishments, he nabbed the trophy that has always eluded him.
It doesn’t end there, though. In winning, Glick earned an automatic invite to the second day of the 2017 World Championship (as well as a nice $10,000). He will be back next year to try and cement his legacy as the best in the game by being the second player to ever win back-to-back championships.