The 2023 Pokémon VGC Japanese National Championships took place on 10–11 June and Victory Road compiled a list of the top 32 teams and I’m going to pick out my favourites.
Kaito Arii’s team (finished 1st)
Team: Annihilape, Maushold-Four, Ting-Lu, Grimmsnarl, Talonflame, Iron Hands
Arii’s team boasted a lot of questionable choices, but the standout pick was his Talonflame which had no held item. It was running the move Acrobatics, which doubles in power when used by a Pokémon that has no held item. While Pokémon that usually want to run Acrobatics enable its doubled power by quickly using an item, Arii decided to forgo one entirely; a bold choice.
The other Pokémon on Arii’s team included the often overlooked Maushold-Annihilape core, but the over feel seemed too passive for most players’ tastes. However, these were carefully put into place to give Arii the success he ended up achieving in his country’s biggest tournament.
Hodaka Hatakeyama’s team (finished 2nd)
Team: Chien-Pao, Arcanine, Iron Bundle, Annihilape, Mimikyu, Baxcalibur
Flutter Mane is so dominant in the meta that you never bother to look for its absence. But Hodaka Hatakeyama decided to replace the Paradox Pokémon with its physical Ghost/Fairy counterpart, Mimikyu, and to great effect with a second place finish. To make up for that loss in offense, Hodaka’s Mimikyu carried a Life Orb with Play Rough, Shadow Sneak, Wood Hammer, and Curse to bolster its offence further (as well as its defence). We also get other hard hitters including Chien-Pao, Annihilape with Gunk Shot(?!), and Baxcalibur. Arcanine is in as the Intimidater and Iron Bundle as the sole special attacker. Very cool team and congrats to Hodaka on their finish.
Ren Kotorii’s team (finished 8th)
Team: Flutter Mane, Torkoal, Chi-Yu, Sylveon, Great Tusk, Stantler
We all know why we’re here: Sylveon and Stantler. What are they doing there and how did they finish in the top 8? Having faced a Stantler team before, I’m not too surprised at its performance. Thanks to the inclusion of a new evolution, Wyrdeer, Stantler now gets access to Eviolite, and with Intimidate to drop the opponent’s attack, Trick Room, Helping Hand, Reflect, and Hypnosis, it can be a very frustrating and bulky Pokémon to get rid of.
As for Sylveon, that’s for pure Fairy power alongside Flutter Mane. Ren’s carried a Choice Specs and with its Pixilate ability, all of its Normal moves became Fairy meaning Quick Attack was a 40BP priority move with the ability to hurt Dragon types like Baxcalibur and Tatsugiri and Dark types such as Chien Pao. Oh, and Hyper Voice for spread damage. It’s really a lot.
Satoru Nishigai’s team (finished 10th)
Team: Gholdengo, Tsareena, Chi Yu, Iron Bundle, Great Tusk, Murkrow
Oh hai, Tsareena. You don’t see it very often in Top Cuts so it’s nice to see one in Top 16 alongside that dreaded Prankster Murkrow + Gholdengo lead. There’s a lot of power in this team and the idea is to get a Tailwind up and overpower the opponent with Make It Rain with the remaining two Pokémon in the back for clean up. It’s not a common strat in competition anymore since ladder exposure has made it easier to read but it clearly still has potential with its 10th place finish.
Hikaru Okawa’s team (finished 13th)
Team: Flutter Mane, Wo-Chien, Iron Moth, Palafin, Ting-Lu, Roaring Moon
Unfortunately no Poképaste but look at those names: 3 Paradox Pokémon, 2 Treasures of Ruin (including Wo-Chien), and Palafin. It’s a SV team through and through. On paper, there are some interesting combinations there with the Ruin abilities and it’s remarkable that this team got a Top 16 place. But Japanese teams are literally built different.