2018 Portland Regional Championships preview

While the southeast had their shot to claim a regional title last week, this weekend’s Portland Regional Championships offers the northwest a chance to do the same. It will be an… intimate regional, to say the least. So far, only 91 masters have registered. There will be a champion all the same, though, and it’s our job to tell you who to look out for.

Difficulty rating

/5

2 Kecleon who forgot their camouflage out of 5

Where is everyone hiding? Portland has never been the most popular regional, but the numbers seem really low this year. It actually seems to be a west coast problem in general, since Costa Mesa also had significantly lower numbers than in the past. The overall rating isn’t helped by the fact that many of the region’s best players either aren’t on their A game or just aren’t that worried about winning. Meanwhile, the majority of the rest are all unknown qualities in this format. At least it will be a good testing ground for Sea — oh wait, that’s right. They went away.

The Top 8

Still, just because the field is small doesn’t mean there won’t be some fierce fights. There are plenty of stories players to watch out for. Here are a handful we think are particularly likely to top cut.

Aaron Zheng

Aaron wasn’t thrilled about missing out on a mention last time, but his performance in Oregon last season makes him too important not to mention this time. While folks were looking ahead to the next meta development, Zheng reminded everyone that the Tapu Lele and Drifblim archetype still had merits. As for this season, he’s almost earned his invite despite splitting his focus between competing and commentary.

His run in Costa Mesa wasn’t terrible either, though he did wind up on the wrong side of top 16. There he fielded the standard Meta-Tyrant team with Lele, so it will be interesting to see whether he mixes it up this time around. Considering the way things have shifted lately, it’s unlikely that team will help him repeat without some major adjustments.

And regardless of what he fields or how he’s been playing, you have to give it up for the fact that he is one of the most winningest players in North America when it comes to regionals. He’s totally capable of winning, so it comes down to how much focus he could afford to shift from school to preparing for this tournament.

Alberto Lara

Still one of the players with the most CP, Lara is always a threat to top cut any regional he attends. Still, if you ignore his top cut in Sydney, he hasn’t really been showing up in this format. Lara only managed top 32 in Dallas and didn’t even make that on his home turf.

Don’t confuse those performances with a lack of skill in VGC 18, though. It’s much more likely that he doesn’t need to do well at these events. That effects his prep time, in terms of team building and practice. Plus, if he is sitting on some juicy calls (which, it’s Alberto Lara. He probably is), he’s not going to waste them in Oregon. He is almost 100 percent locked in for Day 2 of worlds, and that’s probably what has most of his attention. São Paulo and Columbus are probably big blips on his radar, too, but Lara is probably more concerned with enjoying himself this weekend than with winning.

Demitrios Kaguras

Seeing as this is one of the most northern regionals in the states, Oregon will host a Canadian invasion the likes of which we haven’t seen in some time. And out of those many talented players, Kaguras seems poised to do quite well. At the two Vancouver MSS, he’s got a first and third place finish. Plus, he top cut both Vancouver and Seattle last in 2017. That doesn’t count his three other top cut finishes or his two Day-Two-Worlds performances.

Plus, he’s part of the VGCwithhats crew, which is full of talented players. Good trainers with good peers always do well, and this is one of his few shots to get a big chunk of points without gratuitous travel.

Gary Qian

Qian is one of the most exciting team builders, right alongside players like Ashton Cox and Jamie Boyt. And that being said, I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t a huge fan of his Costa Mesa team. However, he did win the MSS that weekend with the same squad he used to finish 20th in Dallas. That’s quite a ways outside of top cut, but it shows that he can still work his magic.

I’d like to see a return to the hyper aggressive Qian teams that make use of unexpected Pokémon with unexpected move-sets as opposed to the tricky set-up squads that are more prone to crits — but there’s a reason he can cut events with Pokémon like Alolan Exeggutor and Flygon. Regardless of what he brings, it’s safe to say he won’t give ground on his home turf without one hell of a fight.

Gavin Michaels

Despite owning California in 2017, this format seems to have sapped Michaels’ mojo. He did make it to the finals of a SoCal PC aganst the scariest of Terrys, but it was his first CP in four and a half months. That isn’t normally the most inspiring thing to see.

However, it’s exactly because Michaels is struggling that I think he’ll do well in Portland. The plain and simple fact is he really needs to pull off a big finish if he actually wants to earn his invite. 72 CP isn’t a whole lot, and this is basically the last regional on his side of the country. Barring a really deep run at North American Internationals (which he’s totally capable of), he could actually miss out on his invite if he falls short in Portland. And while missing his invite won’t stop him from sharing hot takes on Twitter, they may undermine his credibility just a little bit. And since none of us want that, we’re rooting for Michaels this weekend.

Maura Hazen

As someone who watched Hazen play in Charlotte, it’s just a matter of time before she top cuts a regional. I mean, she was one game away from doing it last weekend, and there were far more fearsome players there than there will be in Oregon. It’s the perfect environment for a deep run. The determining factors will be maintaining her momentum and managing the potential that some players may know her team. The upside is that few are probably preparing for Mawile/Politoed/Ludicolo with Intimidate Incineroar in the wings to make its west coast debut. With confident play, Hazen can cut Portland no problem.

Mike Groshans

There are times I look back on Groshans’ Costa Mesa team and ask myself how he managed to make it so far. There were so many unique decisions that felt like a liability on paper (untrained Vivillon, no recover Porygon2, Carracosta), but in practice they carried him on a deep run past some talented players. Team decisions aside, you also can’t discount his excellent effort as the pilot of that team when answering that question.

It’s also worth mentioning that he pulled his run off despite barely any time with the team. James Eakes laid out the story, which is full of Groshans overcoming what seems like tournament-ending adversity. The last minute nature of his Costa Mesa prep makes him one of the riskier picks for a repeat performance, but he’s clearly demonstrated he’s fully capable.

River Davis

As a previous King in the North (he won Vancouver, so I can call him that, right? Game of Throne references are still cool?), it’s entirely likely that Davis dunks on the competition in Oregon. He already achieved his invite on the backs of said Vancouver performance and a pair of successful Midseason Showdowns. He also wasn’t able to make it to Costa Mesa, which means he’s likely hungry for success in Portland.

It’s also worth touching on some accolades outside of the regular VGC circuit. According to Gavin Michaels’ metrics, Davis was one of the top 10 players by schedule in NPA 7’s regular season, and also one of the “steals of the draft.” And if he can win against some of the top players in the world in the NPA, he can handle the best of the west in Portland.

Smart Money

Kimo Nishimura

BLAM! You thought I was going to pick someone actually registered to compete? Nah, we’re going with the big brain reads this time. And if you think about it, it kinda makes sense. Kimo is a storied player who has been honing his competitive mind on the Nugget Bridge commentary desk.

Plus, since he will automatically be around for the finals, he can just nab someone’s 3DS and play for them. That helps him get around all the pesky RNG that has kept him out of top cut back when he actually bothered to play entire tournaments. And like, who prepared to battle Kimo? Nobody. It’s the perfect con. Also, I kind of want to see if the smart money curse can find a way to work on a commentator. It’s for science.

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