Alessio Yuri Boschetto, Oceania International champion and current king of consistency

It was only a matter of time until one of Italy’s best VGC players, Alessio Yuri Boschetto, top-cut an International Championship. He’d been close to pulling it off during his past four attempts. But when his eternal rival Simone Sanvito managed to win this season’s European International Championship, it should have served as an omen for things to come. It seemed Boschetto would not let himself be outdone.

The difference maker this time was that Boschetto managed to win his last set in Swiss. This was crucial because, unlike most other International Championships, there weren’t enough players for day two Swiss rounds. If he had lost, he would have ended up on the wrong side of top cut along with every other X-2 player in Sydney. It didn’t help that he had a particularly tough run.

“It was a hard tournament, and I had a tougher Swiss schedule than I expected coming in, to be honest,” Boschetto told Trainer Tower. “I faced two international champions in Swiss and one in cut. Going 7-1 is never easy, and I was put at X-1 pretty early on, which made it very stressful. I came super close to being out of the tournament multiple times.”

Once Boschetto finally broke through the glass ceiling, things didn’t get any easier. In fact, his first top cut opponent, Alberto Lara, proved to be his greatest challenge.

“My hardest moment was definitely preparing for the match against Alberto,” Boschetto said. “We roomed together, and it was probably the hardest match-up I faced in the entire tournament because Celesteela is incredibly good against my team.”

Despite that, Boschetto triumphed over Lara by positioning himself around the same Celesteela. In game one, Shattered Psyche did a lot of the work after Celesteela switched in for a vulnerable Charizard, but Boschetto finished by covering for a second switch-in. In game two, Lara decided to lean more on Celesteela, letting it whittle away at Boschetto’s team under Trick Room. But in game three, Boschetto adjusted with his Amoonguss, making Lara’s situation just as precarious regardless of speed control.

After that, Boschetto played another close set against Ashton Cox, who was aiming for his second International title. Boschetto dropped game one after his team failed to get knockouts as fast as Amoonguss could put Pokémon to sleep. But by bringing his Tapu Lele in game two, he took out Cox’s only answer to Earthquake on turn one. All he needed to do from there was safely bring in Landorus-T and click buttons. Then, despite excellent play from both competitors in game three, Rock Slide did flinch things and helped Boschetto seal his ticket to the finals.

From there, Boschetto became the favorite to win. His opponent, Jens Mækinen of Norway, was a relatively unknown entity with a unique team. Thanks to Boschetto’s well-rounded team, all he needed to do was play cautiously around the threats to his Metagross and Landorus-T.

A stray Rotom-W Will-O-Wisp is about all that saved him from a game one loss, but the fact that his Metagross had both Stomping Tantrum and Ice Punch helped him clutch out a game one victory. Boschetto made the set a quick 2-0 by boldly leaving in his Tapu Lele against a Metagross. This allowed him to take out Mækinen’s Rotom-W immediately while also setting up Tailwind with his Zapdos, which survived a terrain-boosted Zen Headbutt. Mækinen’s Metagross survived a Stomping Tantrum while chipped which kept him in it, but it wasn’t enough to give him a real chance. With one final blow against Nidoking, Boschetto earned the satisfying title of 2018 Oceania International Champion.

Courtesy of ESL Australia

“It still feels amazing. I hadn’t won a major event since 2016 Regionals and that one wasn’t even a large one,” Boschetto said. “Plus, it was one of my biggest goals for this year. When you start becoming better you keep giving yourself higher and higher goals and I’m glad I could fulfil this one.”

When factored in with the rest of his top cut finishes, this win makes him one of the most consistent players of the past two years.

Italians who play together, win together

Boschetto’s victory is not only a testament to his skills as a player but also to his taste in friends. That’s because he didn’t actually build the winning team of Mega Metagross, Mega Tyranitar, Tapu Lele, Landorus-T, Zapdos and Amoonguss. The true architect was Flavio Del Pidio, who had won the Leipzig Regional Championships just two weeks prior. According to Boschetto, he saw the team’s strength and asked if he could run it in Sydney. Del Pidio was kind enough to share the details.

And while this doesn’t necessarily have to do with sharing teams, it is worth mentioning just how dominate Italian players are this season. Among the top 8 players in Europe, 75 percent are Italian. When it comes to the top 16, that number only drops to 56 percent. Aside from Boschetto and Sanvito, 2013 World Champion Arash Ommati and International-top-cut-resident Nico Davide Cognetta are having banner seasons so far. Meanwhile, newer names to the snowball scene include Alessio Vinciguerra, Andrea di Francesco and Del Pidio.

It will be exciting to see if the [Biscotti] can continue their dominance through the entirety of the season.

Jens Mækinen comes out of Norway to — wait, no. Not again.

The biggest surprise of the weekend was a relative newcomer, Jens Mækinen of Norway. With a professed goal of top 64 for the Oceania International Championships, he managed to do quite a bit better than that by making it to the finals. What’s even more impressive was his team, which made use of Nidoking, Rotom-Wash and Togekiss.

There’ll be more on his team to come, but the call was obviously as successful as it was impressive. Defeating Nico Davide Cognetta (regardless of a favored match-up) is no easy feat, and stopping Isaac Lam’s momentum must have been difficult as well. What will truly be interesting is whether Mækinen makes an appearance in Malmö, which is right next door to his home country. If he can translate this finals appearance into another strong showing, the European VGC scene may have a new threat on their hands.

Return of the (Nido)king

Nidoking may not have technically returned, but the analogy of Nidoking as Aragorn and Tyranitar as Sauron is too good to avoid. It also doesn’t help that Nidoking failed to overthrow the oppressor that is Tyranitar (and its best friend Metagross), but it’s not for a lack of trying. And most importantly, Nidoking is a strong call for the current metagame. The Alolan Guardians are all still very popular, and two of the most used mega evolutions share a weakness to ground types. Top it off with access to Ice Beam plus an incredible ability in Sheer Force and Nidoking provides a lot of answers to a range of threats. The trick, however, is making sure it survives long enough to get that big attack off.

That’s where Rotom-W and Togekiss come into the picture. At the most basic level, these Pokémon provide safe switches for when Nidoking is threatened by the ever popular Landorus-T. Not only that, but Rotom particularly can either wash the ground type away with a powerful Hydro Pump, or neutralise it with a Will-O-Wisp. Meanwhile, Togekiss provides Nidoking with both the speed control it sorely needs and bulk to absorb hits (via Follow Me). Together, they’re complemented by three of the best Pokémon to form a well-rounded team.

It seems to struggle a bit against fellow Tailwind teams, and it really relies on a few key strategies to deal with Trick Room and opposing Landorus-T. Zapdos’ Tailwind and Boschetto’s ability to manage Rotom-W were key to his victory this weekend. But perhaps, with some adjustments, there’s still room for this team going forward. Regardless, it’s certainly a sign that creativity can be rewarded in the 2018 format.

Other outliers

Mækinen wasn’t the only oddball in top cut. Isaac Lam and Javier Valdes were also packing some unconventional teams that are worth mentioning. Lam went undefeated in Swiss before falling in top 4 to the might of Nidoking, but his Mega Gyarados, Cresselia, Landorus-T, Tapu Koko, Incineroar, and Tsareena put on quite the show. That last Pokémon proved particularly potent, especially in the face of Luke Curtale’s Tyranitar, Tapu Fini and Landorus-T.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that Valdes lost to Cox in top 8, his Mega Metagross, Nihilego, Scrafty, Gastrodon, Volcarona and Weavile was probably the most unique team with the best record. Fans regrettably didn’t get a chance to see more than his top cut loss on stream, but going 7-1 proves that there’s something here.

Finally, Kommo-o also managed to take a spot in top cut. After that and a second place finish in Leipzig, it appears as if this archetype isn’t going anywhere. At the same time, it’s not as if cut was flush with the Pokémon. It clearly takes a very good player, like Nico Davide Cognetta, to pilot that kind of team to success.

The west on the horizon

Due to the fact that Sydney was probably the last tournament to count toward the championship point cut-off for the Latin American International Championships, travel awards and stipends are likely set. This also marks a shift to the Western hemisphere, where North and Latin American players will try to fight back against the unstoppable tide of Europeans that have dominated most international tournaments thus far.

On a smaller scale, the Malmö Regional Championships and Collinsville Regional Championships are this weekend, meaning most players get no rest between tournaments. Both are being streamed, and keep an eye out for Trainer Tower’s preview of the latter event.

*All photos courtesy of ESL Australia

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