Just a Kid from Hawai‘i: I Got Sponsored by TiltOut Gaming!

Aloha! For those who don’t know who I am, my name is Keola Nakamoto, also known as Kasoman online, and I am a competitive Pokémon VGC player. I am pleased to announce that I have been acquired by TiltOut Gaming as Hawai‘i’s first sponsored Pokémon VGC player!

The Story Behind This

One day, I was at the Teapresso Bar near Ala Moana Shopping Center with my roommates, and I decided to record my Battle Spot practice runs live on Facebook like I have done in the past for other practice runs as well as best of three sets with friends. The internet at the tea shop was not very friendly for a 3DS, and it took a while for me to get a game started. In the middle of that game, the connection dissipated, and I had to take a loss. As a result, I decided to stop recording. The one thing I learned from this is to never do something like this under public WiFi.

I then got a message from a friend, Thomas Goedecke (@togglesings), whom I’ve met years ago, because the “Top 10 in the US” in the title of the deleted video caught his eye. Thomas asked me if I really made Top 10 in the US on the Championship Ladder, so I showed him a couple screenshots of my rating from the Pokémon Global Link to verify that. It turns out he’s a team manager of TiltOut Gaming, and decided to offer me a sponsorship on the spot. I was a bit skeptical at first, but I eventually accepted the offer, and that’s how I became a part of TiltOut Gaming.

This was after 30 battles, and I went 25-5 on the ladder to reach that far! I enjoyed it while it lasted.

What It Means for Hawai‘i and the VGC Community

First and foremost, there are a very small amount of people in Hawai‘i who play VGC. The only VGC players I know are my teammates of the Mānoa Marowaks, a collegiate team for the International Collegiate Pokémon Association (@ICPA_Pokemon), as well as another player named Jeremy Whipple (@KOA_Monte), who happened to beat me in the finals of my first Premier Challenge in a very close set. Many other Pokémon players I know play singles because they’re either intimidated by playing doubles, or they just prefer to play singles in general. The main faults behind this would be lack of exposure to the official format, and ill prize support for these official tournaments.

Being acquired by an eSports team as the first sponsored Pokémon VGC player in Hawai‘i is a huge step for many things. I have the opportunity to represent Hawai‘i and TiltOut at bigger scale tournaments in the mainland, and others who play Pokémon may want to get into VGC themselves and practice hard enough to surpass me along with players of a much higher caliber than I am.

My VGC War Story

Here are all the teams I’ve had success with, along with a little background story behind each of them. This war story will tell how I improved as a player over time.

VGC 2015

Digital Carnival, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (4/9/2015) – 1st Place

The Digital Carnival was my first tournament ever, and it was an unofficial grassroots tournament hosted by the Pokémon Club President at the time. I originally intended to use Metagross as my mega evolution, but I didn’t have time to breed one for the tournament, so I decided to slap Kangaskhan on the team instead. I played for five rounds, and won four of them because I couldn’t get past a Sableye in the last one. I don’t remember much from the tournament because it was so long ago. All I remember was I never used Latios or Aegislash a single time, and my MVP was Suicune, which was carrying an Assault Vest at the tournament.

Fall 2015 International Collegiate Pokémon Association – Won four consecutive rounds out of five as an ace player
Therian Forme

This team has a special place in my heart because it was the first time when I took the team building process seriously. After watching Naohito Mizobuchi (@penguin2142) place Top 4 at the 2015 World Championships with Entei, I thought I wanted to try it out myself. Originally, I had Kangaskhan as my mega evolution, and it worked for quite some time.

I first heard about the International Collegiate Pokémon Association, and I thought it’d be cool to be a part of a college team that plays competitive Pokémon. I first met Morgan Wynne (@SnoBolVGC) because he was interested in helping me form the team, and we started to settle things with a friendly best of three set. I faced the team he used to finish 3rd at the Premier Challenge that was sanctioned at the 2015 Kawaii Kon. It was a close set, but I ended up winning the third game. I knew he is a good player, and he definitely proved his skill in our set, which got me to decide that the two of us would be the ace players of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. We gathered a few other people including Jordan Saba (@GelatinVGC), and thus, the Mānoa Marowaks was born (originally as the Mānoa Milotics)!

Eventually, I thought I needed proper speed control for the awkward speed tiers of Entei and Milotic, and that’s when I decided to use Daichi Kumabe (@Scar3020)’s Trick Room Gardevoir he used to place 6th at Worlds. The synergy between Entei and Gardevoir was amazing, and I was able to do so well that semester after forming the collegiate team with my friends at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa for the first time. For this team, Entei was definitely the MVP! The videos show my Round 3 match vs. Patrick Klowsowski (TrickOfAces) of Simon Fraser University, and they also feature commentary from Mark Hanson (@Crawdauntz) and Max Douglas (@MaxMDouglas) of VGC With Hats (@VGCWithHats).

Check out the Pastebin of the team!

VGC 2016

January 2016 Da Planet Premier Challenge (1/30/2016) – 2nd Place
groudon-primalsalamence-mega663smeargle

This team was infamously known as the “Big 6” in the metagame, and I decided to pilot it at my first official tournament because I actually had no idea what to use and this was the only strong team I had in game. Because I knew how it works, and because I had a bit of experience in the format, I was able to make the finals with Jeremy Whipple (@KOA_Monte). The set was so close, it came down to whether or not his Kyogre would connect with the Origin Pulse as my Groudon would be able to KO his Kyogre with two Earth Powers. I had a great time at the tournament, and I felt good doing this well. I walked away from the tournament with 20 Championship Points along with a cool deck box, and I also made a new friend who I talk to regularly about VGC! The videos below show the final round of the Premier Challenge.

Read the team report here!

2016 Hawaiʻi Midseason Showdown, Da Planet (4/23/2016) – 1st Place
kyogre-primalgroudon-primalsalamence-megabronzong

After watching Alex Gomez (@PokeAlex_) finish 2nd at Northern England Regionals, and Aaron Zheng (@CybertronVGC) win Anaheim Regionals with this archetype, I knew I wanted to use dual primal for the Midseason Showdown, and I spent about a week preparing for the tournament on Pokémon Showdown. At this point in the metagame, people were putting more speed investment into their bulky primals, which annoyed me for a bit. I decided to build a very physically defensive Kyogre with minimal speed investment, so it could still benefit from Trick Room against those other faster primals. In practice, the team has worked pretty well, but I started seeing more teams with Yveltal, which is terrible for dual primal teams to stare down. As a result, I added in Mawile as a second mega evolution, and it ended up being the MVP of the tournament! At that point, I racked up 110 CP, but it was also the last tournament sanctioned in Hawaiʻi for the season.

Read the team report here!

Preparation for Fall 2016 International Collegiate Pokémon Association – Peaked Top 64 on Pokémon Showdown
kyogre-primalgroudon-primalsalamence-megabronzong(smeargle/)

After actively watching Wolfe Glick (@WolfeyGlick)’s YouTube channel, as well as him winning the 2016 World Championships with his crazy RayOgre team, I decided I wanted to stick with dual primal and find a way to beat RayOgre teams. Adding in Gengar for its ability to trap opposing Pokémon became very helpful for the matchup. I used the same Kyogre EV spread from the Midseason Showdown because it still worked like a charm, and there wasn’t anything I needed to change on it. I made Groudon a bit bulkier, and I decided to go with Safeguard/Lum Berry over Gravity/Mental Herb on Bronzong as a more effective answer to Smeargle. I first added in Smeargle with Crafty Shield and King’s Shield as an answer to the Kangaskhan/Smeargle leads, but I eventually switched it out for Weavile as an effective answer to Yveltal as it can deal a lot of damage with Icicle Crash as well as benefit from its Dark Aura.

Peaking Top 64 on Showdown may not seem like it’s much of an accomplishment for most people, but it is for me because this is the team that really helped me understand my own play style. As I watched my replays, I tend to do switches more often than before after actively watching Wolfey play, and I also started to understand the game at a higher level by thinking turns further ahead, setting win conditions, and taking the least amount of risk as possible. With this team, I really felt like I was getting the hang of VGC. Although I haven’t done so well in the Fall 2016 semester of ICPA, I still feel proud of what I was able to accomplish for myself with this team.

Check out the Pastebin of the team!

VGC 2017

1st VGC 2017 Team – Peaked Top 10 in the US on the Battle Spot Championship Ladder
Alola Form

With Sun and Moon having a format that’s fresh and new, I decided I wanted to pay homage to my use of dual primal in 2016, and that’s when I thought of using dual tapu. The idea behind dual tapu is to choose one based on the matchup and go from there. This team fits my play style so well as I have been able to switch around my Pokémon like I have with my dual primal team to gain better board positioning. As a result, I managed to break the 1700’s on the Battle Spot Championship Ladder, and I even reached the #3 spot in the US at one point. For now, I will keep information about this team private as a tournament will be sanctioned pretty soon. However, I will show a video of one of my practice battles with the team, featuring Eduardo Cunha (@MeninoJardim), who placed 4th at the 2016 World Championships. This time, I have a nice layout provided by TiltOut, and Daryll David (@FourSwordsLink), one of our Smash 4 players, was kind enough to record this as I don’t have my hands on a capture card yet.

Personal Thoughts

A sponsorship is nice and all, but it doesn’t mean I’m well known to the VGC community. I don’t feel like it was very well deserved for me because I know lots of players out there who are way more deserving of one than I am, and they haven’t even gotten offered a sponsorship from a single eSports team. However, with Sun and Moon being based off of Hawai‘i, along with the Pokémon Company International pushing VGC more out there to the general public, I also felt it was a necessary notion for me to accept this sponsorship, as 2017 seems to be a big year for VGC.

I have always wanted the VGC scene to grow in Hawai‘i, and I feel a sponsorship is a way to help make it easier. It would mean more VGC tournaments will be hosted, and it would possibly mean influence to newer players whenever I attend a tournament in the mainland. An opportunity like this only comes once in a while, and I felt like it was the perfect time to go for it. The whole purpose of this sponsorship is a way to represent Hawai‘i in the VGC community, and I will continue working hard to strive for the best! After all, I’m just a kid from Hawai‘i. Now that I am a part of the TiltOut family, I sure hope I won’t completely “TiltOut” on my plays.

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For updates on my blog, tournament runs, and more, follow me on Twitter @KasomanVGC!

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