Pokémon Scarlet and Violet VGC: A Competitive Nightmare

At this year's World Championships for Pokémon, competitive players were disqualified due to unknown knowledge of hacked Pokémon. How did this happen? Players had been grinding through the newest games in the franchise, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, to make the perfect teams. Only to find out one of the Pokémon they traded for was hacked, thus making their expensive trip to Japan for Worlds fruitless.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet VGC: A Competitive Nightmare

Everyone has heard of Pokémon. It is the one of the most popular brands and franchises in the world, ranging from video games to card games and plush toys. Pokémon all started with the video games though. And in 2009, The Pokémon Company created the Video Game Championships, or VGC. This is a tournament circuit where official tournaments across the world are entered by players playing doubles Pokémon battles. These tournaments include prizes and points. If enough points are collected, players will be invited to the Pokémon World Championships, an annual tournament for invite-only players to see who is the very best. 

The Pokémon World Championships were hosted in Japan this year, but a lot of controversy came from it. (Copyright Eric Thayer)

The Pokémon World Championships were hosted in Japan this year, but a lot of controversy came from it. (Copyright Eric Thayer)

This year, Pokémon Worlds was in Japan, and top players flew from around the globe to compete. Before the tournament, players created their six Pokémon teams in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. The newest games in the franchise are known for making team creating an immense hassle, and some players chose to trade with friends to collect the Pokémon needed. Little to their knowledge, however, that some of these Pokémon were hacked into the game because of how difficult the game makes it to get the perfect stats needed for a Pokémon. This was never a problem in the past, especially for the previous games in the franchise, Pokémon Sword and Shield. Competitive Pokémon began to peak during the tenure of Pokémon Sword and Shield due to the ease of team creation and online ranked ladder.

Creating a Team: The Slow Grind

In Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, there are multiple objectives to team building: Effort Values (EVs), Tera type, and Individual Values (IVs). Let’s begin with Tera type and Terrastilizing, unique to Pokémon Scarlet and Violet

Tera type is the gimmick for Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, where a trainer can choose to change a Pokémon's type, but choosing which type is a hassle.

Tera type is the gimmick for Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, where a trainer can choose to change a Pokémon’s type, but choosing which type is a hassle.

Terrastlizing joins Mega Evolutions, Dynamax, and Z-Moves as the gimmick of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. Every Pokémon has a Tera type, usually the same type as they normally are. For example, a Pikachu is an electric type, and will have an electric Tera type when caught in the wild. Some Pokémon caught in special Tera raids have different Tera types, such as a Charizard with a water Tera type. Activating Terrastallization in battle will change the Pokémon’s type and increase the damage of all moves involving the Tera type. Now, what if you want to change a Pokémon’s Tera type? Almost all VGC players want to change a Pokémon’s Tera type from when initially caught to fit into their team perfectly. For example, Heatran with a grass Tera type is one of the most popular Pokémon in VGC at the moment. 

Changing a Tera type is no easy task though. Players must collect Tera shards of a specific type to change Tera types. To collect these shards, the only efficient way is to join high-level Tera raids with other players and, hopefully, win and gain the rewards afterwards. Usually, Tera raids reward around four Tera shards of the type of the Pokémon defeated in the raid.

However, players must collect 50 Tera shards to change a Tera type once. This giant number needed turns off many players from creating teams due to the immense hassle of raiding and hoping to find the correct Pokémon to fight to collect the type of shards they want. This process can take hours of time just for one of the six Pokémon on a team. Here is a short video by ConCon explaining how to collect Tera shards:

How to Change your Pokemon TERA Type ► Pokemon Scarlet & Violet

Effort and Individual Values: A Downgrade From the Past

Effort Values (EVs) and Individual Values (IVs) are hidden numbers that tweak the stats of Pokémon to fit into teams. For example, a player may want a defensive Zapdos on their team for support. Maxing a Zapdos’ EVs in specifically defense and health will allow the Zapdos to fit that role. Each Pokémon has 510 EVs to distribute among the six stats, but only 252 can be put into one stat.

As for IVs, you may want a Torkoal to be as slow as possible for trick room, so you make sure to have no IVs in speed. Commonly, though, VGC players want IVs to be maxed out at 31 all around. Luckily, Scarlet and Violet adopted the way to max out IVs as Sword and Shield. Just simply level your Pokémon to level 50 and you can use items called Bottle Caps to max out your IV stats. However, in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, changing EVs has become a hassle once again, after being fixed in Sword and Shield. 

In Pokémon Sword and Shield, you could use jobs to send your Pokémon to, which would max out their EVs in a specific stat, whether it was attack, defense, etc. You could then wait a full day or go into the Nintendo Switch settings and skip a day on the clock to finish the job instantly. After that, you could use items to put into specific EVs if you’d like.

In Scarlet and Violet, however, the job system was completely removed. This forces players to revert back to the old strategy of fighting specific Pokémon to gain EVs in specific stats, which becomes a long grind for each Pokémon. For example, defeating an Azurill will yield one health EV point. Usually, you’ll want 252 to max out the stat. There are some items that allow for EVs collected per battle to be increased, but this doesn’t change the fact of how long the grind can be compared to the predecessor.

Shown in the graph to the right, Pokémon's EVs can be distributed however a player may like to fit a team's needs.

Shown in the graph to the right, Pokémon’s EVs can be distributed however a player may like to fit a team’s needs.

The World Championships: A Controversial Year

This year’s Pokémon World Championships, hosted in Japan, was one of the biggest ever. There had never been as many Pokémon VGC players before, and the competition had never been as fierce. World champions of past had been defeated throughout the tournament by completely new faces. However, this year also held immense controversy.

According to a report by the creator of a tool to find hacked Pokémon, almost 50% of teams were found to have illegal Pokémon on their teams, with many of those teams being disqualified during the tournament. Most players had no knowledge of a hacked Pokémon on their team, with some players even being disqualified for a hacked Pokémon on their game, not even being used for the tournament. The Pokémon Company had stated for this year that they would increase their security on hacked Pokémon being allowed, but it is extremely hard to tell when a Pokémon is hacked. An amazing fact is that the person who won the Masters Division for Pokémon VGC at Worlds had a hacked Amoonguss on their team that was overlooked somehow.

With the long hours that can go into team building with Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, players chose to trade with friends to collect the Pokémon they needed for Worlds, unknowingly that they were hacked to have specific stats. And it took a trip to Japan and playing through a few games in the tournament to find out that the players were not allowed to compete anymore because of these Pokémon. This form of disqualification was never seen before and was only brought to light for this year, leaving many players infuriated for spending money on a trip for a tournament they would be disqualified in. And then to have a player win the whole tournament with a hacked Pokémon on their team was the cherry on top.

The Future of VGC

Pokémon VGC is not going to change because of this year’s Worlds. Players will have to be more careful about the Pokémon on their teams, resulting in most players grinding for the Pokémon themselves, without trading. And with how tedious team building is in Scarlet and Violet, this will turn away many players. Pokémon Sword and Shield’s additions in DLC, including a way to reset a Pokémon’s EVs and easier methods to gaining EVs, were removed from Scarlet and Violet. With the first DLC for Scarlet and Violet looming over the horizon, set to release September 13, 2023, hopefully those quality of life changes can be reinstated for Pokémon VGC players. But with the poor reception of the games, including poor frame rate and tedious training for VGC, it might be too late.

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