An interview with the worlds greatest Pokemon player

The Pokemon world championships event always brings a high level of excitement and grandeur, but this year was particularly special. The USA’s own Ray Rizzo made Pokemon history when he took top prize in the masters league for the second year in a row, a feat that’s especially incredible given that the tournament was restricted to Unova-only Pokemon this year. So what’s the secret to his success? Let’s ask him!

Above: Rizzo celebrates his victory

GamesRadar: How does it feel to be the first-ever consecutive two-time world Pokemon champion?

Ray Rizzo: It feels great to be the first at accomplishing something so difficult. I put a decent amount of time in these past two years so it feels good now that it’s paid off.

GR: Can you walk us through your process for preparing for the VGCs? How did you decide on your team and how to train each Pokemon?

RR: I had been playing a lot online for fun, just to get a feel for all of the new Pokemon. However after Nationals I started playing more seriously. I found a good core of 4 Pokemon (Gothitelle/Thundurus/Hydreigon/Conkeldurr), all with unique movesets and stats that I felt countered the metagame well. I used my last 2 Pokemon slots for Pokemon that helped to counter the last few popular Pokemon the other 4 couldn’t.

Above: Gothitelle might seem like an odd choice for competitive play, but Ray Rizzo knows the benefit of surprising your opponent

GR: Did you have a particular strategy overall when heading into the tournament?

RR: I wanted to use Pokemon that countered what was very popular at the European and US National Tournaments. This included using multiple Pokemon with the move Thunder Wave to slow down my opponents’ faster Pokemon, and training my Pokemon so they would have high HP and Defenses so they could live through many different attacks.

GR: How did only being able to use Unova Pokemon make the tournament different this year? Do you think the relative newness of Black/White had an effect on how the competition shaped up?

RR: Being able to use only Unova Pokemon changed the tournament a lot. Everyone started on a level playing field and had to learn the ins and outs of all the new Pokemon. The biggest change was that there were only a small number of Pokemon that were useful in battle, and not many strong defensive Pokemon. When US Regional Tournaments rolled around, I think everyone had already though of most of the good strategies, since there weren’t a whole lot of good Pokemon to choose from.

GR: Did you see any strategies from other players that surprised you?

RR: Most of the strategies I went up against were exactly what I expected going into the tournament. I only recall one of my opponents, my Top 8 opponent, who used something unique. He had a very good Trick Room team which gave me my toughest match that day.

GR: What was your favorite moment from the tournament?

RR: Meeting so many new people, as well as hanging out with so many old friends was my favorite moment from the tournament.

Above: Brian Hough took the victory in the junior division this year too. To see videos for all the final match-ups, head to the official Pokemon VGC site

GR: As a competitive battler, what are your thoughts on Pokemon Black/White as a game? What do you think about the Unova Pokemon in general and how they fit in with the older Pokemon?

RR: I like the Pokemon Black and White games from a competitive standpoint. They introduced a lot of cool new moves, items, and of course Pokemon. I think some of the Unova Pokemon are very good and can compete with many of the older Pokemon, but as a Pokemon fan from the very beginning of Red and Blue I can’t help but like the older Pokemon the most.

GR: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to challenge you to battle?

RR: I would say to not be afraid of using something non-standard if it helps to counter a lot of the common Pokemon strategies. I’ve seen other people have success using unexpected Pokemon as well.

Aug 31, 2011

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