Against all odds and expectations, a "shiny hunter" who had just started learning to play competitive Pokemon doubles defeated the reigning world champion as well as a two-time US National champion during this weekend's tournament.
Right now, the One Nation of Gamers Pokemon Invitational is underway, and it is the first Pokemon tournament sponsored by GEICO Gaming. Some of the best players around are competing against each other: there's three world champions, three national champions and multiple players who are known for changing the metagame with their team building. And then there's aDrive.
Dan "aDrive" Clap is a full-time YouTuber who creates Pokemon content. While aDrive has been playing the competitive "singles" format (one monster on the field) at a high level for almost a decade, he just started seriously playing the "doubles" format (two monsters on the field) a couple months ago. For the most part, aDrive is known by the VGC community as someone who live streams the rare search for shiny Pokemon, a process that involves encountering the same Pokemon hundreds of times, on average, until you run into one with a rare coloration.
aDrive, announcing his participation.
In a forum post detailing all of the tournament's details, organiser Kevin Dong explained that aDrive was meant to act as a bridge to the general Pokemon community, which might not normally watch competitive play. While some of the other players had a strong YouTube presence, most were also highly accomplished VGC players.
The thinking with aDrive was that he could encourage his fans to show up, they'd see VGC for the first time, potentially drawing some long-term interest. Dong noted that in preparation for the event, aDrive had been training for the upcoming St. Louis Regional Championship and was being coached by many of the Invitational's other players.
Despite that, few expected much out of aDrive. Parts of the VGC community actively questioned why "a shiny hunter" was invited over other players, given that shiny hunting is more luck based than anything else. Others were fine with his inclusion, but they didn't expect him to win any sets. After all, there were two world champions in the running (Wolfe Glick and Sejun Park) as well as a US National Champion who had been playing since VGC started in 2008 (Aaron Zheng).
The odds didn't look good for aDrive as he started his first match against Glick (@ 1:38:27). aDrive had a hard time stopping the reigning world champion from setting up Trick Room, putting his faster team at a natural disadvantage. He stayed in it, though, working to readjust his positioning into something more favourable. Unfortunately, Glick's readjusting was significantly better. He always seemed one step ahead and was able to apply the offensive player that aDrive couldn't manage with his back against the wall.
After the second game started, things started to look different. aDrive leads with Muk and Tapu Fini against Glick's Arcanine and Tapu Fini, meaning he's able to hit both of his opponent's Pokemon for super effective damage. His poison/dark type Muk matched up well against the water/fairy type Tapu Fini, and his own Fini matched up against the fire type, Arcanine. Muk also gave aDrive a very slow Pokemon to have on the field for when Trick Room went up. But then a few turns in, he switched into his Gyarados and went for a Dragon Dance. While the flying type was helpful against Glick's Mudsdale, the Dragon Dance's boost speed boost made it the slowest thing on the field under Trick Room. aDrive's decision seemed like a read gone wrong.
But aDrive didn't need to attack first. He kept predicting Glick's switches, and went for attacks that were super effective on the Pokemon as soon as they entered the field. At the same time, aDrive kept repositioning his non-Gyarados slot with whatever Pokemon served him best. Eventually, he was able to stall out the Trick Room until his faster speed became an advantage once again. Then, by preserving his own Tapu Fini, he was able to close the game out against Glick's Mudsdale. The community was impressed, but everyone expected Glick to readjust and take the game. They were wrong.
The leads were once again in aDrive's favour, forcing Glick to double protect into a more defensible position. That then forced aDrive to double switch, giving Glick a chance to set himself up even better. It seemed like Glick was ready to start taking the third game, but aDrive revealed that his Arcanine -- a fire monster -- came packed with Wild Charge, an electric attack. While the move has been used fairly often in VGC to help the pup take out the water type Tapu Fini, it was a surprise this far into the set, as he had not used it up until that moment.
Glick wasn't expecting it and the turn cost him a Pokemon. aDrive then switched back and forth between Arcanine and Gyarados a couple times, tricking Glick into assuming he would continue to switch. Glick timed a grass attack into what he believed would be an incoming Gyarados, but aDrive instead kept his Arcanine stay on the field. aDrive's Arcanine resisted Kartana's Leaf Blade with ease and then KO'd it with a Flare Blitz. With that, aDrive had basically beaten Goliath.
The community was floored and immediately celebrated aDrive's win.
I'll say it again this is Pokémon and anyone can beat anyone
— eshivgc (@eshivgc) February 26, 2017
You look really stupid for hating on aDrive right now huh
— Uncle Lou (@UncleLou21) February 26, 2017
somethin somethin shiny hunter somethin. Hope people learned not to shoot their mouth off about those they don't know next time! #UNDERDRIVE
— Rushan Shekar (@rushanshekar) February 26, 2017
I think @AzazelVGC said earlier "If you know pokemon, you know pokemon" truth.
— [DKG] Avos (@avos5) February 26, 2017
— Thomas Nishimura (@KimosBrother) February 26, 2017
Well, a few VGC players were definitely shut up by that performance from @aDrive_tK. Great set, man.
— [FS] Kali | Steven (@KaliVGC) February 26, 2017
You all doubted aDrive, calling nothing more than a shiny hunter. Where is your God now!? #geicogaming
— canada vgc lol (@StarRaikouVGC) February 26, 2017
— Mike S (@GymNMons) February 25, 2017
Glick himself even had a revelation, and aDrive decided to clap back everyone who had doubted him in the perfect way.
I should start shiny hunting
— Wolfe Glick (@WolfeyGlick) February 26, 2017
Going to relax and do some Shiny Hunting for a little bit now. #underdrive
— aDrive (@aDrive_tK) February 26, 2017
While everyone was thrilled for aDrive, they knew he had another tough match against Aaron Zheng (viewable at 2:49:16 in the last Twitch embed.) And after all, lightning doesn't strike twice, right?
Wrong. aDrive took game one of that set as if he'd been playing VGC for as long as his opponent. Zheng was able to take game two by capitalising on aDrive's overadjustment, making Togedemaru dead weight. But aDrive was able to figure out what went wrong in game three and redeemed the Togedemaru. He forced Zheng to waste his Z-move and later scored an important flinch. More impressively, he finished the last game without losing a single Pokemon.
The community was then officially blown away. aDrive had just toppled two of the best players in the US despite having only played for a couple of months himself. He also was able to silence anyone who thought his win against Glick was a fluke, and the community recognised that.
Am I watching a mexican soap opera?
— EmbC (@MeninoJardim) February 26, 2017
Really impressed by @aDrive_tK, good to see someone who didn't play pokemon solely through a VGC background doing well.
— Zelda (@zeldavgc) February 26, 2017
@aDrive_tK I doubted you hardcore at first but I'll admit you've taken me by surprise so gotta say gratz to you?
— ドラコ流星 Michael Bailey (@WavelessVGC) February 26, 2017
— One Nation of Gamers (@ONOGesports) February 26, 2017
Dan is the real deal man. Great run today @aDrive_tK
— Aaron Zheng (@CybertronVGC) February 26, 2017
It was an incredible day for aDrive, who advanced to the tournament's playoffs with his win. The entire day of play was a dream come true for him.
"Honestly I'm blown away, on cloud nine right now," aDrive told Compete. "I went into this tournament with no pressure at all and I've just been having fun playing Pokemon. I had a chance to face two of my mentors and two of the top players in the world and I managed to come out with a victory. It's pretty surreal. I'm very proud of how hard I worked to get to this point in just 2 short months and I'm very optimistic for my future as a VGC player and the future of this community. I think we have something very special here and if we manage to all come together, regardless of experience level, we can accomplish amazing things."
aDrive still has two more opponents standing in his way, though. You can watch the second day of the tournament here.