Nick Navarre, a top competitive Pokémon player from the US, won last weekend’s Roanoke Regional Championships with a unique team that included what many consider the weakest Alolan Guardian: Tapu Bulu.
Tapu Koko is by far the most common and successful guardian in competitive Pokémon, with Tapu Lele and Tapu Fini competing for the second place. Tapu Bulu, by contrast, has struggled to find its niche in the face of popular competitive monsters, like the ever-present Arcanine. While Bulu does have some strengths, they are often overshadowed by its weaknesses, leading many players to dub it the “worst” guardian. Many have tried to make it work, but Tapu Bulu doesn’t have anywhere near the same track-record of tournament success as its fellows.
Tapu Bulu wasn’t the only odd Pokémon out on Navarre’s team, though: he also packed a Salamence and Clefairy, both of which have been rare in the latest competitive season. More typical picks, like Arcanine and Snorlax, still boasted unusual movesets. Only his Kartana, which holds an item that boosts critical hit rates, felt like a standard choice.
Navarre’s team is very defensive, with multiple abilities that contribute to its longevity. Salamence and Arcanine both have the ability ‘Intimidate,’ which drops the Attack of opposing Pokémon, and Clefairy’s ‘Friend Guard’ ability reduces damage to its allies by 25 percent. Finally, Navarre’s Snorlax forwent the Gluttony ability for Thick Fat, which reduces damage from fire and ice type attacks. Healing back HP is also a big focus of the team, between Clefairy knowing Heal Pulse, three Pokémon holding healing berries and the residual healing from Grassy Terrain.
Navarre didn’t just win by sitting there, though. Tapu Bulu holds a Z-crystal to do massive damage with a Bloom Doom, and Kartana’s Leaf Blade is also boosted by Bulu’s Grassy Terrain. Snorlax, meanwhile, can use Curse to boost its Attack and Defense to the point where it can sweep entire teams. And finally, Arcanine and Salamence have Toxic to whittle away the HP of opposing Pokémon with the poison status effect.
While the team was unorthodox, it was certainly effective. Navarre didn’t lose a game after the fourth round of the first day, meaning he won fourteen individual matches. Winning didn’t come easy, however, especially when he got to the top four. At this tournament, his opponent was the very talented Toler Webb. As the the 2012 World Championships in the seniors age division, the 2015 US National Championships in the master’s age division and last year’s Georgia Regional Championships, Navarre said Webb was easily his toughest opponent of the tournament:
Game one was extremely close, with Webb doing a good job of keeping pace with Navarre’s bulky team. While it seemed that Navarre was in control for much of the game, Webb had a golden opportunity to take back the advantage by burning the opposing Snorlax with Will-o-wisp. That would halve its Attack stat and render it almost useless.
Fortunately for Navarre, the move missed and he was able to counter attack for a knock out onto Arcanine. Game two was close as well, ultimately coming down to Navarre’s Snorlax surviving a pair of Celesteela attacks to break through paralysis and finish off its opponent.
With that, Navarre had finally made it to the finals. He would face Robert Moore, who had made it to the single elimination bracket for the first time with a very standard team (Tapu Fini, Arcanine, Kartana, Tapu Koko, Porygon2 and Gigalith). And though Moore certainly put up a fight in the first game, Navarre’s Arcanine was able to stall out the opposing Tapu Koko for the win. Game two was less of a fight and more of a slow march to victory. By that point, Navarre had earned it.
Navarre certainly didn’t need the championship points from winning (he’s qualified for the world championships twice and is basically locked in for a trip straight to day two), but he did finally break through the top four barrier. After losing to a critical hit in Philadelphia, missing an important attack in Dallas and getting fully paralyzed three times in Collinsville, things finally went his way.