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  • Player Interview: The 2018 World Champion, ThankSwalot!


    The Player Profile and Player Interview posts are series that we've been wanting to start here on Pokkén Arena for quite some time, but the 2018 Pokémon World Championships are what really prompted us to get these posts started.


    In the future, these Player Interviews will regularly follow Player Profiles. If there's a player you want to learn more about, let us know and we may do a piece on them!


    This weekend, our writer TytoVortex was able to speak with ThankSwalot shortly after posting his Player Profile on Friday. The two spoke about Worlds, the competitive differences between regions, the main series Pokémon games, and more.


    Get all that below the break!



    TytoVortex: Hey there, ThankSwalot! Welcome to Pokkén Arena's first Player Interview! It's lovely to have you! How are you doing today?


    ThankSwalot: I'm doing great. 


    TytoVortex: That's awesome to hear! First and foremost, I want to congratulate you on winning Worlds! How does it feel to win one of the most prestigious tournaments in the country?


    ThankSwalot: It’s like a dream come true to be honest. This year is my last year as a non-adult, so I was so determined to finally do it. It was the same for Internationals. I wanted to win both because it’s my last year as a kid, and to prove once and for all that I’m not just some meme. The way I won both tournaments too seemed like a fitting way to end that dream of mine.


    TytoVortex: It's certainly well earned! The skill you display with Sceptile is definitely worthy of your new title! Speaking of which, we have a question from Acetalos, who asks, "How can someone be this good with Sceptile? And why did you pick him as your main?".


    I'm sure we'd all like to know as well!


    ThankSwalot: I picked him up for the simple fact that he is my first Pokémon and my favorite. I have a fond memory when I was young of going through Emerald’s Elite Four and almost winning by literally using only Leaf Blade. A friend of mine who goes by NintenZero showed me the leaked screenshot of Sceptile on the Pokkén arcade and I was so hyped. I knew I would use him.


    As for how to play him, I choose my mains based on movement options, mix-ups, and other tricky stuff. Sceptile has all that, with his dash cancels, traps, and hanging. I try to make the most of it to trick people up. That said, you need to adapt to the best of your ability. That goes for most characters in general, but it’s especially the case for Sceptile because of what his moveset is. Sometimes those adaptations will bring out crazy stuff that works out in the end, such as raw Leaf Storming or Giga Draining four times in a row. That’s how I play him at least, but I do think that’s how you can make the best of his tools.


    TytoVortex: Oh, most definitely! Sceptile is such a cool Pokémon, and his utility in Pokkén Tournament makes him an excellent choice for those who enjoy traps and complex set-ups! I can speak from personal experience that he's certainly difficult to master.


    Following Worlds, you've had the privilege to size up against some of Europe and Japan's most skilled Pokkén players. I think any avid follower of the game would feel pretty intimidated! With that being said, we've got another community question! Nightshade asks, "Where do you feel NA ranks region wise versus Japan and Europe?"


    ThankSwalot: I think that NA is better than EU, but that’s mostly because, at least to me, it doesn’t feel like there are as many EU players when compared to NA. I obviously don’t live there, so I don’t know for sure, but it sure seems like that is the case. They got super strong players like Goreson, LCF, and Gintrax, but I think the amount of top players in NA surpasses that of EU.


    Meanwhile, I do think Japan is slightly stronger than NA still. We’re definitely catching up to them, but Worlds speaks for itself. All six Japanese players made Top 8 while there was only one representative for NA and EU, being me and Wingtide. Though by next Worlds, I expect us to be about even.


    TytoVortex: Absolutely, the quantity of competitive players in EU is still relatively low, regardless of those few being very skilled! Hopefully, following the conclusion of Worlds, more people worldwide will consider picking up the game!


    As far as picking up new titles goes, this brings us to our next community inquiry. Corgi asks, "What got you into Pokémon in the first place and do you still play the core Pokemon titles?"


    ThankSwalot: I got into Pokémon when I was around 5 or 6. It all started with Emerald. I was young so of course I thought the different Pokémon were cool. The two other big Pokémon games I played back then were FireRed/LeafGreen and Diamond, where my starters of choice were Blastoise and Empoleon. I remember getting the Generation 1 remakes during Christmas at my grandma and grandpa’s house. Those types of memories really made me enjoy the series a lot.


    Some other memories from back then include having a level 93 Blastoise and around level 60 Vileplume in FireRed while my friend had a level 91 Venusaur and using an Action Replay in Diamond. The Action Replay was funny, since I did silly things such as teaching a Kricketune Flamethrower and Hippowdon Fly. I also fought Arceus, which literally took me years to catch, since I didn’t use infinite Rare Candies to make my Empoleon and Staraptor, my go-to team members, strong enough to keep up with a level 80 mythical Pokémon with Recover. I also didn’t want to use a Master Ball.


    Anyway, I still play the games to this day, though now that I keep up with the news, and how hard it is to avoid said news, it hasn’t been as exciting to be surprised by what I could encounter in them. GameFreak kind of shows almost everything the game has in the trailers, including stuff after beating the game. I would have been much happier if I played through Sun without already knowing that Red and Blue were going to be returning in the Battle Tree. The games are still fun, don’t get me wrong, but ever since I kept up with the news from X and Y onward, it hasn’t been as fun as Generations 3 through 5 when I was a little kid.


    TytoVortex: I understand that, plus leaks becoming so public that it can get tedious trying to avoid them. It's lovely to hear about the passion you pour into Pokémon! It really shows where your Pokkén Tournament drive comes from as well!


    Another community member, xzx, asks, "Do you play any other fighting games?"


    ThankSwalot: Not competitively, but I’m pretty good at Smash Bros. I main Samus, and my friends always hate it when I use her. *laughs*


    ESAM didn’t exactly inspire me to play her, I picked her up by chance, but I think it’d be super fun to play him someday in the ditto. I also can’t wait to try out Dark Samus in Ultimate.


    Oh, one other fighting game I need to mention. No one can beat me when it comes to Photo Dojo! I played that game with friends a lot when I was young with my DSi, and so much stuff we did in it was just silly.


    TytoVortex: Oh wow! It seems a lot of Pokkén folks come from a Smash background. Both very good games, and both really fun to watch!


    We've got a couple of questions here, all from Burnside! They're good ones! He asks:

    • What motivates you to play Pokkén Tournament? 
    • How does it feel to have your family behind you at events? Has it always felt that way? 
    • What do you see in Empoleon that others don’t?


    ThankSwalot: I want to use the characters I like. I played VGC before, but it was incredibly difficult to choose my favorites. Pokkén lets me do that by maining my favorite Pokémon like Sceptile and Empoleon. I want to prove I’m the best in the world with those characters. Also, I want to prove that Empoleon is good and can keep up with the top picks. For example, I think he goes even against Lucario, but Mr. Toasty the Fraud thinks Lucario wins the matchup, so that only motivates me more and more.


    Oh, I’ve always been super thankful that they supported me. When I first started playing, I didn’t do too well, but they continued to keep up the support. I think they first started thinking I could really take off as a top player when I got 5th at Nationals in 2016. I remember them and a lot of my friends in the corner of the room we got cheering me on and hugging me when I got there. They are also a motivation for me when I play. I still get a bit embarrassed when others are around, but that’s lessened once the other players like Oreo, ALLISTER, Rokso, and Whitey started talking to them. They’re great and I love them, plain and simple.

    Empoleon is a literal truck that has been listening to too much Initial D music. Aqua Jet mix-ups give me life, and I don’t really see other people do them. If I get a level 3 Aqua Jet, sometimes I’ll grab, sometimes I’ll Drill Peck, sometimes I’ll even do nothing and wait to see how they react. You don’t need to commit to the HM moves, and that’s what makes your opponent keep guessing. I play against people like that and it works. Also, people say certain things are bad, so I use them and they work out. For example, Empoleon’s grab sucks to the point that it’s good. People are afraid of Empoleon’s other attacks so they shield. I use that to my advantage a lot. I can’t tell you how many times that I land a Field Phase grab, and then land the Duel Phase grab right after.


    And the biggest thing: movement. I’ve talked about movement before, because I play Sceptile. Empoleon’s slides are amazing, especially with the new buffs. They fit my style of keeping my opponent guessing, and can help me escape my opponent by sliding back or jumping over them. Not to mention, most of his strongest tools come from sliding. Hydro Cannon and the little water bubbles are so useful. The bubbles in particular can make match-ups against characters like Machamp and Garchomp so much easier. Backwards Hydro Cannon is also another underrated tool, since it’s basically a full screen move that can catch people off guard.


    One other movement option I haven’t seen others doing is using Aqua Jet when you finish a combo in Duel Phase so you can get right up into the opponent’s face. There’s a lot more things I can say that make this character a lot better than others say he is. Power and movement are what he does best. I didn’t even mention how well he pairs with his boyfriend Rotom, nor my patented double debuff combo that comes with it. Also, fun fact, the Rotom nerf where he disappears during grab Burst Attacks only effects Mewtwo and Gengar, not Empoleon. So uh, do with that what you will. *laughs*


    TytoVortex: Wow, all of that information is amazing, so much detail put into the answers too! Having a support network to fall back on when it comes to a passion of yours is such a phenomenal privilege to have! Good on your family for joining you on this wonderful Pokkén journey!


    And hey, that bit about Rotom? I had no idea! Even more things the community can explore together.


    Alright, a few more questions! I have one from sir RoksoTheSavage, and he asks, "What was the match you played that was the turning point in your Pokkén career?"


    ThankSwalot: Probably my set against TeeJay at CEO 2017. When I started out, I always looked up to TeeJay, and he was such a nice person too. Winning against him pretty much showed that I can be more than just a rookie. That match confirmed to myself that I can keep up with the top players, and that I can be the best Sceptile in NA, if not, maybe even the world. I’m sad I haven’t seen or heard about him since. I would absolutely love to play against him again.


    As a bonus, it also started my raw Leaf Storm special that I’m known for. I landed two during that set, and they’re my favorites.


    TytoVortex: I'm sure that's a dream come true for a lot of players, defeating their role model in bracket! TeeJay was certainly an amazing Sceptile, and I bet he'd be proud of how well you're representing the character!


    Another community question here! Mr.MTheGamer asks: "What are you gonna do with all the cash money that you got from Worlds and Internationals?"


    ThankSwalot: I’ve had a lot of long answers, so here’s a smaller one. The answer is simple and not unique: college. I want to make video games when I grow up.


    TytoVortex: Aww, that's an excellent idea! Every gamer's dream come true!


    Alright TS, one more question! And I have a feeling you'll like this one! Hero asks, "Remember that time that me and you invaded the Pokkén Discord and pretended to be Team Rocket?"


    ThankSwalot: Yes, it was beautiful. Everyone got so sick of it and I love it. Guess you can say we caused a bit of trouble. I wonder what our next plot should be! *laughs*


    TytoVortex: Oh, I'm sure there will be many shenanigans yet!


    Alright, that'll wrap up all of our questions for the evening! Thank you so much for your time, ThankSwalot! I enjoyed interviewing you, as well as featuring you in our first Player Profile! I hope you have a lovely evening, enjoy your night, and many more Pokkén success stories to come, I presume!


    ThankSwalot: Thank you for the interview! It was fun!

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