Pokemon Unite made its highly-anticipated debut at the Pokemon World Championships this past weekend. The world’s 13 best teams met in London to compete over a $500k prize pool, with the North American team BLVKHVND (pronounced Blackhand) going undefeated to becomethe first Pokemon Unite World Champions.
BLVKHVND’s performance throughout the weekend was incredible to watch as they ruthlessly dismantled each opposing team with surgical precision. The five players, Junglebook, Slash, Kyriaos, Elo, and Overlord, each demonstrated an unparalleled level of skill and teamwork. From sweeping the winner’s bracket to completely shutting out Nouns Esports in the Grand Finals with a 3-0 victory, it’s impossible to overstate just how dominant BLVKHVND was throughout the tournament. I sat down with the team after their historic victory to ask them what they think set them apart.
“I think we were a lot more flexible than our competition,” says Slash. “We had a lot of different comps prepared and we prepared a lot for the teams that we faced. I didn’t really see that from any other teams.”
BLVKHVND was far and away the most flexible team in the tournament. Though Slash and Elo mained Unite’s two current strongest Supporters, Blissey and Hoopa, the other three were constantly shifting roles in order to make adjustments and counter-pick against their opponents. Kyriaos, Junglebook, and Overlord collectively played ten different Pokemon – far more than any other team in the tournament. They’re ability to flex and respond to their opponents is what gave BLVKHVND such a huge edge over the competition, who often fell into predictable patterns and a strict adherence to the meta.
“I think the other teams identified certain Pokemon as very strong, but they kind of just stuck with those Pokemon as the answer to everything and didn’t really try to look at the other teams,” Kyriaos explains. “I think the most important part about the competition is not just focusing on yourself and seeing what's the best Pokemon and what your own team plays the most, but also [considering] what do we struggle against? How do we have weaknesses? What kind of other Pokemon from the enemy team reinforce those weaknesses in us.” Kyriaos thinks that other teams picked one or two strong compositions to bring while BLVKHVND was prepared to respond to so many more situations. “We studied, analyzed, and saw that if they mess up with this comp then they’re just going to go with this other one, guaranteed, the second game, and we can get a 2-0 victory just like that.”
The team was so confident with their analysis that they even picked individual Pokemon to counter specific teams. Junglebook, who is known for playing Cinderace, instead played other Pokemon like Greedent and Dragonite throughout most of the tournament. It wasn’t until the Grand Finals that he finally broke out Cinderace, which he says was for a very good reason.
“Honestly, we were pretty prepared for Nouns from Europe who we played in the Grand Finals,” Junglebook says. “We found that Cinderace was an incredibly effective pick specifically into what they played. But I do think it was pretty great that I got to get my signature character in the Grand Finals and dominate with it.”
BLVKHVND set an incredibly high bar for competitive Pokemon Unite that the rest of the teams will need to rise to if they want a shot at the trophy next year. Clearly, it’s not enough to simply pilot the strongest Pokemon expertly. BLVKHVND proved that you need to study the competition and prepare counter compositions if you want to be the best in the world.
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