What Counts As Success in Pokemon?

Note: In this post I will only be referring to the Masters age division. The accomplishments of younger age divisions matter, but there is no easy way to directly compare results from one division to another.

What counts as success in Pokemon? Does winning a City Championship count as "succeeding," or does one have to qualify for the World Championships to feel success? What if one qualifies for the World Championships but then can't win a single game once they arrive?

The thing is, everyone has to set that measure for themselves. If someone wins Worlds one year, then by definition they won't be as successful the next year, because almost no one has won Worlds more than once. At many events, some people just want to win some games, while others could feel disappointed if they fall short of winning the entire tournament.

Who Reaches Top Eight The Most?

Jason Klaczynski has won Worlds three times, but up until this year, he supposedly had a lot of trouble doing well at Nationals. Would you describe someone who has never succeeded at Nationals an unsuccessful player? Before U.S. Nationals 2015, I would not have described Jason as an unsuccessful player, and now that he has won both Nationals and Worlds in the Masters Division, that would most definitely not be a true statement.

So in that scenario, people said that Jason had never done "well" at Nationals because he had only ever made it to the Top Eight once. Nine players have made Top Eight at U.S. Nationals twice. These players are:

Jason Klaczynski
Seena Ghasiaskar
Steven Silvestro
Chris Fulop
Jay Hornung
Gino Lombardi
Karl Kitchin
Jayson Harry
Dylan Bryan

Does this mean that there are only nine players who do consistently well at Nationals? The reality is that it is ridiculously hard to do well at Nationals, let alone on a consistent basis. If it were easy to do that well, then the achievement wouldn't be as respected.

On a side note, only two players have made Top Eight at U.S. Nationals more than twice. Those players are:

Kyle Sucevich
Tom Dolezal

and they've each reached the Top Eight five times.

This is something to keep in mind when you create a Nationals Draft. No one has made Top Eight more than twice at U.S. Nationals except for Tom and Kyle. Past success can indicate future success but it can't guarantee it.

Does that make Kyle and Tom the best players in the game? Before Nationals had a Play! Points requirement, Tom in particular was notorious for not playing any tournaments all year and then performing well at Nationals. Now he has to earn those Play! Points, and I don't believe that he's made Top Eight since Nationals changed to a Day Two Swiss system. Kyle is unable to continue succeeding at tournaments since he legally can't take part.

Tom and Kyle also have a large advantage in terms of their sheer number of Top Eights for the simple reason that they've been playing the game since the beginning of organized play, and have had more opportunities to succeed at Nationals than people who just picked up the game as recently as 2010. In addition to that, Nationals used to be a lot smaller, and in the beginning there was only a top cut of sixteen or thirty two. This means that Jason Klaczynski's performance in 2015 was significantly more impressive than his 6th place finish in 2004.

The U.S. National Championship is a legitimately challenging tournament, but it is limited to only players from the United States. So to know who the best players in the world are, by definition we have to look to the World Championships. A whopping ten players have made Top Eight at Worlds twice. Those players are:

Jeremy Maron (US)
Ross Cawthon (US)
Tom Dolezal (US)
Takuya Yoneda (JP)
Go Miyamoto (JP)
Diego Cassiraga (AR)
Frank Diaz (US)
Jay Hornung (US)
Michael Pramawat (US)
Simon Narode (US)

 Four players have made Top Eight at Worlds three times, and they are:

Igor Costa (PT)
Tsuguyoshi Yamato (JP)
Jason Klaczynski (US)
Yuta Komatsuda (JP)

One player has made Top Eight at Worlds five times, and that player is:

Sami Sekkoum (UK)

Worlds are a whole different ball game than Nationals for the simple reason that a player has to qualify for the event. A player can do nothing (except collect ten Play! Points) all season and participate in Nationals. If someone has a bad season and doesn't qualify for Worlds, they would have to qualify via the Last Chance Qualifier (before 2015), and they are statistically less likely to succeed at Worlds.

The fact that Sami Sekkoum has qualified for Worlds every year since the beginning means he has had more chances to get to Top Eight (his accomplishment is still incredibly impressive). Igor Costa has only been in the Masters Division since 2012, and he has qualified for Worlds every year since then. In the four Worlds where he has been eligible to compete (in the Masters Division), he has a 75% success rate of reaching the Top Eight.

Which Players Have the Best Overall Seasons?

One thing I want to look at is what makes a successful season. What if someone has a great season, wins two Regionals, and wins Nationals, but can't win more than three games at the World Championships? Do you count that as a successful season? The reality is that it is especially challenging to do well at Worlds, even if you're an amazing player. There's a reason that out of the hundreds of people who have qualified for Worlds, only fifteen have made the Top Eight more than once. Worlds is just a tough tournament in general, so people who have a good season who make it into the Top 32 of Worlds, in my opinion, are skillful and consistent.

Now I'm choosing to define "have a really good season" by using the Top 16 in the U.S. and Canada, going along with the Day Two system. Since U.S. and Canada used to be referred to as "North America" and also included Mexico, I'm skipping over the Mexicans in the rankings and counting down. So if there were two Mexicans in the Top 16, I'll skip them and include #17 and #18. I'm also choosing to define "doing well at Worlds" as making it into the Top 32. This seems like a good number in that it isn't unreasonable to reach, but it is also somewhat prestigious.

2012 was the first year we had a Championship Point system, but instead of having a cutoff (ie. this year everyone with 300 points or more qualified for Worlds), the system was still set up to allow the top forty players from North America into Worlds. This meant that players had to chase points until the end, and that they couldn't be complacent and sit on their points because someone might overtake them. Of the Top 16 from the U.S. and Canada, five players made Top 32 at Worlds that year:

Jay Hornung
Harrison Leven
Guillaume Levesque-Sauve
Austin Baggs
Jason Klaczynski.

In 2013 and 2014, there was a CP cutoff, which meant that any player with over 400 or 500 points would qualify for Worlds. This meant that once a player reached the threshold, there was no real reason to continue playing. Therefore, it's very possible that the Top 16 in the U.S. and Canada was not a good indicator of who the best players were. In 2013, only two of those top players, Chase Moloney and Dylan Bryan, made Top 32 or better at Worlds. In 2014, only one of those players made it (Andrew Estrada), but he ended up winning the whole tournament.

2015, because more players were chasing a Day Two invite, ended up a lot more like 2012 in that four players that had Day Two invites made it to Top 32:

Jason Klaczynski
Sam Chen
Brit Pybas
Kian Amini

All four of those players made it into the Top 32, and Grant Manley bubbled at 33rd.

It is possible that these results are how they are because of how motivated players were to get Championship Points. It's also possible that these numbers were due to the size of the World Championships each year. From 2012 to 2013 to 2014, attendance grew and grew, which would correlate with our diminishing number of players from the Top 16 in CP that make Top 32 at Worlds. With this theory, the only reason that we had more succeeding top players in 2015 is because of the Day Two system: since the Top 16 players went right to Day Two, attendance effectively went down to below 150, vastly increasing the odds of making Top 32.

The G.O.A.T.

I want to be the very best.
I asked a few questions to a small sample size, asking about how they defined success and who they thought were successful players. I sent messages to Owen Robinson from Ohio, Romal Peccia from Ontario, and Jesper E. from Denmark. Here are their responses:

How do you define success in Pokemon?

Owen: Success in Pokemon is different for each person, the casual wants to have fun; the competitor is chasing the CP; and the collector wants to complete the sets.

Romal: I guess either consistently doing well or being ahead of the metagame, sometimes the two are related! Personally though, I just want to have fun, results are a byproduct of that.

Jesper: By doing good in tournaments just like me or any other successful player. Success is a personal thing. For me, success is when I win a tournament but success for others is (winning) just a few games. But I would define success as meeting people and winning.

Could you give me some examples of players you think are successful?

Owen: Pooka made the jump from competitor to commentator/career, three-time world champion Jason Klaczynski, Ross (Cawthon) for making Worlds every single year, Josh Wittenkeller hitting one million YouTube subscribers. The list goes on an on.

Romal: Andrew Mahone, I really look up to him. He's consistent, always ahead of the meta, and on top of that just a really good person to talk to. (He's) always well-spoken on Virbank. When he came up with Lando-Bats I messaged him asking a few questions and ever since then we chat about the game. I half-expected him to just ignore me!

Jesper: Obviously Jason Klaczynski. He is the icon of the game, but when it comes to have a better coin than me [sic], he isn't too successful. My brother: Simon Eriksen, he recently won Danish Nationals, and he is why I could be successful in this game for sure.

Who is the best Pokemon player of all time?

Owen: Ray Rizzo, Ross (Cawthon), or Igor (Costa).

Romal: Hmm, I can't say I have much experience in that since I've only been in the scene for less than a year, but Jason K. is an obvious answer.

Jesper: If I could have won Worlds, I would say myself, but Jason Klaczynski. He has won Nationals, many Regionals, and three World Championships, I can't imagine anybody more successful.


I had a lot of fun looking at and organizing this data. All of the information regarding Championship Points and Play! Points can be found here, at the leaderboards at Pokemon.com. The Championship Point information only goes back to 2012, because that's how long that CPs have existed for. I got all my Nationals and Worlds results from this incredibly helpful document. There you can see who has won every State Championship, been a finalist at a Regionals, or made Top Eight at U.S. Nationals or Worlds.

Keep looking at data and make predictions. I predict that four Day Two qualifiers from the U.S. and Canada will make Top 32 at Worlds this year. I predict that no one in the Top Eight of U.S. Nationals this year will have made it to that point more than once before. I predict that some of my predictions might be wrong, and that I can't wait to figure out why!

Thanks for reading!


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