Regional champ Justin Tang admits a ‘really, really bad’ Pokémon was the call for NAIC

Wo-Chien was arguably the weakest Treasure of Ruin in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet VGC, but it had a surprisingly strong presence at the North America International Championships (NAIC) this past weekend. We spoke to regional champ Justin Tang about why he brought Wo-Chien, his teambuilding process, and his first full VGC season.

Throughout the Pokémon NAIC weekend, we saw plenty of niche ‘mons like Ditto and Electabuzz go toe to toe with top meta threats like Incineroar, Urshifu, and Calyrex. One of the biggest surprises of the event was watching Wo-Chien thrive, making it all the way to the top eight thanks to an incredible run by Shiliang Tang. 

Shiliang Tang's Wo-Chien team at Pokémon NAIC.
Wo-Chien was featured in Shiliang Tang’s stream matches at NAIC. Screenshot via The Official Pokémon YouTube channel

Shiliang Tang wasn’t the only one running the Dark/Grass snail, though. The unique Wo-Chien team was also piloted by Justin Tang, last season’s breakout star who walked away from his first few VGC events with two regional titles in Knoxville and Fort Wayne. Back in 2023 when Wo-Chien and the other three Treasures of Ruin first became legal, the snail saw little usage and couldn’t keep up with its friends Chien-Pao, Chi-Yu, and Ting-Lu.

If anything, Wo-Chien had been more of a meme, and many players—including Justin—believed it just wasn’t good. In an interview with Dot, he described Wo-Chien as “something [he] never would have brought last season because [he] thought that ‘mon was really, really bad.”

What opened Justin’s eyes to Wo-Chien’s potential was team building with fellow regional champ Shiliang Tang. “This team is one hundred percent Shiliang’s. He got rank 20 on Battlespot with it recently… and had this [idea] since week one of Regulation G,” Justin said to Dot. After a few tweaks with help from Andrew Ding, the three came up with a strong Kyogre core, which they continued to develop with a few others going into NAIC. Eventually, they arrived at the team featured on stream during Shiliang’s matches.

“I think it was a good call for this tournament for the most part. Wo-Chien was a really good pick for Kyogre,” Justin explained. “It’s faster than Kyogre, so if you go for self Pollen Puffs, you can get [stronger] Water Spouts again. Or go for combos like Ruination and Water Spout while still supporting Kyogre’s relatively weaker Defense stat. So the core of Wo-Chien plus screens plus Will-O-Wisp Incin makes the team so, so fat. And the whole idea is to make Kyogre live as long as possible.” 

Justin Tang at Fort Wayne Regionals.
Justin Tang previously won with an off-meta pick like Dragapult last season. Image via The Pokémon Company

Realistically speaking, Justin admitted the Wo-Chien team is prone to RNG, and it’s still not a ‘mon that can be added to any team, but it did work out well with Kyogre. And creating this strong, unique team with off-meta picks just goes to show what players can cook up when collaborating together. “Working with Shiliang this season has kind of changed my perspective of the game overall,” the regional champ said. It seems the power of friendship paid off here.

Indeed, one of the lessons Justin learned in his first VGC season is that it helps to teambuild in groups, although it isn’t impossible to win on your own, as seen in his first two regional wins. And even after you have your team, the star VGC player emphasized the importance of practice and putting in the effort to figure out the format—something that can’t be simply taught by a coach or handed to you by a teambuilder. In that way, you might just find yourself doing well at major events like the Tang Gang, whether you’re a new or old face in the competitive scene.

Justin might not have won NAIC with Wo-Chien, but he did make a strong run to day two and even helped coach Kevin Han who won in the junior division—and that’s pretty awesome. Worlds in August will be their next opportunity to win another title, and we can’t wait to see how far they can go.

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