Interview with Aaron Zheng

What got you started in Pokémon?

I first got into Pokémon by watching the anime on TV as a kid. After a bunch of my other friends bought their first Pokémon game back in 3rd grade, I got a copy of Pokemon Emerald. That was my first Pokémon game, and I fell in love instantly.

How long have you been playing in the VGC?

I’ve been playing VGC since 2008, which was its first official year.
— Aaron Zheng

I've been playing VGC since 2008, which was its first official year. Despite the fact that I'm one of the younger competitors in the Masters division (I was the youngest American at the World Championships last summer in Masters), I've been playing VGC longer than most other players have been.

What brought you to the VGC?

I've always been into the Pokémon video game, but there wasn't a competitive outlet for it until 2008. I used to be a pretty avid TCG player, and in the 2008 season, managed to qualify for Worlds in the Juniors Division. After coming off a top 16 finish at Nationals in the TCG, Pokémon announced the "Pokémon Video Game Showdown," where they would send 16 Americans to face off against 16 Japanese players in Orlando. Since there was a qualifier right in NYC, I decided to try my luck, and managed to win an invite/trip to Orlando. I chose to compete in the video game over the card game, and since then, I've become a pretty intense VGC player.

In one word, how would you describe your style?


How would you get people or encourage people to start making a competitive team?

First of all, get a feel of what competitive battling is like by watching YouTube videos and battles. The jump from casual to competitive is pretty huge and it's a completely different experience to the game. Once you have some understanding of what competitive battling is like (basics like EVs, IVs, natures, team synergy, etc.), figure out what tier you're interested in playing (VGC, OU, etc.). Building a competitive tier is completely dependent on what format you are playing.

I think the best way for people to start off is for them to take use some "standard" or typical stuff. It's more important for people to get a feel of what competitive battling is like first. I don't advocate copying teams or using standard sets to win, but I think it's a good way to understand competitive battling.

For the actual competitive team building, I like to start with a Pokémon I want to build around and work my way around that Pokémon. One of my YouTube videos walks through this process. It's like a domino effect: you choose one Pokémon and base your next Pokémon off the previous one's weaknesses.


What's your favorite part of battling? 

When you predict your opponent's moves perfectly.

What's your least favorite part?

When you're one step above your opponent the entire game and all of that goes away because of luck like a flinch or a critical hit.

Do you prefer double battles? What about singles or triples?

I absolutely prefer double battles. I used to play a lot of singles and I tried triples but neither are as fun as doubles are for me. It's such a dynamic format and there is so much prediction involved. However, I like to play the other formats once in a while and I still enjoy them a lot as well. I just prefer double battles after playing it for the last six years.

How does your YouTube channel differ from all the other Pokémon ones?

I try to offer pure, honest, competitive commentary.
— Aaron Zheng

I don't think it really differs that much from all the others, but I try to offer pure, honest, competitive commentary. I think I have a lot of experience which carries through when I provide content for the community. I also spend a lot of time writing individual Pokémon analyses and general how-tos. I'm hoping that my videos can expand to an even broader audience to get even more people to play VGC, which is a format that very few YouTubers cover.

What has been your most difficult experience in the VGC?

Probably falling short in the 2011 World Championships. After an undefeated run to win Regionals and winning my first national title, I had high expectations and thought that the world championship would be mine. Fate wasn't on my side though, as I played my best friend in the first round, misclicked in round two when I had the win on my side, and missed 3 Rock Slides in a row in the third round. It hurt even more because the player who ended up winning in the Seniors Division used pretty much my exact team, while I finished 17th. It was humbling experience though, and that performance taught me a thing or two about losing.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

3rd at the 2013 Pokémon World Championships, especially since last year was my first year in the Masters Division. 1st at 2012 US Nationals in the Seniors Division comes as a close 2nd though.

What is your favorite Pokémon and why?

It used to be Scizor back in 5th Gen. because I used him on all my teams, but I'd probably say Rotom-W now. I have a love-hate relationship with Rotom-W, because it carried me all the way throughout the 2013 World Championships, but missed 5/6 Will-o-Wisps in one of the most important sets of my life (semi-finals at Worlds). It's still a really cute Pokémon though!

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