Pokemon Unite pro Liz_is_Live on esports scene: "I'm hopeful about what's coming next"


Pokemon Unite is blowing up and the new Pokemon-themed MOBA is starting to form an esports scene.


Teams are starting to pop up, including Evolution Dark. This is Evolution Gamings' starting roster for Pokemon Unite. And they will be competing in Pokemon Unite tournaments. Yes, there are Pokemon Unite tournaments as well! 


The Pokemon Unite esports scene is brand new but Evolution Dark support Elizabeth Barbera has a feeling this is a game that will blow up. But for now, the 26-year-old Rhode Island resident is just excited to be part of the beginning of something potentially huge. 


Inven Global chatted with Barbera about her experience climbing up the Pokemon Unite rankings and playing for a professional team. 


Phase 1: Reaching Masters in Pokemon Unite



What got you into Pokemon Unite?


Well, I've always been a lifetime Pokémon fan. I basically buy any new game they put out even if it's a spinoff, so that's part of it. But I've been playing League of Legends since early 2013, ranking between high gold and mid platinum since 2015, so a Poké-MOBA was right up my alley.


What do you like about the game?


Honestly, it's hard to pinpoint a specific thing. Since it's a Pokémon game, I like it by default but I think it's really well made. The fact that all the minions are actually neutral objectives encourages early game trading — I'll always be a fan of aggression.


It also feels like every character has the potential to be good. Even if they're the lowest tier, you can climb with them if you put in the hours, so I don't feel like I need to pick and choose who to unlock.


You previously played League. What elements do you feel pokemon improved upon and which do you feel it should take note of?


I'll be honest, Unite kinda just feels like League but more simplified. I have friends that have never played MOBAS hop into League and there's just too much info to start. The shop, the roster, the summoner spells, how jungle works, etc. Not to mention the League tutorial doesn't really explain more than the basics.


But Unite? Friends with no MOBA background hop in, do the tutorials, and pretty much understand everything. And it's primarily because Unite is so new that the amount of content to learn is drastically lower than leagues. If League could make a tutorial for how to jungle, how to path properly, and an explanation of what buffs do what, I think it'd help a lot.


Which Pokemon were you immediately drawn to?


Eldegoss and Alolan Ninetales, or A9. I used to main Anivia in League, like "1 million mastery points and 1000 games on her" main so A9 was an easy character. The stuns and bonus damage against frosted characters is just Anivia but better.


Eldegoss though is just 'cause I'm a support player and she's the free support you get to pick at the start of the game.



What do you like most about your main?


Eldegoss is just insane. There are two different builds for her, one for peeling and healing, the other for engaging and stunning. The fact that you can decide in the middle of a match which you want is crazy. Both are good in my opinion but the community will scream at me if I say which I prefer.


How did you improve at your main? What are some high-level techniques you've discovered? What is the best build?



Oh, I guess I'm getting screamed at. So what I do on Eldegoss is Leaf Tornado and Cotton Spore. The community seems to be on the Pollen Puff and Cotton Guard train, which is fair, it's good. Cotton Guard is super powerful when it comes to extended team fighting and offers good AOE sustain for your team.


Meanwhile, Pollen Puff is better than Leaf Tornado but requires a team to be coordinated for it to be good. The heal on it is super delayed and team fights are super burst focused so I get more use out of leaf tornado in solo queue. Cotton Spore also having a stun is nice for peel or following up on engages. I'd recommend Leaf Tornado and Cotton Spore for solo climbing, Pollen Puff and Cotton Guard if you're queueing with friends or a team.


For items, I run Focus Band, Buddy Barrier, and EXP Share. The community is mixed on EXP Share but if you're in voice comms with your lane partner I think it's insane. Otherwise, I run Score Shield 'cause it's funny to get surprise points.


As for improving, I found that just playing games and watching better players is the best thing. My Eldegoss wasn't great until I started watching streamers play and seeing the game from their perspective helped me a lot. There are not really any insane techniques for her though, she's pretty clear-cut. Just know if you go the Pollen Puff build, your job is to heal your carry the entire game and don't mess up.


What Pokemon do you hope will come to Pokemon Unite?


I would love love love to see Ariados. Shuckle is my favorite but we already have Crustle so I gave up on that. But having a spider use a web for an AOE slow or stun, followed by poison DoT, and maybe using a web to dash to walls similar to Camille in League? I just want more bug Pokemon honestly.



Phase 2: Joining a pro Pokemon Unite team


How did you end up signing to your team? Was there a tryout?


So I was jumping between a few streamers one day while I was at work and I happened to catch Froskurinn on stream. She mentioned someone was hosting tryouts for a team and I asked how I could sign up. Her chat pointed me in the right direction. You had to be Master rank or above, which was fine because I was already top 1000 in the world.


There was a tryout. I think 18 people showed up? I don't want to go into how we did tryouts 'cause the owner asked us to stay hush-hush about it, but I think they were fair even if it was a little rushed. 

How does Evolution Dark currently practice together? How has the team dynamic been?
We currently just climb ranked as a five-stack. We play four days a week, two hours each at minimum. Occasionally we will just sync up outside of those times and just talk or play but we aim for eight hours a week minimum, which works out since most of us have full-time jobs. We do try and schedule scrims against other teams but there's a gap in skill between the teams looking to scrim and us, so those are a bit rough.
Dynamic is good. We are very much open to criticism and work really well together. We need to clean up our decision-making but we've only had about six in-game hours together so far, so that'll come.
What do you feel your strength as a team currently is?
I think our communication and macro is our biggest strength. We have a very good understanding of the meta and when to rotate and we're very good at communicating during teamfights. I think we could work on being in sync and everyone's individual micro, but hey, we will get there!
What is currently your team's goal? What are your team's plans in the near future?
So currently we just want to get better. Our team is new and we aren't even close to being the best in the world. We faced one of the best during a practice this week and it was not even a close match. But, we know where we can improve and we are continually lifting each other, so maybe someday we can take a game off of them.
For the near future, we are looking at entering tournaments. Float Stone and Victory Road are two communities that host tournaments, so we want to get involved in one and see where we stand.

Phase 3: The future of Pokemon Unite's esports scene

Do you see Pokemon Unite's esports scene growing?
100%. I don't think it will ever hit LoL or CSGO levels but I can see it being similar to Rocket League where the scene is competitive and has funding but is niche. I guess it also depends on how involved Pokémon is with it, which we have zero indication of.
Do you feel the game is pay-to-play? Do you think that will affect the game's ability to be truly competitive for esports?
So let me start by saying I was able to climb to top 1000 in the world without spending a penny on the game. If you don't want to pay money, you can climb. BUT it is easier if you do spend money. I had a 55% winrate when I hit Masters. Then, I spent $20 and got up to 60%. In the same way though, just because you spend money doesn't mean you'll win. It's like any real-life sport: If you buy the best equipment and practice for two days, you will still lose to a better player using cardboard equipment. It is also worth mentioning, you can unlock everything in this game for free if you put in the hours.
Now, in Masters and high elo, the upgraded items become more important. Masters games are decided by the thinnest of margins and sometimes that margin is in items. So I feel like in the professional scene, the teams with bigger wallets are going to see more success. I don't think it'll hurt the pro scene if I'm being honest. I think even with maxed-out items and budget, if a team has a better read on the meta, has better micro, and has cleaner voice comms, that team will win. 
Nintendo hasn't really been supportive of competitive gaming in the past. Do you think that may get in the way of the scene growing bigger?
So yes and no. We aren't sure how much of a hand Nintendo has in this game. The Pokémon Company International has never really stopped community-run events and even hosts entire regionals and international championships for their properties (the card game, video game, and pokken the fighting game). So I think TPCI won't interfere unless they see the organizers making bank off of events, in which case they'll step and just run it themselves.
How do you feel about being involved in the early stages of pokemon unite's competitive scene?
More excited than anything. I've always been competitive and the fact that I picked up this game so easily just makes me happy and hopeful about what's coming next. I just hope once the initial hype dies down there's still a large enough scene.
What is your advice for other people looking to be competitive in Pokemon Unite?
Watch streamers, ask questions. The game is new and big enough right now that almost every hour of everyday, someone is streaming. I know me and two of my teammates stream and always answer chats questions and explain our movements — and I know most other streamers for this game do to. Just, ask every question you have and watch what they do. 
You won't get better playing solo queue and nothing else. You need to read guides, watch streams, find YouTube videos, anything.
Are you still going to play the Pokemon TCG?
Depends on how pokemon handles unite honestly. If Unite is going to be at regionals and internationals, I'll drop TCG competitive entirely to focus on unite. But if Unite doesn't get that support I'll probably stay on the TCG grind. We have to see how the next year goes before I make a decision.

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