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At the 2022 Pokémon UNITE North America Championship in June, the Gaimin Gladiators were eliminated in fifth place. Before then, they had been the frontrunners to win the Pokémon UNITE World Championships and become the best team in the world.

Meanwhile, BLVKHVND came out on top of the North American regional finals without even having to face the Gaimin Gladiators. Though they had placed in the top four at all of the monthly finals up to that point, the North America Championships marked their first tournament victory of the circuit.

“We kept talking about them as the most consistent team, but could they win?” commentator Kirk “doobsnax” Dubé said of BLVKHVND during the 2022 Pokémon World Championships livestream. “They stepped onto that regional finals stage [and] beat the brakes off of everybody.”

BLVKHVND carried that momentum all the way to a first-place finish at the game’s first LAN, the Pokémon UNITE World Championships, cementing themselves as the world’s best Pokémon UNITE roster. In the process, they did not drop a single set, proving their North America Championship victory was no fluke.

The road to the finals

Though BLVKHVND defeated both IClen and Apprentice Unleashed to win their round robin pool, both sets went to Game 3. Likewise, their winners quarters set against No Show went the distance.

However, the first signs that they were world champ material came during their winners semis set against fellow North American roster, IX Gaming. William “Overlord98” Byrnes played as Tsareena for the first time all tournament as a counter to IX’s team composition.

BLVKHVND were at a deficit for most of Game 2. But, a Bliss Assistance from Sean “Slashcan” Tucker’s Blissey gave Overlord98 the stat boost he needed to take control of a late-game teamfight. From there, BLVKHVND defeated Zapdos, enabling them to secure a 2-0 victory over IX Gaming.

“That win was huge,” Kihyun “Kyriaos” Lee said in a post-match interview with commentator ZOINKS. “I know IX is such an incredible team and really tough opponent, so getting that win over them — and I think in a commanding fashion — and knowing exactly what we want to do gives us a lot of confidence going through the winners finals for sure.”

In both games of the Pokémon UNITE World Championships winners finals, Renaissance got out to an early lead against BLVKHVND. Nevertheless, BLVKHVND excelled at stealing objectives in order to give themselves the upper hand.

No moment personified this more clearly than the end of Game 1. Although Renaissance took out four members of BLVKHVND toward the end of the game, Kyriaos managed to sneak in with Machamp and land the killing blow against Zapdos. This prevented Renaissance from scoring a huge amount of points that would have otherwise been guaranteed, allowing BLVKHVND to win the game.

“That Game 1 was a little bit of a miracle,” Kyriaos said in a post-match interview with commentator Jake “Spragels” Sprague. “I don’t even know how the series would have [gone] if we didn’t get that. That was probably the craziest moment of the tournament yet. That was the adrenaline rush that we needed.”

Kyriaos said his clutch Game 1 play propelled them to another victory in the Game 2. As a result, BLVKHVND secured their spot in grand finals after winning four straight games in top eight.

Undefeated at the Pokémon UNITE World Championships

Before the Pokémon UNITE World Championships began, the commentators had a good idea of who the finalists would be; two commentators picked BLVKHVND to win it all, while another two bet on Europe’s Nouns Esports. Even Kyriaos said he hoped to play Nouns in grand finals during his post-winners finals interview.

Nouns Esports did not disappoint. Despite starting top eight in the losers bracket, they went on a four-set win streak to reach grand finals. Nouns even eliminated two of the teams who had beaten them earlier in the bracket.

In a post-grand finals interview with ZOINKS, Overlord98 attributed much of BLVKHVND’s success in the final games to a smart character pick from jungler Nicholas “Junglebook” Jinkyu Kim.

“The key to winning was not playing [Dragonite] because our jungler over here can’t secure on Dnite, so we decided to put him on Cinderace,” Overlord98 said.

While Junglebook had used Cinderace, Dragonite and even Greedent throughout the tournament, he opted for solo Cinderace in grand finals. In doing so, he consistently outpaced Nouns Esports’ players level-wise, reaching the level 15 cap by the end of every game of grand finals.

In the final game, Junglebook’s powerful Cinderace was complemented by Kyriaos’ Trevenant, Overlord98’s Aegislash, Slashcan’s Blissey and Shi Yuan “Elo” Huang’s Hoopa. Their team synergy enabled them to finish off a flawless top eight run by defeating Nouns Esports 3-0.

Now, BLVKHVND are the first-ever world champions for UNITE and the best team in the world, at least for now. Going into the 2023 season, they’ll aim to continue living out what once seemed like little more than a dream.

“It doesn’t feel real to me,” Overlord98 said in his interview with ZOINKS. “It’s crazy how this started out as a hobby, playing a game. Now, a year later, [I’ve] met four of the best friends in my life and now we’re here, grand champs.”

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