Meet the Staff – John Kettler

How does it feel to be regarded as one of the top Pokémon players?
It feels funny, to be honest – what makes a “top” player, anyway? Is it for what that person has done in the past? What’s been done recently? What his or her legacy in the game will be? I ask that members be skeptical when someone tells them that “X is a great player” – you can only make that decision on your own merits.

However, I take great pride and appreciation in being considered such a player. It took me a very long time before I knew that competitive playing was what I wanted to do; I first started out as a collector during the “glory days” of the original 151, and then became a casual league player for several years later. Eventually I found my way to a STS (“Super Trainer Showdown”) qualifier event, and…Found myself trounced very quickly.

That spark set me off into wanting to get better, so by the time Nintendo took over back in 2003, I knew that I wanted to not just get “decent” at this game, but “great.”

How much do you typically play test before a tournament?
My play testing is somewhat dependent on the level of the event I’m preparing for. For example, I am more inclined to test heavily for State/Regional/Provincial events, Regionals, Nationals, and Worlds, but I will not work as hard for City Championships, and I may not even work at all in preparing for Battle Roads.

However, I am constantly play-testing, even if it’s not for a particular event. I find that keeping fresh with the game at all stages in a season is critical to your success, even if you aren’t going to any tournaments. (I didn’t go to any Battle Roads this fall of 2010, yet I still play at least a few games a day!)

What do you like to do when you’re not playing Pokémon?
Hang out with friends, stay involved with my college campus, write, read, play video games every now and then, and watch a few select TV programs (Food Network’s “Chopped” and the anime “One Piece” are among my favorites).

Do you play the video games or watch the anime?
I casually play the video games, and I almost never watch the anime. Who writes that crap???

Do you think the Pokémon TCG is more skill or luck based?
Skill based, definitely. Pokémon TCG is one of the most challenging games out there right now, due to both the complex in-game scenarios and deep metagaming. Luck is nevertheless a crucial element, but in Pokémon, you’re given many tools to help you maximize your odds.

Do you play Unlimited?
Rarely. I played relatively heavily back in 2008, but now I just carefully monitor its development with each new set. I think that if Play! Pokémon gave it the thought, and was willing to place certain cards on a “banned” or “restricted” list, they could construct a very entertaining Unlimited format. If there is enough interest in unlimited from Underground membership, I might even write an article on this format in the future.

Who is your favorite person to play against?
I’ve had a variety of “favorite” people to play against over the years – people you’d be unfamiliar with, such as my older brother Billy. Out of my fellow writers, Jason Chen is probably my favorite for two reasons: first, he’s not shy about testing with or against anything unusual; second, he makes trash talk an art form. ;)

What is your favorite Pokémon TCG site?, a small message board ran by yours truly. HeyTrainer offers several nice contrast to big boards like Pokébeach and Pokégym: it is less restrictive on what people say (thus producing better deck content/more diverse general topic discussion), has an unusually high skill curve for its members, and fosters a really great community. My only advice would be to tread carefully if you’re a minor – there’s some pretty offensive content on there, especially in the ways of cursing and images.

Do you have any special talents other than being a top-notch Pokémon player?
I play a variety of musical instruments (euphonium, harmonica, piano), frequently engaged/engage in public speaking events, and am very passionate about writing. I also like setting poodles on fire. (Just kidding on that last one!)

Do you play any TCG or CCG besides Pokémon?
Other than the occasional pickup game of Magic: The Gathering, I don’t play anything else but Pokémon! I don’t play Yu-Gi-Oh at all, so if you’re looking to obliterate me with Exodia, then you’re out of luck.

What is your favorite deck to play?
Of all time? Probably Ludicolo Deoxys/Magcargo Deoxys during the 2005/2006 tournament season. It operated much like Jumpluff does now, but the main difference was that you could effectively search out any card you wanted to via Magcargo’s Smooth Over (rig the top card of your deck) and Ludicolo’s Swing Dance (“draw a card”). Due to this ability to constantly search out cards, and due to the insane variety of tech Trainer/Energy Cards in that format, it was a much more challenging deck to win with than Jumpluff ever was, is, or will be.

Since I skipped Battle Roads in favor of studying for the LSAT (Law School Admittance Test), my favorite decks to play have just been quirky things. In particular, I’ve had a lot of fun messing around with unusual Vileplume concepts, such as: Gliscor/Gliscor LV.X Legends Awakened; Flygon Rising Rivals; Machamp Stormfront; and even Victreebel Legends Awakened. Obviously, though, the most competitive deck I’ve used is Luxchomp.

In 2 years, do you plan to still be playing the Pokémon TCG?
Like all addictions, the junkie says he’ll quit, but he keeps coming back for more…Do we play the Pokémon TCG, or does it play us?

Reader Interactions

12 replies

  1. Kyle Warden

    Nice to see another One Piece fan, I really need to catch up to the anime since I stopped watching around July cause got way far ahead from reading the Manga.

  2. Adam Capriola

    Jason is a pretty good trash talker (in his own way). haha

    I’m surprised you like Ludicargo best, I thought you may have gone with that all out tech deck you made. I forget what it was called but I know it had a funny acronym. Super Hyper Inventive Tech or something like that.

      • John Kettler  → Dakota

        “Super Hyper Inventive Tech” was a fun deck I built back in late 2004. The basic premise behind it was that it played 1-1 lines of decent to solid Stage One Pokemon, including every type but Metal. Since all weakness was x2, it was way better than it’d be now, but the basic idea is done way more effectively in some SP builds.

        A 2-2 line of Magcargo DX, 4 Swoop! Teleporter TRR, and 4 Pokemon Retriever TRR were the cards necessary to make it painfully easy to get out the same type consecutively, as well as 4 Double Rainbow/2-3 Scramble.

  3. Adam Capriola

    Jason is a pretty good trash talker (in his own way). haha

    I’m surprised you like Ludicargo best, I thought you may have gone with that all out tech deck you made. I forget what it was called but I know it had a funny acronym. Super Hyper Inventive Tech or something like that.

  4. Joshua Pikka

    Hmmmm quite the philosopher this guy. “Do we play the game, or does it play us.”

    I guess it does both. When we started out we played it, now for some of us, I agree its beginning to play us.

    But lets save the philosophy of Pokemon for another time.

    I always wondered why always trys to give people headaches with all that weird psychodelic website design.

  5. Rokman

    John Kettler was my pseudo pokemon mentor for the early years of my competitive life!

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