Everything I Know – The Inside Story on J-Wittz

josh wittenkellerThis article isn’t much like what you’ve come to expect from an article. Well, that’s half true.

From an article, you except us, the perceived “pros” to tell you through our work the ultimate strategies, thought processes, and decklists required to take your game to the top, and potentially as high as “us”.

However, I don’t see myself as high as the other writers, either. I feel like I’m somewhere in-between. I’ve only had a small amount of true experience at this game, and I feel that I’m in a position where I’m rising very quickly in the perceptions that other players have of me. Some of this is because of my YouTube show, while some of it is because of my performance.

This article, while containing no decklist, contains all of the strategy and thought process that I know. Literally all of it, from beginning to end, and how I’ve obtained it. Some of you will find this article to drag on, or contain little that you didn’t already know. What I’m hoping is that everyone can take something back from this story that will help you become a player that gets the respect you deserve. There’s a little bit of everything in here, and I hope you enjoy it.

Immediately into writing this article, I feel pretty strange. For a while now, I’ve been debating whether myself as a player am worth the hype that I receive. I know that the YouTube show that I do, Prof-It!, probably skews everyone’s perception of me as a player.

I think that because of Prof-It!, everyone perceives me as this grizzled veteran to the game with a handful of Pokémon TCG knowledge that has been developed over a long time. This just isn’t true.

The truth is, I stopped playing the competitive TCG around when Wizards of the Coast collapsed in 2002. I wasn’t even a teenager. After it seemed that my favorite card game was gone for good, I moved on to other games.

I played a LOT of Yu-Gi-Oh!, and probably had my most success there. It was a complex game, but the game had a poor community, and an even staler metagame than we have now (I played around the dreaded Chaos era). I hopped from game to game and experienced several fallouts. Even if I was doing well in a new game, I found myself missing Pokémon.

During this time, I always kept up to date on the winning decks each year, and I’d check the set lists after each pack was released. But that’s the extent of my knowledge from the past—all I did was read up on who won. I was like your casual sports fan—I know who won the world series each year and the big players, but I couldn’t tell you the main dynamics of each season.

So when I came back into the game in 2008, I was about as nooby as they come—even less knowledgeable than you guys are now.

I have played so far in a total of about 2 seasons right now. I started right in the middle of City Championships 2008. I also went to one States, no regional, a few Battle Roads, and no Nationals. That season, I won 2 City’s and top cut states, but didn’t really achieve anything that any regular player could.

2009-2010 was my first “real” season. I attended every major tournament series with the exception of Worlds. Because it was announced that Worlds would be in Hawaii, I didn’t take my rating seriously—I knew that I’d never be able to afford it.

Despite this knowledge coming into the season, I played my best and landed much closer to getting an invite than I expected (I got something like top 60 in a top 40 invite selection). That season, I won a few Cities and Battle Roads, bombed States, won Regionals, and top cut Nationals.

If I was fighting for a World’s invite, I would have taken States more seriously.

Even then, this season is where I noticed a change in the way people perceived me as a player. I won regionals with a deck that was still not completely mastered by the community, and people began to flood my inbox by storm.

People wanted to know my lists, wanted to know how I practiced, and better players wanted to start testing with me. I gave nationals my best shot, and while I didn’t necessarily live up to my hype, I achieved a result that I’m proud of.

This year, I’ve been trying to take all that hype from last year and apply it to this year. I’ve won a couple battle roads, and just one City’s so far. My rating is at decent shape sitting around 1700, but it’s going to take these big events to determine if I’m really “that good”.

This year I’m going to Worlds no matter what, and I’m hoping it’ll be on an invite. People’s perception of me as a player is caught in the middle: somewhere right in-between “decent player” and “pro”. I might not be one of the best of the best yet, but being considered in the running for it is good enough for me.

I feel like a rookie who just got into the NBA—maybe I’ll be the next Lebron James, or maybe I’ll just be a forgettable player.

Even though I’m the least “pro” player of the Underground staff, I think it helps me relate with you guys the most. We don’t play this game for the prizes—you could probably make more money working a part-time job and extending your hours to cover the time you’d normally spend playing Pokémon.

We play the game for fun, but we compete in the game in order to earn respect. We want to be considered by others for our opinions, and we want people rooting for us to win the big events.

I’m somewhere in the middle between Chris Fulop and you guys. While my story might not be complete, or even exciting, I feel like this article is something that many of you aspiring players could take something out of.

While I might not be a “pro” yet, my progress has been (arguably) very fast. The Regional that I won was the first I ever played in, and last year’s top cut at Nationals was also my first. This article will aim at teaching you guys how to start being considered by other players and start performing well at big events quickly.

Where to begin?

Part 1: Leagues, Initial Connections, and Resources

At the beginning, I suppose. I started my first bouts with competitive play at my local league. And by “local”, I mean “an hour drive away”. I didn’t have a GPS, and I got lost often on the drive, but I was motivated to get into the game very quickly.

League was the only place I knew where I could play other players than my brother, and my only place to trade for new cards. My league had 3 players close to my age: Brandon, Carl, and Adam.

Pro Tip: you have to have a drive to succeed at this game, even if you start small. Nothing beats live playtesting as a way to hone your skills.

I tried to play these three players as often as I could. They whooped me all the time with decks like Kingdra, AMU, and Gardevoir Gallade. I knew nothing. I was stuck in a Neo mindset where you would use Cleffa as your setup Pokémon and build up powerful evolutions.

I saw the modern day Cleffa as Chatot MD and ran four of them. My powerful attackers were Infernape and Magmortar. At this point in time, I had been foolishly buying tins and blisters from my local Wal-mart, and I had a limited card pool.

I glanced over some card scans, and assumed that Magmortar’s spread and Infernape’s pure damage were the highest “damage per ratio of energy” attacks out there. I had some of the right ideas, but lacked the research and execution. My prior knowledge of the game could only take me so far.

Pro Tip: While I had returned to the game after 6 years and I was missing the right pieces to make a completely competitive deck, there is a certain quality to observing past successes that can aid you in understanding advanced concepts.

Chatot and Cleffa might not have been exactly the same, but I was on the right page. Chatot MD is a consistency booster that is still used today. My eye for attack damage based on energy cost wasn’t entirely off either—both infernape and magmortar were popular decks from the season before, and I didn’t even know it at the time.

pokegym.netI also recognized that Gardevoir/Gallade was the Worlds winning deck of the year before, and saw that players were now using energy acceleration through Weavile instead of powerful energy cards like boost and scramble.

The main point is, as you move from season to season, don’t forget what worked and what didn’t. While some concepts don’t translate perfectly over the years, many tactics do carry on and translate well.

What if you haven’t been playing since 1998? Even then, you can still use your earliest knowledge of playing competitively in translation with future releases.

For example, you don’t need to have played Pokémon back in 1998 to know that Gust of Wind’s reprint, Pokémon Catcher (to be released in our black and white set) will be a good card. You have the modern example of Luxray GL LV.X’s Bright Look to compare it to!

So I continued to play with these three players closest to my age to shape my abilities and modernize my knowledge of current Pokémon strategy.

My biggest tutor was Brandon. He got 2nd at Illinois States that last year, and for some reason I found that to be amazing. He had a trophy, he had proven success, and I was testing with him as an equal in the flesh. He opened me up to new concepts such as consistent Supporter search, Claydol, and Uxie. I kept trying to mimic his style while still implementing my classical touch, and eventually the apprentice was able to compete with the master.

Pro Tip: Test with the best players that you can. You gain nothing if you are constantly crushing your friends with no opposition. Also, recognize that you probably can’t test with formal world champions at your free will. For me, 2nd place at States was the best I could manage, and I was thrilled with the opportunity.

Eventually, the realization occurred to me that there are better players than “2nd at States”. What about 1st at States? 1st at Regionals? Nationals? World Champion?

Even if I couldn’t physically play with these people, I wondered if they had ever written anything about strategy—tournament reports, deck analysis, anything. I wanted to absorb it all. For starters, I wanted to know who got 1st over Brandon at Illinois states.

Jay Hornung

The answer was Jay Hornung, a solid player whose name is definitely recognized by upper level players. Then I went to Regionals results and found an entire top 16 bracket that looked like this:

This image was a preview to me for who my future competition would become. Out of this list of 16 players, I’ve played 12 of them since (oddly enough excluding Jay Hornung—I think he moved). Brandon wasn’t even on this list, and I quickly learned that there were bigger fish to fry in Illinois.

Of these 16 names, I only recognized one: Jason Klaczynski. He showed up at a few of the same tournaments that I did when I played, but we were in different age groups.

I remember that he ended up winning the Tropical Mega Battle around 2002 or so near the end of when I still played, and I always read his material on Pojo when I could. Coming back to Pojo, I realized that for the most part—the articles were dead outside of Jason’s yearly reports and some poorly-done Card of the Days.

I did, however, learn that Jason had extended his prowess beyond the Tropical Mega Battle for two World Championship wins in 2006 and 2008. I was stoked. I soaked the tournament reports that he had written in hopes of learning more about the competitive game, and I was eager to find out where he played and tested at in my area.

Pro Tip: Despite the fact that it is a mere shadow of what it used to be, Pojo has been an outlet for very strong players in the past. In fact, all four US world champions (if we include Jason twice, along with Jeremy Maron and Steve Silvestro) have all written for Pojo before.

pojo.comDoes this mean that the next World Champion will come from Pojo? While I’m crossing my fingers, considering I wrote a few card of the days for them in the past, the answer is probably no.

However, I believe that there is something to be said about players who write and share articles. Writing an article shows confidence that you have knowledge over the game, and also exposes you to a lot of feedback, both praise and criticism.

I encourage all players to at some point in their Pokémon careers to take a shot at writing an article. Even if it’s just a tournament report, the responses you get will help you out, and you’ll find yourself thinking about the game in a different way. You’ll find yourself analyzing your gameplay more often, and also find yourself participating more in the community—another huge asset.

Unfortunately, I found that Jason had moved to Florida, and any shot of testing with him was out of reach. However, Jason’s tournament reports were enough for me to begin a quest for obtaining all of the information from my area that I could. I tried doing your basic Google search on some of the big names on this list, and almost every search brought me to one place: Pokégym.

Pokégym had an enormous forum full of information from players all over the world. For someone like me, I was in heaven. I read all of the tournament reports that I could, trying to visualize the game scenarios that everyone found themselves in, and analyzing how many matchups seemed to line up throughout the world.

pokegym.netI found that many players on that top 16 list had all written reports here and there—such as Ryan B, Vince B, Clinton C, Chris C, and Kyle S aka “Pooka”. While you could argue that it’s a big unhealthy to obsess over great Pokémon players—I found myself incredibly intrigued with high profile players.

Pooka, Chuck, Yamato, Fulop, Lombardi, and many, many others were all ones that I found frequently talked about. People were interested in what they had to say, how they performed, and what decks they were running. They were players with respect, and I instantly found myself daydreaming of reaching that level someday.

Pro Tip: The Pokégym might have a lot of noob players on it, but it is the biggest and most comprehensive Pokémon Trading Card Game community out there. It hosts by far the most successful players on its forum—even if those players don’t contribute all the time, there are always glimpses of greatness here and there (such as the famous Chris Fulop Jumpluff article).

It also hosts by far the most tournament reports and tournament statistics. While it might not be the place to fine tune your deck (that place would be here at Underground :P), I highly recommend making a Pokégym account, if even just for reading all of the tournament reports.

By keeping my focus strictly on the players that did well in Illinois and the Midwest—I was able to learn a key “Pro Tip” early on in my career that many people still struggle with. This is something that I’ve stressed before (possibly in my Luxchomp article way back), but the fact still stands:

While learning about what decks are big in the nation is fun—only prepare for the metagame that you are going to play in.

There’s no point in preparing for a deck that is big in North Dakota when you live in Illinois. Dakota only becomes a factor when you get to Nationals/Worlds—something I was nowhere near ready to tackle this year.

So finally, after my weeks of preparation at league, I found that City Championships were finally coming up. This was going to be my first competitive tournament, and I knew that many players took them very seriously.

At league, I had been running a Blissey MT variant to much success. After learning that Blissey got 2nd place at Worlds the last year, I wondered if it was possible to apply the same strategy that Gardevoir/Gallade was using to Blissey to make it viable: adding Weavile SW for energy acceleration.

I also included a Darkrai Level X in the deck in order to boost Blissey’s power for the massive stack of basic darks you could throw on him, and also as a late game attacker. I loved the deck, and it was performing very well against a hyped deck in my area: Dusknoir SF. I was happy with my deck, and had a very tight and consistent list.

However, my problem of metagame perception began to work against me. I kept reading how many Dusknoir, Gengar, and Dusknoir/Gengar lists were sweeping City Championships everywhere. I also began to read about how much Machamp SF was emerging.

I thought about how my main attackers in my deck had fighting weakness, and could never beat Machamp. I proposed that Dusknoir had been winning so often because of its decent universal matchups across the board, with no real auto-loss.

Because this philosophy reminded me so much of Jason K’s world winning Gardevoir/Gallade list, I made the rash decision to swap my deck for a new Gengar/Dusknoir list last second. Not my greatest choice.

Pro Tip: This one is going to be so boring for you guys who know me already, but it’s my number one tip for players who can’t decide what to play. Playing with what you are comfortable with and have tested with is so much more important than playing “the best deck”. It’s just flat out truth—you won’t do as well with a list you haven’t thoroughly tested with.

So we get into my first tournament ever, and right from the getgo the power goes out, and the tournament organizer needs to run each round. . . by hand. This was a rare and unfortunate circumstance, and it was terrible. There was up to a one and a half hour wait in-between rounds at a time. The wait was unbearable, and because I didn’t know anyone yet from the community, it was hard to make conversation.

Before the event even started, I was still proxying one of my Gengar SFs. I had to make a trade as soon as I could. I asked around some of the people who had binders with them, and the best deal I could get was one Gengar SF for my Uxie LA, Azelf LA, and Call Energy. I still remember this trade pretty vividly because it wasn’t a very good deal.

Uxie, Azelf, and Call energy were probably worth a great deal more than what one Gengar was worth, and those three cards were all ones that had purpose in many different decks, as opposed to just one with Gengar. It’s probably the only bad trade I ever remember making since my return, and it seems to linger in the back of my head every now and then.

Pro Tip: Know the value of cards. It seems like a no-brainer, people don’t always have a grasp on how much their cards are worth. One decent resource to check this quickly is BebesSearch.com, which automatically pulls up the prices from one vendor, professor-oak.com.

Other good ways to keep this in perspective are to look at what cards are selling for on sales threads, ebay, or card vendors. Some cards can jump up overnight, so keeping an eye on this is a good idea.

For example—Gengar Prime went up from $25 to about $45 overnight. Keep an eye on cards with hype, even if they require a future release in order to work. The more you play the game, the more you’ll be able to recognize winning strategies, and the more you’ll recognize valuable cards in advance.

Rob Downs bought 17 Uxie LA’s for $2 each-recognizing their value early on due to his veteran status in the game. Uxie LA shot up to $15, even reaching $20 in some cases before it was finally released as a league promo. Now that’s looking into the future!

And my other tip—have your deck ready before your tournament begins, or be 100% positive that you have a contact there that can provide you with the cards that you want before the tournament begins. I swear, every single tournament I hear at least one player (often in Masters!) that is searching frantically for cards to complete his or her deck.

The bigger event, the higher the stakes. I’ve seen people buy $80 Luxrays and $20 Azelfs before big events in desperation. I remember one player before nationals buying a $9 Multi Energy—that’s just silly! Be aware of your budget and your card pool well before the event you plan to attend an event.

So because the delay is so ridiculously long, I decide to stop at McDonald’s and pick up a man’s meal—20 chicken nuggets. I still had some nuggets with me as round 1 was beginning, so I hid them in my pocket Napoleon Dynamite style and ate them while we played.

It just so happened that my round 1 opponent was Kyle “Pooka” S. –one of the most popular players out there (and he’d become much more acclaimed by the end of the season after winning Nationals. And after the next season placing 3rd at Nationals. This guy is a beast.)

The funny thing? Despite my obsession with “popular” players—I mixed up Kyle’s real name with his nickname Pooka. So I had NO IDEA that I was playing “Pooka”—I just thought I was playing some guy named Kyle. I honestly believe that my lack of knowledge was integral in how the game turned out.

Want to hear a funny story? I have a near photographic memory when it comes to my matches. I remember strange details like hand size, cards in the discard, and very specific scenarios even years later. However, I can’t remember a single thing about this game with Pooka.

I remember the decks—my Gengar/Dusknoir vs. his Dusknoir/Lumineon. And I remember the chicken nuggets. And that’s about it. I also remember that I won with him having 1 Prize left, so it must have been a close game. But the big detail remained true—I beat who would be the future National champion in my first game of Pokémon competitive play.

Pro Tip: Something along these lines might have been mentioned on Kettler’s mind games article, but I feel like this is a huge tip for aspiring players. Newer players, or players that don’t win big often, are underestimated.

I’m not saying that Kyle might not have had a bad hand in his loss to me, but I remember it being a close game. If anything, I think Kyle was completely shocked after my win. He asked me where I came from, how long I had been playing—he wanted to know what kind of player he lost to.

While I’m sure most of you players might not have a complete “who is this guy” factor that I had while I played Pooka—I can tell you from experience that your first deep cut in a bigger tournament will be a definitive moment in your career. You feel invincible because nobody expected you to go so far.

On the inverse, I’ve noticed another psychological factor in my games—especially in the beginning. Because I didn’t know he was Pooka, I wasn’t nervous whatsoever. This could also be a factor as to why I don’t remember much about the game—I must have been relaxed the entire time. I’ve seen a lot of players misplay vs. the “Pros” because they get so psychologically freaked that they begin to feel like they’ve lost from the very beginning.

It’s hard for me to give direct advice like “just forget who you’re playing against while you play”, but it’s actually a big factor for newer players. Just take a deep breath, and remember that you are both players that have a chance to win the game. Try to avoid eye contact if you feel intimidated—the playing field is all that matters anyway.

Here’s an example that I have from recent memory. I have a friend named Jose that plays the game for fun along with my friends and me. He plays Blastgatr—probably a tier 3 deck, and at best tier 2. However, because it’s the only deck he plays, he knows it well and he never gives up.

When he played Jason K aka. “Ness” at a City Championships this season, I don’t even think he knew Jason was a 2 time world champion. Needless to say, Jose won—and I think that his lack of intimidation was a huge factor for him.

Back to my tournament. So you’d think that after defeating such a great player, I’d be on the gravy train here on out right? Wrong. I was still a noob, and I had a lot to learn.

Game 2 I played against a cocky Machamp player—and he was a personality that I grew to dislike down the line. He was a Yu-Gi-Oh! Player, and one that I faintly remember from my days playing. He was a strong player in that game, but he had a rotten personality.

Nothing mattered, though. I started the game and forgot to put my prizes out. I started with a quick lead by Knocking Out his Machamp with a giant Poltergeist attack with Gengar SF, and went to draw my prizes. Nothing was there, and I was given a loss.

I was crushed, but I’m glad I made the mistake. Ever since, I’ve been very careful with my setup, and it’ll never happen again. I’ve heard horror stories of players at Nationals, and even Worlds (I think) forgetting to put out their Prize cards out. Bonehead move, but at least I prevented it’ll never happen again.

Game 3 was a game against a straight Dusknoir deck. This game, I learned a valuable lesson—techs. He had 2 Unown G in his deck (a pretty smart play for many decks considering how popular dropping damage counters was), and they absolutely ruined me.

pokemon-paradijs.comI couldn’t KO his Dusknoir Level X any other way than by letting him activate as a Stadium. I felt so dumb that I didn’t run any of my own, but I paid the toll of putting my deck together with minimal testing. In fact, my ONLY testing was against my brother’s Tangrowth deck.

I had no idea how all interactions with the metagame worked other than what I had read online. And that included the mirror.

Pro Tip: Too often I hear about players that only test the same matchup every single day. It’s usually one player testing against the only other player they live close to, or against their sibling that plays.

You won’t benefit yourself playing the same matchup every single day, especially if you’re trying to become a well-rounded player. You need to test against everything you expect in the metagame.

With limited budgets, how could you possibly expect to do this? One option is proxying—running paper versions of cards in a deck that you’d like to test with a real card behind it to give it “real” thickness.

BebesSearch.com once again can be a valuable tool here—they have a pretty convenient proxy printing tool on their site if you require a visual reference for decks that you want to play. There are a few problems for this method, though: 1) printing many proxies can waste a LOT of ink. It’ll either hog up all your color, or if you decide to do black and white only, you’ll waste all your precious ink for printing essays in the future. 2) you need a lot of sleeves—60 of a single kind for each deck that you want.

One alternative to the sleeve problem is by making “poor man proxies”—which involves just ripping small slips of paper off and writing the card you want to proxy on a slip of paper. This is what I do most of the time because I only need a few proxies here and there for my decks.

The problem with this is that you need to have extensive knowledge of what each card does in order to seriously test this way.

However, if you DO have that knowledge, this next testing method is one of my absolute favorites, and I learned about it right here on SixPrizes. It’s called “The Gauntlet”, and the philosophy is basically making FOUR proxies on every single card instead of one.

When you play, you decide which set of the four proxies you will play with and you play with that one deck. Essentially, it lets you play four decks in 60 sleeves. Let’s be honest—not everybody has 20 or more Cyrus, Collector, or Uxie. Gauntlet proxying is probably the best way to text multiple decks in person with just a small circle of people playing together.

Your other option is playing online, but we’ll get to that later. Go to this article for more information on the technique.

Game 4, I opened the hand from hell. I couldn’t believe my eyes, and I hope I never see this again:

Gastly, Psychic, Psychic, Psychic, Psychic, Psychic, Psychic. He mulligans. I draw Psychic. I only ran 11 energy. Turn 1 I topdeck Uxie. I attach and “Set Up” in order to draw ANOTHER Psychic and Dusknoir LV.X. I ran 4 Call energy and 7 Psychic—and couldn’t hit a single Call.

I was actually able to take 3 Prizes this game—my opponent was running a poorly executed Luxray LA deck , and he was slow to set up. However, nothing was able to redeem this unbelievable hand. I was so frustrated—the odds of what happened to me must have been unbelievable. Yet, it happened, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Pro Tip: Nothing could stop a player from drawing the hand that I did. Sometimes the game throws a curveball at you and gives you a terrible hand. There’s nothing you can do but laugh it off! All you can do is run the most consistent deck you can, and even then, bad hands can still happen. Just minimize the odds and hope for the best in your next game.

On the other hand, always make sure that you can randomize your deck thoroughly before each game. Stuff DOES clump together—especially reverse holo cards (despite the fact that I love them so much : ( ). To effectively randomize, make sure that you’re doing pile shuffles before each game.

I like to pile my cards into 8 separate stacks—4 on top and 4 on bottom. Then I combine each half into one pile and begin to do a traditional shuffle (where you hold a pile in each hand and randomize the cards with your thumbs—usually used with 52 card decks) on each separate pile, and then I do it on both piles together.

At about 17 minutes into this video of mine you can see my process.

Now this might sounds absolutely silly—telling you guys how to shuffle, but trust me, there is merit in having good shuffling practice. I see many newer players (especially Pokédads) that shuffle minimally and draw into energy clumps.

There’s no reason to lose a game by factors outside of playing the actual game, so good shuffling is never a bad habit to pick up.

At this point in the tournament, it was 11:30 on a school night. My 1-3 self and my 3-1 brother returned home, both with very contrasting opinions about returning to a future tournament.

The next morning, I checked Pokégym to see who won. Sure enough, Pooka ended up winning, with me being his only loss. This inspired me to stay positive, and test a little bit harder for future tournaments.

Coming back to league, I found that Brandon was coming less and less, leaving me with just Carl and Adam to play with. Adam was just a senior, and while Carl was a decent player, I just didn’t find myself getting the practice that I wanted.

It turned out that they both also attended ANOTHER league during weekdays as a restaurant, hosted by Rob Downs. By the time I had found out about this other league, I knew that Rob had won the past 3 tournaments in a row with Regigigas. I went the first time that I could.

The new league didn’t really open many other good players to test with aside from Rob himself, but he was all I needed to step my game up to another level. Rob has been playing for a long while in the Illinois era—following the legacy that Jimmy Ballard has left by running “rogue” decks and engines.

Rob offered me a fresh new view on deckbuilding, and he proved to be an excellent tutor.

Rob had been experimenting with a deck engine that relied on Uxie LA, Poké Drawer +, Pokédex, sometimes Unown R, and of all things, Victory Medal. This was the engine that would eventually innovate Uxie Donk, but without Crobat G or Poké Turn, the deck just wasn’t ready yet.

Instead, this engine was applied to Regigigas, along with a constant Mesprit LA power lock. The power lock alone shut down most decks, and Regi himself was a force to recon with.

I was nervous at first trying to figure out how Rob worked the deck. I wanted to learn how the deck worked, but I didn’t want to flat out ask for a decklist. So, I asked a really stupid question:

“How do you get energy on Regigigas X fast enough? Do you use Togekiss GE?”

My thought process was still narrow-minded. I could only compare Regigigas to other decks that I had previously known. The only other deck that I knew with a 4 energy attack from a basic Pokémon was Skittles (Ho-oh + Togekiss), so I could only visualize Regigigas in that way.

Rob, instead of laughing my question off, explained his engine, the intricacies of “Sacrifice”, and how he had been doing so well his past 3 tournaments. Within a week, I had the deck down much better than many players around the nation, and I felt very confident with this new choice.

Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions—there’s always the chance that somebody will help you out! The worst that can happen is that somebody will ignore you, and the best that can happen is they’ll give you helpful advice. It’s well worth the risk.

Another thing that I’ve found is the sweeping sensation of “decklist beggars”. How often do you go across a Pokémon forum and find “can I see your list?” After winning regionals with Sablock, I got nearly 100 requests for my decklist. I still get requests today.

It can get annoying, especially when people flat out ask for the list with no other congratulations or questions.

A great tactic that I’ve found that contrasts with this is just asking a player for advice instead of their list. “How does this work?”, “How is tech X working for you?”, or “I’m having trouble with X matchup with my list, any advice?” are all great questions to ask an experienced player.

I’ve found that asking questions like these to the “bigger” players came off as refreshing to them. They’re used to piles of players asking for lists, and usually are much more responsive to more responsibly crafted questions.

Asking players for advice instead of straight lists helped me shape my development for many decks. Regigigas, Kingdra, and Sablock are all decks that I’ve gotten huge help with just by asking simple questions. Alex “Chuck” B. even gave me his card for card Kingdra LA list when I asked him for advice.

It was highly sought after at the time, so it was a very cool moment for me. I don’t think this result is typical—but because he was a local player, I think he trusted me a bit more. I feel that asking locals for advice over players that you don’t know whatsoever will yield better, and more comfortable results.

I was able to take Regigigas to 2 City Championship victories for the rest of that season. I was able to add some more key wins to my resume, including ones over Ness and Chuck.

After beating the 2-time world champion, my perception on the players I played changed. I felt like I had the potential to beat any other player at any given time. I wasn’t cocky about it, but I kept myself with a good attitude for each tournament I played in from then on. Things were looking better and better each tournament.

Pro Tip: Are you having fun playing? Make sure that playing Pokémon is always fun to you—whether you win or lose.

Obviously we all play with hopes of winning, but no matter what, each day at a tournament should be a positive experience for you. I know I sound like some kind of Dr. Phil right now, but I’m serious—if you’re entering every tournament edgy, wired, and frustrated for anything less than a win, you need to reevaluate why you’re playing.

Pokémon is a low-stakes game—tournaments are free and prize support is low. Enjoy yourself, or find a way to make sure you’re having fun.

With my first season gradually kicking off, you’d think there’d be nothing in my way to stop me. However, I was thrown farther back in my ability than I ever had before. It wasn’t a problem with my comprehension of the game—it was my free time. I was taking 6 AP (college level) classes during my senior year, and I had to study hard to keep up with my coursework and remain prepared for my tests.

Each of my AP tests promised between 4 and 10 transferrable credits to my college (U of I Urbana Champaign :P). I loved Pokémon, but I knew that some things were more important than Pokémon, and my free time turned to study time.

Pro Tip: Pokémon is a card game, and it should be a blast to play and test to become one of the best. However, I highly encourage you to make sure that it doesn’t take up too much of your life. It should never affect your grades, your work, or your relationships with other people.

This is a problem that I’ve seen with many (and I really mean many this time) people. They let the game take over their life—they become obsessed. Testing, reading articles, posting on forums, etc.

There is a healthy balance between the point where Pokémon can improve your lifestyle and when it can damage it. I hate to play a parental role right now, but it really is important for you to keep your priorities straight when playing this game.

I know that I’ve played too much at times in my life—it’s even easier to slack off playtesting instead of studying—especially in college.

Make sure that you’re still finishing your projects or homework on time—and with enough quality that you’re proud of your work, too. Make sure that you have enough time for other important activities, too—such as hanging out, movies, and exercise.

I’ve found players that actually become less and less healthy and happy due to an addiction to Pokémon. It’s a stationary game—and sitting too long in one spot (or on the computer) just isn’t good for you. I’ve even seen dads that have lost their jobs, and even relationships due to an addiction to the game.

So, how much is too much? I think a good rule of thumb is no more than around 2ish hours a day. This can depend on your lifestyle and free time, but if you played 2 hours every day, that’d be 14 hours a week, which is plenty. Weekends obviously could allocate a lot more time, too. It’s enough time to keep your skills sharp while still having time for other events in your life.

Many of you might be thinking that this view is hypocritical, because I do so much relating to Pokémon, including frequent testing, writing articles, and my YouTube show. I will be honest though—I’m able to do everything that I do because I am compensated one way or another.

My show allows me to make enough revenue on advertising to pay for new video equipment and to advance my knowledge of different effects and programs. This in turn is compensation for me because it will look great on a resume in the future.

I’m able to write articles because, well, I’m compensated. Hmmm. . . talking to the people who buy my product about how they pay me. . . this is awkward. . .

Let’s make it not awkward. Underground is a tool that can help you save even more of your valuable time. We as writers do our best to explain everything we’ve gained from our extensive testing patterns to decrease the amount of time you have to spend learning and testing yourself.

We sacrifice our time so you don’t have to—a pretty fair exchange!

I know this is the longest pro tip, and it’s really annoying, but one last thing I need to tell you guys.

There are no professional Pokémon players.

You cannot earn a living playing this game, or anything even close to a living. The most you could possibly make in one year of Pokémon is probably around $50,000 or even less, and you’d have to win every single tournament that you’d ever play in (absolutely not possible).

Jason K has probably earned around $100,000 in prizes over his long career. But he’s also been playing for 12 years. That makes his prize total a mere $8-9000 per year played, and that number will decrease every year he doesn’t win a huge event.

Magic the Gathering offers hundreds of thousands of dollars (probably up to the millions by the end of a year) in prizes, and even then there are no players that comfortably live on their earnings. They supplement their earnings through card sales, or even writing articles, just like we do.

There are professional video gamers, but no professional card game players.

Unless of course, you count poker :P.

This will conclude my rant on playing Pokémon responsibly. I’m sorry if you found this boring—but it’s a much bigger issue to players than many of you guys would think. If just one player is helped by reading these past few paragraphs, then my work here has purpose.

So uh. . . where were we? Oh yeah—City Championhips ended, and we were moving into States (hey kindof like we are now!). I had been studying nonstop at school, and I hadn’t touched my deck in a long while, and I hadn’t even visited Pokégym in a while.

I went to one Platinum prerelease and I knew that SP decks were going to be big, so I got my set of tools and Cyrus, but I didn’t really put them to work. I missed the first week of states, and found out about week 2 from my cousins. . . 3 days before the event.

I was rushed, my skills had deteriorated, and I knew nothing about how Platinum had effected our metagame. SP was such a new mechanic, and I had no idea how it would work. I tested what we now call “SP Toolbox”—seeing it as the only way to run SP. Honchkrow, Skuntank, Crobat, and Toxicroak G all seemed to be great plays to me.

I played a few games that weekend before and found it to be an okay deck. I didn’t have nearly enough testing with the thing, and I had almost no experience with the deck. I ended up taking Regigigas, with no additions from platinum at all.

The event went a lot better for me than it should have, just because of my experience. Power lock was still very viable, and despite getting donked by machamp ( a matchup that I actually had never lost to with gigas) I was able to win 5 games of swiss straight. Game 7 was against Matt Alvis, best friend of Chuck and Ness. He was running Dialga G with Palkia G—both as his main attackers.

Call me an idiot, but this concept was so new to me that it made my jaw drop. For some reason I could conceptualize Toxicroak and honchkrow as SP attackers, but never Dialga or Palkia.

I thought of them as techs to be used for their strong Poké-Bodies and Poké-Powers. My ignorance proved to be my downfall. I was swept by high HP basics, and a flood of something I had never experienced before. . .


… “Power Spray”.

I had played one game against Alakazam MT before, but my opponent taking over my powers during my own turn was an interaction I just hadn’t prepared for.

I still comfortably made top 16, and won pretty handily against an Eeveelutions deck in top 16. In top 8 I met once again with Pooka, who was piloting straight Dialga GX as his deck (this was just the beginning—he’s probably the best Dialga GX player out there now!).

He won Game 1 in a close game, won by him with some crucial Power Sprays that stopped me cold. The second game I adapted my strategy to keep Power Spray in mind, and I missed my win by 10 damage on his Dialga G with Special Metal on it.

If I had practiced more, I would have run Crobat G I could have pulled it off, but my lack of experience was exposed, and I lost another close game. Once again, Pooka would end up winning it all. He does that a lot.

Pro Tip: Stay conscious of the big decks winning. It just takes one quick read of the “What’s winning in Tournament X?” thread on Pokégym, and having this knowledge will do you wonders. Being members of Underground, we will probably tell you this knowledge straight up, but this is an important thing to stay aware of.

Studies and limited funds prevented me from making it to Regionals my first season, but a list that me and Robby Skeffington worked together with Regigigas (now including Crobat G and Giratina Let Loose as SP counters) ended up driving him to a 2nd Place finish.

But believe it or not, this would be the last time I did anything with Regigigas for a long while. Rising Rivals was just released as a set, and I had lots of new ideas.

Remember about 20-30 paragraphs ago when I was using the strategy of Weavile SW as energy acceleration for a Colorless pokemon? Instead of Blissey, however, this time I played the deck with Flygon RR as the partner. I loved everything about Flygon.

pokemon-paradijs.comI liked the free retreat, the Poké-Body, the attack, the Level X’s body, and the Level X’s attack. It had speed with Weavile, versatility, and disruption. My experience in the game had led me up to this moment of realization, and I was finally able to tackle a deck entirely on my own.

I learned how to cover my bases well (turning Flygon Dark gave you a shot vs. Gengar, “Exteme Attack” was great vs. SP Level X’s, the Lightning resistance helped you guard against Luxray GL X), and I finally began to come into my own as a deckbuilder.

My prior knowledge of working strategies, as well as my tutoring from Rob Downs was finally falling into place.

Flygon/Weavile (I think I called the deck something awful like “Black Locust”) was my own personal pet project, and I felt very accomplished when my results came out as positive.

My original list ran a 3-3 Claydol line (pretty heavy at the time!) as well as 4 Sableye to abuse the 4 special dark I played. I won the first Battle Road I played in with the deck, beating a player by the name of Darren (or was it Darrel) from New York, who would end up getting 2nd place at Nationals that year.

Pro Tip: Don’t call your deck lame names like Black Locust.

After my first victory, I showed up more and more to league—I wanted to be prepared for Nationals later that year. After working the deck out with Rob Downs, we took out the Sableye because they didn’t add to Flygon RR’s “Power Swing” (although as you guys know, this wouldn’t be the end of my interactions with Sableye ;) ).

We ended up trying new evolution lines to fill the void—he ended up preferring Nidoqueen RR, while I took a preference to Dusknoir DP. I ran the deck to a lot of success that Battle Roads season—winning another and top cutting a few more. I really felt in my element, and I saw Flygon as an amazing play with few bad matchups.

Nationals this year wasn’t meant to be, though. While Rob was kind enough to offer to drive me and my brother down to Nationals that year, it turned out that my family-planned graduation party fell right over the first day of the main event. I begged and pleaded with my parents to move the date, but it was too late. I was crushed.

Pro Tip: Plan your events far in advance, especially ones that require you to stay at a hotel. Book your room as soon as you can, check to make you have enough sick days or vacation days to spend, and make sure there are no conflicts.

Nationals in particular is an amazing event, and if you have the free time and money, I highly recommend looking into going. Since our dates for Nationals have already been revealed (sometime in early July, I believe), it’s never too early to start looking at room rates and your potential schedule for this summer.

With no Nationals to attend, my season was cut to an abrupt end. All I could do over the summer was refresh the Pokégym to see how the last two big tournaments would turn out.

To my surprise, I came onto Pokégym and saw my deck—Flygon Weavile—right there on the front page as a featured article! At first, I assumed Rob Downs had wrote it, because the deck had limited exposure elsewhere.

However, I found out that it was written by Ryan A. aka. Bullados, the head judge at one of the tournaments I competed in. His list was sort of close to mine, but not exactly the same. He also called it an even more terrible name than my own: “Yin Yang”.

What disheartened me a little was that my name was nowhere to be found in the article. He was my head judge, so he obviously got the deck concept from me, and I was bummed that my deck would be seen by the masses without me receiving any credit at all.

I was frustrated for a little while, but I let it slide and tried to be happy that my idea was something somebody wanted to imitate at all. I knew that I probably wasn’t the ONE AND ONLY player to try the Flygon Weavile combo, so I tried to cut my own ego down to size.


I eagerly awaited the results of Nationals, and it turns out that Flygon didn’t go nearly as far as I hoped. I think the farthest a list went was top 32 or top 16. Instead, combinations of Dialga G, Palkia G, Infernape 4, and Luxray GL were all the rage.

While Flygon didn’t win, I was excited to see that the top 2 players at Nationals were both players that I beat that season. It was a nice confidence boost in light of my disappointment for not being able to play at nationals at all.

Worlds was the exact same format as Nationals, but Flygon received a huge jump in popularity. Only a small part of the hype was my Flygon/Weavile variant, though—the real huge contender was Flygon/Machamp variants (some of them encompassed Nidoqueen, others Mewtwo X, others Palkia X).

These variants included the added factor of Memory Berry—giving Flygon the new option of winning through deck out (by locking them out of retreating through Trapinch SW’s “sand tomb”). The Weavile variant saw a little bit of glory though: I think it saw one top 16 showing, and a top 32 showing from the famous World-winning Yamato.

Rob Downs unfortunately missed the grinder by landing himself a slot as “1st alternate”. He was literally one slot away from qualifying. Flygon itself took 2nd and 3rd at worlds, with rogue lists making a huge splash in Silvestro’s Beedrill/Luxray and Fabien G’s Gyarados list (it’s so funny writing this in retrospect—Gyarados is such an established archetype now that it’s impossible to imagine it as a rogue concept anymore).

Despite not really winning anything huge, my win percentage on the year was 78%. Not bad at all!

One season down, one to go! Fortunately, much of this next season is already available to your guys’ knowledge thanks to the advent of my YouTube show Prof-It!, but I’ll go over some key facts that I’ve learned over this past season in establishing myself as a known Pokémon player.

The season began on the release of Supreme Victors, which introduced a few strong mechanics to the game, such as Expert Belt, Garchomp C, and (down the line) Cyrus’s Initiative. On top of all that, there was NO rotation this year.

While this meant a less dynamic format, it was great for me because I didn’t have to lose many of my cards that I had lost. I used the beginning of the season as an outlet for my past successes.

I began by immediately reviving my Flygon/Weavile idea. Unfortunately, I found very quickly that the deck didn’t hold up under the new format. My first tournament, I was dominated by the new SP lists with Garchomp CX and Lucario GL—SP decks could Knock Out my built Flygons too quickly.

Pro Tip: While some old concepts handle well with age, others die out. Don’t be afraid to abandon an old favorite if you find that it just isn’t winning against the popular decks. This doesn’t mean to play a deck that you aren’t experienced with, though. Rather, it means to get comfortable with something new instead!

Also, Battle Roads are great events for getting the feel for a new format. Their K-Value is very low and they barely affect your rating for worlds. If you have the free time, I highly recommend hitting a few up to dip your feet into competitive play for the new year—it’ll help you prep for the next series of events that really matters (Cities!).

Knowing that Flygon wasn’t going to succeed the way I had it built, I returned to another old favorite in Regigigas. Expert Belt was a nice tool to give the deck some extra power, but it was also a huge risk considering that you already give your opponent prizes with sacrifice.

I did decently with Gigas—I won one event and got 2nd at another, losing to Matt Alvis with (of all things) Flygon/Machamp. I guess the deck still had a little life in it after all!

It was right after Battle Roads that I decided to start up Prof-It!. I wanted a new way to connect with the community, as well as a way for me to develop my skills with video editing. So far it has been a wonderful blessing and success.

The show is probably the main reason that many of you have even heard of me before, and I’m thankful that the show has ended up giving me such a wide reach to so many new fans. While making videos might not be for everyone, once again I highly recommend writing articles.

It’s a great way to get your name out to other players, and help you start earning the respect that we all crave in becoming pros at this game. (I also wrote my first article on Gardevoir/Gallade for SixPrizes around this time!)

Coming into Cities—you’d think I’d be geared up to be competitive and ready for a dominating season. However, a key fact dawned on me early on—Worlds was in Hawaii this year, and there was no way I could realistically afford it.

Knowing this, I decided to spend some time playing fun decks instead of ones that were legitimately the best. Once again, I turned to Rob Downs for a deck choice, and found that with Expert Belt, his Uxie Donk idea was kicking off fairly well.

I decided to run Shuppet PL instead because of a promising mid game option when combined with Mr. Mime MT.

The deck was fun to me because it involved drawing so many cards in one turn, but I quickly realized that the deck wasn’t even very good. I took it to two 3-2 outings, missing an opportunity to top cut on two close games.

I found myself missing the rush and drive of reaching top cut in my tournaments, so I turned to something that I thought would have an opportunity of winning—my first SP variant.

It was absolutely terrible, and the mere combination of SP pokemon that I ran was so dumb that I’m embarrassed to say it. For the sake of you guys getting to laugh at me, here goes: Palkia/Luxray/Blaziken. The deck’s Pokémon had little synergy, and the one time I even needed Blaziken against Pooka, my fire energy were prized. I took it to a better outing at 4-1, but I still missed top cut.

Something important did happen at this event, though. I witnessed for the first time the makings of Sablock. Kevin Bennet (who you might faintly remember being one of the names on that top 16 chart I posted long long ago) had brought a deck that functioned under a strategy I had never seen before: Hand lock.

The deck was Sableye/Regigigas—its aim was to use Sableye in conjunction with Cyrus’s Initiative to freeze an opponent’s hand early on, then use Chatot G to lock them out of coming back in the game at all. Using Regigigas’s Giga Blaster—you could discard your opponent’s popular topdecks and steamroll their setup.

pokemon-paradijs.comThe concept was so intriguing to me that I talked to Kevin right away. He was happy to give me his entire list, and right away I practiced with the deck as much as I could.

Pro Tip: When a good player wins with a unique deck—take note of it. Playing with a deck that other players lack experience with is an incredible asset, and probably a huge factor as to why I was able to win Regionals later in the year. If I wasn’t so interested in Kevin’s concept, I might not have been able to figure out the workings of Sablock as well later in the year.

For these same reasons, I highly encourage you guys to give Fulop’s Lucario/Palkia concept a spin. I know I’m going to give it my best shot while there’s still a little time left. Having the asset of surprise is a huge bonus—it has led me to many wins (and many losses!).

Coming into the next event, I have my disruption Gigas built and I chat with Pooka for a little bit. I feel a little unconfident with my list because I haven’t tested much against the SP matchup, and Pooka makes a comment on how our metagame is so saturated with SP lists that a single Machamp would roll the field.

I sat for a couple of seconds and thought it out, and simply said “good idea”. With just 20 minutes left to go in the event, I put together a Flygon Machamp list with a heavy 3-2-3 line of Machamp. Pooka shakes his head in disbelief, but I get the list done in time for the tournament, and I begin, once again, to take off with a Flygon build.

Pro Tip: Don’t do what I just did.

It’s a bad idea to rush for events right before they start, and the ONLY reason this worked out for me was because Flygon Machamp was a deck I had already tested and had some experience with. I don’t recommend my decision, and trust me—this irrational pattern of behavior would come back to bite me. . .

I took Flychamp to two top cuts and a victory and felt like I was back in control. I won a LOT of my games in those three tournaments, and my rating at this point was actually at an impressive 1715! My current rating isn’t even that high!

Had I been gearing for an invite to Worlds, I would have been in excellent standing. Unfortunately, I would end up taking States far too recklessly.


HeartGold SoulSilver was released, a goliath of a set that (in my mind, and in actuality) made SP a killing machine. Dragon Rush for one energy was absurd. Immediately, I constructed straight Luxchomp and tested only Luxchomp and Flygon.

It was around this time that I began to learn about the benefits of online play and a new community: HeyTrainer.org.

Double Pro Tip

Online play—is very useful in that it requires no cards to test with physically and can let you test with players very far away. It is very frustrating to learn at first, and does come with a bit of a learning curve, but at the moment it is a viable and valuable tool for testing if you don’t have good enough players in your own area.

Like Kettler just stated, I agree that knowledge in both Redshark and Apprentice is necessary in playing the largest pool of players. Better players play on apprentice, but more players play on Redshark. Personally I like Redshark a little bit more, but they both achieve the same purpose.

SixPrizes has nice guides on how to install both programs, although finding good communities to test in online is kind of a hassle when you’re first starting out.

I opened the room 6PUG Password 6PUG a little while back to test with other writers, but I haven’t been able to test online very often this year. Maybe if enough Underground members need a place to start though, you can meet eachother there!

HeyTrainer.org—is a website that is not for everyone. The website, for starters, has no censorship. Swearing and inappropriate situations immediately put it on a “do not view” status for children. However, for you young adults and dads out there willing to brave through certain immaturity, there is a lot of gold on those forums.

Several respectable players, such as Aaron Curry, Ryan Vergel, and sometimes even Con Le leave their input there. Heytrainer is the sole reason I was able to contact Silvestro and Curry about Sablock in the first place, too! It might not be your style, but if you aren’t easily offended, it’s worth a check.

pokemon-paradijs.comI won both the SixPrizes online tournament with Luxchomp and the HeyTrainer Online Tournament with Flygon/Machamp (to be honest, the SixPrizes tournament was a joke at 3 rounds no top cut, while the HeyTrainer tournament was a full 6 rounds top 8!).

You would think that this would lead me to want to play more Flygon, but I continued to test Luxchomp far more often. For my first week in Missouri for States, I had Luxchomp sleeved, tested, and ready to go.

About 45 minutes before Missouri states started, I began to doubt myself again. I knew that I hadn’t tested the SP mirror match enough, and I felt like all I could see were SP variants everywhere.

I psyched myself out of the deck I had tested the most, and decided to get stupid again. “I made a sudden Flychamp once to success, I bet I can do it again!”, I thought. It was an all around terrible decision this time.

For starters, I just barely got the list together in time, and this time I had almost NO experience. I hadn’t tested Flychamp with things like Pokémon Communication, Pokémon Collector, or Double Colorless before.

I thought I could just “wing it”, but things backfired on me fast. I ended up losing to 2 Gardevoir/Gallade builds and 2 Cursegar Variants—both pretty bad matchups for me. For the first time since my first tournament of the year, I went under .500 at a disappointing 3-4. My rating dropped something like 35 points.

The next States, I had begun to hear about the Sablock hype and I tried contacting Silvestro and Curry about their list. I didn’t get any feedback until a few days before states, and I was nowhere near a perfected list (I had things like 2 Giratina and only a 1-1 Garchomp CX at the time).

I decided that because I was so bitter about losing to Cursegar the week before, that I decided to build a Cursegar myself. THE DAY BEFORE ILLINOIS STATES. Another poor decision that led me to a poor performance.

Oh yeah, I also added in a Luxray GL into my deck because I thought that I was brilliant like Steve Silvestro’s Worlds list. Terrible. Absolutely terrible.

I ended up misplaying my final game in my chance to make top cut—a mistake that I was sure I wouldn’t have made if I was more experienced (or experienced whatsoever) with the deck that I played. I went 4-3, totaling my States experience at a grand 7-7.

I even went 6-3 the year before—wasn’t I supposed to be getting better? This is as far as I’m concerned, the low point of my career.

I began to realize that I am not in fact this Pokémon prodigy that can rapidly improve my game with no practice and sweep fields with a deck that I decide an instant before the tournament. I learned that…

Pro Tip: Winning takes hard work.


So coming into Regionals, I gave myself an entire testing rehaul. I entered Kettler’s “5 games a day” club and began to test as many decks as I could like mad.

I also (through observation of Ness, who gained through observation of Silvestro) finally had a decent Sablock skeleton to work with, and began to find it as by far my favorite deck.

I began to test with, of all people, a large portion of the French Pokémon community online. They found my Prof-It! Videos to be interesting and compelling, and so they were eager to help me out.

What was nice was that when I was just waking up, they were experiencing the evening. This allowed me to play a few games with the French in the morning, and then resume my usual testing schedule with the regular United States in the afternoon—all conveniently plotted around my school schedule—giving me just enough time to study, do homework, go to class, and playtest while retaining a plentiful social life.

I began to test only Sablock instead of anything else, and I shaped my deck until I felt comfortable with almost all of my matchups (except Gardy/Gallade and Machamp—which I determined to be played too little to worry too much about).

It might not have seemed like a big deal, but I think I was one of the first players to include Toxicroak G promo in order to give the game a better Luxchomp matchup. Most players were playing Sablock under the “Lock, Donk, or BUST” mindset, and I felt that adding a few options for the mid and late game was a good idea.

pokemon-paradijs.comComing into Regionals one day early, I was able to test with a couple of players who were planning on attending the next day. I don’t know if it was Silvestro/Curry covering the deck well, or if it was just that Missouri had been living under a rock, but nobody seemed to have heard of Sablock before. I noticed that word on my deck started to pick up a little bit, so I attended a draft event in order to draw less attention to myself or my deck.

The next day, you guys know how the story goes. I won a regional—my first “big” accomplishment, and one of my few noteworthy achievements of my career thus far. I had the perfect amount of research, practice, luck, and skill to take me through the day, and it remains one of my proudest moments as a player.

I’ll leave the story of Nationals short. I went 7-2 in swiss (with 2 byes as a prize from regionals) and was knocked out of top 128 by a sudden and unexpected Kingdra/Machamp. Running no machamp counter (I didn’t expect machamp!) I lost pretty quickly in both games. I had a lot of fun, and an excellent run. I ended the season at a rating of around 1820, and had an 80% win percentage. I was a lot closer to a Worlds invite than I expected, which cut off at around 1850.

Well, that’s all so far. Everything past this is what you guys experience as a result of my articles here on Underground. You guys know all about my one Battle Road win and one City Championship win so far. You know all my decks, my mindset when testing, and now you know how I got here.

This season I stand a bit below 1700—not quite where I wanted to be at this point, but close enough where if I can perform decently in the last 4 big events, I should have a fairly unchallenging run to get my invite.

I found a deck that I really like, and I’ve tested it into the ground to the point where I can play it in my sleep. Other players of Sablock associate the deck’s success with my name amongst others, and many people come to me for advice with their builds. I feel respected, wanted, and just on the verge of having the breakthrough performance that will put my name up with the other pros.

This is everything I know so far, and hopefully through this story, you guys will stand at the same level I’m at, eagerly awaiting a chance to be considered one of the very best there ever was.

…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

After 45 days, we unlock each Underground (UG/★) article for public viewing. New articles are reserved for Underground members.

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