The Firey (Under)Dog – The Arcanine Guy’s Worlds Journey

pokebeach.comHey there folks. It’s been quite the season, hasn’t it? Consider this a journal entry, perhaps; not so much an article for information as perhaps a good story. One that many of you have urged me to write about, no less. Even then, there are things to be learned from stories; this is mine. I hope you enjoy my view of our vibrant community here. :)

So, let’s start with a name. I’ve gone by several in the last couple of years; most notably my real name, Michael Schaefer. My first name choice when I originally got into Pokémon was “Charwolf”, a nod to my still-number-one favorite Pokémon, Arcanine. I spent a lot of the early Wizards years responding to that from my friends off the boards, and it still brings a smile to my face to hear it.

These days though, my chosen nickname is the equally firey-typed Flare Starfire, or perhaps just “Arcanine guy”. I will say not everyone needs a “nick”, and off the top of my head I can only think of one other player that has a public one. (Jason “Ness” K.) It fits with my demeanor though, and I think lends a bit of fun and style to the game for me, too.

So, name aside, let’s go back a few months to March 2011. Up until that point, I had been living in central California, and isolated from any chance at participating in organized play due to lack of a job and a car. Being nearly an hour and a half away from any league at all was very depressing, for sure.

The best I could do was to follow along with the set releases on my computer from home, and I always kept a modified legal Arcanine deck on the shelf in my room. Least I could do, right? Well, that all changed in March when I moved to Florida to finally snag a job, one that I could ride a bike to no less. This turned things around in a big way; the Haines City league, run by an old friend of mine Heidi Craig, was right around the corner.

Charizard ARpokebeach.comRegionals were right on top of us, and I rushed to put together something, anything I could play; I went with Charizard since I could get it out of the blister packs, and well, I’ve always been a fire type deck player. Predictably, that didn’t go well record wise, hitting 50/50 at 4-4.

It was at this point that I signed up for Underground, because I was working and I needed to be on top of the information coming out and really didn’t have a lot of time to test with my new job. Research has always been a big factor for me; you have to know what you’re facing to be able to play at your fullest, I believe.

Moving forward a bit or so, Black and White releases, and it’s the Battle Roads that everyone hated. I went to two battle roads; the first of which I still played Charizard, if memory serves. Looking at the match table on my POP ID page here, I went 3-3.

I can’t remember precisely when the announcement came down, but I do remember that I decided to start testing Reshiboar as soon as I was able to get the cards for it, and I took my HGSS on deck to the Lakeland Battle Roads. It was my own styling on the deck; it aimed to put 2-3 Ninetales on the bench, and then draw through the entire deck and use recursion cards (Fisherman, FSL, Energy Retrieval) to fuel the actual attacks. It also ran RDL with 2 lightning energy in the deck.

In the end, it was a smaller tournament but I went 4-1, and actually made the cut into Top 4. I played against a Gengar deck in my Top 4 match and pulled out a narrow victory there; Top 2 was vs Gyarados though and while I almost pulled it out, I remember both of my Lightning energy being prized so I couldn’t use RDL.

This is the first tournament where I raised a few eyebrows, taking an off format deck into the finals. It did feel good, and I felt like my research had paid off, and being able to talk to some of the top players in the game here on the forums really helped my confidence.

So then, I had to decide. Did I want to do Nationals? The last time I had been at a National Championship, it was still being hosted by the Origins Gaming convention. It would be a lot of money, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get the time off for it.

But, I was totally stoked at getting to play in general again, and my testing was going really well. I was slowly but surely filling my binder out with cards for the rotation, as I assumed that it would happen. That turned out to be correct, thankfully! I set up things to give myself a chance to make it, and found out that my friend Rax not only had gotten into organized play, but was going to be at Nationals as well.

With some ride assistance from Rax, Nationals became viable finance wise, and I bought the plane ticket. In testing, my deck was slowly evolving with the input of the forums and my own style of play. I had made the shift over to Magnezone as draw power, but I didn’t like only having 1 Reshiram in the deck and so little recursion at all.

In fact, you can ask my old housemates how furious I was at how unforgiving Magboar was when I first played it. It felt like if you made one error, one card off, one bad card prized, the deck just fell on its face. But, I kept practicing with it, and blending the “stock” Magboar list with my Reshiboar list, and I called the resulting Hybrid “Red Zone”.

Resources were still rough, but it had more options; you could swarm Reshiram or Magnezone, depending on what you needed, and you could be super aggressive with Sage because you could drag almost all of the cards back out of the discard later in the game. Here is the list I took to Nationals:

Red Zone v2

Pokémon – 20

2 Tepig BLW Promoe

1 Pignite BLW #17

2 Emboar BLW #20

3 Magnemite TM #68

2 Magneton TM #43

3 Magnezone Prime #96

2 Reshiram BLW

1-1 Rayquaza & Deoxys LEGEND

2 Cleffa HS/CL

1 Tyrogue HS/CL

Trainers – 26

4 Pokémon Collector
4 Pokémon Communication
3 Rare Candy
1 Switch
2 Pokémon Reversal
1 Flower Shop Lady
4 Junk Arm
2 Energy Retrieval
4 Sage’s Training
1 Fisherman

Energy – 14

10 R

4 L

I found this list to be really flexible, and once it had a Magnezone set up, it didn’t have a lot of problems when I needed to search for a specific card, even without Twins. So, Round 1 opens at the National tournament, and I get my face bashed in by a friend with Kingdra Cinccino; he hit Reversal heads on turns 2, 3, and 4 to score repeated KOs. My deck simply crumbles even after setting up a Magnezone, and it feels like I’m in for a long day.

pokebeach.comHowever, that would be my first and last loss in Swiss; I went 8-1 on the day, facing a little bit of everything, including a Vileplume deck.

I will say two things about the list; the Reversals have helped me way more often than not, either to stall out an opponent (Bringing up an Oddish / Gloom, or a heavy retreat Pokémon like an emptyMagnezone vs Primetime) and the first thing I’m going to test is just using Catcher instead and seeing if I can free up some room in the deck otherwise to adapt.

Second, this deck can really turn miracles if you just give yourself the chance to win. One of my Swiss games I won because I was in a bad position and hit a heads on Magnemite’s Thundershock, which lead me into top decking a Magnezone for my Magneton on the bench to take the winning prize vs Vileplume.

That is one lesson that I have learned again and again over the years: if it seems really crazy, but it has a chance to work, do it! I’d forget this advice later in the day and lose my Top 64 match because of it.

That said; here I was in Indianapolis, only a few months back into serious organized play, and I hit the top cut. I was really proud of myself for that, and once again it seemed that the communication and research I had been doing with my friends and 6Prizes was paying out.

I ended up losing to a straight Donphan deck; The first game one of my two Reshi’s was prized, and my RDL piece was prized as well, which led to having to swarm Magnezones against a Donphan deck. That didn’t end well, and in the second game it was Reshi and Cleffa in the prizes; I was one energy short of the game winning Ozone Buster, and I had a Switch card in hand.

I promoted Emboar to tank for one hit, leaving RDL and Cleffa on the bench. He Reversal’d the Cleffa for the game. If I had followed my own advice from above, I would have shuffled my hand in to look for the energy and hope for a tails on the Cleffa / Switch back in hand to force a Game 3. I have no regrets about the game, one way or another.

So, I returned from Nationals to find that my name had grown a little more, at least in local circles. I made the news report of the Indianapolis Star, and they took some footage of my Top 64 match. Overall, it felt really good that people were behind me; one of the worst things that I remember from previous tournament experiences is that it sucks to be alone.

Having someone to fight for, to report back to, to help cheer you on…. these are things that I’d never had before. Granted, back then I was more likely to build a deck with Arcanine in it than a meta deck (I loved it when Arcanine EX was out!) but they were always well built. Now I was playing with fire, literally and figuratively, and I wanted to keep going. Except, I missed the trip and invite.

As it turns out, fate had one more twist in store for me. Ever lost your house before? Well, it’s not fun. Due to really junky circumstances with the landlord, and some of the people I was living with moving out, it steadily became impossible for me to stay at my new home in Florida.

My job was working out really well, and thankfully I was able to get a transfer to work in a store about an hours drive away from where I used to live. This meant that I needed to get back to the west coast, and my old roommate still had a space for me to come back to.

The plan was on; move back to California by attending Worlds. My friends Cathy, Malo and TRUK were gracious enough to not only give me some floor space, but a ride back up to the central valley after the event was over.

So, I had a choice to make. I, like many other people I’m sure, had built and tested Reshiphlosion. My problem with it was that if it got Judged in the first couple of turns, it usually had a tough time recovering before it was too late. I had gotten used to the insurance of Magnezone.

It was either take Reshiphlosion with mirrors everywhere and a 50/50 against the field, or take Red Zone and have the underdog matchup vs Primetime, but have a great matchup vs the Reshiphlosions. I decided to play the deck I had become comfortable with, and take the risk on a meta call since I knew Magnezone Emboar and its variants weren’t being targeted any more.

Immediately I found that I rather liked match play; the deck is susceptible to bad starts on the occasion, but if I can get a Collector or get to a Cleffa I can get it started. The list I decided to run? It’s the same as my Nationals deck, -1 Tyrogue and +1 Twins.

As it turns out, a lot of people decided to take Tyrogue out of their decks, which made leaving Cleffa in hugely beneficial! My first opponent was a kind Japanese gentleman running Primetime. I went second, but we both opened with Collector, and I had a turn 2 Zone to protect me from Judge.

Typically if I can set up alongside my opponent with Primetime I’ll usually pull out the win, and the gentleman scooped to save time for the next games. Game 2 is a wash for me; I don’t have anything in hand, and I scoop to buy time for Game 3, but being guaranteed to go first, I ask the deck for a Collector and an energy, and indeed, I set up fully by turn 3.

This is where it got interesting, though. I played next against an American, and you’ll have to forgive me as I’ve forgotten your name. :( He was playing Donphan Dragons, but he openly admitted that he had just come back to the game, and that his entire deck was borrowed. I was apt to believe him, because he didn’t know about RDL, and so I won the first game quite handily.

The next two however, I just couldn’t get set up at all. By the end of the third game, we’ve hit time. My Turn 3 consisted of my Reshi with 60 damage on it taking a prize to tie it up at 2-2, bringing us to sudden death. He had an option of a fresh Donphan, or a Dewott with 4 C energy on it. He looked at his hand, promoted the Donphan, attached and Earthquaked.

I had to stop for a second, because I didn’t really believe it; I used my 120 damage Reshi to Outrage his Donphan to take the sudden death prize and the game. I acknowledged that it was a huge misplay, and we both laughed about it. He simply needed to stop attacking and he would’ve had the game. I in turn promised him that I would do my best to carry the torch all the way.

pokebeach.comNext two rounds I had my desired opponent: Reshiphlosion decks! Reshiphlosion just doesn’t have enough PlusPowers to handle an RDL played at the end of the game after chewing through multiple Magnezones, and since I run so much energy recursion, discarding it doesn’t really slow the deck down. Each of those matches was 2-0.

Approaching the end, it was the Top 32; My opponent was Nick Fotheringham, who I found out later had been getting some buzz on the boards himself. I don’t remember much of the matches themself, except that I had some better than average flips in the first game, getting two turns of tails => heads for Cleffa to start off.

It’s a bit touch and go, and Nick was playing Megazord if my memory serves. I do have trouble with that deck depending on the Donphan count. But, I pull it out, and in Game 2 Time is called with his 4 Prizes remaining to my 1. He scoops, telling me he can’t take that many prizes.

At this point, Cabd (Yanmega Guy, who I met for the first time at this tournament and found out goes to League in the same city I now work in) texts me saying that the 6P boards are behind me, and that I’ve gone the farthest of everyone in the grinder.

This stuns me; I wasn’t really thinking about it that way. I try to play one game at a time, but I really had come far at this point! I was hoping, praying that they’d make it Top 16 so I wouldn’t have to play again. It was late, and my nerves were already shot.

Unfortunately for me, they posted the pairings, and we sat down for one more game. Looking at my hand, it didn’t look very hot, set up, opponent wins the coin flip. And then, they tell us to all come back tomorrow and congratulations for winning the grinder.

I’m not too proud to admit that I fell apart. I shook hands with my opponent and congratulated him, and I probably sounded like an idiot because I couldn’t form words for the emotions welling up inside of me. Sounded like wails, if anything. I’m mildly autistic and I just couldn’t handle the moment, and I actually started hyperventilating, causing the people around me to make sure I was ok.

pokebeach.comI hadn’t had anything to eat all day, I was tired, but the people around us were all happy, cheering us on! Richard really fooled me hard, but I was euphoric and manic for the rest of the night. Here, here was success! And to think that I was planning on volunteering for the rest of the weekend like I usually did at Worlds, way back when. I asked where Cathy had gone and they had went to the Fox Sports bar.

Everyone from my old event area in California was there, and when they saw me they all applauded… it was surreal. I want to thank all of you who had my back at Worlds for making it possible for me to make it through the day.

Johnny Blaze and the Chimentos doubly so, for giving me something to eat before what turned out to be the final round of the grinders, some last minute testing and just being able to hang out with you in general, it kept me centered. Thank you so much, and I hope to see you at more national events.

So, the big event; the experience was everything I’d imagined it to be. I knew going in that my performance wouldn’t so much matter as add to what was already a fantastic weekend. In short form, I had 5 close games and 2 bleh games; I thoroughly enjoyed the games that I actually got to play.

For the records, this was my opening hand Round 3: Tepig, Legend Piece, and 5 Energy. My Reshiphlosion opponent was equally hand locked, and we’ll just say Tepig’s burn took a prize (energy) and I drew into a Reversal and more energy and the other legend piece and manually fired Ozone Buster to take….2 more prizes of energy. Oh well! X)

I pile shuffled like crazy and in round 4 I got Reshiram, Magnemite, 4 Energy, and Fisherman. X) Ended how it sounds. I take 85th place at 3-4. Wouldn’t trade it for the world, and I get a chance to play Yoneda Takuya at the gunslinging table while David’s Magneboar deck is up on the big screen.

pokebeach.comI would find out later that David and I have somewhat similar lists; as I call it, a “Reshiram heavy” Magneboar. Knowing that I had made the right deck choice for the day, for the grinder, that made me feel awesome for following my own path. I also ended up winning my battle with Yoneda Takuya and getting an Emerging Powers pack. Little did I know, that J-Wittz was watching my fight.

Josh and I had been keeping in contact since we met at Nationals; I had wanted to tell him how much his show, Prof-it, had helped my research. He’s a really cool guy, and back then he traded me a signed Hoppip card, which I intend to keep in my binder. I was psyched to see him do so well, making Top Cut at Worlds.

I don’t know if the word is impressed, but he was certainly happy at how well I was doing, and he along with Matt7 and Cabd urged me to write my experience up for you all, so here it is. One of the last things I did was offer to strike up a friendly rivalry with J-Wittz, and he accepted.

One of the things I firmly believe in is that you have to set mileposts for yourself; you need someone above you to train with and against, to strive to surpass. I couldn’t ask for a better friend, or a better rival. I hope we will both be sitting at the top tables come around Nationals and Worlds next year!

A closing thought for you all; I played a practice game against Yanmega Guy, Cabd. During the fight, he noticed my fluid hand and card movements, and commented that I “play with style”. For all intents and purposes, this is the first time someones ever noticed, but I explained.

When I’m really in the zone, I do move with purpose, I play my cards a certain way, I draw them a certain way. You could say I even emulate the styles of play you find on card battler animes like Yugioh or my favorite, Cardfight: Vanguard!.

My stance on this is threefold; If I look good, my deck looks good, and I play with style and confidence, then I won’t make any mistakes. Not only that, but I’ll enjoy myself and feel good! I can safely say that before this season, back when I used to play, losing bothered me. I didn’t have my reason for being, and I didn’t have anyone behind me.

Now, I can enjoy the experience, -and- pick up a few wins while I’m at it while accepting the losses that naturally come with a randomized game.

So with that, I want to wish you all luck for the next season; my team is the people around me, the people I work and play and test with. I would be thrilled if you would like to sit down and have a battle with me- I’ll do my best to deliver a fun and challenging fight.

My name is Mike Schaefer, but you can call me Flare or even Arcanine Guy. This season, much like my avatar, I was the firey underdog. Next season, I’ll be running with the pack, and I hope you’ll join me.

Till then, play with style and enjoy this wonderful community for all it’s worth!

“Arcanine Guy”

Reader Interactions

15 replies

  1. Anonymous

    Very enjoyable to read, a great underdog story. I could really feel the emotion and I was sitting here cheering along with you. I hope to see more from you in the future.

    • Michael Schaefer  → Anonymous

      I’ll do my best to post up some good numbers and more insights from my side of the coin :) Thank you for reading.

      • john  → Michael

        Hey Mike you have done such a wonderful job this season after such a
        long hiatus.  Just to make it through the Grinder is a huge
        accomplishment!!  Im glad we could help you and hope to see you soon at
        another Pokemon event!!

  2. rax

    Hey Flare, thanks for sharing your story here, and I’m super excited that you made it into Worlds! It was great to get to see you at Nationals and I hope to see you again there next year. :)

  3. Anonymous

    Glad to hear you decided to get this to the front page! Good luck next season, I’m sure things can only go up from here!

    • Michael Schaefer  → Anonymous

      I’ve uncovered some cool artifacts of the pokemon past while I was moving back into my house; will probably be submitting an article with some neat photos for you to check out in the near future. :)

  4. Adam Capriola

    Awesome article Flare, I’m really glad you decided to share your story with everyone. It’s really inspirational and I wish you the best of luck far into the future!

  5. Jak Stewart-Armstead


    Great job, great article.

    Writer of the month stuff, easily.

    • Michael Schaefer  → Jak

      Thanks for the humbling compliment.  :) I hope you like the next one just as much. :)

  6. Anonymous

    its funny how when Band W came out and i made this deck. too bad im not a huge player because i guess i constructed the winning deck, it had serious luck behind the wheel im sure.

    • Michael Schaefer  → Anonymous

      It seems luck was practically required for anyone to come out ahead with just about any deck.  Example: the second place deck, if things had played out normally, would’ve gone 4-3 whiff.  Whereas skill can get you some places still, the coin flip and the match-up randomness accounted for too much in the end of it all, in my own opinion. 

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