Battle of Wittz: Looking Back, Worlds, and Emerging Powers

Hello everybody, and welcome to my latest article and segment of “Battle of Wittz”. This is a special article for me — it marks my first truly complete season of the Pokémon Trading Card Game, my greatest achievement so far in the game, and it also happens to be my longest article to date.

I really hope you enjoy it — I tried to cram in as much “good stuff” as I could while I end this season on a high note, and I hope that it helps you out as you gear up for a new year of organized play!

Looking Back

pokegym.netChances are very high that you came into this article already knowing that I placed 5th at this year’s World Championships. While I know that this is an honor that requires both skill and luck, I truly believe that I did a lot right on my part to remain as prepared as possible, and that the hard work paid off.

I’m going to try and divulge the things I did to prepare the best that I can, and I hope that some of my philosophy here can help you out in some way. If there’s something I’ve learned this year, it’s that a lot of what goes into a tournament depends on the work you’ve put in weeks before over what happens on the tournament day itself.

I know this is the second time I’ve looked back on this article, but I really like to use my “Everything I Know” article as a great place to look back and evaluate my season. At that point, City Championships had just ended, and the “big” second half of the season was about to begin.

We didn’t know anything about a possible new rotation, we had no idea what to expect in Call of Legends, and I had just one Battle Road and one City Championship under my belt. My rating was under what I wanted it to be at around exactly 1700, and I knew I had to really book it if I wanted to stay on top of my game.

Here’s what I left that article off with:

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.

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pokegym.netThere was a lot that went into that article, and it was probably one of the most emotional that I’ve ever written. A lot went behind my desire to be a better player. A big part of it is the YouTube show that I run — I want to perform well so that the viewers know they’re getting the best information I can give.

Another part was me feeling like I didn’t belong on the SixPrizes Underground Staff — my accomplishments paled compared to the other writers, and I knew I had a long way to go before anyone, let alone other accomplished players, would come to respect me.

And finally, it just feels good knowing that you can compete with the best. Not everybody shares that competitive drive, and I completely respect you if you don’t, but a lot of the thrill that this game brings me is a mindset that I feel I can beat anybody with enough hard work and practice, paired with luck.

Beyond that pivotal moment, I never looked back. I tested all that I could — I built more decks in real life than I ever had before, and I did a LOT of reading up on the articles of the other writers as I had been before. I say this many times, because I really mean it — SixPrizes Underground probably saved me multiple seasons of effort that I could have only achieved through a long period of work and networking.

Before Underground, I had to work with the best players that I knew, and the only access I had to great deck lists were either through the ones I could find myself, or by looking at often-rotated World Championship decks. Having an elite group of players essentially in my back pocket brought me forward to a level that I probably would have never reached otherwise.

pokegym.netBut since you’re all members, you don’t really need me to tell you why Underground is awesome. However, I’m sure many of you are curious as to how I suddenly went from “average” to “awesome” over in one turning point in a season. SixPrizes gave me the tools, but that still meant that I had to use them.

I went from a mediocre run (1700 on rating after travelling to 7 City Championships is a pretty average performance) to a season ending in a record of 35-9 (2nd at States + 2nd at States + 5th at Regionals + 2-1 drop at Nationals to guarantee Worlds + 5th at Worlds). These stats are ones I was dreaming of at this point, and while it sounds EXTEMELY corny and lame, I made my dreams come true.

Hopefully, with my help, I can help you make yours come true, too! From this season on, I actually feel like I belong writing here. I could probably write tomes about what I’ve learned this year, and I think that my advice has finally matured to a point where it’s helpful enough to get you guys learning and improving your game. Since I don’t have time for a tome, how about a big article?

While I’ve been trying to keep you guys up to date on the little ends and odds that I do to test the best that I can, I also want to give you guys something recent. Seeing as we’re now around a thousand words in with no real content yet, let’s get recent. The time is now Post-Nationals, Pre-Worlds. Here’s what I did to prepare.

Pre-Worlds Prep — Deck Choices

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I left US Nationals feeling slightly bitter, even if I didn’t want to admit it. It wasn’t because I was unhappy with dropping, but I felt like I was robbed of an experience that I was even able to achieve the year before — top cutting and attempting to go deep at an event.

As a player, there’s something about making it to the final rounds of an event that really captivates me. Single elimination makes games much more personal, as well as much more exciting. There are prizes on the line, there’s a lot more pressure, and as you climb you get closer and closer to saying that you were the best person in the entire room.

Even last year, as fresh to the game as I was, I was still able to enter the top 128 in my first year competing in the event. Dropping at 2-1 was THE smart thing to do (I regret nothing — even if I went 0-7 at Worlds I wouldn’t regret it!), but being depraved my chance of playing farther into the day made me pretty hungry for more.

I started by trying to get an early foothold on which decks I expected would be strong plays for Worlds. I entered Nationals with a very basic and boring Megazone list that I held no real attraction toward. Knowing the deck went the distance and won the whole event made me know that I played a strong deck, but I knew my personal list had a long way to go before I would call it “Worlds ready”.

I still carefully read through the UG articles that followed, and knew I wanted to test both and Jirachi in my list, based on the assessments of both Fulop and Mikey. However, because I knew I had at least some time to explore, I knew I’d have time to master at least one more deck. I threw together Stage 1s and Reshiphlosion for starters.

Stage 1s

pokemon-paradijs.comStage 1s fell under my radar almost immediately. It seemed really good on paper, but I had an extremely difficult time setting up consistently without any kind of Pokémon-based draw.

Most games I felt that my late game was pretty weak because I was capped at under 100 damage per attack, and once I ran out of Supporter flow I got into draw/pass situations pretty often. I logged about 20 games with the deck before sidelining it.

I tried it for a brief stint before Worlds when Fulop suggested to me that running a couple Pokégear could help alleviate the “dead hand” factor by turning Junk Arms into draw power. He also mentioned that Lanturn Prime could be a and unexpected inclusion to help deal with Yanmegas and Reshirams.

Here is the list I ended up using. I didn’t fall in love with it, and still couldn’t win as much as I was hoping, but it could be a solid deck worth looking at again once catcher hits the format:

Stage 1s w/ Pokégear and Lanturn

Pokémon – 19

2 Phanpy HS

2 Donphan Prime

4 Yanma TM
3 Yanmega Prime
2 Zoroark BLW
2 Zorua BLW
1 Manaphy UL
1 Chinchou UL
1 Lanturn Prime
1 Tyrogue HS

Trainers – 30

3 Pokégear 3.0

4 Pokémon Collector

4 Professor Juniper
2 Copycat
2 Judge
2 Professor Oak’s New Theory
4 Pokémon Reversal
3 PlusPower
4 Pokémon Communication
1 Switch

Energy – 11

5 Fighting

4 Double Colorless

2 Rainbow

Reshiphlosion

pokegym.netThis deck was another one that I had no experience with, but a lot of interest. Tom Dolezal piloted the deck to top 8, which automatically put it on my radar — especially because Tom ONLY plays in Nationals every year. Alongside the 9-0 list which we’ve beaten into the ground by now, I felt like it could be a really strong deck in the right hands.

I immediately disliked the situational draw card Engineer’s Adjustments. Drawing 4 cards is really strong in itself, but you don’t always have the energy in hand to use it. In games where you’re left down to a topdeck to start getting set up, it’s pretty brutal if you can’t utilize your draw all the time.

Engineer’s immediately got the axe for Juniper, which I felt really helped the deck better in tight spaces. While you do have to give up resources to use it, I found it helping and getting me into most games that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

On the battle for a second Supporter in addition to Juniper for draw, I’ve juggled both Sage’s and PONT. PONT has the advantage of not dropping any resources in its play, but it also has the disadvantage of being pretty average and random. If you desperately need a rare candy and a Typhlosion to get things going, Oak can be a pretty big risk.

For that reason, I ended up opting more toward Sages at the end of my testing cycle. You get to 1) keep everything in your hand before playing it, 2) dig deeper into the deck instead of shuffling and getting a random assortment, and 3) it’s another way to get fire energy into the discard.

The only downside to running 2 very “fast” Supporters is that you can deck out really easily. Careful resource management and early counting of the cards left in your deck can usually prevent this, but I thought I’d leave it out there as some food for thought.

Once I began to hammer out my list for Reshiphlosion, things started really taking off. I won a lot of games against everything that was thrown at me. The deck has the great upside (or downside, depending on your outlook) of being very simple to learn, which meant I was playing the deck to its potential very quickly in my testing.

pokegym.netThe downside to being simple is that the deck is also predictable and very linear, leaving little room to outplay your opponent. However, even without the inherent ability to “outplay” someone, the deck still won far more than it lost vs. other decks in my testing.

One way I tried to fix the deck’s simplicity was by adding a 1-1 . With it, you have an extra attack at your disposal that helps against a couple of decks. In particular, getting 3 energy in play with afterburner isn’t too hard, and that’s all you need to 1HKO a Magnezone with Foul Play.

It also gives you another attacker that can deal with the mirror’s Reshirams on only 2 energy instead of 3. You can also use him to steal Yanmega’s snipe attack when he’s active, which I usually only did if my opponent left a baby Pokémon on the bench — just one cheap prize that the deck can’t normally take can go a long way.

However, to be honest, I was never sold on the Zoroark and still am undecided on it to this day. The disadvantage is that it takes up deck space that could be used to smooth out consistency, and also that it takes up an important bench slot to be used.

While the deck is linear and predictable, one of its huge advantages is being able to nearly sweep a game when it sets up with typhlosions and gets attacking by turn 2. While you can’t count on this “too” often, focusing on getting the best setup that you can as soon as possible seems to be the way to go with the deck, and I’ve made a list below that reflects that.

The list is also based on Tom Dolezal’s third place deck (I was able to play him 4 times total). The list is unteched, and geared for straight consistency.

Reshiphlosion

Pokémon – 18

4 Cyndaquil HS

1 Quilava HS

4 Typhlosion Prime
2 Vulpix UL
2 Ninetales HS
4 Reshiram BLW
1 Cleffa HS

Trainers – 30

4 Pokémon Collector

3 Professor Juniper

3 Sage’s Training
1 Twins
4 Pokémon Communication
4 Junk Arm
3 Rare Candy
3 Pokémon Reversal
3 PlusPower
1 Energy Retrieval
1 Revive

Energy – 12

12 Fire

The downsides to the deck are best explained by one that Chris Fulop recently posted, and there’s nothing that I can really say that will add anything that he hasn’t already:

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cardshark.comA.) LOTS of mirror match: No one likes to have to play mirror matches all day. Especially not mirror matches that LITERALLY come down to whoever gets set up first. I don’t mind interactive mirror matches, like GG, or even LuxChomp, but this matchup is entirely linear and really devoid of much variance beyond going through the motions once one of the decks sets up. If you feel you are a better player than most of the tournament, this throws away that edge in a decent # of your games.

B.) Everyone knows how to play against you: If you play the most expected deck, players not only test their deck a ton against you, but have game plans they at least “think” work against you. Very few people planned to go into Worlds with what they feel is a “bad” Typhlosion game.

When a deck is “public enemy #1” you don’t simply pilot a deck into the event thinking you can’t beat it. That means everyone is plays a deck they THINK beats the big deck. Sometimes they underestimate it and test improperly for it, but in this case, Typhlosion is NOT a complicated deck.

There are not a lot of difficult decision trees, and unfortunately, as a result, most games played with it in testing are fairly representative. Because of that, and the fact that every player has played plenty of games against it, you can expect people to play properly against you, and not make any misplays. They know your game plan. Playing a less expected deck gives you the edge of them messing up or playing incorrectly.

C.) People will tech/build against you: I addressed the cyclical nature of the format. Emboar Magnezone was always a good deck. It became a great deck almost solely because of Typhlosion. If your deck is one of the major defining ones of the format, expect top players to make choices both in deck selection and list composition to try and take advantage of it.

I don’t like to play the role of the hunted in a big event, especially not in a deck that isn’t able to offer up a complex and difficult to interact with game plan.

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pokemon-paradijs.comWhile my testing against other decks had gone pretty well, my testing against the mirror went a clean 50-50. This would be expected if I was playing players of the same skill level, but even when I played against fairly newer or weaker players with the same deck, I couldn’t find any inherent trick or strategy to win other than being more consistent.

The Zoroark was just average, and wasn’t enough to tilt anything my way. I also considered a 1-0-1 Samurott in my list, but it was really clunky and I could never get that online either.

At this point, I had Reshiphlosion completely built and sleeved, and had logged a TON of both real life and online games—probably nearing to 100 total. However, at this point, things were going to get pretty hectic. I was about to fly for a family vacation to Hawaii for 11 days, come back for a total of 10 hours in Illinois, and then leave again to an airport back out to San Diego.

This limited my real life testing to essentially zero, and meant that everything I did to practice from this point on would be online. I decided that since I had learned about everything about Reshiphlosion that there was to possibly know, that I could afford to log in games for a new deck during my vacation. I decided to jump back to Magnezone.

One thing I’ve learned this season is that while it’s great to learn and master on deck and call it “your own” (like me with Sablock earlier in the season), it’s also really important to pick up and practice everything. It helps you develop a much more three-dimensional outlook of games, and it helps you develop a better eye for a deck’s weaknesses once you’ve played it yourself.

For example, playing Reshiphlosion for a hundred games helped me learn that the deck could at times be predictable, and would shut down if you were cut off from Typhlosion early in. Sure, someone can just TELL you that, but it’s different when you’ve logged a ton of games with the deck. I’ve learned that the difference between speculation on a matchup and actually getting in and getting to know it yourself is huge.

ZoneMega

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While my list wasn’t officially complete until the day before Worlds, 95% of the thought process and work went into this stage, and I feel like documenting the work getting to a list I was happy with is important.

I started by using Aziz’s list as a mainframe. I was unsold by Weavile in Magnezone and cut it, even though I’ve done a ton of testing with Weavile over this rotation and do understand its strength. My only problem with it is that the deck is pretty fragile on its own, and needs a lot of bench space to get working.

I found myself too focused on getting my standard strategy to work to also be trying to get the Weavile out. Throw in the fact that you have the alternate tech of Kingdra in the deck as well and the whole thing was just too much for me.

I decided to dedicate the Weavile space into additional Kingdra space. I felt that the Kingdra was huge in the mirror, vs. Reshiphlosion, and also as a solid attacker against Donphan when my opponent didn’t run Reshiram. I decided to beef up the line to a 2-1-2, and cut everything else to the absolute lowest but safest minimum.

What I mean is, I cut everything down to as low of a line as I would be willing to cut down to. This meant a 4-1-3 Zone, 10 energy, 3 Reversal, No Manaphy/Tyrogue, etc.

The finished product was fairly consistent, but it was still missing the “edge” that I wanted. I slowly began to fall in love with the Jirachi/Kingdra/Yanmega combo in the mid/late game, but some games I found myself falling too far behind to catch back up. Going first was still a huge problem, as was the mirror. That all changed when I played a Reshiphlosion match against Mikey one of the first nights of vacation.

He was playing Fulop’s Magneboar 2.0 build (or something close to it), and was able to use Twins multiple times through the game to turn the match around for him. In particular, the first Twins for Candy/Zone helped him set up and turn a game around that would have otherwise been lost.

Later that day, I played Mikey again and we played a Reshiphlosion vs. Yanmega/Magnezone/Kingdra/Jirachi game. He started with a mulligan, and I swore I saw a Twins in that deck’s opening hand, too. That got me realizing how much Mikey valued Twins as a way to come back from games where you start off losing.

It seemed exceptionally good in Magnezone: even if the deck had a “fast KOs” option in Yanmega, it still fell behind if you went 2nd vs. another fast deck. I decided that I wanted in on the Twins hype, and crammed 2 into my deck to give me the following list.

KingMegaZoneRachi 1.0

Pokémon – 22

4 Magnemite TM

1 Magneton TM

3 Magnezone Prime
2 Horsea UL
1 Seadra UL
2 Kingdra Prime
4 Yanma TM
3 Yanmega Prime
1 Jirachi UL
1 Cleffa HS

Trainers – 28

4 Pokémon Collector

4 Pokémon Communication

2 Twins
2 Sage’s Training
3 Judge
1 Copycat
4 Rare Candy
4 Junk Arm
3 Pokémon Reversal
1 Switch

Energy – 10

2 Rainbow

4 Lightning

4 Psychic

After initially struggling with getting my small 1-0-1 Kingdra line out, I felt the larger attention to it was the play. Getting the first Kingdra out was pretty huge in the mirror and the Reshiram matchups, and I thought that by supporting a larger line of it that this would naturally occur more.

pokegym.netThere were a few other choices that I had to debate from to get this far. One big one for me was the addition of Cleffa. After hearing the horror stories across the day of Nationals with Tyrogue vs. Cleffa donks, I had been playing with a lone Manaphy, or no draw refresh Pokémon at all in my builds.

However, after finally deciding to test with the little draw fairy again, I felt like it had never been better. I never suffered a single donk with 12 total basic Pokémon, and I felt like it won me a lot of games I would have lost otherwise. Walling on the tails flip is great vs. linear decks like Reshiphlosion, and with less players opting to play Tyrogue, it just got a lot better altogether.

Cleffa gained a lot of strength over Manaphy in additional testing, and eventually I didn’t want Manaphy at all. Having to attach an energy to Deep Sea Swirl is what really ruins it for me — if you start Horsea or Magnemite with a bad hand, you have to start with a switch to even have that opportunity to refresh.

In addition, the games where you start with Yanma and DO have the free retreat, you still have to blow an attachment to refresh, which means you’re already one turn slower on attachments to more important areas, such as Magnemite.

The other choice that really required a lot of thought was the Supporter line-up. The 2 Twins, as discussed already, gives you a great comeback game against the ones you fall behind early in, especially going first. The 3-1 Judge/Copycat split is for hand matching with Yanmega and disruption.

The only reason I decided to not opt for 4 Judge was because I’m not crazy about opening Judge without a Cleffa to reset the low hand. The Judge can be great disruption with Cleffa or with Magnezone early/mid game, but otherwise your main goal should be getting set up first.

I felt the Copycat gave me one more out to set up/hand match, while also never really being a card I wouldn’t want to play. The Sage’s are for aggressively searching deep to the deck to get the fastest setup possible, usually looking for the one card to turn your Magnemite into a Magnezone. I also feel the Sage’s is pretty valuable when your Psychic energies are fine to discard, making what can be a hard decision a little easier.

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Everything else is pretty standard for the build. The energy line includes a heavy Psychic count, because I felt that was the highest amount of Psychics I could get away with while still consistently hitting the Lightnings that I needed for Magnezone. I never once found myself searching desperately for the Lightning energy that I needed in order to get a Lost Burn off.

Testing for this deck went slowly at first. I had been crutched to the very simple and consistent Reshiphlosion for a long time, and opening myself to a world of options was actually really intimidating. I remember the first time I played a match with the list against Mikey, I might have taken 5 minutes alone deciding what to do with my first Twins (thanks for your patience over those slow games, by the way!).

It’s hard to explain in-game decisions with the deck without just straight up explaining the plays that I make, so I’ll try and relay that in my . However, my general in-game plan was to start by getting a board of 2 Yanma, 2 Magnemite, and 1 Horsea. Obviously this can’t happen every game, and some matches don’t require that exact combination, but the setup generally held true for me.

It ensures that you have the option to get Magnezone out, as well as attack on turn 2 with Yanmega, even if you opponent decided to Reversal and KO something. The Horsea is great, but is still expendable, and if they opt to ko your Horsea over something else, it only gives you more room to set up and build your “normal” set up.

After logging enough games, I began to see the pieces weave together, and I really began to feel comfortable with the deck’s options. Yanmega offered a fast game, Magnezone offered heavy hits, and Kingdra/Jirachi offered cheap, game-winning prizes at a relatively cheap price for their inclusion in the deck.

I know that “pick it up and play it” seems like a really lazy way to teach you how to play the deck, but it was great advice for me. It took me a long time to get used to it, but once I did, I found myself having a hard time wanting to go back to the straightforward Reshiphlosion.

Reshiphlosion vs. ZoneMega

pokegym.netSpeaking of Reshiphlosion, the matchup seems to have been a really controversial topic! Some players swear that Reshiphosion has a clear advantage, while others feel that the matchup is in ZoneMega’s favor. Fulop has beaten his thoughts about the matchup to death, and I tend to side with him on the argument. It takes a lot of practice in my opinion to get comfortable with the matchup, but the practice is well worth it.

Here’s my general summary of how you can keep the matchup in ZoneMega’s favor — it’s similar to what Chris has already said, but I figured I’d leave my advice on the matchup in there as well.

The matchup, in my opinion, all comes down to board control. It’s not about having more on your side of the field, but rather making sure your opponent has less on theirs. Generally, this means using Yanmegas and Zone to grab as many Cyndaquil knockouts as possible off of Reversal flips early in the game. Letting your opponent manually charge Reshiram for 3 turns is just fine — they’ll never win that way.

I suggest you never attack the active Reshiram with Yanmega unless it’s your only possible target. Sniping a Cyndaquil or even a Vulpix/Ninetales has proven to be infinitely more useful for me — especially when you run Jirachi. With Jirachi, 2 Spray Splashes + a single snipe can turn into a devolve KO.

Even without Jirachi, leaving 40 on a Cyndaquil will still make a Reversal’d Typhlosion a fairly reasonable 2 energy Lost Burn for the knockout. Sniping Vulpix puts Ninetales another snipe + a Spray Splash from the knockout. Even if 2-shotting a Reshiram might sound like a good way to get rid of a problem, it really isn’t. They’ll likely have another one behind it, and you’re much better off shutting off their engines than trying to stop their attacker.

I won most of my games vs. Reshiram at Worlds through that principle alone — you focus all your efforts on Typhlosion control, and things usually go well. There is an occasional time where Lost Burning a Reshiram is still an okay play — either when they don’t have enough resources to get 3 energy on a new Reshiram, or when after burner damage puts them in range for a 2 energy Lost Burn (possibly with an added Spray Splash).

pokegym.netBecause of this, I think the matchup requires you to run a 1-0-1 or greater Kingdra line — it creates so many opportunities that cannot be made for you otherwise.

Jirachi, while not needed, also obtains KOs that you could not otherwise have, but I can see this being argued for Pachirisu as well, because of the additional energy supply it brings you. Because Jirachi is a pseudo-supply of energy similar to Pachirisu off a 1 out of 3 coin flip, I prefer him over Pachi.

I’d go as far to argue that a list without Kingdra (and potentially Jirachi) is at a substantial disadvantage vs. Reshiphlosion, and not likely a favorite in the matchup. There, you rely almost solely on Reversal + Sonicboom on their Cyndaquils, and you hope that you can somehow pump out continuous knockouts on either coin flips or heavy energy Lost Burns over the course of the game.

Neither option sounds that strong to me, and it might be why everyone usually leans toward the “Reshiboar wins” theory. However, add in Kingdra, Jirachi, and experience, and I’d give the upper hand to ZoneMega.

So you know the thought process that went behind my decided list before my flight to San Diego, but I also think that it’s important to note HOW I tested to make those decisions. Here is the testing regime that I followed:

1. I tried to play 5-10 games every day. Testing through sheer bulk of players is important for decreasing the huge amount of variance there is across games in this format, as well as testing the general consistency of your deck.

2. Of those games, I played what I like to call the “half and half” approach. For half of my games, I played whatever my opponent through at me, because that’s exactly what you’re going to deal with in an actual tournament. It’s also respectful to the other person that you’re playing.

For the other half, I like to request to the other player a specific matchup that I’d like to test. Opening yourself to both forms of testing is healthy, and helps diversify your matchup knowledge, while still honing the matchups that bother you the most.

3. I tried to test with the very best players that I knew. While I harbor no ill feelings toward players who wanted to play games with me, but were fairly new to the game (trust me, I was “that guy” for a long time and I know how it feels), I tried to only play other players that were potential opponents for Worlds.

My main opponents were other members of the UG staff, as well as Carlos Pero, who returned my favor of helping him test numerous decks for his BearHug deck by allowing me to test against Reshiphlosion with him.

4. I recorded a short set of notes to every single game that I played in testing. The main things I kept track of were the two decks that were played, who went first, the final prize count, and a brief description of how the game played out.

Doing this allowed me to look back at the end of a day and see what needed change (or what was working!). I was intending on attaching my Word document for all of my testing notes before Worlds, but I accidentally closed out of it without saving due to a quick, mindless click on the mousepad before reading. Oops. : (

Finally, I tested online using two programs: Apprentice and PlayTCG. Testing online has its plusses and minuses. The pluses are that you can play anyone in the world (usually the best players that are available to you), and that you can test a virtually limitless amount of decks without resleeving or proxying.

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The downside is that you lose the “feel” for games the same way you get in live games, and your shuffling can be… questionable at times. While like in language, being fluent in as many languages as possible is advantageous to the amount of things you can access in life, I try to stay proficient with as many online programs as there are that decent players play.

Right now, I would argue that Redshark is quickly becoming a dying platform for hosting competitive Pokémon TCG battles online, and you should probably stick to the two that I mentioned. Here are a few reasons for why both are solid platforms.

Apprentice

Pros

1. The best players play on Apprentice. It’s been around for nearly a decade, which means that all of the best players playing for that long have also clung to it.

Simply put, if you ever find yourself moving up and gaining the respect and time of a higher level player who wants to test with you, odds are pretty good that they’ll prefer a game over Appr (yes, that’s how we abbreviate it : P).

2. Appr offers the fastest games when both parties know all of the shortcuts. It’s very easy to search and make moves, and there is little to no delay over the course of a game. When you’re trying to test as many games as possible in a specific window, taking the least amount of time is pretty important.

3. Of all the programs for testing that are out there, Appr has by far the best method of shuffling. Aside from just saying something dumb like it “feels” the most randomized, it also lets you shuffle multiple times at a blazing amount of speed. When I hold down the shuffle key, I can randomize my deck around 15 times per second. Before my games, I usually hold it down for around 5 seconds before I’m started, and I’ve found that this has kept my results very randomized for years.

Cons

1. Appr is old. It requires a strong learning curve to manipulate everything on the board to get it to do what you want to do. Once you learn it it’s great, but it’s not very user friendly, and takes a while to get used to the interface alone.

2. Being a program you run on your computer, Appr requires a new patch for every new set, which can get annoying.

3. Connection on Appr is another daunting task. It requires knowledge of a connection service known as Hamachi, which is used to exchange information and connect two players to their game. Trying to learn how to use it for the first time is a frustrating task.

PlayTCG.me

Pros

1. The program runs entirely in your web browser, which eliminates the problems of learning connectivity programs like Hamachi.

2. The interface is very user-friendly, and also uses card scans (unlike just about everything else, which uses colored boxes with text). Seeing the cards themselves makes for a much clearer experience.

3. PlayTCG offers the ability to open a game for everyone to join, and the ability to join such games. While playing a random game against anyone can lead to a lot of games vs. mediocre players, noobs, or trolls, having the option to play a game vs. anyone who is interested in a game at that point in time is an interesting option that isn’t available elsewhere.

4. PlayTCG is quickly becoming the most universally understood method for playing online, leading to several top players adding it to their repertoire. Chances are that any player you want to play knows how to play PlayTCG, and if they don’t, it takes by FAR the least time to teach them how.

Cons

1. While not being officially released, the game can bug out very rarely. This is usually solved by a simple refresh, but very rarely can crash a game beyond repair (around 1 in 50-100 games).

2. The shuffling on PTCG is not speedy or perfect. Oftentimes I find myself drawing into long clumps of one kind of card. Again, I don’t know how to explain myself other than saying it doesn’t “feel” random, but just ask any player that plays it and APPR, and ask them which shuffling they prefer.

3. PlayTCG doesn’t have an easy solution for every single card, and sometimes requires do it yourself solutions. One example is Sage’s Training, where you need to visibly draw 5 cards into your hand in one clump, discard what you don’t want, and add the 2 cards you took to your hand.

I know it sounds confusing, but you’ll know what I mean when you use the program. You have to complete most actions as if you were doing them in real life, which can sometimes be annoying.

While Pokémon does have an official program ready for release soon, it still make take a while before everyone gets full collections and strong enough decks to realistically test with. I’m also sad to admit that the beta program, while continually improving, has been very slow for me on my fast computer.

Maybe it doesn’t like Macs? Either way, I hope for the best with the official program, but it won’t replace these other two options until we have enough top players with completed top decks to test with.

Two Days Before Worlds

Flash forward chronologically to the time that I get to Worlds! While I’d love to share my travel stories with you, everybody came here for information, and I’d like to get right to that.

At Worlds itself, after meeting with a ton of people and letting the atmosphere soak in, went right to testing. At first, I felt slightly nervous running my exact deck for worlds in a public area, but I was still running a handful of proxies which I guess kept me in the clear.

Most people who came up to watch or after a game would utter something like “I wonder what you’re REALLY playing!” In retrospect, the only thing I wanted to protect in my list was the Twins, and I doubt that my games with it made a huge impact in the amount of Twins that people played at worlds.

I kept to my original routine, even more so than online! I think I logged around 30+ games over a period of just 2 days! I found that once I sat down, I was given an unlimited amount of challengers and opportunities for games.

This was both a blessing and a curse — being the host of a constantly growing online show meant a lot, and I mean a LOT of kids wanting a game. It was pretty frustrating for me to explain to some kids that I had to test for Worlds against other top players, but most of them were pretty understanding.

Some of the requested games were some big names, though! This included the East Coast gang of Con Le and Alex Frezza, and our National Champion Justin Sanchez to name a few. I was able to get full recorded games between the East Coast guys, which I fully plan on putting on my YouTube page once I’ve edited them with commentary.

Unfortunately, they’re not exactly videos I’m proud to release! I got absolutely STEAMROLLED by both of them in the mirror. They were running VERY consistent ZoneMega lists, with 4-1-4 Zones, 1-0-1 Kingdra, and Pachirisu over Jirachi.

pokegym.netBetween the 2 games I played with Alex and one I played with Con, I was always eating the East Coast’s dust and setting up slower. I was even able to activate both Twins against Con Le, but I was still around 2 turns behind him when the game had ended. Our own Jay Hornung was there to leave some commentary too while he watched, and once again, he left great advice.

After talking about general things, like Supporter count and Pokémon lines, we talk about my energy line. Everyone seemed shocked at my 4 Psychic energy, which left Jay to say something like “I guess it could work with 12 energy, 6 Lightning 4 Psychic 2 Rainbow”.

I was too embarrassed to say that I was running only 10 energy at this point, but I definitely took their higher energy counts into consideration. I thanked them all for their matches, and went back to my hotel room to lay out my list and point out any problem spots.

The first thing I did was decide that the 2-1-2 Kingdra was not the best addition in the world, and I cut a 1-1-1 line of it for 3 free cards. I took the first 2 free slots and turned them into a 4th Magnezone and 11th energy, both of which I was very happy for making.

As for the third spot, it was continually cycled with for the rest of the day. First, I tried a second Horsea in case one got Knocked Out before it could evolve. Then I tried one copy of Manaphy which I ended up never using. Then I tried a card that I really wanted to try, Absol Prime.

Aziz’s mention of Absol in his article here had me thinking long before I decided to put him in now. I was in a mental battle for the longest time on vacation, deciding if his inclusion would be worth it or not. Because I was about out of days to test at the end of my vacation when I saw the article, all I could do was theorymon in my head.

Eventually, I broke down and decided that I needed to end my debate once and for all and just play the card! I’m very glad I did, because I now have no regrets NOT including him.

The idea is that you can start and retreat to Absol (or just start with Absol) and add 20 damage to all of your opponent’s newly benched Pokémon. I liked to think that with the “spread” of Absol, he’d easily replace the second Kingdra Prime. It seems really good against the 60 HP basics of Reshiphlosion on paper, but in real life I couldn’t get the thing to work for the life of me.

pokegym.netI played around 9 games with it total, and didn’t ONCE activate his Poké-Body. Some games it just didn’t make sense to get him, my opponent went first with Collector and had already set up. Other games I’d get him out on my first turn, and my opponent would hit a Reversal on their turn, moving Absol away, along with his harmful Poké-Body.

By the end of my testing, I just didn’t find it to be a card that benefitted me enough or turned any of my games around.

Because I seemed so determined to make that last spot a 12th basic, I think I went back to the 2nd Horsea for the rest of the night before Worlds. It was the only card of the day in that slot that I felt I actually used, either for preventing prize issues or replacing a Knocked Out Horsea.

I spent the rest of my final night testing Reshiphlosion and only Reshiphlosion. I heard how huge the deck was in the grinders, and knew that it was the match I wanted to know the best coming into the main event. Things took a turn for the worst — I lost something like 7-8 games in a row against an assortment of players.

I just couldn’t ever get set up in any of my games. I felt that I knew the matchup well, but was just experiencing a stroke of bad luck. I began to panic, and started sleeving up my own Reshiphlosion deck as an emergency backup, and even played a few games with Carlos Pero’s Bearhug for the heck of it.

Testing went to around midnight, but after finally winning one game with ZoneMega, I decided to quit while I was “ahead” and call it a night. I decided to keep with the deck I felt most comfortable with and had played the most recently, and made one final change that I thought would help the matchup.

I decided to cut the 12th basic altogether for a 4th Reversal — a card I should have fit in a long time ago. The early reversal on Reshiphlosion is so important, and I can’t believe I hadn’t thought to max my count yet!

I went to sleep at midnight, which is still a pretty reasonable time, and woke up to a nice breakfast at Starbucks. While I’m sure you’ve heard this a thousand times, good rest and being well fed are two very underrated forms of preparation for a tournament.

I felt pretty alert and awake throughout the first day of the tournament, and I’m glad I had no regrets in my physical preparation for the event. After an amazing opening ceremony, I felt completely pumped and ready for the big event.

The Main Event, Day 1

Round 1 vs. Curtis Lyon w/ Reshiphlosion + Kingdra/Lost Remover/Research Record

pokemon-paradijs.comI know that I have already covered each of my matches in relative detail either through my quick typed report or my half an hour video tournament report, but I still have a much more detailed analysis of each game that can be shared to help you guys out.

I’ve been told I have a good memory for matches, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and I’ll try my best to give you guys a good mental picture of my games and my decisions.

I go first and open to Curtis’ Vulpix and Horsea, and immediately say “I don’t know what to think of this”. I figured that the deck must be some kind of Reshiphlosion if he’s running enough fire to draw with Vulpix, and figured the Kingdra was just a tech. I open with Collector and set up, with an amazing hand that’s prepared to Yanmega and Magnezone on my second turn.

His start is pretty mediocre despite his Collector, and he passes pretty quickly. On my turn, I do what the deck is supposed to do and Reversal + Sonicboom Cyndaquils for a few turns in a row. He finally gets into a strong Juniper and sets up the Kingdra and Typhlosion, but giving me enough turns to fully load a few Magnezones made my last few KOs really easy to accomplish, and after time was called I took my final prize.

1-0

I immediately thanked myself for including the 4th Reversal! I flipped 50/50 over the course of the game, which meant that having an extra Reversal to flip just increased my odds of dragging something.

I didn’t think Curtis’ list was optimal — I didn’t see a single PlusPower (was a 1-0-1 Kingdra meant to replace it?), I avoided dropping my Rainbow energies after he was forced to discard Lost Remover with a Supporter, and the Research Record didn’t seem to help him very much across the game (one turn he played it, looked at all 4 cards with disgust and threw all four of them to the bottom : /).

As far as class though, Curtis showed a ton of it, and was a great opponent.

Like many have said already, winning your first game can be huge. Make it your first Worlds, and it just feels that much bigger.

Game 2 vs. Tom Hall w/ Zekrom Pachirisu Shaymin

pokebeach.comI came into this game nervous. I had very little testing against Zekrom, and after hearing that a Zekrom variant was the choice of the few Japanese players at the event, I knew it had potential. While playing against a fellow writer might seem like it would be a stressful match, Tom was probably my most fun opponent of the day.

We exchanged friendly banter throughout, and I ended up talking with Tom plenty of times over the course of the day afterward, just because he was a really cool guy to talk to!

If any of you guys see or meet Tom, please let him know that you’re sorry for his loss, and that one day Tepig will return. You might not know what that means, but trust me, it would mean a lot to him : P.

I go first again and have another great hand with Collector and Sages. I Collector to get a full setup of 2 Zones, a Kingdra, and 2 Yanmas, and I pass. Tom scares me by dropping a Pachi with 2 Lightning, a Zekrom, and a Shaymin, but he’s just one energy short of doing the turn 1 120, and I don’t think he played a Supporter on his turn either.

He settles for 40 on Yanma and passes. As soon as everything is over I think that I promoted a Magnezone without attacking, knowing that it wouldn’t be likely that he could secure a KO. He draws and settles for the 20 damage again I think, and I respond with the unlikely scenario of ZoneMega going up an early prize lead against Zekrom.

As the game goes on, I get Kingdra out and use Yanmega to snipe his Yanmas and Pachirisus. I show my inexperience by forgetting to Spray Splash for a turn or two, but I think I was just excited because I was so far ahead.

I took the first 2-3 prizes before he started getting Zekroms and a Bouffalant built, but by then I had secured too strong of a board for him to come back in time. There was a long stretch of turns where he had an 8+ card hand that I could never match with Yanmega to secure the final prize, and things started to look bad as my deck size went down to under 10.

Fortunately for me, I knew there were 3 energy left in the deck to attack with/retreat an empty active Magnezone, and I would either be able to take my knockout on one of his 60 damage Zekroms (I had been Spray Splashing for a while), or on his 20 damage Bouffalant.

I think Tom opted to go for the “I hope he decks out” route, which ended up backfiring when time was called shortly afterward. He couldn’t match my prize lead, and I won at the end of time with a very thin deck.

2-0

I was nervous about the Zekrom matchup, but Tom did start pretty poorly, giving me the chance to win the game despite my inexperience.

Game 3 vs. Bruno Martin w/ MegaZone + Kingdra

pokegym.netI can give this game a play by play it was so short:

He opens Horsea; I open Yanma and Magnemite. I Collector for a Yanma, Magnemite, Cleffa, and Eeeeeeek for a new hand. I fall asleep. His turn, he Judges right away, drops Magnemite, and passes. I wake up from sleep. I evolve to Yanmega and Sonicboom the Horsea for KO. He draws and extends his hand for the end of a game.

3-0

I thought I lucked out against Tom, but this game was an even nicer break. I know how it feels to start a game with no setup, and I was just happy I wasn’t on the losing side of the table this time.

At this point in the tournament, there was a lot of confusion over what our round structure would be. The first thing we heard was 6 rounds, top 16. Now, they changed it to 7 rounds, but still kept top 16.

I know that last year, despite them not being supposed to, they extended the top cut to top 32. This year, however, they seemed that they wanted to strictly enforce the top 16 cut, and just give prizes to 17th through 32nd.

I was on the fence about this, but my opinion only changed with my rating. I knew that with 6 rounds and being 3-0, I might only need one more win out of my last three games to secure a top 16 spot, or at least some top 32 prizes. With the extension of another round, I now had to win 2 games out of my next 4 instead of 1 out of 3. While not an impossible task for sure, I wanted the best odds in my favor in case things started going awry at the end.

My friend Brit makes a joke comment that the next round will be Me vs. Jayson Harry as the featured match. They didn’t do featured matches, but ironically, the pairing held true, and we were at table one! To make things even closer to Brit’s joke, TheTopCut had access to record our match, and we both accepted their offer.

So once they get full commentary up, my full game (minus the last 3 minutes, they ran out of battery) should be up online for you guys to see!

Game 4 vs. Jayson Harry w/ MegaZone + Kingdra

pokegym.netI go first (4th time in a row, I’m suck a sack!) but have a less powerful setup than he does. My turn 2 turns into a single Magnezone, and a Yanmega that I THINK can’t match (this whole game will be online later to correct me at least!) while his turn 2 turns into 2 Magnezones and a Yanmega.

He decides instead of Sonicbooming my active Yanmega to put it in prize range, to put 40 damage on my Magnezone. On my turn I see a twins in my hand, and decide letting him have the first prize might not be a bad idea. I return 40 damage onto his Magnezone as well.

My memory gets a little fuzzy here, but I think things end up going to a prize exchange with him in the lead, and me getting to activate a Twins to match the strength of his setup. I’m finally able to bring things back into a stalemate when I Reversal his energyless Magnezone (we both went VERY poorly on Reversal flips), and I decide to use this time to set up Zone energy while also getting damage around the board for Jirachi preparation.

I get Kingdra around this point and use it along with Yanmega snipes to get both of his Magnezones at 50 damage or more.

On his turn, he announces Linear Attack on my active Yanma instead of Sonicboom. I tell him that he announced Linear Attack, and he gives me a face like “you’ve gotta be kidding me, you’re going to pull this crap?”. Being the “soft” player that I am, along with knowing that I was pretty close to taking the game, I let the Sonicboom go through.

However, this courtesy was not granted to me later, and the general consensus at Worlds seems to be “no takebacks”. I simply told Jayson to be careful in the future and let it go through. Ironically, he ends up playing into a similar “no takebacks” situation with Jay Hornung the next round, but Jay doesn’t grant him the courtey of a takeback.

clipartmojo.comJayson’s been a really fun and decent guy the times that I’ve met him, and I wouldn’t wish ill upon him, but after me extending my takeback with a great deal of thought before letting it through, he should have been careful not to expect another over the course of the day.

In the future, knowing how big the stakes are at Worlds and how big the prizes can get, I don’t think I’ll be granting any freebies again, and I’ll definitely play to my best to make sure I won’t make any moves that I regret!

The game essentially ends when I play down Jirachi and use his Power. I have 2 Psychic in the discard, but only need one heads. I flip each die individually. Flip 1 — tails. Flip 2 — tails. Flip 3. . . . . . . HEADS! After a bead of sweat drops down my face, I promote the Jirachi, attach a Lightning (only the first energy has to be Psychic!), and devolve both of his Magnezones for a double KO and putting me at 1 prize left to his 2.

Time is called around this point but it doesn’t matter. Jayson knows I have the next prize on my turn, and extends his hand and congratulates me.

4-0!

At this point, I’m ecstatic. I played at table 1, won my recorded match with a great play against a great player. Jayson wasn’t bitter at all about his loss, and he wished me luck in the future. His luck started to run a little cold by the end of the tournament, but my resistance looked like it helped push him into the top 32 to get prizes still, so I was glad.

After the last game with Brit’s psychic-like prediction of me playing Jayson, I found it to be pretty funny that the same thing happened to me. At this point, everyone around the tournament is coming up to me saying “Ross is 4-0, what’s he playing?”

I guess the hot hype on the street was that Ross was playing some “ultimate rogue”. It turns out they were right! I make the joke to the people who ask what he’s playing that “I’m 4-0 too, maybe I’ll play him and find out!”. As luck would have it, he was my next opponent!

Round 5 vs. Ross Cawthorn w/ Vileplume + Reuniclus + Tropical Beach + Donphan + Suicune/Entei Legend + Blissey + Pichu + Zekrom + Cleffa. What is this madness???

pokemon-paradijs.comMe and Ross make some small talk, and he was actually a really cool and modest guy. He won the coin flip and made the comment that it was his first time going first this tournament. I say it’s my first time going second, and we laugh. Little did I know, I’d be going second on the coin flip for the rest of the tournament!

He starts Pichu and calls Playground, grabbing himself a Zekrom, 2 Solosis (what?), and 2 Oddish. I can’t really put 2 and 2 together and figure out what his strategy is, so I go for the safe bench of 2 Yanma, 2 Magnemite, and a Horsea.

I don’t remember doing much on my turn other than attaching and passing, and on his turn he Candies to Reuniclus, evolves to Gloom, drops Tropical Beach and draws 2 with it. I exchange some funny banter like “I heard you were testing all season with this”, because in reality, he had all of ONE DAY to see the card and decide it was right for the deck. Props to him!

On my turn, I go off with 2 Magnezones, Kingdra, and Yanmega. I Reversal his Gloom and want to Spray Splash + Sonicboom it for KO, but the Tropical Beach put him at a 7 card hand, and I couldn’t hit a hand match card out of my Magnetic Draws.

I decide that my best play is to play my hand down and use his Tropical Beach to draw 4 cards to end my turn. Hah! How do you like that!?

His hand seems pretty poor, because if I recall correctly he evolves his active Gloom to Vileplume and passes. I thought it was odd that he’d risk such a fat Pokémon in the active spot, but it didn’t occur to me how important it was that he got the Trainer lock asap, and that he had a Twins in hand as soon as I took a knockout.

On my turn, I have his hand size matched, I build up Zones more, and I start to realize what I’m going to have to do to win the game. His Reuniclus makes it so that I MUST take prizes with 1HKOs, otherwise he can just move the damage wherever he wants.

pokegym.netBecause of this, I decide that his Zekrom is best kept in check by keeping no damage on the board at all, and I opt to not Spray Splash with Kingdra for the next 10 turns or so. Doing so would just give him a damage to move around at will.

Other strategies that would normally seem obvious and applicable, such as attacking the Vileplume twice for knockout to drop the Trainer lock, or setting up Jirachi devolutions, were also now out of the question.

I had to take prizes then and there, so I started with Knocking Out anything that could potentially reach an HP too high for me to knockout by evolving. Oddish went first. He spent his turn using Twins for a DCE and likely another Twins because his hand was poor, and he retreats the Vileplume to Zekrom.

My turn I take out his second Solosis for a second prize. His turn I think he uses another Twins to attach to Zekrom and hit for 40. I use my turn to snipe the Pichu, putting me at a 6-3 lead.

With all snipe targets gone, though, I realize that it’s going to be a rough battle from here. I realize that unless he misplays and drops another under 50 HP Pokémon, my only KOs can come from my two Magnezones. I set up my two Magnezones with as heavy energy as I can, and I use one to Knock Out his Zekrom for the 4th prize.

He retaliates with his first prize against my Magnezone, and I Spray Splash (for the first time it makes sense to!) and Lost Burn 3 energy to take my 5th prize. From here, I’m stuck with an energyless Zone and he’s stuck building a new Donphan. Time is called, and at a 5-1 prize gap, it’s just impossible for him to catch up.

pokemon-paradijs.comOn his last turn, Ross drops a Chansey and the Suicune/Entei Legend for fun, and I just shake my head at how crazy his deck was. Had the game gone to time, it would have been close. I had Magnemite/Magneton/Magnezone left in the deck, and would have had to evolve over the course of 3 turns, attach 3 energy, and finish the game with a 3 energy Lost Burn + Spray Splash on donphan.

Ross showed little concern with the fact that his game went to time, and shook my hand with congratulation on the victory. I applauded him for such a wild deck and wished him the best.

This game is the one that I’m most proud of from the tournament, because I really felt I was able to do something that other players were not — understand how his deck worked and how to play against it in my first playthrough.

His deck got a ton of hype, and ended up taking 2nd at the event, and I was happy to be one of the players to beat him over the course of the tournament.

In addition to a great game, I also felt that I was secure a spot in what was now pretty much officially a top 16. This was great, because it meant that no matter what, I’d secure myself a $1,000 scholarship!

I hold my head high and eagerly await my next match. I’m given a tough opponent — Tom Dolezal, but I’m excited and up for the challenge. Tom has played in two tournaments every year, Nationals and Worlds, and has made top cut up to at LEAST top 32 in every National he has played. He’s smart and incredibly consistent, and was by far my most intimidating opponent of the tournament.

Round 6 vs. Tom Dolezal w/ Reshiphlosion

pokegym.netI introduce myself to Tom, we talk, and once again I’m astounded at how friendly all the top players have been to me. Everyone showed a real sense of class at the event, and I was really happy to hear it. In order to balance my 4 firsts in a row, I go 2nd for the 2nd time.

This game was very lucky for me. I mulligan a whopping THREE times before starting, and on top of that am going second. Tom starts Vulpix, draws, and PASSES with a TEN card hand! I later found out that all he had was a slew of Junk Arms, Candies, PlusPowers, and other Trainers. He didn’t even have an energy to attach. For a player that has been known to “run very hot”, I felt like I was lucking out.

Unfortunately, my start was terrible too! I’m forced to Eeeeeeek at least 3 turns with Cleffa, and I think I hit my first Zone at turn 4-5. We end up setting up fairly evenly in a prize exchange from here. I do what I can to make sure he stays at one Typhlosion max on the board, and eventually get enough Reversals to eliminate Typhlosion from his game altogether.

Time is called with us tied on prizes. He isn’t able to take one on turn 0, but has an active Reshiram with 2 energy. I’ve spray splashed his Cleffa once, and on my turn spray splash his Cleffa for the 2nd time, and hit a key Reversal to bring up a benched Reshiram with 0 energy.

However, in order to grab the Junk Arm from the deck, I’ve had to draw until I had just ONE card left. His turn, he can’t return the prize, and even though I’m about to deck out, I did what I had to do to stay a prize up on time, and take it to 6-0!

I think I had it had time not been called, but I was so excited that I had it after hitting the Reversal that I forgot to attach my energy to Magnezone to get a knockout ready. Either way, it was a great game, and I’m glad I was lucky enough to face Tom without a God start. I wished him luck in top cut, and moved on to my final game!

Game 7 vs. Sami Sekoum w/ ZoneMega + Kingdra + Jirachi

pokegym.netMe and Sami set up and exchange small talk. He wasn’t aware of my show, but noticed that a ton of people were talking about it and asked me what it was all about. He was by far the most well-mannered player I’ve played in a tournament before, and because we knew that our game would have minimal impact on our top cut possibility, we were able to talk throughout the game.

Sami shook my hand using both of his, and responded to each of my moves with his classic phrase: “Good man”. It was a blast.

At first, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to give him a game at all! I was stuck Eeeking with Cleffa, going second, and not seeing a Magnezone until turn 5. Him on the other hand got a great start, minus the Kingdra being prized, and took a good 2-3 prize lead off Reversal flips to take a deep lead.

Eventually, I’m able to hit the Twins I need to go off, turn my field into Zone/Zone/Kingdra/Yanmega, and I attempt to turn the game around.

I do what I did vs. Jayson and Reversal an energy-dry Magnezone and use my Kingdra to snipe all the 50 HP basics that I can. Slowly but surely, I start bringing the prize trade back to even, with him just one turn ahead of me.

Eventually, we’re tied 2 prizes to 2, he’s out of all of his Magnezones in play due to my own Jirachi, and he needs a single heads on his Jirachi to turn my Magnezone into a prize. He flips Tails/Tails/Heads to get the one he needs, and on my turn I can’t do anything to prevent him hand matching and taking a prize off my Cleffa on his turn. I lose with just one prize left, and I end the day at 6-1.

Had he missed the third flip on Jirachi, I think I could have won! I’d never actually wish on odds like that, but the fact that I played hard and took the game to a one prize finish from a 3 prize deficit had me feeling pretty good about things. If my only loss had to come down to a prize, I was happy with that!

I went off to celebrate my inclusion in top cut at my first ever World Championships. I felt amazing about my deck’s performance, both in securing leads and come-from-behind ability. I spent the rest of the day not playing a single game of Pokémon and enjoying my time at Worlds!

Everyone I met had nice words to say about me, and it was an all-around amazing feeling to know that my hard season’s work would cultivate into such a great achievement. I hung out with friends, enjoyed myself, and got to bed early for the next day — top cut!

Top 16 vs. Miska Saari w/ Reshiphlosion

Game 1

pokemon-paradijs.comI entered the top cut nervous but excited. Miska has won worlds as a Senior in 2006, and top 4’d in 2009. He told me that he’d attended 6 Worlds in total, which was pretty intimidating compared to my one. The game goes underway, and of course, I go second again.

He starts Manaphy (not a very strong choice in Reshiphlosion in my opinion) and is forced to Deep Sea Swirl for a new hand right away. I have a great hand, get set up, and start picking off Cyndaquils left and right. One turn, I flipped heads on my second Reversal, but the Judge told me I didn’t roll the die enough for it to count.

It would have locked him out of all his Cyndaquil in play, so I was pretty frustrated with the call. I felt it bounced plenty, so I tried to do whatever I could to convince the Judge I was rolling the die enough, and proceeded to air drop the die for each of my rolls from then on, resulting an a lot of bouncing and rolling.

Of course, my reflip is tails, but karma joins my side for the rest of my flips, and I go around 75% on my Reversals past that.

Even without his Cynda options gone, I went way up in prizes and was able to dismantle his final Typhlosion with Jirachi to take the game apart and move to game 2.

Game 2

Game 2 he mulligans twice, starts Manaphy, and doesn’t have much to do again. I set up my board via Collector, and on his turn he decides to go agro Typhlosion by 1HKOing my Yanma with Flare Destroy. I decide to go agro Magnezone to counter his Typhlosion, and by attaching and discarding/reviving an energy in play with Jirachi, I hit for the turn 2 150 damage Lost Burn to put him in a really bad spot.

He doesn’t get another Typhlosion out for the rest of the game, and I go 2-0 to advance to top 8!

At the time, he does what I thought was a nice gesture, and teaches me how to say “good game” in Finnish — Paska Peli. I later find out from another Finnish player that Paska Peli actually means something like “that game sucked,” so I was kindof upset at that.

I guess I got trolled by Finland, but I don’t really mind. My deck did what it was supposed to do, and I emerged triumphant over Reshiphlosion once more!

7-1!

Top 8 vs. Tom Dolezal w/ Reshiphlosion

I’ll admit that by this point I’m extremely nervous. There’s a paid trip on the line, along with $2,000 and the price of the Pikachu No. 3 card. Tom’s nervous too though because he’s been in this spot before and knows he wants to make it, so naturally we misplay a good amount.

Game 1

He goes first and gets turn 2 everything, hits Reversals, and I have nothing. I scoop about 2-3 prizes in for a new game.

Game 2

pokemon-paradijs.com

I start really well to his poor start, but let him get back in it with multiple misplays. One of them was Reversaling a damaged Cyndaquil instead of a clean one to Knock Out. Another one was forgetting to Spray Splash. And a third one was at the end of the game when I announced Linear Attack instead of Sonicboom — wow did I play poor!

Luckily, he made some big mistakes too, including promoting a Reshiram when he had no energy in play and needed to Eeek with Cleffa, leaving him stuck. Eventually I am able to go off, take prizes, and stay up in the prize trade the full game with Magnezone and Jirachi, but I almost blew it there!

Game 3

Moving into game 3, I know it’s unlikely we’ll play a full game, so I try and do my best. He starts off HUGE with a turn 2 or 3 double Typhlosion and Reshiram to my lone Cleffa. I do what I can to stay in the game, and luck keeps me in it! I Eeek multiple times along with Reveraling his energyless Typhlosion in hopes that he can’t dump or draw energy to retreat. He can’t!

I flip a handful of tails on Eeeks and eventually my turn 4-5 Magnezone doesn’t seem so bad! I’m able to set up Magnezone and nab the first prize, but I still have a weak board and know I’m going to have to stay up if I want to win out. He misses a lot of Reversals too, so I’m really just barely in this one.

We exchange a few prizes, but time is called on his turn with me up one prize. He ties prizes on turn 0, and I know that I can’t take a prize on my turn 1. I attack an energy to a benched Magnezone to set up a KO for the next turn, and do the only thing I can do to block him a prize — Eeek! Coming essentially down to a coin flip, I whiff the crucial tails and give him an easy prize to go up one for turn 2.

On turn 3 I draw a lot of cards, set up Magneone to KO his active Reshiram, and Judge in hopes of denying him 2 PlusPowers. He’s already played a few resources at this point, so I take my tieing KO and hope for the best.

pokegym.netUnfortunately, he hits a Fire and after his Roast Reveal has the perfect 6 card hand to have the space for a DOUBLE Junk Arm for 2 PlusPower, and Blue Flare for the ko. It was a nail biter, but I had no real right to be in the game in the first place, so I’m glad I could make it close. My run goes to an end, and I exit the day at 7-2, 5th place.

Naturally, I replay the scenario over and over in my head trying to think if an alternative move could have been better, but I can’t really think of one.

My only other option on the turn I couldn’t take a prize would have been promoting a Magnezone with 1 damage counter on it, forcing him to use one more PlusPower and then needing 2 PlusPower on the next zone, but it sounds a lot worse than what I chose to do.

He could have used those Junk Arms as Reversals and easily KO’d Cleffa for his final prize had I changed the order around like that, and I think I was better off going to a flip.

Is it a shame that I couldn’t win out for the free trip, big prizes, and a chance to square off against Ross who I’ve already beaten to go to the finals? Sure, but I’m not too hung up on it. 5th place for my first World Championships is a stellar run that many long time established players haven’t been able to accomplish.

I still leave with a huge prize pool, and a new sense of honor and accomplishment. I feel like I proved a lot of the haters wrong, and showed a lot of great players that I do have what it takes to compete with the best. Many players way more experienced than I thanked me across the day, and it was straight up amazing.

Why to Make Worlds your Goal

pokegym.netEveryone that I met who had previously been to Worlds kept telling me the same thing: “Your first Worlds is your best.” I didn’t get it at the time, but I know what they meant now. You get so absorbed into the atmosphere that you feel like you’re part of something way bigger than you could ever imagine.

It’s a cultivation of Pokémon fandom, along with the end result to everyone’s hard work at the end of the year. You just feel special being there, as nerdy as it sounds, and it’s a feeling that I can’t really replace.

Meeting foreign players is also really, really cool. A great deal of them speak English, and the ones that don’t still try and communicate however they can. One pro for you guys who get to go next year — stock up on English sleeves and deckboxes! Our sleeves and boxes are so lame, but the Japanese players value them as much as we value all of their cool stuff!

They trade and sell VERY generously, and had I known this I could have really broke out with a huge “Prof-It” by the end of the trip (please excuse the horrible pun). We bought jumbo Zorua/Celebi cards for a DOLLAR, and some sets of Japanese sleeves for as little as five!

Other random knickknacks were very generously priced, including a $2 Celebi cell phone charm, an Immakuni? Pin for just 50 cents, and others. Next year, I’m going to come in with as much tradeable stuff from the US as I can!

With Worlds being in Hawaii this year, it does really suck to try and recommend that you guys go, but I think if you save slowly over the year, it can be done. I’m planning on playing a very economic season. Before Worlds, I decided to give up a longtime hobby of mine — reverse holos.

Those of you that know me know that I like to play full reverse holo decks, but I’ve decided that it’s really not worth it while I’m trying to save money. Non-reverse cards also shuffle much better, don’t stick to each other, and don’t warp in cold or hot rooms.

It took a while for me to make this decision and start trading my reverse stuff, but I think giving them up is kind of symbolic to my growth as a player, and as a person who will soon have to make his way into the “real world.” I love Pokémon and plan on playing it whenever I can, but going into my last year of college, I’ve got to afford it too!

I wish you guys all luck in your quest for Worlds, and I hope it goes well for you! In my last section, I’d like to talk briefly about my opinion on Emerging Powers. I got two boxes of the set, and after viewing every single card in the set multiple times, have a pretty distinct verdict. Here it is!

Emerging Powers — Worse than Call of Legends?

In a random fun thread I made a few days ago, I made a comment that I thought our new set, Emerging Powers, was worse than Call of Legends. Chris humorously responded that the set couldn’t be bad simply on the grounds that it had TWO Basculin, but I think that my assessment is something that a lot of people don’t want to hear.

While I’m not going to give a full set review, I thought a recap of my thoughts on seeing the full set and eyeing it for a while in real life would be helpful to share.

In terms of sheer disappointment, Call of Legends can’t really be beaten — we all had our hopes up so high for a metagame-impacting set, but ended up with a LOT of reprints. At the time of its release, it WAS a terrible set because it added nothing to the metagame other than Lost World, which fell through pretty hard as a completely game-changing card.

To make an honest assessment of the set NOW though is different. There’s a handful of playable cards littered throughout it, including Cleffa, Tyrogue, Jirachi, Pachirisu, Ninetales, and a slew of playable Supporters (Copycat, PONT, and Sage’s Training). While I wouldn’t suggest you go out and buy CoL packs, I believe that the set at least holds some value in terms of playability today.

As soon as the HGSS-On rotation was announced, I found that the near 4+ boxes my friends/family had pulled through either judging or performance at Regionals/States had not gone to waste.

However, in terms of playability for our upcoming format, EP actually is a terrible set. Not a single rare card seems like it can compete with what we already have. Gothitelle “seems” really good but I’ve had a hard time getting it to function so far in fun testing.

Being able to play your own Trainers sounds great, but being forced to use the slow Gothitelle in the active slot as your main attacker does not. Beartic seems good but still needs a full-out dedication to finding a way to deal with Yanmega being able to retreat to end your lock.

pokebeach.comCatcher is obviously an amazing card, and likely a 4-of in every deck that ran Reversals before, but the pull rate for it is TERRIBLE. I pulled 6 in my two boxes, and I’ve heard rumors of some people only getting as low as 3-4 in their two… yikes!

Can’t tell if it’s intentional or an accident, like with the really low Cynthia’s pull counts in Legends Awakened a while back.

Other playable cards are more Trainers — Max Potion, Crush Hammer, and Cheren all at least deserve a look. As far as Pokémon, the only one I actually LIKE is the Sigilyph with reflect. I know that a Psychic + DCE to snipe 50 doesn’t sound amazing, but on a basic it seems pretty easy to set up in decent time alongside Kingdra and Yanmega, and Jirachi loves Psychic + DCE (remember, only the first energy attached to him has to be Psychic) to devolve stuff.

He has the same awful Lightning weakness, but also the same solid resistance to Fighting that Yanmega does, too. Being a 90 HP basic allows him to take a hit, even from turn 2, and using Reflect only greatly increases his staying power, which I really like.

Even on paper though, once I wrote out a list for the deck it didn’t seem that great without being able to fit some stable draw like Magnezone, but I’d still like to try it out.

Other factors, besides actual unplayable cards, make me dislike the set. One of them is that there are a TON of cards that we already saw in Black and White. I know we’re getting our promos out of the way, but it stinks to see only a small amount of new faces before we finally get the Red Collection stuff.

On top of that, everything is a duplicate. There are 2 different copies of 18 different Pokémon in the set, which just makes for bad variety. Only 10 holos too — which means it’s really easy and less exciting to collect (I pulled a full set in both boxes).

On the plus side, some things are a great step forward. The new reverses are sick (the good kind of sick) — the new reverse holos feature a very cool energy/Pokéball pattern which are some of the best reverse patterns ever made.

Ironic that I just gave up “blinging out” decks, and then they make the bling even more irresistible. I guess I’ll collect them if cards I like are in the hands of eager traders, but since there’s not too much I want from EP so far, I guess my wallet is in luck : P.

On a second plus side, these are the first packs that will include pack codes for the official online program within every pack (if I’m not mistaken, this will include retail packs as well). Not only will this bring a steady flow of new interest and players into the competitive game, but it will also increase the legitimacy of the game itself.

Lots of packs will be open, making the desire for pack codes much higher, along with their price much lower because of how many more of them there will be than the beta codes. I expect a single online pack code to go for as low as 50 cents, which should make their acquisition pretty easy for those who want to practice seriously over the new program.

On the final plus side, having one set phase out a ton of Japanese promo cards only leaves room for a predictable and solid set for the upcoming season. This set even included a handful (somewhere between 5 and 10) English-exclusive cards, which are sure to be future promo cards for Japan.

I always hate it when Japan produces large compilations of promos through things like starter sets, because it means that we’re inevitably going to have to print them. Getting them out of the way means that we can finally get back to business with the next set.

While it’s unfortunate that we can’t get BOTH playable cards AND phase out the promos in the same set, (see Supreme Victors for example: it has a whopping 150 cards, including both a terrible assortment of Japanese promos as well as a great extension to Pokémon SP alongside some of my favorite Pokémon ever printed) Pokémon seems to want to keep it’s sets down to 100 or less cards.

While I know that people buying more product only helps the game, my ultimate goal as a writer here is to give you my best advice. As a player who was treated to 2 boxes, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have bought a box of the set otherwise.

My “expert” advice would be to trade or buy one playset of Catcher and test/proxy any new card that really interests you before actually trying to get it. As a player who still hits one prerelease for set because I just think they’re fun, I don’t want to take that away from you if it’s part of your yearly routine.

However, if you’re on the fence of prereleasing or not, you’re probably better off investing your $25 into the guaranteed playset of Catcher.

In Closing

pokegym.netNow that I’ve been this far, I know that I have what it takes to come back. While it’d be quite an accomplishment to somehow top my performance last year, I can’t help but think it’s possible with how much I’ve grown as a player over the season. I want to thank all of you guys for pressuring me to get better, along with our own staff for giving me the tools I need to grow.

I know that going as far as I did this season puts a new burden over my shoulders — teaching you guys how to do the same — and my goal next year is to help you guys as members to have your own “breakthrough season.” Let me know what kind of things you guys would like to know in the future, and I’ll do my best with my writing opportunities to teach you whatever I know!

And even if my stuff doesn’t cut it for you, I’m sure that moving into our second season of Underground will only get better and better. I might have had a great season, but we still have an incredible, seasoned, and knowledgeable staff that’s here to help you how we can.

I know it might sound dumb to say that as a writer I was given the tools I needed through Underground, but it’s so true, and I hope that we can help you guys in your next season too!

See you all in our second year of Underground, and the new season!

-Josh


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