A Tale of (Three) Cities and Why I Miss Being Bad at Pokémon

Hey, SixPrizes!

ironicsans.comBefore I begin, I must address my obligatory “first article” commitments and give a small introduction. My name is Jacob Willinger — I’m a Masters player from the Fort Wayne, Indiana area. I have been playing competitively for almost a year now and have grown to love this game and community more than I ever thought I would. You may also see me floating around the 6P forums often as your newest moderator, Mr_Rumpleteezer.

I’ll call it quits on the introduction there, though I will further address some earlier aspects of my Pokémon experiences in the latter half of this article. But first, I have three City Championship reports for you. I want to do my best to not make these completely boring or run-of-the-mill, though I may unfortunately fail on the principle that these are still just CC reports that you have all probably read several times before.

However, my hope is that the section of the article after the reports will give you a shot of nostalgia, something to think about, something to laugh about, or at least start some fun discussion. Its intentions are purely lighthearted and I hope you will enjoy it. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it though — so without further delay here are the reports. I’ll cover my deck choice first.

Back to my Roots: Machamp

pokemon-paradijs.comMachamp will always hold a special place in my heart, both Prime and Stormfront. In fact, the first semi-competitive deck that I ever used was DonChamp. Though my build wasn’t great, I still played it from States in March to Nationals in July, ending the season with a horrible record, a lucky Battle Roads win, and lots of great experiences. R.I.P “Take Out.”

However, I decided to drop Machamp at the beginning of this season to play Donphan and Dragons instead. I had lots of fun with it through Battle Roads and Regionals, but I really felt an urge to play something a little different for City Championships. After doing some research and spending time looking at decks I had the capability to build, I finally decided to give Machamp another chance and settled with Donphan/Machamp/Vileplume the day before the Angola CC on 1/7.

I built it that night and worked on it until six in the morning on the day of the tournament. My decklist is listed below. Much thanks to Dakota Streck and Jay Hornung for their respective articles on the deck, as well as a big thanks to my friends on HeyTrainer that gave me help and advice. I’ll give some notes and explanations on the deck after the list.

Pokémon – 24

4 Machop TM

3 Machoke TM

3 Machamp Prime

3 Phanpy HS

3 Donphan Prime

3 Oddish UD

1 Gloom UD

2 Vileplume UD

1 Cleffa HS/CL

1 Pichu HS

Trainers – 24

4 Pokémon Collector

3 N

3 Sage’s Training

3 Twins

2 Professor Oak’s New Theory

1 Flower Shop Lady


4 Rare Candy

4 Pokémon Communication

Energy – 12

7 F

3 Double Colorless

2 Rainbow


A few notes:

The ‘champ himself

– For those of you unfamiliar with the deck, the basic strategy is as follows: As with every lock deck, you want to prioritize Vileplume in order to slow down your opponent’s set up and protect your own. Donphan provides a fantastic “wall” Pokémon for your set up by putting some early damage on the board and being difficult to KO. He also serves to charge Machamp’s “Champ Buster” attack and will ultimately provide your chance for the token “Fighting Tag”, which allows you to switch out your Active Pokémon with Machamp by moving all F Energy to him.

At this point, you want at least one more Machamp set up on your bench so you can string the Fighting Tags and hit consistently for 100-150 damage.

Maybe this description is a little confusing, but if you get a chance to look at the cards you will see the obvious synergy.

– I broke a significant rule (see David G.’s Top 10 Reasons You’re Going to Lose) by not playtesting with this deck enough. In fact, the only playtesting I had was two matches against my roommate’s Typhlosion/Magnezone deck in the early hours of the morning on the day of the tournament. While these two matches did help me make minor tweaks, I didn’t get to test against anything else in the metagame, thereby forcing me to theorymon about most of my matchups.

In light of this, I must admit that I was originally freaking out a lot about the Durant matchup and had little idea how I could possibly beat it. I knew Machamp could 1HKO Durant, but it still just didn’t seem plausible.

– Special conditions aren’t really that big of an issue. Once you have at least two Machamps set up and ready you can just Fighting Tag out of any special condition you may encounter. This saved me countless times against everyone’s favorite two scoops of sweet, dairy deliciousness, Vanilluxe. I’ll elaborate a little more on this later.

– Another neat aspect of the deck is that it is a rare occasion for any of your Pokémon to get “stuck” in the Active Spot simply because you can Fighting Tag off of them (providing you have an Energy). Chandelure players would sometimes Luring Light my Vileplume in hopes of getting it caught, but in typical Honey Badger fashion, “Machamp don’t care” and tagged off of it anyway.

Machamp’s way of life

– After playing with variations of this list, I still think both the T/S/S lines and Energy need some fine tuning. I would’ve liked to have at least one Professor Elm’s Training Method in there as well as some Rescue Energy, maybe. However, I was too afraid that the deck was going to get even clunkier. Shame on me for not testing more :/

– I had never used Pichu in any deck before and I’ll admit that I was absolutely terrified to have to use Playground. However, when it came time, I put on my big boy pants and did it anyway. Fortunately I never regretted it once and it was always more helpful than harmful.

– Pulling Twins with Twins is brilliance. I know this is not a novel idea, but I finally got to utilize this during a match and it was beautiful.

Rainbow Energies were so clutch. The extra 10 damage for Champ Buster was often essential if Donphan didn’t get out or if you didn’t have Pokémon to damage during your early game. I think three was the perfect number, though I honestly did consider running a full four.

– I found that the mechanics of Fighting Tag and Energy attachment were a bit more complicated than I had anticipated. Learning where to attach Energy and when to Tag was the biggest learning curve I had while playing with the deck. If you’re not careful, you can end up with four or five F Energy attached to a Machamp instead of the desired DCE and two fighting. Energy efficiency is always key.

Now it’s time for the actual reports. Keep in mind that some of the match reports might be a bit cursory; I can’t recall all the specifics.

Angola, Indiana: 1/7

en.wikipedia.orgI woke up at 9:00 and headed out with my roommate, Tim, and another one of my best friends, Mikey. After gassing up and hitting up McDonald’s, we finally left at 10:00 and made it to Angola a little after 11:00.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived is that there weren’t too many players in attendance. I think that Masters ended up having a little over 20 players, while Juniors and Seniors had about 10 total between both groups. Fortunately, a few friends from league were there, so it was at least nice to be with them. It was announced that we would have 5 rounds.

At this point, I’m freaking out about my deck choice and desperately wishing that I was running Donphan and Dragons instead. My friends kept telling me to stop worrying, but I was still really nervous going into the first round.

Round 1: Clinton Kirkwood w/ Eels/Magnezone/Zekrom

I had never met Clinton before, but I was fairly sure I had seen him around at other tournaments. We talked a lot before and during the match, ended up doing some trading afterward, and then hung out for the rest of the tournament. Clinton is a good guy and a friend of mine now and I’m really thankful to have met him.

I believe I started with either a Cleffa and an Oddish, or maybe two Oddish—I can’t recall exactly. I noticed right away by his set up that he was playing EelZone. He didn’t know what I was playing until I Collector-ed for Phanpy and Machop. The first KO didn’t happen until late in the round when he was forced to Lost Burn four Energy against my Donphan. I used that opportunity to use Twins, and for the rest of the game the deck worked as planned and I am able to take my first victory.


Round 2: Evan Baker w/ Donphan/Dragons

The mighty stone elephant

Evan is a member of Team Warp Point, an outstandingly skilled team of great guys from Michigan. I love every time I get to hang with Warp Pointers, so it was great that both Evan and Andrew (another member) were there.

However, playing against them is another story. Evan is a great player and I was nervous to have to play him. Still, I thought maybe if I could just get up the Vileplume early….

He crushed me.


Round 3: Jimmy Pennetta w/ Mew/Chandelure

Jimmy is a friend and member of the league I attend. I knew he was playing Mew and Chandelure and was concerned about the Weakness. However, I was able to Twins for Vileplume after he killed my Machop and was able to pull off the victory due to his Supporter drought (and also despite his incessant attempts to Luring Light my Vileplume).


Round 4: Keaton Gill w/ Durant

I was really nervous about this one. Keaton is a great player and I knew that he had won Fort Wayne Cities a few weeks earlier. He was also playing Durant. So here it was, time to figure out if the deck had the strength to hang with the dangerous, devilish, dynamic, devouring Durant.

I don’t remember who went first, but I do remember that I somehow got both a Vileplume and Machamp set up with Champ Buster ready in mid to late game. Since Vileplume nullifies Lost Remover, Crushing Hammer, and Revive and since Champ Buster is a 1HKO on Durant, I was able to roll off four or five straight KOs without losing any Energy and without a Durant coming back in to play.

It was definitely close though. At one point I had three cards left in my deck but was fortunate enough to have an N in hand. He told me afterward that when I “N’d” it took away his Flower Shop Lady, which was his last chance to get back in the game.

*sigh of relief*


Round 5: Mikey w/ Durant

pokemon-paradijs.comMikey and I have never played each other in a tournament before, so this matchup felt a little odd to both of us. He was the only one in Swiss who was undefeated, and I knew I had to beat him in order to get to Top 4.

And somehow I did it. I “N’d” once again late game, this time with no cards in my deck. This stalled long enough for me to KO his last Durant as well as his Cobalion.

At this point, Machamp had KO’d eight Durants in a row without a Revive (which felt great), and I wondered how much longer my luck could last.


Top 4

I finally did it. My first real Top Cut. I know it might be a common event for some, but I was so excited. This is how the Top 4 looked:

1. Evan Baker: 4-1 w/ Donphan/Dragons

2. Jacob Willinger: 4-1 w/ Donphan/Machamp/Vileplume

3. Jimmy Nichols: 4-1 w/ Chandelure/Vileplume

4. Mike Ayers: 4-1 w/ Durant

Jimmy Nichols was my matchup. Once again, I knew Chandelure would not be easy.

Game 1

pokemon-paradijs.comI can barely remember this for some reason, but I’m fairly sure we traded prizes until we each had about three remaining. At this point, he had at least one Chandy ready with Energy and the weakness absolutely decimated my poor Machamp.


Game 2

I go first on this one. This game was very, very long, but fortunately I was able to pull off the victory. At this point I’m wondering when time would be called because I knew I had a shot in Game 3 if I could just get the early prize.


Game 3

Jimmy goes first and has a stellar set up. Time is called, and all I have is a lone Donphan. Jimmy is able to kill it in three turns, and that’s all she wrote for Machamp and company on that day.


The best part about the day was that Mikey was able to beat Evan and Jimmy to win the whole thing! I was and still am really happy for him. But considering that I was the only person to beat him all day, I like to think by some kind of weird transitive property that I actually won.

(I’m just kidding about that, to be clear.)

Plus, I pulled a reverse holo Kyurem in my packs. Zing!

Muncie, Indiana: 1/8

allposters.comWe left at 10 the next morning to go one hour in the opposite direction to Muncie, IN. I was expecting this CC to have much higher attendance and be much more challenging. I knew there were some great players who attend Ball State University (Team Sugarbush, I think?) and also knew that it was Team Hovercat territory. Sure enough, both teams were there, as well as my new friend Clinton and the fellow I had played in top cut the previous day, Jimmy. I knew it would be a tougher field, but I looked forward to the challenge.

When we finally arrived, we were informed that the tournament was postponed for two hours because the library wasn’t even open yet. So after a trip to McDonalds and the local mall, we finally got into the library for registration. But then things went from bad to worse. The organizer’s printer wasn’t working, so all deck sheets had to be written out manually, there were no Win/Loss slips for the games, and the matchups after each round had to be shown on the organizer’s computer screen.

It was definitely a strenuous tournament day for everyone. Still, the one light in the darkness was that my dear friend Mike Newman was judging the tournament that day. Loved it.

Round 1: Victoria Vichek w/ Theme Deck?

During setup I had the chance to look at her hand after she didn’t draw a Basic. I saw a Marowak and a Badchamp in her hand, so I knew she was probably a new player with some sort of modified theme deck. After some small talk and finally getting set up, the game started. I went first with a lone Phanpy and she started lone Terrakion. However, I was able to get Donphan out on turn 2 and Earthquake three times before she could pull another Basic. It was a disappointing loss for her, but we wished each other good luck and moved on.


Round 2: Tyler Harnish w/ Vanilluxe/Vileplume/Victini

pokemon-paradijs.comTyler was a really nice guy and relatively new player to the game. When I mentioned to him that I might be doing a write-up on my CCs, he asked me to mention that he was the best looking player I have ever played. And so he was.

I can’t remember who went first, but I do remember that the game stalled out a little bit because we were both looking for Twins support. On one turn I was finally able to Rare Candy to both a Machamp and a Vileplume and got things rolling. I Fighting Tagged out of Paralysis several times during the game and he eventually ran out of gas.


Round 3: Jackie Wheeler w/ Eels/Zekrom/Tornadus

Jackie is probably the nicest player I have ever met — and I really don’t say that lightly. Her son Ty is one of the best players in the Senior division, but she really is an outstanding player herself. As a matter of fact, she was the only player to go undefeated in Swiss on this tournament day.

Once again, I forget who went first, but as soon as she saw my Fighting Pokémon come out she Collector-ed for her Tornadus. She eventually Catchered one of my Oddish and KO’d it, allowing me to have Twins access for Vileplume. The rest of the game was long and a prize exchange all the way down to 1 Prize each.

On my last turn I remember everything on my side being in KO range and knew I couldn’t prevent her from taking a prize on the next turn, so I ended my turn and congratulated her on her victory. I couldn’t be upset though — it was a great game and you just can’t get mad losing to Jackie!


Round 4: Jake Kart w/ Typhlosion/Reshiram

pokemon-paradijs.comJake is another member of the league I attend and also a good friend of mine. We test as often as we get the chance to and I always ask him for advice on my decks because he always has good and original input. In fact, he doesn’t run Pokémon Collector in his deck and still has some of the most consistent games I’ve seen.

I actually got steam rolled in this game. I didn’t quite understand it though — I got Vileplume out on turn 2 and he was still able to evolve to two Typhlosions without Rare Candy and Pokémon Communication. I even “N’d” him on turn 2 as well. Oh well–I can’t complain about the loss and was very happy to see Jake doing well.


Round 5: Zach Dalton w/ Lanturn/Eels

This was by far the quickest match of the day. He started a lone Chinchou and I started a lone Phanpy with Donphan in hand. I attached a F Energy and ended my turn. He attached a DCE and ended his turn. I evolved to Donphan and EQ’d for the game. He was really disappointed but was still in good spirits. I ended up giving him some cards for his deck and we chatted a little bit while we waited for the round to end.


What happened next is still the most disappointing thing to happen to me at a tournament. The organizer and judges accidentally recorded my match wrong, so I was listed as 2-3 after round five instead of 3-2. I pointed this out to them only to have them inform me that there was nothing they could do about it. I did my very best to not get upset about it, but it was really hard considering I lost all chances of top cutting. At this point I just decided to stick it out and try to finish 3-3.

Round 6: Bill Hunt w/ Vanilluxe/Vileplume/Victini/Audino

This is what I felt like

I started a lone Pichu and he started a lone Audino. He went first. I started to get a little flustered because I knew I could possibly end the day 2-4 off of a judge mistake and Audino donk. Gross. He attached W Energy to Audino and then Communicated for a Victini.

And then he flipped two tails.

I was ecstatic. He was definitely disappointed and told me it was the second time that it happened to him during the day. After that start I can’t really remember the specifics, but I know I powered up two Machamps and ran the rest of the game. Phew.


So, I missed topping, but I was still satisfied with my deck’s performance. The Top 8 were as follows:

1. Jackie Wheeler: 6-0 w/ Eels/Zekrom/Tornadus

2. Sam Haywood: 5-1 w/ Typhlosion/Reshiram (< — I think)

3. Alex Leachman: 5-1 w/ Durant

4. Andy Marsh: 4-2 w/ Chandelure/Vileplume

5. Jacob Kart: 4-2 w/ Typhlosion/Reshiram

6. Kyle Lesniewicz: 4-2 w/ Vanilluxe/Vileplume/Victini

7. Shaun Kauffman: 4-2 w/ Lanturn/Eels

8. Kyle Epperson: 4-2 w/ Donphan/Dragons

I was really excited for Jake to get Top 8 and stuck around to watch him. He beat Andy Marsh to get to Top 4 and then handed Jackie her first loss of the day to make Top 2. Amazing! “The Collector-less Wonder” himself made it all the way to the top.

Unfortunately, he lost to Kyle in Top 2. It was an outstanding series of games but Kyle ultimately pulled it off. Congrats to Jake for topping and to Kyle for winning!

LaGrange, Indiana: 1/14

en.wikipedia.orgI used the week in between the Muncie and LaGrange tournaments to make a few consistency changes to the deck. I finally arrived at a build that I was happy with (this is the list posted above) and felt very prepared for this tournament. I knew LaGrange was a very small city and wondered if there would even be 20 Masters at this one, let alone any of the big names from around the area.

I was very wrong. Pikkdogs, Team Warp Point, Jackson Iler, Tracy Key, Keaton Gill, Matthew Kish, and the number one ranked player in Illinois Vincent Blasko were all in attendance in addition to several other good players. My mind was blown. I was really happy that all these great players from the Midwest showed up to little ol’ LaGrange for one last hurrah at a City Championship. I believe there were about 35 Masters in all.

Round 1: Bruce B. w/ Magnezone/Emboar/RDL???

Bruce is a judge in our area and a really fun guy. He would have normally judged this tournament but my friend James volunteered to judge so that Bruce could play.

Unfortunately, he had a lone Cleffa start. He Eeeeeked and stayed asleep. I attached an Energy to my Phanpy and played N. The next turn he Eeeeeked again and woke up. I had a Donphan in hand and EQ’d for the game.


Round 2: Josiah Kemp w/ Zekrom/Pachirisu/Shaymin/Tornadus

Why you hatin’, Tornadus?

Josiah is a member of my league and a friend of mine. This was actually his first CC all season and he was really excited to play. We both knew what the other was playing, and once again I was a little concerned about Tornadus.

Fortunately for me, he had some bad hands and was unable to bring out Tornadus. Both of us actually had Energy drought for a significant portion of the game as well. Eventually I was able to set up a Vileplume and swarm Donphans to get the necessary KOs. Josiah remained in good spirits though, noting that he still had a really good feeling about the rest of the tournament.


Round 3: John Horn w/ Vanilluxe/Vileplume/Victini

I was a bit confused by John’s list. I knew he was running VVV so I was surprised when I saw Catchers and Junk Arms. But I decided to not worry about it and knew they wouldn’t be an issue.

I also got really lucky on this one. At one point he needed to Paralyze my Machamp, but he didn’t flip double heads on a Double Freeze and didn’t have Victini out. Eventually I was able to get everything set up and once again Fighting Tagged out of Paralysis multiple times to get the string of KOs going.


At this point, I’m really excited to be 3-0 but worried I’m going to scrub out the rest of the day. I just didn’t have a good feeling about it. Shame on me for my incessant worrying.

Round 4: Bohdan Pelekh w/ Donphan/Dragons

Bohdan is a Warp Pointer and a friend of mine. When I was still running Donphan/Dragons myself he gave me some good advice on my list. At any rate, Bohdan’s a fantastic (Phantastic?) player and I knew it would be a tough match.

I at least lasted longer than I did against Evan’s Donphan/Dragons. I believe I was down 6 to 2 on prizes before I worked it down to 3-1. Unfortunately, I used the wrong attack at the end of the match and it cost me the game. Curses.

I love my Warp Pointers, but just once I would like to beat one!


Round 5: Jack Iler w/ Durant

pokemon-paradijs.comJack is a great player from Ohio. I knew he was running Durant and consequently knew it was not going to be an easy match. I just tried to focus on my plan: one Vileplume, one Machamp, and one bench Pokémon for any Seeker antics…

I can’t even remember if I took a prize at all.


Round 6: Jacob Konter w/ Six Corners

This was by far the most exciting match of my day. I knew top cut was in my grasp if I could win this one, but I really didn’t know how to handle the proverbial Big Basics.

I’m fairly sure I went down 6-2 on prizes again—in the least it was 6-3. I think I must have just had one tremendous turn of set up before I started to Tag and take prizes left and right. Eventually the game went down to 1 Prize to one. I remember on his last turn he was a mere 10 damage away from the revenge kill with Terrakion but he just couldn’t get the KO. When the turn came back to me I had enough damage on the bench for one final Champ Buster and the win. I couldn’t believe it.


Top 8

I knew there were a lot of 4-2’s at this point and had no idea if I would make it. But I did! The Top 8:

1. Vincent Blasko: 6-0 w/ Durant

2. Jackson Iler: 5-1 w/ Durant

3. Bohdan Pelekh: 5-1 w/ Donphan/Dragons

4. Josiah Kemp: 5-1 w/ ZPST

5. Keaton Gill: 5-1 w/ Durant

6. Nikolas Campbell: 4-2 w/ Eels/Magnezone

7. Jacob Willinger: 4-2 w/ Donphpan/Machamp/Vileplume

8. Tracy Key: 4-2 w/ Terrakion/Electrode

pokemon-paradijs.comI was really happy to see that Josiah had done so well after his loss to me. We both agreed that it felt really good to be sitting at the top tables with players like Vince, Bohdan, Tracy, and Jack. Still, I had to play Jack again and was really nervous. Fortunately, Jack is a good guy and told me to just have fun and take my time.

Game 1

Jack gets to go first on this one. He gets set up first turn and starts the relentless Devour. I remember having a decent set up but was forced to use a Sage’s Training or two. On the next turn he nails a Crushing Hammer flip that ended up being significant; I finished the game with a Vileplume and Machamp — but the Machamp was one Energy short of Champ Buster.


I chose to go first in this one. I had a fantastic start and everything worked as planned. I busted his Durants to the discard and my sweet Vileplume wouldn’t allow the Revives. All tied up.


Jack chose to go first in this final match. I think it took him two turns to start the four-Durant Devour, but I still felt relatively confident with my hand. I had an active Oddish with a Rare Candy in hand and just needed a Communication for Vileplume. But then he discarded two of them. And then it kept going, and going, and going, and I never saw a Communication once. I used almost my entire shuffle Supporters and still never saw it. Where was Vileplume?

Both of them were prized. It was sick. But it didn’t matter anyway — my deck was too far gone.


This pretty much nails it

The Top 4 looked like this then:

– Vincent Blasko: Durant

– Keaton Gill: Durant

– Jack Iler: Durant

– Bohdan Pelekh: Donphan/Dragons

That’s right, three Durant decks in the Top 4. I was pulling for Bohdan, but unfortunately he barely missed it. Vincent B. ended winning in the Top 2 against Jack to win it all. Congrats, Vince!

And that’s it for my CC reports. I had a great time and was very happy with how my deck performed. Thanks again to everyone who helped with it. Now let’s shift the discussion a little bit here:

Why I Miss Being Really Bad at Pokémon

I know this seems like a complete digression, and to a point it is, but I’ll try to tie it up at the end.

After leaving the LaGrange CC, my friends and I were sitting in McDonald’s drinking shakes and discussing when we first started the game. We all decided that we really miss when we were all really bad at Pokémon. I know a simple answer to this is, “Jacob, you’re still really bad.” Ok, well, in the context of the larger competitive scene, yes I am. But I’m not talking about that kind of “bad.” I’m talking about the very, very early days of playing.

It was a little over a year ago when my friend Kendall came into my room and started telling me about something called the “Pokémon Professor Exam.” He noted that people who understand the card game really well can take this exam and be granted the title “Pokémon Professor.” He was really excited about it, but I just kind of shrugged it off at the time: “That’s cool I guess.”

But then we found a league. While I still wasn’t that interested, I still tagged along the first time just because it was something to do. We met two guys there, Jake and James (both mentioned above), who ended up being good friends and teammates. I watched James destroy Kendall with VileGar and Jake demolish Mikey with RDL. However, it was still really fun for all of us and we had a great time.

Sometime over the next few days I gave in and bought the Royal Guard theme deck. You know…the one with the Nidoking, the Marowak, and the Grumpig. I thought it was awesome. Soon everyone got a theme deck and some random boosters and we started playing all the time. We even had a Win/Loss board for a short while; I believe I was 0-10 at one point, much to my chagrin.

Soon, the power cards emerged in our decks: Espeon Prime, Lickilicky TM, Arcanine HS, and Togekiss UD.

Accordingly, the frustration and intensity increased the more we played against each other.

So overpowered

– Espeon became “so cheap”: Solar Suggestion isn’t even fair! It’s like you aren’t even damaging him!

– Lickilicky became “just stupid”: It shouldn’t be able to hit any Pokémon like that!

Arcanine became “overpowered”: 90 damage is way too powerful!

Togekiss became “annoying”: I spend so much time damaging you and then it just goes away!

We didn’t tech against the metagame, we teched against each other. We didn’t understand effective Energy attachment and our Supporter lines were atrocious (usually two Cheerleader’s Cheers and about three Emcee’s Chatter). We thought “Seeker”, “Sage’s Training”, and “Junk Arm” were stupid cards: Why would I want to discard anything just to get a trainer back? We concurrently thought that “Poké Ball”, “Interviewer’s Questions”, and “Life Herb” were the greatest cards ever.

We went online every so often to look at cards and decklists, but we still didn’t really pay attention to the “good decks” or “good cards.” In fact, I distinctly remember looking at Stormfront Gyarados for the first time and thinking “Wow, I don’t even see how this card could be good at all.” I also thought Crobat G was completely pointless.

That’s what I mean by “bad.” I mean — we were really horrible! But it didn’t matter because all we were doing was having fun — lots of fun. We would play day after day with our decks and didn’t really comprehend how horribly inconsistent they were. There weren’t any ratings or Championship Points to worry about and we were completely fine with running a Candy-less 3-3-3 line of our Pokémon. Ignorance truly is bliss, I suppose.

I really do miss all of it. For lack of a better term, I think there was a real “innocence” to the game back then that we don’t have any more. It was purely a fun hobby with no strings attached and it was a fun time spent with fun people.

But still, as with a lot of hobbies and interests you have, you want to know more about it and become more invested in it. You also want to become better — it’s just part of being human. Take for example competitive video games, sports, and even one’s career. Everyone wants to enjoy what they play or do but everyone also wants to get better at it and be more competitive. It brings a different kind of experience and “fun” to the scene, which is entirely appropriate.

Pokémon was no different for us. We all eventually got our first Primes and started building more competitive decks with these Primes as the focus. We started to gain interest in going to tournaments and consequently wanted to know what decks people were playing. Eventually we heard about some deck called “LuxChomp” and how crazy good it was. When all was said and done we knew what the metagame was, understood that Gyarados was indeed a force to be reckoned with, and had played in our first Regional tournament.

Now here we are today; we’re finally making top cut and I’m somehow a moderator on one of the most popular Pokémon TCG sites — and I must admit that I wouldn’t trade it for anything, even for those early days. The intimacy of the community is something to cherish and the mechanics of deck building and gameplay are too exciting and fun not to love. I love making daily visits to Pokébeach, The Top Cut, HeyTrainer, and SixPrizes. I love reading about new deck ideas and synergy behind cards. I love hearing about what deck won tournaments and I love all the excitement for new sets. I love helping out beginners to the game. I love this game and I love the people who play it with me.

elmstreetpac.orgUltimately, I guess what I miss is something to the effects of missing one’s childhood. Everyone misses when the only worry you had was what to play on during recess. In the same way, I miss that feeling of not really caring too much about anything in the game or having too much responsibility.

Maybe it’s just me, and more so maybe it’s just a little stupid of me to miss that, but I’d be willing to bet some of you too miss your early days of playing Pokémon in some form or another. In the least, thinking about your early days of playing is just a way to be nostalgic and reminisce about a different time in your life. Again, it’s not that I don’t love having to be more responsible with respects to the game, because I do. It’s just one of those things that’s hard to put exact words to.

Maybe some of you don’t miss how bad you used to be or were never bad at all. I definitely understand this, especially if you were thrown into the competitive scene right away. But that’s still ok — I’m sure everyone still has at least one favorite memory of the game, whether it be the first time playing, the first trip to Nationals, or just the time spent with your friends.

And that’s it. I do miss being bad at Pokémon. But I also love being “better” and a part of this community. There are feelings and reasons that radically differentiate these two experiences from one another but both still have their own distinct virtues, and to me that’s what makes them really neat.

I’d love to hear what you guys think of my notions. I’d also love to hear some favorite memories and experiences that you’ve had, so go ahead and share in the comments below or on the forums.

Conclusion and Thanks

Here he comes

As we move into February, City Championships are over, Prereleases are among us, and State Championships are glowing in the distance. I can probably go ahead and put Machamp away for a while considering the rapid approach of the one and only legendary creature himself, Mewtwo EX.

At any rate, I hope you all enjoyed the reports and personal piece. I’m at over 6,000 words now and it is definitely time for me to go, but before I do I’d like to throw out a few thanks:

– To Adam and SixPrizes, thanks for being a good leader and community.

– To all of my friends at HeyTrainer, thanks for helping me understand the game a lot better.

– To all of my league friends, thanks for playing the game with me, having fun with me, and being great friends in general.

– To Team Warp Point, for being the chillest bunch of dudes to play the game.

– And to my close friends, thanks for putting up with me and my obsession with this game.



Reader Interactions

41 replies

  1. James Hall

    Good job dude! Good article and I know what you mean about missing being “bad” at Pokemon. I do have to say that being a league leader and all, even though I do poorly at tournaments, I always get a sense of pride when you guys do well. It’s kinda like growing up together but in Pokemon…

    Anyway, good job on the article!

    • Jacob Willinger  → James

      Thanks again and again for all of your help, James–especially for trading my first Donphan to me ;)

  2. Bohdan Pelekh

    Great article, man. thanks for the shoutout. I’m glad you made top cut in Lagrange, because i would have felt terrible if you didn’t lol.

  3. Grant Manley

    It’s fantastic. Not Phantastic
    I’m a Durant hater. Sue me.
    I tried a Landorus/Machamp Prime/Vileplume deck and it was pretty good
    but I never tried it in a tourney.
    I think it is really cheap that your second tourney was decided by some mistaken judge
    who didn’t get your match recorded correctly.
    I would be outraged. Good first article. Tourney reports never get old for me even though
    I’ve read a ton. However, these CCs were not exactly that recent and I think you should’ve posted
    these reports like one to five days after the last one.
    (First Comment! YEAH! This is my first first comment!) (I’m so punny)

    • Lynx Meche  → Grant

      Looks to me like four people beat you to first =) Gotta try a little harder next time.

      But “Phantastic” is just a pun, haha. Fantastic + Donphan, Donphantastic, phantastic. We would’ve caught that in editing if it was a typo.

      • Grant Manley  → Lynx

        Correction: As I was typing the comment there were no other comments shown.

        I must not be as punny as I think if I didn’t even catch that donphantastic pun.
        (Sorry for underestimating your spelling, Jacob Willinger)

  4. Joe Yang

    This is exactly what happened when a couple friends and I started playing in 2007. Two of my friends and I played decks we thought were super-cool (like Glaceon / Empoleon and the Darkrai / Torterra theme deck), with only one of my friends actually playing a competitive deck (Mario). Suffice to say, since we didn’t know he just netdecked it all, we thought he was the most boss player of all.

  5. Dave Wilson

    I also miss the early days. Enjoying the game for what it was, not so much competitive pressure. I think a lot of the nostalgia comes from a sort of wonderous ignorance; when you don’t know anything about the game yet, everything you experience is magical, new, and exciting.

  6. Lynx Meche

    +1 for the title.

    Oh, and it was a good article too. I remember when I played against Cabd when he got me back into the card game; he’d just bought some theme decks, i had my Base cards. “Tyranitar Prime and Feraligatr (not-Prime) are too broken! Hypno isn’t fair, you can put me to Sleep so easily. Interviewer’s Question shouldn’t be allowed!” (Of course he also conveniently ignored the one-Supporter-per-turn text, so all Supporters were summarily broken compared to what I was working with =p )

    • Anonymous  → Lynx

      Guilty as charged. “One trainer per turn? That’s bullcrap, I’m gonna ignore that.”

      The Tyranitar UL theme deck PWNd… Her only option was Mr. Mime base, which I had to work around with basics.

  7. Eli Norris

    Awesome article! It was written well.
    I remember making a psychic deck with a Gardevoir. I counted the energy cost of every pokemon (like if Gardevoir had a 3 energy attack), and added the exact number of energy. Combined with Gardevoir and a bunch of other random stage ones, the energy was like 20 :P.

  8. Simon Narode

    I loved this article. I remember not knowing what it meant for a card to be in rotation, playing without Rare Candy, putting Seeker in every deck because it seemed like such a broken card, using Tyrogue in monotype fighting decks because it was a good fighting-type Pokémon (Smoochum in psychic decks, etc.), running Espeon UD with Crobat Prime for healing and crazy snipe. I thought I was unbeatable.

  9. Renfield89

    I can’t believe people actually know of Team Sugarbush LOL

    Good report, brah.
    This game was definitely more fun before I played in any tournament or looked up anything on the internet.

  10. Josiah Kemp

    Thanks for the shoutout man. I was waiting for the Durant match all day long, had to fight through 4 trainer lock decks to get there too. lol I still remember being “bad” at pokemon… Venasaur was king and Seeker won games.

  11. Jak Stewart-Armstead

    One of the nicest Pokemon articles I’ve ever read.

  12. pokejav

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. I see the other side of it, the better you get, the tougher the competition, the more enjoyable it becomes. As a pokedad, I started about 1 1/2 years ago with LuxChomp, and my first positive memory was feeling totally giddy at just being able to play the game with such a powerful deck. I kept thinking, “I’m driving a Ferrari, and I just got my license yesterday.” Thank you for such a nice article.

    • Dan W  → pokejav

      I can remember, back when I started playing (in the LuxChomp era), I made this awesome move that, at the time, made me feel like a BAWS!
      It was at my first Cities too. I sprayed an Uxie and my opponent had like 2 cards in his hand then dead drew for the rest of the game while I Flash Impacted and Dragon Rushed everything. I felt like a beast when I sprayed it. :D

  13. Micah Tate

    Junk arm? “But then I’ll like, deck out so fast!!!” I also built a deck around Espeon, I used to think it was the definition of broken XP Nice article!

  14. Anonymous

    I completely agree with about “missin’ the old days”. I remember when “my best deck” was Gardevoir PL/Gardevoir Lv.X/Empoleon MD (the Empoleon line was pyramid :P). My friends told me about Pokemon tournaments, so I went to States (just so you know I was a Junior then), and I distinctly remember my new friend EJ telling me about this kid called Patrick Martinez, and about how he was the best player in California… and then, the first round of my first ever tournament, I was against him (patrick). The only prize I took was when he KOed his own Spiritomb with Darkness Grace. I finished the day at 2-4, my only wins were a Bye and when my opponent had a complete energy drought.

  15. Joe Lewis

    I remember when my brothers and I used to play against each other, and we played with no energy or prize cards. Good times, good times. Liked this article for the sake of when we were bad.

  16. Andrew Adams

    Nice job man, a well written summary of your successes. And I loved the part at the end. Also, thanks for the mention. :)

    • Jacob Willinger  → Andrew

      I almost mentioned the infamous “Hurricane Punch” game. Thanks man, can’t wait to see ya again! ^_^

  17. Mike Ayers

    All I have to say is Moonlight Fang : )
    Glad we’ve found a happy medium in all of this.
    Good article Rump.

  18. Sam Heywood

    Minor fix in Muncie my last name is spelled Heywood, and yeah I was 5-1 going into the top 8 (with Typhlosion/Reshiram)… and then choked (ended up placing 5th). Great article!

    • Jacob Willinger  → Sam

      Sorry about that! I took a picture of the standings at the end of Swiss and it was listed as “Haywood”, so I just used that. Well done, and thanks!

  19. Curtis

    I totally agree. I, too miss being bad at the game. Building decks with miscellaneous random crap of the same type was once fun for me. Playing unlimited decks with German Raikous is a level of fun that competitive modified will never give me. I shall continue to be “good,” despite not having a top cut to my name, just because I have more opponents and a game at large to focus on, rather than just my friends. Also, I remember when Magby TM/CL, Tangrowth CL, and yes, Espeon UD were the cheapest things ever among my friends.

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