Ross Gilbert’s Series of Unfortunate (and then Fortunate) Events

Now, before we start I do feel obliged to “warn” you that this article is about the last format as it pertains to Worlds, which was less than a month ago, and because I haven’t had time to write it before (moving house and job will do that to ya). I thought I would share it with you now. There’s also deck building and playing tips contained within which, hopefully, will be useful regardless of what format you’re playing in.

Note: I did cover Worlds and such on my podcast, however this article contains my list with explanations, more detailed match reports and a summary of my season so far. This makes it far more in-depth that the podcast, which dealt with Worlds generally with my time as a side-note.

Last Season

pokemon-paradijs.comSo let’s start with giving you a quick rundown of how last season went along, starting with Autumn Battle Roads.

I started playing Stage 1s (which was my deck first) which ran a 2-2 line of (deep breath) Cinccino, Zoroark, Donphan AND Yanmega. It was awesome in the Worlds format (which I never played a tournament in), but come Battle Roads (BR) it was past its best. I got third at my first BR (losing my only game due to sheer stupidity, attacking vs. Mew Box with Donphan…) before dropping the deck.

Lack of testing informed the rest of the BRs with a Magneboar list that started terribly, but went on to gain me a win and a third place finish before Autumn BRs were out.

Moving on to Cities and I could not find a deck. After failing hard with Chandelure I started playing a CoKE variant and gained just a single Top 4, though I bubbled 2 more.

Then came the ECC, a big 240 person Europe-wide tournament in the Netherlands (not Holland). Next Destinies had just come out and I had long-planned my Regigigas EX/Mewtwo EX deck that nobody said would work. I ended up going 6-2 at this event and bubbling cut in 33rd place (there was a Top 32), continuing the Cities theme of narrowly missing cut.

After the ECC there was one Cities left which I won fairly convincingly before States rolled around. There had been one States early on (States and Regionals are joined in the UK) where terrible luck led to my Magneboar missing cut by one win and the new States were hardly better.

My Gigas/Mewtwo deck was starting to show its age and losing its surprise factor and I managed a single Top 8, losing in Swiss and Top 8 to Durant (my only losses to Durant ever with that deck). I also bubbled another States but by now that shouldn’t be a huge shock.

Spring BRs saw me back in experimentation mode with a variety of weird decks leading to a Top 4 finish with Kyurem and a second place with ZPST (with Terrakion, Mewtwo EX, Zekrom-EX and Tornadus EX).

By the time Nationals came along I was not prepared and, after some genuinely hilarious luck, I ended up 4-3 with Groudon EX/Darkrai EX, the same deck my friend Jak would take to Top 8 at Nationals and Top 32 at Worlds.

So, with my trip to Hawaii for Worlds booked and all other shots at an invite exhausted (I had 20 Points which, had I just cut every tournament where I just whiffed cut, would have been over 40 and secured my invite) I was left rolling dice in the grinder.

Preparing for the Grinder

pokemon-paradijs.comMy experiments during Spring Battle Roads and Nationals had shown me that there was no rogue deck around that was good enough. I enjoyed Darkrai/Groudon but it was generally a little slower than a lot of decks (it played heavy Max Potion, Shaymin and Super Scoop Up lines to compensate) and I knew it was not the deck to take to the grinder.

I ruled out Vileplume decks and Klinklang pretty early and started experimenting with everything else. Darkrai/Mewtwo was ok but I found that playing any deck that could 1HKO both Darkrai and Mewtwo (such as CMT) became very awkward and I figured that there would be a lot of this in the grinder and I hate mirror matches.

The only other Darkrai deck I liked was Hammers, but the flippy nature of this deck put me off. To put it into perspective, I know of two people who played this deck at UK Nationals. One flipped well and made Top 16, the other hit 5 heads out of 30 and had to play extremely well just to finish 3-4.

Next I tried Eels but I couldn’t play it nearly as well as most other people and I knew I’d be at a disadvantage in the mirror, plus I really didn’t like playing 40 HP Pokémon, so it went to the wall pretty early.

CMT however I did like. I liked that it could donk (though I never did in a competitive game) and that it could go from nothing to 100 with Tornadus EX or 90 with Terrakion in one turn. It was good against random decks, good against Darkrai and though the Eels matchup was less than ideal, I tested a lot and got to a win ratio of about 60% (against good players with good lists).

I don’t usually test a whole lot outside of league, but for the grinder I actually went to 3 whole days of testing with Worlds players like Tommy Roberts, George Boon, Tamao Cameron, Freddie Kahn, and Johnny Hall. I figured that testing with Worlds players should mean I’m testing with people who are, generally, better players than I’ll meet in the grinder.

It took a while but after a fair few testing games and a lot of advice, I had settled on a list that I liked.

The List

Pokémon – 10

2 Mewtwo-EX NXD

2 Tornadus EX

2 Celebi Prime

2 Terrakion NVI

1 Smeargle CL

1 Shaymin UL

Trainers – 37

3 Professor Oak’s New Theory

3 Professor Juniper

2 N

4 Random Receiver


4 Junk Arm

3 Dual Ball

3 Switch

3 Pokémon Catcher

2 Eviolite

2 PlusPower

1 Ultra Ball

1 Energy Search

1 Energy Retrieval

1 Revive

1 Max Potion


3 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 13

6 G

3 F

4 Double Colourless


Now I reckon that this list is slightly unusual. Let me explain some things:

2 Celebi

pokemon-paradijs.comCelebi sucks! There, I said it. He has 60 HP which means a 2HKO by Darkrai EX from the residual damage! He’s also way too donkable and an easy prize if your opponent has a Catcher. Last format, people always had a Catcher.

He is however good in some situations. Generally Celebi, for me, was something to put down as an extra Energy attachment mid-late game when I needed it, or when I could get, say, a T1 100 from Tornadus EX. I played many games, even through the Grinder, where I hardly used Celebi at all.

2 Tornadus EX / No Tornadus EPO

I don’t like Tornadus EPO. 80 damage, by the time Worlds rolled around, was not enough without a PlusPower to KO much of anything. It didn’t kill Eels, it didn’t 2HKO EXs. It was also too fragile at 110 HP.

Tornadus EX on the other hand, I loved. 170 HP is pretty good against anything apart from Lightning decks but it’s the attacks that really do it for me. Getting 100 on turn one is awesome and happens fairly often. Even when you don’t hit that all you need is a SkyarrowBridge and DCE to be hitting for 60, which is often enough to take an early KO, or at least soften something big up for later.

Tornadus EX allowed me to play the deck a bit like Troll at times in that I could just hammer away with him while building up backup attackers on the bench.

2 Mewtwo EX / 1 Revive

For a very long time I, like many people, believed that you had to run 3 Mewtwo or you’d lose the Mewtwo war, which was becoming more relevant again as Worlds approached.

In reality, this was not true. The loser of the Mewtwo war was often the person who dropped the first Mewtwo, allowing their opponent to manipulate when the war started. I loved it when my opponent dropped a Mewtwo because I knew that it was waiting to give up 2 Prizes whenever I needed them.

I never found, in any game in testing or in the grinder, that I needed a third Mewtwo and it was far more regular that I would only use one to close the game out. Regardless, I didn’t like wasting the space on a third Mewtwo and I also wanted to reduce the odds of starting with it.

As for Revive, it was a simple decision. Against Eels I wanted a third Terrakion, against the mirror I wanted a third Tornadus EX, sometimes I would need a third Mewtwo if the war started early and sometimes I’d need a second Smeargle to help me out of a pinch late game. Revive did all of these with a lot less space.

Revive and Energy Retrieval but no Super Rod

pokemon-paradijs.comSuper Rod is another one of those cards that is good in some decks and good for some people but not in this deck and not for me.

Usually I would either need a Pokémon on the bench or Energy in hand. In both situations Super Rod meant that I would then need more cards to get the energy or Pokémon from my deck back into my hand, which seemed counter-intuitive.

I have explained Revive so let me quickly explain Energy Retrieval. It allows me to have 2 Energy in hand in a deck where I can attach 2 energy per turn. This is huge. The biggest and best thing about this was allowing me to grab both a Grass and a Fighting Energy when I had a Celebi active and Terrakion on my bench to go from nothing to Retaliate in one turn. This won me many games!

The one downside of not having Super Rod was an inability to reuse my Shaymin, but hopefully my explanations thus far have shown you why that was a necessary loss for me.

Max Potion

This was one of those cards that could really win games. I know a lot of people were leaning toward Potion as it could heal off the 30 done by Darkrai (especially on Celebis), but so could Max Potion.

Sometimes you could even have an Eviolited Tornadus or Mewtwo hit twice and then play a Max Potion to waste 2 turns of your opponent attacking.

Sometimes you had to waste Energy to heal, but often it would deny your opponent a key KO and lean the game in your favor. Potion is too weak and Super Scoop Up requires a flip.

8 Supporters, 4 Random Receiver

This was put in just to try and annoy Smeargle. I expected a lot of Speed Darkrai and Darkrai/Mewtwo (both of which relied on Smeargle) and I expected that the people playing CMT would mostly be leaning toward the 4 Supporter list that got Top 4 at US Nationals.

I was playing 10 Supporters (4 PONT, 3 Juniper, 3 N) and 2 Random Receiver. I did however find that I was giving too much love to other people’s Smeargles. So I cut my Supporter line and maxed out my Random Receiver count and then I started really annoying people who were relying on copying my Supporters.

This turned out to be a very good decision.

Everything else is pretty self-explanatory. but if you have any questions please ask them below or send me a PM.

The Grinder

burgerbeast.comWhen I got to Worlds I chilled for a bit, swam in the sea, hung out with friends and started playing a little on the Wednesday. On Thursday I ended up sitting and playing Pokémon with random people pretty much all day (which was a lot of fun as all but one person were lovely) and the results were good. Although I was losing individual games here and there I was winning the best of threes and I was starting to feel that, with a little luck, I could have a decent run here.

On the Friday I registered for the grinder and then introduced myself to Kenny Wisdom and reassured him that I did not in fact hate him (as my comments on this website apparently seemed to show). Needless to say he was a lovely man and a true gent.

After a delay due to the official website misstating the ending time of registration (which Pokémon felt that they should honour) we were seated for the meeting and, feeling rather excited, we got our pairing for the first round.

There were 204 people so 5 rounds undefeated and you’re into Worlds.

Round 1 – Bye

Some people say the byes are predicated on your Elo or Championship Points throughout the season. I don’t care. I was 1-0.


While I was enjoying my bye I was also keeping a close eye on the grinder. In Round 1 Drew Holton of the top cut, Nick Fotheringham (former 3rd place finisher in Seniors) and Frank Diaz (who grinded all the way to 3rd in 2010) went out. Not a confidence-inspiring turn of events.

Round 2 – Ygor (Brazil) (CMT)

pokemon-paradijs.comThrough my testing I had played a bunch of CMT decks, the most useful being against Johnny Hall. Between us we worked out that the way to win is to not play like CMT. Troll is pretty good against CMT because it can take easy prizes from Celebis, Smeargles, Shaymins and the like. That was my plan.

Ideally I would start Tornadus EX (or get one quickly) and start using Catchers and PlusPowers to take easy KOs. I would aim to take 2 or 4 Prizes and then start the Mewtwo war.

Game 1

So, Game 1 I lose the flip (the 13th time in the last 14 competitive matches), but I start lone Tornadus EX and he benches a Celebi. On my turn I KO that Celebi and then he puts down another one. I am able to kill this, by which time he has a Tornadus EX out which isn’t able to do too much.

On my next turn I then use Shaymin to set up a big Mewtwo KO on his Tornadus EX. I was then 4-0 up on prizes and he dropped a Mewtwo with a DCE to KO my Mewtwo, but this then left me with an easy return KO for game.

Game 2

Game 2 was rather similar to the first. He kept benching weak Basics and I got a T1 Tornadus EX to start taking easy prizes. I actually managed to take easy prizes on 4 Pokémon this game by which point he gets a Mewtwo to KO my Tornadus to bring it to 4-2 in my favor.

At this point, for the first time in the match, I actually bench a Celebi so that I can use Forest Breath and then Juniper, knowing that a single Energy would give me the return Mewtwo KO and the game. As it happens the Juniper gets me a DCE and I didn’t even need the Celebi.


This was awesome because I now had a legitimate win under my belt! The round 1 bye was good but I didn’t want to go out of the grinder without winning a game and this meant that I now had. Which was nice.

Round 3: Farres Sekkoum (UK) (Darkrai / Mewtwo)

Yep, the younger brother of Yaccine and Sami Sekkoum. Having tested with his brothers he is of the same calibre as them as has had a lot of success at World in both Seniors and Juniors. This was his first year in Masters. I figured that to get through the grinder I would have to play at least one really good person, but I didn’t want it to be this early. It sucked especially hard because I was rooting for all of the UK players in the grinder and this meant that one of us would be going out.

Curiously, the best prep talk / advice of the weekend was given to me here as my good friend Tommy Roberts reminded me that my record against the Sekkoums was good (1-0 vs. Yaccine and 1-1 vs. Sami). Gave me just a little confidence boost.

The good news was that I had tested a LOT with George Boon who has been piloting this deck for some time and had played upwards of 50 games against it being played by a skilled player. If nothing else, I knew how the deck worked.

My plan for this matchup was always to take 2 easy prizes, then a Retaliate KO on a Darkrai and finish off with a single Mewtwo KO, I didn’t figure it would be that easy this time. It wasn’t.

Game 1

I win the flip (which I was not expecting) and start lone Terrakion. I get some things going though and take a couple easy prizes. Unfortunately though this was one of those games where I whiffed everything I needed. I whiffed Catchers when I needed them and when faced with an Eviolited Darkrai I found everything but the PlusPower and was forced to hit him for 160. You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that that damage was soon Max Potioned off.

I eventually did KO a Darkrai, though I was forced to do so with Tornadus EX but Farres forced me down to 1 Prize. Now for those of you that don’t know, this is bad! If you have 2 Prizes left and get N’d you will start your turn with a 3 card hand. This makes Junk Arm useable (and usually you can get something to win with a Junk Arm). With 1 Prize left you start your turn with 2 cards. Junk Arm is then useless.

So I get to 1 Prize and of course he drops the N (I’d be disappointed if he didn’t drop it!). Luckily I had been practicing for a while to make my CMT list as N-proof as possible, what with that being one of the main downsides of the deck!

I had yet to use my Smeargle and from my 2 cards I was able to get a Smeargle and Portrait to copy the Juniper that Farres drew from his prizes. That was enough to get me a Catcher to take one last easy prize for game.

Game 2

pokemon-paradijs.comThis game was also very similar to the one before. I again started lone Terrakion but I got an early KO with Tornadus EX on a Darkrai and actually pulled to a sizable lead (I believe about 4-1). He kept me in check with Ns though and started making a comeback.

Once again I whiffed Catcher and PlusPowers when I needed them and once again he forced me down to 1 Prize. Now I had once again been trying to prepare for this inevitability and, when Nd’ he had an active Mewtwo with more than 2 Energy on. In my deck I had a Mewtwo and DCE and I had 10 cards, 2 of which were Random Receiver and the only Supporter was a Juniper. This gave me a 60% chance of drawing a Juniper (effectively) and almost certainly getting the Mewtwo / DCE for the win.

I drew dead while he finished out the game. Unfortunately by the time he did time had been called so rather than going first automatically, we would be flipping for it…

Game 3

All my going second luck came back to me here as I again won the flip. I turned over my Tornadus EX to see his Darkrai EX. This basically meant that I could not lose.

He did not play Enhanced Hammer and so I would start attacking first and would get the KO first. He couldn’t use Dark Patch without benching a second Pokémon and so I was pretty much always going to win.

He mulliganed 3 times and on my turn I drew and immediately Junipered my 10 card hand. I attached and passed. On T2 I hit for 40, on T3 I hit for 80 and on T4, after he had benched a Mewtwo and retreated, I played a Catcher and took game.


At this point I was pretty stoked at having beaten a player of that calibre (though gutted that I had to play against a UK player) and genuinely starting to believe I could potentially do this.

Game 4: Recco (USA) (Darkrai / Mewtwo)

pokemon-paradijs.comThis was a guy that I’d seen around the venue. Everybody had. He was built like a proverbial brick house and was, shall we say, intimidating. It being hot I was wearing a vest but when he sat down opposite I started to feel a little silly for doing so! He was however an absolute gentleman, completely put me at ease, and was one of the nicest players I had ever had the pleasure of playing.

The bonus here was that I was playing a deck I had just beaten. He did play Enhanced Hammer, which meant that I had to limit my DCE drops to when I was going to attack (or occasionally to bait him into wasting a Junk Arm, which turned out to be a really useful tactic) but otherwise it was the same deck I’d just beaten.

Both games here went a lot more smoothly than against Farres. I won the flip and immediately started tearing it up with Tornadus EX. Game 1 I got a couple easy prizes and 2HKO a Darkrai before using Retaliate at an opportune time to take the game.

Game 2 I again got an early EX KO with Tornadus EX but this time on Mewtwo, after a couple easy prizes I was again able to use Terrakion to Retaliate for the win. This game my deck worked really well and I played tight. I only dropped Celebi and others when absolutely necessary, I played my deck down to try and make myself N proof and, probably most importantly, I managed to grab Catcher and PlusPowers when I needed to.


Game 5: ??? (USA) (Darkrai)

I was hoping that, like last year, they would let 16 people in but as we sat down and set up it got less and less likely until we’d started the game and it was clearly not happening.

Before this game I was beginning to get nervous because after bubbling so many tournaments this year, losing in the last round of the grinder would be the icing on a horrible and rotting cake.

There were also a lot of good players left in the pool (surprisingly!). There were 2 other UK players in Yaccine Sekkoum and Charles Barton as well as Mr. Grinder himself Yamato. Luckily I was drawn against someone I did not know and I’m sorry to say I can’t remember who he was.

Game 1

pokemon-paradijs.comThis game I started lone Terrakion (again). I went second. For the first 4 turns I did not draw a Supporter. On T1 I played a Dual Ball and got double tails. You can imagine how I’m feeling. Actually, at the risk of sounding mean, you probably can’t!

I had a Max Potion which I used and then dropped a Tornadus EX lest my Terrakion went down. On his turn he attached a second Special Dark, played a PlusPower and then Junk Armed for a second PlusPower to do 130 damage and 1HKO my Terrakion with his Darkrai.

I promoted Tornadus, dropped Skyarrow Bridge, used Revive on Terrakion, used Junk Arm for Dual Ball, hitting one heads for a Smeargle and then Switched to Smeargle. Yep, that was the hand I had, a bunch of Trainers.

I was in a LOT of trouble here and desperately needed a good Portrait to stay in the game. I used Portrait and saw a PONT. I was happy but still had a long way to go.

From the PONT I got a Celebi, Junk Arm and Juniper. I dropped the Celebi, Junk Armed for a Switch and Junipered knowing that a Grass Energy, Fighting Energy and PlusPower (I had yet to retreat) would get me the return KO and give me a chance.

I dropped the Juniper and hit all 3!! After the resources he put into the Terrakion KO he had no other Darkrais and after playing the PONT he scooped.

Game 2

This game, having seen that he ran Enhanced Hammer I started putting down basic Energy and building my board slowly. I spread my Energy out and by T3 I had 2 Fighting Energy and a Grass on the field and though he had done some damage, he had yet to get a KO.

I then was able to pull of my favorite trick and drop Shaymin and Terrakion to get a Land Crush going. It’s not a trick that works often (needing the Energy to stay on the field and Shaymin and Terrakion in hand) but when it works, it works!

I was able to Land Crush for the KO and on my next turn, with him unable to 1HKO my Terrakion, I was able to Land Crush for prizes 3 and 4. He had no more Darkrais on the field and so he played a Dual Ball and, upon hitting double tails, promptly scooped.


And with that, I was in Worlds. My friends had complained after the previous game that I’d looked like I’d lost and I needed to give them a sign so I gave them a thumbs up and they looked as shocked as I was. I always talked about getting through the grinder but I didn’t actually think I would!

What was especially odd was that I’d gone 5-0 (well, 8-1 if we count properly). The only other tournaments I had ever gone X-0 were two small BRs that the “good” players didn’t bother going to. Make of that what you will.

As for the other UK players, Yaccine made it in and Charles lost heart-breakingly in sudden death. As this was going on I had a rather surreal moment when I was interviewed by Pooka for The Top Cut, just 16 hours after I had interviewed him for my podcast!

This meant that I would get a player’s pack with all the goodies and it also meant I got my picture on the official Pokémon website along with the other grindees.

I was then done with Pokémon for the day, grabbed some food and decided that the next day I would just play the exact same list with no changes. It was too late for any more testing! (I’d done enough for one day).

Worlds Itself

Worlds itself was less spectacular. I finished 3-4, which, if nothing else, was a LOT better than my good friend Tommy Roberts’ 0-4 drop last year. At the time I put my performance down to my “job done” attitude after the grinder and having to play a grinder deck in the real thing. However, all 3USplayers that grinded in made top 16, one with CMT, so there go those excuses!

To be fair, there was one game I probably could have won but my 4 losses were:

  1. Accelgor – I went second (had the win if I go first).
  2. Accelgor – I went second (had the donk).
  3. CMT – I Portrait 3 turns in a row and hit 3 Junipers. I lose for having one too few Energy in deck (maybe could have won this paying more attention though).
  4. Tommy Roberts – I start Mewtwo, go second, don’t play a single card for 2 turns.

What this did do was give me a BIG appetite for the game again! It made me determined to go back next year though this time, I want a real invite. Maybe if I stop bubbling I can do it. BRs start this weekend for me. Wish me luck!

Don’t forget as well that every Wednesday I upload a new episode of PTCG Radio, the weekly podcast all about the Pokémon TCG. Please listen and make sure you subscribe on iTunes.






Reader Interactions

4 replies

  1. theo Seeds

    Well, good job grinding in! That’s something that takes serious skill to do, even though you probably won’t face the best players. Good luck this season!

  2. Oliver Barnett

    Lovely article, Ross and love how I get two very slight hints in the article :) hope you can qualify again this season! (preferably not in grinder though I assume huh)

  3. Dan W

    Loved reading the article! Hope you succeed next year and get your invite!

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