From Scrub Netdecker to Player of the Year

(Great title for an article, huh? Now if only I could write an article to go with the title. Well, I guess I gotta try…)

Pokémon Organized Play will award the title of Player of the Year to the players from each age division with the most Play! Points.

When that announcement appeared early in the 2011-2012 season, I didn’t pay much attention. I thought it was a good idea that TPCi would be giving a major award for participation, but I didn’t think there was any way I’d be a contender, particularly since the 20 Play Points to be awarded for participating in the World Championship were surely out of my reach.

When the season began, I was already determined to play in a lot of Pokémon tournaments. My obsessions tend to run in cycles. I previously played Pokémon very intensely from 1999-2001, going to the first three big Super Trainer Showdown tournaments, then quit until 2010. I felt like 2011-2012 was going to be my biggest season, in terms of tournament participation, and then my interest would probably cycle back down again.

I consider myself an average player overall. My weaknesses include frequent misplays and an inability to play complicated decks effectively. But I can compensate somewhat by trying to choose good simple decks that work for me, usually by netdecking and tweaking. My play mannerisms aren’t very “pro”, you will rarely see me looking through my opponent’s discard pile, and I don’t sit with an emotionless stone face throughout the game. For me, Pokémon is a fun, emotional game, and I tend to let my emotions show, unless I’m clumsily trying to psych my opponent into playing N or not.

When I play in tournaments, I often wear an old Elekid plushie pinned to my hat. I think it looks cool, people remember it, and it sometimes gets me media attention. Early in the season, I got a “SCRUB NETDECKER” T-shirt, to let everyone know my low opinion of my own playing skills. At big tournaments different people have come up to me and made positive comments like, “Dude! That shirt is awesome!!”

For any unfamiliar with the terms:

Scrub — A derogatory term applied to novice players. (I’m not really a novice, but I sure do play like one sometimes.)

Netdecker — A derogatory term applied to people who lack good deck-building skills and resort to copying decklists from the internet.

I played in eight Fall 2011 Battle Road tournaments, all in Arizona, playing a variety of decks: ZPS, Mew Box, Gothitelle, Reshiphlosion, Donphan/Yanmega. Nothing felt really right for me, but at one BR I went undefeated in Swiss rounds playing Gothitelle, so I played Gothitelle at the Fall Regional in Long Beach, California, where I only managed 3-5.

Sidebar: I never drop from Swiss rounds. I go to tournaments to play, and I would much rather play in a tournament than in a casual game. I really don’t understand players who have the elite attitude: “If I can’t win, I’m going to drop.” As far as I’m concerned, only wusses drop. Yeah, you heard me right: You guys who drop are all a bunch of wusses! Wusses!!! (Felt good to finally say that. Now back to my saga.)

I wanted to attend a whole bunch of City Championships. Since I am retired, I can travel and also easily attend tournaments held on weekdays. When the Florida marathon was announced it sounded fantastic to me, so I made arrangements to attend it for four days. I thought, and still think, that four days in a row of Pokémon tournaments away from home is about the maximum I could enjoy without getting mental burnout. But if I had known the Play Points competition would be so close at the finish line, I surely would have attended a few more, even if it meant playing like a homesick zombie after too many days.

pokemon-paradijs.comCity Championships began, and for the first few local Arizona tournaments I tried playing various decks: Durant, Electrode, Ross, Chandelure, Vanilluxe. I found that Durant and Vanilluxe worked best for me, and I also wanted to give Chandelure another try, so I took those three decks to Florida. The Florida marathon was very enjoyable. I got to play two games against Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich (won one, lost one), and a Durant mirror match against Jason Klaczynski (I lost). I also played a Chandelure mirror against Harrison Leven, and he whupped me so soundly that I realized I simply was not good enough to play Chandelure.

In my four days in Florida I never made top cut, but I won more games than I lost. And on Pooka’s website, when discussing his loss to me, he made the comment: “There’s just something wrong about losing to the guy wearing the Elekid hat.” [After I kick the bucket, that’ll be a great engraved inscription for the vase holding my cremation ashes, and then my Elekid hat can go on top!]

I came home to rest for a few days, then headed to the Southern California marathon for four more tournaments. By now I had decided I would only play Durant and Vanilluxe for my remaining City Championships. Once again I had a good time, I never made top cut but I managed to pick up a few Championship Points.

I thought my City Championship traveling was done. But after the final Arizona City Championship I still craved more (City Championship Withdrawal Syndrome), so I went to Albuquerque for two, and then the final weekend I went to Spokane for two more. City Championships were now over. My best CC finishes were one 2nd place, two 4th place, and two 6th place; I had played in 18 City Championships.

Sidebar: After I had worn my “SCRUB NETDECKER” shirt a few times, my wife (who doesn’t play Pokémon) asked me one day, “What’s a ‘deckscrubber’?” as she unintentionally mixed-up the phrase from the t-shirt. Trying to keep a straight face I said, “When cards are played a lot, the decks get very dirty and a deckscrubber is someone who is very good at scrubbing their decks clean.”

After City Championships, I was aware of how close I was to the masters Play Points lead in North America. The global lead seemed out of reach because European players were so far ahead, particularly “Anna v” from The Netherlands. But perhaps there would be separate Player of the Year awards for each global zone? Hopefully the anticipated “Play Points FAQ” would explain everything about Player of the Year, but when the FAQ finally appeared in February 2012 there was no mention at all, not one word about Player of the Year.

I still felt, deep down, that it was pretty hopeless for me, since 20 points would be given for playing at the World Championship, and the odds of me getting an invite were just short of hopeless. But still I decided to stay in the race and earn as many Play Points as I could. I fantasized that maybe, just maybe, the Play Point leaders in each zone after Nationals would be given invites to the World Championship.

I knew this was just a long-shot fantasy (and that’s all it turned out to be), but my odds of getting an invite that way seemed better than my odds of getting an invite through Championship Points or placing at Nationals. (“A man’s got to know his limitations.”)

I assumed that all of my close USA Play Point competitors would also be attending three State Championships, the Spring Regional, and the National Championship. If so, the only possible way of “pulling ahead of the pack” was through Spring Battle Roads, prereleases and sanctioned non-premier tournaments (“grassroots” tournaments). I could get one point every month for attending a grassroots tournament, and some places in other states had them every week.

pokemon-paradijs.comThere were none being held in Arizona so I talked to Patricia, our Arizona PTO, and asked her if she could possibly start holding one every month. She said she would try, and ultimately came through for me, holding at least one every month for the remainder of the season. By the end of February, Netherlands Anna had 67 PP. I had 60 PP and had finally passed my closest American competitor, Jose Marrero. Meanwhile, Tristan Wagner, another Netherlands player, was close to me with 57.

Sidebar: I finally got my wife straightened out about “Scrub Netdecker”. For some reason, she decided to program it into her cell phone. Now whenever I call her up, an electronic voice from her phone loudly announces: “CALL FROM SCRUB NETDECKER”, puzzling any strangers around her.

When Next Destinies appeared, I really didn’t like the idea of EX-Pokémon, so I still played Durant or Vanilluxe at the State Championships in Arizona (5-3), California (5-4), and New Mexico (2-5). At the Spring Regional in Colorado I played Durant, went 5-2, and got my picture in the local newspaper.

For my big final Play Points push I attended six prereleases for Dark Explorers, then 11 Spring Battle Roads, including two in New Mexico and one in Nevada. After trying a few different decks I quickly found that Darkrai/Smeargle worked best for me, and at Spring BR I ended up taking four 2nd place and one 3rd place.

Suddenly came the surprise announcement that the 2011-2012 season would end early, on July 8, instead of the normal date of August 31. This meant I wouldn’t need to worry about not getting the 20 Play Points at the World Championship, since those points would come too late for this season’s tally. Looking at the Play Points standings just prior to the USA National Championship, Tristan Wagner had pulled into the lead and Anna had fallen back.

The Netherlands National Championship was over, and Tristan was 10 points ahead of me. Which meant that after I got my 10 points for USA Nationals, and then played in a grassroots tournament during the first week in July, I would take the masters Play Points lead by one point IF (very big “if”) Tristan didn’t earn any more points before the July 8 finish.

pokemon-paradijs.comAt the US National Championship I added Espeon to my Darkrai/Smeargle deck (and yes, Espeon won me two games against Vanilluxe decks), and went 6-3.

But during the same weekend that I acquired my 10 points for Nationals, Tristan picked up two points. So it looked like there was no way for me to pass or even catch him. I played in a grassroots tournament on July 4, and mentally conceded my Player of the Year loss. But a few days later my current League season was credited (of course I have been going to League all year) to give me one more point and make us tied for the masters Play Points lead at 109. Anna was in 3rd place with 104 PP. I also ended with 27 Championship Points, which of course was not enough to qualify for the World Championship.

So my 2011-2012 tournament season had ended. What about the Worlds Last Chance Qualifier? If the grinder was a full tournament of Swiss rounds I would gladly have gone, but since it’s not, I’m unwilling to go to all the way to Hawaii just to probably get Knocked Out in the first round of play. I do have some limits, and that’s just too crazy. (But it would have been very cool to meet Tristan there, and get our picture taken together.)

During my travels throughout the year, I seemed to be an inspiration to some of the younger players: from a kid’s perspective, what could be a better way to spend old age retirement than traveling around playing Pokémon? Go for it, kids! It sure beats shuffleboard. Eat your vegetables, do your homework, and some day you too can be a retired rambling Pokémon player.

I’d like to thank tournament organizers Patricia and Joey for starting local, sanctioned, non-premier tournaments here in Arizona, and for doing such fine work on regular premier tournaments and prereleases. Thanks to Truc for giving me rides to many local Arizona tournaments, to Chris for giving me rides in Florida, to Miguel for giving me rides in SoCal, and to my wife Irina for giving me rides to Leagues and to Tucson. And thanks to Jeremy Jallen’s Team Chobo for developing a good Darkrai/Smeargle deck and playing it against me during the first Spring Battle Road, so that I could see what was in it, clone it, and win some Victory Cup Cards.

I will not be trying for “Player of the Year” again during the 2012-2013 season; I plan to have a very easygoing Pokémon season this year.

Final Sidebar: I suppose there are some players who dislike the “Player of the Year” award, and dislike me for winning it. So I’ll be devil’s advocate for a minute. To name someone “Player of the Year” just for participating in many events is misleading and unworthy. They should either give the award an accurate title, something like “Participator of the Year”, or else give it a snappy meaningless title like “Pokémon Ambassador” or “Deck Duke” or something. But don’t call it “Player of the Year” because that title implies amazing playing skill.

Also, it’s totally unfair to have a major award that so few people can have a realistic chance to win, because (in the US at least) it all depends on whether you have money to travel and available time during weekdays. An old retired mouth-breathing geezer like me can go for it, but a struggling college student or a younger player is at the mercy of circumstances beyond his control.

Instead, participant awards should be given which don’t necessarily require spending so much money. I think it would be great to have a really nice award going to anyone who plays at least 100 sanctioned tournament games in a season AND also completes the entire season without ever dropping out of a tournament. (All dropout wusses would be disqualified. Nyuck nyuck.)

Very Big Finish, Seriously: According to the multiverse theory of quantum physics, there are an infinite number of parallel universes where all possibilities are occuring at the same time. This means that each of you won this year’s Pokémon World Championship, somewhere. Hearty congratulations to everybody. Let’s victory party, all!

This article was written over two months ago. I didn’t think it should go online until there was some sort of official confirmation that I actually did win the Player of the Year award. But nearly three months after the 2011-2012 season ended, there still is no word from TPCi, aside from a message stating “We’ll get information about the Player of the Year up as soon as possible…”

Meanwhile, with each passing day, players care less and less about events that happened last season because all attention is focused on the current season. So I thought I shouldn’t wait any longer to submit this article.

Bruce Long
Presumptive 2011-2012 Masters Co-Player of the Year

Reader Interactions

22 replies

  1. Miguel

    Then there certainly must be something wrong with never being able to win a game against the guy with the elekid hat…lol…congrats Bruce! But you really should try to not beat me every time!

  2. Mark Hanson

    As I was reading this, my eyes lit up when you mentioned that since the season ended on July 8th, you wouldn’t be competing with the 20 points from Worlds. EXCITING!

    All I can say is… reading this was awesome, and even if it wasn’t first in Championship Points, it was exciting to read about someone chasing after first place. Congratulations on tying for first in the world! I have to say, I aspire to do pretty much what you’ve done, at around the same stage in my life :P

    • Pikabruce  → Mark

      Thanks. Oddly enough, the players who did play in Worlds have not yet received the 20 Play Points they were promised.

  3. leif morten by

    I won my World Championship with a Seismitoad deck!

  4. Ed Mandy

    After reading through this, I totally think you deserve the title of “Player Of The Year!, ” and I’d be honored to play against you.

    I have to say that I disagree with your definitions of Scrub and Netdecker, but I do agree with how you’ve used them (especially on your shirt).

    For Scrub, I have to recommend reading this.

    While I agree that “Netdecker” carries a derogatory connotation, I disagree that it applies to people that have poor deck-building skills. You must know your limitations, and even a good deckbuilder may realize that a posted list is better or more tested than his own. A good deckbuilder will also be better at understanding which netdeck to choose.

  5. Taylor Pagani

    I remember seeing you at the Florida Marathon last year. We talked briefly and you were really chill. Best of luck from here on out!

  6. DrMime

    To me, “Player of the Year” implies amazing dedication–and you certainly have that! I think it was fantastic that so many players got to see and meet you this season. (I was one of those players. On Christmas vacation with the family, my son and I took a vacation from our vacation and played in an LA Cities Marathon event with you at the MonStore in Upland.)

    And to those who dislike you being (presumptive) Player of the Year–I’m sure we can make an appropriate T-shirt for them too.

  7. Kyle Sucevich

    Great article, Bruce! It was a pleasure meeting and playing against you this year. When I think of the Pokémon community and how great it is, people like you are the first that come to mind. Your dedication and love for the game is remarkable. Congratulations on the award, and I hope you get some recognition from TPCi!

  8. Leonard Batfish

    You are a prophet and a genius. Article of the Year.

  9. Dave Kuipers

    Thanks for the article Bruce, fantastic read. Had a smile on my face all way through it! Hope to read about more of your Pokémon adventures!

  10. Lynx Meche

    Every time I see your Elekid hat at the California tournaments, I smile. And I smiled reading this, just about died at deckscrubber.

  11. Phil Materi

    Great article! I laughed all the way through it! I agree with the others in saying that your dedication has earned you “Player of the Year”. Hopefully I will get to meet you if you travel up to Canada for Worlds next year.

  12. Aaron Minjoot

    Most enjoyable read in a long while. Props for that and for such a great achievement that definitely warrants recognition.

  13. stevan dobrasevic

    2 friends and I played for about 2 seasons in Arizona and ultimately decided to quit because of atrocious judges and an even worse Pokemon community. Very few of the players are respectful, while the rest spend mommy and daddy’s money on cards, then brag about how good they are. Judges will make calls AGAINST you unless you’re a part of this “elite circle” and you’ll have to threaten to ask Patricia for a ruling until they realize they’re about to get caught.

    At one Battle Roads a few seasons ago, I was informed that I could not evolve on the same turn that I played Broken Time Space, even though I had done it a thousand times and have seen others do it. I asked for a different judge and Joey came over and told me the same thing. We went back and forth and I ended up asking Patricia to come over and make the ruling. Only then did Joey say “oh, nevermind, you can do it” and the other judge walked away with her tail between her legs. And this is only ONE instance of these rulings.

    Because of judges like this and the player-base which is even more offensive, I decided to call it quits. I’ve been tempted to get back into it because I love the game. Hopefully I can meet more enthusiastic people like you, Bruce, (I’ve seen you many times at events) who are genuine and enjoyable.

    • Grant Manley  → stevan

      complain to Pokemon. I bet those two dislikes on your comment were from those two judges :P Sorry to hear that. On the article; it was a fun read, but imo didn’t belong here.

      • stevan dobrasevic  → Grant

        lol it’s either biased judges or just one of the many intolerable players. Considering I carefully made sure not to say “all the players are rude…”, I don’t know who’d be offended unless it was one of these embarrassing members of the community.

  14. Roarkiller Master

    Once a while, we get an article that JUST ROCKS!!!
    Cool grandpa is cool.

  15. Pikabruce

    Two months ago I submitted a support ticket to, requesting an update on the status of the “Player of the Year” award. Today I received this non-illuminative reply: “We apologize for the delay in response. As previously stated, information regarding Player of the Year will be provided as it becomes available. Please continue to check your Play! Pokémon information, news, and 2012 season news for more information.”

    • Adam Capriola  → Pikabruce

      That’s insulting. Come on Pokemon!!! You can’t throw an award out there and not follow up on it. Bruce went all out for your game. Show him some decency and at least give a personalized response.

  16. Pikabruce

    Update: I finally was notified by Pokemon that I will be awarded “Pokemon for a Year”: Two booster boxes of each new set released in 2013, beginning with Plasma Storm. That’s certainly much more than I was hoping for!

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