Who Needs Sleep?

Random Retorts and a Tournament Report!

I won’t take up your time here, reader, as you have a lot of material to cover! Currently, I have over 7,000 words built into this article, and I have yet to paste my “retorts” in, which include a response to the new 50 minute best-of-three tournament structure and a marked disdain for Pokémon Catcher.

The bulk of this article is a tournament report from my attendance at this past weekend’s Regional Championship in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It has been a long time since I’ve done a truly detailed tournament report, and people in the past have always said good things about them, so I thought I would mix something conventional (the tournament report) with something unconventional (various thoughts about the game as of late).

So, here’s what you get with this article: an extremely detailed tournament report, my thoughts on the new tournament structure, and a list of 10 reasons why I’m glad to see Pokémon Catcher go.

Let’s get started!

Table of Contents


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It’s kind of like rock-climbing.

I had a few expectations for the new tournament structure going into this season – mainly, there’s a huge focus on winning Game 1. With the time limits the way they are (and number of Prize cards taken not factoring into uncompleted games), losing the first game means you have to play lightning fast to finish Game 2. Even then, you might make critical misplays because of the time constraint and then lose the entire round outright.

In practice, this new structure adds a lot of mental pressure on players. For Philadelphia Regionals, we faced 9 rounds and a top cut to 32 for the first day, then 5 additional rounds and a top cut to 8 for the second day. That alone is an incredible number of rounds. When you consider that each round can include up to three games, it presents the most Pokémon TCG many players will ever play in a single day! On top of this, the 50 minute time limit presents another layer of stress for competitors.

As I was playing, I found the new structure to be like rock-climbing the face of a giant mountain. Both players move up the mountain at a roughly equal pace until someone falls down – I mean way down. This is akin to losing Game 1. With time constraints the way they are, the player who falls down first has to rush like mad to catch up to the other player. And when you’re climbing up a mountain (already a risky business), making a misstep and slipping is highly possible. For the player who lost Game 1, even a single misplay in Game 2 can lead to a loss.

This new system adds a whole lot of pressure on players in the following ways:

  • Competitors are forced to constantly think about how they pace themselves during gameplay.
  • Or, they don’t think about pacing at all and find themselves in frustrating situations because of that.
  • Remaining uncertainty over draws (ties) leads many players to finish games and not know what to do – should they look at the game state and declare a true winner, or should they each accept a tie even when even just one more turn would produce a clear victor?
  • Some players don’t really think much about the new system, and discomfort can arise when trying to ask a player to keep up the pace.
  • Since number of Prize cards taken has no bearing in determining the victor for uncompleted games, players face many frustrating scenarios in which they would have clearly won within a couple of turns; instead, they have to accept a loss or tie and the agitation of knowing things might have been different if players paced themselves differently.
  • Many players are unaccustomed to the new system altogether, needing to have the process explained to them thoroughly before (and during) gameplay.
  • There exists the concern for players who slowplay, or alternatively try to rush their opponents when pace of play is standard.

These are all considerations that make me dislike the new system. However, even though I’m not crazy about the new tournament structure, I am happier with best-of-three than without it. Going off my tournament performance, if we were to measure my success by the outcomes of first games alone, my record would have been 10-4. While not bad, my first game losses occurred earlier in the tournament, meaning that resistance (with our previous tournament structure) would have probably kept me out of the Top 32 altogether.

In the end, I believe the new system needs some work, but I’m happy with the thought that if I get donked or have horrendous luck in the first game, I can still overcome. It’s just that whole “climbing up the mountain at lightning speed without making a single misstep” thing I don’t find much appealing!


Adios, Catcher!

Now, many players have made the point that Pokémon Catcher is not the only “problem” in what feels like a stale format lacking creativity. They mention the current first turn rules as an issue and talk about Basic Pokémon that have huge amounts of HP. I’ll give them that.

Yes, those too are issues for the “health” of the game, with the first turn rules changing soon enough. Yet, when we talk about the health of the game, or the notion of skill, I absolutely point my finger at Pokémon Catcher and recognize it as one of the biggest detriments this game has ever had.

So let’s talk right quick about what constitutes a “healthy” game. I know this is rather subjective, but I think many will agree that the following are attributes of a game more exciting and interesting than it is boring:

  • A diverse format in which multiple strategies are viable
  • A diverse format in which various stages of Pokémon are successful (that is, stage 2 decks can compete with decks focused on mostly Basic Pokémon)
  • Games that extend beyond the first turn (that is, no first turn losses or “donks”)

Also, when we think about skill in the Pokémon TCG, we have to recognize it as something often measured in the number of steps it takes to complete a task. Setting up a Victreebel LM in the old format in order to “Catcher” an opponent’s Stage 2 Pokémon takes many more steps to complete than simply playing a Pokémon Catcher. The more steps a task requires, the greater chance there is for a player to make a misplay. For this reason alone, Pokémon Catcher doesn’t take a lot of skill to play. Keep in mind, I’m looking at the objective number of steps required to play Catcher as “1” (barring what it takes to get it in your hand).

So what’s so bad about Pokémon Catcher? A LOT. Here are my top 10 reasons I’m glad to see Pokémon Catcher go.

1. Pokémon Catcher doesn’t occupy 3-4 spots in your deck, it occupies 7-8. Players who claim Pokémon Catcher as a skillful card talk about both its offensive and defensive potential. By “defensive” they mean the chance to make a Pokémon with a hefty Retreat Cost active and stall. That’s a fair strategy, and the natural response is to run Switch or cards with a similar effect (Float Stone, Escape Rope, etc.), which means that decks either have to make room for those cards, or they aren’t good decks.

With deck space so tight these days, it’s no wonder that two of the best decks right now don’t have to worry about fitting those cards in — Darkrai EX and Keldeo-EXs Abilities both negate the need for Switch cards. Dedicating such space to both Catcher and Switch cards is just too hard for many decks to do, which is why they tend to fall apart. Less space equals less creativity.

2. Pokémon Catcher encourages aggressive, risky playstyles. Players have grown accustomed to being aggressive. They favor playing a Professor Juniper for 7 when they could otherwise play an N for 5. This is because playing Pokémon Catcher has a huge payoff in many cases, and so the risk is worth it. The problem, of course, is that the idea of “resource management” goes right out the window when this happens.

3. Pokémon Catcher is naturally bad news for evolutions. Let’s not dance around this fact: the bench is not safe. With the latest errata to Rare Candy, a Pokémon has to stay in play for a turn before evolving. I imagine Plasma decks getting knock outs on Axews all day long before a Haxorus PLB can ever hit the field. Evolutions have a hard time in this kind of environment.

4. Pokémon Catcher often doubles as an Energy Removal. Tool Drop decks currently face this issue, in which trying to power up a two-Energy attack never happens because the opponent just Catcher KO’d every Pokémon that an Energy was attached to. Guess what? You didn’t just lose a Pokémon and go behind a Prize card, you also lost an Energy attachment too.

5. Pokémon Catcher takes little skill to play. Using my definition before about in-game skill, it’s obvious that Catcher requires little of it to play. The only decision a player has to make about Pokémon Catcher is whether or not they should use it (I would comment about the need to know how many Catchers to include in a list, but this is usually an automatic “4-of”).

6. Pokémon Catcher axes “Bench-sitters.” There are some powerful Bench-sitters in the card pool currently (Mr. Mime PLF, Dusknoir BCR). If they become too powerful, players will do something about it, even if it requires Ninetales DRX. Pokémon Catcher not only kept those Bench-sitters out of the game, it also took advantage of anything on the bench with a Retreat Cost (which is mostly everything).

7. Pokémon Catcher cannot be stopped. There is very little Item lock currently. There’s no Vileplume UD to balance this out, and while Gothitelle EPO 47 posed a momentary threat, it has since phased out of the game.

8. The decision to play Pokémon Catcher is an easy one. You just do. 3-4 of them. In terms of deck building, the automatic inclusion of 3-4 (usually 4) Pokémon Catcher makes things that much simpler. Combined with other automatic inclusions such as Professor Juniper, N, and Switch cards (unless you’re running Blastoise/Keldeo-EX or Darkrai EX), deck building is a relatively simple exercise these days.

9. Pokémon Catcher makes comebacks less possible. Such an aggressive card means that players who are granted a good start typically keep that steam going throughout the game. If you doubt this, ask yourself how many games you think end in a player using a Pokémon Catcher to bring up their last KO for the win.

10. Teching is considerably more defunct with Pokémon Catcher. The idea of a “1-1” line of something is nearly nonexistent, since the Basic Pokémon that makes up that line would likely get KOd quickly. Yes, you can play a 2-1 line, but that requires you to play both Basic Pokémon to the bench, which is often too difficult to manage.

On November 8th, things are going to change. Pokémon Catcher returns to its underpowered version as a Pokémon Reversal (requiring a flip). My prediction? Players will continue to use Pokémon Catcher in conjunction with Dowsing Machine, at least until the overall landscape of the game changes with X and Y. Some fringe decks, however, will bubble up more, creating a more diverse metagame. Mega Evolutions will annoy everyone.



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Me at 11:00 PM every night.

So, my life lately has been unbelievably busy. I often try not to delve into personal matters when writing Pokémon TCG articles, but this is a tournament report, and I feel it’s pertinent. Having a child, a full-time job that keeps me wrapped up in work, and a variety of other “jobs” I perform that help us get the monthly bills paid makes it tough to practice the Pokémon TCG at all. When I do find some time, it’s often at 11:00 PM when most people have gone to sleep, meaning playtesting is normally a solo effort for me.

Nonetheless, I still had at least some experience with the format, and I was looking very hard at the prospect of playing the Tool Drop deck I wrote about in my last article. It seemed to have good matchups against most of the field, and I had crafted my list in such a way that it could overcome the speed that seemed to be its worst enemy. Still, as the tournament got closer and closer, I felt less confident in Tool Drop’s ability to set up consistently every game. I eventually scrapped the idea and started conjuring up other deck possibilities.

Two nights before the tournament, I found myself up at 11:00 PM trying desperately to find a counter deck to the “Big 4” (Virizion-EX/Genesect EX, Blastoise/Keldeo-EX, “Plasma” variants, and Darkrai EX decks). I had started with Suicune PLB at the suggestion of my brother, seeing where that card might take me. Essentially, my train of thought went something like this:

With very little time left to test this deck, I decided I would get the list on paper, throw it together, and test a couple of games against my biggest threat (Blastoise/Keldeo-EX). If it worked out pretty well, I would pursue the idea. If it didn’t, however, I would quickly shelve it (or see if a change could be made).

Eventually, I found the deck impossible to build. Bellossom BCR took up too many cards in my deck (4 Oddish, 3 Bellossom, and 3 Rare Candy was the bare minimum at 10 cards), I had inconsistencies with my Energy line (Grass, Dark, Water, and possibly DCE), and I still had to find some way to get Switch cards into the deck.

Furthermore, Bellossom BCR took up 10% of my deck to deal with a single card. Structured deck analysis aside, it was easy to see that I was getting a horrible return on my investment – that is, I was devoting a large portion of my deck to a single card I might face once or twice in the tournament.

I was able to sleeve something that looked like a deck – it didn’t at all address the threat of Hypnotoxic Laser because it played only 2 Switch – and even then the deck performed poorly and seemed to be going in three different directions.

After a couple of unsuccessful games, I laid the list out again and tried to think about what I could replace Bellossom BCR with. I looked and looked and looked – there are so few good Grass-type attackers – and finally landed on Genesect from the Red Genesect Collection Box (BW99). If I can’t beat up on Blastoise BCR, perhaps I could donk Squirtles instead!

After some tinkering and a bit of initial testing, I finally built the following list:

Pokémon – 11

3 Suicune PLB
3 Sableye DEX
3 Genesect BW99
1 Sawk PLB
1 Mewtwo-EX NXD

Trainers – 37

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
4 Random Receiver


4 Silver Mirror
4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Ultra Ball
4 Switch
2 Float Stone
2 Tool Scrapper
1 Super Rod
1 Dowsing Machine


3 Pokémon Center

Energy – 12

4 W
4 D
4 Double Colorless

After having built the deck, I tested it for a few games at something like 1:00 AM and found it to be working fairly well. The Sawk PLB was added to deal with Absol PLF, while the Mewtwo EX was added to further take on Blastoise BCR (it can clean up after a Genesect BW99 hits it for 60 damage; it can also 1HKO a Blastoise BCR with 5 Energy on it, which happens if the opponent wants to 1HKO a Genesect BW99). The 4 Switch/2 Float Stone with Pokémon Center seemed to cancel out the threat of Hypnotoxic Laser/Virbank City Gym fairly well, buying me some time to start attacking with Suicune.

I sent the list to the members on my team and another good friend, hoping they would have some time to test and produce similar results. If things didn’t work the way I wanted, though, I had a backup plan: I would play the Darkrai EX deck I had tested against so much. This was a strategy I used for Nationals in 2010 when I placed 2nd with Luxchomp (Luxray LV.X/Garchomp LV.X). Basically, I tried to construct a counter deck and found myself playtesting against Luxchomp so much that honed my abilities not only with the counter, but with the strong archetype as well.

Outside of this, there was little more I did to prepare for this tournament. I hate saying that too, because I take the game seriously enough to want to keep notes during matches, playtest various matchups considerably, and try my absolute best to figure out the metagame. As I mentioned before, though, I have a lot of things going on in my life right now, and I have to make do with what I have.

The day (and night) before the tournament found me working. I tried desperately to get out of having to work an event that night, but no luck. I left work at 9:15 PM, went home and said bye to my wife, then got in my car at 10:00 PM to drive to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The drive would take me approximately eight hours.


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No sleep, no problem.

Two bottles of Coke and only three stops later, I arrived in Philadelphia right at 6:00 AM. I had a plan to get some sleep before the tournament started, but I searched for a long time for a restroom. Between that and the need to eat some breakfast, I decided to be the first person to show up at the convention center. I also needed to make a decision on my deck choice. Nobody I sent the decklist to was able to test it, and so I was leaning heavily toward playing Darkrai EX.

People slowly started showing up. I found a person to play my weird deck against, hoping he would destroy me and prove me wrong. Instead, he played Darkrai EX and had a hard time figuring out how to get through Suicune PLB. I suggested we end the game to get in line.

As tournament registration got under way, I noticed nothing unusual. Most players were filling out lists for the “Big 4,” and I found myself depleted on energy and ready to sleep. I needed a second (third? fourth?) wind, and I found it when I heard the wonderful stories of Ryan Sablehaus. We played a game called “Story Time,” in which players flip over 7 cards from a deck one by one and craft a story based on the cards flipped over.

Ryan told a story about when he took his dog to the vet, only to have the lights go out and be attacked by an evil clown guy (Darkrai). I told a story about my mom who had an evil twin… then, an evil triplet! By this time, I had also decided on my deck (Darkrai EX), so that helped me relax a little.

Before I knew it, the roster was posted, then the pairings. I was ready to start a two day tournament, having had absolutely no sleep. What fun! Here is the deck I played just for reference. It’s a pretty standard Darkrai EX list, so there’s not a whole lot that’s new here:

Pokémon – 9

3 Sableye DEX
3 Darkrai-EX DEX
1 Keldeo-EX
1 Absol PLF
1 Mr. Mime PLF

Trainers – 40

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
4 Random Receiver
1 Ghetsis

2 Bicycle


4 Dark Patch
4 Hypnotoxic Laser
3 Ultra Ball
3 Pokémon Catcher
2 Dark Claw
2 Enhanced Hammer
2 Max Potion
1 Tool Scrapper
1 Dowsing Machine


2 Virbank City Gym
1 Frozen City

Energy – 11

11 D

Round 1 vs. Amani E. with Victini-EX/Landorus-EX/Jirachi-EX/Terrakion BCR

Game 1

I’m notorious for losing my first round at major tournaments. Last year, I managed to lose my first two rounds at Philadelphia Regionals, only to win every match afterward and land in the Top 32. I was hoping for this to not happen again, but when I open with no Supporter going second, I’m gravely concerned. Amani has a strong turn one, getting a Terrakion BCR, Landorus-EX, and Victini-EX in play. He’s able to use Victini-EX’s attack to charge up the counters on his bench.

For three turns I have no Supporter, so I’m stuck doing silly stuff with a couple of Sableye DEX. By the time I get going, I’m already far too behind. I lose within a handful of turns.

Game 2

My strategy is to annoy my opponent with Hypnotoxic Laser and Pokémon Catcher, hoping to deplete his resources until I can get a Darkrai EX going. In a moment like this, I figure the best thing I can do is get two Darkrai EX in play, powering them up equally. If I focus my Energy on one Darkrai EX, my opponent will do everything he can to take that one out. If he does, I have essentially lost the game right there. If I can slowly build two up, perhaps I can get lucky and get a Darkrai EX to attack. With the low HP EXs my opponent has on the field, my attack will net me 2 Prize cards. Until the Darkrai EX is ready to go, however, I have to recycle Hypnotoxic Laser and Pokémon Catcher, essentially buying myself time.

My plan gets me very close to a win. I managed to take out a Jirachi-EX, only to get 1HKO’d by Terrakion BCR. I’m able to buy some time with Laser and get to a potential game-winning play by drawing a Pokémon Catcher, a Dark Claw, and another D Energy to knockout two Victini-EX’s with one attack from Darkrai EX. Unfortunately, I whiff on the Pokémon Catcher and take a loss for the first round.


Round 2 vs. Jose G. with “Big Basics” (Landorus-EX, Mewtwo EX, Tornadus-EX DEX)/Garbodor DRX

Game 1

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Keeps opponents at bay.

When my opponent puts a Landorus-EX with a F Energy down on the bench and uses a Switch to bring him active, I quickly realize that this might be how my entire day may go – Darkrai EX counters aplenty! I use much the same strategy I employed in game one by slowing the opponent down with Hypnotoxic Laser. The pressure that Laser can provide is perhaps the greatest asset of any matchup that doesn’t see Virizion-EX or Keldeo-EX.

I’m able to get a Darkrai EX powered up and actually KO the Landorus-EX before it causes much damage. I also use Enhanced Hammers to negate and Double Colorless Energy my opponent plays. Toward the end of the game, I have to make a tough call on whether or not my opponent plays (or can get to) his last Pokémon Catcher. In the end, he cannot, and I take the first game because of it.

Game 2

For this game, I have a relatively slow start (plus, I went second). I’m getting more and more into the groove of just spamming Hypnotoxic Laser and Pokémon Catcher with Sableye DEX at the beginning of each game, doing so to force my opponent to use up key cards like Switch and Float Stone.

After the rocky start, I use N to bring my opponent down to three cards. His fully-powered Landorus-EX is hit with a Hypnotoxic Laser and is taking poison quickly. After whiffing on the Pokémon Catcher to Knock Out my Darkrai EX, things go downhill for my opponent quickly and I pick up a win for the round.


Round 3 vs. Andrew S. with Genesect EX/Virizion-EX/Mewtwo EX/Mew-EX/”stuff”

Game 1

This is a really tough game for me, as I’m able to assess quickly that my opponent has a fairly unorthodox list (he played things like Kangaskhan PLB and Carnivine DEX), but my start is very slow. I miss a Supporter for three turns or so, during which my opponent is able to get things going. When I finally pick up the pace, I’m convinced I can pull off a win until G Booster allows my opponent to 1HKO my Darkrai EX and puts me in a bind.

The entire game felt like I was chasing a carrot at the end of a stick, getting nowhere. I should have conceded this one at some point, but I’m just not sure when that moment would have been. I take a loss for the first game.

Game 2

At this point, I’m really feeling the pressures of the new 50 minute best-of-three structure. I feel like I wasted tons of time in the first game, and so I compensate for that by playing with blinding speed in the second one. This time, I see my opponent playing even more stuff that I was unaware of like a 1-0-1 Crobat PLS line and Espeon PLF – weird stuff I must say.

I’m able to pull off a win with ease in this game, though I felt I was playing like a madman to do it. We’re left with something like five minutes for Game 3.

Game 3

This game goes much the same as Game 2, in which I get a conventional start and my opponent is starting off patchy at best. I get a Darkrai EX powered up quickly and am able to take a few Prize cards with ease. I’m hoping to bench my opponent, but time is called and I’m at a loss for words. I’m upset because – based on what we had been told before – a tie in this particular instance would help neither of us. I openly talk about this with my opponent, and he agrees with me that he’d rather see someone benefit than neither of us.

Understand that I did not ask my opponent for a concession, and I am more in the dark about the new tournament structure than anything. What’s cool, though, is that in the end my opponent offered a concession. I thought this was nice, especially considering the game state when time was called. Many players would not have done that, so thanks Andrew!

Note: I really dislike the time limits we have on matches currently for this exact reason. Many players don’t know how to handle this new system, and so feel like they’re at a disadvantage if they end up in a draw. Because of this, many players just didn’t know what to do when time was called and they found themselves in a draw. The new system will take some getting used to, and I certainly like having best-of-three, but this one catch was certainly frustrating for many.


Round 4 vs. David S. with Plasma

Game 1

kyurem plasma freeze plf 31pokemon-paradijs.com
Can’t let it Blizzard Burn.

For this game, my deck had a slow start again (it’s amazing to me how I can test successfully with a deck nearly a hundred times before a tournament, then watch the consistency just disappear the moment it actually matters). My opponent is able to get things rolling pretty quickly, using a combination of Thundurus EX and Colress Machine to get his Kyurem PLF ready to go. He must have had a high count of Silver Bangle in his deck as well, since he had no trouble finding it when he needed it.

As a result, my opponent is able to KO Darkrai EXs with ease, putting me on the defensive. I try to slow him down by using Enhanced Hammer, but I have one in the Prize cards, which makes this a bit of a dead end. I play it out with the hope that a late-game N will aid me, but it doesn’t and I take a loss in Game 1.

Game 2

In this game my deck sets up without issue. I also have no Enhanced Hammers in the Prize cards, so I’m able to move along with ease. Of course, this is by no means a quick game. My opponent is able to patch things up by using Thundurus EX, reclaiming some of his lost Energy cards. We have an exchange of KOs, but I’m able to disrupt enough to keep his Kyurem PLF at bay.

Plasma is generally a good matchup for me, and I was surprised to have to fight so much to win this one. Good game David!

Game 3

Given the state of things on this one, I concede to my opponent. Again, I really hated the pressures that time placed on players at this tournament. It was stressful enough playing in a tournament that had more rounds than Nationals; to have time to be a constant factor on the mind was nearly too much for many.


Round 5 vs. ? with Big Basics/Garbodor DRX

I have to be frank – I just can’t remember who I played against for this one, nor how the games went. I just remember that I played against another Big Basics/Garbodor deck and win.


Round 6: vs. Greg S. with Big Basics/Garbodor DRX

Game 1

Yet again, I face a deck using Landorus-EX, one of my biggest hurdles. For this game, I refer once more to my strategy of throwing as many Lasers/Catchers as I can at my opponent, hoping that he will burn up enough resources that I can come out ahead. Having faced so much Darkrai EX “hate,” I feel more in control than ever before, methodically recycling Lasers and Catchers in such a way that my opponent gets stuck every now and then with a poisoned Active Pokémon.

By the time my Darkrai EX starts attacking, I feel like I’ve done enough unseen damage to really mess my opponent up. At one point, one of his Landorus-EX stays asleep from my Hypnotoxic Laser and he has no way of getting out of it. This single moment basically wins the game for me, and I’m able to land an attack that gets me 4 Prize cards (the other Pokémon I had damaged was a Tornadus-EX DEX).

Game 2

I won’t bore you with the same details as what happened in Game 1. What I will say, however, is that my opponent landed a huge advantage late-game during which he played an N that left me with nothing. I thought time would be called before the game finished, but by the time we were in our +3 turns I found myself in a situation where the win or loss would be decided by a coin flip.

I had the win if I were able to pull both a Pokémon Catcher and a Dark Patch off an N for 4 (I would have got a double KO and take 4 Prize cards), but I failed to do so. Having played a Hypnotoxic Laser and flipped heads, I would have kept my opponent from winning if he flipped a tails. Instead, he flipped a heads and sealed a victory on his third turn after time was called. Given that, we tied.

This was very annoying to me, though I was happy for my opponent that he was able to complete that second game. Otherwise, it would have been yet another game in which someone lost when they were “clearly going to win in a couple more turns” (this was a complaint by players all day long). In my mind, this game had knocked me out of the top cut. I was under the impression I had to “win out” in order to crack into the Top 32, so the threat of what a tie would do to me had just become a reality.

I left the tournament area and found a quiet spot for a while, reflecting on the fact that I had gone through some pretty crazy measures to make it to this tournament. I thought about what I could have done differently, and was frustrated that “playing slower” came to mind. This stupid 50 minute best-of-three, I thought, has even me wanting to play slower so I can keep an opponent from gaining a rightful win.

What is there to say about this? I definitely think number of Prize cards taken should be a consideration when time is called and +3 turns are completed. I understand that some decks (even my own) are apt to make a comeback, and so this might be a poor reflection of the eventual winner of the game, but still, the idea that a player can take every Prize card but one while the opponent takes nothing in a second game and still have that game not count is quite atrocious to me.

I felt defeated, but I had to move on. Perhaps there was still a chance I would make the Top 32. If I continued to win where others tied, maybe it could happen yet.


Round 7 vs. Zach ? with Big Basics/Garbodor

Game 1

Did I mention I can’t wait for the errata?

My opponent gets a horrendous start, not pulling anything at all for probably 6 turns. This combined with the tie I received from Round 6 is making me not take the game seriously, but I’m still going to try my best I suppose. My opponent is able to get a few cards in play, but cannot do anything with them. I KO a Landorus-EX and Mewtwo EX pretty easily, then follow up by KOing a Trubbish.

Then, things take a dramatic turn when my opponent uses a Pokémon Catcher to bring up my Keldeo-EX and flips a heads with a Hypnotoxic Laser. I flip tails three times in a row, meaning that with damage coupled from a Tornadus-EX DEX, I am Knocked Out going into his turn. He then brings up a Darkrai EX and 1-shots it with a powered up Landorus-EX.

Things are starting to look really bad for me, but I can still get a knockout on something else on the bench if I pull the Pokémon Catcher and Hypnotoxic Laser I need. I win the game by landing that KO… with a Sableye DEX.

Game 2

I honestly don’t remember a whole lot of this game. Matches against Landorus-EX and his pals are starting to blur… a lot. Sableye – go look in the trash can for some guns (Lasers/Catchers)! I seem to have lost my cell phone (Random Receiver); Sableye, can you help? Oh hi Darkrai, you scary clown man, you showed up a little late for the party. No, it’s okay, you can join us – we’d be delighted to have you!

Time is called and there’s little way for my opponent to take the Prize cards he needs. He opts to Catcher up a Mr. Mime PLF and KO it with a Mewtwo EX, thereby acknowledging defeat.


Round 8 vs. Casey M. with Plasma

Game 1

Casey’s a great friend of mine, and I’m not sure we had ever played in a tournament setting. This game plays out the same way my other Plasma matches have gone, with me using a combination of Enhanced Hammers, Hypnotoxic Lasers, and Pokémon Catchers until I have a Darkrai EX setup. I keep the Absol PLF as a trick up my sleeve, dropping it only after my opponent has filled his entire bench. It helps me land an unexpected KO and pull ahead for the win.

Game 2

This runs much like the first game, so I won’t go into detail on it. Casey tried his best, but he ran (I believe) only 2 or 3 basic Energy, leaving him vulnerable to Enhanced Hammer. The benefit to best-of-three is that nuances of a deck are noticed by good players from Game 1 to Game 2, and these can be capitalized on. The presence of a low amount of basic Energy, for instance, caused me to be even more aggressive in Game 2 with the Sableye DEX/Enhanced Hammer combo.


Round 9: vs. Adam C. with Lugia EX/Thundurus EX/Deoxys-EX

Game 1

Da boss.

Well, now I’m playing against my boss (the founder of SixPrizes). I have to prove to him why I’m a writer for his website! Before we get going, we talk a little about Adam’s blog and catch up. I wish this conversation could have lasted longer, but we have to start the game.

I should have known from a discussion earlier with Adam what he was running, but I simply cannot remember. My brain is operating off bad fast food, zero sleep, and pure instinct. When I close my eyes, I see images of cards. I have stepped into another realm of exhaustion, where thoughts and images of Pokémon meld together, and it’s not pretty.

Soon enough, I remember what Adam is playing. He gets Lugia EX in play going first and uses 2 Colress Machine to power it up. He ends his turn before he’s able to attack by attaching a Prism Energy to the Lugia EX (thank God). Essentially, I view the second turn Lugia EX as a Landorus-EX in terms of what my strategy should be. A Sableye DEX gets Knocked Out on Adam’s second turn, and I’m instantly hoping for something to pull me out of this nosedive.

I’m able to Catcher something else up and discard a Plasma Energy with an Enhanced Hammer, buying me a little bit of time. I proceed to use Sableye DEX to copy Enhanced Hammers, Hypnotoxic Lasers, and Pokémon Catchers while I get things set up. I remember during this game that Adam misses a crucial Energy drop, allowing my Sableye DEX another turn to slow him down.

Toward the end of this game, I’m able to use 3 Dark Patch in a single turn to power up a Darkrai EX. This might seem super lucky, but it was actually unlucky for me to draw into those Dark Patch so late in the game. Another star in this game was Absol PLF, which I was able to power up quickly in place of a Darkrai EX. Timed right, Absol PLF can become a critical aspect in maintaining tempo against speedier decks or decks that tend to push focus on a single Pokémon. After the 3 Dark Patch, I secure a win against Adam.

Game 2

Without quite as explosive a start as Game 1, I’m able to roll with Sableye DEX and Enhanced Hammer at the beginning of this game. One Enhanced Hammer is in the Prize cards, but my Dowsing Machine ensures that there’s no issue. I’m able to Catcher things up methodically, keeping Adam on the defensive constantly. By the time my Darkrai EXs are ready to go, Adam only has three or so Energy cards in play (Enhanced Hammer has done its part).

Toward the end of this game, I managed to pull off another triple Dark Patch play – which is incredible in that this hasn’t happened all tournament long, then occurred twice in a row against Adam. Time is called, and Adam is unable to take the necessary Prize cards for the win (that is, unless he is able to draw 2 Colress Machines, a Pokémon Catcher, and a Hypnotoxic Laser off a Colress while managing to avoid drawing a Plasma Energy). He misses the miracle draw and I secure a win for this round.

Editor’s Note: I needed to hit 2 Colress Machines, a DCE, and no Plasma Energy off a 5 card Colress at the end to KO an Absol with Lugia for my last 2 Prize cards, but I had a Plasma Energy left in my Prizes so in actuality I had no outs to win Game 2. You can read my brief tournament summary here if you’re interested.


Note: This marks the end of day 1 of the Philadelphia Regionals. After my match with Adam, we sat and talked for a good while, during which I was not looking forward to standings (I honestly thought I would place in the late 30’s). As we were talking, a friend of mine came up and nonchalantly stated that I had made Top 32. I couldn’t believe my ears, so I went to check, thinking my friend had made an unfortunate mistake.

The mistake was on me! I placed 21st, well into the Top 32! A 6-3-1 record gave me 19 points, a couple under the 21 I originally thought were required to make top cut. Of course, there’s a lot of getting used to a new system here, but I was surprised to see how far off my expectations were. I would live to fight another day!

I called my wife up and let her know the good news. Afterward, I went for a walk in the city. I was running quickly out of money and my energy was all mixed up – excitement for my Top 32 finish swirled together with a feeling of pure exhaustion. A lot rested on my mind. My dedication to the game had led me to this singular moment, ambling along the streets in an unknown city, hungry and completely sapped, reveling in my accomplishment.

It’s this feeling that keeps me coming back to the Pokémon TCG. I’m a person who values endurance, and the thought of playing a mentally-charged game all day without sleep or sustenance, yet coming out on top with extraordinary measure… it’s exciting. It feels wonderful to explore the very deepest parts of a person’s capability, of my own capability.

A group of costumed individuals poured out of a nearby church – bold sailors, haggard witches, ill-contemplated ghosts, and pirates laughed and cheered as they circled the block. I made my way to a 7-Eleven and bought a couple of hot dogs and a Coke, laughing with an employee when a burly guy came in asking if they had any Xanax (yes, you need a prescription, they aren’t sold at food-marts).

The cold breeze at midnight called me to the hotel some friends said I could crash at. Past having any good decision-making skills at this point, I agreed to play The Resistance until 1:00 AM or so, then abruptly crashed on the floor, still in clothes and with keys on my belt loop

Round 10 vs. Greg S. with Big Basics/Garbodor

Game 1

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I somehow woke up in time though!

Day 2 started off rather interesting, with my opponent showing up late for this match. Also, this was the individual I tied with the day before, not necessarily a great matchup for me. This game goes to me since my opponent arrives more than 5 minutes late. Since he gets here before his 10 minutes are up, however, we go to a second match.

Game 2

By this point, I’m a well-oiled machine in terms of dealing with Landorus-EX. Landorus-EX happens to be my favorite EX card, but I have to overlook this as I Laser/Catcher my opponent to death. A simple 30-30 damage split is silenced with Mr. Mime, and even the 30 damage on the Active Pokémon becomes hard to achieve with the threat of Hypnotoxic Laser. Even Float Stones are wrenched away by my single Tool Scrapper. As the game progresses, it becomes clear that I have easily won this one.


Round 11 vs. Geoffrey S. with Virizion-EX/Mewtwo EX/Bouffalant DRX

Note: When I arrived to play this game, I found out that Harrison Leven wanted to stream us on their coverage of the event. While I am honored, I decide to decline because I simply wanted to focus on the game at hand. With the new tournament structure forcing players to think constantly about time, I didn’t need another layer of things to think about. I hate this too, because I love watching streams and think they’re great for the game. Next time, Harrison!

Game 1

I haven’t played against this deck much at all, so I have some reservations. My opponent has a decent start, while mine isn’t terribly fast. In order to build up some offense, I use Pokémon Catcher obsessively to force my opponent to use Switch cards or otherwise retreat. At one point, I set up a perfect play by bringing a Bouffalant DRX active, poisoning it with a Hypnotoxic Laser (it had no Energy attached), then hitting it with Absol PLF so it will get Knocked Out going into my turn.

I had killed off a lot of my opponent’s resources and used an N before this, so my opponent had to attach a G Energy to the Bouffalant DRX in order to avoid the KO. Not a bad move for a guy who had gotten maybe 10 hours of sleep within the past three days!

This game comes down to the wire, as I quickly realize the strength in using Emerald Slash to power a Mewtwo EX. With 1 Enhanced Hammer in the Prize cards, I’m having trouble keeping my opponent’s Double Colorless Energy at bay. Fortunately, however, I’m able to land a final KO on my opponent’s Mr. Mime for the win.

Game 2

My opponent utilizes a Scramble Switch on his second turn to power up a Virizion-EX for Emerald Slash, which completely catches me off guard. Both of my Enhanced Hammers are in my deck, however, so I’m able to keep my opponent from capping out at huge amounts of damage. My Max Potions also come in handy this game, as any Emerald Slash on a Keldeo-EX (for 100 damage) is wiped clean, essentially setting my opponent back a turn.

I felt the pressure of not being able to use Hypnotoxic Laser this game, but I’m still able to set things up in a way that my opponent cannot reach the win for Game 2 in time. Time is called, and my opponent is literally 10 damage away from the win. I hate it for him, but it’s nothing new at this point in the tournament.


Round 12 vs. David ? (from Canada) with Plasma

Game 1

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Sableye… all lonesome…

I’m ecstatic to face another Plasma deck, as I’ve identified this deck as my best matchup of the “Big 4.” Game 1 plays out for a while, but my opponent eventually scoops after I have gained absolute control of the situation. Enhanced Hammers and Hypnotoxic Lasers were just too much for him. I take note, however, of the fact that the opponent ran 2-3 Silver Bangle.

In my mind, I celebrate because I don’t see how this round can go wrong. With three wins, I might very well secure my place in the Top 8.

Game 2

This game is a nightmare. I start with Sableye and manage to not get another Pokémon on the bench, losing on my opponent’s second turn. Time to win Game 3 I suppose. 

Game 3

I decide to play a bit faster than usual, knowing I have the advantage here. Unfortunately, though, my start is atrocious: my opening hand was 1 Sableye DEX, 1 Max Potion, and 5 D Energy (how does that even happen?). I draw a Dark Patch and use Confuse Ray. My opponent plays an N with a Deoxys-EX active and I’m beyond relieved.

I survive that turn, then continue to do what I do naturally. I know at this point my opponent plays 4 Switch and a couple of Float Stone, so I work hard at depleting his resources. He draws pretty well and manages to catch me off guard each time I think I’ve got him “locked.” Each time, he’s able to KO a Darkrai EX with a fully-powered Kyurem PLF + Silver Bangle + 3 Deoxys-EX on the bench. It was awful – I thought I had a win in hand, and now I was facing a loss.

With time quickly running out and my opponent storming me, I essentially try to do everything I can to avoid letting my opponent win – a tie will suffice. I N my opponent to 1 card after using a Catcher to bring up an Energy-less Deoxys-EX in our +3 turns. My hope: he can’t draw his remaining Switch for the win. Unfortunately, in turn 3, my opponent plays a Random Receiver, hits a Colress and plays it, then shows a Switch. Sad times indeed.


Round 13 vs. Dylan D. with the Mirror

Game 1

This is a big game, since the outcome will determine whether or not I crack into the Top 8. This is also the first mirror for me. I would almost hope for a matchup against Big Basics/Garbodor instead, since I faced it so much and had such confidence against it.

With my first search through the deck, I realize I have 2 Darkrai EX in the Prize cards, which is not good at all. Because of this, I change my strategy completely and aim for KOing little things with my Absol PLF. I manage to pull a Darkrai EX off my first Prize card, but the alternative strategy has left me in a bind: my opponent Knocks Out my Absol PLF and I have no response.

Things quickly spin out of control for me. My Darkrai EX are absent of Energy, my opponent is pressing forward, and I’m stuck doing weird things with Hypnotoxic Laser, hoping my opponent cannot break a 1 in 4 chance of sleep. He plays Keldeo-EX and breaks free of sleep, leaving me with just… nothing. I get a Darkrai EX powered up, but it’s far too late and things have gone way off course. It’s amazing how much can change because of what ends up in the Prize cards.

My opponent wins Game 1.

Game 2

If I had any luck at all, it has all been depleted (or perhaps “spoiled” would be a better word): I learn with my first search through the deck that I have Prized 2 Darkrai EXs yet again! Going first, however, I have some insurance for this situation. After taking 3 Prize cards, however, I run out of steam and have no more Pokémon to deal heavy damage with – that is to say, my 2 Darkrai EX are still in the remaining 3 Prize cards.

I explain the situation to my opponent and admit defeat, flipping over my Prize cards. I’m disgusted at this shift in things, knowing that bad luck has pushed me aggressively away from the Top 8. Still, I’m quite happy with my performance, instantaneously giving myself a pat on the back.


Round 14 vs. Gabriel B. with Plasma

Game 1

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Sableye and friends this time.

I don’t remember a whole lot of this game, but I do know I steamrolled, employing the same strategy I had before against Plasma. While my opponent gets some damage on the field, we end the game with him having taken 1 Prize card.

Game 2

Same thing here. I’m able to setup Sableye DEX and an infinite supply of Pokémon Catchers, Hypnotoxic Lasers, and Enhanced Hammers. My opponent’s deck is crippled by the time I begin an onslaught with multiple Darkrai EX and my single Absol PLF. Things move easily from here and I take a win for Round 14, giving me a few more points and cards.


So there you have it! I finished 14th overall, which I thought was spectacular given the challenges I faced. I hate my run ended with such bad luck, but that’s how Pokémon is at times. Sometimes luck works in your favor (like having an opponent show up late and winning Game 1 because of it), and sometimes it works against you (having 2 Darkrai EX Prized two games in a row). Nonetheless, I had a great time at the tournament and was very glad I made such a foolhardy trip.

Hopefully, you’ve gleamed something from this report. I know people have mixed feelings about tournament reports (especially with a format change looming), so I tried to go into detail to compensate and really give you, the reader, another chance to see inside the mind of a player who’s out to win.

Also, feel free to test that counter deck out; I honestly didn’t get a chance to see its true potential, though given my matchups I think it would have fared pretty well.

…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

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