Hey everyone! This week I decided I’d do an interview with one of the Top 16 ranked players in North America going into US Nationals. I chose Brit Pybas as he is both a very close friend of mine and one of the most consistent players on the planet. I tried to pose a good mix of serious and lighthearted questions, so I hope you enjoy!
Kenny: Thanks for agreeing to the interview! Can you tell the people a little about yourself?
Brit: No problem. My name is Brit. I’ve been playing competitively for about six years now (since Spring 2010). I have been invited to every Worlds since 2011 and am hoping to continue doing writing and coverage for the game in the future. As far as my non-Pokémon life is concerned, I recently finished my undergrad and am taking a year off of school and hope to be applying for PhD programs in the autumn. Otherwise I enjoy gaming, wrestling and anime!
Kenny: What drew you into philosophy?
Brit: It just gripped me in a way that no other school subject ever had. I wanted to learn more and more and only philosophy has made me feel this way.
Kenny: What is your favorite anime of all time, and what are you liking right now?
Brit: My general go-to answer is Shin Sekai Yori! But I also really love the Monogatari series, Evangelion and Madoka. Currently, I’m not watching a whole lot other than the new Fate/Stay Night and it’s solid, but not nearly as good as its predecessor.
Kenny: Nice! You say that you’re into gaming. Have you always had an interest in card games? What games (card or otherwise) do you play?
Brit: I’d say I always have. I had Pokémon cards as a kid but never really played. Yu-Gi-Oh was right around the corner and I watched that for years growing up and always had a few cards here and there. I do not play anything other than Hearthstone currently but I played YGO and Magic seriously for about a year before really delving into Pokémon.
As far as other games are concerned, I attempt to play Smash seriously but the learning curve is so high and I am definitely awful. I practice and play almost every day, though it will likely be only for fun.
Kenny: How did you first get into the competitive world of Pokémon?
Brit: I received a Stormfront starter deck at a white elephant Christmas gift exchange and began learning how to play and looking into the competitive side shortly after that.
Kenny: What do you think has kept you in the game this long?
Brit: The community for sure. I just made so many friends early on and have remained friends with these people to this very day and I think it’s definitely what keeps me going. I love the game as well, but it would mean so much less of traveling didn’t mean getting to spend quality time with many wonderful people.
Kenny: As one of the Pokémon players with the most experience in Hearthstone, how do you compare the two? Do you think that Hearthstone is a flash in the pan, or do you think it has the chance to take over the market currently dominated by the big three (Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Pokémon)?
Brit: I don’t think the games are too comparable at all. Tempo, resources and efficiency aren’t terms that play much of a role in Pokémon (though they do at times). I think both reward careful and methodical play and good players have the capacity to find success through variance or bad RNG. I think that Hearthstone is the future and could easily overtake even Magic if it holds people’s interest for the next few years.
I think the biggest setback concerning Hearthstone’s popularity right now is the lack of lower-tiered events and the fact that most tournament are celebrity invitationals so there is less room for the little guy to shine when the popular streamers receive priority. Certainly not to detract from the streamers — many of them are easily the best in the world — but I think it does lead to a small scene and perhaps and undeveloped game.
Kenny: Do you feel there is something Pokémon should do from a game design standpoint to make the game more appealing, as to compete with games like Hearthstone?
Brit: I would like to see the game slow down more. I am not a huge fan of the Professor Juniper/N engine we’ve been playing with for almost four years now and wish they would give us less draw and more search. Games all feel a certain way when everything has to play a very similar Supporter count.
Kenny: Moving onto Pokémon for a bit, there has been some controversy over the recently-announced US Nationals prizing, and how it compares to years past when factoring in Nationals and Worlds stipends. As a player who received a “full ride” (free flight + hotel + $300) stipend to Nationals, what is your take?
Brit: I definitely think it’s fine. For one, Nationals prizing has never been too great and I think a lot of people are overlooking that fact in favor of just having something to complain about. I think I got four or five packs for making cut a few years ago. It’s never about the prizing.
Secondly, the stipends total up to be a huge amount of money, especially for some lackluster finishes. Getting $650 for a season that wouldn’t have qualified you for Worlds in 2013 or 2014 should honestly be a dream come true. It is surely a reflection of the calculated numbers and estimates and if they had more money to give us, I’m sure they would.
Kenny: Speaking of mediocre finishes, you’ve been pretty vocal about this year’s Worlds qualification being too easy to achieve. Now that we can look at a nearly complete list of invitees, do you still believe this is the case?
Brit: Absolutely. Though in my defense, I think I would have even argued that last year was too easy. I am an advocate that Worlds should be as exclusive as possible. Hearthstone Worlds is 16 players, Magic Worlds is slightly bigger than that and was perfect to watch. Every match could be streamed and it fostered an environment for great games and even better coverage.
Pokémon players generally have this odd sense of entitlement when it comes to this sort of thing and their biggest argument is related to the fact that it “used to be a certain way, we always used to get Top 32 cut at Regionals, ergo only Top 8 is bad and unfair” and so forth. I get the desire to be important and to see success, but it matters most when difficulty is embraced.
Kenny: You’re known as someone who travels to a lot of events. Have you always been interested in traveling? How do you pass the time on those long drives?
Brit: I actually hadn’t done any traveling until I got seriously invested into Pokémon, but now I always look forward to it. I personally hate flying so I like to drive if at all possible. Generally, I just listen to music, though I’ve been going through a few lecture series from Great Courses and would highly recommend them. Otherwise, conversation with fellow players does a nice job of helping those hours go by.
Kenny: Where is your favorite place you’ve traveled for Pokémon?
Brit: Hawaii for sure. Absolutely gorgeous and incredible weather. The hotel itself was also incredible.
Kenny: If you could choose the location for next year’s World Championship, where would it be?
Brit: I would go back to Hawaii in a heartbeat. Or even Vancouver or San Diego again. All of those venues were super nice. As for new locations, I think Japan would make a lot of sense and as someone who has never left North America, I would more than welcome an edgier change.
Kenny: Favorite deck of all time?
Kenny: Who do you test with? Do you have an organized testing group, or do you just talk to friends and make determinations from there?
Brit: I usually just talk to friends. I recently opted to leave Facebook and the most notable effect of this is how much harder it is to talk to people about Pokémon. I’m sure I will be fine in the grand scheme of things, but it is noticeable. I try to grind games online and in person as much as possible and just talk to a handful of others to see what their opinions are.
Kenny: What do you think your biggest strength is in the game? Are you the deck designer? Deck perfecter? Are you the guy who can test for hours on end? Tight technical play?
Brit: I used to be able to test forever but I don’t have that in me anymore. I definitely think my greatest strength is building a deck and reading the metagame. I’m not sure what it is, but I just seem to have a knack for guessing what people are going to play, and being in an odd location with four different metagames all equidistant, I can capitalize on my predictions and attend events where I think I’ll see the most success. I’m a good player, but I catch myself making mistakes far too often these days.
Kenny: How do you mentally handle those losses? Are you prone to tilting? Any rituals that help you calm down and stay focused during a rough tournament?
Brit: I used to be really bad about getting angry and upset, but I’m pretty lax about it now. I find that a lot of my losses are just going to be out of my control so I try to laugh and move on. I’ve been on the good end of luck so many times that it would be foolish and lazy of me to just pretend that I had never stolen a game off an N to one or a clutch top deck.
Kenny: As someone who has been to Nationals as many times as you have, what would you recommend players do in Indianapolis? Outside of the tournament, do you have any specific restaurants you like to visit, or sites you like to see?
Brit: Be prepared, but don’t overprepare. Don’t let nerves cloud your judgement. Confidence in yourself is one of the most important things and it’s going to be worth more when you make sure not to overtech your deck and learn the matchups well.
As for food, I’m a big fan of Noodles & Company, which is a chain I don’t get to have very often. Weber Grill is also very good. On the real expensive end, I finally got to try St. Elmo’s last year and it was well worth all the hype.
Kenny: You once claimed to not like french fries. Has your stance on this changed?
Brit: It has not. Some places have good fries but for the most part I just skip them or would prefer another side.
Kenny: Lastly, you and I both know that Pokémon is more than just a game. We both have a lot of friends we’ve met through Pokémon, and have spent significant time with those people outside of a tournament setting. What is your favorite Pokémon story that doesn’t have to do with gameplay?
Brit: I could never tell such a thing on a wholesome website like SixPrizes.
However, I do have a runner-up: At Nationals a few years back, I stole Josue “Crim” Rojano’s The Top Cut jacket, and wore it around for an evening. Inside it, I found a notebook that was intended for him to take notes on his opponent’s hands after using Smeargle UD’s Portrait Poké-Power. If you know Crim at all, you’ll have guessed that it was completely blank. So I decided to go around and ask everyone to write their least favorite thing about him in it as a gift for when I would inevitably be forced to return the jacket.
Thanks to Brit for being willing to do the interview, I hope you all enjoyed it! In the comments, let me know what you’d like to see me write about next week!