A Tale of Juniors and Seniors

The Halliburton Report from Worlds, incl. Top 4 Worlds Juniors Report

I have been writing articles for SixPrizes for almost 4 years! I never imagined that I would meet so many people, build so many fun friendships, and travel to so many interesting places through Pokémon. It has been unimaginably rewarding for my family and I. And I owe much of it to SixPrizes and you, my readers. So many people have come up to me over the years and introduced yourself at tournaments and I am super grateful. My natural introversion serves me poorly in this environment, but Pokémon is filled with friendly faces.

I very much enjoyed commentating at Roanoke Regionals. Looking for more opportunities to do that kind of thing! Commentating is a great Poké-parent pursuit because between rounds my kids tell me how their rounds did, but during rounds I am quite busy!

When first we met, lo these many years ago, my eldest son had worked his way through the grinder at his first ever Worlds, experiencing the second day-ish World Championship in DC only five months after beginning his competitive career. Two years later he won the US National Championship and I thought, particularly given variance, it’s all downhill from here! Last year I brought you the tale of how both my kids top 8’d NAIC and top 32’d Worlds—their best Worlds finish up to that time. This year I bring you the tale of a first year senior having a nice run and my youngest son rising up to a Top 4 finish at the World Championship.

Given variance and all that, I don’t think I ever imagined that both my kids would have crazy trophies. When they asked my oldest his secret to success at the National Championship, he responded, “get lucky!” Indeed, I feel like lightning has struck us twice and could not be happier for my youngest.

Let’s dive right in.


Right after my last article, we headed to Toronto. For two years, I have offered my eldest son a choice of birthday presents or a father/son regionals trip. Both years he has opted for the trip so this year we crossed the border and headed to Toronto. He had his first poutine, so I already knew the trip was a wild success.

Unfortunately, we decided to play BuzzRoc because we could not find a deck that consistently beat it. We felt like this was a bit of a trap because historically, when we just lemmingly follow the herd and play the big deck, our results are meh.

Rd 1 – Michael P. (Greninja) – WW – New player at his first regional. Game 1 Liam couldn’t find a float stone and missed attack T1 and T2 so he didn’t attack until Greninja was on the board but other kid kept missing Shurikens even though he had multiple BREAKs in play. Misplays led to the final outcome. Michael chose to go second Game 2 and Greninja hands led to Liam’s victory.

Rd 2 – Isaac P. (Bulu) – WW – Isaac is a player we have been paired against for literally years. We executed Azul’s strategy (love watching those VODs) by chipping Grubbins, then strong, Regirock, Jet Punch to KO Vikavolt and Grubbin, then Mew copy Watch & Learn to KO Bulus. Long stretches in both games where Isaac instructed for one, drew nothing and repeat. #buluhands

Rd 3 – Quinn T. (BuzzRoc) – WLL – Every game was very close, Liam whiffed a Strong Energy off back to back Sycamores in Game 3 for the win, but he felt like Quinn outplayed him and repeatedly put him in awkward situations. In one, he had 2 Fightings on a Buzzwole and had Mew with Choice and one Energy. Quinn Lycanroc’d up the Buzz and hit it for 120 and Liam couldn’t find a Guzma so he had to either attach to the Buzz and kill it and get revenge killed or Jet Punch and attach to something else to start getting energy on the board. Liam had a misplay where he benched both Mews and then Quinn killed them both. Lesson learned.

Rd 4 – Charles S. (Espeon) – LL

Rd 5 – Alejandro N. (BuzzRoc) – LWL – Alejandro, our testing partner takes a close one as he repeatedly has (see London and Dallas) when Liam has been paired against him throughout the year.

Rd 6 – Nate O. (BuzzGarb) – WLL

Rd 7 – Nathan R. (Sylveon) – WW

In my last article, I mentioned that Liam had gotten points at every regional this year…then we promptly go 3-4. Can you say “jinx”? You can tell from my notes I became progressively less interested in what Liam was up to.

Virginia Regionals

Once again, we struggled to find strong plays in the meta. Walker decided to play Night March because he did not want to play Zoroeggs. Liam settled on Zoroeggs in a tournament where we didn’t feel strongly about our deck. This was definitely a situation where we felt like the (lack of) time between Expanded and Standard tournaments prevented us from properly exploring the meta. It was our first Expanded tournament since Dallas, but came right on the heels of Toronto.

Walker – Night March – 3-1-2

Rd 1 – Theo V-P. (Trev) – LL
Rd 2 – Gabriel M. (Gardevoir) – LWT
Rd 3 – Sarah R. (Tynamo) – WW – New player
Rd 4 – Hayden C. (BuzzRoc) – LWT – No surprise, my Junior is unable to finish 3 games while playing against his best friend despite them playing the 2 fastest decks in the format, I would think.
Rd 5 – Logan J. (Night March) – WW
Rd 6 – Raphael P. (BuzzRoc) – WW

Liam – Zoroeggs – 4-2-1

Rd 1 – Luca M. (BuzzRoc) – WW
Rd 2 – Brady G. (BuzzRoc) – LL
Rd 3 – Mike F. (Magnezone) – WW – New player
Rd 4 – Dominik O. (BuzzRoc) – WW
Rd 5 – Benjamin M. (DrampaGarb) – LL – Got bodied game one after prizing Sky Field, got close game two but N to 2 opponent drew VS Seeker for teammates. Then Red Card and he draws VS Seeker and DCE.
Rd 6 – Jacob T. (DrampaGarb) – WT
Rd 7 – ? (ZoroEggs) – WLT

I think all of this is notable for how uninteresting it is.


We wanted to go harder for NAIC. My eldest tested a fair bit for this tournament, with quite a lot of distraction from Fortnite. Our starting point for deck selection was my personal commitment to Zoroark. We felt like the meta was rock-paper-scissors (although Azul’s comment on Twitter about how it can’t be a triangle if Malamar is bad spoke to me). Given that, if we had to choose a deck in a 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 meta, I felt like we should play Zoroark because Trades. I didn’t want us to lose due to bad draws. If we lose, let’s lose because we got beat, not because we beat ourselves. We were on ZoroRoc early on because we had played a lot of Golisopod and we felt like ZoroRoc was generally better.

After testing a bunch with Rahul Reddy, Chris Taporco, and Jimmy McClure, we ended up with a heavily teched ZoroRoc list with 2 Weakness Policy and Reverse Valley.

Upon arriving in beautiful Columbus, we started testing with our core team of Kaden and Liam Hyatt and Alejandro Ng-Guzman. Alejandro’s father, Jeff Ng, is a great master that I think has a similar strategy to our strategy in seniors: We aren’t good enough to just play BDIF and win. We have to play a little bit rogue. Jeff’s claim to fame is top 32’ing Dallas Regionals last year with a ridiculously spicy Jolteon deck. He was thinking about Sylveon and had pulled together a few cards for a list. When my eldest heard that, he got excited because he loves a horrible control deck (see Sableye/Garb and ToadPuff tournament reports). He promptly stole Jeff’s deck and announced his intention to play Sylveon instead.

I knew Kyle Lesniewicz was probably playing Sylveon because I have heard him interviewed on Super Rod Cast multiple times and I was always impressed by his cogent analysis of the deck and matchups. I reached out to Kyle and he quickly responded that he was willing to meet up and chat strategery about the deck. While Kyle did not share his list with us, he gave us good feedback on the list we were playing. We met up briefly with Kyle to talk lists, Kyle assured Liam that Sylveon beat Buzzwole and Liam was set.

I don’t think our list was particularly interesting, but here it is:

Pokémon – 7

4 Eevee SUM
3 Sylveon-GX

Trainers – 42

3 Team Flare Grunt
2 Team Rocket’s Handiwork
2 N
2 Lusamine
2 Guzma
1 Gladion
1 Acerola
1 Plumeria
1 Diantha


4 Nest Ball
4 Puzzle of Time
4 Max Potion
3 Pal Pad
3 Crushing Hammer
3 Enhanced Hammer
2 Counter Catcher
1 Super Rod
1 Professor’s Letter


2 Lysandre Labs

Energy – 11

10 Y
1 Double Colorless

Kyle, who ended up wrecking masters with a Top 16 finish, played Bodybuilding Dumbbells instead of Lysandre Labs, but Liam would not change the list.

Day 1

Rd 1 – Drew H. (BuzzRoc) – LWL – Prized two Sylveon Game 1, Game 3 Drew powered up a Buzz. Liam came back and announced, “I don’t know how this deck beats Buzz. My deck choice is terrible. We are doomed!”
Rd 2 – Damian F. (ZoroPod) – WW – The Zoroark games feel free. This makes Liam feel better about his choice.
Rd 3 – Tristan F. (ZoroRoc) – WW – Tristan filled his bench in Game 2 with non-Fighting Pokémon and couldn’t bench his Buzzwole FLI, leading to a scenario where he could not win.
Rd 4 – Hatch C. (BuzzRoc) – WW – Sycamores two Max Elixir game one, prizes his only Buzzwole-GX. 2nd game couldn’t power it up.
Rd 5 – Axel A. (ZoroPod) – WW – Scooped early game two because he did not want to do this anymore.
Rd 6 – David H. (?) – W
Rd 7 – Nicholas A. (ZoroPod) – LID – Got N’d into garbage then Nicholas agreed to ID as this matchup is highly unfavorable.
Rd 8 – Julius M.K. (? – Zoropod?) – W
Rd 9 – Alex G. (Buzz) – ID

Day 2

Rd 1 – ZoroGarb – LL
Rd 2 – ZoroRoc – WW
Rd 3 – Metagross – LL – I don’t think it gets much worse than this.
Rd 4 – BuzzRoc – WW
Rd 5 – ? – WW

Final Record: 9-3-2 – 17th place

I could complain about bubbling Top 16, but for my son’s first year in seniors, I think 17th place is hard to complain about. Given that we picked up the deck the night before, that is a pretty strong outcome.

Walker played the ZoroRoc list that we had spent so much time fine-tuning, but he had practiced precious little going into the tournament.

Rd 1 – Martin E. (Malamar) – LWL
Rd 2 – Antoine H. (Ultra Necrozma) – LWW
Rd 3 – Pimchanok T. (Malamar) – WT
Rd 4 – Anthony B.. (BuzzRoc) – WW
Rd 5 – John C. (Malamar) – LWL
Rd 6 – Jaysen M. (Malamar) – WLID
Rd 7 – Carl T. (Buzz) – WW
Rd 8 – Peter B. (?) – L

Final Record – 3-3-2


After NAIC we chilled for a week or two and went on vacation for a week. My kids barely picked up cards. However, when we got back, they tried to do the responsible thing and play some Pokémon. One of the things I like best about Pokémon is scheduling face-to-face testing sessions because they are simply more fun than other testing. After the success of our pre-Worlds tete-a-tete, we did some face-to-face testing with Russell LaParre, Joe Grubb and Chris Taporco. The result was even Walker did far more testing than he usually would. Through all this, I made the following comment to my testing team:

“I have to say, I am very dissatisfied with where we are in our testing. The meta doesn’t feel rock-paper-scissors, because the good decks don’t auto lose to anything. But the result is that any given deck doesn’t seem to beat anything. We can’t choose to take an L to X because we want to beat Y. It is more about how you draw in game and decision-making in game, it feels like in our testing.

We are working BuzzGarb hard, ZoroGarb, ZoroCargo.

None of them seem to win all the time for us, and they take random losses to Buzzroc, Ray, etc.”

We went to an expanded League Challenge where we played Xander Pero’s BuzzRoc list (why expanded Challenge the week before NAIC?) and we went to a standard Challenge where Liam played Drampa/Garb and at the conclusion Liam declared that there was no way he was playing BuzzRoc because it felt like a high roll deck. You either found Beast Ring and won or you didn’t and lost.

Liam had spent a lot of time working on ZoroGarb and DrampaGarb. He felt like the meta was begging to be Trashalanche’d and it was strong against ZoroCargo and Ray, which seemed valuable heading into the Worlds meta.

It is worth mentioning for a moment that I am definitely having parent moments as Liam matures into a deck builder. Previously, I was so involved in deck selection because I built all the decks. My son doesn’t read HeyFonte or most other web stuff, so he depended on me to acquire lists and build decks. Today, he has a lot of good ideas for decks, but he still has the classic junior/senior problem of not having the time or inclination to grind the games to perfect new archetypes. I truly believe that in five years he will be one of the great deck builders in the format. Unfortunately, I think that to get to that point you have to build a lot of bad decks. Having said that, the DrampaGarb deck was not bad, it was just an unforgiving mid-range deck that required perfect play at every step to be successful. In that way, it was not dissimilar from expanded DrampaGarb or even ZoroPod. The fact that the list was probably not perfect just exacerbated the problem.

Our testing partners, Kaden and Liam Hyatt, started looking at Baby Buzz Garb the day after its strong performance at ARG. We got a list “putting up good results” from Russell that he had gotten from Kian Amini that it turns out he had gotten from Nabeel Hyatt, and that was when we started testing it seriously, 3 days after ARG. Nabeel and Jeff Ng thought it was a top tier deck and then started testing it without Garbotoxin and adding 2-2 Octillery. We started testing hard with the deck and it became Liam’s #1 pick as well. I thought about who else might have good counsel on this deck and thought of the Yveltal/Vespi deck that the X-Files guys played last year at Worlds, so I reached out to Mike Fouchet:

“Also, should I be asking you and/or Sam if you guys have figured out some crazy 1-Prize attacker deck to play at Worlds? That is what Liam is trying to figure out. He wants to not play Yveltal BREAK, but is messing with Baby Buzz/Garb, Drampa/Garb, ways to Trashalanche and discard energy. Stuff like that.”

Mike responded: “we have been working on the baby Buzz/Garb deck. I think it’s pretty good, but not 100% sold”

Despite Nabeel trying to keep the deck very low profile, it had clearly spread. We got a ton of input from Mike and others and ended up with this list that was within just a few cards off what everyone else playing the deck played. We cannot take much credit for any aspect of this list, but I thought it worth recording for posterity as the only real mention of it is Pablo updating his SixPrizes article before the event with a dramatically different list than what most people ran:

Pokémon – 15

3 Buzzwole FLI
1 Regirock CES
1 Diancie p
2 Remoraid BKT 31
1 Octillery BKT
3 Trubbish BKP
2 Garbodor GRI
1 Oranguru SUM
1 Sudowoodo GRI

Trainers – 36

4 Guzma

4 Professor Sycamore

3 Cynthia

3 N


4 Ultra Ball
4 Choice Band
3 Float Stone
3 Field Blower
2 Rescue Stretcher
1 Special Charge
1 Nest Ball


2 Brooklet Hill
2 Shrine of Punishment

Energy – 9

4 Strong
4 Rainbow
1 Beast p

Several comments on the list:

Regirock: Regirock is a replacement for the fourth baby Buzzwole, but it has no Psychic weakness. Also, with a Strong Energy/Choice Band/Diancie, it 1HKOs Zoroark-GX. So the 120 HP really hurts it, but it gives you access to some good combinations.

Octillery/Oranguru: We were on a 2-2 Octillery line for a long time. The problem with Octillery is that people target it down. Oranguru has more HP and a somewhat weaker ability, so you typically do not lose it over the course of the game. Further, Oranguru is easy to get out if you get Parallel’d late game and then want to add some quick draw. So the blend is a strong play. Many people playing this deck went to 1-1 Octillery, but we kept 2 Remoraid because we really wanted Octillery on the board at some point.

Garbodor: Trashalanche is a strong card in this format. It more or less auto-wins Rayquazza. After your Sledgehammer turn, it is probably your strongest attacker. Having said that, you don’t need a lot of them and you don’t need them early. Whereas the list that Pablo posted and the list from ARG feature a thick Trubbish line and 3-1 Garbodor count, here it is cut down to 3-2 knowing that we can use Rescue Stretchers to recover as needed. While Garbotoxin is an objectively great card, your Abilities are so strong there is rarely a time when you would not want to have access to your them. Diancie and Octillery are critically important to your success.

Trainers: Many people ended up at 3 Rescue Stretcher. We opted for the second Remoraid instead. The Nest Ball is another card that was right on the bubble for us, but Liam felt like he had good results with it and never regretted having it in hand. Many early lists ran a very heavy Shrine count. We liked that a lot, but the Brooklet in testing was extremely good in the first few turns. Hence we never even bothered to test a lower count of Brooklet once we got on it. We thought about running 5 stadiums, but we could never get there.

Energy: Many players ran one Psychic. The best reason anyone could give me for the Psychic is Xurkitree. My response to that was that if we were worried about Xurkitree, we would just run Garbotoxin and destroy it. No one wanted to put in Garbotoxin, which is a far better counter and a stronger counter to a million other situations, so clearly we should not invest a slot in the P Energy. A second Special Charge might be better for something like ZoroCargo, but you probably win that already.

Connor Pederson ran 2 N, 4 Cynthia (versus our 3/3 split), 3rd Rescue Stretcher and 1 P Energy in his 2nd place finish list, cutting the 2nd Remoraid and the Nest Ball. 3rd Rescue Stretcher is a good card. P Energy is clearly 60th card in his list. Did that make a difference? Probably not.

On to results. As previously mentioned in every article this year, as a first year senior, we didn’t go that hard, so he had to play his way through Day One.

Day One

Rd 1 – Gabe S. [US] (BuzzRoc) – WLW
Rd 2 – Alex C. [US] (BuzzRoc) – WW – misplayed at end of Game 1 and Rescue Stretched a trubbish that could have been Guzma for game but he whiffed energy. Game 2 Sycamores for deck and has to hit a heads on Swing Around but opponent had game next turn on the board.
Rd 3 – Benjamin B-T. [US] (BuzzRoc) – WLT – Prized Diancie both games, could not find Guzma Game 3.
Rd 4 – Casey K. [US] (Dusk Mane Magnezone) – WW – kid was playing the rusty claws Necrozma which can’t one hit a Buzzwole FLI. Liam Guzma’d many Magnemite.
Rd 5 – Matthew S. [US] (ZoroGarb) – WW – Regirock causes the guy to make misplays.
Rd 6 – Reed F. – ID – There were 6 kids at the top 3 tables and they all ID’d, thinking they would ID the next round—despite my advice to my son that he should just play it out! Then a bunch of 2-0-2’s won and my son is promptly down-paired to play a win-and-in.
Rd 7 – ? – WW – Down-paired

So 5-0-2—pretty not stressful until he got down-paired. This was much less stressful than our last Day One experience for him at Boston Worlds.

Day 2

Rd 1 – Gabriel M. [BR] (Sylveon) – LL – He got destroyed. He saw this guy on Day One and was praying he would not bump into him.
Rd 2 – Marlon L. [DK] (BuzzRoc) – WLW
Rd 3 – Piper L. [US] (ZoroGardy) – WLW – Piper is someone we seem to play every tournament. We played against her in Worlds Day 2 in Boston. She had great success at the Oceania IC this year. She failed to setup both end games and went bananas game two.
Rd 4 – Samuel S. [US] (ZoroGarb) – LL – Couldn’t find Strong Energies needed to take KOs.
Rd 5 – Adam O. [CA] (ZoroGarb) – WLL – A frequent visitor to this column, He is one of the best seniors in the game.
Rd 6 – Alex G. [US] (BuzzRoc) – WW – Opponent drew dead both games.
Rd 7 – Benjamin S. [US] (ZoroRoc) – LWW – Liam’s comment on this game was that his opponent had an extremely teched out list.

4-3 was good enough for 40th place! Given that he is a first year senior, we were very happy with that. I was a little bummed that over the course of 14 rounds, he only played two people not from North America. Not quite the Worlds flavor I aspire to, but we can’t complain. I think the North American-ness contributed to a set of decks we understood well and the result was a meta that was straightforward to play in. There were really only 2 or 3 strange decks we ran into.

I am happy that Liam felt like his first year as a senior was a success.

Junior Worlds

Unlike many previous tournaments, my youngest settled on a deck relatively early on. It always makes me happy when he identifies an archetype he enjoys playing. On July 22, Igor Costa posted a list on Twitter that he had done some testing with and the list satisfied a set of criteria that we were looking for as we started to pick up our post NAIC testing.

  • Zoroark – Because Trade
  • Trashalanche/Garbotoxin – Because, as previously discussed, we thought Trashalanche was in a good place in the meta
  • Oranguru/Flare Grunt – To give you the option to flip the script and play ZoroControl

We used this deck as a starting point for our ZoroGarb list and it was fine. Walker played it a few times and declared that this was definitely the play for Worlds. However, he was later convinced by Mike Fouchet to cut an Ultra Ball for a Mysterious Treasure and cut the Flare Grunt for a Cynthia. Then, as he realized how tough the BuzzRoc matchup was, he cut a third Guzma for a Latios.

This was our final list:

Except for the Latios! Sorry!

Pokémon – 19

4 Zorua SLG
4 Zoroark-GX
3 Tapu Lele-GX
3 Trubbish BKP
2 Garbodor GRI

1 Garbodor BKP
1 Latios SLG
1 Oranguru SUM

Trainers – 34

3 N
2 Cynthia
2 Brigette
2 Guzma
1 Professor Sycamore
1 Delinquent


4 Puzzle of Time
3 Ultra Ball
2 Mysterious Treasure
2 Choice Band
2 Float Stone
2 Enhanced Hammer
2 Field Blower
1 Rescue Stretcher
1 Max Potion
1 Counter Catcher
1 Evosoda


2 Parallel City

Energy – 7

4 Double Colorless
3 P

I have previously talked about how adding draw to my youngest son’s decks is a best practice. He hates drawing dead and would rather lose interactively with a bad list than lose drawing dead with the correct list. So I loved the Cynthia. Cutting the third Guzma was almost certainly the “wrong” thing to do, but Walker was absolutely committed to playing the Delinquent and he won game after game Delinquenting over-eager Juniors into dead hands.

As previously mentioned, we simply did not go very hard this year. My youngest son only went to 4 Regionals and EU/NA ICs, so he finished right outside top 16. Whereas last year he had Top 32’d Worlds using the Top 16 bye, today he had to play through Day One.

Day One

Rd 1 – Brady B. (BuzzRoc) – WW – No one likes to start day one playing against the Busserts. Some of the best players in Junior Pokémon. His brother made it all the way to T8 of the World Championship.
Rd 2 – Silas B. (BuzzRoc) – WW – Someone we had spent all day the prior day testing with.
Rd 3 – Shinpei Y. [JP] (Vikavolt/Bulu/Ray/Aerotrail) – LWT – Walker was not excited to play against the highly regarded Japanese players.
Rd 4 – Minaki H. [JP] (ZoroGarb) – WLW – Opponent failed to manage his items
Rd 5 – Peter M. [US] (Ray) – WLW – My son was delighted to start the game against Peter as he T1 Sycamored Rescue Stretcher, played down a Ray and proceeded to Stormy Wind a Rayquaza, his Latias, and another Rayquaza in quick succession. Winning!!!!

Very pleasant to have a relatively easy run through Day One. Both of the prior times Walker played Day One, he missed Day Two (Boston and SF), so this really made us happy. Even though I would have been okay with him getting a head start on the year by playing the Nashville Open, he felt great to perform so well and head into Day Two.

Day Two

Rd 1 – Ben P. [US] (BuzzRoc) – WW – Turn One of Game Two, Ben shuffled his hand into his deck when Walker plays Cynthia. Round One nerves!
Rd 2 – Corey D. [GB] (Malamar) – WW
Rd 3 – Adrian T. [US] (Ray) – LWW – Adrian only discarded three Items in game one, then Ray does Ray and Trash rolls.
Rd 4 – Hayato O. [JP] (BuzzRoc) – LWW
Rd 5 – Kota O. [JP] (Stakataka) – LL – He got run over for his first loss in two days. He was dumb-founded at how poorly this went.
Rd 6 – Saeko A. [JP] (BuzzRoc) – WLW – No Buzz GX in this list. Started Latios game one. Second game Lycanroc ran through him. Third game she dead-drew and Walker skipped 4 Prize turn using Latios. She didn’t realize that, misplayed into attacking with Sledgehammer and not taking an important KO and it sealed the game.
Rd 7 – Joao G. P. [BR] – ID

Rare action shot of me thinking about whether Walker should ID.

T8 – Kota O. [JP] (Stakataka) – LWW – Interestingly, it turns out that the correct way to play versus Stakataka is to not play Garbotoxin because even with Stakataka out, as long as you find a Choice Band, you still 2-shot everything. So the most important thing is to use your busted Trades to win.
T4 – Naohito I. [JP] (BuzzRoc) – WLL

7 of the Top 8 Juniors. Where is Rune?

In both T8 and T4, our opponents got prize penalties for insufficient randomization. Both Kota and Naohito received many, many warnings for shuffling as they, strangely, tended to just (in the instance of an N being played, for example) put their hand on the top of the deck, cut the deck a few times, and then present it to my son to cut. I felt like the judges were working closely with the translator as well, particularly in the Top 4 game, to make sure that his opponent understood that they had to shuffle better, but I think there was some ingrained muscle memory that caused them to do it time and time again. After ~10 warnings, they both received penalties.

In the case of Naohito, he immediately scooped Game One and went to Game Two and proceeded to win the World Championship. In the case of Kota, they finally game him the penalty during Game 3 when Walker was at 3 Prizes remaining, and Kota was at 2, putting Walker in a position where he was able to lurch ahead and win in a situation where he may not have been able to otherwise. Kota and his father were extremely upset and I don’t blame them because it sucks. I think the penalty was fair, but I know we have all had situations where a fair penalty was assessed and it still massively sucked. I am sympathetic and my heart goes out to them. The head judge said it was the hardest call he has made in his career as it essentially eliminated Kota from World Championship contention. Conversely, I recognize that the Internet would have lost its mind if this shuffling style had been featured on stream because it looks exactly the same as stacking. Because it is stacking, albeit unintentional.

Walker whiffed an energy in the final turns of Game Two in T4 to lose that game, then proceeded to get steam-rolled in Game Three. Bummer. Despite that fact, we got a Pikachu, so we can’t have too many complaints. Also, Walker played 7 games against kids from Japan, so I felt like we had a very “Worlds” experience.

While London and NAIC were our two ICs, we definitely saw familiar faces. Rune H. made top 8, a player Walker beat in Swiss in London. Joao G.P. was also a player Walker beat in Swiss in London who went on to top 4 at London. Finally Walker beat Benjamin B. in London, who Top 8’d here at Worlds, so London was clearly legit. You get a sense of the meta shape of Juniors because every one of these players ran Gardy in London.

Walker was absolutely beside himself with his success. When he awoke on Sunday morning, he made us unpack his trophy in the hotel room and hand it to him so he could hold it while lying in bed.

Conversely, he has not picked up a Pokémon card since losing in the Top 4. I find that interesting because when his brother won US Nats, he wanted to play Pokémon more than ever. As a parent, I worry that my son feels a bit of Imposter Syndrome. After a run like that, he knows that the next time he plays, particularly as a Senior, he will take some losses and he may worry that this might invalidate the success that he has won. It is an interesting challenge of growing up that we must all face this fact. Variance is a thing. I wrote a ton about how hard it was on my eldest after winning Nats to not be able to win a Regional the following year despite his best efforts.

Obviously, growing into the mindset required to accept that there are ups and downs is something that the best Pokémon players have been able to do. I am optimistic that this experience will continue to provide growth opportunities for my youngest.

League Challenges

As long as I am trotting out a zillion words, let me comment very quickly on League Challenges. I wrote in “Double Duty” about how adding a separate BFL for Challenges would probably be good for Pokémon, but only for Juniors and Seniors. I feel bad for Masters. Having said that, I think it would be fine if not for the weird staggered schedules associated with BFLs and cut-offs for ICs. I think Pokémon should amend that as part of announcing the point targets because, especially for Juniors and Seniors, going out and winning Cups on random weekends is a somewhat probable thing. We feel pressure to, despite the fact that I am now the father of 2 seniors, try to go out and win 28 League Cups and 30 League Challenges – because it is possible!

That is stupid. Also, it isn’t possible.

I could write more, but that is enough.


I have a lot to say about coaching, but for now, I will just make a few provocative statements since this article is already so long.

Finding the right coach is tricky. You want a coach that makes your kid better. Also, you want a coach that is an advocate for you and your kid.

Think about pro sports: If a coach worked for multiple teams, people would say that is unviable.

Unfortunately, the demand for coaching in eSports today is such that if a coach has one student, they probably have many students. So the incentives and alignments are naturally at odds. If a coach is good enough to get a gig coaching, s/he is probably good enough to have many, many gigs coaching. And the amount of time a player signs up for coaching is relatively small compared to the hours in a week and the gigs typically pay well enough that there is no incentive to limit coaching opportunities.

I have experimented with coaching a bit to try to develop relationships with players I don’t know well. Unfortunately, I found that writing relatively small checks, amid the huge amount of coaching they do and their own professional eSports careers, didn’t change the nature of their advocacy for my kids in quite the way I hoped. There was simply too much going on.

And I was always concerned with how the relationship is changed once you introduce the almighty dollar. So many people in Pokémon have been so kind to us over the last 4 years, I worried that if you associate payment with play time, then play time is no longer enjoying the pure joy of Pokémon – for my son or my coach. The community has always been so great that amazing players have always been happy to sit down with my kids and play a few games. I would not want to change the culture to a more transactional set of relationships.

The explosion in coaching has shaped the meta, but I don’t know how it will affect the culture of the game. But there is something there.

Shout Outs

When you Top 4 Worlds, you gotta shout out some people, so let me thank on behalf of my kids: Adam Capriola, Christopher Schemanske, and Alex Hill for letting me do this thing. I don’t know if we would have had the relationships that contributed to our success without it.

Team Dual Brains: Kaden Hyatt, Liam Hyatt, Alejandro Ng-Guzman, JP Chin, Hayden Chin, Nabeel Hyatt, Jeff Ng, Paul Chin.

The Some1sPC crew: Dylan Bryan was our first real Pokémon coach. We miss him. From there, our relationship with the entire Some1sPC crew has been fun to watch develop and they are the best for hanging out. I much appreciate how generous Russell, Chris, Marc, and everyone has been with their time.

DMV peeps: Dylan Dreyer, Jon Eng (& Donna), Michael Catron (& Mickey), Jimmy Pendarvis, Nicholena Moon, Igor Costa, the Jenkins brothers, Colby Evans (& Scott), the Inman’s, Tim Foley, Jonathan Scott, Justin Knowles, Rahul Reddy, Mike Fouchet, Gibby Archer-Tang, Chris Watkins, Ken and Alex Yung, and many, many more.

Random others that have provided us coaching, counsel or support in no particular order: Drew Bennett-Kennett, Sam Chen, Ross Cawthon, Xander Pero, Kian Amini, Sydney Morisoli, Doug Morisoli, Dave Schwimmer, Azul GG, Luke, Hunter, and the Smith family, Kyle Lesniewicz, Kirk Dube, the Busserts, Isaiah Bradner, Jose Marrero, Christian Moreno, Landon Frank, Travis Nunlist, Brady Guy, Shannon Hurley, Emily Engle, the Sabelhaus brothers, the Lesage brothers, Phinnegan Lynch, Ahmed Ali, Brad Curcio, Grant Manley, Brit Pybas, Daniel Altavilla, Michael Slutsky, Connor Finton and Caleb Gedemer.

The list goes on and on, I know I left people out, but I tried to name people.

The next article you get from me will be a tale of two Seniors. I definitely feel like I am not just getting old, I am aging. I can also see on the horizon the day when my kids no longer need me on this Pokémon adventure. It will be interesting to see what Nabeel and I do with our time when this happens.

(On a related note, Liam is a bit of a latch key kid during the week as school gets started. If you are interested in regular testing sessions during the week from ~4-5:30 EST, let us know.)

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