On Teams in the PTCG, Coaching, the JR/SR Divisions Over the Years, Successful Behaviors, and Primal Groudon

Hi there! An unexpected free article out of someone who already writes far too much for his own good? Why not. I’m sitting around doing nothing for a bit, and got the itch to write something, but couldn’t really decide what to write about. So, after asking some of my friends and acquaintances for topic ideas, here I am. I’ve usually stuck to strictly writing about the format or certain decks, but today I’m branching out a bit. The end of this article will cover Primal because I don’t feel right about paywalling a list that a vast majority of people will never be able to play.

Some of these topics have been debated about recently on certain social media outlets, so let it be known that the opinions I have are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect those of any group or organization I am currently, or ever will be, affiliated with.

Teams in the PTCG

The Pokémon Trading Card Game is technically an individual thing. So why are there so many out there now? What motivates people to form teams? Are teams effective as anything more than testing groups? What makes a team “real”? These are all questions that I’ve either seen or had asked of me.

Why Are There So Many Teams?

When I started this game, the concept of teams was almost completely unheard of and literally only formed between groups of friends for almost no tangible reason beyond showing off your friendship. That dynamic still exists, but there’s so much more that goes with being affiliated with certain teams now. Of course, I’m talking about sponsorships. The game has grown so much since I’ve started, so of course there would be stores out there trying to monetize that growth by getting their name out there. Most sponsored teams lack what the homegrown, friendship-based teams have though. The people of the team may not even like each other or want to do anything resembling testing together. Simply put, for a lot of sponsored players, a team is just about the money.

We have also seen a massive growth in the number of local teams though. Why is this? Well, the best reason I can come up with is that there is now a misconception that to be seen as a “competitive” player, one must have a team label attached to their name. Of course, this isn’t universally true, but I believe that it’s the leading factor in the high number of teams that have been formed.

The Motivation Behind Team Formation

Benefits. Perceived or tangible. People seem to think that there is some benefit to having a team associated with your name, and for some this is true. Obviously, for sponsored teams, there’s the monetary benefits, but what true benefit does one gain from being on an unsponsored, and therefore non-paying, team? I go back to the thought that having your name associated with a team gives you some sort of self-satisfaction, and potentially makes your testing group seem “official.” There may be benefits at a local level that I’m not aware of, but from what I’ve seen, there is very little tangible benefit from calling a group of players a team.

Are Teams Effective?

Obviously, there is something to be said for the potential testing advantages of teams, but what else is there? Of course, the sponsored teams have the whole “Our store’s name gains exposure through us” thing, but does that actually do anything? My answer is a very tentative maybe. Yes, in that people certainly hear the name more often, and thus are psychologically proven to be more likely to buy from them over another store if shown both choices. No, in that the team itself does nothing more than give shoutouts, and walk around in shirts advertising the store. Very rarely will the players themselves actually make any impact on the store’s business. But it does happen, which is likely why stores keep on sponsoring players in the form of teams.

The “Real” Team Question

Simply put, your team is made “real” or not by whether you and your teammates perceive it as such. Nobody can logically say that a team isn’t “real” based only on that you don’t have a sponsor or whatever other reason they can give. The definition of a team is a group of people coming together to achieve a common goal. Obviously you’re not coming together during the game itself, but if you’re working together to test, deck-build, or promote a product, then you are a team.

Coaching

Obviously, I’m going to have at least a bit of bias toward promoting the idea of coaching, but that is to be expected. Coaching is a practice that has taken off in the last few years, since stronger monetary prizing was added to the game. There are a few different reasons to get coaching, some legitimate, some not so much. Here are the ones I’ve heard.

  1. Prepare for a specific event
  2. Deck-building
  3. Getting better as a player
  4. Do better at events immediately

1. Preparing for a Specific Event

This is generally done by players who already have a decent foothold in the game, and are generally capable of making correct plays more often than not. Usually it is easy enough to help a person seeking help in choosing what to play for a single event. However, this doesn’t mean they’re ultimately going to get any better at the game. If your goal is to get better long-term, make sure you specify that that’s your goal. It will change how a coach approaches helping you.

2. Deck-Building

I’ve had multiple people come to me and ask for help with their deck-building skills. If this is your only goal, most coaches will not be able to help you enough for it to be worth your money. In general, deck-building is a skill that is developed through experience, practice, and critical thinking skills. As a general rule in deck-building, you don’t need to break new ground with that crazy (mediocre) new Supporter or Item.

Successful lists are generally built through an established system. Consistency first, techs second. If that super spicy tech for that one obscure matchup is making your deck less consistent, and therefore worse against other decks, then it’s not worth it. At the same time, you don’t need to be prepared for each and every matchup. That’s almost always impossible. I know that I’ve intentionally sacked certain matchups in the past to make my deck ultimately stronger against the decks that it does beat. The best way to deck-build is to not try and get too cute right off the bat. Start with the consistency, then try to make your tough matchups better.

3. Getting Better as a Player

Ironically, this is the goal I hear the least out of people I’ve coached. There’s a lot of work that goes into making a player better and getting better as a player. Usually the people that have asked for coaching to get better seem to think that it’s a nearly instantaneous thing. My goal as a coach here is to help you get better in the long-term, and that’s going to take a lot of time and effort from both sides. Very rarely do adults seeking coaching realize how much work they’re going to be doing, and that results in them quitting after a few hours. Kids are usually better about it because they have more time, and usually have parents pushing them to improve as well. This is ultimately the most valuable method to go for when coaching, but it’s going to cost more time and money to achieve.

4. Doing Better at Events Immediately

Oh, the people who expect instant improvement. They’re the ones who don’t understand just how much work a lot of the “top” players who offer coaching went through to get where they are. If your expectation is to immediately start winning events after a single session, please, don’t contact me. It’s not worth my time or your money.

The Development of the JR/SR Divisions Over the Years

I grew up in the game, so I’m one of the few people who have witnessed the changes that have taken place over the years. And let me say that the environment that we had years ago has been completely flipped on its head in recent years.

My Junior/Senior Experience

Let me start by describing how my friends and I went through the younger divisions. Other than Nationals and Worlds, there were no cash prizes to chase. In the early years, events were shorter because they were Best-of-1 Swiss rounds. There were less events, things like Battle Roads (League Challenges), Cities (League Cups), States, and Regionals would only occur during certain times of the year. When I started, I believe it was possible to playing around three a year if you traveled. The idea of traveling to four continents in a year was literally unheard of. Worlds was only one day. There were no Day 2 invites.

The social aspect of the game was also incredibly different. There was no Top 16 chase for most of my years in the younger divisions. Yes, we were competing against each other at individual events, but there was no massive competition throughout the year. To that extent, there was almost no sense of elitism throughout the younger divisions. Yes, it existed in a select few people, but not even close to the extent we see today.

Leagues were something that top Juniors and Seniors actually attended just to hangout with friends. During events, we would hang out with each other and not Masters who are much older than us. After events, we would spend nights playing games like The Resistance. To put it simply, we formed friend groups between players of all skill levels. Something that I haven’t seen much of in recent years.

Today’s Junior/Senior Experience

I’m not going to lie. I don’t like a lot of what I have seen taking place in the younger divisions since the stronger prize money system was introduced to the game. Kids as young as 8 years old (the lowest I personally have seen; there’s likely someone younger) have been traveling internationally to play in tournaments. Kids are constantly competing to be in Top 16 and are spending less time at the grassroots level of the game. This isn’t 100% true of all younger players, but it is certainly common amongst the “top” Juniors and Seniors.

Now I’m going to talk about what I believe is the worst thing that has ever happened to the Junior and Senior divisions. The addition of high cash prizes. Yes, this is obviously good for the parents that are ferrying their kids around everywhere, but there are some seriously negative side effects that I’ve borne witness to in the last four years. Parents are putting an incredible amount of pressure on their children to do well. I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen or heard parents berating their children for not being good enough and losing. That sort of negative influence on a child’s developing mind can completely destroy their self-esteem, which I think everyone can agree is a bad thing.

Aside from a very select few Seniors, I can confidently say that most of them don’t spend time—outside of testing or playing Pokémon—with others of their age group. To my knowledge (I could easily be wrong), I know of no “top” Senior that has anything other than a professional (coaching) relationship with other Seniors that aren’t nearly as good at the game as them. More and more, “top” Juniors and Seniors are spending time with people easily 5–15 years older than them. Basically, the gap between the casual player and the hyper competitive player is very large.

What Do These Differences Mean?

Well, I would say that for the most part, the state of the younger divisions is worse now than it used to be. I hesitate to use the word elitism because I don’t actually think that’s what is actually happening. I think that at this point the pressure these kids are under forces them to gravitate toward people of their own skill level and basically ignore anyone worse than them. The major factor I believe that is causing this is the introduction of higher cash prizing. Kids are now being forced to dedicate a lot more time to the game than before, and the social time playing games outside of the event is sacrificed a lot of the time.

I personally believe that the state of Juniors and Seniors will eventually deteriorate to the point where the causal player basically does not exist beyond the local scene and at most one Regional a year. The social aspect in what the younger age divisions used to be is the reason so many of us, especially the 2016–17 age-ups, have been around the game this long. At this point, I’ve known people in the game for over half of my life, and that creates a pretty good reason to not leave the game. The current Juniors and Seniors aren’t creating those bonds with people their own age right now, and that may have a long-term affect on the game.

Behaviors That Lead to Success

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I’ve been asked these ones a lot. “What did you do to get good?” “How do you get better at the game?” and “What kind of things do you do to prepare for events?” All of these are incredibly valid questions that have answers that vary by player. What I do may not be what’s best for you.

How I Got Good

When I started this game, I wasn’t even close to competent. I was obsessed with playing some nonsense Mewtwo LV.X deck that was really bad. The first step for me to get better was to acknowledge my pet deck wasn’t good enough and was holding me back. That took a few months. I think I bounced around a bit after that, but I eventually settled on playing Gyarados SF. That step toward getting better could be finding a deck that I enjoyed but was still good enough to win games. Once I was to that point, it kind of all snowballed.

Eventually, my first Nationals occurred and I started 5-0 with Yanmega Prime/Donphan Prime/Zoroark BLW. This was the first great “tragedy” of my Pokémon life. I went 0-3 from there and in turn missed top cut, and also fell out of range for the Top 40 NA Worlds invite. Way back when the Elo system was a thing that mattered, it was fairly common for players to drop events after going X-0. A couple of days after Nationals, we learned that had I dropped at 5-0 or 5-1, I would have made Worlds in my first year playing. For 10-year-old me, that was both incredibly crushing and inspiring. The next year, with the Elo system abolished in favor of the first iteration of the CP system, but still only the Top 40 ranked in North America receiving invites, I managed to get an invite after a year of play. How does this all relate to getting good though? I learned that I was capable of playing well enough to make Worlds and that I wanted to continue growing as a player.

That motivation drove me for the next few years, and I got better and better through the years simply by playing the game often and getting with a good group of friends. The most important part of getting better is developing a healthy mentality toward the game. I developed the mentality that I was going to do well based on my skill in the game and my confidence in my deck choice, but if I did badly, that didn’t necessarily mean I was any worse than before. To this point, it’s important to not let confidence in yourself stray into arrogance. A few years, 8 invites, and a lot of misplays later, here I am. One of the “top” players in the world, but to me I’m just someone who spent a lot of time getting better at something I love to do.

How YOU Can Get Better at the Game

There’s no magical trick to become truly exceptional at the PTCG. I can give you a rough guideline of how to get better, but ultimately it’s up to your own dedication toward developing yourself.

  • Get together with a group of friends and start testing.

PTCGO ladder testing is far from optimal for a multitude of reasons, but if you live in the middle of nowhere and have no community, then it’s an option. The only way for you to get better at actually playing the game is to play it. The single biggest thing that holds people back is their tendency to misplay and not realize they did it. Lowering your misplay rate is difficult and takes time, but it has a massive payoff.

This can happen in a couple of ways. Maybe one of your friends points it out and criticizes the play you just made as incorrect. Maybe your friends aren’t good enough to catch your misplays. Get a coach and specify that that’s your goal.

  • Learn to deck-build well.

I talked about this previously, so refer to that for the most part. Don’t play cards that serve functions that don’t actively help your deck. That can be consistency, matchups, or just alternate attackers.

  • Don’t expect perfection out of yourself, but still be positive about your play and deck.

I’m serious here. The positive or negative attitude that you hold toward yourself and your deck affects how well you play. If you’re the person that constantly says, “My deck is bad,” but continues to play it, that will have a negative effect on how well you play. The same is true of your self-perception. If you believe you’re going to misplay a lot, then you’re going to misplay a lot. Perfection is impossible in this game. Everyone makes misplays.

Preparing for Events

There are a few things that you should do before and during events.

  1. Sleep
  2. Stay hydrated
  3. Make sure you eat something
  4. Don’t stress too much

All four of these things are vital to doing well. Granted, I usually don’t follow at least one of these every event just because that’s how I am, but your goal should be to do these things. Some of my best finishes are where I just looked at a deck, said, “I’m done testing and worrying about this,” and played the event. The most notable of these finishes are Santa Clara and LAIC last season.

Primal Groudon

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I’m incredibly biased toward Groudon as a deck, but after thinking about it since my last article, I think it’s actually viable. Big caveat here though. You need 4 Tropical Beach. That’s the reason Groudon is here and not in a paywalled article.

Pokémon (12)

1 Groudon-EX DEX

1 Groudon-EX PRC

2 Primal Groudon-EX PRC

4 Wobbuffet PHF

1 Buzzwole FLI

1 Buzzwole-GX

1 Regirock XY49

1 Oranguru UPR

Trainer (38)

4 Korrina

2 Cynthia

2 N

1 Cassius

1 Guzma

1 Pokémon Center Lady

1 Steven’s Resolve

1 Team Rocket’s Handiwork

 

4 VS Seeker

1 Beast Ring

1 Counter Catcher

1 Escape Rope

1 Field Blower

1 Max Potion

1 Nest Ball

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Rescue Stretcher

1 Stadium Nav

1 Super Rod

1 Switch

2 Focus Sash

1 Bent Spoon

1 Float Stone

1 Wishful Baton

1 Scramble Switch

 

4 Tropical Beach

Energy (10)

4 Fighting

4 Strong

1 Psychic

1 Warp

 

Copy List

****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******

##Pokémon - 12

* 1 Groudon-EX DEX 106
* 1 Groudon-EX PRC 150
* 2 Primal Groudon-EX PRC 151
* 4 Wobbuffet PHF 36
* 1 Buzzwole FLI 77
* 1 Buzzwole-GX CIN 115
* 1 Regirock PR-XY 49
* 1 Oranguru UPR 114

##Trainer Cards - 38

* 1 Rescue Stretcher BUS 165
* 1 Beast Ring FLI 102
* 2 N FCO 105
* 1 Scramble Switch PLS 129
* 1 Steven’s Resolve CES 165
* 1 Wishful Baton BUS 128
* 4 Korrina FFI 95
* 1 Switch SUM 160
* 1 Super Rod BKT 149
* 1 Pokémon Center Lady GEN 68
* 1 Professor’s Letter BKT 146
* 1 Escape Rope BUS 163
* 4 Tropical Beach PR-BLW 50
* 2 Focus Sash FFI 91
* 1 Nest Ball SUM 158
* 2 Cynthia UPR 148
* 4 VS Seeker ROS 110
* 1 Guzma BUS 143
* 1 Field Blower GRI 163
* 1 Stadium Nav UNM 208
* 1 Counter Catcher CIN 91
* 1 Team Rocket’s Handiwork FCO 124
* 1 Cassius XY 115
* 1 Bent Spoon FCO 93
* 1 Float Stone PLF 99
* 1 Max Potion BKP 103

##Energy - 10

* 1 Warp Energy SLG 70
* 4 Strong Energy FCO 115
* 1 Psychic Energy SUM 162
* 4 Fighting Energy GEN 80

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=75547 ******

This one vaguely resembles the list that I played for Dallas last year, but it has lost a few notable cards like Lusamine, Target Whistle, and Snorlax PLS.

Card Choices

Oranguru UPR

Now that you don’t have Lusamine and the Stall variant of the deck has been killed, the deck is forced to attempt to chain Scramble Switch and Max Potion once or twice. is the best method of doing this, and has found its way into my list for that reason.

Buzzwole FLI, Buzzwole-GX, and Beast Ring

In a deck where starting Wobbuffet is seen as vitally important, playing extra Basic Pokémon may seem counter productive. However, having two attackers that don’t require 4 Energy and can deal with a easily is pretty strong. There is also the play where you Beast Ring to one and then Scramble Switch into a Groudon that had 2 Energy. Beast Ring is here to power up a off of a Korrina.

Steven’s Resolve

Well, we can’t play 5 Tropical Beach, and Lusamine is gone, so Steven’s Resolve is the basically the best card to find the cards that you would hope to Beach into. The major drawback is that it’s a Supporter card, so you’d have to already have an Energy in hand for your turn to be fully effective.

Stadium Nav

Did someone say Korrina for Tropical Beach? Okay, that’s pretty broken. Now you have the ability to find a Stadium whenever you want and still find a Groudon on your first turn. Again, this strategy requires you to have an Energy in hand for maximum effectiveness, but that isn’t too unlikely.

Cassius

One of the deck’s biggest attractions is the ZoroControl and SableyeGarb matchups. Cassius is there to make sure that when you’re ready to attack, you won’t have any Wobbuffet sitting around waiting to get Guzma locked. It also serves as a sort of pseudo healing card for Buzzwole-GX that saves the Energies.

Bent Spoon

Normally, Groudon would pretty much lose to Cold Crush-GX, and Bent Spoon is here to prevent that. Since Primal Groudon-EX has Omega Barrier, there is no way to remove Bent Spoon from play.

Warp Energy

I wanted a 10th Energy in the deck, and decided that having a Switch you could attach for turn was good. If your opponent Gusts up a Groudon-EX, this is one more card you can use to get out of Active while still attaching an Energy. This card gets notably better once Guzma & Hala TAG TEAM enters the format.

Why You Should Consider Groudon

It beats the Control decks. This is a massive advantage in a format where Control will be incredibly common. It also beats , which I believe will be the most played aggro deck in the event. The deck has a winnable matchup, and also beats Zoroark/ more than 50% of the time. This sounds like a pretty darn good matchup spread, right?

Final Thoughts

Boredom struck and inspired me for this one, but if anyone has any topics that they want to hear about, comment or PM me somewhere, and who knows? Maybe I’ll get around to writing about it.

I should be back next week with an Underground article on Expanded, so watch out for that. As always, good luck in whatever events you’re playing, and maybe you’ll see me around?

As always, feel free to message me with any questions that you might have about anything related to Pokémon. I also now offer coaching! Either email me (alex.schemanske@gmail.com) or PM me if interested.

Until the next one.

Reader Interactions

6 replies

  1. henry572518

    How do you, as a coach figure out or assess a players initial skill level?

  2. henry572518

    Cheers alex, yea something like granbull makes a lot of sense in terms of judging player skill.

    I wonder what other decks have a similar skill level. Welder and friends? When it comes to determining what attack strategy to use?

  3. steve1603989

    What changes would you make to primal groudon with cosmic eclipse?

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