Hello again readers, I’m back with you again just after the conclusion of the first Limitless event. Am I planning to talk about it? Nope. Did I end up playing in it? Nope. Will I ever play them? Probably not. So instead of more coverage of the Standard format, I’m going to deviate from the status quo and talk about a format that no longer exists, is nearly unanimously hated, and was played before the game entered the information era. That’s right. I’m talking about the World Championships of 2012. The year that changed my life so much and is probably the reason I’m sitting here writing this right now. I’ll then go on to talk about what 2012 actually did for me.
History Begins: US Nationals 2012
The 2012 Worlds format, HS–DEX, is notoriously terrible, but I built the format and tried to find a bit of light in this proverbial abyss. 2012 was the first step into the “Big Basics” format that has been around for most of the time since. This was coincidentally my second year in the game at this point. We were still under the Elo rating system, and I had just come off of my second straight year of missing top cut at Nationals. The details are really blurry at this point, but if I’m remembering correctly, I was 1 DCE away from making cut at Nationals 2012. My opponent, fellow writer Xander Pero, was nearly a victim of a good old Mewtwo-EX NXD donk. Needless to say, I missed the DCE and lost. Oh well, I went 5-3 again.
A few days/weeks pass, and I’m anxiously waiting to hear if I had finished in the Top 40 players in North America to earn my Worlds invite. Finally, the results are in, and I’m ranked 37th or 38th (it is becoming increasingly clear to me as I write this that my memory is not very clear). Cool, I made Worlds.
Before anything else, let me explain the rules of the format that we are playing:
- You flip a coin after you set up.
- The winner of the coin flip goes first.
- The player going first can do whatever they want. They can play any Trainer cards, and they can attack.
True donks were ridiculously common compared to what we’ve seen in other formats. Rounds are also Best-of-1. That means you lose if you can lose the match without even playing a turn. The coin flip is stupidly important.
Aloha, My First Worlds
I literally have no idea who or what ended up winning at US Nationals that year, and I’m not overly inclined to find out. [Editor’s Note: Results can be found here; notably, Klinklang won Masters, and Jonathan Croxton finished 2nd in Juniors.] However, if we fast-forward a couple of months to the World Championships in Hawaii (Yes, we used to get to go to Hawaii. Yes, it was amazing.) and I’m attending my very first Worlds as a Junior. Worlds back then was a far cry from the efficiency and overall scale of what we have now. We quickly learned just how bad the check-in lines were. In modern times, check-in often takes a couple of minutes and you move on with your lives. Well, for a really long time, standing in line for 2–3 hours straight was commonplace.
So, three hours after standing in line, the Schemanske family owns 2 Tropical Beach promos. Cool, a decently cheap card at the time. Come the following day (I think it was Saturday?), and we’re sitting at our tables with our paper decklists ready to be picked up. 11-year-old me was pretty nervous. I honestly couldn’t tell you how my rounds went that day, only that I ended up going 5-2 and making Top 16, which was actually relevant back then. Plus this nets me at least 4 more of the relatively cheap promo cards named Tropical Beach, for a total of 6 currently. I won’t mention how Christopher did in the event, but if you do some digging, I’m sure you could find a result somewhere.
Sunday comes around, and we see a surprisingly calm 11-year-old me playing his Top 16 match against what was probably a really good matchup. I won pretty quickly and young me ran off to find and tell my family. Yay. Enter the first Top 8 match that will haunt me forever. (Bracket can be seen here.) I’m paired up against one of the two Japanese players playing Terrakion NVI/Mewtwo-EX NXD. I wish I could say I won this one, but my name clearly doesn’t show up in the Worlds booklet. There’s a pretty long and convoluted story behind that match, and there are plenty of my friends who know the story, but I’ll just leave it at the fact that I lost. Oh yeah: This gets me 2 more Tropical Beach promo cards, for a total of 8, which is conveniently two playsets.
The Deck, The List
I still haven’t mentioned what I was playing, have I? Jay Hornung talked about this a lot in his recent article, but I’ll reiterate some of his points. Decklists were not common knowledge back then. There was no Limitless where I could pull up results from recent events and analyze the meta. You didn’t just swap decks at literally every event, because the amount of time and effort it took to build an actually good list was astronomical. Rogue decks were an actual thing that could do well.
But in the spirit of the modern era where all of these things don’t apply anymore, here’s my Top 8 Junior World Championships decklist. To my knowledge, this is the exact 60 cards I played at Worlds, and it has never been made public before now.
4 Junk Arm
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******
##Pokémon - 15
##Trainer Cards - 32
* 2 Switch
* 4 Professor Oak's New Theory CL 83
* 2 PlusPower UL 80
* 1 Ultra Ball
* 2 Skyarrow Bridge NXD 91
* 3 Pokémon Catcher
* 1 Super Rod
* 2 Eviolite
* 3 Professor Juniper DEX 98
* 3 N
* 2 Dual Ball UL 72
* 1 Random Receiver
* 2 Level Ball
* 4 Junk Arm TM 87
##Energy - 13
Total Cards - 60
****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=80597 ******
I cringe just looking at lists from this format. Mewtwo-EX NXD is both traumatic and incredibly important for me. The card counts in my list may seem really weird, but I can assure you a lot of time was put into this deck. There are a few important things to note:
- it slaughters Darkrai,
- it wins Eel mirror match, and
- it was somewhat consistent.
Of those three things, beating Darkrai was by far the most important. I’m going to go through a few of the card choices in an attempt to justify them to you (and myself).
Yes, that is a 6-card tech for Darkrai. Fortunately, Terrakion was actually just a broken card in many other matchups, so it wasn’t really that painful to devote so many spots to it. Terrakion is what set my Eels list apart from a lot of the others.
This is less of a justification and more of a “This card was broken, here’s why.” Smeargle allowed you to play more than 1 Supporter per turn. Absolutely insane. There were so many interesting situations that N would leave you and your opponent in. Sure, you might have just N’d me to 1 or 2 cards, but you also gave yourself a fresh hand full of Supporters just waiting to be copied by my Smeargle. There were many times when you would intentionally leave yourself with no Supporter in hand to prevent your opponent from getting to use your own cards against you.
“Mewtwo wars” defined this format. The math worked so that you would need 5 Energy between both Mewtwo-EXs in order to 1HKO your opponent’s Mewtwo. Often, PlusPower was used in order to lower the Energy count down to 4, AKA 2 Double Colorless Energy. This is where Eviolite comes in. If you have an Eviolite on your Mewtwo-EX, a single PlusPower no longer does enough. On top of that, you needed PlusPower for other vital KOs such as a Retaliate against a Darkrai-EX DEX with an Eviolite on it. Eviolite also made it so Terrakion and Zekrom essentially had 150 HP, which is a whole lot harder of a number to hit than 130.
These two cards are the reason that I believe 2012 was more than just a mindless slugfest. There was so much skill and strategy involved in the deckbuilding portion of the game. Okay, mini rant is over. Back to the deck.
Ultra Ball, 2 Level Ball, 2 Dual Ball1
From a modern-day perspective, all I can say is, “Yikes.” From a 2012 perspective, I think that this was maybe acceptable? Something that has to be understood about Ultra Ball is that it didn’t function nearly as well in a format with Junk Arm. Resources were a finite thing, and already playing 4 cards that say “Discard 2 cards to use this card.” was costly enough. Ultra Ball had minimal functionality in a format with so much incredible draw support and a number of decent Ball cards, like Dual Ball and Level Ball.
I’m only mentioning Pokémon Catcher to remind readers that it didn’t require a coin flip back in this format. Yes, it was broken, but in hindsight, if it had been a Supporter card like Lysandre, Smeargle would have been able to copy it, which would have made it an even weirder format. And now I’m imagining Guzma with Smeargle, which is a “Wow…” moment for me.
At a glance, this seems really weird. In the context though, it actually surprises me that I was even smart enough back then to understand how broken this was. On second, thought, it’s entirely likely I didn’t understand everything. Oh well.
Random Receiver solved a lot of issues in this format. It can’t be copied by Smeargle, so it was safe to keep in your hand. There were no “bad” targets in the deck, so it never whiffed a draw Supporter. You could recover it with Junk Arm too. (Yes, Random Receiver was a common tech, I’m having fun, while explaining just how good the card was.)
The Long-Lasting Impact of Worlds 2012 on Me
So, I’ve been less than subtly mentioning the Tropical Beaches that we won in 2012. I personally believe that those eight cards have had more of an impact on my entire Pokémon “career” (I don’t like calling it that, but it fits the best) than anything else. Both my brother and I have had a reputation for playing Groudon at various events throughout history, and I know for a fact that that wouldn’t have been remotely possible without Worlds 2012. I’m fully aware of just how lucky I am to be able to have access to that many Beaches.
However, Beaches weren’t the only impact that 2012 had on me. Losing in the way I did helped me grow immensely both as a person and as a player. I’ll be totally honest. I wasn’t nearly as upset about losing such an important match as I realistically should have been. I look back on that day and am more upset with losing that match eight years later than I was at the time. I don’t think that’s a good thing, but it’s true. However, I think that losing was ultimately what was best for me as a person. Losing that match probably resulted in the single most important lesson I could have gotten from that event: It’s okay to lose.
I feel like I can confidently say that there is absolutely no way I would be where I am now if I hadn’t done as well as I did in 2012. Between the Beaches, the personal growth, and the overall confidence boost, it was everything I needed to continue playing the game to the best of my abilities. I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the past 10 years, but I can confidently say that playing Pokémon wasn’t one of those mistakes.
I still haven’t made Top 8 at Worlds again since 2012, losing four separate win-and-in matches in the intermittent years. But that’s honestly fine. I wouldn’t trade the experiences and friends that I’ve made through Pokémon for anything. Pokémon may have defined my life up until this point, but is that really a bad thing? I’ve gotten to do something I love with the people I love. What could be all that better about having a normal life?
I’ve wanted to write something like this for a while now. While the pandemic might be a terrible thing, there are certainly good things that can come from it. I’ve spent more time in Michigan this year than I have in the past 10 years. From a Pokémon perspective, sure it’s really awful that we don’t get to play the game in person for the time being, but I personally feel like I needed an extended break from the travel and the game that I doubt I could have forced myself to take under normal circumstances.
On a purely Pokémon note, I hope everyone is enjoying the plethora or events that are being held online. I may not be participating in the Limitless events myself, but I know that for many people they’ll be a great source of fun.
On that note, I hope that everyone reading this is staying both physically and mentally safe. Despite all of the terrible things going on around us, try to look for the bright side every once in a while. Tensions may be high, but remember that it costs you nothing to be nice to someone. You never know who needs a simple act of kindness in order for them to keep on going. As always, thanks for reading and all that, and I’ll see you in the next one. (My 50th article!)
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