A Decade-Plus of Pokémon

Looking Back on My Time in the Game, from Greenhorn Junior to Successful Senior and, at Long Last, When We Left Off, Top-Ranked Master

Hey everyone, I hope you are all staying safe in these trying times. I know it may be inconvenient, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to stay inside unless you are doing things deemed essential. This whole situation sucks, but if we work our best to be safe, brighter days are ahead.

I for one have definitely had some of the most changes due to the virus. I am a senior in high school, so I’ve had to deal with online classes and assignments. Funnily enough, I am on “spring break” right now, even though ever since March 15th I’ve felt I was on a break. As for my graduation, nothing has been said by my school yet, but I’m quite interested to see how we will tackle this one.

Regardless, that’s not what this article is about. This one is going to be a little different than the usual. This one’s going to be about my time in the game. The morning of writing this, I was feeling nostalgic of my early days as a player, a feeling more than likely sparked by the unfortunate (but smart!) cancelation of the season. I had so much fun remembering all the times I had up to this point, that I decided that it would be a good idea to document my time up until this point, so here I am. I don’t know how long this will be, but I’m definitely excited to tackle it. With that being said, let’s go!

The Real Start

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Now I don’t know how I want to break this up yet, but a good place to start would probably be my introduction to Pokémon as a concept entirely. This is going to be a flashback all the way to 3rd grade for me. I was a kid who had his small set group of friends, and frankly, without them, I don’t know if I would’ve fallen in love with Pokémon the way I did. It’s weird to look back and think about the butterfly effect in terms of where you started and ended up, but I’m certain that these friends were leading reasons that I was so in love with Pokémon. Whether it be us reading books about it, sharing the video games with each other, or just talking about it in the halls, Pokémon was definitely our thing.

Anyway, my first true experience with Pokémon was playing the video game. My first game was SoulSilver. Yes… My first game was a remake. I’m young. After playing through that I told my mom how much I loved the game and she went on to see if there were any clubs or gathering about Pokémon that I could join. This is where we found out about Pokémon Leagues.

My First League

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After my mom found out about the league, I went to my first one not too long after. A small store in Rockville, MD (Dream Wizards) that I still go to for events nowadays, would be my “second home” in a sense. I was welcomed in with open arms and was shown the ropes of the card game. As said before, my initial exposure to a Pokémon game was the video game, and if I’m being honest with you, I have no clue how I ended up on the cards, but here I am. Anyway, they taught me how to play and in my competitive mindset (that hasn’t left me to this day!), I wondered when I could compete in a tournament.

Luckily enough, there was a City Championships the next weekend at that same store! After my first experience at league was over, I began to build my deck for the tournament the weekend after. I recall a conversation with one of the better players at my league where I saw him playing with a Luxray GL LV.X. I had recognized that card from my collection and brought it up. He told me that this card was one of the best ones in the game right now (it was), and that I should hold onto it, maybe even build my deck for next weekend around it. This may seem odd to mention, but you’ll see this significance in a little.

My First Tournament

My second week of being exposed to Pokémon cards and I was playing in my first event? What could go wrong? Well, since you asked, almost everything, in fact, could go wrong. Remember that conversation I had last week with the guy from my league? Well, the Luxray GL LV.X I had was a copy from the Worlds decks that had been printed from the previous year! Yeah, I wondered why the card backs were different, but I didn’t think it was a big deal. Well, that and many other cards in my deck were World Champships cards and I had to scramble to make some 60-card concoction that was even legal to play in the event.

However, thanks to some help from some very kind locals, I was able to build a legal deck and play in the event. If I’m being honest, I don’t remember how I placed, but I do remember winning some amount of packs. After that, I was hungry to win more. I wanted to be the best in Maryland. I wanted to be the best in America, heck maybe even the world.

Slow down young Jon, you’ve got a long way to go before you get to the top.

After That, 2011–2012: A Worthy Adversary, Aloha LCQ

This part is kind of a blur to me. I remember going to league religiously, and playing in almost all of my free time, but nothing huge here sticks out to me until I was full on playing competitively. I remember telling my parents that I wanted to compete for a Worlds invite, and them not really knowing what that meant. My father’s funny initial reaction was “Oh, no. My son is NOT becoming one of those kids!” However, my parents are my biggest supporters, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. I definitely got lucky with them.

pokemonscreenshots.tumblr.comAnyway, I told them that I wanted to go for my invite. Bear in mind this is the 2012 season, so this would be the first year that Championship Points were introduced. There wasn’t a set value of points you needed, you just had to be Top 40 NA I believe. I had no clue what I was doing to say the least. I recall going to Battle Roads early in the season and placing decently at those. In fact, I met my longtime friend Michael Catron there. He was definitely the best Junior in our area, so naturally, I wanted to beat him. He was playing a Reshiram BLW/Typhlosion Prime deck in our first encounter, and honestly I don’t remember what I was playing. I can say confidently that I got absolutely destroyed though.

After that, I knew that beating him would be my next goal. We met in the finals of another Battle Roads some weeks later, but this time, I was playing a monstrosity of an all Water-type attacker deck. There were some Samurott from BLW, there were some Beartic from EPO, and there were some Feraligatr Prime. I found an old photo of the list:

Yeah… That was, something. Back to what I was saying. I was against Catron in the finals of a Battle Roads, playing a deck that was literally made to beat him. To my surprise, I still got destroyed. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong at this point, I thought I for sure had him. I wanted to make sure I won the next time we played.

One pricey card.

After that, Regionals and States came around and I didn’t do too amazingly at them, but a cool moment in my career for my family and me stands here: the first time we had to spend an absurd amount of money on cards. Next Destinies had just come out and for those of you who were around then, calling Mewtwo-EX NXD a hot commodity would be an understatement. As a 10-year-old, asking your parents who don’t truly understand what’s going on to spend what had to be around $200 to get you a playset of Mewtwo-EXs was a super daunting task. I don’t know what I did to get so lucky, but within a week I had my Mewtwos. Like I said before, States and Regionals weren’t my forte just yet. I remember getting Top 4 at Virginia States, but that was about it. Really, that was it for my midseason.

Fast-forward to the Battle Roads right before Nationals and I find myself playing against Catron again. This time he beat me with an interesting Klinklang BLW deck. I thought the concept was amazing. Move the Energies off of your attackers, heal them with Max Potion, move them back, then start attacking again. At this point I still didn’t really know what I was getting into, so I just copied him and went with that for Nationals.

My first Nationals experience was definitely a great one. This was the first time I was exposed to players that were out of my coast, as I had never really traveled far for big events. I was definitely a little intimidated, but I have never been one to expect to lose. For those of you who are unaware, US Nationals was split up between two days back then. The first few rounds of Swiss were played on Friday, the next few on Saturday, and then finals on Sunday. I started 4-0 on the first day, then finished 5-3, which was not enough for Top 32. I was crushed as after starting 4-0, making Top Cut seemed free. I just needed to go 2-2 the next day, but I failed to even do that. This was the one and only time I have cried at an event. The event was still a fun experience, Catron got Top 8 so it was cool to see a local do well. I went home and evaluated what was next.

Worlds was in Hawaii that year. Quite a hefty trip to make, especially without an invite right? I just want to reiterate how supportive my parents were. They took me to Hawaii to play in the LCQ. Bear in mind that this whole competitive Pokémon thing was brand new to them not too long ago, and yet they still took me. Crazy. Well, my time in Hawaii was amazing. My father and I definitely went hard on the touristy stuff, but I always had the LCQ in the back of my mind.

For those of you unaware, the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) was a way for people who missed the invite to qualify at the last possible moment to play in Worlds. It was a single-elimination tournament that only took the Top 8 or 4 to get last-second invites. I unfortunately lost in Round 2 so I didn’t get there, but I was determined to not miss a single invite moving forward.

Me getting destroyed in Darkrai Mewtwo Mirror; The end of my Worlds 2012.

That was it for this season. I was very fortunate to get the opportunities I did so early on, but I knew I had to buckle down and qualify for 2013. Next stop, Vancouver.

2012–2013: Overteched, Hello Worlds

This year was my last year in Juniors, so I knew I had to show what I had before I aged up into the oh-so-intimidating Senior Division (sarcasm). But in reality, that’s what it felt like. Aging up into Seniors was pretty intimidating, but I’ll get to that later.

I came out the gates with a Top 8 at Philadelphia Regionals which propelled me up in the ranks early. I then went on to dominate my local City Championships, and by the halfway point of the season, I had finished up my invite. I don’t remember much from this year besides Nationals and Worlds, as I didn’t have any huge wins, but it was my first true Worlds invite.

Nationals rolled around and the concept of Team Plasma Pokémon had just surfaced. I remember going to a league in Virginia to practice with some friends for the big event. There, we saw a group of players playing an odd deck, a deck that supposedly could put your opponent in the perfect lock, an unbeatable combo. That deck was Gothitelle EPO 47/Accelgor DEX and that group of players consisted of Jimmy Pendarvis, Dean Nezam, and many more. Something I didn’t mention yet was how lucky I was to have so many good players in my area when I started. It made learning a lot easier. Anyway, we’re watching them play this deck and it looks amazing; however, it uses Tropical Beach… I wanted to play the deck for Nationals, but I didn’t have Beaches yet. I instead settled with Plasma and once again didn’t make cut. The Top Cut at a Nationals-level event or higher still eluded me, but this time I could actually play in Worlds, so hopefully that goes better.

Welp, Worlds came around and it was a disaster event for me. I went with Plasma again, but due to the scare that Gothitelle/Accelgor put onto the game after it won US Nationals in Masters, I loaded my deck with techs for that matchup only to hit 0 Gothitelle/Accelgor. This bad finish at Worlds definitely stung, but I reminded myself of the goals that I set up. Whenever I failed to achieve something, the next year I would achieve it and sometimes more.

My choice of wardrobe has definitely evolved since then…

They had announced that 2014 Worlds would be in Washington, DC, a solid 40-minute drive from my house, cool.

2013–2014: My First Year in Seniors, a Trophy, Roar

At the beginning of the season, my mom talked to me and told me how I likely wouldn’t win as much due to Seniors being harder. I hadn’t fully found my confidence as a player yet so I didn’t have high expectations. This year was set to be another learning year for me.

Fortunately enough, I got Top 8 at my first Regionals. A neat story from this event was that it was the first event that IDs were allowed, so looking back, I laugh at how the top tables at this event handled the last round of Swiss. To tell it short, we all could’ve ID’d and made a clean Top 8 cut; however, due to the unfamiliarity with ties, half of us played it out. I knew an ID would make us safe but the people around me didn’t see it, so my opponent and I played it out. I lost, but I had a good feeling about still making cut due to my resistance. I was correct, and my resistance carried me there.

I continued to do mediocre at events, finding myself with an invite at around the time of Winter Regionals rolling around. Something I haven’t delved into is who I would practice for events with around this time. I had become pretty close with Catron, so he was probably my main help around then. Otherwise, I would just theory to myself. I knew people, but I hadn’t really tested seriously with anyone at that point.

This changed after Nationals 2014, which I’ll get into later. However, as for the event itself, I felt a lot more confident going in than I had in previous years. I finally felt like I was ahead of the curve. There was an event before Nationals in my local area. It was won by Steven Varesko who was playing an interesting Pyroar deck. Steven and I are friends now, but back then he must’ve had no clue who I was, but I still messaged him on Facebook asking for the list, and to my surprise, he actually gave it to me. I was in love with the deck for the event.

I arrived at Nationals and brought the deck with me to the open gaming room. Remember those? I played some games with some local players who I looked up to, and I recall Jimmy McClure suggesting an update to the deck: Pokémon Catchers, Mewtwo-EX, and Roller Skates. This is what all the top players were on and were scheming for the event. I picked up the Mewtwo-EX and Catchers as it was a good way to deal with Trubbish so Garbodor DRX wouldn’t be such an issue, but I decided to not play Roller Skates as that seemed like way too many coin flips.

The event started and I advanced to Top 32 Swiss with a record of 7-2. This felt good as it was my first Nationals “cut,” but I knew the job wasn’t done. My matchups were seemingly good outside of my friend Ishaan’s Empoleon deck, so I was confident that if I focused, I could make a deep run. The next day went super well. I started with an early win over Grant Manley and ended with an ID with Ishaan into a stop in Top 8. Wow! I was extremely happy to finally cut a Nationals after so long.

My Top 8 opponent was Grant. I had beaten him earlier in the day, so I knew what he was playing. He was also on the Pyroar train, he just had some other techs in there like Manectric. I found that I had a pretty favorable matchup against him, as I could stream attackers a lot easier due to Blacksmith. It also helps that I ran extremely hot on Catcher flips. Grant actually wrote an article about his Top 8 run way back when.

Anyway, onto Top 4 against what is seemingly an auto-win matchup, Jeremiah Williams playing Straight Yveltal with no techs for Pyroar except Hypnotoxic Laser. Before my match I talked with Ishaan to hype us up and told him that it’s gotta be us in the finals. WELL, I managed to get donked in Game 1 after having an awful start, I won Game 2 with ease, and in Game 3 I played suboptimally and lost the match. Definitely a crushing loss, but I couldn’t complain as it was my fault.

Why this event was so important to me, however, is because I really branched out socially during this event. I made a lot of close friends from around the states at this event, and I also got my name out there due to my finish.

Your boy’s first Nationals-level trophy

Worlds was right around the corner and I was excited for that, but if you recall, Top 4 at Nationals got you a paid trip to Worlds. Remember when I said Worlds was 40 mins from my house? Yeah… Hawaii and Vancouver we had to pay for, but the one in my backyard was free. Some luck, huh? I jokingly tried to reason with TPCi that maybe they could fly me into Round 1 in a helicopter or drive me to the event in a limo, but hey, free hotel had to do.

Worlds itself was frankly another disappointment. I didn’t even place within the Top 32, and it definitely put a mental strain on me. Back then, I hadn’t truly found my confidence as a player and my mindset was quite flawed. I directly associated my worth as a player with my tournament finishes and was very driven when I did well, but unmotivated when I did poorly. This was something I had to work on before I could really excel in the game.

2014–2015: Regionals Runs, Worlds Cut

This season was a special one for me, and is probably one of my favorites that I’ve played in (only falling short to 2017). Before this season, I hadn’t placed higher than Top 8 at a Regionals, but that changed quickly as I picked up a Top 4 and a Finals. Regionals were quite fun this season as the first day was Standard and the second day was Expanded. I think I’m one of the only people who enjoyed this, but it was a nice twist.

Regionals weren’t the only structural change this season, this was also the first year that the Day 2 Worlds grind was introduced. If you recall before, I got my invites pretty early which made the midseason to late season a little less meaningful to me. With this system, I was able to keep up my competitive grind year round.

I was locked for the free ticket to Day 2 of Worlds going into Nationals, so that was a huge relief off of my shoulders. I don’t want to say that my mediocre finish at this Nationals was a result of this but, historically, I’ve always done better when I’m under stress or when something super meaningful is on the line. This Nationals was quite forgettable looking back, but I probably had a blast at the time.

Worlds came around and I tested rigorously for it. Over the summer, I had developed what was my first real testing group that was equally committed as I was to doing well at this event. My teammates were Allan Xu and Justin Poist, both of whom also had Day 2 invites. After staying up until 4am the morning of, Justin and I came to a conclusion that Seismitoad-EX/Manectric-EX/Crobat PHF was the best play for the event. We were at least somewhat close to correct since it won, it just wasn’t one of us. Allan went with an interesting M Manectric-EX/Virizion-EX/Genesect-EX PLB deck.

The event was definitely rocky for me to start. I started 2-2, after having to go through two tough matchups, and the only thing that could’ve made it worse was hitting one of my teammates, which of course happened. I hit Justin and fortunately beat him, but beating a friend at such a high stakes event never feels good. I went on to finish 6-2, which was the bubble for Top 8.

The anticipation built up as I waited to see if I’d made Top 8. There were 4-of us at 18 match points and only 1-of us would make it, so I wasn’t liking my chances. However, I did get up paired in the last and second-to-last rounds, making my resistance slightly better. After what felt like a year long wait, standings went up, and I was 8th.

6/8 of the Seniors Top 8 that year. This one was special because we were all pretty close friends.

I was extremely excited as this was my first cut at Worlds and it finally felt like all of my hard work was paying off. I even hit a good matchup in Top 8, so it could’ve been even bigger than what it was. Unfortunately I lost in Top 8, but I wasn’t too disappointed because Top 8 felt like enough for me then. However, it was that mentality that would continue to hold me back for a while after.

2015–2016: Bees Prestige

This is one of those seasons that kind of gets blurred in with the others and doesn’t really stand out. I definitely felt that I began to plateau as a player in this season. You’d always see me around the top, but never at that 1st place spot. This curse still haunts me, but now I can definitely say that I am improving, and hopefully, when we come back, I’ll be better than ever.

Anyway, the structure of this season was pretty much the same as the last which meant the year long grind for Top 16 NA was back. I wasn’t very phased by this because I enjoyed the year long challenge. I honestly can’t remember many events in this season except for Nationals and Worlds, but by the end of the season I was comfortably in the middle of Top 16.

Bzzt. I mean, psst.

Nationals came around and I got in quite early to begin testing with some friends. This format was a very easy one to break and predict once you really got deep into analyzing the meta and testing. My fallback deck was Darkrai-EX BKP/Giratina-EX AOR. If I were to play this I think I’d have done just as well as I did, maybe worse; you can’t really go wrong with a pretty good player playing the near BDIF, but I knew I could find something else to play.

This is when I met up with Ishaan, who’d been out of the game for a while. We tested for hours on end until we had officially gone in a circle when it came to decks. We knew the decks we needed to beat for sure were WaterBox and Darkrai/Giratina, but we could only ever get close to beating one. We almost conceded to being meta slaves, but one “eureka!” moment later and we had our 60-card concoction. We would be playing Vespiquen/Night March. Night March was inherently strong and its engine was extremely consistent. We included the Vespiquen to deal with WaterBox, and our package for Darkrai/Giratina was to play 2 Enhanced Hammer and a Xerosic in an attempt to have a huge swing turn against them should Giratina-EX ever get set up. Playing the heavy Special Energy denial meant that they should never lock us out of the game.

Now that we had our 60, we were left with one last decision. Do we give the deck to anybody? I was a Senior and Ishaan was a Master, so we had our coverage on both divisions. Ultimately, we decided to give the deck to two others, Kiernan Wagner and Nick Robinson. We ran some more games and decided that was our night.

To say the least, the weekend went amazingly. I got 10th on a bubble, which is unfortunate, but Nick went on to win the whole thing in Masters! It was crazy to watch him win with something that I took part in creating and that definitely was a huge confidence booster. In Top 4 he played against WaterBox and had the easiest time due to Vespiquen. In the finals he played versus a deck that contained Giratina-EX and our package worked like a charm against it. It was definitely a great weekend.

The downtime between Nationals and Worlds was filled up with a lot of Pokémon GO. I personally had also moved into a new house, so things were definitely busy that summer. When Worlds came around, we had to adjust to a new set (Steam Siege) being legal. This meant that testing for this event was more important than ever because the event was blind for us.

I went into the event with the free ticket to Day 2, so I was able to scout Day 1 to see what people were playing, but this strategy only works so well. The real people who were going to give me trouble in the event weren’t playing out there, they were locked in rooms testing, so not long after, I went off to test.

By 3am the morning of the event I had both Greninja and close to what Ross Cawthon played to the event sleeved up. I had way more experience with Greninja, so I just went with that. Unfortunately, I bubbled 9th which was my second bubble at a major in a row. It stung pretty bad as I really wanted the back-to-back Top 8s at Worlds, but looking back on it now, I don’t really care.

I was approaching my last year in Seniors, and this next season, things really took off…

2016–2017: Globetrotting, Runner-Up, Meeting Masters

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To start, this is easily my favorite season. The opportunities that I was exposed to were amazing and I felt so privileged to be in my situation. The year started off with multiple Regional cuts. I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t cocky then. I definitely had a bit of an ego due to my finishes. The year continued until we got an email about the Top 16 in the previous season receiving travel awards and stipends to the first ever International Championships held in London. This was huge as this was the first time I would’ve ever played internationally (barring Worlds 2013 in Canada). Although I didn’t get the full paid trip, I still got a stipend so my family decided it would be best if I took advantage of this.

I made sure to arrive quite early to make the most of the trip. Once the tournament came around though, I made sure to focus and prepare accordingly. I decided to play what was then my old faithful, Yveltal/Garbodor, as it seemed to have at least a 50/50 against everything and I could rely on my skill to outplay others, something not many decks offered back then. I was able to make Top 8, sadly losing there to some pretty bad luck. I went home with my invite and an experience I would remember for a lifetime.

More events passed and I found myself being ranked 3rd in North America at the time of a really special day for me. For context, the other ICs had been announced, but we didn’t know what to expect from them when it came to travel awards and stipends, as this was the first time they’d been run, and maybe London was just a test run to see what it was like. Anyway, after school, I was walking off the bus at my bus stop where I felt a buzz in my phone. I then felt more and more until I eventually checked it. It was my friends in our “Top 4 NA” group chat talking about the recent post Pokémon had made regarding Travel Awards to OCIC. My jaw dropped when I saw the news. What I thought would be an ordinary day was nothing even close to that. I was given a paid trip to Australia to play Pokémon. Crazy. I immediately called my parents telling them the news. The excitement in my family that day is something I wish I could revisit everyday. Once all calmed down, we began to make our plans.

Still crazy

Fast-forward some months and I am on a plane to Australia. The first time flying ~24 hours was definitely taxing, but I got Economy Plus which helped a bit. When I got there I went sightseeing immediately. I can confidently say that Australia is the nicest place I’ve been to, and that this first trip there is my favorite trip I’ve gone on.

After touristy things, the tournament came to priority. I tested heavily with Joe Ruettiger for this event. Since we were Seniors, we had an extra day to prepare. We watched as Masters played and noticed some standout decks. The most standout of them all was Decidueye-GX/Vileplume AOR. Alex Hill had dominated Day 1 with it, so we asked for his list and he provided. We then looked at some of the techs that Japanese players brought, and found that Trevenant-EX fixes a lot of matchups, so we threw that into Alex’s list and went with that.

The event went smoothly on Day 1. I went 4-1-1, qualifying for Top 8. It felt good to be 2/2 on IC cuts, and this Top 8 secured my travel award to Brazil, so things were looking up. I won Top 8 and 4 pretty handily until I got to the finals. I made a pretty catastrophic misplay in Game 3. My opponent and I like to think that he still would’ve won given his good start, but still throwing in the finals kind of sucks.

The season progressed onward, but I had hit a bit of a slump after Australia. I couldn’t seem to consistently cut anymore and it definitely had me down. My Top 4 NA spot had been secured for pretty much the entirety of the season due to my good early finishes, but seeing myself fall off was quite saddening. As expected, the Brazil trips came around, and the event was another disaster for me. I still enjoyed the trip, but I knew I had to turn my season around.

The season was drawing to a close, the only events left were Origins SPE, NAIC, and Worlds. I decided to go to Origins as my Top 4 spot could’ve been threatened by a doomsday event, and I didn’t want to have that occur. I managed to win Origins against a pretty strong field, which definitely boosted my confidence. Next up, Indy.

NAIC was a great event for me. I practiced an unhealthy amount, and it all paid off with a Top 8. I had finally regained my confidence and was ready for Worlds. However, before Worlds, there was the ARG Invitational. I didn’t participate in many ARG events, and wasn’t too familiar with them, but I did qualify from an event I went to for fun with some friends. The way I saw it, it was a free chance at $2,000, and I couldn’t turn that down.

I was placed in Masters for this event, so this would be my Masters debut. The event was Worlds format, so I thought it would be a great way to test if Espeon-GX/Garbodor could still hold up as one of the best decks. I managed to make Top 16 there pretty comfortably, and was onto Day 2. I then won my Top 16 and 8 games pretty easily, and won a close Top 4. The finals was live-streamed and I was against a really good matchup. I 2-0’d my opponent and was $2,000 richer. I didn’t care much about that though. What I cared about was I had won my first Masters event in a field of such strong players. I was definitely ready for Worlds.

Except for the fact that I wasn’t… This Worlds was my worst tournament to date. I got nearly last place in Day 2, partially due to me just conceding my rounds after starting 1-4. It sucked to not do well at Worlds in my last year in Seniors, but I had to move on. Besides, I at least proved to myself that I could at least hang with the masters.

2017–2018: My First Year in Masters, Joining a Team

Coming up from Seniors, I was excited to put my skills to the test in Masters. This season, while not my favorite, definitely taught me the most about me as a player, and me as a person. This was a learning season. I started off with a Top 64 in my first Regionals. A disappointing finish, but not the end of the world. I then got Top 16 at what was the second largest Regionals of all time then, showing I still had it.

After this, I was given an opportunity that I didn’t think I would have so early on. I was able to join ARG’s Pro Pokémon Team. I had sent in an application, and they recognized me from the invitational. Before I knew it, I was a sponsored player. I knew this meant I had to keep up the good finishes though, so my preparation was even more important to me then.

The next Regionals came up in Daytona, and I was able to get my first Top 8 in Masters. This was a big deal to me as this was my debut on ARG and I didn’t want to bomb my first event. Things were looking good moving into the next major, EUIC 🇩🇪.

I unfortunately did quite poorly in London. It’s pretty funny, if you ask any Top NA players about EUIC this year, they’ll tell you what a disaster it was for North America as a whole. This event is where my season started heading south. I had finished 17th going into the Australia stipend which meant no OCIC 🇦🇺 for me. On top of that, I couldn’t manage to get another Day 2 for the life of me. I felt those same slump emotions I had felt a year ago in Seniors.

I began to think my early success was a fluke, and that maybe I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. NAIC and Worlds were both disastrous, and I was at a serious low point in my career. All I had known for the past few years was consistent success, barring some bad events, and this season was definitely the kick I needed to change my attitude about the game. I went into the next season with not many high hopes.

2018–2019: The Turnaround

If I had to describe this season in one word, it would be redemption. The season started off poorly again for me, and I told myself that if I didn’t start doing well again by the end of the season, I’d call it quits competitively and focus on other things. Something must have clicked after I told myself this because I got Top 8 at Anaheim Regionals in December, a trip I wasn’t even supposed to go on. It was a relief to do well again, but I knew that if I wanted Top 16 NA that I’d have to continue this success.

I followed up with a Top 16 in Dallas, then a Top 32 in Australia, then more and more 16s and 32s landing me comfortably in Top 16 going into the end season. I seriously don’t know what changed and made me start doing so well. I’m assuming it was my mindset, because the mental game is such a huge part of doing well. EUIC came around and I got Top 64 there, then a Top 8 at Hartford, then a Top 32 at NAIC with the craziest deck I had ever played, Baby Blowns.

Worlds came around and I don’t think I prepared as much as I should have. I lost my win-and-in to Top 32 in Day 2 to a pretty unfortunate matchup, but I wasn’t too sad or salty. I had completely flipped the switch on the season. I was at an all-time low and turned it around. For reference, since that day I told myself I’d quit if I didn’t start winning again to Worlds, I made Day 2 at 10/11 events I had attended. I was happy, but one thing still eluded me, the big win.

2019–2020: …Oh Boy

Coming off of my comeback season I was excited to see if I could keep it up. I think that by the beginning of this season I had finally found my confidence as an individual player. I was always somewhat confident in my in game ability, but oftentimes when it came to situations in the game, I would go with the crowd or be a follower. The season started mediocrely with a Top 32 in Atlantic City. It was an okay start, but I knew I wanted better. Fast-forward a few weeks to Knoxville Regionals, and I find myself in 2nd place, getting me my first major event trophy in Masters after three losses in Top 8. This event felt extremely good, as I played against a multitude of top players and managed to still hold my own against them.

Easily the most challenging event I’ve had to go through.

After that, São Paulo came around and I managed to get Top 64, securing my stipend to Australia. I went to Daytona Beach Regionals and got Top 16 after a really unfortunate Day 2. The next weekend I was in San Diego, a last-minute trip that I probably shouldn’t have gone on. I felt pretty drained all weekend, but I still held it together to make a Top 32 finish.

I then went to Dallas Regionals and got my 2nd trophy from a Top 4 finish. After this event, I knew that this season was going to be something special. I really thought I had a shot at #1 NA. The next event was OCIC, and I got Top 16, a respectable finish, but could’ve been so much better had a few tiny things gone my way. This guaranteed me the travel award to EUIC, which was a huge deal for me as until this point, I’d only gotten stipends in Seniors. I decided to skip Collinsville 🇺🇸, as it was the weekend after, and I was tired.

Now

And as for the rest of the story, you know it. I finished the season 3rd NA which is something I am super proud of. I also broke many boundaries this season that had been holding my down for a while. I don’t think I can say I’m satisfied with my spot in the game yet, but I can confidently say that I’m improving and that I’m not done. I haven’t thought much about the logistics of what I’ll do when the circuit comes back around, but I know that I’m starting the season with 1261 CP which is definitely a good head start.

Looking back on my time so far in the game, I can confidently say that I am so fortunate and lucky to be where I am. Pokémon has offered me so many great opportunities that someone of my age usually doesn’t get, and for that I am thankful. I’ve come a long way since that kid who fell in love with Pokémon in 2010.

@Jonner909During this break I have gotten into competitive Hearthstone which is what has taken up most of my time. The game is quite different from Pokémon in my opinion. The RNG factor of it is significantly higher, but I feel like micro decisions in Hearthstone are way more important than they are in Pokémon. I’m excited to see how far I can take this Hearthstone thing before Pokémon comes back.

I will leave you all with some words of motivation. Although I do plan on coming back to Pokémon, I haven’t kept up with much as for new card releases and online tournaments, etc. I know of several other top players in this same boat because we simply just feel burnt out. I’m convinced that if there are people willing to grind and practice, there will be a new wave of top players greeting the game when it comes back. This is your chance to get the edge on us. I look forward to seeing you all when we get our circuit back.

-Jon


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