Giving Thanks: Four People Who Made Me a Better Pokémon Player

It’s late in the evening, but I’m idle “write” now, so why not…”right” about something unique? Tonight I’d like to talk about a few people who rapidly improved my skills in the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Whether it was direct testing, or network growth, or even just chilling me out, I owe a lot of gratitude to these four people.

1. Martin M: 2006 U.S. National Champion; once the self-proclaimed “bad boy of Pokémon”

How he made me a better player: Put simply, Martin was my introduction to the competitive network, and for a long time one of my closest connections. New players’ first chance to become competitive is oftentimes thanks entirely to one competitive player giving them that extra push.

For those of you who are not quite yet competitive but would like to be, this might be the next thing you need. I wouldn’t recommend going out and hunting it because that’s disingenuous, unnatural, and not fun. But when your network develops, you will develop along with it.

2. Ryan S.:  Third place Southern Plains Regional 2005; good friend and theory crafter

How he made me a better player: There’s that person who gets you to go down the rabbit hole of a competitive community, and then there’s that person who ends up being your friend forever. That right there is awesome enough, but you also get to push each other through constant talk about the game, improvement in playing skill, and of course rivalry if you play locally.

I started going to the same league as Ryan five minutes away from my house, and from there we were a super-solid team, taking down multiple tournaments together. Even to this day we have jam sessions on Facebook chat about ideas we’re brewing, and even meet up once in a blue moon for games and Wing Stop. We don’t live anywhere near each other nowadays, but it’s still a great friendship and collaboration.

(Also, fun fact: Sam Chen taught him how to play. Lol.)

3. Richard C.: Legendary Texas-area PTO; probably could’ve killed the competitive scene if he played more

How he made me a better player: For the longest time, I had no desire to travel far to any tournament except Nationals or Worlds. That’s in large part because Richard, a.k.a. Professor Birch, had offered us Texas players so many incredible opportunities to play competitively. Right after The Pokémon Company International took over the game, it was tournament organizers like Richard who were the glue to the franchise. At one point, he was even running every major tournament in three different States!

Just as important, he ran a very good league that outlived multiple stores. Before I started going to Richard’s league, I went to a league in my home town run by a very weird, smelly man we’ll call “Mr. Stinky.” Had Richard’s league not been available to me, I probably would’ve just quit the game due to how weirded-out and grossed-out I was by the old location; however, I met Richard who exposed me to a slew of world-class players, including his son Taylor.

Finally, any current Premier Tournament Organizers reading this who have been around for a while probably know Richard and think quite highly of him! He’s a great guy and I’m happy he has stayed so involved in the game, even to this day.

4. Billy K: Top eight Southern Plains Regionals 2008; co-conspirator in; my older brother

How he made me a better player: In my teenage years, I was incredibly wound-up, lacking anything remotely akin to “chill.” I was also pretty cold when I played the great – “serious business” if you will. Then my brother started playing, and he instantly brought me down to Earth in the most positive way. Shortly after that point, I won my first Regional, following that up with multiple incredible seasons with top finishes at every event.

(It’s also nice to travel and play-test with your actual family. For a while he went to even more tournaments than I did!)


As I said at the beginning, this was a bit of a different topic, so I hope you got a few things out of it! The people you meet in this game are oftentimes the reason why you advance in it, and in my case that’s definitely true. I’m grateful to have known everyone listed here, because this game has undoubtedly opened me up to awesome experiences, fun competition, and great friendships.


Social Saturdays: An Approach to a Puzzling Problem

Well gang, we thought we had multiple “definitive” articles or series on game state errors and cheating, yet here we are again: another article about…game state errors and/or cheating! However, let’s look at something new. Let’s look at how we as a competitive community should react to news about these instances in a mature, fair way.

Setting the Stage: Real-World News

Outside our tiny universe there have been some big news stories lately. Stories about people – powerful, famous, important people – who abused their status to hurt others. Many of these people are guilty as sin, but quite a few aren’t. And then murkier still are the situations where people pile on, resulting in a mix of honest and dishonest accusers.

Part of why news coverage is so dumb is because news channels don’t respect us – they think we’re not open to complicated ways of thinking. There’s some truth in this when you look at the way people react to stories about the abusers. On one side you’ll find a crowd  who will always believe the powerful and the famous, and on the other side you’ll find a crowd always giving a blank check to the accusers.

The Shady “Chandelure News Network” is often criticized by conservative columnists like Nidoking and Feraligatr

Sound familiar? That’s because a huge number of our players view publicized and taped instances of game state errors in a similar, black-and-white light. Whether it’s a recent post on the Virbank City Facebook group, or a flood of hateful comments on a YouTube video, you’ll see the loudest, most simple voices shaping the arguments in the most simplistic terms. If you don’t read “ANYONE WHO DOES X IS A CHEATER,” you’ll read “HE CAN’T POSSIBLY CHEAT HE’S TOO GOOD TO CHEAT!!!” While our problems as Pokémon players are unimportant compared to the problems in these news stories, it’s helpful to compare the two.

An Approach to Allegations: The Puzzle of our Time

A long time before any of this stuff occurred, I wrote a law school paper about false allegations. I learned a lot, but perhaps the most important thing I learned is that there is a balance between believing the accused and the accuser. That balance is not rushing to judgment, but if you know no one and just heard this accusation blindly thrown around, the only thing you really can do is simply choose not to disbelieve anyone. Here are the main points behind it:

1. If we don’t have the full story, you can’t really rush to throw someone under the bus. Respect both sides at least until you have enough information to make a solid judgment call. For example, don’t automatically assume a player baited their opponent when said opponent accidentally shuffles their hand back into the deck upon seeing an N. For all we know, the player using the N might have been painfully clear about their actions…and yet the opponent shuffled anyways!

2. You have none of the helpful information that would educate you about the people involved. Is one of these guys your best friend, and in all your experience having played locally would proactively call out any game play errors on himself? That sort of “good character” evidence is quite a bit easier to let you make a positive judgment than if you know nothing about the person.

3. Therefore, be open to the possibility that either side is right; choose not to disbelieve accusers and accused alike. That doesn’t mean jump to conclusions either! If you move too quickly to accuse someone innocent, you could be wrong and hurt their good character; if you rush to defend someone you don’t know for dumb reasons like “he seems like a nice guy” or “he’s so good”…just wait and see.

Some Miscellaneous Suggestions

1. You don’t have to form your personal opinion based on an overly high standard of proof. In the United States, we have a pretty high bar to convict someone of a crime, reasonable doubt, which more or less means reasonable people have good reasons to think a defendant might not have done something.  The standard is high because convicted criminals lose a bunch of basic rights – and sometimes they go to jail!  When talking about cheaters in a card game, the stakes are lower, meaning you really don’t have to  go crazy shouting “INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY!” when you see someone stack their deck – they’re not in a court of law and if you really know they stacked their deck, it’s fine to call it out.

Diss guy iz crehminall.

(The challenge is being aware enough to know your opponent DID stack, but that’s a whole separate matter.)

2. Just because you’ve formed an opinion with a normal standard doesn’t mean you should share it. Consider this a “do as I say, not as I do” piece of advice, because lord knows I’ve shared my opinion when I shouldn’t have! Either way, we will all come to instant, knee-jerk reactions the moment we see a player do something stupid on stream, or read an accusation about them online.  If you don’t like that person or don’t know that person, you might be quick to pounce on them, but if you’re friends with that person, you may act in an immature, maybe even abusive way to the accusers. Neither is good: Innocent but sloppy people will be attributed bad intentions when it’s easier to attribute nerves/fatigue/dumb playing ; and guilty people will be protected by a wall of friends, and demonize accusers with fair arguments. I may be a very flawed messenger, but even I know sometimes you should hold your tongue.

3. When making a personal determination of a player’s honest mistakes or dishonest play, it’s fair to factor in all evidence – something even many judges don’t do. “Evidence” makes anything more or less likely, and while in law some evidence isn’t allowed, I would think in the wild west of Pokémon, the only disallowed evidence are irrelevant things.

To close us out, here is a long list of what I consider to be fair pieces of evidence as a casual observer to determine if a streamed player’s mistake was honest or dishonest. It’s a whole other topic for what JUDGES should use, so let’s see if there’s enough overlap!

***Examples of good evidence: Frequency of the mistake; circumstances of the mistake; person’s habits; previous admissions online; previous admissions in person; whether the person admitted to or was punished for cheating; if they have cheated, how long ago they cheated; whether the person proactively catches and calls judges on their own mistakes; how they handle game play errors generally

***Examples of irrelevant or unfair/prejudicial things: Popularity; bad acts out of Pokémon other than fraud convictions; whether they have political beliefs differing from my own


The EUIC cheating allegations were rough, and I can only imagine they’ll get rougher as the season progresses. Players are mad about cheaters, and will be mad at Play! Pokémon if they don’t do anything about cheaters. Nevertheless, everyone involved -Play! Pokémon, judges, and us as members of the community – have responsibility to make careful determinations about how we air those determinations online.



All Aboard the Hype Train! Preview of Things to Come, and Critiquing Three Hyped Decks Before European Internationals

Today’s blog entry is sponsored by Enter the code “HT10” to save 10% on your next order of $10 or more. They’ve got great deals on singles, sealed product, and even online codes!

Hey, Trainers! We’re back with a couple really great updates. First, we’ll be briefly discussing the blog’s future and what that means for everyone who loves free, top tier competitive content on the blog. Second, we’ll be jumping into a topic I’m sure our friends getting ready to play in London would love to hear: thoughts on the hyped new decks headed into the event!

A Preview of Things to Come

HeyTrainer is known for two important yet distinct identities: its PG-rated blog, and its anything-goes forum. The forum basically changed the community’s direction forever, and even now is a cult classic. However, the blog has exploded in popularity and is now a major player in its own right. In less than a year, we defined multiple format-breaking decks, shared some of the most controversial Pokemon articles in the game, and raised the bar on all content – paid or otherwise. I’m truly grateful for all the love and support I’ve gotten from everyone who’s been reading!

That’s why I’m telling you all that I am in the process of designing a successor blog!  It will functionally be the same as this one, only much more polished, offer more content than before, and display a new identity fitting for Pokemon in the year 2018. Additionally, I will be a lot more ambitious in the sorts of alternate content we post so that we are ahead of the curve instead of on top of it, and making news rather than reacting to it. Expect the new site to be released by the beginning of next year!

(Fear not, forum loyalists: will not be touched, and will even still be linked to on the new blog.)

You’ll notice a greater effort in monetizing the new site, through ads and a couple “Donate” buttons. However, rest assured that there are currently no plans to turn my blog into a premium service. I respect, admire, and have even written or current write for premium content websites. For the time being, though, I don’t see that being a part of my new blog’s identity. It may be foolish to depend on ads to sustain the time invested in quality competitive content, but for this new site, I would highly encourage you to turn off your ad blockers if for a moment  – seems like a fair trade not to have paywalls in an era when half the good articles have them!

Well, that’s enough – I can walk and chew bubble gum at the same time, which is why I’m still churning out content here on HeyTrainer! At any rate, I’ll be looking forward to seeing you all there.

Three Hyped Decks for European Internationals

I am not going to the European International Championship this year, but I have been closely following the hype leading into the event. There are a few interesting decks that have been getting buzz lately, so I thought now would be my last and best chance to address those decks before the event begins. My thoughts should stay relevant going into the Memphis Regional Championship next month.

Why does the hype come to a head in the final days before an event? First, all of the good players are finally beginning to gather at or near the event venue, so the potential network in the loop on a deck expands exponentially. Second, these are ripe times for content creators to make or expand their brand – there’s nothing more helpful for your brand than to design a good, innovative deck.

1. Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor

Every dudebro needs healthy bones. So here’s a solid skeleton — 15 open spots!

Why it’s hyped:  Buzzwole-GX is one of the most hyped cards out of the new set. Heck, I loved it so much I wrote an article about it over at, so go check it out!

Anyways, the reason why it’s hyped is simply because it’s a very balanced, powerful card. The problem is that many of the ideas it’s been implemented in have performed poorly. The one version of the deck, however, that seems to succeed consistently is running it with Po Town, Espeon-EX, and both Garbodors. Po Town/Espeon-EX serve as a powerful combo against Evolution decks and Jet Punch, while the Garbodors balance out Buzzwole-GX’s inherent weaknesses, such as Bench-protecting cards like Mr. Mime BKT and Psychic Pokemon.

How it will perform: I think it’s going to do well, but only if enough good players use it. Buzzwole-GX is an incredible card with a great deck, but even minor misplays can tilt several close matchups. A prime example of this is the Garbodor mirror, which is close but could easily wash away the many Buzzwole players vying for the European International title. Nevertheless, it’s hungry to prove the naysayers right, so keep your eyes peeled.


2. Decidueye-GX/Zoroark-GX

Those are four Grass.

Why it’s hyped: Despite being a Decidueye fan, I’m going to be very honest with you guys and confess that I haven’t once used this deck. However, I’ve seen many incarnations of it online lately, and after getting my butt kicked by it, can certainly see why.

Essentially, the increase in power for Gardevoir coupled with many new cards getting hyped out of Shining Legends and Crimson Invasion has created a vacuum for Decidueye to make a comeback. Zoroark-GX is a respectable choice to herald that comeback because it’s a heavy hitter, consistency support for setting up Decidueyes, and is an efficient attacker that can score OHKOs you couldn’t previously with partners like Alolan Ninetales-GX

(Also, it doesn’t hurt our buddy SeaGrove a.k.a. Jeremiah went on a great, public slaughterfest with his version of the deck!)

How it will perform: We’ll continue the super-blunt honesty with a big “I don’t know.” On one hand, I want it to do well, and am convinced it could do very well against the established metagame. Heck, even Volcanion isn’t that bad of a matchup anymore. My main concern is that a Zoroark-GX engine in a Stage Two deck isn’t as reliable as the sort of support Gardevoir-GX inherently enjoys. It also might not do well against tanky, Max Potion versions of Gardevoir-GX, and still struggles a little against good Golisopod players.

3. Registeel

Why it’s getting hype: Registeel from Crimson Invasion carries on a long tradition of bulky non-GX, non-EX legendaries serving as Energy accelerators (e.g., Yveltal STS, Xerneas STS, and Landorus FFI). It also offers a very convenient Metal typing. The entire Ralts line sans Gallade is Weak to Metal, so Turbo Arm will be scoring Knock Outs as early as the first turn, and you’ll be building momentum from there with the potential to nab a KO on Gardvoir-GX itself with Iron Hand and a Choice.

Also, another reason why this card is so hyped is because we’ve seen several content creators come out with their own takes on it in the past week: Jacob Lesage on with a toolbox list;’s aggressive Genesect-EX build; and the boys at Limitless TCG with a build that’s more Celesteela-GX focused.  I like all of these deck ideas, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll be posting my take on my favorite among those ideas, which is Genesect-GX. I’m not sure how close or far apart we are in our designs, but if you’d like to compare my list with the original innovators’ take on the deck, check out their paywall article here.

How it will perform: Registeel has several more directions to go than Buzzwole or Decidueye in terms of viable deck design, but it could absolutely slaughter the tournament under the right circumstances. Of course this version I’ve posted has a horrible Volcanion matchup (notice a trend here?), but perhaps one of the people I mentioned designed a list that beats it. Regardless, it has excellent games excellent all other pre-established metagame decks, and will have an incredible day if the field is mostly Gardevoir, Garbodor, and Alolan Ninetales/Zoroark.

Thoughts about the Play and Old Decks

All three of these decks could make a huge splash across the pond this weekend. If I were going, my first choice would probably be Buzzwole-GX/Garbodor, but if I had a hunch there would be little to no Volcanion, I might just run Registeel.

Regarding old decks, Gardevoir-GX in a vacuum is probably a top contender, but with an actual metagame is a dangerous choice. However, if the anti-Gardevoir metal hate swings too far, Volcanion becomes even better. Although I quite literally bought Gardevoir-GXs yesterday, showing I have at least a marginal amount of faith in its playability, a Volcanion with some sort of nifty trick to help against Gardevoir would be a favorite to win. Maybe Counter Catchers?


Thanks so much for reading, playing, and supporting the site! No matter what form the blog takes, I hope you guys keep reading and I hope I can continue sharing with you guys all my thoughts about my favorite card game. Cheers!

Social Saturdays: Attendance Caps

Today’s blog entry is sponsored by Enter the code “HT10” to save 10% on your next order of $10 or more. They’ve got great deals on singles, sealed product, and even online codes!

I like these “social” columns to be timely, so today we’ll be talking about an interesting issue: attendance caps! Several players, both local and international, did not register for the highly influential European International Championship in time, and as a result will miss out on the chance to win hundreds of Championship Points and thousands of dollars. However, this is an issue that affects big and small tournaments alike, which is why I’d like to address attendance at large.

The Problem


Attendance is booming, and that’s a good thing! Unfortunately, space is limited, so the number of players who can register is also limited. This is a necessary evil due to laws, venue regulations, and accommodating other games at card shops, but it’s still a problem that can be anticipated by everyone involved.

TL; DR to eveything about I’m about to say: plan ahead.

The Players Themselves

To be blunt, if you know that you will be traveling across a literal ocean just to play a card game, there is almost no reason not to register before doing anything else. This is especially true for anyone in the Top 16 or Top 22 who is getting paid $1,000 or more just to play in the EUIC, “and” has the time off to go play. Different struggles and issues apply depending where you are coming from, and some of you even have to apply for visitor’s visas – I get that. But c’mon…the entry fee is the least of your worries!

If you’re an international player like me and can’t justify the costs or time off? Just don’t go. It’s that simple. This is a year-round hobby now, so you can hop on or off the merry-go-round as you please.

Want a Kangaskhan? Just wait for Kangaskhan to come to you!

As for local U.K. players with budgetary constraints, I respect and know firsthand the struggle of maintaining a hobby.  Your situation is not easy, and sometimes not getting the check in time means you can’t play. That feeling is tough and I have been there. But if you know you will play and know you will spend the money, make for creative arrangements so that you don’t miss out on registration. I’ve sold cards to pay for my entry fees, and I’ve even heard of people transferring collateral in order to borrow money.

Play! Pokemon

The event organizing branch of The Pokemon Company International makes important decisions to event registration, organization, and scheduling. They shoulder a lot of responsibility for the several attendance cap issues we’ve seen this season, particularly the logistics of the International Championships as well as the decision to limit League Cups exclusively to card shops.

Without more complete information, I can’t really criticize the decision to cap the European International Championship. My knee-jerk reaction was to cast some blame on Play! Pokemon for not foreseeing the attendance cap for Masters would be broken – unofficially speculated to be 750. Assuming 750 was the actual number, that’s actually a reasonable forecast for growth, since last year’s EUIC had a little more than 500 Masters.

As for the second issue, we’ve seen some flexibility, but more obvious room for growth. Play! Pokemon actually lets organizers run stores’ League Cups at other venues so long as they remain accessible to the store’s players, although this is the exception and not the norm. There are good legal and logistical reasons why Pokemon wants to designate card shop owners the organizers, but perhaps organizers are in need of more options so that the need to use attendance caps is reduced.

RK9 Labs

RK9 Labs, run by Carlos and Dana Pero, is the software used by Play! Pokemon for several of the larger events. It’s simple, integrated nicely with the POP ID system, and celebrates our registrations with nifty congratulatory messages!

But what about keeping the player caps hidden on the registration page? Why can’t players be better informed so they know to register before the event fills up? Wouldn’t it help if a player could go onto Facebook and inform everyone that only 100 seats were left?

This message greets many a player who missed out on registering for the EUIC! Could an attendance cap have saved someone?

Dispassionately, numbers are numbers: Either the cap is met, or there are excess spaces and everyone who wants to play gets into the tournament. Yet in keeping up with the ideal of under-promising in order to over-deliver, you need to make at least some kind of promise. As it stands, hiding attendance means that nothing is promised, which will inevitably result in some degree of sour grapes. Why would a normal person think a Pokemon tournament would sell out over two weeks before show time? Communicate an artificially low number of guaranteed seats for each division in the event description, and complainers have no ground to stand on when you accommodate three times the number of people you promised. Play! Pokemon did that to great success for several years, and I think it’d be fine if they returned to that.

Tournament Organizers

Lastly we have the tournament organizers themselves. By far the biggest problem I’ve seen is poor communication with regard to League Cup attendance caps. Although venue space is an even bigger concern for tiny card shops than rented convention halls, you will frequently run across event listings which are blank! What happens then when it turns out this event had an event cap all along, and starts turning people away at the door?

Angry players, support tickets, and bad feedback – that’s what happens. And all of that can be prevented by doing your best to communicate the attendance cap, as well as when that cap has been met. Unlike Regional Championships, which are usually held at rented venues, a card shop owner should really, really be able to forecast how much space they’ll have in the store.

Guaranteed seating might not be a reasonable thing to do depending on the tournament organizer, although again, under-promising and over-delivering goes a long way. But if and only if it’s coupled with solid communication!


Attendance issues are like income taxes: They stink, but they’re ultimately a good sign because they indicate significant “income” – or life in the game. When all else is equal, isn’t it better to be part of a hobby where people are pounding on the door just to play?

Competitive Pokemon is thriving, and I’m sure that as long as everyone keeps caring about the game and avoids being lazy or content, we’ll sign up when we need to, make more space to meet demand, offer organizers more options, and communicate better.

EXP Share: Play! Pokemon Rules and Resources Analysis for November 2nd

Today’s blog entry is sponsored by Enter the code “HT10” to save 10% on your next order of $10 or more. They’ve got great deals on singles, sealed product, and even online codes!


Today we had some major changes released as part of Pokemon’s event rules and penalties, so I thought now would be the perfect time to give my assessment as both a player and a judge of these changes. Although I’ll of course inform you of those decisions, the majority of this entry is dedicated to analyzing those rules changes. It’s nice simply to “know” a rule; it’s another thing to put your knowledge into practice. So let’s put it into practice, shall we?

Rules and Resources has a nifty “Rules and Resources” page. As a full-time player and a part-time judge, I consider this to be one of the most valuable resources available to me for a couple big reasons:

1. It has a scan of the official rule book, and a surprising number of complex questions are actually answered inside it;
2. It includes important PDF files about event rules, penalties, organizing, and judging which are routinely updated.

Both of these reasons are enough to bookmark that link on your web browser, but this article is interested in updates to #2. Certain files, such as “General Event Rules” will have what’s called an Appendix, or an addition to the end of the file. Here you’ll clearly see Pokemon caring for our mental health, because each of these Appendices lists the most recent document updates. Neat, huh?

However, do keep in mind that not all updates will appear in the appendices. There’s actually at least one major change which did not appear in these end-of-document notes, which we’ll address shortly.

The Changes: Thoughts and Analysis

1. Play! Pokémon General Event Rules


* That first bullet point, which you’ll see repeated many times in the updates, is insurance against translation issues.  Nothing too special about that unless you’re a foreign judge or organizer, which is actually a bit of a relief in case of crucial errors between the English version and your native language.

* I’m not 100% sure what the previous version said about list publishing by organizers, but this explains it quite nicely. Although it defaults to deck lists being confidential, be aware that the organizer is given pretty broad discretion to publish your list. They just have to make it publicly accessible (read: share it with everyone), as well as make it valuable to people attending or watching the event.

If there is a dispute over publishing lists, I feel the bar will be set very low for an organizer to justify their actions to Play! Pokemon. However, just because a TO can publish lists doesn’t mean that they should – especially during local League Cups where the value of a published list is low.  So if you’re an organizer, be careful when exercising this right; and if you’re player, report any inappropriate exercise of this ability to Play! Pokemon via event feedback or support tickets.

* Section 8’s change is just a slight clarification to note-taking – something you might have seen me do a lot of times on stream! Basically, be ready to translate your notes into a language the tournament staff speak and you should be fine.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re allowed to draw smiley faces and pass them off as a “foreign language.”

* Section 10.1’s change is mostly ignored in the community right now, but is actually pretty important. Ever since intentional draws came back, there has been this uncomfortable timing issue where players who want to draw are waiting on other ongoing matches in order to make the most optimal choice.

Example: The Po Town City League Cup has six rounds of swiss for its Masters. Four people have at least 13 match points (four wins and a tie) and are all safe to make top eight by intentionally drawing for an extra match point. However, six people only have 12 match points, meaning their decision to draw or play depends heavily on the other players with 12 match points.

-If all six players draw, then two 13-point players will miss cut on resistance;
-If four players draw and two play it out for a win, then one 13-point player will miss cut on resistance;
-If two players draw and four play it out for a win, nobody misses;
-If everyone plays it out…someone dun goofed.

Regardless of how good you are at keeping track of your opponents’ win percentages for tiebreakers, if you’re the tie match in the third scenario, you’re in cut no matter how awful your resistance! It actually makes perfect sense then why some players would “start” a last-round swiss match while simultaneously keeping track of what went on at the other tables.

Despite how rational it may be, this is still a bad situation because it rewards players for gaming the system and not focusing on their matches. It’s also highly toxic because the implications of “stalking” other matches before an intentional draw can influence the way people play, or even negatively impact future events. I’m not here to cast judgment on anyone who has done this before – just be aware that there are good reasons why you can’t do it anymore.

***Players: This rule only triggers once the match has begun – you can still refer to standings/pairings when they’re posted, or to seeing who all sits down to play rather than draw. So if in the above example if you see four 12-point people sitting down to play, you can use that information to decide whether you want to draw with your own opponent.

***Judges/Organizers: Watch out, because no new penalties were added to cover this specific situation! However, it’s arguable the penalty guidelines already cover this newly illegal behavior under several sections – most notably 7.6, “Unsporting Conduct.” Since this behavior has a direct effect on the event “and” causes emotional distress, I’d actually argue that this would fall under 7.6.2, “Unsporting Conduct: Major.”

2. Play! Pokémon TCG Rules and Formats

Analysis: I didn’t post a screenshot of these changes because there’s nothing too surprising – just set updates, redundant sections, and putting your deck list in order.

3. 2017 Pokémon TCG Promo Card Legality Status

Analysis: This isn’t a PDF, but it is important because it directly addresses the infamously powerful – and infamously delayed – Tapu Lele promo:

Special note: The French version of Tapu Lele SM45 is scheduled for release prior to the English version. Because English is the only version that is legal for use in all regions, this card will not be legal for tournament play until the English version is released.

Honestly this was a very big save by Play! Pokemon; otherwise you would have seen Tapu Lele legal early in Europe, which may have resulted in some bizarre metagame differences. Since the Expanded format is a very controlled, heavily monitored environment for the sake of game balance, they simply can’t let one part of the world play BLW-on with a card, while the other does not.

One last note before we move on, but I hope Play! Pokemon considers exercising this legality patch in case Tapu Lele’s English release doesn’t actually pop up in enough English-speaking markets. That’s because we had multiple instances during the Black and White era where niche to playable promos were seen in English all over international markets, yet nowhere to be found in the United States. Sad!

Fun fact: I actually had to pick up this Mew blister from a pal in Singapore – nowhere to be found in Texas!

6. Tournament Operation Procedures


*The Appendix’s listed changes are actually not that major, but worth keeping in mind should you either A) hope to show up to a tournament super-late; or B) suffer an incorrectly-recorded match result.

*For Tournament Organizers, the mandating of match slips at “all” Premier Events just seems really bizarre, and perhaps a little reactionary. That’s a lot of excess paper for things like League Challenges and League Cups, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some events don’t follow this rule 100%. Of course it’s always best practice to follow the rules, but if I ever went to a small event and the organizer wasn’t doing match slips…I really wouldn’t care or be offended.

7. Pokémon TCG Penalty Guidelines


*7.1.2, drawing an extra card now requires that you shuffle the deck when it happens, and also carries with it a suggested prize penalty! This is apparently the official Pokemon people answering our cries and frustration over a very old legacy ruling on multiple fronts:

A. “Reveal and replace” never made much sense when decks were supposed to be random;
B. Regardless of the error being a mistake or not, knowing the top card can be a HUGE advantage!

So now you know the reasoning behind the change. What are the actually important takeaways from this major change?

  • First, this is a “recommended starting penalty,” meaning facts may justify either escalating the penalty or lowering it.
  • Second, as with several other penalties, the punishment depends on the Tier. So for local events it stays the same, but for regional and international events you’ll be eating that prize loss.
  • Third, while the penalty applies to drawing cards, players and judges alike will still have to be very careful in situations where a player looks at one too many cards for effects like a single Puzzle of Time or Gallade’s Premonition. I legitimately do not know what the proper penalty for one of these mistakes should be, although if I were a judge, I don’t think I could reasonably justify escalating the first instance of this to a prize loss at any tier, unless it were obviously intentional.
  • Finally, players and judging staff will need to be on an heightened state of alert due for this and other prize penalty situations due to the release of powerful cards that depend on a player being behind in prizes, such as Counter Energy and Counter Catcher. Innocent players who did not draw extra cards need to think very carefully then whether they wish to accept a prize penalty in this sort of situation, so as not to trigger these powerful come-from-behind effects. Meanwhile, judges must watch for any tells of a cheater deliberately getting penalized just so they can use these cards: it may be very tough to determine intent in these spots, but if you see it, then disqualify them! Regardless of how rare these situations may be, they could happen, so when they do, we need tough judges making the tough calls.

    “Hello. My name is Counter Energy, and I am going to kill your brain cells.”

* Beyond drawing extra cards, the only important thing we have in the Appendix is some minor tinkering with stalling and rushing. Basically, both slow play and rushing are considered bad, and either can escalate to being unsporting conduct. However, when dealing with your run-of-the-mill new/casual player Slowpoke, who’s just an honest but naturally slow person, the max they’ll get is a prize penalty.

* Finally, if you’re literally can’t come to Pokemon tournaments anymore. Sorry.

Banned forever


After today’s extensive review of the new rules changes, I hope I’ve helped shed light to players, judges, and even tournament organizers! It’s been a while since I’ve seen so many major developments drop on us so suddenly, and I hope you’re all reasonably prepared for these to be implemented at your next tournament.


Tactics 101: Predicting our Opponents


This is the start of a new series on in-game decisions. The goal here is to introduce aspects of play players might not consider, and to approach those aspects in the most skilled way we can.

Today we’ll be looking at choices our opponents make. Specifically we’re interested in making sense out of  opponent’s strange decisions, as well as approaching spots where we don’t know with certainly what our opponent is planning.

Strange Decisions

Strange decisions are any of those plays where our opponents do things that appear to be misplays, or at least highly questionable.

To better understand these spots, let’s first work backwards a bit and consider misplays themselves. Essentially, misplays are when players mess up: forgetting to attach, not figuring out their prizes, bad attacking choices, and of course game play errors. Except for game play errors, which are purely illegal actions dealt with under the penalty guidelines, misplays are tactical and strategic failures.

Next, it’s time to analyze all the relevant information we have at our disposal and actually get to the heart of our opponent’s decisions. Regardless of the actual play your opponent made,  the way you handle this is actually quite complex! To illustrate this, let’s use a simple example:

You are playing against a deck – any deck – which is popularly assumed to run at least two Parallel City, a Stadium that can limit your Bench. You’ve spent the better part of the last two turns anticipating and preparing for Parallel City, taking care not to overextend your Bench. Then comes a moment when it is without a doubt 100% guaranteed and 100% obvious for your Opponent to play the Parallel City…yet nothing happens. What gives?

In these spots I think it’s helpful to play detective, and consider as many reasonable theories as possible. In this case, I see five main explanations:

A. They misplayed at some point;
B. Something is prized;
C. Something is up with their list;
D. Other; or
E. Some combination of the above answers.

-A is the heart of our conversation in this sub-part, and is usually the simplest answer in general. That’s because it takes a great deal of talent, intuition, and experience for someone to always arrive at the right choice in every situation. In short, your purely average player is surprisingly likely to screw up or miss the best “beat” on playing Parallel. Yet you shouldn’t in turn screw up your response to their screw-up, as there is such a thing as being overconfident. If you start playing overly aggressively and placing Benched Pokemon that make you increasingly vulnerable to Parallel, your Opponent might suddenly catch on to their own misplay, and then wisely correct their course of action. It’s usually in these positions where I thank my lucky stars, progress my board state to a point I couldn’t have against a top-level player, and keep playing carefully.

-B, on the other hand, is the simplest answer when going up against a strong player. Don’t for a second start assuming that strong players are incapable of misplays – even the best players make embarrassing, well-documented mistakes. But in the example above, the most likely reason a top player isn’t going to execute the best, most devastating move is due to not having the right tools at their disposal. So if any Parallel Cities they might play are prized, you might in turn be right to play a little more aggressively, maybe benching a Pokemon you wouldn’t have risked putting down earlier.

But what if your “good player” opponent did in fact make a misplay? And when should you play aggressively on one assumption vs play conservatively on another assumption? Here’s where you get to exercise your independent judgment a bit more, especially since top-level players are famous for redeeming their misplays with incredibly clever tactics and strategies. In spots like these, you can reasonably revert to the “careful thankfulness” described in point A, and maybe wait a while longer to get really aggressive.

Oh, and one last note: Your opponent can say and do many things, but they can’t outright lie to you about a particular card being prized. That’s called gamesmanship, and can result in a DQ.

-C is a little more interesting, but unlike A or B should not be your default assumption. Conventions exist for a reason, and in our main example it’s kind of goofy to assume your Opponent runs zero Parallel Cities when the deck in question almost always runs it. But it does happen, which is why you should defer to C when you have actual knowledge: either you’ve played previously, have been informed by a trustworthy source, or saw their list on the night before the top cut. I love these spots because when you know your Opponent doesn’t run something, you can play a lot more freely and aggressively. Of course, this depends on the reliability of your knowledge.

Then there are deck list errors. Except in spots where you have actually heard explicitly that the deck list error occurred, these are totally random events and should not phase you, even if they result in “ex-post mistakes” of your own, or decisions that are only mistakes after having complete information. Unlike normal misplays, ex-post mistakes are nothing to feel embarrassed about, and usually just a part of the luck involved in a game like Pokemon. Case in point, I’ve actually lost a game before because I assumed my Opponent was running an Ace Spec in his Eelektrik deck. Imagine my surprise when it turned out his Ace Spec was removed due to a deck list error!

-D could be anything else I haven’t considered. The universe for strange decisions is vast and potentially unlimited, which is why I’m really interested in seeing both here and on Facebook some strange decisions your opponents have made that don’t fit nicely into A, B, or C.

-Lastly, E is when any of the above points mix and match. This is way too complicated to address in today’s article, so I’ll only do it if there’s really huge demand for a direct sequel to this topic…or possibly just lots of fun hypothetical situations.

Approaching the Unknown (Unown)

Unlike the “Strange Decisions” section, nothing is strange about these spots – you simply don’t know what your opponent has done or will be doing with absolute certainty. It’s in these spots where players are rewarded for good predictions, and are likewise punished for bad predictions as well as a lack of interaction.

Despite the universe for strange decisions being quite large, the universe for unknown decisions is even larger. These include deck search options, starting Pokemon, prizes drawn – lots of many tiny little blind spots where your opponent is doing things you will very rarely know with certainty. Nevertheless, approaching the purely unknown is actually easier than trying to interpret openly strange decisions. The approach I used is as follows:

1. Try to stay out of the unknown as much as you can. Knowledge and good memory about lists remedy a lot of otherwise unknown situations, and in some cases this even happens with starting Pokemon. Last season, “quad Lapras” was a deck where the most common starting Pokemon was – you guessed it – Lapras-GX! Although this particular deck evolved to include a tech Wobbuffet-GEN, you would still always at least have the knowledge that the most likely starter was Lapras. Just know the deck, and your prediction/decision-making thrives on that knowledge.

Experience is also a guiding force when trying to eliminate or at least reduce uncertainty. For instance, when playing against a Gardevoir-GX deck in a metagame with very little Item lock, there is zero reason to assume your opponent is not at least running three or four copies of Rare Candy to speed up their Evolution. Here, your savviness about the opponent running 3-4 Rare Candy is informed not only by your familiarity with the metagame, but of deck building in general. In your eyes, it’s not luck your opponent got out that turn two Gardevoir-GX, but an absolute likelihood.

2. If you can’t stay out of the unknown, look to the reason why something is unknown.  I’ll categorize this depending on how much of it is their choice:

*Not the opponent’s choice at all: These are the decisions which your opponent is virtually 100% unable to control. With a few exceptions and probability manipulations, your opponent has little control over the cards in their opening hand. In turn, you don’t have a control over these situations either –  just do your best and play the odds. If your Opponent needs two cards to win, you N them to one, and then they miraculously draw into both cards they need…well, it happens.

He’s N.

In these spots I prefer to balance the benefits of what I could achieve with my own choices with the risks of the whole universe of outcomes on their side. So regardless of what their best starting Pokemon may be, you’d likewise prefer to start with your ideal one if you can; and but for the luckiest coin flips possible, you should still feel okay leading with your best attacker.

*Entirely their choice: we will end this article with the situations where your opponent has orchestrated a situation which is technically unclear to you, but should be absolutely clear from their own perspective. While oftentimes you may have fallen so far behind nothing you do matters, in many more situations, you can actually turn these spots into advantages.

We’ll use Sylveon-GX as an example, a card which searches your Deck for any three cards with its Magical Ribbon Attack:

When your opponent runs Sylveon-GX, they’re going to use Magical Ribbon a lot because it’s a great Attack. After all, who wouldn’t want to search their deck for three cards each turn? But in this great strength lies a subtle weakness: You know whatever they’re getting is probably really, really amazing, and can use that fact against them.

I said  advantage because playing cards like N suddenly become much more intelligent choices. Even when your Opponent has a five or four-card hand, the decision to N early game is suddenly way safer and optimal because you’d rather starve them of what’s presumably a perfect set of cards. That way, you’ll see more screens against Gardevoir/Sylveon that look like this:

I don’t know what was in that hand…all I know is, I’m glad I N’d you.


Thanks again for checking out the blog, especially with this new series! Let me know if you like it, and if the feedback is good enough I’ll do more of these.


Father-Son Tag Team Victories in Daytona

Today’s article was written by Preston Porter, proud player and Poke-parent from the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

It’s the father-son tag team!


As a father, seeing my children succeed is one of the greatest feelings ever.  I had the unique opportunity to not only see my son succeed at Daytona Regionals, but myself as well.  This was the first time for either of us to make day two at any regional championship, so it came as quite a shock that we were both able to make it so far. Today I’ll be sharing a bit about our tournament prep, our lists, and of course our tournament reports.


In the past, I have made the mistake of changing my play or my son’s play within a week of the tournament.  “I finally figured out the meta…” I’d say to my son.  This year we’re trying to establish some consistency at least a month prior to any regional that we play in.  We decided that Lucas would play Gardevoir GX and I would go with a Drampa GX/Garbodor build.  This was the one time that we actually stuck with the decks that we prepared with, and I feel like it truly made a difference.

I’ve been researching the topic of deliberate practice as of late.  The basic premise is that practice is most effective when the person practicing deliberately does it without being told.  The research showed that the difference between greatness and mediocrity wasn’t due to some inherited skill, but it’s in fact due to one’s effort that they put into the skill.

Using this information, I went to my son to see what he wanted. We determined that we were both going to try for our first Worlds invites this year.  In order to place my focus on obtaining my invite, I decided that I would quit all of my other hobbies to make my sole focus Pokemon.

Lucas and I settled on our decks in September and got to work.  We were each other’s main testing partners, so I had to challenge him with various decks that I felt he might face.  This approach ultimately paid off due to Lucas only facing the main two decks that we prepared for in day one (Night March and Darkrai).  The only problem that presented itself was that I wasn’t preparing to use my deck;  I was testing other builds that were more common and likely to be seen in the Junior meta.  This problem culminated in my top 8 match up with Gustavo Wada when I made some simple misplays that could have made a difference.

Going into the tournament, I had my doubts about my deck choice – a recurring theme for me.  Luckily for me, my friend/teammate Long Bui talked me into sticking with my deck choice.  It was hard to convince me at that point:  Long had beaten me badly in our test games the night before the tournament, and it made me afraid of my Golisopod GX and Trevenant match ups.  I wanted that magic deck that just beat everything in the meta, but truth be told, I’m glad that I stuck with what I knew well.

The Lists

Lucas (Gardevoir GX – Junior Division)

The only change to this picture should be -1 Diancie +1 Kirlia.

Preston (Drampa GX/Garbodor – Master Division)

Lucas’s Day One Matchups (Juniors)
Round 1: Night March WW
Round 2: Darkrai WLW
Round 3: Darkrai WW
Round 4: Night March WL T
Round 5: Darkrai W
Round 6: Intentional Draw

Preston’s Day One Matchups (Masters)
Round 1: Tapu Bulu GX/Vikavolt W
Round 2: Tapu Bulu GX/Vikavolt WW
Round 3: Tool Drop WW
Round 4: Turtles WLW
Round 5: Tool Drop LL
Round 6: Turbo Darkrai EX WLW
Round 7: Darkrai GX LWL
Round 8: Lapras GX WLW
Round 9: Archie’s Blastoise WLW

Thoughts on Day One

Throughout the day, I kept being motivated by Lucas and my other teammates that continually pushed us onward.  Each time he came back with a success, I – oddly enough – had my own to share with him. This was awkward because I was unable to be there for his final day one standings getting posted, as  I was starting my round seven games and had to focus on the task at hand. Day one was exhausting for both of us, and I was emotionally drained for sure. Of course I was proud of the work that we had put in to get to that point, but I knew that was only the start.

I slowly started to believe that I perhaps did belong in this field.  I don’t believe that my son goes through self-doubt the same way that I do, so I certainly admire that in him.  He has a very unique and kind spirit – the sort of kid who can tell you that you’re wrong yet have you smiling about it.  He definitely kept me going for day two, especially in the face of all these tough competitors.

Lucas’s Day Two Matchup
Top 8 Necrozma GX Garbodor WLL

Preston’s Day Two Matchups
Round 10: Golisopod GX Garbodor WW
Round 11: Tool Drop WLW
Round 12: Trevenant LW T
Round 13: Golisopod GX/Zoroark WLW
Round 14: Intentional Draw
Top 8: Night March LL

Thoughts on Day Two

Lucas is a little fuzzy on his top eight matchup.  I couldn’t watch due to playing, but I do know that he whiffed an Energy for two consecutive turns with a Professor Sycamore and Colress played in those turns.  He would have won the series if he hit one.

Part of me was worried that Lucas would be disappointed in not making it past Top 8, but that thought went away as soon as I saw his happy face after my round – there truly isn’t much that gets that kid down.  He was cheering for me in the same way that I would for him.  I was proud of my 3-0-2 day two record that had me as the third seed going into Top 8. There I got crushed by Gustavo Wada’s Night March deck, but by that point, I felt like I had accomplished what I had set out to do.  I proudly bowed out to a better-prepared opponent.



This experience was one that I will remember for quite some time.  We set out this season to both get our Worlds invites, and now we’re well on our way to achieving that goal.  It was truly a special father/son experience that was more than I could have asked for.  I’m proud to be a Pokedad.  I love the bond that it brings to our family.  I know that I’ve taught my son not only how to win, but how to bow out gracefully.

I have a ton of people to thank for their help.  First off there’s Kathryne, my wife. She watched our younger son, Link, and packed the hotel up while we were playing.  She also put up with way too many test games at home.  Secondly, I’d like to thank all of my teammates in Mad Pullz for always helping me with everything that I’ve ever needed.  Special thanks to Long for convincing me to play my deck right after pummeling me.  And Frank, you’re still my Same 60 bro.  Lastly, thanks to John Kettler for all of the support and getting me to write this article.

Feel free to shoot me any questions that you may have.  This article was mainly to go over our father/son tournament experience.  I can provide more detailed answers on deck analysis if need be.

-Preston Porter

Rule Change Proposal: The Town Map Mod

Follow me on Twitter @Calchexas!


Today’s topic is all about a certain rule: the “prizes must be face down” rule we’re greeted with at the start of each game. I’ll explain the rule, discuss why it should be changed, offer a replacement rule, discuss why the rule change would be good, and then end with some possible alternatives to the proposed change. I hope that me explaining my thoughts will not only get some of you to agree with me; I also hope that this post encourages you guys to be on the lookout for changes you want!

The Rule

“Prize Cards: Each player has their own Prize cards. Prize cards are 6 cards that each player sets aside, face down, from their own deck while setting up to play. These cards are chosen randomly, and neither player should know what their Prize cards are at the beginning of the game. When you Knock Out an opposing Pokémon, you take one of your Prize cards and put it into your hand. If you’re the first one to take your last Prize card, you win!”

The Proposal

You’ve seen or done it before many times. Whether it’s in person, online, or on stream, people playing Pokémon cards are constantly figuring out their prize cards, or otherwise losing because they failed to do so. If either of those is not the case, then players are desperately hoping they draw the right prize at the right moment. Both of these aspects of the game are hassles, and serve only as distractions. For those reasons, I’m proposing a change I call the Town Map Mod:

Town Map Mod: “Prize cards should be set aside by each player, face up, from their own deck while setting up to play. These cards are chosen randomly, and stay revealed until taken.”

Why it’s Possible

I know you guys very well. Of those who chose to click the link, at least 25% of you are immediately entering with a dismissive attitude:

“Why would Japan ever listen to you?”

“Why would Japan ever listen to us?”

“We’re just about to get a card that interacts with face-down Prize Cards.”

“It doesn’t make that big of a difference.”

“It’s been around since the game started.”

“[Insert some trivial judging or tournament operations concern here.]”

 “[Insert some trivial complaint with an unimportant point made in my article.]”

“I like another idea better.”

While I won’t spend a long time addressing any of these points in particular, I will address them all (except the last one) with a simple idea:

Rather than look at why something cannot be done, look at why it can be done.

PCL: They’re always looking at what can be done – not what cannot be done!

When looking at big, sweeping game design proposals, we need to look at the motivations of Creatures Inc., and previously Pokémon Card Laboratories. What can the game creators do when it comes to the rules of their game? Pretty much whatever they want…and we need to know what changes they probably want.

1. The change would need to improve the game. On average, a better game draws more people, and the decades-long history of our hobby of choice is proof of that.

2. The change would make the game simpler. Generally, simpler games are more easily accessible to the public, and more easily accessible games are more appealing. It’s no coincidence the Pokémon TCG saw a boom around Black and White!

3. The change would make money. This can either be related to improving or simplifying the game, or it could be a more aesthetic change meant to sell more cards (think different rarities).

Why Making Prizes Face up Would Be a Good Idea

I’d argue that a change to prizes being face-up would do a ton of good, and achieve at least the first two of Creatures’ motivations in changing rules. Here’s why:

1. Having players keep prizes face up would improve the game. Whether it’s three Rowlet, two Frogadier, or all of your Double Colorless Energies, bad prizes can be a nightmare. Even more of a nightmare is when you can’t dig out of your already horribly unlucky situation after drawing a couple prizes. By flipping prize cards up at the start of the game, the effect of unlucky prizes is drastically reduced, thereby increasing skill and improving the game at large.

2. Keeping prizes face up simplifies the game by emphasizing quality of life over a fake skill. Anyone who’s played at a high level knows that the best players figure out their prize cards as soon as possible. This first-game search has enormous implications, from fishing out important techs to draw cards. However, despite it being a trait of skilled players to figure out their prize cards, I call it a “fake skill” because all it amounts to is a lengthy and tiring scavenger hunt. There’s no outwitting or being outwitted – only a 30-60 second game of Where’s Waldo. Flip prizes over however, and you will see a livelier first-turn search.

I highly doubt any change to this rule would make or take money away from The Pokémon Company, so instead I’ll provide a third reason why this change would be good:

3. All of the exciting secondary aspects of players placing their prize cards face up. One that immediately comes to mind is that the game becomes much easier for lay people to watch, and would eliminate any need for the “prize cam.”

Good Alternatives to Changing the Face-Down Prize Rule
Of course, there’s more than one way to skin a Skitty. Here are some other ways we could change the rules related to prize cards that don’t involve flipping them face up:

1. Allow players to look at their Face-Down Prize Cards on their first search (rulebook change). Like we talked about earlier, you can deduce your prizes just by searching your deck, so giving players this small window to figure out their prizes in less tedious ways would be immensely helpful. This option (or the one below) allow for as little impact on the way the game is played as possible.

(Also, since “shuffling Prize cards” is now a thing thanks to Gladion, you could require players to shuffle their face down prize cards after doing this.)

2. Allow players to look at their Face-Down Prize Cards once per game (tournament rules change). This is the same idea as above, only you would make it happen through tournament rules rather than a true change to the rulebook. Official Play! Pokémon tournaments have many rules patches to make quality of life better for its players, including: time limits, ways to resolve match play, ties, and judge ball. Unlike the first example, the amount of approval required by the actual creators is minimized, and could place more power in P!P and the research and development team at TPCi.

3. Print better cards than Town Map, Rotom Dex, and Gladion! The current Creatures staff seems to already realize this, but recycling old ideas from years ago works really well when done right. Gladion in some ways appears to be an attempt to relive this card from Legends Awakened:

However, Azelf is better than Gladion. Why? Well, it essentially combined Gladion and Town Map into one card, letting you correct poor starting situations while at the same time “mapping” out the rest of your game. It also wasn’t a Supporter, meaning you weren’t quite as punished for playing Azelf as you would be for playing Gladion.


As always, thanks for reading! Whether you love the Town Map Mod, love one of its compelling alternatives, or still prefer the status quo to any changes, I’m glad we as an international player base can talk more about rules changes. We have far fewer degrees of separation from the people who make this game than you think, and they’re listening.

The Pokémon Purge, Part One


It’s been about a month after Worlds, and technically two months since the start of the season. Yet I still have an absurd number of old decks that need deleting on the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online program. I would like to give them all a fair shot at surviving in my cache, so today I’ll be starting a new series: the Pokémon Purge, where I take a batch of decks, give them one last shot in Expanded, and then choose whether to keep the decks or delete them for good. I will not go into too many meta decks, except off-the-wall stuff or more outdated concepts, so it should introduce you to some cool Expanded-relevant ideas. Either way, it should be a ton of fun, and maybe inspire some of you to break the format in a way I couldn’t.

Deck #1: “! Worlds 03 Manectric”

As the name implies, this was either a close (if not card-for-card) copy of Grant Manley’s third place list at the 2015 U.S. National Championship. Despite being over two years old and never updated, I still barely lost to a Vespiquen deck. It might not mean much, but in an era with Oricorio and Karen, Mega Manectric “might” be able to shore up its bad previously poor Night March matchup. I will delete most other M Manectric lists I see, but not this one.

Verdict: Saved

Deck #2: BDM Piloswine

This is the deck I featured in a previous video. That deck will become much better in a couple months with the release of the new Swinub (three Retreat Cost!), so I have a good reason to keep it.

Verdict: Saved

Deck #3:Vileye

This was a pre-Collinsville experiment I had for Decidueye/Vileplume, removing Forest of Giant Plants and instead relying on hard evolutions alongside Tropical Beach for draw. It’s a little clunky, but with a couple changes I think I could give this deck an unholy revival.

Verdict: Saved

Deck #4: BDM Whiscash/Pidgeot

This was also for a Bad Deck Monday video, but was a non-synergetic piece of trash mostly generated by the Deck Wizard.

Verdict: Purged

Decks #5 and #6: Butterfree / Butterfree1

The idea of the Butterfree line in Expanded is interesting. Now that Forest of Giant Plants is banned, the Adaptive Evolution Ability is the exclusive means by which you can evolve into a Grass Stage Two by the first turn.

Unfortunately, most Butterfree cards aren’t that good, so at the time I made this deck, the bug’s sole purpose was to be a fast way for Miltank to deal big Damage turn one via the Powerful Friends Attack. There have since been two more Butterfree cards released, but they’re all interchangeable in a deck like this.

The list is horrendously outdated, but even if it were optimized through Burning Shadows I doubt it would be enough to make it a good deck. This list stands no chance to survive, but it would make a great choice in case you’re trying to complete a Grass Evolution challenge on PTCGO!

Butterfree1 was an accidental cloning, so it needed to be deleted from the start.

Verdicts: Purged and Purged

Deck #7: Charizard Stall

This was…a thing. I’m not sure if I could call it a deck – perhaps an impulse at best. Whatever this started out as, it never really looked that great at its finishing point. Perhaps an M Charizard EX deck isn’t that unreasonable now that Kiawe is in the format. Regardless, this deck as it currently exists doesn’t deserve to live.

Verdict: Purged

Deck #8: Dogma

Similar to the Grant Manley Manectric above, this was also a “rely-on-Manectric-but-crutch-with-a-neat-secondary-attacker” concept, only this time the secondary attacker is Primal Groudon EX. Primal Groudon actually cleaned up a lot of the matchups Manectric seemed to struggle against, but it was definitely clunky and ultimately scrapped. While I have made a mental note of Maxie’s/Groudon being a potentially viable option in the right deck, this list brings few unique offerings to the table and so will be scrapped.

Verdict: Purged

Deck #9: Eggs Deckout

This…I love this deck. It needs a ton of updates, but Ninjask/Exeggutor could easily join the ranks of toxic decks such as Sylveon, Wailord, and Durant. In this concept, you rely on a slow, brutal combination of Ninjask for chipping away at the deck, Exeggutor to lock down an otherwise great hand, and then Bunnelby PRC for closing deck-out.

If you play this list as-is, it will probably lose a ton, and of the games it does win you will likely only be off a card or two from decking out yourself. But I would add all of the great new cards to come out since Roaring Skies, including Guzma, Brigette, and especially Team Rocket’s Handiwork. There might even be a place for Delinquent here!

Verdict: Saved

Deck #10: “Evolution Garbage”

This was a Fairy/Dragon Evolution deck with zero Energy or any other method of winning. Its sole purpose was to give me lots of Evolutions toward the “Put 10 Fairy/Dragon Pokémon into play” challenges I had on queue – methods by which to get free stuff on PTCGO.

Since there’s no use for a deck like this anymore, I think it’s time to put the garbage…in the dump.

Verdict: Purged

Deck #11: Hex Lock

Immediately when Ancient Origins came out, I sought to make a deck that would spam Hex Maniac into oblivion. Enter Hex Lock: a unique agro deck centered entirely around playing Hex Maniac every turn (with limited exception). I also ran a few Xerosics so as to throw off Seismitoad decks, which would otherwise be unwinnable.

Unfortunately, “unwinnable” appeared to be a highly applicable word to just about every other matchup with Hex Lock. I dropped the idea, and after dealing out a couple games of it in the modern era, will abandon it for now.

Verdict: Purged

Deck #12: Alakazam Crobat

I think it’s fair to say that since Sun and Moon came out, each new set has had a new deck emerge as the “best in format.” However, nothing was as dominant or as scary as Decidueye/Vileplume’s reign prior to Guardians Rising, and so the metagame was trending in an unhealthy direction. Enter Alakazam/Crobat, an idea that had a pretty decent Decidueye matchup, but is by no means equipped to handle a format with Garbodor. The second game I dealt with it showed as much, meaning it’s time to let go of this iteration of Alakazam, even if there is some potential to be found in it later.

Verdict: Purged

 Deck #13: Brilliant Arrow

The first and perhaps only list on the chopping block that’s 100% up to date with Burning Shadows. Truthfully I’m unsure if this deck has any good matchups, but it has a less common approach (read: slow) to winning games in the current ultra-fast Expanded format, so it brings something to my deck arsenal other decks don’t.

Verdict: Saved, but perhaps worth purging soon

Deck #14: Bronzong/Solgaleo

Bronzong/Solgaleo was an idea briefly played around with by Andrew Wamboldt. The list needs some tweaks to adapt to Burning Shadows, but the list deals out well and I want at least a couple Bronzong decks in my Expanded library.

Verdict: Saved

Deck #15: Delinquent Mew

A half-baked idea I had about destroying an opponent’s opening hand when going second:

1. Use Red Card
2. Play a Stadium and Delinquent
3. Either use or copy Whiny Voice

It has a ton of neat aspects and could probably be reimagined by some clever deckbuilder, but the current version is just awful. Couldn’t win a game when I made it, and can’t win a game now!

Verdict: Purged

Deck #16: Flygon/Dusknoir

I’ve been messing around with Flygon variants ever since the card first came out. I never made a deep run at a big tournament with it, or even became synonymous with the card, but it’s been a favorite all the way back to the days of This list was a particularly bad take on the card; a gimmick to see if I could pull it off with zero energy. I could win some games, but not many, and so it fell to the wayside.

Normal lists run Double Colorless Energy and Accelgor. I don’t know how much I like Deck and Cover over just Tropical Beaching as many times as possible and then closing with a big attacker, but this must be updated and kept around. If I could call Brilliant Arrow a “unique” win condition, then the Flygon family of decks is beyond unique.

Verdict: Saved (but desperately needs to be made into a good list)

Deck #17: Garchomp DRX/Altaria DRX

(I actually don’t own four of the Sleep Swablu.)

One of my bad habits while having fun on PTCGO is cloning decks from formats and putting them into places they shouldn’t be. Obviously this is a very old list, and obviously it’s very bad as-is. Thanks to Dragon Call Gabite, Garchomp DRX is still among the most consistent Stage Two decks in the game, but it still isn’t that impressive a deck. For now I’m going to delete this, even though I can envision myself remaking it at a later point in time.

Verdict: Purged

Deck #18: Haymaker

Nothing to see here – just a cute idea I threw together for fun when Evolutions first came out. Figured you might like to see what a new-age Haymaker would look like, but it’s obviously unplayable.

Verdict: Purged harder than the most violent scene in any of the Purge movies

Deck #19: Landybats

Same song; same dance. While many of the original features of the Landybats build need updating (especially that Stadium), it’s a special member of the spread deck family that needs to be preserved. Should the absolute right metagame come along, it could be pretty decent!

Verdict: Saved past its expiration date

 Deck #20: Mew Tech

The final deck that was on the chopping block for today’s Pokémon Purge is a goofy Mew FCO tech deck I recently made, and I honestly consider this a high-note for an article about otherwise awful ideas. With a few tweaks this could convincingly beat many well-established decks. I have a lot of work before this could even hope to be a threat for the upcoming Regionals, but I’m excited to no end about its possibilities, which are technically infinite.

Verdict: Saved like a first class child on the Titanic

Next Episode Preview!

I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing it! I hope to make this a series until I’ve deleted all of the overly bad decks in my profile, so for now I’d like to tease you guys with just some of the lists we’ll cover next time:

*Virtually banned ideas given a last chance (Owls aren’t the only things hurt by losing Forest)

*A Durant with a few screws loose

*Wailord’s revenge

*Infinite HP

Approaches to Deck Selection, and a Tale of Three Cities

Follow me on Twitter @Calchexas!

We’re in the thick of the new season already, and League Cup attendance is blowing up across the United States. With every tournament being a bloodbath, I think now it’s more important than ever to get a good feel for the reasons we choose decks. Deck selection is more important in Pokemon than most card games, as slight metagame and card choice decisions can rapidly change the course of your tournament.

These three different decks represent three very different approaches to deck selection. While I will briefly discuss the lists and some of the more interesting choices, this post’s focus is first and foremost about the different ways we arrive at deck choice in Pokemon TCG.

A Brief Description of Deck Selection Methods

Not including the “choose-the-one-in-the-middle- method.

Before we get into the three decks I played or their results, I want to discuss briefly some of the most common ways people choose their decks in Pokemon. They range from being arbitrary, to pragmatic, to downright silly.

Use What You Know (UWUK Method ®):  These are the decks that are your staples; your favorites; your all-time greats. Whether you played them for half a season or half a decade, you feel confident in your ability to win games and comfortable in your ability to adapt to changing circumstances. It’s hard to imagine you not being a threat with these decks, and in some cases the card is synonymous with you. This method ranges in effectiveness, and in your local metagame it might actually preclude you from ever winning a tournament, but at the Regional and National levels it can work beautifully. Worlds is a different question, and after having had a range of successes and failures at that event over the years, I can tell you that the UWUK method doesn’t work as well there unless the deck you are using is just that busted. A key distinction between UWUK and Netdeck is that unlike Netdecking, UWUK is an art form you’ve developed, and is quite often the originator of concepts other people netdeck.


Early Adaptation: Unlike the UWUK, Early Adaptation involves jumping into a new deck for the first time. Sometimes you may test this heavily all on your own; other times a friend might just pass you the list and you do well with it. There’s certainly overlap with other methods, but the key factor here is jumping into a relatively new, potentially unprecedented deck idea because you think it will succeed.

Format Adaptation: Format adaptation is when you take a concept and convert it to a new format. Sometimes this overlaps with the UWUK Method, but it generally doesn’t. Remember that the essence of this method isn’t so much about comfort, but about breathing new life into a concept, as well as opening up surprising possibilities. This can be a less personal choice than UWUK because many players who do this think it’s the best play, but it can also be because whatever you want to play is really fun in its new form. You can convert a Standard deck to Expanded, an Expanded deck to Standard, or even an old Standard deck into a new season’s Standard.

Netdecking: Just find a list online and take it – it’s that simple. Sometimes you can get these from friends and just tweak them a little; other times you can lift them from a YouTube channel, article, or the official website. The key element of Netdecking, even if you technically didn’t find it on the internet, is that you’ve selected a deck with no real thought other than “this looks cool/good/strong for the metagame, therefore I want to try it.” Although this is perhaps one of the more stigmatized methods of deck selection, there’s really nothing bad about it.

Sacrificial Lamb/Poor Man’s Pokemon: Resources are limited, so when you’re traveling with a family or a significant other, there’s a high chance someone will get stuck with the worse cards and thus the cheaper deck – hence sacrificial lamb. A closely related variant to this is Poor Man’s Pokemon, which is simply not having enough resources yourself.

Usually this means not owning vital chase cards, and is almost always a suboptimal decision, but occasionally you can make the best out of a bad situation and play a strong, inexpensive deck. Nevertheless, it’s also an option strapped-for-cash parents should strongly consider, whether that means giving your child a simpler but less expensive deck, or relegating yourself to the binder drop.

Choose Your Favorites: This one ends up as being no more or less than pure appeal to aesthetics or mechanics. You will find that this approach is surprisingly more common in competitive Pokemon than you would think, even among the best players.

Apparently, no one told Karen that her “favorites” have mostly awful cards in the TCG.

My Deck Selection Philosophy

Historically, my deck selection philosophy has been simple: play what I think has the highest chance of winning a tournament. To that end, I am a huge fan of early adaptation which appeals to my inner scrub in a way almost no other approach would. This can be detrimental for me, since my timing can occasionally be poor.

However, every rule has an exception. Generally I like using riskier or goofier things at tournaments I don’t take seriously, and last season I religiously applied the UWUK method to Decidueye/Vileplume, enjoying one of my best seasons ever (despite relatively low attendance).

Perhaps in the future I can apply a better balance of these approaches, keeping an old favorite for a few tournaments yet ditching it for something better at the right time.

Sample Approaches of Deck Selection

Listed below are three successful local applications of very different deck selection methods.

City #1: Fort Worth, TX
Format: Standard Worlds 2017 (Primal Clash – Burning Shadows)
Deck Selection: Decidueye GX/Vileplume AOR/Ninetales GX
Method: UWUK
Record and final placing: 4-1-1 (5-2-1 final; 3rd place)

The Rowlet and Decidueye GX in the middle were in my prizes…the good kind.

Analysis:  For anyone following this blog since the beginning of the year, you know I have a very long relationship with the Decidueye GX/Vileplume AOR deck. With the impending Standard rotation and the upcoming ban of Forest of Giant Plants in Expanded, I saw this as my final opportunity to use an old favorite of mine. I also viewed it as an opportunity to redeem my somewhat mediocre record of 4-1-3 at the Anaheim Open, so my motivations were entirely personal and incidentally related to making the optimal play. My final placing was good, but I think if I were more focused on an “optimal” play over satisfying some arbitrary urge to see my deck succeed where it previously didn’t, I might’ve had a higher chance of winning.

City #2: Oak Cliff, TX (Dallas)
Format: Expanded 2017 (Black and White – Burning Shadows)
Deck Selection: Golisopod GX/Garbodor GRI
Method: Format Adaptation
Record and final placing: 4-0-2 (7-0-2; 1st place)

The empty sleeves are two Golisopod GX.

Analysis: Between Worlds and Hurricane Harvey, I was about 50/50 on actually going to Fort Wayne. One idea I was brainstorming with Kirk Dube of Super Rodcast fame was adapting Golisopod/Garbodor for the Expanded format. Blend Energy Grass/Fire/Psychic/Dark exists in this card pool, making Trashalanche and First Impression much more consistent attacks. This was personally the most well-planned and prudent deck selection method I’ve exercised this League Cup quarter, and it was also pretty enjoyable to take a proven deck into a foreign metagame. Although I chose not to go to Ft. Wayne due to wanting to stay close to the area, I did take this bad boy to a League Cup and subsequently won undefeated. It was also nice to see it do well in Ft. Wayne, too.

City #3: Houston, TX
Format: Standard (Breakthrough – Burning Shadows)
Deck Selection Xerneas BKT
Method: Net decking
Record and final placing: 5-1-1 (7-2-1; 2nd place)

The Naruto is a Xerneas.

Analysis: A few days before this event, I had seen a Standard version of Rainbow Road circulated by none other than At first I discounted it – I was putting up incredible testing results with Decidueye/Ninetales and saw no reason not to use that. However, it dawned on me that I was about to enter my old habit of using nothing but Decidueye, and that was not something I wanted. My romance with that deck was an exception to the general rule that’s always worked for me, which is to be versatile and always comfortable to use different things. In other words, the UWUK method is not my normal comfort zone. So to break out of that cycle, get my versatility back, and have some fun, I decided to play what I at the time considered to be a crackpot idea in the form of Rainbow Road.

So with zero testing I took Wamboldt’s list, changed a couple cards, and played it with almost no prior experience. My errors with the deck felt very minimal, but that’s probably more attributable to the deck being easy than anything else. In the end I just barely came up short, and had things gone a little bit differently I actually would have won. Although I might cut a Kukui or two in case I run this again, it was very exciting to use a deck I had zero expectations for. It would have been nice to max out my League Cup points with a win, but this deck has reinvigorated my excitement for the new Standard.


I hope today’s entry gave you a new angle on some ways to select decks you either might not have considered, or may have discounted at some point.

How do you choose your decks? Do you take your old favorites or try to reinvent the wheel? Leave me a comment below.