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!

Introduction

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.

Preparation

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.

Conclusion

Victory!

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!

Introduction

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.

Conclusion

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


Introduction

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 PlayTCG.me. 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.

UwU

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 Pokemon.com 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)
List:

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)
List:

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)
List:

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 TheCharizardLounge.com. 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.

Conclusion

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.

Player Interview: Diego Cassiraga (Español)

Diego ganó Pokemon, o Battletoads?

Prólogo + Historia

Bienvenidos, entrenadores! Soy John y ahora mismo estoy entrevistando un viejo amigo, y el campeón del mundial – DIEGO CASSIRAGA!

KETTLER:  Cuando empezaste a jugar Pokemon?

DIEGO: Juego Pokemon desde el 2001 mas o menos, pero desde el 2005 que se juega competitivamente en Argentina. Y salvo dos o tres temporadas que estuve un poco alejado, generalmente jugué todas.

KETTLER: Además de tu victoria en el torneo del mundial, cuales son tus otros logros?

DIEGO: 5 veces campeón nacional de Argentina + 2 veces top 4 Nacional Argentina, 2007 top 8 del Mundial, 2009 top 8 del Mundial, 2017 Internationals LATAM top 8, gane el Regional Argentina 2017 y obtuve el 3er puesto en el Regional de Chile 2017.

KETTLER: Eres un viejo como yo! Cual es tu formato favorito? Por qué? Que piensas con respecto a este formato? (Este formato = el formato del Mundial.)

DIEGO: Si, jaja, viva la vieja escuela! En mi recuerdo, en los formatos más viejos (2007-2009) la habilidad prevalecía sobre la suerte. En los últimos años el factor suerte incidió mucho en el resultado, pero en los últimos meses, incluyendo el formato actual, la habilidad vuelve a ser el factor más importante.

El Mazo


KETTLER: Yo estudie tu mazo antes de este entrevista. Cuales fueron tus motivaciones para jugar 2-1 Octillery, 1 Diancie, y 1 Alolan Vulpix?

DIEGO:

Diance: sentía que era muy bueno contra Deciplume, y Ninetales Decidueye, pero al no tener float stone en el mazo, muchas veces tardaba demasiado en usarlo para armar mi juego. Ahí es donde entra en acción Alolan Vulpix. Si empiezo yo, trato de usar Diance, uniendo energía para atacar en el segundo turno. Si empieza mi oponente, mi plan de juego se basaba en Vulpix. 2-1Octillery me parece el numero perfecto. 2-2 es demasiado y 1-1 es muy poco lol

KETTLER: Hay alguna carta que crees que te ayudó más que otra? Osea, una Estrella.

DIEGO: Alolan Vulpix, y en segundo lugar Gallade.

KETTLER: Que piensas con respecto al mirror — jugando en contra de otros Gardevoirs?

DIEGO: Contra mirror, usaba Acerola y ayudaba mucho tener un set up rápido. Por eso mi mazo tenía 3 Kirlia, para poder usar los rare candy después del Acerola

KETTLER: Me gustaban los tres Kirlia. Que piensas con respeto a Hex Maniac?

DIEGO: Lo puse para jugar contra mirror, Greninja, Volcanion, Decidueye. Muchos mazos dependen de sus abilities para poder devolver el golpe.

El Torneo

KETTLER:  Hiciste alguna cosa diferente esta temporada distinto de otras temporadas? O crees que te beneficiaste gracias a un formato de habilidad? O una combinacion?

DIEGO: Yo creo que al tener los internacionales, regionales con premios económicos importantes en toda la zona, y tener que jugar muchos más torneos que antes, hizo que los jugadores, incluyéndome a mi, se mantengan más activos durante toda la temporada. Eso me ayudó para el mundial. En temporadas anteriores, mi último torneo importante en argentina, antes del mundial era el nacional en mayo. Había mucho tiempo inactivo, sin torneos importantes.

KETTLER: Entonces viajando a todos partes para jugar Pokemon

DIEGO: jaja, la combinación perfecta, viajar y jugar pokemon

KETTLER: Dame un reporte rápido de tu torneo. Con quien y que jugaste? Con quien tenias los juegos más difíciles durante el torneo?

DIEGO:

Ronda 1 vs decidueye/ninetales WLW
Ronda 2 vs waevile,golisopod/koko/espeon ex WLW
Ronda 3 vs golisopod/garbodor whit rainbow (naoto susuki) LL
Ronda 4 vs golisopod/garbodor sin rainbow LWW
Ronda 5 vs volcanion WLW
Ronda 6 vs golispod/ garbodor sin rainbow (streaming) WW
Ronda 7 vs espeon garbodor WW
Ronda 8 ID

Top 8 vs gardevoir WW
Top 4 vs espeon garbodor WW
Final vs Golisopod/garbodor con rainbow WW

Mis juegos mas dificiles eran en contra de Naoko Suzuki. La Ronda segunda también fue complicada.

KETTLER: Por que complicada?

DIEGO: Tapu koko+Weavile+ Golispod = mucho daño por pocas energías, y despues Espeon EX terminaba el partido.

KETTLER: Pero aun con eso encontraste una respuesta, verdad? Sospecho que Acerola te ayudó mucho.

DIEGO: Los 3 Kirlia, Acerola, y la Wonder Energy.

KETTLER: Pero a pesar de todo, eres el campeón del mundial! Dime exactamente como te sentías en la plataforma con los otros campeones – que pasaba por tu mente?

DIEGO: jaja no lo podría creer, no caigo todavía, ver la ceremonia de cierre, pero esta vez del otro lado!! me venía eso a la cabeza, con las luces y todo, no se ve el público, y pensaba eso, hoy estaba yo de ese lado.

Misceláneo


KETTLER: Que haces cuando no juegas cartas de Pokemon? Trabajo, otras actividades, y ya?

DIEGO: soy bibliotecario escolar en 2 escuelas y tengo un bar.

trabajo en la biblioteca de 2 escuelas primarias

KETTLER: Que wey! Puedes mandarme una foto de tu bar?

DIEGO: Es un Ruby Tuesday – https://www.facebook.com/rubytuesday.bar

KETTLER: Es bien padre que juegas y viajas con tu esposa. Muchas felicidades para tu familia nueva – conociste a Maia por Pokemon, o ella entró al juego por ti?

DIEGO: Muchas gracias!! Trate de que ella jugara, jugó algunos torneos, pero le gusta mas darme ordenes, digo ser jueza jaja. y empezó su carrera de jueza, y es mucho mejor jueza que yo jugador jajaja creo q yo la sigo a ella a los torneos jajajaja.

KETTLER: Como ustedes mantienen conflictos de intereses cuando ella esta juzgandote? Hay otro juez en esas situaciones?

DIEGO: generalmente hay otros jueces, y ella por lo general no juzga mi mesa cuando es posible, igual casi nunca llamo a un juez o algo, no es algo normal en mi juego. ella siempre dice que por suerte no le doy problemas. ☺

Yo con el campeon futuro y su esposa! (2014, cuando no tenía una barba)

KETTLER: Cual es la fecha de parto del bebé? Tienes planes hacerlo/hacerla un campeon tambien? 😛

DIEGO: jajaja 30 de Septiembre. Es un varon, primero tratare que sea jugador como el papa jajajaja.

KETTLER: Muchas gracias, Diego!

Highlights of Anaheim: Analysis of the Top Eight Masters’ Decklists

-HeyTrainer.org: In-depth analysis and competitive content for the Pokemon Trading Card Game-

Introduction

Congratulations to the top finishers of this year’s World Championships! 2016-2017 will go down as one of the most momentous, eventful seasons ever, so a bit of reflection on the big show would be worth all of our times. Today I’ll be looking over the top eight decks, with emphasis placed on in-depth analysis of the three archetypes that shined the most.

Let me be clear: Despite Standard rotating, these results and deckbuilding principles are still 100% relevant to the 2017-2018 season! Worlds may be over, but Ft. Wayne is in less than two weeks, and the Standard season is about to kick off with Connecticut Regionals. Therefore, the constant year-round Pokemon TCG season makes it essential to develop good deckbuilding principles and metagame reads.

Dr. Mason says, “Oooooh…I’m predicting a theme deck metagame for next year’s Worlds!”

Gardevoir GX

Diego Cassiraga 

Pablo Meza

Overall Impressions: Going into Worlds I felt bullish about Gardevoir GX’s day one prospects, but less confident in its Day Two hopes. While the results of Worlds Day One informed the Anaheim Open competitors well enough to keep Gardevoir from winning that event, in Day Two it successfully brought home $30,000 to Latin America, placing 1st and 7th respectively.

If you’re a big HeyTrainer blog fan, you’ll notice that Diego’s list looks pretty similar to the sample build we posted last week. However, the six cards’ difference are actually very important, and communicate to me a veteran who perfected is winning deck.

Gardevoir Line: Diego runs a thick Gardevoir/Gallade line, as have other lists. This is to guarantee that he gets out two or more Ralts line Pokemon by the third turn. It’s also a metagame decision because of the prevalence of Vileplume AOR and to minimize the number of items used against Garbodor GRI decks.

2-1 Octillery, 1 Diancie, 1 Alolan Vulpix, 3 Tapu Lele GX: I’ll analyze all of these in a group because I think this is the key to what makes Diego’s championship-winning list superior to our sample list.

When constructing a finalized deck list, players seek to build something that has the most outs to bad hands as possible – and by “bad hands” I mean unplayable ones. Here, Diego runs four immediate outs through his Pokemon alone, and when combined with his full Trainer line runs a cool 16 outs: 3 Tapu Lele, 1 Alolan Vulpix, 7 draw Supporters, 1 Brigette, and 4 Ultra Ball. Start piling on the cards you can’t always use instantly but are still helpful, such as Diancie/Gallade/Octillery, and you’ve got what’s sure to be a consistent, fun Worlds deck to buy in a couple months.

One difference between this list and others is Diego’s 2-1 Octillery line. I like this over a thick 2-2 or a 1-1 because the 2-1 is less space, yet at the same time far more reliable than a 1-1, which is much more prone to be prized. I believe a 2-1 line was the best call in hindsight.

Pure Guzma over Lysandre/Guzma split: Although I was mostly an advocate for pure Guzma over the Lysandre/Guzma split, which turned out to be the correct call, it’s in this single deck where I did not make that decision. Diego did however, and for all the consistency additions, it makes sense not to want three luring effects.

Acerola: Acerola became an essential tech in Gardevoir builds, and in my mind is probably what gave Gardevoir players wiggle room against the normally difficult Decidueye matchup. It’s also a great choice in any Gardevoir build for either Standard or Expanded because it encourages swarming while also protecting resources.

Wonder Energy: Wonder Energy is an example of a card that probably made a big difference in early rounds, but became less impactful as the event progressed. In my opinion it works better in a list like Pablo’s with Teammates, whereas in Diego’s list you’re sort of forced to just draw into it at the right moment. There’s a calculated risk involved in that, such as running a singe Field Blower in Decidueye, but expect it to not help as much most games. However, in Expanded I’d expect it to be much more reliable, as everyone and their mother runs Computer Search.

Overall Differences between Diego’s and Pablo’s Lists: Both lists are world-class, yet they each stand for two sides in the classic war between consistency and teching. In Pokemon, where you can’t change your cards between games, every choice counts, and as a result you see an interesting situation where the most consistent and best-teched concepts usually rise to the top. There’s no clear answer which is better, but in a one-event format such as Worlds, where the Gardevoir GX mirror is still relatively young, the cards that get you set up will go a long way.

Golisopod/Garbodor

Naoto Suzuki

Sho Sasaki

Overall impressions:  It looks like I underestimated Golisopod’s chances heavily! With the most appearances of any deck in the top four and a stone’s throw away from the title, Golisopod/Garbodor is yet another strong Stage One deck in the game’s history.

Consistency vs Teching, Part Two: These two lists are remarkably similar, but for the fact that Sho’s list has more tech attackers while Naoto’s has thicker lines of the main attackers. Thick lines of primary attackers is another side to consistency, in that you minimize the number of situations where you fail to draw into an important card. I don’t know how these gentlemen’s top four match went, but I’d guess Naoto set up his Wimpods and Garbodors far more easily.

Garbodor BKP Emphasis: Despite the strength of Trashalanche Garbodor, both lists placed it in the backseat over Ability-locking Garbodor BKP. Naoko’s list also supplements his build with a Hex Maniac, helping break through turn one Vileplumes. Personally I’d like a balance between these two approaches: I like the space created by Sho’s list, but like the two Garbodor GRI and Hex Maniac of Naoko’s.

Sho’s Choice of Tech Basics: This in my eyes will be the unsung “what if” scenario of Worlds 2017. Between Garbodor GX and especially Magearna EX, Sho had a couple unique choices that could have put in a lot of work against Gardevoir – something a more streamlined build could not. Had Naoko’s list included the Magearna, or had Sho’s list been marginally better against the mirror, we might have seen a completely different World Champion.

Normal Garbodor Variants

Xander Pero

Jimmy Pendarvis

Sam Chen

Reiji Nishiguchi

Overall Impression: In my “Big Five” article last week, I predicted that if Garbodor benefited from heavy use and favorable metagame matchups, it would do well. I was more or less right about this prediction, although after talking with Sam, Xander, and Jimmy, each of their schedules featured some very unusual decks – namely the surprise Salazzle GX/Ho-Oh X and Golisopod GX/Garbodor builds. Xander was even paired down to a M Scizor deck, which is surprisingly good when considering Xander runs a Flareon AOR to change his Pokemon’s typing to Fire.

I distinguish these decks from the Golisopod builds because Trashalanche is only a side focus there. But considering that 3/4 of the Top Eight consisted of some sort of Garbodor presence, I underestimated its overall effectiveness on the day.

Every variant shined: Between Espeon and Drampa, as well as the “surprise” Necrozma/Tapu Koko build which saw success in Japan’s younger age groups, metagame factors helped propel all three versions of Garbodor into top cut. I think Espeon variants in particular shined because they did the best versus the emergent field, which included the above Ho-Oh, Golisopod, and Gardevoir decks: Ho-Oh and Gardevoir are at risk of Espeon GX KOs via Psychic, and Golisopod becomes Weak to Fire thanks to Flare Effect. Drampa succeeded because it was being piloted by one of the more experienced Drampa variant users, and I’m unsure what path Reiji and his Necrozma took to clinch his top eight position.

Necrozma was not quite finished: If you’ve played the video games, you can tell that Necrozma’s design is not quite complete. Similarly, the Necrozma variant feels like it is sorely lacking the Tapu Lele promo – a card which was mistakenly allowed into Day One for Japanese players but subsequently excluded from Day Two. The theory of a deck emphasizing spread damage is exciting to see come back, but without the Damage-moving mayhem caused by Tapu Lele’s Magical Swap, it’s not quite there yet.

“The world eagerly awaits my arrival.”

Conclusion

The results of this year’s Worlds were quite memorable, but I doubt the lessons learned from its top finishers will be one-time things. Unlike M Audino’s here-today-gone-tomorrow victory last year, all of these decks will live on in some way for the 2017-2018 season, and I look forward to seeing what’s in store for us next. Hopefully you got something out of what these eight excellent deckbuilders did, and can apply it to your future tournaments!

 

(Deck list images are property of The Pokemon Company International, accessed via https://www.pokemon.com/us/play-pokemon/worlds/2017/tcg-masters on August 24, 2017. All official assets used are used exclusively for the purpose of game commentary.)

 

The Big Five: Favorites to Win Worlds

Introduction

In today’s one and only pre-Worlds article, I briefly highlight five decks I consider to be the “big five” of the 2017 Worlds format. With Worlds just three days away and deck lists for Day One due in two, I figured it’s either now or never to go over the kings of Standard, and give overall forecasts for each.

Deck #1: Gardevoir GX
Winner, Japanese National Championship


Sample Decklist

Pros: Huge damage combined with energy acceleration; has branching Evolutions with multiple options for deck construction.

Cons: Takes too long to setup.

Tech options: Wonder Energy, for Espeon EX and Espeon GX.

Overall impression: This is a good play for Day One, but has an uphill battle headed into Day Two and the Anaheim Open, which will surely be influenced by Day One results. Timing seems critical with this deck, but it is also pretty safe. Probably a good play the whole weekend even if Saturday sees hate against it.


Deck #2: Volcanion
Winner, Oceania International Championship


Sample Decklist
Pros: Fast; huge damage; requires the least setup of the Big Five.

Cons: Linear playstyle; bad fringe matchups; somewhat inflexible.

Hot tech: Choice Band for Garde, mirror, and Garb’s big GX attackers.

Overall impression: Unlike the other four decks on this list, there’s no question it will be hugely popular in all major events at Worlds (Day One, Day Two, Anaheim Open).  I’ve never liked Volcanion all that much, and I may be biased, but I only see it winning Worlds if Day Two is mostly just a Melbourne replay.


Deck #3: Decidueye

Winner, Latin America International Championship


Sample Decklist
Pros: Lots of options; can lock anything out of the game.

Cons: Inconsistent at times; crippled by bad prize combinations; trapped in the same 50-card build.

Hot tech: Jolteon EX for Volcanion. Hard to get out and vulnerable to Turtonator’s Shell Trap, but otherwise the least likely tech Volcanion would counter.

Overall impression: Would you be surprised if you saw me playing it at Worlds? I have nothing further to say.

Deck #4: Greninja
Runner-up, Worlds 2016

Sample Decklist
Pros: Good when it sets up

Cons: Bad when it doesn’t set up

Hot tech: Talonflame BREAK. I wouldn’t even dream of cutting it or Talonflame for Worlds.

Overall impression: Greninja is incredibly well-positioned to win Worlds a year after it lost in Finals. That said, I hope everyone runs it.

Deck #5: Garbodor
Winner, North American International Championship

Sample Decklists

Pros: Insane amounts of options; consistent; stands a good chance of having a good metagame in Day Two.

Cons: Mediocre to bad matchups all over the place.

Hot tech: Vaporeon in Espygarb; any single-copy Supporter in Drampagarb.

Overall: I still think Garb is not well-positioned for Worlds, but it will overperform and maybe win if these five decks comprise 90% or more of the meta.

 
Conclusion

These five decks are by no means the only good decks in the format right now. Some options such as Gyarados shine for Day One, whereas others such as Zoroark can be incredible if the metagame warps in just the right way for Day Two. However, in as wide open and exciting a season such as this one, these five decks are the ones I identify as the  true kings of this season, so it’s no surprise they will be the defining forces headed into Pokemon’s biggest weekend of 2017.

Social Saturdays: The Story of Steve and Aaron Wang, and a TCEvolutions Product Review

Recently, Steve Wang of TCEvolutions offered to send me his new product for review: a rather cool set of metallic damage counters and GX marker.

I offered to do a review of the product; however, in getting to know Steve better, I learned that he had an interesting journey into the game. I think his story is the sort of dismissive attitude countless Pokemon parents take, so I decided to share it with you all, followed of course by my honest product review.


“Turnaround Standby” – TCEvolution’s Journey from Skeptic to Metallic Fanatic
Author: Steve Wang

Hello everyone, my name is Steve Wang and in case you are scratching your head right now because you don’t recognize the name or can’t remember which tournament that I top or won, don’t worry, you are correct in feeling that way.

I am not the usual pro-level players that contribute their tournament wisdom to this blog.  I’m coming to you as a Pokedad whose kid recently got involved in Pokemon TCG. Our journey into Pokemon TCG led us to discover a whole community of very welcoming and helpful people, many of which we became good friends with over the past year.  But I didn’t always hold this positive perception for Pokemon TCG…

Like many kids, my oldest son Aaron has been in love with Pokemon for years, and as a not-too  atypical parent I was sooo against it for years.  I could never understand why my son like them so much (it’s just fancy cardboard paper right?) and why he always needs more cards when he already has hundreds, possibly thousand of cards at home.

Every time when we are walking around shopping at big box stores like Target, we always spend  a lot of time standing in front of the Pokemon cards section, and he almost always will find a tin box, or a theme deck that he “needs.”  It’s a struggle as sometimes I cave in and buy it for him and sometimes I just have to put my foot down and say no (if you’re a parent reading this, you know exactly what I’m describing).  In order to try and get this under control a bit, I told him that I will only get him more cards if he brings home good grades or if it’s a special occasion (birthday or Christmas).

Of course, he turned out to be a great student and continuously brought home good grades, which means the cards just keep piling on. After about two years of collecting cards, my son started asking me to take him to local tournaments, and of course immediately I said, “NO!”  I told him that it is bad enough that he collects the cards, but now he is actually going to waste time and go play with these cards???

(Some great parent I was…)

But one thing about my son Aaron is he is persistent and continued to ask if he can go.  He even figured out where’s the closest league by navigating through the Pokemon website.  In order to try and deter him, I told him I will print the entire Pokemon TCG rule book for him (I believe over 50 pages) and if he can read all of it, understand it, and memorize the rules then we can go….of course he did it and I’m out of excuses not to take him.  Another reason why I said no (and he was not aware of this) was over the years I built a false negative perception of the type of people who are involved in Pokemon TCG.  My office is just down the street from a big collectible marketplace warehouse (Frank n Son’s) and for years I watched people walk into this place, some of which were rather sloppy-looking. Over time I formulated a false image in my head of the types of people involved in this industry.

This all changed when we showed up for our first tournament at a local card shop.  It was on a Wednesday night (a school night, but as luck would have it, they had that Wednesday off for some reason) and since there were no Juniors that night, he was lumped in with the masters, 22 in total.  He sat down in front of his first opponent and the gentlemen was well spoken, very nice to my son and I started to second guess my perception of the people involved in Pokemon.  As I watched my son play, I was amazed at what he was doing:  I watch my 10 year old son play with no help, knowing all the rules (one Energy per turn, one Supporter per turn, etc.) with a deck that he constructed himself by collecting cards meticulously over a long period of time, a few cards here, a few cards there, trading a few friends at school for what he needed (it was Darkrai/Yvetal/Dark Patch) and then proceed to win his first match!

As a father, even if you are not into the game, you are still proud of your kid’s achievement.   After the match the gentlemen was very nice and even started giving tips to my son on how to do better.  There was no hard feelings at all, and I saw my son’s face just light up, smiling, and having a great conversation with the opponent he just beat.  Aaron is usually a quiet and reserved kid so to see him just open up like that and socializing easily it was very delightful for me to see.  As the night went on and with each opponent he plays, everyone was very helpful and willing to give pointers to help with his game, and my perception for the people involved in this game completely changed.

By the time we finished the tournament at 11:00 PM, Aaron finished an amazing 12th out of 22 masters…but what really opened my eyes was it felt like my son found his “world”.  He found what he really enjoyed and he looked like a fish in the water playing this game.  He was all smiles and couldn’t stop talking about it on the drive home.  Some point during the drive home I said to him: “What if instead of fighting you about this card game, dad turn around and support you 100%?”  A moment of silence followed as my son probably couldn’t believe what he just heard.  In disbelief he asked “are you serious?” and I said yes, I’m going to put my full resource behind you and see just how far you can go, and I told him he’s got a talent in this and he should go for it.  I think the kiddo was so excited that night he could hardly sleep.

San Jose Regionals 2016

This turn of event was back in October of 2016 and since then we’ve gone to tournaments big and small, driving as far as 7+ hours to San Jose for the regionals, and we enjoyed together many successes, disappointments, and everything in between.  Aaron racked up a pretty impressive 215 championship points in his first year.   As a father, what I will enjoy the most looking back on this 10 years from now would simply be the time I was able to spend with my son.  We seem to always have great conversation when we are on those drives to tournaments and it really present an opportunity for father and son to bond.

From a parent’s perspective, I am now totally for kids getting involved in Pokemon TCG, and I’m an advocate for it at school when I speak to other parents about it (although I get a lot of odd looks). I proudly say we are involved with Pokemon TCG and we try our best to shine a positive light to the game and the great community people that are involved in it.  We try to help other kids and parents understand the game (Aaron did a presentation in his class after the San Jose regionals), so they don’t have the wrong perception about the game much like I had.

I think parents should take a closer look at the structure of the game before completely writing it off.  The game involves an incredible amount of strategy, patience, math, critical reading and thinking…all of which are great for kids to develop.  I hope in sharing our experience other parents can have a better and clearer understanding of what this game is all about.  I’m not only supporting my son Aaron; I now also actively participate in tournaments and play as well (I’m still a work in progress).  I really enjoy meeting new players and the tournament atmosphere.  Pokemon TCG has now become something our whole family enjoys together.

As a personal lesson learned:  Sometimes it is okay to be a kid with your kid, be on the journey with them, and have fun along the way. You never know just what amazing new experience and opportunity awaits that you probably would not have discovered on your own.

Unsurprisingly, their website is TCEvolutions.com !

TCEvolutions Product Review
Author: John Kettler

Steve and Aaron also conceptualized and created a cool new product for Pokemon TCG: metallic damage counters and GX markers. In fact, we started talking in part because I was impressed with their product while looking at a friend’s Twitter page!

While my review is going to be honest, it should come as no surprise that I really enjoy what they’ve been able to make, and am excited to use these at Worlds. Let’s go step by step though…

I received a custom mix-and-match kit featuring every type of core product in Steve’s arsenal. The kit I received included 14 numbered damage counters: eight ranging from 10-60, four ranging from 70-120, and two with large denominations going up to 230 and 240 (odds and evens). In total you have 1,430 damage in this single lot and I feel like the way that damage is divided offers a ton of versatility in damage placement for as few markers as possible. Contrast that to the normal player who carries around a bag full of dice, and you can see why a product like this makes sense. As far as the actual packaging goes, Steve puts them in some heavy-duty plastic wrap to ensure they get to you in a condition close to how they were originally produced.

You won’t have many, if any problems with tournament legality, since these are clearly damage counter dice and not randomizers. Newer players also run less of a risk of accidentally using these in place of their randomizers because, again, they’re clearly not randomizers since they have no pips like normal dice. Most importantly, all of these are six-sided, meaning it’s very hard for them to be knocked over. (The rules are silent about whether you can use 20-sided dice as damage counters, but just to be safe I would always suggest using six-sided only.)

The visual highlight of the whole package is the gorgeous GX marker. While it’s not too visually dissimilar from the official markers, the choice to keep its design minimalist complements the metallic nature of the marker pretty well. There are also just enough color options where it’s feasible to show off your personality some. Because the majority of my biggest accomplishments in Pokemon TCG involve green Pokemon (Ludicolo, Jumpluff, Accelgor, Vileplume, Decidueye), it was an easy choice to ask for green!

Last of all, the product I received came with a small black pouch. I think the pouch is a great start and a nice throw-in, although possibly too small once you start to add additional supplies like your coin, counters, and so on. This isn’t a big deal though, because I mostly consider it a throw-in.

For the general competitive playerbase, the price tag is workable. As of writing and without including shipping, it’s about $7 for a GX marker, various prices depending on the number of dice you buy, and then $22 for a six-dice/GX Marker combination.  Unlike the custom kit I received, the $22 kit may not include enough dice, especially if you’re an Expanded player using Mega Rayquaza (Sky Field) or Wailord EX (250 HP). I would say, though, that these damage counters should work fine in about 85+% of board states in Standard. I’m not sure if other competitive players who  received TCEvolutions dice for advertising purposes have received just as many as mine, but perhaps Steve might consider selling a value pack identical to this one.

As for the general philosophy of whether to purchase a product like this, it depends. Most of us just use dice and other things we find laying around, but for peace of mind it’s really nice not to have to shuffle around your bag to find the right stuff. It’s also a no-brainer purchase for someone already going full-foil, max rarity on their decks – it’s probably the classiest-looking damage counter product I’ve seen, and fits the aesthetic of a money deck incredibly well.

In conclusion, the TCEvolutions Dice/GX Marker combo is incredibly cool, and I’m excited to start using it. If you get the same 14 damage dice and marker I did, you’ll also be able to cover nearly any foreseeable board state. While I have some small criticisms about the pouch and some ideas on how TCEvolutions can enhance the product, Steve and Aaron are definitely using their sophisticated understanding of the player base to give us some really cool stuff.

P.S. See you at Worlds, guys!

 

Secret Wonders: A Survey of Worlds-Level Players and Secrecy

A fitting name for one of the game’s greatest sets.

Worlds is a little more than a week away, and the deadline to turn in deck lists for Day One is even closer. With a new set just out, we’re sure to see a lot of incredible surprises as soon as the first round.

But what of that? Just how big of a deal are secrets in the Pokémon TCG? Scroll down, dear reader, and I’ll tell you why…

Why Understanding Secrecy in Pokémon is Important

Yesterday we discussed the reasons why metagaming is important. You can read that article here, but basically little choices go an incredibly long way in Pokémon TCG – arguably more than in any other game. Players in Pokémon therefore rely on secrecy to hide their little and big choices from the competition, so understanding this thought process from some of the game’s best players is something I think is worthwhile.

A Survey of Secrets: Discussion and Analysis

In less than 48 hours, I was able to obtain and analyze the opinions of 27 Worlds-qualified players about secrets, mostly American and European. Below is the post I made, including seven questions and relevant explanations:

“This poll is designed to better understand the competitive community’s attitudes when it comes to secrecy about decks, techs, lists, and metagame. The answers themselves serve as useful competitive content, but I’ll also be analyzing the responses to write a HeyTrainer blog entry for Thursday. I will be factoring in all answers received by end of day on Wednesday.
(Anyone should feel free to answer, but I’ll only be factoring in Worlds competitors’ responses for the blog post.)

***Definition – “Secret, secretive,” and other variations of the word “secret” refer to withholding opinions and knowledge from almost all other players.

-Q1: Which day are you qualified for Worlds?
-Q2: How many years have you played competitively? “Competitively” means when you started attending any Play! Pokémon events other than prereleases.
-Q3: On a scale of 1-10, with “1” being not secretive at all and “10” being extremely secretive, how secretive do you think other Worlds competitors are being prior to this year’s World Championships?
-Q4: On a scale of 1-10, with “1” being not secretive at all and “10” being extremely secretive, how secretive do you think the competitive community is in general?
-Q5: On a scale of 1-10, with “1” not effective at all and “10” being extremely effective, how effective do you think it is to keep decks, techs, lists, and/or metagame calls secret?
-Q6: Do you perceive a particular age division, country, or player base as the “most secretive”? If so, please name the country or player base and explain why.
-Q7: What are your overall thoughts about secrecy in the competitive Pokémon TCG?”

Results
Q1 Sample Pool: 27 Worlds-qualified players (6 automatically qualified for Day Two)
Q2 median time playing competitively: 6 years (five players have played competitively for at least a decade)
Q3 median: 6 (most responses were 6 or above)
Q4 median: 5 (most stayed near the middle)
Q5 median: 7 (most responses were 7 or above; 5 people answered “10”)
Q6 discussion: See below
Q7 discussion: see below

Some responses were nuanced, which is good, but for the purposes of simplicity I assigned a few numbers based off my interpretation of the responses. So if someone gave me two numbers, I would in some cases take the higher number, or an average of the two numbers depending on what they said.

Analysis

Question 2: Most of our respondents are veteran players, having played competitively for a significant portion of their lives. And while I did not ask for player ages, I could tell nearly everyone who responded was 30 or under, meaning the average respondent has been on the competitive circuit for at least 20% of their lives. These are mostly people who have both seen the game grow over a solid period of time, and likewise have grown up with the game.

Question 3: Overall, Worlds-caliber players consider their competition as being somewhat more secretive than normal. I think this is in part explained by the answers in Question 5, which reveal that these same Worlds-level players think secret-keeping is highly effective.

Question 4: Our 27 Worlds qualifiers for the most part consider their peers in the general community to be secretive, but not quite as secretive as their fellow invitees. My interpretation is that the only reason Questions 3 and 4 had different results was specifically because of the prestige of the event.

Question 5: Overall, the Worlds players who responded consider secret-keeping to be very effective. Several of the explanations emphasized the importance of the tournament which makes sense – if a small amount of variance can mean the difference between $25,000 and $0, then edges along the margins matter!

Question 6: This is where things get very interesting. Of the 27 responses, I gave everyone a chance to call out a specific group they considered secretive. Here are the ones who got called out for one reason or another, and I’ll help break it down…

*Top 16 North American players
*Small Testing Groups
*Denmark
*Elite players
*Japan
*Europe
*Juniors
*Seniors
*Masters
*Masters in the U.S.

*Top 16 North American Masters: Variations of this answer all referred to the players who finished, and more or less stayed in the top 16 Masters in North America. These players received quarterly stipends to travel to each International Championship, and ultimately received automatic Day Two invitations along with additional trip stipends. Between the responses I read, and what I’ve personally heard online/in real life, many consider this group to be very “clique-y.” This has resulted in some distrust and belief that between special top 16 Facebook chats  and dramatic accounts of 2-3 top 16 players running off from their roommates, they are making a concerted effort to maintain secrets from the rest of the playing population.

As someone who’s been a part of secretive groups, and personally knows almost everyone a part of this group, I can tell you this is overblown. This misconception is mostly because the top 16 North American Masters are clique-y – but how are you not going to become clique-y when traveling around the world with these people who share your culture and nationality? And while I have yet to earn the street cred to be welcomed into the Valhalla that is the Top 16 Group Chat, I can guess that most of what they discuss is unrelated to decks or techs – probably some combination of obsessive figures related to maintaining their Top 16 status, girly gossip, and memes.


*Elite players in general: A couple people suggested elite players as a whole are uniquely secretive. This actually makes a little more sense if you consider that these 27 players also consider secret-keeping highly effective. Of course, nothing makes more sense than…

*Small Testing Groups: This is in my mind the best explanation for secret-keeping in the Pokémon TCG. Whether you look at the Top 16, elite players, or even your local league, you find the deepest and most effective maintenance of secrets when it’s a small testing group. Usually you will see these groups in the form of teams, but it’s not always that simple.

***Networks: However, oftentimes teams and testing groups “link” to one-another with a few shared members, resulting in a larger network of elite players, which to an outsider may be mistaken for a larger group. For example, at Mexico City Regionals, Michael Pramawat, Sam Chen, Kenny Britton, Ben Potter, and I roomed together. We also hid nothing and knew pretty much what each other was using. To an outsider with imperfect information, this would look like we were highly organized, when in fact we were only a network of different factions:

-The Pram/Potter/Ramey homestead
-X-Files
-Top 16 clique
-Cali crew
-Lone wolf (myself, who for several years hasn’t had a dedicated team or testing group)

To be honest, none of us were trying too hard to be secretive with other people, but it’s still a good example where a “testing group” breaks down and becomes a network, if for only one event. So testing groups are certainly the best explanation for secrecy at the individual level, but it is not always a rigid thing.


*Age groups: This seems like a wash, because I had two responses for the younger age groups and two for the Masters (one specifying the U.S. Masters in particular). However, the issue is worth examining because there’s at least some suspicion the secret-keeping differs depending on age group…

Yesterday we also discussed some of the shadier, overly aggressive tactics the younger age groups and their parents use against each other to get an edge. Oftentimes these include secret-keeping, and unsurprisingly this secret-keeping can become just as toxic. A particular Poke dad who used to play in an area of mine – let’s call him Lanky Larry – made a habit of asking as many Masters players as possible about the movements of other younger age group players, so he could best protect his son’s secrets while at the same time attempt to fish for as much information as possible. While this sort of behavior is certainly possible in Masters, Lanky Larries are a real and constant threat to the Spirit of the Game, and are an example when secret-keeping goes too far.

*Countries and continents: This is a little bit more absurd, but I think given the lack of communication between the regions can explain why there’s been distrust in the past. Several times in the past, Japanese players have come to Worlds with totally shocking, surprising decks, yet all evidence suggests these decks were never secret; rather, they were simply under the radar because other areas lack communication with Japan. An extreme minority of Americans, for example, actually test with Japanese players, so the barriers in language and means of communication are just too great. Therefore, many of the biggest country-exclusive surprises at Worlds can be explained by poor communication, and not secrecy.

(However, the members of Japan’s Team Torchic of Japan have been longtime fans and readers of HeyTrainer.org!)

Question 7: In this final question where I gave people a chance to sum up their overall feelings about secrets in the game, I received some very interesting observations. Above all, Worlds competitors consider the current state of secrecy in our game to be “fine” (yes, that exact word). Whether they think it’s useful, not useful, or don’t personally care at all, these pro players recognize secrets are a thing, but that more often than not it is not actually a problem. A couple of our oldest players observed that the days of obsessive secret-keeping are long since dead, and that what we have now is actually much more manageable than back in 2004-2010, when secrets were a defining trait of Pokémon TCG’s metagame.

Another common trend I observed was that a few players were measured in the way they view secret-keeping. One answer I found particularly revealing was the following:

“I am not too big a fan of secrecy. I think that being open about new ideas is beneficial to grow a stronger player base. I also am not a fan of the sort of cliques that this attitude of secrecy brings. I understand why it exists and to be honest I lived that life in a different card game and it got me to worlds so I’m not going to say it isn’t effective but in retrospect I would have made a lot more friends if my group and I shared more of our ideas.”

There is an incredible amount of truth in this comment because secrets and the politics behind secrets can be quite damaging – just see my above discussion of Lanky Larry. We’re not secret agents – we’re a bunch of guys (and some gals) tossing around pieces of shiny cardboard. Sometimes that cardboard-tossing can get us great prizes though, so you may arrive at a point where your perfectly rational, wisely-kept secret will make you less popular.


Some Final Thoughts

Ultimately, here’s where I see our competitive community stands on secrecy, as well as where I agree and disagree with the 27 respondents:

1. I am qualified for the first day of Worlds;

2. I have been a competitive player for 15 years;

3. Headed into Worlds, players are likely a solid 6 in terms of secrecy. Ideally we’re a 7 or even 8, but unless you know with certainty something is amazing, or you have been sworn to secrecy by a friend, your “kinda-sorta secret” idea will most likely be leaked. I’m sure it’s already happened a bit to me on PTCGO, and I know for a fact at least one user on there is probably aware of my general testing trends right now.

4. Our community as a whole is only a 3 in terms of secret-keeping. I think tournament attendees are actually great consumers of new deck and metagame information, and are overall happiest when there aren’t many secrets. The only reason I don’t say our community is a 1 is because of A) small testing circles and B) dark horse winners of major events always make great stories, and I think the general competitive community who didn’t qualify for Worlds loves seeing things like M Audino EX win.

5. I would agree with the respondents that secrecy (and most obscuring of information) is about a 7 in terms of effectiveness. If I were answering this back in 2005 or 2006, it would’ve been a 10 easily, but premium websites, Facebook groups, and blogs such as this seriously hinder the effectiveness of secrecy.

6. Small testing groups and the younger age groups are the most likely to keep secrets. I think countries and regions of the world are oftentimes mistaken as being secretive because of poor communication, or because small testing groups in those places have already developed.

7. Personally, I’m happy with the place secrecy has in the Pokémon TCG right now. As a competitive player, it’s vital to keep some surprises hidden, even if they’re small or not very flashy. However, you need to balance the benefits of secrecy with the benefits of opening up to others. Small testing circles run the risk of becoming echo chambers, so a diversity of thought you find in larger networks is oftentimes ideal.