Top Cut Episode 7

(feat. J. Zee Kay)

Can YOU make it?

Check out yesterday's awesome top cut episode, featuring none other than the glorious leader of the nation, JK himself! Watch it here:

While I whole-heartedly encourage you to watch the episode in full, in case you're not interested or don't have the time, then here's a brief summary of the topics touched upon:

*TheTopCut staff and Kettler talk about the LCQ, what should be big, and what "the play" is. Most of the predictions center around Yanmega/Magnezone, Donphan, and Typhlosion, and the five panel members diverge on what they would go with. Furthermore, Kettler offers some sage advice on grinder preparation, including:

1) Suggestions on how to build endurance for the event;

2) A recommendation to test using ONLY match play; and

3) To not use Lostgar (  even though Lostgar is my baby 🙁  )

*They then discuss ELO, endemic dropping to preserve rating points, and possible alternatives. Everyone unanimously agrees that some sort of Pro Point ("Play! Point" per Kettler) -focused system is the way to go.  Also included are several ways to keep ELO in-tact, such as not rotating the system every year, as well as skill-based modifiers.

*Finally, the conclude with several user questions. Fun times!


So that's that. Not sure what's on tab for next week, but we're going to have some really exciting stuff in store for you all, so be prepared for some great pieces.



Five Things to Do in San Diego: a 2011 Pokemon World Championship Run-Down

Five Things to Do in San Diego:
a 2011 Pokemon World Championship Run-Down

By Martin Moreno, Chief of the Internal Affairs Department


All right, so it has come to my attention that several of you will be visiting Planet Martin (San Diego) for the World Championship events. However, since a vacation shouldn't be entirely about Pokemon, here are a few awesome places you need to see during your stay here.

1) Greasy Taco Shops

      Southern California's specialty is ridiculously unhealthy (yet authentic) Mexican food LAYERED with ingredients. On Carne Asada Chips, Nachos, and even Burritos, you get all the good stuff. You can look to get Sour Cream, Guacomole, cheese, beans, etc and it is to die for. If you don't know, Carne Asada is strips of beef that is marinated and combined with all the said ingredients to provide your mouth with the best experience since having Andrew Murray in it.

Carne Asada Nachos/Fries range around 8 bucks.
Carne Asada Burritos usually fetch at only 5 bucks.

2) The Coronado Bridge

You may recall seeing the Coronado bridge in the movie Anchorman. Some call it the crown jewel of San Diego, next to Martin Moreno of course. It's a beautiful bridge and an interesting fact is all over the sides of it you can see postings for suicide hotlines for obvious reasons. So if any of you lose the first round of Last Chance Qualifier, this might be your next/last stop.

3) The Waley House

For you thrill seakers, we have the Waley house, a building that has been featured on multiple ghost hunting television shows, and remains a popular tourist destination. As the story goes, some guy who owned it was hung on the property grounds. Needless to say, his spirit got pretty pissed off about it, and so he has tortured the family there for over 50 years. I have had the pleasure of seeing it; unfortunately, though, I did not see any ghosts.

(On the plus side, the fat, butt-chinned tour guide flirted with me, so I got my money's worth.)

Price of admission: $10.00

4) La Jolla Shores

Located in the more financially-blessed area in San Diego is La Jolla Shores, the most beautiful beach California has to offer. I have many memories of driving women here and instantly getting action, because the view is just too breath taking. But beyond that, it's simply a fun place to be overall, and before every World Championship here in California, I would take time to lay on the sand, clear my mind, and gett in the zone for the next day. A must-see, for sure.

WARNING: the women will NOT talk to you if you look like scum. Just play it smooth, and probably don't mention Pokemon. It's also a good idea to make up a story to keep them interested (e.g., say that you're the nephew of a wealthy oil tycoon).

5) Fashion Valley Mall

Have you ever wanted to go out and buy more designer Sunglasses, and just didn't want to waste all that beautiful sunshine being indoors? I know this has happened to me when I've been out of state; however, this is NOT an issue at Fashion Valley Mall. Conveniently located near Mission Beach, Fashion Valley Mall sports many of your favorite shop, such as: Sunglass Hut; Gucci; Neman Marcus; Abercrombie; Pac Sun; and so much more. EVERYTHING is outdoors, and so you can enjoy the scenery while fulfilling all of your superficial, materialistic needs.


So that's it, guys. Granted, these five activities do not give full justice to what San Diego has to offer, but I figured you'd like a starting point to think about before visiting the most beautiful city in the country.


Masters Top Cut Bracket

The Bracketeer: Masters Top Cuts in the US, Canada, and Mexico

By Jason "Jade" W.


With many thanks from the communities of SixPrizes, HeyTrainer, Pokegym, TheTopCut, and the passerbys on my Facebook, the brackets for Top 16 Canadian Nationals, Top 32 Mexican Nationals, and – the largest of all -Top 128 United States Nationals have been put up!

(The brackets can be viewed here: )

The top decks shown from US Top 128 brackets:

  • Yanmega/Magnezone/Kingdra variants (45)
  • Reshiram/Typhlosion (13)
  • Magnezone/Emboar (12)
  • Donphan/Reshiram/Zekrom (10)
  • Yanmega/Vileplume variants (10)
  • Yanmega/Donphan variants (10)
  • Reshiram/Emboar (7)
  • Gengar Prime variants (5)
  • Zekrom/Pachirisu/Shaymin (4)
  • Donphan/Machamp (2)
  • Yanmega/Zoroark (2)
  • Other decks (8)

Quite a great number of variety, eh?

Shoutouts to the following rogues for impressive and creative showing:

  1. Tyranitar/Serperior, played by James A.
  2. Samurott/Donphan, played by Nikki F.
  3. Sharpedo/Cinccino, played by Justin W.
  4. Yanmega/Roserade/Sunflora/Vileplume/Ursaring, played by Carlos and Xander P.
  5. Ambipom/Weavile, played by Alaric M-B.

For Worlds, if I were you to prepare, make sure you test against the following:

  1. Yanmega with combinations of either Magnezone/Pachirisu, Kingdra/Jirachi, or both.
  2. Reshiram/Typhlosion
  3. Yanmega/Vileplume with various techs such as Mew/Muk/Jumpluff, Sunflora, Roserade, Ursaring, etc.
  4. Yanmega/Donphan/Zoroark
  5. Donphan/Reshiram/Zekrom
  6. Magnezone/Emboar

… as well as those random rogues, combinations and such!

Remember: this is Worlds, and unexpected things could happen! Look back to last year, when the Japanese ran Warp Energies and Professor Oak’s New Theory in their Luxchomps, or even the Team Magma decks back in 2004!

See you in San Diego, if you do make it!

~Mew Jadester (Jason Windham)

Heytrainer Squaretable Discussion

(How things should be done)

Last Thursday, several of HeyTrainer's best players and most loyal posters gathered in an AOL Instant Messenger chat to discuss Call of Legends, and its impact (or lack thereof) on the State/Provincial/Territorial Championship metagame. What did they have to say? Well, here are smmaries of each major point addressed…


Considering how talkative most of us are, we didn't really develop a consensus on the optimal way to play the deck. I suggested the turbo bild briefly, while Monster of the lake proposed that it should be run with a slim Machamp line. The overwhelming majority, though, said that Lostgar should not be played with Palkia. Nothing was addressed about turbo lists or Mew Prime, but Palkia was most heavily opposed to.


    Theoretically, Machamp's usage should rise due to less Vilegar and Gyarados, and more SP/Tyranitar (brought on by the greater Lostgar showing).

    However, one (i.e., "I") could argue that cities showed how mediocre this deck really was in the current format; it had several weak matchups, and even those that are believed to be "good" (SP) are surprisingly close. Plus, Lostgar might still be a horrid matchup. So all in all, the 'Champ is as hopeless as it's ever been.


     Inferred from the chat was the idea that Gyarados is hit hard by Call of Legends. Due to Lost Remover taking away Rescue Energies, Gengar Prime capable of Hurling away critical Magikarps and/or Gyaradoses, and a proliferation of good Luxchomp lists, Gyarados is hard-pressed to win.

Still, MotL mentioned a bild featuring Old Amber, Mesprit, Seekers, and Cyclone as one that held great promise to beat down the generally dubious LostGar match.

[I intend to discuss this take on Gyarados in a future Deck List Dump]


Ryan V. "ryanvergel" was quick to note that "…the most effective use of special energy is sniping with chomp." This in turn denies Lost Remover "its most important target."

And as a result, it isn't as good as it could be. It is, however, good against Gyarados, Garchomp SV, Dialga, Steelix, and Tyranitar, and when combined, that makes up a potentially sizable portion of the field.


The following were all ideas -serious or joking – suggested from new Call of Legends cards:

-Magnezone Prime/Pachirisu Call of Legends (power hitting)
-Feraligatr Prime/Suicune
-Palkia G LV.X/Lucario
-Mime Jr./Absol G LV.X/Chatot G (deck removal)


What are the top three decks that constitute our current tier one?

Each of the following decks were suggested [in no particular order]:::

Gengar, Gyarados Tyranitar, Dialgachomp, Luxchomp, Sableye

While I'm really not sure about Tyranitar being in the same league as any of these other decks, it is most certainly underrated. As for the other five, they definitely hold claim to "best in format."

Speaking of…What IS the best deck in the format? Not many people felt brave enough to make claims, but those who did heartily said "Luxchomp." User Shadow Aurion also mentioned the following on Gengar: "…[it isn't] going to flop, but I don't think it's going to be as oppressively strong  as some people predicted either."

We don't know what the future has in store, but either way, it should be more interesting than Cities!

'Til next time,


Deck List Dump: Lostgar (Lost World Gengar Prime Turbo)

Much in the spirit of my Palkia build is the third – and probably strongest – of the lists: the turbo build. This has been floating around for a while, and I know of several people who've advanced the techiness beyond this basic version; however, this should help get you started.

(Tuuuuuurbo! Too bad Gengar isn't on this box art.)

Pokemon (22):

4 Gastly SF
2 Haunter SF
1 Haunter TM
4 Gengar Prime
4 Unown R LA
3 Uxie LA
1 Azelf LA
1 Spiritomb AR
1 Spiritomb TM
1 Unown Q MD

Trainers/Stadiums/Supporters (31):

4 Junk Arm
4 Poke Drawer+
4 Pokedex Handy 910s
4 Pokemon Collector
3 Seeker
3 Broken Time-Space
2 Lost World
2 Pokemon Communication
2 Luxury Ball
2 VS Seeker
1 Rare Candy

Energy (7):

7 Psychic

[NOTE: the energy should likely be increased to at least 8 or 9 – I feel uneasy with this count at the moment. Palmer's might also be an appropriate "8th energy"]

[NOTE: Mesprit and Mr. Mime would both be interesting, and maybe even necessary additions to the list.]

Advantage/s: The list is obviously fast. Through Poke Drawer, Dex, Unown R's, and Junk Arm to bind them all together, pulling out a first or second turn Gengar Prime suddenly gets a lot easier. Although running only three Seeker seems suspect in a turbo list that requires Seeker to be played over and over again, Junk Arm helps alleviate this by means of VS Seeker, ultimately giving you a maximum of _nine_ uses.

Disadvantage/s: with nineteen trainers and zero Bebe's, one could say that this deck is heavily vulnerable to Spiritomb Arceus locks. However, this shouldn't be too big of a problem, as the number one most popular Spiritomb deck, Vilegar, should be a very comfortable win for you.


Deck List Dump: Lostgar with Palkia

Deck List Dump: Lostgar (Lost World/Gengar Prime with Palkia G LV.X)

I'm not thrilled about Palkia, but here's what I have at the moment –


(New challenger appears!)

Pokemon (24):

4 Gastly SF
4 Haunter (3 SF/1 Triumphant)
4 Gengar Prime
3 Uxie LA
2 Spiritomb AR
2 Spiritomb TM
1 Palkia G
1 Palkia G LV.X
1 Azelf LA
1 Mesprit LA
1 Unown Q MD

Trainers/Stadiums/Supporters (24):

4 Pokemon Collector
4 Bebe's Search
4 Seeker
3 Broken Time-Space
2 Lost World
2 Twins
2 VS Seeker (or 3 Twins/4 Broken Time-Space or a 13th energy perhaps)
1 Palmer's Contribution
1 Pokemon Communication
1 Luxury Ball

Energy (12):

8 Psychic
2 Warp
2 Rainbow

(For Rare Candy, cut:

– 1 to 2 Haunter
-VS Seekers?
-Basics you don't like :P)


Pros: running Palkia helps correct your potential bench issues, and also gives you a contingency plan to Lost Zone things in case Gengar Prime isn't as fast as you'd like.

*Running multiples of Spiritomb TM – a crucial card in netting yoru Hurl Into Darkness targets – is also a good plan in my opinion. Spiritomb Arceus also helps out a ton in this regard.

Cons: …And on that note, I should mention that this list is fairly slow relative to some of the other ones I've seen floating around lately. You  might want to fit some Rare Candies in, as suggested above.

Also, you might encounter a couple issues with not running Gengar LV.X; however, running four Gengar Prime also makes it much easier to start Lost Zoning ASAP, so mess around with it.

In my third and probably final Deck List Dump of LostGar, I'll be revealing my take on a turbo list (which is so far my favorite variant).


Best of luck in testing for states, everybody! As I said, don't take my word alone, because this is just a starting point.


Retro Article: “2009’s Top Ten Most Significant Events”

With the "Ten in '10" series concluded, let's take a step back and see what the big news was in 2009! I made several references to this article, so it helps put the previous article arc in context.

Not too many shiny pictures today, since this whole article was posted on the forums, and it'd be a pain to plug them all in since I have a finance exam soon. Either way, happy reading!

 "2009's Top Ten Most Significant Events"

"After consulting about half a dozen of's most loyal members through all stages of the planning process, I have determined a list of what I personally consider to be the top ten most crucial events that have occurred in the competitive Pokemon TCG community this year; in other words, the community's most "significant" events (per the title).

Thanks go out to the following people, whose ideas and suggestions supplemented my own: Adam Y., Josh B., Ryan V.

#10: The Jwittz Video Collection

Why it mattered: So, you may be wondering…Why is a Youtube video series making such an impact on the community?

Well, "Jwittz," aslo known as Josh Wittenkeller, has taken the first great step to linking new media to the technologically-outdated Pokemon TCG community. The game which we know and love is now reaching a wider audience via Youtube, and Jwittz's videos are the trailblazer in that effort through insightful, entertaining commentary. I have no doubt that Josh's work is inevitably going to help build the game, as well as its base.

Furthermore, these videos are part of a larger force at work: the triumvirate of organizations that are radically redefining the face of the Pokemon TCG, which – when combined – are easily the biggest influence of 2009. Jwittz's videos are currently the smallest-reaching of these three organizations, but the series's potential is awesome, and the likelihood of copycats in the future is VERY high. Expect great things from the Jwittz video collection.

#9: The Pokegym "Mod Squad"

Why it mattered: The premier public web forum of the Pokemon TCG, Pokegym, has maintained incredible influence in the community for years, even obtaining pseudo-"official" status thanks to Team Compendium's administration. With this in mind, it of course makes sense that any sweeping new reforms here would impact the playing and collecting communities.

As we all know, administration and staff set the tone for any forum, and 'Gym is no exception. Thanks to a slew of brand new moderators, they have now expanded beyond belief, and are taking on new, interesting goals for the site: Card of the Day is now easily the most improved section of the site, and user interaction is now at its highest since the 256 person Iron Chef competition.

But with this swarm of staff come mixed messages, inconsistencies, and a decisive range in quality. Although the administration attempts to make it clear what they desire of their new moderators, their various styles can and already have led to confusing and occasionally frustrating the Pokemon TCG community.

However, even with these very obvious growing pains, it will ultimately be for the better of the community at large. As previously mentioned, CotD has something for everyone, and the ongoing anniversary contests would be impossible in their current form without the hard work of the newest members of their crew.

#8: Michael Lieisk's Departure from POP

Why it mattered: I'm not gonna spend too much time on this write-up, but I will say that whenever a head honcho of Pokemon Organized Play shifts outside of the TCG, it's a big deal.

What are the implications now that Dan Brandt is in his spot? Or how about those for the new area he's in – the Video games? Can we read into this as integration of the two?

Only time will tell…

#7: The Worlds Victory of Stephen Silvestro

(Okay, I lied…There is this one picture, but it's awesome!)

Why it mattered: World Champions come and go in every competitive format, so why does this particular win matter so much?

You could say that this is the most "rogue" deck to win since Queendom. You could say that it's a touching portrayal of the bond between father and son.

And Heck, that picture looks pretty darn silly.

But in terms of community impact, this is the second most important win since Yamato, who alone was responsible for the "Japan Mystique" that held a firm grip on the US until Worlds 2006. Because of Silvestro's win, Florida is now well-established as the hardest metagame in the entire world. Although you "could" still make some case for the Midwest or the Great Lakes as being the toughest regions in the US, this argument seems to be put to rest with Jason Klaczynski currently competing in Florida, as well as the Georgia Marathon drawing people from all over.

However, what was our catalyst for all this hyper-intensified FL glory?

A win with Raybees. That's what. Congrats to Steve, and best of luck to him this season – your victory certainly made an impact on the community, bringing to FL the most prestige it's ever received.

#6: Return to Paradise (Worlds 2010 in Hawaii)

Are we surprised to see the 2010 Pokemon World Championships in Hawaii? Not really, because we saw it there for the TMB and in 2007; however, we ARE surprised to see it headed back so soon!

Once again, the community (especially the American community) will not see their season culminate in a bloody LCQ battle or a contested battle to see who becomes the new World Champ, but instead…A battle to see who becomes the _National Champ_.

However, there is a bigger bit of news less related to Hawaii that is even more surprising to the community…Which we will discuss in #4.

#5: The Founding of

For my core audience, I hardly believe you need much of an explanation. But for the rest of you at home, I urge you to have a sit-down with papa, because it's about to be story time with your rotten uncle Johnny K…And story time with me gets awful dirty.

Yes, the first of the top five biggest developments in the Pokemon TCG community this year is none other than, run by none other than…Yours truly.

Why it mattered: The second in what I've called the "great triumvirate" of the Pokemon TCG online community, is perhaps the most revolutionary of the three. It may not be the most well-known or crucial, but it is easily the most transformational. In a community stereotyped as fandom of a children's card game, it only seems natural that an overwhelming number of the Pokemon TCG websites out there feature some moderate to heavy degree of censorship.

Well, for months and months, my brother and I talked about our woes in what this community lacked: recognition of the 15+ as the REAL force behind this game's organized play, a place for legitimate deck discussion, a place where moderators wouldn't be up our ***es over every teeny thing, and, above all, a place where honesty could reign supreme. There is a long-lasting myth that Pokemon TCG is a "kiddie card game" – one that is perpetuated by the prevailing attitudes, censors, and overwhelming hegemony of parent-child tag teams. In fact, that is the very reason why "Tag Team!" is our image: because it represents our perversion of this false belief, which ultimately ends up being a sobering dose of reality.

Considering this context, easily made the top five list because it IS a big change in the way business is done, it IS already making people talk, and it is already well on its way to becoming one of the top sites in the game. Hell, ask several good players, and without batting an eyelash they will tell you that this place, known far and wide for its bad posters in the RTC, is – surprisingly – a distinctly better resource for deck fixes and initial lists than Pokegym or Pokebeach. The fanbase is so loyal that they "swear" by how awesome our article quality is…Even though this top ten list is the first official article in this site's history. (We're that good.)

Yes, is a mover and a shaker, but it hasn't happened without significant controversy: there has been a lot of in-the-open hating over this site that has earned me no love from any of the top dogs in the online community, and lord knows the dirty little names I've been called behind my back in circles I played a direct role in aiding/saving…But that's another story for another day.

Regardless of the challenges, the turmoil, and the hate we will inevitably get, we must be honest and admit that this is an experiment in controlled chaos…This site is a risk that I am willing to take, and for the sake of free speech, free membership, and free dumb, I hope to make this community a force to be reckoned with. I am already very proud of my work here, and I feel that if I push just a little harder, will long outlive my involvement with the game.

I can't in good conscience put it at #1, but I certainly see it ultimately outlasting everything else on this list as the years go by.

#4: “Trouble in Paradise” (POP server/worlds/nats info issues)

(Bad Photoshopping is bad, but we love it anyways.)

Why it mattered: Once we found out that Worlds would be in Hawaii again, excitement rose to a fever pitch. "Will I go to Hawaii again?" "If I get an invite without a trip, will I go?" "How many are they going to give out: 128 like last year, or 64 like the previous time in Hawaii?"

Hold your horses though, you uber-competitive players you, because there's one small, insignificant problem…

Nothing's been released on invites, trips, or anything of the sort.

For thousands of players every year, competing in Worlds is the biggest prize they could hope to receive; however, by leaving the competitive community totally in the dark, you have a lack of confidence in POP for being so slow to announce things, an excess of confusion, and a never-ending supply of controversy.

POP tries to silence the concerns of the players, the parents, etc. with a "we will release the information publicly when we're able to." Individuals who have less of a competitive stake in the game are also perfectly content, usually claiming that either A) the information will come when it comes, so sit down and shut up, or B) people who are complaining are "in it for the prizes," and don't care about Spirit of the Game!

Rubbish, because there's another side of this that hits the casual player hard: the frequent downtime and crashing of the website. Now I'm no professional in web management, nor would I claim to be, but the professionals I surround myself with unanimously say that this is due to ineptitude. It's ineptitude at some level that led to confusion with leagues, entering in events, etc, and – needless to say – that doesn't produce confidence.

Does POP have a fantastic history with its player base? Yes, it does, and I'd never deny that. However, this community recognizes that organized play is not a charity, but a marketing tool, and thus expects better of it.

Oh and P.S.

"Where the Hell is Nats?"
~One of our loyal board members


Why it mattered: Rounding out the "triumvirate" is, the current crown jewel of the 2009 Pokemon TCG online movement.

In early July, while many players were preparing for the Grinder or Worlds, Adam Capriola and his associates were quietly working on what would be a major new twist on the "" concept of the previous year: a blog format website with a major emphasis on strategy, deck building, and tournament reporting.

Sixprizes is now very big, and is doing a great job of reaching out to all sorts of players: new and old, pro and casual, and former and current! Its staff has worked very hard at "getting out the word," and as a result, is covering every major social networking site with their logo.

But perhaps Sixprize's biggest contribution to the Pokemon TCG community is that it set in motion several major new trends in Pokemon sites:

-An emphasis on quality strategy.
-The beginning of what's a shift away from Pokegym and Pokebeach. These two sites are now much less llikely to be recommended to a beginner than they were even a year ago.
-A more "Japanese" style of Pokemon community organization. Message boards are distinctly less of a Japanese phenomenon, whereas tournament/strategy blogging are.

Furthermore, Sixprizes is without a doubt inspiration for other major new sites, as well as the new community standard in PG-rated quality.

Things are changing majorly, but I can confidently say that without, this change might not have happened at all.

#1: Tournament Rule Changes

Why it mattered: What defines us as a community is the fact that we all like to play the Pokemon Trading Card Game, usually at a competitive level. With this in mind, it makes sense that if there are huge changes to the way things are done, then there will be a huge impact. Originally I considered placing many of these things on the list as their own separate categories, but I then realized that itÂ’s really all the same thing: sweeping, revolutionary reform to the way we participate in Pokemon Organized Play.

First and foremost, you canÂ’t play whole decks of foreign cards anymore, and by this time next year, you wonÂ’t be able to use any _at all_! Many of those who use Japanese cards occasionally (myself included) find it disappointing that we will no longer be able to use these cards, as they look gorgeous, are cool to show off to your friends, and are made of higher quality material than their English counterparts. However, others cheered for their removal, as Japanese cards have been a pain for PTOs, judges, and the less-experienced players who donÂ’t want to be hassled with their opponentsÂ’ translations under timed environments.

Secondly, we saw – for the first time in the American game'’s history – no format rotation at all; rather, we are carrying on the same DP-on of last year! Although many of these cards are now outclassed, access to the game at a competitive level is much easier due to these 2+ year old cards being legal. In addition to that, mastering this format has been easier for the old veterans who are well aware of what staple cards (Roseanne’s Research, Bebe’s Search, Call Energy, Claydol, Unown G, etc) do. This decision was well-received by the community, and for good reason.

The combined impact of these two decisions alone should already be enough to put “Tournament Rule Changes” at #1, but then there are the slew of tiny revisions: meta-rulings on dice and Azelf LA’s Time Walk Poke-Power are interesting new change. In addition, carryovers from 2008 ,such as the increase in time limit, have done an enormous amount of good for Spirit of the Game…After all, how can somebody stall or rush if time limits actually allow for complete games, even in a best-of-three setting?

2009 was a major, major year for event rules, and while many of these decisions have been criticized by players, judges, PTO, and even Pokemon Organized Play itself, I can confidently say that this has been an excellent year for improving the way this game is played on a competitive level. So in spite of all the tumultuous issues that have occurred, the Pokemon TCG community is in a strong position going into 2010."


Thanks for checking out a great little piece of Pokemon Trading Card Game history today. Tune in tomorrow when I briefly review another LostGar variant.

Ten in ’10: 2010’s Most Significant Events (Part 5/6)

Moving closer and closer to the conclusion of "Ten in '10," we have two vital issues to consider: the change in time; and the change in City Championships.

#3: *The Change in Time Rules…Again

(This is a silly, nonsensical picture that has nothing to do with the topic at hand…But I figured you'd like it anyways, so I went and ran with it.)

        After a long time, 2009-2010 gave us a time system that apparently worked: swiss rounds decided in 40 minute games, which brought stalling to a standstill; and top cut rounds decided with a "four prizes must be pulled in game two for it to count" clause, which – while imperfect – kept decks from achieving cheap wins against bad matchups. All was good in the world of the competitive player…That is…

Until they changed it back, that is.

Yes, for reasons unknown to me, Play! Pokemon changed the rules "again": 40 minute matches were exchanged with 30+"3," where time is called, followed by three last turns before a result is decided on; and the aforementioned clause involving four prizes was completely eliminated. While the 30+3 is generally no big deal, the top cut rule has changed the way people play, and the deck choices that they make.

Don't believe me? If not, then consider the following example: Player A's Vileplume/Gengar deck is up against Player B's Gyarados deck. Player A's list is unquestionably good against Gyarados in almost any untimed match, but it's quick to fall down a prize or two versus it in most games.

Due to no fault of Player A's, he/she wins game one with little time on the clock left for game two. Given this, Player B's Gyarados proceeds to establish a 1-2 prize lead even after the +3, and brings the game into a sudden death…Which he or she also wins by the same mean.

So, in essence, we have a match won by a player who drew a grand total of 2-3 prizes, and no full games. Sounds good? Not by my book! Granted, you could still have the same thing happen during the 4-prize era last format (5-6 prizes between game two and sudden death), but it wasn't nearly as bad. As a result, the field is _not_ what it could, or should, be in many regards: either due to players wanting a more reasonable chance to win, or due to players using top cut-weak decks dropping for a calculated gain in premier rating.

("60 minutes+3" was so on the short list of titles for this program)

#2: The Advent of Pokemon TCG Marathons

(Again, not quite the same sort of "marathon," but they're still pretty cool guys.)

Why it mattered: for a very long time, City Championships – a major element of the Pokemon TCG premier tournament season – were viewed as minor, one-day events. While they were very useful in displaying a "preview" of sorts for who might do well in the season, these tournaments were never considered more than just small, fun events…Something akin to modern day Battle Roads, but with juicy prizes.

However, thanks to a couple of industrious Premier Tournament Organizers in Georgia, that conception has been shattered. By stringing together all of their City Championships in a row over the holiday season, rather than staggering them across several weekends for a two month period, they laid the groundwork for an efficient, new model of running these events. For the competitive player, though, this was far more valuable due to the increased opportunity to do well at several of these tournaments in a row, thus greatly increaseing his/her premier rating, which has since 2006 become a crucial tool in achieving invites to the World Championships.

Because of this efficiency, and because of the great incentive, Greg and Gary's tournaments finally caught national attention at the beginning of 2010, when anyone with a My Pokemon account could see the great impact that these events had on people's ratings, with at least one player achieving enough points to already assure his invite to the World Championships. Given this, many players this season found themselves inspired to make the trek down to Georgia during late 2010, and as a result, several of the current, post-Cities Top 40 were individuals who attended the marathons.

Recognizing the value of this model, several areas, such as Ontario and New Jersey, have adapted Georgia's plan: either as a full-blown marathon, or as a "mini-thon" of sorts. Is this a trend in the way Cities will be organized nationwide? Perhaps, but I think the biggest implication of all is the proliferation of hyper-competitive fields at relatively low levels of earning. Without a doubt, it'll be interesting to see if more City Championships ascend to the State/Regional-esque tier that the Georgia events did, but the fact that these events are no longer "little" is quite telling.

All in all, 2010 was an extremely significant year for Cities, with marathons leading the way. Congrats to the PTOs of Georgia, New Jersey, and Ontario for revolutioninzing the way we please this game!

(Who would've thought that Georgia would become so crucial to the Pokemon TCG scene?)

Ten in ’10: 2010’s Most Significant Events (Part 6/6)

Links to previous parts of this article arc…

*Ten in '10: 2010's Most Significant Events (Part 1/6)
*Ten in '10: 2010's Most Significant Events (Part 2/6)
*Ten in '10: 2010's Most Significant Events (Part 3/6)
*Ten in '10: 2010's Most Significant Events (Part 4/6)
*Ten in '10: 2010's Most Significant Events (Part 5/6)

That little bit of house-keeping aside…Let's finish this thing up!


#1: Play! Pokemon: Rebranding With a Bumpy Start

(Play! Pokemon: similar enough to evoke familiar ideas…But dissimilar enough to avoid copyright infringement claims.)

 For the first time since its inception, Pokemon Organized Play decided to completely revamp its image: the generic OP logos were out, and the NEW image was in! However, what does this entail? We don't know exactly what…But so far, it hasn't been thrilling.

This post is less about the mere rebranding; rather, it's about precisely what I alluded to how mediocre 2010 was in general…So hence, the word "rebranding" will be deined loosely.  But what about that disappointment for 2010? Well, let me offer a callback to my three summarizing words mentioned in Part 1…They were:

Evolutioin; lack; and stagnation.

The previously-listed events of 2010 before this one generally signify "evolution," but many of you reading this article likely feel that organized play's support is beginning to suffer from "lack and stagnation," and with good cause. As a long-time competitor and volunteer of organized play, I'm least enthused about this game's competitive side than I have ever been. While my general involvement increases (as this blog is testament to), I find premier events far less entertaining or desirable than good old-fashioned league, which doesn't even need official support to exist!

So what's at the root of this?

For starters, communication between Play! Pokemon and its player base has been inexcusably bad. First, the year was greeted with a still massively-buggy website (which is still slow); second, we dealt with  extremely late notice on where the 2010 National Championships would be; and third, the ratings and rankings were down for _over four months_. Occasional website issues are certainy understandable, but not receiving Nationals information until States caused numerous problems for the players, and as for the ratings/rankings…Four months…Really?

If all of this poor communication wasn't enough, then consider our American releases in 2010:

*Heart Gold/Soul Silver

Although those last three sets had a few notable cards, they've otherwise been absurdly mediocre releases. And Heart Gold/Soul Silver, while certainly a good set, was good for all of the wrong reasons…Namely, Double Colorless Energy. Considering how good SP was already at that point, why on Earth did Pokemon Card Laboratories re-release this monstrosity of the old era? I can't really answer that, but its negative side effect was an unhealthy United States metagame, and an overall horrible year for sets anywhere outside of Japan (not Play! Pokemon's fault, but it is certainly a bump in the road).

Unexciting sets, and no communication…What's in store for 2011?

So far, not much: our most recently released set, which held great promise to include several exciting new reprints from years and seasons gone by, instead turned out to be one of the worst sets in the history of the Pokemon Trading Card Game's history; and while we know a thing or two about ratings, we still don't even have an official invite structure announcement!

While I cannot claim to know what the general word on the street is, I have heard several complaints about where things are headed. Erik Nance, last season's runner-up at the 2010 U.S. National Championship, claimed that this has been "the worst season of Pokemon since I started playing [five years ago]." Chad Harris, an equally known player, as well as former State and Regional Champion of California, predicted that "…we will look back on 2010 [as] being perhaps the worst year in [P!P's] history."

Given a mediocre 2010, and a poor start to 2011, what could breathe more life into this system – this game – of ours?

Black and White.

Yes, with the new video games, things could turn around with a reinvigorated league system, new incentive for the powers at be to invest more in Play! Pokemon, and a good set containing no stupid re-releases (we don't know how good the Gust of Wind quasi-reprint will be in our metagame). These have great implications vis-a-vis the metagame and communication, so here's to hoping.

But right now, it's just: evolution; lack; stagnation. Hopefully we hear more of the first word, and less of the other two.

Pessimism? No, just realism with a dash of optimism. Either way, happy playing!