Today we start off our series of interviews with the Top 10 Players in North America by talking to the guy at the top of the mountain, Tyler Ninomura! So far Tyler has dominated the season, standing at first place with 42 Championship Points. So, we asked him a few questions to get some of his thoughts and to try to let people get to know him a little bit!
For those who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about yourself? Where are you from, what is your history with Pokémon, etc.?
I’m a player from Washington state, currently enrolled at the University of Washington and help to run a Pokémon League at Pink Gorilla, a gaming store next to campus. As for my role in the Pokémon TCG, I started back when the game was first released in America, but I didn’t really start to do well until 2004 when Nintendo of America took over tournament operations. Since then, I’ve done fairly well each season and qualified for Worlds multiple times (for what THAT’S worth :P).
Right now you are ranked #1 in North America for Masters with 42 Championship Points. How did you go about getting to such a high number, and what do you attribute your success to?
Honestly, because of my relatively open school schedule, I had plenty of time to go to multiple events. Not only did I get a chance to see the Pokémon friends near and dear to me, but I got to earn some Championship Points in the process! How could I pass that up? Of course, going to lots of events doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t actually top cutting (a grievance that’s gained some prominence on websites like pokegym.net). I thankfully had a bit of luck and successfully metagamed the competitions I ended up top cutting. Testing was obviously important, although I admitted did less as the metagame developed itself and the deck structures became more standardized. It also helps a TON that Ross, Matt Chin, and other X-Files members aren’t around to compete with.
In this format, there seems to be a ton of viable decks. Do you think it’s better to pick a deck and stick with it, or do you change decks based on the metagame?
Let me first respond to this question by stating that I LOVE this format. I think it’s great that players have so many different options, as that not only keeps the metagame from ever being as stagnant as GG or SP era but helps to keep the cost of many staple cards down (sans Tropical Beach, of course.) As for how to respond to such an environment? I personally have switched decks almost every week, but that’s mostly because I felt comfortable using most of the decks in the format. It wasn’t because I had tested them extensively, but due mostly to the fact that most of these decks are pseudo-copies of past decks e.g. EELZ = BlazeCatty, Chandy = RockLock/Medicham EX. If you aren’t comfortable with constantly switching decks and play strategies, though, I would highly recommend sticking to the same deck and just tweaking it a bit each week.
Do you playtest a lot, or do you prefer relying on theory and discussion with your friends? Also, would you rather play online or in person when you practice?
I used to playtest a lot when school wasn’t so important, but I’ve found that I’ve been testing less and less as the years have gone on. That being said, it’s still incredibly important, although that doesn’t stop me from theorymon-ing and brewing random decks… I’m still kinda infamous for my horrible deck ideas. I personally hate playing online because my favorite part of the game is the social interactions you have with your opponent. That being said, if Nintendo starts doing rated PTCGO matches, I’d probably be more than down to start hitting some of those up.
At this point, it seems very likely that you will get an invitation to Worlds this year. Do you plan on going to Nationals still? More importantly, will you be making the trip to Hawaii?
How optimistic you are that my rating will hold up. That aside, I still plan on attending and playing in Nationals. It’s one of the biggest and best events of the year…not to mention that it’s one of the few opportunities I have to see some of my friends I can only see in these types of events. As for Hawaii, it comes down to whether or not I get the invite. If I do, then there is a high likelihood I’ll go, finances permitting. If not, though, it’s going to be hard to justify dropping that kind of money to play in the Grinder (especially since I have yet to successfully grind in Hawaii.)
In addition to playing, you are a part of Fried Chicken n’ Rice, a YouTube channel dedicated towards Pokémon TCG coverage. How did that get started, and what are your plans for it?
Honestly, before Isaiah suggest we started, I was planning on doing a channel myself. I was involved with Yu-Gi-Oh! and Magic the Gathering for a short time, and each of those games have multiple YouTube channels dedicated solely to the game. And not just a bunch of small channels, but huge channels with thousands of followers. When I saw that Pokémon was lacking that, I felt like it would be important to provide the game with SOMETHING. Pokémon has given me so much, and I felt almost obligated to give something back to the community. We currently are going back and forth between lots of uploads to none for long lengths of time, unfortunately. School has been pretty hard on both of us recently, so we’ve had to devote a lot of attention there. But we do plan on having this be a long term project, and hope to eventually have a weekly schedule up and running.
Do you have any other hobbies besides Pokémon?
I love to read and watch movies, but school has slowed me down a bit. I still play Magic the Gathering a bit, but the cost has reduced my play to Limited and EDH. I also do a lot of board games like Dominion and Pandemic. I also love video editing and random artsy stuff. And, of course, watching The Top Cut videos!
Thanks again to Tyler for answering some questions for us! We wish him the best of luck for the rest of the season. Of course, be sure to check out his YouTube channel, Fried Chicken n’ Rice! They post some good content. Be sure to check back as we interview more of the Top 10 players in NA! Thanks for reading!