Today we interview a player from Florida, Harrison Leven! For those who don’t know, Florida is widely considered as one of the most competitive and difficult states to play in. Although he hasn’t made it to Worlds before, Harrison is on track to earning his invitation to Hawaii this year, which makes this sort of a breakout year for him. Without further ado, let’s hear from Harrison!
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 hailing from the great state of Florida and I am currently in my Senior year enrolled in Cypress Creek High School’s International Baccalaureate program and plan on attending the University of Central Florida to major in civil engineering. I actually first learned about Pokémon from a friend back when I was about seven years old. I was introduced to the Pokémon Yellow video game and I was just hooked from there. Soon later I also became interested in the card game and started to attend local tournaments. This past season is pretty much the only time that I have been ranked this high at this point of a season.
Right now you are ranked #4 in North America for Masters with 37 Championship Points. How did you go about getting to such a high number, and what do you attribute your success to?
To be quite honest I’m not really sure how I became ranked so high in the nation. I feel as if I finally got my break this season. I have been close to earning a ranking invite before back in 2010 during my first season as a Master and I was off by only 7 spots so to be in such a good position this year as far as ranking goes makes me feel comfortable. I also like the fact that with Championship Points it’s impossible to lose anything except for ELO rating. I guess that’s another thing that I can attribute my success to this year because without the fear of losing any points I just chose decks that I either wanted to play or otherwise would not have because of the risk they take of losing a game during the Swiss rounds. Basically I chose decks that I felt were overall better as soon as they made it to best of 3 in top cut.
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?
I agree that this format has definitely allowed for the amount of viable decks to flourish which is a good thing for this game. It was pretty boring for the past few years to be playing against the same stuff all the time and not even bothering with new deck ideas just because things like SP or GG ruined the idea too easily. As for whether or not to pick a deck and stick with it I tend to vary but that’s because with new sets comes a new metagame and Next Destinies is sure to do that. During a tournament series such as Battle Roads or City Championships I obviously try to figure out what decks were doing well and the popularity of certain decks in order to figure out a decent play for the next weekend. Usually for every weekend of tournaments I pick one deck and stick with it for that weekend and then spend the next week pondering over a deck decision again. During this year’s City Championships I stuck with Chandelure/Vileplume because I felt like it was the best play for my metagame for the longest time. I also try to avoid picking an extremely popular deck because I dislike playing the mirror match of any deck in this format because I feel as though it is too luck based right now and I’ll be on the wrong end of the stick when we shuffle up and draw.
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 go to league every Saturday and play some games against friends but that just usually ends up being casual play and hanging out afterwards. We do discuss some strategies and decks but I would prefer to actually play the games out and see how things go instead of possibly dismissing a good idea. And as for online play or actual cards I’m going to have to go with playing games with the actual cards. You don’t get the same feeling when playing online as you do with your friends over at their house because you aren’t separated by a computer monitor. I rarely play Skype games with friends but that’s usually for when I want to test with friends that are in Miami or something while I’m here in Orlando, but if I had the chance I would like to be able to play actual games in person with them.
Normally players struggle when they move up from the Senior Division to Masters, but you managed to make the transition pretty seamlessly. What advice would you give to younger players who are struggling to adjust to the tougher competition?
Haha, anyone from Pokémon that knew me when I was a Senior can tell you that I struggled when I was younger. I didn’t really win anything as a Senior except for maybe a Battle Roads or two. For some reason when I actually did make the transition into the Master Division a switch turned on and I was actually able to place well in tournaments. Like I mentioned earlier, I almost earned a ranking invite that year which was the closest I have ever made it into Worlds. I guess some advice that I can give that helped me along the way is make some friends at a Pokémon League that you see doing well at tournaments and just play against them. It might be hard at first but eventually you’ll recognize strategies and pick up on things in a game a lot quicker.
At this point, you are well on your way to earning an invitation to Worlds this year. Do you plan on going to Nationals still? More importantly, will you be making the trip to Hawaii?
It’s nice being what feels so close to an invitation to Worlds this year and of course I’ll be making the trip to Nationals (Regionals trip). As for making the trip to Hawaii it’s something that I plan on doing if I get my invite because it just isn’t worth it for a soon-to-be college student with loans shelling out all that money for a short trip to Hawaii. I’d much rather Worlds be located somewhere on the continental US just to make it less costly.
What are your goals for the rest of the season?
I would like to be able to win Nationals but more realistically my goal for right now is to just continue placing well enough at tournaments in order to secure a ranking invite to Worlds.
Do you have any other hobbies besides Pokémon?
I spend most of my time either busy with school or playing at Pokémon tournaments on the weekend but when I do happen to catch some free time I enjoy being able to just relax and watch anime on the computer for a few hours. Sometimes some friends and I will actually go out and play some sport like kickball or volleyball.
Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
Roast beef sandwiches during lunch break are the best. 😀
Once again, thanks to Harrison for taking the time to answer our questions. As a young player in Masters on the rise, he will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. Without a doubt, anyone who can be so successful in Florida must be talented. Hope you enjoyed this interview, and we will have more from Top 10 NA Players soon!