As big and crazy as California is, it actually has two players in the Top 10! After hearing from Edmund Kuras, we were able to interview Stefan Tabaco as well. Although he might not be a household name quite yet, Stefan has qualified for Worlds the past two years, and he’s on his way to doing so again this year. Here is his interview.
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.?
Hi, I’m Stefan Tabaco from Stockton, California. I’ve been playing the Pokémon Trading Card Game since 2000. My first sanctioned tournament was in May of 2007, that was the first Diamond and Pearl tournament. That day I was with Joseph Sanchez and the tournament the next day I was with Dallan Fell. We’re still a strong trio since then.
In the 07-08 season I did not play any City Championships, but my teammates both did. Dallan Fell became the first one of us 3 to win a tournament. Since the 08-09 season until now, I have 15 City Championships, 5 Battle Roads, 2 4th places at Regionals, top 8 at my first and only Nationals tournament in 2010, and have had 2 back to back World Championship invites since then.
Right now you are ranked #8 in North America for Masters with 35 Championship Points. How did you go about getting to such a high number, and what do you attribute your success to?
Honestly, my rating is high because I simply just play the game. This format is fairly simple that it’s kind of hard to give advice on match-ups. My advice is just play the game. The days I don’t get the first turn, I would lose. The days I go first I would win. I only top cut 5/15(+) City Championships this season. I’m just fortunate to have won each time I top cut, so I could max out on CC points.
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?
There may have been many decks to play with in the format, but not many of them matter. Every CC I played Eelzone, and 13(+) of those times it was with the same list. I usually don’t switch my deck up during any of the past seasons either.
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 personally did not playtest much, but I was more into theory and helping my teammates learn match-ups of the format. Reason being is because this format doesn’t need a skilled player to win. If I go first I’ll probably win, if you go first you’ll probably beat me. That’s the way I looked at it when I went in to tournament. Prior to this format, yes, I did love to playtest a lot.
You live in California, which is known for its huge tournament size and an unpredictable metagame. How do you prepare for that?
California’s a hard place to prepare for, but like I said before, I’m just playing the game.
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?
I plan to play in Nationals and go to Hawaii this year. With the new point system, it kind of makes you want to play in Nationals instead of sitting out scared of losing your invite from rating points.
What are your goals for the rest of the season?
The only goal I see for the rest of the season is go first and get my invite.
Do you have any other hobbies besides Pokémon?
My other hobbies outside of Pokémon are Monday-Friday I train Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I also assist teaching in the Muay Thai classes at Valor Training Center, so anytime you guys come around my area, come check out the academy if you’re interested!
Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
Well the last thing I have for my readers is simply, “Go first and just play the game.”
Thanks again to Stefan for taking the time to answer our questions! Don’t let him fool you by his nonchalant answers; he is a very good player, and it’s no surprise to see him at the top of the rankings. Anyone who can make it out of the insanity of the California metagame three years in a row must be talented. Thanks for reading, and we’ll be back with more interviews soon!