Often, when talking about the inappropriate attitude people approach competitive Pokémon play with, my friends and I will use identify their mistakes as being a symptom of scrub player syndrome. Today’s symptom I’ll address is the belief that the people at your event will not own “those cards.”
As we prepare for States Championships 2012, Mewtwo EX is the hottest card on the block. Your odds of pulling one in a box are 50/50; you’re probably dropping over $50 if you buy one on eBay as I write this. Playing just one in a deck is more expensive than building Durant was for the City Championship leg of the season. Tropical Beach has also been a really expensive card, going for upward of $90.
Can I assume people just won’t play these cards? I don’t think so. Commerce is international, people can acquire these cards through auction sites like eBay or through online stores like Troll and Toad. Your “local area” not having these cards is no longer realistic. There are ultimately, though, 4 separate scenarios at play:
A) A player who is good enough to win the event you are at, and they possess all the cards they want to compete.
B) A player who isn’t good enough to win the event you are at, but they possess all the cards they want to compete.
C) A player who is good enough to win the event you are at, but they don’t possess all the cards they want to compete.
D) A player who isn’t good enough to win the event you are at, and they don’t possess all the cards they want to compete.
Your goal is to be a player from the first scenario. The player in scenario D should be nearly irrelevant to you. If you can’t beat them, you might be them. Player B and C are the interesting cases.
I don’t believe Player C exists. At best, Player C exists very rarely, ONLY when the number of copies of a card are incredibly low (Tropical Beach, Tropical Tidal Wave). There was never a shortage of Luxray Level X, and there were two counters, Mewtwo Level X & Machamp, that were easily accessible. Even with these counters balancing the metagame, many top players still wanted to play SP and piloted SP lists with expensive cards to tournament victories. They were playing many mirror matches, becoming very good at it along the way. Despite the high price of Luxray Level X, players using SP and teching it into Gyarados fully expected their opponents to have it. No noteworthy players successfully banked on their potential opponents not owning Luxray Level X for a win. The Mewtwo situation we will face at States is admittedly a little different than the Luxray and Tropical Beach scenarios. No one saw me play a Tropical Beach during City Championships and thought, “I can’t win against that.” Luxray had counters like Mewtwo Level X (in a tin), Machamp SF (a regular rare), and even Toxicroak G (Promo from a booklet), where Mewtwo’s chief counter will be Mewtwo (further increasing its rarity and desirability).
Player B is the dream killer. They show up with the good cards, because good cards exist and you should expect people to have them. However, this player just isn’t as skilled as Player A. Maybe they’ve made some crucial deckbuilding error despite owning the best cards. Perhaps they’ll misplay themselves into the ground. Worst of all, maybe they’ll just get penalized back to the stone age. If you show up unprepared for the best cards, however, this person’s odds of beating you increase an uncomfortable amount. Suddenly, you’re losing to “that guy” who will damage your resistance, or, worse still, you lose to them in the first round of top cut.
Don’t take this the wrong way; there are two messages here. The first is that you should have the best cards to increase your chances of winning. That isn’t really something I think I need to emphasize. By realizing that everyone else is operating this way, too, you should be planning on beating other good decks, which are utilizing the best, even if they are the rarest, cards. This is basic game theory: I will do what is best for me, and other players, as logical agents, will do the same if it is also best for them; this is the same idea as sports players investing their time into training their bodies for an activity. Pokémon players should expect to invest their money into the top cards. If you’re good, you should be able to beat someone with a subpar deck anyway. “This will be great as long as they don’t have Mewtwo,” shouldn’t sound reasonable to most of you, but for those of you that it did, eliminate a symptom of scrub player syndrome and quit it.