Aloha! We are less than a month away from the 9th annual Pokémon TCG World Championship under the Nintendo era! When you over 100 of the world’s best players facing off, the results are unpredictable. Since 2004, we’ve had seven different champions, seven different runners-up, and tons of different players finishing in the Top 4 in the Masters division. In the past eight years, the only players to make it to the Top 4 multiple times are Jason Klaczynski (2006 and 2008 World Champion), Tsuguyoshi Yamato (2004 World Champion, 2007 3rd place), Jeremy Maron (2005 World Champion, 2006 3rd place), Yuta Komatsuda (2010 World Champion, 2006 4th place), and Ross Cawthon (2005 and 2011 2nd place). For the most part, Worlds is an unpredictable event where veterans and newcomers alike can make a name for themselves. Going into this year’s World Championships, here are some players to keep your eye on.
Even though he took 2nd in Seniors at Worlds 2009, David Cohen’s victory at Worlds 2011 came as a surprise to almost everyone. In a strange turn of events, he was able to pilot his Magnezone/Emboar deck through a field of Typhlosion decks, eventually defeating Ross Cawthon in the Finals to become World Champion. When everyone else had given up on Magneboar, David took a risk by playing it, and it paid off big time.
Since then, we haven’t heard much from David. It appears that he has played in a few events this season, but he really didn’t have to play at all because he earned an invitation to Worlds by winning the previous year. What should we expect from him then? It’s hard to tell. In the past, World Champions have varied in performance in the following year. In some cases, the defending champions flop and don’t do well. On the other hand, Jeremy Maron managed to take 3rd the year after his victory, so anything is possible. Will David surprise us again and become the first back-to-back World Champion?
By now, you probably know who John Roberts II is. You know, the guy who won the tournament with over 1000 people in it? The guy who became US National Champion in his first season using a Klinklang deck? Yeah, that guy. Once he started taking the game seriously, John has been tearing through tournaments, and he’s done it with his own creations. At Spring Regionals, he was able to take 4th with a unique Celebi/Mewtwo/Tornadus/Kyurem deck, which had a lot of people scratching their heads. Then, he started winning Spring Battle Roads with Klinklang. At US Nationals, he was able to fine tune the deck and come out on top. Make no doubt about it; he wants to be World Champion, too.
Traditionally US National Champions don’t fare too well at Worlds, but there have been a few exceptions. For the first four years, no US National Champion had even made top cut at Worlds in the same year. However, in 2008 Gino Lombardi threw that curse aside as he took 3rd at Worlds. In addition, Con Le was able to make Top 16 at Worlds 2010. Overall, six of eight US National Champions didn’t have any success on the big stage. Right now JR2 is on a roll, and he has his sights set on Worlds. Will the gears fall off of the Klinklang train, or will John Roberts II pave his own path?
When you think of the Pokémon TCG, the first name that comes to mind should be Jason “Ness” Klaczynski. By far, he is the most accomplished player in the game, and Worlds is his tournament. After his victory in 2008, he became the first player to win the World Championship twice, a feat that hasn’t been matched yet. Since he returned to the game in 2005, Jason had qualified for Worlds every year – until 2011. After dominating most of the 2010-11 season, he had an extremely bad run of luck at US Nationals, which caused him to lose his rating invite. Then, he was one round away from qualifying through the Grinder, but it wasn’t meant to be. To everyone’s surprise, the two-time World Champion had to watch the event from the sidelines last year.
Perhaps missing that invite lit a fire under Jason. Throughout the 2011-12 season, he has performed extremely well, earning enough Championship Points for an invite after State Championships. Normally Jason is a player that likes to stick with one deck and perfect it, but he was forced to change and give up his favorite decks as new sets came out. As most people know, he played Durant for most of the season, and he had incredible success with it. When Darkrai EX and Heatmor came out, though, it was time to move on. At US Nationals, a tournament where Jason does not do well normally, he was able to make Top 32 with a Mismagius/Vileplume/Darkrai deck; this showed that he’s able to adapt to new situations in a short amount of time. When he’s on top of his game, there’s nobody better than Jason Klaczynski, and he seems like he’s more focused than ever. Could we see a three-time World Champion? Time will tell.
While Tom Dolezal is a fairly soft spoken guy, his tournament results speak volumes. I mean, just take a look at this laundry list of accomplishments!
2nd place, US Nationals 2005
3rd place, US Nationals 2006
Top 8, US Nationals 2008
Top 8, US Nationals 2011
Top 8, US Nationals 2012
Top 32, US Nationals 2007
Top 32, US Nationals 2010
3rd place, Worlds 2011
Top 8, Worlds 2006
Top 16, Worlds 2008
Top 32, Worlds 2004
Note: Tom did not play in 2009.
As you can see, Tom is one of the most consistent players of all time. How does he do it? Well, he attributes his success to consistency, solid play, and luck. Normally he will pick the deck that he feels is the best and make it as consistent as possible. For example, at this year’s Nationals he used a deck with just 4 Darkrai EX and 2 Smeargle that aimed to use Night Spear as quickly as possible. If you don’t believe me, look at this video where he discusses the deck. When Tom plays, there are no tricks or gimmicks involved; his decks are as simple as possible. Instead, Tom finds creative ways to use every little part of his deck. As he has shown time and time again, if you don’t make any mistakes, a deck that is able to set up every round is extremely powerful. Obviously this formula has worked for Tom throughout his career, so don’t be surprised if he does well again at this year’s World Championship. Without a doubt, Tom Dolezal is a poster boy for consistency in the Pokémon TCG.
Before he started The Deck Out, not too many people were aware of who Esa Juntunen was. For those who didn’t know, he has an incredible tournament track record. Over the past eight years, Esa has won Finland’s National Championship an astounding six times, including another one this year. After he won the tournament, he revealed the “Hammertime” deck that he used to win, which shook up the metagame a little bit. Now he is looking to make an impact at Worlds.
Since he runs his blog, Esa has to put a lot of time and effort into figuring out new decks. In addition, he speaks with people from all over the world, so he gets ideas from everywhere. Combine this with his natural deckbuilding skills, and you have a scary player as we enter this year’s World Championship. Back in 2008, he was able to eliminate the undefeated Alex “Chuck” Brosseau from Worlds, and he ended up finishing in the Top 8 with his rogue Glaceon deck. Who knows what deck he’ll come up with this year?
When you think of great Japanese players, the first one that comes to mind is probably Tsuguyoshi Yamato. Even though Yamato is a legend of the game, Yuta Komatsuda is right there with him. In the history of the Pokémon TCG World Championships, only two players have gone undefeated to become World Champion – Yamato (2004) and Komatsuda (2010). Both players have a Top 4 finish at Worlds to go along with their championships, too. Now that he has qualified once again by winning Japan’s Spring Battle Carnival, it’s time for Komatsuda to step out of Yamato’s shadow once and for all.
What is the key to his success? Overall, it has to be attributed to consistency and flawless play. In 2010 Komatsuda went 7-0 in the Swiss rounds, and then he went all the way to the championship without losing a match. Along his path he defeated some of the game’s greatest players, including Sami Sekkoum in Top 8 and our own Michael Pramawat in the most epic Finals of Worlds to date. In addition, it produced one of the most memorable moments in the history of the game. Now that we’re back in Hawaii, expect him to be at the top tables again. Simply put, Yuta Komatsuda is one of the best players in the world.
Even though most people know who he is, Ross Cawthon might be one of the most underrated players in the game. To start off, Ross is one of the few people that has qualified for every World Championship to date. No matter what, this is an impressive achievement by itself. To make it back to Worlds every year, it requires dedication, innovation, and skill. During those eight years, he has solidified himself as one of the greatest Worlds performer of all time. Only two players have made it to the Finals of Worlds multiple times – Jason Klaczynski and Ross Cawthon. To tell the truth (pun intended), that’s some elite company.
Unfortunately for Ross, each of those Finals appearances ended in 2nd place finishes. Strangely enough, both times had a similar story. In 2005 he came up with a Dark Tyranitar/Electrode ex deck that was very good against the metagame, but he ended up losing to Jeremy Maron’s unexpected Nidoqueen deck in the Finals. In 2011 he came up with The Truth, but he ended up taking 2nd to David Cohen’s Magneboar, a deck that was thought to be obsolete. What will Ross have in store for this year’s World Championship? Maybe it’s his time to take the gold.
In general, Sami Sekkoum is considered one of the best players in the world. Like Ross, he has qualified for every World Championship to date, and he has quite the track record. In every year except 2006, the four-time UK National Champion has made it to the top cut at Worlds. In total, he has placed 2nd, Top 8 three times, Top 16, and Top 32. To put that in perspective, Sami has finished Top 8 or better at half of the World Championships! It would be tough to find a more consistent performer than him.
After going undefeated in the Swiss rounds last year, Sami’s run was cut short by a controversial loss to Ross Cawthon, and it left a sour taste in this mouth. This year, he’ll be back looking to make another run. Like many other top players, Sami sticks to consistent decks without a lot of tricks. Above all, his strength is being able to outplay his opponents and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Even though he is extremely friendly and a great sport, don’t be fooled; this guy is a competitor, and he hates to lose. Look for Sami Sekkoum to have another good showing this year.
Of course, the thrill of Worlds is that any of the competitors can become the World Champion. While these are great players to watch for, there are over a hundred others that have the same opportunity to do well. So far 2012 has been the year for new players to emerge, and maybe Worlds will continue that trend. Who will make names for themselves this year? Who will be crowned the World Champion of 2012 and go down in the history books? We’ll find out in August.