Next up we have an interview with last year’s breakout performer, Harrison Leven! In his first year at the World Championships, Harrison took 2nd in one of the most exciting Finals matches we’ve ever seen. What’s next for him? Let’s hear from the man himself!
For those who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about your history in the game?
I’ve been playing the Pokémon video game since I was 5 and was introduced to the cards by the same friend that introduced me to the video game. I joined organized play in 2006 at my local State Championship here in Florida. I never accomplished much as a Senior, and when I look back on it I’m surprised at how I stuck with the game for so long. What I mean by that was that I didn’t really have many friends to enjoy the game with except for the original one. During my first year as a Master I definitely made more friends and enjoyed the game a lot more. During my third year in the Masters division I finally started winning things bigger than a City Championship, and shortly after that earned my first Worlds invite where I managed to place second at Worlds last year.
Since you already had an invite from last year’s Worlds, have you approached this season any differently? Are you taking it as seriously as you would have if you didn’t have the invite?
I’m definitely more relaxed this season than I was last season. I was extremely stressed during most of the season last year because I never felt like I secured my invite until I made T64 at Nationals. Because I do have my invite already for this season I’m not taking some of these smaller tournaments as seriously (like Battle Roads and City Championships). I have been going into States and Regional Championships from a competitive standpoint because there are prizes to be won there. It was really weird at the beginning of the season too because a lot of people were kind of expecting me to just scoop to them regardless of the tournament.
What has been your favorite deck to use this season? What have you been using currently?
My favorite deck was one that I used this season was back during Fall Battle Roads. It was a Shiftry/Darkrai/Sableye deck. The idea was like Darkrai with Hammers except also using Shiftry to shuffle in something that attached too many energy. It was a really funny deck and I managed to go 4-2 at one of the tournaments. I’ve recently been using Blastoise for these past three State Championships and Winter Regionals. I don’t really have much fun with it but it’s good and gets the job done.
How do you feel about the current state of the game?
It’s been better. I don’t really like to be the one to complain about the format but if I had to pick on something then it’d be the fact that both Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym are in the format together. If we just had one or the other it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but being able to do “30 damage” with a Trainer card is both weird and ridiculous.
As a player with a lot of success in a short period of time, do you have any advice for players trying to enter the competitive scene?
Uhm, once I realized how luck based this could sometimes be I decided to not stress as much about it and just go with it. I still try and figure out the best play for a larger tournament and meet up to test play with friends once a week. I guess if you’re looking to do well at the game make sure to playtest often enough and keep your mind open to any and all ideas.
You took 2nd at your first World Championship. What are your expectations for this year?
I’d love to win but of course everyone else would too. I’m not quite sure what to expect this year mainly because I haven’t messed around with stuff from the next set yet. If Plasma Freeze brings anything to make the game more skillful or some sort of unique deck then I would definitely feel more confident. But as of now I would be happy enough with a 5-2 Swiss record.
Do you have any hobbies besides Pokémon?
I usually spend my afternoons watching anime when I have nothing else do take up my time. I’ve recently dabbled into comics such as Green Lantern thanks to my friends Andrew Murray and Jeremy Jallen. I also enjoy playing a game of chess whenever there’s enough time. I also have to include deckbuilding games such as DC, Legendary, and Ascension. Ever since a bunch of friends and I discovered the DC deckbuilding game we’ve been hooked to it. I can say that we’ve probably played it as much as Pokémon these past few months.
What do you enjoy most about the Pokémon TCG?
Just like everyone else, my favorite thing about the game is the people that play it. If I didn’t have as many friends as I do within this game I’m sure I would have left it long ago. I guess I also enjoy the competitive side of the game and love the rush of doing great at a tournament.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to our viewers?
Good luck to everyone trying to finish getting their invites. And make sure to check out On The Bubble!
Thanks, Harrison! It’s always interesting to hear from players who enter the season with a guaranteed invite. Sometimes we see people take the year off, but it’s clear that this year’s competitors aren’t doing that. Good luck the rest of the way, and we’ll see you in Vancouver!