Next up we have a player from California, Chris Nguyen! In his two years playing competitively in the Pokémon TCG, he’s been able to qualify for Worlds both times. Without a doubt, he is a rising star in the game, and I’m excited to hear from him. Let’s get his answers!
Congratulations on your invite to Worlds! How did you earn so many points?
Thanks a lot! I’ve been to my fair share of tournaments this year and I was lucky enough get through the bulk of the season earning 465 points. I’ve had plenty of highs and plenty of lows throughout the year (including a frustrating 1-4 drop with Rayquaza/Eelektrik at my hometown Regionals) so the best description I can give my season so far has been a huge grind. My points from this season are broken down as follows:
Battle Roads = 25 points (1st, top 4)
Cities = 130 (1st, top 4, top 4, top
States = 190 (1st, 2nd)
Regionals = 120 (Top 8, Top 16)
For those who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about your history in the game?
My history with the Pokémon franchise extends all the way back to 1999, starting with the anime! I quickly jumped on the wagon as my friends and I discovered the Gameboy series and the TCG as well. I started collecting the cards not knowing what all the numbers and crazy energy symbols were for. I just knew that I liked the art and collected the cards of the Pokémon I saw on the TV show.
I finally learned how to play the game with the help of the Thunderstorm Gift Box, which included a CD tutorial for the TCG. Soon after, my cousins and I were building decks and playing by ourselves all day long! Soon after, I took a long break from Pokémon after my cards were stolen from my locker at a local gym around the time Neo Discovery was released. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I picked this game up again, discovered organized play online and started connecting with the community.
As far as competing is concerned, last year was my first full year of competitive play. I was fortunate enough to earn an invite for 2012 on the back of a strong Regionals and States performance while earning a fair amount of points through the smaller Battle Roads and City Championships tournaments. Competing in Worlds was an experience that I’ll never forget. My record was an unforgettable 3-4 that day but the competition was fierce, and the margin of error for every turn of every game was slim. I loved it, and the thrill of playing this game at its highest level has been my inspiration to make it back to Vancouver this year and make up for last year’s performance.
What has been your favorite deck to use this season? What have you been using currently?
My 2 favorite decks this season are also the two most consistent decks that I’ve played all year: Darkrai EX/Mewtwo EX/Roserade for the BW-DRX format and Tornadus EX/Landorus EX/Mewtwo EX/Bouffalant for the BW-PS format. I was a huge fan of the search that Roserade offered. I was able to search out DCE, Energy Switches and Catchers with Ultra Balls and Level Balls while everyone was merely hoping to draw into their resources the old fashioned way. It was really empowering and the consistency helped me early in the season at Battle Roads and Fall Regionals.
My most recent favorite deck is “Big Basics,” more specifically, a combination of Tornadus EX, Landorus EX, Mewtwo EX and a Bouffalant. In a format where people were trying to set up Stage 2’s and accelerate their Energies via Trainers and support Pokémon, I shifted my thinking towards a fast hitting, no set-up deck with single energy attachment Pokémon. It allowed better response and recovery while still maintaining a high level of speed and early game pressure with Hypnotoxic Laser – essential for Stage 2 matchups.
What do you attribute your success to this season?
The number one reason for my season’s success is the group of friends and players that I playtest with. They’ve been my foundation for competitive play since I’ve started and have always helped me raise my level of gameplay in every format. Players like Kenny Britton, Ruben Cisca, Mark Garcia, and Oscar Morales have always challenged me in tournaments and casual play to perfect lists and have always given great insight and perspective on metagaming and what to expect at a big tournament. Chris Silver has also been a big help and has offered a lot of great veteran advice since I started playing last year. I probably wouldn’t even be close to an invite without the help of my testing partners.
How do you feel about the current state of the game?
The game is alright. I’ve always heard veteran players talk about past formats like the SP format and how consistent and skill intensive those days were. I never played that format, but I can understand why players may be frustrated with the way things currently are. My biggest issue with the game is that I don’t think this format punishes players for making the wrong plays as often as it should, and conversely, reward players for the great plays that they make during a match. There are a lot of uncontrollable variables that have such a monumental impact on the outcome of a game that it sometimes feels like the outcome is based purely on the hand that you draw, the opening coin flip, or your in-game sleep flips.
Despite this, I feel that the game is actually on the road to recovery. The added search with Skyla and the help of Ace Spec trainers make the format more creative and add a much needed layer of consistency to deck construction. I feel there’s a direct correlation between the amount of “search” a format offers to the amount of skill required to excel in that format. The ability to search out resources forces players to make correct decisions at every point in the game, as opposed to simply playing what your deck or current hand “allows” you to play. In turn, players have the chance to showcase their knowledge and mastery over a match-up or format by continually making the best decisions possible giving themselves the most optimal chance of winning the game with minimal influence from the aforementioned “uncontrollable variables.” THIS is what I think players mean when they refer to a “skill” format and this is what I think of when I hear my friends talk about SP or any of the skill intensive formats of the past.
I don’t think we’re quite there yet, but the current format is a lot better than what we’ve had in the recent past.
What are your plans now that you have your invite?
My plans for the rest of the season are pretty much the same. I just got back from Utah Regionals last week losing in the top 16, but overall I’m really relieved to be done with the Championship Points race. It’ll allow me to take a step back from the game and enter the new format with a blank slate, not really worrying about grinding for points at Battle Roads and Nationals. It will also allow me to take risks when making deck choices and allow me to experiment with the format a bit more when BR’s comes along in May. Pokémon has always been more about the players and social setting and it’s nice to make the shift from ultra-intense competitive play towards a casual social environment where I’m not concerned with every single loss for the day. This was a luxury that I wasn’t afforded last year since we didn’t know where the points/invited cutoff would be.
You’ve had a lot of success in a short amount of time. Do you have any advice for new players trying to make it in the competitive scene?
Yes I do! At its core I believe a great competitive player is comprised of three characteristics: the ability to continually recognize and make correct in-game decisions (gameplay fundamentals), and the ability to compose a list of 60 cards to maximize each card’s value in the deck through synergy (deck building fundamentals) and the ability to analyze a metagame and make the correct deck choice when the time comes for a big tournament (deck choice).
Without getting too technical, I feel the absolute best way to get better at these aspects of the game is to playtest your butt off with a group of enthused players who want to do well and excel in the game as much as you do. The more you play, the easier it is to recognize patterns throughout the game like prize exchanges, pacing, and momentum swings and model your in-game decision making accordingly. Collaborating with other players will also give you a better perspective when building decks or analyzing a metagame before a big tournament. Pokémon is a social game and I think the key to competitive play is to align yourself with players who can challenge you to become better through playtesting and help you analyze and counter a metagame.
Do you have any hobbies besides Pokémon?
I like hiking the Hollywood trails with my girlfriend. I also do a fair amount of photography in my spare time but my most recent obsession is this video game on my phone called Candy Crush. I’m also a pretty big LA Lakers fan and hope they can get past the Spurs in round 1 of the playoffs!
What do you enjoy the most about the Pokémon TCG?
I know it’s cliché to say, but camaraderie and the friendships I’ve made in the short time I’ve been playing are the primary reason I’m still here. I enjoy the game and I love the rush of doing well at a tournament, but the biggest kick I get out of the game is spending time with the people I play with.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to our viewers?
Yes! Support these guys, donate or buy a mat. I started playing right around the time you Top Cut guys got this thing off the ground and have grown as a player watching your streams and gameplay vids. You guys are doing good work out there. Also wanted to give some love to my NorCal counterparts and the rest of my friends across the country who just recently got their invites or are well on their way to an invite. Good luck everyone, and I can’t wait to see you guys in a few months.
P.S. Josue I miss your face!
As you can see, Chris is a great player and even better guy. His positive attitude and hard work are certainly paying off, and we’ll be seeing him in Vancouver because of it. Remember his name. It won’t be the last time you hear it!