Welcome to the first installment of our weekly mailbag segment! Each week a member of The Top Cut will take questions from fans and answer them here on the site! To send in a question, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For the first week, the questions were directed to Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich. Let’s see what you guys asked this week!
With Energy Switch and Crushing Hammer rotated out, how do you feel Darkrai EX decks will fare in competitive play? Also thoughts on Hydregion/Darkrai decks making a comeback? – Matt Leta
Darkrai will always be a strong card, but the loss of Energy Switch hurts it a lot. The old way of running it with just Sableye and Darkrai doesn’t seem to work anymore without the ability to use Energy Switch for a quick Night Spear. If you want to keep using it, you’ll have to find a supporting partner now. It seems like the three best options are Victini EX (to accelerate with Turbo Energize), Garbodor (to slow the game down), and Hydreigon (to keep Darkrai alive with Max Potion). Since so many decks are able to KO Darkrai in one hit, I’m not sure how viable Hydreigon will be. Darkrai/Garbodor, similar to the version Takuya Yoneda played at Worlds, is probably the best way to use Darkrai right now.
Did you enjoy Vancouver? Are you looking forward to Washington DC? – Bauke Wijnsma
Overall, I enjoyed Vancouver a lot. Every World Championship is a great opportunity to meet new people and rekindle old friendships. No matter where they put the event, the people are going to make it fun. Unfortunately, I did not like the convention center as a venue. The open gaming room closed at midnight, so there was nowhere for people to go to hang out at night. It felt like we were not welcome! Also, my cell phone didn’t work in Canada, so it was difficult to keep in touch with people. I’m looking forward to DC! I’ve never been there before, so hopefully it will be an amazing place for Worlds.
If you’re participating in a large tournament such as Nationals or Worlds, you probably want to focus on the event instead of dealing with people coming up to you between rounds. How and when would you prefer people introducing themselves to you at large tournaments? – Ryan Martindale
I’m honored that people want to introduce themselves to me! Any time between rounds is a good time. I’m always willing to sign something, take a picture, etc. Just say hi! The only thing I don’t have time for is playing games with people. Normally I’m pretty busy at events (or I’m burned out from playing in the tournament), so I don’t have time to play very often.
Do you think that Genesect/Virizion will be a good deck? – Sea Fan
Honestly I don’t think it is a good deck. Genesect EX and Virizion EX both are very good cards, but just relying on Emerald Slash for Energy acceleration doesn’t work too well. Most of the time you’re going to use it on the second turn, which means you’re attacking with Genesect EX on the third turn. Unfortunately, Megalo Cannon is too expensive for what it does. Since it requires two Grass Energy, it takes two turns to power up, which doesn’t bode well. I feel like there’s some way to make it good, but I haven’t found it yet. Virizion EX’s Ability is incredible, though! I can see that going into a lot of decks.
What is your opinion on the Tool Drop deck? – Avery Carlson
It’s a fun deck! But that’s all it is. Sure, you can beat a lot of decks when things go your way, but having a deck revolve around a 70 HP Pokémon that attacks for two Energy probably isn’t going to go well. With Silver Mirror and Silver Bangle, we’ll probably see a lot of decks run multiple Tool Scrapper, which also doesn’t help. Also, if you run into a Garbodor, kiss your Tools attached to Sigilyph goodbye. Just too many things work against poor Trubbish, but it’s awesome when you pull off that big Tool Drop for 200 damage.
If we have deck ideas for Bad Deck Monday, would you be interested? Where do we send them? – Mathias Grauer
Sure, I’m always open to new ideas! I can’t promise that I’ll use them, but I read all the ideas that get sent in. Probably the best way is to send them to our email, email@example.com.
This year I’m starting at a very difficult high school, so I’m going to have less time to dedicate towards Pokémon. How can I balance them out and still keep my competitive edge? – Jacob Carrasco
Finding a balance between your responsibilities and your hobby is tough, and it’s different for everyone. If you don’t have enough time to play throughout the year, take advantage of all the resources online that allow you to stay informed without putting in as much time. For example, watch videos and read articles just to keep up. Pokémon TCG Online and PlayTCG are good ways to get a few quick games in, too. Honestly I don’t do a lot of playtesting outside of my streams. Instead, I pay attention to how the metagame develops and try to figure out what gives me the best chance to win at a tournament. As long as you play a bit so your mechanics aren’t rusty, you should be fine. Good luck!
You tend to have positive results from using rogue decks on Bad Deck Monday. Would you ever consider running those for a tournament where prizes are on the line? – Daniel Sheikh
If I felt like a deck would give me a good chance of winning the tournament, sure! However, most of the decks on Bad Deck Monday are there for a reason. I always laughed when people told me to play Flipz at Worlds. You guys must want me to lose or something!
Can you talk about some of the most exciting TCG matches you’ve had in your career? When have you felt the proudest about your own accomplishments within the Pokémon community? – Sorina Radu
When you’ve been playing as long as I have, it’s tough to pick out the exciting matches because there have been so many of them. Here are a few that stick out to me, though.
2009 US Nationals, Top 8: In this match I was up against a player named Benji Angee. I was using a Luxray GL/Infernape 4 deck, and my opponent was using a Palkia G/Luxray GL/Dialga G deck that aimed to use Mesprit’s Psychic Bind repeatedly to shut down your Poké-Powers. Thanks to Palkia G LV.X’s Lost Cyclone, you could clear the Mesprit off your bench every turn and put out a new one to keep Powers locked every turn. In the first game of the match, my opponent was steamrolling me completely. I was Power locked, had no Supporters, and he got off to a really quick start. I was going to concede the game because the time limit was 60 minutes, and I needed time to take four prizes in the second game. Before I did, though, I played down a silly Rayquaza tech that I added last minute. If I could get a bunch of Heads with Speed Gain, I might have a shot to come back. When I put it down, my opponent asked to read it, and I noticed his eyes got big like he was scared. I got Tails for the Power, and I passed, ready to concede.
Since Rayquaza has a three retreat cost (and I played no switching cards), my opponent just had to use Luxray GL LV.X’s Bright Look to bring it active. I would be stuck, and he would be free to use Palkia G LV.X’s Hydro Shot to rip apart my bench. Once he dragged it out, I was about to reach for my cards to scoop. But then he said “Flash Impact.” He actually wanted to KO it! Indirectly this stupid Rayquaza was giving me a shot at the game. Basically I got two free Energy attachments while he took the time to KO it, and he put 60 damage on his own Mesprit with Flash Impact in the process. I just had to use a Crobat G to Flash Bite the remaining 10 HP, and basically we traded a prize with me getting two Energy attachments.
Even with that Rayquaza blunder, I was extremely far behind in the game. I still have no idea why I continued to play. If I lost a long game, there was no way I could take enough prizes in the second game to win. But somehow, I came back from down three prizes to tie the game up at one prize each. He made lots of small errors that ended up snowballing into an advantage for me. At the end, he had one turn to beat me. If he had a Palkia G, Energy Gain, Water Energy, and Crobat G, he could KO my Infernape 4 LV.X to win. If he didn’t, I would be able to KO anything on his field with Fire Spin. To my surprise, he just did 60 with Luxray, and I attached another Fire Energy to do 100 for the win. My heart was racing, and I couldn’t believe I had won. The second game didn’t end up finishing, and I moved onto the Top 4! Then I won my next two rounds to become US National Champion.
2010 US Nationals, Top 32: After some close calls and very poor judging in Top 128 and Top 64 that almost caused me to lose, I found myself against a player named Jason Schelin. I was using my Dialga G/Garchomp C deck against his Luxray GL/Garchomp C. In the first game, I opened with a Garchomp C against his Ambipom G. He went first, attached a Double Colorless Energy, and used Snap Attack for 120. I didn’t even get to draw a card! In the second game, he had a really poor hand, and I won an easy 6-0 game. But the third game was much different.
Going first, I had a Call Energy, which allowed me to grab two Basics. In that format, you couldn’t play any Trainers if you went first, so having Call Energy to help set up on the first turn was huge. On the second turn I got a Claydol, which was met immediately by a Power Spray, preventing the crucial Cosmic Power to let me draw more cards. Since there was a chance he could KO it with Garchomp C LV.X, I decided to use my Uxie to Set Up and fill my hand to seven. I figured there was no way he had a second Power Spray, and if he did, he wouldn’t have the cards to KO Claydol, too. Well, I was wrong. Uxie got stopped by a Power Spray as well, and then he had the Garchomp C LV.X, Energy Gain, and Double Colorless Energy to KO the Claydol. I was left with one card in my hand, and it wasn’t a Supporter. I was screwed.
My opponent was grabbing a KO every turn, and I was just passing. In that format, falling way behind in an SP mirror match was almost impossible to come back from. Between Luxray’s Bright Look and Garchomp’s Dragon Rush, it was extremely easy to take prizes, and N didn’t exist for hand disruption. But I noticed that my opponent had used all four Cyrus’s Conspiracy in the first four turns, so there was a good chance he would burn out if the game was drawn out. Down three prizes, I finally drew into my own Cyrus, and I began to attack with the only thing that could stand a chance, Drifblim FB. After your opponent has three or less prizes remaining, the big balloon gets 120 HP, making it extremely difficult to KO. Also, he put down a Lucario GL to get an easy KO on my Chatot early in the game, which made everything in play have x2 Weakness. (At the time, most Pokémon had +10 or +20 Weakness.) Drifblim’s Shadow Ball applies Weakness to damage done to the bench, so I would be able to get easy KOs on all the Uxie and Azelf my opponent had put down.
It was an uphill battle that I never expected to win, but I had to try with my tournament life on the line. Every turn I would pick off something with Drifblim since he had benched so many Uxie. Some turns he would take a cheap prize with Bright Look or Dragon Rush, and I would respond with another Shadow Ball. On the turns where he had to attack the active, I would either use a Poké Turn to pick it up or Garchomp C LV.X’s Healing Breath to put it back to full HP. I began to close the gap, but my opponent was down to a single prize at this point. With a 70 HP Azelf on my bench, could I really avoid him taking that one last cheap prize? It seemed impossible, but I had to try. My heart sank as another Garchomp C hit the bench with an Energy. I knew next turn it would level up and Dragon Rush my Azelf, and I didn’t have the cards to get my own Garchomp C LV.X to KO his first. The writing was on the wall.
If I just had one turn to get my Garchomp out, though, I could win. In a desperate move, I sent out a Dialga G against his Metal resistant Luxray and used Deafen for 0 damage. Odds are he didn’t have his 4th Double Colorless Energy, and I knew he had the Energy Gain in hand; he just forgot to play it on the previous turn. Dragon Rush costs three Energy, but it costs only two with Energy Gain attached. However, he can’t play it down after I use Deafen! Now he’s caught between a rock and a hard place. If he promotes the Garchomp and levels it up, he can’t use Dragon Rush, and I KO it with my own Garchomp. If he doesn’t level it up, I just use Dragon Rush to KO the Basic on the bench. The 0 damage Deafen saved the game for me.
On the following turn, I got out my Garchomp C LV.X to snipe his Garchomp C on the bench. Now we were tied at one prize each, but I didn’t have a way to attack on the following turn. If he could get another Garchomp down, I would be powerless to prevent a Dragon Rush on the following turn. Fortunately he ran out of steam, and that one Drifblim FB swooped in to take its fourth prize of the game. Somehow, some way, I made a huge three prize comeback in a game where I would have bet my life savings that I’d lose. I felt like I had dodged a bullet. It was a magical run, and I ended up taking 3rd the year after winning Nationals.
My proudest moment has to be winning US Nationals. Even though the games were extremely uneventful (I actually won the last game on the second turn), it was a moment I’ll never forget. Hundreds of people were watching and started to chant, “Pooka, Pooka, Pooka!” I really didn’t know how to handle it at the time. It was a surreal moment. The previous champion, Gino Lombardi, came over to shake my hand as a sort of passing of the torch. Having so much excitement in the air because you won is an indescribable feeling. Looking back, I wish I would have celebrated more with the crowd! I was just too shell shocked to comprehend what was happening.
In your opinion, which Worlds was the best overall? – Allan Xu
For me, the best Worlds is always going to be the first one I attended in 2004. Everything about it was awesome. For the first time, I got to meet all of these people who I talked to online every day for years. The hotel was beautiful, and they put a lot of effort into making the event feel special. On the night before the tournament, they held a huge dinner for all of the participants with live music and everything! Also, it was the first time I encountered any international players. I was in awe when Yamato went undefeated to win the tournament. Even though I love going to Worlds every year, 2004 stands out to me as my favorite.
How much on average does it cost you to play a season (travel, cards, etc.)? Do you have any tips on how to minimize this cost? – J C
Man, this is a tough question! It all depends on how many events I go to and where they are. Plus, where you live is a big factor. I’m fortunate to live in the Midwest in the US, which has tons of events in driving distance. If I had to break it down, a typical season for me has looked like this.
Battle Roads (attending about 4 events): $100 on cards, $30 on gas
City Championships (attending about 10 events): $100 on cards, $100 on gas, $100 on hotel
State Championships (attending 2 events): $100 on cards, $40 on gas
Regional Championships (attending 3 events): $100 on cards, $80 on gas, $400 on hotel
National Championships: $100 on cards, $40 on gas, $300 on hotel
World Championships: $300 on travel, $300 on hotel
Keep in mind I actually don’t buy many cards. Normally I do my testing online, and then I buy singles online for the deck I want to play. Gas costs are fairly low because the events are near me. Hotel is split between 3-4 people, and so are the gas costs sometimes. Overall, my estimate is probably low compared to the average competitive player.
What do you think Pokémon needs to change to make the game seem more balanced and fun? – Poet Larsen
Tough question. Over the past few years, the game has gotten too fast for my liking. All of the cards out right now do too many “explosive” things that are hard to predict. I really dislike super strong Item cards like Hypnotoxic Laser, Colress Machine, and Dark Patch. Even a card like Max Potion is too powerful for me when the Pokémon have so much HP. In terms of the rules, I hope they find a way to balance out the advantage of going first. Personally I’d like to see some restriction for the player going first, even if it’s something as small as not drawing a card.
I am new to Pokémon. Before I drop $450 for 3 Tropical Beach, I need some insight. If you were me, would you take the risk and buy them or just play other decks? – Patrick Casey
If you’re just starting, I probably wouldn’t invest so much in a deck to start unless you’re really sure the deck is worth it. Honestly it depends on your budget and how seriously you’re taking the game in your first season. The nice thing about Pokémon right now is that there are multiple viable decks, and the tins make most valuable cards easily accessible. For example, the most expensive card in Jason Klaczynski’s Worlds winning Darkrai deck was probably a Keldeo EX promo that you can get for $5 online. With the Plasma tins coming out, Simon Narode’s second place Plasma deck won’t cost much either. Also, I wouldn’t expect Tropical Beach to be legal next season, so it probably loses a lot of value. I don’t know that for sure, but it’s my guess.
Do you have a favorite non-Pokémon video game? If so, what is it? – Ibun West
I can only pick one? I don’t know if I can do that! In the last decade or so, the game I’ve played the most has to be Starcraft 2. Since its beginning in 2010, I’ve been an avid fan of playing and watching the game. In fact, people like Day and Artosis were a big inspiration for me. In a lot of ways, Starcraft 2’s coverage was the reason The Top Cut began in the first place. We saw how much their professional coverage made the game grow, and we wanted to emulate it.
Besides Starcraft 2, the game I’ve played the most in my life has to be Super Smash Bros. Melee. I used to come home from school and play that game with my friends for hours almost every day. Even though I’m terrible at fighting games, I could play that game all day. In fact, I played it for hours when I stayed with my good friend Sebastian Crema in Vancouver at Worlds this year! Another game I love is Final Fantasy III (or VI I suppose) for Super Nintendo. It’s the only game I’ve really played through multiple times besides Pokémon games. If you haven’t played it, I’d recommend doing that immediately. Such an incredible game!
What are your top five favorite decks of all time? – David Bowne
In my 10+ years of playing Pokémon, I’ve played hundreds of decks (maybe even a thousand). Each year brings a new format, new cards, and new strategies. If I have to pick five, it would be these.
5) Ludicolo/Magcargo (2005-06): A simple concept that required a lot of planning in advance. Ludicolo and Magcargo were so obviously meant to be paired together. Magcargo puts a card on top of your deck with Smooth Over, and Ludicolo draws it with Swing Dance. For some reason I always loved this deck.
4) Ho-Oh (2012-13): Honestly this deck was miserable to play. Its hands were always so bad! But somehow it found a way to win with some weird plays. I had a really good run with this deck, winning 28 games in a row during Cities. It just became my baby.
3) Meganium/Heracross (2001): This was the deck that started it all. I really hadn’t played much competitively, but I stumbled onto the online Pojo forums one day and found out a Stadium Challenge was happening in Rosemont, IL. I saw Feraligatr decks were dominating, so I used the first Grass Pokémon I found – Meganium and Heracross. With a deck I built the night before, I lost only one game in the Swiss rounds, and I ended up making Top 8 at my first major tournament. The rest is history.
2) Luxray/Infernape (2008-09): Well, I won US Nationals with this deck, so it’s going to be special for me. I really enjoyed playing LuxApe because it had an immense number of options at its disposal. I’ve never felt so comfortable playing a deck no matter what the matchup was. Consistency, speed, power… this deck had it all!
1) Dialga/Garchomp (2009-11): I’ve played more tournament games with this deck than any other – not even close. With Dialga/Chomp I won countless Cities, two State Championships, and a Regional (and 2nd at another). I also took 3rd at US Nationals in 2010 with it. Overall, the deck provided control with Dialga’s Deafen and power with Garchomp’s Dragon Rush. Once you loaded up that Dialga G LV.X with tons of Special Metal, not much could take it down. When it got low on HP, Garchomp C LV.X’s Healing Breath removed all the damage. I knew this deck like the back of my hand.
Well, there you have it! Hopefully you enjoyed the first edition of the mailbag. Next week Josue “Crimz” Rojano will be taking your questions. Just send them to firstname.lastname@example.org by next Saturday! Thanks for reading.