Even though he’s been playing for a while, Dustin Zimmerman really has been breaking out as a star in the Pokémon TCG recently. After winning two State Championships (and almost a third) last year, he earned his invitation to the World Championships very early on. Once again, he was able to qualify for Worlds in 2013 almost effortlessly. The one knock against him is that he wasn’t able to make it deep into a major event like US Nationals or Worlds, but that all changed with a Top 4 performance at this year’s World Championships! We were fortunate enough to get an interview with him to find out more about Dustin and his very creative deck!
You’ve been a player on the verge of breaking out for the past few years, and now you have that huge accomplishment under your belt. How does it feel to make Top 4 at Worlds?
It feels absolutely incredible. Just the idea of having my biography in the tiny Worlds booklet makes me happier than it should any average player. I have been playing for 8 full seasons now (my first of which was in the Senior division), and in that time I have been trying so hard to make a name for myself. Thanks to a few State Championship placements and some videos courtesy of you guys, that was somewhat achieved. Although until recently I was so frustrated that I couldn’t place well at a large tournament. I felt like it was holding me back from being considered a “top tier” player. I’m by no means saying that I am, by the way. But I hope this T4 lets everyone know that I take this game very seriously, and I have no intention of stopping.
Everyone has different ways of preparing for tournaments, especially the World Championships. What did you do to get ready for the tournament?
I started out lightly by playing PTCGO until I decided on which deck I was going to play (which I will discuss soon). Then in the few weeks leading up to Worlds, I managed to play several games against all willing members of my team; Team Hovercats. I bought a watch, set a timer, and played several timed games to make sure that I could operate my deck both quickly and as intelligently as possible. Several changes to the list were made, some of which courtesy of my fellow Cats. I tested repeatedly against Plasma, Blastoise, and Darkrai until I knew exactly what I was doing every single time. I did not test against Gothitelle because I choose not to be clinically depressed during a game of Pokémon. I also continued to play about 15 games a day on PTCGO, just to be sure that my list was operating as intended.
Let’s talk about the deck you used, which was a very unorthodox version of Darkrai/Garbodor – almost just a Sableye/Garbodor deck. What made you decide to run this deck in the first place?
Here’s an interesting story. After Nationals I was playing on PTCGO with my Nationals deck (Darkrai/Exp. Share), just trying to see if it was still good. Randomly I got paired up against The Top Cut’s own Michael Pramawat, who was playing Darkrai/Garbodor. I remembered that the deck placed second in the Senior division at Nationals, so my interest was peaked. During the game we played, there were several instances where I just thought there was no way I could lose. Everything he tried I countered, and continued to take prize after prize. Then before I knew it, I had 1 prize left, 2 or so cards in my deck, and absolutely no resources left. I was staring down a Sableye holding a Life Dew and a benched Garbodor that I couldn’t do anything about. I lost! I was instantly hooked. I created a list and began testing it the same day. So thanks, Pram! My deck’s name is Hovertoxin, by the way.
Most decks try to power up some big attackers and take six prizes as quickly as possible. However, yours doesn’t run many attackers. What’s the general strategy?
In a way, my deck could be considered a lock deck. But unlike Gothitelle, my opponent was allowed to play all of their cards and attack whenever they wanted. Just (ideally) not use any Abilities. Other than Garbodor, it was the combination of Pokemon Catcher, Crushing/Enhanced Hammer, Hypnotoxic Laser, and Junk Hunt that made it possible for my deck to win. The usual strategy is to Catcher up a Pokémon they wish not to have active, Hammer and Laser them relentlessly, all while taking them off their Energy and forcing them to use several resources just to keep taking prizes. If everything goes well their 170-180 HP EX’s are locked and knocked out coming back to MY turn, which lets me set up and do it all again! Knowing what to Junk Hunt for every turn is essential, and it’s not always obvious. For instance, if I myself am about to deck out, I can Junk Hunt for Super Rod as many times as necessary to prevent it. Additionally, four Float Stones made Garbotoxin shutting off my own Dark Cloak irrelevant. And if they ever knock out Garbodor, I get the Ability back! The beauty in the deck though is the fact that I can switch from disruptive to offensive immediately.
Plasma was one of my most favorable matchups. If they ever benched a Deoxys or Keldeo, I immediately Catchered it and Junk Hunted. So then they Switch, attach, and maybe even kill a Sableye. Then I do the exact same thing next turn. After a while, they simply cannot keep up. Either they run out of Energy or deck out. All the while I am setting up a Darkrai on the bench to take prizes once they’re at their weakest point. Against Blastoise, Garbodor simply shuts them down. Even if they played Tool Scrapper and had a turn of Deluging, I could easily attach another next turn. When Rush In isn’t an option, Catchering active a Blastoise is critical. Once I feel like I’ve discarded enough energy after repeated Crushing Hammer, I come in with several Night Spears that they should have no answer to. Opposing Darkrai decks are a little tricky, but the tactic boils down pretty similarly. Catcher an Energy-less Darkrai while shutting off their Dark Cloak, and Junk Hunt/Night Spear into hopeful victory. Klinklang and Rayeels are essentially auto-wins, and Gothitelle is an auto-loss! I hate the deck, and I didn’t care about the matchup. I teched a Sneasel for the matchup, even though we all know it doesn’t really help that much. I accepted the matchup as a loss before the event, and I luckily I didn’t have to play any at Worlds. HA.
You run a few cards that seem a little strange – Sneasel, Ghetsis, and Life Dew. Can you explain what made you run these?
The Sneasel was, not that great. I cut my fourth Hypnotoxic Laser for it in hopes of having somewhat of a chance against Gothitelle. After finding out that it could still provide useful in other matchups I decided to keep it. For instance, Lasering and using Corner on a Keldeo against Darkrai or any deck who has played all of their Switch is pretty decent. Additionally, Virbank + Hypnotoxic Laser + Corner proves to be difficult for an opposing Sableye to handle. It leads to them getting knocked out coming back to my turn, while at the same time preventing them from using Night Spear, allowing me to attach an extra Energy in hopes of getting off the first attack (another great strategy against Darkrai).
Ghetsis was the result of several insane theories between myself and Brit Pybas. During an average day of testing, I realized that I hated my 1 Colress. It was awful early game, and then during late game when it’s most effective, I should already have everything I need in my hand because of several Junk Hunts. Why would I want to shuffle it all back in? So I scanned my binder and briefly paused on Ghetsis. It just seemed better. Early game, it can disrupt a freshly Tropical Beached hand or an opposing Sableye that just took back two perfect items. Late game, who cares if it was bad? Like I said I should already have everything I need in my hand. I don’t want to discard it all with Juniper, shuffle it back in with N, so why not just maybe disrupt them and maybe draw cards? I have nothing better to do. I tried a few lists with more than one Ghetsis, but eventually I settled on just the one.
Which brings me to, Life Dew! Such an incredible card, and the perfect Ace Spec for this kind of deck. It is so important to prevent your opponent from taking prizes while you are slowly disrupting their tempo. Throw a Life Dew on a Sableye and they’re forced to deal with it, all the while desperately trying to recover from whatever I did to them last turn. There were several instances where I would win and my opponent would have 1-2 prizes left, prizes they would have otherwise taken if it weren’t for Life Dew. In odd cases, it would bait an early Tool Scrapper which allowed Garbodor to prevail with unopposed Float Stones. But if they just bit the bullet and knocked it out, I Junk Hunt for it next turn with a new Sableye, and attach it again next turn. It’s brilliant. Side note: it was prized against Jason in game 1 of Top 4. Had it not been, maybe Worlds would have ended differently?
How confident did you feel with this deck going into the event? It seems like a complicated list that took a lot of fine tuning!
I actually felt more confident with this deck than I have with any deck I’ve ever played. My list was solid, my matchups were understood, and I knew that as long as I could avoid Gothitelle, I would have a very good shot at winning the event as long as I played perfectly. Which is another reason I love this deck, playing perfectly will reward the player. No amount of prizes your opponent is ahead can necessarily prevent you from winning. Hovertoxin works from behind!
Now that you have your invite for next year, what’s in store for you this season? Do you plan on going to a lot of events still?
I am still going to play as much as possible. I love this game for several reasons, and can’t see myself taking a break anytime soon. I am wholeheartedly interested in winning as many events as possible for the sake of my own personal happiness. I’ll be working just as hard as if though I didn’t already have my invite. I’m sorry ahead of time if I grinch any of you.
Anything else you’d like to say to our viewers? Anyone you want to thank?
I would like to tell everyone to please stop complaining about the format (ever). Deal with the decks that people are playing, adapt, playtest, and you will have a better chance at winning games! But on a lighter side, there are so many people I would love to thank. Every single member of Team Hovercats is responsible for making me the player I am today. Without them, I’m not sure I would even still be playing this game. I would also like to thank Tim Spurling and Dennis Gill for giving me a great head start into the competitive scene back in 2005. Lastly, thank you guys! The Top Cut has been an extraordinary success since it’s beginnings in 2011. I’m glad that I have watched it grow to what it is today, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds.
Thank you for the interview, Dustin! Also thanks for designing our logo! Most people don’t know that he was the one who created the original image for The Top Cut. If anyone is looking for a graphic designer, you have a talented guy on your hands here. Best of luck to you in 2014, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from you in the future!