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João Lopes

A deeper look into the Poké-life of Igor Costa

Igor Costa is a player from Portugal loved by the community and needs no introdution. Although his Worlds sucess is know by everybody, his "career" is only know by his closer friends. Lets take a look at his path to glory.

09/27/2014 by João Lopes

Greetings, ladies and gentleman. Today I bring to you a deeper look into the Pokémon life of one of the current most beloved members of our community: Igor Costa.

He is a player that quickly became a respectable opponent in his home-country. From the very beginning of his career, he kept piling up victories after victories and managed to win four straight National Championships enabling him to play at World in every single year since he learned how to play. However, he couldn’t to get into the top cut at the World Championships, most of the time being one win short.

Of course, that was until his first year in the Masters Division (2012) when not only did he managed to get into the top 16, he won the tournament. After proving that his achievement was no fluke by reaching the finals again two years later, he has become an admired player by the whole Pokémon community.


JL: So, to get things started, how did you come in contact with the whole Pokémon franchise? More importantly, how did you get into the competitive scene?


IC: A friend of mine went to the 2008 Nationals and told me all about it. I wasn’t into the whole Pokémon phenomenon but what he described to me got me curious about the game…

He also told me that there were weekly tournaments being held at a place near where I live. I went there to inform myself about said tournaments and that sparked my interest. The first tournament I went to got me hooked right away and I started going regularly to that card shop. The rest is history…


JL: Did you get along with the community right away or did you start playing in tournaments just for the prizes?


IC: For many players I was just some kid that always seemed to win the tournaments. I was a young senior player that always prepared for the tournaments with the veteran Masters Division players – The big gap in experience between me and the rest of my division made each event in my early years of playing an easy win for me. Ironically, the real games were at home with my more experienced friends!

So, in a way, I started played in tournaments just for the prizes. However, I did get along with the players and made great friends thanks to those events.


JL: How was your first year of playing in tournaments? What was your first deck and how did you evolve from that?


IC: Fortunately for me, I was guided since the very beginning so I started strong: I won my very first tournament, a Battle Road in the fall of 2008, with my first deck: Darkrai lv. X/Blissey/Weaville.

The strategy of this deck was quite simple: Weavile (Secret Wonders) charged Blissey with a lot of Dark energies. Thanks to its Poké-Power, it could turn Blissey to the dark side and since Darkrai Lv.X made basic Dark energies into “special” ones due to its Poké-Body, Blissey could hit for a lot of damage without much effort. Moonlight Stadium in conjunction with Weavile’s power gave the whole army free retreat which helped levelling Darkrai up, besides the usual upsides of free retreat, of course.

Simple and powerful. Enough to plough through the small playing field.

Who knew Darkrai would later return and carry me to the most prestigious title in the game…


JL: What about your first Nationals? What were your expectations and how did it feel to win a paid trip and invite to Worlds 2009?


IC: To be honest, I was expected to be one of the favourites to take home the title. After all, I spent the whole season winning every single tournament!

Word of mouth was that there were a few Senior players who were coming to Nationals that were quite tough. That got me a little afraid but in the end it was just rumours.


JL: So, how was your first experience in the World Championships?


IC: I loved it! Even though I was exhausted from the long tip, the only thing I wanted to do was going to the lobby to play and watch other players’ games. It was a whole new world!

However, I was naive at the time and it all seemed to be easier than it really was. Needless to say, I got wrecked at the main event. That didn’t stop me from having fun, though, and I learned a lot from that experience.


JL: After that defeat, how did the 2009/2010 season go? Did you tried the other decks of the meta or did you stay true to your Machamp build?


IC: Unlike the previous season, I tried to build more competitive decks and took the game more seriously. Again, I learned a lot from Worlds.


JL: You had an interesting take on the Machamp deck for the 2010 Nationals. Care to share with us its strategy?


IC: Machamp (Stormfront) effortlessly sweeps all basic Pokémon. To take care of the evolved ones, I used a combination of Dusknoir (Diamond & Pearl) and Lumineon (Stormfront) to mess with my opponent’s board:

Lumineon’s Poké-Power brought a basic Pokémon from the opponent’s hand to its bench. Thanks to Dusknoir (and occasionally Warp Point), I was able to put any Pokémon that was giving me trouble back into the deck. To escape the combo, my opponent would have to limit his bench to only two Pokémon and they couldn’t be basics. It was an insane board advantage.

Gengar (also Stormfront) presented another problem. To get rid of it I used Skuntank (Platinum) to poison both active Pokémon taking advantage of my Broken Time-Space and then I used Machamp lv.X to deal 100 damage with Take Out making it a clean 110 damage without triggering Fainting Spell.


JL: So, Worlds in Hawaii... Our group was large that year. Tell us about that week on the Big Island.


IC: The first time in Hawaii was unforgettable. I went to Worlds with so many people with whom I get along with, that alone was awesome, but when I arrived there… I saw paradise!

The tournament itself wasn’t bad at all: I started 4-0 playing with my LuxChomp deck. However, I lost all three of the remaining games ending up in 22th place.

I was a relaxing and fun week that I will never forget.


JL: On the next season there was a sudden rotation before US Nationals. This time, the deck that you used in our Nationals was rotated, how did you handle the new unexplored format for Worlds?


IC: I didn’t playtest at all. The rotation came just after our Nationals and after that tournament I was away from the game. I had a job that took a lot of my time and was away from my friend who also play Pokémon so I went to Worlds not knowing what to play.

I didn’t do terrible, though. I made top 32 with Donphans & Dragons losing due to misplays and a bad matchup.

Funny story: I was afraid of Typhlosion as it was one of my worst matchups but surprisingly I won all three matches I had against that deck.


JL: If you knew then what you know now, what deck would you choose for that tournament?


IC: Definitely Typhlosion/Reshiram with Tropical Beach. It was just better than the other decks.


JL: Even after Worlds 2011, the HGSS-On was still a fresh format. What decks did you play during the 2011/2012 season and why?


IC: The most interesting deck I played during that season had to be my Shaymin/Suicune Entei LEGEND/Donphan/Yanmega deck. It was really fun to play and it could anything in the current metagame.


JL: Nationals 2012... Dark Explorers was a promising format but people were confused on how to get the most out of new powerhouse: Darkrai EX. What was your thought process while developing your deck for that year's Nationals?


IC: I started off by trying out Darkrai EX with Tornadus EX, the overhyped combination at the time, but I quickly realised that Tornadus was only useful against Terrakion based decks and even then Mewtwo was better!

I ended up using one Tornadus and two Mewtwo because I couldn’t find the third one to play. Even so, most Portuguese players had one or none Mewtwo EX because no one bought cards online at the time and those were really hard to find. In the end, I would win the Mewtwo wars anyway…

I also played a single Terrakion to deal with the so popular Darkrai a super rod. To get Mewtwo and Terrakion back.


JL: How did you test for that year's Worlds? What changes were made on the decklist and why?


IC: After Nationals, the changes to be made were quite obvious: get a third Mewtwo to finally replace Tornadus and replace the Super Rod with the second Terrakion.

The less obvious change was the fouth Professor Oak’s New Theory instead of the fourth Professor Juniper. The deck had many precious resources that I couldn’t afford to discard. Besides that, the four Junk Arms already made discarding resources too frequent.


JL: Probably the biggest event of your life: Worlds 2012. You have never even made the top cut before! How did it feel to get into day 2 in your first year in the Master's division?


IC: It felt amazing! Nothing could keep me don’t knowing that I made the top cut. It was like those movies in which you already know how it ends but still refuse to believe it.


JL: Tell me about the match against Yuta. A match so dramatic even the lights went out! With a paid trip and invite to next year's Worlds on the line, facing an opponent who made top 4 in 2006 and won, undefeated, in 2010 and with a crowd watching your every move. How did you cope with so much pressure?


IC: In all honesty, I didn’t fel pressure at all! My mindset was to focus in each game individually and nothing else. Not even the idea of getting the paid trip was going through my head.


JL: That match was long and had a dramatic conclusion. Walk us through what was going through your head.


IC: It was a tough game since he always seemed to find a response for my plays. What kept my cool throughout the whole match was thinking that even if I lost, nothing could deny the fact that I got that far.



JL: What about your top 4 match? Was it as hard as the top 8 one?


IC: It was but at the same time it was much less stressing. Since I was playing against a friend (Mike Diaz) I would be happy for him if I ended up losing that match. Of course, it would be much better if I managed to win.


JL: Finally you made the climb: you are playing in the big stage! Nervous? Were you confident you could become a World Champion on that day?


IC: I was neither confident nor nervous. I managed to get into the finals match! What more could I want? I was so proud of myself that I wasn’t even playing for the title: my only wish was to provide an exciting game for those watching at home. However, I had a lot of bad luck which seemed to make a balanced game impossible. Luckily for me, his bad luck stroked at the time I needed the most.


JL: You didn't get to play much on the first game. On the second game you started with Shaymin and you were forced to waste a DCE and an Eviolite on it. Was all hope lost?


IC: Not at all! I knew that it was quite improbable for him to knock Shaymin out and my hand was really good for the next turn. Like I said, I some bad luck in all three games but I knew it was a favourable matchup.


JL: Harrison made a bold play on the third game: he went all-in with a mewtwo and forced a prize race with a Mewtwo war.

With no winning gameplan at the moment, was this the time that you realized you had the ability to steal the game?


IC: Definitely! The game was lost but when he made that play I saw the light at the end of the tunnel!


JL: The question everybody must have asked you: what did you felt when Harrison failed the Ultra Ball search?


IC: Actually, I was expecting that. He said he didn’t know if it was still in the deck and I belied that my luck would turn around and Shaymin would be prizes.

I didn’t see myself winning the game after he pulled of a Juniper following my Smeargle/Super Scoop Up/ Juniper / N play (it would happen again in a couple of years) and that was my only escape.


JL: You did it. You became a world champion. You were on the top of the podium holding the first place trophy with the whole ballroom clapping for you. Happiest moment of your life?


IC: One of the happiest.


JL: You brought the title to a small country with no achievements so far. Besides your family, which I'm sure they were very proud of you, what was the reaction from your friends and fellow players upon your arrival?


IC: The closest ones was more than proud and even prepared a surprise welcome at the airport! It was an achievement I will always be proud of I believe they will too.


JL: In 2013 you decided to participate in the Benelux Cup. You were no longer a nobody in the Pokémon Community, did people start approaching you, asking for your autograph or were still just a normal player?


IC: Most pretended not to know me but when I turned around I heard them talking about me. However, at the tournament itself they were more at ease to approach me and all my opponents knew who I was.

Feels good to be recognized at something we like.


JL: What deck did you choose for that tournament? Did you playtest a lot?


IC: Eelectrik/Tornadus EX/Mewtwo EX. I didn’t playtest much, I made the deck at my bedroom before the tournament.

I knew it had an excellent matchup against the most popular deck (Blastoise/Keldeo EX) and that gave four easy victories in the Swiss rounds and two in the top cut. The bad matchups were Darkrai and RayEels.


JL: You 8-0'd the swiss rounds. Did you have any hard matchups at all? Was it all just easy games? Were your opponents scared of you?


IC: I wouldn’t say they were scared… More like they respected me. I did face three bad matchups: a Darkrai EX/Garbodor and a Darkrai EX/Landorus EX at the swiss round and a RayEels at the top 8 which finally defeated me.


JL: How did the top cut portion of the tournament go?


IC: In top 32 I faced a Blastoise deck. Out the Blasoise matches this one was the hardest. However, I had Boufallant which forced Keldeo to waste four energies just to take one prize at the cost of becoming a target f or my Mewtwos.

In top 16 I donked my opponent twice knocking out my opponent’s lone Squirtle with my Tornadus both games.

RayEels was an almost impossible to win matchup. This one used Raikou EX, a weapon I also used to gain advantage against other Eels decks. Like I told before, I lost that match.


JL: With the paid trip and the invite locked, did you put any significant effort into winning tournaments during the 2012/2013 season?


IC: I played just for fun so I didn’t get in the way of my friends in their path for their invites. My competitive spirit is ever present, though. At the end of the season I managed to get more than a thousand Championship Points


JL: What about nationals? Did you play to win or to have fun?


IC: Just for fun. I didn’t even liked the deck I was playing (Darkrai). I made top 8, though.


JL: What were your thought about the 2013 US Nationals? What did you expect to be played in Vancouver?


IC: We expected a lot of Plasma, Darkrai and Blastoise decks. Maybe some Accelgor based decks too.


JL: So how did you test for it? What was the final list?


IC: Plasma Kyurem. I thought the deck was similar to SPs and we had really bad method of testing. I was so bad we failed to see that Rayeels was a viable deck. When we saw that it was quite good I thought to myself “What am I doing here?”


JL: Were you more confident this time after your win in the previous year? Did you feel pressure to perform well again?


IC: Of course I felt pressure! But I was lacking confidence.


JL: The tournament did not go so well, didn't it?


IC: I started pretty well but when the deck started failing I thought it wasn’t worth it to keep playing if I was going to get even more disappointed.


JL: You were invited to the Top Cut Invitational that year. However, you did not use the same deck you used at the main event. What made you switch decks?


IC: I was so disappointed with the deck I wanted to play something else. Anything else.


JL: In the end it wasn't a good decision. Knowing what you were facing would you stick to Plasma?


IC: Not at all.


JL: In the following season you had to start fresh. How did the quest for points go?


IC: I was feeling so low after Worlds I only got back to the game in February. That was when me and two friends (Paulo Silva anda Tiago Portela) made 400€ in the casino and we thought it was plausible to get enough money for the three of us to get to Worlds. There just a little detail missing: championship points.

We could attend 5 regionals, we needed to perform well in all of them and we did, we managed to get three invites.

We failed to play all three trips with our trips to the casino but since Paulo won Nationals we got there anyway.


JL: What about Nationals? What were your expectations for our meta?


IC:  Portuguese players value tech over consistency. Knowing that I expected a lot or Raichus and other cards that would never work in a format where the only search method is the luck of the draw out a Professor Juniper. Therefore, I expected clunky decks and Pyroar based strategies that work only on paper.

I ended up lending my Virizions to my team and played with a consistent Yveltal deck I made three days before the tournament.


JL: After failing in the previous World Championships, I bet you were committed to climb to the top again. Explain to us how did you prepare for it.


IC: What I basically did was get together with my friends and pit all the decks in the metagame against each other over and over again. After analysing the results with concluded that Virgen did performed the best hence why we choose it.


JL: Did you do any last minute playtest in Washington? If so, what conclusions did you get from it?


IC: I didn’t play a single game with Virirzion/Genesect in Washington because I tested it a lot since Regionals. I did replace a Bicycle for a Shaymin EX since I thought it would help against Yveltal and it would enable a comeback in the mirror.


JL: This year there was only top 8 giving you a lot less room for error. How did the swiss rounds go?


IC: Very well! Thinking one game at a time I was able to remain calm throughout the rounds. When I faced the Pyroar deck I thought to myself “Ok, I am 4-0, even if I lose this one I will not let myself get demotivated” but I ended up winning which made me even more confident for the next rounds.


JL: You were there again, you made it to top 8! Knowing what you were facing in the next day, did you test during the night?


IC: No. I was playing against Plasma in the top 8. A matchup I knew well since Regionals when everyone was playing that deck. It was a scary match, though. He won the first game in just three turns, that was very intimidating.


JL: How did the top cut matches go?


IC: I have to admit, my opponents didn’t have the best of luck. I was fearing Japanese player playing Aromatisse but I had a gameplan prior to playing the match.

On the first game I was able to do everything I has planned to do and he was only able to take two prizes. On the second one he had a lot of bad luck and didn’t draw anything. I ended up winning on the third turn with a G-Booster on his lone Pokémon (Suicune).


JL: So you made the finals again. However, you had to wait until it was your time to play. Did that made you feel more nervous than in 2012 or did you remain relaxed?


IC: I was relaxed, happy that I was able to get there once again. Unfortunately the final wasn’t between me and my friend Paulo but you can’t wish for everything.


JL: There were a lot of memorable moments in that match. First, how did a lone Jirachi followed by a Colress to 1 defeated you?


IC: Professor Letter prized and his last N stole my victory. It happens, I won games that way and I lost games that way.


JL: On the second game you were able to tie the score but on the third game your best friend betrayed you. Remind us how it went and what your thoughts were during the match.


IC: I had two Energy Switch prize and was forced to discard one in the early game. He never failed any resource at any time and even when I N’d him to just one card he drew two Professor Sycamore. It just didn’t go my way. Sometimes that happens.

It wasn’t Shaymin’s fault. It was Energy Switch’s. Karma has me cursed.


JL: How did you handle the defeat? Frustrated or proud of your achievement?


IC: A little bit of both. I was happy but at the same time I thought how easy the game was and even then I lost. I kept questioning my plays and how I could turn the situation around but that would only make me feel worse.

That’s why I don’t like to talk about my past decisions. At the time, they make sense. Even if someone critics the way I play, well, everyone has their way of playing. This is how I play, this is how I got my titles.


JL: Is there anything else you would like to say before we wrap up this interview?


IC: A huge thank you to those who made me feel great even after my defeat, for being looked up to at something I love and for the unforgettable moments in each World Championships.

Specially this one. Without a doubt, the best one, topping even Worlds 2012!


JL: Thank you so much for your time.


IC: Anytime.


And there you have it, the Pokémon-life of the Portuguese powerhouse. I hope this interview has satisfied some of your curiosities or even inspired you in some way.

I'll leave you with Igor's Virgen list that he played in this year's World Championships. Until next time, stay awesome.


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