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Jonathan Walquist

How To Sleep

Tonight I will explore how to build and pilot a "sleeper deck", and how the practice of deck-building can give birth to new and more effective strategies.

09/06/2016 by Jonathan Walquist

Sweet Dreams Indeed

Have you ever wondered what some people do in their sleep?

Hello. I'm Jon and this is a more lengthly article. I will be discussing the method of sleeper decks and how to do it yourself, as well as touching a bit on what regular deck-building does to a player. I'm excited again, so let's begin!


Sleep-... er-... zzz 

I just entered College at the University of Texas at Dallas last week. The road trip was sore at best, my only consolation being my worn-out NintendoDS, on which I was and still am attempting to build a more professional and meaningful team of six Pokémon on Soul Silver. My classes have been stressful albeit a little enjoyable, but the online work is annoying at best. I say that to say this: it's Hard to sleep. There are too many golden opportunities for enrichment and learning. That sounded too formal, didn't it?

But really. How hard must it be to throw an archetypal idea into the depths of memory only to pull it out at the last second to win ... Worlds, for example. Well, it is impossible. What is really happening behind the grins of people like Shintaro Ito is much, much deeper. It's a plot, quite frankly.

The reason these decks are said to "sleep" is because they are not brought into the open and are disregarded by the majority. But, save coma, we all wake up at some point. These decks are nurtured like sheltered children and fueled with the tools to beat the tier one, tier two, even tier three archetypes. That takes work. It all starts with Deck-Building. But we'll talk about that later. First, let's approach the reasons why these decks work in the first place.

  • A strategy that is completely new can catch almost anyone by surprise over the course of a tournament.
  • A strategy that is practiced against multiple matchups but never shared with the public through success, has a large advantage against nearly any opponent.
  • A strategy that most people do not consider to be valid can slowly gain single card after single card until it is ready, and only those who have been nurturing it in the first place may see those cards as real additions.
  • These decks are usually fun to pilot and make their advocates even more likely to improve them on a substancial level.

So if you can't see it yet, these decks have a lot of thought and preparation behind them, not just the tech card slots as we see in estabished archetypes, but in their core. The deck has to be built from scratch most of the time, and edited over and over until just the right mix of cards is achieved. It's like refilling a fish tank. The temperature must be just right or the system becomes dangerous for the fish.

Knocked Out 

Overkill. It's an interesting concept. And one that applies greatly to sleeper decks. Sometimes these decks don't only win. They win Hard. Some of them don't face any difficulty at all, as anyone can see by the Masters TCG finals match from Worlds this year. When these decks work, they run over everything in their path and consume competition for a moment, like the black holes of the tournament scene.

One thing a player must watch out for when constructing these decks is getting carried away with pride. If it's good, ... well, he has a choice. Either hope to make it a established archetype by going to every small tournament carrying it; or keep it for the big day. Either way can be a success story or a horror story. What pushes it one direction or the other can be the strength of the player. If a player enjoys surprise and knows how to do one-person playtesting (like I explained in my article Devouring Time), he can easily use the secrecy to their advantage. On the other hand, if the player has a solid support group for regular playtesting and strategical development, he can use that group to swarm a few tournaments and insert their brew as a legitimate archetype.

But legitimacy is the least of worries when a deck is truly one's own. Snoozing on the job, one's own spirit has been poured into building this deck, and any new one that may come to light. That is the strength that deck-building gives to a player.

Anyone can recognize the merit in playtesting, but deck-building has its distinct advantages as well. For instance, a productive builder can approach any metagame and know much more possible archetypes than a simple-minded top-tier player could. Sleepers identify other sleepers, and prepared players recognize how to defeat the unexpected and unexplainable.

Put On the Hard Hats

Stony Silence...

Endurance is key to maintaining the peaceful persona, that is necessary to keep those around you in the dark, alive. If you even give some hints, they may seem little, but trading for that highly specific trainer card or an early evolution card en masse may lead some high-level players to start composing possible reasons, and suddenly more people than just you know what your deck is and have a wide-angle on your objectives. Even This can be detrimental to your plan of surviving the night.

Your deck-building can be done even more effectively by carefully observing the metagame while simultaniously devising counter-meta strategies. Counter-meta the counter-meta. Do not stop there. Every Established Metagame has a Weakness. Even the best hardly ever see these intricate solutions to the porblem that often is the power triangle or the power tower.

Briefly, a power triangle is a lot like rock-paper-scissors. Three archetypes are on equal ground. One beats Two, Two beats Three, and Three beats One. Power towers are metagames controlled by a central archetype in dominance, with everything somewhat below it. As fitting as it is, all it takes is a shove and the tower comes crashing down.


Absolutely don't let these words come as intimidation. All the difficulty aside, here are some of the benefits that a player might glean from a regular schedule of deck-building and subsequent playtesting:


  • Heightened senses allowing the player to analyze any combination of cards an know all the implications necessary to win decisive battles against unknown opponents.
  • Better knowledge of the cards themselves. Ideas based on the principle that if a player doesn't care to know what every ... single ... card does, he is at an extreme disadvantage when it comes down to the wire as it often does.
  • The promethian mindset. Having previous knowedge of an emerging archetype from having created it yourself can bring success where others don't see it. It is the greatest head-start someone can have in the Pokémon TCG.


But if anything about endurance and reaping benefits gets to you, this must be it: the more experience you have with different cards and unique strategies just plain makes you a better player.

Take Off the Fancy Pants 

Tricking out a deck so that every card is shiny, heavy, and beatiful might sound appealing to most, but I assure you, What ... A ... Waste. Extra money and resources can be used to get more different cards and be used to explore strategies. This leads to an ability to react to a metagame even at the last second. Your money should go to everything you legitimately don't have, not with what you simply want.

Another breif disclaimer. There is something that happens in the form of intimidation when a player faces someone with a deck of gold. But, yeah ...

Getting dirty and amassing seemingly useless cards can actually give you confidence. Proxies just don't offer the same feeling that you can get with a tournament-ready deck in your hands.

A player should aim to get better at playing the game and avoid unnecessary purchases. But I know, the rush we get from opening a brand new booster pack cannot be ignored. But bulk is actually the most supportive of this theory. Buy the packs, trade what you don't need, support the game and the community. Money-eaters like TCGplayer (no offense) really take out of the community's resources.

Especially in this case, when you have the cards you need to build new and sometimes better decks, the process of improvement drastically rises. But obstacles stand in your way. Those happen inside your head.

Cognitively, this process of building, breaking, and rebuilding really takes a toll on your mind. I would recommend one new deck a day. At least think about it. It is the best thing to do. If the cards seem like they're just not going to inspire you, look elsewhere. To the scans of cards you don't own, to other formats if you have to in order to keep going in your training to become a Pokémon Master.

Sure, your cards aren't Full Art. But whos to say which one looks better anyway? Personally, I like the way non-holo cards shuffle. They don't hurt my wrists.

A Note of Surprise

The biggest reason that these decks can win the largest tournaments is the element of surprise. A clichéd phrase passed down as common knowledge amongst everyone, it really works. It's hard to counter a blow you don't see coming. By the time it's hit the table, you've already been damaged. So it is with sleeper decks. Their pilots are sharpened players who know what they're doing while the opponent is left scrambling for answers. So next time you see somebody take the crown while the casters have no clue what some of the cards do, think about this. Just a thought.

Thanks for reading again. It has been great writing for you. I wish I had more of a direction. So next time I'll analyze a single card or evolution chain. Feel free to suggest. But until then, I'm out!

[+2] ok


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