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Eye on Japan

An interview with Worlds finalist Naoto Suzuki and the former champion Shintaro Ito

Naoto Suzuki and Shintaro Ito discuss their experiences at the 2017 World Championships, shedding some light on what they chose to play and how their take on the metagame influenced their decisions.

18. 09. 2017 by Eye on Japan

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An interview with Worlds finalist Naoto Suzuki and the former champion Shintaro Ito 

Hello 60cards readers! I’m Yuki Fujimori, and it's been quite long time since my last article. Today, I’m really glad to be back here with a new one!

As usual every year, both Western and Japanese PTCG players look forward to reports and articles in late August and early September covering the World Championships. And today, I (a Japanese PTCG player) hope to bring you a topic all of you will be interested in: how top Japanese players prepared for Worlds this year?

This article includes two interviews. The first half features the Masters Division finalist Naoto Suzuki, and the latter half shows offers ideas and thoughts from Worlds 2016 winner Shintaro Ito.

Interview with Naoto Suzuki, 2017 master division finalist


--Congratulations on your great success at Worlds! First of all, could you please introduce yourself?


Thank you so much! I'm Naoto Suzuki, a first year university student from Tokyo. It's been two years since I started playing the game; at first, I played only with my high-school friends, but gradually I tried to participate in shop tournaments and big unofficial monthly tournaments such as "The Future Champions Cup"(おーす!みらいのチャンピオン杯) held in Tokyo to make Pokemon friends.

--It's amazing that a second year player got the finalist trophy.

  How did you chose your deck, Golisopod-GX/Garbodor?

My friends and I, including former World champion Shintaro Ito, playtested together for Worlds. One day, one of them brought Golisopod-GX/Garbodor into our playtest, which seemed really nice to me. In addition, Japanese Nationals Chamiponships being held in late June, where I also had got qualified, was a big opportunity for us to test and check the new possibilties of Burning Shadows, and the first opponent I played against coincidentally was playing Golisopod-GX/Garbodor! (I played Vespiquen there finishing 1-3. I should've listened to my teammates' advice!)

Finally I chose Golisopod-GX/Garbodor. In playtestng, I tried some decks including top-tier decks such as Decidueye-GX and Gardevoir-GX. However, most of them didn't fit my playstyle, only Golisopod-GX did.

As for Golisopod-GX/Garbodor, we found some play Trashalanche Garbodor and others only played Garbotoxin Garbodor. I decided to play Trashalanche, because it seemed the Decidueye-GX matchup was slightly unfavorable for Golisopod-GX/Garbodor without it.

--Really interesting. Could you explain more about your deck? Do you have some cards you think should have played or changed?

I SHOULD have added Magearna-EX to my deck. Team Torchy members, such as semifinalist Sho Sasaki and Takashi Yoneda, wisely played this tech card. Since my deck runs four copies of rainbow energy, Golisopod-GX could utilize Magearna-EX's ability, Mystic Heart, which protects your Golisopod-GX from energy disruption of Drampa-GX and from the Miraculous Shine attack of Espeon-EX. Also, Magearna-EX is a Metal type Pokemon; its attack can OHKO Gardevoir-GX, which ended up being one of the most popular decks at Worlds.

--Indeed it was surprising Magearna-EX appeared from Takashi Yoneda's deck on stream. If you add Magearna-EX to your deck, which card would you cut for it?

It could be DCE, Hex Maniac, or Field Blower. I'm leaning torward Field Blower, because it is not highly necessary for this deck to remove Tools: The main strategy of this deck is to deal 120 damage by Golisopod's First Impression attack consistently, that means Fighting Fury Belts attached on opponents' Basic EXs / GXs are not so critical, since Golisopod-GX most often will be attacking twice for knockouts anyway. 

--How was the metagame prediction of yours and your friends' towards Worlds?

We thought that the most popular deck was Decidueye-GX/Alolan Ninetales-GX, and the next polular one was Gardevoir-GX. I guess many Japanese participants predicted the same. We were surprised, however, that the most popular deck was actually Garbodor variants. Our group had tested Espeon-GX/-Garbodor, but we didn't think the deck was "the play." 

--Were there any other surprising techs or decks for you at Worlds?

Ho-oh-GX/Salazzle-GX by Takuya Yoneda. Also, playing Po Town in Drampa-GX/Garbodor, which we had never tried, was surprising to me too.

--Japanese Nationals ran a best-of-three system this year. Did it do well for you to prepare for Worlds? Or, did you make any special preparation for Worlds?

It was good for me to experience a best-of-three format at Japanese Nationals, but one of the biggest differences was that players cannot see and check clocks at Worlds, which was a problem for me.

On the other hand, it was a nice experience that I could play some random match with some Western players just before Worlds started, because it was the first time for me to play against a foreign player. I'm a second-year player after all.

--Have fun on your third Pokemon TCG year! Could you tell us your goal for this season?

Hoping to get a trophy in Japan! I got qualified to Worlds by Play! Points, so I have never got it here in Japan.

--Thank you for your time, and good luck this season!

 


Interview with Shintaro Ito, 2016 masters Champion

 


--It's unfortunate for you to have finished 4-3-1 this year, yet everybody must want to know your deck and idea after you won with M Audino-EX. Could you tell us what you thought and did towards Worlds this year?

OK, and here's my deck.

 

--Decidueye-GX/Alolan Ninetales-GX: Why did you choose this deck?

Because I felt this deck was more powerful than any other ones in the format, and that's all.

--And, what decks did you test and with whom?


With friends in Tokyo. We tested Decidueye-GX, Gardevoir-GX, Volcanion-EX, Garbodor, and a few others.


--I found that a lot of Japanese players tested similarly. Are you satisfied with your deck? Or would you hope to make changes to it?


I added a Drampa-GX and fourth Forest of Giant Plants. Some may be confused to play only three copies of Forest of Giant Plants, though, but the basic idea of that is the main goal of this deck is not to set up multiple Decidueye-GX quickly, but to let Decidueye-GX stay longer on the field with Acerola. You have to find Forest only when you start your Acerola combo, and it would not be turn one or two.

The reason I finally opted for the fourth Forest was, however, Garbodor and Gardevoir-GX players found Parallel City effective in the metagame and started adding one or two copies into their decks. If Parallel City hit the field turn one, and you don't have your own Forest of Giant Plantd to counter it, you can't set up your bench with Brigette on turn one, which means a huge problem for any Decidueye-GX deck.

Drampa-GX, on the other hand, was a regrettable choice for the Worlds metagame.

When I arrived at Anaheim and checked around the Day 1 swiss round, there were so many Garbodor and less Volcanion-EX than expected. I thought, however, that the number of Japanese players who would play Decidueye-GX would increase Day 2, and so would the U.S. top players.

So I dropped a second Field Blower for Drampa-GX to make the Decidueye-GX mirror match favorable to me. My estimation turned out to be completely wrong. There  were tons of Garbodor STILL there Day 2.

--It's a sad story, but could you tell us about Drampa-GX? How would it work in the Decidueye-GX/Alolan Ninetales-GX mirror match?

During mid-game after Alolan Vulpix's job is done, each player pushes their attacker into the active spot: Tapu Koko, Tapu Lele-GX, or Alolan Ninetales-GX depending on situation.

When they face each other in the active, there's a rock-paper-scissors-like matchup, meaning that Tapu Koko has no problem using Flying Flip when facing Alolan Ninetales-GX, but it's hit harshly by Tapu Lele-GX's Energy Drive attack. So Tapu Lele-GX can stop Tapu Koko, but is at a loss against Alolan Ninetales-GX and can't stop Ace Blade from attacking your bench. But, Alolan Ninetales-GX has to attack three times to knockout. By that time, Tapu Koko is able to do 40 or 60 damage to all your Pokemon.

It's a very annoying and complex situation. It's hard to deal with properly, but Drampa-GX is able to break this situation with Righteous Edge to strip away Double Colorless Energy. As said before, I expected there would be a lot of Decidueye-GX players at Day 2, so I played Drampa-GX, but I should have played a second Field Blower instead of the old dragon. Really regrettable.

--Why do you think Japanese players predicted the metagame differently?

I simply thought Garbodor would be conquered by Gardevoir-GX, so I didn't evaluate the power of Garbodor much. Many other Japanese players did the same. But I felt that Western players took another approach for Garbodor/Drampa-GX to defeat Gardevoir-GX: attacking swiftly with Berserk, before Gardevoir-GX reign the field.

Combined with Po Town, the Berserk attack will shine more because Po Town is able to put as much as 60 damage on Gardevoir-GX throughout its evolution line, which means Berserk with Choice Band can OHKO Gardevoir-GX. Parallel City also is useful to restrict bench space, not allowing the Gardevoir-GX player to set up their field freely and completely. Japanese players, including me, couldn't find these approaches, resulting in underestimating the number of Garbodor players at Worlds.

--You mean the biggest difference between Japanese players and Western players is the apporoach and thought on Garbodor?

One week before the Worlds, I was watching an online stream of a big tournament held in the United States. I was writing down the content of a deck played during a feature match. I noticed some play only three copies of VS Seeker to reduce Trashalanche damage. We hardly found such a decklist in Japan.

--Did you prepare another deck for Worlds except for Decidueye-GX? You used Decidueye-GX/Golisopod-GX at Japan Nats. Why did you avoid the deck?

I also made some decks such as Rainbow Road and Alolan Ninetales-GX/Greninja but finally chose Decidueye-GX.

The reason I didn't play Decidueye-GX/Golisopod-GX was the deck was difficult to win against Volcanion-EX. In fact, Western-style Volcanion-EX is harder for Decidueye-GX than Japanese Volcanion-EX, because Japanese Volcanion-EX uses Blacksmith every turn, so the main strategy of Decidueye-GX is to play late-N to make the Volcanion-EX player’s hand dead and stop them attacking by lack of energy acceleration. If the Volcanion-EX player plays Blacksmith too much, their deck is often still thick even in the late game, so N is really effective. But Western-style Volcanion-EX uses Max Elixir, digging the deck by other supporter cards, so their deck will not be so thick in the late game, making N much less effective.

Anyway, I will choose my deck Decidueye-GX/Alolan Ninetales-GX deck again, even possibly in preparation for Worlds again in 2018.

--Really glad to hear your thoughts today. The new season began in September, and we have some big official tournaments coming this fall.

I will do my best, that's all.

--Thank you so much, Shintaro!

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I hope you enjoyed the two interviews, and I will try to bring you more about the Japanese metagame and other topics in the near future.


Regards,


Yuki Fujimori (Ukinin)

[+8] okko


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