Experts' corner

Zach Lesage

The Keys to Winning

Zach details some of the strategies that have helped him become one of the best players in the game right now!

12/14/2017 by Zach Lesage

The Countdown to Memphis

As we approach Memphis Regionals, time seems to be ticking by rapidly as we ponder on how to succeed. Everything you decide to do from now until the event matters, and this article will help you get to where you want to go. For all of you wonderful 60cards readers, I wanted to change my subject matter from my usual expansive deck list article into a more conversational piece regarding tournament success.

That being said, success can be viewed in many forms, but the unifying thought can be agreed upon that success does exist! I will display my regimen of personal tournament standards so that you can replicate my habits. While I may not be a perfect player in any regard, I have been able to see success throughout my 12-year playing career. Whether or not you are gunning for the Regional Champion title or you need a boost of confidence to achieve Top 128, there are points that you can extract from this article.

Where to Start?

If you want to succeed in any aspect of anything in life, you must explore many different aspects to see true success. Looking at our game of Pokemon, it is a basic card game at the forefront, and it is a complex social experiment at its core. Elaborating on that thought, you may ask yourself how can the game explore two vastly different ideas at the same time while putting on a guise to most?

Well, it all depends on where your viewpoint stands when you decide to peek into the broad idea of the game. Depending on where you are as a player, each of the below headings will relate to you in one way or another; they all are different and related at the same time.


If you take a basic look at a Pikachu card, you would never see the complex strategies that lie within the game. However, we don’t always need to dive head first into mathematic algorithms, statistics, or the psychological aspects of the game. Let’s pause everything we know and rethink what we know about the game - it is now only consists of primitive thoughts. Using this ideology, we know our deck needs 60 cards to be legal, and we want to Knock Out six Pokemon to win the game. Our Pokemon will require some Energy to attack, and we may need to use some Supporters to draw what we want throughout the game. Looking deeper, we can follow a few rules:

Rules of the Road

Each game can be compared to driving to work or getting dressed in the morning; we want to do it correctly. If I wanted to get dressed, I know that I will wear boxers under my jeans, and I won’t use a shirt instead of using socks - that would be silly. The inner workings of Pokemon can be explained the same way; there should be a plan to win the game that gets us from the start of the game to the end goal. When I draw my opening seven cards in my hand, I analyze my opponents board to create a strategy to win the game. I follow my plan, adjust for roadblocks as necessary, and keep a fluid mind-state to stay vigilant.

Be Efficient

Sometimes you don’t need to play a Supporter, because sometimes you don’t need to play a Supporter - it is as easy as that! If you have everything you need, your N will shuffle those cards away and you are actually setting yourself up for failure. Picking and choosing when you play your cards is an asset that shouldn’t be overlooked; take a moment to think over your actions!

The Value of Trading

Now I am not talking about trading a play set of Dark Patches for a Zoroark-GX ... I want to explain that some Pokemon hold different values to our deck throughout the game. Looking into my recent article on Buzzwole/Lycanroc, I introduced the value of Sudowoodo and how it can be a game-changer! If your opponent uses a Buzzwole-GX’s Knuckle Impact with three Fighting Energy, we can quickly respond with Sudowoodo’s Watch and Learn to trade a Knock Out. The difference is that Buzzwole-GX is worth two Prizes and used three Energy while Sudowoodo is a single-Prize-Card attacker that uses only two Energy. Try to find opportunities to exploit other cards in a similar way when you play your next game.

All of these rules can be used in each game that you play and are part of the reason why top players continue to be top players. However, there is more to the game than these simple rules, the game can be looked at in more complex ways!

Confidence is Everything

If you go into a tournament worrying about everything you might face that day or dwelling on your last tournament results, expect to see yourself have a less-than-stellar day. If you flip this, you can head into a tournament with a deck that you are comfortable with, knowing your match-ups, and learning from your last tournament. With this in mind, we can assume that everything will lead to a slightly better outlook than the first scenario. Now don’t extrapolate this thought process to become a cocky or arrogant player; these thoughts are meant to give a boost to your step. Exploring confidence can allow you to do some incredible things; hopefully it improves your game as much as it’s improved mine.

Never Fear Pressure

While this section may sound incredibly similar to the last, they are different to some degree. Have you ever looked at the pairings and seen yourself paired against the 6-god Michael Pramawat and suddenly feel that the world around you is slowly and rapidly moving at the same time? Your friends may come up to you and say how great of a player he is or that he is playing the counter to your deck - you may think that you are getting an early lunch break right? While these may end up being true, there is no reason to treat any player differently than another, no matter how accomplished they are within their own right! If you go into a high-profile series against a known player, play it like any other game; calm yourself and proceed to play properly. At a face value, there isn’t much that separates players in the game besides reputation and tournament results. Like everyone who plays this game, your opponent is human - the same as you and I - there are only psychological factors that differentiate us. If you put as much effort into the game as some of the greatest players, you will see yourself improve your game at great speeds.

Networking Works

Another way to improve your game is to expand your list of contacts in the game and become part of a testing circle. In the past, I was somewhat of a soloist player beyond those closest to me in the game, and I have grown to share ideas with many of the greatest minds in the game! Whether you are a new player who wants to take Memphis by storm or a well-rounded player who wants to up their game, networking can take you there. If you feel like you are in an infinite loop or stuck in the game, you need to move on from what you are doing - friends can help you get past that. Well, new friends that is; always try to move up when you are branching out as a player. To elaborate, if you always test with your circle of friends who can barely Top 8 a League Cup, you won’t be able to improve as a player. As soon as you branch out and pick the brains of a seasoned player who regularly does well at Regional Championships, you will see an improvement, because you need to fill in the divide between your level and theirs. Don’t be afraid to make conversation with people, it is a skill that can be applied even outside of Pokemon!

Now that is enough rambling on from me about some of the inner workings of the game, I do have an updated list from my last article.

Buzzwole/Lycanroc Updated

If you read my last article, I said I would update my list with any changes heading towards Memphis and I am delivering on that promise. I only changed two cards, and they are for the better of the deck in this current point in time. Let’s peep this list:

The only changes that I have made to this list are:
-1 Buzzwole-GX CIV 64
-1 Guzma
+1 Sudowoodo BKP 67
+1 Acerola

I added in an additional Sudowoodo due to it’s strength against Gardevoir-GX, Zoroark-GX, and opposing Buzzwole-GX! I also have been enjoying its versatility when I am trading back and forth with my opponent; it is a single-Prize-Card attacker. Acerola also provides a pseudo-switch in the deck and allows for more boastful uses of using Buzzwole-GX’s Jet Punch. Overall, these changes have been testing well for me, and I am playing this exact list at my League Cup today in Toronto! Let’s put it this way, if I didn’t have faith in this exact list, I wouldn’t be playing it with my invite being on the line - a win here puts me at 405 Championship Points!

Hopefully this article has been insightful and has changed your current outlook on the game. The game has always been more than attacking with Pokemon and the depth of strategy continues to trend upwards as tournament sizes grow at an exponential rate. Lastly, remember that you play this game for fun; there is something that draws us into the game so enjoy each tournament you play in!

Good Luck in Memphis!

As for me, I will be taking a minor break from major competitive tournaments to focus on coaching players, writing articles, and most importantly relaxing. It can be very tiresome playing at the top of the game or even learning the ropes as a newer player; sometimes you just need to pause your Pokemon life to regroup. Now this is not to say that I don't want to be playing the game right now, I wish I could, I just have other priorities that I need to focus on.

To further elaborate on this, I am playing in a League Cup today, and I am booking a flight to Dallas later this week. I guess Pokemon is like an addiction of some sorts; no matter how long you step away from the game, you can always jump back in!

Either way, feel free to follow me on my Twitter: zlesage_pokemon to see if there are any changes to my lists. I am personally excited to see the results of the upcoming Memphis Regionals and hopefully I will continue to ride the wave on top of the competitive spectrum. I wish everyone the best of luck who is living out their dream trying to compete for a World Championship invite or for those who are loving and supporting the game from a casual standpoint.

I will see everyone at Dallas Regionals in January, if you haven’t met me in person or if we have just briefly met, feel free to actually introduce yourself to me, because I love knowing everybody. Thank you for all of the support, I truly appreciate everyone who take the time to read one of my articles and for supporting 60cards.

- Zach Lesage

[+16] okko


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