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Ness's Nest
with Jason Klaczynski
July 5, 2010

Today's Top Pokémon TCG Players

  

People often ask me who I consider to be the best Pokemon TCG players. Playing for 11 years now, I've played against the best in the world. I've battled every U.S. National Champion, other countries' bests, and fellow World Champions. I've seen the decks these players use and how they build them. I'm going to break down for you who the best are, and what makes them so good. In no particular order...

 

 

Kyle Sucevich, 21

United States of America (Wisconsin)

 

 

Current Deck: Dialga G/Garchomp C LV X

 

 "Some people just have the natural talent to play and some don't. Now, I'm not saying players can't get better - they certainly can - but there's a reason some people can play for 10 years and never win anything while others are constantly at the top tables. Fortunately, I was gifted with a natural talent to play the game. From there, it's all about practicing and honing your skills to make sure you aren't rusty," explains Sucevich. 

 

Sucevich took 1st & Top 4 at the two toughest Pokemon TCG tournaments ever held: U.S. Nationals 2009 and U.S. Nationals 2010, respectively. He bested over 700 players to win his 2009 Nationals title, and only two of 824 outperformed him this year. Success in tournaments this large leaves no room for doubt: Sucevich is good, really good. Rather than switch decks midseason, he almost always sticks with one deck, mastering its match-ups. Not only is Sucevich one of the top players in the game, he's also a great sport, and widely respected.

 

Accomplishments

1st U.S. Nationals 2009

2nd U.S. Nationals 2004

3rd U.S. Nationals 2010

Top 8 U.S. Nationals 2005

Top 16 Worlds 2004

Top 32 U.S. Nationals 2008

 

1st Midwest Regionals 2010

 

Strengths

Sucevich is always focused and prepared. He enters every tournament with a solid game plan, and his extensive playtesting leaves him with knowledge of how to beat the most popular decks.

 

Weaknesses

Though his deck choices have strongly improved in the last two years, I must say I rarely see Sucevich choose what I would consider the format's best deck. He recently placed Top 4 at Nationals with Dialga G/Garchomp C LV X, while most players chose Luxray GL LV X > Dialga G because of its speed, and option to run Entei & Raikou Legend. Going back to 2008, a format dominated by Gardevoir/Gallade (Secret Wonders) and Empoleon (Majestic Dawn), he chose to play an Eeveelution deck - a deck with shaky match-ups against the top decks. Don't think Kyle is playing bad decks, he is simply playing what is often the 2nd or 3rd best deck in the format.

 

Sucevich refused to play a deck without Meganium in it for five years straight. Then, he started playing good cards. Now, no one knows how to beat him.

 

 

Stephen Silvestro, 21

United States (Florida)

 

   

Current Deck: Tyranitar/Machamp/Nidoqueen

 

Our reigning world champion, Steve Silvestro is a solid combination of deck inventing and in-game tactics. You can say his Worlds-winning deck revolutionized the game; it foreshadowed what kind of decks would dominate the upcoming 2010 season. 

 

 

Luxray LV X's Bright Look Poke-Power allowed Silvestro to bring up weak Pokemon for easy prizes when Beedrill's Band Attack wasn't enough to score a One-Hit KO. This modern "go for six prizes any way possible" strategy dominated the 2010 season, with decks like Jumpluff, Gyarados and Luxray GL LV X/Garchomp C LV X employing it.

 

Accomplishments

1st Worlds 2009

1st West Coast Super Trainer Showdown 2001

Top 8 U.S. Nationals 2006

Top 8 U.S. Nationals 2005

Top 16 Worlds 2006

Top 32 U.S. Nationals 2009

Top 128 U.S. Nationals 2010

 

Strengths

Silvestro is a master of metagame. He adapts well to changing formats and is one of the best at inventing decks that beat the top decks. He is never tied down to one deck and is comfortable changing decks repeatedly midseason, while still managing to play each deck extremely well.

 

   

Silvestro is the inventor of the highly disruptive Sableye/Honchkrow G deck that took down U.S. Nationals this year. The deck was designed to beat top decks like Jumpluff and other SP-Pokemon decks.

 

Weaknesses

Sometimes, Steve may get a little too fancy with new ideas. He tends to undervalue consistency in his decks, which is the last thing a player of his tactical caliber wants to do, as he is able to outplay so many opponents when his deck simply sets up.

 

Chris Fulop, 24

United States of America (Ohio)

 

 

Current Deck: Kingdra/Machamp

 

What makes Chris Fulop good? Fulop played Magic: The Gathering since 3rd grade, so trading card games were nothing new to him when he picked up a Machamp starter deck in 1998. You can say Fulop is always "one step ahead" of the format. He quickly realizes which decks are dominating, and then tries to find a way to beat them. But, unlike Stephen Silvestro, who usually searches for that new deck, or new concept, Fulop's expertise is "tech," a single card or thin evolution lines added to a deck designed to beat other popular decks. Rather than pick a completely new deck, Fulop often sticks with one of the established, solid decks, and then introduces new cards to the deck designed to gain an edge on the most popular decks. This unique approach has qualified him for every Pokemon TCG World Championship ever held.

 

   

Fulop's 2006 Worlds "LBS" relied on abusing Blastoise ex's Poke-Power and Holon's Castform to power a variety of powerful attacks. How much variety? The deck ran a whopping 23 single copies of cards.

 

Accomplishments

1st U.S. Nationals 2007

2nd Worlds 2004

1st Professor Championship 2002

Top 8 U.S. Nationals 2006

Top 32 Worlds 2009

Top 32 Worlds 2008

Top 32 Worlds 2006

Top 32 U.S. Nationals 2008

 

1st Mississippi Valley Regionals 2005

1st Mississippi Valley Regionals 2006

 

Strengths

Fulop is hands down the best "tech" innovator in the world. How good is he at it? Anytime you hear some bizarre idea for a deck and it ends up being good, I'd say there's about a 50% chance you can trace that idea back to him. Fulop's revelations and ideas often completely change the format. He is the single most powerful Pokemon player in the world. Why do I say that? He finds ways to beat so many top decks that he makes everyone second-guess their deck choice. I know he's made me second-guess my deck choice more than once.

 

 

Fulop was the first to discover the power of Chatot in the 2007-2008 season. The card was great for bailing out bad opening hands, and also a midgame counter for tough spots where your opponent limited your hand size. By the time Worlds came around, almost everyone had 1 Chatot in their deck. 2nd place Khahn Le (Norway) even ran two in his Blissey deck.

 

Weaknesses

"Sometimes, I get a bit too fancy," admits Fulop. His strength can be his Achille's Heel, too. In 2005, Fulop chose Ludicargo, a deck based on an obvious combo between Ludicolo & Magcargo, for his Nationals deck. Worried about his match-ups against EX-Pokemon, he then added another combo to the deck: Weezing & Desert Ruins. These extra cards greatly weakened his deck's consistency.

 

 
  

Fulop's last minute addition of both Weezing & Desert Ruins in 2005 resulted in several unplayable hands, and a sub-par Nationals performance.

 

 

There's no question Fulop has gone overboard teching his deck before. Battle Frontier & Pidgeot was perhaps his most mind-boggling combination of cards in the same deck.

 

 

Alex Brosseau, 23

United States of America (Illinois)

 

 

Current Deck: Dialga G/Garchomp C LV X

 

There is no one in the Pokemon TCG world I fear more than friend of 11 years Alex Brosseau. Watching Brosseau play is actually fun. He is hands-down the game's best tactical player. He stays away from "mechanical," decks, and prefers decks that leave him with a lot of options and ways to outplay his opponents.

 

Accomplishments

1st Professor Challenge 2002

Top 8 Worlds 2006

Top 8 U.S. Nationals 2007

Top 32 U.S. Nationals 2010

Top 32 Worlds 2008

Top 16 Worlds 2007

Top 32 Worlds 2005

 

Strengths

Brosseau's ability to outplay people is unmatched. Getting into a drawn out game against him is like playing chess against a supercomputer; he will simply find a way to outthink you and beat you. I've watched him pass for four turns against 2009 U.S. National Champion Kyle Sucevich in a lob-sided mirror match this year at Nationals.  Then, one card card was all he needed to begin his unbelievable 4-prize comeback.  I've seen him prize both of his Baltoy against 2004 World Champion Tsuguyoshi Yamato and still find a way to come back and win without getting Claydol out - a card that every deck that year needed to set up. He's beaten me in games I'd lay 100-1 odds I had in the bag. How did Brosseau get so good? I'd like to believe he got good the same way I did. When we were growing up, Pokemon was all we did. We'd play all day, building every deck we could and doing our own tournaments. We'd even bet cards on it (which often led to us being grumpy at each other for a few days, but we'd always get over it.) The next day, we were back at it. This competitive nature we both had, and the desire to beat each other fueled us to get as good as we could. Brosseau looks at Pokemon differently than anyone I've ever met. He knows how to think "outside the box" and find unconventional ways to win. He never limits his plays to a strategy he enters the game with, but rather is able to adapt and play his deck in different, unconventional ways depending on the situation. He is a master at manipulating the board, which ultimately ends up in him drawing his sixth prize before you. He will leave you scratching your head, asking yourself "How the heck did I lose that?"

 

 

Brosseau was a master of Empoleon's Dual Splash attack, always knowing which two Pokemon to attack, anticipating perfect damage for KOs 5+ turns ahead. He used this deck to 9-0 the 2008 Last Chance Qualifier and earn a Worlds invite, and then continued his undefeated streak through the swiss rounds of Worlds.

 

Weaknesses

Brosseau's major weakness is my personal strength: his deck tweaking abilities. Now, keep in mind, at this level of play, when I say he isn't the best deck builder, that doesn't mean he's splashing Smoochums and Feebas into every deck he can - it simply means some part of his supporter engine or evolution line is off, or there is some fatal "imperfection" that keeps his deck from running smoothly and having an "on paper edge" against other decks. He also is reluctant to concede games he should when entering Best 2 of 3 series, which leaves him without enough time to complete a Game 2, resulting in a loss of the series. 

 

   

Brosseau played his "Rock Lock," deck through both the 2005 & 2006 season. While most players gave up on this deck in 2006, Brosseau's experience with the deck & natural talent allowed him to dominate another season with it.

 

 

Drew Holton, 22

United States of America (Ohio)

 

  

Current Deck: Luxray GL LV X/Garchomp C LV X

 

Holton is a well-balanced player that infrequently misplays and plays solid decks. There's no hidden secret to Holton's success: He simply puts in the hours and playtests. This extensive testing leaves him comfortable against just about anything come tournament day. Like Sucevich, Holton goes into each tournament knowing what to expect and how to deal with it. One cool note about Holton? He took a three year break from Pokemon between 2005-2007, only to come back in 2008 and take 2nd at U.S. Nationals.

 

Accomplishments

2nd U.S. Nationals 2008

Top 8 Worlds 2004

Top 32 Worlds 2009

Top 32 Worlds 2008

Top 32 U.S. Nationals 2009

Top 64 U.S. Nationals 2010

 

1st 2009 Great Lakes Regionals

 

Strengths

Holton has a game plan every tournament he enters. If he is not comfortable against an expected deck, he'll change decks & playtest it long before tournament day.

 

 

Holton recognized the strength of Gardevoir & Gallade in 2008, taking 2nd at Nationals and making Top 32 at Worlds, losing both times to a mirror match.

 

Weaknesses

Like Brosseau, Holton's deck tweaking isn't perfect. His lists will often have small imperfections that will weaken certain matches or consistency.

 

 

 

(

Sami Sekkoum, 20

England

 

  

Current Deck: Luxray GL LV X/Garchomp C LV X

 

Sekkoum might as well be the King of the U.K. when it comes to Pokemon. His Nationals performances are unmatched in any country with a legitimate player base. Not only that, but he has one of the most, if not most impressive Worlds resumés, and has never missed qualifying for a World Championship.

 

Accomplishments

1st U.K. Nationals 2010

1st U.K. Nationals 2009

1st U.K. Nationals 2007

1st U.K. Nationals 2005

2nd Worlds 2009

2nd U.K. Nationals 2008

3rd U.K. Nationals 2006

Top 8 Worlds 2007

Top 8 Worlds 2005

Top 16 Worlds 2008

Top 32 Worlds 2004

 

Strengths

Sekkoum, like all top players, is a solid tactical player. He seldom misplays, and finds ways to win that others would overlook.

 

   

 

Sekkoum's 2007 "Speed Spread" Worlds Deck wasn't an easy deck to play. Even I was turned off by the headache of options the deck presented. Sami took the deck to Top 8.

 

Weaknesses

"I don't build decks, and have never really come up with anything groundbreaking," admits Sekkoum, "My in-game strategy is probably my best asset." Fortunately for Sekkoum, he playtests with some of the best deck creators in the game, including Chris Fulop.

 

 


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