Tournament Report: Super Trainer Showdown, Los Angeles July 22, 2000 – originally posted at Pokeschool


The Super Trainer Showdown onboard the RMS Queen Mary was both what I expected and much of a suprise. Nearly every deck was—as I imagined the competition would be—quite predictable, being either of only two archtypes: Wigglytuff or Haymaker. This suited me fine since my deck, the Hybrid, has evolved to be focused on beating both of those types. And my deck served me well; rarely did I feel out-decked by an opponent and never did I feel that my deck could not have won in any game or match. However, I did somewhat underestimate the potency of the competition. The STS qualifiers in SLC and in Boise had good competition, but neither tournament could compare to the caliber of players in the STS itself. Not only were the players all extremely good and terribly “in to” the game of Pokemon, many had decks that were a step beyond what the mainstream player has been using. For instance, when I played in the STS qualifiers I did not see a single Rocket’s Sneak Attack played against me (thus I had an advantage in playing my Sneak Attacks at both events). In the STS, however, nearly every deck packed at least two and often four Sneaks! Additionally, the truly competitive decks played with less than 10 basic Pokemon. When I arrived on board the Queen Mary, I ran 11, but that quickly dropped when I learned of the general tendency to pack even MORE trainers in at the expense of energy and Pokemon.

Not only were the players better with better decks than I expected; there were more of them! The line to enter the Queen Mary coiled out of the ship and twisted around the entire parking lot. More than 2000 people attempted to enter the events, taking advantage of WOTC’s questionable “3 Badge” requirement to enter. It was so crowded, in fact, that at one point security could not admit any more people onto the ship because of safety hazards. I happened to take a little stroll after registering for the tournament and was not allowed back inside by security—despite my wristband and Golden Invitation! Eventually he conceded and I was able to begin the tournament—one of 207 competitors in my age division!


There were many lamentable and highly unprofessional aspects of the tournament; on the player side I’m sure, but mostly on the organizational side. Can you imagine a tournament of this magnitude that does not require deck checks before the tournament? A tournament of the size and ferocity that allows players to leave not only the playing area but the ship itself with their decks mid-tournament? These are just a few of my complaints about this Swiss-style single-game match tournament that I want to mention here, but I will constrain myself for the sake of time. Let me quickly mention the way ranking and pairing was done so I can get into the game-play of the tournament itself.

Initial pairing was random, then each subsequent pairing was done by matching competitors of equal scores. Scores were administered as follows: 3 points for a true win, 2 points for a win by time-out (having taken more prizes when 20 minutes expires), 1 point for a tie when time expires, and 0 points for a loss. We all played at least 8 matches and thus had a total possibility of earning 24 points. After the 8 matches of the main event, WOTC held the quarterfinals and then finals, subjecting the already exhausted players to even more stress and competition before the day was over. This is another big complaint I had—quarter-finals and finals should have taken place the following day, so that players did not have to endure 12 hours at the STS without sufficient food or drink. And I’m dead serious about this; registration for the STS for ALL players began at 8am and the finals did not finish till 8pm, all in an overcrowded, noisy building with no windows. Between matches there was approximately 10 minutes for players to recover, and absolutely no lunch break during the day. Compare this to brain-washing tactics . . .


This is the part I’ve been trying to get at: how well did I, your humble deck doktor, fare at the STS? Let me take you on an incomplete tour of my matches throughout the day.

(Pojo Note:  He’s a deck doctor at Pokeschool ;)

Match 1: vs. Geoff (Classic Haymaker)

I had met 15-year old Geoff in the Boise STS qualifiers. He is a very respectful, nice guy, and somehow I ended up playing him for the first game of the tournament yet again! Knowing how Geoff played and what he ran in his deck was a big advantage (although he held the same knowledge over me), and I was also keenly aware that (though I would never suggest that Geoff cheats) he has a questionable method of shuffling his deck mid-game; thus I forced him to do full shuffles after every Comp Search and NGR. Geoff played a hard game against me, but I was able to overcome his Haymaker power by Energy Removing his Pokemon into submission, then killing with my powered Mewtwos and Wigglytuffs. I took all six prizes before Geoff took 2, and I left the match feeling comfortable and confident. Thanks, Geoff! Hope to see you again next year.

WIN (3)
Dok Jarhead’s score: 3
Dok Jarhead’s ranking: ?

Match 2: vs. Mel (Magmar Haymaker)

Mel was a nice guy, an older fellow with a great grey beard and an East coast accent. He played a very frustrating Magmar deck that kept me from successfully attacking 50% of the time during the entire game. Thus my deck, though I got it off to a nice, clean run, could not quite finish Mel off before time ran out on the match. When time was called I had managed to take 3 more prizes than Mel, and thus I won by time-out. This bothered me because I knew I could have beaten him with 5 more minutes, but at least I got 2 points for the win.

WIN (2)
Dok Jarhead’s score: 5
Dok Jarhead’s ranking: 22

Match 3: vs. Rob? (Hardcore Wigglytuff)

I am very frustrated that I cannot remember this player’s name, primarly because he made such a positive impression on me. He was an older guy, probably in his 40s, with a tall stature and a well-kept goatee and mustache. He hailed from Colorado and played an excellent Wigglytuff deck which worked like a charm (mid-game he mentioned that my deck was very similar to a deck that he had built for his son. His son ended up beating him so often with his deck that he built his current deck to beat my sort of deck). His playing was as impeccable as his appearance and not once did I get any bad attitude or any hint of questionable play from this fellow. Quite frankly Rob? was the ideal player, and he mopped the floor with me simply because I got my game running too late. I suspect, had I gotten my game going as soon as he, the match would have ended in a tie, but as it was he got a full victory on me. I am not at all ashamed to have lost to this player, as he was so completely kind, fair, and impressive.

LOSS (0)
Dok Jarhead’s score: 5
Dok Jarhead’s ranking: 41

Match 4: vs. Bo (Classic Haymaker)

Bo is another of the really nice guys that I met at the tournament. He came from a little further North in CA and brought with him a mean yet slightly unstable Haymaker. I was able to take out all of his benched Pokemon in a matter of minutes because I disabled him quickly and moved in for the kill. Bo was a little hard on himself when he lost without taking a single prize, but I reassured him that I had built my deck to take out Haymakers.

WIN (3)
Dok Jarhead’s score: 8
Dok Jarhead’s ranking: 17

Because my match against Bo was over so quickly we began a fun match until one judge told us to leave the play area. Having so much time till the next match began, I took advantage of the situation and ran off the ship to get some food on the upper decks with Jamie. Jamie and I enjoyed a thick slice of pizza, but then I realized that I was going to be late for my next match! I ran through the maze of hallways and planks that was Queen Mary, and wasted much time cruising through wrong passageways and false exits. I eventually made my way back into the tournament scene—but I was 4 minutes late. Rules of the tournament state that any player late to a match loses 1 prize. An additional prize is lost for each 5 minutes that the player is late. So I began match 6 at a noticeable disadvantage: 5 minutes less to play and 1 prize behind. Let me go into this match in more detail:

Match 5: vs. Greg (Classic Haymaker)

Greg was a nice but somber guy about my age. As I mentioned he had a 1 prize advantage already. To top it all off I mulliganed. Twice. I was already frustrated and too far behind, but at this point I didn’t really care because I expected to lose the match. But never give up, I told myself, things can always change. Even though Greg’s Haymaker dealt out a lot of fast damage and he gained a greater advantage over me, I was eventually able to even up the prizes through skill and a little bit of luck. With 2 minutes remaining on the clock we both had 4 prizes remaining and I felt that I could win. Greg did not stall for time, but I can’t say that he played quickly either. I knew I had the game when I ER’ed all his Pokemon and brought out a Jigglypuff to become fully charged. But, right after Greg uttered the word “Go” I heard the bull-horn voice of the judge, “Time is up . . . at the end of this turn.” Terrible for me! I thought; time is up at the end of this turn and with Jigglypuff the most I can do is 20. I need to do 50 to win. But then I looked at my hand, thought about my discard pile and the beauty was revealed. I knew my Wigglytuff’s were in my discard pile, but I had a decent hand: 1 DCE, and Item Finder, a Comp Search, 4 misc. cards. I played the DCE on Jigglypuff, I played an Item Finder for the Nightly Garbage run that I knew was in the discard pile. I shuffled in a Wigglytuff and 2 other cards, then I Comp Searched for that fresh Wiggly, played the sucker, and took a prize. Time ended at the finish of my turn and I won by time-out, three prizes to four! Now THAT was a close match.

WIN (2)
Dok Jarhead’s score: 10
Dok Jarhead’s ranking: 22

Match 6: vs. ?

For some reason I cannot remember this match at all. The only thing that I can recall is that while I was taking out the opponents Pokemon—two for every one of mine that I lost—my opponent was stalling for time. I think he wanted to deck me or at least make my victory a time-out victory, but I was able to take the last prize just minutes before time was called. That was a close one, but not as close as matches to come.

WIN (3)
Dok Jarhead’s score: 13
Dok Jarhead’s ranking: 12

Match 7: vs. Tareq (Classic Haymaker)
I’ve played Tareq before. At the SLC qualifiers he beat me in the final match ending my perfect score. He is a nice guy outside of a game but a stickler and ruthless inside. He had the beat-down on me during the first half of the game but I was able to survive, knowing that with the 4 Oaks he had played he was sure to deck himself. I kept that in mind and played swiftly to counteract what to me appeared to be useless gesturing and stalling. For example, having two cards in his hand he would search through his discard pile, demand that I count my discard pile and my deck, and cycle through the two cards in his hand over and over (all this time I know exactly what he has in his hand [a Ditto and a DCE]--I Sneak Attacked him last turn). During my urgent, swift play I made a grave mistake that could have won me the game. I brought out a Hitmonchan against his Goop Gassed Ditto, and said “Go” as I put 4 damage counters on it. Tareq responds, “’Go’? You didn’t attack; you said ‘Go’!” I conceded the point and took off the damage counters. I was close to making more mistakes as I pushed Tareq towards his inevitable demise at the hands of decking: twice I drew my card right as he said “Go”, and I feared he would call the judges on me, thus wasting more time for himself to win. I’ve got to watch that in the future. But eventually my pressings paid off. He drew his last card right before the time ran out. He shuffled around, stalled, but eventually conceded that he could do nothing. My turn came and I said “Go” without doing anything and he lost by decking himself. A good, but nervous, victory for me all because of the Haymaker’s ridiculous speed.

WIN (3)
Dok Jarhead’s score: 16
Dok Jarhead’s ranking: 8

Match 8: vs. Ray (Wigglymaker Variant)
I still don’t know what to think of Ray. He was extremely pleasant, a fair player, but his deck was not too strong and I beat him easily. Off the bat he made an illegal move which I should have called him on or at least pointed out, but I was not feeling assertive—I was mainly just excited to be in the top 8. So when he, after realizing the coin flip was in his favor, switch he unturned active with a benched, I made no mention of it. Ray thus started with a Promo Eevee, which hit me for 20 first turn. I Comp Searched for a Hitmonchan and brought that Eevee to the ground. He kept his bench warm with only one Pokemon at a time, but always had one. He forced me to take all 6 prizes for the win—I think my Sneak Attacks against his two Oaks kept him from running an efficient deck during our game

WIN (3)
Dok Jarhead’s score: 19
Dok Jarhead’s ranking: 5


Having made my way into the top 8 at the end of the main event, I entered the Quarter Finals with a little bit of confidence and a lot of nerves. From now on it was single-elimination and we paired off highest against lowest, etc. Cameras were all over the scene and my stress level was a bit—just a bit—too high. But with a little bit of meditation I was able to prepare myself. The top DCI judges inspected our decks (finally) and took a count of cards and card types. I suspected that certain finalists had indeed changed their decks prior to this event but could not bring myself to name any names—frankly because I didn’t know any names and the tournament had never said that one can’t change one’s deck mid-tournament! But, relaxed and content with my playing I began round 9 against Chris (or was it Mike?), ranked 4th at the time of our match.

Match 9: vs. Chris (or was it Mike?) (Magmar Haymaker)
Chris and I played a long and grueling game through the whole match. For every prize I took, he took three. But he was cutting through his deck so fast I knew that I could keep my Pokemon alive with proper stall strategy and Nightly Garbage Runs. Unfortunately I had already discarded my NGRs first turn when I had to Oak in order to survive. With 5 prizes on my side and 2 on his but only 2 cards in his deck, I was able to Item Find one of the NGRs before the game was up, and that saved me: he drew his last card while I held onto 5 in my deck. I smiled as he drew that final card, saying quietly, “It’s over.” “Nope,” he responded. “How many cards are in your hand?” “None,” I replied. Chris (or was it Mike?) played an Item Finder for a Lass. I was stunned. He Lassed into his deck 7 trainers--1 of which was another Lass and another of which was another Item Finder. I watched in jealous disbelief as he rebuilt his deck and I began to draw useless cards. I knew that there were two more Item Finders in my deck, but assumed that they were hidden in my 5 prizes because in my next three turns I did not draw one of them. Thus with a deck advantage—thanks to Lass—Chris (or was it Mike?) beat me in round 9 of the Super Trainer Showdown.

LOSS (0)
Dok Jarhead’s score: 19
Dok Jarhead’s ranking: unknown (6 or 7)

Because I lost this match in the Quarter Finals I was out of the tournament. I sat down by the judges table to fill out my bio information, glad that the game I lost by was so close but frustrated that I didn’t think about the Lass combo for the win. You see, I could have kept more trainers in my hand instead of playing them all towards the end of the game. I could have dropped Energy instead of an Item Finder when I Comp Searched midway through the game, giving me 3 more cards in my deck. But those are all regrets; instead I should reflect on the positive games that I played, on my ability to overcome some extremely tough odds, and the fact that by the end of the day I was ranked 6th or 7th in the Super Trainer Showdown.

Unfortunately, I somehow was awarded the one prize bag that didn’t have the baseball cap I was supposed to receive. Nor was I notified that more prizes awaited me at the prize redemption booth. I thus got 16 booster packs and a giant Pokemon binder. I also received extreme satisfaction from my performance and enjoyed the rest of my stay on the beautiful RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California.

Special thanks to Bobby, Michael & Patrick, Timon, Nick & Geoff, and of course the eversweet Jamie for their support and enthusiasm as I made my way through the day. These people helped me immensely, and made the trip enjoyable and memorable. Thanks again.


J. Stein

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