STS Qualifier - Kansas City

On the weekend of September 30, 2000, I went to Kansas City to compete in the Super Trainer Showdown (STS) qualifying tournament held at Independence Center Mall.  I had just one real goal: to get to the fourth round in one of the six tournaments in my age group (15+).  That would secure me an invitation to the East Coast STS held in New Jersey seven weeks later.  I had previously failed to qualify in Cincinnati, where I just couldn’t get past the third round in any tournament; in each round all the losers are eliminated from that tournament and cannot advance to the next round.

I was there bright and early on Saturday morning at Independence Center Mall.  Opposite me in line was Scott Gerhardt, whom I had seen at the West Coast STS, but had never actually met.  Several other Pojo people were also in line, including Gordon Kane, Clefairy Doll, and Spike.  Scott and I sat down on the ground and played two games just for fun; but for me it was also educational, getting trounced by an expert.  (I think the only prize I took was when he Double-Edged twice.  But I wasn’t playing my tournament deck, because I didn’t want him to get an advance look at what I would be playing, in case we were opponents in the tournament.)

Some players had traveled quite a long distance.  I came from Arizona, and I spoke to one guy who had driven from Georgia.

In the tournaments I was playing a Wrath’d Wiggly deck, containing the following cards:

Pokemon: 16

4 Jigglypuff
4 Wigglytuff
4 Scyther
4 Hitmonchan

Energy: 17

4 Double Colorless Energy
4 Full Heal Energy
1 Potion Energy
8 Fighting Energy

Trainers: 27

4 Professor Oak
4 Misty’s Wrath
4 Plus Power
4 Rocket Sneak Attack
3 Gust of Wind
2 Lass
2 Bill
2 Computer Search
2 No Removal Gym

I don’t consider myself an expert Pokemon player.  An expert player will want to have lots of options possible at all times, which can be carefully considered and then the option chosen that will produce the best game advantage.  That’s too complicated for me, and the more choices I have, the more wrong choices I can make.  I prefer a deck that’s like a well-oiled machine: flip the switch and let it go to work for you—that’s my kinda deck.  Of course Misty’s Wrath does require choices (draw seven cards, keep two and discard five of them), but usually when I play Wrath and draw seven cards, I can almost hear two of the cards yelling, “Keep me!  Keep me!”, and then I just discard the other five.  With a deck containing four Professor Oak and four Misty’s Wrath, it would be possible to deck myself on the first turn.  So the deck’s basic strategy is the same as any turbo-type Wiggly deck:  tear quickly through half the deck trying to fill up your bench and get Wiggly active, then beatdown the opponent and try not to deck yourself.

I was able to enter the first and third tournaments on Saturday.  But both in both tournaments I only made it to the third round and then lost.  In one game I got two very quick prizes, but then I couldn’t draw an Oak or Misty’s Wrath until around 20 turns later, and by then it was too late.  So at the end of Saturday, I still had won no invitation.  My opponents had a variety of decks, including evolution decks, raindance, and haymaker, but I didn’t face any Wigglytuff decks.

I did have a very memorable win against a Dark Vileplume deck, overcoming odds that seemed utterly hopeless.  He got to go first, had Snorlax active with two Oddish and another Snorlax on the bench; he attached a DCE to active Snorlax and said “go”.  I had Scyther active, with only Jiggly on the bench.  I attached an energy to Jiggly and said “go”.  He evolved an Oddish to Dark Gloom, Breeder-evolved the other Oddish to Dark Vileplume (on the 2nd turn!), attached another DCE to Snorlax, used Dark Gloom to confuse my Scyther, and then did Body Slam for 30 to Scyther.  My retreat attempt failed, yet I was still able to go on to win the game, thanks to some really incredible luck.  On my next turn I drew Hitmonchan and was able to retreat Scyther and knock out Snorlax in three turns.  He brought up the other Snorlax but it didn’t have enough energy yet, so Hitmonchan was able to knock it out, too, because the confusion attempts from Dark Gloom were failing, or else I had a Full Heal energy to cure Hitmonchan.  And by then I had Wigglytuff evolved and fully powered up, and was able to finish off the rest of his bench.

That evening I went to a local resturant that seemed to be half-filled with Pokemon people: players and tournament staff (wearing their “civvies”).  I had a very long talk with Gordon Kane, who was the only Pojo-person to win first place in a tournament on Saturday.

The next day I was back at the mall to try again. I entered the first tournament and got a “bye” (automatic win) in the first round, because I had no opponent.  In the second round I got off to a good fast start, but went through too much of my deck.  My opponent wisely went into defensive mode, and he concentrated on removing my energy, despite my No Removal Gym.  So I soon was totally out of energy.  Lass gave me an extra 10 turns, which completely surprised my opponent, but I could do nothing to attack, so I was soon decked and lost the game.  I then went back and got a ticket for the day’s second tournament. (Scott Gerhardt was the winner of the first tournament, so it’s just as well that I was eliminated, or I would have had to face him in a later round.)

In the first round of the second tournament, my opponent was Gordon Kane.  He took a strong early game advantage; then he was disqualified because he had a French PlusPower in his deck (and no English translation set aside).  This was a cheap win for me, but I took it.  My deck now started working the way it was supposed to work.  I easily won the next two games, which took me to the fourth round and gave me the STS invitation at last!  That’s what I came here for!  The fourth round was also a surprisingly easy victory against a haymaker, and I suddenly found myself in the finals opposite Clefairy Doll, who was playing a Dark Muk deck.  I was worried when my opening hand had just a Jigglypuff, Wigglytuff, Prof. Oak, Misty’s Wrath, and three other cards.  I planned to play Wrath and hope to put two more basics on my bench, then play the Oak, even though it would mean discarding my Wigglytuff.  But the seven cards drawn by Misty’s Wrath included another Wigglytuff, and I felt that I didn’t dare discard two of them on my first turn, since I had no Nightly Garbage Run in my deck.  So I decided I would delay playing my Prof. Oak until my second turn, after I had evolved Wigglytuff.  From the seven cards drawn by Misty’s Wrath, I kept only two Rocket Sneak Attack, and played them to remove the most threatening trainers from her hand.  As it turned out, this was the right choice to make.  I evolved Wigglytuff on my second turn, played the Prof. Oak, and then the Wiggly machine was off and running. I was able to tear through my deck and bench her with about a dozen cards left in my draw pile.  So I won the tournament!  It was like a dream.

Meanwhile, Gordon Kane had gone back and entered the third tournament, and went on to win it.  So Scott, Gordon and I had won the three 15+ tournaments of the day, and Clefairy Doll had taken a second place.  Naturally we were all in a very good mood and the four of us had an enjoyable dinner together.  When I left to head back to Phoenix, I felt I had made three friends.  It will be good to see them again in New Jersey.

Bruce Long (Pikabruce)