The Deck Out: Eye on Japan

Hi everyone!

It’s Esa from the blog The Deck Out. Last time when I wrote on SixPrizes, I wrote about the Battle Roads metagame. This time, however, I’m back with very different content. It’s time for me to start maybe the most awaited feature of my blog – Eye on Japan. For those of you who have no idea what Eye on Japan is about, I’ll give a brief explanation: In the Eye on Japan series I’ll reveal how the always so mysterious Japan tournament system works, how the game in Japan is in general, and of course the most interesting part – what their metagame is like.

Since this will be the first part of the Eye on Japan series, I decided to post it on SixPrizes in order to let as many people know about this article series as possible.   myself find these things highly interesting because the difference between Japan and rest of the world in Pokémon TCG is huge. I hope you find this information interesting and helpful.

Japan as a Pokémon TCG Country

Japan is – as some of you may know – the world’s second biggest country in Pokémon TCG if we look at the achievements. Probably the most legendary Japanese Pokémon TCG player is Tsuguyoshi Yamato who won Worlds in 2004 with a Team Magma deck and made it to top 4 in 2007. He is the only person in the world who has two X-0 results in the Swiss Rounds of World Championships (2004 and 2007). He is also the only player along with another successful Japanese player – Yuta Komatsuda – who has won Worlds by winning every game in the tournament.

Yamato is also widely known for his strange and crazy decks which usually differ greatly from what we have been accustomed to – the latest example being Yanmega/Lanturn/Zekrom which he used to grind himself into this year’s World Championships.

One could write a whole article about great Japanese players of Pokémon TCG. Yuta Komatsuda won every game in World Championships 2010 with his Luxchomp deck. There is also Takuya Yoneda who won Worlds in the Seniors division in 2004 and played a crazy rogue deck in 2007 Worlds placing in top 16. There is Go Miyamoto who placed 3rd in Worlds 2004 and went 8-0 with his ZRE deck in the Swiss rounds in Worlds 2005. Japan also has many Junior division winners in World Championships, and the list goes on.

Japan has always been a mystery to the rest of the world. Japan isn’t using the same ranking system as we are and their format is always different compared to ours. However, this year, Japan and the rest of the world are playing the same format, which makes things very interesting. Of course, we are always at least one set behind Japan but it only means that we have lots to learn from them.

The problem with getting in touch with Japanese TCG players has always been the language barrier. I, for example, can’t speak Japanese even though I can speak Finnish, Swedish, English, and German, and I’m pretty sure that there aren’t many players in Pokémon TCG worldwide who can.

However, thanks to my friend who writes and speaks fluent Japanese, I was able to make a contact in Japan and now I’m able to share all this information with the rest of the world’s Pokémon TCG community. I hope you find this information as interesting as I do. Before I begin the “real” article I would like to thank my friend Ukinin for providing this information – without him this wouldn’t be possible.

The Japanese Tournament System and How They Qualify for Worlds

The Japanese tournament system has undergone some big changes just like ours. In the past, Japan had 47 Regional Championships a year. The winners of these tournaments were allowed to participate in the Japanese National Championships, meaning that Japanese National Championships were an invite-only tournament.

In the National Championships, the winners received a travel award just like in our National Championships, and the other top players received an invite to Worlds. This year, the system has been modified. The number of Regionals dropped from 47 to 11 and they were to be held in the biggest cities of Japan. These Regionals differ from our Regionals in one way – the winners of these tournaments receive an invite to Worlds.

From my point of view, their former system was interesting, because at least in Finland, Nationals is the very first tournament for many new players. Also, I think that’s the case in many other countries as well and that’s why I was surprised to hear this. The system was probably like that because Japan has a strong way to recruit players to the younger age groups, as I well explain later in this article.

However, the horrible catastrophe that struck Japan this year cancelled every Regionals tournament. That’s why no invites or travel awards were given out in Japan and every player from Japan who went to Worlds had to pay for their own trip and play their way through the Grinder. This, of course, excludes the Japanese players who had gotten the invite and travel award from the previous World Championships.

Alongside with the tournaments system, the Japanese age groups changed as well. The biggest age groups in Japan are Juniors and Masters. In the past, Japan’s age grouping was similar to ours. However, due a very low amount of players in the Seniors age division, they decided to change the system. The new system has only 2 different age groups: A: -12; B: 13+.

Once again because of the earthquake, the new age division system has not yet been tested in the official tournaments. Also, as the change wasn’t well received by the Japanese player base, the change might be cancelled even before it takes place.

60-card Decks and 30-card Decks

This is something I found exceptionally interesting about the Japanese Pokémon TCG system. I’ve heard rumors before of Japanese players playing with 30-card decks, but I never knew why and where and how. Ukinin was kind enough to explain all this to me, and here it is:

All the official tournaments for the Juniors age division are held with a 30-card deck format. This is probably because it keeps the game more simple and approachable for younger players. I think this is a great ideology to attract more younger players because I’ve played a few 30-card deck matches and I found it fun. It’s also easier for a Junior player to build a 30-card deck than a 60-card one because it’s more difficult to get one’s hands on four copies of every card compared to two to three copies of each card.

Even though the 30-card deck format may be considered easier to play, there is no way it doesn’t develop the gaming skills of Junior players as Japan has always been the dominating country in Juniors in World Championships.

60-card decks are used for Seniors and Masters in the official tournaments. However, there are also shop tournaments where even Seniors and Masters use 30-card decks. The 30-card deck format isn’t very popular among high-level players because it involves more luck than the 60-card deck format. So, the 60-card deck format is the most played format in Japan as well, excluding the Juniors age group.

Are Japanese players satisfied with the game in general?

Well, this is no surprise. The first-turn rule has a rather bad reputation in Japan as well. The beginner has always had a slight advantage but with the new ruling the advantage is just too huge. It’s bad for the game; the whole world agrees with that now.

The coolest thing in my opinion is that the game developers of Pokémon TCG visit shop tourneys in Tokyo and investigate what people think about the game. That way players in Japan are in very close contact with the people who really affect the game’s direction. In my opinion, it’s very encouraging to hear that the game developers are interested in the player base’s opinions on the game.

It only means that the game is developed in the way the players want it to be developed and, in my opinion, there is evidence of that in the newest sets with cards like Durant and N, which take the game to a whole new level.

Also, as the Japanese players aren’t happy with the first-turn rule, there is a great chance that the game developers are already thinking about how to make the game healthier. We’ll just have to wait and see and wish for the best.

The Japanese Metagame at the Moment

As mentioned earlier, Japan has a few more sets released than we do. They have Pokémon EXs released as well as the upcoming cards from the Noble Victories set. Thanks to Ukinin I was able to get information on what has been played in Japan before and what’s been played right now.

HGSS-Noble Victories

This is going to be our States, Cities, and (for some) Regionals format, so I think this is very interesting. The information from Japan shows us that there seems to be lots of variety in the decks played. Here is a short list of the decks that have seen play and have done well in the tournaments – maybe you get good ideas for your CC decks from this list as well!

  • Reshiboar w/ Cobalion (BW3) tech
  • ReshiPhlosion – yeah it’s big out there as well
  • Cinccino/Beartic w/ Rocky Helmet
  • Electrode Prime/Cobalion/Kyurem – I’ve built this deck and I LOVE it.
  • Virizon(BW3)/Kyurem(BW3)/Reshiram/Zekrom/Terrakion(BW3)

Japanese players are crazy when it comes to deck ideas.  I love how they build things so differently compared to the rest of the world. I’m always inspired by the decks that the skilled Japanese players play and I highly respect their innovation and imagination when it comes to deck building.

This list includes only a slice of their total metagame, and their metagame probably has lots of things that won’t ever see play in our tournaments. Noble Victories will bring a huge impact on our format and I hope it inspires Western players to play crazy rogue decks as well.

Mewtwo EX

Translation:

Mewtwo EX – Psychic – HP170
Basic Pokemon

[C][C] EX Ball: Does 20 damage times the number of Energy attached to each player’s Active Pokemon.
[P][P][C] Psycho Drive: 120 damage. Choose 1 Energy attached to this Pokemon and discard it.

Pokemon EX Rule: When Pokemon EX is Knocked Out, your opponent takes 2 Prize cards.

Weakness: Psychic (x2)
Resistance: none
Retreat: 2

via PokeBeach.com

I had to make Mewtwo EX a header of its own. It’s THAT good. My Japanese friend described this card with words: ”almost all the players are now agreeing that Mewtwo EX is the strongest and most powerful card in BW3 (maybe one of the strongest cards ever).” But with what is Mewtwo EX played for it to be SO good? Well, there are a few cards my friend specifically mentioned:

  • Gardevoir(BW3)
  • Eelektrik(BW2)
  • Typhlosion Prime
  • Celebi Prime

In my opinion this means that anything that can load energies to Mewtwo EX quickly is pretty much playable with it. I’ve made a deck list with Mewtwo EX, which uses Celebi Prime as an energy accelerator and have been testing it quite a bit. Remember this deck list includes cards from the future sets so be sure to check the strange cards’ translations: BW2 and BW3

Pokemon – 7

4 Celebi Prime

3 Mewtwo EX

Trainers – 38

4 Professor Juniper
4 Dual Ball
2 Copycat
2 N
3 Professor Oak’s New Theory
2 Sage’s Training
2 Pokegear 3.0
1 Ultra Ball
2 Skyarrow Bridge
4 Junk Arm
3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Switch
3 Eviolite
3 PlusPower

Energy – 15

11 Grass

4 Double Colorless

Try it out and be surprised how good the deck really is even though the list looks weird and simple. I love this deck especially for one reason: it gives Zekrom – the current possible BDIF – a very hard time. Once Zekrom hits Bolt Strike, you will be able to OHKO it with just Mewtwo EX which has a DCE attached to it.

I’m not very much into early hyping but I must admit the truth now that I’ve done some testing. This is only my first Mewtwo EX list and it already works very well against the best metagame decks out there. I don’t know if Celebi Prime is the best partner with Mewtwo EX, but at least it’s a very good option. Be sure to get your hands on Mewtwo EXs or cards that counter it because I’m sure it will be big in our metagame as well.

Also make you get a hold of cards that can load energy to Mewtwo EX – I’m pretty sure that Celebi Prime won’t be three or four dollars each after the EX-set has been released. In Japan, Mewtwo EX is so big that people are playing either Mewtwo EX or Mewtwo EX counter decks – nothing else. It’s pretty much like GG in the 2007-2008 season; it dominates the format and you have to be able to beat it in order to do well in tournaments.

When it comes to countering Mewtwo EX, there are two very good options. First, Mewtwo EX. Yeah, with one DCE you can surprise OHKO them back and get 2 prizes – that’s a hard counter if you ask me. The second – more played – counter card is Mew Prime. As long as you have Zoroark/Jumpluff in your Lost Zone, you’re able to OHKO every Mewtwo EX your opponent plays. Mew Prime will of course have its problems with the rest of the format so that’s why Mewtwo EX is as dominating as it is in the format at the moment.

What do you want to know about Japan?

There is still much more information in storage about Japan & Pokémon TCG, so be sure to follow my Eye on Japan series. If you find this article interesting and are eager to know even more about Japan’s Pokémon TCG, please let me know what you want to know so I’ll be able to ask the right questions. I would like to know what interests you the most in this series.

Are you interested in getting more deck lists and info about the metagame? Maybe you’re interested in the Japanese Pokémon TCG community or the demographic of the Japanese TCG? And finally, would you find it cool if also the rest of the world could get their voices heard in the game developers’ office?

Feel free to leave any comments on my Eye on Japan article series, questions and feedback in the comment field below, to my blog or to my e-mail: thedeckout@gmail.com. Thanks for reading and please let me know what you think!

For more great Pokémon TCG content and the future Eye on Japan articles check my blog, The Deck Out.

  • Rahul Reddy

    I like the article very much and I kinda want to try building the Celebi, Mewtwo deck for fun :P

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NBEWD4PIED6SCIYEEZDUPBB5IA Jeremy

    It makes me sad the game will come down to “Deck 1 or Deck1-Counter”. I hate when the game goes that way. I tend to avoid playing the OP – BDIF and then get rolled by it. The game should be about diverse tactics and strategy and fun; not about which cards are OP as hell and who can afford. to buy the ones that are.

    • Dakota Streck

      Mewtwo Ex hasn’t been released here yet. Things can change, new counters are discovered, etc. Japan is definitely good at Pokemon, but lots of developments have been made in America and other countries too. It could very well be 2008 all over again, but I don’t think it’s a sure thing.

  • Anonymous

    We have needed something like this for so long.

    Thanks mate!

  • Anonymous

    Celebi becoming popular? Yes please. :D

  • Deck Out

    Thanks for comments guys! And thanks for all the thumbs up, they have been increasing very fast O_O

    Mewtwo probably won’t as good as GG during the whole season because it CAN be countered. GG had so much versatility that it was hard to counter (not to forget that it was a power lock deck). And who said GG wasn’t counterable, I managed to get to top8 with Glaceon in 2008 World Championships winnign people like Jay Hornung and Gino Lombardi who played GG. I didn’t lose a single GG in the tournament.

    But back to point. I think they’re already countering Mewtwo EX in Japan and I’ll surely get back to Mewtwo EX in my next Eye on Japan article. Thinks like RDL can for example OHKO Mewtwo EX and get 3 prizes! That’s quite awesome. I’m very excited about Mewtwo EX even though it could become a staple in many decks because it won’t kill the versatility in the decks like GG did. When GG ruled, there were pretty much only GG and Empoleon. And in my opinion GG season wasn’t even that bad, at least it wasn’t luck-based.

    Thanks for the comments once again and keep them coming! Things you would like to know about Japan, would be great to hear as well!

    • Alex Flamm

      Sorry if I am missing something completely obvious, but I was looking on the decklist out, and I saw a decklist for Mew Prime/Octillery/Wobuffet and Mew Prime/Vespiqueen. I just do not get the synergy of these, could you explain?

  • Alex Flamm

    I really hope that they dont get rid of the turn 1 rule for two reasons:

    1. I wont be able to play Zekrom anymore :(
    2. All my Zekrom cards would become worthless and I would have nothing to trade with.

    If I was playing any other deck other than Zekrom I would completely agree with you, as I would happily be playing BlastZel.

  • Anonymous

    Fascinating article; one of them most interesting I’ve seen on the front page in a while.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed. This is really is a great article.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZQYV46CSTRFWTWEVAV7ENMEVL4 Dustin H

    I wonder why Tornadus hasn’t been used as a counter in a ZPST deck. He sets up often in one turn and moves an energy off so he only gets hit back for 80 damage assuming two energy on Mewtwo and two energy on Tornadus. With a PlusPower (Often played in ZPST) he can two shot a Mewtwo for 2 prizes :)

    Furthermore, why not swap out Zekrom for Mewtwo in your typical ZPST deck. now you have Pachi/Shaymin moving energy to Mewtwo so he hits for 60/80 (If you get a double colorless) on turn one even if the opponent has no energy on them. If you start with Tornadus you are transferring energy to Mewtwo on the bench to hit really hard.

    • Max Douglas

      Not a bad idea, I was planning to use Mewtwo EX in my Zekrom deck to help the Gothitelle match-up, as well as any trainer lock really.

  • http://profiles.google.com/newmaneatspie michael newman

    i prefer jirachi shaymin mewtwo ex. it also leads to having jirachi in the deck which is a good laugh

  • Anonymous

    Love the article.  We never hear about what goes on in the land of the rising sun, so its nice to hear something.  I guess I would like to hear about if Victini is getting play, and other decklists from Japan.  Keep these articles coming!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for this article, I hope these keep coming!!!

  • Dave W

    One of the most interesting articles in a while, thank you!

  • Anonymous

    Being someone who hyped cobalion BW3 since it’s first announcement, I am pretty excited to see it is doing well.  And might I say, can anyone direct me to some kind of skeleton list for electrode prime/cobalion/kyurem because that sounds amazing and I would love to play it.  Sounds so wacky that I couldn’t think of a list other than the cards mentioned and twins.  EPIC ARTICLE!

    • Anonymous

      cobalion with special metal energy would be tough to take out.  im actually thinking zoroark (with special darkness energy) – cobalion bw3 (with special metal energy)  plus another basic or stage 1  (sheer cold beartic? terrakion? cincinno? still undecided ha ha ha ha ) deck to run in cities.

      • Anonymous

        I would probably tech in donphan to counter other zoroaks which wreck cobalion, or vileplume to make it harder for the opponent to switch.

  • http://twitter.com/ajwalker65 Aaron J. Walker

    Great article and I love hearing about what Japan is doing with Pokemon. 

    I swoon over actual company reps sitting and talking with players during leagues and tournaments to get their feedback – amazing. Wish we could have something remotely similar here in the US.

    I’m sorry to see it looks like more of the same with high attack, high HP with low energy cost basic Pokemon. MewTwo will supplant Zekrom / Reshiram as even the upcoming sets will continue to favor raw power over strategy and finesse. 

  • Anonymous

    Mew prime seems like a awesome way to counter mewtwo without being dead in other matchups

  • Anonymous

    Awesome article. But why wasnt decks with Yanmega and Donphan populair deck choices?

  • Deck Out

    Thanks a lot for all the comments and thumbs up guys – I couldn’t even have wished this good reception from you! I’m looking forward how much thumbs up this will get.

    I’ll try to include more decklists for the future updates because I know you’re interested in those. For example I saw one japanese list running Tornadus/Celebi/Mewtwo so yeah Tornadus is a good card with Mewtwo as well. It also counters the RDL thread automatically.

    In the next article I’ll go deeper in the tournament system of Japan and explain what I haven’t yet explained. I’ll also check out the latest changes in the metagame. Feel free to ask any questions and comment as you want!

  • http://twitter.com/aholdway Alex Holdway

    i can haz mewtooz and hyrajunz?!

  • Anonymous

    SUCH an awesome article. After many of us (me included!) have whined over how we know nothing about the Japanese meta, you just go and figure it out. Thanks so much!

  • Anonymous

    Excellent article. This is definitely a great topic and one that a lot of players have wanted to see addressed for years.

    This makes me wonder if TPCi will push off the release of Mewtwo EX a set so it’s not around for Worlds this year. Our winter set is going to be Noble Victories, which will include most of Red Collection, so our Spring set should have Psycho Drive/Hail Blizzard in it, but there’s always the possibility they’ll push a few cards off for a reprint set ala Call of Legends. It’s unlikely, but there have been other things that have been pushed off (Lost World, for example) because they were dominating the Japanese metagame.

    Which brings me to what I’d like to see: we hear rumors here about what is dominating the Japanese Meta, but I’d love to hear what actually was for the last couple of rotations since they were different from ours.

  • Anonymous

    I think this perfectly equates to point #4 in my video–a request for more contact with Japan. This article has been up for one day and is already by a decent margin the highest rated article written since ratings were implemented! 

    Great work, Esa! Japan has been the subject of rumor for so long that it’s been really hard to discern any truth from any of them. The entire community has had a huge desire for this information for a long time–it’s nice to finally see some info I can trust!

    • Deck Out

      I was going to post on the Gym topic as soon as I possbile but didn’t have time yet. All I had to say was that I think your last video was by far the best you’ve ever done and I fully agree with everything in it. I’m trying to find more about how things work in Japan so I can attend to the conversation on the Gym.

      Wait for my post! And thanks for the comment as well!

  • Deck Out

    +47 and still rising, unbelievable! Thanks a lot everybody!

    Thanks also for everyone who have e-mailed me and left me suggestions of questions. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask. I also started Twitter and Facebook for my blog you can find them here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Deck-Out/224210994308067 and here: http://twitter.com/#!/TheDeckOut

    Be sure to follow and like them for the future articles!

    • Anonymous

      can i suggest having a dr nakamats photo in your next eye on japan article? it will make it more epic!

  • lucas mazzega

    MUCH BETTER than those 243242 boring BR’s report 2-4. Thanks and Congratulations Esa.

  • Anonymous

    A damn good epic article! keep it coming!!!

  • Anonymous

    +52? You sure have a lot of pets……………..

    • Anonymous

      Haha, I see what you did there.

      I think it’s the peer pressure effect, though. I noticed that when an article gets a couple thumbs up, it tends to get a lot more afterwards. Same if it gets a few thumbs down. It’s especially apparent if you look back a few weeks at how ridiculously the CoTD scores varied.

      • http://twitter.com/TealRoyal Marco M-T

        Ever considered that it is because this is an unique well written article about a theme many players have wanted to be adressed… since… forver? Why hate, Mekkah? Seriously. On this article, every thumbs up is deserved and every thumbs down is someone hating and being a jerk for no reason.

        • Anonymous

          FYI, he was making a joke.  He’s not hating on the article. 

        • Anonymous

          I just think it’s great that he has such loving pets that they all go out on this website and vote for him. That’s not hating and being a jerk for no reason…………..

          (yes, I was joking around, how could you not tell)

        • http://twitter.com/TealRoyal Marco M-T

          I replied to CaptainX24, if you can’t tell. :P

    • Deck Out

      I know right – and it seems like I’m buying more pets and family members all the time…

  • Anonymous

    inb4 huge price spike for Xatu

  • Anonymous

    I AM A MASTER IN JAPAN ONO. I would love to be a master, but I am not sure if I am ready to go against the people playing since Base set in the master division (and you know there will be a few in Japan as that is the coolest thing in the world to do over there (or at least I think it is)). I agree that I would love Celebi Prime to get popular. GO MEWTWO EX.

    I can see some using MPS (Mewtwo EX, Pacirisu, Shaymin) instead of ZPST.

  • http://profiles.google.com/nilaypatel2 Nilay Patel

    In the Mewtwo EX deck list there are no psychic energy

    • Deck Out

      You’re correct. Mewtwo EX operatels fully with it’s first attack which requires only Colorless Energy – that’s what makes it so versatile.

  • Aaron Minjoot

    Awesome work Esa! Was really looking forward to the first issue of this series and it hasn’t disappointed. Thumbs up and awaiting for now both here and on The Deck Out. :D

  • Aaron Minjoot

    Awesome work Esa! Was really looking forward to the first issue of this series and it hasn’t disappointed. Thumbs up and awaiting for now both here and on The Deck Out. :D

  • Anonymous

    Can we have a list for the kyurem deck you mentioned?

  • Anonymous

    I don’t see how it gives zekrom a hard time. You have 7 pokemon total. you start with 1, and zekrom goes first.. donk. OOPS.

    • Anonymous

      Read “Bolt Strike”

      Now read Mewtwo’s HP.

      If you start Celebi, then yes, it’s an issue.  But if you start mewtwo, the zekrom player loses.  So just switch your counts of Celebi and mewtwo, and there you go. 

      • Deck Out

        Indeed. These things have to happen in the game if Zekrom wants to win easily.

        1) You open with a LONE Celebi
        2) Your opponent goes first
        3) Zekrom has to get a T1 Tornadus/Zekrom

        With my experience – this doesn’t happen too often. Donking is always a possibility but IMO it doesn’t affect the match-up because it can happen the other way around as well.

        • Anonymous

          To be honest you can get benched fairly easily with so few Pokemon, even if it doesn’t happen on turn 1.

  • Scott O’Brien

    I don’t know if they’re in NV, and I’m not sure I want them. :P

  • http://twitter.com/TealRoyal Marco M-T

    http://www.sixprizes.com/top-rated/
    Where did this article dissapear? I think I see some manipulation, please tell me that I’m wrong!?

    • Deck Out

      I’ve checked the Top Rated section once in a while because sometimes I see my article there and sometimes I don’t. I think it’s just a bug because this article is so new or something. Now when I click the link, I can see this article on the list. Adam can probably tell better why it doesn’t show on the list sometimes. 

  • Anonymous

    can you post a list for the kyurem electrode?

    • Deck Out

      I’ll make an article about the deck in my blog in the near future. Be sure to follow my blog to know when the list is released!

  • Deck Out