During our time at the Pokémon Trading Card Game Asia EN Open Summer 2023 that happened in Pavilion Bukit Jalil Malaysia, we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with four top Japanese Pokémon Trading Card Game players: Takeru Yamano, Shintaro Ito, Ryota Ishiyama, and Nedu Nachi.
Family Bonding Over Trading Card Games
The first player that we talked with was Takeru Yamano, who had several achievements under his belt, being the PJC 2022 Master League Winner and having placed third in the CL 2017 Miyagi Master League.
Before there were huge tournaments, a lot of fans got their games in by playing at their local card stores. We asked Yamano whether he’d still join events such as these despite being a professional player.
To which he replied by saying that he doesn’t really go to local card shops often. However, he does spend his time playing with his friends who also share his interest in Pokémon cards.
The next question we asked Yamano was what his first deck that he started with when getting into the Pokémon Trading Card Game.
Yamano mentions he started off 19 years ago, and that his first ever deck when starting out was a Steelix deck.
Yamano had mentioned before that his dad had also played the Pokémon Trading Card Game. We asked him if he bonded with his dad over their love for the franchise.
He said that he had actually practised the Pokémon Trading Card Game with his dad a lot back then. But ever since middle school and high school rolled around, he had been practising with his friends more.
As a follow up question, we asked what kind of deck his dad would use back when Yamano played with him.
“My father is actually still active playing the Pokemon Trading Card Game. He used a very weird deck from the past until now. Lately, my father has been using a Kyurem VMAX card with 30 energy cards inside the deck. So it’s like half of the deck are Energy Cards.”
Netdecking and Unique Combination Decks
Next up, we got to talk with champion Shintaro Ito, who isn’t a stranger in the TCG scene. He previously won the Pokémon WCS2016 Master Division and was also the Runner Up for the WCS2019 Masters Division. As well as being the winner for Battle Carnival 2013 Spring Nagoya and the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th term representative of the Pokémon Card: Elite Four.
Ito is well-known in the Pokémon TCG community for his love of unorthodox combination decks. Among the many combination decks he used previously, we asked him what has been his favourite so far.
Ito mentioned that his favourite combination deck revolved around Greninja GX, Meganium and Swampert. Ito said that he really liked the deck because of its uniqueness which only had one Super Boost Energy card. He continued by saying that the deck name was called “Kaeroop” which was a pun of “Kaeru” which means frog and “Roop” which means loop.
Given that Ito loves his unique decks, we were curious to know if there were any cards that he would include in all of his decks just because he loved them.
“It would be Professor’s Research, because you get to reset your hand. I think it’s a very useful card. It’s not necessary but I like to have it in my deck.”
The next question we asked Ito was whether he was the type of person to share his combination decks on social media so that people could use them if they were interested.
To which, Ito replied by saying that he has a YouTube channel and that he’s quite open about the way he builds his unique decks. He said that for the deck he would use for the championship, it would take time to build, and given the time limit, he wouldn’t be able to share that deck before the event. However, he did say that if he would share the deck to his socials, it would most likely be after the Championship.
Netdecking is a pretty common thing in TCGs where players would search online and build theirs based on other’s pre-built decks. We asked Ito’s opinion about people resorting to netdecking because they might be afraid of losing while trying something new.
“TCG has a lot of ways to have fun. I agree for some beginners that netdecking is a very good way to start playing. I hope for those who do netdecking, one day they will find the joy of building the deck themselves. So, I hope that more people get into building decks.”
The Love for Dewgong
Ryota Ishiyama was the third player that we talked with, who placed 3rd in the Pokémon WCS2022, 7th in the Pokémon WCS2019, as well as the 4th and 5th term representative of the Pokémon Card: Elite Four.
When it comes to games, players would have their own preferred playstyles and how they choose to approach the game, and the same can be said with the Pokémon TCG. We asked Ishiyama what their favourite playstyle was, and what’s a good Pokémon card to bring in to complement that playstyle.
Without any hesitation, Ishiyama proudly proclaims that he enjoys a hyper aggressive playstyle and that right now, he’s using Giratina which is really good with offensive decks.
Considering how many new cards feature returning Pokémon in every set, we asked Ishiyama were there any Pokémon he always looked forward to adding in his deck.
Ishiyama then proceeded to excitedly point over to his Dewgong plush which he brought along with him, saying that it’s his favourite Pokémon and that he loves to add the Dewgong card to his decks.
Given how previous years were difficult to meet up with other players to play Pokémon TCG due to the pandemic, we asked Ishiyama whether he was worried that it had affected his ability to compete.
To which he replied by saying that he actually played a lot with his friends remotely, either through Zoom or Skype. He also said that he was practising card battles once a week with his friends.
Winning the Japan 2023 Championships
Last but certainly not least of the champions we got to talk with was none other than Nedu Nachi, fresh from winning the Pokémon Japan Championships 2023.
Japan is undoubtedly the birthplace of the Pokémon TCG, so we asked Nachi how it was like winning the Japan Championship.
Nachi felt very happy with winning the Japan Championship, and considering that the World Championship is being held in Yokohama, Nachi said that he’s extremely excited to see all the foreign players coming to Japan to compete.
The next question we asked Nachi was whether there were any decks in particular that he’d love to win a championship with.
Nachi replied by saying that he’s hoping to win with the Mew VMAX deck, which will be the deck that Nachi brings to the World Championship later this August.
Everyone starts off somewhere, even champions. We asked Nachi what his first ever deck was before even competing on a professional level.
To which Nachi replied by saying that it was the deck that had featured Latias & Latios-GX because they were his favourite Pokémon. He also told us that he had a lot of accessories for the pair of Pokémon, while showing off his snazzy looking earrings themed after Latias and Latios.
To end off our segment with Nachi, we asked him whether he has ever thought of using another Latias & Latios-GX deck in future tournaments.
“Yes, I’d actually love to, but I also have to win. I know that Latias & Latios-GX are also in Fusion Strike. So, I will be using something similar and hope that one day I could get to use those again.”
Thus ended our interview sessions with the champions. We would like to thank Takeru Yamano, Shintaro Ito, Ryota Ishiyama, and Nedu Nachi for taking the time out of their busy schedules to answer our questions, and we wish them the best of luck at Worlds.
The Pokémon World Championships 2023 will be held in Yokohama, Japan on 11th till 13th August. For more information, do check out the official website here.
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