Monday, October 17, 2011

Eye on Japan - Part 1

Hi everyone!

This is the first part of my probably the most awaited – feature – Eye on Japan. Those of you who have no idea what Eye on Japan is about, I’ll explain briefly. In the Eye on Japan series I’ll reveal how the always so mysterious Japan tournament system works. How is the game in Japan in general and of course the most interesting part – what’s their metagame like.

Since this will be the first part of the Eye on Japan series I decided to write it on the also on the SixPrizes to let as many people know about this article series as possible. I’m sure that there are many and many more people who are interested in Japanese TCG and metagame in general so I’d like to gather as large audience as possible for this article series. I – myself – find these things highly interesting because there is so much difference between Japan and rest of the World in the Pokémon TCG. I hope that you’ll also tell your friends about this even though they wouldn’t read SixPrizes or my blog because I’m sure this will be interesting in their opinion as well. I hope you find this information interesting and usable.

Japan as a TCG country

Japan is – as some of you may know – the World’s second best country in the Pokémon TCG if we look just at the achievements. Probably the most legendary Japanese Pokémon TCG player is Tsuguyoshi Yamato who won Worlds 2004 with Team Magma deck and got into top4 in the World Championships 2007. He is also the only person in the World that has 2 X-0 results in the Swiss Rounds of World Championships (2004 and 2007). He is also the only player along with his fellow Japanese – Yuta Komatsuda – who has won Worlds by winning every game in the tournament. Yamato is also widely known about his strange and crazy decks, which usually differs a lot from what we have been accustomed to – the latest example being Yanmega/Lanturn/Zekrom, which he used grind himself in in this year’s World Championships.

If I would go in-depth of all the great Japanese players of the Pokémon TCG, it would be whole new article. Just to mention some besides Yamato, there is Yuta Komatsuda who won every game in the World Championships 2010 with his Luxchomp deck. There is also Takuya Yoneda who have won Worlds in Seniors 2004 and played a crazy rogue deck in 2007 Worlds placing top16. There is also Go Miyamoto (about which I don’t know if he is an active player anymore) who placed 3rd in the Worlds 2004 and went 8-0 with his ZRE deck in the Swiss rounds of the Worlds 2005. Japan also has many Junior division winners in the World Championships and etc. I could continue the list for forever.

Japan has always been a mystery for 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 1 set behind Japan but it only means that we have lots to learn from them.

The other problem with getting in touch with Japanese TCG players has been the language barrier. I 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 the Pokémon TCG worldwide, who can spread fluent Japanese. However, thanks to my friend who writes and speaks fluent Japanese I was able to make a contact to 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.

Japanese tournament system and how do Japanese players qualify for Worlds

The Japanese tournament system has been renewed last year just like ours with Championship Points and Regionals in the Autumn and in the Spring this year. In the past, Japan organized States in 47 different States. The winners of these tournaments were allowed to attend in the Japanese National Championships. So practically Japan’s Nationals have been before an invite-only tournament. This sounds very strange for players outside Japan since we have always had open Nationals and at least in Finland Nationals is the first tournament for many players to ever play in. Only the winner of the Japan’s National Championships will get a travel award (just like all over the world).

However, this year the system has changed. The “States” are no longer in 47 different places but they’re held in the biggest cities of Japan. The number of tournaments has been decreased from 47 to only 11. Every winner of these tournaments gets an invite to Worlds. Winning Regionals in Japan this year meant that you were invited to Worlds.

However, the horrible catastrophe that struck Japan this year cancelled every Regionals tournament. That’s why none 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 and in the past Japan’s age grouping was similar to ours. However, due a very low amount of players in 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 hasn’t yet been tested in the official tournaments. Also, it wasn’t well received by the Japanese player base so the change might be cancelled even before it takes place. That’s what I call a quick reaction from the people who are in charge of the game!

60-card decks and 30-card decks

This is something I found exceptionally interesting about Japanese Pokémon TCG system. I’ve heard rumors before of Japanese players playing with a format of 30-card decks but I never knew why and where and how. Now I know.

All the tournaments for JUNIORS age division are held with a 30-card deck format. This is 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 know it’s fun. It’s also easier for a Junior player to build a 30-card deck than 60 card because it’s more difficult to get hands on 4 copies of every card compared to 2-3 copies of each card. Even though the 30-card deck format maybe considered easier to play, there is no way it doesn’t develop the gaming skills of the Junior players as much as 60-card deck format because Japan has always been the dominating country in Juniors in the World Championships. Maybe this is their secret for a great success in the Juniors?

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

Are Japanese players satisfied with the game in general?

Well, this is a no surprise. The first-turn rule has also a bad reputation in Japan. The beginner has always had a slight advantage for the game but with the new ruling the advantage is just too huge. Their opinion doesn’t differ from the public opinion around the World that much when it comes to the first-turn rule. It’s bad for the game- the whole World agrees with that now.

The coolest thing in my opinion is that game developers of the Pokémon TCG visit shop tourneys and leagues in Tokyo and survey 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 come once in a while on the same level with players and are interested about players’ opinions about the game. It only means that the game is developed in the way players want it to be developed and in my opinion it has shown in the newest sets with cards like Durant and N, which take the game to a whole new level.

The game developers surveying the field encourages me to hope about the change of the beginner rule sooner than it would usually come. If Japanese players aren’t happy with the first-turn rule either there is a great chance that game developers are already thinking about how to make the first-turn rule better. We’ll just have to wait and see and hope for the change.

Japanese metagame currently

The Japan has few sets more released than we do. They have Pokémon EXs released as well as the upcoming cards from the Noble Victories. Thanks to my source I was able to get information what has been played in Japan before and what’s been played now. I know you’re very interested about this so I don’t let you wait any longer.

HGSS-Noble Victories

This will be the upcoming Regionals/States/CC format of ours so I think this is very interesting. The format looks very interesting in Japan within these sets because there is lots of variety of the decks played in Japan. Here is a short list of decks that have seen play and done well in the tournaments – maybe you get good ideas for your CC decks from this list as well!

- Reshiboar/w Cobalion(BW3) tech
- ReshiPlosion – 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 with their decks – I know. But I love how they built things so much differently than rest of the World. I’m always inspired by the decks that 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 so as you can see, their metagame has lots of things that won’t probably ever see play in our tournaments.

Noble Victories will bring a huge impact on our format and I hope it inspires western players for crazy rogue decks as well. It’s been a good while from the last time when a set of new decks rise simultaneously on top of the metagame. Noble Victories gives to the great deck builders a chance to do just that.

Mewtwo EX

I had to make an own header for Mewtwo EX. It’s THAT good. My source 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.)”.

That’s how good Mewtwo EX really is. But with what Mewtwo EX is played to make it SO good? Well, there were few things that my source especially mentioned:

- Gardevoir(BW3)
- Elektrik(BW2)
- Typhlosion Prime
- Celebi Prime

In my opinion this means that anything that can load energies to Mewtwo EX quickly is playable with it. I’ve made a deck list of Mewtwo EX, which uses Celebi Prime as an energy accelerator for the Mewtwo EX 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.


4x Celebi Prime
3x Mewtwo EX


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


4x Double Colorless Energy
11x Grass Energy

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

I’m not very much into making hype but I must admit the truth once I’ve tested this deck out. This is only the first list of mine of this deck 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 it’s a very good option. If you are one of the lucky ones to read this article be sure to get your hands on Mewtwo EXs or cards that counter it because it will be big in our metagame as well. Be sure to get the cards that can load energy to it once the prices are low – I’m pretty sure that Celebi Prime won’t be 3-4 dollars/each after the EX-set is released.

In Japan Mewtwo EX is that big that people are playing either it or counter decks against it – 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 the tournaments.

When it comes to countering Mewtwo EX, there are 2 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 you understand, as long as you have Zoroark/Jumpluff in your Lost Zone, you’re able to OHKO every Mewtwo Ex that comes into your way. Mew Prime will of course have its problems with the rest of the format so that’s why Mewtwo EX is so dominating in the format at the moment.

What do YOU want to know about Japan?

There is more information that I have storage from Japan but I’ll leave them for the next Eye on Japan – articles. This would be a too long article if I wrote everything I knew at the moment about Japan. However, there are things that I don’t know about yet and I haven’t realized to ask. 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 can ask the right questions.

Also, I would like to know in which parts you’re the most interested of. Are you interested in getting more deck lists and info about the metagame. Maybe you’re interested in the demographic of Japanese TCG and how many players do their really have. Is Japan bigger than the U.S.A. as a Pokémon TCG. Also, do you think it would be cool that the rest of the World could get their voices heard in the game developers’ office?

Feel free to leave any comments about my Eye on Japan - feature, questions and feedback into the comment field below or to my e-mail: . Thanks for reading and be sure to let me know what you think!

I also added my friends - Ukinin's - blog to my friends list so if you can understand Japan, be sure to check it out as well!

You can find the sixprizes article here:  (It has more pictures, lol!)

// Be back to The Deck Out this Friday, when it’s time for Reshiboar to get analyzed!


  1. Thank you! This was a very informative article!

  2. Dude, I just want to say, I love your blog. This was a cool, informative article. Is their a chance we could get deck lists? Also, links to Japanese sites would be way awesome, if you know of any.

  3. Hey there! First off, great article. Secondly- I think we would all like to see the techs they put in tyram and their builds of it. I know that mewtwo ex is pretty great but I think it is another lostgar or darkrai lv.x

  4. This is awesome. I feel that suddenly, we understand Japan better. Thank you for this article and I hope more will come.

  5. This is great news !
    I would love to see how the situation will evolve the next month.

  6. Thanks for the encouraging comments guys, those sure made my day and seems that all my hard work has paid off!

    As I said in the end of the article, you find the link to my Japanese friend's site in the "friends" area on the right. There you can also find some decklists.

    I'll try to keep posting Eye on Japan at least once a month and I'll add more decklists as well. I'll also try to get more in-depth with the decklists as well.

    If you have anything you want to know about Japan, please let me know! And all the other comments are welcome as well.

  7. When you said the decks that are played you left out Zekrom completely so does that mean it is not played at all? Does Mewtwo EX counter it too well? Or is Mewtwo EX just a better version of a quick deck with t1 DCE and grass energy X-Ball?

  8. And in the format before Mewtwo EX (HGSS-NV) is Zekrom still good? I understand N hurts it, but I don't see how Beartic/Cinccino is better than it etc. Sorry for 2 comments in a row. xp

  9. Wow...I'm highly impressed how much can one man pull out information. I'm keeping watching your articles in future with curiosity. BTW cause your articles, I was able to get myself 5th in locals. So thanks for that.
    In person, I would like to consider more about there hyper awesome decks' weaknesses and teches cause that is why they have little oh their own pernonality, eh? As boring reshiplosion player I'd like to consider how to answer that mewtwo. However I fear you already have that answer :D Anyway, keep up good work.

    -Slayer, Finland-

  10. Thanks for everyone for the comments.

    Zekrom will be good but N will hurt it. I'm pretty sure Zekrom won't be as dominating as it is at the moment but it will stay playable. Anz Zekrom can be played alongside Mewtwo with Eelektross so Zekro won't be disappearing anywhere.

    Also, Reshiboar's best bet against Mewtwo EX is probably RDL, hello 3 prizes at the same time.

  11. Hey could you go a little more in depth on the Virzon, Dragon, Terrekion? It seems interesting, but I'd like to know more about it

  12. Henry: If you've read this entry: you would know that I will be doing it later this week!

  13. i recently built a eelektrik+mewtwo ex deck using proxies, and i think it may come to either using mewtwo or countering it.

  14. Anonymous: You're very right, and the best counter to Mewtwo EX is funnily enough Mewtwo EX.

  15. I've tested Mewtwo/Gardevoir/reuniculus and work very fine.
    transfer maximun damage for mewtwo benched with no energy and use max potion. for pokemon catcher i put rescue energy in reuniculus.


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