Saturday, December 10, 2011

Eye on Japan: Part 2

Hey to all The Deck Out followers!

Today is the day that many of you have anticipated for a long time. It’s the time for Eye on Japan: Part 2! If you’re not familiar with my Eye on Japan – series, please read the Eye on Japan: Part 1. Eye on Japan – series is something you don’t want to miss.

As you know, 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.

Last time I revealed a lot of things about their systems and how PCL people are really close to player base. I also revealed a lot of new decks and that Mewtwo EX is dominating the metagame at the moment. The two decks that rose to the worldwide fame were Cobalion/Kyurem/Electrode and the so called 6-corners. In this entry I’ll concentrate on how their tournament system differs from ours and I’ll reveal some more info about Summer Carnival and the “Palace rules” –format. Last but not least, I’ll make a metagame update and check how things have changed from my last Eye on Japan entry.

That’s for the introduction part. I know you guys are thirsty for more information, so here we go!

Tournament system in Japan

In the last article I introduced you to the general tournament system of Japan. However, there is more difference to the western system than just the amount of the premier tournaments. We take Swiss Best-of-one for granted and we are used to play Top Cut after we have finished some amount of Swiss rounds. In Japan, there is no real Swiss and the tournament is almost like Single elimination all the time. I’ll now try to explain how the tournaments work in Japan. Forgive me if it’s confusing or unclear but as my friend Ukinin-san said, even Japanese players think it’s a confusing and unclear system. Anyways, here goes nothing.

First of all, the system I'm going to describe is used only in official tournaments such as Regionals as the players think this system is confusing enough not to be used in shop tourneys or other unofficial tournaments.

The Swiss rounds are played with no time limit, best of one. There are 3 to 4 Swiss rounds depending on the number of players, and the goal is to gain 3 to 4 succeeding wins depending on the number of rounds. The winner of each game moves to the next table with a free player with the same score, and they start the next game as fast as they get an opponent. The losing players have two options: to resign or to re-enter the tournament with a 0-0 score. They are able to play against other players who re-enter. 

This being said, the system is pretty much a speed competition. The ones who are able to gain 3 or 4 victories faster than others automatically advance to top cut (top 16 or 32, depending again on the number of players). There is a lot of luck involved as with 3 donks one can advance to top cut extremely quickly, whereas the players with slower decks might not even have time to win 3 games before it's too late. In this system, it is also much more unfortunate to lose in the second round than in the first one - unlike in the Western system - because one has to start fresh.

The first 16 (or sometimes 32) X-0 players advance to top cut. The top cut system is a lot more similar to the Western model compared with the Swiss round system. The top cut games are once again best of one, with a 30-minute time limit. Yes, one donk and you're in top 8.

As mentioned previously, the Japanese player base is not content with this system. Especially in this format, I feel that the donk decks are given way too much lead compared to for example trainer lock decks. If you didn’t get it or have more questions about the system, feel free to ask.

Tournaments in Japan

In the last Eye on Japan –entry I scratched the surface of the Japanese tournaments. To refresh your memory about the tournament age groups etc. check out the first entry. Now, there is more. As I told you in the last entry, Japan has 11 Regionals. I double-checked my source that every all the winners from these tournaments really do get a travel awards for World Championships. So, Japanese players get total of 11 travel awards to Worlds.

I also asked more about the other tournaments Japan has. Japan doesn’t have that many “official” tournaments as we have. They don’t have the ranking system we do, so they don’t have things like City Championships or Battle Roads. Most of the Japanese tournaments are shop tourneys and independent tourneys, which are held by individual organizers. The amount of these tournaments varies on the activity of the tournament organizers. For example in the Tokyo area there is a tournament EVERY day. I think anyone would love to have a Pokémon tournament every day in their city.

Summer Carnival and Palace rules

There has been a lot of talk about Summer Carnival and the creative tournament type they played there – Palace Rules. In order to understand what I’m talking about here you need to know what are Palace Rules. If you don’t yet know what Palace Rules are read this:!_Summer_Carnival_Cup_Report and then come back to this article.

Summer Carnival is a tournament that was held for the first time this year. It was located in Tokyo area. The tournament was played with Palace rules but the rules weren’t the only thing that differed from the normal tournament. Summer Carnival tournament tested the players’ in a different way. The winner of the tournament was a player who won the most tournaments in row. My source told me that there are also other tournaments that decide the winner of the tournament by the biggest winning streak. However, some other Japanese cities and shops have always started playing with Palace rules but with the normal tournament system and not the winning-streak system.

Also, a Battle Carnival was organized in Osaka area 5th of November and it was not only with Palace Rules but also a BW-on tournament. The winning deck was Lilligant(EPO)/Mewtwo EX and it was also the most popular deck in the tournament. The thing that makes Lilligant so good in BW format is that because people don’t have Junk Arm, getting Switches is very difficult. Lilligant and Special Condition are good especially against EX Pokémon because making EX-Pokémon unable to move is a very effective strategy. This deck also was widely discussed on the different Japanese blogs and gathered a lot of attention on the web in general. Even though it was only a BW tournament with Palace Rules, this tournament and the Lilligant deck also affected the current HGSS-on metagame as well but about that later on in this article.

The Pokémon TCG community of Japan and metagame

The Pokémon TCG community of Japan is so different when compared to the western community. In almost every country Masters are by far the biggest age group and Juniors and Seniors are both very small age groups. However, in Japan Juniors is almost as big age group as is the Masters age group. There is a reason behind it – Pokémon is still big in Japan. A lot of advertising is targeted directly to children less than 10-years old. These adverts aren’t TCG adverts but anime and video game adverts. They still affect a lot to the Juniors’ player amount of Japan because children who are interest in video games or anime are soon drawn to the card game as well.

When a lot of Juniors are drawn to the game, their parents become active as well and it soon becomes a hobby of the whole family. I know things may be the same in some parts of the U.S. but from what I’ve seen parent usually have a negative attitude towards Pokémon TCG as a hobby. Pokémon in general and Pokémon TCG as well are usually referred as children game and even schools were against it (In Finland at least). In fact, I also have personal experience from this – my parents forbid me to bring Pokémon cards in to the school because “they would lower my grades”. I only managed to fix their attitude when I won my first Nationals in 2004 and won a free trip to Orlando. I think the parents’ acceptance is very important to many young players when you’re able to activate the whole family to start the hobby together, Junior and Senior age groups can grow again.

When it comes to the Internet community of Japan, there is a reason why the information is so hard to get from Japan. They have no things like Pokegym, Sixprizes or The Deck Out (lol). All the information is split to little pieces all over the internet in form of the blogs. What’s even more interesting is that the blog’s are mostly written by the parents of Junior or Senior players! That was something I didn’t expect because sometimes parents are only the wallet for this hobby but in Japan they all must be very highly interested about the game if they use their spare time to write a blog about Pokémon TCG. Also, I don’t know that many western Poké-parents that write their own blog or have their own website for their hobby.

When it comes to Internet community of Japan, there is more. In Japan, there are also sites that upload and stream games just like in U.S. but according to my source their quality aren’t as good as for example thetopcut’s videos. Since all the information about the metagame and decks is split to so many different blogs, it has affected Japan’s metagame. As you have seen from Japanese decks, they are usually very unique by their ideas and lists. There is no list that looks exactly the same like another. That’s because Japan doesn’t have all the info gathered at the same place. People have to make their own decks and they can’t predict what they are facing. They have to build as good deck as they can and play with it. Most of the information exchange happens in tournaments where people are facing each other, not on the internet.

I found this very interesting because I think Japan has need for a website that is able to gather everyone just like Pokegym does. That’s probably why Japanese players are seriously following our big sites like Pokegym and SixPrizes and of course they are very curious about our metagame as well. However, I promised you guys some decks and update about the metagame as well, so I’ll get next to that.

HGSS-Noble Victories

Noble Victories is finally released in worldwide so it’s time to check out more decks that were played in Japan during our current format. CC season is going on so this list may include some familiar and some unfamiliar decks.

First, the 2 most dominant decks in this format were:

- Zekrom/Tornadus/Eelektrik
- Chandelure/Vileplume/Dodrio

And some other decks included:

- ReshiPlosion /w Tornadus
- Magneboar
- Kyurem/Cobalion/Electrode Prime
- Emboar/Reshiram/Ninetales/Magmortar (Top Burner)/Shuckle/Stantler/Shaymin

As you can see the so called “tier1” was pretty simple. Zekrom kept dominating Japanese metagame because Eelektrik was released but people tried to counter it with trainer lock, which included Chandelure. I played Chandelure that had some Japanese influence from the Japanese Chandelure lists in my last Cities so if you haven’t read my report before, check it out and see for yourself how I did with it. 

Mewtwo EX and HGSS-BW3 update

Of course you’re interested in what is happening in Japanese metagame at the moment. Zekrom EX and Reshiram EX were released in Japan and even though they are strong cards, they didn’t knock out Mewtwo EX from the leader spot. Mewtwo EX is still the number one card to win in their format. Probably the strongest Mewtwo EX deck at the moment is Eelektrik/Zekrom/Mewtwo EX which can hit devastating amounts of damage either with Zekrom or Mewtwo EX.  Eelektrik can energy accelerate both of them very quickly and you can’t kill Eelektrik with Catcher because then the attacker will just run over you.

Also, there is some very good news for competitive players. According to my source, players feel that the skill needed to win games has increased because of EX-Pokémon. You can’t just brainlessly prize race with Pokémons like Reshiram or Zekrom but when you’re EX Pokémon against “normal” Pokémon, you have to think of your strategy very carefully. I think this is very good news and something like that was predictable because almost every player consider the EX-season as the golden era of the Pokémon TCG play wise.

As I said earlier in this entry, the BW-on Palace rules tournament also affected the metagame of the normal HGSS-on format. Since players found Special Conditioning a very effective strategy vs. EX Pokémon Vileplume was soon added in the Lilligant/Mewtwo EX deck for the HGSS-on format. As every player familiar to Vanilluxe or Chandelure know, auto special condition with Vileplume is very irritating. When these cards are combined against a Pokémon-EX that gives you 2 prizes for free, the conclusion is that it’s a very effective strategy to win games.

I also found a very interesting deck idea from Japan that I wanted to show you a list of. It’s an EX-era deck but I found it very unique so I wanted to share it with everyone.


4x Tynamo
3x Eelektrik
2x Zekrom EX
1x Reshiram EX
2x Zekrom
1x Cleffa
1-1x Rayquaza&Deoxys LEGEND
1x Shaymin


4x Pokémon Collector
2x Pokegear 3.0.
2x Pokémon Communication
4x Sage’s Training
2x Professor Juniper
2x N
4x Eviolite
3x Pokémon Catcher
4x Junk Arm
1x Switch
1x Super Rod


7x Lighting Energy
4x Double Colorless Energy
2x Fire Energy
2x Rainbow Energy

I think the strategy is pretty self-explanatory and I’ll make an entry about it once I’ve tested it more and the release of the next set is closer.

Your eye on Japan

Once again, I would like to know your questions and your interests about Japan. When it comes to Japan are there questions that you feel like are unanswered? Also, do you feel like you would like to see more often articles by me about the Japanese decks or is the pace I’ve been doing Japanese deck reviews enough? If there is any questions you have about Japan, feel free to contact me or remind me if you’ve already suggested something I didn’t give an answer for in this entry.

When I’m ready with The Deck Out goes global – series, I’ll be including Japan there as well. I’m also thinking about asking someone from Japan to write an article to my blog. What do you think about that? Would you be interested to read articles from a Japanese player? Also, are you satisfied in the way I’m making updates about the development of Japanese metagame or do you feel like something is missing?

Feel free to leave any comments, questions and feedback about my Eye on Japan – feature or about my blog in general into the comment field below or e-mail me to: . Also, remember to spread the word about this entry, I’m sure everyone is interested in this once again. Thanks for reading and let me know what you think and what you want to know!

Also, remember to like TheDeckOut on Facebook and follow it on Twitter!


  1. This is once again fantastic! Your articles have been a real interesting turning point for the game in the West I think. A lot of people are paying attention to this and you personally are having a strong effect on the meta game. That's pretty amazing.

    Keep up the great work, I look forward to your Global article, I think that reading directly from a Japanese player would be awesome! Cheers - From Australia

  2. Well . . . you teased this for quite a while, but it was definitely worth the wait.

    One thing I would like to know . . .

    When western players see Japanese lists, they often make comments about them being 'weird' or 'inconsistent'. What do Japanese players who look at PokeGym and 6P think of our lists? Do they laugh at us for putting 4 Collector in everything and being very conservative?


  3. Wow. So much informations. This blog became The Spoiler Out :)
    I see the point of the deck you posted, but why is there no Kyurem to help lower HPs so than EX Pokémon are in a KO range for RDL and Zekrom EX ?

  4. I find it funny that the Japanese dont play Victini decks

  5. @Anonymous2: Victini decks are a fad. They just aren't strong enough to keep up with the meta.

    @TheDeckOut Great article. Was hoping you could cover Reshiboar+Cobalion and Eelektrik/Zekrom/Mewtwo EX more. Specifically, I am interested in the deck lists. Perhaps you could do that in future articles?

  6. Silent Rain: Great that you liked it! I'll try to get an article by a Japanese player happen.

    Jak: Haha, yeah, it was a long process mainly due the tournament system part. In fact, I discussed with Ukinin-san about your question as soon as I releaed the first Eye on Japan and he said that they really feel like our decks are strange just like we feel their builds are strange :D

    Zarmakuizz: Lol. I think the deck is a very good sign how the deck building and playing skill will be higher than before. You can really put anything to anything just like you said about the Kyurem.

    Anonymous: Well, of course there may be some players playing Victini but they aren't winning tournaments (which is IMO not a too big surprise).

    Spiderman: I'll certainly do Reshiboar/Cobalion in the near future because I've tested it myself and have seen it in action in the tournaments. I'll also do the other deck once the release of the EX set is nearer. Thanks for suggestions.

    Thanks for comments everyone, keep em' coming!

  7. How come Tornadus is so popular in Reshiphlosion? It doesn't counter popular weaknesses, has 110 HP, and only hits for 80. Are the Japanese running DCE for quick early game damage, or is it there solely to conserve energy?

    This aside, stellar article as always. These articles are changing the Western Pokémon world. No exaggeration.

  8. Great one once again Esa! Very informative and keeps us drooling for more. Definitely wanting to hear about the Reshiboar+Cobalion deck too, as my Reshiboar made a very unproductive Cities with a 3-3 record.

    By the way, apologies for not keeping tabs with you on the email. The meta over here is very scattered and only today we had our Cities, and the large chunk of everything was ZPST all around. Not sure on results yet (I left after Swiss) but will keep you posted. :)

  9. Another great article, it was really interesting to read - thanks for doing all the research for it!


  10. Anonymous: Reshiplosion was played by some people in HGSS-EP in France so I can tell you a bit about that. Basically, the aim is to power up Reshiplosions without the damage marker, you keep your tank Reshiram for later, with DCE you become quicker to load them, you increase your good starts…
    On the other side, even if it helps against most of the things, it's more complicated to play and Tornadus doesn't change much the ZPST matchup, so people in France weren't all convinced about the usefullness of Tornadus. Only a few, including Frederic Lesage (French National Champion 2010, not related to Jacob Lesage) which proposed the idea, played Reshiplodus, while other Reshiplosion players kept the old style.

  11. In case I'm unclear, with DCE you could load a Tornadus attacking 80 T2 almost everytime, even without Typhlosion, so you attach 2 energy per turn to Reshirams without damage marker on them while Tornadus is played like in ZPST the ultra aggressive way.

  12. I've been playing MillMortar since beginning of rotation and I would love to learn more about the "Emboar/Reshiram/Ninetales/Magmortar (Top Burner)/Shuckle/Stantler/Shaymin" deck you listed.

  13. I had just one question: TyRam with Mewtwo EX is that bad? I'm asking because as a new player, I've found TyRam the way-2-go and I'm loving that. But If people are playing Eeletrik/Zekrom/Mew2EX, why Reshiphlosion isn't viable?

    Great article, like the first Eye on Japan! Cheers from Brazil!

  14. great stuff bro. really appreciate your hard work! I know providing this stuff isn't easy. Thanks for being a huge help!

  15. @Fuzzy:

    I believe the issue is that if you Afterburn a Fire onto a Mewtwo EX - it leaves it vunerable for an opposing player to drop their own, Attach a DCL and take a revenge kill for 160.

  16. Anonymous: They sure do play DCE but it's something I've always wondered myself as well. I've done some testing with Tornadus in ReshiPlosion but it has proven to be useful only rarely.

    AaronTM: I'll then make an article about Reshiboar w/ Cobalion and other deck you can put Cobalion with.

    Nathan: Thanks a lot!

    Zarmakuizz: Indeed, Tornadus makes the deck a bit moe aggressive but doesn't necessarily make it a better deck.

    Anonymous: I love the deck as well! I'll do an entry about it when I have room in my release schedule!

    Fuzzy: ReshiPlosion/Mewtwo EX viable but it isn't dominating. Probably the Afterburners make Mewtwo EX too "weak". Other explanation might be that Eelektrik is a stage1 and Typhlosion stage2 so Eelektrik is faster and therefore better.

    Ken: Thanks you for your kind words!

    Thanks for all the comments and requests! If you have more comments, please do comment.

  17. AWESOME article I must say , and i like it because its a new stage of pkmn article , pls do more of it ^^ .

  18. Great article! After you posted the first EOJ on 6P, I have been following your blog and have been blown away by the information. One request if possible: In your first EOJ article you hinted at a "Beartic/Cinccino w/ Rocky Helmet" deck being popular in Japan. Since I first read this I have been dying for more information as I have been playing with Beartic on/off for months and months now and am always interested in anything possibly viable for him.

  19. Anonymous: Thanks a lot! I'm sure to keep on getting more information from Japan all the time.

    Lee: I'm very glad you've been following my blog! In fact, the Cinccino/Beartic -article is already ready but I because of the tight schedule of my blog, I'll try to review all the most imporant metagame decks first. However, I'll try to release it as soon as possible so keep on following!

  20. This article was really interesting to read! It gives a lot of insight about the deck choices in Japan, especially considering the tournament system. I really like the eye on japan articles, and Japan deck lists!

    Considering the danger posed by lilligant, chandelure and Vanilluxe, what sort of techs are being run in Japanese decks against statuses?

  21. Crawdaunt: Thanks a lot! I'll ask about Special condition countering teches in my next e-mail. Thanks for the question!

  22. why isn't emboar+mewtwo ex popular?

  23. Anonymous: That's probably because Emboar can't take energy from the discard pile. ReshiPlosion is a lot more consistent deck than ReshiBoar and it's the same when it comes to Mewtwo EX - Reshiboar isn't good enough.

  24. what would you say about a mewtwo+eelektrik+vileplum deck? i was thinking about it since i heard about the japanese release of mewtwo ex.

  25. Anonymous: I don't think Vileplume is needed there because the format will get a bit faster thanks to EXs. However, Eelektrik/Mewtwo EX/Zekrom is a killer deck.

  26. what numbers would you suggest running in the eelektrik/mewtwo EX/zekrom deck that you mentioned?

  27. Anonymous: Well, the japanese list I saw played 3-3 Eelektrik and 3 Zekroms and 3 Mewtwos. I tested it and it worked very well, so that's a very good starting point of running. You can also run 4-3 or 4-4 line of Eelektriks.


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