Interview with Robin Schulz – Saõ Paulo with Stage 2s
Benvenuti su Altopiano Blu!
Quante volte vi è capitato di superare la Via Vittoria e arrivare all’edificio della Lega Pokémon, la sede dei Campioni? Ogni volta, però, avete intrapreso quel percorso vestendo il ruolo di allenatori e sfidanti. Per la prima volta ho deciso di incontrare uno di questi Campioni, ma non per sfidarlo, bensì per intervistarlo e provare a carpire alcuni dei segreti del suo successo.
Ho avuto la fortuna di intervistare Robin Schulz, il Campione del Mondo in carica del TCG Pokémon. Abbiamo parlato della sua recentissima Top 16 al LATAM International Championship, dove ha portato un mazzo di sua invenzione che ha già tutti i crismi per diventare il mazzo da battere, come abbiamo visto nel Regionale di Raonoke negli USA, appena conclusosi proprio con la vittoria di Alolan Ninetales-GX/Gardevoir-GX/Swampert/Solgaleo GX.
Fate tesoro di questa lettura e preparatevi a trovare altri articoli di questo tipo qui su Altopiano Blu.
Hi, Robin! First of all, thank you so much for letting us interview you. It’s an honor and I’m sure the italian community will appreciate it a lot.
No worries! It’s nice being one of the first to be featured on this new website, it sounds like an exciting project.
Tord Reklev, Robin Schulz and Pedro Torres @ Valencia SPE 2018
Let’s start talking about your LAIC experience. Going to Saõ Paulo wearing the crown of the World Champion could be bit pressuring. Wasn’t it?
I didn’t want to completely disappoint of course, but also wouldn’t say it felt pressuring. I’ve always tried to not care too much about how I place in a tournament, focusing on playing well and enjoying the weekend with my friends. Winning Worlds only made this easier, every time I lose, I can just think “at least I got lucky when it mattered most”!
LAIC was a fun experience once again. The new venue turned out being quite good, my opponents were very nice to play against, and I had some very exciting games!
Let’s try to go deeper in your preparation. It’s well known that Limitless is one of the strongest team out there. How did you all prepare for this event? We saw you often prepared with other great players, like Tord. Was this the case?
Compared to some other tournaments in the past, our preparation was honestly not very extensive. Most people in our group (consisting of Limitless, Tord, and others) took a bit of a step back from the game for this season and are focusing more on school and other things. We still very much wanted to win this tournament though! Our chat and discord are very active, and we share deck ideas and lists almost every day. However, we didn’t focus enough on finding a consensus about the format, in the end everyone kind of just picked their personal favorite deck and stuck with it.
Limitless TCG – Robin’s team and one of the main competitive PTCG website!
Can you talk a little bit about your testing process? How did you get to the conclusion that your deck was the play? And why weren’t your teammates convinced to play the deck?
The decks I focused on the most were Blacephalon-GX and different Alolan Ninetales-GX variants. I think playing a new deck is an important advantage when going into a fresh format, and Lost Thunder brought a lot of possibilities.
Blacephalon-GX has been impressive, and when paired with cards like Lysandre Labs and Energy Switch, very hard to counter. I’ve considered the deck as a potential play for the longest time, but in the end, I ended up liking the other deck better. Blacephalon-GX‘s main problems are a bad Granbull match-up and an awkward and highly anticipated mirror.
Alolan Ninetales-GX, when combined with Swampert and Professor Elm's Lecture, is a very exciting engine that makes Stage 2s feel almost unfair sometimes. The first deck with it I tried was Decidueye-GX, like what Shintaro played in the Champions League, but it didn’t feel as great as expected.
Historically, the best Stage 2 has usually been Gardevoir-GX. My brother tried out a list for it with the new engine and was quickly convinced of the deck’s strength. We tested a few games against some anticipated decks and it seemed to beat everything handily, so it immediately became one of my top choices. There also was no hype for it heading into the tournament, which is a very real advantage.
As already mentioned, although deck ideas have been shared and discussed, most of us just focused on a few personal favorites. The Professor Elm's Lecture deck wasn’t extensively tested, it’s mostly just Philip and me playing it against each other a bit, and some games on the PTCGO ladder. It was a “seems good enough, let’s hope for the best” kind of play for me. Now, after having played in the tournament, and seeing it win Roanoke Regional the week after, I’m confident that it was an amazing play, and am sad I didn’t try harder to convince the others to play it as well!
Looking at your deck it seems you respected a lot your Top 10 Lost Thunder cards articles . Can you tell us what were your thoughts joining the #TeamElm instead of #TeamLillie?
Professor Elm's Lecture with Alolan Vulpix is amazing and sets up the deck perfectly. It’s very important to get all 3 different Basics on turn 1, and Professor Elm's Lecture guarantees that. Lillie is simply much less reliable. It could make for some explosive turn 2s, but the deck can easily have those even with a T1 Professor Elm's Lecture, mostly thanks to Beacon.
Let’s look closer to the build. Would you tell us a little more in the details about the Pokémon lines you decided play? They look pretty weird: 3-1-3 Gardevoir-GX, 2-2 Alolan Ninetales-GX , 1-0-1 Solgaleo GX and 2-1-2 Swampert: how did you make them stay all together?
Gardevoir-GX is the main attacker of the deck and we want to set up 2 of them every game. An even thicker line would be nice but is not needed. Swampert is also essential to the deck and we want at least 1 every game, so playing of both Swampert and Mudkip is important. Marshtomp makes it easier to set up a second one in match-ups like Blacephalon-GX, where it also acts as a primary attacker, and also makes the Ditto ◇ better.
Alolan Ninetales-GX is an integral part of the deck as well, but we only want one in most games, otherwise it would clunk up the bench too much, so a 2-2 line is enough. The Ditto ◇ is basically a third Alolan Vulpix in this deck. Usually we want to Beacon in the active, while also having a backup Alolan Vulpix on the bench to evolve on the next turn, in case the active one gets knocked out. However, having two actual Alolan Vulpix in play isn’t great, because if the opponent chooses to Guzma around it, they take up a lot of space. So we usually want to use Ditto ◇ as the second copy, as it can evolve into Alolan Ninetales-GXwhen the active goes down, but also become a Kirlia or Marshtomp if the Alolan Vulpix is ignored.
The Solgaleo GX is the least important part of the Pokemon line but adds a ton of value for only two deck spots. It prevents auto-losing to Metal decks, auto-wins the mirror, helps against Granbull, and helps against random Stall or Spread decks. It wasn’t part of Philip’s original list, but I felt like it would be a good addition, and I think it’s done a good job overall.
Decklist via LimitlessTcg.com
To me, Alolan Ninetales-GX looks kind of clunky because of the attacking cost, but with Professor Elm's Lecture things have changed. You can attack without committing an Energy on turn one. Did you feel the same way while putting them together? Or were there any other reasons behind this archetype?
The Synergy with Professor Elm's Lecture is big indeed! If Alolan Ninetales-GXwas a Water Pokemon attacking for Water Energy, the deck would be much worse. Sublimation GX is crucial in Blacephalon-GX and Buzzwole-GX matchups, and Snowy Wind is also a useful attack. I really liked not being dependant on Counter Gain, like other Alolan Ninetales-GX variants.
And now: what about the Solgaleo GX inclusion? What was the main reason? Avoiding weakness, recycling energies or healing? Were you afraid of some specific match-ups?
As mentioned, it has a bunch of different uses that add up and make it in my opinion worth including. The card is simply very good, and not that hard to set-up in this deck. I wouldn’t add it for just the Ability, or just the attack, but both together make it very valuable.
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Let’s jump into the tournament: how was the whole field considering your deck choice?
There weren’t really any decks I was specifically afraid of, or that I really wanted to hit, as the deck was built to be strong in itself, instead of match-up based. There was a bit of everything, as to be expected in the first tournament with a new set, so I was happy to have a deck that could at least have a decent chance against most of it.
The match-up I practiced the most against was Blacephalon-GX, and I was confident I would be favored, but it’s still a very stressful match-up where lots can go wrong, so I wasn’t even particularly happy any time I’d face it.
What about your match-ups: what did you face? What did hurt you the most considering the final result?
My two losses were against Zoroark-GX/Decidueye-GX/Alolan Ninetales-GXand Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX/Weavile. The first was two very awkward games where I had to bench too many useless Pokemon and he took advantage of it perfectly. I probably could have played better, but that were some frustrating games for sure. The Zororoc match-up is more difficult, and I had very slow starts, so there wasn’t much I could do. He KO’d all my Mudkip and Marshtomp and I hardly got out any Stage 2 in the whole series. I guess at some point in 14 rounds this is supposed to happen.
You’re result was amazing with such an unique deck. But what about ZoroControl by DDG Team? What’s your opinion of the deck? And how should players prepare to beat it?
It’s a really cool deck and was a great call for this event! I love the 4 Professor Elm's Lecture/4 Timer Ball. Last season we always wanted to fit 4 Brigette and 4 Evosoda into Zoroark-GX decks but never felt like having the deck space. Team DDG & friends have been doing amazingly recently and I’m excited to see if they’ll be able to keep up that dominance throughout the season (of course we’ll try to stop them at upcoming ICs!).
As for the deck, I don’t think it’ll do as well going forward. Decks at LAIC weren’t prepared to beat it, but that’ll surely change for future tournaments. For example, Energy Switch is amazing in Blacephalon-GX, and happens to completely swing this matchup. People realized that, will put it in their lists from now, and suddenly Zoroark-GX Control has a horrible match-up against one of the most important decks in the format. Professor Elm's Lecture also gives the deck a hard time. Maybe the concept will see a comeback if people stop respecting it, but for now I think it’s time for other decks to shine.
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Considering this tournament as the first one with Lost Thunder in the format, how do you think these results will impact the future meta? Do you have any tips to give to the players for their upcoming Cups?
I think Blacephalon-GX, Zoroark-GX Decidueye-GX and Professor Elm's Lecture should be the strongest and most popular decks for the next few weeks. Control and Granbull did very well in Brasil, but are less resilient to counters than the other 3 decks and will suffer from players adapting. Both are still very good decks though, and Granbull might be the best 1-prize in the format, even with Alolan Muk around.
For League Cups, I usually play whatever established deck I’m comfortable with, I think that’s a decent strategy. If you have a lot of practice with any of the mentioned decks, it should be a good pick!
We also saw some sad moment in this tournament: Masters final was not played due to the DQ of Pedro Henrique. Do you have any message to give to the community about cheating at such high levels?
I’m very sad this happened and wished there was a final. However, it’s encouraging to see that the judges and Pokemon take these matters seriously and acted quickly. I hope this situation underlines that there’s no tolerance for cheating in our game.