Athavan’s Adventures: How I got to Worlds

Once a head judge (and judging on-stream at the Oceania International Championships), this season Athavan Akilan switched gears, qualifying as a player for the 2019 Pokémon TCG World Championships — fulfilling a childhood dream to play at the Worlds Championships (and win a bet against a certain player to beat his CP for previous season). With Worlds just around the corner, we caught up with Athavan to retrace his steps before the big event at Washington DC. 

1. What are your major tournament placings for the season?

  • A. T32 Brisbane Regional Championships
  • B. T16 Jakarta Special Event
  • C. T4 Philippines Special Event
  • D. T16 Malaysia Regional Championships
  • E. T16 Sydney Regional Championships
  • F. T64 North America International Championships (NAIC)

2. How do you practice playing the Pokémon TCG?

I allocate time just for Pokémon to practice with friends. I usually test more on PTCGO (Pokémon TCG Online), which offers a bigger scope of decks to play against. In real life, I try to play against different decks — every player has a certain deck they are good with in the meta, so I will test with them a minimum 50 games just to learn how to play against that deck. 

3. The first major deck to earn you plenty of CP was the “Albatross”, Tapu Koko/Zebstrika. How was this deck concocted?

It started as a Rogue idea after the Brisbane Regional Championships. Initially, it was Tapu Koko/Seviper, which Clifton Goh was also in favour off. The deck unfortunately wasn’t playable when Pikachu & Zekrom-GX dominated the meta after its release. 

After back-to-back failure in scoring points at the Oceania International Championships and Perth Regional Championships, Clifton advised me to play a deck that better suits my style — Rogue decks. He also told me to come up with something unique. I’ve seen Tapu Koko/Electrocharger, but the deck is inconsistent. With that idea as the foundation, I tried to improve its consistency; Albatross was born. 

Ever since I hit the format with Albatross I haven’t failed earning points. Each tournament only made the deck better, as we made slight changes. The final version of deck was played at the European International Championships and the Malaysia Regional Championships to rousing success. It made Top 10 in Europe (played by one of my friend Kaiwen) and I made 9th in Malaysia. 

Rogue decks were always my thing. Taking the huge leap with rogue decks at major tournaments was always my style and I was happy Albatross brought me really far in my run to qualify for the World Championships. 

4. With the new format, you switched to Zoroark-GX/Persian-GX/Silvally-GX at NAIC, netting you a 41th place out of over 1200 players. How did this deck come about?

Unfortunately, the new meta was not kind to Albatross. Mew (Unbroken Bonds) invalidated spread damage, and Green’s Exploration made getting cards like Mixed Herb and Max Potion much easier. 

They say every failure is the stepping stone to success and that was true in my run. After trying Quagsire/Naganadel at the Sydney Regional Championship, I knew it had too many flaws. I was stumped with rogue deck ideas and none of the meta decks suited my style. I did try Alolan Muk/Garbodor with Celebi Prism Star at the Singapore Special Event — it was one of the best rogue decks I played in the new format, but I didn’t earn any CP.

At Ohio Origins Game Fair, I played Silvally-GX/Persian-GX. It was a similar list played by Rahul Reddy. At first, I wasn’t confident to play this deck. On the night before NAIC, Lim Jit Min gave me plenty of advice on how to approach the game and as well as stats of each deck for meta. He was the one who told me to play the Zoroark-GX/Silvally-GX/Persian-GX list I created with just one tweak, Max Potion. That gave me my winning game to Top 64 at NAIC.

5. Your advice for pokemon TCG Players?

Players often forget the game is just a game. It’s a fun game that’s supposed to be enjoyed. The reason why I play rogue decks is purely because of the amount of fun moments I gain from it — it’s priceless. Going all out competitive for the first time in my Pokémon journey made me realise that anybody with the right skill and mindset could be in Top 8 APAC, it all comes down how much of dedication you put into the game. Winning is Fun, but don’t let it get into your head and go beyond your ethics for more wins. Winning and losing is simply a part of the game.

Any new or current players who wish to elevate their game standard, I would advise them to join the Pokebar courses run by Clifton and Joey Ho. It really gives you an in-depth look at how to approach the game, including stats of each and every meta deck. 

There’s a few people I’d like to give a shoutout to:

  • Clifton, for being a mentor
  • Shane, my best bud who’s been always there for me even before competitive play.
  • Armani & Hariz, my two brothers-in-arms and play test partners
  • Colin, the “abang Cina” who’s my travel buddy for many events, a special thanks to you for accommodating me for NAIC and Worlds.
  • Jit Min, for helping me out to chose the perfect deck for NAIC

No dream is too big, No dreamer is too small. Any player can be a champion in the Pokémon TCG with the right dedication to the game!

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