History, Death, Rebirth? (or How to Con Your Way Onto a Pokemon Team)

by Ed ~ July 29th, 2010.

We’ve been doing this Wednesday evening Pokemon thing for a while. It usually oscillates between Abdi’s house and mine. Omar and I are always there, and other team members are usually playing, too. Well, last night marked the last time that Omar will attend the weekly meeting. He’s going away to college. When I left, I could see it in him that he was a bit emotional about it. I didn’t shake his hand or give him a hug or anything. My coldness wasn’t entirely related to the fact that Meghan just relentlessly and repeatedly pummeled me with her Shuppet deck. I just didn’t know how to react, I guess.

On my drive home, though, I was kinda depressed. It’s been a good ride, and I feel like it’s coming to an end. I started to reminisce about the past year. When I left, I told Omar to have a good trip and have fun at college. What’s that? That doesn’t mean anything. So, I thought I’d write this, and he (and I) could keep it as an archive of what Team Omar once was.

Maybe years from now one of us can look back on it and find some satisfaction. That’s kinda why the website was started, as a way to log our thoughts and experiences. The website has grown and morphed a lot since then, but I’d still like to put this record up. Maybe you, the Pokemon playing public, will enjoy it. Maybe you’ll ignore it. If nothing else, it can serve as a marker for a new era in Team Omar and TeamOmar.com.

In September 2009, I had this crazy idea. My daughter, Ava, was interested in Pokemon (the videogame and TV show), so I thought that I could show her my old cards. I knew that the shop I used to be a Gym Trainer at had closed, but I remembered this card shop called Dreamers where I used to play Magic and buy singles every once in a while. I looked on their website, and noticed they had Pokemon League on Saturdays. The next Sat, we were driving around, and I suggested that we stop by. Ava was VERY interested, so we started attending league regularly.

In those early days, I was just playing my old Haymaker (Electabuzz and Magmar) deck, and I think I usually had Ava sit with me and learn (or she’d play and I’d sit with her). Quickly, though, I realized that the old (mostly base set) cards didn’t match up well against this new crazy stuff. I took a liking to SP cards, because they were most like my Haymaker. I retooled my new version of Haymaker. Instead of the classic Hitmonchan and Electabuzz, I opted for building around Whiscash 4 and Raichu GL. I built a very MTG looking deck with just about 4 of each card. I knew it, but I didn’t have any other experience to draw from. It wasn’t horrible. It wasn’t good. It was, however, fairly inexpensive. The best part was that it won me some league Uxies.

I needed cards for my creations, so I latched onto Abdi. He had graciously lent me some Whiscash 4 (which I’m now sure he never intended on using EVER). At league, he’d hang around with this Omar kid. They didn’t look anything alike, but they seemed to share cards. Whatever. I just needed my fix. At some point, I was able to con Omar into giving me his email address, and in early November 2009, I started filling up his inbox with ramblings about Wishcash/Raichu decks.

He was gracious. I keep emails. Here’s a quote from Omar. “In my opinion, the Raichu G, Gliscor G, and Wishcash G are all cards that aren’t sufficient enough to
compete in today’s tourneys, not because they are bad cards, but because there aren’t enough combos that run using those cards.” He could have stopped after “sufficient,” but he added the rest of that to make sure I didn’t feel like it was my idea that was bad. It was the cards, of course.

I kept pushing. I was determined to make it work, and now I had him on the line. I realized that Dreamer’s Pokemon league (which is really rather mismanaged, by the way) wasn’t the best place for me to learn and grow. It was for Ava, though. I didn’t want to quit that, but I wanted something more. I thought that maybe Abdi, Omar, and I could get together to practice. Omar had said they had cards I could borrow, and I really wanted to take advantage of that offer.

Over email, my deck was morphing and employing Crobat G and Honchkrow G for bench snipes. The speed engine was now partially inspired by the UR Double Donked deck. In real life, Abdi invited my wife and I to come over and play against him and Omar. At some point, Omar asked me to comment on his deck idea, and that was an interesting experience. I had to Researching Tower pretty much every card in the list and try to come up with valid points to make.

The cities championships rolled around, and I think the second one was at Dreamers. I figured that I ought to go. I was going to be late, so I emailed Omar my decklist. That means I have an archive of it, so I can share it with you.
Honchkrow G - PL

Energy: 4
4 Basic Darkness Energy
Pokemon: 14
2 Honchkrow G (PL) 77
3 Crobat G (PL) 47
4 Uxie (LA) 43
4 Unown R (LA) 77
1 Unown Q (MD) 49
Trainers: 37
4 Poke Drawer + (SF) 89
4 Pokedex Handy 910is (PL) 114
4 PlusPower (PL) 112
4 Poke Blower + (SF) 88
4 Super Scoop Up (MD) 87
4 Quick Ball (MD) 86
3 Great Ball (SF) 85
4 Team Galactic’s Invention G-105 Poké Turn (PL) 118
2 Team Galactic’s Invention G-101 Energy Gain (PL) 116
1 Team Galactic’s Invention G-109 SP Radar (RR) 96
1 Luxury Ball (SF) 86
1 Expert Belt (AR) 87
1 Night Maintenance (MT) 113
Supporters: 4
4 Cyrus’s Conspiracy (PL) 105
Stadiums: 1
1 Miasma Valley (PL) 111

Omar and Abdi acknowledged that they knew me, but we weren’t like close buds or anything. They were the only ones I really knew, so I hung around them when I could, but I was pretty much on my own. As for the tournament, I know that I played Mike Lesky. I think that was the first round. I really had no idea what he was playing. I think later I realized that it was a Gyarados deck. At the time, I contended to Omar that he probably could have won the matchup. I had no idea what key bench Pokemon to target. If I had, I think I could have kept him down better. Who knows. Maybe I had no chance. I remember Mike looking upset. I figured he was unhappy early game, because he might lose to this pile of dung. He won, though. Maybe he just always looks upset. I went 0-3 and won out my last 2 matches against Ellen and Baqi to finish 2-3.

The next cities was at Misty Mountain Games and I was determined to do better. I thought that my turbo Honchkrow deck was a good idea, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over my years, it’s that other people had a better idea earlier than you did, and there’s a fair chance that one of them got posted to the internet. My Honchkrow deck was partially based on the UR Double Donked deck, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to retool it into URDoubleDonked.dec. That’s what I did, and I played it at Misty.

My first round was against the intimidating Radu. He was playing SP. I won’t get into how UR Double Donked works, but I’ll just say that you NEED to deck yourself on turn 1 to play it right. IIRC, Radu played Call Energy (and maybe Cyrus) on his first turn. On my turn, I played Uxie. Radu used Power Spray. I tried another Uxie. Radu used Power Spray. I tried my 3rd Uxie (yeah, at least I was a bit prepared), and Radu allowed it. There wasn’t really a way for me to recover from 2 Spray, though. After that, I think I had a run of a couple good games. One was actually a double-donk, I believe. Another was when I got paired down and played against Michael, a senior. He wasn’t happy about it, though. I think I ended at 2-2, but since one of the wins was against a senior I effectively had only 1 win and 2 losses that count for Pokemon.com ratings. I think Omar got 2nd after losing to Radu in the final match.

I gained a bit of respect there (even though it was just for my Ash hat), but my big takeway was the utter lack of Junior players. I hatched a new plan to win massive amounts of product by focusing on Ava’s ability to win Juniors. I took my deck and built her a Shuppet donk deck out of it. I tailored it to her ability, and over Christmas time, we really trained a lot. She knew every card just by looking at the artwork. She was only 6 at the time, but I thought she had a real chance.

Let’s back up a step, though. Previous to this, Omar was exchanging emails with me, and I borrowed cards from Abdi. We were acquaintances that played some cards together a few times. They didn’t really need me, but I needed them. They had expertise and cards. I didn’t really have anything to offer, so I needed to come up with a cunning ruse to get them on my team. On December 15th, I sent Omar this text.

So, yeah, I’d like to play with you and Abdi more. To me that’s better than playing Dreamers, except that you don’t get prizes and it’s not great for Ava. It might be cool to try to come up with some sort of schedule to play. “Team Omar” could meet some evening each/every-other week or something. Yeah, you got that right. Go ahead and do a double-take. I just invited myself to join the prestigious Team Omar, and now you can’t cut me from the team without looking like a jerk. Your only option is to disband citing creative differences.

Omar obviously liked the team name. I didn’t know it, but whether they knew it or not, I now believed that they were starved for this weekly interaction. Maybe they did need me, but not for my prowess at the card table. It was for my insistence on bring this all together. They agreed, and a week later I registered teamomar.info as a bit of a joke they might enjoy and as a display of this being something real.

City Championships at Outpost 2000 were coming after Christmas. I didn’t have a deck, because Ava was using most of my cards. Of course, I’m always in email contact with Omar, and he was messing around with a Porygon-Z deck. I didn’t really know much about it, but I learned. It wasn’t the best deck, and that’s why Omar and Abdi didn’t play it. Tre and Louis were introduced to me at this tourney. I heard that they were now part of Team Omar. This wasn’t part of my plan. I wasn’t sure I wanted it to grow. I didn’t know these guys. This was the team that I created. Maybe naming it “Team Omar” had its downsides.

Porygon proved to be much more consistent than previous decks. I finally had a winning record at 3-2. Most of my wins were against (slightly) higher rated players, and my final round loss was to Thomas (IIRC) who was rated quite a bit higher than me. Even after going 7-7 over cities, I was still just a little under 1600 when it was all said and done. Actually this was quite a feat since one of my wins didn’t even count. To be honest, though, I don’t really care about my rating as far as ratings go. It interests me to watch it, but the number doesn’t really matter for anything. In a way, though, that’s the attitude that killed my States run. If you care, here’s Omar’s Cities report from Outpost 2000.

Ava’s bid for the top spot didn’t work out as planned. While she knew all the cards in her Shuppet Donk deck, I think she felt intimidated at times. She doesn’t seem to care whether she wins or loses, and that affects her desire to come up with winning strategies. She knew the deck, and she knew how to play it. I just think she didn’t know what to do in unexpected situations, so she’d just punt. To be honest, though, I didn’t really pay too close attention to her games. I found it very difficult to watch her play and also keep myself from interfering with the Juniors’ games. I know that some Pokedads will hover always watching over the shoulders of the kids. I don’t want to be that guy; plus I had my own games to play.

Somewhere between Cities and States, things clicked for me. I realized that I wasn’t an expert deck builder (not that I actually thought I was), and I couldn’t rely on playing Omar’s third-best deck. This is where Team Omar really started to be a real force, I think. Tre and Louis started showing up for our Wed night meetings, and at some point Charlie and Meghan started getting interested (though not as seriously as Tre & Louis). This added a whole new level of playtesting options, and we all reaped the benefits.

I decided to make a concerted effort to choose and build my States deck. I scoured the forums and crunched the numbers to come up with a list of top decks. I had already worked on an SP deck, and I decided it wasn’t the right choice for me. Knowing this, only one other top-tier deck stood out as fitting my playstyle: Gyarados. I built and tested several teched-out versions of the deck, but none of them felt right. Luckily our States was on the second weekend, so I really read the reports from the first weekend closely (especially any having to do with Gyarados). My main concern was the SP matchup, and I came across one report that really caught my eye. Austino had played Gyarados, and he seemingly had no issues in any of his SP matchups. I got ahold of him, and Austino’s Gyarados made its way to MN States.

If you want detail about the MN State tournament, you can read my MN States report or Michael’s report. Basically, I started at just under. Louis and Tre really cheered me on, and key wins against people like Radu put me in a good spot. As a fun side note, my win against him net me 23.53 points, and I think that I’ve beat him in every tourney that I played Gyarados against him. He’s an excellent player, but I guess he can’t beat Austino’s Gyarados. At the end of Swiss, I had a decision to make. It was a tough call. I wish I could have seen the standings before deciding, but I went with it and dropped. I would have gone into top cuts in 5th place, and I had a very real chance of making top 4 in the state.

I didn’t think about it at the time, but I should have taken my teammates into account more when I made the decision to drop. I know Omar wouldn’t have done it. Being on a team should mean that I sacrifice for them sometimes. I made a decision for me, and they stood behind me. I should have asked them and decided as a team.

This Team Omar thing was obviously paying off in our play, and the website was actually getting some traffic. We changed to .COM instead of .INFO, and Adam at Six Prizes linked to our site. I wrote an article about the (future Nationals winning) Sableye deck, and got a lot of hits on that one (again thanks to Adam).

My wife and I were planning to play in Regionals, but I knew that Omar couldn’t make it. He had Prom. I thought that my wife would like Gyarados, so I set out to find another deck to run. I was really infatuated with the Fulop Jumpluff deck, but I had a tough time convincing others it was any good. Abdi, however, did get hooked on it and ended up playing it for quite some time after that. I really wanted to play Jumpluff, but my wife didn’t like the Gyarados deck. I built her a really solid Shuppet deck, and she got hooked on that. Ava had switched to Scizor/Cherrim before States, so the Shuppet cards were available. That left me with Gyarados or Jumpluff, and I was very comfortable with Gyarados.

Regionals was a fun road trip for my wife, daughter, and I. We made Team Omar shirts that all 3 of us wore. I ended up 5-2 with the Gyarados deck putting me in 17th place (1 place short of the cut) after Swiss. Here’s the report. We all had a great time and drove home after getting interviewed by PokePress.

After regionals, the team really hit things hard. We all got good decks ready for BRs, and rocked them all. Omar played in 3 of the 4 Battle Roads and won each one. I did not lose a single game in Swiss (in all 4 BRs). Well, that’s not entirely true. I lost 2 games in my first BR to teammates. This allowed me to drop and give them an advantage. It paid off, because it got Tre into the top cut. At the only BR that Omar didn’t attend (due to his graduation commencement), I made top 2 and lost to Andy Wieman (his report is here). Check out all the Battle Roads reports if you like.

Anyway, this is getting long. Omar has proven to be an awesome player. I believe he’s the best I’ve played against, and I think that’s saying something. I don’t feel like listing people I’ve played, because it seems like name dropping. Let’s just say that Omar has something over each of them, and the ones that might be better at Pokemon in general are already older than he is. Omar doesn’t make mistakes when he plays. How can you consistently beat that?

So, let’s bring it back to the present. Omar flies off to CA on Tuesday. That’s probably the end of the Wed night Team Omar. Josh is around for a while longer, but he’ll go back to MI soon. Charlie and Meghan are off to college, themselves. Tre and Louis are infatuated with Naruto. I haven’t really even seen those two for the last 3 Wed nights. That leaves Abdi and myself. I’m going to try to keep Abdi in the game, but I feel like it’ll be tough. He’s a busy guy. Who knows. Maybe we can get someone else interested in what we have going. I just feel like it’ll be Abdi and me (and maybe our kids) whenever we can find a time that works for the both of us.

Team Omar as a physical presence seems to be dying off. However, for quite some time now, I’ve felt like TeamOmar.com has been divorced from the people it was meant to represent. The website has become a place where anyone can come to get information and share their thoughts. I’m hoping that more people will join in to write articles and comments. In this way, Team Omar can be reborn as a global team based around a website that just happens to have one of the best Pokemon TCG players as its namesake.

Good luck in CA, Omar. I hope school and life go well, and it’d be really cool if you ended up at my alma mater college. They say it’s the only college where the average starting salary outweighs the cost of an undergrad degree. Keep in touch!

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