So You Want to be a Master: Esa Juntunen

by balasar ~ April 24th, 2013.

Esa Juntunen from The Deck Out at the 2012 Top Cut Invitational

I’ve decided to start a new series to hopefully breathe life into this site again. I will be interviewing major players in the Pokemon community, asking them anything from their opinions on the metagame to what their favorite sport is. First off is Esa Juntunen, winner of Finnish Nationals a grand total of six times! Before I start, I would like to say that this interview took place over email in early October, 2012, so some things may seem a little dated. So without further ado, let’s get this started.

OneHitKO: A lot of people disagree on how to pronounce your name. How should it be pronounced?

Esa: That’s a question, I get asked a lot and in fact, I answered to that question in one of my blogs’ entries (right before World Championships). If you click this link:|en|esa The google translate will pronounce my name as close to the real pronunciation as artificially possible. However, in the 7 Worlds, I’ve been, I’m so used to misspelling my name that I don’t really mind it.

OneHitKO: On to some more serious stuff, what made you want to play competitively?

Esa: The competitiveness is in my nature. No matter what I do (sports, school etc.) I have always been competitive. I get the most out of any hobby when I do it competitively and aim to the top. As I’ve become older I have noticed that I’m not as competitive as before, but I still enjoy winning, so I’m still pretty competitive. I was in my first tournament in 2002 when I was 11-years old and in my first official tournament I was in 2004.

OneHitKO: How long have you been playing?

Esa: I started the game when the TCG arrived to Finland. I had seen an episode of Pokémon in 1999 (the Moltres episode) when me and my family was visiting my family friends in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, so even before Pokémon show arrived to Finland I was very interested in Pokémon. In 2000 the show arrived to Finland and the TCG arrived to Finland a half year later (I think). As soon as I heard there were Pokémon trading cards, I went to a local bookstore and bought an “Expert” booster with my big brother. The first ever booster I bought included Clefairy as a holo rare. Ever since buying my first booster, I started playing with my big brother and even though I haven’t played competitively from the beginning, I’ve played Pokémon TCG as long as it’s been around in Finland.

OneHitKO: What made you want to write articles?

Esa: I’ve always loved writing. I’m a horrible drawer and painter and writing has always been my way to express myself. As long as I can remember, I have written articles for Finnish players to the Finnish Pokémon forums. The reason why I started my blog was that I noticed that the Finnish player base was decreasing but I still wanted to write Pokémon TCG articles, so I thought why not to write in English. That way I could get my opinions and knowledge passed to players all around the globe and help a lot more people than when writing just for Finnish player.

Of course I also had a selfish motive for that. I also started The Deck Out project to prove myself that I could do writing regularly. Ultimately my goal is to write a novel (in Finnish of course) and if I can keep up with my blog for many years, I can also write a book since it will be a project that requires endurance and motivation for a long time. Writing the blog has also been a perfect way to communicate with the community and learnt to take criticism well instead of getting insulted. My English skills have also increased dramatically while writing the blog and the articles to the SixPrizes Underground. Overall, I’m very happy that I started writing articles in English, because it has developed me so much as a person as well.

OneHitKO: What was your most memorable TCG moment?

Esa: As the next thing is about negative memories, I’ll pick here the most memorable positive moment. The moment was probably the whole 2008 World Championships, when I got into top8 in Masters with my rogue Glaceon Lv.X. Even though I was able to beat top players like Jay Hornung and Gino Lombardi in that tournament, the most memorable moment of that tournament was in top32 when I was able to defeat Alex “TheBigChuck” Brosseau in the top32. At that point he had gone 8-0 in the Grinder and 7-0 in the Swiss of Worlds with his Empoleon/Bronzong, so I can’t really describe how happy I felt when I won the 3rd game of the top32 match.

OneHitKO: What is one thing you regret as far as a TCG decision (e.g. deck choice, not going to a specific tournament, etc.)?

Esa: Not attending the National Championships of 2007. I was supposed to have enough for a ranking travel award to Worlds that year (only year when travel awards were given via rankings), so I decided to leave National Championships travel award for someone else. In the end, there were 3 people who passed me in rankings by getting 200 points from Battle Roads and I finished 5th in Rankings and didn’t go to Worlds that year. In the end, the Finnish Master – Tom Roos – who won the Finnish Nationals ended up winning the whole World Championships that year in Masters Division! I was very frustrated since I had worked very hard (harder than ever for Pokémon) and still missed the Worlds in Hawaii and just sit home watching when the other Finnish player won Worlds. However, there is a positive side for this as well. If I had played in the National Championships and would’ve won the tournament, we probably didn’t have 2 Finnish World Championships since my Worlds success has usually been very bad. So even though I regret it, it may have been better for the Finnish TCG community in the end for me to miss the invite.

OneHitKO: What do you think it is about the Pokemon community that binds us together to the point where it’s almost a brotherhood of sorts?

Esa: Pokémon TCG does the same as most hobbies do – only better. It gathers a lot of people that have the same interest, which automatically leads into a community. What I think is the most important part of the Pokémon TCG community are the Juniors and Seniors, because as long as there are Juniors and Seniors we’re reminded that this is only a game no matter how competitive you want to be. I’ve heard that the community isn’t as great in other card games like YGO or MtG and I think the reason for this is that they aren’t directed towards children like Pokémon is. Even though over 50% of the current player base are Masters, they’ve grown together from Seniors, maybe even Juniors thus leading into very tight friendships between players. Pokémon is one of the only things in the whole world that some people have grown their whole life with (another good example would be Harry Potter) and that’s why I think Pokémon’s community is so great.

OneHitKO: What tips would you have for any incoming players?

Esa: 1) Ask help from experienced players
2) Use all possible internet sources that’s available to you – don’t be ashamed to netdeck
3) Go to league and tournaments and don’t drop from the tournaments even though you feel like it

OneHitKO: And what about players who have been in the community?

Esa: Overall, I think Pokémon TCGs community is great and people respect each other very much. However, there can never be too much respect, so I would hope to see even more respect in the Pokémon TCG community towards opponent’s and younger player.

OneHitKO: In the United States we have very well-known teams like Team Warp Point and Team Hovercats. I know that you guys have a Team Finland. Why do you think leagues or teams so important in tournaments?

Team Warp Point

Esa: I wrote a complete article discussing importance of teamwork in Pokémon TCG to the SixPrizes Underground. I think that tells enough just how important teamwork is in Pokémon TCG just like in life general. One person just doesn’t have the resources and brains that 5 people do. Also, playtesting is almost impossible alone, so having a good team or league helps playtesting a lot. In my opinion, Internet can never replace IRL playtesting. As discussed in the previous question, this game is also all about the community. Having a team usually means also having good friends at the same time and in Finland under 50% of the activities of Team Finland is somehow related to Pokémon TCG. It’s all about having a good time with friends.

OneHitKO: What do you think is expected of players to do well in tournaments?

Esa: It’s pretty simple, if you want to win tournament, you have to have.

1) Skills
2) A good deck
3) Good luck

Sometimes you only need 2 of these three, but the more difficult the tournament, the more you need all of these. Also, the more difficult the tournament, the more luck you need to do well. Especially in the current format – opening flip has a far too big effect on the game’s result. When the skills and decks are almost identical, luck becomes the decisive factor.

OneHitKO: So we all know that you’re the guy who writes for and the 6P UG, has won the Finnish Nationals six times, and many more, but who is Esa? You don’t really talk about yourself at all in your articles or your about page besides Pokemon-related stuff.
Esa: I’m a 21-year old man from Finland that studies Economics in the Tampere University. I still don’t have an apartment from Tampere, so I’m pretty frustrated at the moment, but I hope I can get an apartment in November. What else, hmm. I’ve played soccer and floorball, but I’m on hiatus from both of the hobbies (starting floorball again this year). I enjoy writing and hanging out with friends. I’m also very interested in stocks and economics in general and I follow daily stock market, politics etc. to keep me up-to-date on what happens all over the world. I’m also pretty interested in global politics and follow e.g. the U.S. presidential campaign closely. I’m also working in an insurance company at the same time as I’m studying and as I write my blog and for UG at the same time, you can say that I’m very busy all the time. My favorite artists are: Michael Jackson, Prince, Coldplay, The Black Eyed Peas and George Michael and my favorite song of all time is Human Nature by Michael Jackson.
That concludes my interview with Esa! I would like to thank him for taking the moment to answer these questions. If you haven’t heard of him, feel free to check him out and listen to his musings on his blog (linked to in the last question). In the words of a previous writer, so long, and thanks for all the fish!
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