This is your tenth Pokémon World Championships. You've been here more than most of the staff running the event. What's it like to come to the event after all these years?
I don't know. It's now just kind of become a yearly thing. I'm certainly more used to it than a lot of players. My friend just got back into the game after taking six years off, and he was amazed by the size and the location. I realized how comfortable I am coming here, and it's all still great.
I've been able to see a lot of things in this game. I remember lots of details from lots of events. I went into today's lunch break 2–0, and I still remember which Worlds I started 2–0, which ones I started 1–1, and which ones I started 0–2.
What has changed most significantly over the years you've been playing at Worlds?
It's grown. The first Worlds I played was when Wizards of the Coast held the tournament. Certainly when Pokémon took over that was a huge increase to the attendance. It was a big event, and yet most of the players here probably don't even know about it. Then the last few years, there are just so many more players, and so many more good players. In that way, it's also more challenging.
What do you attribute to the increase in good players?
I think the online community has really fostered the growth. I know that in my local area, more players are going online to study and share good decks. They'll play decks they find or tweak them to their own style. And that's really blown up in the last four or five years.
How do more players make the game more challenging?
Well, just more players participating automatically makes it harder just because the number of talented players grows. Plus having more players means there is more discussion about strategy, especially online. If a new deck does well anywhere in the country, everybody knows about it the next day. The meta-game evolves much quicker as a result. And with more players, there are a lot more people experimenting with new decks.
At the same time, decks get tested much more quickly, so here at Worlds, you'll see a smaller variety of decks now than maybe five or six years ago. It's not a bad thing—it means there are more good players testing so much that it doesn't take as long to find out what's good and what's bad. The time from when someone comes up with a deck to when it's thoroughly tested nationwide is just so much shorter.
Interestingly though, you finished as the runner-up at last year's World Championships that nobody had seen before.
Yeah, well, I invented it!
Players were even calling it the "Ross Deck" online. Obviously people are watching what you play. Does that change your approach?
Actually, I had very tough decision on what deck to play today. I have 10 Worlds to look back on, and this is definitely one of my hardest decisions ever. I ended up with a more mainstream deck, but maybe not the most common deck out there. It's just not my style to play what everyone else does. But it's certainly more mainstream than what I played last year.
I had a "secret" deck that I tested for the last week, but I decided at the end that it just wasn't strong enough. I was really tempted to play it, especially after my unknown deck did so well last year. When I got 2nd Place in 2005 it was also an unknown deck, but I tested that one a lot longer. But this year I didn't think my secret deck was strong enough.
Like I was saying, the meta-game is so fast that the top decks become really good in a short time. It's hard. You have to have a special deck to beat those top decks. In a way, that made last year more of a feat maybe, but it also made it a little easier, because I had to prepare to counter only three or four really great decks.
You touched on it now, as well as when we talked to you after the last year's Worlds, but it's certainly your style to play the unexpected or surprise deck, or even a counter deck. Are you disappointed you weren't able to come with a deck like that this time?
Definitely. Every year I have tested a lot of decks throughout the summer in preparation, especially rogue decks. I can recall rogue decks for years past. When I tried to do that this year, it just didn't work.
Was finishing as a runner-up last year and being so close to World Champion factor into the deck you selected this year, maybe pushing you toward a more reliable deck?
I think if anything, it made me even more tempted to play the rogue deck. Last year's deck did so well that I thought I could do it again. Anyway, I'm 3–0 now, so I'm happy with the deck I brought. I think it's maybe strong enough to win, but I have a lot of work to do and anything can happen. I'll need some luck.
Then we'll say "good luck" to Ross in his tenth Pokémon World Championships!