Lusch entered the competitive RBY scene in 2014, during what may very well be the Golden Age of the tier. After playing on the Pokemon Online ladder, he made his debut in the controversial RBY Global Championship on Smogon, which prompted him to subsequently journey to the gladiators' arena on the top of the mountains known as Pokemon Perfect, fighting his way to the top by winning seasons, almost every cup, a plethora of Master Tournaments, a World Championship, and going out by winning an astounding eight tournaments in a row. I invited Lusch on the GGFan Experience to discuss winning his first season, what it was like to play in SPL, his comeback to the Master Tournament scene, his rivalries with the likes of Peasounay and Troller, the streak, and much more!
Part ONE - Early days on the ladder, breaking into the tournament scene
GGFan: How did you discover competitive Pokemon, and when did you make your debut?
Lusch: I discovered competitive Pokemon when stumbling across sets for specific Pokemon on the internet. I was playing on my cartridge and wanted to make a good team to play with friends. That was the first contact. Some time later I discovered Pokemon Showdown.
GGFan: Do you remember exactly when?
Lusch: Must have been in late 2013 or early 2014. I did not go by Lusch at the start. I cannot remember which names I was using
GGFan: Did you mainly play random games, or were you also playing in tournaments on Smogon, the German circuit, or elsewhere?
Lusch: I played random games. Started out with RBY OU on ladder- Played that on PO ladder as well once I discovered that. At the time the PO ladder for RBY was more active than on PS. I started with RBY because that was my first Pokemon game and it was my favourite because of it.
GGFan: Yes, the PO ladder was indeed the more active of the two. I reached #1 on the ladder back in the beginning of 2013, so it seems like we just missed each other. Do you remember playing any of the common ladder players like Golden Gyarados, Gen 1 OU, and myself (as Mr. Friendly)?
Lusch: I remember playing Golden Gyarados and marcoasd. Don't recall Mr. Friendly. I played "Candies" a lot. Who I afterwards found out to be Alexander.
GGFan: Yes, that was Alexander. I think I stopped playing on the ladder by the middle of the year, so that would explain it.
Lusch: Well, Candies was not in 2013. I played later than that. When I started laddering more seriously I was already going by Lusch
GGFan: I left the ladder in the middle of 2013. I didn't come back to it. Did you ever reach #1 on the ladder?
Lusch: So it must have been later, in 2014 or even already 2015. I don't know if I reached number one at the time anymore to be honest. I don't know exactly when that was, but soon people would change over to PS and the PO ladder would dry out
GGFan: How long would you say you played regularly on the ladder? A year or so?
Lusch: semi regularly, I would say. Yea, maybe a year? I joined the Pokemon Forums in 2015. in January 2015 I joined Smogon because I wanted to play the World Championship (I think it was called). It's the same as the Global Championship now. at that time, I did not know about PP yet
GGFan: That's the year I won it. Did you enter under a different username?
Lusch: No. I entered as Lusch. But I lost Round 1 to WreckDra. I remember that, becasue it was my very first tournament set
GGFan: How did it go? Was it a close one? Do you recall what your team was?
Lusch: I don't recall the teams anymore. I just know that I lost 1-2. And in the third game he froze my Dragonite, that might have swept him in that state of the game, had I survived his Tauros' Blizzard and got up that Agility.
GGFan: Wow, that's unfortunate. Do you remember if the Tauros was at full health? It would have been interesting if you won that set. Given how long you played on the ladder, you would have a shot to go at least somewhat deep.
Lusch: I do not remember how much health Tauros had. To be honest, he might also have frozen me on a missed Wrap when Agility was already up. All I remember is that I was in a good position to sweep with Dragonite. So Taurps was probably not at full there.
GGFan: My round-one opponent was byronthewellwell. He was really obnoxious during our set, to be honest. Yeah, that's unfortunate. I wonder if it convinced you to stop using Dragonite.
Lusch: Well, I did play on ladder, but not regularly enough. And I was not as good of a player back then. I think my teams were not the best back then.
Well... It probably contributed to me not using Dragonite often anymore. These days I very rarely (not never) use it.
GGFan: So the Global Championship was your first tournament. However, we just missed each other in that event, just as we missed each other on the ladder. Do you remember how you discovered Pokemon Perfect?
Lusch: Yes. I was still not a really serious RBY player. How could I have been with only a Smogon account? I played ladder from time to time, hung out in the "Old Gens room" as Ruins of Alph was called back then. Disaster Area was there often. And I played him some time on ladder or in friendlies. He wrote on my Smogon wall to sign up for the current season (season 7) of PP. And that is why I did, because DA encouraged me to. That was in September 2015
GGFan: That's funny. He was banned that year, so luckily he reached out to you in time.
Lusch: Yea. Might have never found PP if not for him. He played a great role in starting my "career"
GGFan: So you made your debut on Pokemon Perfect in Master Tournament 20, back in September 2015, as you said. Unfortunately, you were paired against Bedschibaer in the first round, which was when he was starting to get hot. Do you have any memories of this set?
Lusch: Yes, a little. Tournament Sets were nothing usual for me. It probably was my second tournament ever (I don't remember if I played the RBY Cup on Smogogn that year). I cannot remember details, but he beat me 3-0. I think he got some good luck, but he played better than me as well.
GGFan: Although it must have been disappointing to get swept in your first outing, you were able to score an upset victory in the MT after that, defeating fapkingg in the first round of MT21. This time, you faced Alexander in the second round, who was just starting his great run. It was a hard-fought set that went the full 5 games. Likewise, you made it into the second round of MT22, this time facing marcoasd and losing again in five games. Getting paired against Bedschibaer, Alexander, and marcoasd back to back to back isn't exactly an ideal situation, but you made the most of it. Do you remember those encounters against Alexander and marcoasd?
By holding your own against these top talents, you had already established yourself as a prospect with tremendous potential. In MT23, you once again had another grueling five-game encounter against Earthworm, and lost that one as well. Was it frustrating to take these established stars to the limits but come up short each time, or did you see playing these guys as a valuable learning excursion?
Lusch: It was the other way around. I played marcoasd in MT21 and Alexander in MT22. To be honest, I don't remember the seris vs Alexander at all. I knew him from the ladder and we split our games there as well. I knew he was good, but I thought I was about equally good at the time. I remember my games vs marco, though. Or at least how the set ended. It was 2-2 and I remember that he needed a critical hit with Tauros on my Snorlax to win it. I can't remember exactly the situation, but I might have had Reflect up. He got the critical hit and I lost. otherwise it would have been 3-2 for me.
As for losing to Earthworm, that was a great set. I felt like a reallly serious player now. Being able to give marcoasd and others a run for their money. The last game vs Earthworm was really a nailbiter. I remember being ina good spot, but his Jolteon got a decicive crit on my low heath Rhydon. It was not all luck though. There were mindgames involved that he won to make it come down to that crit.
Was it frustrating? Maybe a little. But only seeing that I can win vs those guys was enough for me to keep trying. I knew my time would come.
GGFan: It's too bad you ended up losing to marco--it could have boosted your stock twofold back then. Oh well, at least you realized you not only had what it took to hang with the game's titans, but come out on top. On that note, things certainly started looking up in the spring of 2016, when you made it all the way into the quarterfinals of the RBY Cup. It was there that you squared off against marco once again. What was your mentality going into this set? Did you put a lot of pressure on yourself because you wanted to avenge your previous loss? What was going on here?
Lusch: I played marcoasd a lot. For me he was the best player around. I knew I could beat him, but I would have not seen myself as the favourite. I went into the games with the mindset to try and win of course. But avenging past losses was not on my mind.
GGFan: You played him a lot on the ladder back in the PO days, right? Do you remember how often you were able to win?
Lusch: I can't remember what was going on. Thinking about it, I believe I came close once more. But he pulled through in the end as well.
hard to tell. I lost a lot on the ladder to him. I was not as good back then. But I learned a lot as well. And I took games off him of course. That is all you need to believe that you can win tournaments.
GGFan: Peasounay told me that you two trained together around this time, playing each other over and over while discussing how to accomplish more than merely make it into the second round of a Master Tournament. I imagine having such a good sparring partner also helped you eventually break the chromatic glass ceiling.
Lusch: Yes! We did. We would play an awful lot. We deliberately practiced bo5 to prepare fore the MTS. We faced each other on the PS ladder. And we started our journeys around the same time. We had a lot in common. And yea, I think we pushed ourselves to higher levels. It helped immensely.
I think neither of our "careers" would have gone the way they did if it was not for the other.
GGFan: On that note, the fruits of your labor began to grow considerably in the arduous Cerulean Cup, where you advanced into the playoff round and defeated marco. How did it feel to finally defeat him in tour play? At this point, I would say you two were definitely rivals given how often you faced each other.
However, while you were successful against your rival, you were eventually eliminated from the tournament. Would you say beating marco superseded taking home the cup, or was that a tour you really wanted to win? I remember back in MT9 when I beat marco in the second round but lost in the semi finals because my Slowbro got frozen. Sure, I didn't win the tour, but I beat marco back when he was on top, so it was almost tantamount to winning it all.
Lusch: Actually, I don't remember that one anymore. I never only wanted to beat one person, no matter who he was. I entered tournaments to win them. That has been my goal for every tournament I enter. Surely at the start is was not a realistic one, but winning vs marco in one tour but not winning the tour was nothing special for me. I'd rather would have won the tour.
Yea, we were rivals, but for the most part I played a lot of games with him (not only for tours) as well as Peasounay. Surely those two were damn good players, which made them my rivals. But I never specifically had a goal to beat either, I want to beat everybody.
GGFan: Yes, that's understandable. I'd say all of us were around the same level when we were at our best anyway. So, the goal was to win, and you were starting to come closer to that. After getting knocked out in the second round three times in a row, things changed in MT24, when you beat Mister Tim to advance into the third round, where we met. How excited were you for this set? This was the first time we played each other as well as the first time you made it out of the second round. I remember the first game was an amazing mental war between my Zapdos and your Rhydon that I barely won thanks to sheer experience bailing me out.
Lusch: Yea. I remember that one as well. I was excited, sure. But it seemed only logical that I finally made it out of r2. And it was exciting in the sense that I did play someone who I had never played. That was a nice change of pace, sind I played marco, Peas, Alex some other times on PS on ladder or friendlies (in Peas' and marco's case). I think not everyone knew it was logical yet. I remember Mister Tim being very angry after he lost to me. He probably still thought I was a random who could not dare to defeat a Season Champion that he was at the time.
Part TWO - winning the season, global affairs, getting bought
GGFan: You had a great performance in a big tournament on Smogon, you had an incredible sparring partner who helped you improve every day, and you were going toe-to-toe with the best. It was inevitable that you would win something, but in typical Lusch fashion, it happened sooner rather than later. Your pattern of progression reached its climax in MT25, when you won the tour, defeating marco in the semi finals along the way. Not only had you beaten your rival in a high-stakes situation, but you managed to win a tournament by doing so. I imagine winning MT25 must still be one of your most satisfying moments because it was the first tournament you won.
However, marco quickly avenged his loss, beating you in the first round of MT26, resulting in the most competitive season in Pokemon Perfect's history. You were in it, marco was in it, Peasounay was in it, I was in it, and so were another 5 or 6 players. Eventually it came down to just you, me, marco, and Peasounay. I was eliminated in highly controversial fashion, narrowing it down to you, your friend, and your rival. Although you lost to marco in the three-way finals, you nonetheless took home the gold, winning season 9 by just one point. How excited were you to know that you were on top now?
This would be your last Master Tournament for quite a while. What was the reason for this? Did the season burn you out, did you feel there was nothing left to prove, or were there external circumstances surrounding your decision to withdraw from them?
Lusch: Yes, winning MT25 was and is to this day special to me. You correctly analyzed it. I finally won vs marcoasd in tournament play. I did not doubt that I would win the tournament going forward. Surely, there were Troller and teal6 to beat first, but when I beat marcoasd, it was now or never. Those two, while good players, were not on the same level, and indeed I could take the tournament gold.
After that I faced marco kn round 1 of MT26. It was unfortunate, but he beat me there. Losing R1 after coming off of a Tournament victory was tough, especially in the bigger picture of the Season. It was still marco, nothing changed. He was still tough to beat. The set was great. It felt more like a finals than a round 1. Really high level stuff. But he came out on top.
GGFan: My biggest regret at the time was not getting that big game against you in the semi finals of MT27 to potentially decide the winner of the season. It could have been off the charts; however, we eventually had our big game in the finals of Fuchsia Cup, which healed that wound.
Lusch: Yea, what followed in MT27 was great. I was in contention for the season victory with many other players. But to be honest with you, I had the same amount of points as Peasounay going into the tour. And I could just feel it. I could feel it'll come down to him and myself and marco. I knew the title would be won or lost in my encounter with him. I was excited for it. And so it happened. I faced him and marco in the 3-way finals. I wanted to get my games vs Peasounay done first, because that was the important one for me. Marco was 2 points behind us, so he only had underdog chances at winning it. I played Peas and won 3-1. It was close and hard. I think I got a bit luckier, but nothing special in RBY.
GGFan: Yeah, I understand how you feel. What a finale, though--you and the two players you were familiar with the most.
Lusch: Yea, we had our big game later on. I think we'll get there later in the interview. On the circumstances, I don't want to comment too much. For me the win was important. You getting an activity loss was unfortunate for you. The communication was not ideal, but it happened. I would not have been opposed to facing you in the Semis. I was ready to defeat anyone.
GGFan: It would have been interesting for sure. I won our previous bout, but that meant nothing. You were hungry and determined.
Lusch: Yea, that was great. I was on top of the world. I took a break from seasons because I reached my goal. And it gets draining to play nonstop. I needed that break. And concentrated on other RBY goals. I liked the look of those Cups. And the formats for them were mostly really fun. So I decided to make winning all the Cups my goal. It was also (and will always be) something no-one had done before. Not even marcoasd. Nobody has won all six Cups.
GGFan: Which one did marco not win? The Indigo Cup?
Lusch: He did not win the Indigo Cup, yes. I have never won Cerulean Cup. That's the only one I'm missing.
GGFan: But five out of six is good enough.
Lusch: Yes, I missed out on it. But I had my shot. It's okay for me that PP will move into another direction. I think it was time. A bit disappointed to net get another shot at it, but like I said, I had my shots. Can't win 'em all ;]
GGFan: Around the same time you were fighting tooth and nail to win the season, the WCOP on Smogon started. Did team Germany reach out to you to play for them?
Lusch: Let me add on the Season that I won, a phrase from marcoasd, he said in the MT27 thread. He said "Lusch, Peasounay, Troller... your glory days are coming!" it's funny to read that line in retrospect because he could not have been more right. marco always had a good sense for player skill. Anyways, the first time team Germany asked me to join WCoP was in 2016. Sapientia was the captain at the time and reached out to me on Smogon.
GGFan: You ended up not playing, it looks like. Do you remember what happened? Were you busy, or did plans change?
Lusch: I told him, I could only play RBY. And I did not want to get priority over Beds, who had played there before. I did not even have planned to play the tour anyway. It would have been a surprise if anything. They ended up with Beds in RBY and not needing me, so i did not play.
GGFan: Do you think Bedschibaer would have sat out if the team requested it?
Lusch: Yes. We had and still have a good relationship. Beds is one of the few people I would call "friend" that I only know from the Pokemon world. The other one would be Peasounay. I hopw I don't forget anyone, but there are not many.
So Beds probably would have sat out, Sapientia told me, that he had talked highly of me. But The team chose him as the known option as opposed to the "risk" of playing me, which was totally understandable
GGFan: Even though you were red hot and even went on a run in the RBY Cup. Interesting. But I presume he played in that tour one or two times before.
So the season medal was yours, and you decided to focus your energy on winning the cups. Before that, however, you entered the World Championship, where you had a great run, making it all the way into the semi finals. After losing to your friend and rival, Peasounay, in the second round, you were able to avenge your loss one round later in a set that would determine who would go on to the semi finals. Then, you played your other rival, marco, in another intense set that went the full five games. What are your memories of your first World Championship run, and do you have any recollections of your encounters against Peasounay and marco? How did you handle losing in the semi finals?
Lusch: I don't recall details, but I remember that this was an extremely hard tournament. Very strong opponents. I joined it because I knew there was another medal to compete for. After I collected the MT and Season gold I wanted to focus on the WC at the time and collect the Cups, as you said. From memory, the games vs Peasounay were close (how else would it be against him?) but I managed to come out on top. Once again up against marcoasd in the semis. The belief that I can beat him was there and it was close as usual. But he still managed to win. I don't remember the circumstances, but marco was definitely my kryptonite. It seemed (at least in this year), I'd either win a tournament or lose to marcoasd. At least I could get the third place in another close battle vs Alexander.
How did I handle losing semis? Nothing much. I knew I lost to a great opponent (the greatest RBY player of all time). It was nothing new. I was just happy to play good games vs them.
GGFan: I remember benefiting strongly from the luck of the draw early on. I made it into the top 8, but then had to go up against Alexander and Bedschibaer. I was able to win the first game against both of them, but then things didn't exactly go my way afterwards.
Lusch: Yea, was really a stacked tournament, no doubt one of the hardest.
Because there are rarely upsets, because one loss does not put you out of the tour. The top guns would not lose twice in the same round usually.
I remember talking to Beds before the semis and we "dreamed" of a german-austrian finale. At least it was not entirely italian ;]
GGFan: It's funny. Most recognized RBY players are European. I can't think of any notable Americans besides myself, Golden Gyarados, and I guess Nails. You have to at least give me the title of greatest American of all time.
Lusch: I think that's accurate. You are the greatest american RBY player of all time, GGFan.
GGFan: In the span of three years or so, you had gone from a nameless ladder player to a prospect trying to break through the glass ceiling to one of the game's elite players, but you would actually become even more remarkable in 2017. You signed up for SPL and were bought by the Classiest. What was your mindset like going into this event? How important was it for you to do well here? Was there a particular team you wanted play for, or did you not care who bought you?
Lusch: Yea, i tried SPL because it is a big event. The biggest stage in competitive Pokemon on the Internet, no doubt. Even though RBY is not strong on Smogon, strong RBY players joined the event usually. I actually deleted my sign up post of the year before. I did not think I could commit to it in 2016. Alexander told me at the time (late 2015) to sign up, because I was good enough. This time I actually went trough with it.
So I did not care which team drafts me. i did not even know if any team would draft me since I was not very active on Smogon. Classiest drafted me. I was in a team with Earthworm who recommended me to the manager shake. If it was not for EW, i might not have ended up in SPL. My mindset was simply to try my best to win games. It was my first team tournament.
GGFan: How well did you get along with your teammates? Was it a healthy environment, or were there problems like there were in Peasounay's team?
Lusch: It was not that healthy to honest. I got along with my teammates, but I was the new one, who played for the first time. I did not make me a main character on the team. There were conflict about some starting slots who would perform badly. and once the managers said something to the players they would mostly get defensive.
GGFan: Could you go into more detail? Are there are specific instances you can recall?
Lusch: They also would not accept help from the managers and take their team recommendations
GGFan: So there were a lot of egos then.
Lusch: no. I don't recall the tiers anymore. I only know it was not one of the first three gens. EW and danilo were in GSC and ADV, they were good. Everything else I get mixed up at thispoint.
yes, lot of egos and it hurt us too. We got last place with horrible performances
GGFan: No, I mean instances of conflicts among teammates and the managers. An example. Or would you prefer not to give names?
Also, it's interesting that Alexander told you to sign up back in 2015. It's a good thing you played him before the year ended in that Master Tournament.
Sometimes all it takes is one competitive set--whether you win or lose--to earn relevancy in this game.
Lusch: Yea. I don't want to give names.
GGFan: What's your opinion on the power rankings? Did you care about where they ranked you and what they wrote about you? You were ranked at #3 and described as somebody yet to achieve anything on Smogon, which I found kind of ignorant given how well you performed in the RBY Cup.
What would your power rankings look like? It was you, Peasounay, Bedschibaer, Metalgross, Crystal, The Chaser, Nails, Tobes, Golden Gyarados, and Alexander.
Lusch: I could pretend... but while it is not of the most importance, surely it is in your mind where you are ranked.
I did not know all of the players because some of them I had never played before, which was something I was looking forward to.
I know that Peasounay was ranked number 1. Which is understandable, he is a great player, one of the greatest for me. But I knew I was on the same level as he was. So in that regard I would have wanted to be ranked one rank below him at least. We were equally strong in my opinion.
That was the only thing I thought. Other than that, 3rd was great actually. I did not think I'd be ranked that high given my lack of smogon activity.
as for my personal rankings... it's not easy because there might be recency bias (I think is what you cll it) in place because I know the players longer now.
But let's see... I don't like false modesty, so I would say, Peas, Beds, Alex and myself would be the top 4 in my eyes at the time. then probably metal. And the rest seems pretty equal as well. Maybe Crystal the highest of them. But to be honest I know to little even know about the others. Nails was certainly not as strong as he is now. And Golden Gyarados was capable. so chaser, tobes last, maybe? hard to come up with a definitve order.
but A: Alexander, Beds, Lusch Peasounay
C: Crystal, Golden Gyarados, Nails
D: The_Chaser, Tobes
GGFan: What do you feel made Metalgross better than the rest of the pack?
Lusch: It might be recency bias. At the time I did not know him at all... But now he turned into a strong player. So it's probably that I would rate him higher now.
GGFan: To his credit, he did have a lot of experience by this point. I think a lot of people don't realize he had been playing in Master Tournaments since 2014. And I actually played him in the 4th round of the Global Championship in 2015 (your first tournament).
You got off to a great start in SPL. In fact, you were the only person to beat Peasounay. Was that your most gratifying win? What were your emotions like in the beginning of the tour compared to the end? Were you stressed out the whole time, relaxed the whole time, more stressed in the beginning? How did you feel? What were your emotions like in the beginning of the tour compared to the end? Were you stressed out the whole time, relaxed the whole time, more stressed in the beginning? How did you feel?
Lusch: SPL is a stressfull tournament. I did not know that at the time. It's why I did not sign up for the latest two seasons of SPL.
I had a great start. I beat Metal, who was ranked number 2 and then Peas, the number one ranked player.
GGFan: Haha, almost exactly the same as my start.
Lusch: I remember that Isa, who was very respected on Smogon, as the RBY player on the site, calles the match-up Peasounay vs Lusch the "rby spl set of the season". Which showed me that I had made a name for myself even with people I had little to do with. That was actually quite impressive to me. The win vs Peasounay was indeed my most gratifying win of that SPL, no doubt.
Like I said, I wanted to prove that I was on the same level as the player that got ranked number 1. And yea... those games were great for me. It seemed like every move I made worked out. I made some really nice plays and got them right. It was only possible because I was playing vs Peasounay. Against no other player would I have played like I did. That is to be understood as a sign of respect. If I am confident to outplay my opponent the way I did in that game, that means that I am giving him the most credit to do the "right" things. Something I can only do against great players.
I hope this does not sound cocky, I hope what I mean comes across...
GGFan: No, that's a logical way to interpret it.
So you ended up going 6-3 in sets (I forgot to calculate your exact win/loss record). I noticed that you ended up losing to Bomber in the last week. Was that a tough loss to take given how well you had performed up to that point and who you had to play beforehand? By the way, I mean no disrespect to Bomber, who used to play in the Master Tournaments early on and even won one in 2018.
I presume you were extremely satisfied with your record nonetheless.
Lusch: To be honest, it was a bit tough, yes. Bomber is a good player, but not on the top level. We respect each other. We faced each other on the PO ladder a lot back in the day. I was 6-2 before week 9, but the team was already out by week 7 I suppose (we lost every week bar one, where we tied, I think). It's not excuse, of course, but it's easier to keep motivated when your wind bring some benefit to the team. In my case, I was one of the very few people on the team who delivered wins. So by the time week 9 came along, motivation was down. I still wanted to win, but I did not manage to do so. Bomber caught me off guard with a Cloyster. My team was not fast enough, and Cloyster actually 1v1ed my Lapras... end of story.
I was satysfied, sure. I think the only loss that was because I was worse than my opponent in the given set was vs Nails. Against Beds and Bomber I could have won both, but it happens, no excuses. I don't complain about RNG when I get it, neihter have I the right to do when my opponent does.
Some general thought for that matter: There is the misconception that people who win because they get favourable RNG win "undeservedly", maybe because their opponent fights back or something.
It's always easier to look like the better player when luck is against you. Then you have to make those crazy plays that make you look like a hero just to stay in the game, while your opponent plays safer. I don't like to see when people unrightfully jusdge a series based on that. YOu never know how the luckier player would have played if he was the unluckier one... It merely means he did not have to play better to win...
GGFan: Well, one way or another, you had the second best record in the tour. It was only natural, therefore, that Peasounay would have the best. It would have been even more symbolic if you went 7-2 to more closely shadow his 8-1, but bad games are inevitable, as we both know.
to be continued...