10 questions with Clifton Goh

Posted: December 10, 2012 in Interview

Welcome to the start of a new series on Flip or Die. “10 questions with” aims to highlight Singapore’s outstanding players. Whether they are multiple tournament winners, up-and-coming stars or solid contributors to the community, it’s time for them to come out and give their frank opinions on their game!

The inaugural interview starts off with a bang as I interview Singapore’s most famous player Clifton Goh, alternatively known as Medziddo and Xincloft. He very kindly took time out of his busy schedule as a freshman in university to grant this interview.

First and foremost, I would like to thank Jake, the owner of this blog, for a chance to have this interview. I’d never thought I’d get an interview request just like this for a game I enjoy, but I did, so here it is. Thanks Jake!

Clifton Goh(R) with one time Worlds Champion Yuta Komatsuda(L).

Clifton Goh(R) with one time Worlds Champion Yuta Komatsuda(L).

How did you start playing the Pokemon TCG?

Ever since the franchise hit the shores of my country back in the year 1998, I’ve always had a huge passion for the game, from its craze-ridden heydays to the more sober times of today. Pokemon Cards have always held a sort of fascination for me, and is perhaps the side of the Pokemon franchise that was the most appealing to me, despite playing some of their video games and enjoying them immensely as well. However, due to strict parents, I could ill-afford a single pack, let alone a proper deck until much later, when the Worlds 2004 decks were released. Those were pretty darn cheap, and pretty darn good of course. You can play them during school breaks and no one cared if it was tournament illegal since nearly all of us had no conception of competitive play anyway (resulting in a ton of swaps like Pokemon Reversal for the clearly superior Gust of Wind ‘cos no one had an inkling of formats there and then).

A trip to the internet opened up a whole new world to me, as I located the nearest league in my area. Or so I thought. After doing reasonably fine for a rookie Senior, my parents dragged me away, citing the game as a source of distractions, and my story ended for a while.

Fast forward to the year 2010, and March 13th marked the revival of the Pokemon TCG scene in Singapore. I jumped right onto this train and embarked on the journey it would bring me, and never ever looked back. I was a person in my late teens, with some disposable income, a great deal more freedom, and a wonderful community to play in. Thanks to Ujin Yumeno for reviving the community and allowing people like me to continue pursuing my childhood joy.

The deck that started it all?

The deck that started it all?

Having played against you multiple times in tournaments, you exude the confidence of a cool, calculating player. Would you say there’s a pressure for those who have to play against you, especially knowing you are a multiple Worlds participant?

Exude confidence? I do? (laughs) I tend to be nervous like nearly everyone else and over think situations (guess that’s where the calculating part comes in!). I guess I hide it well, no?

As for putting the pressure on others, it varies. I know some people have been playing against me regularly in casuals and don’t feel much stress when dealing with me. On the other side of the spectrum, there are people, especially some of the newer ones in the community, who end up paired against me only to have their friends tell them about me prior to the round. It sets an impression on them, and usually they do tell me after the game about how nerve-racking it was to play against me. However, when they stick around and hang out more, everything ends up pretty chill. Everyone feels pressure no matter what, it’s just that some tell me they feel it more than others.

What do you do in your spare time? Any hobbies other than the TCG?

I do enjoy Vanguard TCG as well. I cannot really accommodate for much else due to limited finances and the fact that a good portion of the year is spent trying to be a student and get some studying done. :p

Vanguard, the game of champions?

Vanguard, the game of champions

As a player, how are you involved in the local Pokemon TCG community and what do you like about it?

I’m the gym leader [Ed note:A special term for some of our league leaders] of Empyrean Gym at a fine underground shop right smack in the nexus of many MRT (subway) lines. A convenient and central location for many, I have my hands full meeting and guiding regular and new players alike weekly. It’s definitely great fun and enriching to work with so many players from all over, teaching and learning at the same time. At the end of the day, many friendships are forged, bonds are made, memories wrought. My tenure as a gym leader for a few year has certainly been quite a journey for me and for those involved. Props to my close friend and trusty assistant gym leader Belp, and his supportive girlfriend Bee Ping for helping me out with the gym duties and being there whenever I am busy.

I also judge at Premier Events on occasion. One of my bigger assignments was judging at Nationals 2012. I had already secured my Worlds invite then, deciding to give back to the community and to get a whole new perspective of the biggest local tournament of the season as a facilitator. I did not need the paid invite urgently and decided not to potentially be a major grinch to anyone in the competition, so I focused my efforts on making the process of evaluating the Champion and the Worlds invitees a smooth one, giving back to the community at the very same time. Being a Judge may be fun, but it’s certainly not easy. Resisting the urge to correct misplays, finding every opportunity to have a seat after long walks during rounds, the occasional heated debate over rulings are amongst the occupational woes one experiences as a judge, and it made me appreciate their roles much more. Nevertheless, it was quite the experience, and I’m keen to go for more rounds of judging for Premier Events when I close off the season. Not sure about judging Nationals again though! I also judge Prereleases on occasion.

Your Top 16 finish in Worlds 2012 was the subject of much national pride. What were your emotions like at that time?

This might be a cliché, but words alone cannot justify how I felt during that time. I can attempt to, though.

Imagine, as your eyes ran over the list containing the final placings of the best players from all over the world for Swiss Rounds, and you saw yours amongst that pantheon of players that made top 16. Imagine, that memories of your terrible and abyssmal results from your first year at worlds (2011) were washed clean and atoned for by the virtue of this result at that very moment, and that this marked you and a fellow countrymen as the pioneers of top cutting at Worlds for your Nation. People back home and your fellow representatives right behind you are calling your name, praying for you, are curious to find out how you did, and are fervently hoping for the good news you might bring, and then you realized you can finally deliver the news, the good news, to them. How would you feel? That’s my answer.

National pride, elation, shock… are very good adjectives, but they cannot begin to cover how I felt during that time. Sure, I might not have won in the end, but it’s a top cut at WORLDS, and that alone makes me very very happy (understatement).

What drives you as a player to continue playing the TCG?

As previously mentioned, I have been a huge fan of the franchise ever since I was a kid. Sure, I did not start playing competitively as early as some others due to financial constraints (thanks, in no small part, to strict parents) and vehement objections from mom and dad. However, I saw my ability to continue remaining as a fan of the franchise despite weathering such storms as a testament to the strength of my passion for the game, and that took me to where I am today.

Perhaps what they say about forbidden fruits being the sweetest kind holds a ton of truth, for when I finally took to playing the game competitively in 2010, with no holds barred, no strings attached, I took to it with ferocious enthusiasm and a voracious appetite to do my best for it. I’m not ashamed to admit that during the early days of the Pokemon TCG community’s revival, I regularly turn up for Saturday leagues 3 hours early, with the shop’s shutters at half height, already goldfishing (solitaire for probablities) with whatever few decks I owned.

The novelty has worn off since then, but the passion has not. What kept me in this game was what kept many others in the TCG as well. Friends, the thrill of competing, the stimulation from playing such an intellectually challenge game (not all formats, but the challenge is still there at times ;D), the list goes on. Simply put, what makes me play the game and never tiring of it is because it is Pokemon. Some days are good and you win; others are outright horrible and you go 0 – X… but I never let the bad days give me any motivation to quit this game, and I hope I never will.

You are probably the most consistent player in Singapore right now. What is the secret to your outstanding results?

If you asked me that years or even months ago, I would just say playtesting, playtesting and even more playtesting. It all started when I read one of John Kettler’s Underground Articles: “Bracing for 32K: Tips on Maximizing Your Season”. In the article, he has mentioned how to optimize preparation for the bigger events of the season. One of the pointers I have never forgotten is to playtest to your heart’s content, and by that he means 5 – 10 games a day. I kept this number in my head for a long time and abided by it, especially if big Premier Events are about to hit. Great playtesting partners are a must too! Locally, people like Belp, Bee Ping, Dario, Jeremy, Joshua, Xavier and Jit Min help me get solid playtesting done, especially in clutch situations. I also playtest with overseas contacts via online means too.

As time wore on and I entered my first year at University, such a mode of preparation cannot be realistically achieved any more. For example, my finals ended on a Friday, and on the Saturday of the same week was Regionals! For someone as playtest reliant as me, this was trouble and I honestly did not expect to place so well in the end. I would then attribute it to friends who stood by me in such trying times. I did not hang out with the local players as much this time, skipping league for 2 weeks before Regionals/Finals, but I have my overseas contacts to be thankful for. Special mentions go out to Curtis Lyon from Canada, Marc Lutz from Germany, as well as Ty Smith, Brit Pybas and Andrew Wamboldt from USA for the help and support I received! In summary, I tap into 1) The Power of Playtesting and 2) The Power of Friendship!

Juniper, Skyla or Bianca?


Clifton's answer is about as logical as this picture

Clifton’s answer is about as logical as this picture

Singapore is known for its food more than anything else, are there any favourites you would like to recommend to our international readers?

I’m not a foodie, and many of those who know me would attest to my odd ability to live off one meal a day, and my tiny appetite! I often can’t polish my plate off 100%, which is odd for a Singaporean.

Being a light snack eater, I would definitely recommend Bah Kua slices, usually served in huge amounts during the New Year. You can consume a zillion slices and never grow full, only fat. It has a markedly sugary taste to it, and is a must-try for any sweet fanatic… >:-D

Satay is also another excellent variety of finger food (that you are not advised to hold with you fingers for hygiene’s sake). Dipped with peanut sauce, it’s euphoria in stick form.

I can attest to the deliciousness of satay.

I can attest to the deliciousness of satay.

Who would you like to see win Worlds this year?

Other than myself? (Everyone wants to win Worlds, c’mon!) Man this is a loaded question. There are a lot of people I’d root for, locally and overseas alike. People who deserve it since they had it a long time coming by virtue of skill, and others because I know they’d make great champions and ambassadors for the game. You guys know who you are. Unfortunately, there is only one spot per annum for these kinds of things, as the title of the World Champion is a hallowed one, and rightly so. To this, I guess I can only repeat the adage: “may the best (and perhaps luckiest) man win!”


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